Chapter 5: MInd Puppets

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 117

Chapter 5

“You might think it’s funny, these two tourists from Alabama just happening along.  But we know.  We’ve been touring Mexico for five weeks now, and boy, when you can find another American to talk to, it’s the best part of the day, eh, Sandy?”

“Absolutely, Harold.  Nothing matches the sound of an American voice, talking American after you’ve been out here for five weeks.  The Cantina had its usual assortment of drunken tourists and natives dancing to the alternating sounds of Tito Puente and any other promo CD’s the owner had come by.  Swaying in the ocean breeze were Piñatas hung from the ceiling, an occasional rotating dance floor light identifying them as the major décor. 

For the un-acclimatized, the outdoor patio offered some additional relief from the Baja heat.  Beyond that, there was the colder air blowing in off the ocean surf.  Earlier in the evening, the newlyweds had chosen the latter.  Now as they sat together on the edge of the water, their feet firmly planted in the wet sand, getting rid of Harold and Sandy from Mobile was becoming formidable, even harder than the Winnebago.

“You folks didn’t say how long you been travelin’,” said Sandy.


Max smiled and pushed his feet another five inches into the sand.

Sam leaned back on her hands, dropped her head and stared up at the stars.  In a perfectly awful Italian accent, “It is awful to be so far away from home, yes?  Only stars to guide you.  We travel for… how long we travel, Alfonzo?  He no like to talk, but maybe, I think maybe seven, eight weeks in Mexico-co.  We try so hard… so hard.”

Sandy knelt down.  “Oh you poor thing.  Tried so hard for what, deary?”

“How you say, make connection?  Alfonzo dies very fast.  The Aid thing is very bad.  We have traveled all over to find just one "connection.”  In Roma, very hard to get what you call, shit.  Here, in Mexico, Mama said would be easy.  No one wants to be our connection.  Alfonzo need many ounces a day.  You know connection?”

Harold lifted Sandy to her feet.  “Now, you folks don’t stay out too late.  Water can come up faster than a jack rabbit.”  He chuckled at his feeble attempt to be polite.  “If I see a connection, I’ll send him right on down, ya hear?”

Max watched Harold and Sandy’s moonlit shadows disappear along the sand.  “Are they gone?”

“Oh, Alfonzo, you talk!”  Sam rolled over on top of him, stuffing sand in his pants.

Max laughed and struggled to stand up.  Sam leaped on his back, riding him into the surf.

Harold and Sandy, halfway to the Cantina, turned toward the raucous of Max and Sam splashing around in the water.  “Drugs is awful, eh, Sandy?”  Sandy stopped and slowly shook her head.  “The worst.  Just the worst.  Such a shame.”  They turned and headed for the Cantina.  “Margarita ‘for sleepy time?” said Harold.  “Oh, just a little one,” whispered Sandy.

Max carried Sam from the water and placed her down on the sand with all the gentleness and cavalier flare he could muster.  “This is the Sam I love.”

“Because you like my Italian accent?”

“Because you are most beautiful when you laugh… and make me laugh.”

“Because I don’t like boredom?”

“Because you don’t like boredom?”

He put her down.  She took his hand and they walked along the shore.

Sam grinned.  “Because you like that I protect you?”

“Yes, because you protect me.”

“From what?” she asked.

“From Harold and Sandy,” he laughed.

“And all the other bad things out there?”

“Yes.  From all the other bad things out there.”

“And BIG Winnebagos?” she continued.

Max restrained his laughter, and smiled.  “Yes, of course.”

“Of course, what, Max?”

“The Winnebagos.”

“There’s only one, Max.  Only one Winnebago.”

“I know, Sam.  I know.  I was just repeating… It’s getting a little chilly all wet like this.  Why don’t we…”

“So why do you try and make it worse than it is by suggesting more than one Winnebago?”

“C’mon, honey.  It’s late.  You’re tired and I’m…”

“Bored, like me, Max?”

“I didn’t say anything about being bored.”

“Well, I was bored, until the Winnebago driver scared hell out of me.  You know what it’s like to be standing at the mirror in a ladies room and have an eye peer at you from the other side?”

Max tried to break the direction everything was going and broke into a jog.  “Race you back to the hotel?”

Sam pulled her hand away.  “You go ahead, Max, I’m going to check the parking lot out first.  You know neither of us will sleep well if I don’t check it out.  Won’t take a minute.  Big Winnebago isn’t hard to find if it’s there.”

As she turned in the direction of the parking lot, Max paused a moment, then moved up along side her.  As they disappeared into the darkness, he placed his arm around her shoulder.


The sun rose through the orange dust of a windy morning.  The adobe façade of the Hotel Royal cast the early shadows across the pool and down to the shore.  White uniformed waiters scurried toward the beach bungalows carrying trays of sliced papaya, limes, tall glasses of orange juice and—

“Good coffee?  Is it good coffee?” asked Max with kindly consideration for the answer he knew he’d get.  The waiter placed his tray on the veranda overlooking the ocean. 

“Si, Senor.  We make it special.”

“Oh, well, of course.  If you make it special, it’s got to be good.  Honey, coffee’s here.  Oh, did you bring milk, lots of milk?”

The waiter opened one of the three stainless steel pourers.  “Milk, cold.”

“Thank you, gracias, Senor.”

The waiter opened the other two.  “Milk, warm… cream, cold.”

“Wonderful,” replied Max.  He handed him a dollar bill and closed the door behind him.  As he walked back to the coffee, he picked up the cordless from the coffee table.  “Honey, I better check the studio.  Make sure there aren’t any problems.  Honey?”

As he dialed the operator, he walked to the bedroom door and heard the shower.  “Oh, operator, Los Angeles, please.  818-390-4011.  Yes, thank you.”  He returned to the tray and poured himself some coffee.

  “Jerry?  How’s it going?  Yeah.  Good.  How’s the stadium sequence?  Going well, yes?  I don’t think he’ll mind.  I let him do that stunt to keep him happy, but Julio’s jump… well, he is a stuntman, right.  Just tell Arnold he did very good, but Julio was a little more reckless looking and, well, that’s what he gets paid to look like.  Sure.  Do I what?  Of course I approve.  That’s why I’m here and you’re there.  Your turn to make the decisions.  Weather’s fine.  Absolutely.  I’ve never been happier.  Well, if she’s not happy, she sure has me fooled.” 

Max laughed and took another sip of coffee.  The shower turned off and he stood up.  “Gotta go.  You have my cell number if you’ve got any problems you need to bug me about. 

That’s right… it might bug me.  Hey, Jerry… make the decisions.  Take care.”

Max replaced the receiver as if not wanting to really let it go.  He wasn’t used to being so arrogant and condescending, but—that’s what Hollywood expected from its filmmakers.  Max hated the filmmaker persona he had to project, but he was more troubled by the hesitation in Jerry’s voice.  It wasn’t like him to sound that way.  Was it fear of making a decision or two without Max there?  Jerry was his right hand, his friend, his producer.  He had fourteen major films under his belt.  When Max’s stage production of “Winterset” won the Tony, it had been a stranger named Jerry who made the first phone call and said he could get a studio to back it for a film.  He had no fear then or any other time during the four films they had gone on to make together after “Winterset.” 

Max thoughtfully carried his coffee to the railing overlooking the Pacific.  The water was calm.  In the distance, an occasional sailboat dotted the horizon.  Suddenly the arc of a Dolphin, then another, and another broke the calm.  “Hey, honey.  You’ve got to see this.”  Honey?  He looked back toward the bathroom.  “Honey, the Dolphins are…”

“I want a divorce, Max,” came the angered statement from behind the bathroom door.

Max smiled and rolled his eyes, “Yeah, sure, Honey, but come see the Dolphins first.”

Suddenly there was a shattering of glass.  Max ran to the bathroom door.  “Sam?”

No answer.

The door was locked. He banged on the door.

“Sam, what the hell is going on?  Open the door!”

He banged it again.  The knob turned and Sam opened the door.  Dressed in a terry robe, she casually returned to the vanity chair.  She took a casual glance at the shattered vanity mirror, then jotted down some notes on a pad of paper.

“Sam… what was that all about?”

Sam didn’t look up but continued to write. “Did it get your attention… and don’t patronize me.”

Max didn’t answer.  He looked at the mirror and returned to his lounge chair.  Just because he knew these kinds of moments from a medical point of view didn’t make it any easier.


Max reclined on the balcony lounge chair for what seemed like hours waiting for Sam to come out of the bathroom.

“Was it a long time?”  She asked when she finally knelt beside him.  She handed him a fresh cup of coffee.  He took a sip.  “It’s cold.  Must have been a long time.” 

He glanced up at her as she stared out at the ocean.  “The dolphins are gone?” she murmured.  A distant mask covered her face.  The eyes that Max had first seen under water—the eyes he knew would someday look into his.  Eyes he had said “I do” to only days before.  Those same eyes now appeared centuries in the past.

“The dolphins are gone,” she answered to herself.

Max looked up at her again.  Not because of what she said.  Not because she was now leaning against the railing staring back into the suite, but because the voice had a different sound. A sound Max had heard during rehearsals.  It was a sound she had invented for a characterization.  What is it?  Why am I so disturbed by that sound?

He continued thinking as Sam walked into the bedroom; “We should be leaving if we want to make it to Tartugos by nightfall,” she said.

He nodded to himself.  It wasn’t a nod of agreement, though.  No, Max’s head moved up and down with a sudden realization. The voice she was adopting was originally not an “invention.”  He had first heard it during a “heart to heart” talk they had had in the early days; at least that was how she had labeled it.  For Max, however, it had been impossible to pass it off as such.  For Max, the little “heart to heart” had inexorably opened a channel of communication, which he labeled, professional.  No, the voice continuing on in the bedroom about music being “the only art worth saving, etc. etc.” was a resurrected¾and troubled voice from the past.

He rose from his chair, gathered the coffee cups and tray, and gingerly strode into the bedroom.  He hadn’t wanted to don that cap again, especially on his honeymoon.  He thought he had retired it back at St. Luke’s.

Submitted: November 03, 2018

© Copyright 2021 Odin Roark. All rights reserved.


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