(Click here to go to our previous chapter; the bewildered may go here to return to the first chapter of Uncle Buddy’s House©. “A sad commnentary on what passes for a serious novel these days.” -- J.J. Hunsecker, in The Daily Scientologist.)
The Mariner opened the door, onto a small dark room.
“We can have a little chap-chat. Joan has to do a little studying I’m afraid. She has an industrial on Monday.”
“Oh, great, I’m glad she’s getting work. What is it?”
He followed the Mariner into the room. And the Mariner flicked on a standing lamp with a Tiffany shade.
“Kevlar,” he said.
“Yes.” The Mariner pulled back sailcloth curtains from over a rain-streaming window looking out onto the grey beach and the grey ocean and sky. “She models a Kevlar bulletproof vest and says a few words about its efficacy.”
The little room had a 36-inch TV with a combination VCR/DVD player, a stereo, wooden shelves with books, videos, DVDs and CDs, a Ben Franklin stove and a wine box filled with firewood, a small wicker sofa, a glass-topped wicker coffee table.
“This is my bear’s cave.”
“Sit down, Buddy, sit down. Let me make a fire.”
Buddy sat down on the sofa while the Mariner set to work on the stove.
“I love this room. I hide myself in here and watch the international soccer matches for untold hours on end. Do you enjoy soccer? Le football?”
“Well, uh --”
“Oh, and the Tour de France. I absolutely barricade myself in here during the Tour de France...”
And so on and on while he lit kindling and loaded wood, and Buddy nodded and uh-huh’d as if he were paying attention but what Buddy was thinking was that there was no painless way he could get through this sober, but he couldn’t get drunk because he had to drive home, and drive home in bad weather. He would just have to tough it out on the Bloody Mary and maybe a glass of wine with lunch. It was now around eleven. When would lunch be served anyway? The rain pattered, the wind and the Mariner droned --
“...the vitamin variety mentioning that the film would be gengtacan. That’s exciting. Are you excited?”
“Are you excited?”
“I’m sorry -- I’m, uh -- what did you --”
“Are you excited about our film going to Cannes?”
“Oh. Cannes. Uh, yeah, sure --”
“I confess I’m excited. Have you been?”
“Been -- excited?”
“Have you been to Cannes?” projected the Mariner, now pronouncing “been” bean for good measure.
“Oh, uh, yeah, a long time ago I swung through there once or twice, when I was working on --”
“For the festival?”
“Uh, no, I’ve never been to the festival. I was working on this --”
“What a pity.”
“Right,” said Buddy.
“I myself have been to the Midi innumerable times, and to Cannes oh quite a few times, although I regret to say never for the festival, tant pis. Be that as it may I must say I prefer the port of Marseilles. If one wants the true bouillabaisse, one must go to Marseilles.”
The Mariner had finally got the fire going and now he stood up.
“Have you bean?” he said.
“To -- Marseilles?”
This was fucking agony.
“Uh, yeah. Just once.”
He came around the coffee table and joined Buddy on the sofa.
“And did you have the bouillabaisse?”
“Um, I -- think so --”
The Mariner sipped his own Bloody Mary, put it down, with a sigh, and then leaned suddenly toward Buddy.
“And where did you go?”
He cradled his right elbow in one hand and his chin in his other hand.
“Where did I go,” said Buddy.
“For the bouillabaisse.”
“Oh, uh --”
“You didn’t happen to go to a little place called Petit Pierre, did you?”
“I, uh, don’t think so, but -- this was a long time ago, and --”
The Mariner threw out his hands.
“Oh, Petit Pierre has been there for ages. Ages.”
“I, I -- don’t really --”
“Quel crime! It is the only place to go to for the bouillabaisse! Just a tiny little bistro on a frightfully obscure cobblestone alley by the docks, you must let me give you the address. And directions. Even the cab drivers don’t know where it is.”
“Well, thanks, but I don’t know if I’ll be going to Marseilles --”
“Oh, yes. Cannes.”
“So you are going?” The Mariner took a gulp of his Bloody Mary, then put it down again. “To the festival.”
“I think so, yeah.”
“Yeah, he’s the director after all.”
“Harvey’ll probably go, yeah, at least one of us, anyway --”
“And Milton I suppose.”
“Milt Dickens? Well, maybe, if the money boys will spring for him, and if his schedule --”
“And dear Sally?”
“Uh, same with Sally, if Sony comes up with the bread, and uh, you know, we’re still pretty low-budget, so --”
And, no, motherfucker, let’s get one thing straight, there is no fucking way in the world you are coming to Cannes with us.
“I somehow feel certain that we will garner a prize or two for this film,” said the Mariner, holding an imaginary pipe.
“Well, no --”
“But I am certain.”
“Well, ya see, Stephen, the thing is we’re not going to be in competition. We’re lucky even to be in the festival, because we were late on the deadline. But the Sony boys pulled some strings, and, anyway, we’re just gonna show the film there, you know, try to build up some word of mouth, maybe pick up some more overseas distribution -- but we won’t be up for any prizes.”
“Oh. How disappointing.”
“Yeah, well --”
Buddy’s Bloody Mary had somehow evaporated, fuck it. And the Mariner noticed Buddy noticing this.
“Would you like another drink, Buddy?”
“Well, I would, but maybe I should wait for lunch.”
“Oh, lunch won’t be for at least another hour. Perhaps some sherry. I have an excellent fino.” He fino’d his breath into Buddy’s face, and his breath was not good. “I also have what I hope will prove to be a not indifferent Sancerre -- Joan told me you were partial to a good Sancerre, no? But I find there is nothing like a good cold glass of sherry to stimulate the appetite and hone the palate. And wasn’t it Sir John -- Falstaff that is -- who said, if memory serves, ‘If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I should teach them would be to forswear thin potations, and addict themselves to sack’. Sack you see was what they called sherry in the days of the Bard --”
“Okay,” said Buddy, “I’ll have a glass, thanks.”
Especially if it’ll shut you the fuck up for one minute.
This time Buddy didn’t accompany the Mariner into the cuisine. And while he sat there his cellphone rang. He took it out of his jacket pocket, and Cordelia’s name was on the screen. He flipped the phone open.
“Hello,” he said, quietly.
“Hi,” she said. “It’s me.”
“I know. Listen, uh, I can’t really talk now.”
“Is everything okay?”
“Well, uh --”
“Buddy, what’s the matter?”
He whispered: “I’m at your father’s place.”
“Oh my God, you went. I didn’t think you would.”
“Neither did I.”
“Is he there right now?”
“No. I’m sitting alone here in the --”
Now she was whispering.
“Where is he?”
“In the kitchen.”
“Is he making some of his famous Bloody Marys?”
From where he sat Buddy couldn’t see into the kitchen but in his mind’s eye he saw the Mariner tilting his great head towards the den with quivering pricked-up ears.
“Look,” Buddy said, in a more-or-less normal voice, “uh, Heather, I’ll call you back, okay?”
“Buddy,” she whispered.
“What?” Now he was whispering again.
“I went to that bar but I didn’t make out with that guy. The first A.D. guy.”
“Oh, good,” Buddy said in his “normal” voice.
“But that doesn’t mean I won’t,” she whispered.
Buddy heard the Mariner’s approaching clog-tread.
“Okay, great, Heather, I’ll call you back later today.”
“Look, really call me back. I want to hear all about it,” she whispered.
“Great. Will do. ‘Bye, Heather.”
Buddy folded up the phone and put it back in his jacket pocket.
The Mariner came back in with two sherries, not in the quaint peasant tumblers he had used at his party, and not in sherry glasses, but in regular wineglasses, and they were full almost to the brim.
“Heather,” said Buddy. “Always something up.”
“Yes,” said the Mariner, curtseying down to the sofa again and handing Buddy one of the goblets. “And how is the lovely Heather?”
“Uh, fine. Fine.”
“Still working with you on the, uh, post production.”
“Oh, yeah, Heather’s with us all the way through a project.”
“And she’ll be on the next one as well?”
“Uh, yeah, I guess so, unless she gets a better offer.”
“How is the sherry?”
Buddy tasted it.
Which it was, surprisingly. Or, no, not so surprisingly.
And, not surprisingly at fucking all, the Mariner proceeded to go through the whole wine-head dumb-show, swirling, gazing, sniffing, tasting, closing his eyes, inhaling and exhaling, gradually re-opening his glazed eyes. A lick of the lips, a cock of the head, then --
“’Tis good, but -- perhaps a trifle too -- steely. Don’t you think?”
No. But --
“Yeah,” said Buddy. “A little. But not too much. I like it.”
The Mariner sniffed and tasted again. He furrowed his brow, and for the first time Buddy noticed a resemblance to Cordelia, fuck him. He looked all ready to say something else jackassed about the sherry, but instead he abruptly turned to Buddy and said:
“Are you warm enough?”
“Yeah,” said Buddy. “I’m good.”
What a fucking weirdo.
“I know sometimes this house gets slightly dampish,” said the Mariner. “The price one pays for living on the beach. But I love it. I simply must live near the sea. I love it. Even when the rain comes shattering in like this. I love it. I must live by the sea. Perhaps it is my Hibernian ancestry, but I simply must live where I can hear the crash and din of the waves. I must...” and so on and on...
Buddy sipped his sherry. In fact the old den was pretty cozy now, and the thing to do was just to stretch out this sherry and if the Mariner broached the Cordelia issue just shut the motherfucker down politely but firmly. And meanwhile he bore-assed on:
“...love a seadog, in daze finis lactic. Forster falange, Verizon. Yngwe Malmsteen goat.”
But the thing was, even besides his bad breath, the dude himself smelled rank.
“Fa, fa falayga, flop the choppy cheese.”
The heat from the stove brought it out, this sort of big wet dog smell --
“Unman, unman alone against a godsawful cheese --”
“Badagonda, magondo muh goat?”
Yeah, whatever -- wait, it was those socks he had on --
“Ma ma magondo?”
Right, those Hemingwayan socks, in the clogs; the socks had gotten wet when the Mariner had gone out into the rain to greet Buddy and incidentally Deirdre --
They couldn’t have been clean when he put them on this morning, not and still smell like that -- like that -- what was it?
“Dee up taseema goat, Buddy.”
“Hmm,” replied Buddy, and now he had it -- wet winter days at St. Stanislaus's and that thick cloakroom smell of girls’ woolen leggings --
“Come come, humor me, old man.”
“Uh, sure,” said Buddy. Cloakroom...
“Um -- well, I suppose so.”
“Splendid. Let’s go -- we’ll take our sherry.”
“Um -- where?”
“Just out back.”
Hold on -- was this the game of frisbee he had threatened?
“I don’t know, Stephen -- I mean it’s raining pretty hard out there.”
“We’ll take the umbrella.”
“Well, that would be -- awkward, wouldn’t it?”
“I’ll give you the umbrella, old man. Never use one myself.”
“But -- still --”
“Just for a minute.”
“Uh-huh,” said Buddy, and then all at once it surfaced, in all its glory: “Oh. Your -- boat.”
They were going out to look at his boat, in the fucking rain?
“Yes, my boat,” said the Mariner, making an are you quite mad face.
“Uh, okay,” said Buddy.
The Mariner heaved himself up from the sofa.
“Come, and don’t forget your sherry.”
“Okay,” said Buddy.
(Continued here. Not to do so would be cruel.)
(Please refer to the right-hand column of this page to find what sometimes is an up-to-date listing of links to all other published chapters of Uncle Buddy’s House™. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Broderick Crawford as Buddy Best and Vincent Price as the Ancient Mariner. A Republic Pictures Production, produced and directed by Raoul Walsh.)