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THE RUSHES


The Rushes is a brisk and funny tale of friendship, love and ambition set in present-day Hollywood.  Aspiring filmmakers Jamie Alford and his BFF, Carson Thorne, must navigate the industry’s ruthless politics and ingrained prejudices, while also trying to maneuver the treacherous waters of romance.


For years, Jamie has been obsessing on his ex, the tortured Owen Worth. And just as he’s about to start afresh with a dashing young producer, Owen reappears to complicate his life.


Carson, who has put romance on the back burner to focus on his career (much to the chagrin of his friend and former film professor, David Mendoza), falls hard for a wildly ambitious screenwriter.


When Jamie and Carson’s best-laid plans are sabotaged by jealousy and betrayal, they must band together to help one another move forward both in their professional and personal lives. But after all, isn’t that what best friends are for?   



Genre: Avid book, MM, Contemporary, Romantic Comedy/Drama, New/Young Adult.


Length: 66,480 words




THE RUSHES




Richard Natale


Avid Publishing LLC

www.avid-publishing.com



AVID PUBLISHING LLC


THE RUSHES

Copyright © 2018 by Richard Natale


E-Book ISBN: 978-0-46358-054-7


First Publication: May 2018


Cover design by JP Graphics Design

All art and logo copyright © 2018 by Avid Publishing LLC.

Edited By: Ann Attwood

Proofed By: Tanja Ongkiehong


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.


All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.


WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.


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PUBLISHER

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DEDICATION


To Alan.

For continuing to be my strongest supporter

and most astute critic.



TABLE OF CONTENT


Copyright Page

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

About Author







Chapter One


Carson Thorne meticulously layered the froth on the cappuccino like a championship barista. Pausing for a moment, in one rapid motion, he tossed back the styled, prematurely-silver locks from his forehead while simultaneously pressing the speed-dial button on his cell: his best friend, Jamie Alford. Maneuvering the phone into the cleft between his chin and right shoulder he dusted a layer of cinnamon atop the froth, and successfully fought back an incipient sneeze.

Jamie picked up on the third ring. “Hey-o.”

Carson bristled at the hollow echo. “Take me off speaker this minute,” he snarled.

“All right, all right,” Jamie said apologetically into the mouthpiece. “Now, tell me what’s so important?”

“Are you sitting down?” Carson began.

“I work in an editing bay,” Jamie reminded him.

“…because I am about to blow your mind,” he continued and was about to launch into his spiel, when a voice roared from across the office. “My cappuccino! Not tomorrow. Now!”

“Gotta go. The beast awaits,” he said and the phone line went silent.

Jamie placed the receiver back in its cradle and shrugged. He seriously doubted that Carson’s news would be earthshattering; probably some pedestrian Hollywood celebrity gossip culled from a woefully unreliable source; a shred of truth painfully distended beyond recognition. Regardless, he would have enjoyed hearing it; anything to alleviate the tedium of frame-by-frame editing fixes.

While Jamie himself rarely indulged in innuendo, he relished Carson’s breathless rumor mongering. Always had. It was a hallmark of their dynamic, part of the cement that bonded them. Jamie thrived on his friend’s vibrancy and panache. Whatever Carson’s failings, being boring was not one of them. In turn, Jamie helped him harness that energy, focused it.

They yinged and yanged perfectly.

Jamie was the unfailingly sober-minded one in the friendship. On a color chart he fell into the neutral spectrum. Not in the sense of being bland or colorless but rather by being complementary. His arresting symmetrical features and low-key, convivial personality never clashed with his surroundings. And while he didn’t talk much, when he did, people listened. He was smart and insightful. He always had a unique take. Everyone said so. Even Carson. Especially Carson.

Carson was, at the very least, electric crimson. Bold looking and extrovert, he jangled people, got under their skin, but also challenged and excited them. He was savvy and witty with a defiant air of confidence. He could be intimidating at times, especially on a priapic pub crawl. But those who dared to engage him were rewarded. Once bitten was rarely enough; at least for them, but hardly ever for Carson who, post-conquest, immediately lost interest.

*

The two young men had been friends since their first year at Westford, an exclusive prep academy nestled in a remote pocket of Southern Oregon, which they later described as ‘The Shining’ if it was directed by Buster Keaton. Carson was the first out gay person Jamie had ever met in the flesh. Initially, when he equivocated about his own sexual orientation, Carson said, pointedly, “oh you’re gay, definitely, and I’ll prove it to you.” He pushed Jamie through an exit door in a remote corridor and down an abandoned stairwell where, over the period of several sessions, Jamie emerged no longer confused about his proclivities.

The mutual sexual exploration was short-lived, however, a mere footnote in their continuing friendship. Their true passion was a mutual love of movies – watching them, rewatching them, breaking them down, reading about them – and the shared desire to become filmmakers. Being movie geeks, not their gayness, was what set them apart from their peers; and not long after they became BFFs, they embarked on their filmmaking careers, shooting and editing shorts with their mini-cams and posting the finished products on YouTube. Carson served as producer, director and writer (though his partner, who had a better grasp of movie language and structure, usually contributed an un-credited rewrite). Jamie was responsible for all the technical aspects, camera, lighting, sound and editing.

The videos transformed them from pariahs to minor celebrities at Westford; and soon, all the guys who’d ragged on them for being geeks, were practically begging to perform in their movies.

*

Standing at the vending machine in the dank hallway outside the editing room, Jamie inserted four quarters and retrieved a bag of salted peanuts. He nibbled on them idly as he doffed his woolen cap and his shoulder-length hair tumbled free. Gathering it back, he twisted it into a modified ponytail and turned his attention back to the mundane CGI warriors frozen on the computer screen and expelled an involuntary groan. Whatever Carson had been about to tell him had to be more entertaining than Dreadlock Warriors, the poorly conceived video game trailer he was helping finish.

The words “means to an end, means to an end,” echoed repeatedly in his mind as he moved the cursor across the revivified image and clicked in clean-up commands. It was the mantra he and Carson reiterated on the nights when they returned to their apartment exhausted, near comatose from the demands of their entry-level Hollywood jobs.

Each morning, they traveled to their windowless offices just as the sun was about to put in an appearance and departed only after it had retired for the evening. Lunch consisted of a brown bag usually containing something microwaveable, which they downed at their desks. The only opportunity to get a dose of Vitamin D-enriched rays was when they were dispatched on an errand.

“But at least we have jobs,” Carson reminded Jamie – and himself. “Most of the guys we went to film school with are waiting tables, sending out fifty resumés a week and trolling LinkedIn like it was Grindr.” And truly, apart from those with relatives in the industry, Carson and Jamie were among the select few who could actually claim to be working in ‘the business’.

Admittedly, they were pretty far down the food chain, earning below subsistence wages. Were it not for their moms, who regularly packed the freezer with prepared meals, they would be forced to choose between eating and paying the exorbitant rent on their cramped two-bedroom apartment. And the only reason Jamie occasionally agreed to break bread with his hateful born-again father was on the off chance he might slip him some guilt money, enough to buy groceries and maybe go out, have a couple of drinks and, with any luck, get laid.

Speaking of which, what was the name of that guy he hooked up with last week? Peter? Paul? Something apostolic. Anyway, he’d phoned yesterday but Jamie let it go through to voicemail. Enviable abs, he recalled, but only meh under the covers. Still, the guy had a pleasant patter and few annoying mannerisms. He should call him back, he thought. Then he’d be relatively certain of getting some this weekend. Mediocre nookie was better than no nookie at all. Right?

But for now, it was back to Dreadlock Warlords. His superior, Jeb Kantrowitz, said he needed the polish by six, and it was almost four.

*

Jamie fought to keep his eyes open as he inserted a key into the apartment’s top lock. He’d been up since seven a.m., at work since eight, and hadn’t left until after nine in the evening. He had completed his edit on time at six, only to be advised that further revisions were needed. “It’s just not there yet,” Jeb Kantrowitz said after reviewing Jamie’s effort. The supervising editor could be maddeningly unspecific and whenever Jamie tried to pin him down, he would simply reply, “I can’t say for sure what’s wrong, but I’ll know when it’s right.”

Whatever that meant.

Finally, after two more passes, Jeb signed off. On the way home Jamie picked up a prepackaged chicken wrap at a convenience store and scarfed it down. While disgusting, it definitely killed his appetite.

The apartment he shared with Carson was an overpriced shoe-box in the tiny West Side neighborhood of Brentwood, in the shadow of palatial homes with mudrooms twice the size of their living space. When they began their search, Jamie and Carson discovered that the term ‘two-bedroom apartment’ was fungible: from generously apportioned with tons of closet space and a balcony in Sherman Oaks (Jamie’s choice) to the Brentwood version, which consisted of closets masquerading as sleeping quarters – at twice the price of the larger apartment.

To Carson’s way of thinking, however, perception trumped square footage. “Would you prefer to be thought of as a Valley boy or a West Sider?” he asked, rhetorically. “Besides, we’ll be working ninety hours a week. Other than sleep, changing clothes and showering, we’ll hardly ever be at home.”

Jamie realized that it was useless to argue. He acquiesced only because he viewed the arrangement as temporary. While he adored Carson, he had no intention of living with a roommate indefinitely, unless it was with the runner-up in the man of his dreams contest.

He’d already lost the winner.

All the lights were on when he walked in and the stereo was blasting an Arcade Fire compilation. Carson was, as usual, multi-tasking, astride a treadmill, reading a script and eating dry cereal out of a giant bowl, his toned body clad in nothing but a pair of skimpy gym shorts. He’d found the discarded exercise machine on the street a few months back and hauled it up to the apartment, promising to have it rehabilitated as soon as he had the money. Then Norman, the hunky ‘straight’ guy who lived upstairs mentioned that he was handy with machinery. He offered to fix the treadmill in return for temporary refuge in Carson’s bed on the nights his girlfriend refused to put out. She had no objections and neither did Carson. “I’m not bi,” Norman argued. “I just like doing it with guys sometimes. Labels are so five years ago.”

“I thought you’d be asleep by now,” Jamie said, as he sifted through the day’s mail, struggling to keep his eyes fully open.

“I need to get in my cardio tonight – and maybe do some arms,” Carson said, crunching crispy shredded wheat chunks between his molars. “Gotta be at the office extra early in the morning. The beast has a conference call with some money guys in Vietnam at six a.m.”

“Vietnam? There are money guys in Vietnam?”

“It appears so,” Carson said. “I’m not surprised. Hollywood has sucked Japan, China and Korea dry and now they’re looking for fresh coin. Apparently, no ethnicity is immune to throwing good money after bad in return for the chance to walk the red carpet and have their picture taken with Scarlet Johansson.”

“Would you mind turning down the music? I need to get some serious shut-eye before I keel over,” Jamie said as he carefully stepped over the treadmill which cut diagonally across the abbreviated living/dining area.

“Aren’t you at all curious why I called this afternoon?” Carson said.

“Huh?” Jamie replied, trying to remember, to no avail. So, he bluffed. “Oh yeah. But can it wait ‘til morning?”

“I guess,” he said, turning off the exercise machine. He grabbed two twenty-pound dumbbells and launched into bicep curls. “Besides, if I tell you now, you’ll probably stay up all night gnawing on it like a chew toy.”

Jamie threw up his hands in surrender. “Now you have to tell me. But please make it quick.”

“Well,” Carson said and paused for dramatic emphasis as he hoisted the dumbbells over his head for a set of shoulder presses. “Remember that hunk, Lance, the one who works down the hall from me? The one who put the make on you at my office Christmas party last year but you totally blew off?”

“Kinda,” Jamie said. “What did he look like again?”

“Tall.” Lift. Exhale.

“Thin.” Lift. Exhale.

Really handsome.” Lift. Exhale.

“Well anyway, you missed your chance,” Carson continued. “And you’ll never guess who he’s bonking.”

“No, I won’t. Because I’m not in the mood to play guessing games,” Jamie said, his one remaining good nerve taut to the point of snapping. “So just tell me.”

“Your brother,” Carson said.

The words detonated a mushroom cloud in Jamie’s brain and he fell back against the doorjamb. “He’s not my brother,” Jamie said, weakly.

Hair splitter,” Carson sniped and began sucking water from the nozzle of a screeching-yellow plastic sports bottle.

“But…but…but...” Jamie sputtered, his fatigued brain short-circuiting.

“You’re not going to hyperventilate on me, are you?” Carson said before carefully rolling the dumbbells under the futon sofa.

“But…he’s practically engaged to some girl he met at his church. Dad went on and on about what a catch she was and how excited they were at the prospect of grandchildren.”

“Be that as it may; but he also happens to have a chippie on the side named Lance.”


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