Grand Ghoulish (II-III)

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)

II-II. ONE PUNCH

The alley behind the 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 the audience.

BRENNIFER: Wouldn’t want complaints about exposition.

HAROLD: (nods) Of course.

Harold drops, shatters the photographs. He pretends to care, but really can’t be assed.

HAROLD: 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 at Officer disapprovingly. Then…

BRENNIFER: (to Harold) Everything okay? I heard screaming.

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

She gestures to the broken pictures.

BRENNIFER: 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. The dude came up and–

OFFICER: Dude?

BRENNIFER: Just watch.

Brennifer gestures for things to proceed.

Oliver appears, punches Harold, Harold kisses the pavement and stays there.

OLIVER: (to Brennifer) How was that?

BRENNIFER: Perfect. Thank you.

Oliver leaves.

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

Brennifer shakes her head, “Nuh-uh.”

BRENNIFER: Harold and I screwed a few times in the utility closet after hours. We weren’t friends.

Officer looks at the pink-haired woman in front of him, wonders if she sells minerals or weed, then continues.

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?

She shakes her head again.

BRENNIFER: 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 considers this, then shrugs.

BRENNIFER: Maybe I thought he had it coming.

Grand Ghoulish (II-I)

II-I. SEX, MOTELS, AND VOICEMAILS

The musty darkness of 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 was the 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 in the musty darkness.

Sophia rolls atop Harold, answers it.

SOPHIA: I’m busy. What do you want?

She listens and nods along, rolls her eyes, gestures with her hand, “Blah-blah-blah.”

(growls) Goodbye, Oliver…

She hangs up, tosses the phone aside, returns to pawing and nibbling Harold.

Where were we?

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) No… It’s just… isn’t this even a little fuckin’ weird to you?

SOPHIA: That’s funny…

She rolls off Harold.

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

Sophia gathers her clothes, disappears into the shower. Harold sits, watches in his mess.

HAROLD: (sighs) Goddammit.

Grand Ghoulish (I-VI)

I-VI. CLOCK ON THE WALL

The sandy coastline of a slightly more affluent coastal California “community.” Harold and Sophia sit on a bench. He, ever 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 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 their left, families splashing about on a narrow stretch of sandy beach to their right. 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.

Whatever “it” is finally registers with Harold.

HAROLD: I’m sorry. What?

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: (smiles) 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 wrong.

Sophia sees the man beside her, turns to 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, “Wow. Okay.”

SOPHIA: (soft) Your lips are soft…

And then…

She gathers her things, walks away.

Harold sits, watches like an idiot, then 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?

She smiles with her eyes.

SOPHIA: No problem.

They share a moment.

Then…

Sophia walks away, toward a nearby hotel.

Harold follows.

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!

Grand Ghoulish (I-IV)

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.

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.

Grand Ghoulish (I-III)

I-III. STATELY MANOR

A “stately manor” located in an expensive corner of a somehow even more expensive strip of Southern California coastline.

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 for another fifteen minutes.

Harold pilots a classic station wagon full of photography and lighting equipment to a stop in the driveway, idles there. 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 sermon 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’s 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 an energy drink, 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.

Grand Ghoulish (I-II)

I-II. BEDSHEET CURTAINS

A bedroom by way of a semi-converted garage. Harold types and clicks away at a computer.

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. So between this, the heavy bedsheet nailed and drawn shut across the one window in the room he rented, and the copious amount of marijuana he’d just smoked, pinning down which pile of clothes contained his phone proved a bit of a challenge.

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 it, 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 y–

Harold hangs up, attempts to call Sophia back several times, but can’t get through.

HAROLD: (to self) Dude, you just called. Why the Hell do people always call and leave a message, but never pick up when you–

Sofia finally answers the phone.

SOPHIA: (phone) Harold?

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

A beat. 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. Then…

Wait. How did you get my number? Your husband slapped my hand 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 at the gallery always such a pain?

Harold drifts off.

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 voice, GRANDMA, calls from somewhere outside Harold’s bedroom by way of a semi-converted garage.

GRANDMA: (off) Harold.

Harold goes still, silent, buries his phone in his hands.

GRANDMA: (off) Harold?

Damn.

HAROLD: (sighs) Yes, Grandma?

GRANDMA: (off) Are you still going to give me a ride to my doctor’s appointment?

HAROLD: Yes, Grandma.

A beat. Then…

GRANDMA: (off) Harold?

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

Harold realizes Sophia is still on the phone and heard everything.

Yeah. Tomorrow works.

Grand Ghoulish (I-I)

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. 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 located 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, then…)

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, a pink faux hawk in horned-rimmed glasses and a pantsuit, approaches Harold.

BRENNIFER: (thundering lilt) Harold?

NARRATOR: (voice-over) Harold turned to the pink faux hawk in horned-rimmed glasses and a pantsuit…

Harold turns to Brennifer.

…started to scream something about phoney capitalist elites sucking on the teat of artistic integrity, but then didn’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?

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?

She shakes her head, “Nuh-uh.”

BRENNIFER: But if it helps any, I’ve curated worse showings than this.

HAROLD: Really?

BRENNIFER: No. This is probably the worst.

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: Thanks, Brennifer–

BRENNIFER: You’re welcome.

HAROLD: I didn’t finish.

BRENNIFER: Oh?

Harold shakes his head, “Nuh-uh.”

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

Brennifer leaves to work the door and Lookie-Loos.

The clock begins to spin away, indicating some semblance of the passage of time. People come, people 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 the photographs on the wall. None of this even 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.

A small, wrinkly POTATO of a woman with a green visor and bad highlights speaks with Brennifer.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) This continued for much of the afternoon 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 approaches Harold.

BRENNIFER: You need to leave.

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

BRENNIFER: You’re scaring everyone away.

HAROLD: (scoffs) “Scaring everyone away”? (gestures) There’s nobody here, Brennifer!

Harold’s eyes meet those of a CONCERNED COUPLE in matching shirts.

A silence. Then…

Couple slowly, quietly back out the door without any sudden movements.

Then…

(to Brennifer) Okay. Maybe you have a point.

SOPHIA, a charming, mature woman in a silk sundress, approaches.

SOPHIA: Excuse me.

Harold and Brennifer turn ever so slightly.

BRENNIFER: 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.

HAROLD: How can I help you, Ms…

Sophia eventually puts two-and-two together, extends her hand.

SOPHIA: Sophia.

Harold smiles, takes her 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 my–

HAROLD: I’m so sorry…

She sneaks another 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…

She gestures at Harold. All of him.

Harold sighs, shakes head.

HAROLD: No, I totally get it.

SOPHIA: Poor. You dress like a poor–

HAROLD: Yeah. I got it.

She looks at him, “Did you, though?”

A silence. Then…

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 – tune 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.

HAROLD: 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.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) 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: 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 eventually takes, shakes Oliver’s hand.

HAROLD: Of course you are.

OLIVER: Excuse me?

Harold slowly, yet quickly realizes Oliver is crushing his hand.

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, 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 bent and popped in ways they never evolved to do, Harold recalled a date with a petite Vietnamese woman at a Japanese seafood restaurant. 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. And the way he felt uncomfortable watching his date rip and tear crab leg after lobster claw with her bare hands.

Harold taps out. Oliver slowly, yet slowly realizes the chimp is attempting to communicate something.

HAROLD: You’re crushing my hand.

Oliver releases what remains of Harold’s hand.

OLIVER: Sorry.

SOPHIA: Oliver’s an experimental surgeon.

HAROLD: Experimental? What, like ripping people open with his bare hands?

Oliver stares deep into Harold’s soul and doesn’t stop.

OLIVER: Wait. What have you heard about my bear hands?

HAROLD: (to Sophia) Is he serious?

SOPHIA: Probably.

OLIVER: (to Sophia) Sweetie?

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.

A beat. Then…

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) 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.