“Hey, what up, Dad.”
“Hey, what up.”
This was Buddy’s son, Philip. What was up was Buddy was drinking a beer and thinking pizza and listening to La Bohème.
“Dad, I’m leaving Cynthia.”
What Buddy was thinking was “About fucking time,” but what he said was:
“Okay,‘Oh, that’s too bad, Phil.’”
“No it’s not. It’s good.”
Buddy picked up the remote and lowered the volume on the CD player.
“She’s a C-U-Next-Tuesday, Dad.”
“Oh, a c-word.”
“Royal. A royal c-word,” said Philip.
“Well, all right, so I agree with you.”
“How come the hell you never told me this?”
Buddy took a beat here.
“Someday maybe you’ll have a son.”
“Yeah, God forbid, but you know, someday you might knock some trollop up and have a son, and if you do, then some day this son may have a wife who is a total, uh, c-word. And then you will find out how easy it is to tell your son his wife is a c-word.”
“You said she was a total c-word, Dad.”
“I stand by that.”
“Speaking of, you heard from Joan?”
“Well, couple days ago she called to say she was going to Brittany with this dude --”
“Yeah,” said Buddy. “They’re off on a romantic interlude.”
“Fuckin’ hell.” Joan was Buddy’s wife, but not Philip’s mother; Joan had left Buddy about a week-and-a-half ago, for another man, a boring man, an asshole -- “Where is Brittany anyway?” asked Philip.
“France,” said Buddy. “It’s like the New Jersey of France.”
“She take Deirdre?”
“No, Deirdre’s still here.”
“Oh. That’s weird,” said Philip. “But cool.”
Deirdre was Joan’s daughter, Buddy’s stepdaughter, she was fourteen, or was it fifteen --
“So, but, like, is Joan gonna take her when she gets back,
“Oh, I’m sure she will.”
“Oh,” said Philip.
“Yeah,” said Buddy.
Philip was -- how the fuck old was he now? Buddy started to do the math. Okay, he -- Buddy -- was (fuck) fifty-two; he had knocked up Madge (his first wife) when he was twenty-four, so that made Phil about --
“Um, listen, Dad, I don’t want to impose, but --”
“Um, I was wondering if I could, like, uh --”
“-- um, be like a real loser and ask you if I could, uh --”
“Move back in?”
“Sure, come on over. Glad to have you.”
“For real? I wouldn’t be like imposing?”
“Not like imposing at all. Where are you?”
“Hollywood and Vine, daddy-o. Just passed the lovely and historic Pantages Theatre, dude, and I can almost smell the familial manse.”*
(Buddy’s house was on North Ivar above Yucca. It was a Mission/Tudor in Belgian brick, and had been built for the comedian Joe E. Brown in 1931. Right down the block was the Parva Sed Apta, where Nathanael West supposedly had written The Day of the Locust, which Buddy intended someday to get around to reading.)
“Yeah, right,” said Buddy. “Listen, pick up some beer on the way. Good beer.”
Buddy sat there and considered tidying up a bit, but fuck it. Philip was a world-class slob from way back. He wouldn’t even notice.****
“Hey, turns out I wasn’t kidding about smelling the familial manse. What the fuck, Dad, you hitting the skids or what?”
Okay, so he noticed.
“Well, y’know, Phil, it’s not so much the place is messy, it’s just that Joan kept it so clean. You know.”
“I know you’re hitting the fucking skids. She’s only been gone, what, a week?”
“It’s been more than a week. I think.”
“Fuck it,” said Philip, “let’s have a beer. Oh, you’ve got one. I’ll have a beer.”
“I’ll have another one.”
“Fucking drunk. What you got to eat?”
“My good friend Mama Maria is making us a pizza for delivery as we speak.”
“You my dog, dad.”
They settled down with their fresh Anchor Steams in the living room, Buddy in his rocker, Philip on the sofa, Rodolfo singing to Mimì, “E como vivo? Vivo --”
Philip lit up a cigarette, he had a nice little Zippo and he had that clicking thing down cold.
“So where’s Deirdre?”
“I don’t know. Ballet class? Violin lesson?”
“Cool.” Ming the cat came into the room, jumped on the coffee table and stared at Philip. He patted her head. “Hi, Ming. Hi, Ming. Hi, Mingle. And how’s she taking this, uh, you know --”
“How is Ming taking it?”
“No, Dad, not the cat. I meant Deirdre. How’s she --”
“Okay, I guess. I mean she hasn’t slit her wrists or anything.”
"That's a good sign,” said Philip. He started batting at Ming’s head with his hand and Ming batted back with her paw.
“So -- does Deirdre, I mean, does she --”
“Does she want to stay here?”
“I think so. I don’t think she wants to give up her room. Y’know?”
“Dig it. I can dig that. I’ve been there.”
Ming got tired of batting and curled up on the coffee table.
The music played, and then Philip said:
“So, ya getting any work done with all this shit?”
“Ah, yeah -- I’m finishing up a rewrite on this one script, and we’re in post on this last thing --”
“This last one?”
“Yeah, I think it might be.”
“What’s it called?”
“Triggerwoman III. No, what am I saying, Triggerwoman II. Two two two.”
“Triggerwoman, that was like Selma Blair and Billy Zane, right?"
“Yeah, except we couldn’t get them for the sequel, so we went with Sally Fenster and Milt Dickens.”
“Yeah, and a hell of a lot cheaper than Selma and Billy would’ve been, that’s for sure.”
“You direct it?”
“Nah, Iggy did.”
“When you gonna direct again, mofo?”
“Hey, it’s already so much work writing the shit and producing -- why not let a young guy like Iggy learn the trade?”
“In other words you’re too lazy, dude.”
“Well, I’m definitely lazy, but then again, the kind of pictures we do, I mean, you don’t exactly have to be Ingmar Bergman, y’know?”
Buddy almost said that he would direct again one of these days, maybe, but he paused and then he didn’t, and then he couldn’t think of anything else to say, or at least anything he wanted to say.
“Cool,” said Philip.
More music. Waiting for Mama Maria’s.
“I got fired. From my job.”
Buddy nodded. He wasn’t quite sure what it was that Philip had been doing for a living, except that it had something to do with computers, he thought.
“So?” said Philip.
“I don’t know how you could do it, that nine-to-five shit.”
“But I got no money.”
“Oh, well, I guess that’s a problem.”
“So -- fuck it, find something, something, you know, you like to do --”
“Yeah, but the other problem is the market is saturated with like ten million fucking art school majors --”
“And I don’t know how to do anything else except that computer shit and I hate it.”
Buddy was getting bored with this; he had his own problems.
“Yo, Dad, let me work for you.”
“I don’t know. Anything. Y’know, I never wanted to take advantage of nepotism, but after five or six years out there in the work force I’m ready to.”
“I don’t blame you. I’ll see what I can do. Only thing is we’re not going into production again until -- August? I can probably get you something to do then, but --”
(The current date was April 2, 2003. There was a war going on in Iraq, but Buddy and Philip were both wrapped up in their own personal difficulties.)
“Cool,” said Philip. “What’s this next one gonna be.”
“Return to Death Island, Part III.”
“Yeah, but like I say, that’s not for a while, so -- ah, fuck it, listen, listen to this --”
It was Kiri te Kanawa, singing, “Si. Mi chiamano Mimì.”
And the both of them shut up for a while.****
(Is Buddy depressed because his wife left him, or is he merely humiliated because of who she left him for? Where is Deirdre? Where is the pizza? All these questions will perhaps be answered in our next installment, unless our outraged sponsors pull the plug.)