by Luke Rhinehart
I had retired from my experimental randomness of the seventies and was living a life of ease, tranquility and boredom when a young Englishman, enthused as only youth can be, came to me with a proposal. He had read my book of thirty years before, THE DICE MAN, my notorious autobiography in which I modestly proposed to cure the world’s ills by having us make our decisions with dice. I had, over the years, reluctantly come to admit that dice-living was as ineffective a cure for mankind’s suffering as all other panaceas, but youth, thank God, knows better, and thus rush in to try things that older angels have long since abandoned.
Michael, a documentary film maker, thought it would be a great help to mankind (and perhaps his career) to make a documentary film about someone who tries the dicelife–making important decisions of every kind by chance–and is thus magnificently transformed in the process. We would follow him, or her, actually, around with a camera and record for science and posterity and a paying film audience the results of our great experiment. All we needed was a little money, my experienced input, his film-making talent, and soon we could begin polishing our Academy Award acceptance speeches.
”The concept of THE DICELADY is as timeless and as relevant now,” he told me in that first phone call, ”As it was when you first wrote about THE DICE MAN over twenty years ago. It’ll be a unique and brilliant blend of documentary, autobiography, black comedy and thriller. It’ll be a combination of anti-therapy, post-yuppie, new-age satire, with a dash of Reality TV, all providing the ingredients for a delicious fantasy. Even if your theory doesn’t bear careful scientific scrutiny, it’s so seductive in its implication that our audience will love it. Your book is a craze, and so will be my film.
I liked the sound of his voice.
”And THE DICELADY Will be a publicist’s dream” he went barreling on. ”Even if we don’t manage to fan the flames of controversy by getting our dicelady to behave scandalously, the documentary will still attract widespread coverage. In theory, we might even convert to a series, with every episode having a different protagonist to take on the dice-life.”
Michael went on like this for a good twenty minutes, even permitting me to say something every now and then, and I must confess I began to eat it up. I am a sucker for youth: illusions are so much more enjoyable than reality. And I am always attracted to other people’s illusions, especially when they are based on my own.
So after checking Michael’s credentials through some friends in London (I verified he knew how to turn on a video camera), and ascertaining that he wasn’t hooked on any drug more potent than caffein, agreed to work with him.
I was living in temporary asylum on the island of Mallorca at the time, but Michael happily agreed to fly down from London so we could brainstorm his idea.
He turned out to be a tall lanky fellow with an intense enthusiasm for converting the world to what my book had failed to convert the world thirty years earlier. We sat out on my stone patio overlooking the Mediterranean, filled our glasses with liquid refreshments and went to work.
”It should be a woman,” he insisted for the nth time. “A
dicelady. She should be married and have children and have a job and think that her life is fine.”
”But then why would she possibly volunteer for our great experiment?” I asked. ”Contented people are rather reluctant to risk their contentment, and turning over major portions of one’s life to the roll of dice is, as we know, risky.”
”But that’s just the point , ” Michael persisted . ”The woman thinks her lif e is fine but deep down knows it isn’t. She’s seen by her family, neighbors and workmates as conventional, perhaps even dowdy. Certainly no one sees her as liberated . Her ambitions, hobbies and attitudes are all unexceptional . But brewing beneath this surface skin of normality is a deeply frustrated social misfit, repressed by life’ s conventions and eager to change . She wants to take risks . She wants more. She just doesn’t have any excuse or way to break out . Our experiment gives her one. ”
“And how do we find this perfectly content, perfectly miserable woman?”
”We’ll advertise! ‘In TIME OUT or PRIVATE EYE. We’ll get all sorts of weird responses and force our candidates to go through a trial period, a tryout, to see whether they’re the right person. We’ll end up shooting half a dozen people playing with the dice before we choose our protagonist.”
“I don’t know. You can’t make a coherent story about a real dice-life. Chaos won’t let you.”
”Yes it will, it will! THE DICELADY will be both plot- driven and character-driven, though there won’t be any narration except maybe the dicelady’s own voice-overs. The dicelady will invite our audience into her own private world, thus making our viewers her co-conspirators on her fantastic and unpredictable journey. The style of the documentary will be autobiographical, just like your wonderful book that inspired it.”
Although always pleased by references to my ”wonderful book” I still had my doubts and said so, but Michael was not to be denied. He paced back and forth across my patio gesturing wildly, totally sold on his vision.
”Our Dicelady will go on a journey to the most unpredictable locations, playing the most unexpected roles, often bewildering those not in the know and upsetting those who thought they knew her. The film will be a trip whose every turn will by definition be unpredictable but always fascinating.
”To achieve immediacy and honesty we’ll shoot in a Cinema verite manner that acknowledges the presence of the camera and crew rather than pretends they don’t exist.
”We can enhance the tension surrounding each dice-roll by the rhythm and pace of the cut. As the options become riskier, the cut and music will become increasingly suspenseful.
”It’s a winner! No one can ever make a film of your book because it’s too intellectual! But this will be real! Live! Immediate! Believable! It can’t miss!”
It was difficult to resist the very un-English enthusiasm Michael was showing, but I had been involved in too many abortive efforts to film my original book about dice-living and felt l knew the pitfalls.
”I’m still worried about ”Catch-22,” I said.
”If anyone is liberated enough to volunteer for your experiment they probably don’t need the dice, and if they’re uptight and rigid and could use the dice then they wouldn’t volunteer even if you offered to pay them.”
”We all need the dice,” enthused my disciple. ”Even those of us who are free spiritsl”
”But we’d like to find someone who has been living narrowly and whose life expands dramatically as the result of their taking risks with the dice. The question is,how can we attract such a person to our experimenter?”
“Leave it to me,” said Michael with a grin.
‘Leave it to me,’ I discovered, was one of Michael’s favorite solutions to any problem I raised, and, being lazy, I found it a quite satisfactory solution. For awhile.
Amonth later Michael phoned me from London. Everything was going swimmingly. He had advertisements running in three different periodicals and was being swamped with applicants. The ads he had created varied, but were all of tantalizing (and money-saving) brevity:
WANTED: adventurous woman to participate in life-changing experiment for film documentary. Must be willing to explore new actions, new selves. Phone xxx.
WANTED: Readers of THE DICE MAN who want to REALLY change their lives with the dice for film documentary about diceliving. Phone xxx.
WANTED by experimental film maker: people willing to transform their lives by letting chance dictate new actions, new lives. Read THE DICE MAN, and phone xxx.
I was naturally flattered that there were hundreds of people in London who knew my book. Indeed for several minutes after hearing from Michael, I glowed.
Then I began to think–always dangerous compared to glowing. I became a trifle worried that anyone responding to these ads was not too likely to be Michael’s ”a woman with children and a job who thinks her life is just fine.”
I was about to write him a long leisurely letter suggesting that we might be in for some difficulties when Michael, a man of the modern age, emailed me urging me to come to London immediately: he had raised seventy thousand pounds and was starting shooting within ten days.
London is a lovely city to live in but less nice to visit. I have always found it the most homey of great cities, and as such always makes me feel I am a visitor in some sort of extended family, a member of which I can never hope to be. Michael, of course, was a London family member, but although he welcomed with open heart my books, I fear he found me something of an embarrassment: an aging author who too obviously wasn’t as interesting or entertaining as his writing. Why couldn’t I be an Oscar Wilde or Gore Vidal or Martin Amis, brilliantly expressing my rebellious views to the blandly entertained masses? Why did I insist on not taking anything very seriously, even my view that one shouldn’t take anything very seriously?
Michael was too nice a young man to indicate disappointment and, of course, rather needed me to aid in his fund-raising and documentary.
In fact the first thing Michael told me when he strode into my hotel room the evening of my arrival was that the chief punter wanted to meet me. I wondered why a Kansas City Chief kicker wanted to meet me until Michael explained that a punter was an investor, a patron, an angel.
Colin Willis was no angel, he was a Welchman, and there is a difference, as I discovered when he arrived not ten minutes after Michael. Colin was a big bluff man in his thirties with a red face, huge glowing coal-black eyes and a fists like boxing gloves. He greeted me like a long lost father, claiming he owed all the millions he had made in the fashion industry to me. He had read my book as a mere lad and led a wild life for several years until he remembered a minor character in my novel THE DICE MAN who made a fortune letting the dice decide the design of his hats. Colin let the dice in on the design of his clothing and before he knew what was happening he was considered a genius.
Unlike most geniuses he decided he wasn’t a genius, and thanked his lucky stars and lucky dice rolls for his good fortune. And now he wanted to thank me.
I liked being hugged as well as the next fellow, but Colin had a hug like a grizzly bear in a bad mood, and it was only his desire to step back and look me sincerely in the eye that probably saved my life.
“You’re a great man, Mr. Rhinehart, that you should know,” he said.
“Well, I thank you,” said I modestly. ”Though I must confess—
”And I think your idea to have a lassie have a fling with the dice is a fine one,” he went on exuberantly. “And I want you to know I will support you to the end of time.”
“I believe just to the end of the year will be fine,” I said.
”And this lad Michael here has some wild ideas himself and should be listened to,” he went on, slapping Michael on the back and sending Michael’s six-foot-four form staggering.
Apparently Michael had convinced Colin that DICELADY was all my idea and that Michael was, like Colin, just trying to help me, Michael with his talent, Colin with his money. Who was I to disclaim authorship of what was turning out to be at least an ongoing enterprise? Michael and Colin then proceeded to fill me in on the people who had responded to the ads. Although my two new friends laughed and exaggerated and made fun of themselves and the volunteers, I slowly began to read between the lines of their comedy routine.
My fears had been realized: a dice-life designed to turn people into happy kooks is primarily of interest to kooks. There were two dozen married women among our respondents, several with children, but none of them could by any stretch of the imagination be accused of happiness or satisfaction or thinking they had a fine life. I got the impression that most of them would have applied to David Koresh or the Reverend Moon if either of these saviors had bothered to advertise in PRIVATE EYE.
Michael, whose confidence I had not yet seen fail, claimed that it was all right.. That these neurotic crazies would make for good material that would only highlight the sincere transformation of our eventual heroine. We could start shooting in three days.
”Where is our eventual heroine?” I asked hesitantly.
”Begin making our film and she will appear,” announced Michael confidently. I think he had seen FIELD OF DREAMS once too often.
In sixteen days we began shooting.
We were held up first by a lawyer friend of Colin’s insisting that all our volunteers sign a release. In this eight page legal document, for which he charged us a mere two thousand pounds (I wish writers could make that much a page), our volunteers were asked to relinquish all rights to sue the film makers for any bodily or mental damage that dice-living or the documentary inflicted upon them. Since most of our volunteers were crazy, most agreed to sign, but a few, including two or three women who were closest to being normal uptight humans who might actually change a little, refused. We seemed to have developed another way of eliminating from our film the very type of person we were looking for.
When Michael bemoaned these legal technicalities Colin and our $800 per page lawyer insisted that any one we used must sign. I reminded Michael that the dice had an uncanny ability sooner or later to make users very angry. And since the dice themselves had no significant assets it was likely that in some cases the anger might more profitably be aimed at us, which included him, since he was a senior partner in our new joint venture.
Michael finally agreed and, with our cameraman in place, actually camera-woman–Julie–we were at last ready to roll.
Julie, I should mention, was not only a skilled camera-woman but also an experienced film director. She was French, and had attended the best film school in Paris, winning prizes for her short films which she wrote and directed. She was quite over-qualified for our little low-budget enterprise, but had agreed to do as a labor of love, in this case love of Michael.
Julie was a beautiful young woman with a mind like a terrible swift sword: she suffered fools not at all. She thought dice-living was utter rot, except, she supposed, that in breaking down traditional role playing it did make it possible for women to act more like men and thus gain the power they deserved.
It was heartbreaking for me to be in the presence of a beautiful and brainy woman who thought my work was rot. Over that first week I daydreamed that Michael would ditch her for a mindless bimbo who thought I was a genius, but brilliant camera-woman who would work for a percentage of the profits were not plentiful.
So, somehow, we began our documentary.
Michael was the producer and director, with Julie often putting in her two million dollars worth regarding directing, and also doing most of the shooting. I was an ”Associate producer” and ”consultant”. Colin was ”Executive Producer” and gofer.
We began by shooting Michael and me interviewing some of the potential diceladies. Of course Michael had talked to all of these young women beforehand, screening them in effect, as well as indirectly letting them get used to the sort of questions he would ask. The interviews varied: some were as entertaining as watching a bathtub drain, others a bit better.
”I just want to see myself once on the telly before I die, so whatever you want me to do I’ll do it.”
“But I don’t understand. Why should I want to use these dice for anything?”
MICHAEL: “Haven’t you read the booked?”
“I think it’s great, I really do. I used to flip a coin to see whether I ‘d watch the BBC or ITN .”
MICHAEL: ”So what have you got to lose?”
”Well, I suppose my acting career could be put in jeopardy if it gave me a reputation for being a trifle crazy.”
MICHAEL: “I’m afraid actresses aren’t eligible for our project . ”
”But…I really think you should watch me do my skit on–”
ME (to the candidate): ”I’m sorry.”
”Well fuck you then, you fucking creeps! I hope you get fucking Aids!” COLIN (after the candidate had left): ”Maybe we’re going a bit far. From my point of view an actress might be a great deal more controllable, easier to work with, better able to follow direction.”
ME: ”Which is exactly why we shouldn’t use them. They’re sure to fake it.”
MICHAEL : ”Exactly . The whole experiment would be worthless. ”
“I can’t wait to see what my friends will say if get the role.” MICHAEL: ”Have you ever practiced dice-living before?”
“At school. I found I gave up when the dice went for options l didn’t feel like doing.”
“. . . I’ve lost so much money this year, I really think I’ve got nothing to lose . . . ”
”l think it was shocking the way the Diceman raped that woman-..really terrible.-it was a great book though.”
(Sixty year old woman): ”…Well at my age you don’t have an awful lot to lose, do you ? “
So we were seated in our tiny rented studio bemoaning our failure . We knew we hadn’t found anyone we were enthusiastic about following around with a camera for ten minutes, not to mention for the four weeks we had planned. Then our part-time secretary said we had someone who wanted to see us. Michael irritably left to see to our unwelcome visitor, and Julie, Colin and I continued without heart to debate the merits of the three candidates we had narrowed it down to. Then Michael reappeared.
He had a dazed expression on his face, as he had just won the lottery but wasn’t sure whether he remembered where he’d put his winning ticket.
“I think you should meet her too,” he said.
”Who?” asked Julie promptly, her mind working as usual twice as fast as mine or Colon’s.
”Mrs. Ferrill,” he said. ”She’s a friend of one of the volunteers we rejected. She wants to be our dicelady.”
”And?” persisted Julie.
”She’s thirty-two years old, married to a London solicitor who works for Lloyds of London, lives in a manor house in Weybridge–that’s a fashionable suburb of London,” he added in an aside to me. ”She has two young children, works part time as a professional photographer, and, although happy, senses that there must be more to life.”
We stared at him, sensing there must be irony.
Then behind him appeared a stunningly lovely women. Dressed in an expensive and elegant dress that outlined her fine feminine form, her loveliness nevertheless seemed centered in her large, almond-shaped bluish eyes which looked at us with a simple directness that was frightening.
Michael introduced us all to Mrs. Ferrill–for it was indeed she–and we did our best to make her feel at ease while failing miserably to make ourselves feel at ease.
Mrs. Linda Ferrill was too much: too beautiful, too intelligent, too modest, too sincere, too innocent, too willing, too perfect for the four poor mortals about to ruin her life.
Michael seemed too overwhelmed to ask any more questions, and I didn’t want to ask any because it would interfere with my staring at her. Julie took up the slack.
”Are you certain you’re familiar with our project?” she asked with her usual directness.
”Oh, yes, I believe so,” said Mrs. Ferrill. Her voice had a soft huskiness that was meant for a nightclub or a leading role in some film noir. ”You want me to experiment with my life while you film me,”
“. . . Yes,” agreed Julie.
”I have read Mr. Rhinehart’s book,” Mrs. Ferrill went on, nodding in acknowledgment to me. ”And believe I am now familiar with how one plays with the dice. And why one plays with the dice. I think I want to try it.”
“You realize,” said Julie, frowning, ”That if you create new options for your life and the dice choose them that your life is likely to be changed.”
”Of course. That’s rather the point, isn’t it?”
”Uh, yes,” agreed Michael, at last reclaiming the use of his tongue.
”What uh, what do you think your husband will think of your being in a documentary?” he asked next.
”He may never know,” she answered simply. ”You see he travels a great deal. He’s beginning a trip to the far east this week and I daresay won’t be back for at least three weeks and probably a month.”
We all looked at her to try to see bitchiness, deceitfulness, coldness, hate: we saw only the simple statement of a fact.
”Don’t you share your life with your husband when he gets back from a trip?” I asked.
”Oh, yes,” she said. ”But he doesn’t really listen very well.”
”What if we were still filming when he returned?” persisted Michael.
She looked at him for a long moment with her limpid eyes and elicited an interjection from me:
”We could pretend we were shooting a documentary on the new aristocracy of the middleclass,” I suggested.
Mrs. Ferrill then looked at me a long moment, and so overpowering was the sincerity of her eyes l hadn’t the foggiest notion of what she was thinking.
”Yes, that would certainly win his approval,” she finally commented. ”But I would have to consult the dice to see whether I told him that, or the truth, or some other lie.”
That stopped us. She was already into the dice-life before even so much as touching a die. It was frightening.
”Uh, that’s true,” said the Diceman himself, stirred by her simple and direct grasp of all that the youthful me had stood for. ”You would.”
”But of course the newness and strangeness and inconsistency of my behavior would make him realize that something unusual was going on,” Mrs. Ferrill went on with just a hint of a frown of concentration. ”I would have to create an explanation for my eccentricities, probably create a series of elaborate lies.”
”Yes . . .” we all agreed in awe.
”One of the weaknesses of your book,” she went on, looking at me, ”is that the diceman’s friends aren’t as curious or outraged as they should be by his bizarre behavior.”
We all looked at her.
”Just one of the weaknesses,” I finally returned.
”Yes,” she agreed. ”But the book had several quite amusing scenes as well.”
”Why, thank you,” said I, feeling small, and shrinking further at every passing moment.
”And of course it will change my life,” she concluded.
We all searched in vain for any irony in her latest bombshell, but came up empty.
In fact, over the next three days before we actually started to film we were always looking for irony or bitchiness or suppressed hatred in things she said but could never find any.
She seemed a woman at peace with herself, in this case, at peace with her dissatisfaction with her highly pampered upper middle- class life, and, even more amazing, at peace with her decision to risk blowing it all to smithereens by becoming the dicelady of our documentary.
For there was never any debate about whether she was our dicelady or not after our first meeting her. After she had left our office the only thing we discussed were the ways we must be overlooking something. Was she a plant? An actress sent to us by some rich enemy planning to sabotage our plans? Was she a nut whose insanity consisted of an ability to project sincerity about everything? Did she love her children? Did she actually have any children? Would her husband sue us for every cent we had?
The only question whose answer we were sure of was the last: we all agreed the husband would sue. So we called in old $800 a page Mr. Caxton for advice. He said the solution was to limit the liability to our film company, ”Chancing It Productions” and to limit the assets of this company to whatever money it took to pay the weekly bills. We should rent everything, own nothing. Mr. Caxton also urged Colin to resign immediately from the board of ”Chancing It” to protect himself, and suggested everyone else do the same. The company should have a dummy board and each of us, in so far as we worked on the film, should be the mere employees. The dummy board would consist of homeless people who would be paid for the use of their names. It was all so devious I was convinced that Mr. Caxton had American blood.
So we decided to go ahead with Mrs. Ferrill. Before we actually started her on her dicelife we shot her answering questions of Michael and me about her life as it was now–the ”before” so-to-speak.
It seems she was, accordingly, an Oxford graduate, even taken a first in English literature. After graduation she was briefly an editor at Harper-Collins before marrying the wealthy Robert Ferrill, eight years her senior. She married him, she said, because she wasn’t really enjoying her work at Harper-Collins.
She had then given birth to her two children in quick succession and settled into a life of ease and luxury in her suburban mansion. She had become interested in photography through a female friend and turned out to be exceptionally talented at it. She did freelance work for several travel magazines, a few nature magazines and even a newspaper or two.
She had two or three times written articles to accompany her photographs. She was actually making money at her work, although nothing compared to her husband’s income.
Her personal interests seemed perhaps a bit limited. She knew nothing about politics or sports or even the current cinema. She seemed uninterested in any raging social issues. When we tried a few discreet questions about her sexual life and sexual fantasies she answered with her usual unflappability that her sexual relations with her husband were ”normal” and that she had no sexual fantasies. It occurred to me that if she had no sexual fantasies she was the first woman in recent human history to achieve that negative state, but we let her answer pass.
Michael then took some time to explain to her on camera what was expected of her, within which boundaries she could operate the dice, boundaries that might to some extent, she suggested, be dictated partly by the dice. Michael said they would develop with her a set of rules so that she could lead a dice-life that would not interfere with his making an appealing documentary.
He told her that the bulk of the documentary would consist of our filming her creating her options, rolling her dice, and then acting–all in ways that would permit increasing gain–at the risk, however, of greater loss. He told her he hoped each roll would be loaded with tension and excitement. In the beginning, he reassured her, the dice options could be trivial and non-threatening, like not taking the kids to nursery school, not washing up, letting the dice choose the family diet, and so on. However, Michael expected her after a week or two to come to an important insight–that to get anywhere her dice-living could not be just fun and games, that she must risk more serious unexpressed desires, that she couldn’t only choose options that she felt safe with. To discover the orgasmic liberating aspects of the die, said Michael with his usual enthusiasm, some throws would have to be painful. Michael always got most enthusiastic when he dwelt on the pain of dice-living.
The creating of options, he went on, although usually her prerogative, might sometimes come from him or me. Such options could be debated on camera, a debate that might well reveal more of her personality and resistances than her own created options.
Linda Ferrill took in all this without comment. Whether she was bored or horrified by what Michael said we couldn’t tell. When Michael then showed her a written contract she read it all without expression.
”It seems pretty straightforward,” she said after reading it carefully through. “I commit for thirty days beginning tomorrow to let you film me while I experiment with the dice. I’m guaranteed that I’m not going to be forced into picking an option that might risk limb or life or be illegal.”
She looked up at him.
”Isn’t that a bit limiting?” she asked.
“Well, we need to protect ourselves legally.”
She read on.
”Embarrassment can be an excuse for me to refuse an option . . . The desire to tell the truth is not relevant . . . The camera crew can never be refused access anywhere… Last but not least . . . I’ve got to keep it a secret from everyone.”
She frowned and looked up again.
”But what the dice choose an option that I tell someone?”
”Well, then, of course, you’d have to tell,” agreed Michael.
After I, feeling a longing to be back in my mountain village in Mallorca soaking in the sun and writing, had left London, Michael and Julie spent two days at her estate shooting Linda and her children (hubby was already in the far east) in their normal daily routine. There were two servants, a maid and a nanny, who were told we were filming a documentary on the new aristocracy of the middle class. They looked pleased and excited to be involved in such a distinguished project.
As the first day of shooting Linda in her new dice-life approached, Michael got the jitters. It just wasn’t going to work. She would never be able to go through with it. It was hard enough to let your life be invaded by a camerawoman and director; how much more difficult to begin transforming that life in ways that neither you nor anyone else could predict. No, no, it couldn’t possibly work. She would chicken out. Worse, she would have a psychological breakdown on camera: that grace and poise shattered in one sudden convulsion.
Nevertheless this was what our project was all about; we had to begin. It had been agreed that to simplify matters only Michael and Julie would be present during the shooting. It helped matters that Colin had business affairs to attend to and had never intended to spend as much time on his investment as he already had. And I was back in Mallorca. Michael and Julie started on schedule.
Linda turned out to be a natural in front of the camera. Michael had suggested they start the first day by shooting Linda arriving downstairs for breakfast but she had said ‘no’, her day began with her getting out of bed and putting on makeup. And so the first shot of her first day was of her yawning, stretching and sliding out of bed, emerging like Athena from the sea, not naked perhaps, but with a nightgown so diaphanous that we had already earned an “R” rating before a die had even rolled. She then turned to the camera and, with fetching modesty, said, ”Well, I believe this is the day my new life begins.”
She then sat at her vanity and, while she began applying her morning makeup, continued to talk aloud as if friends were just off screen and she was summing up where she was. She said that it had been a long time since she had read a good book, seen a new place, met a fascinating person, done an unusual thing, experienced a great emotion, and she wanted to change that. She wanted to tap into aspects of herself she knew must exist but which she had grown out of touch with. She wasn’t sure what they were, didn’t know whether she wanted a new job, a new man, a new home, a new family, or a new way of looking at life, just was certain that something had to change.
”Shall I or shall I not be the dicelady?–that is the question,” she finally concluded.
She then picked up a chrome die with red spots–Michael had given it to her, feeling it was cinematically the most dramatic die money could buy–and examined it.
”If I cast this die and it falls a ‘one’ or a ‘two’ then I will not do this documentary but will continue my predictable and changeless life .
Michael began to protest, but Julie impatiently waved him back out of camera.
”But if it falls a ‘three’ ‘four’ ‘five’ or ‘six,’” continued Linda, ”then I will say ‘fuck’ to all consequences and turn my life over for thirty days to chance.” She looked for a long moment with fierce intensity at the camera and then to her die.
”Free me, little silver geni,” she said and flipped the die across the top of her vanity.
It toppled a bottle of perfume and then fell off onto the carpeted floor. She looked a little puzzled by its disappearance.
She got off her vanity stool and down onto her hands and knees to search for the errant die. Since she was still in her diaphanous nightgown and her rear end was to the camera it made for a sensational opening shot.
”Oh where is the stupid thing?” Linda mumbled, then suddenly sat up triumphant, the die in one hand.
‘ ‘A six,” she announced triumphantly. ”My new life begins.”
Linda then made her first dice decision–somewhat anticlimactic we all thought–what she would wear for the day– jeans and a baggy sweater it turned out. Then, while the camera looked discretely away (although Linda didn’t seem to notice or care) Linda got dressed.
When she arrived downstairs for breakfast the maid looked surprised at her jeans and sweater but was even more surprised when Linda, after consulting her dice, ordered sausage and waffles for breakfast instead of her usual fibre cereal. And from then on it was onwards and upwards (or downwards) into the dicelife.
She telephoned a friend and told her what a pain-in-the-ass she was. She went into the nursery and played with her two children for an hour. The dice told her to order the nanny to get down on the floor and play too. Nanny, wondering what all this had to do with the new aristocracy, nevertheless obliged.
Next she walked into her husband’s study. It was filled with books and diplomas and awards and objets d’arte that he had collected from around the world in his travels. She had begun carrying a small notebook with her and she now looked around the room, jotted down some notes and then cast a die. She walked to a bookcase, picked up a lovely slim vase and, looking at it briefly, then hurled it across the room where it smashed into pieces against the opposite wall. She looked without expression at the camera and then walked from the room.
Things were beginning to move.
Michael was now chasing after her and suggesting that she list her options out loud so that the viewer would know what she might be up to next, but she looked at him coldly, cast a die and shook her head.
”Not today,” she said.
In the next few hours she phoned TRAVELLER’S NOTES and informed them she wouldn’t be doing an article for them after all.
She phoned her husband’s hotel in Hong Kong and left a message that she was having a wonderful time and wished he was here. She ordered a cab to her house and then took it (Michael and Julie desperately following in their van) into central London, getting off in Soho. She went to a pub and drank a huge ale, making a face of disgust. When a man approached her and began making conversation, she consulted her die, and then told him to sod off. She went into several stores and made what can best be described as random purchases: two magazines (one a girly mag), a gold lame sweater that was in doubtful taste, a pair of sandals; a large hunting knife, and two jars of marmalade. An hour later she gave all her acquisitions to a bag lady, who sniffed suspiciously at them, but seemed to appreciate the marmalade.
She eventually had a quiet dinner in a posh Kensington restaurant, put down a generous tip but left without paying the bill.
Michael and Julie were not filming every moment of the day and occasionally missed something they decided they could use. But when they asked Linda to repeat what she had just done she always consulted her die and only about half the time agreed to do it.
By the end of the day our documentary film makers were exhausted. Michael and Julie both felt they had missed some of the best stuff and had a lot of footage that would need extensive editing to make any sense at all. They were disappointed. Linda seemed to be doing her thing, but her thing was so personal to herself that it had no visual impact, no mass appeal. The smashed vase was nice but, since the audience knew nothing about Linda’s husband, the aggressive gesture existed in a kind of vacuum, They would later have to shoot some footage to run prior to the shattered vase so that the act would seem a logical expression of her hidden needs.
”You must tell our audience more about your past, your feelings, your dreams’ Michael told Linda at the end of the day.
The three of them were in the huge main living room of the Ferrill house, Michael sprawled on the couch, Julie returning from the kitchen after getting some ice and mixer, and Linda at the liquor cabinet pouring herself and Julie stiff drinks. The children and servants had retired for the evening.
”We need to know more about why you list some of your options,” he went on, ”need to know what buried impulses you’re trying to tap into.”
”But perhaps I don’t know,” she answered. ”Perhaps the whole purpose of this experiment is to let my unconscious run wild because my conscious mind is so ignorant.”
Michael felt that was too interesting a point to refute, so let it pass.
”In fact,” persisted Linda, “I feel most free when I write or think of options that don’t make any particular sense to me. Like listing things I might smash. Or deciding to phone someone at random and tell them exactly how I feel about them. Excuse me, I must prepare some new options.”
She took her drink and retreated to a far corner of the large room where, sitting on an antique rocking chair and pulling out her notebook, she began jotting down notes. At one point she shook her head in seeming puzzlement at what she was writing.
As she worked, Michael and Julie began discussing the things they wanted to do differently at the next day’s shoot. The main thing they agreed upon was that they’d have to insist that Linda be a little more organized in her dice-living, make it clear to the viewer and easier for the film-makers by explaining how many dice decisions she would take, and on what subjects. Michael wanted her to go on a photographic assignment the next day, while Julie felt Linda ought to visit some friends. They were well through their second little nightcap when Linda arose from her rocker and walked across the room to rejoin them.
“I want to sleep with you”’ she announced with her usual cool.
Michael and Julie looked up at her in stunned surprise.
”Oh?” said Julie. ”Exactly who is you?”
”Get the camera!” said Michael.
“I want to sleep with both of you,” said Linda.
”Forget the camera,” said Michael.
”Both at once, or one at a time?” asked Julie, whose mind as usual cut into the ambiguity.
Linda consulted her die.
”One at a time,” she said. Then she again jiggled her die in the palm of her hand and looked at it. ”Michael first,” she said.
Julie looked cooly at Michael.
”Interesting options” she said.
”Can’t be done,” said Michael. ”Unprofessional. But let’s shoot our discussion. That might be interestingly.”
”My dice said I was to sleep with both of you,” Linda persisted calmly. ”Of course you can resist if you like, but l am determined to try to obey the chosen option.”
Julie had turned on her video camcorder and sat herself on the arm of a couch to shoot first Linda and then Michael.
”Right,” said Michael. “I understand. But it turns out that I refuse for professional reasons.”.
Linda moved slowly toward Michael holding out a hand.
”Come,” she said. ”Let’s go to my bedroom.”
”No,” said Michael.
”At least consult the Dice,” said Linda.
”If you won’t use the dice then I see no reason why I should,” said Linda calmly.
”I’m the producer!”
”I thought you were an admirer and disciple of THE DICE MAN,” said Linda. ”How can you betray your principles?”
”The dice aren’t appropriate for me as producer/’ said Michael with rising annoyance. ”Only as an individual.”
”But I want to sleep with an individual, not the producer.”
Michael turned and strode away in anger as Julie caught perfectly his expression of frustration.
”Well you can’t,” he mumbled.
Linda looked at Michael another moment and then turned with a frown to again consult the single die in the palm of her hand.
”How about you?” she then asked Julie, looking straight at the camera Julie was holding. ”Will you sleep with me?”
”Have you ever made love to a woman before?” Julie asked.
”No, Have you? ”
”Yes,” said Julie, still professionally shooting Linda as the questions were asked. She occasionally swung the camera to get a shot of Michael’s reactions.
”Well?” Linda persisted.
“I will consider it,” said Julie. ”But not tonight.”
”But the dice said that I should sleep with you tonight, not in general. You must come with me now.”
“She can’t, ” said Michael. ”I won’t let her.”
”Since when are you my lord and master?” Julie shot back.
”Turn off the damn camera!” barked Michael. “We’re not using any of this.” ”Why not?” asked Julie.
”I thought you said you could never know what might turn out be useful,” echoed Linda.
”Stop shooting!” snapped Michael, turning his head aside as if being pursued by papparazzi.
”Please,” said Linda to Julie. ”I thought the whole point of this experiment was to take me into new worlds. I’m doing what you ask and you’re suddenly stopping the experiment.”
Julie placed the cam-corder carefully on an open space in a large bookcase and turned it, still on, toward herself. She then looked earnestly into the camera.
”I have to admit we’re letting you down,” she said.
She then picked up the camera and swung it back onto Linda.
”Well, then, come with me,” said Linda, and as she had done with Michael earlier, she held out her hand to Julie as if to a child about to be taken on a walk.
”Stop this nonsense!” said Michael.
”Well, then, you go with her,” said Julie. “I’ll shoot.”
Michael glared at her in disbelief.
”What are you talking about?”
When Julie began to put the cam-corder back on the bookshelf to film herself, Michael stormed over, grabbed the camera in one hand and Julie with the other and began pulling her out of the room.
“We’re going to our room,” he announced loudly over his shoulder to Linda.
But Julie yanked herself free and halted.
”Go yourself,” she said.
Michael glared at her a long moment, then flung the cam-corder to the floor and stomped out of the room.
It was the next day that I got a phone call from Michael with a request that I fly to London and assist in our DICELADY project. He was vague about the difficulties he had encountered, but his voice lacked its usual enthusiasm. He indicated that Mrs. Ferrill was not cooperating, and he hoped my presence might make her see reason. When I resisted his invitation, he finally explained in general what had happened the night before. He said if I didn’t come immediately he was quitting. He said what really infuriated him was that when Julie had returned to their guest bedroom about two o’clock that morning she had insisted on filming their discussion and announced she would not tell him what had happened between her and Linda.
For various trivial reasons I wasn’t able get to London for three days. By then Michael and Julie had become reconciled sufficiently to shoot another three days, Linda not further involving them in any new traumatic way in her experimental life.
But she was beginning to involve a lot of other people. She had fired her maid and hired a male butler-cook to replace her. In a long afternoon shopping spree she bought more than $40,000 worth of clothing, jewelry, and household furnishings, a sum that normally she didn’t expend in a year. Among her various outfits were some that were intended for a Royal reception and others for street hookers. She bought five different wigs and had her hair restyled twice in three days, the second time having her hair lopped short to boyish length. It gave her severe and unflappable style an even more menacing aspect.
Equally menacing was the fact that the die chose from the six alternatives she gave for an exercise program that she begin to lift weights. A set of barbells and two Nautilus machines were immediately installed in her main living room.
Since another dice option had her rearrange all the furniture in her house in random ways (her bed ending up in her husband’s study) the house began to take on a certain air of chaos.
She sold her husband’s BMW, trading it in for a Commanche Jeep. One evening she took her children to a gigantic fair in the outskirts of London, taking them on so many rides they both fell asleep long before her dice decided they could all leave. While the nanny watched the children she had done a bungy jump at the fair and then ridden through the tunnel of love with a stranger she had picked up at random. He emerged from the tunnel looking flushed and pleased, she her usual indecipherable self.
Among her other random accomplishments of these three days she applied for a job as an erotic dancer at a Soho nightclub and when the owner crudely propositioned her, first began tearing his clothes off and then hosed him down with a fire extinguisher. She didn’t get the job.
She brought home as household pets a dog, a cat, and three snakes and let all roam loose through the house, much to the delight of the two children and to the dismay of everyone else.
When called in for an assignment at one of the magazines she occasionally did photographic work for, she dressed in a rubber mini-skirt, sneakers, a blond wig that made Dolly Parton’s look conservative, and padded her bosom to twice its already generous proportions. She also wore this outfit to a meeting with her husband’s longtime banker and chief financial advisor, whom she told that she wanted to borrow half a million pounds to invest in Syria. With a stricken look he said he would consult her husband.
Not surprisingly her husband phoned her the next day. Her dice apparently told her to answer all his questions with total honesty. Her husband consequently decided to cut short his business trip and return quickly to London. She looked pleased, Michael told me, at having stirred the man into unaccustomed activity.
Michael and Julie reported all this to me in their guest bedroom suite at the Ferrill estate. They both seemed to me a bit burned out by their four intense days of shooting a dice-person, whether from the physical exhaustion of keeping up with Linda or from the psychological blows she inflicted I didn’t know.
”It’s both working and not working,” Michael summarized after he had shown me some of the rough footage. ”I mean the bungy jumping should have been great, but we really could only shoot the most pedestrian footage. In fact, that’s our problem. We’ve got an exciting story but don’t have the resources to do a proper job of shooting. We’d need at least two more cameras with crew and more time. Linda almost always refuses to redo a scene so we can shoot it better–sometimes the die tells her to, but most times she says it tells her not to. I don’t even know if I trust that she’s actually letting the dice choose. She’s so bland.”
”So what do you want me to do to help?” I asked thinking that Michael didn’t know how lucky he was to get someone as enigmatic and intrepid as Mrs. Ferrill.
”Speak to her. Tell her that dice-living must always be done within a framework of order. That its purpose is to free an individual, not tell me how a documentary is shot. That the dice should only be used to assist her in getting from one psychological space to a new one. Tell her anything that will make her cooperate more with our shooting. She’s driving us insane!’”
Since I genuinely liked Michael l was quite sympathetic to his problems and quite happy to try to help. Much to our delight Linda’s dice decided that she could have dinner with me that night at a dice-dictated restaurant.
During the day I followed them all around as Linda went through her fifth day of the dice-life. It seems that the dice had chosen a long shot and told her to tell nothing but lies from dawn to dusk, an option that made things a bit confusing. Among her random travels this day she visited her stodgy, middle-class parents in Edgeware, dressed in some plumber’s overalls and a Liverpool footballer sweatshirt and a red-haired wig. Her parents were more frightened than anything, what with their elegant daughter looking like an East End garage mechanic and telling them all sorts of stories that not only made no sense but frequently contradicted each other. She explained that Michael, Julie and I were there filming them because she was to appear in a deodorant commercial–the ”before” person presumably.
Most of the rest of the day was spent with Linda taking photographs of various people and places, always giving those who asked what was going on some tall tale that even Mark Twain would have found a bit farfetched. She usually chose the subjects of her photos at random and also the way she photographed them. I could see that she took her photography as seriously as she took everything else. She appeared fascinated with the decisions the dice made regarding what and how she was to photograph. The most eerie moments came when the dice chose Julie as her subject. While she stalked Julie looking for the appropriate composition, Julie and her cam-corder stalked Linda. At one point the two were circling each other like two fighters in a ring.
Dinner with Linda was interesting because on this mid-summer day the first part of the meal took place before sunset, and thus Linda was still in her dice-dictated lying mode. It took me awhile to adjust to this and realize that a ‘yes’ answer meant ‘no’ and vice-versa. However, any answer other than yes or no was simply a work of fiction that I was doomed to enjoy but not be informed by. Then the sun finally set (Linda went out to check) and she returned to another dice-dictated mode. This one was truth.
“You’re a sham,” she announced from her truth mode as we were served desert. She was dressed with simple elegance this evening, more like her original self of six days ago, except that her boyish hairdo and dark glasses (dice dictated) looked incongruous with the dress.
Michael and Julie, long since bored to tears, were having a drink at the bar. We were alone except for the tape recorder Michael had substituted for his filming.
”Ah, yes,” I responded, always proud of my humility.
“It’s clear you haven’t read your own book.”
”Not in many years” I admitted.
“You’re as stodgy and stuck and narrow and rigid as everybody you rebelled against twenty years ago. Aren’t you ashamed.”
”Well, you should be. In less than a week I’ve turned my life around, opened it up. I feel I’m living for the first time.”
”Try living this way for twenty years,” I suggested mildly.
”Of course I won’t,” she answered firmly. “I won’t need dicing for that long, but right now you need it again.”
”What makes you think I’m leading a bland repetitious life or, if I am, that it isn’t a dice decision?”
She frowned as she considered this.
“ . . . In theory it might be,” she admitted. ”In practice, I doubt it.”
“Also,” I went on mildly. ”Did you know that I’m living in Mallorca with three women and a gay boyfriend.?”
Her eyes widened a bit.
”Good,” she finally said.
”You can say that only because you don’t have to live with them.”
”Do they really exist?” she finally asked after a further pause.
”No. I live alone most of the time.”
”Exactly,” she said. “You’re a sham.”
”Alone with my pet hippopatomus.”
She smiled. It was the first time I could ever remember her giving a spontaneous smile. It made me realize how serious she was about everything. She almost immediately returned to her usual dignified neutrality.
”I suppose it’s because you’re old,” she said, frowning down at her desert.
“I suppose it is,” I said, feeling, although l wasn’t precisely sure what ‘it’ was, that age was a fairly good explanation for most anything.
”You don’t seem to be a risk taker,” she said.
”Risk taking is hard on the knees,” I said.
”But why won’t Michael take risks?” she suddenly asked, looking up at me with her usual limpid sincerity.
”He is,” I said. ”This documentary is a risk. His letting you run wild is a risk,”
“But in his personal life, with Julie, his parents? He’s hiding behind his stupid documentary.”
”No,” I said. ”His job now is to make a film. Only you have the job of finding a new life.”
She looked at me a long time.
”Perhaps,” was all she said.
Linda continued to be a bit out of sync with our documentary. On the seventh day, Michael and Julie, like God, decided they needed a rest and decided not to film. Linda’s die, however, informed her that she was to continue with her dicing.
The next morning Michael wanted to start with Linda telling the camera all about her previous day, but Linda’s dice said no. Michael turned to me with a look of annoyance and appeal, but could only shrug. And then, to rub it in, the dice chose a one in twelve option and ordered Linda not to consult the dice all day.
So a frustrated Michael and Julie had two days off.
But the day after that was hectic. Linda and her die had decided to throw a large weekend party at her mansion and she was busy randomly inviting guests, planning and letting the dice choose entertainment, food, etc. Her guest list ended up being some kind of a first. About half the invitees were from among her upper middleclass friends, which might have been normal enough if she hadn’t more often than not specifically invited only one of each couple. Several people phoned back to make sure they had understood correctly that their husband (or wife) was definitely not invited. Another group invited were from among employees, tradesmen, doormen, and cab drivers she knew. Yet another was from among a list of famous people she drew up and then, if one were chosen by the die, she tried to contact them by phone or fax and invite them. Of those invitees only Elton John and Tony Blair indicated they would come.
She invited another group at random off the London streets, including several fortyish members of an aging motorcycle gang. She gave to all her random street guests a map with her address and phone number and the hours of the party. In some cases she gave them cab fare to attend.
For entertainment she called upon three persons she had admired at the freak show in the big carnival she had gone to with her children, and hired them to come. One of them looked somewhat human.
She also engaged a highly praised string quartet and a less massively recommended heavy metal band who indicated they planned to come painted purple. There was to be ecstasy dissolved in the non-alcoholic punch but not in any of the other liquid offerings. For caterers the dice had chosen en masse the crew of the nearest McDonald’s, whose average age was nineteen and culinary experience somewhat limited; they had trouble identifying any foodstuff not in its plastic wrapper.
And, just to keep the pot boiling, on the afternoon of the day before the party, who should arrive but Mr. Ferrill.
He turned out to be a short dynamic man with a head of bushy dark hair, a roguish mustache and fierce piercing eyes. He stormed into the house just as we were filming his wife in the bathtub masturbating.
That is, Julie was in the bathroom with Linda filming while Michael was in her bedroom watching on a television set some of his previous day’s footage. I was down in the living room floor playing with Linda’s two children and one of the snakes. The nanny had been ordered to take a refresher course in child rearing at a local institute and was not at home.
I fear that in some sense the home itself was not at home. Remember that the furniture was still in the random arrangement of a few days earlier; a dog and a cat, not previous acquaintances of Mr. Ferrill, were chasing each other around a billiard table; the heavy metal rock band had arrived a day early to check out accoustics and were in several parts of the downstairs either lifting weights or lifting expensive vases; and one or two of the party invitees had misread the date of the party and shown up early.
It was this home that Mr. Ferrill entered late that afternoon after ten days in the rational World of Hong Kong.
I was the first one to see him, and I confess l was impressed by the coolness with which he surveyed the scene. He came across the floor toward me like a Patton tank about to confront an enemy equipped only with small arms.
I rose from the children and left them fondling the three-foot-long snake (”shorty” the dice had named him).
”Are you Rhinehart?” he barked.
“I am,” I answered. ”Mr. Ferrill, I presume?”
“I imagine that’s the least of your presumptions,” he said, looking around with a disbelieving scowl at what had once been an elegant living room but now more resembled a used furniture store room–cum exercise club, everything sitting in random disarray.
”Who are those fuckers?” he asked.
“I believe they are entertainers that Mrs. Merrill has hired for a party she’s throwing tomorrow night,” I answered. He had gestured at three of the band members.
”They look like Syrian refugees,” Mr. Ferrill commented, turning next to look at his children. They had accepted his arrival with remarkable indifference, being still more fascinated with the snake than any mere mortal.
”I suppose the reptile is only mildly poisonous,” he said gloomily.
‘ “I believe it has been do-fanged,” I said.
”Where’s my wife?”
”Fucking one of the refugees?” he asked as he headed for the stairs.
Not one to miss a good show, I followed.
”Possibly,” I had to admit. ”But not that I know of.”
He went up the stairs at a vigorous pace–at least to my sixty-year-old legs–but without any sense of urgency. At the top he turned toward what had been their master bedroom. When he entered, Michael was concentrating on a scene from two days before when Linda had been handing out ten pound notes to people in Piccadilly Circus; he didn’t notice our arrival.
Mr. Ferrill glared around the wrecked room and then heard his wife’s voice from the bathroom. He had taken two strides in that direction when Linda herself emerged from the room, nude, toweling her short hair, and Julie, also nude, was following with her cam-corder and diligently filming.
”Darlingl” said Linda and went unhesitatingly into her husband’s arms.
So Mr. Ferrill found himself holding his naked and gorgeous wife and staring over her shoulder at the gorgeous and naked Julie solemnly filming them.
”Who are you?” he barked at Julie.
”I’m the camera-woman,” said Julie.
“They’re doing me in a commercial on bath salts, darling,” said Linda. ”Don’t I smell nice?”
”Don’t fuck with me, Linda,’ he said, releasing her, then seeing her nakedness, pulling her back to him. ”You told me what these bastards are all about, and I want them gone.”
“But darling, I’ve still got more than two weeks to go. I signed a contract.”
“I want them out of here.”
“But Mr. Ferrill,” said Michael, coming up to him eagerly. ”Just let us shoot your confrontation with your wife. Let us film your righteous anger.”
”Fuckoff, Putz” said Mr. Ferrill.
”Our film audience will be on your side,” persisted Michael. ”When they realize that you know all the awful things she’s done with the dice, they’ll want you to lay into her, perhaps beat her up.”
”Get out ! ” Mr. Ferrill had his hands full. He was pointing with one arm to the door, trying to hold his wife’s nakedness against him with another, trying to wave off Julie’s filming with a third, and wishing he could give me the middle finger with the fourth.
”Just let us film Linda’s explanation and your response, then we’ll go,” said Michael, although he had backed slightly away from the fierce-eyed Mr. Ferrill.
”I’ll let you film my beating the bloody pants off you,” he shot back and released his wife to advance menacingly at Michael. ”Get out!!”
Michael, although much taller than Mr. Ferrill, recognized a losing proposition and hastened out of the room.
Mr. Ferrill then turned and advanced on the composed and professional Julie, still cooly performing her documentary duties, although skimpily clad, wearing only skin.
”Where the fuck are your clothes?” Mr. Ferrill asked, stopping a few feet from Julie, apparently realizing that throwing a naked lady into the streets might not be his best move.
”In the bathroom, sir,” said Julie.
”Well get them and get out,” said Mr. Ferrill with sudden fatigue, looking at Julie’s nude beauty with vague regret. Then he noticed me.
”Get your eyes off my wife,” he said.
”Get your eyes off my camera-woman,” I rejoined.
He scowled, looked briefly back at Julie, and went to pick up a robe from the floor for his wife.
”Mmmm ,” was his only comment.
Michael and I left the Ferrill mansion about half an hour after the arrival of Mr. Ferrill. Our departure became desirable when two powerful looking middle-aged men showed up, both opening their jackets to show us they were carrying weapons, and both indicating that our health would not deteriorate so rapidly if we left. Julie was still upstairs, but they insisted she could make her own way out.
So Michael and I retreated to my hotel room a few miles away and were soon conducting a post mortem on our documentary. When Colin phoned and learned about the latest development he hurried over and joined us.
”In a way it’s a good ending/’ said Michael. ”I mean even though we didn’t get the final confrontation of husband and wife, we still got his rage, his ordering us out of the room, the naked ladies.” He frowned. ”We’ll have to stage some shots with Julie later to show she was shooting in the nude. That’ll help.”
“I love the righteous husband pointing toward the door and ordering you out,” said Colin with a big grin. ”Imagine the wife telling him all that she’s been up to.”
“I still think we’re going to end up missing the main story,” I said.
”What’s that?” asked Michael.
”The ‘after’,” I replied. ”How Linda and her husband work out a new life together–or apart.”
”Well, I certainly hope we can get some more footage of Linda,” said Michael. ”If nothing else there are several holes in what we have that I’d like her to fill.”
”So you think you’ve got something we can sell?” asked Colin, getting back to the bottom line.
“We’ve got fantastic material,” announced Michael, returning to his normal enthusiasm. ”And to top it all, I think we should all try to go to that party scheduled for tomorrow.”
”You don’t think the husband is bloody likely to let party go on, do your?”
“Of course not,” agreed Michael, ”but it will give us an excuse to be there and film him throwing out all the guests as they arrive–and perhaps sneak in a tete-a-tete with Linda.”
“I wonder what our lawyer will think of our invading Mr. Ferrill’s privacy again,” I mused.
This brought frowns onto my friend’s faces and soon we had managed to contact the faithful Mr. Caxton. He indicated jovially that Mr. Merrill already had so many legitimate grounds for suing our film company into oblivion that anything else we might do was incidental and irrelevant. Thus reassured, we decided that we might try the Ferrill party.
That left only one nagging question: whatever had happened to Julie?
By late the next afternoon we still had been unable to get any word of her. Calls to the Ferrill mansion were answered by one of the thugs that had escorted us out the day before, and he indicated no wish to tell us anything about anything. We left messages on Michael and Julie’s home cell phones informing her of where we were and of our plans, but she didn’t contact us.
By late afternoon Michael was definitely worried, primarily about what had happened to all the film footage that had been stored in the guest bedroom he’d been staying and whether he should hire another cameraman for the evening’s shoot. He reassured us that Julie could handle herself and that Mr. Ferrill would have his hands full he tried to push her around. The menacing thugs didn’t worry him because he felt there were too many witnesses around. His personal guess was that Linda had insisted Julie stay and do some more filming, and a disgusted Mr. Ferrill had stormed away to let his wife ruin herself.
When we arrived at the Ferrill mansion about eight o’clock that evening we were greeted by more than we had any right to expect. The party was on. With a vengeance. The guests, of all the invited varieties, were arriving happily, and some new servants seemed to have been hired to greet them. We had no written invitations but no one seemed to mind. Michael had hired a new cameraman for the occasion, a bored young man who usually shot street interviews of accident victims and witnesses.
Our relieved grins became a trifle strained when one of the thugs approached, but the man simply nodded and moved on. Our initial assumption was that indeed Mr. Ferrill had left this chaos in disgust and perhaps left the thugs behind to moderate the losses. Certainly he was nowhere to be seen.
But Linda was. She was dressed in a spectacular evening gown with enough jewels adorning her to balance many a country’s budget, and she greeted each guest with the grace and formality of a reigning monarch. We of course wondered if this were a dice decision or was this Linda reverting to her pre-dicelife social persona. Mr. Blair seemed particularly impressed, looking around the room at the lowlife swilling down the various offerings and asking Linda precisely what charity this party was supporting. He told Linda that he was particularly pleased that her husband hadn’t been invited.
Linda greeted us with warmth and dignity and smiled benevolently at the new cameraman shooting away. Her husband, she assured us calmly, would be down soon. Julie, she indicated absentmindedly, was someplace on the premises, she wasn’t sure where. Our conversation came to a necessary halt when the heavy metal band, having apparently determined successfully how to fill the room with such overwhelming sound that no one anywhere could possibly hear anyone else, began playing.
The rest of the evening, although colorful to experience and superficially filled with weirdness that Michael thought would be terrific on film but which proved irrelevant, was the last of our DICELADY documentary. Of note was that Linda periodically retreated upstairs and then reappeared wearing some new garb and presenting some new persona. She was clearly still dicing.
Julie appeared at the party about an hour after our arrival. She was dressed in one of Linda’s elegant dresses and spoke to us only in French. From what we could gather, she had temporarily become ”une femme de” (dicelady) herself.
The climax of the evening (dramatically not cinematically) came with the appearance of Mr. Ferrill. Although this was not officially a costume party he came down the main stairs into the living room in a Roman toga and began distributing ducats or lira or whatever Roman noblemen distributed to the masses–they looked like shillings.
It took about half an hour before Michael and I could break through to him and speak to him more or less alone.
”How’s it going?” I asked in my best Americaneeze.
”Not bad,” he responded, mimicking my American manner.
”You and Linda feeling better about each other? I inquired.
“You bloody well believe it,” he countered.
”No resentments about anything?” asked Michael doubtfully.
”No more than a dozen,” said Mr. Ferrill. ”My solicitor has a complete list of them.”
”Wonderful,” said I, who had perhaps already had too much of the non-alcoholic punch. ”Saves taking notes.”
”And later,” continued our host, ”I intend to let the dice determine how much I’m going to sue you for.”
“Ah yes,” said I.
”Our company, you mean,” said Michael hopefully.
”No, you,” he said, indicating me. ”You personally, Rhinehart. Linda says that you are the creator of this madness and of this documentary. I shall hound you to the ends of the earth’s.
”I doubt I’ll get that far,” I said, beginning to feel that deep, low-level dread that every American feels at the prospect of being sued.
”The company responsible for the documentary, not Mr. Rhinehart personally,” said Michael, hopefully echoing the advice of Mr. Caxton.
”We’ll see,” said Mr. Ferrill with the sly smile of a man who knows he can afford better solicitors than the person he’s suing.
”But what’s this about your letting the dice decide how much you sue us for,” asked Michael, looking suddenly puzzled.
Julie at this point strolled up and took Mr. Ferrill softly by the arm, intertwining her fingers with his. She looked with limpid eyes at first me and then Michael. Michael and I stared at those two gently linked hands and the continuing sly smile of Mr. Ferrill. I wondered what mischief had been taking place in the old Ferrill homestead in the last twenty-four hours. I think Michael was probably wondering if the cameraman was sharp enough to zoom in close on those linked hands.
”Well, to tell you the truth,” said Mr. Ferrill, “I have found that dice-living has certain advantages.”
”Yes ?” asked Michael, beginning to suspect that he might not be too enthusiastic about the details.
”To outward appearances my wife is a lovely dignified serious woman that l was lucky to find,” Mr. Ferrill went on mildly. ”But Iwant you to know I married the coldest, most somber, most uptight bitch in the history of the known universe.” He looked at us benevolently. ”Her idea of a good time was window shopping for things she never bought and watching reruns of Princess Di’s wedding. She was insanely jealous, but provided me with a sex life that no one but a hermit on a desert island would envoy.” He scowled as in remembrance, then beamed.
”Your dice seem to have loosened her up quite a bit.”
“I see .”
”Does that mean we can continue making our documentary?” asked Michael, beginning to dream again of Academy Awards.
”Absolutely not. Tonight is your last night.”
”And where do you fit into all of these interesting new developments?” I asked Julie just as Linda moved gracefully onto the scene and put an arm gently around Julie’s waist.
”Quite nicely, thank you,’ Julie answered, still holding Mr. Ferrill on her other side warmly by the arm.
”Have you got all our footage safely stored?” Michael asked, showing where his heart lay.
”Yes, mon cheri,” Julie said.
”And you’ll let us have it?” he asked nervously of Mr. Ferrill.
“Certainly,” said Mr. Ferrill, putting his arm around Julie and pulling her close. ”Think of how much more the courts will award me if you actually make a film.”
“Terrific!” Michael turned to me with a smile. “We’ve got ourselves a documentary,” he announced.
”Don’t we ever,” I said, wondering if England would provide me with a public defender.
* * * * *