"So what are your plans for her?" Bekka asked me, as we got in the spa.
I was dumbfounded. "Wait, you're asking me? You're the one who invited her up for a couple nights. What are your plans?"
Bekka pondered and said, "Well, it was definitely a Becky decision. But shit, a tiny thing like her, living in her car in Ocean Beach? Um.... Hey, I know. We've talked about moving Rita up into being a performer. That would leave us short one fluffer and script girl. This chick claims to be a compulsive cocksucker, and so long as she's literate enough to read a script, she'd be fine. She'd definitely be able to stop living in her car on $2000 a week, she could stay in the penthouse until she found a place, we could keep her high.... Yeah. Call Rita tomorrow and tell her she's got the promotion."
"No, we'll wait until our tiny tweaker has had a blood test before making any promises. Her self-declared nymphomania means she's a high risk, in fact I was gonna politely refuse if she brought up the subject of sucking my dick again."
"I'll just tell her I changed my mind," said Bekka.
We hung out in the spa for another forty-five minutes, then went back in to see how our newest stray was doing. Dawn was still on the love seat, and had gone through two of the beers. One hand held the remote, the other was lodged down the front of her jeans. She was working on her box like she hoped to wear it off. Apparently she was watching the same twenty seconds of video over and over, Donna's money shot with Vince. We observed this little tableau for a few minutes, Dawn furiously masturbating and watching Vince come all over Donna over and over again. She suddenly realized we were standing there.
"That's some awesome shit you get," Dawn said. "I'm so spun I can't come."
I said, "To be frank, I wasn't expecting you to go through that whole bowl. You smoked about a thirty weight to yourself, all at once."
Dawn got a guilty look and said, "Oh shit, I didn't do all of yours, did I. Did I go through it all?"
Bekka chuckled and held up her hands. "No, we have plenty, don't worry. We buy two or three ounces at a time, so we won't run out. Cheaper that way, buying in bulk. But it's no wonder you're as high as shit. But I gotta wonder, what were you thinking?"
"I dunno, I couldn't really taste it, so I figured it was weak sauce. And I thought Lenny wanted me to finish it, you know? I didn't really realize how spun I was until I was nearly done."
"Well, not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I'll take a wild guess and assume you're not going to bed at all tonight."
Continuing to rub herself, Dawn said, "Actually, after I finish watching this movie I wanted to go up and stretch out on that bed. It's probably been over a year since I have been on a bed alone. I'm short, but I still can't quite stretch out on the back seat of the Oldsmobile. Do you have anything to read? I'll just hang out in there until people start moving around."
"That's fine," I said. "You like Raymond Chandler?"
"I don't know who that is."
"In my estimation, Chandler was the greatest of all the pulp writers, back in the day. He created the character of Phillip Marlowe. You know, murder mysteries, detective stories."
"Sounds cool," said Dawn. "I'll read anything once. In the shower, I read shampoo bottles. I used to have the ingredient list for a Snickers bar memorized."
Bekka considered the tiny masturbating girl on our love seat. "Tell me, if you'd gotten as high as you are, and we had parted ways back in O.B., what would you have done with yourself?"
Dawn shrugged. "Made the rounds of people I know, see whose lights were on. Cleaned out the car. Maybe see if some dude wanted to take me home from the Roberto's. Wait for the newspaper truck to come by and fill racks, so I could get yesterday's paper and have something to read. I hate sleeping, so I know how to keep myself occupied all night. When I have a little money, I'll put gas in the car and drive around. That sort of thing."
"You sound like you have risky ways of killing time," I said. "If you're not annoying your friends at this hour, you're setting yourself up to get bugged by the cops, or raped.. And what do you mean, you hate sleeping?"
Dawn's lips creased with an unstable smile. "Because when I sleep, the screaming starts. I hear everyone in hell screaming at once when I sleep. The sound never stops. By getting spun, I run until I basically pass out after five days or so, I don't dream then and I get my rest."
"Is that why you were on psych meds when you were in Modesto?" I asked.
"And a few other things. Whatever. Oh, should I suck your dick now?"
"Umm...." I started.
"I changed my mind," said Bekka. "If we're gonna be friends, having something like that happen so soon might jam things up, you know? Maybe some other time. We were thinking, though, we might be able to get you a job. Do you think you'd pass a blood test?"
"I don't see why not," said Dawn. "I use protection when I fuck a guy."
"Do you know what a fluffer is?"
Bekka explained, "On porn sets, the fluffer's job is to prep the male stars. You know, get them hard before the scene starts. And during cuts, it's up to the fluffer to keep the guy or guys hard until they start shooting again. Essentially, the fluffer spends the day sucking dick at regular intervals. There's an art to it, too. You have to be good at giving head, but not too good. You just want to keep the guys hard, not make them come. There's no real glamor to it, we'll list you in the credit roll if you really want us to.
At our studio, our fluffer also doubles as our script girl. When we're shooting a dialogue scene, you read along with the actors' lines, and prompt them if they forget a line. Real simple. And you will be treated with respect working for us. Most studios, the fluffer is on the bottom of the food chain, and gets treated like shit. We have the novel approach of treating everyone well, and subsequently retain our performers and employees for long periods of time. Our current fluffer has been with us three years, or about thirty-six times longer than most girls spend fluffing. We'd like to turn her into a performer, and give you her job. All this is dependent on you passing a blood test: no STDs, no HIV or AIDS."
"What do I get paid?" asked Dawn. "Eight bucks an hour? Nine?"
I laughed. "Try $500 per day. You don't make the same money as female performers do, but to be frank, the job requires no thought and damn little effort on your part. You suck some dick in the morning and after lunch, and a little more during cuts. When we're shooting a feature, you help people who are blowing their lines. Like Becky said, real simple."
Dawn's eyes widened further. Her jaw dropped. She finally stopped masturbating. "Oh my god, $500 a day? Wait, how often would I be working?"
"When we're shooting loops, four days a week right now. During the time we're shooting a feature, we work seven day weeks during production. You would have down time, during pre-production the performers are learning their parts, rehearsing, blocking, getting costumes taken care of, shit like that. There's simply nothing for you to do, so you'd be out of work for two weeks or so. However, the assumption is we pay you well enough that you have some savings, and can deal with the dent in your schedule just fine. Oh, one other thing. It's up to you to take care of your taxes. You'd be an independent contractor with us. Everyone else just uses a tax service to stay square with the IRS."
"Holy shit, you're talking about $2000 a week, minimum. So what's the catch?"
"No catch," I said. "You're being paid well to do a fairly simple but somewhat humiliating task, one that is necessary to the production of porn. Hopefully the decent pay makes up for the lack of respect you get."
Bekka said, "I just worked it out in my head. In an eight hour day, you'd be getting $62.50 per hour, if you want to think of it that way."
"So.... for $500 a day, all I have to do is suck dick and read scripts. How many dicks are we talking about in a normal day? Twenty? Thirty?"
"Roughly, between two and six," I laughed. "You're just making them hard at the beginning of scenes, and keeping them hard if there's any delays in shooting."
Dawn queried, "I don't see where the humiliation is."
Bekka responded, "Well.... Most women find it a little humiliating to suck the dick of a guy she's never met before, and who couldn't give less of a shit about her. You literally just have some naked dude walk up to where you're sitting and point his dick at your mouth, fully expecting that you're going to give him a pretty good blowjob. No hellos, no good mornings, just a service you are expected to unquestioningly provide."
"Shit, I thought it would be humiliating. You want humiliating, try spare changing outside a grocery store all fucking day. Making up bullshit stories so people will take pity on you and maybe give you a whole dollar at once. I used to tell people my husband was in jail, or my apartment had caught fire, or my car was in impound. Begging people for money is humiliating."
"Uh.... Fair enough," I said. "So are you willing to try?"
"Hell yes," Dawn said. "But what do I do about the blood test? If you're checking for AIDS, the clap clinic has, like, a two week turnaround time to get the results back. It'd take me that long to get to work?"
"Not at all," I answered. "We contract with a private lab up in Oceanside. They'll do a blood draw for an STD panel and for HIV/AIDS, and they have a three day turnaround time. Everyone gets their tests done on Friday, and has their results on Monday. They bring their result slips to me on Monday and I firm up their shooting schedule. No results, no work.."
"You mean, people have to get tested every week? How come?"
"Safety. And security. It would be bad enough for all concerned if someone got laid, then spread the clap throughout the studio. Can you imagine what a fucking disaster it would be if HIV spread through our performers? No, we take no risks. If anyone tests positive for anything, they're off the board. And if someone came up with a positive HIV result, everyone they'd worked with for the past few weeks would be prevented from working until they'd turned in three weeks of clear tests. The health of my performers is a top concern of mine."
Bekka said, "The lab is open for testing half the day on Saturday, like nine to one. If you're serious about this, we'll drive you up in the morning and get you on our roster. You take the test and pick up the results on Tuesday. Sound fair?"
"That'd be great," said Dawn. "But why are you guys doing all this for me?"
"Maybe we saw someone who needed help, and are in a position to help. Maybe I don't think tiny blondes from the Central Valley should be living in their cars at the beach. Maybe you're helping us, since we've been looking for a fluffer for a while so we can promote our current one. You have a casual attitude towards sucking dick, and that's what we need. It's hard to find."
Dawn pondered. "So.... I could be working by Wednesday,if I understand you right. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, that would be $1500. I could get a room!"
"Not quite yet," I said. "Checks are issued on Tuesday mornings for the previous week's work. However, there is an option. The top floor of the studios is living space that's currently unoccupied. We lived up their for months while we were getting this place. We'll show it to you after your blood draw tomorrow. You could stay up there for a couple weeks while you save up the money for an apartment of your own. I'll advance you a couple hundred dollars so you can buy gas and groceries for those first few days. And don't forget, taxes are up to you. I'll give you the number for my tax service, they're sharks. You'd be amazed at what can be deducted. In your case, breath mints would be a business expense."
"This is too much. There's got to be a gotcha."
"No gotcha," said Bekka. "You're getting paid to do work ninety-nine percent of women would find to be totally demeaning. That's why you're being paid fairly well.... But still, less than the performers. You'll be expected to show up on time, sober, and healthy. Performers, especially the males, will treat you with respect, as you will treat them. Our men know the quickest way to piss off Lenny is to have the word 'bitch' come out of one of their mouths. Nonetheless, quite often you're going to be made to feel like an appliance, and not a woman.
"Now, it's four a.m. right now. We're gonna get up at nine and head for the lab, then afterwards we'll get some brunch, and give you a tour of the studios. Try to rest."
I pulled a thick volume off a bookshelf. It was Raymond Chandler's collected short stories from Black Mask magazine, plus his early novels. I handed it to Dawn, saying, "Here you go, some nice gritty murder stories. Enjoy. You coming up to your room?"
"In a little bit," Dawn said. "I'm gonna watch the rest of this movie, it's really cool." She hit the PLAY button on the remote, starting the movie again. This time she let it run and kept her hands out of her pants. Bekka and I headed up the stairs.
In our room, Bekka asked me, "So what do you think? Have we done a good deed, or what?"
I said, "I think it remains to be seen how much good we'll have done. By her own admission she is literally a crazy tweaker. After three weeks of working for us, she may decide she likes living rough and head back for Ocean Beach. Whatever form of crazy she has may let itself be known in a big way. Or her head could explode from all the speed she does. Then again, it could turn out she has some innate acting talent, and we promote her to performance, she starts seeing a shrink, her and Small Steve fall in love, and everyone lives happily ever after. Except us, because we have to find another damn fluffer. Why is it that female performers hate prepping the men they're working with so much, anyway?"
"Because the state of their dick is not our concern. They know and we know that when they step in front of those cameras, they're supposed to be ready for action, hard as rock. How they get in that state doesn't matter to female performers: we have to interact with the idiot for the next couple hours, whether he gets hard by himself or with the aid of someone else is irrelevant. My own attitude is that males are spoiled by having a fluffer available to prep them. Why can't they just think some dirty thoughts and stroke at it to get hard? Hell, where are the females' fluffers? Some dude with a tongue like Gene Simmons to eat my box for a little while so I'm good and wet? But generally, I'd say most females would say they spend enough time with the males already. Having to service him while the cameras are off is adding insult to injury."
"Sounds rather primadonna-ish to me.... Although you're right, maybe the males could adjust to life without a fluffer. They claim to be professionals, and in supreme control of their penises, them building their own hard-ons would prove them right. Save us money, too."
Bekka snickered, "If you announced we were dropping the fluffer to meet a budget, Inana Productions would be producing nothing but lesbian video by the next morning. Every one of our males would flee, damn spoiled brats."
"Maybe they are spoiled," I said. "A little mandatory jerking off never hurt anybody."
Bekka said, "Uh huh. And when was the last time you had to jerk off for relief, puzzola?"
"Exactly. Between me, Jane, and Sue, the only time you have your dick in your own hand is when you aim to piss."
I gave Bekka a vicious grin. "Uh huh. And whose fault is it that I have a total of three lovers? It wasn't my idea. I was quite content with the one, then a certain someone decided I needed more sex in my life, with more people. Masturbate? Hell, between work and you three I never have the time or the privacy. Besides, it's not like my attitude is that y'all are supposed to service me whenever I want."
"Fair enough," said Bekka. "I suppose three lovers is enough to keep a guy busy. Hell, right now one of your lovers is going to be letting you know just how much she needs your right now. She certainly needs part of you, anyway."
"Just call me Johnny on the spot," I said, and turned out the light.
In the morning I got up, hit the bathroom pipe, and went down to start coffee. A quick glance on the second level determined that Dawn had removed her shoes and was sitting up on the bed, reading Chandler. I bade her good morning, told her coffee would be ready in a few minutes, and continued down. She followed me, silently, until I was in the kitchen at which point she scared the hell out of me by saying my name six inches from my back.
"Can I use your shower?" she asked.
"Yeah, sure, of course," I replied. "There's fresh towels in the guest bathroom. That's the one where the sink is not stained blue."
Dawn said, "Thanks. Um, do you guys really buy ounces as personal?"
"We do. We have the money, and we have the source. $900 an ounce, lab fresh. Beats the shit out of picking up quarters at Dog Beach."
"Do you suppose I could possibly talk you out of maybe sparing me a line? This morning I really will suck your dick, we just won't tell Becky it happened."
I chuckled and pulled out the empty pipe and my vial. I loaded in enough dope for the two of us to smoke right then, melted it in, and passed it to Dawn. She took a hit and passed it back, saying, "That really is some awesome shit you get. Do you deal at all? You could make a fortune."
I took my hit and said, "I used to deal. I moved nothing less than an ounce at once. Twenty hits minimum on Ecstasy. I got tired of the bullshit after I got my current job and quit. No, what we buy is for us, and for us to share."
We each had several more hits, when Dawn handed me the pipe and said, "I'm done for now." Then she dropped to her knees and grabbed at my belt buckle, tugging it open. I let her. She quickly unbuttoned my Levis and pulled my pants down to my knees, then immediately got my semi-hard dick in her mouth. I let her take point, letting her do what she wanted. She showed plenty of initiative.
She was good.
We pulled into the lot at Syn-Tec, our blood lab. Jane wasn't with us, she was going on a Wholesome Family Outing with Lance and his family. The three of us got out of the Fleetwood and went inside. The girl at the check-in window said, "Hello, Mr. Schneider! Hello, Bekka! Why are you back? You just tested yesterday."
"Fresh one for you," I said. "Potential new employee. Full STD panel, plus HIV/AIDS. She'll be working regularly, so she'd be every Friday like the others."
Looking at Dawn, the check-in girl said, "You just need to fill out a few forms, then we'll do your draw. You'll get your results Tuesday. What's your name, honey?"
Dawn looked frustrated. "Dawn Nixon, okay? Yeah, like that Nixon."
The check-in girl said, "Well, let me just get your ID briefly, and you can start on the forms."
Dawn dug through the bag she carried instead of a purse and extracted her wallet, removing her driver's license. The check-in girl took a look at it and said, "Do you have your new one? This is expired."
"No, I don't," said Dawn. "I know I need to get a new one, but that's my only ID."
Looking doubtful, the check-in girl said, "Well.... It's definitely your ID, and it's definitely you. I'l go ahead and take it. If your address has changed --- I guess it has, this says Modesto --- fill the correct one in on the top form."
At this request, Dawn looked up at me, panic-stricken. Her current address was the license plate on her car. I put a hand on her shoulder and said, "We'll just use the address of the studio, that's where you'll be staying for a few weeks. We'll need to go to DMV on Monday, too. Come on, let's sit down and you can fill out the forms. Then they draw your blood, then we get something to eat."
Dawn filled in the forms, but she seemed agitated, her panic was just below the surface. "Why do they want to know all this shit?" she asked.
I explained, "Because weekly, they are going to be doing a medical procedure on you, drawing blood. They need to know who you are. Check it, if this bit of bureaucracy bugs you, you'd really hate becoming a performer. Our lawyer has a full dossier on every performer we have, or have ever had. Real names, real ages, physical address, the whole nine yards. We can thank Traci Lords for all that."
"Who is she? Did she work for you?"
"A-heh! No. Traci Lords was a performer who, after three years in the industry, announced to the world, 'Hi, I'm an eighteen year old with a fake ID.' Films were banned in the US, fortunes were lost, people went to prison for sexually exploiting a minor. Traci skipped off into the sunset to make a couple more movies legally and attempt to break into Hollywood. She also wrote her memoirs, which are reviled as a pack of lies by the rest of the industry, particularly those who worked with her. Basically, these days every performer has to undergo a de facto background check, mostly to establish that he or she isn't still a minor. I could bring on Rose Kennedy as a performer, and she'd still need to prove her age."
Bekka added, "Traci liked to claim that she was 'the best cocksucker in the business.' I've seen bootlegs of a few of her films, and I call bullshit. Personally, she sucked dick like the teenage girl she was, and that's an insult to a lot of teenage girls. She nearly singlehandedly collapsed the industry."
The check-in girl said to Dawn, "Okay, that's all done. From now on, all you have to do is sign in and show this card." She handed Dawn a card with Dawn's name, an ID number, and the Syn-Tec logo on it. "And they're ready for you to do today's draw. Just go down this hall to room six."
Dawn gave me another panic-stricken look. "Lenny.... They use needles to take blood, don't they? I hate needles. Can't they get the same results from a urine sample? I'm cool with that."
I said, "Well, they used to take blood by punching you in the face a few times, but that was inefficient and painful. It's not a big deal, they're all seasoned phlebotomists around here. You feel the tiniest poke, they're that good."
"Please come with me, I don't want to be there alone," Dawn whimpered. I realized she was shuddering slightly.
Bekka said, "We'll both go with you." She stood and pointed towards the hall. "Remember though, next Friday is your deadline for growing some balls and handling this on your own, we can't come with you. Who knows, maybe you can find another Inana person willing to meet you here at the same time. Don't be surprised if they think you're being silly, though, because all of us have been getting weekly draws done for a while, some of us going back years. Our testing program has been in place at Inana since 1985, so I've gotten stuck every week that entire time."
We stepped into one of the private, well-lit small rooms that Syn-Tec used for procedures. The phlebotomist smiled and said, "Hi, I'm Wendy! Why are there three of you?"
Bekka explained, "This girl is a bit phobic of needles, and needs a bit of hand-holding for her first time in. She'll be on the Inana roster. We've already explained to her we can't come every week, but that you guys are painless."
Wendy considered this. "Inana tests on Fridays, right? The whole crew comes through. There's a whole bunch of people from Inana that will always be here between seven and eight in the morning. You could show up then and ask one of your fellow adult film stars for a hand to hold. But I'll bet within four weeks you're completely adjusted to having your blood drawn, it's just something you do."
Dawn said, "Whatever, I uh, I want to do this and get it over with. Which arm do you want?" She began peeling off her pullover hoodie.
Wendy said the right arm was considered traditional. Dawn stuck out an arm that was vibrating like a sex toy. Bekka stepped to Dawn's left side and took her hand, saying, "Don't look at her, look at me." I grabbed Dawn's right wrist and held it against the specially-designed arm rest. Wendy wrapped an elastic band around Dawn's upper arm to get the veins to stand up. This done, she swabbed a spot with alcohol, said "Just a little poke," and got the needle in Dawn's arm. She drew off seven small vials: one each for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes simplex II, human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis, and HIV/AIDS. Then she removed the needle and taped a small wad of gauze over where it had been. She tapped Dawn on the shoulder and said, "All done."
"What?" said Dawn.
"I'm finished with your draw," expanded Wendy.
"But I didn't feel you do anything."
"Well, I got all six of these somehow," said Wendy, holding up a couple of blood vials.
"See?" said Bekka. "You never even felt the needle. I told you, they're good here. Next Friday go ahead and find a porn star to hold your hand, but you'll be totally adjusted to this in a month."
"Here, have a lollipop," Wendy said. Dawn happily accepted the sucker and immediately began working on it. Fine with me. Given how skinny she was, any calories going into her body would be helpful.
We went out and headed towards the Fleetwood. Bekka elaborated, "Now all you need to do is come back here on Tuesday. You show them your ID and tell them you're here to pick up results. They give you an envelope which will contain one sheet of paper with important information, and three more sheets with medical gibberish on them. The important one will have your results. So long as we're seeing the word 'Negative' over and over, you can start working for us. If something comes back positive, well.... It depends on what it is. If it's HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, or herpes, I'm sorry, but there's nothing we can do, there's no way in hell you could work for us. The clap, siff, gonorrhea, or HPV can all be cured, you go to the clinic and get fixed up. But you wouldn't be able to start working until you were clear, obviously. Come on, let's go get something to eat."