Working the Arc Light

Most people like to talk, especially about themselves, and if you’re a good listener, as I try to be, you’ll hear a lot more than you might care to. Once you take your finger out of the dike, they flow and flow and flow, endless sentence like sounds rushing and pinging off the walls of your eardrums. When Mr. Marks, “Duke to you,” saw me, he saw me as an easy mark. He baited his well worn hook and threw it at me. I was working in the steak and potato restaurant that was located in the basement of the building Marks had the upper story of, hired because I agreed to run the taco night. $2.95 for all the tacos you could eat. It was worse than the chicken night. Marks came down, dressed in black, the only color that he knew as it turned out, to complain about the rats. “What kind of restaurant are you going to open up there?” I asked in my most lamb ready for the slaughter tone. “Come up and see,” Duke encouraged. “I’ll make you lunch. Don’t eat in this pit today. Beef stroganoff. You get off soon don’t you? This philistine temple closes in half an hour, doesn’t it?” “Boxed noodles or fresh?” I asked less sheepishly. “Ouf, awk,” the shocked hands went up. “Fresh, fresh,” he, unhurt, protested.

Since Marks sounded like he had the whole thing timed, I expected my meal waiting for me. After a shift ladling soup and radar ranging sandwiches, frenziedly I’d forgotten that I must first nibble a bit on what was on the hook before being served more than the bones. The Duke invited me into his second office after showing me the almost completed stage, freshly painted floors, pretty tables, kitchen stove, and what looked to me like an anxiety stricken human being but was introduced as a genuine French chef, once removed.

“He’s got the shits,” said Marks when we were comported around a desk and imported cigarettes. I sensed a monologue beginning. “Bill out there belongs to a devil cult. Did you notice the broken window above the stove? That’s going to cost me money. Bill broke it last night when he thought the warlocks and witches were trying to contact him. I’ve got a theory about human beings, they’re mostly reincarnated animals. Bill’s a koala bear. Climbs swiftly up the nearest eucalyptus when he senses, what I would think to be, far away dangers. You’re looking at the movie camera. Good,” Marks proclaimed. “That was Huston’s. He filmed Monroe and Gable in The Misfits with it.” Uh oh. An Orson Welles fantasy was coming up. I could not bring myself to quip, “And hold the bull.” Having stared for the proper worshipful at the camera, Marks resumed the attack. “Carter started with peanuts and now he’s the president. I’m going to film in Rio. The world has gone berserk. The man that takes over Brazil in my movie is going to start as an artichoke plantation owner.” “Beets are taking over the sugar industry,” I interrupted with a suggestion. “Not absurd enough,” said the Duke trying to hide what seemed to have a bitter edge. “It has to be crazy. You’re not going to beat this idea. The script’s already been written.” I dared to start a dialogue.
“Who will finance this film?” I asked. TURN PAGE

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