Whose Line Is It?
In a room, darkly lit and silent, a young woman sits bedside to an older woman who looks deathly ill. The young woman rises, bending to kiss the older woman’s unresponsive cheek before moving to take her place beneath a large family portrait that hangs above a handsome credenza the top of which is covered with bottles and tins, boxes and vials, papers and tubes of medicines and pills. The young woman looks to the door as a middle aged woman enters, dressed all in white. The young woman greets her as Nurse and is greeted in return as Miss Milly. The nurse asks how Mrs. Knox passed the night. Milly replies that she finds the night watches horrible, that Glenda neither recognizes her or responds to her and that the doctor can’t be right to say she will rally. She is going to die. The nurse speaks sharply, saying the doctor surely knows best and asking that the young woman lower her voice. She has stepped to the bedside and has begun resettling her patient, speaking soft encouragements to her, but getting no response. She asks the young woman, who has been watching her closely, to please turn off the lamps and open the curtains. The young woman moves to let in a morning light and snaps off the lamps, saying that Mrs. Knox may be her mother-in-law, but she is the one member of the family it is safe to trust, to love. That her own mother is well named Dottie since she is an idiot and a loose and vulgar woman who beds anything that moves. Her father is no one to her, simply a man cast - she speaks the word with peculiar emphasis - in the role of father but altogether remote, a shadowy, secretive and sneaky man whose success as director of the family mortuary business is natural since he is more at home with the dead than the living. The nurse finishes checking her patient’s vitals and now is recording them for the doctor’s review. She protests the outburst, mentioning three brothers. The young woman, again at the credenza, pointing them out in the family portrait as she names and describes each of them. Ernest is a narcissist who, after twenty years of being stuck on himself is much like a gum wad left on a bed post, well chewed and totally tasteless. Ollie, she says, is a ski bum, returning only to siphon off more of the family wealth, and should stay in the alps, a pair of skis permanently attached where they’ll do the most good, a Swiss Miss in each hand. As to Errol, he should take to the high seas to heave-ho, or, to quote Hawthorne, hoist his prize, dripping with moisture, and festooned with verdant water-moss. Undoubtedly there are many who’d go a-bounding on the main with him. In the silence that follows, both she and the nurse stand as if waiting, and, again, as if on cue, the door bursts open, her three brothers exploding into the room. It is evident who each is. Ernest is tallest, rugged of build, reddish hair long, unkempt, but managing even so to attractively frame the rather vulpine face with its narrow amber eyes, his manner that of natural star behaving with studied diffidence and humility. Ollie is next tallest, thin to an extreme but of well-controlled muscular ease and grace, his looks Nordic, with brush-cut white-blonde hair and icy blue eyes. Lastly, Errol, who is short, sturdy and thick-set but darkly handsome in an old-fashioned swashbuckler way, eyes black as currants and fixed, now, upon the young woman. This sudden appearance leaves them all frozen except for the patient, previously lying quiet and seemingly unaware, now opening her eyes and raising a hand as if to speak. But before she can do so, the door opens again, this time to admit a man whom all in the room instantly seem to know, yet at the same time somehow fail to recognize. His black cashmere coat is unbuttoned, a doctor’s black bag is in his hand. He drops coat and bag on a chair by the door, hurrying to take the patient’s hand in one of his own, placing his other on her shoulder as if to restrain and reassure, both. Turning, he reports Dr. Ramblen unexpectedly called away and he is to stand in until Dr. Ramblen’s return. At these words, tension seems to melt from the others. Without further formality or introduction, he bends over the woman in the bed in a way that momentarily obstructs their view, while he speaks to her, his words too muffled to be heard, and appears to be manipulating or exciting her somehow, for her legs bend then straighten and her body bucks rather violently a few times before falling still. At that point, he raises his head and nods, beckoning the nurse to the bedside. As she moves to obey he sweeps past, gathering bag and coat as he goes, and leaves, the click of the door latch punctuating his departure. The nurse, meantime, who has been quickly checking her patient raises stricken eyes to the others and announces, “She’s gone. Dead. Mrs. Knox is gone.” The resulting noise then is overwhelming. Voices raised in denial or accusation, erratic coming’s together and breaking’s apart, towards each other or the bedside. All is chaos.
What did that man say as he left the room and where did he go? He said: “Cut. That’s a wrap” and he left the set of Path of Love to get to the Green Room and make a bunch of calls.
Who is he? His name is Mark Pemburton and he is Producer, Director and Writer of two top soap operas, Path of Love and Ryan’s Turn.
What did he say to the woman on the set who was lying in the bed? He said: “You gotta die, Goldie. Now! Brad’s agent just called and your precious co-star of 25 years has blown us off. He’s crossing over. He’s in Italy right now sitting on an iron-clad contract for 3 films in 5 years with Scorsese and Spielberg directing and a guarantee of simultaneous release in Europe and States. -- Nah, Goldie, suing’s no good. He’s gonna make more’n we’ll ever get. Now, die pretty, Goldie and then get a new nose, a few nips and tucks, bigger boobs, and go red and I can write you into Ryan’s Turn as his lost mother. -- The one with a mute step-sister who’s just had his child? -- C’mon, Goldie, nothing personal, you know that. Quit arguing. -- No, Goldie, no actor wants Brad’s leavings and I’m not gonna replace him. -- No. The fan base’d drop to zero. This way you could take your fans with you. -- Hey, Goldie, stifle. It’s show biz, one day you’re in, the next day you’re out. You’re out. Now give it up. Die. Now. And do it pretty.
Who’s Goldie? Goldie Dawn, the actress who’s been playing Mrs. Glenda Knox on Path of Love for the past 25 years opposite Brad Whitsun.
Who’s Brad Whitsun? Brad Whitsun has played opposite Goldie Dawn in the role of Falcon Knox, rogue, monied, irresponsible play-boy womanizer, who plays the horses, gambles at the tables, spends his inherited money and tortures his wife, Glenda Knox with come hither, keep away courting.
Who is Mark Pemburton so anxious to call? Co-producers/co-writers/co-directors and backers, especially backers.
What will he say? Hey, guys, guys! It’s a blessing in disguise. -- Nah -- I’m telling you it is nothing. Just stop and think a minute. We’re in the top ratings. This is gonna double it. Both Brad and Goldie in one broad slash? Jesus! Folks won’t know if we kicked them to the curb or not -- and that’s gonna give us a lotta leeway for writing the spin on this and getting it out on the streets first. We tell the story, not that pissant, Brad Whitsun. -- Goldie? Leave Goldie to me, I got her settled for the moment but all she’ll need to set her going is a couple of hysterics on the set and she’ll be our worst nightmare. -- Yeah well right now we need to get a handle on the funeral - have to be planning and preparing for it - where? what church? we got a funeral, we got a burial, and we got a memorial service, but beyond that, oh man! We got suspicions that can fall on everyone. Goldie’s dead. Yeah, she’s out there dying even as we speak. Well, hell, then we gotts have a protracted - long, Danny, it means long - a lonnngg search for the guilty party. Gotta have a police investigation to finger the suspects - gotta have a couple of gold star folks there - the sons, for sure - and that step-daughter - she’s snark. Gotta have a lotta suspicious behavior on the part of other family members. -- Buddy? Buddy yeah I hear you - I thought of her too - -- that dumpy nurse. Yup, Bud - Danny, Mr. Boynton, sir? Delores? She’s really a young hot gal, bit-parter yearning to be - yeah, Bobby - she leaves as the nurse and we can bring her back in as a newbie in town. Pointing fingers, that’s the way we’ll go right across the family, family money and wow! The mortuary. Hell, we run that stuff for three months, easy. And then we float in two new mega-stars, maybe a lawyer? A DA? Some sub sub plot about a poor local beauty? Who knows? And then we get to pick up the power house romantic off again on again stuff. Hell, Whitsun did us a favor. We don’t have either of those ball-bustin’ salaries to pay, right? We can fool around with who inherits? Drag in lost and found children, by-blows, orphans, claims from around the world. Hell, we can have them coming out to the tune of one every week. ---- Stall, baby, stall is right. Damned straight. ----- I’m telling you we got it. I don’t have to be persuaded, I know we got a winner. ---- Aw Goldie’s going red, gettin’ a boob job, little plastic surgery - trim out the gettin’ tired and ring in the tight and high. She’s in. No no, I tell you she’s still a money maker and I can slide her onto Ryan’s Road soon’s that work’s done. Her fans’ll go nuts! No, you guys spread the word discreetly but put a little speed on it. Lead up to her return to the Soaps kinda stuff. Yeah. Yes. Yes, they’re all gonna be fine. We’ve got it made in the shade.
© Copyright 2016 Wilbur. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Humor
Poem / Humor
Short Story / Mystery and Crime
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