The writing group has just finished discussing this week’s submission, a scene from Wayne’s script entitled Usher Place. It was a short and lively scene, the one where the aging actress first seduces her writer. The young man enters her cavernous foyer and asks, innocently, where the party is. She, wearing something diaphanous replies, “Right here, loverboy.”
It was titillating and very well written and the group loved it. Karen hugged him and called him a genius and one glance at Isabella’s pining eyes could tell anyone she’s in love. Even Aidan had agreed–he said something about cougars being hot these days. Drew had been careful not to dwell on the similarities to Billy Wilder’s original script. Instead, when it was her turn to speak, she reminded the group that they’re all here because they believe in adaptation as a legitimate form of art and certainly, adapting a screenplay is different than adapting a novel or a short story. She said Wayne was very brave to attempt to adapt a screenplay, especially one as fabulous as Wilder’s.
As usual, the writer got to make the last comments. Wayne leaned back in his chair and declared that Wilder deserved a makeover. ”See, writers must evolve or die just like everything else. We live in a visual society. Only the sexy survive.” He seemed to have a speech prepared. “When people ask me what I do, I tell them that I sneak into the rooms in the backs of the libraries where they hide the old, disintegrating tomes. I get out my pen and get to work. I give them a new outfit, a stronger chin, tighter muscles. I make them fresh again. I save their lives.” He motioned to everyone at the table: “We save their lives. And by resuscitating those authors, we gain a little immortality for ourselves.”
The group applauded. “Here, here.”
So Wayne is sitting there with an almost annoyingly smug look on his face but it isn’t her job to take that away from him. Instead, she attempts a discussion.
“So the other night I was flipping through the channels and I stumbled upon Pygmalion. You know, GB Shaw?”
Drew always encourages them to watch as many old films as they can, especially the award-winners, because how are you supposed to write good scripts if you don’t watch good movies?
But Wayne is the only one to speak up: “My Fair Lady with Hepburn is one of my favorites.”
In college, students had always pretended to know what the professor was talking about. Even if they didn’t, they’d all nod and make emphatic noises in their throats then run to do some research as soon as class was over. But here, no one pretends to know anything. Here, people are allowed to be unabashedly ignorant, as if ignorance were an integral part of a person’s charm. In school, you were judged by your intelligence; out here, your ignorance makes you real.
But Drew doesn’t want anyone to feel stupid. These people pay her to help them feel smarter and more capable, not to make them feel like losers, and when she started this group, she vowed never to be one of those teachers who choose one pet and ignore the rest. For these reasons, she will avoid having an exclusive dialogue with Wayne now.
She asks the group, “You might have seen A Star Is Born?” Karen and Susan nod, but shrug when Drew mentions that Dorothy Parker was one of its writers. “Well, you must remember Pretty Woman?” A couple nods. Drew sighs. “Oh, nevermind. It doesn’t matter. They all allude to the same Greek parable of the sculptor who didn’t like women. Let me tell you the story.” The faces around the table brighten; they like it when she talks, it makes them feel like they are getting their money’s worth. “This guy thought all women were untrustworthy, stupid, inept and immoral. I think he probably got burned a couple times in the past, and he was bitter. But I guess he was still horny, bitter but horny, so he carved a beautiful girl out of ivory. This was before blow-up dolls, mind you.” Kinko and Isabella giggle. “Ivory girl was his ideal: She didn’t move, didn’t talk, and had no desires or thoughts of her own, only what he imagined. So of course, he fell in love.”
Wayne watches Drew with growing interest. She’s on fire tonight. Her cheeks glow like she has just stepped from the bath and her hair is down for a change, ringlets framing her dark eyes and red lips curled up at the edges. She’s cursing and using more slang and words of Anglo-Saxon origin than usual and her hands are uncharacteristically mobile, shaping grand forms in the air like a pair of tango dancers. This is a new Drew, one Wayne hardly recognizes, sitting cross-legged with her head tipped back against the chair, looking sated and satisfied, looking as though she has swallowed a delicious secret. He wonders why.
He is overtaken by a wave of annoyance. She hasn’t been back to her apartment for at least a month. Her neglected mail, which he has been collecting for her even though she never bothered to ask, has been stacking up. They usually have dinner together but she hasn’t once called to say she wouldn’t make it and, when he finally reached her on the phone yesterday, she said she was too busy to talk and that she’d call him later, but she didn’t. She’s wearing a pretty silk blouse and she’s shining at the head of the table like a blazing candelabra, like Kate Winslet as the prow of The Titanic, talking about how all the best stories are adaptations and how adaptations are always at least partly original and he group is rapt and amused and Wayne has no idea what’s going on.
I think the dialogue here is getting a little too preachy– I mean, it seems like I’m putting a narrator’s words into a character’s mouth. Do you think so? Does it seem unnatural to you?
This is chapter 15 of my latest novel, What Would Water Do. Don’t miss a chapter! SUBSCRIBE NOW to find out what happens next!