Secrets of the Lottery Winner
CHAPTER 29: THE BIG DEAL
The flashy quartet was the object of stares and whispers. Everybody in the crowd knew the pair in pink; the buzz concerned the other two. Even in Hollywood people found spotting stars challenging. Not the big stars, the great bright blues at the height of their powers; their magnitude was as huge as their billing at the top of a movie. The little stars presented the problem. There were newbies who could have been anybody’s kid. And there were the red dwarfs well past their glory days; the types most in the crowd wouldn’t recognize, unless they caught a flick from past decades.
Buzz, buzz went the crowd’s mantra about two people who until they’d entered the orbit of the pink pair had nothing to do with the movies, other than laying out money for tickets.
A member of the quartet, Newberry, talked directly into Patricia’s ear. She nodded and nodded, and Gari observed them intently, curious whether Newberry was selling her on the agency idea, or exchanging Gari’s balls for the preservation of his own. He simply couldn’t dispel the image of Patty snipping away at him. He wanted the account, if only to shoo Larry back to Chicago quickly, though he also harbored the dream of fame beyond the kingdom of shoes. But he perplexed over working with somebody he feared carried scissors in her purse and would use them the moment he left a seat empty in a theater in Keokuk, Iowa. Well, why pass up a movie account for mere organic matter? After all, in Hollywood it could get worse, and did for some people.
Gari drew a narrow bead on Patricia, intending to discern through makeup, hair, skin, and bone whether she had reformed herself, or remained the revolutionary raptor he’d escaped in Jamaica. She’d been a young woman in Jamaica. Maybe it was her attire back there. It was bright and tropical and girlish. He tripped over the girlish memory; it was what got him into trouble. Not that he was a cradle robber by any means. But virginal youth, well, didn’t rich old bastards pay big bucks for a first crack? Hadn’t somebody made a movie about that very perversity; and hadn’t somebody famous been carried as a girl on a platter, like succulent meat, the main course of an elaborate banquet, enthroned amid garnish to appease the appetite of the pedophilic throng? The bidding, he remembered, had been hot and heavy.
But he was wandering. He returned to concentrating on Patricia, on her face, which at the moment was serene, innocent to strangers; she didn’t fool him. She appeared older to him. He detected lines marring an otherwise buffed complexion. Could be American capitalism was wearing her, eroding her youth and beauty along with her vicious idealism. Then again the light was dim and she was in makeup and with a man much older, which naturally reflected badly on her, like viewing her through crazed glass.
Newberry moved aside, not by much, but enough for Patricia to get into speaking range. Gari glimpsed him firing a cigarette and blasting plumes of smoke upward, as if Newberry was signaling the hero Jack Nickelson the coast was clear and he could come back, like, “Come back, Shane, come back.”
“The two of them, they loved each other.”
“Huh?” Gari stumbled.
Patricia said, “Jack and Brian, they loved that they smoke. The world, it is against them.”
The crowd seemed part of this love fest as the rumbling picked up and whiffs of “Nickelson’s here. He’s back” began permeating the room in pace with the drift of Newberry’s smoke.
“So, Mr. Garibaldi, you would like our business.”
“Sure, I think we can sell your movie. Besides …”
“You believe we—I owe you the business?”
“You don’t owe me a thing, Patricia.”
“You two sound like you know each other,” observed Catherine.
“We are old acquaintances, aren’t we Mr. Garibaldi?”
“I don’t know about old, but, yes, we’re acquainted.” He paused, considering how much truth to dispense. Not much, he decided, at least not now. He took the moment as an opportunity to demonstrate the level of discretion he could exercise. “We met in Jamaica last year when I was there scouting business for the agency.”
“Shoes, was it not?” Patricia said.
“Yes. Patricia was a—”
“I was a student at The University of the West Indies. I was studying business. I met Mr. Garibaldi in a shoe store, where he was conducting his research. Our meeting was quite fortunate for me, Ms. Lourdes.”
Gari also was keen to understand the nature of her good fortune, since his scared sacs as protest banners was all he could conjure, admitting to a limited imagination on this subject.
“Well, Ms. Lourdes, I was, and am, a great admirer of the American Capitalist System. Truly, it is a wonderment, this thing that can lift the poorest serfs from the muck of their existence to …” She paused and gathered the room in a wave. “… Well, this. Simply look at Brian and me. Now I put it to you: Where else could we write and produce a film about a children’s revolution and have the rich and famous beating a path to our ballroom?”
Neither Catherine nor Gari could summon the vision of such a place. And Gari suffered from the further difficultly of suppressing a rip-roaring laugh that clamored to bust forth and fill the room.
“Gari,” said Catherine, touching his arm with genuine concern, “are you alright?”
Because speech was impossible without releasing the bitter chortle, he affirmed his robust health with a vigorous couple of nods. His effort had him reeling like an imbiber.
“It was quite embarrassing, really,” continued Patricia, after affording Gari ample opportunity to burst, “for I know I gushed over poor Mr. Garibaldi when he revealed who he was and why he was in a shoe store in Jamaica.”
Gari snuck a look at Catherine, not wishing to reveal his full face as he was certain he was purple, to see how much of Patty’s patter she was buying. By her benign smile, he figured none of it.
Catherine said, dividing her gaze between Patricia and Gari, “From the moment I met Mr. Garibaldi, he has—oh, what’s the best way to express this—he has, well, inculcated me with a new appreciation of the endowed and vigorous American businessman. Really, I feared the breed nearly extinct, until Mr. Garibaldi appeared in my office.”
These women understood each other. Gari found himself shriveling, every part of him receding to miniature, under the sarcasm. As if a word of what Catherine said was true. He was the innocent, a poor slob one minute, an Illinois Lottery millionaire the next, a fellow in a weakened state, susceptible. The next thing he knew he was bouncing about with her on an art restoration table. Now that wasn’t his idea. And damn it, he certainly was vigorous and fulfilling and as scorching with his tool as she was with her feminine wit; he’d satisfied her, perhaps even had taken her where she hadn’t been for a while, not since Jimmy the Conductor, keeper of Conductor’s Club vault.
“Well,” said Patricia, “I suppose the question is: Should I hire Mr. Garibaldi to advertise my films?”
“He seems a good enough sort,” Brian said, somewhat plaintively, as if there was a chance Patricia would decide otherwise, and thereby sabotage their opportunity to make his movie, his movie, not hers, a success.
Patricia glanced Brian up and down, offended and disgusted as if he was a pesky insect annoying her with its relentless, stupid droning. She dismissed him as casually by slowly facing Catherine and bestowing upon her a warm smile. “Brian, I’m not speaking to you. If I required your opinion, I’d certainly have asked for it. You’re a backer, what do you say?”
What was it about women and their need to possess men? The gender had its own language and in this lexicon total possession of the man, and corollary, the woman as the sole object of the man’s thoughts, desires, and reasons for his every action, which they called commitment; a quantity that few men, in Gari’s experience, were able to give.
He knew, then, that in the natural order of things, Catherine was angry with him. They knew each other as banker and client. They spoke to each other infrequently. They saw each other rarely. They had sex twice. And each time she initiated it. But true to female form, she possessed him, or assumed he was her property, property that had gone bad, tainted by sex with another woman. She had no idea Patricia’s concept of contact with Gari’s genitals amounted to a desire to cut them off and display them in condemnation of the very system she now milked. She suspected something and that was sufficient.
“I’d ask him about loyalty. Will he be true to your films, Patricia, devoting his full attention to their success? Or will he simply use his association with you to chase more film work? Or worse another shoe account, which I’m afraid seems likely.”
“Hmmm,” mused Patricia.
“Okay, you two, how about this? I don’t want your movies, Patricia. And, Catherine, you can find your way home by your lonesome.”
Gari’s outburst had Newberry, who seemed the only one of the pink pair to understand what was at stake, what they might sacrifice because these three appeared to dislike each other, sucking furiously on his cigarette, launching great balls of blue smoke into the far reaches of the Sunset Ballroom, drawing so hard he disintegrated one cigarette and was halfway through another by the end of the three’s short exchange.
“For your information,” said Patricia, “the biggest names in movie promotion have already solicited my company.”
“And,” said Catherine, “I believe I can easily find Raffles without your masculine guidance.”
“I’m out of here,” said Gari, who stood anchored to his square foot of ballroom floor.
“Folks,” said Brian though the fog he was laboring hard to thicken, “can’t we be reasonable about this? Patricia, Mr. Garibaldi will do a fine job for us. Besides, the movie practically sells itself. And after the critics see it, well it will be a hit, perhaps a box office blockbuster.” He paused to light a fresh cigarette with the butt of the one presently scorching his fingers. “As for Ms. Lourdes, she’s offered us generous terms.”
Gari had to concede guts to Newberry; he bounced back from the previous public slap down. But, maybe his wasn’t a feat due respect, as it encapsulated a vast amount of self-preservation. While Patricia was blinded to it, Newberry knew leaking Patricia’s revolutionary past, complete with ball scalping, was far from the way to win the hearts and minds of their potential audience, not to mention their backers. Men were fondly attached to their reproductive sacs, as were their wives, and preferred to teach their children respect for others, not a lovely way to maim, cause or no, justified or not.
Patricia appeared to puff up and on the verge of exploding, when she instantly deflated, calmed, and said, “I believe Brian is right. We can do a deal.”
This would make it a wonderful evening, perfect really, if he could get Larry over and introduce their new client. He thought it was time to search for the mountain and bring this evening to a pleasant end.