Southern Oregon – Lush Forest – Afternoon
Paparazzo Chet kept his professional video camera pointed at a thicket of trees, a mix of vertical evergreens, broad-shouldered madrones, spindly aspens, some weeds that shall go unnamed. Suddenly, his camera captured a large body moving through the thicket. The large figure reached an open stretch and, for a brief moment, came into clear view. Gigantic, hairy, slouched, arms swinging wildly by its side: it was Bigfoot. No question about it. Chet continued to shoot. He zoomed and refocused just as the mythic creature stumbled, tried to regain its balance, stumbled again, reached out to a limb for support, which immediately snapped. The creature crashed to the ground, rolled several times and stopped only when it hit the trunk of a long-since dead Redwood tree. It was a pratfall worthy of a Saturday Night Live sketch.
“Shit,” said the monster.
“Shit,” said Chet.
Bigfoot crawled out of the forest, stood, and removed its head, which was not really its head at all but a mask to look like it. Fake Bigfoot limped to a staging area set up next to a nondescript white van: two director’s chairs, a small table, an ice cooler, bags of processed junk food, empty beer cans.
The former Bigfoot known as Lonnie, six feet two and eyes of blue, a boyish face, not yet 25, and most certainly not the brightest bulb in anyone’s camera bag, grabbed a beer from the cooler and sat on a director’s chair, the one with the name “Lonnie” scrawled in a black Sharpie pen on its back. He threw the headpiece from his costume to the ground and shook his head, water flying in all directions like a sprinkler. His hair, normally healthy and robust, was sweat-plastered to his scalp and lifeless, as if he had just emerged from a swimming pool. Lonnie let out a loud sigh and popped the can open, finishing its contents in one long swallow.
Nearby, Chet stepped out of the white Dodge Mini Ram van, circa 1980s, with FOTOMAGIK as its vanity plate. He walked over to the cooler, grabbed a beer, and sat next to Lonnie, in a director’s chair marked “Chet.” He opened his can and sipped, and knew enough to know not to say anything about the accident. They didn’t talk for several minutes, content to drink beer and enjoy taking in the fresh air and silence of the great outdoors, something in short supply back home in cray-cray L.A.
“Do you think it’s perve to date older women?” asked Lonnie, breaking the quiet.
“Perve? Hell, no. I do it all the time and I’m no pervert. You’ve met Loretta.”
“She’s not older.”
“Is so. Almost a year older than me.”
“Naw, man. That don’t count. I mean older old. Like, you know, as old as your mother.”
“You leave my mother out of this.”
“Nothing personal. Just using a for instance.”
“Why are you asking?” said Chet.
“My uncle Cyrus said all of us young bucks are chasing the wrong tail. Said we should be going after older women. They know how to please a man. Young ones don’t. He said older ones always go whole hog. Full throttle. Think it could be their last time,” said Lonnie.
“I guess no point in holding back. If it’s their last time and all.”
They both sip and contemplate doing the dirty deed. It had been so long for either of them, they were beyond horny and would gladly do it with anyone. Chet had heard funny jokes about men getting it on with sheep but now those jokes didn’t seem so funny.
“Would you do a real old woman?” asked Lonnie.
“Like how old? Give me a for instance.”
“All right. How about the First Lady?”
”You have to be more specific,” answered Chet. “I mean, Martha Washington? Come on. I don’t think so. But there have been a few others I wouldn’t mind playing hide the salami with. The most recent ones, know what I’m saying.”
“How about a grandmother?”
“Good question. You got to do the math on that one before deciding. Let’s say that grandma had kids when she was sixteen. Then her kids had kids when they were sixteen. That grandma’s still in her prime, so to speak. Why, I might even take a shot at that gal when she’s a great grandma. That would be something. She’d be about fifty or so, I’m thinking.”
“Guess you could say that. If she lives to a hundred.”
Lonnie nodded, took another sip, contemplated how a May-to-December romance might actually work.
“How about my grandmother?” Lonnie asked.
”Your grandma–Granny Finch? You must be joking. She doesn’t have any teeth and she’s always using that walker,” said Chet. “That’s a real turn off, man. And the perfume! Shit, she wears more perfume than a funeral parlor in July. You gotta draw the line somewhere, man. Grandmas, maybe. Grannies, no way.”
“Have to agree with you about Granny Finch. When I was a kid, she’d always kiss me on the mouth. She’d put her tongue in there, too.” They both shuddered at the thought and took another swig of beer.
“That’s it. I’m done,” said Lonnie.
Both men stared at the ground. They were not looking forward to the inevitable argument coming next.
Chet broke the uneasy silence. “All this talk about women reminded me how long I’ve gone without. Let’s get some more footage before going home,” he said.
“Nope. I said I’m done,” declared Lonnie. “I’m out of here. Time to pack up and go.”
“Just a few more shots. That’s all.”
“You’re not the one sweating like a stuck pig in that hot costume. Besides, no way I’m going back in those trees. Can’t see anything in there. Almost killed myself falling over that damn log.”
“Nobody wants to buy images of Bigfoot tripping and falling or sitting on his ass drinking beer. We need more footage. I can’t sell what we got.”
“I would if I had better images to work with.”
“You feel that strong about it, maybe you should do it.”
Lonnie hands the Bigfoot head mask to Chet, who promptly hands it back to Lonnie, who hands it back to Chet, who hands it back to Lonnie.
“It won’t fit me,” said Chet.
“All right, all right, all right. Give me the mask.”
Lonnie handed Chet the mask, popped another can of beer and took a long swig. He didn’t want to gloat over winning so he remained quiet, but Chet was not ready to concede. He held up the mask like a store clerk checking to see if the $20 bill he just received was bogus, pretending to look more than actually looking.
“You know even if I get away wearing the mask, the costume won’t fit. I’m going to look stupid wearing it. I’ll look like I’m wearing hand-me-downs.”
Lonnie looked away and noticed for the first time the raw, jaw-dropping beauty of the landscape they were filming in. No wonder Bigfoot lived here or someplace like here, he thought. If he wanted to live alone and not be seen or bothered by anybody, this is exactly the sort of place he’d pick. Quiet. Gorgeous. Fresh. Solitary. Spacious. Room to roam and stretch, no neighbors watching you take a bath or a dump. Nobody to report you for parking in a handicap zone. Lonnie was grateful that Chet took him here, as well as to so many other exotic locales, on their paparazzi trips to score marketable and questionable photos of the rich and famous and neurotically twisted.
He knew Chet was always taking advantage of him but he really didn’t mind. They were both driven by the same entrepreneurial spirit. For Chet, success came in the form of a camera but Lonnie had yet to find his true path. His mind never stopped racing with new ideas and inventions. Before they left L.A. he watched an HGTV special on Victorian renos and later that night, half-asleep, scribbled a note to remind himself of another invention: knitted booties for clawfoot tubs. He couldn’t wait to get started making and selling the booties.
Most importantly, he knew Chet better than most. Behind that gruff, make-a-buck attitude, Chet had a heart of gold. When California passed a law restricting paparazzi from taking photos of celebrities’ children, Chet was the only one of his colleagues who applauded the new law. He told his fellow freelancers at a public meeting that children should be off-limits, even though their parents might be fair game. He was booed and chased out of the meeting. Of course, this happened before Lonnie met Chet but the story about Chet standing up, alone, like that sheriff in High Noon against everyone else, was common knowledge in the paparazzi sub-culture.
“Like I said, we’re going to need more footage. We either get it now or come back later. If you want to return to B.F.E. Oregon next month instead of hang out at a beach full of skimpy bikinis, that’s on you. That’s your call,” said Chet.
Lonnie didn’t take the bait.
“I’m just a guy with a camera. You’re the real artist. You’re the talent,” said Chet.
Caught him, thought Chet. Now just reel him in.
“You really think I’m an artist?”
“Best non-star I know.”
“Give me the damn mask.”
When all other arguments failed, Chet knew as a last resort he could appeal to Lonnie’s artistic sensibilities. The two met four years earlier on the set of “Homies versus Zombies,” where Chet worked as the Second Assistant Camera Operator and Lonnie played one of the zombie extras. Lonnie played his role with such heart and conviction that he caught the eye of the Second AD, displaying an undeniable compassion behind his non-stop growls and groans. As a result of Lonnie’s sincere performance of an orthodontist now turned undead, he was allowed to remain “alive” until the final battle scene, during which he was decapitated by a machete-wielding short order cook named Pepe.
[you know, like, to be continued, man]