Danny wakes up with a gun on his bed. He doesn't know how it got there. It seems like a rare coincidence or a prize for a lucky man, a reckless and slapdash man. There's a woman on the bed, too. The gun lies between them. He asks her "what's your name and is this yours?"
She just smiles. She knows something Danny doesn't. Or she remembers something Danny forgot.
Danny hocks up some phlegm and reaches for a glass of water on his bedside table. He remembers flashes of the woman, from the night before and feels vulnerable.
He says to her, almost in a whisper, "Once, I was king of the world. The critics noted my appearance in films without malice or judgment."
"My name is Denise."
"Denise. Oh yeah. Denise."
"You know who I goddamn am, Denise." He hacks, he coughs. He's afraid of his fits of anger. "Do you have any water over there?"
Danny walks toward his master bathroom, glass in hand. "Without malice," he says louder this time but she still hears it as a whisper because he's walking away from the bed.
"I really don't know who you are."
"Or judgment" which she can't hear.
Denise lifts herself out of the bed, revealing to Danny that she's fully clothed, clothes he doesn't remember her wearing last night, at the bar, in town. She sits in a chair by the window.
He's slightly incredulous. "So you don't know me, never saw any of my films?"
"No. I met you for the first time last night. In town."
"In town. God, I hate this town."
"Why do you live here?"
"I don't know. This house has been in the family, I got stuck with it. I keep it for the fishing."
"So you're a movie star?"
"I'm still working on it, yeah."
"You told me last night you wrote plays."
"Yeah. That, too."
The gun lay there, on the bed, between the pillows. They both knew it was there but he couldn't remember and she wouldn't say.
"I need a shower." And Danny leaves her alone in the room, with the gun he couldn't explain and his wallet and the keys to his Odyssey and really his whole summer house out there, ripe for the picking by a woman with a gun and she looks like his sister, Denise does.
The shower is short, out of necessity. He doesn't trust her. He doesn't need a gun in the room either, though it does make him feel sexy.
She's sitting at the edge of the bed now, squinting at the sun rising beyond the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan, a brighter sun than she wants.
Danny, in a towel, closes the shades.
"So, the gun?"
"It's mine," she says with a hint of disappointment.
"Why is it on the bed?"
"That's where you wanted it."
"What are you talking about?"
"That's where you wanted it, Daniel."
"Daniel? No one calls me Daniel."
"Last night you said I could call you Daniel. You were drunk. I was drunk. I told you I was a cop."
"Are you a cop?"
"Are you?" He looks away from her as he takes the towel off, replacing it with his blue robe, which had been folded neatly, in a drawer by itself, the robe a gift from his brother the dancer.
"And when we got back here you wanted to see the gun. You kept saying 'put the gun out, I want to see the gun while we're doing it.'"
"I said that?"
"Daniel. Daniel. Daniel."
"I said that?"
"Did the gun remind you of being in the movies? I think I get it now."
"I was out of it. I was drunk."
"Don't call me that."
"You kept saying 'call me Daniel.' I was just following orders." She smiles as she says this but Danny isn't looking at her in the bed. He's looking at the gun on the bed.
"Is it loaded?"
"No. I didn't trust you."
"Can you load it?"
"Am I supposed to trust you now, Daniel?"
"You can trust me."
"I'm taking a shower."
Alone, in the bathroom, she takes off the clothes he doesn't remember seeing her wear last night, at the bar in town, at Buster's. His memory returns - he remembers black, all black. This morning she woke up in blue jeans and a white top and she's a cop with no bullets.
Minutes later she's clean, her shower even shorter, out of necessity based on her own lack of trust in a man and a gun and the fact she didn't share before. "It was loaded the whole time."
"And I wanted it next to me?"
"You kept saying 'I want to see the gun while we're doing it.'"
"Man, that's fucked up."
"It was cute."
"So where are you a cop?"
"Sheboygan." She watches him as she says this, to see if he remembers that they had this conversation last night.
"And what brought you up here?"
"Vacation. The Festival."
"It's a fucked up town. I'm moving back to Chicago. Or New York. Full time. No more summers up here." By the time he speaks these words, he's disappointed, half because he knows he could never give up the lakefront house and disappoint his dead parents, half because he knows he wants to.
"Buster's is a fun place."
"So what have you been in, what movies?"
"I don't want to talk about that."
"It's still loaded, you know."
"And we're both showered." Danny smiles for the first time all morning.
The sun blinds itself into day and day turns into night, with its
star-spackled bullet drips of a firmament. Danny remembers every role with every gun he's ever had. Danny used to beg the prop guy to load it for real whenever the scene didn't call for shooting. Whether the bribes worked or not, whether the guns were really loaded, it didn't matter to Danny. It was the possibility that did it for him. Oh, the one movie, with the house with the big windows in the foothills, with the dogs and the jumping, those bullets had to be real - they needed to be real.
Denise cries when it ends. Danny cries too. "Don't call me Daniel!" She dresses and leaves, taking the gun. She gives him the bullets (she can get more). She's going home to Sheboygan, where all she does is catch speeders and pacify drunks. Danny doesn't want the summer home. He wants to give it to his ex-wife but his brother and sister wouldn't sign off their part so his ex got the Chicago apartment.
He hears the roar of Denise's engine. He hears her reversing. He hears her switch to forward. He hears her turn in the turnaround, rolling her SUV, with its changes of clothes, down the long gravel driveway, toward the main road.
Danny attaches the bullets to fishing line and makes a necklace. He feels tribal wearing it as he burns the sheets from today and last night in the kitchen sink. He has no other sheets and falls asleep on the bare mattress, the dull shy din of television interrupting his dreams. He dreams he hears his own voice, from the mafia movie where he kills his own brother, ostensibly for making a very bad decision but actually for internal reasons (killing a portion of himself, a portion borne of malice and judgment). But the mafia movie isn't on TV, so what he hears comes from his own head. A different movie with Danny is on, one with guns that fire and pauses in the action coming at inopportune times. From this movie he hears a baby crying. The crying enters his dreams as he stands at his mafia brother's funeral holding his brother's wife's hand, feeling her fingernails claw into his rough-from-fishing skin.
Alone, with the sun bright again, he wakes to his phone ringing. His agent has some news. Stage news, not movie news, but intriguing. He puts on the bullet necklace and goes out for breakfast in town.