Lou’s Cigar (Chapter 21, Lou Grant)

28 08 2009

21.

Lou’s Cigar

SUE ANN: Don’t you love these anecdotes of Lou?

Sue Ann nodded toward Rhoda who was exercising her stomach muscles. She’d read about it in Cosmo. Do not waste any free moment. And so she exercised anytime she was sitting down and had nothing else to do. On the bus. Eating dinner. Watching television. And now here in this bar. Rhoda listened to Spanish lessons while she slept.

RHODA: They’re so revealing.

Lou looked around the table before he returned to Mary.

LOU: So why have you brought us here, Miss Richards?

Everyone at the table was smiling as broadly as Lou, waiting for Mary to respond. What silly idea had the young Miss Richards come up with this time? She was always so enthusiastic. Her ideas were like little balloons and everyone waiting for Lou to burst this one. Mary blushed, looking around the table at each face.

MARY: I don’t know what you can possibly be getting at Mr. Grant.

Lou Grant took out a cigar, than ransacked his pocket for a moment before finding his lighter. It was an odd sensation, watching yourself. Or some facsimile. I didn’t realize how clumsy I was. And, its difficult to admit, unattractive.

Sue Ann turned to Ted Baxter.

SUE ANN: Did you see that?

Ted smiled at Sue Ann. Ted was a poster of what God would look like if he had a better tailor. Ted had no idea what Sue Ann was talking about.

Sue Ann placed her hand on Ted’s sleeve. Ted’s heart rate climbed.

SUE ANN: Mary had that dear waiter eating out of her hand. She has such a spell over men, don’t you think, Ted? In a little girl sort of way. Appealing to the pedophile in every male. I’ve never seen anything like it.

TED: See what, Sue Ann?

SUE ANN: The waiter. You must have seen the way the waiter behaved. He was staring at Mary. You’d have thought that he had seen a vision.

TED: Some of us do have that effect on others.

LAUGH TRACK

Rhoda howled with laughter. Sue Ann looked at Rhoda with some concern. Then turned to Lou who was enjoying his cigar. A cloud of smoke lay siege on Sue Ann’s hair.

SUE ANN: Lou!

Lou smiled.

SUE ANN: Do you have to smoke that awful… thing? I wouldn’t allow my Frank to smoke those vile things in the house. The butts look like little puppy dodoes. Frank was always cooperative, always departed for the balcony when he felt the urge.

TED: The urge for anything in particular? Or just urges in general?

LAUGH TRACK

SUE ANN: In all the years we were married, Frank never once smoked in the apartment. Consideration! That’s what characterized Frank’s behavior, bless his heart. Gentlemanship begins with consideration for others.

RHODA: Consideration!

Rhoda howled with laughter, her chest shaking. Surreptitiously Ted glanced at her heaving mammaries.

I almost broke out laughing myself. But turned away and ordered another drink from Frank. Frank nodded toward the table in a gesture that meant he had made his own judgment on the sanity of his patrons.

RHODA: Sue Ann, Frank dropped dead in a funeral parlor.

SUE ANN: That’s how considerate he was.

Rhoda’s drink dribbled down her chin and onto her dress.

Sue Ann looked at Rhoda’s dress.

SUE ANN: That will come out with salt, dear. And you must try and control your braying. It attracts the wrong sort. But I’m sure you’ve been through that before.

Rhoda dropped her eyes.

LAUGH TRACK

Sue Ann padded Rhoda on the hand gently then turned back to Lou.

SUE ANN: Must you smoke, Lou? It’s not good for your health, or ours. Second hand smoke is responsible for twenty five point six percent of all lung cancer related deaths. And it is illegal to smoke in public accommodations. How can you expect our children to respect authority when you flaunt the very spirit of our legal system?

Lou shook in his chair with laughter. I shook with laughter at the bar.

LOU: Stupid law. Second hand smoke! Everything in life is second hand. Why should smoke be any different? Pretty soon they’ll pass a by-law against passing wind. Ted could end up doing hard time.

LAUGH TRACK

TED: I read that the pigment of the old masters is being affected by the passage of gas in museums.

SUE ANN: I didn’t know you frequented museums?

RHODA: I didn’t know he could read!

LAUGH TRACK

Lou grunted then took another puff of his cigar.

LOU: I like cigars, Sue Ann. I like them a great deal.

Lou exhaled a cloud of white smoke that drifted over Sue Ann’s head.

RHODA: They’ve elected a new pope.

LAUGH TRACK

Lou took his cigar out of his lips and looked at it lovingly.

LOU: Did you know that these cigars were rolled in the salty thighs of young virginal Cuban girls? Just the thought of it brings a smile to this old man’s lips.

RHODA: Pedophile.

Sue Ann’s face squirmed as she turned toward Rhoda.

SUE ANN: Don’t be so witty, dear. It isn’t feminine. Frank never liked witty women. Women should be sweet. Blossoms in a spring rain.

TED: You should eat more fruit, Sue Ann. Something has gotten stuck… up there.

Mary took a package of cigarettes out of her purse and lit one up. Lou grabbed the cigarette out of her hand.

LOU: You’ll ruin your voice!

MARY: But Mr. Grant, you’re smoking!

LOU: If I lose my voice, everyone in the office will be happier. I won’t be screaming at them.

RHODA: You’re acting like her father! Lou, you’re not Mary’s father.

LOU: I’m more important than her father! I’m her boss!





Mary Richards (Chapter 20, Lou Grant)

25 08 2009

20.

Mary Richards

Mary Richards leaned back in her chair, sipping on a daiquiri. Everyone gets lost in her eyes. God, they’re like paradise. But mostly I stare at her throat. So soft. The skin. And Mary has a such a delicate and small neck. You could put your hands right around it.  Vulnerability is so… attractive.

Frank has just finished serving their drinks. He stood behind Mary. Transfixed, or so it seemed. He looked like the Scare Crow from the Wizard of Oz. Hung up there on his cross. Waiting for the Romans to take him down. I had to laugh. Not just the expression on Frank’s face. But the whole table. They think that Frank has been mesmerized by Mary’s beauty. I knew better. He was waiting for his tip.

Sue Ann Nivens, a middle aged dyed blonde. Make-up applied with a trowel. If she sat still long enough, someone would put her in a park. Sue Ann noticed Frank’s behavior and nudged Lou Grant in the ribs. That was me. I’m at the bar having a drink. But that was me alright.

“Gosh,” Lou gargled with embarrassment and handed the waiter a tip. Lou recognized the expression on Frank’s face. He’d been in enough bars.

Frank nodded in appreciation and returned to the bar.

“Fuck me, if I’d let them get away without tipping me.” Frank was pissed. And it took something to get Frank pissed. (I don’t know why I know that.) Frank placed his tray on the bar.

“Intellectuals! You can tell every time.” Frank had been unaware that he was talking out loud. A businessman sitting down the bar looked on with a puzzled expression on his face. Frank turned to him.

“What are you looking at?”

Frank turned back to me.

“Cheap bastards!”

“They can hear you,” I said. The table wasn’t far from the bar. I glanced back at the table.

“Did you see that?” Sue Ann whispered to the others as if they were sharing some state secret. “They just can’t keep their eyes off Mary!”

Lou (the Lou at the table) looked at Sue Ann with a puzzled expression.

I turned to Frank.

“You noticed anything odd about anyone at that table?”

Frank thought for a moment.

“Doesn’t the bald headed fat guy look like someone you know?” I asked.

Frank looked at me and then back at the table. And then back at me.

“No.”

“Were you going to say something, Lou?” Sue Ann asked.

I turned. We had met somewhere before. Me and Sue Ann. I started to thumb nail through her thoughts, I couldn’t find one thought that fit reality. Was there ever a moment in her life when she saw the world as it is? Never depressed. Except for the cold shoulder she received every day from Lou. She’d been sleeping with Bozo. The clown on the kid’s show. And she’s been testing the dating sights. She likes long walks on the beach. During mid-afternoon. With the entire Sable Beach male volleyball team. She likes the warm feeling of fresh liver in her hands. She’s as comfortable in an expensive evening gown as cut-offs. She dreams about confetti in her hair. And wearing the pajamas of a man with a barrel chest. Her mind is like a purse that no one but her as ever bothered to steal from.

I shook my head. What did I say about smell?

“What?” Frank asked.

“Something I ate,” I responded.

Lou turned to Mary. “When you pay for a round, Mary, you’re supposed to tip as well.”

Mary smiled quixotically. “Really? Are you sure, Mr. Grant?”

LAUGH TRACK

“Make a note of it, Mary.” Lou pointed at Mary, then conscious of his stubby finger withdrew it. “You never know when you’ll need a waiter. I remember a time when I was doing a piece for San Diego Tribune… but, that’s not important.” Lou snorted with delight as he proceeded into his next thought. “It was so thoughtful of you, Mary, to invite us all to this…” Lou cleared his throat as he gestured to the room. “… establishment. The last time I was in a place like this I had more hair, less belly, and the appreciated charms of two professional… mature young women.”

LAUGH TRACK

Back at the bar Frank spoke.

“You’ve been eating a lot of those pickled eggs.”

My attention had been focused on the table. It took me a moment to sort out what Frank had said.

“I missed lunch.”

“All that vinegar can’t be good for you.” Frank picked up a glass and began to wipe it. The glass hadn’t been used.

“I’ll have clean bowels,” I responded.

“That’s a thought we can do without.” Frank looked at me and smirked.

LAUGH TRACK





The Blue Lagoon (Chapter 19, Lou Grant)

23 08 2009

19.

The Blue Lagoon

Smell is the key to reality. Stale beer, cigarette smoke, urine, popcorn, vagina farts. I turned from the bar and spotted Mary (my Mary) sitting with the crew at a table.  I could smell the roses in her hair.

“What’ll it be?” the bartender asked.

I looked up.

“Is your name, Bud?” I asked. Frank smiled like every bartender I’ve ever known, not impatiently or angrily but with resignation. Like the grim reaper. He knows it’s a one-way street. And he ain’t going nowhere.

“Strange question, Mike.”

“Mike. How do you know my name is Mike?” I asked.

Frank sighed.

“Going to be one of those nights, eh? What’ll you have? The usual?”

I nodded. So I’m Mike. Who the hell is Mike?

“You’re in a strange mood, Mike,” Frank said. Frank talked like he knew me. Like he’d known me for some time. Like I was a regular. And yet I couldn’t remember being in the Blue Lagoon before. Couldn’t tell you where it was situated.

Frank continued. “Sitting there now for hours, your thoughts a million miles away. Soaking up the beer. You seem to have taken quite an interest in the people at the table over there. Staff of WJM. Look out of place in a joint like this, don’t you think? Slumming. You meet all kinds. Lousy tippers. Wish Bud was in tonight. Took a few days off; left me holding the fort. Running my ass off. Better take their drinks over. Talk to you later.”

Frank picked up a tray of drinks and made his way over to her table. I saw Mary smile at him. She glanced my way. And looked at me strangely. Like she should know me. But didn’t.





A Drink After Work At The Pilot Tavern (Chapter 18, Lou Grant)

22 08 2009

18.

A Drink After Work At The Pilot Tavern

MURRAY: I’m getting a  headache, Lou. First you’re in the Blue Lagoon spooning with a blonde. Then you’re in a backyard having a stroke. Then you’re moaning for Helen. Who the hell is Helen?

LOU: She’s my wife… was my wife… in the other world. The guy who’s having a stroke in the backyard. We divorced.

MURRAY: When did you have a nervous breakdown?

LOU: Nervous breakdown… don’t you remember when I said I had food poisoning? Chinese food. I’m allergic to the meat tenderizer.

MURRAY: You barfed all over Ted’s suit. I remember because Ted tried to charge the cleaning bill to the station.

LAUGH TRACK

LOU: I lied, Murray. I was having a breakdown.

MURRAY: No!

LOU: Right over the edge. Splat!

MURRAY: Did you ever consider the possibility, Lou, that you might be having another breakdown? That all this dreaming was another emotional collapse?

LOU: Breakdown? Maybe.

MURRAY: You’ve got everything in some kind of reality blender. Your dreams, the real world. Or worlds. Who the hell knows which ones are real? And its all going swirling around. Like some freshman in a drier.

LOU: I don’t get that reference, Murray.

MURRAY: You don’t get it? Freshman. Driers. College…. Oh, God Lou, you’ve got me doing it.

LOU: Can I say something?
MURRAY: No.

LOU: I have a story to tell.

MURRAY: Really, Lou. I’d rather not hear it.

LOU: You kind of have to, Murray.

MURRAY: Because this is your psycho dream.

LOU: That and I’m your boss.

MURRAY: Go ahead. Don’t be concerned with my feelings.

LOU: You’ll like this one, Murray. There was a man in the Middle Ages who kept an extensive diary of all the events that passed through his life. He owned a large plot of land in Northern Italy and much of his diary was taken up with his crops, the new grapes he tried to introduce, the wines he created, and family and local matters. There was no mention in all of this of the barbarians who had to pass his lands on their way to ransacking Rome. The greatest event of his time had occurred and it was not mentioned in his diary. Why Murray?

MURRAY: You said I’d like it.

LOU: Well…

MURRAY: What’s this story got to do with your nervous breakdown, Lou?

LAUGH TRACK

LOU: Think about it, Murray. We are so cocooned in our own lives, in our joys and pains that we understand almost nothing of the history we are living through. We operate in a limbo of reality. Who are we, Murray?

MURRAY: Lou, these people in your dream, Michael, Harry, Bud, are they people you’ve met?

LOU: Who’s Bud?

MURRAY: You mentioned him in our last conversation. At the Silver Rail.

LOU: I don’t remember that. Why do you ask about this fellow Bud?

MURRAY: Bud…

LOU: Ya.

MURRAY: I think I know him.

LOU: You think you know him?

MURRAY: He works at a bar we go to with Mary.





The Blue Lagoon (Chapter 17, Lou Grant)

21 08 2009

17.

The Blue Lagoon

I sat sipping my drink. Scotch. Single malt. Not too bad either. A little over priced. I was watching Harry. Across the room. What a sleazy character. Even the way he moved. Made you want to take a shower. Like a snail he moved. Hunched over. Leaving a trail of slime behind him. Like some kind of peep show floor. He stopped at the bar. I looked at the blonde next to me. Sheila. (How did I know her name?) She and her friend continued their animated conversation. (I didn’t know her friend’s name. I’ll call her the brunette.) They were eating each other’s ears off. The kind of conversation that is filled with energy and little thought. I thought about my wife. Helen and I were like strangers to each other. Had been for many years. When the boys were young, there was so much noise in the house. It was like oxygen for us. And when they left, we suffocated. Or maybe we went deaf and dumb. Don’t think we ever talked about much of importance when we were young, but we liked the sound of each other’s voice. And Helen’s laugh. I loved to hear Helen laugh. She loved my jokes. Helen doesn’t laugh much anymore. I don’t know how it happened. Becoming a stranger to those you love. Maybe my jokes weren’t funny anymore. And then I found myself back in the backyard. Laying there. Frying in the noon day sun. Looking up at the blue sky. Hoping Helen would come out and find me. Save me. Sheila laughed. And I was back in the Blue Lagoon.





A Drink After Work At The Selby Hotel (Chapter 16, Lou Grant)

20 08 2009

16.

A Drink After Work At The Selby Hotel

MURRAY: Michael. What’s he all about?

LOU: Who’s Michael?

MURRAY: You just told me about him, Lou.

LOU: You’re not messing with me, are you Murray?

MURRAY: Well, a bit. But you did bring up this fellow Michael.

LOU: I did?

MURRAY: You said that Harry was a bit of a sleaze, but this Michael was something else. A predator, I think you said.

LOU: A manipulator.

MURRAY: That’s the ticket.

LOU: Yes.

I began to engage in a conversation with Murray regarding someone I had never heard of before. Michael. As soon as I began to talk about him, he began to take shape in my mind. Words came out of my mouth like chunks of reality. Before that… nothing.

LOU: I know how to deal with sleaze. Been dealing with lawyers all my life, but someone like Michael, you don’t know where they’re coming from.

MURRAY: And you keep bringing Mary into the story. I don’t like that. If Mary knew that she was one of the central characters in your fantasies she’d be miffed.

LOU: You think I got something to say about all of this, Murray? Don’t look at me like that?

MURRAY: What! How am I looking at you?

LOU: Like I was some kind of… pervert.

MURRAY: Lou, they are your dreams.

LOU: Hey Murray, did I tell you this story that Gordo told me?

MURRAY: I’m not interested in Gordo’s cricket stories. I hate that game. They can play for days and score hundreds of points and still end up with a tied game. Tell me about Michael. And what he has to do with Mary.

LOU: At one time in the Netherlands tulip bulbs, not gold, was the standard for wealth. People invested huge fortunes in them. One guy invested every cent he had into one particularly rare tulip bulb. He invited his best friend over to see the bulb. When his friend arrived, our guy was busy with a family matter in another room. The bulb had been left on the kitchen table. The friend was hungry and mistaking the bulb for an onion, ate it.

LAUGH TRACK

MURRAY: Onions give me gas.
LAUGH TRACK
LOU: Don’t you get it, Murray?

MURRAY: Apparently not, Lou. Why don’t you let me in on the moral of this Aesop fable.

LOU: Everything in society is mad if you don’t understand its significance. Sanity is based on consensus.

MURRAY: Consensus? Did we all vote on insane behavior? I guess I forgot to register.

LOU: Are you trying to rile me, Murray?

MURRAY: Never, Lou.

LAUGH TRACK

MURRAY: Lou, why have you got your hands over your ears?

LOU: You wouldn’t believe me.

MURRAY: Okay, Lou. We’re getting off course again. Now tell me, why is Mary so important in your dream? This fellow Harry pays her a lot of attention and it sounds as if she has aroused the curiosity of this Michael chap.

LOU: Be careful what you say, Murray.

MURRAY: Well, Lou, face up to the facts. You’ve got a thing for Mary.

LOU: Have not!

MURRAY: Do!

LOU: Don’t!

LAUGH TRACK

LOU: The social mores that run every society are tailored to the needs of the elite.

LAUGH TRACK

MURRAY: What’s that got to do with Mary?

LOU: I don’t know. It just came flying out of my mouth. This isn’t right, Murray. I’m starting to sound like an anthropologist. That’s not me. I can’t even spell the word.

LAUGH TRACK

MURRAY: I think you mean sociologist, Lou.

LOU: I can’t spell that either.

LAUGH TRACK





A Drink After Work At The Silver Dollar (Chapter 15, Lou Grant)

19 08 2009

15.

A Drink After Work At The Silver Dollar

LOU: There was a man of Bourges who was driven into the forest by a swarm of flies.

MURRAY: Why can’t anybody be from Nantucket? I know some dandy limericks.

LOU: I’m drunk and I’m your boss.

MURRAY: I’m listening your lordship.

LOU: For two years the man of Bourges wandered through the forest — a mad man. When finally he exited from the forest, he declared to everyone that he was a new man. He was a Jesus Christ.

MURRAY: Don’t tell me! People believed him.

LAUGH TRACK

LOU: He had a huge following, Murray. A middle-ages Billy Graham.

MURRAY: I saw Billy Graham on the Jack Parr Show. He’s a good looking guy. If he’d just keep his mouth shut. All that blabbering about religion really turns me off. LAUGH TRACK

LOU: Finally the man from Bourges was brought before a local prince. Who are you? he was asked. He did not respond. Are you the Christ? he was asked. So, you say it, the man replied. Ah, the prince cried and had the man burned as a heretic.

MURRAY: That would certainly teach him a lesson.

LAUGH TRACK

LOU: This story was repeated throughout the middle-ages. What if he was Christ, Murray? What if that was the Second Coming? What if Christ kept coming back but no one ever believed him?

MURRAY: I’d be pissed, Lou. If I was God. I’d throw a tissy. But I man not God. Which I’m happy to point out. And neither was this fellow from Bourges. He was nuts. Is that pronounced gay at the end. Or just. I prefer gay. Though I’d never…

LOU: What if he wasn’t though?

MURRAY: Lou, you’re starting to worry me.

LOU: I’m starting to worry myself.

MURRAY: Have you talked to Mary about this?

LOU: Mary?

MURRAY: I think she should know.

LOU: Why would I tell Mary?

MURRAY: Because you’re in love with her, Lou.

LOU: Me in love with Mary! (hyena laughter)

MURRAY: Tell me you’re not in love with Mary, Lou.

LOU: She’s like a daughter to me.

MURRAY: You’re avoiding the question, Lou.

LOU: I’m drunk, Murray. That’s my prerogative.

MURRAY: Who are those two characters?

LOU: What characters?

MURRAY: You talked about them… Harry. One was Harry. And the other guy, a new guy was called…

LOU: Shit!

MURRAY: No, I don’t think that was his name.

LAUGH TRACK

LOU: I mean, I forgot all about them.

MURRAY: I think his name was Michael.

LOU: They’re going to be pissed.