A Jun­ket in the City of Light

By Tom Hanks

Esquire (UK) - - Fiction - Il­lus­tra­tion by Seth Arm­strong

What brown fox jumped quickly over dogs that are lazy?

Hey, this writ­ing ma­chine ac­tu­ally works!

What the hell has hap­pened? Who am I to­day? Still Rory Thorpe, I guess, but who is he?

Last night—just hours ago—I was the guy in a huge movie that ev­ery­one was talk­ing about, the guy who made out with a glam­orous beauty, a guy with a fine ass. In the cap­i­tals of Eu­rope—and Amer­ica—I was hus­tled around like a politi­cian, into cars and into ball­rooms filled with cam­era-totin’, ques­tion-hol­lerin’ re­porters. I waved to seas of peo­ple, many of whom waved back, even though no one knew who I am, even though I am, in fact, a no one. Al­though, I have in my pos­ses­sion... cer­tain doc­u­ments... that re­veal Willa Sax’s TOP-SE­CRET CODE NAME(it’s Eleanor Flint­stone!).

I was 2 Days into tak­ing the City of Paris by storm, with a 3rd to go, and Day 3 was go­ing to have FIRE­WORKS! I had all my ex­penses paid. I was wear­ing free clothes. I could ask for a sand­wich when­ever I wanted, even though I was kept so busy I didn’t have time for much more than a few bites.

But this morn­ing all that is over. I have to be out of my room at check­out time. Too bad. This is a nice ho­tel. The Nazis stayed here. A good rule of thumb when trav­el­ing in Eu­rope— stay in places with a Nazi past. The place in Rome had been Gestapo head­quar­ters dur­ing the war. Big rooms. High ceil­ings. A beau­ti­ful gar­den. In Ber­lin, the ho­tel had been lev­eled when the Rus­sians clob­bered the Nazis who were hid­ing in it. To rub in their vic­tory, the Com­mies never both­ered to re­build it or much of any­thing else in that part of East Ber­lin. When the wall came down, the ho­tel went back up and now the joint has a spe­cial room just for smok­ing cigars. In Lon­don, the old lady of a grand ho­tel had been bombed by the Luft­waffe some­time be­tween the Nazi glo­ries of Rome and the ass kick­ing they took from the Reds a few years later. The Queen has had din­ner there twice since 1973.

Fi­nally, this Parisian ho­tel had been the head­quar­ters of the Ger­man Oc­cu­pa­tion Staff. They say Hitler had a cup of cof­fee on one of the bal­conies be­fore he drove around to take in the sights of his con­quered City of Light.

All this has been free of cost for me, in­clud­ing the ho­tels in LA and Chicago and New York, on the stu­dio’s dime, be­cause I play Caleb Jack­son in Cas­san­dra Ram­part 3:

Des­tiny at Hand.(Cas­san­dra Ram­part aka Willa Sax aka Eleanor Flint­stone!)

Day 3 of my jun­ket—sorry, my Press Tour—would have been another wild ride of a day. In­stead, I have to pack my bags and check out by 1:00 p.m.—I’m sorry, by 13:00...

Rory Thorpe thanked his lucky stars for Irene Bur­ton; those stars had been mighty benev­o­lent over the last two years. He’d been in a movie with none other than Willa Sax—Cas­san­dra Ram­part her­self! He had money in the bank for the first time in his life! And he was get­ting a free trip to Eu­rope out of the deal! All he had to do was give some in­ter­views over there! His en­thu­si­asm had Irene Bur­ton mutely laugh­ing her ass off.

Irene was sixty-six years old, had worked in mar­ket­ing for ev­ery one of the six ma­jor film stu­dios, and now lived in semire­tire­ment in a beach house in Ox­nard—far enough away from Hol­ly­wood to avoid the daily stresses of show­biz yet close enough to pop in when she was needed to clean up the oc­ca­sional PR flame­out. Eleven years ago, she es­corted a young, tal­ented, and beau­ti­ful ac­tress through the press tour for a hor­ri­ble movie called De­men­tia 40, which did lousy busi­ness but is now leg­endary for in­tro­duc­ing au­di­ences to the young, tal­ented, and beau­ti­ful Willa Sax. The press called her Willa

Sex for a few years—a fit­ting moniker—but now Willa was Cas­san­dra Ram­part, a one-woman in­dus­try who had her own line of ex­er­cise clothes, a home for or­phaned pets, and a foun­da­tion that pro­moted lit­er­acy in third world na­tions.

The first two Cas­san­dra Ram­part movies had grossed $1.75 bil­lion world­wide. Willa Sax didn’t just com­mand $21 mil­lion a movie plus prof­its, she com­manded re­spect.

“Irene,” Willa told her on the phone. “You gotta help me.” “S’up, punkin’?” Irene called all her young ac­tors punkin’. “Rory Thorpe is as dumb as a box of hair.”

“Who is Rory Thorpe?”

“The guy in my lat­est thing. I just saw his EPK.” The elec­tronic press kit is a house-con­trolled in­ter­view given to the press as back­ground for a movie. “Most of his an­swers start with ‘Well, um. It’s like, you know...’ We have the jun­ket com­ing up and I can’t go around the world with Doo­fus McGil­licuddy as my costar. He needs to be told what the fuck not to do.”

“I can do that.”

So Irene did. She took Rory shop­ping at Fred Se­gal and

Tom Ford for the clothes he’d need—ca­sual-look out­fits for in­ter­views and black-tie tuxes for pre­miere galas. No charge.

She took him lug­gage shop­ping at T An­thony for the right trunks and suit­cases—at a steep dis­count the stu­dio cov­ered—so those out­fits would be ready to don at a mo­ment’s no­tice. He’d be pho­tographed in two-shots with one of the most beau­ti­ful women in the world and needed to look like he rated the po­si­tion. He’d be an­swer­ing the same ques­tions a thou­sand times over, so she drilled into him the talk­ing point memos the stu­dio had pro­vided: CR3—DAH brings the C Ram­part uni­verse its most com­pelling & so­phis­ti­cated film, for she is not just a hero­ine for our times but a woman for the ages. Please use

“woman for the ages” when­ever de­scrib­ing Cas­san­dra.

Irene had per­fected her abil­ity to keep her laugh­ter to her­self when one of her clients said some­thing re­ally stupid or naïve—in Rory’s case, his think­ing his first ever trip to Eu­rope was go­ing to be free.

“Oh, punkin’,” she told him. “You’ll be work­ing your ass off.” The jun­ket be­gan in Los An­ge­les: three days jammed with in­ter­views, photo shoots, video con­fer­ences, Q and A ses­sions, fo­rums with fan bases, and as many talk show ap­pear­ances as pos­si­ble, each need­ing an hour of prein­ter­views with the seg­ment pro­duc­ers. Irene saw to it that Rory was well dressed, well groomed, and well versed in what the fuck not to do. And there was the trip to the Comic-Con con­ven­tion in San Diego. Willa Sax needed a team of body­guards to keep the fans at bay; many of them were cos­tumed as Cas­san­dra, the for­mer Se­cret Ser­vice agent with com­puter chips im­planted in her brain, for­mula-en­hanced, su­per­strong sinews, able to com­mu­ni­cate sub­con­sciously with the Seven, the ex­trater­res­tri­als who live among us, aliens who may be good guys, may be bad guys, and who et cetera et cetera et cetera you get the idea. Many ComicCon­ers were cos­tumed as the Seven. No one was dressed as Caleb Jack­son, pro surfer/soft­ware whiz, be­cause no one had seen the movie yet. The fans seemed thrilled at the screen­ing of a twenty-minute teaser of the movie, mak­ing it a trend­ing topic for most of the day on both Twit­ter and Pop­pit!

Two days later in Chicago, the teaser was screened on the cam­pus of North­west­ern Univer­sity, the alma mater of Willa Sax her­self. Her old dorm was re­named in her honor. Irene steered Rory through two days of in­ter­views, a pa­rade, a char­ity vol­ley­ball match, the drop­ping of the puck at a Black­hawks hockey game, and a screen­ing of the movie to ben­e­fit lit­er­acy in Africa that was held at the same the­ater where the gang­ster John Dillinger had been gunned down.

Four days of jun­ket were held in New York City, start­ing with a press con­fer­ence staged in the ball­room of the Wal­dorf As­to­ria, at­tended by 152 me­dia out­lets. Rory did not get a ques­tion un­til Willa had talked for thirty min­utes, mostly of the chal­lenges of shoot­ing with the new FLIT-cam dig­i­tal process and the new SPFX sys­tem called DIGI-MAX. She was a pro­ducer on the film, af­ter all, hav­ing op­tioned the rights to the Cas­san­dra Ram­part graphic novel in 2007 for a mere ten thou­sand dol­lars.

She laughed off ques­tions about her hus­band’s in­vest­ment ge­nius and his sup­posed bed­room prow­ess. “Guys!” Willa protested. “Bobby is a banker!” Bobby was her hus­band, and he was worth $1.2 bil­lion. Willa told the press that he re­ally was a reg­u­lar dude who had to be told to take out the trash.

That led to Rory be­ing asked, “How does it feel for a guy like you to kiss the most beau­ti­ful woman in the world?”

“It’s a kiss for the ages,” he said. Irene smiled, know­ing she’d done her work well. The crammed room re­mained silent, save the click­ing of cam­era shut­ters. When the press con­fer­ence ended, Willa was whisked away as more ques­tions were shouted at her. Irene es­corted Rory into a smaller ball­room set up with mul­ti­ple round ta­bles, each crowded with jour­nal­ists and their mi­cro­phones. Rory spent twenty min­utes at each ta­ble, one af­ter another, with no break, an­swer­ing ver­sions of the same three ques­tions. What is it like work­ing with Willa Sax?

What is it like kiss­ing Willa Sax?

Is that re­ally your ass in the hur­ri­cane scene?

Irene took him to the Me­dia Cen­ter on the eighth floor, to sit through a to­tal of fifty-seven tele­vi­sion in­ter­views, last­ing no more than six min­utes each, all held in the same room, Rory seated in the same chair with a one-sheet of the movie be­hind him. In the poster, Willa was star­ing off into space, a look of fe­ro­cious con­cen­tra­tion on her beau­ti­ful face, her torso clad in a tight sweater, a rip ex­pos­ing her shoul­der and the top sphere of her left breast. Be­hind her was a mo­saic of im­ages from the movie—an ex­plo­sion, dark fig­ures run­ning in a tun­nel, a mas­sive, crest­ing wave, and Rory wear­ing a head­set and look­ing at a com­puter, se­ri­ous as all hell. WILLA SAX IS BACK AS CAS­SAN­DRA RAM­PART was printed in big let­ters. Rory’s name was in the clut­tered billing block at the bot­tom of the poster, in type­face the same size as that of the film’s ed­i­tor. Irene kept him plied with green tea, pro­tein bars, and small bowls of blue­ber­ries.

The movie was pro­moted on CBS This Morn­ing the en­tire week. Ev­ery morn­ing at 7:40 and 8:10, Rory re­ported the na­tional weather in front of a green-screen map. Willa Sax was a guest host with Kelly Ripa on Live with Kelly. The two women did Pi­lates on the air.

The pre­miere of the film was sup­posed to take place on one of the piers on the Hud­son—spe­cial fa­cil­i­ties had been con­structed with seat­ing for five thou­sand peo­ple, but a pre­dicted thun­der­storm put the ki­bosh on that. In­stead, cinema screens all over the city were booked for si­mul­ta­ne­ous dig­i­tal pro­jec­tions of the movie. Rory and Irene were de­liv­ered to ev­ery one of them by SUV—a to­tal of twenty-nine per­sonal ap­pear­ances. Willa Sax at­tended only the spe­cial screen­ing held at the Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory to raise money for its Pro­grams for Young Sci­en­tists.

At the end of the nine days of the do­mes­tic press jun­ket, Rory was ex­hausted, talked out, dizzy; he had seen lit­tle more than cars and rooms and cam­eras. Worst of all, the ques­tions had been the same for four-hun­dred-plus in­ter­views. What is it like work­ing with Willa Sax?

What is it like kiss­ing Willa Sax?

Is that re­ally your butt in the hur­ri­cane scene?

Rory now felt that work­ing with Willa Sax was like eat­ing a peanut but­ter sand­wich on a mo­tor­cy­cle, kiss­ing Willa Sax was like Christ­mas in July, and the butt in the hur­ri­cane was that of a talk­ing horse named Britches.

“Wel­come to the big leagues, punkin’,” Irene told him. “To­mor­row, Rome.”

Willa Sax flew to Italy on a char­tered plane, along with her team, her posse, and her han­dlers. The stu­dio plane took the other five pro­duc­ers, all the ex­ec­u­tives, and the mar­ket­ing heads. With no seats avail­able for ei­ther Rory or Irene, they flew busi­ness class on TraxJet Air­ways, chang­ing planes in Frank­furt.

Three days of press were held in Rome, each as busy as those in the US. On the last night the teaser was shown out­side at the Circo Máx­imo—where the char­iot races were held in an­cient times. To Rory it looked like just a big field. Scenes from the movie were pro­jected onto a huge tem­po­rary screen, but not un­til af­ter a lo­cal soc­cer team was pre­sented with the tro­phy they had won in some cham­pi­onship. The crowd was es­ti­mated at 21,000. When Rory ap­peared on­stage to wave to the Ro­mans, noth­ing hap­pened. When Willa ap­peared to do the same, fist­fights broke out as a tide of fans in soc­cer jer­seys rushed the bar­ri­cades to get to her. The Ital­ian cara­binieri got into a melee with the thugs as Willa was hus­tled into an ar­mored car and whisked away to the air­port. The next morn­ing, Rory and Irene took a com­mer­cial flight—Air Flug­platz—to Ber­lin, where another three days of press were on tap.

In Ber­lin, Rory’s body clock was so jet-lagged that he found him­self flush with en­ergy at 3:00 a.m., so he went out for a run. Leav­ing the ho­tel, he was ig­nored by the dozens of fer­vent Ger­man Cas­san­dra Ram­part fans who’d lin­gered all night and would con­tinue to do so all morn­ing, hop­ing for a glimpse of her. He jogged along the dark paths of the Tier­garten, stop­ping to do push-ups on the steps of a mon­u­ment to the Rus­sian Army, com­plete with ac­tual tanks, that crushed Ber­lin in 1945. At noon the next day he was so tired he felt like a sleep­walker. He talked like one, too, telling the en­tire staff of Bild, the na­tional news­pa­per, that as both a fan of the movies and the lat­est costar of Willa Sex (he ac­tu­ally said “Sex” in­stead of “Sax”), he felt that “San­dra Cas­part was the most com­pli­men­tal and so­phis­ti­ca­tioned of any and all films, for Willa Sex is heroin for our times, and a woman of the four ages.” Then came the ques­tions. What is it like work­ing with Willa Sex?

What is it like kiss­ing Willa Sex?

Is that re­ally your butt in the hur­ri­cane scene?

“Try not to call her Willa Sex,” Irene told him in the car back to the ho­tel.

“When did I do that?” Rory asked.

“Just now. To Ger­many’s largest daily news­pa­per.”

“Sorry,” he said. “I’m no longer sure what the words are that come out of my mouth.”

The Ger­man screen­ing of the teaser took place later that night, pro­jected onto the Bran­den­burg Gate to six thou­sand fans. When she ap­peared at the bal­cony of the ho­tel to wave to them, Willa Sax was dis­ap­pointed there were no fist­fights.

“I guess I’m no Willa Sex tonight,” she said at the gala din­ner af­ter­ward, held in the same mu­seum that dis­plays Ne­fer­titi’s bust.

By the time Rory and Irene had flown to Lon­don (Com­puAir into Gatwick), the in­ter­na­tional press jun­ket had turned Rory into blab­ber­ing toast.

Get­ting the job was a fluke, a scratch-off lot­tery win. Rory had given up on Los An­ge­les af­ter a six-month stint as a model-ac­tor­bar­tender with all of two cred­its on his SAGAFTRA card. He’d booked a yo­gurt com­mer­cial, play­ing touch foot­ball on a beach. For three cloudy days in San Diego he ran around shirt­less— Rory looked damn fine with­out a shirt—with a group of racially mixed “pals”, then they all snacked on yo­gurt. They were coached on how to dip the spoons into the mini­packs and place the yo­gurt in their mouths. There was a trick to it.

Nine weeks later he was cast in a one-episode role on the re­branded Ko­jak se­ries for CBS. Rory played a tat­tooed-shaved­head meth dealer who was pre­tend­ing to be a hand­i­capped Iraq War vet­eran, so ob­vi­ously he had to die. Rory met his end in high style—shirt­less (of course), dragged off the roof of an of­fice build­ing by his fraud­u­lently gained mo­tor­ized wheel­chair,

New Ko­jak jump­ing to safety just in time.

With lit­tle else go­ing on but car pay­ments and gym work­outs, Rory grew bored with South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, and took his yo­gurt-Ko­jak money to Utah for the ski sea­son. When New

Ko­jak fi­nally aired, one of the sev­eral other pro­duc­ers on Cas­san­dra hap­pened to be watch­ing and texted Willa Sax:

Think I saw CR’s next bit o’ honey. A few days later, Rory got a call from his agency to get back to town be­cause some­thing

huge was on deck, in the brew, cook­ing in the hop­per.

The first time Rory met Willa Sax—who was crazy beau­ti­ful, be­yond-real-life beau­ti­ful—was over cups of green tea in her of­fices in the Capi­tol Records Build­ing on Vine Street in Hol­ly­wood. The home she shared with her ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist hus­band was some­where in the hills nearby. She could not have been a nicer per­son, chat­ting with Rory about art and rais­ing horses. Rory knew very lit­tle about ei­ther. Willa changed the sub­ject to Fiji. She had been to the is­lands to do re­search for the movie. She told Rory about the beauty of the night sky and the clar­ity of the water and the happy faces of the lo­cals, es­pe­cially dur­ing the tra­di­tional kava cer­e­monies that were held to wel­come vis­i­tors. She had learned to surf there. The movie would shoot in Fiji for at least two weeks.

The meet­ing lasted a lit­tle over an hour, but be­fore Rory was in his car and at a stand­still in the af­ter­noon traf­fic of the Hol­ly­wood free­way, his phone ex­ploded with texts: WSaX Loved

you!$$$$. Two weeks later he was of­fi­cially cast as Caleb with a crazy pay­day of nearly half a mil­lion dol­lars, to be spread over three films, which could or could not be part of the Cas­san­dra Ram­part uni­verse. The next time he saw Willa was at the stu­dio for cam­era tests. A pro­duc­tion as­sis­tant took Rory to her trailer. When he climbed up the steps wear­ing his torso-cling­ing Caleb Jack­son surf­ing out­fit, she sized up her no-name yet gor­geous costar and said, “Well, ain’t you hot shit!”

The start date of the movie was de­layed for a few months as the script was rewrit­ten, then pushed to af­ter the new year so Willa could en­joy the hol­i­days with her hus­band; they spent Christ­mas in a cas­tle in Scot­land. Rory’s first day play­ing Caleb Jack­son was in late March on a sound­stage in Bu­dapest. Willa had been shoot­ing for three weeks and had her own makeup trailer, so the two did not see each other un­til they were on the set. The scene called for them to make out in a shower, but the water was not hot enough to hiss out any real steam, so the Hun­gar­ian SPFX crew rigged the stall with a smoke ma­chine. When Willa came to the stage in her bathrobe, her three se­cu­rity guards cir­cled her chair. She asked Rory if the ho­tel was work­ing out for him, then told him that now that she was mar­ried she never kissed on screen with an open mouth.

Over seven months, Rory shot only a few days a week—in Bu­dapest, Mal­lorca, back in Bu­dapest, in a stretch of desert in Morocco, then in Rio de Janeiro for a scene that called for Willa and Rory to run through the crowded streets of Car­ni­val, a scene that took four days to prep and six­teen min­utes to shoot. Rory him­self shot a week in Shreve­port, Louisiana, while Willa took time off with her hus­band in the Sey­chelles. They met up again for a day of ad­di­tional run­ning-through-Car­ni­val scenes, but this time in New Or­leans. Be­cause some of the film fi­nanc­ing came out of Ger­many, tax laws forced them to shoot one scene in Düs­sel­dorf. They ran out of a build­ing and jumped into a taxi—the ex­tent of the Düs­sel­dorf film­ing. Af­ter ten days of reshoots in Bu­dapest, they had only the surf­ing scenes yet to do. They never did go to Fiji. In­stead, Rory and Willa grabbed shots against a green screen at the ex­te­rior water tank in Malta, pre­tend­ing to surf on SPFX gim­bals as stage­hands doused them with very cold water from dump tanks.

French tele­phones do not ring. They go bleat-bleat, bleat-bleat,

bleat-bleat. At 6:22 a.m., the sound is like hav­ing a barn an­i­mal in your ho­tel room. Rory had to stop that sound.

“Yeah?” The re­ceiver felt like a toy up to his ear.

“Change of plans, punkin’.” Irene was on the phone. “You get to stay in bed.”

“Say what?” Rory was still a bit woozy, hav­ing taken ad­van­tage of the Ho­tel Meurice’s bar un­til just four hours ago.

“The sched­ule for to­day is in flux,” Irene said. “Go back to sleep.”

“Watch this.” Rory put the phone back in its cra­dle, rolled over, and was out like a glass-jawed boxer.

He woke up three hours later and stum­bled into the sit­ting area of his ho­tel suite—good enough for Nazi of­fi­cers in the day and just fine and dandy for Mrs. Thorpe’s only boy. The sched­ule for his Day 3 in Paris was on the desk be­side the room ser­vice menu and a me­dia packet on CAS­SAN­DRA RAM­PART 3: DES­TINY AT HAND. At 9:46, Rory was sup­posed to be giv­ing TV in­ter­views of twelve min­utes each, but nei­ther Irene nor any­one else had come to fetch him. To­mor­row he’d be fly­ing busi­ness class on In­doAirWays to Sin­ga­pore, so he or­dered up a few café au laits and a bak­ery bas­ket from room ser­vice.

He had spent very lit­tle time in any of the ho­tel rooms save for ex­hausted sleep and grooming, al­ways by two women, one for makeup and one for hair, both ush­ered into the suite by Irene while Rory show­ered. Alone, in his un­der­wear and sip­ping cof­fee and hot milk, Rory checked out the place.

The ho­tel had been re­cently ren­o­vated in Hip­ster-Mil­len­nial, which would have been a blow to those Nazi oc­cu­piers of long ago. A black screen was the TV. The re­mote for it was long, thin, heavy, and in­com­pre­hen­si­ble to any Amer­i­can. The lamps were all touch-con­trolled, but only if you knew where to touch them. Four bot­tles of Orang­ina drink were ar­ranged neatly on the square cof­fee ta­ble, iron­i­cally next to four porce­lain repli­cas of or­anges. The sound sys­tem was a retro turntable with a col­lec­tion of LPs by the Elvis of France, Johnny Hal­ly­day, one record go­ing all the way back to the 1950s. There were no books on the shelves, but there were three old type­writ­ers—one key­board was Rus­sian, one French, and one English.

Bleat-bleat. Bleat-bleat. Bleat-bleat.

“I’m awake!”

“You sit­ting down, punkin’?”

“Gimme a sec­ond.” Rory poured him­self the last of the hot milk and a fi­nal cup of cof­fee, bal­anc­ing his cup and saucer as he rolled back on a leather re­cliner. “I am ac­tu­ally re­clin­ing now.” “The press tour is can­celed.” Irene was old school. Press jun­kets were what cor­po­ra­tions or­ga­nized to sell prod­uct.

Press tours were what movie stars did to pro­mote their films.

Rory spit café au lait all over his bare legs and the leather re­cliner. “Huh? Wha’?” he said.

“Go on­line and you’ll see why.”

“I never got the wi-fi pass­word.”

“Willa is di­vorc­ing that ven­ture cap­i­tal vul­ture of hers.” “Why?”

“He’s go­ing to jail.”

“He do some­thing crooked and piss off the feds?”

“Not the feds. Hook­ers. In his car on Santa Mon­ica Boule­vard.

Seems he was in pos­ses­sion of some­thing other than his med­i­cal mar­i­juana, too.”

“Wow. Poor Willa.”

“Willa will be fine. Weep for the stu­dio. Cas­san­dra Ram­part 3:

Des­tiny at Hand Job will take a hit at the box of­fice.”

“Should I call Willa and tell her how sorry I am?”

“You can try, but she and her team are on a plane some­where over Green­land. She’ll hide out at her horse ranch in Kan­sas for a few weeks.”

“She has a ranch in Kan­sas?”

“She grew up in Salina.”

“What about the big events on the docket for to­day? Fire­works and the French Air Force and all those or­phaned pets?” “Can­celed.”

“When do we go on to Sin­ga­pore and Seoul and Tokyo and Bei­jing?”

“We don’t,” Irene said, with­out an ounce of re­gret in her voice. “The out­lets want only one thing, Willa Sax. No of­fense, but you’re just the guy in her movie. Rory No One. Re­mem­ber that poster I had in my of­fice that said ‘What if they gave a press con­fer­ence and no­body came?’ Oh, wait. You’ve never been to my of­fice.” “What hap­pens now?”

“I leave on the stu­dio plane in an hour. Not look­ing for­ward to that twelve-hour bitchathon. The movie opens do­mes­ti­cally in four days, and the first para­graph of ev­ery re­view will be about hook­ers, OxyContin, and the man who paid for sex while wed to Willa Sax. Sounds like the plot of Cas­san­dra Ram­part 4: The

Pa­role Hear­ing.”

“How do I get home?”

“That’ll be han­dled by An­nette in the lo­cal of­fice.”

“Who is An­nette?” Rory had met so many peo­ple through­out the jun­ket the names and faces might as well have been of Mar­tians. Irene called him punkin’ a few more times, told him he was just aces all around, a real men­sch, and that she thought he was go­ing to have a fan­tas­tic ca­reer should CR3: DAH make its money back. And, she liked the movie, ac­tu­ally. Thought it was cute. I don’t speak Rus­sian. The French lan­guage has too many let­ters and punc­tu­a­tion marks to make sense to me.

Good thing this other type­writer is in English.

I think Willa Sax—aka Eleanor Flint­stone—is a great gal who doesn’t de­serve this. She de­serves a bet­ter guy than one who likes street­walk­ers and hill­billy heroin. (A guy like me! Not once in one thou­sand in­ter­views did I ever con­fess my deep and con­stant crush on that lady. Irene told me not to be that hon­est with the press. “Tell just enough of the truth, but never lie.”)

I have a pocket full of money. Per diem. In ev­ery city Irene handed me an en­ve­lope of cash! Not that I had a chance to spend any of it. Not in Rome. Nor Ber­lin. In Lon­don I had no free time. Maybe I should see what plea­sures a few eu­ros will buy me here in Paris...

LATER! I went out­side of a ho­tel on my own for the first time since Ber­lin. Hey, Paris ain’t bad! I was ex­pect­ing the usual hordes out­side the ho­tel, the fans hop­ing for a glimpse of Willa. Hun­dreds of them, mostly men, duh, have been wait­ing out­side, pho­tog­ra­phers, au­to­graph hounds, et cetera. Willa called them the Pa­per Boys. They are gone now, the word prob­a­bly hav­ing gone out that Willa Sax has left the City of Light.

An­nette LeBoo­gieDoo­gie says just be­cause the jun­ket is can­celed I don’t have to fly home im­me­di­ately. I am free to linger in Paris, in all of Eu­rope if I want, but on my own money.

I just did some wan­der­ing around, in fact. I crossed the river via a fa­mous bridge, then walked right by Notre Dame. I dodged the scoot­ers and the bikes and the tourists. I saw the glass pyra­mid of the Lou­vre Mu­seum, but did not go in. No one rec­og­nized me. Not that they should. Not that they would. Rory No One, that’s me.

I walked into the gar­dens—the place where we were go­ing to have a huge event with rock bands and jets fly­ing by and fire­works and thou­sands of peo­ple wear­ing free 3-D glasses. In­stead, crews were break­ing down the stage and the screen. The bar­ri­cades were still up but were made moot. There was no one to keep back.

Be­yond the gar­dens was a big traf­fic cir­cle called Place de la Con­corde—mil­lions of cars and Vespa scoot­ers, lanes and lanes of them go­ing both ways and around and around a mon­u­ment nee­dle in the cen­ter. A huge Fer­ris wheel has been there since 1999. Big­ger than the one in Bu­dapest—when was that? When did I make the movie there? In ju­nior high?

The one in Paris is not nearly the size of that one in Lon­don, the one that goes around only once, very slowly. When did we have that huge press con­fer­ence in front of that thing, the event that had the chil­dren’s choir and the Scot­tish Mounted Light Cav­alry and one of the lesser mem­bers of the royal fam­ily? When was that? Oh, right. Last Tues­day.

I bought a ticket but did not have to wait long for the Fer­ris wheel to let me on. Hardly any­one was in the line so I had the car all to my­self.

I went around a bunch of times. Up high I saw the city stretch to the hori­zon, the river wind its way to the south and to the north, with many fancy, long boats slid­ing be­neath all the fa­mous bridges. I saw what is called the Left Bank. And the Eif­fel Tower. And the churches up on the hills. And all the mu­se­ums along the broad av­enues. And all the rest of Paris.

Be­fore me was the whole of the City of Light and

I saw it for free. Ex­tracted from Tom Hanks’ Un­com­mon Type: Some Sto­ries (William Heine­mann), pub­lished on 17 Oc­to­ber

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