Excerpt From “West Palm Gig” by Susan Surman

Amid swaying palm trees, lush gardens, and the blue ocean, Valeska Bernhart, a faded Hollywood film star; Glick Glickman, a has-been Broadway impresario; and Jon Sullivan, an out-of-work New York actor, meet at West Palm Acres, a retirement community in West Palm Beach, Florida, and reinvent themselves for a new chance at hilarious happiness.


“Mister Goldberg, it’s time to take your pill,” Jon shouted through the dark green steel door. 4-G.The brass nameplate readHarry Goldberg andOscar Shapiro. Getting no response, Jon knocked on the door. Not so much a knock knock, but rather a light rap. Still getting no response, he banged three times with a closed fist before shouting out the next directive: “Mister Shapiro, it’s time to take your pill.” Jon waited. Pressing the bell would have been easier, but it was an absolute last resort. Something to do with the shrill sound of the buzzer startling the folks with sensitive ears; maybe faulty hearing aids. A hand knock, then the brass knocker only if necessary. No bell. He didn’t question the direction. Per his training, he did as he was told.

So far, his first day on the job at the place was going satisfactorily. Actually, he didn’t know if it was going satisfactorily or not, never having been a medical clown before. No one in management knew if it was going well or not. The launch of a new experiment to remind residents to take their medications would take time to assess. It wasn’t so much the reminder, but the take on it. Medical clown was a good description.

New York based actor Jon Sullivan was standing in the fourth floor hallway or, as the residents labeled it, ‘the penthouse,’ of Building G at West Palm Acres in West Palm Beach, one of Florida’s premier retirement communities and he was dressed in a costume knocking on doors reminding residents to take their pills. A clown costume. Jon Sullivan. Never say never in life because this was something he would have said would never happen to him.

The décor had a dizzying effect; repelling, yet, he had to admit, strangely attractive. It was the same on all the floors. The walls were papered in floral prints of bright shades of emerald green, orange, yellow, and varying shades of purple to blend in, more or less, with the varied color of the doors. The floors were covered in a thin carpet of a pattern in corresponding colors. Only in Florida. Jon learned that the wallpaper would soon be replaced by a simpler pattern of swaying palm trees on a white background. Nice. He also learned this was a rumor started and spread around for many years by a longstanding resident.


Boston-born Susan Surman lived abroad for over twenty years in London and Sydney as an actress and playwright (Gracie Luck / Susan Kramer), performing on stage, radio, and TV. Author of Dancing at all the Weddings, Max and Friends, Sacha: The Dog Who Made it to the Palace, and numerous short stories, she lives in North Carolina where she is working on her new novel.


Filed under books, Excerpts, fiction, writing

2 responses to “Excerpt From “West Palm Gig” by Susan Surman

  1. They sound like fun characters

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