Categories
Creative

from FOOTNOTE 1 — “Minnie”

(The following is the Excerpt from The Twentieth Century Passes, a memoir of my father’s life)

By the time I was born, three of my grandparents were already dead. They had died young, in their early 60s, just before and after the birth of my sister ten years before me. My parents had had me, their third child, late for those days, my father at 42. The only grandparent my brother and I knew was Minnie, who had left Dad in infancy, as had her husband, Yoina, to travel to a new life in America. During my first decade, Minnie had already entered her 70s, but she looked, to a child, a hundred, and with her square, weathered face, the stocky block of her body, and her kerchiefed head, she could have been, during her frequent Sunday visits to our Queens Village garden apartment, any Babushka plucked the day before from a field in Podolia. And by then, she had been living in the United States for nearly fifty years.

We felt no love for Minnie. We had, the three of us, very early on some idea of what she had not been to our father, and it would have been otherwise, anyway, not easily accomplished, without some assistance, to turn from Howdy Doody and Captain Kangaroo to the peasantry under Czar Nicholas II. Minnie would arrive dutifully retrieved by my father, Mac, from her apartment off the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, to which he would return her, by car, at the end of the afternoon—two round trips of two-to-three hours each for every Sunday visit. Minnie would visit us along with her companion, Charlie, a large, round, gruff old American character with neatly parted and lacquered black hair and a fat cigar permanently chewed into the corner of his mouth. Imagine him beside Damon Runyon at a Jack Dempsey fight. Like everything else about the history of our family prior to our birth cries, we never got it entirely straight or clear from Mom, but apparently Charlie, who was some fair number of years younger than Minnie, was actually her first or second cousin, and her seduction of him away from a promising career (One must do uncounted mental crunches and endless stretching to imagine Minnie as seducer.) was a scandal in its day. Charlie was always friendly in his crusty way, but—he had, after all, shacked up with Minnie—also a being too foreign to contemplate for the suburban-ized children of Eisenhower’s America.

Minnie was odd and distant and vastly inappropriate. On every visit, we would be brought before her at the dining room table as if in presentation to an idiot Queen, all terse and awkward decorum, in anticipation, as it were, of a detached and senseless laugh. Minnie would beam a smile of grandmotherly pleasure upon us and fix somewhere on each face one of those gross, heavily smeared lipstick kisses of comic, Woody Allen reminiscence. There was no other effort at contact with us. What there was, until Minnie grew too old and the visits ceased, was the ritual of found-gift giving. Planted at the table, each grandchild in turn beside her, Minnie would reach into and draw out from large Alexander’s or Mays department store shopping bags a succession of soiled and broken toys that she had retrieved from the street: punctured rubber balls, wheel-less cars, half-used pencils, lone figurines, all held up with wonder before our eyes as if baubles brought from China. Sharyn, Jeffrey, and I would receive each gift in a manner of stupefied thanks, and then pass it to one parent, who would pass it to the other, who would next, for safekeeping, place the item into a bag, which would later, after Minnie’s departure, complete the cycle of its existence as a garbage bag finally to be disposed of. Gift giving over, we grandchildren would depart—to leave the adults to their adult time together—but not before being quietly directed to go to the bathroom to wash our hands.

….

AJA


For the remainder of my feature and all of the fine work by many authors at various stages of being given up to history, order your copy of Footnote: a Literary Journal of History.

Paperback $10.99


PDF $3.99


Complete DRM-Free Digital Package $5.99
(PDF, Mobi, ePUB, & jacket art)

Categories
Creative On The Road

from FOOTNOTE 1 — “Route 66: The American Road”

(News came two days ago that Martin Millner, along with George Maharis, one of the two stars of the legendary television series Route 66, has died, at 83. As a young boy, my own introduction to the adventure of road travel and the romance of the route came from the series and the experience of new places and people each week of Milner’s Tod and Maharis’s Buz. It seems the right time, then, to offer this excerpt of my “Route 66: The American Road,” originally published, along with the photography of Julia Dean, in the final issue of the also legendary, documentary journalism magazine DoubleTake, and republished now in the inaugural issue of Footnote: A Literary Journal of History.)

….

When the beaver were depleted, and there was too little left to trap, many of the mountain men who wished to continue to live outside of civilization hired on as guides for the new wagon trains leaving from Missouri for unsettled land. The trappers had found the way, and now, from St. Louis, St. Joseph, and Independence, not only individuals seeking fortune at gold strikes and elsewhere, but whole families seeking new lives were heading west. In the heyday of the Western wagon train, from 1840 to 1860, as many as 500,000 people migrated along the Oregon, California, and Santa Fe trails.

These trails became permanent routes west, but as coordinates on maps and rutted wagon-wheel trails, they were paths for the most intrepid— of which the United States has never had shortage—but not for the ordinary lone individual or family. Phenomena like the Pony Express, and the telegraph that spelled the short-lived Express’ demise, provided the first sense of coast-to-coast communication, but they were not a means of travel.

Only with the driving of that last, golden spike connecting the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads in 1869, had a means of transportation been established that enabled the free flow of people, without the daunting hardship and risk of wilderness travel, between the nation’s Eastern origins and its Western expansion. It had taken just short of 64 years from the date Lewis and Clark reached their destination across an uncharted wilderness until the completion of the first, fixed, permanent, regular, and safe means of transportation across it. Where once an overland journey would have taken months—it had taken Lewis and Clark twenty— or a journey by ship around Cape Horn weeks, on June 4, 1876, the Transcontinental Express traveled from New York City to San Francisco in 83 hours and 39 minutes.

Before and after the railroad, there was also the stagecoach, for some decades a regular fixture of western commerce and travel. But companies such as the Butterfield Overland Express Company were primarily government- and private -mail haulers and, like Wells Fargo, movers of bank funds. For the nine people crammed into a semi-weekly Celerity coach for the typical twenty-five day, bone-jarring, cold and snowy, or hot, sweaty, and smelly journey from Missouri to California, the fare was around $200, or about $4,000 in today’s money, more or less the price of a one-way ticket on the Concorde SST over its lifespan. If you could afford it, you took the stagecoach before the transcontinental line was completed, or because it went places the railroad didn’t, not to celebrate your individual freedom as an American to travel where you wished.

The railroad, on the other hand, moved thousands, hundreds of thousands—millions. Along with the Homestead Act of 1862, it completed the settlement of the West.

The Homestead Act offered free title to 160 acres—after five years, if you worked the land and improved it. In contrast, the railroads sold the land along their right-of-way, the land they had been granted by the federal government as an incentive to undertake the transcontinental enterprise. The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad lives on in the popular historical imagination as one of the great moments in the building of the American nation, and it is certainly that. An extraordinary technical feat and a permanent conquest of nature cannot be denied. But here again, as with every inroad to the West, that tension between the individual and the collective is visible.

An individual picks up from New York, or Philadelphia, or the Ohio River Valley, or even somewhere in Europe, and alone or with his family makes his way finally, by train, to Nebraska, Wyoming, California, or another state, to start afresh. The railroad is available for travel, however, because the government had its grander social and commercial goals, granted land—and its natural resources—to the enterprises commissioned to lay the track, and even subsidized the construction.

The railroad is there to be used because legislators succumbed to wholesale bribery from lobbyists in the form of cash and corporate bonds. It is there because the owners and operators of the Union Pacific Railroad established the shell company, Credit Mobilier—the Enron of its day, owned by the same majority shareholders as the Union Pacific—to which to award the construction contract and bill back the railroad, subsidized by the federal government (and risk-taking private investors), multiple times the actual cost of materials and labor.

Once the Transcontinental Railroad was established, the railroads also went into the business of luring settlers to migrate to the West. They offered reasonable prices for the land, good credit terms to enable purchase, showings of parcels, and even established European offices with representatives to attract additional emigration across the Atlantic. The settlers would populate the land the railroads traversed and help establish the railroad towns that would both service and feed off the railroad. Thus is the goal of a westward expansion fulfilled. Thus does the American mythos of individual initiative and self-determination run up against a contradiction. And that is how it remained for almost 60 more years.

But if our world is anything, it is a world of contradiction. However settlers may have arrived—by someone else’s wagon train, stage coach, or train, or by steamer from another part of the world—whatever corporate hucksterism or nationalistic boosterism had sold them an idea about the circumstances toward which they traveled that was not entirely in accordance with reality (disgruntled natives not entirely glad you’re coming, anyone?), they had made their own choices, determined their own wills, and endured hardships their neighbors would not undertake. They possessed the independence and strength to travel far from unhappy or unsatisfactory conditions that others less daringly abided, and they felt no less individual because they aimed to shape their destinies within a web of relation and influence they could not always see around them.

Perhaps that is why the lone cowboy on his horse, crossing the panhandle, passing among the mesas, a speck on a vast prairie beneath an enormous sky—what so few, in fact, ever were—became our resonant American myth. Nothing is ever how we portray it, but our symbols are what we feel, and we feel for a reason. The cowboy, as we see him, is singular and integrally himself within the natural world. His kindnesses are not mandated, but his own. His cooperation is given, not required. And if he’s of a mind, whenever he’s of a mind, he’ll go his own way. Just point his horse’s head like a compass, and move on.

Yet, how many could really live that dream?

Beginning November 11, 1926, anyone.

And with the affordability of Ford’s Model T—soon to be a fixture on the new Highway 66—the automobile was quickly developing into what it would not take very long to become, the singular and democratic mode of transportation of the 20th century and beyond. Route 66, the first transcontinental interstate highway, was created to serve it.

It is true that in the years before the opening of the route, there had developed the romance of train travel, and the train has its romancers still. Stand in so many small towns across America—a town, say, like Dwight, Illinois, through which Route 66 runs—and watch the train pass through, even now. Listen to its whistle. Hear it “moan mournfully,” as Thomas Wolfe’s Eugene Gant heard it. Far places, it says. Distant lives. The great, wide world. Teasing you with its call. Passing on. For so many who longed for experience, the train’s receding rumble, the lingering whisper of it gone, uttered the great paradox of the nation—that while one might live, it seemed, smack-dab in the middle of it all, one felt stranded so far from everything that was happening. To live in the middle, it turned out, was to reside at the edges. To move to the center meant to travel to the boundaries, because the boundary—the frontier—is where the “other” is, and the other is experience.

….

AJA


For the remainder of my feature and all of the fine work by many authors at various stages of being given up to history, order your copy of Footnote: a Literary Journal of History.

Paperback $10.99


PDF $3.99


Complete DRM-Free Digital Package $5.99
(PDF, Mobi, ePUB, & jacket art)

Categories
Creative

New Fiction

.

My short story “La Revolución” is at the Ampersand Review.

I spent a week. Gary worked as a critic for a music magazine, so even when he had to work, I tagged along. The music was everywhere. Gary and Pilar, his second wife, lived in Miramar, a wide open, breezy Havana suburb. They ran a paladar, one of the unofficial private restaurants that people operate out of some of the large, multi-story, former private homes of that Embassy area. Pilar was a raven-haired beauty, bursting with sensuality and very gracious to me. She set us up with food and a couple of Mojitos that day I arrived, then left for the afternoon.

“No, stay,” I said.

She said, “Old friends. So many years apart. You need to know each other again. Later we’ll have dinner.”

And that’s what we did. Got to know each other again. When I was done bringing Gary to the present, he said, “You were always so shy. Just take her by the arm and start walking her home. She’ll let you. Don’t ask.”

He was talking about Regina. Gary always cared about his friends. He loved his friendships.

“She’s an alcoholic, Gary.”

“What, you’re afraid she won’t amount to anything in life? You like each other. Keep each other company.”

Gary and Pilar had been married almost fifteen years. She was forty-five. Gary left his first wife for her, after twenty years.

“It was the worst thing I ever did.”

I must have looked shocked.

“I don’t mean I regret it. That’s not it. A woman like Pilar? Pilar and music. The rest doesn’t matter.”

He saw me try to understand.

“It’s the worst thing I ever did to another person.” I could see him remember the pain. “The worst. And the thing is, I’d do it again.”

I was silent. “So things are good with Pilar?” I said after a while.

“They’ve been great.” He emptied his glass. “You remember that Bertolucci film Last Tango in Paris?”

He surprised me again. “Yeah?”

“Near the end Brando suddenly decides that he actually does want to know this woman, and he wants her to know him. He starts chasing her out of the tango hall, scaring the shit out of her, telling her everything he can about himself in a rush. He calls out above the music, ‘I got a prostate the size of a potato, but I’m still a pretty good stick man.’ I love that line. I think Brando ad-libbed it.”

Gary chewed on a mint leaf. He raised his eyebrows at me. “I got a prostate the size of a potato.”

I nodded. “These are good,” I said, draining my glass.

“Wait till you try the Havana Club. Siete. It’s like a warm fire in the winter going down.”

I never did bring up the politics of it all. Who was I to, anyway? And what might he have been feeling after all that had happened, or hadn’t.

“You’ve been happy here?” I asked instead.

“I love it,” he said. He glanced out the window toward the sea. “I don’t know. In the summer, when the breeze blows through the palms, or when the hurricanes make you feel like the island’s just a boat on the water, and you’re riding it out for all you can make of it, whatever moments there are. When the rhythm comes up and a woman like Pilar tosses her hips. And the maracas rattle and a man rolls his shoulders.” Now he looked at me. “It’s supposed to be an atheist society, right? After all this, there’s nothing?” He paused. “It’s the opposite of nothing.”

Start from the beginning and read the rest here.

AJA

Photo by DeviantArt user trace-on.  Used under a Creative Commons 3.0 License

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories
Creative

A Geology of Birds

.

My parents were fortunate enough to live long lives, my mother, Helen, until 88, my father even longer. For the last eleven years of my mother’s life, after some decades of their wandering and separation, the three children had come together again in the same city. The birds had flocked together once more. Mother and father took wing to join them, and all flew home together – a second family life less complicated than the first, unburdened by grievances, by then let go, lifted aloft by love and joy in relationship. It was the gift of all our lives.

One element in this experience, different from that of friends who lost parents much earlier in life, was the that of persisting in relationship with parents many long years after the original basis of that relationship had passed, even, in many respects by the end, been reversed. This is a poem I wrote about that experience, while my parents were still alive. It was, then, “for my parents, grown old.”  It’s for my mother today.

A Geology of Birds

Water has worn us, like more time’s mountain
flow we could ever have seen coming
left us on this present bank like stones
found in near relation on the ground.
The inexorable flood rounds us
apart, our mineral origin
matter only for geologist’s eyes.

Who would have thought
the birth cries, stone’s cries
water forgot, we’d forget?
A mother’s songs of deliverance drift
homeless in the burbling stream
a father’s tillering hand lies idle
and ritual kisses
try to shape from lips
an early, pressing need
like the air we’d gasp for lack of.

But need
like the nested sparrow’s
gaping mouth, wild with hunger
for the seed of all that follows
need departs, a winter’s calling
and we fly, stones into birds
into another hemisphere
so far from any beginning
nearer even the youngest’s end
riding currents we cannot name
feeling, as we seek what calls us
we see a wing we knew.

AJA

Categories
Creative On The Road

Who

Arriving home from an evening out a few weeks ago, I sat down at the computer for one last check of email, Facebook, Twitter, all the disparate and convergent paths of communication. I discovered an email that made me cry out. (How soon, already, in resemblance to a long-form letter of lore seems an email to a Facebook message, a tweet, an IM, a Like.)

“Is this you?” it read. “My wonderful friend that I moved from Virginia to NY to work with?  You fell off the face of the earth after I moved back to Virginia.”

I read the words in the wonder of life coming back to me. It was B, after twenty-five years. From so many corners these years, the threads of my life fall at my feet. It took only minutes to write back and say, yes, I am the friend. (“Wonderful” has had its dissenters.)

Increasingly, this happens. From all the distant skies, the birds are calling in flight, waiting for a cry of return. Are you still there? Where? How can I find you?

B had been my assistant – not my number two, but my right arm – when I was an executive in the air courier business. She was the first hire I made after my boss was fired and I was told the same morning that I was now promoted to take his place. I could rely on her for anything, she performed every job meticulously, and she gave me the loyalty, through all the battles of corporate warfare, of a true friend. To have had a B in your life is to have at least once been lucky.

In the 1970s and early 80s, the air courier business, in the excitement and the startup creation, was a little like Silicon Valley two decades later, except the field was not high profile, the billions were millions, and only relatively few became modestly wealthy, or in a handful of cases, more. But there was the exotic allure of international travel and shipping; the compelling attraction of solving, often by the seats of pants already in motion, varied logistical problems, and the hordes of young people in their twenties, mostly male, who rose quickly through the ranks, often to leave to helm their own new companies. Fedex, still Federal Express, had not yet turned a profit. DHL was steeped in the mysteriousness of its origins and ownership.

Part of the excitement was that we were all making it up as we went along. Today, expedited delivery and inventory control logistics are highly professionalized and mathematically systematized activities. In the Seventies, we were cowboys. Today, we have fax machines, email, word-processed documents, uploads, downloads, attachments, imaging. Then, we had telephones and telex machines. If it needed to go somewhere, it went there physically. A contract to a guy fishing in the Alaska wildnerness? A solar panel to Dusseldorf (lost for a month in a warehouse in Marseille)? A rock star’s (male) hairspray to Marrakesh? Sure, we’ll do it. (How are we doing it?)

That first Friday as head of what was then an international department, I told a major client we could get him Sunday delivery in Trinidad. Sunday. In Trinidad. And we didn’t have an agent in Trinidad. But I wasn’t going to mark my first week in charge by telling a major customer no. I didn’t leave the office Friday night or all day Saturday. The phone bill alone lost us money on the job, but I found an agent in Port-of-Spain who understood the demanding nature of American business and who had close contacts in customs. Package delivered. I was on my way. I was 26.

But to where?

I had never wanted to be in business. That wasn’t me. Me, just two or three years earlier – dropped-out of college twice, kicked-out finally – was unemployed and boarding dogs in my Manhattan apartment for extra money. I would walk the city streets, sit in the parks and sink into the hours, vibrating, I felt in my stillness, with the quick atomic motion of the world at rest. If, along the way, in some required contact of daily life, man or woman spoke to me, what came back in return, pressed though the vise of my inwardness, was a croak in the guise of a voice. Once, on a late fall day, I entered the St. Marks Cinema in the East Village and sat through a triple bill of Last Year at Marienbad, La Strada, and La guerre est finie. I emerged six and a half hours later into a chill, melancholy night, driven so deeply into interiority I thought I might never speak again.

Now I was sitting executively behind a wall on a restaurant patio in Las Mercedes, eating my first rabbit and first turtle soup, talking to the man whose company was about to become our new agent in Caracas, and I’m telling him I’m glad he’s lived in the U.S. and understands the demands of American business, and it’s great that his son is going to West Point, but I’ve heard this before, and if six months from now the promised second morning deliveries start becoming afternoon and third morning, I’m going to have to terminate the agreement. (And I did.)

I had flown in a couple of nights before with a dozen boxes or so of medical brochures. They needed on-board accompaniment, I had an idea, and the company president said, sure, go find us a better agent. I had booked a hotel on the coast, in La Guaira, not that far from the airport, thinking the companies I needed to visit would be headquartered in that area, but as it transpired I had to travel by taxi multiple times through the northern mountains that separate Caracas from the coast. The humidity was so thick I changed perspiration-soaked clothes three or four times a day, and during the slow climbs up the mountain highway, stuck interminably behind huge lorries freighted with timber and the same carga larga sign behind them all, I could peer closely through the huge needles of moisture that seemed to hang suspended in the air, study the tin shacks that climbed the mountain sides to the top, housing the city’s poor. They are there still today, home to the Chavezistas. No wonder, I thought, nothing gets delivered on time. It’s an effort to move. Here, sit down. Have a cool drink. Let’s talk a little. It’ll still be there when we’re done.

It is curious how feeling the body more closely, the atmosphere pressing on it, leads to a sharper awareness of its opposite, the formless self the body contains. What was I doing there? Who was I fooling? Everyone, clearly, but myself. I had arrived at National Airport, outside of D.C., for my connecting flight to Miami, only to discover – B. still handling customers and not yet taking care of me – that I had forgotten my passport. On a morning flight the next day, I managed to make the same flight to Caracas. No one needed to know. When I counted up the boxes in the hotel lobby, the cab driver already gone, I found them one short. Now I walked along the coastal highway – he worked the airport and the airport hotels – surely I would see him going one way, returning the other. Come night, I hired another taxi to take me back to the airport. I scanned the line of cabs. I saw him. He saw me. Yes, yes. He had looked for me. He didn’t know my name, my room.

Executive? I couldn’t make a courier delivery without fucking up. But no one had needed to know in either case. If you are only an imposter to yourself, you are in on your own secret. But it was my secret and I did know it, and the sense of otherness enveloping me was only greater, as it so often is, for the foreign locale and my skin crawling with the press of the world upon it. I had to get out, had to walk, to feel space around me, a breeze, any kind of breeze. All around in the darkness along the coastal road, the side streets, I saw figures, caught the tail of furtive movements. I began to conceive the story I would write when home again. A foreigner – always a foreigner – mistaken for someone else. I needed a circumstance to represent this profound  dislocation of identity I felt – a first time homosexual encounter, I imagined, anonymous figures in the dark, a Columbian, in fact, mistaking an unspeaking American, beating him in the shadows, kicking him, spitting out in his contemptuous dismissal, “Venizolano,” the title I gave the story.

Home again, my car gave out. I went to the man who now would be called the head of Human Resources, JD, a huge, rolling, born-again Christian, deeply southern, deeply country, a former good ‘ole boy with a broad blast of white hair and heart wide enough to make every up and-coming young male, every tender female in the company his ward. He took me to the president, who listened.

“Oh, what the hell,” he said, “Give him a car.”

JD told me to find what I wanted on any lot, come back and tell him, and he would work out the lease. Most of the other young directors of operations and VPs of sales were driving Gran Prix’s. That wasn’t what I wanted. Short of an Alfa Romeo, I wanted a 280ZX.  The thing was, the Grand Prix, in 1979 dollars, went for eight thousand dollars. The ZX was twelve.

I reported back to JD.

“Boy!” he bellowed and drawled in a diphthong that had at least three syllables to it – “Boyahhhuh! You got to be SHITTIN’ me! You picked out a twelve thousand dollar car?!”

I was already well into feeling my savoir faire, but I stammered before JD.

“You GOT to be shittin’ me!”

But he hadn’t given me any limit.

Now he gave me the car.

All the young peacocks were stylin’ as they’d say twenty years later. London Fog. Fedoras. Cigars. I went for three piece suits, a brown Borsalino, my ZX. By the time we moved what was now an international division up to New York, near JFK – B. and my number two coming with me – I was living the high life, working endless hours, playing the rest, tooling around town: wine after wine at dinner, taking the measure of every vodka and brandy at The Odeon. CW, ten years my senior, who had bought in as a third, minority owner to lend his international expertise, was now the chief executive of a independent international subsidiary, while I was the chief operating officer. He and I spent late nights at his favorite riverside haunts on the Queens side, bent noses and soaring tenors at tableside. Every Friday we picked an Italian restaurant on the Island for an extended lunch: a couple of cocktails, a bottle or two of wine – the Borolo’s not big enough; let’s try  an Inferno – and we’d saunter into the office cool as two guys who didn’t know they were walking distilleries not pulling it off. In the meantime we were expanding around the world, our own offices in Australia, Brazil, joint ventures in England and France.

In 1980, a still young HBO raised our profile even higher. While NBC would broadcast the big name matches from Wimbledon, as usual, HBO would carry the secondary matches.

Satellite?

No.

Each morning, we flew videotape of the previous day’s matches from London to New York. There was only one way to make the time constraints, though: the Concorde, with an on board courier. This was much too big to let anyone else handle. I set it up myself. And just to be sure there were no kinks in the system, you understand, I made myself the first courier. I enjoyed a few days of Wimbledon (but saw the classic McEnroe loss to Borg from my Murray Hill living room) and flew the Concorde home, with a 9 a.m. London departure, a 9:30 a.m. arrival at JFK, a car to rush the tape to Manhattan, and a full day at the office.

On the plane, it was poached Scotch salmon, champagne, cigars, and brandy from take off to landing. My seatmate perused his leather bound portfolio of Rolls Royces with me. Somewhere in flight, we approached twice the speed of sound. I stared hard out the window. Instead of the usual cruising altitude somewhere in the thirty thousands of feet, we were soaring at fifty-seven thousand. The atmosphere, very rarified, was darkening. The earth was curving. I was very high.

Just short of a year later, B., not much of a New York girl, decided to return to Virginia and soon look for work elsewhere. I wrote a letter of reference intended to ensure employment through any future life. A day that I always knew was coming began to approach in my mind. Then I was made an offer.

My counterpart for the parent company, younger brother of one of the two original owners, was leaving the company. They wanted me to take his place. In the hierarchy of the company, there would be the three owners, and then there would be me. Of course there was much more money. The probable future was clear. It was Friday afternoon.

I spent the weekend at home. I had a long talk with my brother. If I accepted the promotion, it was very likely that by forty, if not before, I would be a wealthy man. I would be a very unhappy, wealthy man. I was struck that I even contemplated it. The brooding young man who had taken a customer service job with another company for $150 a week just three and a half years earlier would not have thought about it for a moment. For a weekend, however, the twenty-nine year old did. Because it had been a hell of a ride. It had enabled me, in fact, not long before, to leverage a real estate investment into a four thousand percent profit in two years. So I had options.

On Monday morning, I walked into CW’s office, and I resigned.

I had felt as if the company were mine. Operationally, I had created it, hired all the people who hired all the people. I felt responsible. I signed a short-term consulting contract and agreed to conduct the search for my successor. They continued to woo me for the other position. During those final three months, in addition to offers of more money still, I was being invited to a lot of power breakfasts with colleagues from Virginia, all the others in my cadre of up and comers who had made it to director of operations and VP of sales. Jay liked the night life, everyone knew, so there were many late nights and restaurants and bars. At the last breakfast, I emerged from the hotel lobby with one of those VPs, my age, tall and JFK Jr. handsome. We paused as he lit our cigars.

“Jay,” he said. “Aren’t you gonna miss this?”

He expected, as they all did, that the missing would move me.

I gazed down the street at the U.N. and the East River beyond.

“Sure,” I said.

We never discussed what “this” was.

Then I was gone.

Within a few years, original two owners putting the company up for sale, CW bought rights to the international subsidiary’s name, moved to London, and created a worldwide network of independent expediters. It exists today. For fun, he opened a London wine bar. The parent company was sold to Airborne Express, where for twenty years, under its own name, it provided specialized courier service. A few years ago, DHL acquired it. Earlier, I had reason to learn that a decade after I left, no one had any idea who I was or knew who the people were that created the company.

Then B. wrote me. We started to catch up on twenty-five years. She wanted to know why I had disappeared. She got married, I said. A married woman with children in Virginia. A single man hundreds of miles away. Different lives.

“I know,” she said.

But she wasn’t completely satisfied, and it wasn’t the whole truth. The whole truth is that I leave all my lives behind, one imposter after another, working my way, I keep thinking, to the real me.

I remembered when we last saw each other. I visited soon after her first daughter was born. And I knew that soon after my return to New York I had received a card from B. It’s in one of the boxes that contain the memorabilia of all those lives. I haven’t seen it in years, but I know what it says. It says that I have to visit often, because B. couldn’t imagine her daughter growing up without knowing me.

She did.

She is older now than B. was when I met her.

Searching my memory, I thought I had to have been at B.’s wedding. There was no way I would not have been. Yet I had no recollection at all. The next morning, as if still, after so many years, anticipating my needs, I received an email from B. with two attachments: photos from her wedding.

In the first, one of those table shots, behind those in seats, three people stand. In the middle is B., her silken veil of waist-length hair a kind of talisman of her innocence and beauty. On one side of her is her new husband. On the other side is me. Once again, somehow, the imposter leads my life. I do not recall the moment. I do not remember the day. Yet that is my own self standing there, in one of those three pieces suits, taller and leaner than I remember anymore ever having been, already losing my hair, but still only balding, not yet bald. The hair that is there, and my beard, that I have worn since I was seventeen years old, is so dark it seems to have been inked in. I was once that young. I thought I was still.

Staring and staring, I don’t know what to make of a self I left behind, on a day I have forgotten, and I am reminded of poem I wrote as my mother disappeared into Alzheimer’s.

At that, we both turn to Katherine Hepburn, sixty years ago
and taut as a bowstring, wonder if the stars remember
every escapade and kiss, or if sometimes in the darkness
they sit and only stare
at some actor on the screen.

The second photograph shows a lineup of young men. I am among them, reaching forward, perilously balanced on one leg as I stretch my arm for something.

“What are we doing there?” I wrote and asked.

Lined up for the tossing of her garter apparently.

“Guess who caught it,” B. wrote.

That seems, in all the remembering, to be the question for me now. Or the beginning of many questions, the many questions that have preoccupied me in the weeks since B. first wrote: all the questions about the life that was, and was before, the life that is, and the life to come, and all of them beginning with “who.”

AJA

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories
Uncategorized

Sunday Matinee – What We Were Thinking Of (4)

What We Were Thinking Of

A Play in Two Acts

by

A. Jay Adler

—————

——————

Part Four

The Story So Far

David Rich, professor of literature, minor cultural celebrity, receives a mysterious letter from his childhood friend Bud Powell, who was alienated from his father, Charles, a CIA officer, over the politics of the Sixties and who has been missing for eleven years. The letter, apparently referring to the daughter, Hannah, who David adopted after Bud disappeared, reads, “Where is my daughter? Who are my sons?” David shows the letter to his graduate student lover, Kate Colman, who argues with him when she realizes everything he has not shared with her. David then recalls his college days, when he, Bud, and Sara Flannery were friends. In the present, he visits Charles in Virginia to tell him about the letter, acknowledging that the two share a secret and arguing with Charles about what to do. David then meets with Sara, now his ex-wife, to express his concern to her. Back in the Sixties, David argues with Bud, a leading campus activist, over the extent of David’s political commitment. In the present, David hires Salt Lake City private investigator Robert Smith to find Bud for him. Smith stuns David with news that Bud is publishing  a newspaper memoir of his radical past. In it Bud claims to have had accomplices in the deadly bombing of a research laboratory, for which he went to prison.

Now part 4:

David’s colleague Kurtis Brown advises David about the suspicion that has now fallen on him. At a campus party, as Kate makes emotional demands on him, David begins to feel the strain. The FBI pays a call.

———–

(Smith stands and heads off. David remains seated as Kurtis enters. He walks to David and looks for him to get up from his chair. David rises and walks around to sit on the other side.)

KURTIS

Of course everyone’s seen it. Our students may not read, Brother Rich, but the faculty does. And they’re giving the piece an uncommonly close reading. You’re worried, I take it.

DAVID

Of course I’m worried. I know what everyone’s thinking.

KURTIS

Many of us knew, of course, but some people were surprised to learn you have a history here at your alma mater.

DAVID

And now people are rightly interested, I suppose — for all the wrong reasons.

KURTIS

Well, right or wrong, as I say, you have a history here — at an interesting time, amidst, shall we say, interesting events. So, yes, I think you could say they’re interested, for reasons right and wrong.

(Kurtis sits, crossing his legs with a flourish, seeming to preside from the chair.)

KURTIS

(continuing)

My own youthful radical indiscretions are buried in the somewhat more secretive lore of Howard University. I uncover them personally and selectively as needed when it helps to sell my books. And I stopped somewhat short, though I was sorely tempted — I make my Baptist testimony — righteously indignant spawn of the hypocrite South that I was — of bombing buildings. You, on the other hand, have someone excavating in your behalf.

DAVID

But the fact is that all it reveals so far is my friendship with Bud Powell and my work with USM. That’s hardly news to anyone who knows me.

KURTIS

Ah, well, everyone doesn’t know you. And the operative words are “so far.” And now your story is being read — in installments no less — by some of the best readers in the country. The interpretive spades are digging through the dirt — attempting to dig up dirt — in a frenzy.

(George Gray passes.)

GEORGE

Lurking in plain view, David? Not exactly a clandestine return. Very brave.

(noticing Kurtis)

Oh, that you, Kurtis?

KURTIS

No. I’m a ghost. It’s a haunting.

(George gives a breathy snort and moves on.)

KURTIS

(continuing)

You should know. He’s already asked for the ethics committee to meet. He wants an investigation.

DAVID

Of what? What are they going to investigate? Are they going to find Bud? Ask him what happened?

KURTIS

I understand that’s what you’ve been trying to do.

DAVID

So?

KURTIS

So?

DAVID

Oh, now that looks bad?

KURTIS

Well, you argue for a surface reading of events if you like. But you were best friends with the man. You worked together politically. He suggests there were accomplices. And now here you are trying to find him.

(beat)

George wants you gone. So do the rest of the old and rear guard. You’re going to have to stand up.

DAVID

Let them put me on trial? On what grounds? I won’t cooperate.

KURTIS

(standing)

David. Why do you think they’re going after you? The article? Yes, it’s given them opportunity. But they could go after me. Would rather, too. They know I’d fight them. They know I’m a force. You, Brother Rich — forgive me — they see you as a careerist. You talk the talk — your book burned their sorry asses pretty bad — but no one here has ever really seen you do the walk. You seem an easy target. And the war, as someone was good enough to recently remind us, is still being waged — on all fronts.

DAVID

So I have to defend myself, when no defense should be necessary?

KURTIS

Have you read your own book, my brother? Well, now, the war has come to David Rich. Just keep in mind that you have friends here. Good friends. Don’t run away from your past.

(Kurtis heads for the door. He turns back.)

KURTIS

(continuing)

I presume they play football in Chevy Chase. Just remember what makes a good defense. And let’s have dinner soon. I have some extraordinary new armagnac to ply you with.

(As he departs Kurtis sticks his hand by his rear to simulate a tail and wags it.)

(David lingers, worrying. He stands, notices his answering machine. He punches a button. Spotlight on Kate elsewhere on stage.)

KATE

You didn’t call. Are you back yet? If you are, let’s have dinner. Interesting reading in the Tribune.

(David sighs at this. Then the next message. Spot out on Kate, up on Larry Havermore, elsewhere again.)

HAVERMORE

Prof. Rich. Larry Havermore, Chicago Tribune. I’d like to talk to you about the Bud Powell series we’re running. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It raises some old, interesting questions. I’d like to get your side of the story. Give me a call at —

(Annoyed, David advances the tape to the next message. Spot out on Havermore, up on Sara, elsewhere.)

SARA

It’s Sara. Listen, Hannah’s been trying to reach you for days. I told her I thought you went to Salt Lake City. She’s got Christmas leave and wants you to join us for dinner. Who knows what’s coming next, you know?  You’re welcome to bring your friend, if you’re okay with that. I am. Anyway, I think Hannah is going to pay you a surprise visit, so be surprised. And show her how you feel. Call me when you can.

(Spot out on Sara. David pauses at this news, then goes to the next message. Bud appears in shadow upstage, his face not visible.)

BUD

Culture wars? Culture of war. How’d you miss that one, pal?

(A blast of alternative rock music from a Christmas party. Kate enters carrying two plastic cups of wine, hands David his as he joins her on the front porch of a student house.)

DAVID

I don’t know what he’s up to, Kate. I have no fucking idea.

KATE

Do you think the messages are connected to the series in the paper?

DAVID

They must be.

KATE

Is he trying to rattle you for some reason?

DAVID

Bud never needed a reason to try to rattle me. It was a matter of principle with him.

KATE

After all these years? What does he want you to do, bomb another building?

DAVID

What do you mean, “another”?

KATE

Well, he bombed one before. What did you think I …?

(They both get the confusion, let it drop.)

KATE

(continuing)

I have to say, I found the article very informative. I figured you did the usual 60s radical stuff. I didn’t realize you were such a leader in the movement.

DAVID

I wasn’t such a leader in the movement. It was just on this campus. Bud was the one with connections. That was his bag.

KATE

His “bag”?

(beat)

It gave me a sense of who you were — the kind of person you used to be. I know it’s a sore subject, but you haven’t told me a lot.

DAVID

It gets kind of old after awhile, you know. You tell the same stories about yourself over and over again. You get to a certain age —

KATE

Nearly 44?

DAVID

— you get tired of telling them. You get tired of yourself.

KATE

I thought you weren’t going to play the weary, wise older man to me.

DAVID

Well, I think I can keep my promise about the wise part.

(Kate is unhappy at this. She leaves the porch. David follows.)

DAVID

(continuing)

Kate …

KATE

Are you trying to tell me you don’t have the energy to be really, completely here for me? I’m just some sort of companion to your jaded middle age? I get to be with you, but I never get to know you?

DAVID

Is that what it means to know someone, to hear his tales of when he was ten and twenty and thirty?

KATE

Partly, yes. To know the things you wanted. Who you loved. Who loved you. The mistakes you made. I know the “great” professor and author — I want to know the person.

DAVID

That’s a lot of baggage, Kate — a lot more than comes with a younger man. You’re maybe just beginning to get an idea of that. And there may be more to come. Are you sure you want to carry that load?

KATE

(composing herself to speak)

When I first met you, I thought you would be one of those special experiences that only some people get to have in life — an “affair” with one of your professors. I thought it would last a few months. I would have this extraordinary experience to look back on. Maybe we’d even stay friends. It hasn’t turned out like that. You think your life will go a certain way — but there are always these surprises. And you’re never sure whether to cling to your plans — and maybe miss out on something unexpected and wonderful — or if you should embrace what’s come your way, let it lead you where it will. I know as hard as I try I’ll never quite be your equal. But I also know that as long as I live, I’ll never find anyone I could love as much as you.

(David is moved. He takes hold of her, strokes her face. She takes the hand and holds it.)

KATE

(continuing)

So I think to myself, I can take the accidents of my life, and I can choose them. I can make them mine. I can choose you, instead of letting you remain something that just happened to me.

(A kiss would be next, but Jarrod enters with a bottle of beer, from inside the house.)

JARROD

Well, now, there’s my two favorite party animals.

(stops)

Oops.

(beat)

You weren’t discussing Foucault, were you?

(David and Kate separate.)

JARROD

(continuing)

Should I –?

DAVID

Come on out.

JARROD

How was your trip to Chicago and parts unknown?

DAVID

Very retrospective.

JARROD

They say that happens in middle age.

DAVID

(to Kate)

I used to like him.

JARROD

Can we reschedule your look at my outline?

DAVID

Sure. Let me check my calendar.

KATE

My first chapter comes first.

JARROD

But of course.

(to David)

Listen, some of us are organizing against the war preparations in the Gulf. You interested in lending a little esteemed faculty support? Professor Brown has already offered to speak.

DAVID

Yes, well, my good friend Kurtis has never met a spotlight he didn’t flower under.

(beat)

Let me think about it. We’ll talk.

JARROD

What’s to think about? You’re the man who’s just cleaned the Right’s clock. You’d make the perfect — forgive the word — elder statesman.

DAVID

Actually, if you read closely, the book is more analysis than polemic. But don’t you think these things require thought?

JARROD

I’d have thought you’d already — unless you’re worried. Because of that newspaper series? I heard about the ethics committee. You’re not worried about antagonizing them, are you?

KATE

You think that’s something not to worry about?

JARROD

No. But —

(to David)

No one else is worried about what you may have done back in ’71.

DAVID

Oh, really? And is that because “no one else” thinks I did it? Or because the possibility that I may have once bombed a government research laboratory anoints me with a certain cheap radical Èclat?

KATE

(a hand, to calm him)

David…

DAVID

(pause)

I’m sorry. We’ll talk about it. I promise.

(Jarrod nods, sorry for the conflict. He starts to leave.)

JARROD

I’m heading out back.

(He points to David’s wine, then tokes an imaginary joint.)

JARROD

(continuing)

Care to mix a little pleasure with your pleasure?

DAVID

I’m middle-aged, remember?

(Jarrod smiles and moves on. A doorbell rings. Lights out on Kate as David walks across stage. The bell rings again as David picks up his briefcase and answers the door to Agent Strait.)

AGENT STRAIT

Prof. Rich? Prof. David Rich?

DAVID

Yes? Listen I was just leaving for work.

AGENT STRAIT

(holding out his ID)

Agent Strait, Federal Bureau of Investigation. I’d like to talk with you if I may. May I come in?

(David pauses, soberly backs away to let Strait in.)

AGENT STRAIT

(continuing)

I’m here —

DAVID

I can guess why you’re here.

AGENT STRAIT

Good. Then I don’t have to bore you with a long explanation.

DAVID

Is the FBI reopening the case?

AGENT STRAIT

The case was never officially closed. There were, as you know, accomplices —

DAVID

No. Wait. See, I’m presuming you’re here to find out what I know. You, on the other hand, are already assuming —

AGENT STRAIT

I’m not assuming anything, Professor. And there’s no need to start off hostile.

DAVID

No nee — Listen, Agent Strait — That was a joke, right?

AGENT STRAIT

What was a —

DAVID

Never mind.

AGENT STRAIT

I don’t joke.

DAVID

No, I’m sure you don’t.

AGENT STRAIT

This is not a joking matter.

DAVID

Really? I wasn’t sure. Thanks for the heads up.

AGENT STRAIT

(beat)

Let’s start again…

DAVID

You’ve obviously been brought up to speed on the case. Then I presume you’re aware I was questioned at the time. I was as cooperative as —

AGENT STRAIT

We’re aware of your cooperation thirteen months after the fact. People cooperate for many different reasons.

DAVID

There was nothing in that article to implicate me.

(On the screen above: David liked to think he was so American — in the original, radical sense. He liked to quote Tom Paine: “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence.”)

AGENT STRAIT

No. Not directly, so far. But it raised questions.

DAVID

In your boss’s mind, whoever he is. You’re too young to have a bug up your ass about the sixties.

AGENT STRAIT

The only thing I have a bug up my ass about, Prof. Rich, is murder, now or twenty years ago. But since you mention it, it does seem I have to hear about the “sixties” all the time. The sixties and the boomers. Considering how much you all seemed to fuck everything up, it’s a wonder everyone pays you so much attention.

DAVID

Yeah, well, maybe your generation will be the one that gets it all right.

AGENT STRAIT

(pause)

Well, now. We’ve got that out of the way. Now I’d like to ask you some questions.

(David leads Agent Strait to the door.)

DAVID

You may find this hard to believe, Agent, but I have nothing against the FBI. Not in principle, anyway. Call and give me some notice — so I can have my attorney with me — and I’ll be happy to talk with you.

(David points the way out.)

AGENT STRAIT

If you’d like to play it that way.

DAVID

Oh, I think I’d like to play it that way.

(Agent Strait leaves. David turns with a sigh, hangs his head from the weight of it all.)

AJA

—————

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories
Culture Clash

Go to the Theater this Sunday

Last Sunday on the sad red earth saw the thirteenth and concluding installment of the film noir Double Down. (You can catch up with DD here. Man murders his rich identical twin, assumes the twin’s identity, and pursues the same woman, a detective, as a lover – what’s not to like?) Beginning this weekend, the Sunday Matinee turns to drama, in a play that treats the kind of political themes that interest so many readers of this blog.

What We Were Thinking Of is a drama of 60s generational conflict set against the backdrop of the culture wars and the Gulf War of 1991. Like another world, isn’t it?

1971. When you’re young, intellectual and arrogant, violence can be twisted into a justifiable act. But 20 years later, the consequences of your actions can suddenly come back to haunt you.

AJA

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories
Creative

Sunday Matinee – Double Down (Finale)

A Film Noir

by

A. Jay Adler

DOUBLE DOWN

Finale: the Dealer Calls the Hand

The Story So Far

Jack Miles, rock n’ roll roadie, has returned home looking for a job. He encounters old friends and begins a new love with Evelyn “Sonny” Morales, a detective. Old friends, Kyle and Ray, propose to Jack that he help them rob his wealthy, but estranged, identical twin, Joseph. Jack turns them down, and instead goes to see Joseph to ask for a job. But Joseph humiliates Jack and they nearly come to blows. Enraged, Jack lures Joseph to him and kills him, making the murder appear his own accidental death. He then assumes Joseph’s identity and sets Kyle and Ray up in a botched attempt at the robbery. While Sonny investigates Jack’s death, Jack, as Joseph, discovers that Joseph and Crank Wilson were closeted lovers. As Sonny’s investigation continues to bring her and Jack together, Jack tries to adjust to the conditions of his new life. Soon enough, Crank is on to Jack and tries to blackmail him, but Jack figures a way to accommodate and control Crank. Then, one night, Jack and Sonny give in and make love. Disturbed by events, Sonny seeks advice from Poppy, her father, in prison. She returns to headquarters to learn that Crank has been murdered. The investigation leads to Crank’s murderer, and to evidence of his and Joesph’s relationship. Even as Jack begins to truly appreciate the life he might lead as Joseph, circumstances begin to close in on the life that Joesph led.

Now, the Finale:

Jack and Sonny find their destiny.

————

INT. POLICE STATION – DAY

STEVE TAKAMURA, 30’s, a slight, youthful toxicologist, walks through the squad room in the direction of Sonny and Slocum’s desks.

Slocum sits at his desk, with Sonny perched on it, both eating burritos.

SONNY

(to Slocum)

I’m telling you it’s not really Mexican. Just like chow mein isn’t really Chinese.

SLOCUM

Chow mein’s not Chinese?

Takamura arrives, holds out a folder to Sonny.

TAKAMURA

I know it doesn’t really matter anymore, since you got your guy, but I thought you might still want to know what was in the jar.

SLOCUM

Takamura. Chow mein’s Chinese food, isn’t it?

TAKAMURA

What makes you think I’d know?

SONNY

(to Takamura)

And?

TAKAMURA

It was Chun Su. Chemically, a bufadienolide.

SLOCUM

That’s easy for him to say.

TAKAMURA

Whoever’s using it is crazy. It’s deadly.

SONNY

So we heard. Thanks, Steve.

Takamura starts to leave.

SONNY (CONT’D)

How is it used?

Slocum shoots her a salaciously curious look. Sonny shoots a nasty one back.

TAKAMURA

Well, normally, I gather, as a topical anesthetic. It would increase stamina.

SLOCUM

Staying power.

Takamura stares at Slocum.

TAKAMURA

Improve performance, I guess, for those who feel in need of it.

SONNY

But that’s not fatal.

TAKAMURA

No. But sometimes people ingest it. I don’t know what they think they’re going to get from that.

SLOCUM

A big stick that won’t quit. I’ll tell you about it some time.

Takumura glances at Slocum, goes on.

TAKAMURA

Swallow enough and it can cause cardiac dysrythmia. It has all the physiological appearances of a fatal arrhythmia, even to the point of being accompanied by vomiting.

Sonny nods. Takamura throws Slocum another look, leaves.

Sonny walks around to sit at her desk, her thinking troubled. She turns in her chair, her back to Slocum.

Slocum stares at her back.

SLOCUM

Lose your appetite?

Sonny doesn’t answer for a long moment. She turns around, faces Slocum.

SONNY

What did Mirabella Kort die of?

Slocum shakes his head.

SLOCUM

Kraft worked the investigation.

Slocum turns to a desk in the middle of the room.

SLOCUM (CONT’D)

Kraft. Mirabella Kort. What’d she die of?

KRAFT, 50’s, heavy, slow in every way, looks up from his desk.

KRAFT

Mirabella Kort? Heart attack.

SONNY

Is that the medical term?

KRAFT

You want a doctor, Morales, call an HMO.

SONNY

No, how about you check the case file.

Kraft’s glance at Slocum says, What’s up with her?

Slocum rolls his eyes, nods to Kraft to do it.

Kraft slowly, reluctantly rises to go get the file.

Sonny withdraws into herself.

INT. POLICE STATION – EVENING

Sonny sits at her desk in the growing dark, staring out the window.

Slocum walks by the door to the squad room as Kraft enters with the case file. They talk. Slocum looks in Sonny’s direction.

Sonny looks away from the window, sees the two talking. They walk to her.

SONNY

So?

KRAFT

Says here Mirabella Kort was suffering from congestive heart failure. She was taking a medication called di-gox-in to regulate her heart beat. Apparently she took an overdose. She suffered —

Kraft checks the file.

KRAFT (CONT’D)

Digi… digi… digitalis intoxication, causing a fatal arr–

SLOCUM

Arrhythmia.

SONNY

Was there any vomiting?

KRAFT

Shit, I was first on the scene. It was everywhere. Practically drowned in it.

Sonny looks at Slocum. He stares at her as he speaks.

SLOCUM

Where was her husband?

KRAFT

Off in Pismo Beach for the weekend. She was dead two days before her body was discovered. Their manservant was off too.

Sonny and Slocum stare at each other.

SONNY

I’ll get the court order.

KRAFT

Court order for what?

SLOCUM

Exhume Mirabella Kort’s body.

Sonny comes between them on her way out.

SONNY

(to Slocum)

Don’t say it.

She moves on.

INT. KORT MANSION – STUDY – NIGHT

Jack is at his desk with PAPERS scattered everywhere.

The PHONE RINGS.

JACK

Hello? Evelyn?  I am so glad to hear from you. Really, I’m so glad. I’m sitting here going over the whole operation, everything.

EXT. COUNTY COURT HOUSE – NIGHT

Sonny stands on the front steps, CELL PHONE in hand.

SONNY

I’m at the county court. I just got an order to exhume Mirabella’s body.

INT. KORT MANSION – STUDY

Jack is perplexed.

JACK

Why?

EXT. COUNTY COURT HOUSE

Sonny sits on a step.

SONNY

We have reason to reconsider the cause of death.

INT. KORT MANSION – STUDY

Now Jack is stunned.

JACK

Why?

EXT. COUNTY COURT HOUSE

Sonny wipes tears from her eyes.

SONNY

If you don’t know, don’t worry.

Sonny ends the call.

INT. KORT MANSION – STUDY

Jack lets the phone fall from his hand. He’s motionless with shock. He tries to put it all together. A frenzy grows in him.

He shoots up. His arms, his legs, go this way, that. He doesn’t know what to do with himself.

He looks at a wall filled with PHOTOS of Joseph: public events, parties, the country club.

He storms to the wall, takes a photo of Joseph smiling between two men, grips it between his hands in a rage, as if he would strangle it.

JACK

Identical–

He SLAMS the photo against the wall.

JACK (CONT’D)

— twins!

The glass SHATTERS loudly.

He turns wildly, walks almost drunkenly to the terrace door.

EXT. TERRACE

Jack staggers along, straightens himself, staggers again to the steps down into the orchards.

He navigates the steps uncertainly.

He stumbles near the bottom, falls to the ground.

He lies there, winded and crazed, dizzy, on his back, staring up at the sky, the world spinning around him, with no center.

Jack rises slowly. He steadies himself. He walks into

THE ORCHARDS

calmly, as if in a trance.

He walks on and on, deep among the trees.

And then he stops.

He stares into the night, as if in another world.

EXT. CEMETERY – DAY

SHOVELS stand in a mound of dirt beside Mirabella Kort’s grave.

Sonny and Slocum watch with two cemetery workers as a LIFT raises the CASKET from it’s vault.

EXT. THE ORCHARDS – NIGHT

Jack stands beneath a brilliantly FULL MOON. He stares into the darkness, along an avenue between the trees.

INT. SONNY’S SEDAN – MOVING – NIGHT

Sonny’s cell phone rings. She picks it up.

INT. MEDICAL EXAMINER’S LABORATORY – NIGHT

Slocum stands by a desk, talks on the phone.

SLOCUM

It’s me. They found it. There’s no doubt.

INT. SONNY’S SEDAN – MOVING

Sonny is silent.

SONNY

Back me up. But don’t come in. I’ll bring him out.

Sonny turns off the phone.

INT. MEDICAL EXAMINER’S LABORATORY

Slocum hangs up the phone.

EXT. SONNY’S SEDAN – MOVING

Sonny does a u-turn and speeds off.

EXT. THE ORCHARDS – NIGHT

Jack stares into the darkness.

Suddenly he shivers from the cold.

He turns and looks back at the house.

He walks toward it.

He walks with purpose, as if headed toward something.

He walks up the stairs to

THE TERRACE

Jack pauses. He walks to the study doors, then stops.

He looks along the wall of the house, toward the living room doors.

INT. KORT MANSION – FOYER

Sonny walks beside the wall toward the living room. Manuel stands in the b.g. by the closed front door.

EXT. TERRACE

Jack walks along the wall of the house toward the living room doors. He glances at the wall as if sensing, seeing something on the other side.

INT. FOYER

Sonny walks beside the wall.

EXT. TERRACE

Jack walks along the wall.

INT. FOYER

Sonny approaches the entrance to the living room.

EXT. TERRACE

Jack reaches the doors as Sonny enters the living room.

He sees her.

INT. FORMAL LIVING ROOM

Sonny stops.

She sees Jack on the other side of the glass doors.

Jack enters and walks to her. He stops and is silent for a moment.

JACK

How did she die?

SONNY

Don’t you know?

Jack doesn’t answer.

SONNY (CONT’D)

We found something at Crank’s apartment in Pismo Beach — an aphrodisiac. We also found some photos. I told you. You — were in them. The aphrodisiac was in Mirabella’s body. It kills, just like an overdose of her heart medication.

Jack is quietly overwhelmed by the irony of his fate.

JACK

Is this really what you want to do?

SONNY

That’s a question you should have asked yourself, isn’t it? This is my job. I solve crimes. I arrest the bad people. I make the world a better place.

JACK

But you love me, Sonny. I know you do. I love you. I never loved anyone like I love you.

SONNY

Not even Mirabella?

(beat)

I loved a man named Jack Miles. He’s dead now.

JACK

You know who I am.

SONNY

Who? Who are you? Do you even know?

JACK

You know who I am. I don’t think anyone else ever has known.

SONNY

I don’t know who you are. All I know is what you did.

A slowly developing but hard driving ROCK SONG, something like U2, begins to play.

SONNY (CONT’D)

I have to take you in now. Will you come with me?

Jack stares at her. Can this be? Is this it?

Sonny holds out her hand.

SONNY (CONT’D)

Come with me.

Jack looks at, then takes, her hand.

They walk together, hand in hand, into

THE FOYER

and walk slowly, neither looking at the other, to the front door.

They stop.

Jack looks up toward the top of the stairs.

Manuel stands looking down at the two of them.

Jack turns to Sonny.

JACK

You’re the closest thing to Heaven I ever knew.

SONNY

Heaven’s not on this earth.

Suddenly but gently, she turns him around, cuffs him.

SONNY (CONT’D)

It’s for when you die.

She stares at his back.

SONNY (CONT’D)

Didn’t you know that?

She turns him and looks at him.

The MUSIC is about to go full out.

As Sonny opens the door, it does.

Jack is bathed in LIGHT.

EXT. KORT MANSION

Black and whites, on both sides of the driveway, have their high beams and spot lights trained on the door.

EXT. DOORWAY

Jack is framed in the doorway, almost blinded by the light, Sonny behind him.

The MUSIC is full tilt.

Jack hesitates, then slowly walks out. As he advances —

— the faint ROAR of a crowd as at a Rock concert.

Jack walks on slowly, and out of sight, into the bright lights.

Sonny looks on after him from the door.

THE END

AJA

————–

Categories
Culture Clash

Story Board

The best New Yorker story I’ve read in some time.

From “The Dredgeman’s Revelation,” by Karen Russel, the story of Louis Thanksgiving:

The dredge barge clanked downstream with its dipper handle swinging. For the first time in his short life, Louis had real friends, all sorts travelling alongside him into the glade—calm men, family men, bachelors, ex-preachers, hellions, white men, black men, the children of Indians and freed slaves. There was Adams, who had kicked a coral snake away from Louis’s naked big toe and thus saved his life with a casual grunt; ex-Army boys who followed the white-tailed deer into the briary midday darkness of the hardwood hammocks; drunks who took potshots at the queer golden cats that stalked the perimeter of their camp; gamblers who took all of Louis’s money with a pair of jacks and then gave (some of) it back at day’s end. Every man was Louis’s friend. When there was light in the sky, they waded forward. They surveyed the old section lines of the National Forest during the workweek, and on weekends they “rambled,” as LaVerl, the buck sergeant, said: shooting, fishing, sometimes even gator hunting along the nests that filled the unused railway bed. The cook told Louis to collect two dozen leathery eggs from these alligator nests, and made the whole crew a dinner of fishy-tasting omelettes.

When the light expired, they slept. White-tailed deer sprinted like loosed hallucinations among the tree islands. Sometimes Louis fell asleep watching them from the deck, and it worried him that he couldn’t pinpoint when his sleep began: deer rent the mist with their tiny hooves, a spotted contagion of dreams galloping inside Louis’s head. There were bad fires that blurred the world; in the summer months, you could see smoke rising almost daily, wherever lightning struck the peat beds.

Louis heard from the other surveyors that men all over the country were “hunting a week for one day’s work.” Sometimes when he thought about this he felt so lucky that he was almost sick to his stomach. Happiness could be felt as a pressure, too, Louis realized, more hard-edged and solid than longing, even. In Clarinda, he had yearned for better in a formless way, desire like a gray milk churn; in fact, he’d been so poor that he couldn’t settle on one concrete noun to wish for: A real father? A girl in town? A thousand acres? A single friend? In contrast, this new happiness had angles; it had a jewel-cut shadow, and he could lose it. Well, Louis determined that he was not going to lose it, and that he was never going back. The Depression was the best thing that had ever happened to him. He had a crisp stack of dollars, a uniform with his name stitched in raspberry thread on the pocket, and pork and grits in his belly.

Read more
Categories
Creative

Sunday Matinee – Double Down (Part 12)

A Film Noir

by

A. Jay Adler

DOUBLE DOWN

Part Twelve

The Story So Far

Jack Miles, rock n’ roll roadie, has returned home looking for a job. He encounters old friends and begins a new love with Evelyn “Sonny” Morales, a detective. Old friends, Kyle and Ray, propose to Jack that he help them rob his wealthy, but estranged, identical twin, Joseph. Jack turns them down, and instead goes to see Joseph to ask for a job. But Joseph humiliates Jack and they nearly come to blows. Enraged, Jack lures Joseph to him and kills him, making the murder appear his own accidental death. He then assumes Joseph’s identity and sets Kyle and Ray up in a botched attempt at the robbery. While Sonny investigates Jack’s death, Jack, as Joseph, discovers that Joseph and Crank Wilson were closeted lovers. As Sonny’s investigation continues to bring her and Jack together, Jack tries to adjust to the circumstances of his new life. Soon enough, Crank is on to Jack and tries to blackmail him, but Jack figures a way to accommodate and control Crank. Then, one night, Jack and Sonny give in and make love. Disturbed by events, Sonny seeks advice from her Poppy, her father, in prison. She returns to headquarters to learn that Crank has been murdered. The investigation leads to Crank’s murderer, and to evidence of his and Joesph’s relationship.

Now, Part 12:

Sonny and her partner argue about her relationship with Joseph. They arrest Billy Corbet. Jack receives mixed signals for his future.

————

INT. KORT MANSION – STUDY – DAY

Jack and Arthur Perry sit around a coffee table. Arthur gathers up the PAPERS into a PORTFOLIO.

ARTHUR

So that’s it. The farm, property, investments, and cash — minus Mirabella’s various bequests — you’re worth about sixty million dollars.

Jack is quietly wowed. He stands, moves away.

ARTHUR (CONT’D)

But I assume you pretty much knew that.

JACK

It’s a little different to hear it in so much detail.

ARTHUR

Yes, I suppose it is.

JACK

To have the responsibility myself.

ARTHUR

I’m not sure how many people would think of it as a responsibility, Joseph. Controlling that much money — it’s a lot of opportunity. And speaking of opportunity, I told you on the phone, I put out some discreet feelers. There may be a couple of takers so far, one private, one a large corporate interest.

JACK

Actually I’ve changed my mind about that.

ARTHUR

Really?

JACK

I’ve decided to really learn the business, take on the challenge of running it myself.

ARTHUR

That is a change.

JACK

You know, Arthur — let’s be honest — I’ve never really done anything useful with my life. You know what a lot of people thought about my marriage to Mirabella. Maybe this is my “opportunity.” I’d appreciate it, though, if you continued to keep all this to yourself. No point in letting any uncertainty about the ownership of the farm interfere with business.

ARTHUR

Of course not. And the liquidity?

JACK

I may still do some traveling. Might even be a way to learn more about the business.

ARTHUR

This might be the time, then — I was Mirabella’s attorney. I had to complete her affairs. I’d understand, Joseph, if you’d like to continue working with someone of your own choosing.

JACK

No. No, you’ve done a good job. Who knows my affairs better than you do? I see no reason to change. In fact, I very much don’t want to.

Jack extends his hand. Arthur shakes it.

EXT. STREET – DAY

A line of Black and Whites, and one unmarked sedan, speed quickly.

INT. UNMARKED SEDAN – MOVING

Slocum at the wheel. Sonny beside him.

SLOCUM

Are you sleeping with him?

SONNY

It’s none of your business, Gene.

SLOCUM

None of my business? You’re my partner, Sonny. First you lay down for —

SONNY

Fuck you!

SLOCUM

Lay down for. The whole fucking world saw you in that bar. Or did you imagine there was nothing in the world except your two sets of exploding hormones? A dead-end rocker wannabe who tries to rip off his own brother and drowns himself in booze and pills. And then you sleep with — are you sleeping with him?

He shoots her a look.

SLOCUM (CONT’D)

Yeah, you’re sleeping with him.

Slocum turns a corner hard.

SLOCUM (CONT’D)

The goddamned identical twin brother you didn’t know likes his neck choked with leather and a lash on the ass from the banker who got offed by the local drug cartel he was laundering money for. And it’s not my fucking business?

SONNY

Yeah, well, it’s not easy out there, asshole. Ask all your ex’s won’t give you the time of day.

SLOCUM

Oh, you’re gonna cry me that river? Hard life of the female cop, the poor Chicana? All on your own? You’re tough. You can take it. No different than anyone else. Isn’t that the way you want it?

SONNY

Yeah, that’s the way I want it. Thanks for caring.

SLOCUM

You wouldn’t know who cared if he slapped you in the face.

EXT. EL Puño CLUBHOUSE BAR

The sedan and the Black and Whites screech to a halt at all angles on the street.

UNIFORMS rush out their cars, REVOLVERS drawn, to either side of the door.

Slocum and Sonny come up quickly between them and lead the way, on Slocum’s signal, through the door.

INT. EL Puño CLUBHOUSE BAR

Slocum and Sonny enter quickly, revolvers at the ready, the Uniforms fanning out around them.

The bar is empty.

Everyone eases up a bit as they spread and look around.

Sonny walks ahead to a back room door. Stops, listens, motions to Slocum.

She motions to the rest to be still. WHIMPERING CRIES are audible from behind the door.

Sonny gestures her intent to go in first. Slocum nods. They go through.

BACK ROOM

Crates and liquor boxes stacked high. Nothing visible, but the WHIMPERING louder.

Sonny and Slocum search carefully, Uniforms behind them. The path to the crying is easy.

Billy Corbett hides crouched among the liquor boxes, half crazed, reduced to simpleness, cowering and crying with fear and desperation.

They pull him to his feet.

Sonny cuffs him as Slocum pats him down. He comes across Billy’s torn jacket pocket and shows it to Sonny.

SONNY

William Corbett, you’re under arrest for the murder of Augustus Wilson.

Billy collapses in their arms. Sonny and Slocum catch him. Two Uniforms take him from their arms, carry him along.

SONNY (CONT’D)

You have the right to remain silent —

SLOCUM

Always something new.

INT. KORT MANSION – STUDY – DAY

Jack sits looking over some of the PAPERS Arthur left with him.

The phone rings.

Jack goes to the desk to answer.

JACK

Hello?

INT. POLICE STATION – DAY

Sonny sits at her desk, turned toward the window for greater privacy.

SONNY

I just thought I’d call — I wanted to let you know that we arrested Billy Corbett this afternoon for Wilson’s murder.

INTERCUT AS NEEDED

Jack looks relieved.

JACK

Good. That’s out of the way then.

SONNY

I guess I owe you an apology.

JACK

Suspicion is a part of your work. I’m a forgiving man.

SONNY

We searched Wilson’s apartment in Pismo Beach. We found some photographs.

JACK

Uh, huh. Nothing too kinky I hope. I know how sensitive you detectives can be.

Sonny doesn’t know what to make of this.

SONNY

I suppose it depends on what you think of as kinky.

JACK

In Wilson’s case — Listen, whatever I did, I want to make it up to you. I want to see you again Evelyn. I want that very much.

Sonny is totally confused now.

SONNY

No. I don’t think so. I have to get back to work.

JACK

Then let me call you. Please, Evelyn, just let me call you.

SONNY

Okay. Call me. No. No. I’ve got to get to work. Goodbye.

INT. KORT MANSION – STUDY

Jack hangs up the phone: Sonny’s conflicted but the door’s not shut.

Jack pours himself a drink at the bar. He gathers up the PORTFOLIO of papers and wanders out onto

EXT. TERRACE

Jack strolls easily: Sonny’s an unsettled issue, but the Crank murder no longer hangs over him, and he is now a very wealthy man with a very different life ahead of him. He feels good.

Jack sits at a table.

He sips his drink. He glances through the portfolio again and puts it down contentedly.

He sips his drink and looks out over the orchards with quiet pleasure.

Manuel appears through the doors from the living room.

MANUEL

Excuse me, but dinner will be ready in half an hour. Would you like to dine here on the terrace again tonight, sir?

Jack, thoughtful, is slow to respond.

JACK

Yes. I think I would.

MANUEL

Very good, sir.

JACK

Manuel. We haven’t had much time to talk these last weeks. How have you been?

MANUEL

How have I been, sir?

JACK

Yeah. You know. Your life. Is it going well?

Only Manuel knows how unusual Jack’s interest is.

MANUEL

Actually, sir, I have had some difficulty, but things are better.

JACK

What kind of difficulty?

MANUEL

My son, Tonio. He and his wife. These modern marriages. And the children. What can I say? It is not as it once was.

JACK

No. But things are better between them now?

MANUEL

Yes. Things are better.

JACK

And you? Is there a woman for you?

MANUEL

Only Esperanza, my wife. She is dead many years.

JACK

No one since?

MANUEL

The memory is long, sir.

Jack thinks about that.

JACK

What about Tonio? What does he do?

MANUEL

He works here in the orchards, sir.

JACK

Of course. Stupid. I’m not thinking.

MANUEL

I don’t believe you actually know him, sir.

JACK

How does he like it in the orchards? It’s hard work.

MANUEL

It’s not easy. For him. His wife. Or the children.

JACK

(thoughtful)

I could always find them work outside the orchards.

MANUEL

That would be very generous of you, sir. You —

(hesitates)

— could also make things better in the orchards.

Jack looks out at the orchards.

JACK

I could, couldn’t I?

(beat)

Anyway, I’m glad things are better for you now. Life starts to seem good again, doesn’t it, after you’ve made it through rough times?

MANUEL

Yes, sir. It does. If I may say so, sir, I think for you, too. You have had the rough times.

JACK

Yes.

MANUEL

But life starts to seem good again?

JACK

I think so. Maybe. Yes.

(beat)

Thanks for talking with me, Manuel.

MANUEL

No, sir. Thank you. Mr. Miles.

Manuel turns away. Jack is struck by the last words: Mr. Miles, not Mr. “Joseph.” A cloud passes over his face.

AJA

Next week, the concluding scenes of Double Down: “Dealer’s Call”

———–

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories
Creative

Sunday Matinee – Double Down (Part 11)

A Film Noir

by

A. Jay Adler

DOUBLE DOWN

Part Eleven

The Story So Far

Jack Miles, rock n’ roll roadie, has returned home looking for a job. He encounters old friends and begins a new love with Evelyn “Sonny” Morales, a detective. Old friends, Kyle and Ray, propose to Jack that he help them rob his wealthy, but estranged, identical twin, Joseph. Jack turns them down, and instead goes to see Joseph to ask for a job. But Joseph humiliates Jack and they nearly come to blows. Enraged, Jack lures Joseph to him and kills him, making the murder appear his own accidental death. He then assumes Joseph’s identity and sets Kyle and Ray up in a botched attempt at the robbery. While Sonny investigates Jack’s death, Jack, as Joseph, discovers that Joseph and Crank Wilson were closeted lovers. As Sonny’s investigation continues to bring her and Jack together, Jack tries to adjust to the circumstances of his new life. Soon enough, Crank is on to Jack and tries to blackmail him, but Jack figures a way to accommodate and control Crank. Then, one night, Jack and Sonny give in and make love. Disturbed by events, Sonny seeks advice from her Poppy, her father, in prison. She returns to headquarters to learn that Crank has been murdered.

Now, Part 11:

Sonny questions Jack about Crank’s death. Investigating, she and her partner, Gene Slocum, make crucial discoveries about Crank – and Joseph.

————

EXT. HIGHWAY – DAY

A blinding dust storm. SCREECHING TIRES. The CRASH of impact. More TIRES SKIDDING over the road. MORE CRASHES. Chain reaction.

Then voices, as drivers call from their windows, cautiously leave their cars.

VOICES (O.S.)

What happened? Everyone okay? I couldn’t see a thing. David, David, be careful! Some one call the Highway Patrol. Suddenly he was right in front of me. Anyone hurt? Tell them we need an ambulance. Pull over. Pull over.

More crashes. The scene becomes barely visible amid the wind-driven dust.

Sonny walks along the side of the road, peering into cars, checking on the occupants. She looks into a car.

SONNY

Everyone okay here?

The DRIVER nods.

SONNY (CONT’D)

Good. All right. Look, see if you can pull off the road. As far as you can.

She moves on. A CHIP on motorcycle slowly comes up.

CHIP

You all right?

Sonny flashes her badge.

SONNY

I’m checking cars. I think there’s a big rig over, about a quarter mile.

The CHIP heads off. Sonny approaches a Jaguar pulled onto the shoulder.

It’s Jack.

Sonny stops. They stare through the windshield.

Sonny gets in.

INT. JAGUAR

They’re silent.

JACK

I hoped we’d meet next under better conditions.

Sonny is silent.

JACK (CONT’D)

So it’s not funny.

SONNY

Crank Wilson’s dead. Shot in the chest.

Jack takes it in.

JACK

Do you know who did it?

SONNY

Not yet. You don’t seem surprised.

JACK

Should I be. Crank was Crank, right? Anyway, I don’t surprise easily. Except the other morning.

SONNY

I was going to drop by later and tell you.

JACK

Me? Why?

SONNY

I’m investigating a homicide, Joe. The two of you fought. You didn’t like each other.

The SOUND OF A CRASH nearby. FIGURES run by.

The two look.

Jack looks back at Sonny.

JACK

Are you serious?

SONNY

I’m investigating a homicide. Witnesses saw you in his office last week.

JACK

Witnesses? You mean people in the bank. You did say last week.

SONNY

Why did you see him?

JACK

To tell him I wasn’t moving my accounts. You can check with my attorney. I never gave him any instructions.

SONNY

Why’d you change your mind?

JACK

Evelyn. What happened the other morning? Was it because —

SONNY

Let’s finish with this first. Why’d you change your mind?

JACK

I just figured there was value in a long-term relationship. I figured he got the point. It’s business — you don’t have to like people. I can’t believe you think I killed him.

SONNY

I didn’t say I believed it. Did you, Joe? Did you kill him?

JACK

No. I did not kill him. I wouldn’t — What about us?

SONNY

That was a mistake.

JACK

And when you learn I didn’t do it? Will it still be a mistake?

SONNY

It was a mistake. Regardless of the reason.

JACK

Regardless of what we lose?

Sonny doesn’t answer. She gets out of the car.

A SIREN. An AMBULANCE passes on the passenger side of Jack’s car.

EXT. JACK’S BUNGALOW – NIGHT

Jack gets out his car, looks around, and walks toward the door. He tries it. It’s open. He enters.

INT. JACK’S BUNGALOW

No new occupant. Everything as it was. Jack walks into the living room. He stares at the sofa, at the coffee table, a BOWL OF PISTACHIO NUTS still on it.

He glances at the chair where Joseph sat, then moves on to the bedroom doorway.

BEDROOM – JACK’S POV

The bed and the wall behind it.

BACK TO SCENE

Jack’s cell phone rings. He takes it from his pocket and turns back into the living room.

JACK

Yeah. Hello, Arthur.

Jack sits in the chair, listens.

JACK (CONT’D)

It’s all done then.

(beat)

Uh, huh. Buyers, too. You’ve been a busy man.

(beat)

I don’t know. What does happy sound like?

(beat)

I am. I am happy. I’m happy to be a wealthy man.

(beat)

What time? Yeah, that’s fine. All right. I’ll see you then.

Jack clicks off the phone. He sits and stares.

EXT. PISMO BEACH – DAY

The ocean. The beach. People. Traffic passing on the Pacific Coast Highway.

INT. CRANK’S PISMO BEACH APARTMENT

Sunny, airy. Cool, spare luxury. Soulless.

Sonny, Slocum and TWO PISMO DETECTIVES conduct a search.

PISMO DETECTIVE 1

Place is in the name of Augustus Wilson. Owner’s off site, but he says Wilson used the place summers and weekends.

SONNY

Pretty standard.

PISMO DETECTIVE 2

The neighbors say there were a lot of parties.

Sonny shrugs.

PISMO DETECTIVE 2 (CONT’D)

Always men. Only men.

SLOCUM

Interesting.

(to Sonny)

Did you know?

Sonny shakes her head.

Slocum wanders into the bedroom while the others search the living room.

PISMO DETECTIVE 2

Everybody likes to party. Even the sexsuals.

Sonny glances at him.

PISMO DETECTIVE 2 (CONT’D)

Neutral term. Non-offensive.

Slocum opens a chest at the foot of the bed, puts aside some blankets.

SLOCUM

What have we here?

Sonny enters the bedroom as Slocum pulls out of the chest first a pair of HANDCUFFS, then a WHIP.

BEDROOM

Slocum turns to Sonny.

SLOCUM

Down girl.

Sonny reaches into the chest, comes up with a full LEATHER HEAD MASK.

SLOCUM (CONT’D)

I’ll be good. I promise.

SONNY

In your fucking dreams, Slocum.

Sonny moves on to a chest of drawers.

SLOCUM

You think they lead more interesting sex lives than we do?

SONNY

More painful by the looks of it.

SLOCUM

Pleasure. Pain. Where do you draw the line?

Sonny stares at him.

SONNY

Ouch.

Pismo Detective 1 enters carrying a FINANCIAL REGISTER.

PISMO DETECTIVE 1

This guy was a banker, right?

Slocum looks at him. Sonny comes over.

PISMO DETECTIVE 1 (CONT’D)

Don’t they have computers where you guys come from?

He hands the book to Slocum. Sonny looks over his shoulder.

SLOCUM

(reads)

P & R Transfer. Carga Larga. Those are trucking companies.

SONNY

El Puño fronts. Deposits. Those are transfers. Look.

SLOCUM

A slice off the top every time.

PISMO DETECTIVE 1

Question is, was it the right slice?

SONNY

Was he even supposed to get one?

Sonny turns to look around the bed.

SLOCUM

I love this job. Always something new.

(to Sonny)

I told you the usual suspects.

Sonny smiles back as she gets down to look under the bed. Pismo Detective 2 enters as she comes up holding a vaseline-sized JAR.

SONNY

What’s this?

She hands the jar off to Slocum. The jar has CHINESE LETTERING on it. Slocum hands off to Pismo Detective One, equally mystified, who turns it over to Pismo Detective 2. He opens the jar, sniffs.

PISMO DETECTIVE 2

Chun Su.

SLOCUM

Uh, huh. Translation?

PISMO DETECTIVE 2

I think. I’m not sure. It’s a — what do you call it? — aphrodisiac. Become popular among the —

He glances at Sonny.

PISMO DETECTIVE 2 (CONT’D)

Our gay brothers here. It’s scraped from the skin of toads. They say it sustains performance.

PISMO DETECTIVE 1

Only it can be fatal if ingested.

SONNY

Ugh.

PISMO DETECTIVE 1

Some have tried that. One man died already.

SONNY

Jesus. What’s it all about with some men, anyway?

SLOCUM

Coming and going.

Sonny turns in disgust to the night table by the bed. She opens a drawer.

SONNY

God. This place is a treasure trove.

Slocum heads over.

SLOCUM

What is it?

SONNY

Photos.

PISMO DETECTIVE 1

Of course.

Sonny shuffles through the PHOTOS, hands them off to Slocum. They show Crank with various men, using all the paraphernalia.

Slocum hands them off to Pismo Detective 1.

SLOCUM

You ever try that?

PISMO DETECTIVE 1

Whew.

PISMO DETECTIVE 2

They do tend to be creative types.

Suddenly Sonny is stopped. She can’t hide it. She drops some photos on the table and turns away. Slocum picks them up.

The photos are of Crank and Joseph.

Slocum looks at Sonny.

PISMO DETECTIVE 1

What’s up?

Slocum’s cell phone RINGS.

SLOCUM

Slocum.

He listens.

SLOCUM (CONT’D)

Right. We’ve made some finds, too. We’re heading back.

He shuts off the phone.

SLOCUM (CONT’D)

They’ve traced the cash register receipt to Fresno City College. The bookstore. Paid for with a financial aid check in the name of William Corbett.

AJA

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories
Creative

Sunday Matinee – Double Down (Part 10)

A Film Noir

by

A. Jay Adler

DOUBLE DOWN

Part Ten

The Story So Far

Jack Miles, rock n’ roll roadie, has returned home looking for a job. He encounters old friends and begins a new love with Evelyn “Sonny” Morales, a detective. Old friends, Kyle and Ray, propose to Jack that he help them rob his wealthy, but estranged, identical twin, Joseph. Jack turns them down, and instead goes to see Joseph to ask for a job. But Joseph humiliates Jack and they nearly come to blows. Enraged, Jack lures Joseph to him and kills him, making the murder appear his own accidental death. He then assumes Joseph’s identity and sets Kyle and Ray up in a botched attempt at the robbery. While Sonny investigates Jack’s death, Jack, as Joseph, discovers that Joseph and Crank Wilson were closeted lovers. As Sonny’s investigation continues to bring her and Jack together, Jack tries to adjust to the circumstances of his new life. Soon enough, Crank is on to Jack and tries to blackmail him, but Jack figures a way to accommodate and control Crank. Then, one night, Jack and Sonny give in and make love.

Now, Part 10:

Sonny visits her father, Arturo “Poppy” Morales in the state prison. Then, another murder. Sonny and her partner, Gene Slocum, investigate.

———–

EXT. HIGHWAY 101 – SONNY’S CAR – MOVING – DAY

Sonny approaches the State Prison at Soledad.

EXT. PARKING LOT

Sonny drives into a parking lot, gets out of the car.

INT. SALINAS VALLEY STATE PRISON

Sonny checks in at the visitor’s entrance.

CORRIDOR

Sonny stands before the barred gate to the infirmary. It opens. She walks down the corridor.

PRISON INFIRMARY

A NURSE escorts Sonny to the bed of ARTURO “POPPY” MORALES, late 50’s, a handsome, once vital man now grossly debilitated by advanced emphysema.

The Nurse goes to wake the sleeping Poppy, but Sonny waves her off. She pulls a chair up beside the bed and sits.

In a moment Poppy’s eyes open.

SONNY

Hola, Poppy.

Poppy focuses on her.

POPPY

Sonny.

SONNY

(smiles)

How are you?

A little excited at the sight of her, Poppy can’t breathe. He reaches for the MASK at his side, attached to an OXYGEN tank beside the bed. He inhales.

POPPY

Full of hot air. Can’t spit it out like I used to.

SONNY

Didn’t think anything would ever keep you quiet.

POPPY

I have my days.

SONNY

I’ll bet you do.

Poppy presses a BUTTON CONTROL to raise the back of the bed.

POPPY

Qué pasa?

SONNY

Time for a visit.

POPPY

You were here just a few weeks ago.

SONNY

Time for another.

They stare at each other.

POPPY

They’re moving me to Corcoran.

SONNY

Por qué?

POPPY

Acute care facility. I guess they are not expecting Poppy to improve.

SONNY

Don’t.

POPPY

No, you don’t, hija. We’ve talked. No pretending. Soon you will be on your own.

SONNY

I’ve been on my own a long time, Poppy.

POPPY

Si. You hate me for it?

SONNY

Everybody hates you, Poppy. You know that. Big mouth.

POPPY

(laughs)

Tough talking detective.

He reaches for the oxygen mask, breathes in.

POPPY (CONT’D)

Cesar loved my big mouth. You couldn’t fight the growers — I couldn’t fight for mi gente — without one. I told you that, Sonny. Now you have one.

SONNY

(smiles)

I have a question for you.

POPPY

Ah. Why you came.

Sonny shakes her head no.

SONNY

Why did you call me Sonny?

POPPY

Now you ask me this?

(beat)

It wasn’t me. It was the others. The way I treated you. Like a son.

SONNY

Why?

POPPY

Do you think I wanted a daughter of mine to grow up in the fields? Do you think I wanted you to be like shit to the fucking gringo? You don’t want to be shit, you don’t let people treat you like shit. I treated you like a male because I wanted you to be tough like the male. The world is like that. At the center of the olive there is a pit.

He labors to breathe, but doesn’t reach for the mask.

POPPY (CONT’D)

Tu madre learned that.

SONNY

But she stood by you, Poppy. That’s what I want to ask you.

POPPY

Why you really came?

SONNY

Why did you she stand by you?

POPPY

Because she was soft, like a woman. She loved like a woman. She was an angel. But she should not have been. She should not have stood by me. When I killed that guard, I put a bullet in her heart, too. She should not have stood by me.

Poppy begins to cough. More loudly. More roughly.

The Nurse comes to the bed. Poppy waves her away as he reaches for the mask, but the Nurse checks the oxygen flow on the tank anyway. Then she looks at Sonny and points to her watch. Sonny nods.

Poppy withdraws the mask, tries to breathe normally, calm down.

POPPY (CONT’D)

Why do you ask me all these questions?

SONNY

No reason.

POPPY

You will be all alone.

(beat, eyeing her)

No. You have met someone. I see. He is wonderful. And you love him. But there is a problem. You think —

Poppy reaches for her hand. She gives it to him.

POPPY (CONT’D)

You think you found Heaven in his arms, mijita?

His eyes search hers.

POPPY (CONT’D)

Heaven is for when you die.

Poppy starts to cough again, badly. The Nurse comes again. Sonny rises.

PRISON CORRIDORS

Sonny walks from the infirmary, through various barred doors and gates. Whatever turmoil she felt in coming to see Poppy is only greater now.

EXT. SALINAS VALLEY STATE PRISON

Sonny exits the prison on the way to the parking lot.

EXT. PARKING LOT

Sonny gets into her car. She stares ahead at the prison.

EXT. HIGHWAY 101 – SONNY’S CAR – MOVING

Sonny, deep in thought

On straightaways.

Curving up into the mountains.

Heading up, we leave her, lose her in a wide vista of California’s great central valley and mountains.

EXT. MOUNTAIN LOOKOUT – LATER

We find Sonny again, pulled over below, in the distance, next to Patti’s black and white.

The two lean against Sonny’s car together, their back’s to us. Patti’s hand is on Sonny’s shoulder.

As we descend to them, come around, Sonny’s head is hanging. She sobs.

INT. POLICE STATION – DAY

Slocum turns from talking with the Lieutenant. He grabs his coat from the back of his chair and starts to leave. On the way to the door Sonny enters. Slocum stops her.

SLOCUM

How’s your father?

SONNY

Dying.

SLOCUM

(nods)

We got one already dead.

Slocum heads for the door.

SONNY

Where?

SLOCUM

Central Valley Bank. Vice president. Augustus Wilson. In his office.

INT. CENTRAL VALLEY BANK – DAY

UNIFORMS interview BANK WORKERS while other workers stand around talking to each other, waiting.

One Uniform ends an interview, walks into

CRANK’S OFFICE

where Sonny, Slocum, TWO CRIMINALISTS, and the MEDICAL EXAMINER are at work. Crank’s body lies shot behind his desk, his chair overturned, baskets and papers on the floor around him.

UNIFORM

The head teller says he left at ten o’clock. Wilson was still here.

Sonny and Slocum look at the Medical Examiner.

MEDICAL EXAMINER

Yeah. I’d say ten, twelve hours. Maybe midnight.

SLOCUM

Hard working fuck.

Slocum looks through desk drawers.

SONNY

Yeah, who’s working at that hour?

Slocum sorts through some papers in a drawer. Sonny surveys the front of the office.

SLOCUM

Meaning?

SONNY

There’s always been talk on the street.

SLOCUM

About him and El Puño? You figure them for this?

SONNY

That’s one possibility.

SLOCUM

And another?

SONNY

I don’t know.

Slocum holds up a slip of paper.

SLOCUM

Well, whoever he was working for, it made him enough to have something in Pismo Beach worth cleaning. A bill from a cleaning service.

Sonny leans in close to a file cabinet. She removes a tweezers from a small pocket case and carefully removes something wedged into the handle of a drawer. Slocum watches.

SONNY

A swatch of cloth.

She bags it.

SLOCUM

So the struggle started on that side of the desk.

SONNY

He let whoever it was in and never sat down again.

SLOCUM

Not a friendly meeting.

SONNY

Someone he wanted to talk to but didn’t necessarily trust.

MEDICAL EXAMINER

They bumped into the cabinet, fell back along the desk —

The Medical Examiner points out the papers on the floor.

MEDICAL EXAMINER (CONT’D)

Which means the shooter was the aggressor.

SLOCUM

Or stronger.

SONNY

Or angrier.

MEDICAL EXAMINER

And then they fell to the floor.

He squats beside the body, points to the stomach wound, then rolls the body up away from the floor.

MEDICAL EXAMINER (CONT’D)

Burn marks and the bullet hole in the floor – the shooter fell on top of him.

The Medical Examiner lets the body down. His eye is caught by a slip of paper under the desk. He retrieves it, glances at it, hands it over to Slocum.

SONNY

What is it?

SLOCUM

Register receipt. Looks like books, maybe.

SONNY

Name of the store?

Slocum shakes his head.

SLOCUM

Looks like we get to be detectives.

He heads for the door.

SLOCUM (CONT’D)

Time to round up the usual suspects.

Sonny follows.

SONNY

You see too many movies.

SLOCUM

I wish.

AJA

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories
Creative

Sunday Matinee – Double Down (Part 9)

A Film Noir

by

A. Jay Adler

DOUBLE DOWN

Part Nine

The Story So Far

Jack Miles, rock n’ roll roadie, has returned home looking for a job. He encounters old friends and begins a new love with Evelyn “Sonny” Morales, a detective. Old friends, Kyle and Ray, propose to Jack that he help them rob his wealthy, but estranged, identical twin, Joseph. Jack turns them down, and instead goes to see Joseph to ask for a job. But Joseph humiliates Jack and they nearly come to blows. Enraged, Jack lures Joseph to him and kills him, making the murder appear his own accidental death. He then assumes Joseph’s identity and sets Kyle and Ray up in a botched attempt at the robbery. While Sonny investigates Jack’s death, Jack, as Joseph, discovers that Joseph and Crank Wilson were closeted lovers. As Sonny’s investigation continues to bring her and Jack together, Jack tries to adjust to the circumstances of his new life – but Crank is soon on to him and tries to blackmail Jack.

Now, Part 9:

Jack handles Crank. He and Sonny succumb to temptation.

———–

EXT. CENTRAL VALLEY BANK – DAY

Jack walks with determination along the street. He enters the bank without pausing.

INT. CENTRAL VALLEY BANK

Jack enters and looks around. He spots Crank behind the teller windows, working with a TELLER. Jack walks to the window and stands off to the side of the line, where Crank will see him when he looks up.

Crank looks up and sees Jack staring at him. Crank walks out to join him. Jack waits, scanning the bank, sees the office that says “AUGUSTUS WILSON. VICE PRESIDENT.”

Crank reaches him.

JACK

We need to talk. In your office.

Crank studies Jack a moment, senses something.

CRANK

I don’t think so.

JACK

I do think so.

CRANK

You do?

JACK

Unless you’d like me to share with your customers what a COCKSUCKER you are.

Crank quickly glances around.

CRANK

Right this way, Mr. Miles.

Crank leads Jack to his office, behind an arrangement of desks and BANKERS.

CRANK’S OFFICE

Crank closes the door behind them.

CRANK (CONT’D)

I’m funny this way. I sense disagreement with the plan I laid out for you.

JACK

Check your intuition. You’re only partly right.

CRANK

Partly?

JACK

Partly. I’ve been doing some thinking.

CRANK

That’s proven to be dangerous where you’re concerned, Jack.

JACK

Yeah, it has been.

CRANK

I mean for you.

JACK

That’s not the way I see it.

CRANK

That’s not the way you see it?

JACK

No. It’s not the way I see it. You want me to tell you how I see it?

CRANK

Oh, please, do, Jack. Tell me how you see it.

JACK

This is the way I see it, Crank. You want a big chunk of change quickly, right? Why take any chances.

CRANK

Why take any chances.

JACK

You’re not going to get that.

CRANK

I’m not.

JACK

You’re not. I give you a big chunk of change, you don’t need me anymore. I need to be needed. I’m funny that way. You’ll get ten thousand a month. I’ll leave just enough of my money here so you can do that — I am going to move my business — thanks for the idea — you figure out how to do it. Run it by me.

CRANK

That’s not enough.

JACK

It’ll have to be. That way you don’t do anything stupid and low and crummy. You need me. See?  Now that might piss you off right now, might tempt you to do something rash. Don’t. I’ll risk an investigation if I have to. You’ve got no evidence, and the DNA’s on my side. It would be a gamble. But I’ve been known to gamble before, haven’t I? And either way, you’d get nothing.

Crank is trumped, doesn’t like it.

CRANK

Who the fuck do you think you are?

Jack heads for the door.

JACK

I don’t know who I am, Crank. Isn’t that obvious? But I feel like I’m starting to know. I feel like I’m coming into my own. It’s liberating.

Jack closes the door behind him.

EXT. SONNY’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Jack sits in his Jaguar, the lights off, across the street. He watches.

Then, through a window, he sees Sonny enter the kitchen. He watches her at the sink as she starts to wash some dishes.

Sonny pauses, hangs her head a moment. She turns off the faucet and leaves the kitchen. The light goes off.

Jack stares.

INT. EL PUŃO CLUBHOUSE BAR – NIGHT

Seedy, sparse but clean.

TEN OR FIFTEEN CHICANO MEN AND WOMEN — some 20’s, vatos locos with baggy pants, long t-shirts and shaved heads, most 30’s, Eme types, longhaired, mustachioed, tattooed — sit at tables and the bar, drinking, talking, flirting.

CHICANO GROOVE plays from a SOUND SYSTEM behind the bar.

Billy Corbett enters.

Those at the bar see him first, turn and stare.

Slowly, so do those at the tables.

BILLY

(nervous)

I’m looking for Garcia.

The young vato loco closest to Billy comes up in his face with slow, intimidating swagger.

MAN (O.S.)

Who is looking for Garcia?

The vato loco and Billy look in the direction of the voice. Other heads turn.

At the table farthest back, the EL PUŃO LEADER, 30’s, steely of expression and body, stares back between the heads around him.

EL PUŃO LEADER

Quièn, gringo? Hijo de la chingada.

Some TITTERING LAUGHTER.

BILLY

Billy Corbett.

The EL PUŃO LEADER looks immediately to his side as a HEAD between them and Billy moves out of the way. A young man with shaved head, GARCIA, nods at Billy.

GARCIA

Hey ese. Qué pasa?

INT. KORT MANSION – GAME ROOM – NIGHT

Jack drinks as he shoots pool alone, troubled. He studies the table, passes up some easy shots for a more difficult one. He makes it.

Jack lays down his stick and goes to the bar. He refills his glass, studies it. He studies the CORDLESS PHONE on the counter.

He walks to the window with his glass, gazes out at the orchards, then back at the phone. He walks to it and dials.

JACK

Hi.

INT. SONNY’S HOUSE – NIGHT

On the living room sofa, Sonny has the phone to her ear. Slow JAZZ plays on her STEREO. On the coffee table in front of her are a DRINK and DECK OF CARDS laid out in a game of solitaire.

INT. KORT MANSION – GAME ROOM – NIGHT

Jack walks toward the window.

JACK

It’s Joe.

INTERCUT AS NEEDED

SONNY

I know.

JACK

I wasn’t sure you’d be home.

SONNY

I’m off Friday nights. It’s my party night.

JACK

I’ve been drinking a little.

Sonny reaches for her drink.

SONNY

That’s not good for you, Joe.

JACK

Staring out at the groves.

SONNY

Must be nice to have that to look at.

JACK

They’re so fixed, you know — in the earth. So there.

(beat)

And I’ve been thinking about you. I don’t know, would it be strange — inappropriate — for me to want to see you?

SONNY

I don’t know.

JACK

I mean, of course, if you wanted to see me, too.

SONNY

Of course.

JACK

I guess that’s the question, isn’t it? If you would like to see me, too.

SONNY

Yes.

Jack is unsure in the long silence what Sonny has said yes to. Sonny struggles with herself.

SONNY (CONT’D)

I would like to see you.

INT. KORT MANSION – INFORMAL LIVING ROOM – NIGHT

Sonny stands before the fireplace.

Jack comes to her with drinks in his hand. They sip, stand and look at each other uncomfortably for a moment. Then Jack takes the POKER and stirs the fire. The fire blazes up. Sonny is momentarily startled.

JACK

You’re uncomfortable.

SONNY

A little.

JACK

A lot. Why don’t you sit?

Sonny bypasses the sofa in front of the fireplace, sits instead in a Queen Anne armchair beside a light table against the wall.

Jack stares at her.

JACK (CONT’D)

I read once about the original Siamese twins, Chang and Eng — the ones the name comes from. They ended up as farmers in Virginia. You believe that? They married a pair of sisters.

SONNY

Don’t even go there.

JACK

(laughs)

They owned and worked two adjacent farms together. One week Chang’s farm, the other Eng’s. I always wondered about that. Why two farms?  I read that they played a kind of game with each other — not a game, I guess. They would take turns entering into a kind of dream state, so that each could have his own will for a while. A way of pretending to be separate people, I guess.

SONNY

You and Jack weren’t Siamese twins.

JACK

You mean we weren’t physically connected?

SONNY

Let’s not talk about it.

JACK

We have to. Don’t we?

Sonny thinks, takes a long drink.

JACK (CONT’D)

Do you believe in second chances?

SONNY

I don’t know what that means. Sometimes you get them. Sometimes you don’t. Some people get them. Some don’t.

JACK

Once, when we were about 12, we both went away to a summer camp, something the school sponsored — our parents couldn’t have afforded it. We were already playing guitar, and there was a competition. I came in first, Jack second. They gave us certificates, but they printed the names with only the first initial — J. Miles. Somehow, when we got home, Jack had the first place certificate, even though I had won. At least I think I won. I think he came in second.

Jack walks toward her.

JACK (CONT’D)

I can’t stop thinking about you.

(beat)

When you look at me, who do you see?

SONNY

I don’t know.

JACK

I want you to see me. See me, Sonny.

Jack stops in front of her. The light from the table lamp glows warmly on her face.

Jack reaches out, lifts the hair from one side of Sonny’s face, caresses her cheek.

JACK (CONT’D)

You’re so strong. But you’re so tender underneath. And nobody knows that.

Jack’s hand comes around her face, lifts the hair from the other cheek.

JACK (CONT’D)

And you’re so beautiful. I’ve never seen anyone so beautiful.

Sonny is powerless before the seduction as Jack’s hand travels down her neck.

His hand travels across the skin of her chest, above the button of her blouse.

Their eyes lock.

Jack loosens the button. Sonny’s chest heaves.

JACK (CONT’D)

See me.

Jack reaches his arm around her, half lifting her — she half rising — into his arms as they kiss with slow passion.

FOYER

Jack and Sonny kiss deeply and hard. Jack pulls away, at arm’s length, but Sonny catches his hand, tugs back. Jack pulls her to him. They kiss again.

FOYER – FURTHER ALONG

Jack and Sonny kiss deeply and hard. Sonny pulls away, at arm’s length, but Jack catches her hand, tugs back. Sonny pulls him to her. They kiss again.

FOYER – FOOT OF THE GRAND STAIRCASE

Jack and Sonny kiss deeply and hard. Jack pulls away, starting up the stairs, but Sonny lets his arm go. Jack stops, looks down at her.

He extends his hand. Sonny reaches for it, follows him up the stairs.

BEDROOM

Naked on the bed, Jack lowers himself over Sonny. They kiss and touch with the wonder of an experience both thought they would never have again.

On SONNY’S FACE: both a dream come true and something she doesn’t understand.

They both cry out with the passion of their release.

BEDROOM – MORNING

Daylight streaming in. Jack is asleep in bed. Sonny is awake beside him, her eyes wide with horror.

BATHROOM

Sonny enters buttoning her blouse, now dressed. She glances at herself in the mirror, quickly brushes her hair.

BEDROOM

Sonny exits the bathroom, on her way out of the bedroom.

She stops.

Jack sits at the edge of the bed, puzzled.

SONNY

I have to go.

She starts out of the room.

JACK

Why?

He goes to intercept her.

SONNY

I have a lot to do.

Jack takes her arm.

JACK

You’re sorry.

SONNY

I just have be somewhere.

She turns away, heads toward the stairs.

JACK

Sonny, please don’t —

Though the door he sees her descend the stairs quickly.

JACK (CONT’D)

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

AJA

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories
Creative

Sunday Matinee – Double Down (Part 8)

A Film Noir

by

A. Jay Adler

DOUBLE DOWN

Part Eight

The Story So Far

Jack Miles, rock n’ roll roadie, has returned home looking for a job. He encounters old friends and begins a new love with Evelyn “Sonny” Morales, a detective. Old friends, Kyle and Ray, propose to Jack that he help them rob his wealthy, but estranged, identical twin, Joseph. Jack turns them down, and instead goes to see Joseph to ask for a job. But Joseph humiliates Jack and they nearly come to blows. Enraged, Jack lures Joseph to him and kills him, making the murder appear his own accidental death. He then assumes Joseph’s identity and sets Kyle and Ray up in a botched attempt at the robbery. As Sonny investigates Jack’s death, Jack, as Joseph, discovers that Joseph and Crank Wilson were closeted lovers. Jack tries to adjust, while Sonny’s investigation continues to bring her and Jack together.

Now, Part 8:

Jack is found out.

———–

EXT. THE KORT MANSION – REAR GARDEN – DAY

A gazebo. A fountain. Flower beds. Long winding walkways. Benches.

Jack lounges in a garden chair, his legs stretched out. On the table beside him sits a glass of BOURBON, a pack of CIGARETTES. An IPOD WITH SPEAKERS plays POST-ROCK guitar music.

Jack gazes out at the orchards peacefully, thoughtfully. His eyes start to close in an afternoon doze.

He opens them: the ORCHARDS again.

His eyes start to close once more: the orchards slowly fade into darkness.

EXT. WOODS – NIGHT (FLASHBACK)

Jack runs in his headlong descent, through a murky darkness.

EXT. THE ORCHARDS – JACK’S POV – DAY (END FLASHBACK)

The peaceful scene.

EXT. THE KORT MANSION – REAR GARDEN – DAY

JACK’S EYES: OPEN WIDE

A male hand descends to his shoulder, a face, lips, to his neck.

Jack jumps out of his chair, startled, afraid.

It’s Crank.

CRANK

Whoa, precious, take it easy. A little jumpy for a quiet Saturday afternoon.

JACK

You scared the shit out of me. I was sleeping.

CRANK

Poor baby. So sensitive these days. Let Augie make it better.

Augie moves toward him. Jack backs away.

CRANK (CONT’D)

What’s the matter with you?

JACK

(nervously)

What’s the matter with me? Anybody could see us. Manuel, up in the house.

Jack circles around back to his chair. He takes a drink of his bourbon, lights a cigarette.

CRANK

I do hope this excessive caution is going to change, Joseph. The bitch is gone. The money’s yours. There’s no need.

JACK

Well, you count a little quicker than I do. It’s not in my name yet.

CRANK

All right, fine. That’s why I came anyway. Let’s get away. Let’s be private. A couple of nights in Pismo Beach, all to ourselves.

Jack drinks, smokes.

JACK

No. I don’t think so.

CRANK

(coolly)

Why not.

JACK

I’ve got a lot to do.

CRANK

(re: the chair, the drink, the music)

Yes. I see that.

JACK

Besides, I hate Pismo Beach.

CRANK

Really?

EXT. PISMO BEACH – DAY (FLASHBACK)

Crank and Joseph sit in chairs under an umbrella on the beach together.

EXT. THE KORT MANSION – REAR GARDEN – DAY (END FLASHBACK)

Crank stares at Jack.

CRANK

I didn’t know that.

Jack shrugs. He sips some bourbon.

Crank’s eyes focus on the glass at Jack’s lips.

Jack takes a drag of his cigarette.

Crank’s eyes focus on the cigarette leaving his lips, Jack drawing the smoke in, exhaling it.

CRANK (CONT’D)

I didn’t know you hated Pismo Beach. I didn’t know you liked bourbon. I didn’t know you smoked.

Jack is running out of room to maneuver.

JACK

I always snuck one every now and then.

EXT. RESTAURANT/BAR – NIGHT (FLASHBACK)

Busy and crowded with late night revelers.

Crank and Joseph sit at a table near some smokers. Joseph waves the smoke away with disgust.

EXT. THE KORT MANSION – REAR GARDEN – DAY (END FLASHBACK)

Crank stares at Jack.

JACK

And now, since —

CRANK

You always loved my touch. Made you quiver, you said. Now you run away from it. Don’t you still love my touch? Tell me you love my touch.

Jack squirms.

CRANK (CONT’D)

Can’t bring yourself to say it, Joe? Not even for millions of dollars?

JACK

Augie, the last six months — Mirabella. Jack. I’m not myself.

CRANK

No. You’re not.

JACK’S POOL SHOT SPLITS TWO BALLS INTO DIFFERENT POCKETS

TWO JACKS GET SPLIT AT THE BLACKJACK TABLE

SONNY SITS ASTRIDE JACK, KISSING HIM

CRANK (CONT’D)

Are you, Jack?

Jack stares at Crank, completely alert, calm now.

CRANK (CONT’D)

Doubled down again, didn’t you?

Crank cackles and howls.

CRANK (CONT’D)

Oh, fuck your brother. You’re better than he was. Beautiful. Beautiful. Joseph is Jack and Jack is Joseph. One dead in the ground, the other just hanging around.

(dead serious)

Waiting for his millions.

JACK

I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Crank advances on him.

CRANK

I’ll bet you don’t. How’d you break your finger, Jack? Accidentally on purpose?

Crank grabs Jack by the shirt.

CRANK (CONT’D)

How’d you like me to break the rest of them?

Jack tries to resist, but the broken finger hobbles his efforts.

CRANK (CONT’D)

Think I can’t? You could ask your brother, if he was still with us. I’m very strong. He liked that.

Crank throws Jack to the ground, holds him there.

CRANK (CONT’D)

I want what’s mine, Jack. What would have been mine if you hadn’t decided to be so very fucking clever. You can start with the money in the safe you fucked me out of.

JACK

I can’t.

Crank slaps Jack in the face.

CRANK

Don’t say “can’t,” Jack. Augustus doesn’t like “can’t.”

JACK

I don’t know where it is. He hid it. I can’t find it.

CRANK

Look harder.

Crank drags Jack to his feet, pushes him against a tree.

CRANK (CONT’D)

Because that’s just the start. You’re splitting the pot with me, gambling man. Those are the table stakes, if you still want to play the game.

SONNY (O.S.)

Wilson!

Crank and Jack turn to see Sonny approaching in the distance.

SONNY (CONT’D)

Take your hands off him! Now!

Crank lets go. He throws Jack a warning glance. They separate as Sonny arrives. She points Crank to the other side of the chair and table.

SONNY (CONT’D)

Over there.

Crank doesn’t move.

SONNY (CONT’D)

You want to try me? My finger’s not broken — and I’m on the rag. I’d love to draw blood from a man today.

Crank walks away.

SONNY (CONT’D)

(to Jack)

What’s this about.

CRANK

Just a little disagreement between friends that got out of hand. Joseph called me here to tell me he’s moving his business to another bank.

SONNY

(to Jack)

Is that true?

Jack nods.

SONNY (CONT’D)

(to Crank)

What difference does that make to you? You don’t own the bank.

CRANK

It’s a major account, Detective. It’s been mine for ten years. How do you think a loss like that is going to make me look?

SONNY

How do you think an assault charge would look? I’d say you need to think a little about what kind of business you’re in. Get out of here. Now. Don’t come back. You do and I’ll talk him into pressing charges.

Crank walks off. Sonny and Jack watch him go.

SONNY (CONT’D)

You all right?

Jack nods.

SONNY (CONT’D)

You two really friends?

Jack shakes his head.

JACK

We’re in some of the same circles. He was Mirabella’s banker.

SONNY

Why are you moving your business?

JACK

Is he the kind of banker you’d want to do business with? I’ve been looking over the accounts. I don’t like the ways he’s been handling them.

SONNY

What?

JACK

Nothing I can put my finger on.

SONNY

Well, then maybe you oughtta have your accountant look things over. There’s something not right about Wilson. You should be careful.

JACK

I will. Thanks.

SONNY

I came to tell you we’ve closed the investigation, ruled it an accident. You can make whatever arrangements you need to now.

JACK

Then it’s done.

SONNY

It’s never done.

JACK

I think you must have loved him very much.

SONNY

He wasn’t — It’s not like I had any illusions, you know. He was a reckless man. Kind of aimless, too. Lived too hard. I guess the way I see it, neither of you were saints. But he was very kind. He was unusually kind. He treated me like a woman. But he had no trouble with any part of me. He made me feel whole.

JACK

When he came to me, Evelyn — it was so hard. He loved you, too.

(beat)

I guess — the way things go — not much reason we would see each other again.

SONNY

I guess not.

They look at each other with all their contradictory feelings.

Sonny walks away.

Jack looks after her, on his face the knowledge of all he threw away.

EXT. DOWNTOWN OFFICE BUILDING – DAY

Jack walks with purpose into the building.

INT. ARTHUR PERRY’S LAW OFFICE

Arthur stands as his SECRETARY shows Jack in.

ARTHUR

Joseph. This is unexpected. Have a seat.

(to the Secretary)

Get Mr. Miles a cup of coffee, would you?

Jack motions “No” as the Secretary withdraws. He stands.

JACK

I won’t be staying long. I just want to throw some things at you.

ARTHUR

The kids are fine. Thanks for asking. Life’s good for you, too?

Jack stares at him.

JACK

The last six months have given me a lot of time to think.

ARTHUR

Comes a time in every man’s life.

JACK

I don’t know that I’m up to olive farming. It’s still new to me, obviously. It’s not in my blood. I don’t know enough.

ARTHUR

There’s not much you have to do, Joseph. You’ve got people for that.

JACK

So I just sit on this business that isn’t really mine, that I don’t really know, and just take in the money?

ARTHUR

There are worse ways to live. People have been known to do it.

JACK

I don’t want to. Without Mirabella —

(beat)

I think I want to sell. One of the conglomerates. I’d like you to look into that for me.

ARTHUR

Okay.

JACK

I need to get away. Think about what to do with all I’ve got. Like you say, there comes a time in every man’s life. I want to travel, maybe for a long time. When will it all be final?

ARTHUR

About a week or so.

JACK

I’ll need ready access to cash. A lot of it. I want to be able to draw on it from any part of the world, without any trouble. Can you arrange that for me?

ARTHUR

I can arrange it.

Jack nods.

AJA

——–

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories
Creative

Sunday Matinee – Double Down (Part 7)

A Film Noir

by

A. Jay Adler

DOUBLE DOWN

Part Seven

The Story So Far

Jack Miles, rock n’ roll roadie, has returned home looking for a job. He encounters old friends and begins a new love with Evelyn “Sonny” Morales, a detective. Old friends, Kyle and Ray, propose to Jack that he help them rob his wealthy, but estranged, identical twin, Joseph. Jack turns them down, and instead goes to see Joseph to ask for a job. But Joseph humiliates Jack and they nearly come to blows. Enraged, Jack lures Joseph to him and kills him, making the murder appear his own accidental death, then assumes Joseph’s identity. As Sonny investigates Jack’s death, Jack, as Joseph, makes a disconcerting discovery about his new private life.

Now, Part 7:

Jack makes necessary adjustments to his new life. Sonny’s investigation of Jack’s death continues to bring her and Jack together.

———–

INT. CITY JAIL VISITING ROOM – DAY

Kyle and Billy talk on either side of a glass partition.

KYLE

I fucked up, Billy. I’m sorry.

BILLY

What are you apologizing to me for? Besides, you didn’t fuck up. Jack did.

KYLE

Fuck that scumbag. I didn’t know he was that big a pussy. What’d he do, kill himself?

Billy shrugs.

KYLE (CONT’D)

You’re on your own now.

BILLY

I can take care of myself, Kyle.

KYLE

Yeah.

BILLY

I can. You’ll see.

KYLE

Well, you’re gonna have to. ‘Cause now I need your help. Joe’s as big a prick as his brother was a pussy, told the cops we got away with some money. This is the second time I’m goin’ down. I’m goin’ away for awhile.

BILLY

At least it wasn’t your third.

KYLE

Yeah.

BILLY

What do you need me to do?

KYLE

I gotta fuckin’ survive, Billy. Maybe I’ll hook up with the Aryans. Maybe better not to. But I need a game. I need to be worth something. I need a source of weed, at least, maybe more. I need you to do that for me.

BILLY

Anything, Kyle.

KYLE

Not anything. That. I need a lot and I need it regular.

Kyle leans in close.

KYLE (CONT’D)

Go see Crank. He’s the piss ass set this whole thing up.

Billy’s eyes go wide.

KYLE (CONT’D)

That’s right. He owes me now. Let him know you know that. He can supply you. Tell him to get you a job, too. A good one. And don’t let him hand you any bullshit. He doesn’t just have a major prick between his legs. He is one.

INT. KORT MANSION – GAME ROOM – NIGHT

Crank stands at a POOL TABLE. He holds his cue stick straight up in front of him, both hands wrapped around it.

There’s also a ping pong table, a dart board, an expensive chess board set up at its own table, and a round poker table.

CRANK

So the little punk tells me Kyle says I owe him.

At the other end of the table, Jack holds his cue stick gingerly, taking care around his broken finger. But he’s skilled. He makes his shot.

JACK

Why would he say that?

Jack takes his empty glass, goes to the bar and fills it up high with bourbon.

Crank observes, thinks.

CRANK

You know. Kyle’s done me little favors over the years. I didn’t always pay him. I knew he thought he was earning credits.

Jack kicks back a large portion of his drink.

CRANK (CONT’D)

What do you do with a small-time hustler? You hustle him.

Jack returns to the table for his next shot.

JACK

Small time or big time?

CRANK

Big time if he’d managed to keep his lazy ass out of prison. I’ll have to settle for small time.

Jack lines up a difficult combination shot. Shoots. Sinks both balls.

CRANK (CONT’D)

Very skillful. How unusual.

(smiles)

But I like a good stick man.

At that, Jack misses an easy shot. Crank walks around the table to shoot.

CRANK (CONT’D)

Aah, what happened, baby? Performance anxiety?

Jack quickly swallows the rest of his drink, heads to the bar to refill. Crank holds out his own glass.

CRANK (CONT’D)

You want to share some of that alcohol?

Jack returns for Crank’s glass. Their eyes meet for a moment. Jack turns away.

JACK

So what’d you do?

Crank looks up from lining up his shot, uncertain.

CRANK

About Billy? Offered him Teller training at min wage. I knew he wouldn’t take it. What the hell do I want him around for?

Jack lights a cigarette, takes a long drink. Crank makes his shot. Jack brings him his drink. Crank waives the cigarette smoke away from his face with disgust.

CRANK (CONT’D)

Why don’t you take a seat. Augie’s gonna be up here for awhile.

Jack drinks some more bourbon, heads to the bar for another refill, then sinks deeply into a lounge chair.

Crank quickly lines up a shot and makes it. He looks over at Jack with a smile.

CRANK (CONT’D)

So tell me, what happened with Jack? He asked for a job and you turned him down, right?

Crank makes his shot. With one ball on the table, he racks up again.

Jack smokes with nervous intensity, sips at his drink.

JACK

That’s right. What the hell did I want him around for?

CRANK

Peas in a pod, you and I.

Crank takes his shots quickly and with confidence. Makes them.

CRANK (CONT’D)

What do you figure? You think he killed himself? Or was it an accident?

JACK

Don’t know. Don’t really care.

CRANK

So cold!  I figure it for an accident. You should have seen him play blackjack over at the bar one night. Fool doubled down on a pair of Jacks. Played it cool, though. I’ll give him that. Lost his shirt and stayed very calm. But stupid. Stupid and reckless. I figure he just mixed it up too much.

JACK

Let’s not talk about him. It’s enough I had to see him once.

Crank’s got only a few balls left on the table.

CRANK

Whatsamatter? Augie’s little run here takin’ your breath away, makin’ you moody?

Crank lines up a shot.

CRANK (CONT’D)

Let’s talk about us then. Us and millions of dollars.

Crank slams the ball with authority across the table into a corner pocket.

CRANK (CONT’D)

Ouch!

He looks over at Jack.

CRANK (CONT’D)

You gotta love me, Joseph. You gotta love me.

Jack smiles, looks into his drink.

CRANK (CONT’D)

It’s like a whole new beginning. That’s a cliché, I know. But it’s funny how clichés don’t feel like clichés when they’re your own. All the shit you and I have had to go through not to live like pigs. You starting out that way, me left like that because my damned fool grandfather couldn’t run a railroad right.

Crank lines up his last shot down the barrel of the cue stick.

CRANK (CONT’D)

But now it’s a whole new start. For you. For me. For you and me together.

Crank sinks the shot. He turns to Jack with satisfaction.

CRANK (CONT’D)

You lose.

He walks over to Jack’s chair, towers over him holding his cue stick against the floor at Jack’s feet.

CRANK (CONT’D)

Or then again, maybe you win. ‘Cause I feel good, lover boy. So good. Why don’t we go upstairs. After all these months, it’ll be like the first time all over again.

Jack looks up at Crank, smiling over him, and then down at his drink.

He knocks the bourbon back in a single gulp.

EXT. THE KORT MANSION – NIGHT

A single light is on in an upstairs bedroom. It goes out.

EXT. THE KORT OLIVE ORCHARDS – DAY

The harvest has begun. MEXICAN PICKERS stand on high LADDERS and pick the olives from the trees by hand.

Jack watches from a grassy avenue running through the trees.

Sonny approaches from behind, from the direction of the house. Jack senses a presence, turns.

JACK

Evelyn. Hello.

SONNY

Hello, Joe.

JACK

What a surprise to see you down here. Is this police business?

Sonny is taken aback by the idea it might be something else.

SONNY

Yes.

JACK

I’ve already heard about Kyle and Ray, if that’s why you’ve come.

SONNY

I know. That’s not my case.

JACK

No, of course not.

SONNY

How’s the harvest going?

JACK

It’s just begun. Looks like it’ll be a good one.

They stroll along the avenue through the trees, back in the direction of the house.

SONNY

I just came to let you know how the investigation is going.

JACK

It was nice of you to come in person. Instead of just calling.

Sonny realizes that she could have done just that.

SONNY

We’ll probably close the case in another day or two. There’s no sign of foul play at all.

JACK

Did you think there might be?

SONNY

You always have to consider the possibility.

JACK

What conclusion have you come to?

Sonny shakes her head.

SONNY

That’s why we haven’t closed it. The amount of alcohol wasn’t too extraordinary. The secobarbital was.

JACK

So he killed himself?

Sonny recoils a little at this. Jack sees this.

JACK (CONT’D)

Why would he have?

SONNY

Kyle and Ray say he’s the one who told them you’d be gone. He was in on it.

(beat)

I’m sorry.

JACK

I suppose he thought I did worse to him.

SONNY

Did you?

JACK

I didn’t give him a job.

(beat)

We started playing this game when we were pretty young. Pretending to be each other. Fooling people. A lot of identical twins do it. We could even fool our parents. The games got meaner as time went by. You remember Josie Corwin?

SONNY

Didn’t you date her?

JACK

Jack did first. We hung out a lot together, with a bunch of others. Jack was pretty in love with her. I didn’t know. He never said anything. Then she started calling me. I could never convince Jack I hadn’t played the game with her.

SONNY

Did you?

JACK

Just a little as a joke. We both did that, but — Would you believe me if I told you I lost track sometimes?

Sonny considers this all. They walk in silence, climb the stairs to the rear terrace of the house.

TERRACE

Manuel dusts the chairs and tables.

JACK (CONT’D)

That kind of remorse so soon after he told them doesn’t make a lot of sense.

SONNY

No.

JACK

(kindly)

There’s that then. He was a reckless man.

(beat)

Do you hate him now?

Sonny has to hold her emotions in check.

JACK (CONT’D)

This must be very hard for you. And looking at me —

SONNY

It must be hard for you, too, whatever you felt about each other.

JACK

(beat)

I lost my parents years ago, my wife, and now — Now I just am.

SONNY

You’re not what I imagined you to be.

Jack looks around him.

JACK

People can be envious. And maybe I wasn’t as nice a person as I could have been once. I was very young. I’m not that person anymore.

They stare at one another.

JACK (CONT’D)

If there’s anything I can ever do.

SONNY

(softly)

What?

JACK

Just anything. You’re welcome any time, Evelyn.

SONNY

Not many people call me Evelyn.

They stare.

SONNY (CONT’D)

I’d better go.

Jack nods.

JACK

Manuel, would you see —

Manuel looks up.

SONNY

No. I can see myself out.

Sonny enters the house. Jack and Manuel both watch her go. Manuel turns to Jack.

MANUEL

If I may be permitted, Mr. Joseph. You’re very kind to her.

JACK

Am I?

MANUEL

If you remember, sir, what we spoke about some months ago. About my leaving? If it would please you, Mr. Joseph, I would like to reconsider. I would be very pleased to continue working for you, sir.

Jack takes this in.

JACK

That would please me, too, Manuel.

MANUEL

Very good, sir.

Jack looks out thoughtfully over the orchards.

AJA

———-

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories
Creative

Holiday Matinee – Double Down (Part 6)

A Film Noir

by

A. Jay Adler

DOUBLE DOWN

Part Five

The Story So Far

Jack Miles, rock n’ roll roadie, has returned home looking for a job. He encounters old friends and begins a new love with Evelyn “Sonny” Morales, a detective. Old friends, Kyle and Ray, propose to Jack that he help them rob his wealthy, but estranged, identical twin, Joseph. Jack turns them down, and instead goes to see Joseph to ask for a job. But Joseph humiliates Jack and they nearly come to blows. Enraged, Jack lures Joseph to him and kills him, making the murder appear his own accidental death, then assumes Joseph’s identity. Sonny starts an investigation of Jack’s death.

Now, Part 6:

Jack faces the challenges of assuming Joseph’s private and social life. He makes a disconcerting discovery about the private life.
——–
EXT. THE KORT MANSION – REAR TERRACE – AFTERNOON

Jack strolls comfortably along the wide terrace, appointed with UMBRELLAED TABLES and LOUNGE CHAIRS. He looks out over the olive orchards below.

Manuel opens the door from the living room.

MANUEL

Excuse me, Mr. Joseph. Would you like your dinner on the terrace again this evening?

JACK

(beat)

No. I don’t think so, tonight, Manuel. I think I’ll order in.

MANUEL

Order in, Mr. Joseph?

JACK

Yeah. You know, Chinese, something like that. You don’t cook Chinese, do you?

MANUEL

No, sir.

Jack smiles.

MANUEL (CONT’D)

But no one delivers this far, sir.

JACK

They will if I pay them enough, don’t you think?

Jack comes up close, friendly.

JACK (CONT’D)

And if they won’t, I’ll fix myself something in the kitchen. You don’t get off enough. You should take at least another night.

MANUEL

Two nights a week, sir?

JACK

Sure. Even three. I’m a big boy. I can take care of myself sometimes. You work hard. Why don’t you go ahead now. I’ll see you in the morning.

MANUEL

Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Joseph.

Manuel reenters the house. Jack looks after him benignly.

INT. STUDY – NIGHT

Jack rummages around in the drawers of the desk. He finds a set of KEYS, looks over at a couple of bureaus, takes the keys with him.

Jack opens a bureau with a key, shuffles through some books and papers, including a couple of CONTRACTS WITH JOSEPH’S SIGNATURE ON THEM. He finds nothing.

Jack goes to the book shelves, checks the books for fakes, looks behind them.

Then he stumbles upon his HIGH SCHOOL YEAR BOOK, “THE  GOLDEN WEST. 1980.” He’s curious.

He sits at the desk and opens it, going quickly to the PHOTOS in the back. He finds himself and Joseph, beside each other, stares at the photos.

Then he flips through the pages. He passes then returns to a GROUP SHOT, part of a TWO PAGE PHOTO MONTAGE.

Six longhaired teens — an apparent rock band — mug for the camera in front of their instruments, their arms around each other. In the center are Jack and Joseph.

As Jack stares at the photo, his attention is drawn to some young girls in the background. One of them is Sonny.

Jack rips the page from the book. He carefully tears the page in half, splitting himself from Joseph. Sonny remains in the background with him.

Jack folds the half of the photo of him and Sonny and places it in his pocket. He crumples the other half up and throws it away.

The phone rings.

Jack stares at it. Then he punches the speaker phone button.

JACK

Hello?

MAN’S VOICE

(on the telephone)

Joseph?

JACK

(beat)

Yes.

MAN’S VOICE

(on the telephone)

It’s Arthur Perry.

JACK

(tentative)

Hello, Arthur.

Jack waits a long moment.

MAN’S VOICE

(on the telephone)

I’m fine, thank you. Kind of you to ask. If you’re free tomorrow morning, I’d like to stop by.

JACK

Really? What about?

MAN’S VOICE

(on the telephone)

Oh, I don’t know. Discuss this year’s crop, who you like in the World Series.

Jack is speechless.

MAN’S VOICE (CONT’D)

(on the telephone)

The probate, Joseph. I told you last week I’d have some papers for you to sign. Their ready.

JACK

Of course. Sorry, Arthur. I’m a little out of it this week.

MAN’S VOICE

(on the telephone)

I imagine so. I read about it in the paper. I’m very sorry. You weren’t close, though.

JACK

No. We weren’t close.

Silence.

MAN’S VOICE

(on the telephone)

How’s ten o’clock.

JACK

Ten’s fine.

MAN’S VOICE

(on the telephone)

See you then.

Perry hangs up the phone. Then Jack does, concerned.

INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT

Jack sits at a small writing desk against the wall. On the desk are two of the CONTRACTS with Joseph’s signature on them.

Jack practices writing Joseph’s signature, smokes fiercely, the ASHTRAY full of cigarettes, the desk littered with CRUMPLED SHEETS OF PAPER.

But Jack’s attempts are nowhere close.

He squashes his cigarette out and sits back in frustration.

He notices the cloud of smoke about him.

Jack glances at one of the two large windows on either side of the bed and goes to the nearest one.

He lifts the window easily, turns back to the desk.

The window SLAMS back down, hard.

Jack turns back and lifts the window again. It falls again, instantly.

Jack plays with the window, sliding it up and down, testing it. He lifts it all the way. It drops hard.

Jack sits on the bed. He glances at the writing table, then at the window.

He thinks.

He goes to the table and places the contracts in a drawer. He gathers up the scratch paper, throws it all into the bedroom fireplace.

Next Jack returns to the window. He raises the window as far as it will go and holds it there with his left hand. Then he places his right index finger on the window sill.

He braces himself.

Lets the window drop.

Jack bites his lip as he chokes back a groan of pain.

EXT. A NEIGHBORING MANSION – NIGHT

Expensive cars parked before the house, along the grounds. VALETS greet arriving cars.

EXT. MANSION TERRACE

Casually but expensively dressed MEN AND WOMEN mingle and talk. WAITERS wend their way among them with drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

Jack enters on the arm of PAULINE SCHEER, 50’s, beautiful and glittering, the hostess. Jack’s right index finger is in a SPLINT. They pass a small group of men and women.

Pauline holds out Jack’s hand to NICOLE, 40’s, one of the group.

PAULINE

Nicole, look at this poor broken man.

NICOLE

A battle scar from fighting off the fairer sex, Joseph?

JACK

(smiles)

Hello, Nicole.

PAULINE

Only you, dear.

They head past a COUPLE, 40’s.

PAULINE (CONT’D)

(whispers to Jack)

Word is Gordon’s thinking of selling to a conglomerate. Cynthia’s furious.

GORDON

Good to see you out and about, Joe.

JACK

Thanks, Gordon. You’re looking lovely, Cynthia.

PAULINE

(to Jack)

My, haven’t we become the gallant.

Next they approach a foursome, ARTHUR PERRY, 40’s, Joseph’s blunt, brash attorney, and his wife, CAROLYN, and GREG and his wife, TERRY, 30’s.

PAULINE (CONT’D)

A wounded male for anyone who cares to nurse him.

TERRY

You seem to be tending to him just fine, Pauline.

PAULINE

Don’t be sly, Terry. The man’s still in mourning.

CAROLYN

Arthur told me about your encounter with the window, Joseph. You should be more careful climbing in and out.

Everyone chuckles.

GREG

Shit, that must have hurt.

ARTHUR

Not too much pain to sign a few documents, ay, Jack?

JACK

Someone had to do it, Arthur.

ARTHUR

And Carolyn says you were just the one.

Jack looks at Carolyn.

JACK

Carolyn’s as perceptive as Terry. I need a refill already. Anyone?

No one.

JACK (CONT’D)

(to Pauline)

Nothing fun without me.

Jack heads off for a drink, squeezing Greg’s arm familiarly as he leaves.

He nods to a few others on the way to lifting a drink from a waiter’s tray. He glances around and explores around the corner of the terrace.

The blinds are drawn behind a sliding glass door. He tries the door and slips in.

INT. INFORMAL LIVING ROOM

Jack is relieved to have gotten away. He looks around, sipping his drink. He takes a seat by the fireplace.

CRANK (O.S.)

You thought you got away with it, huh?

Jack freezes, then turns around.

Crank has just slipped in behind him.

Jack is speechless.

CRANK (CONT’D)

He stares. Long time no see, precious.

Jack nervously tries to form a question.

CRANK (CONT’D)

Sneaking in here without saying hello. You could hurt Augie’s feelings that way.

JACK

I needed to get away by myself.

Crank approaches him.

CRANK

Such a private person we’ve become. It’s been months. Didn’t you miss me a little?

Crank takes hold of Jack, tries to kiss him.

Startled, Jack pushes him away.

JACK

Hey! Hey! What’s up?

CRANK

I’m up sweetheart. What about you?

Jack tries to remain composed while his mind does a million calculations.

JACK

Well, actually, I’m kind of down. You know, Jack’s death and all.

CRANK

Yeah, I know. You’re all broken up. Boo hoo.

Crank moves toward him again. Jack carefully moves away.

JACK

Augie, somebody could walk in any second.

CRANK

Let ’em. I’m gonna out you to the olive growing world. Being in the closet’s the pits.

JACK

Funny Augie. But not smart.

Crank stops at this.

CRANK

What can I say. It’s been awhile. I’m frisky.

JACK

So find some catnip. Be cool.

CRANK

(re: Jack’s broken finger)

That the boo boo Pauline’s cooing about?

(beat)

You sign the papers?

JACK

(a calculating beat)

Yesterday.

CRANK

Then you’re almost there, baby. Five years of watching a slow death — hers or ours, I wasn’t sure for awhile — it’s about to pay off. Soon we really start to live. No more hiding.

JACK

Well, let’s not rush it.

CRANK

You’ve been saying that for six months. Don’t rush it. Be cool. Let’s keep our distance.

JACK

It’s still true.

CRANK

A technicality.

JACK

Technicalities count.

CRANK

Fine.

(beat)

Did you hear? They got Kyle and Ray.

JACK

When?

CRANK

This morning. Found ’em in Guadalupe of all the fucking places. What a couple of morons.

JACK

Yeah. Weren’t they.

CRANK

I told you the fridge wasn’t such a clever idea. They really get away with some cash? Police didn’t find any.

Jack doesn’t answer.

CRANK (CONT’D)

Then I take it back. You are a clever prick.

Crank acts out an interrogation.

CRANK (CONT’D)

“Where’s the money, Kyle. Give it up, it’ll go easier on you.”

Now he plays Kyle.

CRANK (CONT’D)

“I don’t know, I’m tellin’ you. I don’t know. We didn’t get any money.” Eight to fifteen, easy. Keep ’em out of our hair longer. Beautiful, Joe.

Jack heads for the sliding door.

JACK

We better get out of here. I want to go home, anyway.

Crank follows him.

CRANK

I could meet you there.

Jack gives him a look.

CRANK (CONT’D)

Thursday, then. Manuel’s night off. I’m free. No reason a man can’t visit his grieving friend.

Feeling pressured, Jack nods. He slips out the door.

EXT. TERRACE

Jack stands outside the sliding door. He sighs.

AJA

———

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories
Creative

Sunday Matinee – Double Down (Part 5)

A Film Noir

by

A. Jay Adler

DOUBLE DOWN

Part Five

The Story So Far

Jack Miles, rock n’ roll roadie, has returned home looking for a job. He encounters old friends and begins a new love with Evelyn “Sonny” Morales, a detective. Old friends, Kyle and Ray, propose to Jack that he help them rob his wealthy, but estranged, identical twin, Joseph. Jack turns them down, and instead goes to see Joseph for help with a job. But Joseph humiliates Jack and they nearly come to blows. Enraged, Jack lures Joseph to him and kills him, making the murder appear his own accidental death, then assumes Joseph’s identity.

Now, Part 5: Jack directs Kyle and Raye to the Kort mansion for the proposed robbery of Joseph, then purposely interrupts the robbery. The next morning, Sonny discovers the body of the apparently dead Jack and takes the lead in the investigation. She questions “Joseph” at the mansion.

EXT. THE KORT MANSION – NIGHT

Jack drives Joseph’s Jaguar sedan to the large garage a small distance from the house.

INT. JAGUAR

Jack searches the glove compartment, finds the garage door opener, clicks it.

EXT. GARAGE

Jack drives in. The door closes behind him.

INT. GARAGE

Jack gets out of the car, goes to a window facing the house. He checks the view, then he crosses the garage and looks out another window, facing the entrance to the mansion grounds. He turns away, prepares to wait.

INT. GARAGE – LATER

Jack stands by the window in darkness, smoking a cigarette.

He hears the LOW HUM of an approaching engine. He quickly puts out the cigarette and carefully looks out the window.

An old Camaro drives slowly toward the house. Jack watches until it is out of view. He crosses to the other window, sees the Camaro stop in front of the house.

Kyle and Ray quickly exit the car, look around, go to the front door.

Jack watches through the window as Kyle kneels before the door, works the lock. Then they’re in, and the door closes.

Jack turns from the window, checks his watch: 1:05 a.m.

Then it’s 1:07 a.m., Jack still checking the watch. He heads for the door.

EXT. GARAGE

Jack exits and walks deliberately toward the house.

He pauses at the door, then enters with Joseph’s keys, taking no care to be quiet.

INT. THE KORT MANSION

Jack closes the door loudly, stops and listens. Nothing.

He walks to a TABLE in the front foyer and drops the keys onto it. Still nothing.

He looks around, tries to guess where the safe might be.

He heads toward the study.

He stops before its closed door, prepares himself for what might be behind it.

He opens it.

Two figures — Kyle’s and Ray’s — charge past him, over him, knocking him down in their break to escape.

Kyle is first and gets by. But as Jack goes down, he grabs hold of Ray’s leg.

JACK

(feigning surprise)

What!?

He makes a show of trying to hold on to the leg as Ray is brought to the ground, tries to crawl away.

RAY

Fuck. Get the fuck —

Ray kicks at Jack’s face, glancing blows that Jack allows to beat him off.

Ray scrambles to his feet and runs off.

Jack gets up, makes no attempt to follow. He turns back to the

STUDY

Looks around. He sees the door ajar on a SMALL REFRIGERATOR built into the wall near the liquor table. He goes to it.

The door has a key lock on it. Its interior panel, on disguised hinges, is pulled away.

Inside, the secret compartment is empty. Except for a note, presumably written by Joseph. It reads: FUCK YOU.

Jack shows the trace of a smile. He crumbles up the note and turns away.

FOYER

Jack approaches the open front door. Outside the Camaro is gone. He locks the door.

Then he goes to the PHONE on the table, where he dropped his keys. He dials.

JACK

Hello? This is Joseph Miles at the Kort Orchards. That’s right, on Los Carneros Road. I’d like to report a burglary. And assault.

EXT. JACK’S BUNGALOW – MORNING

Several police cars, marked and unmarked are parked around the house. Another unmarked sedan pulls up.

INT. JACK’S BUNGALOW

Sonny stands watching beside the body as the MEDICAL EXAMINER zips up the body bag. A PHOTOGRAPHER snaps some final photos. A COUPLE OF CRIMINALISTS bag evidence.

Enter GENE SLOCUM, 40’s, Sonny’s partner, hard and steady, soft on Sonny, though she’ll never know it. He looks around, comes up beside Sonny.

SLOCUM

You okay?

Sonny nods.

SLOCUM (CONT’D)

What do we have?

SONNY

(slow to respond)

Apparent overdose. Alcohol and —

Sonny indicates the vial of pills on the coffee table as a Criminalist bags it.

SLOCUM

Accidental?

Sonny shrugs.

SLOCUM (CONT’D)

I’m guessing you knew him to drink his fair share.

Sonny glances at him, nods.

SLOCUM (CONT’D)

Was he a pill popper, too?

SONNY

Not since I knew him. On the road he probably did about everything.

SLOCUM

So he’d tend to know how much is too much.

SONNY

You’d think.

Slocum pulls Sonny aside, away from the others.

SLOCUM

Any reason you know of it wouldn’t have been accidental?

Sonny looks in Slocum’s eyes sadly, shakes her head firmly.

Slocum feels for her, presses on.

SLOCUM (CONT’D)

What brought you here?

SONNY

I was calling him. All night. He didn’t answer.

Slocum looks around.

SLOCUM

No sign of anyone else?

Sonny shakes her head.

SLOCUM (CONT’D)

Look, I can take the lead on this.

SONNY

I was first on the scene, Slocum.

SLOCUM

Good, you know procedure. Morales. Let me —

SONNY

(steely)

First on the scene.

(beat)

I’ll go check out what he did last night.

Sonny heads for the door.

SLOCUM

I’m sorry, Sonny.

Sonny stops, nods, leaves.

Slocum watches through the window as Sonny gets into her car. He sees her start it up, pause, then break down in sobs.

But she quickly pulls herself together. She peels out.

INT. KORT MANSION – DAY

Manuel opens the door to Sonny.

SONNY

Detective Morales. Mr. Miles is expecting me.

Manuel lets her in.

MANUEL

I’ll let Mr. Joseph know you’re here.

JACK (O.S.)

No need, Manuel. Mr. Joseph is here.

Jack stands at the entrance to the foyer. He and Sonny are both stopped by the sight of the other, though Jack tries not to show it.

Sonny does. Manuel leaves them alone.

JACK (CONT’D)

I know. Identical. Still.

SONNY

I’m sorry.

JACK

About what?

SONNY

I should tell you. This is not just professional. You’re brother and I — we’d been involved.

JACK

Then I guess I should say I’m sorry.

SONNY

But I am here on police business.

JACK

Of course. Let’s go into the living room.

INT. FORMAL LIVING ROOM

Neither Jack nor Sonny sits.

SONNY

Don’t misunderstand me — I have to ask about it. I gathered from —

Sonny has a hard time saying Jack’s name.

SONNY (CONT’D)

You didn’t get along very well. Others say the same thing. I never noticed that in high school.

JACK

Well, you didn’t know us very well in high school, Evelyn. Me even less I think.

SONNY

Why didn’t you?

JACK

Get along? It’s supposed to be the other way, right? I don’t know exactly. It’s like — it’s like we were two people trying to occupy the same space. We both felt crowded. I think that’s why he left all those years ago.

SONNY

It’s almost the way he explained it.

JACK

My point, I guess.

Sonny becomes lost in thought, for a moment seems a little unsteady. Jack is genuinely concerned.

JACK (CONT’D)

Are you all right? I’m sorry. I should have offered you a seat.

SONNY

No. No. I’m just trying to figure out why he would do it. I can’t make any sense of it.

JACK

Do it? You think he killed himself? When you called, I don’t know, I just assumed it was an accident.

SONNY

There’s no way tell right now. Maybe never. The reason I came — I thought he might have come to see you, about a job?

JACK

He did, actually.

Sonny reacts alertly to this news.

JACK (CONT’D)

It was hard for him to do. I could tell. Probably the last thing he wanted to do. He did say it was because of a woman. He just didn’t say who.

Sonny waits eagerly for more.

JACK (CONT’D)

I didn’t have anything for him. Really. And to be honest with you, I didn’t look forward to his working for me anymore than he did. I guess that makes me sound terrible, but it could never have worked. I did offer him money, though. To tide him over until he found something else.

SONNY

Did he take it?

Jack shakes his head.

JACK

Probably the one thing it would have been harder for him to do than work for me.

SONNY

How was he when he left?

JACK

Disappointed. Wishing he’d never come, I guess.

SONNY

What time was it?

JACK

Eight. Eight thirty.

(beat)

I don’t think he would have killed himself over anything I did. And apparently he had something to live for.

They look at each other, seeing what they want to see.

SONNY

I heard at the station you had a burglary last night.

JACK

Yeah, it was quite a night all around.

Jack heads in the direction of the study, Sonny following.

JACK (CONT’D)

I gave the detectives all the details when they were here this morning.

SONNY

You surprised them?

JACK

It was Manuel’s night off. I was planning to get away for the night, too.

SONNY

Did Jack know that?

They stop outside the study.

Jack nods.

JACK

I told him he was holding me up. Seems cruel now.

SONNY

Where were you heading?

JACK

Pismo Beach. Sometimes, since Mirabella died, I just need to get away from the house. Couple of hours out I thought, “This is stupid. The night’s gone anyway.” I turned back.

INT. STUDY

Jack leads Sonny to the refrigerator. He shows her the hidden compartment.

JACK

They must have known where to look. I guess they thought they could get in and out fast. You think they knew I’d be gone?

Sonny examines the refrigerator.

SONNY

Seems that way.

Sonny considers a difficult thought.

SONNY (CONT’D)

You think there might be a connection?

Jack pretends not to get her drift. Then —

JACK

You mean with Jack?  That’s why you asked if he knew I’d be gone. I don’t know. I identified the two men as Kyle Corbett and Ray Hansen. Jack used to know them. Were they back in contact?

SONNY

(ignores the question)

The report said they got away with some money.

JACK

A few thousand dollars I kept for convenience.

Sonny looks closely at his face. Their eyes lock.

SONNY

There was a struggle?

Jack touches the scratches on his face.

JACK

Oh. Yeah. I don’t think I did too well.

Sonny heads out of the study.

SONNY

You’re alive. You did fine.

INT. FOYER

Jack walks Sonny to the door. They stop.

SONNY

Did you hate him?

JACK

It’s hard to know what you feel for someone so close when things go wrong. I think maybe you know what I mean. I’m sorry, truly.

Sonny nods and leaves.

AJA

——–

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories
Creative

Sunday Matinee – Double Down (Part 4)

A Film Noir

by

A. Jay Adler

DOUBLE DOWN

Part Four

The Story So Far

Jack Miles, rock n’ roll roadie, has returned home looking for a job. He encounters some old friends and begins new love with Evelyn “Sonny” Morales, a detective. The old friends, Kyle and Ray, propose to Jack that he help them rob his estranged, identical twin, Joseph, who is about to be rich. Jack turns them down. He then meets another old friend in on the robbery plan, Augustus “Crank” Wilson, against whom he plays a risky double down at a game of black jack. After, Jack and Sonny, at a table in the bar, publically seal their love.

Now, Part 4: In love with Sonny, Jack goes to see Joseph hoping for help with a job. The meeting does not go well. Enraged by his brother’s humiliation of him, Jack takes his revenge and hatches a plan to give everyone what they want.

EXT. THE KORT MANSION – NIGHT

Jack’s beat up junker turns into the long driveway, travels the distance to the circle before the entrance.

INT. JACK’S CONVERTIBLE

Jack sits a moment, prepares himself. He lightly taps his forehead against the steering wheel, half in anger at having to do what he’s about to do, half like a football player pumping himself up. He gets out.

INT. THE KORT MANSION

MANUEL, 50’s, the Kort manservant, short and trim, mildly proper and contained, opens the door to Jack. Manuel is dressed to go out, an overnight bag by the door.

He’s startled at the sight of Jack.

JACK

Jack Miles. I’m here to see Joe. If he’s in.

MANUEL

Yes. Yes, of course. I’ll go get Mr. Joseph.

Manuel steps back to admit Jack.

JOSEPH (O.S.)

No need, Manuel. Mr. Joseph is already here.

Joseph stands at the entrance to the foyer.

MANUEL

I was just about to leave. If there’s nothing else you need.

JOSEPH

Nothing else, Manuel. Enjoy your evening off. I’ll see you in the morning.

MANUEL

Thank you, sir.

Manuel nods to Jack and leaves.

Jack and Joseph stare at one another a moment.

JOSEPH

I heard you were back. It was hard to believe.

JACK

How are you?

Joseph offers the barest acknowledgment of the space around him.

JOSEPH

How could I be?

Jack nods at the smug message.

JOSEPH (CONT’D)

Glad you found the time to stop by. Let’s go into my study. It’s comfortable.

Joseph leads the way.

INT. STUDY

Well appointed. Old California wealth. Joseph walks to a bar table.

JOSEPH

What are you drinking these days?

JACK

Nothing right now.

JOSEPH

No shit. So that’s the rock and roll life. I’ll have a gin and soda.

Joseph pours his drink.

JOSEPH (CONT’D)

So what’s it been? Fifteen years?

Jack shakes his head.

JACK

I was back about ten years ago.

JOSEPH

Oh, yeah. Not for long. Not much reason either one of us would want to remember that.

JACK

Not much.

JOSEPH

The proverbial hat in hand, looking for a job. Of course I wasn’t in much of a position to help out then. You’re in better shape now, I imagine.

This all makes it as hard as possible for Jack.

JACK

Not really.

Joseph mildly feigns surprise.

JOSEPH

(coolly)

That’s too bad.

JACK

Look I just came by to visit. Can’t —

JOSEPH

No you didn’t. If you were “just coming by to visit,” you would have come a month ago. No, that would have been too obvious. I would have known you were looking for a job. The better strategy was to wait a month. Of course, I still know.

Jack is exasperated enough to leave.

JACK

Fuck this.

JOSEPH

(calmly)

Fuck what?

JACK

Fuck you.

JOSEPH

Insult the hand that could feed you. Not smart, Jack.

JACK

Coming here was not smart.

JOSEPH

Why did you?

JACK

Because I hoped ….

JOSEPH

You hoped?

Jack swallows his pride.

JACK

I met someone. Someone I care about.

JOSEPH

You did it for love. I guess I should be touched. I’m not. What about brotherly love, Jack?

JACK

What about it?

JOSEPH

Well, there’s my answer.

JACK

Come on, Joe.

JOSEPH

Come on, what? Am I supposed to believe you give a flying fuck about me? So you met someone. And even though you hate my guts, I’m supposed to give you a job?

JACK

It works both ways.

JOSEPH

It only worked one way as far as I could tell. Still does. Gimme. Gimme.

Jack is ready to bolt.

JACK

What an asshole I am. You were never a brother to me. What the hell made me think you’d know how to be one now.

Joseph slowly advances on Jack in his growing rage and venom.

JOSEPH

Oh yeah, be there for me, whenever I need you. Identical twins, right? Close as that.

Joseph holds up two fingers together.

JOSEPH (CONT’D)

Close as that.

Joseph crosses the fingers.

JOSEPH (CONT’D)

From the moment you knew I existed you tried to take everything that was mine. You came out of the fucking womb after me, and from that day on you tried to copy me, tried to be me. You sucked the fucking air right out of my lungs. You didn’t have an original thought in your stupid head. You even took up the goddamned guitar after I did.

Joseph is in his face now.

JOSEPH (CONT’D)

I, at least, wanted to be my own person. But you — you were never good at anything unless you were imitating me, and even then you were a poor reflection. You’re a born loser, Jack, a dust eating Okie just like your parents, and the only trouble with your being a twin is that you’re always thinking you’re you.

Jack is mad with rage at the onslaught. He grabs Joseph by the shirt collar and pulls so hard he’s choking him.

Joseph grips Jack’s arms, tries unsuccessfully to pry them away — but stares Jack angrily, defiantly in the face.

At last Jack releases his grip and storms from the room.

EXT. THE KORT MANSION

Jack races in a fury to his car and tears down the driveway.

EXT. HIGHWAY

Jack speeds down the road.

INT. JACK’S CONVERTIBLE

Jack grips the wheel hard, stares ahead with wide, wild eyes.

EXT. A DOWNTOWN STREET

Jack turns onto a main drag. In a little bit of traffic now, he drives slowly. But the mad intensity of his thoughts is written all over his face.

Jack cruises by bars and restaurants, a movie theater. These could be scenes of his youth.

Abstractedly he watches people come and go, stroll the street. But he is not himself.

EXT. ANOTHER STREET – WORKING CLASS NEIGHBORHOOD

Jack passes small, inexpensive houses, gazes at them. He slows in front of one.

EXT. ANOTHER STREET

Jack passes by a high school, maybe the one he went to.

EXT. ANOTHER STREET – OUTSKIRTS OF TOWN

Jack suddenly pulls over to the curb. He nearly explodes from the car, as if he’d been trapped.

He stands a moment, the madness, the anguish of his thoughts imploding on him.

And then he runs.

Like a fast jogger at first, he quickly picks up speed.

EXT. AN OPEN FIELD

Jack races across the field toward a wooded area, running as if pursued.

EXT. WOODS

Jack weaves his way among the trees, dodges low hanging branches, skirts around boulders, jumps over fallen trunks.

Quickly the woods become thicker. Branches begin to swipe at him. But he doesn’t relax his pace.

Soon Jack is headed down hill, then STEEPLY down hill

— until he is in an almost headlong descent

— down ever further — into what kind of hell?

— the twigs and branches battering him as he goes, whipping him, lashing at his face.

But still he runs.

EXT. AN OPEN FIELD

Jack emerges from the woods. He runs further still, and a little bit further, as if racing for a finish line with his last breath.

And then he stops, winded and crazed, off balance.

Dizzy, he falls to the ground, on his back, staring up at the sky, the world spinning around him, without center.

INT. JACK’S BUNGALOW

Jack enters with purpose. He goes to a closet in

BEDROOM

Jack pulls one SUITCASE out of the way to get to ANOTHER. He digs around at the bottom among several VIALS OF PILLS until he finds the one he wants.

LIVING ROOM/KITCHENETTE

Jack goes to the kitchenette counter with the pills and pulls from the cabinet a BOTTLE OF BOURBON and one of GIN.

Then he calls Joseph on the phone.

JACK

It’s Jack.

(beat)

Yeah, I know. I am an asshole.

(beat)

I’ll tell you what I want. I want to make you a proposition. Coming back was a mistake, obviously. I’m going to correct that. I’m going to leave, for good.

(beat)

You should give a shit, because if you help me leave, I’ll tell you about some people who are looking to hurt you.

(beat)

It’s not bullshit.

(beat)

I didn’t know before. I stopped in a bar on the way home. These people talked to me.

(beat)

So? You got a safe Mirabella didn’t know about?

(beat)

Now you believe me.

(beat)

I’ll tell you the rest when you get here.

(beat)

Because I already came to you. And what I know is worth more to you than what I’m asking for.

(beat)

When you get here. That’s the deal.

(beat.)

Right. I live — You do? Really? Good. See you.

Jack hangs up.

He opens the bottle of gin. He gets to work emptying the contents of the pills into the bottle.

INT. JACK’S BUNGALOW – LATER

Jack sits on the sofa drinking a bourbon.

The PURR of a car engine. The HEADLIGHTS sweep the window. The engine cuts off.

Jack goes to the door. When he opens it, Joseph is there. Jack lets him in.

JOSEPH

All right, so tell me.

JACK

You want a drink?

JOSEPH

No, I don’t want a fucking drink. I want to know what bullshit you dragged me out here for.

JACK

Is there any way I could know about the safe, if I’m not telling the truth?

Joseph can’t answer.

JACK (CONT’D)

Good. We understand each other. We’re on my clock. First I tell you what I want.

He holds up his glass.

JACK (CONT’D)

I’m having bourbon. Gin?

Joseph thinks. He gestures okay.

Jack goes to the kitchenette counter to pour Joseph a stiff gin and soda.

JACK (CONT’D)

I want to tell you about this woman I met.

INT. JACK’S BUNGALOW – LATER

Jack is on the sofa, Joseph on the chair opposite. The coffee table is between them with the bottles on it. They’ve already had plenty to drink.

Jack studies Joseph.

JACK

That’s the plan. I go, but I go with her. That takes money. Twenty thousand dollars of money.

JOSEPH

(slurring)

You got a lot of fucking balls.

JACK

No. I’ve got information worth much more than that. You get it if I get the money.

Joseph laughs in his growing stupor.

JOSEPH

You’re still trying to be me, Jack. Let me hear the fucking information. Then we talk about your ten thousand dollars.

JACK

Twenty.

Joseph tries to rise.

JOSEPH

Fuck you.

Jack gets up and easily pushes Joseph back into his seat. He stands over him.

JACK

How do you know they’re not robbing the safe now? How do you know that’s not why you’re here?

JOSEPH

I took the money out.

JACK

You’re a clever man, Joe. I’m more clever. I think I want thirty.

JOSEPH

Kiss…my ass.

JACK

You having trouble talking?

Joseph barely manages a glance up at Jack.

JACK (CONT’D)

Having trouble moving?

The glass slips from Joseph’s hand. He’s out.

Jack stares at him.

He slaps Joseph’s face.

Nothing.

Jack goes to the kitchenette cabinet, gets the rest of the pills.

He returns to Joseph, pries open his mouth, slips some pills in. He pours in a little gin.

Jack massages Joseph’s throat, so the pills go down. He repeats this all two more times. He leaves the bottle of pills, not quite empty, on the table, along with the bottle of bourbon.

He goes to the kitchenette and empties the gin bottle and Joseph’s glass, along with a bottle of scotch, into the sink. He rinses them all out and tosses the bottles into the trash.

Jack returns to Joseph. He begins to undress him.

INT. BATHROOM – LATER

Jack finishes dressing in Joseph’s clothes. He looks in the mirror and notices the scratches on his face from his run.

He pauses and thinks.

LIVING ROOM/KITCHENETTE

Jack walks past Joseph, still in the chair, now in Jack’s clothes, and dials the phone.

JACK

Kyle? Jack. I know it’s short notice. I’m sorry. I had to work myself up to it. But Joseph’s out for the night. So’s Manuel, his man. If you still want to do it — if you can — tonight’s the night.

(beat)

I paid him a visit earlier.

(beat)

All night.

(beat)

Good. Talk to you.

Jack hangs up. He stares at Joseph.

JACK (CONT’D)

Now let’s see if I really can be you, brother.

He heads for the door.

AJA

——–

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories
Creative

Sunday Matinee – Double Down (Part 3)

A Film Noir

by

A. Jay Adler

DOUBLE DOWN

Part Three

The Story So Far

Jack Miles, rock n’ roll roadie, has returned home looking for a job. He meets old friends and begins new love. Her name is Sonny. She’s a detective. Jack’s estranged identical twin is about to be rich. The old friends, Kyle and Ray, propose to Jack that he help them rob his brother. Jack turns them down. Kyle warns his younger brother Billy off getting involved with the Mexican gang El Puño.

Now, Part 3: Jack encounters another old high school acquaintance, Augustus “Crank” Wilson, and plays a risky double down at black jack. Kyle offers a revelation about Crank. Jack and Sonny, at a table in the bar, begin to seal their love.

INT. BAR – BACK ROOM – LATER

A non-nondescript storeroom, cases of liquor lining the walls. A filthy window.

Two tables. At one SEVERAL MEN play poker. At another, Jack and Kyle play blackjack, the Bartender dealing. Ray and Billy look on.

AUGUSTUS “CRANK” WILSON, another old high school acquaintance of Jack, slips through the door. Tall and lean, he looks like the scion of a lost railroad fortune he is, the remnants of an almost ante-bellum breeding a tattered cloth over the degenerate hustler he’s become.

Kyle stands up.

BARTENDER

You cashing in?

Kyle takes his remaining chips.

KYLE

You’ve taken enough of my fuckin’ money.

The Bartender looks up at Crank, rises.

BARTENDER

Here. You take over. Rock and roll over here has won a lot more than this joker’s lost. I’ve gotta relieve Sal at the bar.

Jack stares at Crank as he sits.

KYLE

Jack, you remember Crank Wilson, don’t you?

CRANK

(to Jack)

Augustus. I don’t choose to be called by that name anymore.

Crank immediately begins dealing.

KYLE

Still got it between your legs though.

CRANK

You want to go in the locker room, like the old days, and see?

Jack motions for a hit. Crank hits him.

CRANK (CONT’D)

How you doing, Jack? Welcome home. Is it good to be home?

Jack waives off another hit. Crank pushes chips his way.

JACK

You run back room games now?

CRANK

I’m in banking now. I have a small interest in this place.

Jack gives the room a sideways glance.

JACK

Really.

Crank catches the glance.

CRANK

“An ill-favoured thing, but mine own.” My own little piece of Heaven, you might say.

The Bartender appears in the doorway with Sonny behind him. He looks to Crank, who looks at Kyle, who looks at Jack.

Jack turns to the door, then looks at Crank, who nods to the Bartender. Sonny enters.

SONNY

You can put your hands back in your pockets, fellas. I work homicide, not vice. I’m just here to see a friend.

CRANK

Is that Evelyn Morales? My, isn’t this cozy. You have friends here?

Sonny stands behind Jack.

SONNY

One.

JACK

Last hand.

He pushes the larger portion of his chips over as his bet. Crank eyes the chips.

Crank deals the cards. Jack has a Jack up, Crank a King. Jack peeks at his down card. He considers calmly for a moment.

Jack turns up his down card. Another Jack. He splits them.

JACK (CONT’D)

Double down.

Everyone looks amazed. The barest twinkle in Crank’s eye.

Crank deals a four to one Jack, a three to the other. Jack has no choice but to hit again.

The first Jack gets an eight, the second a ten. Jack loses it all.

Low groans from the others.

KYLE

(low, to Ray)

What a fuckin’ asshole.

Jack rises easily, without reaction.

CRANK

I’ll trust you for what you owe, Jack. I’m a trusting man.

Jack heads out of the room with Sonny.

INT. BAR

Jack and Sonny head for a table at the back of the bar, near the jukebox. On the way, Kyle catches up to them and pulls Jack aside.

KYLE

Listen, Jack —

Kyle looks at Sonny.

JACK

(to Sonny)

I’ll be right with you.

Sonny moves on to the table.

KYLE

I don’t mean to rub it in or anything, but you just lost a load. I wanna let you know that the offer is still open — in case you’re suddenly feeling in need of money. You just met our inside source.

Jack looks at Kyle a moment. He turns and heads over to the table, sits beside Sonny.

SONNY

What was that about?

JACK

He thought I might be in need of some work.

SONNY

You didn’t seem to have much to say to him.

JACK

It’s not the kind of work I’m interested in.

Sonny thinks about this. The bar’s one WAITRESS delivers two bourbons.

SONNY

I’m glad. I don’t like him.

JACK

I know.

SONNY

I don’t like you with him. I thought these guys weren’t your new friends. They weren’t your old ones.

JACK

We hung around some times. And I might need that job with Ray.

SONNY

But you don’t want it.

Jack shakes his head.

SONNY (CONT’D)

Any idea what you do want?

Jack shakes his head again.

JACK

I’m in “transition.”

SONNY

“Transition?”

JACK

(grins)

Uh,huh.

SONNY

(carefully)

What about your brother? He could get you some good work — work with your background you could learn fast.

Jack looks straight at her. He shakes his head very deliberately.

SONNY (CONT’D)

What’s the story with you and Joseph? Aren’t identical twins supposed to be incredibly close?

JACK

Yeah, well, every now and then, it goes the other way.

Sonny waits for more

JACK (CONT’D)

It’s complicated. Maybe we were too close. Maybe the one thing we were was the one thing we didn’t want to be.

SONNY

Identical.

JACK

Look, I don’t want you to think I’m like them.

Jack gestures toward Kyle and Ray at the bar.

SONNY

I know you’re not.

JACK

I know I need a job

He gives Sonny a look.

JACK (CONT’D)

Maybe now even more. A man needs a job.

SONNY

A woman, too.

JACK

(smiles)

You know what I mean.

SONNY

I know what you mean.

JACK

I guess what I’m saying is, stick with me.

SONNY

I never thought of doing anything else.

INT. BAR – LATER

Jack and Sonny still at the table, a lot of drinks later. Jack calls to the passing Waitress.

JACK

Two shots of tequila.

SONNY

Whoa. You really want to put me on my ass.

JACK

You reach your limit?

SONNY

Not till you reach yours.

JACK

Competitive.

SONNY

Like you.

Sonny gestures toward the back room.

SONNY (CONT’D)

Back in there. I don’t play blackjack, so I don’t know. But was splitting the Jacks a smart move? Everybody seemed to think you played the hand wrong.

Jack is untroubled.

JACK

They’d have thought different if I’d won, wouldn’t they?

Sonny takes this in, takes Jack in.

SONNY

Are you a gambler, Jack?

Jack smiles.

SONNY (CONT’D)

You want to gamble and win?

JACK

Sure.

Sonny knocks back the last of her drink. The Waitress puts the two shots of tequila on the table.

SONNY

Me, too. I think I want to gamble on you. You want to gamble on me?

Jack looks at her. He puts a shot glass in her hand, picks up the other in his. He circles their arms around each other.

They knock back the shots to seal it.

The shot and the place they just reached put Sonny over the edge. She throws her head back and rises suddenly, moved by the beat of a slow, sexy R&B SONG on the JUKE.

Sonny begins to dance. Moves Jack has never seen — except maybe in bed.

Sonny reaches out for Jack to join her, but he shakes his head.

He sits back to watch.

So Sonny dances alone. An intense, seductive dance just for Jack.

Head by head, almost everyone in the bar turns to watch.

Sonny may be a “Sonny,” but she’s no man, and what she delivers in the dance is all she’s had waiting for the right man. Jack is completely seduced.

Sonny dances over to him and this time pulls him up to join her. They dance together, Sonny leads the way with her body close to his.

The whole bar watches.

But the two are oblivious, virtually making love in slow grinding dance moves.

Finally, as the song reaches a climactic end, Sonny edges Jack back into a chair

— sits astride him

— begins to kiss him.

Their descent into love and desire is now so total, their passionate necking literally does become love making

— and the fascinated onlookers actually look away.

AJA

——

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories
Creative

Sunday Matinee – Double Down (Part 1)

A Film Noir

by

A. Jay Adler

DOUBLE DOWN

Part One

(In which a rock & roll roadie comes home. He meets old friends and encounters a detective. She is beautiful. She tells him to spread ’em.)

EXT. A Dry Valley – DAY/Night

A panoramic view of Caifornia’s Central Valley. Bright, washed out sunlight. Slowly, the day turns to night. Superimposed at the end:

EXT. HIGHWAY – Night

The sign says, “Welcome to Heaven”; in smaller print below, “California. Population 53,259.”

EXT. STREET – NIGHT

Dimly lit. A commercial strip in Heaven, California, a small city in the Valley.

JACK MILES, late 30’s, an ex rock & roll roadie who’s knocked around life and been knocked around by it. With no guiding light, he’s got a gambling spirit and a losing soul. He crosses the street in the direction of an old bar. It’s broken neon lights read only “Bar. Pool.”

MAN’S VOICE (V.O.)

A guy walks into a bar, looking for someone.

Jack enters the bar.

INT. BAR

A little seedy, but dangerous only to the faint of heart. Jack’s seen plenty of them.

He walks to the half-filled bar.

JACK

(to the bartender)

Bourbon up.

The BARTENDER, born 50’s and behind a bar, pours the drink indifferently.

JACK (CONT’D)

I’m looking for Ray Hansen. Is he here?

The Bartender stares at him.

BARTENDER

And whom shall I say is calling?

JACK

Jack Miles.

The Bartender takes a moment. He heads to one of several pool tables in the back, where two men play beneath a low hanging light. The Bartender speaks to one of the men. He looks up.

RAY HANSEN is Jack’s age, looks older. Not a bad guy, he can’t imagine life with any opportunities bigger than a small-timer’s vision of big. He walks to Jack.

RAY

Jack fuckin’ Miles.

JACK

(shrugs)

Too many miles.

He shakes Ray’s hand.

JACK (CONT’D)

How you doing, Ray?

RAY

When’d you get back into town?

JACK

Few weeks ago.

RAY

How’s rock n’ roll?

JACK

Dead. Haven’t you heard? Rap’s the thing.

RAY

All I know about raps is trying not to take one. You home now?

Jack shrugs.

JACK

I’m looking for a job. Someone told me you drive trucks now. I can drive them, any size.

KYLE CORBETT, Ray’s pool mate, also Jack’s age, also looking older, approaches. A hard ass, he’ good enough to love his brother, bad enough to like no one else.

KYLE

Is that Jack Miles, high school guitar star?

They shake hands.

KYLE (CONT’D)

You home to lick your wounds?

JACK

Nice to see you, too, Kyle.

KYLE

It’s always good to see old high school buddies. How’s your brother?

Jack turns away to the bar and his drink.

Kyle and Ray glance at one another.

KYLE

You’re not still nursin’ a grudge, are you?

RAY

Carrie left him a long time ago.

KYLE

(to Ray)

He’s still nursin’ a grudge.

(to Jack)

That’s too bad. Cause your brother  just came into a lot of money.

Jack shows no interest.

KYLE (CONT’D)

I figured that’s why you came home.

Jack is expressionless.

RAY

Didn’t you know?

Jack didn’t know. He doesn’t care.

KYLE

He married Mirabella Kort. You know, that olive grower up by Los Carneros.

RAY

She died six months ago.

KYLE

Poor rich bitch. Heart disease or some such shit.

RAY

(to Kyle)

He didn’t know.

KYLE

I thought identical twins were supposed to be close. I know I love my brother.

(beat)

So what did you come home for?

JACK

I wanted to go to Heaven.

(to Ray)

Like I said, I’m looking for a job.

Suddenly two women appear behind the men, one a cop, the other plain clothes, flashing a detective’s shield.

The cop, PATTI HALE, 30’s, broad and sturdy, pushes Kyle against the bar. The detective, EVELYN “SONNY” MORALES, also 30’s, a tough beauty with the lid on, does the same with Jack and Ray.

SONNY

Hands in front fellas. Let us see ’em.

The men are startled, Kyle and Ray momentarily nervous.

PATTI

They look like trouble. Should we spread ’em?

SONNY

Just the one in the middle. Spread him wide.

Jack smiles. The men relax.

KYLE

Shit.

RAY

Fuck, Kyle, that’s Sonny Morales.

SONNY

Evelyn Morales, if you’re not my friend. Detective Morales to you.

KYLE

It’s a fucking high school reunion.

SONNY

I don’t seem to recall that you graduated from high school, Kyle.

KYLE

If you’re a detective Sonny, I know I’m on the right side of the law.

Sonny edges up close to Jack.

SONNY

I thought I told you to spread ’em.

Jack stares at her.

JACK

I will.

Kyle and Ray take this in, look at each other.

RAY

You didn’t waste any time, Jack. Didn’t know you liked ’em south of the border.

SONNY

I was north of the border when you were still traveling steerage.

KYLE

How’s your father, Sonny? He outta Soledad yet?

Sonny walks into his face.

SONNY

Nah, he’s gonna wait for you, Kyle. You know, break you in.

PATTI

I thought we were here for a friendly drink.

SONNY

We are. With friends.

Ray and Kyle get the message.

RAY

Catch you around, Jack. I’ll see what I can find out.

JACK

Thanks Ray.

Ray and Kyle go back to the pool table. Sonny and Patti sit.

SONNY

(to Jack)

You stayed carefully out of things.

(to the Bartender)

Bourbon.

JACK

You didn’t need any help from me.

PATTI

(to the Bartender)

Club soda.

SONNY

Jack Miles, Patti Hale, my best friend.

Jack and Patti reach across Sonny to shake hands.

JACK

Hello, best friend.

PATTI

Hello, Jack Miles. So you all go back a ways.

SONNY

We went to high school together. That’s all. They were ass holes then, too, especially Kyle.

(to Jack)

They your new old friends?

JACK

Just looking for a job.

PATTI

And so you two knew each other in high school.

SONNY

Only a little. Jack was a few years ahead of me. I had a crush on him, though he didn’t know it. He was one of the few Anglos didn’t call me wetback while trying to get into my pants.

JACK

I didn’t call her wetback, anyway.

SONNY

He even fought a guy once in the cafeteria when the guy got all touchy.

JACK

(facetious)

Was that you?

PATTI

He’s a gentleman, too. And now, after all these years —

Patti lifts her glass.

PATTI (CONT’D)

To new old friends.

EXT. BAR

Jack, Sonny, and Patti exit happy.

PATTI

My car’s this way. Nice to meet you, Jack Miles.

JACK

(nods)

Best friend.

Jack and Sonny head in the other direction, arm in arm. Sonny glances back over her shoulder.

Patti doesn’t look back, but her arm is extended with a thumbs up.

EXT. JACK’S BUNGALOW

A small rental in a rundown part of town, most of the lots empty. Jack and Sonny’s cars are parked in the back. A light is on. Slow R&B PLAYS on the RADIO.

INT. JACK’S BUNGALOW

Sonny is seated, feet up, at one end of an old sofa by the window.

Jack carries a fresh bottle of bourbon from the kitchenette, refills their glasses. He leaves the bottle on the coffee table in front of them, beside a bowl of pistachio nuts. He sits at the other end of the sofa.

SONNY

So it just never happened.

JACK

I was okay for a piss hole like this. I got my gigs in local bars. But I didn’t have the talent. I met people, though, and the roadie thing was fun. Close to the action. Money was good.

SONNY

So?

JACK

Got tired. It can be rough. The work and the play. I’m too old.

SONNY

Give me a break. Mick Jagger’s sixty what?

JACK

Jagger’s got two hundred and fifty million dollars. For that money I could put up a few more stages, sleep in a few more hotel rooms.

SONNY

(coy)

You don’t seem out of energy to me.

Jack finishes his drink. Pours another for both of them.

JACK

It’s a cold, lonely life, you know.

SONNY

Tell me about it.

JACK

I mean the road. It’s not much about getting close to other people. That’s not the nature of it. I mean it happens, but — Everybody’s after something. One way or another you’ve always got a small part of what they want, or you can get them close to it.

SONNY

You mean the groupies? No real love for Jack Miles?

JACK

Oh, I had plenty of women.

SONNY

I’m sure you did. Thanks for sharing.

Jack reaches for a handful of pistachio nuts, dumps it in Sonny’s lap. He takes another for himself.

JACK

There might have been a couple who said they loved me. Maybe even meant it. In the end they were like the others — star fucked me with their eyes closed, dreaming of fame and fortune. Shit, even I was always wondering what that entrance into the bright lights on stage was like.

They both crack shells with their fingers or teeth.

SONNY

It’s been different for me. The same. Men suck, you know?

JACK

I should know, right?

SONNY

I’d like to hear the groupies’ side. Anyway, there’s not many good ones around, at least not in the world I see.

JACK

Why did you become a cop?

SONNY

Maybe because of my father. I don’t know. Wanted to do good. Wanted to help. Most of the time you can’t do good, no matter what you do. You sure can’t help. I live in central California, land of sunshine — the Golden West, right? — but I don’t see the sun, Jack. I never see the sun.

Sonny finds a nut she can’t crack with her teeth. She tries again. Jack reaches over, takes it from her, cracks it in his own teeth. He puts it in her mouth.

JACK

And no good men.

SONNY

You think a male civilian can take being involved with a female detective?  I haven’t found any with balls that big. The other cops, detectives — soon as they think you’re theirs, you’re not really on the job for them anymore. You’re just some girl who got her Shield by mistake. It’s dangerous out there, honey. Why don’t you just stay here in my pocket.

Jack reaches over with a nut for Sonny to crack with her teeth as he holds it.

JACK

You blame them.

Sonny cracks the shell. Jack takes the nut out. She eats it from his fingers.

SONNY

I blame them.

When Jack sits back, Sonny leans forward with her own nut. She holds it to his mouth.

SONNY (CONT’D)

I’m nobody’s girl —

Jack cracks the shell. Sonny feeds him the nut.

SONNY (CONT’D)

Not to be fucked around with or fucked around on.

Sonny sits back. They stare at one another.

SONNY (CONT’D)

I won’t let a man do that to me again, Jack. I won’t.

Jack leans forward with another nut. Sonny cracks the nut in his fingers. He feeds it to her, remains hovering over her.

JACK

But you are somebody’s girl.

Sonny opens her lips to reveal the nut still between her teeth. Jack leans down to take it from her mouth with his mouth. The exchange becomes a long, slow, passionate kiss.

INT. BEDROOM

They enter the room kissing, and the love they make, undressing themselves and each other, on the bed and pressed against the wall — her back to his front — pausing to wonder at the sight of each other, is a tender and frightening fall.

AJA

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Categories
The Political Animal

Mind Games III: “Optics”

“The Brotha and the Otha”


(Scene: the White House – the Oval Office. President Obama sits behind his desk. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel stands before him.)

Emanuel: Okay, next – where you thinking of for your vacation?

Obama: I was thinking we’d go to Hawaii.

Emanuel (chin descending, eyes ascending): Not a good idea.

Obama: Ah, come on, Rahm. It’s home. It’s beautiful. I’ve got friends. Why not?

Emanuel: Optics.

Obama: Optics.

Emanuel: You gotta consider how it looks.

Obama: That I take a vacation?

Emanuel: Where you take the vacation. It can’t seem you’re having too much fun. Presidents can’t have too much fun. Only in limited doses, for limited times. Joe the Plumber’s plumber is thinking, I lost my job, my kid’s in chemo – people want to kill us – and you’re shankin’ balls under the palms, against the blue Pacific. No, no, no no, no, no, no.

Obama: People don’t want me to have a vacation?

Emanuel: Probably not. But they’ll accept something not too conspicuous.

Obama: Like Crawford, Texas? See, I think that proves right there I’m more qualified to be President. “What do you do on your vacation Mr. President?” “Ah clear brush.” Sheeit.

Emanuel: But he stayed too long.

Obama: So I won’t stay too long.

Emanuel: I don’t know, Rock –

Obama: I asked you not to call me Rock.

Emanuel: Well, I can’t call you Bar.

Obama: Wasn’t that Bush 41’s wife?

Emanuel: My point. The anti-Obama.

Obama: You could call me Mr. President.

Emanuel (considers a moment): I’ll call you Rock. (Beat) Then there’s the question of what if something happens while you’re on the vacation.

Obama: Then I’ll come back and deal with it.

Emanuel: Maybe, maybe not.

Obama: If I don’t come back they’ll say I’m indifferent and aloof.

Emanuel: If you do come back they’ll say you’re a captive of events. The terrorists flick the fiddle, you dance to their tune. “Member Carter and his Rose Garden strategy? Reagan murdered him with it.

Obama: Now you’re going to extremes. Isn’t there some reasonable middle ground on this?

Emanuel: Reason’s got nothing to do with it. Take Joe B., for instance, when he called you clean and articulate.

Obama:  Putz.

Emanuel: Petzel. (He holds his thumb and forefinger an inch apart.)

Obama: Sez who?

Emanuel: Arlen. Remember all those train rides?

Obama: Spector? How the hell would he know?

Emanuel: It’s a big tent, Rock.

Obama: On the down low? Come on, man. I haven’t had lunch yet. Now I gotta be thinkin’ about that?

Emanuel: He calls you clean and articulate – like you’re not either, like everyone isn’t thinking it, about you, Colin – and they make a big deal about it. Like a Sharpton with his Brooklyn Do and drawl was ever gonna be the first.

Obama: Actually, I thanked Biden. Michelle always says I don’t shower enough.

Emanuel: Or word is that new book by Halperin is gonna quote Reid about you being light-skinned or something, not talking with a Negro dialect.

Obama: Negro? Get the fuck.

Emanuel: I shit you not.

Obama: But I am light skinned. I don’t talk Black.

Emanuel: Not unless you want to.

Obama: But that’s the point. Everyone gets what they want. The President has to be all things to all people.

Emanuel: And if you’re not, then they get you for that.

Obama: Like when I started droppin’ my “g”s.

Emanuel: Well, that was for the white workin’ class. After that shit about guns and religion.

Obama: Which I don’t believe for a minute. Devil made me say that.

Emanuel: Exactly. So this book is coming out and you can just see it now – somebody like Liz Cheney goes on This Week and rips into Reid for his racism, because, you know, you’re not light skinned and you don’t talk Black – actually, I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be good or bad; when conservatives go PC for points it gets really confusing – and even George Will is gonna blow chunks.

Obama: It’s amazing. There’s no reality to any of it.

Emanuel: Oh, it gets worse. Because when they talk about this stuff on TV, most of the time they acknowledge it’s all bullshit, but they talk about it anyway, because if a Pol talks shit, they think they’ve got to cover it, even if they cloak it in a discussion of how the media covers shit (which they’re not doing, they’re covering the story of how the media covers shit.) And the pol talks shit just so that they will cover it. And the news people acknowledge its shit – that’s their kinda due diligence, you see, “we told you this was shit” – and then they ask each other if the shit is going to hurt the President, and they say it is (as if no one’s listening) and people have now been told the President is being hurt by what everyone acknowledged from the start was bullshit. And then – I really love this – there’s always the sardonic one, without fail, a little above it all, who pings ‘em all with a “And that’s just exactly what we’re doing by talking about it.” There are so many mirrors you can’t even find yourself.

Obama: “So keep on playing those mind games together…”

Emanuel: “Faith in the future outta the now…”

Obama: Takes me back.

Emanuel: Yeah.

Obama: Okay, so where does that leave us?

Emanuel: I’ll tell you where that leaves us, Rock. A lot of these people out there grew up on 24/7 meat and dairy, wall-to-wall Wonder and mayo. Now their world’s being run by The Brotha and The Otha.

(Obama laughs. Emanuel extends his arms, palms down, for some skin.)

Emanuel: World upside down, Nigga!

(Obama scowls.)

Emanuel (pulling back): I’m just jivin with ya.

(Obama continues to scowl.)

Emanuel (reluctantly offering a beta shrug): I’m kibitzing.

Obama (widenening his eyes and pointing, as if to say “psyche!”): Word, Hebrew.

(Obama gets up, buttons his jacket.)

Obama: Okay, so where does that leave us? Wherever I go, whatever I do, they’ll find a way to spin it against me, right?

Emanuel: Long and short.

Obama (heading out of the office): Fuck that shit. I’m going to Hawaii.

Emanuel (turning, calling after him): You can’t go to Hawaii.

Obama (disappearing): Oh, yes, I can!

Emanuel: Yeah, well, you better hope no one tries to blow up a plane over Detroit!

(But Obama is gone.)

Emanuel: Mutherfucker!

AJA