If this were a Woody Allen film, Ariel Costa thought, the evening he arrived in Santo Domingo, I would meet two women at two different bars.
I would vaguely fall in love with both. One would be American—an actress vacationing in the tropics. The other would fit the same description with the same three attributes. But the first would be blond, the second one brunette.
In short order I would marry the blond. Together we would fly out to Los Angeles. Her father would see something of himself in me, as he was years ago when he was younger, except for the part about me being Cuban. Stirred by the reflection of his own image, my father-in-law would arrange for me to meet with producers. They would acquire the screen rights to my short stories with the idea of turning them into blockbuster movies. I’d settle for an oceanfront home where I would write, all the while feeling inscrutably happy.
One morning, on the golf course, my father-in-law would introduce me to Orson Martinez. He is the ghostwriter who would adapt my stories into screenplays. Orson Martinez is French and spellbound by American movies. His successful screen adaptations have brought several stories to life and have spawned over seven sequels. Some even made it past a fourth prequel.
Orson Martinez’s theory is that if you are French and so taken with Hollywood movies, the best thing to do is move to California and start making films. The rest would take care of itself. I am clueless as to what “the rest” is, although my wife and her father seem to know. They both nod and then look at me.
Orson Martinez takes the book I published in Cuba. He waves good-bye from his convertible as he drives away with my book. He sends a text message to let me know he made it home but has yet to read my book. He sends a text message again after reading the first story and then another after the second story. After that there are no more texts. He shows up at my house in Los Angeles at exactly twelve past four. The pages of my book are all scribbled with notes. Although I don’t quite get it, he found a movie somewhere in those stories.
My wife asks whether it has a role for her. It does. It is that of a woman whose son goes missing. She asks him whether it also has a role for her dear friend Jimmy. It does. He is the one who kidnaps the child, but that is to be revealed only towards the end of the movie. My wife squeals delightedly. She is torn between texting or phoning. She decides to call. Jimmy, she whispers on the phone, we have a screenplay. We both have parts. Jimmy’s own squeals are heard on the other end of the line. It’s Ariel’s script. Wait until you read it. You’ll be so excited you’ll be jumping into an empty pool.