|[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!]
Welcome, readers, to America!
The sun is high in the sky to the north-west. The Escalade is parked out by a barn. It sits half within, half without. The barn stretches off to the left out of frame. Half of a "Mail Pouch Tobacco" advertisement is visible, fading away in the sunlight and dust. Set to the right of the barn, up a rise and in the distance, there stands a white two story clapboard farmhouse. A metal windmill towers behind the farmhouse. The mill-shaft, which would have driven down into a well beneath the landscape, is broken halfway down. Several of the windmill sails are torn, and the mill barely turns even though the brief animation of the oak tree leaves fluttering indicates a stiff southern breeze.
Cut to a close up portrait of an older American woman smiling. Matronly, but with hair died a fiery red.
LISA: Tom, this is my Aunt Becky. Her son, my cousin Rick, is a hair stylist. Oh, Aunt Beck, your hair is wonderful.
AUNT BECKY: Stylist Director for the Miss Georgia Peach Show three years running. It's a pleasure to meet you, Thomas.
LISA: Is that peach cobbler? It smells wonderful.
AUNT BECKY: Oh, you're sweet for saying so. When you called on ahead I had to crack open preserves from last year.
UNCLE FRED: And some store-bought peaches, 'cause they ain't in season down here yet.
AUNT BECKY: Fred! You weren't supposed to say anything about the grocery store peaches.
(the sound of a towel snapping and a man laughing)
Close up of an aging American man. Gruff, with the stubbly beard of a retired farmer. He wears a red, mesh-backed "Georgia Bulldogs" hat and heavy, steel framed bi-focals.
LISA: And this is Uncle Fred. Fred, this is my co-worker Tom . . . I'm sorry, but what is your last name, Tom?
LISA: I'm sorry, but what did you say?
UNCLE FRED: The boy said O-Lawfs-Dau-Teer. He's a goddamn Swede.
THOMAS: Isn't Montgomery originally a French name?
UNCLE FRED: Well, I wouldn't know 'cause my name's Smith. Plain. Wife's name is Montgomery. Or it was anyway. Now it's Smith. Where you from, Sven?
THOMAS: Michigan, sir.
UNCLE FRED: Call me Fred, Sven. Whereabouts in Michigan? Innit the Upper Part where all the Swedes live?
THOMAS: I'm an American, sir.
UNCLE FRED: Sure you are. Just like the Jerrys and the Spics and Greaseballs and the Ay-rabs. Everybody's a goddamn America. I love 'em all. Every goddamn last one of them. Americans!
AUNT BECKY: Fred . . .
UNCLE FRED: Aloha! What kind of t-shirt is this?
LISA: Oh, don't worry, Uncle Fred. Tom bought this for me. It's nothing.
UNCLE FRED: I thought you were from Wisconsin, Sven. You have kin in Florida? You a Gator? Maybe you went to college down in MY-AMMIE?
THOMAS: I didn't finish college, sir.
UNCLE FRED: You got a real catch here, Lisa sweetheart. A Gator-loving Swede college dropout from Minnesota.
AUNT BECKY: Cut It Out, Frederick Michael!
UNCLE FRED: I'm just foolin', Tom. Mom's all mad now, but she knows I'm just kidding. Right, Mother?
AUNT BECKY: You. Shoo. Go back to that monkey house and check Lisa's oil or something.
UNCLE FRED: Yes, Mother.
THOMAS: Be careful . . . I don't mean that you can't . . . I mean . . .
LISA: Marlon Brando is sleeping in the backseat, Uncle Fred. Try not to wake him. He's an important client.
UNCLE FRED: Shit, Lisa. When I married your aunt I knew I was getting into some lacey, Yankee shit, but you brought a movie star to my house?
LISA: Uncle Fred! It's my job.
UNCLE FRED: Bringing movie stars to my house? Couldn't you have at least brought Raquel Welch? Ooh, or maybe that little Jane Fonda number what just left Ted Turner up in Atlanta. Now she's a sweet tomato.
AUNT BECKY: OUT!
UNCLE FRED: I'm gone, Mother. Like a whisper in the breeze.
Cut to interior kitchen. I initially identified the style as "American Kitsch." Mother examined these photographs, and consulted a more American friend for appropriate names. Against the far wall stands a vintage "Hoosier" cabinet. It is composed of two parts: A lower cabinet with an enamel top, wood painted white and the enamel red. On the right of the lower unit are drawers and. On the enameled top is a tin box, apparently a variety at one time used for the storing of flour. Dried flowers are bouqueted there. Flowers instead of flour. Ah, America and your punnery. The upper-half of the unit is a tall, narrow pair of cabinets crowned with some gingerbreading (wooden die-cut "froofiness" as Mother's friend describes). The cabinet doors are closed. On the white paint, freshly stenciled, are a pair of hearts. Moving to the left around the room we find the following:
A wall length counter, sink set-up with appliances arrayed along the wall. A tall plastic trash can. A door that appears to lead outdoors.
Then we are at center.
Then to Tom's right is:
A high wooden cabinet with tin doors that have holes pressed through the tin to create patterns like flowers. This is, apparently, a Pie Safe. What it keeps pies safe from is a mystery, though I suspect Uncle Fred may be on its list. A low kitchen table topped with the same red enamel as the Hoosier. Finally, a pair of chairs sit in the corner. One is empty. The other has a red watering can full of dehydrated flowers.
On the window sill above the sink there sit a pair of cast iron Dutch Ovens. Within in them apparently are the cobblers.
Mother's venerable friend declared the entire kitchen to be "worth a fortune on eBay."
AUNT BECKY: Lisa, dear. The cobblers still have to cool a little bit more, and your Uncle needs to clean up after he checks your car over. Do you think (whispering) Mr. Brando (end whisper) will be safe in the car while you and Tom go in to town?
LISA: First of all, you don't need to whisper. Mr. Brando will be fine and he is a perfect gentleman. He probably won't even get out of the car.
THOMAS: I'm sure he won't.
LISA: Second, Tom and I can do whatever you need us to. We just need to wait about a day so that Mr. Brando can receive some shipment he needs. We'll be out of your hair by sundown tomorrow.
AUNT BECKY: You mean he won't come in and have some lemonade?
LISA: Well, I'm sure he could be persuaded.
THOMAS: Absolutely not.
LISA: What do you mean, Tom? You know, you are being overprotective. I know his safety is your responsibility, but I mean, jeez, give the guy a break. He probably wants to get out of the car at this point.
AUNT BECKY: Oh, I didn't mean to start a ruckus. We're fine. We don't need to meet him personally or anything. I'm sure the house is too plain for him anyway.
LISA: No, Aunt Becky, your house is beautiful. The King of Siam would be proud to stay in this house. And Marlon Brando would be proud to stay in this house. And I think that Marlon Brando deserves to not be denied an opportunity to stay in a house this nice.
THOMAS: He's real tired, Lisa. Ma'am. I'm sure he would love . . . I mean LOVE . . . to stay in this house. But I . . . it just can't happen . . . because of his weight.
LISA: I am sick of this shit.
AUNT BECKY: Lisa!
LISA: I'm sorry, Aunt Becky. I'm real sorry about all of this.
THOMAS: Lisa . . .
LISA: Don't you dare touch me. And that stupid excuse; how much could the guy possibly weigh?!?
THOMAS: You have no idea.
LISA: What the Hell does that mean?
AUNT BECKY: Children . . . I . . . I have some cleaning to do.
LISA: No, Aunt Becky. Where are the keys to the Buick. And your list of errands. I want to go and help. Alone. I want to go alone.
THOMAS: Lisa . . .
LISA: My name is Ms. Montgomery, Esquire, buster. Now, let go of me. Thanks, Aunt Becky.
(the sound of kissing on the cheek. The sound of a door opening and of feet on gravel. Engine starts. Pulls away.)
Shot of the kitchen door, the garbage can, the sink, and the cooling cobblers. The door frames an open eastern sky, perfectly blue and open. Starlings in the distance, in a cloud.
AUNT BECKY: You know, she'll just end up at Okeefenokee. You can take the other car, the Jeep, if you need to follow her.
THOMAS: Thanks, Mrs. Smith. You're a real nice lady. I need to talk to Mr. Brando, I think. And then maybe I'll borrow that car.
AUNT BECKY: Dinner's in three hours, hon. You're good kids. You'll work it out.
Brief bit of moving image: Interior of the Escalade. Through the front windshield one can see Uncle Fred moving back and forth, shifting his hat, looking around the sides of the vehicle, peering down under the car, bent over. Then the hood flips open and the image freezes. Cut to shot of the beige intercom speaker mounted between the two front seats against the black aluminum wall that separates the front seats from the back area.
The sun is setting down at the end of the road, frozen as it falls. The hood of the Jeep is alive with the reflections of trees and sky and sunlight. We can see Thomas' fingers gripping the steering wheel. The knuckles are tight, but not white. Just pink.
SQUID: What is the greyback doing to my auto-velocitator?
THOMAS: Don't worry, that's just Uncle Fred.
SQUID: Uncle Fried, indeed. I shall devour his face with a rich holendaise sauce.
THOMAS: Will you please cut it out.
SQUID: Mr. Thomas, you have taken a wide and assorted number of liberties with my person and persona these past few weeks. You would do well to remember which one of us is possessed of a terrible beak capable of rending the blubber of a right whale in his prime.
THOMAS: I . . . Dammit, now that's the image I have in my head.
THOMAS: I . . . Squid . . .
SQUID: Are you even capable of speaking your own grunta lingua? For the love of the Deep Old Ones, Tom? I have mastered languages that are not even Phonic. I would expect that you could at least muster the energy to formulate your pathetic smear of thoughts into the simple grunts that are of your nativity.
THOMAS: You know, I have gone to a lot of trouble here to help you become an American.
SQUID: This journey grows tiresome, Thomas. Surely we have but a few sites left to view on this adventure? How many important relics could there be? Your culture is infantile to the extreme and certainly, beyond the Mystery Hill, has little to offer in the way of artifacts and sites of import.
THOMAS: What? We haven't even been to Hawaii.
SQUID: Indeed . . . But surely that is not far away.
THOMAS: Nnn-no. Not so far. But a ways. And there is something I need to see before we go there.
SQUID: Fear not, Thomas. Upon the arrival of the package tomorrow evening, I shall be less of a burden and more of a participant in these affairs. I have learned well the lessons of Memphis.
THOMAS: What did you order?
SQUID: And did you know that our transmissions are being monitored?
SQUID: Uncle Fried has a tasty looking paunch.
THOMAS: Dammit, what is going on with you?
SQUID: You wish to impregnate Lawyer Ape Lisa, yes?
THOMAS: Yes. No. Yes. Dammit.
SQUID: The Genie Says : "Follow your genetic impulse: it is most true and honest as it conjoins with your sense of survival at the base of the cerebellum."
THOMAS: What is going on?
SQUID: Quick. To the rutting fields!
(sound of a door popping open)
UNCLE FRED: Mother says the keys are in the garage, Sven.
SQUID: Thank you for your assistance, Uncle Fried!
UNCLE FRED: Hey, Marlon, don't mention it. Offer you can't refuse and all that.
SQUID: Indeed. And please, to shut the door so that I might slumber as a large human male might after a long journey in his automobile.
UNCLE FRED: You sure you don't want to take a nap in the house?
SQUID: No, thank you Ape-Man. The cushioned bench of this fine auto will suffice. Goodbye. And goodluck to you, Tom. I am sure her sexual orifice will be wanton.
(sound of door closing)
UNCLE FRED: Hollywood really fucks people up, you know, kid?
THOMAS: Thanks, Mr. Smith.
Good Night, America.
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson