(Go here to see our previous chapter, or click here to see the beginning of this “seething, sultry, sex-soaked soaper” -- J.J. Hunsecker, in The Ladies’ Home Companion.)
A few days later Philip showed Buddy his new work on Return To Death Island Part III. It was good. They worked together on it one more day and that was pretty much it. Buddy told Philip that he was going to give him a screen credit and the Writer’s Guild minimum for a polish (less what he had already paid him) and Philip was happy.
In the meantime Liz cleaned up the house and the garden, but something had to be done about her stuff in Milwaukee. All her clothes, her stereo, her books, etc. Philip offered to help her move the stuff back home, and the day after he and Buddy finished the script Philip flew out to Milwaukee with Liz.
Harvey and Buddy had a talk after Harvey read the Death Island III rewrite. Harvey had a few minor suggestions, all of which Buddy agreed to, and --
“You’re on a roll, pal,” said Harvey. “It’s great. Even better than Triggerwoman II.”
“Thanks. Philip deserves a lot of credit, too.”
“I had this wild idea.”
“We’re all agreed Triggerwoman II is too good to just be another sequel.”
“So what we should do is make it a stand-alone pic, with a new title.”
“Why didn’t I think of that?”
“But wait, it gets better. What also I think we should do is make Return to Death Island Part III not a sequel to Return to Death Island Part II but a sequel to the as-yet-to-be-renamed Triggerwoman II.”
Buddy needed two seconds to take this in, and then he said, “Good idea.”
“I mean, it could work. The characters aren’t that much different. You got the ballsy but sexy tough girl, the raffish soldier-of-fortune guy -- and I’m pretty sure we can get Sally and Milt to play the leads again.”
“Right, right, all we gotta do is tweak it a little and change the names.”
“Y’know what else I’m thinking, Buddy, we get some good buzz from Triggerwoman II or whatever we’re calling it we just might get a mil or two more from Sony for this next one.”
“That’d be cool. I’d love to use some of that for our above-the line talent.”
“Dig it,” said Harvey. “Get a really cool heavy this time.”
“Just what I was thinking,” said Buddy.
“Who ya got in mind?”
“If we get some more dough? Shit, I’d fucking love like -- you know who I’d love? The guy’s supposed to be foreign, right? Fuckin’ Alain Delon.”
“Love that guy. Or like Franco Nero?”
“Very cool,” said Buddy. “Or Chris Lambert maybe? Just saw him the other day over at Carlos & Charlie’s, he’s getting ready to do something with Joe Morrow, with that chick what’s-her-name, the one from ER?”
“Not any more, she just broke her leg in a riding accident.”
“Yeah, it was in Variety, she was practicing riding for this picture they’re gonna do, some kind of Canadian western vampire movie, and she fell the fuck off the horse, so now Joe’s gotta replace her like this week.”
“That’s tough,” said Buddy.
“Yeah,” said Harvey. “But even if we don’t get more dough, if we could try for Bob Forster again maybe, or Mike Parks, those guys can do foreign --”
“I’m cool with either of those guys.”
“Dig. Well, whoever we get, at least it ain’t gonna be --”
Harvey let it trail off, but Buddy said:
“It ain’t gonna be the fuckin’ Mariner.”
“Dig it,” said Harvey. “I’ll get Marlene to get scripts to all those guys’ agents.“ New subject, any subject but the Ancient Mariner: “So, ya wanta give this one to Iggy again?”
“Sure," said Buddy, "if he wants to do it.”
“Okay. Just thought maybe you might want to get back to, you know, directing --”
“Nah, not if Iggy wants it,” said Buddy. “So what’s our new franchise title?”
“Fuck if I know,” said Harvey.
“Okay, I’ll try and think of something.”
“Cool. So,” Harvey lowered his voice a bit, “what’s up with you and the women around here? Are you and Debbie boning?”
“No?” Harvey lowered his voice even more. “Are you and Marlene boning?”
“For real?” he said, back to his normal voice.
“I mean not that it’s any of my business.”
“No boning, Harve.”
“No boning at all? I mean --”
“No. No boning. At all.”
“’Cause they’ve sure been acting a little weird around you, Buddy.”
“Yeah, I know. What about you?”
“What ‘what’ about me?”
“I dunno. How is Phoebe?”
Phoebe was Harvey’s wife, although she wasn’t Heather’s mother. Harvey also had a couple of kids by Phoebe, boy and a girl, eleven or thirteen years old, in that range.
“Still going to that Asian place, Harve?”
“Yeah, you know me,” said Harvey, “creature of habit. It’s nice. I’ve been going to the same girl for months now. She’s very nice, goes to hairdressing school.”
“Do you think -- do you think Phoebe knows you go there?”
“Christ, not that I know of.”
“So you guys -- you know, you get along okay?”
“Yeah. We have our ups and downs. But, all in all -- Phoebe’s great, she really is.”
“What about -- oh, never mind.”
“What about sex?”
“About once every three months, usually after we’ve gone out and got a little loaded.”
“So that’s uh, you know --”
“Buddy, come on, we’ve been married a long time. Once every three months is good.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“I mean, this is the real world we’re living in here, right?”
“So I hear.”
“Thank God for the Asian place, though,” said Harvey.
“Yeah. But what about Phoebe?”
“What about her?”
“What about her sex life?” said Buddy.
“Christ -- maybe she’s got an Asian place too,” said Harvey.****
Next day, two dreaded meetings -- Buddy had deliberately scheduled them for the same day: first his accountant and then his divorce lawyer. He asked them both the same basic thing, to please help him not go to the poorhouse. The accountant told Buddy he should talk to his divorce lawyer about that. This was the same dude who had handled Buddy’s divorce from Madge.
“You gotta help me out here, Dave,” said Buddy to his lawyer.
“You got a great case, Bud. Don’t worry about it. She left you for another man.”
"I just don't want to lose the house."
"I'll bear that in mind."
"She can have every other fucking thing."
Dave pretended to write something on a legal pad.
"’Every other fucking thing.’ But from what you've told me your accountant tells you, you don't really have a lot of other assets."
"Well, you know the movie business, up and down. Always hoping for that elusive out-of-left field hit --”
“Yeah. So who’s Joan’s lawyer?”
“Beats me. She said she was gonna get one, but I haven’t heard from her since she took off for Europe with this idiot.”
“Do you know when she’s coming back?”
“She hasn’t even been in touch with Deirdre?”
“She sent her a postcard last week. But it didn’t say when she was coming back.”
“O-kay,” said Dave.
Buddy looked out the window. They were on the thirty-third floor and you could see the Pacific Ocean from up here. Which was depressing somehow. Not so much the ocean itself but seeing it from up here was depressing. But then maybe it was just the
“Ground control to Major Bud.”
“Oh -- I guess there’s no way I’ll get to keep Deirdre, right?”
“I doubt it. Not if Joan wants her.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
Buddy looked at the ocean for a bit more. In some ways Dave was a weird guy for a lawyer. For instance he knew how to keep quiet sometimes, and he did this now. But then of course Buddy was paying him for his time. But what sort of a maniac chose to become a divorce lawyer anyway? It was like deciding to be a proctologist. Or a mortician. Or a hit man?
“What’re you thinking about?” said Dave, finally.
“Oh, nothing,” lied Buddy.
“Okay. So, soon as Joan gets back, give me a call and we’ll see if we can get this thing rolling.”
“Right,” said Buddy. “Oh, by the way, my son Philip is probably going to call you. He split from his wife, too.”
“When it rains it pours,” said Dave.
“Yeah. You picked a good field, Dave.”
“Don’t I know it.”
But a funny thing happened as Buddy rode the shiny metal elevator down thirty-three stories through this ugly building. He finally realized that he was glad that Joan had fucked off. He didn’t know why it had taken him so long to come to this. Maybe he hadn’t become glad until recently or until just now, maybe deep down he had been glad about it all along but was just too stupid and humiliated to realize it, but now he did. Joan gone: not a bad thing. Joan gone: good thing.
But unfortunately this one good thing was going to mean a whole fuckload of bad things: the divorce and the lawyers, and the endless fistfuls of money down the toilet and the thousands of hours of wasted tortured time dragged screaming out of his life and all the unknown but pre-ordained hosts of demons just lying in wait to leap out and sink their fangs into his flesh in the months and years ahead as a result of Joan’s fucking off with this moron, and -- really fucking depressing -- the Deirdre thing. Joan would take her, even though or because Deirdre and Buddy got along about a thousand times better than Deirdre and Joan did, and even though -- oh, fuck it --
He didn’t want to think about it.****
The day had been shot to hell, it was too late to get anything done at the office, so Buddy went home. He swam back and forth in his pool (which even Buddy noticed was clean now, and he did realize that Liz had apparently done something to make it be clean) until he was good and tired, then he drank a lot of bottled water. Health régime out of the way, he put on a t-shirt, went into the kitchen and emptied a bottle of beer into a big glass. The kitchen phone rang. He picked it up and said hello, but whoever was on the other end didn’t say anything.
“Fuck you,” said Buddy, and he pressed the button.
The phone immediately rang again. He thought about letting the voice mail take it, but he couldn’t resist. He pressed the talk button.
“Hey, fuck you, pal, and your bitch mother.”
It was Deirdre.
“Oh, sorry, babe. I just got this weird phone call. Somebody called and didn’t say anything.”
“Oh; did you star-69?”
“I didn’t have time to, ‘cause you called.”
“Oh, well, too late now.”
“Yeah. Fuck it. What’s up?”
“Can Trish stay over tonight?”
“Don’t worry, we’re not gonna have sex.”
“All right, all right --”
“So it’s cool.”
“Sure, if it’s cool with her parents.”
“It’s just her mom, her parents are divorced, and her mom wants her out of the house because she has a date.”
“Her mom has a date?”
“Yeah,” she said. “Who do you think called you?”
“It was probably Mom.”
“You think so?”
“She’s weird enough. She probably wanted to talk to me but not to you.”
“Calling from France?”
“Maybe. Or maybe she’s back.”
“She wouldn’t come back and not call.”
“Duh. That’s what I’m saying. Maybe she’s back and she did call, but she didn’t want to talk to you. Or she just wanted to yank your crank.”
“Look, don’t worry about it, Uncle Bud. Don’t try to read Mom’s mind, ‘cause she doesn’t have a mind.”
“Right. Good point.”
“Okay, look, dude, I have another call so I’ll see you in a little while.”
Buddy took the phone and his beer out back and sat down in his chair. He thought for a bit, and then he called the office and got Marlene to give him the Ancient Mariner’s home phone number. He dialed it, and after what seemed like seven or eight rings he was about to disconnect when an answering machine came on, and this was what it said:
“Hello, this is Stephen. I am not at home at this particular point in time, but, after the beep, please leave a brief message, including your full name, your telephone number and area code, and the time and date at which you are calling.”
And Buddy was all set to leave a brief message as soon as the thing beeped, but the Mariner wasn’t through yet. After a pause his voice continued:
“And my message to you is: Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. And [a chuckle] -- dance like nobody’s watching. [chuckling] Ciao.”
Buddy pressed the button.
The man was wrong. And just when you thought you knew how wrong he was he came up with a whole fucking new way to be wrong.
Buddy pressed the talk button and hit the redial. He sipped his beer and listened to the whole thing again and he made a mental note to get everyone at the office to call up and listen to it and leave fake messages.
When the beep finally beeped again Buddy said, “Hi, Stephen, Buddy Best here. Listen, if you’re back and if Joan is there --”
A girl had picked up on the other end.
“Hi,” said Buddy. “This is --”
“I know, I was listening. I was screening the calls. My dad doesn’t like me to answer the phone.”
“Oh --” that sort of humid voice -- “this is, uh -- Ophelia?”
“Ah, right. King Lear,” said Buddy. “The good daughter.”
“That’s me,” she said.
(What fine mess will Buddy get himself into now? Get an inkling in our next exciting chapter. Please feel free to consult the right hand column of this page for an often up-to-date listing of links to all other available episodes of Uncle Buddy’s House™, recently snubbed by the Nobel Prize committee as “completely lacking in moral uplift”.)