SHORT STORY | PICK UP STICKS
Harry's been driving for an hour through the haunted battered wasteland of West Hollywood, and can't find Diaghilev's Restaurant anywhere. Feeling more like a junkie trolling for a hit of crack than a tired, but still wired, TV weatherman, he wearily wanders past an endless parade of hookers, trashed out punks, small-time psycho gangsters, and seedy, tattooed Tom Waites look-alikes waltzing around in smoke choked stupors with teat rings black Doc Martins, and razors in their boots.
Harry didn't really want to go out tonight. He's frazzled and beat, but his wife, Madge, had begged him to take her to "Diaghilev's" which she'd read about it in some fab, glam, food and wine rag, declaring somewhat smugly, "Everybody who's anybody goes there and, you never know, we might see somebody famous."
Madge idolizes movie stars and had paid a small fortune to look like a blond Julia Roberts, but unfortunately she looks more like a somewhat Reubenesque version of Marilyn Monroe with a bad dye job. Harry shrugs, "I hate to burst your bubble there, Madge, but nobody with enough brains to get themselves famous would trek through this zombie graveyard to a Commie grease pit like "Diaghilev's" just to eat fifty dollar entrées the size of small dog biscuits."
Harry's so lost he's not sure he's even in California anymore but doesn't really seem all that concerned about it. Frankly, he'd rather be home swilling Bud, burning burgers on the grill, and catching the tail end of the Dodger/Yankee game. But the dinner reservations are for eight, and Madge has already figured out that he has absolutely no clue where he is, and she's none to happy about it. "Jesus, Harry, what is it about men and directions? Stop and ask somebody if you can't find it, would ya? It won't make you less of a man. For crying out loud, why is it so hard for guy's to ask for a little help once in awhile?"
Harry wearily barks back, "If I thought for one minute that even one of those transsexual hookers sashaying around out there had ever been anywhere near "Diaghilev's", you don't think I'd stop and ask one where the damned place is?"
" No I don't, frankly," is all Madge has to say.
The truth is, Harry just doesn't feel like having his balls shriveled up to the size of marbles by his star struck wife right now and doesn't want to give her the satisfaction of begging the cross dressing Farah Fawcett impersonators who are littering the sidewalk for directions to a restaurant not one of them had obviously ever been to. It's been a long day and he's starving. And how hard can it be to find a pompous hash house as glaringly ostentatious as "Diaghilev's" anyway?
"Don’t bail on me here, Harry," Madge chides. "I mean it. Put your money where your mouth is and ask somebody." Then giving him a coy, teaser look she nuzzles his ear and breathlessly baits the hook, "if you do it, there might be a hum job in it for you."
Hum job my ass, Harry's thinking. She'll probably wanta know what tune I wanta hear. Damned "Cosmopolitan" magazine, putting all that twisted sexual advice in women's heads. Talking about men like we're all Pavlovian dogs in heat with their pants wrapped around our ankles, begging for a quick hump. Not that we don't do that, but a hum job? Give me a break. Madge wouldn't know a hum job from a real job. Like she'd ever had one."
"Ok, Harry," Madge declares, "let's make it interesting. You ask the next person we see walking by for directions, and I'll give you a rim job."
That's about the last straw for Harry. He's just about had it. Madge is so frigid he keeps his beer on her side of the bed. She's all talk, unless she wants a new toy or trinket or some other metal shit that shines. Damned women's magazines. But, what the hell, if he gives in this one time, he just might get some mileage out of it somehow down the line. Maybe get the spoiled rotten, pampered, little princess to do the dishes once or twice a year when the maid's on vacation, as if the coddled little queen even has any idea where the kitchen is. Not that he does.
Out of nowhere, a breathtakingly beautiful, nearly bare bosomed, super model who Harry recognizes from his new, Sports Illustrated calendar hurries by, striding down Hollywood and Vine like a hungry cheetah hunting for a gazelle to sink her teeth into; although Harry figures, from the look of her, she's more likely late for her Undereaters Anonymous meeting.
Harry jams on the brakes and about puts Madge through the front window. "Jesus, Harry! Take it easy," Madge squeals, "I was only kidding about the rim job. I don't even know what a rim job is." Harry ignores her and jumps out of the car like the engine's on fire and slides into step behind the model, trying his best not to look too much like a deranged stalker. He can't believe his luck. After all it wasn't his bright idea to stop the next person to walk by and ask for directions. How cool is that? He'd have to remember write a thank you letter to "Cosmo" when he gets home.
He can feel Madge firing daggers at him behind his back and decides to milk this thing for all it's worth fast, because he knows as soon as he taps the doubtlessly high strung clothes horse on the shoulder she's most likely going to squeeze off a round or two of mace in his face, so he best get the show on the road. He's still a semi-cute guy for a forty-something, certified metro sexual ex-hunk. Polo tie, Polo suit, fake tan. Keeps himself in reasonably good shape. Ready as he'll ever be, he coughs, announcing his presence, and as subtly as a buffalo mounting a cow, he taps the young woman on the shoulder and snorts, "Excuse me." She stops dead in her tracks and twirls on her platform shoe heels, giving him a thorough going over, head to foot, like she's a nurse inspecting him for infectious diseases. He wouldn't be surprised if she slapped on a pair of latex gloves and told him to bend over.
To Harry's amazement, she slips him a sly, crooked little grin and ceremoniously shakes his hand. "Penelope," she says. Penelope Rogers. Nice to meet you." Harry's so startled by her laid-back demeanor that he can't seem to remember his own name. "Uh, Harry," he stammers," hoping he picked the right one. She rambles on like they've known each other since sex education class at Beverly Hills High. Recognizing him from TV she says, "I like your style, Harry. Most men in this pansy assed town don't have the balls to say booo to me, assuming they'd even want to. Most of them are light in the loafers and the rest of them are abusive dirt bags who are either in love with their mommies or their BMW's." Apparently unaware of Harry's livid, red-faced wife, sitting by the curb in their gun metal silver BMW, she asks, "So, what's your story, Harry?"
Harry's still in shock but somehow manages to bask in the glow of his most likely brief, but glorious, moment in the sun. He can almost feel his wife's temperature shooting through the roof and can't resist a quick wink in her direction before turning back to SI's bimbo of the month, Penelope Rogers. "I'm looking for "Diaghilev's", he says, regaining his composure. "It's supposedly the hottest restaurant in Hollywood and only the crème ala crème of LA's A-List eat there. And I'm betting someone as drop dead gorgeous, and obviously as cultured, as yourself would most certainly know where it is." Big, wide, white, toothy, weatherman's smile. Beaming pumpkin face. He has no idea what subconscious mine of lines he dug that gem out of, but then, as they say, even a blindfolded pig can smell a truffle.
"Hmm. Handsome and sweet to boot," Penelope says, flailing her thick, corn silk blond mane into a fluttering golden arc, working it for the camera, "looks like my lucky day. And not only do I know where "Diaghilev's" is," she coos, "but I'm in town for two more days before flying to Barbados for a photo shoot," giving him that smoldering, July centerfold look, and then chipping merrily on, "and it just so happens that a spot suddenly opened up on my social calendar."
"Imagine that," Harry mumbles, rethinking his elapsed faith in a higher power.
Licking her full, immaculately painted red lips, Penelope Rogers slips a business card into Harry's hand. "Here's my number and address," she purrs. "Is tomorrow night at eight good for you?" Prancing like a strutting peacock, Harry nods and nearly doubles over from pinching himself to stop from howling like a bare naked monkey who just bagged a ripe banana from an unwary tourist.
Madge misses the slight-of-hand, business card handoff but when Harry gets back in the car looking like a cocky rooster that's just rolled out of the hen house at four in the morning she goes ballistic, sizzling like a souped up bottle rocket gone haywire, working herself up into a serious jealous frenzy. And she wastes no time lighting into him, "So, Romeo, did Sticks, or whatever that slutty, anorexic, blowup doll's name is, give you directions, or what?" Harry suddenly realizes that he doesn't recognize the model's address and mutters stupidly, "Uh, yeah, but I'm not sure where Havenhurst is."
"Havenhurst? Jesus, Harry," his clueless wife chimes in, "I swear, those bimbo strumpets are all dumber than dirt. "Diaghilev's" is on San Vicente, everybody knows that." Harry takes a sneaky peek at the card Penelope had given him again just to make sure he isn't dreaming this whole thing up. It's real alright. Penelope Pope, Elite Modeling Agency, and her home address is definitely on Havenhurst. But then it suddenly hits him what it is that his wife had just asked him. "Uh, yeah, I mean, right," he says, "she did give me directions to the restaurant. Two blocks ahead, then left on San Vicente. Can't miss it."
"Now, was that really so difficult?" Madge muses, gloating shamelessly now that she's just humiliated her macho, stud muffin husband into asking a woman for directions. But her unbridled joy fades fast when it dawns on her that, in spite of her minor victory, she's still lima bean green with envy about all the attention Harry had lavished on that string bean harlot, Sticks. Madge hasn’t been able to get that kind of action out of Harry for a decade in spite of the extravagantly expensive Victoria Secret VS Microfiber strapless Body Shaper slip that's riding up her butt as she speaks, not to mention the botox injections, a face lift and an occasional nip and tuck, and it makes her furious that it had only taken that hussy tramp street walker about one minute flat to get Harry's pooped pecker all riled up.
Harry's having the time of his life trying to contain the gurgling volcano of glee that's bubbling up inside of him, and he can tell Madge isn't all that happy about it. She's turning a shade of green that Harry didn't even know existed, and he about keels over laughing as her jealousy finally gets the better of her. "Why didn't you just do it in the road with that skinny little cheap tart whore while you were at it? You two were getting so chummy that it looked like she was going to give you a hum job there right on the street."
"What is it with you and this hum job business?"
"Screw you, Harry. She's not your type. She'd most likely do you for a boob job, but you know how tight fisted you are with your money. God knows it took me long enough to talk you into parting with a lousy couple of bucks for a romantic dinner at a five star restaurant with your WIFE. I doubt Sticks has ever even set foot in a restaurant. Just look at the deformed frigging freak of nature. I bet she hasn’t had a solid meal in months."
Harry's in stitches but he cranks it down a notch, knowing how Madge gets when she's on a rant. But she's on a roll and marches on, "She's most likely a pill popping lezbo anyway so don't get your hopes up, Romeo. All those models are smack happy dykes, you know. I read about it in Cosmo, and why would they lie?"
"I'm sure you're right, dear, why would they?" Harry snickers, reminding himself to burn all Madge's Cosmos when he gets home. He's biting his lip trying hard not to crack up right there in "Diaghilev's" parking lot. This is just too much fun. And stopping to ask for directions wasn't even his idea. How cool is that? He makes himself a note. Tomorrow at eight. Don't be late."