Since no one is paying attention I’m gonna pull random scenes out and sharpen my editorial scythe for a diegesis rework of The Great Kerrigan Bank Robbery – This one is out of sync with Jackson going to the airport, but I’ll get back to that. That whole episode was in draft mode word overkill and the scenes are coming out whittled one by one. It’s still rough, but it’s lost some weight…
I Like You and I Don’t
OR – How the Charity Softball Team Came to Be (Warning – 2k+ read)
Saturday, April 25, 1981, Los Angeles, CA.
Jackson wheeled the mismatched two-tone Gremlin into the Chasewoods Sports Complex parking area, located diamond 5 and parked by a new, metallic pearl white Corvette with #1 AM vanity plates. Hollywood. He shook his head, pulled on his Peaches Garage ball cap, climbed out, careful to avoid the ‘Vette. The Gremlin’s door squeaked, groaned, produced two loud, dull thunks on the way to closed. He covered the twenty yards of parking lot concrete to a sidewalk that split a path between artificially green grass and a patch of dirt and gravel Xeriscape where embedded in the middle like a headstone stood a four-foot-tall welded 5.
“A Gremlin?” Trace said with mock sincerity. “Thought those things lived under bridges.”
“Those are trolls. You plan on tellin’ me why I’m here, or is it like a forever surprise?”
“Obvious, even to a blind man.” Trace waved a slow arc around the diamonds. “Softball is why you’re here. You’re now part of Give Some Back.”
“Give some what back?”
“They’re a non-profit that uses an auditor to make sure the money raised for charities gets where it’s supposed to go. Something that doesn’t happen like it should all the time. Lori over there in the bleachers can explain all that later.”
“Yeah?” Jackson shot a glance at the bleachers. “That Lori? As in Lori Sorens, from the sitcom, uh, um—”
“House on Fire. I don’t watch it, either, but it’s a hit, and that’s her. Bottom line, bro. Hollywood types play civilians for serious donations, auditors handle the money. This team needed another warm body with modest athletic ability. Here you are. Don’t sweat it, J. Unlike your last exercise gig, no ballet tights or talent required.”
“Everybody loves a clown.”
“Careful. Heard that’s how the clown caught the clap.” Trace bumped Jackson’s glove with his own. “Showtime, bro. This is a tough room for anybody with external plumbing, so put your just-happy-to-be-an-idiot-man face on.”
“Been told that comes stock with the plumbing.”
Trace nodded agreement, ushered him in front of the bench at the empty diamond five where they faced seven females spread out in the bleachers.
“I said I’d find you a new guy.” Trace announced to the disinterested bleacher crew. “My brother from another mother, Jackson.” Silence. Not even seat shuffling.
“Told you it was a tough room. Jax, clockwise from the left, the ladies are Lori Sorens from House on Fire and the actual Treasurer of Give Some Back. Next over and up a row, if you watch television in your underwear in the morning, you’ve seen Randi Navarro. Channel Seven and El Lay’s Number One in the morning. Right next to her is another watch in your underwear lady, Weather Seven Cicily Warren.” They acknowledged with barely perceptible nods. Jackson’s gaze shifted next to a tall girl with the most not huge but amazingly perfect set of t-shirt boobs he had ever seen.
“Jackson, meet Zane Rialta. From somewhere women are all tall and in your shit about a lie somebody told them about you.”
“Don’t start him out by fucking with me, Trace. I’m from—”
“Hollywood In Sight Tonight,” Jackson said. “You could dial it back once in a while, see if anybody besides you might have something to say. The girl from Pine Nuts has a ranch in Tennessee where she takes in retired and abused racehorses and show dogs, finds homes for ‘em, and you fucking blew her out. You could have hit the boyfriend hard for being a first-class dipshit and wrapped it with her being humane, made everybody love her, donate food or cash and help her out, but no. You had to go all into some animal hoarding thing you got all wrong.”
It got even quieter on diamond five. Zane Rialta was self-made, syndicated in all fifty states, half a dozen foreign countries and had her own cable channel in development. She was smart and nosey and dangerous if you had anything to hide. Most of Hollywood gave her a wide berth, not a raft of shit.
“You bring him along to help you tell me how to do my job? If you did, that’s bullshit and I’m out.”
“If you’re going to talk about me, talk to me,” Jackson climbed to the second row.
“Okay, I’m done.” Zane stood, all five-eleven of her, a row up and now eighteen inches taller than Jackson.
He looked up at her, wished he could part the boobs. “Sit down. You know we can’t play if you leave. We’ll work this out between us, okay? But right now? Sit. Down.” He tacked on “Please?” before the timing betrayed him.
She sat, steaming. It was uncomfortably quiet again. Trace continued. “Right there, um, to the right? That’s Tina Bowen. Seven in the Morning traffic control. ‘Keep it Flowin’ with Bowen.’ She has a baby named Owen, poor kid.” She was the only one to lift a hand off her thigh in a small wave.
“Last but not least, and the only woman on the team who can play this or any other sport, Seven Sports in the A-M with Ray-Gun Vaughn.” Reagan smiled, reached down, shook his hand. She was a ball of lean muscle like the weightlifter girls on the beach, only black and not as bulky. She walked through locker rooms full of naked, sweaty jocks asking pointed questions about the quality of their performances and got answers, not sex loaded bullshit. Jackson was known to watch a bad game just for Reagan’s commentary.
“Hey.” Jackson took in the women he saw every morning on Channel Seven and the prime timers. “Nice to meet all of you.” He looked back up at Zane Rialta. “What’s your real name?”
“Your real name. What your mom called you when she was mad. Come on.”
“Suzanne. If it’s—”
“All of it.”
“Florentina,” her eyes flashed through a squint. “Suzanne. Florentina. Rialta. My married name is Shively. You’re about to really piss—”
“What do your friends call you?”
“It’s not something you’ll ever need, so—”
“We don’t know that.”
“God…” Her exasperation became tactile. “Zanie. From my little sister.”
“That’s where Zane came from? Not Zane Grey westerns your dad left around the house?”
“Fuck you, Trace’s friend. He didn’t read westerns, he read John D. MacDonald until he caught me with one. Then he hid them in an old suitcase in his closet.”
“You get busted again when you found them ‘cause you couldn’t resist all that sex, violence and moralizing?”
“I skipped the moralizing, and I’m out of—”
He leaned in, whispered the quick story of how he got busted checking out Mimi Van Doren in one of the old Playboys that his dad kept in a closet suitcase. She laughed out loud and took the hand he held out.
“Jackson? That’s it, either way? Now I remember.” She squeezed the shit out of his hand, leaned back a little then leaned in. “I didn’t recognize you without the I’m-so-sexy beard. Kaitlin Everson sued you for sticking your middle finger up her nose at the Globe Press Party. You had that pretty French lawyer who sued half of L.A. to shut Everson up, all over a no-money Kleenex movie from nowhere full of nobodies that blew up. For the middle finger and suing that bitch, you are my newest best friend. Who do you know that’s done something stupid lately?”
“That list is too long, and I’m on it. Tell me who the coach or manager is, since we’re friends?”
“Excuse me,” Randi interjected. “Mr. one finger and it’s the middle one? If you can pull yourself away from Zanie’s T-shirt stuffing qualifications for a sec, I’ll tell you.” Randi Navarro was as perfectly turned out in a softball uniform as she was the day Jackson had seen her in Dwight’s studio. She leaned forward, waited until she had his full attention.
“I’m Randi. Navarro? We were introduced? I’m the manager. We don’t have a coach. We could use one because the other teams just laugh at us. We get a lot of requests as the pretty girls who can’t play, and to raise money we play against whoever rents us. Except we don’t have a sponsor or a designated charity so we’re dumping buckets of money into a holding account waiting for someone to say ‘yes’ and give us a reason to be here.” She studied him for a moment. “We need a sponsor, and what really pisses all of us off more than being the softball laughingstock of L.A. is that we’ve been asking for a sponsor for over a year. It’s like we’re lepers because we’re women, right?” There were murmurs of agreement, but she held Jackson’s eyes as long as he kept them on her.
“We play as the Seven In the Morning coed team.” It was Lori, the one from the sitcom. “But Seven won’t pick a charity and we’re really not endorsed by Seven—”
“Fuck no we aren’t,” Randi trolled her coworkers with her eyes. “We’re making them a fortune in ad revenue by being all women and owning the morning market share, right? But will they back us as a softball team? Even as a promo op? No. Rodney Sheridan writes off a Corvette I don’t give a shit about,” she sidearm waved at the parking lot. “But Seven says it’s in my contract to drive it, smile and say, ‘Drop by Sheridan for a deal that’ll make you wanna dance,’ twenty times a morning. Sheridan won’t sign off on underwriting a women’s charity softball team, but he’ll hand off a Corvette?” She fumed for a few beats. “Sorry. Not your problem. So it’s Jackson? Got anything shorter?” She saw it coming. “Don’t you say that shit to me.”
“Don’t say, ‘That’s what she said?’’’
“I told you don’t.” She leaned further, smacked his shoulder, glared him out.
“Jax, Jay. Hey, you. Your call.” He smiled so hard his face hurt. “Sorry.”
“You’re forgiven. For now.” She gave him a lady handshake, waited a little long to let go, followed it with a big, expensive TV anchor smile. “I like you and I don’t, Jacksass Jackson. So as of now, you are the new manager of whoever the hell we are.” She handed Jackson a brown manila envelope she’d been sitting on. “I kept it warm with my best ass-et, just for you. Ladies?” She found everyone else with her gaze. “I’ve captained this ship of fools for a year and we’re still where we started. So this is my last roundup as manager, phone girl, booking queen and sponsor hunter. After today, our new middle-finger-forward cowboy is up. We play Country Safe Insurance in twenty minutes, right here.”
Jackson and Trace watched the parade of broadcast butts in tight baseball pants while they all rattled their way out of the aluminum bleachers and headed for the parking lot to open doors and trunks on clean, new, expensive cars where they pulled out gloves, bats and promo for Hollywood In Sight, Seven in the Morning and House on Fire. Randi reached in the white Corvette, handed a box of Sheridan Chevy promo to one of the other girls before she wrestled a team duffel bag out of the passenger seat. He considered offering to help, but they all looked to be working a decent case of pissed off. Jesus. Too much camera candy, too much unfocused promo paper, no team identity.
“Trace, my brother,” he dumped a frustrated through-the-nose sigh. “You fucked me right into the dirt on this one.”
“Man, a year ago you couldn’t wait to meet Randi Navarro. Here you are. I knew she’d like you.” He picked a couple of bats out of the dirt, leaned them against the fence behind the bench, tossed a baby pop fly for Jackson.
“Randi…” he caught the fly, tossed on back. “I said I wanted to meet her, yeah. And now a shit-load of excellent dreams and wasted morning wood are out the window and right on down the road ‘cause she’s on my softball team. Mine. It’s against all the fucking rules to go butt sniffing my own softball team. How the hell did that happen?”
“ ‘How’ never matters in Hollywood. Take what comes your way and run with it. Besides, your ‘tell a painful truth’ turd polishing skills are exactly what this team needs. Even if they don’t know it yet.”
Trace pulled his glove, popped Jackson on the shoulder with it. “You don’t have to play it straight on the no in-team sex, but know this as fact. These chicks compete about everything, not just ratings points. So you’ll start an extra-large avalanche of pain for yourself if you get wet and wild with anything female connected to this. Add a hundred times more grief than that from your new best friend, Zanie. This gig is high profile with her name attached, so she’s like your personal moral compass. The woman’s got a camera, a crew, a mouth, a syndicated outlet for all of it, a million places to hide and twice that many snitches. Fuck around or fuck up in Hollywood after today and you’ll find out the hard way it’ll be out on the wire before your zipper’s up, your mouth’s shut or your middle finger’s back in your pocket.”