Bruce Holland Rogers
Baby, It Didn’t Have To Happen This Way
Money. That’s the thing Paola’s lover, Evan, is afraid of. He is always worried — it makes him physically ill — that there will be too much money. Her anxiety, on the other hand, is that in another year people will still fail to recognize her on the street, that she will still have to produce an ID to cash her checks. This is a very real possibility. Her manager’s first client, Victoria, has pressed her third album with a major label and she can still buy her own groceries.
Stu, her manager, tells her not to worry about it. With hair like hers, people look already. Meanwhile, Evan catalogues all the things money can buy — airfare to Australia, a limousine with pilot and co-pilot, a penthouse view. “Paola,” he says, “is that what you want? To never wonder again where your next meal is coming from?”
Money. Money. Money. Paola hardly thinks about it. Stu starts to give her the details of one of her contracts, and she cuts him short. “That’s for Evan to worry about,” she says. What she wants to know is whether a tattoo would help. Something subtle. On her cheek, maybe, so it shows up in head shots. High contrast, a stark design that reproduces well in the newspaper.
She’s at her worst right after a concert. She can walk two blocks from the hotel, buy a paper, and come back without anyone saying, “Say, aren’t you...” It will be better, she tells herself, when she’s the lead act. Maybe. On the other hand, maybe she isn’t managed well. She tells Evan she might fire Stu.
“Do it!” Evan says, because without Stu the money might keep its distance. “Baby, I’ve been trying to show you all along how he’s using you.”
There is a singer, another solo act, who has had part of her cheek replaced with a plastic window. While she’s singing, while she’s doing interviews, you can see her molars and a gold crown. She’s getting a lot of press, and she’s going in for another skin job soon, this time to install windows that will show off the meat and bone of her ribs.
“Don’t you think that’s obscene?” a talk show host asks her.
“It’s not like I’m baring my tits,” she says.
Paola thinks about having the same surgery. She asks Evan. Well, he thinks, the procedure would cost a lot of money that they might otherwise spend on something wiser. That appeals to him. But it’s a risk. On one hand, it could catapult her just where Evan doesn’t want to go. On the other, it could ruin her, could be the end of all his worries. Uncertain, he says nothing.
She decides that she wants to be known for herself, for her music. So intead of the windows for her ribs she gets the tattoo. A spider tattoo. The black abdomen covers her cheek, and the legs stretch from her forehead to her throat.
Stu has a fit. She has ruined her face.
Paola fires him.
“That’s my baby,” Evan says.
Paola gets to work on some lyrics that will match the tattoo. She alters one word at a time. She changes diamond to tooth. She changes lover to nuclear reactor. She writes a ballad called “Venom” to the tune of “It’s a Small World.”
In rehearsal, Evan stands off-stage. Deep in his belly, he goes cold. He can hear it in the new words, can see it in the way she stands like a puppet to rehearse. This is a money act. This is going to be big. Everything he’s been afraid of is about to happen. A new manager is going to take her on, someone with clout. Her spider, her nuclear reactor, her venom are going to make her famous.
But he still loves her. He can’t help himself, so he won’t give up on her. He’ll stick it out through the European vacations, the sunroom with jacuzzi, the his and hers gold Mercedes. But already it gets to him. Already, he feels himself getting misty-eyed, thinking of what might have been.
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About the Author
Bruce Holland Rogers
Bruce Holland Rogers has a home base in Eugene, Oregon, the tie-dye capital of the world. He writes all types of fiction: SF, fantasy, literary, mysteries, experimental, and work that’s hard to label.
For six years, Bruce wrote a column about the spiritual and psychological challenges of full-time fiction writing for Speculations magazine. Many of those columns have been collected in a book, Word Work: Surviving and Thriving as a Writer (an alternate selection of the Writers Digest Book Club). He is a motivational speaker and trains workers and managers in creativity and practical problem solving.
He has taught creative writing at the University of Colorado and the University of Illinois. Bruce has also taught non-credit courses for the University of Colorado, Carroll College, the University of Wisconsin, and the private Flatiron Fiction Workshop. He is a member of the permanent faculty at the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA program, a low-residency program that stands alone and is not affiliated with a college or university. It is the first and so far only program of its kind. Currently he is teaching creative writing and literature at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, on a Fulbright grant.
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Copyright © 2009, Bruce Holland Rogers. All Rights Reserved.