Here’s part of a scene from my new novel Dream Factory that describes how aspiring actress Vivian Vogel gets her first studio contract in Hollywood. While Vivian is working as a waitress at the iconic Brown Derby restaurant during a busy lunch shift, an angel directs her attention toward a man who needs help:
She walked briskly toward the back of the restaurant and flipped her notepad open, ready to take an order from the customers who just settled into a corner booth. As Vivian listened to them describe what they wanted and scribbled down notes, she was too immersed in her work to notice a man a few tables away begin to flail around in his chair in a panic. A thought flashed urgently in Vivian’s mind: “Turn around, Vivian! Someone needs your help!” But she dismissed it as just another one of the daydreams that sometimes floated through her mind, threatening to distract her from her work if she wasn’t careful.
The man began to attract the attention of some other customers with his erratic movements and weak coughing that turned into strange high-pitched noises, but Vivian remained oblivious until a calm yet urgent voice spoke audibly to her: “Turn around now!”
Vivian spun around to see who had just spoken to her, but saw no one despite the fact that the voice had come from right beside her. She didn’t take time to ponder that mystery, though, when she caught sight of the man in distress. Vivian dropped her notepad and ran over to grab hold of the arm of the man’s smart olive green shirt. “Sir? Are you okay?” she asked, even though it was obvious that he wasn’t.
The man shook his head of graying brown hair vigorously and clutched his throat. His brown eyes bored into Vivian like those of a wild animal desperate to escape a predator, and his skin slowly turned a ghastly shade of blue.
Vivian lurched to the back of the man’s chair and swung her arms around his waist. Making a fist, she thrust it into his abdomen below his ribcage, but nothing dislodged from his throat and the blue pallor grew deeper. “Oh, Lord, please help me help him,” Vivian whispered, trying not to panic. She made another fist, and pushed it into the man’s abdomen with all her might as he leaned forward off the chair and over the floor like a scarecrow. Then a piece of hamburger shot out of his mouth and he gasped in air.
Gradually, Vivian became aware that a crowd had gathered around them, and she whispered her gratitude to God in the midst of the onlookers’ stunned silence. The man took a few more gulping breaths and grabbed her hands in his, squeezing them hard. “You saved my life,” he said in a hoarse voice. “Thank you!”
“I’m just glad you’re okay,” Vivian replied, as tears streamed down her cheeks without her permission. “Glad I could help.”
Slowly, a crescendo of cheers and applause built up throughout the restaurant, and its sweet sound echoed in Vivian’s ears as she stood with her hands clasped inside the rescued man’s hands. After a few moments, he released her and managed a smile. Vivian handed the man a glass of water as other customers returned to their meals. “How did you know what to do?” the man asked, his voice returning to normal after several sips of water.
Vivian relaxed enough to allow herself to smile. “Oh, I know this probably will sound kind of silly, but I remembered a scene from a movie where a character was choking. It was a western: Sunset in the Dust …”
“I know that picture well,” the man interrupted. “I designed the lighting for it.”
“Really?” Vivian sputtered. “We might have met before then, but I’m sure you won’t remember me. I was just an extra, hired for the day they shot the saloon scene where the villain chokes. Sitting so close to his table through so many retakes, I learned how to help a choking victim fairly well just by watching.”
“So you were at Pinnacle Studios, then?”
“Yes; that was one of just three times I’ve ever gotten through the gates. My friend and roommate Constance Montgomery is under contract there. She helped me get all the jobs I’ve gotten as an extra. Of course, I’d like to do more in pictures. But it hasn’t worked out that well for me so far.”
“Constance Montgomery?” the man repeated, trying to recall the name. “Oh, yes. She’s the stage actress from back east.”
“That’s right! Do you know her?”
The man leaned forward and offered his right hand for Vivian to shake. “John Benedict. I’m the head of Pinnacle’s lighting department. I’ve seen Constance in a few supporting roles, and she’s done a solid job with them.”
“She’s got loads of talent,” Vivian gushed.
“Sure has.” John studied Vivian’s face for a long moment before continuing. “And I’m sure you do, too, or you wouldn’t be out here trying to get your own start in pictures. You seem like too sensible a person to chase a dream on a whim.”
“Oh, no! Gosh, I thought and prayed long and hard about it before I ever got on that train last year. Nothing’s worked out for me, yet, but I’m sure something will if I’m truly meant to be in pictures.”
The corners of John’s thin lips slowly raised upward into a smile. “You can count on getting through those gates at Pinnacle Studios again,” he said. “I’ll make sure of that.”
Dream Factory Copyright © 2013 Whitney Von Lake Hopler
All rights reserved.
Vivian’s big break is a dream come true for her, but she’ll soon discover that many unexpected adventures can happen while pursuing dreams. Hope you read and enjoy Dream Factory, either in paperback or ebook form!