1-800-Suicide/A Hole in the Wall: A Lesson in Self-Loathing

FADE IN:

 

A bad salesman walks on camera. The scene is filtered through the amateur haze associated with local commercials. Cheap lighting. Cheap graphics.

 

SALESMAN

Have you recently been losing interest in things? Has life lost all meaning for you? Have you run out of people who care? Then why not give suicide a try? What? You say you don’t have the guts to go through with it? You need some kind of push? Don’t worry. Just pick up your phone now and dial 1-8-0-0-6-9-6-9. That’s 1-8-0-0-6-9-6-9. For just 2 dollars a call, we’ll equip you with the motivation you need to bring your stay here on Earth to a necessary end. Whether you prefer a horizontal slash to the wrist, a noose on the ceiling, a leap from a tall building, or an over-emphatic dose of sleeping pills, 1-800-6969 supports you. We have experienced operators standing by 24/7 ready to make giving up easier than ever before. So pick up your phone now and dial 1-8-0-0-6-9-6-9. Death’s waiting for you.

 

Zoom out of the picture to reveal this sequence to be a commercial on television that the protagonist is watching. A HOLE IN THE WALL begins.

NARRATOR

Somewhere there’s a hole in the wall where my head used to be. I have this fantasy about hitting my head against some magical wall so many times that I eventually breakthrough to the other side, and on the other side there would be another version of me. A better version living my life, only better. He would get out more and could dance and would do his laundry way before he had to start recycling his clothes and could play an instrument and could sing, but even if he had an awful singing voice he would sing anyways and he would be disciplined and he would have no idea what any of the Hostess snacks tasted like and he would stop eating when he was full and he would be full of joie de vivre and he could say French things like joie de vivre in an English conversation without coming across as pretentious and he could speak French and he would never have watched that movie with only one of the Olsen twins and the girl from High School Musical about the bully who turns super ugly but then turns handsome again after he learns the true meaning of love from that girl from High School Musical and he would never feel the need to pretend he didn’t know the name of that girl from High School Musical and who she goes out with, or went out with once or whatever and he would definitely know how to use a semi-colon.

               I think of him a lot. The other me. That is, whenever I am not thinking of myself. You know, it’s amazing. My life is so dull; my activity level, my production is so shameful, yet for whatever reason, I am entirely fascinated by me. Is it egomania? Is an inordinately low opinion of oneself as vain as its antithesis? To loath oneself as I do, to spend as much time loathing oneself as I do, requires more time and harsher judgment than any man is surely worth. I’m consumed. What have I done today, what will I eat tomorrow, why me, why not me, when will my time come, did that girl just smile at me, and why do I constantly labor over the silliest things in life? I mean, honestly. Little kids in Africa, right? One particular sick line of thinking includes me wondering if I wouldn’t be better off as one of those little kids in Africa, because then at least I would have an excuse to feel sorry for myself. Feeling sorry for myself is my recreation, my occupation, dare I say, my religion. It’s a nasty cycle. Lots of people feel sorry for themselves, so it isn’t even like I am original. If I could have sole ownership over self-pity, then I would be in business. That would make me interesting. Like that song by Sade, I could be the king of sorrow.  I could publish books about myself, and there would be movie adaptions, and every actor would campaign for the role of a lifetime as this complex and unique character with these totally alien yet compelling emotions, and they would thank me when they win the Oscar, and the critics would publish books on tops of books trying to understand the character-each with their own interpretation. Now that I can get behind.

                But, alas, no. I am just one of many. I am simply another member of the sad sack club. I am not the President, nor even the vice-president of said club. I am the guy sitting in the back corner so nobody can see me. It is perhaps ironic-I am never sure when to use ironic- that if there was such a club, each member would cease to be a sad sack. No, we choose instead to walk the streets alone, eat alone, live alone, et cetera, et cetera, alone, alone. I write “we” do these things, which is purely an assumption on my part since I have no contact or conversation with other losers, and can therefore only assume on their behalf that they share my tendencies. I have very little contact with people in general, by the way. The human race makes me uncomfortable.

                 I find myself lurking through the streets late at night more and more frequently. No one else is around for the most part. I get to play boogie man and move in shadow, a monster. I have heard that a monster is just something people fail to understand. You know, like the monster in Frankenstein wasn’t so bad, but because he was ugly and mumbled, he’s forever a monster. Let me think, who else could be an example? I didn’t get Dracula. Blackula was a fun movie though. I don’t know, but my point is after years of nonstop thought and attention, I still fail to understand myself.

 

 

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

I believe in God. I do. I have tried living with the alternative, but…but what? I don’t know. I am in too deep. It’s like The Godfather with me, every time I try to get out, they pull me back in. What do I do with my religion? Not much. I guess I’m looking for some kind of wild magic to come and shake off my lukewarmness. Hopefully it will come in time before I get spit out of God’s mouth. That would be no good.

                I have been wondering lately if I fear God. You know, respect him. I am not sure anymore. I feel like Salieri taking down Mozart’s dictation-I don’t understand.  I do know that I’m not afraid of death-at least not the death shown in movies. I can see pain being a problem. I prefer a nice clean death. Some time to get my bearings in order, in the arms of a loved one, spouting off wise words right up until my last breath is the dream. Just an easy fading into the next world is all I ask for. No, the idea of death is not scary to me.

                 What I am afraid of is Hell. Holy shit, am I afraid of Hell. Hell above all else. I do not want to go! And it has come to the point that I don’t care about anything else. My fear of Hell guides my life now. I have no other convictions. I’ve squandered them thinking that they were innate. Well, maybe some of them were, but even things innate can be lost, as I have found. That’s what’s most sad. I still have all the same vices, and I’ve added some new ones. I could teach you how to turn your positives into negatives if only I knew how I did it. I don’t though. I missed it. I closed my eyes for a while, and missed myself slipping. Once you start slipping, it takes energy to turn it around. Energy I don’t have.  Where is the energy supposed to come from? The Bible? It takes energy to read the Bible. Do you understand the problem there?

              However, I do still have moments of true inspiration-moments when I vow to improve, to push myself, and to achieve. These moments are shortly thereafter interrupted and dissolved by anything as simple and meaningless as a Genie-Bra commercial. A Genie-bra commercial! Can you imagine how demoralizing watching an infomercial with middle aged women showing off this wondrous new bra that conforms to any shape is? Probably not, because you probably have a life. People who watch infomercials on television have no life.

         Another thought that plagues me is, if God gets all the credit for everything good, how come he gets no blame for everything bad? I am pretty much convinced there exists a God, but who is to say he cares? Maybe there is just one God and no devil- just one supreme ruler who watches over us like we watch television. No, I don’t ultimately buy into this line of thinking, because it hurts too much, but I do sometimes wonder. What kind of life will this sort of thinking lead to? Nothing productive or worthwhile.

        I think what ultimately brings me back is the people. Not people that I know, but the legends, the great people in our history. No atheist I know or have heard of has ever inspired anything in me.

 

Why Ask Why?

                   What’s my problem? What is so terrible? It is never today that bothers me-the now. The problem is tomorrow. I live in constant dread of…nothing.  However, the dread is very real, almost tangible. I realize with sadness that I wasted many happy years in my life being sad. If only I had known. Am I doing the same thing now? Could this time in my life be a fond memory at some point? Ten years from now, will I think back with a smile at that time in my life when I did nothing but groan and watch Genie-bra commercials? It seems crazy now, but who’s to say? Of course, I will have to last another ten years to find out. No, I am not dying of anything. There is nothing physically wrong with me, but I do genuinely believe occasionally that I was not built to last. As it is-as my life is today-I am rotting. I am rotting in my self-pity. I lack something.

NO STORIES

What do I leave you with? A story, a moral, some witty last line, what? I don’t have anything else. I’m still not even sure I have a point. I needed to put this whole spiel to paper. And then I just wanted something to film. So I did. What’s next? Today was a normal day. Tomorrow will most likely be normal. What? Why? Why ask why? I don’t know. I feel like I should go get a litter of cats and learn how to play the violin, but that whole shtick is awfully tired. I’m tired.

The End. I guess.

-Walter Howard

 

 

Harlem Nocturne (opening excerpt)

By Walter Howard

FADE IN

INT. JOHN BURGERON’S OFFICE-EVENING 1925

A pretty, young black girl dressed in ragged clothing opens the door and stands in the center of its frame. The door is directly lined up so that it faces JOHN’S desk as soon as you enter. JOHN BURGERON, a black gentleman about 40 years old, sits upright behind the desk in high-priced clothing of the day: double-breasted vest and fedora.

JOHN

(voice over)

It seems like every other night, she walks in. Right through the door of my office and into my life.

THE GIRL walks over to JOHN. As his voice over continues, she moves over behind his desk until she stands beside him. He turns towards her.

JOHN

(voice over continued)

Pretty little thing too. The kind of face you can dedicate time to, and a body to occupy a man’s mind through the waning hours. Her mouth betrays a decent soul, but her eyes reveal it. All my eyes reveal is a half a lifetime of bad egg. I’ve tried to change. My whole life, I’ve tried. Forty years in and a world of change in circumstance, but no change in me.

THE GIRL gets on her knees facing JOHN, and removes his socks and shoes. She begins kissing his feet with her head down.

JOHN

(voice over continued)

I should have been the one to help her. Maybe I still can. Maybe she can help me.

JOHN lifts her head gently and sees tears flowing from her eyes down her face as the opening narration concludes. Her scattered mascara is frightening and along with the film’s score changes the dream from a fantasy to a subtle nightmare.

OPENING CREDITS

A knock interrupts the credits and brings the previous setting back into play. JOHN snaps awake sitting behind his desk. Instead of a pretty young black girl, JOHN finds an attractive older black woman has entered in an elegant evening gown. The woman, through wealth and attention, has maintained her good looks, and keeps them on display. She stands just inside the door’s frame just as the young black girl did.

WOMAN

Still dreaming John?

JOHN considers.

WOMAN

I thought perhaps you would have outgrown that aspect of yourself.

JOHN

I’ve tried.

WOMAN

No sense in teasing you about it. Teasing you was always my mistake. They used to say God gave you an extra brain where your sense of humor was supposed to be.

JOHN

That was you. You used to say it.

THE WOMAN smiles.

WOMAN

Can I come in, John?

JOHN

Then you really are there? I wonder. As you say, my mind runs away with me at times.

THE WOMAN strides to the desk and sits across from him.

WOMAN

Pinch yourself.

She smiles again.

JOHN

I can’t imagine what kind of trouble you must be in to be here right now.

WOMAN

I’ll confess to needing your help, but I did hope that maybe we could pick up some of where we left off.

JOHN

Pick up the pieces, you mean? No. Have you forgotten? I’ve seen you desperate before. I know it’s been a while, but it was the last time I saw you. It seems I’m only worth seeing when you’re desperate. As for where we left off, that’s not any place I plan to be again.

WOMAN

Don’t be like that.

JOHN

It’s like that. 15 years it’s like that.

WOMAN

It’s not for my sake that I’m here. It’s about Celia.

JOHN stills.

JOHN

Celia.

WOMAN

Celia, John. She’s run away. To tell the truth, we’d been heading towards it for some time now. She’d taken up with a man, a Cedric Timmons. A grown man.

JOHN

She’s stuck on him, and you disapprove.

WOMAN

Don’t you?

JOHN looks down.

WOMAN

He’s too old for her. Celia’s still a young girl in the ways that count.

JOHN

What does that mean? What ways?

WOMAN

Ways that count with boys.

JOHN

And he’s changed that? This Cedric Timmons.

WOMAN

No.

JOHN

You’re sure.

WOMAN

She’s the same girl she’s always been. All sweetness. Mind full of Prince Charmings. I’ve done everything a mother can to keep it that way. She thinks he’s going to marry her.

JOHN

I don’t enjoy being the naive one, but what makes us sure he’s not going to marry her?

WOMAN

Experience.

JOHN

Ah, that’s right. And now Celia’s run away. Possibly to elope. She is old enough for an unlawful wedding.

WOMAN

How can you joke about this?

JOHN

What else am I supposed to do? I don’t know her, and let’s not forget whose fault that is.

WOMAN

I don’t blame you for being angry with me. Hold the whole world against me if it makes you feel better, but I promised you I would take care of that girl, and I have to this point. Without any real help from anybody. It seems I’ve gone as far as I can by myself. I’m afraid.

JOHN

Afraid? I can understand worried, but why afraid?

WOMAN

I don’t like the way we left off. We were both angry and not ourselves. The maid found this after we untangled.

Places a note on the desk. JOHN reads it.

WOMAN

Now I hear she’s out galavanting here in Harlem with my car. After all I did to make sure she’d never have to set foot in this part of town.

JOHN

There are worse places than Harlem.

WOMAN

Not to me.

JOHN

Why not have the police fetch her?

WOMAN

So you agree with my husband?

JOHN

Apparently. Unfortunately.

WOMAN

He thinks it all a silly game. Something cooked up by Celia for attention. But what if it’s not? And what if it is? Should we just leave her. I want my girl back, and police would only make it worse. Dragging her away like some criminal. How awful. She’d never forgive me.

JOHN

Your husband, Clive Aubrey, he’s a man of means. Surely he has one or two or twelve guys with better reputations than me that can bring Celia back to you.

MRS. AUBREY

What do you know about my husband?

JOHN

I know that he’s as rich as he is fat. That he’s fat as hell. I know that he’s never lent a bead of sweat to this Earth as long as he’s been alive. That he’s been living off retirement since birth, thanks to a railroad tycoon dad. That he’s younger than me.

MRS. AUBREY

A lot of people are younger than you.

JOHN

That he has a black wife, and a black daughter, which makes him the talk of the town.

MRS. AUBREY

Wow.

JOHN

So why me?

MRS. AUBREY

I don’t suppose I have any right to be mad that you would even ask that?

JOHN

You don’t. So answer. Are you looking for a discount? Am I expected to do this one for old times sake?

MRS. AUBREY

In spite of old times. For Celia’s sake. Some things should stay within the family.

MRS. AUBREY pulls an envelope of money from her purse and passes it to JOHN. He opens it and sees his salary from the past few years combined tucked in neatly.

MRS. AUBREY

Bring her back, John. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Besides you.

Heaven and Hell (an excerpt)

Inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low (1963)

HEAVEN AND HELL

BY W.L HOWARD

 

Cast of Characters

JOHN ORLAND BRYAR, a self-made black man runs a small shoe

business

LINDA, his wife, balances her career with being a mother

JAMES, his first son, 25, resents the attention his younger

brother receives

JUNIOR, his ten-year-old son, excels in school and sports

DETECTIVE HARRIS WILCOX, a cynical working man, he just wants

to do his job

NARRATOR/VOICE, a dual figure, he represents a real force in the

Bryars’ lives.

ACT 1

The Curtain remains down.

NARRATOR

It was a normal Monday for the Bryar family; made up of John, the patriarch, Linda, his high-minded, strong willed wife, Junior (age ten), their pride and joy who excels in all things, and their other, much older son James. John managed his shop, the name of which is unimportant, James co-managed the shop, his responsibilities felt unimportant, Linda presided over a small private elementary school, the name of which is unimportant, and Junior continued being at the top of his 5th grade class, his classmates, of course, being unimportant. Tuesday went much the same. Wednesday offered a slight twist in that they finally went to Wednesday church like they always mean to. Thursday, was just like every Thursday except Junior prayed a little longer than usual because he had a big test that day. Friday John had a meeting with a Mr. Korvell, a big-time property owner looking to buyout an entire block to turn it into a strip mall, John’s little shoe store being in the way. James was also there. Saturday, they volunteered at a soup kitchen. Sunday, church, then football. These are good people. A blessed family. A praying family. Strain now and you can hear them praying yesterday morning.

(Four prayers can be heard behind the curtain. John’s first, then Linda’s, Junior, and finally James. Their prayers overlap.)

These were the type of banal, uneventful days that one so easily takes for granted. As their story progresses, they will look back on these days with longing. Because yesterday was only partly ordinary. That is, only three-fourths of yesterday went as planned. Because Junior didn’t come home and John came home late. Yesterday, the nice world the Bryars were dwelling in was shattered. When John woke up this morning, it was Tuesday, and his son had been missing for 16 hours.

SCENE 2

(John and Wilcox stand in the guest restroom having a private conversation)

WILCOX

Mr. Bryar, we wanted to be square with one another.

JOHN

Yes.

WILCOX

And you feel you’ve been square?

JOHN

I do.

WILCOX

I’m sorry, but that can’t be.

JOHN

Detective, you tell me where I’ve been false, and maybe I can explain.

WILCOX

Why were you late coming home?

JOHN

I’m not a machine. I’m mostly on time, but you still can’t set your watch by me.

WILCOX

Five hours late?

JOHN

We went over this.

WILCOX

Yes, and I’m sorry, but you lied.

JOHN

What does this have to do with my son?

WILCOX

Maybe nothing. Probably nothing, but I can’t know for sure until you’ve told me the truth.

JOHN

The truth has nothing to do with what’s happened.

WILCOX

You generally run your shop from opening to about Six p.m. Correct? You got home at 11. Your wife had already called us. We were here waiting for you. She, nor anyone else had an idea where you were.

JOHN

I’ve told you.

WILCOX

Once you leave your shop at six, your son, James takes care of things until closing. It’s true your son wasn’t in the shop that day. We verified that.

JOHN

He was talking with the local big-shots. They want to buy us out.

WILCOX

So you stayed on and worked late, but your employee, a young kid named Preston said you actually left earlier than usual and you trusted him to close shop.

JOHN

What exactly do I owe you. I don’t owe you this. It has nothing to do with what’s happened.

WILCOX

You’re sure.

JOHN

Completely.

WILCOX

If you were home with your wife would you have called the cops?

JOHN

I don’t know. I would have been scared.

WILCOX

But would you have called us?

JOHN

Of course. Do you think I’m hiding my son?

WILCOX

On the day your son goes missing, you come home late, which your wife says has never happened before. That’s odd. Out of respect, I’m asking you straight, instead of leaving it to my own imagination, what possible correlation there could be.

JOHN

I’m telling you straight, none.

WILCOX

In the brief period that I’ve known you, you have been damn sure about a lot of things; a damn sight surer than I could ever be, about things out of your jurisdiction.

JOHN

That’s not true. There’s so much that I don’t know. That’s become abundantly clear these past  several hours, but this isn’t one of those things. This is my life. This is about my small life apart from Linda and my two sons. They take up ninety-nine percent of my life and this is about my one percent. I’m the only one with jurisdiction there.

WILCOX

Now, you see Mr. Bryar, that’s some mighty provocative stuff. You are creating more questions than answers. We are two men standing in a restroom, I had hoped with our defenses down, wanting to be square with one another, doing everything right and possible to find your son. There’s no need for this-I won’t talk without my lawyer present-attitude you’re assuming. I’m not out to get you John, and I am getting familiar, because John, we’ve got ourselves a good-old-fashioned mystery brewing with the highest most precious stakes imaginable. You are not helping the puzzle by hiding the pieces. Is it your wife? She’s not here. She can’t hear us, I’m pretty sure.

JOHN

No it’s not my wife. What’s that meant to suggest? ‘‘Is it my wife?’’

WILCOX

I don’t quite know what I’m suggesting, only you’re leading me to some very basic assumptions; the way you’re talking. What I’m inclined to believe is none of my business, but there is a scenario, not as fantastic a notion as it at first seems.

JOHN

It being.

WILCOX

Organized crime.

JOHN

What?

WILCOX

Organized crime.

JOHN

Is that supposed to be some big revelation?

WILCOX

There are no small revelations and I said a scenario.

JOHN

Organized crime?

WILCOX

Organized crime exists.

JOHN

So what it exists?

WILCOX

Have you ever had any dealings, legitimate, less than, or elsewhise with potentially left of legit organizations? Superficial as they might have been.

JOHN

No.

WILCOX

You are a rather affluent businessman.

JOHN

Absolutely not.

WILCOX

Think John.

JOHN

I don’t need to think. This is ridiculous. I own a small shoe store.

WILCOX

There’s no need to be so absolute and indignant about it. Odds are Mother Theresa herself bought bad curry once from a shady vendor.

JOHN

I’m sure.

WILCOX

Where you claimed you were, what caused you to come home five plus hours later than usual, we know just isn’t so.

JOHN

So what.

WILCOX

So where were you? Who’d you meet with?

JOHN

Nobody.

WILCOX

Nobody’s an alias out of The Odyssey. Who’d you meet with?

JOHN

Nobody.

WILCOX

Maybe you aren’t but I am working way too awfully hard to be going in circles.

JOHN

That’s the truth. Nobody.

WILCOX

How about the whole truth?

JOHN

The whole truth? It’s not much longer. I just drove.

WILCOX

Drove where?

JOHN

Nowhere. Anywhere.

WILCOX

I don’t follow.

JOHN

I didn’t want to go home. I’d never felt that before.

WILCOX

You had something else you wanted to do?

JOHN

Listen to me. Really listen to what I’m saying. I didn’t want to go home.

WILCOX

Had you and Linda some kind of row?

JOHN

No.

WILCOX

I’m not tracking.

JOHN

I drove home, down Henrietta Street, past the fueling station, same as every Monday. Same as always. Only all of a sudden I started reaching for my neck. For my tie. I wear a tie to work. It felt like a noose. And I reached my house, and I slowed down, and my tie got tighter. Then I looked at my fuel gauge, and I kept on driving. For five hours, I kept on driving. Felt like a holiday.

WILCOX

I see.

JOHN

Do you?

WILCOX

Sure, I’ve worn a few nooses through the years.

JOHN

You have kids?

WILCOX

One girl. Full-grown lady now. Doesn’t want much to do with me. Lives out in hippie Oregon. I don’t understand her.

JOHN

What would you do to get her back?

WILCOX

I want to say anything, but all I’ve come up with is two or three lame phone calls a year.

JOHN

I meant if you were in my situation.

WILCOX

Something stupid probably, and it wouldn’t work. The best thing you can do is trust us, and not take matters into your own hands. This isn’t Ransom and you’re not Mel Gibson.

JOHN

I don’t know that movie.

WILCOX

Good. The best thing you can do is trust us.

JOHN

I’m trying.

Perfect Strangers

By Walter Howard 

FADE IN:

EXT. EMPTY STREET-NIGHT

A young black male, early twenties, walks the quiet humid streets of Pittsburgh in the summer. A car drives by prompting him to stick a thumb up in request. The car drives on. After a good deal more walking, another car approaches. His thumb goes up, and this time his request incites a hesitant stop from a gorgeous luxury vehicle. The passenger door swings open in front of him, and he, in turn, hesitates before entering. He looks at his benefactor; a middle-aged white male-perfectly groomed and wearing glasses meant to guarantee intellect. The car moves.

WHITE STRANGER

I’ve never done this before. Loathe to admit, I haven’t always been so concerned with my fellow man.

BLACK STRANGER

What made you start with me?

WHITE STRANGER

I’d like to say a renewal of faith, perhaps even a change of heart, but those notions don’t often factor in to real world character. I picked you up-better put- I decided to stop, out of curiosity.

BLACK STRANGER

All the same to me, thanks.

WHITE STRANGER

You are welcome. Is there somewhere I’m taking you?

BLACK STRANGER

Nowhere specific. I’d be grateful to travel with you for as long and far as you’ll have me.

WHITE STRANGER

Simply looking to get away, hmmm?

BLACK STRANGER

That’s putting it plainly, yessir.

WHITE STRANGER

Been there. I might not look it, but I have.

BLACK STRANGER

You seem to have arrived at something. This is a nice car you’re drivin’.

WHITE STRANGER

You noticed? I’ve had my share of success.

BLACK STRANGER

It’s almost inspiring.

WHITE STRANGER

Can I ask you something?

BLACK STRANGER

Shoot.

WHITE STRANGER

Do you know me?

BLACK STRANGER

How do you mean?

WHITE STRANGER

I mean, do you know who I am? Are you familiar with my work?

BLACK STRANGER stares sideways.

WHITE STRANGER

It’s not important.

BLACK STRANGER

Now that you mention it, you do look familiar.

WHITE STRANGER

I only ask because if you knew my name, I was prepared to ask you yours.

BLACK STRANGER

Karl Mallory.

WHITE STRANGER

Ralph Carter.

KARL

Now I’ve definitely heard that name before. Something in politics.

RALPH

Strike one.

KARL

What happens at strike three?

RALPH

I declare myself a novelist though there are those who could offer a rebuttal.

KARL

A novelist, huh? What kind of novels?

RALPH

The kind that everybody reads but no one really respects. Trifles. I writes murder stories.

KARL

The only books I really read.

RALPH

Could it be? A fan? Pinch me.

KARL

Do you not have many fans?

RALPH

I do actually. I don’t respect my fans. I look down upon them. What does that say about me that I look down upon my own fans?

KARL

You don’t respect yourself.

RALPH

Bingo.

KARL

I don’t know though. Those glasses alone probably cost more than my entire wardrobe. You must really be raking it in.

RALPH

You’re saying there’s a limit to how sorry you can feel for me?

KARL

Exactly. And I don’t mean to get personal.

RALPH

Duly noted. Continue.

KARL

But I would bet all the money I don’t have that you got a smoking hot wife.

RALPH

That I do.

KARL

What I imagine, the kinda woman I’m picturing-

RALPH

His eyes grow carnal.

KARL

The kinda woman I’m picturing is worth all the respect I have for myself.

RALPH

You would think. I did think.

KARL

Then?

RALPH

You get older. You get old.

KARL

How old are you?

RALPH

I turn fifty next month.

KARL

What starts to happen?

RALPH

What starts to happen is you get to thinking. You spend a lot of time solitary, in your house, and mine is a very big one.

KARL

What about your wife?

RALPH turns slightly towards KARL but is somewhere else entirely.

RALPH

You want to see something?

KARL

Sure.

RALPH pulls out his wallet and takes out a picture of his wife. He then hands a small photo to KARL.

RALPH

No let down?

KARL

None.

RALPH

Keep it.

KARL

What?

RALPH

It’s a present.

KARL

I don’t want to seem ungrateful and ask a weird question, but what do I do with it?

RALPH

More picturing. More imagining. That picture of her will be as useful to you, as the flesh and blood genuine article has been to me. Have your way with her. I have.

KARL pockets it.

KARL

Can I ask where we’re going?

RALPH

You said you didn’t care, remember?

KARL

That’s right. I did say that.

Silence.

KARL

I’ve always wondered how you writers come up with all that stuff.

RALPH

All that gouging out cat’s eyeballs with pen knives and hiding wives in walls stuff.

KARL

For example.

RALPH

Well I suppose there has to be a screw or two loose somewhere. Do you know, for all the kvetching and words of contempt, I’ve always wanted, prayed even, to write one great murder story. One that really shocks without being cheap.

KARL

People don’t shock easy.

RALPH

Everything’s so derivative now.

KARL

My uncle used to call his food great trash. He used to say, “I ain’t no gourmet.”

RALPH

A character. Not for a novel, but for an anecdote. If only I knew what you’re trying to express to me.

KARL

Serve it up and smile.

RALPH

Ah, in other words, if I can’t achieve what I aspire to, aspire to what I can achieve.

KARL

That sounds about right.

RALPH

Inspired thinking. You are coming along quite nicely Karl.

KARL

I get all kinds of ideas.

RALPH

And I’ll bet they just flow and flow and flow. Am I right? No self-doubt.

KARL

Are you working on anything now?

RALPH

I am.

KARL

Could it be your great murder story?

RALPH

Not likely. Better try for great trash.

KARL

Then maybe I could help.

RALPH

Maybe.

KARL

What’s it about?

RALPH

A man- a wealthy man-smothers his gold-digging, fornicating wife, then takes off with her in the trunk of his car.

KARL

Then what?

RALPH

I was thinking he might pick up a stranger hitchhiking as he drives.

KARL

Why would he do that?

RALPH

Maybe he needs someone to confess to. Someone harmless.

KARL

So he’s not Catholic, and he’s never heard of priests.

RALPH

You have a better idea?

KARL

Not yet. But let’s go ahead and say that the hitchhikers harmless-I’ll give you that although it’s no guarantee-what happens to the hitchhiker after the confession.

RALPH

That’s what I don’t know yet.

KARL

You don’t have a why. You don’t have an ending. And I’m not sold on how your guy kills his wife. What I like about this kind of shit is all the weird and interesting ways someone can kill another person.

RALPH

How would you do it?

KARL

Someway really grisly. I saw this one shit right, where the wife gets it to her with piano wire. Almost takes her head clean off. You want the reader to close his eyes for a few seconds, ya know?

RALPH

You’re wonderful. I ought to take you to the Q and A’s I do at old ladies’ book clubs.

KARL

And back to your hitchhiker. I don’t buy it. A killer would want to be alone.

RALPH

The whole interest for me was the unlikely bond of two strangers that forms when murder is involved.

KARL

If you’re hell-bent on it then you have to kill the hitchhiker after the confession.

RALPH

I’ve considered that. It’s a little obvious.

KARL

It’s a paperback seller right?

RALPH

Has some of my New Canaan snobbishness rubbed off? Yet and still, my readers are cheap, not easy.

KARL

What if the two meet before the murder? Or, what if the guy confesses but the stranger has a story himself that would keep him from really judging it.

RALPH

Coincidence much. He just happens to pick up a man with a past?

KARL

Coincidences happen. Otherwise there’d be no word for it. What if the rich dude paid the stranger to murder his wife? That’s murder and money. What if he paid the stranger to seduce his wife?

RALPH

The stranger wishes.

KARL

So that he can walk in and commit a crime of passion. Money, sex, murder.

A sudden violent crash. Both men are a little worse for wear but alright. They get out of the car to see what they’ve hit. A deer. They stare at its corpse.

RALPH

Let’s move him.

They carry it over to the side of the road.

RALPH

Have you ever done any writing Karl?

KARL

None sir.

RALPH

You seem to have a perfect mind for this. What if I asked you to spend the night at my house? What if I asked for your help?

KARL

What about your wife?

RALPH

What about her?

KARL

Won’t she mind?

RALPH

No need to worry about her.

They reenter the car and take off.

FADE OUT