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Authors: Jonathan Tropper

Plan B

ALSO BY JONATHAN TROPPER

This Is Where I Leave You
How to Talk to a Widower
Everything Changes
The Book of Joe

JONATHAN TROPPER

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

PLAN B
. Copyright © 2000 by Jonathan Tropper. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

www.stmartins.com

Book design by Michelle McMillian

The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:

Tropper, Jonathan.
      Plan B : Jonathan Tropper.
             p. cm.
      ISBN 978-0-312-25253-3
      1. Male friendship—New York (State)—New York—Fiction. 2. Young men—
New York (State)—New York—Fiction. 3. New York (N.Y)—Fiction. I. Title.
  PS3570.R5885 P57 2000
  813’.54—dc21

99-056148
CIP

ISBN 978-0-312-64507-6 (trade paperback)

First Edition: February 2000
Second St. Martin’s Griffin Edition: May 2010

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For Lizzie and Spencer,
who make it perfectly fine to be thirty.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This book might never have been finished were it not for the support and encouragement I received from a number of people:

My parents, who never stopped quietly urging me to keep writing. My wife, Lizzie, who was always gracious when I woke her up to talk me through the intermittent attacks of doubt that invariably struck in the wee hours. Simon Lipskar, for snatching my manuscript out of the oblivion pile and believing in it so forcefully that I had no choice but to believe in him. Kelley Ragland at St. Martin’s Press, for championing this book from the beginning, while helping me to make it a better one. And finally, all of the friends who continued to express interest in my work, utterly convinced that it was destined for publication.

In the course of writing this book, I was aided in my
research by Edmond Cleeman, M.D., and Abraham Schreiber, M.D., and while most of their contributions landed on the literary equivalent of the cutting room floor, I am nonetheless grateful for their enthusiastic assistance.

Jack was a movie star, which meant he was granted some latitude in the outrageous behavior department. Nevertheless, when he showed up sweaty and stoned to Lindsey’s thirtieth birthday party, punched the overly solicitous maitre d’ in the nose, and vomited into the potted gladioluses lining Torre’s knee-high windowsills before passing out into a chair at our table, no one was amused. Not Lindsey, who said, “Screw this,” and walked over to the bar for another shot of vodka. Not Chuck, who tossed the ice from his drink and mine into his napkin and, cursing Jack under his breath, ran into the kitchen to tend to the maitre d’. Not Alison, who jumped out of her seat and anxiously began trying to revive Jack by gently slapping his face and applying a wet cloth to his forehead, urgently saying over and over again, “Oh my god, Jack, wake up.” And not I, who, lacking any other positive course of action, got up from the table and walked through the disapproving hush of well-dressed diners to join Lindsey at the bar.

Well, to tell the truth, I was somewhat amused. How often, after all, did you see that sort of thing in real life.

“You okay, Lindsey?” I asked, as she threw her head back and killed the vodka shot. Somewhere in the background, what sounded like Yanni or some other music on sedatives was being faintly piped into invisible speakers.

“Comparatively speaking, I would say I’m doing great,” she said, casting her eyes in the direction of Jack and Alison. “What a shithead.”

“Two more,” I called to the bartender, who managed to stop ogling Lindsey from under his eyebrows long enough to comply.

“You think anyone recognizes him?” I said, looking out across the restaurant.

“Who cares?”

“Here’s to you, birthday girl.” We clinked glasses and downed the shots.

“I think they’d be making a bigger deal if they knew who he was,” Lindsey observed. “It’s not every day you get to watch a bona fide movie star destroy his life.”

“He’s lucky he hasn’t been arrested.”

“The night’s young.”

“I hope the maitre d’ is okay,” I said, grimacing as I recalled the lurching punch, the snapping sound Jack’s fist and the maitre d’s face had produced in their collision. Jack’s punches usually had the benefit of accompanying THX sound effects. In real life the sound was startling in its lack of resonance, but somehow more imbued with violence because of it.

“Do you think it would be possible,” Lindsey said to the bartender, “for you to stop staring at my breasts for a little while?”

The bartender, a fortyish guy with a goiter and a handlebar mustache, gasped and quickly moved further down the bar. He
pulled out a dish rag and began meticulously scrubbing an invisible dirt spot. “You sure you’re okay?” I asked.

“He wasn’t even being subtle about it,” she said, annoyed.

“So it wasn’t the staring, but the sloppy execution that bugged you.

“Shut up, Ben.”

At that point, Chuck returned from the kitchen, his forehead dappled in sweat beneath his receding hairline. “Sweet Jesus, it’s hot in there.” He ordered a club soda on ice, which is what he always drank when he was operating the following morning. The bartender served him without making eye contact, and then quickly retreated to the other end of the bar.

“How’s the maitre d’?” I asked.

“He’ll live. He’s got a contusion on the bridge of his nose and it’ll hurt him to sneeze for a few days. I told him I’ll phone in a prescription for him. How’s Hollywood doing?”

We all looked over to the table, where Alison had finally revived Jack, and was force-feeding him a glass of water, most of which was ending up in dark, damp spots on his brown shirt. The restaurant’s dim lighting lent a jaundiced pallor to his already ashen complexion, making him appear gaunt and sickly. “He’s looked better,” I said truthfully.

“Dude, I’ve seen homeless junkies that looked better,” Chuck snorted.

“Spare us the lurid details of your social life.”

“Eat me,” Chuck said with a smirk. Chuck had somehow missed the stage where we all outgrew salutations like ‘dude’ and ‘eat me,’ and he clung to those anachronisms tenaciously, as if they might somehow slow down the balding process.

“There’s a shot for the tabloids.” Lindsey interrupted us, turning back to the bar, the track lighting picking out her blond highlights in a glimmering halo as her head moved.

“I think we’d better get him out of here,” I said. “If someone recognizes him, we’ll be watching this on
Entertainment Tonight
.”

“It would serve him right,” Lindsey said as we got up from the bar.

“What’s the point of being a famous movie star if no one recognizes you?” Chuck grumbled.

“Look at him,” I said. “I barely recognize him myself.”

It was true. Jack’s usually bright blond hair was in a matted, greasy mess above his Gucci shades, and he wore four or five days’ growth of a beard. It was hard to believe that this was the same man whose face (and body, always the body) had been on every major magazine cover at one time or another over the last few years, the same guy who reduced tabloid journalists to trite adjectives like “heartthrob” and “hunk.” But his grungy appearance that night would have done nothing to change that perception. Jack often went out looking like he hadn’t showered in a week. It was a Hollywood thing. All the stars were doing it lately, if the candid shots in
Entertainment Weekly
and
Movieline
were any indication. It was their way of saying, “Even when I look like shit I’m beautiful.” Which, in Jack’s case, was undeniably true. His essence shone through the layers of grime—the perfect green eyes, the exquisitely carved cheekbones, the casual, unconscious grace with which he threw his lean body around. On your best day, you’d be lucky to look like Jack with smallpox.

As we approached the table, Alison looked away, but not before I saw that there were tears in her eyes. I nudged Lindsey. “Take her outside.”

After the women left, Chuck and I took seats on either side of Jack, who was now sitting up, looking bleary-eyed but only slightly befuddled. “Do you think we can get out of here without any further incident?” I asked him.

“Sorry, guys,” Jack said with a sheepish, million-dollar smile. Then, concerned, “Did I hit someone?”

“You whacked the maitre d’,” I said.

“What was he doing?”

“Bleeding, mostly.”

“Shit.” He examined his knuckles with contempt, as if they had acted independently of him. “I knew I was too wrecked to come, but I really wanted to make it to Lindsey’s party.”

“Mission accomplished, dude,” Chuck said.

“Fuck, my head hurts,” Jack said, leaning back and rubbing his temples.

Chuck suddenly leaned forward and squeezed Jack’s nose between his thumb and forefinger. Jack bolted upright in pain and swatted away Chuck’s hand. “Asshole!”

“I thought that might hurt,” Chuck said, with a modicum of satisfaction.

“Cocaine?” I asked.

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