I glanced in my rearview mirror at the top of Sunset Hill, and watched the stubby Spokane skyline disappear. I felt sad—as if I was dumping an old friend for a cooler crowd. And I was. I just needed to find them first.
I tossed my bulging wallet onto the dashboard and smushed my cowboy hat down extra low to protect me from the buffeting wind, and headed south through the endless undulating wheat fields, dreaming of all the movie star pools I might swim in once I got to town.
You see, I was moving to LA to become rich and famous. About a month before school let out, I was washing my Jeep down at the do-it- yourself spray gun place on Third. It was caked with six inches of mud from four-wheeling, and the last time I hosed it off at Mom’s house she had a cow. Oh, I know what you’re thinking. Four-wheeling is for mouth-breathers. But I need a break from civilization more than most people do to keep me sane.
So there I was on the hot wax cycle, shirtless, down to just my Wranglers, hat, and boots, when this chubby clean-cut guy in khakis and a pink shirt started checking me out. He was about ten feet from me, walking around the front of my car wash bay in his cordovan penny loafers with no socks. He was holding his hands out arm’s length in front of his face to form a square with his fingers, looking through the center at me. It was pretty creepy, but I knew I could kick his ass if I had to.
Spokane has its fair share of tourists and all, especially in the summer, looking for authentic cowboys to go along with all the mountains and rivers where the deer and the antelope play. So I just went about my business and humored him, doing my part for the Chamber of Commerce. But I am no cowboy. Horses scare the shit out of me. And the hat and the boots? Well, they are just plain comfortable. Plus they’re the two clothing items that are always on sale at the local stores.
“There’s a rodeo this weekend out at the fairground,” I said when he took out his 35 mm camera.
“Mind if I take a few?” he asked. I shrugged yes. He was getting kind of ridiculous taking pictures. But I couldn’t help but smile, because he totally had the wrong guy. “I don’t want the rodeo. I want you,” he said.
He walked up to me and extended his overly tanned hand that went along with his fake-bake orange body. “Alain Michaels,” he said, making it sound French. I shook his hand. It was like humid pottery clay. No one had ever taken the time to put him through handshake boot camp.
He handed me his card and said he ran a big modeling and talent agency in Beverly Hills.
“You have just the right look.” He glowed.
“Right look for what?” I looked down at my muddy, wet Wranglers. “I could get you working right away in print ads or TV if you came down to LA.”
“Thanks but no thanks.” I handed him his card back. I’d heard about guys like him who get you to come back to their hotel room for a “photo shoot” and then try to get in your pants. But just then, his beautiful blonde girlfriend in a tight red T-shirt came skipping down Third holding a white paper bag with a panda on it from Dick’s Burgers.
“Alain! Lovey. They have homemade ice cream sandwiches for only twenty-nine cents.” She walked up and handed Alain the bag before giving him a kiss on the lips. “It’s so cute here. It’s like time stopped.” She stamped her white canvas shoes softly at me like she had to go pee.
“Who’s this?” She held her hand high for me to shake in a very nasty sexy way. “I’m Lauren.” Unlike Alain, her fake bake tan looked pretty natural and went with her peach-colored manicured nails perfectly.
“Could be the next Greatest American Hero,” Alain said.
“He’d certainly fit the suit,” she added.
“But he says he’d rather stay here playing in the mud,” Alain mocked, folding his arms and staring at me.
“He’s like a tall Robert Redford. Turn around?” she asked.
I obliged her while watching a cool breeze envelop her T-shirt. I’d always thought that being liked for your looks was about the lamest thing in the world, but her emerging rock-hard nipples made me realize it was time to grow.
I knew better than to tell anyone the truth that I was moving to California to become a male model. I didn’t need anyone waiting for me to fail, so I told people who asked that I had a job in LA working with Dexter, my best friend from college. But I didn’t even have the guts to tell Dexter the truth.