Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Two Girls (Part I)

Luke couldn't remember the night they met. Until it happened, it had been a conspicuously ordinary evening out at the bars with friends. The only thing he remembered distinguishing it, before his meeting her, was an inexplicable energy. There was an enthusiasm for the night that seemed to bubble and burst from some place so brimming with emotion it was dark and unknowable.

He and his friends Spike and John had started at the apartment, met up with some now-faceless acquaintance they knew vaguely and mutually, whom they had already mostly forgotten. On the walk to the bar they bought a pint of Old Grandad to split in the late September chill that only came when the sun went down. They were giddy in the cold air, with warm bellies and toothy smiles.

By the time they reached the bar, everything was fuzzy and warm. The acrid bourbon had settled in the bottom of his stomach and seemed to fizzle and pop, shooting up lights and heat. It felt like a hard rock that was slowly melting from its own warmth. There was a crackling fire in the old brick fireplace; the dark wood floor glowed like chocolate syrup.

"Let's find some biddies," Spike suggested. The suggestion was moot, though, since finding women was the reason they had come to the bar in the first place. Only one of them, John, had what they could call a real job, and the bar was a sure way to exacerbate their financial situation. But, this was important to Spike, Luke knew. And John could always pick up the tab. He seemed happy to do so, although Luke had guilty suspicions about this that he didn't care to entertain, especially when his funds were low.

Friends since high school, Luke had watched Spike slowly deteriorate since dropping out of college. He had refused a job with his father's firm, whether out of pride or simply pure mischief, Luke did not know. But Spike was an amazing poker player, and made his living playing online. He was just good enough to make some money and not lose too much, if he played every day. Unfortunately, this meant that Spike had to stay home almost all the time, a jail term for somebody who thrived off of human interaction.

Luke moved downstairs to the bathroom, letting his friends buy the drinks and make the first moves, if any moves were to be made that night. Plenty (maybe most) of their nights out had been spent staring at the women they wanted to talk to, making excuses for not doing so: "She's talking to that guy," "She's with all her friends," "She's too old for me," "I'm not drunk enough yet," "I'm too drunk."

When he returned, there she was. The first thing he noticed upon climbing the stairs was her shock of blonde hair curling and waving in the air, even before he reached the top. The hair seemed to float on its own, peeping out at him from behind the top stair, which still concealed her face.

When he did see her face, her huge smile seemed to swallow up everything else. It was remarkable for two reasons: its width, which he thought was pretty normal for a big smile, and its height, completely novel to him and equally attractive. The rather thin lips parted to form a sort of frame for her very large, very perfect teeth. Her adorably small, pointy chin and deep creases below her cheekbones magnified the smile, and made her pretty in a way he'd never seen before. He wondered why that look wasn't more popular.

She and another girl were talking to John and Spike.

To be continued...

Friday, December 7, 2007

25 Cents for a Quarter

INT. Spacious, old-timey ‘Gentleman’s Club’ lounge, complete with leather, mahogany, green lamps, fireplace, and stock-ticker in glass case. Two portly and lavishly dressed businessmen (age 50 or 60, one with gigantic drooping mustache and the other with long, flowing mutton chops) sit in leather chairs smoking cigars, drinks in hand.

Beasworth (in quick, British nasal speech): “You know, Jefferson, I consider myself a shrewd man… extremely shrewd, in fact, but I daresay that your show last week at Teasdale’s really set my toes aloof and my pants on fire. How did you ever get those old boys to cut you in on the orange juice concentrate deal?

Jefferson (in a slow, gruff cadence): Ah, yes, the orange juice deal, quite lucrative, that. We’ll have the Florida barons on their knees in no time. Well, Beasworth, it’s quite simple really. If you’ll be so kind as to let me demonstrate…

B: (Eagerly interrupting) Of course, of course! Oh, I’m getting all giddy, just like our days at the Pickwick Academy! But I digress. Please, do continue.

J: Yes, those certainly were good times, weren’t they Old Cheese? Ah, it’s too bad Fizzybottom couldn’t be here to reminisce with us. (As an aside) Horrid, horrid business he got into with that pork-belly scheme…

B: Yes, yes. But please, Jefferson, I implore you to continue with your fine demonstration.

J: Of course. (Assuming a demonstrative tone) Now, Beasworth, tell me, would you happen to have a quarter in your watch pocket at this current moment?

B: (Indignant) You know that I always keep a Washington-piece in my chrono-purse, should the need arise.

Reaches into vest pocket and reveals a quarter.

J: Now, dear Beasworth, how would you feel if I were to offer you twenty five cents for that verysame quarteroon which you now so gingerly clutch?

B: BAH! Jefferson, I would have to say that I do believe you’ve spent too much time with that mulatto mistress of yours! (Eagerly looks around the room hoping somebody heard the joke, nobody does) She’s got it into your head that there’s free money to be had in this world, (now mumblingly trailing off) although for her, that may be true, for a man of your…

J: To be sure, Beasworth, your decision to renege my offer is a wise one in the current context, quite a textbook reaction. But let me further my argument by telling you that I, at this very moment, also hold a quarter in my breast pocket, by way of the same habit that you admitted to me earlier. Furthermore, I would like to sell it to you for a niggardly twenty-five hundredths of a dollar.

Beasworth Grows silent, contemplative, there is a long pause.

B: (Enthusiastically) Sir, I would like to accept your offer!

The men exchange quarters.

J: (Sighs, chuckles slightly, and shakes his head slowly) I expected a little more from you, my fine-feathered friend. But no, I saw nary a flip of the hat, nor a jostle of the jowls in contemplating this transaction.

B: (Offended, defensive) Now see here! I was not raised by the finest staple-futures speculators in the history of this fine nation to sit here and be mocked by such a low-bred man as yourself! I have it in my right mind to deliver you a swift five kick in the pant! And furthermore, I jostle my jowls inordinately more than most men of my stature could ever dream of!

J: (Smirking deviously) My dear, simple Beasworth, if you would simply pause to consider the situation, I’m sure your jowls will indeed begin to quiver. As you can clearly see, I now in fact have your very-same quarter and you have nothing but the twenty-five cents you so vehemently rejected earlier.

B: Hmmm… (Pauses, clicks tongue repeatedly) Yes… I do see that now. It was a regrettable mistake on my part, a momentary discrepancy. I wish to buy my quarter back, as I must admit a rare moment of lackadaisical haziness. I assure you I shan’t let that happen again, if you would be so kind as to return my heads-and-tails. I believe I do have the twenty-five cents to pay for it.

J: Of course, without hesitation. Simply divulge the fee and the quarter will once again be yours.

Beasworth fumblingly searches through his pockets for 25 cents.

B: Yes, surely I’ll have it somewhere. I usually keep twenty-five cents in my breast pocket, you know, for just such an occasion… Ah, yes, here it is.

He pulls out the same quarter as before after much searching, and the men once again trade quarters.

J: Now, I may remind you, the quarter is in your possession, as it was before, but you have had to pay twenty-five cents for it.

B: (Confusion, then realization slowly coming to his face) Good God, man. How could I have ever been such a fool? No, it is not I who is the fool, but you who are the fiduciary master! We must take this to the streets, post-haste!

They enthusiastically shake hands. “Here, here! Good show!”

EXT. Mid-day. Busy urban street corner. They stand behind a lemonade-stand type construction with hand-painted sign reading: "Quarters - $0.25" complete with crooked and backwards letters. Mobs of people crowd around the stand, frantically shouting and waving money. Overhead shot reveals line of customers stretching around the block.

Spinning newspaper gimmick: Covers of magazines: Forbes, Money, The Economist, Quarters Quarterly, Nickels and Dimes, Stinkin’ Rich, Rollin’ in it, etc. Headlines: “Twenty Five Cents for a Quarter!,” “Jefferson and Beasworth: No Quarter for Competition,” “Could Dimes be Next?,” “Quarter Commerce Cornered,” “Change for a Buck, and for the World.”