Joyland

Toronto |

DeRosa

by Sam Shelstad

edited by Kathryn Mockler

Ted Cohen (Widower), September 2003

For the second year in a row, Ted Cohen spent his birthday in a room at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The previous year, his wife was in the bed. Now it was a man named DeRosa.

“So who’s gonna sing me the birthday song?” Ted said.

DeRosa’s cardiac monitor beeped.

“Wake up and sing for me. Don’t be rude, DeRosa.”

The patient wore what looked like a white motorcycle helmet of bandages, covering the wound Ted had given him the week prior—when he’d brained DeRosa with a landscape painting. If you leaned in close, Ted discovered, the helmet smelled like an armpit. The rest of the room smelled like lemons.

DeRosa didn’t live in South Roberston, or even Los Angeles. He came from Texas, a police officer had told Ted. They couldn’t get a hold of the patient’s family, so it was just Ted there during visiting hours. He’d been there every day that week.

A nurse walked in. She was new, hired within the past year. Before Ted’s wife died he basically lived at Cedars-Sinai. For two months, he watched poor Annie shrivel and fade. And here he was again, freshly seventy-two, and on a first-name basis with almost everyone who worked in Intensive Care. He watched the new girl change DeRosa’s IV drip.

“Hello there,” Ted said.

The nurse seemed deeply focused on the drip.

“Yes, his condition is stable,” she said, eventually. “So that’s pretty good. We’ll have to stay positive, right? I’ll be just outside if you need me.”

She left the room, and Ted shook a fist.

“You hear that, DeRosa?”

DeRosa’s monitor beeped.

“And you’re no better. Why don’t you wake up and say something already? Wake up, DeRosa. I’ve got words for you.” He really needed the man to wake up. He had so many questions: Who are you? Why did you break in to my house? What do you want from me that you can’t get back in Texas?

When the coma spell broke, Ted would be there, waiting. He wasn’t interested in pressing charges; he wanted to deal with DeRosa himself. Give the schmuck a lecture, show him who’s boss, and get some answers.

He pulled a Pall Mall from his pack and stood up.

“I’m just stepping outside. When I come back, I expect your little nap to be over. I’ve got words for you, DeRosa.”

DeRosa’s monitor beeped.




Correspondence between Ernesto DeRosa (Dispatcher, Lake Jackson Taxi) and Ted Cohen (Executive Producer, F.R.I.E.N.D.S.), July 2003

Dear Ted Cohen,

I am writing to you now regarding the unfortunate decision to stop the production of new Friends episodes following the upcoming tenth season. I realize this decision may not be entirely, or perhaps at all, yours, but I also know that as a writer and an executive producer you must wield considerable clout. Use it!

The official NBC press release concerning this decision states that those involved in the creation of Friends feel the series has “run its course” and that the “story must conclude,” etc. Excuse me? This is ridiculous. Friends is the greatest sitcom or even show of all time and the gang will never run out of fun experiences to share. Do you know Coronation Street, the British soap? It’s not anywhere near as strong as Friends but has been running for over forty years now, and I feel that Friends can and should continue for forty more years, or even longer, or at least until a significant portion of the lead actors die.

Please add this letter to the mountain of like-minded letters I hope you are receiving right now and take a good, long look at that mountain. Look at that mountain and use your clout. It’s not too late to reconsider.

Sincerely,

Ernesto DeRosa



Dear Fan,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful letter. We at NBC recognize that the quality programming we work hard to bring you would not exist without your support. As a token of our appreciation, we have included a complimentary packet of postcards highlighting NBC’s exciting new fall lineup.

Yours,

Stephanie Lyons, Audience Outreach
NBC Studios, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY



Dear Ted Cohen,

Thanks for your speedy reply, although this reply came from some Stephanie Lyons and not you, whom I actually addressed the letter to. So why is this Stephanie reading and replying to a letter that I sent to you? Anyway, I’m sure you are buried in fan mail pleading for the continuation of Friends right now, but I feel like I wasn’t specific enough with my last one and that there are some things you should know. Like I didn’t really communicate how much Friends means to me.

It means a great deal, Ted. I began watching your program with my family during season three. We’d gather around the TV set every Thursday night and I’d make popcorn. My wife Susan and I sat on either ends of the sofa with our son Gabe between us. We’d turn down the lights and really get into the episode and had this rule where we could only talk during ads. Susan’s favorite was Phoebe because she liked her songs. I’m a Joey man. My son likes Chandler and his endless quips—we all laughed at Chandler together. We caught up on reruns and kept our Thursday night tradition alive until Susan left me during season six. I was devastated, but Gabe and I continued with Thursday night Friends until season seven, when I lost custody of Gabe. I was devastated again. And if you factor in the previous Susan-related devastation, I was double-devastated, which I never thought was a thing, but let me tell you that it really is.

The point, Ted, is that I kept watching every Thursday night by myself, and I’ll do the same with season ten and hopefully the seasons to follow. I have seasons one through five on DVD and I watch them regularly. I watch reruns when they come on, too. Sometimes I’ll turn on the TV halfway through a gem from season four, watch it, and then pull out the DVD and watch the beginning of that same episode. But it’s so good I keep going and watch the second half all over again, and I’ll watch the next episode too. And when I watch Friends, I’m not just watching because it’s my favorite show and sometimes I feel like the friends on Friends are my best friends. I’m also watching because it reminds me of the golden days when my family was a family and we always had Thursday nights to look forward to together. Sometimes I’ll even turn to offer Gabe popcorn, realize he’s not there, and then I’ll cry. I’ll cry and wipe my eyes with my hands which have butter from the popcorn all over them and then I get butter in my eyes and cry even more because of the physical pain on top of the mental pain. When I finally stop, I’ll look up and there’s Chandler proposing to Monica and the tears will come again, then the butter, and more weeping. So as you can see, Friends is all tangled up with my deepest emotions and if you kill Friends, in a way you’re killing me. You’re piling on one more devastation to the two devastations I already have, so I’ll have three. My stress levels are already so high and if they climb higher because of the end of Friends I don’t know. I feel like I have to do something to stop this, so I’m writing you this letter but I don’t know if that’s enough. I don’t know what I’ll do but I hope you’re listening.

Basically, Friends is the only good thing in my life. Except for my wife and son, but they aren’t really in my life anymore so perhaps they don’t count. Please, Ted.

Sincerely,

Ernesto DeRosa



Dear Fan,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful letter. We at NBC recognize that the quality programming we work hard to bring you would not exist without your support. As a token of our appreciation, we have included a complimentary packet of postcards highlighting NBC’s exciting new fall lineup.

Yours,

Stephanie Lyons, Audience Outreach
NBC Studios, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY



Ted Cohen (Widower), September 2003

I’ll just do it, Ted Cohen thought. I’ll reach over, pry his lips open with my fingers, and sneak a peek.

He stood up, walked to the doorway, and looked down the hallway. Empty. He went over to DeRosa. He hadn’t changed—still a sad lump on a hospital bed. A sad, mysterious lump the nurses had to shift every three hours to prevent bedsores. Ted wiped his hands on his pants and then touched DeRosa’s face. It was cold, but the cardiac monitor kept beeping so he had to be alive. Ted pulled up DeRosa’s top lip and there it was, along the upper row of teeth. A gap, just as he’d expected.

A few weeks earlier, Ted found a tooth while vacuuming his living room. He almost sucked it into the Hoover, but swerved in time.

“Well, look at you,” Ted said, stooping.

He palmed the tooth and gave it a squint. It came from a human mouth, he could tell. Off-white enamel, a spot of blood on the roots. He held it under his nose—no real smell. A regular American tooth.

Ted stuck a finger in his mouth and prodded. Wasn’t his. He still had all of his teeth, which was a source of pride at his age. He considered that the tooth might have belonged to Annie. She had been gone a year now, though, and he always kept up with the cleaning. He would’ve found it earlier.

Had there been any visitors? Ted wondered. He couldn’t remember, so probably not. Annie was always the social one. A few days earlier he’d bought a box of cookies from a Girl Guide; maybe she had ripped out a loose incisor and hucked it across the room while he was retrieving his wallet. Hard to come up with a motive to go along with that theory, though.

Most likely he had stepped on it outside. In the parking lot at the bank, perhaps. It got stuck in the treads of his shoe, and he tracked it inside. There, solved. He put the tooth in a cup and put the cup on top of the fridge. He finished vacuuming the living room.

The next day, Ted went to make toast and noticed that a chunk of the bread loaf was missing. There should have been three-quarters, not half. Guess I ate it, he thought. He made his toast.

He watched golf on TV, took a nap, drove to the 7-11, and bought a case of Dr. Pepper. He ate a ham sandwich for dinner. He watched more golf, drank two Dr. Peppers, and went to bed—a regular Ted Cohen evening.

In the middle of the night, however, Ted awoke to a painfully full bladder. He flicked on the bedside lamp and sat up, but before he could put on his slippers he heard a noise coming from down the hall. It sounded like a drawer shutting—or maybe a cereal box falling from the kitchen counter. Ted sat still, listening, and gripping his blanket. The house was silent.

Oh, Christ, he thought. The tooth, the missing bread. Someone’s been breaking in, some junky, and they’ve been eating my bread and using my stove to somehow get high. And they’re in my house right now. Some lunatic hophead is in my house, whacked out of their mind, or minds—could be an entire gang. A whole platoon of fearless, gap-toothed junkies crouching in my kitchen and if I don’t go to the bathroom this minute, there’s going to be laundry to do.

Ted stepped out of bed and into his slippers. He moved towards the hallway carefully, listening for a break in the silence. Had to be the garbage shifting, he thought. Sometimes a plastic muffin container or Styrofoam tray that’s been crushed will suddenly pop back into place. Or it could have been a mouse or even a dream.

Inside the bathroom, he locked the door and sat down on the toilet. His urine hit the water like a laser beam. Over the gurgle in the bowl, Ted thought he heard another noise—another drawer shutting, or a knock—but he couldn’t stop the force of his stream. Oh, Jesus Christ, he thought. If only poor, dear Annie was here. She always kept his paranoia in check, like when he suspected the neighbors were skinheads, or when he thought a rash on his chest meant lung cancer. Mr. Vogel is bald, Annie had said, not an anti-Semite. It’s just a rash, an infected hair follicle, not a tumor. She was the rational one, and now she was gone and his imagination was free to run amok. There was nobody to hear his latest delusions, and identify them as such.

Ted flushed and listened: the house was quiet again. He pulled up his pants, unlocked the door, and moved slowly down the hall. He hit the kitchen light switch and scanned the room—everything was as it should be. No junkies, no gang. He checked the front door, which was locked. He walked around the living room, inspecting under the couch and behind the TV. No dirty needles, no more teeth. All clear. He decided to return to his bed, but as he made his way past the spot where he had found the tooth, something soaked through the bottom of his slippers. There was a small dark patch on the carpet beneath his feet. Ted kicked off his right slipper and gave it a sniff—Dr. Pepper. He knew that he hadn’t spilt any soda himself because he had opened, emptied, and left his cans over by the couch. So someone was there. Someone was in his house, drinking his pop and spilling it and hiding in the shadows.

He searched for a weapon. A kitchen knife would be threatening, Ted thought, but you’d have to get in close to use it. The curtain rod was too flimsy. If only he hadn’t sold his golf clubs. He’d find something, though, then coax the intruder from their hiding place and give them hell. He had to. If he called the police, they’d take too long. If he ran away, the intruder might escape. This was Ted’s show. He had a plan. He pulled one of Annie’s watercolors off the wall—the beach scene in the heavy oak frame. A real shame, but his best bet. He leaned it against the wall by the front door.

Ted walked into the kitchen, picked up the phone, punched in several zeros, and covered the earpiece with his hand.

“Hey, Jim?” he said, loudly. “Sorry I’m so late, I accidentally fell asleep. Yeah. I’ll be there as soon as I can. I’m leaving right now. I owe you one. Yeah, I’ll come in for my next shift early so you can take off or something. Anyway, I’m leaving right now so just hold on. Okay, bye.”

He walked back to the front entrance, picked up the painting, and opened the door. He took a few steps in place, but didn’t go outside. He closed the door. He waited.

Ted remained still and breathed slowly through his nose. He listened. He watched the kitchen, which stood before him. A minute passed. Another minute passed, and then the cupboard beneath the sink opened up. One leg popped out, and then the other. A soda can rolled onto the floor. Ted lifted Annie’s beach scene above his head.


Correspondence between Ernesto DeRosa (Dispatcher, Lake Jackson Taxi) and Ted Cohen (Executive Producer, F.R.I.E.N.D.S.), July—August 2003

Dear Ted Cohen,

OK, so Stephanie? If you are reading this, please don’t send me any more postcards and just pass this back to Ted Cohen. This letter has been addressed to and should be read and replied to by Ted Cohen, and only Ted Cohen. Thanks.

Alright, so Ted. I feel like I was still a little vague with my last letter regarding who I am and why Friends is so important to me. Like maybe you are wondering why my wife left me, or why I lost custody of Gabe. That you’re thinking, “Who cares what that Ernesto thinks, he can’t even keep his family together.” Or, “That Ernesto thinks he has this special pain because his family has fallen apart? What about all the other hundreds of people in the same situation? Who does he think he is, that Ernesto?” But listen: I am your audience. I am the average American. I have problems, and I do the best I can. And if I’m but one voice amongst thousands then that just shows you the impact of Friends. Hear my story, and you hear the story of our great country of Friends fans.

So what happened with my wife is that she left me for another man. A guy she worked with named Levon. But don’t sympathize with me too much, because in retrospect it was a little bit my fault. See, years ago, when season five of Friends was airing, Susan and I were out for dinner at an Italian restaurant here in Lake Jackson called Paul’s, owned by Susan’s friend Paul. It was our anniversary, and we had risotto and white wine. I had more white wine than I did risotto, and it was December and icy, and after dinner I slipped in the parking lot. My spine connected with the curb, and I had to wear a back brace all winter. I missed two weeks of work and wages. And during that “vacation” I happened to see an ad for one of those accident lawyers on TV. I called him up and he said I had a case. Susan pleaded with me, said not to sue, said that it was her friend Paul I’d be hurting—our friend Paul. I said that I was the one really hurting, said look at this awful brace. Because I’m the kind of guy who fights for what is right, for what I’m owed, just like I’m fighting for my family, and just like I’m fighting for the continuation of Friends.

But anyway, we argued. I wouldn’t listen. Susan grew cold. We still watched Friends together, and she helped me with my brace, but she looked at me differently after that. Like I was some kind of monster—not because I was crippled, but because I was suing her friend Paul. And I kept on with the lawsuit, and I gave it my all, and I won. Ended up with fifty-thousand dollars after my lawyer’s fees. Paul had to shut down his deathtrap. I tried to rub my new fortune in my wife’s face but she didn’t want anything to do with the money. I’d buy her gifts and she’d throw them in the yard. By that time, I had developed a small dependency on the pain killers I was taking for my back. I needed them though. I was in agony. Sometimes I’d wash the pills down with white wine, which might have caused some unnecessary outbursts of anger. I was going through a lot, you have to understand. Hard times. So Susan thought I was a monster and eventually began her affair with Levon. For months, she sneaked around with him. I had no idea. When she finally told me what had been going on, and that she was moving in with this other man, and that we were through—at this point season six was on the air—I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think it would ever come to us separating. I had Gabe with me though, and I had Friends. I put the money from the lawsuit in a special account for Gabe’s college fund. I was ruined, but there was hope because of Gabe. We watched Friends on Thursday nights, before Susan and Levon would take him for the weekend.

Then, during season six, Gabe fell off of my roof. I still don’t know what he was doing up there. At this point in my life, I was in a lot of pain and had upped my already high dosage of back medicine. I was drinking a lot of wine, too, because it reminded me of romantic nights with Susan. Sometimes I’d swallow enough wine and pills that I’d pass out for an entire afternoon. I’d pass out in my recliner in front of the Friends season two DVD menu screen, a snippet of the theme song playing over and over, which is exactly how the neighbor found me the day Gabe fell off the roof.

I woke up in the hospital and they pumped my stomach. I was fine. The nurses told me that Gabe was on another floor, that he had fallen and hit his head. He was doing well, but apparently there had been a scare. I guess, technically, he had died for about a minute on the way to the hospital. The nurses took me up to Gabe’s floor so I could see him, but I was stopped by Levon outside of Gabe’s room. There was another man with him, a lawyer. He said we needed to talk and he led me to an empty room. As we walked away from Gabe’s room, I looked in and saw my son with white gauze wrapped around his head. He was smiling.

Things moved rather quickly, and soon Gabe moved in with Susan and Levon. I could still see Gabe, but there were all of these terms. I had to book two weeks in advance, I had to take a breathalyser test, and a social worker had to be present. The hardest thing of all, though, was the calls from Gabe. He’d secretly phone me up late at night and talk about his brief death. He said he had been to heaven on the day of the accident, quite literally. That while his heart was stopped, momentarily, in the back of that ambulance, he had floated up out of his body and met with God. He’d go on about how beautiful heaven was and how that there were no bad feelings, only good feelings. He said he could have any toy he wanted, or any dessert, like he could just snap his fingers and whatever he desired would appear, but that he didn’t need to snap his fingers because just being in heaven was enough. You didn’t need toys or cake because sitting still and thinking about the fact that you were in heaven was pure bliss. He said he wanted to die. He said he wanted me to kill him so he could go back to heaven, because Mom said he wouldn’t go to heaven if he killed himself—instead he’d go to hell. So here I was, alone, struggling with back pain and terrible hangovers, no one to comfort me, and listening to my nine-year-old beg me to come over and suffocate him with his Dallas Cowboys pillow.

Poor, young Gabe. I told Susan about these calls and she said she knew, that it was a big problem. She put him in therapy. He’s doing better now, actually. He won’t back down from his theory that he’s been to heaven, but he’s agreed that he needs to live out his existence on Earth before he can “return” to the afterlife. You can see it in his eyes, though—like he’s just waiting. My poor son.

This is what I’m up against. I had this perfect life with a loving partner and a son who laughed at Chandler with me, and now I have nothing. I have Friends, yes, but maybe not for long. So should I give up? Should I throw in the towel, NBC-style, and just forget about Susan and Gabe and the Thursday nights we shared together? Did our little sitcom “run its course” by season five, before the lawsuit and Levon and Gabe’s accident messed everything up? No. I will never give up. I’ll reunite my family, whatever it takes. I’m trying to drink less, and ease up on the back pills. I can do it. And so can you.

Let’s save Friends, Ted. It doesn’t have to be like this. Now you know what I’ve been through, and how Friends has helped me through these trials. I can’t be the only one. Please, Ted. In a dark, scary world we need all the light we can get and Friends shines brilliantly. Let it shine, Ted. Let the light of Friends beam down on all of us.

Sincerely,

Ernesto DeRosa



Dear Fan,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful letter. We at NBC recognize that the quality programming we work hard to bring you would not exist without your support. As a token of our appreciation, we have included a complimentary packet of postcards highlighting NBC’s exciting new fall lineup.

Yours,

Stephanie Lyons, Audience Outreach
NBC Studios, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY



Dear Ted Cohen/Stephanie,

I warned you Stephanie. These letters are for Ted Cohen. Why are you sending me postcards. I want to talk to Ted. Please pass on a message for me. Tell Ted that I need to talk to him. I need him to hear what I have to say. Let’s say, hypothetically, that Ted is ignoring my heartfelt letters. That I make myself vulnerable in writing these letters but still he ignores them. And, hypothetically, let’s say I wanted to talk to him so much that I hired a private detective, whom I met through the lawyer who handled my Paul’s lawsuit. Let’s say I gave this detective some of Gabe’s college fund and that he found Ted’s address in Los Angeles. Let’s say I’m confused why the NBC website would tell people to write its producers in New York if they actually live on the west coast—let’s say I’m sick of playing games. Let’s say I have enough college funds and back pills to get me to LA, to Ted’s house. Let’s say I have the information, money, and time to get me to the real Casa de Cohen, where we can talk about these issues of great importance face-to-face. Let’s say I’m sick of postcards and I’m sick of sitting back and watching the world fall to ruins. Let’s say I need Ted Cohen to listen. Really listen. So tell Ted that I hope he reads my letters and writes me back ASAP. Because that would be a whole lot easier than me having to drive across three states and spend more of Gabe’s college money to see Ted in person. Tell him I’m waiting. And if he’s too busy to write back, you can tell him I’m coming for him. Hypothetically.

Sincerely,

Ernesto DeRosa



Dear Fan,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful letter. We at NBC recognize that the quality programming we work hard to bring you would not exist without your support. As a token of our appreciation, we have included a complimentary packet of postcards highlighting NBC’s exciting new fall lineup.

Yours,

Stephanie Lyons, Audience Outreach
NBC Studios, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY



Ted Cohen (Widower), September 2003

It began to rain and Ted needed a Pall Mall, so he took DeRosa’s jean jacket from the other chair. It fit him perfectly. He went outside.

It had been a month now, and the coma was still going strong. Ted was determined, however, to ride this thing out with the stubborn Texan. I’m not giving up, he thought, and DeRosa’s not giving up either. He’s going to wake up and get what’s coming, the schmuck. I’m getting my answers. That’s just how it’s going to be.

Outside, Ted stood under a palm tree and lit up. He put his lighter into DeRosa’s jacket pocket and noticed there was something else in there. He pulled out a thick stack of postcards.

Scrubs , American Dreams, Miss Match, F.R.I.E.N.D.S., etc. They were TV show ads.

Then he noticed the back of the postcards, which were covered in a tiny, neat handwriting. It looked like a script. The cards were numbered in the bottom right-hand corner. Ted shuffled them into order and began to read.


“The One Where Joey Comes Back From LA,” S10E12, F.R.I.E.N.D.S., by Ernesto DeRosa (excerpt)

INT. CENTRAL PERK COFFEESHOP – DAY

GUNTHER HANDS ROSS A CUP OF COFFEE OVER THE COUNTER, WHICH HE BRINGS TO THE COUCH WHERE PHOEBE AND CHANDLER ARE SITTING. ROSS IS WEARING LARGE PINK SWIM GOGGLES ON HIS FOREHEAD.

CHANDLER
Have a seat, Aquaman.

ROSS
What?

PHOEBE
I don’t think he realizes.

ROSS
Realize what?

CHANDLER
Honestly, don’t worry about it. Stay focused on the task at hand. (BEAT) Looking for sunken treasure.

ROSS
(TOUCHES HIS FOREHEAD AND TAKES OFF THE GOGGLES)
Oh man, I forgot to take them off after the gym again. I wore these on the subway!

JOEY WALKS IN THE DOOR, HIS CLOTHES DIRTY AND HAIR A MESS. HE SMILES AT HIS FRIENDS, REVEALING A MISSING TOOTH.

JOEY
I’m back guys! You have no idea what I’ve just been through.

PHOEBE
You seem to be forgetting a lot of things lately, Ross.

JOEY
(SITS DOWN IN EMPTY CHAIR BY COUCH)
Guys, I’m back!

ROSS
You’re telling me. Last week, I forgot to bring my notes to class and had to deliver a three-hour lecture on an Archie comic I happened to have in my briefcase.

JOEY
Hello? Can anyone hear me? Anyway, listen to this. So things didn’t go quite as planned in Los Angeles...

FADE TO:

INT. AIRPLANE

JOEY LOOKS OUT PLANE WINDOW.

JOEY (V.O.)
As you guys know, I flew down to LA to confront Todd Cowell. Remember, he’s the big producer of Days of Our Lives? I was so mad the whole flight, like how can he cancel this classic show? Especially right after I come back as my old character, Dr. Drake Ramoray.

CUT TO:

EXT. LAX AIRPORT

JOEY’S PLANE LANDS.

JOEY (V.O.)
I had all this stuff ready that I was gonna say, about how I really needed the part and how it’s this beloved soap opera. I just wanted to talk to the guy, man to man, and try and make him see why cancelling Days of Our Lives would be a bad idea.

CUT TO:

EXT. SUNSET STRIP – DAY

JOEY RIDES IN A TAXI, LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW AS HE CRUISES THE STRIP.

JOEY (V.O.)
Maybe I was losing my mind to think I could save the show. My back was still messed up from tripping over Emma’s stroller and I was taking a lot of painkillers. I’m not sure what I was thinking. But anyway, as it turns out, the address my agent Estelle gave me was for the wrong Todd Cowell!

CUT TO:

EXT. TODD’S HOUSE - DAY

THE TAXI PULLS AWAY, LEAVING JOEY IN FRONT OF A SMALL BUNGALOW. A HOMELESS MAN DRAGS A GARBAGE BAG DOWN THE SIDEWALK AND A SIREN RINGS IN THE DISTANCE.

JOEY (V.O.)
It didn’t seem like the kind of place a big Days of Our Lives producer would choose to live in. Just a small house in a nothing neighborhood. No fancy cars in the driveway, no fountains or statues.

CUT TO:

EXT. TODD’S HOUSE – NIGHT

JOEY PEERS THROUGH A WINDOW.

JOEY (V.O.)
I did some surveillance and saw that it wasn’t the right guy. It was some old man. I had driven all that way, though, so I went and booked a motel room.

CUT TO:

INT. MOTEL ROOM – DAY

JOEY LIES IN BED, WATCHING DAYS OF OUR LIVES ON TV.

JOEY (V.O.)
I still had some money left over from Dr. Drake Ramoray’s first pay cheque. I figured I could stay in Los Angeles for a few more nights, and try and get Estelle to figure out the real Todd Cowell’s address. (BEAT) Estelle wasn’t answering her phone, though. I called and I waited, but nothing. And with these long-distance calls and the motel and the flight, plus all the money I gave Estelle earlier to track down Todd? (BEAT) I was broke.

CUT TO:

EXT. MOTEL PARKING LOT – DAY

JOEY WALKS OUT OF THE MOTEL AND THROUGH THE PARKING LOT, TOWARDS THE BUSY STREETS OF LA.

JOEY (V.O.)
I had nothing. No money, no food, no place to stay. I was out on the street. And then I remembered Todd Cowell. Not the producer guy, but the old man.

CUT TO:

EXT. TODD’S HOUSE – NIGHT

JOEY WALKS UP THE DRIVEWAY TO THE WINDOW HE HAD PEERED THROUGH EARLIER, POPS OUT THE SCREEN, AND CLIMBS INTO TODD’S HOUSE.

JOEY (V.O.)
I figured an old man would go to bed early, and would probably have hearing problems, so what would be the big deal if I went and stayed at his place?

CUT TO:

INT. TODD’S KITCHEN – NIGHT

JOEY DRINKS MILK STRAIGHT FROM THE CARTON, THEN PUTS THE CARTON IN THE FRIDGE. HE STRETCHES, YAWNS, CLIMBS INTO A CUPBOARD BENEATH THE SINK, AND SHUTS THE DOOR.

JOEY (V.O.)
Just somewhere safe where I could crash until I figured out what to do—until I heard back from Estelle. I had to sleep in a cupboard, in case the old man came out in the middle of the night and caught me. Obviously, this wasn’t good for my sore back. On top of that, I ran out of my painkillers.

JOEY CRAWLS OUT OF THE CUPBOARD AND WINCES, HOLDING HIS BACK.

JOEY (V.O.) (CONT’D)
I was sleeping in a cramped little kitchen cupboard every night, and going through withdrawal from my back medicine at the same time. It was rough. One night I even took a bite out of a battery I found on Todd’s counter.

JOEY PICKS A BATTERY OFF OF THE COUNTER, TAKES A BITE, AND WINCES.

JOEY (V.O.)
I thought it was a baby carrot! I lost a tooth.

CUT TO:

EXT. SUNSET STRIP – DAY

JOEY WALKS THE STRIP, HOLDING A WAD OF BLOODY KLEENEX TO HIS MOUTH AND LIMPING SLIGHTLY.

JOEY (V.O.)
So during the day I’d wander the streets, aimlessly. I was broken. I began to write an original Days of Our Lives script so I could show Todd Cowell that there was still life to the show. Of course, this was just further delusion. The show would be cancelled. I had failed. (BEAT) And I realized something then, walking those streets. It didn’t matter if the show came to an end. That’s not what’s important.

FADE TO:

INT. CENTRAL PERK COFFEESHOP – DAY

JOEY
You guys are important. You three, plus Rachel and Monica. My best friends. You’re all that matters to me, not some acting role. Now you want to know how I got back home?

PHOEBE
Alright, I should get going. I’ve got a date with that magician tonight!

CHANDLER
Make sure he doesn’t try to saw you in half.

ROSS
I should get going, too.

CHANDLER
Meeting Jughead for burgers, Ross?

ROSS
Very funny.

JOEY
Guys?

PHOEBE, CHANDLER, AND ROSS EXIT.

JOEY
What the hell is going on? Where are you going? Can anyone hear me? Guys?

FADE TO BLACK


Ted Cohen (Widower), October 2003

Five weeks after Ted Cohen put him in a coma, DeRosa woke up. A nurse called, and Ted immediately drove to Cedars-Sinai.

Of course, he was relieved. This was what he had been waiting for. But another part of him, the part that had grown fond of his afternoon’s talking to the lifeless Texan in room B300, was disappointed it was over. As well, after reading the script he’d found in DeRosa’s jacket, he lost his urge to yell, to lecture. There was something so vulnerable about the Joey character—an obvious stand-in for DeRosa himself—which replaced Ted’s anger with feelings of sympathy. He worried for the schmuck.

He had his questions, though. Even more questions, actually, after having read the script. He wanted to know if DeRosa was really an actor who’d mistaken Ted for some sort of TV producer. And what he did back in Texas, if he was in fact from Texas. Where his family was, what he’d do next, and if he wanted his tooth back. All of the blind spots that had been giving him a headache since the incident would soon be illuminated.

When Ted arrived, Dr. Ramirez told him that DeRosa was doing well, given the circumstances. There was some minor brain damage, but overall it looked like he would be fine. He’d been awake for a few minutes that morning, and each day those few minutes would gradually stretch into hours, until eventually he’d be back to normal. He said they needed to watch him closely and run some tests, but that Ted could have a moment with the patient.

He went into the room and sat down with DeRosa. He was asleep, but Ted spoke to him anyway.

He described his car.

Every day that week, Ted drove to Cedars-Sinai. He’d tell the man in the bed what he had for breakfast that day, whether it was cereal or toast with jam, what he’d dreamt the night before, and what the weather was doing. Sometimes DeRosa would open his eyes, but he wouldn’t speak. The same thing had happened with his wife, Annie, before she died; one day she just stopped responding to Ted’s questions, but he knew she was listening because her eyes were open. DeRosa wasn’t dying, however. It was Annie’s situation in reverse—he was coming back.

And the following week, on a Thursday morning, he spoke. Ted was sitting in his chair, telling DeRosa how the hospital had finally reached his family—his ex-wife and son had been away in Europe—and that they were on their way to Los Angeles.

“Your son’s coming here, DeRosa,” Ted said. “You’ll probably see him tomorrow.”

DeRosa coughed.

“DeRosa?”

“You’re Ted Cohen,” DeRosa said.

“Yes. I’m Ted Cohen and you’re DeRosa.”

“What day?”

“It’s October. October the eighth.”

“No. Day of the week.”

“Oh. It’s Thursday.”

“Thursday.”

“Thursday.”

DeRosa went quiet again, his cardiac monitor filling the lull.

“Is there TV?” DeRosa finally said.

“In here? In your room? Yes,” Ted said.

“Is there cable?”

“I think so. I’d have to check, but last time—”

“Can you come back?”

“What?”

“Can you come back tonight? For eight?”

Ted checked with the nurse when he left. She said it would be okay, so he returned to Cedars-Sinai that night. As instructed, he rolled the TV up beside the bed and turned it to NBC for eight PM. The show had all the same characters as the postcard script, like Joey. It was pretty good, Ted thought. This DeRosa guy wasn’t so bad. Ted liked hanging around his bed; it was probably the first time he’d actually enjoyed someone else’s company since Annie. DeRosa wasn’t speaking, but he was awake. His eyes were wide for the entire show.

When the credits rolled at the end of the episode, Ted looked over at the bed and saw that DeRosa was crying.

“Hey, easy there,” Ted said. “It’s okay, DeRosa. Where’s the clicker. Something else will come on. We’ll watch something else now.”

He found the clicker on the floor and turned it to a cooking show. A fat man dicing onions. DeRosa eventually stopped crying and went back to sleep. Ted felt himself drifting off, too. He put his feet up on the bed and slouched back. Why not, he thought. A nurse would wake him up.

“Goodnight, DeRosa,” he said. “Thanks for having me over.”

DeRosa’s monitor beeped.