When I talk to my attorney, I could just as well throw all my money on top of a roaring bonfire for all the good it seems to do. Don't get me wrong, he doesn't necessarily seem like a bad person. Just a bad lawyer. No harm, no fowl. Except, unfortunately, it matters. A lot. Due to all his expensive inaction, I am still in the same exact situation I was in 12 months ago.
I still don't have alimony. The gallery and art camp I so painstakingly built up over this past year just got decimated by an earthquake. My business landlord is a cat...woman...thing. My house cleaner is an alien of the E.T. kind. Even though I pinch myself, I seem to remain a fairy who is followed around by an assortment of other creatures I thought were the stuff of storybooks until very recently.
And now I have a pet donkey named Chip. Actually, his name is Albert P. Beauregard, III. But I am getting ahead of myself.
[Afternoon, the ferry landing. Phoebe sits on a bench with a newspaper. Every now and then she looks up to check if the ferry has arrived. Lucy and Cooper rollerblade up to the bench and the three of them chat]
Cooper: Has anyone seen Sheila since...you know, since her big meow moment?
Lucy shakes her head.
Phoebe: I did get a notice saying my rent was going up. She must be alive and well.
Cooper: Didn't I tell you this would happen? Meditate on abundance, my...
Lucy (Phoebe): Are you waiting on someone?
Phoebe: I got an email from my attorney that he was coming down for the weekend to visit family. Said it would be a good time for me to sign some papers.
Cooper: Are you sure he is "staying with family?" He's not hitting on you, is he?
Phoebe: No. No danger of that. I don't seem to be the guy magnet these days.
Lucy: What about Julian?
Phoebe: That's the thing. He's not really a day kind of guy.
Lucy: He is a bit of a night owl.
Cooper: Too bad his house is near completion. I was getting used to that gravy train.
Phoebe: Have you seen it? His finished house, I mean.
Cooper: Yesterday, in fact, when I dropped off some paint. It's pretty amazing. I think it's 10,000 square feet. Maybe more.
Lucy: Who needs that much space?
Phoebe: I could get used to it, I suppose.
A boat horn sounds nearby. The ferry is approaching the town dock.
Lucy: Do you see him?
Phoebe squints then nods.
Cooper: Which one is he?
Phoebe: The only one in a bow tie. "Chip."
Cooper: Chip? No wonder he's such a lame lawyer. That name just sucks all authority and intelligence right out of his...
Lucy: They're sore. I either need to keep moving or sit down for a while.
Phoebe: You guys go on. I'll meet up with you later. Chip and I have some very expensive business to discuss. Say, do you think if I get him drunk enough, he'll forget to charge me?
Cooper: It's ladies night at The Catch. Tequila shots aplenty.
Phoebe: Just the thought of that gives me a headache.
Lucy: Why are you the one picking him up? Where is his family?
Phoebe (crinkles her brow): I forget. One minute he's announcing his arrival and the next I seem to be offering to drive him around in my golf cart. Let's just hope Maude and Irv don't pop in.
Cooper: Or that the birds don't attack the two of you in a freak wind storm.
Lucy: Or that an angry oak tree doesn't decide to attack you on the road while you flee a pack of werewolves.
Phoebe: Maybe that's not the worst idea in the world?
Phoebe: Taking him to The Catch. We could sit on the deck, take in the view and discuss the finer points of family law. If that doesn't have fun written all over it, I don't know what does.
Lucy (to Phoebe): You want us to be there for moral support?
Cooper (smacks his fist into the palm of his other hand): Personally, I'd love to go a few rounds with this asshole.
Phoebe: Okay. It's a date. We'll see you there for happy hour.
[On the dock, ferry passengers dressed in shorts and flip-flops and carrying overnight bags, coolers and boogie boards walk down the ramp. Phoebe stands at the end of the ramp. A man in a navy blazer and bow tie appears. He is carrying expensive luggage and looks overdressed for the warm day. He sees Phoebe and waves.]
Chip: Phoebe, Phoebe. You look different...uh...tanner.
Phoebe (looks confused, was that a compliment or an insult?): I guess abject poverty and salty air do wonders.
Chip: Oh come now. This...this tropical lifestyle can't be that bad (he spreads his arms and indicates the general island ambience). And you're living the dream with your new gallery. Am I right?
Phoebe: Well, the gallery, yes, the gallery. There's a topic of seismic proportions.
Chip makes a puzzled face.
Phoebe (waves her hand, like "no big"): It was a whole earthquake, devastation thing. I can show you the empty, dusty shelves of my "gallery" later on. My golf cart is over here.... (Phoebe looks in the direction of where she'd parked not 30 minutes ago, but her cart isn't there. Phoebe puts her hands on her hips and looks around the parking lot). That's odd. I don't see my cart anywhere.
Chip: Here, I'll just call my brother. (Chip takes out his cell phone and fiddles with it) I'm sure he can pick me...and you, up, if you need a lift.
Phoebe (squints and continues to scan the area for her cart): I have the keys right.... (she digs in her purse, then her pockets...). Oh no! Maybe I left the key in the ignition. Habit. This isn't the kind of place people steal carts. There's literally nowhere to hide!
Chip: No worries.
Chip puts his phone to his ear, nods at Phoebe, turns and walks slowly down the sidewalk away from her. Phoebe can here a word here and there. Presumably, he's talking to his brother. When he comes back he is smiling.
Chip: Cory said we should just hang at a place called The Catch until he can get here.
Phoebe (frowning): I think I might need to file a police report or something.
Chip: Good idea. Let's call now and get them ON it. Want me to call on your behalf?
Phoebe: Would it help?
Chip: Let's give it a shot. Where's this Catch place anyway.
Phoebe turns around and points toward the far side of the harbor.
Phoebe: I was going to meet some friends there later, so at least we'll beat the crowds. (She looks at her watch) Uh, 4pm.
Chip: As they say, it's always happy hour.
Phoebe (gives puzzled look at Chip): Somewhere.
Phoebe: I think it's, "It's always happy hour somewhere."
Phoebe (pulls cellphone out): You know, I think I'm going to call someone I know. The mayor. (Phoebe dials Sheila and leaves a voicemail).
[On roof deck of The Catch: Phoebe and Chip sit at a table drinking margaritas.]
Chip hands Phoebe some papers.
Chip: My best advice is to accept the offer.
Phoebe (look of shock on her face): This is a fraction of what I was asking for and I wasn't even asking for that much because that's what you advised me to do. How can you ask me to accept this?
Chip: I was afraid you might take it like this?
Phoebe: Did you try to counter or negotiate or whatever it is you people are supposed to do? Why should I settle?
Chip: There are many reasons, Phoebe. First and foremost, I am expensive. If you want more money from him, you're going to have to throw more money at legal fees. And...
Phoebe (looks worried): And? (Phoebe sips on her margarita)
Chip: And... (he sets his drink down and nods at the waiter for another). And he's not going to play nice, Phoebe, not at all. He will drag stuff into a court room that you would rather he wouldn't.
Phoebe: Such as?
Chip: Such as the time you spent in the psych ward, for starters.
Phoebe: What does that have to do with alimony?
Chip: Nothing, theoretically.
Phoebe: Then what's the big deal?
Chip: The deal is that....
Cooper: Phoebe! Why is your golf cart sitting on top of the light house?
Phoebe: My what on the what?
Lucy: Although it might not stay for long. It's looking kind of tippy. (she looks at Cooper) What's holding it up there, anyway?
Cooper: Not sure. Gorilla Glue, maybe?
Phoebe (begins to stand up): I better get go...
Cooper: Who's your friend?
Phoebe (hesitates, then...): Chip, these are my friends Cooper and Lucy.
Chip: Nice to meet you. (he shakes hands with Lucy first and the shake goes on a beat too long)
Lucy: Um, nice to meet you, too. (she looks at his hand on hers)
Phoebe: We were just having a rousing conversation about family law.
Cooper: I hope it's one that ends in, "Phoebe now gets the full amount of alimony she deserves with interest."
Chip (stuffs the paperwork into his briefcase): I think we can put this aside for now.
Phoebe: I really better go. You know, golf cart...light house.
Chip: But your friends just got here! How will you get it down on a Friday night? Better wait until daylight.
Lucy: He has a point.
Cooper: I hate to say it, but I agree.
Phoebe: Well...fine then. let's all be very cavalier about the golf cart that really doesn't belong to me and the fact that it's over 100 feet in the air just swinging in the breeze (she sits back down) Oh, waiter? (Phoebe holds her glass up and tips it back and forth, the waiter nods)
Sheila walks up to table where Phoebe, Lucy, Cooper and Chip are sitting.
Cooper: Sheila! There's something different. Let me guess. You've done something to your hair. Oh, wait. I know. It's the lack of fuzzy, pointy ears.
Chip furrows his brow and looks at Cooper.
Phoebe (under her breath): Ixnay on the atcay. My attorney might not be drunk enough to deal with the amazing cat woman.
Lucy: Hi Sheila! We've missed you.
Cooper (looks at Lucy): No we haven't.
Lucy elbows Cooper in ribs.
Cooper (cringes): Would you stop doing that?
Lucy (under her breath): Yeah. When you remove that foot from your mouth. Sheesh, Cooper. She's our landlord. She kinda has the power in this situation. Why do you always bait her?
Cooper: I don't know. It's just fun. What can I say?
Phoebe: Chip, this is Sheila. Sheila, Chip. He's my, uh, attorney.
A slow smile grows on Sheila's face. She holds her hand up like a Southern Belle and right on cue, Chip leans over and kisses it.
Cooper, Lucy and Phoebe observe this, a little repulsed. But Chip drops Sheila's hand abruptly and turns to Lucy.
Chip: So how do you know Phoebe? You look familiar.
Lucy seems caught off guard.
Lucy: Well, we...um...I own the bookstore in Pelican Plaza, just a few shops down from Phoebe's gallery.
Chip (gazes at Lucy): Fascinating. I love books.
Lucy blushes and Sheila's eyes narrow.
Sheila: Yes, Pelican Plaza. I've owned it for about 12 years now. In fact, if you have time tomorrow...or even later tonight, I can give you a tour. (she leans across Lucy and puts her face close to Chip's)
Chip (turns his attention to Sheila): Well, I'm game for a midnight tour.
Chip: If Lucy can join us.
Sheila frowns and her eyes begin to turn yellow.
Phoebe (sees Sheila's eyes): So Sheila. Cooper's just been itchin' to dance. Cooper?
Cooper (looks unpleasantly surprised): What?
Phoebe nods toward the dance floor.
Sheila (looks angry and grabs Cooper's arm and yanks him toward the dance floor): Oh come on, you idiot.
Lucy and Phoebe watch Cooper being dragged by Sheila.
Chip (runs his finger down Lucy's arm): Should we join them?
Lucy (startles at his touch): Oh...what?
Chip (takes her hand): Come on. I won't bite.
Lucy (stares at her hand in his, not looking thrilled): That's a plus... (she looks mournfully over her shoulder at Phoebe as she is dragged to dance floor by Chip)
Phoebe sighs and sips on her drink. She watches everyone dancing and seems at peace, when...
Ernesto, her house cleaner approaches with Cindy, the naked beach lady. Phoebe looks amused and somewhat surprised.
Phoebe: Hello, you two. How nice to see both of you here...together...the two of you.
Ernesto (looks a little uncomfortable, his eyes dart toward Cindy like he's trying to send a secret message to Phoebe): Cindy ask me to come with her. I...
Cindy leans into Ernesto and whispers something in his ear. Ernesto's mouth opens in horror. She pulls him to dance floor.
Phoebe waves at them and continues to sip her drink through a colorful straw. Behind her a man speaks. It's Thor, a surf shop owner, who is really in a group of fairies called extremists and has a mysterious mission that involves Phoebe, but not necessarily her welfare. He is with Clementine, who is in a group of tiny fairies but who can turn herself into human size and form. Her group of small fairies has another agenda around Phoebe that has to do with managing Phoebe as she explores her new fairy identity and untested skills, however their attempts to do this seem extreme and life-threatening. Clementine is not a big fan of Phoebe.
Thor (to Phoebe): Oh great. It's you. Common, Clem. Bar's this way.
Phoebe shrugs and sips on her straw as she watches Thor stomp away. She studies Clementine.
Clementine (looks Phoebe up and down, then to Thor): I thought we were going to dance!
Thor: If I'm going to dance, I need a drink.
Clementine (rolls eyes): I don't know what all the fuss is about alcohol...why you're all so nuts for it. Now the nectar of flowers, sure. I understand that. But this stuff (she points at Phoebe and Phoebe looks affronted) that smells like gasoline? That, I'll never get.
Clementine follows Thor and disappears in the crowd. Once again, Phoebe is alone. She people-watches, continues to drink.
A voice behind Phoebe: You know what they say about drinking alone...
Phoebe turns to find Julian.
Phoebe: Wow. It's island reunion night. I think every single person I know is here. Not that it's a large number, but still. What are you doing here?
Julian: Do I need a reason?
Phoebe (brow wrinkles): I guess not. Free country.
Awkward silence and they both look in different directions. Then Julian turns to Phoebe.
Julian: So...would you like to dance?
Phoebe: No, really. Wait. You're serious.
Julian (looks crestfallen): Why wouldn't I be serious?
Phoebe (looks flustered): Well, it's just that you're Mr. Vague and Cryptic.
Julian: Asking you to dance is vague and cryptic?
Phoebe: Well, when you put it like that...no.
Julian reaches for her hand and she takes it. They move to the dance floor and he puts his arms around her. It's a slow number. Slow enough. Phoebe smiles and looks into Julian's eyes. Then...a scream. Phoebe and Julian stop dancing and turn toward the commotion. They walk toward the center of the dance floor, where it seems to be.
Phoebe (covers her mouth): Oh my God!
Julian looks grim.
In a clearing on the dance floor, with a cheering and clapping crowd all around, Chip is on the floor doing some kind of dance move...badly. Lucy has tried her best to stand back and blend with the crowd.
Phoebe (looks horrified): He completely lacks rhythm.
Julian: I've lived a long time and I've never seen it's equal.
Suddenly, there is a rebel yell and Sheila leaps down on top of Chip and does a lap dance-y thing on top of Chip.
Phoebe: I think I'm going to sick.
Julian: It's a bit off, but it's not that bad. Really.
Phoebe: No. I mean it (she covers her mouth). I think I'm going to be sick.
Julian: Uh, oh. (but his eyes are not on Phoebe. They are on Sheila.)
Phoebe, looking queasy, looks again at the writhing floor show. Sheila and Chip have some kind of rhythm-free floor dance still going on, but Sheila looks different. Furrier. Eyes glowing. Ears sprouting.
Phoebe: We have to do something. That's my attorney she's about to maul.
Phoebe reaches into her pocket and pulls out her wand. She jumps toward the center of the floor, wand ready. Chip has seen Sheila's eyes.
Chip (his face goes from wacky fun to horror): What the...? Get off me! Get off me!
Chip squirms to free himself but Sheila is stronger. Sheila's tail shoots out of the back of her dress.
Phoebe (momentarily transfixed by the sight): Wow.
Phoebe snaps out of it and tries to aim her wand at Sheila, having no idea what she's going to do, but trying to picture Sheila as anything other than a large panther-like cat thing. Every time she thinks she has a clear shot, Chip's arm or leg or head seem to get in the way. And, then...and then Sheila stands up on all fours. She's huge. A huge panther that looks like a woman. Phoebe aims her wand and pictures the most unthreatening animal she can given the short notice and fair degree of pandemonium. Sparks fly forward and swirl around the duo of Chip and Sheila. For a moment the sparks surround them like a twinkly cloud.
Phoebe: Oh, no. What have I done.
Julian (a beat behind her): What have you done?
The sparkles begin to fall like little stars to the floor and reveal only Chip. Sheila seems to have disappeared altogether.
Phoebe (in a little voice): Sheila?
On the floor, a strange honking, braying sound comes from Chip's mouth. He looks surprised. Then scared. His body begins to convulse and he gets on all fours like he wants to run away. But he seems to be having some sort of fit. He shakes violently. His ears get longer. His teeth grow. He brays one more time loudly and...he turns into a donkey. With a bow tie.
Cooper stands next to Phoebe and whispers to her.
Cooper: You were right Phoebe. He really is an ass.
Phoebe and Julian look at him.
Cooper: What? Someone had to say it. I know it's a cheap call, but still. Cut me some slack.
Lucy: Phoebe. What are you going to do? Do you know how to get him back to...to his other ass self?
Phoebe (sticks her wand back in her pocket): That would be a big no.
Ernesto: I think he is better this way. I no like him.
Cooper (to Ernesto): Ernesto. You no like anybody.
Ernesto glares at Cooper until he sees Lucy and then he smiles at her. Lucy looks awkward but also a little pleased.
Thor (to Phoebe): I didn't like the look of him to begin with. I'd say it was an improvement. Can't believe I'm saying it, Phoeb's, but nice work.
Clementine (looks at Phoebe and sniffs): Sloppy if you ask me. Anybody know where the mangy cat went?
Everyone turns to Phoebe.