(This is part of the “Drama McHourglass” story cycle and is a sequel to Nights Of Wine And Ponies. This is a work of, um, fiction. Any trademarks which appear in this story are used in a fictional context. Close cover before striking — JB)
Some time ago, I convinced Vodka McBigbra to watch one of my favorite movies — “The Mack”, starring Max Julien and Richard Pryor. As I watched “Goldie” drive his “hog” (another way to say “pimped-out Eldorado” down the streets, resplendent in fur coat, matching hat, and with his sword cane by his side, I said to V. McB, “I could totally be an awesome pimp.” Vodka, veteran of the Las Vegas stage and a woman who was fully aware of how modern pimps operate (Warning: the link WILL GET YOU FIRED FROM YOUR JOB) responded with a combination of anger and disdain.
“Pimps aren’t funny, dressed-up guys in Cadillacs,” she snarled. “They are terrible, terrible people. You could never be a pimp. You… well, you…”
“I get the point,” I responded, “I’m no pimp. But Pretty Tony is about to pull out his sword cane so I need to focus on the movie.” Little did I know that one day I would have a chance to test the truth of her assertion.
Florida’s Gold Coast. Hell of a place, or so I’d been told. My mother had been a Lake Worth deb at some point, but I’d never been there in my whole life. Fate (in the form of our dearly departed editor, E. Niedermeyer) tossed me a chance to go there for a press introduction. What can I say? Sometimes I get lucky.
Sometimes, also, I make my own luck. An hour after I arrived at the host hotel, which was a fabulous glass-cased sapphire set into the Atlantic sand, my entourage walked in. “One bed? Really?” Drama McHourglass was nonplussed.
“Luckily both of you are slim,” I quipped. Drama’s requirement for agreeing to attend me in Palm Beach had been that she be permitted to bring her roommate, Lola. Imagine Uma Thurman at the age of twenty-one. Lola was made to be photographed: five foot ten, impossibly slim, hard-faced in the way cameras love. The South grows these tall girls out of the fields and sends them to Los Angeles to break against the rocks of predatory model agencies and cocaine addiction.
“Before you ask,” D. McH said, swishing past me in a cloud of diaphanous dress and curly midnight-black hair, “if you touch her, I will kill you.” I didn’t dismiss the threat. She may have killed before. Has that look. She’s certainly murdered a heart or two; years after her divorce, her ex-husband still dutifully peregrinates four hundred miles each way to her home in order to accomplish such locally-unavailable tasks as faucet repair and floor-tile placement, in the hopes that Drama’s turbulent eyes will turn his way once more. When those eyes find mine, I am rooted to the ground, a deer in her headlights, fascinated by the beauty of the mortal blow as it approaches.
Lola, on the other hand, had the grace of a deer in flight over a Tennessee fence. As the evening fell she gamboled with me in the ocean, finding seashells while Drama took pictures of the moon and drew hearts in the sand. Laughing together, the three of us tumbled through the hotel lobby and up to my room where we dressed for a West Palm Beach dinner.
A few hours later, we spilled back into the lobby, loaded for bear, and visited the media lounge. As fate would have it, the same nice people running the media lounge this week had been running the media lounge last week in Vegas when I’d appeared under similar circumstances but with two different women — V. McB and Melisa Mae, in a story I will cover after certain statues of limitations expire in Nevada. Oh well. Let ‘em talk. The girls finagled a bottle of wine out of Ian, the bartender, and disappeared down to the oceanfront patio.
When I joined them, they were in deep conversation with a tanned, well-dressed fellow whom I estimated (correctly) to be in his early sixties. This dude had moved quick: I’d maybe been away from Drama and Lola for ten minutes. “Is this the pilot?” the man asked. “I’m Bill.”
“He’s not a pilot,” Drama responded. “He works for the car company. He was on our flight.” I do? I was? All became clear, even through the fog of nine shots of Ketel One: the girls were pretending to be stewardesses. Fair enough. I spoke at length about the pesky journalists attending this very nice event, giving my usual venomous dissertation but changing “us” to “them” at critical junctions.
“You’d be amazed how cheaply these fools can be bought,” I declaimed. “I gave one guy a supercharged station wagon and now he is my… slaaaaaaave. Bwahahaha.” This was only funny to me. Bill called the waiter over. Well, he didn’t call the waiter over so much as give a certain look towards the building which caused a waiter to appear. The waiter seemed to know him pretty well.
“Send a bottle of Veuve Cliquot to the hot tub,” he said. “Ladies, why don’t you join me.”
“Jack has to come,” Lola said.
“I’d rather he didn’t, but what the heck.” As we departed the patio, he called the hotel manager over, introduced us, and then commanded him to open the hot tube and pool for the evening. Amazing. We’d been told that the pool was off-limits. This dude had more pull than the OEM which had the hotel reserved. I was briefly furious until I remembered that I didn’t really work for the OEM.
Up in our room, Lola, Drama, and I dressed for the hot tub but somehow got into a drunken pillow fight which claimed a few champagne glasses and my Canon telephoto lens as victims. “My God,” I thought as two nearly nude women toppled me to the bed, “I’ve become Robert Plant. Or maybe Rod Stewart. But didn’t he have some kind of weird incident with a dog? Or was it Plant, with a fish? What if Jimmy Page had gotten his way and hired Stewart to front Zeppelin? Obviously, the ‘Truth’ album just doesn’t stand up to Zep I, but that’s Beck’s fault, isn’t it?” It’s a measure of my obsessive-compulsive nature that I can think about stuff like that at a time like that, I suppose. The mess took a half hour to make and a half hour to clean up, but when we finally arrived at the hot tub, Bill was patiently waiting with the unopened Cliquot. Half an hour later, when that was gone, he just looked at the hotel again and a dude appeared with a bottle of Moet.
It was three in the morning when the girls stepped out of the hot tub and went to swim in the pool. Bill and I discussed money (he’d made a ton of it), women (he loved them) and our goals in life (his was to increase his net worth; mine was to win a Daytona Prototype race and live long enough to see my son turn twenty-one). I was impressed with the man. He’d succeeded where most had failed. He was driven. He was focused. And he knew what he wanted.
“Tell me,” he said, “what’s it going to take to get me and Lola in that cabana?” I affected consideration of the matter. Then a swirling vision of Goldie, The Mack, appeared in front of me, and I knew what to say.
“Five thousand dollars, cash. To me, not her.” I thought this was a very suave thing to do, primarily because I had consumed the equivalent of a Big Gulp’s worth of distilled alcohol. Bill didn’t flinch.
“I don’t have the money.” A pause. “It will take me thirty minutes. But I need to hear it from the lady.” Oh, fuck.
“Um, er,” I said, any Goldie-esque suavity I had having utterly disappeared, “let me go talk to her.” I went to the pool, dove in, and dog-paddled to the girls, who were kissing idly in the deep center. “Bill will pay you five grand if you go to the cabana with him, so, um, get your money, boo.” Lola swam off and stepped out. I had to admire her body as she did so; it was flawless and in that moment I saw what Bill saw. Not a timid girl from Franklin, Tennessee, but something to rent, to buy, to own, to despoil, to ruin. Then I took Drama in my arms and, standing on tiptoe in the water, I spun her around again and again, long slow lazy circles. Her dark eyes were half-lidded and she smiled as the water streamed her hair out behind her.
“I asked myself if I would tell you no, or yes,” she said. “But I look at that moon, that cloudy moon, that rainbow moon, and it’s yes, oh God, it’s yes, it’s yes.” Then, some time later, she said, “What happened to Lola?” We returned to the hot tub just in time to hear the negotiations conclude. As I’d suspected, Lola wasn’t even close to being down with the idea. Although Bill was a closer par excellence, he couldn’t close the gap between Lola’s innocence and his desires.
With near-infinite dignity, Bill stepped out of the tub and looked towards the hotel, causing the massive security guard to come out of the shadows. “The lady has made her decision. You’ll see that these three have anything they need.” In the space of seconds, he’d become the Bill that surely everybody meets across the boardroom table. He’d made his pitch, and it hadn’t worked out. Nothing personal, but we were now officially wasting his time. He disappeared while the three of us laughed like children whose teacher has left the classroom after saying something unintentionally risque.
Some time later, we took Lola upstairs and laid her sleeping figure in the bed. Drama and I squeezed into the other half. Her skin was hot to the touch. There was blood and wine across the sheets, remnants of the broken glass. She pushed me away, then drew me close, and bit my shoulder. We drifted away together.
I was breathing Drama’s name into her ear when the phone rang. It was a friend of mine from the Heritage Guitar Owners Club who’d agreed to meet me in the lobby and sell me a Keeley-modified Ibanez TS808 “Tube Screamer” effects box. He was early, because we were supposed to meet at eight-forty-five OH MY GOD IT IS EIGHT FORTY FIVE IN THE MORNING. I dressed on the trot and ran to the elevator. Amazingly enough, Bill was standing there. “Do you have a card?” I did. He shook my hand, secure in the dignity of his wealthy majesty. By all means, I thought, let’s play dice with other people’s lives again some time. He walked away and I caught myself in a mirror. Wild-haired, wild-eyed, deeply in love, wearing a torn-up Turnbull & Asser over a “trackdaze.com” shirt. Bill looked like a winner. I looked like a fucking loser. Too old to be doing this. Too old to stay up all night, too old to chase, too old to run.
All of a sudden, I knew what Vodka had been too polite to tell me. “You’re no pimp,” she’d said. “You, well, you’re…” I looked at the mirror and completed the sentence.