Friday, March 17, 2017

Freshman (Part 3)

Script Outlines, 1st set mini-features, fall 1992

"Duane and Dolly's Place"

Duane - Stuart K. 18 y.o. living in the garage of his parent's house.  A veteran stoner.
Dolly - Susan Black.  Duane's live-in girlfriend, also a veteran stoner.
Mr. Wilkes - Sean Brown.  Next door neighbor, 30-ish black hipster, jazz fan, stylish.
Xenon - Gabrielle Easton.  Wilkes' date for the night.  Goth-looking, aloof.
Limp-Dick - Roach.  A punk rocker.
Dizzy - Feather.  Punk girl, Limp-Dick's girlfriend.  Severe ADHD sufferer.

    Int. the converted garage.  Dolly is blowing Duane on the sofa.  Side door is knocked on, then immediately opened.  Mr. Wilkes enters, accompanied by black girl with a goth sense of fashion.  Wilkes greets Duane, they high-five, Dolly keeps working.  The black girl stands there, looking around, watching Dolly.  Her face and demeanor says, "I am so much better than this place."
     Wilkes apologizes for the interruption, tells Duane he wants a quarter oz. of weed.  Duane asks him to wait a few minutes.  Dolly looks up at the clock and announces she'll be late for her job at the bowling alley if she doesn't leave right now.  She jumps up, kisses Duane, and runs out.  Wilkes empathizes with Duane over what went unfinished, asks if he can play a tape (Van Halen currently playing on the stereo).  "Okay.... But no rap!"
     Wilkes: "Duane, would I ever?  Have I ever?  Lemme fire up some Miles Davis, we'll fire the bong.
     Duane sells weed to Wilkes.  The bong is pressed into action.  Xenon expresses pity for Duane, offers to finish what Dolly started.  Three-way with Duane, Wilkes, Xenon starts.  Dolly runs back into the garage, she forgot her purse.  She doesn't seem to process what's going on, runs out again....  Then comes back in, looks at the three, and says, "Duane, you are such a total dick!"  She leaves again.  Three-way finishes.
     Int. large American car.  Dolly and Limp-Dick (co-worker) are snorting drugs off one of those mirrors that clips onto a sun visor.  Their shift is over.  Limp-Dick commiserates with Dolly over Duane's cheating.  He suggests, "Living well is the best revenge."  Limp-Dick goes down on Dolly in the front seat, then the two shift into the back for oral, fuck, H/J money shot.  There's a knock on the window: Dizzy has been standing outside watching.  She opens the car door and tells Limp-Dick he'd better recharge quickly, she wants some action too. Dolly apologizes to Dizzy.   "Sorry for what?" asks Dizzy.  "Uh, fucking your boyfriend?" replies Dolly.  "I'm just glad Limp-Dick is making friends at work!"  The three agree to go to Duane's.
     Int. the converted garage.  Duane is alone, shooting billiards on a pool table that's been patched with duct tape.  Dolly, Limp-Dick, and Dizzy enter.  The three go to the sofa and load the bong sitting on the coffee table, begin firing.  Limp-Dick asks Duane if he wants a line, Duane says yes.  Duane joins the three, Limp-Dick begins chopping lines out.  Duane sits down next to Dolly, tries to put his arm around her, is rebuffed: "I'm mad at you."  Duane: "What for?"  Dolly: "You and your neighbor were making a goth-girl sandwich earlier!  I never knew you liked to stick your dick in creepy things!"  Dizzy, utterly free of guile, says, "But you were fucking Limp-Dick in the parking lot of the bowling alley, so what's the big deal?"
     Dolly: "So you like to watch your boyfriend getting laid?"  Limp-Dick: "It's the only thing she can pay attention to for longer than fifteen seconds.  She'll watch a porno movie all the way through, but she wishes music videos had commercial breaks in the middle."  Duane (to Dolly): "So are you still mad at me?"  Dolly: "Gimme a minute."  (Takes tooter from Limp-Dick, snorts a line.)  "Okay, I'm not mad anymore."  The other three snort their lines.  Both couples start making out.  Two-on-two starts.  Dolly suddenly stops and asks, "What the hell are we listening to?"  Duane: "I borrowed this tape from Mr. Wilkes.  Cool shit, huh?"  Dolly: "I feel like I should be wearing Ray-Bans and a beret, and constantly snapping my fingers.  Too cool, daddy, this stuff is hip.  Groovy."  Action continues, girls swap places.
     The interior door of the garage is pounded on, then tugged at.  A man's voice yells, "Duane!  You better remember to get the garbage cans out to the street tonight!"  Dizzy is sitting on Duane's face, he has to lift her up to respond, Yeah, okay Dad.  "What are you and your hoodlum friends doing in there?"  Duane: "Just hanging out and listening to jazz...."  The second half of Duane's response is muffled, as Dizzy has forced herself back down onto Duane's face.  Limp-Dick: "I don't like the term 'hoodlum.'  I think of myself as a 'ne'er-do-well."  Dolly: "When I die, I hope my obituary describes me as being an unsavory character."  Two-on-two finishes.
     Getting dressed, Limp-Disk asks if Duane has any food.  Duane and Dolly both comment they can't remember the last time they ate.  Limp-Dick goes to the phone and orders a pizza.  He says,"You two aren't gonna die of starvation on my watch.  I want Duane's death to be violent.  I want him to be shot by a jealous lesbian."  Dolly: "How do you want me to die?"  Limp-Dick: "The same way.  In fact, by the same lesbian, and at the same time."  Dizzy: "I want to move to Minneapolis and freeze to death while waiting for a bus.  I'll make the neighbor kids so happy, they'll have a ready-made frame for a snowman."  Limp-Dick: "I'm gonna be the world's first agnostic suicide bomber.  I'm gonna strap on a dynamite vest and take out the Admissions office at Oral Roberts University."  Dolly: "And see, everybody complains that people our age don't have any plans for the future.  We do too!  If figuring out how you'll die ahead of time isn't planning, I don't know what is."
     Beers are handed out, the stereo is turned off, the TV goes on.  All four land on the sofa and seem to go catatonic.  Fade to black.
     DUANE owns lots of t-shirts.  All of them are heavy metal shirts with the sleeves hacked off.  Stuart will need a wig -- work with Jeanette for a good one.  Has the bad habit (bad luck?) of lighting cigarettes the wrong way around, like, every other cigarette.  His prize possession: an autographed poster of the band Metallica.... Only the signature is from Dave Mustaine from Megadeth.  His income is mostly from selling weed.  He signed up with a temp agency, "but they always call, like, helluv early in the morning, and they'll want me to be someplace in an hour!  I end up yelling at 'em and hanging up."  Enjoys the company of Mr. Wilkes -- a successful adult who still parties, and also talks to Duane like an adult.  Secret shame: loves the band A Flock of Seagulls.  Lost his virginity to Dolly's older sister in a Porta-Potty at a ZZ Top concert.  His car is a non-running 1973 Ford Maverick.  He's been working on it for months, but never finds the problem: it's out of gas.  Dreams of living in Tahiti.... "or Humboldt County. Heh, yeah, living in Humboldt would be so rad."  Wants to be in a rock band, but not as a member.  "Screw that.  Bands come and go.  Now, if you're a sound man, if you can run the mixing board, you're set, you'll always find work, and you get to party with the bands anyway."
     DOLLY will randomly display a surprisingly sharp wit.  She prefers leather miniskirts over jeans.  Her and Duane have been together since tenth grade.  Her eye wanders as much as Duane's.  Alcohol is her Kryptonite: it only takes her four beers to get rowdy and loud, then get very dirty with the nearest human being.... and then fall asleep in the middle of coitus, dead to the world and staying that way.  She has held eight part-time jobs since the age of sixteen.  Every job she's lost has been due to the business getting shuttered: the owner is killed in a drug deal (22 kilos of cocaine are found in his office), at a Baskin-Robbins, the local mob uses the walk-in freezer as a morgue, until a health inspector finds four dead guys inside,, a manager loots the bank account of the business and runs away to Samoa, the health inspector the restaurant had been bribing for years retires, and the new one closes the place, a semi loses its brakes, flies off an overpass, and lands on top of the gas station Dolly worked at.... on and on.  She drives a 1974 Datsun 210, which is incapable of reaching sixty mph in under ninety seconds, so she takes surface streets everywhere, as she'll be hit trying to merge onto a freeway.
     MR. WILKES: The epitome of urban cool, which is a little strange, since he lives in the suburbs.  The only black guy for miles where he lives.  Very successful car salesman, works for a BMW dealership.  ("I can talk a poor man into a BMW, a rich woman into bed, and an Eskimo into buying a chest freezer.")  Always stylish and dressed sharp, he'll wear a pair of Givenchy shoes while mowing the lawn.  Loathes hip-hop, prefers jazz ("But none of that Ornette Coleman or John Coltrane noise").  Likes to party, relies on Duane for his drugs, of any type.  Wilkes considers seeing the same girl for two weeks straight a "long-term relationship."  He's not an Oreo, although he grew up in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland and went to a private Catholic school.  Complains about his parents, who were Oreos.  ("My dad plays the damn accordion.  You ain't seen stupid until you've seen a black man with an accordion.  Like trying to get a white man in the lineup of a Parliament-Funkadelic show.")  Will show strange flashes of paternal affection to both Duane and Dolly.  Will think up "the perfect scam" to pull, and wants Duane as his partner, but they'll need $30,000, access to a Cessna, and a third party who's done underwater welding.  Aware of image and local stereotypes enough that if he gets dinner from KFC, he hides the trash in Duane's garbage.  Apolitical, a bit ignorant of history, no real empathy with "black" culture, especially political activists.  ("The Black Muslims?  I wish they'd stop stealing their clothes from dry cleaners in Salt Lake City.")
     LIMP-DICK:  Real name Ronnie.  His nickname was applied at the age of fifteen, when he almost lost his virginity.  At a party with huge amounts of cocaine available, he meets an older girl who wants to devirginize him, only he's done so much coke he can't get it up.... A terrifying situation for a fifteen year old male.  His uncle owns the bowling alley where he works.  He's been around the alley since he was twelve, and even though his job title is "Hey you with the broom" he can fix the ball returns, pin spotters, and automatic score displays.  Deals meth for extra money and his own supply.  Biggest guilty secret: loves the band Electric Light Orchestra.  Despite occasional couplings with Dolly, he's kept Duane and Dolly together for a long time by mediating their disputes.  Has a paternal edge to his affection for Dizzy, his girlfriend, he knows she needs to be sort of.... supervised.  Limp-Dick also helps keep Duane and Dolly grounded and healthy, he'll feed them (D & D are the only stoners in the world who will forget to eat) and help out where he can, like bringing them a space heater for the garage.  Drives a 1971 Chevy Impala, a big ol' slab of a car.  Limp-Dick will sometimes try to engage Duane and Dolly in discussions of radical politics.  They don't have a clue what he's talking about, so he'll try to explain the details.  Then his details need explanation.  After two hours, he gives up and goes to buy a twelve-pack.  His current goal/dream: to have the phrase "I'm With Stupid" tattooed on his dick.
     DIZZY:  Almost a caricature of an ADD sufferer.  If it doesn't involve sex, in some way, her attention wanders very quickly, and often very far.  She thinks the song "Cesspools In Eden" by the Dead Kennedys is an example of rock opera.  ("That song is, like, six minutes long!"  Duane: "Remind me to never play my Rick Wakeman albums around you.")  Likes porn more than most guys.  Dizzy still lives with her parents, sort of.  She'll be gone for five days, go home, shower, sleep for three hours, eat, dress, and leave again.  If not staying at Limp-Dick's apartment, she sleeps in her car, a 1975 Chevy Monza with a 350 small-block engine.  Her older brother re-tuned the engine and installed a four-barrel carburetor, making it faster than people would suspect.  Dizzy works as a mascot at an amusement park, wearing one of those giant costumes.  Her hyperactivity makes her perfect for the job of dressing like a giant chipmunk and harassing tourists.  Romantically and emotionally, she's fiercely devoted to Limp-Dick.  Sexually....  Well, if it's a post-pubescent human, it's awake, and it's alive, Dizzy can make the next twenty minutes of your life much more interesting.  Dizzy is five feet tall and doesn't even crack 100 pounds, but still wants to have silicone tits installed, never mind that every single guy she knows tells her just how fucking bizarre and un-sexy she'd look with giant fake tits.  After hearing of Limp-Dick's penis tattoo plans, she decided to have "Max. Vehicle Weight 12,500 lbs." tattooed on the inside of one thigh, with an arrow pointing at her pussy.
     DUANE'S DAD:  Never seen, only heard.  Yells messages through the interior door of the garage.  All of Duane's friends are either "hoodlums" or "perverts," a.k.a. "Tell that pervert to not park in the damn driveway!"  The garage had a bathroom dropped in, so Duane never needs to go in the house, which is both a relief and a burden for his dad.  He'd like more opportunities to yell at his son face-to-face, to remind Duane he looks like both a hoodlum AND a pervert with that long hair.  Very right-wing, is known for standing at the door of the garage (which Duane set up so he can lock his dad out) and loudly reading long passages from John Birch Society literature.  ALL communication done through the door is at high volume, regardless of subject matter.  ("AND YOUR MOTHER SAYS THANKS FOR THE BIRTHDAY FLOWERS, THEY'RE GODDAMN LOVELY!!")  Duane has friends who come over all the time, but have never actually seen Duane's dad.  On occasion, Duane's mom will also chime in, mercifully at an acceptable volume.  She wants to know if he's still seeing "that one girl" Dolly, and can't Duane set his sights higher than her?  ("You could meet a nice girl at our church, Duane!"  "You and Dad are still Scientologists, right Mom?"   "Yes...."  "Fuck you Mom, go away."  "But I worry about where you sit on the tone scale, son....")
     THE GARAGE:  A standard roomy two-car garage, like you'll find in any suburb in Southern California.  Duane and Limp-Dick (but mostly Limp-Dick) dropped in a toilet, shower, and sink, then framed it off and put up drywall.  The rest of the garage isn't quite finished: the garage door is still in place and functional, the other three walls, well, Duane still needs another five feet of drywall for each one.  Cheap swap meet Oriental rugs are on the floor, so it's not quite as miserable as walking on bare cement.  The walls have an array of posters, either black light posters from the Seventies, or from various bands, ranging from Bad Company to Mercyful Fate to Testament.  All furniture seems to have come from dumpster-diving outside a Salvation Army, stuff they thought was too ratty to bother with.  (If Starvation Army thinks a sofa is junk, that's a bad sign.)  There are two sofas, a love seat, and a "coffee table," which is a door sitting on cinder blocks.  A pool table sits to one side, rips in the felt patched with duct tape.  There is a kitchen table with five chairs around it.  Several old office chairs sit around, to be wheeled where they're needed.  Duane's TV and stereo sit on some industrial shelving, along with all his records.  The TV remote is attached to ten feet of steel cable, the other end of the cable is bolted to the "coffee table."  ("I just hate losing the fuckin' thing, you know?  People walk off with it.  Who leaves the remote in the bathroom?  Or in the goddamn fridge?  I've found it both places, man.")  Obvious remnants of the garage's earlier life still sit around, like a dead lawn mover, mostly-empty cans of paint, and random tools.  It's not as messy as one would think, but at the same time, it's not clean, either.  Duane had to argue with Pacific Bell for three weeks to get a separate phone line run in, they didn't know why the line wasn't going into the actual house.  He and Dolly sleep in the rafters, on a king-size mattress sitting on two sheets of plywood.  To go to bed, they climb a rope ladder.

     "All four story lines are going to be fun to write for," said Mallory.  "I'll tell you right now, though, 'Duane and Dolly' is gonna be your baby.  I sort of understand the people and the culture you're trying to portray, but....  Lenny, you grew up with those people.  It's sort of a uniquely Southern California phenomenon;  Minneapolis didn't have a lot of stoners, our weed sucked.  If you want to have a story line about youth hockey brats, I can give you all the detail you want.  But suburban stoner kids are out of my scope of knowledge."
     "No sweat," I told her.  "Yeah.... I'll bet there's a lot of conversational oddities I know innately, but anyone else in the country wouldn't be able to capture in a script or during character coaching.  Like the word 'dude.'  I have heard that one word used to express so many things, and so many emotional states.  It's all in the delivery.  How about the other three?"
     "Okay, "The Pulse of Night' isn't going to have any set cast at all, at this point.  Not with real leads.  The same two staffers at the fitness center will always be there, but they're not gonna really have much to do each episode, and no sexual contact. Really, this one is about hook-ups happening, and that's it.  It's the closest thing to the old loops we'll have going, mostly just sex with minimal set-up.
     "Knock, Then Enter' (our 'Three's Company' rip-off) will have a bit more laxity than 'Duane and Dolly' will,  I mean, the way we've talked about it, you've basically got three sexual compulsives living together, who will try to nail anyone who sets foot in their apartment."  Mallory sighed.  "I know I'm over-analyzing this, but I think their lives are really empty.  The three don't seem to have any outside friends, just acquaintances, and people one of them will meet at a club and bring home.  The only real friendship and companionship and moral support any of them have is the other two."
     I chewed on my thumb and said, "You're right, we've gotta change that.  But we don't need non-sexual recurring characters, either.  Just have things mentioned in dialogue that shows they do have fuller lives, and are capable of interacting with others on a platonic.level.  Like, 'I'm meeting my parents for lunch tomorrow,' or 'I'll be spending the weekend with my sister and her husband,' or 'My softball team is playing Friday night.'  Just little comments that demonstrate they do something besides work, sleep, and fuck.  And cruise bars for action."
     Mallory stared off into the distance briefly, and chuckled.  "Remember on 'Three's Company,' Chrissy's dad was a pastor?  I'm gonna have a script where the same thing is revealed about one of our three.  He'll sort of impose himself on them, needing to stay on their sofa for a couple nights.  They'll be trying to have the same action they're used to, without so-and-so's preacher father catching on."
     "I like it.  Now, with 'Co-ed Housing,' it's gonna be sort of an ensemble cast...."
     "Not exactly.  Okay, dorms may be co-ed, but the Student Housing people will never, ever, ever have a guy and a girl sharing the same room.  Not this side of graduate school, anyway.  No, what I"m seeing is two sets of dorm-mates, two guys, and two girls.  The dorm-mates are good friends, and are supportive of each other.  And they're not all just trying to get laid, either, they all want to find serious relationships.  So they try to help each other out, by setting up their dorm-mate with someone who seems to be a good match, and being willing to sleep on a sofa in the student lounge sometimes.  And also, just providing moral support.  Yes, they're horny, but they all hope to find Mr. or Mrs. Right.  This one isn't gonna have a lot of laughs, this is going to be a drama.  No real pathos, or at least not very often, but our four main characters are very different from our leads in 'Knock, Then Enter.'  Sex doesn't encompass their whole lives, and the sex they are having is with people they hope are interested in a solid relationship.  They aren't just going to keg parties to get laid."
     I stared down at the table in the trattoria, wishing lunch would arrive soon.  Ponderously, I said, "We're gonna need another writer.  Or two."
     "Huh," commented Mallory sagely.
     "You know anyone who scribbles competently and would be a good fit?"
     "Not off the top of my head.  Why are you asking me?"
     I gave a quizzical look and said, "I thought you were involved with a couple writer's groups.  Even if they're hobbyists, you'd know someone who could be groomed."
     Mallory looked exasperated and replied, "I haven't been to either of the two groups I was hitting fro months."
     "Why not?"
     "Oh, gosh."  She shook her head.  "These are supposed to be writers groups.  They aren't supposed to be 'read your bad poetry out loud' groups.  Or worse yet, 'read your scary violent porn out loud' groups.  And definitely not emotional support groups, or substitutes for a real AA meeting.  But other people treat them that way.  Personally, the poets can go start their own darn groups, they can all take turns standing up and wanking off in front of each other.  So can the supposed 'erotic writers.'  I swear, there were guys who would create the most brutal, violent, bloody sex nightmares, then read them to the group without hesitation.  I wonder if they were getting off on making people uncomfortable."
     "Oh, easily," I observed.  "Never underestimate the creativity of creeps."
     "There were also some women who wouldn't have done squat since the previous week, but when it was their turn to read, they'd stand up and say what wonderful people we all are and how she's so glad to be there to get away from her distant and unfeeling husband and ungrateful children and the cat has Crohn's Disease and boo hoo hoo hoo hoo.  So we spend a boatload of time trying to get her calmed down, then trying to help her sort out the low-budget suburban soap opera her live is.  Most of the time, I'm tempted to tell the witch that she needs to run away from home. Drain the bank account, gas up the car, pack a bag, and split.  Since we've heard this litany from the same woman in the past, it's obvious nothing is going to get better, so to heck with it, lady, grow a pair and head for the horizon."
     "I know those types," I concurred.  "They like to clog up the lines at the Crisis Center.  Their mouths may be saying, 'I'm suicidal,' but what they mean is, 'I'm lonely and bored and not imaginative enough to do anything about it.'  Phooey on them.  Phooey, I tell you."
     Looking more agitated, Mallory said, "And the kids!  Good lord!  Okay, I'm not expecting brilliance from a sixteen or seventeen year old, but I am expecting them to understand the concept of structure.  They should also already grasp pacing, and plot development, and that when telling a story, the different parts of the story need to be in the correct order, or it won't make any darn sense!  And by the way, if you want to be a writer, you need to be literate first, have a basic grasp of the written form of your native language!  Not to mention, hey kid, plagiarism is both illegal and in poor taste!  Gosh, other people besides you have read 'Naked Lunch,' so copying some of it and reading it as your own won't fly, imagine that!  And don't get all huffy when you're called out on it."
     "At least the little bastard plagiarized something interesting," I noted.  "He could have asked for input on the plot outline he's working on, and given you a summary of 'The Stand' by Stephen King."
     Emitting a mean giggle, Mallory said, "That was the one bright side about both groups.  No Stephen King fans."
     Our food arrived, and we briefly ate in silence.  Mallory paused her fork over her tortellini and said, "I can think of someone....  But I doubt it would work."
     "Spill it," I told her.
     "Okay.  Back in Minneapolis, I knew a woman in the scene named Erica.  She's in her early thirties, but had only been out for maybe two years, one year of which was devoted entirely to divorcing her husband.  I guess she finally stopped lying to herself about being a dyke, about fen or twelve years later than most people do.  She got the divorce, she got an alimony settlement, she didn't get her daughter, because her husband convinced the judge their daughter shouldn't be raised by a woman who'd obviously decided to become a pervert after nine years of marriage.
     "Excluding actual sex, I never thought it could be possible to be bad at being a dyke.  I swear, Erica was.  She's hanging around 19 Bar and Lush looking like she's on a break from selling the Watchtower.  And looking just as nervous, too.  Okay, I'm kinda goofy and awkward, I could relate, so I sorta befriended her.  Lenny, you'd say Minnesotans are rather reserved, right?  Non-demonstrative?  Nearly catatonic in most social situations?  Imagine your average Minnesotan.  Now pile on a healthy dose of social anxiety disorder, shyness, and an almost total lack of self-esteem.  Erica is hitting the dyke bars and clubs, but it was like she did it out of a sense of duty, like going to church.  She didn't really want to be there, but went anyway because it was her duty to go.
     "For gosh sake, she once told me how much she liked my sense of style, how I could dress 'out' and not be afraid.  I looked down, and I'm wearing a skirt, a boy's dress shirt, and Birkenstocks.  I didn't look like a dyke, I looked like a college student.
     "Anyway, we did get to be friends.  It turned out she's a scribbler too.  I said, 'Hey, great, let's trade journals and review each other's stuff!'  I gave her some of my stuff to read, but three weeks later she was still hemming and hawing and putting me off.  I finally just sort of bullied her into handing over some of her writing.  Darn it, Lenny, she was brilliant.  Name a genre, she could pull it off, and darn well.  Even her erotic material was good, lots of spark, graceful, but also explicit and imaginative.  I told her she was doing fantastic, she's a great writer, and she didn't want to hear it.  I'd point out an awesome story, and she'd say it was a failure because she'd forgot to put in an apostrophe somewhere.
     "I finally managed to kick a little bit of self-esteem and pride into her.  She shared her writing with a couple other people we knew, and they also said it was genius."  Mallory scowled at the tablecloth.  "Another person ruined by upstate Minnesota.  To simply smile and accept a compliment is impossible.  If you do that, you might start thinking that you're worth something.  God knows everyone around you, for your entire life, has tried to disabuse you of that notion.  A compliment accepted at face value is a dare to God, obviously accepting praise means you think you're something special, you have some unique value.  So God is gonna cut you back down to size, in a big way, and it's nobody's fault but your own.  Ask anyone upstate: God hates the talented.  The talented forget their station in life, and try to use their talent to do a little better for themselves, pursue a goal or a dream.  Well, God hates that attitude.  God planted you in an upstate Minnesota town with a population of 900, and you'd better stay there and do what you're told.... There's forty acres of potatoes that need weeding and the storm windows need to come down, so get those big dreams out of your head because there's nothing outside this goddamn motherfucking shithole town for you so shut the fuck up and sit the fuck down and say grace over your goddamn plate of fucking tuna hot dish and shut up about your dreams, whatever stupid fucking dreams you have, you're not worth shit so shut the fuck up, you're trapped here with the rest of us fucking small-minded losers, shut the fuck up and kill your own soul like the rest of us have, you fucking high-minded little ingrate!  You aren't shit!  You aren't shit!!"
     I realized I was leaning back in my seat, my eyes wide.  Mallory had been getting louder and louder, and was shouting by the time she finished.  She'd done the impossible on the patio of the trattoria: she'd attracted attention.  Other patrons had stopped talking and were staring at her.  I waved to Benny, our waiter.  He came over, and I said, "I'd like a double Johnnie Walker and three glasses of the house white.  Spike one of the glasses with Gray Goose, please."
     "Absolutely, Mr. Schneider, be right back."  Benny trotted off towards the bar.
     Mallory was looking pink.  She sat hunched over, staring fixedly at her half-finished plate.  I reached over and pushed on a shoulder, saying, "Finish your tortellini, tiny dyke."
     She resumed eating, then muttered, "I can't believe I just did that.  It must be proof that my moving to Los Angeles has destroyed me, like everyone in Minnesota could have predicted."  With a grimace, she continued, "And I was cursing, too.  Obviously I've become morally bankrupt.... Along with being a cunt-lapping dyke."
     I briefly considered, then said, "I've noticed that you sometimes....  It's like you channel the collective un-aired rage and frustration of upstate Minnesota residents, and let it out.  You're not even from upstate, but you seem to feel the... the spiritual angst people up there have.  1,500 miles away, and you absorb all the psychic energy generated by all those squashed dreams."  I chuckled. "We should start a massive billboard campaign in upstate.  Big signs that say, 'Do you have aspirations?  Then pursue them, and fuck what the neighbors think."  Or, 'Your parents are close-minded cowards.  Chase your dreams.  Leave Minnesota.'"
     Mallory grinned.  "'Whatever you want out of life, you won't find it in this shithole town.  Escape from upstate.'  Yes, we could be the Antichrist for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce."
     Benny brought us our drinks.  Mallory looked a bit chastised when I instructed her to start slugging back the wine, it was in her own best interest.  In conversation, I switched gears.  "So.  Erica from Minneapolis.  Late out of the closet, shy, little sense of self-worth, and talented.  Do you think she could adapt to writing within the parameters dictated by screenplays?"
     "In a heartbeat.  Screenwriting follows a strict set of rules, and God knows, Minnesotans love it when the rules are laid down for us."
     "Do you think she could work with the parameters I laid down for you, when you first started knocking around scripts?  Do you know if she's ever seen one of Inana's movies?  If she hasn't, we'd need to change that.  I'd mail her some video so she can get a better grasp of how we do things."
     This amused Mallory. "Oh, she's seen Inana's movies.  If it has Becky Page and another girl, she's watched it over an over.  Uh....  Erica is a very ardent Becky Page fan.  She'll even watch the three-way scenes and love 'em.  About the only times I've seen Erica truly animated was when a Becky Page girl-girl scene was playing.  Erica would get a positively manic smile on her face, and keep whacking my arm, pointing at the screen and saying, 'God, check her out!  She is so hot!  I love her so much!'  Um, when you and Bekka first came to visit me in Minneapolis, I purposely didn't introduce you two to her, or even let her know you'd be there.  I was really worried she'd just go ballistic if she met Becky Page face to face.  Remember those shots of the early Beatles concerts, where the girls are pouring tears and screaming until they passed out?  Erica may have done the same thing, along with trying to claw Bekka's clothes off.  In the lobby of your hotel.  And hollering the list of sex acts her and Becky are going to do together."
     Chewing my bottom lip, I said, "Well.... Now she can enumerate that list into scripts, so long as she keeps the right balance between straight and girl-girl.  Here's a hard one.  How embedded is she in Minneapolis?  What would she say if someone offered her a chance to live in Southern California?"
     Mallory frowned in puzzlement.  "I have no idea whatsoever.  Would you really want her to move out here?  I mean, just get her a fax machine and...."
     I shook my head.  "No.  I'd want her out here, for the same reason you and me are eating lunch together right now.  I need face-to-face interaction with anyone I'm working with creatively.  The phone just doesn't cut the mustard.  And if she wrote for Inana, I'd really want to be able to meet with her when she starts, so I can get her on the same page with you and me.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Okay, you say she has writing talent.  I want to see some of it.  I'd like to see a few of her stories, and I'd like her to submit a demo script.  We'll be happy to sign a contract stating Inana won't produce that script unless she gets paid for it.  But at this point, I want someone who can demonstrate they can jump into writing for Inana with both feet, cranking out scripts we can use from the get-go.  That's another thing.  She'll be on a deadline with the demo, she has to submit by such-and-such a date, or all bets are off."
     "A good idea," said Mallory.  "If she's allowed to kick around the same material for too long, she'd end up ruining it.  She could have a first draft that's a little rough, but really sharp and brilliant.  But then her insecurities will tell her, no, it's a first draft, do it over.  And she'd repeat that process until all the verve and magic that was in the first draft is gone.  We'll have to drill the idea of 'editing' into her head, as in, someone else is going to edit the damn script, so stop sweating bullets and submit the darn thing.  You and Vinny have re-shaped chunks of my script, but you've never re-written them.  You just adjusted things some."
     I shrugged.  "Me, I'm picky about phrasing in dialogue.  Vinny is a master at reading a scene and judging the amount of screen time it will take up.  So he'll read a full script and say, okay, this is coming in around 122 minutes.  We need to lose about ten minutes of this.  And he'll go back and trim, without screwing up the flow of the script.  Not bad for a former high school English teacher."
     This caused Mallory to laugh.  "Oh my gosh!  Vinny used to be a high school teacher?  I'll bet he didn't have many discipline problems!  All the students would have been afraid he'd have them killed in the parking lot of the school that very afternoon."
     Laughing along, I agreed, "I can see that.  Southern California natives, especially teenagers, would hear his Brooklyn guido accent and assume he's got a gun in his jacket, a dead body in his trunk, and friends with names like 'Stevie the Weasel.'  Native Californians don't handle New Yawk well."
     We hammered out a general plan.  Mallory would call Erica and lay it on the line, mostly.  Would Erica be interested in writing screenplays for a porn studio?  Good scripts, like an Inana Productions movie?  Don't worry, Erica, it takes two days to learn how to structure a script.  You'd be writing primarily hetero porn, some girl-girl stuff.  Here are the parameters you'll need to work within, they're based on cost and length of production, so no space operas or remakes of "Ben Hur."  Oh, and Becky Page will probably have a role, but don't write with the idea of having Becky in a starring role, just write a good script.
     What Mallory would leave out on her first call would be the fairly mandatory relocation to SoCal, how much she'd be getting paid, and that if she did decide to submit a demo script, she'd be under a deadline to complete it.  However, Erica would have the concept of "editing" explained: barring major flaws, a good script would remain pretty much intact.  She shouldn't second-guess herself while writing.  In fact, if we took her on, she wouldn't have the time.  Knock out a good script of a good story, make sure to not have 438 different locations, and not need Industrial Light and Magic to devote three months of their time to adding effects.... Although a car chase or two would be nice, Becky Page (and her producer) like car chases.
     Mallory said she'd call me the next day to say how the conversation went.  I wondered if I'd be importing another Midwest lesbian to SoCal, on my dime.  Well....  If Erica did pan out, it would be worth it.

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