By Raph al Guul
They were pretty tired. The trip had not been pleasant, nor had it been fortunate. They were coming the whole way from Denver in a car so crappy, it frequently just broke down and forced Joe to get out and push it to the next gas station. His wife wasn’t much help; Marie was in her ninth month of pregnancy and he would never have dared putting any pressure on her. Joe was generally a bit of a pushover when it came to Marie. For starters, it wasn’t actually his kid that was growing in her womb – how could it have been, they had never even had sex. And sure, it sort of bothered Joe that his wife kept claiming she was still a virgin even after her pregnancy started to become noticeable, but he loved Marie too much to take enough issue with it. And so it was love that was to blame for how he ended up here, pushing forward a crappy old Buick that contained his pregnant wife from an unconsumed marriage, who had an extremely unconventional understanding of the term “virginity” and was on the verge of giving birth to his bastard child.
It was past midnight and Joe had spent all his cash on repairs for the Buick just so it would make it to Alabama. They were looking for a place to stay, but they could not afford a hotel and they found no charity from the concierges. One of them even told them to ‘fuck off’ when he realized that they were broke. When they walked back to the car, a valet took pity on them. He was pissed that he had to work late and felt that the monetary compensation was insufficient. Plus, he thought it was rude to curse at potential guests in the way the concierge had done. So he told Joe that they could stay in the underground garage – there were not that many occupants at this time of the year and all their cars were parked on the higher levels. The valet even helped Joe push the Buick to Parking C, where they could stay for the night, as he assured them. They were both very grateful for this kindness. Sure, it was a little chilly and the back seat of the car still made for a lousy bed – but at least they were safe from wind and rain. They also thought that they would have their peace and be left alone down here, but it soon turned out that this would not be the case.
Half a mile from the hotel in an old shack just off the main access road to the suburbs, there was a family of rednecks doing their usual late-night-redneck-things (mostly drinking). The father of the family was trying to repair an old transistor radio that had been broken for over two years, but he was too drunk to use his screw driver properly and mostly just scratched the case instead of removing the screws. His wife, bottle-feeding their youngest son what was likely to be scotch, grunted disapprovingly: “Ya ain’t gonna fix that old thang. I ain’t never seen ya fix anythin’ really.”
“I reckon that’s because ya never pay any damn attention,” slurred her husband, flailing his screw driver at her for emphasis.
“Oh, I pay plenty attention and ya always jist break them thangs. Never no fixin’.”
“Ya think I break thangs? That there kid yer holdin’ is the only one ya haven’t dropped yet,” he flared and continued, pointing at their sixteen year old daughter who was sitting at the table, following the argument, “Ya wanna explain to lil’ Jackie there why her nose is so crookid?”
“Coz her daddy is an ugly back-woods critter, that’s why right there.”
This was too much for him and he jumped up angrily, dropping the radio on the table. When it hit the hard surface it suddenly turned on and Angel’s ‘Wonderful’ started playing. Everyone was staring at the little box on the table; even the three children that had been asleep woke up from the noise of the argument and the music, and stared as well.
“It’s a muracle!” exclaimed the wife and almost dropped her son in the excitement. The husband wanted to take credit for the sudden return of the radio’s functionality, but he knew deep down that it was not his accomplishment and therefore he was similarly astonished. For a few seconds they were just standing there, listening to Angel’s moronic lyrics:
When you finally find what’s beautiful
It’s so wonderful
When you finally find what’s beautiful
It’s so wonderful
And all of the sudden they all had the same alcohol-induced thought – and their teenage daughter articulated it: “We gotta get out there and find ourselves somethin’ purdy!”
And so they got dressed and started roaming towards town in a fairly disorganized manner. They were not sure where they were going or what exactly they were supposed to look for, but they were entirely hell-bent on finding what’s beautiful and experience how wonderful it would be, just as Angel had promised them.
It was around two in the morning, shortly after Marie had given birth to Joe’s bastard son, when the rednecks, disorientated, but slowly sobering up, arrived at the parking garage and made their way down to level C. The first they saw of them was an eight year old boy who came running down the ramp and stopped in his tracks when he saw the Buick and the people in it. He looked back over his shoulder and yelled: “Come on down here, daddy! There’s some folks down here!”
Soon they all gathered around the car and gave the baby and his mother a stupefied stare. Marie found it fairly creepy and Joe was beginning to think he might have to intervene – which he really didn’t want to after the tiring day he had already had.
“That’s a purdy rascall,” said the redneck wife, who was half-tempted to ask if she could perhaps hold him – she completely forgot that she was still holding her own son (who was, in turn, holding what looked like a whiskey bottle).
“What’s his name?” the teenage girl wanted to know.
“He doesn’t have one yet,” said Marie, relieved that the silent staring had been interrupted.
“How ‘bout ya’ll call him Jesse, after me and Jesse Junior here,” said the redneck husband, pointing at his oldest son who gave them a broad yellow grin.
Joe and Marie looked at them in confusion; this seemed like a fairly forward request to throw at complete strangers. But the rednecks had already collectively made up their minds and started chanting: “Jesse, Jesse!”
It became clear that the rednecks would not leave before the newborn was declared ‘Jesse’ and its parents really wanted them to leave. That and the fact that Marie actually quite liked the name led her to finally concede. The rednecks cheered and the younger ones hopped around the underground garage enthusiastically.
“Alright, this calls for a celibration!” yelled the husband, “Let’s go find a place that sells some decent whiskey!”
And so the group left level C in pursuit of a bar that was open at this time of night. Joe and Marie sighed in relief. All they wanted now was to go to sleep. But then they suddenly heard the engine of a car echoing through the empty garage and all of the sudden a Mercedes came down from level B. It was driving very slowly towards them and eventually came to a stop. Three people, two men and one woman, exited the vehicle and approached the Buick. Marie instantly felt like she had seen one of the men, an African-American, before. Similarly, the woman seemed familiar to Joe.
“Excuse me, sir,” the Caucasian man asked Joe, “have you by any chance seen our hood ornament?”
“Uh, your what?”
The black man pointed at the Mercedes: “You know, the hood ornament – looks like a star!?”
The other man continued: “We were at this hotel two days ago and I think that moron of a valet broke it off somehow. We’ve been backtracking all the way here.”
The three stared at Joe and Marie, hoping for an answer. The black man was biting his lower lip in a peculiar fashion that led Marie to ask him: “I’m sorry if this comes across as racist, but you look familiar. Are you- are you Denzel Washington?”
“Yes I am,” said Denzel Washington.
“Oh, I really liked you in Crimson Tide,” said Marie. Denzel didn’t respond, but he silently wondered if it was an insult that the one specific movie she remembered him for was twenty years old.
Meanwhile, Joe also realized who the woman was and decided to address that: “You’re Angelina Jolie, aren’t you?”
Her big pouty lips gave him a smile and she said: “Yes, and you are?”
Marie took it upon herself to introduce them: “I’m Marie, this is Joe- oh and this is Jesse.”
She held up the baby with pride and the three looked at it (and oddly, it seemed that this time it was not as creepy as when the rednecks did it).
“It’s his birthday,” Marie added, which provoked a smile from the visitors.
Joe suddenly realized: “Wait, if you’re Angelina Jolie and you’re Denzel Washington, then who are you?” he directed this question at the white man who had first addressed them, “I mean, I feel like I have seen your face before, but can’t quite place it. Were you in Zombieland?”
The white man grinned charismatically, which made Joe want to figure it out himself.
“Wait, are you Bill Murray? You’re Bill Murray, aren’t you.”
The white man, who was actually Woody Harrelson, didn’t know if he should be offended or flattered that he was being mistaken for Bill Murray. But he didn’t say anything – he really just wanted to find his car’s hood ornament.
“Look,” said Denzel, “we’re here for the Mercedes star. Have you seen it?”
“I’m sorry,” said Marie, “we’re just here for the night.”
“In a garage?” asked Angelina.
“Yeah, we can’t afford a room,” said Joe sadly. This fostered the actors’ sympathy and they went back to the car to see if they had anything they could give them. Angelina found some cash she could spare, Woody gave them his leftover stash of pot, and Denzel took out a tube of lip balm, signed it, and gave it to the two. They soon went back into the Mercedes and drove off again. When they were gone, Joe and Marie looked at the gifts.
“Seems like only Angelina Jolie knows what a present is,” said Joe, counting the bills the actress had given them.
“Yeah, but Bill Murray gave us something to smoke – I mean that’s pretty cool too,” said Marie while rolling a joint.
“Are you supposed to smoke pot when you’re breastfeeding?” asked Joe. Marie was already smoking.
“I don’t know. But I’m not breastfeeding right now, right?”
“Right,” said Joe, lighting his own joint. They sat there in silence for a while.
Eventually, Joe asked Marie: “One hell of a night. You think people will believe us when we tell them this story?”
Marie giggled: “I don’t know. But I always wanted to meet Denzel Washington.”
“What kind of a name is ‘Denzel?’”
“I don’t know.”