The Planet – Kit
Backstage one night at The Blue Rose in Detroit, I remember looking out at the audience, a mostly union working class crowd, and thinking how musicians – all coked up, and smacked out on stage – we’re not even the same kinds of people, as those cleaned-up folk who plow through snow and traffic, and suffer God knows what else to work for The Man.
They’re safe, we’re not, but who’s happy?
I mean, who the fuck is happy? I’ve got Miami’s oiled-up white trash so far up my ass. . . meanwhile, across the table from me, Bette steers the drilling I was giving her ’bout getting gut-stabbed by Tina’s psycho sister, to how indignant she is there’s a betting pool on her.
As if I hadn’t put a twenty on that one, a long time ago!
The irritated resident of the planet called, In My Own World, Bette blows out a long, exhausted sounding sigh, and then her phone rings.
Betting on them, back in their getting-to-be-besties again stage, was a no-brainer. When Jodi had scooted outa here for New York, and Bette and Tina were exchanging Baby Girl, back and forth across my doorway, I’d watched them hit a smooth gear – and on their best behavior – they’d slid right back into each other.
Yet, there was — that ticking time bomb Bette had gone and lit.
Called Jodi Lerner.
It’s as if we’re all impatient to bring about our next crisis and demise, and I for one, have had more than enough of the treachery of it, and how like a madman it’ll take your life.
But continuing on toward stranger and stranger shit, that just happens around here, comes Jenny’s movie that everyone knows is this place. Followed immediately by those two skanky bitches from Miami, just when my liquor sales were startin’ to skyrocket and it was fun goin’ to the bank on Mondays.
Alice had said it, showing off her new bruises from that ill fated adventure with Bette and the fucking sign, “We need something to ride this out, a new drink . . . something with a mindfuck kick . . . something with vodka.” And an hour later we’d named it, Altitude Disorder, after Bette and Tina’s highwire act, and I’d sold about eight hundred of them.
The new vodka, Bette and Tina falling back in love, everybody crazy about their sweet baby, and Alice seeding the speculation about the odds of betting this way or that — everybody losing weight but me, and Jenny’s movie and movie stars in here every weekend — we had all held our breath and waited, for the final countdown of Jodi being home. To see who would fall from the heights and into the sawdust of the circus tent, our never ending carnival — the place we insanely refer to as, Home.
The waiter slides a plate of cantaloupe in front of Bette, who’s still arguing over the phone with Phyllis, when I realize something else about my sister.
She’s one of the fortunate folk. She can turn heads and get speeding tickets and run fast along the edges of whatever she pleases, always with a slightly fuck-off quality about her.
“You want me to drive up to Santa Barbara this morning?” She says into the phone, obviously not too keen on the idea. “Phyllis, are you listening to me? I vet my funding contacts carefully – who to approach as major donors for the plum spots – especially for the naming right’s on the art school.”
Phyllis argues back, vigorously. Then, Bette stabs her fork right into the cantaloupe, and it sticks straight up with a twang, and she shouts, “I need to know a whole lot more than you had a lovely conversation with someone on your flight back from Sacramento!”
With a dramatic roll of her eyes, Bette holds out her phone for me to listen to Phyllis’ answer, which leads me to the other half of her being so fortunate, but so fucking stupid. Who else, on a sunny Monday morning, would argue about riding up the coast, and being entertained by rich people?
Someone from the planet of In My Own World, and a city called, So Not My Idea.
She ends her call abruptly, and the cantaloup begins to disappear. Between bites she says, “Honestly, I know all about the East Indian woman, Penelope de Souza, Phyllis is going on and fucking on about. She’s loaded, she’s generous, she’s gorgeous.”
Then, Bette stops chewing for a moment, and her eyes go into a softer, out-of-focus look. “Before I met Tina, Penny and I dated for awhile.”
“Who is she?”
“Nothing short of amazing.”
“How’d it end?”
“Not badly. She had to leave for the Far East. We had an amazing goodbye dinner, and she left.” Bette brushes her hands together. “Done!”
A sly smile. “I think I will.”
She leans down and kisses my cheek. “And did I tell you? We want to have another baby. Have I told you that?”
“You thinkin’ ’bout doing it this time?”
“God no! I’ve got my part down pat.”
I frown for a moment, not unhappy about a new baby, but from the memory of Tina’s undertow of postpartum depression.
“I thought you’d be happy with the news.” Bette stares down at me, her purse tucked under her arm, she’s all power suited up and raring for a tangle. “What’s wrong?”
“I told you five minutes ago! I’ve got bad white trash trouble, but I’ll deal with it. You go on.”
“I’ll be back on the road by three. Call you then?”
“Yeah, call me from the road. Now, you go on and get outa here. I’ll think of something.”
Santa Barbara – the de Souza Estate – Bette
“You look well. It’s been awhile.” Penny presses the button for the elevator.
“Are we going up, down?”
“This elevator takes us down into my offices. Sensitive stuff, private matters. Upstairs, we entertain here a lot.”
“Of course, you do.”
She leads me into warren of rooms, far below the main estate’s mansion. Penny turns to look back at me. “You should’ve come seen me in Hong Kong, Bette. I had this amazing flat that overlooked the bay.”
“I probably should have . . .” my voice trails off as we walk into her office, and I see a very familiar painting from my past.
“You bought it?”
“I did. I sent for it later.” She reaches up and straightens the frame on the nude, that wasn’t hanging crooked at all. “That was such a romantic time.”
Penny leans against the edge of her desk, and motions me to a chair. “It’s ten-thirty, kind of an in between time, don’t you think? Should we have coffee, should we have tea? Should we start on Bloody Marys? Although, I have a lot of work to do today.”
“Did you enjoy living in Asia?”
“Are you asking, if I’m sorry I left you?”
“No, that wasn’t . . .”
But she doesn’t let me finish. Into her phone she orders our tea tray and lifting her eyebrow to me. “Fruit? Biscuits?”
“Cantaloupe, if you’ve got it.”
“We grow thousands of them here. You must take some.” Penny hangs up the phone. “Where is home now, Bette?”
“This will surprise you!” I hand her my iPhone to see my family’s pictures. “Home is with my fiancée and daughter.”
She sends me a delightful smile. “Yours?”
“Funny, how that keeps coming up today. No, Tina gave birth to her. I do all the other parts, as best I can.”
“I know what you mean.” Penny flips through more pictures. “I have children. A boy and a girl. Five and three. He’s like a small tiger. She’s quiet, with big dark eyes. They’re both intense.”
“Mine is still blissfully playful.”
“Children change you.”
“Immensely. Did you ever marry?”
“Two times.” Penny looks sheepishly at me. “It would’ve been three, but I came to my senses, and just walked away – moved to another country – and that was that.”
“Very much your MO, as I recall.”
“I’m sorry, if I hurt you.”
“I’ve thought of you over the years, wondered how you’ve been.”
“Making money.” She moves around her desk and opens a drawer. “Let’s take the sting out of how we left it.” She flips open her checkbook. Her pen poised, she sends me a quizzical look. “How bad was it?”
I look up at the nude painting of me hanging on her wall, and send her a sad, but sexy smile. “Oh, very.”
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