I woke up early the next day, the sun wasn’t even up. I packed my suitcase and I made myself some eggs. Mom and dad weren’t up yet and it was nice to make my own breakfast and do things as fast or as slow as I wanted, without my mom constantly telling me what to do. I can’t wait for college. I can’t wait to get out of this place. My bag is packed, my room is clean, so there’s nothing left to do but write. As I begin, I lose myself in the story and I lose track of time and reality and the fact that I’m going to California and I might even see Sylvester Stallone. Dads thunderous knocking shakes me back to earth and I check the clock 9:00am.
“We’re gonna be late!” I open the door to see dad’s unshaven face and red eyes blinking at me.
“Hurry up Pops!”
In a mad rush dad grabs his suitcase he had packed last night and eats some toast and eggs that mom makes for him. We rush out of the house, Sal our next door neighbor is taking us to the airport. I say goodbye to mom and I laugh, cause I feel ridiculously happy at this point. I’m leaving and I wonder what it will feel like when I finally do leave and go to college. I smile cause I have a feeling it will be great.
Dad’s a little nervous, he eats his peanuts and drinks some scotch to calm his nerves down. He is not too keen on flying and I’ve never flown anywhere so together we’re a disaster. The plane ride is bumpy and then smooth. I can feel my breakfast start to make waves in my stomach. I sip some of my ginger ale and decide to close my eyes. The slow decent of the plane making its way down wakes me up.
“Dad, we’re here!”
Uncle Lou is there waiting for us. It’s much warmer in California than back home. The palm tree dance in the air and the people, they look happy. Life seems different here, there is possibility in the air and I just know I’m going to meet Stallone. We go back to Uncle Lou’s apartment and I unpack and freshen up. We eat lunch, left over lasagna. My Uncle Lou makes the best lasagna in the world.
“Hey I gotta be back on set by 3pm. Now, extras aren’t supposed to have guests or visitors but I know the producers assistant and she is going to hook us up with visitor badges. So act cool, like you belong there.”
As we pull up into the studio lot it begins to all seem so unreal. My hands grasp my copy of “Paradise Alley” it seems stupid to me now; I had brought the book thinking I would meet Stallone and he would sign it. It all seems so unrealistic and silly now. The producer’s assistant Jennifer walks out to greet us and hands us our badges.
“Remember if someone asks you anything, just say you’re with the press.”
Dad and I put our badges on and laugh. “I’m with the press.” Dad says, in what I assume is his version of what a broadcaster sounds like.
“Hey what you got there?” Uncle Lou points to my book.
“Oh nothing, just a book….I thought that…you know, maybe I should leave it.”
“No, no keep it, it makes you look important.”
Hours pass by and I’ve been around the lot several times, people running around everywhere. The actual “set” is further away and every now and then we hear the director say into his microphone. “Quiet on the set!” And then the excitement is gone. I begin to hang around the Kraft Service table at least there’s food. I spread some cream cheese on a cracker and some cheese falls onto my shirt. I chew the cracker and sip some soda.
“Hey there you got something on your shirt.” I try to wipe it and it spreads further across my shirt. “No, no what you have to do is dab, dab it with some soda water.” I look up and it’s Sylvester Stallone. I’m speechless. Nothing comes out. “Hey, is that my book you got there?” I shake my head up and down. “Did you read it yet?” I shake my head up and down. “Did you like it?” I swallow my cracker that is now lodged in my throat. I swallow hard. “Are you alright?” He looks at me with this perplexed look on his face. His muscles peering out of his shirt, his eyes looking down on me and I can’t think of something to say. Say something! Just say something…..and just as I open my mouth he is called away and in a flash he’s gone. I had my chance and I blew it.
“Hey kid, did you have fun?” It’s Jennifer coming to take my badge away and my chance of ever meeting him again.
“Sure,” I manage to say.
“Well, you got two more days, and then I have to take the badge away. We’re only allowed three days per journalist. You’re dad tells me you want to be a writer. You should actually write a piece about your experience here. Hey, maybe you’ll even meet Stallone.”
I nod and walk towards Uncle Lou and dad. I can’t even bring myself to tell them. Once we are home I shower and change and go straight to bed. Dad and Lou want to stay up and talk and they encourage me to do so but I make an excuse that I have a headache and I just want to sleep.
“Come on Joey, wake up they are shooting some real fun scenes today and Uncle Lou gets to be in the crowd!” My dad says as he pushes me to get up.
“What’s wrong with you? You wanted to come here, you say Stallone’s your hero and you’re here now! Aand you could meet him and you seem so depressed.”
I sit up in bed and rub my eyes. “I did meet him. I met him yesterday and I couldn’t even speak. I just stared at him like an idiot. Dad I met him and now I’ll never meet him again. I blew it.”
“Where did you meet him?” Dad looks genuinely concerned for me.
“At the Kraft Service table. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Okay fine, so you met him and you were shocked. So today will be better. Come on get dressed.”
I think of what Jennifer said and I bring a notepad and a pen with me to write about this whole experience. I take my book thinking it will bring me luck. And to my amazement it does. Jennifer invites me to sit with her. I get a front row seat sitting next to Jennifer in her producer’s assistant chair. I see Stallone rehearse the scenes and do take after take. I jot down notes and begin to form an article about my trip and everything I see on the set.
“Jen could you please get me a bottle water?”
“Joey could you please get Mr. Stallone a bottle water? She looks at me urgently.
I immediately get up and get him bottle water and hand it to him. This is it my second chance, there are no third chances.
“Mr. Stallone it’s nice to meet you.” He extends his hand to shake mine.
My small hand almost disappears into his. “
My name is Joey I want to be a writer. I’m going to NYU next year but what I really want to study is screenwriting. I read your book, “Paradise Alley.” It was awesome man, I’m from Brooklyn and well you are like the coolest guy on earth. I’m a big fan, you know how you wrote, “Rocky” you inspire me. It makes me think I can do things to.”
“Listen kid; don’t let other people get you down. If you want something you have to pursue it and don’t give up.”
“Thanks. No fear, no pain.”
“Exactly, you know you are a smart young man.”
“My dad always says to me. “Joey you’re not going to wake up one day and be Sylvester Stallone.”
“Well, that may be, but if you lift some weights and eat more protein you could bulk up a bit and keep writing. Joey you don’t have to be me. Just be you that’s all you need to be.”
Thanks, if it’s not too much trouble, could you please sign my book?”
“Sure,” He takes my book in his hand and opens it. It seems to glow in his hands. It must be the sun; he signs it and hands it back to me. There seems to be electricity between us as he hands it back to me I feel a shock.
“Hey you seem to have a lot of static electricity, ouch!” Stallone smiles.
“Sorry,” I smile nervously.
“No problem kid.” He walks away laughing and talking with other people on the set. He looks like Adonis, something spectacular, and I shook his hand. I had a conversation with him. I can’t wait to tell my dad.
We go out to dinner that night and I can’t stop talking about my encounter with Stallone. “Well where’s the book?” My dad asks. “Yeah, what did he write in it?” My Uncle Lou motions his hands for me to give him the book and I search for it. I don’t remember bringing it into the restaurant.
“Maybe I left it in the car.”
“Well, go get it,” My uncle hands me the keys. I look everywhere, under the seat, behind the seats and in the trunk. It’s nowhere.
“I can’t find the book. Can you believe it I finally get him to sign it and I can’t find it now!”
“Maybe you left it back on the set?” My dad says trying to sound positive.
“I probably did,”
“Don’t’ worry we’ll find it tomorrow.” Uncle Lou says trying to sound equally optimistic.
I’m exhausted and I go straight to my room to change and get into bed. My fingers hurt as I unbutton my shirt. I see that my hand is red, my fingers are red and I remember the shock I felt as he handed me back my book, strange I think. I shrug it off and fall asleep.
“Mr. Stallone, I’m sorry to bother you, but you’re usually on set before everyone else. Are you feeling alright?”
I hear pounding on the door.
“Pops just give me one more minute.” I scream from under my pillow.
“What? Who’s Pops?
I sit up, my arms feel heavy, and my body feels different. I rub my eyes and look at my hands. I’m in a different room. I’m not at Uncle Lou’s. I get up and look at myself, my hands, my feet, my legs. I look in the mirror. Terror runs through me. I turn around thinking I’ll see Sylvester Stallone. But no, no it’s me in the mirror, only it’s not me. It’s Sylvester Stallone. This can’t be happening. If I’m here then where is he?
“Mr. Stallone?” It’s Jennifer’s voice on the other side of the door.
“Yes, Jennifer I’m sorry I slept in. I’ll be right there.” I say in my deepest voice and then I realize it is my voice! I search the closet for some clothes. I’m clumsy in this new body. My brain won’t connect to the fact that my body is heavier and taller. I trip and fall and I can’t even walk right. This is going to be a disaster. Should I call my dad? No, he won’t believe me and I sound like Sylvester Stallone. My stomach isn’t happy and I run to the bathroom and vomit. Great I’m already ruining his body. I brush my teeth and comb this hair, this thick, black, wavy hair. I smile in the mirror. I look stupid, wonderful I can even make “Rocky” look stupid.
I walk on the set and I’m ushered into the makeup room. I’m asked a million questions and I just do the best I can and explain that I’m not feeling well. The director comes and talks to me and I can’t understand anything he says. Green screen, stand on your mark, depth of character. I tell him I’m sick, I feel like I have the flu. He dismisses my ramblings and thinks I’m joking. In an instant I’m hoisted up on a makeshift pretend mountain that looks quiet real. I don’t know my lines and the director is yelling them to me and telling me what to say.
“Mr. Stallone, can you get on the rope and pretend there’s a girl that’s going to fall. You’re looking at her and she’s going to fall. You are holding onto her, tell her she’s not going to die. I fumble through the scene and manage to show mixed emotions and I quiet enjoy all the yelling. I’m big, I’m strong and I have deep voice, when I scream the set shakes. I am Stallone. When the scene is done we cut for lunch and I feel like I really am going to be sick. I head towards the Kraft Service Table and I see myself coming towards me. He takes my hand and leads me away. My father apologizes and says his son has gone mad.
“Are you? Am I? Did we switch bodies or something?”
“Yes, I think so. I woke up in your room and somehow I’m you.” I look down at myself.
“And I’m you I woke up in your bed with your dad screaming at me to get up.”
I can still see Sylvester Stallone in there somewhere. I’m more confident, I stand up straight. My hair is different. I’m cool. He can make me cool.
“I’m sorry.” I say thinking of how I’ve disgraced him this morning on set.
“Don’t be sorry. It’s nice having a dad. He really loves you. I never had a dad.”
“Yeah, I guess he’s not that bad.” I say.
“Hey I’m not bad looking.” He says and we laugh it’s strange to hear my voice coming at me.
“I’m a little freaked out.” I say
“Yeah, me too so I guess your dad really was wrong. You did wake up and become Sylvester Stallone.”
We laugh about it and then we get serious about what do.
“I’ve been thinking and I think it was the book. When I signed it and it shocked me and it kind of glowed.” He says.
“I thought the same thing.” I say.
“Where is the book? I looked all over your room for it and couldn’t find it.”
“I think I left it here.” I say.
“Let’s look for it.” He says looking a bit frantic as we see Jennifer approaching.
“Is everything alright? Joey, Mr. Stallone has important business; you should go see your dad.” Jennifer says.
“Yes, Joey is writing this article and so I’m gonna let the kid hang out with me today.”
“You are a lucky kid. You now that? Enjoy this time Joey and write down your experiences here. You’ll look back on it one day. I’m sure you’ll never forget it.”
“I’m sure I won’t,” He looks up at me and we laugh.
“Ask Jen if she’s seen the book.” He says to me.
“Jen have you seen this book a copy of my book called “Paradise Alley” lying around? The kid lost it.”
“No I haven’t but if I do I’ll bring it by your trailer.”
“We should look for it.” He says. “Maybe it’s in the props department.”
We head look for the book in the props area. We start rummaging through boxes.
“This is my last day here. I got a journalist pass for three days and that’s it. We have to change back today.”
“How did you get the pass?”
“My Uncle Lou knows Jennifer and she got us the passes.”
“So you came from Brooklyn just to hang out on a movie set and you didn’t even know if you would meet me?”
“Yes, my dad doesn’t agree that I should be a writer. He wants me to go to college and he thinks writing is a dead end business. I want to prove to him that I can do it.”
“You can Joey, you can; you just have to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself then how can you expect others to believe in you?”
“I thought if I was stronger and taller people would look at me different.”
“Joey, it doesn’t matter what body your in. What matters is what’s inside.”
“I know that now.”
“I found it!” I say as I see the book on a shelf behind some other props.
“Great what do we do now?” Stallone says.
“Let’s see. I gave you the book; you opened it and signed it. No wait we shook hands and then I gave you the book and you signed it and gave it back to me.”
“Let’s do that exact same thing again.” He says.
“What are you going to write?”
“Don’t worry I know what to write.”
We shake hands and I feel the static once again. I hand him the book and he signs it and gives it back to me. And once again I feel the static and the book is hot. I almost drop it.
“Nothing happened.” Stallone says.
“I think we have to wait another night and we’ll wake up and be us again.”
“Give me the number to your Uncle’s phone and I’ll call you in the morning.”
“Joey, it’s time to go.” I see my dad from a distance.
“Let’s freak my dad out.” I walk towards him.
Joey, you know that’s just not nice.”
“Hello, you must be Joey’s dad. He’s a great kid. He’s very smart and an excellent writer. You must be very proud. I think he is going to make a hell of a screen writer.”
“Oh yeah, that’s what I say all the time.” My father shakes my hand and looks up at me. Yes it feels good to be Stallone for a day.
I wave goodbye to them and walk back to my trailer and change. I look into the mirror and check out my biceps, my eyes, and I smile. The trailer seems lonely and I miss my mom.
“Joey, we’re late! We have to get to the Airport!” I wake up suddenly and get up and go the mirror. I’m me again! I’m in my Uncle Lou’s apartment and I’m light as a feather. I pack my bags and change clothes and rush outside. Dad and Uncle Lou are standing by the house phone with blank expressions on their faces.
“It’s Sylvester Stallone on the phone for you.” I take the phone as cool as I can.
“Joey! We made it brother! Why don’t you give me your phone number and address and I’ll give you mine. Now don’t giving it to anyone. I want a copy of the article you wrote for this trip.”
“Yes that sounds great! Dad can you hand me a paper and a pencil.”
I turn my back and write down his information and fold it and stuff it in my pocket. I give him mine and we say our goodbyes.
“No fear, no pain. Hey kid did this really happen?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Yeah me neither. Talk to you soon champ.”
I hang up and turn around. Uncle Lou and dad are smiling from ear to ear.
“So what now you’re best friends with Sylvester Stallone?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
Once I got back home it all seemed like a dream until I got the phone call that he had turned in my article “Becoming Stallone” to a friend at the L.A. times and it was going to have a spot on this coming Sunday’s paper. He sent me the paper with a picture of us in the heading.
Now looking back on it all as I sit on this bench holding my coffee, looking at him walking towards me it does seem like a dream.
“Hey, you daydream? Let’s go for a run.” He says tapping my shoulder and the coffee spills a little.
“It’s freezing.” I stumble trying to hold onto the cup.
“So what?” He says smiling.
“I toss my coffee in the trash and take off first.”
“Man, Joey I wish I could be more like you!”