RICK EDELSTEIN - GROK THIS
Rick Edelstein was born and ill-bred on the streets of the Bronx. His initial writing was stage plays off-Broadway in NYC. When he moved to the golden marshmallow (Hollywood) he cut his teeth writing and directing multi-TV episodes of “Starsky & Hutch,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Chicago,” “Alfred Hitchcock,” et al. He also wrote screenplays, including one with Richard Pryor, “The M’Butu Affair” and a book for a London musical, “Fernando’s Folly.” His latest evolution has been prose with many published short stories and novellas, including, “Bodega,” “Manchester Arms,” “America Speaks,” “Women Go on,” “This is Only Dangerous,” “Aggressive Ignorance,” “Buy the Noise,” and “The Morning After the Night.” He writes every day as he is imbued with the Judeo-Christian ethic, “A man has to earn his day.” Writing atones.
How are you?
What’s not okay?
Just woke up disappointed.
Just what a woman wants to hear the morning after...
No, it has nothing to do with you. It’s just that I am
experiencing a plethora of disappointments.
It’s my word-a-day. I have to use it relating to my life in order for it to become a functioning part of my vocabulary. It means...
A lot, many, I know what plethora means.
Then why did you say pletha-what?
It’s not a word I often hear before breakfast and why were you sitting at the piano?
Ever since I was a kid I’d go to sleep and pray that when I woke up I could play the piano.
Did you ever take lessons?
Once. I hated practicing scales.
Wait a mini-second...you’re telling me that now, as an adult man, you try and program that ludicrous miracle and you’re disappointed it didn’t take? Is that what you’re saying?
I’m sharing something personal. It’s not up for the female judge, jury and executioner, thank you.
Oh God I need a touch of shallowness to relate.
What does that mean?
Okay okay okay. Change subject. How’s the coffee?
Stronger than usual but I like it.
Me, too. I’m sorry I can’t let this go yet. You really plug in that fantasy every night? Even if it is not possible, I mean you know that you will never awaken to...
My mother used to say never say never.
How old are you?
And you’re still into your mother?
‘Til the day I die although I expect she’ll die first and I’ll still love my mother unconditionally. Don’t you?
How could I, I don’t even know your mother.
You two would probably hate each other.
Why do you say that?
Because you’re a smart ass.
You always compliment a woman the morning after?
It’s a package deal.
We don’t know each other well enough to have a fight so I’ll just let it pass.
Not so much a fight as feeling each other out, it’s a process.
Sounds like a quote from some magazine on relationships. God I hate that word, relationships!
Are you pissed at me? We had a great time yesterday, last night, the coffee’s good, so what did I do?
You really do that piano number every night?
Here we go. You don’t ever imagine stuff that hasn’t manifested yet?
Reality defeats imagination every time.
That’s too final for me. Me I like to keep stoking the fires.
I don’t know what that means but I think we better stop talking about
this now because it’s beginning to...let’s just change the subject she said again. Tell me something important about you.
I got fired yesterday.
You got what?
Fired, let go, pink slipped, given my walking papers, released from...
I got it I got it... from plethora to piano-miracle-that-did-not-take, surprise! to losing your job. Talk about a getting to know you process. What happened?
The boss in his glass cavern has three screens, two of which are connected to all of ours and he was apparently surfing, checking on us like an Arab terrorist.
Arab terrorists don’t check, they plant bombs, shoot up civilians.
What are you my assigned critic this morning!
Want me to leave?
This isn’t working is it.
I thought you’d get the humor.
Your humor is arcane.
Yes. What am I missing?
‘Want me to leave.’ Hello! This is my apartment, my piano, my remote, my fridge that I stock with goodies which please even as they add to love handles. ‘Want me to leave’ I thought you’d grok the humor in that.
Grok? Grok, what is that?
Grok, understand something, even intuitively.
You make up that word?
You like words. Grok’s better than plethora.
How do you spell it? G R O C H or...
G R O C H K? Weird.
No G R O K.
Grok...you made up a great word.
No I didn’t.
I feel like you’re walking all over my brain. You just said...
Stranger in a Strange Land.
What am I supposed to say behind that?
Name of the book where the writer used Grok.
Uh huh. Okay. I grok that. Cool.
So why were you fired?
The glass encaged okay not a terrorist but an A-One asshole well past his sell-by date, definitely not user-friendly believe you me.
Me believes you.
He arrives early before us as if he is clocking us, he’s a loaded cannon seeking a purpose.
But what do you really think of him?
You can’t be serious.
Your humor takes some getting used to.
Hello! You were fired. Why?
You really want to know?
Is it a state secret?
Just...well...you don’t really know me and...
You steal the company’s payroll?
Not even close.
It’s a process, remember, if I can sing I’d do a getting to know you but Julie Andrews won’t forgive me.
No, Pandora’s box is open and it’s befouling the air.
What did the big bad boss catch you doing or not doing?
Okay okay okay. He saw that I was checking out some porn instead of input/output data.
You’re into porn?
From your tone you obviously disapprove.
Look, we don’t hardly know each other, yet. You’re a great lover and weird in an almost interesting off the wall way for me anyhow and well I’m just trying to...a real question, why porn?
I don’t know...I don’t like to explain myself as if I did something wrong.
Well apparently you did because you got fired.
Not just me. Arnold, in the cubicle next to me, puffy, face too pink, smiles too much...
I never trust a person who’s always happy.
He smiles apologetically as if the receiver has to forgive him with his white socks, black pants, glasses, short, weighs himself every morning, eats salad for lunch, no dressing, smart in that book learning way not in life, he sends but doesn’t receive.
You can write a detective novel with that description. So what did Arnold do?
He turned me on to Pornhub. Told me that seventy per cent of online porn occurs during nine to five work days so don’t be judging me as if I’m a freak. Just a seventy per cent man who indulges occasionally.
So what are you going to do?
Oh yeah. I checked my horoscope, you don’t know this about me but I have a very good memory, it said quote, “You need to switch off your emotions. Nothing in life is one hundred percent certain, but if you put your brain to work now...” and I forget what else.
Said the man who has a very good memory.
You going to score points all morning?
You have a substantial stash in savings or a CD waiting to be cashed?
I have exactly three hundred and eighteen dollars in my checking account and a hundred and sixteen savings. But I will be picking up my paycheck which should include some severance. Maybe a month or three if I’m lucky.
What are you going to do, she asked again?
Hey I was just fired twenty minutes ago. Hasn’t sunk in yet. I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up..
Maybe become a concert pianist and tour the world.
Or be a divorce lawyer. Did you know that lawyer for Angelina Jolie charges $850 an hour.
That’s a little more than I’m getting.
How much do you earn? I imagine as an ace bartender with your cleavage and short skirts...
You didn’t complain last night.
It’s what turned me on in the first place. So tips are a good part of
your income, right?
Yes. Tips are good. I have some regulars who do right by me, I’m not complaining.
How much do you take home, after taxes say?
Not enough to give me breathing room after I pay the rent and stuff but with the way jobs are out there for a woman with just a high school diploma...
From the way you talk I figured you for college.
I like reading.
And you still won’t tell me how much?
Just no straight out?
Some things I’m not comfortable...let’s just say that I’m a little reluctant to share.
Your take home pay is what’s that word you used, a state secret? Come on, last night you asked about my financial status which sucks and I told you.
It’s just...well, why are you so interested in how much money I earn?
Hey, last night was great and you do good coffee and even look fine the morning after and maybe we have a future so I ask you a question about your life and, well, in the immortal words of Ming How, secrets shared make couple closer.
Who is Ming How?
Chinese restaurant. Fortune cookie.
Are you serious or just...
If you want me to leave now consider it a done thing, m’lady but first tell me what’s really going down because when I dropped the Q about your pay you responded like a quills-ready-porcupine.
Porcupine’s better than pussy, I guess.
We hardly know each other and somehow this is beginning to feel like an old relationship of...
Stop. Cease and desist. All right. My divorce. That son of a bitch was making half of my...well, I had to pay him a bundle for the divorce and just to keep my piano, this apartment which is rent-controlled and I hate, despise, abhor talking about money with a man for the rest of my fucking life.
That nailed it!
Where you going?
Put on my socks and sneaks.
I don’t want you leave. Please. Stay. We may have a good thing going.
Can’t prove it by this morning...judging me for my piano-fantasy and porn. If I want to be graded deficient I can always call my mother.
I thought you love her.
What does that have to with it?
I am not your ex.
Thank God for that. Stay.
Okay, if you give me a refill.
You got it. Can I ask you a personal question?
Says the lady who won’t tell me what she makes.
He won’t give it up. Okay about 45 g’s a year, before taxes and I’m still paying off the loan on my car and the mechanic who I think is ripping me off. Do you know about cars?
The only thing I know about cars is that my Honda ends its three year lease next month and with getting fired and shit I may have to give it up.
You can’t navigate this city without a car.
Unless you’re an immigrant.
Well besides good sex...
And good coffee.
We both have being near broke in common.
Yeah...it sucks...in common.
Got any ideas?
About what in particular?
Is it a problem or an issue.
You’re losing me.
A consciousness training I took. The facilitator, Mrs. Nowakowski, big breasts and smart with angry eyes said a problem has a solution, an issue is just something you have to accept.
I do not accept being near broke every month.
And I’m not sure how I’m going to accept being without a car.
So tell me Mrs. Nowakitz...
Is what we’re dealing with a problem or an issue which I refuse to accept?
Let’s just say it’s a problem...seeking solution.
Sold. Got any ideas?
Besides holding up a bank...don’t take the bottom bills...I saw that in a movie.
You ever been in jail?
No and I’m not planning to either.
Ever commit a crime?
I told you I’ve never been in jail.
Not the same thing. People commit crimes every day and don’t get caught.
Well okay I’ve done some shit like copped sunglasses from Walgreens and walked out on a check in an expensive restaurant because the service sucked. Does that count?
You know who Mark Twain was, right?
The dude with the white moustache?
He said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”
You want to know my “why?”
Okay, yeah, sure.
My why is to never worry about money again. That’s why I’m on this planet.
If you why your self to a solution, Mrs. Nowakowski and her ace participant would be pleased to be clued in to your formula.
Friday and Saturday are big time, we’re packed, three bartenders and it doesn’t stop until last call two a.m.
And this means what to me?
Saturday well actually it’s Sunday morning three a.m. The boss takes all the substantial green, and it’s big-time money, in three bank bags and walks, that’s right, three a.m. he walks three blocks to the bank and slips it into one of those slots you have to have a password for deposit.
How do you know that?
I walk with him.
How come? You got a thing going with the boss?
With Harold? If you saw him you wouldn’t ask that question.
Lots of beautiful women have reasons to...
Harold looks like he was assembled from Ikea. No, after he makes the drop he walks me to the subway. He’s a good guy.
Harold the good guy is carrying a gargantuan amount of money at 3 a.m. and you’re suggesting what, as if I didn’t know but can’t believe.
Get a ski mask, a gun...
A gun she says. Are you on medication?
Not even a real gun. Toy guns look like the real thing. Harold’s a wimp.
A good guy wimp.
He’ll give it up in a Nano-second. You walk with a gang of green and...
And I’m going to put on my socks and sneaks and make like this conversation never took place.
Where’s the other one?
I ate it. Come on...it’s a piece of cake. You could do it.
I could but I won’t. Ah, there it is.
Then what are we going to do?
Oh we’re a “we” now, are we?
We’re both on the edge of being broke.
Well I’m not into your solution so it’s me and Mrs. Nowakowski adjusting to an issue.
Wait, take five, I’m telling you I even scoped out the corner where you jump in and then disappear three bags full of problem solved. What do you say? Consider this.
Consider me gone.
Okay I was just playing’, you don’t know me and wanted to stretch into fantasy to see if you would play. I wasn’t serious.
My gross was seventy-two thousand six hundred eight dollars and seventy three cents but only fifty-eight declared, excluding tips, thank you.
I don’t know if you’re lying now or before.
I can show you my tax returns. What are you thinking?
What you’re wearing, moving your legs, flashing...my dick Grok’s your pubic hair which obviously turns me on. Or am I out of line?
You better take off your sneakers.