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P A R T T W O
The little blond kid looks four or five, and Gigante knows the type: just getting his verbal skills and ready to call BS on anything. He pulls on Gigante’s leg.
“Yer not a gorilla! Yer a man. I see you in dere!”
So many temptations. Break into a full human voice and say, “No shit, y’little prick.” Ignore him and keep on walking. Find a half-empty soda and “accidentally” pour it over his head. Watch him cry like a little pussy. But no. The only solution is bribery. Gigante grabs him and twirls him into the air. Bratnik yowls. Gigante presents him to Section 23 and coaxes an applause. Bratnik giggles. Gigante sets him down and ruffles his hair.
“I still think yer a man!”
Gigante hears the opening strains of “YMCA” and reports to a platform near the third-base dugout to lead the silly spell-it-out dance. The Y, the M, the C, the A. Amazing that nobody gets tired of this thing. Gigante throws in a finger-point, a hipshake, a raise-the-roof, but the platform is too small for anything elaborate.
The seventh inning starts and Gigante is off the hook. The CO2 smell of the head’s interior is getting old, and God knows how much sweat is going on down below. The big gorilla heads into the tunnel with visions of the couch, the fan, and a big bottle of cold water. Gigante stops for a picture with a grandma and two toddlers, then arrives at the sanctuary door. Gigante locks the door, undoes the Velcro attachments, lifts the great head and takes a deep breath. A second Gigante sits on the couch, wearing the head of Jackson Geary.
“I hate it that you’re so punctual. Now I have to go out there and actually do my job. Hot?”
“As Hades.” She unzips her suit and steps out in nothing but panties and a sports bra.
“It’s a good thing my future wife doesn’t know how much I see of you at work.”
“I’d go buck naked if I didn’t have that regular nightmare about my suit disintegrating. You are so lucky we got the extra outfit. This one needs a fumigation.”
“With that big ass of yours, I don’t think they had much of a choice.”
Zelda smiles sweetly. “Why thank you.”
Jackson laughs. “Hey! You know I mean that in a good way.”
Zelda takes a towel and wipes her forehead. “Yeah. Everybody wants to rent the ass. But do I get any buyers?”
“Speaking of men, you ready for the big night?”
“Oh yeah. My buds are taking me to San Francisco, the old-school strip joints.”
“Just remember. There’s a strict confidentiality agreement between team mascots. Where are the bachelorettes headed?”
“Same agreement between BFFs, pal. Although I will tell you we’re headed in a southerly direction, so you are free to make a complete ass of yourself.”
“Awesome! Well, time to assume the persona.” He dons the headwear, attaches the Velcro, and uses Gigante’s big paw to slap Zelda’s ass as he slips into the tunnel beneath San Jose Muni.
Surprise is a requirement, so Zelda has taken the reins of Zarita’s sporty electric car. Given the location of the party, she’s supremely grateful for the navigation device.
“In two tenths of a mile, turn left onto Hamilton Road.”
“Your navigator sounds like Mary Poppins.”
Zarita smiles. “I do believe you’re right! I know I’m not supposed to ask, but where the hell are you taking us?”
“I’m not really certain myself.”
“Well that’s reassuring.”
“Turn right on Old Japanese Road.”
“Seriously?” says Zarita. “I think she’s screwing with us.”
They are at the very top of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Old Japanese Road is a toboggan run, snaking downhill between thick groves of redwood. Zelda notes that the asphalt is barely wide enough for one car, much less two. She glances to the left and sees a sudden dropoff, envisions them tumbling downhill in a fireball.
“In one hundred yards, turn left onto Alameda.”
“What?” asks Zarita.
“Apparently, the road is named after our hostess.”
“Wait a minute. Roxy? The Countess?”
“Yes. This will not shock you, but her divorce just came through. Hubby got the San Jose apartment, the Countess got the mountain hideaway. We have become quite the coffee confidantes, and when I told her about my maid-of-honor duties, she said she was dying to have a party at the redwood palace.”
They dip left onto a sharp descent that disintegrates into a gravel drive.
“Shoulda brought a jeep,” says Zelda, bouncing in her seat. They climb to a circular drive with a fountain. The centerpiece is a rough-hewn pillar of stone, water burbling from the top.
“Oh yeah,” says Zelda. “That’s not phallic.”
A series of rectangles ascend the hill, a veritable mountain lodge covered in spanking new cedar siding. The property is surrounded by old-growth redwoods, rising like gods into a salmon afterglow.
Z and Z proceed to a wide front deck under a vine-covered arbor. The front door offers thin strips of blonde hardwood arrowing out from a large, rod-like knocker. Zarita lifts it and lets it fall.
“Oh yeah,” she says. “That’s not phallic.”
Roxy bursts forth in a shower of curls, stripes of strawberry and wheat fresh from the salon.
“The princess bride! Come in, we’re all ready for you.”
They cross a floor of dark slate to a modest stairwell and a kitchen of bright yellows. Seventeen females, a sampler pack of Silicon Valley diversity, raise their drinks and woo-hoo to the skies. Roxy leads Zarita to a chair decorated with white ribbons. A short Latina approaches.
“Would the bride like a cosmo or a mojito?”
Zarita twitches her lips. “Mojito.” The drink arrives seconds later. She sips and sighs. “Thank you so much for this, Roxy.”
Roxy’s smile opens into a singing laugh. “You don’t know how I’ve been craving a party! Mother Nature is a lovely but boring neighbor. Speaking of, enough of this kitchen. Girls, we’re off! Leave your drinks, there’s more on the way.”
They trail Roxy like a besotted Girl Scout troop, and Zelda gets a better view of Roxy’s outfit, a knee-length dress composed of overlapping silver plates. As she walks, it tinkles like wind chimes. They pass a cozy TV room, turn down a dark hall then through a master bedroom to a blood-red deck surrounding a hot tub. Redwood branches feather the railings, and one specimen, an impressive four feet wide, grows through a hole cut into the deck.
Zarita perches on a chaise lounge decorated with white ribbons. The Girl Scouts gather before her, if only to touch the magic bride. Zelda settles with Roxy at a faux-marble patio table, looking up to see newborn stars speckling the sky. A short Latino approaches.
“Would the señorita like a margarita or a mai tai?”
“Mai tai,” she answers.
“Same for me, Carlos.”
Zelda smiles at Roxy. “Two choices for each locale?”
Roxy laughs. “Everyone needs a choice. But not more than two.”
Zelda notes the steam rising from the hot tub. “Are we going for a dip?”
Once the drinks are delivered, Roxy rises for a speech. Zelda checks her lipstick in Roxy’s dress.
“Ladies! And I use the term loosely. I refuse to let the party slow down in the least, so let us proceed to the first exhibition of manmeat!”
She’s greeted by a soprano chorus of woo-hoos.
“Please welcome to the Carson Alameda Memorial Sundeck – Derek, the God of Fire!”
A thin, athletic man, gifted with tight abs and long limbs, rises from the leftward staircase. He wears nothing more than a leather thong, displaying two firm butt-cheeks, and carries a pair of balls, what look like large black marshmallows, on the ends of two ropes. He takes a small bow and dips the balls into a metal bucket. Carlos the waiter approaches with a long barbecue lighter and sets them aflame.
Derek swings the balls into a spin at either side, then he uses a hand-over-hand parlay to send them from one side to the other. He makes a pass beneath his thong, which brings a gasp from the girls. Zelda takes a photo and marvels at the results, a rippling arc of white flame.
He proceeds to his Big Move, arching all the way back till his head touches the deck, then spinning the balls horizontally in opposing orbits. This brings a rousing applause until one of the balls strikes the deck and bounces, causing a mass inhalation. But Derek recovers quickly, regaining the spin and rising to his feet. He gathers the balls together and whips them side-to-side until they cool to a cobalt blue, then stops and lowers them into a water bucket with a snaky hiss. The bachelorettes unloose their screams, and Roxy rises.
“Ladies! And I use the term looselessly. Derek is not generally involved in this seedy Chippendale side of the business, but he has agreed that you may show your appreciation by kissing him hither and yon upon his personage, and/or depositing bills into his rather limited clothing. Attack!”
What follows is a soft-core running of the bulls. Derek sinks into a scrum of giggling women. Zelda uses the cover of numbers to deposit a twenty in his thong and give his member a friendly yank. Sadly, it’s the first dick she’s touched in months. The loving throng eventually retreats, and Roxy rises.
“Derek, delicious young Prometheus, we thank thee for thy balls o’ fire…”
“…and we suggest you hie thee to the hills.”
Derek disappears down the stairs, blowing kisses and readjusting his thong. He is virtually covered in lipstick.
“Okay!” says Roxy. “Enjoy your drinks, and soon I will surprise you again.”
The deck fills with chatter. A trio of women are literally sitting at Zarita’s feet. Zelda taps Roxy’s mai-tai with hers.
“You should do this for a living.”
Roxy’s smile is tilting like a foundering ship. “When the lovely Carson Alameda met me, I was performing with a melodrama company in Campbell.”
“The very one. That job taught me to be fearless.” The sides of her mouth turn downward. “Gave it up when I got married.”
Zelda looks at Roxy and feels her eyes glowing (that, and her mai-tai is very strong). Ten minutes later, the Countess rises once again.
“Ladies! And I use the term unbeloosedly. It is time to put you to the test. Please report to the corner of the deck, where Carlos will send you to our next destination.”
Zelda finds herself next to Zarita at the end of the line. She gives her a kiss on the ear. Zarita giggles.
“Having fun, Z-girl?”
“Entirely too much fun, Z-girl. I feel like a celebrity. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but your friend is crazy.”
“Crazy. Divorced. Same thing.”
They’re interrupted by a blood-curdling scream.
“What the fuck!” says Zarita. She watches her assistant, Sara Kabayashi, fly into the woods like a superhero.
Zelda laughs. “It’s a zip-line. Oh my God. A bachelorette party with a zip-line.”
Being at the back of the line, listening to one scream after another, builds up their anticipation in a nerve-jangling kind of way. It’s almost a relief when they reach the front, where a section of railing has been set aside to make way for the arboreal angels. Carlos straps Zarita into her halter. She flies off with a cry of “Cowabungaaaah!” Carlos makes a thorough, professional study of Zelda’s figure.
“I think I will have to make some special accommodations.” He loosens the straps on the halter.
“Oh God,” says Zelda. “Must I always be having this conversation?”
Carlos smiles. “Do not speak to a Mexican man about El Caboose. Have you watched Spanish television? Our women have hips.”
“Well thank you, Carlos.”
“De nada. Here now. Step into these. Make sure the straps don’t fold over.”
Carlos cinches her up and hands her the bar. “Hold on tight. We don’t want you arriving downside-up.”
Zelda stands in the gap, staring into the dark forest, and suddenly remembers who she is: a natural athlete, queen of the stripper pole. She springs from the deck. The trip is a sensory frappuccino, all wind and blur. Strategic lighting reveals needled branches, rough-cut trunks. A patch of cedar sprinkles her nose with spice. She enters a clearing, thirty feet up, and tunnels toward a ring of redwoods. Thankfully, the line is rigged to slow her down before landing. She spots the landing mat and jogs to a stop before a chorus of wind-blown women. Zarita slaps her on the back. A short Latina undoes her buckles.
“Wasn’t that awesome?” says Zarita. “That was awesome! Wasn’t it? Awesome?”
“All in a day’s work,” says Zelda, readjusting her jeans. “What the hell do we have here?”
“What we have here,” says Roxy, “is the world’s most magnificent treehouse. We originally built it for our spoiled children, but once they took off to college I endeavored to turn it into my own private retreat. Inside, ladies!”
Inside is a long room with timbered walls and a parquet floor. The perimeter is lined with twenty folding chairs, a couch and a wicker throne decorated with white ribbons. Zarita knows the drill by now and assumes her proper place. Zelda joins Roxy on the couch and is not surprised at all when the Latina, Leticia, arrives with a drink offer.
“Gin martini or lemon drop?”
“Give me the martini,” she says. Roxy concurs. The girls gather in groups of two and three to discuss their recent flights.
“Aren’t you going to make some kind of speech?”
“No need,” says Roxy. Leticia arrives with their drinks and hands Zelda an engraved money clip. The clip holds twenty singles. She looks around the room to see that all the other women have received clips, as well.
“Has everybody been served?” asks Roxy. Leticia nods. “Okay. Let ‘er rip.”
Leticia retreats behind a dividing wall. The room falls dark, and then fills with flashing lights, a thumping beat and the opening strain of “It’s Raining Men.” Into the frame of the doorway pops a very fake-looking gorilla.
“Ooh!” says a black-haired girl. “It’s Gigante’s cousin.”
“Just your type, Zarita.”
The gorilla romps around the room in an ape-like shuffle, grunting and beating his chest. He swings up to Zarita and sniffs her face; she squeals. He takes a step back, undoes a cord and rips off the fur shirt, revealing a clean-shaven chest and sculptured abs.
“Oh!” says Zelda. “A Brazilian gorilla.”
The next items to go are the furry pants, revealing carved calves and a well-packed loin cloth. Zelda wads up a bill and tosses it at his feet. He picks it up and stuffs it into his mouth.
“Don’t eat it, silly monkey!”
Monkeyman turns around and waggles his butt. Zarita gives him a swat and tucks a bill into the cloth. The gorilla reacts by twerking in an impressive piston-like fashion.
“Go go gorilla! Now the mask!”
“Yeah! The mask.”
He unzips the mask and reveals a sly grin, a hawkish nose, a mop of unruly cocoa hair. Zelda would guess him to be Filipino.
“Only one thing left!” Their dancer makes the finger-rub gesture meaning “cash” and points groinward. The girls are not shy. They gather around him in a circle, backing their asses into his crotch, and take turns feeding his loin cloth with currency till it’s about to burst.
At this point, he motions for them to sit down and gives Leticia a “cut” signal. The room goes dark, eliciting another round of woo-hoos. The speakers rumble forth with Also Sprach Zarathustra from 2001: A Space Odyssey. As the music hits its second climax, a single shaft of light appears at center stage, revealing an object that is almost beyond description. An oddly shaped tuber. The snout of some exotic sea mammal. A tube of flesh a foot long, four inches wide, a veritable sequoia of penis. The reaction goes in stages: rapt silence, whispers, giggles, a squeal. The penis begins to sway, then to slap from one thigh to the other. The music phases into “Icky Thump” by Jack White. The dancer grabs his member by the base and swings it around like a rope. The spotlight widens out until Monkeyman is revealed in all his glory. He performs several penis-based dance moves until the song screeches to an end. The dancer bows. The women applaud. The dancer grabs his dick like a puppet and makes it bow. The girls scream. Roxy stands in front of him, accidentally backing into him as she speaks.
“Ladies! Ladies!” They continue screaming. “Okay – sluts!” They quiet down. “This is Johnny Sequoia, a bona fide porn star. We have some ground rules. You may take turns examining Johnny’s… star attraction, but please be gentle, and no kissing or licking! We don’t want our bride to get into any trouble.”
The buzz continues for the next fifteen minutes as the women take turns fondling their guest, who does not seem to get beyond a semi-rigid state. Most of them simply heft it in their hands, as if they were judging a salmon at the fish market.
“That is just gorgeous, Johnny.”
“Thanks. It’s opened quite a few doors for me.”
“I’ll bet it actually could.”
“You’re ruining us for other men.”
“Now, now. Size can be a challenge, too.”
“A challenge I would accept.”
After taking her turn, Zelda settles on the couch next to her fairy godmother.
“Rox, you’re an evil, evil, beautiful bitch.”
“Thank you, darling. Divorce teaches one to take what one can in this tormented little world.”
“God, how would you even make use of that monster?”
Roxy laughs. “It would take a woman of great skill and flexibility.”
Eventually, Johnny takes his leave and the party simmers down. They take a long plastic slide to the forest floor and return to the house along a path outlined with fluorescent rocks. When they arrive, they find that the front deck has been loaded with temptations: exotic appetizers, a sundae station, a display of pre-rolled joints and engraved lighters (I survived Zarita’s bachelorette party), mini-kegs offering a choice of wheat or pale ales, and two massage stations manned by burly linebacker types. Zelda shares a joint with the bride, whose speech patterns are all off-kilter.
“This is thee… most… extra ordinary bachelor ette partyinhistory. Thanks. For. Have ing richfriends.”
“Ya serve people coffee, ya get friends. You gonna get a massage?”
“I’m thinking that hot tub is calling my name.”
“Dunno,” says Zarita. “That’s a looooong staircase.” She kisses her on the cheek and giggles like a faerie queen.
Zelda crosses a brick patio and climbs the stairs, holding tight to the railing. She attains the deck to find the hot tub occupied by Johnny Sequoia.
“Hello there! Recovering?”
Johnny stretches his arms. “Oh! Suffering all that female adoration. It’s exhausting.”
“Well,” says Zelda. “I guess there’s no reason to be shy.” She pulls off her shirt.
“Turnabout is fair play.” He takes a drag from a ceramic pipe. “Wow, you could get some choice gigs with that ass of yours.”
Zelda steps into the water, settling on a bench neither too far nor too near her companion.
“My life is one long, running commentary on the junk in my trunk.”
“I know how you feel.”
Zelda laughs and covers her mouth. “I guess you do! But at least you can hide that monster with some baggy pants.”
“So. Johnny Sequoia. Is that in the long tradition of timber-based porn names?”
“I thought Dick Hardwood was too obvious.”
“I approve. And it’s beautifully appropriate to the setting.”
Johnny reaches his arms to the surrounding redwoods. “My brothers!”
Zelda laughs and runs a finger along her lips. “So… how do you operate that thing?”
Johnny smiles. “Takes a lot of patience. And carefully selected partners. Which, thankfully, is exactly what my chosen profession provides.”
“Do you ever play with civilians?”
“Is your name Zelda?”
“As it so happens, you are my next assignment.”
Zelda feels her body filling with blood. “I don’t know what I put in that woman’s coffee, but I really don’t deserve this.”
Johnny stands up, which for him is a decidedly political act. “I noticed a rather magnificent shower inside. Why don’t we start there?”
Zelda wakes on a futon next to a laundry basket filled with towels. When she lifts her legs to set them on the floor, she finds that they are shaking. Her head is throbbing; she reaches up to find a tender spot at the top of her skull. And a crick in her neck. Sore right elbow. Stiff jaw. And what the hell is going on in the groin area?
This generalized broadcast of pain is interrupted by the smell of frying meat, and toast, and coffee. She creaks to her feet, slips on her clothes and limps down the hall. As she descends to the kitchen, she is greeted by applause.
“Zelda!” Roxy stands at the counter in a glorious bronze robe. “Black black coffee or bloody Bloody Mary?”
A curly-haired brunette says, “Would you like some sausage?” A snicker skips around the room.
A young black woman with a piercing above her eyebrow escorts Zelda to the chair that’s decorated with white ribbons. “Hey, fuck them. Have all the sausage you want. You’re a rock star.”
Zelda gives them a puzzled smile. “I wish I had the slightest idea what you were talking about.”
Someone slams a door. Zelda peers through a window to see Zarita on the front deck, arms crossed, staring in to the redwoods.
“Uh-oh,” says a blonde. “Bride’s pissed.”
Someone delivers a huge Bloody Mary with celery and carrots and God knows what else. Zelda takes a sip and lets the spices swirl around her mouth. The black girl holds up her smart phone. “Perhaps this will refresh your memory.”
The audio is a string of half-stifled comments and snickers. The video is dark, but eventually Zelda makes out Johnny Sequoia on a balcony, humping the railing. But then she spots a trail of dark hair dangling between the verticals. The railing is extra wide, and part of it seems to be composed of human flesh – a woman, standing on her head, performing a perfect tabletop split.
“Ho… lee… Is that…? Did I…?” She looks beyond the table to a tall window offering the exact same view of the balcony.
Roxy arrives with a plate of blueberry pancakes. “Honey, there’s no one else here who could even think of doing that.”
“Wow.” She reaches again to the top of her head. “I am a rock star.”
Zelda manages to get down a pancake, then she limps to the front deck, where Zarita is maintaining her redwood stare. Zelda touches her shoulder; she flinches away.
“Leave me alone.”
“You know very well. You couldn’t even let me be the star of my own bachelorette party. You had to fuck the porn star.”
“I really don’t see…”
“Are you going to do this at the wedding? Blow the minister? Hump the caterer?”
A voice booms from above, followed by a canter of footsteps on the stairs. Roxy bursts through the door like a bronze goddess.
“Listen, Zarita. I was a bride once, and I get it: you have completed the great jigsaw puzzle of life. Everyone needs to bow down before you and set their piddly problems aside. Well, listen: the only reason you got the world’s best bachelorette party is this beautiful woman’s patience and kindness, listening to me bitch about my marriage for ceaseless mornings over the coffee counter. And you know what she’s been through. So if I want to throw my protégée a porn star at your bachelorette party, well tough shit, sister, that’s the price of admission. And if your friend’s behavior has you feeling uncomfortable, well you just think about all the nasty shit that you and the groom will be doing on your honeymoon. There are those of us who don’t have it all figured out like you, and we do what we can to get by. So stop being a bitch, and start being a friend.”
Roxy’s out of breath. She looks from Zarita to Zelda, says, “I’m done,” and marches back inside. Several seconds later, a round of applause rings out from the kitchen. Zarita starts to laugh.
“How did you…?” She makes a gesture like someone holding the trunk of an elephant. “It’s so…”
Zelda touches her head. “Ouch. Years of training. Ouch.”
Zarita grins. “It’s very hazardous to insert a Sequoia into one’s vagina.”
Zelda laughs so hard that she ends up on her knees. Zarita joins her, and wraps her in a hug.
“Poor baby. Let’s get you a Bloody Mary.”
Some time after noon, Roxy’s guests recover sufficiently to drive uphill in a slow caravan. Zelda climbs the last precarious incline, turns onto the wider spaces of Hamilton Road and looks to the passenger seat, where the bride has fallen into a deep slumber.
Photo by MJV