Once the trunk was loaded, me, Bekka, and Roach got in the Fleetwood to pass around the glass pipe again. Small Steve leaned against the front fender, smoking one of Bekka's Benson & Hedges. While he was doing his edit of features, Steve would cadge a small line off me, like a paper match, every morning. Otherwise he left the stuff alone.
Crystal joined us in the car, smirking. When the pipe came to her, she waved it off, saying. "Doing shit like that just pisses me off. I hit good earlier anyway, so I'm fine. Haven't you ever banged dope?"
I said, "No. I'm phobic of needles to begin with. That, and what I've noticed is that people who do bang end up having their lives revolve around it too much, you know? I'm perfectly happy like this."
In a belligerent tone, Crystal said, "Well, fuck me. I started banging my shit when I was fourteen, it was the first way I'd ever gotten high. When my sister asked if I wanted to do some dope when I was sixteen, she offered me a line, and I was all, 'What the fuck is this?' You have to get it in your bloodstream, or you're just wasting your fuckin' time. You're just pissing yourself off."
"Well, I guess we're just missing out,then," said Bekka, sounding just as belligerent. "If I saw Lenny with tracks on his arm, it wouldn't take me twenty minutes to be out of the house and in a motel. You think I could do what I do if I had marks on me? Shit, just be glad you were fluffing for us, I don't like to think of all the ways you'd fail a blood test. When was the last time you you got tested? I had Roach's dick up my pussy after you got your spit on it, how much should I worry about that?"
Crystal muttered, "Fuck you. Okay, I tested positive for Hep C when I went to jail. I haven't been with a man since then, and I don't share my sharps. You can't pass Hep C though spit. We'd need a pathogen."
"Studied up on this, have you?"
"Unless he bled into my fucking mouth...." Crystal's face collapsed. She looked at Bekka and said, "Look, you're, like, the most awesome chick in the world. I would you hate to think you hate me because of my bad habits. And I know it is a bad habit. But it's how I get off, okay? Fuck me. It's all I know."
Changing the subject, I said, "Hey Crystal, why don't we take Bekka out to the Possum Ranch? She can meet Hank and Cheetah and the others."
"Yeah, that works. Let's pick up my sister, God knows my mom can use a break from her."
After making a twelve-point turn to get the the Caddy turned around without miring it in wet sand, I pointed back up the track and towards Crystal and Mojo's mom's house. When we went in, Rose and Arthur were smoking a joint. Arthur said, "So how did it go?"
"It went great," said Small Steve. "We shot at the waterfall, it was beautiful right there. Thank you again, sir. Did you want us to send you a copy of the movie when we're done? The footage we just shot will be at the very end of the movie."
Rose laughed at this. "I think we're both too old to be watching porno."
"Nonsense," declared Bekka. "Sex as a spectator sport is something you're never too old for. I've gotten fan mail from couples in their seventies, telling me how much they love my movies. And I'm sure my fans get even older than that, they just haven't bothered to write."
I said, "Besides, we make full movies. This isn't just about watching people having sex. We entertain all the way through. Yes, it's hardcore, but it's done in a way that keeps the viewer interested no matter what is happening on the screen. If you've seen a porn feature before, it's not what you're used to."
"Send it on," said Arthur. "You've made me curious."
Crystal said, "Hey, where's Mojo? Didn't she come here?"
"Actually, she did," said Rose. "In fact, she's been in the bathroom for a long time now. Would you check on her?"
Rolling her eyes, Crystal said, "No problem." I sort of drifted along as she went into the hallway and stopped in front of a door. She pounded and said, "Mojo! You alive in there?"
A breathy voice answered, "Yes."
Patiently, Crystal quietly continued, "Look, I know exactly what you're doing in there. It's not good for you to do that for so long. You have to stop, okay? We'll go back to our house and I'll get you high, I've got some of what Lenny had the last time. Are you listening to me?"
A pause, then "Yes."
"Okay, open the door for me. Are you okay?"
"Is the angel there?"
"What angel?" asked Crystal.
Mojo said, "The angel we were watching today. Lenny said I can't have him, but I want to be around him, I want to feel his aura."
Crystal rolled her eyes and said, "Yeah, he's out here. You can sit next to him in the car if you promise to keep your hands to yourself. Now pull up your fucking pants and get out here."
A few moments later the door opened. Mojo stepped out with darting eyes. "Where is he?" she asked.
"His name is Roach, and he's in the living room with mom and Arthur. Come on, we're stopping by our house and then heading to the ranch for a while, then we're gonna have dinner. Let's go."
We stepped into the living room, where Bekka, Roach, and Small Steve were doing their best to make small talk about the adult video industry with two old hippies. Bekka was saying, "Roach has only been at it for a few months, but will back me up when I say it's only a very unusual form of acting. What we were dong today will hopefully have emotional impact when people watch it, that's what we were striving for. Roach and I are friends, but we we are also no more than co-workers. We wanted to show a very explicit sex scene between two people that also expressed love. We were acting. Yes, we care about each other, we're human and we're friends, but he has a girlfriend and I have a husband. In a way it's the most difficult thing for an actor do do. We are physically intimate, and express that intimacy. Anyone can go through the motions, we show it as as two people connecting."
Small Steve chuckled and said, "And Bekka wonders why she's so famous, how she got to be so popular. I've been filming her for eight years now and every scene Bekka does looks like a love scene. She projects both physical and emotional intimacy, makes the viewer feel like they're watching someone make love, not just fuck, not just exhibitionist crap."
"She's hard to work with, in a way," said Roach. "I mean, shit, I developed a crush on Becky Page when I was eighteen. Now I get paid to engage in sexual activity with the woman I was crushing on, and she is capable of making me feel like I'm the only man left on earth, that I really matter to her. Then the scene ends, we shower, put on our clothes, and go get lunch or whatever. I have to remind myself that she is just a very talented actress, and that's all. She's in love with Lenny, I'm just some dude with a big dick that she works with."
Rose asked, "Have relationships ever sprung out of, uh, what you do?"
I said, "Yeah. Me and Bekka. I was the still photographer when I met her, and we clicked. Roach is living with our fluff girl. Eddie The Jew and Elspeth are tight. My friend Boss and Ellen...."
"They don't count," said Bekka. "Boss isn't connected to Inana."
"Near as dammit," I replied. "Boss is one of a handful of non-crew or cast members who's allowed on a set. He's worked security for us, to me, Boss is part of the Inana family."
"Who is Boss?" asked Arthur.
"Boss is a monstrous biker, like six foot seven, well-muscled, who's been a friend of mine since I was nineteen. He used to hold a patch with the Nomads, but he wanted to pursue his own interests, so they parted ways. No hostility though, they're still on good terms with him. Boss is the nicest guy in the world, but because of his size and appearance he strikes terror into the hearts of anybody who doesn't take the time to get to know him. We've uh, helped each other out over the years. Right now he's dating one of my performers, and making a serious go of it. He's cool with what she does for a living, which is important."
Roach said, "I can't even imagine dating anyone outside the industry. What would I tell chicks when they ask me what I do for a living? Most people don't get that it really is just a job.... A weird one, yeah, but it's still just a job. I'm glad I'm in love, because looking for romance outside of the business would be a major headache. 'Hi, I'm Sonny, and I have sex with three to eight women a week for a living.' That would be a hard one to pull off."
"I remember back in the Sixties and early Seventies," said Rose, "it was a disreputable business to be in. Everyone risked going to jail. Crystal was explaining to us that your studio is well thought of, that you produce movies which are respected, you have no concerns about getting busted."
Bekka said, "Thanks to the Supreme Court, the definition of obscenity is much more lax. Obscene material is still illegal, but is mostly determined by where you are. We're in California, and generally people feel what we do is valid. I can't imagine trying to make adult films in Texas, or Utah. And even then, one of the litmus tests for obscene material is whether something only appeals to prurient interest. Inana's features are full movies that just happen to have huge amounts of sexual content. That's why we're so respected and so well known. We broke the wall between porn and mainstream entertainment, we showed it's possible to have hardcore in a good movie. Yeah, we appeal to base desires, but we also tell a good story."
"I'm damn lucky," I said. "I have a talented roster of performers, a skilled technical crew, and apparently I'm good enough at writing and producing that I'm able to make porn that doesn't actually suck. I explain that to people all the time: I started doing what I do because I hated porn. It bored me. Well, shit, if I'm going to run a damn porn studio, I'm going to put out stuff I'd actually enjoy watching. That's what it really came down to. I thought porn sucked, so I decided to make my own."
"I must admit, I was expecting a whole big film company to be here," said Arthur." Do you always just have a few people when you work?"
"No," said Small Steve. "This was shot as kind of an emergency. We just needed the video to boil down to a four to six minute scene, no dialogue, shot outdoors, only two people.... We didn't need sound recording, or gaffers, or makeup, or even a second or third camera. What we shot today is crucial in wrapping up the new feature, but was also very simple to produce. I'll edit it down and it'll be done."
"And what was it you shot today?" asked Rose.
"Two people who have arrived in Eden, who are very much in love. They've escaped from hell, and are now in what they feel is Xanadu. They express their joy and love in the best way possible."
I stepped close to Arthur and pulled one of my money clips out of my pocket. I counted out ten hundreds and handed them to Arthur. "Here you go," I said. "By the way, do you want to be in the credit roll, and if so, who should I credit?"
Arthur chuckled and said, "Sure. Put us down as Rose and Arthur Miller. Crystal, here you go...."
He peeled three bills off the stack I gave him and held them out to Crystal, who grabbed them and stuffed them in her pocket. I was pissed. Crystal had already got a quarter ounce of dope from me for her efforts, now she was taking a cut of what went to her mom and stepdad.... But I couldn't say anything about her already getting paid off, not without mentioning drugs. I gave her a glare and kept my mouth shut.
Crystal said, "Cool, Arthur. Look, we're gonna go visit Hank and Cheetah, we'll be around later."
"Think your folks would like to have dinner with us?" asked Bekka, and got such a look in response.
Rose responded, "I've got a brisket in the crock pot, don't worry about us. Are you going into town?"
"Just to the bar," said Crystal. "No big deal."
"No big deal!" exclaimed Arthur. "Their hamburgers are nine dollars! A bottle of beer is three fifty! Why are you going there?"
I said, "Well, our options are limited, and I like their steaks. Given what I make, it's no expense at all. Sure you don't want to join us? You could put your brisket in the fridge for tomorrow."
"They'll be fine here," said Crystal through clenched teeth. "Maybe even Mojo would like to join them. Wouldn't you, Mojo?"
I looked over at the other sister. She was standing next to Roach in a manner that suggested she had no concept of personal space. Two more inches and she'd be dry-humping him. She looked up at Roach with a smile that was either manic or lustful, it was hard to tell. He was trying to ignore Mojo, purposefully looking forward, keeping his posture in a manner as if she wasn't there at all.
"Lenny asked me if I wanted a steak for dinner earlier, and I said yes," Mojo said. "Besides, weren't we going to head home? You had something for me?"
"Yeah, yeah," said Crystal. "Okay, let's just go."
The whole mob of us swept out of the house and to the Fleetwood. There were six of us, so I had two up front with me: Bekka sitting on the split between the seats and Crystal by the door. Mojo was overjoyed to be next to Roach in back, sitting in the center. Out of desperation, Roach tried engaging her a bit.
He asked her, "So.... What do you, um.... Do?"
"What do you mean?" asked Mojo.
"Like, how do you make a living?"
Mojo nodded seriously and said, "Oh, I understand. I live on SSI, like my sister. It was decided we were not mentally stable somehow, so the government pays us to not work. I think they just don't like that I can tell the difference between humans and angels. Like you. You think you're human. But suppose you made a mistake, as humans always do, and you're an angel instead."
Roach laughed at this. "Oh honey, I am definitely not an angel."
"And why not?"
"Why do you think I'm an angel?"
Mojo gave her beatific smile and said, "I have watched you. You share yourself in the purest and most direct way a being can. I watched you with the woman in the front seat, bringing her joy. You are selfless in a way only angels can be."
Bekka, hearing this from the front seat, leaned over and said, "He didn't make me come, if that's what you're getting at. That was acting. Roach is a good guy, a hell of a stud, but he didn't bring me off. I was only pretending. Sorry."
Mojo leaned forward and stroked Bekka's hair. She allowed it. Mojo said, "You.... You are pure energy, you are love. You are beyond the ken of even angels, you are a force. Didn't you enjoy what you did with him?"
"I didn't say I didn't enjoy it, but it wasn't like you think it was. It was pleasant. It was nice enough, and I had fun, but ultimately it was just a day at work for me, you know? We've been trying to explain that. What me and Roach did was a form of acting, it was performance, it held no significance."
Crystal said, "Mojo. Leave. Them. Alone. He isn't an angel, and she's not pure energy or whatever. Do you want me to chop you a line or not?"
Cow-eyed, Mojo muttered, "Yes."
"Then shut the fuck up and relax. Look, we're home already. I'll chop you a line while you shower and change, okay? Then we'll go visit our friends, then have a nice dinner."
We went in the house. Crystal ensconced her sister in the bathroom with clean clothes. That done, she joined us in the living room and said, "Shit hell, I'm sorry about that. In a weird way, she's actually doing better, she was speaking unprompted, even if it was total bullshit. Still better than her normal routine of simply sitting there and staring at you, watching your every move. Hey, maybe I could hire her out to the porn industry as a crash test dummy."
Roach said in a tight voice, "You don't have a lot of sympathy for her, do you?"
Crystal responded, "I feel bad for her, and I wish I had my big sister back. But she's been like this for five years now. My mom ponced her off on me while I was trying to raise my daughter. It's not like I have to hide the razor blades and lye from her, she's not idiotic, but she still needs to be led around. She can't, or won't, cook for herself, if she gets hungry she'll just eat bread or dry cereal. And she won't drop the bullshit about seeing angels everywhere."
I commented, "She's a lot more animated than any other time I've seen her."
"Yeah. Heh, I didn't know she was capable of getting horny before today, maybe that's it. Shit, that's probably the most naturally human behavior I've seen from her since she got back." Crystal gently punched Roach in the arm and said, "Dude, sorry about her being weird with you. Yours is probably the first hard-on she's seen in who knows how long, at least five years as near as I know, and you've got one hell of a dick on you."
"I just hope, y'know, she's gonna be okay," said Roach.
"Actually, she's having a good day today. She's still weird, but she's engaging with people and with the world around her, which is a switch. Like seeing you two fuck rattled her out of her shell. We'll see if it sticks."
"Just show her one of our movies if she starts to retreat again," I jokingly suggested.
Crystal slapped her leg. "You may be right. Maybe seeing people having sex was enough of a positive jolt to her brain that it pushed her into being human again."
Bekka smirked, "Instead of being an angel?"
Crystal rolled her eyes, chuckled, and said, "Oh, fuck me. No. Don't even start."
We returned to La Costa to find things running smoothly. I waded through returning calls all Wednesday morning. Getting Ms. Crylos to take care of our stunt drivers was a boon, as she was able to round up female drivers, reducing the disparity in body types between performers and drivers. I was meeting her at the studio on Friday morning, so we could travel out to Santee and she could take a gander at our rolling stock, seeing for herself that nothing was held together with duct tape. My pirates were personalizing their vehicles with bits of oddness. Mandy glued pieces of broken mirror all over the dashboard of her Toyota. I'd suggested to the girls that it would be appropriate to have some hardcore porn magazines in their cars, I'd pay for the damn things, just bring me the receipts. They did. Since they needed to look aged and well-used, the solution was to put them down on the floorboards of the girls' personal vehicles, where they'd get dirty and stepped on and kicked around as the girls drove.
I went out to lunch with Jolene on Thursday at Triplets, just to see how she was doing. She couldn't be happier. When we went up to Carelli Cadillac, Jolene had selected a white Seville with all the bells and whistles installed, and enjoyed the hell out of driving it. She was getting four loops a week, with the commensurate increase in her weekly checks. The older couple she rented her cottage from turned out to be sweet, wonderful people who didn't mind what she did for a living. And she was looking forward to being the shotgun rider in a mutant Honda Prelude when we began shooting.
One thing that was bothering her was her love life. She was disappointed that Roach and Dawn had become an item, and Roach was off the market as a lover.... Working with our studs, she had discovered her inner Size Queen, and enjoyed the physical aspects of her job more than most. When Small Steve and I were scheduling scenes, Jolene would request to work with Roach, Eddie The Jew, and (God help us) Vince, our three "biggest" guys. We obliged where we could. Having a female performer who genuinely got off during a shoot was always a good thing.
"Dammit, I'm just feeling sort of lonely, I want a man in my life," Jolene complained to me. "You're married, and the two smart guys are spoken for. I'd go for Chip, but him and Dale are queer for each other, so that's out. You're right, the other guys are dummies. Lenny, you've gotta hire a single guy with a brain."
"Do you need to be with a stud?" I asked. "Is size that important?"
Jolene sighed. "Ultimately, no. I'd just like a smart man to be with, someone who thinks independently."
Scratching my head, I asked her, "You've mentioned trouble with booze in your past. Do you consider yourself an alcoholic?"
"No. I'm capable of having just one drink, and being fine with that. The problem that made me drink heavily doesn't exist any more. Why?"
"Well, why not try the bars? Del Mar has plenty of upscale places where a classy dame like you would fit in just fine, and you're likely to come across an intelligent man in one of those joints. Hell, Bekka and I do our drinking at a snazzy place called the Seafarer right in Encinitas, come with us sometime. The other place we drink is a punk rock bar called the Pink Panther down in Pacific Beach. Maybe you could find a nice punk rock boy, a surrogate version of Roach."
Jolene smirked. "It would be hard to find a substitute for Roach in at least one aspect. I don't know, I think I'm still shy about telling strangers what it is I do for a living. How do I explain it without them assuming I'm a whore or crazy?"
I said, "Tell them straight out that you make porn for Inana, the company that produced 'Bewitched.' And immediately begin explaining to them what the work is like, that it is a very unusual, very involved form of acting, that it's performance, not sex, and that doing what you do does not make you emotionally barren. Most dudes will be blown away by meeting a real live porno queen, and be more intrigued that frightened. I guarantee most of them will be hoping to go home with you that night. Fuck that. Get phone numbers, and talk with them. Talk about your day at work without being raunchy, make it clear that you have a very unusual job.... And it is just a job. You're not some crazy nympho, you're not supporting a habit, you're an actress with steady work you like."
Nodding at this, Jolene said, "Del Mar, huh? Just down the street from me. Which bars do you recommend?"
"The only two places I'm familiar with are Cyrano's and The Dockside. Both are too upscale for me, I don't blend in. You've got a lot more class than I do, you'll be fine. Really, the best thing to do is ask the other girls about classy bars which would have a decent selection of single men, but aren't meat markets. Bekka grew up in North County, she'd have a good idea. Ask her."
After lunch we returned to the mansion. Jolene was done for the day, but wanted to meet up with Bekka to see what advice she could get. Bekka was ready for her loop, in which her and Ellen would be double-teaming Stallion. She was sitting out by the pool in her kimono robe, smoking a cigarette and drinking a bottle of water. Jolene explained her situation.
"Hell, come drinking with us tonight," suggested Bekka. "Me and Lenny can be your wing men. I'll show you around to the decent bars in Del Mar and Solana Beach."
"I'll volunteer to be the designated driver," I said.
"Hey, that'd be great," said Jolene. "So Bekka, when you were single and you first initially met a guy, what did you tell him you did for a living?"
Bekka said, "I bounced between brutal honesty and bullshit, at least at first. The problem with honesty is that guys think they've hit the orgasm jackpot, that their lives will be filled with three-ways and spontaneous blowjobs...."
"You've engaged in quite a bit of spontaneity with me," I said.
"That's because you're genuinely grateful, and always seem truly surprised. It's more fun that way. Anyways, that's one of the problems. Another is that they may assume you're a mentally ill junkie, after all, what other kind of woman would do that for a living?
"Unfortunately, bullshitting about your job can make things worse. You're going to have to tell him sooner or later why you only work sixteen hours a week but have all this disposable income and a new car. I've initially told guys that I was 'in sales,' that I was a model, that I was in video production, that I was a sexual surrogate. Eventually, if things are going anywhere at all, you're going to have to have a very awkward conversation which might take away some of the trust you've been building up. And they'll always say the same thing, which is 'Why didn't you just tell me?' And the only honest answer is, 'Because I assumed you would have a very low opinion of me, and I've been right in that assumption too often.'"
I said, "At least tonight you'll have Becky Page as your wing man. Everybody knows who Becky is, and what she does, and loves her anyway. They'll find it hard to have a low opinion of you if you're a friend and colleague of Becky Page."
Jolene queried, "But aren't guys gonna just be trying to chat up Becky Page, and ignoring me?"
"Except Becky Page is there with her husband, the big scary punk," said Bekka. "I'll spend a lot of time draped over Lenny, so it's clear who is with who. And guys who want to fanboy out on me will just be gently directed your way. You're hot, they'll be paying attention."
"Okay, let's do this."