Once Chet overheard the pitch — Boyz n the Hood meets Night of the Living Dead – while sitting at a bar counter in Lompoc he knew he wanted in. He used his limited connections, the cousin of his former brother-in-law who knew a guy who knew a guy, to get an assignment running the second camera on the second unit at the second location. Chet saw “Homies versus Zombies” as the Hollywood big break he’d been waiting for, a break that would give him a much-desired foothold inside the industry and kickstart a career that would ultimately result in several trips down the Red Carpet. Ever since he worked as Best Boy Grip on “Tits for Tots,” an inspired-by-story of how a group of strippers saved an orphanage from closing by dancing naked in public to both raise money and to expose corruption at City Hall, he was hooked on Hollywood.
Chet was stunned “Homies versus Zombies” did not become the huge hit he expected. Especially with those USC marketing guys behind it who came up with the story description for the poster: “To save Los Angeles from a Zombie apocalypse, inner city gang bangers must overlook their differences and learn to fight together.” He thought the concept was brilliant. It had conflict. It had irony. It had gang bangers. It had zombies. And, best of all, it had several gratuitous sex scenes. How could it fail?
Chet loved everything about the movie. Unfortunately, audiences did not. After the movie bombed and the nascent indie studio locked its doors for good in the middle of the night, taking their tax write-offs with them, Chet went through the studio dumpster and grabbed boxes of discarded merch, which he later sold out of his van. He recovered hats and shirts and mugs and bumper stickers and toilet paper with sayings like “Die Again, Dog” and “Who Ya Gonna Call? Gangbangers!” His best seller was a white t-shirt with the words “Not In My Hood” on the front in a dripping blood red font. Unfortunately, three weeks later someone broke into his van and took all of the merch he kept there, leaving behind empty beer bottles and a used condom.
So, he was back to working as a freelance paparazzo and photo journalist for tabloids. Which was why the two Homies-Zombies alumni were in B.F.E. Oregon filming a fake Sasquatch.
“All right. Let’s do it. But I am not going back in that forest. You can forget that. Instead, how about you photograph me walking through the meadow, so I don’t fall and kill myself?”
“You know that’s going to make my job harder. In the forest, you’re more hidden and it’s easier for me to capture images of Bigfoot without people knowing for sure it’s Bigfoot. I won’t have any natural cover to work with if you’re in the open.”
“Not my problem. Use special effects. Put Vaseline on the lens or something.”
Chet knew it wouldn’t do any good to argue further with Lonnie, once his partner’s mind was made up. Lonnie might not very bright but he made up for it in stubbornness. Besides, half a Bigfoot was better than none. Chet surveyed the meadow, looking for the best opportunity for cloudy, diffused optics. He spotted a stretch of about thirty yards that went from a thicket of trees through a beautiful green meadow and ending at a bubbling creek, framed by tall boulders.
“Start just outside the trees over yonder,” Chet pointed. “Then walk slowly in the grass toward those boulders by the creek.”
Dressed again in full Bigfoot regalia, Lonnie nodded and positioned himself at the edge of the forest, then gave the thumbs-up signal. With the video camera hoisted on his shoulder, Chet pointed at Lonnie and said “Action.”
Lonnie lurched forward. Mid-way through the meadow, he stopped and turned to look in Chet’s direction, as if the famed creature of the Northwest had heard a noise or saw a movement and was ready to bolt. Lonnie took two more steps, stopped, and starred at the nearby ground. He saw the grassy field move, as if giving way, and noticed something black and white near his feet. Lonnie removed his mask and unleashed a blood curdling scream: “Skunk!!!”
Unimpressed to have finally met Bigfoot, the skunk turned his backside toward Lonnie and unleashed a blast of a nasty-smelling liquid from its anus.
When they pulled into a gas station near Oregon’s southern border, the attendant who came out to pump their gas took one whiff and told them to get the hell out of there. Not wishing to linger and argue about the illegality of odor discrimination, Chet got back on I-5 south. The now ruined Bigfoot costume was tied to the van’s roof, while Lonnie kept as much of his body out the passenger’s side window as possible without falling out, hoping to air out his body like a wind sock.
LOS ANGELES, CA – Residential Neighborhood – Chet’s House – Late Night
By the time the two friends arrived home to Chet’s North Hollywood bungalow, a home he inherited from his mother, it was late and dark. Lonnie lost a game of rock-paper-scissors to Chet and spent the night in the van parked in the driveway.
In the morning, Chet rapped on the van window and handed Lonnie a cup of coffee.
“Jesus, Lonnie. You still stink.”
“Tell me about it. I had to sleep with myself and couldn’t get away from the smell.”
“I’m going to have to fumigate my van.”
“Sorry, not sorry. Not my fault.”
“Is so. You’re the one that didn’t want to walk in the trees. Should have stuck to the plan.”
“Hmm,” said Lonnie.
“Go inside and get cleaned up. Try not to touch anything.”
“How can I clean up without touching?”
“Figure out a way. I’m going to the store to pick up a paper and some cleaning shit to get the smell out of my car.”
“Pick up some Entenmanns’ donuts,” asked Lonnie.
Chet nodded, turned, and walked down the street. Lonnie watched as Chet’s image became smaller and smaller. For a second, he wondered what it would be like if Chet disappeared in a puff of smoke, like that tabloid story about the guy who died from spontaneous combustion, an unfortunate condition that apparently ran in the guy’s family. Lonnie shook his head to clear away such thoughts and told himself to focus. He took out his mobile phone and typed in “Home remedies to get rid of skunk smell.” His search returned 168,000 results, which helped to make him feel better. Obviously, a lot of people get skunked. I’m not so stupid, after all, he told himself.
With a towel wrapped around his waist, Lonnie turned on the water in the tub and watched it fill. He tested the water from the faucet and adjusted it to his liking. When the tub reached the half-way point, Lonnie poured in tomato juice from three 32-ounce cans. He added shampoo to the running water, thinking the flowery shampoo smell would counteract the overriding sense of tomato. He sniffed a few times and then shrugged. He lowered himself in the mixture and released a loud sigh of satisfaction.
This wasn’t Lonnie’s first encounter with a skunk. Two years ago, Chet had an idea for a video clip – he always had ideas for video clips– and that time his idea involved a skunk. He wanted to get a skunk that had been “disarmed,” meaning its spray capability had been surgically removed, and video record people’s reactions to seeing a skunk walking toward them on the sidewalk. Then he topped his sidewalk idea with an even better one. Why not put a leash on the skunk and walk it inside of a dog park? Chaos would ensue. He chuckled at the thought, and sure enough, he was right. As Lonnie and his “pet” skunk entered the dog park, screams greeted them and, as predicted, chaos followed. Dog owners panicked, grabbed their own dogs, tried to re-leash them or carried them in their arms, and scurried to the parking lot. Chet captured in all in a short video titled “Skunk Crashes Dog Park” that was posted on YouTube, which became the third most popular video posted online that day. Lonnie watched the dog owners rush around trying to avoid the skunk and laughed so hard he sharted.
Two years later, in the primitive woods of Oregon, Karma had delivered Lonnie a message. Since Lonnie’s attack by a fully armed skunk, he now knew first-hand the awful lingering smell that came with the experience; he felt guilty about the dog park prank and understood the fear behind the panic. He asked the God of Dog Parks for forgiveness.
Chet was in the quick check-out lane, with a cart full of cleaning supplies. Since he didn’t know how to rid the van of the skunk smell, he grabbed whatever bottles of whatever stuff seemed to make sense. The one exception from the cleaning supplies was a box of a dozen chocolate-covered donuts from Entenmanns. That’s when the tabloid newspaper near the checkout counter caught his attention and he let out a yelp of joy. Chet grabbed the paper and ran out of the store, without thinking, without paying, without his other grocery items.
By the time Chet entered the bathroom, he was out of breath. He bent over, put his hands on his knees, and tried to recover.
“You get the donuts,” asked Lonnie?
“Why’s the water red? I know you didn’t slash your wrists. I couldn’t be so lucky,” said Chet, between gasps.
“I Googled ways to get rid of skunk smell and tomato juice came up. We only had three cans, so I added water. What do you think? How do I smell?”
Chet took a deep breath and sniffed.
“You smell like a friggin’ Bloody Mary.”
Chet sniffed again.
“No, wait. Now you smell like Pepé Le Pew.”
Chet sniffed a third time. “You smell like a Bloody Mary again. Who cares what you smell like? Hurry up and get your ass out of there, we got some serious business to discuss.”
“Yeah, like what?”
Chet showed Lonnie the tabloid story that made him race home from the store: Ivan Blotter, publisher of the National Hearsay (“More Juicy Gossip, Less Boring News”) had publicly offered a half-a-million dollars for photographic proof of extraterrestrials during UFO Week in Roswell, New Mexico. The headline read “Publisher Offers $500,000 Reward for Photo Proof of Aliens,” and it appeared above a photo of someone unconvincingly dressed in a cartoonish alien outfit. Lonnie emerged from the tub, grabbed the paper, looked at the photo, and said one word: “Amateurs.”
Chet stared at the naked Lonnie, dripping tomato juice and soapy bath water, like some DC comic book creature climbing out of a pinkish swamp, shook his head in disgust, and said, “I’ll never order a Bloody Mary again.”