Grand Ghoulish

A twisted and bloody love affair!
(all-new ebook coming Halloween ’22)


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on Substack.


CONTENTS

ACT ONE

I-I. Two Types of People
I-II. Bedsheet Curtains
I-IV. Lavender
I-V. Click
I-VI. Clock on the Wall

ACT TWO

II-I. Sex, Motels, and Voicemails
II-II. One Punch
II-III. An Unearthly Sound
II-IV. Broken Clock
II-V. Click II
II-VI. What She Said

Grand Ghoulish: II-VI. What She Said

II-VI. WHAT SHE SAID

A bustling super-secret, super-freaky art gallery with clocks on a wall, teenagers frozen in ice sculptures, and HAROLD’S BRAIN in a jar, floating and bubbling in some clear solution. This monstrosity is somehow wired to an old laptop, a cheap pair of speakers, and a projector. Noisy, pixelated sights and sounds plucked out from Harold’s Brain flash and flicker on a wall.

A confused, yet confused PORTLY COUPLE with literal “bear hands” watch this morbid show.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) There are precisely two types of people in this world.

The first are those eclectic few showcasing their gaudy wealth in a secret art gallery located beneath the surface of the sort of affluent California “community” where everyone is as artificial as the grass, trees, and even the lightly-scented air. For fear of being assimilated, the name of this particular town escapes me at the moment.

(a beat, then…)

Meanwhile, the other sort are the art. And as Harold – or, more precisely, Harold’s skillfully preserved brain and eyes – stared at a clock hung between a pair of terrified teenagers frozen in freshly-carved ice sculptures, he took solace in the fact that while his most embarrassing memories were currently being projected on the wall behind him, at least the portly couple with matching bear-hands in front of him couldn’t tell he was crying.

BRENNIPHIA: (off) Hey, you!

Harold’s Brain bubbles at the sound of her voice. The feed briefly scrambles, then continues.

Portly Couple turn ever so slightly to their left to…

Brenniphia, now a pink bob cut in a silk sundress and adorable shoes, joins Portly Couple.

PORTLY COUPLE: Sophia!

BRENNIPHIA: I go by “Brenniphia” these days, actually. New me, new…well, new everything!

PORTLY COUPLE: (to each other) How naughty!

BRENNIPHIA: I see the two of you are enjoying Oliver’s work.

Portly Couple hold up their literal “bear hands”.

PORTLY #1: (gushes) Our grandson absolutely loves it!

PORTLY #2: Soph… I mean, Brenniphia… you’re looking so daring these days!

Brenniphia teases her hair, fingers glide across faint, but thick lines on her scalp.

BRENNIPHIA: I wasn’t going to keep it, but it kinda grew on me.

A woman’s voice, Sophia’s, crackles again and again from the cheap pair of speakers.

SOPHIA: (recording) What does that make me?

Brenniphia and Portly Couple turned to Harold’s Brain.

What does that make me? What does that make me?

Harold’s Brain bubbles in its solution. The projector flickers vague images, flashing frames of bodies in pieces and blurred faces.

What does that make me? What does that make me? What does that make me?

PORTLY #2: What is that awful thing?

BRENNIPHIA: One of Oliver’s little toys.

PORTLY #1: Bit gratuitous, isn’t it?

Brenniphia nods, “Mmhm.”

BRENNIPHIA: But don’t let Oliver hear you say that.

SOPHIA: (recording) He’s a magnificent surgeon…

BRENNIPHIA: I’m sorry. I better get Oliver over here to fix this.

SOPHIA: (recording) …you can only roll back the clock so far…

Portly Couple say their goodbyes, waddle off, paw-in-paw.

SOPHIA: (recording) Do they bother you?

Brenniphia turns to Harold’s Brain.

Harold’s Brain bubbles.

An uncomfortable silence. Then…

She begins to speak, thinks better of it, and then disappears into the crowd.

THE END

Grand Ghoulish: II-V. Click II

II-V. CLICK II

A very large and dark room. No windows, no doors. No sound but the electric humming of medical equipment. No light but the harsh, cutting white of several, well-placed surgical lamps reflecting on impressively polished steel tools with lots of little blades and teeth.

Harold is on an operating table, unable to move. Only his face is lit and in clear view. His body is obscured by shadow and sheets. Wires run from his head and body to one of the humming bits of medical equipment.

HAROLD: (silently screams)

OLIVER: (off) Sorry, sorry.

Oliver, eating a sandwich in his desk chair, casually rolls out of the darkness, over to Harold. He flips a switch on the humming bit of medical equipment.

You looked like you had something to say.

HAROLD: (yelps)

OLIVER: (scoffs) Was that it? Go on. Get it out. Nobody can hear you scream.

HAROLD: (considers this) Pot to Kettle, how much more of a cliche can you be?

OLIVER: Not to put too fine a point on this, but I am a surgeon holding his wife’s lover captive in a big, secret laboratory.

HAROLD: Fair enough. But, where the Hell did you come from? I thought I was alone.

Oliver gestures to sandwich and feet.

OLIVER: Bit of lunch and socks.

HAROLD: Where’s Sophia?

OLIVER: Why? Feeling lonely?

HAROLD: What did you do to her?

OLIVER: (gestures with sandwich) I scooped out her brain and put it into the relatively younger body of a pink-haired woman who tried to sell me cologne from the trunk of her car.

HAROLD: Did none of that sound crazy to you?

OLIVER: Look. If it helps, you weren’t the first.

HAROLD: What?

OLIVER: Yeah. Sorry. There was this old flame from high school, a few coworkers, this guy from the social security office…

HAROLD: Bullshit.

OLIVER: Hey. I’m not even Sophia’s first husband. Now, that guy? Real piece of work. I got some good practice out of him, though.

HAROLD: Why would she do all that?

Oliver finishes his sandwich.

OLIVER: (shrugs) It makes her happy.

HAROLD: You’re shitting me.

Oliver picks up a shiney steel tool with the scary little blades and teeth.

OLIVER: You slept with my wife. I don’t think you get to shame other people’s kinks.

Harold seizes on the scary little blades and teeth, ignores everything else.

HAROLD: Jesus. If you’re going to kill me, just do it already.

Oliver picks at his teeth with the tool.

OLIVER: Don’t be so dramatic. I’m not going to kill you.

HAROLD: (puzzles this) You’re not?

OLIVER: Of course not. Keeping you alive is the whole point.

HAROLD: Wait. What?

Oliver rolls over to another switch, flips it.

The lights come on and reveal what is, more or less, a chrome-finished Salvador Dali painting. But instead of melted, sagging clocks, twisted figures, or surreal landscapes, Harold’s insides stretch and sag and drip on the outside, all over Oliver’s otherwise spartan, make-shift surgery room. Lungs are draped over the back of a chair. Entrails wrap around one of the surgical lights, across the operating table, and inexplicably tied on the other end to an old Victrola. Harold’s head dangles above this from several cables, with a number of tubes and wires clipped or stuck into this or that hole.

OLIVER: See, Harold?

Oliver holds up Harold’s still-beating heart, jangles it like a set of keys.

I’m a bit of an artist myself.

Harold ignores this, screams.

Oliver shakes his head disapprovingly, then flips the switch.

OLIVER: Yeah. That’s enough of that.

HAROLD: (silently curses)

OLIVER: What? I meant nobody else can hear you scream.

Grand Ghoulish: II-IV. Broken Clock

II-IV. BROKEN CLOCK

That third-floor master suite of a “stately manor” located in the expensive corner of a somehow even more expensive strip of Southern California coastline. Only this time it’s all rather messy. Furniture is tossed, flipped. The walls smothered in blood, gore, more blood, and bits of sick. Also, Sophia is dead in her bed. Harold, not dead, looks upon all this.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) What remained of Sophia slumped awkwardly in her bed. Swashes of blood, splatterings of brains, and bits of skull clung to everything. And as Harold looked on at this from the doorway, he couldn’t help but feel like he made a huge mistake by stopping for gas.

Now. To be perfectly fair to Harold, his grandmother’s near-mint wood panel Ford station wagon was one Hell of a gas guzzler. And the trip from their home in Buena Park to that manor by the sea was already a good hour-long trip down the 5, give or take. Between the forty-year old fuel efficiency standards and some inexplicable bumper-to-bumper gridlock that began and ended for seemingly no reason whatsoever, Harold had zero chance of arriving in time for some heroic save. In fact, Harold realized this back in Irvine. But he also realized that he was a failed photographer in his thirties, living in his elderly grandmother’s garage, and having a summer fling with a married woman. So when the congestion blinked out of existence somewhere around Lake Forest, Harold steered the Ford off the freeway, put several dollars worth of gas in the tank, double-backed a bit, and eventually made his way up to Sophia’s bedroom doorway where he continued standing about like he wasn’t at some grisly scene worth reporting immediately to the local authorities.

OLIVER: (off) Good thing you dropped your phone.

Oliver enters, freshly made up.

Otherwise, this could have gone–

Harold ignores this, breaks Oliver’s nose with a wild and wholly lucky punch.

Oliver brushes this off, pinches at his bleeding, crooked nose.

OLIVER: I suppose I owed you that.

Harold growls, looks for something large and heavy to beat Oliver with, repeatedly.

HAROLD: I’m only getting started.

OLIVER: You know, I completely agree.

HAROLD: (blinks) What?

BRENNIPHIA: (off) Harold.

HAROLD: Brennifer?

Harold turns, sees…

BRENNIPHIA, a woman with a pink faux hawk in sweatpants and a tattered Bon Jovi tee. Fresh surgical incisions wrap around her head. She looks like Brennifer, but talks and moves like Sophia…

What the Hell did he do to you?

BRENNIPHIA: These?

She glides her fingers over the incisions.

Do they bother you?

HAROLD: Sophia.

She steps closer.

BRENNIPHIA: It’s like I told you, Harold. Oliver’s a magnificent surgeon.

She embraces Harold.

HAROLD: I don’t understand…

She sticks a syringe into Harold’s neck.

BRENNIPHIA: Turns out…

She empties, removes the syringe from Harold.

…when the clock stops rolling back, you can just get yourself a new clock.

Harold collapses to the floor, stays there.

OLIVER: Did you see his face? I think we broke his little mind.

BRENNIPHIA: (gushes) Right? (gestures) But did you have to do that to my body?

Oliver looks upon his work, shrugs.

OLIVER: You’re not the only one who loves a little theatrics, Sweetie.

Brenniphia shakes head, sighs.

BRENNIPHIA: Shut up and help me move him.

OLIVER: Yes, Ma’am.

Grand Ghoulish: II-III. An Unearthly Sound

II-III. AN UNEARTHLY SOUND

Grandma’s. Grandma sits on her couch, stares blankly at nothing in particular.

Harold tantrums into the house.

HAROLD: I’m gonna fuckin’ kill him!

GRANDMA: (yawns) Are those MacGuffin boys teasing you again?

HAROLD: (puzzles this) What? No. Grandma, the MacGuffins haven’t lived around here for years.

GRANDMA: Are you sure?

HAROLD: Yes, I’m sure. Remember? Their house burned down when Mr. MacGuffin’s meth lab blew up during a police raid.

GRANDMA: Our water was off all day!

The unearthly sound of a landline telephone rings. Harold answers.

HAROLD: Who’s this?

SOPHIA: (phone) (sobs) Harold?

HAROLD: Sophia? How’d you get this number?

SOPHIA: (phone) I’ve been calling your cell, but it keeps going to voicemail.

Harold checks his pockets and finds only his wallet and keys.

HAROLD: Aw, shit.

SOPHIA: (phone) Harold… Oliver found my phone. He knows everything.

HAROLD: Yeah, I kinda picked that up after he sucker-punched me at the gallery.

SOPHIA: (phone) He already found you?

HAROLD: Not gonna lie. I think I got off kinda easy, all things considered.

SOPHIA: (phone) (screams in that way one tends to do when their muscle-bound spouse suddenly returns home during an in-progress, infidelity-fueled rampage)

HAROLD: Sophia?!

Silence. Then…

Sophia, are you okay? Sophia, are you okay? Are you okay, Sophia? Sophia, are you okay? Sophia, are you okay? Are you okay, Sophia?

Another silence. Then…

Harold inspects the phone.

Oh. Battery’s dead.

GRANDMA: Harold, does this mean you’re going to be late with the rent again?

Harold ignores this, storms out the door.

Harold?

She walks to the door, watches Harold speed off in the station wagon.

(sighs) I’m never getting my car back.

Grand Ghoulish: II-II. One Punch

II-II. ONE PUNCH

THE ALLEY BEHIND THE SMALL ART GALLERY. BRENNIFER SPEAKS TO AN OFFICER. OFFICER SLOWLY, YET UN-ASSUREDLY TAKES NOTES ON A HANDY LITTLE NOTEPAD WITH A LITTLE PENCIL.

HAROLD, MEANWHILE, STANDS BY HIS GRANDMOTHER’S STATION WAGON, PATIENTLY WAITING FOR HIS CUE AS IF HE ISN’T ACTUALLY THERE. HE HOLDS A LARGE FRAMED PHOTOGRAPH UNDER EACH ARM.

OFFICER: Okay. So, would you mind going over this one more time for me?

BRENNIFER: What’s the point of writing all this down if you’re just going to have me repeat it?

OFFICER GESTURES TO THE AUDIENCE.

BRENNIFER: Oh. Right. (TO HAROLD) Go on, then.

HAROLD: You sure?

BRENNIFER: (GESTURES TO AUDIENCE) Wouldn’t want complaints about exposition.

HAROLD: (NODS) Of course.

HAROLD DROPS, SHATTERS FRAMED PHOTOS.

(PRETENDS TO CARE) Oh, no…

(TO BRENNIFER) Like that?

BRENNIFER: It’ll do.

OFFICER: That’s it?

BRENNIFER: Don’t make me have to do this again.

HAROLD: Yeah, what she said. Also, I didn’t bring any more of these to break.

OFFICER: Sorry.

BRENNIFER AND HAROLD GLARE, SHAKE HEADS AT OFFICER. THEN…

BRENNIFER: Right. So, that happened. And then, I walked over to Harold and said… (TO HAROLD) Everything okay? I heard screaming.

HAROLD: Yeah, it’s cool. I always scream when things are okay.

BRENNIFER: (GESTURES TO SHATTERED FRAMES) You need some help with that?

HAROLD: Nah. That was the last of it. Sorry it took me so long to come back for all this.

BRENNIFER: It’s cool. I’m sorry nobody bought anything.

HAROLD: Yeah… But at least I got some work out of it.

BRENNIFER: (PUZZLES THIS) (LAUGHS) Oh, yeah. That weird couple. How’d that work out?”

HAROLD: (LAUGHS) Sophia’s not weird…

BRENNIFER: (GRIMACES) Aw, shit…

HAROLD: (BLINKS) What?

BRENNIFER: You dumb bastard. How long have you been fucking her?

HAROLD: (CONSIDERS THIS) What?

BRENNIFER: (TO OFFICER) You getting this?

OFFICER: (READS) “You dumb bastard. How long have you been fucking her?” (TO BRENNIFER) What next?

BRENNIFER: Right. Well. Then, this dude comes up and–

OFFICER: Dude?

BRENNIFER: Just watch.

BRENNIFER GESTURES FOR THINGS TO PROCEED.

OLIVER ENTERS, PUNCHES AND KNOCKSOUT HAROLD.

OLIVER: (TO BRENNIFER) How was that?

BRENNIFER: Perfect. Thank you.

OLIVER EXITS.

OFFICER: Wait. You didn’t think to warn your friend–

BRENNIFER: (SHAKES HEAD) No, no, no… Harold and I screwed a few times in the utility closet after hours. We weren’t friends.

OFFICER TAKES IN THE PINK-HAIRED WOMAN IN FRONT OF HIM, WONDERS IF SHE SELLS MINERALS OR WEED. THEN…

OFFICER: Right. So, you didn’t think to warn Harold that a (READS NOTES) “very angry dude” was about to start a fight with him?

BRENNIFER: (SHAKES HEAD AGAIN) No. Not a fight – an ass-kicking. The dude threw one punch, then left.

OFFICER:  Okay… But why didn’t you say anything to Harold?

BRENNIFER: (SHRUGS) Maybe I thought he had it coming.

END SCENE.

Grand Ghoulish: II-I. Sex, Motels, and Voicemails

II-I. SEX, MOTELS, AND VOICEMAILS

THE MUSTY DARKNESS OF A ROOM AT A ROADSIDE MOTEL IN SOME FORGOTTEN CORNER OF SANTA ANA. HAROLD AND SOPHIA LOSE THEMSELVES IN EACH OTHER.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Their first hotel room felt like a lifetime ago. This one was their second room this week. Another stolen moment in a summer of stolen moments. They stole kisses at a mall like a couple of teenagers cutting class. Text messages became love notes. Love notes evolved into voicemails. Voicemails slipped into hushed late-night calls. Long drives and short make-out sessions in parking lots and malls quickly abandoned for more hotel rooms and lunch at her favorite places. And when Sophia paid with cash, Harold never asked why.

A PHONE RINGS AND RINGS AND RINGS…

SOPHIA ROLLS ATOP HAROLD, ANSWERS PHONE.

SOPHIA: (TO PHONE) I’m busy. What do you want?

SHE LISTENS AND “UH-HUHS” ALONG, ROLLS EYES, GESTURES, “BLAH-BLAH-BLAH.”

(GROWLS) Goodbye, Oliver…

SHE HANGS UP, TOSSES THE PHONE ASIDE.

(TO HAROLD) Where were we?

SHE PAWS AND NIBBLES HAROLD.

HAROLD: Everything cool?

SHE STOPS, LOOKS AT HAROLD AS IF HE’S THE STUPIDEST MAN ALIVE.

SOPHIA: What? Yeah, I’m fine. Everything’s fine. Why?

HAROLD: He just called.

SOPHIA: For fuck’s sake… You’re not going to start being a little bitch about this, are you?

HAROLD: (LIES POORLY) No… It’s just… isn’t this even a little fuckin’ weird to you?

SOPHIA: That’s funny… 

SHE ROLLS OFF HAROLD, GATHERS HER CLOTHES.

I didn’t know that was your conscience inside me a minute ago. My bad.

SOPHIA DISAPPEARS INTO THE SHOWER.

A BEAT.

HAROLD: (SIGHS) Goddammit.

END SCENE.

Grand Ghoulish: I-VI. Clock on the Wall

I-VI. CLOCK ON THE WALL

THE SANDY COASTLINE OF A SLIGHTLY MORE AFFLUENT COASTAL CALIFORNIA “COMMUNITY.” HOTELS AND BOATS ON ONE SIDE, BEACH ON THE OTHER. HAROLD AND SOPHIA SIT ON A BENCH. HE, A SLOBBISH CHIMP, WATCHES THE BOATS. SHE, A FASHIONABLE MESS, PERUSES A STACK OF PHOTOGRAPHS.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) It was a sweltering afternoon in a slightly more affluent coastal California “community” where nobody really likes each other, but are too medicated to care. The still air was thick and smelled of fish. And as Harold watched yet another yacht struggle to navigate the calm waters of the harbor, he concluded the world was wrong and life was meaningless.

SOPHIA: Would you do me?

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) They sat on a bench beneath the thinning shade of a patch of trees, yacht clubs and hotels to one side, families splashing about on a narrow stretch of sandy beach to the other. She was a fashionable mess of hair blowing in the wind, making her way through a stack of photographs of herself. He was very confused.

HAROLD: I’m sorry, I think an aneurysm burst. What were you saying?

SOPHIA IGNORES THIS, HOLDS UP A PARTICULARLY FLATTERING IMAGE IN WHICH SHE MADE CREATIVE USE OF A CHAIR, A MIRROR, AND THE CONTENTS OF A BOX SHE KEPT BURIED IN THE BACK OF HER CLOSET.

SOPHIA: I’d do me.

HAROLD: I’m glad you like them.

SOPHIA: (GUSHES) I love them! Don’t take this the wrong way, but how are you not getting more work?

HAROLD: (SHRUGS) What’s there to say? One minute, you’re young and full of shit and the world is yours. Next minute, you’re looking at a clock on the wall in an empty art gallery, wondering what the Hell you did so very, very wrong.

SOPHIA SEES THE MAN BESIDE HER, THEN THE STACK OF PHOTOGRAPHS IN HER HANDS.

SOPHIA: I haven’t seen myself… (BEAT) I haven’t felt this beautiful in years. Thank you, Harold.

SHE KISSES HIM.

HAROLD BLINKS.

Your lips are soft…

AND THEN SHE GATHERS HER THINGS, WALKS AWAY.

HAROLD WATCHES LIKE AN IDIOT, EVENTUALLY REALIZES HE SHOULD PROBABLY SAY OR DO SOMETHING.

HAROLD: (BLATHERS) Wait. What? Shit… I’m sorry, Sophia. I didn’t–

SOPHIA STOPS, TURNS TO HAROLD.

SOPHIA: I know you didn’t. I did.

HAROLD: Then, what’s the problem?

SOPHIA: (SMILES) No problem.

THEY SHARE A MOMENT. THEN…

SOPHIA EXITS, TOWARD THE NEARBY HOTELS.

HAROLD FOLLOWS.

END ACT ONE.

Grand Ghoulish: I-V. Click

I-V. CLICK

GRANDMA’S DARK KITCHEN. HAROLD, IN HIS UNDERWEAR, ON A ROLLING CHAIR OF SOME SORT, TYPES AND CLICKS AWAY AT A LAPTOP.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Harold edited erotic photos of a mostly naked married woman by the glow of his computer screen, and his mind wandered.

HAROLD WANDERS AND ROLLS TO:

THE THIRD-FLOOR MASTER SUITE OF A “STATELY MANOR.” SOPHIA WAITS, STILL DRESSED AS WE LOST SAW HER, UNAWARE THE SCENE HAS BEGUN.

HAROLD PUTS ON HIS CLOTHES FROM THE PREVIOUS SCENE AND PICKS UP A CAMERA.

SOPHIA REALIZES WHAT’S HAPPENING, POSES ON THE BED.

HAROLD, ONCE AGAIN FULLY CLOTHED, PHOTOGRAPHS SOPHIA FROM SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE BED AND THAT WINDOW WITH THE BALCONY OVERLOOKING THE EXPENSIVE EVERYTHING. SHUTTERS CLICK, LIGHTS FLASH.

SOPHIA GROWS FRUSTRATED.

SOPHIA: (COOS) I don’t have cooties, ya know.

HAROLD LOOKS UP FROM HIS CAMERA, EYES NEVER LEAVING SOPHIA.

HAROLD: Huh?

SOPHIA: You’re so far away. Wouldn’t it help if you got a little closer?

HAROLD: (SHRUGS) Maybe.

SOPHIA: (POUTS) For someone who does this all the time, you sure are shy.

A BEAT. THEN…

HAROLD STEPS A LITTLE CLOSER, CONTINUES WITH ALL THE CLICKING AND FLASHING. SOPHIA CONTINUES POSING.

HAROLD: To be fair, most of these girls I photograph are…

SOPHIA: Younger?

HAROLD: Not married.

SOPHIA: (SCOLDS) Harold

CLICK, FLASH.

HAROLD: I’m teasing.

SOPHIA RELAXES, SMILES.

CLICK-CLICK-CLICK. FLASH-FLASH-FLASH.

HAROLD: Most of them are wannabe models who will never make it, settle on being whatever an “influencer” is, then turn to selling oils and pills and other people’s artwork.

SOPHIA: Sounds a bit harsh.

HAROLD: (SHAKES HEAD) I’m not judging. Just sharing.

SOPHIA SITS EXPOSED BENEATH THAT INTIMATELY DETAILED NUDE OIL INTERPRETATION OF HER YOUNGER SELF.

SOPHIA: (CONSIDERS THIS) So, what does that make me?

HAROLD STOPS.

HAROLD: I’m not sure yet.

A SILENCE. THEN…

HAROLD CONTINUES WITH THE CLICKING AND FLASHING, SOPHIA CONTINUES WITH THE POSING.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Many hours later, as Harold sat in the mild discomfort of an otherwise dark kitchen, beneath the wobbly blades of a ceiling fan, looking at dozens of photos of Sophia, he still wasn’t quite sure what to make of her.

Like the photos on his laptop, no two Sophias were the same. There was the refined woman in the silk sundress he met at the gallery, soft-spoken, curious, and resigned to the whims of a man who drags her by the wrist and parks in handicap spaces. A carefree mess in her vintage Bon Jovi tee smoking weed with Harold in his car. That confident young woman bound forever in canvas and oils. And every photograph was another Sophia looking back at him, her emotions and thoughts and urges scattered. One moment, she’s aware of how little she’s wearing and reaching for sheets, pretending she’s only being playful. The next, she’s ripping off her top and reaching for Harold with her eyes…

But it was the Sophia who caught his camera lingering too long on an old surgical scar that Harold kept coming back to.

SOPHIA GLIDES HER FINGERS OVER FAINT LINES RUNNING BENEATH HER ARMS AND BREASTS.

SOPHIA: These…? Oliver’s work. He’s a magnificent surgeon, but you can only roll back the clock so far. And time still leaves its scars.

HAROLD SAYS NOTHING…

…AND THE SILENCE CUTS AT SOPHIA LIKE HER HUSBAND’S SCALPEL.

Do they bother you?

HAROLD LOWERS HIS CAMERA, SEES THE MOSTLY NAKED WOMAN ON THE BED IN FRONT OF HIM. THEN…

HAROLD: No.

SOPHIA:  (SMILES) I tried to cover them up as best as I could.

HAROLD: They look fine. You look…

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Harold never finished his thought.

HAROLD RETURNS TO HIS CHAIR AND UNDERWEAR, ROLLS TO:

GRANDMA’S DARK KITCHEN.

HAROLD CONTINUES TYPING AND CLICKING AWAY AT A LAPTOP AS IF HE NEVER LEFT IT.

Back then, Oliver had returned by bursting through the front door and announcing his arrival like Ricky Ricardo. Whatever Harold might have been thinking at the time was replaced by the conflicting desires of leaping from the balcony window with the expensive view and running to the toilet.

GRANDMA ENTERS, ISN’T SURPRISED BY WHAT SHE FINDS.

But now, his Grandmother had walked in on her sweaty grandson in his underwear looking at erotic photographs of a mostly naked woman on his laptop.

GRANDMA: (SIGHS) Harold… I thought we talked about you doing this sort of thing in the kitchen.

HAROLD SLAMS THE LAPTOP SHUT.

HAROLD: I’m working and it’s hot in my garage!

END SCENE.

Grand Ghoulish: I-IV. Lavender

I-IV. LAVENDER

THE THIRD-FLOOR MASTER SUITE OF A “STATELY MANOR” LOCATED IN AN EXPENSIVE CORNER OF A SOMEHOW EVEN MORE EXPENSIVE STRIP OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA COASTLINE. DOOR ON ONE SIDE, LARGE WINDOW WITH A BALCONY OVERLOOKING THE EXPENSIVE EVERYTHING ON THE OTHER. A TASTEFUL, YET EROTICLY-SIZED BED IN THE MIDDLE. AN INTIMATELY DETAILED NUDE OIL PAINTING OF SOPHIA ABOVE THIS.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) The house was little more than a modest four-bedroom home condensed into a cramped four-and-a-half thousand square feet. The Brazilian walnut flooring was several years old by now, and the wine cellar too small for even a moderate day-drinker.

HAROLD ENTERS, ROUGHLY FIFTY POUNDS OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND LIGHTING EQUIPMENT IN BOTH HANDS.

Sure, the view of the crystalline waters of the Pacific from the third-floor master suite was every bit as breathtaking as it was majestic. But, it could be better. 

HE SEIZES UPON THE INTIMATELY DETAILED NUDE OIL PAINTING OF SOPHIA.

In fact, Harold hardly noticed the view because he was preoccupied with the massive, intimately detailed nude oil painting of Sophia hanging over her bed.

SOPHIA ENTERS WEARING SOMEHOW LESS THAN THE PAINTING, JOINS HAROLD. YET AGAIN, HAROLD SOMEHOW FAILS TO NOTICE…

SOPHIA: My father-in-law used to be one hell of an artist.

HAROLD: Your father-in-law painted this?

HAROLD TURNS TO SOPHIA, DROPS BOTH HIS JAW AND THE ROUGHLY FIFTY POUNDS OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND LIGHTING EQUIPMENT.

SOPHIA: Yeah, but he’s dead now.

SOPHIA TURNS, CAUTIOUSLY NAVIGATES THE BROKEN PHOTOGRAPHY AND LIGHTING EQUIPMENT, AND LOOKS MELODRAMATICALLY OUT THE WINDOW.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Harold stood there in the bedroom of a mostly-naked married woman, among the several gym bags and rather expensive and broken light bulbs at his feet, a man at war with himself.

HAROLD GAWKS AT SOPHIA, TO THE INTIMATELY DETAILED NUDE OIL PAINTING, TO THE BROKEN PHOTOGRAPHY AND LIGHTING EQUIPMENT ALL AROUND HIM, AND THEN BACK TO SOPHIA.

On the one hand, he was an artist being paid to do his job. It hardly mattered that Sophia was a mature woman wearing only bits of tissue paper, floss, and a smile. The sort of haunting beauty many years removed from that painting, yet preserved by the carefree lifestyle of comically obscene wealth and the skilled hands of a well-compensated surgeon.

SOPHIA CROSSES BACK OVER THE BROKEN PHOTOGRAPHY AND LIGHTING EQUIPMENT, SEATS HERSELF AT THE FOOT OF THE BED. HAROLD CONTINUES TO GAWK.

But on the other less-skilled hand, Sophia hardly seemed to mind that Harold was gawking at her thighs and pondering aloud as to how soft they must feel, perhaps like very expensive toilet paper lightly scented in lavender.

SOPHIA: I thought you were a professional, Mr. Photographer?

HAROLD: Yeah. Me, too.

SOPHIA: Harold, I’m teasing.

HAROLD: I’m sorry. I think maybe this was a mistake.

SOPHIA: What. Why?

HAROLD: Well. You’re married, for one.

SOPHIA: Are you still on that? Oliver’s paying you to do this. He gave you a deposit, didn’t he?

HAROLD: Yeah, but…

SOPHIA: (GROANS, ROLLS EYES) Harold… The mostly-naked woman on her bed is paying you good money to take photos of her. So quit being such a chicken shit, and whip your camera out.

HAROLD: (NODS) Yes, Ma’am.

END SCENE.

Grand Ghoulish: I-III. Stately Manor

I-III. STATELY MANOR

A “STATELY MANOR” LOCATED IN AN EXPENSIVE CORNER OF A SOMEHOW EVEN MORE EXPENSIVE STRIP OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA COASTLINE.

HAROLD PILOTS A CLASSIC STATION WAGON FULL OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND LIGHTING EQUIPMENT TO A STOP IN THE DRIVEWAY, IDLES THERE. 

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) A near-mint condition wood panel Ford station wagon creaked and wheezed to a stop outside what Harold would later describe to his grandmother as a “stately manor,” and Harold idled there for another fifteen minutes.

HE ANXIOUSLY SNACKS AND ROLLS A “MARIJUANA CIGARETTE” AS THE NARRATOR PRATTLES ON AS IF IT FARTING MATTERS.

It was an acceptable Sunday morning in an expensive corner of Southern California. The sun hungover in the sky, half-wrapped in a thin, frayed sheet of moisture that scattered the light like shards of broken glass into exposed flesh. The wind whipped at the eyes, and the salt stuck to everything. And far too many people dressed up for morning sermons but who were really just heading out for mojitos and brunch. A stark contrast to the thick, still air of that semi-converted garage where Harold stewed in his own juices all night, except for that hour or so when the air chilled and warm rain kicked up all the dirt. The sort of heat that wraps around you like a wool blanket and has you gasping for breath when the water of a cold shower hits your skin. Or has you sticking your head in the freezer until you realize how this is stupid and isn’t helping at all, taking your grandmother’s keys without asking, leaving Buena Park behind in the rear view mirror, and then cruising south along the 5 with the window cranked all the way down. Sure, you’ll get there a little earlier than planned. But you can just hangout by the beach for a bit, maybe grab some breakfast. Except there is no parking, and there’s no way in Hell that you’re going to pay fifteen dollars for half a Cubano and some potato chips. So you drive around until you find a gas station with a restroom, and buy some donuts and a drink with an arrhythmic amount of caffeine, even though that’ll just get you all wired up and shaky, and you’ll smoke a bunch of weed to calm yourself down.

HAROLD NODS IN AGREEMENT, LIGHTS AND SMOKES JOINT.

But then you realize it’s almost time for your appointment, and now you have to not only drive up and through a gated community located somewhere on a hill looking out over a stretch of the Pacific, but also do so in a rickety car that handles like a rickety boat.

SOPHIA, A COMFORTABLE MESS OF HAIR IN SWEATPANTS AND A TATTERED BON JOVI TEE, STEPS OUT, APPROACHES THE STATION WAGON. NEITHER HAROLD NOR THE NARRATOR SEEM TO NOTICE…

And once you arrive, you’ll spend another fifteen minutes smoking even more marijuana in the hope of forgetting that you nearly hit a family walking their dog and most definitely hit someone’s latest model luxury vehicle, even if nobody noticed or–

SOPHIA: Harold?

HAROLD EVENTUALLY TURNS TO SOPHIA, LIT JOINT IN HIS HAND. HE ROLLS DOWN A WINDOW THAT IS VERY MUCH ALREADY DOWN.

HAROLD: Hi.

SOPHIA TAKES THE JOINT, TAKES A HIT.

SOPHIA: Nice car.

SOPHIA RETURNS THE JOINT, HAROLD TAKES A HIT.

HAROLD: Thanks. It’s my grandma’s.

END SCENE.

Grand Ghoulish: I-II. Bedsheet Curtains

I-II. BEDSHEET CURTAINS

A BEDROOM BY WAY OF A SEMI-CONVERTED GARAGE. PILES OF CLOTHES AND NEBULOUS GARBAGE STREWN ABOUT THE PLACE. BEDSHEET CURTAINS HANG IN THE WINDOW. HAROLD, IN ONLY HIS UNDERWEAR, TYPES AND CLICKS AWAY AT A LAPTOP SOMEWHERE AMONG HIS MESS.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) It was maybe sometime in the afternoon when the wholly unfamiliar sound of a phone ringing pulled Harold away from his computer.

A PHONE RINGS, HAROLD SEARCHES FOR IT.

He’d spent the last several hours perusing job listings on the internet, and arguably more time avoiding it. And between this, the heavy bedsheet nailed and drawn shut across the window in the room he rented, and the copious amount of marijuana he’d just smoked, pinning down precisely which pile of clothes contained his phone proved a bit of a challenge.

RINGING CONTINUES, HAROLD GETS WARMER…

But even as he waddled and crawled about that semi-converted garage in his underwear, the possibility of even remote human contact was as good an excuse as any to call off today’s depressing search for paid work.

HAROLD FINDS THE PHONE, LOOKS AT THE SCREEN, BUT DOESN’T ANSWER.

Unfortunately for Harold, the number on his phone’s screen was from an unknown caller. But fortunately for Harold, they left a voicemail.

HAROLD PLAYS THE VOICEMAIL.

SOPHIA: (VOICEMAIL) Harold, it’s Sophia. I couldn’t stop thinking about–

HAROLD HANGS UP, ATTEMPTS TO CALL SOPHIA BACK SEVERAL TIMES, BUT CAN’T GET THROUGH.

HAROLD: (MUTTERS) Why do people always call and leave a message, but never pick up when you–

SOFIA FINALLY ANSWERS THE PHONE.

SOPHIA: (PHONE) Harold?

HAROLD: (FAWNS) Sophia… I couldn’t stop thinking about you too.

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE. THEN…

SOPHIA: (PHONE) What?

HAROLD: I said, “I couldn’t stop–”

SOPHIA: (PHONE) No. I got that.

HAROLD: Oh.

SOPHIA: (PHONE) What do you mean, “too”?

HAROLD: Your voicemail. You said…

SOPHIA: (PHONE) You didn’t finish listening to it, did you?

HAROLD: I did not.

SOPHIA: (PHONE) Of course.

HAROLD: What?

SOPHIA: (PHONE) I said, “I couldn’t stop thinking about you…”

HAROLD: Uh-huh.

SOPHIA: (PHONE) “…and your beautiful photos.”

HAROLD: (NODS) Gotcha. (A BEAT) Wait. How did you get my number? Your husband slapped my hand away when I tried giving him my business card.

SOPHIA: (PHONE) Yeah. Sorry about that.

HAROLD: I’m still kinda weirded out about that, actually.

SOPHIA: (PHONE) Harold, focus.

HAROLD: Yes, Ma’am.

SOPHIA: (PHONE) Look. It wasn’t easy getting your number. Is that awful woman from the gallery always such a pain?

HAROLD CONSIDERS THIS.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Harold neither confirmed nor denied this, mostly because he was too busy recalling the way he and Brennifer had hotboxed the utility closet and engaged in some vague approximation of sex after the gallery had closed for the evening. It wasn’t so much that the high had made sex difficult so much as it resulted in them failing to remove the various mops, half-filled buckets, and various harsh-smelling cleaning products before sealing themselves up for several sweltering, dizzying minutes. Certainly, this was not Harold’s finest hour. But it was mostly the way Brennifer had thrown several loose dollars and coins at him and refused to cuddle afterward that still left Harold feeling a little cheap.

SOPHIA: (PHONE) Harold?

HAROLD SNAPS OUT OF IT.

HAROLD: Sorry. I just realized I make really bad life choices.

SOPHIA: (PHONE) So, you’ll do it? You’ll take erotic photographs of me in the privacy of my bedroom while my husband is away?

HAROLD: I’m flattered, Sophia. A little creeped out by the weird way you guys keep phrasing it too, I guess. But, mostly flattered.

SOPHIA: (PHONE) So, what’s the problem?

HAROLD: You’re a married woman, Sophia. And your husband doesn’t seem like he’s onboard with this sorta thing.

SOPHIA: (PHONE) Oliver said it was a wonderful idea, didn’t he?

HAROLD: Yeah. That was kinda creepy, too. You get that, right?

SOPHIA: (PHONE) (CONSIDERS THIS) There’s five-hundred bucks in it for you.

HAROLD: When do you want me there?

SOPHIA: (PHONE) How does tomorrow work for you?

A NAGGINGLY SWEET-VOICED GRANDMA CALLS FROM SOMEWHERE OUTSIDE HAROLD’S BEDROOM BY WAY OF A SEMI-CONVERTED GARAGE.

GRANDMA: (OFF) Harold?

HAROLD GOES STILL AND SILENT, BURIES HIS PHONE IN HIS HANDS.

A SILENCE. THEN…

HAROLD BEGINS TO SPEAK…

GRANDMA VIOLENTLY BANGS ON THE WINDOW OF THE BEDROOM BY WAY OF A SEMI-CONVERTED GARAGE. THEN…

GRANDMA: (OFF) Harold, are you in there?

HAROLD: (SIGHS) Yes, Grandma?

GRANDMA: (OFF) Are you still driving me to my doctor’s appointment?

HAROLD: Yes, Grandma.

ANOTHER SILENCE. THEN…

GRANDMA: (OFF) Harold?

HAROLD: (SNAPS) I said, “Yes, Grandma”!

HAROLD REALIZES SOPHIA IS STILL ON THE PHONE AND HEARD EVERYTHING.

(TO SOPHIA) Yeah. Tomorrow works.

END SCENE.

Grand Ghoulish: I-I. Two Types of People

I-I. TWO TYPES OF PEOPLE

A SMALL ART GALLERY. A MAN, HAROLD, STARES AT A CLOCK HUNG ON THE WALL BETWEEN A PAIR OF PHOTOS OF A STICKY MOTEL ROOM. BRENNIFER, A PINK FAUX HAWK IN HORNED-RIMMED GLASSES AND A PANTSUIT, WORKS THE DOOR. A PALTRY SCATTERING OF LOOKIE-LOOS COME AND GO.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) There are precisely two types of people in this world.

The first are those daring few showcasing tasteful erotic photography on the walls of a small art gallery situated in the sort of affluent coastal California “community” where everyone drives the latest model luxury vehicle, grows their own pot, and insists on charging their rocks by moonlight. For the sake of legalities, the name of this particular town escapes me at the moment…

(A BEAT)

Meanwhile, the other sort aren’t complete idiots.

And as a man we’ll call “Harold” stood there in a mostly empty art gallery, staring up at a clock hung between a pair of before-and-after photos of a sticky motel room, he took solace in the fact that while his idiocy was on full display, at least nobody was around to witness it.

BRENNIFER APPROACHES HAROLD.

BRENNIFER: (THUNDERING LILT) Harold?

HAROLD TURNS TO BRENNIFER, STARTS TO SCREAM SOMETHING ABOUT PHONY CAPITALIST ELITES SUCKING ON THE TEAT OF ARTISTIC INTEGRITY, THEN DOESN’T.

HAROLD: Hey, Brennifer.

BRENNIFER: You okay?

HAROLD: (LIES POORLY) Yeah. I think so.

BRENNIFER LOOKS ABOUT THE EMPTY GALLERY, THEN BACK TO HAROLD.

BRENNIFER: Wow. Really?

HAROLD TAKES IN BRENNIFER.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Harold looked at Brennifer for a moment, wondering if the dead-eyed woman across from him sold either scented oils or pills when she wasn’t failing to sell other people’s artwork for money. “Pills,” he thought. “Definitely pills.”

HAROLD: Have we sold anything yet?

BRENNIFER: (SHAKES HEAD) No. But if it helps any, I’ve curated worse showings than this.

HAROLD: Really?

BRENNIFER: No. This is probably the worst.

HAROLD CONSIDERS THIS.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Harold considered this, then briefly imagined himself running through the gallery’s glass storefront and cackling his way down Main Street until finally succumbing to blood loss.

HAROLD CONSIDERS THIS AS WELL.

HAROLD: Thanks, Brennifer…

BRENNIFER: You’re welcome.

HAROLD: I didn’t finish.

BRENNIFER: Oh?

HAROLD: (SHAKES HEAD) No. I was going to say, “Thanks, Brennifer… (ANGRY, PETTY PAUSE) …for stomping on the shattered remains of my hopes and dreams.”

BRENNIFER: Oh.

HAROLD: Yup.

BRENNIFER: Sorry.

HAROLD TURNS BACK TO THE CLOCK.

HAROLD: (SIGHS) It’s fine. I didn’t want to have to carry home what little self-respect I had left.

BRENNIFER RETURNS TO THE DOOR AND LOOKIE-LOOS.

THE CLOCK BEGINS TO SPIN AWAY, INDICATING SOME SEMBLANCE OF THE PASSAGE OF TIME. LOOKIE-LOOS COME, LOOKIE-LOOS GO. HAROLD DOESN’T MOVE FROM HIS SPOT.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) The hours didn’t slip away so much as they shuffled by, fell over, cried that they’d fallen and can’t get back up, waited a moment, and then slowly got back to their feet before finally getting on with it.

During this time, Harold decided his feet hurt and got a chair.

HAROLD STEPS AWAY, RETURNS WITH A CHAIR. HE SITS AWKWARDLY ATOP THE CHAIR FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS SCENE FOR SOME REASON LOST EVEN TO HIM.

From atop his uneven, wholly uncomfortable chair that creaked and clattered every single time he shuffled his weight, Harold’s attention alternated between the clock on the wall and the scattered handful of disinterested locals and disinterested, broke tourists drifting in and out of the gallery.

AN OLDER, PLEASANT MAN WITH A ROMANIAN ACCENT APPROACHES, SPEAKS WITH HAROLD, POINTS TO A PHOTOGRAPH ON THE WALL.

NONE OF THIS REGISTERS WITH HAROLD.

MAN GIVES UP, RETURNS TO HIS PLEASANT, SQUATTISH WIFE.

MAN: I would love to buy that photograph, but that angry little man looked like he needed it more.

MAN AND WIFE EXIT IN ODDLY SINCERE DISAPPOINTMENT.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) This continued for much of the afternoon…

A SMALL, WRINKLY POTATO OF A WOMAN WITH A GREEN VISOR AND BAD HIGHLIGHTS SPEAKS WITH BRENNIFER.

until a wrinkly potato of a woman with a green visor and bad highlights in her hair asked Brennifer why the lady hadn’t put her phone away and asked the shaggy homeless man in the back to leave.

BRENNIFER SHRUGS.

POTATO HUFFS, LEAVES.

BRENNIFER APPROACHES HAROLD.

BRENNIFER: You need to leave.

HAROLD: What, leave? Why? This is my show.

BRENNIFER: You’re depressing everyone away.

HAROLD: (SCOFFS) “Depressing everyone away”? (GESTURES) There’s nobody here, Brennifer!

HAROLD’S EYES MEET THOSE OF A CONCERNED COUPLE IN MATCHING SHIRTS.

A SILENCE. THEN…

CONCERNED COUPLE SLOWLY, QUIETLY BACK OUT THE DOOR WITHOUT ANY SUDDEN MOVEMENTS.

(TO BRENNIFER) Okay. Maybe you have a point.

SOPHIA, A CHARMING, MATURE WOMAN IN A SILK SUNDRESS, ENTERS.

SOPHIA: Excuse me.

HAROLD AND BRENNIFER TURN TO SOPHIA.

SOPHIA APPROACHES.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) She was a cool forty poured into a silk sundress. Dark curls kissed the bare, tanned skin of her shoulders. And only the faint hint of laugh lines appearing about a pair of bedroom eyes as a devilish smile—

BRENNIFER: (SQUAWKS) Can I help you, Ma’am?

HAROLD SHOOS BRENNIFER AWAY WITH A WAVE OF HIS HAND, BUT WITHOUT SO MUCH AS A LOOK HER WAY.

HAROLD: Go vlog in the street, or something, will ya?

BRENNIFER CONSIDERS THIS, PRETENDS TO CARE, THINKS BETTER OF IT, THEN FLOATS AWAY AND OUT THE DOOR.

SOPHIA: Is she going to be okay?

HAROLD: (SHRUGS) How can I help you, Ms…

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE.

SOPHIA EVENTUALLY PUTS TWO-AND-TWO TOGETHER, EXTENDS HER HAND.

SOPHIA: Sophia.

HAROLD LOOKS AT, EVENTUALLY TAKES SOPHIA’S HAND.

HAROLD: How can I help you, Ms. Sophia?

SOPHIA LOOKS AT HER HAND, BACK TO HAROLD, THEN… WITHDRAWS HER HAND.

SOPHIA: Aren’t you the janitor?

HAROLD: What? No, I’m the photographer.

SOPHIA: Wait. Really?

HAROLD: Yeah…

HAROLD GESTURES TO THE MANY PHOTOGRAPHS HANGING ON THE WALL, BUT SPECIFICALLY TO THE REASONABLY SIZED SIGN BY THE DOOR WITH BOTH HAROLD’S NAME AND FACE PRINTED ON IT.

These are all…

SOPHIA: I’m so sorry… (SNEAKS A LOOK AT THE SIGN BY THE DOOR) Harold.

HAROLD: Did you actually think I was the janitor?

SOPHIA SHRUGS.

HAROLD: Huh.

SOPHIA: I mean, you dress so… (GESTURES AT ALL OF HIM)

HAROLD: (SIGHS, SHAKES HEAD) No, I totally get it.

SOPHIA: Poor. You dress like a poor–

HAROLD: Yeah. I got it.

SHE LOOKS AT HIM, “DID YOU, THOUGH?”

SOMEWHERE OUTSIDE. BRENNIFER IS NEARLY RUN DOWN IN THE STREET BY A PASSING BIKE MESSENGER WHILE COMPLAINING ABOUT HER CRUMMY DAY AT WORK TO STRANGERS ON THE INTERNET. SHE SHOUTS AND SWEARS AND STORMS OFF.

EVERYONE LOOKS AND FROWNS UPON THIS.

HAROLD: So… Sophia. Did you see something you like?

SOPHIA: Actually, I wanted to inquire about a possible private session.

HAROLD: Seriously?

SOPHIA TURNS TOWARD A PHOTOGRAPH OF A NAKED WOMAN WISTFULLY LOOKING OUT ACROSS SANTIAGO CANYON AT SUNSET, SIGHS.

HAROLD: (BLINKS) Okay.

SOPHIA DRIFTS FROM ONE IMAGE TO THE NEXT, PAUSING DRAMATICALLY AS NECESSARY AS SHE SHARES SOME EMOTIONALLY CHARGED STORY ABOUT HER FADING BEAUTY AND THE MEN WHO ONCE PAINTED IMAGES OF HER.

HAROLD – AND THUS, US – TUNES IN AND OUT.

SOPHIA PAUSES JUST LONG ENOUGH, HAROLD ASSUMES SHE’S FINISHED.

HAROLD: I would love to photograph you, Sophia. But, why me?

SOPHIA: (CONSIDERS THIS) Do you believe in fate, Harold?

HAROLD: (DOESN’T CONSIDER THIS AT ALL) No, not really.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) And then for the sake of dramatic conflict, it was at this time that Sophia’s previously unmentioned husband appeared.

OLIVER, A MENACINGLY ATTRACTIVE, ATTRACTIVELY MENACING MAN, ENTERS.

He was a square jaw in khaki shorts. A head of luscious, perfectly coiffed hair wearing socks with sandals. Broad shoulders and meaty arms with a tiny wristwatch. Not since Charlton Heston descended from that mountain top in his finest robe and slippers has a chiseled work of divine art commanded the attention of all those in attendance.

OLIVER APPROACHES SOPHIA AND HAROLD.

So it didn’t surprise Harold that, even from atop his chair, he was but a boy, in both stature and dress, to the animated slab of beef before him. And all he could think to say was–

HAROLD: (FAWNS) Is that a tailored polo shirt?

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) It was.

HAROLD REACHES FOR, BUT DOESN’T QUITE TOUCH THE BEEFY MAN’S ARMS WITHOUT PERMISSION.

SOPHIA: Harold. This is my husband, Oliver.

HAROLD CATCHES, STOPS HIMSELF.

HAROLD: Husband?

OLIVER EXTENDS A HAND TO HAROLD LIKE A GREEK GOD REACHING OUT TO A CHIMP.

OLIVER: Doctor, actually.

HAROLD, THE CHIMP THAT HE IS, LOOKS AT, EVENTUALLY TAKES, SHAKES OLIVER’S HAND.

HAROLD: Of course you are.

OLIVER: Excuse me?

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) But before Harold could even begin to consider constructing a lie to hide this strange and confusing mix of fear, insecurity, and pure animal attraction… 

HAROLD SLOWLY, YET QUICKLY REALIZES OLIVER IS CRUSHING HIS HAND.

…he realized that what can only be described as Oliver’s massive paw was crushing his teeny-tiny baby-man hand.

HAROLD ATTEMPTS, FAILS TO NOT CURL UP IN PAIN AND AGONY.

And as the bones and joints of his teeny-tiny baby-man hands bent and popped in ways they never evolved to do, Harold recalled a date with a petite Vietnamese woman at a Japanese seafood restaurant.

HAROLD ESCAPES INTO HIS THOUGHTS.

He couldn’t remember the woman’s name, or even why this scenario occurred in the first place. But he did remember the way he struggled to crack the shell of a crab with the big metal cracker they’d given him. He also remembered the way he felt uncomfortable watching his date rip and tear crab leg after lobster claw with her bare hands.

HAROLD SNAPS BACK TO HIS PAINFUL REALITY, TAPS OUT.

HAROLD: (PAINED SQUIRMING) My hand…

OLIVER SLOWLY, YET SLOWLY REALIZES THE CHIMP IS ATTEMPTING TO COMMUNICATE SOMETHING.

(PAINED SQUIRMING) You’re crushing my hand…

OLIVER RELEASES WHAT REMAINS OF HAROLD’S HAND.

SOPHIA: Oliver’s an experimental surgeon.

HAROLD: (NURSES HAND) Experimental? What, like ripping people open with his bare hands?

OLIVER STARES DEEP INTO HAROLD’S SOUL.

OLIVER: What have you heard about my bear hands?

HAROLD: (TO SOPHIA) Is he serious?

SOPHIA: Probably.

OLIVER: (TO SOPHIA) Sweetie?

HAROLD & SOPHIA: Yes, Darling?

OLIVER: Why are you introducing me to the janitor?

HAROLD: Do I really dress that bad?

SOPHIA: He’s a photographer, Oliver.

OLIVER: Always good to have a hobby, I suppose. But why are we speaking with the help?

HAROLD: Rude.

SOPHIA: No. This is his show. These are his photographs on the wall.

OLIVER LOOKS ABOUT, MILDLY UNIMPRESSED.

HAROLD: My face is on the poster, man.

OLIVER: How quaint.

HAROLD: Thank you?

OLIVER: Bit gratuitous. though. All these pictures of naked people and their wobbly bits. Don’t people share this sort of thing on the internet for free these days?

SOPHIA: Oliver—

HAROLD: It’s okay. He’s not wrong.

OLIVER: See?

SOPHIA: (ROLLS EYES) Yes. Well. I want to book Harold’s services for a private session.

OLIVER: Is that right?

HAROLD: (SHRUGS) Yeah, I don’t get it either.

OLIVER: You want to take private, erotic photographs my wife?

HAROLD: Yes.

OLIVER: Possibly in some state of undress.

HAROLD: Uh-huh.

OLIVER: And you want to be paid to do such a thing?

HAROLD: Also yes.

BRENNIFER ENTERS.

BRENNIFER: (TO ALL) Anyone own the latest model luxury vehicle parked in the handicap spot across the street?

OLIVER: Yes. Why?

BRENNIFER: Because they’re towing it, Dude.

OLIVER: (GROANS) Not again. (TO HAROLD) Okay. Look. Henry?

HAROLD & SOPHIA: Harold.

OLIVER: Don’t correct a man when he’s giving you a job, Henry.

HAROLD: Yes, Sir.

OLIVER: I think it’s a wonderful idea to have a total stranger take erotic photos of my naked wife.

HAROLD: I mean, when you put it that way…

OLIVER: I did.

HAROLD: Right. Well. Let me get you a business card, and–

OLIVER SHAKES HEAD, SLAPS HAROLD’S HAND AWAY FROM HIS OWN POCKET.

OLIVER: No. Nope. No business cards.

HAROLD: What the hell?

OLIVER WIPES HIS HANDS CLEAN ON THE BACK OF SOPHIA’S DRESS.

OLIVER: I don’t do business cards.

HAROLD: (PUZZLES THIS) What?

OLIVER DISMISSES THIS WITH A WAVE OF HIS HAND, MUTTERS SOMETHING ABOUT POOR PEOPLE, THEN TAKES SOPHIA BY THE WRIST.

OLIVER: Don’t worry about it, Hank. We’ll find you.

HAROLD ATTEMPTS TO CORRECT OLIVER, BUT OLIVER AND SOPHIA ARE SOMEHOW ALREADY OUT THE DOOR.

HAROLD: (TO NOBODY) Did he threaten me? Cuz that sounded like he was threatening me, maybe.

BRENNIFER SPEAKS, WATCHES FROM THE DOORWAY.

BRENNIFER: A little. But if it helps any, they totally towed his car away. He’s super pissed.

HAROLD JOINS HER.

HAROLD: (SMILES) Yeah. That does kinda help.

END SCENE.

The Sound That Night (II-III)

II-III. A DEBT PAID

SOUNDSCAPE: THE STILL SILENCE OF A VAST AND ENDLESS DESERT.

SFX: BENNY ABSENTLY TOSSES ROCKS AT THE TRACKS.

BENNY: (bored sigh)

SFX: A COYOTE HOWLS.

BENNY: (looks up, out) Huh?

SFX: THE DISTANT SOUNDS OF AN APPROACHING HORSE.

BENNY: (sees something) Hey… (it clicks, all smiles) Hey! (laughing) He did it!

SFX: STRANGER ARRIVES ON HORSEBACK.

BENNY: You did it! You really did it! It is him, right?

SFX: STRANGER DISMOUNTS.

STRANGER: You tell me.

STRANGER GRABS A HANDFUL OF CLARENCE’S HAIR, PULLS HEAD UP.

CLARENCE: (pained groans) You can’t do this to me…

STRANGER: I can and I am.

BENNY: (looks on at CLARENCE) My God… the sight of him…

STRANGER: This your man?

BENNY: Yeah… Yeah, that’s Clarence.

SFX: STRANGER RELEASES CLARENCE.

Oh. Yeah. Right. (fumbles in pockets) I think this is yours.

SFX: BENNY DROPS TWO COINS IN THE STRANGER’S HAND.

I suppose this makes us even.

STRANGER: (agreeable grunt)

BENNY: (nods) Good. Good… (looks at CLARENCE) I still can’t believe that’s him. (to STRANGER) Ya know, I didn’t think about it till now, but… (emotional) with her folks, and now Clarence… me… Natalie’s all alone now.

STRANGER: Aren’t we all.

A SILENCE, THEN…

SFX: STRANGER TURNS, WALKS AWAY.

BENNY: What happens now? You… you take him to Hell, or somethin’?

STRANGER: My experience? Hell is what you make of it.

SFX: STRANGER MOUNTS HORSE.

BENNY: And me?

STRANGER: Follow the tracks west.

BENNY: (looks west) What’s out there?

STRANGER: (considers this) Maybe we’ll both find out someday.

BENNY: Yeah. I hope so.

SFX: STRANGER RIDES OFF INTO THE EAST.

A SILENCE, THEN…

SFX: BENNY WALKS WEST.

OUT.

THE END

The Sound That Night (II-II)

II-II. THE HUNT

SOUNDSCAPE: THE UNSUSPECTING AMBIENCE OF A CONVENIENTLY QUIET, ISOLATED STRETCH OF ROAD.

STRANGER: (voice-over) I’ve heard it said you never hear the one with your name on it. That’s why I make sure they see me coming first.

SFX: CRUISER DRIVES BY, AWAY.

SOUNDSCAPE: THE UNCOMFORTABLE INTERIOR OF THE POLICE CRUISER.

OFFICER JIMMY: So, uh… How’s Natalie doing?

CLARENCE: Why the sudden interest in my baby sister, Jimmy?

OFFICER JIMMY: No reason, Clarence. Just…making conversation, is all.

CLARENCE: (disapproving growl)

SFX: BANG! THE CRUISER’S TIRE BLOWS OUT.

SFX: CRUISER LOSES CONTROL, CRASHES.

SOUNDSCAPE: THE UNUSUALLY PEACEFUL ATMOSPHERE OF A QUIET, ISOLATED STRETCH OF ROAD AFTER A CRASH.

SFX: CLARENCE EXITS THE WRECKAGE.

CLARENCE: Jimmy? Jimmy! Jimmy, you brain-dead idjit! What the Hell was that all about?

SFX: A COYOTE HOWLS.

STRANGER: Clarence Middleton!

SFX: STRANGER APPEARS, APPROACHES ON HORSEBACK. SLOW, STEADY.

CLARENCE: Deputy Middle–! (wait, back it up) (barking) You! This your doing?!

OFFICER JIMMY: (off) (pained) Clarence?

CLARENCE: I’m here, Jimmy! Some horse-riding son-of-a-whore shot out our tire!

OFFICER JIMMY: (off) (pained) I ain’t doin’ so good, Clarence…

CLARENCE: Look what you did to Jimmy, you damned savage! 

STRANGER: He’ll live.

SFX: CLARENCE STRUGGLES TO HIS FEET.

CLARENCE: That right? And me? You gonna kill me, Cowboy?

STRANGER: Dead or alive, you’re—

CLARENCE: Fuck you!

SFX: BANG! CLARENCE SHOOTS STRANGER.

SFX: STRANGER DROPS DEAD OFF HIS HORSE.

A SILENCE. THEN…

SFX: CLARENCE LAUGHS HYSTERICALLY.

CLARENCE: Take that you stupid summna–

OFFICER JIMMY: (off) (pained) Clarence…

CLARENCE: I heard ya! Don’t you worry. I’ve got this one handled, Jimmy. You radio for–

SFX: BANG! STRANGER SHOOTS CLARENCE IN THE GUT.

CLARENCE: (weak-in-the-knees) Wha-What in the…

SFX: CLARENCE DROPS TO HIS KNEES.

SFX: THE STRANGER RISES TO HIS FEET.

STRANGER: Clarence Middleton.

CLARENCE: God in Heaven…

SFX: STRANGER APPROACHES, THE JANGLING OF SPURS PUNCTUATING EACH STEP. ONE STEP… TWO… THREE…

CLARENCE: No… No, I shot you. I shot you!

STRANGER: I don’t care.

CLARENCE: Who do you work for? Huh? Who sent you?

STRANGER: You’re wanted for the murder of Benicio Sierra.

CLARENCE: What? That filthy wet–?! Did his people send you? Huh? You idiot! I’m the police! You can’t–!

SFX: BANG! STRANGER SHOOTS CLARENCE, POINT BLANK.

SFX: CLARENCE DROPS DEAD.

STRANGER: I can, Deputy Middleton. And I will.

FADE.

To be continued…

The Sound That Night (II-I)

II-I. THE BOUNTY

SOUNDSCAPE: THE UNCOMFORTABLE ATMOSPHERE OF A COZY 1950S HOME OCCUPIED BY A YOUNG WOMAN (NATALIE) AND THE OLDER BROTHER (CLARENCE) WHO MURDERED HER BOYFRIEND IN COLD BLOOD.

SFX: NATALIE CLEANS DISHES IN THE KITCHEN.

CLARENCE: (off) (calm, but dominate) Natalie.

SFX: NATALIE FREEZES. SHE’S TRAPPED IN A ROOM WITH A BEAR.

SFX: CLARENCE ENTERS.

CLARENCE: Is my lunch ready?

NATALIE: It’s on the table.

SFX: CLARENCE INSPECTS THE BAG.

CLARENCE: (warm. ish.) Are these Ma’s persimmon cookies?

NATALIE: Yes.

BEAT.

CLARENCE: You know, I promised her I’d look after you best I could. And I ain’t gonna let any harm come to you. Even when you bring it upon yourself.

NATALIE: Okay.

A BEAT. THEN…

SFX: CLARENCE CLOSES, CRUMPLES BAG.

CLARENCE: I’m all you’ve got left now…

SFX: CLARENCE APPROACHES NATALIE FROM BEHIND, UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE.

You understand that, don’t you?

NATALIE: Yes, Clarence.

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE.

SFX: HONK-HONK! THE CRUISER’S HORN, CURBSIDE.

CLARENCE: That’s Jimmy. I gotta go. I’ll be home late.

SFX: CLARENCE GRABS HIS KEYS, LEAVES, AND THEN…

SFX: SLAMS DOOR BEHIND HIM.

SFX: NATALIE FLINCHES, GASPS AT THE SOUND. SHE CAN BREATH AGAIN, FEEL AGAIN. AND THE TEARS WON’T STOP COMING.

FADE.

To be continued…

The Sound That Night (I-II)

I-II. THE STATION

SOUNDSCAPE: THE PEACEFUL AMBIENCE OF A BUSTLING, OTHERWORLDLY TRAIN STATION SURROUNDED BY AN ENDLESS STRETCH OF DESERT.

STATION MANAGER: Sir? Excuse me, Sir. Train’ll be arriving shortly.

BENNY: (stirs) Train?

SFX: DISTANT SHRILL OF A TRAIN WHISTLE.

STRANGER: (voice-over) Like many others before him, Benny finds himself on a bench on the platform of a train station looking out across a vast and endless desert. The wood planks worn smooth. The paint peeling and flaking. And the sky burns in the flames of perpetual sunset.

SFX: BENNY RISES, STEPS FORWARD, AND TAKES IT ALL IN.

BENNY: Where am I?

STATION MANAGER: A long way from home. But I suppose we all are.

SFX: TRAIN APPROACHES. UP, UNDER.

SFX: CROWD MURMURS IN ANTICIPATION.

STRANGER: (voice-over) The black locomotive trimmed in gold appears in the east, cutting west across the burning desert, toward the station. The gathering crowd marvels as silver plumes of steam and smoke stretch upward forever until they become the clouds and the stars in the sky.

SFX: TRAIN PULLS IN, STOPS.

SFX: PASSENGERS BOARD.

BENNY: Where does it go?

STATION MANAGER: Somewhere else.

BENNY: Will it get me home?

STATION MANAGER: (considers this) Eventually.

BENNY: Am I dead?

STATION MANAGER: (nods) Afraid so.

SFX: A DISTANT GUNSHOT RINGS OUT ACROSS THE DESERT.

BENNY: (it sinks in) He shot me…

STATION MANAGER: Who?

BENNY: A man named Clarence… Will he come here too?

STATION MANAGER: Does it matter?

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE.

SFX: A COYOTE HOWLS.

BENNY: What…?

SOUNDSCAPE: THE STILL SILENCE OF A VAST AND ENDLESS DESERT.

BENNY: (panicked) No. No-no-no. This isn’t–this is… It’s gone! Where did it all… No, it can’t– Hello? Hello?!

SFX: THE STRANGER APPROACHES ON HORSEBACK, SLOW, STEADY.

STRANGER: They’re gone.

BENNY: Where?

STRANGER: (gestures) West.

BENNY: What’s that way?

STRANGER: Something else.

BENNY: And the other way?

A SILENCE. THEN…

STRANGER: The man you spoke of…

BENNY: Clarence… You heard that?

STRANGER: (nods) The bounty is two coins.

BENNY: Coins? I don’t… (checks pockets) I don’t think I’ve got any… (pulls out TWO COINS) (to STRANGER) What is this?

STRANGER: Every soul must pay The Conductor to ride the Train to Elsewhere.

BENNY: (puzzles this) But if I pay you…

STRANGER: You must walk west, across the desert.

BENNY: (looks westward) (to self) Natalie… (To STRANGER) Will I ever make it?

STRANGER: Someday. But long after those you love.

BENNY: And Clarence?

STRANGER: I will find him.

BENNY: (considers this) Yeah. Yeah, okay. You’ve got a deal.

SFX: THEY SHAKE HANDS.

SFX: A COYOTE HOWLS.

FADE.

END ACT ONE

To be continued…

The Sound That Night (I-I)

I-I. CRY, LITTLE SISTER

SOUNDSCAPE: THE DRAMATICALLY APPROPRIATE SOUNDS OF A LONELY CANYON ROAD AT NIGHT.

STRANGER: (voice-over) The year is 1955. The place, a moonlit stretch of road cutting and weaving through a weed and bramble-choked canyon somewhere in California.

SFX: A CLASSIC ROADSTER APPROACHES, ROARS PAST, AND AWAY.

The car, meanwhile, belongs to the young man behind the wheel — Benny Sierra. But while his eyes are on the road, Benny’s attention and affection both belong to the charming young woman seated beside him.

SOUNDSCAPE: THE ROCK ‘N ROLL INTERIOR OF A 1955 BEL AIR AS IT SPEEDS DOWN A LONELY CANYON ROAD AT NIGHT.

NATALIE: Benny… I had a really nice time tonight.

BENNY: (smiles) Me too, Natalie. (putting on the charm) So, uh… what was your favorite part?

NATALIE: (considers this) Well… I want to say it was the part where I got to share a moonlit picnic by the lake with a dark, handsome stranger.

BENNY: S’that right?

NATALIE: (smiles) Mm-hmm. (teasing) But…

BENNY: (wait. what?) “But”? Wait. What? Why’s there a but?

NATALIE: (bigger smile, pressing on) But… I gotta say, I kinda wish I stayed with that Mutant fellow with the big brain.

BENNY: Laws, that was an awful movie!

NATALIE: (laughs) Did you hear that man sitting behind us?

BENNY: Hear him? I still can’t get his bad jokes out of my head. He was talking through the whole movie!

NATALIE: (snuggles close) I guess it’s a good thing we left early, huh?

BENNY: Yeah. I guess it was.

AND THEN…

SFX: WOOP-WOOP! A POLICE CRUISER FLASHES LIGHTS AND SIREN.

BENNY: Aw, man. What now?

NATALIE: Benny, you better pull over.

SFX: THE BEL AIR PULLS TO THE SIDE OF THE ROAD, STOPS.

SOUNDSCAPE: THE UNCOMFORTABLE AMBIENCE OF AN UNWARRANTED TRAFFIC STOP ON THE SIDE OF A LONELY CANYON ROAD AT NIGHT.

SFX: OFFICER (JIMMY) APPROACHES, TAPS ON GLASS.

SFX: BENNY ROLLS, CRANKS DOWN WINDOW.

OFFICER: Please step out of the car, Sir.

BENNY: Excuse me?

NATALIE: (to OFFICER) Jimmy?

OFFICER: Hey, Nat. This’ll just take a second. (to BENNY) Sir, please. Step out of the car.

NATALIE: Jimmy, what are you doing?

OFFICER: I’m sorry, Nat.

SFX: DEPUTY CLARENCE MIDDLETON EXITS THE CRUISER, APPROACHES THE BEL AIR.

CLARENCE: The man asked you to step out of the car twice now. Don’t make him ask you a third time.

NATALIE: (furious) Clarence!

BENNY: Aw, shit.

SFX: NATALIE STORMS OUT OF THE CAR, AT CLARENCE.

CLARENCE: Natalie. You get back in there. This ain’t got nothing to do with you.

NATALIE: Like Hell!

SFX: SLAP! CLARENCE STRIKES NATALIE ACROSS THE FACE.

NATLIE: (pained scream)

BENNY: Natalie!

CLARENCE: See what you’ve made me go and do, Mr. Sierra? Think you want to step out of that car now?

SFX: BENNY STEPS OUT OF THE CAR.

CLARENCE: That’s a good boy. (to NATALIE) See? Was that too hard? All I wanted was a little pow-wow with our mutual friend.

BENNY: What do you want, Clarence–

CLARENCE: Deputy Middleton. (To OFFICER) Jimmy. Escort my baby sister back home.

OFFICER: Come along, Nat.

NATALIE: (pulls away) What? No!

BENNY: What do we have to talk about? Was I speeding? You gonna give me a ticket?

CLARENCE: No. We’re past that, Mr. Sierra.

SFX: CLARENCE UNHOLSTERS HIS SIDEARM, PISTOLWHIPS BENNY.

SFX: BENNY DROPS LIKE A ROCK WITH A BROKEN JAW.

BENNY: (pained, broken grunts)

NATALIE: Benny!

CLARENCE: Yeah. I bet that smarts.

OFFICER: Clarence…

CLARENCE: Jimmy. Wouldn’t you agree that there is a God-given order to the world? A purpose. A plan. A place for everything, and everything in its place.

OFFICER: Yeah. Yeah, I guess so. But, uh… Clarence, I don’t think–

CLARENCE: Nor should you. Didn’t I order you to take Natalie home?

OFFICER: Yeah. But…

CLARENCE: Then I suggest you mind your place and do your job.

OFFICER: Yes, Sir.

CLARENCE: And you, Mr. Sierra. We’re going to see if we can sort out exactly where you belong.

SFX: CLARENCE KICKS BENNY IN THE RIBS.

BENNY: (pained grunts)

NATALIE: (sobs) Benny!

OFFICER: Clarence! Stop this!

CLARENCE: Jimmy, I told you–!

SFX: BENNY TACKLES CLARENCE TO THE GROUND.

OFFICER: Clarence!

SFX: BENNY AND CLARENCE WRESTLE, STRUGGLE OVER GUN.

NATALIE: Both of you! Cut this out right this instant!

SFX: BENNY PINS, PUNCHES CLARENCE. ONCE, TWICE…

SFX: BANG! A SINGLE GUNSHOT ECHOES THROUGH THE CANYON.

NATALIE: (frightened gasp)

SFX: BENNY DROPS DEAD.

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE.

NATALIE: (broken) Oh, God…

OFFICER: Clarence… Clarence, what did you do?

SFX: CLARENCE RISES, DUSTS HIMSELF OFF.

CLARENCE: Eliminated the threat.

OFFICER: You shot him, Clarence. He’s dead. He ain’t supposed to be dead. But you shot him, and now he’s dead.

CLARENCE: Then I guess he knows his place now, don’t he?

OFFICER: (shakes head) This is wrong. This is all wrong.

CLARENCE: The only thing wrong, Officer, is that you’re disobeying a director order. Get Natalie home. Now.

OFFICER: What are you going to do?

CLARENCE: It’s like I said: a place for everything, and everything in its place. And someone’s gotta take out the trash.

SFX: OFFICER ESCORTS A BROKEN NATALIE INTO THE CRUISER, DRIVES AWAY.

FADE.

TO BE CONTINUED…

I’ve Got a Receipt (II-V)

II-V: THE GARDEN III

The lonely aesthetic of a dead mall’s parking lot.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) Some forty-five minutes after witnessing her sister and several others devoured by the ancient evil lurking in a trippy cosmic void several miles below her local mall, Cassie was escorted out by mall security.

A lone SECURITY GUARD on a segway escorts Cassie out of the mall.

SECURITY GUARD: (tired, don’t care) Thank you for shopping at The Garden. You are now banned from The Garden for eighteen months. Please vacate the premises immediately.

CASSIE: Wait. So, that’s it?

SECURITY GUARD: What, were you expecting a big chase scene and more ritual sacrifice?

CASSIE: (shrugs) Maybe.

Security Guard’s radio SQUAWKS and a VOICE speaks from the other side.

VOICE: (radio) Frank?

SECURITY GUARD: (to VOICE) Yeah. Go ahead.

Another SQUAWK of the radio.

VOICE: (radio) Peter’s under the escalator again.

SECURITY GUARD: (sigh) Goddammit. (to VOICE) I’ll be right there. (to self) They don’t pay me enough for this shit.

Security Guard turns around, disappears into the mall.

CASSIE: Huh.

Cassie’s phone RINGS, she answers.

CASSIE: Mom?

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Hiya, Sweetie. I’ve been trying to get a hold of your sister, but she’s not answering.

CASSIE: Mom…

MOM: (phone) (drunk) She left me an awful voicemail – all this shouting and screaming.

CASSIE: (emotional) Mom. Brennifer’s dead!

An uncomfortable silence. Then…

CASSIE: Mom? Mom are you–

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Hello? Sweetie?

CASSIE: Yes, Mom. I’m trying to–

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Stupid phones never have any–

CASSIE: Brennifer’s dead, Mom!

Another silence. Then…

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Cassie? Hello? Cassie, are you there?

CASSIE: Yes. Mom. I’m–

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Hello?

CASSIE: Mom! I’m trying to tell you about Brenn–

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Nevermind your sister.

CASSIE: (puzzles this) Are you drinking?

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Does boxed wine count?

Yet another uncomfortable silence. Then…

CASSIE: (sighs) Yes, Mom. Boxed wine–

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Anyway!

CASSIE: (repressed rage)

MOM: (phone) (drunk) You’re not gonna believe this, but I gave you the wrong receipt! (cackling) I feel like such a doofus!

THE END

I’ve Got a Receipt (II-IV)

II-IV: The M’na-ger

An impressively modern, if rather unimpressively modern temple of evil worshiping in the style of a hockey arena. The muffled roar of a large, rowdy AUDIENCE. A foul, sinister prayer playing on a loop over the PA system that is, in fact, a foul, sinister rendition of Piero Umiliani’s “Mah Na Mah Na.”

NARRATOR: (voice-over) If you were to remove the top portion of your typical professional hockey arena, replaced the chill, dry air with something similar to that of burning plastic – though, only inside out and with the lights off – and filled it to the nosebleeds with robed figures – in addition to colorful jerseys and painted, furry bellies of grown men bellowing a foul and wholly sinister rendition of Piero Umiliani’s classic hit “Mah Na Mah Na,” of course – you’d have a fairly poor image that vaguely resembles what Cassie witnessed upon stepping through what she was sure was a bed sheet covering the entrance to the amphitheater.

Cassie and Bobert enter, watch from the stands and among the crowd.

CASSIE: (drinks it in and hates it) Yeah. Something tells me I don’t want to be.

The audience suddenly and immediately go dead silent.

CASSIE: Aw, crap. (to Bobert) They heard me, didn’t they?

BOBERT: (shushes) It’s starting!

DOUG, a man in corduroys, enters and PHHHT-PHHHTS across center ice to a podium.

CASSIE: Who’s the dork in the polo and corduroys?

BOBERT: That’s Doug, the M’na M’na Manager.

CASSIE: Wow. That’s quite a M’na-outhful.

BOBERT: I know, right? Personally, I always thought he should be called the M’na-ger.

Doug the M’na-ger speaks in a dry, lifeless voice into a microphone and through the PA system.

DOUG: (PA system) Good afternoon, everyone.

MOSTLY EVERYONE: (equally dry and lifeless) Good afternoon, Doug.

DOUG: (PA system) Now. I know things haven’t been looking too good for us, numbers-wise. But I’m happy to announce that we have not one, but three–

Doug’s phone RINGS.

DOUG: (PA system) Sorry. Just give me…

Doug answers the phone, attempts and fails to not be heard over the PA system.

Hello? Yeah. No, this isn’t a good… Uh-huh…. Uh-huh… Okay, I will. But I have to… Yes, I’m at work. Okay. Okay. Okay, Ma. I gotta go. Wait. How many again? Okay, got it. Yes. I got it. Okay. I love you, too.

Doug hangs up.

(PA system) (to AUDIENCE) Right. As I was saying. We have not one, but three offerings scheduled for this afternoon!

The audience pitties Doug with a light smatter of applause.

(PA system) So please, help me give a warm Garden welcome to today’s Sacrificial Lambs!

BANG! The amphitheater goes dark. Colorful spotlights and music blast through the PA system. The crowd ROARS to life with pure, wholesome bloodlust. And the one-hundred square foot, super-high resolution video screen provides all in attendance with a crystal clear image of everything.

DOUG: (PA system) Skating out first to center ice, he’s a middle-aged Hispanic man with great hair 

A middle-aged Hispanic man with GREAT HAIR holding a pair of slacks, a sweet, older FILIPINA WOMAN, and Cassie’s ham-faced potato of a SISTER all skate out to center ice.

SISTER: (squawking) I want to speak to the manager!

Cassie recognizes Sister on the big screen.

CASSIE: (mild surprise) Oh, hey. I know that potato!

BOBERT: You do?

CASSIE: Yeah, it’s my sister. What’s she doing down there?

BOBERT: (ruh-roh) Uh…

Meanwhile, at center ice…

GREAT HAIR: (to SISTER) Excuse me. Do you mind if I go first? I just need to exchange these pants, and I think I left my truck running in the parking lot.

FILIPINA WOMAN: Well, you can go ahead of me. I’m not even sure why I’m here.

A large TENDRIL made of nothing suddenly and swiftly picks up, tosses all three into a gaping maw of teeth and really icky stuff that wasn’t there a moment ago at all. Then… BELCHES and SPITS their bones back onto the ice one, like pulpy, bloody watermelon seeds.

An uncomfortable silence.

CASSIE: (scared, pissed, confused.) What. The. Shit.

Everyone and everything turns to Cassie.

Another silence. Then…

CASSIE: (puzzles this) Uh… (sings. poorly.) Mah Na Mah na! Doo, doo…

The audience ain’t buying what she’s selling.

(hangs head, sighs) Goddammit.

To be continued…