"He was always great."
"Yeah. He was. But I don't think he was always great. He had his downs. Ye' know what I mean."
The study had eight chairs. Actually it was only three. He didn't like too many visitors -- not in his study room anyway. That was his personal space. He always wanted one. Right from the time he was living with his folks in that dump near the railway tracks. That house had just three rooms. And his brother and sister all had to pack into that tiny room for the kids. But he always dreamt big. So when he finally made it big and had enough cash to splurge on a mansion, he insisted on a big study room.
He lined it with books. Not all of them he read, though. Being a big star in this circuit meant he had to project himself as an academician. But he had read most of them. The interesting ones. Which they were, no one had any idea.
His family pulled up the other five chairs in the study. Occasions like what they were having now called for such. His Granddad (still alive, even with a major nicotine hook) was always a little negative about him. Grans attributed his success to 'excessive luck'. His entire family was there for this meeting. From Grans to his favourite nephew Jack.
Jack was always in awe of him. He is in his early 20s now and aspires to become an actor as big as him. Talent he possesses not, but still he had starry eyes.
His Brother and Sister got settled much before he became famous. So they weren't all well off.
"He always told me that it was I who supported him the most. Remember when he returned from the screening of that movie. Which one was that dear? It didn't go down too well with the them journo kinds," said Sister.
"The Swan Brigade?" her husband helped her out.
"Yeah the swan one. He came straight to me. Said he wanted my support."
"Bah! He called me up from the theatre when that movie was screened. Was in much distress that boy then. Said, 'Grans... I don't know if I will be able to come up from this ditch.' I told him he will. And he did."
"Everyone liked him. But he always appreciated my sense of a story. Remember it was I who suggested he take the role of that cowboy. That was such a blessing for him. He thanked me for that." His Dad wasn't his biggest admirer. But he always believed that the lad inherited his talent. And his talent was mostly limited to the fake smile he gave to convince people into buying crappy cars.
"No matter what, I was his first fan. From the time he did that three scene role for Hunting's movie. I told him to take. That it will be his real break. I knew he was good. I saw all his school plays. And even Mamma hasn't done that."
His Brother's remarks failed to invite a response from his Mom. She sat quietly at the corner -- part of the discussion she was, and part she was not.
"But as the oldest in the family, I think it's rather easy deciding this. I don't have much time left myself." It was kind of weird when he said those last words. If he was least concerned about how much time he had left, he would've quit the stick long back.
"But they don't need old people. I think they need someone young. Someone who still has the same charm that he had," Jack was insistent.
"The same charm you say. How exactly do you have the same charm? You were rubbished even in that role of an extra you did. Stan told me personally that this little bugger is a black sheep of the family." His Sister never really liked Jack -- or Jack's Dad for that matter. Maybe it was sibling rivalry.
"Hey! Watch who you calling the black sheep. I am sure he will do well. He has another major role coming up," an ever-doting father his Brother was.
"Now now. We have all come here to discuss and not to fight," his Dad interfered.
"Yeah. Let's get to that," supported his Sister in fear of another rift.
"As his Dad, I think it should be I who get to go."
"Maybe Aunt Gene should go," came the voice from the far end of the study table. It was his Sister's son. Dennis was the quiet one in the family -- and he never really had an opinion. Even if he had, he never expressed it to others. But this was one time he expressed it.
There was silence all over the table. His Mamma still didn't look up. She had this white napkin clutched in her palm. She occasionally wiped her face with it. It was rather futile. There weren’t any tears. It had all dried up.
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She still had her white napkin in her hand. She clutched it ever so tightly. It had his initials on it -- 'J.K.' She had stitched that for him. He always used to sweat when he was tense. And was he tense during his first shoot. The napkin was her small gift to him. They say he always had it with him; even when he wasn't tensed. People thought he considered it lucky.
And as she climbed the stairs to the stage there were tears in her eyes. The host of the show handed her the golden statuette. She could barely see through her moist eyes the rows of celebrities all standing up in an equivocal ovation. She held the napkin to her eyes. And he felt the tears on his cheeks.