Today's Reading

"Yeah, another shabby whodunit," Phoebe admitted with a shrug. "As if anyone couldn't guess who did it within two minutes. But another couple of these and maybe I can pay some high flier to build a bubble so Mona can go outside." A fantasy. Her sister hadn't been allowed beyond the controlled atmosphere of the sanitarium in years. "Though, really, it'll take getting on a good comedy or Playhouse 90 for that. Still, I don't mind slogging away on the silly stuff to keep Mona well looked after."

"No, of course," Jimmy muttered, ducking his head. "How is Mona?"

"Good as she can be," Phoebe said. She liked his embarrassment, but every time a variation on this conversation took place, she was seized with the furious desire to secure that comedy or television play. Something, anything, to give her more than the two hundred dollars she earned for a monthly At Your Service script that paid her rent and the basics while also helping with the sanitarium costs. It must be possible. A woman was one of the two writers on I Love Lucy, the biggest hit on TV. She must be making a fortune. Hank could be made head writer on a show like that and bring in Phoebe as his "gal writer." Soon, she hoped, for Mona's sake. In the meantime, everyone always had to help each other out where they could. One never knew who someone might be tomorrow.

"Listen, Jimmy, Hank says he'll look at some stuff, he knows a radio fellow who needs a good jingle writer. Wanna give me something to take in?"

Jimmy gazed at her with awe. His mouth was open and Phoebe swore she could see drool.

"You're a real peach, Adler, you know that?"

"Eh, we all have to do for each other as we can, right?" she said, waving away the compliment as she ground out her cigarette.

"I mean it," he insisted. "You're a real good egg."

"We'll see if you're still saying that when I demand ten percent off you," she said with a laugh. "Want another cig?"

"Better not," he said with another glance at Mrs. Pocatelli's window. "Say, I don't suppose you want a drink later? You and Anne, maybe?" he added carelessly.

She was tempted to ask how much fertilizer he'd have to spread to afford the sort of drinks he had in mind, but felt sorry enough for him to smile and decline.

"Deadline, you know how it is. Drop your stuff off Sunday night if you can, okay?"

"Sure," he said, but still looked crushed. Phoebe wondered why men always seemed to think they could get a certain girl, even though she obviously didn't like him. Too many damn movies, probably.

She rolled a fresh sheet of paper into the typewriter and stared at it. The next scene would be back with the detectives who were the stars of At Your Service. Now the audience would learn the detectives had woven an intricate plot whereby they could capture both the woman delivering papers to her crime lord boyfriend and the rival gang leader preparing to kill her with her own shoe. The detectives had hoped to keep the woman alive for the sake of her testimony, but another dead gangster's moll was nothing to cry over, and the censors preferred it when a bad girl was killed if there wasn't time for her to reform before the commercials ran.

Phoebe picked up her knitting and knit several rows of a cardigan, thinking about the final few minutes of the script. The music and chatter outside, even the screeches of Mrs. Pocatelli, who must have seen Jimmy putting out his cigarette, faded as the sharp heel of the moll's shoe flew toward her neck before the scene cut abruptly to the detectives' dingy offices.

The phone rang, jolting Phoebe back to her bright apartment, where everything was painted green and pink and nothing went more than three days without polish. She took a breath, composing herself. It was important to answer the phone at just the right moment, with just the right tone. It might be someone offering work, and so you mustn't sound desperate, or too available. Serene, composed, unruffled, that was the only way a lady writer was allowed to come across. It was not unlike what women on the dating market went through, or so Phoebe was given to understand.

She picked up just as the phone stopped ringing. "Well, of course you would do that," she grumbled, slamming it back down again, taking little pleasure in the tinny bing that echoed off the walls.
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