TACOS IN THE VALLEY

Before getting into art department work Alexis had been a kingmaker, a green-lighter with major backing. But something had happened, something terrible, and somehow Alexis had ended up in the Commercial Art Department world. But, despite that, Alexis could get back on top, if we teamed up.

Alexis said, via text, that we would begin shooting the commercial in five days, so we needed to get an early start. I’m not sure who the client was, but at this point I knew better than to act interested in anything related to The Job or my future in The Commercial Art Department Production World. In the past, I’d been a little too aggressive in my pursuit of creative partnerships, a little too on the nose, but I was finally beginning to understand how things really worked in Los Angeles. Alexis told me to come over around 8 and we could get started then. I arrived at 8:47. 

“I’d offer you my chair but as you know I sold it. Cigarette?” 

This was Alexis’s usual greeting. Also, as usual, he was fully dressed and lying on a mattress on the floor while painting in watercolors. I’d never seen this chair, but Alexis claimed to have sold it for what, at the time, was a large sum. According to current eBay listings, which Alexis had printed and shown to me on multiple occasions, the chair had tripled in value.

To me, the chair seemed like a silly thing to waste time regretting when so much lay ahead for both of us in The Entertainment Industry. Still, Alexis couldn’t let the chair go.

“Peanuts!” He hissed as he filled in the beak of some tropical bird in a watery black. He painted that same bird over and over. It was a classic toucan, but he could never get that beak right. The black was always off, either too wet or too dry, but in truth watercolors meant nothing to Alexis. Watercolors were, according to him, “just something to do between things.” But this lack of seating was always difficult for Alexis. 

So, whenever I came over, he was always very upset because he couldn’t offer me a seat, but then it started to seem as if he didn’t even know that I was in the room.

“I sold that thing for peanuts!” he shouted repeatedly. It seemed as if he was shouting at the bird. Then he went in for a second, even wetter coat. He must have used a very heavy paper: it was certainly absorbing a lot of water. 

This was my third time in the bungalow, and every time he brought up this chair.  

“But you always have a cigarette for me,” I offered, trying to cheer him up and let him know that I appreciated his hospitality despite his lack of seating. 

“You’re not even a real smoker,” he snapped. 

His Echo Park half-bungalow was narrow, maybe six-feet wide and thirty-five feet long. I walked past his mattress and poured my coffee in the thin galley kitchen, came back, and sat on the floor beside the mattress. He’d set the watercolors aside and was now writing very quickly with a short golfer’s pencil in a little yellow notebook. 

“What are you working on?” 

“Oh, just outlines,” he countered, annoyed by my question.  

I considered inquiring further. I thought the topic of script outlines might be a way in. Maybe we’d find ourselves indirectly discussing a potential project, just spit-balling, but it seemed like a bad time and, as mentioned, I was trying to play it cool. I figured, for the moment, if I could just stay focused on my role, the role of production assistant, that maybe our collaborative project would eventually happen.

“Have you spoken with Bruce?” I asked. 

Bruce was our boss, the production designer. He’d be giving the marching orders. 

“He’s up in Malibu.” 

“What am I supposed to do?” 

“Buy some towels at Ikea but take your time.” 

“What sort of towels?” 

“Bruce doesn’t know yet. He’s waiting for the director, some German. Bruce used to fuck his wife. Do you want some breakfast?”

“Yes,” I said. 

Cooking always cheered Alexis up. He liked to explain eggs as he cooked with a cigarette in his mouth. He had on chino pants, a white t-shirt and a little red bandana tied loose around his neck, but neatly knotted, with two perfect little ears, just like those guys who run from the bulls. He was very olive-skinned. Once I asked him if he was, in any way, Spanish or Latino. He didn’t like the question. “My father drove a bread truck,” was his response.

I’d learned that it was better to let Alexis control everything. He had a salt-and-pepper goatee and salt-and-pepper hair that parted from the left, across the crown of his head.  He was the proud owner of a 12-piece copper cookware set that, unlike the chair, he’d never sell no matter how bad things got. He was an excellent cook 

“Everything starts with the egg. If you don’t know your eggs, well, let me put it this way, it all begins and, in some cases, ends with the egg,” he explained as he fried our eggs.

Alexis was nearly 50 and I was in my late 20s. He got back in bed to eat, and I sat on the floor with my eggs. Both the front and back doors were open, so we were getting a nice little cross-breeze. He resumed his painting but now, occasionally, he traded brush for fork. He seemed to have forgotten the chair for now. We were almost done eating when Bruce called. Alexis put him on speaker. You could hear the ocean in the background.

“How’s it going?” Bruce asked. 

“Eating,” Alexis responded. 

“Nice. We’re at County Line, water’s cold.” 

“Good for you,” responded Alexis.

“You get the email?” asked Bruce. 

“I did.”

“Maybe white towels but all sizes, like every size, but the cheapest, lowest quality. You know, with that sandy texture. The texture’s important because Gerhard’s going to shine the light of a single candle through one, so we need options. Maybe Jasper can go to the Dollar Store or any of those discount stores in the Valley, or just send him to Ikea. Tell him to get lunch at José’s. Has he been to José’s?”

“He’s right here.” 

“How’s it going, Jasper?”

“Good.” 

“Ever been to José’s in Studio City?”

“No.” 

“Get the cactus tacos. I think Alexis likes the carne.” 

“Ok.” 

Bruce hung up. We finished the eggs and were smoking and having more coffee. 

“You’ve really never been to José’s?” Alexis asked pointedly. 

“No, is it good?” 

“It’s not so great, but you should go. It was a thing in the 90s. We used to go when I had my offices at Warner’s. It’s what Taco Bell is based on. Maybe I’ll meet you over there around one. I need to go to Ikea anyway, so it works out on my end. Maybe you can help me with this outline.”

He was finally letting me in, and he wouldn’t regret it. Soon enough, although we’d never make it official, we’d be writing partners. But I couldn’t get ahead of myself. First, I needed to complete these simple tasks. It was time to pay my dues.    

Once you turn right, or north, from Sunset onto Glendale Boulevard, between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., you hit a bunch of lights, and the traffic’s always backed up because everyone’s trying to get on the 5 that leads to the 110 Freeway that will take you to the Valley. On the other side, the southbound side, everyone’s trying to get to Sunset. Traffic islands divide Glendale Boulevard around the lights and this junkie girl is always out there, either on the island, or approaching vehicles and asking drivers for money, walking in and out of the lanes, and when the light changes she gets back on the island and watches all the cars pass until the lights turns red again. 

On this particular day it was very hot, which meant the junkie girl wouldn’t be out there alone. When it was hot, men that I assumed were Mexicans, rancho-types in tight jeans and cowboy hats, also moved through the stopped traffic with coolers on their shoulders and when the light turned green, some of them returned to the island. They were selling pre-chopped coconuts with straws already in them but, unlike The junkie girl, they’re only out there when it’s really hot. 

As I said, this junkie girl is almost always out there, but sometimes she’s less ambitious. On those less-ambitious days, she doesn’t ask for money, she just hangs out on the island. Once I saw her out there in heavy rain, she was on her knees in the middle of the island, wearing a gauzy cotton dress, bowing and praying to the rain. Some of the older rancho-types are terrified of her. They won’t set foot on the island when she’s there, and when the traffic stops, they just stand between the lanes and slow down traffic. They think she’s some kind of witch. Some people honk at the men for slowing down traffic, but I never do.

Sometimes I give the junkie girl a few dollars. I assumed she came from some type of shamelessly self-indulgent deliberate poverty. Her accidental style just comes so easily; because she doesn’t overthink anything. She’s probably got a room in some squat off Echo Park Blvd, where she sews up her beachy little dresses. She’s got quite a few, but they all look the same; they’re just different shades of cream.

And it was really hot so I knew she wouldn’t be out there alone, but when I turned right onto Glendale Blvd. I noticed a guy out there with her. And I could tell, even from a distance, that he wasn’t a Mexican. He was a white guy in his early 20s and he’d put a lot of time into looking real-clean, real put-together, because he had big plans and he wanted everyone to know it. For him, begging on the traffic island was just a place to start, until he found something better. His hair was bleached at the tips and playfully spiked, but not with gel. He was using pomade and he liked to run his hands though those waxy spikes, but his clothing told the true story. His tapered yellowish chinos and loosely tucked white Oxford looked recently purchased at T.J. Maxx or Marshalls. He had a big orange Home Depot bucket with a royal-blue cross on it. The cross was made of painter’s tape 

Suddenly, I wanted to give the junkie girl a lot of money, and I wanted this guy to see me do it. Still, it wasn’t my money: it was my towel-and-taco money. I was completely broke but figured Alexis would buy my tacos at José’s, and maybe the towels weren’t such a big deal. You see, I didn’t have Alexis figured out. Sometimes he was so laidback, but then he’d completely lose it over the smallest things like the chair or his insistence, which he reminded me of often, that no matter how bad things got, even if Bruce fired him, he’d never sell his 12-piece copper cookware set. 

It was also possible, that upon learning I’d given the towel money to this junkie, he’d act amused. But he’d never really forget it, and when the next job came around, he’d figure he’d better find someone more reliable. 

But I already had the twenty in my hand and my hand was hanging out of the car window, and it struck me as an interesting dilemma: a situation I was creating, and if I called it research, consequences be damned. Maybe seeing these unconventional choices through-despite the immediate negative consequences, it would all somehow shake things up with Alexis. 

Then I considered that Alexis had only given me thirty dollars and I was already running low on gas, but my hand was now fully extended out of the window. I stared at the junkie girl until she met my gaze and took note of that 20-dollar bill. I considered retracting my hand and rolling up the window, but she was already smiling and walking toward me. I’d seen some English Punks in a ‘57 Chevy lure her over with the promise of money, then shoo her away or attempt to grope her. But that wasn’t me. She trusted me and it felt so wonderful. She knew the money was for her as I’d given her money before. This realization, that she knew it was for her, and that she knew who I was, had a grounding effect. I was, at least in that moment, a man of my word: a rare thing in her disgusting little world. 

As she approached, I was also keeping my eyes on the neat guy with the orange bucket. When he saw my hand go up, for a moment, he thought that twenty was for him but then he realized it wasn’t, and maybe, for a moment, I forced him to realize that making conventionally good choices like grooming, ironing or cleaning of the hair, well, it wouldn’t pay off in a town like this. 

I watched the junkie girl’s lightly scabbed face change when she saw it was a twenty. All became well in her tragic little world: a world I now wanted to enter and dominate. I certainly wanted things to continue in some seamless manner between us. I nearly invited her into the car, just to see where that would go. But then my gaze was drawn to the fuel gauge besides the speedometer. The warning light was flashing red and anyway, she didn’t have time to chat. She dropped my twenty into her canvas backpack—the type that opened at the top via three strands of gauzy twine—and took off toward Sunset. Maybe she got twenties all the time.

As soon as the junkie girl was out of sight, the notion of a life with her and all the vague promises it held, were exposed as insane. If Alexis pulled into the José’s parking lot and I wasn’t there because I’d run out of gas, this would mean the end of everything, including our partnership. He’d never forgive me for tricking him into driving all the way to the Valley to eat tacos alone. He’d view it as a deliberate slight, something I was doing to toy with him, just like all the others. 

Best case scenario: I’d make it to Jose’s five minutes early, he’d offer to buy my lunch and he wouldn’t even ask about the towels because being so close to his old studio city offices would start him talking about the old days, back before big finance took over the industry.  

I was still idling at the light, burning through the last of my fuel, when I noticed the neat Christian beggar with the orange bucket in the perfectly creased khakis, white Oxford, and plaid tie. He was glaring at me from her Island. He’d taken her spot, so I glared right back and once he knew he had my attention, he rolled up his left shirt sleeve and started slapping his veins like he was searching for a live one. He repeatedly looked up from his searching to make sure I was still watching. Then he started heating up an imaginary spoon, from underneath, with an invisible lighter. Then he looked up again, and slowly drew a long fix from that now-hot invisible spoon. He plunged that invisible needle deep into his left arm and collapsed onto the island, but he quickly came to, just to check my reaction. 

I guess he was trying to shame me. He’d probably done some mime training at a circus school in Florida or maybe he thought I’d be angry with him for exposing my 20-dollar donation to the junkie girl for exactly what it was. But I just laughed and smiled, which seemed to annoy him. 

I’d been sitting on Glendale Blvd., in gridlock, for some time, and having failed at shaming me, The Christian beggar had moved on with his life. I admired his grit. I’m sure he ended up alright. I’ll bet he was an early Crypto guy.

He was taking full advantage of the prolonged traffic-stall, making his way up and down the lanes, making up for lost time. Then it became apparent that there was an accident or police activity ahead: a few cars with easy access turned down side streets and soon everyone was desperate to get off northbound Glendale. We’d all have to find another way to get to The Valley so I waved goodbye to the Christian beggar and made an illegal U-turn of sorts right over the island, nearly hitting him.

I took a right on Sunset. I figured I could cruise on fumes for at-least a few miles by utilizing neutral. I’d decided to drive west and hit every dollar store between Alvarado and Cahuenga, and then I’d make my way north, over the hill then down into the valley to meet Alexis at José’s. It was still only 10:30. 

The traffic on Sunset wasn’t bad, which made my financial situation slightly more tolerable. I had ten dollars, half of which would go toward gas, the rest for towels. I stopped at the first dollar store I saw, an actual Dollar Store, not one of these 99 cent imitations, on Sunset in Silver Lake. It had a huge parking lot and the store was packed but there was only one checkout line open. The line extended to the back of the store, so I took my time in the aisles.

I figured the line would eventually shorten so I went up and down them all. I was relieved to see they still had my preferred brand of powdered mustard. It came in a 2-ounce tin. It was certainly a fine product: a fine powdered mustard by House of Colman, and as I inspected the yellow and black label I was overwhelmed with a euphoric respect for this product, and in turn for myself for my deep appreciation of it.

The towels, Alexis, the screenplay outline, the commercial art department world, suddenly, thanks to the mustard, it all seemed so trivial. Thanks to the House of Colman all was not lost. I could, for once, learn from my mistakes and be all the better and all the stronger for having failed in this very interesting manner. But of course, in order to make the most of this less-than-ideal situation, I’d need to buckle down and just buy some cheap towels, however many I could get for five dollars. I could purchase the mustard later, once I was more established with Alexis. Hopefully it would still be there. It didn’t seem to be flying off the shelf as people in Los Angeles, for the most part—two notable exceptions being the junkie girl and Alexis—have terrible taste. I scanned a fellow shopper’s cart as it rolled past: she didn’t stop at the condiments but still I checked her cart. I didn’t see any powdered mustard in there. 

My respect for Colman’s Mustard had morphed into a pathological craving. I checked my wallet, nothing had changed. Giving the junkie girl a twenty had certainly been a poor decision. Outside of selling my car or body, my ass was still untapped. I had no money, outside of my trust fund, but my annoyingly conservative trust only paid out once monthly and I’d already burned through that. I guess I didn’t have any “real problems” financially speaking, but still, I needed to keep the stakes high.  

So, I needed to stick to the plan regarding the towels, the gas and ultimately, that power-lunch in the valley. But at the same time, I was getting tired of all this career planning. Such practicalities paled when compared to the passionate energy induced by the Colman’s. I considered stealing the towels in order to buy the mustard. Somehow, it seemed worth it as I figured that having the mustard secured with silver tape on the dash of my car would always remind me to make good decisions and never forget my dreams. Purchasing that little yellow tin seemed like the only way to kick off this new and truly prosperous stage of my life. Once partnered up with Alexis, I’d get him back in the game, nothing would stop us. 

Sure, we’d have our lean years, while banging out the screenplays, but no matter what transpired between us I’d never quit carting my Colman’s. I’d keep my eyes locked tight on that tin displayed on my dash, and I wouldn’t remove it just because Alexis and I had inked a development deal with HBO.    

I’d always look to the mustard, no matter how big time we got. I’d save my writing money, find a way to scrape by on my trust, make wise decisions, and avoid Glendale Blvd. As for Alexis, he’d forget all about that chair. But it wasn’t going to be so easy immediately, at least not on my end. I was still a virgin.  

That checkout line was long. And, upon further consideration, I didn’t buy the mustard or steal the towels. I figured I’d better get the hell out of there, so I took a left out of the parking lot and continued west along Sunset. It was 11:30 and traffic was really moving. 

Once I started driving again, I realized it was either the towels or the mustard. I didn’t have the money for both but I kept remembering the simple words of my former television writer/AA sponsor in response to an improvised pitch I gave him at a Starbucks. It was a classic fish-out-of-water setup based on our relationship. But he just shook his head and said I was out of line and sicker than I’d ever know, which was why, according to him, we were working the 12-steps, in chronological order, one at a time. Then he told me I should look for a low-wage job because I thought I was special. He pointed to a sweaty heavy-set fellow making lattes and calling names behind the counter. “You see that guy back there frothing milk? Well, you probably think he’s a loser but unlike you he’s going places in this town, because humility builds empires.” Those were his final words to me. He told me to call when I had some low-end employment as a dishwasher or barista. Then he got up and left me at that Starbucks table on Ventura and Tampa. I never saw him again. 

I’d learned a lot since then, but I kept forgetting those hard-won lessons. The Colman’s might very well be my talisman. Which is why I was terrified of forgetting to buy it. I was scared that the following day, upon reflection, I’d find this whole mustard obsession ridiculous and even if I bought it the next day, it would have lost its power: It would no longer remind me that everything works out as long as one avoids making bad decisions, such as giving all the towel money to the junkie girl.

I was on my way to another dollar store to buy five dollars’ worth of towels, but I was running low on fumes, so I took a left onto Vermont, where all those banks are, and made a right onto Melrose. I was headed to a gas station just under the 101 freeway. The sign says Arco, but the gas station is owned by The Armenian Power Gang. The gas is cheap because they steal it right off the docks in San Pedro. It’s also cheap because it’s cut with salt water. I nodded to the Armani-clad Armenian manning the desk and asked what I could get for five dollars. He consulted a yellow notebook and ran his oil-stained finger down a column.

“Five dollars fifty gallons,” he said.

I know a good deal when I hear one, but I would have taken whatever he offered because gas was high that summer, close to five dollars a gallon at the BP on Glendale, so I filled up and moved on, took a right on Normandie, and made my way west on Sunset.

The Official Dollar Store at Sunset and Bronson was the flagship, so the place was packed. All 25 checkout lines were open and running. Of course, I had big problems, bigger than the towel money. I knew that even if I walked into Jose’s on time and found Alexis seated with one of his old studio chums—a guy who owed Alexis a big favor—and we all got to talking and, halfway through my tacos, I just found myself “loose pitching” and Alexis liked what he heard and started running numbers on a napkin, by the time I finished that third taco we’d be in pre-production mode, talking locations. But even then, I’d eventually find myself back on Glendale staring at that junkie girl, envisioning our life together, and by then the stakes would be even higher.

I’d always have 100k in T-Bills and a passport in the glove compartment, which is why, even then, I’d still need the mustard. It would remind me of my dreams and how far I’d come and how I could still lose it all on Glendale Blvd. Sure, I’d gotten lucky once with 20 dollars in towel money, but I’d know better than to roll the dice again because I’d have my little tin of Colman’s duct-taped to the dash. I’d see that tin and I’d roll the windows up and wait for the light to change. I wouldn’t even acknowledge her but I’d keep her in my prayers. 

I didn’t know if they offered premium condiments like Coleman’s at the Sunset and Bronson Dollar Store location, but I was going to find out. The condiment section was enormous, and I scanned each shelf, but there was no Coleman’s so I needed to return to the Silver Lake Dollar Store; I didn’t even give it a second thought. 

Maybe things had cleared up on Glendale Blvd. I certainly had unfinished business with that Christian beggar. I needed to somehow prove to him that I was 100% okay with my decision to give the junkie girl 20 dollars. Plus, maybe she had returned.

Every light was green so I felt complete, spiritually speaking, as I headed east, away from Hollywood. If I’d gone any farther west, I would have found myself in the heart of Hollywood, a terrible place. 

The Silver Lake Dollar Store was still packed but I didn’t let that discourage me. Those hesitant days were behind me. I grabbed the mustard and took my place in line. It was noon.

As I approached the register, I thought of the towels: It might be awkward showing up at José’s towel-less, even with the mustard tapped to my dash. I needed to keep working these jobs with Bruce and Alexis.

Bruce’s cool incompetence was celebrated throughout the commercial production world, but that wouldn’t work for me. His incompetence worked because he’d had some moderate success as a musician in the early 90s. He’d even palled around with Johnny Depp: that’s how he ended up with Hep C. 

I was so close to the register, so close to making it big with my mustard and taking a risk with those towels, but I was having second thoughts. The line behind me stretched into the aisles. I needed the woman behind me to save my place while I put the mustard back and got the towels. She was wearing white denim and a fetching white tank top. I regretted not being one of those men who naturally flirt with all women, in all lines, in a lighthearted, non-threatening way. She coldly nodded when I asked her to save my place. I told her I’d be quick. It wasn’t a formal promise, but I kept my word. I returned with the mustard and two green hand towels, which was all that I could afford. 

Towels and mustard in the passenger seat, I continued east on Sunset with all the windows down. Upon turning left onto Glendale, I immediately spotted the Christian beggar and the junkie girl. I didn’t have a single dollar for her so I put the car in park, put the hazards on and groped behind the seats for change. 

I managed to find a little more than a dollar in dimes and nickels. The junkie girl skipped right over when I reached the island. She was in a great mood thanks to my twenty. Maybe there was something pure and speedy in that tar. As for the Christian beggar, he remained on the island, sitting on his orange bucket and watching us. 

“I’m sorry but it’s all I have,” I told her.

I was ashamed of my loose change. She didn’t thank me or ask for more. She was just saying hello. I think she wanted me to ask her out. I’d never done heroin, but the timing felt right, but then I glanced at the mustard and snapped out of it. Thanks to the mustard I realized I had no interest in a woman with nothing to offer besides quick access to hard drugs. I was just hungry, and tacos sounded good. So I kept driving toward the Valley but now, somehow, I was almost out of gas again. A strange smell was coming from the engine, a cross between red tide and cabbage. That Armenian Gas wasn’t burning right. It had about 1/16 of the potency of legal/regulated fuel. So now, as I was climbing that on-ramp, on to the 5-freeway the pedal quit responding but, luckily, I had just enough to get me onto the highway. 

I piloted the vehicle onto the side of the road and into a little patch of dried grass. It was risky abandoning the car, so I jogged back down the exit ramp onto Glendale Blvd. I’d have to improvise my own little hustle. Luckily, I kept a little plastic two-gallon gas can in my car for these types of situations. It was merely a matter of obtaining the money to fill it up. I’d need at least eight dollars. 

Now, I was walking down medians toward the junkie girl. Just a moment ago, she thought I might be her savior but now I’d be looking to her for saving, and wasn’t that just the way life worked? I smiled broadly to myself as I had this insight. It triggered a euphoric sensation: a soft place I could easily move into. 

She appeared to be taking a well-deserved break from her routine; she was lying flat on her back, soaking in the sun. Her dress was perfectly gauzy, threadbare and pockmarked like her skin. She hadn’t yet realized that I was standing directly above her. I had set a little timer for 20 minutes on my running watch. Somehow eight minutes had already passed. I had 12 minutes till I had to be back to the car with some gas. I hated to interrupt her, but I was optimistic. I knew this was exactly where I needed to be. I didn’t know how she’d help me but the universe, thus far, had always provided. 

“Hi, I’m the guy from the Volvo wagon.”  

She looked up, then propped herself up on her elbows and crossed her slim legs. She appeared supremely comfortable as she shaded her translucent blue eyes with her hand. She was trying to place me but she wasn’t trying too hard. 

“What happened to that Volvo?”

Then I noticed the Christian beggar approaching. He clearly knew exactly who I was, and shouted at me: “Hey you!” 

I looked at the junkie girl, thinking she might have a low opinion of this guy.  

“My boyfriend’s going to fuck you up,” she said with a smile on her face, as if it was the funniest thing in the world, and that she would relish my humiliation.

That’s when I knew that she wasn’t some hard-luck valley type. She was just another Beverly Hills rich girl who loved the true junkie life. This sad realization filled me with a new terror. A terror so overwhelming that I nearly fainted. It all felt unfair. I’d been so nice to her, but now that I lacked money or a vehicle I was just somebody who deserved a real ass-kicking.

I noticed a police car sitting at the light and I figured they’d come to my defense. I started waving my hands and shouted out “Help” but the officer in the passenger seat—some combat vet with a shaved head in black wrap-around sunglasses—just smiled and nodded once in my direction as if to say, “You got some hard lessons to learn amigo.” When the light changed they flew off toward the highway ramp at top speed. I imagined that they were also headed to the valley to grab some tacos. I hoped that I’d soon be doing the same.

I still had the gas can in-hand and there was a BP Station across the lanes of traffic. So, I crossed those lanes. The junkie girl and her Christian beggar-boyfriend laughed as I ran off; they didn’t give chase.

I called my mother’s office as I stood beside a pump. I got her assistant on the phone. I told her I needed around 200 dollars for some minor car repairs. She immediately had the money transferred into my account and a few minutes later I was on my way to the valley.

When Alexis asked why I only had two green hand towels I told him this whole story. It was easy to tell because I knew that I now had 192 dollars in my bank account and in a few weeks I’d have my monthly trust allowance.

Alexis thought it was hilarious. He loved me for giving the junkie girl twenty dollars. He immediately called Bruce and made me tell him the story again on speaker phone and, of course, we ate some tacos, which were not great. Then we went to Ikea and bought some more towels. He also reimbursed me for my gas. We never got around to the outlines, but it didn’t really matter: I’d find something new to worry about tomorrow.

Calvin Atwood has written two novels, Banned from Laguna Beach and Banned from Bob’s Island. He also has a collection of short stories called Louis Armstrong Cured my Sex Addiction. You can find more of his writing at Expat, Misery Tourism and Forever Magazine among other places. He lives in New York City.