"Breadwinner" by BEA // Breadwinner - Single (2014)
It took only twenty minutes being trapped in an underground elevator (with a busted emergency help button) for us to consider cannibalism.
Vito D is dressed in a loose blue tracksuit. He is holding a handgun to a woman’s head and screaming at two cops. He is a Rottweiler. She is his only ticket out.
Just moments before, Vito burst into the parlor room and assassinated Ed - an old man who made his money on Wall Street. Ed took one shot to the chest and collapsed. His mistress watching from her seat. She cries for help, but really, when you’re bleeding out at the top of a mountain (with no exit wound), your chances of survival decrease fast.
The elevation thins your blood and you bleed out fast. This is not a fact. It’s something a concerned person says in the crowd. I think they called an ambulance, but Ed is dead by the time the police run through the doors.
So Vito grabbed a woman out of the crowd. He’s all survival. His monster hand yanked her up from her husband’s side, not unlike a .25¢ claw machine.
Vito’s bicep suffocates the woman. Her feet come off the floor as he drags her backwards - his human shield. The cops corner him by Ed’s dead body on the stage. Vito and the police volley threats back and forth. I’ll blow her brains out, Vito says. His voice booms from the bottom of his gut. When he yells, his face twists into itself, and looks like the chewed end of a cigar.
The police officers step closer, within reach. You can see the sweat on Vito’s brow. There’s a large window to the mountains behind him. Nowhere to go. His grip loosens on his hostage. She breaks free.
The younger cop takes the opportunity and instead of firing his gun, he hits Vito with a palm strike. Blunt force to the skull. It’s quick. Vito’s knees buckle. It’s over.
I take a picture with my phone now that there are two dead bodies on the stage.
Vito and Ed get up off the floor and we run through the scene again.
Vito is the hit man - in that he is playing my hit man in the screenplay, but also because he is a hit man in real life. How many times has he used a human shield?
Johnny M put Vito in the room next to mine. There in case I try to run.
On the tenth run through of the palm strike scene, Vito decided he doesn’t like being killed by a palm strike. Especially not when all his friends are gonna be in the crowd. Who the fuck wrote this, he asks. Johnny M points at me, sitting in the balcony. You do karate, bro? Vito asks. The skin beneath his right eye twitches. That shit ain’t gonna kill no one, he says.
Steve, the man who plays the young cop delivering the palm strike, says he doesn’t want to change the script. He actually practices karate and a palm strike can definitely kill someone, he says. Vito disagrees with a snort.
We run through the scene again. Steve’s mob wife, cross-legged in a chair on the side of the room, says she enjoys seeing Steve kill someone with a karate chop. It’s hot, she says.
Why don’t you use the Superman Punch? Johnny M asks.
What the hell is a Superman Punch? Steve asks.
You do karate and you don’t know what a freakin karate punch is? - Johnny
Never heard of it. - Steve
It’s when you run towards the victim and jump with your one knee up and your fist straight out and you fly into them with a punch. You should do that. – Johnny
At the end of rehearsal Johnny hands out all the prop guns to the actors. They’re loaded, he jokes.
Vito grabs his gun, still upset about the death by palm strike. I’m outta here, he says, gonna hit the gym before we open.
He makes sure we make eye contact as he walks below me, still sitting up in the balcony where it’s safe. His face twists into a middle finger with a snarl.
Show starts in an hour.
At 8:30 this morning two men in separate cars pulled up to my house. One Toyota and one blacked out Chrysler with a personalized license plate - JOHNNY M.
I knew they were coming. They called me late last night to make sure I’d be home.
The man in the Toyota got out and stepped into the Chrysler idling behind. Said nothing. Johnny M rolled his tinted window down revealing just his eyes. We’d never met in person. All I knew is that I had to listen to him. That he’s connected with the Italian mob. Whatever he says goes.
This began in January. The mob hired me to re-write a script for them. A murder mystery dinner. Turns out these mobsters are also aspiring actors. They want to put their lives on the page. So they found me on Craigslist. I put up an ad as a writer looking for work. Any work. College essays to screenplays. Whatever. I needed the money, so I didn’t ask many questions.
Get in, Johnny M says. His eyes point to the Toyota.
Follow the directions in the GPS, he says.
Johnny and his passenger tail me up 9W, over Storm King Mountain. We were heading to Mohonk, on top of the big cold mountain in New Paltz.
I can see them reading my script in the car behind me. Swerving over the mountain and down through Cornwall and onto I-87 North. Their reciting lines. I knew this because they were making guns with their hands, spitting and screaming into the windshield. Not letting me out of their sight. I wanted to break off at a random exit, shake them, steal their car, and find a safe place to hide. It’d be useless.
When we take the New Paltz exit, Johnny M flashes his headlights at me and points at the McDonald’s parking lot. Pull over, he yells.
Johnny M is a tall man in a long coat with slicked back grey hair. His passenger is shorter, dark haired, and sinister beneath the yellow McDonald’s sign.
Get out. We’re getting breakfast burritos, Johnny M says.
The three of us sit at a booth by the window.
If people enjoy this dinner, we’re taking credit for your words, says Johnny M. But, you’ll be good with us, he says.
If this script fails. If people don’t laugh, then shit, you’re fucking doomed, he says.
Doomed, he says again, then takes the last bite of his breakfast burrito.
We snake up the narrow road to Mohonk. The Resort is a mountain sized mansion. A castle haunting up out of the ancient rock. There must be a thousand windows wrapped around the face of the building. Attendants park our cars and carry our bags.
The fireplaces are nine feet tall inside. Statues of local Native Americans fill the hallways that smell of smoke.
Andrew Carnegie and Theodore Roosevelt stayed here. Dan Akroyd, Gilda Radnor, Belushi, and Murray used to come here with the rest of the 1970’s SNL cast before each season premier.
And me - Impoverished writer - Mob hostage.
People’ve been scared to return to Mohonk since the Norovirus outbreak last month. 260 guests vomiting up shellfish. The Resort, with help from the mob and their mystery, hopes to excite people back now that they’ve eradicated the Norovirus.
They’ve put me in a room with access to the free buffet and a view of the Catskill Mountains. Told me to eat ‘til I barf. They’re still joking about the Norovirus.
The rest of the mob is pulling up to the valet below my window. Rehearsal’s going on. I can hear the mobsters reciting my lines in the parlor room.
They’re spitting and screaming throughout the hallway and onto the stage.
I can make out a few lines.
Oh, Jesus Christ, they’re yelling about ninjas. There’s ninjas? I forgot about the ninja jokes. It sounded good when I read it to myself in the mirror. Now the mob is questioning plot points.
Johnny M is going to throw me off the mountain. I’m going back to the buffet. I’m doomed…
"I submit that the real reason we criticized and disliked Lynch’s Laura’s muddy bothness is that it required of us an empathetic confrontation with the exact same muddy bothness in ourselves and our intimates that makes the real world of moral selves so tense and uncomfortable, a bothness we go to the movies to get a couple hours’ fucking relief from."
—David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again