Sunday, October 15, 2006
The Fire in the Prof's Pants or: THE FIRE IN BRADFORD
It's one of those days when I've overloaded myself with work, trying to make up Jaye Wells' impossible assignment of 40 pages a day, trying to sell a play review to big media, and atttempting a replate of my Black Icon novel to be put up on this site, more or less complete.
So I will cheat a little bit here as I try to convert my novella, The Fire In Bradford into a play that I have just forced upon poor Ray Burdon, a theatre director in Newmarket, Ontario.
Set: A really cool English-style pub, replete with oaken bar, general Tudor wood-and-plaster atmoshere, oak tables in front of the bar. There is a dart board behind the tables.
But first, there is voice-over. There is a picture of Celia in full Marilyn Monroe mode on the wide screen in the bar.
Celia appears before you while you are rolling your own cigarettes, the 1920's Vogue face, the bobbed hair, a beautiful flapper not yet fallen into the rye on one September day, though I would know in future September days that she had a hunger for opium and cocaine, and that would make her thoroughly modern, thoroughly like My Lady of the papers.
Hash papers, and hot knives.
I was in fact a newspaperman with a predilection for French authors because they were so maddeningly thorough, that mark of real writers, and so well did I get to know 20th century authors in French that I soon got to teach a nigh course in it. Ah, that French penhant for the absurd, the splayed-out mysticism of an Andre Malraux and that incredible clarity of image and idea that only the French writers possess--and they'd be the first to tell you.
The French are somewhat superior and they know it.
Enough that I was a teacher of French authors and she walked in one day with no hint of the Vogue beauty that I would later get to know, no inkling as to the heaviness of spirit that would later come to oppress me, no clue at all as to the beautiful woman who resided in the suburban Mam's bib overalls she used to wear to my classes, the little white tee shirt with the apple on it, or the closely cropped hair of the liberated, funky, suburban young woman.
Ah, but there is another visitation right now, a flahsback from the days I'd imagine myself a Goethe scholar, abandoning French altogether for some time, the image of Katschen Schoenkopf :(image presented here on screen) Goethe's first love, the nice high forhead som many girls from Ontaro possesses, the hair severely back in a bun with the neatest little bonnet atop, large haunting eyes like your mother's, straight nose, somehwat probing, delightful little crooked lips with the overbite. This too is the image of Celia, but this time with a pre-Victorian dress exquitedly corsetet, nice breasts, waist hardly existent at all.
And granny boots! My God, there were at least two Celias that I knew about, and after the years, many, many more.
Ah, yes. She had been in to study French authors, a fascination for the Bastille, I guess, the French Revolution, socking it to the Boubons, all that stuff of high drama for a fairly active imagination constrained somwhat by a husband--always the husband!--whom she imagined as pesky.
I was a somewhat raffish professor who enjoyed drinking with his students afte class. I had no objection at all when she asked through another dsudent if she could come over to one of the pub nights, and could she bring her husband.
The professor, slightly grizzled and a dozen students revelling at three tables that had been brought together.
Two people, straight out of a Conde Nast fashion publication approach the table.
It is Celia and Lief. Lief is handsome as the night is long, like a Eropean Wayne Gettsky, with continental manners, but no accent at all.
Celia is in a silk minidress, long sleeves, all a natural silk colour. She has one lavender eye contacts which give her a surreal, elfin look.
Canny Lief (The Lucky?) says nothing as we offer seats to him and Celia.
He has a Wayne Gretsky smile.
Celia: This is my husband, Lief.
Lief, still silent and smiling, shakes the prof's hand.
There is a meeting of eyes.
Lief's appearance is highly attractive. He is a tall man, visibly so, even when sitting down in his Maple Leafs jersey.
There is sudden activity stage right. Tha band has come in.
Lief: Oh. It's going to get busy. I'd better get the drinks for me and Celia before they start playing.
Lief rises. The prof has a good look at Celia.
She is stunning. Hair short and bobbled, cut straight across the back like a Twenties flapper. She has on blue eyeshadow. Yes, the blue eyeshadow. Dead givaway. She is available.
Lief returns with a pint of Toby's beer and a glass of white wine for Celia.
Lief: Celia has told me a lot about you. Seems you are really into Flaubert...and even Tolstoy in translation.
Prof: "Yeah, I find myself amazed that hardly anybody in the class, largely women--look at them all--has ever read real novels instead of the Harlequin trash all around them....And how they themselves love to write Harlequin--I have seen the samples. My god, what active imaginations! No wonder they're in a French Novels class. They all seem to think their problems will end, just by leaving old hubber.
Lief masks a wince, by a smile and a nod; Ah well. It's l986.
Prof: Kinda makes you think you're in a movie. Everybody's lost her sense of history. This will certainly pass.
Professsor: Think I'm going to ask one of these lovely students to dance. Excuse me for now.
Lief to Celia, sotto voce: I've never met a man like him before. So like Inspector Cluseau from, you know, the movie.
Celia: Shut the hell up, Lief.
The professor is back from his dance.
He sits down.
Lief, a little miffed excuses himself.
Celia and the professor face each other across the hastily-wiped, oaken table.
Celia is beautiful.
The professor bends across the table and kisses her plain on the lips.
Lief, just opening the washroom door, notices.
He sits down. Celia and the prof have locked eyes.
Prof (heated now by the booze) You have a wonderful wife. Do you mind if I ask her to dance?
Lief appears totally unruffled. He holds an open-palmed hand out.
He is truly sweet as a pimp.
Celia and the prof dance. And dance.
Back to the table, and back to the drinks.
There is now a smokiness to the pub.
The professor is describing great sprawling French novels in the smoky air.
He is starting to brag, throw wild promises to the wind, descibing the novel in French he hoped to write one day.
Lief: What do you think of Balzac?
Prof. The Master. The absolute master. The Shakespeare of the novel!
Lief: My favourite. In French or English. I especially like The Fatal Skin. Where the owner of the wild ass' skin can have all the wishes, until the skin shrinks to nothing..
Prof: Yeah, don't I feel that way right now?
The band is playing something uincharacteristic, the piano players lapsing into Debussy.
Prof, looking straight at Celia: Passion flower.
Lief: Passion flower indeed. He avoids sarcasm.
The prof asks Celia to dance once more.
Celia (in his ams): Lief can't do anything. He just can't do anytying any more. I'm worried that he's turning gay.
I've told him....He just can't seem to do anything.
Prof (Now half drunk and self-confident with it): Nah. Get him some French pornography.
There is great revelry, dancing and noise in the pub. Three Scotsmen, in full kilt, knock over two beer pitchers and are asked to leave.The professor knocks over his own glass.
Celia: "That's tacky, David" She had called him by his first name.
But then Lief too, knocks over an entire pitcher, to loud applause from the others.
They are all drunk
Celia (wiping some foam from Lief''s jersey) I like David. I think we should take him home with us.
An indulgent nod from Lief.
------end Act One
OMIGOD. I THINK I'M SCREWING THIS UP.
AH WELL, MAYBE ACT II WILL BE MORE SKILLFULLY RENDERED...JAYE, HOW'D YOU GET ME INTO THIS?