The typewriter carriage rattled back. The paper rolled up smoothly from the turning bar. The keys clattered their jangled music, edgy letters punching black into white.
(looking into BARBARA’s eyes with hope and regret)
I know I haven’t been completely
straight with you. I know that.
(lifts his hands and then drops them limply to his sides)
But, love, I can do better. Please. I never
stopped caring about you.
(slowly, looking off to the side of DEAN)
So you’re saying you want another chance.
A long pause. Finally BARBARA looks at DEAN.
Daisy slammed the carriage back even though she didn’t need to, and ripped out the paper. She scanned it and then threw it on the floor and walked over to the window. She put her head against the glass. The view was limited to a dirty bit of yard, the street, and the side of the Sloane’s house next door, but the glass felt cool, like the air was fresher on the other side.
Turning, Daisy looked back across the room with her head still on the window. The room that she’d so proudly begun calling her ‘office’ a year ago.
The typewriter sat importantly in the middle of her desk, flanked by stacks of books, unfinished scripts and fat jars of pens and broken pencils. Her red sweater hung over the back of her black swivel chair, and the paper she’d just thrown on the floor wasn’t alone. On the walls hardly any of the blotchy plaster showed through all the pictures of authors, autographs, and ragged scraps of notepaper scrawled with good quotes. Despite her present gloom, Daisy smiled. The office still felt like home even if the work in progress wasn’t going well.
The phone on the three-legged stool by the window rang sharply. It vibrated so violently it almost fell off the stool. Daisy knew she ought to keep it on the desk, but there was no room. She picked up the receiver.
“Hello. Daisy Clark.”
“Hey, Daisy. Charlie. How’s tomorrow’s script re-write going?”
“Who wants to know? You or Stan?”
“Tell us respectively.”
“To Stan, fine. To you, awful. The latest draft of the final scene is on the floor at the moment.”
Charlie made clicking sounds of concern on the other end. “Gonna be a long night, huh?”
“It’s just so hard to write characters I didn’t create. Everything they say and do feels fake. I know I should trust the actors, but I don’t want to give them trash to work with, and if this re-write isn’t better than the first one, Stan might be asking you to write it.”
Charlie tried to laugh, but he knew it was true.
Daisy put the phone stand on the floor and sat down on the stool. “Maybe it’s time for me to try something else anyway. I’ve done plays, short stories, sketches, and now screenplays. I just need to attempt a novel and my fling at the literary scene will be complete and I can go back to Montana and help out in the family restaurant like I’m supposed to.” Daisy’s eyes strayed to a small framed photo of a mountain almost as blue as the sky with a squat red and white building in front of it propped behind a stack of books on the desk.
“Come on, that’s no way for a writer of Second Chances to talk,” Charlie said, big and calm, but not patronizing, the way he talked to upset actresses about to storm off the set. “Think of the irony!”
Daisy laughed. “The way my predecessors wrote, it should be called Hundredth Chances. No offense. How many times did Kathy and Jere break up in season one? After their big make-up in the finale, the audience is going, ‘Yeah that’ll last.’ What audience we have, anyway.”
“Hey, our ratings may be down but we’ve got more viewers lately. Several other show’s seasons just concluded so we’ve picked up the desperate watchers. Now’s our chance.” He paused. “I said that without thinking. No joke.”
“You sound like Stan.”
“I do not. Want me to come read what you’ve got so far? Maybe I could make some suggestions.”
Daisy stomped her foot without meaning to. “That wouldn’t help. I already know how it has to go. I’m basically taking dictation. Stan won’t let me write in any of my own ideas. I’m just putting words to his. He doesn’t care about the story anymore. I think he wants a fast wrap-up.”
“That might change,” Charlie said, “Now we’re getting more viewers. What is it you want to do with the plot?”
The phone cord didn’t reach far enough for Daisy to pace much, but what space she had, she used.
“I would put a twist in it. The show is about second chances, but so far it’s only really dealt with second chances that came out right. Mr. and Mrs. Dodson get back together. The estranged father and son work it out. Conner opens his heart to yet another set of foster parents and is rewarded, and the MCs end up together in the end. People die and break-ups happen along the way, but all the major things turn out good, and worse than that, predictably. I would make the final climax be that Barbara and Dean part ways. The first season ended happy. This one should end sad. Besides, he went around with other girls for half the show while she hung on, forgiving him over and over—I’m all for forgiveness, but she shouldn’t marry a man like that, or wait for him while he does his thing. She gave him chances, and now he’s run out.”
Daisy took a breath and stood still. Charlie was silent, waiting.
“The thing is,” she said, slowly, her hands shaking for some reason, “in life you do sometimes get second chances. But as often as not, you blow them as bad as you did the first ones. We need to portray that if we want our viewers to believe us.” Again, Daisy’s eyes slid over to the picture frame. If she went closer, she would see the tiny shapes of people in front of the building. If she went very close, she could make out which one was her. She didn’t go closer.
Charlie still didn’t say anything. He was one of the main producers as well as a writer for some of the shows. If he agreed with her maybe he would back her up against Stan.
At last he said, “From a writing standpoint I agree with you. But we have to consider our audience. Every other major show right now is laced with tragedy. MCs are dead, broken-up, or have had their memories wiped. Our viewers are a bunch of traumatized souls, mainly women, looking to us for a pick-me-up. I don’t think we can afford a sad ending.”
Daisy almost said, “You’re choosing popularity above art?” But she shut her mouth in time. Charlie had been kind to her when no one else was. She didn’t need to lose her only real friend from the production. Instead she thought of another angle.
“I don’t really want a sad ending either.” She tried to make her voice soft, persuasive. “It’s only sad if you’re rooting for Dean and I’m not. I don’t particularly like Barbara either, but that’s beside the point. If, like you say, most of our viewers are women, I think a lot of them will feel how I do: frustrated that she stayed on the end of a string for so long. Also, we could even add a scene that hints at a new romance. A very small hint. With the clever young businessman who’s always quiet when Barbara’s around. Quigley Evans. He’s my favorite character. There’s never anything clear, but I think previous episodes have hinted that he liked her. We could leave our viewers with a punch of realism but feeling hopeful. How about it?”
Charlie didn’t hesitate as long this time. “Now there you might have something. Yes. I admit, Daisy, I like that. I created Quigley, you know.”
“Did you?” Daisy said, though she knew perfectly well.
“And he does like Barbara. She never noticed him, thinking of Dean all the time. Hmm.”
Daisy could hear him thinking through the phone.
“All right, Daisy. If you’re willing to work for your convictions you may have a shot. Here’s what you do: Write both endings, the one you’re supposed to be writing, and the one you want. I’ll meet you tomorrow and go with you to Stan. He can read both and we’ll lobby hard for yours and see what he says. The show’s already been thrown so far off course he shouldn’t care if we change up the ending. If it goes down well and our rating comes up there might even be a third season. Now get going.”
Charlie hung up, and Daisy put the phone down, grinning at the way Charlie switched to saying ‘we.’
She walked over to her desk and picked the papers up off the floor. She set them aside and put a fresh sheet in the typewriter. She took a long breath and looked around her office at the authors eyeing her sternly from the walls. She hesitated a minute, then pulled the framed photo out from behind the bookstack. She held it close and looked at the miniature version of herself, surrounded by people of all sizes, all grinning crazily, pressed together so tightly you couldn’t tell where one ended and another began. She smiled a little and put it on top of the stack.
Here was another chance, and if she worked hard enough, maybe she wouldn’t blow it.
Daisy put her fingers down on the keys and began to write.