Apart from the fact he’s dead.
This should mean he isn’t moving.
But he is.
It’s that woman’s fault.
She started in a costume department – Lord knows how, she couldn’t sew – but she was good at finding lost things, making luck happen. Next the B-girls were paying to get the crooked finger pointed at rivals, so their ankles broke or their diet pills went terribly wrong. She got invited to one party, then another. Soon, rich matrons became patrons, needing fortunes told. Then their studio boss husbands wanted opposing producers and backers hexed, things sent awry on sets, seamstresses finishing late-night cinches gone up in smoke from the L & M’s in their sleepy hands.
Money’s thrown at her like candy, and she’s doing horse like it’s candy, too, to bring on the trances. Mickey Cohen, in spite of his Federal rest and respite program, set her up in a fine pink stucco Beverley Hills house. What gangster wouldn’t want a woman like that beholden to him? The studios she’s working for got her on a steady income and flow of presents. Other studios, they’re sending gifts, too. Hats, gloves, coats made of fur; necklaces and earrings royal as all get out; Chanel suits, Balenciaga dresses, Vivier shoes; scarves and handbags and shiny, shiny things.
Next, it’s the boys, those who catch her eye. The pretty ones from the studio lots, the ones who might be something special one day, and the not-so-pretty ones who do stunts and still got some bounce in ‘em. Even the Accounts clerks, the ones so homely you think no one else would look at ‘em, just like my Tony.
Everything handed to her on a plate, all because she can pull some hocus-pocus.
And here’s me, working my ass off, the only girl publicist in this mean old town. What do I get? Bupkis, that’s what.
I haven’t written a press release in months. I’m just the messenger, handing over votive offerings, rolls of cash, everything and anything you can imagine in return for a wide, white smile in a high yaller face. One day, turns out I’m a pimp too; I have to deliver Tony. There’s no hesitation, no Sorry, baby, I don’t wanna do this. There’s only hot anticipation behind his coke bottle glasses, eyes sparkling like they never have for me, not even when I let him…
But then I got bigger things to worry about.
See, Mr Dean loves racing, can’t get enough. More speed and more. That rod, it’s silver and faster than anything else – except maybe a 1950 Ford Custom coupe. So, there’s the star, not breathing and the studios with movies unmade and contracts broken.
Contracts they want unbroken.
What won’t they give the woman who can fix that? That’s how I ended up with twenty kilos of heroin in my trunk, the finest golden brown money can buy, and promises of more and more and more. I sweat the whole trip, sure I’ll get pulled over.
A day later, Jimmy Dean’s back on set, looking Lana Turner up and down, being fed nothing but gruel by a minder, saying his lines a little stiff and moving the same, but hey it’s Jimmy Dean, right? Box office gold.
Next thing, I have to pick up Tony, because she’s bored with him. I take him, all glassy-eyed and wrung out, to his place (which smells like dust). My little numbers man, only now he’s got new loves, the woman and the needle, and he whimpers and whispers, asking if I think she’ll take him back? If she’ll let him come home and sleep in her arms. That little chip of diamond on my left hand didn’t weigh enough to hold memories of us in place.
So, one evening I go shopping. I find the man in a dive joint. He tells how pure this sugar is, and I tell him, straight out, that I’m not looking for quality. I’m looking to fix a pest problem. He stares, then gives me what I need. ‘Anybody asks,’ he says, ‘I ain’t never seen you. You ain’t never seen me.’
I drop in at Tony’s, parcelling a hit for my honey, watch him go down, down the long tunnel and not come out. Then I head over to the pink palace, those Enid Collins purses I souvenired last week still in my trunk.
‘Evening, ma’am, a few new things for you.’
She’s swaying, singing under her breath, riding the golden brown. Just a pinch more. ‘And there’s this, something special as thank you for Mr Dean.’
I wait a little while, watching as she ties her arm tight so the veins stand to attention, before letting myself out that flamingo-coloured door and driving home.
And I wonder what happens to all the spells she’s got in place, once the spider’s gone from the web.
Next day I’m watching Mr Dean led out on the set and I see right away that something’s different, even more different than a walking dead guy should be.
And now Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, he looks like a dog off the leash, like there’s nothing holding him in check.
Oh, yeah, there’s something weird about James Dean, as he lurches towards Lana Turner, determined and not in a good way.
WRITTEN BY ANGELA SLATTER
ILLUSTRATED BY NICK GUCKER
Angela Slatter is the author of the collections The Girl With No Hands and Other Stories, Sourdough and Other Stories and the upcoming Midnight and Moonshine (co-authored with Lisa Hannett). Her short fiction has appeared in venues such as Dreaming Again, Steampunk Reloaded, A Book of Horrors, Strange Tales II & III, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Shimmer. Angela Slatter blogs about shiny things that catch her eye.
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