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 (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.