Watchin’ My Stories: Glimpses of Harriet

(Fade in to Harriet’s upstairs apartment. There are boxes piled up everywhere, and the place has that freshly-moved-into look. Pan across the wreckage to the sound of scrubbing and foul-tongued mutterings under the breath. We see Harriet Kostaki squatting on her living room carpet, which appears to be matted with some horrid and ill-omened substance, scouring away in an aggravated manner. She is dressed in baggy black shorts and a superannuated R.E.M. concert t-shirt from the Green tour. She has features bordering on the delicate, extremely pale skin, and burgundy-colored hair done up in a style that was known for a minuscule span of fashion history as the ‘Julia Roberts bob’. She wears no makeup and is terribly dirty and disheveled, but most men would still notice her looks. Some might complain, the world being what it is, that she is perhaps a bit too thin. She bears a very angry expression and constantly wipes sweat from her brow into her sweaty hear with her sweaty forearm. As we close in on her, she jerks her head towards the camera and addresses it directly.)

“Since surprise is not inherently an unpleasant sensation, it cannot play too large a part in the worst day of your life. No: that day, by its very loathsome nature, must be foreseen before it begins. Nothing can come as a shock on this, your Waterloo of days. Every terrible event that takes place is merely the real-world confirmation of the murky premonitions of dread and ruin that have been creeping around the corners of your brain all day. ‘I knew it’ is a phrase that must often come into play.”

(She rises and walks wearily into the kitchen to fill up a yellow Rubbermaid mop bucket, and we see that she has a smeared dark substance coating her glove-clad hands and wrists that looks suspiciously like blood. She continues to speak as she drains, then re-fills, the bucket.)

“Maybe I should have known. True, I am an adult, a sophisticated, well-traveled woman of the 21st century. I am bright, and I have been around the proverbial block a few times. A great downtown apartment, in a small building, close to everything, beautiful view, smack in the middle of a historical district, and a balcony even, for only $600 a month? There’s got to be a catch, right? I was prepared for the inevitable catch. But I think it’s a bit much to expect me to be prepared for a decapitated cat in the freezer. I think the large demonic mural over the fireplace depicting a particularly harrowing segment of the Revelations of St. John the Divine, that’s also a bit too much. I expect torn curtains, yes; plumbing that’s backed up, a big security deposit, a quick rent hike or the building going condo. All these things I was ready to deal with. I was even alert to the possibility that they wouldn’t have cleaned the carpets. But I must admit that I was not completely steeled for the discovery that what they hadn’t cleaned the carpets of is what I can only hope is animal blood.

“But now that I have seen these horrors come to pass, I am aware that this is the worst day of my entire life. So anything that will happen to me from here on out is going to be horrible and bad and wrong, and now I am free from the rigors of shock. Nothing that will happen today will shock me from this point on. That, at least, can be said for this day.”

(Harriet walks back to the living room, sets down her bucket, and fishes a rolled-up piece of paper from one of the boxes. She unfurls it and we see it is a Rick Springfield poster, advertising his film Hard to Hold. She Scotch-tapes the poster over the large Satanic mural over the fireplace. She sits down on top of an upended metal milk crate and stares off into space.)

“When I was a kid, we always used to go up to Spirit Lake on the Fourth of July weekend. My dad liked to fish, and Mom worked, so she just wanted to get away from the city for a while. As for me, I always loved it because it seemed like we were traveling to another world, where different rules applied. If you wanted to swim, there was this big lake with living things in it; and if you wanted to run, instead of a street or a park there was this huge forest that went on forever, and you could run and run and never see another human being. It was always sad when we had to leave, because I knew it would be another year before I could return to this magical place. There was only one thing wrong: no fireworks. Back then, Spirit Lake was a really empty space, not the tourist trap it is today; so everyone who went there was the rugged suburban adventurer type, and there was no need to stage the big shows they put on these days to convince the out-of-towners that they never left home. And so the Fourth never meant fireworks to me until I grew up and moved away. When I came to the city, everything changed: when I’d swim, the only living thing in the water was me; and there were other people everywhere you looked, and nowhere private to run; and it just kept on getting hotter and hotter every single year. One nice thing, though: there’s always fireworks on the Fourth of July.”

(What are you going to do with your life?)

“I hate having to answer that question, probably because my mom asks it of me so frequently. I’d gotten quite used to being unemployed, but it looks like I won’t be able to make a career out of it. I just got a job as an executive assistant to a state senator whose politics, to put it as gently as I can, make me want to vomit. I’ve already sold out any artistic principles I might ever have had, so I might as well pitch my ethics out the window after them. I spent nine years learning to play the cello, and I have a degree in theater arts that I’ve managed to parlay into a number of low-paying clerical jobs. What good is it being a great artist out here in the Low Desert? I’m 26 years old, too old now to make it as an actress even if I didn’t live in Arizona.

“I don’t know; what am I going to do with my life?”

(She shrugs her shoulders in a uncommitted way: does it mean she’s given up worrying, or that she’s hopeful everything will work out okay and isn’t worried at all, or that she’s terribly worried and can’t see any way around it? We worry about you sometimes, Harriet.)

“It’s a brand new day for me, my friends…things can only get better from here on out. I have a family and a few people who care about me, I haven’t been murdered or raped, and I’m not close to living on the streets. That puts me ahead of a fairly large segment of my fellow Americans. Don’t get me wrong: I still think this is shaping up to be the worst day of my life unless there’s sone repressed memories hiding under my cerebral cortex. I’m just saying, why make it worse by moping around and not accomplishing anything? I think I’ll just sit here and quietly hate it, and then I can on with getting some work done.”

(She rises energetically and walks into the kitchen. She opens the refrigerator and retrieves a Diet Coke, which she cracks open and drinks without enjoyment. Idle curiosity leads her eye to the kitchen cupboards. From a side view, we see her open them; a clattering noise issues forth and something falls forward, stopping just before it spills out of the cabinet. Although we cannot see it in full, a pair of sinisterly curved goat’s horns protrude outward from it. Harriet looks at them without outward emotion for a moment, then pads back to the living room to resume her scrubbing just as a knock comes at the door. She puts on her tortoiseshell kitty-cat reading glasses and turns for a parting shot to the camera before storming to the door:)

“Ah! More good tidings. I can only hope it’s the building manager, or at least someone who enjoys being screamed at.”

(She slowly turns the doorknob. Fade to black.)


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