Come say hi to the decline (aka That Francis guy)
by Barbara Genova
Legendary director had been turning to hardcore features as a constant companion, his last stream of income, by the time I meet him in a corridor standing room only. A guy brings me over. Come say hi to Chuck. Wanna say hi to Chuck?
This is a guy with a horror movie magazine.
Guy introduces me / name surname / and then, straight to Chuck: what about, you cast her in your next movie, wouldn’t it be a blast huh.
Is it a moral credit to Uncle Chuck that he does not rise to the bait? Or is it a matter of three two one, gonna pretend I never heard nor saw you trying to pimp out the nineteen year old and I’ll do it for my own sake, this girl she doesn’t look alive right now. Busy men learn a million hacks to survive mentally, and the director’s already bracing for impact, soon he’ll be traveling on location, Monterrey, gotta pick up exterior shots for his porno version of The English Patient.
It’s supposed to be the end here, empires tumbling, the fall, the wraparound twilight where we say goodbye to all things, and still plenty of cash gets burned on whatever. The director flies – on location – for B-roll. They make documentaries about the decline. Ten-person crews are deployed to capture the melancholy in sequence: your honor, look at this fucker, once celebrated for his hustle, his guile, lord of the wildness one of a kind, he’s shooting gladiator porn on a soundstage. (The money, you see. Feature-length adult entertainment is where it’s at. How else would you get paid? Isn’t time cruel to titans.)
Blame the sudden void of bankable role models, blame the quiet ache for humiliation concealed in self-reliance, my name fills the female sidekick slot within a revolving door of nerd posses. I’m talking dirt low. We wait in line for a midday screening of Wishmaster. Buddy of ours watches Ellen Cabot movies on purpose. Men in striped ties, they raid any booth left unattended after 7 pm. I don’t steal – not yet I don’t – I hop along to stare at them diving into the booths, the frantic petty, get this. Dude in a hat laments Debbie Rochon’s habitual photographer shot her nude to accommodate the vision of a Spanish zine, and the zine did not run the pictures in the end, and the shooter got spit-mad at her, called her a lesbian. I wear velvet slacks and teal shirts to look professional, badge cuts into my neck, full name on laminated plastic, praying to get redeemed from the check out the child actor gone rogue woo sound-smell that will be prowling me for the next three years, to the point it will replace all separate memory of a young body. I don’t know what is human. This is trash, but. The hallways of trash can gleam with a tinny lure, play your card, bit of luck, you might become the very letters on a photocopied folio blinking at you from a rack of straight to video releases, the big hope, be found.
One Sunday afternoon it’s hot and it’s ashtray spill and the word on the street is, we gotta go say hi to Francis (this Francis person being a director who’s threatened to sue a magazine for demolishing his yet to be released throwback thriller and what exactly). About what. Oh yeah, the score’s a lift of the Halloween theme.
Wannabe End directors, they love sounding off about legal action for bad words in print. Christ there’s this – I wanna say collective, but that doesn’t narrow it down does it – they got a real firm on board for the classic warning shot, sending a letter, because another director who’s bound to give fiery-itch buyers’ remorse to whoever hires him next, he called them “trick babies” in a guest column that ran unedited (pretend to be shocked), and, actually, there is some ground to build a defamation case, since the noun implies the subjects were born out of wedlock and it’s just not true strictly speaking? (Case settled with the magazine featuring the collective in a cream-soft four page spread. And that’s a boom.)
The Francis guy has been threatening to sue, or, he’s made universal lawyer noises loud enough to pierce the scene after a critic wrote “that’s the Halloween theme, what an absolute buffoon,” and the movie never came out, but the article sure did(!), white captions on a purple framework. Now, Francis might say this accusation impeded a proper theatrical release for his precious dream labor / it took five years to make / he poured his blood in the cement / he signed his name with a stick on his mama’s grave – you’ve met one director, you know how they act when they can’t pull what they believe they want. The whole business of saying hi to Francis, it’s a bunch of grown men attempting to get Francis to take several seats before he goes to court (doubtful) or, making a semi-public grovel so he’ll be placated, you’re right you’re right, his teeth will relent. His honor bruised, not slayed.
This Francis, what do you think, he’s a manbeast of no age, trying to up the menace by shaving his eyebrows and wearing leather all over, I’ll fuck you up I’m for real, and stop right there give it a single minute, the chatter at the booth swerves in a low moan existential direction. Do youuu understand the gravity and the repercussions of what you diiiid. The magazine dudes are going all in on the apology scene. We are so so sorry Francis it was a freelancer won’t happen again. Flat screen monitor plays the movie’s trailer on a ninety second doom loop. Razor blades blowing up in flashes blue red blue. In and out of the booth comes and goes Frankie’s leading lady who is the most retouched person I will ever see up close, ever, a woman so redrawn and piled on by cumulative surgery events she has no head to speak of, no skin save for the color flesh, and she waves a ring finger at me and she says, you guys, there’s a line, and she’s looking at me. The lesson being: don’t accuse vindictive directors of plagiarism – good one, life advice – why is she looking at me. Sure sure, I repeat, as I leave without moving, astral bounce yourself to a bright, quiet future that’s the key, but, madam, miss: you do see you’re talking to a child in a blazer.
Who are these clowns. I want to give everyone a wet mullet, all slicked back, and no one has. Every face looks like claymation and every hallo feels like nicotine gum stuck under a chair in some abandoned junior high classroom set, adrift on a mud river, so yeah, I do see the decline happen, I do catch the End mid-air, my birth name will land on paper. I will go on to become the thief and the Medusa you love to resent, and we’ll ditch this scene maybe a couple months before we hit the level of Francis, his lady or both, probably both, and man oh man do I wish I had better conversations on instant recall.
Barbara Genova (she/they) is the pen name of a public woman who went private. Poetry and stories written as Barbara have been published / are forthcoming at The Daily Drunk, surfaces.cx, Anti-Heroin Chic, Sledgehammer Lit, Scissors and Spackle, The Final Girl Bulletin Board, Fahmidan Journal, Misery Tourism, Hallowzine (2021), Expat Press, The Bear Creek Gazette, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Roi Fainéant Press, Discretionary Love, and the Hecate Magazine anthology issue #2 (DECAY, winter 2021). She can be found on Twitter and on Instagram.