Not Just Another Cliche Thriller: Just Another Cliche Beginning

private eye(An insufficient homage to Max Schulman)

It was a dark and stormy night. It really was. I can’t help it. You want a bright and starry night, go read Palm Springs Homeless Shelters.

Like I said, dark and stormy with thunder pounding out a maniacal back-beat under the fierce snap-crackling of lightning that slammed against the Truckee River like a homicidal laser beam stabbing through dead-weight Indian-summer air, so screw you, Mrs. Randall, English Composition 101, who said run-on sentences don’t work.

Rain. OMG, the rain. Enormous rain, huge rain, raging rain that smashed and splashed and splooshed, but with a cool sort of 1958 pop-rock beat…SPLISH-SPLASH it went…SPLISH-SPLASH it went…jeez, how I miss Bobby Darin…

Suddenly, a new sound, a frantic, frenzied raking sound, like Kathy Lee Gifford clawing her way to in front of a camera.

I looked up from my reading, Proust’s Remembrance of Things I Forgot To Pick Up At Costco. Book Club edition. Illustrated. There it was again, that frantic frenzied raking sound. I recognized it immediately, thanks to Morty’s College Of Frantic Frenzied Raking Sounds, whence I matriculated while only a teenager.

Putting down my book, but not in an insulting way, I disconnected my hookah, and slid into my slippers. My slippers slid into the kitchen. I slid behind the stereo and bounced off a tintype of Thorstein Veblen wearing a classy leisure suit. Get it?

That frantic frenzied raking sound we were just now talking about kept going. I strode to the door with a feeling of nakedness. I looked down and to the left. I was naked. I donned the Japanese ceremonial robe that always hangs next to my door, and opened it. The door, not the robe.

I peered out at the raging storm and stepped across the threshold into the darkness. I don’t know the meaning of the word fear. I also don’t know what inchoate means. Or modality.

That’s when I saw her. She stood straight, proud, & haughty.

As it happens, Straight, Proud, & Haughty used to be my lawyers. Small world.

She was wearing a knee-length belted raincoat, and nothing else. My toe-mirror finally paid off.

We looked into each other’s eyes and, for just half a sec, and it was as if the rain and lightning and thunder went mute, like a phone call from Harpo. Call me silly. Call me careless. Call me forgetful. Just don’t call me Ray-Jay. Some things are better left unspoken.

Her raincoat was taut, filled to the bursting point like a cheap autograph book at a Tea Party orgy, which is clearly redundant, but we don’t have much time.

She tossed her mane of palomino-hued hair and said, “Arrgh,..”

“Pardon me?”

“Arrgh,..” she repeated, this time more clearly.

I was ecstatic. She speaks Pirate!

“Welcome aboard,” I said, slipping smoothly into our fantasy role-playing game like it was a buttered leotard.

She cleared her throat, and for just a second there, she reminded me of Heidi Fleiss. Good times.

“Can … can I use your phone? Please? My car… the rain … “

“May I?”


“May I. Don’t say, Can I.”

She looked at me lovingly. Who could blame her? Not many guys these days bother to help you with your grammar.

“May … may I use your phone? Please?  My car… the rain …”

I put my mouth next to her lovely ear. “Next time, you can correct me. Okay?”

She nodded wordlessly. Gratefully. Wetly.

As she stepped inside my apartment, I gazed fondly at aristocratic feet with slender ankles that swelled into strong, firm calves, and strong, firm calves that swelled into dimpled knees, and dimpled knees that swelled into a Japanese ceremonial robe. I have great legs.

The door closed, shutting out the dark and stormy night. And me.  I forgot to follow her inside.

After sort of violating the doggie door, I got back in and moved swiftly, guiding her toward the telephone with a panther-like grace she couldn’t help but admire, even though I almost broke the spell by tripping over my waterproof Daffy Duck. Twice. How did that thing get out of my tub anyway?

“Phone,” I said, pointing. My voice didn’t falter. Why should it? It was my house, my living room, my avocado Princess phone. Good taste is a chick-magnet.

I watched, fascinated, as her dainty fingers danced across the buttons. One …her nails were kempt, her cuticles flawless….one-six-six…her hand was tanned and strong, yet smooth and gentle…seven-five-two … a ring, a solitary diamond solitaire, adorned her adorable pinky …nine-three-six-eight. Her hand came to rest, finally, on the …

One-six-six? That’s the area code for Budapest!

“Uh, excuse me, but …”

“Ssshhh. I’m on the phone. Long distance.”


She muttered rapidly into the phone, repeating foreign expressions that all sounded like, “jerk-in-a-kimono.”

She put down the phone, but not in an insulting way, and glanced toward the door. I didn’t want her to leave. I had to distract her. I went for the ears.

Mike Price“Music?”

Before she could answer, I put on a tape of Ravel’s “Bolero,” winding it carefully around my powerful torso. Nobody looks better in good ol’ traditional 4-inch non-magnetic than I do. When I looked up, she was gone. So was Daffy.

Never trust your duck on a dark and stormy night.

Michaelangelo Price

Mike Price is a long-time newspaper columnist, talk show host, and screenwriter who appears as a standup comedy headliner for top clubs and casinos across the country.


  1. Mike Varady says

    Nobody’s ever been able to really tell me what’s wrong with, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

    I suspect that someone somewhat admired once scorned it, and other people with perhaps more insecure egos picked up on it and felt it made them “brilliant” (overused word) critics who knew something others didn’t. But I’ve never heard anyone say something in defense of that position, other than a sort of vague, “Don’t you see?”

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