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Another Horse of a Different Technicolor

 

Two old men sat side by side in rocking chairs like two tame birds perched on the lid of a coffin.

One was white, the other was Indian.

John Forbes had a beard.

He was the white one.

He coughed a lot, dressed forty years behind the fashions and chain-smoked cigarettes with slot-machine motions.

Red Horse was in the other chair. He was dressed in old jeans, a bright blue shirt good enough to steal and a pair of old cowboy boots even a dead man wouldn't want to wear.

He had an old corncob pipe stuck in his mouth and his thick gray hair was tied none too neatly in braids.

Jack Forbes inhaled deeply on his cigarette and coughed so hard he blew cigarette ashes all over his shirt. Despite the years that had marked his face, there was still a great deal of strength to be seen there. He had the air about him of a man who had met life headlong and unflinchingly. He had the look of a man accus­tomed to being in command.

Red Horse noticed the cough. "Man your age, ought to have learned how to smoke by now."

Jack Forbes stopped coughing and looked over at Red Horse. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth before he spoke.

"I made you a star. You should be happy."

"I wanted to be a planet," said the old Indian calmly.

"You can pretend against it but you had it all. My films made you larger than life."

Red Horse lit his pipe, puffed on it contentedly.

"I was not larger than life, just thicker above the neck," said Red Horse. "I made faces for a living. You call it acting. Running twenty miles a day in front of a camera to hit somebody over the head with a rubber tomahawk is not a serious way to go through life."

"There you go, poor-mouthing everything. You're just angry at me because you couldn't handle the success," said Forbes.

Red Horse shrugged. "I didn't know I had any. After all, I was in your movies."

"You had your name up in lights. If that's not success, I don't know what is."

"You're right. You don't know what is. The kind of success you are talking about tastes like your foot feels when it falls asleep. It is crawling on your hands and knees at two hundred miles an hour."

"You had success," insisted John Forbes. "You just were too Indian to capitalize on it. I see you haven't changed.

"You can say what you want about being in my films but I filmed what I knew. I don't regret it. In the old West, men were men."

"And they smelled like horses," added Red Horse, trying to be accurate.

Forbes stared off into the distance, seeing something unseen. "Remember the first film I directed you in?"

Forbes smiled at the memory, turning to look at Red Horse. "Return of the Apache Devil. It was a two-reeler made for the old Republic studios. Made the whole damn thing in three days. It made money hand over fist."

"How could I remember that far back? When you've fallen off one horse, you've fallen off them all," said Red Horse.

Forbes went on, "Republic thought I was a genius. Two reels in three days and a first-time director to boot. Hell, if they'd only known. I was in Mexico two days before and DRANK the water!" He tugged uncomfortably at his pants. "I went fast because I HAD to go fast. I had the one-shot trots. Should have bottled that stuff and sold it to producers with directors behind sched­ule."

Red Horse nodded. "We shot more film when you were on the toilet. That's why we finished the film so damn quick."

Forbes was indignant. "That's a goddamn lie!"

Red Horse remained calm. "Indians never tell lies. They just don't tell the truth."

Forbes tapped his chest with his finger.

"I directed ever' damn foot of that film."

"Same method in toilet. When you find something that works, I say use it every chance you get."

Forbes scowled at Red Horse and then bent over and opened a paper bag at his feet. Red Horse watched with obvious interest as Forbes took out two cans of beer. Forbes glanced at Red Horse to see if he wanted one. Red Horse nodded yes with evident eagerness and Forbes opened both cans.

Red Horse started to reach for the beer but a thought sud­denly occurred to Forbes and he just missed handing the can of beer to Red Horse. Forbes took an absentminded sip out of the can of beer meant for Red Horse.

"Tell me, Red Horse, why did you ever come to Hollywood in the first place?"

Red Horse stared at the can of beer with fascination as he answered. "I was dreaming. I hoped to penetrate a house of knowledge which I believed lay beneath the sea. When I re­turned to the land of men, I wanted the spirits of this great knowledge to make my people walk in beauty."

Forbes was incredulous. "You came to Hollywood for that?"

Red Horse shrugged, withdrawing the hand that had reached out for the beer. "Well actually, I went out there to get a job falling off horses in cowboy and Indian movies, but when I got there"—he winked at Forbes—"Italians already had all the jobs."

Forbes took a long pull on the beer that he had intended for Red Horse.

"Well, that's Hollywood for you." Forbes took a sip from the other beer can, seemingly quite unaware that he was drinking from both cans of beer. "It has the courage of its own lack of convictions. But remember, my old friend, I gave you a job. I gave you your chance. It didn't matter to me if you were a ..."

Red Horse interrupted. "I lied to get the job."

Forbes choked, mid-gulp, and beer dribbled down his chin.

"What?"

"I told you I was Italian."

"Uh, really?" Forbes tried to remember, looking somewhat confused. "Uh, I thought that ... uh ..."

"You didn't find out I was really an Indian until our third film, Son of the Apache Devil. I was the only one who didn't get a sunburn. That's how you found out."

Forbes shook his head, suddenly remembering. "Now I re­member. I always said you rode a horse too good to be an Italian."

He tilted his head back, drained the beer intended for Red Horse. He shook the can to make sure it was empty, then tossed it over his shoulder. It banged against the back wall of the cabin.

Red Horse had almost risen out of his chair, as if his body had been trying to follow the path of the beer can. There was a look of abject longing on his face. He eyed the paper bag at Forbes's feet with hope and expectation.

One-handed, Forbes stuck a cigarette in his mouth and lit it, unaware of Red Horse's distress.

Forbes coughed rackingly, with the first inhalation of the ciga­rette. He looked over at Red Horse.

"So you faked it a little at a time when everybody faked it a lot. So what? It doesn't matter now. The point is, I kept you on. I made you the first Indian star of the shoot-'em-ups. And I hired more real Indians in my films than any other director." He had another coughing fit, which he soothed with a swig of beer from the other can. "You can't take that away from me."

"What's to take? I always figured the Great Spirit gave you your chance to direct motion pictures. It was the Great Spirit who chose you to make so many Westerns about Indians."

Forbes almost choked on his beer.

"For a second there, I thought you might actually be compli­menting me on something."

Red Horse nodded slyly as if in agreement. "I think you were the Great Spirit's choice."

Forbes finished the second beer, and shook the empty can. "Thanks, Red Horse. I'm truly flattered."

"The Great Spirit would have wanted somebody who wasn't going to mess it up by knowing anything."

Forbe's hand tightened around his cigarette, snapping it off behind the filter. He realized he had been had.

"You talk more than any Indian I ever met."

He paused for emphasis.

"Talk is silver."

He took a long dramatic pause, broken only by the sound of the empty beer can rattling off the wall as he flipped it over his shoulder. Then he spoke.

"BUT SILENCE IS GOLDEN!"

Red Horse's body again unconsciously tracked the flight of the beer can.

He answered. "And a fart is nobody's friend. Let's have AN­OTHER goddamn beer!"

Forbes nodded in agreement with the sentiment. He started to bend over and had another coughing spasm which left him gasp­ing for breath, pale and shaken. He looked over at Red Horse. "You don't really like me, do you?"

He averted his eyes then and reached down and got two more beers out of the bag. He held the cans in his lap, keeping his eyes on them.

Red Horse took the corncob pipe out of his mouth slowly and cradled it in the palm of his hand as if it suddenly were very heavy. He looked suddenly very weary.

Forbes went on, "When I think of all the years, all the things we went through. Out on location in the middle of a thousand nowheres, not quite in hell and no ways near heaven. Seems like I spent two whole lifetimes with you . . . and with your peo­ple." He opened both cans slowly as if the act helped him shape his thoughts. "I made it possible for you to live in a better way. I gave you money. I gave you fame even. And even though it was Hollywood all the way where everything is bent, I think I pretty damn near always was straight with you."

Red Horse nodded. "In that I agree. In Hollywood, honest meant undetected. But you were straight with me in your heart."

Forbes settled back deeper into the rocking chair, extended a can of beer to Red Horse and said, "So how come, that being true ... all those years . . . you never took my hand in friendship?"

Red Horse, his hand about to close on the beer, said, "Maybe because there was always the rustle of paper money when your hand came out."

Angry, Forbes withdrew his hand, letting the beer can come back to rest in his lap.

Red Horse lunged futilely at the can of beer.

Forbes bolted a gulp of beer angrily, from the can he had been offering to Red Horse.

Red Horse balled his hand into a fist, as if he wished to take a poke at Forbes, but thinking better of it, unclenched his hand.

"You don't need to take it so personal. There was always one more take, one more horse to fall off of. I never did anything for you that I wasn't paid for. That is a difficult way to live."

Forbes drank again from Red Horse's beer and then said, "I never cheated you. I was generous. I paid you what you were worth and then some. A man can look back on that with pride, can't he?"

Red Horse watched him drink, licking his lips.

"What I did you always asked me to do for money, you never asked me to do it for you because I was your friend."

Forbes waved both cans of beer for emphasis. "Christ! I didn't want to take advantage of our friendship!"

"Until you do something to test it, friendship has no strength. It has no heart until you risk it."

Forbes started to hand the can of beer to Red Horse as if suddenly remembering that it was his beer.

"I held back," and Forbes, unaware of the action, drew back the can just as Red Horse lunged for it, "because I respected you."

"You can't expect that of friends in this life. Respect is only good after you are dead. Then you hope your friends don't let their horses stand too long over your grave."

Forbes grimaced and downed the rest of Red Horse's beer. "Well, you give me a pain in the . . ."

Red Horse, half angry about the past and half angry about the beer, cut in. "Don't tell me pain stories. I fell off three hundred and fifty horses of a different Technicolor. I rode across your screen. I danced for you. I fell off horses for you. I got shot for you. I was living in two worlds and the Great Spirit was working the night shift. When you said do a rain dance, I did a rain dance." He banged his corncob pipe angrily against the wooden arm of the rocking chair. "When the script called for a woman, you changed me into one. Don't tell me about pain!"

"I feel pain too. Like the one in my heart right now. I always liked you. . . . Always. . . . You treat me badly. Would it break your red rear end to admit to liking me, even a little? Just once, maybe, for old times' sakes?"

Red Horse smiled cagily. "Supposing I did like you, always did like you, I wouldn't tell you."

"It isn't fair. I'm always getting the shaft. I guess I shot too many movies and not enough actors."

"Being liked is something that is known and doesn't have to be told," said Red Horse.

The white man looked unhappy. "We all like to be liked. What's the harm in saying it?"

The Indian shook his head. "Plenty harm. All these years, you are the same man who drank the water. You never changed. If it wasn't a cattle stampede or dynamiting the dam, you couldn't feel it. If I saw a hundred people on horseback, I looked for someone I knew. You worried if they had taken their wrist-watches off or whether or not the horses would do something unfortunate on camera when they rode by. I looked for a home in every face I saw. But what did you look for?"

"I was always looking for the big picture," said Forbes defen­sively.

"There was never a big picture. Only big people with hearts as big as the sky, for the man who had time to see it."

"I must be crazy, talking about movies to you. You never sat in the director's chair. I had to move mountains. I had to play God!"

Forbes had a dreamy sort of look on his face. "In the begin­ning, was montage. Then it was an endless parade of forty-nine-year-old starlets in soft focus who had never been kissed. I was a good director! Hell, I was a great director because I was lonely. Because in that silence that surrounded me, I chased the great­est loneliness of all, that a man can aspire to. I moved and shaked. My power was in my ability to motivate, to show the donkey the carrot."

He drank from the other can of beer.

Red Horse eyed the beer can and said, "You never had it so good."

"Or parted with it so fast. Yes sir, Red Horse, you're a genius in Hollywood, until you lose your job."

Red Horse looked at the bowl of his pipe. "Well, life is a choice of choices. You could have ridden some other horse, chased some other sunset."

Forbes shook his head. "I don't think so. I didn't know any­thing else. Didn't want to know anything else. A director is a guy who aims at something he can't see and hits it if he's lucky with bullets from empty guns." He finished his beer and tossed the can away. "A director has certain responsibilities."

"A human being only has one. Being human."

"I could never explain my life to you, Red Horse."

"It's not my job to understand your life. That's the white woman's burden," said Red Horse solemnly.

"Leave my ex-wife out of this," said Forbes wearily.

"Even so, I always understood you. You wanted to hit the big jackpot which meant you had to become a slug in the machine. You wanted to get into the big poker game of the ages but you bluffed with the same hand for too long. They brought in a new dealer and your Westerns fell off the same horse I once rode. A six-gun stopped beating four of a kind."

Forbes stared at the old Indian with simulated disgust. "You are a philosopher. That is not good. They'll say you use drugs."

Forbes threw the last beer can over his shoulder. Red Horse winced as it bounced noisily off the wall.

"I WOULD if I could get any." He stared down at the bag in front of Forbes's chair with longing. "But beer is up another dollar a six-pack. I say the world is coming to an end."

Forbes nodded in half-drunken agreement. "Have another beer, Red Horse."

Red Horse sighed. "Maybe you should stop being so gener­ous with my beer."

Forbes took out two more cans of beer, set them in his lap and began to open them. His fingers were now very unsteady. He paused from this task to put another cigarette in his mouth. Red Horse leaned over and lit the cigarette for him.

Forbes thanked him with a nod, took a few puffs and then had such a violent coughing fit, the cigarette flew out of his mouth.

Forbes bent over, tears in his eyes, barely able to breathe. "I didn't have to be a film director. I could have been a gynecologist."

Red Horse agreed. "Cowboys and Indians can't last forever but women are something the world can't live without."

Forbes shook his head with regret. "I used to have a real personality but a producer got rid of it for me. I spent a lot of time working for people who tried to put my head in a wine bottle."

"You should have quit when it started to fit," said Red Horse.

Forbes announced decisively, "Another beer. Just the thing to wash the rotten taste of Hollywood out of our mouths."

"At least I wasn't a Hollywood phony. People hated me for myself."

Forbes drank from the can in his left hand, nodded in satisfac­tion and then treated himself to another gulp, this time from the can in the other hand that he had just opened for Red Horse.

Red Horse sighed. "My generosity knows no bounds."

"Forty years a director. I spent most of my life in half-lit rooms with half-lit people. I was drunk on success, drunk on money, drunk on power . . . and I was drunk, too. And then, right into the toilet. I went from the house on the hill to the phone booth on the corner of walk and don't walk. It should have meant more than that."

"I always said the same thing about your films."

"What's wrong with my films, you drunken old totem pole!"

"Aside from me being in them, everything else is what is wrong with them."

Forbes gestured with the beer cans, angrily spilling some of the beer.

"You take that back! My films were true to life. They meant something! They were steeped in authenticity!"

"They were steeped in something," admitted Red Horse.

Forbes acknowledged, "Oh, I may have cut a few corners here and there but I attempted to depict what I could see."

"A crazy man and a not crazy man think the same way. The difference is where you start."

Forbes gestured even more wildly, spilling more beer. "If you didn't like my films, if you didn't believe in the ... in the moral integrity of my films, why did you stay all these years?"

"I didn't have to believe in your films, only your money. You had the most believable money I ever saw."

Forbes smashed the beer cans against his chest, spraying him­self with beer. "Let me tell you something, you miserable model for a buffalo nickel, I had to believe in them. Every producer insisted, so he wouldn't have to. I sweated out every word ut­tered in every one of my films." Contemptuously, Forbes flung the half-filled beer cans over his shoulder, spraying both of them in a fine shower of beer. "What other director can say that?"

Red Horse wiped beer off his face, and looked disgusted. "Kissing yourself above the knees is hard work."

"Remember that death scene in They Rode Bold for Gold} You helped me write it yourself! You can't tell me that scene didn't have something!"

Forbes was very much caught up in the memory, making elab­orately drunken gestures with his hands. "The faithful Indian returning to warn his white master of the ambush, only to drop dead at his feet. I said to you, 'Red Horse, you gasp out your words of warning in English, then look far away into the distance and say your dying words in your own tongue. Thinking of your wife and child back at the wigwam, never to see them again. You gave your all for the white man but your heart returned to your people at the last moment.' It was your greatest moment on screen and it wasn't even in English. I did that. I insisted that the last words you spoke should be Indian. I made it authentic. It was just the right touch. I had the audiences crying in their socks! Remember! It was so successful I had you do it in all the other movies."

"You also said not to say it in real Indian. You just wanted to make it sound Indian."

"I said that?"

"I wouldn't forget something like that."

Forbes frowned. "Well, so what? It's the thought that counted. It sounded Indian. Nobody could tell it wasn't Indian. I didn't want to offend any particular Indian tribe. I had producers to answer to."

"I could tell. My people could tell. Which is why I went ahead and said it in my own language anyway."

"You what? You did what?"

"In my death scene, I spoke my own language."

Forbes stared darkly at him, rebuke on his face. "If I had known, I'd have skinned you alive. No director has to take that kind of insubordination."

"Aren't you curious to know what I really said?"

Forbes shrugged. "It was a death scene, the highest point in the film. I'm sure you said something appropriate."

Red Horse deliberately spoke in the stiff, unnatural Indianese of the old bad Westerns. "Translated, it went like this. 'No. This . . . not . . . arrow in my stomach. I just excited.' "

Forbes spread his hands to the heavens above as if inviting a lightning bolt to put him out of his misery. "And to think, I wasted a whole lifetime liking you. I should have stuck with the Italians. They ride horses like old people make love but they don't shaft you when you're NOT looking."

Red Horse snorted derisively. "They only shaft you when you ARE looking."

"Red Horse, you're the kind of guy who takes a sack full of kittens down to the river to drown them and then starts to cry," he said wickedly, "because you can't get them to skip."

He pointed an accusing finger at Red Horse's chest.

"What did I ever do to you, anyway? Is it because a lot of Indians think you're an Uncle Tomahawk because of the films you made with me? Is that what you're holding against me? Are you blaming me because some people think you're some kind of stupid wooden Indian Hollywood clown?"

"I enjoy being a clown. That is my sanity. If you laugh you survive death, if you don't you die out. To be an Indian and to be too serious is to be blind and trapped in the white man's frantic world where death is not an old friend, just a terrifying interrup­tion."

"I take what I do seriously, what I have done. In Europe, they still watch my old films. They call me a great artist. They appreci­ate my vision, my sensitivity."

"To be appreciated. That is a very serious hell. It is a power too strong to be overcome by anything except flight."

Forbes said defensively, "I put things on film that had never been seen before. I spent my whole life at it. It had to mean something to you, to your people."

"Your films landed where the hands of man never set foot."

"I sought truth."

"You could have had the dreams locked in men's hearts. The dreams of my people. You could have had my hand in friendship. That is all the truth a man need know."

"I helped keep your people alive. I created visions of your life, maybe not accurate in every detail, but the meaning was there. I gave the world moments of your people's lives for all to see."

"You may have shown the world how we might have lived and behaved but never how we thought or felt. The fire you lit for us, flashed and flared and danced on the silver screen but showed us only the dark in which we lived."

Forbes was overcome with a sudden, convulsive fit of cough­ing. It left him looking very ill and old and worn out. He looked at the old Indian next to him and there was pain in his eyes that was not from the illness inside him.

"All these years, have you hated me?"

"Could I hate you when the whole world was watching? You always had the courage to make a fool of yourself and then you were willing to take the rest of the world with you. I never felt exploited or used. Mostly I was amazed at your earnest stupid-ity."

Red Horse looked into Forbes's eyes, understanding the pain there.

"I was born a savage. You called me forth from my reservation prison, dressed me up as a Noble Savage or a vicious one, taught me to ride horses I couldn't afford to own and to pretend to kill men I had no reason to hate.

"I put away the cowboy boots that really fit and wore the costumer's moccasins that didn't fit and never would.

"I danced dances for the camera that meant nothing, chanted chants even I didn't understand, scalped bald men and endlessly rode in a circle around Western Civilization.

"You always said you were looking for truth but instead I always thought you were looking for some purity in my primi-liveness.

"You called me forth in a hundred different costumes no man of my tribe would have been caught dead in, painted like devils loo evil for us to even dream of.

"You brought me and my people exotic and disguised onto the silver screen in every shape and color and flavor of reality but our own. And why?

"Every time I fell off a horse when a white man shot his six-shooter for the seventh time, I always asked myself what was in it for you.

"Then one day I figured it out.

"I was a guilty pleasure. I was something suppressed in your own life. I and my people were an experience, civilized white people are denied the luxury of indulging in.

"So we were summoned forth but our reality didn't match your forbidden fantasy ... so you recast, rewrote, recut and reclothed the missing part of your heart's forbidden desires, thereby giving the rest of the world a chance to satisfy its own deepest secret fears.

"Some of my people called me Uncle Tomahawk because I danced for you. Because I got shot for you, because I always fell off horses so beautifully for you.

"But I seduced the world with your foolish help. I gave the world an interesting lie. I kept truth for myself."

"How could you live a lie?" said Forbes, shocked.

"How could you film one?" said Red Horse with a smile.

"I was approximating a truth. I felt it to be true. I had my beliefs in some of it. I was cynical, God knows. I gave the hicks what they wanted to see. I never disappointed my audience. Well, not for a long time anyway. Later I lost control of myself and lost my grip on the audience too."

Red Horse turned and looked at the empty beer cans on the floor. "Drinking wore away the first half of your strength."

Forbes agreed. "My ex-wife, who fancied herself, considered herself entitled to the second half. I did my last films with what was left."

"I still don't know how you spent your whole life chasing a truth that would not fit in your hand or heart."

Forbes was looking at something outside the room, as if he were staring at his own past. "Maybe because I was in love, in love with all the faces in the dark I never knew. Maybe because I thought when I found my audience, I would somehow find my­self. When I touched them, I would touch me.

"Maybe because people were too full of feelings I couldn't express in me, because I could be content with an image.

"I was looking for a place to die on the photograph of my soul. I lived like some kind of deranged ghoul who put cameras in Geronimo's coffin in order to interview Indian worms.

"Sometimes I think I am an evil old man because I chased a truth about a people who wouldn't tell it to me, because I wanted selfishly to put it all in one stunning montage, in one brilliant symbolic lap dissolve, seeing you and your people chained to my wishes, turning from untamed bodies dancing on trees to a pair of eyes staring beautifully in the dark."

"You are a dying man. It is in your voice. It is in your eyes." Red Horse reached out and put his arm around Forbes's shoul­der. "This is a good joke. It is all behind you. It is up to other people to stumble upon new lies. You will make no more films, my old friend, and that is well and just, for I do not wish to fall off a ny more horses."

Forbes's voice trembled with emotion. "I've got cancer. I just came to say good-bye. I don't have much time."

Red Horse smiled. He seemed strangely cheerful at the news. "I too am nearing my time. Big parts of my body are ready to fall off. It is a hell of a good joke. We can race and see which one falls apart first.

"I was beginning to get angry at you. I have been waiting up lor you. I have been saving up some of the most interesting lies, also lots of dirty stories.

"I have been holding off on the dying business, waiting for you to catch up. If you think I am going to fall off three hundred and fifty goddamn horses of a different Technicolor for you and get bumps and bruises and damaged parts for every damn inch of me, having gone through all that, then die all alone, you're crazy!

"We are old and out of horses. We are past sex and the arro­gance of it. We have lived a lifetime together and the hurts and lies of the past are not only over, they are forgiven.

"All our lives, we have loved each other, as friends, as human beings.

"I have always known this because I am Indian but you have only suspected it because you are white and stupid and as crazy as three ducks with wooden legs trying to be quiet.

"Now it is right that we will be together at the end. I am glad you did not stay in Hollywood, to die among strangers. What I cannot understand, is what took you so long to get here. I almost had to sit on matches all day long just to keep the heart fire lit."

Forbes smiled. "I had to help my ex-wife get her cat down out of a tree. The reason I'm late is because I'm such a poor shot."

"You always were a gentleman. You never hit a woman with your hat on."

Forbes tried to hide the tears leaking from the corners of his eyes. He tried to straighten his back, get a grip on himself. "What gets me ... I ... all these years . . . what I tried to do ... tried to say ... how I carried myself ... I was so ... so damn afraid you wouldn't like me. Goddamn, I tried so damn hard to be your friend. ... I hoped . . . why am I so goddamned dim that I have to wait till the last reel to find out the truth?"

"The truth only waits for eyes not filled with longing."

There was a silence between the two of them. The thought hung in the air between them, like a bridge that spanned an old, deep river they had always longed to cross.

Forbes bent over and got out two cans of beer. They were the last two cans in the sack. He opened them, held them in his lap, a can in each hand. Red Horse was staring at him, his hands balled into fists.

Forbes peered into the growing darkness of the day and said, "I think the matinee is almost over. We didn't ride off into the sunset and we didn't get the girl."

The old Indian put his pipe in his shirt pocket with an air of putting it away forever. "I died in a hundred movies and I never felt like I feel now that I'm actually doing it."

"If it feels like you've had to go to the bathroom for five years, and can't, you and me are in the same movie," said Forbes.

"Death may turn out to be funny. I hope not too damn funny. If there is a happy hunting ground and we go there, John Forbes, it better by Christ not be a movie set."

Forbes started to take a drink from Red Horse's beer.

"Hell, don't worry about it. If it is, you're a personal friend of the director, and we'll get ourselves a rewrite." He lifted Red Horse's can of beer to his lips. "I already got a good idea how to redo our death scene."

Red Horse lunged forward and grabbed his arm at the wrist.

He said, "There is no death, only a change of worlds." He snatched the beer can out of Forbes's hands. "AND IN THE NEXT WORLD, BRING SOME OF YOUR OWN DAMN BEER."