Monday, April 3, 2017

Groove (Part 2)

     Fang had a valid California driver's license, and she had her own car.  It was time to cruise.
     She absolutely loved her car.  It was a 1971 Chevy Impala four-door with the 454 motor and oxidized blue paint....  The spitting image of the car Harry Dean Stanton drove in the movie "Repo Man."  The two-ton bomb was the largest car Chevrolet ever made, eighteen feet long from bumper to bumper.  While a lifetime of Los Angeles sun had trashed the paint, the interior was almost showroom condition, down to the AM radio.  This wasn't too surprising, as the Caprice only had 42,000 original miles on it.

     Erica was indulging in a hobby she'd had back in the Twin Cities: haunting estate sales on weekends.  To her, estate sales were like yard sales, only with better shit.  She quickly learned to select which sales to hit by the location.  An ad for an estate sale in Lawndale will offer "Antiques!"  This will translate to the deceased having an incredible collection of fast food collector's cups.  Not even good ones, like a full set of Star Wars cups, just random memorabilia.
     There was a listing for an estate sale up in Pacific Palisades.  Erica was a bit wary: a rich neighborhood like that would have high-quality junk, but they also tended to price things way too high, for some reason.  She'd seen a fifteen year old 15" TV listed for $90, and had felt it was her duty to tell the man running the sale (the son of the deceased) that a brand new one could be had for $110.  The man sniffed and pointed out that this one was a Zenith, a solid American television.  "This is built to last, compared to those flimsy, lightweight Japanese TVs."
     Erica replied, "Uh.... Yeah.  This thing weighs so much because it's loaded with vacuum tubes, not transistors.  If this sucker blows a tube, it's junk.  You can't find vacuum tubes anymore, the people who still use them have to hunt them down.  Besides, it's supposed to be a portable television.  Isn't lighter a better thing?  Twenty bucks."
     The man was insulted by this offer.  Was Erica just another slave to the Japanese?  Why wouldn't she support the American economy?  From there, they had a wide-ranging argument revolving around consumer demand, jingoism., technology, and planned obsolescence.  Erica finally got fed up, told the man to go piss up a rope, called to Fang, and split.  After they drove away, Fang said, "Thanks for keeping that old asshole distracted for a while."
     "What do you mean?" Erica asked.
     Fang reached in her jacket pocket and extracted a good-sized stack of baseball cards in clear plastic envelopes.  She said, "You know me, I'm no fuckin' thief, but that dickhead deserved to have some of his shit lifted.  These cards are some serious vintage, going back to the Forties.  The next time we're in San Diego, let's hit a collector's shop and dump 'em.  They're gonna be worth a pretty penny."
    "Fang!  I can't believe you felt...."
    Cutting Erica off, Fang calmly continued, "There's a couple of cards in here that'll pull some major dough.  They're both Jackie Robinson cards.  One's from a cigarette pack, Robinson playing for the the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945, a Negro League card.  The other is a bubble gum card of Robinson playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948.  Gee whillikers, Tootsie, those two alone should pay for that bondage swing we've had our eyes on.  Tell you what, to honor where the money for the swing came from, we'll sing the national anthem before we use it."
     Erica laughed and said, "We'll have a seventh inning stretch, too."
     Now they were headed to another estate sale in Pacific Palisades.  While they weren't looking for anything in particular, they were also discerning, not just buying stuff for the hell of it.  Arriving at the address, Erica anchored her '71 Plymouth Road Runner at the curb a few doors away, the closest she could get to the address.  The house itself was an anomaly compared to everything else around it, a modest house on a large lot.  The neighbors all had large, ostentatious homes.  It was clear this was one of the last original settlers in Pacific Palisades.  When the Palisades was first created in the Twenties, it was just another offering of building lots for sale, streets and utilities in.  Middle class home-builders would weigh the proximity to the beach versus the Palisades' relative isolation, at least back then.  All the lots were of a generous size.  Fast forward thirty years, and people realize that the Palisades isn't choked with smog, has lots large enough to put up one hell of a large home, and was just a quick shot out Interstate 10 and up Pacific Coast Highway.  Original houses were torn down and replaced with mini-mansions.  The area got snootier and snootier, and now is an enclave for the well-to-do.
      This wasn't an area which would greet two dyke punk rock girls with open arms.  Especially these two, who looked savage even for hardcore punk.  Fang had found a piercing studio which was rather lax in checking IDs, so she'd started collecting facial jewelry: septum, eyebrow, nostril.  Across the back of Erica's leather was, in ten inch high pink block letters, simply the word "DYKE."  A leather miniskirt showed off the tattoo work she had on her legs, and she was wearing a bondage restraint collar with a three foot leash attached at the back.  Fang's sense of dress was just as disturbing.
     Walking up the path to the front door, Fang nudged Erica and gestured at the driveway.  "Check it, Bud from 'Repo Man' is here!  That's the car, right there!"
     "And it's for sale," Erica observed.  "Wonder how much they want for it.  I dunno, it looks kinda thrashed."
     Fang frowned and said, "Naw, just the paint is shot, like they never garaged it."  She did an
A whale spotted in the LA River.
orbit around the car.  "No body damage or signs of body repair, so it's never been hit....  And look inside, the upholstery and carpet are like new!"  More poking around on Fang's part.  "Michelins with good tread....No rust underneath.....  The concrete below it is clean, no oil spots....  Let's see what they want for it."
     The two stepped inside, and immediately brought everything to a standstill.  There were nine or ten people in the living room, and all of them turned to silently gawk at the new arrivals, with varying degrees of alarm.  Erica rolled her eyes and used the sudden silence to request, "Who's the one putting on this sale?  We want to talk to you a minute."
     A woman with an unsettling resemblance to Nurse Ratched from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" stepped forward slowly and asked, "May I help you?"
     "Yeah, hi, we wanted to ask a few questions about the Chevy you have for sale outside."
     The woman brightened immediately.  "You're interested in the car?  Wait a moment, let me grab the keys, I'll tell you about it."  She dodged into another room, then returned and led Erica and Fang out front.  She said, "Good, maybe you two will want it.  If I didn't sell it by the end of the day, I was going to have a junkyard take it away."
     "Uh....  It runs, right?" asked Fang.
     "Yes....   and fairly well, I suppose.  But good lord, that giant American V8 just sucks down gas like you wouldn't believe.  And it's so huge and heavy!  Why my mother insisted on keeping it all those years, I'll never know."
     A spark of interest flashed inside Fang.  "Was your mom the original owner?  When did she buy it?"
     Nurse Ratched said "My father bought this car for my mother as an anniversary present in 1971.  It was the first new car she'd ever had.  My father would get a new car every four years, and the most recent one would become Mother's.  She was so overjoyed when Father bought her this, maybe that's why she insisted on keeping it through two oil crises.  And by some miracle, she never had any trouble with it.  Hard to say that about an American car."
     Erica took the keys and unlocked the driver's door, sitting down.  Fang called for her to pull the hood release.  Frowning at the mileage, Erica asked Nurse Ratched, "How many times has the odometer turned over?"
     "What do you mean?"
     "Right now, the odometer says 42,188, plus three tenths.  I'm guessing the true mileage is actually 142, 188...."
     The woman started laughing.  "No, I can assure you, that is the total mileage, right there.  My mother drove to do her shopping on Wednesdays, to church on Sundays, and the occasional jaunt into Hollywood to visit Macy's.  This car has never been outside of Los Angeles, that I know of.  If my parents were going to travel by car, my father would drive, and they'd take his car.  Given what a wasteful beast this thing is, I'm glad it was driven so little."
     From under the hood, Fang yelled, "Hey Tootsie, come check this out!"
     Erica stepped up next to Fang.  The engine and bay were almost totally clean, just enough dust and grime that it hadn't been recently steam cleaned.  Fang pulled dipsticks and demonstrated the oil and transmission fluid were both clean, as well as the air filter.  Fang said, "That's the goddamn 454 motor.  It's never gonna be as quick at the Plymouth, but it's have some balls.  The usual three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic tranny, no big surprise there.  Let's fire it up."
     Erica got back behind the wheel and turned the key, just a bit of pressure on the gas.  The engine caught in two seconds, setting in a very smooth idle.  Fang stood and slowly nodded, lighting a cigarette as the engine warmed.  After a minute, she grabbed the throttle body and revved the engine.  Good response, no delay.  It was well-muffled.  She closed the hood and stepped next to the driver's door.  "Can we drive it?"
      "Well...."  Nurse Ratched looked nervous.
     Erica said, "Princess, this is gonna be your ride, for the most part.  You take it for a spin, and I'll wait here."  She stood up.
     Fang gave Erica a quick kiss and ass-grab, saying, "I'll be back in ten minutes.  I'll drop down to PCH and open it up for a couple miles, see how it handles."  She sat down, closed the door, and backed confidently out of the driveway.
     Nurse Ratched was giving Erica the same smile usually employed by defendants in court addressing a judge.  She seemed flustered.  "Well!  I guess you two really are interested in that old car.  Um, I'm a bit curious....  If it's not too rude of me to ask....."
     Chuckling, Erica said, "Ma'am, we're two dykes in love.  Full stop.  We're recent transplants from Minnesota, now we live in Venice Beach.  Fang --- Fiona --- is one of the most amazing women I've ever met, she can handle anything the world throws at her.  And my God, she's a sexy little thing, too, she revs my engine like you wouldn't believe.  Every day I love her even more, and she loves me.
     "Minneapolis, where we're from, isn't a hick town, but being out of the closet and open about it still has some risks.  People still believe being queer is some sort of lifestyle choice, a conscious decision a person makes.  That's bullshit, you're pretty much born wired either queer or straight, and there's not much you can do about it.  Being here in Southern California is such a liberation for us both.  We can walk down the street holding hands, or kiss on the corner, and nobody's calling the fuzz to complain about public obscene behavior, performed by two women deviants.  So if we seem a bit aggressive with each other, that's part of it.  We're enjoying our freedom.  Another factor is we're still in our honeymoon phase, I guess.  I know I can't get enough of that little hottie."
      "Thank you for being open with me," said Nurse Ratched.  "I'm curious about something, though.  I've heard you refer to yourself as a, uh, 'dyke.'  And 'queer.'  I was under the impression those were insults, offensive language used by bigots."
     "Oh, absolutely!" laughed Erica.  "It's a two-fold sort of thing.  First....  Okay, two black guys can call each other 'nigga,' but the word is forbidden from use by a white guy.  'Nigger' is an abusive word.  Really, those who have suffered the abuse have earned the right to throw the word around with each other, and not have it mean anything.
     "So far as 'dyke' and 'faggot' and 'queer' go, those are the epithets of bigots.  Younger gays and lesbians decided to embrace the words on purpose, to help neuter the bigots.  If some asshole yells 'Faggot!' at a queer dude, these days a lot of dudes will turn around and say, 'You're goddamn right I'm a faggot, you got a problem with it?'  Just straight-up challenge would-be queer-bashers.  The basic message is, we're not afraid of your words, calling us names won't hurt us, and if you think we're afraid of you, you're gonna end up learning a lesson.
     "Older gays and lesbians hate the sea change in language....  But they also don't care much for the younger gays and lesbians, either, the ones who have embraced the old epithets.  The AIDS epidemic caused a new wave of homophobia to break out.  The old guard think the young queers are nihilistic and cynical.  Well, duh!  There's a whole generation of queers who had to grow up with the idea that sex can now kill you, if you're not killed by queer-bashing rednecks first.  So younger queers will deliberately act obnoxious, sort of as a defense mechanism, and the use of language is part of that self-defense.
     "Personally?  I painted 'DYKE' on my jacket for a few reasons.  First, I came out of the closet late, and I've sort of had an urge to establish who I am in a direct way.  No nuances, no shading, I'm a fucking dyke and I'm happy with who I am.  It's also a dare.  A homophobic asshole is gonna hate me whether I call myself a lesbian, a Sapphic, or a dyke anyway.  Well, I just showed they can't use words to hurt me.  Go ahead, call me a dyke.  I've got the word in huge letters on my jacket, you think you can bug me by saying it out loud?
     "Lastly, it's.... I guess a public declaration, in no uncertain terms, about my orientation.  When I first outed myself, it was to my husband.  Then to my lawyer, my husband's lawyer, and the staff of a civil courtroom in Minneapolis during my divorce.  But while finally admitting to myself I'm queer got me divorced, I was still living like the mousy little housewife I'd been for the previous eight years.  I'd go to the lesbian bars, and other chicks would wonder why some high school librarian showed up.
     "Meeting Fiona --- she goes by 'Fang' --- jarred me out of my cowardice.  Being around her, it was like I got a transfusion from her, she gave me some of her courage.  And a big part of that was no longer being afraid what other people might think of me.  I was still carrying around a lot of bullshit from my youth, a lot of 'What will the neighbors think?' shame about my sexuality.  In the Midwest, far too many people mentally translate the words 'gay' or 'lesbian' to 'pervert,' 'deviant,' and 'sinner.'  Everybody taught me when I was growing up that if you were a homosexual, you were a bad person, in many different ways.  I just hated the idea of people assuming I was a bad person, when I wasn't.
     "It took Fang to point out I was worried about having the respect of people who would never, in a million years, give me respect.  I could cure cancer, rescue the President from an assassin, and create world peace.  It wouldn't matter to some people, I'd still be one of those Godless sexual deviants, a lesbian, a bad person.  Fang's attitude is appeasement doesn't work.  You only end up destroying yourself.  Announcing to the world a major aspect of your personality right off the bat makes everyone's lives simpler, and it's better manners, too.  You're being totally honest with strangers, you're not acting like you have something to hide.  Fang has a lot of insight for her age."
     "How old is she?" asked Nurse Ratched.
     "She's sixteen--- "  Erica locked up, then tried to calmly correct herself.  "I mean nineteen.  She's nineteen years old.  Anyway!  You haven't said how much you're asking for the car."
     Nurse Ratched regarded Erica briefly, then smiled and said, "Given how old it is, and the terrible mileage it gets, and just how totally outdated it is overall, I'm not expecting much.  Would $300 be too high?"
     Forcing herself to keep composed, Erica muted the mocking victory music in her head and tried to look thoughtful.  "Gosh, I don't know....  Like you said, it's pretty old.  We'll also want to put a real stereo system in.....  How about $200?"
     "Deal."  The two shook hands.
     A minute later, the huge Impala pulled back into the driveway, sounding as smooth as ever.  There were some squeaking noises as the car bounced a bit at the sidewalk.  Fang bounced out from behind the wheel, all smiles.
     "This thing is awesome!" she announced.  The motor and transmission are strong, that's for sure.  It runs really quiet, too.  A couple problems, though.  The steering is pretty mushy, like the front wheels have gone into curbs a few too many times.  Also, the turn signals don't work, but it might just be the fuse.  I'll check...."  Fang popped the hood again.
     "What kind of mileage does it get?" Erica asked Nurse Ratched.
     "Oh boy.  Maybe thirteen miles per gallon.  It's horrible on gas."
     "That is pretty damn low, even with the 454 motor," said Fang.  She pondered a moment, then spun the wingnut on the air filter housing off and lifted the housing.  "Okay, this would explain it.  Why did your mom drop a four-barrel Holley carburetor onto this beast?  From what you said, she didn't sound like the type to want the extra juice."
     "My father had it installed," Nurse Ratched explained.  Mother's previous car had been a 1967 Plymouth Barracuda, and she'd gotten used to having that sort of power.  She told Father this car was sluggish, so he had that thing put on."
     Fang stared at the carb, then put the air filter housing back in place.  "I'm going to be an adult, and have a stock two-barrel carb reinstalled.  That should help a lot with the mileage.  It'll still be quick enough....  Hey Tootsie, that'll be a good excuse to roll down to San Diego and visit Roach!  He can put it in for us, we can party down there some!  Maybe hang out with Becky again!"
     "Bekka," corrected Erica.  "Yeah, that works.  So I take it you want the car...."
     "Oh, fuck yeah!  This thing rules!  Cat we get it?  Do we have the money?"  Fang stepped closer to to Erica and said more softly, "I'll spend a week being a good little girl, or a bad little girl.  Your choice."
     "We have the money, we're getting the car," Erica smiled.  Fang squealed with joy, and Erica kissed her quickly but deeply.  "We only need to pay for it and fill out the pink slip.  Shall we?"
     Walking back to the front door, Nurse Ratched asked Fang, "How old are you?"
     "I'm nineteen," Fang replied forcefully.  "Why?"
     "Just curious."  Addressing Erica, Nurse Ratched queried, "And how old are you?"
     "I'm thirty-two," Erica responded.  "Yes, we know there's a bit of a gap there.  I don't think of it as a May-December romance, more like April-August, if you follow me."
     Fang added, "And we gotta correct people sometimes.  They'll think Erica decided to seduce some innocent teenage girl.  Bullshit, I was the one scamming on her!  Heh, it's pretty wild, we've been together six months now and the sex just keeps getting better!  We were fuckin' like bunnies right from the get go, and...."
     "T.M.I., princess," Erica interrupted with a smile.  "If she wants to know, she'll ask."
     "Sorry....  Although, I gotta say, you know who gives me hope?  Becky --- Bekka --- and Lenny.  They've been married five years, and they still got it going on, big time, even with Bekka's career.  You'd think she'd be kinda burned out on sex."
     "Who is this?" asked Nurse Ratched.
     "Our friends, and Erica's bosses, Lenny and Bekka Schneider," explained Fang.  "You'd know Bekka as Becky Page.  Erica is a writer for their studio, Inana Productions.  You know who Becky Page is, right?"
     Nurse Ratched's eyes got a bit cold.  "Indeed I do.  My husband is a rather arduous fan of hers, believe me.  And you say you two know her?"
     "Well, we're not super tight, but we hang together every now and then.  They live down in San Diego.  Haw, hey Tootsie!  We gotta take them up on their offer to go party in Tijuana sometime soon!"
     Erica replied, "We'll have to check with INS to make sure your emancipation allows you to cross the border first, I don't want to....."  She suddenly stopped talking.  The three of them were in the kitchen of the house, Nurse Ratched digging through a file full of papers for the Impala's pink slip.  She stopped searching and looked at the two of them.
     Wish a bit of sharpness in her voice, she asked Fang, "How old are you?  Really?"
      Erica and Fang both stared at the floor.  Finally, Erica said, "Oh, fuck it, babe.  Tell her."
     Fang sighed and said, "I'm sixteen....  But I'm emancipated!  The state of Minnesota declared me a legal adult!  There's still some shit I can't do, like get into bars or vote, but I'm an adult!  That's how I was able to move to California with Erica.  We didn't want to be apart, you know?"
     Now holding the pink slip, Nurse Ratched said, "I was curious about that.  You still look like you're sixteen, dear."  She waited a couple ticks and continued, "And you two are in love."
     "We are," said Erica.  "To me, Fang is a woman, not a girl.  In a lot of ways, she's a much stronger and smarter person than I am."
     "And I was the one chasing Erica, not the other way around," Fang stated.  "I knew she was older than me, but.....  I didn't care.  I thought she was awesome, period.  There was affinity between us almost from the first moment we met, you know?  And don't get any stupid Freudian ideas going, I don't have some weird Mommy issues.  At first, Erica was a hot chick, then I got to know her, and she's now a really awesome hot chick."
     After a moment, Erica noted, "I knew Fang was much younger than me....  But she's also led a much fuller, more adventurous life than me.  I used to try and chastise myself for getting hung up on a teenage girl, and I couldn't make it stick.  Her chronological age is totally irrelevant in how I feel about her.  Fang is this smart, tough, graceful, beautiful woman I was lucky enough just to meet, and I'm even luckier she found it in herself to love a mousy, spineless bitch from suburban Minneapolis."
     Fang threw an arm around Erica's neck and said, "Drop that shit, Tootsie, you know I hate it when you trash-talk yourself.  I'm gonna keep reminding you of how awesome you are every fucking day until you believe me."  She kissed Erica deep and hard, then let go.  Then she said to the other woman, "Okay, yeah, legally her and me being together isn't supposed to happen.  Statutory rape and all that shit, blah blah blah.  Yeah, let somebody ring Johnny Law on us.  They can't convict her if I don't testify.  They can't prove we fool around, and I'm not gonna say we do.  A goddamn judge can chuck me in the clink for contempt, I don't care.  I'm not gonna let anything happen to the woman I love, right?"
     Erica leaned over and kissed Fang on the neck, while keeping her eyes on Nurse Ratched.  Fang just stared at her, with a defiant look.  Nurse Ratched looked at them both and finally said, "You two are fiercely loyal to each other, aren't you?"
     "You got it, honey," Fang replied.  "Erica can walk through hell, and I'll be at her side every step of the way."
     "I see."  Nurse Ratched studied them again briefly, then her face softened and she said, "For two people to be so compatible is very rare.  For them to meet, and fall in love, is almost unheard of.  Most people will go through their entire lives without ever meeting the person they really, truly should be with, the odds are just too long.  I'm very happy for the both of you."  She held up the pink slip and said, "Now then, we just need to fill this out.  Whose name is the car going to be in?"
     Erica said, "Fang's.  It's going to be her daily driver, I have my Plymouth hot rod.  Heh, we're already used to cars with poor mileage, the Impala won't bother us a bit."
     They completed the paperwork, Nurse Ratched writing a bill of sale on a sheet of flowery stationary.  Fang asked her for a paper clip, then went out to the car.  She was back in less than three minutes, announcing the signals worked, it was just a fuse.  Nurse Ratched took Erica's check with a smile on her lips but trepidation in her eyes.  The check number was very low, as Erica had only had the Western Savings account for one month and did most business with her debit/Visa card.  She assured Nurse Ratched the money was definitely there, writing porn scripts was quite lucrative....  Doing it for Inana Productions was, anyway.  She gave Nurse Ratched an Inana business card with Lenny's office number on the back, as a bit of assurance.
     "Congratulations, princess, you've got your own wheels now," Erica smiled at Fang.  "You won't have to borrow the Buzz-Bomb from me anymore."
     "Well....  Maybe every now and then, just for shits and giggles," Fang smiled back.  "You know how much fun that thing is to drive.  But tell you what, when we travel from now on, we're taking the Impala.  It's way more comfortable, totally cush. like you're driving the living room sofa.  Anyway, shall we see what else there is for sale here?"
     "We shall, princess," Erica replied.
     Nurse Ratched said, "You two are into the whole punk rock thing, correct?"
     "Why, yes.  Yes, we are," smirked Fang.
     "I have some record albums you may want to take a look at, they were my son's.  He was sort of into punk rock when he was in high school and college.  Now he's married and has a career, and he told me to sell them this weekend, if I can.  Otherwise, donate them to Goodwill.  He just doesn't want them anymore, he says he worries his kids will find them and play them if he keeps all those records around, and he doesn't want his children hearing a lot of that stuff.  He said that, uh...."
     "Lemme guess," Fang said with a vicious smile.  "He said he's outgrown that shit, right?"
     "Ye-es, something like that," wavered Nurse Ratched.
     Holding her own vicious smile, Erica said, "Poor boy.  He's an adult now.  I used to be an adult, but I gave it up, and now I"m a happier person.  I wouldn't wish adulthood on an enemy.  Sure, let's take a look."
     Nurse Ratched led them to the family room, where there was a row of LPs sitting against the wall, about three hundred albums.  Both girls dropped to their knees and began reading titles.  Fang had the more expansive knowledge of what they were looking at, and quickly became very excited.
     "Holy shit!  He's got the Dead Kennedys' 'Too Drunk To Fuck' twelve inch, and it's the Cherry Red pressing!   Wow, there's a ton of stuff from LA bands in the early Eighties, like the Human Hands and Tuxedomoon....  Oh my God!  He's got both EPs from the band Riot Squad!"
     "Who are they?" asked Erica.
     "Riot Squad was an LA band that was only around for a couple years, around 1981, I think.  Their lead singer was a ten year old kid!  I used to have, like, a fifth generation tape of them."
     "This guy definitely liked the LA scene," observed Erica.  "The Nardcore scene, too.  I swear, if Mystic Records released it, he bought it.  SST Records, too, he even has both Saint Vitus albums.  From what I've noticed, he seems to have stopped buying records around 1985.  I wonder why?"
     "Because he became a big boy," sneered Fang.  "He's probably at home right now listening to fucking U2 or the Human League."
     "He took care of his vinyl," noted Fang, pulling the record out of a sleeve.  "These discs are in good condition."  She slid out another record and said, "Oh my God...."
     "What's up, princess?" asked Erica.
     "Look at this."
     Fang was holding up a copy of the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen,"  It was the twelve-inch single pressed by A&M, who held a contract with the band for a whopping six days before buying out of the contract, and destroying nearly every copy of the 25,000 singles pressed (but not yet released).  John Lydon says he doesn't own a copy.
     Swiveling her head around the room, Fang saw Nurse Ratched had left.  There were a couple duffers laboriously reading the spines on books in the opposite corner.  Fang leaned close to Erica and explained that coming across this record was like finding the punk rock version of the Hope Diamond.  She gingerly slid the interior sleeve out, then the vinyl out of it.  The record looked pristine.
     "Shit, fuck, fuck, shit," Fang said with quiet intensity.  "We have got to get this.  Either this woman's son forgot he owns this, or he really is a dumbass.  This record is just crazy insane rare, I don't even want to know how he got a copy.  Fuck fuck fuck, we've gotta ask how much she's charging for these records, and we can't tip our hand about this one."
     Erica considered briefly and said, "I'll ask her how much she wants for the lot.  If it's less than $1400, we grab them all.  There's some great stuff here, and some stuff I've never even heard of before.  Lemme go collar her."  She stood and walked into the living room.  Fang began arranging her face into one of mild interest.
     "There's some really fun stuff here," Erica was saying to Nurse Ratched as they walked back into the room.  "How much was your son hoping to get for each record?"
     "He said anything I got for them at all would be fine," Nurse Ratched answered.  "He really doesn't care about them.  I've heard him say they remind him of when he was stupid, so they hold zero importance to him.  I haven't given it much thought myself, and when I asked him, my son said they're all just obscure bands that no one will even remember these days.  I don't recognize the names of any of those bands.  I'm surprised to meet someone who does."
     "How much for all of them?" Erica asked casually.  "We'll just buy them all at once."
     "Oh, gosh.....   Is $100 a fair price?  There's quite a few of them."
     Erica stared at the woman with her mouth open.  She finally looked down and shook her head.  "No.  A hundred bucks is not a fair price.  I'll pay you $400 for the lot, I'd feel like I was stealing them if I only paid $100 for this collection.  Would you like a check written to you, or your son?  And again, I'll give him a reference or two if he wants.  My home address is printed on the checks."
     "$400?  My son will be delighted!" exclaimed Nurse Ratched.  "Are they really worth that much to you?"
     "We're pretty avid music fans," Fang smiled politely.  "We'll take a lot of enjoyment out of all this music, you know?"
     Erica wrote a second check.  Nurse Ratched recruited her husband to help move the records to the trunk of the Impala.  Hubby was a middle-aged honky goofball with a vacuous grin and the habit of starting every sentence with the phrase "Okie dokie;."
     "Okie dokie, ladies," announced the husband as the last of the records were deposited in the trunk.  "Gotta say, I'm glad someone bought those things.  I wasn't looking forward to dragging them down to the donation box.  But I'll tell you ladies, when you first walked in, I was afraid you were there to do one of those 'home invasion' robberies, haw haw!  Are you ladies as tough as you look?"
     "Well, we're not ladies...." started Erica.
     "... And we're as tough as we need to be," finished Fang.
     Utterly oblivious, the husband continued, asking, "Okie dokie.  I've been wondering, you both have earrings installed all over your faces!  Didn't it hurt?"
     Erica (who had more surgical steel inserted than Fang) sighed and said, "Well, first, a correction.  My piercings aren't in my ears, right?  Then they're not earrings.  And yes, body piercing hurts like hell, briefly.  Then you get your brain flooded with endorphins, and you are high as hell for about forty minutes, a totally natural high.  I'm going to get a labret put in, and...."
     "A what?"
     "It's called a labret, and no, I don't know where the term originated.  Simply, I'm having a stud put in the space right here....." Erica pointed at the space between her lower lip and chin.  "Also a cheek piercing.  After that, I'm probably going to keep any more installations private."
     Fang exclaimed, "Oh shit!  You just reminded me, that girl Boopsie, who did my piercings?  She's looking for someone who wants erotic piercings, and is willing to have the entire procedure photographed.  She says whoever does it will get the piercing and jewelry free, and she'll even pay $200 for their time.  Tootsie, your pussy is aesthetically flawless, you should go for it.  The pictures are gonna be used in a training text.  Your face won't show up, and you can use an alias in the text credits."
     Erica smirked at her young lover and shot back, "Well, I have been considering getting a few erotic piercings, but there's a problem.  A certain naughty little girl has spend the last six months turning me into an orgasm addict.  If I get a hood or labia piercing --- or both --- the after-care instructions say absolutely zero sexual contact for about ten days.  No sucking, no licking.....  I'm not even allowed to rub one out myself!  And given that little girl's penchant for eating me like a pie several times a day, I think she'd be feeling deprived too.  It's still in the consideration stage."
     The husband was looking at both girls with simple-minded confusion.  "Uh, what are you talking about?  More piercings?  I'm lost."
     Fang patiently explained, "Erica has been bandying about the idea of getting a few erotic piercings....."
     "Erotic piercings?" asked the husband.  "You mean, like.... piercings that are sexy, somehow?  Okie dokie, then....  How does that work?"
     "It works quite easily.  Erotic piercings are any jewelry installed on your genitalia, or your nipples.  Basically, she (or me) can get her pussy pierced in a way that increases sexual pleasure, once it's healed.  The most common female erotic piercing is having a ring installed on the clitoral hood, but labia piercings are popular too.  I think a lot of chicks who are into bondage realized they can get some hoops put on their labia, both sides, grab some bootlaces, and have their physical restriction managed at a very intimate level."  She paused and stared off into space briefly, then continued, "Oh wow....  having your pussy being held, like, wide open by your dominant partner.....  And they could just do anything they wanted, right there.....  Wow...;.."
     Erica was frowning at Fang, then her eyes went wide and she said, "Oh, okay..... I just got a visual about how that would work.  Oh my God, that could be such a rush, such an experience..... Holy shit....."  She also began staring into space.
     The husband said with a frown, "You're talking about women getting earrings put on their, you know, hoo-hahs....  And for fun?  That's crazy!  What sort of women would do that to themselves?"
     "You're in the company of two of them," grinned Fang.  "We're kind of unusual.  Both of us like B&D, but we like both sides of it.  We trade off on who's the domme and who's the sub.  One night, I might want to be the controller.  The next night, I might want to be controlled.  Erica is the same way.  So, we trade off.  Some nights we're both in the same sort of mood, so we leave it out completely and just have some straight-up fun, no role-playing involved.  We love each other, and if one of us felt the other was only going through the motions of some domme or sub action, not really getting off on it, we'd have a hard time enjoying ourselves too."
     "So, you two are, um, a couple...?"
     "Indeed we are, sir," Erica answered.
     "And you're in love?"
     "You got it, Sparky," said Fang, challenge in her voice.
     The husband's face split into a wide grin.  "Okie dokie, that's all right, then.  I'm happy for you both."
     This was not the response either of the girls were expecting.  Fang recovered first and offered a diplomatic, "Uh....  thank you, sir."
     They went back inside and poked around a bit, but only saw one thing worth picking up:a crock pot, priced five dollars.  They paid cash for this.  Then the girls headed back to Venice, each at the wheel of their own cars.  Not having a magnetic pass-card for the gate into the complex, Fang simply tailgated Erica in, pulling into the other reserved spot for their unit.
     They arrived just as their least-favorite neighbor was headed to his car.  He was a grinning sad-sack named Garrity, he lived below them, and he watched his porn with the volume up way too high.  He was also a bit confused about what the word "lesbian" entailed.  Garrity knew what a lesbian was, but was under the impression it might be a temporary condition, curable with heterosexual intercourse finally done "right."  Garrity was a "circulation manager" for the LA Times.  In other words, he wrangled paperboys.  Forty-ish, thin on top, skinny except for an impressive beer gut, and always one day overdue for a shower, Garrity was another Midwest transplant.  He'd arrived from Waterloo, Iowa two years earlier.
     Garrity's face brightened when he saw both of the les-beens getting out of their respective cars.  (His own set of wheels was a 1978 Plymouth Volare, a vehicle built in the unique period of Detroit history when American iron had to stop for repairs more often than gasoline.)  He beamed in a lecherous manner at Fang and said, "So!  Got yerself a car now, huh?"
     "Sure did, Garrity," Fang muttered as she headed to open the trunk.
     He followed Fang to the rear of the Impala, and looked at the trunk as she put in the key.  "Hey!  You could fit six wetbacks in there, if ya need, haw haw!  You could make extra money, moving them wetbacks from Sandy-Eggo to the Central Valley!  Whatcha got in there?"
     Fang turned, glared, and said, "Six dead Hawkeyes.  The cemetery won't take them, so I'm gonna make extra money by selling them to the people who make Alpo."
     Garrity didn't catch the insult, he'd been distracted by Erica's legs as they approached.  His attention was then consumed by her rack, and after a moment he realized that Erica was also present, not just the more interesting parts of her.  "So yer, uh, gurlfriend has a car now, huh?"
     "Nothing gets past you, Garrity," Erica observed.  "'71 Impala with the 454 motor and a four-barrel carb.  Low miles, too.  Possibly the best $220 I've ever spent."
     "Wait, how much?  What's wrong with it?"
     "Not a fuckin' thing, so far as I can tell," said Fang.  "We picked it up at an estate sale in the Palisades.  Some little old lady drove it twice a week until she died, it's only got 42,000 original miles on it.  Her daughter thought of it as an old car with shitty mileage, so she was giving it away."
     "I'll give ya $300 for it," proclaimed Garrity.
     "No you won't.  It's mine.  Early bird gets the worm, and all that shit."
     "What's all that?" asked Garrity, looking in the trunk.  "Record albums?"
     "You can't be fooled, can you?" said Erica.  "Another good score we made.  There's some choice stuff there.  Now excuse us, we've got to start moving them upstairs."
     "I'll help you!  Save ya time!"
     Erica and Fang looked at each other, rolled their eyes, and shrugged.  "Knock yourself out," said Erica.
     Each of them grabbed an armful of albums and began trekking across the lot and up the stairs.  Fang juggled out her keys and opened the front door.  The three of them headed in, Garrity gawking around like a tourist at Disneyland.  He took in a couple posters and observed, "Hey!  Yer Becky Page fans, huh?  But don't she like guys?"
     "That would explain her marriage to one," said Erica.  "Her husband is my boss.  Bekka is an amazing woman.  Also, she's bisexual, not straight.  Bekka likes boys and girls both.  Here, put those on that empty shelf on the gorilla rack."
     The first load of albums was deposited, and the girls turned towards the door.  They got that far when they realized Garrity wasn't with them.  He was thumbing through the records with a look of puzzled annoyance, finally commenting, "I never heard of any of these bands.  What the hell is this stuff?  China White?  Ill Repute?  The Adolescents?  Uh.... The Mentors?"
     Fang looked over and saw Garrity holding a copy of the Mentors' "You Axed For It" in his hand.  "This somma that Satan music?" he asked.
     Cackling with joyous laughter, Fang said, "Just good ol' American heavy metal, Garrity.  You'll love the Mentors, I'll make you a tape."
     "What sorta things do they sing about?"
     "Oh....  You know.....  Songs about girls they like, the usual stuff you'd expect from any rock and roll band."
     "Huh."  Garrity followed the girls downstairs for another load.
     Once the records were racked and the crock pot was in the kitchen, Garrity stood and looked around the living room, taking in the Becky Page posters again ("I keep meaning to buy one myself!"), the Nagel prints, the impressive sound system, the leather recliner with wrist and ankle straps....  Then he wandered off into the rest of the apartment.  Fang got an enraged look and followed him.  He'd walked into the spare bedroom, which served as both Erica's office and impromptu fun dungeon.  Random sexual accouterments sat around, and a day bed with four sets of handcuffs attached to the frame was against the opposite wall.  Fang walked up behind him and said, "What the fuck do you think you're doing, Garrity?"
      Garrity said, "Um....  Okay, this is an office.  Where do you both sleep?"
     "One of you sleeps in the main bedroom, right?  Where does the other one sleep?"
     Feeling a bit baffled, Fang said, "Uh, we sleep together, Garrity.  In the same room, in the same bed.  I thought we made it plain as fucking day when we moved in that Erica and I are a couple.  Are you still unclear on our relationship?"
     Garrity had a befuddled look about him.  "Okay, you're les-beens, I get that.  But you two sleep in the same bed?"
     "Yeah.  What the fuck, Garrity?  How many couples do you know that sleep separately from each other, outside of 'I Love Lucy'?  Did your parents sleep in different rooms?  Did you and your ex-wife sleep in separate places?  Wait, don't answer that, I don't wanna know.  Why would we not share a bed?"
     Garrity's voice got soft and conspiratorial, like a junior high kid telling his friend he'd found his dad's stash of Hustler magazines.  "Okay, I know being a les-been isn't illegal, not in California, anyway.  But isn't you two sharing a bed, you know, against the law?  I won't say nothing, it ain't my business, but won't you go to jail if the po-lice find out you two are sleeping in the same bed at the same time?"
     It took Fang a few moments to stop staring in amazement at Garrity and reply, "No.  No, we won't.  It's not against the law for two women to fall asleep in the same bed at the same time.  I can promise you that."
     "Okay."  Garrity looked at the floor briefly, then said, "I just, I kinda worry about you two a little.  There's some mean folks in the world, you know?  Not everybody's as open-minded as me.  I know you two are happy together, I wouldn't want you to get in trouble just for being, you know, the way you are."
     Fang took a moment to absorb this.  Then she actually smiled at Garrity and said, "Thank you for your concern.  We know there's mean people in the world, that's one of the reasons we got the fuck out of Minnesota.  Don't worry about us, we'll be fine.  But I appreciate your concern."
     "All right."  He paused, then continued, "Okay!  I was headed for the video store, gonna find something good to watch tonight.  You take care, now."
     Garrity was at the doorway when Fang gave a small prod.  "I'm surprised you didn't comment on the handcuffs on our day bed."
     He shrugged and replied, "Aw hell, me and my ex-wife used to play around like that too.  No big deal."  He continued through the apartment and out the door.
     Erica gave Fang a questioning look as she came into the living room.  She settled next to Erica and gave her a kiss on the side of the head.  "This state is starting to scare me," Fang said.
     "How?" Erica asked.
     "Just when I think I have someone pegged as being a complete fuckin' asshole, they turn out not to be.  They're actually okay.  California is messing with my asshole-radar."
     Erica kissed Fang back and said, "We'll take you to Radio Shack on Monday for re-calibration."

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