re-venge – n. retaliation for injuries or wrongs.
pre-venge – n. retaliation of injuries and wrongs…but before they happen.
I made up a word. “Prevenge.” I like to do that sometimes. Hey, Shakespeare does it. We’re both writers. So why not me?
Sometimes I make up words for fun. Sometimes, the word that I am looking for eludes me, a situation resulting partly from the fact that I’m old, and partly because, when I was sixty, I got mono, and though the mono eventually cleared up, it apparently took some of my words with it on its way out the door.)
This time, the word I need here, I am pretty certain, does not exist. So I made it up. “Prevenge.” (Hey! Maybe I can copyright it – like former Lakers coach Pat Riley copyrighted “Three-peat” – and whenever someone uses it, they’ll have to send me a nickel. Finally! A way to make money out of this blog.)
It was a one-time occurrence, as I am not an inherently vengeful, or a prevengeful, type of person. Still, I do not regret that it happened. A guy who does me wrong gets his comeuppance – after the fact or before, I don’t really care – and my faith in a just universe is (temporarily) renewed.
Here’s what happened.
While developing a series idea, I was partnered with a writer named Skip (not his real name), whose background was entirely in drama, albeit lightweight drama with amusing overtones. Skip and the star of the series he was currently working on had come up with an idea for a follow-up half-hour comedy. As a comedy specialist, I was brought onboard to make the show work. Which I did.
The series worked pretty successfully for a number of seasons. When it was prematurely cancelled, primarily because of what amounts to “negotiational malpractice” by a studio executive, on whom, by the way, I have gotten neither revenge nor prevenge. I once said about a person I did not care for, “I would put a curse on you, but you already have one – you’re you!” That would be punishment enough for the executive as well.
Anyway, I left the series after its first season, heading back to my office to make up ideas for other TV series and enjoy long, relaxing afternoon naps. Skip also left the show, but under less fortuitous circumstances. He was fired, for reasons unimportant to this narrative.
Anyway, some time later, I received a letter from Skip, with whom I’d had no contact since we’d both left the show. We had not parted on bad terms. It’s just that – a situation common in show business – when the project that brought them together terminates, the people on the production go their separate ways, and that’s that. (A Glorious Exception: Two Major Dad writers, both currently toiling on Mad Men, have remained joyously in my life for twenty-five years.)
Skip’s letter explains that, since the time that our working relationship ended, in an effort to shed an addiction, he has entered a “Twelve Step” program, where he has been making steady progress in his rehabilitation. Skip goes on to explain that he has now reached the eighth of the “Twelve Steps”, which involves “making amends with persons you have wronged.”
Apparently, I had been seriously disserved. Which was news to me. Not only do I not know when people I am working with are addicted to anything, I am also unaware when they, under my nose, are working diligently against my best interests. (For a writer, this is a particularly damaging confession. Writers are supposed to notice things. I’d entirely missed two big ones.)
Skip invited me to lunch, where he could ostensibly explain in detail how he had undermined my authority and sabotaged my effectiveness. I passed. I did not think it would be a very enjoyable lunch, even if he paid. I figured his apology in the letter allowed him to check off “Step Eight”, so passing on lunch would do no damage to his rehabilitational advancement. I was also not also enrolled in any “Pushovers Anonymous” program, where I was required to sit there and listen to how I’d been repeatedly harmed, and how I’d missed every signal relative to my abuse.
I was very angry. But what could I do? It was all “after the fact” – water either under the bridge or over the dam – your choice. Of course, me being me, I felt more foolish than furious. Still, I craved my revenge.
That’s when I remembered that I had already gotten it ahead of time, hence the word, “prevenge.”
Prior to the filming of every episode, I would come out and welcome the attending studio audience, and then, for ten minutes or so, I would loosen them up with some laugh-inducing, improvised chatter.
This was my favorite time of the entire production week. I loved talking to the audience. And I was good at it. (Which is no coincidence. I love it when I’m good at things. Being good at things makes up for all the things I stink at. Just about. If there were even close to an equal amount of them.)
Anyway, Skip saw how much fun I was having with the audience. And it didn’t look all that hard. Since I rarely employed prepared material, it looked like I was “just talking.”
One “show night”, Skip asks if he can welcome the audience, and I say “Why not?”
So that night, walking out holding a microphone, is, not me, but Skip. I remain “on the floor”, taking care of any last minute details before we start filming. I was also in the habit in those days, as a way of breaking the tension, of, at unexpected moments, kicking my right Cole-Hahn loafer up in the air and when it came down, catching it in my right hand.
So that’s what I was doing – handling last minute details, and flipping my shoe. What I was not doing was paying attention to how Skip was faring with the audience.
Suddenly, I hear somebody calling my name. I look around. It’s Skip. He asks me to come up to the bleachers (where the audience is) for a moment, and I say “I’ll be right there.” When I arrive, Skip is standing there, his back to the audience. His face is ashen. His eyes are unfocused. His hands are noticeably shaking.
Without preamble, Skip presses the microphone into my hand, saying, “Take over. I can’t do this.” He then walks unsteadily away, returning to the stage, the classic representation of “The Broken Man.”
It was that image that came to me as I held Skip’s amends-making letter, simultaneously contentedly thinking, as the person who invents catchphrases would say, “Iss all good.”
And indeed it was.
I had satisfactorily exacted my prevenge.