“That movie?” Eddie said. “That movie went nowhere, Ray, a long time ago.”
“But she left her shoe?” I said pointing. “A memento?”
Eddie picked the red suede high-heel off his desk with his thumb and forefinger like it carried a disease.
“Kind of. Someone told me a four-inch heel like this one costs four hundred fifty bucks because of the label.”
Eddie played with it a little, turning it towards me and letting it catch the afternoon sunlight.
“Four hundred fifty dollars for a pair of high-heeled shoes,” he said. “What’s the matter with people?”
I didn’t answer. I looked past Eddie’s desk out the window at the thick ivy that draped the high brick wall at the end of his back yard. It could have been the wall at a three-hundred year old university, or a monastery, green and red and full of mold.
“What about the people who make these shoes?” he asked me.
“What do you want them to do instead, Eddie? You want them to build hospitals in north-east Africa?”
“What do you know about African hospitals, Raymond?”
“No, because, the hospitals in Sudan if you’re interested –“
“I don’t want to know about hospitals in Sudan, Eddie,” I said. “Over there and right here, there’s needy people and there’s people with four-hundred dollar shoes. And, oh yeah, just yesterday afternoon, on Bindah Street in Calcutta? A blind child was run over by a Mercedes Benz and killed. The Mercedes didn’t stop. Can you imagine such heartlessness?”
“Well, shit,” he said slowly.
“Right,” I agreed. “Shit, Eddie. There’s a lot of that around.”
He pointed the shoe towards me, stabbing the air with it haphazardly a few times. “A big talker really’s all she was,” he said carelessly.
I shrugged, “Uh, huh.”
“Sammy brought her in.”
“Oh,” I nodded. “Sammy Lee?”
“Yeah un-shaved Sammy Lee, generally with him something just not right around the edges.”
“Sammy’s all right though, isn’t he?”
“Sure he is,” Eddie said quickly. “I like Sammy. Sammy’s, you know.”
“Not really,” I said. “What?”
I nodded maybe so.
“But his generosity’s always caused trouble between us,” said Eddie. “It’s authentic but still kind of bullshitty because he doesn’t want to confront people, to tell them who they really are and to cut the pretense so we know where we stand.”
“Like you do that?”
“No. Yes. Maybe. Sometimes I do. More than Sammy anyway.”
“I don’t know Sammy Lee that well,” I said. “I mean I know him, you know, but not that well.”
“I’ve worked with Sammy.”
“I know you have. Please don’t tell me about those experiences.”
“A lot, Ray,” he said waving the shoe back and forth between us. “Many many times over the years.”
“I know you have, Eddie. Please, look please don’t tell me about any of it.”
“I’m just saying I know what I’m talking about. I told you Sammy brought in this girl.”
“It was in this café, that’s where I met them. She was a producer.”
Eddie pronounced “producer” like it was an illness.
“So she was a producer,” I said correcting him. “That’s a real job.”
“I know it is.”
“A good producer is valuable.”
“I know that, Ray. I’m agreeing with you.”
“So what was the problem?”
“She said she was a producer. I didn’t know her. They met in California, Sammy and her. I came in later,” he said pointing the shoe out the window like ‘later’ ended in his backyard, “much later,” he added distantly, “afterwards.”
“What do you think she was doing before you met her? Training to be a producer?”
Eddie tossed her shoe on his desk and it landed on its side. He took a moment to straighten it and place it back where I’d always seen it, next to his phone.
“You mocking my take on her, Raymond?” he said smiling back and half-looking at me. “You think I was way off in my approach?”
“I’m mocking how confidently you figure some people, yes.”
“You’re right, I make mistakes,” Eddie said reproaching himself easily, “but she brought money with her, supposedly. This producer wasn’t someone Sammy was playing around with at that time. Her money was serious.”
“Money you needed from her?”
“Well yeah, unfortunately. There was nobody else right then. Later yes, other money came in, but right then I needed her money and so did Sammy. That’s why we were so nice and eager and you know what else? Friendly. We were just friendly as could be but not this producer: she was standoffish and preoccupied. The first thing she said to me was she was in town producing this big tv thing.”
“So she was trying to impress you.”
“Nothing so terribly wrong with that.”
“I guess not. Then she complained she was being pulled every which way by numbskulls. She didn’t look like she worked hard one day in her life and neither had her mother.”
“Why don’t you cut out those remarks, Eddie,” I said impatiently.
“What? What remarks? What’d I say?”
“Not everybody carries bricks. You know that. Some people carry a clipboard and check the bricks off with a pencil.”
Eddie nodded doubtfully I could be right. Those slow doubt-filled silences was something I liked about Eddie. He kept me on edge.
“To me holding a clipboard,” he said deliberately and shaking his head at me like I was a simple man, “while some illegal Mexican laborer is carrying bricks up a ladder, should not ever be called work. Not ever.”
“All right, so that’s your opinion about Mexican bricklayers.”
“Yes, it is. And whether this so-called producer held a clipboard or didn’t even do that is a still-unanswered question. Maybe all she ever did was sit around in sexy expensive clothes looking pretty.”
“Was she pretty?”
Eddie shrugged and made a sound like “Beh.”
“Was she or not?”
“Christ knows, maybe, not me. She was youth and blonde hair, is that pretty? You talking about refinement? That kind of pretty? Or four-hundred fifty dollar spiked heels and an illusion?” he added pointing at her shoe.
“Were you attracted to her? Can you answer that question?”
“Listen, Ray, I was there to meet her. Sammy and I were putting another movie together.”
“Well, you know, I’m not some kid. She had made strong sounds to Sammy she really wanted to do the movie and she had the money – or could get it – to make that movie.”
“Was she attractive or not?”
“She had a hard face and a good figure, OK?”
“So she was attractive.”
“Sure she was, attractive enough. But when the check came, Sammy and I, we had espressos and maybe she had a pot of exotic tea and a club sandwich and she pulled out her credit card. We were in this café way downtown, I forget the name, Sammy told me to meet them there, the kind of dark cruddy out-of-the-way place he likes. Credit cards? And she was amazed when they wouldn’t take it.”
“Why’s that so strange to you, Eddie? She’s from California.”
“So what? Read a tourist book before you get here.”
“What’d you do?”
“What Sammy did, Sammy acted, ‘Hey, Eddie, don’t worry about it, I got it, relax, I got it.’ He had less money than I did back then, a lot less, so I looked at him like, ‘What are you doing?’ He nodded me to back off and keep my mouth shut, you know but nicely as he does, but I was already thinking this girl was not where she should be. She said she was a producer, she was here in New York producing some impressive tv something and she had no cash? I’ve produced, I know what it is: you carry cash or you’re full of shit.”
“Eddie, you were bothered over that café check? That’s why you took her shoe? How’d you get it off her foot without her noticing?”
“Nah, that’s not why,” he said looking disgusted with himself. “Ah, Ray, this kind of resentment, I dislike what it does to me. It’s childish.”
“Well, what is the matter with you, Eddie? Why do you get resentful over a fifteen dollar café check?”
“It wasn’t even fifteen dollars, or maybe it was, but nah, she and Sammy had some apartment deal going, that was where the money was, that’s what I resented later, aside from our movie going nowhere after all her assurances. There was this five-thousand dollar sublet Sammy was involved in with her that I didn’t know about.”
“Five thousand? You serious?”
“Yeah, five thousand dollars a month. Ridiculous money for rent huh? She didn’t care what Sammy charged her. She was sticking the tv show with that rent and Sammy was picking up more than half that silly tv money as income.”
“So Sammy was subbing his place to her?”
Eddie shook his head discouraged.
“Yeah yeah,” he said. “Sammy needed income after his divorce, you know. Badly.”
“Where’s Sammy living during this?”
“I think,” Eddie began, “I don’t remember, he had a rented room for a while or there was a girl at that time, maybe with her. Yeah, I think with her in her studio apartment on the west side. So his life’s all kind of pushed together and claustrophobic and about to explode but so long as this producer was handing him that easy five thousand, Sammy was doing OK with his girl in her studio apartment with her two large dogs. And then,” Eddie stopped and shook his head, “and then, the crash: the big-deal tv production this big-deal blonde producer was doing falls apart and she tells Sammy she must return to California that day, so forget the sublet, forget the movie, forget we met and she wanted her security back, tah tah.”
“Sammy had a deal with her or not?”
Eddie nodded he did.
“Oh yeah, Raymond. Yes. A deal,” he said. “They had a deal: a guaranteed fifteen to twenty thousand dollars over three, four months that Sammy was counting on very very much. Sammy had turned someone else away for her. So oh yes, they had a deal, but she, you know, a situation changed in her life and so that was it: tough luck, Sammy.”
“What’d Sammy do?”
“What does nothing mean?”
“It means Sammy did nothing. He talked to her over the phone, he talked to his lawyer: he did nothing. She leaves, Sammy was out all this income which he needed, and get this: she left so fast she didn’t have time to pack everything so her bags were stuffed in Sammy’s closet. She told Sammy some guy would come by to pick them up and would he be sure to be there when this guy came. Her boyfriend I think it was, and man would I hate to be him.”
“I’d put her stuff in the street.”
“A lot of us would, Ray. But this is Sammy.”
“Sammy was still cooperating with her? After she walked out on him like that? I don’t believe it. What’s the matter with him?”
“What can I say? Sammy was acting disappointed. Like humanity had failed him yet again despite all his precautions.”
“Well, shit on disappointment.”
“Disappointment gets you nowhere. You have to do something.”
“I know you do but that would have been the end of her for me, it really would have. I was just discouraged about another deal falling through and about hanging around with Sammy so much and falling under his mindless optimism. But I would have said the hell with her and let it go.
“You mean maybe you would have let it go.”
“No,” Eddie said pointing his hand at me. “I’ve fought back when people have spit on me, you know that. I don’t like what it does to me and I’d rather walk away but I’m ready to fight when I have to. But I wasn’t going to do anything here. I really wasn’t.”
“You can say that because she didn’t cheat you. She cheated Sammy.”
“But it was like she’d cheated me too, Ray. Because, Ray, look, when she bullshitted Sammy about the movie, she bullshitted me!” Eddie said suddenly excited.
“Ah ah ah,” I said leaning back. “OK, Eddie, OK, I got it now. You like Sammy Lee. I didn’t appreciate that enough.”
“Yeah, I do like Sammy Lee,” he said surprised. “Sammy Lee’s a friend of mine.”
“But, Eddie,” I said, “I hear all over Sammy Lee’s irresponsible.” When Eddie didn’t answer right away I said, “Hey hey, Eddie, I’m saying something here: irresponsible.”
“Yeah, he is,” Eddie said seriously, “and he’s late for every meeting unless I drag him there. But that producer shouldn’t have abused Sammy because if she had stopped thinking about her clothes and her hair for two minutes she’d have seen that Sammy can be a pretty generous person at times.”
“So Sammy Lee was bleeding this blonde producer for five thousand in monthly rent,” I said considering, “yet somehow she was this bastard and Sammy Lee was the good guy in your mind, huh?”
“More or less,” he said uneasily, “but not that clearly.”
Again Eddie didn’t answer right away and this time I waited a moment. Then I snapped my fingers and prodded him, “Come on, Eddie, what happened? What’d you do?”
“Sammy asked me to pick up some books for him,” he confessed reluctantly.
“So now you’re picking up Sammy Lee’s books, huh? Jesus Christ, Eddie, what’s that about?”
“Yeah, yeah,” he mumbled, “that’s what led me to the shoe.”
“Really? Come on, when did you start running Sammy’s errands?”
“I know, Ray, I know how that looks. But it was this errand that had to be done when Sammy was out of town that day and I was around, a box of heavy old books that was two blocks away – and I still had Sammy’s keys on account of his dog that died – so I said sure. If I hadn’t dropped off those old books for him, I never would have known that producer’s stuff was still there.”
“Sammy hadn’t told you?”
“I don’t think he did. Maybe he did. But that’s not why I took that box of books for him,” he added quickly. “But I was in his apartment and I found her stuff and immediately I wanted to do something vengeful and ridiculous like take all her underwear. She was a slob and her clothes were stuffed in shopping bags, expensive garments too just stuffed however and then I saw the high heels and I go, ‘Yeah’. I figured a ridiculous pair of suede shoes like that had to cost something – though I never guessed four hundred fifty bucks.”
“So where’s the other high heel? You throw it out?”
Eddie shook his head. “I was going to take them both but why should I look like a thief? I take one and I leave one, you know?”
“So now what? She gets her stuff back and she has this one expensive red suede high-heel but where’s the other one? Maybe her lame-brained boyfriend dropped it. Could that be? Maybe. Anyway, she would tear his face off just on a suspicion, I’d bet, and has probably.
‘My shoe! Where’s my other God damn shoe! Find it, you idiot! I need it right now! I’m going out!’
“Or maybe her assistant was careless, she thinks, or maybe who knows what she’s ready to blame, certainly not herself. But maybe some concern seeped through to her, maybe just one burning drop of some concern that might, just might, have made someone like her aware there are hospitals that need building like you said in Africa.”
“I doubt it,” I said, “very much.”
Eddie nodded he didn’t believe that either.
“Or, at least, maybe she remembered there’s a filmmaker like Sammy struggling through a divorce. And this producer or whatever she is could remind herself that this is a planet full of all kinds of people and she shouldn’t cheat them. And she shouldn’t over-indulge herself on expensive crap she doesn’t need. None of us should. It’s unseemly.”
“So that’s why you keep her sexy red shoe next to your phone? So you don’t become unseemly?”
“Who knows why anything, Ray?” he said dismissing me.
“Her shoe keeping you seemly is it?” I persisted.
Eddie shook his head no.
“Something like that though, Eddie, right? To remind you.”
“Well, keep finding the forgiveness,” he said.
“Finding forgiveness? That sounds tough. How you making out with that search, Eddie?”
“I can do better, Ray, I can do a lot better.”
About the author: BRANDON COLE and John Turturro’s paths have crossed many times since they met in 1979, most significantly when their critically-acclaimed film MAC helped Turturro take home the 1992 Camera d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival. They worked together again in 1995 when they adapted John Fante’s My Dog Stupid for Peter Falk. Cole’s first theatrical production, "Jamie’s Gang," was also co-produced with Turturro and, subsequently, he won a playwriting fellowship from the NYS Foundation for the Arts. ILLUMINATA, which Cole co-wrote with and was directed by John Turturro, is inspired by Cole’s stage play IMPERFECT LOVE. In 2000, Cole directed IMPERFECT LOVE Off-Broadway at New York Performance Works.
Cole was born in Chicago and raised in Westchester County, New York, where he attended public and private schools and, later, Tufts University. After serving two years as a conscientious objector in a Boston hospital, he returned to college and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College, where he majored in philosophy and literature. After traveling and working in Alaska in a lumber mill, in New York as a taxi driver, in New Hampshire as a carpenter, and in Saudi Arabia assembling shelving, he traveled through Europe and eventually returned to New York to pursue his interest in reading, studying, and writing.
He has written over a dozen theatrical productions which have been performed at prestigious regional and international theater companies and the Edinburgh Festival. In 1997, his play "Nothing Works," was performed at the Teatro da Trindade, in Lisbon, Portugal and filmed for Portuguese and Brazilian television. In February 2003, Cole’s IMPERFECT LOVE was published in the Italian theatre magazine, Primafila2000, as L’amore imperfetto.
In the 90’s, he wrote the screenplay Divine Mercy with Eric Schwab and OK Garage, which was also Cole’s directorial debut, premiered at the 1997 Deauville, France, Film Festival. That year, OK GARAGE won best screenplay at the Avignon, France, film festival.
In 2001, he co-wrote and produced the film 13 MOONS, co-written with and directed by Alexandre Rockwell, starring Steve Buscemi, Peter Dinklage and David Proval.
Currently, he is finishing a rewrite of a screenplay titled BROTHERLY LOVE, by John Fedele.
© 2011 Word Riot