By William G. Lantta
Academy Award Nominated Actor Rip Torn stumbles around my living room like an orangutan. He’s younger than he is now, roaring off his small role in Columbia Pictures smash 1997 hit, Men In Black. He flicks on the fan to its highest setting, it seems like it will rip free of the ceiling. He grips the multiple glass blown miniatures that rest on my mantle, as if he is blind, and must feel to see. He looks at the sixty-six-year-old man in the mirror, and doesn’t marvel at the chest-forward bravado in which he carries himself. He’s a man, and that’s how men walk.
He turns, and catches eyes with my seven-year-old bullmastiff, Herc. They don’t break until I come down the stairs.
Academy Award Nominated Actor Rip Torn is drunk in my car. Wafting off his un-tucked button-down, I can taste Jim Bean Honey, Johnny Walker Red, Jameson Irish Whiskey, and Franzia boxed wine. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t somewhat expected, but the disappointment is still there. I begin to drive to the lunch I have planned for us at NoNuya, the premiere Mexican-Japanese fusion lounge in my area. Much like my date, it has received critical acclaim and multiple awards. I had reserved a coveted outside table five weeks prior. Rip Torn immediately becomes irate, stating that he wants to go to In-N-Out. I calmly try to explain to him that NoNuya is the premiere Mexican-Japanese fusion lounge in the area, and like him, has won many awards. I try to act calm, but my voice cracks and my palms become clammy.
We sit at an outside table and he inhales a basket of fries, animal style. I don’t touch my burger, instead, I watch the way he devours the meal, as if it will be his last. Thousand island dressing drips down from his quivering lip, dark and slow.
Academy Award Nominated Actor Rip Torn is yelling at the sea otters for hiding in their plaster cave. We’re at the local aquarium and things are going poorly. I manage to get him away from the small mammal enclosure, and I sit him on a bench near the Japanese Spider Crabs. We’re silent for some minutes. It’s 4:17 pm when tries to small talk me.
“You’re at dinner with any celebrity, who’d it be?”
“I don’t know, maybe Bradley Cooper. He seems pretty nice. Well dressed.”
He rubs his swollen knees, and I can tell that he’s upset I didn’t say him, but he likes being difficult so he just pouts.
“I just had lunch with you.” I say. I think about rubbing his back, but decide against it.
“Yeah.” He says.
He’s older now, a few years past his acclaimed cameo role of Patches O’Houlihan in the 2004 20th Century Fox comedy hit, Dodgeball. His chest has sunk in, his stomach close to overtaking it. His back curves harshly, and his head hangs low. We stop talking, and watch an eerily thin crab bludgeon a smaller one with his claw. A young actor once attacked his director with a hammer, until he stopped moving, but the faded thing next to me exists so far away from that moment. I believe he’s thinking the same thing, the thin hairs on his head flitter about like crustacean antenna. The smaller crab falls limp into the sediment. The large crab stilt-walks into the rising dust, until we can’t see it anymore.
Academy Award Nominated Actor Will Smith, who costarred with a man named Rip Torn in Columbia Pictures smash 1997 hit, Men In Black, walks by us with his son, star of Columbia Picture somewhat-profitable 2013 movie, After Earth.
They don’t stop.
I don’t blame Will Smith; why would he notice us? Rip needs help walking now. He’s a shambling old man. His age has caught up with him and he is light and fleshy. His hair twists and distends in all directions and his jowls slowly push from the wind. He looks back at his old friend, and his heir, with panicked muttering. For the first moment in his life, he is afraid of death. Not because he will float in hell, but because if he is gone, who will be here to say he even existed? That he wasn’t just some man who needed help walking. A flutter of wind. After a minute, he finally forms words.
I don’t hear him. And when I look to my left, I don’t see anyone, and when I get home, I ask myself why I was walking alone, and when I go to bed, I wonder why the faint shadow of Jim Bean Honey, Johnny Walker Red, Jameson Irish Whiskey and Franzia boxed wine had followed me home.
Gray Lantta is an Austin, Texas, native studying at the University of Iowa. His work can be found in Ink Lit Mag and the earthwords Literary Review.