Friday, September 9, 2016

Mel C. Miskimen's "Sit Stay Heal"

Mel C. Miskimen is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Her essays have been published in Wisconsin Trails, Fetch, and Rosebud Literary Magazine. She’s a past winner of the Wisconsin Writers Association’s Jade Ring and Florence Lindemann awards, a frequent essayist for Milwaukee Public Radio and a storyteller for The Moth.

Here she shares an account of the principals of her new book, Sit Stay Heal, dreamcasting themselves for a big screen adaptation:
Tom (he told me not to call him Mr. Hanks) pulled his Tesla into the driveway. He had no entourage (like Tom Hanks would!) He didn’t knock on the back door, or ring the bell, because my father had been expecting him. How else would he pull off playing the role of Dad in the movie based on my book, Sit Stay Heal?

It had Tom Hanks Movie written all over it – a guy loses his wife of 60 years and can’t find his way out of his grief, until his daughter and her inept labrador show up with a scheme: she needs help “turning the dog into a real dog.” Her father, who speaks fluent retriever, is the only one who can do it. So, every week, for a year, they go out, into a field, and the once curmudgeonly old guy, starts talking about feelings. They find their way back to a new normal, with the help of the underachieving labrador.

Hello, Oscar!

So, there was Tom and my father. In the kitchen. It was all so unreal.

Because it was.

Whenever I couldn’t sleep, I ruminated – who would play us if the book became a movie? I was thinking Sarah Silverman, for me, a perfect combo of comedy and vulnerability. Carrie Fisher was my first choice to play my sister Linda – an overly henna-d, part time actress, full-time diva. But, I recast Margot Kidder, because Carrie might not be crazy enough.

I should have kept all this to myself. But, I thought it would be fun to ask, “If they ever make the book into a movie, what actor would you want to play you?”

Dad: “That one guy–!”

Linda: “What one guy?”

Dad: “You know–that guy–he’s in all those movies–” He snapped his fingers, a signal to the ether to slide the answer into a file inside his mental hard drive. Dad was all about action adventure movies, so I went down the list of possible leading men.

Me: “Harrison Ford?”

Dad: “No–that other guy–”

Me: “Kevin Costner?”

Dad (exasperated): “No! Don something–”


Linda: “I think I should play myself.”

Me: “No. Margot Kidder or Carrie Fisher.”

Linda: “Isn’t Margot Kidder dead?” Linda picked up her phone and addressed Siri as if it was our father, sans hearing aides. “DEAD. . . OR. . . A-LIVE . . . MAR-GO. . .KID-DER!” Siri: “Forgot dinner?”

Siri had difficulty processing the request due to our heavy Wisconsin Fargo-esque accents.

Me: “I was thinking Sarah Silverman, for me–”

Linda: “Uh, honey . . . she’s a little too young.”

Me: “Uh . . . makeup? Hello?”

Dad (shouting): “Tommy Lee Jones! That’s the guy!”

Linda: “Who?”

Me “He was in The Fugitive.” Search every out house, whore house, hen house. That guy.’”

I really didn’t think Linda was certifiably insane, until she offered up Tyne Daly as our petite, 104 pound mother.

Dad: “Who the hell is Tyne Daly? Now, that Jennifer Aniston! I wouldn’t kick her out of the igloo–”

Me: “What about Tom Hanks? As Dad?”

Linda looked like she had sucked on a lemon.

Me: “Wouldn’t that be cool? You two. In the kitchen? Talking? He’d have to get to know you–”

Dad: “Tom Hanks? Uh–I don’t know–” He looked worried. Waved his hand, dismissively. “–like that’s gonna happen!”

Like that’s going to happen. Me! Sarah Silverman! Crazy! Still . . . what if? How’d we handle it? He could handle Tommy Lee Jones. But, Tom Hanks? Too much. He needed to stay in his VHS box, on the bookcase, forever saving Private Ryan, a hero.
Visit Mel Miskimen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue