"Would you care for a drink? Keep in mind they don't have Mello Yello in California," said Ellen. "Just Mountain Dew."
"I'll have whatever kind of cola they offer, thank you."
Ellen retrieved the drinks and sat down. "You know, I'm not going to bother asking why me performing in adult video bothers you so much, I figure that answer is obvious. What I can't understand is why you refuse to accept the fact. You keep saying you don't believe it. Why the obstinacy?"
"For one thing, you are --- or were --- a good christian. I'm assuming that fell by the wayside."
"I still have my faith, why wouldn't I? I'm between churches right now, I'll probably continue attending the Congregationalist church with Chip and Dale for the time being. Attending a Foursquare or Baptist church is out, and you can work that one out on your own. I don't want to hear about how I'm going to hell because of what I do for a living. And I'm keeping my job, Chelsea. It's not up for debate. Neither are my friends."
"Ask your self honestly, Ellen: are those criminals and whores out there truly your friends?"
"I've already warned you about insulting my friends. Get it through your head: these people are friends of mine, and close ones. We have fun together. We also support each other. When I was feeling homesick, you know what they did? They found a catering place that made corn bread and fresh-squeezed lemonade and casseroles, and they threw me a dinner party! Just out of the blue! Chip and Dale have held me when I've cried, Bekka too. They helped bring me out of my shell --- I'd be sulking in front of the TV, and they'd come over and say, 'C'mon, we're going to go to a club, we're gonna dance and have fun.' They kept me from being a recluse, made me get out and interact with the world. I run on the beach three days a week, and I've met people that way. It's nice being able to just start talking to a stranger and have them talk back.... When was the last time you did that in Kearney? Ever?"
Bringing up one of her inexhaustible supply of haughty looks, Chelsea said, "Strangers are dangerous."
"..... Or they're friendly and interesting and joyous people. Think of all the towns Jesus walked into, and made an impact. Think of the ones where he was rejected, and what they missed out on. Think about them the next time you brush off a stranger. I'm not saying you'll meet Christ, but you could make a connection and learn something and make a friend."
Ellen stood and pivoted on the ball of one foot. "Whooo!" she said. I 'm kinda hoping we go dancing tonight. Too bad you're saddled with the kids, I'd invite you. Heh, maybe I could talk you into taking a hit of Lenny's Ecstasy. It truly is a beautiful experience."
"My god, you're using street drugs now too. Did I ever know you?"
"Ecstasy is hardly a street drug. It's a vacation you take for the night that costs around $20, depending on where you get it from. Lenny buys in bulk, so he's generous with his: he got everyone high here today just.... Because. If you wanted a hit, great, if not, that's fine too. His stuff is high end, you'd be crazy to turn it down if it was offered."
"And just what other drugs are people here doing?"
"Um, Bekka likes weed, so her and Tawny probably smoked a bowl in her car.... I know all three guys did a line of meth, I know that because they offered me one, but I don't like it that much, I have to be in the right mood.... Um, yeah, that's it. We're just partying on a Friday afternoon!"
"Ellen, this is horrible! You're hanging out with these scary-looking people, you're using drugs, and you're having sex for money!"
"Well, the sex isn't really sex, it's more performance than anything else. Chip and I have sex. What gets filmed is just.... It's like fake sex. Yes, there's intercourse involved, but it's really posed and laid-out beforehand. It's rare for me to come while I'm working, just because of how things work. The guys come --- that's the money shot --- but I don't think they even get off on it all that hard, they just ejaculate and that's it. They're too busy thinking about their aim and hoping they put out a good-sized load."
"You're killing me, Ellen. I don't know whether to cry or slap you."
"Why can't you be happy for me? I'm living a life I'm comfortable with, I'm happy, I'm making good money, I go to church every Sunday, I've got a great place to live, I've got a good lover, I've got wonderful loving friends.... I know there are aspects of how I'm living that disturb you, but.... Let those slide, and be happy for me, and with me! I've reached a place of joy in my life, please accept that."
Ellen finished the last of her soda and went back for a refill. She sat down and said, "Chelsea, all you've done besides insult my friends is talk about the things in my life you feel threatened by. Let's play a game. You say a word that you associate with how I'm somehow messing up my life, and I'll respond to the word, so you understand where I'm coming from. Okay?"
"(*sigh*) Fine. Drugs."
"A vacation, and I don't need a vacation every day."
"I'll assume you mean real sex.... Joyous. Fun. A gift from God."
Through gritted teeth, "Your friends."
"My support, the people I love and who love me. People I can trust unconditionally."
"The father, the Almighty."
"The son of man. He who died for the sins of man."
"An enjoyable job that pays quite well, and am treated well."
"Lenny, Chip, and Dutch."
"Three words, but I'll let it pass. Gentlemen, every one. In fact there's one right now, you can learn how cruel and violent they are. Hey Dutch!."
"Hey Ellen, what's shakin'?"
"I was just going to tell Chelsea here about Zappa and Colin, but I figured you could do it better, since you were there."
"Heh, yeah. It was a trip, Chelsea. I'm headed up the grade on I-8 and I catch the tiniest motion in the center divider. I was all, 'what the fuck?' so I lock 'em up and stop in the center, and start running back that direction. Somehow I just knew it was a puppy or a kitten.
"I get down there and start rooting through the oleandar and sure enough, here's a tiny kitten, no more than four weeks old, with a black nose and chin. Heh, I took off my leather and shirt and tied the shirt into like a pouch.... Then I kept looking, just a hunch, ya know?
"And about six feet away I found a second one, orange and fluffy. So I got these two squeaking kittens in a pouch around my waist, but I still spent an hour searching for more, just in case. I already knew I was keepin' 'em so I went to the pet store and got formula and bottles and a whole lot of fuckin' advice --- I mean, here's some punk rock scumbag with two baby, baby kittens tied in his t-shirt --- and beyond knowing ya gotta feed 'em every few hours, I' don't know dick.
"I set up a nursery at the garage, and they'd ride with me inside my leather to and from work. The phone girl was overjoyed to feed 'em and keep 'em clean, and at nine weeks they were old enough to stay at home by themselves.
[NOTE: Thanks to an unexpected inheritance Dutch was half-owner of a Tuneup Masters franchise, allowing him to make decent money spinning wrenches and have a garage to work on his own projects at night. A smart decision: spending the money on the business and keeping his roommates, instead of buying a home he couldn't pay taxes on.]
"But yeah, that's how I got my babies, Colin and Zappa. Hold on, I got a picture here... " And went through his wallet for a photo.
"You probably missed one," said Chelsea.
"W-what?" said Dutch, his face falling.
"Yeah, you missed one and either starved to death or was hit by a car."
"No way! I, like, looked for an hour! I'd have found it!" Dutch was bordering on tears.
"Nope, you messed up and it died."
"Fuck you, lady!" yelled Dutch, practically running out of the arcade.
"There's your tough g---- OWW!" Chelsea reacted to the vicious slap Ellen had delivered.
"You heartless, soulless, cruel, sadistic, evil, unfeeling bitch. What the fuck did you do that for ? He loves those cats, he loves animals in general.... Do you have any idea how badly you just messed with his mind?"
"I just wanted to show you that he's not such a tough guy."
"He's never claimed to be! That was all in your own head! Now, if you want tough people, just wait three seconds."
"What--- " And Chelsea was brought to a standing position by Tawny grabbing her pony tail and lifting, moving Chelsea's face about three inches from hers..
"You fucking cunt. Give my boyfriend a mind-fuck like that? Fuck you. If your god's really so vengeful, you'll be dead of cancer in three years, screaming in pain the whole time. I've said it of my ex-husband, of my parents, and now of you: I hate you. I am being generous and giving you ten minutes to be in your van and leaving. Have your children gather their skee-ball tickets and collect their prizes. But you will be leaving in ten minutes, because I do not care about the consequences. Do you understand me.... Bitch?"
"And if I'm not?"
"One of us will be in the hospital, the other in jail. You can guess which one is which. And I'll make sure that due to terms of bail, I'll be out first. That's how badly I will damage you. And you're at nine minutes.."
Chelsea did the smartest thing she'd done since she arrived, which was to move quickly. The kids picked out their toys, changed into their clothes, and got in the van. Dutch threw a soda at the departing van, screaming "Lying bitch!" as it pulled into traffic. Bekka and I returned to comforting Dutch, assuring him that no, there had only been two kittens, he hadn't missed one, he got them both and that was all there was to get. Inside, Tawny and Chip were comforting Ellen, assuring her that Chelsea was not a friend at all, but a cold and manipulative person. Chelsea didn't deserve Ellen in her life, Ellen was too good a person for her.
We all gathered back at the table we'd sort of commandeered. Dutch was doing better, finally believing that he'd heard the words of a cruel, vicious woman with no soul, and not anything that reflected on reality. There were only two kittens, and there had only ever been two kittens. I considered offering some drugs, but that would have had the opposite effect: he'd have dwelled on the subject instead of having it numbed. Especially meth: it would have made him focus on the nonexistent phantom kitten, possibly made him begin patrolling the center strip of I-8 through La Mesa, hunting for nonexistent kitties.
I broached the subject of finding someplace for dinner, someplace casual due to our attire, to hopefully lighten the mood some. We were batting around ides when Bekka said, "Oh dear Christ no" and got up from the the table. We looked in the direction she was headed and briefly sagged: the van from the Whatever Foursquare Church of Kearney, NE was pulling into a space. The girls were headed toward the van with decided purpose, the guys behind them to prevent any arrest-level mayhem from occurring. Not too quickly, anyway.
Tawny got there first, demonstrating how much more she cared about Dutch than she'd admit to. She yanked the door open, pulled the driver out, and yelled, "We just got rid of you, bitch, why are ---- wait, who are you?"
"Please don't hurt the children!" the woman squawked. I said, "You have the wrong idea, ma'am. We were expecting Chelsea to get out of this van, and she is not welcome here."
Ellen stepped forward and said, "Hi, Lucy. How's things?"
Lucy froze.... Then burst into a smile and gave Ellen a big tight hug, in other words, the opposite of Chelsea's reaction.
The hug had a calming effect on everybody. Whoever this woman was, she was not The Enemy.... And until she demonstrated the poor manners (or outright cruelty) that Chelsea had, I doubted anyone would be hostile. She was all right with Ellen, and that was a good enough litmus for us.
"So, these are all your friends?" asked Lucy. "I"m Lucile, just call me Lucy." We all introduced ourselves and shook hands, Tawny apologizing for scaring her when we first arrived: "We thought you were Chelsea, and we'd just gotten rid of her."
"Oh dear. What did she do?" Her inflection made it clear that shit-stirring was an Olympic-level pastime of hers.
"May I?" I said to Ellen. To Lucy I said, "Chelsea has been rude, judgmental, arrogant, mean-spirited, hateful, and to top it off, unbelievably cruel to one of us, for no reason." I briefly closed the van door due to the kids. "Do you understand what a mind-fuck is?"
She paled, but nodded. "I believe so."
I opened the door again. "She gave one to Dutch, in a vicious way, for no reason that anyone can tell."
"That's when she had to go," said Tawny. "Dutch is a gentleman and is not about to hit a woman, but I have no hold-backs. I gave her ten minutes, due to the kids, to get up and get out. The kids are the only reason I didn't lay her open. Nobody hurts the man I'm with the way she did."
"What did she say?"
There was a lot of glancing around. Ellen said, "Lucy, I have a lot of things to tell you, and you may find some of it hard to hear. I'll get to Chelsea, but I have to tell you about my life as it is right now first. Why don't we go to the snack bar and have a seat?"
"What about the kids?"
"Gotcha covered," I said. "Hey, you kids like arcades?" A roar of approval came from the van. "Then lemme get the side door open and we'll see about getting you some tokens! Everybody grab hands while we're in the parking lot...."
The cashier, used to me, began pulling ten dollar stacks onto the counter. I bought $80 in tokens: $10 each for the kids, plus $5 each for me and Dutch, two pinball hustlers who didn't need a lot to keep busy. Chip, Bekka, and Tawny went out to play more mini golf.
".... That's how I came to work for Inana. I really am happier there. The money is better in Los Angeles, but my experience with those production companies is that they're much more high stress. Inana Productions is more laid-back, and their videos show it: the action is far more smooth, less robotic, you don't have that 'it's a job' feeling from their productions.
"I wish you had time to come and see my place. I'm just a few blocks off the beach, and I can hear the waves break from my front porch."
"Ellen. You probably already know what I'm going to say."
"I think the main thing is in how it's said."
"Ellen, I thoroughly disapprove of how you're making a living. I consider it dangerous to your health, and I feel it goes against God and what He taught us. The church has always taught us that sex outside of marriage is wrong, full stop. So I cannot condone how you make your living or aspects of your life.
"That said, I am proud and happy for you. You could have ended up in far worse situations, like being a streetwalker. You have close, loving friends who seem rather protective, from what you've told me. Living at the beach, well, that would be a dream to anyone back in Nebraska! And it makes me sick to say this, but your income is admirable."
"Thank you. It's going to go into night classes so I can get my degree. I have no illusions that I have a job I can do past thirty-five. Who knows? I may decide next month I'm tired of the work and decide to wait tables and be dirt poor."
"A very important question, to the both of us. Do you believe Jesus loves you?"
"With all my heart. And I love him. He died for our sins, and we can never be grateful enough.. My faith is strong, Lucy. I have the Lord inside me." Ellen giggled. "He probably wishes I had a different job, but He still loves me and keeps me close to His heart."
Lucy smiled and squeezed Ellen's hand. "God bless you, Ellen."
"God bless you, Lucy." They leaned across the table and hugged.
"So apparently there were were problems with Chelsea," said Lucy.
"Lenny summed it up: she was rude, condescending, judgmental, arrogant, mean-spirited, hateful.... And all of this was unprovoked. She never said it to their faces --- she still has a face as proof --- but to her my friends are criminals and whores. She thought it up, so it must be true.
"But what got her run out of town, so to speak, was her giving --- I must use the expression --- a mind-fuck to Dutch. He found and rescued two kittens on the side of the freeway. She started badgering him that there must have actually been three kittens so he'd left one to die, and she wouldn't drop it. She drove poor Dutch to tears. That's when Tawny, Dutch's girlfriend, picked her up by her ponytail and gave her ten minutes to leave the premises. Keep in mind Dutch loves animals, he volunteers at a shelter, plus having his two little boys Colin and Zappa, so her saying this crap to him was an act of unbelievable cruelty. She said it was to prove he wasn't such a tough guy.... But he's never claimed to be one, he's just a punk rocker like Lenny. And they're both the nicest guys you'll ever meet. You saw how Lenny was with the kids, making sure they held hands through the parking lot.
"She may criticize my job, as you have, but her levels of hypocrisy are off the scale, in my opinion. And after her abusing Dutch the way she did, I can't help peg her as an inherently cruel and unfeeling person, the type who pulls the wings off flies."
"On the subject of your job...."
"Do you rectify it with your faith?"
"Yes, I do. I believe as Bekka does: that sex is one of the greatest , strongest, most powerful, and most beautiful gifts given to us by God, and we should use it, not fear it. Obviously we need to be safe, but living in fear and insecurity of sexual activity is an insult to God: how and why should we be frightened of this wonderful thing he's given us?
"Performers like Bekka and Tawny and me are sort of like mechanics or plumbers, we're simply there to help things run smoothly. Condemning pornography makes no sense, as it didn't exist in Biblical times. It would be like declaring speeding or making a right turn on red to be mortal sins: the ball's already been played, you know?"
"It's an interesting hypothesis."
"Came from an interesting girl. She has strong faith, yet refuses to attend a church. She feels organized religion is self-limiting, a set of arbitrary rules that prevent faith from being explored to its fullest. You wouldn't agree with her much, just as I don't, but one must admire her conviction. And she does know her Bible. Heh, she just disagrees with huge chunks of it."
Ellen walked over to where Dutch and I were trouncing a pinball machine and asked if we'd decided where we were going to have dinner. "I was thinking Humberto's on El Cajon Boulevard. Good food and plenty of seating." Ellen promised to go see if that was kosher with the golfers; she returned a couple minutes later announcing it sounded spiffy to everyone outside.
"Have you had a meal from a serious taco stand yet?" Ellen asked Lucy.
"No.... Well, we eat a lot at a place called Del Taco. Does that count?"
Ellen laughed and said no, not even close. "You are not leaving San Diego without having had a real carne asada burrito. Please join us for dinner."
"Well.... We're supposed to meet Chelsea and the other kids for our evening meal.... But to be frank, I'm tired of delivery pizza and fast food. Okay, I'll go with you all."
So there would be no confusion on locating the place, Dutch and I sort of bullied Lucy into having us drive the van. Everyone else knew which place we were headed to. Leaving the lot, Tawny demonstrated her skill as a passenger on the Ducati, calmly holding onto the hand rail while Dutch did a wheel stand. The rest of us followed in line towards a herd of Nebraskans' first experience with real Mexican food.
"Does he always ride like that?" asked Lucy of Dutch.
"Only part of the time. This is a positive thing, it means he's in a good mood."