It’s Monday, which means it’s time once again for me to court your baffled silence with another enthralling episode of my inexplicably unproduced screenplay, THE MYSTERIOUS MR IF. This week’s edition features a heavy nod in the direction of Lindsay Anderson’s IF… as we meet a man in a filing cabinet. A friend who read the thing entire asked if perhaps I was breaking one of the unwritten laws of comedy by making the straight characters as silly as the surreal ones. He was probably right, but who wants to write a scene with Zeppo Marx and Bud Abbot?
For those not in tune with popular movements in modern screenwriting, I have another “poetic” contribution to the Vincentennial over at Limerwrecks. Topic: THE FLY, as fitting a subject for five-line doggerel as any I can think of.
So — last we saw, Edinburgh’s police exhibit/archive The Blue Museum had been vandalized by a master-criminal freshly escaped from the nineteenth century: policeman mannequins dressed in tacky lingerie. Sheena McQueen, cop reject, has stolen a file on this miscreant, and her cat, Edward Woodward, has been savagely blacked up as a result. Sheena has left said cat in the care of Howie, human exhibit at Edinburgh Zoo, and alerted Detective Inspector Turner of the Lothian and Borders Police to these unruly shenanigans. Clear? Now read on…
INT. EXHIBITION ROOM, BLUE MUSEUM – DAY
Sheena peels the lingerie from a Victorian bobby -
Victoria’s Secret Police.
Tring! DI. Turner and PC. Thrower enter. Turner nods briskly to Sheena but doesn’t stop – both men proceed to the back of the museum.
Sheena moves towards the rear of the museum.
MR. NETHERBOW (OS)
Ah, DI. Turner. All is in readiness. Descend with me to the Files Room.
INT. BACK ROOM, BLUE MUSEUM – DAY
Sheena sidles in just as Netherbow, Turner and the constable disappear below stairs. Sheena creeps to the top of the stairs and crouches to watch.
EXT. ZOO – DAY
Howie sits in his cage facing Edward Woodward the cat. Edward Woodward is still in blackface. Howie has a banjo. Edward Woodward has a banjo.
Howie plays the first part of the tune.
Edward Woodward stares at him mutely. For a long time.
Howie plays the third part of the tune.
Edward Woodward stares some more.
There’s no keeping up with you.
INT. FILES ROOM, BLUE MUSEUM – DAY
Sheena watches from the top of the stairs.
Still no sign of the If File?
Sheena looks guilty.
I’ve turned the place upside out, Detective Inspector. I can’t conceive of what -
The business at hand, then.
Netherbow goes to a filing cabinet and opens a long drawer.
Inside, morgue-style, is Inspector Rathbone Shinty, still dressed in the height of Victorian fashion. He is adorned with cobwebs.
Sheena jolts in astonishment.
Inspector Rathbone Shinty. A hundred and fifty years old. Is it possible he can tell us anything?
He was mesmerized at the instant of death. He ought still to have all his faculties.
Sheena looks dumbfounded.
Turner leans very close to the dusty inspector, clears his throat, and then yells in the cadaver’s ear.
INSPECTOR SHINTY! HOY! CAN YOU HEAR ME?
Shinty’s mouth opens and a long-legged spider crawls out.
Then a musty gasp exhales. Shinty stirs slightly. His skin makes a sound like dead leaves.
A voice, distant and desiccated, wafts from the cracked and barely mobile lips.
So If has returned… I knew he would.
WHAT DOES IF WANT?
Mr. If is attempting to become… unreal. But has only half-succeeded. As a semi-real person, he has… unspeakable power. Should he become completely… unreal, he might… start a chain reaction which would… unravel the universe. Fact and fiction would… blur, and the world might well… come to an end… of some sort. He must be stopped. Stopped.
And with that, Shinty’s face caves in. His suit crumples. His hands twitch and flake.
The strain was too great.
Thrower doffs his cap. Netherbow clasps his tit theatrically.
Break, break, oh heart!
Sheena, transfixed, comes to her senses and finds herself leaning dangerously far forward at the top of the stairs.
Turner, Netherbow and the constable pivot in surprise at a loud CLATTER.
Sheena slides down the last few stairs on her belly, reaches the bottom, and looks up.
EXT. THE ESPLANADE, EDINBURGH CASTLE – DUSK
A silhouetted Mr. If, in opera cape, surveys the cityscape.
Soon, soon, my pretty world. Nothing was, and nothing will be again.
He reaches out as if to touch a distant street… a car drives up it and If brings his fingers together as if to pinch the apparently tiny vehicle.
He moves his hand to his lips, clutching a tiny car. Muffled screams and honking as he delicately chews the miniature motor.
Mmm, the 1982 Datsun. A very good year.
FREEZE FRAME on his evilness.
Will Sheena get her stripes? Will Howie change his spots? Will Mr. If eat the universe? Tune in next time, or you may suffer baldness and stammering. Good evening.