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Eddie Rides Shotgun

by Nancy Ames

Joel thinks I`m not good for much but I am always a steady hand with
a gun in an emergency. He knows that. Because I saved his life like
six or seven times already. People can tend to underestimate me, which
gives me a huge advantage with a gun.

One day a couple of months ago we were driving out into the desert to
pay a visit to some movie promoter types out there, somewhere around
Palm Springs it was, me riding shotgun as usual, and I got bored and
sort of cocky and started in on him about the total lack of artistic
merit in the cheapo movies he was making, said they bored me stupid,
really stupefied me with dullitude. Then I shrugged my shoulders and
grinned and laughed, trying to take the sting out of what I had said,
I guess. But it was way too late. Too late for that.

Joel cleared his throat, straightened up in the driver`s seat, looked
over at me, a long slow look, and came out with this big involved speech
about how the "avant-garde" in the world of motion pictures had all been
"progressing" beyond plot and story and it was all about framing scenes
and character "outlines" now... and "ugly chique" was the latest style,
a whole bunch of guff like that. Ugly chique! He actually said that! It
really sounded rehearsed too. Trying out his sales pitch on me. You should
have heard the superior condescending tone in his voice. The con descending,
right? I guess he must think he`s losing his Jersey accent. Shit. Whatever.

Then he aimed his designer sunglasses back onto the long straight stretch
of highway ahead of the long, gleaming white hood of that big powerful old
Lincoln Continental of his, stepped hard on the gas and said, "You and all
your cute insights, Eddie. That`s why nobody wants to buy your scripts, you
always have to work in some kind of fucking meaning between the lines. And
all your witty shit!"

And there you go. We had what you might call creative differences. So I
zipped my lip, shrugged my shoulders again and turned away, pretended to
be interested in the piles of rusty rocks and scrubby scenery alongside the
highway, and gave up on him. Why argue with brain damage, right?

When we came out to the coast from Vegas I was going to write the most
dynamite screenplays of all time. Still got a whole stack of them somewhere.
Insert hollow laughter here. Joel used to be a gambler, a hustler, a thug,
and occasionally a pimp. But he quit that, got clean, and married his best
earner. Now they got the three boys and she more or less runs the P.T.A.,
you know, acts sassy and bosses all the other mothers. Got the American
Dream, right? Did you ever notice how the prettiest woman can have the ugliest
aura? And nothing beats the self-righteousness of the reformed sinner, let me
tell you.

We grew up together in New Jersey back in the day and my old buddy Joel Janz
is one of those jerks who live their lives in the negative zone and never
quite make it to zero or zero plus anything. He`s a well-known consumer. He
never saw a good thing or a good idea he couldn`t turn into a pile of crap.
And a ton of money. But as a person he will never make it all the way up to
nothing. And I`m his best friend in this world.

So here`s a thought. Maybe he might have been starting to get a little bit
nervous about me. Joel is one of those people who live with carefully
compartmentalized lives and think of their mostly empty minds as "the vault".
Always go for those monumentally bubble-headed women, women who might as well
be marble fucking statues... but are actually plastic pretending. To be stoned.
Joke. So maybe one day he could have decided I might know too much... or there
was somebody else standing right behind him looking over his shoulder. I get
that feeling too.

And of course I could easily be capable of accidentally figuring out or even
finding out something. I don't know... because... like when I am all by myself
writing sometimes in the middle of the night when there is hardly any of that
interference from the surrounding telepathy and all my brain-waves are in sync
and vibrating, pushing out the metaphorical old envelope out toward some new
concepts and my whole mind opens up and I sense shapes and personalities in
motion and some of the wilder things happening in the universe around me. And
then later on a few of them turn out to be actually factually real and I get a
little jolt, like a confirmation from something else, from what other people
are telling me... or from reading about something in a book on ancient mythology
maybe... Shit. If you know what I mean, you know what I mean.

But you must know what I mean. They want us to pay real close attention to the
wailing rock-star guitars and the big loud brassy bands and watch the fireworks
and the entrancing dancing-girls. But I always did get sick and tired of having
all those star-spangled fannies waving in my face. And then I would be wandering
over to inspect the abstract art hanging on the back wall or trying to dig the
poetry behind the pop-song lyrics or the jazzy theme subtly insinuated inside
the back-beat to the overly repetitive catchy melody... and like that.

The point I am trying to make is that after a while Joel had to suspect that,
with such a haphazard but large and growing collection of first-hand observations,
and over a certain length of time, an abstract pattern maybe starts to emerge. And
sometimes that pattern looks an awful lot like a face.


Author's Note: a piece of a long short story ("Long Division" 10860 words), a murder mystery propelled by the conflict between art and the profit motive in Hollywood. Got very fond of Eddie, but there is not a lot of mercy in his world.

Posted on 02/10/2019
Copyright © 2019 Nancy Ames

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