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This Will Hurt I
Author: Cara Dee

Jake Denver
Something told me I was gonna remember this guy for a long time to come.
I grinned as he completely missed his mark, and I had to shift the camera to follow his passionate rambling about an old bird. The California condor. I’d thought he’d worn his “Save the Sea Otters” tee as some ironic joke, but I was beginning to wonder if there was an activist in Roe Finlay.
Standing somewhere in the middle of Big Sur’s state park, surrounded by redwoods and bright-green shrubs, I captured every moment of his unscripted speech. Because that was our deal. No script. We’d see what we’d see, and he would talk about it.
I signaled to him to stay put below one of the tall trees, so I could leave the camera on its tripod and grab my other one for some stills.
“Okay, we’ll totally edit this part out,” he said, “but I sort of see us as condors.”
I chuckled silently, watching him through the lens. “We’re scavenging vultures?”
“Well, kind of!” he laughed. “Not just us, but LA people—especially those tryna make it in the business. We’ll take whatever we can get our hands on.”
I could see his point. And I could capture his lazy, dimpled grin as he scratched the side of his head and peered up at the hole in the tree. That was where he insisted a condor had laid an egg. He’d said it fit their behavior. Condors didn’t build their own nests; they used what was out there.
“It’s about more than scavenging, though,” he continued thoughtfully. “Condors are survivors—with a little bit of help. Kinda like you and me. We get by, but not on our own. We have help too. Just like the condors around here had some thirty years ago when they were almost extinct.”
I glanced up from my camera and listened to him.
He smirked after a moment of silence. “We may not have a ten-foot wingspan, but we’re scrappy, aren’t we?”
I smiled. “I guess so. But I won’t eat roadkill.”
He laughed.
I didn’t know if he was right in his comparison, but I did know that without his storming into my life, I wouldn’t be visiting Big Sur for the first time today, and I sure as fuck wouldn’t be filming a pilot for a travel show that so far only existed in our very new dream.
“Let’s see if we can find a banana slug,” Roe suggested.
Another thing I definitely wouldn’t be doing today if it weren’t for him.
Hunting slugs.
Chapter 1
Just go home, you fucking moron. You don’t belong in LA.
I made my way across campus, feeling more out of place every time I left class. Me? Taking a videography class? Christ on a fucking… My pop was right. I should go back home and join the family business. I was too old to be entering a field I knew nothing about.
Almost nothing.
I was leaving behind a good career in the Marines for…random classes at Santa Monica College. Learn videography in twelve weeks. Study the art of documentary filmmaking in one semester. Then I thought about why I’d left the service. How sick I was of seeing death through my lens. Combat photography had been such a fucking fluke anyway. I was infantry. I was more at home on the front lines in Afghanistan than… But no. No. No, I was here because I couldn’t stand the war anymore. I didn’t wanna see another dead soldier, hear another explosion, witness another crying child surrounded by blood and debris.
I went to the coffee shop on the corner of the street where Nikki worked. She had the car, and we’d go home together once she was off her shift.
I ordered a coffee and found an empty table by one of the windows.
Sounded pretty good, though, didn’t it? Go home with my girlfriend at the end of the day… Except, it was her car, her apartment, and my savings were almost gone. By next month, I’d have to take that bartending job in West Hollywood where the tips were so good.
By then, I’d be twenty-seven. March was right around the corner.
Option one. The Marines. Go back as a full-time war photographer and see all the suffering up close once more. Option two, head home to Norfolk and spend the rest of my days working alongside my old man.
With a heavy sigh, I flattened my notebook against the table, and I heard Nikki in the back of my head, telling me again to buy a damn backpack or something. I kept rolling up my notebook when I had nothing else to fidget with—but I wasn’t buying a bag for a single textbook and notebook.
I retrieved my pen from the inner pocket of my jacket, and I opened the notebook.
Final project. Final project, final project, final project. I needed content. I understood filming. Documenting. But coming up with my own content for a fucking college class’s final project? I was doomed.
“There you are! Fuck, I thought I lost you, man.”
I furrowed my brow and glanced toward the man’s voice—that belonged to someone I definitely didn’t know. But he was coming toward my table, and he was staring right at me.
No, wait. I recognized him. He was in my class, wasn’t he? Out here, I had developed a radar for East Coast people, and he had a New York accent. Otherwise, not much about him stood out. Average height, brown hair like mine, fairly fit, on the lanky side, probably a bit younger than me.
He sat down in front of me, out of breath, and removed his messenger bag. “Look, I’m just gonna come out and say it. I have two hundred bucks, I’m living in my truck, and I have one network connection that I desperately wanna use. He told me to send him my final project—see if he could make some calls—but as has become painfully clear in this class, videography isn’t my thing. I understand fuck-all about goddamn HDV, SxS, and the difference between standard definition and hi-def.” He leaned forward. “Dude, y’all were talking about memory cards, and I thought we were discussing a fucking festival in Austin.”
That…was SXSW. South by Southwest.
“Anyway—in short, I have an idea,” he went on. “It has an artistic approach, but I’ll admit, it’s more of a come-hither for networks, something I think will sell. To get a foot in the door. But I need a partner, and I’ve watched you in class. You know your way around the equipment and the editing software. When the professor asks his dumb, insane questions, you actually know the answers.”