Rewrite of chapter 12, which is also the beginning of the last third of Redwood Summer, a novel of 1990 San Jose. This chapter begins after a job interview for the main character, and interview that didn’t go well. As he meets up with his girlfriend in downtown San Jose, he wonders what to do next. He also relates to her how he suspects his best friend has made a bad life decision, and he worries about his friend’s future. This chapter also contains some foretelling imagery.
Gladys peered cautiously at the basement door. “Honey, I think I heard a noise in the basement.”
“What kind of noise?” her husband Paul answered.
“I can’t tell,” Gladys said. “Either something fell or was knocked over. Could you please look?”
“Scared of a little noise?” Paul laughed.
“What if it’s an intruder?” Gladys worried.
“I doubt it,” Paul assured.
“Okay, I’ll have a look.” Paul opened the basement door and went down into the dark. “Oh my god!” he screamed out. “It’s hideous!”
“What is it?” Gladys panicked. “An intruder?”
“Worse! My middle school graduation picture!”
(A comedic look at workplace hierarchy/pecking order, first performed as a staged reading at Community TV of Santa Cruz.)
LEONARD – middle management
GORDON – recently promoted to middle management
CLAUSEN – upper management
Place: LEONARD’S workplace office
(LEONARD is sitting at his desk and writing on some paperwork. GORDON enters.)
LEONARD: (Puts down pen and addresses GORDON) Well Gordon, after seven years you’ve finally risen up to middle management. Congratulations. (Stands up and extends hand)
GORDON: Thanks, Len.
(They shake hands.)
LEONARD: You’ll find that things are a little different up here.
GORDON: Yes, and I’m looking forward to putting my experience to good use at a higher level of responsibility.
LEONARD: (Laughs a bit, goes to front of desk) Yes, of course. But you know what the best part is?
GORDON: The higher pay?
LEONARD: Actually, now that you’re salaried, you won’t get paid overtime if you work after hours, which you probably will because you’re new to middle management. In a way, you’ll actually be losing money, but I’m talking about something more fundamental.
GORDON: Being rewarded for dedication and loyalty?
LEONARD: Sure, why not. But I’m talking of something more satisfying to the soul.
GORDON: I know, being a more integral part of the company.
LEONARD: Now listen to me, Gordon. The only integral people here are the executive board, the upper management. Everyone else is expendable. Got it?
GORDON: (Warily) Understood.
LEONARD: Good. You see, what I’m talking about is something that will make the rise up the ladder much more worth it.
GORDON: What’s that?
LEONARD: Lording it over the underlings.
GORDON: You mean our staff of workers that keep the company going?
LEONARD: They are peons!
GORDON: Excuse me?
LEONARD: You heard me! Mouth breathing, knuckle dragging morons!
GORDON: Oh, I didn’t know you felt that way.
LEONARD: It’s not just me, it’s everyone in middle management on up. And that’s the other thing you must learn.
GORDON: Yes, the hierarchy.
LEONARD: Hierarchy?! I’ll tell you what it is here. This company is triple decker sandwich. The board of directors are the top slice of bread, the plebes are the bottom slice of bread, and we are the ingredients in the middle. And our job is to make sure the bottom slice knows its place, and doesn’t get any ideas of trying to be the top slice.
GORDON: I have to say, I never got the feeling anyone down on the work floor wanted to start a mutiny.
LEONARD: Do you don’t know that for a fact?
LEONARD: Of course not. Those sneaky little devils wouldn’t let you in on their scheme because deep down, they knew you weren’t one of them, and that you’d end up here.
GORDON: Okay, I think I’m starting to get it now.
LEONARD: Do you? Because I get the feeling you’re still sympathetic toward those pawns.
GORDON: Well I have to confess I’m not totally hard hearted. I hope that won’t be a problem in middle management.
LEONARD: I used to be like you, concerned about the average schmuck, worried if they’re able to get through their miserable lives or not, but then I was set straight.
GORDON: By who?
LEONARD: By the rest of middle management, under the direction of our glorious executive board of course, long may they reign! (Looks to GORDON for response of agreement)
GORDON: Oh yes, of course.
LEONARD: A little slow there, Gordon.
GORDON: Never happen again.
LEONARD: I hope so, for your sake. But as I was saying, when I was plucked from the horde, they educated me to the true way of how this company, indeed, how the world works.
GORDON: Hard work and service to the greater good?
LEONARD: When will you learn? I’m talking about divide and conquer.
GORDON: I don’t know, the workers seem pretty reasonable about what they want.
LEONARD: And they must be kept that way.
GORDON: With respect, it seems like the executive board is acting a little paranoid.
LEONARD: Do not doubt the executive board! They know all and see all!
GORDON: Oh, of course. Silly me.
LEONARD: I am serious! Now that you’re here in middle management, you must change your behavior.
GORDON: Yes, I’m starting to gather that.
LEONARD: No more fraternizing with the the proletariat!
GORDON: But what if one of them starts talking to me? Maybe they have an important question.
LEONARD: You say to them, ‘I am your superior! Now genuflect before me!’
GORDON: That sounds a bit…lofty.
LEONARD: Lofty, he says. I’m starting to wonder if you have what it takes to occupy the awesome responsibility that is middle management. You seem to think doing common, physical labor is acceptable.
GORDON: Oh, I don’t mind working with my hands.
LEONARD: Well you better start minding! Because that kind of thinking will make you weak, and could get you demoted back to where you came from!
CLAUSEN: What’s going on in here?!
LEONARD: Oh! Mr. Clausen! So good to see you! I was just explaining how we do middle management to this recent promotion.
CLAUSEN: See that you do it right!
LEONARD: Yes, sir!
CLAUSEN: Good! And when you’re done I want a full report on the Lipschitz account ASAP!
LEONARD: But I was going to have Gordon here do that, sir, since he is new here to middle management.
CLAUSEN: What? Are you turning down an order from upper management?
LEONARD: Oh no, sir!
CLAUSEN: Good, because if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a knuckle dragging, mouth breathing middle management peon underling who doesn’t know his place!
LEONARD: Yes, sir! I’ll get right on it. (Exits quickly)
CLAUSEN: (Calls out to LEONARD) And make it snappy! (Derisively) Silly toady. (To GORDON) Hi, I’m Clausen, and you are?
GORDON: Leaving! (Exits)
©2018 Robert Kirkendall
Rewrite of chapter 11 of Redwood Summer, a novel of 1990 San Jose. The setting of this chapter is Jason’s workplace, a satellite imaging company. The workplace is abuzz because of a visit they received from a group of businessmen who are rumored to be interested in buying the company. Curious, Jason talks to one of the company lifers who explains that things are about to change, and that it might be a good idea for Jason to look for another job, and maybe even another place to live.
Jason is dismayed by the idea of leaving home and resistant to change, but he’s also feeling uneasy because he’s subconsciously becoming aware that powers beyond his control are about to shape his life.
Hooray! After four years and 90 posts, including 12 short stories, six short plays, 16 Carrot Ranch 99 word prompt flash fiction pieces, all 17 chapters of Redwood Summer: a novel of 1990 San Jose (my hometown), links to the five videos of my Community TV of Santa Cruz live broadcast drama Pacific Television Theater, a poem, and a handful of non-fiction posts. Many thanks to all my WordPress followers! And I will continue to write the best fiction and drama (and comedy) that I possibly can.
And I hope to accrue my next 200 followers in less than four years. 🙂
Don’t forget to vote if you haven’t already. Voter registration and early voting are setting records for the 2018 midterm, so come join the party!
Season 4 of Better Call Saul is now in the books, time to revisit predictions I made at the halfway point and to wrap things up. As usual, my predictions went astray because so many things happened that I just didn’t see coming. Here’s the link to my last post of predictions earlier this year: https://robertkirkendall.com/2018/09/07/saul-halfway-through-the-season/
In my last BCS post, I made no mention of the three punks who robbed Jimmy of his burner phone money in episode 5, Quite a Ride, because I thought they would only appear in that episode to serve as a reminder to Jimmy that he’s not as street wise as he once was. With their purpose served, I assumed they wouldn’t appear again any time soon. That turned out to be very wrong. Jimmy meeting up with them again at the end of episode 6, Something Stupid, drawing them into a trap, and scaring the hell out of them as they hanged upside down in a warehouse full of piñatas showed Jimmy’s resiliency, and how determined he was to get to the next level.
The relationship between Jimmy and Kim, which was fraying, appeared to come apart even more, especially in the cold opening of episode 6, which was a montage of them over the course of about six months. It showed them starting to live separate lives, with the final image of Kim going dark and Jimmy all by himself as they lay in bed together. I assumed the season was going to continue in this vein, leading to their eventual breakup at the end of the season.
But then things took an unexpected turn, thanks to Huell Babineaux. Huell accidentally assaulting a policeman started a chain of events that caused Kim, at the behest of Jimmy, to step out of her comfort zone of legitimacy and go outside the law to save Huell from jail. She was reluctant at first, but when the prosecuting attorney referred to Jimmy as a “disbarred, scumbag lawyer,” that set something off in Kim. The fake letter writing campaign she engineered with Jimmy inundated the judge and the DA’s office and pushed them into a no jail plea deal. The excitement of the subterfuge certainly had an effect on Kim.
Their predicted breakup won’t be going down a straight line.
Also I predicted that Mesa Verde would eventually let go of Kim because of the way she hung up on Paige and her seeming obliviousness to her job as she pursued the public defender route. But not only is she still with Mesa Verde, she also used Jimmy’s particular set of skills once again to surreptitiously switch out the blueprints of their proposed Lubbock branch so they wouldn’t have to refile their new plans, pay another fee, and lengthen out the process. So as of now, Kim is not only back in the good graces of Mesa Verde, she also became a partner at Schweikart & Cokely in charge of their new banking division, which will give her more time to pursue pro bono public defender work. So long as her chicanery is never discovered, Kim will do just fine in the legitimate world. On a side note, someone on a BCS Facebook web page pointed out that the states where Mesa Verde expanded are the same states where Gustavo Fring’s product was sold in Breaking Bad. Probably just a coincidence.
The ghost of Chuck continued to loom over season 4, with him appearing in the two cold opening flashbacks for episodes 6 and 10, Winner. How Jimmy was eventually going to deal with pain of the loss and the complicated relationship with his older brother was not something I was able to predict, nor did I really attempt to predict except to say that Chuck’s final painful words to Jimmy during their final conversation would haunt Jimmy, and the letter Chuck wrote to Jimmy to be given to him after his death might provide some compensation for his earlier harsh words. This dramatic tension was further amplified when Jimmy was denied his law license by the bar association after his hearing in episode 9, Wiedersehen, largely because of his failure to mention Chuck. Kim points this out even though Jimmy doesn’t want to hear it, and they finally have the argument that was building up throughout the season. Jimmy finally seems to accept that he has to come to terms with the memory of Chuck, and with Kim’s help takes the steps to get his law license back. But what happened was that Chuck’s harsh assessment of Jimmy at their last meeting and the kind words of the letter came together in a twisted union of fake sentiment and bamboozlement aimed at the bar association during his appeal, and the final transformation of Jimmy into Saul.
Have to admit, I really bought Jimmy’s speech to the bar.
The evolving business relationship of Mike and Gustavo I predicted would continue with possible conflicts happening over tactics and problems that might arise during the construction of the superlab. Both of those happened, but not in any way I could foresee. When we meet the German construction crew in episode 5, it appeared that Kai was going to be the problem employee. But instead it turned out to be the head of the crew, Werner Ziegler.
Why Werner took the dangerous risk of escaping the compound to see his wife is still puzzling. Was he that naive? Smart people behaving stupidly is an ongoing theme in the BB/BCS universe. His fateful decision also drove Mike to make a tough decision. Werner and Mike bonded and became friends over the course of the superlab construction, Mike even vouched for Werner after Werner’s first transgression when he spoke too freely with the strangers they met at an Albuquerque bar, but this wasn’t enough. And once Lalo found Werner and called him at the spa where he was at, then whatever room for bargaining he may have had was gone completely.
And reluctantly, Mike had to take of the problem himself because he knew he helped cause it.
The anticipated appearance of Lalo finally happened. Lalo’s debut in season 4 was easy to predict because it was announced at the beginning of the season, though he wouldn’t appear until the final scene of episode 8, Coushatta. But what he is was not hinted at at all. Turns out he’s a completely dangerous but charming psychopath.
He will be the wildcard character whose actions throw everything into chaos, similar to Lydia and Todd in BB. And by finding Werner, after murdering the clerk at the money store, he has figured out that Gus has a secret construction project under way, which means the rest of the Salamancas know. This will not bode well for Gus’ future plans, and will possibly alter the uneasy peace between him and the Salamancas.
The doom I predicted for Nacho never quite materialized, but he appeared in fewer episodes during the second half of the season. I didn’t count on all that recovery time he was going to need after being shot in the fake ambush. He has settled into his new life in the Salamanca gang while also being extorted by Gus, while also maintaining his own private aspirations, mainly saving his father and himself, which became clear when he opened his safe and pulled out fake Canadian IDs for him and his father. Nacho is between a rock and a hard place, with only a slender thread of hope to pull him and his father to safety.
As usual, my predictions for season 4 came up against unforeseen plot redirections, but that’s the fun of watching BCS. You know it’s heading into BB, now four years away from that timeline, but how it gets there is full of surprises. What’s going to happen in season 5 is a tossup with a number of moving parts and therefore hard to predict, but now that Jimmy has transformed into Saul, there should be a ramping up of action because of the type of clients he’ll represent. There will also be a permanent tear between him and Kim, but how that happens could happen in a number of ways. More characters from BB will no doubt enter the BCS world. I’m thinking Kuby, possibly Hank, which will mean Gomez as well. Some other minor characters may appear as needed, which will further bring BCS into BB territory.
I’m also hoping there will be more Gene in season 5 than the one scene at the beginning of each season. His four scenes so far have been a nice teaser, but after his brief hospitalization at the beginning of season 4 and his encounter with the suspicious taxi driver, it seems that the action during that timeline will increase.
I suspect that when Gene was admitted into the hospital and his name was entered into the system, this was picked up by the vacuum store owner/identity changer who may have been keeping tabs on Gene for his own safety in case his cover gets blown. And there’s still the ongoing question of whether the Gene timeline is after the BB timeline or concurrent with Walt’s exile in New Hampshire. I think it’s the latter because it makes more sense dramatically and will provide more tension when Walt reappears. This would scare the hell out of Gene because he would think that Walt is going to come after him. He may even have a nightmare of this scenario, which will bring Walt into BCS. Wouldn’t that be something.
In the meantime, we fans will all eagerly await season 5, following all the BCS social media announcements as the season comes together from the first writer’s meeting to the final day of shooting, counting down the days until its premier with great anticipation. Truly, is there no other way?
©2018 Robert Kirkendall
Very short story inspired by a writing prompt posted by Rachel Poli. Subject: masks
THE BANK ROBBERY
A masked man entered the bank. He went to the nearest window, pulled out a pistol, and held it low as he pointed it at the teller.
“Fill this up!” the bank robber ordered as he tossed an empty paper sack st the teller.
The surprised teller picked up the sack as he stared at the pistol. Then he looked up at the bank robber, and started to chuckle.
“What the hell are you laughing at?” the bank robber said angrily. “I’ve got a gun!”
“Your mask,” the teller answered between chuckles. “It’s ridiculous.”
The bank robber was flabbergasted. “Your life is in danger and you’re laughing at my mask?!”
“But it’s a clown mask,” the teller explained after he finally composed himself. “And a loud, garish one at that.”
“Well how do you expect to be taken seriously as a bank robber if you look like an escapee from the circus?” the teller pointed out as he started laughing again.
“Will you just fill that up with the top drawer so I can get out of here?” the bank robber demanded. “I’ve got places to be!”
“Oh, of course, right away,” the teller assured as he picked up the sack. He slid open the top drawer, then started laughing again. “Seriously? A clown mask?”
“Okay, you made your point. Now give it a rest!”
“I mean, could you imagine John Dillinger wearing a clown mask? Or Bonnie and Clyde? Everyone would laugh at them!”
“Maybe I didn’t have time to find a proper ask. Did you consider that?”
“All right, sorry for laughing at you,” the teller apologized as he kept laughing. “It’s just so totally absurd!”
“I don’t believe this,” the bank robber said with exasperation.
“Look, it’s not you, it’s me,” the teller admitted. “I just tend to laugh at inappropriate times.”
The bank robber threw up his hands. “You know what? I don’t need this.” He began to leave.
“Now wait a minute, I’ll get you your money.”
“I didn’t come here to get laughed at!” The bank robber put the pistol back in his pocket and walked away. “I’ve got feelings too,” he muttered under his breath.
“Aw, c’mon,” the teller called after the bank robber. “I promise I won’t put in the exploding ink cartridge.”
The bank robber exited out the front door, got into a getaway car, and shook his head discouragingly at the driver. The driver looked dejected as he drove off.
The teller looked at the empty paper sack and thought of the bank robber’s lost opportunity. “Some people just don’t know how to laugh,” he said with pity as he slid the top drawer shut.
©2018 Robert Kirkendall
A rewrite of chapter 10 of Redwood Summer, a novel of 1990 San Jose. In this chapter Jason is attempting to fix the car problem from the previous chapter, and ends up having a conversation with his father about where he’s at in life, and about what Silicon Valley was in its agricultural past.
We’re now halfway through season 4 of Better Call Saul, so time to revisit my earlier predictions for the season and see if I’m anywhere close. Here’s the link to the original post: https://robertkirkendall.com/2018/08/06/countdown-to-saul/
The first subject I tackled was the fallout of Chuck’s death. After much speculation I concluded that Chuck’s death would ruled accidental, his ex wife Rebecca would be named executor of his will, and Chuck’s final words to Jimmy would haunt him and push him into his transformation into Saul. The first prediction turned out to be correct, but with one wrinkle. The second prediction was technically false because Howard Hamlin was the named executor, but Rebecca was the main beneficiary of Chuck’s estate with Jimmy receiving only $5,000, so the spirit of the prediction was correct. The third prediction remains to be seen, but it’s been altered by the introduction of the sealed letter that Chuck wrote to Jimmy which was only to be opened by Jimmy at the time of Chuck’s demise. Chuck’s letter to Jimmy was stilted in its language, but also heartfelt and his best attempt at being supportive of his little brother, and perhaps in some way compensates for what Chuck said earlier.
The aforementioned wrinkle about Chuck’s death being ruled accidental is Howard’s belief that Chuck actually killed himself intentionally, which ties into my speculation of Howard’s stunning confession. Turns out it did have to do with Chuck, but the body of the confession I didn’t predict at all, though it does make sense. I didn’t predict how much Chuck’s death was going to affect Howard, and that he was correct is his belief that Chuck killed himself intentionally adds to his stress. He looks frazzled by episode 5, and his admission to Jimmy that he’s been seeing a therapist twice a week convinces Jimmy that therapy isn’t right for him. Howard appears rudderless without Chuck’s presence, and it’s difficult to predict where his story line is going. In the promo for episode 6 Jimmy goes to see Howard at his office, perhaps for a job opportunity, maybe Howard wants to replace Chuck with Jimmy, but we know there’s no mention of HHM in Breaking Bad so it seems that won’t go anywhere.
My prediction about Gustavo Fring noticing the bottle of pills that Nacho Varga gave to the paramedics after Hector Salamanca’s stroke was accurate, though an easy prediction. But what Gus did with that information surprised me at every turn. I did not predict that Nacho’s vehicle would have a tracking device, that Victor would follow him and watch him dispose of the fake pills, that Gus would have his own doctor look at Hector, get tissue samples, and figure out what Nacho did. And I definitely did not see Gus killing Arturo in an ugly way right in front of Nacho to drive home that Nacho now belongs to Gus lest the Salamancas find out what Nacho did to Hector.
The rest of my Nacho predictions about his fate at the end of the season, whether he’s killed, disappears, or if he’s able to save his father, have yet to be seen. And now that he’s been shot, all a part of Gus’ plan to make it look like he and Arturo were ambushed by a rival gang, Nacho’s fate seems more doomed since he can’t go to a real hospital to take care of his injuries. Lalo, who I also mentioned in my prediction, hasn’t appeared yet, but I’ve read elsewhere that he’ll appear later this season. There have been released pictures of Lalo with Hector, so I assume he’s from the cartel.
Though most of my predictions were somewhere in the ballpark, my predictions about Mike Ehrmantraut were mostly off course. I somehow got the idea that Mike was going to investigate Gus’s past, mainly based on a promo scene in which Mike says, “The guy’s story changes every time he tells it.” I thought he was talking about Gus, but was actually talking about another person in the grief support group that he attends with his daughter in law Stacey. Though after the way Mike called out Henry, the lying member, in front of the whole group probably means no more support group meeting for Mike. He’ll manage.
Mike’s decision to take his new job at Madrigal Automotive seriously instead staying home and collecting paychecks until his money is laundered is indicative that Mike likes to be productive and isn’t content with slothfulness. This eventually gets Gus’ attention, and he utilizes Mike to help vet potential engineers for his super lab, one of the main locations for BB. It now appears that Gus and Mike are now on the same page, but conflicts can still arise, probably over tactics and issues that’ll arise during the construction of the super lab.
The next part of my predictions was the future of Jimmy and Kim, and how they were going to come apart. So far they’re still together, but there have been some fissures. Kim’s concern over Jimmy bottling up his feelings over Chuck’s death, Jimmy only taking a job when Kim suggests therapy as well as slipping back into old, dishonest habits, and an unease in the air are starting to separate them. They’re also starting to head down different paths. Kim getting into public defense work despite the plum job at Mesa Verde shows that she wants to do work that matters. It also shows she’s in touch with her moral center whereas Jimmy is moving into another direction.
I think Kim’s job at Mesa Verde will come to an end and then she can concentrate on public defense work. Not sure if she’ll resign or if they’ll terminate her employment, but probably the former because Kim won’t let things get to a point where she’s fired. But her new foray into the world of criminal law may put her into contact with the wrong kind of people. The brusque way she dealt with her defendant David seems to indicate that she doesn’t see the potential danger that lies ahead.
And then there’s Gene Takavic, Jimmy’s third persona. I discussed his scene from episode 1 of this season in my last BCS post, from him thinking his cover might be blown because of a receptionist error to the taxi ride with the suspicious driver who has an Albuquerque Isotopes air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror. I hope there’s another Gene scene this season, one a year isn’t enough. And since BCS will end up in the Gene timeline I predict we will see more of him, just not sure when.
Getting back to Gus, something occurred to me a couple of days after watching episode 5. Earlier I speculated that Gus, being a Chilean, may have had ties to the Pinochet regime and the CIA. But after the scene in which he decides to hire the engineer Werner Ziegler and speaks to him in German, it got me to thinking how after World War II a lot of Nazis escaped to South America, and Gus is from South America…maybe there’s a connection there? That would make Gus even more insidious.
Also wanted to say I was overjoyed to finally see Saul, the first BCS scene to take place during the BB timeline. The flash forward which showed him desperately getting his most important possessions together before disappearing and ending his Saul Goodman life while Francesca shreds documents was the perfect book end to the final scene of the episode which shows Jimmy resolving to be a lawyer again. They even shot the scene on film instead of digital to make it match BB.
That’s all for now, but I’ll add updates to this post as the season progresses. I’ll predict that the pressure will turn up on everyone over the next five episodes and force them to make some tough decisions. We’ve got some rough road ahead of us.
©2018 Robert Kirkendall