UNITED STATES—“That was quite something getting through your vestibule,” said Father Daniel. “We were goosed by mist from the sides.”
“I think there was some ultra-violet radiation,” said Rabbi Goldwyn.
“I call it the Lysol room,” drawled Rhett from the purple divan. “It is the sanitizing gateway to the movie star’s faded palace. Did I ever tell you about my sister Candace. She didn’t like her name and she had it legally changed to Lysol because she wanted to be a household name.”
The ecclesiastic team proffered anemic chuckles.
“There must be a joke in here somewhere. A rabbi and a priest walk into a bar. . .”
Rhett was met by mute perplexity. The usually tone-deaf Rhett faced feral defeat and admitted, “In the ‘80s we had a different sense of humor.”
“A simpler time,” said Father Daniel. “A shallower time,” chimed in Rabbi Goldwyn. They looked around. All that needed to be said had been said. Eliza, the hapless personal assistant, took advantage of this lull to appreciate the rich panorama of smog in cumulative veils that merged into a milky haze looking down the steep slope to the swimming pool perched on the heights of Mount Olympus.
The clergymen shifted weight on the balls of their feet. Rabbi Goldwyn reminded himself to stand straighter.
Rhett Spoke: “I brung yall here, not because I want to inflect my lame jokes or hold you hostage. I want you to give me the last rites.”
“Now Rhett, what are you talking about?” chirped Eliza. “There’s plenty of life in you yet.”
“Ask that housekeeper who has that paternity suit pending?” Father Daniel murmured and lowered his chin to where his surplice would usually come.
Rhett spoke loud and clear, “I’m hedging my bets by having both representatives of the Judeo-Christian Western tradition.”
“You left out Buddha and humanism. . .” pointed out the rabbi.
“Budda is represented, I figger. Now you see him, zen you don’t. . .“I’ve got a lot on my plate,” Rhett said. “There’re considering me for the lead on a remake of the Wild Bunch. . . And all my resources have got to go to preparation. My trainer, horse-riding lessons. This is my breakthrough in a neo-Western. Every cent I need for my comeback. I won’t be extorted by the geriatric bomb.”
He was gooey eyed. Must have been smoking a blunt, thought Father Daniel.
“What’s this Geriatric Bomb?” asked Rabbi Goldwyn.
“It was the sunglassed wearing masked terrorists of F.A.K.E. were getting talking head time on one of the cable networks. Don’t you know what’s happening?” Rhett screeched. “No wonder you come in all relaxed. . . Like everything’s normal.”
On the middle big-screen TV in Rhett’s living room, the distinguished anchorman cliché played by the acting friend of Roger, Eliza’s accomplice in this elaborate extortion scheme, broke in with a headline, BREAKING NEWS, the live feed:
“We are going to detonate a new and improved geriatric bomb at midnight tonight if our demands are not met. You stars must listen to us and fulfill our demands for meals for the homeless. We wish no danger on the public. Those of you in close proximity to Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Al Pacino or Rhett Thornton will be in harm’s way. By midnight we expect to receive from each one of the aforementioned celebrities two million dollars cash to be sent to an offshore account.”
“No way,” groaned Rhett. “They can all go fly a kite. . . The heck with them, the sick, greedy, distorted dogs.
Rabbi Goldwyn bit his tongue: there was something fishy about Rhett in the company of A-listers like Julia Roberts and Pacino.
Eliza went to the powder room and pronto got Roger on the phone:
“We’re in trouble, Roger. Rhett doesn’t want to budge.”
“And we’ve got something else we didn’t count on: a priest and rabbi in the house. Evidently Rhett got upset and wants final rights.”
To be continued. . .
Grady Miller lives in Hollywood. He is the author of “The Havana Brotherhood,” stories from Latin American.