Teaser 006: Gilroy Was Where I Was Headed
Where should I go to write this screenplay? I had it all figured out before I reached the car, blessed I had to walk five thousand yards and it's much better to think about life-changing plans while walking than driving sixty-five miles per hour, since ejection from a moving vehicle at sixty-five miles per hour is a near certain death sentence, and of this I should know, as I personally have been ejected from moving vehicles traveling at forty-five miles per hour, not once but twice, and I am reasonably confident those extra twenty miles per hour would have made the difference between survival and pushing up the daisies. Add to it the fact there may not be another human being alive who can lay the same claim, I know of what I speak. Apparently, surviving ejection from fast-moving vehicles is another gift. I have a tattoo from the first one to prove it.
Gilroy was where I was headed. Gilroy? What the heck is in Gilroy, California besides garlic? Practically nothing, which was what I needed, no distractions, no anything. I couldn't be certain there wasn't some type of gangs or drugs or particularly bad nastiness, but I knew where a flophouse masquerading as a motel was located on 7th street—across from a school no less—and I rehearsed my spiel for negotiating down the weekly rate I would surely receive upon my initial inquiry at the office with the clerk, who I truly expected would be of Indian descent, the India next to Pakistan, although it wouldn't be too much of a stretch if the clerk was from Pakistan instead of India. Heritage is heritage, you know? All one big happy family under the repressive rule of the British, but as the British withdraw, suddenly it's not such a big happy family, until Gandhi stops eating. Things settle down, civil discussions take place, the pie will be sliced up by religious affiliation—the abomination of humanity though it had to be invented, since those bigger brains were contemplating the pointless idea of being born, living a temporary existence, then dying—Gandhi eats a little, gets out of bed to wander among the Indian people, his people, just in time to catch a bullet from a pistol. Well, I suppose with a population numbering some five hundred million or so, you're gonna get a few bad apples. We'll try to distribute those bad apples equally, by religious affiliation, and create a country called Pakistan, over there, to the left, west, on the border with Afghanistan, where some of the really world-class crazies live, many of them in caves like our ancestors. How quaint!
“A hundred and seventy-five dollars plus tax,” Omar, the clerk behind the counter at the motel office, said with a suspicious demeanor. Omar was given his name by his mother, pregnant with him, who saw Doctor Zhivago and loved Omar Sharif and Omar's name was his parting gift from his mother, though neither mother nor son was Egyptian. She loved Omar Sharif. You can't make this shit up. Here I was standing before a man over forty, direct from Punjab province in India, named for Omar Sharif. I can't be derisive. Heck, I'm named for Gregory Peck, when he was hunting for the great white whale. My mother may never have read the book. Otherwise, call me Ishmael.
“I can give you a hundred thirty for the week.”
With a level of complete disdain, Omar negotiated, “Hundred seventy-five plus tax. Take it or leave it.” He had developed a keen sense of American negotiating skills in the few short years living here and I admired it. Omar was assimilating.
“I have a hundred thirty in cash.” I thought cash sounded better, though I would have preferred using a credit card with its advantage of deferred payment. Why pay today what you can put off to pay tomorrow?
“Hundred seventy-five plus tax.” Omar was becoming obviously peeved.
“Do you know who John Drury is?”
“Are you saying you're John Drury now? You said your name was Gregory. Now I don't even know who you are.”
“No, John Drury, the actor.”
“So, you're John Drury, the actor?”
“No, I met John Drury the actor today! Just hours ago. Ever hear of him?”
“He's the actor who starred in the movie where they robbed a casino, him and a bunch of his buds, and then they made another movie about robbing a different casino, and then another one and another casino. It's a franchise.”
“I didn't see any movie about a bunch of buds, as you call them, robbing casinos,” Omar said, but a sort of recognition appeared on his face. “But, I did see this movie about vampires in Mexico, where they shot up all the vampires in this bar. Lots of blood and guts. Good stuff! And the hot little woman, doing her seductive dance, and pouring whiskey in her shoe and then down her leg and the guy licking it up. Really good stuff!”
“Yeah, that's him, the non-licker.”
“She was hot.”
“Yeah, she was in it, too.” I never liked that movie.
“What's her name?”
“It's not John Drury!” I exclaimed, becoming a little bored as we were off-subject and Omar was starting to open up like we were old friends at the neighborhood watering hole.
“I know that!”
“Serena Dominguez. We were talking about John Drury.”
“So what does John Drury have to do with me?”
“I met him a couple hours ago and I told him I had a screenplay and he let me tell him the story and he liked it and asked if I had a copy and I said I didn't, which is not a lie, mind you, because I haven't written the screenplay yet, but that's what I'm going to do here for the next week since he gave me his agent's address to send the screenplay, and I'm going to do this because this is my shot at the big time, so take my hundred thirty dollars in cash so I can do this, please! Help me out here! It's all I've got, I'm damn near flat broke, I just had my big break and I only need one small break from you, so I'll owe you. Help me out, Omar. Please!”
Omar looked me up and down, well, down as far as the counter would let him. When his gaze reached my eyes again, he stared for a good minute. I didn't flinch. I didn't even make a face. I stared right back at him. Suddenly, his mouth formed a thin smile. “Okay, hundred thirty dollars, in cash.” He reached out his right hand. “Plus tax.”
“I can't afford the tax, Omar.”
“State of California collects tax. I have to pay tax no matter what. You pay tax.”
“Pay the state of California the tax out of a hundred thirty dollars.”
“No. Tax extra. Pay tax.”
Jeez, I was almost there, and the state of California was going to nickel and dime me to death. There was even a moment of resignation where holding up a pharmacy seemed very promising. “Take a credit card for the tax?”
“With a credit card you can pay hundred seventy-five dollars plus tax.”
“Hundred thirty dollars in cash and take my card for the tax and I will owe you, Omar, and when I make it I will pay you back. I won't forget you.”
“How will you pay me back?”
“I don't know. Maybe get you a job in the biz, or invite you to a shindig, or a dinner at the fanciest restaurant in town for your whole family on me. Whatever, but I will pay you back. Just take my card for the tax.”
“You won't forget me?”
“How can I? You have made it impossible for me to do so.”
“Yes, I know. Many do remember me. I will remember you, Gregory.” I pulled out my cash discreetly since I had more than a hundred thirty dollars and handed the exact amount. “And card for tax. Mastercard or Visa only.”
I handed him my Mastercard, not being prescient enough to know how much fifteen dollars to be plugged on a credit card was going to cost me later, but when I did make it, I looked up the motel for the number and called, asking for Omar. It took him a minute but he did remember me and I offered him a night out with the whole family at the best restaurant in Beverly Hills, so he drove down to west Los Angeles to stay with a cousin, whose family also came to the dinner and I paid for eighteen people at a cost of over six thousand dollars. I didn't mind it though. Omar and his very extended family were hoots! Serena met them, was going to have dinner with us, but she developed a case of “public paranoia,” whispered to me privately that she was uncomfortable and would appreciate it if I let her off the hook on this one, which I did, and she announced she suddenly had to leave for an appointment she had forgotten until this very moment. Serena could be like that, until she was transformed. It's what happens when you hang with me long enough, you become transformed. I become transformed from hanging with you too, but mine is a bit more discreet. After all, I know where you've been. Remember? Yeah, you thought I forgot.
- Just Desserts, Segment One “Welcome to Lost Anglos” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021
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