Smoke Script - Dialogue Transcript

Voila! Finally, the Smoke script is here for all you quotes spouting fans of the Paul Auster movie with Harvey Keitel and William Hurt.  This script is a transcript that was painstakingly transcribed using the screenplay and/or viewings of Smoke. I know, I know, I still need to get the cast names in there and I'll be eternally tweaking it, so if you have any corrections, feel free to drop me a line. You won't hurt my feelings. Honest.

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Smoke Script


  

  

 

                   

I'll tell you why they're

not going anywhere.



 

                   

Yeah? And why is that?



 

                   

Management. Those guys are walking

around with their heads up their asses.



 

                   

They made some great deals. Tommy. Hernandez. Carter.

Without those two, there never woulda been no World Series.



 

                   

That was four years ago.

I'm talking about now.



 

                   

Look who they got rid of.



 

                   

Mitchell. Backman. McDowell.

Dykstra. Aguillera. Mookie. Mookie



 

                   

Wilson, for Chrissakes.



 

                   

And Nolan Ryan. Don't forget him.



  

                   

Yeah. And Amos Otis.



  

                   

The team was good, the best

fucking team in baseball.



  

                   

But then they had to screw it up.



  

                   

Hey, Auggie. How's it going?



  

                   

Hey, man. Good to see

you. What'll it be today?



  

                   

Two tins of Schimmelpennincks.



  

                   

And throw in a lighter

while you're at it.



  

                   

The boys and I were just

having a philosophical



  

                   

discussion about women and cigars



  

                   

I suppose it all goes

back to Queen Elizabeth.



  

                   

The Queen of England?



  

                   

Not Elizabeth the Second,

Elizabeth the First.



  

                   

Did you ever hear of Sir Walter Raleigh?



  

                   

Sure. He's the guy who threw

his cloak down over the puddle.



  

                   

I used to smoke Raleigh cigarettes.



  

                   

They came with a free

gift coupon in every pack.



  

                   

That's the man. Well, Raleigh was the

person who introduced tobacco in England,



  

                   

and since he was a

favorite of the Queen's



  

                   

Queen Bess, he used to call her Ė



  

                   

smoking caught on as a fashion at court.



  

                   

I'm sure Old Bess must have shared

a stogie or two with Sir Walter.



  

                   

Once, he made a bet with her that

he could measure the weight of smoke.



  

                   

You mean, weigh smoke?



  

                   

Exactly. Weigh smoke.



  

                   

You can't do that.

It's like weighing air.



  

                   

I admit it's strange. Almost

like weighing someone's soul.



  

                   

But Sir Walter was a clever guy.



  

                   

First, he took an unsmoked cigar and

put it on a balance and weighed it.



  

                   

Then he lit up and smoked the cigar,



  

                   

carefully tapping the

ashes into the balance pan.



  

                   

When he was finished, he

put the butt into the pan



  

                   

along with the ashes and

weighed what was there.



  

                   

Then he subtracted that number from the

original weight of the unsmoked cigar.



  

                   

The difference was the

weight of the smoke.



  

                   

He's a writer.



  

                   

Lives in the neighborhood.



  

                   

And what kind of writer

is he? An underwriter?



  

                   

Very funny. Some of the

cracks you make. Tommy,



  

                   

sometimes I think you

should see a doctor.



  

                   

You know, go in for some

wit therapy or something.



  

                   

To clean out the valves in your brain.



  

                   

It was just a joke, Auggie.



  

                   

The guy's a novelist.



  

                   

Paul Benjamin. You ever hear of him?



  

                   

That's a stupid question.



  

                   

The only things you guys

read is the Racing Form



  

                   

and sports pages of the Post.



  

                   

He's published three or four books.



  

                   

But nothing now for the past few years.



  

                   

What's the matter? He run out of ideas?



  

                   

He ran out of luck.



  

                   

Remember that holdup out here

on Seventh Avenue few years back?



  

                   

You talking about the bank?



  

                   

The time those two guys started

spraying bullets all over the street?



  

                   

That's it. Four people got killed.



  

                   

One of them was Paul's wife.



  

                   

The poor lug, he hasn't

been the same since.



  

                   

The funny thing was, she stopped

in here just before it happened.



  

                   

To stock up on cigars for him.

She was a nice lady, Ellen.



  

                   

Four or five months pregnant

at the time, which means



  

                   

that when she was killed,

the baby was killed, too.



  

                   

Bad day at Black Rock, eh, Auggie?



  

                   

It was bad, all right.



  

                   

I sometimes think that if she hadn't

given me exact change that day,



  

                   

or if the store had been

a little more crowded,



  

                   

it would have taken her a few

more seconds to get out of here,



  

                   

and then maybe she wouldn't have

stepped in front of that bullet.



  

                   

She'd still be alive, the

baby would have been born...



  

                   

Hey! What are you doing there, kid?



  

                   

Hey, cut that out!



  

                   

Watch out, man. You'll get

yourself killed like that.



  

                   

It's a law of the universe.



  

                   

You have to let me do something for

you to put the scales in balance.



  

                   

OK. If I think of something, I'll

send my butler over to tell you.



  

                   

Please. At least let me

buy you a cup of coffee.



  

                   

I don't drink coffee.



  

                   

On the other hand, since you insist,



  

                   

if you offered me a cold

lemonade. I wouldn't say no.



  

                   

Good.



  

                   

My name is Paul.



  

                   

Iím Rashid. Rashid Cole.



  

                   

Listen, if someone offered

you a place to stay,



  

                   

you wouldn't necessarily

refuse, would you?



  

                   

People don't do that kind

of thing. Not in New York.



  

                   

I'm not "people." I'm just me. And I do

whatever I goddamn want to do. Got it?



  

                   

Thanks, but I'll manage.



  

                   

In case you're wondering, I

like women, not little boys.



  

                   

And I'm not offering

you a long-term lease...



  

                   

just a place to crash

for a couple of nights.



  

                   

I can take care of myself. Don't worry.



   

                   

Suit yourself.



   

                   

But if you change your mind,



   

                   

Miss



   

                   

Do you have a pen I can borrow?



   

                   

In case you change your mind,



   

                   

here's my address.



   

                   

You don't take anything

seriously, do you?



   

                   

I try not to, anyway. It's

better for your health.



   

                   

I mean, look at you, Vincent.



   

                   

You're the guy with the wife and three

kids and the ranch house on Long Island.



   

                   

You're the guy with the white shoes and

the white Caddy and the white shag carpet.



   

                   

But you've had two heart attacks,

and I'm still waiting for my first.



   

                   

I should stop smoking

these is what I should do.



   

                   

The fuckers are going

to kill me one day.



   

                   

Enjoy it while you can, Vin.



   

                   

Pretty soon, they're going to

legislate us out of business anyway.



   

                   

Pretty soon, they catch

you smoking tobacco,



   

                   

they'll stand you up

against a wall and shoot you.



   

                   

Tobacco today, sex tomorrow.



   

                   

In three or four years, it'll probably

be against the law to smile at strangers.



   

                   

Speaking of which, are you still going

ahead with that deal on the Montecristos?



   

                   

It's all set. My guy in Miami said he'd

have them within the next few weeks.



   

                   

Are you sure you don't

want to go in with me?



   

                   

Five thousand dollars outlay, a

guaranteed ten-thousand-dollar return.



   

                   

A consortium of Court

Street lawyers and judges.



   

                   

They're just drooling to get their

lips around some Cuban cigars.



   

                   

Hey, I don't care what you do, but just

make sure you don't get caught, okay?



   

                   

The last I heard, it was still illegal

to sell Cuban cigars in this country.



   

                   

It's the law that's buying.



   

                   

That's what's so beautiful about it.



   

                   

I mean, when was the last time you

heard of a judge sending himself to jail?



   

                   

Suit yourself. Just don't keep

the boxes around here long.



   

                   

They come in, they go out. I've

got it planned to the last detail.



   

                   

I've got to get moving. Terry

will bust my chops if I'm late.



   

                   

See you in September, Auggie.



   

                   

Okay, my man.



   

                   

Are you closed?



   

                   

You run out of Schimmelpennincks?



   

                   

Do you think I could buy

some before you leave?



   

                   

No problem. It's not as though I'm

rushing off to the opera or anything.



   

                   

Looks like someone forgot a camera.



   

                   

Yeah, I did.



   

                   

It's yours?



   

                   

It's mine all right.



   

                   

I've owned that little

sucker for a long time.



   

                   

I didn't know you took pictures.



   

                   

I guess you could call it a hobby.



   

                   

It doesn't take me more than

about five minutes a day to do it,



   

                   

but I do it every day. Rain

or shine, sleet or snow.



   

                   

Sort of like the postman.



   

                   

So you're not just some guy who

pushes coins across a counter.



   

                   

That's what people see, but

that ain't necessarily what I am.



   

                   

They're all the same.



   

                   

That's right.



   

                   

More than four thousand

pictures of the same place.



   

                   

The corner of  rd Street and Seventh

Avenue at eight o'clock in the morning.



   

                   

Four thousand straight days

in all kinds of weather.



   

                   

That's why I can never take a vacation.



   

                   

I've got to be in my spot every morning.



   

                   

Every morning in the same

spot at the same time.



   

                   

I've never seen anything like this.



   

                   

It's my project. What

you'd call my life's work.



   

                   

Amazing.



   

                   

I'm not sure I get it, though. I mean...



   

                   

What was it that gave you the

idea to do this... this project?



   

                   

I don't know, it just came to me.



   

                   

It's my corner, after all.



   

                   

It's just one little part of the world,



   

                   

but things happen there, too,

just like everywhere else.



   

                   

It's a record of my little spot.



   

                   

It's kind of overwhelming.



   

                   

You'll never get it if you

don't slow down, my friend.



   

                   

What do you mean?



   

                   

I mean, you're going too fast. You're

hardly even looking at the pictures.



   

                   

But they're all the same.



   

                   

They're all the same, but each one

is different from every other one.



   

                   

You've got your bright

mornings and your dark mornings.



   

                   

You've got your summer

light and your autumn light.



   

                   

You've got your weekdays

and your weekends.



   

                   

You've got your people

in overcoats and galoshes,



   

                   

and you've got your people

in T-shirts and shorts.



   

                   

Sometimes the same people,

sometimes different ones.



   

                   

And sometimes the different

ones become the same,



   

                   

and the same ones disappear.



   

                   

The earth revolves around

the sun, and every day



   

                   

the light from the sun hits

the earth at a different angle.



   

                   

Slow down, huh?



   

                   

Yeah, that's what I'd recommend.



   

                   

You know how it is.



   

                   

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,



   

                   

time creeps on its petty pace.



   

                   

Jesus.



   

                   

Look.



   

                   

It's Ellen.



   

                   

Yeah. There her allright.



   

                   

She's in quite a few from that year.



   

                   

She must have been on her way to work.



   

                   

It's Ellen.



   

                   

Look at her.



   

                   

Look at my sweet darling.



   

                   

Shit.



   

                   

Who is it?



   

                   

Rashid.



   

                   

Who?



   

                   

Rashid Cole. The lemonade kid, remember?



   

                   

Yeah. Come on up.



   

                   

Come on in. I didn't

expect to see you again.



   

                   

Same here.



   

                   

But I had a long talk with my

accountant this afternoon, you know,



   

                   

to see how a move like this

would affect my tax picture,



   

                   

and he said it would be okay.



   

                   

Time to wake up.



   

                   

Rashid!



   

                   

Up and out. I have to work in

here. The slumber party is over.



   

                   

What time is it?



   

                   

Eight-thirty.



   

                   

Eight-thirty?



   

                   

You'll find juice and eggs

and milk in the refrigerator.



   

                   

Cereal in the cupboard.

Coffee on the stove.



   

                   

Take whatever you want. But it's

time for me to get started in here.



   

                   

Jesus, do you make a lot of noise.

Can't you see I'm trying to work?



   

                   

I'm sorry. They just... they

just slipped out of my hands.



   

                   

A little less clumsiness around

here would be nice, don't you think?



   

                   

How long have you been here?



   

                   

Two nights.



   

                   

And how long did I

tell you you could stay?



   

                   

A couple of nights.



   

                   

Well, it looks like our

time is up, doesn't it?



   

                   

I'm sorry I messed up.

You've been very kind to me...



   

                   

But all good things

have to come to an end.



   

                   

No hard feelings, okay?

It's a small apartment,



   

                   

and I can't get my work

done with you around.



   

                   

You don't have to apologize.



   

                   

The coast is probably clear now anyway.



   

                   

Are you going to be all right?



   

                   

Absolutely. The world is my oyster.



   

                   

Whatever that means.



   

                   

Do you need some money?

Some extra clothes?



   

                   

Not a penny, not a

stitch. I'm cool, man.



   

                   

Take good care of yourself, okay?



   

                   

You too.



   

                   

And make sure the light is green

before you cross the street.



   

                   

Oh, by the way, I liked your book. I

think you're a hell of a good writer.



   

                   

Is your name Paul Benjamin?



   

                   

How can I help you?



   

                   

I just want to know what your

game is, mister, that's all.



   

                   

How the hell did you

get into the building?



   

                   

What do you mean, how'd I get in?



   

                   

I pushed the door and

walked in. What do you think?



   

                   

The damn lock's broken again.



   

                   

And so you just barge in on strangers,

is that what you do? Is that your game?



   

                   

I'm looking for my nephew, Thomas.



   

                   

Thomas? Who's Thomas?



   

                   

Don't give me any of that.

I know he's been here.



   

                   

You can't fool me, mister.



   

                   

I'm telling you. I don't

know anyone named Thomas.



   

                   

Thomas Cole. Thomas

Jefferson Cole. My nephew.



   

                   

You mean Rashid?



   

                   

Rashid? Rashid! Is that what

he told you his name was?



   

                   

Well, whatever his name

is, he's not here anymore.



   

                   

He left two days ago, and I

haven't heard from him since.



   

                   

And what was he doing

here in the first place?



   

                   

That's what I want to know.



   

                   

What's a man like you messing around

with a black boy like Thomas for?



   

                   

Are you some kind of pervert, or what?



   

                   

Look, lady, that's enough. If you don't

calm down. I'm going to throw you out.



   

                   

Do you hear me? Right now!



   

                   

I just want to know where he is.



   

                   

As far as I know, he

went back to his parents.



   

                   

His parents? Is that what

he told you? His parents?



   

                   

That's what he said.



   

                   

He told me he lived with his mother and

father on East Seventy-fourth Street.



   

                   

I always knew that

boy had an imagination,



   

                   

but now he's gone and made up

a whole new life for himself.



   

                   

Do you mind if I sit down?



   

                   

He's been living with me and his

uncle Henry since he was a baby.



   

                   

And we don't live in Manhattan.



   

                   

We live in Boerum Hill. In the projects.



   

                   

He doesn't go to the Trinity School?



   

                   

He goes to John Jay

High School in Brooklyn.



   

                   

And his parents?



   

                   

His mother's dead, and he hasn't

seen his father in twelve years.



   

                   

I shouldn't have let him go.



   

                   

Could anything happened lately?



   

                   

Anything unusual or unexpected?



   

                   

Well, one thing I suppose, but I don't

think it has anything to do with this.



   

                   

A friend of mine called

about two weeks ago



   

                   

and said she'd spotted Thomas's father working

at some gas station outside of Peekskill.



   

                   

And you told your nephew about it?



   

                   

I figured he had a right to know.



   

                   

And?



   

                   

And nothing. Thomas looked at

me straight in the eye and said,



   

                   

I don't have a father. As far as I'm

concerned, that son-of-a-bitch is dead.



   

                   

You going to sit here all day?



   

                   

I don't know. I haven't decided yet.



   

                   

Why don't you pick some other spot?



   

                   

It gives a man the creeps

to be stared at all morning.



   

                   

It's a free country, isn't it?



   

                   

As long as I'm not trespassing on your

property. I can stay here till kingdom come.



   

                   

Let me give you some

useful information, son.



   

                   

There's two dollars and fifty-seven

cents in that cash register over there



   

                   

And considering all the time you've

put in casing the joint so far,



   

                   

you won't make but about fifty

cents an hour for all your pains.



   

                   

However you slice it,

that's a losing proposition.



   

                   

I'm not going to rob you, mister.



   

                   

Do I look like a thief?



   

                   

I don't know what you look like, boy.



   

                   

As far as I can tell, you sprouted up

like a mushroom in this spot last night.



   

                   

You live in this town... or

on your way from here to there?



   

                   

Just passing through.



   

                   

Just passing through.



   

                   

A lonesome traveler with

a knapsack on his back



   

                   

plops himself across from

my garage to admire the view.



   

                   

There's other places to roam,

kid, that's all I'm saying.



   

                   

You don't want to make

a nuisance of yourself.



   

                   

I'm working on a sketch.



   

                   

That old garage of yours is so

rundown, it's kind of interesting.



   

                   

It's rundown, all right. But drawing a

picture won't improve the way it looks.



   

                   

Let's see what you did.



   

                   

It'll cost you five bucks.



   

                   

Five bucks! You mean you're going to

charge me five bucks just to look at it?



   

                   

Once you look at it, you're

going to want to buy it from me.



   

                   

That's guaranteed. And

that's the price: five bucks.



   

                   

So if you're not

willing to spring for it,



   

                   

you might as well not bother to look.



   

                   

It'll just tear you up

inside and make you miserable.



   

                   

Son-of-a-bitch. You're some

piece of work, aren't you?



   

                   

I just tell it like it is, mister.



   

                   

If I'm getting on your nerves, though,

you might want to think about hiring me.



   

                   

Are those eyes in your head, or are those brown

things bulging out of your sockets just marbles?



   

                   

You've been sitting here all day, and how many

cars have you seen drive up and ask for gas?



   

                   

Not a one.



   

                   

Not a one.



   

                   

Not one customer.



   

                   

I bought this broken-down shit-hole

of a place three weeks ago,



   

                   

and if business don't pick up soon,

I'm going straight down the skids.



   

                   

What do I want to be hiring someone

for? I can't even pay my own wages.



   

                   

It was just a thought.



   

                   

Wonít you keep your

fucking thougts to yourself.



   

                   

Keep your hands to yourself.



   

                   

Auggie.



   

                   

Auggie, I think there's a customer.



   

                   

Hello Auggie



   

                   

It's really you, isn't it, Auggie?



   

                   

Christ, Ruby, it's been so

long. I figured you were dead.



   

                   

Eighteen and a half years.



   

                   

Is that all? I thought it

was about three hundred.



   

                   

You're looking good, Auggie.



   

                   

No I'm not. I look like shit. And

so do you, Ruby. You look just awful.



   

                   

What's with the patch, anyway? What'd

you do with that old blue marble...



   

                   

hock it for a bottle of gin?



   

                   

I don't want to talk about it.



   

                   

If you really want to know. I lost it.



   

                   

And I'm not sorry I did.



   

                   

That thing was cursed, and it

never gave me nothing but grief.



   

                   

And you think it looks better to go

around dressed up like Captain Hook?



   

                   

You always were a

son-of-a-bitch, weren't you?



   

                   

A little weasel with

a quick, dirty mouth.



   

                   

At least I've stayed true to myself.



   

                   

Which is more than I can

say about some people.



   

                   

I came here to talk to you about something,

and the least you can do is listen.



   

                   

You owe me that much. I drove all the way from Pittsburgh

to see you, and I'm not going until you've heard me out.



   

                   

Fine. Talk away, lady of

my dreams. I'm all ears.



   

                   

I think this is between you and

I. Maybe we can have some privacy



   

                   

You heard her, pipsqueak. The lady

and I have private business to discuss.



   

                   

Go outside and stand in front of the door. If anyone

tries to come in, tell 'em we're closed. You got it?



   

                   

Yeah, I got it.



   

                   

The store's closed.



   

                   

And when do I tell them it's open?



   

                   

When I tell you it's open. It's

open when I tell you it's open!



   

                   

Okay, I got it. You don't have to yell.



   

                   

All right, sugar, what's on your mind?



   

                   

Will you stop staring at me like

that. It gives me the creeps.



   

                   

Like what?



   

                   

Like what you're doing.

I'm not going to eat you up.



   

                   

I need your help, and if you keep staring

at me like that. I might start screaming.



   

                   

Help, huh? And I don't suppose this help

has anything to do with money, does it?



   

                   

Don't rush me, okay? You're jumping to

conclusions before I've even said anything.



   

                   

And besides, it's not for me.



   

                   

It's for our daughter.



   

                   

Our daughter?



   

                   

Is that what you said? Our daughter?



   

                   

I mean, you might have a

daughter, but I sure as hell don't.



   

                   

And even if I did -- which I don't

-- she wouldn't be our daughter.



   

                   

Her name is Felicity, and

she just turned eighteen.



   

                   

She ran away from Pittsburgh last year,



   

                   

and now she's living in some shit-hole

here in Brooklyn with a guy named Chico.



   

                   

Strung out on crack,



   

                   

four months pregnant.



   

                   

I can't bear to think about that baby.



   

                   

Our grandchild, Auggie. Just

think of it. Our grandchild.



   

                   

Stop it, already. Just stop

all this crap right now.



   

                   

Was that your idea to call her Felicity?



   

                   

It means "happiness."



   

                   

I know what it means. That

still don't make it a good name.



   

                   

I don't know who else

to turn to, Auggie.



   

                   

You've suckered me before, sweetheart



   

                   

Why should I believe you now?



   

                   

Why would I lie to you?



   

                   

You think it was easy to come

here and walk into this place?



   

                   

Why would I do it if I didn't have to?



   

                   

That's what you told me when I

shoplifted that necklace for you.



   

                   

You remember, baby, don't you?



   

                   

The judge gave me a choice:

either enlist or go to the can.



   

                   

So I wind up in the navy for four

years, instead of going to college



   

                   

I watch men lose their arms and

legs, I nearly get my head blown off,



   

                   

and you, sweet Ruby McNutt, you run

off and marry that asshole, Bill.



   

                   

You didn't write to me

for more than a year.



   

                   

What was I supposed to think?



   

                   

Yeah, well, I lost my pen. By the time I

got a new one, I was clean out of paper.



   

                   

It was over with Bill

before you ever came home.



   

                   

Maybe you don't remember it now, but

you were pretty hot to see me back then.



   

                   

You weren't so lukewarm

yourself. At least at first.



   

                   

It fizzled, baby.

That's the way it goes.



   

                   

But we had our good

times? It wasn't all bad.



   

                   

A couple of moments,

I'll grant you that.



   

                   

And that's how Felicity

came into the picture.



   

                   

During one of those two seconds.



   

                   

You're conning me, sweetheart.

I ain't responsible for no baby.



   

                   

I thought I could handle it.



   

                   

I didn't want to bug you.



   

                   

I thought I could handle it on my own,



   

                   

and I couldn't.



   

                   

She's in it real bad, Auggie.



   

                   

Nice try, old girl. I'd

like to help you out.



   

                   

You know, for old time's sake.



   

                   

But I really canít right now. All my spare cash is tied up

in a business venture, and I haven't collected my profits yet.



   

                   

Too bad. You caught

me at the wrong time.



   

                   

You're a cold-hearted bastard



   

                   

How'd you ever get so mean, Auggie?



   

                   

I know you think I'm

lying to you, but I'm not.



   

                   

Every word I told you is

the God's honest truth.



   

                   

I'll tell you what. You want

to work. I'll give you a job.



   

                   

Nothing permanent, mind you,

but that upstairs room over there



   

                   

-- the one above the office

-- is a hell of a mess.



   

                   

It looks like they've been throwing

junk in there for twenty years,



   

                   

and it's time it got cleaned up.



   

                   

What's your offer?



   

                   

Five bucks an hour. That's

the going rate, isn't it?



   

                   

It's a quarter past two now.



   

                   

My wife's picking me up at five-thirty,

so that'll give you about three hours.



   

                   

If you can't finish today,

you can do the rest tomorrow.



   

                   

Is there a benefits package, or are

you hiring me on a freelance basis?



   

                   

Benefits?



   

                   

You know, health insurance,

dental plan, paid vacation.



   

                   

It's not fun being exploited. Workers

have to stand up for their rights.



   

                   

I'm afraid we'll be working

on a strictly freelance basis.



   

                   

Five dollars an hour?



   

                   

I'll take it.



   

                   

Cyrus Cole.



   

                   

Paul. Paul Benjamin.



   

                   

Time for a pause, kid. Relax.



   

                   

I don't mean to be nosy,



   

                   

but I was wondering what

happened to your arm.



   

                   

An ugly piece of hardware, ainít it?



   

                   

I'll tell you what happened to my arm.



   

                   

I'll tell you what happened.



   

                   

Twelve years ago,



   

                   

God looked down on me



   

                   

and said, "Cyrus,



   

                   

you're a bad, stupid, selfish man.



   

                   

First, I'm going to fill

your body with spirits,



   

                   

and then I'm going to put

you behind the wheel of a car,



   

                   

and then I'm going to

make you crash that car



   

                   

and kill the woman who loves you.



   

                   

But you, Cyrus,



   

                   

I'm going to let you live,



   

                   

because living is a

lot worse than death.



   

                   

And just so you don't forget

what you did to that poor girl,



   

                   

I'm going to rip off your arm

and replace it with a hook.



   

                   

If I wanted to, I could rip off

both your arms and both your legs,



   

                   

I'm going to be merciful and

just take off your left arm.



   

                   

Every time you look at your hook,



   

                   

I want you to remember



   

                   

what a bad, stupid, selfish man you are.



   

                   

Let that be a lesson to you, Cyrus,



   

                   

a warning to mend."



   

                   

So, have you mended your ways?



   

                   

I try.



   

                   

Every day.



   

                   

Hi, baby. How'd it go today?



   

                   

If I have to wash one more old lady's

hair, I think my fingers would fall off.



   

                   

Busy, huh? That's good, because things

around here sure were sleepy today.



   

                   

Don't worry, Cy. It's early days yet.



   

                   

Hey, it's you.



   

                   

I wanted to give you this as

a token of my appreciation.



   

                   

Appreciation for what?



   

                   

I don't know. For helping me out.



   

                   

Where did you get that thing?



   

                   

I bought it. Twenty-nine ninety-five

on sale at Goldbaum's TV and Radio.



   

                   

Well, that does it.



   

                   

You'll be able to watch the ball games.



   

                   

You know, as a little

break from your work.



   

                   

Where the hell do you

think you're going?



   

                   

Business meeting.



   

                   

I'm seeing my accountant

at three o'clock.



   

                   

Cut it out, will you? Just

cut it out and come back here.



   

                   

I don't really have time.



   

                   

Close the door.



   

                   

Sit down in that chair.



   

                   

Now listen carefully.



   

                   

Your Aunt Em came here

a couple of days ago.



   

                   

She was sick with

worry, out of her mind.



   

                   

We had an interesting

talk about you, Thomas.



   

                   

Do you understand what I'm saying?



   

                   

Your aunt thinks you're

in trouble and so do I.



   

                   

Tell me about it, kid. I want

to hear all about it right now.



   

                   

You don't really want to know.



   

                   

I don't, huh? And what makes you such an

authority on what I want or don't want?



   

                   

Okay, okay.



   

                   

It's all so stupid.



   

                   

There's this guy, see. Charles Clemm.

The Creeper, that's what people call him.



   

                   

The kind of guy you don't

want to cross paths with.



   

                   

And?



   

                   

I crossed paths with him. That's why I'm

trying to stay clear of my neighborhood.



   

                   

To make sure I don't run into him again.



   

                   

So that's the something you

weren't supposed to see, huh?



   

                   

I just happened to be walking by...



   

                   

All of a sudden, the Creeper and this other

guy come running out of this check-cashing place



   

                   

with masks on their faces

and guns in their hands...



   

                   

They just about ran smack into me.



   

                   

The Creeper recognized me, and

I knew he knew I recognized him...



   

                   

If the guy from the check-cashing place hadn't rushed

out then screaming bloody murder, he would have shot me.



   

                   

I'm telling you, the Creeper would have

shot me right there on the sidewalk.



   

                   

But the noise distracted him,



   

                   

and when he turned around to see

what was happening, I took off...



   

                   

One more second, and

I would have been dead.



   

                   

Why don't you go to the police?



   

                   

The man has friends. And they're not likely

to forgive me if I testify against him.



   

                   

What makes you think you'll be any safer around

here? It's only about a mile away from where you live.



   

                   

It might not be far,

but it's another galaxy.



   

                   

Black is black and white is white,

and never the twain shall meet.



   

                   

It looks like they've

met in this apartment.



   

                   

Let's not get too idealistic.



   

                   

Fair enough. We wouldn't want

to get carried away, would we?



   

                   

Now call your aunt Em and

let her know you're alive.



   

                   

Get in, Auggie. I've got

something to show you.



   

                   

You don't give up, do you?



   

                   

Just get in and shut up.



   

                   

I'm not asking you to do anything.

I just need you to come with me.



   

                   

Where to?



   

                   

Dammit, Auggie, don't

ask so many questions.



   

                   

Just get in the car.



   

                   

I told her she was

going to meet her father.



   

                   

You what?



   

                   

It was the only way, Auggie.



   

                   

Otherwise, she wasn't

going to let me see her.



   

                   

I think you'd better stop

the car and let me out.



   

                   

Relax, okay? You don't

have to do anything.



   

                   

Just go in there and pretend.



   

                   

It won't kill you to do

a little favor like that.



   

                   

Besides, you might even learn something.



   

                   

Yeah, like what?



   

                   

That I wasn't bullshitting

you, sweetheart.



   

                   

At least you'll know I've

been telling the truth.



   

                   

Look, I'm not saying you

don't have a daughter.



   

                   

It's just that she's not my daughter.



   

                   

Wait till you see her, Auggie.



   

                   

And what's that supposed to mean?



   

                   

She looks just like you.



   

                   

Cut it out.



   

                   

When I told her I was going to

bring her father, she kind of melted.



   

                   

It's the first time Felicity's

talked nice to me since she left home.



   

                   

She's dying to meet you, Auggie.



   

                   

Nice neighborhood you've brought me to.



   

                   

Full of happy, prosperous people.



   

                   

Well?



   

                   

Well what?



   

                   

Aren't you going to say anything?



   

                   

What do you want me to say?



   

                   

I don't know.



   

                   

Hello, Mom. Hello, Dad.



   

                   

Something like that.



   

                   

I don't got no daddy, you dig? I got born

last week when some dog fucked you up the ass.



   

                   

Jesus Christ. This is all I need.



   

                   

You told me you wanted to

meet him. Well, here he is.



   

                   

Yeah, I might have said that.



   

                   

Chico told me to see what he was like,

maybe there'd be some dough in it for us.



   

                   

Well, now I've seen him, and

I can't say I'm too impressed.



   

                   

Are you rich mister?



   

                   

Yeah, I'm a millionaire. I walk around in

disguise because I'm ashamed of all my money.



   

                   

Be nice, sweetie. We're

just here to help you.



   

                   

Help? What the fuck do

I need your help for?



   

                   

I've got a man, don't I?



   

                   

That's more than you can

say for yourself, Hawkeye.



   

                   

Hey, hey, don't talk to

your mother like that.



   

                   

You're telling me you actually

went to bed with this guy?



   

                   

You're telling me you

actually let him fuck you?



   

                   

You can do whatever you

want with your own life.



   

                   

We're thinking of the baby.



   

                   

We want you to get yourself

cleaned up for the baby.



   

                   

Before it's too late.



   

                   

What baby?



   

                   

Your baby. The baby you're

carrying around inside you.



   

                   

Yeah, well, there ain't

no baby in there now.



   

                   

There's nothing in there now.



   

                   

What are you talking about?



   

                   

An abortion, stupid.



   

                   

I had an abortion the

day before yesterday.



   

                   

So you don't have to bug

me about that shit anymore.



   

                   

Bye-bye, baby!



   

                   

Come on, let's get out

of here. I've had enough.



   

                   

Yeah, that's right, you better go.



   

                   

Chico'll be back any minute, and I'm sure

your boyfriend doesn't want to mess with him.



   

                   

Chico's a real man. Not some scuzzy

dickhead you find in last month's garbage.



   

                   

Do you hear what I'm saying?



   

                   

He'll chop up Mr. Dad

here into little pieces.



   

                   

That's a promise.



   

                   

He'll kick the living shit out of him.



   

                   

Listen carefully.



   

                   

About twenty-five years ago, a young

man went skiing alone in the Alps.



   

                   

There was an avalanche,



   

                   

the snow swallowed him up,



   

                   

and his body was never recovered.



   

                   

The end.



   

                   

No, not the end. The beginning.



   

                   

His son was just a

little boy at the time,



   

                   

but the years passed, and when he

grew up, he became a skier, too.



   

                   

One day last winter, he went out by

himself for a run down the mountain.



   

                   

He gets halfway to the bottom and then

stops to eat his lunch next to a big rock.



   

                   

Just as he's unwrapping

his cheese sandwich,



   

                   

he looks down and sees a body, right

there at his feet, frozen in the ice....



   

                   

He bends down



   

                   

to take a closer look,



   

                   

and suddenly he feels that

he's looking into a mirror,



   

                   

that he's looking at himself.



   

                   

There he is - dead - and

the body is perfectly intact,



   

                   

frozen in a block of ice

- like someone preserved in suspended animation.



   

                   

He gets down on all fours, looks

right into the dead man's face,



   

                   

and realizes that he's

looking at his father.



   

                   

And the strange thing is that the

father is younger than the son is now.



   

                   

The boy has become a man, and it turns

out that he's older than his own father.



   

                   

So what are you going to do today?



   

                   

Read, think, do some

drawings if I get in the mood.



   

                   

But tonight I'm going to

celebrate. That's definite.



   

                   

Celebrate? What for?



   

                   

It's my birthday. I'm seventeen years

old as of forty-seven minutes ago,



   

                   

and I think I should celebrate

having made it this far.



   

                   

Hey, hey. Happy birthday.



   

                   

I thought I recognized you. You're

Paul Benjamin the writer, aren't you?



   

                   

I confess.



   

                   

I keep waiting for the

next novel to come out.



   

                   

Anything in the works?



   

                   

It's coming along.



   

                   

At the rate he's going, he'll have a

story finished by the end of the summer.



   

                   

Wonderful.



   

                   

I apologize for springing

it on you at the last minute,



   

                   

but Mr. Benjamin and I are

attending a celebration tonight,



   

                   

and we would be most pleased

if you chose to accompany us.



   

                   

Isn't that right, Mr. Benjamin?



   

                   

Yes. We would be honored.



   

                   

And what's the occasion

of this celebration?



   

                   

It's my birthday.



   

                   

And how many people will be

attending this birthday party?



   

                   

I wouldn't actually call it a party.



   

                   

It's more along the lines of a

dinner in celebration of my birthday.



   

                   

The guest list is quite restricted.



   

                   

So far, there's Mr. Benjamin and myself.



   

                   

If you accept, that

would make three of us.



   

                   

Ah-hah, I see. A cozy dinner.



   

                   

But aren't threesomes a little

awkward? How does the phrase go...



   

                   

Three's a crowd. Yes, I'm aware of that.



   

                   

But I have to keep an eye on

Mr. Benjamin wherever he goes.



   

                   

To make sure he doesn't

get himself into trouble.



   

                   

And what are you, his chaperone?



   

                   

Actually, I'm his father.



   

                   

Most people assume I'm his father.



   

                   

It's a logical assumption... given

that I'm older than he is and so on.



   

                   

But the fact is, it's

the reverse is true.



   

                   

He's my father, and I'm his son.



   

                   

Hey, man, good to see you.



   

                   

This is April Lee, Auggie.

April, say hello to Auggie Wren.



   

                   

Howdy, Miss April. I'm right

pleased to make your acquaintance.



   

                   

And this pretty little lady here

is Miss Violet Sanchez de Jalapeno,



   

                   

the hottest chili pepper

this side of the Rio Grande.



   

                   

Ain't that so, baby?



   

                   

Ees so, Auggie. And you not

so cold, neither. Eh, baby?



   

                   

So, what brings you to a dive like this?



   

                   

It's his birthday so we

decided to whoop it up a little.



   

                   

How old, kid?



   

                   

Seventeen.



   

                   

Seventeen?



   

                   

I remember when I was seventeen.



   

                   

Christ, when I was seventeen, I was

one little whacked-out son-of-a-bitch .



   

                   

Is that what you are, son? One

little whacked-out crazy fella?



   

                   

Definitely. I'd say you've

hit the nail on the head.



   

                   

Good. Keep it up, and maybe one day you'll

grow up and become a great man like me.



   

                   

Hey, Auggie, I've just been thinking.



   

                   

You wouldn't need some

help around the store?



   

                   

Some summer help while Vinnie's gone?



   

                   

What did you have in mind?



   

                   

I'm thinking about the kid.



   

                   

I'm sure he'd do a good job for you.



   

                   

Hey, kid. You interested in a job? I just got word from your

employment agency that you're looking for a position in retail sales.



   

                   

A job?



   

                   

I definitely wouldn't turn down a job.



   

                   

Come around to the cigar

store tomorrow morning



   

                   

at ten o'clock and we'll

talk about it, okay?



   

                   

We'll see what we can work out.



   

                   

Ten o'clock tomorrow

morning. I'll be there.



   

                   

I owe you one.



   

                   

Don't forget.



   

                   

It's      right?



   

                   

And he's caught in

Leningrad during the siege.



   

                   

I'm talking about one of the

worst moments in human history.



   

                   

Five hundred thousand people

died in that one place,



   

                   

and there's Bakhtin,

holed up in an apartment,



   

                   

expecting to be killed any day.



   

                   

He has plenty of tobacco,

but no paper to roll it in.



   

                   

So he takes the pages of a manuscript

he's been working on for ten years



   

                   

and tears them up to

roll his cigarettes.



   

                   

His only copy?



   

                   

His only copy.



   

                   

I mean, if you think you're going to die, what's

more important, a good book or a good smoke?



   

                   

And so he huffed and he puffed, and

little by little he smoked his book.



   

                   

Nice try. You had me going

for a second, but no...



   

                   

no writer would ever

do a thing like that.



   

                   

Would he?



   

                   

You don't believe me, huh?



   

                   

I'll show you. It's all in this book.



   

                   

What's this?



   

                   

I don't know.



   

                   

Is it yours?



   

                   

Yeah, it might be.



   

                   

Here, catch.



   

                   

So you're saying it

wasn't like that at all.



   

                   

Not exactly. I mean, there

was more to it than I told you.



   

                   

Christ. You didn't

just see what happened.



   

                   

They dropped the package on

the ground and you picked it up.



   

                   

I picked it up.



   

                   

And started to run.



   

                   

And started to run.



   

                   

Good thinking.



   

                   

That's just it. I didn't think.



   

                   

I just did it.



   

                   

You have one hell of a knack for

getting into trouble, don't you?



   

                   

So how much does it come to?



   

                   

Six thousand dollars.



   

                   

Five thousand eight hundred and

fourteen dollars, to be exact.



   

                   

So you robbed the robbers, and

now the robbers are after you.



   

                   

That's it. In a nutshell.



   

                   

Yeah, well, you have to be

crazy to do what you did.



   

                   

If you want my opinion,



   

                   

take this money back to the Creeper.



   

                   

Just give it back and

tell him you're sorry.



   

                   

No way. There's no way I'm giving

that money back. It's my money now.



   

                   

A lot of good it will do

you if the Creeper finds you.



   

                   

That money is my whole future.



   

                   

Keep up with that attitude,

and you won't have a future.



   

                   

Seventeen is a hell of an age to die.



   

                   

Is that what you want?



   

                   

I'll be back in about an hour.



   

                   

Watch the register while I'm gone, okay?



   

                   

Sure thing. See you later.



   

                   

It might be illegal, but it's hard to see

where the crime is if there's no victim, right?



   

                   

No harm done.



   

                   

This is what it must have felt like

to go to a speakeasy during Prohibition



   

                   

Forbidden pleasures, eh?



   

                   

Much business while I was gone?



   

                   

A little. Not much.



   

                   

This way, gentlemen. Let's

retire to my office, shall we?



   

                   

What the fuck is going on here!



   

                   

Look at this! The

goddamn place is flooded!



   

                   

Holy fucking shit!



   

                   

The kid's sorry, Auggie.



   

                   

Yeah, well, I'm sorry too.



   

                   

It took me three years to save up those

five thousand bucks, and now I'm broke.



   

                   

I can't hardly pay for this beer.



   

                   

Not to speak of having

my credibility destroyed.



   

                   

Do you understand what I'm saying?



   

                   

My credibility.



   

                   

So yeah, I'm sorry, too.



   

                   

About as sorry as I've ever

been in my whole fucking life.



   

                   

He's got something to tell you, Auggie.



   

                   

If he's got something to tell me,

why don't he tell it to me himself?



   

                   

It's for you.



   

                   

For me?



   

                   

And what am I supposed

to do with a paper bag?



   

                   

Open it.



   

                   

What is this, some kind of joke?



   

                   

No, it's five thousand dollars.



   

                   

I don't want your

money, you little twerp.



   

                   

It's probably stolen anyway.



   

                   

What do you care where

it comes from? It's yours.



   

                   

And why the hell would

you give me money?



   

                   

So I can get my job back.



   

                   

You're a dumb, whacked-out

little fuck, do you know that?



   

                   

Don't be an ass, Auggie. He's trying to

make it up to you, can't you see that?



   

                   

He's crazy.



   

                   

No, he's not. You are.



   

                   

You're right.



   

                   

I just wasn't sure you knew.



   

                   

It's written all over

you like a neon sign.



   

                   

Now say something nice to

Rashid to make him feel better.



   

                   

Fuck you, kid.



   

                   

Fuck you, too, you

white son-of-a-bitch.



   

                   

Good. I'm glad that's settled!



   

                   

Mr. Benjamin, I presume?



   

                   

You got a security problem in

this building, you know that?



   

                   

The lock on that door

downstairs is busted.



   

                   

Not a good idea in these troubled times.



   

                   

You never know what kind of trash

might wander in off the streets.



   

                   

I'll talk to the landlord

about it tomorrow.



   

                   

You do that. Don't want no

unpleasant surprises, do you?



   

                   

And who do I have the

pleasure of talking to now?



   

                   

Pleasure?



   

                   

I wouldn't call this

pleasure, funny man.



   

                   

I'd say it's more in

the nature of business.



   

                   

It doesn't matter. I

know who you are anyway.



   

                   

You're the Creeper, aren't you?



   

                   

The what?



   

                   

Ain't nobody calls Charles

by that name to his face.



   

                   

Do you understand me?



   

                   

Sure, I understand.



   

                   

...If it happens, it happens.



   

                   

If it doesn't, it doesn't.



   

                   

Do you understand what I'm saying?



   

                   

You never know what's

going to happen next,



   

                   

and the moment you think you know,



   

                   

that's the moment you

don't know a goddamn thing.



   

                   

That's what we call a

paradox. Are you following me?



   

                   

Sure, Auggie. I follow.



   

                   

When you don't know

nothing, it's like paradise.



   

                   

I know what that is.



   

                   

It's after you're dead and you go

up to heaven and sit with the angels.



   

                   

Jesus, man, you're one fucking mess.



   

                   

If the cops hadn't come, I

might not be standing here now.



   

                   

They did some number on you.



   

                   

For once in my life I

managed to keep my mouth shut.



   

                   

There's something to be

said for that, I suppose.



   

                   

Does it hurt?



   

                   

Of course it hurts.

What does it look like?



   

                   

I thought maybe he was pretending.



   

                   

You haven't heard from Rashid, have you?



   

                   

Not a peep.



   

                   

I spoke to his aunt a couple of days

ago, but she hasn't heard from him either.



   

                   

It's beginning to get a little scary.



   

                   

That could be a good sign, though.

It could mean that he got away.



   

                   

Or didn't.



   

                   

There's no way of knowing, is there?



   

                   

So you're just going

to give up and go home?



   

                   

I don't have much choice, do I? It's

pretty clear she doesn't want me around.



   

                   

Still, you can't just write her off.



   

                   

Yeah? And what else am I supposed to do?



   

                   

There's no baby anymore, and if she wants

to throw away her life, that's her business.



   

                   

She's just a kid. There's time for

more babies later. After she grows up.



   

                   

Dream on, Auggie. She'll be lucky to

make it to her nineteenth birthday.



   

                   

Not if you got her into

one of those rehab programs.



   

                   

I'd never be able to talk her into it.



   

                   

And even if I could,

those things cost money.



   

                   

And that's just what I don't

have. I'm flat out dead broke.



   

                   

No you're not.



   

                   

Are you calling me a liar?

I'm telling you I'm broke.



   

                   

I don't even have insurance

on my goddamned car.



   

                   

Remember that business venture

I was telling you about?



   

                   

Well, my tugboat came in. I'm flush.



   

                   

Bully for you.



   

                   

No, bully for you.



   

                   

What's this?



   

                   

Why don't you open it and find out?



   

                   

Jesus God, Auggie.

There's money in here.



   

                   

Five thousand bucks.



   

                   

And you're giving it to me?



   

                   

It's all yours, baby.



   

                   

For keeps?



   

                   

For keeps.



   

                   

You're an angel, Auggie.

An angel from heaven.



   

                   

Fuck this angel shit.

Just take the dough, Ruby.



   

                   

But no bawling, okay? I can't

stand people who blubber.



   

                   

There's just one thing I want to know.



   

                   

Anything, Auggie. Just name it.



   

                   

Felicity.



   

                   

She's not my daughter, is she?



   

                   

I don't know.



   

                   

She might be.



   

                   

Then again, she might not.



   

                   

Mathematically speaking,

there's a fifty-fifty chance.



   

                   

It's your call.



   

                   

Bureau of Missing

Persons. Sergeant Fosdick.



   

                   

Well, blow me down.

Peter Rabbit's alive.



   

                   

Hey. What are you doing here on Sunday?



   

                   

We decided to have a

picnic. Want to join us?



   

                   

Uh, yeah, sure. Just a second.



   

                   

Jesus Christ!



   

                   

Hi, kid.



   

                   

Wow. They sure did a job on you.



   

                   

Research.



   

                   

I worked the scene right into my story.



   

                   

That makes the medical bills one

hundred percent tax deductible.



   

                   

Try selling that one to the IRS.



   

                   

You know these men?



   

                   

I thought we had some customers.



   

                   

Yeah, he knows us. But you've

also got some customers.



   

                   

We came here to deliver

some clean laundry.



   

                   

It's all right. I really do know them.



   

                   

Cyrus Cole.



   

                   

Augustus Wren.



   

                   

Paul Benjamin.



   

                   

That's funny. His name

is the same as yours.



   

                   

Well, you and Junior have

the same name, too, don't you?



   

                   

Yeah, but he's my son.



   

                   

He's my own flesh and blood.



   

                   

But here you got the same

name as this man here,



   

                   

and you're not even the same color.



   

                   

That's how we met.



   

                   

We're members of the

International Same Name Club.



   

                   

Believe it or not, there are

    Paul Benjamins in America.



   

                   

But only two in the New

York metropolitan area.



   

                   

That's how Paul and I got

to be such good friends.



   

                   

We're the only ones who

show up at the meetings.



   

                   

You're full of crap, kid. Why don't you

just come clean and tell the man who you are?



   

                   

What the hell's going on, guys?



   

                   

You better ask him.



   

                   

Yeah, Rashid baby, spill it.



   

                   

Rashid?



   

                   

Sometimes.



   

                   

It's what you'd call a nom de guerre.



   

                   

What the hell are we talking about?



   

                   

Come on. Tell him your real name.

The name on your birth certificate.



   

                   

Thomas.



   

                   

Paul. Rashid. Thomas. Which one is it?



   

                   

Thomas.



   

                   

Come on, come on, you yellow

belly. The whole thing.



   

                   

First name and last name.



   

                   

What difference does it make?



   

                   

If it doesn't make any

difference, why not just say it?



   

                   

I was going to tell

him... but in my own time.



   

                   

In my own time... .



   

                   

No time like the present, man.



   

                   

Well?



   

                   

Thomas Cole. My name is

Thomas Jefferson Cole.



   

                   

Are you making fun of me?



   

                   

You mocking me?



   

                   

You mocking me?



   

                   

I won't let no punk kid

stand there and mock me!



   

                   

You mocking me?



   

                   

Like it or not, Cyrus,

that's my name. Cole.



   

                   

Just like yours.



   

                   

Now ask him who his mother was.



   

                   

I don't like this. I

don't like it one bit.



   

                   

Louisa Vail. Remember her, Cyrus?



   

                   

You shut your mouth!

You shut your mouth now!



   

                   

Damn you. There'll be none of that

on my watch, you dumpy bag of shit.



   

                   

Stop it! Stop it!

You'll kill him, Cyrus!



   

                   

He's your son, goddammit! He's your son!



   

                   

Do you want to kill your son?



   

                   

Youíre lying.



   

                   

Look Iím telling you,

there's gonna be another war.



   

                   

Those slobs in the Pentagon'll be out

of job unless they find a new enemy.



   

                   

They got this Saddam character now, and they're

going to hit him with all they've got. Mark my words.



   

                   

Hey, man, how's it going?



   

                   

Hi, Auggie.



   

                   

Two, right?



   

                   

Make it one.



   

                   

You usually get two.



   

                   

Yeah, I know, but I'm

trying to cut down.



   

                   

Somebody's worried about my health.



   

                   

Ah-hah.



   

                   

And how's the work going

these days, maestro?



   

                   

Fine.



   

                   

Or it was until a couple of days ago.



   

                   

A guy from The New York Times called

and asked me to write a Christmas story.



   

                   

They want to publish

it on Christmas Day.



   

                   

That's a feather in your

cap, man. The paper of record.



   

                   

Yeah, great. The problem is, I have four days to come

up with something, and I don't have a single idea.



   

                   

You know anything

about Christmas stories?



   

                   

Christmas stories? Sure,



   

                   

I know a ton of 'em.



   

                   

Anything good?



   

                   

Good? Of course. Are you kidding?



   

                   

I'll tell you what. Buy me lunch, my friend, and

I'll tell you the best Christmas story you ever heard.



   

                   

How's that?



   

                   

And I guarantee every

word of it is true.



   

                   

So. Are we ready?



   

                   

Ready. Any time you are.



   

                   

I'm all ears.



   

                   

You remember how you once asked

me how I started taking pictures?



   

                   

Well, this is the story of

how I got my first camera.



   

                   

As a matter of fact, it's

the only camera I've ever had.



   

                   

Are you following me so far?



   

                   

Every word.



   

                   

So this is the story of how it happened.



   

                   

Okay.



   

                   

It was the summer of seventy-six, back

when I first started working for Vinnie.



   

                   

The summer of the bicentennial.



   

                   

A kid came in one morning and started

stealing things from the store.



   

                   

He's standing by the rack of

paperbacks near the front window



   

                   

Heís stuffing skin

magazines under his shirt.



   

                   

It was crowded around the counter just

then, so I didn't see him at first....



   

                   

But once I noticed what he

was up to, I started to shout.



   

                   

He took off like a jackrabbit, and by the time I managed to get out

from behind the counter, he was already tearing down Seventh Avenue.



   

                   

I chased after him for about

half a block, and then I gave up.



   

                   

He'd dropped something along the way, and since I didn't

feel like running anymore, I bent down to see what it was.



   

                   

It turned out to be his wallet.



   

                   

There wasn't any money inside,

but his driver's license was there,



   

                   

along with three or four snapshots.



   

                   

I suppose I could have called

the cops and had him arrested.



   

                   

I had his name and

address from the license,



   

                   

but I felt kind of sorry for him.



   

                   

He was just a measly little punk,



    

                   

and once I looked at those

pictures in his wallet,



    

                   

I couldn't bring myself to

feel very angry at him....



    

                   

Roger Goodwin.



    

                   

That was his name.



    

                   

In one of the pictures, I remember,

he was standing next to his mother.



    

                   

In another one, he was holding some trophy he got from

school and smiling like he just won the Irish Sweepstakes.



    

                   

I just didn't have the heart.

A poor kid from Brooklyn



    

                   

without much going for him,



    

                   

and who cared about a couple

of dirty magazines, anyway?



    

                   

So I held onto the wallet.



    

                   

Every once in a while I'd get a little urge to send it back

to him, but I kept delaying and never did anything about it.



    

                   

Then Christmas rolls around,

and I'm stuck with nothing to do.



    

                   

Vinnie was going to invite me over,

but his mother got sick, and he and his



    

                   

wife had to go down to

Miami at the last minute.



    

                   

So I'm sitting in my

apartment that morning,



    

                   

feeling a little sorry for myself, and then

I see Roger Goodwin's wallet lying on a shelf.



    

                   

I figure what the hell, why

not do something nice for once,



    

                   

and I put on my coat and go

out to return the wallet... .



    

                   

The address was over in Boerum

Hill, somewherein the projects.



    

                   

It was freezing out that day, and I remember getting

lost a few times trying to find the right building.



    

                   

Everything looks the same in that place, and you keep

going over the same ground thinking you're somewhere else.



    

                   

Anyway, I finally get to the apartment

I'm looking for and ring the bell...



    

                   

Nothing happens.



    

                   

I assume no one's there, but

I try again just to make sure.



    

                   

I wait a little longer, and

just when I'm about to give up,



    

                   

I hear someone shuffling to the door.



    

                   

An old woman's voice asks, "Who's there?"

and I say I'm looking for Roger Goodwin.



    

                   

Is that you, Roger? she says, and then she

undoes about fifteen locks and opens the door....



    

                   

She has to be at least

eighty, maybe ninety years old,



    

                   

and the first thing I notice

about her is she's blind.



    

                   

I knew you'd come. Roger, she says. "I knew you wouldn't forget your Granny

Ethel on Christmas." And then she opens her arms as if she's about to hug me.



    

                   

I don't have much time

to think, you understand.



    

                   

I had to say something real fast,

and before I knew what was happening,



    

                   

I could hear the words coming out of

my mouth. "That's right, Granny Ethel,"



    

                   

I said. "I came back to

see you on Christmas."



    

                   

Don't ask me why I did

it. I don't have any idea.



    

                   

It just came out that way, and suddenly

this old woman's hugging me there



    

                   

in front of the door,

and I'm hugging her back.



    

                   

It was like a game we both decided to

play... without having to discuss the rules.



    

                   

I mean, that woman knew

I wasn't her grandson.



    

                   

She was old and dotty, but she wasn't so far gone that she couldn't

tell the difference between a stranger and her own flesh and blood.



    

                   

But it made her happy to pretend, and since I had nothing

better to do anyway, I was happy to go along with her....



    

                   

So we went into the apartment

and spent the day together.



    

                   

Every time she asked me a question

about how I was, I would lie to her.



    

                   

I told her I'd found a

good job in a cigar store.



    

                   

I told her I was about to get married.



    

                   

I told her a hundred pretty stories, and

she made like she believed every one of them.



    

                   

That's fine, Roger, she would

say, nodding her head and smiling.



    

                   

I always knew things

would work out for you....



    

                   

After a while, I started getting hungry.



    

                   

There didn't seem to be

much food in the house,



    

                   

so I went out to a store in the neighborhood

and brought back a mess of stuff.



    

                   

A precooked chicken, vegetable soup, a

bucket of potato salad, all kinds of things.



    

                   

Ethel had a couple of bottles

of wine stashed in her bedroom,



    

                   

and so both of us we managed to put

together a fairly decent Christmas dinner....



    

                   

We both got a little tipsy

from the wine, I remember,



    

                   

and after the meal was over we went out to sit in the

living room where the chairs were more comfortable...



    

                   

I had to take a pee, so I excused myself

and went to the bathroom down the hall.



    

                   

That's where things took another turn.



    

                   

It was ditsy enough doing my

little jig as Ethel's grandson,



    

                   

but what I did next

was positively crazy,



    

                   

and I've never forgiven myself since...



    

                   

I go into the bathroom,



    

                   

and stacked up against the

wall next to the shower,



    

                   

I see a pile of six or seven cameras.



    

                   

Brand-new, thirty-five

millimeter cameras,



    

                   

still in their boxes.



    

                   

I've never taken a picture in my life,



    

                   

much less never stolen anything,



    

                   

but the moment I see those

cameras sitting in the bathroom,



    

                   

I decide I want one of them for myself.



    

                   

Just like that.



    

                   

And without even stopping

to think about it,



    

                   

I tuck one of the boxes under my arm

and go back to the living room....



    

                   

I couldn't have been gone

for more than three minutes,



    

                   

but in that time Granny

Ethel had fallen asleep.



    

                   

Too much Chianti, I suppose.



    

                   

I went into the kitchen

to wash the dishes,



    

                   

and she slept on through the

whole racket, snoring like a baby.



    

                   

There didn't seem to be any point in

disturbing her, so I decided to leave.



    

                   

I couldn't even write a note to say

good-bye, seeing that she was blind and all,



    

                   

so I just left.



    

                   

I put her grandson's wallet on the table, picked up

the camera again, and walked out of the apartment...



    

                   

And that's the end of the story.



    

                   

Did you ever go back to see her?



    

                   

Once, about three or four months later.



    

                   

I felt so bad about stealing the

camera, I hadn't even used it yet.



    

                   

I finally made up my mind to return it,

but Granny Ethel wasn't there anymore.



    

                   

Someone else had moved into the apartment,

and he couldn't tell me where she was.



    

                   

She probably died.



    

                   

Yeah, probably.



    

                   

Which means that she spent

her last Christmas with you.



    

                   

I guess so. I never

thought of it that way.



    

                   

It was a good deed, Auggie. It

was a nice thing you did for her.



    

                   

I lied to her, and

then I stole from her.



    

                   

I don't see how you can

call that a good deed.



    

                   

You made her happy. And the

camera was stolen anyway.



    

                   

It's not as if the person you

took it from really owned it.



    

                   

Anything for art, eh, Paul?



    

                   

I wouldn't say that. But at least

you've put the camera to good use.



    

                   

And now you've got your

Christmas story, don't you?



    

                   

Yes, I suppose I do.



    

                   

Bullshit is a real talent, Auggie.



    

                   

To make up a good story, a person has to

know how to push all the right buttons.



    

                   

I'd say you're up

there among the masters.



    

                   

What do you mean?



    

                   

I mean, it's a good story.



    

                   

Shit. If you can't share your secrets with

your friends, what kind of friend are you?



    

                   

Exactly. Life just wouldn't

be worth living, would it?











  

 
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