The Death of Lou Grant

25 12 2011

Nominated for an EPPIE Award. And its free. Laughs, chuckles, rape, and murder.

The Death of Lou Grant

A man is dying in his backyard of a heart attack. He begins to recall his life. Except that it is not his life. It is the life of a fictional character from a popular television situation comedy. And he can’t…

Death of Lou Grant

10 10 2011

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The Death of Lou Grant

20 05 2011

A man is dying in his backyard of a heart attack. He begins to recall his life. Except that it is not his life. It is the life of a fictional character from a popular television situation comedy. And he can’t…

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Ted Slipped A Cassette Into the Recorder (Chapter 24, Lou Grant)

3 09 2009


Ted Slipped a Cassette Into the Recorder

Ted Baxter slipped a cassette into the recorder, the back of his hand casually rubbing against the side of Mary Richard’s leg. Mary moved her leg closer to Ted’s hand. Sue Ann Nivens sat in the back seat, chattering away. Neither Ted nor Mary paid much attention to her. Sinatra’s voice seeped out of the speakers. Ted’s free hand caressed Mary’s dress. Mary swallowed, glancing down at Ted’s hand.

“I love Sinatra,” Sue Ann sighed. “Mother used to tell me about what a big star he was. Scrawny little fellow. The bobby-sockers would swoon over him. What a reputation he had with the ladies? Maybe that was part of his attraction. I saw him on television a couple of weeks ago. Still in good voice though he doesn’t walk so well. Didn’t exactly take it easy in his time. Supposed to have been involved with gangsters. I can’t imagine why. What would they have to talk about?”

Ted looked in the rear view mirror.

“What do you see?” Mary asked.

“A yellow cab,” Ted responded. “I could swear it’s been following us.”

“Oh, how exciting!” Sue Ann squealed remembering her late husband Frank and his BMW. The two of them flying along the expressway. And her mother sitting at home, biting her nails. And her sister stewing in their bedroom, blaming Sue Ann for the new curfew inflicted on both sisters because Sue Ann was still out carousing when she should have been home. And her and Frank parking in lover’s lane. And Sue Ann laughing and her hair thrown back, her arms and legs wrapped around Frank as she wrote poems in her head about how fast love seems to pass through us.

“I hope someone is following us. Mystery is life’s greatest spice.”

MURRAY: What’s going on between Mary and Ted?

LOU GRANT: What do you mean?

MURRAY: You know what I mean, Lou.

LOU GRANT: Okay. I don’t have as much control over this thing as I should.

MURRAY: Ted put you up to that, didn’t he?

LOU GRANT: Don’t be ridiculous. It just popped into my head. It’s the scotch.

MURRAY: What ever he gave you, Lou, I’ll double it.


Follow That Car (Chapter 23, Lou Grant)

3 09 2009


Follow That Car

It had rained out. Streetlights splattered on the sweating asphalt. It looked like one of those tacky paintings of a Paris street. I stood in my overcoat underneath the awning outside the bar. Waiting. For what, I had no idea.

It was still raining. A streetcar rang its bell. And thundered by. Newspapers that had been blowing about on the street now, wet, wallpapered the sidewalks. Teenage girls in football jackets over their heads, giggled as they raced down the avenue. I wish I owned a gun.

Mary Richards and her friends came out of the Blue Lagoon. Huddled under two umbrellas. Laughing. Sue Ann screeched as the group made a mad dash across Church Street to the parking lot next to Gatsby’s Steak House.

I pulled my collar up. Rain dripped off my hair, and the tip of my nose and chin. From the bar, you could hear music playing. Billy Joel’s Piano Man. A white van raced up the street. I lost sight of the WTM crowd. The van passed. They were piling two cars. Doors slammed. Mary had climbed into the silver Mercedes with Sue Ann and Ted. Lou and Rhoda continued on through the lot until they reached Rhoda’s red Rabbit. The Mercedes moved slowly across the lot, beeped its horn once and then stopped in front of the attendant’s booth. Windshield wipers kept slapping. The muted siren from a window lowering. Voices. A ticket receipt.

I stepped out to the curb and haled a cab. I don’t know why. Maybe I was bored. I haled a cab. One passed me. A second. The Mercedes had already moved up the street. Stopped at a traffic light. A cab pulled over to the curb.

“Follow that Mercedes,” I said to the driver.

MURRAY:  Wait a minute, Lou.

LOU GRANT: I was on a roll here, Murray.

MURRAY: There were two Lou Grants in the bar.


MURRAY: Isn’t there some kind of rule about that? Some kind of temporal disruption. That changes everything in the future.

LOU GRANT: Like hair loss?


MURRAY: Okay. So there’s a big storm. Lightning and thunder. Why would you do that in your own dream? Why not have a warm pleasant evening. Shirt sleeve weather.

LOU GRANT: You might be right about that. I didn’t have an umbrella. Could have caught a cold.

MURRAY: You can catch a cold in a dream?

LOU GRANT: Maybe.  Do you know how you catch a cold?

Mary Richards (Chapter 20, Lou Grant)

25 08 2009


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.


“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?”


“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.”


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.


The Blue Lagoon (Chapter 19, Lou Grant)

23 08 2009


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.

Lou In The Elevator With Ted (Chapter 8, Lou Grant)

6 08 2009


Lou In The Elevator With Ted

LOU: I am back in the real world, in the middle of my backyard, in a lounge chair, having a stroke. I can feel my chest melting. The low sizzle of skin. Drops of perspiration tickling my breasts. A low breeze moves the trees slightly…

Ted looks around the elevator as if he thought we were on Candid Camera. There was always someone trying to pull a fast one on Ted and though he isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, Ted knew that people were constantly trying to put one over on him. I was having a nervous breakdown.

LOU: The sun slips behind some leaves and for a brief moment a chill crawls across me. I have known this feeling all my life. It is death. Death is a young girl skipping rope, reciting an old chant… I’m tired.

TED: Lou, are you feeling alright?

LOU: A few yards behind, the compost is groaning, the low growls and farts of digestion.

TED: Lou, are you quoting someone? I could give you my reading of Hamlet. I got glowing reviews in college.

LOU: Perhaps when we die, the spirit of the body is sucked into the soul like a star collapsing into itself. We have become a single moment, a thought. The definition of homo-sapiens:  I am here… Everything is spinning. Round and round. Like its going to spin right out of…

TED: Excuse me, Lou. Am I supposed to be writing this down?


LOU: Murray already used that joke.

TED: Well, how was I supposed to know that, Lou. It’s not like you guys let me know what’s going on.

I started to babble on about modern consciousness and amoeno acids.  And communications. God, I could hear myself. It was embarrassing. Without being interesting. Or profound. And all the time Ted kept looking around the elevator. At one point he reached for the emergency phone. I grabbed his hand.

LOU: Anger is the engine of despair. What is the rage that my soul sheaves? What is this drunken muttering in my soul? Let’s blame it on the fucking ozone layer. I have to get out of the sun. God, why can’t I stop talking. Talking like my mind is out of control. Stop me from talking, Ted!

Ted began to giggle nervously as the elevator doors opened

TED: Lou. You kill me!

The Staff (Chapter Two, Lou Grant)

30 07 2009


The Staff

Perhaps you have guessed it. I am not the Lou Grant. The Ed Asner character. But I am a Lou Grant. I work at the Corporation as we called the CBC. Even though I operated a camera on several prestigious programs, I lived in another world. My world. (Canadian programming was so dull in those days.) Dreaming each day as the forty seven year old, bald, fat, grumpy, Lou Grant. Dreaming through all the episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. God, I loved Mary. I would… well, that’s for another time. I dreamed until I had exhausted all the scripts. And then I began to create stories of my own. They were innocent enough. At least in the beginning. In my stories I had the same staff members, the same offices as WGM of Minnesota. But my characters began to evolve, to become something more than they had been imprisoned in the original show.

My main writer, Murray Slaughter, was an odd fellow. Like myself, Murray had a reclining hairline, but unlike myself, Murray wore a toupee. He wore it shifted slightly on his head to one side like a French beret. Murray was quite the lady’s man and was not beyond boasting about his recent conquests, keeping a record of his girls, as he called them, in an album of raw Polaroid snapshots. This is somewhat at odds with the Murray Slaughter of the television series, but then, all of my colleagues had more of an edge to their personalities than was apparent on the tube. Murray and I got along. I made Murray laugh, especially when I insisted that he was not being true to his nature, which was as a devoted husband and father. Not that Murray didn’t love his wife, Marie. Murray had vices. The ladies was one: the ponies was another. They were related. Murray followed anything with a tail. It was never difficult to find Murray when he wasn’t at work. The Chez Moi, a small bar tucked into a side street near the corner of Bloor and Yonge in Toronto, was filled every evening with gamblers and low life drifters and Murray was always in attendance. I don’t know why Marie put up with him but I guess there are women who can’t live without some abuse, not that Murray ever hit his wife, not that I know of, not that it would have been any of my business. I make it a rule — never get involved with the private lives of anyone on staff. I hate personal stuff. I was not against someone having a vice; I have several of my own and cherish them as I do my own children. Everyone has their vices and it’s better that they are out front and not in hiding where they can suddenly rise up in moments of stress like relatives who only show up at funerals. But personal intimate discussions made my skin crawl.

Gordie was my weatherman. He was coloured, though he claimed he was Italian. I hate that word coloured. No one calls Italians brown, or Swedes beige, or Irish poke-a-dot. On several occasions Gordie was ready to bust my chops because I made some reference to his ancestry. “Nothing to be ashamed of Gordo,” I would say. “There’s no one I respect more than Martin Luther King.” This was before Dr. King was assassinated. Not that Dr. King’s assassination ever came up on the show. Generally speaking. Murder puts a damper on humor. Gordie was in denial. We wanted to put him in sports but Gordo had no interest at all in football, or baseball, or hockey. The only sport he showed any interest at all was the Tour de France and no one thought that our market share would increase with Gordo’s analysis of the flying Belgians. Gordie did the weather. He loved it. Said the weather was the sound of God’s bodily functions.

Ted Baxter was our news anchorman. Although he was a few inches too tall and had a little bit too much black in his hair (which I attributed to the use of Grecian Formula), Ted had the same bumbling bluster as his television counterpart. (In the original show, Ted’s hair was silver grey. Not in mine.) It was great having Ted around the newsroom, like having a portable and moving dartboard. Ted came to us directly from the movie industry where he had been doing promotional projects for various products. One that he was exceptionally proud of was a film done for the plumbing industry on industrial attire.

Although everything else was in place, our office had no Mary Richards. The newsroom lacked a certain sweetness and innocence. And until Mary showed up, I could still return to the real world, to my job as a cameraman at the Corporation, to paying my bills, to driving home to my wife and children each evening. Each world was separate from the other but all that would change the day she walked into my office.

It was a slow news day in mid-August. I think the Pope was praying for peace some place. Murray’s tongue was hanging out the side of his mouth as he opened the door to my office and stuck his head in.

“Guess whose here, Lou?”

I looked up impatiently. I hated being interrupted especially by chirpiness.

“You gotta guess, Lou!”

I let out a low animal growl.

LAUGH TRACK. Did you hear that? I hate laugh tracks but I cannot separate it from the show. It’s embedded in my head like some indelible character. Maybe it’s the devil gargling.

Murray stepped to one side and a lovely young woman stepped in. Murray smiled at me with those adult rated eyebrows. Murray introduced us. For a moment I was stunned and said nothing. I dismissed Murray and reached over my desk to shake that small trembling hand. Mary smiled nervously. Mary always seemed to be nervous around me as if she thought I might suddenly lunge for her throat. She’d just graduated from journalism, and was hoping that she might get a job in our newsroom, making copies, making coffee, and running errands. And then she started to cry. God, it happened so suddenly. I wasn’t prepared.

“Don’t…” I barked.

Mary wept harder.

LAUGH TRACK. You see what I mean. I hate that. This should have been a dramatic scene. My first meeting with the lovely young princess of our story, but the laugh track change it into farce.

Mary reached into her purse and pulled out a tissue. I would have used the name of a commercial product but these things were still being negotiated.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Grant. I don’t know what’s come over me. Oh this is…”

“Please. Miss Richards,” I muttered turning away. I can’t stand to see a woman cry. I never know what to do with my hands.

“You don’t know how difficult it is to find work, Mr. Grant. You can’t get a job because you don’t have enough experience and you can’t get experience unless you get a job. It’s a catch 32.”



“Excuse me, Mr. Grant?”

“Catch 22.”

“Are you sure? My eye makeup is running. I must look awful. It’s just been one thing after another. Mildred died last night. Well, not really died. She was eaten by Jack. Rhoda warned me about Jack but I thought they’d work things out. I guess I turned a blind eye. I woke up to find Mildred’s sweet little head and feathers in the sugar bowl.”


“Jack ate Mildred?” I turned back to Mary who was dabbing her eyes with the tissues. She looked like a raccoon.

“Jack is my cat,” Mary explained.

“And Mildred is…”

“My cock-a-too.”


“I really need a job, Mr. Grant. I’ll work free for the first month if you’ll just give me a chance.”

“Whose Rhoda?”

“My best friend.”

“Thank God!”


I thought for a moment. Dramatic effect. “Look. Miss Richards. We don’t need a gopher. We have Ted.”


Mary’s lip began to tremble. Tears welled up in her eyes once again.

“No, not again,” I pleaded.

“I can’t help it, Mr. Grant. You must think I’m just a foolish young girl. I really am quite bright. Graduated with straight A’s.” Mary rambled on for some time in this manner, swinging from a detailed account of all her academic accomplishments to bouts of uncontrolled weeping.

“Miss Richards!” I interjected when there was a pause in the action. “We have a position as a junior writer and if you would be willing to go through a period of…”

“Oh, Mr. Grant!” Mary cried, a broad smile sweeping across her face. I stared at her, amazed. I think I might have smiled. And laughed. I have this ridiculous laugh like Goofy, the Disney character. Mary smiled. I thought I heard wedding bells. I was falling in love with her. Everyone fell in love with Mary.