GENE JACKMAN by Steve Gergley

A week before his seventh birthday, my son Eric handed me a folded piece of notebook paper. When I unfolded the paper, I saw that it was his birthday wish list. There was only one item on the list. 

  1. wolverene (for real)

I smiled and asked my son what he meant. He said he wanted the real Wolverine to come to his school and talk to his class for show and tell. I smiled and said that the real Wolverine was probably too busy fighting Sabretooth right now. Then I told my son that since we couldn’t get the real Wolverine to come to his school, I’d buy him whichever Wolverine action figure he wanted. My son shook his head. His bowl of gold hair swung back and forth. He stomped up to his bedroom without another word.

Later that night I sat down at the kitchen table with my laptop. There I searched the internet for the talent agency that represented the actor who played Wolverine in the movies. For the next few hours I sent many emails to the people at the talent agency. First I explained the situation with my son and his birthday list. Then, since writing to the agents felt so good, I decided to tell them a little bit about myself. So, I talked about the knee injury I sustained last year while working my old construction job. I described in great detail how my stools had become tarry and loose ever since my wife had left the state. And I informed them of how unfair it was that I had been fired from my limo driving job for clipping an SUV by accident.

Six days later I received a manila envelope in the mail. It was from the Wolverine actor’s talent agency. Inside I found a handwritten letter addressed to my son, and a number of photos of different people I had seen in various movies over the years. But as I looked through the photos, I grew more and more angry. The actor who played Wolverine wasn’t in any of them. 

Shaking with rage, I threw the envelope on the kitchen floor and studied one of the photos. A young Tom Cruise stood in the center of the shot, flanked on his left by a bald, fat guy with a huge mustache. A second bald guy stood on Tom Cruise’s right. This second bald guy looked very tall and seemed to tower over the other two.

After a while I noticed that the tall guy was in every picture. I picked up the handwritten letter and skimmed some of the lines:

to hear about your dad, but he sounds like a good man 

that cancer has got nothing on you, buddy

save me a spot in the backseat of your limo, Eric!

Skipping to the bottom, I checked the signature at the end of the letter. Gene Hackman. I folded the letter into quarters and slipped it into the pocket of my sweatpants. Then I turned back to my laptop and typed wolverine actor into Google. When the Wolverine actor’s name popped up, I closed my eyes and sighed. I picked up the slightly torn manila envelope and looked at the picture of Gene Hackman standing beside Tom Cruise. I typed tom cruise gene hackman movie into Google. An IMDB entry for a 1993 legal thriller called The Firm came up. I clicked the link and read the description of the movie. I’d never seen it, but it sounded kind of interesting. Just then my son walked into the kitchen. He sat on my knee and took the picture of Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, and Wilford Brimley standing on the set of The Firm in 1992.

Eric pointed at the picture.

“Who are these people?” he said.

“That’s Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, and Wilford Brimley standing on the set of the 1993 legal thriller, The Firm,” I said, smiling down at him.

“Oh,” he said. “Is this part of my birthday present?”

“It can be, if you want it to be,” I said, nodding. “It’s a picture from an old movie. I don’t know if you’ll like it, but we can try watching it tonight if you want. There might be some adult parts that I’ll have to skip, though.”

He shook his head and put the picture back on the kitchen table.

“I don’t care,” he said. “Just as long as it doesn’t take away from my other presents.”

“It won’t,” I said.

“Okay. Can we get an ice cream cake to eat while the movie is on?”

“Sure.”

“Okay. Can we get the double chocolate one that Connor had at his party?”

“Sure.”

“Okay.”

Later that day I drove to Value King and bought the double chocolate ice cream cake. After dinner, I rented The Firm for forty-eight hours on Amazon Video. Eric and I sat on the living room floor and ate the cake while the movie played. The entire soundtrack was just one guy doing all these different styles of music on a piano. I thought that was slightly entertaining, but Eric lost interest in the movie pretty quick, so I handed him the remote and let him click around. For the next few hours we watched a bunch of episodes of SpongeBob. Eric fell asleep around ten. After I tucked him into bed, I went onto Amazon and ordered the newest Pokémon game for the Switch, and a pair of Wolverine and Sabretooth action figures. The next-day shipping cost almost twenty dollars, but it was worth it. Once that was done, I replayed The Firm from the beginning and watched the entire thing on mute while reading the closed captions. Tom Cruise ran around a lot. Gene Hackman grinned his sleazy grin. Wilford Brimley handed Tom Cruise an envelope of grainy photos. It was a pretty good movie. 


Steve Gergley is the author of the short story collection, A Quick Primer on Wallowing in Despair (LEFTOVER Books '22), and the forthcoming novel, Skyscraper (West Vine Press '23). His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart, Pithead Chapel, Maudlin House, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Barren Magazine, New World Writing, and others. In addition to writing fiction, he has composed and recorded five albums of original music. He tweets @GergleySteve. His fiction can be found here.

Art by Steve Anwyll @oneloveasshole

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