|[Editors Note: You have landed amidst the wreckage of the American Dream. It's a novel called Big American. |
How did this start?The squid is on the road, people. Keep up. Want to catch up with past chapters? Check out the Archive.
Want to know what happens next? Read on!]
This section, as edited by Thomas on his iBook, is composed in a manner similar to the last. Stills matched to audio provide the framework. But, there are interstitially inserted moments of silent video used both for illustrative purposes and as counterpoint to the action. It is a rudimentary piece of videography, but seems to have a pleasing flair. I had not known Thomas to be possessed of such artistic sensibilities, and even now I feel I should principally attribute this to the heat and stress of his current circumstances.
We open on a matching shot of the roadside motel, the faux log cabins, the gator sign, all as with the previous section. But it is a shot of the sun rising through the trees behind the hill that towers over the area off to the right.
The shot animates briefly, the wind quickening the leaves of the low hanging willows that cloak the area in a stringy, sweaty calm. Light starts to flow more fully into the area. The speed of the animation picks up and the shadow of the Escalade creeps more quickly across the tarmac driveway. The door to cabin two opens, wider, and then Lisa is revealed.
The shot holds again, even more drenched in sunlight and morning. The gator sign has been almost entirely silhouetted.
Close up of Lisa. She looks tired. Her hair is combed down, but limp. She is wearing a T-shirt and a pair of shorts with hiking boots. The shirt has a picture of the Gator from the sign on it. He is holding a bullwhip and his hat is tilted forward. The shirt says "Whip the Bulldogs!" across her breasts. The shorts are still creased.
LISA: Is this casual enough?
THOMAS: This is a vacation.
LISA: No it's not. Not mine, anyway. This is Mr. Brando's vacation. It's work for you and me.
THOMAS: Thanks for changing into more comfortable clothes.
LISA: Part of the job. If Mr. Brando wants me to have fun, well, at six hundred bucks an hour, I'll have fun. Smile.
THOMAS: Six hundred bucks?
LISA: Why not? I'm his lawyer. And he can afford it. We checked.
THOMAS: Sorry about the shirt, by the way.
LISA: Like I said, part of the job. I just think it's weird that these people are Florida fans.
LISA: (dryly) Nothing. When does the hoo-ha party begin?
THOMAS: Well . . . um . . . I thought maybe we would go check out Mystery Hill.
LISA: Really? Is that what Mr. Brando wants to do?
THOMAS: Mr. Brando is sleeping.
LISA: I think I should ask him myself. You know, just in case.
THOMAS: Turn around.
LISA: I'm not turning . . . hey! Hands off, buster!
THOMAS: You had a tag hanging off your butt.
LISA: Mr. BRANDO!
THOMAS: What, are you gonna tell on me?
LISA: No, I want to speak to Mr. Brando— Mr. Brando! Where is he, Tom? What bungalow . . . cabin . . . room . . . whatever you call these cockroach nests. Do you know a roach leapt at the light when I turned it on last night? It was as big as my shoe.
THOMAS: I don't know where he is.
LISA: You lost Marlon Brando?
THOMAS: No. No I did not lose Marlon Brando. He's a private man. He doesn't tell me which room he'll take. He's probably taking a walk. He takes walks in the morning. I bet you didn't know that about him. I bet after all of your internet fan-girl Marlon-Brando's-daughter's-name-is-Cheyenne research you didn't know that he likes to take Goddamn walks in the morning. Hmm? Diddya?
LISA: (softly) You really didn't know it was the day she died, did you?
THOMAS: Let's just drop it.
LISA: How close are you to Mr. Brando?
THOMAS: Mystery Hill. It's you know, all Mysterious. C'mon.
Wide shot of a low, tree covered hill. In front of the hill to the right is a firmly entrenched mobile home painted green. Attached to the left of the mobile home is a sheltered patio where a line has formed. The patio has gate at the rear which opens onto a narrow cobblestone path that leads up the hill in a meandering way to a ramshackle of buildings and walls which stand from the hill at all angles. I believe the term may be "jackstraw." Larches and oak and willow trees all grow up dense along the side of the hill. The front of the mobile home is painted with three foot high letters that read MYSTERY HI. There is an opening with a second gate. To the right of that gate is an extension of fencing painted the same green color as the mobile home. Upon that last leg of wall are the remaining letters: LL.
An old, wizened man leans out of a mobile home window that opens into the covered patio area. There is a paper plate nailed up next to his head. The plate says: ADULTS: 5 Bucks. SQUIRTS: 1 Buck. SENIORS: 2 Bucks.
THOMAS: Two adult tickets, please.
OLD MAN: You ain't a Jew, are you, Yankee?
OLD WOMAN: (distant) Dammit, Clive! Quit being such a goddamn cliché.
OLD MAN: (yelling back) It ain't nothing that we gotta truck with goddamn carpetbaggers for the mortgage, but now we gotta serve the goddamn Zionists!?
THOMAS: Please. Here's ten bucks.
OLD MAN: Ten bucks for Zionists, Zionist.
LISA: I'm a lawyer, sir.
OLD WOMAN: DAMMIT!
(a squeeching sound, like a squeegy)
OLD MAN: You see, it says right there. Ten bucks for Zionists.
THOMAS: You just wrote that, bastard.
OLD MAN: It's two more bucks for bad language. We got kids running around.
LISA: Did I mention that I am a lawyer?
OLD WOMAN: Clive! if you don't leave those nice people alone, I am gonna—
OLD MAN: (yelling) You'll what!? What you gonna do to me that ain't already been done, woman? If I says Zionists pay ten bucks, then they pay ten bucks. It's them that owns the goddamn unfair mortgage on this place. They can help pay the ungodly interest. Communist bastards.
OLD WOMAN: Barry Lee owns the mortgage, Clive. He's Seventh Day Adventist.
OLD MAN: Now we're splitting goddamn hairs, woman.
LISA: I'm sure you should be aware that I am a lawyer and I believe this is discrimination.
OLD MAN: Lawyers is twenty bucks. And mouthy women are fifteen more. I got a notion that you may well be a Mouthy, Jew Lawyer-woman, but I'll let that slide.
LISA: Now wait here a damn—
OLD MAN: Damn it, jew-boy, can't you keep your woman in line? You see them ragheads up the hill already? They can keep their goddamn women in place. If it weren't for them being such heathen bastards I'd have to hand it to them ragheads. We needs some of that raghead juice in these states here. Lord knows as I get as old as dirt, I get more and more oppressed every day. So don't you tell me about goddamn discrimination. —Dammit, woman, quit pushing. That hurts, woman!
OLD WOMAN: Ten dollars for two adults.
THOMAS: Thank you, ma'am.
OLD WOMAN: Don't think it's cause I like you, jew-boy.
THOMAS: No ma'am.
OLD WOMAN: And my granddaughter manages the tours, so you keep your hands to yourself. And your lesbian lady-friend too.
THOMAS: Yes ma'am.
OLD WOMAN: Fair's fair, I say. So get along.
Medium shot, twenty year old girl. Blond. Tall. Full figured. She wears a green t-shirt. The Red letters MYSTERY HILL arch across her breasts. Her bosoms cause the "M" and "LL" to bow considerable. Close up of the words. Cut back to her face. A red pimple on her cheek. A strained smile.
Camera pulls back. A large family from India clusters around the girl. The men in Izod shirts. The women in crimson saris. The children in cheap imitation Disney outfits.
Close up of girl's face. Brief animation as she goes from smile to frown to a wide laugh. Cut. Repeat: Smile. Frown. Laugh.
(Hold image on her face)
GIRL: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Delacroix Mystery Hill and Geologic Research Facility. The site you stand on was once part of the grounds of the Delacroix cotton plantation destroyed by Sherman's march during the Great Rebellion.
INDIAN MAN 1 (younger): Do you not mean the American Civil War?
GIRL: No, sah (she extends the drawl on the considerably), I mean the Great Rebellion when Southern Dignity was threatened by Northern Encroachment and fine gentlemen like Mr. Lee stood up for the ladies and the honor of the south by raising an army of distinguished men.
INDIAN MAN 1 (younger): The Civil War. Abraham Lincoln. Slavery.
GIRL: May I continue.
INDIAN MAN 2 (older): My son went to MIT.
GIRL: That's in New England, is it not?
INDIAN MAN 2 (older): Indeed it is.
GIRL: The Delacroix plantation was know, even to the Seminole Indians who farmed this land before the white folk came, as a mysterious and strange region of land where the laws of nature were frequently ignored.
INDIAN MAN 1: They weren't Indian.
GIRL: The native people, who at the time were know as Indian—
INDIAN MAN 1: Incorrectly known as Indian.
GIRL: Incorrectly known as Indian, but nonetheless known as Indian—
INDIAN MAN 1: But they were wrong. This isn't India.
INDIAN MAN 2: I can vouch for that.
GIRL: These lands were known by many people from many times in history as being lands were strange things occur. For a time the ancient people of this land believed that the area surrounding this hill was a secret home of gods and spirits. Later, settlers, who came to this land to farm thought that the area was haunted. Irish indentured servants told tales of faeries and pixies. But finally—
INDIAN MAN 1: Native Americans didn't believe in Gods or Spirits. They were animists, like the Mongols. They personified the inner character of the animals that they hunted.
GIRL: You can't correct me after the thing you are correcting has passed. You've got to be quicker. Now, I am already up to the part about geology.
INDIAN MAN 2: My son is correct on this account.
INDIAN WOMAN: Leave the girl to her stories. It's not her fault.
Close up of a bell shaped loudspeaker like the one used in M*A*S*H.
RECORDING: This hill is under continual research by many geologists from around the state of Georgia. After a long history of being considered haunted, the mysteries of Mystery Hill are just now being explored. Balls and water both roll up hill here, seeming to defy the very basic laws of physics which control all aspects of our lives on this earth. In 1945 Navy Geologists discovered that a dense uranium deposit existed miles beneath the hill. Are there spirits or gods playing here on Mystery Hill? Pixies and leprechauns who might trick you away forever? Or deep, unseen forces caused by uranium buried in the earth's crust? Is gravity negated here? What could be happening? How might the souls of man be so strangely warped? Research continues, but you can experience these strange effects even now. Tickets are available at the counter to your right. Tours every fifteen minutes.
Along a green wall is a trough that, as compared to the wall, appears to be angled upward at perhaps 25-degrees. Water flows out of a spigot into the trough and travels up the grade of the trough to empty into a strangely tilted bucket. Also in the trough is a ball at the very upper end. An arm reaches into the shot (Thomas' arm?) and takes the ball to the bottom of the trough. The ball rolls up the angled trough with the water to the edge where it is caught by a wooden lip. This shot is animated into a loop.
LISA: Can you believe this place?
LISA: I thought these places, these people, were just stories. That people couldn't possibly be like this in real life.
THOMAS: I grew up with people like this.
LISA: You grew up in Georgia?
THOMAS: No, Michigan. But these people are all over the place.
LISA: No. I know people from Michigan.
LISA: No. Farmington Hills. And Grosse Pointe.
THOMAS: Ha. That's not Michigan. That's Detroit.
LISA: I'm sure my friends wouldn't agree with you.
THOMAS: I'm sure they wouldn't.
Shot of a young Indian man in a blue Izod shirt sitting on a chair. Closer inspection reveals that the chair's front two legs are hanging in mid-air. The entire man and chair combination is held up by the back legs perched precariously on a ledge against the wall. The older Indian woman is frozen, half-lurching forward to catch her son. He hangs still in the image, smiling.
THOMAS: Where are you from if this is such a goddamn mythic-landscape for you?
THOMAS: All kinds of Chicagos.
LISA: Tom, that makes no sense at all.THOMAS: Yeah, well, whatever.
LISA: You know Mayor Dayley?
THOMAS: Not personally, no.
LISA: (dryly) Ha ha. My father is his lawyer.
THOMAS: Your dad works for the Dayley machine. Cop riots and Cabrini Green Machine?
THOMAS: That's some kind of Chicago.
Young Indian man, his father and a little girl, a daughter, all stand at the edge of the room. They lean out from the wall, hanging at a 45-degree angle between wall and floor. Their heads are craned up, looking forward at the mother, who is taking a picture. All three smile like rocket-men shooting forward with their rocket-packs at full blast. The southern girl is off in the background balancing her chair's back legs on a table set in the corner so that she hangs out in open space, her back rigid and upright against the back of the chair, her knees clenched so tight they are white where they press together. Her smile goes unnoticed by the family from Calcutta.
THOMAS: Could this floor possibly tilt any farther down the hill?
LISA: I know, I'm getting a cramp in my thigh. Uranium my ass. The grade in this room must be tremendous.
THOMAS: They seem to be enjoying themselves.
LISA: I thought our guide was going to burst a vessel behind her eye when this all got started.
THOMAS: (imitating the older Indian father) Oh, my, yes, my son went to MIT.
LISA: Shush, that's rude (laughing). Hey, no biting. I have to write with that hand.
THOMAS: (oral gnawing sound).
LISA: (Laughing) Cut it out, Jew-Boy!
THOMAS: You can take it. You're a tough, no-nonsense Dyke from Al Capone Alley.
LISA: (Laughing loud)
THOMAS: Hey, quite shoving!
LISA: Ow! You hit my boob!
THOMAS: (laughing) cut it out
GIRL: Hey now, Yankees! Quit your roughhousing!
INDIAN MAN 2 (older): Be careful, children. The Americans might not see you.
INDIAN WOMAN: Upeckala, Deepak, watch! Come here. They do not see you.
THOMAS: Cut it out! (laughing)
LISA: Oh, shit, Tom, that little girl!
Still shot. Wide. The angle of the camera points up hill to a large green construction built at odd angles on a hill. Our point-of-view is somewhat obscured behind the leaves of low brush. In the close foreground we can see the toes of Thomas' shoes— the left tow is patched with a sagged strip of duct tape. The wall directly before us, up the steep hill, now features a gaping, ragged hole. To the right of the hole is a little Indian girl, her arm cut, her head thrown back into a frozen scream. Peering through the hole is Lisa, smirking, the southern girl, her mouth open into an O, and the Indian mother with her hands above her head and rage stamped upon her countenance.
THOMAS: Will somebody help me up.
LISA: (close and quiet) Smooth move. Let's get out of here.
THOMAS: Can't you lawyer them?
LISA: (quietly but quick) I think you hurt that little girl.
OLD MAN: Damn it, JEW! You wrecked my Mystery! You broke the goddamn Mystery!
INDIAN WOMAN: (unintelligible screaming)
INDIAN GIRL: (wailing)
LISA: The lawyer in me says we should run now. Can you run?
GIRL: Daddy! That Jew broke the Mystery!
OLD MAN: I know, Sunshine. I know.
THOMAS: Let's go.
The cabin parking lot is empty except for the Escalade and a Sheriff's car. The Sheriff wears a broad-brimmed hat, like that of a movie drill-sergeant or Smoking the Bear. He is mid-way between his car and the Escalade. He is holding up an open palm toward the camera.
SHERIFF: What's the rush, folks?
THOMAS: Uh (breathing hard) we just remembered we were late.
SHERIFF: For what?
THOMAS: Our wedding. Ow!
LISA: A wedding.
THOMAS: Yes. A wedding, sir. (quietly) That hurt.
SHERIFF: Your from up north, yeah?
THOMAS: No sir. Georgia folk. Born and bred. Ow!
LISA: We're from Cincinatti.
SHERIFF: That's what I thought. Ohio license plate.
THOMAS: She's lying, sir. We're both from Tallahassee. My, er, pappy's pappy was in the Great Rebellion.
SHERIFF: What, when he was two?
LISA: My boyfriend is just kidding, sir.
SHERIFF: Listen, I got a call from Clive up the hill about some Northerners causing a ruckus. Was that you?
THOMAS: Do you know who is in this Cadillac? Marlon Fucking Brando. OW! Stop kicking me, Lisa.
SHERIFF: Yeah, well, whatever. I say y'all best get on the road. Clive usually does this sort of thing when Yankees stop in.
(gunshot in the air)
SHERIFF: Yep, that's Clive alright.
LISA: Sir, we would just like to leave now. We're very sorry about this.
SHERIFF: Yeah, better be off now. Clive calls about twice a month. I'm real sorry. My mom's from Ohio, so it's all the same to me, but Clive . . . you know old people can be.
Clive said you're Jewish, fella. You actually Jewish?
THOMAS: Er, yeah. More or less.
SHERIFF: Hunh. That's funny.
SHERIFF: Well, Clive thinks everyone he takes a dislike to is Jewish. You're the first one that actually was. There's shule down in Mount Olive, they do up Shabbat right nice there.
THOMAS: Um, thanks, but no thanks, Officer. We're sort of in a hurry.
SHERIFF: Well, it's a helluva spread. Your loss, I guess.
LISA: Thanks, Sheriff.
SHERIFF: Don't mention it, ma'am. Oh, and ma'am?
LISA: Yes, sir?
SHERIFF: That Caddy is riding pretty low. You should have your boyfriend check that out.
LISA: (dryly) I'm sure I don't need my boyfriend to do any such thing. I am sure, sir that I am perfectly capable of checking the car's under-carriage out on my own.
SHERIFF: Feminist, eh? Cute. Real cute. Just like Mom.
LISA: Do you have a problem—ow! Cut it out, Tom.
THOMAS: Bye, sheriff.
SHERIFF: Bye now. Drive safe.
Shot of the highway. The interstate shield says 75.
SQUID: Do you require anything from the Ohioan Headquarters?
THOMAS: Yes. Why?
SQUID: Present your requests in written form and they shall be acquired.
THOMAS: But why? Are you placing an order back with Devo? And Why? And how will he know where to send it?
SQUID: Is there a place where we might rest for a while until a package can arrive?
LISA: Are we near Waycross?
LISA: My aunt lives east of here, by the swamp.
SQUID: Excellent. Submit your requests.
THOMAS: What are you ordering?
SQUID: I believe that I shall slumber for a time.
THOMAS: Dammit, Marlon. Can you just give me a straight answer.
SQUID: Mr. Brando would like to sleep, Tom. Please let the dramaturge rest his aqueous orbs for a time in the cool, enveloping darkness of perfect depth and pressure.
THOMAS: Fuck you. Where does your aunt live?
LISA: Is this Valdosta? Hang a right up there.
Good night, America.
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