CHAPTER 14 - A LITTLE MORE MONEY
When Paul wakes up Monday morning, Maggie is dressing for work.
“Hey Sleepyhead. You almost missed your show.” She turns to face him, zipping up her grey skirt alongside her hip.
“You’re wearing a skirt. I thought black pant suits are the uniform for you executive types.”
“I feel like wearing dresses these days,” she says, and buttons her white shirt until it covers up her pink lacy bra.
Maggie seems happy, which makes him happy for her, but also makes him realize how frustrated he still is, and just how little his angst plagues her anymore.
“I’m going to the bank before work today. I can write you a check for half the money I owe you,” Paul says.
“What about the money you owe on your car? Shouldn’t you pay that first?”
“No. I think it’s more important to pay you back.”
“Okay. Thank you very much.” She picks up her purse and her keys. “Another late night tonight?”
“Yeah, but only two more weeks and it’s done.’
“Don’t worry, they’ll fly by.” She leans over the bed and kisses him fast, then is out the door.
Paul tries to sleep but he can’t stop thinking about his bills, his film, then the English actor Rupert, and then Dwight, and Victor, and Joel, and then his bills again...
He finally jumps in the shower to stop his mental spin cycle.
He considers driving his car to the bank, but when he steps outside the repo men are already parked and waiting for him in their brown Cutlass Impala. The smaller guy smiles and waves from the front seat.
“The dealership would still like to have its car back, Mr. Franti.”
“I’m going to put money in the bank right now.”
“They don’t want your money anymore. They want their car.”
“We see each other a lot. What’s your name anyway?”
The repo man laughs. “You want to know my name? Fuck you, you deadbeat loser. I’ll tell you my name when you tell me where you’re hiding that car.”
Paul walks down the street, and the brown Cutlass follows him. He rides the bus to the bank, he deposits his checks and buys toothpaste and shampoo, and the brown Cutlass trails him the whole time. They even follow him back to Maggie’s, slowly keeping pace with him as he walks up the street to her gate.
“All this for a stupid $25,000 Camry!” the small repo man shouts. “You’re a loser Franti! Fuck you!” and the Cutlass speeds away.
It’s 3 p.m. Paul sits at the computer for an hour and stares at page fourteen of his screenplay about the genetically altered super kids until it’s time for work. He’d just enjoyed 36 hours off, the most time since he started the project. He grabs his jacket, locks the apartment, goes out the front gate – and spots Joel Cuvney parked in his Silver Lexus.
“You want a ride to work?”
“Come on, don’t tell me you’d rather ride the bus,” he laughs.
Dwight wouldn’t be happy if he took the ride. But how much loyalty does he feel for Dwight and Victor anyway? During the last four weeks of shooting there has been zero camaraderie, mostly because there is no downtime to even chat and get to know one another. They were either working, peeing, eating, drinking, commuting or sleeping. In six weeks, he’d spoken less than an hour total to Dwight and Victor combined, probably. Paul could probably get to know Dwight better if he tried harder, but Dwight isn’t trying either. And here is Joel, making the effort to meet him at Maggie’s front door.
Paul sinks down into the plush leather seats. German electronic music is on
the stereo, and within moments they are on the Santa Monica Freeway headed east
towards downtown, back to the poor homeless kids in their abandoned brewery.
“So...do we have a story yet?”
“I don’t know. It depends on what happens in the edit bay,” Paul says.
Joel nods behind his sunglasses. “That’s still the big question. We have two more weeks of shooting and I don’t even know what kind of story I’m producing.”
“We’ve been getting some amazing stuff though,” Paul says.
“Hey, no doubt, I watch the footage and some of it is dynamite. On Friday, the whole office was looking at Duncan parading around with his hand on fire. That was wild. But if I have to watch another tape of them eating those fucking pancakes I’ll burn down the fucking restaurant myself with them inside. Then at least we’ll have an ending.”
They drive a minute in silence, curving off the 10 Freeway to the 110, and down the 4th Street downtown exit.
“I finally saw that short film you did. It’s quite good.”
“I gave you that in our first interview. That was four weeks ago,” Paul says.
“Hey, I got to it, didn’t I?” Joel laughs. “Accept the compliment. I’m telling you that you know how to tell a story...at least as good as that asshole Dwight.”
A tingle shoots up Paul’s spine. Joel is laying groundwork for a plan, probably a plan that involves him betraying Dwight. They go through downtown, cross Alameda Boulevard and pass the endless rows of cardboard boxes where the homeless street people live. Paul sinks low in his seat, suddenly scared that Dwight is somewhere close by and watching them.
“What would you do different with these kids?”
“It’s a documentary. We’re just supposed to be following them.”
“I know that,” Joel says, suddenly impatient. “But it’s also a made-for-TV movie. You said they need to have a crisis that challenges them. How would you do that?”
They are getting close to brewery. Paul can see the white van in the far distance and imagines Dwight spotting them even from there.
“You can let me off here. I’ll walk the last three blocks,” Paul says.
Joel pulls over. Paul tries to open the door but it’s locked. He looks over at Joel, who smiles. He pulls out an envelope and hands it to him.
“There’s two thousand dollars in there.”
“That’s your story consulting fee for the advice you’ve been giving me.”
Paul quickly calculates -- two thousand is half of what he still owes Maggie, a quarter of what he owes in car payments and a fifth of what he owes the film lab. He folds the envelope and sticks it deep in the front pocket of his jeans.
“Thanks,” Paul says, and the car door magically unlocks.
Joel grabs his arm. “I need an ending. Do what you can to make something happen, Paul. Please. We don’t have much time left.”