by Starsky Hutch 76, adapted from True Romance, screenplay by Quentin Tarantino
Stretch O’Brien and Maggie White sat in a booth at an all-night Denny’s. It was 12:40 A.M. Stretch was having a piece of chocolate cream pie and a Coke. Maggie was nibbling on a peace of heated apple pie and sipping on a large Tab.
“In Jailhouse Rock, he’s everything rockabilly’s about,” Stretch was saying. “I mean, he is rockabilly: mean, surly, nasty, rude. In that movie he couldn’t give a damn about anything except rockin’ and rollin’, livin’ fast, dyin’ young, and leaving a good-looking corpse. I love that scene where after he’s made it big, he’s throwing a big cocktail party, and all these highbrows are there, and he’s singing, ‘Baby You’re So Square… Baby, I Don’t Care.’ Now, they got him dressed like a jerk. He’s wearing these stupid-lookin’ pants, this horrible sweater. Elvis ain’t no sweater boy. I even think they got him wearin’ penny loafers. Despite all that, all the highbrows at the party, the big house, the stupid clothes, he’s still a rude-lookin’ sonuvagun. I’d watch that hillbilly, and I’d want to be him so bad.”
Even though Maggie seemed to be hanging on his every word, Stretch became a little embarrassed about how intense he had become, so he changed the subject. “Well, enough about the King. How about you?” he asked.
“How ’bout me what?” Maggie said, grinning.
“Tell me about yourself.”
“There’s nothing to tell,” Maggie said.
“C’mon. What’re ya tryin’ to be? The Phantom Lady?” Stretch said.
“What do you want to know?”
“Well, for starters, where’re ya from? What’s your favorite color? Who’s your favorite movie star? What kinda music do you like? Turn-ons? Turn-offs? Do you have a fella? What’s the story behind you takin’ a cab to the most dangerous part of town alone? And, in a theater full of empty seats, why did you sit by me?”
Maggie took a bite of pie, put down her fork, and looked at Stretch. “Ask me them again, one by one.”
“Where are you from?”
“Might be from Tallahassee. But I’m not sure yet.”
“What’s your favorite color?”
“I don’t remember. But off the top of my head, I’d say black.”
“Who’s your favorite movie star?”
“Would you like a bite of my pie?”
“Yes, I would.”
Stretch scooped up a piece on his fork, and Maggie bit it off. “Like it?”
“Very much. Now, where were we?” Maggie said.
“What kinda music do you like?” Stretch asked.
“Phil Spector. Girl group stuff. You know, like ‘He’s a Rebel.'”
“What are your turn-ons?”
“Elvis’s voice, good kung fu, and a tasty piece of pie.”
“I’m sure there must be something, but I don’t really remember.”
“Do you have a fella?”
Maggie looked at Stretch and smiled. “I’m not sure yet. Ask me again later.”
“What’s the story behind you takin’ a cab to the most dangerous part of town alone?”
“Apparently, I was hit on the head with something really heavy, giving me a form of amnesia,” she explained. “When I came to, I didn’t know who I was, where I was, or where I came from. Luckily, I had my driver’s license, or I wouldn’t even know my name. I hoped it would tell me where I lived, but it had a Tallahassee address on it. I did have some money on me, so I hopped in a cab until I saw somethin’ that looked familiar. For some reason, that theater looked familiar. So I told him to stop, and I got out.”
“And in a theater full of empty seats, why did you sit by me?” Stretch asked.
“Because you looked like a nice guy, and I was a little scared. And I sure could’a used a nice guy about that time, so I spilled my popcorn on you.”
Stretch looked at her closely. He picked up his soda and sucked on the straw until it made a slurping sound. He put it aside and stared into her soul.
A smile cracked on her face and developed into a big wide grin. “Aren’t you just dazzled by my imagination, lover-boy?” She ate her last bite of pie and said, “Where to next?”
At 1:30 A.M., Stretch took Maggie to the place where he was currently working, a comic-book store called Heroes for Sale. Maggie thought the place was super-cool. “Wow. What a swell place to work!” she exclaimed.
“Yeah, I got the key, so I come here at night, hang out, read comic-books, play music,” Stretch said.
“How long have you worked here?”
“Almost four weeks. It’s easy work. Basically, I just hang around and talk about comic-books all day.”
“I’d love a job like this,” Maggie said. “Do you get paid a lot?”
“That’s where trouble comes into paradise,” Stretch said. “But the boss lets you borrow some money if you need it. Wanna see what Spider-Man number one looks like?”
“You bet. How much is that worth?” Maggie asked.
Stretch got a box off the shelf. “Four hundred bucks.”
“I didn’t even know they had stores that just sold comic-books,” Maggie said.
“Well, we sell other things, too — cool stuff. Man from U.N.C.L.E. lunch boxes. Green Hornet board games. Stuff like that. But comic-books are the main business. There’s a lot of collectors around here.”
Stretch pulled a plastic-cased Amazing Spider-Man comic from the box. “Spider-Man number one, the one that started it all.” He showed the comic-book to Maggie.
“Spider-Man looks different,” she commented, looking at the cover.
“He was just born, remember? This is the first one. Hold on, let me show you my favorite comic-book cover of all time.”
He pulled out another comic. “Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, one of the coolest series known to man. They’re completely worthless. You can get number one for about four bucks. But that’s one of the cool things about them — they’re so cheap.” He opened one up. “Just look at that artwork, will ya? Great stories. Great Characters. Nick’s gotten a ring from his sweetheart, and he wears it around his neck on a chain. OK, later in the story he gets into a fight with a Nazi bastard on a ship. He knocks the guy overboard, but the Kraut grabs ahold of his chain, and the ring goes overboard, too. So Nick dives into the ocean to get it. Isn’t that cool?”
Maggie looked into Stretch’s eyes. He turned and met her gaze. “Maggie, I’d like you to have this,” he said, handing her the Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos comic-book that he loved so much.
Stretch’s bedroom was a pop culture explosion: movie posters, pictures of Elvis, anything imaginable. Stretch and Maggie walked through the door. “What a cool room!” Maggie said, doing a jumping somersault into his bed.
Later, Maggie was sitting Indian-style, going through Stretch’s photo album. Stretch sat behind her, arms around her as she thumbed through the album. “Oooh, you look so cute in your little cowboy outfit,” Maggie said. “How old were you then?”
She turned the page. “Oh, you look so cute as little Elvis.”
“I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up,” Stretch said, laughing. “You know when you sat behind me?”
“At the movies?”
“Uh-huh. I was tryin’ to think of somethin’ to say to you. Then I thought she doesn’t want me bothering her.”
“What would make you think that?” Maggie asked.
“I dunno. I guess I’m just stupid.” Stretch laughed.
“You’re not stupid. Just wrong,” Maggie said. They kissed.
The next day, around 1:00 P.M., Stretch woke up in his bed alone. He looked around, and there was no Maggie. Then he heard crying in the distance. He put on a robe and investigated.
When he walked into his living room, he saw Maggie wearing one of his old shirts. She was curled up in a chair, crying. As he approached her, she tried to compose herself.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart? Did I do something? What did I do?” he asked.
“You didn’t do nothing,” she sniffed.
“Did you hurt yourself?” he asked, taking her foot. “Whatd’ya do? Step on a thumbtack?”
“Stretch, I’ve got something to tell you. I didn’t just happen to be at the theater. I was paid to be there.”
“What are you, a theater checker?” he asked. “You check up on the box office girls, make sure they’re not rippin’ the place off?”
“I’m not a theater checker. I’m a call girl,” she said.
“You’re a whore?” Stretch said, puzzled.
“I’m a call girl!” Maggie exclaimed. “There’s a difference, ya know! I don’t know… maybe there’s not. That place you took me to last night, comic-book place…”
“Heroes for Sale?”
“Yeah, that one. Somebody who works there arranged to have me meet you,” Maggie said. “Though they said your name was Clarence.”
“Just an alias,” said Stretch. “Who set it up?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t talk with them. The plan was for me to bump you, pick you up, spend the night, and skip out after you fell asleep. I was gonna write you a note and say that this was my last day in America. That I was leaving on a plane this morning up to Ukraine to marry a rich millionaire, and thank you for making my last day in America my best day.”
“That dazzling imagination,” Stretch said, grinning.
“It’s over on the TV. All it says is, ‘Dear Stretch.’ I couldn’t write any more. I didn’t not want to ever see you again. In fact, it’s stupid not to ever see you again. Las’ night… I don’t know… I felt… I hadn’t had that much fun since Girl Scouts. So I just said, ‘Maggie, come clean, let him know what’s what, and if he tells you to get lost, then go back to Drexel and get lost.'”
“Who and what is a Drexel?” Stretch asked.
“My pimp,” Maggie answered.
“You have a pimp? A real, live pimp?”
“Is he black?”
“He thinks he is,” Maggie said. “He says his mother was Apache, but I suspect he’s lying.”
“Is he nice?”
“Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to call him nice,” Maggie said, “but he’s treated me pretty decent. But I’ve only been there about four days. He got a little bit rough with Arlene the other day.”
“What did he do to Arlene?” Stretch asked.
“Slapped her around a little. Punched her in the stomach. It was pretty scary.”
Stretch rose to his feet, furious. “Damn it, Maggie, you gotta get outta there! How much longer before he’s slappin’ you around? Punchin’ you in the stomach? How did you get hooked up with a douche-bag like this in the first place?”
“At the bus station. He said I’d be a perfect call girl. And that he knew an agency in California that, on his recommendation, would handle me. They have a very exclusive clientele: movie stars, big businessmen, white-collar. And all the girls in the agency get a grand a night. At least five hundred. They drive Porsches, live in condos, have stockbrokers, beepers, you know, like Nancy Allen in Dressed to Kill. And when I was ready he’d call ’em, give me a plane ticket, and send me on my way. He said he makes a nice finder’s fee for finding them hot prospects. But no one’s gonna pay a grand a night for a girl who doesn’t know what she’s doing. So what I’m doin’ for Drexel now is just sorta learnin’ ropes. You were my first trick, but you didn’t feel like a trick. Since it was a secret, I just pretended I was on a date. And, um, I guess I want a second date.”
“Thank you. I wanna see you again, too,” Stretch said. “And again, and again, and again. Maggie, I know we haven’t known each other long, but my parents went together all throughout high school, and they still got a divorce. So… wanna marry me?”
“What?!” Maggie exclaimed.
“Will you be my wife?”
“Yes,” Maggie said with a cracking voice.
“You will?” Stretch said in surprise.
“You better not be teasing me,” Maggie said.
“You better not be teasin’ me,” Stretch said back to her, grinning. They sealed it with a kiss.
Later that night, the newlyweds sat snuggling up together on the couch watching TV. The movie they were watching was The Incredible One-Armed Boxer Vs. the Master of the Flying Guillotine. Maggie watched the screen, but every so often she looked down to admire the ring on her hand.
Stretch looked at the TV. He felt the warmth of Maggie’s hand holding his. He turned in her direction. She was absentmindedly looking at her wedding ring.
“Hello, Mrs. O’Brien,” he said to her.
“How do you do, Mr. O’Brien?” she said back to him, smiling.
“Top o’ the morning, Mrs. O’Brien.”
“Bottom of the ninth, Mr. O’Brien. Have you seen your lovely wife today?”
“Oh, you’re speaking of my charming wife, Mrs. Maggie O’Brien.”
“Of course. Are there others, Mr. O’Brien?”
“Not for me.” He started kissing her, and an image of a pimp beating her flashed in his mind.
“You holdin’ out on me, girl? Bitch, you never learn!” the imaginary pimp said.
Stretch leaped off the couch and went into his bedroom. Maggie, startled by his sudden movement, called after him. “Where you goin’, honey?”
“I just gotta get somethin’,” he replied, walking into the bathroom.
Stretch splashed water on his face, trying to wash away the images that kept polluting his mind. Then he heard a familiar voice.
“Well? Can you live with it?”
Stretch turned to see that the voice belonged to Elvis Presley. He wasn’t surprised to see him. “What?”
“Can you live with it?” Elvis said.
“Live with what?” Stretch asked.
“With that son-of-a-bitch walkin’ around breathin’ the same air as you? And gettin’ away with it every day. Are you haunted?”
“You wanna get un-haunted?”
“Yeah,” Stretch said.
“Then shoot ‘im. Shoot ‘im in the face. And feed that boy to the dogs.”
“I can’t believe what you’re tellin’ me,” Stretch said.
“I ain’t tellin’ ya nothin’,” Elvis said. “I’m just sayin’ what I’d do.”
“You’d really do that?”
“He don’t got no right to live.”
“Look, Elvis, he is hauntin’ me,” Stretch said. “He doesn’t deserve to live. And I do want to kill him. But I already got a record, and I don’t wanna go to jail for the rest of my life.”
“I don’t blame you,” Elvis said.
“If I thought I could get away with it…”
“Killin’ ‘im’s the hard part. Gettin’ away with it’s the easy part. Whaddaya think the cops do when a pimp’s killed? Burn the midnight oil tryin’ to find who done it? They couldn’t give a damn if all the pimps in whole wide world took two in the back of the head. If you don’t get caught at the scene with the smokin’ gun in your hand, you got away with it.”
Stretch looked at Elvis in the mirror.
“Stretch, I like ya. Always have, always will,” Elvis said, pointing at him before he faded away.
Stretch took out a snub-nosed .38, which he loaded and stuck down his heavy athletic sock. He then walked back into his living room and said, “Sweetheart, write down your former address.”
“What?” Maggie said.
“Write down Drexel’s address.”
“So I can go over there and pick up your things,” Stretch said.
Maggie grew frightened. “No, Stretch. Just forget it, babe. I just wanna disappear from there.”
He knelt down before her and took her hand. “Look, sweetheart, he scares you. But I’m not scared of that son of a bitch. He can’t touch you now. You’re completely out of his reach. He poses absolutely no threat to us. So, if he doesn’t matter, which he doesn’t, it would be stupid to lose your things, now, wouldn’t it?”
“You don’t know him…” Maggie said nervously.
“You don’t know what I’m capable of. Not when it comes to things like this. I need for you to know you can count on me to protect you. Now write down the address,” Stretch ordered. Maggie reached over and picked a TV Guide off the TV tray, wrote down the address, and then handed it to him.