Looney Lunes #139

No Wonder I Feel Like I Escaped

WELCOME
FROM THE OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
WE WANT YOU HERE

Welcome Sign on I-40 at the Oklahoma State Line

There is a longer story about a girl I had a huge crush on in 7th Grade named Jo Beth McNary, who knew me only as “the paperboy.” She was “all that” Miss Most Likely to be Somebody Cheerleader, Class Officer, Office Aide, who ran off with an escaped cop killer from the penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma.  They lived for years hiding in plain sight in the Dakotas, got popped by America’s Most Wanted, brought “home” where he went back to jail and she committed suicide at 49. If that’s “wanted” then I’ll stay unpopular. And away. There always were two ways out of Oklahoma. Glad I took the Interstate.

Advertisements

The Hot Girl III – Backstory 3

Jackson and the Fairy Godmothers

Last BS. Mind the date – we’re now 7 months downstream from that distracted Valentine’s Day

Late August 1978 / Alix and Amanda Morisé’s home

Jackson had never been in Alix and Amanda Morisé’s home. Deanna had been a frequent guest, for the obvious reasons. Her parents, even his mom and dad. But not him. For a couple of women with all their money he’d sort of expected the Casbah. A teenage boy’s vision of a flying carpet and hookah laden tart’s palace. What he got was just over four-thousand square feet laid out in a horseshoe around a center courtyard with a small pool, fountain and badass built-in grill. No exotic furniture or fancy Chinese looking vases, though. Spartan was the word he found to describe it. The big dining room table was “mid-century modern impressive.” In the “receiving room” there were tons of pictures of politicians and big shot businessmen and women, some people in academic robes, some scenic vineyards. A larger copy of the Bridge of Sighs picture with Amanda and Alix. Same size and next to it was picture of a big man with a cigar in his teeth and a beer can smothered by his hand who had a little girl in a crooked ball cap sitting on his leg. She looked a lot like a younger tomboy version of the swishy silk pants and blouse tomboy who’d let him in.

The whole place, from what he could see, was spotless. White carpet, marble, oriental rugs, indirect light and some art hanging in just the right places on the walls. Not a lot of knick-knacks. Pretty obvious they didn’t have a big, slobbery dog, or anyone like him making plaster palm prints and buying them Lady and the Tramp salt and pepper shakers for Mother’s Day. Every year.

Amanda let him wander before she ushered him into a large room with a wall length gray brick fireplace, the adjoining wall glass from the ceiling to a foot from the floor and looked into the courtyard. Alix was sitting on her feet in an over-sized tweedy chair off to one side, reading. She set her book down when Amanda moved him into the room with not quite a shove.

“It’s not a library or a museum, Jailbait, we live here. Please, sit anywhere you like.”

He wanted to ask if Alix’s lap was in that option anywhere, checked it. “The fireplace. When it’s cold do you like burn telephone poles in there, or what?”

Alix’s light, musical laugh floated through the room. “You have come as the entertainment most refreshing on a summer’s eve, my love? If such, we find you a most welcome relief.”

“Alix, don’t encourage him.” Amanda poured herself a glass of white wine from a bottle sweating in a sterling ice bucket on the marble topped end table, reloaded the glass Alix extended.

“For your information, we burn smart ass twenty-year old males in that fireplace. They don’t burn bright, or hot, and they smell like burnt hair. But they’re plentiful and disposable and most of them will never be missed. Jailbait, sit.”

He found a spot on the angular white linen L sectional, sat. Amanda leaned over from behind him, her cheek almost next to his, hair brushing his face. The faint scent of her perfume did its pirates and flying carpets number on him, her voice low and from somewhere far away.

“My shaggy young friend, this conversation is between you,” her clear, polished nail tipped index finger rose up from behind him and pointed across the room, “Alix…and me. No one else is here, no one else is listening, nothing leaves this room.” He could almost feel her breath heat up before the panther-ish growl dripped into his ear. “What. The hell. Is going on?”

“Whoa, that’s loaded.” He knew what she wanted, but he had to play her some or she’d think he was an impostor. “Let’s see, I played a pickup gig last weekend at this hooker dive off old 66 out by the lake. Glenn and I played with the girl who’s almost a dentist up in the Tower on Saturday. Good money, expensive food, dull crowd. My day job wrapped with the last brick in the wall on Wednesday. School starts in a couple of —”

“Don’t play with me, Jailbait.” She turned up the growl but not the volume in her panther. “What the hell is going on with Deanna?”

“Oh…That what the hell.” He leaned to the side, turned so they could glare at each other. “You want a run down on all her ‘Look at me I’m Golden’ trips? Or how she can’t listen, or how we have to get so pissed off at each other for her to go do y’all’s fucking presentations that I broke a refrigerator door last time she left? Or about how many hours her highness can take in summer and bust on all of us for not having time to cater her every wish because we have work we have to do? That sort of what the hell is going on?” His eyes followed her around the sectional, watched as she deposited her wine glass on the long marble top coffee table and sat beside him, only on the edge of the seat so she could face him and take up their glaring where they’d left off.

“You know all that shit, Amanda. She’s doing it to you and Alix and Stacey. And Amber and Bev as much as they’re involved. She bitched Bev down with ‘What the fuck is up with no first class’ last week when all she was doing was a turn-around getting her ass kissed at some girl’s boarding school in Connecticut. For being an ‘exemplary young woman’ and a ‘role model’. Those people don’t know her at all and are buying into y’all’s and Stacey’s eight by ten color glossy promo bullshit.”

He collected for a few, pointed to the shelf that ran along the top of the fireplace to an 8×10 framed picture of Deanna and Amanda at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. “Deanna’s an ex daring young feminist who doesn’t give a damn anymore. She’d rather be partying with politician’s aides and scuba instructors and antique perv ski jocks than being who she started out to be. So don’t ask me what the hell is up with Deanna. Ask her.”

“I have. She gives me the same ‘Oh, nothing Amanda,’ she always does. I thought you might be able to enlighten us since she sleeps with you every night.”

“That’s on the jive side of nowhere. She’s useless as a girlfriend anymore. Last week I kicked her out the door with her laundry basket, told her not to bother. I can watch TV and eat stale pies and ice cream without a silent, dead fish shadow.”

“And?” Amanda didn’t sip or slurp or slam wine but she made a half glass disappear without taking her eyes off him.

“She’s sitting on my couch the next afternoon like nothing happened. Hasn’t got anything to say when I ask her what’s up. She says we’ll get back into “talking” for her presentation in early October, I tell her that’s not what we need to talk about and she clams up tighter. She doesn’t care about anything but as many credit hours as she can cram into a semester. I’ll get her through the next presentation when it’s due, but I have some personal shit to figure. Shit I need to have figured by next spring, that she won’t talk about.”

Amanda’s wine glass silently returned to the marble. “What I see is a steady decline in desire for the project. She’s no longer motivated to be an instigator of change. She was doing a spectacular job, and she’s still doing well. But it’s as if she wants to see how close she can come to blowing it, and then smug that she pulled it off.”

“You guys don’t see it? Damn, Amanda, four years ago when I came to see you in the sleet at ‘Beard’s, she was scared of her own shadow and pissed off. The four high school presentations she did and the first one her freshman year were about how pissed off she was. For herself, and for you. I think back in cheerleader and jock time maybe one of those guys really raped her and she just buried it like she does everything, and these debate presentation doo-dahs were her way of getting rid of it. When you and Alix and Stacey tried to get her to ‘widen her vision to include all women’ it diluted her. When she stopped everything after last Christmas and you guys had to start writing for her? Fuck that. Stage mommin’ that has been as much fun as playing twister with a colorblind nun.”

“You seriously believe she became intoxicated with her success based on her own experience, essentially exploiting herself, and me, and when we attempted to change course she lost interest? Because she was no longer personally invested?”

“That’s my guess, but I have no idea who she is anymore. I take her abuse for her presentations, feed her, do her laundry, put gas in her car. Because she’d starve, fuck up and turn all of our clothes pink and run out of gas on the interstate if I didn’t. When she was Deanna it was okay. Because she’s addictively smart, doesn’t know she’s stop and stare hot, she’s sexy as hell when nobody’s looking, and she had a sideways eye about things that was a gas. I mean she’s perfect when she’s herself, even if she’ll never get me or what I do. I’ve learned a lot from her and I loved the girl that’s gone and no shit really hated the Morisé monster she became. And whoever she is now in this mopey, dopey silent movie of herself she’s throwing down is beyond useless for anything but a high GPA on a hundred and fifty percent load.”

The “Hmm” was way back in Amanda’s throat and nearly silent.

Catlike, Alix unwound from her chair, collected Amanda’s wineglass, hinted acknowledgment of the picture window and the gathering clouds. “For the Little Jewel of Morisé we wish to know such as we may know of the weather, oui? Predictions, I think, most impossible. The heat of summer oppresses, as she feels. Cool breezes, cleansing rain, the colors of spring…Seasons away. As such a return of the Little Jewel.” She sniffed as lightly as she had hinted at the window. “Ten minutes, my loves.”

Amanda waited, let the room settle while they both watched Alix vanish down the hall.

“Tell me, did you ever learn to drink wine when you were the early evening fern bar piano player of choice around here?”

“Yeah, white. Unless it’s sweet or face sucking dry. I can drink a beer with almost anything, if you’ve got one.”

“We have white wine, that is neither sweet or dry. And beer. Beer, however, is a plebeian choice in the face of Alix’s leftovers. Cold lamb and dill sauce, reheated French green beans with bacon, possibly re-roasted rosemary potatoes and a small salad. Always the small salad.” She stood, offered him her hand. “Join us. Tell us who you want to be in all of this, what your problems are that need to be addressed by spring. Tell us more about Deanna’s secrecy. Tell us how you feel about all of it. And relax. You’ve been sitting like you’re in church.”

“I was an altar boy in grade school. I can sit like this for over an hour. And cold lamb, dill sauce? Jeez, Amanda, I’m not —”

“Oh for Christ’s sake, Jailbait. Pretend you’re an adult for an evening, we won’t tell anyone. You can go back to hand food tomorrow.”

The Hot Girl III – Special Instance Backstory 2.5

Someone posted recently about “can you write on demand?” I answered “yes” because as a professional in another industry I have known editors and performance critics and art directors who throw things out, or back, with the expectation that something “creative” will be done, or enhanced, by their feedback. Since I was young. Two Hundred years ago. There was no followup to flowers in the sink. But LP posed a question of sorts, that made sense. Loose ends. Talk about draft mode…

Jackson’s Apartment – Wednesday, February 15, 1978

Jackson opened the door of his apartment, found Deanna studying in the same chair as always at his fake slate topped dining table, only she was behind a vase full of crazily arranged yesterday’s sink toss flowers and a stack of three books. Plus an open one and an open notebook, all facing the right direction to be used and useful.

“Card’s on the bed, Jax. Sorry.” She pushed her glasses up into a hair band for her wet hair. “I came back and fixed the flowers last night. Once a year, you know?” She tapped the vase with her pencil. “I don’t do very good. Where’d you go?”

“The city.” The vase got a glance and very tight smile. Deanna perpetuated her mom’s ‘no dead flowers except Valentine’s and anniversaries’ rule, only without Mom Jean’s eye for composition. “I dropped a load at Next Time Around. Went to Glenn’s. He made me smoke something with a name that sounded like a Mexican resort, then made me listen to Reggae all night like I’d never heard it and didn’t know how easy the guitar solos were until I passed out on the couch. I woke up with a cat that Stacey talked him into keeping rubbing its ass on my nose, bashed my leg on his coffee table, beat the speed trap south of town and made it to my eight-thirty.” He checked the clock on the stove. “Two-forty and everything still smells like cat butt, mixed with shampoo.”

“He didn’t make you do anything.” She closed a book and notebook, opened another of each. “Why do you hang out with people like that?”

“Glenn’s okay. You don’t like him, but Stacey does. Now that he’s finally got his accounting degree.” He rubbed his eyes, yawned. “She’ll be a VP at Morisé when Amanda finally puts all her Dad’s shit in one bucket. Amanda likes him, too, so he can’t be that bad.”

“He is that bad, they just can’t see it. He’s way older than you are, and he may be an accountant, like finally after forever, but he’s still that fake-y charm guitar player guy he always has been. And you could say ‘when Amanda completes her father’s partnership acquisitions’, not when her dad’s shit’s in a bucket.”

“He’s eight years older than we are. The same age as Stacey and Amber and Bev.” He pulled his sweater over his head, sniffed it, backhanded it into the bedroom. “How about, ‘Little and much will change, my love, quand la merde est réunie, oui’?”

“You do that to everybody, Jax. Yesterday I was stealing your stuff in a country song and now you’re making up fake French like Alix said something about shit in a bucket. She wouldn’t do that. Alix is like a legal and business genius who went to five or six colleges in four countries. And lady geniuses don’t talk like that. Really, they don’t.” She absently tapped a women’s world lit anthology without looking at it. “I know.”

“What she said, in French, was ‘when the shit is joined together, yes?’ If cussing is the barricade against genius you’re sunk down here in Dumbassville with the rest of us, D.” He laughed, headed for the bedroom, pulled off his t-shirt on the way. “I need a shower. How long have you been out?”

“A while. Asshole.” She leaned over the table, tried to follow him with her eyes. “Aren’t you going to read your card first?”

“It waited a day. It can wait till I don’t stink.” He knew she wanted to throw something, grab her books and slam the door again but she was entrenched in her studies, with wet hair, in one of his shirts and probably nothing else. He’d take a shower, bust on her for re-using the only Valentine’s card she’d ever bought him with an added line, and he’d ask why, and she’d say she couldn’t buy him cards “because, alright?” Happy recycled Valentine’s Day. Yesterday. Sorry.

If this Wednesday turned out like all the Wednesday’s lately, Deanna would take over his bathroom for half an hour bitching and dialing in her hair and be in her advisor’s office from four-thirty until the regally tall, twig thin, nasally, outright hostile distaste for him Dr. ‘Cruella DeVille’ Eckden cut her loose, starved, at almost ten. Deanna, her head full of whatever they were putting together, would drive past the Feathers and Fins drive-through, walk in the door of his apartment, drop her books on the floor, fall on the couch and tell him what an angel he’d be if he’d go get her a chicken sandwich, no mayo or mustard or any of that. From Feathers and Fins.

He’d go. Get a fish sandwich for himself and some extra fries, stop at the 7-11 on the way back and buy a nearly frozen beer from the pink, bulbous blonde woman who talked with an accent full of “echhh” and “awkkk” like she was trying to clear a wad of snot from her throat. He stuck his hand in the shower to check the temp. Still cold. Dammit, D‘A while’? Three minutes? He dropped his forehead into the crook of the arm that held him to the wall, the wet hand dripped cold water on his foot. What had fucking happened?

 

 

 

The Hot Girl III – Backstory 2

The Date Header will tell you this is three years downstream from the last one. Deanna and Jackson are living together in college, with two apartments. Raise your hand if you’ve been there. Deanna has grown, but feels caged by who she wants to be and the perceived control exerted over her by her mentors and even her boyfriend. All of whom are as confused as she is. Welcome to the 1970s.

October 4th, 1977

Deanna licked the big brown envelope full of papers, including a forged letter of recommendation from Amanda Morisé, on October fourth. She drove to the post office and watched as they put the express postage for England on it that she paid for with change from the over-sized mason jar on Jackson’s kitchen counter. Followed the envelope with her eyes and bit the tip of her tongue when the clerk tossed it offhandedly into the international bin.

“It’ll be okay, right?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“I mean that address is kind of weird. You know where it is and everything? Even in England?”

“Yes ma’am. England has been doing this longer than we have.” The post office lady swept the last of the counted change into her drawer.

“Well, they forget stuff. Like who built Stonehenge and all that. And that was enough, you know, to make it sure it gets there by the fourteenth?”

“Yes ma’am.” The counter lady dusted her hands from the change counting. “Plenty enough.”

Deanna stood, nervously chewing her lower lip, unable to leave the counter.
“Sure? I mean it. Really. Cross your heart?”

Counter lady gave Deanna a “beat it, little girl” look and said, “Next in line, please.”

November 2nd, 1977 – C.A. Morisé

A letter from the office of Student Records, Newnham College, Cambridge University arrived in the mail bin at Seventeen Hundred Oilman’s Bank Tower, addressed to Celeste A. Morisé. Amanda had never gone by Celeste as far as anyone knew, and never touched mail outside of legal, project management or finance that a department head hadn’t found worthy of her attention. The intern working in Public Relations and Marketing made a judgement call and pencil punched her boss’s extension.

“Hey, Stace. Cambridge wants to know if Ms. Morisé really knows Collings.”

“Cambridge, as in Ye Old-y-ier than moss and Collings as in Deanna?”

“Yeah, her. Deanna Christine, Not D.C., not Diva, not Bit —”

“Valerie?”

“‘Check the box and sign for verification. Please update your Alumni profile.’”

“Sounds like something Amanda set up. Check it, signature stamp it, pull Amanda’s latest headshot and bio. Send them a slick, not a Xerox. Impress them, overnight it. ”

November 11th, 1977

Another letter with English postage landed in Deanna’s flimsy apartment complex mailbox with her Cambridge conditions enclosed. Cambridge wouldn’t accept Deanna’s accumulated credit hours as transfer, but as a distinguished and generous alumnus had given her a reference letter, as well as many of her professors, and with consideration of her excellent academic and public service service and performance thus far, if she wanted a first undergraduate with Cambridge on it she could obtain an affiliate student second under-graduate degree in two years or less with summer terms and working her ass off. She could then apply for specialized Masters of Philosophy degrees that ran full time nine month terms. She needed to graduate where she was before any of those conditions were valid. Which meant that she had to graduate by the middle of her junior year.

Already a full semester plus five hours ahead, she would meet with her professors, take exactly what she needed and whatever fluff she could get away with for elective hours. Her speech presentations at the national academic level carried a lot of weight, and the horny congressman she’d met at one of them would have his cute but uninterested aide write her a letter. And all the other people she’d met on the academic presentation circuit would write her more letters. Her counselor had said she knew a way to make those speeches and presentations eat up more credit hours on paper. She crossed her fingers. She’d start on Cambridge’s conditions in January of her sophomore year, a week after her annual vacation with her parents ended. She dove headfirst into academic Supergirl and tuned everyone out, including Jackson, unless she needed them for something.

It became evident to everyone involved in the inner circle of the “it could and should be a women’s world” presentations by D.C. Collings that the D.C. Collings project had hit a wall. Deanna refused to spend time on research and only spit out well formed, perfunctory, passionless essays from material fed to her by Amanda and Alix, then proofed and assembled by Stacey. If they were they foolish enough to suggest an edit she argued with them like changing a word would throw the planet off its axis. Because done was done, she had other things on her mind. And the threat of going mega bitch kept them out of her way.

Except for Jackson, who claimed to be genetically mega-bitch proof and still rehearsed her like it mattered. If she tried to hide he’d find her. She’d scream at him when he stopped her, made her think about what she was doing, and he’d open the door while they waited for the cops because the old lady across the hall would call them every time. Deanna would finally acquiesce because Jackson might be an asshole for doing it, but when they were done she got that incredible high she always got when he’d helped her find the center of her voice.

Otherwise it didn’t matter that she had no life. Jackson had been a total asshole since the scuba instructor incident after Christmas their freshman year, and just shut her out after she’d set off the fire alarm to escape a porn loving perv masquerading as a ski instructor’s “fuck shack.” The timing couldn’t have been better, really. No extended “boyfriend” duties except sex when she felt like it. He helped her study and took care of her daily reality details and played on weekends while they passed each other in his apartment like strangers and she built her stacks of credit hours.

***

Jackson’s apartment, Tuesday, Valentine’s Day 1978

Deanna had daydreamed her way through most of the day. The latest letter from Cambridge agreed to her academic plan, asked her to please submita  final semester schedule when available, Newnham College was looking forward to being her new scholastic home. She heard Jackson unlock the door and panicked. Valentine’s Day. No card. She dropped a medium sized anthology on top of the Cambridge envelope and pretended to read.

Jackson tossed a card on the round, fake woodgrain Formica table in the “dining nook” of his rented-it-furnished, one-bedroom college apartment. The card skidded under an upside down open book Deanna was pretending to read that partially covered a manila envelope.

“Happy Valentine’s Day.” He set the wet waxed paper cone wrap full of flowers beside her. “You never take a vase to your place so you can pull one you like from under the sink. That a good book?”

“Mmm hmm. Multiplicity. English Renaissance.”

“Cool. ‘For thee watch I, whilst thou dost wake elsewhere,
From me far off, with others all too near.’

“Where did you get that?”

“Willy’s Sonnet Sixty-one. I go to college, too.” He tapped his temple with his index finger. “Reminded me of your vacations, so I stored it.” He leaned against the kitchen counter, folded his arms. “Are you going to tell me where you’re going, what’s going on? Or will it be like some country song where I wake up one morning with a hangover and you and my truck and my stereo and my dog are gone?”

“Nothing is ‘going on.’ You shouldn’t quote Shakespeare out of context and then make up things about me stealing stuff in some gross country song. Anyway, I don’t understand your stereo and you don’t have a truck or a dog. I told you, the ski instructor was a horny old man and I had no idea that his idea of training films were really gross porn. And all of your shit about the huge bed I told you about is way old. Old, old. He was showing me his house, that’s all. At first, anyway. That bed was so cool, Jax, and I thought if you had one we…Never mind.”

“Must have been a pretty ‘hot’ bed. That ‘tour’ cost your dad two hundred bucks for you setting off a false fire alarm.”

“Shut up. They shouldn’t have done that. That asshole tried to show me butt sex movies instead of skiing movies and I couldn’t get out and I was scared and that was the only way. Can I study now? Please?”

“I heard it helps if you turn your glasses over if you want to read an upside down book.”

He took two steps, reached out, yanked on the Pier One beaded curtain that separated the “dining nook” from the “living area” and it came down, brought the staples he’d put it up with and bits of popcorn ceiling with it.

“Dammit, Jax. What was that all about?”

“About time.”

“You’re being really stupid. About what time?”

“About time to take this place back to neutral. Too much of me in here.”

“It’s your apartment, Jackson.”

“Yeah? Tell me again why you have one?”

“Why are you being such a dick? I really need to study. Keeping my apartment keeps mom out of my shit. You know that, so, okay?”

He stuffed the beaded curtain in a paper bag, rolled the top down. “I thought it was so you had someplace to go when all the secrets and lies start stinking this place up like forgotten broccoli.”

“Fuck. You.” She slapped the upside down book closed, picked it up along with her unopened card and her letter, threw her empty Seven-Up can at the sink. “It wasn’t my fault, alright? I’ve told you a hundred times, I didn’t go to his stupid ‘fuck shack’ to be his little ‘fuck bunny’ no matter what you think or say. He was supposed to teach me how to ski. Ski. S-K-I. That’s all. I didn’t know about the rest. Thanks for fucking up another afternoon with all that.” She slammed his door behind her.

“Forgot your flowers.” He leaned against the kitchen counter, heels of his hands on the counter top. He hadn’t said a word about the horn dog ski instructor until she decided that was the conversation they were having. It didn’t matter. She would have picked one from the half dozen or so she had banked instead of having one of any consequence. He tossed her flowers in the sink beside the green can, pushed the stopper down and ran some water in the sink. If they were still there in the morning he’d toss them.

In just over an hour he’d pulled all of his posters and tapestries and gathered up all of his other college guy junk off the walls, shelves and counters of his apartment, rolled and rubber banded or folded them and tossed them in the trunk of his car. The hippie chick at the used jeans and old hippie funk place in the city could sell them again. To somebody just like he’d been. A guy who thought he knew who he was, and knew what he thought was funny or important, what kind of music he liked. Who knew what he wanted to be just before he grew up a little and found out it wasn’t a fairy tale after all, and nobody really gave a shit one way or the other. Including the girl who was supposed to.

The Hot Girl III – Backstory 1

Okay. Friday again. Hot as Hell. Moved bricks and bags of premixed cement in 108. I’ve stalled long enough, this is me in draft mode. I’ll kick off THG III with some backstory on THG herself, Deanna Collings.  As D.C. Collings, Deanna, under the mentoring of Amanda  Morisé with performance coaching and coaxing from Jackson, is working toward her dream of “Elegant Hell in High Heels” as the young, angry new voice of feminism. She’s also a girl who is pissed off and confused about a lot of things. When reading through this, one should pay attention to the date headers until, coming soon, they all flow without this backstory business. Enjoy. This is chapters of a novel, a real coming of age fairy tale, so settle in. Unless you don’t like it, in which case you are free to leave.

Early July, 1974

Deanna’s summer job with Jackson, Amber the blonde hippie law-schooler from Morisé and the college football player named Bodine who was going to be an architect when football was done, all of them doing architectural reclamation together for Morisé’s Redevelopment branch, was dirty and dusty and hot. Working with the three of them was the only place Deanna had ever felt truly equal. Unlike her old head cheerleader job where she was the younger, sweet public face for a bunch of oversexed stoners, here she was a real part of the team. They sweated together and cussed together. Wore the same kind of work shirts and jeans and gloves and boots. Bodine included them all in every stage of the deconstruction and salvage of old buildings from picking and planning to pry-bars and sledge hammers. She even got badge of honor stitches in her right ring finger, complete with a run to the emergency room and a tetanus shot the day they’d all wrestled a giant mahogany bar out of an old downtown basement watering hole that had fallen victim to urban renewal.

Amanda had come to the site the next day, crossed her arms the way she did and said the bar was too big for anything but a resort hotel or a country club looking to drop in some old pub ambiance, and would be in storage long before it sold or Morisé found use for it in a development, get rid of it. But Jackson shucked and jived with her, made her laugh, said it was “too cool” to waste, and if nobody wanted it he could sell it to a guitar maker. Maybe. Or turn it into several kitchen islands, or a staircase, or badass cases for home electric pianos. Maybe. Or build his dream house around it someday. Maybe. Amanda shook her head, waved Jackson off and told Bodine to have the bar hauled to the salvage warehouse, but not until she got a picture of Deanna resting her bandaged hand on top of it. The picture would go in a frame at 1700 Oilman’s Bank Tower where “girls kicked ass and got shit done.”

Deanna started to get in Jackson’s business for dissing Amanda with his stupid musician BS and dragging a bar into their future house, realized they weren’t married, or living together, and hadn’t even…well, you know…and decided at least that part needed to change.

Wednesday July 28, 1974

Bodine and Amber sat on old, used to be built-in under-counter filing cabinets wedged into the rubble that covered the parking lot of what was once a four story 1919 hotel. They held partially unwrapped half-eaten sandwiches in their hands and were talking about Bodine’s fiance the nurse. Deanna crunched her way over the brick and mortar crumbles, waited until they paused for a bite of sandwich.

“‘Scuse me…But tomorrow?” Deanna squatted by Bodine. “After lunch…You said we’d be finished with the windows?” Deanna had no problem with giant, NFL bound college jocks because her brother was one. She did have trouble asking for favors.

“Well…So could I…I mean if I go, and don’t come back, like on time, or at all…”

Bodine knitted his eyebrows, leaned his head forward a little. “Huh?”

“I mean, and maybe Jackson too…If we…”

Bodine sat up, sandwich wrist on his knee. “Collings, what the —”

“Deanna, let’s take a walk.” Amber floated behind Bodine, grabbed Deanna’s hand and led her off around the side of the building and out of earshot.
“What’s going on, Baby Morisé? A concert I don’t know about? A Thursday special matinee?”

“Um…” Deanna looked over Amber’s shoulder, studied the old masonry work.

“No. I…Well, Beverly said that if I wanted to…You know…With Jackson? ‘Cause we’ve been…We are…That I should rent a really cold hotel room and…Well, I don’t know what the rest is. But…”

“But you ‘want to’.” She smiled and made finger quotes. “You want it to be special and it almost happened somewhere that wasn’t, and you think Beverly knows all about the ‘right way’ to lose your virginity?”

“Well. Yeah. Kinda. I mean it seems like I’m sorta late, you know, and not to be rude or anything, but, well she has done it, a lot I think. And she’s engaged, so…And you’re all cool and California and everything and the Lady Godiva ride…”

“The Godiva ride wasn’t about sex, it was a statement. Like what you’re doing with Amanda and Jackson.” She studied Deanna’s face full of questions. “Is this your idea or his? Because at Morisé we don’t take our cues from men.”

“No…It’s me. I don’t know anything, really. I mean it. But…Well, I want to. And he seems to know…stuff.”

“I’ll bet he does. I’ll have Bev book you into the Sheraton North, the new one with the view, and have them open a room for you early. Leave here for an appointment around ten thirty, one that requires Jackson to drive you.”

“That’s it? I mean what about Bev, and Amanda paying for it and Bodine —”

“Bev has the hotel and Amanda, I have Bodine. All you need to do is pack your lunch box with bubble bath and some body lotion and whatever you want him to see you in before he takes it off for you, and a perfume neither one of you will forget. When you get there make him shave and take a shower, put on one of their giant robes and wait for you while you take a bubble bath that lasts as long as you want.”

“And then?”

“And then?” Amber stuffed her hair back in her hardhat. “That’s when you write your own story and forget about asking me or Bev or anybody else what to do.” She put her hand on Deanna’s shoulder before she walked away. “Does Jackson know?”

Deanna shook her head.

“Good. I wouldn’t give that guy time to think about it or you’ll be in there three days.”

***

Northside Sheraton, July 29, 1974

Jackson leaned on his left elbow, dragged his right little finger lightly over the small scar that followed the line of Deanna’s hip V just to the left of center, inside bikini bottom territory. “What’s with the scar?”

“Hmmm?” She bumped his elbow out from under him, snuggled into his shoulder and rolled her hip up.

“The scar. What happened?”

“Hernia. I told you.”

“Did it hurt? How’d you —”

“I told you forget it, okay?”

“I was just —”

Drop it. I mean it.” She rolled away from him onto her left shoulder and yanked the sheet up.

“I had a hernia, when I was little. Too little to know. But they fixed it. Wanna see?”

“NO.”

“Come on. Before anything grew in down there it looked like an elephant winking at me. Seriously. I used to stand in front of the bathroom mirror and try to get the trunk to raise up so I could make “brrrr rappp” elephant trumpet noises.”

“You are so disgusting.” She rolled up, pulled her robe on. “I thought we’d…and it would be…and you have to ruin it.” She stomped off to the big fourteenth floor window and stared out. “Godammit, Jackson.”

“Hey,” he’d pulled on his robe, untied, put his arm around her from behind. “Sorry. I didn’t —”

“Was I okay?”

“Huh? This isn’t a —”

Was I okay?” She’d ramped up the demand in her voice.

“Yes. Yeah…Unexpected, but great. Why all —”

“Not weird, or, or gross or…” She turned inside his arm and into him.

“No. Deanna, what’s the prob here?”

She dropped her forehead onto his chest. “Did you mean it? About forever?” She looked up, eye to eye. “Love is one of the big words, Jax.”

“I never heard of anyone being labeled sesquipedalian for ‘love’. That was a fifty center, if you’re counting.”

She smacked his robe covered arm. “Honest? You had to mean it.”

“Deanna, I meant it, okay? What’s —”

“It’s all messed up, and gross, I know it is. They messed it all up.”

“They? They who? Nothing was messed up or gross. You’re…” He scrambled through the lyrics of a four hour set, plus a wedding set and then some for the right words. “Angelic. Virginal.” Both made it out without any hint of question.

“Shut up, I am not. You don’t know.”

“I’ll never know if you —”

“Just don’t ever ask me about the scar or me down there, ever. I had a hernia and it, they…Messed everything up. I know they did. So promise? Never, okay? Just forget about it. Please? Promise?”

“Yeah. Okay.”

“Promise about everything?”

“Yeah…” He’d never seen pleading in her eyes, or heard it in her voice, but he wouldn’t forget it.

“Good.” They stood in the window, flashing the world for a few. She kissed him, hard, reached down. “What was that noise the elephant made?”

***

Deanna hit her soft snore and jarred Jackson out of a daydream, the two of them sitting on a bench somewhere…Palm trees. He rolled his shoulder out from under her, shrugged on his robe. He started to pull the covers up, stopped. He bent, brushed his lips on her scar. It wasn’t very big, for all the huge deal she made of it. And nature, left to it’s own devices, would have it hidden a week after bikini season was over. He pulled the covers over her, shook his head. Secrets and scars. Crazy. But Deanna’s kind of crazy beat the hell out of working on Thursday afternoon. He kissed her again. She was even more beautiful when she was asleep. And quiet.

Looney Lunes #138

I don’t care what you paid for, the sign said three.

THREE RIDING LESSONS FOR THE PRICE OF FOUR
$150

Advertisement – Penney Farms Equestrian Center, Green Cove Springs, Florida

How much for eight?

Mescaline Blue – 2 -Baby, You are Mine

What the hell, it’s Friday. I went to the museum with small grandkids, stared at Monets and a late Van Gogh (Paris) and noticed even in their minor work that at least they were brave. So here’s some run-on two people standing around talking ’bout nothin’ ‘cept insecurity, replete with era-accurate cultural sexism backstory and background noise. 

Jade saw the flashing light that these guys used for a studio doorbell, sighed, clipped the tape measure to her tool belt. She’d let herself in at six-fifteen with the key and alarm code Jackson had given her, walked and measured the space a dozen times, made and thrown away as many sketches, and had a lock on what needed to happen. And here was that fricking man shit she always had to get past just to get her job done. Why did they all need to talk about how they knew everything when most of the time they didn’t know shit? She turned the deadbolt and let him in.

Jackson was holding two coffees from the Exxon station and looked reasonably relaxed for a guy who had driven through L.A. at seven-thirty in the morning.

She mumbled “Thank you,” couldn’t look at him, felt her ears start to burn. Dammit. She squatted, set the coffee on the floor and measured a point on the floor from the far wall she’d measured a dozen times, stayed there staring at the tape measure and stood up. She repeated the process several times around the room.

Jackson noted the precise marks where the dust had been cleared, the half wall he’d built had a big X on it, made with the masking tape that was gone from where he’d laid out the small kitchen. All the response he could get from his questions were mono syllables and “Mmm.” He put the tip of his Converse on her tape measure.

“I didn’t hire you to agree with me, or ignore me pretending to measure what’s already measured. I’m just some guy. You have opinions, let it go.”

She stood up, made a note in the small steno pad with “AIR BISCUIT STUDIO” written on it in marker, flipped back to the first few pages.

“There’s no flooring, sir. How do I address that? Guess? A furniture grade ‘removable’ table top for a pool table that will weigh a frickin’ ton? That maybe you can play ping pong on because I have Jade’s secret miracle coating to finish it with? A kitchen laid out in the middle of the room where there’s no plumbing? I’m not selling Feng Shui, but common sense is a good idea.” She squinted, pointed her pencil at the top of the far wall. “You have those nice, high transom windows that could use a cleaning, and nothing. No trim, not even mentioned. The only thing you’ve written down are pipe dreams, and almost everything you’ve done so far that I don’t need to do again is the big bathroom that’s probably been here since Eisenhower drove a Jeep. You actually ate in here?” She pushed the rickety card table with a boot. “This is all men, right?”

“No, but females stayed on the other side of that insulated door unless they needed the genderless powder room that had walls until I took them out. If they wanted to eat we moved the card table into the control room. There was a long, hollow wall right here, all the way to the front door. Before I took it out —”

“It hid all of this dusty air and those beautiful east windows. You also spec’ed ‘A chill and reception guest seating kind of area’ isolated from the rest of the place by a forty-eight-inch-high half-wall. ‘With maybe plants or a planter.’ Why not a fricking aquarium like my dentist’s office or every Chinese place in town that gurgles and makes everyone need to go pee? All you’re missing is giant Legos or Lincoln logs and Tigger on the wall and it’s every pediatrician’s waiting room in California. Is that what you’re after? Little boys waiting for their turn at whatever the real toys are back there?” Uh-oh.

“No…No. Open. I wanted it to all feel open, and multi-use. I read that somewhere, about open, multi-use rooms and —”

“Stop reading or read something besides suburban housewife throw-pillow decorating magazines. For a client with a nice space who says ‘open’ a lot you have sectioned off all your ‘open’ into several smaller one-shot rooms. No walls and chaos isn’t ‘open.’” She made finger quotes every time she said “open.”

“What you’re trying to tell me is whatever I built already is bunk and that you have a better idea for the kitchen and the pool table and all the rest of it?”

“Yes sir. We can re-use most of your’bunk’. At least you kept it to standard lengths and didn’t anchor them or hang sheetrock.”

“I built them like gobos, or room dividers. I was waiting on an electrician to tell me what —”

“Wait a little longer and let me talk to someone who knows the codes. Where are we, Silverlake? East Hollywood? Do you even know?” She bit her lip after that one. Her mouth had gotten her fired before, particularly when she had the plan in her head already, got wound up and in some man’s shit when she’d rather be working than talking.

He snorted, shook his head. “Silverlake, commercial. We’re code correct, except the Fire Marshall inspections bust us for the tape boxes on top of the control room if they get too close to the ceiling. And call me Jackson. Or something besides Client or Sir or Mister anything. You’ll meet a girl on the phone this week who says ‘Yo, boss’ when she talks to me, but she might as well say ‘Hey, fuckhead’ because I’m nobody’s boss.” He waited two beats, went right to it. “I know you’re uncomfortable. About this gig or last Wednesday or something. We have to work together, so tell me what will make that go away.”

She fumbled for a second. He was supposed to be a dick and start all that ‘so what smart ideas do you have, shorty’ crapola, but…

“Sir, I served six years as a lead field mechanic in the Army, and I got attitude. Too much of it. The men wouldn’t do what I needed them to do and I was a bitch because I wouldn’t fuck them. I knew in the field that, they, we…we just couldn’t do sex and do our jobs. Some of them got it, but…Just because you drink a beer with someone doesn’t mean you’re in love or heat, or it’s an invitation to visit the vacation they thought they were going to find between my legs. It’s taken me a long time to get past that and an asshole ex and single momming an eight year old. And when I finally wanted to, with you, I drank too much and…”

She reeled out a couple of feet from the tape measure. “Hold this. Down there, in the middle of the X.” She walked off across two thirds of the empty the space, nodded her head as if agreeing with herself, tugged the tape out of his fingers and took a deep breath while she waited for the clatter to stop.

“I haven’t…Sex…In four years. I wanted to, I told you that, sir, and that was embarrassing enough. And then I woke up in your apartment after we didn’t. Embarrassment number two. I don’t go out to intentionally pick up piano players who listen to me and are a lot younger in the daylight, sir. Honest, I don’t. So embarassment number three. And here we are. You spent time on me and we didn’t do anything and just like the Army that’ll somehow be all my fault and you’re going to question everything I do. And I can’t handle all that attitude now that I’m out from under it, okay? I’m damn good at what I do, but when that shit starts up I want to say ‘fuck you all,’ sir, and stick my middle finger in everyone of your noses like you did to that actress, and I really have to watch it or I’ll starve. Eventually some people listen to me but most people run on about shit that doesn’t matter or won’t work and I say fuck it and do what they want because it’s work and I need the money.” She took another deep, needed breath, let it go but kept her tension.

“That’s all good to know, I think, but you haven’t told me how I can help.”

“Sir, what I’m trying to say is you can’t make me do lame work on the cheap or argue with me about everything because we didn’t have sex. Please. This job, I can see it. I have a chance to do it right in here, on budget, and I have to. Or I can’t stick.”

“I can work with that.” He dumped his cold coffee down the rusty sink, tossed the cup in the galvanized can. “About that non-sex thing? We both made it home, I got my car. I was a dick for working a piano bar like I was sixteen. Every now and then I get tired of my skin and do something stupid, so I’m right there in the middle of that embarrassed business with you. You and I are okay. ” He watched her work her face and take that on.

“As far as this room is concerned, Jade? It’s yours. I threw out some ideas, you threw them back. You know a lot more about this than I do. Air and function is what I, what we all need out of this space. No, now….look at me.” He caught both of her nervous hands on the way to her cutoff’s pockets. They seemed tiny, but still hard as granite. “You’ll meet a French woman this week who says ‘The story completed, my love?’ So finish it.”

“My face is burning, sir, I know it is. The last thing is I didn’t bring your coffee cup back. On purpose. That blue is, I don’t know. Strange and beautiful. Like you said, a blue only mescaline knows. I drink my coffee, set it down and stare at it. I started to lie and say I broke it, that’s how much I like it. That’s what needs to go away, being embarrassed about everything with you. Because I have been so wrong since climbing all over you in Bellacardi’s to ditching you without a car, to thinking of ways to steal your coffee cup. And…”

“And?”

“I need you to mean that, sir, about this room being mine and us being okay. Let me do a good job we can both be proud of and I can take pictures and use you and this project for a reference. I’ll be okay with us and the sex we didn’t have and the embarrassments if we can work that way. Maybe I could buy the coffee cup from you, sir, or you could tell me where to get one.”

“First, and get a hold on this, I’m not a sir. I can get you a whole damn box of those mescaline blue cups and the girl who designed them will be gassed that you like them. Straight up, Jade, last verse. Between you and me? You’re really cute almost naked for a little bitty girl with a killer, squirrelly tan. The white hands and feet? My mom would have named you Socks or Boots if you were a stray that turned up. That’s all there is of our short, sorta funny, didn’t make it to sex story. You and I are cool. And hopefully friends.”

“And as long as I’m in budget, this is my project?”

“Yes ma’am, all yours. C’mon, Boots, stop worrying. Do I need to sign something, get you a check?”

“Both would be good. Neither are required on consultation day. Boots? Oh, don’t. That’s not funny…You mean it, ‘straight up’? We didn’t, I’m weird and kept your Mescaline blue coffee cup, and that’s all okay and there’s no ‘who’s the boss’ weirdness?”

“There it is.”

“Contract and a check and I’m okay? My mouth sometimes…I brought a contract in.” She fished a folded sheet out of her tool belt, handed it to him. “And the check would be good, if it’s alright. Not that I don’t trust you yet, but I could really use it. And as a safety, in case you’re jacking me around because of my tan lines and I’m being happy-carpenter-girl-with-a-job blind and don’t want to see it.” She took a couple of deep breaths. “Shooo-eee.” She dropped her shoulders, shook out both of her hands and finally smiled.

He reached into the fridge in the old bathroom, pulled out the last two cold Cokes, handed her one. “Coffee kind of died on us. Caffeine is caffeine. So we have a deal, Boots?”

“Yes sir. Deal!” She frowned, tapped the old, rusty, spray painted, duct taped fridge. “This has to go, sir. This is a new, unisex restroom with real light and a lady grade vanity setup, not a room where men hang out, eat greasy take out, drink beer and pee.”

“Will there be a room for that?”

“No. I did your kitchen open, half size, with an island. On the other side of the restroom wall that goes where I’m standing.”

“Pool table?”

“Front side of the kitchen, plenty of elbow room. Are you any good, sir? At pool?”

“I can tell by the look in your eye that I need to be careful how I answer that.” He signed the contract, wrote her a check for half the budget, set them both by the rusty, dinged up sink in the old eat and pee and shower room.

“Sir? Where are you going?”

“It’s your room. ‘Ma’am’.” He bowed, deep. “I’m getting the hell out of your way.”

She waited for the door to close, hugged herself and spun all the way around on the ball of her right foot. When her work boot landed she looked up at the high east windows. “Ma’am! Yes Ma’am! Contract. Sold. Check. Boom. Boots? Crap-ola. But…” She turned a slow three-sixty with her arms out. “A ‘kick ass small recording studio front end’? Oh my God, baby. You are mine.”