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Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Talking Head Tangapoo

By PJ McIlvaine

Writing scenes isn’t really all that difficult. Put one foot in front of the other and you’ll get from Point A to Point B…eventually. Creating a memorable scene is a whole other exotic animal. For your perusal and edification, let’s take a closer look at the Talking Head Tangapoo. Once almost considered extinct, the Talking Head Tangapoo has resurfaced in recent times thanks to the overwhelming proliferation of personal computers, screenwriting software, and well intentioned but misguided owners. These lost souls insist on feeding their Tangapoos a rich and flabby diet of lengthy, tedious back story which must be explained repeatedly, dull and dry exposition, flaccid action, on the nose dialogue, and just generally all around boring crapola with a capital BC.

When bred in this manner, the Talking Head Tangapoo, usually lean and mean, becomes a bloated beast prone to gout, ulcers, a slew of nasty digestive disorders, dandruff, cellulite, premature aging, psoriasis, migraines, bad breath and saggy breasts. It gets real ugly, real fast. Believe me, the last thing you want is a sick Tangapoo on your watch.

In the interest of the Endangered Species Act, let us study an example of a mistreated Talking Head Tangapoo.

Rebecca, dressed in a flowing gown size 14 which she got on sale at Marshalls, puts the finishing touches on her table to die for: china, silverware, candles, fresh flowers, chilled wine (1965 Moet & Chandon, a very good year). Rebecca is going all out, you see, because once she tells Warren her great news, it’s going to be the happiest night of her and Warren’s life, the man she married seven years ago a year after his first wife died of breast cancer and left him with an infant to raise. Everything has to be perfect like a Gordon Ramsay dinner service. Not like when her first husband died and she never got the chance to tell him goodbye. See, Dennis, her first husband, was an undercover cop who died in an undercover bust gone badly and they had to keep his casket close because the undertaker couldn’t do a thing with him. Warren’s a cop too, but he’s being groomed to be Commissioner one day, and he hates being stuck behind a desk like mayo on scrambled eggs, but we’ll go into that later. Cue original “Born to Be Wild” song.

Warren, a balding kind of guy, maybe David Morse or David Straithairn could play him, sits down and takes a load off his tired dogs. Warren hasn’t played basketball in years, and he’s got a Coors pot belly.

Rebecca (or Laura Linney, yeah, she’d be good too, or maybe Sharon Stone, nah, she’s washed up, let’s stay with Laura) sashays in with a plate of meat loaf and a bowl of mashed potatoes, which she sets pompously before Warren. The meat loaf is in the shape of a stork and she’s stuck pink and blue toothpicks like flags in the potatoes. Yum yum!

Gee, honey, you shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble, I would’ve been happy with burgers. Remember the time we were at that greasy Mexican restaurant and we came down with food poisoning? I can never look at a taco again, much less eat one of them babies.

Rebecca sits down and begins eating like the prim and proper lady that she is.

I remember, dear, how could I forget? We were on our honeymoon and we ended up staying at that flea infested motel. It was the worst vacation of my life, bar none. Even beats the trip when I was six years old in the Poconos and the head gasket blew and we had to sleep in the bear infested forest.

Warren chomps on his meat and potatoes.

Yeah, that does sound bad, but our honeymoon still takes the cake. Our honeymoon seven years was really, really bad. And I didn’t even get laid.

Speaking of getting laid, darling, I have some wonderful, exciting news for you, news we’ve been waiting to hear for years, oh I can’t wait to tell you, you’re going to be so excited, I’m ready to pee in my pants. After three miscarriages and countless attempts at fornication, some successful, some not, I can hardly believe it myself. Oh, the joy! I think I’m going to cry again, like I did when Dennis, my first husband died in that undercover bust gone badly and the undertaker couldn’t do a thing with him so we had to have a closed casket. I hope he didn’t suffer too much. We’ll never know, will we? I lay awake at night thinking about it. It’s all so very sad.

Warren opens his mouth, pulls a toothpick out.

You know you can tell me anything, sweetie-poo, light of my life, the woman who took my poor motherless infant under her wing. Did you make your monthly sales goal? Hey, can I buy that fishing pole I saw on TV? Man, if I wasn’t a cop, I’d like to be a bass fisherman. Speaking of fish, I still haven’t figured out why your father blew his brains out. But you know, that’s how life goes. When Olivia, my first wife, kicked the bucket I thought my life would never the same. And now, look at me, we’re married and so happy together that I want to break out in song. Isn’t life funny? You never know when you’re going to bite into a cherry and choke on a pit.

Rebecca flashes her gown open and reveals the bump of all baby bumps.

That’s all? You got fat? Hell, I knew that. That’s why I haven’t touched you in months.

Rebecca dumps the bowl of mashed potatoes on Warren’s head, the first wise thing she’s done since her father blew his brains out.

Okay, I’m exaggerating…but not by much. Unfortunately, our poor little furry creature is ready to drop from sheer exhaustion, not to mention the reader of this turgid heap of freshly laid Tangapoo.
Now let’s see a tight and taut Talking Head Tangapoo.
Rebecca, eyes swollen and bloodshot, sets out two plates of hot dogs and beans.

Warren walks in, sits down, eats with gusto.

Rebecca joins him, pecks forlornly.

Well? Did you talk to the Medical Examiner?

Warren sighs.

Is he going to change his report?


Rebecca angrily tosses her fork on her plate.

I don’t care what he says. I know my father didn’t---

Did you make an appointment with the doctor?

I don’t have to. I know what’s wrong with me. I’ve got a bun in the oven.
And it’s not yours.

Warren chokes on his hot dog.

Okay, after consultation with my Talking Head Tangapoo, she says that’s a little too lean and mean and she’s in mortal danger of dropping from anorexia, so let’s give it another try.


Rebecca, her eyes swollen and red, dressed in a ratty robe and slippers, carelessly slops macaroni and cheese on two plates.

Warren enters, neatly hangs his suit jacket over his chair, revealing his shoulder holster and the golden detective shield clipped on his belt. He warmly kisses Rebecca, but she barely acknowledges him.

Rebecca plops the plates on the table.

Where’s Lily?

She’s doing her homework. She was too hungry to wait.

Warren gives Rebecca a big smile as he takes his first bite.

Honey, this is delicious.

Rebecca shrugs.

It’s just macaroni and cheese.

I know, but it’s an art. Too much milk and it’s too soupy, not enough cheese---

Rebecca impatiently drums her fingers.

Did you talk to the Medical Examiner?

Warren clears his throat.

We had a brief discussion, yes.

Rebecca’s eyes fill.

It’s not right! Dad didn’t, he couldn’t---

Warren kneels by her side and enfolds her in his embrace.

Baby, you have to let this go. It’s tearing you apart. It’s tearing us all apart. You know what they say, when God closes one door, he opens another.

After a long moment, Rebecca reaches inside her sleeve, takes out a folded piece of paper, slips it to Warren.

What is this?

Our open door.

Ahhh, those cute cooing sounds in the background is my little Tangapoo pleasantly satiated, her tummy full but not too full, and now she’s ready for beddy. On that note, and on behalf of all her brothers and sisters, I beg you, follow the Talking Head Tangapoo rules. Less is definitely more. That is, unless you want to buy stock in Pampers.

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Christian M. Howell said...

Please, don't ever do that again. I may never recover.

PJ McIlvaine said...