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Chapter 17 - Mr. 600

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Player dude’s yakking on his cell phone when he goes ballistic. Player dude with his black hair combed, stretched back, and gelled to cover his bald spot, to show a forever space of tall, white forehead, he’s yakking stock options and sell prices and reserve margins when Sheila looks up from her clipboard she’s holding.
Sheila shepherds the crew of us and yells, “Gentlemen.” She yells, “Listen for your number, please. I need ...”

Every ear turned to listen, tilted up to hear, dudes stop chewing their mouthful of taco chips. Dudes step out the bathroom doorway, their dick still in one hand. Eyes open, wide, looking for the words. Dudes hiss for silence, hold up hands, and pat the air to make other dudes quiet down.
Sheila drops each word heavy as a money shot right in your eye, saying, “. . . number 247 . . . number 354 . . . and number 72.” She waves a hand toward the stairs and says, “Would those gentlemen please follow me . . .”
Dude 72, Cassie’s maybe kid.
That’s when the cell-phone player dude goes ballistic. Dude flats his phone against his chest. Dude’s sporting a model shave, where you snap the number-one guard on your clippers and buzz all your chest hair down to the same quarter-inch long. Same as the International Male dudes in the catalogue, but minus the cut muscle. Dude tells his phone, “Hold on a sec.” He throws his head back and yells, “This is horseshit, lady!” Yelling after Sheila, dude says, “You think we’ll wait all day to drop a wad in some old bag?”
Climbed halfway up the stairs, Sheila stops. She looks back, one hand shading her eyes to see across the hairy ocean of dudes’ heads.
Above us on the TVs, the head of Scottish Yard or Interpol or some wop police dude’s eating out Cassie Wright in the back of a paddy wagon. His tongue comes across a diamond. Then he’s pulling the long string of a diamond necklace out her snatch. Diamonds being her best friend, Cassie is juicing up a storm.
Kid 72, dude with the roses, springs up next to my elbow, saying, “What do I do?”
Fuck her, I tell him.
Kid says, “No,” shaking his head. He says, “Not my mom.”
Player dude, his arms and legs sport a San Diego tan. Not the rich caramel color of a Mazatlan tan, or the smooth dry brown of a Vegas tan. On his face and neck, that’s not the even wipe of a box-bought tan, or deep and buttery, like dudes get in Cancun or Hawaii. Dude’s standing there in a cheap, beach-fried San Diego tan, and he’s got the nerve to yell, “I’m number 14, and I have places to be. I should’ve been out of here hours ago.”
The number “14” inked on his beige-brown San Diego arm, the player dude says, “This bullshit is worse than the DMV ...”
Every dude still playing statue, froze, waiting to see how this plays out. Now that the player’s said what’s on every dude’s mind, we’re primed for a revolution. Dudes ready to prison-riot, mount those stairs. Sheila’s staring down the threat of a boner stampede.
A herd hell-bent for Cassie Wright or for the exit.
Kid dude, number 72, says to me, “I’ll tell her how much I love her ...”
Go ahead, I tell him. Fuck up Mommy’s comeback. Be a needy little boy and ruin all Mommy’s hard work and planning, all her training she’s put into this world record. I tell the kid, Do it.
Kid 72 says, “You think I should fuck her?”
I say it’s his decision.
Kid says, “I can’t fuck her.” Kid says, “I can’t get it hard.”
Halfway up the stairs, standing with numbers 247 and 354, both dudes flogging their meat, their hands stretched inside the waistband of their boxer shorts, standing here, Sheila says, “Gentlemen, would you please be patient.” She says, “For Ms. Wright’s well-being, we need to conduct this in a calm, organized manner.”
Player dude yells, “Fuck that.” He walks his plain, brown feet across the concrete to where the paper bags are stacked. With his San Diego-tanned hands, he pulls out the bag inked with “14,” starts pulling out a shirt, pants, socks. Shoes that look like Armani but aren’t. His skin looks like better-quality leather.
Above us on the TVs, the ugly dago police dude’s jackhammering Cassie, pounding her poop chute so fast that diamonds, rubies, emeralds spill out her snatch, slot-machine style.
Kid 72 leans close, his lips by my ear and his chin almost hooked on my shoulder, and he says, “Give me a pill and I’ll do it.”
Fuck her? I ask. Or run up those stairs and squeal, “I love you, Mommy, I love you, I love you, Mommy, I love you . . .”?
Player dude takes out a shirt, shakes out the wrinkles. Not a real Brooks Brothers. Not even a Nordstrom. He puts his arms through each sleeve, starts doing the buttons, shooting the cuffs like this was real silk. Or even 100 percent cotton. Player dude flips the collar and slings a no-brand tie around his neck, saying, “Screw your world record, lady.” Saying, “I am so, so out of here.”
Above us on the TVs, the ugly dago dude, I’d bet that his under-tan goes two years back: a decent week in Mazatian with clouds the last two days, then, a few months later, a weekend in Scottsdale, maintenance-box tanning, a week grilling in Palm Springs, a long stretch of fading, and finally a week in Palm Desert for that kind of smooth, dry finish. Not a satin-smooth Ibiza tan. Or one of those coppery Mykonos fag tans. That ugly wop dude on the TV sports a greasy shine thick as cooking oil. A tan sexy as a thin coat of dirt.
Kid 72 into my ear hisses, “Give me the pill.”
Sheila standing, calling the bluff, waiting.
Dudes all waiting.
Next to me, another dude’s voice says, “So, Mr. Bacardi, is that Demerol in your locket?” Here’s the teddy-bear dude, number 137, saying, “Are you planning an encore performance with Miss Wright?”
Kid 72 says, “What’s he mean?”
Dude 137 says, “Why not drug your son? You already drugged his mother ...”
Player dude’s strapping on a knockoff Rolex President. Out of his brown grocery bag, he’s fishing a bad imitation of a Hugo Boss belt I got hanging in my closet back at my apartment.
Sheila looks our way, saying, “Number 72, if you’d care to join us?”
Kid 72 whispers, “What’ll I do?”
I tell him, Fuck her.
And the teddy-bear dude says, “Obey your father.”
Kid 72 says, “What’s that mean?”
And I shrug.
The player dude’s working his cufflinks, milking the job to take long as possible, his cuff links nothing better than nine-karat, even in this dim light.
Kid dude turns to the teddy-bear dude, sweat shining on the kid’s face, his whites showing all around his eyes, and he says, “Give me a pill?”
Dude 137 gives the kid a long look, up and down.
Teddy-bear dude smiles and says, “What’ll you pay for it?”
Kid says, “All I got is fifteen bucks in my wallet.”
Still watching Sheila, her watching the player dude in their stalemate, I say money ain’t what the teddy-bear dude is after. At least not fifteen bucks.
Kid says, “What, then?” He says, “Hurry.”
I ask the kid if he knows the term “fluffer,” what it means. I say that’s what dude 137 wants.
Dude still smiling, holding his bear, says, “That’s what I want.”
Above us on the TVs, the camera comes in for a close-up penetration shot, and the wop dude’s nut sack is pockmarked with botched electrolysis scars. Craters of the moon. Showing on a dozen TV screens, both his nuts pulled up tight under the exploded disaster of the dude’s wrinkled red asshole.
The player dude ties his shoelaces.
And, still halfway up the stairs, Sheila yells, “Would everyone please pipe down. Just let me think . . .” She looks at her clipboard. Looks at kid 72. Looks at the player, dressed and ready to walk out. Sheila says, “Just this once ...” She jerks her thumb at the player, saying, “Number 14, come with me.” Pointing a finger at the kid, she says, “Number 72, stand down.”
Dudes start back to talking, chewing their taco chips, taking leaks and not flushing the toilet. Their fingers come uncrossed. On the TVs, the ugly wop dude’s sweating so hard his bronzer rolls down his cheeks in brown zebra stripes, showing the dry, flaky, fried skin underneath. To no dude in particular, pointing up at the television wop dude, I go, “Dudes, do me a favor?” I go, “Kill me if I ever look that bad.”
Beside me, standing a little behind me, dude 137 says, “That was a close call ...”
The kid, dude 72 says, “What’s a fluffer?”
And Cord Cuervo says, “Dude, what are you saying?” He makes a fist and gives me a little sock in the shoulder. His bronzer glues tight to my bronzer, so he has to peel his knuckles off my shoulder skin, and Cord says, “On the TV? That is you, dude. From, like, five years ago.”

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