Grand Ghoulish (I-IV)


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.

Harold stands there holding roughly fifty pounds of photography and lighting equipment in both hands, seized upon an intimately detailed nude oil painting of Sophia.

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. 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. 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: (smiles) 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 painting, to the broken photography and lighting equipment all around him, and then back…

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: (frustrated groan, rolls eyes) Harold… 

Harold snaps to attention.

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.