Secrets of the Lottery Winner
CHAPTER 26: A SMALL WORLD
Hubris ran amuck in him; self-importance was a plague to his sensibilities; but he was, in fact, perfectly objective and right to believe unwaveringly: “She’ll remember me.” To Gari, it was inconceivable she would not remember, if only vaguely, a man whose balls she once wanted to snip and post on the doorknob of the American Embassy.
He reacted to the sighting by hesitating and then resisting Catherine’s urgings to move close and gain the attention of the pink pair.
“Let’s go,” she commanded, when she realized he was pulling in the opposite direction.
“You go. They’re too bizarre for the agency.”
Catherine stopped. “Gari, are you nuts? You know where you are, I assume. Hollywood. This is Hollywood business. We’re talking big money here. And as for bizarre, I’ve seen worse on Lower Wacker.”
She tugged at him and they turned in time to see Nickelson chugging away, trailing smoke like a Metra locomotive. “Thanks, Gari. My chance to meet a star and he’s gone. Let’s go.”
“Fine, fine, I’m behind you,” he bleated. She was simply too beautiful. He couldn’t resist her. While he wanted mightily to be true and loyal to Emily and keep his freely made vow, she was irresistible. If she beckoned him to her bed or even a table in the back of the Sunset, he might succumb. But whether he would or wouldn’t, he did not want to shutoff the choice. His feelings were a mixed up muddled mess, a goulash of nuttiness with plenty of potential for self-annihilation.
Damn they were a strange couple, Gari observed, once within their redolent aura. It was Patricia looking much as she had in Jamaica, though now she was more so. Her gown was a shimmering pink, cascading to the floor and gathering there like fine drapery. He wondered how she walked without tripping, then noticed a nearly invisible cord extended from the middle finger of her left hand to the hem. It was a Victorian artifact on a true product of the twenty-first century and he chuckled. Above her waist the dress faded to nearly nothing. In front, it covered the tips of her breasts and afforded all a lovely view of the valley between them, enhanced by a sheen and a smattering of pink glitter. As for the back, there was none until just before the beginning of her ass, enticingly bulbous, invitingly touch tempting to fingers, like Brancusi’s “Bird.” Where her skin was flecked with pink, its deep ebony was oiled and buffed to a gloss. Her generous lips were painted pink, as were her eyelids. And, most startling of all, her hair was vivid pink. Traveling his eyes downward again, he paused on her face and noted her eyebrows also were dyed pink. This set him to speculating about the color of her hirsute nether.
Surging through him, shoving aside the dread at what the woman had intended for him and the fear over the additional chaos she could now introduce into his life, was a powerful desire to possess her. This was Jamaica redux. What would it be like to be with her in a quiet room, perhaps softly lighted in a pink hue? Patricia owned the color, or it owned her, as it enriched the chocolate of her flesh, as tempting to him as the confection was to a sugar addict. Together they’d be redolent on the bed, the same yet tonally distinct, as if the color originated from two different prisms. Just envisioning this setting, entwined, soft against each other, slightly moist, on the verge of engaging each other, the excitement was almost too much for him and he had to suppress a groan that begged to issue from his agape mouth.
Catherine rescued him from his trance with a sharp jab of the finger in his ribs. “God, she’s stunning, isn’t she?”
Her word choice was, well, nothing less than perfect. Yes, Patricia was stunning, like a black widow to her mate. “I can’t argue with that,” he said, “and you may be understating it.”
No doubt, Patricia was the showpiece of the pair, the peacock since in fact she’d proven herself a woman who wasn’t adverse to hauling balls around in her bag and using them to further her wacky cause, which she now seemed to have tossed on a trash heap somewhere between Jamaica and Hollywood.
The man was in pink—pink tails to be precise, entirely pink from shoes to cravat, shirt included. However, the color didn’t show well against his starch-white skin. Certainly a tan would have helped matters, but he was like the other moles in the room, resistant to the roasting effect of the L.A. sun. Capping this, his hair was mousy brown and askew. Well, bad next to good always enhanced good by a magnitude.
Pausing on the man’s face a moment, Gari saw the fellow laugh at something. Who could hear with the noise in the place? The loudness assaulted his throat, and it ached. The noise wore him down to where he would have been quite content to curl in a corner and nod until dawn. In lieu of what he wanted to do, he studied the man and saw the fellow had astonishingly bad teeth. Brit jumped to mind.
Gari jogged back in time, back and back until the Daily Gleamer materialized before his eyes. And there on its otherwise smiley-face pages was the story he expected: Brit Reportedly Captured. But he saw the headline and nothing more. What was the Brit’s name? Robert, Clive, Culbert, James—it could be an endless litany and require forever to recite, and what difference did a name make anyway? Then it snuck up on him from behind. Brian. It rattled around in his noggin for a few seconds until it joined with Newberry. Brian Newberry. Brian Newberry.
He repeated the name several times until the repetition could not be contained in his brain, within the bulwark of his skull, and like water yielding to gravity, overflowed through a sluice that allowed the name to exit his mouth. “Brain Newberry, Christ, you still got your balls!” It boomed forth, a cannon shot that might have been mistaken for mockery, insult, familiarity, or plain lunacy.
Gari’s utterance riveted the attention of the pink pair, who swung to the sound, faces masked in shocked expressions. One person in the vicinity was impressed. He glanced Catherine’s way to see her darting him an admiring acknowledgement. He doubted she’d heard what he’d said; she was probably admiring his audacious display of buttonholing.
Before the pair could banish their shocked expressions, Catherine thrust forward and extended a hand at Patricia, shouting, “Catherine Lourdes, Mid-Continental Trust Company. Did anyone ever tell you you’re stunning? I hope you have, you lucky guy.” This she directed at Brian—it had to at him. How lucky could a gelding be? Now Gari’s testicles ached.
Patricia regained her composure first and Gari knew by the sparkle in her eye that Jamaican days were foremost in her vicious lobes. “The banker,” she said, stepping into Catherine’s handshake and embracing her. The two performed the air kissing ritual.
Gari immediately set to work painting a picture of the two women clutching each other. It replaced his dread and fear of the meeting with euphoria.
Catherine was blond and lightly tanned, and Patricia was burnished ebony, and in his rendering they entwined. Into this balance, which Gari first contemplated in its purity, he injected himself. The Getty surged forth, in particular the painting of the three lovers; and his creation struck him as the perfect manifestation of the art and if it could be imagined an even more the perfect expression of it: Gari sandwiched between Catherine and Patricia. The vision nearly overwhelmed him. What was the word for a woman overwhelmed by romantic fantasy? Swoon was it. An old lacy and probably forgotten word, but he sensed he was about to demonstrate its meaning to the movie crowd.
And then, as if they were telling them he was verging on making a fool of himself, they broke their clench and Catherine launched into earnest financial bilge.
He would have slumped in a chair, except one wasn’t handy, and the pink companion choose to jab a finger at him in a most unfriendly and downright threatening manner. “How do you know my wife?”
It was a common question but delivered with a fierce edge of accusation, each word and each syllable of each word freighted with suspicion.
Well, Gari had news for the man in pink. He was having a bad day, and the party wasn’t what he expected; and besides he didn’t want to attend it anyway. True, he was there because of a woman, but not Patricia. He didn’t know she was in L.A.; he figured her as a resident of a Jamaican hellhole gaol, the kind of place where the guards raped women like Patty on a preset schedule.
This British bastard with bad teeth and a black attitude to rival begged for slapping down. While Gari wouldn’t win prizes as an oral duelist, he figured the Brit for a cinch. “The same way you know Patty.”
The Brit regarded him with quizzical animosity.
Gari decided to jar the Brit quickly into reality. “Exactly the same way I know you, Brian Newberry.”
“You know me? I’ve never laid eyes on you until tonight.”
Gari drew close. “And you owe me, too.”
“You’re absolutely bonkers. You must hear that fairly often.”
“Humph,” Gari fumed, “I’m the reason you still have your balls, my good man.”
Newberry, who was naturally pale though more pink-cast as a result of his costume, flushed cherry and drew closer. “What do you mean?”
Gari detected a timbre of fear amid Newberry’s attempt at bravado. The edge was off his attitude, replaced by fear, just a smidgen to be sure, but present nevertheless. So, he concluded nobody but Gari, and Patricia, knew. He chalked up Newberry’s attachment to a prolonged case of Stockholm syndrome.
Gari kept his volume as low as he could and still be heard. He glanced at Catherine and Patricia to assure himself they couldn’t hear. They seemed to have no interest other than themselves.
“How’d you meet her?” Gari asked.
“What’s it to you? And what about you and my –“
“Your balls? Miss Pink there and her friends—remember her friends, the little revolutionary bunch, the guys who mumbled loudly and the woman a dog might mistake for a fireplug and piss on?” Gari detected recognition in the way Newberry’s eyes grew larger. “She got me first, pal. They nearly got mine, but I got away. Right afterwards, I read a Brit had been kidnapped by the Jamaican Freedom Alliance. You’ve still got them because I bumped into Patricia later. I could have kept quiet, but … well, just call me a concerned citizen.”
“She’d never be party to such an abomination.”
Gari simulated cutting with his fingers. “Why don’t we ask her?”
“No, let’s not.”
“Are you a praying man, Mr. Newberry?” Gari emphasized Newberry as if it carried the same mystery as a secret oath.
“You know my name, so what? My wife and I are releasing a major motion picture here. I’d be surprised if you didn’t know my name. I mean, know our names. And by the way, you’ve implied much, but you haven’t identified yourself.”
“Gari Garibaldi. I’m president of Lefton & Associates West. We’re an ad agency.”
“Your manner of soliciting our business—I assume you’re at this party for business reasons—your manner is odd, to say the least.”
“The truth is, Mr. Newberry, I would like to promote this movie or your next one.”
“Banish it from your mind, Mr. Garibaldi. Banish it as you would your most unexpected hope.”
“Oh, I think I might have a good shot at it, Mr. Newberry. Look, I have just one hope, and it’s that you’re a praying man.”
“If you’ll excuse me, I have guests who demand my attention,” said Brian, twisting to turn away and nab any one of them.
Gari gently grasped his arm and tugged and nodded to the effect Newberry would be ill-advised turning away at the moment. “My meaning is you’d better be sure this movie is a success, or snip, snip. You don’t want to disappoint that woman.”
“Don’t trouble yourself with worry. It will be.”
“With the help of Lefton & Associates, I have no doubt.”
Newberry pulled his arm free and began separating in disgust. Before his eyes could unlock from Gari’s, Gari said, “I’m sure your investors wouldn’t appreciate giving their money to an avowed enemy of the American Capitalist System. In fact, I myself am leery of working with the two of you. Imagine my reputation if it got around I did ad work for the last of the world’s communists.”
Newberry’s countenance transformed from angry to concerned and deflated to defeat. “Wait a minute,” he said, turning to Patricia and whispering in her ear. She nodded and smiled, never missing a beat responding to Catherine.
“Let’s go over there,” Brian said, gesturing to the corner, “where we can talk in private.”
Private in this room meant screaming over the din and pausing every few seconds to wave off somebody who simply had to talk to the man in pink. “Okay,” Brian said, “what movies have you promoted?”
“None yet,” said Gari.
“What a bloody recommendation. Who are your clients?”
“Shoes?” exclaimed Brian. “And damned rubbish shoes to boot.”
“Rubbish or not, their business is up twenty percent since we started promoting them.”
“Christ, the advertising’s crap.”
“Sure I’ve noticed. It’s such crap I can’t help it.”
“I guess crap sells. What’s this movie of yours about anyway?”
“It’s a children’s epic.”
“They’ve filmed ‘Lord of the Flies.'”
“Is this the brand of wit you’ll bring to promoting our movie?”
“I leave the wittiness to my dynamic duo creative team,” Gari said, doing his best to dam the derision seizing him. “Gyl and Kennie, the creative crackerjacks I like to call them.”
“You’re pulling my leg?”
“I’ve been known to pull her leg,” Gari said, flipping his head in Catherine’s direction, “but never a leg like yours, mate.”
“Gyl Grass and Kennie Cox?” Newberry said.
“Yes, they are the two. You know them?”
“I worked in advertising for a while. Sure I know them. They’re at your agency?”
Gari had a wealth of abusive remarks stored for such an occasion as this. However, he decided to proceed cautiously for a few reasons. Disparaging the duo would amount to diminishing his agency in front of a prospective client. He didn’t care much about Newberry. Well, perhaps a little. But securing a movie account would be a coup for an agency with only shoe experience. He could use the business. And strolling out of the party with a movie account would get Larry off his back. Too, word traveled fast, especially in L.A., which was the ultimate word-of-mouth town. Nobody would hire Lefton & Associates if they knew the president’s opinion of his creative team was that they were complete idiots.
His noncommittal response was, “Yes.”
A second passed between them, when the volume in the room seemed to ratchet down to zero and Gari swore he heard the rustle of clothing and the stretch in Catherine’s hose as she shifted from sandal foot to sandal foot in her gabfest with Patricia.
Finally, Brian said, “Perhaps I judged you too hastily. They are the best in your tawdry industry.”
Gari alternately suppressed a laugh, a scream, and a tear. The two Gari regarded as a step below numbskulls were held in esteem by this Brit. Gari had granted Newberry a thimble of respect owning to the man’s status as a survivor of Patty’s blade. Sure the man had teamed up with the black beauty; but Gari wrote that off to survival. To his thinking, Newberry’s action was akin to a trapped and desperate animal gnawing off its foot to hop, skip, and jump another day. Who wouldn’t act irrationally when his testicles were at stake? But this, praising the dimwits was too much. Newberry must be a crazy man. Certainly he was a man possessed of abominable judgment.
Once the emotion drained, Gari saw it didn’t matter. Winning the business was what counted. And if he could exploit the two who had tormented him from the day Larry had insisted he hire them, well, at least he’d get a little value from them. He noted, though, the thing he had to avoid was letting Larry know how well the duo were regarded; otherwise a barely bearable man would become unbearable.
“They’ll be on your account. You can count on it,” Gari said.
“Okay, look,” said Newberry, affably, “I’m merely the writer.” He nodded toward Patricia, who was still engaged in a head wagging badinage with Catherine. “She’s producing.”
“She’s cutthroat,” Gari said.
“If you thought you were going to lose your balls in Jamaica, then I suggest you grip and hold your jewels with both hands.” Newberry offered his advice with a smile closely resembling a grimace.
It was at the conclusion of this cautionary that Patricia and Catherine finished their exchange, and Patricia directed her attention at Gari and Newberry, but mostly at Gari. No doubt her bright white-toothed smile was for him alone.