She invited him into her palatial Hollywood home so he could comfort her at this next catastrophe. 2,378 words. Part One. Illustration by Mark Fearing.
Jill Racine, television’s biggest star, observed the vehicle full of old people pointing, chattering, struggling to take photos of her. Still smiling, she urged me to go fuck myself, then skipped over to the tour group, leaned into the nearest elderly man and asked perkily, “You guys thirsty?”
I helped the tourists out of the minivan and watched Jill usher them toward her mansion. Hot, exhausted and angry as they were, my people were frantic with excitement. Ruthie had removed the handkerchief from her forehead, revealing a small abrasion. The German, expressionless, was the last to disembark. I didn’t know whether he had the faintest idea who our hostess was.
Stepping inside, the folks luxuriated in the air conditioning and begged for selfies with Jill, which she promised them “after you’ve cooled off and had something to drink. You guys like chocolate chip cookies? I made some with Daisy.”
Damn she’s a good actor, I thought.
She invited the geriatrics to sit at her long sleek dining room table and genially ordered two servants to “make our guests feel at home.”
“Thank you,” I said to her quietly. I was pathetically relieved. “Thank you.”
“Will you stop scratching your ass?”
I’d been scratching maniacally and stopped. I offered my hand to Ruthie and said, “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up,” and to Jill asked, “Nearest bathroom?”
The actress pointed toward a hallway but Ruthie smiled at her and, with a theatrical show of courage, declared, “I’m fine.” The amazing things I’ve seen people do in the presence of celebrities. I figured Ruthie could’ve had an arm sheared off but would’ve pressed her remaining hand against the bleeding stump, grinned at Jill and happily declared, “I’m fine.” She hobbled away to join her friends at the star’s table.
“In that case, excuse me,” I said to Jill, and hurried toward her bathroom, clawing at my ass with renewed fervor.
A door opened and an old man emerged, very slowly, and I came close to knocking him down as I scurried into an immaculate little bathroom and slammed the door. I went directly to the mirrored medicine chest and scanned the rows of jars, bottles and tubes, wondering for a moment whether Jill was still abusing pills.
I found calamine lotion and whipped down my pants and boxers. My ass was a flaming field of tiny red bumps. I squeezed a stream of thick pink liquid onto my left cheek and rubbed it in. I noticed the plush white hand towels, wet one and pressed it to my face. I put it back on the rack, took my first good breath since the car’s air conditioning broke down and squeezed more lotion onto my palm.
Jill dashed in, slamming the door behind her. She fell onto the closed toilet seat, dropped her head into her hands and wept. My pants were at my ankles but Jill either didn’t see or didn’t care. She grabbed one of the fluffy white towels and bit down on it, which smothered her sobs but didn’t stop her body from shaking uncontrollably.
It seems every time I’m around this woman I do not know how to conduct myself. Is it her beauty? Her celebrity? It can’t be just that. I kept seeing her in extremis, and I thought to myself that, even though I was standing before her half-naked with half-pink, half-crimson buttocks while she sat prostrate on a toilet weeping in apparent misery and despair, at least she wasn’t bleeding like Jesus from her hands and feet like the last time we’d met. Jill was known as difficult and vindictive and possibly a bipolar drug abuser, but I knew she didn’t do shit like this around everybody. Why did she save these bright shining moments for me?
No, I did not pull my pants right up. I told myself it was because my hands had other priorities. I grabbed the nearest towel, and it was small, and covered my middle with it. I kneeled next to Jill and placed my other arm around her shoulders and squeezed to console her as best I could without using my calamined palm. Immediately she yanked me close and gripped me with both arms, pulling me off balance. I dropped my towel to block my fall and Jill, her chest heaving, buried her wet face in my shoulder. Down on one knee, I embraced the loveliest actress in the land with my pants in a heap at my ankles.
It seemed a long time before she stopped crying. She was now breathing lengthy deep breaths I figured she practiced in yoga class or therapy. As she relaxed, I contemplated pulling up my pants, or not pulling them up.
Still clutching me, Jill whimpered, “My husband just left me.”
So that was the asshole I’d seen speeding down the driveway. And that was why she’d invited me (and, by necessity, my Jews) into her home — so I could comfort her when she wasn’t busy comforting herself by abusing me. She’d discard me without even having to pay an hourly fee. Like the last time we’d met, until the next catastrophe.
I picked up my towel and covered myself and wondered whether I was the only chump so blessed or if she had a revolving ring of honest compassionate saps.
“I’m so sorry, Jill,” I said and, despite knowing I was being used yet again, I meant it.
She pulled back and glared at me with a ferocity that I guessed had brought many a producer and director to tears themselves. She spat out, “The motherfucker.” Then glanced down and added, “What is wrong with you?” Because I had let go of her and was scratching my ass hard, four fingers fully engaged.
“Heat rash. The minivan’s AC broke down. I kept the tour going and my ass paid the price.”
“Calamine doesn’t work. Cream does and it’s in the medicine chest,” she said. “Don’t bother rifling it. I threw out the good drugs.”
I stood, turned away from her and opened an elegant cupboard that stretched down from the ceiling to my shoulder. “Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Moisture Cream,” she instructed. “White jar, blue cap. Wash that pink shit off first.”
I enjoyed the knowledge that the ravishing Jill Racine was looking at my ass even more than the coolness of the air-conditioned breeze. I searched for the Aveeno, plucked out the jar she’d described and closed the cupboard. I turned and faced her. I’d have to rinse my ass, dry it and apply the cream while holding the tiny towel over my groin.
Jill blotted her tears with her towel. Then chortled just hard enough to reflexively blow snot out of her runny nose.
“You’re driving tours to the homes of the stars?”
I rinsed the pink off my ass with my free hand. “That’s what happens when you fire someone, promise to pay them and don’t.”
I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
Jill looked away, toweling the snot off her upper lip. After a few moments she said, “What if I pay for Ryder’s preschool?”
My son’s wonderful preschool cost $1.800 a month. “His tuition?” I said dumbly.
“For next year, too.”
Our kids had one year of preschool after this one. I felt for the faucet and turned the water off. “Thank you,” I said. She felt guilty. She had a conscience. So I was getting something from her, not just giving to her. But why should I thank her? It bothered me that I’d thanked her.
I turned my front away from Jill and dried my ass, ogling her reflection in the medicine chest’s mirror. More tears trickled out and she soaked them up. I opened the jar of Aveeno, scooped out a huge handful and took my time rubbing it into my ass. Jill looked up into the mirror at my reflection.
“Daisy played her first game of catch with her father this morning,” she said. “He threw her the ball, this red kickball, and she caught it. She stared at it, like she was shocked she caught it, and she started giggling and threw it back and he threw it again and it bounced off her head and she laughed louder.”
I scooped out more cream and realized why it bothered me that I’d thanked her. It was obvious — Jill would never give me that tuition money.
“Daisy’s a great kid,” I said.
“Don’t patronize me. Her father left and he won’t be back. Why do you think he left?”
I don’t give a shit, I wanted to say. And you still owe me. I turned back around to face Jill and covered myself – What for? I thought – and applied the cream to my ass. I said, “You told me he’s a drunk.”
“He got sober.” A bitter laugh. “He looked at me in focus and said, ‘Bye!’”
I knew she was preoccupied – yeah, that’s an understatement – but I was insulted that she hadn’t made the least acknowledgment that there was a grown man standing in front of her with his pants off, red ass or no red ass. I took my time with the cream and remembered that the first time we met, at the kids’ preschool, I was the one who sobbed uncontrollably. For a moment I considered asking her about her bleeding Jesus marks. Instead I made a sorry play for sympathy.
“I committed my wife. She’s been at UCLA five weeks.”
I had her attention. “What for?”
I told Jill about Leslie going into a catatonic state upon watching our son go into convulsions, one of the many alarming symptoms of his cerebral palsy, which Jill knew about from seeing him at preschool. She sat on the toilet bowl looking away, silently, like Rodin’s Thinker.
I eyed her surreptitiously in the mirror and began to get aroused.
Then, again, she laughed.
“What’s so fucking funny?”
“Sorry,” Jill said. “Who’d ‘a thunk it? Your sweet little wife is more fucked up than me.” If she was trying to stop giggling at my expense and my wife’s, she failed.
Jesus Fucking Christ, I thought: I hate this woman.
But what if Leslie is never really a wife to me again? What if she never even gets out of the hospital? Those were pathetic excuses and I should have pulled up my pants. Instead, I repositioned my towel.
I could never make a move to betray my wife. My sick wife. But if Jill did? What if she made the move? Went down on me. I’m sorry but that’s what I thought right then. Maybe I could show myself to her, “accidentally” drop my towel, hope she’d take the subtle hint. What’s one blowjob to Jill Racine? And didn’t every actress have to do things like that before #MeToo, which of course I wholeheartedly support?
Maybe just a hand job. I checked the mirror to make sure she was looking away, then scooped out more cream and discreetly placed the jar where she could reach it.
I was fully aroused. I was ridiculous. The thought crossed my mind that I enjoyed feeling humiliated. It was terrifying. I shifted my body to make certain I was hiding myself from Jill and rubbed a second superfluous coating of cream onto my ass.
I eyed Jill furtively in the mirror. I moved my hand from back to front and started to stroke myself. Now I wanted her to look up and see me. She’d say, “Would you please pull up your fucking pants?” and I’d pause, then answer, “Not just now, Jill.” That’s what Tony Curtis’s Sidney Falco said to Burt Lancaster’s J.J. Hunsecker in Sweet Smell Of Success, the darkest nastiest movie I know. Hunsecker’s been sadistically dominating Sidney and toying with him and finally Sidney’s had enough and when Hunsecker for the nth time “asks” him to light his cigarette – “Match me, Sidney” -– Sidney thinks it over and says cooly, “Not just now, J.J.” Soon after Sidney stands up for himself, he gets beaten half to death by Hunsecker’s corrupt cops.
I continued to masturbate, even though I knew I’d hate myself for it and would never be able to take it back. Do I like being treated like a child? Do I like acting like one?
Jill started talking, I lost my balance and almost fell over. She didn’t seem to notice; I think she was crying again. She talked about the fucking show she’d fired me off, how the writers mocked her behind her back while they got rich off her talent. She was despicable, completely into herself, and I tried not to listen to her as I went back and forth and back and forth. Then, mid-sentence, she broke off. I instinctively froze. Then I side-eyed the mirror.
Jill was staring at my reflection. I eased my face toward the mirror and met her stare. I don’t know how long we stayed like that. It was like she was searching for something. Finally she said, “You can turn around if you want, Eric,” and glanced unmistakably downward.
I was stunned, in a haze. I turned away from her, tried to compose myself. I turned back and studied Jill Racine’s reflection.
She held my gaze. She didn’t look vicious, or angry, or like she was judging me. I didn’t think she was acting. She sat up straighter, making her nipples more prominent. I turned, hesitant, and faced her. Jill made no move to touch me. But she smiled, like she was pleased. I fixed my eyes on hers and she kept smiling, and she didn’t turn away.
I could be wrong, but I felt like she cared about me.
When I was finished, I stuffed Jill’s fluffy white towel into my pocket.
After they disembarked at the Chinese Theatre, my tourists insisted on taking photos with me to go alongside the shots they’d taken with Jill. They gave me huge tips, my biggest ever. They were throwing money at me. I realized my ass no longer itched as the German handed me a $20 bill. I went home to take care of my son.