19 March 2008

Beyer and Quinn: Screenwriters

The dust in the room sat so still and thick that it was a wonder that the sunlight could even squeeze through the broken blinds at all. The curtains had fallen into a heap on the floor long ago, and there the still sat. The cushions on the couch had become so worn that a bag of cotton balls would have better suited any occupant of the sofa; even the chairs and desks had lost their varnish, though this last sign of decay was lost beneath the common sign of neglect, dust.

Two men sat in the dilapidated chairs at the dilapidated desks. Their collective gazes alternated between staring at the yellowed sheets of blank paper before them, jammed haphazardly into the typewriter, (one of which, consequently, was missing the ‘E,’ while the other had lost its ‘S’) and then back to the man on the opposite side of the desk. This routine was occasionally broken by a loud gulp of water quenching a cracked throat or a smack of gum, but never by the click of a single key of the typewriter. This lack of productivity explained the declining state of the offices of Beyer and Quinn, Screenwriters.

“What if we tried adapting something rather than writing something new,” offered Burt Beyer.

“Adapt? We’ve been down this road before,” Ernie Quinn sighed as he used his head to signal towards the bookshelves. Overlooking the obvious unkempt order in which the books had been kept, there were a staggering amount of books to work through.

“Yeah, but what if we find something new, something that hasn’t been done before, a book we haven’t read?”

“If you’ve got ants in your pants, then do us both a favor and go for a walk to the library, but I guarantee you there ain’t nothing there we ain’t already though of,” Quinn quipped before returning his attention back to the blank paper, as if it held some secret.

“You know what, I think I will,” Beyer said as he got up from his chair. He threw on his brown blazer hastily, pulled his fedora, complete with inky smudges, down firmly on his head, and closed the door behind him. He made his way down from the second floor and began monotonous trek around Echo Lake.

“Hey, Book boy! Make sure you check the mail on your way back in. We may finally get that big offer we’ve been waiting for!” Quinn shouted from the window. He didn’t wait for a response before he closed the window, laughing. Beyer waved him of and turned back to the sidewalk in front of him.

Beyer made his way over to the library, where he studied the stacks intently. He randomly opened the card catalog hoping to find a muse in whatever card he happened upon, he consulted with the librarian, and he even sought the advice and recommended reading lists of visitors who seemed to be in the library as often as he was, most of whom were screenwriters as well, and most of whom were uninspired to help another struggling writer. Not having any luck, but thankful for the time away from Quinn’s delightful disposition, he decided to head for the park.

A vendor was selling bags of breadcrumbs for the local indigenous fowl, pigeons, and Beyer decided someone, somewhere needed a break, and bought a bag. The way he saw it, his generosity would bring some happiness to the vendor and the birds, and two for one wasn’t bad. Besides, doing good things had a way of coming back around. All the benches were occupied, but he meandered over to a bench by the lake with only one gentleman sitting on it.

“May I sit here?”

“Oh, by all means,” came the response from behind the newspaper.

As he tossed the crumbs to the crowd of pigeons that had made their way to Beyer’s feet, he aimlessly looked around for something, anything to motivate him. There was a girl sleeping on a bench whose boyfriend was leaning over to kiss her and wake her up, a little girl walking a dog who’s fur, in the evening light, appeared blue, and a cat chasing another dog, this one had a string of sausages trailing from his mouth, but none of this could ever make a story he and Quinn could sell.

Suddenly, he became aware that the buzzing sound in his ears was the man sitting next to him. Embarrassed, he stuttered an apology and asked if he didn’t mind repeating himself.

“Quite alright. I asked what you thought of this year’s Academy winners. Quite the eclectic bunch, eh?”

“Oh, oh, yes they are,” replied Beyer who, truth be told, had not even paid attention this year. Someone had won for screenwriting, and all he knew was that it wasn’t him. He continued talking with the gentleman, Henry was his name, for several more minutes. The conversation ran from entertainment to world politics to the diet of ‘tramps,’ or homeless dogs.

“Well, Burt, I am afraid I must be going,” Henry said as he folded his newspaper, placed it under his arm, and stood up. It was then that Beyer became aware of what this very worldly individual was wearing, an over-sized brown fedora, a khaki shirt, and deep brown work pants. This was not the attire of an educated man, which Henry most certainly was.

“Henry, before you go, what do you do for a living? That is, if you don’t mind my asking.”

“Not at all, I am a studio stunt man.”

“A stunt man? But you know so much and seem so well spoken,” Beyer’s shock was thinly veiled.

“True, but man may not live by brains alone,” explained Henry, who turned to go with a tip of his hat.

This conversation, and realization, had sent Beyer reeling. He sat for a long while thinking over what he had learned from Henry, and slowly a story began to form. Up he jumped and made a dash straight back for the office. He blew by the mailboxes, there wouldn’t be any mail anyway, and besides, the lock had been rusted shut for months now. Up he ran to the corner office, number 201, and straight over to Quinn’s desk, he hadn’t even stopped to shut the door or hang up his hat and coat.

“I’ve got it! I have the perfect story!” he exclaimed.

“Oh yeah, bookworm, what’s this perfect story? I don’t see no book any where?”

“No, no, no, I didn’t find anything in the library. I found it right outside the window here, down in the park.”

“Well, out with it then,” Quinn was beginning to lose his patience.

“It’s about this professor, see. He teaches archeology or paleontology or something like that. And he is a good guy, well educated, well spoken, right, but half of the time he is digging up ancient tombs or idols or dinosaurs or something. And when he is searching for these things he always finds a girl to fall in love with and he always ends up in these nasty situations because someone else wants exactly what he’s after. And,… and,… and, yeah, that’s it. What do you think?”

“There ain’t no stuffy professor that is ever going to get beautiful women to fall for them, especially if they’ve been digging around in the dirt all day long. This has got to be the most dimwitted idea you have every come up with Burt!”

“Quiet down over there,” came the muffled yell from the wall, along with repeated thuds.

“Sorry, Mrs. Zovich!” Beyer shouted back.

By now the sun had set and the lamps had begun to turn on outside. Quinn walked over to the door and drew up his coat.

“If you’ll excuse me professor, I’m heading home. Maybe I’ll dream us up some magic fairytale this evening. How about that?” Quinn asked while shutting the door.

Beyer waited until he heard Quinn hit the bottom of the stairs before he mumbled, “I bet it would have made millions.”

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