You don’t know the world you live in. You think you do, but you have noooo idea.
Beyond the depth of your living room and the bright yellows and muted blues of the quilt and pillows on the couch where you lay down to watch TV, between the pilled and kneaded fabric on the arms of your easy chair, a flat, dimensionless region squeezes itself in. In this 2-D world, you’ll neither smell the stale coffee on your husband’s breath from his goodnight kiss nor taste the garlic from the leftover lasagna. You’ll hear the floor creek as you cross it, but you won’t feel its vibration. Space is compressed into flatness that is no space. No rumblings. No tastes or textures. Even the colors are gone. Just black-and-white and sound, like an old show on television.
I was watching an episode of Perry Mason. That’s when I first saw him, the man I call the Voyeur. He had white-steel eyes, frosted blue, with a wolf’s stare. That madman gaze, you know?
He played a police detective from San Francisco, I remember. And he was a terrible actor. But the look. An actor’s look counts more than his skill. The camera notices things the human eye misses. Some people possess the power to project an energy, a persona onscreen that others just don’t have. The power of the photograph or the moving picture, it’s not about good looks. It’s not about technique. It’s something you either have or you don’t. The Voyeur had that malevolent magic. It bled from his wide, pulsating temples and his snowy hair, from the bridge of his nose to the sly lips that curved down between deep frown lines. Mostly, he beamed it from his eyes.
Hamilton Burger, the District Attorney who always went up against Perry Mason, examined the Voyeur. The Voyeur answered the inflected question, the dramatic query which cued the music, and he looked right into the camera, a POV shot. He looked right at me, but then, he looked at everyone who ever watched that episode of Perry Mason, didn’t he? Still, it didn’t feel that way. It felt like he reserved that look just for me.
Of course, I didn’t say a word about this to anyone. I didn’t mention a word to my husband or he would’ve thought I was crazy. I already watched TV 14, 15 hours a day, while Sam went to work driving his truck and delivering whatever the warehouse hired him to deliver that day, abandoning me to reruns. Reruns of everything and anything that danced and slunk in black-and-white in a black and white world of us versus them, of white people in a white world where black sometimes intruded as aberration.
Of course, I didn’t know all that back then. But now that I have all of eternity to reflect back on my human life, I see that the box controlled me. Little, 16-inch celluloid people on Andy Griffith or The Untouchables or the black white episodes of Gilligan’s Island or I Dream of Jeannie or Bewitched. These little people whose lives I knew better than my own husband’s. People whom I thought I knew, whom I thought knew me. Black-and-white people in a world scrubbed clean for the soap and toothpaste sponsors.
I’d never watch the shows once they went to color. There was something about that era, that early 1960’s region of episodic thought, that intrigued me. And what intrigued, I’ve learned, enslaved. Too bad I learned too late.
I loved the innocence of those old shows, in a sharp world of heavy lamps and heavy ashtrays, all made in America, all substantial and filled with cigarette smoke in lives where cigarettes didn’t kill. An era with its own family of shows and its own extended family of journeyman actors, acting as aunts and uncles and midwives and bad guys to my grade school youth.
You ever notice how, in each era of television, the same stable of character actors tend to repeat over and over? No big name faces, but faces you recognize when you’re watching an old Have Gun, Will Travel, where you look at the man who plays the bartender or the town’s deed recorder, and say to yourself, “Oh, yeah, that guy. I remember him.” And you’ve seen him in maybe dozens of shows and he’s too homely or old or not masculine enough to be the star of his own series. Or maybe his eyes are set too narrowly together, or his skin’s too dark to be the white knight on Maverick. So he gets to play the heavy. Or the Nervous Nellie, or she, the old crone.
You may, as I did, even feel sorry for her or him, for his slumped shoulders or rumpled face or weak chin, the looks that consigned her to a supporting role who surfed the waves for a brief span, maybe 10 or 15 years, roaming from show to show, you imagine, getting no respect from the show’s stars, from men like Wilbur Post in Mr. Ed or producers like Sheldon Leonard or Danny Thomas. No, these were third tier men and women, just above the line of the associate producer, men and women just picking up a check and heading on to their next skit, their next skin. Poor them, the No Names.
The Voyeur was one of those men. Usually, he played a heavy. I remember seeing him as a hit man in an old Steve McQueen movie, Bullit. He stood out from the rest of the No Name journeymen, for his evil. The bright blue evil in his eyes, the thinning scalp long ago gone winter. He stood out for his thick Eastern accent, uncommon in the television world of the early sixties, where a Midwestern, Johnny Carson dialect prevailed.
I watched him play the somewhat bumbling detective from San Francisco in Perry. He made me shudder for a second, as if I’d known him from long before, from a time before my life began.
Maybe he reminds you of someone from high school, Ruby, I thought, then dozed with a sticky, inside-out Three Musketeers wrapper in my hand. My cat jumped in my lap and roused me. I fixed my curlers and went off to bed, with Sam snoring in the twin bed next to mine, just like in Dick Van Dyke, where a sense of airy propriety floated between Rob and beautiful Laura. (If I could have been any woman, it would’ve been Mary Tyler Moore.) The old, round-faced alarm clock ticked between Sam’s bed and mine.
The old model Zenith stood warm with its tube still glowing in the living room, in front of my gold-cushioned easy chair and matching ottoman, with the rough, pilled upholstery that loved to lick up cat hair. My whole world leaned backwards from the present a few decades into the past.
I dreamt that night and the dream was a TV dream. My favorite kind, where the dream infiltrated the TV show and where I dreamed in black-and-white just like my cat did, and where my life dovetailed into the script and where I could actually touch and speak to one of the old B & W TV stars like Rod Serling from The Twilight Zone or Roger Moore from The Saint. Only the show was Perry Mason. My dream even prefaced with a slow, rippling dissolve cued by harp music . . .
. . . I was in the gallery at a preliminary hearing. Perry cross-examined a man I couldn’t make out. Then he tendered the witness to Hamilton Burger for redirect, and that’s when the witness looked my way, picking my face out of all the other spectators in the gallery to look at. The witness’s face sharpened from soft-focus. It was the Voyeur!
The Voyeur’s head grew suddenly large, balloon-like, sprouted fearsome canines from enlarging mandibles and a blown-up brow, just like the monster that Bullwinkle pulled out of his magician’s hat instead of the rabbit before those endless station breaks that Classic TV added nowadays. The Voyeur’s mouth became gigantic and his tongue rolled out of his mouth and gathered me up and squeezed me like it was a giant snake in an old Tarzan episode . . .
And I woke and screamed and woke Sam.
“What the hell just happened!?” he griped.
And I panted: “I don’t know. I don’t remember,” and at the time, I didn’t, until the next morning when I re-remembered over Count Chocula cereal.
“You just woke me up, for Chrissake,” and he rolled over and dug back into his down pillow and started snoring again in less time than a commercial break from the old days, the 90 second kind.
The next day, I turned on channel 9 and waited for Bewitched and My Favorite Martian (Bill Bixby, ohhh how dreamy), but if they ever were color, of course I’d put in an old DVD instead. Today, Samantha was still married to Dick York before he left the show and Dick Sargent replaced him. I sipped my microwaved Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and went into my trance and dozed.
Whistling woke me. Familiar, cheery, harmonized whistles. And the announcer almost sang The Andy Griffith Show. And I smiled and watched the introduction where Andy and barefoot Opie strolled on down to Myer’s Lake to fish. For the first time, I saw Andy’s cheeks ripe with whistling as he headed down to the shoreline. I’d never seen that before; Andy whistling, I mean. I thought it was all O.S. (that means Off Screen).
“Huh. I learn something new every day.”
After commercials, of course, the show came on for real.
“I remember this one.” A boy ran away from home. He befriended Opie.
“Jack Nicholson,” I recalled. “He’ll come on at the end, for a walk-on part.” My hobby was to spot the superstar in the making, before they became a star. Twilight Zone had a million of them, from Robert Redford to Jack Klugman. Perry Mason minted almost none. Why was that? I could never figure. Maybe some shows were jinxed, like they said Bewitched was, with all its stars dying young.
Jack Nicholson would come on at the end of this episode of Andy to play the wayward boy’s father, come to fetch his forgivable prodigal son from the Sheriff’s office. Jack certainly isn’t wasn’t a No Name, but back then he was. This was before Easy Rider, when he was still making bad horror flicks for Roger Corman. He was a surprisingly wooden actor. I couldn’t wait to see Jack’s cameo, in the very last scene of the show. My morning brightened.
Then another commercial came on.
“God, too many commercials,” I said, and waddled to the kitchen for a microwavable breakfast burrito as the show broke after only four minutes. Blah blah blah. Dubkin & Dubkin etc. law firm trolling for plaintiffs for mesothelioma claims. Monty Dubkin the ambulance chaser looked like Leslie Nielsen, you know, from Forbidden Planet, with thick white hair and a fine nose. But Monty didn’t have that deep, sexy voice. He sounded like a used car salesman: I’ve won tens of millions of dollars on behalf of my clients!
I was a plaintiff, too. A broken tailbone let me retire early. My neighbor, if you could call the old woman that, didn’t shovel her sidewalk properly. I fell and broke my backbone. But the structured settlement was killing me even more than my backside. I wanted my money now, like in those commercials where they’ll buy your settlement for a few cents on the dollar. Then, I could leave Sam. But a few pennies on the dollar? I was better off with Sam, even if he did pick his nose with a drink mixing straw and then use it to clean his ears.
“You’ll get an earache from what’s in your nose!” I’d scold him. But did he listen?
“If I use it on my ears first and then in my nose, I might get a cold from what’s in my ears,” he’d bicker.
The background music to Andy Griffith came back on just as my microwave chimed to let me know my breakfast burrito was done. I pulled it out, steaming, and rushed back to my golden chair. After one more commercial break and some well-placed edits to preserve the semblance of a story line, the climax awaited.
The boy and Andy and Opie stood on their marks, and the boy’s father — “Jack Nicholson!” I announced — opened the door and stepped down from the top of the set toward Andy’s desk.
But it was that detective from Perry Mason! It was the Voyeur instead.
“I could’ve sworn it was Jack Nicholson,” I mumbled. “I seen it 9 or 10 times.”
And the man uttered the same lines Jack would’ve uttered, had it been him.
“My memory’s going. Can that happen from Type II diabetes?”
He seemed so real, like he wasn’t even on TV. His forehead glimmered under the camera lights. Those penetrating eyes standing out more than Andy’s or Opie’s or the runaway boy’s.
“That never happens in these old shows,” I said, and set down my burrito. The Voyeur seemed to have depth, as if I could reach out and touch his shoulder. I saw the lint on his sport coat. I didn’t have HD. My TV was too old. And for a moment he glanced up at the camera, at me, to see if I was looking at him!
“Ahhhh! Ahhhh!” My heart beat fast and I sweated and I clutched my flowery gown at the collar.
The Voyeur, playing the boy’s father, said his few kind fatherly words to Andy and dismissed himself along with his son through the doors of the Justice of the Peace of Mayberry. He smiled, or smirked really, the whole time.
I dropped the plate of meatloaf and mash potatoes in front of Sam and sat down across from him, watched him stuff his cheek with the white mash, fill more and more until he couldn’t talk, and that’s when I started talking, when I knew he couldn’t answer.
“I was watching TV today and —”
“— Wha elth ith new?”
“You shouldn’t talk with food in your mouth.” I pointed my fork at him. “Have you ever had it where you watch those old TV shows and the same, like, ‘supporting’ actors keep popping up, you know, appearing in the same shows?”
He finished the potato injection and gathered the meatloaf onto his fork in one slice.
“Sam the butcher,” he said.
“Sam the what?”
“Sam, the butcher. On The Brady Bunch. Dontcha remember?” he said as he shoveled in the rare meat like a caveman and tried talking through the blood of it. “Alith’s boyfrien’. He wath a bad man aloth on Andy Grippith.”
“Ohhh, Sam the Butcher. When he died, Nickelodeon did a special on all the shows he was in. Allan Melvin was his real name. He did a lot of voiceover work in cartoons. Yeah, that’s the kinda guy I mean.”
He gulped some whole milk and a drop ran down from the corner of his mouth. “What about it?” he said.
“The funny thing is, I’ve been seeing this character actor like that on TV the last couple of days.” Sam went to work on the canned peaches in the desert bowl. “But, I could swear I remember somebody else from the same reruns before, ya know? Like it was somebody else who played the part before, but it’s this creepy, new guy now. Know what I mean?”
“Coincidence.” He burped.
“No, but somebody different played the same guy before. Jack Nicholson, I could’ve sworn.”
“Have you been takin’ your insulin, Ruby?”
“I would not have forgotten Jack Nicholson on Andy Griffith. It’s not my medication, Sam. Goddammit you always doubt everything I say and treat me like I’m a little kid. You — ”
“ — Alright, alright.”
I glared at him. He looked like Sam the Butcher, vaguely, with a wide jaw and an overbite like a bear on those old Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
“Can you get on the internet at work and see if Jack Nicholson ever starred in an episode of Andy Griffith? Not starred, but appeared in, you know? His filmography would show that. I think he was actually in two episodes, if I’m not mistaken.”
“Could, but I won’t,” he said as he finished slurping up the syrup from the bowl of peaches.
“Well, for Chrissake, why not?”
“I’m busy when I stop over at the warehouse. I should tell ’em that my wife’s been seein’ things on TV and wants for me to check it out? C’mon. I’m busy.”
“Well, thanks a lot,” I said, and picked up his dishes and slammed them in the sink.
“Tell you what: you get a job, and I’ll do what you ask.”
“I can’t work as I am disabled. Remember my case?”
“Then go to the internet at the library.”
I slammed down a fork and it rung the stainless steel like a bell. “I can’t use the internet and you know it. I don’t know how. So don’t insult me.”
“You know what? Clean this shit up yourself. I’m going to — –”
“ — watch TV. ‘Course you are. I’m goin’ fuckin’ bowlin’.”
“Whatever.” I shuffled off to the living room in my plastic-soled slippers that scraped the paisley pattern on the linoleum to well-worn white. I plopped into the golden chair and flicked on the TV. A few minutes later, the back door slammed. Sam had gone out with his best friend: his bowling ball.
“Gutter ball gutter ball gutter ball,” I wished. “Bowling.” I flipped to the onscreen guide. “Dobie Gillis at seven. Too old. Two and a Half Men. Too young. Alfred Hitchcock. Just right.”
I flipped to the Me-TV channel, a freebie. “Why do all the best shows end up on free TV? Why do I have cable when I don’t really need it?” I reached for some peanut M & M’s in the cereal bowl on the floor. The cat nibbled my hand. “Get!” And she ran off, and watched me watch TV from her perch on the sofa.
Alfred Hitchcock’s elephant parade oboe music cued and his silhouette stepped into his cartoon profile. So many famous actors got their start on Alfred Hitchcock: John Cassavetes, Ed Asner, Charles Bronson, even Sidney Pollack and Dick Van Dyke. Maybe I could spot one of them.
“Goood even-ing,” he drummed in that low RPM voice of his. He wore a comical construction helmet and held a dynamite plunger for this intro. I just loved all that old technology. They probably just use a boring little switch nowadays, something they can trigger from the Internet, Sam! “Tonight’s proh-gram involves some explosive dialogue and action, so we thought we would protect you from that by allowing Yours Truly to hold the dynamiting device.”
“How droll, Alfred,” I giggled as I munched the green M & M’s. Those, as Frazier, my only color show hero, has said in one episode, are the best ones.
After an all-too-frequent commercial break, the show came back. “Oh. I remember him,” I said, pointing at the actor who opened tonight’s episode in his posh office. “His name’s. . . his name is . . . ” and I snapped my fingers and pointed at my cat. “What’s his name, Gilligirl? He’s in a lot of these? His name’s what’s-his-name.” He was a prominent No Name of his generation.
A proper Brit who appeared as a stock character in many of the Hitchcock episodes, he could also play a good American, usually a businessman, most often successful, or at least seemingly so. His fingers often brushed his handlebar mustache, and they usually made him up with gray hair and sometimes muttonchops, usually overdone. He was tall and slim and dapper, the essence of a gentleman. “His name is John Williams! I can’t believe I remembered that, kitty! Damn, am I good!” And my left hand hi-fived my right one. “He played the butler in Family Affair for one season.”
I settled into the storyline, about an unscrupulous business executive, played by none other than John Williams, who murders his partner after the partner discovers his embezzlement. And what I like about these shows? In the 60’s and before, they had something called the Hayes Office, the government did, where they forced the networks to make the bad guys get punished in the end. So, I knew that even if John Williams got away with it, in his wry and ironic way, Alfred Hitchcock would give this guy a surprise spanking in the end.
“Just like in those old O’William stories,” I said with a mouthful of M & M’s. “O’William. Is that right? O’-something or somebody. Like a candy bar. Ohhh! Oh Henry!” Another hi-five.
The show broke for a commercial and I scoodled to the bathroom. Scoodled. That was my word for hurrying to the bathroom or the kitchen during commercials. But the bathroom was just a stone’s throw. I mean, since I had that porta-potty in the living room, next to my golden chair. That’s why Sam never set foot in here even though I cleaned it out once a day.
“Why do you have that shit catcher in there?” he’d say. Criticizing. Always criticizing.
“’Cuz I’m disabled.”
“You ain’t handicapped,” he’d bark back.
Yeah, well you’re Sam the Butcher. He sounded like a talking cow that was always complaining.
I peed and watched Alfred Hitchcock. We saw John Williams’ evil from the beginning. That’s how Alfred Hitchcock usually played out. Not like in Perry, where you had to guess who the killer was from a short, predetermined list of suspects who all attended the preliminary hearing. In Alfred, the surprise came in how the evildoer gets punished. I didn’t remember this episode from before. Part of the beauty of old TV is that it’s like the Library of Congress. There was so much old TV that you could watch show after show and, unless they were like The Fugitive where they didn’t make a lot of them in black-and-white, or unless you’d seen them so often, like Andy or I Dream of Jeannie or I Love Lucy, you’d forget the storyline so you could watch them again and again. It was like eating Snickers ice cream bars all day long and not getting fat. I wish it worked for my stomach as good as it did for my mind.
Back to Alfred. It was moral of the story time. Time for the evil executive to get his due, sitting behind his giant signing desk and savoring the stock certificates he stole from his own company, twirling his mustache like Snidely Whiplash in Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties. I rubbed my fingers together, and cracked my knuckles in anticipation. Nothing like some sweet, juicy, B & W justice.
In the final scene, a man opened the big oaky door to the office and strutted into the room. My fingers went to my cheeks and ran cold.
His hands held a stiletto knife like the kind once used to do in an old dowager in a Perry episode. The exact same knife!
“No! I’ll give the money back,” John Williams cried.
The Voyeur strode to the desk, pulled John Williams up by his collar, and Williams blubbered and screamed his “No, I’ll give it back! Please! I promise! I swear!” over and over, but the Voyeur backhanded the blade across the executive’s throat.
“Oh, God, no,” I cried along with poor John Williams, whose blood spattered all across the room, all across the scene, even splattering the camera lens. “This isn’t supposed to happen on these kindsa shows!” I screamed as the neck of the victim opened and smiled an angled smile like a Pac Man monster. I hated gore. That’s why I watched the early 60’s, for God’s sake. I covered my eyes.
“This can’t be! This can’t be!” I peeked between my fingers and saw the victim’s head peel back and fall off the back of his shoulders and just hang there like a branch that wouldn’t sever all the way. Blood streaked down the camera lens.
The Voyeur did the killing with a grimace, like a man making love to a woman he hated.
I fumbled for the clicker and clicked the TV dead. I cried. I panted. I cried some more. I threw up the M & M’s all over the cat, who meowed in protest.
“I’m sorry, Gilligirl,” I gurgled.
I stumbled to the bathroom and washed my mouth clean with Listerine. I never wanted to watch TV again.
Laverne & Shirley, I thought.
That’s the funny thing about an addiction: no matter how bad the stove burns you, you always seem to convince yourself that it’s okay to lay your hand on it again.
They’re on Classic TV right now. They’re color. They’ll be safe.
I tossed and turned and listened to Sam’s snores mix with the rhythm of the alarm clock, and then the tocks of the alarm clock would throw his snores out again like a locomotive wheel spitting sparks into the night.
No TV, Ruby. It’s 2 a.m. and you have to go to the cash settlement people to sign those papers tomorrow so you can get all your settlement all at once from the people who make the commercials where the people say ‘It’s my money and I want it now!’ my inner voice said. It echoed like it did in all the old shows when your own voice talks to you.
“The Voyeur was only on shows from the early 60’s, in the black-and-white era,” I whispered back to my inner voice so Sam wouldn’t hear. “That character actor was dead by the time they made Laverne & Shirley. Besides, they’d never have a creep like that lisping out jokes along with Lenny and Squiggy.”
Do it, Ruby. Or should I call you ‘Tuby?’
“Don’t make fun of me or my weight.”
Goodbye, Ruby Tuby.
Who could put a frame on you, my head sang to me like Ruby Tuesday.
When it started singing insults, it could keep me up all night. It was the only thing worse than Sam’s snoring. And the only thing that would put me back to sleep were the reruns, all black and white and easy on the eyes.
“Shit,” I cursed my weakness as I got up, shoveled on my slippers, and shuffled to my golden chair. I stopped in the kitchen on the way in and grabbed some Lindt milk chocolate with hazelnuts. After all, I hadn’t touched a thing since I’d thrown up my M & M greenies.
I fell into my golden chair and the cat jumped into my lap. I unwrapped the Lindt bar. I loved the feel of cracking open the cardboard, pulling back the foil. Only Toblerone and Lindt boxed their chocolate bars in cardboard. I brushed the chocolate shavings from my flannel muumuu.
I grabbed the clicker and read its Braille with my index finger. I froze just as I was about to power on.
You don’t have to, Ruby. You really don’t.
“Yeah? Where were you when my other voice was insulting me with old Beatles songs?” But my tailbone ached and my hemorrhoids burned and Sam snored in the bedroom. Who deserved a life like this?
“Screw it.” I clicked it on. A man moved under black-and-white shadows shaped like spider’s webs. Shadows from the fine limbs of trees painting moonshadow on the ground.
The screen flashed to a commercial. “Did you take Accutane? If you were prescribed Accutane for acne and have any of the following symptoms, you may be entitled to compensation. ‘New or worsening heartburn,’ ‘Rectal bleeding,’” I read from the scroll of symptoms.
The commercial repeated the 800 number even more times than those Medicare Part B commercials did.
“Wait a second. Did I ever take Accutane?”
“The law office of Dubkin & Dubkin can help!”
“Damn right,” I said.
I surfed over to Lavern and Shirley, but BORRRING. Lenny and Squiggy tried to double-date them AGAIN.
I just wanted to go to sleep. I needed B & W for that.
I surfed to the onscreen channel guide. The dark, shadowy show I’d been watching was The Outer Limits.
“One of your favorites, Ruby,” I sang.
Sam hadn’t believed me when he came home from bowling and I told him what happened on Alfred Hitchcock. He thought I’d gotten my channels mixed up and ordered a pay-per-view slasher movie by mistake.
“It was Alfred Hitchcock, you moron!” I’d screamed from the bed and flung a box of Kleenex at him.
But maybe he was right. Maybe I’d hit the clicker by mistake and ordered up a David Lynch movie. But the Voyeur? How could it’ve been him again!?
I had to face my fears. I flipped back to The Outer Limits, which had just come back from the commercial. I could tell because the incidental music, composed by one of the show’s producers, Dominic Frontiere, cued back. The Outer Limits had eerie music you won’t forget. And the cinematography? Conrad Hall. Award-winning, movie quality stuff. Like old noir.
The same shot of the trees’ limbs casting their nebulous lattice on the ground. Then a cut to the interior of a dilapidated Victorian, to a den with a large desk, antiquities from India, and a raging fire in a high fireplace filigreed with Hollywood gargoyles.
A young man, black-haired and sexy with dark eyes, an evil, corruptible sort, the kind you might see as a hood in Peter Gunn. The man sat in a high-backed chair the same shape as my golden chair. I gripped the arm rails. He gripped the arm rails.
The heavy black phone rang onscreen, and the young man answered the call.
“Hello, Uncle,” he said in that catty way that a young man subject only to the influence of his own greed and bad directing might say.
“Overacting,” I said. But I loved it, loved the caricatures more than I loved real people.
“Ten o’clock?” the man onscreen said in an affected accent that sounded British and was probably meant to seem upper crust, New England maybe, back in its day. “I’ll be here, Uncle.”
And the man hung up and smiled one of those sardonic smiles.
A rap on the door. Cue wind sound effect. A cut to the trees casting moonlight between their gnarly fingers. The rising wind made the fingers curl and tremble into suggestive hands.
EXT. MANSION – FRONT DOOR – NIGHT
A SILVERY HAIRED FIGURE in a trench coat waits beside a lion-headed door knocker, the tails of the man’s coat and the wisps of his thin hair blown about by the wind of a coming storm. THOMAS, the dark-haired man in the previous scene, opens the door.
CLOSE-UP OF SILVERY-HAIRED MAN
Blazing, glacial blue eyes frosted like a wolf’s, with an intense glare.
“The Voyeur!” I cried, then put my hand to my mouth instinctively.
I reached for the clicker and punched in LAST, for last channel. The Screen blipped over to Laverne & Shirley but immediately
EXT. MANSION – FRONT DOOR – NIGHT
CLOSE UP of the Voyeur, smiling.
The Voyeur didn’t look off camera at his victim, poor young Thomas. He looked ON CAMERA, at poor old me.
“I see you, too,” he said to me.
I pressed the OFF button, but the TV stayed on. The Voyeur just smirked at me. This was The Outer Limits. There was nothing wrong with my television set. I wasn’t controlling the transmission. I’d lost control over it for the next hour.
I pushed myself up by the arm rails of my chair, and found myself–
INT. MANSION – OFFICE
Behind the desk, I sit in a high-backed chair and stare into a raging fire in the largest fireplace I’ve ever seen. All is black-and-white.
O.S., the shouts of a MAN and the scuffle of bodies, and then a piercing, male SCREAM.
The oaken door creaks open, and the Voyeur emerges, bearing a bloodied stiletto.
I freeze to my chair. I scan the desk. A dish of green M & M’s sits in a cut Waterford crystal bowl. I reach for the bowl and fling it at the Voyeur, but miss.
The only other object on the desk is my clicker. I press OFF OFF OFF and LAST LAST LAST. I try changing channels over and over. Yet the Voyeur approaches, not with a smile or a laugh or a grimace, but with a mannequin stare.
Sam! Sam! Help!
The Voyeur raises the blade. I put my hands up in a defensive stance. I SCREAM and SCREAM and SCREAM.
INT. VACUUM TUBE – TELEVISION SET
RUBY, late 40’s but looks 50’s, puffy-faced and threadbare, sits in a witness box in a large, oak-paneled courtroom circa late 50’s or early 60’s. PERRY MASON, black suit, rises from counsel’s table, seated next to our innocent, young, female DEFENDANT and his assistant, DELLA STREET.
MONTY DUBKIN, silver haired, 50’s, and his brother, HENRY, 40’s, sit in anachronistic three-piece suits at the prosecutor’s table normally reserved for the District
Attorney, Hamilton Burger and Lieutenant Tragg.
Perry approaches the witness box. He readies to begin his cross-exam.
PAN OUT OVER THE GALLERY
Beyond the three walls of the set, to my left, where the jury box should be, heavy, old-fashioned TV cameras record the action, manned by middle-aged CAMERAMEN.
I peer into the lens of one, which reflects harsh set lighting into my eyes for a moment. I see no one, nothing in that lens.
Yet on the other side, I know that someone is watching, that someone will be watching tonight or today or whatever time it is. Maybe even Sam. I smile. This is my moment.
I see you, too.