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March 2019

Princess Cake

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The photographer dunked a Lorna Doone cookie into a cup of iced coffee with her left hand and bit off the wet corner. Her name was Daisy Valentine. She was twenty-seven. A skinny old cat licked up the crumbs that fell on the floor of her
stucco bungalow. Daisy’s right hand worked a computer mouse, manipulating pixels on a photo of onion rings that she was editing. It was a job for a local burger joint.

The walls of her studio were cement. The floor was chipped old Moroccan tile. Deep pink bouganvillea vines crept inside through a screen-less arched window, open to the LA night. When she heard a coyote softly howl, she grabbed her ever-ready Pentax and took it out onto her back patio. She made her way across the flagstones and weeds to that low back wall just below the Hollywood sign. Beyond the forest and reservoir, the lights of LA glittered like distant sands. She sat on the wall as her eyes scanned the forest. Someone in a neighboring house played some old Stones… “Oh I am sleeping under strange strange skies…” She watched the tiny light shimmers drift up from the bramble. She didn’t take any pictures.

She heard a sound coming from her house and turned toward it. It was Travis, stepping out of her open back door onto her patio. He carried a small brown paper bag and a pastry box.

“Was it ready?” she asked.

He offered the paper bag. She got off the wall, walked to him and took it as she passed by and went back into her house. He followed, “I got some food. Gelsons was open.”

“In a minute.” she told him as she went back into her studio.

Daisy unlocked a steel cabinet and took out a half-full 12 inch reel of 35mm film. She took it to a second work table across from her computers. Wedged against it was an old tank of a film editor – a 1956 35mm Moviola. She removed a roll of film – uncut 35mm slides – from the bag Travis had given her. She slid it into the gears of the Movieola and turned on its light. Hand-cranking it, she viewed the uncut roll of slides: the pictures were good. There were six shots of the light shimmer coming up from the forest. There were nine individual shots of the three Domingos’ dead girls, two shots of the two girls holding each other and one group shot of the three of them. Each individual shot had a small ripple of light rising above each girl. She also had twelve exterior shots of three light ripples rising above Domingos and six shots of Rhea, three in the cement river bed and three behind Domingos. She opened a little bottle of film glue, scraped the edge of the strip of film and spliced it to the end of the film that was on the reel. She put the reel back into the cabinet and locked it.

“It’s ok?” Travis asked as she came back out of the studio. “Yep.” She said. “What do you have?” He opened the pastry box. She took the piece of Princess cake and bit into it. He watched her lick crumbs from her lips. He waited. “OK?” he asked as she put it on a napkin and headed back out onto the patio. He followed, waiting for acknowledgement. There was none. A coyote came up and sat by her feet. She scratched his ear and gave him a piece of her piece of cake.

“Some old chick tried to bang me.” He broke the silence.
“Screw. Do. Fuck—”
“I know what it means.”
“No. Older. like thirty five. I like old. Older—” Travis blushed. He had a crush on Daisy. Maybe he even loved her but she was completely indifferent.

She looked at the land, at the sloping hill just beyond her patio wall. She was impatient, a little agitated. Something was bothering her.

The coyote got up. He hopped over the low wall and walked to a flat spot of land just outside the left side of the wall. The spot was well worn. There were no plants, weeds or bushes on it. He lay down. Daisy watched him, gathering an idea.
She turned and hurried back inside. She rummaged through a cabinet where she kept all her important stuff: papers, lenses, a purple cat collar. She found a surveyor’s drawing of her property. She took it outside, comparing it to her back yard.

“Travis, come here–” she told her young assistant. He obliged. She showed him the drawing.

“You see this line, here? The edge of my property?” He looked; nodded. “Yeah–”

“Do you think Ralphie is inside it or outside it?” she asked, pointing to the reclining coyote.

Travis looked from the drawing to the hill back to the drawing then back to the hill. “Outside.”

“Yeah..” Daisy agreed, still thinking. “Bummer.”

Pink Polvorones

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The inauspicious office of The Hollywood Pulse was in a storefront wedged between a lavanderia and a Burger King. Manny Valdez was carefully sprinkling two drops of Tabasco on to each of six Nutter Butter cookies he’d lined up on his desk when Rhea walked in. He offered her one.

“Nutter Butter?”

“Sure.” she took one and bit into it. She nodded, nominally impressed by the added heat.

“I know.” he agreed, “The stuff is magic. “So… ” he continued, scrolling through some text on his PC. “I got your Barragans review.”

“And–?” she asked, more nervous than she expected to be.

He let out a breath, “It’s a little too prose-y, a little political–”

“Political? How?!” she cut him off.

He read from her review, “Everyone else is looking for fame or minimum wage–?”

“You used to write for that underground paper ‘Regeneracion’. In the eighties, right? I checked.”

“Yes. And you’re a benched cop. For whatever reason. I checked. Now we’re both trying to make some money.”

“Trying to–”

“Hold on– I think this is a good first effort. Tone down the politics. Keep it sexy.” He handed her a check. “Next one’s due next Wednesday by eleven. PM.”

“OK. Ahhh… Thanks.” She took the check. It wasn’t all she hoped it would be. “Ummmm… a hundred twelve dollars?”

“And seventy eight cents….” Manny added. “You gave me three hundred sixty words, minus taxes you get a hundred and twelve seventy eight.”

“Jesus. I thought it would be more.”

“Use more words.” he advised her. She nodded, agreeing and left.

It was eight fifteen when Rhea left Manny’s. Before she got in her car, she looked again at the check. So depressing. She felt that little panic again in her gut. Across the street was a Food For Less. She wasn’t much of a grocery shopper. She could get any essentials she needed – Pay Days. YooHoo. Coffee. Lime Juice. Fritos. Cold Cereal. Burritos – at any little local market or mini mart. But she’d been in the Food For Less a few times when she needed to stock up on canned soup and sour cream. She knew they had pretty good polvorones. She didn’t want to think about her situation just yet so she went in and bought three polvorones. She ate half of a pink one in her car. The sugar, flour and lard of the classic cookie soothed her enough that she gathered her logic, started her car and headed east, into Japan town.

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