Kama Sutra Cadillac (Twitter version)
Our story so far--
Hollywood has-been Hayward West was seriously depressed for a number of reasons. His aging Mercedes was making a costly-sounding knock; his career was dead, and he was about to lose his Topanga Canyon house due to an impulsive encounter with an aspiring actress 10 months ago. And now his maid Marta had spotted another 'broken sparrow' on the sidewalk and told him to pull over. "That girl's in trouble. Wait here."
While he appreciated Marta's endless well of kindness, the timing of her rescue of this bedraggled Hispanic girl could not have been worse. For his only hope of avoiding financial ruin was this meeting with his old friend Stanton--and the freeway to the Valley was already jammed. His Cabernet-fueled tryst with the young actress at Stanton's party--she'd been drinking Chenin Blanc--well, she'd said she was "safe." Heh.
You always push your luck, he told himself bitterly. She was blond, petite, alone and a bit tipsy, and had a spunky manner and name: Boise. It was a measure of her desperation that she'd fallen for me--even the once. This town hates has-beens, and Boise had been too new to know. He'd given the distraught young actress the Los Feliz address where her unplanned condition could be remedied; but 8 months later, surprise.
DNA testing proved the son Boise had named Nate was his; with his income in permanent decline Hayward knew monthly child support was out. Wanting to do right by Boise and Nate he borrowed all the equity in his Topanga Canyon house and set up a trust fund for Nate's upbringing. The new mortgage was so far above his meager income he was only weeks from bankruptcy. As Marta guided the girl to his car, he sighed; late.
The girl's tangled dark hair and rumpled, dirt-smudged blouse suggested a recent border crossing-- judging by her tear-stained face, a rough one.
"She's got no one," Marta said. "No relatives but her father. He was to meet her here, but he hasn't come. He's not answering his phone."
"Let's give her $20 and take her to the shelter," Hayward said. Marta was indignant. "So she can be raped? No, she's coming home with us."
Having enough legal problems, he said, "If she's 16, she has to go to the shelter." After a flurry of rapid Spanish, the girl took out I.D.
"She's 18," Marta said. "Single?" Hayward asked, for the last 'broken sparrow' had sprouted a husband soon after moving into his cabana.
"Yes," Marta said. "She's alone and hungry. Go to that tamales place off Colorado." Frustrated by the delay, Hayward sighed and did as told.
Reckoning he still might make the meeting in Tarzana if he left in 10 minutes, Hayward sped down Colorado and pulled into the tamales shop. Marta leaped out and returned with 4 tamales. The girl pulled her hair away from her face and Hayward saw her clearly for the first time. As she tore off the corn husk and bit hungrily into the warm pork tamale, Hayward fell immediately, madly and inextricably in love with her.
"Her name is Valentina," Marta said, and Hayward watched her wolf down the pork tamale with keen interest. For she was more than pretty; her features were symmetrical, her skin warm and clear, her hair dark, eyes large and luminous, and her mouth generous. And she was shapely in the fashion of a long-legged young creature bursting with life's deepest forces. Fools rush in, he told himself; you could be her father.
Alive to the absurdity of falling for such a young woman, and knowing that loneliness and despair often fleetingly wore the cloak of love, he took the gentleman's path. "Can't she stay at your daughter's?"
"Every bed is taken, Mr. Hayward--you know that. No, you take her home." As Marta explained she was to go home with Hayward, Valentina's eyes widened in fear, and Marta's assurances did not calm her anxiety.
(This is episode 9 of the twitter novel "Kama Sutra Cadillac." Yes, there will be sex. Yes, lots of it. Tastefully presented, of course.)
Leaving Marta at her daughter's bungalow, Hayward swung his Mercedes onto the busy 210 freeway and then tried to defuse the girl's worries. "Tell me about yourself, in English, and Spanish when you run out of English." While he didn't catch everything, he caught enough: a harrowing border crossing, a run-in with some bad hombres, and now no sign of her father. Hayward expressed sympathy and then fell silent. Falling in love with an 18-year old illegal would be extremely stupid, he told himself harshly, but the genie was out of the bottle.
This has to be platonic, he told himself firmly. In pondering what to do with Valentina, Hayward turned as he often did to classic films. It seemed a Henry Higgins moment, with Valentina in the Audrey Hepburn role; and so he drove to the shopping center by Stanton's office. It was the sort of half-empty bland assemblage of "premier retail" that he loathed and he felt his inner spirit whither as they entered. He led Valentina to the first hair salon and chose a Latina stylist. The woman gazed at Hayward and blurted, "You're on TV, aren't you?"
Hayward flashed the stylist a wan smile. "Rarely." The woman's stared at him hard and then exclaimed, "Weren't you in that slasher movie? The one on the island, where everybody has a double who's trying to kill them?"
Hayward nodded. "Doppleganger Island." His one and only hit.
Valentina's eyes widened. "You're a movie star," she whispered breathlessly, and Hayward shook his head wryly. "No, just a bit player." Opening his wallet, he tipped the stylist $20 and handed Valentina his lucky $100 bill and his last 3 $20s. "Buy yourself a new outfit."
As Valentina gazed at him with wondrously grateful eyes, Hayward told himself, steady; you're too poor to fall in love, and too old for her. Be happy being Rex Harrison. Telling her to wait for him, Hayward hurried under the hot Valley sun to his old friend Stanton's office. Stanton had refused to reveal the project, and Hayward's stomach knotted with anxiety. This was his last chance to escape bankruptcy. Stanton met him in his usual attire: Thai shirt and surfer jammies. After his heart attack, He'd lost weight and recovered his elfin sparkle.
Entering the office, Hayward thought of his embattled house over the ridge and then sat down at the low Japanese table across from Stanton. Stanton handed him a lukewarm cup of green tea and asked, "How much does it cost to distribute a film a million times over the Internet?"
"Nothing. But then the gross is zero, too."
"Except pornography," Stanton replied.
"I'm desperate, but not that desperate," Hayward said.
"I don't do porn. You know that. So what's hot, and will stay hot?" Ignoring Hayward's disgust, Stanton paused and then said: "Conception."
Hayward's expression faded to puzzlement. "You mean fertility?"
Stanton clapped his hands. "Yes. You know how many women can't get pregnant. The Web is full of advice," Stanton said, "but it's so clinical. It's also full of porn, but that's got nothing to do with conceiving."
"So what can we bring to the party?"
"You know how women give up on conceiving and adopt a kid--and then 3 months later they're pregnant? These women are so stressed they couldn't conceive even if they had a stable of 16-year old boys working at it. But there is an answer."
"I know," Hayward said dryly. "Fertility drugs."
"No, this is 100% natural. There's a backlash against the heavy hormone drugs. People prefer to get preggers the old-fashioned way. There's a tried-and-true bible of techniques which has worked forever. The Kama Sutra."
Hayward shrugged and Stanton's tone rose in excitement. "The Kama Sutra was given to newlyweds, not just for fun, but to make babies. Don't you see? The Kama Sutra isn't pornography, it's a fertility program. Tastefully demonstrated, it's educational and inspirational."
Hayward's lack of enthusiasm was painfully clear, and Stanton continued with rising fervor. "You know how well porn sells in the Bible Belt. But it's all male-oriented and cheesy. This would be targeted to women. The market's practically untouched, an opportunity beyond galactic."
Frustrated, Stanton leaned forward. "Look at the benefits for the buyers. The poor schmuck hubby was looking at 25 grand in fertility fees. With this, it's about doing his wife 25 different ways. And it's something they'll watch together. Beautiful people in love: irresistible."
Hayward took a sip of the tepid green tea. "They can watch a lot of thrashing and moaning for a few bucks in any hotel room in America."
Stanton shook his head. "Wrongo. In our product the passion would be real. You're on good terms with Boise. Do you think she'd be willing?"
Hayward smiled wryly." "Before I gave her all my money? Maybe. Now? I doubt it. And I'm not in love with her."
"You're an actor. Act in love."
Hayward looked at Stanton closely. "Why bring this to me? Young guys would jump at this. Is this just a favor to help a desperate old pal?"
"Do I have to sing your praises? You're perfect for the part. You're 39 but look 32. Porn is cheap, sincerity isn't and you have it. Plus I trust you. Yes I could get a young stud and studalina for cheap but this is about love and longing for a baby. That and 40 points."
Startled, Hayward asked, "40 points of gross or 40 points of net?"
Stanton snickered. "You know there's never a net in town. Of gross."
"That's impossible," Hayward said. "Even 4 points is rich."
"Look at the distribution and production costs: near zero," Stanton enthused.
"Kama Sutra Secrets of Fertility is the best idea I've found in decades," Stanton continued gleefully. "I've got all the pieces lined up: A state-of-the-art sexologist and fertility expert, sound and camera crew we can trust, a distributor with a brilliant marketing campaign."
Though he knew it was poison to mix desire and commerce, Hayward could not stop thinking of making love with Valentina and getting paid to do so.
Against his better judgment, Hayward asked, "Just out of curiosity: what kind of money are you anticipating?"
"Finally," Stanton exclaimed.
"The distribution model is secure monthly subscriptions. $39.95 makes the sale, $49.95 looks pricey. Every week, we issue a new lesson.
For a few bucks extra, they get a DVD with talking-head stuff by the sexologist and fertility guru. Print some stills and voila, a manual.
Once we reach 10,000 subscribers, that's $400,000 a month. The distributors get $80K, production is about $20K, and we split $300,000."
It seemed far too good to be possible, and Hayward asked, "What's to keep buyers from copying a lesson and selling it online for $10 a pop?"
"A techie neutron bomb," Stanton replied sunnily. "Ripping or copying the file erases the perp's hard drive. We warn them, of course."
Trying not to let his mind run away with the glorious possibilities of uniting love and immense profit, Hayward asked, "Any script?"
"No," Stanton replied. "Deeply in love couple desperately wants to make a baby, but the dialog is all ad-lib. It has to be natural."
"There's 64 love acts described in the Kama Sutra, but for procreation we take 23 basic positions and flip them into 52 weekly lessons."
"I'm thinking of 4 sessions a week for a 13-week production run," Stanton continued. "Our sexologist has some incredible herbal stimulants."
"It would be better if I did love her," Hayward said quietly, and the idea he'd tried to suppress exploded in his mind: Valentina.
"And much better if she loved you," Stanton remarked. "The perfect lead would truly want to get pregnant. Think live-action sperm donor."
"Too bad I don't know anyone who loves me and wants to get pregnant," Hayward muttered. "But..."
"You have someone in mind?" Stanton asked.
"A young lady, mid-20s but looks 20," Hayward said, stretching the truth to breaking. "Hispanic, slim, unjaded, good looking."
"Of course," Stanton said acidly. "But you can't afford to fall in love until Kama Sutra Secrets sells. You got it backward, Hay."
"So you're going to recruit a desperate 40-year old lawyer from Westwood who I do 52 ways while she breathes tantrically. No thanks."
Changing tack, Stanton said, "I saw Boise at Qs the other day and, well, she's very healthy up front now. Is she nursing the kid?"
"Yes, but not happily, "Hayward replied laconically. "She says she lost a part because her boobs are too big now. Some prisoner flick."
Stanton looked askance at his old friend. "Are you sure there's no spark left between you two? I mean, you already knocked her up once."
Hayward's resigned expression crumbled. "I wish I could say it had a storybook ending, but she's trawling for a bigger catch now."
"So are you in or not?" Stanton demanded. Hayward snapped, "With a 40-year old from Westwood? No, I'd rather go back to waiting tables."
"You're pissing in your own bed, for what? You won't be able to keep Marta if you're living in a Studio City walkup on food stamps."
The inability to repay Marta's loyalty hit Hayward hard, and he paused. "Just meet my prospect," he pleaded, and Stanton frowned sourly.
"OK," Stanton agreed, "but I can already tell it won't work. You're gaga over her, and it has to be the other way round."
Arising from the low table, Hayward murmured, "Maybe it will be." It was absurd, fantastic, a dream, to hope she would fall for him.
Entering the shopping mall, he could not remain calm, for the radiantly grateful young woman who dominated his thoughts greeted him.
Blessed with this second miracle, Valentina's faith in prayer soared to previously unimaginable heights. Drained of all hope, she'd turned to God on that Pasadena sidewalk and begged for a miracle. She knew it was greedy, to ask for another miracle.
To have 15-year old Tomas save her from the drug-runners in the desert had been miracle enough. The coyotes had dropped her at night; the others had scattered and then the three men had appeared. That she would be raped was a given; beyond that, it was too horrible to imagine.
Murdered or sold into a border brothel--she'd heard tales of both. But Tomas had a long, very sharp blade, and the confidence to use it. They'd threatened him, and failing at that, tried to bribe him: he could have her first. He'd refused, and one had grabbed for his arm.
The man's reward was a slice in his flesh that darkened his shirt with blood even in the dim moonlight. It was Tomas' 2nd crossing.
Tomas knew the tricks unknown to neophytes like her: where to hide, where to look for food and water stashed for others, how to catch rides. He'd taken her to Pasadena and said goodbye. When asked why he'd helped her, he'd shrugged and said she'd reminded him of his older sister.
Her relief was brief, for her father hadn't answered his phone. He'd given her his rooming house number, but nobody had seen him for a week. The miracle fell to earth, for she was alone in a strange city with a few crumpled dollars and no other relatives to ask for help.
She thought of finding a church and begging for help, but what could the priest do for her? So she prayed, more sincerely than ever before. Hours had passed, and she'd slumped to the sidewalk in an exhaustion so complete it even drained her gnawing hunger of its terrible power.
Then Marta had rescued her, and now a few hours later, she was sitting in a plush chair in a glistening restaurant like she'd seen in movies in a soft new lace-trimmed white dress, her hair freshly cleaned and trimmed, sitting across from an actual movie star and his producer.
It was an unexpected as being jumped by the three demon-men in the desert crossing, but in the opposite way of being unbelievably wonderful. Of course she wondered if this man Hayward would demand the same thing as the three devils, as payment for his gifts; but Marta assured her Senor Hayward was not that kind of man; he'd taken good care of his mother in her last days, and that was proof of his trustworthiness.
The producer was friendly, but in a superficial way; his eyes bored into Valentina as if he were angry Senor Hayward had helped her. Despite this uneasiness, the producer paid for their meal, and she tried to smile warmly to show him her good heart. But his expression hardened with every smile, and she prayed once more, this time that Hayward would help her find her father.
It was too much, asking for a third miracle, but maybe, she told herself, God is willing to help me because I've tried to be good. Looking up, she met Hayward's gaze, and each broke into a shy grin at the recognition of their mutual hopes. For that one moment, Valentina allowed herself to hope not for a kindness but for a true miracle: the love of a wealthy handsome movie star with a kind heart.
"She's too young, too brown and too small upfront." Stanton's dismissal seemed final but Hayward fought back his hopelessness.
"You said you didn't want boob implants," he said. "She's built like most of our customer base."
"She's too young," Stanton snapped. "You said yourself she looks 20," Stanton continued. "Most of our customers will be in their 30s. The demographic won't relate to her."
"How can she be too brown?" Hayward asked bitterly. "Only white women can't get pregnant?"
Stanton sighed with visible exaspiration. "It's not ethnic, it's just demographic--it's the gringo gals who wait til their past their prime. And you know Hispanic TV-- all the leads are milky-white. Only the servants are brown."
Sensing victory was impossible, Hayward masked his plan with a concession.
"OK, go ahead and recruit someone anxious to get pregnant. But don't bother with an attorney-- the last thing we need is a list of demands. I don't mind neurotic," Hayward continued, "but for God's sake get a kind neurotic. If she's a nice person, I won't say no."
"Fair enough," Stanton said. "Nobody wants to work with a witch, especially between the sheets." Hayward had left Valentina in the Mercedes and as he walked to the car, his mind tumbled with a plan far different than the one he'd agreed to: win Valentina, then win over Stanton. The odds did not look favorable, but then my whole life is about beating the odds, he told himself. The longer the odds the better.
Sliding into the driver's seat of the old Mercedes, he handed his phone to Valentina and suggested she try calling her father again. Her father's number was out of service but the second number finally produced some news. Anxiety twisted her youthful features, and Hayward understood enough of her rapid Spanish to know that her father had been deported to Mexico; his whereabouts were unknown.
Deeply distressed, Valentina struggled to explain her dire circumstances in English. Her father had sent every spare dollar home to support his wife and three daughters, her mother and several young cousins. It had taken many months for her to convince her father that she too could cross the border and make money. Now the worst had happened, and he'd been swept up in some unknown trouble and deported.
It was a bleak prospect for a young woman in a big city without relatives to help, to be broke and dependent on the kindness of strangers. As Valentina watched the last light of the day fade beneath the smoggy horizon, it seemed that every miracle only demanded another. How could she possibly earn enough money to pay a coyote to bring her father across the border? If he was in trouble, she might need a bribe, too.
As Hayward absorbed her plight, a dazzling plan emerged in his fevered mind. Trying not to reveal his delight in her need for quick cash he described falling in love with a young actress, and how she'd recently given birth to their son. Alas, they were no longer in love; he'd given her all his money and now she lived a short walk from his house. She needed a babysitter; would Valentina be interested?
To Valentina, it was God answering her prayers with another miracle, and she could not restrain her enthusiasm for the babysitting job. After all, she'd watched plenty of babies back home. When she anxiously asked when she could start, Hayward said, I'll work on it tonight. Valentina quickly asked nanny questions about the baby: how old was he, did he cry a lot, was he still, blush, feeding from the mother?
Wary of explaining too much, Hayward said Nate was a good baby and switched topics, noting that he kept a big dog, Sage, to ward off thieves. Sage was a Highland Stone Hound, keenly protective and aggressive and he instructed Valentina not to go outside the house without him. As if on cue, a huge wolflike creature loomed in the headlights and barked viciously until Hayward lowered the window and called his name.
Valentina's eyes widened in fear, but at the sound of his master's voice the dog's rabid demeanor calmed and he wagged his tail.
The Mercedes crunched over the gravel driveway to the garage and the motion detector lights switched on, reflecting brightly off the gleaming pink expanse of the sleek finned 1966 Cadillac parked in the other bay. "Can I drive that?" she asked excitedly.
Hayward grinned at her girlish delight in the big classic car. "Sure, but let's get you settled in first and line up the babysitting job." He led Valentina across the gravel and noted Sage's growling reaction. "This is Valentina," he said, "and she's living here now." The dog reluctantly accepted a timid pat on the head from the frightened young woman and then watched as the pair entered the front door.
Entering the expansive open-beamed living room, Valentina issued a soft exclamation of delight which she repeated as Hayward gave her a brief tour of the rambling house. Though modest by modern standards, it was tastefully designed and decorated; the bedroom wing wrapped around a small swimming pool in the tiled courtyard. Leading her to the guest room, he showed her the bathroom and guest towels.
To be swept from a forbidding sidewalk to this quiet luxury was like a fairy tale come true, and Valentina murmured another prayer of thanks.
The look of gratitude in her eyes injected Hayward's already-fevered entrancement with new fervor, and with sharp regret he left her and retreated to his home office. His mind swirling with a peculiar mixture of shame, guilt, hope, yearning and desire, he called a nurse he'd briefly dated and his carpenter friend, Tuck. His plan was wrong, risky, and as compelling as his desire for Valentina.
Lastly, he calmed his anxious heart, called Boise and laid out the public part of his plan: hire Valentina not just to babysit Nate but breastfeed him, too. The benefits seemed obvious, but Boise's skepticism surpassed his already high expectations. "What's in it for you?"
"Nothing but our son getting breastfed for the recommended length of time," he replied neutrally.
"Oh I get it," Boise said archly. "You're doing the girl and you want me to pay for her, is that it?"
"For Christ's sake, Marta rescued her from the street and we're trying to help her," Hayward exclaimed. "According to my nursing expert, any healthy young woman can start breastfeeding, And I was just trying to relieve the pressure on you."
"But I have to pay her?" Boise demanded.
"Since you have all the money now, yes."
"I'm taking care of our baby and doing auditions. The least you can do is get some work."
"I've got a project with Stanton right now."
Boise's voice registered mollification. "I do appreciate you finding a wet nurse. I have huge bags under my eyes from waking up every night and my nips are getting sore. Plus I'm so big now I lost a jungle prison movie part."
"I know, sweetie," Hayward said smoothly. "I know it's Hell and that's why I lined up Valentina not just to watch Nate but to feed him, too."
"Can she start tomorrow? I can give her a hundred a week," Boise said. "I have to pay my acting coach."
"I'm sure she'll be delighted," Hayward said sarcastically.
Ignoring his sarcasm, Boise chirped, "Great, I love win-win deals." Hayward rang off and sighed. Now all he needed was Valentina to agree to not just be a babysitter but a wet-nurse. But would she? With Boise on board he called his R.N. and scheduled a meeting with Valentina.
Hayward knew it was a gamble, asking Valentina to not just care for his son Nate but to wet-nurse him. Even asking could alienate her. It was a profoundly intimate request, and he was counting on her desperation to raise money to help her father get out of a hellhole jail.
He still doubted it was possible for a non-pregnant woman to breastfeed a baby, but his nursing expert insisted it was Nature's insurance. It was called induced lactation, and she assured him any healthy woman could produce milk in about a week; herbs would help start the flow.
When Valentina emerged from her room the next morning, Hayward braced himself for the disappointment that it had all been a fleeting fantasy. But he still wanted nothing more than to slip the white dress straps from her brown shoulders and kiss her very endearingly.
He announced he would make her breakfast, and a look of surprise lit her fresh features. Even Professor Higgins ending up bedding and wedding the girl, he told himself. Or perhaps it was wedding then bedding; either would do.
Turning to the French press to prepare coffee, he pondered the foolishness of hoping for the love of a beautiful shy peasant girl. Romantic yes, but impractical and wrong; yet when he glanced at her grateful eyes, it seemed possible.
Hayward then showed her the secret to light pancakes: separate the egg whites, whip them to creamy firmness then add them back into the batter.
Marveling at the animal vigor of her appetite, Hayward looked on as she cut off a thick slab of butter for each pancake; for Valentina was never more entrancing than when she was hungry.
The doorbell rang, and Hayward revealed the news he'd held back for maximum effect: Valentina had the babysitting job but she would have to learn to feed the baby herself; the nurse was here to show her how. It was a disengenuous reference to the intimacies of breastfeeding, but in her happiness to be earning money to help her father, Valentina only nodded-- just as Hayward had hoped.
Smiling broadly, the nurse with the gray ponytail praised Valentina for wet-nursing Nate, and then launched a no-nonsense briefing. It was Nature's insurance, she explained, in case a new mother couldn't feed her new baby, her sister or other female relative could. As Valentina grasped what she'd just agreed to, her cheeks blushed in vivid embarrassment. Her milk would start flowing in about a week, the nurse reassured her; there were herbs to assist lactation, and it would give her a chance to bond with Nate.
Despite her anxiety and embarrassment, Valentina
concluded that though this was not the job she expected, it was the one God intended
her to take. Feeding a hungry baby could not be bad
in God's eyes, and she would make money to free her father. The nurse gave her a
booklet showing how to position the baby against her.
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