Friday, February 22, 2013

"Birthday Vibrations" -- a short story

            Chris couldn’t figure out what to give Jessica for her Sweet Sixteen. Being her boyfriend of seven months, he knew it had to be special. His friends were of no use. They all suggested the obvious: jewelry. Chris shat on jewelry. He was above it. He was a man, seventeen years of age, and Jessica was a special girl. The gift had to ooze a clever thoughtfulness. Buying Jessica jewelry would’ve been the same as buying diapers for a baby. Nope, he would not succumb to the popular choice.
            He asked a wide range of people for suggestions. His mother suggested a shopping spree. Too expensive. His father suggested a spa day. Too obvious. His grandfather suggested a rifle. Too risky. Jessica’s friends, of course, also suggested jewelry. His hope chipped away with each new suggestion. The spring days passed and became riddled with procrastination.

            Festivities for Jessica’s Sweet Sixteen promised to be stellar, or so she announced. She and her mother had been planning the party for almost two years. It meant the world to them and Chris knew it, mostly because they told him so.
Jessica’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lotion, rented out the Masonic Temple in the middle of Garden Park seven months in advance. They allowed the birthday girl to invite her entire sophomore grade, and then some. Phil DeFlip, the hottest local DJ and friend of the family, had also been booked seven months in advance. Italian catering would be provided by Nancy’s Pizza. A cake the size of a person was on pre-order at Butterball’s Bakery. An elegant dress fit for a queen had been purchased, hemmed and hung in Jessica’s walk-in closet.
Jessica and her mother were also planning an elaborate candle lighting ceremony for the party’s halfway point. Jessica wanted to recognize the sixteen most important people in her life by having them each light one candle on her cake. Candle number seven of sixteen was being reserved for Chris, an honor that amplified his gift-giving anxieties.
The sole struggle in the party’s planning stage occurred one Friday night in April. Mr. and Mrs. Lotion disagreed over the possible exclusion of alcoholic beverages at the party. Chris witnessed the debate while eating ice cream in the kitchen with Jessica and her sister Melanie.
“This isn’t The Super Bowl, Donald. You and your brothers don’t need to get drunk.”
“If I were to make an analogy here... this is Jessica’s ultimate birthday celebration, so it will be like her Super Bowl of birthdays. We’re not doing this ever again! Well… except for when Melanie turns sixteen, but that’s three years from now! Not to mention, I’m shelling out enough dough as it is. I’ll need a scotch. Set up a bar. Or we can make it B.Y.O.B. Do you want my brothers in charge of that?”
“Mom, I don’t want them bringing moonshine to my party.”
“Fine. But you better warn all of your friends. Zero tolerance."
Mrs. Lotion emphasized her point by slapping her palm on the counter.
“God Mom! I know!”
“And Chris, I want you to set a good example. You’re a gentleman and a scholar.”
“Thanks Mrs. Lotion. I’ll do my best to keep those bratty little high school kids in check.”
Mr. Lotion made faces behind his wife’s back. Chris suppressed laughter. Mr. Lotion was almost like one of Chris’s buddies. They watched football together on Sundays. They traded barbecuing tips. But, most importantly, Mr. Lotion had grown up in Garden Park during the 1970s. He had to have some idea that there would be underage drinking at the party, just not from the adult stash. The topic of conversation shifted to the guest list.
Chris and his friends were masters of drinking on the sly. In many different locations – basements, garages, parks, the town square, the sump, beaches, on trains, in the city, in houses where parents were on vacation, school dances, a number of previous Sweet Sixteens, etc. They were flawless in execution. Binge drinking had been their number one choice of weekend activity for a little over two years. Jessica’s birthday would not be any different.

A week before the party, Chris prodded Jessica for gift hints over the phone. She quickly changed the subject.
“I’ve been reading online about my birthday vibrations,” Jessica said.
“What the hell is that?”
“It’s numerology. All the numbers added up. Like, the day I was born, the year, the day the party will be held, the number of guests who have RSVP’d…”
            “You believe in that crap?”
            “I do.”
            “Well, are they good vibrations at least?” 
            Chris sang the Beach Boys song in a jokey falsetto.
            “Yup! Just like the song! It all adds up and it’s going to be a great party!”
            “Nice. Can’t wait.”
The subject of their conversation began to meander. They talked for another twenty minutes until Jessica had to get off the phone – her mom wanted to take her shopping for special birthday candles.
Chris hung up and plopped down in bed. He thought about Jessica. She was a very kind person. She placed family and friends above material possessions. Her Sweet Sixteen, which on the surface seemed selfish, truly wasn't. Jessica really just wanted everyone to get together and have fun. Gifts would be a byproduct. Chris’s thoughts shifted to three months earlier, the day he and Jessica had lost their virginity to one another. Their original vow was to wait until after her birthday, but neither one of them could resist. Marathon bouts of oral sex had fueled their impatience. They gave in to temptation over the winter while watching a boring horror movie.
After an awkward first few sessions of intercourse, Jessica morphed into a sex fiend. At any given moment, behind closed doors, or even with people in the next room, Jessica mauled Chris. She constantly grabbed his penis at inappropriate times, completely enjoying the risk factor. Chris was happy to oblige, growing numerous erections in the process. Whenever either of their houses happened to be empty, they would utilize the privacy and spend every last minute in bed together. Any time their parents were asleep or watching TV, they snuck down into basements to fornicate. The only days they skipped sex were the days when Jessica had her period. She made up for this by giving Chris head, or by experimenting with lubricated tit jobs. Even for a girl with the last name Lotion, she went above and beyond with the cream.
Chris became spoiled. He didn’t realize the wonderment of his situation and began to grow bored. Being a fan of porno movies, his new obsession became pushing for what he thought to be the next logical step in their sexual experimentation: anal sex. Jessica was dead set against it. She feared the pain and already felt fully satisfied with their current situation. Chris pled his case for anal sex whenever possible, annoyingly so. Jessica overruled his pleas, and she did her best to occupy his thoughts with the rest of her body. She succeeded... mostly.
            Chris opened his eyes. He had drifted into a light sleep. Two words bounced around and echoed through his mind… birthday vibrations…


The day of the party arrived. With thoughts of lust and desperation in his head, Chris made a very poor decision. He bought two vibrating sex toys and had them gift-wrapped in a blue box, topped with a pretty pink ribbon. On the car ride home, his best friend Tim argued against giving Jessica vibrating birthday gifts for her Sweet Sixteen.
“You’re crazy man! What if she opens the box at the party?”
“She’s not going to open presents until tomorrow afternoon. I’ve seen her mother’s itinerary.”
“Her mom is hot. I’d like to see those titties bounce,” Jack said from the back seat.
Chris gave a nod in agreement. Jessica’s mother was rather attractive.
            “I think you’re making a big mistake,” Tim said.
            “Don’t worry. It’ll be fine. Besides, I know Jessica. The risk factor will turn her on. Now I’ll be getting butt sex for sure.”
            The three friends had started the day in the Roosevelt Field shopping mall. Chris led Tim and Jack all over the mall, stopping in almost every store to peruse the merchandise. After three hours, Chris gave up. He decided jewelry would have to do. Being Tim and Jack were major potheads, they wanted to go to the Shangri-La Smoke Shop in nearby Uniondale. They had their fill of shopping for a girl they weren’t even dating. Chris reluctantly agreed and let his friends have their way.
            The Shangri-La Smoke Shop offered up two huge floors of stoner merchandise. Bongs, pipes, papers, incense, posters and sculptures on the first floor. The second floor housed clothes, footwear, and jewelry. But, in a tiny back room hidden behind a red curtain, a large collection of sex toys and pornographic material were on display.
            Chris found the room by accident while looking through the upstairs jewelry selection. He gasped in shock upon entering. Thick glass cases protected every imaginable size and shape of vibrating penis. Porno movies lined the walls, all sorted by category. A five-foot tall magazine rack was filled to the brim with spank-books from all over the world. Nary a fetish went unrepresented.
“Can I help you?” asked a creepy-looking clerk in his late thirties. He was reading a newspaper with his legs propped up on a glass dildo display.
            “Just looking,” Chris said.
            “If you need anything, let me know. I’m here to help.”
The clerk returned to his newspaper.
            Chris looked at the porno movies and magazines for a long while, but the dildo display possessed his mind. Jessica would go crazy for those things! And I’d love to use them on her!  He finally approached the counter in awe and studied the sex toys. The clerk folded his newspaper and sat up, ready to assist.
            “Will this be a gift or for personal use?”
            “This will be a gift for my girlfriend. It’s her birthday.”
            “Ah. So this sex toy has to be special.”
            The clerk presented a tiny bullet-shaped vibrator.
            “This little guy is called The Magic Bullet. It’s one of our best sellers. Ladies love this thing. It’s used to stimulate the clitoris and the outer walls of the vagina.”
            The clerk pressed a button and The Magic Bullet began to emit a high-pitched buzzing sound.
            “Only thirty bucks.”
            “I’ll take it, but I also want something bigger.
            After much debate, Chris settled on a nine-inch vibrator named The Ballistic Boner.
            “Why are most of these named in military terms?”
            “Because chicks become shell-shocked after using them. Be careful. Some women have been known to give up men for these machines.”
            “Not my girlfriend.”
            “Sure. That’s what you all say.”
            Jack and Tim entered the room and saw Chris standing in front of the dildo display. Jack went straight to the porno movies, zeroing in on the lesbian DVD selections. Tim approached Chris in a huff.
            “We’ve been looking all over for you. What the hell are you doing?”
            “I’m buying Jessica’s birthday presents.”
            Tim stared wide-eyed in shock at the two vibrators on the counter.
Jack approached the counter with two girl-on-girl porno movies in hand. He laughed, seeing Chris’s vibrator choices.        
“Beautiful. Now Jessica’s parents will really know how much you love their daughter.” 
He placed his videos on the counter and offered twenty-dollars to the clerk.
The clerk rang up Jack’s purchases, bagged them, returned change, then returned his attention to Chris.
            “Would you like these gift-wrapped?”
The clerk wrapped the two vibrators in white tissue paper and placed them inside a light blue box. He added a pretty pink ribbon for a final touch.
            “Cash or credit?”
Chris paid for the vibrators with a debit card. He was beside himself with excitement. He thanked the clerk for his help.
On the way out of Shangri-La, Tim began to argue against the vibrators.
“Don’t you think Mr. and Mrs. Lotion will want to see what their daughter’s boyfriend got for her birthday?”
“I’ll warn Jess not to open my present in front of them.”
“I don’t just mean tonight or tomorrow. How about next week. Or in general. Or eventually?”
“Shit. Yeah. Maybe.”
Chris stopped in his tracks and became visibly worried.
“Give them to her for Christmas instead,” Jack said.
“That’s too far away. I want to use them as soon as possible.”
Tim chewed on his cheek, thinking. After an internal debate, he made a suggestion.
“Well, how about buying her a cheap pair of earrings, just for show? Meanwhile, you and Jessica will both know what the real gifts were without raising suspicion.”
Chris punched Tim on the shoulder.
“That’s why I love you, Timmy boy! You’re always two steps ahead of the game!”
They returned to the Shangri-La jewelry section. Chris purchased a pair of gaudy earrings. He had them gift-wrapped as well, but without a pink bow on top. The bow was reserved for his special vibrating presents.
Back at home Chris placed a quick call to Jessica.
“Happy birthday baby. Are you getting ready for tonight?”
            “We just got back from our hair appointment. Love the way it looks.”
            “I can’t wait to mess it up later on.”
            “You horn dog.”
            Chris rubbed his semi-erect penis. He felt a sudden urge to spill the beans about the vibrating gifts.
            “I have to go,” Jessica said. “My mother wants me to take, like, a hundred pictures with my grandparents.”
            “Okay. Go ahead. Happy birthday again. See you at seven thirty.”
Chris hung up and went to jerk off in the bathroom. He returned to his room, turned on the television and watched cartoons for two hours.

            That night while getting ready for the party Chris asked his mother to iron his shirt and tie.
            “Leave whatever you need by the staircase," she said. "I’ll iron them while you’re in the shower. Did you find something nice for Jessica?”
            “A bracelet?”
            “Some earrings.”
            “Earrings? Can I see them?”
            Chris heard his mom approaching outside in the hall. 
            “I’m naked! Don’t come in!”
            “Fine. I’ll see them later.”
            “They’re already wrapped.”
            Chris’s mother made her way downstairs. Chris exited his bedroom in a hurry with Jessica’s presents. He threw his shirt and tie over the banister and entered the bathroom. He locked the door and took a long, hot shower. The presents were safe on the hamper, collecting condensation.
At the last minute before six Chris put on his shirt and tie. They were ironed and waiting for him on his bedroom door. He rushed downstairs, quickly kissed his mother goodbye and ran out the back door.
            Tim and Jack, with their friends Pete and Allen, were already drinking in Tim’s basement when Chris arrived. They were all clad in button-down shirts and slacks. Tim’s parents were out to dinner, so music was at the maximum volume and lewd conversations were in full swing.
            “What the hell took you so long? You couldn’t find your cock to wash it?” Tim asked.
He was looser than usual because of the alcohol. He poured a shot of Southern Comfort and handed it to Chris. Chris placed his gifts on an end table and slammed back the liquor. He winced and gestured for another.
            “Are these the artificial cocks?” Pete asked.
            Chris slammed back another shot and nodded affirmative. Pete picked up the box and shook it violently.
            “Careful. You might turn them on if you shake too hard,” Allen said.
            “You might turn me on too,” Jack said.
            Tim poured everyone another shot. Pete raised his glass for a toast.
            “To Chris, the guy with the biggest balls we know!”
            They all slammed back their shots and gestured for another.
            An hour went by. The five friends finished a jug of Southern Comfort. Allen opened up a fresh bottle of vodka. They were going overboard. Everyone was shit-faced. Pete and Tim slurred their speech in the laundry room, making each other laugh while pissing in a slop sink. Jake ate cookies ten at a time, stuffing his mouth to the brim. Allen kept re-rolling joints, unsatisfied with the outcome. Chris was the worst of all though, he was still drinking double-time. Having missed a half hour of pre-game, he desperately wanted to catch up. By the time he truly caught up he was too buzzed to realize. Then, when his drunkenness had surpassed everyone else’s, his friend’s were too drunk to notice.
Their main goal became figuring out a way to bring alcohol into the party. In the end, Pete agreed to carry the bottle of vodka in his waistband and stash it in bushes outside the Masonic Temple. Tim agreed to carry a flask of whiskey in his sock, allowing everyone full access to it throughout the night. Allen agreed to share joints.
Seven o’clock rolled around and Tim called for departure.  Chris remembered to pick up the box of vibrators form the end table, but forgot to take the earrings. Tim attempted to lecture everyone on the importance of acting sober in front of Jessica’s family, but his slurred speech caused him to stop and giggle.
The five friends stumbled toward the party. They were on Tulip Parkway, a main street in Garden Park, which offered grocery shopping, restaurants, drug stores, bars, delis, and a railroad station. It was obvious to the sober residents: these five high school kids were inebriated in broad daylight.
Chris stumbled carelessly all over the sidewalks, trying to avoid tripping on parking meters. Tim and Allen snuck sips from Tim’s flask. Jack and Pete made oink-oink sounds at an older woman who called their entire group “drunken pigs”. All in all, things were shaping up to become a legendary night in their alcohol-fueled experiences.
            The front steps of the Masonic Temple were already filled with guests. Chris and his friends approached, doing their best to act sober. Pete broke off from the group to stash the vodka in the bushes. The rest of them mingled with the crowd. Tim wandered over to say hello to his younger cousin Mary and her friends. Allen met his girlfriend Lisa and led her to the parking lot for a quick smoke. Chris and Jack entered the Masonic Temple, having simultaneous urges to pee.
The first people Chris and Jack met in the lobby were Jessica’s younger sister Melanie and her best friend Katie. Chris gave Melanie a big hug and a kiss, which lingered for an uncomfortable moment too long. She finally pulled away.
            “You stink. What is that?”
“Smells really weird,” Katie said.
            Chris stared through Melanie, cross-eyed. He wobbled, side to side, and let out a low grunt of confusion.
            “That’s cologne, girls. You’ll learn to appreciate it once you get older,” Jack said. “Chris, let’s go sign the guest book.”
Jack led Chris to the corner where a large white guest book was set out on a table. Three sophomore girls were in the process of signing the book, writing personal birthday messages to Jessica.
            “Chew some gum. They smelt you,” Jack said.
Chris shook his head and began clucking like a chicken, mocking the sophomores at the guest book. The girls quieted down and acknowledged Chris with cold, hard stares. Chris held out the blue box for them to see.
            “You want to know what I bought my girlfriend for her Sweet Sixteen?” he asked. His words were slurred and sinister.
            “Sure,” one of the sophomores said.
            Chris reached for the pink bow. Jack snatched the gift away from him and sprinted at top speed into the men’s bathroom. Chris made chase, yelling unintelligible threats. Tim witnessed the tail end of this ruckus and followed the two idiots into the bathroom.
            Jack hid in a stall. Chris was banging on the locked door.
            “Give me back my dildos you cocksucker!”
            Tim entered the men’s room holding out his arms in a gesture of disbelief.
“What the hell are you two doing? You’re running around like a bunch of animals!”
            “He stole my present… the motherfucker.”
            “He was going to open it in front of people!” Jack said from inside the stall. “He’s losing his goddamn mind!”
            Tim grabbed Chris’s shoulders and looked him square in the eyes.
“You’re wasted man! You have to calm down! Come on. Drink some water.”
Tim led Chris to the sinks. Chris followed like an obedient child. He bent down at a sink and cupped water to his mouth from the faucet. He slurped.
             Jack took a peek over the stall wall.
            Chris turned off the faucet. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve.
            “Are you okay to go in?” Tim asked.
            Chris nodded. He looked at himself in the mirror and went back for a second round of sink water.
            “Are you?” Tim asked Jack.
            “Hey, I’m fine. I’m just ready to eat some pizza.”
“Let’s be classy. We don’t want to embarrass Jessica. I’ll hold this."
            Tim took the present away from Jack. The three friends, now semi-composed, exited the bathroom and entered the inner lair or Jessica's Sweet Sixteen. The party hall was packed. Festivities were in full swing. Heavy techno music pumped through the speakers. DJ Phil DeFlip and his Guido entourage were in the process of warming up the partygoers with a wild dance routine. Phil’s dancers pulled out all their tricks in an empty circle on the dance floor. They stunned the crowd with nifty urban dance moves. They executed back flips for the routine’s finale. Phil landed two flips with ease then snatched up a microphone from his DJ booth.
            “All right party people! Make some noise!”
            The crowd made some noise.
            “I’m DJ Phil DeFlip. Me and my crew are in full effect! It’s a very special night! I want you all to put it into overdrive! Get ready to celebrate Jessica Lotion’s Sweet Sixteen!”
            The partygoers roared. Chris and his friends wobbled.
            “Where is she?” Phil asked. “Jessica’s parents are good friends of my family, so we’re gonna do this right.”
            Jessica stepped out from the crowd to join Phil on the dance floor.
            “Hey beautiful. Let me be the first to wish you a happy birthday. Are you ready to dance?”
            Jessica took hold of Phil’s microphone.
            “I’m ready to party! Wooooo!”
            The crowd cheered in approval.
            A hip-hop song came bumping through the speakers. Jessica shook her booty to its rhythm. Her friends laughed and applauded. Jessica leaned in and whispered to Phil.
            “Is Chris in the house?” Phil asked.
            Tim and Jack turned to look for Chris. To their dismay, Chris was already making his way to the dance floor. He approached Jessica. They embraced and kissed. The crowd cheered as Chris began grinding his pelvis in circles to the hip-hop rhythms. He pulled Jessica close. She joined in dancing. Her pelvis made circles as well. What followed was a display too lewd for even a married couple to attempt in public. All the high school kids were very impressed.
Meanwhile, at the bar, Mr. Lotion and his two brothers were stewing. They had been in the process of getting liquored up, laughing and enjoying themselves. Jessica and Chris’s wildly sexual dance display killed their good times. Mrs. Lotion sensed danger. She took her husband by the forearm.
“Don’t go crazy. They’re just trying to impress their friends.”
            “Fuck their friends. I’m going to break his neck.”
Mr. Lotion shot down the remainder of his scotch. His brothers chugged their beers. They all moved forward to attack.
            “Everybody dance!” Phil shouted.
Partygoers rushed the dance floor, blocking Mr. Lotion’s path.
“Please, relax. Everything is going to be fine.” Mrs. Lotion said.
“I’m watching that punk. One more lewd gesture and we’re going to have his balls.”
Mr. Lotion waved to the bartender for a refill. His brothers did the same. For the next hour, the three of them knocked back drinks and let the intoxicants slowly take over.
After an uneventful hour of dancing and pizza, Phil instructed the partygoers to take their seats. It was time for Jessica's candle lighting ceremony. An employee from Butterball’s Bakery rolled out a humongous three-tier cake. Jessica called up her candle-lighting participants one by one over the microphone – her mother, her father, her sister, her grandmother, her best friend Tara, her best friend Jackie, her boyfriend Chris…
“Chris? Where’s Chris?”
The partygoers looked around, but Chris was not present in the party hall. At that moment he was puking into a urinal in the men’s bathroom. Jessica’s birthday present was on the floor by his side. Three of his friends were with him. Jack and Allen were leaning against the bathroom door so no one could get in and Tim was trying to coach Chris through the puke session. Chris gagged and unloaded. His vomit consisted of mostly liquor coupled with the occasional chunk of Nancy’s Pizza. He dry heaved and spat
“Did I eat Beefaroni?”
“That’s pizza, dick. Hurry up. Drink water. The candle-lighting ceremony already started.”
Someone tried to enter the bathroom. Jack and Allen braced themselves and forced the door shut.
“What’s going on in there?” Mr. Lotion asked from outside. “Open this door now!”
Chris continued to vomit. His friends froze.
“Just a minute. I’m taking a dump,” Jack said.
Tim smacked his own forehead in reaction to Jack’s stupidity.
Furious knocking began to shake the bathroom door.
“Open this goddamn door!”
“Shit. We’re fucked. Just let him in.”
Jack and Allen stepped away from the door. Mr. Lotion and his brothers entered. They were drunk, grinding their teeth and scowling. They surveyed the scene and saw Chris on the floor in front of a urinal filled with puke.
“Jesus Christ! This is totally unacceptable. Getting hammered at my daughter’s birthday party and making a mockery of yourselves? Where is the booze?”
Chris grabbed Jessica’s present and struggled to rise to his feet.
“No… Mr. Lotion… My sister has been sick. I caught the flu from her.”
“Then you should stop making out with your sister,” Jack said.
Chris burst into laughter. Everyone else was mortified.
“Are you some sort of motherfuckin' wise-ass?”
           One of Mr. Lotion’s brothers stepped to Jack and grabbed him by the collar. A scuffle ensued. Mr. Lotion bumped into Chris. Chris dropped Jessica’s present on the ground. It began to vibrate.
“Everyone calm down.”
A buzzing sound permeated the silence. Mr. Lotion looked down at the vibrating present.
“What the hell is that?”
Before Chris or his friends had a chance to react, Mr. Lotion bent down to pick up up the gift. He unwrapped it and saw what was inside. Mr. Lotion grabbed Chris by the throat and landed a rapid succession of brutal punches. Darkness followed.
Chris woke up in a hospital room three hours later bruised and battered with a broken nose, fractured ribs, and twenty-three stitches above his right eye. He learned from visiting family and friends that the Masonic Temple turned to bedlam after he blacked out. The police arrived and the three Lotion brothers were arrested for assaulting minors. Jack received a black eye and lost a tooth in the melee. Tim and Pete received minor cuts and bruises. Mr. Lotion and his brothers had mostly concentrated on beating Chris to a pulp.
The next day, Chris tried to contact Jessica through texts and phone calls. He apologized and begged for her forgiveness. No answers. The night after that, while zonked out on painkillers, Chris came to the calm realization that he would most likely never speak to Jessica again. After all, it was what he deserved for landing her father and uncles in jail and ruining her Sweet Sixteen. He settled into the numbness of pain medication and watched cartoons.  
Word quickly spread around Garden Park of the notorious vibrating birthday present. Chris became a legend in certain circles, especially among the older club-going MDMA crowd. They regarded his sex toy exploits as a ballsy masterstroke of comedy and decided he would be a fun person to to party with. He was given free drugs and fell into bed with many of the most popular senior girls. He began to neglect his core group of friends, opting instead to take the train into Manhattan on the weekends where he would roll on ecstasy and fuck his way through the club scene.
In the following months, when Chris and Jessica passed each other in the hallways at school, they would pretend to be complete strangers. The painful memories of Jessica's Sweet Sixteen slowly faded into the background of their lives.

A year later Chris was a very different person. Alcohol played a minor roll in his extracurricular activities. He had developed a healthy appetite for cocaine while dating a twenty-five-year-old club promoter named Marlene. That wonderful white powder satisfied his every need. Jack was the only person he still talked to from his old group of friends because Jack also loved cocaine and knew all the best dealers in town.
One Saturday night on his way into the city, Chris noticed Jessica sitting in the same train car. She hadn't noticed Chris. She was too busy holding a bouquet of flowers and cuddling up to the good-looking guy in the seat next to her. Chris looked to his phone and noticed the date. It was Jessica’s seventeenth birthday. He decided to send her a text – “Happy Birthday”.
Jessica’s phone vibrated in her pocket, but she didn’t check it until much later. She was too busy enjoying her new boyfriend and the romantic birthday outing he had planned for her. Since she'd deleted Chris’s number a long time ago, and her inbox was flooded with happy birthday wishes from friends and family, his message fell into obscurity. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"Liver's Gone (Heart's Still Here)"

In honor of 2/14/13, here's a new song that I wrote about a dying man's final words of love to his wife...

"My liver's gone, but my heart's still here
I lost my liver drinking lots of beer
But my heart will always be true
And it beats for you, baby
The doctor said I have a few more years
I'd like to spend them in a love affair
So, anything I ever do
You know it's just for you
Baby I'm so in love..."

Spoiler alert: he dies at the end. Happy St. Valentines Day!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

THE ITCH TO PITCH (Part Four): "Old Habits Die Hard"

Breaking into Hollywood in this day and age is a daunting task for any aspiring screenwriter -- especially those who aspire to originality. Remakes, reboots, reimaginings and sequels continue to dominate the yearly output of every major studio. Well, I'm broke. Screw originality! Sign me up for the goddamn job! Here are snippets, pitches, story outlines and casting suggestions for the ridiculous Hollywood sequels I'm ready to write NOW.

"Old Habits Die Hard"
                    aka: Die Hard 6

Today is February 13th, 2013. The fifth film in the Die Hard series, "A Good Day to Die Hard", will be released tomorrow on Valentines Day -- because nothing says 'i love you' like machine guns and explosions! Sadly, 2/14/13 seems like it's shaping up to become a good day to cry hard

The original "Die Hard" is on my list of all time favorite films. An easy choice. I also have a lot of love for 2 & 3. Part 4, "Live Free or Die Hard", is where the series started to lose me. I know I'm not alone there. Live Free wasn't the absolute nightmare that some claim it is (the spliced up president telecast sequence was pretty inspired), but it's totally not a good Die Hard movie. To paraphrase my dear friend Dr. Nathan Jordan, "the characters are typing on keyboards the whole time or simply trying to plug things in." Kind of a bummer. Sorry Bruce.

The tomatometer for Die Hard 5 is currently hovering at 5% on FIVE PERCENT. I'm sure this rating will change for the better in the next few days. Whatever. I'll see the movie eventually either way, but I felt the urge to read some of the bad reviews. Seems the general consensus is we're getting more Live Free and less Die Hard. 

This has sparked some inspiration in me. There are tons of fans, screenwriters and filmmakers out there who love the original movie. A large number of them have definite ideas on how to return the franchise to form. Beyond the obvious move of giving McClane hair again, here are some set ups & character bullet points I would include in "Old Habits Die Hard"...

* John McClane is retired and living in a dumpy apartment in Queens, NY. He's bored, back to boozing, and spends most of his days gambling his pension away at the Aqueduct Racetrack & Casino. During one hazy afternoon, McClane sees someone trying to jimmy a car door open in the casino parking lot. He goes toe to toe with the perp and knocks his lights out in the name of the law. But, McClane soon discovers that the man he thought was a criminal is actually an off-duty AAA employee who was helping a casino-worker retrieve her keys. This incident lands McClane under arrest. 

* After being released from police custody, McClane returns home with a bad headache. And of course he's also all out of booze. To make matters worse, he receives a phone call from Holly, his estranged ex-wife. After awkward greetings and how-ya-beens, Holly delivers some bad news. Their daughter Lucy claims to have fallen in love with a man she just met in California. He proposed, Lucy said yes, and they're planning to elope over the weekend... in Las Vegas. Holly wants John to fly to Vegas so they can meet up and confront their daughter together. After some grumbling and arguing, McClane vows to catch the next plane out of JFK.

* John and Holly meet in the Vegas airport. Opens wounds remain from their failed marriage, it's obvious, but they agree to put aside their differences for the task at hand. 

* At the Luxor, John and Holly find their son Jack at the bar chatting up a beautiful young woman. They swoop in and embarrass him, causing the young woman to flee. Holly scolds Jack for supporting his sister in her rash decision to elope. With a little friendly goading from his father, and a quick couple of drinks, Jack relents and takes his parents to Lucy's room.

* John, Holly and Jack arrive at Lucy's bridal suite. John and Holly confront Lucy. This leads to a major McClane family blowout. Lucy's nebbish fiancee is caught in the middle. They all air family laundry, insults fly, and tears flow. Suddenly, uh oh, there's an explosion in the casino!

The above bullet points should be executed in 12 minutes or less. After all, this is a Die Hard movie and not some screwball family comedy. But, this franchise (for better or worse) has established an entire family of characters. They've all joined John McClane on adventures in the past. It's only fitting that they all join him for one last hurrah. 

I chose Vegas as the backdrop for subtextual reasons, as well as the potential for a return to confined-space set pieces akin to the original. In terms of subtext, we quickly find out in the first scene that McClane has returned to his 'old habits' of hard drinking and gambling, so Vegas can act as a figurative python that would swallow McClane up if he wasn't too busy fighting to keep his entire family safe. And, after all, the breakup of the McClane clan is a major issue for John. He ultimately blames himself. He's haunted by it. It's a gaping hole eating away at his soul. This showdown in Vegas is John's chance to metaphorically patch the hole in his soul by keeping his family together and safe from lurking danger. 

As for set pieces in confined spaces, they've kind of been missing from the franchise since "Die Hard 2: Die Harder". The Luxor (or any other casino for that matter) is rife with potential. Gunfights and brawls in posh hotel rooms, on the casino floor, through narrow corridors, etc. The Luxor is the first casino that came to mind because I can picture McClane sliding down the iconic pyramid exterior with machine guns blazing! And maybe, just maybe, if we want to go down a truly ridiculous route, the climax of the film can exit the confined spaces and take a thrilling road trip. Where, you ask? Well, just 35 miles south of Las Vegas there is a famous little place known as The Hoover Dam, which will obviously be wired with explosives and ready to fuckin' blow.

Now, Die Hard movies aren't really worth anything without a good villain. Shitballs! There's the rub. I don't have a specific character in mind yet. It will be nearly impossible to conjure up someone as formidable as Hans Gruber on such short notice. Give me around five months and I'll get back to you. But, I do know that the villains should be money-hungry thieves, just like the original, who are robbing casinos by force with massive amounts of firepower. 

In conclusion, who the fuck am I kidding? I'm a piece of shit. I'll never come within a thousand miles of writing a Die Hard movie, so I'll just sit back with a can of beer and watch whatever Bruce & The Suits decide to crank out next. 


**Addendum to follow after my first viewing of "A Good Day to Die Hard".

***ADDENDUM, 6/11/13: Yup. "A Good Day to Die Hard" is the worst of the series. Shitballz. There are some enjoyable action sequences, but the screenplay and villains were subpar and the character of John McClane is no longer recognizable. There's only one way I can enjoy these new Die Hards: I pretend I'm following a new protagonist. Drop the "L" in McCLANE and John McCANE becomes the main character of "Live Free" & "A Good Day". Ah, good old John McCANE (no relation to Senator John McCain). Ridiculous, but it's somehow easier to swallow. 

*** ADDENDUM 2, 3/1/15: Paul Blart 2 is set in Vegas. Fuck it.

part three
part two
part one