"Good. I'm glad you're doing what I suggested," said Bekka over dinner.
"So where are you gonna go?" asked Jane.
I said, "That's just it, I don't know. The whole idea is that I just go until I get bored of driving, or see something that looks interesting, or whatever. That's the whole idea, that I have no itinerary. I could get as far as Merced and spend five days in a motel, watching TV and eating delivery pizza. Whatever feels comfortable and relaxing is what I'm going to do."
Bekka said, "All I ask is that you call once, on Thursday, to let me know you're all right. Or maybe you could take the Falcon so you'd have the cell phone."
I snickered at this. "Believe me, the cell phone is the least of the reasons I'd want to take the Falcon. Are you sure you want me having that kind of fun on my little trip?"
"You can impress the shit out of any hitchhikers you come across," smiled Bekka.
"Are you going to work on your new script while you're gone?" Jane asked.
"If he does that, me and Angel will take turns killing him. He's supposed to be taking a break from using his brain. On the subject of giving your brain a break, have you decided what drugs you'll be bringing?"
I shrugged. "It's weird, instinct is telling me that I should bring a whole ounce of dope with me, that it will somehow be useful. I dunno, nothing else has any appeal. Ecstasy will get me too manic, and I'll push myself too hard, decide to drive to Maryland or something. Mushrooms will make it hard to drive, Vicodin or Valium just don't appeal, and I only like smoking weed at home, where I feel secure. So yeah, I know I won't use any more than I normally do, but I'm bringing a shitload of dope with me."
"Are you going to be scoping for any sexy hitchhikers?" smirked Jane.
"Actually, yes. I'll pick them up because that way they'll get a safe ride, no 'put out or get out' bullshit."
"At least have 'em give you a hand job while you drive."
"Of course," I said. "Pragmatism always wins out."
I left around three in the morning. I wanted to get Los Angeles over with before rush hour started. Full sunrise saw me descending the Grapevine. I opted for taking the 99 through Bakersfield and Fresno. It felt good to roll. I stopped in Merced for gas and something to eat, then continued north. A couple more hours fast driving saw me in Sacramento, that governmental tank town. I chose to get on the 80 east, deciding mountains sounded nice. A quick check of my Thomas Brothers California atlas showed I would hit the famous Hwy. 49 in a town called Auburn. That should provide me with mountains, and a break from freeway driving. Stopping in Auburn to take a leak and consult the AAA guide, I saw the next town along, Grass Valley, had a Best Western. Good enough. I called ahead, got directions, and pulled up to the motel about a half an hour later.
The front desk clerk pointed me across the freeway to a chain restaurant called Lyon's. The food was a marked improvement over Denny's. Back at the motel, I harassed the clerk some more, asking her about night life. She was apologetic.
"Well.... There's a few movie theaters, and a couple bowling alleys, and some bars. To be honest, sir, I don't recommend the bars, not looking the way you do. They're pretty redneck. Were you hoping for a nightclub or something?"
"A nightclub or live music," I said.
"You may just want to go to the movies, sir. It's a Monday night, nobody will have live music tonight."
I shrugged. "Tell you what. Point me to a liquor store. I'll get some Johnnie Walker and settle in front of the TV, it's been a long time since I've sat and watched TV undistracted. I've been up since three a.m. so I should probably wind down."
I hit up the Ralph's across the street for a bottle, filled the ice bucket, and settled in. Around ten I went down to the Falcon and used the cell phone to call home. I was in Grass Valley, and would simply be following the 49 for a while, I didn't know where it would send me. I paced while I talked to Bekka. The clerk, outside for a cigarette, eyed me nervously. When I hung up, she said, "Are you all right, sir?"
"Just fine," I replied. "Why do you ask?"
"Because you've been pacing back and forth talking to yourself."
"What? Oh, no, I was talking to my wife on the phone, I was using this." I held out the cell phone to her.
"You can call your wife.... On this," she said suspiciously.
"Yeah. You've gotta be within about a hundred feet of the car for it to work, but yeah. It's a pretty standard cellular phone."
"I thought car phones were huge, or had to be wired to the car."
I held up my hands. "Not anymore. Soon you won't even need the ground station, all the wireless companies like AT&T and Verizon are putting up relay antennas so you just need the handset. Battery life will be up to eighteen hours of standby time, four or five hours of usage."
The clerk asked, "What do you need a car phone for, sir?"
"Um, making calls?" I answered. "That's how I was able to call this motel and get directions from Auburn to here. It's a convenience."
"Aren't they expensive?"
"Um, about $600 for equipment and installation, and a buck a minute for use."
The suspicion returned to her voice. "So what do you do for a living?"
I smiled and said, "I, uh, I run an video production company in San Diego."
"Oh. Like, what kind of videos? Like music videos?"
"No, adult videos."
I sighed. "Ma'am, I'm a pornographer. I make dirty movies, porn, smut, call it what you will. It has been quite lucrative for me. Right now I'm on vacation, and have no itinerary. I'm doing as I please. Right now that includes talking on my cell phone to my wife. Would you like to try it?" I held the handset out to her.
She took it gingerly. "Who.... Should I call?" she asked.
"I dunno. Husband or boyfriend?"
"I'm married. He's at home right now."
I explained, "Okay, dial the number including the area code, but don't dial 1 first."
She did as instructed, waited while it rang, then said, "Hi honey, it's me. I'm calling from work, sort of. A guest was showing me his car phone, I'm calling on that.... No, it's just this little handset, totally wireless, he says it works as long as you're within a hundred feet of the car.... Well, he was talking to his wife on it, and if I remember correctly from the registration, he's from San Diego.... I don't remember.... Sir, which car is yours?"
I pointed and said, "The blue Ford Falcon. It's a '64."
"An old Ford Falcon, a hot rod, with the scoop on the hood.... What?... No!... I'm not about to ask that of a guest, and besides, he went and had something to drink earlier. Forget it.... Fine, you ask him...."
I was handed the phone. The good old boy on the other end said, "A Ford Falcon, huh? And you think it's fast?"
I asked, "Fast in what way? This thing is set up for road racing, not drag. It's got a top speed of 146 and handles the curves quite nicely. No clue what its quarter mile time would be like, I've never cared."
Festus said, "Bubba, I'll go up against you in my '72 Nova in any kind of race you want. What do ya say to that?"
"Let me guess, a 350 motor, right? Automatic transmission? And the ass end is jacked way up?"
There was a pause, then a cold, "Yeah."
I said, "Sir, either dragging or road competition, I'd take you. You may have more cubic inches than my 289, but you're also carrying more weight. That, and I'm supercharged, I got a blower. Plus I've got an extra gear to play with, not to mention having the flexibility the clutch affords. We are not evenly matched."
"So you don't wanna race," Festus said in a sullen manner.
"Not tonight, sir, no. I've been up since three this morning and I've been drinking Johnnie Walker. If you wish to stalk me in the morning, I'm easy to find. I doubt there are other metallic blue Falcons in the motel lot. You can wait until I head for breakfast, and broach the subject again. Who knows, I might say yes."
Another pause, then, "Lemme talk to my wife again."
I handed the phone over to the clerk. She said, "What, honey?... Well, it's nice looking.... Yes it does.... No, he's just standing here, he.... Sort of a punk rock type, about twenty-five or so. Heh, he says he makes dirty movies for a living.... No, we're not continuing this, and we're running up this man's phone bill. I'll see you around midnight, goodbye."
She handed me the phone after staring at the buttons briefly. I hit the button to disconnect. She said, "I'm sorry about that. Um, look, in the morning, if you come down to your car and there's a red Nova sitting there, just go over --- his name is Garland --- and tell him his wife says to cut it the hell out, he's not a schoolkid any more. I apologize."
"It is forgotten," I said. "Does he often attempt to race random strangers over the phone?"
The clerk waved her hand. "Ohh.... His ego is tied up in that damn car, and it's not as fast as he thinks it is. I'm sure yours is quicker, yours looks like it's finished. And if you had raced him and he lost, he'd be in a foul mood for the next two days. Two weeks ago he got blown away by some kid in a Honda Prelude, and decided he hated all things Japanese. I told him he'd better start hating white people too, since that what was driving the damn thing."
"He needs to find something more tangible to attach his ego to. Like his wife. She's quite charming."
The clerk gave me a certain smile. "Are you flirting with me?" she asked.
I said, "Yes, but only for the sport of it. I'm married, and I take my wedding band seriously."
"Really? You look like the type who'd be trying to pull every girl he ran across, a real dog. Do you really make porn for a living?"
"Yeah, and that's probably where my old fashioned attitude comes from. In the industry, sex is a commodity. It's also treated very casually, as something you can do with anyone you don't actively hate. A lot of performers can't even spell the word 'intimacy.' So my wife and I value the trust and closeness we have. She's a performer, she spends her days having sex with rent-a-studs, but I know she comes home looking forward to making love with me."
"That's too wild," said the clerk. "So looking at me, would I make it in porn?"
"Dressed like that?" I asked. "It's hard to say. From what I can tell, you have a decent rack. Turn around.... Okay, a decent butt, too. Like I said, you're not dressed to impress right now. Why, did you want to make porn?"
"I was just wondering. I think a lot of women wonder if they have what it takes to do that, if our bodies and our, um, skills are good enough to impress an audience."
"You need more than that to work for my studio. You have to also have provably strong acting ability. Anyone wanting in front of our cameras has to go through three tests, we call them interviews, over the space of a week or so. Anybody can suck and fuck. We look for a spark, natural actresses who can seduce through a video camera lens."
"Hey, what's the name of your studio?" the clerk asked.
"Inana Productions," I replied.
"Oh wow, wasn't there just an article about you in Time? You're, um, Lenny something."
"Lenny Schneider," I said, handing her a business card. "So you ever do any acting?"
"I was a child actor," said the clerk. "I did commercials, I did a couple episodes of 'Laverne and Shirley,' and I was on a regional children's program. When I got within waving distance of puberty, all my cute went away and the phone stopped ringing. If I'd pulled a Drew Barrymore and got slutty starting at thirteen I probably would have been able to stay busy. Besides, my parents actually parented me, and wouldn't have let me get away with that. So yes, I can act."
"Are you shy with your body?"
The clerk glanced towards the street, then unbuttoned her conservative uniform blouse all the way down. She was wearing a front-hook bra, which she unhooked, exposing an admittedly nice pair of tits. She began teasing herself with her fingers, saying, "They get long.... See?"
I quietly applauded. "Okay then," I said. "Here's a little scenario. You're at the studio to work. You're introduced to the guy you'll be with that day, but you're not sure if his name is Vic, Mick, or Nick, because he was too busy finishing his protein shake to pay attention to you or even shake hands. The fluffer gets him hard and you realize he's packing eight inches. So you realize that you'll be spending the next couple hours getting fucked, more or less nonstop, by a huge-dicked narcissist who has almost certainly forgotten your name by now. What is your professional reaction?"
The clerk gave a cunning grin and said, "What's wrong with getting fucked for two hours?"
I reminded her, "Being fucked with a big dick for two hours with little pause. Really think about that. From what I've been told, at first it's fun. Then you go sort of numb, then you hurt, and you keep on hurting well after he's stopped. And this punishment is being meted out by some asshole who probably got through high school jacking off to his own yearbook photo. Oh, and on your way out the door that morning, your significant other told you he wants to have 'a serious talk' about your relationship when you get home. As a professional pornographic actress, how do you deal with all this?"
She sighed. "With a stiff upper lip, knowing tomorrow will be a new day, and to at least look like I'm having fun today."
The clerk rubbed one temple and said, "Well.... With my idiot partner that day, I'd wait until a cut, then use my friendliest tone and face to offer to spend some time blowing him, we could go back and forth, doesn't that sound nice? I've got good throat control."
I stared at her. "That's exactly right. Remember, this would be contingent on the approval of the director, but sucking sells. And how would you handle your boyfriend?"
"Would I be safe in guessing that he has decided he doesn't like me having sex with other men for a living, and has been letting this feeling fester for a while?"
"Nail on the head. Bingo."
She sighed. "Well, I'd pull up my big girl panties and remind him that what I do means nothing, its only a form of acting. There is no reason for him to feel threatened by either the situation or by the men I act with. And he had better not make me choose between him and my career, because I know which one I'll pick, and he won't be happy."
I lightly applauded again. I said, "You said you wanted to know if you had what it takes to be a porn star. Rest assured you do. You have the attitude and the stones to hack the job. I don't know if you could perform for Inana, I can't say that without seeing you in full performance. But you could get a job most anywhere else in the industry."
"So what advantage is there in being with Inana?"
I considered. "Steady work, steady money. Weekly paychecks that don't bounce. Knowing we take the health of our performers seriously. Intelligent coworkers. Being treated with dignity and respect. Appearing in features that never fail to impress critics and audience. Knowing you're part of an elite, not just anyone can be an Inana girl, they're like the Navy SEALS of sex. And when people ask you what you do for a living, you hold your head up high when you answer."
Lighting another cigarette, the clerk asked, "So do I qualify as an Inana girl?"
"Like I said, I'd need to see you in performance. The third of our three interviews is you, a porn stud, the director, a cameraman, and me observing. It takes about two hours. Part of the time you're taking stage direction, part of the time you're allowed to follow the muse, so we can see if you can get freaking on your own, no suggestions from crew. It's possible to complete that interview and still not be taken on board."
Smiling, she asked, "I've got to know. How old are you, and how did you become involved in this business?"
I smiled back. "Twenty-three. And it started off as pure happenstance, I just happened to randomly make an acquaintance with somebody. They ran Inana at the time. I got offered the job of still photographer even though I had no experience. I stuck around and learned. Then the guy who was running things left, and the owner asked me to take his position, promising to train me in how to run a business in general, and a porn studio in particular. Since then, I'm proud to say I've grown the business by leaps and bounds. To be blunt, I've gotten really fucking rich doing what I do. So has my wife."
"That's right, you're married to Becky Page, I remember that from the article in Time."
"Correct. Have you seen any of her movies?"
The clerk frowned and shook her head angrily. "I can't. My husband can't handle porn. He wants to try everything that is shown. Having a dick shoved in your ass with no lube and no warning is a real drag. He was asking my friends to have a three way with us, out of the blue, and couldn't figure out why everyone was embarrassed or offended. He went a week wanting to do nothing except jerk off on my face, to the exclusion of all other activity. I don't mind taking a load like that --- another reason I think I'd be good at porn --- but just kneeling there feeling bored, watching my husband jerk it right in front of me, and that's it? He'd come on me, take a Polaroid, then faint on his recliner."
I said, "At Inana, doing that gets you an extra $200 cash, on top of your regular rate."
"Anyway, my husband is forbidden from watching porn, he can't control himself. You'd think he'd be a bit more mature, he's nine years older than me. I'm twenty-five, he's thirty-four."
"Your husband strikes me as being a bit.... Well.... Simple."
"Hard to say," the clerk commented. "I mean, he sells RVs for a living, and personally, you can't be in sales and be an idiot. It's more like arrested development, he's still locked in at age fifteen when it comes to non-professional relationships."
"How did you two meet?" I asked.
"I'd just mustered out of the Air Force, and was drinking my way through Marysville. I met him one night, and was impressed he did't try to get me in the back seat of his car, even when I suggested I wouldn't mind. I realized much, much later that it wasn't moral fortitude I was witnessing, he was just scared. You know, like a fifteen year old would be around a sexually aggressive woman. But I laid off the booze, we began dating, and he proposed to me after six months. It's sad to say, but I didn't love him and I still don't. It was more a feeling of, 'Oh shit, I'm twenty-four, I'll be an old maid at the rate I'm going.' Both my older sisters were married and working on the second kid by the time they were twenty-four. As far as him loving me goes, I.... guess so? He is sexually attracted to me, and will sometimes show affection unprompted. I don't know if he can process something as complex as love."
"How long have you been together?"
"Fourteen months of marriage," the clerk said. "I guess we make decent partners, or whatever. I keep our lives organized, paying bills and registering cars and such. I'm the legal owner of that damn Nova. He used to get his power or phone turned off, not because he was broke, he'd just flake on paying the bills. He'd eat at Taco Bell three times a day if it weren't for me. He's got the better income. We're a convenience for each other. I feed him and keep the lights on and make him come, he makes sure there's money in the bank and provides the sort of loyal affection you'd expect from a dog."
"Any affairs?" I prodded.
The clerk sighed. "No, not so far. He's too dumb to get away with it. Me, I recently considered cheating with this punk rock type from San Diego. I'm still not sure what his reaction will be if I showed up at his motel room after I got off work."
"The punk would turn you down, although he'd be very flattered. But he's in love with his wife. I gotta ask though, what's the attraction? Why me?"
Stepping closer to me, she said, "You have the most beautiful blue eyes. And maybe it's because of your job, but your psychic imprint exudes sex. Good sex, the kind people will brag to strangers about. You give off a virility, you know?"
"Amazing," I said with a sigh. "Tell me, does your husband make you come?"
"On occasion, when I guide him and he lasts long enough. He can't get the hang of rubbing me off, and he thinks eating gash is gross. But he'd have me blow him ten times a day if he thought I would. More proof that he is adolescent-minded, he's very selfish sexually."
With another sigh, I said, "I'll make you a deal. You come up to my room after you're off. I've got plenty of Johnnie Walker left. Me, I like going down on women, it's fun. We'll drink a little, and I'll go down on you, maybe. No promises. We'll see how we feel about it after a couple drinks. Is that okay?"
The clerk ran her hand absently down my chest. "I'll take that deal. I can accept that. Listen for my knock just after midnight. I've gotta go take care of some paperwork right now."
The clerk went in the office and I went up to my room. Once inside, I took off my jacket and shoulder holster, tucking it and the Beretta in my suitcase. An hour to go. I took a few hits off the glass pipe, resisting the urge to have a drink. I found the Sacramento news on TV and made myself focus on it, then on Letterman.
Five minutes past midnight, and there was a tapping on my door. I answered it, and the clerk swept in. "Sorry I took so long," she said.
"Five minutes?" I questioned. "Go ahead and relax, I've gotta get ice for the scotch. Be right back."
I loaded up the ice bucket and went back to the room. When I stepped in, the clerk was now naked on the bed. I said, "Wow, when someone says to relax, you don't fuck around."
I poured us each strong drinks. The clerk said, "Now you can tell better if I'm cut out for porn. Physically speaking."
Handing her a glass, I studied her. Seeing my gaze, she raised one knee up, parting her thighs. I took a look and said, "Oh, you shave, do you? Who do you mean to impress? From what you said earlier, your husband wouldn't care."
"Oh, he likes the aesthetics of it. He asked me to shave after seeing girls in porn shaved. I kept it, because it makes me feel sexy, and feels better when I masturbate. Do you like it?"
"Yes, very nice. By the way, you should get waxed instead of shaving. Waxing lasts longer, is smoother, and you're not troubled by razor bumps or nicks. Just call around to salons and ask if they do Brazilian waxing. That's code for 'I want you to strategically remove hair from my box.'"
The clerk snickered at this. "So do you speak from experience as to why waxing is superior?"
I snickered back. "No, but it has been discussed around me enough that I get it. There seem to be very few things my performers won't discuss with me, or around me. It's nice feeling that trusted, but still there are some things I can't help with. Like shopping for sex toys in the Xandria catalog. Girl, it's your body, there's a picture and description of the damn vibrator right there, I'm not sure what input you want from me."
"I'd like to get a dildo, but my husband's feelings would be hurt. He'd take it as a comment on his abilities, and he'd be right. So I'm stuck with just my fingers." She draped a hand over her labia and began rubbing in a familiar motion.
I frowned and said, "Don't masturbate compulsively, it's a turn-off for me."
She moved her hand, but sneered, "You have a problem with girls getting themselves off?"
"Not hardly. I think it's wonderful. But my dear anonymous Best Western employee, you started as though it was a compulsive behavior, that it was so ingrained you couldn't help yourself. That's a turn-off to me as a person, which makes me a hypocrite. I'm a fucking millionaire because I help feed the compulsions of millions of people. Do you masturbate a lot?"
"My name is Jolene, and a minimum of three times a day. Shower in the morning, before leaving for work, shower at night. Sometimes when the husband is at work and I'm alone I'll start and make myself not stop, come over and over, until I've ripped fifteen or twenty good ones and my feet are cramped from curling my toes. Doing that always makes me feel very debased, and I get a thrill out of that. Like I've devolved into an animal."
"So what is your husband's problem with going down on you, anyway?" I asked.
Jolene rolled her eyes. "He thinks it's gross. He thinks it's wet and smelly. Ultimately, he is saying that gash is gross, even though he can't wait to stick his dick in mine."
"The cad," I said. I pivoted on the bed so I was kneeling where her feet were. "Me, I think pussy is really awesome." I put my hands on her knees and spread her legs wide, which she allowed. "Allow me to demonstrate." I ran my tongue the whole distance of her labia, then reached around her legs and parted her upper labia, exposing her clit. I began lapping at it with my tongue and sucking, gently at first, then with more aggression. Jolene's entire body tensed up, she gasped, then let out a whimpered, "Oh my fucking god...."
In less than a minute her body was shaking and she was humping her hips at my face, gasping. Then she declared loudly, "Oh fuck," and smothered a sustained yell in the crook of her arm. I could actually feel her pussy twitch. I tasted salty fluid running out of her. She finally relaxed her legs and I brought my face up.
I smiled up at Jolene. "How's that? Would you like another?"
"Jesus shitting Christ almighty," she said, still catching her breath. "No guy has ever done that to me."
Confused, I asked, "I'm the first guy to ever go down on you?"
"No. But you're the first to ever make me come, much less make me come that hard. Holy shit."
"From the way you phrase it, girls have made you do that before."
Jolene chuckled and said, "Yeah. Women in the military know how to keep each other amused when things are slow. And things are slow much of the time."
"Ooh, nasty, I like it," I snickered. "Want me to try to do that again?"
She sat up. "I want you to fuck me. I want you to fuck me so bad. Jesus H. Christ, if that's what you can do with your mouth, I'm almost afraid of what you can do with your dick. Put me in the hospital or something, my god."
"No," I stated. "I will use my mouth to make you come all damn night if you want, but I won't fuck you. I told you, I won't hurt my wife that way."
"Let me at least suck you off," said Jolene.
"No," I stated flatly.
She considered me. "You have your own personal moral fiber, I guess. And you stick with it."
"I can't have anybody else stick to it for me."
She drew her knees up against her chest. "Is it okay if I call you at the number on your business card?"
"Absolutely," I said. "You can keep me appraised of the exciting world of RV sales, or something. Or the various crimes against humanity people have done in the rooms here."
"And you can tell me about the world of porn."
I laughed. "Naw. Porn is boring. Suck fuck, suck, fuck, come. And you get it all on video. Although I'll warn you, male porn stars are ten times cattier than female porn stars. They may be straight, but porn studs can be real bitches."
Jolene was highly amused by this revelation. Giggling, she said, "They should become RV salesmen. I'm guessing the studs gossip constantly?"
"More or less, yeah."
"Then they'd be great in sales. See, RV sales are slow. Those suckers cost $350,000 each, so you can guess at the commission for selling one. Move two in a month and you're doing fantastic. But like auto sales, the customers wish the salesman would fuck off and let them explore the vehicle on their own. And like in home sales, the salesman is supposed to know everything about the product, no matter how arcane. Those RV lots aren't swarming with people, so one salesman could get saddled shepherding around some white trash with money all damn day, and four other salesmen have nothing to do except talk about how Steve's toupee is looking even worse these days. And that Trish in accounting is fucking her way through the entire repair and service staff."
I laughed. "Yeah, hard to build that sort of scandal around a porn studio. Talking about who is fucking who isn't slander, it's a discussion of the week's work schedule."
Jolene began pulling on clothes. She said, "Thanks. We're cool, right?"
"I'm doing just great. Call me at Inana a week from Wednesday. If I'm not available, leave a message including a number. I always get my messages."
Dressed, she began heading towards the door. I stopped her so I could get a hug. She squeezed me tightly and muttered, "Becky Page is a lucky woman." And then she was out the door.
I sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the TV in an unfocused manner. I got up and picked up the bottle and my glass, then recapped the bottle and threw it in the suitcase. My life was strange enough without altering my brain any further.