2.10 Neon Is the Color of Desire
A product of the Whisperforge: Sound and story, brought to life.
[[SFX: Open title music. Soft strings. Light piano. Rain. Fade into jazz music with snaps and some bass. A car drives by.]]
BENNY: The dame and I rushed through the city streets slick with the downpour that’d make cats ‘n dogs feel like a trickle. We were both hankering for a snack but figured catching a cab home was better than catching our deaths.
I shoulda known from the start this dame was trouble, way she showed up in my life like somethin’ out of a Rod Serling special. Downright odd and a list of troubles longer than her legs.
PERI: Why are you talking about my legs?
BENNY: Here’s the thing about dames, they got a million questions and most ‘em can be answered with either the shot from a gun or a bottle of whiskey. I preferred the latter and had no strong inclinations for the former unless a dame is asking questions with the barrel of her own firearm.
PERI: I thought you didn’t drink.
BENNY: What she didn’t know was that I drink like a fish if water was--
PERI: Oh my gosh, please, Benny.
BENNY: What? It’s night and raining and we’re wearing trench coats.
PERI: You’re wearing a long parka and us in a noir would be like putting a gecko in an action movie.
BENNY: A gecko would be great in an action movie!
PERI: Who are you.
BENNY: Can we at least swing by a diner? Get a cuppa black coffee, pretend we’re working on a case? It’s our first night out in ages because someone pretended to have a head cold for a week.
PERI: [sighs] Okay. If you can promise we’ll make it back to the lighthouse on time. And only if this pretend case doesn’t involve dead women and if you promise to never talk about my legs again even for genre.
BENNY: Okay, okay. Cross my heart. I mean, nowadays Lighthouse leaves at dawn so we got time. So what do you think about a diamond heist?
[SFX: The music fades out.]]
[[SFX: They open a door and walk into a diner, a few other patrons chat in the background.]]
BENNY: We left the lighthouse at 7th and Main, right?
PERI: Yeah, we’re at Falls and Main so only a couple blocks away if we gotta run.
HOST: Welcome to the Double P Diner, I can lead you to your tables.
BENNY: Oh, we’re actually here together.
HOST: I don’t believe you’re here with who you’re supposed to meet. I’ll leave you with menus once you’re seated so you can decide while you wait.
BENNY: But I--
HOST: Let’s start with you, right this way.
[[SFX: The host walks away. Benny follows.]]
PERI: Benny, why are you following her?
BENNY: I have no idea.
PERI: Benny! Benny!!
[[SFX: The host comes returns.]]
HOST: Hm. Looks like you’ll be seated at the far end of the bar, unusual but alright! Right this way, miss.
[[SFX: The host walks Peri over, hands her a menu.]]
HOST: The person you’ll be meeting should be here shortly. I recommend our pie and coffee special, damn good if you ask me.
[[SFX: The host walks away and Peri opens her menu, swinging back and forth on the seat.]]
PERI: Coffee and pie does sound really good. Would be better with a plan to catch a diamond thief buuuuut--
[[SFX: HEIDI walks up with a pot of coffee.]]
HEIDI: Coffee while you wait?
PERI: Uh, sure. The host recommended the coffee pie combo.
HEIDI: To be honest, we all do. That stuff’s addictive especially with an employee discount of free. (chuckles)
[[SFX: Heidi pours the coffee into the waiting cup. She stops.]]
HEIDI: Do I know you? You look so familiar. Wait.
[[SFX: She snaps her fingers.]]
HEIDI: Is your name Hesperia, nononono, sorry you prefer Peri, right?
PERI: Um, yeah?
HEIDI: It’s Heidi! Though you probably remember my grandma way better than me, I was more bland than a limp noodle back then but she was a real biiii-ig character! Sorry, I’ve been trying not to swear at work.
PERI: Ho-ly crow, um, how are you? What’ve you been up to? I…I never expected to ever see you again to be really honest.
HEIDI: Oh, no worries, none of us expected to ever see you again either, especially outside your house. Hold up, gimme two seconds, I gotta top off another table and then we’ll see if I can spare a few minutes to chat.
[[SFX: She walks away. Peri takes a deep breath then speaks rapidly.]]
PERI: You’re fine. Everything is fine, you’re just running into someone from your past when you were a different person but are you really a different person, I mean you still get sweaty palms and have night terrors which was a lot of high school but at least you know how to deal with your hair now kind of, oh no, I look like a drowned rat and Heidi always looked so cool and probably only invited me to things because her grandma made her so she’s probably just being nice right now because-- NOPE. Deep breath. You got the tools to handle this. Sensory countdown, let’s go.
[[SFX: Peri takes deep breaths.]]
PERI: (muttering) Five. Four. Three. Two. One.
[[SFX: Heidi returns.]]
HEIDI: You’re still a little odd, you know that?
PERI: You still have your grandmother’s bluntness.
HEIDI: Yeah but I do it without the judgement of who put how much in the collection basket so I like to think I’m a generational improvement.
PERI: So… how’ve you been? What’ve you been up to?
HEIDI: This mostly. Soon as we threw our graduation hats in the air, I hit the road, kept going until I somehow found myself here. Mortorboards. Not graduation hats, mortorboards. Mr. Velazquez was a stickler about what he called them. Remember him?
PERI: Yeah, he was the one with the world map the seniors would turn upside down, right?
HEIDI: Yeah! Lame prank. I wanted to put a couch in the second floor girls bathroom to fulfill the lifelong rumor we had one but that’s what happens when (puts on a mocking tone) Jessica Giff gets all the athletes to vote against you in favor of tradition. (drops mocking tone) Y’know, I was so good at history but for some reason his class, Mr. Velazquez, I mean, it rubbed me the wrong way. His convoluted essay questions almost made me repeat Senior year. The stuff he taught us was great but damn, those essay questions.
PERI: I mean, I never actually had his class. I just heard about the pranks.
HEIDI: Oh. Lucky you. Oh! I’m sorry, you’re here to meet someone aren’t you? Here I am going on about high school, taking up the only seat next to you. Your friend over there, he’s already met whoever he’s supposed to meet. No, don’t turn around. It’s rude to stare. Oh god, listen to me. I sound like my grandmother.
[[SFX: From afar her manager calls.]]
HEIDI: You know she tried to take the rosary you gave me? She said (puts on an older voice) we don’t accept gifts from people who clearly aren’t the lord’s children. (drops the older voice) I stole it back. Sometimes I still use it to pray. I don’t think I believe in that stuff anymore but it helps me sleep, kind of like meditating I guess. I like the idea of praying to a woman too. One who seems a hell of a lot softer than my grandmother ever did. She had a stroke, y’know. A few years back. Found the letter in the PO box I use to correspond with my parents. Correspond. It seems so stiff that way but I guess that about sums up me and my parents.
HEIDI: Oh my god, what!
MANAGER: Table six has their bill ready.
HEIDI: Table six never tips well.
MANAGER: Blame it on the people, not the table.
HEIDI: Right, whatever. I’ll be right back, Peri.
[[SFX: She leaves.]]
PERI: So, uh. You work with Heidi.
MANAGER: She works for me, yeah.
PERI: Cool, cool.
MANAGER: She’s never had a friend come in here before.
PERI: Oh, I’m not a friend. We went to school together but, um, not really… friends.
MANAGER: Pity. She’s a kid who deserves some good friends.
PERI: What makes you think I’d be a good friend.
MANAGER: Dunno. Wishful thinking on my part maybe. Here.
[[SFX: The manager puts a plate on the counter.]]
MANAGER: On the house and when she comes over, you tell her I said she can stick around and catch up with you. I’ll figure out something for her tables.
PERI: Um, okay.
[[SFX: The manager leaves swiftly replaced by Heidi.]]
HEIDI: And as I surmised, they stiffed me on the tip. Classic table six. Anyway, hope my manager dished all the hot gossip about me while I was gone.
PERI: Yeah, they said you were an absolute mouse who never had anything to say.
HEIDI: Knew it.
PERI: Buuut they did say you could sit with me for a while to catch up. Also, what type of pie is this?
HEIDI: Oh shit, he gave you the mystery pie? He must like you. You don’t have any allergies, do you?
PERI: Only to some perfumes I think.
HEIDI: Were you the kid that had that nasty rash in second grade because Ms. Sorenson tried a new perfume?
PERI: Oh, no. Um. I moved to town the year after.
HEIDI: Right! My grandmother invited you to my first communion that year because she thought your parents might be looking for a new church. Connecting all the dots now.
PERI: You talk to anyone from back home at all?
HEIDI: Nah, not really. Just the PO box for family.
PERI: Oh. How are you liking your friends here?
HEIDI: Don’t really have any except for coworkers. I like to keep to myself I guess. It’s funny though, I was expecting to have, y’know. Regulars. You see those tv shows and the gang always has their place. A bar or a diner or whatever. But this place, most people who come in here are strangers.
PERI: A diner without regulars sounds… odd.
HEIDI: But everyone feels familiar, you know? It’s like, they all have the same expression or something. Everyone says Henrietta built this place for a certain type of person but they’re never clear on who. She was the woman who started all this in the 50s. People flocked to the place and have been coming here ever since. She died a while ago, ages before I got here. The cook says I’m a lot like her, in the best of ways. I‘m not sure how I feel being compared to someone I’ve never met, even if she is a local legend. Apparently she has an eye for faces, never forgot your name no matter how long it had been since she last saw you.
PERI: You remembered my name pretty quickly.
HEIDI: Yeah, I guess I did. Still can’t believe how long it’s been since I saw anyone from home. I remember that sweater you’re wearing weirdly enough. Your mom wore it, right? At that showcase, my parents made me take my grandmother. I remember feeling so jealous because I knew one day you’d get to wear it but… purple’s always looked terrible on me anyway. I bet a violin would be a fiddle in your hands now, huh. I remember Ruth was always going on about how good you were.
PERI: Oh, I haven’t played in a while actually. I tried to pick it up again but then things got in the way and… yeah.
HEIDI: You should. I mean that, you were really good, Peri.
PERI: Thanks… I don’t really talk to Ruth anymore either. She went off to college and we… we don’t really talk anymore.
HEIDI: Do you wish you did? Talk, I mean. Even occasionally? You guys were inseparable.
PERI: Maybe? I don’t even know what I’d say if I saw her. There’s almost too much to say, y’know?
HEIDI: God, this is why I never wanted to go to any reunion, exhaust yourself going down memory lane. It’s too comfortable, like an ugly shirt you wear ‘til there are holes in it. I didn’t realize that until just now, but talking about all this, I feel gross.
PERI: Well, uh, sorry.
HEIDI: Nononono, it’s not you, it’s just… I look around this diner now and I see things I’ve seen too many times save for the people in the booths. And then you walk in, and you remind me that I… I thought I was a woman of transience. The type of person who left home at the end of seventeen to fend for herself only to fall back into another stable environment. A ship who left the harbor only to rust in another one. Mrs. Brown would be so proud of that metaphor. Mind if I?
PERI: Oh, go ahead.
[[SFX: Heidi grabs a fork and takes a bite of pie.]]
HEIDI: Ha. Boysenberry. The go-to mystery pie.
[[SFX: She puts down the fork and gets up.]]
HEIDI: I’m sorry, Peri. I need to talk to my manager.
[[SFX: She walks away.]]
PERI: What… just happened.
[[SFX: She tries the pie. It’s pretty good. She takes a few more bite and sips at her coffee. The door opens to the rain and closes. The manager walks over.]]
PERI: Hi. Where’d Heidi go?
MANAGER: She quit. Up and left.
MANAGER: Can I?
PERI: Go ahead.
[[SFX: The manager sits.]]
MANAGER: Happens every so often, bummer really.
PERI: Why did she quit.
MANAGER: The short of it is because she talked to you.
PERI: That’s a lot to put on a person.
MANAGER: You were never here to meet anybody, kid. She was here to meet you, you were just a long time coming. Pity for you. You look like you could use meeting somebody.
PERI: I’ve met a lot of people.
MANAGER: Yeah, I see that. Way you carry yourself. The way you listen. Ever thought of being a bartender? You’d be great at it, one of those quiet bars though. Not the loud ones with people dancing on tables and the lights going. Untz, untz
PERI: (laughing) I’ve never even had alcohol before.
MANAGER: Haven’t touched the stuff myself in years. Ah, well. Looks like your friend’s finished up over at his booth. Hope you two stay dry as you can out there.
PERI: Thanks. Hope I’m able to stop in again.
MANAGER: I hope you never need to.
[[SFX: Peri gets up and walks to the front.]]
PERI: Um, bye and, um, thanks for the coffee and pie!
[[SFX: She rejoins Benny.]]
PERI: Sooo… that was weird.
PERI: Guess we’ll just have to solve the great diamond heist case at another diner, another night, huh, partner?
BENNY: Right, sure.
PERI: Hey, you okay?
BENNY: Yeah, yeah. I’m fine. Let’s get going.
[[SFX: They leave the Double P Diner into the rain. Title music cues.]]
The Far Meridian
Created by Eli Barraza, produced by Eli Barraza & Mischa Stanton.
This episode was written by Eli Barraza. And directed by Eli Barraza & Danielle Shemaiah.
Performed by Eli Barraza as Peri,
José Donado as Benny,
Celia Rivera as Heidi
Sarah Garcia as the Hostess,
And Robert Paterno as the Manager.
Editing by José Donado.
Sound design by Mischa Stanton.
Production help from Alexander Danner.
Music by Masato Abe.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod.
For more information and transcripts, visit TheFarMeridian.com, or find us on social media @TheFarMeridian. You can also help support us on Patreon, Patreon.com/TheFarMeridian.
Until next time, may you always find your way.