[THE DOORS-ERA VAL KILMER, dressed as and made up like Jim Morrison from Oliver Stone’s The Doors, sits on a black cushioned stool with his long dark hair hanging down in his face. He brushes it back out of his eyes and fires up a fat doober, man.]
THE DOORS-ERA VAL KILMER: I remember one time he said to me, “Y’know, it takes a lot of love.” And I looked at him and I said, “What?” And he smiled a little and just goes, “Yeah.”
[He takes a toke of his marijuana cigarette and looks at the camera and does that little jaw-tense/lip-pucker thing that he likes to do.]
THE DOORS-ERA VAL KILMER: I think about that a lot ‘cuz it’s like, that’s what Brian was all about to me, man. Cosmic… mystic, you know? (Little coughing exhalation.) Yeah…
He brushes his hair back once more, takes another toke and then we CUT TO: A bearded SERVAIS, part of his beard interrupted by a long, jagged scar that runs from left temple area to neck. He’s standing behind a wooden bar with a few framed pictures on the shelves behind him along with an assortment of liquor bottles. His posture is confident and self-possessed, but his eyes smolder with a fearsome intensity.
SERVAIS:(“SERVAIS/FORMER BIG LEAGUE CATCHER (called a good game)/BARTENDER/POWELL FRIEND”): He was a good kid. (Wipes the bar with a rag then sticks the rag in his back pocket.) Had his problems, but a good kid. Woulda been better off if’e’d spent more time hittin’ the weights and less with his head in the clouds but… (trails off with a bit of a shrug, then furrows brow) what’s this for, anyway? What’cher angle?
MAN’S VOICE (O.S.): We’re trying to get the Real Brian Powell Story, from the people who knew him… knew what made him tick.
SERVAIS:(Sipping a double whiskey neat.) Uh-huh. (Tersely.) Why?
[CUT TO: MICAH THE CAT (source of the off-screen “MAN’S VOICE”), the tabby cat/non-binary humanoid, is walking along a city sidewalk on an average day, moving toward the camera at a casual, leisurely pace as it retreats, keeping him in perfect focus all the while. He’s wearing tasteful slacks, an olive green turtleneck and an open sportscoat as well as some rounded glasses, so you know he means business. His orange-and-white-striped tail, poking out through a hole in the seat of his trousers, is furling and unfurling of its own volition as he walks. So cute… so ‘dorbies!]
MICAH THE CAT: (“FILMMAKER/BRIAN POWELL ENTHUSIAST AND SCHOLAR/KITTY CAT”): I was finding that those who knew the late author, filmmaker and pizza boy Brian Powell have opinions and accounts of his character and his life’s events as multitudinous and as disparate as the fish in the earth’s oceans. Which of them are true? Is any? Are they all?
[CUT TO: A second angle, now to Micah’s left, briefly putting the feline humanoid in profile. Not a flattering look for him, as it happens… he’s a heckin’ chonker! Hehehe. Micah pivots to face the camera and smiles warmly.]
MICAH THE CAT: Hi. I’m Micah the Cat. I was once a T.A. pursuing a useless MFA at College University, but then one day an angel turned me into a kitty cat and that all changed. I’ve since regained a portion of my humanity and devoted my life to the pursuit of knowledge in more meaningful realms: Post-Literacy and Brian Powell. I made this film so that y’all could join me in my quest to understand this most intriguing of “hoomans.” So please, sit back, relax and enjoy, won’t you?
[He smiles with his furry white paws pressed together before him.]
CUT TO: ON SCREEN. “BIG SKY, MONTANA, FORMER HEADQUARTERS OF MOUSTACHE PUBLISHING.”
CUT TO: DR. THEODORE “TED” TUNNELL (“DR. THEODORE ‘TED’ TUNNELL/PREEMINENT BRIAN POWELL SCHOLAR”) is walking up a somewhat unkempt gravel driveway with Micah the Cat toward a small, dilapidated old cabin. Tunnell, puffing on an unlit pipe and wearing a gray flat cap to butch himself up a li’l bit, turns back toward Micah, who’s acting finicky about some of the weeds and little puddles in the driveway.
DR. THEODORE “TED” TUNNELL: (Smiling.) Once more into the breach, dear Micah! We’ve not much farther to go now!
MICAH THE CAT:(Huffing and puffing, raspily.) Yes… yes… I’m coming…
DR. THEODORE “TED” TUNNELL: (Gesturing grandly while holding pipe.) This is where it all happened… where it all began!
[They trudge forward… onward, Tunnell with a sense of invigorated purpose, Micah laboring. CUT TO: Tunnell sits in a wooden chair within the small cabin, its interior in rather poor repair, with much of the remaining wooden furniture broken and shoved against the back wall of the small, cramped room. He places a small log into the wood stove to his left and blows into his hands after. During a silent moment, Tunnell pulls his pipe from the pocket of his tan field coat and begins chewing idly on the unlit smoking device. The camera pans along with his gaze, taking in a short row of grade school-sized desks, two of them with logs piled on their tops. There’s only a single window in the room, its dimensions roughly 1’x1’, beside which a dusty, framed black letter-on-white matte reads, “WE NEED EMOTIONAL CONTENT.”
ON TUNNELL. With his legs crossed and nibbling/puffing his pipe thoughtfully, Tunnell regards the camera.]
DR. THEODORE “TED” TUNNELL: Brian Powell and Oscar Berkman were brought here—foundlings, both—by Edward I. Jacks, taken under the grizzly mountain of a prose-poet’s wing from mere babes, nursed on hard-boiled pulp fictions, rough-hewn tales of Jacks’s time as a sailor and a boxer, made to type prose poems dictated to them for hours on end by this man, who would be the closest thing either would have to a father, made to endure a series of “Breakings” to help them… (looking at pipe, chewing over the words) “butch up”… “become men.”
[Tunnell looks off camera, smiles.]
DR. THEODORE “TED” TUNNELL: Micah, my boy?
[CUT TO: Micah the Cat, sitting in, or rather, attempting to do so, what’s left of a box far too small to accommodate his ample posterior, appearing to doze.]
MICAH THE CAT (V.O.): Was it true, what my mentor said? He was the leading expert on Brian Powell and his strange life and career, but a boy whisked away with a friend by a now-obscure prose poet, tasked with taking dictation and, later, generating thousands of pages per month of “content?” It seems so alien, like something out of one of the first or second editions of The Brian Powell Story. I needed a source on that, chief.
[CUT TO: THE CHIEF (“THE CHIEF/MOUSTACHE PUBLISHING EMPLOYEE”) sits in a chair in Moustache Publishing’s modern headquarters, in Anytown, the “bullpen” area more specifically, where he fidgets and twiddles his hairy thumbs while typewriter keys click and clack and their bells ring incessantly. He’s a rotund, barrel-like man with a short-sleeved shirt tucked into khaki highwaters, both too small, and a short, fat tie. His thick, hairy forearms are folded across his chest.]
THE CHIEF: Hah? Yeah, we used ta be based outta Montana, alright, but there was never any sissy boy pansy poetry crap, and the bureaucrats would never let us hire kids—believe me, I tried! (Gesturing with and gnawing on cigarette.) Told ‘em their little fingers would move faster, hit the keys quicker, but you know those stuffed shirt types: afraid’a their own shadow most’a the time! Said it “wouldn’t look good” to have kids loggin’ hours like’at or some hooey.
[He grumbles bitterly.]
MICAH THE CAT (O.S.): So how did Brian Powell and Oscar Berkman come to work at Moustache, then?
[The Chief takes a bite out of his unlit smoke and then lowers his large head, chin on fist ala Rodin’s “The Thinker.” Several seconds of wordless typewriter sounds follow. THEN: The Chief snaps his fingers and looks up, grinning proudly.]
THE CHIEF: Berkman and me, we came in together…
[CUT TO: MICAH THE CAT, purring excitedly, jotting notes on his little pad. BACK ON: The Chief.]
THE CHIEF: And Powell… he was the pizza boy, right?
MICAH THE CAT (O.S.): Yes, that’s…
THE CHIEF: (Nodding.) Yep, I knew it. Yeah, he drove that lousy little car of his—hatchback, I think… stank of pizza pie… most’a the time, ‘cept when’e was on the sauce. Then he…
[The Chief continues speaking but the sound fades away.]
MICAH THE CAT (V.O.): A dead end; it took several questions, repeated a number of times, to suss out that The Chief had meant he was riding to work with Berkman, not that they had joined the company at the same time. The Chief didn’t know about that, he said, and he didn’t know about Powell either. I wasn’t getting the dead cold hard facts that I needed. I’d have to look elsewhere.
[CUT TO: THE MAMA BEAR (“THE MAMA BEAR/ADULT FILM STAR/SEX WORKER/WORKED WITH POWELL”) sits in a chair on a soundstage before a nondescript gray backdrop. She’s noticeably gaunt for a full-grown grizzly bear, with a freakishly “augmented” chest and a lot of makeup on her bear face. Her fur’s a bit patchy and she’s holding a soggy moss-covered log from which she fishes some grubs and other gross morsels to toss into her mouth periodically.]
MICAH THE CAT (O.S.): Mrs. Bear…
MAMA BEAR (Raising a claw.) It’s Ms. Bear now, baby, but if you like it you can put a ring on it!
[The Mama Bear rumbles with laughter and then buries her snout into one end of the log, eating voraciously from it, producing lots of weird, off-putting squishy noises and moaning in an almost sexual fashion.]
MICAH THE CAT: (Laughing awkwardly.) Mmm, yes, I, uh… you worked with Brian Powell…?
MAMA BEAR: (Nodding, gesturing daintily.) Oh, sure, did a lotta pictures with the guy. Did a lotta other things too! (Wiggles brow a little, winks.)
[ON BOTH: The Mama Bear is now helping herself to a pot of honey, pouring the viscous amber goo down her fucking gullet. Micah sits with his legs crossed and, after lapping at a spot on his furry shoulder a bit, resumes his questioning.]
MICAH THE CAT: How did that come about?
MAMA BEAR: (In a husky, “sassy” voice.) Well baby, when you’re working close in a cramped…
MICAH THE CAT (over her) I mean working together.
MAMA BEAR: Oh. Well, John Grisham, the legendary author, had written a book called The Stenographer’s Dilemma, the conclusion to the, uh, Stenographer, uh… “Quintology”…
MICAH THE CAT (helpfully): Pentalogy?
MAMA BEAR: No thanks, I ain’t into that satanic stuff, baby. (Fingers crucifix pendant, tilts large bear head, then continues.) Anyways, Bri-Bri… oh, sorry, that’s what I called the li’l fella. Hmm. Brian had been put on the film adaptation project, but he and Johnnycakes… er, Grisham… they came up with a different idea.
MICAH THE CAT: Bear Witness!
MAMA BEAR: That’s right. You know your movies, sweetsie boy. Now a lotta folks don’t know this, but that came about because we were all— Bri, Johnny Babes and me—partying together.
[CUT TO BLACK. ON SCREEN. SCENE FROM BEAR WITNESS (1998, DIR. BRIAN POWELL, A TITAN PICTURES/MOUSTACHE PUBLISHING PRODUCTION.)
CUT TO: A courtroom setting, densely packed with onlookers and a full jury, two legal teams, two stenographers, bailiff and sheriff’s deputies and judge. The defense attorney, ARNIE BECKER, as played by Corbin Bernsen, is addressing the court.]
ARNIE BECKER: Your Honor, the defense calls to the stand… Karen Bohr!
[The courtroom clamors. THE JUDGE, played by Ed Asner, bangs THE GAVEL, a crudely animated anthropomorphic gavel voiced by Paulie Shore.]
THE GAVEL: Hey buhhh-dee, order in the court!
THE JUDGE: Shut it, Gav! That’s my line!
THE GAVEL: Oopsy-poopsy, sowwy!
THE JUDGE: Order! Order in the court! Bailiff, bring out the witness.
[CUT TO: THE BAILIFF leads KAREN BOHR, as played by The Mama Bear and wearing an orange prison uniform, into the courtroom. Karen takes her place on the stand. The Bailiff brings out the Bible and holds it out to her in his left hand while raising his right. She puts her big left paw on the book’s cover.]
THE BAILIFF: Raise your right paw. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?
KAREN BOHR: I do. [She takes her seat. Arnie Becker approaches, hands at his lapels, a smug look on his face.]
ARNIE BECKER: State your full name for the court, please.
KAREN BOHR: Karen Dee Bohr.
ARNIE BECKER: Bohr… now, are you any relation to the late genius science man Dr. Niels Bohr, ma’am?
KAREN BOHR:(Eyeing Becker warily.) He… was my husband.
[Chatter from the court. The Judge looks displeased. The Gavel glances at The Judge. Becker smiles, looks down, then at Karen.]
ARNIE BECKER: I see. And that “was”… would you tell us… how Dr. Bohr came to die?
KAREN BOHR: I killed him.
ARNIE BECKER: (Slamming his hands on the railing before her.) How! How did you kill him!
KAREN BOHR: Grrraaaahhhh! With my bare bear hands!
[Karen swats Becker with a paw as she springs to her hind paws. A really crummy, cheap-looking dummy meant to depict Becker is sent hurtling across the courtroom amid gasps from those in attendance.
CUT TO: JOHN GRISHAM, now having aged gracefully, a veritable silver fox, sits on his expansive, expensive back porch with MICAH THE CAT.]
JOHN GRISHAM: Powell? I thought people had forgotten about that.
MICAH THE CAT: It seemed to be a powerful piece of cinema, did Bear Witness. Was your vision for the feature betrayed by Powell in some way?
JOHN GRISHAM: You could say that. The only reason we worked with that nutjob in the first place was because those jackals at Moustache got hold of the rights to a story I didn’t want made into a film at all, so my agent and I came up with the idea to shop something more ‘mersh to them…
MICAH THE CAT: Meow? “‘Mersh?”
JOHN GRISHAM: You know: commercial… some chum for the idiots who watch movies. (Spits performatively.) Filth! Dreck! That seemed to be all the Moustache people cared about, and whether Ryan…
MICAH THE CAT: Brian.
JOHN GRISHAM (CONT’D): …Cared about the ludicrous final product and was just a hack or was there for the paycheck, I don’t know, but suffice it to say, I thank my lucky scars he didn’t get to make something I actually cared about, like The Stenographer’s Ghost or The Bailiff Goes to Japan.
MICAH THE CAT: You mean, erm, you thank your lucky stars, Mssr. Grisham.
JOHN GRISHAM: I meant what I said.
[Grisham pulls his collar down, revealing several jagged scars. He tilts head slightly, eyeing Micah and the camera intently, then lets go of his collar.]
MICAH THE CAT: Gadzooks!
JOHN GRISHAM: That’s what I said, and the psycho lost it.
MICAH THE CAT: Brian Powell did that to you? (Making some notes on his pad, laughing in bewilderment) This is incredible!
JOHN GRISHAM: What? No! That pilled-up Mama Bear bitch! Had a real screw loose. Fucked like a beast though, let me tell ya. Ooh hoo hoo! Hew hew, baby…
[The sound fades out as Grisham continues speaking, his expressions and gestures—including standing, turning in profile to the camera, and performing an exaggerated, deliberate pelvic thrusting with his arms bent and his fists extended at his sides—becoming very animated.]
MICAH THE CAT (V.O.): It seemed everywhere I turned for Brian Powell stories, things were as strange… unbelievable as in the Brian Powell Stories themselves. Much of the rest of our interview with Mr. Grisham is too shocking for words and too vulgar for the ears of decent folks. But please continue buying his books; great art must be supported regardless of what we may think of the artists at a personal level.
[CUT TO: A DARKENED FIGURE with a strangely rectangular head, sitting in a darkened room, lit only by a lamp behind the individual. ON SCREEN. “AN ACTRESS WHO WORKED WITH BRIAN POWELL AGREED TO SPEAK WITH US ON CONDITION OF ANONYMITY. HER VOICE HAS BEEN ALTERED TO BETTER PRESERVE HER PRIVACY.”]
DARKENED FIGURE: Powell? Yeah, he was a real creep, alright.
MICAH THE CAT: How so? Does anything in particular come to mind?
DARKENED FIGURE: Hmm… well, yeah, there was… well, anybody can see I got this pillow face, see…
MICAH THE CAT (O.S.; awkwardly): I… hadn’t noticed… at all…
DARKENED FIGURE: What’re ya, blind? Anyways, we were waitin’, you know, to do the scene, and Powell walks out buck naked ‘cept for he’s wearing a pillow face over his weenie…
MICAH THE CAT: His “weenie?”
DARKENED FIGURE: Whattaya got feathers for brains? His ding-a-ling! So he’s got the pillowcase on his johnson and it’s obvious he’s, you know, “happy to see me,” and he says to me, “Hey tits, howzabout a pillow fight!”
MICAH THE CAT: Shameful.
DARKENED FIGURE: Yeah, he was a real card! (Wistful, distorted sigh.) You got nice whiskers. Got a smoke?
[CUT TO: A disheveled bald man in an oversized, dirty U.S. Army drab olive field coat is pacing anxiously on a street corner in a bad part of Anytown. Even in this blighted place people are careful to steer clear of the man, who’s ranting wildly, his voice only faintly audible as the sound has been turned down to accommodate Micah’s voiceover.]
MICAH THE CAT: It was when I was feeling my lowest and fearing the worst for my film, believing that my “pizza pie with everything was cooked,” so to speak, that I caught what would prove to be a lucky break: a man once thought of as one of the leading experts in the field of Brian Powell Studies turned up!
[CUT TO: DR. EDWARD BLAKE (“DR. EDWARD D. BLAKE JR./POWELL’S FORMER TEACHER/AUTHOR/ BRIAN POWELL SCHOLAR”), the man from the street, sits across the table in a little coffee shop. Blake pushes a coffee cup back and forth, his eyes darting wildly, his figure twitching sporadically. Micah eats some tuna from a can in a pecking, cute little kitty-cat manner, purring with satisfaction.
ON BLAKE: Blake looks at the camera only intermittently, smiling.]
MICAH THE CAT: Thank you for speaking with me, Dr. Blake. It’s really an honor. We’ve met before, I don’t know if you…
DR. EDWARD BLAKE: (Nodding, waving him off.) Yes, yes, we’ll meet again.
MICAH THE CAT: Yes, well, anyway, thank you. I wanted to talk to you about Brian Powell, find out if there was anything you could tell me about his youth, how he came to work at Moustache, that sort of…
DR. EDWARD BLAKE: (Closing eyes tightly.) The mistake is in thinking he came to Moustache Publishing, that his unorthodox upbringing, generation of content, was preparation… training for what lay ahead.
MICAH THE CAT: I’m not sure I understand, sir.
DR. EDWARD BLAKE: Powell is not gone… He hasn’t been born yet. And he has been born, and he has died, and he is still writing The Brian Powell Story, preparation for when he will, as but a pup, write thousands upon thousands of pages for The Chief as a boy.
MICAH THE CAT: Is this some… a time travel story?
DR. EDWARD BLAKE: The woman jogging on a trail in the woods is attacked, maimed by a mountain lion, eaten by the buzzards, and is still being attacked by the cat—cousin of yours?—and eaten by the birds and telling her husband not to be late for dinner and going to the pictures with friends… (raises a finger) just as Brian is dead, and writing for Moustache… taking buffalo wings out of the oven at Domino’s Pizza on “Big Game” Sunday… in my class writing a beautiful micro-essay about the powers of the U.S. Supreme Court that nonetheless misuses the word “extricate” and results in a pillorying from yours truly… kneeling at the foot of a tree behind a rehab facility he’s just fled, a belt around his neck, ready to fold the hand of his wretched existence… (smiling, looking at the camera intensely) the later reclusiveness was training for the early solitude, the unheralded voluminous writings rehearsal for solitary stagings of dramas with 3-and-¾” G.I. Joe soldiers, “men” as he called and will calm them…
MICAH THE CAT: This is…
DR. EDWARD BLAKE:(Laughing wildly.) Not exactly what they teach you over at Podunk U!
Dr. Blake would then pour hot coffee over his own bald pate, scalding himself horribly, and run screaming into the night, haunted by what he had seen and heard years before in the gold car, and pursued by its ageless driver and other keepers of the flame for the secret, sacred knowledge he had shared without permission to the uninitiated.