The Devil in the Detail


The Devil in the Detail
for H.C.

My wife is sleeping and I am watching a movie.
The movie I am watching is about an assassin,
a belly dancer, a terrorist, a British psychiatrist, 
and an attractive Bulgarian teacher of English.
It’s complicated,
but circumstances have thrown them together.

They live in in Bulgaria
which we are led to believe 
is very much like Albania except the 
cart horses are fatter and everywhere
there are Armani billboards.  

Every shop sells men’s cologne,keffiyehs, 
Tie-dye brassieres, and pirated DVDs. 

For a little local color 
they show children eating out of trashcans.

The English teacher is seeing the psychiatrist
for reasons to be disclosed later but is actually
the assassin trying to deal with the childhood trauma
of watching her parents vaporized by a terrorist bomb.

She does not know she is an assassin. 
She does not know her parents are stardust. 
She does not question why
a British psychiatrist would move his practice 
from Mayfair to Sofia and encourage 
his male patients to sleep with belly dancers
She only knows she is an English teacher in a bad marriage 
to another English teacher (a pompous Bulgarian) 
who is both controlling and obnoxious. 
He speaks better English 
than she does, wears bow ties and is contemplating a 
vasectomy. He forces her to eat oatmeal
Every morning. She is disenchanted.

Other than when she is killing terrorists,
she is an extremely submissive and dutiful wife.
In assassin mode, however, she takes orders from a laptop 
that spits out cryptic messages like 
“Directive 6. No Witnesses” 
and then sends her off on missions. 
She is very efficient. She kills mercilessly;
women, children, even pets.
She is a literalist.  
No witnesses means no witnesses. 
When she accepts an assignment, 
it is followed to the letter of the law.
In my movie everyone is someone else.  
The English teacher is an assassin. The psychiatrist
is a pornographer. The belly dancer is a law student. 
The terrorist is an entrepreneur. 
The husband is a humanitarian 
working undercover for the UN.  
He is an authority on white slavery and a 
recovering sex addict.
There is also a narrator in this film
and he takes, so to speak, a God’s eye view.
But he is not like most film divinities.
He does not have a deep voice.
He does not sound like John Huston 
Or James Earl Jones.
He sounds tired and edgy.

We never see him, but we know he is there.
We know he is there because he speaks with such authority.
We know he is there because the script is poorly written.

In short, we know he is there 
because he is not really there at all.
that is why we never say:
“How crazy is this?” or
“Who can make sense of this crazy script?”
or “This director has finally touched bottom.”
we rehearse our lines,
visit our psychiatrist, 
and try to make a life for ourselves
while we wait for our next assignment.

--Greg Geis










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