“Don’t tell anyone that we fucked,” Darla said as she climbed naked out of bed. “I can’t think of anything more embarrassing than sleeping with the gardener.”
“I understand,” I replied.
“By the way,” she asked as she strapped on her brassiere, “how do you know my father has ass cancer?”
I began to stutter. “I, uh…it’s a long story.”
“Oh shit,” Darla said, “you’re not one of his long lost children are you?”
“Oh thank god,” she exhaled, “I wouldn’t want THAT to happen again!”
“ANYWAYS…,” I replied, “Will you be returning to France anytime soon?”
“God no, I’d rather be the one that has ass cancer.”
“Then why’d you go there in the first place?”
Darla paused dressing for a moment. “I…I was dating Stromae.”
“But he’s Belgian.”
“Look, you’re not INTERPOL! I don’t have to tell you shit!” Darla exploded. She finished dressing and stormed out of the guest house.
I climbed out of bed when Archibald wondered in with breakfast on a tray. I was putting on my underwear.
“Exquisite dong, sir,” he said
“Thank you Archibald.”
“I trust you laid the pipe well last night.”
I tilted my head. “But Archibald, how did you know?”
“Now now,” he said, “Mr. Shitz pays me very well to know goings on within his estate. A flea can’t fart…as the expression goes…without me hearing it. So please, Mr. Grey, please handle Ms. Shitz delicately.”
“But Archie,” I replied, “it was just a one time thing. It…it won’t happen again.”
Archibald was skeptical. “Mr. Grey, what goes on between two adults is none of my business. But, I figured you to be of higher character.”
I nodded as I looked down to the floor.
“Now,” he continued, “when you finish breakfast, Mr. Shitz has requested that you join him on a hunting excursion. A rare breed of arctic fox has been brought to the estate, and Mr. Shitz would like to hunt it into extinction before cancer takes its toll. His associate, Mr. Allen Funt will be joining the party. Please be punctual.”
“I don’t know sir,” Allen Funt said while bawling his eyes out. “I’m already stressed out enough. I don’t know if I can handle running this company while you tend to personal matters.”
“Damn it, Allen,” William retorted, “you’re a workhorse! The best one I’ve got! You should consider it an honor that I’ve selected you to run this factory!”
Allen buried his head in his hands. “I haven’t seen my kids in two years, sir,” he said. “Please, Mr. Shitz! Please loosen my load!”
William got up from behind his desk and plopped down next to Allen. “I’ll tell you what,” Mr. Shitz said as he patted him on the knee, “if you do a good job, I’ll give you a 1.5% raise on top of your $24,000 yearly salary. So please, Allen, find the strength to carry on.”
Allen nodded, blew his nose, and wiped away the tears. “Yes sir,” he said. Then got up and returned to work.
William sat back down behind his desk. I entered his office carrying a bouquet of lilies. “Good morning, Mr. Shitz,” I said, “I just cut these and figured you’d enjoy some.”
“Lilies?” William inquired. “Who the hell are you?”
“I’m your new gardener, Jim Grey,” I said, “If you recall, your wife wanted these planted at your estate before she passed. These were her favorite flowers. She wanted you to think of her every time you looked at them.”
William was dumbfounded. “How-how do you know this?”
I found a vase and placed the flowers inside of it. “Mr. Shitz, I know that you’re dying,” I said as I sat the vase on his desk. “Yet you feel that there’s too much to be done. And you’re right. You’ve always been a hard worker. But this might be the hardest thing you’ve had to face.”
“But…how do you know so much about me?”
I sat down in front of his desk. “Do you believe in the afterlife, Mr. Shitz?”
“I’ve- I’ve honestly never considered it.”
“Well I’ll just say that I’ve watched you your entire life,” I said, then smiled. “I guess you could call me your protector.”
“I see,” William replied as a growing look of concern fell over his face. “Then I suppose heaven’s been displeased with my performance.”
“Not entirely,” I said. “But there is an opportunity here to right the wrongs. It’s not too late, Mr. Shitz.”
“If you are who you say you are, Mr. Grey,” William said, “then what do you know about living as a mortal; to face the temptations of flesh and blood?”
“This is not just a chance at redemption for yourself, William,” I replied. “If we work together, we will both be back in heaven’s good graces.”
“You got ass cancer, Bill,” the big, burly doctor said to Mr. Shitz. “It’s inoperable and you likely have a year to live.”
“My God,” William responded, “how is that possible?”
“Well, since your factory manufactures uranium weapons, a piece of radioactive material probably snuck up your asshole…I won’t ask how that happened…where it metastasized into terminal cancer. So I recommend you get your affairs in order. Now kindly get the fuck out of my office because I’ve got more patients coming in.”
Mr. Shitz returned to the front desk and paid the $450,000 doctor’s bill. “Would you like to schedule your next appointment?” the receptionist asked.
William thought for a moment. “No, I don’t think that will be necessary,” he said.
He wandered back out to the Rolls-Royce where Archibald was waiting on him with the door open. “I trust your appointment went well, sir,” the butler inquired.
“I’m afraid not Archibald,” William replied. “I have cancer of the asshole.”
The news hit Archibald like a ton of bricks. “Is that so, sir?” the butler asked as he tried to maintain his composure. “Can it be removed?”
“I’m afraid not. It appears that I have only a year to live!”
Mr. Shitz’s longtime butler was shattered inside. He had a million things to say but there was not enough time to say it; Archibald wasn’t ready to tear down the façade of professionalism that held his world together.
“Will…,” the butler began to ask as his voice cracked. “Will you be informing Darla of this news?”
“In time, Archibald,” William replied. “Right now, there’s too much to be done. I must get back to work.”
Mr. Shitz and the butler returned to Shitz Estate. William immediately departed to his study while Archibald remained outside on the brick-paved driveway. The butler sat down behind the wheel of the Rolls-Royce and began to cry.
That’s when he noticed me. I was trimming the hedges along the driveway.
“Who are you?” Archibald asked me as he wiped away tears.
“I’m the new gardener, sir,” I responded. “I started yesterday. Is everything alright?”
“Yes yes,” the butler said, “I have terrible allergies this time of year.”
“I see,” I said, “I’m Jim Grey. You must be Archibald Duke, Mr. Schitz’s longtime butler.”
“Yes I am,” he replied.
“I’ve heard a lot about you,” I told him. “Mr. Shitz thinks very highly of you. In fact, I’d say that he regards you as his closest friend. You’re probably the only person, besides me of course, that truly understands him.”
A bewildered look fell over Archibald’s face. “How would you know anything about Mr. Shitz?” he asked.
I smiled. “I’ll just say that he and I have been inseparable for a very, very long time.”
Alright, here’s the beginning of September’s story. Hopefully it will be tragic, heartwarming, thought-provoking, sappy, lovey-dovey, etc etc. Just like you’d find in any shitty Hallmark movie or 90’s Oscar-bait picture.
Don’t hold your breath though. I am pulling this story right out my ass. Maybe it’ll good though. I have a good feeling about this one.
William Shitz woke up the same time every morning: 4:30AM.
He’d look in the mirror, trim his mustache, and evacuate his bowels. He’d always use two squares of toilet paper. No more, no less.
His bowel movement was a little more painful than usual this particular morning. But he thought nothing of it. After wiping his ass, William departed to his study to read the morning newspaper.
“Can you believe this Archibald?” William asked the butler in his thick transatlantic accent.
“Belief what sir?” asked Archibald.
“The Dow 500 crashed 8 million points yesterday. We must be in a recession!”
“Nonsense, sir,” Archibald said, “you’re a billionaire. None of that will affect you.”
“Mmm, right you are,” William said as he sipped his Earl Grey. “Do tell me, have I missed any phone calls this morning?”
“It’s 5am, sir. It won’t be start of business for another couple of hours.”
“Right. Well I better get moving then, I don’t want to fall behind on the day’s schedule.”
William Shitz removed his smoking jacket, put on his business attire and ascot then climbed into the back of his Rolls-Royce Phantom III. As Archibald was driving the vehicle, he handed the gold-plated phone back to William. “Your daughter is on the line, sir,” he said.
“Darla Shitz,” William said into the phone, “how have you been my dear?”
“Dad, I’m ready to come home,” Darla replied.
“Now now, Darla, you know I wish to be called ‘father’.”
“Father, I’ve been in France for six years! I know that it was rough on you when mother passed, but I want to be back with my family!”
“Now’s not a good time, darling. I must be going, I have a busy day ahead of me. Goodbye.” William abruptly hung up the phone and handed it back to Archibald.
“How is Darla doing, Mr. Shitz?” Archibald asked. “I would love to see her again.”
“Oh fine, fine,” William replied, “but I’m afraid she wishes to stay in France a little longer.”
The Rolls pulled up to Shitz Factory, a large DoD contractor that develops and manufactures weapons used to drop on villages in the Middle East. It was personally owned by Mr. William Shitz himself.
“I haven’t had a day off in two years,” said Allan Funt, Vice-President of operations and William’s right-hand man. “I’m overworked, I’ve developed a drinking problem, and my wife is fucking the mailman. All I’m asking is a couple of days off.”
“I’m sorry Allen,” Mr. Shitz replied, “but I expect all of my employees to give the same dedication that I gave into building this company for a laughable fraction of what I make. That goes for you as well.”
Allan began to tear up. For a fleeting moment, William felt a degree of sympathy for him. “Now now, Allen,” William said, “you’re my most valuable employee. Keep up the good work and maybe I’ll give you a day off next year.”
Allan nodded, wiped away a tear, and diligently went back to work. As William was returning to his office, he felt a sharp pain in his stomach.
“Are you alright, sir?” Archibald asked.
“I don’t understand, Archibald,” William said, “I already had a bowel movement this morning.”
His stomach continued to cramp. He rushed into his private office and on into the bathroom then dropped his pants. He noticed that he already soiled his silk underwear.
William continued to spray shit out of his rectum and into his diamond-made toilet. After a violent two minutes, he grabbed his usual two squares of toilet paper and wiped his crack. When he looked back at the paper, he was appalled.
When a movie informs you that it’s a Shapiro-Glickenhaus production, you’re in for a ride. And Black Roses did not disappoint.
I’ve always been intrigued by the psychological/political dimensions of the 80s. Poltergeist kind of touches on this in the most subtle way, how family dynamics were altered during this decade. Black Roses picked up on this concept and ran with it.
The film shines a spotlight on the contradictions within Reagan-era politics: parents being appalled yet titillated by youth culture (and a complete lack of awareness that these tensions exist). The story of Black Roses centers on some “heavy metal” band coming to small town USA and corrupting its youth. The youth become demon-possessed and start killing their parents. Only a mustached English teacher stands in their way.
Of course, the band is entirely blamed for the “corruption”. Despite the shitty parenting throughout, the adults never once ask themselves: “are we to blame?”. But I guess parenting styles in the 1980s didn’t include things like paying attention to your children. Additionally, because parents were unable to take responsibility for themselves, we now have “culture wars”…which stem back to this decade…on which adults can use as a scapegoat for why they have shitty children.
Now I’m probably giving the filmmakers WAY to much credit for this analysis. They probably just wanted to show rock n’ roll and boobs with a few demons thrown in for good measure. But all good art is a reflection on the time it was produced. And Black Roses certainly pulls back the curtain on Reagan’s America.
There are few scenes in the history of film that hit me harder than the Super 8 sequence in Paris, Texas.
Rarely do films like this get made. Especially now. Not without a dose of heavy handed social commentary and violence.
That’s not the case with Paris, Texas. It’s subject is simple: one man’s inability to face his problems. All of this juxtaposed against the vast American landscape that’s both empty and crowded…dead and alive. Wim Wenders’ vision of America is embodied by the character Travis, played by the enigmatic Harry Dean Stanton.
The first time I watched this, it was almost like a religious experience. I was 10 or 11 years old and stayed up late while watching cable to see some tities. Fortunately, nothing was on Cinemax so I switched over to HBO. Paris, Texas was playing.
I don’t know why I kept watching it (probably because you see some Aurore Clement side boob), but next thing I know, I was fully engrossed in the story. It was the first movie where, when it ended, I didn’t know what hit me.
It was probably at that moment when it occurred to me: THIS is why people love movies.
Some people hate Paris, Texas. Some say it’s too slow. Some don’t like Travis because he abandoned his family.
I personally like movies that take their time. And if you don’t like Travis’ decisions, it’s not like the movie presents him as mensch.
In fact, Travis…along with his wife Jane…are presented as two VERY troubled people. From the perspective of Travis, he had to leave at the end because he was utterly broken. I would go as far as to say that Travis’ entire existence consists of (unintentionally) ruining people’s lives.
This film is not only about Travis trying to reunite his wife and child (Hunter), but it’s also about ruining the lives of his brother Walt and his wife Anne who took custody of Hunter during his disappearance.
Another heartbreaking scene is when Anne fails to convince Travis and Hunter to return home, and she goes to lie down in Hunter’s bed. Even though Hunter wasn’t her actual son, she was still attached to him. And that’s the last scene Anne is in, never to be mentioned again.
But Wenders’ direction mixes realism with a childlike perspective (which resembles Travis’ emotional state) quite well. So, I think, that permits me to have a pessimistic interpretation of the ending: there was no way that Jane would maintain custody of Hunter, and Hunter would return to Walt and Anne with a better sense of his “real” family, which would likely cause further damage to everyone involved. Meanwhile, Travis, once again, ran away from it all.
Is my interpretation correct? I dunno. But that’s how art works.
So do yourself a favor: stay up late one night and watch Paris, Texas.
“Earth has been destroyed in a nuclear hellfire,” I informed the crew. “The Sagan’s communication beacon has been pinging mission control for the last 50 years, ever since we entered hibernation stasis. We haven’t received a response back. It is safe to assume that all nuclear powers on Earth have indeed initiated Mutually Assured Destruction, leaving the planet in a radiated mess, meaning it won’t be safe to return there for the next 250 years.”
“279 years to be precise,” Dr. Jackass interrupted.
“In all likelihood,” I continued, “we are the last remaining members of Space Fleet, and possibly the last Earthlings.”
The crew looked at one another.
“When did you learn about this?” Valdez asked.
“Not long after we departed Tranquility Bay,” I replied.
“So we could have aborted the mission, returned to Earth, and Smashhouse would still be alive,” Valdez retorted.
“My orders were to continue with the mission and initiate population measures on the planet orbiting Tau Ceti. We have a responsibility not only to Space Fleet, but to humanity as well, to maintain our race.”
Valdez threw up her hands in frustration. “What about our responsibilities to the people of Earth?!” she cried, then stormed out of the briefing room.
Patel spoke up. “What about that ‘God’ thing?” he asked.
“Patel, you don’t seem to be too disturbed about this news,” I said.
“Sir, I’m in Space Fleet. We all knew the risks when we signed up.”
I nodded. “Forget about the ‘God’ situation. The being they have captured underground is indeed an intelligent life form, but I believe its intentions are deceptive. In my assessment, it’s too dangerous to bring it on this ship and back to Earth. Therefore, that thing, whatever it is, is the Ishnarian’s problem. I believe our best course of action is to remain here, under the good will of the Ishnarians.”
“Sir,” Hanson interrupted. “I’m in agreement with Valdez. We must return to Earth and assist in recovery efforts.”
“Hanson,” I said, “there may be nothing to return to. And that’s to say nothing about surviving hibernation stasis.”
“Earth is our home sir! We must do something!”
“Now I am the captain! And my orders are to remain here. Is that clear?”
“How can you be a captain when there is no Space Fleet?!” Hanson said and left the room in protest.
“I guess the meeting’s adjourned then,” I said. As everyone left the room, I pulled the Doctor aside. “Check on Valdez,” I told him. “Confirm that she’s pregnant. Run a medical exam if need be. We need to investigate the veracity of Yah’s claims.”
I returned to my quarters and pulled out a bottle of bourbon. There was a knock on the door. “May I speak with you sir?” the voice asked.
It was Mwangi.
After my encounter with Yah, I had been reluctant to make eye contact with her. I took a big swig from the bottle and invited her in.
“What can I do for you Commander?” I asked.
“Sir, I didn’t want to bring this up in front of the crew,” Mwangi said, “but launch thrusters are blown in addition to the hydrogen drive being depleted. And with hibernation chambers being iffy at best, it appears that we’re stuck here.”
I started to rub my temples. “I can’t believe that Space Fleet sent us up in this piece of shit,” I said. “Is there anything you can do?”
“It’s normally a simple refueling process,” she replied, “but because we’re on a planet stuck in the 14th Century, it might take decades before I could develop the materials to even begin the process. I’m sorry Captain.”
I sighed. “It’s not your fault Commander,” I said.
“I guess you can call me Nia now.”
“Can I offer you a drink Nia?”
“I would love one sir.”
“Please, call me Bill,” I said as I poured her a glass. After I handed it to her, she stared at it for awhile in deep thought.
“I also want to tell you that even though you’re the captain and have to maintain a stoic distance away from the crew,” Nia said, “I have supported your decisions 100%. And I know these last few days have been difficult for you. But you don’t have to be a stranger. You have my support.”
“A captain is only as good as his crew, specifically his Chief Engineer,” I joked.
“Then you must not be a very good captain,” she laughed.
“Nonsense,” I said, “I’m thankful to have your support.”
There was an awkward silence for a few moments as we sipped our drinks. Finally, Nia smiled and spoke up. “So how are you going to spend the rest of your days on this planet?”
“Honestly, I haven’t thought about it,” I laughed. “I guess I’ll be a farmer. There’s nothing else to do on this forsaken planet.”
Nia leaned forward to touch my hand. “I could be a farmer’s wife,” she said.
I clasped onto her hand. “Now I just need to talk to the Ishnarians,” I replied.
“So you cast God into hell?” I asked Hazov as we were descending deep into the surface of Ishnar in an elevator.
“That’s one way of putting it,” he responded. “But be warned though: Yah can still read your thoughts. We have yet developed the technology to block that ability. Other than that, he is completely contained within the chamber.”
“How does this chamber work?” Dr. Jackass asked.
“The walls of the chamber itself is reinforced with titanium-like nano tubing. This prevents porous openings all the way down to the quantum foam level. Even God can’t penetrate past that micro surface,” Hazov said.
“Fascinating,” The Doctor replied. “How did you obtain this technology? Forgive me, but technology on Earth appears to be beyond that of Ishnar and yet we haven’t developed those capabilities.”
“This technology was given to us by the ‘God Species’, as your captain calls it. This is why our technological capabilities appear to be so uneven.”
“Indeed, your culture appears to be from the Middle Ages of Earth, yet you’re using interplanetary radios, plasma weapons, and advanced forms language translation.” the Doctor said.
“Doctor,” I interrupted, “you’re about to meet God…or the first CONFIRMED alien life…and this is what you’re interested in?”
“Captain, I understand that you’re nervous, but it is part of Space Fleet’s mission to study extraterrestrial cultures.”
I rolled my eyes.
Finally the elevator stopped roughly 8 km underground. As we walked through the corridor to Yah’s holding area, Hazov continued to brief us. “A transparent piece of aluminum will allow you to see into the chamber,” he said. “Yah can take any form he chooses, but it’s only a mirage. While he can read your thoughts, you cannot communicate telepathically. You will have to speak with him over the monitors, and he will do the same for you.”
When we reached the guards holding large plasma rifles, Hazov stopped us and pinned a device onto Dr. Jackass and me. “This is just a precaution,” he stated, “but Yah is highly radioactive. The chamber should contain the radiation, but should any leak, this device will absorb it.”
Hazov could see I was shaking nervously. “Captain, you’ll be fine,” he said to me, “sure Yah played a big part in our histories. But he’s not actually God. While his material is not fully understood, insofar as we can tell he is made of normal matter just like you and me. He can’t hurt you. So don’t let him get to you.”
Hazov smiled and patted me on the shoulder. Then the doctor and I proceeded past the guards. We were escorted down a long corridor, where there at the very end was a large square chamber with a medium-sized window revealing a radiant orange glow inside.
I walked up to the window. But I couldn’t tell anything discerning inside, other than the orange mist. “Can he hear me?” I asked one of the guards.
He nodded. Then I opened my mouth.
“I am Captain William Kananga of the USV Carl Sagan. My first officer here is Dr. Sergei Jackass. We are members of Space Fleet representing Earth: a planet that I believe you are familiar with.”
Moments went by and there was no response. I looked back to the guard. “Are you sure he can hear me?” I asked him.
Then a strange voice came over the monitor.
“I know who you are,” the voice said. It wasn’t a deep voice, certainly not one I would associate with God. But it had resonance.
“Of course,” I replied. “I understand that you wish to return to Earth. What is your past associations there?”
“Siddhartha Gautama, Moshes, Mohammed, Yeshua: the Carpenter of Nazareth,” the voice replied.
“I’m afraid that I’m unfamiliar with Moshes.”
“You know him as Moses. I gave him the Ten Commandments.”
“Right. That’s why he was glowing as he came down Mt. Sinai. He was exposed to high levels of radiation.”
“That’s why I said that no man can see my face and live. I gave mankind scriptures to protect them from themselves.”
“Unfortunately those scriptures have been used to justify hate, discrimination, and war for thousands of years.”
“Yes, but humankind were savages when I found them. I gave them the power of reasoning to help them grow. Evolve.”
“What good that did them. What about the Holocaust? Nuclear war?”
“I had nothing to do with that. If I was permitted to stay on Earth, I could have prevented all of that.”
“You seem to want to take credit for humanity’s successes but want to evade responsibility for all of its ills and your failure in preventing them. Even your own “scriptures” make you look like the bad guy.”
“Mistakes were made, of course. And I’m prepared to answer for those. But humanity needs me now, more than ever. Earth has been destroyed in a nuclear war, has it not?”
I looked over to a concerned Dr. Jackass and back to the chamber. “I know what you’re trying to do,” I said to Yah. “But you’re not God. You’re not an all powerful, all loving deity. You’re a charlatan that wonders from planet to planet, taking advantage of vulnerable species.”
“I know that you beat off to Commander Mwangi this morning,” Yah said.
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“She’s going to have your child, ya know?” Yah continued. “You will be a better father to it than you ever were to the son you left behind on Earth to die in those nuclear bombs.”
“Commander Valdez is pregnant too. The late Commander Smashhouse is the father…”
“You’re not benevolent,” I interrupted. “You’re a sick, sad, and lonely being. Not worthy of our worship.”
“I am Alpha and Omega. The Beginning and the End. I shall have no other gods before me!” Yah declared as the orange glow morphed into a mirage of my late son.
“I’ve listened to enough of this hubris,” I said then stormed out of the corridor. As I walked passed the guards, I threw off the radiation device.
“Captain, are you all right?” the Doctor asked as he ran up behind me.
“What happened?” Hazov asked.
“Hazov, my recommendation is to sling that fucking thing in there right into the sun,” I said, then stormed into the elevator. Hazov and Jackass rushed in behind me. “Take me back to the surface!”
The two men were silent as I tried to cool down. As the elevator ascended, the doctor touched me on the arm.