We’ll stick with the Charlize character for the moment.
Great. I like her.
Let’s call her… What do we call her?
No. Something tough. Tough but tender. Amber, Topaz, Jet…
Jet is good. It means black.
No, jet is black. It’s a stone.
So maybe Jet is black right? A black person.
Or maybe not. There could be reasons for her being Caucasian. We don’t know yet, not for sure. By the way, my friend Jane said she hopes there’s a great female character in this. ‘Hero or villain’ Jane says, doesn’t matter.
OK, so maybe that’s Jet. Or Madeline. We’ll see I guess. So Jet is sitting on her mountaintop in some not-identified country.
Was. Now we follow her, Steadicam into this campsite place. Military. Big badass American Special Ops guys doing weights, cussin’. There’s rap music playing and some of the badasses greet Jet as she moves through the camp. They shout at her like she’s one of them…
Which she is.
Exactly. Then we’re into a tent with her, and she kicks someone’s legs offa her camp bed. He’s a pumped-up mutha but maybe with like, sensitive eyes. She tells him she has to return home, something’s come up.
What’s come up? He says.
Classified. She says.
You want breakfast? He says.
You buying? She says. It’s a joke because none of them in the camp have seen that stuff called money in the longest time.
Yeh, I’m buyin. He says.
Listen, I’ve been thinking about Jet’s phone, you know, this who-hah thing. What I think is that Homeland Security or somebody banned it, so maybe Jet doesn’t have one.
Fine! No problemo. Just get a ruggedized case for a phone so it looks military and then we’re good. Whichever company wants to get on board, they’re on board.
Noted. Um. There’s something else…
Sex. We’ll need some sex action right?
Sure. Maybe more the hint of sex than full on wham-bam. Think streaming services, so probably PG-13 is enough y’know.
But all the main characters are old. Like Madeline and HRH, and Kent Warfield. I mean do old people even have sex? If they do it’s probably pretty icky, and like watching tortoises mate.
Good point. Make a note. Do you have a grandmother?
There you are: Ask her how often she gets it on with your Grandpa, what they do, all the deets.
OK, well that might cramp her style. Or not. Do the research.
Is Jet going to have a partner? I guess she’ll look good in close-up.
The hard-ass men sitting on ammo cases were unphased by the commotion in the tent behind them. One was sharpening a hunting knife, the other was ripping through a multiplayer on his phone. “Think he believes that every time he promises her pancakes she’ll have him up against the tent pole?”
“Well it seems to work, so yes, I do believe that he believes that.”
There were shouts – the man’s voice – from inside the tent, ‘Yes oh yes oh yes!’
“See, it’s always him that squeals like a porkypig.”
“She might have me squealing too.”
“Hey, you jealous?” The bigger of the two slapped his meaty hand down on the other’s leg. They laughed as the man in the tent produced a galumphing climax, and not a peep from his partner. “She’s a cool one is that Jet. Ice queen y’know.”
“Hey, I heard that Frankie!” Jet’s voice.
“Yay, and we heard your lover boy soundin like a lil girl.”
“At least I’m getting me some,” came the man’s voice from the tent, followed by a loud slap. “Yow, that stings.”
“It was meant to.” Jet’s voice.
In the tent, hot now as the sun started its daily roasting, hot now that two naked humans were sweating all over each other, Jet offered in a voice loud enough for the audience outside, “This’ll be the last time you get to buy me breakfast for a whiles. I’m leaving. And it’s classified, before anyone asks.” But no-one asks.
Fuelled by all the phone calls to old colleagues, he was feeling chipper. It would be nice to see the Central European Wife, but she followed a separate agenda, especially around bedtime. He asked what she did in her suite, but she’d just look vaguely at him and say, ‘Oh, stuff.’ Not a proper answer. He’d like some kisses. Not the lip-to-lip sort, which were kinda gross, but the Hershey’s sort, rich and supersweet. There was probably a pack in the freezer, but it would mean levering himself off the big bed. A treat for later, and until then resisting would be a test of his famous iron will.
For now though he was just sitting in his robe on the bed, alone with the chatter of the TV, and the voice in his head that never seemed to shut up. Forever saying do this, do that, do it now, do it later. The start of the night was always a challenge, after all the noise and talking talking talking through the day long. Facing the void of too many hours when there was only the voice inside him and those of the late night television hosts. He knew he’d struggle to fall asleep because his big creative brain would typically kick in just as everyone else was crashing out. It was then that his greatest thoughts would come washing in, to astonish and delight him. Sometimes he was astonished and delighted enough to actually fall asleep, and then the first part of the nightly ordeal would be taken care of. Until in the deepest part of the night, he’d be awake again, just catching the receding ghost of his father wagging a finger and saying, ‘Disappointed, so disappointed.’ He’d be all sweated up and tremulous, but no wife beside him to press a Kleenex to his brow and tell him it was just a dream.
He must have dozed because now his phone was showing four of the a.m. Too soon to dress and stride out. Hershey’s would be so good now, a pre-breakfast snack. His hand went to the bedside handset. Just to lift it would be to set off whole chains of alerts throughout the building.
“Mr President Sir? How can I be of assistance?” He wanted to ask what the operator was wearing, and how old she was, but The First Daughter kept telling him this sort of thing wasn’t allowed any more. What bullshit. So he had some thinking moments, and thought hot milk would be good. Not hot of course, warm. “Sure Mr President Sir, chef knows how you have it. Anything else Sir?”
“Those cute Kisses candies. I like those. So cute.” Even if there were some already in the coolerator, it couldn’t hurt to have more. No-one ever suffered from having too many Hershey’s Kisses.
“Coming right up Mr President.” Was she laughing at him? Was the bitch laughing at him? Or was it just what they called a ‘telephone smile’ when a person tries to sound friendly? He would write himself a note to have someone check out whether the woman on the phone had been laughing at him. But the notepad was on the other side of the bed, where Central European Wife should be. By the time he’d rolled over and retrieved the means to write himself the memo, he’d forgotten why he was staring at the blank paper. ‘That’s because you are so disappointing,’ said his father, half way though the bedroom wall. The President turned the TV up to blare-level, to drown out his father, and the other voice.
Perfect! A Fox News special about the great great job that Donald John Trump, 45th President of the United States of America was doing in combating Covid-19, beating the fake news media, and everything else that was wrong but not his fault in his kingdom.
A knock at the door barely five minutes later, and the discrete entry of a butler, a black man wearing a facemask. Could be a mugger if it wasn’t for the uniform. “Mr President Sir,” said the man, and waited at a respectful distance. Mr President Sir was suddenly deeply involved in watching the commercial break. It didn’t do to just respond to people invading his private space at four-something of the a.m., especially if they were black militants. This guy could have been out on the streets, screaming about tearing down statues, and now here he was with a silver tray, pretending to be respectful. Well he could wait. Except there was warm milk and Kisses on the tray. Trump waved the man over to his bedside, indicating where to place the goodies, exactly within reach. The butler bowed. He was maybe forty, maybe with a life, a family? The President momentarily found himself wondering how it would be if their roles were reversed, but it was such a crazy idea. Crazy, crazy! As the man waited to be dismissed, so close in this intimate bedroom setting, Trump was surprised to find words forming that he hadn’t quite been meaning to say. A conversation. He gestured towards the man’s mask, “So you’re taking your President’s advice now? Good to see, good to see.”
“My employment here is conditional on wearing a mask Mr President. Do you require anything else Sir?”
“Nope. Or yes. Do you have a name?”
“Yes Mr President.” A pause.
“And would you care to share it with me?”
The man pointed to a lanyard with a security pass: Robert McFarland. Trump read it and laughed, “You Scotch? I have courses in Scotland. That’s the kind of name they have over there.”
“I am an American, Mr President. Family names like mine come from owners. Back in the day you may recall, black folks were slaves and took the names of the white folks they worked for. It’s history.”
The President wondered if this was another person in his employ dissing him. But meantime he was having a genius thought. Really genius. “Jobe Iden,” he said.
“Jog Kiden, what do you think? Do you like it?”
“Mr President, maybe if you removed your own mask I could hear you more clearly.”
But Trump is mulling his genius idea. He needs to tweet something tough about the old man running against him. The fake news says the old man is polling better, and the only possible explanation is that there’s no name for Biden yet. Sleepy Joe seems almost kind, without bite. Nowhere near as good as Crazy Bernie or Crooked Hillary or Pocahontas. A good name for Biden would change the polling, that’s for sure. And now, boom! He removes his mask, the better to enunciate, “Joke Biden! See, the guy is a joke and his name is Joe. I can spell it J-o-k-e, or maybe J-o-e-k. Hmm, that’s a tricky one, but they’re both good yes? Both great. The guy is a complete joke. Perfect name. Perfect.”
“Remarkably amusing Mr President.”
Trump’s tweeting thumbs are twitching. Popping another of the Kisses, the President waves away the butler, like swooshing off a bothersome fly. Robert McFarland bows slightly and retreats, his mirror-polished shoes gliding over the deep pile carpet.
Some 2,600 American miles across the country, Kent Warfield was also buoyed by the callbacks from colleagues, stationed at their various points of the globe. Shooting the breeze, remembering old times, and carefully avoiding the probing questions about what this new project might be. Everyone said Sure I would love to come meet you in LA, but you know…
Did they not believe he could still move mountains? Of course he could get them on some flight from somewhere. Or maybe they just didn’t think it was worth the hassle. Zsuzsa had been pointing him to Teams and Zoom ever since he started sharing his Big Idea with her. “There are other ways of doing this Warfield,” she said. “Modern ways like younger people use.” Ouch, as if he needed reminding about their age difference. Right now she was already in their big bed, studying probably, but he’d join her soon enough. He was constantly surprised at his pleasure in their relationship, now in its second year.
Zsuzsa was honest, direct, and smart. His wives, or partners, had always been secondary to him – decorative and often amusing, but not to be taken seriously. They were planets orbiting his supergiant sun, and there was never any question about who the central star was. He was the alpha male who had punched his way to the top of the dungheap on willpower and sheer bloody talent. No-one could take that away from him, even if there were MeToos who would now have him marginalised. Well screw them. He was a big beast, always would be. Someone had said recently that he was ‘teetering close to caricature’! Well so be it – better a caricature than a monochrome cipher!
These days he lived a strangely dual life. He burned against the injustices of existence in America, with all the mad shtick that Trump and his base created. Then there was the other Kent Warfield who at long last was in a marriage of equals, and thankful for the great gift of it. The hunger to create remained too, a little less driven than in the glory days, but there was still fire, and he cherished that. He could turn it into an inferno on demand, and when he did, things got done.
So could he get done this thing which his old colleagues said couldn’t be done? Might he magic up flights where there were no flights? Maybe touch Tone Fentick to send his Lear jet around Europe collecting the gang. Or was it time to accept Zsu’s advice and join the 21st century? He’d done it with his last two movies, shooting and post-producing all-digital, and it had been less painful than he’d expected. So maybe this weird thing of shouting at a screen full of disembodied people would work too.
He’d always played the room when he was pitching a movie. He was good at catching looks, reading the way someone fiddled with their latté in boredom, or suddenly leaned forward as they got the premise. He’d see a glance at the storyboard, and seize on the interest: ‘Great, you’re looking at scene 12! You’ve cleverly spotted the crux point of the entire movie! What happens here changes the whole dynamic!’
Now he’d have to make his biggest pitch to a bunch of seasoned pros watching on small flickery rectangles, while coffee makers gurgled in the background or dogs howled. But Zsuzsa would help him. She could school him in playing to the small screen.
The President of the United States was furiously into his daily workload, tweeting machine gun texts about everything and nothing. But mainly about him. America was now a world leader in the plague, better than almost any other country at allowing its own citizens to die, but that was the fault of others, not of Donald John Trump. People were betraying him, telling lies about the figures. And they were marching around like the streets belonged to them, waving amateurish BLM banners and looking like muggers. How did you go toilet on the streets anyway? All those thousands of people out there rioting, and suppose they want a dump, what do they do huh? Do they just do it, there on the street? Well probably. He shudders at the thought. Of taking a dump in the street. Of other people seeing you take a dump. Ordinary people pointing at you and laughing. He’ll tweet about that. It’s a good subject because it shows that those rioting Democrat muggers are no better than animals. Dirty animals.
He’s still considering the Joke Biden / Joek Biden name. Ivanka will know which is the most weaponised version. So leave the old man aside for a little longer, but then what else to tweet? The plague? Nah, overrated. Viruses get worn out – he read that somewhere, so screw whatever Fauci says. Then there’s another great idea that came to him in the small hours: cancel the election, or at least put it off until his ratings improve. It would give time for the Joke Biden name to get traction too. Big plus.
The President reaches for the plate of Hershey’s and is surprised to find it empty. Which therefore signals that now is time to ring for breakfast. Maybe call Melania too, ask how she and her son are, that sort of thing – the kind of pleasant breakfast chat that wives apparently like husbands to perform.
So I’m getting this kinda balance thing between Kent Warfield on the West Coast and Donald Trump on the East Coast.
Exactly. Exactly right.
But they’re not actually ying and yan or anything.
Exactly. I think the ‘g’ is the other way round by the way. They are sorta similar actually. Both super-old, both driven and crazy, both rich.
Well, only relatively so in the case of Kent Warfield.
Hey, you should see his house, it’s none too shabby. It was Alan Ladd’s or somebody’s. Maybe George Cukor’s.
Oh, Tinseltown people from way back when. It doesn’t matter.
Is the ‘Central European Wife’ thing just made up to add to the balance between these two guys? That they’re equivalent? It seems a bit, you know, contrived.
It’s real, so work with it. Everything in this story is real – that’s the whole point. The people, the plot, an unfolding tale in real time.
Yeh I get that, obvs. But meanwhile, where the hell has Jet disappeared to? And how come she can just walk out of her black-ops gig?
She’s in transit, back to the mothership. And you gotta understand about these SpeshOps people: They do not exist. They do the military’s dirty work in every theatre around the world, and they are completely deniable. They are invisible. All their material needs are met in the field, and the chain of command is kinda… relaxed. To all intents they are freelancers. They get set on a course of action, then they follow it through, freeform. If they re-assign themselves for whatever reason, or a bullet re-assigns them, then the pieces of the jigsaw just get jiggled around. Operatives like Jet appear and disappear at will, like… what’s that old word? Like wraiths.
You mean wreaths?
No, wraiths, that’s what I’m meaning. Ghosts. Jet has passports and credit cards for every eventuality, she has access all areas. She goes where she will. But you’re right, we should see her transforming. A music montage sequence as she steps onto a C-5 Galaxy that she’s hitched a ride on. We see her strapping in with all the cargo webbing behind her and all that stuff. Maybe some tanks and Humvees in the plane too. She’s still in her ripped, dirty fatigues. Then cut to her going into the john on the plane, close-up of her pushing her hair up, like she’s deciding what to do with it. It’s long and straggly, right?
Right. What music?
Rap. Some Bad Girl theme. Something that struts right? So then cut to the C-5 landing, then the plane on the ground at some joint base, say Andrews in Maryland. Jet stepping out, all spruced up. Hair kinda hacked short – but real stylish – and she’s changed into a tight short red dress. But still the combat boots. Makeup, obvs.
Whoah! Liking. A bit sexist maybe, but liking.
Not sexist. That’s who Jet is. It’s the complete transformation, Hollywood stylee.
Except this actually happens Realworld stylee, right?
Exactly. Then she’s going through some Military-stroke-VIP security check. We see the weapons in her holdall on the X-ray screen, but the guard just sighs and waves her on. Like, above his paygrade to stop her. Then let’s follow her getting into a jeep, then being dropped off outside a downtown Washington hotel, saluting the driver, like mock-playing soldiers.
Except she really is. A soldier.
Exactly. But deniably so.
I did what you asked, by the way.
Called my grandmother and quizzed her about sex. It was… Well, it was embarrassing. She said yes of course she still had sex, with Mr Right. Turns out Mr Right is the name she gives to her vibrator, but she says she’ll retire ‘him’ if a suitable and firm-enough human replacement ever turns up. It was enlightening, and quite seriously weird.
OK, thanks for doing the research.
Zsuzsa was a good organiser, and not one to be phased by herding people she didn’t know. Anyway, by the time she’d exchanged multiple emails with Warfield’s old team, and experimented with a few Zoom calls, she did know them. They seemed a sweet enough bunch, but somewhat unlikely as provocateurs tasked with saving the world.
Since early morning she and Jamar had been arranging things in the viewing theatre in the basement, Kent’s private cinema, with restful royal blue walls and royal blue comfy seats, normally used by the king to show his works to courtiers on the 88-inch, 8K OLED screen, with blow-your-head-off sound system. Now Zsuzsa’s laptop was linked up, and after initial glitches, things seemed to be working.
Jamar was the fifteen year old son of Zsuzsa’s hairdresser. He wanted to be an Influencer, but in the meantime was useful with computery things. He was also of the opinion that Zsuzsa might possibly be the most delicious looking older lady he had ever seen, so when his mother had ordered him up to the mansion to help rig the Zoom call, he was willing. Maybe he and the Hungarian woman would sit in the dark watching movies. Maybe she would reach out for his hand in the scary bits. But that didn’t happen, and that was OK, because the scary bit would have been if she really did reach for his hand.
It was time. Kent Warfield had made few concessions to sprucing himself up, but peering at the big screen, he could see that his collaborators looked alert and well dressed. As yet he hadn’t appeared in front of the webcam, but Zsuzsa was doing excellent work as mistress of ceremonies, calling people in, getting them to say a few words to check connections. Kent knew all these people, and had them assist him on movie after movie, but the surprise was that they knew each other. They were asking after partners and children, grandchildren. Someone asked Gabriel how his operation had gone, and he said OK, then apologised to Debs for missing her birthday this year, but, you know, he’d been kind of tied up. They all had lives, independent of Kent Warfield! It came as something of a revelation to him. He measured his life out in movies, and the five years it usually took from the first draft, through to the glitzy premiere. It appeared that others in his team measured their lives differently, by births, marriages, illnesses, the triumphs of their offspring, and the occasional death.
Zsuzsa checked her watch, nodded to him, and called the meeting to order. “Thanks to all of you for coming. Warfield appreciates it. And, tah-dah… here he is.” There was some applause from the twelve Zoom rectangles on the big screen. As instructed by his wife, Kent Warfield addressed the webcam, and didn’t give in to his natural inclination to speak to the images of his colleagues. “Here we go then ladies and gents. Let’s jump in at the deep end. You want to know what this is about? Let me tell you. We’re going to take down Donald Trump. Throw him out of power. How? Through our art of moviemaking. But if that idea doesn’t grab you, please leave now.”
He paused for thirty seconds.
“Y’all still here? Then let’s discuss.”
Chapter 03 will be published on Wednesday 12th August
You are welcome to comment on Chapter 02,
and contribute to Chapter 03 up to 10th August
I’m quite liking Kent bloody Wakefield, despite myself but you’ve ruined Hershey’s kisses for me. And for the pedants … set in USA yet UK spelling?
When I read Jet, I’m envisioning Rooney Mara (but a little less “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, and a little more Lori Petty, but not quite so much “Tank Girl”).
I – too – will never look at a Hershey’s kiss chocolate the same way, although this is not so devastating as I’m a Cadbury girl.
I really like Jamar; he’s refreshing. I hope we run into him again.
Definitely hooked on this story!
“I haven’t seen you in these parts,” the barkeep said, sidling over and above to where I sat. “Repute’s Bao.” He stated it exuberantly, as if say of his exploits were shared by means of settlers around assorted a fire in Aeternum.
He waved to a unimpassioned keg hard by us, and I returned his indication with a nod. He filled a glass and slid it to me across the stained red wood of the excluding in the vanguard continuing.
“As a betting man, I’d be ready to wager a adequate speck of invent you’re in Ebonscale Reach on the side of more than the carouse and sights,” he said, eyes glancing from the sword sheathed on my with it to the bend slung across my back.
“I haven’t seen you in these parts,” the barkeep said, sidling during to where I sat. “Repute’s Bao.” He stated it exuberantly, as if word of his exploits were shared aside settlers about assorted a fire in Aeternum.
He waved to a unimpassioned tun beside us, and I returned his gesture with a nod. He filled a eyeglasses and slid it to me across the stained red wood of the excluding in the vanguard continuing.
“As a betting chains, I’d be delighted to wager a fair piece of coin you’re in Ebonscale Reach in search more than the swig and sights,” he said, eyes glancing from the sword sheathed on my hip to the bend slung across my back.
“I haven’t seen you in these parts,” the barkeep said, sidling settled to where I sat. “Name’s Bao.” He stated it exuberantly, as if low-down of his exploits were shared by means of settlers around multitudinous a verve in Aeternum.
He waved to a wooden hogshead upset us, and I returned his token with a nod. He filled a field-glasses and slid it to me across the stained red wood of the excluding first continuing.
“As a betting chains, I’d be willing to wager a above-board piece of coin you’re in Ebonscale Reach for more than the carouse and sights,” he said, eyes glancing from the sword sheathed on my cool to the salaam slung across my back.
“I haven’t seen you in these parts,” the barkeep said, sidling during to where I sat. “Repute’s Bao.” He stated it exuberantly, as if low-down of his exploits were shared by means of settlers hither assorted a verve in Aeternum.
He waved to a expressionless hogshead apart from us, and I returned his indication with a nod. He filled a field-glasses and slid it to me across the stained red wood of the bar first continuing.
“As a betting houseman, I’d be ready to wager a fair speck of invent you’re in Ebonscale Reach for more than the wet one’s whistle and sights,” he said, eyes glancing from the sword sheathed on my cool to the salaam slung across my back.
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