Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Speaking of Love, this was written in October of 2005

   The girl was beautiful; there could be no doubt about that, though there was little lack of beautiful girls in the region, southern California. This particular girl was not a native. A Texas girl, themselves renowned the world over for their stunning good looks, this girl… this woman, had no trouble holding her own against all those bikini clad lovelies celebrated so much in the songs of the Beach Boys.
   She emerged from the hired limousine, long, dark brown lustrous hair flapping against her slim waist in the gentle but persistent breeze. At times in her life she had been described as “perky,” or “cute,” but she had long ago outgrown those adolescent labels (even if she, herself did not fully realize it, or had come to grips with it), and was now considered by most of her male fans as an authentic “sexy beast,” statuesque and full-figured, dark brownish-green eyes alive with inquisitive energy and alert purpose.
   However, at the moment she did seem a tad out of place considering the stark surroundings she chose to surround herself in. The intersection of Fifth Street and San Julian, just east of downtown Los Angeles, although at times quite vibrant and assiduous, is usually dour, dank, unkempt, trash strewn, messy, loud, dangerous, and permeated with the succinct aroma of stale urine and marijuana (as opposed to the nearby Gladys Park, with roughly the same surface area and characteristics, which was the exclusive domain of the Homeless Elite). The area could be considered the beating heart of what is euphemistically known as Skid Row, its crowded inhabitants dressed in old, torn jeans, dirty T-shirts, threadbare dresses, and patch-worked overcoats. Some passing through donned suits and ties, these individuals had a tendency to pass quickly through the area. Quite quickly, as quickly as they could it would seem.
   The girl, dressed exquisitely in a jeweled sequined, knee-length dress of golden fibers, black boots, and a beige tailor cut jacket with the image of Garfield the Cat, stenciled on the back in platinum, seemed out of place only because she lingered in the area, apparently searching for something or someone.
   She stepped contritely over several denizens reposing along the sidewalk, and entered the crowded, but exceptionally small San Julian Park. She was familiar with the scene and area, having made more than a half dozen annual trips to the Los Angeles Mission just across the street; helping to serve Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to the very people she was now walking amongst. She made these trips with other so-called “celebrities,” or members of the local entertainment industry, but unknown to the ravenous press whose very existence relies on such “photo-op” events, she had made many clandestine trips to the row, as she was doing now. Not that she was trying to keep anything secret. She was not adverse to publicity, her career thrived upon it, and she was usually very accommodating towards the media. It was more in deference to the person she was currently searching for that she shunned the light of public attention.
As she made her way through the cement lined recreation area, passing its many sleeping homeless, distracted homeless, sitting on benches starring off into space, homeless in lively conversation with other homeless, and checker, chess, and domino playing homeless; a six foot, three inch, two hundred and twenty pound, black gentleman in his late twenties, wearing baggy black pants, a muscle T-shirt, and a black doo-rag covering the top of his large head, jumped up and barred her way.
   “What’s up, baby girl?! Whats ever it is you need, I knows I gots it for you. What you looking for, sweetness, let me help you find…”
   “Back off, Bozo!” she stated dismissively, while trying to walk past. Unfortunately for this gentleman he made the decision to impede her progress while proposing various unsavory activities he wished to engage in with her. She stood her ground, favoring him with a lopsided smirk, just before, and with deft swiftness, zapping him in his massive ribcage with the Tazer she had specifically for such just occasions, thus delivering a cool fifty thousand volts briefly throughout his nervous system. As he fell like a piece of lead ore, vibrating on the ground like an electric Slip’en-Slide, she continued her way to the opposite side of the park, unhurried, as if nothing had happened. Those who witnessed the encounter quickly gave her a wide berth, and no one else chose, quite wisely, to get in her way.
   She continued south on San Julian Street. After scanning the teeming locale a moment, she recognized one denizen standing just outside one of the many SRO (Single Room Occupancy) hotels lining the lane. She hurried over to him.
   “Hey Raleigh!” she called.
   When he heard his name spoken the elderly gentleman looked and recognized the beautiful visitor, and smiled.
   “Why Miss Jennifer! It’s so good to see you,” he acknowledged.
   “Hi, Raleigh. How you doing?” She walked up to him, smiling brightly. Raleigh, dressed in clean brown corduroy pants and a yellow button down shirt, had until this very moment been totally engaged in starring at the sidewalk while waiting for the appropriate time to get in line for lunch at the Midnight Mission. Raleigh spent a great deal of his free time engaged in this endeavor. Indeed, it was his primary vocation these days, but it had its drawbacks. Repetitive boredom and a continuing and growing hostility toward chronic “line-cutters,” was an ongoing concern, so any interruption in his daily routine that did not involve the Los Angeles Police Department, was whole-heartedly welcome.
   “I’m doing good Miss Jennifer. Real good! Got me a new pair of tennis shoes last month,” he said as he looked down to show off his treasures.
   “Wow! That’s great,” Jennifer exclaimed.
   He looked at her closely. “How are you, Miss Jennifer? We haven’t seen you down here since the holidays.” Raleigh somewhat looked like, but sounded exactly like Jack Benny’s co-star, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson.
   “Not too good, Raleigh. I need to see him. Do you know where he is?” she asked hopefully.
   “Well, Miss Jennifer…”
   “You can call me Love, Raleigh. We’ve known each other a long time… right?”
   If Raleigh had been physically capable of blushing, he would have been doing it right now. “Really?!”
   “Yeah, sure.”
   “Well, Miss Jen… Miss Love… I think I know where he may be at,” he said. Then his features took on a serious, concerned bent, as he explained, “But I got to tell you… he’s been on a bit of a binge lately.”
   “So what else is new?” she stated flatly. “Will you take me to him?”
   “Why sure, Miss Love. It’s down this a way. Come along.”
   The odd couple proceeded south on San Julian, past Sixth Street and the new Midnight Mission facility, chatting amicably as they walked. Loitering pedestrians and drug dealers looked on incredulously as they passed, commenting to themselves, and then returning to their business.
Raleigh and Love stopped across from the Lamp Outreach Center, at a series of brown, weather-beaten cardboard boxes, which were attached to each other to fashion a long domicile, laid horizontally along a chain-link fence.
   “This is his, Miss Love. He should still be inside.” He rapped several times on the top of the structure, shouting, “Hey Clyde! You in there?”
   A muffled, somewhat exacerbated voice replied from deep within. “What’d ya want?”
   “Come on out, Clyde! You got someone here wants to see ya.”
   “Who’s there, damn it! I’m busy!”
   “It’s me, Clyde,” Love said.
   “Who’s you?”
   “Love. Come on out here. I need to talk to you. Please.”
   “Love? Is that you, Love?”
   “Yeah. Come on out.”
   “Just a second. I got to get dressed.” Unmistakable grumbling sounds could be heard distinctly from the cardboard structure, which began to oscillate as it’s inhabitant jostled about within. A sustained fit of coughing continued mightily for fifty-two seconds before its momentum was lost, the spasms softening until they died down completely.
   Raleigh stood straight, smiling at Ms Love. “Anything else I can do for you?”
   “That’ll be fine, Raleigh. Thanks again.” She pulled a crisp twenty-dollar bill from a jacket pocket, and offered it to the elder gentleman.
   “Oh, that’s not necessary, Miss Love. I’m always glad to be of service when you come to visit,” he said.
   “You go ahead and take it,” she said while stuffing the bill into his hand. “But no booze. Promise?”
   “Oh, no, no. No, no, no. Of course not, Miss Love. Thanks so much.” He closed his hand around the bill and shambled back towards the park. “You take care now. Hope to see you again, real soon.”
   Love waved goodbye to Raleigh, then turned her attention back to the jostling box.
   “You okay, in there?” she asked.
   “Yeah, yeah. Just a second.”
   The cardboard structure shimmied and shook a few moments longer. Love then heard the distinct sound of an aluminum can pop-top being opened, followed closely by gurgling, and a loud sustained belch, and “aaahhh.” Suddenly, from the structures southern exit, out popped Clyde, a sixty-two year old black gentleman with graying hair, and wrinkled face. Dressed in green trousers, a blue sweatshirt, untied white sneakers, and a red baseball cap, with the words “L.A. Philharmonic,” stenciled in big yellow letters across the top, he was a study in contrast, and a disgrace to the theory of camouflage. He lazily stretched his long arms, flinging them high above his head, arching his back tight as a bowstring, and yawned gravely. That accomplished, he slowly turned around to confront his lovely and smiling visitor. He returned said smile, utilizing all six of his remaining teeth, and his old brown eyes wrinkled at the corners in mischievous delight.
   “Hi, Love,” he said. “I didn’t expect to see you today. You look mighty fine.”
   “Thanks,” Love replied. “You look, err… just swell too. How have you been doing?”
   Many of Clyde’s acquaintances had remarked, at times disapprovingly, on his manner of speech. He had been accused of “putting on airs,” or acting, “high and mighty.” At other times his syntax was indistinguishable from that of the average itinerant found on Skid Row, utilizing base vernacular and racy street slang. It was impossible to tell the level of formal education he had received in his life by solely listening to the way he spoke. Clyde’s friend Raleigh had once remarked to Love, that he had observed Clyde’s manner of speech changed with whomever he happened to be talking to at the moment. The general rule being the smarter he perceived his conversing partner to be, the higher the level of sophistication his speech attained. This was not a hold and fast rule, however, as at times in a single conversation he would effortlessly slip up and down the scale of social oratory propriety.
   “Ah, you know. Nothing much changes around here… unfortunately. Doesn’t change too fast, at least. People come and go, new faces and old faces. I hear stories of despair and misery, laughter and delight. Police move us around, we leave for a little while, walk around, and then come back when they are gone, and settle down again, not hurting anybody, just trying to figure out what to do next. No one seems to know what to do next. Seems like that’s a major portion of what life’s all about, young lady, trying to figure out what to do next. Historians got it easy. Easiest job in the world, cause they look backwards all of the time. That ain’t hard. Hard part’s looking at what’s before us. Nobody knows that! Nobody knows what gonna happen next.” He pointed across the street. “This new Mission open up and the old one get closed. Just shifting people around and around.”
   He yawned. “A lot of rich folks moving down here in them lofts. Gonna ruin the neighborhood is what they’re doing. Damn rich people should stay in BevERLY Hills, where they belong!” He added hurriedly, “Except you, Miss Love. Your welcome here anytime.”
   Love waited patiently for him to exhaust his diatribe, knowing him well. His voice was soft, like velvet, even while excitedly excoriating the affluent.
   She liked him very much.
   Finished for the moment, his eyes glazed then focused intently upon her pretty face.
   “What’s up?” he asked.
   “Clyde, I’ve got a problem, and I’m not sure what to do, exactly.”
   “What’s the problem this time, child?”
   “I’ve been offered a part in a Scorsese film…”
   “Well that’s great!” Clyde expounded. “I’ve always told you you’ve got to get off that television for your career to progress, despite what Geena Davis and Jimmy Caan do. In this society, TV’s second class, no doubt about it. I know you had your start and first success there, but now you can get outa soft comedy and them melo-draymatic roles, and get you an Oscar. Your good enough, always thought so. And you ain’t no kid anymore, doing Barbie commercials, and such. Scorsese, he’s a pretty good director, one of the best now working. Got robbed at the Academy with “The Aviator,” I’m thinking. I’d hook up with him if I were you. Even his flops are good. You feel me, girl?”
   “I feel you, Clyde. There’s one problem…”
   “Sorry to hear about that Sit-Com though,” Clyde stated, still musing. “Stupid suits cancelled that sucker before it even had a chance. Would have been nice to see Al Bundy, err, Ed O’Neal back in a comedy again. Would of done my old heart good. He didn’t hit me right as Joe Friday…”
   “Auhh, that’s okay. That’s the business. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.”
   “Yeah, and sometimes you get punked!” Clyde angrily surmised. “It makes me so mad when I think about you getting ripped off for your wedding planner movie idea. It makes me fit to bust!”
   “Yeah, yeah, but what can you do, you know?”
   “Damn Jay Lo anyway. She ain’t even a good singer. Not as good as you, Love.”
   “Why thank you, Clyde. Your sweet. But let me get back to this…”
   “How’s Pat?” Clyde asked, as he withdrew a rumpled pack of Newport cigarettes from the back pocket of his rumpled trousers. He extracted one that was bent in several locations at seemingly impossible angles, and lit up.
   “Mom’s fine,” she answered, watching him intently. “She asked me to say hello.”
   “I always liked your mother. Fine woman…” At this point Love shot her right arm towards Clyde’s unsuspecting face as he attempted to take a drag from his cigarette, snatching it adroitly from his trembling, yellowed fingers, snapping it in two pieces, which she threw onto the pavement and stomping on them with her left boot, while uttering, “Ooooh, stinky!”
   Looking rather surprised by this sudden action, Clyde recovered quickly. “…fine, fine woman. Exceptionally supportive. Please send her my regards.”
   “I certainly will. Now, about what I wanted to talk to you about…”
   “Let’s walk to the park where we can sit down.”
   Before departing the area, Clyde affixed a Super Heavy-Duty laminated Hampton pad lock onto the opening of his box, set the alarm, then took Love by the arm and proceeded north up the sidewalk.
   The old man and young woman strolled toward the park on Fifth, where a crowded bench was vacated to make room for the divergent couple.
   “Now what’s the problem, Ms Love?” Clyde asked. “You don’t look too happy about this movie deal.”
   Ignoring his question for the moment, Love said, “The new Midnight Mission looks nice. Have you been inside?”
   “On a tour you mean? Oh, they might give a tour to someone like you, but not to me, I’m afraid. And I’ll never be a customer. No, no, no, no, no, no. Not even for a meal. Way too many rules and regulations for this old black man.” He sighed and gazed back down San Julian. “They take care of a lot of people though. They sure do. Feed’ em good I hear.” Clyde leaned close to Love for emphasize. “The govenator come down to help open it up. They didn’t seem to be able to do it on their own. Had to have a great big ceremony, and all. I suspect it may have been one of those, what you call, a photo-op deal. You know, like the president spend half his time doing!” Love giggled. “Yeah, a photo-op for the great big movie star governor. Not that I mind movie stars, of course,” Clyde added quickly so as to not offend his visitor. “I like most of them. I like you, Ms Love, you know that.” She smiled watching his grizzled face closely. “I just don’t need to know all that much about them, like when they get married, or when they get divorced, or when they cheat, or what brand toilet paper they wipe their big old…” Clyde stopped himself. “ahhh, what was I saying?”
   “That Arnold came down to inaugurate the mission. Did you see him?”
   “Oh no! You don’t think they’d let actual homeless people get near him when he’s open’en a Mission for the homeless, do you? Oh no, no, no. Little PR value in that. They’d rather take pictures of him making speeches to other Big Deal People. On that day security was pretty tight. They had the cops move all of us off the streets anywhere near the place.”
   “So they moved some of the homeless people from their street homes to open a homeless shelter?” Love asked.
   “Oh yeah. Do it all the time. Police are only the servants of rich people. That’s all they’re there for. Do whatever they need doing to protect rich folks, like the govenator. That was the first and last time he been down here, to the Row. Should stay in Bev-ErLey Hills, where he belongs. Cause less trouble that way.”
   “You really don’t like celebrities that much, do you?”
   “Not really. Not much to’em especially. I do like people… Some people, like you. You come down to help folks pretty regular… because that’s what your heart tells you to do, not just to get your picture taken.   You do realize that about yourself, don’t you Ms Love?” He looked at her questionably.
   “How do you know that’s not the reason why I come here… to get my picture taken?”
   Clyde smiled to himself before replying. “Now your kidding me, Ms Love, you know you are. I know people, and you know I know people, and I know that you know that I know that you like people… all people! Most of these big shot see-leb-rit-iees come down on Thanksgiving Day, hide behind security people, afraid they’ll catch something, I guess, and leave ten minutes after the TV cameras do. You stay until the very last man, woman, or child get fed. That’s just the way you are, the way your mamma taught you. And that’s the right way, it seems to me.” He thought a moment before adding, “Besides… you get your picture taken quite a bit.”
   “Oh, I do?”
   “I’ve seen all those sexy pictures in Maxim and Stuff magazine, and whatever. Most men around here have.”
   Love blushed. “They have?”
   “Uh huh. You get your picture taken pretty much whenever you want it taken. That’s what your publicist is for. You don’t have to come down here to do it. No, you’re just a nice… decent, human being, who helps when she can, does what she can, and doesn’t ask for or expect anything in return. The Republicans could sure learn a lot from you.”
   She continued to tease him, “How about if I just wanted the public to think I was nice, and came here to maintain a popular image, on the direction of my publicist?”
   “Well then your doing a good job! Because the way you’re perceived by the public as being nice, wholesome, sweet, respectable, honorable, caring, concerned, successful… want me to go on?”
   “Just a little.”
   “Warm, compassionate, smart, funny, and genuine, among other qualities, which is also the way you’re thought of within the business. You do such a good job at playing that part that you’ve become that part, whatever your first intentions were. Now like it or not, as far as I can discern, your genuinely nice, wholesome, respectable, honorable, caring, concerned, and certainly successful. Successful at whatever you’ve set out to do, for the most part. I wish more people would try that same ploy. I wish more people were like that.”
   “Some are. A lot are,” Love maintained.
   “Some. George Clooney, maybe. Sean Penn. Susan Sarandon and her boyfriend, what’s-his-name…”
   “Tim Robbins.”
   “If you say so. No, not enough, though. So tell me… is it an act, or is the way you’re perceived the way you really are?”
   Love looked at him warmly. “Some days, Clyde, I don’t know myself.” She thought a moment. “So, what do you think I am? Doris Day, or something?”
   “Hey, she was a smart lady! Beautiful, talented, good in comedy or drama, just like you. A great singer too. It wouldn’t be a bad thing to be like her.”
   She gazed at him fondly. “How’d you get so smart, Clyde?” she asked.
   He laughed, and said, “Genetics! Must be, cause I sure didn’t spend a great deal of time attempting to cultivate my intelligence in schools, I can tell you that for sure. I can also tell you… some days… I don’t feel very smart at all.”
   They both smiled, sharing something between them that did not require words.
   “Now then, Ms Love,” Clyde resumed, “what do I owe the pleasure of this visit to? What’s up with this film?”
   “Well,” she began after swallowing heavily, “the Scorsese film would be really good for my career. Like you said, it would elevate it…”
   “That’s probably true, although I think your doing fine now. How many actresses would love to be in your place?”
   “Thousands. And thank you. I know I’ve been very, very fortunate, and don’t think I don’t appreciate it, I do, but you know I want to continue doing movies…”
   “and the part is challenging, very challenging, although it’s not the lead. And the story’s great, of course, or Scorsese wouldn’t be involved…”
   “But… the part requires me to… to…”
   “For me to do… for me… you know, to do…to do…”
   "To do what?"
   “The part would require me to do a certain amount of nudity…”
   “I’d have to take my clothes off for one scene,” she finally admitted, very embarrassed.
   “Oooohhh, I see,” Clyde said, beginning to understand.
   “And that’s in direct contradiction of a long standing rule I’ve had…”
   “Yes, yes, I know…”
   “However, the part’s really good. Really good. It could be a big break for me,” she looked to Clyde for confirmation.
   He nodded his old, gray head in affirmation. “Yup, I see your dilemma. How much nudity are we talking about here?”
   “Not much, just completely naked.”
   “Ooohhh.” He thought this over a moment. “You know… historically I’ve always been an advocate for female nudity, except in certain cases...” He said the last while witnessing a behemoth black woman in her fifties wearing Hot Pants, waddle past them.
   Love punched him lightly in the arm. “This isn’t a joke”
   “I wasn’t joking. But let me ask you just one question.”
   “As you know, the taking off the clothes part… is that really necessary? I mean, do you think it’s in line with what your character would do, and if it is, does the nude scene really advance the story line, or the film as a whole? What do you think?”
   Love pursed her lips before answering. “Uuummm, yes. Yeah, I believe it does, on both counts. The way it’s been explained to me, well, I do think it’s necessary. I mean… people do take their clothes off when taking a bath, don’t they? I know I do most of the time.”
   “Yes,” Clyde considered. “Yes, most times they do, taking a bath, I mean. So it’s primarily a bath scene? Not a love scene?”
   “Well, it’s a bath scene that… sort of turns into a love scene.”
   “Sort of turns into a love scene?”
   “Definitely turns into a love scene, although a bit violent,” Love admitted.
   “Oh, I see. Uh, what happens, exactly… if I’m permitted to ask?”
   Love looked quite nervous while answering. “Well, I’m in my log cabin, you see, taking a bath. I’m by myself as my husband, we’re newlyweds… my husband is gone out hunting buffalos…”
   “Buffalo hunting?”
   “Yeah, it’s a western.”
   “Yes, yes, Scorsese is known for his westerns. Anyway, what did buffalos ever do to your husband?”
   “Never mind. Go on, dear.”
   “Well, I’m taking my bath, you see, when a tornado comes out of nowhere and rips the whole cabin off of its foundation, lifting it away, leaving me… well, exposed to the elements at the very moment a lost band of Yazoo Indians pass by, who take me prisoner, ravish me, and indoctrinate me into their tribe, making me a squaw…” Love stopped, looking at Clyde questioningly.
   “Huumm,” Clyde muttered. “Yazoo’s, huh?”
   “Kind of like “The Searchers,” or “The Missing,” with Catey Blanchett?”
   “I guess, sort of. My husband, Johnny Depp might play the part though it hasn’t been inked, tries to rescue me, but he gets eaten by a family of homesteaders lost out of St. Louis…”
   “Yeah, they all get stuck in the middle of a big blizzard and run out of food,” she explained helpfully.
   “I see.”
   “But later on,” Love continued, “I convince the tribe to make me their leader, and get them all to turn themselves in to the Calvary, who hang them for kidnapping me.” She took a deep breath. “See why it’s such a good part! Women don’t get to be empowered very often these days.”
   “Yeah, well, er…, that is Martin Scorsese we’re talking about, right?”
   “No. Elmo Scorsese, his long lost brother. Of course Martin!”
   Clyde leaned back and considered what Love had just told him. The homeless around them continued in the various homeless activities, stretching, yawning, looking around at other homeless. Friends greeted each other. Drugs were sold at the park’s periphery. Checkers and chess games won and lost. Finally Clyde asked,“Well, what does your heart tell you… about doing this movie?”
   “Not to do it.”
   “Uh huh.”
   “And you know what my motto is…”
   “’Always follow your heart.’”
   The grizzly old man considered this, then said, “Well there always have to be exceptions to the rule. My heart tells me to drink all the time and leads me into bars.”
   “Huum. I see what you mean,” Love stated. “So what’s your advice?”
   “Better go ahead and take the part. Always do the exact opposite of what your instincts tell you. At least in this kind of situation. Your instincts are telling you to keep safe. In taking on this part you’ll no doubt come across unexpected challenges that will help you to grow into the great actress I know you to be. Now I love your new show and me and Raleigh watch it every Friday night. We like Carla Gugino in “Threshold” too, but for different reasons. Did you see Sin City, by the way? Whoo hoo, she’s ho…, a very good actress!”
   “Uh, anyway, as I was saying… Ghost Whisperer is great, it’s having been done before, from “Topper” and “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” to “Tru Calling” and “Medium”… aahh, we like Patricia Arquette too… notwithstanding. And it’s doing really well, a seven point five Nielsen rating with a thirteen share. The highest rated show on Friday nights the last time I checked, which is all the time. However, it makes me sad every time I see it, makes me want to be back with the mother of my kids, which is weird because I hardly liked her when she was alive! Yeah, me and Raleigh sit around crying like little girls on Friday nights, which is something we don’t normally like to do. Now I’m not saying your show is depressing. It’s not. It’s poing…poen…, what’s the word?”
   “Yeah, what you said, is what it is, which is wonderful. I would, quite frankly, lose the husband. You’d increase by at least twelve percent in the nine to eighty-seven year old male demography if Melinda was single, I bet. No, there’s no doubt about it. Twelve percent. Maybe his ambulance takes a wrong turn off a steep cliff and he starts haunting you, who knows? Anyway, I do think that you really need to keep all of your options open and keep pursuing feature films. And from what you tell me, this may be a great opportunity for you, despite the, ah… you know, nakedness thing. Hey, Gwyneth Paltrow did it and won an Oscar!”
   He sighed. “I know that if you take the part you’ll be great. You always are. And this part seems a bit superior to the Garfield film, and Neutrogena and Haines commercials.”
   “Hey, they pay the bills!”
   “That they do, that they do. No doubt about it. But is that all you want to do in life? Make sure the bills get paid? I seem to remember a very ambitious girl I met seven or eight years ago who had different ideas?”
   “You do?”
   “I sure do. I remember one who was willing to take chances, and you can’t really expect your career to… expand, if you don’t take chances, can you?” He looked earnestly into her deep, hazel, twinkling Texas eyes.
Love smiled at Clyde without opening her mouth.
   “Okay,” she said, making a decision. “I guess that’s it then! I’m going to be in a Martin Scorsese movie!”
   “Maybe you can get one of them Playboy Playmates to body double for you,” Clyde added.
   Love laughed and grabbed his arm playfully.
   A few yards from the couple, the young man Love had temporarily incapacitated began to recover his wits, the two he normally carried around with him. While prone and helpless he had been stripped by the opportunistic and docile inhabitants of the park, being relieved of $3.12 in change, two rings, a fake diamond earring, a white gold necklace, his T-shirt, pants, and headscarf. As consciousness slowly returned and the ability to control his muscles revived, he lifted his large groggy head from the pavement, gazed stupidly at his surroundings while slowly remembering what had happened to him and why he was where he was, lying flat on the cement in the park in his boxers (with tiny blue hearts embroidered throughout). He licked his dry lips and attempted to focus his eyes.
   “I have to go soon, Clyde,” Love said. “I’ve got a date with the drummer of Rectal Burn tonight and I have to get ready.” She thought a moment. “What can I do for you that doesn’t involve giving you money?”
   “I don’t need nothing,” Clyde replied, a little defensively. “And why may I ask can’t you loan me a little coin? I need to buy some, er…, er… cologne…”
   “Cologne. Really.”
   “Yeah, and ah, some, some… food… food, that’s right. I could sure use some groceries,” he stated while lighting a fresh cigarette.
   Love deftly removed the offending tobacco tube, tossing it onto the pavement and squashing it under her heal. Clyde looked on helplessly.
   “You know you’ll only spend any money I give you on booze, cigarettes, and dope, and that’s not very good for you, is it Clyde? I’m your friend, and a friend shouldn’t ever do something that’s bad for their friends, should they?”
   “I wouldn’t buy no dope!” Clyde maintained. “That’s pretty insulting, young lady.”
   “Clyde,” Love said, “how long did you say we’ve known each other?”
   “Uh, er… seven or eight years,” he stuttered.
   “And how many times have I had to bail you out of jail?”
   “Not many…”
   “Thirteen times! That’s like one point seven three times a year! I know what you do with money. How about if I send down some of my moms barbequed ribs and uh, buy you some knew clothes…”
   “Why?” Clyde asked, somewhat offended. “Don’t you like what I’m wearing?”
   “Let’s just say you’re an assault on my visual cortex. Let me please get you some clothes that are more or less the same or similar colors.”
   “Well…, I sure do like your mom’s cooking… okay, I guess. Five bucks, maybe?”
   “Clyde?” Love chided.
   “Alright, alright. That’s very nice of you, although entirely unnecessary, I assure you.”
   “It’s my pleasure, Clyde. Really. I like to help keep you healthy and wise. Who would I trust and turn to, besides my family, to help me like you do? Your very important to me you know.”
   “I am?” Clyde was genuinely pleased, and decided to press his advantage. “You could do one more thing for me that doesn’t involve money.”
   “What’s that, Clyde?” she asked, truly interested.
   “Do you think you could resist the urge to do anymore roles that in anyway have anything to do with Audrey Hepburn?”
   She smiled. “Well, I can’t promise, but I’ll try. It’s a hard habit to break.”
   “Yeah, I know about those kind of habits.”
   They both laughed together.
   “You bitch!”
   A desperate hush settled over the entire park as the electrified young man recognized his antagonist and yelled out in admiration of her abilities. By now he had regained his own ability to stand upright, albeit somewhat wobbly, his whole being focused on the slight female who had so wrongfully, completely, and easily shamed him in front of his colleagues. His features bore a mask of hatred and a slight touch of malice. Nothing would deny him the revenge he so vastly desired.
   Love, as did all the other near bystanders, turned her attention to the staggering, semi-naked, huge, and very angry looking black man who had just called out, and who’s gaze was locked on hers.
   “You know this guy, Ms Love?” Clyde asked, anxious.
   She sighed, “Oh yes. We’re old friends, although I believe he’s a little miffed with me at the moment. Excuse me a sec, will you?”
   “Uhh… sure…”
   Love stood and shifted her position slightly to the left. “You talking to me?!”
   “Damn straight, I’m talking to you, bitch! And that’s not all I’m gonna be doing…” at which point he charged headfirst toward her position, gaining a relative speed of thirty two miles-per-hour in the short distance between them. Unruffled and smiling slightly, Love simply side-stepped to her right while blocking his left knee with her right ankle, thereby sending him into an uncontrolled spin and arch, at which, carried by his own momentum, he attained, at its maximum height, seven feet and two inches, before landing in a standard metal trash receptacle, the force of which rendered him unconscious once again.
   Within two minutes looters would relieve him of his boxers, his last article of clothing.
   Love leisurely returned to her seat by Clyde, as the park once again filled with lively banter. “Now… where were we?” she asked.
   “We were just about to get you outta here before that guy’s crew show up,” Clyde anxiously answered, as he surveyed the crowd for possible attackers.
   “Oh, don’t worry,” she responded. “I won’t let anybody hurt you.”
   Clyde looked at her dumbfounded, then smiled broadly before grabbing his belly and laughing out loud.
   “You’re something else, Ms Love! You really are.”
   “Why thanks, Clyde,” she said, returning a smile. “So are you.”
   Still worried though, Clyde insisted on escorting her to her waiting limousine. He evidentially felt a great deal of unwanted responsibility for her safety while she remained in his neighborhood.
   “Thanks once again, Clyde,” Love said. “I always feel so single-minded and confident after talking things over with you.”
   “My pleasure, Ms Love… as always.”
   “Jeremy…,” Love called to her chauffer.
   “Yes, Miss Hewitt.”
   “We’re going to go shopping for clothes, which you are going to bring back to Mr. Foster here. Do you understand?”
   “Yes, Miss Hewitt.”
   “And on the way back could you pick him up a couple of large pizzas. What do you like on your pizza, Clyde?”
   “Ooooh, major yuck!”
   “Two large anchovy pizzas. Anything else sir?” Jeremy asked.
   “A six-pack of Schlitz Malt Liq…”
   “A couple of 40 ounce Pepsi’s will be fine, Jeremy,” Love interrupted. She turned to him. “I’ll have mom UPS the ribs. See you soon. We’ll have dinner together at Christmas, okay?”
   “I wouldn’t miss it.”
   “Where will I find you, sir?” Jeremy asked.
   “Oh, you come back and park right here. I’ll find you. We don’t get that many limo’s around here, except for Friday nights…”
   “Very good.”
   “Bye now, Clyde. I have to go.” She gave Clyde a peck on the cheek, then settled herself in the back of the large vehicle.
   “Bye, bye now, Ms Love. You take care… and have fun.”
   “I always do, Clyde.” She flashed a last, brief smile, as Jeremy closed her door and returned to the driver’s seat.
   As the limousine pulled away, Clyde thought about his life and what he would do next. He decided to smoke a cigarette, now that there was little danger of it being hijacked. He inhaled deeply while casting a last glance at Love’s retreating vehicle. He thought he could make her out looking back at him through the rear window. How could that be as these type of cars usually have tinted windows? But still, he thought he could see her smiling at him.
   He smiled back.
   He took another drag from the menthol cigarette, then began to hum an old Beatles song he felt compelled to recall once or twice a year.
   Love… that’s all you need.

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