Grand Ghoulish (I-V)

I-V. CLICK

Harold, in his underwear, types and clicks away at a laptop while sitting in a dark kitchen.

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 metaphorically and/or literally drifts off to…

The third-floor master suite of a “stately manor.” Sophia poses on the bed. Harold, once again fully clothed, photographs her from somewhere between the bed and that balcony with the expensive view. Click-click-click.

SOPHIA: (coos) I don’t have cooties.

Harold looks up from his camera.

HAROLD: Huh?

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

HAROLD: (shrugs) Maybe.

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

A beat. Then…

Click-click-click. Harold continues making with the clicking and the flashing, only a little closer.

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

SOPHIA: Younger?

HAROLD: Not married.

SOPHIA: (scolds) Harold

Click.

HAROLD: I’m teasing.

Sophia relaxes, smiles.

Click-click-click.

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 beneath that interpretation of her younger self, exposed, and considers this.

SOPHIA: So, what does that make me?

Click-click-click. Then…

Harold stops, considers this.

HAROLD: I’m not sure yet.

Harold continues with the click-click-click.

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 those 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, and considers this. 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 metaphorically and/or literally drifts back to…

A dark kitchen. Harold, once again in his under, typing and clicking away at a laptop. Click-click-click.

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!