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December 03, 2016
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Mystery Role

“You have to come over.”

“What’s going on?”

“I’m at my wit’s end.”

“Oh Murray, it’s snowing outside.”

“Tom, it’s an emergency.”

Tom stepped out into the snow. He pulled at his hat and scarf. What had Murray gotten himself into? He was curious and usually when folks came to see him for advice that wasn’t the case. Still, he tried to help them all just the same.

He shuffled down the street thinking about Murray. They had met as young men years ago—too many to remember. And they had shared a close bond, acting opposite each other as enemies. Murray had won the big acclaim for his role; Tom had been nominated, which was an honor, of course. For some time, there was a slight twinge of jealousy whenever they spoke. Over the years, however, any sort of competition between them had withered away. Now they were simply close friends.

He rang the buzzer.

“It’s Tom.”

“Oh thank god.” Click.

Upstairs: “How have you been?”

“Sorry it’s such a mess in here, my housekeeper has been on vacation.”

Tom’s eyes glided through the apartment. Empty wine bottles, cigarette butts and scripts everywhere. Murray had been preparing for a role, Tom noted to himself.

“I need some advice,” Murray said, getting straight to the point. “It’s gotten me all worked up. I can’t sleep.”

He did look tired.

“The city is so blasting loud, I can’t handle it.” A breath. “I can’t decide which role to take.”

Tom laughed.

“It’s not funny, it’s literally keeping me up at night.”

“Why don’t you start at the beginning?” Tom said calmly as he moved some loose script pages off of the couch and sat down.

Murray stood by the window, his arms flailing as he spoke. “So last week Bobby calls me and says, ‘Come do this role. Same old crowd. David is directing. Would be a blast.’ I say ‘great’ and then later that night my agent calls with this other offer. So now I have to decide which one to do. You know, Bobby and I go way back, but this is a new play with a young writer. Good script. Great part. Lots of energy.

“When I start thinking about it, I get crazy. I have this feeling that I’m going to make the wrong decision. I’m not sleeping. I tried to do my laundry the other day and it was a disaster. I lie in bed and ponder both choices, tossing and turning and listening to this CLICK, CLICK, CLICK and my neighbor wandering around next door.”

“Have you tried taking some sleeping pills?”

It was a little bit of a trick question, as Tom was aware that Murray was off anything that could become addicting. They had both been down that road in their younger years.

“You know I can’t mess with that stuff.”

“But you are back on the cigarettes.”

Murray waved Tom off with his hand.

“Tom, I just need you to read the scripts and tell me which one to take. Please.”

“I can’t do that. How’s the money?”

“Terrible. These aren’t money jobs.”

“This is the best problem in the world to have,” Tom answered.

“I know, I know, I shouldn’t be complaining, but all the same I have to make a decision.”

“Can you do both?”

“It’s not possible.”

“When do you have to decide?”

“End of this week.”

“Oh Murray. You’ll be fine. I’m going to go.”

“What? You have to help me.”

“Sleep on it.”

“I can’t sleep!”

Tom stood up and walked toward the door.

“Tie your laundry cart to the pipe so it doesn’t rattle at night. It’s winter, Murray, the heat’s on.” Tom shook Murray’s hand at the door. Murray stood motionless, confused.

“I’m sure your housekeeper usually ties it. When’s the last time you did your own laundry?”

A grin spread over Murray’s face.

“Won’t keep your neighbor up anymore either, which I suspect will stop him from rambling around in the middle of the night to try to silence that clicking sound. These walls are paper thin, you know.

“You should be able to sleep and I suspect in the morning you’ll know what to do. The answer will present itself.”

Out on the street, Tom was pleased he had seen the solution quickly, as much of one that he could offer Murray anyway. The rest Murray would have to figure out for himself and he would. Tom stepped out into the snow and started back toward his apartment.