Moments later, in my mind’s eye, I see Zac Efron’s jet ski has capsized in an oil-slick. Josh flails, his dark hair, shiny and slicked down the sides of his face. Bindi Irwin, mermaid extraordinaire, bounds through the water with her dolphin friend. In one low dive, she scoops up Josh and flings him onto the dolphin’s back. He lands with dexterity and holds on. Pirates are sighted near an oil-rig stealing parts. Successful, they shed their costumes and their alien forms slide under the water. I roll over and reach for my handy dandy notebook and pen and write that down. From experience, if I don’t, the dream will replay in my mind all night long.
I glance at the clock and hear the dull hum of the computer. It’s 11 pm. I climb out of bed. The temperature has dropped at least five degrees. A violent shiver runs through me as I reach for my dressing gown with nerveless fingers. I head for Freddie’s bedroom and ease open the door. I walk over to Freddie and lift up one of his headphones. Heavy Metal blares in a cacophony of noise and deathly growls. Freddie gives me a bemused look. “Finish up now,” I say, exasperation in my tone. “It’s way passed your bed time.”
Freddie nods. “In a tick,” he mumbles, staring zombie-like at the monitor. “I’m almost at a save point.” He reaches for the mouse and I blink in disbelief at the speed of the graphics on his latest computer game.
I return to bed. Trust is a wonderful thing but it wears thin. I slip out of my dressing gown and scoot under the blankets. I feel Victor snuggle up beside me. When did he crawl into bed? He’s been sleepwalking again, no doubt! I march him back to his bed and lie down with him for a moment until he nods off to sleep again. I nod off too and wake to a ticking clock. Mission Impossible again! It’s midnight.
I crawl back into my own bed. Adam snores. I pinch his nostrils. He gasps for air and stops snoring. I give an exhausted sigh. The day rewinds through my mind like the daily rushes of a half-completed movie. I see an explosion of white light and typed words start emerging from it like the beginning of every “Star Wars” movie. I see the title: ”The Spy and the Mermaid.”
The Log-line follows: A spy sent to prevent the sabotage an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico lands in hot water when aliens masquerading as pirates are caught stealing spare parts off it to repair their spaceship, attack him and he is saved by a miracle-working mermaid in more ways than one.
I roll over and seek out my handy dandy notebook and pen and write that down.
It’s the end of another day in the life of a professional screenwriter. Good night. Sweet dreams. See you in the morning.
COPYRIGHT NATALIA ELDER, FEBRUARY, 2011
Freddie and Victor play ball with the dog outside, while I take a Radox bath to relax and unwind. It is then I feel the exhaustion in my bones and close my eyes.
In my mind’s eye, I see Zac Efron. He is chased by a Coast Guard on his jet ski. He reminds me of James Bond in “Die Another Day.” Is Zac a spy? I step out of the bath, reach for my handy dandy notebook and pen on the vanity and write that down.
I realize that I’m cold and dripping wet. I towel myself dry and slip into warm pajamas.
Adam emerges from the Bat cave. He looks like an alien, shoulders’ hunched and eyes blood-shot. Maybe he’s been fighting the Predator from this morning in the garage. Who knows? He showers while I do my fifteen minutes of yoga meditation.
It’s 7.30 pm. The television clicks on and Adam starts channel surfing with the remote. Looks like it’s “Top Gear” night. Two hours of three middle-aged men who play with boy’s toys. Yippee! Freddie and Victor have a quick shower and settle in for an action-packed night’s viewing.
It’s 8.30 pm. I’m over vintage car makeovers and celebrity speed tests. Next ad, I send Freddie and Victor to their rooms to really do their homework. More grunts and grumbles erupt from their pubescent bodies. Adam repeats my request in his deep, masculine voice and they jump up instantaneously. Why is it so? It’s a mystery to me. Oblivious to my consternation, Adam starts channel surfing again when the boys move off. I head to the kitchen to make lunches for tomorrow and address any notes from school.
I fetch my thick, warm dressing-gown, dump the washed clothes in the basket, grab the pegs and head out to the clothes line. There’s a huge snow owl on top of the clothes line. It turns its head towards me and stares me down. I hear it say in my mind, “Are you for real? I’m the nocturnal creature here, not you. Get back inside! You’re disturbing my hunt for dinner.” I nod respectfully to the owl but press on. We continue to eyeball each other as I quickly attach the clothes to the line. I head back inside at double pace. Brrr!
It’s 9 pm. I check that Freddie and Victor have finished their homework. I give them a hug and a kiss and wish them sweet dreams. As I exit their bedrooms, I remind them to brush and floss their teeth and to be in bed by 10 pm at the latest. Trust is a wonderful thing!
I enter my bedroom. The television is blaring. Adam is asleep with his glasses on. I grab the remote, turn off the television, remove his glasses and give him a kiss goodnight. I rug the dog up in Adam’s dressing gown on the end of the bed and cover up the fish tank.
I switch off the bedroom light and remove my dressing gown. I fall into bed and cuddle into Adam’s back. He doesn’t move. Suddenly, I think of Brad Pitt in “Mr and Mrs Smith.” Will the action start soon? Not likely. He’s almost comatose. No sex tonight. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll get lucky. Sad but relieved as I am dog-tired, I sigh and roll over. Instantly, I am in dreamland.
The end of a great day! Or so I thought. . .
I send Freddie out to empty the dishwasher and seize the computer like its gold bullion.
I log on to Facebook and see an invitation from a man who looks like the new age biker who I visualized for my second screenplay. I return his invitation with thanks for wanting to be my friend. “Can you ride a chopper?” I ask straight up.
I message my L.A. friend on Facebook as I see he is a friend of his and ask him if he can act. I post a piece of wisdom on my wall, then Twitter an edited down version of my quote for the day. I check my emails and blog on WordPress.com. Social networking is an awesome thing like a giant octopus with eternally branching tentacles. Scary. Universal. Mind-blowing! I hear the theme from Mission Impossible in my mind and the solemn voice on the tape. “This message will self-destruct in five seconds!” Yikes!
It’s 6 pm. Time to make dinner. I remember Meryl Streep saying once that her Mom used to make dinner in twenty minutes. I can’t do it under thirty. What was she doing that I’m not? I think maybe it’s two minute rice. I make a note on my magnetic fridge notebook.
It’s 6.30 pm. The sweet’n’sour chicken and rice is ready to eat. I hear Adam’s truck pull in the driveway. It’s a good night for him. No re-heats! I feed the dog and the fish first. I round up the family for dinner. Ten minutes of meaningful conversation occurs in my dreams as food is shoveled in mouths in record time and washed down with fruit cup cordial. Adam heads west to the Bat cave, a.k.a. the garage to write out job cards and tinker on engines for an hour, while Freddie and Victor supposedly tackle their homework. I tidy up and throw a load of laundry into the washing machine.
I call Victor out to the kitchen to wash the dishes and ask Freddie to take out the trash several times before a response comes. They do their family jobs within five minutes.
It’s a great day!
The work day is like being on the set of Lara Croft Tomb Raider. The action is diverse, non-stop and reactionary. Survival and the yen to make a difference are uneasy allies in my body, mind and soul.
It’s 3 pm. I force air into my lungs as I head up the hill to where I left my car parked that morning. It’s still there. Bonus! It’s untouched. No dents. No tags. No coin scratches. The radio aerial is intact. Hey, the force field worked!
After I deposit my work bag in the trunk, I open the driver’s side door. I lift up the note and stuff it in the door pocket. I navigate my way out of the parking lot and head to the park for an hour in a safer neighborhood to de-stress and exercise for free. Unpaid professional screenwriters can’t pay hefty gym fees. Gym equipment placed into parks is a brilliant innovation by the Mayor.
I exercise. I close my eyes, look through my mind’s eye and drift into the flow of creativity. I picture me shaking hands with movie moguls after I cut a deal for “When Joe Met Slasher”, one of my highly-polished, buddy comedy scripts.
I look out an imaginary window and see Zac Efron. He looks anguished as pilots a jet ski. He hurtles towards a burning oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. I stop the rowing machine, take out my handy dandy notebook and write that down.
It’s 4 pm. I finish my exercises. I feel relaxed and sweaty. At the car, I drink a bottle of water down in one long swallow. I head to the gas station. I pay money and fill the tank. I see a young boy pull a tantrum because his father won’t buy him a chocolate bar. The father hugs him in tight to his chest until he calms. I take out my handy dandy notebook and pen and write that down. The driver in the car behind me honks his horn. I smile and wave.
I start the engine and head towards the supermarket. I gather sausages and broccoli. I get through the check-out with a minimum of delay.
It’s 5 pm. I pull into the driveway and park the car. I breathe a sigh of relief. I unload the car. The dog greets me like Garfield’s nemesis, Odie. She does the Highland Fling. I grab her paws and jig her around in sheer delight. I give her a dog treat and put the groceries away. I hear computer games and a bass guitar in the house somewhere. I open up the laundry door, hang out washing and get dry clothes in. I check the mail box; pay bills; go hunt for my sons and say, “Hi!” I get a few grunts.
It’s a good day!
I magically steer the car like “The Stig” from “Top Gear” through six sets of traffic lights before I hit the highway. Saying the mantra, “Green light, green light, green light, amber light, amber light, amber light,” really works!”
I arrive at my High School. I glance at my watch. It’s 8:45 am. I’m only fifteen minutes late instead of thirty. It’s a good day!
I take out my handy dandy notebook and pen and write – exercise, petrol, sausages and broccoli. I rip out the page, get out of the car and put the note on my seat for later. I reach for my magnetic Teacher Aide badge, slip it on and pray that it doesn’t affect my electro-magnetic field around my body too much.
I grab my work bag out of the trunk, lock the car, disable the engine and put an imaginary force field around it for protection today.
I take out my handy dandy notebook and pen and write “force field”, before I inhale deeply and head to the office to sign in. My work bag is on wheels so I trot at a fast pace while I use all six of my senses to detect any disturbances from the norm.
I work with Specials Needs children in a low socio-economic urban area filled with a melting pot of gangs and racial tension. I wonder what the day will bring – a knifing; another girl collapsing from anorexia; a bashing; a riot? God help me, I remember I’m on playground duty today. I’m now in Commando Mode.
I enter the staff common room and check my pigeon hole. Nothing requires attention. Good news! I erase all negative thoughts from my mind, not wanting to tempt fate. Instead, I picture my morning mermaid, Bindi Irwin. Bindi surfs on the arched back of a dolphin. She asks him to spit miniature sea-horses onto her magic wand. She waves the wand at an oil-soaked seagull and it becomes clean in an instant. I take out my handy dandy notebook and pen and write that down.
I head into the office to sign on. I glance at my watch. It’s 9 am. Damn! I’m thirty minutes late again. How did that happen?
I drop Victor off at the corner. I don’t have a time machine but he does have twenty minutes to walk to school. After a tirade of complaints about fairness and the cold, I say, “You’re a Sportsman or so you keep telling me. It’s good exercise and will warm you up. Have a great day! See you when I get home.”
Victor sighs, “Bye, Mom.” He stalks off.
I check the rear vision mirror for a moment to see if he heads towards the school and not back home. Trust is a wonderful thing. He chooses wisely today.
I drive to Freddie’s High School. Stuck in traffic from parents dropping their children off at two private schools along the way, I stop at the traffic lights and visualize my home computer sitting dormant. My heart lurches with passion and desire. Life gets in the way too much sometimes and Victor’s profound words about fairness echo deep in the recesses of my mind.
The traffic lights go green and I snap myself out of wishful thinking. I turn to Freddie who hides behind a wall of thick, wavy hair. Is he awake? I’m not sure so I tell a funny short story. A short barking laugh emits from his mouth. He’s present and knows I’m not really mad at him for making me late for the fourth consecutive work day.
I ask him to take out his diary to compose a reason for his tardiness. He complies and sits with a pen poised to write something. I drive another block and suggest, “Traffic and road works caused delays.”
He shakes his head. “You said that last week, Mom.”
“Flat battery? The dog was bitten by a scorpion so we had to detour to the Vet? It was too cold to get out of bed. I’ve been up since 2 am finishing my English Assignment after socializing on the internet and playing on-line computer games.”
“Mom, you can’t tell the truth!”
“Why not? Maybe, they don’t even read it.”
Freddie falls silent. End of conversation, I gather.
I anticipate a gap at the roundabout and am through in record time. Yes! It’s a block to the High School. Freddie still sits rigid like Rodin’s “The Thinker” statue. I see a sign, “Road works – Reduce speed.” “Aha! That’s the truth! Traffic and road works caused delays.”
Freddie writes it down. I pull over to the curb. I sign and date his diary.
“Thanks, Mom!” I see a faint smile through his curtain of hair.
“Make sure you go to bed earlier tonight. Have a great day! See you when I get home.”
Freddie groans and gets out. I stop at the traffic lights and watch him walk into the school gate. Success!
Yes, Freddie has Rock Star Syndrome. He plays Electric Bass in a Wannabe Band – sometimes Jazz, sometimes Heavy Metal. Translation: late nights followed by mega-sleep-ins on weekends. Somehow on week days, it doesn’t gel well with early morning school starts! Onward to Victor’s bedroom.
Victor, bright-eyed and mercurial quick, is dressed for school and is shovelling milk and cereal into his mouth while watching Weird Al Yankovic on the laptop for the 100th time. Weird Al sings a parody of Michael Jackson’s BAD. Victor swallows and laughs like Jim Carrey.
He sings, “I’m fat, I’m fat, you know it!“ As if! The dog who shadows me all morning, changes camp and jumps onto her master’s lap. Victor cuddles her and she licks his face.
“Ace Ventura Pet Detective”! I take out my handy dandy notebook and pen and write that down. As Weird Al puts his fat body and other obese dancers through a series of Michael Jackson’s precision moves, I look to my son who is reed-thin and lanky. I see the irony.
“Finish your breakfast and brush your teeth,” I say. “I’m having a shower.” No response.
I glance at the clock in the bedroom. Damn! It’s 7:40 am. I dash to my wardrobe and grab the first outfit on the rack. I notice it’s green so it must be Monday. I rush through the showering process so I have fifteen minutes of my own brand of meditative yoga/ American Indian chanting to get myself into a calm state in readiness for working with High School students who have various disabilities. Who knows, today I may have to play Touch Football with them or coax one of them down from the roof? I pull out my handy dandy notebook and pen and write down, Touch Football willing the former rather than the latter to be true.
It’s 8 am. I have a 30 minute commute to work to be there at exactly 8:30 am. It’s time to go! Freddie is still unmoved. Now, I go into Sergeant Major mode. “It’s Mission Impossible! Your bed will self-destruct in five minutes.” I hear a groan. Success!
I glide into the kitchen, slick on orange lipstick, stuff school lunches into backpacks and wonder why isn’t this like “Two and A Half Men” where the men of the household are bright-eyed and armed to ample witty retorts, as Berta, the housekeeper has all the household duties done with precision and ease, while still managing her own brand of sarcasm.
I look into the china cabinet and examine my reflection. What’s the difference between Berta and me? My hair is damp and limp. I’m wearing an odd color combination teamed with well-worn joggers. We’re similar in that respect. Ok, Berta’s hair is dried and braided. She probably has her own hair and make-up person and a costume designer. Not much difference really except she heads home at night and can chill out if she likes. I take out my handy dandy notebook and pen and scratch out in bold strokes, “When paid for being a professional screenwriter, hire a housekeeper preferably with all the qualities of Berta who can also feed me witty lines for my Romantic Comedies.”
It’s 8:10 am. I’m late for work. Freddie has now missed the last school bus which means a mad dash to his High School through a mountain of traffic and road works, before hitting the freeway to return to the shortest route to my High School.
The second load of laundry has run through it’s wash cycle. I turn off the machine at the wall. There’s no time to hang it out on the clothes line. I shut the laundry door and make a mental note to revisit this place when I return home.
I make one more round of the house, pile the boys into the car and throw a puppy kong filled with dog biscuits down the hall to give the dog something to do while we’re out.
Yahoo! We’re all out the door.
It’s almost 4 am on the clock radio, Adam, my husband snores and grunts on the other side of our king-size bed. I roll over and deftly pinch his nostrils together. One, two, three, four, five. . .He gasps for breath. I release his nose and roll back to my side satisfied that he hasn’t woken and more importantly, has stopped that dreadful, repetitive noise.
On the bedside table, his cell phone vibrates, flashes lights and plays the theme from “The Sting” movie. It reminds me of a scene out of “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.” In my sleep-fogged brain, I think that maybe Adam is really an alien walk-in. Then, through half-open eyelids, I see Brad Pitt rising slowly from the bed and think how lucky am I? I’m really Angelique Jolie in “Mr & Mrs Smith”. In my dreams. . .
A bone-chilling shiver shakes Brad awake. It’s winter and at 4am, the temperature drops and bites at your skin even more once out of the cocooning warmth of the blankets. Brad cranks his body into action, grabs some work clothes and slips into the bathroom. My creative mind is wide awaken; the body however is blissfully asleep, rejuvenating and staying warm and cosy at least for another couple of hours.
The whirr of the fan heater, then exhaust fan and electric toothbrush tells me Adam completes his morning ritual. The door closes, another one opens. The fridge. It’s creaky motor kicks in. A paper bag crackles. He collects the lunch I made the night before. The back door opens and closes. A key turns in the lock. Moments later, a truck engine ignites and gears are crunched as the truck labors up the hill. The sound fades in the distant as Adam heads dutifully off to work.
In my mind, I feel the presence of an entity standing over me. I awake with a start and see a Reptilian with an ammo belt draped across one shoulder. There’s a machine gun of sorts pointed at me. I feel like I’m in “Predator”. I gasp and reach across the bed to Brad and prey he’s morphed into Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he’s gone. “Go away!” I rasp, the vocal chords straining in the coldness of the morning. I blink and he’s gone. Restless, I disturb the dog, Paulette at the end of the bed. She has a massive scratch attack, then curls into a ball and settles.
In my mind’s eye, I see a mermaid fall through the ceiling. Hey, it’s Bindi Irwin! She stands on her tail and says, “Hi! I’m Crystal Waters. I’m here to save marine life from oil spills.” That sounds promising. Eyes closed, I roll over and grab my handy, dandy notebook and pen from the bedside table to scrawl down some notes.
It’s 6 am, the body clock awakes. On auto-pilot, I shift my legs under the blankets. Paulette is instantly awake and ready for a play. She bounds up the bed and frantically licks my face, showering me with love and affection. Paulette is doubly French, a toy poodle/ bichon friese cross. I am blessed with a few French kisses. “Je t’aime, ma chere,” I say. I pick the bundle of white fluff up and carry her into the hallway. I close the door and slip into the bathroom to disinfect my face, mouth, ears, neck from dog germs. Errr!
I head to the other side of the house. Automatically, I throw on a load of laundry, put dishes away, feed the dog and fish before washing down an array of vitamins and herbs to keep my body up with my mind. The cold seeps through my flannelette nightgown. I grab a couple of children’s multi-vitamins and head back to my bedroom. On the way, I slip a small orange tablet in the shape of a robot into the mouths of my two teenage boys who are still in slumber land. My second-born son, Victor has his mouth open like a dolphin. I imagine seeing him spitting out itsy-bitsy sea horses. I slip into my bedroom, grab my handy, dandy notebook and pen, and write that down. I pull on my dressing gown and slip my portable writing utensils into my dressing gown pocket. The washing machine clicks off. I head to the laundry.
My fingers, like ice picks, work to retrieve circulation as I stack the clean, damp clothes from the machine into the laundry basket. I stuff another load of laundry into the machine and bring the machine to life again. I head outside to hang the completed load onto the clothes line. There’s a foggy mist swirling around the backyard. I think maybe it will be warmer today. Paulette squats beside me and relieves herself with the elegance and the nous to angle it downhill away from my fluffy slippers.
I pad back to the kitchen deftly retaining my balance on the dewy grass. Once inside, Paulette stands on her back legs. She wants to dance. I hold her front paws. I hum “The Blue Danube” and we waltz around for a time. I pull out my handy dandy notebook and pen and write that down.
I make lunches for school, mine included. As an unpaid, professional screenwriter, I have a day job to put food on the table and pay the constant stream of bills flowing into the house. I glance at the wall clock which has basketballs instead of numbers and a wisp of basketball playing memories flood back. I blink them away and stare in disbelief at what time it is. It’s 7:25 am. Time for breakfast. Will it be 90 second microwaveable oatmeal or a diet shake? I need to be in the shower by 7:30 am to be out the door by 8 am. Diet shake wins out. I put my hand in the box for a lucky dip and pull out Mango flavor – Cool, my favorite! Shake, shallow, rinse. Mm. I make four pieces of toast and deliver them to the boy’s bedroom.
First born son, Freddie sprawls face down across his king-single bed. Puberty has hit and his huge feet dangle off the end of the bed. Crikey! He’s had another growth spurt. The room is a pigsty and smells of bug spray. I recognize it as the new brand of deodorant he’s trying out. It’s supposed to smell like chocolate and turn him into an instant chic magnet! His alarm clock blares and I flick it off. I clear the thick mop of hair away from Freddie’s angelic but pimply face. He really is a handsome dude. Maybe, when he’s eighteen and is forced to cut his hair to gain a job, we’ll see another Mel Gibson or Josh Efron emerge. “A High School Musical Performer!” – I write that down. “Wake up, Honey! Eat your breakfast. It’s time for school,” I sing. I kiss Freddie on the forehead and place his toast on the bed head. No response. “Tour bus leaves in ten minutes. Be on it!”
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