WARNING - this story may contain adult content including coarse language and/or sexual content which may be offensive to some
a short story by Mark Kolke
May 2, 2011
Lawrence Block defined serendipity as ‘Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.’
After two weeks of little progress, finally, I was on a bit of a roll.My ideas melding, finally , after too much of my life completely stressing me out.
I can’t shake the man named Gillespie from my head – dammit, it’s been six years now since he died - and I should be over him, especially since things are going so well with Owen.Still, Gil and elements of him kept floating into my consciousness.
We met, in a bar, at the PlumIsland airport at the end of spring break.
It was my second year at SmithCollege – my dorm gang fled to Florida for spring break. I didn’t want to go there for drunken brawling, sunburn and wanton sex.I didn’t want to go home either.
Dad was sick, diagnosed with lung cancer and undergoing treatment. Mom was not coping well, drinking more and more, and I needed so much to be somewhere else – anywhere else, alone.
I booked a little cabin, near the beach on PlumIsland at the north end of the ParkerRiver National Wildlife Refuge. Those beach walks were spectacular – so peaceful, migratory birds everywhere and those Karner blue butterflies fill my memory of that spectacular week with an ending I’ll never forget, or regret.
I was having a glass of chardonnay in the bar, waiting for my flight to be called. I was flipping through a magazine I bought at the kiosk that sold cigarettes and gum.Sensing someone was standing near me, I looked up to see a spectacular pair of blue eyes, wavy blond locks and his lifeguard shoulders – and from that moment, he became my lifeguard.
“Hi,”, he mumbled . . “My name is Gil”, still stammering – “Gil Persson, I’ve been admiring you from across the bar and thought – if I don’t come over to speak with you, you might be gone when the next flight is called, in which case I’d have missed the opportunity to change my life by knowing you.”
“Gil? …. Is that your given name?”, I asked.
“No, my mother had a cousin named Gillespie. She had another cousin named Magnus. So that’s what it says on my birth certificate – Gillespie Magnus Persson. I realize the short-version, my nickname Gil, is a strange name for a Swedish-American , but it seems to have stuck with me.”
“Sorry for the long-winded answer. Yes, I go by Gil.”
“What is your name,” Gil inquired.
Now I was stammering a little, “Grace, my name is Grace, or as my mother calls me when she is angry, Grace Louise!It is very nice to meet you Gil”.
That seemed so far away now, so long ago.
My stupid affair with Prof. Rosemary Siegel during my next term messed me up, messed Gil up too. I told him, truthfully, that it was over but he couldn’t get past the notion of me being with another woman. Hell, I was just a girl – experimenting, finding myself, figuring out my sexuality – and, after the novelty of licking pussy wore off, I realized I really wanted, preferred and needed sex with men. I pleaded with him – endlessly pleaded, for him to take me back. No sale.
I’d hurt him so badly.He didn’t get over it and, each time I tried to re-connect with him – he was more and more distant, resolved that we would never meet again.I kept hoping he would wake up one morning, realize what stupid young fools we’d both been, and come rushing back to me.
My unrequited love did not die with him, the night he crashed his car into a concrete abutment – it lived on. Lives on. Still.
But change comes.Who knew I’d flip-out for a sheet-rock installer from Wisconsin I met that night my cousin Patsy didn’t show - that night we were supposed to meet at Spago’s in BeverleyHills for drinks and dinner?I had a drink, two drinks, or was it four?
Anyway, as I wove my way out the valet parking stand outside the restaurant, there stood Owen, like sculpture, at the curb.
He looked out of place compared to the rest of the boys parking cars – white shirt, bow tie, brocade vest – along side all those out of work actor-wannabes, parking cars as Spago in faint hope of being noticed by some producer, director or casting director.Owen was taller, stronger and a sheet-rock installer, working part-time parking cars to earn extra money to make a house down-payment.He could have been an actor though.His plain-spoke non-actor style, unpretentiousness. His physical work kept him lean, fit and actor like – Nordic features, and a tight tennis player’s ass as rock hard as his flat firm belly.
Owen collected my car, but then refused to let me drive. He said I was too drunk, that his shift was over and he would drive me home.He had no idea I lived in Huntington Beach, damn near down to Irvine.I didn’t tell him.By the time we got to my house, the fresh night air had sobered me. By the time he carried me inside, I was putty in his rugged paws.
That was four months ago.Owen is no tower of intellect – but he has been a tower of strength for me.He loves me and shows it in so many ways. And, I tell him I love him too. I don’t know that I do, but I sure love that he is loving me.He is growing on me, and memories of Magnus are fading, albeit slowly.
Mother would have a fit - and want a refund - if she thought all that tuition she paid for my Smith College education would have me out here – defiling her belief I’d be writing op-ed pieces for the Times and Harpers . . . and here I am – banging a contractor from Tarzana while writing scripts on spec in hopes of catching the attention of some Ridley Scott, Aaron Sorkin, Dick Wolf or David Kelley type.
Maybe I should invite them all to my couch – not all at once of course - rather than waiting for some break-through moment my agent Marty Perelman keeps promising.
On good days I blame Marty; on bad days, I blame this broad in the mirror.
My looks aren’t fading, my libido is suffering from malnutrition and I can still hit a cross-court winner on the tennis court.Why, for the love of crime and money, can’t I pitch a script like used to?
I’ve been looking a long time, in many places. I’ve turned over many rocks in that quest and turned over every man I found lurking under those rocks . . if you get my meaning.
Now - there I was . . . or, now, here I am.
I’ve wondered, daydreaming, how I could work this into a script:
With seductive words she wove, they were the hook he swallowed; she reels him with easy lines - who is she?He is hers to have if she wishes. Who is this wisp, this whimsy who caught him; who is she?What leads, who follows, will she change his life, or he hers . . . and how long will it take; who is she?
Her words invite his tease; the click, the fit, the snap crackle pop … oh please tell me; who is she?Her mystery and humor leave him breathless, humbled- begging for more; who is she?
An image of what is to be; rapier wit, sharpened mind, softness too – tender too - pea for his pod, warm hands. She is hot, yielding, he knows nothing of her, but wants her now.Who is she?
I don’t know, exactly, where those thoughts came from.
They just happened – came to me, and I put them down, just like that, and I felt hot-n-bothered just reading them aloud to myself.Breathy . . . that’s how I imagined the words – from him to me, or me to him.I want writhing to be on the mind of everyone who reads those lines, everyone who hears it through their earphones on a plane, or blasted from speakers in the their big-ass screen home entertainment theatre.
I’ve been struggling, writing this scene, for a drama series I was pitching – or, rather, that agent Marty was pitching for me.A serialized weekly spy-fi adventure series; the lead male character is a composite, if you will, blending some Maxwell Smart shoe-phone antics, some Dexter , some George Clooney’s Up In The Air character, meets Sherlock Holmes with some intrigue, some hot implied sex, a moral (remember those?) and some Chekhov complexity.
My cell-phone rang.I let it ring to voice-jail, I wasn’t in the mood.
I let two or three minutes pass, keyed in my password- and listened. It was a message from Marty-da-agent.
“Hey Grace, how is it going? It’s Marty. I’m going into a meeting in an hour at StudioCity with one of Aaron Sorkin’s protégé’s, Amy Klugman.I’ve swapped e-mails with her, outlined the idea and I’ve got a meeting with her today. Her assistant just called. I know you are in Northampton for your mom’s funeral, but, if you could just call me in the next hour to tell me where you are at on the script, it would really help me for this meeting . . . ” , and that was it. His voice trailed off in the land of no enthusiasm at the end.
I thought about it a minute – I really have been hard on him lately; he really DOES have my interests at heart. I’ll call him.
I hit speed-dial, it only rang once – “This is Marty.”, it was as if I could hear the L.A. heat.
“Hi Marty . . . it’s Grace calling you back; sorry, I was on another call when you rang”, I lied.
He didn’t skip a beat, “No problem – I’m glad you called back quickly. I think we have a chance of getting a pitch meeting with Aaron Sorkin for next week when you are back, if you feel up to it, but first I have to get by his gatekeeper Amy. I need to give her some juicy bits to convince her she can go to bat for us; so, what do you have so far?”
“Marty, I wrote for a while on the plane, but I was so exhausted from two days on the phone making arrangements for the funeral that I really didn’t get much written.Here’s what I have so far:
opening scene narrative voice-over :His mind played this game, as he had so many times before.He sat there, waiting in the bar at LoganInternationalAirport in Boston, forever it seemed, for his flight to Denver, nursing his drink.Double, Cutty and water.Wondering what it would be like if they met.Would his fantasies be realized, or fizzle like a bad sitcom scene, with the laugh-track slightly off track?
OK, this was it.
He rose, strode to her table.And lightly cleared his throat.His heartbeat quickened but he was determined to keep that, and his nervousness, from showing.This was it, moments of truth; imagining hands shaking, palms sweating and then later – when mouths meet, tongues dart, then he’ll know.
voice-over :Witnessing himself, so deliberately, reaching out his hand – offering to shake hers.
“My name is Gil”, stammering – “Gil Persson, I’ve been admiring you from across the bar and thought – if I don’t come over to speak with you, you might be gone when the next flight is called, in which case I’d have missed the opportunity to change my life by knowing you.”
voice-over :She took his hand, gripped it medium-firm, her warmth met his clammy hand – and it was like a chill running through them both, which is good I suppose, because she was talking now.
They kept their grip, slightly loosened, pumping very slowly now – eyes had met and he dove face-first into azure pools most would simply call eyes, but hers were inviting pools – like round backyard puddles I so often see from the air, flying in to land in Boston or L.A.
“Gil? …. Is that your given name?”
“No, my mother had a cousin named Gillespie, so that’s what it says on my birth certificate – Gillespie Magnus Persson. I realize Gil is a strange name for a Swedish-American , but it seems to have stuck with me. Shit, I blurted that out, didn’t I? Like a hundred thousand times I’ve recited it before.Why couldn’t I just say, YES,”
‘Sorry for the long-winded answer. Yes, I go by Gil.”
voice-over :His palms, returning to sweat mode, but she held on. Her hand was strong, not athletic, but lean with long fingers you would expect of a concert pianist, but who’d ever seen a concert pianist looking this hot?
Phone interruption – his
Phone interruption – hers
Flight is called
He/she .. has to go
Conversation, a hug, a soft tender open mouthed kiss . . . a business card exchange, and matching “call me” whispers as they broke into a sprint for gates at opposite ends of the terminal which then had him sprinting backward on the moving sidewalk . . .
“That’s all I’ve got Marty . . .!”, I coughed into the phone, because just at that moment I had a tickle in my throat.
He wasn’t saying anything.“Marty, are you there?”
“Yeah – I’m here; that’s mutherfucking-fantastic Grace!I can see it, feel it and I got a hard-on listening to you read it”, Marty came back.
“Marty, quit putting Cialis in your scotch and the hard-ons will subside!”, I quipped back – amazed at a sudden surge of energy that came from his approving praise. OK, so the words weren’t over the top – but coming from Marty, who never glows or crows about anything, it was high praise indeed.
“Gracie – I gotta run, and my cell-phone battery is about to crap out. I’ll send you an e-mail after the meeting. If all goes well, I’ll book the meeting with Sorkin and ask you to confirm quickly so we can get it in everyone’s calendar. Can you email what you read, right now, so I’ll have it for the meeting?”, Marty was pumped now . . a great detail guy, for sure.
“Sure, I’ll send it right away”, and, as I said that I was already composing the email on my laptop.Attached document and – send. Done.
“Bye-bye Marty – you’re a trooper. I just hit SEND on my computer. Thanks heaps!”
Ah . . . that felt really good.
Gracie, you did good!
Now if I could just get through the rest of this day; my older brother George was in town – he would meet me there.Younger brothers David and Kevin were driving up in the morning for the memorial service – David was coming from Boston, picking Kevin up in Worcester and meeting us an hour before the service at the Ludlow Country Club, where mom and dad played for so many years.They were so disappointed not one of us picked up a club as kids. Tennis was my game growing up. The boys were never into sports.
The folks at Phaeuf-Blais were great.Mom insisted I use them for her arrangements – she had been so impressed with them when they handled dad’s service last year.I’d handled everything by phone with Jean Brunelle, a very capable woman – and George had agreed.
I’ve not been able to get over it – thirty-nine years now, my hate-hate relationship with George.He probably doesn’t remember it the same way I do; there was no point telling anyone later on, when I was old enough to understand what had happened – and, at the time, I was just a kid. My brother and his buddy would have denied it anyway.It wasn’t really abuse, was it?Two kids experimenting with their own sexuality – knowing it was wrong of course to mess with a little girl, but having no idea the scars it left inside my psyche.We’ve never spoken about it since that summer day at the cottage, on LakeChicopee, but George and I have never said a kind word to each other either.
Shit. I forgot to call Owen!
Such a sweet man/boy; he offered to take two days off work and to fly here to be with me.
Sweet, but he has no idea how I feel, how shaky I’ve been – or why. Just as well. His boss on the construction crew gave him those overtime shifts – that made it so much easier for me to press him to “stay home Owen, I’ll be back before you know it.”
These last two days were a blurred whirr of crap and joy.
The service was lovely, four children, none of us married or ever successfully paired up for long, the funeral director, the minister, country club staff and four old half-deaf and half-blind women from mom’s nursing home. That was it.Everyone else who knew mom and dad are either dead or too old and infirm to come.
And, since all four of us have lives elsewhere, we have no old school friends or colleagues here. It was nice, to keep it small. It was horrible to see the end of a life so scarcely noticed. A nice long obit in the local paper, and barely enough attendees to justify a whole pot of coffee.
It was over now - farewell hugs and squeezes to David and Kevin – and a shrug/wave to George.I wondered, now that mom was gone, if we’d stay in touch, how often we would see each other, or if we would drift into once a year Christmas card sending only.
I took the urn with mom’s ashes.I didn’t know what I would do with them, but the boys didn’t seem to care or want them, it was easy for me to get my way – I wanted a piece of her with me, and for now that urn would be my security blanket.
As executor of the estate, George advised last night over the phone, that he’d sold the golf club membership, liquidated what was left of dad’s portfolio and expected to send us funds next month once mom’s final tax returns were filed and processed.
He’d estimated about thirty-five thousand for each of us. That was fine. I didn’t much care.George was an ass, but he was a good tax lawyer and I trusted he would do what was right.OK, so I did care; I was sad the membership got sold.It had been in the family since great-granddad was a founding member of the club.I am the only golfer, and it’s a long commute from California for a tee-time and with my high handicap, a low percentage chance I’d ever be a credible member.And I needed the cash.If Marty comes through with a commitment to my project, great – otherwise I am spinning my wheels . . .
I was at the airport, waiting for my flight to be called, urn and my handbag on the chair next to me, laptop on the table – Marty sent me a text, confirming the meeting for next Thursday with Aaron Sorkin, over lunch at Ca’ Del Sole.I replied, ‘confirmed’.
OK! .. now I can relax.
I ordered a chardonnay – “Something good, but not woody, OK?” I asked my tall Nordic looking server, ruggedly handsome, when I noticed his name tag – ‘Mag’.
“Mag? …. Is that your given name?”, I enquired.
After his knowing nod that he had just the wine for me . . .he replied, while wheeled ‘round the bar to fill my order, “No, my mother had a cousin named Magnus . . . . I’m named after him, Magnus … but everyone calls me Mag.”