The first time she’d tasted semen she hated it. It was salty and slightly nutty and felt slippery in her mouth. But Coach Donaldson said it was an acquired taste. “Like champagne?” she asked. “Yeah, like champagne,” he answered. Like he knew. “You’ll get used to it,” he added, implying that she would be tasting semen regularly from now on, at least that’s what she understood now, 12 years later. At the time, she thought he was saying that she’d get used to the taste of champagne.
Which she had.
Enough so that she realized that she’d also gotten used to the taste of semen. And that it was more like caviar than champagne.
Ginger knew she was beautiful but what she’d come to learn from Coach Donaldson in the equipment room after cheerleading practice every Thursday after school was that it took more than beauty or even hard work. Candice Miller was beautiful, too. Arguably more beautiful than Ginger. And she practiced harder than anybody. But Candice didn’t figure out how to get herself elected captain of the cheerleading squad in a secret ballot or to get Mr. Jessup to give her an A in biology.
Candice would do fine. She’d marry Toby Walker or some other varsity football player type and end up Denver nobility, the wife of a banker or insurance executive. If she kept her looks, she’d chair some charity where she’d raise $5,000 a year to save abandoned German Shepherds or help put a new wing on the county art museum. But Ginger? Ginger was going to the top and to do that, she knew she had to start at the bottom.
What bothered her was that she still had to be at the bottom. Even now, with a name that everybody knew, she had to buy the roles using the same currency. The roles were bigger, but the penises were all the same.
Along the way, she’d also learned how to act. This helped not just when it came to showing up on the set and doing the job she was hired to do, but even more where it counted––actually getting hired. She’d learned that even the most powerful men in Hollywood were insecure, about their size, their performance, their looks. She learned to tell them what they wanted to hear, and to do it in a way they believed. In life and on screen, sincerity was the key. If you could fake that, anything was possible.
Still, no matter how convincing her performance, the truth managed to leak out. And Benny, her manager, after receiving his regular payment––by making his regular deposit––advised her to look carefully at a role he’d found for her. Something wholesome. A simple farm girl who sacrifices everything to keep her uncle from going bankrupt.
The script was no better or worse than any of the others that Benny fed her and besides, it would be shooting in Kansas, so she decided to say yes. Nine months later –– enough time to have a baby if you were in the business of having a baby, which she wasn’t, so she’d had to drive down to Tijuana twice––she found herself in a trailer parked at the edge of a cornfield outside of Plainview, her lips around the familiar appendage of yet another unfamiliar producer, his pants flopped onto the floor around his ankles, moaning as if he’d actually attracted something worthwhile rather than having engaged in what was obviously just a transaction.
When she was done––when he was done––she wiped her lips, swallowed, and smiled. “Caviar,” she said.
“You taste like caviar.”
The line never failed to work. Producers, stars, and movie financiers always took it to mean they were rare, refined, and desirable. They didn’t need to know that what she meant was that they were disgusting, but that Coach Donaldson was right. She’d gotten used to it.
This time, though. Maybe it was that she was playing wholesome. Maybe it was that she was in someplace that actually seemed wholesome. Maybe it was just enough already. But she felt her ability to continue ebb from her very body.
She’d already been through wardrobe and was dressed for the high school prom scene, in a slinky red dress that no high school girl in Kansas had the body or the money to wear to the prom, but hey, this is the movies. She’d done her makeup already because she knew that when you’re a movie star, people want to see your flaws and she’d rather have the makeup people remove what she’d done and redo it all their own way than to give all the gawkers an opportunity to see her for who she really was. Besides, she could tell that her lipstick had been rubbed off.
“I need to get into makeup,” she offered, heading for the door. He didn’t bother to get up. They never did.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you”, he said.
“There’s a new script. Not a big change, but you should become familiar.” He gestured feebly toward the small table. She walked over and picked up the script.
“The Corn Monster?”
“What happened to The Corn Princess?”
“Baby, the part is the same. It’s the same movie. Only now there’s an antagonist.”
“Benny told me it was an internal conflict.”
“It is. But now it’s heightened by the external conflict.”
“Meaning I gotta show my tits.”
“Maybe a little.”
She slammed the script onto the table.
Instead of walking over to the makeup trailer, she went to the craft services table where Perry, her limo driver, was pulling Red Vines out of the tub, one at a time, and shoving them into his mouth. He was startled when she walked up. He was always startled when she walked up. She could tell that he wanted exactly what the producers were getting, but she knew better than to give it to him. What did he have, after all, to offer her in return?
“Miss Grant. Hello,” he said, swallowing a mouthful.
“Hi Perry. Let’s get going.”
“Um, sure,” he said, grabbing a handful of Red Vines to take with him. “Aren’t you supposed to be on set?”
“Don’t you worry about it,” she replied.
The car was a Cadillac. Not a full limousine, like Benny had negotiated, because there wasn’t a Cadillac limousine to be had in the entire state. She didn’t care, though. She knew that what Benny was doing wasn’t about the car, per se, but about driving up her value. He’d managed to delay production for three weeks, so even though she didn’t get the limousine, she’d won. Three weeks of production cost more than a fleet of Cadillacs.
She wanted to sit in the front. In fact, she wanted to drive. But that wouldn’t happen, not because she couldn’t make it happen––if nothing else, she had the kind of currency that always purchased what she wanted. But if anyone were to see her, if a picture of her driving ever made it onto the cover of Daily Variety or The Hollywood Reporter, she’d have to start all over again, at the bottom. Or if not the bottom, closer to it. And on balance, it wasn’t worth the cost.
Perry opened the back door and she slid in. He started the car and they were out of the staging area before anybody noticed. It was only when they got to Baseline Road that he’d asked her where they were headed.
“Denver,” she replied. Then she closed her eyes and tried to sleep.