Kid 72 is easy enough to find, now that his bunch of roses start coming apart, dropping a trail of wilted flower petals to follow him around the room. Dude 72, the kid, his white rose petals follow him as he dogs Sheila around, asking her, “Can I go soon?” Looking at the flowers in his hands, he goes, “Is it true?” He goes, “You think she’s going to die?” Dude 137, the television dude, goes, “Yes, young lady, when might we view the body?” Kid 72 goes, “You ain’t funny.” And the Sheila babe says, “Why would Ms. Wright want to die?”
Six hundred of us waiting in one room, we’re breathing the same air for the third or fourth time. Almost no oxygen left, just the sweet stink of hairspray. Stetson cologne. Old Spice. Polo. The sour smoke of marijuana from little one-hitter pipes. Dudes stand at the buffet, scarfing down the candy smell of powdered doughnuts, chili-cheese nachos, peanut butter. Dudes swallowing and farting at the same time. Belching up gas bubbles of black coffee from their guts. Breathing out through wads of Juicy Fruit gum. Chewed mouthfuls of pink bubble gum or buttered popcorn. The chemical stink of Sheila’s fat black felt pen. The what’s-left smell of the kid’s rose bunch. The locker-room smell of some dude’s bare feet, we breathe that smell like those cheeses from France that smell like your sneakers in high school that you’d wear in gym class all year without washing them. Cuervo’s laid on his bronzer so thick that his arms stick down the sides of his lats. His feet stick to the concrete floor. When Cuervo takes a step, his skin peels off the floor with the sound of somebody yanking off a bandage. Our one bathroom we got for six hundred dudes to share, the floor’s so wet with piss that dudes stand in the doorway and do their best to hit the sink or the toilet. The reek floating out of that doorway smells bad as any step you ever took when your foot slipped instead of landing, outdoors, slick enough you guess it’s a mess before you catch a whiff of the dog turd you’ll be digging out the tread of your shoe. Cuervo lifts one arm, making that bandage sound as the skin peels apart, pasted down with bronzer. Cuervo lifts one elbow and ducks his head to sniff that armpit, going, “Should’ve brought along more Stetson.” Coming off kid 72, we got the green smell of deodorant soap. The mint tang of mouthwash. To bait him, I ask dude 137, will this be his first time in front of a camera? Dude 137 shakes his head, throwing off the smell of cigarettes, under that the smell of his stuffed teddy bear soaked in armpit sweat. I tell him to go easy on the wood pills. Just now, watching him from across the room, dudes are taking bets on how fast he keels over from a stroke. Dude should see how red his face looks, the veins on his forehead standing out plain as lightning bolts. Either that, I say, or he should get in the pool, put some money down on a time. At least that way he’ll make a few bucks when he overdoses. Kid 72 goes, “Why’d a star like Cassie Wright ever want to kill herself?” Maybe for the same reason superstar Megan Leigh shot more than fifty-four films in three years and then bought her mom a half-million-dollar mansion. Only then did the star of Ali Boobie and the 40 D’s and Robofox shoot herself in the head. Isn’t a kid alive who doesn’t dream about rewarding her folks, or punishing them. It’s how come legendary woodsman Cal Jammer stood in the rain in his ex-wife’s driveway and shot himself in the mouth. It’s why pussy queen Shauna Grant died at the business end of her own .22-caliber rifle. And why one night, Shannon Wilsey, the blonde high goddess of porn known as “Savannah,” went out to her garage and put a bullet into her head. My money’s on the idea that Cassie Wright’s set out to cushion the future for some baby she had a long ways back. If Cassie kicks it today, after setting this record, the residuals from World Whore Three and her cross-marketed T-shirts, her lingerie and toys, not to mention her backlist of movie titles, that income stream will make her long-lost kid . . . filthy rich. So rich he can forgive old Cassie. For how she got knocked up. How she gave up the baby. That, and the entire fucked-up, screwed-up, sad, wasted way old Cassie lived and died. If she does the penance of six hundred dudes, Cassie Wright will be forgiven. Me, personally, I tell dude 137 how I’m adding an embossed slogan to my dildos. Cast in high-relief going around the base, it’s going to say, “The Dick That Killed Cassie Wright ...” On the thickest part, so if you twist it the letters of the writing stimulate the clit. “You have a dildo?” dude 137 says. On his breath, the smell of flask hooch. The wax-candle smell of lipstick. Dude’s wearing tinted lip gloss. Damn straight, I tell him. A dildo in six different colors, one butt plug, and a double-headed whopper. Plus, I got a life-sized blow-up doll in development. Dude 137 goes, “You must feel very proud.” Used to be, I tell him, I’d move ten thousand units in a month. My cut on that was 10 percent of the list price. Other dudes, Cuervo for one, they add a few inches to their product. Could be Cuervo starts with a real casting, but what eventually hits the shelf is longer and thicker than he ever dreamed of getting it. Cuervo calls it “artistic license,” but it’s false advertising. No point calling a product true-to-life if it’s not. Kid 72 stands there, white petals dropping off his flowers. One hand, his fingers are rubbing the little silver cross hanging from the chain around his neck. Every breath, I feel the gold locket Cassie gave me bumping and pinched between my pecs. Inside that little gold heart rattles the pill. The gold, sticky with blood from my nipple. “Is that really Cord Cuervo?” says dude 137. Squinting to look through the fog of dope smoke and cologne, dude 137 goes, “The star of Lay Misty for Me and The Importance of Balling Ernest?” Nodding my head. And Lady Windermere’s Fanny, I tell him. All classy, high-brow projects. I wave at Cord, and he waves back. Number 49.Number 567. Number 278. The dudes that Sheila calls back, they each pick up their sack of clothes and follow her up some stairs. Nobody but Sheila comes out. My bet is, once you’re done, they exit you out some other way. No risking that some dude will backtrack and tell us what to expect. The legal standard for a gang bang is called “instances of sex,” meaning any hole—her cunt, ass, or mouth—and any instrument—your dick, finger, or tongue—but for only one minute. No, you follow Sheila through that door, and a minute later you’re gone. Whether or not YOU cum, you’ll find yourself undressed and shoved out some fire exit, pulling on your pants in the alley. Dude 137, still squinting across at Cord, says, “Now, that’s a pathetic sight.” He nods at Beamer Bushmills and Bark Bailey, going, “Imagine the person who could stay in that pubescent mind-set and devote his life to lifting weights and ejaculating on cue. To remain so aggressively retarded, arrested in such early-adolescent values, until he wakes up as a saggy, flabby, middle-aged train wreck.” Swear, the dude looks square at me when he says the “train wreck” part, but maybe he was just looking at me. I say there’s worse that can happen. A dude could end up cast a couple seasons in a prime-time hit TV series, then lose the role because of some messy sex scandal, then find he’s so associated with the old series—maybe playing some dopey private detective—that he’ll never get another decent acting job the rest of his career. I say that would be genuine tragic. And I tell dude 137, in case he wants to cover his bald spot, I got a spray in my bag that might work. Pointing with my toe—I always wear flip-flops on a shoot—with my big toe I show him the trail of hair that follows him. Rose petals or bronzer or hair, we all leave our tracks. Looking from his hair on the concrete, then to me, then to Sheila checking her clipboard across the room, dude 137 yells, “Chop-chop.” He yells, “You want to goose it a little, honey?” I ask him, does he got some better place to be? Some audition, maybe? Not me, I tell him. I can wait. I say, because of what we do today, to that woman back there, some kid she’s never met will never have to work another day in his life. The way today works is, I have to be Mr. Last. Looking at kid 72, the dude goes, “One has to wonder how many children have been sired by those men, making the films they do.” Looking at me, dude 137 goes, “If indeed we all leave our tracks.” It’s never happened, I say. And dude 137 goes, “Nice locket.” He reaches a hand toward Cassie’s necklace, the little gold heart pasted with blood between my pecs, his fingernails shining, buffed bright and clear-coated.