“You appear slightly flustered,” screen-face wheezes. “Why?”
“It is surprise. I have not heard my own name since…before the gray.”
As the heavy front door pivots open he indicates with a jiggle of chins for me to enter and says, “Aahhh. Well. I am Lösch.” As if he thinks that should be sufficient explanation.
I enter. Through a dim entry hall and into a deep, comfortably lit, central room—I follow the smell of a wood-burning fire and the sound of his voice. “Food and drink in the kitchen behind you; even Surinam cherries.” He knows about my cherries?
“Our meeting is not in-person,” Lösch’s disembodied body image—dressed in an unflattering wrap—says from a couch near the fire. “Hologram,” he coughs, exhales deeply, and points at a series of mod-art looking rectangles, mounted near the ceiling.
“I wondered about the odds of you living in the same city as Joe Lorber,” I say.
When finished laughing, which is all breath, he giggles, “I’m not even on the same continent as your husk. But I do enjoy your subtle sense of humor, Roble. Coincidence. That’s how you operate? How you choose?”
“No such thing as coincidence,” I reply.
“No?” he asks. “Then tell me how the decision was made to mistake Radamir’s husk for a pizza.”
I stroll the room’s circumference. Floor-to-ceiling, the walls are covered with intricate honeycombs of woven material. A few area rugs in muted shades, which match the walls, cover the tile floor.
“Earlier today, I saw an advertisement for a place named: Vuil Bemiddelaar; when he referred to himself as a go-between…,” I shrug and let my sentence trail off.
“Two grimy go-between’s is coincidental.”
“A clear message,” I say. “Punctuated by total hearing loss. Regained upon soot-suit’s—Radimer’s—arrival in the gray.”
“Interesting interpretation. What are your thoughts on retaining the lifespan of your young-mister-lorber?”
Sitting in an overstuffed armchair facing the fireplace, I say, “It would depend.”
“On?” His voice whistles when it inflects at the end.
“I’ll put it like this: Radimer. His gray—right now—is either the total void of the newly returned or it is an improved gray.”
When Lösch’s hologram stands and walks until it disappears, his voice emanates from the wall he walked through. “I’ll answer your non-question-question with two questions. How many improvements have you made? And how many years ago did Roble die?”
“Surprised that knowledge is not in your possession.”
Returning into sight with a carafe and a plate, Lösch mumbles, “Humor me,” around a mouthful of chocolate cake.
“Over twenty improvements in eight centuries.”
“Who grants your requests?” His voice echoes out of the carafe.
Raising my eyebrows and shoulders slightly, I say, “I only know Zuella is its mouthpiece.”
“Tell me about her.”
“Whenever I think of her—no matter what—I recall blinding sunlight, shining off her beautiful, long, yellow hair. We were kids together. Still kids when she became my wife. Never anything I wouldn’t do for her.”
I consider my words—all the despicable things she asks of me. Is that why it uses her as a mouthpiece? “Aaah-anyway, I injured my hand and arm on a broken stake during the family harvest and returned home early. Because no hearth-fire smoke was visible and the shutters were closed, I left my mount in the orchard and found her with rounders. Using my ox-mallet, I bludgeoned the one with his back to the door and staved-in the other’s face as he got off her. She claimed they were mendicants. That they took her, after determining she was alone.
“But the lack of table-disarray or injuries—on her, as well as on the bodies—indicated no struggle occurred, so I accused her. We fought. And, as she should have done to rapists, she attacked me. After she reopened my arm, I cubit-clubbed her. She bit through my foresleeve before losing consciousness. I drowned her in the Zaragoza, where I sank all three bodies.”
“Ever bother you? Not knowing for sure?” Lösch asks.
“Until I died, yes—I called it plague, burned the house, and became a shipman—but not after.”
“I realized she became a husk that morning.”
As Lösch’s image nods (in an ‘I-understand’ manner) I stand and enter the kitchen where I fill plates with fruit, crackers, cheeses, butters, and meats from overstocked refrigerators and pantries. His voice, audible from the next room, asks, “Assuming a constant rate of improvements, describe your gray in ten-thousand years.”
On a hassock, back towards the fireplace-embers, I reply, “All my senses, time, unlimited space...”
“Presently?” He cuts me off.
“Timeless. Limited to a pier. There is a beach and nearby tree line. Birds. No color yet. I hear, and have gravity; but no sense of touch, smell, or taste."
“After mission accomplishment,” Lösch says. “If you have asked questions for every recovered sense—except the last—then, asking one specific question will stick you here. Of course, there’s something I’ll need, before I tell it to you.”
“According to Zuella, a question is an escape lever that returns me to my gray. If I died in this husk, for example, I would be condemned to Joe Lorber’s gray: the void.”
“Then why didn’t you return to your pier when you asked Robert if he was ready, after lunch today?”
Absentmindedly fiddling with piggyback dad’s gadget, my skin crawls. Shit.
“Ask two questions, you won’t go anywhere.”
I consider returning to the pier for an interminable amount of time without new sex-memories, then decide to take the chance. “Where can I get a pistol without engaging the focus of the law—since I may soon be concerned about Joe’s future?”
I listen to Lösch breathing and the fire pop. He points over his shoulder at a cabinet. Inside I find a loaded Heckler & Koch 9mm, which I pocket.
“What happens if I ask another question before my next sense-recovery?”
“Back to your wonderful pier, like Zuella said,” he replies.
After outlining my mission to him—as I understand it so far—Lösch details how the police can track piggyback dad’s phone and gadgets. So, as I finish snacking, I melt them. Lösch gives me replacements, which he explains how to use. Leaving, I say, “see you when my mission is over, Lösch.”
“Not if I see you first, Mister Coincidence,” he chuckles. His image winks out.
In the crisp, pre-dawn light, with tulips bordering the walks—it still looks like a jailhouse—I head for a turn out. The gadget's—V-Sat's—screen blips green as I call the car.
The Exotic Lover
45% partner focus, 47% aggressiveness, 55% adventurousness
You prefer your romance and love to wild and daring rather than typical
or boring, you would rather be pursued than do the pursuing and, when
it comes to physical love, you concentrate more on enjoying the
experience rather than worrying about your performance.
The Exotic Lover is a wonderful Lover Style, and conjures
images of the exotic, romantic hero out of a romance novel, or perhaps
a slightly dangerous and deadly sexy femme fatale from a noir mystery.
The Exotic Lover loves pleasure and is a treasure to date, though it
can be difficult to do so because they sometimes tend to be mysterious
and reluctant to commit.
In terms of physical love, the Exotic Lover can be quite
surprising, as they are often more exciting and adventurous than
predicted. Given a little freedom, and the right lover, the Exotic
Lover can be a delight in bed.
Best Compatibility can probably be found with:
The Liberated Lover (most of all) or the Devoted Lover, or the Romantic Lover.
An odd, smoke-like, cloud—dense and moving without wind—floats into view over the apparently abandoned, high-rise apartment building. Devoting very little attention to the pushing rush of people around me, I continue walking as the smoke congeals into a quasi-recognizable shape: a naked woman reclining...or...a big-eared dog.
I bump into a couple blocking the sidewalk, staring at the cloud drifting over the street. The thin one with a skull-tattoo carps about blind, idiot, tourists in French; the other clucks possessively and shushes. I squeeze around them. Skull-tattoo eyeballs me while mother hen’s body posture coddles and admonishes.
As I creep down the street at the clouds pace, it kaleidoscopes into a rainbow of foggy colors, effervesces, implodes, and morphs into a quasi-familiar: purple and pink canoe...or...chartreuse and lilac vagina. When it turns the corner at Gewijde Straat, (Dedicated Street) I make a Macy’s parade-float-connection and try to locate the guide vehicle. No way, traffic is too fast. I return my gaze. The cloud—quasi-shaped like a lime-green castle—displays: Three-nights, Overwinnings Herberg (Victory Hostel), 150 Euros. I wait at the intersection. The light changes. Crossing Dedicated Street, I examine the underbelly of the floating cloud-billboard.
No motor-sounds nor hint of movement emanate from above, and I see only a slice of sky between the illuminated billboard-sides. Shimmery gray-blue, and clearly shaped like a nude woman reclining, the cloud advertises a Cabaret nightclub Vuil Bemiddelaar.
The aroma of baking draws my attention away from the street and into a bright pedestrian area. Hungry...how could I forget! A multi-faceted blaze of sharp light—from the exterior and interior surfaces of a chrome block—demands closer inspection. Small cubicles, like the spaces between the toes of the Sphinx, are inset around the circumference of a mirrored building.
I pass food-stalls reminiscent of midway-booths from a long ago fair in America. Reflections of all shadows and movements, including mine, bounce off everything (like an outdoor, hall-of-mirrors) and make me forget my hunger. Almost. I stop in front of a deep cubicle selling pizza and beer. Once inside, I realize the menu-board displays American pizza and German beer. I’ve died and gone to heaven...chuckling at my own irony, I order. Taking a Schneiderweisse to a side table and sipping, I wait for my soft-crust Chicago-style pie to cook.
A man sits across from me—sideways. I look around.
I see four empty, nearby, tables—and sigh. A meat-gazer. In an empty wall of urinals, this guy probably chooses the adjacent pisser.
“Only been back short time?” he asks in accented-English. Yugoslavian is probably his native tongue. His face muscles, especially those having to do with his lower lip, have an interesting life of their own. He says, “noticed you outside the Internationaal Instituut,” and wrinkles his chin.
I swallow a slice from my bottled-loaf-of-wheat-bread and say, “we have never met.”
He puckers. “True. Ask me something. Anything.”
I shake my head. Does he know?
He stands. Grimaces. Leaves.
I finish my unfiltered wheat and buy another. Returning to my seat, I find an English language newspaper on meat-gazer’s chair. The texture feels like a magazine. Heavy. There are no advertisements or photographs—just blank spaces.
Business: ...infoport investigators divulge the tracking system was corrupted..., ...sat-sys compromised by moon-meteorite debris..., ...without the cooperation of the Web of Internets Controllore-Globalè...; Local: ...evidence links spree to shuttle-rail conductor..., ...mother consumes her aborted...; and International: ...Yellowstone toll suspected to level at seventeen-million..., ...Italy and Romania pass mandatory branding...
Che-ohss is busy.
My pizza arrives. I eat, drink, and read—savoring it all.
With slicer-disc and pie-server, I cut and fold my pizza slices. I eat them like an American—point first, like a sandwich. Others stare, while eating theirs with silverware—crust first. Grease dribbles down my hand to the cuff of my sleeve. I lick it off.
Another man, coal-miner-dirty, slips into meat gazer's seat. Fucking Central Station! He is—head to toe—wearing a...a soot suit. Oh. I have to use that. In French, the beers help me enunciate, “Your soot suit est remarquable. Sing Chim-Chimney.”
In English he says, “Did you return, assimilate, and begin your mission recently?”
Thoughts bumper-car around in my head. How could meat-gazer and soot suit be aware? Mind readers? ...Joe’s psychology class last spring: technological advances in brain wave interpretation permit a form of telepathy... ...needs a huge machine... ...like... ...this building... ...Jesus-youblitheringidiot-Christ! I leave.
Soot suit follows. “Since you’ve only one question left, or risk premature departure, I’ll explain,” he says.
Slowing my pace—wrong about the no-questions rule, could just be a fancy trick—I turn. His eyes are so clean.
He continues, “One named Lösch discovered how to stick. Not return. If you choose, you can have your husk’s lifespan.”
Squinting—not from headlights, overhead streetlights, or storefront glare, but because Joe’s muscle-memory squints instead of scowls—I say, “Tell me how.”
“Only Lösch can. It involves a certain...deception. I’m still bound by that rule.”
“Your 'one-question-left' statement confuses me.”
He shrugs. “You retrieved two senses, haven’t asked two... Oh, how do I know? ...Sorry, I’m out of practice conversing with interrogatory-incapable ones. It’s like an aura? A visual record of our life force; way over this one’s head,” he laughs. “Interested in meeting Lösch?”
I nod. We walk away from lights, through dim alleyways, and into darker passages.
We enter an incongruous park. Through the trees, spotlights illuminate a windowless building. The swishes of our steps fade away. As I say, “looks like a jail,” my voice becomes distant.
Soot Suit turns, squeaks, “My go-between duties are complete. Announce yourself on the…” He indicates, still talking.
I remove the slicer-disk from a pocket and point him away from me before opening a mouth-sized smile in his grimy neck. I let him fall.
The clean-shaven head on the screen adjacent the jailhouse door peers around its own flesh. It’s breathy voice says, “Roble. Can you hear?”
“Yes,” I reply.
I was recently told my portrait made me look angry-sad. What portrait do you mean? The one on your site. Oh...the impressionistic digital rendering? Yep. *blink* What the? So, you think it looks angry and sad? Kinda, yah.
So I looked at it. Closely. I really examined it (since I haven't looked at it with more than .000238th of a glimpse in seven months). I think it is, if anything, a blurry-rainbow sticking out it's tongue surrounded by leaves with lavender eyeshadow over one eye. But. That's just me. Maybe I'm too forest-from-the-trees, here. So I took my self over to The Perception Laboratory's Face Transformer where I attempted to become happier and reduce my desire to kick my cat. He currently pisses in my presence, and not in a talking with the bathroom door open, kind of way; more in a squat next to me on the bed...did I get any of that on ya?...Shucks, I'll do better next time, kind of way.
Don't I look happy?
The vet tells me his OC disorder has become aggrevated by any number of events (real and, possibly, imagined) and I am to consider kitty Prozac.
SF Fans, this book is widely available in paperback.
A unique Spencer novel, in that, this entire story Spencer plays second-fiddle to Hawk's lead. Although filled to the brim with dozens of Parkeresque-dialogue chapters (normally fun, witty, and capable of moving the plot quite effectively), here, the banter between all the familiar characters sounds a bit lackluster, bordering-on-unimaginative in a lot of places, and tired-dull in more than a few others. I'm afraid Spencer is getting tired of Parker or vice versa.
Spencer Fans: this book is available at used bookstores. For those unfamiliar with the series, pick up a copy at your local library.
Domino (2005) directed by Tony Scott (Man on Fire, 2004); starring Keira Knightley and Mickey Rourke: Snaprating=Keeper, PROBLEM theme (Character sub-theme). Fans of Scott's colorful, quick-cut, intense information overload films, will love this edgy, hard-pounding blur. (Of special note are the numerous, wonderful, minor-characters and odd sub-plots).
I carefully examine my surroundings. An exoskeleton of metal, wood, and plastic obscures most building façades. The corner shop window advertises only 2.7 Euros for a cubic-meter of purified air! Tire-noise—the constant zip and hum of the vehicle river—is deadened by the clatter and brawl of people coursing along the cave-like scaffolding-protected sidewalks. None look up; everyone appears uncomfortable strolling under the construction, as if forced to constantly walk under a ladder. On the opposite sidewalk, near the curb, a naked woman stands with her back toward me. I watch. Nobody glances at her. I cross the street.
Because her near-nudity catches little attention, (patches of red material almost covers breasts and pubis) I eliminate mannequin and performance artist from the youngish, blondish, largish, woman’s repertoire. Hoping for prostitute (but suspecting nut-job) I shoulder close enough to count goose bumps. “Modeling the emperor’s new clothes?” I ask.
“Five an hour. I’m supposed to see the brand.” She says in Flemish, never raising her eyes.
With piggyback-dad’s money I have enough. I agree. The words are long and vowel-heavy, but I try: let us be away, in her language. Still never looking up, she gestures for me to follow.
She leads down a tight drainage alley between buildings. As youngish-blondish picks up a satchel from a stack of detritus her buttocks-skin stretches, legs part slightly; a tweak of grimy daylight invades her shadows, and...Yes! I glimpse rear pudenda profile.
Without wobbling, youngish-blondish dons a faded pair of once-red, socks-with-soles from the satchel, catches my head tipped—staring, and mutters at the ground, “Nothing eaten. May I obtain small food-money?”
As my bills vanish into the satchel, she smiles at her feet and we resume follow-the-leader through the entrails of Brussels. The thrill of unasked questions dominates my thoughts.
Youngish-blondish gestures wait in the direction of my knees before slipping around a vendor’s tarp. I smell fresh-cut greens. No people approach. Under the edge of the bright-yellow plastic tarp, a scruffy beige-on-black beagle’s eyes broadcast both sadness and contentment at me. I fall in behind youngish-blondish when she exits. After another hundred meters, Ish stops and speaks into an intercom.
We are buzzed into a mini-courtyard where an unkempt woman—who must only bathe in shrewdness—says, “Sie zahlen mich wieviele Stunden lang?” I pause. What exactly does Madame Shrewd mean by: They pay me how many granting long?
They converse briefly. Madame Shrewd—certain “the tourist” can afford double—scolds Ish for quoting standard rates, and insists she obtain multiple hours. Her last words cause me further pause: ask for fifty-a-day.
“How many hours?” Ish asks the concrete steps. “There’s a daily rate.”
“Two,” I say as Ish translates. Watching Madame Shrewd’s eyes to determine if she expects a thousand, I hand her a ten. She turns and retreats inside.
We enter a side door. Flabbergasted, I lean against a pile of pillows on a white divan. Ish sets out some cherries and cold drinks from her satchel.
Through chipmunk-cheeks she mutters, “have some.” (I assume. Every Flemish-vowel tripped on the way out.)
I nibble. The fruit is bland and gritty.
Ish glances at my face—for the first time?—grins a little, swallows and whispers, “tell me what’s bothering you.”
“I expected a higher price for sex.”
“It’s the programmed-rate.”
“I paid more...in the past.”
Locking our eyes together, “others cheat,” she shrugs. “My conscience won’t allow me to profit from my service-performance-for-mankind.”
Fucking no-questions rule! Quietly, I say, “I am skeptical of altruism—I guess.”
“Most of us branded are,” she responds. “Where’s yours at?”
Zuella’s information-payload finally comes in handy! Replying, I don’t know where, or if, this body is branded, may fulfill the no-lying rule but would definitely get me kicked from this studio with a dry dick. Instead—confidently—I say, “I am not branded.”
Uh-oh. Wrong answer.
The expression on Ish’s face, a mix of incomprehension and impatience, fades to concern as her eyebrows rise with a thought. She cradles my manicured right-hand, “Well. I’ve heard of suicide-by-the-virus. You’re my first. My manager will need to stamp your seven-hundred-and-eighty-four, twenty-four, thirty-three. She’ll charge more.”
“I don’t have a seven-hundred...umm, thirty-three.”
Stalling, I put three cherries in my mouth. I only taste saliva.
“Wait. You said you paid more before... Without a brand..? Where... Who..?”
I take a mouthful of caramel-colored soda-pop.
Ish resumes, “you don’t have an assisted-suicide registration form, but you...”
My tongue registers liquid and bubbles.
“Are you an Unbranded Virus-carrier?” she gasps.
“No,” I say, palming her lower mandible and cranium and torquing in one spin-snap (the term ‘topping’ came from this motion). Ish’s body spills our drinks.
Satchel over my shoulder, indigo sky overhead, and sweet, juicy cherries on my tongue, I stroll. I breathe. Think.
Desolate passages become occupied walkways that spill into crowded pedestrian-areas. At a street, brimming with loud people and vehicles, I conclude: government-subsidized prostitutes are reserved for those infected with a virus (the carriers of which are all branded) and assisted-suicide is legal.
An empty car drives past. I follow it with my eyes until it turns. I walk three blocks to where a drop-off and pick-up lane bends in front of a massive glass and stone building. People get out of cars, which drive away empty. Others wait for empty cars to arrive, get in, and drive away. I watch.
A gray-haired man exits the building, stands at the curb, removes an item from his pocket (like one of piggyback-dad’s gadgets), opens it cigarette-case-fashion, and pushes buttons. He waits. As do many others. Several smoke green cigarettes like Robert-not-Bob did, a few smoke blue cigarettes, which smell like boiling vinegar; gray-hair talks on a phone that fits in his ear. Eventually he steps off the curb in the direction of a silver car while pushing more buttons and departs.
An adjacent building catches my attention. Many lights are on, but no person or movement is visible through the open-curtained windows.
I will be non-hypertexting for an extended week in order to reset, rejuvenate, and research in a different state...literally and figuratively.
Until then, read the superlative blogs found in my 'applaudable' and 'standing ovational' sections. Currently, CASA DEL IONESCO (standing ovational) has my interest.
Or...delve into some of the sites I've pre-surfed. Presently, my favorite diverse diversion is: A SOFTER WORLD; I frequent another pre-surfer: BRYK MANTRA; the writing tool I use most often is: 100 WORDS; Blogging machinery I hope to use more often (if I get two more contributors) is: QUILL TING; the photos I examine most, are found at: PICTURES OF WALLS (the 'IKEA must burn' square); the artist I check on frequently is: HARGIE (the sepia inked circle-blob square); and the directory I use, to find new blogs to read, is: BOOMER BLOGS. Read you next week...
The Island (2005) directed by Michael Bay (Armageddon, 1998); starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson: Snaprating=WFD, CHARACTER theme (Problem sub-theme). A solid mix of Logan's Run and Bladerunner for SF fans, with more than a heaping portion of Torque for action fans.
Matando Cabos (2004) directed by Alejandro Lozano (Guzman Huerta, 2002); starring Tony Dalton and Joaquín Cosio: Snaprating=Cheaper, PROBLEM theme. Fans of low-budget films (like El Mariachi) will love this tribute to Snatch and Pulp Fiction (with nods to many others, like Clockwork Orange and Taxi Driver).
The Brothers Grimm (2005) directed by Terry Gilliam (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975); starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger: Snaprating=WFD, MILIEU theme (Problem sub-theme). Because it's difficult to measure Gilliam-as-writer against other directors, fans of his The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Time Bandits may enjoy his newly addled concoction.
Grizzly Man (2005) directed and narrated by Werner Herzog (Nosferatu the Vampyre, 1979); starring Timothy Treadwell and many wild animals: Snaprating=Cheaper, MILIEU theme. Wildlife documentary fans who liked The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill will be able to judge for themselves if the mentally challenged Mr. Treadwell (and his girlfriend) welcomed or deserved getting eaten alive.
The Constant Gardener (2005) directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God, 2002); starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz: Snaprating=Keeper, PROBLEM theme (secondary Milieu theme). Fans of suspenseful romantic mysteries will love this wonderfully directed, edited, and acted amalgamation of Tears of the Sun, Beyond Borders, and The Bourne Supremacy.
Four Brothers (2005) directed by John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood, 1991); starring Mark Wahlberg and Terrence Howard: Snaprating=WFT, PROBLEM theme. This is what happens when two mid-1960's westerns (The Sons of Katie Elder and El Dorado) get poorly re-tooled into current-day, icy winter, inner-city Detroit with dumbed-down dialogue, predictable plot, and awful acting.
The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005) directed by Judd Apatow (TV producer; big screen directorial debut); starring Steve Carell and Catherine Keener: Snaprating=WFC, CHARACTER theme. Surprisingly, Ben Stiller (the copyright holder of brunt-of-embarrassing-jokes-guy) isn't the lead in this rarely funny three-joke movie, which will soon be found on the same channel as Bad Santa and Road Trip.
Red Eye (2005) directed by Wes Craven (Scream, 1996); starring Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy: Snaprating=WFC, PROBLEM theme. This suspense-retread is too predictable because it borrows every key element from other films except one (fortunately it's the big one), the acting is average, and the script is weak.
Lord of War (2005) directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, 1997); starring Nicolas Cage and Bridget Moynahan: Snaprating=WFD, CHARACTER theme. This well-acted but ploddingly predictable Catch Me if You Can (with guns instead of checks) is heavy on message and, with the exception of a few special effects, light on interesting.
Just Like Heaven (2005) directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls, 2004); starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo: Snaprating=WFD, PROBLEM theme. Equal parts of Ghost, City of Angels, You've Got Mail, and any another 80's or 90's Meg Ryan film of your choosing; this cute, enjoyable, and smoothly edited flick is not just for chicks.
Junebug (2005) directed by Phil Morrison (big-screen full-length directorial debut); starring Amy Adams and Embeth Davidtz: Snaprating=Cheaper, RE-ORDER theme. Unlike coming-home films set around mandatory attendance rituals like Garden State and Monsoon Wedding, here, we slip back--quietly--into the blissful ignorance of a small-town and a not-so-close family in the deep-Southeastern US almost by mistake, and almost get stuck there.
Flightplan (2005) directed by Robert Schwentke (Tattoo, 2002); starring Jodie Foster and Peter Sarsgaard: Snaprating=WFD, PROBLEM theme. Even though much of the first two acts of this tightly written script were lifted, intact, from Hitchcock's A Lady Vanishes, it's still a well acted, closed-box, mystery/suspense film (better than the WFC: Executive Decision).
Everything Is Illuminated (2005) directed by Liev Schreiber (Directorial Debut; Actor The Manchurian Candidate, 2004); starring Elijah Wood and Eugene Hutz: Snaprating=Keeper, PROBLEM theme (Milieu secondary theme). With a Schultze Gets the Blues vibe, this story is quiet and simple, yet a very intelligent, touching, and humorous 'search for ancestral footprints and self-discovery'.
Serenity (2005) directed by Joss Whedon (Big Screen Directorial Debut; TV Director); starring Gina Torres, Nathan Fillion, and Adam Baldwin: Firefly Series-Fan Snaprating=Keeper, All others=Cheaper, PROBLEM theme (Milieu sub-theme). Although this Harry Potter of samurai space-westerns is not amazingly cutting edge it is a well-edited, tightly scripted, action-thriller, filled with plenty of chuckles and gasps.
Floating within a maelstrom of colorful, chattering, pedestrians, I face the sunlight blazing between two buildings and bask my upturned smile for almost two full minutes, while waiting at an intersection (time is actually back!). The light changes. We march. With the long shadows and my light jacket, it could be autumn.
That’s odd. Although I know Robert-not-Bob’s wife is Gail, and that there are 527 Euros and three credit cards in the wallet on my hip—I can’t remember the month, or what I’m carrying in my right pants pocket. It feels like a roll of quarters...only metal.
At the next light, a scream—above and behind me—causes me to turn: “Mine! Want the torch. GIMMeee.”
I envision a winged cat, in heat—with Shirley Temple’s voice—hovering over my shoulder. It's a small boy...piggybacking. Even though the child is writhing toward me, the man anchoring his ankles pretends not to notice, or hear. The boy is focused on the object from my pocket. The kid is right. It's a flashlight.
“DAD. Fuck! Want. Da. Damn. Torch!”
I catch Dad’s eye. Seemingly unfazed, he smirk-shrugs an apology.
Apparently, three-year-olds freely use expletives previously reserved for adults.
After turning down Twelfth Street, Robert-not-Bob says, “Should be able to get our booth, being’s-how it’s early.” Then he lights a grass-green cigarette.
His statement warrants a grunt, which is how I respond. The cigarette pinches my nasal cavities like forgotten mangos on the windowsill of an airtight pit-latrine. I sidle ahead. Upwind. The streets are full of quietly rushing, brightly colored vehicles; but there are none parked anywhere. I almost ask why, but hold my tongue. It’ll become obvious—or it won’t.
We arrive. The cracked-patched concrete ramp leading into the restaurant reminds me: nothing is permanent here. Nothing.
Before my eyes adjust, a gruff Portuguese accent from our right asks, “Your usuals?...guys?”
Robert-not-Bob replies—while weaving through the half-full dining area toward windows at the back—“Yeah. ‘course, Ray.”
We sit. A powdery elf-of-a-girl, wearing a body apron and a multicolored hair-hat (I presume), stumbles on approach, and catches the edge of our table. Condiments knock around. I say, “Whoa there Jolly, you needta practice that walking stuff.” A flood of information injects; where was that log-jammed? Momentarily mesmerized, I focus on the nape of Holly’s (her name) neck and her languid perfume, as earring-glintz blinds me.
“If someone were not always the flirt-chatter’er, and instead served my food, I could be making the eats.” Ray slides full plates and glasses in front of us, squints his eyes at Holly and whirls away. His air-wake arrives. My saliva floods.
Holly and Robert-not-Bob steadily converse—oblivious of Ray, the sandwiches, and my immediate, full frontal assault on the most phantasmagoric roast beef on the planet.
“Wow. When is the last time you ate?” Holly asks.
I continue savoring, waiting for Robert-not-Bob’s normal interjection; but he’s staring too. “Last time I was here.” I say around some potato salad.
How they understand here is up to them.
“What? Dinner Wednesday? Getthefuckouttatown.” Robert-not-Bob bats a fly off his turkey-pork and looks at Holly for support.
Shrugging, I rattle our empty glasses, chew, and swallow. Holly walks. We—naturally—watch her ass. Already downing two huge glasses of tea seems to be answer enough. Robert eats. I concentrate on the clamoring of customers, the wondrous feeling of the fly crawling on my hands, and the taste and texture memory of the food. She returns with two full glasses, a big slice of tiramisù, and a wink.
Robert-not-Bob mutters, “She wants you.”
I look at him askance. I know. Joe doesn’t. Didn’t. Still doesn’t, I guess (how much he will retain is unknown, to me at least).
“To eat her pie.” His smirk wrinkles his freckled forehead and cheeks, causing a crumb to fall from his sparse, nearly-invisible, mustache.
We are boys, not men yet, so—standing—I reply like he expects: “Don’t lick any of my cream off her pie, while I’m draining away your tea.”
The pisser is beyond foul and around the corner from disgusting; I love the decades of graffiti layers and the vapid taste of the air.
The contrast tickles my curiosity. Feces, urine, vomit, and blood coat the odorless room; and—when I inhale through my mouth—I taste no masking chemicals.
While reading the wall above the urinal, the door ratchets. Someone barks: “Zikes. Someone spontaneously-fuckin-explode in this dubya cee?” Then asks, “torch boy?”
I glance...it’s piggybacking dad...riderless. I turn.
He looks at the flashlight in my palm and says. “Small world!”
Striking just above his axis vertebra, I crunch the occipital bone. His bowels vacate—now there’s odor. I empty pockets and prop the corpse in the handicapped stall. The room exhales.
As I wash my hands, acrid and vile scents return with a flourish. The door ratchets when I leave.
Robert-not-Bob says, “I had to try a bite. Make sure it wasn’t poisoned.”
Smiling, I finish the remaining half. It tastes like a summer vacation in the Italian mountains melting on my tongue. “Ready?” I drop more money.
“In a tip-included country, you’d think she’d marry us with all the extra Euros (he pronounces ‘Ears’) we leave her.”
Everything blurs...Already?..but, it’s only the door-glass. “That’d make you a bigamist,” I say.
“Already big mist-er,” he chuckles and grabs himself.
At the corner, I agree to meet Robert-not-Bob tomorrow morning and hail a taxi. Once inside, I tell the driver to take me to the central shopping district. The vibrant colors on the people, cars, and buildings distract me from sorting through piggyback-dad’s shite.
As soon as I get out, I dump everything except the Ears, a phone smaller than Robert-not-Bob’s, a tiny notebook and pen, and two gizmos I can’t identify. Although Joe would be headed to class now, I begin my search for the next most important things (after food, that is)...and they are orgasms—of course.