Despite having not seen him in two years, Adam knows his father’s hair and beard will have recently been dyed white, and he will appear professorial wearing wire framed glasses and a sleeveless woolen cardigan. You see, Michael Douglas has re-entered the Marvel Universe in Ant Man and the Wasp, as Hank Pym, and Adam’s father, the great billionaire hotelier, Griffin Kazan, is of the belief he and Michael Douglas are the same man but in two different bodies. It made for an interesting childhood. Whichever role Michael Douglas took, Griffin Kazan transferred it to himself. When Adam was fourteen, his father confessed he wasn’t really a wealthy hotelier but a secret agent for the CIA. Griffin chartered a plane to Bermuda, taking Adam with him. He showed Adam the gun hidden in his jacket and grinned through the whole escapade, slapping Adam on the back, telling him to relax, it was going to be fine, The In-Laws (2003, Budget: 40 million USD, Box Office: 27 million USD) is a comedy!
Now, aged twenty nine, Adam has finally untethered himself from the great man. It feels like bravado, but Adam is convinced he is disentangled from his father for the first time. There have been attempts to scurry away before but Griffin Kazan does not much care for scurrying. He believes Adam has a destiny to fulfill. Despite owning teeth as white as the cliffs at Dover, Griffin Kazan is a zealot, an extremist when it comes to his son. Adam will assume command of the company and continue Kazan’s global dominance of the hotel and leisure industry. There is no wriggle room here. Griffin is bloody-minded. His head is like an abattoir. Adam’s reluctance to follow this path, laid by his father’s own hands, often results in the great Griffin Kazan resorting to what might generously be described as an a-moral approach, to re-navigate his son. Their relationship is to and fro. Like spinning magnets they are sometimes drawn to each other, and sometimes repulsed.
Adam’s plan is to find somewhere small, a coffee house, a bistro, a pub, and find his own way in the world. He is assisted by an app. HOSPITABLE points to suitable units for sale in his location. HOSPITABLE has found what it calls a ‘super strength candidate’ that matches all of Adam’s search data. HOSPITABLE gives it a Dom Perignon rating and recommends a viewing as essential with no ‘if’s or but’s’. Knowing how his father can track online activity, Adam has changed his name. He used to be Rudy Kazan, named after Gordon Gekko’s son. Switching to Adam is a serious harumph. Adam at 6 am (1970, Budget: 1.4 million USD, Box Office: risible) is Griffin Kazan’s least favourite Michael Douglas film. He is appalled by Adam at 6 am. Griffin repeatedly offers the IMDB millions of pounds to scrub Adam at 6 am from its site. The character of Adam, in the film, is a confused, educated, counter culture type, disillusioned by his privileged place in society. In fairness, Griffin dislikes Michael Douglas Entire 1970’s output, but Adam at 6 am wrankles uniquely amongst them. As far as Griffin Kazan is concerned, Michael Douglas was born in Fatal Attraction. Everything before was in-utero. It didn’t count.
Adam has always worked for his father. It seemed easier that way. He accepted jobs at bars and restaurants in some of the world’s most luxurious hotels. He has been happy, for periods. But when it looks like he is close to making a success of himself, Adam always gets out. It might only take an email from his father, heaping praise – here things are going great in St Tropez, you will be a great ruler my son!- for Adam to disappear. Yet he always seems to get caught in the current of his father’s insistence, another bar, another continent, another shot at destiny. There never seemed to be any getting around it, until now.
Adam finds the pub and despite the early hour is pleased to find the door open. The smell of last night’s booze and perfume is still in the air, to thinly greet him. Adam sits at the bar and does what he always does, assesses taps and optics. He seems to be alone. According to HOSPITABLE the landlord is Keith Lapping, 54, interested in a quick sale, happy to chat anytime on the premises. Adam shouts a tentative hello. After a few minutes, he pours himself a pint. The local ale, Hoof for the Mrs. It glows brightly, as if one ingredient were the sun. On this side of the bar, Adam is a true version of himself. Suddenly, we are in his domain. There is a couple in the doorway, hanging their coats. They look out of time. She has a fur collar, he wears a loose, slanted suit. They ask Adam for something to cheer them up, so disappointed are they in twenty first century life. Adam rolls his sleeves and starts to measure, taste and chop. It looks so simple, like a watchmaker being for the time.
Adam once worked at The Grand Jama Hotel Bar in Buenos Aires. His Gancia Batido drew the attention of Argentinian High Society. Adam appeared in magazines. The bar became a roaring success. The great Griffin Kazan, hearing of his son’s success, arrived to offer his congratulations. He was looking cock-sure and flouncy in his white suit with an open black shirt. Last Vegas (2013, Budget: 28 million USD, Box Office: 134 million USD) had been panned by the critics but proved popular with audiences. Adam overheard Griffin telling his customers what fun it was to work alongside Bobby DeNiro and Morgy Freeman. Adam had begun slipping peppercorns and vinegar into his Batido’s before Griffin reached the bar. Adam was replaced the following morning. Just sensing his father’s pride caused his throat to close.
The couple are delighted by the exotic tones and sophisticated balance of flavour of their Batido’s. They tell Adam the previous landlord, Kieth, was unambitious and sloppy. Often, his children sat at the bar playing games on their phones rather than collecting glasses or helping their poor father. Adam says today is only a trial, nothing is certain. But as more customers arrive, Adam begins to run ideas past them. Heads nod, excited by the promise of ‘re-imagined space’. After Adam calls time, he shakes hands with the regulars, as they leave. He’s always loved that end of night silence, the slowing of breath, sagging of shoulders. There is a hatch door behind the bar, leading to the cellar. Adam is sure he can still hear a dull chatter down there. He searches for a key to lift open the door but can’t find one. He can hear people talking in a muffled way as if their mouths were full of cloth.
Mrs Nash, the owner of a luxury country club in Wales, employed Griffin Kazan as her personal waiter. In 1988, after two years together, she asked him to accompany her to the local cinema. Griffin was perennially bronzed with sculpted features carved in the Greek Island of Sifnos. But despite living in Great Britain for a good while, his grasp of English was comically bad. He spoke in sentences the same way Charlie Chaplin climbed a ladder. Griffin didn’t believe Mrs Nash could ever take a man like him seriously. But after watching Fatal Attraction, they were both smitten. Mrs Nash with Griffin Kazan and Griffin Kazan with the Hollywood actor Michael Douglas.
Adam decides to ignore the noises in the cellar. He pushes them to a place beyond the reach of everyday thought, alongside much of his childhood. He thinks he may as well continue in the landlord Kieth Lapping’s absence, help out where he can. After a week, he manages to increase sales and make incremental improvements. A tall man with tiny bin liners under his eyes, orders a coffee, ‘one of those little strong ones.’ Adam provides him with two Biscoff biscuits on the side and this seems to perk him up. The man tells Adam he used to drink in the pub most nights before he had a family. He asks if Adam has a family and when Adam says no, the man’s eyes become rheumy. The man announces himself as a plain clothes police detective investigating the disappearance of Keith Lapping. He knew Keith well and wondered when Adam last saw them. Adam admits he never has seen Keith Lapping. The detective is surprised, he lifts up his coffee cup, as if it were the espresso that has caught him unawares. Adam explains how the HOSPITABLE app works. He tells the detective it is possible to pay for the purchase of an establishment via the app without having any direct contact with the seller. Remarkable, says the detective. He then harks back to a time, before he had a family, when he felt as if he was on top of the latest technology. Not anymore. So you don’t know where they might be? Asks the detective. No, says Adam. Have you tried tracking their phones? The detective laughs at this but then immediately winces in pain and reaches for his back, as if laughter were a trigger for a pain. If only it were that easy, he tells Adam. Their phones are in a location without a signal. Either they are in the middle of nowhere or some place underground.
Things became especially difficult for Adam around the time of Falling Down (1993, Budget:25 million USD, Box Office:41 million USD), Don’t Say a Word (2001, Budget:50 million USD, Box Office:100 million USD), A Perfect Murder (Budget:60 million USD, Box Office:128 million USD). But occasionally, Michael Douglas made Griffin Kazan a better father. For example, The American President (1995, Budget:62 million USD, Box office:108 million USD) was released just as Adam, or Rudy as he was then, started school. It was an exclusive prep school for the rich and famous and full to the brim with bullies. A sadder, more gentle Griffin, believing himself widowed (despite Mrs Nash was alive and well at this point) would come to Adam’s room each evening and help with his homework. He insisted they read an old copy of the American Constitution together and use it to assuage Adam’s callous assialents by saying things like ‘come on guys, why can’t we just establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity’. Griffin became a loving character of great moral purpose. Adam can remember feeling thankful and looking forward to seeing him every evening. His father had come good just when he needed it most. And then The Ghost and the Darkness (1996, Budget:55 million USD, Box Office:75 million USD) premiered and Griffin went to Africa to hunt lions.
Adam decides to hire a singer songwriter (recommended by HOSPITABLE) for the lunchtime crowd. He’s often found the atmosphere in pubs to feel sterile and uninspiring during the daytime. He would like mornings to be no different to evenings, for the pub to become timeless. Certainly the detective appreciates Adam’s efforts to skew tradition. He comes in for a coffee and to listen to ‘a couple of tunes’ everyday now. He says the missing landlord case is helpful because it means he gets to go to the pub again. The detective reveals to Adam, you actually lose more than you gain when you have a family. It’s what ‘they don’t tell you in the books.’The detective also has a double Amaretti with his coffee to provide the energy to play Lego when he returns home.
Adam doesn’t ask about the search for the missing landlord. He has placed a thick rug over the hatch door. The singer songwriter performs only twice before giving notice. He is to take up a residency at a bar in the next street. The acoustics are excellent and they can guarantee him a one hour free verse poetry slot each day. It is an offer Adam is unwilling to match, for commercial reasons. The detective says everyone is talking about this new bar. He’s considering giving it a try himself. Another line of enquiry he jokes without risking a smile. Adam asks where this new bar is exactly. The detective says it is underground. Very trendy. In fact, he says, it’s probably right beneath our feet.
Adam hadn’t seen his father with long hair before. The great Griffin Kazan was spending all his time in the study, typing furiously in his dressing gown. A smell of marijuana filled the house but Adam, being only seven, assumed it was aggressively perfumed pot pourri. Professor Tripp from The Wonder Boys (2000, Budget:55 million USD, Box Office:33 million USD) was not your typical Michael Douglas role. Professor Tripp is a novelist and University teacher. He authored a hugely successful debut novel but has been struggling to complete his much anticipated second. He smokes too much. He is lacking direction, but hugely likeable. Griffin told Adam, in a more croaky voice than usual, that he was writing the story of his life, his magnum opus, in a modernist stream of consciousness style. It would be over one thousand typed pages and most likely get blown out of the back of his car thanks to a mix up involving Robert Downey Junior. He sat with Adam in the garden, rolled a joint, swallowed some pills and gave an extended synopsis.
Griffin Kazan, the youngest of seven children, was born in a small house next to the Chrysopigi Monastery on the Greek island of Sifnos. They were a poor family and did not attend school, spending their days helping on the boats. In circumstances never known, two of Griffin’s brothers drowned on the eve of Griffin’s eighth birthday. Griffin was sent to Athens to live with an old neighbour. His parents worried for his safety. But Griffin could not settle in Athens and when he ran away the old neighbour did not care to look for Griffin. He found work cleaning dishes and washing uniforms in hotels, sometimes he captured rats. The owners didn’t object to a ten year old boy, keen to impress, offering to work for free. He was provided with a bed and a meal, more often than not. Griffin would return to the old neighbour now and again for news of his parents and siblings. The old neighbour confessed to not being in touch with the family since his arrival. Griffin wanted to write them a letter but Griffin did not know how to write.
When he was older, Griffin returned to Sifnos. He was informed by a local that one of his sisters had become ill and died after being bitten by a scorpionfish. The Kazan’s left the island shortly afterwards. Griffin grew tall and handsome. He was lean and muscular without trying to be either. He looked especially good in his pressed, white tuxedo jacket. As a waiter he learned manners and the ability to charm. When a global chain of hotels began operating in Athens, he was quickly made Head Waiter. A visit from the owner, Mrs Nash, finally saw him leave Greece. Whilst he had survived his homeland, prospered even, he did not feel he had ever truly discovered himself. He felt devoid of an identity. It occurred to him that he was better off developing into somebody else than uncovering his own self. Who would choose to be Griffin Kazan? The unwanted good for nothing Greek hobo? Not I! Said Griffin. Not when I could be somebody people liked, adored even. A Hollywood star. And now I have you Rudy. We are my reality. We are the future. Griffin gave the seven year old Adam his half finished joint and slumped down in his chair, smiling, cackling to himself, completely stoned.
Adam walks across the street to the new bar. A 1977 Triumph Spitfire is parked outside- Hank Pym’s car in Ant Man and the Wasp. But Adam has figured things out. His father is not Hank Pymn today, he is Nicholas Van Orton and this is The Game. The last two years have not been an escape from his father, they have been designed by his father. In David Fincher’s banana crazy thriller, The Game, an elaborate hoax is played on the wealthy Nicholas Van Orton, whose life becomes derailed to the point of total crisis when his brother, played by Sean Penn, hires a private company to create a wholly believable reality, as a birthday present to his brother. In Adam’s version, he is playing the Nicholas Van Orton character and his father is both the brother Conrad, and CRS (Consumer Recreation Services) having engineered all of Adam’s recent history. It was obvious now. His father bought a pub and got his tech people to create an app that would lead Adam to it. Everything, the noises in the cellar, the detective, the singer songwriter, the friendly cabal of locals, were moving parts in the fiction. And each now sat in the cellar bar, awaiting Adam’s arrival, a troupe of actors celebrating their final show. Adam stands in the doorway. At the end of the film, Nicholas walks in on a gathered crowd ready to shout SURPRISE! But Nicholas has become so shredded by nerves by this point, he ends up shooting his brother dead in the commotion. Although of course he hasn’t really done this at all. Griffin probably intended for Adam to enter through the hatch. There is most likely a gun waiting for him on the stairs. Adam can see the great Griffin Kazan, standing holding a drink, beaming from one augmented ear to the other, rubbing his palms in anticipation. It occurs to Adam that he has been wrong about his father. This was never about destiny. It was the great Griffin Kazan’s attempt to love. Adam walks back to the pub, opens the hatch and finds the gun. Finally, he is ready to play.
Simon Lowe is a British writer. His stories have appeared in Breakwater Review, AMP, Storgy, Firewords, Ponder Review, Visible Ink, and elsewhere. His new novel, The World is at War, Again, will be published in 2021 (Elsewhen Press).
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