Teaser 333: It All Seems Like Nothing

“I have a theory...” With this announcement there was a great deal of commentary, during which I smiled, glancing around. “I haven't been through a lot. I think you'll agree. I was enjoying my life, each day ending stretched out in the driver's seat of a Sentra at any of the renowned rest stops scattered all over the Eisenhower Interstate System across the grand and glorious United States of America.” Laughs. “Until a little Mexican flirt originally from eastern Mexico invited me to her spacious and remote Los Angeles mansion...and seduced me.” Great laughter now, and I noted Serena's deep and full howling. “In fact, this very mansion.” I focused on Serena, who was biting her lip. She knew I was slipping into performance mode. “And it hasn't changed, my beloved. It's still too big for you. You've reached maximum!” Serena hung her head and laughed with everyone else.

I focused on John. “Out through the In door. You are the complete antithesis of a Led Zeppelin album.” John shook his head, trying to squelch his laughter.

I focused on Drake and Andrea, sitting together. “You asked me why I hadn't said anything about your wife being absent. How could I? You two have set records for adoption which may never be broken!” More laughter.

I focused on Ken and Penelope. “It was one of my best set-ups ever, the first words I spoke directly to you, Ken. 'Has anyone ever called you a handsome devil?'” The laugh roar was deafening. I waited. “And you mumbled, 'No.' And I responded, 'Is it because you're not handsome or you're not a devil? Which one is it?'” More laughs. “I absolutely love it when I can set someone up so easily and I still can with you, Ken, because you've since been in a state of befuddlement with me, but despite all that, you refuse to leave my side, you have become one of my most eloquent supporters, and I am always willing to die beside you, supporting you, my cousin.” Ken dropped his head, still wearing a smile. I engaged Penelope. “Oh, the discussions we had about you behind the scenes, Penelope, for I would not relinquish the idea of you portraying Gustavo's sister after the war. And when you finally accepted, I didn't even have to suggest to Carey anything. He knew instinctively to place the camera behind and below me so that when you opened the door and looked at me for the first time in decades, you would exclaim, 'O My God Gustavo! You only have one arm!' And from the perspective of the camera position you tower over me so the entire incomprehensibility is achieved, yet the scene reaches its full impact when I say, 'O Sister! I was hoping you wouldn't notice.' After a slight pause, the dagger which makes it truly unforgettable. 'I brought you flowers.' And I lean to you from the left side and you pull the flowers from my stump. Who can forget that scene?”

I now turned to Will and Katherine. “In all honesty, Will, I have thought how wonderful it would be with Katherine by my side, every day, all day. You can't stop me because it is all in my head and you can't control my thoughts, nor can anyone, but it doesn't matter anyway because Katherine is already with the one who will devote himself to her without any need to even consider it and you have discovered, Will, that you have one beside you who is as devoted to you. What a coincidence!” More laughs. “The event I always remember about the movie is not your scene with Serena or any of the other scenes, it's when you and Carey and Serena were discussing how the scene would be assembled when you and your cavalry ride up to the ranch house. Carey told you Serena would have blanks loaded in the shotgun and you asked, “Why does she need blanks in the shotgun when she's not supposed to fire it in the scene anyway?' And I immediately turned away from all of you, howling with laughter, glancing to Serena, who is trying to maintain a very professional acting demeanor. I walked over to my chair on the set with my head hung low, trying to keep from chuckling too loud, because I knew why Carey wanted to stage it that way. He wanted Serena to know she held a gun which could be discharged at any time, would most likely not injure Will or anyone else from the distance involved, but she was in charge of the scene, Serena controlled the scene. I think when Will came over to me after it was wrapped and said he thought Serena might fire the shotgun at him at any time what he didn't fully comprehend was Serena really was ready to shoot it at him at any time. Will didn't have to tell me anything. I knew Serena would pull the trigger, if for no other reason than to remind Will he had a deference to portray in this scene and he better portray it convincingly.” Much laughter abounded, especially from Will and Serena.

“And then we come to Jennifer...” More laughs. “During those many revealing scenes, Jennifer didn't bring anything with her, which forced me to exert every ounce of energy and determination to avoid freezing in place to gawk at her!” More laughs. “You think it was easy?!” I gazed around the room with my expression of extreme disbelief. “No, shooting the movie was a cake walk for me. Believe that and you'll believe anything! I got through it, through all those very long days, because of many in this room now, all of whom welcomed me openly from the first moment we met, all of whom still welcome me into their very personal lives today. Do you think I can ever forget or overlook it?

“But it didn't stop there. O No! Days later I'm rolling up to Montana to sample Drake and Andrea's ample hospitality but the event everyone remembers is Katherine's introduction of my friend from India!”

Will shouted, “And Serena's reaction! Who can forget it?!” All in the room were howling because everyone had heard the story many times.

“The little Mexican firecracker was almost speechless. All she could mutter was, 'That's your friend from India?' The look on her face was priceless, was it not, Will?” Will was cracking up with laughter everywhere and Serena was trying to look offended, not successfully, though. “The best part was the little cat sat in the trailer the entire shoot and none of you knew, only Jennifer and the P.A., but that wasn't all of it, Will. By then, Serena and I were irreversibly entangled and the only one there who knew was John. None of you knew and it's why I consider John perhaps my closest friend in the world. The news never went past him, not even to any of you. The rest of you didn't know until Serena returned from France.” I paused while some whispered among themselves.

“Nope! I haven't been through much. These were the first few months, though I skipped the skinny dipping...” laughs, “the cherry game, don't forget the electron microscope!” More laughs. “There was the party at Jeff's house, where I met Tom,” and the laughter was starting up again, “and Tom's extremely beautiful wife. I remember her more than Tom. I have selective memory.” Laughs. I focused on the actress, watching her guarded smile. “I haven't been flirting much with you lately.” I glanced to Tom. “I need to get back to it, right, Tom?”

“I have been very disappointed lately, Al,” Tom interjected while the actress flashed him her mock frown.

Back to the actress. “Got any plans, tonight? I have need of a nurse, one who comes with your smile, and I'm not a demanding patient.” The actress bit her lip while all laughed. She couldn't insert her comment because I beat her to it. “You don't have dreams about me any more, do you? It would make Tom's sleep somewhat restless, don't you think? Somebody has to look out for Tom. He's only a little boy in a big man's body! Kinda like me, except I have a little man's body. Well, you take what you get in life. I'm not complaining...” I rattled it off so quick, neither had time to comment. I raised my eyebrows high gazing at the actress, until I focused on Esperanza.

“Now, I don't recall some PhD requirement which includes rolling around in bed with a man thirty some years older unless he's a professor, which I'm not and never have been.” Esperanza bit her lip with the room in another uproar but no one interrupted. “Days later, my head is still spinning, because the whole time she is claiming, 'No strings attached. We're not going to have any commitment!' My head is spinning because I'm thinking, how long is she gonna keep that up? How long am I gonna keep that up? Plus, the fact I did have some modest plans for Africa and I sure could use the help of an environmental science student, as long as she didn't hate me by then! How am I gonna ensure that?” I watched Esperanza shake her head in disbelief. “No, we haven't been through much, have we, my beloved? It all seems like nothing.”

Esperanza turned serious. “I am very worried about you now, Al-Barrak!”

“We will get through this, too, and you will help me. I can depend on it.” Esperanza forced a smile, then nodded her head in agreement.

“Chuck and the bad boys!” More laughs. “Ah, my cousins! What a wrap party that was! 'Why are you here in the back? Are you hiding?' 'Being in the front is for goody-goodies. I haven't been one of those since...birth, I would imagine.'” Howls of laughter. “That's how you develop a rep and by the end of that party I definitely had one!” Lots of agreement in the room. I focused on Serena. “And Serena ends her speech with, 'What am I gonna do with you because I am going to miss you so much?'” I paused a moment. “And I could only think of one response. 'That was the worst conclusion to a thank you speech for the end of a project I have ever heard!'” I watched Serena frown and bite her lip. “Everyone is watching Serena frowning mightily, no doubt planning exactly how she's going to light it up with me, until I add the zinger. 'Because, honestly, Serena, what can you do with me? You already own my heart. What else is left?' And I watched this woman melt right before me...” Serena smiled but bowed her head. When she lifted it back to my gaze I added, “No, we haven't been through much, have we, my beloved? It all seems like nothing…”

- Just Desserts, Segment Forty-TwoFata Tempor” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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