Section I Minneapolis
Day One (August 10, 2005): Transcript 1
Note: Only Mr. Rimberg’s responses were transcribed.
Yes. Ready. Go ahead, sir.
Okay, Father Barry it is.
I’m sorry, Father Barry. I don’t remember who you are exactly. I remember you being around . . . was it yesterday?
Okay. Good. That was yesterday. I’ve been taking a lot of painkillers.
What do you want to know? I mean . . . I don’t remember the accident. I can’t help you with . . . I don’t remember . . .
I’m sorry, you’re more interested in the rest? Can you be—
You have my . . . Where did you get my backpack?
Letter 1 August 18, 2004
I am drunk. I think I just got rich. My dad never came through for me in life, but looks like he’s trying to make it up.
Not a chance. Not gonna work, Dad! Too late!
My wife took my kids, Jesus. She left me. My goddamn girlfriend left me, too! My job is nowhere, horror, dumbassed, dry eyes always dizzy at a damn computer. I don’t care! I just don’t care! I am drunk. Just peed in the yard! What do you think of that?
Here’s hi-larious. Here’s FUNNY. I’m going to commit suicide. Kill MySelf. I’ve thought about it for a long time and it is a great choice. Why not?
Are you laughing?
I’m not sad. Never felt better, which maybe you’d think would put me back in business (the life business). Wrong, Jesus!
I’m gonna do it. Why wouldn’t I? Name a reason.
Day One: Transcript 2
You have my permission to record.
I wrote to Jesus because I was drunk, I think.
Yes. I’m breathing. I’m glad you have my backpack. I’d be very worried if I thought it was still at the motel.
Okay. My name is Theodore Rimberg. Call me T. I don’t know. That’s what people have always called me. I’m used to it.
Date of birth, August 19, 1969. My permanent address is in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But I haven’t really lived there for . . . I’ve been in Poland, mostly, for the last year. Now I am recuperating in a hospital in Green Bay, Wisconsin, after . . . an accident?
No sir . . . Father. I’m not Catholic. My wife, Mary Sheridan, grew up Catholic. My mother grew up Catholic, too. My dad—well, he lived as a Catholic during World War II. He was just a kid.
Yes, that’s correct. Mary Sheridan is my ex-wife. I’m divorced.
Three children. A twelve-year-old boy and twin ten-year-old girls.
I wrote to . . . everybody. I don’t know. One day, about a year ago, I started writing and I couldn’t stop for months. My dad wrote stuff, too.
Yes. Dad is important. He was Jewish. I don’t know why I wrote to Jesus. . . .
Because Dad inspired this. I got this . . . money. He’s the reason I went to Europe.
Dad left when I was a kid, actually.
I was a tiny . . . I was a nine-year-old having heart attacks. Letter 2 August 19, 2004
Dear David my “brother,”
I just tried calling. What in the hell is going on? You’re never home or you don’t pick up the phone. Aren’t you home at two a.m.? I need to talk to you. I have some important news.
Herbie, the Love Bug is a seriously fucked-up movie.
That’s the truth. I hadn’t seen Herbie since we were kids, David. Didn’t we love it? I remember playing Herbie, running through ditches at Grandma’s, honking, “spinning” our wheels in the gravel, pretending to do VW Bug wheelies, all in fast motion.
I’m very serious, David. Listen: It’s a fucked-up movie.
Three days ago, I received Herbie, the Love Bug in the mail from Netflix. Had to be an accident. Never would have rented it. Charlie and the girls (my kids—you remember them?) like that new-style Disney crap (thanks to their mother) (no offense—I know you hold Mary in high regard), and I tried to show them The Shaggy D.A. last year and they were bored, pissing around, poking each other within ten minutes, paying no attention at all to The Shaggy D.A. You know why? The Shaggy D.A. contains no oversaturated colors or big-breasted mermaids to boil their desensitized brain chemicals. So Herbie, the Love Bug? I wouldn’t have rented it.
But there it was, Herbie, the Love Bug, when I picked up the mail on Monday. And I was excited. It’s my thirty-fifth birthday today. (You might remember?) Getting Herbie was like getting a birthday present a couple of days early. “This is just what I need,” I said, “a little fun.” But I was too beat after work to watch it, so I slept (poorly) and the next morning, Tuesday morning, I called in sick to work, cooked a big breakfast, brewed some coffee, and sat down to watch, totally psyched to walk down memory lane and ready to get cheered up.
Not a chance. Fucked up!
The truth: Herbie, the Love Bug, if you look past all the slapstick, hyperspeed racing scene, is a story about the need for sentient beings to be acknowledged, understood by their loved ones. There’s this surreal montage, after Jim Douglas (Herbie’s owner) buys a different, ostensibly faster, race car to replace Herbie, in which Herbie drives alone, dejected, through the wet and hazy streets of nighttime San Francisco (very noir) and haphazardly, as if drunk, weaves into a Chinese parade in Chinatown—amidst weird marching band music and muted firecracker explosions and dancing paper dragons—and finally moves ghostlike through wisps of yellow curling fog onto the Golden Gate Bridge, where he attempts to commit suicide by jumping over the railing (this is a VW Bug, remember). Luckily for the viewer, assuming the viewer is made of more hopeful stuff than me, Jim Douglas shows up in the nick of time to save Herbie (who actually ends up saving Jim as Jim’s rescue attempt ends with him dangling from Herbie’s bumper over San Francisco Bay).
But I am not that kind of viewer. I found myself cheering for Herbie’s suicide attempt, David. The anthropomorphization of the VW Bug sank in deep for me, me being made of hopeless stuff, and I felt wholly in tune with the Bug’s feelings of abandonment, his feelings of being misunderstood. Herbie didn’t have a context in which to understand himself anymore—he was so alone—and since I live in the real world and not in a fictional one in which society accepts and eventually embraces the uncharacterizable (e.g., a skittish part-Jew who grew up underachieving in a small midwestern town who falls in love with not his wife), the impossible to label (e.g., a VW Bug with a heart, eyes, enormous desires), I felt the most appropriate and true-to-life ending of the story would be Herbie’s successful annulment of his bitter, misbegotten life. And I’d started to think so only a third of the way through the actual movie.
And it was at that moment I began to seriously consider the annulment of my own (though I’ve had more serious fodder for suicidal thoughts in the last two days), a little more than a third of the way through my own actual life.
There you have it.
I’d like to discuss, so I’m sorry I’ll be dead when you get this. You should rent Herbie anyway and see what you think.
You’re not so bad, David. But you should answer your phone.
P.S. Don’t let Jared and Will watch Herbie. It’s too much. You want to keep your boys off drugs, don’t you? And if you’re depressed yourself, don’t do it.
Excerpted from The Miracle Letters of T. Rimberg by Geoff Herbach. Copyright © 2008 by Geoff Herbach. Excerpted by permission of Broadway Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.