17 Life Lessons

by
Shit happens, but some shit is good shit.

THE FIRST ACT

The first time Yvonne ran away, this was maybe 1970 or 1972, she had so much fun at the O’Farrell that all she thought about after the goon kidnapper sent by her bitch mother hustled her home was how to get back to the mountain of ‘ludes mixed with red and yellow M&Ms in the green candy dish on Artie’s desk. If you saw that old movie, you might think you know this story, but you don’t. This is about Yvonne, Mr. Ears, and how Yvonne conquered Hollywood, not about dick. Well, some dick, but not all.

The kidnapper scary goon kicked the snot out of Armand, the less than worthless prick she’d run off with. The scary goon tried nothing with her, even though she had her left hand reaching for his joint the whole ride, believing she would get out of this one the same way she always did. But the scary goon drove Yvonne straight to her mother. His final words to Yvonne were to look him up as soon as she became street legal, and even then she should keep her hands to herself while a man drove his car.

Somehow, in all the back and forth, she lost Mister Ears. She still misses the one-eyed blue stuffed bunny that knew her every secret and loved her no matter how bad she could be. Though Mister Ears survived only in her heart, she turned to him at the worst moments of her life, and Mister Ears never failed to be there for her.

Home lasted a whopping six months before Yvonne ran off a second time. Street legal, she was free as a bird-turd, free of her shit high school, and free of the crowd that huffed airplane glue behind the Dairy Queen until they fell drooling face down onto asphalt where they oohed and aaahed at exploding dandelion puff lights that were really dying brain cells flashing a last time before they went forever dark.

Those losers should have seen Artie’s candy dish.

Life Lesson #1: Even if you are a very, very mature 15, never, ever, run away from home with a 33-year-old dipshit named Armand who when his nose is crushed flat by a single punch cries like a whiny girl. Men believe their dicks are magical, but that ends if you bust them in the nose.

Here’s another part everybody thinks they know. Artie and Jim Mitchell made fuck movies in the days before video cameras changed the business. They used klieg lights, .35 mm. film, makeup, and demanded sincere acting, so their movies looked like real movies. By hanging around, Yvonne learned what the Mitchells called production values. She also met her first star, Marilyn Chambers, the way-mad cool and gorgeous blonde who was so thoroughly messed up she could not reach the end of a sentence without someone reminding her why she started talking in the first place. Her beautiful face glowed beside the chubby baby on every box of Ivory Snow detergent. Once her first movie came out, everyone knew that along with that smile and clear complexion, she had perfect boobs and screwed like a stoned otter. Yvonne met Marilyn C in a toilet. The star’s nose bled like she had hemophilia, so Yvonne packed her nose with tissue, got ice, and stayed with her until the bleeding stopped. After that, they were friends, kind of. You didn’t know that part, did you?

Life Lesson #2: Celebrity blood is the same color as yours or mine.

The O’Farrell Theater was also a studio and a dance hall. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors and disco balls hung from the ceiling. Laser lights sliced through air so hazy with the dust from poppers you got a rush walking to the pisser. Music? Louder than fuck. Ha Ha Ha Ha, Stayin’ Aliiiiiiiive! If you were not stoned all the time, you were not trying hard enough. However, you had to remember that the Mitchells became seriously pissed off when anyone tried to cop their free blow to resell, and you had to remember that while the Mitchells were always dangerous, a seriously pissed off Mitchell brother was even more dangerous. Ex-wrestlers with necks like trees and balls shrunk to raisins by ‘roids could be asked to pass a girl around until she was sore in places she did not know a girl could get sore. As for guys who stole extra blow … don’t ask about them. Just don’t.

Yvonne played straight with the Mitchells so they played straight with her. She drank Algerian absinthe, the real deal, green and thick as motor oil sliding down the back of her throat like Satan’s cum gone to licorice. She could fall down, pass out, get laid on the pool table, pry open her eyes hours later, do three more lines, and start all over. True, some at the O’Farrell OD’d, but Mister Ears’ protected her and gave her the right advice.

Life Lesson #3: To be happy, accept risk, have trust, and be fearless. Pretty smart for a stuffed blue bunny with one eye, right?

At the O’Farrell, Yvonne discovered she was born to suck dick. That sounds coarse nowadays, but back then, on a tab of acid, the experience became cosmic. Yvonne believed the O’Farrell tapped into the same energy that vibrated through the Bermuda Triangle and the Sedona Vortex, making it possible for Yvonne to uplink to God by doing what she did best.

Life Lesson #4: To embrace your destiny and love God, never deny your talent.

The Mitchells liked Yvonne enough to offer her a screen test, but on film she looked like dogshit. She’d say, tell me what to do, but no matter what she did, dogshit still looked like dogshit. They’d move lights; they’d move cameras, they’d rethink her makeup, they even did a take where she wore clothing, but when they looked at the rushes, she looked like a pockmarked ironing board with a hole in it.

She stuck around as a fluffer, an off-screen job that kept her in ‘ludes, but one secret she learned was how actors relied on Novocain. The drug froze her lips and tongue, but the secret of movies is how all that matters is what the camera sees because movies are make-believe. Those guys with great dicks have great dicks because their great dicks are numb. That is not so great for the guy or the dick, but a numb dick and a talented fluffer make a good movie.

In big cities, rich men dressed in black tie and took women—sometimes their real wives– dressed in ball gowns for a night on the town, ordered the medium rare filet mignon, maybe finished with the New York cheesecake, then stood on long lines to get into the theater hoping for inspiration delivered by watching the Ivory Snow girl get it on with a half dozen men at once. Marilyn C did not use Novocain, but she did not need to since most of the time she was numb as a carrot.

Life Lesson #5: Rich people will buy anything, smart people sell it to them, and cinematic artists are so smart they sell make-believe by calling it Art.

If Yvonne could have stayed 18 and stoned her whole life, she would have. But you know how it goes; time passes, a girl gets nervous about holding on, then a guy shows up.

Life Lesson #6: You already know this lesson. Not even Mister Ears can stop the fear of time, and that can start when you are twelve. That first guy shows up, you think love is forever, and then you watch your life spin clockwise down the crapper.

Ignacio was from Lubbock. Everyone called him Nat. Nat liked to brag how Lubbock, Texas, was where Buddy Holly came from. Yvonne tried to look impressed while she wondered, Who in holy fuck is Buddy Holly? Yvonne and Nat shared an apartment with two local girls and one million cockroaches. When their blow was exhausted, Nat did not try to turn her out, a nice surprise. What he did was say, Do you want to go to L.A?

It had to be love, right? Yvonne did not even talk it over with Mister Ears.

Life Lesson #7: Love makes you stupid, so never skip a heart-to-heart with Mister Ears. That one-eyed blue bunny knows a lot.

By the time the roommates noticed Nat hocked all their shit and all they had left was the cockroaches, Nat and Yvonne were hitchhiking down the 1, peeing in gas stations or squatting on beach sand to do their business. They mostly slept on beaches, too, except for the night they were busted. The Santa Barbara pigs emptied Nat’s backpack and found nothing, which was lucky because Nat had smoked their last joint like two hours earlier. That did not prevent them from running their hands all over Yvonne. She wore no bra under her peasant blouse and was flat-chested, so where did they think she’d hide dope? In her snatch? But, yeah, they checked that, too.

Life Lesson #8: Cops are asshats, but everybody already knows that.

Even when he was not feeding munchies, Nat glommed whole bags of Nestle’s chocolate chip cookies, a smear of Jif Crunchy on every cookie. Reading nutrition labels, he proved to Yvonne how this was a perfectly balanced diet that included the vitamin and minerals from every food group. Their bellies would swell, and then she’d screw him so hard she could have left him for dead. How many girls do you know who can cross their ankles and hold it behind their necks? Well, now you know Yvonne, so you know at least one.

In L.A., they crashed at what Nat said was a friend’s place, but Yvonne could see that Nat was in love with this UCLA film student. The student was a guy. Stuff like that messes with a girl’s ego.

So Yvonne screwed Nat every way she knew and invented some she never even saw at the O’Farrell, but Nat from Texas still spent days in bed smoking dope and balling this dim-witted pimply cocksucker with ginger hair and no eyebrows. The two of them invited her to join them, so she did, not because she wanted to, but to keep Nat if that was what it would take. The three of them were naked and twisted on the floor pale as unbaked New York pretzels when Yvonne realized Nat and his queer were more interested in each other than Nat could ever be interested in her. So, no hard feelings, or at least not much, but she saw it was time to haul ass.

Life Lesson #9: You never really know what will or won’t work out. You take your chances, go ahead, and live with the consequences.

 

THE SECOND ACT

Here is where Yvonne’s story takes a surprise twist. Yvonne sank pretty low in L.A. She’d search for Mister Ears in her dreams, but the one-eyed blue bunny seemed to have abandoned her. She was tricking in backseats for food money, crashing every night somewhere else, sometimes sleeping broke on the sidewalk. She did not need Mister Ears to tell her she could live that life only so long before she woke up dead wondering who knotted the nameless toe-tag on her foot.

Yvonne was 22, but with a thousand kids five years younger than she peddling their tighter asses all over Los Angeles, Yvonne’s skills hardly mattered. What could she do? Get a better corner? Wear Daisy Dukes and a sandwich board? Best Head. Cheap!

She considered returning north to take her swan dive off the Golden Gate, but one afternoon Yvonne climbs into the back seat of a Mercedes and when she is done the john not only offers her his clean handkerchief to wipe her mouth but ―picture this!―gives her his fucking business card! He folds an extra fifty into her hand, to boot. For cab fare, he says. He wants Yvonne should swing by his office the very next day. The Mercedes takes off, but under a buzzing yellow streetlight Yvonne reads how he is none other than Reuben Feinstein from the Feinstein Theatrical Agency. That, of course, means jack to her, but the letters on the card are embossed and that has to count for something, right?

All she can think is that this Feinstein character has a friend who needs to get off, and while Yvonne knows she is good, she does not believe she is that good, so she is a little suspicious.

But not suspicious enough that she stays home. That portrait of Ulysses S. Grant might have twin brothers.

The next day, she pockets the fifty and takes no taxi but rides two buses to Sunset Boulevard where she walks an extra half mile because when she arrives at the address it seems too fancy, so she walks past and then in a small circle for three extra blocks. But the address is the right place, and in a nice office with gold reflective windows on the tenth floor the four men and a woman eating jelly donuts and smearing bagels wait for her.

How much she should charge? That glass-covered conference table will be hell on her knees, and four at once is a special scene that will leave her achy. Add the skinny witch with the blonde jewfro and the whole scene gets kinky. Kinky is cool with Yvonne, mind you, but they do not need to know that, so why not ask for an extra few bucks?

But it turns out they are the real deal, casting for what they call a type. Feinstein thinks maybe she is it. Feinstein’s gang is quick to tell her to keep her clothes on; then they toss her a script. Read a few lines. Sound bitter and tough, but sweet. The jewfro apologizes that Yvonne’s lines are foul-mouthed gutter-talk, and Yvonne takes a minute to understand that she means Yvonne will need to read fuck a few times.

As acting goes, this is not exactly a stretch for Yvonne.

Long story short, another day they bring her back to screen-test, still with her clothes on. Some homo does her makeup and some dyke does her hair, two nice folks who tell her the camera will love her. Unlike her test at the O’Farrell, her face doesn’t show a single pockmark or blackhead. All she can think about is how Artie and Jim always screamed about the fourth wall illusion, whatever in fuck that meant. But by observing, Yvonne learned the tricks of screen acting. Know your spot, know your lines, and never focus your eyes off set.

She got the job.

Her new friend, the producer, Maury, another Yid who is making this movie with Feinstein, has gray wiry hair coming out his ears and black hair visible on his chest where his lavender dress shirt collar is unbuttoned. This Maury pulled some strings. Yvonne obtained a SAG card. Maury was so nice a guy, she only had to do him once, and Maury being Maury, he never put his hands on the back of her head, a gesture she appreciated. Not to belabor a point, but Maury being Maury, Yvonne’s entire payback to Maury took less than three minutes, not even long enough for Yvonne to mind his post-Christmas-sale drugstore cologne.

Life Lesson #10: Shit happens, but some shit is good shit.

In the next few years, Yvonne becomes almost respectable, an extra who earns scale. Sometimes she said lines like Keep away from me! before she is shot, stabbed, strangled, burned, carved or crushed, but in the years when soldiers were shipping home from ‘Nam, she was mostly carved up by the bayonets of ex-Marine psychopaths. Once she is hung by the wrists with chains over a ceiling pipe while a guy comes at her with a chainsaw; when Hell’s Warehouse opens, audiences shriek to see Yvonne’s head bounce down two flights of metal stairs.

When Yvonne saw that one, it scared the living crap out of her, too.

Life Lesson #11: Even if you know make-believe is make-believe, done right make-believe seems real.

Her big break comes when a motorcycle biker wearing black leather gloves choked her. The squibs gushed blood from her lips and eyes. She did that scene topless, which for her is not even a distraction, and she thought it was a hoot that they rouge her nipples because topless Yvonne looks too boyish But she puts the scene in the can in two takes, and they really only shot the second take for insurance. Everyone on set applauded, it was so obvious that she nailed it the first time.

Crews like anyone who can get them home for dinner. Producers like a fast study who saves time and money. Directors like anyone who seems to be the real deal. Yvonne on set is all business. She gets called again and again.

Clint sees her one day at a diner, waves, and though a line of people is out the door and down the block, they seat her and her date at the very next open table. She knows Clint! Dustin jets in from New York, sees her on a soundstage, and tells her if she wants decent pastrami she should visit him in New York to experience a place where goys don’t ruin sandwiches with mayo. She knows Bruce, she knows Arnold, she even knows Julia who once blows her a kiss, a moment considerably better than packing the nose of a hemorrhaging Marilyn C in the pissoir.

Do not misunderstand: No one famous is phoning Yvonne to say Come on over, we’ve barbecue, brew, and blow, but she has professional stature. People know her from wrap parties and such. Hollywood is a very, very small town.

Yvonne appears in 24 movies in eleven years, earning more than scale because she is in demand. No one is nominating her for an Oscar, but Yvonne is reliable, punctual, and she screams on cue loud enough to make a soundman wince. She also does favors for Maury’s friends who want to believe they are getting laid by a movie star, but she does not mind it.

Life Lesson #12: In America, no matter what they tell you, hard work pays.

Yvonne becomes so legit, she marries three times, always a stuntman, a dicey proposition at its best. At the municipal building they think Yvonne is trapped in the revolving door between the marriage license clerk and divorce court. Truth is, before she ties the knot the first time, she secretly went for the test and spent days staring at the phone while in her head she talked it through with Mister Ears. She is no Catholic, but she went to confession and lighted a candle. God must love her; she tests negative for AIDs. No herpes, no gonorrhea, no chlamydia. Yvonne is cleaner than a junior Salt Lake City high school cheerleader who runs faster than her uncle.

The one stunt no stuntman can learn is how to keep his zipper up. Yvonne grows old enough to know she cannot eat her way through blue days with chocolate chip cookies spread with Jif. To stay in the game, whenever she eats like that she pukes. But eventually that does not help, either. A pad of belly fat looks all wrong on a girl hanging from a rafter waiting to be sliced up by a chainsaw, and though she can still scream loud enough to frighten King Kong back into the jungle, no one is hiring a body double for a close-up of Yvonne’s bare tush. Either Yvonne’s tush must do, or no Yvonne.

Life Lesson #13: Not even two hours a day on an elliptical Stairmaster can slow down time.

Yvonne did not need Mister Ears to tell her when to pack it in. She has had a good ride, but making her rent gets dicey. She moves in to a decaying cottage around a grassy courtyard in Burbank. The courtyard’s fountain last sprayed water before the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor, though from the smell of rot, maybe from before The California Gold Rush.

 

THE THIRD ACT

Yvonne’s luck turns again when she runs into her old friend Maury the Producer at the hotel bar near where she lives. The place may once have had some class; now it is comfortably shabby. She is not looking to turn a trick; she wants a drink and maybe some company, company as in talk. How about those Lakers? For old time’s sake, they take a room upstairs where Maury bangs her―nothing serious, and if the earth moves, it moves only for Maury. He has grown more hair on his back than Bonzo the Chimp, still wears that unforgettable cologne, and he is still a three-minute man, though Yvonne tells him how he is as terrific as ever, hardly a lie if you think about it.

Maury offers her a job. He will give her a desk, a chair, a filing cabinet, a shredder, and a green couch. You know what the couch is about, but that is no deal-breaker for Yvonne because the job turns out to be legit, more or less.

Yvonne reads scripts for Windfall Productions, LLC, and Windfall Productions is Maury. Scripts arrive in the mail. They come from agents by courier. Scripts pop up on her desk fast as mushrooms in Oregon. She swears the scripts have sex and make baby scripts because no matter how many scripts Yvonne shreds, more appear. The little room has scripts stacked up from the floor into piles that are taller than she is, on a desk, under the couch, and in stacks on the bookcase which does not have a single book besides a paperback student’s edition of Merriam-Webster’s. Yvonne reads scripts about cowboys and elephants who want revenge, stupid dogs that crack wise with parakeets, a script that rhymes for 215 pages, and a script told from the point of view of a philosophical parking meter that observes life on a very quiet street. Yvonne is sure there are 5th grade classes in Nebraska or Minnesota or Montana or some other big square state with sharp corners where all the shining little boys and girls type movies for extra credit to please Miss Broadbottom, their teacher who laces up her pink Converse and sprints to the Post Office to send Yvonne the little brats’ homework. Out in America, they write about psychic Tarzans in the Asteroid Belt. They write about an Indiana boy crippled by a drunk driver who wants to play basketball again and receives help from angels and demons who declare a truce in the competition for human souls while they unite to perform miracles for the lovable tow-headed kid in a wheelchair who chair-and-all dribbles rings around teams of boys and flies through the air to make dunk shots, though why the angels and demons prefer the miracle of the dunk shot to healing a broken spinal cord remains unexplained. Out in America, they will write about any damn thing, and straight-shooter good-soul Yvonne, who from her days on the Boulevard knows what it is to have nothing more to eat than a hope sandwich, reads every blessed word.

Life Lesson #14: Everybody is sure they have what it takes, but few do. The smart ones figure it out quick, but most never figure it out at all.

Script-reading rots the mind. Script-readers become hostile because amateurs won’t acknowledge that, unlike life, a script needs three acts, not two or four no matter how exceptional their idea is. They refuse to accept that 90 pages is better than 120 pages; they won’t accept that more than 120 pages they may as well set fire to the damn thing. They compose pitches that are longer than the script.

Yvonne reads so many scripts, she says, “Screw it,” and writes one. Why not? Isn’t she the famous extra whose head bounced down a metal staircase?

Life Lesson #15: No matter how comfortable you get, sometimes you have to launch yourself blind into the flow to see where the new current will carry you.

Yvonne is on her back with her ankles locked behind Maury’s hairy neck on the green leatherette couch in her so-called office that is really a crappy script warehouse when she mentions to Maury that she has a script she thinks he should read. She pitches maybe one or two a month to make sure he knows she is working. He and what he calls his confederates always turn her pitches down, which is not a problem, because Maury’s money comes from investors, mostly doctors and dentists from back east who are eager to remove the pants of a real movie star. Windfall Productions, LLC, has no intention of making money by shooting a film; Windfall Productions, LLC is a tax shelter. Maury’s job is to acquire unpromising properties and conduct screen tests on hopeless starlets so the I.R.S. does not get the wrong idea about Windfall.

But Maury, God bless the hair on his back and his rancid cologne, also truly believes that in this pile of pony-shit-scripts there must be a pony, though Yvonne is sure that script-ponies come here, take a vicious dump, and then move on to Script-Pony Heaven.

She snaps into her thong and hands Maury the two-page typed summary of this alleged hot script. The screenwriter’s name on the top-sheet is Jennifer O’Keefe, Yvonne’s mother’s name, may the stupid bitch rest in peace.

The summary, though, tells a hell of a story. A pretty, innocent, blue-eyed girl from Montana comes to corrupt, drug-ridden and sex-crazed San Francisco in the 1970s. That alone means a potential soundtrack to die for; there will be glitz on the glitz. Her name is Carmelinda. Carmelinda loses her heart to an intense film student with dark eyes, and while the two of them struggle to rise, they sink because they have fallen among vengeful gangsters. They run, and to make money to live the intense boy shoots a quickie slasher flick. It does pretty good, but he turns out to be a prick unable to credit Carmelinda for her unwavering support. Three movies later, at the Academy Awards dinner, he is hailed as a genius, a regular Tarantino before there was a Tarantino. Carmelinda, however, has grown weary of her role in the shadows. She leaves him to return to Red Lodge, Montana, where she meets cute an old boyfriend when his boot heel skids on a patch of fresh steer crap and he flips with his face into her chest. As they tumble to the ground, his face slides to her crotch. He’s a soft spoken cowpoke named Armand who says things like Well, I guess, and, Shucks, distinctly Gary Cooper, but no one whose life occurs in a cellphone knows who Gary Cooper was. Despite a lightning storm and cattle stampede, in the final terrific sequence, they deliver a calf just as the sun rises over the 2,000 head on his ranch at the base of the majestic Big Horn Mountains.

You know how this turns out. You need no lesson.

Carmelinda did box office to die for. Even better in Europe. It may still be running in Buenos Aries. It’s a cult thing: at midnight showings, before the stampede everyone tosses huge handfuls of manure into the air, and since most people do not know the differences among bulls, steers, heifers, and cows, a lot of undifferentiated crap flies through the air.

Yvonne throws Maury a better-than-average goodbye-fuck and quits reading scripts. Carmelinda is not making her rich: she is the writer, for Christ’s sake, be real, but Yvonne does makes a few dollars. More important, Yvonne is deemed ever after to be bankable.

Life Lesson #16: Barnum’s lesson. No one ever went broke underestimating the American public.

Yvonne does what she knows Mister Ears would advise: she goes with the flow. She writes two more scripts, a comedy and a sci-fi adventure. They have the same plot, a retelling of High Noon, but only Yvonne seems to be aware of that. Reuben Feinstein, Maury’s old partner, acts as Yvonne’s agent and sells options for low six figures on each. The sci-fi script gets as far as pre-development, but stalls because everyone is going bananas for CGI special effects, and though they love the idea of a marshal on the frontier of Uranus, Yvonne’s movie is too character driven and requires more concept, not enough to fill a fortune cookie, but more. A little more also has to be at stake, like at least the fate of all of humankind. Something has to explode in silence against a velvet black star-studded backdrop, or a brooding psychotic hero has to wear a cape and a cowl. Without these necessary elements, rolling film is too risky.

Though Yvonne never gets another film in the can, she is able to leave the Burbank apartment. She starts script doctoring, strictly a word-of-mouth sideline, strictly for a certain kind of story. She never sees a screen credit, but the people who need to know, know, and they are happy to pay. Yvonne has an ear for dialog, knows that a character has to say exactly what they want by page 20, and she knows that life is different from make-believe because life offers no Act Four or Five.

In life, there is then, now, and whatever is to come. That’s our three acts, all anyone gets.

Yvonne’s certain kind of story is any plot where she could be the star, tales of a good soul who persists until courage and good will survive to triumph. It’s nothing for Yvonne to imagine what a sick script needs. From time to time her movies are reviewed with the word mythic. That’s her touch and she knows it. The public pays to feel good. You want art, see Rigoletto, just remember that the jester’s daughter, Gilda, the soprano, failed to maintain her virtue and after a five-minute aria as the curtain falls is stone cold dead.

We hear Yvonne settled in with a boyfriend up in one of the better northern canyons, a guy who made a fortune on the Internet in the 1990s and got out before the first collapse. These days he is a venture capitalist with a reputation of being a techno-genius, though he is first to admit that once you have enough money, you spread it around and never go all in on any venture. If nine bets go bad, the tenth covers all the rest and more. Little guys get killed, but hedge fund guys buy him drinks at oyster bars. From time to time, on his travels, he may be untrue to Yvonne, but she is confident he will return to her because when Yvonne still gives head so good he swears he levitates from the mattress to peer into the face of God.

“What does God look like?” Yvonne asks.

“I’m not sure.”

“Look closer, lover. God looks like a one-eyed blue bunny.”

“What are you talking about?” he asks.

She smiles enigmatically.

The boyfriend also believes Yvonne is only four years older than he is, and she has never corrected his mistaken impression, though she also has never lied. Between you and me, the gap is more like nine years, which only goes to show you that Yvonne still looks good with her clothes off and that in the long run having small boobs is not a bad thing. Gravity is not Yvonne’s enemy.

They have a Gunnite pool, a redwood deck, a hot-tub, and the best Mexican gardener in the canyon, a gentle man who for a small share of the harvest also cultivates the weed they grow for personal use. The boyfriend works out with a trainer four days per week and so has shoulders that go from here to there, not to mention a dimple in his chin so deep you could swim in it. Picture this: he kick-boxes a heavy bag to stay in shape. You kick a heavy bag 50 times each day, your thighs become legendary. You do that in the sun, you become browner than the stone in a lychee nut.

Reclining on her pool deck, Yvonne reads how she has been retroactively promoted to having been an exploited and persecuted sex worker, a status that sounds far superior to having been a cheap hooker. She sees how some might welcome the promotion, especially the kind that feels history is a balance sheet and certain debts are now overdue, but what Yvonne feels is lucky.

She made decisions, good, bad, none easy.

She’d known desperation, but no hands pushed her into the backseat of cars on the Boulevard where dumb luck brought Feinstein to her

Maury, God rest his mercenary soul, put quid in her pro quo by installing her in a room with a green couch where she read the dreams of a gazillion idiots who never knew they were educating Yvonne in the nature of saleable make-believe, lessons better than any lessons a UCLA film student might ever have.

Yvonne cherishes luck’s secret: defeat is a lesson that creates a new chance only if you never look backward to measure how you were screwed. Time moves only in one direction.

Yvonne peers through the chlorine vapors wavering above the hot-tub to where the boyfriend rattles shaved ice in his organic vodka. She counts each muscled ridge on his belly.

“I want a kid,” she says. It’s all she missed.

Yvonne is not asking permission. She is not being impulsive. She is determined to do this thing, but knows her plan will be easier if the boyfriend does it with her. There had been a miscarriage on the route, and she does not like to recall the two times she had herself scraped. Some decisions hold no right or wrong, just sadness. All we can choose is the nature of our regret.

The boyfriend says how a kid is a big commitment. He asks, “Are we too old?”

She likes how he says we.

He pours her Stoly over cracked ice before he sits at the edge of her chaise. Yvonne says. “Maybe a kid who is a little older.”

“Boy first, girl second? Or two at the same time? Your call, ‘vonne.” Then he adds, “How about kids from Ethiopia or Somalia? What’s the point of money if we do not make the world a little better?”

Yvonne says, “It’s trendy, but I like how you think.”

Yvonne plans to be a pillar of the community, maybe run for school committee. The mothers who are her neighbors will think she is a Grandma, but if they can afford this canyon they are likely trophy wives with husbands closer to Yvonne’s age than their own. What they have not yet learned could fill a five-part HBO special, and every one of them, she is sure, tends to her own rug-burns.

Life Lesson #17: Know what Yvonne knows. In America, we spend so much time on our knees we may as well be good at it. How else to maintain faith and be ready to rise and rise again?