This event wasn't PTA. It was more an opportunity for the parents of high school kids to see where the kids spent their days and meet teachers. Running from 6:30 to 9:00 on a Wednesday night in October, Carlsbad High School was awash with suburban parents, some with their kids.
And there was us.
Sliding Jane's Cutlass into a space and looking around, I could tell we were in for a lot of fun. Apparently a lot of dads had been instructed to wear ties. I was in a Bad Brains t-shirt. Moms were in nylons. Bekka wore one of her slutty slit goth skirts and Doc Marten creepers, and Jane was wearing her favorite alligator skin pants and a tank top which cut off at her rib cage. Others had arrived in minivans and staid German sedans. We'd shown up in a 1971 Cutlass 442 hot rod, the daily driver I'd bought for Jane to use. We were not about to blend in. At least we weren't high on anything.
Getting out of the Cutlass, I slipped off my jacket and got my shoulder holster off, tucking it and the Beretta under the driver's seat. Bekka and Jane were busy touching up their makeup. Jane observed me, frowned, and said, "Why are you doing that? They can't say anything to you."
"Come on, Gator Bait, you know I'll just scare the shit out of people if they see I'm heeled. Explaining myself in this situation is gonna be hard enough."
"I'm keeping my Colt on," said Bekka, closing her bag. "If the situation dictates it, I'll just hand off my purse gun to Lenny."
We made our way towards the office to get name tags. Sticking them on (Lenny Schneider, Bekka Schneider, Jane Osborne), we were greeted by name by a voice over in the cubicles. We looked up and spotted Jane's guidance counselor waving a hand.
"Hello, Mr. Tripp," called Jane, with the sickly smile all teenagers make when seeing an adult they don't feel like talking to. Tripp came forward and shook hands with me.
"This is my wife, Bekka," I introduced. "Bekka, Mr. Tripp."
Tripp looked a little shell-shocked upon seeing Bekka. He said, "I have the feeling I've seen you before, but I don't know where. Are you on TV?"
Bekka chuckled and said, "Well, I've been on the news a few times. But I'll bet I know where you've seen me. I just won't say where."
With a feral grin, Jane said, "Oh, just tell him. I don't like hiding it. You're not doing anything wrong."
"Oh, all right. Mr. Tripp, do you read Penthouse?"
Tripp turned red. "Oh.... I, uh...."
"Or Hustler? Or Gallery?" Bekka queried. "I've been in those. I was Pet of the Month in the June Penthouse."
"And your movies," pressed Jane.
Tripp tried to regain his composure. "I'm not sure, I may have...."
"Well, it's of no importance," said Bekka. "We're here to meet Jane's teachers, see what this place is like. A pleasure to meet you. I'm sure we all have Jane's best interests in mind."
"Of course we do!" exclaimed Tripp. "Well, I'm sure I'll you later on." He headed back into the cubicle warren.
"Funny, I got the impression that he had something to say to us," I said as we headed back out the door, aiming for Jane's geometry classroom.
"Not everyone is comfortable meeting their jack fodder live and in person," said Bekka. "Wonder if he recognizes me from the magazines, or from video?"
"At least he didn't ask for an autograph," said Jane. She led us through the quad and into a building, then through the right door for geometry. Several husbands and wives stood around the front of the classroom, while a weedy guy in sports coat sat at the desk up front, answering questions. There weren't many. The weedy guy saw Jane and said, "Ah, Miss Osborne, you made it."
"As promised," said Jane. "You seem surprised."
"Yes, well, you have mentioned your parents are in Florida. Who are these people, family?"
"Bekka, Lenny, this is Mr. Nesbit, my geometry teacher. Mr. Nesbit, these are the Schneiders, the couple I live with." Hands were shaken.
Nesbit said, "Glad to meet you. I don't understand though, you're not family?"
I said, "No, we're just friends with Jane. She lives with us in La Costa."
"I.... See. And what is it you do, Mr. Schneider?"
"My wife and I are in video production. Shut up, Gator Bait," I said, as Jane started giggling next to me.
"Interesting work?" asked Nesbit.
"Yes, it keeps us busy," I replied.
"It keeps Bekka really busy," snickered Jane.
"Quiet, Gator Bait," I growled warningly. "So how are Jane's grades?"
"Very good," answered Nesbit. "Her quizzes see lots of As. She is a bit disruptive, though."
"How?" asked Bekka.
"Her appearance. Between her hair and the leather pants she wears, she has proven to be a distraction, especially for boys. Far too often she's the only volunteer to work out problems on the board, and I don't think the boys in the class are paying attention to the problem at hand."
Bekka laughed lightly and said, "Oh yes they are. It's just a different problem than the one you have in mind."
Jane said haughtily, "I don't mean to be a distraction. I wear clothes I like, what I'm comfortable in. They'll just have to deal."
"Nonetheless...." said Nesbit.
"Hey, at least they're all looking up at the board," I said. "Something's gotta sink in."
He looked at me and Bekka pleadingly. "Perhaps the two of you could encourage her to wear something more, well, reserved."
Bekka looked miffed. "First of all, Jane is legally an adult, so we can only provide her with guidance. Second, I know her boyfriend likes her leather pants. And third, I know what a cheerleader's uniform looks like. Unless they've taken to prancing around in sweats, high school boys get plenty of distractions. Jane wears clothes, and that's good enough for me."
"I.... See. What do you mean, Jane is legally an adult?"
With a sigh, Jane said, "I told you about that when I first came to school here. I was emancipated by my parents. That's how I was able to get in here. That's how I was able to stay in California."
"That's something a lot of people don't pick up on," I said. "Bekka and I are not her legal guardians. Yeah, we're adult figures in her life, and she lives with us, and we love and care about her, but technically speaking, Jane is a free agent. She can do what she wants. Our requirements for her living with us are that she stay out of trouble and get good grades in high school. She's done both. As far as her being a distraction goes, sorry. You have to bring it up with her. Personally, she's not that distracting. Maybe I'm just used to her."
Nesbit was beginning to get pissed. "No, she has done nothing wrong. However, I think she revels in having the boys look at her. I have to admit, I was curious about the adults in her life who allow her to dress the way she does. I've had a lot of my questions answered. Good evening, there are parents here."
"But she's getting As, huh?" I asked.
"Yes. As a student, she is stellar."
"All you can hope for, really. See you around." We headed out the door.
"What a fucking hypocrite!" exploded Jane in the hall. "He's just pissed because I turn him on. He appreciates my leather pants more than any guy in his classroom, the old purve. C'mon, at least my next two teachers are women."
Bekka said, "That guy has me pissed. Where can we go to smoke?"
"Oh, that's this way, by the auto shop. I could use one too."
She led us out to a paved open space at the back of the school property. Sure enough, the auto shop was back there, and populated at this hour. A long-haired kid inside the fencing which separated the smoking area and the shop area looked up from the open hood of a Ford Maverick and said, "Oh hey, Gator Bait! Didn't think I'd see you tonight!"
"Yet here I am," said Jane, lighting a Newport. "What brought you on by?"
"Aw, the instructor practically begged me to show up. An A student at work, or whatever. So who are these two?"
"This is Lenny and Bekka, very close friends of mine. We have adventures. They're who I live with. Lenny, Bekka, this is Smiley. He's in love with me, he thinks, but only for my car. He's pissed that I won't let him touch it."
I lit my own Marlboro and said, "And Smiley, you never will. Nothing personal, but that car goes to a select few to be worked on. My main guy is out in Santee, and if I had to, I'd have it towed all that way, just so he could work on it."
Smiley gave me a grin and said, "That fuckin' 442 is beautiful. C'mon, give it to me for a couple days, I'll have it laying black streaks for half a block."
Bekka laughed at this. She said, "How would you feel about playing around with a Plymouth Sport Fury?"
He shrugged and said, "Lotta body weight in those, but I could get it sweet. It got the six-pack carbs?"
"Yeah," said Bekka, dragging on her Benson & Hedges.
"I can take off a full second from your quarter mile speed. Nobody ever tunes those things right, but I can. Bring it in and ask for me. I gotta go, more parents coming in." He shuffled off.
We heard the door open behind us and some parent came out. He leaned against the wall and reached in his jacket. Out came a flask, which he took a couple good swallows from. He didn't seem to have noticed our presence. Then he pawed out a cigarette from someplace and lit up.
"Having a good night?" Bekka asked.
He jumped up in a startle. "Who are you?" he asked.
"One student and two pornographers. And you? Faculty?"
"Naw, I'm here to meet my daughter's teachers. She's a junior."
"Who is she?" asked Jane.
"Allison Reed. You know her?"
"She's in my English class. I guess you're her dad."
"Yeah, I guess you could say that. Who are you? How do you know her?"
"Like I said, we're in English class together. Her and me and another girl got teamed up for a chapter review of 'The Tempest.'"
Allison's dad focused his eyes on Bekka and I. "So who are you two, more students? Do you know Allison?"
I smiled gently. "No, we're here with Jane. We're the adults in her life, so it only made sense that we come here with her tonight. Seemed like the right thing to do, y'know?"
He leered. "I wouldn't know. I'm here to make points with Allison's mom. We're kind of separated right now, and I'd like to be back in her good graces."
"Ditch the flask," said Bekka. "That's a good start."
"Who are you, my mom?" asked Reed.
"No, I'm the wife of a man who's a lot fucking meaner than you, so mind your manners."
"Shit, I can't even go to the smoking area of a high school and get some peace, can I?" he whined.
I said, "Buddy, I'm twenty-two years old and I'm here with a sixteen year old girl that society views me as being responsible for. Bekka here is twenty-eight. We showed up sober. What's your deal?"
Reed glared at us. "I'm here for my fucking daughter. That's all." He ground his cigarette out on the wall and stomped back inside.
The girls and I finished our own cigarettes and marched back inside. Since it was closest, we headed to Jane's English class. A lot more parents stood around in this one, all of them eyeballing us when we stepped through the door. We were definitely an anomaly.
A matronly woman broke off from the small group she was entertaining and walked up to us. If she was a Deadhead and we were in police uniforms she couldn't have been less flustered. She said, "Oh, Jane! You did come! And you brought your adults with you!"
"Yeah, that's us, Jane's adults," I said.
"I'm so proud you all made it!"
Jane said through clenched teeth, "I said what I was going to do, and I did it. No big mystery there. Mrs. Mopps, these are my very close friends Lenny and Bekka."
Mrs. Mopps said, "It's so good of you to be here. Jane has told us what busy people you are."
"Busy?" asked Bekka.
"Well, you run your own business and yet you still decided to become adoptive parents. And for a teenager. I'm surprised the agency allowed that, at your age. How did you do it?"
"We aren't her parents. We're just friends. Why did you think we'd adopted Jane?"
"Why else would she be living with you?"
I patiently explained, "Jane is an emancipated minor. She came out here from Gainesville. She had a choice of either working Hollywood Boulevard as a hooker or looking us up. We're in a position that we can take care of her. But there is no legal connection between us."
Mrs. Mopps looked chagrined. She said, "I must have misunderstood when Jane explained it. Do you have your own business?"
"No. We run a business for someone else."
"Alright.... Well, thank you for coming in this evening."
"No problem," said Bekka. "How are Jane's grades?"
"She's a wonderful student, As on all her quizzes. Except for her appearance, I wish I had a class full of Janes."
"Is she distracting to the boys?"
"Well...." Mrs. Mopps stuttered.
Bekka cackled and punched Jane in the arm. "Gator Bait! You spread hard-ons like hay fever, don't you?"
I said, "We've already had a lecture about how Jane looks from Mr. Nesbit. You don't need to make one too."
Mrs. Mopps looked around for a distraction, and found one. "Ah, Richard, you're here. These are your parents...?"
And so it went through four more classrooms. Every teacher of Jane's told us what a fantastic student she was, getting As, and how her appearance was a disruptive influence on the classroom. And why did a couple in their twenties have a teenage girl in their care. Is that legal?
Parents shunned us. It was clear that we were not of an age to have any teenage children, so our presence could only mean trouble. I tried to start conversations with a few, but got shut out. They couldn't grasp that we were in the same boat: guiding a teenage girl through formative years, sharpening intellectual curiosity, hoping the student would become a fully-formed adult at the end of high school. A couple thought Bekka and I were still students. After drama, I gave up and went back to the Cutlass to smoke and reinstall my holster.
Jane and Bekka joined me after a while, in the mood for dinner. The comfort of carbohydrates seemed in order, so we went to IHOP and had pancakes. We were seated and ordered coffee.
As we sat there considering our options on the menu, a suburban couple passed us on their way to their table. The wife stopped and said, "Weren't you all just at Carlsbad High?"
"Yeah, we were," I said.
"What were you doing there?"
"I'm a student," volunteered Jane.
"And we're the adults in her life," said Bekka. "We're her illegal guardians. It made sense for us to be there tonight."
"Wait," said hubby, "did you say illegal guardians?"
I said, "Yeah. Gator Bait here is a runaway from Florida. It's kind of a long story."
"What did you call her?"
"I'm Gator Bait," said Jane. "They call me that because I am. Or was. I'm a swamp rat from Gainesville."
Bekka said, "She came to California expecting to start making porn. We got that idea out of her head, now she's an A student at Carlsbad. Things have worked out."
"What are you talking about? I still want to make porn. You guys just won't let me."
"Not until you're eighteen," I reminded her. "Nobody else is gonna let you do it, either."
"That's terrible," said the wife. "You're just a kid, why do you want to do pornography?"
"Fun, and money," responded Jane. "I think I'd be good at it."
Bekka said, "We haven't been able to convince her about just how much hard work goes into it. I've been making porn for over seven years now, I tell her what it's like, and she doesn't believe me. These kids today, they don't understand a hard day's work, you know?"
I sipped my coffee and said, "Jane here lives with a performer and a producer, and can't get the concept that it's not just getting naked and fucking out of her head. Have you two done any performance? Maybe she'll listen to your stories."
The wife said, "I can't believe the three of you. You're making a joke."
A teenage girl sidled up to the couple and said, "Are we gonna sit down?"
Jane looked up at her and said, "Oh, hey Lacey. How's it going?"
Lacey seemed shocked. "Hi Jane. What are you doing here?"
"Dinner. Pancakes sounded good."
"Are these your parents?"
Jane laughed. "No, my parents are in Florida. These are my friends Bekka and Lenny, the people I live with. Lenny, Bekka, this is Lacey from the volleyball team." We waved hello.
Lacey's mom said angrily, "I can't believe you weren't joking a moment ago. Whether it's true or not, it's terrible."
"It's just business," I shrugged.
"Well, you can do me the favor of staying away from my daughter." The family began to head to their table.
"See you at the next tournament!" called Bekka.
"I don't think they liked us," giggled Jane.
"People only like us in private," I told her.