Heartbeat

THE SOUND OF AN ANCIENT TYPEWRITER SANG OUT staccato in the silence of the room, as a cloud of blue smoke hung over the corner where Bill Thigpen was working. Glasses shoved up high on his head, coffee in styrofoam cups hovering dangerously near the edge of the desk, ashtrays brimming, his face intense, blue eyes squinting at what he was writing. Faster, faster, a glance over his shoulder at the clock ticking relentlessly behind him. He typed as though demons were lurking somewhere near him. His graying brown hair looked as though he had slept and woken several times and never remembered to comb it. The face was clean-shaven and kind, the lines strong, and yet something about him very gentle. He was not a man clearly defined by handsome, yet he seemed strong, appealing, worth more than a second glance, a man one would have liked to spend time with. But not now, not as he groaned, glanced at the clock again, and let his fingers fly at the typewriter still harder. Then finally, silence, a quick fix with a pen as he leapt to his feet,and grabbed handfuls of what he had been working on for the past seven hours, since five o'clock in the morning. Nearly one now …nearly air time … as he flew across the room, yanked open the door, and exploded past his secretary's desk like an Olympic runner, heading down the hall as quickly as he could, darting around people, avoiding collisions, ignoring surprised stares and friendly greetings, as he pounded on doors that opened only inches as he shoved a hand inside clutching a sheaf of the freshly written changes. It was a familiar procedure. It happened once, twice, sometimes three or four times a month when Bill decided he didn't like the way the show was going. As the originator of the most successful daytime soap on TV, whenever he was worried about the show, he stopped, wrote a segment or two, turned everything upside down, and then he was happy. His agent called him the most neurotic mother on TV, but he also knew he was the best. Bill Thigpen had an unfailing instinct for what made his show work, and he had never been wrong. Not so far.

A Life Worth Living was still the hottest daytime soap on American TV and it was William Thigpen's baby. He had started it as a way to survive when he'd been starving in New York years before as a young playwright. He had started playing with the concept and then the first script during a time when he was between plays in New York. He had started out writing plays on off-off Broadway, and in those days he had been a purist. The theater above all. But he had also been married, living in SoHo in New York, and starving. His wife, Leslie, had been a dancer in Broadway shows, and at the time she was out of work too, because she was pregnant with their first baby. At first he had kidded around about how “ironic” it would be if he finally made it with a soap, if that turned out to be the big break of his career. But as he wrestled with the script, and a bible for a long-term show, it stopped being a joke, and became an obsession. He had to make it …for Leslie … for their baby. And the truth was, he liked it. He loved it. And so did the network. They went crazy over it. And the baby, Adam, and the show had