Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sarah's Crazy Right

I've made some changes to Sarah's story. This is the revised first chapter. Tell me what you think...

Chapter One





“He who marches out of step hears another drum”
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Book by Ken Kesey movie by Lawrence Hauben--- One of Sarah’s favorite lines for obvious reasons




     When I think about some of the things I’ve done over the years I cringe. I punched my summer camp director on the boob when I was seven years old because she referred to me as a loose cannon--- Ha, proved her wrong. Then there was the time I ran around the UC Berkeley campus in the buff with a band of protesting nudist. I think they were objecting to the dissolution of the redwoods, pollution, recycling or they could have been pissed about the recent ban on campus nudity. I don’t know what set them off. I just saw a bunch of excited people running around, ass bare to the world and decided to peel off my clothes and join them--- probably not my finest moment.
     I’ve always been a little bit spirited--- which is a nice way of saying bonkers. I’ve seen several shrinks over the years who have confirmed that I have what my mother refers to as “fakakta brain.” Fakakta is Yiddish for fucked up--- way to parent mom. My first psychiatrist said that I was bipolar. She insisted that I was in a constant manic state and said that we should expect the inevitable depressive crash at any moment. That crash never came but the doctor prescribed lithium anyway. It put me in a catatonic state and caused me to lose twenty pounds in less than a month. The second brilliant doctor believed that I had a classic case of Impulse Control Disorder. My parents ---- and I use the word parents loosely because my mother has always initiated the assault on my character, spent a small fortune on aversive therapy, stimulus control and cognitive restructuring. When I still wasn’t the person they thought I should be they asked the doctor for medication. He prescribed Xanex and sent me on my way. My mother has the idea that a good daughter should be compliant, should date men she deems appropriate---- meaning Jewish and should not take her clothes off in public.
    Leona Goldman has always been the epitome of perfection. She has been a perfect size four since high school. She graduated from college with honors. She is everything I am not. And she’s never let me forget it. She has never been able to tolerate such an imperfect daughter. It’s as if my very being was somehow an offence to her. So during my senior year in high school she sent me to see a third and final shrink who said that I had a simple all American case of ADHD. Much to my mother’s chagrin the good doctor explained that most of my problems stemmed from a lack of acceptance. He helped me realize that I wasn’t broken and that I was fine just the way I was.
     I enrolled in acting classes at the local community college. I even managed to get accepted to UC Berkeley’s performing arts program. Which I thought was a huge accomplishment considering my grades were only slightly above average. It wasn’t until I discovered that my father got me into the school by pulling some strings with a few of his golfing buddies that sat on the University of California Board of Regents that my admission began to make sense. But despite my father’s highhandedness, I began to really enjoy my life for the first time. I said what I wanted and did what I pleased without reservation or any thoughts of repercussion. I was beyond reckless.
     Nevertheless, life is filled with defining moments. We are given the opportunity to redefine ourselves. My defining moment came when at the height of my stupidity I was thrown in jail for dropping a Molotov cocktail on someone’s lawn. It wasn’t my first time in jail but this offense could have sent me to prison. I can’t explain the thought process behind my decision to torch the place.  But there has always been someone around to make the tough decisions for me and pick up the pieces when I inevitably screwed up. So I clearly didn’t think the whole thing through. However, something in my scarcely used brain clicked while sitting in that dank, dreary Marin County jail cell. I realized that I’d unloaded a boat load of crazy on the world and it was time for a change.
   I left Marin county jail with a year of probation and a new outlook on life. The terms of my probation dictate that I work or attend school full time and since I’ve dropped out of school this job offer came at the perfect time. I also have to check in with my probation officer, Sylvia Fernandez once a month, complete two hundred volunteer hours and of course I have to stay out of trouble. Years of being out of control has forced me to set some rules. I decided to stop drinking. With the exception of the boob punching incident, my worst behaviors have been carried out while drunk.  I’ve also decided to stop smoking pot. The no weed rule isn’t written in stone, because I’ve never committed a crime or assaulted anyone while high. I did however; hook up with a white Rastafarian named Steve who claimed he was the reincarnation of Bob Marley. The third rule, the one that defines the new and improved Sarah Goldman is written on a stone wall that sits in front of my heart. I am done with men!
     Six months ago I went out with a guy that I thought could potentially be the one. He was a perfect gentleman at dinner. He was an economics major that I met at a coffee bar near the UCB campus. His name was Andrew Sloan--- even his name was perfect. He laughed at all of my jokes and he didn’t ask me to pay for my own food--- which is always a plus. He wasn’t very handsome but he was tall and muscular and not in a freakish steroid induced way. I guess old habits die hard. After dinner I invited him back to my room and tried to make him care about me the way I always did. There was a lot of grunting, groping and tugging. And that was probably the first time I’d actually been motor boated. Needless to say Andrew Sloan was not a very considerate lover. But he complemented me and made me feel special so I didn’t care.
     When the ordeal was over he touched my face gently and looked longingly into my eyes. I’ve apparently read way too many romance novels because my heart began to melt. I started thinking that I’d finally found a man that accepted my personal brand of crazy and might just love me anyway. But the jackass didn’t confess his undying love. His smile morphed into a smirk and his look of longing turned into disgust. He climbed out of my bed, shook his head without looking at me and said, “I feel like I just got off a ride that too many men have ridden before me.” I’m rarely at a loss for words but I was so shocked that I just stared at him while he tossed a used condom on my floor shrugged on his clothes and left my dorm room. He was right. But the number of men I’ve been with wouldn’t be so terrible if I’d actually loved any of them. I’ve professed my love to at least ten guys but it’s never been real. Andrew Sloan was a schmuck but he made me put things into perspective. I’m done using my acting skills to morph into the woman men want me to be, done using my body to make them care about me.
     So here I am sitting in a smelly LA cab gazing at my future. And what a dreary future it is. My uncle and aunt live like rock stars in a three story Tuscan Estate in the Hidden Hills. When Uncle Joe offered me a receptionist job I jumped at the chance to leave the Bay Area. I assumed I’d be surrounded by high end clientele. I envisioned myself fetching coffee for hoity-toity women caring fancily dressed lapdogs. I’d be Joe’s girl Friday, filing documents for distinguished gray haired men with wives half their ages by day and rocking the theater circuit by night. I wasn’t trying to run away from my failed attempts at love. I just thought a new job in a different city could give me a fresh start, a new outlook.
     The job comes with room and board, a small salary, and a car that I can use to get to my auditions. It’s a pretty sweet deal and this is supposed to be my glamorous new start. But my uncle’s law firm is far from glamorous. I never would have dreamed I’d be working in a place like this. It’s stationed in the heart of East LA in a strip mall right between a Taqueria and a mattress store. The constant blare of sirens makes me feel like I just entered a war zone. The outside looks as if it could use a good scrubbing or maybe a can of gasoline and a match but, fortunately for Joe my fire starting days are behind me.
     I repress a sigh; pop a Hershey’s kiss in my mouth and pay the cab driver. A wave of nausea sloshes through my stomach the minute my six inch heels touch the stained LA side walk. I watch a few pages of the LA Times newspaper float by like a tumbleweed. Leaving my cushy gig at UC Berkeley was a noble although ill conceived idea. An ambulance speeds by with its siren blaring. If I had graduated I would have been living comfortably with a six figure trust fund. But it all flew out the window when I dropped out of school.
     The sting of regret pierces my thoughts as I stand in front of the run down law office. I can still hear my mother complaining, ‘You’re not getting any younger Sarah. You’ve had your fun now it’s time to buckle down and finish your degreeAll of your friends are getting married, having babies and becoming real adults.’  I actually love kids, but allowing one of the little creatures to invade my body is out of the question.  I shutter involuntarily at the thought. Kids with their messy little hands and runny little noses --- hold me, feed me, don’t drop me. Ugh, so many demands.
          I take a few steps towards the door and swallow down nervous bile. ‘What the hell was I thinking?’ I’ve never even had a real job. I moved out of my parent’s house and right into the dorms at UCB. I sigh then take a deep breath resolved and determined to make this thing work even if it means working on the corner of Crack Avenue and Gang Boulevard. I push through the glass door and scan the shabby desolate office. The booger green carpet is threadbare and the stucco ceiling is stained yellow. There are two desks, one near the front and another in the rear of the room near a closed door. Each desk has a telephone, a computer and a small filing cabinet. There is no other furniture in the room. I haven’t a clue what kind of person would retain a lawyer from a place like this.
     I inspect the walls for pictures hoping there’s another Joseph Goldman and I’ve gone to the wrong place. But that can’t be the case because this is the address uncle Joe gave me. “I’m sorry hon Joe is no longer hiring working girls.” I spin around to locate the source of the low harsh voice. There before me stands the lankiest thinnest woman I’ve ever seen. She must have entered from the back room because I didn’t notice her when I arrived. The woman is wearing a wrinkled pantsuit the color of sand that blends with her complexion and sags on her slight frame like loose skin on a shar-pei. She watches me with suspicion while removing files from a box to stack near a computer.
     My hand falls to the hem of my short dress. Its length would make a seasoned stripper nervous. I tug until it reaches mid thigh and then present my haughtiest expression. How dare she refer to me as a common street walker? At the very least she could have called me an escort, they’re much classier. “I’m not a hooker. My name is Sarah,” I say as pleasantly as possible. I have to resist the urge to call the woman a tranny and ask how she manages to hide her Adams apple so well. This is the new and improved Sarah. The new and improved Sarah does not question the gender of strangers. I have to focus on making the best of this situation and I can’t allow this woman to derail me. “I’m Joseph’s niece,” I say patiently, “and I’m here to start the receptionist job.” I take a few more steps into the dingy room. The woman raises an over tweezed eye brow and inspects me from the top of my fitted black micro-mini dress to my fuck-me heels.
“I’m sorry hon. I’m Ginger the office manager,” her thin lips twist into a smile. At least I think it’s a smile. Ginger might be bearing her fangs and preparing to attack. She taps a long red claw like fingernail against gleaming white front teeth while she thinks of what to do with me I think.
“So where do I start?” I asked placing my purse on top of a gnarled walnut computer desk.
“Well I think Joe might have had you in mind for a different position.” She turns her attention back to the files. “The last girl quit a few months ago and Bridgette and Felicity can’t keep up with their client list.”
Client list? “Let me get this straight. My uncle wants me to do a job previously held by prostitutes.” Ginger removes the last file from the box and plops her long frame into a seat behind the computer desk. It’s a surprisingly modern computer for such a rundown office. I absentmindedly wonder if they take the equipment with them when they leave at night to ward off break-ins.
     “You don’t have to be a prostitute, just someone men would be drawn to. Joe will explain hon. He’s in his office.” She waves her hand towards the back door. “You can head back there if you want.” I unwrap another chocolate kiss and pop it in my mouth as I schlep towards the back room. I knock lightly, take a deep breath and step inside without waiting for an invitation. I’m mentally prepared to be affronted by disarray. When I enter I see Joseph scowling at a document on his desk while simultaneously berating someone on the phone. But I can’t focus on my uncle because I’m thrown off kilter by the office d├ęcor.
     The cherry hardwood floors shine like they’ve never been walked on. The walls are cobalt blue. Neatly stacked bookshelves line the space behind Joseph’s black marble desk. A cranberry leather couch is pressed against one wall and a flat screen hangs cordlessly on the other.  And in the far corner of the room in a chocolate brown leather seat near Joseph’s desk sits the tallest, loveliest man I’ve ever seen. My breath catches in my throat. He has inky black hair parted on the side and combed back neatly, features that look as if they were carved by an artists and a palpable air of arrogance. He stares at me with keen observation. He looks as if he just finished a photo shoot for GQ and the sight of him makes me want to straighten my posture and check my lip gloss. One of his legs is bent and the ankle of the other leg rests on his knee. His fingers are steeped in front of his chest and his amaretto eyes are scanning me from head to toe sending delicious shivers up my body. His eyes linger on my minuscule breast a moment too long and my nipples begin to strain against the thin fabric of my dress. I guess no one told them that I’ve sworn off men. Even so, tall ones, short ones, thin ones buff ones, all races and religions, they have always been my weakness.
     I fold my arms over my chest and avert my eyes. Handsome men usually don’t intimidate me even though I’m not exactly a beautiful woman. I sigh and look down at myself. I’m too short to be statuesque and too tall to be cute. My green eyes are too large and my nose is too small for my thin face. My lips aren’t full enough to be Angelina Jolie sexy and they aren’t thin enough to be Jennifer Aniston sexy. This blond hair of mine is thick and wild with a mind of its own. And these damned freckles, no matter how much foundation I apply they are still visible on my nose and cheeks like little droplets of poop. But regardless of my shortcomings years of braces have left me with perfectly straight teeth and I have it on good authority that my ass is flawless.
     I fix my eyes on the dark lovely man. His lips curl into an easy grin. That smile could easily turn a no into a yes. I think he notices how his presence is affecting my body. I should probably turn around and run in the opposite direction because this beautiful man is exactly the type I should be avoiding. He stretches his muscular frame to his full height and his presence fills the room. He moves with a confident male grace that makes my knees weak and leaves me spellbound. My heart triples its beat as he moves towards me like a feral cat and extends his hand. His skin is the color of coffee with extra cream and when our hands meet an electrical current unlike any I’ve ever felt shoots through me and settles in the pit of my stomach---Horrible time to have taken a vow of chastity. The handsome stranger doesn’t say anything he just stands there holding my hand and gazing at me through long dark lashes--- Why do men always have the best eyelashes? What a waste. He runs a finger over my knuckles and his smile broadens when I shiver. Joseph chooses that moment to slam his phone onto the receiver and glare at the pair of us as if he just realized we were in the room.
     “Javier, this is my niece Sarah. Sarah, this is Javier Ruiz the newest junior associate at my law firm.” Javier’s brow lifts slightly. I can feel him hesitate before he releases my hand---- or maybe it’s me who’s hesitating.
“Nice to meet you Sarah,” he says. His whiskey rich voice sends shivers down my spine. Catching a whiff of his scent I open my mouth but nothing comes out. He smells clean and manly. I’m staring like an idiot and I can feel my face heating under his watchful gaze but my voice is lost. I’m an actress damn it. Surely I can find a character that won’t be intimidated by this marvelous man. I consider twirling my hair around my finger and channeling my inner Rosie Perez. Rosie would never be unsettled by a tantalizing ball of testosterone but, when I open my mouth again I’m still speechless. Javier places a hand on my chin and pushes my mouth closed--- arrogant bastard.
He looks at Joseph, “I’ll see you back at the office.” Then he turns to me with hooded eyes and a panty dropping smile, “Espero volver a verte Sarah.” I look down at my knotted fingers. I don’t know what he just said, but I feel this insatiable urge to leap on him and wrap my legs around his waist. I know that he is out of my league. But my body has no idea.
I think back to my three years of high school Spanish and say, “Usted es una rana guapo.” Javier looks stunned for a few seconds and then he nods and walks away with a slight frown. I turn to my uncle confused. Joe gives me a look of exasperation then smacks his head with the palm of his hand.
“Sarah he said he hopes to see you again.”
“I know,” I lie.  
He takes a deep breath and exhales loudly. “You just called him a handsome frog.”
     I place a hand on my chest and squeeze my eyes shut to ward off the pain of humiliation. My new goal is to stay the hell away from Javier Ruiz. My brain clearly shuts down in his presence and I have no intention of embarrassing myself so thoroughly ever again. Once I regain my composure I walk around the side of my uncle’s desk and kiss the top of his wooly head. It’s hard to believe that he and my dad are brothers. Joseph has olive skin. My dad is fair. Joseph is short. My dad is tall. They are polar opposites, the biggest difference being their temperament. Dad is fun loving and easy going. Joseph is the crankiest man I’ve ever met. So much so that everyone in the family is afraid of him, everyone but me. He’s all huff and puff but no real threat. “So what’s up with the schlocky office Uncle Joseph? The help doesn’t deserve a nice work environment?”
“They have everything they need,” he grumbles then glances over my outfit. His caterpillar eyebrows knit together in disapproval. “This is how you show up for your first day of work?”
     I shift from foot to foot uncomfortably. I’m wearing a black blazer over my dress. I thought I looked pretty professional. “This is the most conservative outfit I own.” Joseph mumbles something incoherently and pushes to his feet. He resembles an angry beaver with dark hair protruding from every exposed piece of flesh on his body--- his wrists, his knuckles and the top of his collar. It’s as if he’s wearing a sweater under his shirt.
 “Take a seat young lady,” Joseph says perching one but cheek on the end of his desk so that he’s just a few feet away from the couch where I plop down with my arms folded. I lift my head defiantly prepared to block out the impending lecture. “Your parents are very concerned about you.” I bite my tongue for the second time in less than an hour. I resist telling my uncle that my parents have so many problems that my life should be at the very bottom of their list of priorities. My father hasn’t spent a night at home in years and my mother has secrets, long held secrets.
I meet his gaze. “What exactly are they concerned about pray tell?”
      Those caterpillars on his face draw even closer and threaten to overlap. “They are concerned that you dropped out of school. And they’re concerned that you have no direction in life.”
I roll my eyes. “Uncle Joseph I came out here to work for your law firm, not to be lectured. And speaking of working, why did Rupaul say that I won’t be the receptionist?” Joseph stands, smoothes his shirt over his pot belly and returns to his seat behind the desk. He makes his fingers a steeple and watches me for a long time. “Are you plotting world domination or are you going to tell me why you gave my job away?”
He stares at me for a moment longer then frowns and looks at the door leading out of his office. “She’s a woman Sarah.”
“Nope, I’m pretty sure I spotted a bulge in her slacks.”
He presses his lips together. “Still the smart ass I see.”
“Some habits are hard to break.” He slaps his hands down on the desk and stands so abruptly that I jump.
“She has two kids. She worked throughout her pregnancies and I visited her in the hospital.  He waves his hand as if warding off a fly. “I’m getting side tracked.” He points at me and scowls causing the caterpillars to nearly fall off his face. I feel as if I’m on trial for a horrific crime. “You have a job but it’s not as a receptionist. My primary office is near the Beverly center in LA. I have an exclusive customer base: doctors, lawyers, actors’ government officials all seek my services.”
“If you have an office near the Beverly center why are you slumming it here?”
“This place has a very rich culture and I’m sure it’s residents would resent you referring to their home as a slum. Now try to focus.” I take a deep breath and exhale in exasperation.
“Stop being such a grumpster and tell me about the job.”
“I’ll do better than that. I’m going to tell you about the next year of your life.”