“How are you doing, Ben?”
The camera man crunches down to take advantage of a better upshot.
“Well, I’d tell you, but there is a stranger in my house who seems to be filming us,” I say with sincere astonishment.
` “Pretend they’re not there. None of them,” my buddy says.
“And who are they?” I ask.
“They are making a movie of “us,”” he replies.
“They obvious question here, is who are “we?””
“OK pal, you asked… “We” are you and I. No faking this. And “we” are the focus of a movie that “they” are filming.”
“This is seriously messed up.”
“You asked,” my buddy says.
“And I assume my injuries will be the focus of this ‘movie’?” I ask.
“You betcha, Ben. Just maybe make your limp a bit worse for the sympathy vote.”
“That is not necessary, bud. I limp, plain and simple.”
“Ah, thank you,” my buddy replied (for you guys at home, his name is Michael). “That sort of detail will make this movie make sense.”
“And what is the point of this ‘movie?’” I ask.
“It’ll have people amazed to see what you have been through. How you managed to press on. To ‘hang in there.’ Pardon the phrase,” Michael says.
“Ah, so you’ve seen this movie,” I say.
“Yep. Watching it right now.”
“My TV is busted,” I say. “Watching it how?”
“We are it.”
“This is a movie?”
“Terrible movie,” I say. “Who wants to watch a guy named Michael and a guy named Ben sit around talking?”
“Well ‘we’ do, we’re watching it right now!”
“Hey, why don’t you tell us all about the wreck?”
“Cut,” a distant voice calls out.
“Michael, what the hell IS this?” I ask sincerely.
“OK guys,” a man who I assume is a director of some sort steps into the room. “”Let’s try to be more concise. And knock off on all the metanarrative crap!”
“Um, well, you are the director of some film in my living room about me. How exactly do you think I can possibly have this NOT be metanarrative?” I ask.
“Just keep going,” the director says. “And talk about the wreck.”
“Fine.” As confused as I am right now, I’ll do just that. “The wreck. Not interesting. A man none of us knows ran a red light. The end.”
“And…” Michael continues, “Ben, tell us ALL what your injuries are.”
“ALL?” I stammer. “This is ridiculous.”
“Action!” the director calls out.
“OK, OK, Ok… I have 3 fractures in my pelvis, a broken clavicle, 9 sutures in my head, five stitches in my ear lobe, and a severe traumatic brain injury,” I state.
“Brain injury!” The director calls out. “Perfect! You should riff on this… Brain injury, and traumatic too, and even SEVERE!”
“Riff? Do you want our audience, whoever they are, to think I’m nuts with a brain injury?”
“If that works…” the director stammers. “Then sure, you can be crazy!”
“I’m getting crazy mad,” I reply.
“Action!” our director shouts.
“I’m really becoming angry, brain injury or not!” I shout.
“Just try again,” our director says. Followed by, “Action!”
And so I made a movie, trying very hard to be ‘me.’ I played along, ended up on Oprah, and everyone went home happy..
“Cut!” our director shouts. “This is getting WAY too metanarrative! And give this dreadful dreariness a happy ending! Action!”
“Hmph,” I start. “How to end this on a happy note? Well, the fact that a movie is being made about me is exactly a happy ending.”
“But your audience,” the director shouts. “What will they understand?”
“OK.” I say. “How about a new house? You know. The cabin that I’ve always wanted…”
“Out of the damn budget…” our director cries. “How on earth do we pay for a house?”
“Well, you could chip in?” I stammer.
“Horseshit! Cut!” Our director looks as if he has given up.
“Hmmm,” I start. “What about Oprah?”
“And why exactly, do we hope for that?” Michael says.
“Because I do care,” Oprah appears from the shadows as if the whole thing was scripted out.
“Oprah… uh, uh, hello there?” I scratch my head in disbelief.
“Darling,” Oprah cuts my question in half. “Anything is possible in a movie… You know that.”
“So what is your part, excuse me, your ROLE.”
“Darling,” Oprah begins, “My role, as you call it, will be to help the public get a glimpse of how it is, in fact, possible to “hang in there.”
“And will this movie be it?” I ask.
“Of course Ben,” Oprah says. “And I’ll give your story a happy ending!”
“How does this end?” I ask in confusion.
“Let’s go see your cabin in the woods,” Oprah states.
“What cabin?” I ask in utter disbelief.
“Follow me…” Oprah waves her hand to the front door and proceeds to exit my house.
“Really?” I ask as I follow Oprah onto the front porch. My question is answered when I see a shiny black limo in the drive. And of course, we then are driven to a picturesque cabin.
“Here we are my good passengers,” the limo driver says.
My goodness! I am utterly bewildered. A porch overhangs a beautiful lake. My gosh! And once the driver opens the front door, a dog comes bounding out to greet us!
“Now THIS is a happy ending!” I scream with utter amazement.
“Darling, my darling,” Oprah begins, “You know that I love to give people’s stories happy endings!”
“But I had no idea…” I drift into silence.
“Ahhhh, I see you like?” Oprah gives Michael and I a great big wink.
“This is awesome!” Michael interjects.
“I agree, I agree.” I have to admit. “Awesome. Perfect really.”
“Are you happy?” Oprah asks.
“My goodness, Oprah,” I state. “Happy.”
The End (credits roll for our viewers at home)
Murray Dunlap's work has appeared in about fifty magazines and journals. His stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times, as well as to Best New American Voices once, and his first book, an early draft of "Bastard Blue" (then called "Alabama") was a finalist for the Maurice Prize in Fiction. His first collection of short stories, "Bastard Blue," was published by Press 53 on June 7th, 2011 (the three year anniversary of a car wreck that very nearly killed him…). His newest book is the collection "Fires." The extraordinary individuals Pam Houston, Laura Dave, Michael Knight, and Fred Ashe taught him the art of writing.
See www.murraydunlap.com for a look at hiswork.