Free Story

Drowning in the Sea of Love

 

 

“Three hundred and fifty dollars,” Katie thought. “Three hundred and fifty dollars and nothing more.”

 

All around her was a whirlwind of frenetic activity as technicians scurried around: A thin balding man wearing round eyeglasses was taking a reading with a light meter; another man smoking a clove cigarette was consulting a clipboard; a young fat man in a madras shirt and shorts that unfortunately showed off his place and fleshy white calves who was doing pretty much nothing remarked to no one in particular: “Ugh. I ate a whole pizza for lunch and I can feel my pores actually sweating cheese.”

 

The man holding her elbow and escorting her through the room smiled widely and said, “Welcome to the wonderful world of show business.”

 

“Three hundred and fifty dollars and nothing more,” Katie thought.

 

*****

When Katie realized she needed to do something to get some money quickly, she turned to the ads in the back of the free weekly, and decided to answer the one that seemed the least creepy, which read: “WANTED. Pretty, clean young ladies for lucrative modeling assignments. You be pretty and clean (no fatties or intravenous) and we’ll be professional and respectful to your limits.” And, then, the one sentence that catapulted this ad from the level of complete creepiness (although what did they man by “no intravenous?”) to definite interest: “Same day payday.”

 

Katie called the number listed, and after confirming Katie was indeed over eighteen and had the requisite governmentally issued proof of same, the woman who answered gave Katie an address and a time and hung up.

 

After getting off the bus, Katie walked to the address, took a deep breath, pulled the door open and marched inside. Katie found herself in an exceptionally small reception area, consisting of two plastic chairs and a glassed-in window like at the currency exchange, behind which sat a young man so deeply engrossed in reading, he didn’t even look up when Katie came through the door. Through the walls, Katie could hear the sounds of men working—hammering, large items shifting, the beep-beep-beep and whine of a forklift backing up—which seemed more suited to the inside of a Home Depot than a same-day-payday modeling agency.

 

“Um, excuse me, I am here about the modeling?”

 

The young man still did not look up from his magazine. “That so? You have an appointment?”

 

“Yes, 9:30 am, I know it’s a little early…”

 

The young man cut her off, opening the window and handing over a clipboard. “Fill out this application and when you’re done attach your ID and bring it back to me,” which was delivered all in one breath without his raising his gaze from the magazine, which Katie now saw was “Screenwriter’s Monthly.”

 

“Than you, sir,” she said politely, and this caused the young man to look up startled from an article on “Rising Action and CGI: 10 Things You Need to Know.” He did a comical double-take and gaped at Katie for a few moments. Finally, he seemed to find himself and stuttered out, “Um, hold on a sec, wouldya?” Picking up a phone, he dialed two numbers and then said, “Um, Mr. Lomax, there’s someone out here I think you should see.” He paused for a moment and Katie could hear a loud voice, not shouting exactly but loud, through the receiver. “Uh, no, sir, not a process server. Uh, I think you’ll see what I mean when you talk to her.”

 

“Come on, I’ll buzz you in,” the young man said, gesturing toward a door.

 

Through the door and she followed the young man down a narrow hallway. Boxes and boxes of VHS tapes and DVDs lined the walls, all with lurid covers Katie deliberately didn’t look at too closely. Past several small offices the young man pointed at a doorway at the end of the hall. The door was slightly ajar, and Katie could hear some not quite shouting coming from within. “This is as far as I go,” the young man said.

For a moment Katie was alone, and her nerve almost failed. She looked between that slightly ajar door and the one that led back to the street. Only the length of a small hallway of a building in some corner of an industrial park somewhere, but Katie thought it was more like a span of the known universe.

 

With a long sigh, she walked forward and knocked softly on the door, which opened a bit more, revealing a man standing up talking on the telephone behind a large cluttered desk. Cradling the phone between his right ear and his neck while lighting a cigarette, his eyes momentarily widened when he saw Katie, but only momentarily. He motioned her in the room and toward a chair in front of the cluttered desk while never interrupting his steady stream of verbiage, which drifted over Katie like a maddeningly incomprehensible foreign language:

 

“He what? He didn’t! Arrgh, alright, put him on. Yes, I know very well how much a half day’s rental of the stable is. Put him on.” Pause. “Hi Buck, how’s it going? Yeah, I bet you know why I’m talking to you. Do you know how much money you are costing me? Let me go over this one last, final time, Buck. What are we paying you for, and if you say “acting” I am gonna have Lefty break your leg. Right, we’re paying you for a pop shot. How much are we paying you for the pop shot, that one little thing? That’s right, Buck. That’s a lot of money for one little thing. Now, what’s the name of this production, Buck? Right again! ‘Chin Omelettes 6!’ And what do you think the discerning consumer who purchases a title called ‘Chin Omelettes 6’ wants to see? A chin omelette? Very good! Now, tell me what use is a pop shot of the girl’s chest, over her head entirely or, worst of all, all her hair, when the title of the production is ‘Chin Omelettes 6?’ Right! No use! No fucking use at all! Now, there’s the big money question, Buck, so pay attention: What use is the dumb fucking lummox who can’t get a pop shot—the one thing and one thing only he is being paid to do—is the right place on film? I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that? Right! No use at all. Do I make myself clear? Alright. Look, if you have a trajectory problem, just aim at the collarbone, you’ll do fine. OK? OK. Go drink a Red Bull and get back to work, and don’t let Danny have to call me again.”

 

The man abruptly hung up the phone and turned his attention to Katie. “Yeah, I can see why Tommy wanted me to talk to you. You’re over eighteen, right? You got four forms of ID, all government issued?”

 

Hesitantly, she help up her hand, listing the contents, “Nooo…I don’t, I just have a driver’s license, a copy of my birth certificate, and my Nine West preferred customer card, do I need four?”

 

The man shook his head, “Naw, nobody I know has four forms of fucking government ID, unless they’re a Fed. I’m Freddie Lomax, ringmaster of this here circus. Hand over your bona fides and answer a question for me: You’re a pretty girl, you don’t seem overly fucked up, tell me why on Earth you wanted to get involved in this.”

 

 

 

“Well, Mr. Lomax, I really need the money.”

 

Without looking up form the form he was copying Katie’s information onto, Lomax said,” I see. Mr. Lomax paused, and Katie saw he had filled out all of the form except for one line, the “NAME” section at the top. He followed her gaze. “Yeah, I was wondering what we should call you.”

 

Katie was happy to finally be prepared for a question. “Buttons Highway 5.”

 

“Buttons Highway 5?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Mr. Lomax sighed, a much longer one than Katie had allowed herself. “That’s very good. Let me guess, your fist pet and the street you lived on when you were little?”

 

Katie nodded, a bit uncertainly. Lomax shook his head slowly. “Buttons Highway 5. Jesus Christ.” He stared into space for a moment in the direction of a push-pin filled wall map of the United States with the word “DISTRIBUTION” printed over it. “How about Tracey Nevada?” You got objections to that?”

 

Katie didn’t think it was much better than her suggestion, but she nodded.

 

“Alright, Tracey. That’s out of the way. Do you know what you wanna do for us?”

 

Katie blushed again. “No, not really.”

 

Far from exasperated, Mr. Lomax seemed to be expecting that response. He pulled out a mimeographed sheet from his desk and uncapped a black Sharpie. “This is a call sheet of productions we currently have in progress—how about this, tell me what you won’t do, and we’ll work backward from there.”

 

Katie paused. “Well, I don’t want to do anything that my brother would find out about.”

 

Lomax paused and then nodded sarcastically, “Of course, and this brother, I don’t suppose he’s ever been on the Internet, right?”

 

“Look, Mr. Lomax, this is really, really hard for me. If I didn’t need the money more desperately, I wouldn’t even be here. All my brother and his friends do is to smoke pot, play Playstation, and surf the net for porn. Hopefully, he and his friends would never find out about this, but I’d like to make it that was as much as possible. Oh, and no sex.”

 

“I see, Lomax said, and looked at her speculatively. Then, with another long sigh, he bent over the list and began drawing thick black lines through items. He had crossed off about 70% of the titles when the phone buzzed and budding screenwriter receptionist voice came over the intercom, “Mr. Lomax, Teddy Field from Professional Modeling International is on line one, returning your urgent call.”

 

Lomax handed Katie the paper. “Her, I have to take this call. Look this over and see if anything there looks probable.” Without waiting for an answer, he picked up the phone and immediately began shouting.

 

Katie blocked out the booming voice and considered the few remaining titles on the sheet. Much like the earlier conversation she had overheard, it seemed to be made up of some secret language that she was not privy to. “Span me spank me spank me!” seemed unappetizing but straightforward enough, but who were “Fisted Angels” anyway? And “Cameltoe Cuties” didn’t seem any clearer. And she didn’t even want to ask what “Cleveland Steamer Surprise” was all about.

 

Near the bottom of the page, there was a title crossed out, and handwritten in was “Drowning in the Sea of Love.” Kate was dubious about the whole “Sea of Love” part, but it sure sounded better than “Cleveland Steamer.”

 

Mr. Lomax was still shouting into the telephone. “…and I’m telling you, the next time you tell me you’re sending over a girl for “Bad Bad Teen Babysitters” and the girl turns out to be a Toyota Cressida station wagon-driving mother of two in pigtails who voted for Reagan not once, but TWICE, I am through with you!” Bam! He slammed the phone down again. “Did you find something?”

“Well, I thought this one looked possible, but I have to admit I am not quite sure what exactly it’s about.”

 

Lomax looked at what Katie had circled on the list. “What a coincidence, that production is shooting a scene this afternoon. I can explain to you while we go to the set. If you sign the paperwork, I’ll be you your pay, this gig pays $300.” He stopped and considered Katie’s long blond hair. “$350 if you wear pigtails.”

 

*****

 

Mr. Lomax shouted through three more phone calls on the way over to the shoot, but Katie was thinking more about the $350 in cash he had given her, with the admonition not to ever tell anyone he had fronted her money.

 

They had barely walked through the door of a small, split-level Colonial when Lomax began screaming an older man carrying a tripod. “What the fuck are you doing wearing golf spikes on this wood floor, Clarence? Are you fucking crazy?”

 

The older man, apparently a veteran of Mr. Lomax’s outbursts, didn’t even beak his stride. “Chill out, man. I got a tee time in 45 minutes and I don’t have time to change. As soon as I get this lighting set up, I am outta here.”

 

“Watch out for the cables!” Lomax shouted at his retreating back. He took in the bustle of activity. “Troy! Troy, come here, I want you to meet someone.”

 

A muscular young man wearing a sleeveless “Tool” t-shirt and drinking Super Big Gulp came over. He was cute, Katie thought, in a sort of Trans-Am driving, Milwaukee’s Best-drinking kind of way.

 

“Troy—I mean Johnny! How’s it going? I want you to meet who you’re going to be doing the scene with this afternoon. This is Tracey Nevada. Tracey, this is the famous Johnny Gallon.”

 

By way of greeting, he looked over Katie and said, “Too bad this is PF12 and not “Gangbang Facepainters.”

 

“PF12?” Katie asked.

 

Mr. Lomax steered her away from the young man. “Um, Tracey, that’s something I forgot to tell you. Lots of times, we use shorthand names for our productions in-house. So, uh, don’t be surprised if people refer to this production by other than its release name, ‘Drowning in the Sea of Love.’ Like, for example, someone may refer to ‘Pee Faces Twelve,’ but that’s just shorthand, ok?”

 

Katie opened her eyes. She was wearing a terrycloth robe and sitting in a large Jacuzzi bathtub. In a few minutes they were going to shoot her scene, of which her part consisted

 

 

entirely of sitting naked in the tub while Johnny Gallon urinated on her.

 

“Three hundred and fifty dollars and nothing more,” Katie said to herself.

 

Even with all the lights heating up the bathroom, the coldness of the tub still seeped through the robe and gave Katie chill bumps. She would get through this. Mr. Lomax had told her so. Mr. Lomax had told her a lot of things.

 

Mr. Lomax told her the there was absolutely no sex involved in this production, it just consisted of people peeing on other people, and people being peed on. Mr. Lomax said some fold—an increasing number of folks, he noted appreciatively—just wanted to watch people peeing on each other and were willing to pay premium prices for the privilege. Mr. Lomax said that, unless Katie’s brother or his friend were one of those seriously fucked up people, the chances were slim that they would ever stumble upon this production. Perhaps, most importantly, Mr. Lomax told her she would get paid $350 for about five minutes of actual work. “You don’t even have to speak,” he said.

 

“Places!” called the Assistant Director, and people began crowding into the bathroom, which was packed with lights, cables, and equipment. Johnny Gallon nosily slurped the last few drops of liquid out of his Super Big Gulp with a straw.

 

Katie looked at the faces of people crammed into the bathroom. In additional to Johnny Gallon, there was the AD who was opening the camera, Mr. Lomax, the director—a skinny man with a John Waters who smoked clove cigarettes constantly and spoke with a German accent- and a lighting technician who also was holding a towel and a glass of water for Katie.

 

The director looked skeptically at Katie. “You sure about this, Freddie? The girl looks awfully green.”
Lomax shouted back at him, “She’ll be fine! This is going to be the best debut in watersports since ‘Tinkle, Tinkle Little Star!’ You ready, Tracey?”

 

Katie nodded. Johnny Gallon took his place, standing fully clothed on the ledge of the tub, his crotch a few inches above Katie’s pigtails. “Jesus, I gotta piss something fierce, let’s go!” he said, and unzipped his jeans.

 

Katie pulled off the terry cloth robe and threw it to the PA. “Just like warm water, warm water for $350,” she thought.

 

Now, if it hadn’t rained steadily and uncharacteristically in Southern California for two days previously, there might not have been such a terrible loss of life on the set of “Pee Faces 12.” But, unfortunately, over six inches of rain had fallen in the last 48 hours.

 

As such, the new golf course at the former site of El Toro Air Base was waterclogged, and players were advised to use their extra long spikes for better traction on the greens. Clarence, who admittedly was lazy and hated the Southern California traffic as much as he loved pounding the ball around the links at a discount rate, had to reschedule a tee time to take advantage of the early bird twilight special and thusly had cut it so close, he changed into his golfing attire—including golf shoes—while still setting up the lights for Katie’s scene. Since his long spikes were metal not plastic like the smaller green spikes, and he was in a hurry, he never noticed that he punctured the protective rubber tubing on several of the long, thick cables snaking through the bathroom.

 

Furthermore, since Mr. Lomax didn’t believe in shooting simply with a handheld video camera, but actually employed a camera operator and a director AND a PA, there were, not counting Katie, five other individuals crammed into the bathroom, a bathroom that had only one exit.

 

So, naturally, when Katie felt the firm warm stream of urine cascade across her face, she did what almost any young woman would do, and she screamed and closed her eyes and flailed her arms. Her right hand, including her high school class ring with its brilliant sapphire stone shout out and connected with the swollen testicles of the aptly named, ‘Johnny Gallon,’ causing him to yelp in pain and skid off the ledge of the bathtub, landing half in a half out of the tub, with the most unfortunate luck of his still voiding penis aiming a steady stream of urine at the snake box of cables.

 

Like a flicker of flame inexorably following an errant trail of gunpowder in an old Tom & Jerry cartoon, a spark leapt from one of the compromised cables and sent 550 volts of pure juice shooting back into Johnny Gallon’s pecker, causing him to become, in less than one second, Johnny Screaming Human Torch.

 

Because Johnny was now a supercharged conductor, instead of urine, he was not dealing death out of his urethra. If the Ad had been filming a 3-D production, he couldn’t have asked for a better shot than the stream of crackling electricity coming straight at his camera lens. Alas, since he certainly had forgotten to ground himself, within seconds the camera had fused to the side of his rapidly melting face, which caused him to tumble into the director, who was yelling something unintelligible in German while apparently trying to run the through the bathroom’s wet wall. But, as anyone in a sixth grade science education knows, electricity travels through just about everything, including rapidly melting AD cameramen and Prussian porn directors. As the current surged through him, his jaw clamped shut, biting off the tip of his tongue, which fell to the floor jumping and sizzling like a piece of bacon in a hot skillet.

 

Mr. Lomax, with the wily instincts of a true survivor, had miraculously leapt up on the toilet at Katie’s first scram, and was therefore unable to avoid being barbecued with the rest of his crew. However, in a twist of extremely bad luck, the PA who was holding Katie’s robe and towel was also holding a glass of water for her. When the runway current jumped from the still smoking corpse of the director and ran up the leg of the PA, the water glass in his hand blew up like a grenade, sending a fist-sized piece of Crate & Barrel’s finest stemware directly into Mr. Lomax’s left eye socket. This rather unexpected and unforeseen development caused him to pinwheel wildly on the toilet seat, as he exuded a mighty self control to keep from toppling onto the certain death of the sparking floor.

 

Unfortunately, while the owners of the split-level Colonial had used some of the money they made renting out their house to skin flick producers on buying fine stemware, they skimped on the bathroom items, and their toilet seat was strictly Home Depot’s cheapest, and, the tilting force of Mr. Lomax cause the cheap plastic rivets holding the seat on the toilet to snap like small twigs and send him to the aftermentioned certain death.

 

Electricity is an amazing thing. In less than seventeen second, five human beings had been reduced to small, smoking lumpy piles. The mischievous current looked around for more damage to cause, but, again, as any elementary age science student can attest, electricity seeks to complete a circuit, and so, after racing across the bathroom, the current shot back in the snake box, blowing it to smithereens and shorting out the local power grid for a six-block radius.

 

Some people would find it ironic, that, with all the old wives’ tales about curling irons, blow dryers and even toasters frying people in bathtubs, that the Jacuzzi where Katie had couched to avoid being peed on should be the one safe place, the one oasis, in that perfect storm of electricity.

 

And yet, when Katie cautiously opened her eyes, she was indeed the only living being in the split-level Colonial. He employer—like his crew—a steaming cinder of the floor. Her co-star, with one leg on each side of the tub, looked like a rodeo cowboy skeleton without the hat and with a little more burned flesh.

 

Gingerly, she stood up and surveyed the damage. The power outage had knocked out the lights, but by the warm glow of the PA’s still burning body she was able to navigate her way out of the bathroom and find her clothes in the master bedroom. Outside, she could hear excited voices running down the street and sirens wailing by, doubtless chasing down one of the many burning transformer boxes in the subdivision.

 

Katie shook her head sadly. This kind of thing was always happening to her. Poor Mr. Lomax, but at least he paid her up front. She felt the comforting bulk of the cash in her front pocket. “Three hundred and fifty dollar and nothing more,” she said.

 

©2006, 2017 Bill Breedlove