Q: Even though I first wrote the below on May 18, 2008 - is it still on my answering machine?
A: Hell yes! I actually listen to it about once every two weeks to make sure it's still there.
Sometime during Friday May 9th, the following message was left on my answering machine:
(the voice is of a woman in the late-middle ages. by this I mean a woman past 50, not one in the feudal system)
Table is set,
Lasagna is in,
How come I haven't heard from you?
Anyway, if you get my message give me a call, bye.
I was out to dinner with a few friends on Friday night. We all came back to my place and loved this message that never got to Alice. I really wish I could somehow upload the sound. It's important to understand the poem like delivery. How the pronunciation of Alice is elongated to make the word sound twice as long and how the words "set" and "in" are forcefully said as punctuation. The pause before hearing the caller's abject desperation in the "How come I haven't heard from you?" question.
One of my friends who heard this lamented that our creative writing course at Northwestern had ended. True, this kind of material would serve as the perfect impetus for a short story.
Where is Alice?
This woman, she is obviously expecting her.
This dinner must be important, no?
So here's my idea...
And I'm also anticipating selling the movie rights...
Hoping I'd retain some control on the casting, here it goes:
Edie McClurg as "Valarie" Alice's to-be mother-in-law
Leelee Sobieski as "Alice"
Will Friedle plays "Jim" Alice's fiancee
(It's not important if you don't know who Will Friedle is. he had a small role on an ABC sit com called "Boy Meets World" and is most well known for having dated Jennifer Love Hewitt before she met and dumped Carson Daly. He's not having a speaking role, just will be anxiously pacing behind his nervous mother in the background)
In another non-speaking role will be Rev. Harris - played by Sam Waterson
And now I'll introduce some tension.
Rev. Harris is the family pastor for Valerie and Jim at their local Evangelical Church. Leelee (Alice) is an eastern european immigrant from a strong Catholic family.
You see where I'm going with this, right? Valerie is very concerned about her faithful boy marrying outside her faith. She's bringing in reinforcements (Rev. Harris) to try to convince her son of this fact. However, Jim is very confident that her solid roots will withstand any cross examination from the character played by the Law and Order actor.
By the way, Leelee (Alice) is an underground stripper. The reason why she is late is because her brother was very late in picking her up from a "private party" the evening before, and she is now basically held hostage in her brother's early 90s Ford Mustang.
Adam will be played by Giovanni Ribisi.
Turns out that the only reason why Adam and Alice are in the States (illegally) is to pay off a debt from the old country. And that Adam is the reason for the debt, but we won't know why yet. Jim knows only that Adam is in bad social standing, not the kind of person you want your mother or pastor to meet. Tragically, Jim doesn't know the extent that his fiancee is involved.
Jim earlier called Alice, before Valerie's attempt. Jim heard the after-market exhaust system in the background of the phone conversation. The only way that Alice can make it before the lasagna gets "out" is if she drags Adam in with her. Which would create more tension with good ol' Rev. Harris in attendance.
And that's the story behind my erroneous message on my answering machine, in my opinion at least.