Stranger Than Fiction (A short short story)

He was tall, broad-shouldered, and struggled to fit through the doorway. He walked in, hesitating with each step, and took his hat off. With a nod of his head, he took his trench coat off as well and handed it to me. I smiled at him, suppressing my discomfort. I hadn’t had to do business with detectives before, so this was all new to me. I didn’t know what to say or how to act. I felt his eyes upon me, knowing he noticed my every quirk and feeling inadequate because of it. He lit up a cigarette, asking me if I minded. I shook my head, when I really wanted to laugh. Either I was dreaming this whole thing up or I’d been dropped into a black and white Humphrey Bogart movie from the forties. His dark eyes glanced my way with suspicion, as if he had read my thoughts. I tried not to stare at him. His handsome yet intimidating presence was hard to ignore.

He cleared his throat and started asking me questions. No small talk, no hello and how are you, he went right down to business. No fuss, no muss, just the facts, ma’am, as Dickens would say. I don’t know why, but I found that disappointing. I liked chit chat. I wanted to get to know people I met on a daily basis, even jaded detectives that looked like an unholy hybrid of Phillip Marlowe and James Bond.

That’s not to say I wanted him to flatter me, but a little friendliness could have gone a long way. I had just lost my sister to a murder, after all. I gave him what he wanted: the facts. He wrote it all down in his little notebook, his eyes glued to the pages the whole time. He didn’t look up, didn’t give me any acknowledgement at all. I felt a rush of embarrassment. His coldness unnerved me, and I wanted him to leave. I froze up just by standing near him.

The funny thing was, even though he refused to look at me and said nothing as I yammered on about what had happened to my sister, I felt like he was aware of everything I did and everything I felt, like he was staring up at me from beneath his hooded eyelids. He could see me, without looking. This made no sense at all, I knew that, but it was how I felt at the time. I never would have imagined, that day, what came next. I never would have guessed that cold, rigid man was my future husband, and the love of my life. Had it been a novel, I would have cackled at how unrealistic it was. It’s true, you know, what they say. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Cherished Memories

His voice reminds me of a moonlit garden in summer
Flowers and fragrances contained within the gentle breeze
Under the stars we sway in each others arms
The musical notes hover over us, frozen in place,
Like photographs of a lost time
And when I hear the sounds of trumpets
I think back on those endless days and nights
And tears come unbidden to my eyes

My All-Time Favorite Movie

Here’s a review I wrote a few years ago, it’s my explanation for why Casablanca is my favorite movie of all-time, and it also helps explain why I write and read romance. Casablanca is more than a love story set in WWII, it is a character study, the story of a wounded, hardened, cynical man who after going through the motions for years, finds what it means to love again.

Casablanca: A Film Review

           Casablanca (1942) is the perfect movie. It’s an amazing blend of different genres and styles that work together, instead of antagonizing each other. In less than two hours, Casablanca features the stylish shadows and contrasts between dark and bright of a film noir, the suspense of a thriller, the raw emotion of a tearjerker, the backdrop of war, and a love story that speaks to each of us.

         Casablanca does all this with a tightly written, hilarious script where each line of dialogue is a memorable gem. Seriously, this has to be the most quotable movie ever made. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine. We’ll always have Paris. What nationality are you? I’m a drunkard. I’m shocked, shocked, to see gambling going on in this establishment. Your winnings, sir. Major Strasser has been shot, round up the usual suspects. Here’s looking at you, kid. These are only a handful of the timeless lines that have been quoted, parodied, beloved, and copied over the decades.

        However, what makes Casablanca work isn’t just the brilliant writing, or the classic story, but the perfect acting. Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine is in a class by himself. The charisma, the suppressed rage, the tough guy persona that covers a vulnerable heart, the cynical and sarcastic way he delivers the lines. Bogart’s performance as Rick Blaine is my favorite of any actor in any movie, and I have watched a lot of movies. He simply embodies the tortured hero. He’s not perfect. He’s had to break the law to survive. He’s become this cynical empty shell, and yet by the end of the movie, he’s found it in his heart to be a human being again. To see through the pain, to re-learn what it is to love, and to embrace that love, and be strong enough to know when to let it go. Rick Blaine’s character arc is heartbreaking, moving, and wonderfully portrayed by Bogart. Bogart would go on to deliver other acclaimed performances, including the one he won an Academy Award for (a great movie called The African Queen), but I think this character and this performance is his quintessential one. It’s the one that just embodies all of his work, and goes beyond the realm of typically well-received performances into a another stratosphere: that of a classic, timeless icon.

        Not to be outdone, Ingrid Bergman smolders as the beautiful, elegant, mysterious Ilsa. Her acting is restrained, but effective. She can convey so much with a single glance, she doesn’t need to dig into a bag of tricks. The supporting actors also make an invaluable contribution to the film. The likes of Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Conrad Veidt, all immensely talented character actors, add an authenticity and electricity to the film that can’t be duplicated.

      The film’s sole weakness may perhaps be the relatively stiff performance of Paul Henreid, who was much better in the Bette Davis classic, Now Voyager. Henreid is not entirely at fault, since his character is quite underdeveloped compared to the characters in the film. Lazlo is little more than a plot device, the obstacle that keeps Bogart and Bergman apart from each other. This is a small quibble, however. Casablanca is a timeless masterpiece. It is also my personal favorite movie of all-time.