Excerpt From “West Palm Gig” by Susan Surman

Amid swaying palm trees, lush gardens, and the blue ocean, Valeska Bernhart, a faded Hollywood film star; Glick Glickman, a has-been Broadway impresario; and Jon Sullivan, an out-of-work New York actor, meet at West Palm Acres, a retirement community in West Palm Beach, Florida, and reinvent themselves for a new chance at hilarious happiness.

EXCERPT:

“Mister Goldberg, it’s time to take your pill,” Jon shouted through the dark green steel door. 4-G.The brass nameplate readHarry Goldberg andOscar Shapiro. Getting no response, Jon knocked on the door. Not so much a knock knock, but rather a light rap. Still getting no response, he banged three times with a closed fist before shouting out the next directive: “Mister Shapiro, it’s time to take your pill.” Jon waited. Pressing the bell would have been easier, but it was an absolute last resort. Something to do with the shrill sound of the buzzer startling the folks with sensitive ears; maybe faulty hearing aids. A hand knock, then the brass knocker only if necessary. No bell. He didn’t question the direction. Per his training, he did as he was told.

So far, his first day on the job at the place was going satisfactorily. Actually, he didn’t know if it was going satisfactorily or not, never having been a medical clown before. No one in management knew if it was going well or not. The launch of a new experiment to remind residents to take their medications would take time to assess. It wasn’t so much the reminder, but the take on it. Medical clown was a good description.

New York based actor Jon Sullivan was standing in the fourth floor hallway or, as the residents labeled it, ‘the penthouse,’ of Building G at West Palm Acres in West Palm Beach, one of Florida’s premier retirement communities and he was dressed in a costume knocking on doors reminding residents to take their pills. A clown costume. Jon Sullivan. Never say never in life because this was something he would have said would never happen to him.

The décor had a dizzying effect; repelling, yet, he had to admit, strangely attractive. It was the same on all the floors. The walls were papered in floral prints of bright shades of emerald green, orange, yellow, and varying shades of purple to blend in, more or less, with the varied color of the doors. The floors were covered in a thin carpet of a pattern in corresponding colors. Only in Florida. Jon learned that the wallpaper would soon be replaced by a simpler pattern of swaying palm trees on a white background. Nice. He also learned this was a rumor started and spread around for many years by a longstanding resident.

***

Boston-born Susan Surman lived abroad for over twenty years in London and Sydney as an actress and playwright (Gracie Luck / Susan Kramer), performing on stage, radio, and TV. Author of Dancing at all the Weddings, Max and Friends, Sacha: The Dog Who Made it to the Palace, and numerous short stories, she lives in North Carolina where she is working on her new novel.

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Dancing at all the Weddings by Susan Surman

Vivacious and talented Elaine Richman is faced with choices: A risky life in the New York theatre; an exciting life with college sweetheart, actor/director Jake Applebaum in Hollywood; a secure life in Boston with predictable lawyer David Alter, the match anointed by her domineering mother because ‘he’s the kind you marry.’ On the way to a dream, it is possible to collide with another dream’s seduction, only to learn there is no fulfillment on the path to safety. Elaine goes through the wringer to meet herself, proving there is no expiration date on talent or true love.

 

EXCERPT:

Elaine stared at the flames in the fireplace, unable to look at him now. All the romance had gone out of those crackling logs burning in the fireplace.

Jake broke the awkward silence. “You’re choosing your talent as a haus frau in Boston with David Alter over the bright lights in Hollywood with Jake Applebaum.”

“Sometimes on the way to your dream, you can fall into an even better one.” Did she mean it? Was she still sitting on the fence? Did she want him to imitate the final scene of An Officer and a Gentleman when Richard Gere picks up Debra Winger and carries her out of the factory?

“Elaine. Elaine. Elaine.” He wasn’t ready to end this. “This isn’t only about your career. It’s about being with the person you love. I thought that was me.”

“Sometimes love isn’t enough.”

“I thought you told me you weren’t getting what you needed out of the marriage.”

“The receiving is in the giving.”

“You didn’t learn that from me.”

“It’s very Zen.”

“It’s very bullshit.” It wasn’t in Jake’s nature to beg, but he wasn’t giving up so easily. Not like before. “I believe that love is all there is.”

Why did love hurt so much? She loved him with all her heart. But she had other responsibilities. She knew she was turning her back on the true love of her life. Maybe all women had a guy like Jake in their lives. The love they had tucked away so they could move forward and lead sensible, sane, and ordered lives. The lives their mothers picked out for them because they knew better and only wanted their daughter’s happiness.

“I don’t want to re-create you. I won’t make you into who I think you should be. I’ll continue to develop myself; you’ll continue to develop yourself. We’re good apart, but we’re better together. If that isn’t love, my sweetheart, I don’t know what is.” Jake spoke from deep within.

“You can’t dance at all the weddings.” God! Her mother’s words and now hers.

“Where did you learn you can’t have it all? Who taught you that crap?”

Elaine realized she already had the thing she’d been searching for. Constancy.

She would be forever grateful for this time with Jake instead of going through life wondering what might have been. There would always be a place in her heart for Jake Applebaum. But he was her past, not her future. Her mother had been right. David is the kind you marry.

Outside the inn, the cold air stung like an ice pack on their faces. Despite all that had been said, he couldn’t believe it was over. “I have this image of us each going through our lives with other husbands and other wives and then at the end, we’re together.”

She couldn’t let herself be swept up in his movie-esque fantasy. She had made her decision. “We have to go now.” She couldn’t look at him. If she had, she would have seen his lovely green eyes filled with tears.

They sat for a while in the car, watching the ocean waves beating against the sand. Every now and again, the back of their hands brushed lightly, but they didn’t look at one another. They caught the deep orange and blood-red sunset, like none they’d ever seen before. It was an awesome sight as it shifted into amber and then pale apricot before fading away.

***

Boston-born Susan Surman, author of Dancing at all the Weddings, lived abroad for over twenty-three years in London and Sydney as an actress and playwright (Gracie Luck/Susan Kramer), performing in London’s West End, Edinburgh, Sydney Theatre Company, Ensemble Theatre before returning to the States. Dancing at all the Weddings will soon be released by Second Wind Publishing. Surman has also written Max and Friends; Sacha: The Dog Who Made It to the Palace; The Australian Featherweight; The Noble Thing. Plays include: In Between; George; The Australian Featherweight.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Dancing at all the Weddings

Click here for an interview with: Susan Surman, Author of Dancing at all the Weddings

Click here for an interview with: Elaine Richman, Heroine of Dancing at all the Weddings