Pinkie Markie Makes A Sale

Jojo snap his neck back, listen for the crack, smile with his spine in fine alignment. He was lean back against the brick wall, dark brown skin simmer slow beneath the California sunshine, waiting patient for the ganja man to arrive. It was a Thursday morning in the loading zone behind the bakery outlet, the bakery gone out of business only a few months ago. Back then there were a dozen guys working all day: unloading boxes of ingredients and supplies, loading up boxes of cupcakes and cookies, clipboards and scanning wands in khaki shorts. He remembered those guys. He had been one of them.

On this hot Los Angeles morning he had been alone in the ghost lot for forty-five minutes, forty-nine because Jojo was counting, waiting, listening to the music on his phone until the battery run low. The music was fine- warm sounds familiar- but he didn’t feel like dancing. Nothing made him dance anymore. And he thought, in passing, “this is getting older... this is what it feels like to get old.”

And it scared him.

The weed helped. All the chemicals do. He was ready for his guy to show up, anyway… he had been out of grass for two days- a long time- and he could already taste the soft sweet smoke, the hazy memory, the timeless bake of the fragrance The heat bounced off the blacktop in the back lot, good cook the burning rubber of the docking bay doors. It smelled good today, like the last days of school. He loved this back lot, the perfect place for a friendly neighborhood drug deal.

The only trouble was, it was also the perfect place to skateboard.

Two white teenagers- Corey and Bogart- had gotten here only minutes after Jojo and the dudes had been shredding sidewalk ever since. They arrived the way teenagers always do: stumbling onto the scene unaware, giving no indication as to whether this was their intended destination or a happy accident, and then simply occupying the area as if no one else existed. Jojo knew their names because neither boy had said anything else.

Corey: “Bogart!” and then he would grind his way down the L-shape staircase leading up to the building, turning on the landings and smoothing out when he got to the bottom.

Bogart: “Corey!” and then he would gather speed and try to tail slide his board against the curb, usually falling off and landing ass-first in the grass.

Idiot kids going coconut. Jojo found himself hating them- not because they had decided to use his meeting place as their personal skate park… he hated them because they were terrible skateboarders.

He watched them laugh and crash for a few minutes more until he finally couldn’t stand it.

“Who taught you boys how to skateboard?” he said with a smile, his Jamaican accent strong in his resonant voice.

The boys looked up as he approached, woke up out of their long Los Angeles daydream: guilty, cornered, confused. Pathetic. Jojo could almost hear their inner thoughts: “Dude! It’s like, a black guy!” and this thought made him laugh out loud. They seemed to relax a little at the music of his voice.

Corey- with the dreads and mossy facial hair- spoke first, “I don’t know… I just do it for fun.”

Jojo ran his palm hand over his shaved head to clear the perspiration.

Bogart, in a backwards baseball cap, emboldened, took a stand and declared his independence: “Me too.”

“That’s not how you skateboard, boys... you’re just thrashing. I used to skateboard… I used to be a damn sight.”

The boys, who would have laughed at anything, laughed at this.

Corey absentminded rub the road rash on his right elbow, “Like, how old are you?”

Jojo, who considered striking the boy, answered instead. “I’m 35.”

Both teens turned to face each other and burst out laughing, as this was evidently the funniest number in the history of digits. The chains connecting their wallets to their belt loops made jangle as their bodies rocked.

Jojo shook his head in pity... what passed for cool in California was a sad state of affairs.

After a moment, though, he found he was smiling too. These two dopes didn’t know any better. Today would be a good day for them to learn.

“You see that over there?” He pointed to the far side of the lot where a steel loading ramp sat parked up against the wall, leading up to the truck bay door, twenty feet long with a 20° incline. The boys turned, open-mouthed, to take it in.

“I’ll bet you fifty bucks I can take that ramp, do a kickflip at the top and skate back down again.”

The smiles fell off the boys’ faces. There was money in the mix now, and testosterone, and a pretty tricky maneuver. California kids out of their jurisdiction. Jojo smiled, loving it.

“What do you say boys?”

Bogart put his hand over his wallet, trying in vain to calculate whether losing the bet might compromise his taco dollars.

Corey spoke: “Nahhh, I don’t wanna bet.”

Jojo shook his head. “Come on... where’s your sense of adventure?”

Corey considered, and then finally, “It’s okay… you don’t have to do it… you can just have the money.”

Jojo threw his head back and laughed. “I’m not robbing you, buddy...I just wanna make a bet. You in or you out?”
Corey looked over to Bogart, whose eyes as always seemed to say ‘whatever.’

“Yeah, we’re in,” Corey said, “let’s see you do your trick.”

*                   *                   *

Jojo borrowed the bigger board, Bogart’s board, and he had skated around the lot a couple times, making sure he had his balance and his legs were still skate-ready. They were. The boys had been surprised by his turns, the way he walked the board, the melted butter of his beat as he made the maneuvers music.

Just wait.

Jojo positioned himself facing the ramp, about fifty feet away, and Corey and Bogart aligned themselves behind him to watch. He wondered if the boys would pay up. It didn’t matter. It was the principle.

“You guys ready?”

The boys raised their camera phones in sync.

Jojo visualized his move a semi-second before he took it: gain enough speed to let the incline slow him just enough for that timeless moment to kick the board out from under him, flip, land back on it with a 180° turn. In style. It was time to stop thinking and trust his instinct.

He kicked off, gathering speed, flying across the lot as Corey and Bogart watched in awe.

Joseph “Jojo” Jeffries made glide across the parking lot of his former place of business, sail sweet in a tracking shot too pretty, dance the pavement surf, almost at the ramp when the board’s front wheel struck a small nugget of gravel. He was launched airborne- let out a yelp like a puppy under a Kia- and he landed with a crispity crunch against the scalding blacktop, his body bent at an angle perverse.

He screeched in agony.

Corey and Bogart ran over to him as fast as they could, eyes popping out their sockets like grapes squeeze out the skin. Jojo was convulsing in pain, seizing, making shriek in a voice he had never heard before, the cartilage in his kneecaps turn to cream corn. The boys looked down, horrified, to see the man’s ankle bone poking clean out the front of his shin. The bone was saying hello.

The boys saw the bone.

The bone was white.

Bogart turned to Corey. Corey turned to Bogart. “Let’s get out of here!”

The California kids turned and ran away, the wheels of the ill-fated skateboard still spinning downside up. Jojo keep howling, the sweet sound echo and bounce against the brick walls of the empty lot, and in his traumatized state he looked up and saw the billboard above him, a woman, maybe an angel: it featured a pretty blonde woman in a pink blazer. She was smiling. The copy read:



“If you called her you’d be home by now”

*                   *                   *

“You have to listen… you don’t talk, you listen. You listen to what the client wants and they will tell you what they need.”

Three blocks from the bakery lot Pinkie Markie’s silver sport utility vehicle came to stop at a red light. She hated red lights.

Pinkie- in her trademark pink skirt suit- reached into the backseat for her work bag when her seatbelt yanked her back into place. “Goddamit!” she spoke aloud, and then into the headset: “No, not you.”

Pinky unbuckle, grabbed her bag from backseat and pulled out a dangerously large pair of black sunglasses. She threw her hair back and tossed on the shades. They were supposed to ward off the wrinkles- some of them anyway- but maybe it was too late for that: now in her late-forties her face showed the wear of Los Angeles ozone. She was still pretty in the traditional sense, at least she thought so, checking herself out in the rearview while flashing a warm professional smile. Laugh lines and crow’s feet had settled in her features fine, but the lines gave her a depth, some kind of story. She listened carefully on her headset as Steven- one of her junior agents- explained how he had lost another sale.

“Mm-hmm... okay...”

She rolled smooth easy through a stop sign and checked her roots in the side view.

“Yes… but it sounds like you scared him off. You don’t want to sell him, you want to give him the option to buy… there is a- yeah, there is a difference.”

The SUV accelerated to take a hill lined with palm trees. In the esplanade a homeless man held a hilarious cardboard sign asking for money. Pinkie drove by.

Inside the car she pulled a Sting CD out of her work bag and tried to tear off the plastic wrap with her free hand.

“You don’t call. Not for two days. And when you do you’ll leave a voicemail saying you have one- one- other house to show him and when is he free... hmm? Don’t worry about it, we figure that out later, you just leave that exact message. Okay?”

She brought the car to a stop and finally unpeeled the plastic from the jewel box. When the light go green she started driving again, plucking the brand new CD out the tray just as the SUV hit a bump. The disc fell out of her hand and into the backseat.


She pulled up the drive of a large modern house in the heart of the Hollywood Hills, come to a stop in the circular driveway next to a red vintage sports car. Leaning up against the car was Lamont Malvo.

Lamont Malvo, eyebrow arched in sinister curl, styled hair spiked and poking in every direction. Black khakis, black blazer over gray V-neck, his face snarl and spew. He wasn’t the easiest client Pinkie had ever worked with, but a job is a job, Pinkie reasoned, and every girl has her job to do. Besides, he had money... that much she could smell.

Lamont Malvo saw her, spotted the SUV silver, sigh as if her arrival was another in an endless line of eternal interruptions, toss his tablet back in the passenger seat of his Jaguar E-Type convertible, too cool to mention that she had kept him waiting, too menacing to put Pinkie at ease.

He wondered if she had heard of his Father. He wondered if she knew evil.

“I am so sorry for being late Mr. Malvo,” she said, stepping down from the driver’s side and removing her sunglasses, “I’ve been listening to that disc you gave me… it’s lovely. Lovely music.”

Malvo, too cool to shrug, didn’t. He looked at Pinkie, pretty, tried to imagine her sex face.

“What do you think?” she said, smiling, exhaling, gesturing to the house, “Should we go inside?”

*                   *                   *

Pinkie take the first step through the doorway, into the echo of the household hollow, setting the lockbox on the foyer table, letting Malvo follow behind her. She looked away as he took his first steps inside, as she always did, because the client was entitled to a reaction private. It was not appropriate to try and read their faces or to play them as dollar signs.

The foyer was hardwood floor, the ceilings twenty feet high. The corridors between rooms were high arches, eggshell white. From here you could see up to the second floor, the curved white staircase with black metal railing issuing an invitation with a curling finger. The decoration was minimal: an original modern art painting on the wall and a warm, colorful area rug in the center of the room. The house was massive but unassuming... a blank page waiting for a great idea. A tall glass vase sat on the floor beside the staircase, a single bright sunflower inside.

“What do you think?” Pinky asked, eyes on the sunflower.

From the entranceway you could see down the hall to the kitchen straight ahead, the den to the right and the dining room to the left.

“I think it’s a foyer,” Malvo said, the trace of some faint accent buried in his voice flat, “take me to the kitchen.”

*                   *                   *

This man- this Mr. Malvo- he hadn’t liked any of the houses she had shown him so far, hadn’t even been close, and Pinkie was beginning to worry that he would be one of those clients… eternally dissatisfied, a mailbox chaser, on the market with no real intention to buy. He had been very strange from the first: he wouldn’t tell her what he did, which meant he wasn’t in the industry. Everyone in the industry was always eager to share: actors, producers, writers, even crew. She thought this Mr. Malvo had mentioned something about screenwriting but that might have been another client. Besides there was more to him than that. It didn’t matter anyway: a client has a right to privacy. She watched him look the kitchen over, mentally running down the rest of her day’s agenda… the closings and the showings, the comings and the goings. Lamont tested the kitchen cabinets as everyone does: by opening and closing them.

They seemed to be in working order.

The owners of the house had already moved on, were already living elsewhere. The kitchen was too clean. There were no crumbs, no garbage bag in the trash bin, not a trace of food in the refrigerator. Malvo knew because he checked. He checked everything. He liked the details.

He needed to know.

“Four hundred square feet with a dining area just through there,” Pinkie said, and now she was watching him more closely, trying to get a read on his reaction. “Did you see the view, Mr. Malvo?”

He corrected her, sharp. “Lamont.”

“Oh,” she said, “Lamont.’

“Don’t act so innocent, Pinkie. I’m sure you know who I am. I’m sure you know who my Father was.”

Pinkie, clueless: “Your Father?”

Lamont smiled, dishwasher hinge in hand. “The Admiral? Admiral Lamont Malvo?”

Pinkie shook her head no, then nodded slow as to not offend. Admiral?

“Tell me, Pinkie: did you grow up in a house like this?”

She was caught off-guard. “What do you mean?”

He pulled a glass from the cabinet and ran the water for a moment before filling up it up, two fingers to the tepid flow. “A house this nice, this expensive...? Did you grow up in a house in the Hollywood Hills? Or did you grow up someplace... more dirty?”

Malvo took a tall drink of water. Pinkie didn’t like the question or the way he had asked, but she was a professional.

“Well, there are very few places as nice as this…” she eyed the house around her, bashful. “This house was previously owned by some famous Hollywood stars.”

“Really.” he said, disinterested.

“Yes. Rita Hayworth. And I think the guy who played Shaft.” Pinkie beamed her billboard smile.

Malvo smiled back, briefly, before pouring out the water. “So tell me: why do they call you Pinkie?”

*                   *                   *

In the den Malvo found the remote and turned on the TV, squinting his eyes to read the buttons on the remote. “What’s the asking price again?”

Pinkie had just caught up with him. She had learned to answer straight. “It is listed at eight nine.”

He found a movie channel and they watched the giant wall-size TV in awkward silence for a moment. Some skinny guy with cheekbones was courting an anorexic model by looking very angry. It seemed to be working. The floor of the den was hardwood, covered with a grass green rug… on the wall across from the movie screen were two leather sofas and three leather recliners. In the center of the room was a coffee table long enough to sail on, faint rings from sour glasses engrained in the wood.

Malvo examined it all, his body perfectly still, his eyes moving, processing.

“And I suppose this is where I would be expected to my have my best friends over to watch the Superbowl!” He bit his tongue to keep from laughing.

“That could be a lot of fun,” Pinkie said helpfully, missing his meaning, a wholesome smile on her face.
Malvo blinked. “Are you married?”

Pinkie exhaled, “Divorced.” She spoke the word as it was every little girl’s dream.

Malvo smiled, turned back to the screen. “Well I’m married.”

Pinkie beamed.

“I wonder what my wife will look like when I cut her throat and leave her bleeding on the leather sofa...”

Pinkie’s face fell.

Malvo smiled again and clicked off the TV.

*                   *                   *

Pinkie led them both inside: it was a glory, a natural wonder of the modern world. Maybe the greatest secret in Los Angeles county, and that was no small claim in a city of secrets. The two hundred square foot master bathroom lay before them like an undiscovered country. There was enough space in this room to get lost. There were two sinks set in two separate vanities, a wall-size mirror between them… there was a magazine rack, a towel rack, a two-faucet shower, a bath and a whirlpool. At the back of the room was a linen closet larger than most people’s apartments... a picture window above the tub and Jacuzzi looked out on the Santa Monica mountains and down on the LA cityscape, where the haze of the day was settling slow. And the floor of the master bathroom was carpeted.

It was carpeted in deep blue shag.

The pure blue, like blueberry cotton candy, it lined the floors, overgrown at the base of the vanities, climbing like ivy up the side of the side of the whirlpool, surrounding the base of the gleaming white porcelain toilet bowl.

Pinkie beamed, her smile bright and genuine. “Have you ever seen a bathroom like this?”

Outside in the trees the birds sang, trying to get a recording contract.

Malvo took a quick look around the room, heavy-lidded eyes staying low. “It’s just a bathroom.”

“Well you don’t often see... I mean...”

“Why do they call you Pinkie?”

Pinkie looked confused for a moment then smiled again. “That’s my secret, Mr. Malvo.”

“Lamont,” he said, and then, forceful, “Tell me.”

Pinkie sighed, torn. The smile never left her face. “Mr. Malvo- Lamont- do you think you might be interested in this house?”

He closed his eyes and nodded slow. “Of course I do. I wouldn’t waste your time. But I’d like to check the pipes…”

Pinkie nodded. “Of course.”

“Use the toilet.”

Pinkie’s bag slipped down her shoulder. “What?”

Malvo turned, casual, and leaned back against the sink to face her. “Use the toilet. I want to see how it flushes.”

“Would you like me to flush the toilet for you?”

He looked her directly in the eye. “After you use it, yes.”

Pinkie, bubble mouth, “I don’t... I- I don’t... do you, what do you-?”

“Pinkie: go pee.”

He spoke with such a mixture of anger and need that she actually began to consider it.

There was a long silence. Malvo looked into her eyes, waiting.

“Well, I… well I do have to go…”

Malvo folded his arms. “Good. I’ll watch.”

Pinkie stood for a long moment, frozen, absorbing the insanity of the corner into which she’d painted herself, of what she was about to do. She found herself taking a step forward, then stopping, stepping back…

Malvo made glare.

Pinkie lifted her work bag up off her shoulder, set it gentle on the wall of the tub.

Malvo watched, waited, folded arms.

Pinkie took a step toward the toilet, trying to maintain her dignity, her professionalism, as she lifted the lid of the bowl. It slipped back down with a loud BANG and she jumped, afraid, then smiled when she realized what had happened, her face going back to serious as she remembered what she was doing. She bent slow, slid her control-top pantyhose down her legs, watching Malvo for some sign. His eyes gave her none.

She slipped her pink panties down her legs, using her skirt to keep herself covered. She raised her skirt up in the back- just enough- and sat herself down on the bowl, the icy cool of the porcelain almost making her giggle as it touched her skin.

Malvo found it absurd. Obscene. He loved it.

Pinkie’s legs made dangle, her knees together as she tried to go but found she couldn’t. She could feel Malvo’s eyes on her, knew he was watching, so she had to look away, far off to the window.

Malvo licked his lips.

Pinkie thought of closing day.

Finally it came, Pinkie making water, taking a spree in front of her client, warm liquid in the bowl. Her tongue hung slack out the side of her mouth as her eyes rolled back.

When she was finished she squeezed out the last drops, smiling again like an airline hostess. She reached out for a wad of toilet paper and folded it delicate, dabbing it between her legs.

She stood up, keeping herself covered, pulling up again, wiggling until everything was comfortable. Pinkie took a deep breath, glad it was over, smiling at Malvo with her face going red: “Well…”


Pinkie, who had forgotten completely, turned and pulled the handle.

*                   *                   *

Pinkie and Malvo stood outside the bathroom door, looking at the enormous master bedroom. Bright California sun radiated through the quad skylight.

“It’s a beautiful house… and all the fixtures are fairly new.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Malvo said, “she’ll gut everything anyway.”

He took a seat on the four poster bed, patting the space beside him. “Come sit.”

Pinkie shook her head. “No, that’s okay.”

He yawned… stretching. “Why do they call you Pinkie?”

“Mr. Malvo we should probably move along…”

“It’s Lamont. I want you to call me Lamont.” He stood up and walked to her deliberate, on prowl.

“Call me Lamont, Pinkie.” He took her wrists in his and looked her in the eyes. That way. “I know you want this because I know you want to sell me this house.”

She was uncomfortable. “I don’t want to sell it like this, no.”

He pulled. “Just come sit with me… I know you’re no angel...”

Pinkie voice was rising, “I am a lady, Mr. Malvo… I am no angel but I am a l-”

Malvo threw her down on the bed, leaping on top of her, pinning her underneath him.

“Mr. Malvo get off!”

“Easy, baby. Be good… be easy.” He bent and kissed her neck.

She fought but he was holding tight, straddling her.

“Mr. Malvo let me go… this is your last warning!”

“Oh come on, Pinkie…” he said, smiling, “Tell me why they call you Pinkie…”

“Mr. Malvo!”

He opened his mouth, brought it to hers, and that’s when Pinkie balled up her hand into a fist and punched Lamont Malvo in the nose.

He was knocked back, stood up in silent shock, eyelids fluttering, and pointed his finger in the air as if to speak. Before he could get a word out he fell to the bedroom floor like a sack of sugar.

*                   *                   *

Pinkie, on her cell phone, stood at the front door of the house, reattaching the lockbox to the doorknob.

Malvo stood beside her, his arms folded, doing his best to retain his air of nonchalant sophistication with a bloody tissue sticking out of his nose.

Pinkie spoke into her phone: “Well that’s good, Corey, you did the right thing... okay... okay... no, I’m proud of you… Mommy will be home at five-thirty.”

She clicked off the phone and turned to Malvo.

“I’m sorry again, Lamont.”

He rolled his eyes, looked up at her and nodded, the closest he would ever get to issuing an apology.
She looked back at him, accepting, and a sad smile came over her face.

“If there’s ever anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to call… you have my card?”

“Yes,” he said, before turning and heading toward his car.

Halfway down the walk Lamont Malvo stopped and turned back to her: “Oh, and Ms. Markie?”

She looked up. “Yes?”

“I’ll take the house.”

He threw himself into his Jaguar, peeling out and rolling down the Hollywood Hills toward the heart of Los Angeles.

Pinkie Markie waited until his car was out of sight before jumping into the air.

No comments:

Post a Comment