November 07, 2005

Nat'l Novel Writing Month Short Story Challenge, Day Six

Today's suggestion, from Kate: "and we bid you goodnight"

Gunfire at sign-off.

Gene Tendril, former host of the game show Genius Battle, current host of the Channel Four News At Ten and full-time alcoholic, bursts into Studio B with a big fucking pistol and an almost-killed bottle of Primeval Days whiskey. Suspira, Hell’s Chambermaid, is two bumpers and four scenes of “The Hungry And The Dead” away from bidding goodnight to her “dark mindslaves” (one hundred and twenty two viewers) and sending Channel Four into a long good night of infomercials and JAG reruns when Gene announces himself by shouting “a penny for your thoughts!” and shooting out a klieg light.

Suspira’s reading mail from her “dead letter bag” when the viewers hear a muffled off-screen shout and a shot, then they see sparks rain down in the foreground and see Suspira turn to see what happened, and they see her eyes narrow like she’s going to murder someone. They hear Dave, the cue card guy, go “fuck!” when some sparks burn his right forearm. They don’t know he’s been praying for something like this to happen so he can go on disability.

Then we go to our Technical Difficulties title card, which is a track-suited family walking lakeside while a golden retriever runs ahead of them. It’s over-scored with adult contempo, which is now playing through the monitors in the studio when Gene demands to see Lucy Ortega, his co-anchor.

“Where the fuck is she? Where the fuck’s Lucy, BARB?”

Gene burps Suspira’s real name.

“She’s not here, Gene, now get the fuck off my set!”

“Your set? Your set?” Most of the crew has fled, it’s just Suspira’s producer, who has his hands up like he’s gonna try to tell everybody we can “work this out” but can’t bring himself to speak, and Suspira, who’s got a skull necklace resting in her cleavage, seven feet of black leather rising from a sea of viewer mail and cue cards abandoned by Dave.

“Your set: there’s a laugh. We all know you share this pitiful excuse for a studio with the Spanish-language news hour and the Laughabunch.”

The Laughabunch is a children’s program about four grown men who live in a teapot. It tapes at 8:30 AM. Two of the grown men end their day with the taping, as they’ve been up all night zooming on crystal meth.

We recently came under fire for taping the Spanish news hour in a different, smaller studio than the one News At Ten tapes in. What we didn’t tell the press is that they’re segregated by Gene’s request.

“Gene. I’m going to ask you nicely. Once. Get off. My set.”

“Marv?” Gene offers Suspira’s producer a swig of Primeval Days. Marv declines. “You’re probably wondering,” Gene says to the room, “why I shouted ‘a penny for your thoughts’ when I came in here.”

“No, Gene. I’m not.”

“Arthur Bremer. Do you know who that is?”

“No, Gene, but I know you do, because you used to host a trivia show so you have a wealth of fucking useless facts--”

“ARTHUR Bremer shot Alabama governor George Wallace five times at close range. Paralyzed him. It wasn’t political, he just wanted to be notorious. Idolized serial killers. Thought he needed a catchphrase like ‘sic semper tyrannis.’ He decided on ‘a penny for your thoughts.’”

While Gene is monologizing I hope someone’s calling the police. But I’m not sure; Suspira’s kind of a bitch to work for and ever since the crew found out they would never have a chance to bone her they stopped putting up with it.

“Only here’s the thing: he never said it. Too chickenshit. So I’m saying it. I’m saying it for all the little guys who’ve been fucked by fame.”

“You’re not famous, Gene.”

“I got a gun, BARB.”

“He was too scared to say the words but he fired the gun. You said the words but you’re too scared to shoot.”

I never made the stereotypical assumption that people who wear a lot of black want to be dead, but I guess I was wrong. Suspira has a death-wish.

“Who’s scared? Tell me where the fuck Lucy is.”

“Wait: do you want to know where Lucy is or do you wanna be a martyr for washed-up game show hosts?”

“Hey now, Barb, c’mon…” Marv says finally.

“HE has a gun so he can call me ‘Barb’ and that’s the only concession I’m making. You don’t have a gun so you will call me Suspira.” Her three-inch nails fan out at her sides.

“Suspira,” Marv says, “let’s be reasonable, okay? Let’s all be reasonable. Huh? Gene?”

“Yup. Guns make the weak strong, and Gene here is definitely weak” Suspira says. “Weak like quit his job at a game show to keep a makeup girl from saying he groped her. Weak like got drunk and almost crashed a newscopter in Philly after he went up with a pilot and a camera man to report on a thunderstorm.”

“She doesn’t mean it, Gene!” Marv says, “You know how she gets!”

Gene pistol-whips Suspira.

“GENE!” somebody yells from across Studio B. It’s Lucy.

“Aw, fuck,” Marv says.

“Lucy! I love you!” Gene says.

“Gene, don’t hurt her!” Lucy clicks on high heels across the floor of Studio B. She’s wearing pajama pants and a sweatshirt but she forgot her street shoes at home when she came in today. “Gene, put down the gun, okay?” Her voice is shaky.

“Dammit, you were supposed to stay in the dressing room!” Suspira says.

“YOU DON’T TELL HER WHAT TO--” Gene roars.

“Gene!” Lucy says, “just put down the gun, okay?”

“I love you, Lucy,” Gene says. “Do you know where Trotsky was detained on his way from New York to Russia?”

“What?” Suspira says.

“No, Gene, I don’t.”

“Nova Scotia!”

Nobody sees how this is relevant. Now that Lucy’s in shooting range Suspira’s quiet.

“Gene,” Lucy says, “I guess I don’t see how that relates too…”

“It DOESN’T!” Gene says. “It doesn’t have anything to do with anything, my head is filled with shit like that, just, things that don’t tell me anything about how to live life or how to love or--” he’s sobbing, “and I thought, I thought journalism, there’s something, that’s a real profession, that’s important, that’s valuable, right?”

“Right, Gene.”

“But it ISN’T. It’s just SHIT. It’s just like everything else: reading and smiling, smiling and fucking reading! But not-- not when you do it! Lucy! Not when you do it, there’s a dignity, and a grace, and a--”

“Thank you, Gene.”

“It’s not like introducing fucking slasher films, that kids are probably up watching, warping their minds!”


“Thirteen year old boys jacking off to Suspira’s big fucking vampire boobs, little knowing that the object of their affection is a fucking dyke!”


“Oh fuck you, Tendril,” Suspira says, “if you have a problem with my art, if you have a problem with my lifestyle, then go ahead and fucking shoot me, but leave her out of this!”

“Suspira,” Lucy says, “Don’t make him angry.”

“BARB!” screams Gene. “Her fucking name is BARB. And she brainwashed you. News at eleven: lesbians are fucking vampires.”

“It’s News At Ten, Gene,” Suspira says, “you just show up at eleven because you’re a drunk.”

“Well at least my name’s not a misspelling of the name of a fucking Argento movie. It’s SUSPIRIA. Sus-pir-I-a.”

He’s right, like he always is about things that don’t matter. She was going to be Suspiria, Hell’s chambermaid, but there were legal concerns. Right or not it’s the wrong thing to say.

Suspira howls and flies at Gene. Her wireless mic falls out of the back of her corset and clatters on the floor. She rakes his face with one set of nails, which makes him lose his grip on the Primeval Days. She takes him and smashes him over the head with it. The gun goes off into her stomach.

Gene’s knocked out. Suspira’s on her knees clutching the wound. Lucy’s sobbing and trying to help Suspira. Marv is saying “aw, Jesus” on his way to call an ambulance, I would hope.

Suspiria looks up at me and says “Tim, get my mic back in.”

What the viewer sees is the “Technical Difficulties” card cutting at 1:03 AM to Suspira, in her Chamber Of Monstrosities (foam-core, black paint, rubber bats), her eyes starting to swim, back arched to draw attention to the skull in her cleavage and away from the blood pouring from her stomach wound. They see a lesbian kiss then Suspira tells them guns are evil and not the fun kind of evil and death isn’t glamorous, and without further ado, here’s the climatic final shoot-out, the last scene of “The Hungry And The Dead,” the quintessential zombie-cowboy epic, Suspira’s signing off.

I’m her sound guy so I guess that makes me a hero too.

Posted by DC at November 7, 2005 12:39 AM


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