True Value

Lamar pulled the creamy bean dip his way across the Formica imitating black shale table top, waited for Upjohn’s woman radar to make the entire room and come to rest across from him.

“Damn, Lamar, which of our asses you think they picked for those nachos?”

“I’m thinking yours. You have the broad beam of success, not me.”

“Shit, you just don’t eat right, don’t go out with the right women.” Upjohn took the restaurant fatigued spoon and fork out of a rolled up paper napkin and lifted a heap of nachos onto his plate. He picked up and sniffed all four of the small salsa bowls, sneezed after the roasted verde sauce. He set it down, tapped it with his fork. “Best give that shit some respect, Lamar. Set your ass on fire just knowin’ about it. You figure we could get Marshon through that door?”

“Marshon?” Lamar picked up a chip that was half a flash fried tortilla covered in all things chicken nachos, cracked it in half when he leveraged it to his plate, covered it with creamy, spicy bean dip

“Marshon Lewellyn. Big ol’ gal.” Old Upjohn held his hands out a foot from his chest. “You’ll recall she worked at the Buick parts counter? Had to wear a man’s 3XL golf shirt to be part of the Buick parts team.”

“Wouldn’t know her. Never owned a Buick. You checked out that shirt for size, did you?”

“I did. Never know if a woman might need a gift of casual clothing to set her at ease. What I’m sayin’ is there was never even a Buick made for her backside. Thing needed two lanes and a couple of double wide escort trucks, were she to get out on the road. I’m thinkin’ we get her through the front door and these people are good to their word, we be eatin’ nachos till the Good Lord calls one of us home.”

“You think she’d come out from behind that Buick parts counter with you, knowing you were going to use her that way?”

“No tellin’ what a woman might do for an all-you-can-eat ‘till you die Mexican hors d’oeuvre dinner, out with a handsome man. You plan on stakin’ a claim on that bean dip, Lamar? Goddam. You gonna start spittin’ shit when you laugh you best ask that girl in the cut-offs running up her crack for another napkin.”

“You thinking about the size of her nacho plate?”

“Man could starve to death eatin’ that girl’s nachos, Lamar, and turn his mind to pudding trying to talk to her. Man needs to know a woman’s true value. She’s good for the napkin and a cup of coffee and a lonely man’s prayer she bends over facin’ the other way.”

“That’s awful close to sexist, Upjohn.”

“I start lyin’, stop me.”

“So there’s a woman in your world for just about anything? Barely legal eye candy waitresses in illegal cutoffs for napkins and coffee, and a woman with a backside bigger than a Buick for when you need more nachos than you can eat?”

“You find a problem with my logic?”

“No. I’m sure the ladies would.”

“That’s part of bein’ female, findin’ fault with how we think. Now there’s men out there will tell you a man should learn to figure women. I’m tellin’ you, a man should learn to appreciate the figure of a woman, and leave it be. Sexism comes down to natural selection.”

“Natural selection? How the hell do you ‘figure’ that?”

“The manager naturally selects skinny young girls who don’t know no better to stand around in push-up bras and short cut-offs so tight they crush their cell phones against butt cheeks they don’t have, just to keep us coming back. And naturally I select Marshon to keep me in nachos that let me sit here longer so I can watch, and she naturally selects to join me because her fat ass ain’t doin’ nothin’ but sittin’ around watchin’ Dr.Phil on the DVR. Ain’t never gonna fix sexism till both sides stop participatin’. And this place comes up with another gimmick that don’t involve asses in any way, shape or form. You ask that girl for some more bean dip when she brings the napkin. When she does, tell her you dropped somethin’ and your back’s out.”

“No way, Upjohn. You keep it up you’re gonna have every woman in the world down on us.”

Upjohn looked up from doctoring his nachos, raised a bushy gray eyebrow and flashed the store-bought smile. “Why God invented fat bottom girls and the blues, Lamar. So you have somethin’ to sing about, something to do, you think nobody loves you.” He shook with silent laughter. “And to keep you from starvin’ when you come in a place like this.”

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Bobby B – Like Brisket Tacos

Bobby’s mornings in California all seemed to run together. The faux suede couch in his furnished apartment sagged no matter where he sat, and he didn’t want to know about the stains. He’d been making his own coffee since he was twelve, and to save his life he couldn’t figure out the load for the motel size coffee pot that had made asphalt or dirty water every morning he’d been in L.A.

Through the open window he could hear the guys his age with no families or plans laughing when they raised the garage door on the transmission shop behind him. They’d take a technical day off like Thanksgiving to burn a few, open a few and wrench on their personal rides. Bobby knew he’d waste more time today himself at the gas station 7-11 combo on the corner, deciding between a green chili chicken burrito or the two-pack of wasabi egg rolls. Since he didn’t have anywhere to be he might even entertain one of the gut-bomb super size ‘supreme’ burritos.

He watched his Happy Thanksgiving text to Carrie Louise animate itself off the screen of his phone, absently tapped the phone on his thigh and wished he knew why she wouldn’t answer him. That was something he’d work on when the Mad Mods season wrapped. Right now he was living a rental life in a rental world with his suit of armor and radar on 24/7, and it was wearing him down.

Bobby grabbed a light jacket off the hook on his front door, took a casual stroll down the steps of his second floor apartment in the Nineteen-Forties shotgun style eight-plex, daydreamed the way to his car. He almost tripped over the guy in sunglasses and a silk Hawaiian shirt leaning against the car parked behind Bobby’s.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Mr. B. Heard you were looking for an honest lawyer.”

Bobby checked the guy. Prematurely bald, or older than he looked, and the car he was leaning on was a cream-colored classic 1956 Porsche 356 convertible.

“Mick did a car like that a couple years ago.”

“This is it, bro. I went back to stock on the wheels. Those TV car guys, they all fuck up a classic with ghetto rims, even when they don’t flare the fenders. Lunacy. Classic design is classic because it was right the first time.” He watched Bobby like he had him under a microscope. “The car would make you think twice about me being honest. Mitch Gellert, your background man? He sent me. I don’t lawyer like most lawyers, I’m more of a financing matchmaker. I put deals together for lost causes without getting the wrong people involved, do the paperwork, watch the investors’ money.” He waited for Bobby to rub his eyes, wake up some more.

“Mick is hopelessly upside down, Bobby. He bankruptcies, takes a walk, cashes out the last deal and runs, cons you into buying his debt. Who knows? Regardless of his exit strategy, he’s done after next year’s season. Maybe this one. Unless our conversation goes the way I hope it does.” Silk Hawaiian shirt lifted the sunglasses, held out his hand. “Creighton DeHavilland. No relation to the movie star.”

Bobby shook the offered hand, leaned on the trunk of his rental. The man wasn’t too slick, or too calm or too pretty or too soft, didn’t smell too good. Wasn’t any of the things Bobby had come to expect from Los Angeles or the boat show posers, business thieves, con artists or any of the damn lawyers he’d met.

“That sucks, about Mick. I had a plan for Mad Mods. A partial plan, anyway.”

“That’s why I’m here. And why you’re done with Elizabeth Vernier rubber stamping your business ventures and cutting you loose to run them out of your pocket. She’s a bitch with a long term agenda. One that doesn’t involve you.”

“How do you know —”

“We’ll get to that. Are you tangled up emotionally, real or imagined, with the lovely not-a-real-parts-girl Bernadette Evrard?”

“No. I mean, I don’t know if we’re friends or if she’s a misdirect or even authentic. I’m trying to play it flat, like Mitch told me. See it all, and wait.”

“She is who she says she is. And she’d like to like you, as a friend. Something about you cutting her some slack, being a sweetheart instead of a dick. Could you work with her?”

“If it was straight, hell yeah.”

“Good. She’s smart and has half a plan herself. If she’d fuck her way into the entertainment business she could start in prime time. She doesn’t want screen time, though, short or long term. She wants management.” He pointed finger pistols at Bobby with both hands. “For that desire to benefit us all, I need to redirect both of you to an entertainment vision beyond the ends of your noses. Let’s go eat breakfast.” He dropped his sunglasses back down, stepped around the side of the Porsche. “Been to Malibu yet?”

“Nope.”

“You can eat sting ring chili and fire starter fart tacos for Thanksgiving breakfast?”

“Sheee-it,” Bobby snort laughed. “No reason for today to be all that different.” He ran his hand across the vanilla colored leather with red piping that covered the seats of the Porsche, whistled softly and opened the door.

“I had high hopes that you were a man with an open mind. Serious about the food, bro.” Creighton checked over his shoulder for traffic. “Top is down because it makes me fart just thinking about it.”

“You fart in these?” Bobby poked the side of his seat for emphasis.

“Good as anywhere. Like brisket tacos, you know? I figure if the cow is past worrying, so am I.”

Bobby B – I’m Not Pouting

“Carrie Louise, you need to listen to me.” Liz Vernier parked the red Caddy SRX on a side street behind a high-end shopping center, turned toward her front seat passenger.  “It’s Thanksgiving. I need you to put on a happy face and stop pouting. You’re on the way to your future, I need you out of your past. Understood?”

“Yes ma’am.” Carrie Louise watched her Aunt Liz walk into the bakery that was so swank it didn’t have a sign, turned to the back seat. “I’m not pouting, Momma. It doesn’t feel right, that’s all.”

“It’s not right. Your Aunt Liz’s book isn’t the cover. Never has been. There’re things bubbling around inside her would make one of those vampire cannibals in an old swamp house movie a trip to Disneyland. The fact that Bobby is nowhere to be seen at Thanksgiving for the first time since either of you could sit up by yourselves is testament to that.”

“If Bobby gave a damn he’d call or text or email. His Face Book isn’t him, it’s all set up and run by some company for SwampVue, and he never sees it. He’s jealous about college and me on my way to being somebody and he can’t get past it. That’s what Aunt Liz says.”

“Bullshit, little girl. You and that boy have each other’s blood running through the both of you. What Liz wants is you. Why is between her and God. And I think if she doesn’t drop either of those $70 pies before she gets back to the car we’re going to see the plan unfold eating Thanksgiving dinner with the circus act that’s Francis Guillon and family. If he can keep his zipper up and un-medicate his wife out of her Stepford daze long enough for either of them to lift a fork.”

“Momma, you shouldn’t say things like that. He’s a state senator and Aunt Liz says he’ll be governor and that there’s room for me at her law firm when I get out and maybe on his staff and —”

“Little girl, you’re just like she was. All big talk and big ideas. The problem with where you think you belong is that you get there over the graves of other people’s dreams. You believe anything she says about you, or Bobby or do-gooder slime-ball politicians or me or anybody else you need to add ‘blind and stupid’ to your resume.”

“Damn, Momma, I’m your daughter. She’s your sister.”

“Don’t I know it. Get out, be ready to open the door for her. She makes all that money and can’t remember to take her remote to open the hatch.” She caught her daughter’s shoulder from the back seat. “Carrie Louise, you’re near full grown and out of my house and plenty old enough to hear me say this. Watch your back. Mark my words, Bobby being gone and wherever this road we’re on today is headed is all about Elizabeth Roche Vernier. One of these days, when you step in something that looks like gold and smells like shit, don’t say your momma didn’t warn you.”

***

Liz Vernier stood in the Guillon guest house kitchen, her arms folded. “I’ll take care of the televison, Frank, forget it. Get to the issue.”

Frank Guillon stepped gingerly around the guest house living room where what had been a 40 inch flat screen TV was just a frame over the fireplace and black glass covered the couch, coffee table and floor.

“Well, it won’t hurt you. They’re cheaper than lobbyists these days.” He crunched his way to the kitchen island, set his beer down, leaned on the island towards his son. “What I want is the story. How did you fuck up with the girl right out of the gate?”

“Dad, I didn’t fuck…” He threw his hands up, started to walk off. “Shit. My fault. I fucked up whatever it was, like always.”

Liz caught his arm, turned him back. “I want the story. Then we’ll decide if you get to do self pity.”

Sean knew he could walk his dad. He checked Liz Vernier and survival instinct kicked in.

“Look, I just said, ‘Let’s take a walk, let the oldies beat it by themselves’. We came out here, got a couple of beers, I turned on football and she went bitch about not watching football with me because there was only one way to watch football and I wasn’t in that universe. I said fuck it, hit the guide looking for Monterrey Mick’s Mad Mods Thanksgiving Marathon and maybe catch the new season kickoff. So I click on it and she’s calling the chicks stupid bimbos and shit and she screams ‘BOBBY’, like she saw somebody she knew. She said, ‘I know him! That’s Bobby!’ And I laughed and said ‘You don’t know shit about anybody on Monterrey Mick’s’ and then the smokin’ babe that delivers parts, right? She’s like doing the walk and this guy makes hot chick eyes and she drops the box on his tool cart with a fuck me wink and KABOOM. Carrie threw her beer at the TV and was screaming about how this Bobby dude was a fucking slut. I told her that was way wrong, dudes can’t be sluts. She ran out the door, and surprise, surprise, surprise. Here you are.”

Liz waited a few beats, looked Sean over, let a small sigh escape.

“Get over yourself, Sean.” She leaned way into his space, lowered and leveled her voice. “Your father is a rich, demanding asshole politician. They go hand in hand, rich and demanding asshole politician. Know that and live your life around it until it’s your turn. Go tell Carrie Louise you’re sorry about whoever Bobby the slut is. Make her a bowl of ice cream and keep your mouth shut. Be invisible, but be there.” Liz watched him slump back to the house, picked up Frank’s beer, decided against it.

“This is why he needs her, Frank. She brings the passion he doesn’t have, but he intuitively knew which completely stupid redirect call to make after she’d pissed him off, and has the Teflon skin of a lifelong victim. Those two traits make him genetically perfect for politics. If she could stick her hand far enough up his ass to move his mouth we’d have ourselves the youngest Southern president in history.”

“If you say so.” Frank finished his beer and clanked it in the kitchen trash. “Are you still going to buy me a television?”

She glanced over her shoulder at the narrow guest house living room covered in glass.

“We have forty grand in the old one. I hope new ones are as cheap as you say they are.”

Looney Lunes #123

On Disagreeing With An “Author”

“Not everyone is a finalist, you see?

And you’re about to not be one either if you don’t quit being such an asshole. Am I being clear enough for you?”

Dan Alatorre of Word Weaver-to me- for questioning what I considered to be his weaknesses as an author/editor. Hey, twenty bucks buys me an opinion, right? “Asshole” is like a bonus.

Bobby B – Gator Bait

I said something about way back story. Got asked about it. Here’s a Double Trouble Bobby B and Carrie Louise freebie, out of timeline original draft of the first chapter. 

Carrie Louise screamed for all she was worth. That, along with the first round from the shotgun, cleared the birds from the surrounding trees. Bobby saw the look in Carrie Louise’s eyes, couldn’t look down at where he hoped his feet still were, and waited for the explosion from the second barrel. CL was shaking so hard she couldn’t pull the hammer back. Bobby took a second, glanced down in time to see the snake that had dropped from the Spanish Moss canopy into their space slither through the new hole in the bottom of his dad’s old flat bottom swamp skiff. He heard CL scream bloody murder again when she couldn’t make the sawed-off shotgun work. He grabbed it away from her just before she launched it into the swamp after the snake.

Bobby had no idea how deep the water was, but he pulled on his dad’s waders, tied a knot in the shoulder straps while the boat slowly settled toward the water line. Carrie cussed non-stop between screams. He stepped out into water waist deep on his average, almost twelve-year old frame. His dad’s waders were up to his chin, so unless a snake slopped over the top they were good. He sloshed a few steps toward Carrie Louise.

“When I turn around, climb on my shoulders, baby style.” He gave her the most serious look he could find, handed the shotgun back. “You see a gator, holler. Let me shoot. Got it?”

“Okay. But you can’t drop me. You can’t.” She shook her head, looked over her shoulder in the direction the snake had taken off. “How far is it?”

“As far as it is.”

He knew his dad would raise hell about the trolling motor, took his bearings so he’d remember where they were. Once dad knew the water wasn’t very deep they’d be back to get the motor, take it home, dry it out and rebuild it in the garage. His dad would drink beer and direct, Bobby would wrench, Momma would put some vodka in her coffee and read the latest and greatest from the library where she worked and pretend to watch them like she cared. While whatever was in the oven turned black.

***

Carrie Louise climbed off his shoulders onto dry ground and started screaming again when Bobby waded out. Another snake, its fangs embedded in the thick rubber heel of the waders, had taken a ride with them. Bobby saw CL point the shotgun at his foot, and screamed with her. She dropped the shotgun and took off down the finger of two lane ruts that cut through the swamp. Bobby picked up the shotgun, put the barrel against the snake’s head and pushed until the snake lost its grip and recoiled away. He had one shell in the sawed-off swamp boat gun, and he might need it for more than a snake dumb enough to hit waders.

***

Sheridan Wylie peered over the side of the Terrebone Parish swamp patrol boat at the two stragglers walking up one of the bayou’s land fingers.

“I do declare. Carrie Louise Roche and Bobby Buisson.” Sheriff Wylie was a little overweight in a uniform and life vest that fit a couple of years ago, giant aviator shades and a smile that took a dip on the right side from a long-ago knife fight scar. If he was smiling. If he wasn’t, he was scary as all hell.

“When I got the call about two kids with a shotgun wandering the Mauvais Bois, I thought maybe I had me some lost poachers or the next Bonnie and Clyde. What do I find out here but Houma’s own double trouble.” He lifted his cap, wiped his forehead. “Howsome-ever, you might crack that shotgun open and hand it to me, young Mister Bobby. Go a looooong ways toward keepin’ my blood pressure under control. Case one of you is Bonnie or Clyde.”

“Yes sir.” Bobby broke the sawed-off open, offered it butt first to the Sheriff. “Sorry.”

“Think nothin’ of it.” The Sheriff unloaded the unused shell, dropped it in his pocket, set the shotgun on the dash. “You can give that gun I don’t know is the wrong side of legal back to your daddy after I’ve carried you two home.”

He helped Carrie, and then Bobby, step off into the boat. Handed them both a life vest and idled the boat around.

“I’m gonna troll slow now, ‘cause I need y’all to tell me one a hell of a stow-ree. Better have a gator and a witch and a toothless coon-ass pervert or two in it, ‘cause bein’ as we’re out here and all, I’m stoppin’ at the marina for a ring-of-fire hot link and some of Louella’s fried shrimp bites. On the Parish dime. And I’ll need to write me up a nice report when I get back to justify rescuing two kids who should know better than to blow a damn hole in the bottom of a boat.”

***

Sheriff Wylie dropped them at a makeshift dock on Bayou Black across the street from Bobby’s house, Bobby went home, Carrie Louise huffed off to her house next door. She came back fifteen minutes later and banged on the screen door to Bobby’s kitchen. She’d been crying, most likely from a Momma Roche ass chewing. He toed the door open and she shoved a plate at him. He eyed the huge slice of peach pie and rapidly losing form in the heat whipped cream.

“Momma says she guesses thanks for saving me from being gator bait. I told her it was snakes, but she said thanks anyway, even though a Houma girl dumb enough to blow a hole in a boat mighta been justifiably left behind. And to say I’m sorry about your dad’s boat and scaring you shitless with the shotgun and almost blowing your foot off.” She heaved a big sigh. “She’ll see that we make it right, when we can.”

Bobby could feel the sadness coming off her, along with some leftover steam from how mad she’d gotten when he and the Sheriff laughed about her blowing a hole in the boat and not killing the snake.

“I’ll tell Daddy I did it, you tell Momma R not to worry.” He shrugged, took the pie plate. “Dad’ll drop a couple M-80s to run the snakes off so I can fish the motor out pretty easy. And it won’t be as bad a dumb-ass sermon as telling him I let a girl beat me to the snake-and-gator gun.” He grinned, held the door open for her. “Come on, CL. Pie this size needs two forks.” He saw her frown start back in the right direction.

“You sure? About the boat and all?”

“Yep.”

Sure sure?”

“Yep.”

“Like certain sure?”

“CL, do I look like I’m standin’ here changin’ my mind?”

“No…” She stepped past him into the kitchen, opened his fridge. “So I guess that means you have a couple of new shots of Cool Whip or maybe some ice cream in here to go with that extra fork and this big ol’ piece of my momma’s pie?”

Bobby B – C’est L’histoires

The big overhead door to the back lot at Monterrey Mick’s was open most of the way. Warm, haze filtered Mid-Afternoon Saturday in L.A. sunshine flooded the area on both sides of the French drain that ran the width of the door, just inside the shop.

Bobby faced the sun on one side of the drain, Bernie on the other, each on one of the two red and white Coleman coolers the jumbo shrimp had been shipped in. They pulled the shrimp out of a pile of ice on an aluminum cart, sliced and deveined them, rinsed them under a propped up garden hose over the French drain before tossing them in a big pot of ice water. The sixteen gallon shrimp boil pot Bobby had rented, full of Bernie’s Trinity and spice, pearl onions and baby Yukon Gold potatoes, simmered in the corner like a giant diffuser full of an aroma called “home”.

“This shrimp’s not too nasty for the Gulf, Beaudreax.” Bernie squinted, held one up and tossed it into the bucket of ice water, reached for another.

“Farm raised tigers. They should be deveined before they leave.”

“Farm raised explains the short on nasty. Deveined would drive the price way up. Think about paying you and me in Hollywood dollars for all the Sunday afternoons we’ve done this.” She held up a hand sealed in a stainless-steel mesh glove. “You order the gloves with the shrimp?”

“Asked Senior to pick these up for us when he bought the knives.” He held up his own gloved hand, wiggled his fingers. “I knew he’d send the sharpest knives he could find. I’d like to keep my thumb.”

She shook her hair out of her face, not looking at him in the midst of a shrimp toss. “He’s looking for a way into your money, Beaudreaux.”

“So are you. You workin’ with him, or free lancin’?”

She kept up her end of the one for me, one for you deveining, let three cycles go by. “I’m waiting to see the where the eye tracks. How’d you know?”

“I didn’t come out here to learn about cars, I came to learn about people. I figured the place that would take a kid like me didn’t see me at all, they saw easy money.” He tossed a shrimp, looked over at her. “I asked a man who does background checks for a company I started to run everybody connected to this place. ‘Cause I wanted to see whatever the game was. He said if I see it once when I could see it coming, I’d understand it, stop worrying and get past feeling like a dumb redneck all the time.”

She waited for two more shrimp cycles, built up a little steam. “This man of yours decided, out of all these dime bags of fuck everybody and everything narcissistic Hollywood gator stank, that I was the one?”

“No. He said you had a degree in entertainment marketing and told these people you were ready to rob a liquor store to get some money together and they pulled you in. There’s you, Mick, and the suspension guy, so far. Suspension guy is a game show host poser with expensive teeth and about as much of a mechanic as I am. The skinny convict does his work.”

She stayed quiet, flipped another shrimp.

“Mick think I’d be lonely out here, need a friend?”

“Mick did his homework. Or thought he did. He found out your two Houma homies went off to college after an old black man drove up in your yard in a clean Vega, got out and faced into the bayou, dead before he hit the water. And it spooked you. Mick put two-and-two together, wrapped in California bigotry for the susceptible southern fried mentality, figured you for a dim bulb Voodoo child. Hoped you a had a hole in your pocket to go along with the one in your head.”

She took a deveining break, brushed some light sweat off her forehead with the back of her wrist and hit the cold, sweaty bottle of Dos XX sitting on the floor next to her.

“He’s in deep shit, Boudreaux. His numbers suck, his house is up for grabs. His wife drycleaned him before she loaded up the Bentley and found gone. He lost most of his talent two years ago with the antiques series, got into the danger zone with the pimp and steroids boys last year.”

“I hadn’t heard that version.”

“His ex’s lawyer locked down all the assets for over a year and he was looking at a three season contract with empty pockets. He’d borrow money, do a show, pay that money back when it wrapped, and borrow against the next one. But he was taking a ‘lifestyle maintenance’ cut. One of the Lakers put ninety grand up front and Mick couldn’t start on his car because that cash was on the way out the door when it dropped. This lawyer showed up, drove the old Porsche out of the corral of keepers behind me and Mick’s money problems evened out.” Her shrimp plopped in the pot. “He’s not making mac and cheese pocket money now, but the show and the shop are still running.”

“And the plan for me?”

“Nothing big. Somehow we get you to give up a couple of million. Whoever gets it is supposed to split it. If I get it having you seduced, maybe you get short on mind for a while, say something stupid that sounds contractual or a phony DNA test says it’s yours and you have to marry this girl, or pay your way out of not marrying her? I get the money. If that were to happen, then fuck all of them. I’m gone with the cash to be somebody besides another cute ass in cutoffs and your soon to be ex-or-never-was bride is back on a casting couch.”

Bobby saw her cloud up getting through losing her way out of being another cute ass in cutoffs. But she kept time with the shrimp toss, something that told him she’d done it since she was old enough to hold a knife.

“The game show host and Mick?”

“The game show host ‘mechanic’ gets to it by getting you dirty. Hookers, dope, some young dumb dude stunts with pictures.” She shook both her hands, palms out. “Big scare. Mick’s a TV star, Oh No! His reputation could get fucked up! All that costs money to fix! You buy your way out. But he’s tied to Mick some way, so he and Mick split it and they’ll shut me out.” She reached for the Dos XX. “If Mick gets it by hiding all the debt and selling you the shop and the show, we all get the finger and he’s off fucking teenagers in Argentina before anyone knows he’s gone.” She looked at him, sadness and borderline desperation palpable. “C’est l’histoires, Boudreaux. Now what?”

“You’re too old, and I’m not stupid enough to think someone like you would have anything to do with me. So who’s supposed to suck my brains and money out through my joystick?”

“Goddammit, I’m twenty-six, I’m not ‘too old’.” Too old and losing her way out of cute in cut offs was almost too much for one day. “The fucking girl doesn’t matter now.” She tossed a shrimp at the pot with some velocity. “That plan is swirling with the others.”

“Nothing swirls unless you call them off. You and me can be bros off camera, game on under the lights, ‘cause I need to see it. Otherwise I’ve wasted a butt-load of time learning car shit I could have gotten from down the road back home. I’m thinking maybe there’s something we can work out by the time this is over, might make everybody some money.”

“Something legitimate? With longevity potential?”

“Yep. But first I need to meet what y’all think is hot enough to make my brain stop and mean enough to break my heart for money.”

“Hell, Boudreaux, this is Hollywood.” She eyed him over the shrimp, gestured over her shoulder with the knife. “Walk out that door, strike a pose like a part time TV star with money in the bank? They’ll start a line.”

Looney Lunes #122

If This Senator Had Gotten His Way?

The guy from last week wouldn’t have looked so stupid.

“I am tired of this sort of thing called science. We have spent millions in that sort of thing for the last few years, and it is time it should be stopped.”

Senator Simon Cameron (R-Pennsylvania) opposing funds for the Smithsonian Institution in 1861. Another one of his great quotes;

“An honest politician is one who, when bought, stays bought.”

He was also a minister to Russia.

Bobby B – Sparks

The director for Monterrey Mick’s Mad Mods television show leaned in toward the array of iPad size video monitors in front of him, motioned to a lighting tech to back a floor diffuser out of the shot.

“Bobby? Bounce your eyebrows like you just saw something amazing. No, more clown, more locker room…There we go. No, don’t look at the camera OR the monitor. Good. Give me two more. Makeup? Grease monkey?”

The make up artist took a thumb covered in black eyeshadow, wiped it across Bobby’s forehead. She screwed up her face, looked at him and her thumb, ran it down the side of his nose, tapped the tip of it.

“Okay, Bobby, clown brows again. Give me some corner of the eye…there we go. Turn the hat around…Good…a little despair. Despair, Bobby. Sad, hopeless, bummed out…There it is. Makeup? Sweat?”

Makeup stepped in, wiped Bobby’s forehead and nose with a wet wipe, re-smudged him in different places, misted him in the face with mixture of water and baby oil before she took off his cap and replaced it with a welder’s flame-print do-rag.

“Okay, more of the same…Good…Good. Are you sure you’ve never done this before? Okay. Everybody! Reset for the drops and fuck ups. Bobby, change shirts, get dirty, get some dust in your eyes. We need you sleep deprived in fifteen minutes.” He turned to his assistant, lowered his voice. “Don’t reset any monitors but mine, we’re going Candid Camera on the fuck ups. Bring cam three up in handheld through the stacks of tires and tell the op I want him stuck to Bernie’s ass like a sweaty thong.”

***

“Wait for it…Wait for it…Wider. Get Bernie in frame, pray she doesn’t do anything with her hands…Good…Wait…Two? Tight on Bernie’s face, Three lock on…Pyro…GO!”

Sparks blew into Bobby’s face, he jumped back, stumbled. The piece of replacement frame he’d been holding clanged on the floor of the shop, the gay biker sheet metal mentor who’d been standing beside him ripped his goggles off and jumped over a tool cart. Bobby landed on his ass right at Bernie’s feet. She went true surprise what-the-hell face that morphed into concern, grabbed him in a spontaneous two arm hug and dragged him back.

“Three…Did you get the bent over pull from the flip side? Yes!” The director grabbed a congratualtory handful of his assistant’s butt cheek, shook it. “Art, Jeannie. Fucking art. You can’t script that shit. I could have used more sparks. Fire pyro, find me somebody who understands what ‘sparks’ means. Everybody! We shoot the tire drop bounce and then lunch.”

***

“Hey! Get out of there.”

“Get over it, Bern.” The wardrobe guy squatting behind her continued to fold the hem of her cutoffs under with two fingers, and run them around the side. She caught his hands when he found hip bone.

I can get this side. Goddammit, what —”

“Director’s orders. We’re on a wild Bernie’s Butt Safari here in about twenty. Walk like a cobra, walk like an Egyptian, walk like a stripper. Change shirts, change hair, do it again.” He hooked a belt loop on either side with his index fingers and pulled her shorts up her crack. “He’ll really like that.”

“Tell that asshole I draw the line at pure objectification. Walk and wiggle is money in the bank.” She pulled the shorts out and down. “A denim relief of my business is out. That’s what he has the two airheads and their sex biscuits in spandex for.”

“The hem?”

“It can stay. I started in swimsuits,” she twisted, put her own index finger on the side of her butt. “Ain’t nothing wrong with dat little ass, but I’m for certain damn sure not showing it to the world. Or you.”

He shook his head, put a drop of superglue on her hem. “Some days your Southern roots betray you, Bern.”

“Some days knowin’ I’m not from here is comforting. Get out of my cut-offs and beat it.” She heard that echo in her head. “Oh, God. Not in front of anybody.”

***

Mick’s “assistant” Syd banged the non-TV office door open and stormed out past Mad Mod’s director on his way in. He followed her with his eyes.

“S’up with Syd?”

“S’up yourself, mofo.” Mick had been halfway through pulling his man Spanx when the door banged, finished pulling it and threw it on a filing cabinet. “What are you doing spending half an afternoon on Bernie’s ass? The two bitches we pay for you to grab clips of their fortune cookies are revolting.”

“Not very bright and occasionally temperamental. Revolting?”

“You know what I —” The manila envelope thumped on the desk in front of him. Mick opened it, fingered the contents. “Has to be fifteen, twenty grand in here.”

“Twenty. Your half. The swamp rat and the parts babe are a thing.”

“Since when? He’s dumber than a metric crescent wrench and she’s hotter than a pawn shop iPhone.”

“Since a messenger for ‘interested and powerful parties in Louisiana’ hand delivered the money and the ‘creative requests’. I’ll use quick cuts of his eyes and her ass, her running to see if he’s okay on the faked fuck ups, candid clips of them talking about burritos vs egg rolls or whatever stupid shit he says that she rolls her eyes about. All shot from the side to squeeze them together. A few ‘deliveries’ to his station. Hell, Mick, I got ‘demure flirt’ out of Bernie like she’s been selling weaponized sex her entire life. All that shit through the magic of television adds up to them being a thing. The best parts are neither one of them know, won’t till we air, and the cash is tax free.”

“Great.” Mick nodded at the open door. “But how does all that help me with my immediate problem?”

“Tell Syd the redneck and Bernie are seasoning, not a TNA coup. That we still love both sides of her great divide, her ankles were why God made high heels, and she’s the missing Wyeth sister. Then go buy her an expensive dinner. In public. Let valet open her door. She’ll get over it. Business is business.”

“So it is.” Mick sniffed the envelope. “God I love being in the niche content game. We couldn’t do this if we were a network sitcom.”

“We wouldn’t need it if we were a network sitcom. And I thought you were in the custom car ‘game’.”

“That was before I found the spend other people’s money to live well and get laid as often as possible game.”