Marv leaned back in his chair, swiveling side to side with his pen stuck in his teeth.
"He walks into the store... what if he had a top hat? You know the ones that they wore back in the 30s?"
A few of the writers chuckled. Steve, the lead nodded, taking it in.
"That's a Rosenberg joke... I don't know. Ever since he left I feel like we keep riffing off old material."
"What about the B plot?" Jerry spoke up from the corner. "We are on page six and there hasn't been a sqeak out of the captain yet."
Steve looked at his watch. It was 3:40am. He rubbed his eyes wearily and heaved a heavy sigh.
"Jesus Christ," he moaned. "Let's take a breather guys. Get some coffee, something. I'm beat. Let's recap in ten."
The writers sauntered out of the conference room into the cold dark hall ways of Chuck Studious. Outside, a frost scorched the edges of the windows. Far down the empty halls a cleaning crew bobbed in and out of each executive office with mechanical precision. Marv rubbed the back of his neck, and drowsily walked to the break room.
"Do you think they are really going to cancel us?" Jerry said, catching up to Marv. Steve's ears perked up and hovered closer, his hands in his pockets speculatively.
"I don't know," Marv admitted. "I really don't know. Fifteen seasons... didn't we win something too? An Emmy? Shit..."
"Do you have anything lined up?" Steve interjected. Marv looked back. A pair of white disks stared back at him through the darkness, the lenses reflecting the low florescent light.
"I got a call back from Laugh Out Loud. I hear those guys are pretty alright. Great bennys' and it's easy to get transferred over to their union. I don't want to leave if I don't have to."
Steve nodded. He caught up to the two and walked up beside Marv.
"I've worked in this business for 20 years," Steve said. it was addressed to no one, an errant observation. "Rosenberg left because he wanted to take a break. He wanted his life to be more than just a handful of sitcom scripts."
"I read his books," Jerry interjected eagerly. "They are phenomenal; super funny. Have you read them Marv?"
A thin smile cracked along Marv's face. Indeed he had. They were hilarious.
The break room was full of the writers already. Ambling beside one another. A pile of sweetener packets were strewn across the particle board tables, grains of sucrose scattered along the grey plastic veneers. One of the writers approached Steve, handing him a cup of coffee. Marv shook his head at the rookie. What a putz he thought. Suck-up. Steve kindly took the coffee and raised it to the man in appreciation.
"Fellas," he spoke up over the simmering crowd, "We go back in five, but I'd like to take the time to show my undying gratitude for your time here. God knows we don't get any credit."
"The show-runner think they can get away with it, but hell, as long as I get paid..." someone called out from the back.
"I wanted to say though," Steve continued, quieting the room, "that we all miss Don Rosenberg." A collective moan droned a moment, then subsided.
"But we all need to move past and get our material set straight. We can't rely off the old jokes. Someone has to call it, so I will. We all know that the network isn't happy with the ratings. But that's not our fault. Times change. The same goes for the shows. What was funny and unique, 20 years ago isn't today, and that's okay. The guys at Laugh Out Loud have the edge and technology. We can't make an episode in a week, that just doesn't happen. But we are still the household name of animation. That's how people see us. There's a lot of uncertainty out there, but I want to assure you all, as head writer, I want to give you my word that no matter what happens, what we have been able to accomplish here merits a round of applause."
Steve smiled and raised his styrofoam cup.
"To Don everyone. May he rest in peace, wherever the hell he is."
"I think I saw him in Cabo!" someone shouted from the back.
Marv laughed along with the rest, his spirits raised.
And that's when it hit him.
"I figured it out," he cried out. "Jesus, I'm so stupid. A vacation episode. It can be a vacation down to mexico." The other writers looked back at Marv wide eyed.
"And the B-plot could be Jim going out to look for gold," Marv continued boldly.
Steve patted Marv on the back.
"Good work Marv," he said simply. "You heard the man, let's get back in there."
Quickly the writers set down their things and quickly walked out of the break room, Marv with them, hopeful and renewed. It was going to be a long night, but a productive one. And he didn't want it any other way.