A Story for the Telling

Okay, picture this:

There’s a girl somewhere in West Hollywood, knocking on a door in a neighborhood she has no business being anywhere near. She’s from back east, somewhere soft and sweet like she is. She hasn’t been out here long enough to let it curdle the sweetness away from her smile, though lord knows she’s been here too long anyway.

The guy whose apartment she knocks on is a Hollywood wolf, no two ways about it. He’s promised her he’ll get her in pictures and taken what liberties he could, which turn out to be an awful lot. She’s deep in the family way and knocking on his door, asking if he’ll please, please come out. Is he actually in the business? Doesn’t really matter. He’s made promises he has no intention of keeping.

But that’s not the story they want me to tell you. The studios want schmaltz, so let me lay it on thick. Where to start?

America loves an underdog, and they love sports movies, so let’s make it an underdog-sports flick. What sport? Doesn’t really matter. Football, baseball, as long as it’s all-American. Tennis is a little fruity. Let’s say baseball. Our hero is the Kid with the Golden Arm, Mr. Bigshot of Bumfuck, Montana. He’s got a heart of gold and a gal to match. He’s got the whole world by the throat, but something makes him lose his grip. Dad dies? Car crash? Nothing too tragic, we want them dewy, not sobbing. Leave that to the Bette Davis pics. It can’t be his girlfriend buying it, because how else is he going to make the comeback without the Love of a Good Woman?

Anyway, Hero McHitter has a sophomore slump. Very relatable, happens to the best of us. Maybe his girl goes off and gets engaged in the meantime, because god forbid an attractive woman go unclaimed in Hollywood.

The girl stands on the stoop and knocks on Wolfy’s door. He’s miles away, at some club talking off some other hopeful’s tonsils. She just knocks and stands like a good girl, ankles together, never sitting. Her voice is never mean, just entreating. It’s got that lilting, lyrical quality to it. Maybe she could have made it, to B-pictures even. Or maybe she could have met up with someone worse. There’s no track-marks on her arms, she’s not jittery with nosebleeds. There’s just the fat bulge at her waist, weighing down her future.

So Hero looks around and finds something to spur him back to the top. Could be an old lighter, a ball signed by the Babe, or even his father’s hat. Suddenly he’s flooded with meaning, he’s got to go to his girl and confess he’s over the moon for her, he can’t have anyone else by his side as he rises back to the top. She dithers, she’s a woman, but we all know she’s going to yank back to his side like he’s got a magnet in his pocket. Maybe there’s a hint of training, maybe some talks with his former friends, but not too much shop talk. Folks don’t go to sports flicks for stats, they go there to be told something they already know.

In the story I want to tell you, somebody opens the door to that girl on the stoop. It isn’t wolfie, he’s miles away and far beneath her. It’s a neighbor, who tells her to come in and get off her feet, in the cleanest way possible. She gets a cup of tea and the advice she’s needed since day one but no one in this town is willing to give. She gets a friend, which is rare commodity in this sewer berg. She doesn’t come back to wolfie’s door, she’s on her way to somewhere better. Maybe back to her folks(wherever they may be) maybe to a cleaner part of California, maybe to get thee to a nunnery. Maybe she makes a pen pal, writes every so often about how she’s doing(much better) how much she misses Hollywood(not at all) and what her future’s like(bright).

But it won’t play in Peoria.

People don’t want to know good girls can get pregnant out of wedlock. Bastards exist as a dramatical device, an albatross around the neck of some tragic Paramount player trying to catch Gary Cooper’s eye. They don’t want to know their dream machine is run off of human coal, they don’t want to know about the collateral damage the star harvester creates. They want to be comforted. They want someone like Sophmore Slouch McGee, who will bootstrap himself out of the gutter because America loves an underdog, however improbable.

All the tragedy, the slump in the middle of the picture, is just foreplay for the real reason everyone came to the show. The Big Game. Where our hero pulls in a miracle at the last possible second, winning everything, the girl, the game, and the audience’s hearts. It doesn’t have to follow the rules, he can bunt that ball like a pigskin for all we care, we just want to see him win. And when he does we all breathe a sigh of relief. Because we scared ourselves, just a little, with the middle of the movie. For a while there, it looked like bad things really could happen, and everything wouldn’t resolve itself neatly.

There’s the story I want to tell you, the story they want me to tell you, and then there’s the story I don’t want to tell you.

The girl stood on the stoop one more day. Then she didn’t come by anymore.

One more day. That’s what I took to finish the stupid sports script. She was on the stoop one more day, the rain soaking her stockings, waiting for someone to invite her in, waiting for someone to care. I cared, but apparently not enough to stop typing. Maybe she left for somewhere better, maybe somewhere worse. While I took one day to finish the no-brainer script, which was one more than it needed, someone’s fate was decided.

Nobody wants to watch that. Nobody wants it to happen, even though it does happen every day in numbers far too high to quantify, so they do the next best thing: they pretend it doesn’t exist. Good girls don’t get pregnant, so that high-school debutante probably skipped church to smoke or something reprehensible. Pregnancy is a penalty, something they have to work through themselves. Wolf isn’t a hero, by a long shot, but a good girl would immediately know better.

People don’t like fallen-women stories unless the dame bites it at the end, preferably right after repenting her hussy ways. People like sports movies, people like honest and true men like our Hero McHitter, and his gal who remains virginal for him throughout the years, because it was Meant To Be.

There, there’s your script. Didn’t take me but five minutes.

Enjoy your fucking movie.


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