"Writer's Block #649"
Frick, sitting on a metal fold-out chair, his legs propped on a wooden soda-box crate, carefully peels the lid off a styrofoam cup of coffee as he warily searches Frack's disposition. Frack, looking like he slept in his clothes, acting a little scattered, seems to be in a world of his own. Down the alley the noise of a garbage truck filters through garbled conversation coming from the front of the deli. Pungent smells from all directions fill the air.
The day has not gone well thus far what with Mrs. Lin, the proprietress, making sly remarks about Hollywood calling, could she go for a ride in their Mercedes, it would be a nice gesture on their part if they paid a little rent once in a while, and so forth.
Frick begins, waiting for Frack may take longer than they have. "In this scene, I think we ought to have the hero waking up in the front seat of his car, yea, legs wrapped around the steering wheel, his head scrunched against the door, ice on the windows, yea, and a loud thumping noise vibrating in the background, see. At first he holds his head, he's hungover, slowly opening his eyes he sees flashing red and blue lights in the rear view mirror burning his bloodshot eyes, yea, and vague silhouettes on the other side of the road, yea."
Frack, leaning against a stack of canned goods by the screen door, facing the back alley where a cat is busy hacking up a hair ball, sipping a can of beer in between puffs on a twisted smoke, interrupts with a dismissive wave of the hand as he turns, eyes downcast, to face his partner.
"Nahhhh. Too slow. The audience wants action, right now, right from the get-go. Try this on for size, Frick.... we keep the hero waking up in the front seat, all right, O.K., windows iced over, middle of the night, all that stuff, but he doesn't hear a thumping, he hears and then sees, in the mirror, the back window breaking, somebody or some thing coming in after 'im, breathing like this." His eyes bulging, he goes through a choking rendition of a man in desperate need of a smack on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. Recovering, taking another swig, moving to collapse on a large bag of onions by a side wall, he continues gravelly, "He shakes his head quickly from side to side." He demonstrates, almost losing his sunglasses. More quickly now, he runs on, "then fumbles and claws at the glove compartment in the dark, the window continues to break, he rips the door off, tears frantically through the mess o' shit, a flashlight falls on the floor, he stops, momentarily distracted, finally, just as a gruesome looking claw of a hand reaches over the seat, he grabs his .45 magnum,...."
Frick abruptly stands, spilling coffee on the already heavily stained concrete floor. Stepping over the crate, he moves to the other side of the room to confront his partner.
"Frack! Before you have blood all over the goddamn place, let's mellow out, all right? I don't want night of the demented intestine eaters. Something with a bit of subtlety, depth, yea." He turns to face the alley, the garbage truck is slowly working its way closer. Grimacing, he turns back, raising his voice, "Now, let's keep the hero waking up in the front seat, yea, windows iced, night and all that but," Frick looks skyward noticing as he does a large brown spider slowly rappelling towards his coffee cup. He backs away, almost tripping over a wheel of a hand truck leaning against a stack of boxes. Unperturbed, he goes on, "He sees through the shimmer.... an ambulance, yea, and a number of people, cops and such. He unravels himself slowly, cautiously, opens the door with a cracking sound, he freezes, not wanting to be noticed," Frick's voice changes pitch as he reaches for the crystal beauty of his vision, "but nobody looks his way."
He stares at Frack casually stretched out on the onions, his back against the cool concrete wall. Acting it out as he goes on, Frick continues, turning up the volume to compete with the cacophony of metal and hydraulics, spreading out his words, "He proceeds to pull himself out of the car, walks over to where two paramedics are standing next to one of those stretchers, with the wheels? You known? Yea, OK, still nobody notices him, they're preoccupied. A look of consternation comes over his face, yea. On an impulse, out of instinct, he walks to the stretcher, pulls back the blanket, and it's HIM."
Frick's free hand is clenched in excitement, he smiles like a clown trying to amuse a sullen child. Mrs. Lin chooses that moment to yell back for a couple of salamis and a quart of olive oil. Frick glares indignantly towards the direction of the voice like a cat thrown from its favorite chair. Placing his coffee on a box of jarred pickles, he grabs two salamis from the cooler and a quart off the shelf by the front door and hands them out to an impatient Mrs. Lin who, by nature and an uncanny instinct for knowing the right moment, says something about being sorry to interrupt someone of such obvious importance but, people want to eat.
Frack takes a long toke then extinguishes it between thumb and forefinger, examines it thoughtfully, then places the butt gingerly in his shirt pocket. He leans forward, setting the beer on the floor, clasping his hands together in an incomplete attempt to steady himself on the onion bag, then blurts out in a fit of annoyance, "It's been done, man. All this shit's been done. We have to go further out, bizzaroland, man. Now, how 'bout... He wakes up and all that stuff, the same scene and all, but..."
Suddenly, Frack's entire demeanor adjusts. He stares upward at and seemingly through the exposed wood ceiling, out and beyond; a calm, serene expression of fulfillment and peace reshaping his otherwise rustic features. In a faraway voice, somehow working its way through the tumult of the alley show, articulating like a man who's seen the grail itself, he continues, "he's on another planet, with two moons, one red, one blue. He has four arms and a long anteater-like snout. Outside there's a huge orange tinged robot thumping on the hood of his Cadillac with his knee. He begins to hear a low humming noise, his car starts to dissolve around him; his memories flit from being in church to ..."
Frick, jaw slightly drooping, eyes fixed on the boundary between fear and anger, spills coffee all over his torn jeans as he breaks his trance. "Frack! Come back! Don't giggle! You're a grown man, for Christ sake. Giggling.... Aw Jesus, we'll never get out of this goddamn..." He screams at the alley, "Shut the fuck up, people are trying to think in here, you dumb sons-o'-bitches!" Mrs.Lin yells back, "Watch your mouth or get the hell out, you're upsetting my customers!"
Frick, lost at sea, modulates through the sound barrier, "I don't have time for this shit, Frack. You're losin' it, what little you had to begin with. First the undead skinhead smashing through the back of the car; then Anteater Man meets Robby the robot, only he's not really Anteater Man, he's Wally Cleaver on prozak,...."
Frick extends his arms pleadingly, still standing in front of the now quite bemused and reclining pile of Frack. "I'm a simple man, Frack, please. Why not let's take a break for a bit, yea, let's play around with say... a children's story? Yea, this'll be good, it'll help you focus, yea, you like this stuff. OK, go with it."
Frick reclaims his seat, leaning forward, elbows on knees, the remainder of his coffee no longer steaming in the crunched styrofoam cup. He listens with hope and trepidation lining the corrugated features of his haggard countenance as Frack, his partner of some twenty years, begins to associate, freely.
The sounds of the garbage truck recede to the background, replaced by shouts from kids reclaiming their basketball court. Mrs. Lin looks in, is about to say something, shakes her head instead, mumbles in Yiddish, then stalks back.
Staring through the screen door at nothing in particular, Frack smiles as he reaches into his shirt pocket. "O.K. Freddie the frog lived on the edge of a lilly-pad covered lagoon. One day, Samantha the salamander chose that moment when Freddie was sunbathing to land on his lilly-pad. Samantha's mother had forbidden her to go near Freddie as she feared his big croak. But Samantha was a rebellious youngster, as are most slamanders, and besides, whenever Freddie would swell his neck it would send shivers of delight coursing through her supple, tender, firm, young body..."
"Frack.... Frack. Frack!?