Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Death by Misadventure: The Screenplay – Part 2

As B.B. King’s wailing fades into yesterday we are briefly introduced to the film’s protagonists 30 minutes before they meet on Feb. 4th, 1982 for the first and last time.

The first is a splendid 125-year-old, 3,000-pound saguaro cactus situated one or two miles east of a dirt road that passes through the Sonoran Desert an hour northeast of Phoenix, Arizona, in an area governed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The cactus is called Ha:san (pronounced hah-shin), the word for saguaro within the Tohono O’odham nation.

The second is David Grundman, age 25. He is slightly over six feet tall, has brown hair and blue eyes and weighs 200 pounds. (Note to self - Ryan Gosling, a recent Oscar nominee, is perfect for the part. Give him a call.)

Grundman parks his old Ford pickup at the side of the same dirt road and leisurely collects several items from the dusty and cracked leather seat beside him. Juggling a cold six-pack of beer, a 16-gauge shotgun and a large box of rifle slugs in both hands he exits the truck and expertly kicks the door shut with one scruffy boot.

As the noise from the truck door races across the desert we magically seem to follow (through the miracle of modern motion picture technology) and are escorted backwards in time to 1857 and to the small patch of parched soil where Ha:san’s birth took place.

A narrator (Tom Selleck - he’s not doing much these days) will tell the story from this point onward.

Tom will say that the saguaro flowers fertilize each other under particular conditions only, some of the resultant fruit occasionally falls to the ground, is eaten by a bird or animal (Has anybody got a trained coyote?) and is deposited throughout the desert.

He’ll also say that a seed may germinate under perfect conditions and if it can survive for two full years (which is highly unlikely - one slight bump and it will be dead) the new plant will be the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

Fortunately, in our case, Ha;san did survive and by 1867 is one and a half inches tall.

In 1887, at age 30, the saguaro is two feet tall. (Don’t worry. I’ll get Tom to read these parts in dramatic tones. It will be gripping. Especially the close-ups.)

In 1912, at age 55, our cactus is eight feet tall and weighs 800 pounds. A flower crowns its top for the first time, providing nectar for its airborne visitors. Soon seedlings from Ha:san’s own fruit will reach the desert floor, the same ground upon which Ha:san’s 39,999,999 siblings have perished.

In 1932, at age 75, the saguaro is in peak form, with one mature arm growing nicely and another on the way.

In 1957, in Ha:san’s centennial year, David Michael Grundman is born in New York State.

Mr. Selleck will pause and we will be swept away from the base of the proud Ha:san and back to the side of the dirt road where, 25 years later, Grundman is slipping a shotgun shell into his 16-gauge and preparing to blow two empty beer cans into smithereens. cb

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