El Goonish Shive: Uncertain Future
by Christy "Dame Helen" McFarland
DISCLAIMER: El Goonish Shive is property of Dan Shive, and is used here without permission. No money is being made from this work. Siskel and Ebert, Ebert and Roeper, related properties are owned by Buena Vista.
"...Susan felt this work lacked a substantive story, but I thought it was a tour-de-force of technical genius and good acting. And finally, El Goonish Shive, an oddly named movie about a girl who can transform into a squirrel and the adventures she has with her friends. Susan and I both gave it a thumbs up, even though I thought it could have used a more believable plot. And that will about do it for this week, I'm Richard Roeper..."
"And I'm Susan Tolkienberry, and until next week, the balcony is closed."
With that, the cameraman began his slow pan back and the lighting crew dimmed the lights slightly to make the set look like a movie theater going dark. Rolling credits would be added in post, as well as the cheesy music that hadn't changed in a few decades. Richard began the silly "credit banter" that the original Siskel and Ebert made famous when they first did their show, "Seriously, the story to El Goonish Shive is totally off the wall. The writer makes it internally consistent but at the expense of requiring some serious suspension of disbelief."
"It's the internal consistency that makes it so easy to suspend that disbelief. After all, even if there had been one..."
"Aaaaand, CUT!" the director interrupted, "That's great guys, another good episode."
Richard leaned back in his seat and exhaled deeply, "Internal consistencies?" he cast at Susan.
"The cameras are off, we can stop debating now." Susan's dry delivery was unchanged from the days of her youth. If Richard hadn't worked with her for a year by that point, he would likely have thought that was it.
Richard chuckled, "There is something I've got to ask," he began, "The one character, Tiffany, did you do any consulting for this film? She seems an awful lot like you."
This statement actually earned a small smile from Susan. "I did no consulting, it looks like the writer just read my bio on the web site and watched a few episodes. As far as I know, I've never even met this Dan Shive. Nice writer though, even if he named the movie after himself." This was a total fabrication. "Dan Shive" was a codename for the team of writers that had been put together by the late Mr. Verres as his last act as Alien Relations Director. The old guy had just approved the final script when he was found in his bed, having died naturally in his sleep.
"Well, I guess we'll have to disagree. I mean, Men In Black was one thing, but aliens just living among us was done to death a long time ago. People just aren't going to believe it as a story anymore."
As Richard stood up from his seat, Susan and the director glanced at each other and winked, the director using his second eyelids that were usually concealed from view.
The car, like all things made by Tedd for the O.C., was good looking and generally easy to handle, but had it's quirks. For instance, it didn't use a gear mechanism for the different engine speeds, it simply redirected the torque through a little box that Tedd refused to elaborate on how it worked, other than to say "subspace," which, as any Trekkie knows, is another word for, "I don't know, it just works."
Susan turned the wheel to pull on to a main street looking for a place to eat. She was hungry for a good ol' fashioned burger, not one of the kind made from synthetic meat, but the real, a-cow-died-for-you kind of burger. Sure, it was more expensive, but reviewing "El Goonish Shive" had reminded her of the old days and she was feeling a bit nostalgic. There weren't many places that sold "real" burgers anymore, and one of the best in town was...
"Welcome to Hedge's Bar and Grill," said the waitress without looking up from her job of sorting menus, "I'll be right with...Susan?" Vladia nearly dropped her menus when she looked up. "Hey, just take a seat, I'll be right with you."
"Thanks Vladia. I'll have my usual for drinks, but I'm in a mood today for lunch." said Susan as she went to her favorite place at the bar. Before she made it halfway, she stopped at the recognition of a head of red hair, and redirected her path to the booth at the far end of the restaurant."Well, well. Fancy meeting you here."
Nanase looked up from her food, startled. She had obviously been just poking at her salad and her sandwich sat half-eaten on a plate next to her glass of barely touched soda. "Oh, hi...uhm, what brings you here?"
Susan sat down, and before she could respond to Nanase, Vladia set a Vanilla Coke in front of Susan. "What did you need to order that was so special today?"
Susan offered a smile, "I need one of your brother's Superburgers, made with real beef and extra onion, and make that sauteed onion."
"Sounds good," said Vladia with a smile, "One death by cow with extra mouthfunk, coming up!" While Vladia had mellowed out considerably in the last few years, she still had a singular way of casually insulting someone in ways that Susan couldn't quite match, though of the O.C., Susan was the closest match, and that made for the basis of a good friendship between the two once "The Family" got out of the lab. Vladia went to get the order filled and left the two women to talk. "Talk," being purely theoretical, as there was very little in the way of actual conversation. Nanase continued to poke her salad around it's plate and would occasionally make as if to take a sip from her soda. Susan simply watched the other woman.
"Well, this is dead city," Vladia interrupted suddenly. This startled both women and a bit of Nanase's salad flew through the air briefly before landing on the table. "You two are the only ones here and you're making about as much ruckus as a sloth convention." The former "flying zoo" slid into the seat next to Susan.
Susan chuckled a bit, "Well, I guess as entertainment, we should be fired. Oh, wait, we're not being paid."
"Well, don't expect back wages and you don't get unemployment."
"Oh, like we'd beg for money, we can take our act elsewhere..." Nanase started giggling, a sound which relieved Susan quite a bit, "About time you did something besides sulk."
"Yeah," said Vladia, "What's your deal, anyway? You walk in, mumble your order, and then just sit there pokin' at it. I happen to know Hedge didn't drop any hair or quills in it this time..."
Nanase sighed depressingly, "I..." she trailed off.
Susan glanced between Nanase, who had gone back to staring at her food, and Vladia. She came to a decision, "Ellen kicked her out."
Nanase glared at Susan while Vladia's expression didn't falter as she took in what she had just heard, "I'm sorry," she said, "I thought you said Ellen kicked out Nanase."
It took another moment. Susan counted down in her head, 3...2...1...and...
"THAT LITTLE TRAMP!" shouted Vladia.
"Hey! Don't scare away the business!" snapped Hedge, who was wearing an apron, a cooks hat, and carrying a tray. "I finished the order a minute ago and you never showed to pick it up. Who ordered the dead cow?" Susan waved her hand briefly, "Oh, hey Susan, didn't realize you came in, different order for you today." Hedge checked the doorway to see if anyone looked like they were going to come in, decided he could take a little extra time, and slid into the seat next to Nanase. "So, little sis, what got you riled up?"
"OK, so, Susan, as you're the only one I know that can get Vladia that upset, what'd you say to her?"
"Ellen kicked Nanase out of their house."
Vladia continued to fume as Hedge took in what Susan said. A quick glance at Nanase, who had gone back to staring at her plate, seemed to confirm the news in his mind, "So, any reason, or just a lover's spat?"
"The issue has to do with Nanase's continued reluctance to 'come out of the closet,' so to speak, to her mother."
Hedge sighed. Having dealt with Nanase's mother shortly after the bar opened, he knew the problem. In that case, Nanase had invited her family, just as the rest of the O.C. did (those that had families) to the opening night party, and Vladia had brought her "conquest" of the time. That particular date was a woman, and the resulting argument between Vladia and Nanase's mother killed the party a scant half-hour after it started. Hedge had pretty much told the woman that she was no longer welcome in his restaurant, and she had a few choice words about the owner and his sister. Nothing had been said at the time about Ellen's origin, the O.C., or any of the more 'out of the ordinary' things that the O.C. dealt with on a daily basis, and nobody had thought to bring it up to the woman since. Of course, Nanase was the only member of the O.C. who would go near her mother after that particular incident.
"Let me guess," Hedge said, "The Dunkels want a family Christmas this year and are putting pressure on Ellen to bring Nanase's family?" Susan simply looked at Nanase, who nodded. "Ah, and Ellen has been trying to get Nanase to confront her family for years, and this just opened that old wound."
"Brilliant, brother dear. That's a stunning psychological evaluation for someone who runs a restaurant." growled Vladia.
"Cool it," said Susan, "The problem is Nanase, not Ellen. For once, I agree with Ellen, this has been going on far too long."
"What?" Nanase's head shot up and her back was ramrod straight, "But..."
"But nothing. Can you honestly think of any sort of good reason to prolong this any farther?" Nanase didn't speak. "Your significant other has bent over backwards on this issue for how long? This has moved beyond hoping to spare yourself the pain of telling your mother and into the realm of jeopardizing your relationship with the one person you care about more than anything else in this galaxy."
Nanase wilted again, "I know, I really do need to tell her. I...it's just...she's my mom!" with that, Nanase burst into tears. Vladia and Hedge, not having had a mother, could only look on in concern. Susan realized it once again fell upon her to comfort her friend.
She waved Vladia and Hedge out of their seats and sat next to Nanase. Gently, she pulled Nanase's head to her shoulder and began rocking Nanase. Damn the woman! thought Susan, This should be her job to comfort her child, not that of a friend who's barely above an associate!
The four stayed like that for a few minutes as Nanase's crying began to fade from near hysterical to gentle sobs. Suddenly a phone range. Vladia cursed and pulled her cell out of her pocket. "Hello?" she snarled. She yanked the phone away from her ear as a loud voice issued an enthusiastic greeting. "Damnit," she hissed to the other three, "It's Guiness. I can't get him to shut up these days, I'll take it into the other room." With that she left for the kitchen.
"You guys going to be OK?" Hedge asked. The other two nodded. "I should join her, dinner rush is going to start soon." With that he left them alone.
They sat for a moment in silence. Nanase was the first to speak, "I don't know if I can do it alone."
Susan thought for a moment, "You won't have to."
"But Ellen isn't..."
"Not Ellen, she doesn't understand about facing a reluctant parent. You and I are going over to your mother's place tonight."
To be continued...