The Beach. Yeah, that one. The same beach.
From a distance, it would look like a wicket for croquet. The pole comes up out of a hole in the sand, and curves around in a semicircle, and disappears back into the sand. The radius of the semicircle made by the pole is about twenty five feet.
Bruce suddenly comes sliding up through the hole, head down, feet first. He slows a bit as he follows the curve of the pole, then slows more and his feet come to rest surprisingly gently on the sand. He stands there, still holding onto the pole, looking around.
The sound of the surf, but nothing else.
He slowly lets go of the pole and backs up a step, still looking around warily. Played today by William H. Macy, he is dressed in a chocolate brown three-piece suit with a bright floral necktie. He is clean shaven, his hair is cut quite short.
He reaches around to his back pocket and extracts his Bible. By the time he has it in both hands in front of him, it is has been restored to its full size. He does not look down at it, but keeps looking around as if he expects someone else to be present.
Turning away from the pole, he takes three steps toward the water, which is only about thirty feet from the “bottom” of the pole. He gazes out across the water, thinking at first that he might be able to see a far shore. No, just water as far as he can see. He looks up and down the beach again. He opens his mouth as if to shout again, then closes it again, shaking his head slightly.
He shifts his Bible to his left hand and holds it at his side, looks down at his feet (in a rather nice pair of dress shoes) and sighs deeply.
He remains standing like that for what may be only a few seconds or several minutes. He eventually hears a soft rhythmic sound behind him; someone is approaching. The sound of footfalls in the sand becomes steadily louder, and then stops. Only then does he turn to look.
It (Kathy Bates). Floral muumuu.
“I didn’t expect to see anyone from…” He looks at the pole, then points down at the gound “…from up there. But you didn’t follow me down the pole, did you?”
She looks at him blankly for a moment, then smiles a bit. ”I don’t follow.”
“Did you… Oh.” He realizes that she wasn’t asking him to clarify, but informing him that following is not something she does. ”That’s right. You are there first, wherever ‘there’ is, right?”
She nods and looks around. ”I like the beach. I think that’s why we’re here, as opposed to being here just to irritate you.”
“I thought this would be some kind of new start. A big transition.”
“Surprise, Bible Boy! This is not about you today. I’m pretty sure it is I who require some kind of input from you today.”
Head tilt. ”Input?”
She looks at him again, this time with a serious expression. ”Tell me about love, Bruce.”
He drops his jaw, genuinely startled. After a moment, he realizes his mouth is open and closes it. She continues watching him seriously. His brow furrows “Love.” Head tilt, this time the other way. ”Love as opposed to sex?”
She laughs suddenly and loudly, turns and walks about a yard toward the water, crossing her arms and regarding the water as the serious expression returns. ”Neither one of us can separate love and sex, and you know it. Or, maybe I should say we can’t separate love and lust. I sure as hell can’t. But tell me about love.”
“What about it?”
“Your book says that God is love.”
Bruce glances down at his Bible. ”Yes, it does.”
“What does that mean?”
There would have been a time when he would have answered immediately. What would he have said? Why doesn’t he know now what to say? He grasps the book in front of him again, ready to open it, but he just holds it there and hesitates.
She turns to meet his gaze again, but waits.
“I thought that I knew. I mean, I would have expected to have something to say in answer to that. But…” He looks down at the closed Bible again. ”I’m wondering if I know. I’m wondering if it’s something that must be learned, and I have not yet learned it.”
It’s her turn to tilt her head quizzically. ”Are you shitting me?”
He looks up at her again, gravely. ”No. I mean it. I’m not sure how to answer.” He closes his eyes and thinks. She waits. Seconds? Probably minutes again.
Eyes still closed, he finally speaks again. ”Why? Why are you asking me about this?”
“You’re the guy with the Bible.”
At length, she speaks again. ”We’re all starting to realize how much we missed you while you were locked up.”
He opens his eyes. That’s a tear on her cheek, he realizes.
Her voice is a bit weaker now. ”I thought you might know what it means.”
He brings the Bible to his chest and hugs it, eyes closed again.
She looks out at the water again, apparently ready to wait.
They remain like that for an amount of time that neither has any way to measure. Let’s suppose it’s about three hours and twenty one minutes.
Bruce opens his eyes. At the same time, she turns to meet his gaze again.
He smiles. ”You know.”
“I know what?”
“You know what it means. Or maybe I should say that you are learning what it means.”
She stares at him for a moment, then looks out toward the water again.
She is afraid.
She turns toward him again, but now she is alone.
After another long silence, she nods. ”After all that sliding, we’re back at the beach and it’s not about you.” She sits down heavily in the sand, gathers a handful and lets it run through her fingers. ”Maybe it’s not about me either. Maybe you got your big fucking transition after all, Brucie.”
It fades like a TV image giving way to a commercial, but for a while there’s only dead air.