The Interviews (Chapter 34, Lou Grant)

16 09 2009

Chapter 34

The Interviews

Rhoda sipped her coffee and watched Lou devour her meal.

RHODA: I was talking to Murray.

Lou nodded his head.

RHODA: Are you okay, Lou?

Lou looked up, smiled, and continued to eat.

RHODA: Murray said that you’ve had some real heart to heart discussions. He said that you have this notion that you are not Lou Grant, that you are someone else lying in a back yard having a stroke. That’s the booze talking, Lou. My ex… You remember Joe. Joe had a problem with the bottle. He thought he could still play professional baseball. He was forty years old for Christ’s sake, but the bottle kept telling him lies.

LOU GRANT: You sound like your mother.

RHODA: Say it ain’t so Lou.

Lou giggled and took a swallow of coffee.

RHODA: My mother…

Rhoda thought about that for quite some time as Lou finished eating. She felt like a second coffee. Lou wanted one too. Rhoda went to the counter and when she returned Lou was picking his smile with a toothpick.

LOU GRANT: So, how’s it going with the interviews?

RHODA: They’re coming along. We’ve got some pretty interesting material.

LOU GRANT: I’ll be the judge of that.

RHODA: Nevertheless, I think you’re going to like a lot of what you see.

LOU GRANT: Okay, what is it?

RHODA: What?

LOU GRANT: Thirty years of reading faces teaches you a few things.

RHODA: The stories sound… scripted.

LOU GRANT: Scripted?

RHODA: Like they all sat  around a table and got their stories to fit.

LOU GRANT: Why would they do that?

RHODA: That’s what I wondered.

LOU GRANT: And what does Mary think?

RHODA: Mary wasn’t cursed with my inborn sense of skepticism.

Lou put down his coffee and rubbed his palms together.

LOU GRANT: Mary is the only person I’ve ever met who gives cash to every panhandler on the street. Mary believes that those bastards are destitute. You and I know that they’re all retired pensioners with nothing to do with their afternoons.

RHODA: Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. But there’s something off. And Mary doesn’t see it. Mary’s heart is always in the right place. She just thinks that everyone looks at the world like she does.

LOU GRANT: Why would someone coach those people?

RHODA: Unless they were trying to hide something.

LOU GRANT: Ya. But we’re not the cops. They don’t have to talk to us.

RHODA: Well… there’s something else.

LOU GRANT: Say it ain’t so.


LOU GRANT:  Let me guess. It’s about Mary. She’s getting too heavily involved in this assignment, eating, sleeping, and living these interviews. Am I right? Eh? How about it?

Rhoda nodded.

Lou slapped the table. Coffee leaped out of the cup onto his hand. Without a second thought as if he had done it a thousand times, Lou grabbed a napkin and wiped his hand.

LOU GRANT: Natural enough, Rhoda. I wouldn’t worry. This is the first assignment where Mary has been in charge.

RHODA: It’s not just rookie enthusiasm.

LOU GRANT: God, I could use a cigar now!

Rhoda put her cup down and stared at the coffee stain on Lou’s shirt.

RHODA: Several of the people we’ve interviewed have mentioned this one fellow. His name is Michael. No last name. He commands this incredible street respect from all of them. Gamblers, to hookers, to petty thieves. You can’t help but be intrigued. But, Mary has become preoccupied with this fellow; obsessed would be a better word. She brings his name up in each interview, always trying to dig up more information on him. We haven’t learned much.

LOU GRANT: And you’ve interviewed this fellow Michael?

RHODA: I’m not sure he even exists. Everyone seems to have a different tale to tell about him. A different version of who he is. And they all contradict each other. We don’t even have a clear description. Apparently he frequents the Blue Lagoon, but so far no one has pointed him out to us.

Lou rubbed his chin.

LOU GRANT: You think Mary’s gotten caught up in unraveling the mystery about this Michael?

Rhoda nodded.

Lou leaned back in his chair, cradling a stomach well satisfied.

LOU GRANT: Mary’s turning into a reporter. She’s got a nose, Rhoda. This fellow Michael would make a hell of a story. The uncrowned king of thieves. Have you ever read The Hunchback of Notre Dame?

RHODA: I saw the Disney version.

LOU GRANT: This guy Michael is the key to everything. He could tie the whole series together. I’d want to know about him myself.

RHODA: But, you’re not a young woman.

Lou laughed.

LOU GRANT: You’re crazy.

RHODA: She’s falling in love with him, Lou.

LOU GRANT: In love with a phantom!

Lou burst into laughter. Tears welled up in his eyes.

RHODA:  Okay! Call it intrigued then. I think you should talk to her.

LOU GRANT: Me? Why don’t you talk to her?

RHODA: I’m her best friend. She won’t listen to me. She thinks of you as a… father.

Lou grimaced.

LOU GRANT: Jesus, Rhoda, I’m not good at that personal stuff. What would I say to her? Don’t be curious. Don’t get all hot in your pants over this… Christ, I don’t even know what to call it.

RHODA: Please, Lou!

Lou’s face sank into his hands.

RHODA: I’m worried, Lou. Anything we’ve heard about this fellow gives me the creeps. He’s charming, unpredictable, and very violent.

Lou groaned.

RHODA: Lou, are you listening to me? Mary is our friend. I’ve got a gut feeling about this.

Lou looked up at Rhoda and groaned.

LOU GRANT: I don’t think the roast beef agreed with me.