Teaser 096: We’re In

We walked out to the limo, Ray in tow, of course, and Serena looked at me with awe. In her sultry, sexy, husky voice she commented, “So, that was your ace in the hole, you and the president knew the families of each, you were both from the same home town. How far apart did you two grow up?”

“Not even a mile. That, though, is only part of it. Yes, the home town and knowing our families helped, but it only gave me an opportunity to foster empathy, or a sympathy, on his part to what I would propose. The ace in the hole, Serena, was the disk he waved at us when we left, or do you not believe in the movie you made with me?”

Serena turned frustrated and frowned. “I don't know any more. I've made so many, and some I thought were really good but they did poorly, and some I thought were not good and they did well. I can't tell any more.”

I shook my head as we reached the limo. I wouldn't look at her. “Then, you don't even believe in your own work any more. I only care about those folks out there, the public. They know. You guys, apparently, have no clue.”

Serena called Oprah to tell her we were on our way. My phone rang before she finished. It was John. He was excited. “We just heard the news, Gregory, from Seattle. The other two women said late last night none of them were raped, you were the nicest host, got them champagne, all they could eat, and everything which happened in the hotel room was with everyone's consent. That you even asked them all every time.”

“Good,” I said with no enthusiasm. “At least I could depend on them.”

“It's even better,” John continued. “Early this morning one of the stations reported the other woman recanted her accusation. She says you never raped her, that what you two did she did willingly.”


“You're not excited, Gregory? The cloud over your head is gone, man!”

“John, it can never be undone. I will always have been accused of rape.”

“Well, she's recanted, so it's over. Take it as the good news it is.”

“I am, John. It is better than the alternative. I agree. Thank you for the news.”

“How did it go?”

“You'll know this afternoon.”

“It went well?”

“John, we're going to get in there, as long as the president likes the movie. Do you think you made a crappy movie?”

“Fuck, no!” John replied emphatically.

I looked to Serena as she had ended her conversation and was listening to my side of this conversation with great interest. “When Serena gets back to Los Angeles,” I said in the phone still staring at her, “would you tell her this bit of news, please? Because I don't think she has a clue.”

“Is something wrong with Serena?”

“No, she's perfectly fine. We're on our way to Oprah's mansion. I'll talk to you later this afternoon.”

We spent the better part of the first hour at Oprah's mansion in Chicago chatting away, though it was mostly those two, Serena and Oprah. I was simply ogling the opulence, the extravagance, and the servants! Okay, I shouldn't compare Oprah's mansion with an old-time plantation, but I can't help it. There were butlers, as in plural, and maids, as in plural, almost anywhere I looked, some ready with drinks, some ready to serve other refreshments, some ready for any whim, it seemed. I didn't say any of this out loud, but I think Serena could see it on my face. We sat down at a dinner table over thirty feet long and probably could be extended, since there was an additional thirty feet in the dining room available, and room for another table the same length. That's pretty big. After lunch things became a bit contentious between the three of us, or should I say between me and the women. At one point I placed my faith, my trust and my belief in the public, in the everyday, common, average Joe and Josephine, because they're the ones with whom I identify. I trust them. I don't trust either of you as much as I trust them and this will always be so. Of course, this didn't go over well with either. I complained even Oprah let studios distribute her independent movie work because she didn't want to make the effort and it's not a smart business decision, and she laid into me about her successes, it all took hard work, and she did have the business expertise, and my phone rang.

I flipped the phone open, looked at the name across the screen, and stared right in Serena's eyes. “Um, it's the Chicago group. I better take this.” Both grew quiet. “Hello?”

“Gregory!” the president exclaimed, “I watched your movie. Goodness gracious, it's one of the best movies I've seen in years and I watch a lot of movies every year, you know.”

“Thank you.”

“I signed, dated and faxed the contract to the number you gave me,” he said excitedly. “I suppose I can use this copy and upload it to my theaters?”

“Absolutely. It's why I left it for you.”

“Great!” the president said, still overly excited. “When can Serena appear?”

“I was thinking about it. How's this? You have a flagship theater in Chicago?”

“We do, yes.”

“Hold off on showing it until tomorrow. Is your normal evening start time seven?”

“We can make it then, yes.”

“Show it the first time tomorrow at seven. Serena and I will be there for a Q&A after the show, and you can advertise it as the Chicago premiere. We'll help you with any advertising costs, though I'll have to discuss it with John, but I think it's fair. We should help with this expense. What do you think?”

“I love it. I'll be there, too. I won't want to miss it.”

“And listen. I don't want to hold you to twenty-five only. You can get numbers every day, I imagine. If we're kicking the competition and you want to put it in more theaters, you have my approval to do so. Let me know and we'll charge you for it later. I trust you'll do the right thing. Is this fair?”

“I think I'm gonna love doing business with you, Gregory. You seem to have your act together.”

“Thank you. I really do appreciate it. You won't mind if I use you as a reference, will you?”

“Absolutely not. I'm excited. I have work to do on this but I'll talk to you about the premiere here in Chicago tomorrow. Bye.”

I didn't have a chance to say “Bye,” but I didn't care. I had heard what I was hoping, what I was honestly expecting to hear. I flipped the phone closed, and as I stuck it back in its holder on my belt, I looked to Serena with a blank expression. “We're in.”

Serena had been looking hopeful. Now her expression went to shock as she shouted, “O my god! You did it! I don't believe it! You closed Chicago!”

“You or I may be getting a call from John soon.” As if on cue Serena's phone rang.

I heard her say “John” into her phone as I looked to Oprah. There was a subtle look of admiration on her face. “And you won't appear on my show for, what was your reason?”

“Um, because I'm going to be busy for the next few months,” I said in all candor, “changing the entire business model of the movie industry, but I'd be more than happy to appear on your show after I've blasted it to the smithereens it deserves and explain how I did it. Of course, I had a lot of help. She's at the top,” I pointed to Serena, “and John is, too.”

“And I don't think you're anywhere near the end of your surprises, either, are you, Gregory?” Oprah asked, already knowing the answer.

“We should retire to your entertainment, drinking, or lounging area, whatever you want to call it, Oprah, so I can have a beer and relax, or maybe two, or three. I think I deserve it.”

Oprah laughed and smiled back to me. “I couldn't agree more.” She got Serena's attention and we all moved to another room and I had a bottle of...Corona. Oprah didn't have Pacifico. Okay, don't hold it against her. Blame Serena. She knew we were going to Chicago for weeks and was fully expecting to meet with Oprah and have me there with her. But don't be too hard on Serena. She had had a lot on her mind lately. I wasn't top of the list, you see.

While we were at Oprah's mansion I had the chance to talk with Serena privately when Oprah excused herself for some matter, and I suggested we spend the rest of the evening in my hotel room. It would give us both privacy from Ray and anything he may have setup in and around Serena's room, and we could finally talk about things we hadn't been able to talk about for quite some time. I remember Serena asking, “What do you want to talk about which we haven't already?”

I looked at her with profound disbelief. “You mean you've talked yourself out of everything there is to say to me? Okay, Serena, your body is throwing me, because it looks like a woman's body, but you're talking to me like anyone but a woman.”

“Okay, okay,” Serena responded, smiling and grabbing my cheeks, “you make it so hard.”

“You thought it was going to be easy?”

- Just Desserts, Segment ElevenRepercussions” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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