The Sitcom Pitch - Emerald Wells Café
Walter sat in the waiting room, his briefcase at his feet. It took three years to compile the seven hundred pages of the story. It took another three years to get a chance to pitch his story. On the other side of that door, sat a producer, his lawyer, and the money man.
Walter’s foot taped; one then both, then one again. It was nervous energy and fear – mostly fear. He felt a little jolt when the door opened. He stood and lifted his briefcase. He remembered to smile.
The introductions were made. Jim Atwood, Producer. Mark Tomlin, Lawyer. Mr. Sato, representing a Venture Capital group. And Walter, introvert writer.
Walter opened his briefcase and set the seven hundred pages on the table.
Atwood said, “We only have about thirty minutes. Then we have another appointment scheduled,” when he saw the pile.
Walter cleared his throat, “Imagine this,” he held up his two hands in the shape of a frame, “a Texas road, a shiny newer Chevy pickup. Behind the wheel a cowboy. He is wearing a black short sleeve shirt, sleeves tucked up, looking like cuffs. Smooth, clean cowboy hat, square jaw. Clearly confidant, Clearly looking for something.”
“What,” Sato interrupted. “This is a western? I thought it had something to do with emeralds. Maybe smuggling.”
“Well, no, it’s not a western. Not exactly. Let me tell you about Earl. He is the cook at this little café, off the highway in this town that got bypassed by the new interstate system. Earl loves cooking breakfast for people. When he is not cooking, he sits on a stool in the kitchen and reads the newspaper. If the café is real quiet, he plays the radio. He is heavy set, but not fat. Think Russell Crow, in L.A. Confidential., but wearing jeans, cowboy boots a white shirt and apron.” Walter hesitated, “Robert Pastorelli, would have been perfect.”
“So, another cowboy?” Sato inserted.
“It is not exactly a western, but it takes place in Texas, so naturally – when in Rome.” He stood up. “See there were three young men from this town. They were too young to fight in World War II, but when Korea came along they joined up with the Marines together. They wanted to prove themselves. There was Jimmy, Carl and Earl. They grew up together. They had a terrible day in Korea. It looked like they were going to be overrun by the Chinese. Earl got on the radio and called for help. At the moment the Chinese were on them, this American Army tank came over a nearby ridge at a sprint, 50 caliber machine gun weakening the resolve of the advancing men. One enemy soldier threw a hand grenade as he turned to run. Jimmy was killed.”
Walter took a few quick paces. “That Captain that drove that tank, is the cowboy in the Chevy pickup. Earl and Carl liked Harold the minute he arrived in their lives. They were sure that Jimmy would have liked him also. That…”
“This is about Army buddies. We can’t do a show about Army buddies.” Atwood frowned.
Walter wiped at the corners of his mouth, “The young men were Maries. Harold was an Army Captain. They are all out of the service at this point. They met in Korea. Now they are in Texas. The shiny pickup is leading Harold to a new life. It is not a war story; I am talking about background.”
Atwood still frowning asked, “What do these people do that would be of interest to other people? Say my audience? Is this like Ocean’s Eleven? These guys are going to pull a heist? Maybe a stash of emeralds.”
“We are getting off the track here. Earl and Carl came home after their service and went back to their lives. Carl is a mechanic. He can make any gasoline or diesel engine run like the day it came from the factory. He keeps every car in Emerald Wells running and many people from the neighboring town bring their cars to him as well. That reminds me, one day a young fellow with a pink Cadillac passed through and he needed Carl’s help. The young man sat over at the Café all morning while Carl worked on his caddie. It’s said, that fellow got the idea for two of his songs right at the counter where Carl sits and has breakfast every morning. Earl cooks his breakfast just the way he likes it. Em serves him coffee. I imagine a Mary Tyler Moore type, but cuter. She’s blonde, every man in town would like to… well you know, go out with her. She is a real curious type.She likes everybody and everybody likes her.”
Walter noticed he was pacing and sat back down. “There are other characters. The Townsends boys live out at their place by the highway. They tend to their orchards and supply a good deal of produce to the town.Then there is Sheriff Dale. Not much of what we call crime here, but there are some hot rod teenagers that he chases from time to time.”
The lawyer yawned, “Not a crime show? No illicit drugs or a serial forensic mass murderer? What in your story is going to make people tune in?”
Walter straightened a couple of pieces of paper. “This is a story about people. Real people, who face their daily experience with courage. They fight off boredom. These people face challenges of boredom and loneliness together. Like one day they decided to paint the outside wall of the café white. Then they played movies against that wall. The towns people came, backed their pickup trucks up, lowered the tailgates and sit and enjoy the Summer evening. Doesn’t that sound fun?”
“Yeah,” Sato said. “Fun.” He cleared the space in front of him.
Walter knew he didn’t mean it.
Sato continued, “This sounds like Andy of Mayberry. Please tell me the Sheriff is not named Andy.”
“The Sheriff is named Dale. He has known Carl, Earl, Gabby and Em since they were kids. I don’t think I mentioned Gabby, up until now. She is a seamstress for the locals. She has her own shop. She is important to the story as she and Jimmy, the fellow who died in Korea were meant to be together. Now, she is a woman alone, confused and seems to bring out the worst in the truckers that arrive at the café.”
“But who cares?” Sato interrupted again. He was ready to hear the next presentation.
“Oh,” Walter’s voice faltered. “These people are friends. They pass the time with each other. This is a place where people like to come to … to just be together. Em is the waitress at her Café. Earl is the cook. They go about their business. People pass through. Let me tell you about the time Earl’s cousin Vincent Price stopped by for a visit. Sato, before you say it, you can certainly believe that Vincent Price has a cousin. Well, Gabby was feeling kind of lonely and bold. She showed up for the Halloween gathering wearing only a Kimono. She got to flirting with Vincent and after most everyone went home, well, she teased ol’ Vincent into chasing her towards the lake. For a late night swim. I imagine that was pretty cold for both of them.”
Walter took a drink of water. “Not long after Harold arrived a woman driving her own bakery truck came to town. She is a pleasant woman. She is warm and friendly. She stops by the Café one morning carrying a tray of pastry, offering to sell them to Em. Well, those pastries just melted in people’s mouths and before you know it there was a glass domed pastry display right there on the counter.”
“Like an Aunt Bee?” Atwood asked.
“A female, full of love. Full of spirit. If that is what you are asking, then yes.She had a lot to offer. She fits right in with this little group.”
“Tell us more.” The lawyer spoke up. His thoughts turned to pastry. “What is her name?”
Unthinking, Walter says, “Rose.” Then looks up at the producer.
“What’s left?” Walter said aloud. “It’s a love story. Carl loves Em, always has. Earl is never far from Em. He works at the Café to be near her. He would be happy to have a little ranch by a bend in a small river where he could plant a few pecan trees. In the summer he could just ‘be’ him and her beneath the branches in the shade. He would never ask for more. Harold is older, he has been around. He has ambition. Carl and Earl are his best friends, but he is a may the best man win kind of guy.”
Walter started piling the pages back up. “There is no emerald smuggling, no high crimes. It’s more like people’s lives, except the darkness is mostly kept at bay. It’s a celebration. If I had more time I’d tell you about Em’s mother’s China set. She brings it out at their monthly gathering that they call Speakeasy Night. The Café closes. Em, Earl, Carl, Gabby, Harold, Rose, Dale and others gather. Rose bakes up treats. Em cleans the tea cups. Harold brings the wine. They each write something, most likely a poem to let each other know how they are doing. They communicate their concerns or achievements, their happiness, or disappointments. They are together, they drink a little wine and recite their poetry. They eat Rose’s pastry. Then Earl drops some nickels in the jukebox and they dance.”
Walter picked up the pages and put them back into the wide mouthed briefcase. “I call it Emerald Wells Café. Thank you gentlemen. I hope to hear from you.”