Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Abductors (Part 3)

     At eleven in the morning, the crowd was pretty sparse.  Porn fanboys must sleep in.  Either that, or they're searching through their clothes trying to locate a non-stained pair of pants....

     I was leaning against one of the display cases out at the edge of our booth area, smiling and saying good morning to anything going past.  Presently, Eddie came past the booth in a jog.  He didn't even give a glance in my direction, or anyone else's.  I shrugged it off as his own eccentricity mixed with the effects of Ecstasy.  A few moments later three people came up the "street" with very determined strides and expressions on their faces.  One of them was Larry Bennett, so I said good morning to him again.  The three of them stopped and pivoted towards me.
     "Where is he?" asked Larry.  The other two began poking around in our area, hunting.
     "Where is who?" I asked.
     "That thieving little bastard.  The one that plays Three Card Monte, and pretends it's an honest game.  Pretends he's honest.  He got us for eighty bucks, and we want it back, along with his teeth."
     I didn't quite manage to stifle a laugh.  Now I knew why Eddie was in such a hurry.  The itinerant magician had certainly finger-flinged his way through a session of Three Card Monte, and these three gents from Vivid Video had figured out that there was no way it was an honest game.  At least as honest as Three Card Monte ever gets, anyway.
     I said, "Yeah, Eddie is a fast one.  He's not here.  I'm not going to give him up to you, he's worth too much money too me in good health.  But you say you lost eighty bucks to him?"
     "That's right," seethed Larry.
     I pulled out my wallet and extracted four twenties, which I handed to Larry.  "There," I said, "You may not have his teeth, but you have your money back.  Almost as good, right?  You dudes get high?"
     "Depends on what."
     "Methyl dioxy methamphetamine, more commonly known as Ecstasy.  It'll put a pep in your step and a song in your heart."
     One of the other guys said, "I won't take just anything these days.  There's a special kind that I'll take, but it's hard to find."
     "Oh yeah?  What's it like?" I asked.
     The guy said, "Oh, it's the most awesome 'E' out there.  It's a round light yellow tablet, slightly flecked, with a smiley face  imprinted in it.  It's out there, but you gotta know the right people."
     I motioned them over by the TVs (which weren't playing yet) where we couldn't be easily seen.  I pulled out the bag of pills and opened it, handing one to the guy.  "They look like that?" I asked.
     He stared at the pill, then gawked at me.  He held the pill up to the light to examine the imprint.  He gawked at me some more, then said, "Lemme see that bag."
     I held the bag up and said, "Nothing personal, but I'll hold on to it.  You can examine it all you want.  It's a freezer bag full of MDMA, what's the mystery?"
     The guy said, "Jesus Henry Christ.  You have an entire bag full of Smiley Ecstasy.  Where the hell did you get it?"
     I gave him a crafty grin.  "That would be a very long story, which I shall not bore you with.  But be assured that they are not stolen, I've come to have them in a completely honest manner.  Now that you are confident that it is what I claim it to be, do you dudes want to get high, or what?"
     All three of them stuck out their hands.  Larry said, "We've got drinks back at the center booth, let's head there.  Wanna come with, have a drink?"
     I said, "So long as it's not vodka, I will join you."
     The guy leaned on my shoulder and asked, "So how much are you selling those for?"
     I told Bekka that I was disappearing for a little while, and to tell Eddie to wait at the booth for me, we had to have a little chat.  I said, "They're not for sale.  They're free.  They cost me nothing, so I refuse to make a profit off of them.  I have fun running around getting people high, just giving them away to anybody who seems cool and expresses an interest.  Why, how many did you want?"
     The guy laughed.  "Man, I've got a Jaguar XKE that I'd trade you straight across for that bag.  On a more realistic note, I want to get all our girls high today, and there's gonna be about twenty of 'em scattered around the three booths.  That's five hundred bucks by my count.  Would you take a check?"
     I frowned at him.  "I told you before, they're free.  I'll give them to all your girls for nothing.  Tell you what, if it will give you some comfort, give me back that eighty dollars.  I'll try to convince Eddie to return your money, but personally it sounded like he pulled an honest fraud.  Come on, Three Card Monte?  Really?  That game was born crooked.  Admit it, you got played."
     Larry said, "Yeah, well....  We figured that out, which is why we were after him.  Who the hell is he to you, anyway?"
     "He's one of my performers.  He's packing nine inches, could drive nails with the damn thing, and can act.  He's not just a stunt-cock.  Did you see 'Dangerous Desires'?  He played Lavery, the weaselly street hustler.  Ella Belle fucks him in a police interrogation room."
     "Haven't seen it.  The only two Inana movies I've purposely sat down and watched all the way through have been 'Bad Babysitter' and 'Bewitched'.  Do you recommend 'Dangerous Desires'?"
     "Highly," I said.  "We got some good suspense and action in, along with all the fuckin'.  So near as I know, nobody else has made a XXX movie that had a couple shoot-outs, or a car chase."
     The guy said, "A car chase?"
     "Yeah.  We filmed part of it in downtown San Diego, and most of the rest on I-5 and I-805.  Totally illegally, too.  We just ran through traffic at ninety with a camera truck, getting what we needed on video piece by piece.  We had permits to film in downtown, but I started to look into what was necessary to film on a freeway and got too discouraged.  Me and my wife went out in her Plymouth one night and planned the general structure of the chase.  We went out the next night with her in the Plymouth and me in the Acura I had at the time, and she chased me as fast as we could push it from Pacific Beach to Sorrento Valley on the 5, then down 805 to Kearney Mesa.  Then we took my director out to ride shotgun in the Plymouth, so we could show him the route and demonstrate the pacing.  Heh, he wasn't happy about how I was driving."
     "Jesus Christ," said the guy.  "Guerrilla film-making for an adult video.  What if you'd been caught?"
     "Well, CHP would have been more upset with my driving than with the fact that we had a camera rig going.  I don't plan to film on the freeway again anytime soon, so I'll just have to live in mystery so far as what the penalties are.  I don't dislike CHP as much as I dislike normal cops, but I'm still happier when they're not around."
     We got to the booth, about a third larger than ours and with more scantily-clad women.  There were only a few guests in the booth, so Larry began gently grabbing women by the arm and pointing them in my direction.  The guy leaned towards me and asked, "You're really just gonna give it away?"
     "Almost," I said.  "Once each individual is feeling good and high, I want her to come to my booth and give me a hug.  They can come down one at a time, or in a group, it doesn't matter to me.  Hello, would you like to get high?" I asked the large-breasted brunette who had been told to get free drugs from the punk rocker by the display case.  She smiled and held out her hand.  I dropped a pill in her hand, and told her, "Once you feel high, you owe me a hug.  Okay?"
     "Are you going to be here?" she asked.
     "No, I'll be at my own booth, the Inana booth.  It's marked on the maps."
     There was a girl waiting behind her, who already had a bottle of Evian at the ready.  She thanked me and scooted off.  So I did the next, and the next, and the next.
     Larry walked up to me and stared in the manner one normally reserves for gazing at people who are on fire.  "You really gave eight hits of Ecstasy away to total strangers.  Damn, you are crazy.  We've got two more booths to make happy.  You can back out now if you want...."
     I held the bag up in front of my chest.  "Dude, I'm not about to run out.  Shit, I could run through all of these and just get more."
     The guy punched me in the arm.  "You make it sound like you know where it's made, and can drop by and pick 'em up."
     I remained silent.
     The guy stared at me, his eyes widening.  Then he shook his head and said, "No way.  No way.  You're full of shit.  You're stealing them from somewhere."
     I assured him, "I reiterate, all the hits of MDMA in that bag were given to me by an honest man, in an honest manner.  Nothing was stolen.  For reasons of self-incrimination I cannot tell you any more than that.  And yes, it is genuine Smiley Ecstasy, as you will start to feel in about a half hour.  So what is the difference between your three booths?"
     "Just what's for sale," said Larry.  "We wanted to have one giant booth, right in the center, but they refused to allow us to take up such a big footprint, so we got three mediums.  Two booths are nothing but video, and the third is merchandise: t-shirts, posters, magazines, fucking wine glasses, just random crap.  They're our next stop."
     We hit the next booth, and sure enough, it really was random crap.  It was like a gift shop at a Six Flags theme park, only everything said "Vivid Video" somewhere one it.  I pulled out my bag and simply began walking up to the booth girls, telling them to hold out their hand.  Larry and the guy followed in my slipstream, explaining to confused women that they were now holding a powerful but wonderful drug, and to find something to drink to wash it down.  When I finished, Larry asked all the girls at once, "Everybody got one?  Okay, good, you all enjoy your day.  I'm sure you will.  Hey Lenny, what size shirt do you wear?"
     I told him an XL.  He rummaged in a crate, then threw me a Vivid Video t-shirt.  I thanked him and tucked it under my arm.  We started walking towards the third booth.
     This one had a screening playing, with about a third of the chairs full, so me and the guy walked up to each booth girl individually and explained what was going on.  The girls palmed the Ecstasy until they could take it unnoticed.  When we were done I shook hands with Larry and the guy.  They handed me back my $80, explaining that I had more than made up for what they lost to Eddie.  "Just keep that little weasel away from our booths.  He wants to pull streetcorner hustles, he can go to Watts."
    I walked back to the Inana booth.  In a couple hours I would have a stream of women in tight Vivid Video t-shirts coming into the booth to give me hugs.  The idea of warning Bekka about this crossed my mind, but I dismissed it.  It was my turn to create a little chaos.  I would explain the situation when she asked me about it, dammit.
     Eddie was sitting in a chair behind Gina scanning the walkway.  He froze up when he saw me standing there.  I approached him and said, "Eddie sweetheart, we need to discuss your methods of raising cash.  Come with me."
     I put a hand on one arm and walked him to the lounge.  We slouched down on a sofa.  He asked, "There were three guys looking for me, have you seen 'em?"
     I replied, "Seen, spoken with, dealt with, and disposed of.  It cost me twenty-three hits of Ecstasy to save your happy ass from getting a boot party thrown on it, call it a gesture of friendship from me to them.  All their booth girls are getting high.  You can probably guess that you are persona non grata at the Vivid booths.  Your new friends aren't looking for you, but the best place for you is the hell out of their sight.  Now gimme the bread."
     "That money you scammed?  It's going to go into the pizza fund for this afternoon.  Eighty bucks.  Cough up."
     Eddie sighed and pulled a wad of ones, fives and tens out of his pocket.  I shoved it in mine.  Eddie still felt like making a defense, saying, "I won that money fair and square."
     I laughed at this.  "Oh please.  You're a goddamn magician running a game of Three Card Monte.  Dead people know you're bent.  Don't insult my intelligence and claim it was an honest game.  If it was straight, why were you playing Three Card Monte to begin with?  I'll tell you, because someone who is clever with their hands, like a close-up magician, can make all sorts of things happen in Three Card Monte.  You wanna practice your magic tricks, go wander around and try to impress booth girls.  If I find out you're hustling people, though, I'm gonna break your hands myself.  No more chicanery, capiche?"
     He ran his hands through his hair.  "Okay.  I'll just entertain people, instead of instilling false hope in them.  I got coins."  He paused.  "How the hell did it come to pass that I'm getting chewed out by a punk rocker three years younger than me?"
     I lit a cigarette and grinned.  "Because that's the way the Beretta bounces.  I may be young chronologically, but I got a hell of a lot of mileage, you know?  Remember, I'm a guy who got shot at work one day.  I'm also the guy Angel decided was best to run our little den of iniquity.  He expects me to handle problems, and you were a problem.  I flipped the script and now we should have nothing but pleasant relations with Vivid.  I gave them esoteric drugs, for which they were grateful.  All you need to do is stay away from their booths and your weekend is golden."
     "All right, all right.  I'll stick with coins, and just entertain people."
     I suggested, "Why not juggle?  Cassettes have a good weight and grip to them."
     Eddie brightened.  "Hey yeah.  Let me borrow four tapes and I'll stand there and draw them into the booth.  That could work."
     He got up and headed for the door.  I slouched down, finishing my cigarette.  Eddie had nearly cost us good will that we didn't even have.  Inana had been around for nearly a decade, but were still thought of as new kids.  Our youth didn't help things.  As near as I knew, this was the first Eroticon event Inana had ever been to.  We had been to the Adult Video News convention in Las Vegas, but that was mostly Angel and Vinny glad-handing people.  No products, no flash, no stars from the videos.  All that was going to be different this time around.  We would have a whole crew of performers there, plus video playing, snacks, good hotel rooms, parties....
     What it came down to was that Inana was still considered an upstart, a small new company who somehow managed to create and release some groundbreaking movies.  People knew what we'd done, but they didn't know who we are.  We were enigmas, somewhere down in San Diego.  The producer and director had zero history in the industry, me and Small Steve came from nowhere.  We somehow managed to hire unknowns who could actually act and still make raunchy hardcore porn.  We defied the laws of tradition.
     So we didn't have any enemies at Eroticon 1990, but we had no friends, either, excluding the people from Vivid I'd gotten high.  Eddie nearly had the opposite happen, because he was bored.  I was glad I'd gotten Larry and his friends to mentally separate Eddie from Inana, they wouldn't blame the institution for the actions of one of the inmates.  Overall, I would be friendly with all vendors and guests of Eroticon.  They'd have to take me as I was --- I wasn't changing my looks for anyone --- but as the COO and Producer for Inana, I would glad-hand to beat the band.  If I had to, I'd take lessons from Angel.  Angel felt dwarfed by Vivid, whereas I was happy to be viewed as a small studio: eclectic, somewhat anarchistic, skilled, and talented.  We were good at what we did, and didn't have to answer to anyone.
     I left the lounge and headed back to the booth.  I hadn't realized, but things were getting busy.  The viewing chairs were full as Bad Babysitter played.  People examined the video boxes.  Our performers were chatted up, even Dale and Vince.  People indulged in the bags of peanuts, Snickers bars, and apples we had out.  (Angel had considered drinks, but felt that having to deal with tubs full of melting ice was not worth it.  That, and liquids are unhealthy for videocassettes.)  Bekka was surrounded by three or four guys, all of whom looked like they were meeting Santa Claus, the real one.  Thanks to her Sicilian/Italian method of talking with gestures, I could tell she was explaining something about Bad Babysitter, some detail or trivia these guys would feel proud to have learned.
     Bud and Lou were out in the racks, half-watching Bad Babysitter and waiting to be useful.  Angel still wasn't back with food yet.  Gina rang up sales, fattening the register drawer, the purchased videos often being opened right there to have a performer or two sign the insert.  I noticed that all of our performers, including the males, were engaged in conversation.  Real conversation, too.  A far cry from the crowds at the signings we'd done.  These were not mere collectors and autograph hounds, but genuine fans, folks who were genuinely engaged by our performers.  They weren't afraid of them, like at the signings.  And as near as I could tell, there hadn't been a single wedding proposal so far.
     I went and stood in the back, where it was dim, where the rear curtains were.  I had nothing to do.  There were no crises, no dramas, no hassles, no panics, no need for distress at all.  Things were rolling along just fine, my input was not needed for the time being.  I walked across to where Bekka stood with her fistful of mega-fans and kissed her on the side of the head.  Bekka kissed my neck and wrapped an arm around my waist.
     She said, "If I may, I'd like to introduce my husband, Lenny Schneider.  He's also the producer and writer of 'Bewitched', and the COO of Inana Productions."
     I was expecting annoyance at my arrival, but there wasn't.  I was accepted as Bekka's husband, and as part of the Inana machine.  One guy was waving a video box and pen at me.  I was confused.  I said, "Um, yes?"
     "Sir, would you please sign inside my box?  I'd really appreciate it."
     Miracles will never cease.  I opened the box and wrote, "Here's To Ya -- Lenny Schneider."  I handed the box back and thanked him for being a fan.
     He said, "Hell, who couldn't be?  'Bewitched' is most original and groundbreaking adult film ever.  You guys have really set a major high water mark for the adult film industry to reach for.  So you wrote it?  What inspired you?"
     I said, "The germ of an idea for the plot came from a single thought.  You've seen 'Fantasia,' right?  You know the scene where Mickey Mouse has his army of brooms or mops or whatever?  I was suddenly struck by the idea of a magician who loses control of his spells, since that's what happens to Mickey.  Now, people have turned to witchcraft for better control of their sex lives for a long time.  Wiccans and Pagans consider sex a very powerful force.  The Wicca have sex magic rituals.  But I got to thinking, what if there were some classical witches running around, with black dresses and black cats and magic wands?  Would people seek their help with their lives?  Damn right they would.  And if the magic was real, it would cause fucking chaos.
     "So I created Ursula, Becky's character.  Everything revolves around her.  When Ursula creates her magic and begins to use it on people, she thinks it will be simple to control.  And just like Mickey Mouse, she is proven wrong.  The split is that Mickey Mouse is horrified at his fuck-up and tried desperately to fix it, while Ursula revels in the chaos she's created.  Ursula is kind of crazy, I don't think I expressed that well enough in the script.
     "I purposely left the ending up in the air.  I wanted people to wonder and think, does Ursula's coven manage to get the genie back in the bottle, and stop all the chaos?  Or does humanity move to a whole new level of existence, where sex is this constant impulsive reaction.  And it would be a new existence.  Ursula's magic spreads itself like a virus, spreading and spreading, like Mickey's mops.  The witches in Ursula's coven are stronger than Ursula's magic, but can they move fast enough to stop the spread of it?  Her magic latches onto any adult human, and reproduces itself as soon as the human has sex....  Which is very quickly, because of the effects of the magic.  And what do they do with Ursula herself?  At the end, she's sitting in her shop and laughing hysterically while she watches two strangers fuck on the sidewalk outside.  It's clear she's out of her mind, personally.  And as long as she has her powers, she will be a threat.  Power and insanity together are certainly an entertaining mix.  Look at Moammar Qadaffi."
     The dude who's box I'd signed took all this in and nodded sagely.  He asked, "Did you intend a message that sex equals power?"
     I considered briefly and said, "No, not at all.  Who is the most powerful person in the film?  Ursula.  She only has sex twice, and both for ulterior reasons.  There's that girl/girl scene in her shop, and that only happens because Ursula is showing off, proving to the other witch how powerful she is.  The other time is the three way late in the film, Ursula and those two dudes.  She did that because she was trying to regain control of her magic, trying to round it up.  And of course, that was too little, too late.
     "Sex is power?  No, not like that.  I would say sex is a powerful force, but not one that can be wielded.  I'll say it again, I wish I'd made it more clear that Ursula was insane.  Nobody knows why she created the magic she did, and by my thinking she didn't either.  It wasn't for power.  She has no targets, she simply releases the magic out into the world to see what happens.  She has no plan."
     He stared at me momentarily, then put his hand out.  "Thank you for talking to me," he said.  "I'm a huge fan of 'Bewitched,' so meeting the man who wrote and produced it is a true pleasure.  Thanks for all the insight."
     "Hey, no problem, thanks for being a fan.  Glad to meet someone who loves Ursula as much as I do.  Oh hey, tell me.  Have you seen 'Dangerous Desires' yet?"
     He raised his eyebrows.  "No, I haven't."
     I smiled and dodged over to a display rack, grabbing a tape. I went back and handed it to him.  "A detective show, a murder mystery.  It's like Raymond Chandler meets 'The Rockford Files.'  It's not noir, it was too damn complex to write.  It's got gun battles and a car chase.  And the sex is fucking smoking."
     He stared at the cover, then smiled at me.  "Right on.  I'll take it.  You wrote and produced this one too, and Steve Stillman directed, so it'll be just great.  Thank you."  He headed towards the register.
     Bekka had lost her three fans.  I said, "This is definitely a new experience for me.  I actually have a fan.  I signed an autograph.  I spoke about 'Bewitched' intelligently for several minutes, and didn't just encapsulate the fuck scenes.  And my fan asked intelligent questions.  I have this strange feeling coming over me.  I think it's called 'achievement.'"
     Bekka hugged me.  She said, "The bits that feel scary will go away, don't worry.  You didn't feel that way when the damn thing was released?"
     "By the time that master tape went to the duplicators, I was tired.  I had this casual feeling about it, like, 'Oh, I just released a movie.  Huh.'  Then we got the reviews in, and I thought that was great, but even then I felt like the most important thing was I had proof for my parents that I wasn't wasting my time, that I'm not a fuck-up.  No, it took meeting someone who was genuinely, personally happy with something I created.  Now I'm proud of myself for having written and produced Bewitched.'"
     Bekka scolded, "As you damn well should be, just like the other films you've written and produced.  Look at 'Dangerous Desires.'  You wrote a script that was just plain fun to read, you plotted out a highway chase in real time, you trained actors in how to look natural holding a gun.  Now the movie is a success, great reviews and a bestseller.  If you tell me you're not proud of that movie, I'm moving back in with my father."
     I said, "Of course I'm proud of it.  It's just....  I spend so much time thinking about these movies I make, I get sick of them.  Like a song that gets stuck in your head, it loses all meaning.  And once it's finally released, I get a guilt complex because that project is done, time for a new one.  And stare at a blank piece of paper or computer screen waiting for inspiration."
     Bekka gestured for us to start walking, an unlit cigarette in her mouth.  She said, "You suffer from burnout at the close of every feature.  Okay.  Maybe you owe it to yourself to really clear your head when you finish a project.  Hole up in a cheap motel in Humboldt County with a bunch of mushrooms and go walking through the redwoods.  Do the same thing in Baja California, only walking along a deserted beach.  Just start driving, to see where you end up.  But don't take me or Jane with you.  You need stone cold dead silence.  And you need to not think for a while, because it starts to hurt."
     I thought about what she said.  I said, "Yeah, a one week road trip as soon as I complete a project.  Pack a bag, bring a minimal amount of drugs, and just wander for seven days.  That would be good for me, I could handle that."
     We stepped into the lounge to smoke.  Inside I spotted Eddie, with a small group of people around him.  I edged his way to see what he was up to.  Fortunately, it wasn't Three Card Monte.  He had four quarters, and was doing conjuring tricks with them: making coins magically disappear, shift their positions, jump from one place to another.  He kept up a steady line of patter as he did this.  The boy was talented.  Bekka and I lit our cigarettes and watched him perform.  He spotted me, smiled, and said, "Oh, hey boss."
     "Heya Eddie," I said.  "So, in here warping space and time again, huh?"
     A girl said, "I've been watching his hands, and I don't know how he does it.  He doesn't have long sleeves, and I'm not spotting any strange motions."
     "He's a Hebrew wizard," I told her.  "Eddie, the booth is getting crowded, and I'm sure there are people who want Edward Steinberg's autograph in their copy of 'Dangerous Desires.'  A few more minutes, then back to the booth, okay?  You can juggle if you're bored."
     "That works," replied Eddie.  "So anyway, as I was explaining, Martha Washington was into witchcraft, and would make poor George disappear when he lay down in bed at night.  See?  He lays down, you put the covers over him, and he's gone.  Who knows where he'll turn up...."
     Bekka and I finished our cigarettes and went back to the booth.  "He's a slick one, Eddie is," said Bekka.
     "And so long as he contents himself with entertaining, and not pulling hustles, he'll be just fine," I replied.
     We were barely in the booth when a buxom blonde approached me, a huge smile on her face.  She was accompanied by a stacked Latina girl.  The blonde said, "Are you Lenny?"
     "Yeah, that's me."
     "I owe you a hug.  Thank you," she said, and got me in an embrace.  I hugged back.
     The Latina gave a dazzling white smile and said, "It was weird, being handed this drug and not knowing what it was and taking it anyway.  But it turned out to be really awesome, definitely worth a hug.  Thank you."  She gave me a tight friendly squeeze.
     Before they left I asked them, "How did you know to find me?  We only met for a few seconds earlier."
     The blonde answered, "Oh, Larry and Mike told us that when we were feeling really good, we were to go to the Inana booth and find the punk rocker.  His name would be Lenny.  We're to thank you and give you a hug.  I call that a hell of a bargain, I feel fantastic, this is the best Ecstasy I've ever had."
     The two left again.  Bekka approached me with a certain spark in her eye, the look of a jealous wife.  "So who are your friends?" she asked.
     "No damn clue," I answered.  "They didn't give their names.  They just came over to pay off a debt."
     "And what debt would this be?"
     "They each owed me a hug.  That was the cost of one hit of Ecstasy for all twenty booth girls from Vivid, one hug, to be delivered when they were high.  I'll be collecting eighteen more hugs over the course of the day."
     "Donnola," said Bekka.  "And just what the hell made you decide to get on friendly terms with the bitches from Vivid?"
     "Did you just call me a skunk?" I asked.
     "No.  A weasel.  Are you going to answer me?"
     "Of course.  Actually it's nothing to do with impressing Vivid's livestock, and everything to do with me keeping Eddie from being hospitalized.  Our resident magician scammed some money out of a few guys from Vivid.  They were hunting for him when I cut them off and talked with them.  I got them calmed down and asked if they wanted to get high.  They said yeah, and could I get more, because they wanted to get all their girls high too.  I told 'em that I'd take care of it, I had plenty, as a gesture of goodwill and the understanding that Eddie's actions do not represent Inana.  I promised I'd have a word with Eddie, and I did.  So anyway, me and these dudes from Vivid went to each of their booths and dispersed Ecstasy to all the girls.  The cost was one hug per hit.  Dear, I'm guessing I'll be collecting on what's owed me all afternoon.  They just come to our booth and locate the punk rocker, and give him a hug.  See?  It was quite simple."
     "Puzzola!" exclaimed Bekka.  "There, now I've called you a skunk.  And what are you trying to prove with this little arrangement?"
     I looked her in the eyes and said, "It's a reminder to you, my lovely bride, that I can be around hot women and not go all to pieces.  Your jealousy gland is in overdrive lately.  You see all other women as a threat to our marriage.  For chrissakes, you accused a Safeway cashier of flirting with me three days ago.  I don't know if this some psychological reaction to me having the lovers you arranged for me, but it seemed like an expedient way to prove to you I can interact with other women, without wanting to sleep with them.  I married you because I love you, and I still do.  Passionately.  Jane and Sue are extra fun, physical pleasure.  You are the woman I will happily spend the rest of my life with."
     Bekka's eyes were wet.  She said, "I gave you away to Jane and Sue.  I don't regret it, it's only fair you have lovers.  I'm just afraid you'll decide you're bored with being with a dago porn slut and....  Go away.  Leave me alone.  And without you, I'd be alone for a long, long time.  I couldn't bear it.  I need you."
     "And you will always have me.  Nobody can take me away from you.  Not Jane, not Sue, and not any of the silicon-titted babes from Vivid I fed Ecstasy to.  Woman, you're stuck with me."
     Bekka sniffled and hugged me.  "Okay.  Just remind me of that sometimes.  You're my heroin, I need you.  And I'm protective of what I need.  I know it's my own insecurity, but I always worry that you'll find someone better.  I'm twenty-eight, my tits are starting to sag, and my ass is wider.  I'm mystified why anyone wants to see me naked, how I stay in this business.  And you, you're a successful dude with wild style and a fun personality.  You could practically go shopping here at this convention, and land someone better than me."
     I said, "Oh please.  My business success notwithstanding, I'm still an ugly punk rock fuck-up.  I am not what one of these booth girl hotties is looking for.  They want a dude in a German car, who wears thousand dollar suits, who knows which fork to use.  I'm a goddamn mutant to the broads around here."
     "I hate your self-loathing," muttered Bekka.
     "That's okay, I hate yours.  You somehow convince yourself that you're not good enough for me, and that's bullshit.  You're the woman of my dreams.  And your tits are just fine, by the way."
     Bekka chuckled wetly.  "If I'm gonna stay in this industry, I'll have to have them rebuilt at some point.  And get an ass reduction."
     I reached down and grabbed a butt cheek.  "No way.  Your ass is fine.  What do I gotta do, kiss it?"
     She gave me a kiss and said, "No.  Just snuggle against it when we sleep.  And remind me that I'm loved, that's what I need."
     "I can do that," I said.


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