(Click here to go our previous chapter, or here to go to the beginning of our Hollywood soap opera. Based on an untrue story.)
When they got into LAX Debbie Greenberg was waiting for them.
“Debbie, baby, what are you doing here?”
“What’s it look like I’m doing, I’m picking you guys up.”
“Oh, thanks, but -- “
Debbie turned to Liz.
“How are you, sweety?”
“I’m -- tired.”
Liz had slept about twelve hours the night before, and she’d slept in the cab to the airport. She’d fallen asleep again in the Milwaukee airport and she’d slept through the flight. Buddy had hardly talked to her at all. Last night she’d been drunk and incoherent, and today she had been hungover and untalkative or asleep.
“Are you guys hungry?”
Yeah, Buddy was hungry; he’d only had peanuts on the plane (and not a single goddam drink, even during his customary over-the-Rockies panic attack), but he waited for Liz, and anyway the question was really directed at Liz.
“I -- yeah, I am, Debbie.”
“Good, what do you want to eat, sweetheart?”
“I want -- a Pink’s hotdog?”
“No, you’ve got to have something nutritious, Liz. Look at you, you’re a twig.”
“No I’m not --”
“Look, don’t start. Now what do you want to eat?”
“Can I have -- a hot pastrami?”
“Sure you can, baby. All right, let’s blow this dump.”
Despite the fucked-up circumstances Buddy felt full of the joy of being safely alive back on the ground and, yes, back in L.A. Despite all its ugliness and tackiness this town was his home...
And in the car Liz fell promptly asleep again, curled up in the back seat.
“What do you think, Deb, should we just take her home?”
“Nah, let’s get some food in her.”
They were driving in Debbie’s vintage 1960-something Chevy convertible, Debbie cruising along through the rush-hour traffic like a gangster’s moll with a kerchief on her head and her sunglasses on and a cigarette in her hand.
“Y’know, Deb, you really didn’t have to --”
“Oh, shut up, Buddy. Marlene wanted to come but I had work for her to do at the office.”
“Oh, that was nice of her --”
“She’s hot for you.”
“Aren’t all women?”
“Hey, you’re a free man now, Best. Watch the babes come crawling out of the woodwork.”
“Yeah, I’ll have to stop at the drug store and pick up some chick repellant.”
But then maybe Debbie had a point there. Like what about that woman in the bar last night, who had given him her lawyer-card, which admittedly he had thrown away, but still -- and what about Marlene? She was fine looking --
“You’re thinking about Marlene, aren’t you, Best?”
“No, no, not at all, uh, just thinking about where we should go to, uh, eat --”
“No, really --”
“Okay, how about Canter’s?”
“Canter’s is cool,” said Buddy.
They talked business for a bit, and now Buddy was looking at Debbie. Okay, how old was Debbie? Late thirties? Forty? He sure wasn’t going to ask. But she did have a bod, another one of these workout queens -- and what was up with this skirt action? Her skirt was really short. And tight. As her foot worked the brake and the accelerator you could see the muscles moving in her thigh and calf. And she was wearing this sleeveless top that showed off her shoulders and her arms. And her breasts. Okay, were they real? Not that Buddy gave too much of a damn if they were or not.****
While Debbie got Liz into bed in her old room -- she’d fallen asleep again on the way back from Canter’s -- Buddy sat in the kitchen with a bourbon on the rocks and made some phone calls. Philip and Deirdre were both out. Buddy finished his calls and sat there at the kitchen table. Debbie came in.
“She had a little crying jag, but she’s asleep now,” she said.
“Cool.” There was a wet blotch on Debbie’s top, over her right breast; it must have been from Liz’s tears. “You want a drink, Deb?”
“Yeah, I could use one now, thanks.”
Debbie wanted wine, so Buddy opened up a bottle of Montrachet for her and they took their drinks out back. They sat in the deck chairs with the sun going down behind them on the other side of the house, and they stared at the pool, which had now assumed a marbled greenish-brown color under its coating of leaves and twigs and dead bugs. It gave off a slightly swampy odor, mingled with the smell of the eucalyptus and of the overripe garden.
"So Buddy," said Debbie, "are you trying to grow something in this pool, like a science project? And what’s with the garden over there? You gonna shoot a miniature Tarzan movie?”
“That’s an idea.”
"And are you aware that your lovely old home looks like a frat house on a Sunday morning? Don't you have a cleaning woman?"
“Joan wouldn’t have one. It was this weird midwestern thing with her --”
Say what you want about Joan, and you could say a lot, but she was a clean-freak, an orderly-freak, a lawncare-and-gardening freak. She’d come home from a full day of shooting action scenes and then clean the oven or vacuum the fucking curtains --
“Joan is gone, Buddy. Your place is a pigsty. So hire a fucking cleaning woman. Hire a pool service and a part-time gardener.”
“More expensive than Joan?”
“You got a point there.”
“I can help you with this stuff if you want me to.”
“No, I’ll get on it.”
“Did you talk to your doctor?”
“Yeah. He said just to let her sleep, and we have an appointment with him tomorrow at one.”
“You’re supposed to meet with the Sony people tomorrow at one.”
“I can take her if you want.”
“To the doctor’s?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Well -- no reason I guess.”
“I’m your business manager, Mr. Best.”
“Yeah. But this isn’t exactly business.”
“If it affects you it affects the business, so it is business. So what’s up with Liz? She started on the pills again, right?”
“I don’t know. I think she was just drinking this time.”
“Drinking? I thought her thing was diet pills.”
“Yeah, it was. But this guy she was with, she met him at AA, he was more of an alcy, so, from what little I could drag out of her, I gather he started drinking again, and she started drinking too, so --”
“Why did she go to AA if her problem was pills?”
“She doesn’t like NA. She says it’s always crack heads and heroin addicts and she can’t relate. She likes the alcoholics better.”
“Maybe too much.”
They sat and looked at the dirty water in the pool.
“So, what’s up with you, Deb? You still going out with, uh, what’s his name -- Jerry? No -- Harry?”
“Close. Larry. And no. Not for, what, a year now?”
“Oh. You going out with anybody else?”
“Are you asking me for a date?”
Buddy didn’t say anything. But a lot was going unsaid all of a sudden.
She reached over and touched his thigh.
Debbie would probably be great in bed. But then there was the problem of what would happen out of bed. And more immediately there was the problem that what he most wanted to do right now was to rent a trashy DVD, smoke half a joint and drink beer and watch the DVD, and then go the fuck to bed, alone, and sleep. Or maybe he should take a swim first, in the dirty water...
Deirdre’s voice rang out from inside the house, saying Hello she was home.
“Oh well,” said Buddy.
“Darn kids,” said Debbie. “Let’s go in, I haven’t seen Deirdre in ages.”
“You go ahead, I’m going to sit here a minute.”
He wanted to wait till his erection went away.****
As he stood with Debbie out by her car he said, “Look, I’d better take Liz to the doctor myself tomorrow.”
“Okay, but --”
“No, look, you go to the meeting with Harvey and Iggy. Cover for me. This is more important.”
“You’re a good egg, Best.”
“Yeah, well --”
“Gimme a kiss.” And she lifted her face up.
Buddy gave her a little kiss and she wanted more.
“That wasn’t much of a kiss, asshole.”
“I’ve got a lot on my mind, Debbie.”
“Right. I’m being a fucking cunt.” She smiled. “We’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Right,” said Buddy.
(Do we see romance in Buddy’s future? Should he perhaps keep it in his pants for just a little while? Continued here. Please turn to the right hand column of this page for a conceivably up-to-date listing of links to all other available chapters of Uncle Buddy’s House™, soon to be a major motion picture starring Humphrey Bogart as Buddy and Ava Gardner as Debbie. A Larry Winchester Production.)