"Gotta love those fans, Mr. S. This feels like something important...though I gotta say, it don't smell very good," he says, taking a huge whiff.
I don't care for the sound of that.
"In the future, Mickey," I admonish him, "if a package comes for me, and it doesn't smell very good..."
"I know," he butts in, "spray it with Right Guard before I bring it to you. That shit'll take the stink outta anything. I ought to know."
Not wishing to pursue the matter, I swallow the rest of my sentence. Mickey takes the two steps up into my trailer, and as he crosses the threshold, the aroma hits me. It is so heinous, so revolting, it can be described only as a solid. It's like getting a left hook to the olfactory nerve. There is something unmistakable about it. It is the smell of...evil. He plunks it down on the foldout table that doubles as office and dining room in my home away from home. I can't actually get close enough to open it. The smell is like an invisible shield between me and the box.
"Yeah, it's kind of stinky," says Mickey.
I'm not sure what disturbs me more, the smell or the fact that he finds it "kind of stinky." Getting woozy, I stagger outside, followed by Mickey.
"Well, if you need anything I'll be here till midnight," he says, reaching out to shake my hand.
"Uh...Thanks, Mick," I say, and slip him a ten-dollar bill very carefully, so as not to touch the hand that held that vile box. "Enjoy your evening. Full moon, you know."
It's one of those Los Angeles nights when a marine layer covers the moon like Vaseline over a camera lens.
"Oooh, yeah," he says, flashing a couple of pearly whites that could cut through an oil drum, "my kinda night!"
And he wolf-howls like Lon Chaney Jr.—I swear he does—before disappearing into the mist. Paramount Pictures in 1991 is lousy with nutty characters.
Deciding to take another shot at opening the box, I inhale a few deep breaths and start in. But my good sense coupled with the atrocious odor stops me cold.
"What if there's something alive in there?" I say to myself.
I chew on that thought for a couple of seconds and then sprint next door to see if LeVar Burton is still in his trailer.
All of the cast on The Next Generation have become good friends in a very short time. Series work will do that. Or it will do the opposite. The long hours and repetitive work either forge lifelong mates or create bitter enemies. My relationship with LeVar was cemented by the birth of his daughter, Michaela. He showed up at my door not long after the blessed event with a jar containing the placenta, asking me to keep it in my freezer until he and his wife, Stephanie, moved into their new home. Apparently their own freezer was spiritually contaminated, as it was housing a few pounds of beef in various states of dissection. Their intention was to eventually bury the placenta in a hole along with a newly planted apple tree. And that's exactly what they did. The last time I visited their house, I was delighted to see the tree had grown tall and strong, with apples that all looked curiously like Michaela's head.
LeVar's trailer is the antithesis of mine. It is filled with dozens of crystals and the intoxicating, unmistakable perfume of patchouli and lavender, mixed with the residue of Export A cigarettes. I call it LeVaroma. The lavender, by the way, is reputed to keep evil spirits away, so I'm definitely in the right place. LeVar sits on his sofa with his legs tucked under him in a pretzel-like configuration. His eyes are closed and his breathing suggests some secret mantra running over and over through his mind. As much as I hate to disturb him, I figure that if he is in a transcendental state, he will surely forgive me.
He told me once that Steve McQueen called him Burt when they made the movie The Hunter. He said I was like McQueen in that way. In every other way—well, not so much. "Burt...I know you're in there somewhere. If you can hear me, I need your help."
He peels one eye open, then the other. He looks like a giant bird slowly coming to life. Very, very slowly, or so it feels to me. At last, after a long series of deep inhalations through his nose, he speaks.
"Do you know where I keep my pistol?" he says like a character in some other movie.
"No. You have a pistol?"
"No," he whispers as an enigmatic smile crosses his face. The Mona Lisa has nothing on LeVar. "What's the problem?"