By Lauryn Poynor
dark and stormy night. In a world we think we know, but we see through
a glass darkly -- an overpriced shot glass of twelve year old Scotch in
a cross-time saloon; a world put through the spin cycle one too many times
. . .
FADE IN - INT. - STEELEíS APT - NIGHT
Itís raining. Itís pouring. Things are going bump in the night. Or perhaps, thump. Very loud thumps, in series. A fascinatiní rhythm. In 4/4 time. Or was it 5/4? He couldnít be sure. Steele, clad in his pajamas, opens up to find . . . a wolf at the door. A Miss Wolf, in Steeleís parlance. Despite the Stain Guard water-repellent qualities of her stylish trench coat, sheís drenched. Her eyes are bleary and red-rimmed. Her mascara is running for cover.
STEELE: [blinking in surprise] Miss Wolf.
MISS WOLF: [hands on hips] Brilliant deduction, Sherlock. Are you going to let me in or not?
STEELE: [eyes her warily, then steps back to let her enter] Normally Iím delighted to find a very wet female on my doorstep. But in your case, Iíll make an exception.
MISS WOLF: The feelingís mutual. [looking around] Is Laura here?
STEELE: At this hour? [recollects himself] Not to imply that these luxurious surroundings -- warm, intimate fireside, art deco furnishings, splendid view of the city skyline, splendid view of my bedroom, havenít been the setting for many a late night tryst between us.
MISS WOLF: What is this? A rerun of ĎFantasy Islandí? Iíll take that as a no.
STEELE: [unfazed] Youíre dripping on my plush carpeting.
MISS WOLF: Canít a wet femme get something to drink around here?
STEELE: [goes over to the bar area] Whatís your pleasure? And please try to narrow it down to one. I donít want to hear the details of your sordid love life.
at the words Ďlove lifeí her diamond-hard façade crumbles; shattered, she sinks to the couch as the tears come
STEELE: [momentarily nonplussed at the sight of her weeping like an overflowing bathtub. He sets down the drink heís just poured and fetches her a washcloth from the kitchen] Here you are. Blow.
MISS WOLF: [blows very loudly into it. Hands it back] Thanks.
STEELE: [holds the cloth gingerly between two fingers] Donít mention it. [he pitches it on the coffee table]
MISS WOLF: Damn. [sniffles] I really need to talk to Laura.
STEELE: Well, Iím afraid sheís not here. [hesitates uncomfortably, then continues] I trust youíll do the decent thing and never remind me I said it -- but if you need a shoulder to cry on -
MISS WOLF: [looks up in surprise] Yours?
STEELE: [with offhand gallantry] For the duration. Mind the mascara. These pajamas are made of the finest Sichuan silk and my Hong Kong tailor would be very -
MISS WOLF: [bristling] Never mind. You wouldnít understand. [she picks up the washcloth and wipes her eyes]
STEELE: Try me.
MISS WOLF: Not if you were the last man on earth and Iíd just found the key to my chastity belt.
STEELE: [smiling roguishly at the image her words evoke] Thatís nice and clear.
MISS WOLF: [with sudden decision] I need a drink.
STEELE: [retrieves the Scotch, hands it to her] Donít stop on my account.
MISS WOLF: [she takes a gulp, then exclaims with feeling] MEN!
STEELE: [wincing at the noise level] Shouldnít you save your come-ons for your paying clientele. Iíll have Fred drop you off on Sunset.
MISS WOLF: MEN! MEN! MEN!
STEELE: [dryly] So you have a threesome in mind.
MISS WOLF: [wistfully, setting down her drink] I had something in mind for just one. Do you remember the hunk from Scowl, Furrow, and Crinkle?
STEELE: The law firm on the eighth floor?
MISS WOLF: [nods] He was so perfect. Like Robert Redford in ďThe Way We WereĒ but with a briefcase and wingtips.
STEELE: Ah. So you spent endless billable hours examining his legal briefs? [he pours himself a drink and sits down on the sofa next to her]
MISS WOLF: [takes another gulp of her Scotch] Not a peek. [unsteadily, she puts down her empty glass and peels out of her trench coat, laying it over the back of the sofa] Weíd been dating for three weeks. At first I thought he was just shy. We barely even kissed.
STEELE: How novel for you.
MISS WOLF: It was kind of sweet. He said I was worth waiting for. His parents were heading back to the Hamptons after their lavish European vacation and he was dying for me to meet them. I thought, maybe just once, a girl like me and a guy like him... [sniffles, lays her soggy head on Steeleís shoulder]
STEELE: [pats her arm] There, there. [His pajamas are getting very damp. He winces slightly]
MISS WOLF: A guy like him. [overcome, she bursts into tears. The memory is too fresh, too painful, but she has to tell someone] Gay! And married!
STEELE: [wryly amazed at her recital of disaster] Oh my.
MISS WOLF: [despondently] A double play. And I never even got to first base.
STEELE: Why, Miss Wolf. Youíve excelled yourself.
MISS WOLF: Best two out of two. [a cry to the heavens] What were the odds?
STEELE: Best not to dwell on that in your case.
MISS WOLF: You know what the real kick in the head is?
STEELE: [non committally] Hmm.
MISS WOLF: He was just using me. Mr. Big Shot rainmaker. Trying to score the agency as a client. If youíd really like to know, thatís not all he was hoping to score.
STEELE: Come again?
MISS WOLF: He kept asking me stuff like who was your tailor, your hair stylist, where you liked to shop. I thought he was just, wellÖ [searching for the words] fashion forward.
STEELE: [preening] Some are born to lead, others to follow.
MISS WOLF: Yeah? Well I think heíd follow you anywhere. Tonight he popped the question. Asked if you were seeing anyone. And if you liked Barbra Streisand. I told him you were a big movie buff. I was a little slow on the uptake. It never occurred to me that -
STEELE: Wait a minute! Hang on. Barbra Streisand? You mean he thought I was -
MISS WOLF: [shoots an imaginary pistol at him] Bingo. Oh, I forgot. He wanted to know if you wore boxers or briefs.
STEELE: Good lord! Your love life is absolutely Byzantine. I think Iíve heard enough.
MISS WOLF: I wouldnít get in the elevator with him if I were you.
STEELE: [makes a mental note] Point taken.
MISS WOLF: Why is it always the gorgeous ones?
STEELE: [pats her hand reassuringly] Well, youíve had a bit of a shock but itís all over now.
MISS WOLF: Yeah. Over. Kaput. Finito. No plain little band of gold. No cottage in the Hamptons. What a lying louse! His parents are probably from Fresno.
STEELE: Good riddance, eh?
MISS WOLF: Just when I thought a man might be interested in something besides my body -- I was --- right! [burying her head on Steeleís shoulder, she bursts into a Niagara of tears]
STEELE: [her damp form is pressed tightly against him, blouse clinging to her breasts like a second skin. Steele canít help but feel a little -- moved] Well, itís a lovely body. Pity he canít appreciate it.
MISS WOLF: [brightens] You think so?
STEELE: [looks her over just to be sure] Iím a connoisseur of the female form, Miss Wolf. I can say without fear of contradiction that any man with 20/20 vision and a pulse would consider you X-rated. That is, any man of the right, um, persuasion.
MISS WOLF: [gives him a grateful smile] Thanks. I needed that. All those weeks waiting for more than just a peck on the cheek -- well a girl canít help but think that maybe sheís not so irresistible after all.
STEELE: Nonsense, Miss Wolf. I think your entourage of satisfied customers is still in tow.
MISS WOLF: [sighs] You know, if this were the movies Iíd have been able to reform him. With a kiss. You know. Like Marilyn Monroe did to Tony Curtis in ďSome Like It HotĒ.
STEELE: Yes, well, Tony Curtis wasnít gay he was just wearing nylons. When he wasnít impersonating Cary Grant.
MISS WOLF: So, what do you think? [leans in to him, playfully seductive] Could a kiss from me reform a guy?
STEELE: Your question boggles the mind, Miss Wolf. But I donít need to be reformed.
MISS WOLF: [smugly] What a load of conceit! I never said I was going to kiss you!
STEELE: Then why were your lips pursed up in that funny way?
MISS WOLF: [puts a hand to her face to check] My lips? Ha! Wishful thinking!
STEELE: On your part, no doubt. Shall I dazzle you with the benefit of my expertise or should I withhold my affections and leave you to fantasize alone tonight?
MISS WOLF: Your expertise? Fasten your seatbelt, Cary. Itís going to be a bumpy night! [she grabs him by the collar and kisses him. Ever so slowly, sensuously, shifting into passionís first gear. With a final flourish, she breaks contact] How was that?
STEELE: [eyes her innocently] How was what? Did something happen?
MISS WOLF: [makes a face] Well, considering what I had to work with Iíd give myself an ďAĒ for effort.
STEELE: You call that a kiss? Cary Grant could get better from his maiden aunt!
MISS WOLF: Says you! Anyway, that was just the windup.
STEELE: Ah. Baseball jargon again. You know, Marilyn Monroe was married to one of your baseball heroes. Joe Di Maggio, wasnít it?
MISS WOLF: [rolls her eyes] Yeah. Iíll bet he didnít try to talk her to death when they were in a clinch. It donít mean a thing if it ainít got that swing.
STEELE: That was Duke Ellington.
MISS WOLF: Whatever. Limeys! Jeez Louise. Cut to the chase. I could grow roots waiting for a fastball from you. Or a change-up.
STEELE: [smiling dangerously] Speaking of all talk and no action, when are you going to put those lips of yours to better use? Or is that the best you can do?
MISS WOLF: Those bimbos of yours can do better?
STEELE: Perceptibly. Their lips actually move.
MISS WOLF: Yeah. When they read big words.
STEELE: [yawns] Fire away. Iíll tell you when my pulse gets above ninety.
MISS WOLF: Hold on to your heart rate, buster! [she kisses him again. Itís a decadent, high calorie kiss, like a rich dessert with a warm center. Her tongue darts between Steeleís lips. When he barely responds, she pulls back, annoyed] Itís better when you help.
STEELE: [smirking] Iíd be happy to oblige, Miss Wolf, but Iíd hate to ruin it for you.
MISS WOLF: You already have. [the other shoe drops] Am I hearing things? The Casanova of con artists admitting heís a lousy kisser?
STEELE: On the contrary. I was merely giving you fair warning that a kiss from me and a woman is spoiled forever for the lesser charms of other men. That conga line of yours would seem like so many sloppy seconds. Or thirds. Etcetera, etcetera. [waves a hand airily]
MISS WOLF: Wanna bet? Put your mouth where your money is!
STEELE: [pricks up his ears] How much?
MISS WOLF: Iíve got a better idea. If this kiss of yours isnít an eleven on a scale of one to ten, you have to call me Miss Fox. For a week. In front of Murphy. And Laura. And all the agencyís clients.
STEELE: Really, Miss Wolf. Thatís so petty. So childish. So -
MISS WOLF: Pucker up. I havenít got all night.
STEELE: Spoken like a true romantic. [eyeing her dispassionately] If pride and semantics werenít at stake here, it would hardly seem worth the effort.
MISS WOLF: [monumentally provoked] Worth the effort? Well hereís some incentive, you dope! [she unbuttons her blouse and peels the sticky fabric off her body. Underneath sheís wearing a lace trimmed bra in a fabric thatís dangerous when wet. Dangerous enough to stop a manís heart at close range]
STEELE: [his gaze locks in on the target as if it was wire-guided; he forgets to breathe, brain losing cabin pressure as all the blood rushes below his waist] I think you just tipped the odds in my favor, Miss Wolf.
MISS WOLF: I should have quit while I was ahead. [sighs] Well, at least I havenít lost my touch. [her eyes are drawn to his crotch]
STEELE: [clears his throat] I think I need a moment alone.
MISS WOLF: Pulse rate above ninety, big boy?
STEELE: [preoccupied] I seem to have lost count.
MISS WOLF: Damn, Iím good. How about yourself? Ready to lock lips? A girl gets tired of sloppy seconds.
STEELE: [flashes her a lopsided grin] Itís your lucky day, Miss Wolf. What say we cancel the bet. Ars gratia artis. Letís do it for artís sake, eh?
MISS WOLF: [challenging] Youíre on.
Steele gradually lowers his lips to hers. She lifts hers to his. Itís the Guinness Worldís Record, the Mount Everest of kisses. Like duelists fighting for supremacy they crank it up to eleven and to the highest height to which mortal skill can aspire. Itís everything one kiss can be, if art is the measure. They pull away from the contest, dazed and breathless; itís too close to call. Itís a dead heat, a photo finish . . .
STEELE : [catching his breath, winks lewdly at her] A knee trembler, eh? How was that, luv?
MISS WOLF: [discreetly uncurling her toes] Awful! My chihuahua kisses better than you, and sheís been fixed!
STEELE: Tsk. Tsk. A lesbian Chihuahua and a gay, married boyfriend from Fresno. What a menagerie!
MISS WOLF: [sighs] You can say that again. [She picks up her blouse from the back of the sofa and starts to slip it back on]
STEELE: Allow me. [unbuttoning, he offers her his only slightly damp pajama top]
She puts it on, eyeing his bare chest appraisingly; for an idle moment she wonders about what might have been, if it were just the two of them that day he walked through the doors of Suite 1157. Would she have invited Ben Pearson over for a spot of tea?
Watching her in turn, Steele is struck by an odd sensation that could pass for regret. Maybe, if their longitude and latitude had crossed in some exotic clime . . . of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world . . . his lips twitch in a smile as he discards the heretical notion; better to leave the stars in their courses, the opposite poles unaligned. The natural order of the universe was not to be trifled with.
STEELE: All things considered, Miss Wolf, you made a delightful Marilyn Monroe.
MISS WOLF: [grins at him in grudging appreciation]Youíre not a bad Cary Grant, either.
STEELE: [waggles his eyebrows] Want to have another healthy go at it?
MISS WOLF: Letís not, and say we did.
STEELE: Better safe than sorry, eh?
MISS WOLF: No more fuzzy end of the lollipop for me. Iím swearing off. [raises her right hand]
MISS WOLF: Men!
STEELE: You? Swearing off the opposite sex? Adding the word ďnoĒ to your vocabulary? [his brow furrows] I give it a week. Two at the outset.
MISS WOLF: Damn. I hate it when youíre right. [thoughtfully] Do you think, if things had been different, a girl like me and a guy like you - [shakes her head] Nah. It could never happen.
STEELE: Donít be so hasty, Miss Wolf. Youíre wearing my silk pajama top. In parts of China thatís the same as being married.
MISS WOLF: Throw in a house in the Hamptons and you have a deal.
STEELE: [grins smugly] Swearing off men, eh? I knew it wouldnít last.
MISS WOLF: Con man! Cheater!
STEELE: Such language! See if I kiss you again!
MISS WOLF: See if I kiss you!
STEELE: Being irresistible is such a chore.
MISS WOLF: Likewise. Now that youíve been kissed by someone who knows how -
STEELE: Last Thursday, I believe. Gorgeous redhead. Delicious. Slight overbite, but such enthusiasm!
MISS WOLF: I think the word youíre looking for is desperation.
STEELE: [calmly surveys his fingernails] She did get hysterical when we ran out of chapstick.
MISS WOLF: [crosses her arms] Admit it. Iím the best woman youíll never have.
STEELE: [sniffs] Finally something we agree on. Wouldnít have you on a platter! Wouldnít have you jumping naked out of a cake! Wouldnít have you rolling in hundred dollar bills with non consecutive serial numbers!
MISS WOLF: Fantasy will get you nowhere. [grins triumphantly] That kiss really did a number on you, Mister Ben Pearson. It was some of my best work.
STEELE: A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh, Miss Wolf.
MISS WOLF: [finding herself strangely relieved at his summation] Thank God for that.
a silence falls, disturbed only by the metronomic pounding of the rain; she stares out the window at the watercolor skyline
MISS WOLF: Nice view. Shame I only have you to share it with. [weary sigh] Dropped like a hot pop tart by some jerk who just wanted to get into your pajamas!
STEELE: Be of good cheer, Miss Wolf. [grins salaciously] The view from my bedroom is even more splendid, to say nothing of the one in my pajamas.
MISS WOLF: Yeah. The less said the better.
STEELE: Iím sure I can provide you with a singularly inspiring conversation piece, given the right Ė motivation.
MISS WOLF: [eyes him up and down] How do you want it?
STEELE: You Americans. So charmingly direct.
MISS WOLF: Laundered or dry cleaned?
MISS WOLF: Your pajamas. Wouldnít want to do anything to spoil the view.
STEELE: [breath teasing her ear in a languid caress] All the intimacies we could share and you opt for one hour martinizing.
MISS WOLF: [springs up from the sofa] Itís the only way youíll ever steam up my sheets!
STEELE: Say the word and it's "sayonara" to sloppy seconds.
MISS WOLF: [thinking better of it] Let's not -
STEELE: [ditto] And say we didn't.
MISS WOLF: [cracks a smile] Think we'll ever iron out our differences?
STEELE: Not if the fates are kind.
WOLF: [keeping fingers crossed] Don't look now, but I think we stand
a chance of getting lucky.
[ Steele A State Of Mind ]