Prequel: Halloween (4 of 7)

Previous: Prequel: Halloween (3 of 7)

     Fair Finley of The Wilfair Hotel Finleys wore a lot of orange.
     I’d found this near-constant sartorial choice to be VERY affected. So affected it bordered on annoying and flirted with infuriating, principally because it was the color found throughout her family’s hotel and hotel-related marketing materials. Brochures, postcards, billboards, advertising? They all contained that special Finley hue. The whole citrus-California-fruit-sunshine connection was a hand they played too hard, I'd always said, when anyone would listen, and by anyone I mean Gomery and occasionally our moms.
     It was brand gone mad.
     But my neighbor's particular shade of orange on this night, whether worn as a tribute to Halloween or as a way to stand out in the dark, a full-body flashlight, was more noticeable than usual. Then I knew who she was: Her hotel’s famous, get-more-guests ghost, the Lady in Sequins.
     Most ghost sightings were the products of jumpy, jonesing-for-fantasy imaginations, but not The Wilfair Hotel's ghost. This otherworldly Lady was no more than a brilliant stroke on the part of the Finley family. I'm not saying the Lady in Sequins isn't real -- I keep a mind as open as two ginormous barn doors with well-oiled hinges -- but far realer than the ghost herself was the business-minded hotel firm that promoted her as a mysterious and elegant symbol.
     “Yo, Lady in Sequins!” I shouted at my neighbor, shouted without an iota of forethought or consultation with my cousin.
      Everyone on the block turned in my direction, including the portrayer of the Lady in Sequins herself. She briefly stepped behind a large oleander bush, then, three seconds later, stepped out and smiled a smile that didn’t have a shade of naturalness or warmth to it.
     Those Finleys are so FAKE. Their fakeness is so fake it is almost authentic, meaning they’ve come all the way 'round from their fake starting place to almost being bearable in their unfettered fake-a-tude.
     It looked as if she might step behind the shrub again, but she instead waved. Her wave, a stiff-palmed royal wave of sorts, contained no trace of fluttery finger action or natural wrist rotation. Her wave, in fact, was no warmer than her smile, which was as warm as the motel swimming pool on the frostiest December morning.
     Still, her apple cheeks were the pretty counterweight in the checks and balance system of her full and often flushed face. Then her wide-cheeked grin suddenly outdid her cold-swivel hand wave by a mile, and I determined, then and there, to recant my wrong-headed opinion about her beams. The smile she smiled now was more sunshine than snow, for once.
      Breaking her hesitant hello with haste, she yelled after her brothers. “Boys. Boys! Wil! Wil, tell Bo to stop. Boysssss! Listen to me, please! You know how much I hate yelling!”
     The two smaller male Finleys were halfway up the block and deep in the midst of a costumed gaggle when they halted with apparent unwillingness.
     “Hey Ladyyyyyyy. Can we go to that house?” Bo, the weirder of the two weird boys, started up the walkway of a high-hedged corner duplex.
     “Stop calling me ‘Lady,’” she yelled at her brother.
     “It’s your first name, Lady in Sequins,” he shouted back. “Your middle name is ‘of,’ too!” The gaggle burst into giggles. “And your last name is--”
     “Sequins. Got it.” The puff of smoke above her heavily sprayed updo was nearly visible. “Fine, fine. One more house.” She up-palmed her hands in our direction, a feeble “sorry I gotta go what can ya do Happy Halloween” shrug, then royal-waved us with a heaping dose of insincerity.
     “Wait, please,” shouted my cousin.
     “Later,” she shouted at her brother Wil, who’d begun to consume candy bars by the greedy fistful. “We’ll go through the whole bucket at home, later on. Go keep an eye on your brother, please.” She swiveled and again faced us. “Did you need, like... me?”
    “I want to show you something,” called Gomery. He beckoned.
     The apple-cheeked sequin-wearing fake fake ghost gave another worried glance to the group of children down the block, then a group of parents nearby, then lifted her skirt an inch, the better to expedite fast walking and show off her orange-as-her-dress high heels.
     Stepping off the sidewalk, she glanced right, for cars, forgetting that the block at been cordoned off, and my cousin checked left. Almost simultaneously and in near perfect unison, they swung their heads in the opposite directions, my cousin watching right and Fair Finley left.
     My friends in my film classes talk a lot about the hard-to-nail concept of simpatico, at least when it comes to writing on-screen lovers. Simpatico is what gives a twosome their sticky can-do glue. Simpatico means the lovers are not only on the same page, but they own the exact same book and maybe the same library.
     Simpatico makes the heart go pat-i-co.
     But I'm NEVER sure how exactly to convey that feeling in my own scripts. Is it all-out swoon I want to show in my scenes? Those scenes that aren't all car chases and heavy-browed dramas? Or maybe coyness makes a couple? Flirting? Sexy sex-o-sity? And how does one best fold that special magic into the everyday world that characters actually occupy?
    Then I saw it, at least briefly: Maybe the idea of “simpatico” has a hundred roads, or a thousand, and they're all roads that seem fairly unimportant at first look, but taken as a whole all the roads form a vast and complex map.
    And maybe one of those roads can be as simple as two people standing on the opposite sides of an avenue looking in one direction, for traffic, at the very same time, and then swinging their heads, in perfect precision, to check down the other end of the street.
     The moment this realization alighted upon my head, another feisty rabbit springing from a magician's top hat, it was gone, because my attractive and affected neighbor stood before me, out of breath and sequin-shiny.
     Gah. Damn it! What was it? The idea? Simpatico IS simple? Opposite sides of the road? Love maps? Damn.

      Fair Finley's Lady in Sequins get-up was the sexiest thing she’d ever worn. It was not the hottest outfit I’d ever seen on a human being, nope nope, but for a fussy heiress who only ever wore shoulder pads and hid inside retro blazers and fussbudget capes, it was a choice she could clearly only make on the dressiest dress-up play pretend day of the year.
     But I had to enjoy this rare look now. Her complaint-riddled, up-in-our-failing-business visits to the Fairwil were brief, and I guessed this interaction would be even briefer, and, in fact, fully over before I knew it had begun.
     “Motel,” she breathed, lifting her dress hem and stepping up on our sidewalk. She then rolled her eyes a little.
     “Hotel,” I answered, rolling my eyes in response, then stopped when I realized she likely had rolled her eyes at herself, for her strange single-word arrival greeting, and not at us.
     “How are you?” Fair asked.
     “Me?” I pointed at myself, then waved my thumb at my cousin. “Or both of us? Is that a catch-all question, or specifically about me? Because that might change the shading and content of my answer.”
     “Um. Let’s start with you.” She picked a stray sequin off her bare shoulder and flicked it to the ground.
     “Oh, school’s great, life’s great, great’s great, what’s not great isn’t great. I’m writing a film, stuff.”
     She nodded and turned to my cousin. “How are you?” It was a polite question, so stiff it sounded as if she'd soaked it in dry-cleaning starch and steam-ironed it for extra measure. It was also a query delivered more to his necktie knot than the tie wearer himself.
     “Good,” said Gomery. “Things good your way?” He picked up a pebble from the sidewalk and tossed it into the nearest flowerbed.
     “Sure. Good,” Fair answered. “You?”
     “Good,” Gomery confirmed. He stared down the block while Fair glanced at the spot on the sidewalk where the pebble had very recently sat.
     “Riveting,” I said, mostly not under my breath.
     She caught my cousin’s eye. “Sorry, just, like. It seems like I repeated myself, asking you twice, if you were good, but my first ‘how are you’ was about, like, you, and then the later ‘you?’ was about things your way, things in your life, uh, work and classes and the, like, events going on. Just, two separate questions.”
     I folded both of my hands atop my chest, relieved. “That was going to keep us up fretting through the wee smalls. Thanks for clarifying, Fair.”
     “Monty,” said Gomery.
     “Also, you dropped a sequin. Actually, you did the classic index-finger-thumb shoulder lint flick, I stood right here and watched you, which means you technically littered, knowingly. There are laws.” Squatting, I pressed my fingertip against it, and handed it back to her.
     “I didn’t think about it. We drop sequins at the hotel. The guests like it. Legend and all that.”
     “Sequin litterer,” I sighed. "Also, ‘legend’ is a pretty toity word. ‘All that’ kind of minimizes it. I'd red-pencil ‘all that’ and stick with legend. It's stronger.”
     “Thank you?” she said as her pallor deepened.
     Gomery hard-eyed me, then turned again to our fancied-up neighbor. “Don't mind him, or, better yet, do. He's so wrapped up in reading friends' scripts that he can be completely adorable and cute. Can I pet him? Is he friendly? What's his name?”
     Moments later my cousin was on the sidewalk, visiting with a passing dog rocking a surplus of gingham-checked cowboy gear. Lots of cowboy gear, in fact; the ruddy pup's costume came complete with side lasso and dog-sized ten-gallon hat. The hound's humans cooed a bit, clearly proud, then proceeded to feed Gomery a steady waterfall of factoids about their be-pawed pride and joy. "He's a super boy, he knows ten tricks, he's a fantastic guard dog, a bed-hogger, a smoocher."
     “He's a love,” Fair cooed back, petting the pooch in the places along his furry back that Gomery wasn't. If I didn't know better, I'd guess that both petters were taking special care to avoid each other's hands. Not that the dog cared. His tail thumped with such happy ferocity at having two people cuddle him that his side lasso came undone.
     Gomery rose and bid the human-animal party goodbye, then returned his hands to his pockets. “Hey Monty? Let's get one of those one day soon.”
    “Maybe when we leave,” I pondered.
    “You guys are leaving? The motel? When?” The Lady in Sequins seemed at once excited and concerned. “Not your moms, though?”
    “No, not our moms. But us?” I pointed at my cousin, then myself. "We're men now, off to see the world and be men. Men, I said! Men.” I muscled an arm, then shrugged. I didn't buy into the tried-and-true symbols of masculinity and why they supposedly conveyed all that they did. I mostly used them out of winky irony or to get a laugh.
    And it worked. My neighbor's apple cheeks broadened at the sight of my curled arm and her eyes? Merry as hell.
    “Men,” she repeated, that steam-ironed, starch-soaked note returning to her voice. The heiress then peeked over at her brothers as they tromped with a dozen other kids to the next house, treat buckets in hand. “So, like. What did you guys -- um, men? -- want to show me?”


Next: Prequel: Halloween (5 of 7)


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