When you’ve got a kid as uniquely talented in the Dramatic Arts as my little Meryl, you’d rather poke your eye out than disappoint her in any way.
That’s why I felt so guilty Sunday night when I was forced to cancel Halloween. I had promised to take Meryl Trick-or-Treating in our neighborhood (she had worked very hard on her Joan of Arc costume), but as I was closing up the clinic for the day, a high-profile director who would sue me if I told you his name called me in a panic.
“Charles,” he said, “my wife is in labor! She’s in terrible pain. Can you get over here right away and give her some acupuncture anesthesia? We’ve got a suite at the Beverly Wilshire.”
“Take her to a hospital,” I said.
“We’re doing it right here,” he said. “She insists on natural childbirth. We’ve got a midwife and a women’s chanting circle and some stoned-looking monks and you-name-it. It’s a damned circus but it’s what she wants. My poor Jewish mother is fit to be tied.”
I jumped in the car and was about to call little Meryl to cancel our outing when my phone rang. It was Commando, the über-agent, calling.
“Chuck,” she said, “what’s your kid up to tonight? Are you taking her out? Let me do it for you. I’ve been trying to corner some elusive talent on the West Side and I’m thinking maybe your daughter could be my conduit.”
“What are you talking about?” I said.
“Look, here’s the plan: the kid rings the bell at some carefully chosen homes, then she does her little Trick-or-Treat thing and if Downey or Ansari answers the door, I step out from behind a bush and flash ’em a big smile. Next thing you know, they’re my clients. Kaboom! And the kid gets her Goobers.”
It sounded like a mutually beneficial arrangement to me, although I'm not sure I'd accept Halloween candy from Robert Downey. And so, as I pulled up to the hotel I gave the valet my keys, and the über-agent my blessing. In the elevator it occurred to me that the Universe takes care of you if you take care of It. Then it occurred to me that that didn’t make any sense.
“Thank God you’re here!” said the director, pulling me into the plush Governor’s Suite.
Seated around the room were a half dozen monks in saffron robes blowing rhythmically into curving, six-foot horns, filling the room with a deep, sonorous hum. The director whisked me into the adjoining room where a pale, athletic woman with flowing hair lay in bed, sweating and cursing while a group of frowsy, bra-less matrons in madras skirts chanted and clapped their finger cymbals. In the corner, a seventyish lady wearing a black, size-six cocktail dress and small, tight frown was watching “QVC.”
“Hurry Charles, please!” said the director. “My wife’s been screaming like this for the past hour.”
“How do you do,” I said, extending my hand to the sweaty, wild-eyed woman.
“Stop this pain!” she hollered, tearing a button off my shirt.
“Certainly,” I said.
But as I was about to stick a needle in her outer ear, the baby poked its head from between her pale thighs. The chanting grew manic as one of the frowsy women — the midwife — stepped forward to assist with the delivery.
Suddenly the lady in the black dress jumped up, shoving an elbow into the midwife’s rib.
“Outta my way, you beatnik” she croaked. “That’s my grandchild in there. Go back to your voo-doo! Okay sweetheart, push! You hear me? Push, push!”
The director’s wife pushed and howled and pushed some more and when the birth was complete, the lady in the black dress held the baby up like she had just won it bowling. Everybody in the suite crowded around the bed and clapped.
“It’s a boy,” said the little lady. “Thank God. My prayers have been answered. Now everybody take your incense and go home, and don’t steal the ash trays!”
On my way home I realized it wasn’t quite six o’clock. If I hurried, I could still take Meryl out for Trick-or-Treats.
As stop signs flew by and yellow lights blurred in my rear view mirror, I thought about the doting director and his wild-eyed wife. I thought about how a good Jewish boy and a nutty New Age girl had found a cultural common ground in the love they shared and how — together — they had brought new life into the world. And it occurred to me the Universe really does take care of you if you take care of … hey, how long has that cop car been on my tail?