Revised May, 2003
As always, the elevator ride was only a little faster than the unemployment queue. When she’d started with the agency three months ago, Courtney’s stomach hosted butterflies the size of pterodactyls on her way to a date, but she’d finally rationalized this job to her satisfaction. As she saw it, the alternatives were completely unsuited to her. Or, really, she to them.
As a waitress should could never figure out that balance-the-plate-on-your-arm trick. Behind the bar she had trouble recalling the basic ingredients of a Cuba Libre: rum and Coke. And her Starbucks position lasted until her first latte scald. Courtney even tried stripping, but had less rhythm than the average white guy. Besides, all these jobs left her dead on her feet, no energy for what mattered most, her true calling.
And, when she thought about it, this was an arena to explore her muse. That’s what she told herself, anyway. She was a professional. Perhaps not in ways that she preferred, but it was all good practice.
At least it isn’t low rent, she observed, fluffing her hair in the polished brass of the control panel as the car settled to a stop.
Courtney loved these fourstar hotels. In this kind of place you could usually count on highrollers, and she needed one today. Last week it had been a choice between the gym and her actor’s workshop, now it was next month’s rent. She anticipated the day when she was turning down parts, when she no longer needed to scrupulously balance her checkbook.
The young woman sashayed down the plush carpet, getting in character and cursing her lackadaisical agent, Melvin. For too damn long this was the only kind of paid acting she got to do, and it wasn’t the kind of gig you could put on your resume.
She reached the door. Number 1211.
Lights, camera . . .
Courtney knocked, offering a prayer to Mary Magdelene.
Let this one be easy, please?
After a few moments, the door opened. Courtney stifled a gasp and congratulated her self-control.
He made Quasimodo seem like Tom Cruise. Somewhere in his late forties, the guy was sweaty, slightly less hairy than a wookie and it looked like he was digesting a beach ball. On top of that, he was garbed in tight, blue silk shorts and — gross! — a fishnet T-shirt.
Thanks a lot, Mary.
She struck a well rehearsed pose in the doorway. "Hi, I’m Angel," she beamed. "I’m from the agency."
That was pretty good. Not too contrived, right amount of zest.
Her smile deserved a Golden Globe. She wanted to doubletime to the elevator, not to go into this guy’s room! Her barren pocketbook said otherwise.
"I’m Barry," he leered, his eyes darting to her boobs. "Come on in."
"Do you have something for me?" she coyly asked after the door was closed.
"I sure do," he replied, handing over three, crisp Franklins.
"Thank you," she smiled, tucking the bills away in her purse.
There’s ten percent you’ll never see, Melvin.
The trick settled down on the overstuffed couch and motioned that she should join him.
Okay, now, cross over. Lightly. That’s it. And then turn. Now, very ladylike . . .
Courtney perched on the far end, struggling to maintain a genuine-looking smile. It wasn’t like she was turning her first trick; it was more like Barry was an oversized toad in a man-suit. He was almost as gross as that Bel Air photographer the week before, with all the showbiz snaps on his wall, who wanted her to twist his nipples while he masturbated. The worst part about that guy was the goddamn Vaseline smeared on his chest. Yuck!
Here and now, Courtney. Remember, you’re a professional.
"Do you want some wine, honey?" he asked, already pouring.
"Oh, yes!" she enthused, taking the full goblet from him. She fought the urge to toss the entire drink down her throat in one gulp. Better yet, right into his leering face.
She controlled this impulse. He’d never buy her act if she did the former, and the latter risked the darkest of consequences. It made a nice daydream, however.
Sips, not gulps, Courtney. You’re doing just fine.
She sat there, trying to smile pleasantly, hoping she was convincing, as his eyes crawled greedily all over her. By the time he finished looking her up and down, from the wisps of golden hair that feathered her forehead, down to the light pink toenails protruding from her white, leather sandals, Courtney felt like she’d been coated with a thin film of slime.
This was the first date where she wanted to take a shower before she’d let the guy touch her. She was tempted to give him his money back, thinking she’d sooner let a Doberman Pinscher fuck her, but maybe she could work him if she played the role just right.
As slowly as Courtney made herself go, she was still halfway through her drink in a few minutes. After an exchange of banal pleasantries with comely call girl, Barry recovered a mirror and straw from beneath the coffee table, marshaled two fat rails and offered it.
"Want some?" he grinned.
Oops! Plot twist. Time to improvise.
Courtney made her eyes as big as saucers. "What’s that?" she asked in an awestruck voice, like he’d just produced a live Gila monster. She silently groaned. Not another goddamn coke-tweak! They could be so annoying. Seldom able to get it up, much less get it off, they peevishly expect you to work a miracle. No way was she gonna screw this guy!
"It’s coke. Want some?" he repeated.
"Oh my goodness," she breathed, trying for extreme mortification. "Is that really cocaine? I never did that before!"
Steady, girlfriend. Don’t overplay it.
She tried to imagine Soderbergh directing this scene — no, Sean Penn. He was cuter.
"The girls who were here before you liked it," Barry wheedled.
Buffy and Jenny, two girls who worked for the same agency, had been here earlier. Doubtless they were the ones who suggested he call and ask for her, probably not knowing that drugs ranked several rungs below parking tickets in her world. Courtney vowed to get even with them.
"Really?" she said, still wide-eyed. "Oh no. I could never do that." Then she knocked back the rest of her Chardonnay and handed the glass back to him. "More, Barry?"
"Hey, no sweat," Barry soothed, refilling her glass. "Sure you don’t want to try some of this stuff? You’ll love it."
Courtney shook her head. She could almost feel the imaginary pigtails flopping around.
"No big deal, you sweet thing."
I’m selling it! Oh, I wish I could share this with everybody at the workshop.
"Okay," Courtney giggled, working Girl Scout for all it was worth.
She found that injecting a little naiveté, like it was her first day on the job, made her clients more manageable. Faced with a terminally innocent girl, some of these guys became downright avuncular and much less demanding.
Of course, they still wanted to get their nut, but they were usually gentle. They came quicker, too. Still, Barry was a cokehead, and she hated the thought of trying to coax his drug-shriveled little weenie into doing anything, which it probably wouldn’t.
Fortunately, Barry was a talkative kind of cokehead, so she let him rattle on for most of the hour. She nodded, smiled and giggled in all the right places, hoping he’d chatter away until the hour was up.
Finally, Barry seemed to sense this as well.
"So, sugar . . . When are we going to get down to it?"
Uh-oh, Third Act. Find your center.
"Huh?" Courtney asked him, knowing damn good and well what he meant.
"I mean, let’s go. Let’s see you."
Time to go for broke. Lights, camera —
"Oh, okay," Courtney said brightly as she peeled down her haltertop to expose the breasts she prided in not having been worked on. "Do you like?"
"Oh, baby," Barry moaned, "you’re so hot." He rucked down his drawers. "Give me some head, Angel."
"What?!" she yelped, like he just asked her to fuck a Doberman. Her eyes opened wide enough to pop from their sockets.
That’s good. Keep the shock. Roll with it.
"Yeah, honey. Suck it." Barry pointed to his crotch.
"You must be kidding," she gasped. Courtney looked on in horror, like the Alien was exploding from his loins, edging into Academy Award territory. "I’m a dancer. I thought that’s why you wanted me . . . to dance for you. But you don’t even have music, so how can I dance? And now you want me . . . you want me to . . . Oh my God!"
"Honey, what do you think this is all about, anyway?" Barry went for a soothing tone. "Your two friends had no problem."
"You mean those girls . . . you mean they . . . did that?"
"That’s right," he grinned.
"Oh my God! I just can’t believe . . . I had no idea . . . I just thought I was supposed to dance. I didn’t know anybody expected me to . . ." Her voice trailed off hopelessly. She tried to think of when her pet schnauzer died, work up a few tears.
Barry’s leer faded. "Honey, are you new at this?"
If you smile now, you’re dead. There’s no CUT. This is live.
"I started yesterday," she mumbled. "I’m used to being a stripper." She looked at him with perfectly emoted panic. "My boyfriend would kill me if I did more than that."
"Don’t you know what this business is all about?"
"I guess not," Courtney replied, snugging her top back up and standing.
Not too fast. You’re awkward, now. Embarrassed for the both of you.
"Honey," Barry sighed, "you’re lucky this was with me. Any other guy wouldn’t be so nice. You’re obviously a sweet kid. You should be doing something else."
Bingo! I couldn’t have written that line better. But don’t apologize. He might . . .
"You are so right, Barry," she said, lifting her purse from the coffee table.
Exit, stage left.
Courtney began walking slowly toward the door. She silently counted her steps, hoping he wouldn’t ask for even part of the money back.
Five, four, three, two . . .
She turned and offered a meek smile. "Nice meeting you, Barry."
He opened his mouth to say something, and then shut it as she opened the door.
"Take care, Angel," he mumbled.
"Bye." Courtney closed the door behind her.
Cut! Print! That’s a wrap!
Barely suppressing a screech of laughter, she practically danced her way to the bank of elevators.
She would wow them the next time she got a screen test.
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