#16 (3 minutes) A board room, tall windows, a view of the city. A paper coffee cup spatters against the glass and we pull back to see a crowd of confused suits around a conference table. One of them, the one who threw the coffee, looks more confused than any. Why was he emotionally moved so thoroughly as to throw his coffee? All the hostility and passion has left the room, drained from it, and now he is a quiet fool being stared down by other suddenly quiet fools. He stands and knocks over an easel displaying new product art as he leaves the room.
Cut to: his living room, small but luxurious. The man is asleep on an expensive couch. Blankets trail from his body and into potato chip bags and beer bottles on the hardwood floor. Traffic noises come in through the wide windows. The man comes awake with a groaning sigh and rubs his face, stops. We zoom in and see his beard: an uneven field of tiny peppers.
Cut to: a few days later. The growth of peppers on the man’s face is such that his jaw has become a strange terrain. He stands in the narrow kitchen of his apartment and on a cutting board is a handful of tiny peppers which he dices with quick and then quicker movements. Cut to: thirty minutes later and he’s standing in the same spot but now the cutting board and produce sacks are gone and in their place is a plate of reddened noodles. He forks a bite to his mouth, chews slowly, then grins and chews more, then stops and runs to the sink, then chooses the refrigerator instead, pulls a bottle and drinks milk from it.
Cut to: a few months later. The scene is still and in its center is a play button. We are on Youtube. A mouse pointer enters the frame and clicks and then we’re moving again, in low quality streaming video. A teenager centered in the frame holds a handful of something. Someone behind the camera says, “Tell us what you’re going to do.” The teenager says, “So, these are beard peppers, gross, supposedly the hottest peppers you can buy.” “Worse than the ghost pepper,” the guy behind the camera says. “And I’m going to eat all of these,” the teenager says, and, in a quick motion, he does. Behind him, traffic passes slowly. A blue sky reaches all around. We are in a suburb.
“So?” the camera operator says.
“It’s hot,” the teenager says. A few minutes later he’s walking in tight circles while the camera operator laughs, then guffaws, then is quiet. “Tommy,” the camera operator says, but Tommy is down the street now, bent over, leaning on his knees. He collapses.
#17 (15 seconds): An old man digs through an alleyway garbage bin. He is dressed in expensive but subtle clothes and a dark pair of sunglasses. Agitation crimps his face. He is not accustomed to digging through trash and has lost hope that the act will pay off. “Horse head,” he says. “Horse head.” He is looking for something or someone called Horse head or he is looking for an actual horse head or a representaiton of a horse head. Or he is swearing in another language, using a word or phrase that sounds like “Horse head.” We will not know, and the uncertainty will return to us months later in the bathroom of a party while people laugh in a distant living room and we consider using the host’s razor to trim a missed patch on our necks. “Horse head,” we will say.
#18 (5 minutes): A quiet apartment, flooded with sunlight. A male voice speaks, tentatively and almost miserably, sounding out a word that is only just recognizable. We pull back and pan around so that we see a shaggy yellow dog, stretched on a rug with a hardback book held open between his paws. The dog’s pronunciation is bad and we get the impression he has no idea what he’s reading, is just saying words without understanding them, reading from a book someone left on the living room floor, but still we are a little impressed.
Cut to: another day, a morning of gray light. We are close on a bookshelf in the apartment, so that when the dog jumps up to worry free a novel we see just the blur of his ear flopping into frame. He leaps again and this time we see his eyes as his teeth snap at the ragged line of books. He leaps again and bites a clutch of magazines and, probably by instinct, his feet scrabble at the shelves of books and abandoned drinking glasses and some figurines and a purse and a bowl of coins. A calamity of items flop and rain to the floor. All is quiet for a moment, then a door opens somewhere in the apartment.
Cut to: the wet alley behind a convenience store. The dog, dirtied now and thinner, has pulled a garbage bag from a bin, eviscerated it, and strewn out popular magazines freed of their covers and dirtied with trash wetness. The dog reads vapid celebrity news in a voice now sure. We learn that a celebrity has bought a home worth more than 4 million dollars and that a television chef has signed a two-book deal for a cookbook and a history of meat preparation in Europe and Europe-like cultures. The dog reads about someone’s surgically altered face, then about someone’s upcoming film adaptation of another Philip K. Dick story. The contents of the magazine grow stranger until we realize that the dog is bored, creating the text of articles now for his own amusement.
Cut to: a serene park, dark grass, quiet air. The yellow dog lies next to a brown dog and tells the brown dog that he spent such effort and time learning to read and speak that he forgot he was a dog, that time was passing. The yellow dog’s breed, the yellow dog explains, is not known for longevity, and he has been underfed for a long time now, and suspects his gut of harboring numerous parasites. “I will spend my last months or year teaching other dogs,” the yellow dog says. The brown dog doesn’t lift his head or raise an ear or move his eyes.
We see several short clips now: the yellow dog attempting to teach other dogs to collect their thoughts into words and then to express those words. In each clip the yellow dog is more frustrated, less patient. In the last clip he sits in a gorgeously sun warmed park, expectantly watching an enormous cane corso, which opens its mouth as if to test a new sentence but then rushes through open grass to pee on the wheel of a baby stroller. The yellow dog stands, steps out of frame.
Cut to: a darkened living room, small. Windows are open to the lights and noises of a city. The yellow dog has rented a studio apartment and filled it with chairs and shelves and art objects that look like cheap versions of what filled his last, real home. He is old now and paces the room carefully, as if afraid he might fall. Books and magazines line shelves but none are opened on the couch or on the desk in the corner. Horns sound outside and a drunken woman shouts her joy to a friend. The dog goes to the window, gets two paws up, and looks out. When he drops to the floor we wonder if he will take down a book for solace, but he instead climbs onto the couch, paws a remote control, summons the blue light of the television, begins exploring channels.