Saturday, June 18, 2011
#SampleSunday: "One day, this hunk – his IQ would have had to go in parentheses – says to me, ‘Our script needs a rewrite.’"
Set-up: April is a grossly overweight copywriter for a large department store. In this scene she has gone to the window display manager, Don, to get copy for the March windows featuring Jason Salowitz’s budget spring suits. (Excerpt from my novel Nothing To Lose $0.99)
Don worked silently, pinning suits on two mannequins. How well his clothes fit. How tastefully he dressed. This morning, he had on a putty shirt with matching pants in cotton hopsack, slightly gathered in front, European style. His tie was lemon yellow organdy lined with silk. She looked down at her own drawstring pants of heavy cotton. They gathered between her legs, making the inner seam shorter than the outer ones. She had on her black, low-heeled shoes that needed re-heeling.
He watched her looking at herself. “This little number comes in size 20 if you change your mind.” He held up the pink and chartreuse suit.
“What are we playing? Get the writer?”
He folded his arms across his chest. “Is there any way of bringing up your weight so it doesn’t make you angry?”
“So we can’t ever talk about it?”
“What is there to talk about?”
“What is there to talk about?” He walked around in a circle, a deer stunned by automobile lights. “To begin with, there are fifty or sixty pounds to talk about. Each one weighs as much as” – he picked up a mannequin’s foot – “this. Feel it. Sixty of those all over your body. Think of what that’s doing to your liver and your pancreas.”
She knew he knew absolutely nothing about her liver or her pancreas. He was trying to scare her. Well, she could scare him by pointing out what drugs did to his system, not to mention his brain. “Then, of course,” he continued, there’s your l-i-f-e. Are you satisfied to live out your days without s-e-x-u-a-l attention?” She flinched but said nothing. “Thirdly, there is the waaaste of it.” He wrenched three syllables out of the word waste. “The waste of your face.”
“Such a pretty face,” she mimicked.
“Joke about it if you want to, but it isn’t funny. There’s nothing that’s harder to come by than beauty. There was a survey and they found out that beautiful people were considered more honest, more reliable, more intelligent, than the ugly ones. It was in The New York Times. The Science Section. It said beautiful people were hired faster, married younger, made more money at their jobs and were treated better by salespeople and waiters.”
“Unless you’re the pretty one, which you are.” He rubbed her cheek. “Gorgeous skin.”
“You just like it because it’s white.” It gave her a little fearful thrill to joke about his being black.
“Hmmm. You think? Your skin is not found every day of the week.” She was amazed how this pleased her. She wanted him to do ten minutes on her skin.
“Yeah?” She looked at herself in a nearby mirror. “You really think so?” Then, seeing she was playing right into his hands, she took up her pencil. “Did the article say beautiful people also got their hearts broken?”
“Huh? You think you have the franchise on heartbreak?” He said it in a way that invited questions. “You’re not the first or the last to have someone walk right over your body.”
“Yes, of course, me. There’ll never be anything like that again. Well…I’m too old now anyway. Those things only count when you don’t have line one, or sag one. You know what I mean?”
“No. You look perfect to me.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Perfect? No. Far from it. Well-groomed? Yes. Exercised? Yes. But perfect? No. Things happen to the old bod.” He was silent a moment. “He, on the other hand, was perfection. The first time I saw him my heart skipped a beat. Literally. I was having an irregular heartbeat. I thought I was going to die right there. It was awful. I told him everything. I said, ‘I can’t walk out of here and out of your life. I’m wildly interested in you’ – that was putting it mildly. ‘Do whatever you want because I’m not leaving your side.’ You know what he said to me? You want to know what Lucrezia Borgia said to me?”
“He said, and I quote: ‘Aw, shaddup,’ with this bored wave of the hand. He sounded like a young Bette Davis. ‘Aw shaddup’”
“And then what happened?”
“I stayed, of course. All he had was a face but that was enough. One look and you gave him anything he wanted. His face was his brain.”
“And you loved him?”
“Loved him?” He looked at her as if she were stupid. “He was my life. I would have breathed for him if he’d asked. Let me tell you, he wasn’t beyond it. I fed him. I, who had never lifted a spatula in my life, learned to use a whisk to beat the eggs for his omelets and a mallet to tenderize his veal. And this vicious little chopper in a jar to mince the parsley that decorated his plate. Many nights, he would look at me over a candlelight dinner and whisper: ‘Whaddja put in this stuff anyway…I can’t tell whad I’m eating.’
“One day, this hunk – his IQ would have had to go in parentheses – says to me, ‘Our script needs a rewrite,’ Our script? I said. What script? ‘Our script. You know, it’s a metaphor for our life. Our relationship.’ I played for time. Something was fishy. Someone had put all these new words in his mouth. Someone from California. It sounded definitely like West Coast crapola.
“You think our relationship needs a rewrite? ‘That’s right.’ He was tugging at his Eisenhower jacket and buffing his nails on his pants. In what way? ‘Oh, in every way. I want to go to California.’ I was just getting started in the fashion business. I couldn’t just pick up and go. He said, ‘It’s either your career or me.’ I thought he was joking so I said, If that’s the way you want it, ta,ta.”
“He left.” Don’s eyes got wider in his face. He looked miserable. “The next day, he packed his clothes and left.”
“My god, just like that?”
“No. He left me with a five hundred dollar phone bill and intestinal parasites.”
“My god, how?”
“Don’t ask. It’s too gruesome. It’s my own fault. Instead of going to a gay doctor who would have seen immediately what was what, I went to a jerk who treated me with enemas. Enemas. That only gave the darlings an elevator ride home.”
“I can’t take this,” said April, shaking her head. “I just…it’s too much.”
“You said it,” said Don. “It’s too fucking much.”
“You have Pierre.”
“True. But I’m very mean to Pierre. The only time I’m really nice to Pierre and stop hassling him is when I’m on hash. Then I’d be nice to my dead dog.”
“Are you on hash a lot?”
“But you do love Pierre?”
She turned all this information over in her mind. Not that she could do anything about any of it. “Do you think I could change? Do you think I could be normal again…I mean lose the weight and everything?” She hadn’t known she was going to say that.
He looked surprised and his face took on a childlike excitement. “Jesus, I think so. Why not? Imagine a thin, little thing stepping out of you. Oh, I can’t stand it. Be still, my heart. You’d be gorgeous.” He said it again as if the idea was blazing in his mind. “You know…you’d be gorgeous.”