Hello World

“It pours out of you like a torrent.”
“What does?”
“The work!”

Michael moves up to the window. The fog crept slowly over the hills leaving the trees exposed to the last remaining sunlight.

“Do you see that?”

John turns his face away.

“You’ll never see it if you don’t look.”
“There’s nothing to see.”
“Yes there is.”
“The world! The whole wide world is out there.”

John pulls the blanket up to his chin and forces an artificial cough.

“Can’t you hear I’m sick.”

Michael starts for the door but speaks before opening it.

“This is ridiculous.”
“I’m dying.”

John shrugs off the blanket, jumps out of bed and approaches Michael menacingly.

“Don’t you dare tell me I’m not dying!”

Michael turns to face him.

“So what if you are dying? What was the one thing that kept you alive all this time?”

John’s panting subsides as his eyes lower. He speaks under his breath.

“The work. The work kept me alive.”
“Then you must work.”
“I tried.”

John walks up to his desk and points at his computer.

“I sit in front of that screen for hours but nothing comes out.”
“Don’t try.”
“You’re not supposed to try, just let it come.”

Michael opens the door.

“Where are you going?”
“To put an end to this charade.”

John grabs his brother’s arm.

“Is everyone here?”
“I think so. I don’t know most of the people out there, but I’m guessing they won’t be willing to indulge you in your insanity.”
“I’m not insane, I’m dying.”
“You’re stuck.”
“Which means I’m dying.”

John tightens his grip.

“I’m not crazy.”
“I think you are.”
“Fine, go and tell everyone I’m crazy. I guess this is goodbye.”

Michael breaks free and walks out. John goes after him.

“Just one more thing.”
“Had you planned on saying something?”
“During the ceremony?”

Michael pauses and turns toward John.

“I think so.”
“You mean you didn’t prepare anything?”
“What was it?”
“Does it matter?”
“It does?”
“Listen, I flew halfway across the world, to attend what I thought was your funeral, to find out this is just another one of your desperate cries for attention.”
“It isn’t! I’m really dying. I knew this day would come sooner or later, the day when I had nothing more to say and nothing more to write.”
“You had a good run! Better than most.”
“I want more!”
“You can’t get more unless…”
“Forget it! There’s a hundred people out there who came here to attend your funeral. I’m so embarrassed for you. I can’t believe I’m here listening to your insanity.”
“They’re not all here for that.”
“What do you mean?”
“About half of them are movie extras I’ve hired so it would look good.”

Michael clenches his fists.

“I feel like such a fool! You Hollywood people think you can manipulate the world as you see fit. I hate you for it, I’ve always hated you for it.”
“I haven’t always been in Hollywood, not when we were back home.”
“Yes you have John, you’ve always been a Hollywood-type and you’ve always been a phoney. You were bound to end here. This is just the gathering place for all the world’s phonies. Even when we were both back on the ranch, Pa always knew you couldn’t handle the real world, that’s why he sent you to college. He thought maybe you would find a place phoney enough for you to succeed in… and you did.”
“Finally the truth comes out!”
“What truth?”
“You’re jealous.”
“Jealous of what?”
“My money, my fame, my everything!”
“I should have known, even at your funeral you behave like a self-centered idiot.”
“Why did you come then if you don’t love me? Why did you cross the world to be here?”
“I wanted to make sure you were dead!”

A sudden silence fills the hallway.

John turns around and walks back into his bedroom. Michael sees him getting back into bed and heard an almost inaudible cry coming from the room.

Michael can’t bring himself to walk away. He turns and walks back to the bedroom and sits on the bed.

“I never said I didn’t love you. You’re my kid brother, of course I care for you.”

John wipes his eyes.

“Are you proud of me?”
“In a way I am. You’ve accomplished what you’ve set out to do and that’s something.”
“Is it?”
“Of course it is, you have a wall full of golden statuettes and a house big enough to be a hotel. What more do you want from life?”
“Your respect.”

Michael gets up and looks out the window. The sun was gone and the lights were starting to dot the valley.

John sits up.

“You think I am a sell out?”

Michael doesn’t answer.

“My whole life I’ve tried to impress you, and bad, but nothing was ever good enough. When I heard Pa got sick, the year he died, I sent a private jet to get him and bring him out here to spend his final days under the care of the best physicians in the world. I would have given him anything and you want to know what he said, he said ‘Johnny, the land needs looking after, I can’t just pick up and go.’ And then he died and his damned land died with him. I could have bought him half the land in the entire state and paid for the people to look after it if he would have asked me to.”

Michael shakes his head.

“Pa didn’t care much about fancy things. All he would have wanted was for you to go and help him plant his carrots in the backyard.”
“Carrots? I’m sorry but there isn’t much time for planting carrots when you have a few thousand people on a production that’s costing the studio….”
“You don’t get it, do you.”
“What is there to get?”
“He loved you, he didn’t love your awards or fancy things. He wanted his son, not the image the world had of his son. All you did was try to buy his respect by conquering the world.”

John is taken aback by his brother’s words. He is about to say something but a coughing fit prevents him.

Michael walks up to the bed with a worried look on his face.

“Are you okay? Do you need some water?”

John inspects the handkerchief he had in front of his mouth and notices the blood. He presses a button and a few moments later a nurse walks in carrying a glass of water and a pill. He takes it and the nurse vanishes without saying a word.

Michael observed the scene aghast.

“You really are sick?”
“So what if I am! You’ve ruined my funeral now.”

Michael starts for the door but John’s words stop him.

“I’ve always been jealous of you and of your talent.”
“There’s nothing to be jealous of. You have everything.”
“Except for talent.”
“You have that too,”
“Maybe a little but not real raw talent like you.”
“No, you have that too.”
“You should have let me make a picture of your first novel, it would have been huge.”
“It wasn’t a movie, it was a book… a book no one bought.”
“Nevermind that. It would have made a huge blockbuster.”
“It was meant to be read, not to be seen.”
“Well, no need to continue this argument, it was forty years ago.”

John gets up and walks up to Michael.

“How do you do it? How do you write like you do?”

Michael looks into his brother’s eyes.

“I let the world in.”

For the first time John gets it and smiles.

“Thank you Michael, thank you for coming to save me.”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“Please tell everyone out there to go home. Tell them I’m sorry.”

Michael nods.

The two brothers hug for the first time since either of them can remember.

The door closes behind Michael.

John walks up to the window and looks at the night sky. The moon caresses his face.

He sits at his desk and looks at the computer monitor. A smile appears on his face, he types: “Hello Word”.