GEORGE HAD RENTED these type of apartments for years before
his first marriage. They were dismal brownstones with moldering
wood and damp stairwells with copper buzzers that never worked
and mailboxes that rarely closed. Dean had been a master of ceremony
when he and his father appeared in his apartment stuffed with
computers and posters of Fellini films and, of course, that famous
Welles poster of Citizen Kane.
“This is my master work,” he told George and his father, taking a
seat in a director’s chair dead center in the apartment.
For the next hour they were treated to a low-budget Die Hard.
Dean stopped the frame several times to explain shots, techniques,
and special effects. Kronenfeldt Sr. yawned and watched with his arms
crossed and his floppy hat still on. Dean sped them along, replaying
the films nexus with the summation of human motivation: drugs,
pussy, and money.
George had to nudge his father awake by the end as Dean turned
on the lights. He was a wiry Australian with a helmet of short black
hair painted on his skull. He moved things around in his apartment,
gesturing to posters and directors of famous movies.
“I tell you, mate, the Cohens really knocked it out of the park with
that one. I think Ethan was particularly proud of Fargo more than
his brother. Parts of the movie reminded me of Australia.” George
remembered then that Dean had left his wife and four kids in Aus
tralia to find opportunity in America. Mary said his family had been
waiting for ten years to come to the land of milk and honey.
“So, what can I help you boys with? Mary said you had a hot
project, and I am the man for hot projects! By the way, tell Mary
sorry about the job falling through for the hot fudge sundaes. The
bastards ended up going with some B roll.”
George sat up on the couch that felt like something from college.
“Dean, I have a project that maybe you can help me with,” he began.
“I want to land a sled with reindeer on my roof, go up and down the
chimney, then have the sled take off. My daughter is beginning to
doubt the existence of Santa, and I want to prove to her there really
is a Santa.”
Dean’s face had turned dark red, and his cheeks filled with air.
He jumped out of his director’s chair. “STUPENDOUS!”
George’s father jumped up. “What the hell!”
“BLOODY STUPENDOUS, MATE!”
Dean began pacing back and forth, cigarette fuming.
“Let me get this straight. Your daughter is doubting Santy Claus,
and you are going to be the real old boy himself and go down the
chimney and all that, and you want me to help with the illusion of
Santa’s sleigh and reindeer taking off into the sky?”
George nodded. “Exactly.”
“STUPENDOUS!” Dean began pacing again. “This could be big,
this could be really big …” He stopped and swung around. “What do
you call this bugger?”
“You mean, what I’m doing? Well, I have been calling it Real
Santa, I guess.”
Dean’s face flowered again.
“So really, I just need some assistance on the special effects and—”
“Mate, you don’t have to sell it to me anymore! I’ll do the movie!
The special effects, mate, are a snap!”
His father cleared his throat.
“Dean, maybe George didn’t explain it clearly. This isn’t a movie.
He just wants to make his little girl think there is really a Santa Claus.”
Dean’s mouth deflated as he sat back down on his director’s chair.
George shook his head.
“No, we are really going to put Santa on the roof. I have reindeer
that will be up there with a real sled, and I really am going down
the chimney.” George laid out the The Plan on the table. “What I
am thinking though is for the image of Santa flying, we use digital
projectors and maybe an image projected on smoke.”
Dean stared at the drawing, his face turning fire-engine red.
His father leaned over. “I think he left his brains in Australia,”
“Mate, this is even better! You are actually going to do this!”
George nodded. “Right.”
Dean began pacing again, another cigarette in his hand, muttering,
nodding. “Okay, this could be big. BIG! You are actually going to
be the big man yourself. Actually going to do it. Okay. Okay!”
George watched as Dean stopped, closed his eyes then clasped
“I’ll do it for you, mate! For the girl … ah, what’s her name?”
“Right! I’m a father too you know, mate.” Dean’s eyes filled. “I really
miss Danny, Diane, Dewy, and … and …” He shrugged. “I can never
remember the last little bugger’s name, accident child you know. But
for your daughter, yes, of course I will do it!”
“Then you think my idea with the projectors and smoke will
He waved his cigarette.
“Oh, no problem, mate! The way I see it, we could shoot on smoke
or a scrim. You say you’re going to have the reindeer up there and
you want to make it look like they are flying, right?”
“Yes, you see we will have ramps on both sides of the roof and—”
“Piece of cake, mate! PIECE OF CAKE!” Dean sat down and
looked at the diagram. “Right. We generate smoke and snow and
shoot the image of Santy and the reindeer in the sky, maybe a few
pyros, then you come out of the smoke and snow in your sled here.
You get out and go down the chimney and deliver the presents to the
mite, then you come back and into the smoke and snow again. We
shoot Santy into the sky, and your daughter goes back to sleep with
sugar plums in her head.”
George looked at his father, who was studying Dean intently.
“My FX guys can handle this, no problem. I don’t ask for pay,
mate, but I do require that I am the director on the set, and that I
am able to film this as a promo reel for my next upcoming movie.”
George rolled his shoulders and looked at his father. “I don’t see
a problem with that.”
“Now, what’s our deadline here?”
“Ah, well Christmas Eve, obviously.”
Dean pulled down his cigarette. “Wow, ten days, mate! Okay, I
was thinking and going to see the kiddies in the land down under,
but this takes precedent!”
“Oh …” George shook his head. “I don’t want to keep you from
Dean clapped his shoulder.
“Career has to come first, mate, and this is a STUPENDOUS opportunity,
and, like I say, a perfect teaser reel for pitching the studios
on my upcoming film!”
“I didn’t know you had an upcoming film, Dean.”
“I didn’t, mate, until you came in. Now I do. Here’s the title …
Kronenfeldt Sr. raised his eyebrows. “Catchy.”
“Why, this could be the next It’s a Wonderful Life! Or a bloody
White Christmas or that other bloody movie with the elf.”
“Right! Right! We could have a classic on our hands here, mate!”
“I just want to make sure my daughter believes in Santa Claus. I
don’t care what you do after that.”
Dean jumped to his feet.
“You haven’t talked to anyone else, mate?”
“No … I have appointments today but—”
“Any other directors?”
“No, just the reindeer guy and the chimney guy.”
“Good, good. Mum’s the word, boys. We don’t want anyone horning
in on our idea. So let’s zip those mouths, eh?”
George looked at his father and shrugged. “No problem.”“Good, let’s shake then on our deal and my new movie—
They shook hands all around. Dean stared at the two men, his
face filling with blood like a plasma balloon. He threw his hands
toward the ceiling.
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