“Today’s the day I change,” said Alex.
His friends told him he had the perfect job. Being a valet at a beach front restaurant was so cool. The tips were better than in town. Seeing the Glitterati come and go provided entertainment. Less appreciated is the fresh air and daily exercise. Any valet gets those, but somehow, it all felt better in Malibu. No bus exhaust and sidewalk deposits by the homeless. You know.
But Alex wanted more. No one grew up wanting to be a valet when they got big. Should he strive to own a valet franchise on some restaurant row? Easier said than done. They’re pretty locked down. Working up to management might provide him with logistical skills. But how to apply them to something he loved… that was the puzzle.
During lulls in the action, he watched the waves roll in. Gulls flocked down the beach. Alex envied the pelicans, gliding inches above the water, steady and sure. They knew where they were going. Beautiful!
There were perks. The service charged $10. The patron gives them a twenty. They get two fives in change and often, a $5 tip goes to the driver. Busy nights add up.
And he got to drive the best of the latest models on the road anywhere. Of course, he never got out of first gear. Doesn’t serve to burn rubber when delivering a client’s car.
Of course, there was plenty of eye-candy. Women always dressed like it was a fashion show.
One night, he held the door for the most beautiful young woman. She was perfect. He saw her bracelet fall at her feet. Expensive. He picked it up and held it out.
“Miss? You dropped this…”
She looked at him holding her bracelet. Their eyes locked.
“Keep it.” She turned away, pulled the door shut and drove off.
Did she think she did him a favor? Was it junk to her? Was he?
He didn’t flirt. He did his job.
Alex gave the bling to his wife, Belle. She found it online. Real diamonds. She put it in a drawer but never wore it. Maybe someday.
It wasn’t that he wanted money. Of course he did. Everyone wants enough to provide. Some had so much, but were indifferent to it, and to people. No matter how much he had, Alex wanted never to be careless about people.
Boris, a movie producer, and a regular, was rumored to be richer than God. Always gracious and famously generous, Boris would pay ten for the service, and then tip the driver a twenty. Each night, whoever drove Mr. Boris’ Lambo, bought beer for the crew.
After work, they’d sit on the beach below the restaurant and polish off a case of Corona as the waves rolled in. Their boss, Omar, always reminded them to dispose of the empties. And they did.
But that was it. Alex wanted more for himself and his family than a few extra beers while sitting on a rock.
“Today’s the day I change,” said Boris.
‘I’m through,’ he thought. ‘Through with the ‘gimmee, gimmee, gimmee.’ Done. I’ll walk away, of course. I’m no fool. I need change, not termination. They need me. I’ve had enough. Grab Tanya and the kids. Live on the boat. Travel up the coast. She’d like that. I don’t need the grief.’
Money truly cannot buy happiness, but it sure expands one’s options.
Boris idled in the slow evening traffic, revving his late model Lamborghini. One could buy a decent house in some neighborhoods for its price. But not in a neighborhood where you’d park a Lamborghini.
The Pacific Coast Highway used to be great for a scenic drive. Standing in traffic, he wondered ‘why idle a race car, where a Prius is more practical? When did the PCH become a parking lot?’ He couldn’t get out of first gear. He revved the engine. No one cared.
It took three lights to get to the intersection. Boris pounded the wheel and growled in frustration. Anyone would think traffic caused his rage. Traffic bought him time. The pending meeting fueled his anger.
He thought about the people he planned to meet. ‘Better to terminate them. The fools selling the same lame scripts.’
The movies one could make based on body counts and boobs appeared to be limitless. ‘How do you keep a franchise fresh after ‘Blood Spattered Bikini VI’? Ask these guys. They’re geniuses.’
‘The formula of casting this month’s nymphet is predictable. Can she fill a bikini? Say no more. Sign here. And here.’
And their ability to splash the screen with fake blood attracted the envy of absolutely no one. But people kept buying tickets. Lots of them.
He built his fortune producing their motion picture excrement. Boris could blame only himself for that. But he’d had enough. He gave them an ultimatum. ‘Raise the bar. Or I’m out.’ Suddenly, everything he’d gained in life felt like a burden to slough off.
‘Jiggling flesh, gunshots, and gallons of fake blood, a recipe easier than guacamole. Providing fewer calories and requiring fewer brain cells.’
Boris kept an ivory carving on his desk, of the three mystic apes, ‘see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.’ He could not keep producing such crap. Worse than evil, it was boring.
This meeting would tell him his next steps. He had no doubts.
With tires squealing, Boris pulled off the PCH and into the valet lane. Alex ran up. Boris knew the kid, mainly from nodding as they swapped keys and claim ticket. That ritual exchange created a rarified event. Their briefly intersecting worlds caused a tiny ripple in the space/time continuum.
Tonight, he was distracted. Boris didn’t like negotiating while angry, but he’d become so sick of this routine. This would be his last meeting. Kaput. The bull had been milked dry.
He left the Lambo with Alex and entered the restaurant. The hostess escorted him to the conference room where his production team waited. They’d prepared a PowerPoint illustrating the promise of their latest venture. Everyone stood when Boris entered. They wanted to shake hands.
Boris waved them off. “Whaddya got?”
Chuck stepped up and clicked a remote, beginning the slide show.
“Thanks for making it, Boris. We’ve reconfigured things a bit, per your request. I know you’ll be pleased. While taking a fresh look at our franchise, we think we’re being true…”
“Yada, yada. What’s the deal?”
Chuck coughed and looked at his team. “Right. Uhm… We’re looking at a trilogy to start. With room for more…” Boris glared. Chuck clicked another slide. “In the first of our trilogy, named ‘Lord of the Thongs...’”
Boris banged the table as he stood. “No!”
Chuck stammered. “If you’ll hear me out…”
“We’re not married to the name. But…”
“No! No! No!” Boris lost the ability to speak in sentences. Words got shorter and his voice louder. He barked like an angry dog.
Outside, the valets became aware of a commotion as people poured from the restaurant. Some were anxious, most merely curious. Activity ceased. A gull laughed.
With arms waving, Boris emerged, still barking. Mothers covered the ears of their children.
Boris ran out of syllables. Silent, he stared into the restaurant. No one followed. He sighed, turned and walked to the valet stand, a normal evening out.
Just as Boris stepped at the loading area, Alex pulled the Lamborghini to a stop. He turned the engine off and stood by.
“Mr. Boris…” He offered the keys.
Boris looked at Alex and opened his folder. Without taking the keys, he handed Alex a paper. Alex didn’t look at it. He’d always felt it bad form to examine a tip. But this paper felt different. He glanced down to see the title to Boris’ Lambo.
Alex gasped. “Mr. Boris…”
“Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”
“You don’t want it?”
Alex looked around. No one could hear them.
“Well, yeah… but…”
“You seem bright. Sell it. Go to school. Whatever. But I don’t need it. I’m done.” Boris walked toward the highway. Alex stood, dumbfounded.
Boris turned with a final thought. “Don’t be distracted by money, Alex. Look to the heart. And drive carefully.” They smiled at each other. “Man! What am I thinking? Do you have a buck?”
Confused, Alex felt for his wallet. “No, just fives.”
“This is stupid. Give me one.” He shoved the five into his pants. “You just bought it from me. Saved a ton of taxes…” Alex nodded. Boris turned and stopped again. He pointed emphatically. “Oh, and get insurance.” They both laughed.
Boris hit the button, waited at the light and crossed. Headlights as far as he could see. He stepped to the shoulder and stuck out his thumb.
Alex turned to Omar. Everyone watched him.
Omar said, “You might be back. I don’t know. But give him a ride. Time to think.”
Omar moved closer and spoke quietly, “But if you do come back, you owe us two cases of beer.”
Everyone laughed at that. Alex did too. He got into his new car and drove off the lot and through the intersection. He pulled onto the shoulder, past Boris, and revved the engine. Boris got in. They let traffic clear and pulled away.
The crowd applauded.