By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"Out of my way!" she shouted.
"Your way!" said the bum, hissing. "You've always had it yourway, haven't you, Missy?"
"I'm looking for my mother!"
More stumblebums appeared.
"Hear her, boys? She's looking for Mother!"
They cackled and howled, rolling over the word in their mouths like pirates molesting a treasure chest.
In the midst of all this, the redheaded boy on the crate caught Amaryllis' eye. She grimaced and later regretted not softening her features when he smiled. As if aware of her discomfort, he turned back to the scene at hand. The beautiful girl vigorously pushed aside the lead bum, then stormed into the SRO. Apparently, this was the funniest thing in the world, because the bums let loose with an explosion of rollicking huzzahs; the man with the stringy hair watched like a giddy child at a puppet show, then yelled, "And . . . cut it!" They repeated the exact same sequence at least five times, the spaces between "Cut!" and "Action!" filled with a kind of wild yet militarily controlled commotion.
Finally, the stringy-haired one spoke animatedly to the sweat-soaked muscleman, who tried to listen but was mostly interested in the progress of those unburdening him of the camera, which they finally did, lifting it off like the saddle of a tired and finicky mule. A voice called out, "Checking the gate!" while the gangly man peered into the lens. Then someone said, "Gate is clear!" and there were bursts of laughter all around. A familiar chorus of voices called, "Lunch!" in the same staticky, concentric, fading circles. The girl with the long braids leapt up to join her beautiful friend, already set upon by the bees or elves or what have you, each of whom seemed to have bottomless pockets filled with small, significant items for every possible need. The redheaded boy -- more orange-headed, really -- turned again to catch Amaryllis' eye before she walked slowly backward, fading into the general disorder.
TULL, LUCY AND BOULDER WERE ESCORTED to Edward's MSV by the second assistant director.
The Mauck Special Vehicle was built in Ohio with Edward's needs in mind, at a cost of $275,000. Its gull-wing front doors rose up with frank, freakish efficiency. Within, calfskin recliners sat upon a walnut Hokanson carpet, telephones graced Corian countertops, and a huge flat-screen panel downloaded DirecTV from a rooftop dish. Concealed abaft was a state-of-the-art hydraulic docking berth for Edward's golf cart -- he could drive right in.
Lunch awaited the guests as they clambered aboard the orchid-filled cabin. Edward was already enthroned in his custom Donghia captain's chair watching soundless CNN, a vast linen nappie tucked between chin and brace. He wore his gloves and "Mauck mask," a lounge-around hood made of festive yellow silk lightly embroidered by his own hand. He sipped leek-and-potato soup with sautéed langoustines and black truffles, FedExed frozen from Lespinasse's 55th Street kitchen, while trays brought by craft-services sprites stood on individual teak stands in readiness; under straining cellophane, industrial-strength paper plates were heaped with standard Friday film-set fare -- barbecued chicken, biscuits and beans, blackened swordfish and black-eyed peas, yams and limp salads smeared with yogurty dressing, happy fruit and less happy cottage cheese. Still another tray was filled solely with desserts: Joyce's precious lemon tarts from Ladurée (Edward had swiped them from the Stradella freezer), Häagen-Dazs'd brownies, American apple pie and Everyman's peach cobbler. All in all, not too bad a spread. In his wisdom, the ever cordial host had adorned place mats with tiny brown La Maison du Chocolat hatboxes from Neiman's, each one tied with their distinctive satiny, dark-brown ribbons.
"Oh my God!" said Boulder as she bounded in, wide-eyed at the cornucopia. "Edward, you are amazing."
"I was going to bring food from home, but for some reason it didn't happen."
"It happened for you," said Tull, raising a gentle eyebrow at his cousin's non-communal meal -- minimalist though it was.
"It's just soup." He brought a spoonful to his tiny mouth then wiped a trickle from the titanium, patting down the protuberant chin with the bib. Tull thought the veil made him look like a deranged harem girl.
"And who's that for?" asked Lucy. She referred to a tray that sat by itself, with food maturely arranged.
"He's coming?" called Boulder with a full mouth, cross-legged on the Hokanson. "Doesn't he teach today?"
"He's tutoring Dad," said Edward.
"What do you mean, tutoring?" Tull said blandly.
"The fact is," said Lucy, "that Father maintains a bit of an inferiority complex about his abysmal high school GPA. So Mr. Hookstratten comes over and they read the classics. I think it's sweet."
Boulder dabbed at some barbecue sauce that had found its way to the woolen weave.
"Like which classics?" offered Tull.
"Oh, you know -- Tolstoy, Chaucer . . . Steve Martin's Shopgirl . . . all the heavy texts. Daddy pores over it, then Professor Hookstratten deconstructs. Hookstratten gets busy!"
Boulder flipped through a teen girl's fanzine called All About You!-- ironically, she was on the cover. "I really want to go to that beach in Belgium," she said, bored with the "Star Poll Picks." Boulder said there was a beach in Belgium where if a person wanted to face the sun, they had to turn their back to the ocean; apparently, it was the only beach like that in the world. Lucy said that was weird, and Pullman -- Tull's harlequin Great Dane -- farted. Everyone burst out laughing. At the end of the jag, something caught Tull's eye through the Mauck window.