We left the RVs on the street outside the Villa Motel in El Centro. Across the street at the Travelodge, I saw our production support vehicle, a former UPS truck, back into a space. People piled out of all three RVs and milled around in the parking lot of the Villa. A newish white Ford LTD parked in the lot, the woman at the wheel nearly identical to Becky Page. This was Reina Crylos, our stunt coordinator and Bekka's double.for dangerous shots. Bekka wasn't willing to hood-surf at eighty MPH, Reina was. She got out and approached me, a cool smile on her lips.
"So, all the vehicles made it out just fine," she said as she approached. "I must hand it to you, your modifiers did a bang-up job on them. They've got that post-Armageddon aesthetic down well, they look as though they really are products of an apocalypse. The Nova, the one I'll be driving, have you spent any time behind the wheel of it?"
I grinned and looked away. As a professional stunt driver, Reina harbored a lot of distrust and contempt for amateurs: in other words, the vast majority of drivers on the road. I knew that despite my own high-powered vehicles and enthusiasm I was still an amateur (or a "citizen," in her terms) in her eyes. She wouldn't want to hear of me and Dutch flogging the Nova out Interstate 8 and up Mount Laguna, both of us taking turns at the wheel to really put the car through its paces. I simply said that we'd given the Nova a good test run and were happy with the results.
A long-limbed young thing ambled up and greeted Reina, thanking her again for the work. Reina introduced her to me as Ashley. She took me in with a grin and said, "So. A dirty version of 'Road Warrior,' huh?"
"That genre, yeah," I replied. "In this movie, it's the bad guys who are the sympathetic characters, a band of female road pirates out terrorizing people after the apocalypse. Adventurous stuff for a porn feature."
"Expensive for a porn feature, too," said Ashley. "You're really getting helicopter shots?"
"You bet. We want this to look good."
"Wow. How did you get financing for this project?"
I shrugged. "We're paying for it ourselves. We've made such good money off our last several features that we can afford it. When you spend $400,000 on production for a feature, and that feature turns around and sells eighteen million copies, you're wading in it. We've done that with four features in a row now. Yeah, this one will push boundaries, but all our features have. I figure we've got a big enough fan base that a lot of people will buy just because it's got the words 'Inana Productions' on the box and Becky Page as the lead. Becky Page fans will pick up a copy sight unseen. I'm confident enough in the script and in my performers to believe we won't lose our shirts."
Reina said, "I'm looking forward to having a stunt coordinator credit on my resumé, so you'd better believe I want this one to come out right. That, and being Becky Page's double.... Wow. You know, Becky is pulling a McQueen on us, she'll be doing some of her own driving. Nothing too complex, but enough that it'll allow the director to get some seamless shots. Just her doing a couple of power slides and burnouts, you know."
And here comes our star now, in the company of Small Steve. Bekka leaned into me and said, "So what's happening, babe?"
I said, "Time to distribute room keys to everyone, then head for dinner. We've basically got most of that Mexican place reserved for ourselves starting at six. Let's get people into their rooms."
I walked into the center of the lot and yelled, "Attention!" Everyone looked my way. I said, "Okay, drivers and performers, grab your stuff. We gotta hand out room keys. At 5:45 be back down here so we can all go to dinner, and so I can hand out per diem envelopes for tomorrow. Rooms are being handed out randomly, they're all basically the same. They're pleasant, they're clean, and the TVs work in all of them, so if you have a problem with your room, let the front desk know. All right? Let me go get keys."
Some of the rooms were singles, some doubles. Given how long we wanted to stay, and the number of people we were housing, I'd gotten quite the deal out of the management. As near as remembered, Bekka and I were the only people sharing a room. Performers and stunt people were in the Villa, all the crew were in the Travelodge. To act as den mothers, Bekka and I were staying in the Villa.
Reina was amazed at this arrangement. "All my people have their own rooms? Are you serious?"
"Unless they're dating, why would they want to be doubled up?" I asked.
"It's just.... Shooting on location like this, every other studio would have two to a room, to keep costs down. I'm surprised you're going to the extra expense."
I blinked. "It never occurred to me to do it any other way," I said. "Shit, use me as a bargaining chip. Point out to the big studios that if a scumbag porn studio is willing to put up the money for singles for three nights, why can't...."
"Three nights!?" exclaimed Reina. "We're only working tomorrow and the day after, right?"
"Yeah, and everyone will be tired when we wrap up. Nobody's gonna want to get shuttled from El Centro to Santee, then have to drive all the way back to Los Angeles after a full day of work. I've got a jitney picking up all the departing drivers and stunt people at eleven on Thursday morning. They don't get a per diem for Thursday, but they can still at least have breakfast on my dime by going to the diner around the corner. Then on the bus, into San Diego, and home."
"You're hanging around here on Thursday?" asked Reina.
I explained, "No. I have an arrangement with the La Rosarita Diner around the corner. I laid five grand on them, and told them to feed anyone who comes in and says they're with Inana Productions. People basically eat for the price of their tip. I figure we won't be around long enough that locals will figure out how to scam a free meal, either."
"So anybody can walk into this diner, say 'I'm with Inana Productions,' and eat for free?"
"They have to tip, but yeah."
Reina studied me. She said, "You're treating people awful damn well, better than what I'm used to."
I held out my hands. "I try to treat everyone well. That way people are happy to work with me. My performers get an industry standard for their work, but also receive bonuses when our features sell well, not to mention they're treated with respect, which is a real plus in this business. Everyone connected with Inana is happy, so they're loyal. I have no idea whether I'll ever make a feature requiring stunt people again, but if I do, hopefully the people who worked for me this time around will remember me fondly, and will be accepting of whatever weird bullshit I come up with. I know we're doing these location shoots on a shoestring, so I'd at least like everyone to be comfortable and relaxed when we're done shooting for the day."
A Harley-Davidson rumbled into the lot. The passenger jumped off almost before it had stopped moving and ran towards me. I recognized it as Terry, the scooter tramp.
"Fuck fuck fuck!" she yelled. "Don't worry, I'm here. I laid a hundred on one of my fuckin' neighbors and he ran me out. Lemme grab my shit, and I'm all yours." She began to unhook a bungee cord which held a largish gym bag onto the rear fender of the putt.
"You're about fourteen hours earlier than I was expecting you," I said. "I thought you were just going to ride out with Dawn in the morning."
Terry looked surprised. "What the fuck? I thought shit was going to start today."
Bekka said, "Well, we wrangled vehicles and went over the stunt shoot schedule, but that's it. Not much to do right now except get people in their rooms and get dinner."
Whacking herself in the forehead, Terry said, "Fuckin' a! I was worried you were gonna give me the sack for bein' late! Fuck. 'Kay, lemme tell Boomer it's all good, and I'm yours. For what you're payin' me to be out here, I'll do whatever the fuck you ask of me, including shit your wife wouldn't like!"
She went and spoke briefly with the biker, then gave him a hug. He fired up and took off. I thought of a minor task Terry could handle: the distribution of room keys. I gave her my clipboard and pen, told her to get the collection of keys from the front desk, and using my list of stunt people to get everyone in a room, writing down the room number they got by their name. I also said to remind them to be in the lot for dinner at 5:45, and gave her the stack of per diem envelopes..
Terry went into the motel office and explained who she was. She was presented with a box full of room keys. The drivers were standing around in a small mob, all talking at once. Terry stood up on a bench outside, blew a whistle through her fingers, and yelled, "Hey fuckers!" She had their attention immediately.
"Okay, everybody's getting their own fuckin' room, right? Some are singles, some are doubles, so don't panic if there's a second bed. Lenny's taking us to fuckin' dinner tonight, so stow your shit and be back out here in the lot at 5:45. Also, I got your per diem for the day right here. Okay, Linda Alvarez, come on up. You're in 112. Here you go. Mike Creston, you drew 215. Laura Demott, you're in 104...."
And so it went, all our stunt workers ensconced in their rooms. The leftover keys were for Roach and Donna, who needed to be present for the stunt shots. I went and got Bekka's and mine key from the office and we stashed our own stuff. Then we went across the street to the Travelodge.
Our crew was waiting and assembled. Besides Small Steve, we had Calm Steve, one of our new camera operators, Mickey (sound), Jeanette (makeup/hair), Dawn (script girl/fluffer), plus Mitch and Dutch as mechanics and vehicle wranglers. They were staying separately because the Travelodge had a meeting room available, where plans could be finalized in the morning and adjusted in the evening. By rights, Reina should have been in the Travelodge, but she wanted to be close to her people, so they could have their own meetings. Pill and Feather would be assisting Jeanette, helping create a punky, twisted look for all the female pirates. They would be in the Travelodge even though they were performers, they could start working as the RVs rolled to the locations in the mornings.
I reintroduced Terry to everyone, explaining that she would be functioning as my personal assistant and general gofer while we worked. Special requests for drinks on location? Talk to her. Need copies of the shoot schedule? Talk to her. Temporary performers getting into a shoving match with a couple Inana girls? Definitely talk to her, she could quell any problems along those lines.
Frowning, Pill asked, "Are we expecting any trouble like that?"
I answered, "Not exactly. Talking with the extras when I interviewed them, it was clear that they are expecting Inana's performers to live the stereotype of a porno queen: kinda dim, coked out, sloppy. Not professional. I made it clear that anyone working for Inana is someone who is at the top of their game, and that includes our performers. We would be bringing our 'A' game, so they had to bring theirs. Still, I fear there may be some contemptuous attitudes among the extras. My concern is that they'll assume our girls are stuck on stupid --- why else would they do porn for a living? --- and be real patronizing when they talk, totally condescending behavior. And I can't think of an Inana girl who won't call them out on it in a big way. Some of our girls have been through too much shit to be afraid of anyone, much less be concerned with their opinions."
"Don't worry, I'll bounce them right the fuck off the set if they start any shit," said Terry.
"No, we still need them. Just separate the two parties, get them apart. They're only here for one day. I don't care if they hate us or think we're scumbags or whatever, so long as they're quiet about it."
We talked in a loose way about what to expect from the next day. Due to sunlight, there was no sense in being on location before nine, and that was so Reina could go over the planned runs for the day. The helicopter would be arriving at ten. Me and Small Steve would be giving the pilot and camera operator our vision of what we wanted from the different shots. Given that the pilot was used to dusting crops, I had no doubt that he could fling us around in any way we wanted.
While we talked, Terry went through the "costume bible" we had. It contained shots of every performer in full makeup and costume, and notes covering all details. For example, for Roach's character it noted that the Raiders jersey he wore was number twenty-four, with the name Woodson across the back. His leather jacket had a stain on the left shoulder. Bekka's pages had several shots from different angles, and notes like the brand and color makeup to be used on her. The gold chain around her neck held a 30.06 cartridge and a locket containing a photo of a matronly woman. The locket was always on the left. She was fastidious about keeping her boots clean. The strap her Uzi was suspended from had a single button, a smiley face. And on and on, so there would be no inconsistencies in the look of the characters from day to day.
Terry tapped me on the arm. She quietly said, "Okay, these fuckin' pirate babes are running around in the desert in open cars, right? Where the fuck are their bandanas? They'd be choking on dust if they didn't have something to cover their noses and mouths."
I stared at the book, and I stared at her. "You're right," I said. "We need to rectify it. Hey Bekka, Jeanette, Pill, Feather. Terry just made a major observation, which is that these women are driving around in the desert in open cars, but don't have anything covering their faces except their sunglasses. We need bandanas. I'll go get them after dinner."
"That won't work," said Feather. "It's supposed to be twenty-five years after the world collapsed. Where would the pirates get new bandanas from?"
Jeanette said, "Wash them in bleach a couple times, then dry them on high. That'll remove some of the color at least."
I told Terry to go to the front desk and find the location of the nearest sporting goods store, along with the location of a full-size supermarket, a Von's or Safeway or something. She came back bearing two addresses, both off Imperial Ave., maybe a mile up the road. I told her she would be getting acquainted with one of her nightly duties after dinner, loading both coolers with water and sodas and ice. She asked how much beer she should get. I told her none, I wanted everyone to be as clear-headed as possible, and that included her.
I said, "I know you're rather skilled at putting away Budweiser, but you're going to have to leave it alone while you're out here. A couple with dinner, and that's it. Nothing on locations, no bar-hopping at night. And if you have an open container in my car, I will write you a check for what I owe you, then drop you off at the nearest freeway on-ramp. You will have severed all your ties to Inana Productions. Am I clear?"
"Hey, no problem, chief," said Terry with a weak chuckle, gently punching me in the arm. "Um, I can have a few when all the fuckin' work is done and I'm in my room for the night, right? Is that a big deal?"
"How many is 'a few?'"
"Just three or five, something to unwind with. I wouldn't be getting tanked."
Shrugging, I said, "So long as you're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning. I'll assume you brought dope with you."
"Oh, fuck yeah," answered Terry. "I got some shit through Roach, more than enough to last a couple weeks. We get Sundays off, right? I'll head for home and pick up Sunday after next if I need to."
It was time. We jaywalked back across to the Villa and stood waiting while people gathered. While we idled, a red Harley-Davidson outlaw custom grumbled its way up the street and into the parking lot. Closer inspection showed the driver had a mohawk and tragic skin.... It was Roach. Bekka, Terry and I walked to the space where he'd anchored, our curiosity piqued.
"What the fuck, Moe," said Terry. "Where the fuck did this thing come from?"
"Heh, the best part was stopping by my parents' house on it. My dad heard a Harley coming down the street, so he was expecting one of his friends to pull in the driveway. The look on his face when he saw it was me was priceless. He's all, 'Where the hell did you get this from?' I told him it was mine, I was in the process of buying it from an H.A. who was headed for prison. He couldn't believe they'd help me like that. I said, 'Well, I've always played straight with them, and they knew I was looking for a putt.' He wanted to know where I was getting the money, and I said, 'I've told you what I do for a living now, I have sex with beautiful women, $300 each, four times a week. Here, I brought you a tape....' And I gave him a promo copy of a tape I'm on three different times, and you can see my face. He thinks I've been bullshitting him all this time about my job.
"So we go in and he shoves the tape in the VCR, still not believing me. The first loop is a one-on-one with me and Gayla, the setup was that I'd fixed her car on the side of the freeway and she'd invited me back to her place to wash up. When the action started my dad slumped on the sofa and began saying, 'Goddamn.... Goddamn....' over and over. After a few minutes I said, 'So do you believe me now?' So of course he asked if I could get him a job, because a porn studio is really gonna hire a balding beer-gutted biker --- with a good crop of back hair --- as a stud. I laughed at him. That pissed him off, and he started in on how he had raised me, I was his son, I owed him. I reminded him that he owed me, to the tune of $400, for dope, and that I was going to hold his tools and equipment for collateral if he didn't come up with it by the time I was done in El Centro.
"He's all, 'Who's gonna help you pull that off?' I told him, 'You remember a guy named Boss? You did business with him a few years ago? He'll help me.' That freaked him out. I told him how we'd become friends, and Boss was also friends with the people at my studio, and Boss can't stand people who welsh, even if they are family. I told him, 'Nothing personal, Dad, this is business. I'm not even hurting for the money, but you shouldn't stiff blood kin like that. Surely you can get $400 in four weeks.'"
"Think he'll do it?" I asked.
"I tend to doubt it," grumbled Roach. "Even with him knowing I have Boss getting my back, he's still prone to just write it off as his son talking shit, being a teenager. So I'll end up with a ton of tools and equipment to use. He'll get the money eventually."
Bekka said, "If you want, you can keep the stuff at the mansion. We've got a six car garage that has one car in it."
"Could I use the space for projects? Don't worry, I don't tweak out on vehicles. I approach things with a particular goal in mind, I accomplish that goal, and I stop. I don't have bolts left over when I'm done."
"So long as you're not getting oil stains all over the driveway, that's cool," I said.
Roach laughed. "Believe it or not, I don't change my own oil. Jiffy Lube is fast, cheap, and easy. An oil change is such dunce work I'd rather pay someone else to do it. Yeah, doing it myself is cheaper, especially with me being a big fan of Mobil One synthetic, but it's a half hour of getting greasy, plus buying supplies, plus having to deal with disposal.... Screw it, I'll pay someone else to deal with it."
Donna pulled in the lot. Her and Roach hugged each other in greeting. That was just Roach's way, he truly, genuinely liked women.... Not that our other male performers were misogynists, far from it, but I believed Roach was truly more comfortable being around women than around men. Roach would talk and joke around with the other performers during shoots. He had good manners without being a pushover. For God's sake, he would thank the fluffer when she was done prepping him, as opposed to simply walking off like the other guys. Even our biggest cynic, Tawny, was truly charmed by Roach. She pointed out that he didn't seem to be weighted down by his own ego, a rarity for men in porn. To be a male performer, you have to have a very healthy ego, you need that self-confidence to perform. While Roach certainly had self-confidence, he was lacking in the ego-maniacal and narcissistic streaks that the other males, even Eddie, had. When "cut and wrap" were called at the end of a scene, Roach would high-five the girl(s) he was with, then give them a hug. He truly loved his job, and on a lot of different levels.
Donna was looking forward to the restaurant so she could have a drink. "So I'm somewhere near the Jacumba Hot Springs turnoff, aiming towards the Gorge, when I realize I'm passing these half-tracks carrying a load of Marines. There's six big trucks all together. As I pass I realize the jarheads are sticking their heads out through the canvas siding so they can stare at me. Then they start waving. By the time I pass the last half-track these guys are howling and grabbing their crotches. We go into Carrizo Gorge and I lay into the gas a little. Then I look in the rear view and realize all six of these trucks are bearing down on me. I started feeling real vulnerable just then, so I put the pedal to the floor and beat it. I could hear them honking at me when they realized I was bolting. I went through Ocotillo at a hundred and stayed fast until I got to this exit. That was just plain creepy."
As one voice, Dutch, Roach, and myself chorused, "Fuckin' jarheads."
"What do you think their trip was?" asked Donna.
I said, "Well, they could be suffering from the sort of misogyny you'd expect from any group of people who have been repeatedly told they're better than everyone else on the planet. To them, scaring some random passing woman in a threatening, rape-y kind of way would be fun. In a tax-funded street gang like the Marines, you learn real quick that women are there to be utilized, nothing more. Women are all bitches, women are all sluts, women exist to suck my dick. To be a woman and in the Marines must mean having a masochist's level of tolerance for abuse."
"Another possibility," said Bekka, "is that you were recognized. They certainly were communicating via radio, and word got passed along that Donita Dare was passing them in a blue Acura Integra. Being Marines, they could think of no better mating dance than to howl and grab their dicks. There was probably one guy per half-track who was over twenty-five, a non-com sent along to keep the children in line. The rest take their behavioral cues from porn and from their Sergeant, who is fifty and has been divorced three times."
"I'm going with Lenny's hypothesis," said Dutch. "Jarheads don't like women for the same reason they don't like civilians: they don't think like Marines. To understand women, you have to be able to empathize, to process in a different manner. Fuckin' jarheads won't do that because it's too much work, you gotta think about stuff. And they've had pounded into their heads from day one of boot camp that there is the Marine way of thinking, and there is the wrong way. Shit, women don't think like Marines --- thank God --- so a Marine just assumes women never think right, so why bother with them except as jizz jars?"
The whole crowd of us, about twenty-five or so, arrived at the restaurant. There was a note taped to the door reading, "We are closed until 8 p.m. for private event." I hoped this was in reference to us.
I stepped through the door into the dim cool of the restaurant. I called out "Hola?" and received a distant "Buenos tardes" back. Footsteps approached. A dapper looking Mexican gent, in a starched white shirt and a vest walked up to me, and sized me up. He wasn't impressed. He said, "I am sorry sir, but we are closed until eight. There is a private event tonight."
"Is the event for Inana Productions? Seating twenty-five or so? Your contact is a guy named Lenny Schneider?" I asked.
One eyebrow began crawling vertically across the gent's forehead. "Ye-esss...."
"Well, I'm Lenny Schneider, I run Inana Productions, and there's a whole mess of people outside that would like nothing more than to have dinner. Shall I let them in?"
He nodded and stepped away, clapping his hands and barking something in Spanish. Banda music began to play quietly. Two busboys began lighting candles on tables. A waitress began distributing chips and salsa. I went and opened the door; people flooded in. The dapper gent said, "Welcome, welcome. I am Gustavo. Please have a seat where you wish, we will be through to take drink orders in a moment."
I hoped they weren't counting on making a mint off the bar that night, because I learned that professional stunt people, especially drivers, drink very sparingly. Maybe half of Reina's crew ordered either Budweiser or Corona, and switched to soda when the one beer was gone. The Inana people had no such reservations and ordered our regulars. Donna, Roach, and Small Steve ordered margaritas.
Our dinners arrived hot and fast. Service was excellent. We were clear of the place a few minutes before eight. Walking back, I tried to gauge Terry's condition, as she had five Budweisers with her dinner, plus a single shot of tequila. I asked her how she felt.
"Peachy fuckin' keen, boss," she answered. "So we're going out to run errands?"
"Not feeling drunk?"
"Pfft. Not a chance on a full stomach. Even if I had a buzz, I'd just kill the fucker by doing a line of shit. You wanna line?"
I smiled and said, "If you don't mind smoking it, we'll do some of mine."
Bekka, Terry, and I stepped into our room at the Villa. Terry and I passed the pipe back and forth, Bekka refusing. She said she wanted to get some good sleep, even if she wasn't going to be in front of the cameras tomorrow. She wanted to adjust her sleep schedule. Before we took off, Bekka warned, "Just do what you need to do and come back. No exploring. It's El Centro, and your Spanish skills aren't as good as you like to think they are. Don't forget, you have to wash those bandanas tonight."
Getting in one of the RVs, Terry said, "Does Becky always nag you like that?"
I said, "No. Right now she feels like she's trying to delay the inevitable, which is the nervous breakdown I'm going to have due to too much dope and not enough sleep. Yeah, I know I'm gonna be pushing myself hard while we're in production. It can't be helped, I have too much responsibility. So have you ever driven one of these before?"
"No, but I've driven plenty of vans, so I know how to use my mirrors and to not cut corners on turns."
I handed her the keys. "You take the wheel. You'll be driving one of these every night for the next three weeks."
Firing up, Terry frowned. "So I'm supposed to get water and soda and food.... But what kinds? How much?"
I said, "Figure on feeding lunch to a certain number every day. You'll have an idea the night before as to how many people are on a location. Tomorrow it's about twenty-five. Really, just loot their deli section for pre-made sandwiches, salads, fruit cups, whatever. And figure four drinks, two waters and two sodas, per person. Load the coolers and fill them with ice, you're done. Look, there's the Big Five. Let's go get bandanas."
We confused the clerks by buying twenty bandanas in various colors and nothing else. A few blocks further up was the Von's, where we caused more confusion by emptying out their sandwich display, along with all their pints of potato salad, macaroni salad, and melon chunks. A second shopping cart was used to carry flats of bottled water and twelve-packs of soda. I grabbed bleach and soap, and we were done.
Terry handled the RV admirably. She had a level of confidence and knew how to use her mirrors. As she tooled us back towards the motel, she said, "So you're basically paying me $1500 a week to run errands for you?"
I said, "Yeah. A lot of the time you're going to have to show your own initiative. The whole idea is that you're doing tasks so I don't have to think about them at all. It it's a six day week."
"Did you want me suckin' any dick, like at the studios? That money, I'm fully fuckin' down for it if you want."
"Naw, it just won't be necessary. Dawn will have everything handled."
Terry gave a low chuckle. "Just remember, boss, you can talk me into suckin' dick real fuckin' easy. You just need to ask. Like right now, if you told me to turn on one of these side streets, then hit the curb and kill the lights. You could just walk up to me where I'm sitting right now and whip it out, and I'd start whipping some skull on you like you wouldn't believe. I could make you come so hard you'd see stars. So, you know, how does that sound?"
I finished loading the fridge as full as I could get it, and walked up to where she was driving. I said, "That sounds lovely, and I'm deeply flattered, but I'm married. You'd have to ask permission of Bekka first."
"Oh, no way. I've faced down some mean bitches in my life, but I would never want Becky Page pissed at me! She wouldn't leave nothing but the pieces."
"Actually, she's said yes in the past, and under a lot stranger circumstance. With you, it might be she'd just see you're trying to do something nice for me, relieve a little stress. The most she might want is to watch the first time you do it."
Terry said, "What the fuck, if I can get her alone tomorrow morning I'll ask her then. Sure she won't freak the fuck out on me?"
"Positive," I said. "I gotta ask, though. What is it about me that interests you?"
"Well, I think you're cute.... And you're a fuckin' righteous dude, you're just plain one awesome motherfucker. You're kind, you're generous, you're always willing to lend a hand. I think that should be rewarded. So me suckin' your dick is just my way of saying thanks for being so cool, especially with scooter tramps from O.B."
"Glad to oblige. We just need to get the rest of this food into one of the other refrigerators and we're done."
We accomplished that, and headed towards the laundry room of the motel. Locked.... And a sign saying laundry hours were from eight a.m. to eight p.m. I jumped across the street to the Travelodge, to be told they had no laundry room at all. He did helpfully point me to a twenty-four hour laundromat one exit down the freeway, on South Fourth St.
I let us in Bekka's and mine room. Bekka was propped up on the bed, watching TV. "All done?" she asked.
I shook my head. "I gotta go hit a laundromat to take care of the bandanas. Laundry here closes at eight, and there's none at all across the street. Just one wash, one dry, and I'm back."
I could practically hear Bekka seethe. She said, "Right. Just fucking peachy. So we're probably looking at at least ninety minutes before you're home for good. Why are you doing this? Isn't this the sort of shit you hired a personal assistant for?"
"There's no way in hell I'm leaving a white girl in an El Centro laundromat in the middle of the night. I go solo, or we both go together, but Terry isn't doing it alone, not at night."
Bekka stared pointedly at the TV. She said, "I don't know if I'll still be awake when you get back, so be quiet coming in. Goodnight."
"Goodnight," I said. "I love you."