Last time I left you in the library of Buttworth Open Prison, (see previous post) on the brink of making an extraordinary discovery. I had already ascertained that Buttworth once ran a creative writing class, which had been closed. When I’d asked the reason for this I got some shifty replies from the screws.
Then, one evening as I lay reading Sid Field’s ‘Screenwriter Problem Solver’ on my bed, the door slammed open and in one smooth action, a hand plucked me from my bed, threw me into the corner and put a knife to my throat. ‘Snout or a filleting, you chose,’ rasped a voice so filled with bile and venom that I cringed like a whipped hamster. Before me stood a creature that had once perhaps been female, but was now hideously indeterminate. Her one good eye blinked at me with a depth of hatred that I found hard to fathom. I lowered my eyes to the knife that was at that moment indenting the flesh above my Adam’s Apple and the hideously tattooed arm that held it. Then I caught the legend that ran down the creature’s forearm:
‘INCITING INCIDENT.. PROGRESSIVE COMPLICATIONS.. CRISIS.. CLIMAX.. & RESOLUTION’.
‘Aha!’ I gasped
‘Don’t aha me,’ wheezed the creature, ‘I’m Crack Lily and I’ve done for better girls than you, schmucks who read Syd Field and believe that you should always ‘know your ending’! Well here it comes girl!’ She took hold of my face with her other hand and moved it left and right.
‘I love an unscarred face, like a blank page, so many possibilities.’
So saying she shifted the knife to my left nostril. ‘ I like to see someone’s narrative change.’
‘A good inciting incident?’ I ventured.
Lily shifted the patch she wore over the other eye and looked at me with the hideously scarred horror that lay beneath.
‘What did you say?’, she growled
She staggered backwards. I glimpsed the knife with another dawning recognition.
‘That’s the complimentary letter opener from the ‘Writers of Tomorrow’ Conference, isn’t it?’
Crack Lily faltered, wild eyed and the letter opener clattered to the floor. I watched her crumple, then whimper and then crumple some more. She looked up at me from the floor.
“You were there too?’ she hiccuped. I nodded and she fell onto a bean bag crying hysterically.
Later as Crack Lily sat on my bed, she confessed in a sweet light voice that her name was actually Stephanie and that she was the author of six screenplays which had all gone into ‘Production Hell’ and never been produced, except for one.
‘The last screenplay’ hiccuped Stephanie, ‘.. it was the story of my life, it was a bleak and despairing account of a writer’s struggle to maintain some kind of artistic integrity in the world of crass commercialism.’
‘What happened?’ I asked
‘It was bought by Richard Curtis, who threw me off the project and turned it into a fluffy little movie about a confectioner who spreads love, success and money to the people who buy her heart-shaped sweets.’
‘I saw that movie’
‘I didn’t, I was arrested at the Premiere’
‘I think I saw that photo, were you spread-eagled over Meryl Streep and had Curtis by the bowtie?”
Stephanie (aka Crack Lily) nodded wordlessly and ran her fingers up and down the Writers of Tomorrow complimentary letter opener.
‘You think that was bad?’ broke in a new cultured voice from the doorway. I looked up and saw an elegant grey-haired woman lighting a slim cigarillo while simultaneously skewering a smoke detector with a switch blade.
‘That’s Mona Farthingdale, ‘Ghost writer to the Stars’ she’s in here for arson in a Naval Dockyard.’
We watched as Mona lit a match very slowly and smiled into the flame.