Catapult Alumni | Fiction

Losing the Lizard Girl

            … and the amygdala wanted to make sense, so it tried.  Bopitty bop boom.  A persistent assertion was being made.  Sha boom bam.  The woman chord displayed its flamboyant finery, being major and minor at the same time, morphing into G minor and along the way, belting out a doubly diminished ninth cluster.  The […]

            … and the amygdala wanted to make
sense, so it tried.  Bopitty bop
boom.  A persistent assertion was being
made.  Sha boom bam.  The woman chord displayed its flamboyant
finery, being major and minor at the same time, morphing into G minor and along
the way, belting out a doubly diminished ninth cluster.  The bedazzled thing that resided there wanted
what it wanted and wanted it pronto.  So it
got its own way, soaking in a deluge of serotonin, before jubilating in the medulla.  Euphoria raged, roared, seared and soared
within my skull.  And then, just as
suddenly as it started, subsided into a lolling tranquility.  Exhausted, I slid off her, falling onto the oriental
carpet beneath the bed where I quickly blended into the swirly patterns.  It was lots of fun being an arabesque, but this
kind of happiness could be lethal.  Many times
with her, I found myself wondering if I had successfully dodged death.  Obviously, the girl was a grandiose drug.  She was that good.  I swear she was the best thing that had ever
happened to me.  I was so happy.  She made me happy all the time.  I mean, she was young enough to have been my
grown-up daughter for cryin’ out loud.  I’d
met her at a club at one of my gigs with the thrash metal band I’d been working
with.  After our blistering set where we
practically burned the walls down and blew the doors off the place, the crowd
was going absolutely bonkers.  The people
out there had been seriously transfigured, and I was glad to have been a part
of it.  In the aftermath of the ecstasy, she
approached me.  Coolly and calmly, like
some sort of exotic lizard girl dancer, she sidled over and chatted up a storm
as I was packing up my gear.  That was
the start.  In the early going, she had a
hard time attaining the big fireworks, but not long after we began our auspicious
heart-to-heart, she tripped over a thick volume of de Sade’s collected works which
one of her lunatic neighbors had discarded in the hallway of her apartment
building, and in the wake of this momentous discovery, she buried herself under
the covers and dove into that devilish book. 
I asked her if she was alright.  She
replied, “Don’t bother me right now. 
Can’t you see I’m busy?” and didn’t come out for a good three and a half
hours.  Later, she wiggled coquettishly within
the confines of the quilted duvet, and everything was smooth sailing for her.  In the days thereafter, she was writing me
obscene postcards telling me how much she missed me.  The thought crossed my mind that maybe I could
be a grandiose drug too.  Nonetheless, I
was righteously worried.  Stumbling
across that vast tome which was chock-a-block full of dubious ribaldry and poor
judgment on an epic scale had unleashed something dark and demonic in her young
reptilian soul because subsequently there was just a hint of cruelty in her
play time — that and handcuffs.  Suddenly,
cold steel restraining devices loomed large in the calculating spectrum of her
thoughts.  She said that life itself was
comprised of strict rules and regulations that had to be constantly enforced or
else someone somewhere was bound to pull a fast one, and by default — to say
nothing about rampant egotism — she might as well be the self-appointed diva to
do the enforcement.  Also, she kept
saying that I wasn’t becoming a rock star fast enough for her lickety-split pace.  The Lizard Girl was forever talking about
Hollywood and how she wanted to go and live there to try her hand at becoming an
international household name.  I put her
off, telling her that I really wasn’t into that movie star bullshit.  But I could see that might be the hairline
fracture in the relationship which would have the potential to destroy our
blissful coziness.  Although she was
certainly radiant in her near perfect girlfriend mode, I surmised that was her
one fault — she truly swallowed the whole celebrity thing hook, line, and
sinker.  I sighed pensively, and hoped
she might be convinced otherwise, thinking that, under the pall of this small
complication, the only thing I could do was to try harder to become a rock
star.  But I didn’t get too worked up
about it because I understood that people have their shortcomings, and
shortcomings have to be tolerated.  How
else can we be human?  How else could the
Lizard Girl become human?  She certainly
wasn’t that.  Perhaps a transfiguration
was in order.

            However, events took a strange turn
when I got a call from an old friend.  The
voice on the phone had an air of desperation. 
It vacillated back and forth between notes of pessimism and optimism
before it finally calmed down and settled on actual good cheer.  Then, having opted to hang out in that happy
frame of mind, it decided to be the bearer of good news.

            “Look, Albert.  I’m finally about to get my movie project off
the ground.  It won’t be long now.  The whole thing is on the verge of sprouting
into the world.  The enthusiasm feels
like a headwater that’s rushing down from the mountain top, and I’m on the raft
knowing that the river will take me to magical places.  I’m telling you, it’s such an exhilarating feeling
to have.” 

            “So let’s give it up for
exhilaration, my man!  Lemme hear a big round
of applause.  Go out there and make some
magic, Bill.  I’m so happy for you.  It’s good to see things going forward.  You’re so lucky.”

            “Yep, I’m lucky.  Tell me again how I’m so lucky.  I like to hear it, so it can be an
inspiration.  It’s part of the magic.”

            “Ah the magic of film — it’s expensive
enough that professionals will do their gig and cooperate.  You can thank the gods of cinema for making it
expensive.  People will be forced to be serious.  That’ll make ’em sober up, so things’ll get
done.  Not like in low echelon rock bands
where people argue most of the time, and after a solid round of hissy fits,
they might deign to get around to making some semblance of organized sounds.  Hell, if they can behave themselves for ten
minutes, they could get a gig or two.  Songs
might come to fruition, and real people might get to hear them.  They might get the hell out of the damned
basement and hit the road instead of playing for an audience of furnace
regulators, thermostats, and storage units.”

            “Gee Albert.  Tone it down. 
You’re being too harsh and cynical. 
The creative process is not exactly a casual walk in the park.  Try to be more positive about life.  Negativity can be very toxic.  I know that sooner or later, your ship will
come in.  Chin up and jolly good show, I
always say!”

            “Yeah, maybe.  But it sure seems to take a long time.  Sometimes, I wonder if I should just give up
and do something more rewarding.”

            “Maybe something like telemarketing or data
entry?”  I could hear him laughing on the
other end of the phone: “For sure, data entry. 
Think of it — all that mind-numbing repetition.  Isn’t that what you drummers do?  Aren’t you in the business of mind-numbing

            At that remark, I gave him a stiff
laugh, the stiffest, most wooden one I could muster.  “Oh ha, ha, ha!  C’mon, Bill. 
Don’t rub it in.  Remember — I’m
giving you each and every bit of moral support I have, so your ship will come

            “Hey man.  Just kiddin’. 
You know I wasn’t serious.”

            “I know.  Of course you weren’t serious.  But you sure as hell are serious about most
things.  Like making independent movies.  On that, you are as real as cancer.” 

            “Which brings me to something I
wanted to talk to you about, Albert.”

            I ticked up the volume on my cell,
so I could hear him better because now his voice was back to that nagging note of
desperation, and he was beginning to mumble. Being that I was a musician and
was sensitive to these things, my ear honed in to the vibrato that was
oscillating between cautious optimism and fretful uncertainty.     

            He paused for a few seconds before
saying, “Do you suppose you could write me a little script?  You know, for the movie?”

            “But I thought your project was all
good to go and that you’ll be shooting the scenes in another week or two.”

            “Yes, that’s true.  I will be doing the principal photography
very soon.”

            “And you don’t have a script?”

            “Not to worry, Albert.  That would be where you come in.  Do you think you could write me a bit of
dialogue?  Just a little something to get
me started?”

            “I love it when people say ‘just to
get me started.’  It’s a secret code for
‘write me the whole freakin’ thing and write it right now.’”

            “Aw c’mon.  You know I don’t mean that.  But I do wonder if you could get it to me by
next week.  Is that possible?”

            “Well, I suppose I could cobble
together something.  But bear in mind,
I’m a drummer, not a screenwriter.”

            Then he desperately said, “No
problem.  I’ll steer you through it.  Remember, I am the director.”

            “Yes, you are the director.  I almost forgot.  Thank you for reminding me.”

            Desperation disappeared.


            And so, that was the humble start
of my movie career.  In the next few
days, I conjured up a potboiler of a scenario about a prodigal son who’d been banished
from his family.  It was pretty baroque
stuff, bordering on the rococo, but I didn’t have much emotional investment in
the damned thing because I was far more interested in getting back to my real
project which was the rigorous business of becoming a famous rock drummer.  I mean, after all, how else could I keep the almost
perfect girl from packing up and leaving me to hightail it to Hollywood?  While writing the film treatment, I was
mindful to put in lots of ridiculous melodrama because I’ve never been one to
believe in the old maxim that less is more. 
When I was finished, I met up with my filmmaker friend at a Barnes and
Noble coffee shop where I gave him the words. 
However, the words he said to me in return still carried that pesky note
of desperation.  No problem, I
thought.  He would be certain to get over
it.  Hell, he was a professional.  It was his job to get over it.  Then I didn’t give it much more thought
because my peripatetic life was caught up in a whirlwind round of cattle call
auditions for rock bands.  One of them
seemed as though it might actually pan out, and I was excited about my
prospects.  The bandleader said, “Well, well,
well.  You get around on the drums pretty
good.  You handled that last song rather
splendidly.  That much was immediately obvious.  And I’ll have you know that you were the eighty-eighth
drummer we auditioned this week, and you were the only one who got that
complicated section right.  No doubt
about it — those parts are pretty darned difficult to play.  That chart is definitely a bitch.  Lots of black dots on the page with more than
a few gruppettos and odd meters to contend with.  Indeed, adornments are extraordinary.  But you aced it.  Trouble is — you missed the easy song, so
I’m gonna hafta say no.  You can’t be in
the band.  Maybe next time, if there is a
next time, you should try a little bit harder. 
Sorry.  Bye bye.  Oh yeah, and one more thing — please put
the drum key back on the floor tom-tom on your way out.”  

            I left the premises muttering “What
a freakin’ dick!” as I descended the echoing staircase.  Then I slammed the street side door with a
resounding crash that reverberated out to the far reaches of the sidewalk where
I walked over to address my concerns to a red hydrant.  After such a depressing afternoon, I went
back to the Lizard Girl’s apartment and conked out for three hours, nestling
into a mysterious dream.  In the dream, a
magnified zoom sequence played a moonlight sonata blues progression, causing
the scenery to bubble up into being.  I
was walking down a long road, having trouble getting from Point A to Point B
because I kept getting lost.  However,
there was a deep and sonorous distorted voice that persistently droned, “I’m
sorry, but you’ll just have to try a bit harder.”  Periodically, the voice throbbed on a wobbly adagio
cadenza, which kinda sorta gave me the creeps. 
I guess you could say this was a nightmare, but the dream couldn’t seem
to make up its mind.  If it couldn’t do
that, then how could I make up my own?  Not
knowing what to do, I ran down the road as fast as I could, only I was unable to
make my getaway.  The voice kept
following me, curving into a saturnine apogiatura.  Then I saw the entity that went with the
voice — it was the Lizard Girl, looking even more lizard-like than ever
before.  This time she had grown
spectacular scales, and I suddenly found myself transfixed by those scales
since they seemed like nothing I’d been attracted to before.  I stood back in wonderment at the sight of
her slippery and glistening body — she wore an iguana amulet that gave her
brow an otherworldly aura, and a tiara was propped at a rakish angle from the top
of her light green sagittal crest.  A
spectacular spiked sail fin was erupting from out of her back as she slithered
towards me.  She gathered me in her short
camouflaged arms, licking me with her forked tongue.  Before I could say anything, she swallowed me
in one huge gulp, and the earth shook, and I thought I might be experiencing an
earthquake.  Only then I remembered that
this was supposed to be a dream, so I knew the shaky ground wasn’t true … 


            I was awakened by the Lizard Girl.  She shook my shoulders, and I came to.  Then the girl leaned over me and cooed, “How’s
that program of yours going?”

            I played dumb, as dumb as I could
be.  “What program?” I asked. 

            “Don’t lie to me.  I hate when you lie to me.  You know very well the program I mean.  It’s the one about becoming a rock star.”

            “Well Jennifer, I’ve had a minor setback.  I didn’t pass the audition.  The man told me he liked my work, but
apparently he didn’t like it enough because I didn’t get the gig.”

            “Darn, that’s too bad.  I was right there wishing and a hoping that
everything would go well.”

            “Maybe next time, the gods of music
will be on my side.  But my hindsight
tells me it would never have worked out with that bandleader because I’m in the
business of fun, and he was in the business of disappointment.”  I looked off to the side only to see that dog-eared
volume of de Sade’s collected works. 
Picking it up, I asked, “By the way, how’s that reading of yours
going?  Have you been studying up?”

            She ignored my question and gave me
a distressed look.  “Albert, we have to
talk.  There’s something I’ve been
meaning to tell you.”

            “Uh oh, I don’t know if I like the
sound of that.”

            “Well, I can’t sugarcoat it.  So I’ll come right out and say it.  The truth is … I’ve met someone.”

            “Oh yeah?   Really? 
Who is this dude?”

            “He’s a director.  You know, a movie director.  I want him to be the leading man in my movie.”

            “What movie?  I didn’t know you were making a movie.”

            “Why don’t be silly, darling.  It’s the movie of my life.”

            I looked over again at the volume
of de Sade.  “Uh huh,” I said.  “You’ve definitely been studying up.  Are you doing your homework with him?  Or better yet, would it be fair to say that he
is now under your strict tutelage?  Have
you put the cuffs on him yet and booked him at the station?”

            “Yes,” she said with a tremulous
voice.  “Law and order must be upheld at
all costs.”  To underscore this point, the
Lizard Girl’s big gray sullen eyes melted into a little-miss-schoolgirl look.  Then her lashes batted that familiar demonic expression
again, and I knew she would soon be taking a high swan dive that would be burrowing
deeply into byzantine show business thoughts. 

            So, one thing led to another, and that
was that.  The not-so-sweet young lady
kicked me to the curb, all the while sternly lecturing me in no uncertain terms
that I wasn’t becoming a rock star quite fast enough for her taste.  The almost perfect girl said I was
insufficiently rapid.  In retrospect, I
kicked myself  because I should have told
her I could have easily played her a twenty-five minute drum solo to show her
how rapid I was, but I didn’t have the chance to say it since I got distracted
when she said that “movie directors have so much more cachet than lunk-headed skin
bashers.”  I would never forget the look
on her pretty face when she added with breathtaking cruelty: “And besides,
you’re simply not hubby material, so how will you ever manage to become daddy
material?  And one more thing, Albert.  I wanted so much for you to be on my leash,
but you didn’t seem to want to heel and sit when I told you to.” 

            “No thank you, Jen.  I think I’ll pass.”

            Later, I had to grudgingly admit to
myself that the way the Lizard Girl’s sneering lips formulated those heartless words
was actually rather alluring.

            No matter. There were plenty more
where she came from.  But the feeling of
omnipotence didn’t last, and I soon knew I was only kidding myself.      


            The ring tone on my phone was rowdy
and raucous — in fact, it was the opening sequence of a very famous rock
concert.  Upon answering it, I could hear
Bill’s voice.  He was much cheerier
now.  All hint of desperation had

            “Hey man, good news!  That thing you wrote was spot-on perfect.  Now I‘ve gotten some actors to commit to the
project.  We have two rehearsals and will
be shooting right on schedule.  Many
thanks to you.  You’ve definitely made
this happen.”

            “That’s wonderful, Bill.  Happy to have been of assistance.  I’m so glad that it’s coming together.”

            “I’ll call you in a week and give
you a rundown.” 


            And so in six days, I got another
call from my filmmaker friend.  This time
the voice had again retreated to desperation.

            “Bad news, Albert.”

            “Why’s that?  I thought everything was going well.  Aren’t you going to start shooting the movie
real soon?”

            “Yes, that’s true.”

            “What’s the big deal?  That’s good. 
Isn’t it?”

            “Yeah, but the problem is my leading man
bailed on me.  He came to the rehearsals,
and everything seemed great.  He seemed
to be so enthused about the project. But then suddenly last night I got a call
from him, and he said he didn’t want to do it. 
And before I could say anything to him, he hung up on me.”

            “Oh, I’m so sad to hear that.  But I’m sure you can get another actor.  I mean, this is New York City for god’s
sake.  People get dumped all the
time.  He’s not the only fish in the sea.  There’s plenty more where he came from.”

            “True.  Only trouble is — I’ve rented a lot of
equipment.  As you said, making movies is
expensive.  Which is all the more reason
why actors should cooperate.  But this rat
bastard just up and flew the coop.  So
much for cooperation.”

            The voice suddenly got
cheerier.  He cleared his throat and
said, “So Albert, you know what all of this means, don’t you?”

            “No Bill, tell me what it means.”

            “It means that you have to be my
leading man in my movie.” 

            “But Bill, just as I’m not a real screenwriter,
I’m also not a real actor.”

            “No problem.  Don’t let it stop you.  None of them is real either.  That’s why they’re actors.  Don’t you worry.  I’ll steer you through the whole thing.  I’ll be right there with you every step of
the way.  Like I always say, I am the

            “Yes,” I said.  “You are the director.”


            And that was how I got
corralled.  I showed up on the set.  Actually, the set was my friend’s
apartment.  When I entered, I could see
that the place was crammed with camera equipment, and at every turn, there was
some sort of complicated lighting arrangement and circular screen I had to be
wary of.  Quite tentatively, I tiptoed
around these gaudy gizmos because everything seemed to be a lot more
complicated than I had imagined it.  As I
looked at this tricked out set-up, I couldn’t help thinking that it was a great
big complicated nothing, but what did I know? 
I reassured myself that I was completely ignorant about the intricacies
of cinema.  After that, I met the actress
that Bill had hired, and we hurriedly went over our lines.  Since I wasn’t a real actor, I soon
discovered that I had trouble memorizing them. 
I struggled with this problem for a while until, quite by accident, I
recalled that I was the person who had actually written those lines.  Having arrived at this revelation, I realized
this was one of the keys to improve my bad memory.  The other thing that helped me along was to
have a glass of wine or two or three.  My
character, whom my friend the director had renamed Ulysses, arrived at the
apartment of his brother Tim and knocked on the door.  His sister Jill opened it up and let him in,
saying, “Why this is such a momentous occasion. 
Ulysses, I’m so glad to see you have returned to your hometown after all
these years.” 

            Well, that was about as good as
they got on the cordiality scale because it was all downhill from there on
in.  Soon they were practically at each
other’s throats. 

            “Why did you bother coming back
from India?  You should have stayed there
to keep studying hippy-dippy new age music for Christ’s sake.”

            “I only returned because you wanted
me to.  Believe me, I’d much rather be
going up a Himalayan trail, pausing only to sip from brackish streams, than I
would coming back to this boring place.”

            My character yawned — at least
that was what the script called for.  But
when I did that, I forgot what the next line was supposed to be.  I hemmed and hawed and eventually recalled
what I was supposed to say.  I
accomplished this by associating the words with the actions that accompanied
them.  After that, remembering my lines
was a total snap.  The camera rolled
onward catching everything.  But the
character was so problematic to get into. 
You see, Ulysses was definitely the black sheep.  He’d never gotten along with his brother and
sister, so he’d left town and gone on the vast and winding road of life.  In fact, he’d travelled to India where he’d
studied Hindustani music under the supervision of renowned pundits.  Then one day, he’d gotten a call from his
sister.  It seemed she and her brother had
become involved in a cockamamie scheme to lure sweet little old ladies to New
York from a Far Eastern country under the guise of becoming nannies.  His sister Jill was flipping out and going
into a full-fledged panic attack.  She
said Tim had just landed himself in Rikers because he’d taken out
advertisements in the Help Wanted Sections of Japanese newspapers that said,
“Come to America and Make Fabulous Money as a Nanny.”  Well, good old Tim had gotten a lot of silly
old ladies to fall for this preposterous boondoggle.  Not only that, after they had arrived from
the Far Eastern country, he’d confiscated their passports and money and sent
them to various locations in Queens and Brooklyn to go on protracted begging
missions.  To make matters worse, if the
old ladies didn’t come back with enough money, he would beat them before
sending them out the next day to do the same thing.  So one thing led to another, and not long
after that, the cops got wind of this sleazy operation, and they arrested his
sorry ass and tossed him in the clink.  The
thought crossed my mind that the movie character Tim must have been studying
from the same book as my ex-girlfriend, the Lizard Girl.  Later, having completed the day’s filming,
Bill decided that now was an opportune time for both of us to view the day’s
rushes.  I stared at the screen and
couldn’t believe what I saw — I looked absolutely creepy. 

            I found myself saying over and over
again, “Bill, am I that creepy in real life? 
I mean, the only actor I can think of who’s as ghoulish as this would be
the guy who played Count Dracula’s helper back in 1931.  I look at the screen and scratch my head in astonished
bewilderment because I half-expect to see myself hunched over and demanding
flies for breakfast.  For my entire life,
I thought I was a natural person, someone who was average and did natural
things and did kind stuff to deserving people and sometimes to undeserving
people, but that guy on the screen is nothing like me.  He looks and acts like some sort of unctuous troglodyte
from another planet.  Just glimpsing at
him for ten seconds gives me the heebie-jeebies.”

            At that moment, I thought of the
Lizard Girl — was I transfiguring her, or was she transfiguring me?  But I quickly banished this thought from my
mind when Bill continued his train of thought, saying: “He’s not supposed to be
like you because he isn’t you.  But
there’s another way of looking at it, which is that the camera doesn’t lie.” 

            “Are you bullshitting me?  It lies all the time.  Come to think of it, while the cops in the
movie were at it, they should’ve arrested the lyin’ ass cinemascope too.”

            “So don’t worry about it.  You’re doing fine as the star of this
thing.  Look at these rushes again.  You’re like freakin’ Leonardo DiCaprio and
Marlin Brando rolled into one for God’s sake. 
Also, don’t you realize that in this film, you’re supposed to be an
anti-hero?  It’s so you can behave as
badly as you want and still be entitled to a get-out-of jail-for-free
card.  That’s the reason why you look so
creepy.  I deliberately made you that way
because I am the director.  I really
think you should give up on that lame rock drummer dream of yours.  You’ve got star power, and it shouldn’t go to
waste.  Nowadays, nobody wants to be a
drummer.  They’ve got machines to do

            “But I’m only doing this on a
lark.  It’s not where I’m really at.  I wanna make music.”

            “We can talk about this later.  Right now, I wanna tell you about tomorrow’s
shooting schedule.  You see, I’ve booked
some time for the use of a soundstage at the university where I’m taking
courses in film directing.  I’ll tell you
how to get there now.”


            The next thing that happened on the
long and twisty road to my becoming a movie star was truly bizarre.  I showed up at the time and place as the
director directed, and we got to work.  The soundstage was in the center of a large
theatre in the round with gradually banked seats extending upwards into the
darkness of the house.  Although there
were several cameras manned by technicians off to the periphery, harsh spotlights
and footlights shone brightly onto the stage, so our movie scenes had the look
and feel of a play more than a film.  For
the first two hours, we rehearsed and then shot the scenes.  When we started rehearsing, all of the
surrounding seats were empty.  However,
by the time we were getting around to doing the actual filming, I was more than
a bit unnerved because the place was beginning to fill up with people.  What kind of movie shoot would have that kind
of nagging distraction happening? 

            I gazed out at the rapidly
gathering audience and was astounded that one of the people out there in the crowd
was in fact, Jennifer, my ex-girlfriend the Lizard Girl!  It dawned on me that this really was a play
all along, and I had been hoodwinked into thinking it was a movie.             My ex pretended not to notice me as
she became deeply involved in a conversation with the middle-aged fellow whom
she came in with.  Damned if the dude didn’t
look like a classic sugar daddy figure even if I could only see him from
afar.  As I was processing this, people
continued to take their seats in the theatre. 
They were staring at me and my co-star as the camera was rolling.  At length, an officious woman came into the
room and announced that she was the professor of this class.  With that pronouncement, people started
getting out their pens and notebooks.   

            “Now class, we’ve got a lot of work
to look at and to critique this afternoon. 
So Bill, we might as well start with your project since you’re one step
ahead of us, and you’ve already taken the liberty of setting everything up.  So you go first.”

            And with that further
pronouncement, what I thought was a film shoot that had turned into a play now transformed
into yet another incarnation, this time into a seminar in film directing.  The class was quick to criticize my
director’s style.  They trotted out the
old chestnut that Bill was doing far too much telling and not nearly enough
showing, at which point, my ex-girlfriend raised her hand and said, “Professor,
I think the character of Tim’s sister Jill should be getting more lines because
how else can the viewer see how evil she is if she doesn’t have enough evil
things to say?”

            I wanted to interrupt her and tell
her that she should do the rewrite since that was her stock in trade, but again,
I managed to keep my mouth shut.  I bit
my lip and stabbed my tongue.  Then the
rest of the class added their two cents worth, saying in so many words, “Do
this!”  “No, do that!”  I practically got a case of whiplash just
listening to it.   

            To top it off, all through this spirited discussion,
Bill kept saying, “Professor, can I do one more take?” 

            To which the good professor replied,
“No Bill, you can’t have another take because yours isn’t the only project that
we have to get through today.  Also Bill,
lemme just say that you have to learn how to manage your time better.  Who do you think you are, Federico freakin’ Fellini?  This is not some sort of Cecile B. DeMille magnum
opus that you’re working on.  It’s just a
ten minute short for god’s sake.  In the
future, you will have to pay closer attention to budgetary concerns.”

            “But I want to talk about my
artistic vision …”

            “To hell with your damned artistic
visions.  This is Hollywood on the effin’
Hudson.  We don’t put up with those kinds
of happy hallucinations.”

            “No, but …”

            She cut him off again before indicating
that it was a good concept, but it needed a bit more work. 

            Then, the good professor turned to
me and said, “And thank you, Albert, for a very, umm,  … interesting performance.”  I liked that way she hesitated on that
one.  Gee, I had seen the earlier rushes,
and I kinda sorta had to agree with her — it was rather … er … eccentric.  But I didn’t think about this for too long
because I knew I had work to do.  So I
ducked into the costume room which was right next door to the soundstage.  The rest of the student actors were trying on
a wide array of outfits.  They were in
varying stages of dress and undress and were posing in front of mirrors while
their directors were carefully studying the clothes in minute detail.  Walking up to the manager, I pretended to be
one of the student actors. 

            “What can I do for you, my friend?”
he asked. 

            “I want to look like Robin
Hood.  Is that doable?”

            “Aw hell yeah.  That one’s pretty easy.  Hold on a second.  I’ll go in the back to look for it.  I think I’ve got something for you that would
be perfect for the part.”

            He emerged from the storage area in
short order and produced the ideal costume that I was looking for.  I quickly slipped it on, and then turned to
him again, saying, “This will do rather nicely. 
But I really need to make it even more surreal.  Do you have any masks?”

            “Oh I see now.  You wish to go in that direction.  No problem. 
We have a whole selection.  Come
back here, and I will show them to you.”

            So I went back and started to study
them, but not for very long because I quickly settled on a Boris Karloff model
which I thought would truly up the ante of the Robin Hood style costume.  With that, I told him I would be back after
the film seminar was over, and he wished me luck.  I exited the costume room and walked down a
long hallway that led to the theatre. 
Upon entering the seating area, I noticed that the class was now deep
into discussions about camera placements, extra dialogue, and whatnot.  I paid them no mind, preferring to gaze out
to see where my ex-girlfriend was sitting. 
Yes, there she was in one of the middle rows.  I paused for a second to savor the extent of
her lizardly loveliness.  I was
especially intrigued by the sauropod overbite that caused her enchanting
malocclusion.  I was mesmerized.  Clearly, she was trying to segue from the
reptilian to the human in one fell swoop, all the while bypassing the
amphibian.  These things were deeply
mysterious and the cause of many implications for the rules of attraction, but
I had to cut it short because I knew I had important work to do — I was careful
to select a seat that was just behind her, so I could listen in.  My Boris Karloff / Robin Hood get-up made me
feel absolutely invisible, and I knew she would be none the wiser.    

            As usual, the Lizard Girl was
chatting up a storm, but I heard the dude’s words first: “Jennifer, you seem
distracted.  Is anything the matter?”

            “Well, it’s just that I think I saw
someone earlier that I didn’t want to see.”

            “Who was he?”

“No one in particular.  It’s
nothing really.  He’s gone now, so that
makes me feel better.”

            “Wait a minute!  I think I know who you saw.  It was Albert, right?  Yeah, I can tell.  It was him for sure.” 

            The Lizard Girl squirmed in her
seat and replied, “Well, yes.  Now that
you mention it,   the actor in the
previous scenario — it was Albert.”

            I gritted my teeth because I wanted
to tell her to cuff him and cuff him right then and there, but of course I
didn’t let that drop because I wanted to hear more of what she had to say.             Jen continued on, saying: “Don’t
worry Stan.  He poses no threat to your
territory.  And I know that you know that
I am your territory.  You’ve staked your
claim — in more ways than one.  But
don’t worry your foxy little head off — he was a nothing.  And he always will be a nothing.  I couldn’t get him to stop playing his damned
music.  I hated his music.  All that cacophony.  And after a while, I hated him.  But while we were together, it was fun
hurting him now and then.”

            “That’s so good to know.  I’m glad that he meant nothing to you.  After this is over, we can go back home and
you can hurt me if you want.  You see, I
think I may have done something to deserve it.”

            “You sure as hell have.  Remember this — you’ve always done
something to deserve it.  I’ll put you
through your paces.  Boy, you can bet on

            I appreciated the way she said
that. It made me put him in his place by proxy. 
Bless you, Jen.  You beat him up,
so I didn’t have to.  After that, I got
up and left because I had decided right then and there that I needed to return
my costume.  The manager was surprised
that I had gotten it back so early. 


            The premiere of my friend’s
directorial debut took place at a small art cinema downtown.  The event was a festival of several short
films.  I loved it that Bill dressed up
like his idol Michelangelo Antonioni.  He
had the full get-up: Armani suit, flamboyant ascot tie complete with jeweled
stick pin, and wraparound shades.  The
women running around this place acted like it was the Cannes freakin’ Film
Festival.  Every starlet wannabe was
going whole-hog into her most extreme red carpet mode, including my co-star who
was on the cusp of spilling out of the front of her minimalist dress as she
teetered on her stiletto heels.  To top
it off, she had some arcane breed of micro-canine on a string.  I think it was an Andalusian Fringed Terrier.  But the thing was, there were so many others
just like my co-star.  The passions of
these women paraded, strutted and preened for their public.  The whole thing looked as if it were a
practice for the real red carpet on the real French Riviera.  I was amazed that there were even apprentice paparazzi
who were getting in their practice licks too. 
When our movie hit the wide screen, I couldn’t believe what I was
seeing.  There were lots of pregnant
pauses and tight close-ups of languid aristocratic eyes.  The whole thing had the look and feel of a
South American soap opera.  Also, there
was an abundance of zoom lens shots to pick up the pace whenever the plot
dragged.  But what the hell, I suppose some
people liked that.  I guess I’ll never
completely fathom what people like and don’t like.  Then, I remembered that when we were filming
it, Bill kept telling my co-star not to look at the camera.  All I can say was thank god she stared deeply
into the bloody camera.  That was the
best part — looking into her soulful eyes. 
For a second there, she almost looked like my ex.  I thought of bulging reptilian peripheral
vision — they were aces at that sort of thing.  But then I got ahold of myself and
concentrated on the rest of the movie. 
The bad-boy character of Tim was eventually bailed out of jail.  Somehow, he managed to find his misplaced moral
compass.  Then he dusted it off, made his
amends, and everyone lived happily ever after, at which point, the rolling
credits went down the screen, and everyone exited the screening room.  I was quickly besieged by a gaggle of nouveau
paparazzi as well as critics who congratulated me on my outlandish acting
style.  They wanted to know all about my
technique, and honest to god, I was totally stumped.  I just told them that I was trying to be as
normal as possible, but somehow it hadn’t come out that way.  I said I was a musician and wouldn’t they
really like to hear some of my work, and they said they weren’t interested in
that because the only thing they wanted to know about was when I would be
starting my next movie project.  As fate
would have it, when I was about to leave, I saw my ex-girlfriend, Jennifer the
Lizard Girl, standing in the corner looking as though she was very much
alone.  I walked over to her and asked
her about the fellow she had been with at the film seminar.  Suddenly, she got very wistful and burst into

            “What’s wrong, Jen?” I asked her.

            “Well, he just up and died.”

            “What?  That can’t be true.  I only saw him a few weeks ago while we were
filming the scenes.”

            “Yeah, he’s gone.  Kaput.”

            “No way.”

            “It was terrible.  I mean, we were right in the middle of … you
know, doing it.  And all of a sudden, he clutched
his chest and flopped over onto the big oriental carpet that I have.  You know the one I’m talking about, don’t

            “Oh yes, I remember it well.  If I recall correctly, I do believe I flopped
onto it myself many times.  But I always
managed to survive.”

            Then the waterworks went into full
throttle mode, and I hugged and consoled her as best I could.  I mean, it was probably the gentlemanly thing
to do.  However, a weird thought entered
my head — I was saying to myself: “Gee, poor boy Stan.  I guess he simply couldn’t handle the Lizard
Girl.  Stan my man, she was just too much
for you.  I was the only one who was up
to the task.  Stan the Man wasn’t man
enough.”  I savored this for about ten
seconds before a giant tsunami of shame swept over me soaking me to the
bone.  But I quickly got ahold of myself
and was remorseful for even having pondered such an embarrassing thought in the
first place.  I literally paused to slap
my own wrist, and the awful feeling went away. 
Turning back to her, I looked into her crying eyes.  Suddenly, her tears stopped on a dime, and the
Lizard Girl said, “Listen, do you suppose you could take me back?  It would be better than ever if you saw it in
yourself to take me back.”

            “No, never.”  I took great care to say it as unequivocally
as possible.    

            “Why not?  I promise it would be so good.  I know you would have the time of your life.”

            “No way, Jen.  I heard what you said.  That was me in the theatre.  I was the guy dressed up like Boris Karloff
in the Robin Hood suit.”

            The Lizard Girl looked
incredulous.  “You mean that was you?  You were the actor behind me?  You were the one decked out in that
ridiculous get-up?”

            “Uh huh, for sure.  And what’s more, I heard every word that you
said about me.  Jen, I don’t know exactly
how to say this, but I think you’re damaged goods.  I attempted a transfiguration, but it didn’t
seem to take hold.”  The Lizard Girl stepped
back and gave me a crestfallen look.  Then
I gave her a perfunctory kiss on the forehead before heading out the door.  You see, my public was waiting there to greet
me.  They gave me a huge round of
applause as I walked down the red carpet, and the cameras flashed, and then it
was finished.  Almost as an afterthought,
an apprentice paparazzi smiled at me for good measure just to let me know that
it was definitely for sure finished.                  

            And that’s about it.  That’s how it went down.  That’s the story of how I lost the Lizard
Girl.  Jesus, these days I’m a godforsaken
movie star.  What a dead end of a life
— one I never anticipated.  I pretend
in the present all the time and watch actresses struggling to discern the
divide between the real and the fake.  I
laugh because they are forever trying to ferret out drama where there is
none.  All in all, it’s really rather
boring, so I guzzle and stare at bottles in glittering mirrors, only to go out
later and step into glittering lights.  The
problem is I’ve learned not to try.  Whenever
I tried, I fell on my face.  Whenever, I
sleepwalked, I drifted into success. 
Now, in my most desperate moments, I get bleary-eyed as I think about
idyllic moments I used to share with the Lizard Girl before she took a header over
that damned book.  I stand up and curse
that awful tome.  Before that, things
were so lovely.  Music reigned
supreme.  I was the lord and master of
the universe even though people didn’t know it. 
Dah-keddy-dah.  Not like now where
I’m surrounded by women who want me for all the things I’m not.  Being a movie star is fairly easy, but every
now and then, I have to do something that’s more challenging.  Take my agenda for next week — I have to fly
to a certain foreign metropolis to do a movie there.  The film’s got lots of chase scenes, only the
trouble with that location is in that wild and wacky city, they never shut down
everyday business to make the movie. 
It’s absolutely not allowed.  So
we have to shoot while taxi cabs, motor scooters, food venders, street urchins,
and errant pedestrians are randomly trespassing through the set.  No doubt the situations are sure to keep the gaffers,
gofers, and best boys on their toes.  Thank
God for them.  They keep me honest.  What would I do without their interruptions?  I have to get the whole thing done in one enormous
take ’cause most of the time, there are few second chances.  No matter, I’m sure I’ll stagger through it
somehow.  Who knows what will happen?  Along the way, I might even get to
transfigure someone.