Sunday, May 06, 2007

"The Liquid Life (installment twenty-four)


On the set of the commercial Cassius seemed distant from the biggest starlet in his stable and that was strange because it should have been a moment of sundrench for the team.

He showed up late and turned his cheek to her when she tried to kiss him, stealing her smile from her. She was later angry with herself for letting him do it.

Elendele tells me during the wait, her old buddy I hate being, that it’s because she’s been seen with another guy from over on the east side – further evidence of her affinity for Latin men. A half-Mexican with a scar from war games during a shift with the Marines in a camp north of San Diego. It makes him look sexy and so he got himself some pictures taken for $450, saved from pay in the service, which he kept cause he had no girl to send it to. He pushes himself as an actor, does catering, attends $800 classes for six-week terms, meets Elendele one day at an audition.

The bedroom, now just an ornament stuck to his memory, Cassius started using his link to Elendele for meeting other budding starlets in the stardust ballrooms of the city.

“Come with me,” he’d tempt them. “Help me out with my power and we’ll use it to both our benefit. I’m not talking about just doing work here. I’m not talking about your typical job. I’m talking about changing the worlds of fashion, music, literature, and film around with the force of our coming togetherness. Let me butter your bread.
You got what I need and there’s no pressure, even if there’s no time like the present. Cross my heart.”

With his heart-rock Cassius would approach the girl of the evening. The one everyone wanted to talk to, but couldn’t find the nerve. He excited them, made up stories about his exploits as a member of the Chicago White Sox farm team, about his near death on the Arkansas River.

He kept contact up, touching wrists and asking, “are your nervous,” when there was no reason to think they were. Then he’d leave to the bathroom and get back 35 minutes later. From there he’d slow things in, telling about the plan for his company, how he thought they could help, just like a responsible businessman. The girls would be breathing heavy from his changes in temperature and they would be relieved when he cooled off.

And they would listen and then sign-on.

It took him four months to round up the thirty he needed. He called thirty the “impact threshold for critical mass” or the amount of girls he would need to sign a signature on the town’s party life. He went for the girls who were young and who were poor because they needed him and because they jaded set delights with the honest impulse of true primitives. He taught them things about people. Stole books from the salon and gave them as gifts, without knowing what they said, influenced them in ways for which he could never be held responsible, but should have been.

When he was finished they were just downy sacks of easy pleasures with the added benefit that they were basically paid for, and knew when to shut up. He was making them sign a contract to join his company which bound them to dress according to his narrowly prescribed code and which gave him sole control over their public images for three years running.

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