Written by Joe Janes
73 of 365
Mata Hari, 30s
(Lights up on Franklin in bed, looking over mail, including a large, stuffed manila envelope. Jenny gets in to bed for the night.)
JENNYAny good news?
JENNYWhat’s that one?
FRANKLINAnother returned manuscript.
JENNYNot your new novel?
FRANKLINNo. My agent’s on top of that. It’ll get picked up. This is, you know, Victor’s memoirs. “An Admiral’s Life.”
JENNYAn admiral’s long, boring, tedious life. At least you kept your part of the bargain and, thank God, so did Victor.
FRANKLINYeah. You’re right, Jenny. At least he’s resting peacefully, now. Good night.
(They kiss and turn off the lights. After a moment, they hear ghostly wailing.)
JENNY (continuing)Franklin…Franklin…Did you hear that?
(Franklin sits up. There’s another low wailing sound.)
FRANKLINPlease let it be the wind.
JENNYI don’t think it is.
VICTOROh-h-h-h-h-h…Oh, hell. Wake up, would you?
(Franklin turns on the light. Standing at the end of the bed is Victor, a retired Admiral from World War I, in uniform. Oh, and he’s dead. And by that, I mean, a ghost.)
JENNYVictor. Long time no see.
VICTORMrs. Delarose. Sorry to awaken you.
(Long pause as Victor looks off and Jenny and Franklin exchange glances.)
FRANKLINVictor. We had a deal. I write your memoirs and you stop haunting our house.
VICTORThat is correct. We are men of our word, aren’t Franklin?
FRANKLINThen what brings you here?
VICTORYou wrote the book, but where’s the book?
JENNYThere’s one right here.
VICTORI see it here. I only see it here. Why am I not seeing it at Borders?
JENNYYou go to Borders?
FRANKLINBooks don’t just magically appear at Borders, like you apparently do. A publisher has to publish it and then distribute it.
VICTOROh. I see. I’m just being impatient, is that it?
FRANKLINYes, and, perhaps, a little unrealistic.
VICTORHow do you mean?
FRANKLINMy agent won’t touch it. I’ve piled up twenty rejection slips peddling this book on my own. Publishers don’t seem too keen to get your story out to the people.
VICTORBut, I was an admiral in The Great War.
JENNYJust tell him, Franklin.
VICTORYes, Franklin, tell me.
FRANKLINYou were the most mind-numbingly dull admiral in the history of the world.
VICTORHow dare you!
FRANKLINLet me read some of the rejection slips…(He picks up a pile of letters from a desk)…Ho Hum… Interminable… Vapid… Monotonous… Didn’t this guy do anything?...Too dry for our tastes…This would be great if we wanted our business to fail…Sorry about the blood stains, I stabbed out my eyes… And you know what, Victor? They’re right.
VICTORYou just haven’t found the right one, yet. What’s the one that Oprah likes?
JENNYVictor, you’re not listening. Here’s your book… As dictated by you to my husband… I’ll just flip through and read at random… “Monday morning, Sept 17th, 1910. Today I drank six ounces of tomato juice. It upset my tum-tum. I will try it again tomorrow. After that, it’s back to reliable old orange juice, sans pulp.”… “Thursday afternoon, May 13th, 1915. Today, I was to meet with the president of the United States…
JENNY…but he cancelled and I ended up having tea with Army Colonel Jessup. He drinks his oolong straight. I don’t know how he does that.” And then it goes on about how you don’t remember what you talked about because you were busy wondering why the lemons were sliced so thin. For two pages.
VICTORThey were absurdly thin. Try again. The good stuff’s near the end.
JENNY…”As I got older, I realized it is the little things I will miss the most. On this one spring morning in 1928, I had a rough go at having a pleasant bowel movement.”
VICTORI still miss that.
FRANKLINVictor, I’m sorry. Your life was mundane. You didn’t fight in any battles, you weren’t married, no children. No rocking the boat. No out-of-control substance abuse. There’s no story here.
VICTOR (tearing up)Well… Here, I thought… I just wanted people to remember me… At my funeral, the only people who were there were the ones who had to officially be there. None of them knew me, personally.
JENNYWe’ll remember you, Victor.
VICTORAs a dullard.
FRANKLINNot true. You scared the hell out of us when you started showing up. I’ll never forget that.
VICTORYou’re just trying to be nice.
(Mata Hari enters.)
MATAThere you are, Victor! Oh, hello.
VICTORMata Hari, this is Franklin and his lovely wife, Jenny.
MATA HARIYep. Victor, Marilyn Monroe is trying maraschino cherry stems with her tongue. Thought you’d want to be there.
VICTORJust the thing to cheer me up.
FRANKLINYou party with Marilyn Monroe and Mata Hari?
VICTORSure. It’s the afterlife. Eternity. No hangovers. What else are we suppose to do?
MATA HARISome of us get hung up on legacy, from time-to-time. Are you done worrying about that silly book?
VICTORI do believe I am. Let’s go, pet.
FRANKLINWait. Victor. This is your book.
JENNYYour afterlife is far more interesting than your life ever was.
VICTOROh, the stories I could tell. Stalin and Gandhi experimenting. Saucy stuff. The party really kicked in when Reverend Falwell hit the scene.
MATA HARIBut this guy’s the real party animal. I can’t keep my hands off him.
VICTORIt’s the uniform.
FRANKLINVictor – let me write the story of your afterlife. I promise you I can get that published.
(He looks at Mata Hari for a moment.)
VICTORNah – I’m not one to kiss and tell. See you on the other side.
(They exit. Franklin and Jenny look at each other dumbfounded.)
JENNYHe is pretty hot in that uniform.