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Rated: E · Short Story · Dark · #2285708
A short story about a man who fell short in most respects
In film, there are great directors like Hitchcock, Spielberg, Friedkin, Coppola. There are too many to list, but back in the ‘90’s there was a director that achieved some acclaim with films like Rolling Time and This Garden. His name was John Moore.
What ever happened to this once promising career in film that could have revolutionized the business and art of movie making? He was making big movies that no one cares about now with what happened, and that is what I am going to tell.
John Moore started his career making movies working at a Hardees in Great Falls, Montana, working as a biscuit maker in the early morning hours. He had been fired from his previous job as a film loader at one of the local television stations, because he had made inappropriate advances towards the station manager’s assistant, who at the time, had been only seventeen years old. That had started a weird habit for John; a weird fascination with girls that were seventeen years old. It was always seventeen. It had to be seventeen.
While working at Hardees, John met Jenny, a pregnant girl, that was seventeen. She had been molested by her brother and had lied about who the father had been. The man she had claimed had been the “father” was an Air Force Airman from Malmstrom Air Force Base right outside of Great Falls, and Jenny had insisted for years that he was the “father” of her baby, but never proved it.
Jenny hooked up with John. She was the right age. She was seventeen, but she had a baby, named Timmy.
John and Jenny got married on the steps of the Cascade County Courthouse in Great Falls. It was a small ceremony attended by John’s family from Washington state and Jenny’s family.
After they got married, things changed between John and Jenny as he started working long hours writing scripts, working, and trying to maintain a family. I was there the first time I heard John yell at Jenny. I couldn’t believe it. I had never heard him talk to anyone that way. He was always so friendly and soft-spoken. I had thought he was so smart and knew so much. But he yelled at Jenny for not having his dinner ready for him.
If he yelled at her for something so petty in front of me, what could he have been like when I was not around? How could he have been so cruel? This should have changed my objective view of him, but it did not. That’s how abusers work. They are soft-spoken, congenial, they know all the right words to use, and exactly when to use them. I didn’t say anything about this. I thought it was an isolated incident of dinner not being ready.
He went on writing his scripts and making his movies and being the nice guy.
I was still in high school at the time, but John, Jenny, and little Timmy moved to Bellingham, Washington to work on his next film. It would be a few years before I would see John again. He was working for 20 Century Fox doing his next film. I was coming out to Washington to live and start college at Whatcom Community College. I wanted to study archaeology, which, of course, he disapproved of intensely. I was young. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just wanted to get my life started. I was sick of living in Montana.
When I arrived in Bellingham, I met John’s oldest child Murray. He was a nerdy kid that liked to watch cartoons, but I quickly noticed that both Murray and Timmy were targets of frequent yelling at by their father for any number of reasons. He would come unglued for any reason. They were kids. They make messes. They leave their toys all over the place, and he would scream and yell.
However, I made a quick observation about John. When he was on set or out in public, he was a very different person. It was like he was two different people. In public he was soft-spoken, kind, wise, and friendly. He was the kind of person I wanted to be around all the time because he seemed to know everything about movies and music. He always had a smile on his face. He was always eager to buy you a soda and insist upon it if you tried to buy your own.
One time, before a trip down to Seattle in his station wagon with the entire family, I was in the back seat, I had noticed the safety belt was knotted. In passing, I had commented “I wonder who had done that.”
The retort from John was cruel and quick. “I did. Do you have a problem with that?”
John had taken my living with him as permission to yell at me and verbally abuse me as well. He did it often too. To make money to pay rent, I had taken a job as a temporary and part-time janitor. I drank a lot of soda which John nagged me about, but I was just a college kid. It’s not like I was doing hard drugs. I was just working and going to school.
So, I spent as much time as I could exploring my adopted home city of Bellingham as I could. I wanted to avoid John’s yelling at me, and I loved Bellingham. The people were so friendly, warm, and caring. Downtown is so beautiful. Montana doesn’t have bays like Bellingham Bay. There’s really nothing like it. So, I fell in love with it.
When I talked to Jenny in private, I learned the yelling was indicative of a larger problem that I didn’t know how to deal with at all. She told me that at one point John had choked her with both hands on her neck. I didn’t know how to process that. I didn’t know if I should call the police. I didn’t know if I should, somehow try and get Jenny out of there, but I had no clue how.
I called a friend of mine in Montana, and explained the situation to her, and she told me that I needed to leave as soon as possible. She said that I was living in a very dangerous place. A week later, I packed up my stuff, and in the middle of the night, I had left down to Seattle with friends from Montana that had taken jobs down there.
It was the end of the academic term at Whatcom Community College, and it was nice down in Seattle, but I couldn’t stay. I went back to Montana and started school all over again at the University of Great Falls. While I was living there on campus, Jenny and our mother had come to visit me in Great Falls. I had missed their visit. I was always happy that I had. I never had wanted to confront the issue of just leaving without saying anything, because Jenny couldn’t or wouldn’t deal with how abusive John was. That’s how far he controlled her.
Several years later, because of mismanagement of my own life, I moved back to Bellingham. It is the perfect city. It’s so beautiful and caring to me. I met John again. Being naïve, I thought he might have changed. I had seen a few of his films, and they were good, but he had maintained a home in Bellingham. On the surface, once again, he was soft-spoken, friendly, and warm. Behind closed doors, he was an asshole.
He yelled about everything. I avoided being around him as much as I could, since I didn’t live with him this time in Bellingham. He was rude to his family when I was there, and when I went to restaurants, he would be rude to wait staff to the point of it being utterly embarrassing. He would send food back after one bite.
As time went by, he gradually began to yell at others outside the family. He would yell at people in stores. One time, one of my prescriptions at the pharmacy was quite expensive, and he threatened the pharmacy technician who, in all fairness, was just doing his job. I was never so humiliated in public.
John abused everyone, because he felt entitled to do so. And I wanted to stay as far from him as possible. Still, I thought a lot about how Jenny’s life, and the lives of her kids were in constant threat from this maniac. I was at a loss to do anything about it.
He continued making his movies, and flying all over the world, and I was in Bellingham trying to get my life together and watching as Jenny loved living off his income. She would take the abuse, just to maintain the lifestyle. I suppose that she felt like she didn’t deserve any better.
In the back of John’s mind were those seventeen-year-old girls. Singers. Actresses. Dancers. He would admire them all, if they were seventeen. I remember when Miley Cyrus became a big deal. Oh, boy was he ever in love with her, especially when she was seventeen. It made me wonder about his own daughter Marley. She had gone to school in Bellingham and had been a cheerleader. How would John have viewed all those seventeen-year-old girls coming to his house and swimming in his pool in the little suits. That’s how he was.
The other thing about John was that he couldn’t tolerate people thinking differently than he did or holding differing opinions about the world. If they did, he would lose his temper and start his incessant yelling at them. He was utterly enraged that I had dared vote for Barack Obama in the 2008 election. I listened to him for nearly an hour before I hung up on him on the phone complaining about how that man didn’t even have an “American name.” Later, he had temerity to come to my apartment, eat my food, and yell at me over my choice of candidate for President.
I heard he was like that on set too. Anytime he wanted something from his actors, it had to be his way or no way at all. He would scream and yell. There were no opinions to be had, but John Moore’s. All others were dismissed as wrong.
After his last film, The Birds of Paradise, his health started to decline. His kidney started to fail, and he got a transplant under suspicious circumstances. It is highly illegal to pay for a live donor for their organ, but there are all kinds of indications that that is exactly what John did in obtaining his. Most transplant patients wait for a very long time for their organs while a suitable match is found. He found one very quickly, that just happened to live not too far away in the Tri-Cities in Eastern Washington.
I have no evidence to support my allegation that he did this, but the circumstances are there. If it’s taken care of, a kidney, from a live donor, can last as long as ten years. John wasn’t the type to listen to and follow the doctor’s orders. He was on dialysis a few years later, because his transplant had failed him.
That’s when something odd happened. Tara Marie Gillpin’s body was discovered at Zuanich Park in Bellingham, naked one autumn day. A jogger had discovered her. Her purse was nearby. She was seventeen years old. She had been raped and choked. Through careful forensic analysis on the part of law enforcement, they found that she had been killed by John Moore. There were no other suspects. There was no other evidence pointing in any other direction. In a court, he would have been convicted in a matter of minutes given the evidence that law enforcement had.
When they went to arrest John, he had a heart attack. For someone with so much potential in the film industry, he was nothing more than an abusive murderer that treated his family like garbage. There were many warning signs along the way, which, if I were wiser ahead of time, I could possibly have saved Tara Marie Gillpin’s life. Going down the wrong path is an inevitable consequence of life, and so is guilt.
So, John Moore’s legacy is a few forgotten films, and a fractured, abused family. He could have been a Hollywood legend, if not for his proclivity for seventeen-year-old girls. He could have revolutionized filmmaking and film theory. Instead, he’s nothing but a sad, washed-up killer with no respect for others, women, or the people around him.

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