“She’s this rich and has more money than she knows what for,” John said, “All you have to do is follow my lead and you’ll make a lot of money.” John had secured some sort of position working for, Pauline Wrychrist-Andreas, the grand-daughter of the classic film era actor, Edwyne Eaton-Wrychrist. “Winnie Wrychrist,” as he was professionally known, was famous for playing fops and dandies and uttering such catch phrases as, “Oooie, Wayland I’ll be your pup,” “Welly, welly, well, there’s a neat trick in my pocket,” and “Nancy-Pansy, that’s quite fancy.”
The last time I’d seen John, he’d been standing at the foot of my stairs wearing an old sweat and food stained track suit. Large areas of his face revealed raw, red patches of exposed flesh, with strips of dried skin hanging off like shards of potato chips. The whole of his face was made all the more obscene by his liberal application a foul smelling viscous medicinal balm. John was shifting back and forth nervously as he engaged in his usual monologue, which, for him, passed as small talk. He would never look me in the eyes directly; he always seemed to be looking somewhere to the left or right of my head. As I stared down at him, articulating obligatory monosyllabic responses, I kept thinking of a roasted ham covered in syrup – loony tunes style.
Now, John was wearing a shirt, tie, and a pair of Dockers. Although his clothes were dingy and looked as if he’d slept in them, his face was cleared up and his gaze periodically met mine. Three months had done John good.
“Did you bring your resume?” he asked without looking at me. I reached in my folder and handed it over. John looked at it without taken it, reached into his shirt pocket and removed a pair of mirrored aviator sunglasses. He slowly put them on, and then turned to look directly at me. “Hold onto it. She’ll want to see it,” he leaned in close. I could see myself reflected doubly in the lenses, as I replaced the resume. “Let me do the talking. I’ll let you know when to say something – otherwise just follow my lead.”
John strode self-importantly across the campus with me following several steps behind. “Strode” is exactly the most accurate word to describe John’s walk. If you could imagine having your underwear stuck in tI guess it suddenly struck him that he didn’t know where he was going, because he stopped and waited for me to catch up. “Which way is the film and television library?” He asked. Seeing my own reflection in his mirrored sunglasses more than slightly pissed me off. Here was this schmuck acting all important just because he was hooking me up with a job. Since I’d been unemployed for three months already, I swallowed my pride and pointed out the building to him. John walked and talked without looking at me, “She’s a bit of an alcoholic and airhead, but she’s partially a Jewess so she can be crafty when she’s sober and money’s on the table. Now regarding your salary, she’s got short-term and long-term projects. If I were you, I’d think long-term.”
John stopped and stared at me. He adopted the demeanor of someone describing the plans for taking a hill, “in the immediate future there’s the contract review work. In the long-term there’s a writing project about her grandmother’s life. You don’t want to price yourself out of things. Think around twenty to twenty-five dollars an hour for now, and then you can negotiate a per-project fee for the long-term stuff.”
As I walked behind John, listen to his advice, I noticed that the sole of his left shoe was detached at the heel and it was flapping like a mouth as he walked.
“You still smoking?,” he asked as we stood in front of the ULA Mulholland Library, eyeing the package of Camel Lights in my shirt pocket. “I’m trying to quit,” I mumbled, wanting one badly but thought smelling like rancid smoke might not make the best impression. John did a series of deep knee bends and cracked his neck, “Put your game face on. Here she comes.” I looked out on the quad, anticipating a refined matriarch in the cast of Barbara Stanwyck. Instead, a short, squat, woman with a fat red-cheeked face looked past me to John and smiled, then turned and said something to a petite pale-skinned young woman walking next to her. “Remember.
Don’t speak unless you’re spoken to – have your resume ready.” John said through his frozen smile.
Pauline Wrychrist-Andreas walked up the steps and stood before us with the air of royalty. John leaped forward and planted a moist kiss on each cheek; she did the same, but her lips never actually touched John’s face. As she kissed his cheek on the side where I stood, she cast an appraising look on me. She stepped aside and held out a hand to me.
I was unsure as to whether I should kiss the ring on the hand or shake it. I shook it. “John has told me every so many nice things about you. I am please to have you working for me.” The pale-skinned young woman, whom I later learned was the personal assistant, Claire Fellows-Leeds watched Pauline Wrychrist-Andreas’ every move. At a glance from her mistress, Claire stepped forward and requested my resume. She spoke in a crisp British accent and promptly deposited my resume into an elegant attaché case, after quickly scanning the document over the lenses of the wire-framed glasses resting on her nose.
“Shall we?” John took Mrs. Wrychrist-Andreas’ arm and led he into the library. I followed a few steps behind Claire.