Method of Mayhem:
The Robbing of Sunshine
A Short Story By Joshua Lemon
Ten years ago, the legend of Connor “Mac” McElwain exploded from obscurity into the brightest star shinning over the Hollywood hills of California. A place where dreams fly and die like a beating heart of self-love. The world loved their darling Mac, and Mac really loved Mac. He was a grade-a narcissist, if you ask me! An all-around… well, he was a jerk, let’s just put it that way. From the outside looking in, Mac looked like a more masculine, taller, and tanner version of Johnny Depp. I hate to admit this, but he wasn’t bad on the eyes, but there was no way I would let him know that! Hollywood critics compared his acting skills to the likes of Daniel Day Lewis. Movie studio execs fought dirty yellow tooth and rusty nail to land Mac on one of their films. His movie’s continually surpassed $100 million in box office glory, even with the worst scripts imaginable. Yeah, Mac was loved by everyone, everyone but me.
I hated Mac.
If I sound jaded, bitter, and injected with poisonous resentment, it’s because I am. Mac ruined my life. He not only ruined my life but he turned me into a criminal by blackmailing me. If anyone ever found out that I helped him with all of his “prep work”, I’d be in jail calling some heavy bull-dyke “mama” as I massaged her corn ridden feet and pretended to act like an 11-year-old girl.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning…
Once upon a time, I was a simple girl with a simple life and dreams bigger than the milky way. My mama used to always tell me, “Erin, there is more beauty in simplicity, if you only take the time to find it.” She was a poet compared to my daddy’s tobacco filled mouth garbles and guttural grunts. My daddy sure did love the milky way. On a clear night, he’d sit in that old creaky rocking chair starring into the night’s sky, slowly rocking the night away as the galaxy paraded by our small existence.
My family and I, lived on a farm out in west Texas; just outside Odessa. It was a boring life, but it had its charms. The sunsets were gorgeous, and the fields of cotton stretched for miles and miles. The worst part– besides stupid farm boys– was the dust. The wind would harshly throw sand, pelting anyone and everyone. A person can grow accustom to the taste of dirt. It was impossible to feel clean in West Texas. The stench of crude oil was a cruel kind of disgusting, but was no match for the fumes of cow shit coming from Dugger’s Dairy Farm. Luckily, you could only smell it when the wind was blowing out of the east.
I wanted nothing more than to escape. So, I did. I graduated high school, and packed up my 1989 Dodge Ram pickup truck, and left for the west coast with every penny I had ever earned since the age of 3. It was only enough for gas, and a few months’ rent, from what I could guess.
I was free, and stupid, but I didn’t care!
I found a little, and I do mean little, apartment to rent in LA. I found the place on a craigslist ad. It came with a roommate named Rochelle, something or another. She was trying to make it as an actress, like every other blonde with big boobs from nowhere USA. Not me. I wanted to be a publicist or an agent. I liked pulling strings, not pretending to be somebody I wasn’t, plus I was not blonde and I sure as heck didn’t have big boobs. After 4 weeks of little progress on the job hunt, I struck gold. Or so I thought. I landed an interview with Connor McElwain. He was a character actor who had been in quite a few movies, according to IMDB. Yeah, I had to look him up. He always played the crazy character, and earned Oscar nominations like they were handshakes. Never won the actual statues, which was a running joke in Hollywood. I was interviewing to be Mr. McElwain’s personal assistant. It was not the big time, but it was a start.
~ 2 ~
Oh, my little sunshine. I remember the day she interviewed for the position, like it was tattooed to my brain. This little naive, boyish looking teenage girl from Texas stormed into my office and said, “Hi Mr. McElwain, I’m Erin Banks. I’m here to interview for the open position.” She tried to hide her redneck podunk draw, but it was pointless. Silly girl. She grabbed my hand with a grip from hell and shook like she wanted to rip my arm off and eat it.
I could have hired any of the 12 Barbie dolls that interviewed before her, but they would have distracted me from my work. Plus, lil sunshine was young, stupid, and cheap. She was perfect. Obviously, she took the job; Who wouldn’t want to work with me?
~ 3 ~
Working for Mac was easy once I learned all of his habits. He stopped yelling and calling me D.B. after 3 weeks or so. From what I could guess, D.B. stood for dumb and a word that I punched Johnny Miller right in the mouth for calling me. I then became his “lil sunshine”. I preferred D.B. over lil sunshine. I ain’t that sunny. Ha, if he only knew the nicknames I had for him. Makes me smile just thinking about them.
The job got easier, but back then Mac was not the Hollywood darling that he is nowadays. I sat in on many meetings with Mac’s agent and publicist, and the message was always the same.
“A career resurrection is needed Mac! You know I love you, but no one wants to hire a character actor for the lead.” Thomas, Mac’s agent would always tell him.
Thomas had a special talent of never making eye contact with anyone while speaking to them, because his eyes and thumbs were hard at work on his phone. Thomas’ suits cost more than three months’ rent at my apartment, but he was still nothing more than a typical used car salesman with a fancier title. I was going to be different. I would be strong, but I’d give a crap about my clients, you know? Well maybe I would, if I ever met a real person in this plastic town.
~ 4 ~
What can I tell you? Connor was a relative unknown until I got a hold of him. Yes, he could act, but I made him a star. Do you know how many times I had to go to his house and knock some sense into him? Way too many. It’s nothing I haven’t handled before. All my clients are needy, slightly delusional, and act smarter, and stronger, and more confident than their mountain of insecurities they hide. Connor was no different, and probably the worst of all of them. He’s probably the best actor of all of them too, which is why no one can plainly see his mount Everest of doubt.
Once Connor finally awoke from his delusion slumber, we devised a plan. The only way he would get a leading role at this point, was to make it happen ourselves. We would have to find financing, a script worth buying, and a director with no balls, because Connor did not take direction.
I sent Connor out to a friend of a friend’s yacht in the Mediterranean Sea, where this dude apparently threw the wildest parties for the entire month of June. Non-stop booze, drugs, women, and the biggest egos on earth.
I sent him on his way, and hoped he didn’t do something stupid and die from an overdose or something.
~ 5 ~
I don’t remember much about my trip to the Mediterranean. The second movie I was ever in, I played a high level broker, so my sales and negotiation skills were no match for a coked up drunk billionaire who loved famous people. The guy practically forced me to take his money. What a schmuck!
The real challenge was reading over 50 scripts before I found one that screamed my name like a banshee in the night.
Oh, I found my blissful script and I was ready to destroy tinsel town with guns a blaze!
~ 6 ~
When Mac returned from the Mediterranean, he seemed different. There was a wildness in his eyes. He had found a script about some serial robber who was addicted to the thrill, and could care less about the spoils.
This is about the time that my life would change forever…
~ 7 ~
Connor was hungrier than I had ever seen him. As his agent, I was ecstatic to see his energy. He seemed different, stronger… I didn’t know what had changed, but that was about the time that my life would change forever.
~ 8 ~
I was about to change acting forever…
~ 9 ~
I got the call from my agent that Connor McElwain, who is a fabulous actor with tremendous abilities wanted me to direct his passion piece. I was blown away, and greatly humbled. My directorial debut was just last year, and it received mixed reviews at Sundance, so this was quite the surprise. I was not going to let my chance to shine slip through.
That phone call was about the time that my life would change forever.
~ 10 ~
My problem was my lack of dedication. I had to go big! I was the best actor on the planet, but I wasn’t showing the world what I could really do. Yeah, I’m a method actor, and most fans think that means I just stay in character in between takes. Are you freaking kidding me? It means total immersion into the character’s mind, becoming the character, and not knowing where you end and they begin. It’s a drug that plays a movie in your head, and you cannot escape it until the hypnotizer says the magic words. “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! THAT’S A WRAP FOR CONNOR McELWAIN!” Boom! Mac is back, awoken from his hosts departure.
Do you really think I was going to let a bunch of suits hold me back from my art? No way in hell! I got the movie financed, found a director, and a new writer to tweak the script, and that shit was on! I had to up my game. I had to intensify my character conversion. I had to really experience life as the character, and not just for a day or two, but for as long as it took. I figured 2 months was enough. It was time to let the games begin. Lil Sunshine was about to learn a whole new job description. That lil idiot would believe anything.
~ 11 ~
I thought Mac was crazy before the movie “prep work”, as he called it, had started, but boy was I wrong! Mac thought ‘method actor’ meant ‘clinically insane actor’. His theory to take his career to the next level meant to live and breathe his character. Oh his theory was something he lived by from that film on, and it started… ended everything.
The movie Mac was staring in was called, Thieves’ Bliss, and his character Frank was an adrenaline junkie who got his kicks robbing convenience stores. Frank needed a bigger score each time to feed his addiction. Who comes up with these stupid stories? How do you think Mac prepared for the role of Frank the robber? A normal person may interview a few robbers, or read about them, but not Mac. Oh no! He had to elevate his game.
Mac was going to actually rob a convenience store…
~ 12 ~
I remember the look on Lil Sunshine’s face when I told her what I was going to do. The little brat thought I was joking, which made it easy to make her help me… you know, with the “joke”. I needed help researching, and I needed a driver. Frank used a driver, so I needed one when I became Frank.
Thomas got me in contact with a master thief. The guy had just been released from prison after three years for burglary. It was the first time he was caught, but he has been rumored to be a suspect in over forty robberies, heists, and cons. He was as legit as they came. We hit it off immediately, and I think he had a thing for my lil sunshine. Creepy eyes… of course I used that with my character Frank.
We “researched” and planned for over a month.
It was time to forget Mac, and become Frank.
~ 13 ~
I was so stupid. I honestly thought it was all some joke, or staged mental preparation for a nut job actor. I believed it all the way up until it actually happened. Frank, because he wouldn’t respond to Mac at that point, had me wear a prosthetic nose, a blonde wig under a flat billed Laker’s hat, and some baggy ghetto looking clothes while I drove him to the convenience store late that night. I thought it was all a joke, until I parked the white Chevy Malibu, he got out and went in the store.
Through the glass I watched in petrified horror as FrankenMac pulled a gun, and pointed it directly in the face of the poor pimply faced store worker in a dirty smock. With his whole body trembling the scared kid gave FrankenMac what little money there was from the register and kept his hands up.
I couldn’t speak…
He was really doing this! It wasn’t some joke… unless he paid the store to shut down, and paid some actor to pretend to be held up. I wasn’t sure, but I hoped. Oh god did I hope. It definitely seemed as real as the time I got stuck in a pen with our family’s angry bull, named fluffy.
I thought my heart would break my ribs, it was pounding so hard. FrankenMac backed away, yeehawing, as he flipped zit-boy the bird. Just as he got to the door, he gave a deafening howl, and started firing shot after shot into the store. A spray of bullets shattered the cooler glass doors, made Frito Lay’s explode into the air, and the soda machine pissed mountain dew. Frank stood staring at his masterpiece with a wicked grin that would make the devil blush, and a smoking pistol empty of all rounds.
“Let’s go sunshine!” He yelled as he jumped in the car.
I made the tires scream, as me and Frank tore down the road towards the other getaway car.
~ 14 ~
In what the County Sheriff’s office is calling, wild wild west meets Scarface, a seventh convenience store has been robbed, followed by a torrent of gunfire by the crazed gunman. The most perplexing part of the story is not the astonishing lack of clues, but is the total combined amount of money stolen by the dangerous armed robber. The grand total amounts to $238.00. If you factor in the seven untraceable vehicles left near the scenes of crime, the suspected madman has lost approximately $34,000.00 carrying out his seven heist, according to FBI Special Agent Roscoe, who is leading the investigation.
It might be a first in the world of criminality, as the suspect has paid $34,000, invested if you will, to steal just $238. When this lunatic is caught by LA’s finest, I think he’ll have a good shot at an insanity plea. The FBI asks that anyone with information leading to the arrest of the culprit will receive $100,000 reward.
I’m Jillian Rodriguez with KVIEW NEWS, Los Angeles California.
~ 15 ~
It was the most perplexing case I had ever been assigned to in all of my 23 years with the Bureau. As a profiler, I understood crazy. I had to live inside a madman’s mind, and clear the fog to find understanding. This man had different patterns in every way possible. He was rich, and well connected, because those cars had no VIN, none. All the usual channels of informants had no clue who this guy was working with or why he wasn’t going for bigger scores. None of it made sense, so I guess you could say that I enjoyed the challenge. At least the prick hadn’t killed anyone yet.
The bastard got more famous with every robbery too. The motive didn’t come to me until I stopped in at Cup of Joe’s to feed my morning addiction… that was it. This guy was addicted to the thrill, an adrenaline junkie. He never once left a traceable piece of evidence. He could have kept on robbing forever, he was that good, and we were that clueless. Maybe he finally wised up and realized he was going broke just to steal $200 bucks, because he just stopped suddenly and without apparent cause. It’s been 18 months since the last hold up, and he’s a damn ghost. No sweat off my brow. On to the next guy with mommy issues and delusions of grandeur. They all have mommy issues.
~ 16 ~
Can you believe he didn’t even thank me one time? I was his accomplice seven times, and not one thank you. That horrible, selfish man blackmailed me after that first robbery that he tricked me into doing.
……. If I’m being honest, and I’d never tell anyone this, but it started to get fun.
~ 17 ~
I am not sure what went through Connor’s head during his preparation for the role of Frank, but it was his masterpiece. The level of artistry that went into the raw emotion he exuded from every pore of his body, was breathtaking. It was the pinnacle of my career to direct this film, and someone of his talent. It would be difficult to argue that anyone in Hollywood is better at their craft than Connor McElwain. He is simply brilliant. I truly hope to direct another movie staring the genius that is Connor.
~ 18 ~
The movie was a hit, and is now the 18th highest grossing film of all time. I must admit, even I liked it. Of course, I was there for the real thing. Mac even gave me a bonus for my hard work, and he dropped “Lil”. I didn’t hate it… Sunshine, ha! I probably should have escaped and never came back, but as insane as it sounds, I was a part of something big. I helped Mac achieve greatness.
~ 19 ~
They ended up making a movie about those seven robberies. It wasn’t half bad either, except some bumbling tiny man played me in the movie. Now, all the fella’s in the Bureau call me Agent O’Neil because of that freaking idiot in the movie. My Uncle Vinny calls me a Mic now and starts speaking with the worst Irish accent I’ve ever heard.
I don’t carry cases with me. When it’s done, it’s done, you know? But that case is carrying me, whether I like it or not. I’ll never again be able to feed my addiction at Cup of Joe’s without thinking about that case.
Anyways, I liked the movie. Not half bad, you know what I mean? I’m on to the next mentally unstable person who needs me to dive into their brain in order to get caught. But I swear, if one more guy calls me O’Neal instead of Roscoe, I’ll beat them six ways to Sunday.
~ 20 ~
Tonight was the night. I sat on the couch with Rochelle, trying not to vomit from the nerves. We watched all the beautiful people on the red carpet stop and smile for the camera. I wonder if their assistants hated them as much as I hated my Mac.
~ 21 ~
… and the Oscar for Best Actor goes to… CONNOR MCELWAIN!
~ 22 ~
I couldn’t help but scream as I jumped up and down on the couch. He did it! He actually won! I felt so much pride and happiness for him. He’ll never know that though. He ruined my simple life… but maybe simple wasn’t as beautiful as insanely complicated. He’ll still never know.
~ 23 ~
With one of my clients getting an Oscar, let’s just say business was booming afterwards. I made Connor Mac the legend he is today. He’d be nowhere without me. Well, maybe the Hallmark channel, but that’s it.
~ 24 ~
Thank you. Thank you. I… thank you. I’ve dreamed of this moment since I was a child, watching the likes of Depp, Malkovich, Lewis, and DiCaprio. I imagined the elation, and sense of accomplishment, except right now… in this moment… the elation is real. My heart is beaming with happiness, like a Lil Sunshine. No one, and I do mean no one, can rob me of my Sunshine.