Monday, August 9, 2010
DEATH IN SIX TAKES
Ernie is driving his Corvair station wagon at blinding speed along Santa Monica Boulevard, an unfamiliar route. He has just come from a Hollywood party full of celebrities, at which he was collossally bored. It is teeming down rain, pitch black, and the Corvair is fishtailing, hard to control. He has had four stiff drinks and feels slightly tipsy. Then he realizes he has left his cigars at home, unthinkable, and has nothing with which to obliterate his thoughts. $200,000.00 in debt from poker and gin games, which he played badly. The IRS on his tail for an astronomical sum of back taxes. Several days before, he was overheard to say, “I’m worth more dead than alive.” Almost absently, he lets go of the wheel, just to see what will happen.
Suddenly the car skids and spins, Ernie grabs the wheel and tries to steer madly, but it is too late: a split-second later, it slams full-force into a utility pole.
Ernie dies instantly, on impact. Police find him hours later, thrown partly out of the passenger side. His left hand is outstretched towards an unlit Havana cigar. Cause of death: fractured skull and ruptured aorta.
Ernie does not die. After the sickening noise of the crash, he is somehow aware and awake, with the weird clarity that often follows massive trauma. He reaches over to open the passenger door and begins to crawl out. “Edie,” he says. He can’t die. Edie will be left with the mess. A few seconds later, he blacks out.
Ernie does not die. He begins to crawl out the passenger door, but an astounding blow of impossibly powerful pain brings him down as his brain begins to haemorrhage and his heart explodes.
The police arrive. They find Ernie face-down on the pavement with no sign of life. Even the most hardened cop feels tearful and sick. A jackal reporter takes a macabre photo of the dead body, and next day it appears on the cover of every tabloid in Hollywood.
The police arrive. They find Ernie face-down on the pavement with no sign of life. “What are we gonna. . . “ “I don’t know. Maybe. . . “ “How ‘bout we say he was trying to light a cigar.” “Anybody got one?” “Here.” “This isn’t the right kind.” “It won’t matter anyway, a cigar’s a cigar.”
Another reporter arrives, but Ernie’s body is already gone. He takes out a large Havana cigar, and though they make him sick, he smokes half of it. He stubs it out, places it on the pavement, and takes a picture of it. The photo will appear on the cover of every newspaper in Hollywood.