Slanted Jimmy and the Power of Yes

Slanted Jimmy and the Power of Yes

A Story by Chopstix
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Antagonists point of view as two Los Angeles talent agents compete for sex and success.

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 Mary sat curbside, her eyes buried in her palms in part shielding LA’s harsh afternoon sun, in part concealing an emotional torrent. Slanted Jimmy’s previous survivors ascribed shame, loss, powerlessness, listlessness, rage and bewilderment to this storm. Most have less than a month free rent to reassemble their lives. Mary squandered her time. She splayed her legs to sit on the low curb. A crimson pool overwhelmed her menstrual pad; a trickle meandered to her skirt and pools. She was either too lost in thought or too tired to notice.


“So, she’s the one to replace me.” Beatrice shifted in the passenger seat.  We pulled into a parking space fifty or so feet from Mary.


“No one can replace you.”


“You say that, but I replaced Katerina.” She stared straight ahead avoiding eye contact.


“You met Kate?”


“She left you a note.”


“Thanks, again, for it reading before I had a chance to.”


“You’re welcome, Cinna, but,” she turned to face me, “why only one of us at a time.”


“Only one spare bedroom.”


“I barely spent a few nights in that room.”


“Okay, then, only one penis.” I turned to face her.


We exchanged stares for a few seconds. Serious faces poised millimeters from each other. Serious expressions cracked, slightly, at mouth’s corners. The cracks grew and widened until we felt each other’s moist laughter exhaust on our cheeks. She leaned in and planted her lips on mine. A friendly kiss. She withdrew a few inches preventing any attempted follow-up.


“Don’t tell me you never fantasized about a three-way.”


“I fantasize about many things.”


“And?”


“They never live up to reality.”


“We had a good reality, didn’t we?”


I reached over to her hip and pulled her closer to me.


“Had.” She twists away. To emphasize her escape, she arched her back before plopping herself back into the passenger seat. Posterior exaggeratedly pressed into the cushion, she gestured across the street where Mary seemed planted.


“How, in God’s glorious world, do we end up there.”

A beat to seem thoughtful.


“The power of yes,” we chorused.


Beatrice’s story started at Eden’s Rock Garden West. So many of these stories seem to start there though they really started decades before and, often, hundreds of miles away. Some malevolent soul, perhaps a loved one, told her essential truths: she’s beautiful, sexy, attractive and talented. Bea’s singing voice soared above most others. It transcended mundane lamentations and lifted listeners to new heights. At least till her song ends. Singers, talented like Beatrice and Mary or just desperate, found ERGW’s Tuesday night open challenges. They pitched in five dollars and dueled till dawn. Winner takes half the pot, second place, a third and third gets the rest.


Slanted Jimmy preyed upon these innocent lamb. Everything about him should alert all the Marys, Beatrices, Imogens, Karens, Jills of the world, but he hunts in open sight. His name, “Slanted Jimmy” should have been the first clue, though it wasn’t his real name; that’s Dale Pinkerson or something like that. Rock star portraits line ERGW’s walls. Slanted Jimmy’s table lays under Jimi Hendrix which Merle Haxard, ERGW’s designer, permanently mounted a few degrees askew. Patrons labeled the portrait, “Slanted Jimi,” and since Slanted Jimmy camps out under “Slanted Jimi,” patrons laid the same appellation on him, though the spelling morphed.


“I hate that guy,” I protested.


“You are that guy.” Beatrice harbored lingering affection for Slanted Jimmy.


“How in Satan’s cesspool can you say that?”


“You’re practically identical twins.”


“Really?” I pointed to my face.


“Yes, except he wears it better.”


“Thanks, but my hair is jet black and his is peroxide blonde.”


“Well, then …” She twirled a bang around her index finger. “You both sleep with the same women.”


“Because we both slept with you?”


“It’s not just that. You both shelter your women, make their decisions for them, take total control of their lives. You, you ...”


“And it ends there. He’s a hunter. He preys on beautiful, talented woman. He looks into their ambitions and promises them their dreams. He lures them in with postcard images of the land of milk and honey only to leave them stranded and alone in the desert.”


“The desert? Really?”


“Would you have followed him,” I point to Mary sobbing on the curb, “if you knew you would end up there.”


“I went to the clinic on 3rd and Alvarado.”


“I remember.”


Mary squirmed under my glare before settling into her seat and closing her eyes.


“He’s so beautiful. You feel his presence when he enters a room. God, I moistened every time he looked into my eyes. My heels lightened and I could dance all night.”


“On your back.”


“Oh God yes. Everything about him is just so sensual. His walk seduces like panther… “


“More like a lion.”


“Not just a lion, The King of Lions.”


“While I am?”


“You are ...”


Were Beatrice honest, she’d call me a jackal, a hyena. Redeemers are scavengers by nature. Both redeemers and scavengers, suffer image problems. We are scourged, reviled and pushed aside. No one ever praised scavengers for cleaning up messes predators leave behind. Everyone oohs, and aahs the neon tetras, tiger fish and sword tails without giving their plecostomuses due recognition.


“… my salvation.” Beatrice finally found appeasing, perhaps honest, words.


“That’s quite a load to dump on a person.”


“You don’t know how deep in I was.”


“The power of yes.” I guessed.


“Yeah.” She confirmed.


“Slanted Jimmy demands complete devotion.”


“Just not all at once. He builds it in you.”


I nodded my head. Beatrice hit this step late. I hoped Mary would still be there when Beatrice finished her tale.


“He moves you into on of The Brick’s messiest rooms and asks you to clean up. It’s not much. Something you would do on your own, but you have to say, ‘yes.’ You always have to say, ‘yes.’”


Slanted Jimmy owned The Brick, a Brentwood condo building, outright. His residence occupied part of the first floor; his offices the rest. A dozen or so proteges resided in six condos in the upper floors. Top prospects got their own condo on the top floor. Slanted Jimmy squeezed in neophytes where ever he could.


“That’s the first step,” I said.


“Yeah. The second step is to trust Jimmy, completely. Any pause, any hesitation, any resistance, and you’re out. He tells you he had movers pack your things and put them into storage, and you trust him. He tells you he bought you new outfits, and you strip. He hands you a dress, you try it on and model for a forming crowd. And, damn it, the dress fits perfectly. Fits just right and I looked great in it.”


“Wow!” I’ve heard this story dozens of times from as many women, but Beatrice’s intensity drew me in, again.


“I know.” She smiled. “Could have used matching shoes.”


“So he knew your body, just not your feet,” I snarked. “Or did he withhold shoes so you wouldn’t run?”


“The shoes came a couple weeks later. After I porved my commitment to The Power of Yes.”


“And?”


“I was sitting on Slanted Jimmy’s lap while he was putting together an album package with The Boofors. Jenk …”


Pollo Jenkins, The Boofors lead singer.


“… kept sneaking crotch rubs. Jimmy nuzzled my neck, his signal to lower my head, and whispered, ‘be a dear and blow Jenk.’ By the time I slid off Slanted Jimmy’s lap, Jenk was walking to a corner with a cushion in his hand.”


“Cushion?”


“For my knees.”


“Very kind of him.”


“He’s not bad, not like Nick.”


Nick Carver, The Boofors drummer, tired, perhaps too hard, to carry on the bad-boy-drummer tradition. He routinely trashed hotel rooms, disposed of passed-out groupies, wearing only their bras and panties, in dumpsters and ran out of bars without paying his tab.


“What did Carver do?”


“My story, let me tell it.”


“Okay, okay, but no more cliffhangers.”


“After the meeting, Slanted Jimmy told me to prepare for a pool party. Upstairs, four new pairs of shoes. They went well with my new dresses. Ooooh, baby, the power of yes at work. A little parading poolside, a little skinny dipping, and The Boofors hired me for background vocals on Cannon’s Report.”


“No residuals.”


“No matter. After that I met Herb Patzger of The Boomers.”


“His real name is Albert Roder. In the eighties, the group was know as Herd Mentality and the Baby Boomers. Everyone started calling the front man, ‘Herb.’ When the band rebranded themselves as Herb Mental and The Boomers, he changed his name to suit.”


“Why wont you ever let me tell my story?”


“Because its almost over. You toured with The Boomers for over a year, got pregnant and came home to an overstuffed Brick. Slanted Jimmy cut you loose, and The Boomers’ manager dropped you off at a clinic with a cash filled envelope and a non-disclosure agreement.”


“Still, easily, the best two years of my life.”


“Knowing what’s at the other end, would you do it again? If Slanted Jimmy let you back into The Brick would you stay?”


“I know longer believe in the power of yes.”


“Why not?”


“Because of you.”


“Don’t lay that on me. ‘The Power of Yes’ is essentially true. Plenty of studies confirm this. There’s even a movie called The Secret, or something like that, which extols the positive thinking’s power and tries to give it a scientific foundation based on the law of attraction. The universe favors positivity, audacity even at delusional levels. Just look at the 2016 presidential campaign. No, I too encourage you to think positively, to deal with people positively and to imagine fortuitous outcomes to all your endeavors.”


“But you rail at Slanted Jimmy’s philosophy.”


“I don’t rail at what Slanted Jimmy teaches. I rail at him for what he leaves out. He twists a fundamental truth to mislead people, to control them.”


“You make me sound like some kind of puppet. I knew what I was doing.”


“Really. Did it ever occur to you that not every girl in The Brick was gonna to have a career in the biz? Surely, you remember some who didn’t even get a backup gig.”


“They just didn’t believe enough. They never committed to the power of yes, not completely, not like me … like me. If I ever get another chance, I’ll devote myself even more. I’ll...”


I laughed though not through a sense of humor. I laughed to mock, to infuriate, to demean, to degrade to retake control in order to offer one last lesson before releasing Beatrice back into world on her own.


“Stop laughing!”


“There’s this old locker room saying. ‘Before each game, and several times during, both teams pray to God for a victory, but only one team wins.’”


“And?”


“God doesn’t care about football. Winning has much more to do with talent and practice than with praying.”


“I’m not talented enough to make it in the biz. Thanks so much. Nice to know.”


I regret introducing Beatrice to sarcasm. Kate also said that, deep down, both Slanted Jimmy and I manifested cynicism, but he never stooped to sarcasm. She compared our halos. Slanted Jimmy’s blazed white and bright while mine couldn’t overcome my own shadow. Once, my light outshone almost all others. Renowned for my light, “light” became my name, but, however much I strived, My light, and almost all my efforts, merely garished second second place. There is only so many putting downs a being can endure before his thoughts darken, appreciation turns to envy and he, I, found solace in sarcasm. Darkness attracts darkness, and I attracted so much it enshrouded my light. Now I am known for my darkness, and it too became my name.


“You are way talented; that’s why I agreed to be your agent.”


“A voice-over gig?” Her pop-star dreams die hard.


“Female lead in a good cartoon series.”


“Not on-screen beautiful enough, thanks tons.”


“You are more than beautiful enough for on screen roles.”


“Then what?” She threw her arms out in exasperation.


“Numbers.”


“Numbers?”


“It aint just a book in the Bible.”


“Then what about numbers?”


“Who was the last ugly female pop star? The last one who couldn’t even hit simple choreography?”


“I don’t know, someone pre-Madonna, I guess.”


“Probably further back. What does sex appeal have to do with singing?”


Blank stare.


“Nothing,” I continue. “Think of all the musical talent that never even gets a chance. They’d kill for a chance to make it big in the biz, but they don’t make it past open mic night. They never learn about the industries three tiers.”


“The three tiers?”


“The Holy Trinity, dear. I never told you about this?”


She shakes her head and twists in her seat. Her eyes glare, sear and penetrate like stoked fireplace pokers ready to strike.


“The seraphim, the family, friends and close associates of those already in the biz. They’ve grown up in the biz. What talent they have has been groomed, coached and trained from an early age. They know how to move, who to call and what to say. They got the ins, and they know how to use them. There are enough Seraphim to stuff the pipeline. The world does need all the talent they possess.”


“You and Slanted Jimmy were industry kids, right?”


“Right. We are insiders, deep insiders. We are the backbone of the biz. We would have been safe, but some of the biggest stars come from the second tier, the Virtues, the Powers. These artists, their drive and talent, can not be contained. They push the industry, displacing the likes of Slanted Jimmy and I. Madonna, Prince, Kanye West. You know the type.”


“So, the second tier rises above the first? That doesn’t make much sense.”


“Those who make it, make it big. Those who don’t sing on cruise ships or in hotel lounges. It really isn’t where they end up, though; it’s where they start. Seraphim get their gigs because of who they are. Virtues get their gigs through work, hard work and relentless effort.”


“And where do I fit in?”


“You’re an angel, the third tier, the good. You could have been a Virtue, most virtues start out angels, but Slanted Jimmy found you before your virtue developed. He used your talent, your beauty and your desire, but when you flew as high as he was willing to support, he let you fall.”


“Why did he do that? I’m just as talented as before.” A tear formed. Her playful side now overshadowed by doubt and regret. No state for an angel.


“And just as beautiful, perhaps more so. No matter. It’s just numbers. Plenty more come to ERGW every week. To Slanted Jimmy, you are expendable.”


“And what am I to you?” Her eyes brightened. A slight upturn formed in her mouth’s corners.


“Precious.”


“Then why let me leave? Why don’t you fight for me?”


Have I done enough for her? I took her in when she had know where to go, provided sustenance when she lacked wherewithal to provide for herself, I accepted her, and who in their right mind wouldn’t, when Slanted Jimmy and the biz rejected her, loved her when she couldn’t love herself, educated her with every lesson she needed to live a good life and used my influences to get her a voice gig on a cartoon series. I couldn’t, of course, remind her of this. She needed to trust herself again, fully, without me propping her up.


“Is this a test? Do I need to fight you to love you? No, that’s not the love I want. Unlike Slanted Jimmy, I can’t give you wings and set you airborne, but you’re back on feet, and you and I know it’s time to stretch your legs.”


“What?”


“We both know it’s time for you to venture out on your own.”


Beatrice retreated, pressing her back into the seat. We stared, both of us, straight ahead into the direction, but not directly at Mary, who seemed to stir a little as if life, perhaps her will, found its way back to her.


“Do you remember when you said, ‘That’s where it ends?’” She turned to me.


“Yeah.”


“That’s not where it ends.” Her fight continued. “You both travel in the same circles. You both play the same game. With all the games to play, why is that? Don’t answer. There one more important thing, you both cast aside your women.”


“I never asked you to leave.”


“You never asked me to stay, to be your one and only.”


I shrugged.


“You both accumulate a following. Don’t deny it. I may always be drawn to Slanted Jimmy, but I will, WILL, follow your teachings. I will, WILL, always be indebted to you.”


“No debt.”


“You did so much for me.”


“My pleasure. My pleasure a hundred times over.”


“You’ll still be my agent, right?”


“Of course, and Bea, there will always be room in my heart for you. It’s just that ...”


“… you’ll not let me displace another from your home.”


I stared at her, slack-jawed, and awestruck.


“Kate left me a letter, too.”


Silence followed, and in those quiet moments, Mary stirred. Her palms, no longer cupped her eyes, hovered over her kneecaps as if she weighed lambs hearts at market, trying to decide which to purchase.


“How long are you gonna wait?” Beatrice cracked open the passenger side door.


“I never know what to say.” I pressed the trunk release latch.


Beatrice moved her things to a Burbank pad near the animation studios. She’ll hop on a bus, hopefully in time to meet The Barns furniture deliverymen. She liked warm, earthy Mission style furniture. Our tastes differed.


“You had all the right words for me.“


“When will I see you?”


“Not till fate entwines us, again.” Beatrice closed the door, grabbed her duffel from the trunk and headed up the street.


Mary looked up as Beatrice passed. A look of recognition flashed across her face, followed by disappointment. Her eyes still searched floating clouds for answers when my shakedown enshrouded her countenance.


“Hey, sinna’” Mary hailed.


“I prefer Cinna.”


“What’s the diff?”


“One refers to a famous Roman senator who opposed Julius Caesar. The other is an epithet, calling me a sinner.”


“No, not sin-ner, sinna’s short for ‘sinister.’ Slanty J always calls ya’ ‘Sinister’, like that’s ya’ name, Mr. Sinister.”

“It’s because I’m a lefty.”


“Ya’ commie, too.”


“No, just left handed. The Romans called all lefties, ‘sinister.’ I’m glad English just calls us lefties.”


“Oh.” She turned her gaze downward.


“So,” I began, “have figured out what you are going to do next?”


“That’s what I’d been doing.” She arched her back to face me. “Slanty J said you’d be along.”


“And?”


“F**k him,” she planted her feet and stood, “let’s go.”


I escorted her to my car. She plopped herself down, placed her feet on the center council and rested against the door.


“Seat belt,” I prompted.


“Don’ wanna be strapped in.”


“Would you like a ride home?”


“Don’t have no home to go to.”


“I got a spare room. You can use it for a while.”


“Yeah, right.”


“Would you like to stop by The Brick? Pick up your things?”


“Ain’t nothing for me, there. Besides, Slanty J always say never bring you by, no way, no how.”


“He hates me that much?”


“Nah, he says ya’ nothing. Jus’ a dragon he can slay anytime.”


“Dragon? He used to call me a Demon.”


“Dragon. Demon. No matter. Ya’ the anti Jimmy, an’ he don’t want you around.”


She straightened to sit properly. Her hand fished in her purse until she dragged out a battered business card. On the front, Slanted Jimmy’s name and The Brick’s address. On the back, an East LA self storage address complete with unit number, access codes and lock combination.


Bolt cut lock and the door rolled up head high. Tears treked a zagged path down Mary’s cheek. A windblown and sun faded envelope layed a few yards down the lane, but the empty storage unit said enough. Details added little.


“Jeez, I knew Slanty J demanded complete devotion, but, damn. I mean, is this how he makes his millions?”


“Nah. He makes bank by conning innocents to say yes to his demands. This ...” I gesture to the void, “… is negligence.”


“Negligence?”


“He must have delegated paying the bill to an underling, and the underling either forgot or pocketed the rent.”


“Is that all I am to him, a delegated payment?”


“I can’t say.”


“What am I to you?”


Were I honest, I’d admit I did not know why I feel compelled to recycle Slanted Jimmy’s jetsam. I’ve searched my heart and I know it’s not altruism. Every act of charity delivered dividends. No, my motives laid elsewhere. Rejuvenating Slanted Jimmy’s rejects, bringing them back from his all consuming destruction filled my chest with pride, proved, in a small but sure measure, I was better than him, better in ways he never will appreciate or understand. Janet, Susan, Katernina, Beatrice, all of them loved me even after they left, a large return for the small deposit of affection I placed in them. Oh the glorious power of yes.


“Another lost angel.”


She lost her balance and leaned into me for support. I wrapped an arm around her shoulder.


I represented most of them, and they generated quite an income. I could haunt ERGW and prey upon hopefuls, but I was not a lion, like Slanted Jimmy. He taught The Power of Yes to commoditize them, to extract and barter their “yes”es. I taught them to channel The Power of Yes, to extract “Yes” from the world, not bad for a jackal, a scavenger, a redeemer.


All the same, I wonder what he saw in this waif. She must’ve demonstrated some overwhelming talent, though she seemed mediocre at ERGW. In my mind, her diction, alone, turned my post-coital back to her. I let my arm slip around her waist and her closer.


“Perhaps we should go shopping, first?”


“Perv, ya’ tryin’ to dress me up like a Barbie doll or lil’ school girl?”


Barbie doll is definitely out. She’s no Jill or Beatrice.


“You know, the school girl thing might just work for you.”


“You really a sinna’.”


“Cinna.”







© 2017 Chopstix



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Chopstix
First new story since joining WritersCafe. Still a little rough. Whatd'ya think?

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Added on August 26, 2017
Last Updated on September 28, 2017
Tags: Talent, Agent, Redemption, Yes

Author

Chopstix
Chopstix

Los Angeles, CA



About
In high school, I wrote lyrics. I started college writing poems and switched to short stories. After college, I discovered I could write computer programs, but I could not finish a novel (kept editi.. more..

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