“All right, take her up, Jack.”
Within a few seconds, the steady beat of the giant rotor increased to a roar as the custom-built helicopter lifted majestically from its pad in Louisville into the blue, blue sky. Gil had hired Jack the pilot along with two other pilots and two other similarly-built helicopters from a local excursion company. These copters were fitted with large glass bubbles that allowed the occupants a wide range of vision as they flew over the various scenic points that were especially favored by tourists. In this helicopter, besides Jack the pilot were Gil and Richard Ellsworth who in this case was acting as his own camera operator. In the helicopter to their left were the pilot, assistant director Nancy Chaney, and Sam the cameraman. On their right, Rosie was directing Dave as he went about his camera work.
As it would be about twenty minutes before they reached their destination, Gil settled back in his comfortable seat doing some deep breathing and relaxation exercises well-known to actors who employ these techniques just before going on stage. He had time so he recounted to himself some of the more salient events of the previous ten months.
Raising Ezekiel had been finished on time even with very little participation from either Gil or Natalie. He had to admit that Nan had done a great job as director, using inventive camera techniques and opening it up to shoot exteriors whenever possible to relieve the monotony and claustrophobia of the many consecutive interior scenes. But even so, it had had only a lukewarm reception from the critics and had been only a modest success at the box office. Over the years Natalie’s core audience—mostly white middle class liberals—had aged, most of them now being in their forties and even fifties. They were unfortunately attending theatrical movies less and less these days, what with the rising cost of movie tickets, concessions, a decent dinner out, et etcetera. There was also, in Gil’s opinion, way too much competition from the ever-expanding number of television channels available through cable and satellite. This, combined with the recent craze for personal computers in the home, had kept a lot of people away from the movie theaters—particularly for such films as Raising Ezekiel. It seemed to be all FX, explosions, shoot-em-ups, superheroes, and espionage thrillers these days.
Still, it had earned a modest five million at the box office before it was retired in early spring. A comfortable profit, considering its two million production cost. And Natalie had been able to negotiate a lucrative deal with Lifetime television for the exclusive rights to show the film the next year. So, it hadn’t been a total loss.
Still, it was obvious to Gil that Natalie was losing whatever touch she may once have had with scripts that were near and dear to the hearts and minds of the Classic American Liberal. So, it was time for new blood and that was precisely what he was engaged in doing—providing that new blood.
Over the long winter he had worked with both Rosie and Natalie on the script of Water Over the Bridge, inventing several new domestic scenes to pad its length a bit, and making the dialogue more realistic. Both Rosie and, surprisingly, Natalie had amused themselves by populating the small Midwestern town with a racial and ethnic diversity that would have been strange indeed for the early 50s. Gil had started to protest but then kept quiet. Let them have their fun, he thought, he knew that the movie was going to be a smash hit anyway. The norns would see to that. Oddly, he had more faith in them than he’d had in the Lord that was on such constant display in the small eastern Pennsylvania town of Ben Allyn where he’d grown up—the Lord that had so mysteriously abandoned his alcoholic parents.
He felt a nudge on his shoulder as Richard said, “You ready, Gil? We’re just about there.” As the copter settled down to an altitude of about two thousand feet and slowed to a hovering cruise. Gil, all business now, got on the headset. “Come in, Nancy,” he called. “Are you guys ready?”
There was a crackle over the headphone and then a voice said, “Roger, Gil. Ready when you are. Out.”
Gil did not reply to Nancy but called, “Rosie, everything cool over there?”
The familiar crackle, then Rosie’s voice answered, “Ready when you are Gil. We can’t wait!”
“All right then, boys and girls, let’s have some fun and make a great movie.” And so saying, he looked down to the sunlit fields that lay just to the east of the small town of Woodbridge, Kentucky and to the mighty river that lay just beyond the fertile fields and farmland—the river that would obligingly, through Hollywood movie magic, overflow its banks and threaten the small town. All they had to do was wait for the spring rains.
Gil felt a rising excitement, a sudden realization that he was alive for the first time in many many years—that he had been in fact sleepwalking through the better part of the last fifteen years—and that that part was now gone forever.