The Unknown: The Orange Line.
  Date: Wednesday, 8 March 1998, 2:15:32 (EDT)
From: Scott Rettberg
To: William Gillespie
Subject: Screenplay

William —

This is me n Dirk. We think we should write a screenplay, instead of a stage play, for the time being at least. Dirk’s going to tell you why:

Hi William, Dirk here. Geez, never trust stoned drunk fiction writers: all they do is push the crucial pitches onto someone else [usually a poet—ed.], someone who, through no fault of their own, is second in line at the computer keyboard and thus has to capitulate to whatever arbitrary parameters the previous keyboardist has established. The horror.

Anyway, here’s the deal: stage plays are cool, and sometimes commercial, but mostly they thrive on the fringes of the really big financial killing. Desiring nothing less than enough upfront dollars to retire to Jamaica, thus enhancing our capability of scoring high-grade weed, Scott and I decided that perhaps we should shift our sights to something more immediately lucrative, i.e. Hollywood, q.e.d. the screenplay.

This monumental decision, you realize, was made in a bar, while drinking alcoholic beverages, and therefore it is not infallible, by any means, however attractive the idea of hundreds of thousands of dollars plus endless piles of the finest ganja from the aforementioned Jamaica might seem at first and which could thereby cloud your judgment. Not to mention the beach house with the hot tub, the Rolls Royce etc. etc. Not that we’re endorsing commercialism. Just trust us on this one. O.K.? Scott will now resume to tell you the idea for our screenplay.

Anyway, this was Dirk’s idea to start with, but at the beginning, he says, he had some kind of dream in which (this is indicative) he dreams of (you’re not gonna believe this) an armored car suspended from one of those cranes with the giant magnet, right?

This is a central image, which is what I hear poets work from.

Picture this
Dirk tossing about in sweaty sheets
a Deep symbolic mournful dream
Bugs Bunny with a flickering light bulb
a star is born
an idea
in the beginning it was a Brink’s truck
suspended from crane,
then it became
a robbery.
Involving a bar. A bar something like Cheers, but not quite. Everybody knows your name, metaphysical banter, cheezy scatological humor, a waitress like Carla but slightly more attractive, Fraizer supplanted by an English professor, the guy behind the bar not like Sam, not like Coach, but more like . . .

The bartender in The Iceman Cometh, a play by Eugene O'Neill, which we ought to rip off . . . who declares that—Here’s where Dirk ought to come in—

{tho I don’t know why since I’ve never read The Iceman Cometh} But anyway, the bar guy never leaves the bar, it’s his only thing in life, a family heirloom, you know. And the customers, all lifers, regulars. So you can imagine their shock when they learn from their bartender buddy, brother, cousin, 2nd nephew removed from action for meritorious service, that the lease is up on the bar and he’s going to lose the place because the new lease terms are just too expensive. What???? Lose their favorite watering hole? No way! What can be done? Nothing until the Iceman cometh, which is exactly where Scott rejoins the party.

The Iceman is a legend. Rumor is he’s cometh.

Now in this play about the guy with the ice there’s a character named ??? I think Hickey, I don’t know, look it up, that may be the bartender, but anyway your town is just loaded with books so as I was sayin ??? the Iceman (not his real name) but he’s the Iceman who Cometh. Why Ice you ask? This is not a Schwarzeneggarean Mr. Freeze a la the latest bad sequel—this is directly ripped off from Eugene O'Neill—who’s important, anyway . . .

He’s the ice man, he’s gone cold sober, to all appearances, but he funds a party for all his peers. He comes in preaching a gospel of dreams, he’s forcing them to get hip to the truth of their lives, that sad ugly modest underlying pathetic truth, and get past it. He’s like the übermensch, whatever, he’s Cool Hand Luke in a brothel turning down the action. The gang . . . we’ve said nothing bout the gang, Dirk—

This Hickey Ice guy then, to cut to the chase, tells the gang at the bar how to save the bar and thus the bartender’s reason for existence and their reason for spending cash in a dive: a heist that will allow them to buy the building/buy out the lease/whatever and save the bar: an armored car heist, which will include the feature of a huge crane (whether with magnet or more ordinary) lifting an armored car out of the reaches of police pursuit. Then disaster: one of the guards in the truck shoots and kills one of our guys. Our guys kill the guards. It was supposed to be a bloodless robbery and now, three guys dead. Or more. Depending on how Tarantino we want to go. Back to the bar to wrap up the heist. And Scott provides the denouement. . . .

They squabble over the petty concerns. Iceman plays the iceman, acting like he’s intervening in their disputes while subtly aggravating them. One shoots another one. Another one shoots another one. Finally it’s just the Iceman and the bartender, the poor guy whose big problem this was all meant to solve to begin with. The Iceman looks at the bartender.

“It’s crazy, isn’t it, Tommy? How these things happen?”

“My God, we’re gonna fry, oh my god, what we do Hickey, what we do?”

“Look, don’t you worry.”

The Iceman lifts the briefcase up onto the bar and opens it, flips it up, reaches into it.

I haven’t forgotten about your troubles.”

From a cash-stuffed briefcase, he pulls out a semiautomatic, blows the bartender away. Looks about. A room littered with bodies. Raw violence and its aftermath. Says,

“Sha-la-la-la-lah yeeeah.”

Into the Al Green and the credits.


P.S. Actually there’s a lot more to this story. Deep human concerns, intrigue, love and companionship, house pets, existential metaphysics . . . But we can get to all that later. . . .

Or we could do something else. But we need to do something.


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