Teaser 193: A Resting Place for a Best Screenplay Oscar
Before the week ended my phone rang and the display read “John D.” As I held the phone in the living room, I looked to Will with my devious smile. “I'll put this one on speaker. You'll want to hear this.” I pressed the button which would answer and go to speaker. “John, what a pleasant surprise.”
“What is this?” John admonished. “And you have me on speaker?”
I set the phone on a chair which we all surrounded. “Will and Katherine are visiting, John. You know how tight we all are. We keep nothing hidden, although I do, on occasion, but only because I have to,” and everyone joined in the next phrase, “in the interest of confidentiality.” There was a smattering of chuckles. “What is what, John? Be specific.”
John's tone was a little perturbed. “You know what is what. Here! I'll read it to you. 'The accompanying Award from the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was made possible only through the hard work, effort and dedication of the following human beings.' That's from some plaque which just now arrived at the office, Gregory. And since the origin of the box which holds this plaque is stamped with 'Germany' all over it, I don't have to draw any wild conclusions, do I?”
“What did you do, old man?” Will asked facetiously, smiling with obvious contagion.
“Exactly, Will!” John proclaimed. “We should hear it from his own lips, though I already suspect what he did.”
“There's a smaller package inside the box, John.”
“I know there is, Gregory. I already pulled it out, with its postmark from the Academy.”
“You sent John your Oscar, Gregory?” Katherine asked, in disbelief.
“With a plaque which weighs, I'm guessing, about two hundred pounds, and contains hundreds of names. What do you expect me to do with this, Gregory, and why did you even send it?”
“The award belongs with the production company which started the wheels turning to make that movie possible, John. Without those wheels turning, the award would have been impossible, and you know it. Besides, your little production company, over the years, has received several Academy awards for the work of individuals from your company's movie productions but no one would know should they visit your office. Now they'll know you received at least one.” I smiled at Will, who smiled back just as much.
“I can't knock him for it, John. I believe Gregory has always been consistent in saying it was never his award. I'm sure you recall.”
“Whose side are you on, Will?”
We all laughed, even John. “And I said you only have to stay tuned to see what I'm going to do. Well, the program we were all watching has now concluded. Here's what I've done. Surprise!”
“You know, you little Midwestern weasel,” John said and we all laughed again, even John, “I think Serena says it best. 'You can be such a bastard at times, Gregory.'” Again, more laughter.
“Not to deflect, but how is the little Mexican flirt?”
“To answer your question, Gregory, she's doing well, though she has her better days. You know, and she's not going to be happy about this. I can hear her now. 'You don't think Gregory expects me to add my award here, do you, John?' It's what she'll say. I know it.”
“Serena's award is different, John. She earned hers. No one acted for her.”
“No one wrote your screenplay except you, buddy boy.”
“No, John, it's not how it went. We all contributed from the first meeting. I did the rewrites, but those changes came from ideas and thoughts which everyone contributed. You're not going to argue with me about it, are you?”
“What good would it do? What are we gonna do with this, Gregory?”
“You should put it on display in your reception area, John, so everyone who walks in to your office cannot ignore it.”
“And how do you suggest we do that?”
“When I discussed the plaque with the engraver-”
“Which I will say,” John interrupted, “is absolutely magnificent, by the way.”
“Thank Siegfried! He is an artist, as he insists, not merely an engraver.”
“It really is awesome, Gregory. I'll bet this thing set you back considerably.”
“And I did it willingly, John, because I think it's the least everyone deserved.”
“So tell me what we should do.”
“As I began, when I discussed the plaque with the engraver, the artist, I knew it would be too big to place inside a glass case. The plaque, John, should be mounted flush against the wall. You should, then, find a display case to hold the Oscar at the level of the plaque standing right next to it. You don't need anything else to explain it. I think the plaque and the Oscar in its separate display case will speak for themselves.”
“All right. That's what we'll do. First, though, we have to find some able-bodied, strong lads to pull this massively heavy piece of granite out of its box. Hell, Gregory, the shipping cost alone must have crippled you!”
“How much did it set you back, Gregory?” Will asked, intrigued.
“I won't tell you the total. I will say shipping was upwards of fifteen thousand.” I paused for the whistles of disbelief to wane. “I insured it for a quarter-million, which, of course, would be shy of replacement value, but I wanted to get the shippers' attention.”
“Well, Gregory, I think I've gotten over the shock of it, though I'm uncertain as to when Gary and Gloria will do so. When Gloria saw the plaque, she walked right into her office without a word and put her head in her hands. Far as I know she's still there holding her head in her hands...The more I think about it, the plaque on the wall and the Oscar in a case next to it, I'm liking the impact it will have for anyone who visits our office. Hell, it's getting me to think I should do the same with mine.”
“I didn't do this to suggest to anyone what they should do. This was never my intention. What I have intended all along is to provide some tangible proof of my love for all of you, it was returned in kind and its culmination was the award, that it came from love.”
“Well, in my book, Gregory, you succeeded. When word gets around about this, I imagine everyone from the movie will drop in to see it and I think they will all get it. And you don't want to work in this business? When everyone will take you back with open arms and hearts?”
“Right now, John, I have two serious movie considerations on my plate. I had a discussion with Andrea about one before she left recently.”
Lena dived in. “You should hear that one, John. Andrea and Gregory as romantic leads and Drake portraying Gregory's best friend.”
John laughed deeply. “I think you like charting the roughest waters, Gregory. Heck, why don't you just sail around the Cape of Good Hope in a dingy. It would be less painful for everyone.”
“Reach for the highest mountain, John, because everything else is a step down.”
When John completed the display to his, and everyone's, satisfaction, the tiny reception area of his office held a tall, thin display mounted on a riser of cherry which contains the Oscar, and a light inside the case illuminates the award. Inches to the right of the case the plaque is mounted professionally flat against the wall. A light above the plaque leaps out from the wall a foot to glare down upon the plaque. Both lights are attached to a switch at the front of the office and John, upon completion of the display, announced to the entire company the procedure for every new day, regardless of who opened the office, will be that the first switch turned on would be for the display and upon the end of every day, regardless of who closed the office, the last switch turned off would be for the display. This procedure for opening and closing the office continues to this very day and, as far as I have been made aware, has never once been superseded, which only confirms my belief both the plaque and the Oscar sit where they belong. Before I reached Africa I had heard, whether through email, phone, or snail mail, from every single one of those three hundred and forty-seven human souls whose names are on the plaque. Most in this world don't believe it possible, until I show the doubter the proof, since I kept all the letters, all the emails, and a record of the phone calls. All three hundred and forty seven contacted me, since they all knew I instructed John to give them a way to reach me. I praise them all, for now you have some idea what took place those weeks we spent making the movie, though your idea is merely the tip of an enormous iceberg, to borrow an overused metaphor.
Serena called me from the office when she first saw it. She knew it was all there but she held back her curiosity patiently until John had completed the presentation. Her exact words were, “I thought when I saw it, Gregory, that, in all honesty, I would be pushed to add mine here, because my award for my portrayal owes its inspiration and its influence to everyone, too. But I look at this display and I think my award would detract from its impact, my love, for it does have a genuine, unmistakable impact. You make everyone proud to have worked on the movie, and that's how I feel, like everyone else. Your story was the framework but it took all of us to build it.”
Serena would make statements like this to me on a regular basis which would always force me to consider how I could possibly be married to only one person, to have only one woman beside me forever. Each one is special, each coming into my world like an award I never expected or even deserved, but from some place where recognition of me is due. I questioned its due. I always have and it has not made my way less burdensome, because it has always forced me to consider the thoughts and feelings and reactions of each. At times you may consider the choices I made callous, unfeeling and thoughtless. You would be wrong every time. There is a matter of will involved with every one of us and with every choice made. Those who would fall away deserved to do so. Those who chose to stay, through some invisible link, deserved to stay. I said it took adult actions, we should act like adults, but it was always more. Adults was an analogy. At all times it was only a perception, not a certain knowledge, because there was still desire. I had baby steps to take, too.
- Just Desserts, Segment Twenty-Four “Back in the USA” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021
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