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The Greg S. Gaines Three-Step Method of Seduction

1. Lurch into girl’s bedroom pretending to be a zombie.

2. Go for a fist pound.

3. Suggest that you habitually masturbate all over pillows.

“Do I have to keep you away from my pillows?” she asked, still having involuntary laugh-snort-spasms.

“No. Are you serious? Those pillows are all dudes.”

Two words: mucus explosion. However, the problem with mega-laughs is that they’re hard to follow up. Sooner or later you’re all laughed out, and there’s this big silence. Then what do you do?

“So I guess you really like films.”

“They’re OK.”

“I mean, you have all these actors all over your room.”

“Huh?”

“Hugh Jackman, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Craig, Brad Pitt.”

“It’s not really about the movies.”

“Oh.”

She was sitting at her desk and I was sitting on her bed. It was way too soft of a bed. I had sunk into it to an uncomfortable degree.

“I like movies,” said Rachel, sort of apologetically. “But a movie doesn’t have to be good if it has Hugh Jackman.”

Fortunately and unfortunately, at that moment I got a text from Earl.

yo pa gaines drove me to whole foods so if you need some funky vlasic pickle relish for that pussy just hollerrr

This was fortunate because it changed the subject from movies, and it was going to be difficult to discuss movies with Rachel without mentioning my filmmaking career, which for obvious reasons I did not want to mention. But it was unfortunate in that it made me do a sort of snarfing laugh and then Rachel wanted to know what had happened.

“Who was that from?”

“Uh, that was from Earl.”

“Oh.”

“You know Earl? Earl Jackson, from high school?”

“I don’t think so.”

How the hell was I even supposed to introduce Earl.

“Uh, Earl and I send each other disgusting texts sometimes.”

“Oh.”

“That’s basically our entire friendship.”

“What does that one say?”

I considered sharing it with her. Then I decided that that would bring about the apocalypse.

“I can’t show it to you. It is way too disgusting.”

This was a tactical error, because a more annoying girl might have said, “Greg, now you have to show it to me,” and let’s face it: Most girls are annoying. I mean, most humans are annoying, so it’s not specific to girls. Also, I don’t really mean “annoying.” I guess I mean that most humans like to try to fuck up your plans.

But one thing you could say about Rachel was this: She wasn’t constantly trying to fuck up your plans.

“That’s fine. You don’t have to show it to me.”

“You really don’t want to see it.”

“I don’t need to see it.”

“All you need to know is that it’s about the combination of food and sex. Like, oral sex.”

“Greg, why are you telling me about it.”

“Just so you can know for sure that it’s something you don’t want to know about.”

“Why is Earl combining food and oral sex?”

“Because he’s a psychopath.”

“Oh.”

“He’s just completely insane. If you looked into his brain for even one second you would probably go blind.”

“He sounds like a pretty weird friend.”



“Yeah.”

“How did you guys end up being friends?”

There was no good way to answer this seemingly innocuous question.

“I mean, I’m also pretty weird.”

This actually got Rachel to do a little aftershock snort.

“I guess the pillow thing is weird.”

Earl and I are both pretty weird. And maybe that is why we’re friends. But probably you deserve more of an explanation than that.

Also, what the hell does “weird” even mean? I’ve just written it like five times and all of a sudden I’m staring at it and it doesn’t even mean anything anymore. I just murdered the word “weird.” Now it’s just a bunch of letters. It’s like there’s all these dead bodies all over the page now.

I’m sort of close to having a freak-out about this. I have to go eat some snacks or leftovers or something.

OK, I’m back.

Although, let’s just do a new chapter, because this chapter got really fucked up somehow and I’m afraid of what will happen if I continue with it.


Earl and I come from very different worlds, obviously. And it’s definitely insane that we even became friends in the first place. In some ways our friendship makes no sense at all. I guess I’ll just give you the backstory of it and let you draw your own conclusions. Then we can make our triumphant return to Cancerland.

Cancerland is not nearly as popular of a board game as Candyland.

Some observers would conclude that our friendship is a triumph of Pittsburgh’s public school system, but I would tell you that instead it’s a testament to the power of video games. Mom has never allowed video games in the house, except for the educational kind, like Math Blaster, and that wasn’t so much to teach us math as to teach us that video games sucked. However, my first encounter with Earl left no doubt that video games were, in fact, awesome.

It was the second or third week of kindergarten. So far I had made it without having to interact with any of the other kindergarteners—that was my primary objective, because all of the other kindergarteners seemed to be evil, or boring, or both—but one day Miss Szczerbiak had us sit in groups and decorate cardboard boxes. It was me, Earl, and two girls whose names I forget. All the girls wanted to do was cover the box in glitter, but Earl and I recognized that this would look terrible.

“Let’s make a gun out of it,” said Earl.

I thought this was awesome.

“The laser gun from GoldenEye,” added Earl.

I had no idea what that meant.

“GoldenEye for N64,” explained Earl. “My brothers got an N64 and they let me play it whenever I want.”

“I have Math Blaster on my computer at home,” I said.

“I never heard of Math Blaster,” said Earl dismissively.

“You have to do math problems and then it lets you shoot pieces of garbage,” I said. Then, realizing how pathetic this sounded, I shut up. I was hoping that somehow Earl hadn’t heard. But he had, and he looked at me with both pity and scorn.

“In GoldenEye you don’t have to do no math, and you get to shoot people,” said Earl triumphantly, and that settled it. As the girls dutifully coated the box in glitter and had a discussion about pixies or domesticity or whatever, Earl and I sat at the other end of the table and Earl told me the entire plot of GoldenEye three times. Pretty soon it was agreed that after school, I was going to Earl’s house. As fate would have it, it was Dad picking me up from school that day, and he saw nothing wrong with sending his kid off to Homewood with some other kid he had never met before, plus that kid’s two rambunctious brothers, one of whom was repeatedly promising to shoot everyone else to death.

Earl had lied in at least one respect: The brothers, in fact, did not let Earl play N64 whenever he wanted to. When we got to the Jackson house, Devin (the oldest) announced that he had to complete a mission before we did anything else.

So we sat on the floor, in the glow of the screen, and it was the best thing I had ever experienced. We were in the presence of a master. We watched in rapturous happiness as Devin steered a tank through the streets of St. Petersburg, laying waste to everything in his path. We did not make a fuss when Devin told us he was going to do a second mission. We marveled as he snuck around a battleship, quietly murdering dozens of people.

“Now y’all can play me,” Devin said, switching to the multiplayer option. I picked up a controller. It had more knobs and buttons than I could reach with all of my fingers, so I tried getting a foot involved. That did not particularly work out. Earl tried to explain how it worked, but soon gave up. It was clear that he himself was not much of an expert. For twenty minutes, we jogged around a snowy Siberian missile base, threw grenades at random into the forest, got trapped against walls because we didn’t know how to turn around, and were slaughtered by Devin, who chose a new and exciting weapon each time: the assault rifle, the shotgun, the laser pistol. Earl’s other brother Derrick ignored me and Earl completely, choosing to do battle with the master alone. It was a losing effort. Taunting us mercilessly and without cease, Devin painted the tundra red with our blood.

“Y’all both suck donkey dick,” said Devin at the end. “Now get the hell out of here.”

A friendship had been born. Earl was definitely the leader, and I was the sidekick. Even when we weren’t playing video games, I deferred to him, because he was far worldlier than me. He knew where the alcohol was in his kitchen, for example. I was worried we were going to have to try some, but fortunately that wasn’t part of the plan. “Alcohol gimme a damn headache,” he explained at some point.

Back then, the Jackson household was more in control. Earl’s stepdad was still living there, and his half brothers were toddlers, and Earl’s mom hadn’t begun her third-floor exile yet. I got to see the collapse of Earl’s house firsthand. That’s not really the story I want to tell, so I won’t go into detail, but basically Earl’s stepdad moved out and then got sent to jail, Earl’s mom went through a few boyfriends, she started drinking a lot, and then around the time when the youngest half brothers got to kindergarten, she pretty much gave up on everything and started hanging out in chat rooms 24/7. I saw a lot of this as it was happening, but I was really only able to put the story together after the fact. And even now I don’t have a great sense of it. It was a hard place for me to understand.

Anyway. As things got worse over the years, we spent less time at his house and eventually starting hanging out at mine. But at my house, it wasn’t clear what there was to do. We tried playing board games, and that sucked. We busted out some G.I. Joes, but playing with them was so much lamer than video games that we felt like we were going insane. We ran around the house with water guns hunting Cat Stevens, but Dad made us stop after we broke some stuff. Finally, we went on a desperate search through the house one Sunday afternoon for anything even remotely close to video games, and that was how Earl found Dad’s DVD collection.

For some reason I had never really been interested in Dad’s DVDs. The only movies I had ever even thought to watch were animated and G-rated. These other non-animated movies had struck me as something for grown-ups. Basically, I just kind of assumed they were boring. And probably if I tried to watch them on my own they would have bored the hell out of me.

But Earl found them, and started freaking out and going all bug-eyed and saying, “Yeah, this is the shit,” and something clicked in my head and I saw them completely differently.

He was especially excited about Aguirre, the Wrath of God. “Look at this crazy dude,” he yelled, pointing at Klaus Kinski, who on the cover is wearing a Viking helmet and looks like a psychopath.

So—with Dad’s permission—we put the film in and watched it.

This would turn out to be the single most important thing ever to happen in our lives.

It was incredible. It was confusing, and terrifying, and incredible. We had to pause it every time there were subtitles, and a bunch of times we had to run out to get Dad to explain something or another, and eventually Dad came in to watch it with us, and it was still incredible.

Dad being there was actually a big help. He read the subtitles out loud and answered questions we had about the plot, and we had a lot of questions, because everyone in the film is insane.

Again: It was incredible. It was like nothing either of us had ever experienced. It was funny, and it was grim. There was a lot of death, but it wasn’t like video-game death. It was slower, and bloodier, and less frequent. In GoldenEye, you see someone get shot, and you watch them fall backward and crumple on the ground; here, you would just suddenly find a body. The randomness of it blew us away. Every time someone died we yelled, “Oh snap.” And the suspense was unbelievable. Klaus Kinski doesn’t lose it and kill anyone for the entire first half hour. Then, even when he does, he acts like it was no big deal, and you have no idea when he’s going to do it again. He has this unpredictable, psychopath brain that you can’t read. It got us so fired up.

We loved all of it. We loved how slow it was. We loved that it took forever. Actually, we never wanted it to end. We loved the jungle, the rafts, the ridiculous armor and helmets. We loved that it sort of felt like a home movie, like it all actually happened and someone on the raft just happened to have a camera. I think most of all we loved that it didn’t have a happy ending for anyone. The whole time, we were sort of expecting that someone would survive, because that’s how stories work: Even if everything is a total disaster, someone lives to tell the tale. But not with Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Hell no. Everyone dies. That’s awesome.

Also, the movie had the first breasts I had ever seen, although they were not what I had been led to believe that breasts looked like. They were like cow udders, and one of them was bigger than the other. (In retrospect, this may have been responsible for my complete lack of sexual development, which we’ve already talked about. I guess at least I wasn’t going around saying things like, “The best thing about your two boobs is that they are the same size.”)

Afterward we asked Dad a bunch of questions about it, and somehow we got to talking about the making of the film, and apparently it was a total disaster. People got sick, the entire cast and crew got stranded in the jungle for months, and some of the crew might have died. Dad wasn’t sure. Best of all, the actor Klaus Kinski himself was just as crazy in real life as he was as Aguirre. He actually shot one of the other guys working on the film. It was because he was being too noisy, and Kinski wanted to concentrate. So he shot his crewmate in the hand with a gun. If that doesn’t make you drop this book and go watch the movie right now, I don’t even know what’s wrong with you. Maybe you have a brain fungus.

Obviously, we had to watch it again. Dad wasn’t up for another round, but we thought it was even better the second time. We imitated the German voices, especially Kinski’s, who talked like he was being strangled. We imitated Kinski’s drunken staggering walk. We lay around the house for hours pretending to be dead, until Gretchen found one of us and had her own mini freak-out and started crying uncontrollably.

In short, we decided that it was the greatest film ever made. And the next weekend, we invited some classmates over to share it with them.

They hated it.

We didn’t even make it past the first twenty minutes. They said it was too slow. They couldn’t read the subtitles, and we weren’t good enough at reading them out loud. The speech at the beginning by Pizarro, they said, was long and boring. The plot of the movie seemed stupid to them: Aguirre and everyone were searching for a city that it said right at the beginning did not exist. They didn’t understand that that was the whole point. They didn’t get that it was awesome because it was so insanely meaningless. Instead, they kept calling it gay.

It was a disaster, but it was also useful. It made us conscious of what we had really known all along: We were different from the other kids. We had different interests, a different kind of focus. It’s hard to explain. Earl and I actually didn’t have much in common with each other, either, but we were the only ten-year-olds in Pittsburgh who liked Aguirre, the Wrath of God, and that counted for something. It actually counted for a lot.

“The young nihilists,” Dad called us.

“What are nihilists?”

“Nihilists believe that nothing has any meaning. They believe in nothing.”

“Yeah,” said Earl. “I’m a nihilist.”

“Me, too,” I said.

“Good for you,” Dad said, grinning. Then he stopped grinning and said, “Don’t tell your mom.”

And that’s part of the backstory for me and Earl. It’ll probably be relevant later, although who really knows. I can’t believe you’re still reading this. You should smack yourself in the face a couple of times right now, just to complete the outstandingly stupid experience that is this book.


One thing I’ve learned about people is that the easiest way to get them to like you is to shut up and let them do the talking. Everyone likes to talk about themselves. It’s not just kids whose lives are good. Take Jared “Crackhead” Krakievich, one of Benson’s scrawniest and least popular students. As far as I know, Jared has never done crack, but he walks around with his arms dangling awkwardly behind the rest of his body kind of like a chicken, his mouth is always hanging at least three-quarters open, and there is usually food in his braces. He smells like pickles and his parents are yinzers. You’d think he wouldn’t want to talk about his life, but you’d be wrong, as I discovered one day on the bus. For example, I learned that his dog can tell when Ben Roethlisberger is about to get sacked, and that he (Jared, not the dog or Ben Roethlisberger) was thinking about learning to play guitar.

If you’re not from Pittsburgh, I should probably explain that “yinzers” are people with heavy Pittsburgh accents. For example, instead of “you” or “y’all,” they say “yinz.” Another feature of yinzers is that they wear Steelers apparel at all times, including in the workplace and at weddings.

Basically, my point is not that you listen to people to learn anything interesting. You’re doing it to be nice and make them like you, because everyone likes to talk.

But this theory did not apply to Rachel, somehow. I would go to her house determined to get her to do the talking, and then I’d show up and pretty soon I would be talking more than someone who was on crystal meth.

INT. RACHEL’S BEDROOM — DAY

The second or third time that GREG has gone over to RACHEL’S. Both are sitting cross-legged on the floor.

GREG

So. What TV do you like watching?

RACHEL

Whatever’s on, I guess.

GREG

unnerved by the calm blankness of this response

So, like. Nature shows? Reality shows? Just, everything’s fair game?

RACHEL

Yeah, pretty much.

GREG

Not the Food Network though.


Rachel shrugs.

GREG

Here’s my thing with the Food Network: OK, half the time the food looks gross, or weird. It’s covered in weird sauce that looks like semen, or it’s squid in a goat hoof or something. But then, the other half of the time, if it’s something good, and people eat it, and they’re like, Mmmmm, this is delicious—that’s even worse! Because you don’t get to eat it. You’re just watching these people eat something delicious, and you don’t even get to know what it tastes like, and you want to kill yourself. But most of the time the food doesn’t look that good.

RACHEL

diplomatically

Some people think it looks good.

GREG

OK, but then here’s the other thing: It’s always a food competition. Food isn’t a sport. It’s ridiculous for cooks to be competing against each other. Like in Iron Chef, it always takes place in Kitchen Stadium. Kitchen Stadium? That’s ridiculous. And at the end it’s always like, You have competed honorably. How is it possible to be dishonorable? You were making a stew.

RACHEL

giggling

Hmmmm.

GREG

I mean, if the Food Network can turn food into a sport, why draw the line there? You know? “Iron Plumber, tonight at Toilet Arena.” Or, or, no wait. Wait, forget that one. “Live, from Toilet Center: Super Poopers.”

Four hours later. Greg and Rachel are in EXACTLY THE SAME POSITION.

GREG

. . . I guess my point is just that, it’s weird that we have animals living in our homes. It’s just weird.

RACHEL

I should probably go eat dinner.

GREG

alarmed

Wait, what time is it?

RACHEL

It’s around eight.

GREG

Holy fuck.

In her quiet way, Rachel was actually being sort of brilliant.

1. Rachel was using my own tactics against me. Props to her. This is some high-concept judo behavior. She orchestrated our conversations so that I did the talking and she did the listening. Sure enough, this made me like spending time with her. I told you this tactic is awesome. Also, she kicked ass at listening. I mean, in her position, I would have gotten really bored or annoyed. Super Poopers, Greg? Christ.

2. Rachel was not suggesting that we had to make out or get married. Even though I had told her that I had been deeply in love with her, she was not trying to make up for lost time. This probably would have caused me to freak out and maybe fake having a serious mental disorder, which is a tactic that I have considered from time to time to get out of situations. If I ever got jumped in the locker room by jocks, for example. On TV, jocks like to harass kids with mental disorders, but in real life, I’ve observed that everyone pretty much just wants to stay away from them. Anyway, I was worried this would become necessary with Rachel, but thank God it did not.

3. By getting me to talk so much, Rachel was eventually going to get me to divulge sensitive information that would ultimately lead to my downfall. Am I giving too much away? Maybe I’m giving too much away.

INT. RACHEL’S BEDROOM — DAY

GREG’S third or fourth time at RACHEL’S. Greg has noticed that one of the pictures of HUGH JACKMAN is sort of wall-eyed, and one of the EYES is following him around the room. Rachel has just stopped talking.

GREG

distracted

What?

RACHEL

I wasn’t really saying anything important.

GREG

Sorry, Hugh Jackman’s creepy right eye is following me around your room.

RACHEL

He’s not creepy!

GREG

What were we talking about?

RACHEL

Hebrew school.

GREG

Right. What a waste.

RACHEL

You think?

GREG

I learned nothing. Seriously, I can’t tell you anything about Jews. I am a Jew, and I still deserve an F in Jewishness.

RACHEL

I think it’s “Judaism.”

GREG

See, that’s what I’m talking about. I don’t even know what to call it. And I definitely don’t know what Jews believe. Like, do Jews believe in heaven? Are we supposed to believe in that?

RACHEL

I don’t know.

GREG

Yeah. Is there Jewish heaven? What happens when Jews die? You know?

 

HUGH JACKMAN is glaring at Greg.

GREG

Oh shit.

RACHEL

What?

GREG

hastily

Uh, nothing. Sorry, I’m an idiot.

RACHEL

For what?

GREG

Uh.

about as stupidly as it is possible to say words

The death thing.

RACHEL

Greg. I’m not dying.

GREG

lying

Yeah, I know.

RACHEL

narrowing eyes

I’m sick, but everyone gets sick. Just because you’re sick doesn’t mean you’re going to die.

GREG

falsely

Yeah yeah yeah yeah, no, yeah.

RACHEL

You think I’m about to die.

GREG

just lying his ass off

No! No-o-o-o-o.

RACHEL

warily

Huh.

INT. RACHEL’S BEDROOM — DAY

GREG’S fourth or fifth time at RACHEL’S. Greg is on the bed with his back to HUGH JACKMAN, although that means he has to face DANIEL CRAIG in a Speedo with a big goofy smile on his face.

DANIEL CRAIG

You can see the outline of my genitals! Isn’t this great?

RACHEL

giggling

That’s not what Daniel Craig even sounds like.

GREG

I have to warm up. I’m not in Accent Mode.

RACHEL

That sounded like a cowboy accent.

GREG

Yeah, I was using the wrong part of my mouth. Accents are all about using certain parts of your mouth. That’s why foreign people’s faces are sometimes kind of jacked up. Like how Daniel Craig has those weird pouty lips like a woman.

RACHEL

He does not.

GREG

Look at him! Look how he’s sticking his lips out. Actually he sort of looks like a frog.

launching into autopilot because Rachel is remaining silent/expectant

I just know a lot about accents, even if I can’t do them. I’ve studied them. I mean I’ve seen a lot of films. A cool thing about accents actually is the way they change from like eighty years ago to forty years ago to now, if you watch movies that are older. People’s mouths were just shaped differently back then, I think.

Sometimes I want to walk around doing an American accent from the 1950s, because that in some ways is the weirdest accent there is. You really freak people out that way. When people hear it, they don’t think, 1950s; they think, that guy sounds all weird and rigid and conservative, like an asshole robot, and they don’t know why.

I mean, I had to watch a bunch of films from back then before I realized that people just talked differently.

RACHEL

So you’re really like a movie expert.

GREG

I’m not an expert. I’ve just seen a whole lot of them.

RACHEL

What’s your favorite movie?

 

INT. THE GAINES TV ROOM — TWO HOURS LATER

On the screen: KLAUS KINSKI. On the couch: RACHEL and GREG. On Greg’s lap: a bowl containing leftover BEEF TIPS that he found in the fridge.

GREG

See how the camera’s moving around, sort of jittery, like it’s handheld? OK. Do you sort of get how it makes the film feel less like fiction and more like it really happened? You know what I mean?

RACHEL

Yeah, I think so.

GREG

It’s awesome, right? It feels that way because it feels a little like a documentary. Because that’s the camerawork that you have in a documentary, lots of handheld, no huge smooth crane shots like in big action movies.

RACHEL

It feels a little like reality TV.

GREG

Yeah! That too. Well, except the lighting in reality TV is always really unnatural, and here, they really can’t bring a lot of artificial lights into the jungle. Actually, they might not have anything besides reflectors.

RACHEL

What are reflectors?

GREG

gnawing beef

Mmmrflectors urmmff . . . hang on, this scene is awesome.

RACHEL

You should try making some movies.

MOM

from doorway

He does! He just doesn’t let anyone see them.

GREG

MOM WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING

MOM

Oh honey. Did you not offer Rachel anything to eat?

GREG

JESUS MOM

RACHEL

I’m not hungry!

GREG

infuriated

Mom. Jesus Christ. You can’t just spy on us from the doorway. And you def

MOM

I was just walking past and I heard Rach

GREG

initely can’t just tell people about, um,

RACHEL

It’s

MOM

Greg, you’re being a little silly abou

GREG

s stuff that you know is really priv

AGUIRRE

When I wish for the birds to fall from the trees, then shall the birds fall from the trees.

MOM

ou work so hard on these movies with Earl and then y

RACHEL

It’s OK, I don’t need to see them.

GREG

See? Did you hear that?

MOM

just keep them to yourselves like you don’t wan

GREG

Did you—Mom. Did you hear what Rachel said.

MOM

She’s just being nice. Greg, you have some juice on your chin.

GREG

Will you please just get out of here.

 

MOM exits, smiling wryly, like she just did something clever and wasn’t in fact a HORRIBLE MOTHER. Meanwhile, Greg is back to eating beef tips, because when he is stressed out he eats compulsively.

RACHEL

Here, let’s rewind it. I think we missed an important part.

GREG

Yeah, it’s like the best part.

RACHEL

after a lengthy silence

If your movies are secret, I won’t tell anyone. You can trust me.

GREG

frustrated

It’s not that they’re secret, it’s just that they’re not good enough for people to see. Once we do a really good one, we’ll let people see it.

RACHEL

That makes sense.

GREG

What?

RACHEL

I understand.

GREG

Oh.

They look into each other’s eyes.

If this were a touching romantic story, in this moment some STRANGE NEW FEELING would wash over Greg—a sense of being understood, in a basic way that he almost never is understood. Then, Greg and Rachel would make out like lovesick badgers.

However, this is not a touching romantic story. There is no NEW FEELING that washes over Greg. There is no BADGER MAKE-OUT SESSION.

Instead, Greg sort of shifts uncomfortably and breaks eye contact.

RACHEL

Can I get you a napkin or something?

GREG

No no I’ll get it.


The first film Earl and I remade was Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Obviously. It couldn’t have been any other one. We were eleven, and we had seen it approximately thirty times, to the point where we had memorized all of the subtitles and even some of the dialogue in German. We sometimes repeated it in class, when the teacher asked us questions. Earl especially did this a lot, if he didn’t know the answer.

INT. MRS. WOZNIEWSKI’S FIFTH GRADE CLASS — DAY

MRS. WOZNIEWSKI

Earl, can you name some layers of the earth?

 

EARL’s eyes bug out. He breathes hard through his nose.

MRS. WOZNIEWSKI

Let’s start with the one on the inside. What’s another word for—

EARL

Ich bin der große Verräter. [subtitle: I am the great traitor.]

MRS. WOZNIEWSKI

Hmmm.

EARL

Die Erde über die ich gehe sieht mich und bebt. [subtitle: The earth I walk upon sees me and trembles.]

MRS. WOZNIEWSKI

Earl, do you want to tell us what that means?

EARL

glowering at classmates

grrrrrhh

MRS. WOZNIEWSKI

Earl.

EARL

standing up, pointing to MRS. WOZNIEWSKI, addressing class

Der Mann ist einen Kopf größer als ich. DAS KANN SICH ÄNDERN. [subtitle: That man is a head taller than me. THAT CAN CHANGE.]

MRS. WOZNIEWSKI

Earl, please go sit in the hall.

And then one day Dad bought a video camera and some editing software for his computer. It was to videotape his lectures or something. We didn’t know the specifics; we knew only that the specifics were boring. We knew also that this technology had come into our lives for a reason: We had to re-create every single shot in Aguirre, the Wrath of God.

We figured it would take about an afternoon. Instead, it took three months, and when I say “it,” I mean, “re-creating the first ten minutes and then giving up.” Like Werner Herzog in the South American jungle, we faced almost unimaginable setbacks and difficulties. We kept taping over our own footage, or not hitting record, or running out of camera battery. We didn’t really know how the lighting or sound was supposed to work. Some of the cast members—mostly Gretchen—proved incapable of delivering their lines properly, or staying in character, or not picking their nose. Also, we usually had a cast of just three people, or two if someone needed to hold the camera. The location we used was Frick Park, and joggers and dog walkers kept entering the shot, and then they would make things even worse by trying to start a conversation.

Q: Are you guys shooting a movie?

A: No. We’re opening a mid-priced Italian restaurant.

Q: Huh?

A: Yes of course we’re shooting a movie.

Q: What’s the movie about?

A: It’s a documentary about human stupidity.

Q: Can I be in your movie?

A: We’d be stupid not to put you in it.

Moreover, props and costumes were impossible to replicate. Earl wore a pot on his head, and it looked ridiculous. Nothing we had looked like cannons, or swords. Mom said we weren’t allowed to bring furniture from the house to the park, and then when we did, we had Suspended Camera Privileges for a week.

Also, our process was dumb as all hell. We’d get to the forest and then completely forget what shot we were working on, or if we remembered it, we couldn’t remember the lines, and how the camera moved, and where the characters started and where they ended; we’d struggle for a while to shoot something that we thought was correct, without success. Finally, we’d go back to the house to try to write down what we were supposed to do, but then we’d end up having lunch or watching a movie or something; at the end of the day we’d try to get everything on the computer, but there was always some footage missing, and the scenes that survived looked like crap—bad lighting, inaudible dialogue, shaky camerawork.

So we did this for months, eventually realized how slow we were working, and gave up after creating ten minutes of footage.

Then Mom and Dad insisted on watching what we had done.

It was a nightmare. For ten minutes, Earl and I watched with horror as, on the screen, we wandered around waving cardboard tubes and Super Soakers, mumbling in fake German, ignoring cheerful joggers and families and senior citizens with beagles. We had already known it was bad, but somehow, with Mom and Dad there watching, it seemed ten times worse. We became aware of new ways in which it was crappy: how there wasn’t really a plot, for example, and how we forgot to put in music, and how you couldn’t see anything half the time and Gretchen pretty much just stared at the camera like a house pet and Earl obviously hadn’t memorized his lines and I always always always had this stupid expression on my face like I had just had a lobotomy. And the worst part was, Mom and Dad were pretending to like it. They kept telling us how impressive it was, how well we had acted in it, how they couldn’t believe we had made something so good. They were literally oohing and ahhing at the stupid garbage on the screen.

Basically, they were dealing with us as though we were toddlers. I wanted to murder myself. Earl did, too. Instead, we just sat there and didn’t say anything.

Afterward we retreated to my room, utterly bummed out.

INT. MY ROOM — DAY

EARL

Damn. That sucked.

GREG

We suck.

EARL

I fuckin suck worse than you do.

GREG

attempting to match the casualness with which eleven-year-old Earl can say words like “fuck”

Uh, shit.

EARL

Fuck.

DAD

offscreen, through the door

Guys, dinner’s in ten minutes.

after we do not reply

Guys? That was really pretty amazing. Mom and I are very impressed. You both should be really proud of yourselves.

a shorter pause

You guys all right? Can I come in there?

EARL

immediately

Hell no.

GREG

We’re OK, Dad.

EARL

If he come in here and talk about that stupid movie, I’ma kick myself in the head.

DAD

OK then!

Footsteps indicate that DAD has left.

GREG

That sucked so bad.

EARL

I’ma get that tape and burn it.

GREG

still having trouble swearing convincingly

Yeah, uh, fuck. Shit.

GREG and EARL are silent. CLOSE-UP of Earl. Earl is realizing something.

EARL

Werner Herzog can lick my ass-cheek.

GREG

What?

EARL

Man, fuck Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Werner Herzog can stick his face all up in my butthole.

GREG

uncertainly

OK.

EARL

We gotta make our own movie.

gaining momentum

We can’t try to make someone else’s movie. We’re gonna make our own movie.

now excited

We’re gonna make a movie called The Wrath of God II.

GREG

Earl, the Wrath of God II.

EARL

HELL YEAH.

In our creative partnership, Earl has always had the best ideas, and Earl, the Wrath of God II was one of his best. It never would have occurred to me, even though it wasn’t that complicated or crazy of an idea: Basically, it was to remake Aguirre again, but this time, to change all the parts that we couldn’t do, or even just the parts that we didn’t feel like doing. If there was a scene we didn’t like, in our version, it was gone. A character we couldn’t recreate: sayonara. A jungle that we couldn’t reproduce: converted into a living room, or the inside of a car. The best ideas are always the simplest.

So Earl, the Wrath of God II ended up being about a crazy guy named Earl and his search for the city of Earl Dorado in a normal family house in Pittsburgh. We shot it on location in the Gaines residence in Point Breeze, and we ad-libbed a lot of the dialogue, and Cat Stevens made some awesome cameos, and we set the whole thing to a funk CD Dad had lying around, and it took another month or two. At the end of it, we burned it to a DVD and had a secret viewing of the movie in the TV room.

It sucked. But it didn’t suck nearly as bad as our first film.

Our careers were born.


So by October things were weird. I had a person, at school, that I was being especially nice to and spending time with and stuff. Could we use the word “friend”? I guess. Rachel was my friend. You should know that writing that sentence didn’t feel good. It just didn’t. Having friends is how your life gets fucked up.

Anyway, I couldn’t keep ignoring her in school when we were spending all this time together outside of school, so all of a sudden, in school, I was seen having a friend. I was seen by everyone talking to Rachel before and after class, and often this resulted in her laughing kind of loud, and that got people’s attention. And when it was time to work in groups, we were almost always in the same group. And people notice stuff like that.

So probably some people thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend, and perhaps even having sex. And how can you fight that impression without seeming like a dick? You can’t go around making remarks like, “There’s certainly nothing going on between me and Rachel! Especially nothing sexual. I don’t even know what her genital area looks like, or if it’s in a different place than normal or something.”

At the very least, people thought we were casually dating. And here’s the thing: Most people, especially girls, seemed to get fired up about that. I have a theory about that, and the theory is depressing.


Date: 2015-12-11; view: 1102


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Hey, this is Greg. You, me, and some pasta makes three. | Theory: People always get fired up when an unattractive girl and an unattractive dude are dating each other.
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