YOU CAN READ
Afflatus, Part 2
NT. THE LEROY FAMILY DINING ROOM. DAY. ELLA PIPER LEROY, her son, PETER LEROY, and his sexy schoolmate PATTI FIORENZA are seated at the dining table. Ella and Patti have been laughing like schoolgirls. Now they clear their throats, giggle a bit, and try to pull themselves together.
Ella sweeps the papers from the table onto her lap so that Peter and Patti can’t see them.What’s this?PETER(repeating himself, indicating some papers on the table)
Absently, thinking about where to start her story, she gets up and goes to the kitchen.These are part of my idea, but I don’t want you to see them just yet because I want to tell you all about the rest of it first. The boat can wait.ELLA(coyly)The boat?PETER(raising an eyebrow)The boat, yes. I’ll get to it. Oh, I’ve had such a wonderful idea, and I want to tell you all about it, but I don’t know quite where to start. Let me see . . .ELLA
She opens the refrigerator and takes a platter from it. On the platter are sandwiches in many colors -- some made of pink bread with green filling, others of blue bread with orange filling, and so on. The colors are pale, like pastels, not vivid.I was sitting in the dining room, just daydreaming . . .ELLA (CONT’D.)
She brings the platter to the dining room table.. . . thinking about how nice it would be to give a party -- a really smart party, with interesting people, a cocktail party -- and somehow I got the idea of making tiny sandwiches on colored bread.ELLA (CONT’D.)(dreamily)
Peter and Patti lean over the platter to inspect the sandwiches. They exchange a look. Then each takes a sandwich and takes a bite from it.Have one.ELLA (CONT’D.)(indicating the platter of sandwiches)
The idea just . . . came to me . . .ELLA (CONT’D.)(her eyes widening)
DISSOLVE TO:Magazine advertisement for Tintoretto’s Tasteful Tints food coloring. The headline is “You Can Color More Than Eggs, You Know!” spoken by a comical cartoon chicken. The copy reads “They come in three tasteful colors, but you can’t taste them at all!” The artwork shows a box holding vials of red, yellow, and green food coloring, and, in the foreground, a platter of muffins, cookies, and sliced bread in various colors. To one side, a domestic scene is depicted: a trim housewife, dressed for a cocktail party, holds a platter of pastel treats of some unidentifiable kind, offering them to a smiling man in a suit who may be her husband. On the floor behind them are two children, a boy and a girl, giggling behind their hands at a cat they have tinted pink. The tag line is “There’s a rainbow in every box! Be creative!”
. . . wherever ideas come from . . . out of the air, I guess.ELLA (CONT’D., V.O.)
CUT TO:THE DINING ROOM. Ella picks up a sandwich and inspects it critically.
I didn’t have any little bread pans, so I used muffin tins.ELLA (CONT’D.)Very creative.PATTI(impressed)And the filling . . . do you know what it is?ELLA(peeling the sandwich apart)Well, they all look different . . .PATTI(considering). . . but they all taste like cream cheese.PETER(with his mouth full)
DISSOLVE TO:Magazine advertisement for Bland & White Brand Cream Cheese. Headline: “Nature’s Most Flexible Food.” Copy: “You can spread it, squeeze it, mix it, shape it, even tint it!” The artwork shows a rectangular red-and-white box of Bland & White Brand Cream Cheese, and, below it, a row of small drawings of chefs using it. The first is spreading it on toast, the second squeezing it from a pastry tube onto a cracker, the third pouring chopped chives into a bowl of it, the fourth rolling little balls of it in chopped nuts, and the fifth pouring red food coloring into a bowl of it. The tag line is: “It’s bland. It’s white. It’s putty in your hands! Be creative!”
They are all cream cheese! I colored it with Tasteful Tints!ELLA (V.O.)What a great idea!PATTI (V.O.)
CUT TO:THE DINING ROOM.
I don’t know where I get these ideas. They just come to me.ELLA(shrugging, beaming)It’s amazing.PATTI(awed)Isn’t it? But just wait till you hear what happened next! I was sitting here sampling the little sandwiches and daydreaming of myself at that cocktail party --ELLA(puzzled at first)What were you wearing?PATTIA white satin dress.ELLASlinky?PATTIMmm.ELLAThat’s very smart.PATTII was sipping champagne and holding a long cigarette holder and after a while I realized an amazing thing.ELLAWhat?PATTI(all ears)I was on a ship.ELLA
DISSOLVE TO:A series of what look like clips from romantic movies of the 1930s and 1940s, set on ocean liners.
A MAN in a dinner jacket pours champagne for a woman in a long, slinky white satin dress who is nibbling daintily at a little sandwich; the woman is Ella, but we don’t see the man’s face.In my daydream, I was on a ship.ELLA (CONT’D., V.O.)(dreamily)
An ocean liner.ELLA (CONT’D., V.O.)
DISSOLVE TO:Ella and the unidentifiable man lean on a railing and watch the rippling moonlight on the waves; now and then they take bites from little sandwiches.
There were women in white satin gowns. And men in tuxedos.ELLA (CONT’D., V.O.)
DISSOLVE TO:Ella and the unidentifiable man whirl effortlessly around a dance floor; a waiter approaches them with a silver platter of little sandwiches.
And romance.ELLA (CONT’D., V.O.)
DISSOLVE TO:Ella and the unidentifiable man kiss, silhouetted against an impossibly large full moon.
And little sandwiches.ELLA (CONT’D., V.O.)
DISSOLVE TO:The unidentifiable man produces a little sandwich and feeds a bite to Ella, who in turn produces a little sandwich and feeds a bite to him.
The film stutters as if something has gone wrong with Ella’s mental projector. It freezes on one frame, and the projector lamp begins to melt a hole in it.And for a while I imagined that I was on a ship like that . . .ELLA (CONT’D., V.O.)(still dreamily)(now matter-of-factly). . . then you came home, Peter . . .
CUT TO:THE DINING ROOM.
Patti gives Peter a disapproving look, as if he had deliberately turned his mother’s dreams to dust. Peter shrugs his shoulders and returns a look that says “Gee whiz, Patti, it wasn’t my fault.”. . . and I snapped out of it.ELLA (CONT’D.)
Instead of responding, Ella simply smiles, her eyes twinkling, and produces the papers with a flourish. She spreads them out on the table. They are drawings of a boat, and sketches for advertisements, and one advertisement is nearly complete. It is clearly inspired by art deco advertising for transatlantic steamship lines. The headline is “Ella’s Elegant Excursions.”But it doesn’t matter, because I know how to make the dream come true.ELLA (CONT’D.)(brightly)You do?PATTI(hopefully)
She has finished. A silence falls over them. Patti sighs, lost in Ella’s romantic dream. Peter looks doubtful. Ella looks from one to the other. At last she speaks:Ella’s Elegant Excursions.PATTI(dreamily running her finger over the words)So, my idea is that maybe you can’t go on an ocean voyage, but we can take you on a bay voyage . . .ELLA“We?”PETER(warily)Shush.PATTI(impatiently). . . and you can have champagne and moonlight and dancing and romance . . . and little sandwiches.ELLA
Well, what do you think?ELLA(tentatively)I think that is really inflated, blown up big and round.PATTI(in the deferential, awestruck manner of a sidekick)Inflated?ELLA (puzzled)It means it’s good. Very good.PATTI(as one who knows)Peter?ELLA(hopefully)Blown up like a blimp. Lighter than air.PETER(a pause, and then, to please her)Isn’t it just amazing the way so many things come together to make an idea?ELLA(delighted)It’s more than amazing. It’s a gas!PATTI
Embarking on a personal quest to find
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Copyright © 2001 by Eric Kraft
Inflating a Dog is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
Picador USA will publish Inflating a Dog in the summer of 2002.
For information about publication rights outside the U. S. A., audio rights, serial rights, screen rights, and so on, e-mail Kraft’s indefatigable agent, Alec “Nick” Rafter.
The illustration at the top of the page is an adaptation of an illustration by Stewart Rouse that first appeared on the cover of the August 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Inventions. The boy at the controls of the aerocycle doesn’t particularly resemble Peter Leroy—except, perhaps, for the smile.