Hero Chukowski

Tired of superhero movies? So is jaded, politically incorrect movie critic Walter Chukowski. When he’s summoned by billionaire movie producer Eleanor Rousseau, the seventy year old is presented with an opportunity that could change the face of Hollywood, and keep him out of the retirement home for at least another few years.

  1. The Male Gaze

It was a day so hot I could’ve undressed right there in the sweltering café and sat with my impressive belly out and a coffee resting on it, but nobody would want to see that unless they had some twisted fetish for saggy, seventy-year-old movie critics who were about as sexy as a turd in a bowl of hot milk.

The sun invaded the premises and made the patrons flinch and the floor look as if it were on fire. The waitress, Francesca, came over and refilled my cup. She was a young girl, a beautiful creature crafted by God on a good day: big green eyes, a soft, round chin, strawberry lips and a glorious head of blonde hair. She was chewing gum, and she raised her forearm across her eyes to block the sunlight as she looked down at my notepad.

“What you writin’?” she asked me, followed by a pop. I’d dealt with Francesca before; she was a beauty, but she wasn’t very bright. Although she was a helluva lot smarter than the moronic barista who couldn’t remember my morning order despite the fact I’d been getting the same thing for the past four months.

“I’m writing a new movie review, my dear Francesca.”

“What movie, Mr. Chukowski?”

“It’s a European film that’ll likely be seen by no more than five Americans. It’s a thought-provoking movie that has something interesting to say about societal degradation. So, you know, it won’t do well over here.”

Francesca popped her gum and snickered.

“You’re funny, Mr. Chukowski,” she said.

“And I’ve never written a joke in my life, darling,” I smiled.

“You should,” she said.

“I should?”

“Yeah, Mr. Chukowski. Write some jokes. That’s all you do: write, right? Write a joke.”

“You want a joke? Look up the latest batch of morons that are being passed off as comedians. There’s your joke.”

My comment went over her head and out the door. She smiled, giggled and moved her beautiful ass on to the next table.

I sat forward and took a sip of coffee. A young couple entered the café; summer personified: the young guy wore shorts and a khaki shirt, and the young broad wore a high-neck sweater and blue denim shorts. They joked with each other as they placed an order with the dipshit barista.

I momentarily recalled a sensual scene from my youth, before shaking it off like dandruff from my blazer; at my age those kind of memories only serve to mock me.

Behind the lovebirds arrived two young gentlemen, maybe no older than twenty five. They were well dressed, both wearing slick, expensive suits. The one with a Bronson mustache and the hard chin had a tattoo on his neck which debased the overall look. The other one with the boyish face had slicked back black hair and boney features.

To my surprise they both slid into the seat opposite mine.

Neither gestured or said anything for about a minute. They just stared at me like I should be intimidated: Mr. Hard Chin with a serious expression, not blinking once, and Mr. Boney Features wearing a stupid smile. These kids wore suits, but they certainly had no class.

“What can I do for you, gentlemen?” I asked eventually. I had considered a more aggressive overture, but I was sweating, and 900 words into my review, so I was in no mood for a confrontation.

“You’re Chukowski,” Mr. Hard Chin said.

“Who wants to know?”

Hard Chin looked at Boney Features whose mouth shaped itself into a stupid smile again.

“You lovebirds married? They got the vote, you know.”

Boney’s smile faded; no easier way to rile a moron by making him feel sexually insecure.

“You’re Chukowski?” repeated Chinny.

“What was it that addled your wits, son?”

The two of them looked at each other again. Francesca passed by our table and I enjoyed the view.

“Our boss wants to speak to you,” said Chinny, who by now was clearly established as the talker of the two.

To me, or with me? There’s a significant difference, you know.”

They stared again, and I turned the page in my notebook and began to scribble with my pencil (I always write with a pencil).

I looked up as I sketched, and the two of them watched me silently.

“Eleanor Rousseau,” said Chinny as I finished my sketch and presented it to them.

They both leaned forward at the image of Chinny sodomising Boney.

Chinny pulled the notebook from my hand, tore out the page and scrunched it into a ball.

“Eleanor Rousseau,” I said. I looked at Tweedledum and Tweedledee. “There’s only one Eleanor Rousseau on this planet and that’s the billion-dollar movie producer Eleanor Rousseau.”

Boney picked up the ball of paper and tossed it at my forehead, causing Chinny to bark a laugh.

“Rousseau is our boss, Chukowski,” said Chinny.

Francesca approached the table. Her salmon blouse had numerous coffee stains, but her generous bust distracted the eye away from them.

“Everythin’ okay here, Mr. Chukowski?”

Chinny and Boney both looked at her silently, and I couldn’t blame them.

“Everything’s fine, my dear. I’ll have a key lime pie, por favor.”

“Pour what?” replied Francesca. “Pour more coffee?”

I covered my mug with my hand.

“Just the pie, please, sweetie.”

“Sure, Mr. Chukowski. And for your friends here?”

Chinny shook his head ‘no’.

“Actually,” said Boney, rather effeminately. “Do you have any of those fluffy marshmell-”

Chinny banged his fist on the table, cutting Boney off.

“We’re here for business,” he said firmly.

Boney leaned in, whispered, “But I haven’t eaten since breakfast.”

“We’re good,” said Chinny. “Chukowski . . .”

I nodded my head at Francesca and admired her gait as she walked away.

“Rousseau,” I said.

“Our boss.”

“Yes.”

“She wants to talk with you.”

I looked over at the young couple who were sat by the window; it was like a glimpse back in time to the fifties; her sweet expression, her neat fringe, his movie-star smile, all whites and yellows. I was greeted by another flashback from my youth; a Sunday morning cuddle. I quickly reemerged from the past and looked at the two kids opposite me.

“Now why would Eleanor Rousseau want to talk with me? I haven’t reviewed an American movie in fifteen years. I’m not interested in Hollywood and Hollywood has no interest in me. No one knows me anymore.”

“Our boss does,” said Chinny.

I picked up my coffee and enjoyed a sip.

“I’m reviewing a movie by Russian filmmaker Shostakovich,” I said, following a satisfied sigh.

Chinny and Boney both looked at me.

“I know,” I said as I leaned forward. “Like the composer. Neat, huh?”

They looked at each other, as if tasked with solving a particularly difficult math equation.

“The Russians,” I said, “They’re having their moment in cinema once again. Their resurgence; their renaissance. Lazarus is raised from the dead!” I said as I raised a triumphant fist.

The few people in the café turned their heads towards me, before returning to their tables.

“Shostakovich – a prodigy, an enfant terrible! – what a pleasure to review his work, in which you’ll find an ode to tradition. Who would think – conservatism the new counter-culture! A conservative the provocateur! Ah, the great Russian soul.”

Boney smiled to spite himself as Chinny grew impatient. He pulled from his pocket a card and placed it on the table, sliding it towards me.

“Ms. Rousseau demands your old ass take a trip to her studio on Friday at 8pm, Chumpkowski,” he said.

“Chumpkowski,” I said. “Very good. You’re not thick as shit after all. That takes a little creativity.”

I picked up the card and looked at it. Below the address were the words: Film provoke. Film prevail!

I held the card in the air.

“What is this?”

Chinny rose from his chair and Boney followed his master’s lead.

“You’ve got the card,” said Chinny, as Boney raised his cell phone and snapped a picture of me holding the card. “And we have proof. So be there, or else.”

I placed the card in the inside pocket of my white blazer as Chinny and Boney exited the café and disappeared into the misty glare of the sun.

Francesca, the sweetheart, approached the table again with a piece of key lime pie on a plate, which she placed in front of me.

“Who were they?” she asked. “The one with the neck tattoo was kinda cute.”

“Oh Francesca,” I said.

“Well?” she said, with a pop of her gum.

“They were an unforeseen invitation to an unexpected ride on this long ol’ journey called life, Francesca, my dear.”

A snicker followed. “Mr. Chukowski! You’re too funny.”

I picked up my fork and worked a piece of key lime onto it and into my mouth, before returning to my review of Shostakovich’s latest work.

It was going to be an interesting week.

Header image by Javier García.

The Closest We’ve Been

 

We were, the two of us, parked on a rock each, looking

out at Galway Bay on a mild August night.

Drunk and merry, drunk and pensive,

but in those few hours happy. Strolled along,

or staggered, after winning a score on the slots

(or was it fifty?) and our girlfriends were left behind

to talk about us.

 

It was his way when he’d had a few –

“forget about them,” he’d say, and he’d wrap his arm

around my shoulder and we were brothers.

We sat there looking out at the lights passing

slowly, slowly along the horizon. The two of

us reminiscing like we were old men.

School was a recent memory.

 

Before we knew it the sea had surrounded us,

and we were islands, stranded together

but content and conversational, still.

We’d accepted our fate — now we were separate

from their land, kings of our own.

No laws here, just sedentary positions

and good feeling.

 

No religion or creed, no drugs, no speed.

Here there were no politics, and no need

for foreign embassies. No protests,

no austerity. We governed with grace, our land

in awe of the sea. “I wonder where they are,”

I said. “Who cares?” was his response.

And truly, who did?

 

But it wasn’t long before they beckoned us home,

like mothers spoiling the fun when children

are given the key to the day.

And so we tried to tackle our Everest, the blood

still thinned, and soon to be adorning our shins:

the jagged rocks didn’t take kindly to the abandoning

of our land.

 

Now I look down and see these memories on my skin,

and wonder where the shoes I borrowed from my

brother washed up. These scars are stories —

We shared beds and bathtubs, parents and plates,

days and nights. And so it was Fate who determined

that it wasn’t only shoes that drifted

out to sea.