Les Folies: Deux
John Milius sat up, beaming mindlessly. Loris knelt in front of him, smiling. “I’m a writer,” he said, “I should be able to think of something to say other than ‘Oh, wow’.”
“That’s what I said when I found out you wrote ‘Apocalypse Now’ and ‘Dirty Harry’.”
Milius grinned as he slowly stood up. “Let me ask you,” he said, still beaming. “Do you only massage people with superb physiques like mine?”
She laughed. “Tall, short, skinny, fat, broken. Each one its own universe.”
“Well, screenplays are the same way. Each one is totally different. But when I sit down and crack my fingers, they’re all made out of the same stuff.”
He turned and walked to the door, feeling two inches taller and floating an inch off the floor. He opened the door and turned to say thanks and good-bye, but was immediately nailed by Kenny and Gareth, who must have been laying in ambush for a half-hour.
“I think you’ve seen we can bring a show,”
Kenny gushed. “And these girls and talent here are in the film. Are the film, really.”
Milius hid his wince at having his serenity crash down to Biz with these two yapping yorkies, but maintained his manner. “Does that Mayan girl even speak English?”
“Xchab? No way. She’s authentic all the way. Tribal. Magically realistic.”
“She’ll play the Mayan princess,” Gareth yammered. “Speaking Mayan, English subtitles.”
“Except in, you know, foreign distribution,” Kenny tacked on, nodding.
“Didn’t Mel Gibson already to that?”
Gareth shook his head forcefully. “No way. He was just spouting a bunch of weird bullshit and they subtitled him with a booking number.”
He rounded the corner to where the main deck gave views of the gardens and on down the tiers of enchangment to the river below. And saw their host standing at the bannister, intent on the lawn below. He moved closer to speak, hoping it would scrape the Valley Boyz off his shoes since they were desperate to importune Coppola, but too intimidated to even cross his shadow. He saw the hand held up in warning and stepped quietly to the rail where only he could hear the soft, “Have you seen this, John?”
He looked where Coppola was pointing at Copper, practicing her firespin with two tennis balls on her chains, each trailing three feet of bright ribbon. The chains spun a web around her, the ribbons defining a twisting sphere of influence as though trying to weave themselves into a solid ball of color.
And three paces behind her, Xchab continued her apprenticeship, moving with the flame dancer step for step, her arms echoing each movement.
And each of her movements was traced by a hovering cloud of hummingbirds.
A brilliant buzz in the green-tinted sunlight, the flock meshed and morphed behind her, tendrils of vivid birds outlining every movement of her hands, the mantle of irridescent feathers spreading and whirling behind her like a cape.
“That’s the really amazing thing up here,” he said quietly to the writer. “Things happen in real life that would be preposterous to try to bring to the screen.”
Gareth cleared his throat and stepped forward, holding up a timorous finger. “Excuse me, Mr. Coppola, but actually we have some ideas on that…”
Aphra figured she could get in, grab the goodies and be back at the well-provisioned dining table before anybody thought she was taking a long time answering the call of Nature. This whole wide-open, secure feel of the Lodge was great. Totally unsecure. She slipped into the room where Tuan and MeiMei were staying in a Robinson Crusoe With Luxuries setup, everything rustic and Tarzan/Jane where it counted and the jungle just outside and doing it’s damnedest to come on in and get homey. Her tracking gizmo was in her hand, blinking and twittering to itself as she panned the room and oops, there it was, over there in the dresser. The little subdued signal it gave from its own min-battery, meaning somebody had removed the camera battery. And in a place like this, with scenery outside yelling for attention and every other guy you run into some famous movie type, that would mean they were hip to the camera doing a little multi-tasking. Smarter than your average slope, these two, and that’s damned smart. But us corn-row niggahs known to come up with a few wiles, our ownselves.
She had her spare sender-cam ready, but under the circumstances took three seconds to open it and dump the batteries out into her pocket. The one she wanted turned out to actually be behind the dresser, but it’s all good. She pocketed it and carefully taped the ringer back where it had been, shoved the dresser back to the wall and headed back to the dining room. This place had to be good for some scrumptious kind of dessert.
Loris reached for the ceiling, staring straight up, stretching powerfully and rotating her fingers as their voices dwindled down the walkway from this mediation room to the main lodge. Those poor saps needed more than she could give them in a weekend. She thought about oXo again, sitting in their room on a dresser. She could just walk in, pick him up, and walk out. But she knew that wasn’t the right thing. Or not the right time.
She slowly brought her hands down, then lowered her head. And found herself looking right at Aphra Alisander, modest in a big white terrycloth robe. And saying, “So, you do women, too?”
“Massage is equal opportunity,” Loris said, patting the straw mat flooring. Aphra flowed down into a prone position, the robe drifting off along the way. Loris arranged her arms and head, pulled her feet together, rubbed scented oil on her hands, and leaned into a long push up the black girl’s spine.
After a minute she felt some of the residual guardedness start to unwind, but was waiting. And sure enough, Aphra said, “Believe I asked if you do women, too?”
Hands ringing her biceps, working in for the concreted fascia, Loris said, “My relationships with people are about who they are, not what sort of plumbing they have.”
“You sound like my kind of girl,” Aphra purred. After another minute she said, “Course you got that hunky boyfriend. Kind of a new one if I read the signs and scent correctly. Looks like he’s plumbed pretty good.”
“I haven’t known him long, but I think it’s something that’s going to last and grow.”
“So how’d you kids meet?”
“It was a business deal.”
“Turned into a pleasure deal. I cotton to those myself. Hint, hint.”
She turned over face up, sliding snake-like under the oil and light coat of sweat. She faced Loris, supine, and spread her legs a little. “I been liking you since we met, honey. And I’m wide open to getting to know you better, you see what I’m saying.”
Loris adjusted her rub to her new position, working silently, but keeping her eyes on Aphra’s.
“So listen,” she went on, starting a slow and subtle movement under Loris’ hands. “Turns out I’m the kind of person gets to know things and find out shit beyond the average schlimizzle gets his 411 from Google.”
“That’s what I hear.”
“Ah, my reputation precedes me? We should talk about that sometime. But let me tell you about the studly Mr. Bannock there. At least his third surname, by the by.”
“It suits him well enough.”
“There’s girls kind of cream over your bad boys, them roughup scary types. But they’re going for the image, not the real item, they gotta a brain left in they head. But your guy there is the real thing. I’d even go so far as to classify his tight ass–and this is not a term I drop lightly–as a rather badass motherfucker.”
“He’s done pretty well so far.”
“Not a guy to take crime lightly. Oh, no… quite serious is how the man takes his crime and punishment. Like Federal time, for instance. And would still be doing that time if they could’ve nailed down a couple of unfortunate fatalities that he was believed to have had guilty knowledge of. Heard anything about that?”
“Not until just now. But how about you? Have you ever been in prison?”
“Nah, there’s still some of us sassy black folk ain’t been rounded up yet.”
“Because you seem a little dangerous yourself. And nosy. And maybe the type who doesn’t pay much attention to laws and orders.”
“No, I’ve not yet had the privilege of incarceration.”
“Well if you did, do you think you’d do whatever it called for?”
“Oh, you just know it, sweetie.”
“I appreciate the information. I know you mean it well. Well, more or less.”
“Ah, ‘More or less’. Pretty much my M.O.”
“I mean, you’re also hoping to weaken a relationship I’m growing increasingly content with, so you can get your hands on me for ten minutes.”
“Ten minutes? Give me some credit, Slim.”
“Flattering, but also kind of, well… you know. You must run into it all the time. So let’s try something different.”
“Hey, something different…”
“No. I mean different thinking, also. Listen to me, okay?”
Aphra seemed to hit a deeper level of relaxation, subsiding on the mat and looking up without the arch manner she’d been showing since she walked in. Might not be a bad idea.”
“Why go to the trouble? Why not just relax?”
“Girl, I was any more relaxed, I wouldn’t have any vital signs.”
“No, you’re on the prod. Playing angles.” She put a finger over Aphra’s lips to stop the game. Then said, “I read people. No name on it or anything. I just have the gift to read people.”
Aphra’s legs edged wider apart. “Now me, I’m just an open book.”
“More than you know. You think of yourself as a very sensual, sexual person. But I think you’re playing yourself.”
“I always thought if they make a movie of my adventures I could play myself.”
“People use sex as an expression of love. They use it to get pleasure, to feel good and released at a deep level. But that’s not what you do.”
Aphra had a half-dozen quips to lay on that one, but instead was quiet under the seeking, calming hands.
“With you, it’s all about power. You play a game you can win, you use your body to get things from people, get things on people. You seem selfish, and maybe you think you are. But actually, you aren’t really getting any for yourself. You’re just wasting it.”
It took Aphra, her eyes closed and mouth soft, several long minutes to respond to that. Finally she said, “Okay, Dionne Warwick, what you think I should do? Long as it don’t take wearing white clothes and coffee enemas.”
“Don’t just do something,” Loris said, “Lie there. Try thinking about yourself instead of me. Try feeling instead of reacting.”
Aphra spoke very softly at that point, no longer making the rhythmic movements. She said, “Just lay here? Think only of myself? I think I can swing that.”
“You lay still, keep your awareness on yourself, what you’re feeling. Not me. And I’ll give you a very special massage.”
“Oooo,” Aphra murmured in a voice so low Loris could barely hear it. “I hope you’re talking about the famous happy ending.”
“I don’t believe in endings,” Loris said, shifting her weight forward onto her probing hands. “Just cycles.”