Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Contessa

This is an excerpt from a short story I'm working on, published in Savage Stories

Junior saw her the first day of the seminar and made sure to get a seat directly across from her. It was a seminar on the plays of Harold Pinter. Junior was the English Department's only Woodrow Wilson Scholar. He also had a special grant from the Creative Writing Department, so he didn't really need to work. He could be a TA, but why? It cut into his free time. He had a William Morris agent--had since he was eighteen. First story he wrote got published in a collection of the Best Short Fiction, 1966. He's been writing and trying to find a better place to sleep. He doesn't worry about the deadline for a collection of stories, he writes fast. But he does need a place to flop. He also needs some blow.

Junior doesn't have to say a word in this seminar. The famous playwright is teaching. They drink beer together in the afternoon. They laugh together at the foolish things these Mormon kids say in class. They dish babes. The famous playwright has a new lover every semester. He's been married to the same woman almost thirty years. Imagine that. He has a son he doesn't talk about much. The famous playwright likes to gamble.

Junior starts to think of the beauty across from him two nights a week for three hours a night as The Contessa. He starts referring to her as The Contessa. Pretty soon other men are calling her The Contessa. She is the most vocal and confident of the students. She is prepared and perfectly willing to take on the Mormon grad students full frontal. The Contessa makes it easy on the famous Playwright. He only has to get her started and she runs the seminar smoothly. Soon there is a regular Tuesday night beer drinking group that takes the seminar into the late night. She is often there, sitting beside the famous playwright. Her name is Judith, but he finds himself still talking about her when she isn't there, as The Contessa. Judith doesn't seem to see him. He wonders if she's this semester's lover. He also finds out that Judith is married.

One early afternoon Junior pops his head into the famous professor's office on his way out for an afternoon of shooting smack. But his famous friend invites him to go have lunch with him, "My treat," he says. Junior is disappointed that his high will have to be postponed, but smiles and says, "Sure, thanks."

Strangely the famous playwright takes them downtown to a nice little hole in the wall restaurant called, "The Beanery." It's packed. They stand outside and chain smoke, waiting for a table to open up. It takes almost twenty minutes. But once seated, he sees The Contessa walking toward them smiling, with menus in hand. Her hair is twisted into a loose chignon at the nape of her gorgeous neck. She is tall, willowy, graceful, olive skin, dark hair. She's wearing a long skirt and sandals with straps that wrap around her ankles. She has beautiful feet. Is she wearing a bra or not? He's not sure, and so makes a study of watching her across the room. She is flawless and usually a bit aloof, yet now, oddly warm. When she approaches a table she's smiling, she seems patient, bends over a menu to point things out. She makes notes, smiles, turns away, and the smile is gone. What remains is a fierce, strong, beautiful woman in motion. Focus is what you see when she's not smiling. She comes back to take their order and calls them by name, "Junior, Henry, who let you boys out?" The famous playwright beams and says, "It's like a visit to Greece, and then having Melina Mercouri waits on you at a small cafe." She smiles and says, "I think more Anna Magnani, but then, who am I?" Junior blurts out, "You're The Contessa." She looks at him then and says, "Junior have you decided what you want?" He leers at her and says, "I'll have a Rose Tattoo." She turns and says over the shoulder, "Play amongst yourselves, and when you're ready to order food, let me know." The smile is gone.


I have many habits--some good, some other''s call addictions, and some just plain bad. And if you don't like one of my habits, you call it an addiction. If you share my habit, you call it fun. If you share one of my bad habits, you empathize and understand, and probably share my addictions as well. I'm not saying, so stop holding your breath. My shrink reads my blog on occasion. Just often enough to scare me a little every three months or so.

I have a "fondness" for LawnOrder. Yes, I know, you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about. It's what those, with a vaguely embarrassing fondness, like LawnOrder, call it--a fondness. I don't give a damn about my lawn. But old, oft watched episodes of Law and Order are soothing to me, especially the Major Case episodes with Vincent D'Onofrio, and I never remember how they end when I start watching an old episode. Sometimes I don't even the remember how they end even when they end. Melea makes fun of my addiction to LawnOrder. She makes fun of the acting of guest characters, and she doesn't understand my thing for Detective Goren, who is my type even when he's fat and looks like he smells bad. He's my type and that's enough. I like the actor I will always know as Big from Sex and the City, but I prefer D'Onofrio. I also like the Special Victims unit cast. Mariska Hargitay is, well, sexy, let's face it, even to me, but the barely controlled and scarily cool actor who plays her partner, was once a star of one of my favorite shows from HBO. about a prison--can't remember the name of it, but it was great and Meloni played a very scary guy down in the hole.

If Deadwood was in syndication anywhere I'd be watching it like a real addict. Who were the morons who decided to cancel that? I thought it was the best written show ever. And I loves me some good writing. Great casting, too. Award winning acting as well. Stupid fucking programming executives. I think I'll write a story about a woman driven to murdering an HBO programming executive because he was the stupid little prick who decided to cancel Deadwood. I'll call it Dead Wood.

Deadly Women

No, I''m not talking about the collection of short stories we are gathering. I'm talking about my heart monitor. The damn thing keeps going off. The first day I had it--no episodes. The first night I wore it, it went off three times. It makes a beep when it picks up an "event." Did this wake me up? Hell no. I slept through all three events. It will only hold four events, so in the morning I called it in, which loads the events on my record and then I start fresh. Yesterday during the day, I had three events, so before I went to sleep late last night (really early this morning) I called it in to clear it for the nights events. When I woke up this morning, I noticed that the connecter thingy had come loose and so it could not record my night time events. This morning I'm up to three events, and when I call the monitoring folks in Texas, I have to find out how to sleep with the thing without disconnecting it in my thrashing about in the night.

I have a friend (yes, you bastards, I do have friends) who says she'd rather have a heart attack than wear such a device. Well if we're talking a huge, life ending heart attack, so would I. Unfortunately, it's only the men in my family who get off that easy. The women all have the tiny strokes that eventually turn them into babies who shit their pants and can't speak, but are big enough to break you neck when you try to change their diapers. That is a fate worse than death to me, and short of quitting smoking, I'd do damn near anything to avoid this fate, including taking my own life. So this woman could turn deadly, if she discovers she's having those little tiny bleeds into the brain.

And on that cheery note, I'm going to start another story, where I knock off one more bastard from my past who so richly deserves it.

Lady Macbeth

Something to think about when it comes to Murder Most Foul:

Gail Gilmore
Guiseppi Verdi

Thank you Unconventional Conventionist