Three cards fell to the floor the other day. My younger son was tearing open some protective plastic sheeting around them, and they’d fallen together into a group. The cards hadn’t been mine as a kid. I’d never owned any Hostess cards, for one thing, let alone the card featuring the player most likely to have enjoyed several Hostess products after a day of blasting homers and mangling fly balls, and I’d never put my cards into protective plastic sheets. My mother-in-law had found the sheets of cards at a second-hand store and gotten them for me. I looked at them in the sheets a bit, but they had to be freed from the sheets for me to really see them. The first thing I noticed was Bud Harrelson’s eyes. Really all of Bud Harrelson, his thin lips, slight frame, sparse mustache, choked-up grip, everything about him radiating the feeling that he’s just hanging on. But especially the eyes. And just beside him, Brusstar, a hardened character. And then Luzinski, young blank-eyed Hostess strongman incarnate. A scenario began to unfold in my mind, a late 1970s film about amoral desperation, one last gasp from the decade of movies about losing before the candy-colored John Hughes years began.
Excerpts from Run Down (1979)
Scene 1 (interior, motel room)
One more score and I’m out.
Baby, I don’t want you to get hurt, not now that I’ve finally got you back.
I’m telling you, this one can’t miss.
[Walks to window, stares out at traffic on the highway]
This one . . . there’s no way I can lose.
Scene 5 (exterior, downtown)
Warren walks along a sidewalk in a mostly deserted downtown. He picks up a brick and throws it through a window. He takes some records out of the window. One of them is Saturday Night Fever, which he tosses into the gutter and then spits on top of it. The rest he takes with him. A cat crosses his path and he tries to kick it but misses and stumbles, falling into a puddle, spilling the rest of the records. A sound comes out of him like that of an animal pinned in a bear trap.]
Scene 12 (interior, Extra Innings Bar)
I suggest you shut the fuck up and get the fuck away from me, Bud.
This is a. Is that any way to? Look, I’m doing you a favor here.
You still owe me for the last fucking favor you did me.
[Both men drink, smoke. The rock song on the jukebox ends and a disco song begins.]
Who put on this shit?!?
Female bar patron
[reacting to music]
Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Yeah!
[Warren stares murderously into his drink as the disco plays. Bud stares at Warren for a long time, until Warren finally looks up.]
How do you do that?
Not fucking blink.
[smiling now, but only with his mouth]
Life is short, Warren. I don’t want to miss anything.
[after a long beat]
Fuck it. The fuck I care.
You won’t be sorry, Warren.
I’m always sorry.
We’re gonna win this time, Warren.
We’re still a man short.
Opportunities will arise, Warren. Opportunities will arise.
Scene 15 (exterior, motel)
As Bud watches, smoking, from the railing outside his second story motel room, a large man on the ground level, Greg, dressed only in a small white motel towel, holds the small towel around him with one hand while pushing the buttons on a vending machine with his other hand. He waits. The vending machine does not produce any product. Greg pushes the buttons again. Scratches his head. Taps on the glass. Pounds on the glass. He moves methodically—he is not getting angry but wants what he is not getting. Finally he brings his other hand free and the towel falls to the pavement. He grabs the large machine with both hands and begins to rock it. The rocking increases until it looks as if the machine will rock forward and crush the large naked man, but instead he hefts the machine onto his back, swivels, and hurls it to the ground, where the machine bursts with a clattering of glass and crumpling metal. Coins and candy and bags of chips spill out. Greg ignores the money and picks through the broken glass and other packages for one package of Hostess Chocolate Cup Cakes, which he removes from the packaging and shoves into his mouth, one after the other as he crosses the parking lot back to his room, still naked. Camera closes in on Bud, who is smoking and watching Greg without blinking.