Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Noble Gesture

This is a story I would have told at The Moth last night had I been given the chance. The Theme: "The Business". (WARNING!: eXplicit Material. Family beware. Rated R. Maybe NC-17. Mostly for the gross out factor near the end)

A few years ago on a day when my career seemed particularly non-existent, I decided I needed to get out of Dodge. The thing about this town is that everywhere you look, you’re not just surrounded by the business, but you’re reminded that someone like you, someone you know, someone much younger than you, is much, much more successful than you are.  And sometimes the only thing to combat that is to flee.
So I  got in my car and just started driving. I didn’t have a destination, but the further I got from Hollywood, the lighter I felt. A few hours later, I I stopped in a small town and as I drove through Main Street, I knew I was in the right place when I saw a big sign over the biggest joint in town just marked SALOON in big capital letters. Now I didn’t think it was going to be a real saloon with cowboys and all, but I appreciated the effort.
So I was shocked to find over a hundred cowboys white ten-gallon hats, plaid shirts, blue jeans and cowboy boots with spurs! I went to the bar ordered a whiskey and a been and felt all the stress of LA leave my body. After another round I got the nerve to ask a woman to dance, but didn’t really know how to two step so I excused myself and went out to the porch for some air.
There I was greeted by the most amazing vista, a stunningly beautiful moonset. The biggest orange Harvest Moon I’d ever seen was setting behind a mountain range. And just as I wished I had a special someone to share this romantic sight with I saw this beautiful woman sitting on the railing. Our eyes locked and emboldened by the spirit of my fellow cowboys I strutted up to her and without so much as introducing myself, I kissed her. I’d never done anything like that and I half expected her to slap me like in the movies, but instead she kissed back. We made out for a good five minutes before we paused air. And she immediately started laughing. I asked what was so funny. She said she could tell I was different, but that if the cowboys in there knew who she worked with they’d just flip out. I asked what she did. She said worked in Hollywood. I said I did too.
Then she told me who she worked with and I wished I’d kept my mouth shut about working in Hollywood. She worked with real people. A-listers. She was a player. A powerful woman in The Biz. She’d never have taken a call from me in LA, but here away from that magnetism that perverts people’s souls, we tangled ourselves up romantically in an instant. But I quickly realized, while she had the kind of success I desired, she was still hounded by it.  Why else did she too end up in a small town, hours from the city surrounded by people who weren’t part of the business? I realized everyone in LA wanted something from her. To use her power and influence to get a script read or a project set up. And that was just as much of a burden as my failure was to me. So I decided at that moment I would never talk about The Business with her. Even though I needed her help and even though she could have waved a magic wand, I decided keep the space between us a business free zone. I didn’t know if I’d know her for 5 minutes or 5 years, it felt like this was a noble gesture and the right thing to do. I just didn’t want to be yet another person trying to use her. I think I really won her over though because she told me her grandfather had a fleeting bit of fame way back when. He’d written a song. No one even had heard of it anymore. I didn’t recognize his name, but when she told me the title, I started singing it to her and the only reason I stopped was that she kissed me again. This time for the joy of recognition.
When we got back to LA, we started dating, but I stuck to my private pledge and never mentioned anything I was working on. Deep down I thought this would not just gain her respect and trust, but that somehow I’d be rewarded for this in some unknown way in the future. Maybe not even from her, but it had to be good for my karma. What’s harder to admit is that I was also embarrassed to tell I was nearly 40 and just an assistant. Worse, a temp. So I knew keeping silent was a way to silence that fear that I wasn’t good enough for her. How could she tell her friends she was dating some schmuck who was just someone’s assistant?
But over time I began meeting her friends. And one night just when we were on the verge of turning this ‘thing’ into a ‘relationship’, we came home late after dinner and drinks, downed another bottle of wine, and went up to the bedroom. After an athletic tumble in the sheets, we collapsed from exhaustion and passed right out.
She was awoken a few hours later by a strange sound, however. A little “squeak squeak.” She looked around and saw nothing, so she went back to sleep. Then she heard another “squeak squeak… squeak.” She looked around again, but didn’t see the source of this noise. She was woken up again and whipped off the covers to find her dog. It was having trouble breathing, so she inspected his mouth to see what was wrong.
What I haven’t mentioned to you is that this woman loves animals. In fact, in her little spare time, devotes her energies to animal rights causes. And she has a lot of pets. Take the number you think I’m talking about and double it. Maybe you’re close to the mark now. But of all her pets, only one gets to sleep in her bed. This charmer is a little dog, no bigger than a bread box. And when I came over I was allowed to sleep with the both of them. I’d never slept with a dog before, but it was her house rules. And what a house. And this most beloved creature was old and infirm. It had had more surgeries than all my grandparents combined. If God had given this pup an expiration date, dozens of pets and thousands of dollars had moved that line in the sand again and again. All to say… this was no ordinary dog.
But like other dogs it still had to breathe and it was having a lot of trouble with that. When she inspected him, she found he had a bit of rubber in his mouth. Just a little bit, but when she turned on the light and looked closer she discovered only a few millimeters of rubber was visible. It had swallowed the rest. And it wasn’t rubber. It was latex. It seems it found the taste of latex and semen simply irresistible. This is why I’ve never liked dogs. They’re fucking idiots.
Perhaps it was the combined smell of latex with my loveseed, but despite jaw surgery the previous year, as soon as we fell asleep, Mr. Pooch went right for it. And when she turned on the light she saw, just a few millimeters of latex remained outside and
She panicked. Not only because the little guy was suffocating to death, but because normally she’d rush it to one of her trusty vets. The thing is because she knew every vet in town and because they’d saved his life so many times before, she couldn’t bear the shame of presenting him to them, a victim of a used condom. So she summoned every McGuiver instinct she had and found a way to tweeze the offending article inch by inch out of it’s throat until it was out and they both breathed a sigh of relief.
The next morning however, I got a talking to. I deserved and needed it. I deserved it because I agreed I had not properly disposed of the nearly lethal weapon (and here I’d always been taught condoms can save your life). But I needed the talking to because… Well, I never told you what I was doing while she was saving her beloved. My actions were not appreciated. Because while she was in a wrestling match with death, I was… sleeping.
Yup. Slept right through the whole thing. I had no idea it had happened. So it was a rude awakening the next morning when I discovered all my attempts to be a guy with a little integrity, not using her to get ahead added up to nothing.
I would not be remembered as that upstanding gent who never brought up business, who never used her.
I’ll always be that schmuck who almost murdered her dog in the most gruesome way… death by condom.

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