The Canary Sings, Our Hero Squawks, the Plot Thickens

A few months ago I leaked an excerpt from an as-yet-unsold screenplay titled, "Elect Me or Else." Set in Orange County, it was a fictional tale of a young lawyer named Bob Scott being groomed by party pols to run for the Legislature.

In our first excerpt, the pols were trying to determine if Scott had what it took. Eventually, Scott and the politicos came up with a plan to recruit someone from the opposing party for the ballot, in the hopes of taking votes away from the serious challenger in that party and, as a result, helping Scott's candidacy. The pols' doubts about Bob were erased when he suggested an old friend of his as the phantom candidate.

What follows is another excerpt from the screenplay, still a work in progress. In this scene, the pols and Scott are huddled in a hotel room, having just learned that one of the underlings recruited to help with the scheme has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and may be talking to the district attorney.

POL NO. 1: We got a canary on the loose.

NO. 2: Uh-oh. Who is it?

NO. 1: Marty.

BOB (pacing, agitated): Oh, God, I was afraid of that. I knew this wouldn't work. Why I ever went along with it is beyond me. I told you someone would crack.

NO. 1: Shut up, Bob.

BOB: You shut up! You guys told me this would be a walk in the park. No problem, you said. Happens in politics all the time. Nobody cares about this stuff, you said. And if we do get caught, it's a piddling campaign-filing violation, pay a fine and forget about it. Paperwork problem, you said. Do you remember saying that to me?

NO. 2: Bob, you're hysterical. Nothing is going to happen.

BOB: Nothing is going to happen? We already got Marty singing show tunes to the D.A., and you tell me not to worry! We're all going up the river.

NO. 1: Bob, nobody is going up the river. Marty can warble long into the night, but if everybody else hangs tight we'll be fine.

BOB: Yeah, but what if everybody doesn't hang tight? These D.A.'s have ways of making you talk, you know.

NO. 2: OK, let's start from the top. Does anybody know why Marty went south on us?

NO. 1: The papers say he was getting pressured by the D.A. and copped a plea. What gets me is that all he did was collect the signatures for our stealth candidate, but the kid had a guilty conscience, I guess. Said something about wanting to take moral responsibility.

NO. 2 (exasperation written on his face): How do we get affiliated with people like that? Can't they keep their eye on the big picture?

BOB: Hey, aren't we a little beyond that now? You told me I was going to be doing public service, not community service. What if they nail me on this thing? I'm a lawyer. Do you know what a felony means to me? I'll be in the Legislature, all right, but it'll be with a mop and pail, cleaning floors after closing time.

NO. 1 (fixing his gaze on Bob): Bob, do you remember our little chat about this a few months ago? You seemed to think it was a darn good idea at the time. You seem to be forgetting it's your old friend who we tried to put on the ballot.

BOB: (sinking into a chair and holding his head in his hands): I could go to Chile. Or Europe. No, Europe isn't crowded enough. I could go to India. Yes, India! They'd never find me there. I could become a street merchant and sell pottery.

NO. 2: Get ahold of yourself. You're making Marty sound like Nathan Hale. Let's remember we're all in this together. You know, all hang together or all hang separately.

BOB (oblivious to them): I could go to the D.A. I could say I temporarily lost my moral compass. I wasn't trying to rig an election, I was just working the angles and got carried away.

NO. 1 (eye to eye with Bob): Bob, hear me clearly. Don't ever use that vile expression again.

BOB: What, "rig an election"?

NO. 1: No, "go to the D.A."

NO. 2: Bob, how about your friend? Do you think she'll hang tough? We can't have people coughing up any more fur balls on us.

BOB: How do I know? One day she's minding her own business, the next day she's in a remake of "Mata Hari." She might roll over any day now, and I wouldn't blame her.

NO. 2: Maybe you could talk to her.

BOB: I'm not taking any more advice from you guys. I gotta come clean on this thing. I gotta get my life back.

NO. 1 (looking at NO. 2): We've got a problem here.

NO. 2 (sighing): Tell me about it.

Dana Parsons' columns appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Readers may reach Parsons by writing to him at the Times Orange County Edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, or calling (714) 966-7821.

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