Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bodyguard (Part 9)

     After we finished at the range, Jane expressed her desire to actually cook dinner.  We'd been eating out a lot recently.  Bekka suggested we appease our bodyguard by having Italian, so why didn't we go into San Diego's Little Italy and go shopping.  This worked for all concerned --- we could introduce Roach to Gelato --- so we headed for downtown San Diego.
     Nicky was a New Yawk transplant, and was bitterly amused at the tiny size of our Little Italy.  We pointed out to him that the Italian immigrants had landed on the East Coast and stayed there, for the most part.  Anyplace in California would be hard pressed for a massive Italian population.  San Diego had a strange influx of East Coast Italians, due to it being a rather popular relocation spot for those in the Witness Protection Program.  The families were moved to the suburbs, given franchise-based businesses to run, and easily kept an eye on.  If there were were any attempts made by Cosa Nostra to eliminate anyone, it never made the news.
     I crammed the Fleetwood into a parking space and we got out.  Jane was eager for Gelato, so we headed for a coffee bar we knew had an ice cream freezer.  Cups in hand, we headed back out onto the sidewalk and enjoyed.  Nicky was duly impressed.  He said, "Shit, in LA you ask for Gelato and they hand you fuckin' frozen yogurt that got too hard."
     That finished, we went into Bekka's favorite place, a largish bustling market that had fresh pasta.  We had decided on tortellini with marinara, sausages, and salad.  On a Saturday, it seemed like every natural Italian in the county was there.  We went to the pasta counter and Nicky stepped up front, saying to the clerk, "Vorrei tortellini si prega."
     This was a bit too vague for the clerk, who responded with a questioning smile.  Bekka stepped up next to Nicky and said, "Si prega, un chilo di tortellini salsiccia e un chilo di tortellini di formaggio."
     The clerk nodded and asked, "Vorresti la pasta di spinaci con i tortellini formaggio?"
     Bekka replied, "Sarebbe meraviglioso," with a smile. 
     Nicky looked at Bekka and said, "Huh?"
     Bekka smiled and said, "I asked for a kilo each of sausage and cheese tortellini.  And the cheese will have a spinach-based pasta."
     "Where did you learn to speak Italian?" frowned Nicky.
     "From my parents," Bekka responded.  "They were both war babies from Sicily, and immigrated to the US in their twenties.  And for some reason, they initially both thought Alabama would be a good place to settle.  After they met, they decided to come to California, which they'd heard had a better climate, fewer cross burnings,  and more Catholic churches.  They both were fluent English speakers, but still spoke Italian around the house.  My brother and I were both raised bilingual.  Mine's gotten a little rusty from not really using it, but it always comes back to me.  Heh, when we were on vacation in San Francisco, I had fun flirting back with the old guys in their native language.  Unfortunately, around home I only use it for cursing at Lenny."
     "It's true," I said.  "According to her, I am a cazzo puzzola." 
     "What's that?" asked Roach.  A couple passing old ladies scowled at me for my language.
     "He's a fucking skunk," said Bekka.  "He can also be a cazzo donnola, a fucking weasel.  It depends on how he's pissing me off.  When he's trying to get something past me, like being shot at and pretending it didn't happen, he's a donnola.  When he's just being an idiot, he's a puzzola.  And when he's stubborn, he is cazzo testardo, fucking pigheaded.  I'm surprised he doesn't get all flinchy when he hears me using Italian, because at home it usually means I'm probably going to whack him with a rolled-up porn script."
     "It's not just the words," I pointed out.  "Inflection has a lot to do with it."
     The clerk priced and handed over our pasta, and we pushed the cart towards the produce section for Roma tomatoes and peppers.  Nicky said, "Okay, now it makes a little more sense why the Don would be hung up on you like he is.  I'm guessing you spoke to him in la lingua madre when you were hiding him out."
     "Yes, he was very happy," said Bekka.
     Jane said, "Me and Lenny just smiled and nodded a lot."
     Nicky continued, "Yeah, that explains some of his fascination, I guess.  After he got back, he started getting interested in your career.  He had your Penthouse centerfold hanging up in your office, and he put up a couple nudie posters of you in there too.  I asked him about it, and he said he liked being watched over by a beautiful naked Sicilian girl.  Me, I figured you were about as Italian as Pizza Hut, but I kept my mouth shut.  He's got a couple other posters of you up in the TV lounge, with you in lingerie, more sedate that what he has in his office.  Just so long as he doesn't start treating you like Jesus, like your other fans do."
     Romas and peppers bagged, we headed for the canned goods to collect the correct mix of tomato products needed for marinara sauce.  Jane split off to grab a loaf of bread for garlic bread.  She met us up front as we made to get in line.
     "Hey Bekka, what does 'puttana pazza' mean?" Jane asked.  "Some dude just said it to me.  He was kinda cute, so I just smiled and kept walking."
     Nicky chortled at this.  "He called you an insane hooker, Lolita.  Wonder where he got that idea from?"
     Sparks flew out of Jane's eyes.  "Oh really.  I'll be right back."  She ran back the way she came from before we could stop her.  From a distance off, I could just hear Jane's raised voice exclaiming, "Hey, motherfucker!"  A pause, then a loud, "Come!  Sei pazzo?" and laughter.
      Jane came trotting back to us with a vicious smirk on her face.  She was being tailed by three guys about my age.  The one in front was holding his face and limping slightly.  The other two had highly entertained looks on their faces.  They caught up as she reached the cart, the injured one --- who, upon closer inspection, had a red hand-shaped mark on his left cheek --- grabbed Jane by the shoulder.
     Roach said, "Watch the hands, asshole," and pushed the guy back.
     Limping guy looked at Roach, then at the rest of us, and said, "Oh, quindi siete tutti pazzi."  (Oh, so you are all insane.)
     Bekka stepped forward and said, "Pazzo e pericoloso, piccolo uomo. Non causare problemi."  (Insane and dangerous, little man.  Do not cause trouble.)
     Limping guy's jaw swung open and his eyes got huge.  He said, "Bec-ky Page?"
     One of the two cohorts moved in closer and said, "Please pardon my friend, he is lacking in manners.  He is here from Tuscany and believes he may speak to Americano girls any way he pleases, so long as he uses his native tongue.  This girl just taught him this is not true, in a very direct manner.  I am glad he was not very crude, he would be unconscious if he had been."
     The limping guy swung on his friends and grabbed at their sleeves.  He crowed, "Dio mio! Questo è Becky Page, la donna più sexy del mondo!"
     Bekka smiled and rolled her eyes, saying, "Prego, prego."
     The other cohort said, "Yes, you make the sex films, yes?  I know I have seen you before."
     "Signorina Page, ti posso comprare da bere? O la cena?" pleaded the limping guy of Bekka.
     "He wishes to take you out, Miss Page," said the first cohort helpfully.
     Bekka said, "Thank you.  I speak Italian."  To the limping guy, she said, "Questo grande uomo biondo qui è mio marito. Egli vi distruggerà la mia parola. Vuoi rischiare?"  (This large blonde man here is my husband.  He will destroy you on my word.  Do you wish to risk it?)
     The guy looked up at me (I had about five inches on him), gave me a big shaky smile, and clapped me on the arm in a congratulatory way.  He said to his friends, "Andiamo, andiamo" (let's go, lets go) and began to scurry back into the depths of the store.  Bekka called after him, "Aspettare!" (Wait!)
     Limping guy hurried back upon hearing his dream girl's voice.  He stood in front of Bekka with a hopeful look on his face.
     Bekka said, "Si deve chiedere scusa al mio amico per quello che hai detto di lei. E 'stato molto maleducato."  (You must apologize to my friend for what you said of her.  It was very rude.)
     He stepped in front of Jane and said, "Per favore accetta le mie scuse. Ho agito come un maiale. Vi chiedo perdono."  Jane gave Bekka a confused look.
     "He says he acted like a pig and begs your forgiveness," said Bekka.  "Tell him, 'Grazie, ti perdono.'"
     Jane did as instructed.  With another nervous glance at me, he turned with his friends to go back into the bowels of the store.  When he was ten or so strides away, he suddenly pivoted and said, "Becky Page, ti amo," in a loud voice.  Then he continued on.
     "Well!" Bekka said.  "That wasn't how I was planning on exercising my second language today.  How's your Italian, Nicky?  Did you follow along okay?"
     "I caught the gist of it," Nicky said.  "I'm fourth generation immigrant, not second like you.  You're Sicilian, dammit, the language had better come naturally."
     Bekka corrected, "No, I'm American, by birthright and by allegiance.  I don't get dewy-eyed over a home country I've never seen before.  And my parents made it damn clear that they wanted me and my brother to fully grasp the native language of the country we were born in.  My parents spoke in Italian to each other, but in English to us.  They coached us out of accent habits, like inflecting on the vowels at the end of a word.  By the time I was in sixth grade, I looked, sounded, acted, and spoke like an American, which was exactly what my parents wanted.  They weren't fleeing famine or persecution like other immigrants had, they simply wanted better lives for themselves, and by being Americans that could happen.  Sicily may be the source of my history and origins, but Southern California is my home.  Quanto le devo?"
     The cashier gave Bekka an amount, then looked deflated when Bekka handed her a hundred.  She made apologetic noises, which amounted to no, she could not accept such a large bill.  Whether this was a matter of policy or she simply didn't have the change to break it was lost on me.  I checked my wallet:  a pile of hundreds, a five, and three ones.  Bekka asked, "Accettate Visa?"
     The cashier smiled and nodded.  Bekka handed her her bank card.  Instead of sliding it through a card reader or getting an imprint, the cashier turned and began to hurry off with the card, towards what appeared to be an office in one corner, surrounded by one-way glass.  Not liking this turn of events, Bekka vaulted the counter and gave chase to the cashier.  Electronic credit card fraud was getting to be a big thing, and Bekka and I had a lot to lose if our bank account was compromised.  I told the other three to wait there, I'd be back.  I made a dash for the door they were aimed at.
     Bekka and I followed the cashier into the office, seemingly unnoticed.  The cashier only became aware of our presence after the man in the office, a built-for-jolliness Italian dude who was presumably the manager, stared pointedly over her shoulder at us.
     "May I help-a you?" we were asked.
     Bekka launched into machine-gun Italian, which meant she was annoyed.  She later translated the conversation for me....
     Bekka said, "Yes, I wish to pay for my groceries with my Visa, and the cashier simply took my card and walked away.  I'm curious as to where she thinks she's headed."
     "She needs to come in here to process your sale," said the manager.  "All credit card transactions are handled here in the office.  You are Italiano, yes?"
     "No, Siciliano.  You don't have card readers at your registers?  Why the hell not?"
     "Not only would the equipment be expensive, but I do not trust it.  This way, we speak with a bank employee to get the transaction approved,  instead of relying on some computer to do the work.  Computers, pah!"
     Bekka was wide-eyed.  "Well, why not just take an imprint of the card and process it at the end of the day?  That would save everyone a lot of time."
     The manager smiled.  "Except that if there is a problem with the card, the customer is no longer around to clear the matter up."
     "The cashier refused to take my hundred, which is why we are here now.  Was she simply unable to make change, or...?"
     "No, by policy, we will not accept bills larger than a twenty.  Risk of counterfeiting.  Quite simple."
     In her syrupy-sweet voice, Bekka said, "So when I shop here, I need to remember to only carry small bills and not to bother with my plastic if I'm in a hurry.  Is that right?"
     "Ma'am, our policies have been in place for years.  Our customers are familiar with them."
     "Tell me sir, do you have any plans on Monday?" Bekka asked ever so sweetly.
     The manager looked confused.  "Uh, no.  Why?"
     Bekka leaned on the desk and said, "Because you and I are going to your bank, where we will learn about card readers.  You are going to have card readers installed at each of your four registers, and you won't be out a dime, because I am going to pay for the fucking things.  You will learn that your life can be much simpler than it is now.  After we're done at the bank, we're headed to a stationary store, where I'm buying you a handful of counterfeit detection pens.  Are you familiar with these objects?"
     "No ma'am."
     "They are yellow markers.  You simply swipe them on a bill.  Through magic, if the bill is genuine, the marker ink will stay yellow.  If it's counterfeit, the ink will turn black.  Like I said, magic.  You will make sure each register has a pen at all times.  Cashiers can check every single bill that comes into their hands if they so desire.  But you will start accepting large bills, because you have no reason not to.
     "I will be out front here at eight Monday morning.  Simply find the blackest, scariest vehicle you have ever seen, and I will be waiting inside for you.  We will go have some breakfast somewhere, then your bank and I will plunge you into the exciting world of technology."
     "Why....  Are you doing all this?"
     "Because I love to shop here, and if I can make it as simple as shopping at a fucking Safeway then I am sure to do even more of my shopping here.  I want to hand a cashier my form of payment without it causing anyone duress.  If I can walk into any ghetto-ass liquor store and pay for my purchases with either a C-note or a piece of plastic, then I should be able to do it here.  Ah, my cashier is hanging up the phone."
     Bekka got her card back, signed the slip, and we went forward to where Jane, Roach, and Nicky patiently waited, along with several other people in line.  Our purchases were bagged and we made tracks for the macellaio, the meat market.  We were getting sausages to go with our tortellini, and this place had the best.  Jimmy Dean would hang himself in shame if he ever tried one of their sausages.  Both the English and the Germans would puke with jealousy after being exposed to these tubes of joy.  They were that good.
     After getting our meat, we headed out.  As I eased us onto the 5, Roach piped up, "Hey, do you think we could run through Linda Vista real quick.  I just wanna stick my head in at my house, let my folks know I'm still alive."
     I gave my approval and started in that direction.  Following Roach's directions brought us into an aging suburban dystopia, a land of peeling stucco houses and cracked, leaf-stained sidewalks.  Mine was the only new car for quite a distance.  It was as if the entire neighborhood somehow suffered from a form of psychic mange.  I noticed strange gardens in front yards and asked Roach about them.
     "Yeah, those are vegetable gardens," he answered.
     "Say what?"
     "Oh yeah.  The boat people buy a house, all twenty family members move in, and they can't figure out what the fuck a lawn is for.  To them, a lawn is just space where something useful could be growing.  So they tear up the lawn and plant....  Whatever the fuck they grow.  Boat people also don't understand that cats and dogs are pets, not food.  It's like they'll eat anything with four legs."
     "If it doesn't either talk or salute, most of 'em will eat it," I said.  "Most recently it was the Cambodians' turn to go through a famine.  When you're that hungry, there's not a lot of room for sentimentality."
     Roach said, "The ones that piss me off --- park in front of that yellow VW --- are the Hmong.  They're some huge tribe out of Laos, I think, and they're total dicks.  They think nothing of walking through a neighborhood with .22s and shooting at anything that moves so they can eat it.  Dogs, cats, raccoons, goddamn skunks, whatever.  And they'll totally go in peoples' backyards and kill animals, too.  Like if they hear a dog barking,  they'll hop a fence to get at it.  And when they get caught, they point their rifles at the dude whose house it is!  Man, I'm no racist, but fuck the Hmong.  They got no respect, all they do is kill shit....  It's like they're aggressively opposed to ever being part of American society.  They move to a city, and insist on acting like they're still out in the jungles or whatever."
     "Are all your neighbors boat people?" I asked as we got out of the car.
     "No.  Although us and one old couple are the only whites left.  We got boat people, and Filipinos, and Mexicans, and a couple black families.  I guess we're a melting pot.  Haw, a couple of the young brothers started dating Vietnamese chicks, which freaked out their families.  It's like they were forced to get along because one of the Jefferson boys started dating a daughter of the Nguyen's.  Sorta like Romeo and Juliet, only without all the death.  Lemme go in and let my folks know I got friends over.  Be right back."
     Nicky was looking around in horror and loathing.  I took a gander myself.  A ragged and filthy American flag, big enough to slipcover my Cadillac, hung over the front door from a pole.  Every square foot of the driveway was oil-stained.  An old dead pickup truck hunkered to one side.  Two panes of the big front window were covered in cardboard and duct tape.  Crabgrass provided the greenery.  And a small drug baggie lay on the ground at my left foot.
     Roach stepped out and gestured for us to follow him in.  We shuffled into a dim living room, where a standard-issue biker was standing, can of Burgie at the ready.  Roach said, "This is my dad, Robert Willis.  Dad, these are my friends Jane, Lenny, Becky, and, um, Nicky.  Nicky is kinda like Becky's bodyguard."
     Mr. Willis brightened considerably when he took in Bekka.  "Holy shit, you really are Becky Page, ain'cha?  God damn, my boy said he was partying with Becky Page, I thought he was trippin'.  Who wants a beer?"
     We all accepted.  Willis disappeared and returned with a twelve-pack box of Burgie, which he set on the coffee table.  "Good an' cold, help yourself.  So how you come to know my boy?"
     Jane volunteered, "I met him at UTC, just hanging out.  I live with Lenny and Bekka, and Roach bet me a pack of cigarettes that I didn't really know Becky Page.  In fact he still owes me a pack of Newports.  But yeah, we met hanging out in the mall."
     Willis said to Nicky, "Hey you!  The sharp-dressed fella.  Hook a beer.  You really a bodyguard?"
     Nicky said, "Yes I am.  I keep the trash away from this young woman.  Of course, sometimes she insists in rolling around in it.  What do you do?"
     "I'm a mechanic," said Willis.  "On unemployment right now, but I got one a them cushy service center gigs at a Dodge dealership lined up by the end of the month, just waiting on the call.  So what brings y'all by?"
     Roach said, "Just thought I'd stick my head in and let you know I was okay.  You know I was out all night last night, right?  I was up at their house in Encinitas.  We went bowling."
     Willis shrugged and said, "Shit, I was in the garage all night working on my bike.  Yer mom went out someplace with Dot and Faye, still with 'em I guess.  God damn!  You spent the night with Becky Page, huh?  That is too much."
     We briefly drank our beers in silence.  Bekka broke that silence by saying, "Roach, you're spending the night again, right?  Why don't you grab some clean clothes?  Jane, go with him."
     Once the kids had skedaddled, Bekka said, "So Mr. Willis.  Do you get high?"
     Willis replied, "Hell yes I do.  What ya got?"
     "Good old fashioned meth.  You know how to use a pipe?  Here Lenny, add a load to that."
     I refilled the bowl and melted it in, then passed it to Willis.  He took a large puff and held it like a bong hit, keeping it in his lungs for a good ten seconds.  There wasn't much of a cloud when he blew out.  He gestured to Nicky with the pipe, who silently shook his head and returned to glaring at the three of us in turn.  Bekka accepted the pipe and began to hit.
     Bekka had just tucked the pipe in her purse when Jane and Roach returned.  We knocked back the rest of our beer and headed for the door.  On the way out, Roach said to his dad, "Give mom a hug for me, okay?"
     I got rolling again, making my way out of the residential blocks and towards the main drag, aiming at the freeway.  Out of the blue, Roach suddenly said, "I hope I can work for you guys.  I'd make enough to get my own fucking apartment and get the hell out of that house.  Most kids think they'd love it if their parents didn't give a shit what they were up to, but it actually sucks.  The realization that your own parents honestly don't care about you fucking hurts.
     "You guys are lucky.  You're not even related, but the three of you all care about each other, all hang with each other.  You're tight.  Don't ever lose that."
     Jane put her arms around Roach and squeezed.  Bekka leaned over the seat and said, "Don't worry, you'll find lasting love someday.  And you have friends."
     "Thank you," Roach said softly.  "Hey, working for you guys, is that a full forty hour a week gig?"
     Bekka and I burst out laughing.  I said, "Damn dude, can you really fuck for eight hours straight, five days a week?  That's impossible.  No, it's more like four hours a day, three days a week.  You could probably keep your dismantling job if you wanted."
     Bekka added, "Light schedules and good pay were the reason I started in the industry.  We know we're dealing with people, not machines, so we don't put unreasonable demands on anyone.  So why do you ask?"
     Roach brightened considerably.  "Whoa....  I'd totally have time to go to school if I wanted to.  I wanna go to community college or a technical school, learn how to do something.  And more than being ASE certified, too.  When I go to work for real, I want my shit to go on a desk, not in a locker."
     "You want a career," I said.  "So what interests you?"
     "That's the problem.  I like cars, and I can fix 'em, but I don't want to be a damn mechanic like my dad.  I'm fine with turning wrenches as a hobby, but not to make a living."
     I said, "There's more to cars than fixing them.  Somebody has to design them, for one.  Not to mention how the technology keeps improving.  Hell, even selling the damn things is a whole discipline unto itself."
     "Maybe you're right," said Roach.  "What I gotta do is make an appointment with a placement counselor at Mesa College, figure out where I should start from before I decide where I'm going.  In a way I regret that I have no hope of going to a four year college, but....  Nope.  I spent twelve years in public schools surrounded by jackoffs, no way am I going to extend that experience for another four years."
     Bekka commented, "I went to UCSD for two years.  It was nothing like high school, and I was grateful for that."
      "Whoa, you got into UCSD?  Why'd you drop out?"
     "I dropped out of college to take care of my dying mother by becoming a porn star.  That's as succinctly as I can explain it.  There's more to it than that, but I'm so sick of the story it's not funny.  Sometimes I wonder, though, how different both myself and the world would be if my mother hadn't contracted leukemia.  I never would have become Becky Page, I don't think.  I'd have graduated college, another fucking liberal arts major, hoping to find a white collar job that isn't too tedious.  I'd probably have married, squeezed out a couple of larvae, and considered church rummage sales great social events.  Would Becky Page have never existed, or would the title have gone to someone else?  Who would Lenny be married to?  Would Inana be a powerhouse, or just another small studio making jackoff loops?"
     "I can answer the last one," I said.  "Inana would be making loops, just coasting along, without you.  Okay, in our features, we had decent scripts.  It took your talent and charisma and energy to bring those scripts alive.  Without you performing, we'd have pulled the plug on doing features after 'Wedding Party' due to lack of interest from all concerned.  Inana Productions and Becky Page are yin and yang.  We support each other."
     "But I'm just one performer, I can't carry a whole feature...." started Bekka.
     "You did in 'Bewitched.'  It would have flopped without your fire in that central role."
     "Bullshit, it was your writing that drove 'Bewitched.'  People obsess about the minutiae and unresolved points in the movie constantly.  You've met the fans.  They're all about the mystery you wrote into the script, not Ursula the insane witch.  I had two fuck scenes, and one was a girl/girl.  Anyone could have played Ursula, and the movie would have been fine."
     "No way," I said.  "You, as Ursula, are intertwined through the whole story.  I'll be frank, I thought Ursula was irritating as hell when I first created her.  Yeah, I polished her up some in rewrites, but it took the life you breathed into her for Ursula to work as the central character."
     Bekka said, "But Ursula is still a character that you wrote.  Shit, if everyone had...."
     "Shut up!" yelled Jane from the back seat.  "Roach, I apologize.  They like to play this game where they blame the other for their massive success.  Each one is convinced their efforts are worthless, so the success is the other person's fault.  I hate it, they never consider that they're successful because they both kick ass at what they do.  They're both geniuses."
     "Hah!" said Nicky.  "I'd like to think that geniuses would have a speck more common sense than these two do.  They're good at their trade, I'll give them that."
     Jane said, "So you've seen about the first half of 'Bewitched' so far.  What do you think?"
     "I dunno what the big deal is.  The story seems really disjointed, like there's chunks of plot missing."
     Nicky sat under Jane's Vulcan Death Stare for a few moments.  She said, "Now, Nicklaus, I know you feel that pornography will scorch your soul and curve your spine.  Tell me, have you been skipping the fuck scenes in 'Bewitched?'"
     Nicky said, "I don't pay attention to them, what for?  It's just, y'know, people having sex."
     Jane huffed and said, "We'll be starting the movie over when we get home, you're missing important plot development.  In 'Bewitched,' like in all of Lenny's other features, the sex and the plot are intertwined, and quite well.  His stuff can't be edited down for Playboy Channel.  If you remove the fuck scenes, you're removing story.  Nicklaus, you'll be sitting through the first part of the movie again, and you'll be watching the sex.  Otherwise the movie makes no sense."
     "Why the hell didn't they just make a normal movie, if this thing is so damn good?  Not have sex scenes at all, just a good entertaining movie."
     "Because I had something to prove," I answered.  "I'd sort of tried with my first few features, but with 'Bewitched' I wanted to prove it's possible to have a hardcore porn feature that is watchable as a movie and is intellectually satisfying.  Our species considers sex to be a spectator sport, but blending it with drama has never worked in the past.  Believe it or not, Nicky, but I hate most porn.  I already know what it looks like when people fuck, and all those early features sucked as forms of entertainment.  They tried to make actual movies, but blew it badly.  Porn features sucked, even the famous ones.  My goal with 'Bewitched' was to make a feature-length fuck film I'd actually enjoy watching.  And I did it, I'm happy with the results overall."
     Bekka said, "It's amazing how well loved 'Bewitched' is.  It's made us millionaires because it keeps selling and selling and selling.  Fans study and debate the details of the story and the characters. And the sequel will probably be just as big of a breakout.  Even if Lenny had never written or produced another thing after 'Bewitched,' people would still remember him, and consider him a genius."
     "I told you before, I'm not a genius," I growled.  "All I did was figure that since I ran a porn studio, hey, why not make porn I don't hate, that I'm not ashamed of having my name attached to.  My biggest act of genius was staying the fuck out of the way while my director, and then my editors, did their jobs."
     "So it would seem you've got the cred.  Why not go marching into Hollywood?" Nicky asked.
     "Oh boy.  A few problems with that.  First, I've been playing by a very different set of rules than Hollywood does, and would resist changing my ways.  Nobody in Hollywood expects to get a 115 minute feature made for $400,000.  They would also not approve of my habits of doing location shots without the right permits, or filming chase scenes on the freeway without notifying the CHP, or making sure that 'drugs is a line item in my budget, or somehow managing to retain talented performers with no contracts.  I'm too much of an anarchist to function in the Hollywood machine.
     "Next, I am committed to Inana, through the family.  I can't leave.  I don't really want to anyway.  I'm enjoying turning Inana into an industry powerhouse, making the big studios like Leisure Time and Vivid sick with jealousy when they see our sales reports.  We're a tiny studio located in the boonies that keeps making features which the whole Western world clamors to see.  The hottest adult film star ever refuses to work with anyone but us.  All standard reasoning says we shouldn't exist, but we do.  And it's fun to helm such an organization.  Inana is tight, in a way Hollywood never can be.
     "And last, I'm having too much fun making smut.  Really good smut, but smut just the same.  Within reason and financial parameters, I can do anything with Inana that I feel like.  I have, and it's made various people very wealthy, including myself.  I follow my instincts, and they pay off.  Hollywood would never allow me to goof around and have fun the way I do, the lawyers and the contracts and the big-wigs wouldn't allow it.  To you, Nicky, I'm some weirdo who makes dirty movies.  To Hollywood, I'd be worse, I'd be some sort of human ulcer that wreaks havoc on the normal balance of things.  Why?  Because I would insist on trying to have fun in the manner I'm used to.  No, I'll keep making my dirty movies with my band of malcontents and libertines, and making the viewing public very happy.
     "Besides, I'd hate living in LA.  I'm okay with visiting, but living up there would eat shit."
     Nicky asked, "You think you can keep doing what you do forever?"
     "For the duration of my career, certainly.  I'll keep thinking of stories that translate well into porno films with small budgets --- the exception to the budget rule will be 'Bewitched II,' where I have carte blanche --- and expanding both my financial stability and my pool of talent.  I've got a mechanism in place, which continues to be profitable and creative.  Yeah, I'll keep doing what I'm doing."
     "Do some sci-fi next," suggested Jane.
     "Thought about it, and rejected it.  For a sci-fi porn to not look hokey, we'd have to dump every penny Inana has into special effects.  We'd never earn back what we'd spent.  It would be fun, and it would look gorgeous, but it's a non-starter as a business decision."
     "Western?" said Roach.
     "Maybe.  It would be another pricey one, when you take into account horses and their handlers, stunt doubles, period costumes, and renting huge swaths of land to work on in privacy, like renting an entire dude ranch for three weeks for the vast amount of location shots we'd need.  I would like to do something, somehow, that involves more outdoor fucking, though."
     Jane said, "Ooh!  A porn version of 'Mad Max!'"
     I scratched my head.  "Huh.  Again, pricey.  All those modified cars and stunt drivers to handle them.  But we could shoot it on BLM land out in Imperial Valley, lots of outdoor fucking, rev up a leather fetish vibe....  Do you want 'Mad Max' or 'Road Warrior/'"
     "Oh.  'Road Warrior' is better."
     "Yeah.  Have Bekka as the leader of a band of post-apocalyptic marauders, who steal gasoline, food, and men for Bekka to use and discard as lovers.  Oh!  I know, sex with Bekka causes men to lose their minds, they become shambling zombies afterwards.  She finally finds a man, the road warrior, who is her match.  He doesn't want to be the sex slave for a pirate queen, so he takes off, and the chase is on.  Or not.  Dammit, you can't have a fuck scene in the middle of a car chase.  Well, I'll figure something out."
     With his usual sneer, Nicky asked, "So have I just been witness to your entire creative process?"
     "That's pretty much it, yeah.  Batting around bullshit."
     "Too cool," said Roach.

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