"So let me get this straight," I asked, "You're okay with me becoming a member of the family?"
Bekka said, "You can't become one. You're not Italian. However, you can be an associate, and that's okay with me. Not much would change for you, since you're already running Inana like a champ. At most they'd have you run errands that you're used to, after all the time you spent dealing."
"I'm at a loss. A month ago you hated the idea of me being tied up with the guys, and now it's okay? What changed?"
"My perspective. I got to know Angela and Christina and Chelsea better, and they've lived around the guys for years. It's not like it used to be, they're all playing straight these days. Their business dealings are honest, like Inana. You're not crooked, right?"
"I wouldn't know how to be. Ripping off Inana would be insanity. Rick tried it, and the gentlemen figured it out. They're the mafia, aren't they supposed to be the crooked ones? And why rip off people I respect?"
"If they're crooked, I don't see how. Maybe that's their genius. And there's no way I'm suggesting you try to be like Rick. Look where it got him."
"Well, he did a lot of damage to himself. He's probably busy hating me in prison right now. I'm the one who put him there, lord knows."
"He put himself there, trying to work out his grudge. All I'm saying is that you had an interest in being one of the guys, and now it wouldn't bother me if you were. You don't have to become a different person, you can stay Lenny the punk rocker, you'll just have a better position within the organization."
"This is still blowing me away. I've gotta think about it some. Like, do I want to be in porn for the rest of my life? What if I want to do something else?"
"Don't forget, pally, I have the same worries. What do I do when I turn forty? Would I still be a performer at that age? Would I take over your position as you got promoted? There's no way I could hack it as a housewife, even if the girls up in Encino can. Even if we changed our minds about having a kid, I'd still wanna work."
I smiled and put my hand on her shoulder. "I'll bet you could be a performer past forty. At the most, you'd get your boobs done. You'll have to pardon me, I'm still blown away by your announcement."
She told me, "Quit being blown away and give Angel a call, if you want."
"Naw, not right now. It's a Saturday evening, he doesn't wanna think about work. If I decide to hook up with them, I'll call on Monday, brighten his week I guess. The way he talked about it, I'll make him happy if I say yes."
Bekka grabbed me by the neck and kissed me. "That works. You can give it more thought, make a decision you're happy with."
"I'm probably gonna say yes. You're sure it doesn't scare you?"
"Not as much as when you were slinging all that speed.... And having me help you do it. I never told you how nervous that made me, you'd be out making deliveries and I'd be in your apartment having those dealers making pick-ups. Some of 'em were creepy."
"I wish I'd known this, I'd never have had you working for me. I thought you didn't mind."
"I didn't mind. Remember I was in love with you all that time and just refused to admit it to myself, or you. It didn't bother me at the time."
"Yeah, but I was putting you at risk. I never thought about that. I never wanted to put you at risk, and I did. That wasn't fair of me."
"I never thought about it like that until well after the fact. It was mostly when I was dealing with guys like Justin and Nash that I was bugged, since they were creeps. I'd play up our relationship so they wouldn't hit on me as much or so hard.
"Anyway, so what do you think your decision is gonna be?"
"Probably a yes. Since it's okay with you, I figure I don't have much to lose, and a lot to gain. I still can't get over your approval. Did the girls in Encino talk you into this, or what?"
"They helped me see there was no harm in it. Look, the choice is entirely yours. I just wanted you to know you now had a choice, that's all. You don't have to decide this weekend, or ever, really. It's all up to you."
I leaned across the sofa and into Bekka's lap. "Love you."
"Love you too."
"I'm probably joining the mafia on Monday."
"Go for it, babe."
Bekka moved the balloon from her lips, smiled at me, and said, "Boogada boogada."
"Gabba gabba hey," I replied.
"You funny," she giggled.
"And you silly," I said. "Hand me a fresh canister. Let's have dinner delivered and keep doing these."
On Monday I drove into work alone. Bekka was engaging in the universal habit of my age group, sleeping in. It doesn't matter if you went to bed at eight o'clock the night before, if allowed you still sleep till eleven-ish the next morning. She got up with me long enough to drink some water and kiss me goodbye. Then it was back to the mattress.
I pushed the Acura up the S11 to La Costa, trying to decide when --- and if --- I would call Angel to let him know of my decision. Before it got too late, before he began his crawl of the studios in LA. That would be best.
Into the office, and check messages. All four girls to be interviewed called to confirm. This is a good sign: when they're courteous, they're usually also intelligent, and having smart girls in front of the cameras makes things go much more smoothly. Also a call from our towel service, confirming tomorrow's pick-up. Nothing ever changes, and they still want the assurance.
I sit with my hand on the phone for five minutes, waiting for a sign from God as to what I should do. Receiving no response, I stare up at my muse, a poster of Wendy O. Williams. She has given me good advice in the past.
Today's advice is "do it." Wendy always spurs towards action, which is probably why I keep listening to her. I pick up the phone and dial a Los Angeles number, one I've memorized. I'm greeted by a woman's voice on the other end: Angela, Angel's wife.
"I'm sorry Lenny, but he's already taken off for one of the studios."
"Okay, I'll try for him this afternoon."
"Um, no, I'll just talk to him later. Thanks." Well. That sorted itself out quickly. I still had my four interviews that morning to take care of....
.... All of whom were disasters. Two were party gladiators who were primarily interested in all the free drugs they'd heard about on porn sets. One was employable, but not by me: she was into some heavy kink, so I gave her the number to Dirty Angel. The third was by far the most entertaining: she was a Women's Studies major who wanted to interview me, and went about it the wrong way. She thought by posing as a potential performer, she'd Blow The Lid Off The Operation. When it became painfully obvious where she was coming from, she confessed to her subterfuge.
"Why didn't you just call up and ask for an interview?" I asked.
"I assumed you'd turn me down," was the response.
"I would, but not for the reasons you assume. I'm the guy who balances the books and signs the checks. I'm one boring guy to talk to. You could speak with my wife, who's been a performer for seven years now. I'm sure she'd be happy to provide you with some opinions and views of the industry. Want me to get her on the phone?"
That would satisfy her. I called home, where Bekka was on her third cup of coffee and gearing up to do some cleaning. I put the phone on speaker.
I said, "Hey hon, it's me. I'm sitting here on speakerphone with.... What was your name again, dear?"
"I'm here with Marge, who attends SDSU and is a Women's Studies major. She'd like to talk to someone about the pornographic video industry. You game?"
"Sure, just lemme do some drugs first." And with that the phone was set down and we were treated to three minutes of dead air. I had no idea if Bekka was kidding or not, so I smiled and looked casual for Marge's benefit. When Bekka came back she sounded slightly out of breath, which was a tip-off to me that she had, in fact, been at the speed. She always sounded like that after doing a line.
"So what can I tell you?" Bekka asked.
Marge started with, "First of all, how long have you been in this business?"
"About seven years."
"How long have you worked for this studio?"
"Again, about seven years. Oh, I did do some contract work up in LA when I was younger, but that was just to pay off my student loans. How far in the hole are you, Marge?"
The question was ignored. "How did you get into the industry?"
"Pretty easily, the same way you tried to. I answered an ad in the Reader."
"Do you feel you've been the victim of any exploitation?"
"Well, I did have to blow a Doberman to get signed on, but other than that, no."
"Yes I am, but it's what you wanted to hear, wasn't it?"
"Are you taking this seriously?"
"Not terribly, no."
Marge looked to me and said, "You set this up, didn't you?"
I replied, "How could I? I had no idea who you were until you confessed your little con. How could I have known coming in this morning I'd be talking to a college student who didn't actually want a job?"
Over the phone speaker came Bekka's voice. "Can I go now? I have some vacuuming I want to get done."
"Yeah, thanks babe. And confirm for this young lady who I am."
Bekka said, "You're in the same room as my husband. Aren't you lucky? Bye now." And with that she hung up.
"I won't forget this," proclaimed Marge as she snatched up her bag and stood up.
"It was pretty dull, you probably should," I suggested. "Bekka did try to liven things up, but you were too smart for us. Damn and damn again. I'd offer you a condolence prize of some free pornography, but I'm afraid you'd just be offended."
"I would. And what is that?" she asked, pointing up at the poster of Wendy.
"That is a picture of Wendy O. Williams of The Plasmatics, topless and covered in grime at a live performance. You wouldn't have liked her, she worked in porn before starting a band."
"I wouldn't doubt it. Goodbye." And she was gone in a puff of self-righteous anger. I didn't even have a chance to wish her a pleasant day.
Well. Not quite noon and I'd irritated someone into leaving the building. Ahead of schedule already.