Authors: Dan Fante
THE NIGHT CLEAN-UP guys were wheeling in their maintenance cart as I was leaving. It was five thirty. Orbit’s parking lot was empty. I’d missed my ride with Frankie Freebase, but I didn’t mind. If I wanted to, I could take a cab home or call a limo service in the phone book or stroll over to Santa Monica Boulevard and write a check for a down payment on a cheap used car. I had enough money to do whatever I wanted.
Sitting on the Lincoln Boulevard bus bench, smoking Lucky cigarettes, I began to think about Doc Franklin and his amazing paycheck. My brain swarmed with monthly and yearly income projections. Doc was knocking down over three hundred grand a year. If he could do it, I could do it too.
I came to an immediate decision: fuck my writing career. My head was clear for the first time in years. I could foresee my own future. Novelists and screenwriters like Jonathan Dante died broke in L.A., humiliated, compromised. Their balls and their talent sacrificed to a ridiculous Hollywood success fantasy. No one cared about words any more. Literature was deader than a
rerun. Seventy percent of Americans now got all their opinions and information packaged, formatted, spoon-fed through a three-foot square marketing box. The preposterous dream world created eighty years before in Los Angeles between the sand and the planted palm trees and the tumbleweeds, Sam Goldwyn’s and B.P. Schulberg’s and Mayer’s and Karl Lemmle’s image of America, was now the
national mindset. A nation of mooches. Writers were dinosaurs. Chumps. Real life was a cop show and a pair of silicone tits. So what.
A noise interrupted my mindtrip. The jolt of a honking horn. Looking up, I saw Jimmi’s dented, sputtering, rag-top bug at the curb five feet in front of me, her smile whiter than a priest’s collar. ‘Hey, homie white boy,’ she laughed.
‘Got a fuckin’ pen handy?
Wake up and get in, fo some vato motherfucker mugs your sleepy pendejo telemarketing ass.’
I felt the blood go to my face. Walking to the curb, I got in. Before pulling out into traffic, she leaned across the seat and kissed me. Not a long kiss, no tongue this time, but a sincere kiss. A good kiss. A Barbie in its pink dress was between her legs. ‘Thanks for today, Bruno,’ she sang. ‘You saved my ass.’
I smiled. ‘I did it for me, not for you,’ I said.
We drove to Orbit’s bank, so I could cash my pay check before six o’clock. Her driving was more homicidal than before. Aiming at pedestrians, weaving in and out between cars, screaming at the other drivers. She yammered on about Rick McGee, our Incubator supervisor: He’d called her into his office to congratulate her on making quota and pump her up, even promising to give her special help and coaching.
Leaving Washington Mutual Bank on Lincoln Boulevard, my pants pocket was stuffed with bills—hundreds and twenties and tens. Back in her bug, I suggested that we drive to Venice Beach. I wanted to celebrate by buying us dinner at the Sidewalk Cafe. Jimmi aimed her VW in the direction of Rose Avenue, then stomped the gas pedal.
The heat of the day had faded, and the breeze off the Pacific had a dry, sweet, taste. We got lucky and found a parking space half a block from the sand. She threw her Barbie in
the back seat, and I took my tie off. We left our shoes in the car.
On the boardwalk at the Sidewalk Cafe, I spent fifty bucks on salads and pizza and two chocolate ice cream pastries shaped like Elvis. Laughing and talking. I told her about the poetry I’d published, leaving out that I hadn’t had anything in print in years. When our waiter came to collect for the bill, I did a version of the Orbit sales pitch on the guy, trying to
him on giving up his tip. Walking away from the restaurant, Jimmi kissed me again. A long, hard, tongue kiss.
Next door at Small World Books, I stuck my head in and asked if they had any Jonathan Dante titles. The lady behind the register looked at me. ‘Jonathan who?’ she said.
At an outdoor stand, I bought us cigarettes and cappuccinos, and we began walking the strand. Men we would pass looked back at Jimmi, their eyes aching. She ignored it, sucking her cappuccino, happy to hold my arm. Playful.
We stopped to look at the beach vendor stuff: the jewelry tables, tee shirts, knick-knack and souvenirs stands, the tattoo artists and fortune tellers. Jimmi bargained with the Latino peddlers, shouting negotiations in Spanglish. Her smile changed everything—she had them cold. While she was talking to a jewelry guy, I palmed a hundred dollar bill and handed it to his sales clerk for a beaded silver necklace in a gift box.
In half an hour, we had two shopping bags full of junk; knock-off perfumes, literature from the Hari Krishna’s, sun glasses with exchangeable lenses, stuffed Disney toys for her nieces I had never heard about, a cigarette lighter shaped like a skull, a twelve-pack of cold Pepsi, a cheap watch, ten kinds of incense. Crazy shit. And two gold pillows with the words ‘VENICE BEACH’ sewn across the front.
With me towing the bags, Jimmi pulled me by the arm the width of the wide beach to a place near the surf where we
could be alone. Flopping back in the sand, she pulled her skirt up above her hips revealing long, brown, strong legs. At the top I could see a pair of silky black panties. The sight of them made me choke.
‘Pussy brain,’ she snapped, when she saw me staring. ‘Hey Bruno,
you got a fuckin
Stick your eyes back in your face, man. You seen legs before.’
Those are the premium. The high-yield. The extra life.’
‘You can’t see my bush, can you?’
Licking her fingers, she reached over and shoved them into my mouth. ‘Guys! Always thinkin’ wich yo dicks. Don’ chu know tha makes a women feel all creepy’n shit?’
‘Then pull your dress down,’ I said, sucking the fingers. ‘Stop flashing
Your shipping address
…Are the underpants silk?’
‘How ‘bout I pull ‘em down so you can see my monkey; how ‘bout tha shit, mister telemarketer, mister literary genius richass fifteen-hundred-dollar a week success phone guy?’
I laughed. ‘You’re making my tongue hard.’
‘Hey Bruno, chill. Fow I buss a cap in your white-boy ass.’
I pulled the felt box containing the silver necklace out of my jacket pocket and put it in her hand. ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘I’ve got a surprise.’
While my heart thumped, Jimmi bent the lid open to look inside. She smiled when she saw the gleaming trinket with its inlaid black stones. She took it out of the box and held it up. ‘Jesus, mijo,’ she whispered, sliding toward me across the sand; ‘thaz beautiful.’
Then, a second later, her face was dark. Changed. She handed the box back.
‘What’s wrong?’ I asked. My stomach had gone hollow.
‘I can’t take tha from you, man.’
I searched the stained-glass eyes. ‘Okay, why?’
‘You know why, man. You bought me nice stuff today,’ she whispered, ‘Fun stuff. But this don’t mean tha, this means somethin’ different. I know how jou think, man, okay? Jou thinkin’ it’s you’n me. Tha ain gonna happen, Bruno. You and me ain in love, okay?’
I should have waited, filled my mouth with a handful of sand or seaweed before talking, but I didn’t. ‘So, you’re a mind reader,’ I snarled. ‘A psychic. Madam Jimmi from the Pacoima sewer. Because I bought you a piece of fucking jewelry, now I’m going to ask you to marry me. Is that it?’
‘Baby-boy,’ Jimmi whispered, touching my arm, her nails teasing my skin, ‘I like you. Jou my man. Jus forget the flowers’n shit, okay? Jou’n me ain down wid tha.’
I jerked away. ‘You’re right. Fuck it!’
‘Chill man. I tole you—you’n me ain tha way.’
While she looked on, I got up and flung the necklace as far as I could into the surf.
‘Yo, man! Why’djou do tha?’
‘It’s mine, that’s why! I bought it and paid for it with the money I made working, closing MY sales. If I feel like feeding the fucking sharks, it’s my business.’
She was on her feet spinning in the direction of the boardwalk. ‘How’bout this, bitch;
Then she was gone.
Ten minutes later, the sky had gone dark red. Still carrying the shopping bags, I made my way back across the sand and down the boardwalk to where we had parked the car. Jimmi was waiting there, smoking a cigarette, sitting on the front fender of her bug. Walking up, I dropped the bags at her feet. ‘These are yours,’ I said.
She opened the car door, then stuffed the bags inside on the floor. She handed me my shoes from the front seat. I could tell she wanted to make up. ‘Clean your feet off before you get in,’ she whispered. ‘Please. Okay?’
Leaning against the car, I slid my socks on then pushed my feet into my loafers. ‘Fuck it,’ I said. ‘I’m walking home.’
‘C’mon man, be nice. Get in the car.’
But I hadn’t had enough. I peeled a twenty dollar bill off the wad from my pocket and thrust it toward her. ‘Here,’ I spit. ‘Gas money. Thanks for the ride.’
She pushed the bill away.
Turning away from the beach, I began walking toward Pacific Avenue. Then something caught my eye—stopped me. Several cars away, up the block, a fat, grey-shirted meter maid was forcing a parking ticket under the wiper on a jeep’s windshield. Looking over at Jimmi’s bug’s window, I saw she had one too.
I felt my anger. Stepping to her car I yanked the pink cardboard envelope out from under the wiper then read the inked-in handwriting: ‘OBSTRUCTING HANDICAPPED ZONE—$237.00.’ Jimmi’s car’s front bumper was a foot or two into the blue area—sloppy parking—but clearly obstructing nothing. ‘Hey you, ticket bitch!’ I yelled up the block, unable to stop my mouth.
The meter maid heard me but didn’t look up. Fifty feet away she was occupying herself writing an expired-meter summons.
‘Hey,’ I yelled louder, losing control, waving the cardboard ticket over my head. ‘Hey, parking cunt! What in the motherfucking goddamn fuck is this!’
Jimmi was beside me, clutching and grabbing to hold me back. But it was too late.
The uniformed woman was tall, over six feet, a heavy-framed black lady. As I stomped in her direction, she thrust
her arm out, her flattened palm toward me, in a cop-like ‘stop’ gesture.
‘Hey yourself,’ she barked, tossing her ticket book on the roof of a ten-year-old Camaro, ‘hold it right there!’
I kept coming. ‘This is bullshit!’ I yelled. ‘Two hundred and thirty-seven dollars worth of handicapped, blue-curb, bullshit!’
Reaching her, halting inches from her face, I tore the ticket in half, then in half again, then tossed it against her huge tits. ‘How ‘bout that, fatasspigparkingfucker? Half cop piece of shit, half fuckin’ gofor civil-service, Gestapo parkingmeterfuckingcocksucker!…Fuck you! How about that?’
The big lady leaned forward. We were chest to chest.
I shoved back—hard—losing my fists in her tits.
‘Mister,’ she snarled, ‘that’s assault! You just impeded the duties of a City of Los Angeles Parking Enforcement employee. Now you got you some real trouble.’
Pulling a two-way cop radio from her belt, she punched the broadcast button. ‘This is P-V-B-217. I’ve got a problem here. Come back?’
Jimmi’s eyes showed her panic. With the strength of a man, she yanked me away by my shirt, then steered me five feet in the opposite direction. ‘Bruno, Jesus! Stop it, man.’
I wrenched myself free.
‘Quit!’ she pleaded. ‘I told you I’ve got a drawer full of tickets and Failures To Appears at home. Man, they run my plates, I go to the fuckin’ slam!’
Sidestepping me, she swiveled and came face to face with the meter maid. ‘Sorry for the problem, Miss Officer,’ Jimmi begged. ‘My friend’s an asshole. You know, from New York.’
The big woman’s walkie-talkie was still to her mouth. ‘That
man just assaulted a municipal employee,’ she barked. ‘There’s back-up on the way.’
Jimmi was in my face, yelling. ‘Gimme your money!’ she hissed. ‘All of it!’
Reluctantly, I dug in my pocket for the wad. She grabbed the bills then, whirling, facing the woman, she peeled off three hundreds and handed them across.
The meter maid clicked her radio off. ‘What’s this?’ she demanded, a thick arm holding up the money. ‘Now you attempting to bribe a civil employee?’
Jimmi handed her another hundred. ‘Lady, I don’t
any trouble. Please understand?’
The woman eyed her coldly then stuffed the money into her pants pocket. ‘Girl,’ she snarled, ‘you’d bess watch yo man. He got hizzelf a bad mouth and some real ugly manners.’
Huffing, with effort, she bent to the sidewalk, scooping up the fragments of the torn parking ticket, then tucked the pieces in her pocket with the money. For the first time she was smiling. ‘We gonna forget all this ever happened.’
Five minutes later, back in her bug, Jimmi popped a Pepsi, then lit a cigarette. ‘Jou like a two-year-old brat, mijo.’
‘Four hundred fucking dollars! Are you joking?’
Instead of answering, impulsively, she kissed me. Passionate. A long kiss. Her sweet, squirming tongue filling my mouth. When she was done, she opened her eyes and drew back, her hand on my leg. ‘Jou in love wit me, right? I know it so don lie, man.’
Taking a chance, I moved her hand across to my crotch. Her smile was playful. She flung the Barbie between her legs into the back seat.
The red sky had turned mostly black, but it was too early for
stars. Another kiss. Long, hard, and deep. When she was done she unzipped my fly. My dick was iron.
Afterward, we were both smoking, staring into the impeccable night. ‘Feel better now?’ she whispered.
Then her hand was between her own legs, rubbing her spot. ‘I want that cock inside me, Bruno,’ she breathed. ‘Can I tell you what else I want, what makes my twat wet?’
‘A necklace. Jewelry?’
‘I want you fucking me while that fat-parking-bitch watches us. Like she’s standing on the sidewalk with her fucking ticket book in her hand looking in the window. Rubbing her cunt while she’s talking on her cop radio, reporting us. Your cock is everywhere in my body. And she’s watching you lick me. Then you cum again, and I suck every drop and spit it out all over my tits…Is what I’m saying making your dick hard, Bruno?’