Zuzu's Petals (an excerpt)
I can’t believe it, but I actually think I
understand. Clarence, when you’re back up
there in the Great Beyond, tell Jimmy Stewart
I said hello. I wish he was still around,
walking the earth. And tell William Blake I
said “Hey,” too, while you’re at it. The
whole “innocence versus experience” thing,
you know? I took a Romantic poetry class in
college way back when. It’s a long story
that only a recovering English major can
tell. Let’s get off this bridge, Clarence.
As JULES and CLARENCE walk towards one end of the bridge, JULIE appears out of the shadows and steps directly into their path.
Oh no you don’t. It’s not that easy. Real
life is never that easy.
It doesn’t have to be as hard as you make it
out to be.
That’s easy to say when you make every effort
to constantly escape it.
That’s garbage. I always eventually come
Not often enough for me, I’m afraid.
What the hell are you even doing here? This
is my daydream, not yours!
It’s nighttime, Jules, and you should be
reading to your daughter.
No, you should, we should be reading to our
Look, Jules. I’m a good person. I’m not the
bitch that you make me out to be. I’ve taken
care of you, of us during our whole marriage.
And I’ve also taken care of Zuzu. It’s
always been my burden to take care of the
practical things that just have to be done.
CLARENCE, who has been standing off to the side during the altercation thus far, steps forward to speak.
Excuse me, Julie. Allow me to introduce
I know who you are, you idiotic,
pretend bastard. I’ve been dragged
kicking and screaming in front of the
TV to watch your movie every frigging year.
Now, there is really no reason to be saucy
JULIE suddenly grabs CLARENCE by the lapels of his overcoat. She drags him to the middle of the bridge. All this time CLARENCE looks skyward, his hands supine, as if his is a necessary sacrifice. JULIE throws him over the side. There is a splash, a smattering of bubbles across the surface of the icy water, and then silence below the still-turbulent waves. JULES runs to the middle of the bridge.
My God, Julie. You just killed an angel!
It’s over, Jules. We have to go through
with this. We have got to tell Zuzu.
We will. I can’t. I just don’t know.
JULES tries to embrace JULIE, but she pushes him away and steps back.
We can tell her tonight. I can come over.
I’ll just call you, and we can get Zuzu on
the phone. We’ll do this together. Wait. No. I want to be home for it. We’ll do it
Okay. If you think that is best.
JULES glances over the side at the barren surface of the choppy water as JULIE leaves the bridge. He looks in the direction from which she has just exited the scene.
She said “home.” WWGD? What Would George Do?
JULES exits the scene, trailing JULIE…
…Daddy? Zuzu gently shakes me.
You were out of it for a long time. I’ve been trying to wake you up. I’m tired. I wanna sleep too.
Okay, pumpkin. That makes two of us.
I close the picture book.
I love you, Daddy.
I love you too, precious. More than you know.
Zuzu has closed her eyes, and as I raise myself from the bed, I palm a handful of the potpourri petals that have spilled onto her dresser. Bending my head and cupping my hand over both nostrils, I inhale. The memory of the petals’ fragrance, still encapsulated within them for years, manages to tickle and tug at my nostrils.
I slip the petals into the pocket of my jeans in deliberate imitation of George Bailey. In the process I crush them by accident to miniscule particles that will turn to a fine dust if I’m not careful. No matter. Later I can transfer as many of them as I can to a Ziploc baggie and place the preserved petals into a box filled with what other people
would construe to be a meaningless, random assortment of odds and ends but for me are mementos that represent significant episodes of my past and present existence.
I hope that Zuzu and I, running through the garden together hand in hand, will be careful not to accidentally trip and trample over the roses on our shared path toward the horizon that lines our dreamscape, however threatening the skies will turn.
I want to tell Julie, Zuzu, all of them all of this and more, but I feel hog-tied by the fact that I will never surpass George Bailey’s abilities as a father. George, for me, being the ideal human being and all.
I start to head for the hallway but stop at the threshold and turn around.
Would you like to come downstairs with me to watch the end of It’s a Wonderful Life?
I like Spongebob better, Daddy. He’s in color. And he’s funny.
I hate old movies.
You really shouldn’t. They’re classy and refined.
I don’t know what ‘classy’ and ‘refined’ is.
Never mind, sweets.
The lightning and thunder continue to crash beyond the thin protective layer of glass that is Zuzu’s window. I descend the stairs alone. The phone rings and I answer. At the same time the doorbell rings. I leave footsteps of amniotic fluid in my wake as I stagger forward.