Teaser 004: Meeting Movie Star John Drury

When I reached the door to enter the men's rest room, despite the fact that there was a separate exit, the door burst open before me. I instinctively flung my arms out to stop the door from smacking me in the face, causing the man on the other side to bump into the now unexpectedly halted door. Instantly, with the door now motionless, I stepped back and pulled it open fully.

“Oh,” spouted the man, “excuse me. It didn't hit you, did it?”

“No,” I explained, flashing my usual and devious smile, “I stopped it and made you bump into it. Sorry.” I wasn't sorry.

“No, no. My mistake...I'm parked on this side. I should have gone out the exit side.”

“You're John Drury, aren't you?” Failing to see any light of recognition behind the endless black of his sunglasses but recognizing a familiar voice, I plunged further and extended my right hand. “I love your movies, most of them, and I really admire that you make your own movies. Those are really good, in my humble opinion.” I was far from humble.

“Thank you,” the man politely replied, limply offering me his right hand, which I shook and squeezed pretty hard. “It's a living, you know.”

“Well, that's something I haven't done well lately.”

“What's that?”

“A living. I haven't made much of a living lately, but that's good for you.”

We had both stepped away a few feet from the door to get out of the way of others, but I still faced the rest room. As the man, who I knew now was John Drury, took a step toward the parking spaces, he asked, “What's your name, since you know mine?”

“Gregory,” I turned in his direction as we slowly strolled side by side to the parking spaces. “Gregory Hess.”

“You just go by an initial for a surname?”

“No. Hess, close to 'is' in Spanish, but with an 'h.'”

“Do you speak Spanish?”

“Just enough so I won't die of thirst.”

“How so?” John Drury was now smiling at me. He was actually liking this, at least that's what I thought. I hadn't stopped smiling my devious smile either.

“I figure no matter what town, village, city, or outpost I may be in and which speaks primarily Spanish, if I can find a saloon, I'll saddle up to the bar and when the bartender approaches, I'll say, 'Una cerveza, por favor,' and that bartender will bring me a beer. I hope I have the money and I'm sure I'll be overcharged, but I won't die of thirst!”

John Drury laughed politely, but he tossed his head back as though he liked the joke. I didn't care whether he did or didn't. I recognized my opportunity and I wasn't giving it back. “That's good, and that's about the extent of your Spanish, isn't it?

“I can't hold a conversation in Spanish. No way. You probably speak Spanish, don't you?”

“I do, though I'm not proficient.” John Drury suddenly removed his sunglasses and squinted at me, still smiling. “So, what do you do, Gregory?”

“I'm a failed writer. Not that I can't write or finish anything. I've written and published four novels no one reads, but I have written a screenplay.”

“Now, how did I know that was coming?”

“Because I recognize the opportunity? And the fact that I stopped the entrance door from smacking me in the face, thus avoiding a particularly embarrassing lawsuit?” My devious smile was literally beaming, despite the stained and rather unappealing appearance of my teeth, from years of dental neglect, which is my fault of course. Since it didn't seem to affect John Drury to the extent of unspeakable horror, it didn't bother me.

We had reached his Mercedes and he now stood next to the door and had retrieved his keys from his pocket but he stood immobile, holding his sunglasses in his left hand and his car keys in his right. “Okay, Gregory the failed writer, I'll give you thirty seconds.”

“Ah, yes, the elevator speech.”

“You got it. Let's hear it.”

“It involves three people, one woman and two men, and takes place mostly during the nineteen tens in Mexico. One of the men is a rancher who inherited his father's holdings and the woman is his wife, who comes from an aristocratic banker's family in Vera Cruz, and the other man is the rancher's lifelong friend and ranch foreman, stemming from his immigrant German father's mechanical aptitude that the rancher's father recognized and gave his father some land to build a cabin in return for repairing his equipment whenever he called on him. It revolves around the intricacies and dynamics of these three relationships, and the major plot developments concern the Marine invasion in 1914, when the rancher is killed and the foreman has his left arm shredded from a mortar blast, and after his capture the field hospital simply cuts off his arm just above the elbow—ah, those were the good old days—and the foreman later dies from the flu pandemic after his sister sends him a letter begging him to come and help her since her husband returned a mess from the war to end all wars—like that would ever happen—and he shows up with one arm.”

“That took more than thirty seconds. You need to work on your elevator speech is my advice.” John Drury looked at me severely and I thought I blew my one and only opportunity. His face, then, broke out into a huge grin. “But I like what I've heard. Have you got this screenplay with you?”

“No, I don't,” I sheepishly replied, which was not a lie.

“Here,” and John Drury tucked his keys with his glasses in his left hand and retrieved a business card from his back right pocket. “This is my agent and his address. What's the title?”

“The True Cross,” I replied with obvious relief.

“Vera Cruz, yes...makes sense. Send your screenplay to my agent and write 'The True Cross' under the return address. When he sees it he'll forward it to me wherever I am and I promise you I'll read it. Be sure to give me a couple ways to reach you.” John Drury leaned to open his car door, having clicked it unlocked when he stopped to look me up and down. “Vera Cruz. Int'resting. I know an actress from there.”

“Serena Dominguez. You've worked with her before. I wrote the female character with her in mind.”

“She might be interested in a story like that, if it's good.”

“Yeah, I know, if it's good, which is opinion and very subjective...” I trailed off with my disappointment too dominant. I was blowing my opportunity again.

John Drury smiled and I sensed a healing aspect, like he sincerely cared. “Send me the screenplay and I will read it and I'll talk to you about it. I like you, Gregory the failed writer. You're...intriguing. At the very least, you didn't go all ape shit when you recognized me.”

“No, I wouldn't do that...You rich, famous, powerful, celebrity types are still human beings like me. You still sit on a stool every day and evacuate your bowels just like I do.”

John Drury laughed loud and heartily. “That we do. It's a good way to put it.” Behind the wheel and ready to fire up his Mercedes, he slipped his right hand past the downed window. “Gregory, I honestly hope we talk again soon.”

I reached his hand with mine but squeezed and shook it less severely. “Thank you, Mr. Drury.”

“Please. Call me John.”

“Thank you, John. It was a pleasure meeting you.”

“No, Gregory. The pleasure was all mine. I look forward to receiving your screenplay.” The Mercedes roared to life, John Drury shifted the car to reverse, and slowly backed away as I took a step back.

- Just Desserts, Segment One “Welcome to Lost Anglos” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

contact me, as always: schussprose@gmail.com