(After a meal, Laurie and Ray sit before empty plates in candlelight. RAIN BEATS against the window, cozying the atmosphere. He nurses his third beer, and begins to open up. She’s enjoying him immensely – he’s so open, so vulnerable.)
RAY: Thirty-seven years I been doing this.
RAY: My mother says I remodeled her womb. (She laughs. He smiles, eyes twinkling.) I collected blocks when I was a kid – wood, plastic, I even used bricks once – and I would construct these incredible things. Once I made this – (stuttering slightly as he gets excited) – m-m-monument that took up like half the bedroom – I even hauled cinder blocks up from the street. (smiling sheepishly) But it was like I created my own little world that I could look in on.
(The waitress clears the table, leaving a plate with the check and two fortune cookies.)
LAURIE: Your parents still around?
RAY: My mother is. When she’s not visiting her boyfriends.
RAY: (smiling, shaking his head) Yeah, she’s giving ZsaZsa a run for her money.
LAURIE: (smiling, trying to ask casually) What about you? Are you seeing anyone?
(A beat. He suddenly sobers.)
RAY: My wife died of ovarian cancer three years ago. I’ve been pretty much of a loner since.
(She realizes she’s touched a wound. After a beat she reaches for the check. He does too.)
RAY: Here, let me get that.
LAURIE: This is a business meal.
RAY: Just this once.
(She gives in. As he pays the bill with cash, she reaches for a fortune cookie, breaks it open, reads the fortune, smiles.)
LAURIE: “Don’t make new boat out of old wood.”
RAY: What’s that supposed to mean?
LAURIE: Beats me. Open yours.
(He does, and smiles spontaneously at his fortune.)
RAY: “Good luck comes in slender currents, misfortune in a rolling tide.”
(She laughs. He looks at her.)
RAY: So – wanna be my slender current?
LAURIE: Better than your rolling tide.
(They look at each other. Things are happening.)
THE STORY: A young woman hires a contractor to re-do her new apartment. He does a terrific job, but what are those sounds coming from behind the walls?
THE BACKSTORY: This script was originally called “The Master Builder;” a title decidedly less provocative and much less embarrassing. I was unable to be around for the first two weeks of the filming, and by the time I arrived disaster had struck and there was nothing I could do: the on-set producer had let everything slip and slide, not minding when the director decided to completely re-write my dialogue. He kept all of the scenes in order and intact, he only changed the words, churning out turgid soap-opera sentences that were even more embarrassing than the title imposed by the network. I removed my name from the final product, using a pseudonym. One reviewer loved the plotting and the pacing but commented that the dialogue was unbelievably puerile. Ah, well…. I still get many residuals – the film is quite popular in spite of it all.