(Click here to go the first chapter of what the popular syndicated columnist J.J. Hunsecker has called a “scathing indictment of the shabby mores that reign in Tinseltown”.)
Well, the movie got made, there were no more tantrums from the Mariner, and even Buddy had to admit the man wasn’t that bad in the part. Not to say he was good, let’s not get carried away, but he wasn’t as bad as Buddy had been afraid he would be. In fact he was bad in a way that occasionally approached almost good. For one thing he came across as so fucking unlikable that it was a real moment when Sally finally blew him away with a full clip from her trusty Walther PPK.
Then came the scene with Joan where she told Buddy about her affair with the Mariner.
“I wanted to wait till the shoot was over,” she said, “because I didn’t want to make it hard for you.”
“Make it hard for me?”
They were having dinner at Café des Imbéciles. It was the day after the wrap which meant the day after the wrap party, which meant Buddy had spent most of the day in bed and the rest of it reading a Richard Stark thriller by the pool. But he had brought a good appetite to dinner, and leave it to Joan to make her big announcement just as he was about to dig into his twenty-nine dollar crabcakes --
“Make it hard for you with your work,” said Joan.
“Oh, right. Well, thanks.”
“Don’t be sarcastic.”
He’d taken a bite of crabcake --
It wasn’t bad --
“And don’t be passive-aggressive.”
Not worth twenty-nine bucks though --
“And don’t be like that.”
Okay, forget about the crabcakes but thank God for wine. He took a drink of his Sancerre.
“Well, babe, how would you like me to be?”
She had been holding her knife and fork through all this, and now she put them on her plate and daintily pushed it forward a couple of inches. The plate with her untouched thirty-five dollar steak on it.
“What I would like, what I would like --”
Oh fuck her --
“Okay,” Buddy interrupted, “first off, it’s bullshit that you didn’t want to make it hard for me, or at least not make it hard for me till the shoot was over. It was more like you didn’t want to make things hard for you and the Mariner.”
“What did you call him?”
“The Mariner. The Ancient Mariner. We all call him that. You didn’t know?”
“Oh, well, I call him that.”
“The Ancient Mariner.”
“His name is Stephen.”
“But you know what, Joan, you were right in keeping quiet about it. It would’ve made things, uh, awkward for the Mariner, and for you. And it probably would have made his performance even lousier than it was.”
Joan looked away. Then -- fuck California and fuck its laws -- she opened up her purse and took out her Camel Ultra Lights and her lighter and she lit up a cigarette.
Buddy saw a waiter looking at Joan; he took a step toward their table, hesitated, then walked away. He’d seen the look on her face.
Buddy took another sip of wine, waiting for it. And when it came it was surprisingly quiet and well-modulated.
“It’s not like you even give a shit about me, Buddy.”
Some joyless-looking woman came up to their table.
“Do you know you’re breaking the law?” the woman said.
“Do you know I’ll fucking break your face if you say another word?” Joan said, not quietly.
That shut the broad up, and she went back to her table.
“Cunt,” said Joan, glaring at the stupid meddling bitch.
Buddy felt a surge of affection for Joan now.
She turned to him.
“Don’t you want to know how long it’s been going on?”
“Okay, let me guess. It’s been going on ever since you supposedly hurt your pelvis doing hot yoga last fall.”
“See, I knew it.”
“I’m not like you, Buddy. I can’t be fucking more than one person at the same time.”
Okay, here was the thing, he actually hadn’t fucked anyone else in about a year.
“Look, Joan, I haven’t fucked around in like, uh, three years --”
“Okay, two years.”
“And you know why?”
Because it had gotten to be too much like work?
“Because,” she said, “you’re getting old. The chicks don’t want to fuck you. God! I can’t believe I put up with you all those years!”
Okay, he wasn’t perfect.
“All right, I’m not perfect. But, Joan, the Mariner? Come on, are you fucking nuts? And besides, old? He’s older than me. Isn’t he?”
“Maybe he is, but he’s still not as old as you, he’s engaged with life, he lives life -- he loves to dance -- what?”
“No, that look.”
“Okay. ‘He loves to dance’?”
“Yes. Is there something wrong with that?”
“No. Not at all. Not if you’re Zorba the fucking Greek.”
“Zorba. The Greek.”
“What’s some fucking Greek got to do with it? Stephen’s not Greek.”
“Okay,” said Buddy. “He’s not Greek. But I’ll tell you what he is. How about boring, pompous, overbearing --”
“You don’t know him. That’s just his public face. In private he’s very -- vulnerable.”
“Damn right he’s vulnerable. He’s vulnerable because he’s a pompous, overbearing, bore-assing, beret-wearing --”
“I love him,” she said.
Buddy looked down at his crabcakes. One thing he knew damn well and that was if a woman decided she was in love with somebody there wasn’t a holy hell fuckload of a lot you could do about it. But he couldn’t help himself and he said what he was thinking:
“You’ll get over it.”
Okay. Buddy took a drink of his wine. He’d seen variations of this scene in a thousand movies. It was a boring scene, but it had to be played out.
“Okay,” he said. “What’s next?”
It was all very depressing and he took another drink of wine.
“Is that all you have to say?” she said.
She ground out her cigarette in her bread plate.
“I’m really close to slapping you, Buddy. I’m really close to slapping you, and throwing this wine in your face, and turning this table over on you, and don’t you dare say you love me, sure, you used to love me, I really believe that, and I loved you, Buddy, you know I did, I worshipped you, but you got tired of me, Buddy, yes, you did, but instead of just facing up to it like a real man you lied to me, all the nights and mornings you slinked home with the smell of some other bitch’s cunt on you, and, oh, you’re always so snide and so superior, you, you don’t like my friends, or my family, you don’t like anyone or anything, and even though you think you love Deirdre and your kids, you know what? You’re a fucking indifferent father, you don’t chauffeur Deirdre all over the city to her lessons and to her friends’ houses, you don’t go to parent-teacher’s meetings, you don’t take her to the dentist -- and, I know --” she dropped into her imitation-Buddy voice -- ”I work, Joan, I work a lot and I work hard. I’m sorry, but you work maybe four months out of the year --” back to her own voice -- “Ha! well, listen, Buddy, other fathers -- even stepfathers -- find time, but oh no, you wouldn’t even take Deirdre to Disney-fucking-land --” back to the Buddy-voice --”Deirdre didn’t want to go to Disneyland. You were the one who wanted to go to Disneyland.” Her voice: “And that’s because she takes after you, with all your fucking negativityness.”
Buddy let that one go by. She caught her breath. Then:
“You let Elizabeth practically kill herself with drugs before you did anything about it. You let Philip marry that little whore who stuck her tongue down your throat at their wedding reception -- oh, yes, I know about that.”
For some reason she stopped here, sawed off a piece of steak, and stuck it in her mouth. Buddy’s heart wasn’t in it, but he felt like he should contribute something:
“Those kids love me, Joan.”
“Ha,” she said, chewing.
“Well, they sort of love me.”
She swallowed, and dabbed her lips with her napkin.
“Pop quiz, Buddy. What grade is Deirdre in?”
“Um --” Okay, he was pretty sure she wasn’t a freshman anymore, so she had to be like a sophomore -- unless she was a junior already?
“I’d like to stab you with this steak knife."
She picked it up but then she put it down, thank God.
“I’m leaving you, Buddy.”
The last time Buddy had gone through this had been a dozen years before, with Madge, her telling him she was leaving him because she had found out he was boning Joan.
Joan stood up.
“Can I take the car?”
Of course it had turned out that Madge had been seeing someone else at the time also. Om, the non-celibate Buddhist monk.
“Buddy can I take the fucking car.”
“Yeah, sure, sorry.”
He fumbled out the valet tag, she took it, and Buddy watched her walk away. He drank the last little bit of Sancerre that was left in his glass. Joan hadn’t even touched her glass of St. Émilion, and he reached over and helped himself to that.
(Yes, Buddy, it’s a shame to let a good glass of St. Émilion go to waste. Continued here. Kindly look to the right hand column of this page to find an up-todate listing of all other published chapters of Uncle Buddy’s House. A Howard Hawks Production.)