EXCERPT: NUMBER NINE, A WORK IN PROGRESS.
EXT. SAN FERNANDO VALLEY – ARIEL VIEW – DAY
Smog and traffic patterns.
The Beatles’ REVOLUTION 9 (White Album) is heard.
INSERT MONTAGE – SOCIAL INSANITY
OJ Simpson, CNN war footage, demonstrations, traffic jams, crime scenes, sporting events, Enron, Martha Stewart.
BACK TO SCENE
ZOOM to a woman in a red convertible speeding down a suburban street. This is RUBY DAULTON, 36, a wild woman, exotic dancer, edgy and sexy.
Fade REVOLUTION 9 to HELTER SKELTER (White Album).
Ruby is intense, worried, with one eye on the rearview mirror. She turns suddenly as she glimpses a blue BMW rounding a corner in the mirror.
Ruby kept busy – picking up, wiping down, stacking dishes, emptying ashtrays, anything – to keep from sitting with the men in her living room. They were uninvited guests, a couple of boys from the office. The office was what they called Ruby’s place of employment. Customers called it Shotgun Slim’s – a stripper bar in the great San Fernando Valley, where the sun always shines and the air is a toxic mix of internal combustion soup.
It was Ruby’s birthday but the boys brought nothing but trouble. They sat in the living room of her small cottage, laughing and posturing over a televised boxing match. She was reminded of the one question that settled in her mind years ago and, like an unwanted relative, never left: What the fuck am I doing here?
It was a long way from the Land of Oz. Ruby knew how she had gotten here. What she did not know and could not have understood if she did was why she had chosen to stay. The old cliché: Habits die hard.
The boys were getting too high, too coked up, and too revved up on televised violence, gin and tonic. A fourth round technical knockout brought them to frenzy and let them down hard. They had little else to do but turn their attentions to Ruby. They won their boxing bets but Ruby was the loser.
As it happened, Ruby had a man. He was the owner of Shotgun Slim’s and these boys were supposed to be his friends and partners – brothers in the vocabulary of the business. She knew what they were about. They would use their highs to excuse their behavior. No excuse would be good enough for Ruby: That she was a woman? That she was not physically strong enough to deter them? Should she take a beating only to suffer the same consequences – only worse?
The truth is she did not like her man any more than she liked his friends. They were all scumbags – little piggy punks with drugs, money and guns.
“What the fuck am I doing here?” she asked aloud as they implored her to come to them.
“Get your ass in here, you sexy fucking bitch!”
They were pawing their groins, laughing and clapping like wild boars circling a ground hog.
Ruby took account and decided to be cool. She left herself behind in the kitchen, along with the memories of who she once was: a kid from Kansas, pretty and popular enough to finish third in the race for Homecoming Queen. Sexy Sadie. Protected from all harm, she hid herself in the closet of her mind, safe behind walls of mental concrete and layers of darkness. She walked out of herself and, like Norma Jean becoming Marilyn, she became Ruby Daulton, queen of the dance floor, star of the stage where the silver phallus is always front and center.
“Tony wouldn’t like this,” she purred. Tony was Antonio Menendez, her man and their boss.
“Tony ain’t gonna hear about it,” replied Little Billy. He was a large man with short hair, ruddy complexion, and bulging biceps. He was known at the office as “the muscle.” Ruby sensed that he hated the boss as much as she did but Tony was clueless.
“Alright then,” she said. “What do you boys want?”
Little Billy grabbed his balls. “Hey, babe, you know what I want!”
He used a remote to click some music on the television. They had prepared something special: a mix from The Beatles’ White Album, beginning with Birthday.
They say it’s your birthday …
Ruby waited as long as she could before beginning the slow movements known as the tease. She was playing along and the boys were content.
Yes we’re going to a party party …
She removed her shoes and was beginning to remove her shirt when the music shifted to Sexy Sadie. Ruby loved Sexy Sadie. It meant more to her than they could ever imagine. She began to move to the rhythm inside. She closed her eyes and began to dance – not the cheap, over-rehearsed dance of the stripper but the dance of the muses of ancient mythology. She danced and the muses wept. She closed her eyes and thought of Dorothy and Kansas and the wizard who was not a wizard and ruby-red shoes on a yellow, brick road. She danced and she imagined fields of golden grass, waves of amber grace, fields of wild flowers, and poppies – glistening white poppies from here to the end of time. She closed her eyes, tapped her heels, and flew away on the wings of angelic beings.
Sexy Sadie, how did you know?
The world was waiting just for you …
When she awakened with a jolt, everything had changed. Sexy Sadie had given way to a blaring Happiness is A Warm Gun. The transition was sudden and disturbing. It was an omen as surely as a crow in the morning or crossing the path of a black cat.
“This is wrong,” she said.
The boys were not convinced. As far as they were concerned, happiness was a warm gun and a sexy woman to help it along.
“Dance, baby! Take it off!”
Ruby turned to the windows at the front of her small cottage and thought she saw the glimpse of a shadow.
“Antonio’s coming,” she said.
“Bullshit, baby, he’s tied up.”
I need a fix ‘cause I’m going down …
Ruby danced on but it was not the same. It was the familiar dance of a stripper on a long and lonely night when men too tired, too drunk, too high and too excited to think pawed the stage and clamored for more. The smell of sweat and spent ejaculations stifled the air and choked away any beauty and grace of the dancer’s performance.
The boys were not content with the pace of Ruby’s tease. They rushed the improvised stage of her living room, ripped the clothes from her body, and forced her to her knees as Ruby kicked, scratched and fought but refused to scream. She would not give them that satisfaction. She would face the demons as she always had. She would be strong – quietly defiant.
A crash at the door, felt more than heard, interrupted them at the height of their excitement. It was Antonio. He was the picture of a jealous man who was tipped off by someone with a personal interest.
Happiness is a warm gun. Bang-bang, shoot-shoot …
Ruby managed to grab her clothes and move to the back of the room. The boys, holding their pants, were trying to explain that it was Ruby’s fault. She was a tease. She seduced them.
Little Billy saw the hatred in Tony’s eyes and knew their words were a waste. It was the rage of a man betrayed by those he had considered his friends, his partners, and his brothers. They rambled on if only to buy time and to let the rage disperse.
“She’ll get hers,” mumbled Antonio. It was all Ruby needed to hear.
Little Billy went for his gun first. It was a futile gesture, the desperate last act of a dead man. Antonio brought the wrath of jealousy and betrayal, the hammer of vengeance down upon their heads. He emptied two handguns, reloaded, and made a point of blowing their faces off.
Ruby escaped. She dashed out the back, ran around the corner, past Antonio’s blue BMW, jumped in her convertible and drove away just as Tony emerged, splattered with blood and looking for his final revenge.
The television survived and played on.
Helter skelter helter skelter …
Will you won’t you want me to make you
I’m coming down fast but don’t let me break you …
Helter skelter helter skelter …
Tell me tell me tell me the answer
You may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer …
Look out, helter skelter helter skelter …
SAVE TOOKIE WILLIAMS! FREE LEONARD PELTIER!
FORGET THE ASSASSIN. REMEMBER JOHN LENNON. IMAGINE.