MISBEGOTTEN PLACES #10

A Curious Pile of Dirt

TABLE READING of the film script to “A CURIOUS PILE OF DIRT”

  • Producer:   Cecil Millhouse

  • Director:   Peter Bogdonovich Jr.

  • Writer:   Norman X. Norman

  • Gilford McMillin as Rick Brick

  • Sassy Fellini as Ashley Brockton

  • Sassy Fellini as Amber Brockton

SCENE 1: a busy street in a ramshackle part of town. Camera follows Rick from behind as he walks.

VOICE OVER (RICK): I’m a P.I. - private investigator. I’ve seen a lot of strange things and been caught in some very strange situations. People hire me to tail their spouses, find their swindled money, dig up some dirt on their enemies. But I’m mostly following people who collect disability insurance. Remember the guy who got disability from the Fire Department and then came in third place in the half-marathon? It was me who nabbed him.

Rick walks up the stairs over a tattoo parlor and into a building.

VOICE OVER: But the strangest case I was hired to investigate concerned a large pile of dirt that mysteriously appeared in my client’s living room. You got that right - a pile of dirt.

close-up on Rick

VOICE OVER: The name is Rick… Rick Brick, P.I.

Dissolve to Rick sitting at his desk in a messy office, drinking whiskey.

VOICE OVER: So one evening I’m sitting in my office above a tattoo parlor making my way through a bottle of rye, when I get this call.

RICK: “Hello. You’ve reached Brick Private Investigation. Talk to me.”

VOICE OVER: It was a woman on the other end of the line. By the sound of her voice, I could tell she was trouble. Big trouble. I seen this kind before. Dollars to doughnuts she has long blond hair, dreamy bedroom eyes, and is very tall with legs that go from here to there. She started talking by telling me her name.

ASHLEY (over the phone, in a sultry voice): “They call me Amber, but you can call me Ashley. I’ll answer to either one.”

RICK: “Is that right. Well anyway Amber, or Ashley, what’s got you so tied up in knots that you need a private eye?”

Rick puts the receiver down on the desk to get some ice for his drink. Then he shouts from the other side of the room.

Rick: “You got man troubles? Need me to tail some guy and see who he’s foolin’ around with?”

VOICE OVER: Silence. I thought she had hung up, and I worried that I blew the gig ‘cause I needed the cash bad. Real bad.

ASHLEY: “Nothing like that, Mr. Brick. But I am desperate. Can we meet at your office?”

VOICE OVER: Now my office ain’t the kind of joint you would take a lady to. Not a nice lady, anyway. Liquor bottles everywhere, pin-up calendars on the walls, furniture that’s seen better days. I suggested we meet in a bar, a local joint where the bartender knows me well enough that I can run a tab until I come into some money. But she said she couldn’t chance being recognized. It had to be in my office.

Rick starts cleaning up his office.

VOICE OVER: So we agreed to meet later that evening, after dark. I tried to neaten up the place but that was a joke. I tossed out the pizza boxes and emptied the ashtrays so the place looked a little better, and didn’t smell so bad. There was a mirror in the hallway at the top of the stairs and I took a gander at myself and pushed a comb through my hair. “You ain’t a good looker Brick,” I said aloud. “But you clean up good enough.”

Rick sees Ashley’s reflection in the mirror.

***Key up the sexy music*** ♫♩♫♪♬

ASHLEY: “You look just fine, Mr. Brick. Ashley… Ashley Brockton. Pleasure to meet you.”

VOICE OVER: Her voice was like honey, sweet and slow. But brother, honey can get a guy in a sticky mess.

The first rule of P.I. is to never fall for a client. I’m thinking back to the time when Vanessa Dixon hired me to locate her ex, but we fell in love instead. Just my dumb luck, the ex decides to come back in the middle of the night. That accounts for the scar on my chin.

Looking at Ashley I’m telling myself to keep it strictly business. Don’t let her gorgeous looks and sweet talkin’ style pull you in. Just keep it professional.

RICK: “Yeah, glad to meet you too. Please step into my office and we’ll discuss your case.”

VOICE OVER: I followed her into office and offered her a seat, but she looked around and said she would rather stand. I can’t blame her.

She told me this would only take a minute, as she opened her purse and pulled out a cigarette. I struck a match and lit her smoke.

ASHLEY: “Mr. Brick, this morning I woke up to find a pile of dirt in my house. A huge pile of dirt.”

***Key up the intense music*** ♫♩♫♪♬

Ashley blows a cloud of smoke in Rick’s face.

VOICE OVER: A pile of dirt. I knew of a similar caper from my days on the PD, when I got double-crossed by a couple of coppers who made me the fall guy for a shake down. They’re still pounding a beat while I had to turn in my gun and badge.

RICK: “A pile of dirt. Sounds familiar. When can I see this pile?”

ASHLEY: “This is where I live. Tomorrow. Eight o’clock.”

Ashley writes her address on a piece of paper, hands it to Rick.

RICK: “This is in the middle of nowhere!”

Fade to black

SCENE 2: Ashley’s living room. She and Rick are looking at a huge pile of dirt on the floor.

ASHLEY: “So what do you think, Mr. Brick?”

Camera follows Rick as he walks to the pile, kneels down and picks up a handful of dirt. He rubs it between his fingers, smells it and puts it in a bag which he stuffs into his pocket.

RICK: “Ain’t that a bite. This looks like the same MO as the one that got me into trouble with the brass. Listen, sweetheart - “

ASHLEY: “Don’t ever call me sweetheart! Ever.”

RICK: “Yeah, sorry. Old habits die hard. So Miss Brockton - Ashley, or Amber - if this is what I think it is…”

ASHLEY: “Yes?… what is it?”

Close up on Rick’s face. He looks very concerned.

VOICE OVER: I wanted to tell her right then and there that she was in for a doozy of a ride. I wanted to say, “Sister, that pile of dirt didn’t walk in on its own.I wanted to say a lot of things… but I didn’t.

***Key up the intense music*** ♫♩♫♪♬

Fade to black


“Hang on a minute. Stop right there!” shouted Peter Bogdonovich, Jr. “I’m having trouble with this pile of dirt angle. She hires a PI because she found a pile of dirt? No, no… change it. Make it that she hires Rick because she’s missing a pile of dirt.”

Norman X. Norman replied that he had originally written it that way, but Bogdonovich Jr. had told him to change it.

“I don’t give a rat’s ass!” angrily shouted Bogdonovich Jr. “Go back to the first script.”

“Ok. Let’s see,” said Norman X. Norman. “I’ve got that original script here somewhere.”

He produces the original script from his bag and hands copies to everyone.

Bogdonovich Jr. says, “Let’s take it from where Ashley says, “Mr. Brick, this morning…”


ASHLEY: “Mr. Brick, this morning I woke up to discover that my pile of dirt is missing. Gone. And it was a huge pile of dirt.”

***Key up the intense music*** ♫♩♫♪♬

Ashley blows a cloud of smoke in Rick’s face.

VOICE OVER: A missing pile of dirt. I knew of a similar caper from my days on the PD, when I got double-crossed by a couple of coppers who framed me for a drug store robbery we did together. They’re still pounding a beat while I had to do some time.

RICK: “A missing pile of dirt. Sounds familiar. When can I examine the crime scene?”

ASHLEY: “This is where I live, Mr. Brick. Tomorrow. Eight o’clock.”

RICK: “This is in the middle of nowhere!”

Fade to black

SCENE 2: Ashley’s living room. She and Rick are looking at … nothing.

ASHLEY: “So what do you think, Mr. Brick?”

Camera follows Rick as he walks around aimlessly.

RICK: “Ain’t that a bite. There ain’t no pile of dirt here. Listen, sweetheart - “

ASHLEY: “Don’t ever call me sweetheart! Ever.”


“Wait!” cried Gilford McMillin. “I’m supposed to stand there and look at nothing? Where’s the story? What’s the plot? What’s my motivation?!

Gilford is one of those method actors.

“Yeah. That was my concern too,” said Norman X. Norman. “Let me scribble in a few words here.” He quickly jots down some new lines and says, “Let’s try this. Read it again from where Ashley says, ‘So what do you think, Mr. Brick?’”

Bogdonovich Jr. jumped in. “Hey, I’m the director, not you. I’m supposed to say that! Read it again from where Ashley says, ‘So what do you think, Mr. Brick?’”


ASHLEY: “So what do you think, Mr. Brick?”

Camera follows Rick as he picks up a few chunks of dirt.

RICK: “Well looky here, sweetheart. This dirt is probably from that missing pile.“

ASHLEY: “Don’t ever call me sweetheart! Ever.”

RICK: “Yeah, sorry. Old habits -


Sassy Fellini stopped the reading here, jabbing a finger at Bogdonovich Jr. “You said my character was strong-willed and determined. That’s why I took on this role. Ashley needs to be more aggressive than simply saying ‘Don’t ever blah blah blah’. For crying out loud, Peter!”

“Yeah ok,” demurred the director. “You’re right Sassy. So come up with a line yourself. Let’s read it again.”


RICK: “Well looky here, sweetheart. This dirt is probably from that missing pile.“

ASHLEY: “You ever call me sweetheart again and I’ll rip your arm off and smack you with the wet end! You got that, buster?”


Cecil Millhouse was beginning to worry that he was losing control of the movie.

Norman X. Norman was decidedly miffed that an actor was allowed to write her own lines.

Bogdonovich Jr. just wanted to get on with the reading. “Let’s go back to -”

Gilford McMillin butted in. “Hey! And what’s up with Vanessa Dixon?”

“What the hell are you talking about? There is no Vanessa,” shouted Bogdonovich Jr. “Her name is only mentioned. What’s your problem?”

“Why would she want Rick to find her ex?” demanded Gilford. “Was it to kill him? Get money from him? Blackmail him? You’re leaving me hanging here!”

The director nodded to the writer, who quickly scribbled some more words onto the scripts.

“Ok,” said Bogdonovich Jr. “Let’s take it from ‘The first rule of P.I.’”


VOICE OVER: The first rule of P.I. is to never fall for a client. I’m all too aware of that, thinking back on the time when Vanessa Dixon hired me to find and kidnap her ex, and then steal his car and drive it into his pool. Then I was supposed to tie him up to a lamppost in his underwear, but we fell in love instead. Just my dumb luck -


“Wait, wait wait!” said the director. “Who fell in love? Rick and Vanessa, or Rick and the Ex? This isn’t clear.”

“Oh my god,” said Norman X. Norman under his breath. “I’ll fix that later.”

“Let’s move on. Start scene 2 again, at the beginning,” Bogdonovich Jr. said as he nervously paced the room.


SCENE 2: Ashley’s living room. She and Rick are looking at … nothing.

ASHLEY: “So what do you think, Mr. Brick?”

Camera follows Rick as he walks around aimlessly.

RICK: “Ain’t that a bite. There sure is no pile of dirt here. Listen, sweetheart - “

ASHLEY: “You ever call me sweetheart again and I’ll rip your arm off and smack you with the wet end! You got that, Buster?”

Just then, Ashley’s sister Amber walks into the room.

AMBER: “What’s going on here?… Ashley darling, aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?”

***Key up the sexy music*** ♫♩♫♪♬

ASHLEY: “Of course, darling. Amber, this is Mr. Brick. He’s the private investigator I was telling you about."

AMBER: “Charmed, Mr. Brick.”

Rick looks back and forth from one to the other, a bit perplexed.

ASHLEY: “Mr. Brick, I neglected to tell you that my sister and I use each other’s names frequently. That is why - “


“STOP! I thought we settled this already!” yelled Cecil Millhouse. “I am NOT paying for TWO actresses. I’ll shut the damn production down before I do that! I got two alimonies to pay.”

The room went quiet for a minute, and then Bogdonovich Jr. said, “I have the perfect cinematic solution, Mr. Millhouse. We’ll make Ashley and Amber identical twins, and Sassy will play them both! Problem solved.”

That seemed to quell the producer’s anxiety over the possibility of a cost overrun.

“Oh no it is most definitely NOT solved!” exclaimed Sassy Fellini. “If I play two roles, then I get double the pay. Period. I’m calling my agent.”


So in the end, the script of A Curious Pile of Dirt never got produced and was relegated to the dustbin of cinematic history. College film courses study this as an example of the dysfunctional film industry. Norman X. Norman wrote a screenplay about dysfunctional college film courses, and never wrote anything since. Peter Bogdonovich Jr. went on to direct pharmaceutical commercials for cable tv. He’s best known for the athlete’s foot spot featuring Vin Diesel.

Cecil Millhouse owns an e-bike dealership in Ventura, California and now pays three alimonies.

Gilford McMillin was last seen doing regional dinner theaters in Florida. And Sassy Fellini now lives in Montevideo, Uruguay. She works at the ‘OK Joe American Burger Joint’ and signs an occasional autograph.