“My Gucci sunglasses,” Bethany gasped throatily. “I must have left them in class.”
Seized by panic, Bethany ditched her friend, Epiphany, and darted across four lanes of Hollywood Boulevard to the Actor’s Studio, in pursuit of the pricey Italian frames, perfectly contoured to her cheekbones, that transformed her into Angelina Jolie.
“Bethany,” her friend shouted over the roar of the traffic, “You’re wearing the sunglasses.”
Oblivious, Bethany kept muttering, “Oh my god, my sunglasses,” and pounding feverishly on the door of the “school.” The “teacher” had already locked up and put a For Lease sign after the first “class.” He’d hightailed it out of there on the first “bus” to Las Vegas, loaded with cash and a lot of social security numbers gleaned from dupes to his bogus acting academy. He got stranded in the Mojave, during a rest stop, and died of thirst, after running out of quotation marks. The desert heat would have been less lethal if it had been “blistering.”
A more fastidious parker than Dalrumple could not be found in the whole City of Los Angeles, or the City of Commerce, for that matter. His neighbors at the bungalow court had observed his parking technique with admiration: when his car was protruding into a red zone, he’d get in and out of the car and realign it a half dozen times to be sure he cleared the red. Furthermore, to see that he’d parked close enough to the curb—and was immune to getting ticketed—Dalrumple had his trusty tape measure. On street-sweeping days, you could be sure he’d punctually move his car and warn other residents to do the same.
His neighbor, Rusty, was fond of practical jokes and took a stray ticket he found tossed on the street to put it under Dalrumple’s wiper blade. It was street-sweeping day, when all the lounging unemployed actors did the dance of moving their cars before the giant spinning brushes of the sweeper rolled their way. Dalrumple was sure to be out. Rusty couldn’t wait to see the reaction and sat in his car, impatient for Dalrumple to come. Come he did. The sight of the white envelope printed with the P.O. box for the Los Angeles Bureau of Parking, caused his face to twitch and sneer. His lips contorted, his eyes narrowed. Finally he retrieved the envelope from under the wiper blade and opened it. Before reading it fully, Dalrumple had crumpled the citation and hurled it to the earth. His body recoiled, his face grimaced into a gargoyle, and he did a kind of grim jig. Rusty snorted and laughed till he coughed. Dalrumple clutched his chest, his eyes spiraled out of his head like two eggs sunny-side-up and keeled over.
A Smart Car sped by and left tire marks on Dalrumple’s face. Rusty stopped laughing.
Doctor, there’s always a tinkling, jingling and buzzing, and sometimes it’s the theme to “The Godfather,” transposed by Wendy Carlos. Not in my head—it’s quite real, doctor. Calls on the cell, messages, texts, requests to be my friend on Facebook, at the most inconvenient time. Like when I’m getting a facial. It’s a constantly renewed source of anxiety. That’s why I came to see you, doctor. A neurotic fear that grips me that people will think me unfriendly, not warm or ingratiating because I fail to respond, and then I’m afraid they’ll stop asking me to be their friend. The crushing guilt for not responding snowballs because I save the messages and hope one day I’ll go back with ample time and a thesaurus to properly respond. But it never happens, and there’s more guilt. Doctor, can you prescribe a med to make all the pain go away. A little Xanax or Welbutrin? Doctor. . . oh doctor?. . . Yoohoo!
—Ahem. So sorry. I was on my Blackberry. What was it you were saying?