Pedro woke when the sounds of Sloane and Sondra next door overcame the wall. The sounds of sex can be nice and soothing or they can be wild and profligate, but these sounds were neither. It sounded like Sloane was yelling at either me or Pedro through that wall. I felt sorry for Sondra.

"Take it like this, you fucking cow!
Don't even think about telling me . . .
you don't want it . . . like this!"
His face must have been right up against the wall. I could only imagine what sort of contortion Sondra was in for him to be getting his job done and be that close to the wall. Poor girl. She was a victim. Sloane was an evil bastard, hopped up on coke each and every blessed day. And now my only chance at something real was waking up to hear this savage, just a few feet away, terrorizing a girl who only wanted the real stuff in life.

"Ah, my friend. Are you OK this morning? I might have gotten a bit excepcional last night," Pedro said, on one elbow, pretending not to even hear was going on right behind his head.

"Yes," I said, "no damage done, except to my heart, mi corazón. It's been corralled."


Those few days down in Illampu with Sloane had changed me in a way that I could not have anticipated. I thought I had been the whipping boy long enough in life to disallow the prospect of being further humiliated; but Sloane proved me wrong. The things he made me do took me to the apex of despond and when he was done, I broke through the wall of self-pity and had an actual epiphany. My first and last. But it was el ápice.

Sloane had me bent over a wicker chair, my wrists tied to my ankles, and he was trying to hit a vein in my scrotum with a dose of cocaine that would have surely killed my had he not veered off and shot half the load directly into my ball sack. After he tossed the syringe into the wall, making a perfect bullseye into the forehead of a cheap velvet painting of the virgin Mary, it came to me as in a dream or a vision. I had hit bottom as he was probing mine with a stick of summer sausage. When the metal clasp on the sausage hit a blood vessel, the torrents of bloody filth washed over Sloane, and I felt as if I was ascending to a better place. I felt no pain; only joy. I knew I would go to America, no longer as a visitor, but as a future citizen, and I would find a way to bring my true love there where we could live a life without creatures who defile and degrade us in order to please their tormented souls.

"You crapulent whore!" Sloane yelled as he cut the ropes loose and dragged me by one ankle to the Hum Vee. "If you fucking die on me out here, I will let the fire ants eat your filthy fat ass!"


When I got out of the hospital, I kissed the sweet nurses good-by. I told them of my plans to relocate, and one very sweet young girl, Melinda, gave me a bauble she wore around her neck. "My grandmother always wanted to go to San Francisco. Would you take this with you? It was hers, and it may please her in Heaven to know that something of hers made it to the city of her dreams."


Pedro smiled that way only he could as he said, "It sounds as if Sloane may be hurting nuestro amigo pequeño over there."

I wished he had said it with some sort of remorse; but it was in a lighthearted vein. The sound of it washed over me and I realized that nothing was going to be right. It would always be the dogs, tearing apart the weak and helpless.

I turned to the only person I had ever loved and said, "I thank you for the night. I thank you for the visit. Now I think you should go."

Pedro's eyes turned dark and I could see the beast inside him, just like I'd seen it in everyone else I'd ever trusted: "Go? You're asking me to go? You ridiculous fat clown. I would have married you to get into this country. I would have pretended to enjoy your short, stubby little fingers prodding me and your whiny, girlish manners. I would have done this to stay here in America. But I will leave now, and you can listen to the way the real world works through your cheap walls. You make me want to puke."


I have kept my honor. I know who I am. I am not a whore. I will live a life worth living. The bejeweled trinkets and baubles of my past shall fall away and I'll no longer be ashamed.




They had started out so well together, that afternoon in the jungle, when the sun hung like an opalescent bauble in the still grey sky and they had no cover set and the rest of the day was theirs. The soft rain fell antiseptically and Sondra seemed to draw all the badness out of him.

“, Baby,” she moaned as Sloane finally found his way into her. She felt like Queen’s Velvet wrapped around him, pulsing warm and wet, involuntarily now, then on purpose, expert, amazing. Where had she learned to fuck like this?

Sondra raised her ass so he could take her deeper. Heels on the cot, knees high above his head, powerful calves wet and slightly scratchy in his hands. Sloane loved it when a woman’s legs were unshaved. Three days’ was perfect. He rocked quickly in and out of her, like they were on ball bearings, just a little movement, a matter of fractions of inches, over and over again, enjoying, gradually obliterating evil.

They were very good together. He knew that from the very beginning.


Sloane had turned to leave, but Fellini had to have the last word:

“You think I don’t talk to people?!” he thundered. “You think I don’t know what goes down!?”

Sloane stood in the office, hands jammed in his jeans pockets. He’d lost weight on the shoot. The heat and the drugs and the work and the girl. Always the girl. It occured to him that he’d do anything for her.

Fellini glared and smoked, smoked and glared. The jester’s stick he kept on his desk lay there, red tongue lolling obscenely, ass’s ears flopping stupidly, pinkly, over the edge.

Sloane had the distinct vibe of being in the principal’s office. On the carpet in front of the captain. In the producers’ dining room that time when they’d suckered him into leaving the picture when it was the director who was really to blame. He knew he didn’t really have to say anything, but he felt like talking anyway:

“We do what we have to, Fellini. You always have.”

“What I have to do, asshole, is find me a new client! Somebody who can walk it like he talks it and will play motherfucking ball! This isn’t fucking high school, Shitforbrains!”

Sloane shrugged.

“You’re not the greatest goddamn cameraman to come down the pike you know! Francis won’t return my calls and Fred and Gary tell me they think it’s cause he’s finally tired of your schizohfuckingphrenia.”

“Right! And that fat fuck is the easiest guy in the world to get along with!”

“Last time I looked, getting along was part of your job description, Gordon. You can’t afford this prima donna shit you’re pulling!”


Manila. A lifetime ago. He thought he’d beat the needle after Vietnam. He was a lousy clapper/loader on the second unit with too much time on his hands. Francis flew fresh meals in from the city every day. He was an old hand at bumming helicopter rides. Once in a while he thought about jumping, just jumping. Wondering how those green palm fronds would feel when his aching body hit them. Wondering how the black oblivion that he could find for free compared to the white one which was so expensive.

Those little Filipino boy/girls. The great white rush of pure alkaloid abandon. Nobody knew who you were. Nobody cared. He should have just stayed there, in the capital city of Hell on Earth. Like Kurtz. King of all he thought he surveyed.



Sondra’s voice brought him back. She looked anxiously into his eyes:

“Baby? You OK?”

He could see himself reflected in her dilated pupils, his head like a bauble bobbing in blackness. He startled back into something approaching consciousness. He had developed, he realized, a great fear of death.

Sondra had a bruise on her left cheekbone, blue and new. Sloane couldn’t remember if he’d put it there or not. He had a sense of being lost in time.

“I think it’s over for them,” Sondra said as she poured him coffee.


“Evil and his lover.”

“Already? Why?”

Sondra shrugged. She looked so beautiful as she prepped the pipe. Her breasts hung heavily out of his denim workshirt, half-unbuttoned.

“A taxi came after you left. Pedro got in. He had a suitcase.”

Sloane rushed to his feet, engulfed in sudden terror.


Bau"ble (?), n. [Cf. OF. baubel a child's plaything, F. babiole, It. babbola, LL. baubellum gem, jewel, L. babulus,a baburrus, foolish.]


A trifling piece of finery; a gewgaw; that which is gay and showy without real value; a cheap, showy plaything.

The ineffective bauble of an Indian pagod. Sheridan.


The fool's club.

[Obs.] "A fool's bauble was a short stick with a head ornamented with an ass's ears fantastically carved upon it."



© Webster 1913.

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