Tuesday, January 26, 2010

“Uncle Buddy’s House”, Chapter 34: cigarettes and coffee, bourbon and beer...and Diet Coke...

Buddy Best, Hollywood hack and aging ladies’ man, has somehow managed almost to have an affair with Cordelia, the actress daughter of the “Ancient Mariner”, the ham actor who has alienated Buddy’s wife’s affections; let us rejoin Buddy as he returns to his house on North Ivar Avenue in Hollywood, California, on a warm spring evening in that faraway year of 2003...

(Click here to go to our preceding episode, or click here to return to the first chapter of Uncle Buddy’s House©. “If The National Enquirer were a novel, then this would be it.” -- J.J. Hunsecker, in Family Circle.)


It was a long workday, and Buddy didn’t get home till after nine. Liz was sitting at the kitchen table with her laptop and coffee mug and a cigarette. Ming was curled up asleep on the table.

“Hey, Liz.”

“Hi, Dad.” She stubbed the cigarette out into an ashtray full of butts. “Did you eat? I could make you something.”

“No, I’m good, I went to Hoy’s with the crew, I should have called.” He came over and kissed her on the cheek. “What about you?”

“I had a tempeh sandwich. There’s some coffee that’s not too ancient if you want some.”

“No, thanks. Working on your book?”

“Sort of. Trying to get started.”

“Great. Where’s Big Phil?”

“He’s out somewhere, enjoying his bachelor life.”

“Good.”

Buddy glanced at the fridge but didn’t go to it. He sat down across from Liz. She tapped out something and then looked up.

“So how’s work?” she said.

“Good. Things are happening with this movie we’re in post
on --”

“This is like, Triggerwoman Something?”

“It was, yeah, Triggerwoman II, but now it’s -- uh -- we need a new title.”

He rubbed Ming’s head. She woke up and showed him her crotch.

“So what is it that’s happening?” said Liz.

“Well, the Sony guys saw a cut today with music, not the full-blown score because we need more money to do it the way the composer wants to do it --”

“Uh-huh --”

“And, it’s like pulling teeth with these motherfuckers, but now they’re gonna up the music budget, and also they’re open to a domestic theatrical release, instead of, you know, straight to video and cable --”

“Cool.”

“Yeah, but dig this, first we’re gonna try to go to some festivals, maybe Cannes if we can finish in time --”

“Oh my God, Cannes --”

“I know, can you believe it? I’ve never even been to a festival --”

“Oh my God, I want to see this movie.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty good for the crap we do.”

Buddy took off his glasses, folded them and put them in his shirt pocket. Beer beer beer. Or whiskey whiskey whiskey. Either one. Or both --

“When is the Cannes festival?”

“May, middle of May.”

“Wow, will you be ready by then?”

“It’s gonna be tight, but we’re used to working quick. What we’re not used to is having the budget to try to do it right. I mean they’re even giving us some money to do some CGI effects on the action scenes --”

“Whoa, look at you --”

“Yeah, it’s nuts. We used to do post in a couple of weeks, now it’s turning into this big fucking deal.”

“And aren’t you guys making another movie this summer?”

“Yeah, August, supposedly --”

He touched Ming’s belly, she resented that, got up, leapt from the table and left the room.

“So, you’re just as busy as a bee,” said Liz.

“Yeah, what the hell, it keeps me out of the pool halls --”

She caught him glancing longingly at the refrigerator.

“Dad, you can have a beer, if that’s what you want. It doesn’t bother me.”

“Okay, to tell the truth I could use one.”

He started to get up but she beat him to it, waving him back down with one hand. She opened up the fridge and took out an Anchor Steam.

“Bad news. It’s the last one, Dad.”

“That’s better than none.”

She popped the cap, got out one of his big beer glasses, poured it in, and brought it over to him. She was taking this housekeeping thing seriously.

“Thanks, kiddo.”

He took a drink and damn it was good. She sat down and lit a cigarette with her Bic lighter.

“I should have stocked up more for you. But you drink different brands, right?”

“Oh, yeah, I like to mix it up. But don’t worry about that, Liz, I can buy my own beer.”

“I don’t mind. If you tell me what you want I can get it for you.”

“Yeah, but half the time I don’t know what I want till I’m in the shop. And the AA gang probably wouldn’t like you hanging out in liquor stores.”

“That’s true,” said Liz. “Um, Dad --”

“What?”

“Joan was here. With -- Stephen.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. They took Deirdre out to dinner.”

“Ah. How was Deirdre?”

“She was -- Deirdre.”

Buddy didn’t say anything right away. Somehow during the course of the day he had managed to forget all about the Deirdre situation. What an asshole he was.

“Is she, uh, moving in with them tonight?”

“I don’t know. I think that’s one of the things that they’re supposedly talking about over dinner.”

“Right.”

Buddy fell quiet again.

“It’s fucked up, isn’t?” said Liz.

“Yeah,” said Buddy.

A couple of seconds ticked past.

“I guess there’s nothing, like, you can do, right? If Joan wants to take her.”

Buddy looked at his beer and didn’t say anything.

“Dad?”

He was quiet for a few more seconds, then --

“Joan’s her mother, I’m only the stepfather,” he said. “No, forget it. It’s tough for Deirdre, but, fuck it, life is tough. And maybe it’s better she’s with her mother.”

“Give me a fucking break,” said Liz.

She sat back, smoking, and Buddy wanted one of her cigarettes, even though they were only Camel Lights.

The house phone on the wall rang and Liz popped right up to grab it.

“Hello,” she said. She listened for a few seconds, smoking her cigarette, and then said, “Oh, look, uh, Mr. Best is here right now but he prefers not to take unsolicited phone calls, so, uh, sorry. Yeah. Okay. Sorry.” She hung it up. “Fucking telemarketers,” she said. “I hate them.”

“They’re just trying to make a buck,” said Buddy.

“I still hate them.” She stood there by the phone, smoking. “How’s your beer?”

“Good.”

“You want a whiskey or something?”

“What are you trying to do, send me to AA?”

“No, I just thought, you know, long day and all.”

“I’m cool with the beer right now,” said Buddy, although come to think of it a bourbon would be nice.

“So this Stephen guy is weird, isn’t he?” said Liz, her voice going a little high.

“Oh, you met him.”

“Yeah. I’m gonna have a Diet Coke. This coffee is getting to me.” She went to the fridge, took out the jeroboam of Diet Coke. “What’s his deal, anyway?” she said. “This Stephen?”

“His deal? He’s a retard.”

“I could tell that. So that’s just it? He’s a retard?”

“Yeah, that about sums it up.”

With her cigarette between her lips she poured herself a good tall stiff one of the Diet Coke.

“Women,” she said. She put the bottle back in the fridge and slammed the door. Taking the cigarette out of her mouth she took her soda glass in both hands and took a drink. She breathed once, twice, and then drank again. “What a stupid cunt,” she said. She looked at Buddy. “Joan.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes, Joan. What’s her problem?”

“How the hell would I know?”

She started pacing around with her glass of Diet Coke.

“Women are fucked-up, man.” Pacing. “Fucked up.”

More pacing.

“Hey, Liz, sit the fuck down, you’re making me nervous.”

“Sorry.” She sat back down, drawing her legs up Indian-style. She stubbed out her cigarette thoroughly. “Well,” she said, “he’s a retard and she’s a retard. But, Dad --”

“Yeah --”

“Where are you going with this Cordelia thing?”

Whoa, snuck up on him.

“I’m not going anywhere with it.”

“Are you going to continue -- seeing her?”

“I -- I’m not really seeing her now, Liz. It -- we -- anyway, she just got a movie job, she’s going on location for about six weeks.”

“Oh. That’s good. I mean for her that’s good. When does she leave?”

“Tonight. She already left.”

“Oh. Where to?”

“Canada. Vancouver and around there.”

“Oh. That’s really great for her. Is it much of a part?”

“It’s the female lead.”

“Oh my God, that’s so great. Is it a big movie?”

“Nah, it’s like the crap we do, except there’s probably a few more mil in the budget, a vampire picture. But Christopher Lambert’s starring in it.”

“Oh I love him.” She lit up another cigarette. At this rate Liz would be dead of cancer at thirty. “That’s really great for Cordelia,” she said, exhaling. What the hell, one addiction at a time.

“Yeah, It’s a good break,” said Buddy.

She looked at her computer screen for a bit.

“Did you set it up for her, Dad?”

“I helped her get the audition.”

“Uh huh.”

She tapped something on her keyboard.

“Listen, Liz --”

She tapped something more and then she looked at him.

“Yes?”

“There’s nothing going on with her and me. It was just -- I don’t know, things got a little out of hand.”

“I’ll say.”

Buddy blinked a couple of times, defensively, and then realized he was doing it and took a drink of beer and that was the last of the beer, fuck it. Of course he did have whiskey, and there were a couple of bottles of red wine on the rack, but...

“So, do you like her?”

Buddy took a beat here.

“Yeah, I like her. I mean, what’s not to like?”

“But I mean do you really like her?”

“Liz, what did I just finish -- there’s nothing --”

“You’re in love with her.”

“What?”

“You’re in love. I saw the way you were looking at her.”

“All right, you’re really being a woman now.”

“What do you expect me to be, a man?”

“Okay, let’s just talk about something else.”

“You’re in love with her.”

“Oh, fuck you, Liz.”

“Dad, I can’t believe you said ‘fuck you’ to me.”

“Sorry.”

“You are in love.”

“Okay. Just for that I’m having a bourbon.”

“Let me!” She got up. “On the rocks?”

“Yeah, with just a little water. Thanks.”

“Are you mad at me?”

“No.”

“Good.”

Neither of them said anything while she fixed the drink. She put it in front of him.

“Thanks, Liz.”

“You’re welcome, Dad.”

She sat down again in her chair, drawing her legs up. She smoked her cigarette and looked at Buddy.

“But I still can’t believe you went to bed with Joan’s boyfriend’s daughter. That is really fucked-up, Dad.”

“Yeah, well -- anyway, we -- um -- she and I --”

“What?” said Liz.

“Never mind.”

“Don’t do that. I hate that when people do that. What?”

“We didn’t -- uh -- have -- like --”

“You didn’t fuck her?”

“No. I didn’t.”

“But that’s only because Philip barged in, right?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess.”

“What do you mean, you guess?”

Okay, he wasn’t going to go into the whole searching-for-a-condom plot twist.

“So in other words you might as well have,” said Liz.

“Might-as-well-have isn’t quite the same as doing it. At least not in my book.”

She did something on her computer and then closed the lid. She looked at Buddy.

“Well, who am I to be critical, right? Little Miss Fuck-Up. You want to watch a movie, Dad?”

“You’re not a fuck-up, Liz.”

She stubbed out the cigarette, in the ashtray with about twenty other stubs.

“Dad, by any reasonable definition I’m a fuck-up.”

“No --”

“No, Dad, but listen, that doesn’t mean I have to keep being a fuck-up all my life, right?” She looked right at him. “Right?”

“Right,” said Buddy.

“Okay then,” she said. “Now let’s watch a movie. Do you want to?”

“You know me, I always want to watch a movie. What do you want to see?”

“Let’s just rent something trashy.”

“That’s good for me,” said Buddy.


(Click here to go to our next thrilling episode.)

(Hie thee hence to the right hand column of this page to find what might be an up-to-date list of links to all other previously broadcast episodes of Uncle Buddy’s House™, as aired on the Dumont Radio Network, Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 8 PM, starring William Bendix as Buddy Best.)

4 comments:

kathleenmaher said...

Great pacing, Larry, and such nimble weaving in and out.

Dan Leo said...

Thanks, Kathleen -- from you this is indeed a compliment!

Manny said...

I wish I could drop in at Buddy's house at the end of a day and just hang out.
Oh, come to think of it, I just did. Better go now. Wifey will be mad.

Dan Leo said...

Hey, stop in any time, Manny!