Thursday, October 8, 2009

“Uncle Buddy’s House”, Chapter 18: to Roscoe’s

Big changes in Buddy’s house on Ivar Avenue, Hollywood, USA: his wife Joan has left him for a ham actor; his son Philip has moved back home following the dissolution of his own youthful marriage and the loss of his job; his stepdaughter Deirdre has been caught making out with another girl in the cloakroom at her school; and Buddy has had to fly to Milwaukee to bring home his troubled daughter Liz. Meanwhile Buddy’s colleague Debbie has revealed a romantic interest...

(Go here to see our preceding episode or here to go to the first chapter of this “scintillating and sin-soaked sockeroo showbiz sexposé” -- J.J. Hunsecker, in Parade Magazine.)

Here was the scoop. The doctor didn’t think it absolutely necessary that Liz go into rehab again, unless she herself really wanted to go in. He did think she should continue with AA or NA. He said she looked undernourished, and he recommended she eat and exercise and keep busy.

The doctor’s office was on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, and as they came out of the building Buddy said, “Okay, baby, you heard the Doc. Let’s eat. Your choice.”

She had gotten her cigarettes out while she was still in the elevator, and now she lit one up. She exhaled slowly, then looked at Buddy.

“Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles?”

“Let’s go.”

On the way over she said, “Wait, why was Philip around the house today?”

"Oh. I didn’t tell you. He left what’s-her-name.”

“Cynthia? He left the cunt?”

“Yep.”

“For good?”

"Yeah, apparently. He moved back in about a week ago.”

“That’s great. I hated her.”

“Yeah, I wasn’t too crazy about her either --”

“Is that why you made out with her at the wedding?”

“All right, look, that whole incident got blown out of proportion, okay? I was drunk, she was drunk --”

“Dad --”

“What?”

“I don’t give a shit,” said Liz. “Although Joan --”

“Yeah, I know --”

“Wait --”

“What?”

“Where is Joan, by the way?”

“Oh, Christ, I never told you about that, either.”

“Told me about what?”

“We broke up. She left me. For some other jerk.”

“Dad, when did this happen?”

“It was like, oh, fuck, two weeks ago?”

“Christ, Dad, why didn’t you tell me?”

“Well, I was -- I don’t know --”

“You don’t know?”

“Well, baby, yesterday, and the night before -- you were --”

“Oh, right. Blotto. Followed by oblivious. Including pathetic.”

“Yeah. And this morning, and on the way to the doctor’s -- I don’t know -- it was -- you were --”

“Wrapped up in my own problems.”

“Yeah,” said Buddy. “But I mean, that’s okay --”

They were quiet for a bit. Of course Buddy could have telephoned Liz in Milwaukee, kept her apprised of what was going on in his life, in her brother’s life, maybe find out what was going on in her life. But he hadn’t called. And Liz hadn’t called him. Second-rate father. Addict daughter. They were a team.

“So,” said Liz, “I suppose Joan took Deirdre with her?”

“No, Deirdre’s still home. She was already at school by the time you got up today.”

“Wow. What a bad mother Joan is, not even taking fucking Deirdre.”

“Oh, I’m sure she will. See, a few days after she left me, she ups and goes off on a vacation, to France, with her boyfriend --”

“To France? Really? What a cunt.”

“-- but, if I know Joan, when she gets back --”

“She’ll take Deirdre just because Deirdre likes you better than she likes Joan. In fact, Deirdre doesn’t like Joan at all. But she loves you --”

“Well --”

“So, how do you feel?”

“Me? Um, I feel all right. I guess --”

“I mean about Joan leaving, Dad.”

“Yeah, I figured that,” said Buddy.

He stopped for a red light. Liz stared out into the distance, smoking. She had laid a lot of make-up on before going to the doctor’s, but it didn’t hide that bruise on her jaw.

“Hey, Liz.”

“Yeah?”

“Um, are you okay about, uh, are you all right about, um --”

“What?”

“This, uh -- what is it, Keith or Craig?”

“Craig.”

“Right. I mean -- look -- I told him I didn’t want him to try to call you or anything, to try to --”

“Good,” she said.

“Okay. I mean --”

“Dad --”

“Yeah.”

“Light’s changed.”

“Oh, right.”



She ate her chicken and waffles like a stevedore, and then after some hemming and hawing she ordered a piece of pineapple upside-down cake, or rather Buddy made the decision and ordered it for her, along with two coffees.

“Dad,” she said.

“Yeah, babe.”

“Look, I’m sorry I fucked up.”

“Okay, great, let’s move on, nobody’s perfect. So what do you want to do? You want to go back to Milwaukee?”

“Oh, Dad, what would be the point? I was so far behind at school. I mean, forget it. I don’t know what I was thinking about anyway. Film school? At UWM? When I could’ve just worked for you and learned all that shit.”

“You still can if you want to.”

“Well, maybe I will. But I have an idea. Funny how clear you can think when you sleep for about a million hours.”

“Yeah. So?”

“Dad, do you know the house is a complete mess?”

“Uh, yeah, yeah, I know, and I’m gonna get a cleaning lady, I’m gonna get on that -- thank you, miss.” The waitress had just put down their coffee. “I’ve been very preoccupied, Liz. Busy...”

“Dad, here’s my proposition. Let me keep house for you.”

Bud watched as Liz put a quarter pound of sugar into her coffee.

“Keep house,” said Buddy.

“I cook, I clean, I buy what we need, I’ll do it all.”

There was still some space left in her cup for cream, and she filled the space up.

“Well, okay -- but don’t you want to, or shouldn’t you --”

“In return, I get free room and board.”

She stirred her magic potion and finally lifted it to her lips.

“Well, okay, but, Christ, Liz, don’t you, you know --”

“I want to write, Dad. This will give me the freedom to write, and staying at home maybe I’ll keep out of trouble and not get mixed up with loser guys and start using drugs and drinking again.”

“Well -- okay. What are you going to write? Screenplays?”

The waitress was there again and she laid the pineapple upside-down cake in front of Liz.

“Thank you. No, no offense, Dad, but most screenplays are pretty damn shallow. I want to write a book.”

She dug into the cake.

“What, like a novel?”

“No, I’m going to write a memoir, about growing up in Hollywood, you know, you and Mom breaking up, my body-image problems, my sexuality problems, the diet-pill addiction, rehab, Milwaukee. That loser Craig. Oh, and Joan, the evil stepmom. And you.”

“Oh, great.”

“Well, what do you say?”

“Whatever you want to do, baby. What the hell, I’ll even toss in a little per diem.”

“I don’t need a per diem, Dad.”

“Well, we’ll see.”

“So you think it’s a good idea?”

“Yeah, sure, just don’t make me look like a complete asshole in your book.”

“I’ll try.”

Bud took a beat here.

“I mean I know I have been an asshole. I mean, in the past. I know I wasn’t like the most -- Ozzy Nelson of fathers --”

“Who is this Ozzy Nelson? I’ve heard that name.”

“He had a show, back in the fifties. A sitcom. He sat around the house wearing a cardigan.”

“Yeah, that wasn’t you,” she said, eating her cake. “Nope.”

And the thing is, she probably didn’t even know the half of it. Or did she?

“That definitely wasn’t you,” she said.

“I guess I’ll have to be on my good behavior from now on,” said Buddy.

“Yeah, I’ll be taking notes. Oh, shit, I ate all the cake and I didn’t offer you a bite.”

“That’s okay, sweety, I really didn’t want any.”

“You’re sure?”

“Sure. So, uh, I guess you’ll be going to AA?”

“Oh, yeah, Dad. I’m gonna go every day if I have to.”

She polished off her coffee and she looked satisfied.

“I just have one tiny suggestion,” said Buddy.

“I know, don’t get involved with anyone from the meetings.”

“I mean, I know it’s hard to meet people --”

“Dad, they’re not all losers like Craig.”

“I’m sure they’re not --”

“But they’re all drunks and drug addicts, right?”

“Uh, well --”

“Look, Dad, don’t worry your head about it, because you know something? I don’t even want to meet a guy. I don’t want to meet anyone.”

“Good.”

“Sex is too weird for me now. And relationships are boring.” She’s my daughter all right -- “I’m just gonna like buy a vibrator...”

“All right, cool it --”

“Sorry. Should we get more coffee?”

“Why not, let’s go crazy.”

Buddy raised his coffee cup for the waitress to see it.

“You crack me up, Dad.”

“I crack myself up.”

“That’s why I prefer you to Mom. She’s so fucking serious.”

“You should call her, by the way.”

“I will,” said Liz. "If that fucking head-monk will put her on the phone. He’s such an asshole.”

“He’s an idiot,” said Buddy.

“Yeah. Mom’s an idiot too, isn’t she? But I’ll call her.”

The waitress came over with the coffee pot.

“So, Dad,” said Liz, “what is up with you and Debbie Greenberg?”



Buddy dropped Liz off at the house and then headed back to the office. Marlene was there. Looking good.

“Hey, Buddy. How’s Liz?”

“She’s -- well -- she’s got a good attitude. She’s --”

“Well, like I said, if you need any help, Buddy --”

“Thanks.”

“I’ve been through all this with my brother.”

“Thanks, Marlene.”

“I wanted to pick you up at the airport yesterday, but
Debbie --”

“Yeah, I know --”

He also knew that Marlene and Debbie had a close but volatile friendship, and he knew he wasn’t going to get involved in any shit between those two if he could help it.

“They all in there?”

“Harvey and Debbie are. Heather’s in the editing room with Iggy and Maxine.”

“Right.”

She was looking him all over and right through him, all her feminine radar and sonar on full blast, and he hightailed it into Harvey’s office, noticing along the way that Marlene’s skirt was short and that she had great legs.

The meeting with the Sony people had gone well. They would look at a cut in a week or two; if they liked what they saw they were open to the idea of domestic theatrical distribution and of taking the film to festivals; also, there was a good chance Lenny might get more money for his music budget. The cable people still had to be dealt with, but if Sony dug Iggy’s next cut there should be no problem on that front. Fine, fine, fine...


Buddy was heading out through the outer office and saying a quick “See ya later” to Marlene when Debbie came clacking out after him on her high heels.

“Hey, Best.”

“Yeah, Deb.”

“So tell me about Liz.” In the office Buddy had simply told them that Liz was fine. “And don’t just tell me she’s fine again.”

Marlene was looking at them over her computer screen.

“Well, she seems fine,” said Buddy.

“So is she going back to rehab?”

“No. But she is gonna stay home for a while.”

“And do what?”

“She’s, uh, she’s gonna keep house for me.”

“Keep house?”

“Yeah.”

“That is so -- 19th Century.”

“Hey, it’s her idea.”

“I dunno.”

“Well, she’s not gonna just keep house. She wants to write.”

“A screenplay?”

“No, I think like a memoir.”

“What’s she got to write a memoir about? She’s what, twenty-three, twenty-four --”

“Well, you know, they start ‘em young nowadays.”

Marlene was typing at her keyboard but she was hanging on every word.

“I’ll walk you out to your car,” said Debbie.

Outside:

“Boy, sister was all ears,” said Debbie.

“Hey, Marlene’s cool,” said Buddy.

“I know she is. She runs this company. Or rather she and I run it. So,” she said.

“Yeah?” said Buddy. She looked into his eyes. “Yeah,” he said.

She touched his face and came closer, in the bright sunlight. She smelled good. People walked by them on the sidewalk, cars drove by on Hollywood Boulevard.

“Hey, Deb --”

“What?”

“Deb, look, I just don’t know if I can --”

“Get it up?”

“Well, that too.”

“You’re afraid.”

“Yeah, that too.”

“What else?”

She was looking him right in the eyes. She’d been to all sorts of empowerment seminars, years of therapy; she believed in dealing directly with people, and she was good at it.

“Deb, look, what do you want from a man?”

“Besides a hard dick?”

“Yeah, besides that.”

“You mean do I want to get married?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Yeah, I would like that, if I could find someone who --”

“Which is what every woman says.”

“You sexist asshole.”

“Deb, I don’t want to get married again. I don’t want to live with a woman again.”

“You just got separated, Buddy, slow the fuck down.”

“But, if we -- went out, that’s where it would be leading, I mean possibly -- “

“What a coward.”

“I just don’t want that, Deb. And, anyway, we work together. It could get -- weird.”

“It always gets weird.”

“I know,” said Buddy. “But it’s just --”

“Buddy. It’s okay. You can stop now.”

“Well --”

“You don’t know what you’re missing, though.”

“Oh, I can imagine.”

“You think so?”

“I’ll probably be imagining it tonight when I’m whacking myself off to sleep.”

She touched his face again.

“You’re sweet.”

“Yeah,” said Buddy. “So, okay --”

“Where were you running off to anyway, sexy man?”

“Nowhere, really. I was just running.”

“Ruthie has her piano lesson today. What about a drink at my place? If we leave now we should have an undisturbed hour or so.”

“Don’t you have work to do?”

“You’re my boss. You tell me.”

“Well --”

Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck. Fuck.

Buddy suddenly realized he was sweating, from head to toe. And it wasn’t all that hot out, either.

“Buddy.”

“Yeah?”

“I was kidding.”

“Oh.”

“You can breathe now.”

She put her hands on his arms and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“Talk to ya later.”

“Yeah, later, Deb.”

She turned around and headed back into the building.



When Buddy got home Liz was lying on the couch, on the phone, and he could tell just by looking at her and by her tone of voice that she was talking to her mother. And, as was usual for them, they seemed to be in the middle of some low-level but endless argument. He left them to it.


(Continued here, despite a flurry of completely ungrounded lawsuits. Kindly go to the right hand column of this page to find what on most days is an up-to-date listing of links to all other published chapters of Uncle Buddy’s House™. A Republic Serial, produced by Larry Winchester.)

5 comments:

kathleenmaher said...

(My migraines make a mess.)
Despite Buddy's "whatever" mien, he's really honest and in a way even noble.
The dialogue here, all through this, but maybe especially here, is so good I'll savor it all night.

PS. The Skatalites? Every time I think I'm halfway recovered, you all of people, put up Dandy Livingston or "Simmer Down."
Where have you gone Dusty Springfield? Francoise Hardy? Wha'ppun?

Dan Leo said...

Kathleen, that ska is all for you, baby. I hope the Skatalites have done their bit to push that nasty migraine away...

I did think that "Simmer Down" was a nice choice after Buddy's sweat-inducing conversation on Hollywood Blvd with sexy Debbie.

Simmer down, rude boy!

kathleenmaher said...

Thanks you then, Dan. Especially because I could swear that was Bob Marley singing and the Skatalites playing the instruments. Though anytime music's the issue, I'm out of my depth.
In fact, I'm rarely not out of my depth. I would say always out, but Manny doesn't like me to disparage my dege-dege mind.
He's not home or he'd be fuming over my shoulder at how greedy I am, wanting to be smarter.

Manny said...

last time I had pineapple upside down cake was on an airplane--and that's when airplanes still served food.
(The coffee scene reminds me of Panic in Needle Park.)

Dan Leo said...

Kathleen, you got it, sister! I do believe that is the young Bob Marley singing lead on this record.

Manny, you got it too. Poor Liz is in that recovering-addict craving stage. Fatty food, sugar, caffeine, cigarettes -- bring it all on. Let's hope she adjusts her diet and tobacco consumption after she recovers a bit more.