I’m sipping a zombie martini at the marina in Huntington Beach, waiting for Daddy. He’s bringing a cashier’s check for $40,000 as a down payment on my new condo, but, as usual, he’s late. I’ve been watching the yachts coming in for the last hour, but there’s no sign of Daddy. I’m about ready to order a Cobb salad when, in the category of Things That Do Not Belong Here, a nasal voice interrupts the pleasant babble of the idle rich. It comes from the bar.
“Yes, sir,” it bleats. “A hundred grand! I shit you not! And there’s Charlie Sheen glarin’ at me across the poker table–you know he’s got those beady little eyes–and I’m thinkin’ he’s gonna whip out a pistol or somethin’, but he just grins at me and says, ‘Tripper, my boy, let’s go to Cabo.’ Next thing I know, we’s buddied up with El Patron…” He lowers his voice so only people inside the city limits will hear him. “…smokin’ the biggest goddam doobie I ever set my eyes on.”
I can tell he’s completely full of it. It isn’t just that he won a hundred grand in a poker game or went to Cabo–it’s that he hooked up with Charlie Sheen. Usually a bullshit artist does okay until they introduce the first celebrity into their story, then everything goes south. In this case, literally.
I have to look.
Oops. Eye contact. It’s a mistake I seem to make over and over. He’s confident, I’ll give him that. He comes right over to the table like he owns the place. Damn eye contact. It gets me every time.
“Hey, there, little girl,” he beams. “You’re lookin’ mighty lonely.” He pulls up a chair without asking and plunks his butt down, leaning across the table. He’s a good looking guy, skinny, with oily black hair, and he’s wearing a Polo shirt and tan slacks. If he just kept his mouth shut, he’d fit right in with this crowd.
“Name’s Fern McGee,” he says, “but everybody calls me Tripper.” Fern McGee? Who the hell is named Fern any more? Nobody, that’s who. And Tripper? Didn’t that nickname go out in, like, the seventies?
I laugh out loud and stare at the big hand he’s holding out to me. Already, he wants to touch my skin. That’s a big no-no. I look back out at the yachts along the pier. Come on, Daddy! I may not like you, but at least you’re mine.
“You know Charlie Sheen’s a personal friend of mine?” I glance up to see a shit-eating grin plastered on his face.
“Listen, Jethro,” I say, “go sling your hash somewhere else. I don’t have time for you.”
I cross my legs and turn away from him, both sure indications that he’s wasting his time, but that’s a mistake, because now he can’t take his eyes off my skirt.
“Listen,” he says, his voice finally soft and silky, “I’m just a country boy who got a little lucky, but I got me some operatin’ cash right now and I want to have some fun. How’d you like to help me spend it?”
I’ve got to admit that helping Jethro blow a hundred grand sounds like fun, but I’m not convinced he’s really got the money. A bullshit artist will say anything to hook his fish. I swivel back to face him, legs still crossed. Opening my eyes wide, I use my best little girl voice, kind of breathy with disbelief.
There’s just a brief look on his face, like maybe he knows I’m full of shit, too, but then he blinks and smiles.
“By the way, my name’s Fern, not Jethro. You can call me Trip.” He waits for a moment, but I remain still.
He’s on high alert now, but it doesn’t stop the bullshit. So here’s the whole scoop. He met Charlie while was he was working as a grip on some movie I never heard of and got invited up to his mansion where he got into a card game with a director, a couple of producers, and Charlie. He turned his beer money into a hundred grand by hustling them all night long. I’m starting to believe him now because I can just see his aw shucks game working on a bunch of Hollywood bigwigs.
After Cabo and meeting El Patron, they went bow hunting in the Brazilian rain forest. It turns out that Jethro just happens to be a world class bow hunter (who could have seen that one coming?) and he brought down a puma whose head now adorns the playroom of Charlie’s Hollywood mansion.
I check my watch. 2:30. Where the hell’s Daddy? I need that fucking money and I need to dump Jethro in a big way. Standing up, I slide the glass panel open and pop a couple of quarters in the machine. I take a good long look across the bay. No sign of Daddy. Apparently, he’s decided to jerk me off. Asshole. I step back inside, sit back down, and re-cross my legs.
Damn. I’m really between a rock and a hard place.
“So where’s your money?” I ask.
He looks around and lowers his voice. “In the trunk of my car. I only got about eighty grand left after Cabo, even though Charlie picked up most of the tab.”
“Let’s see,” I say, daring him with my eyes. I uncross my legs and he takes a good long look, holding his head sideways like maybe I don’t notice.
It’s there, all right, in a goddam brown paper bag from Safeway. I flip through a stack of bills. All hundreds. Turning my head, I look down the street like someone’s coming, so he turns and peers down the block while I slip a stack into my purse.
The old Honda looks pretty beat up, but right there in the back seat, next to his crummy brown suitcase, is the most complicated bow I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m convinced now. Jethro really is on the level.
“Let’s go to Vegas!” he says. “I got a tank full of gas and a bag full of money. Let’s go have some fun.”
I’m really torn. Will Daddy still give me the money if I take off now? I’m dependent on him, but I’m looking at freedom in a brown paper bag. Of course, if we blow eighty grand in Vegas, then poof goes the freedom, but now that I know Jethro is on the up and up, I have an advantage. From his point of view, it’s probably easy come, easy go. And half of it could easy go to my new condo. If I’m gonna pull this off, I have to stop by my apartment so I can pick up my thirty-eight, but it looks like full speed ahead.
For the first time, I smile at him and try to blush.
“Okay, Trip,” I say, my voice almost purring.
Baby’s got a new Daddy.