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I've Got a Job for You
There it is! Ecstasy flows through my veins as I bolt across Main St., Santa Monica from one sidewalk to another, exercising no caution for the cars that may be coming my way. My mother’s gold velvet dress shines so bright through the display window of Buffalo Exchange that I expect the glass to shatter. Its brilliant lure pulls me through the entrance of the thrift shop. A hippie behind the register barely looks up from On the Road as the bells on the door jingle behind me.
In plain sight of drivers and pedestrians passing the thrift shop--exactly where I thought the valuable item would be--is the glistening gold velvet dress that my mother sold to this hellish thrift store a few weeks ago when she ran out of money for drugs. That was the breaking point for me and prompted me to finally leave my mother. Rubbing the velvet between my index finger and thumb, memories take over my mind of doing the same as a child when I would sit on my mother’s lap and play with her dress as she got ready to go to the club. Back then, my mom was elegant and always looked her best. She never left the house with anything less than flawless flaxen curls, blush, and lipstick. She raised me to be this way too but stopped taking care of herself when she met Ben Price, the man who truly ruined my life and my mother.
I need this dress (this long, flawlessly tailored, gold, velvet dress with short, flared-out sleeves, a low, sexy neckline, and a tight waistline) because, well, I’m starting to forget the old days. I’m starting to forget my real mom.
My hand feels around the inside of the back of the dress for the tag. Unshockingly, I pull up a tiny slip of paper that reads “$129.99”, and $50 is all I’ve got. I’m not, necessarily, going to steal it; I may be an unemployed high school dropout and a liar--a good one, I should add--who ran away from home as a nineteen year old, but I’m not a thief. Lying in the proficient manner that I’ve been lying in ever since I started stealing my mother’s drugs and disposing them is the only option I have in order to obtain the one part of my mother that I have left.
After smoothing my long blonde curls with my fingers, I strut over to the cashier’s register. When I get there, noisy bells jingling from the entrance stop me from opening my mouth to get the cashier’s attention. Instead, I whip my head around to see who could possibly be entering such a secluded shop on a Monday morning in the middle of January. With this being said, I am shocked to see a tall, clean-cut man in a sharp black suit walking in with a few fancy shirts draped on his arm. He certainly looks out of place in this grimy thrift shop. He gives me a nod and proceeds to stand patiently in line behind me with his head held high. I better get this over with quick.
“Excuse me?” I have to say politely to get the beatnick to look up from his book. He does so as he raises his eyebrows at me questioningly. “I was wondering, since I only have fifty dollars, if I could give you that and come back later to--”
“No,” the millennial says curtly through his black burly beard, “Read the sign.”
I look behind the polished man in the suit in the direction that the cashier’s index finger points. In capital letters written by a worn out marker, a flimsy sign hanging on the door reads “NO HAGGLE PRICING.” Okay; it’s time to try my second plan.
A black, leather Christian Dior bag that my mother gave to me for my sixteenth birthday hangs from my shoulder. I reach in and grab a small piece of paper with a street address, a phone number, and the name BENJAMIN PRICE printed on it. When I ran away some weeks ago, I did not do so without taking this paper from my mother’s dresser, which she brought home with her one night along with the despicable man who wrote the information.
Putting the card on the counter, I slide it towards the cashier. My eyes look up from the card, to his Beatles shirt, and at the shocked expression on his face.
“So...you know who this is--obviously,” I say, referring to Santa Monica’s current well-known drug lord, whose name is printed on the tiny piece of paper that the hippie looks at in awe. “But do you know who I am?”
The cashier looks up from the card, and his bloodshot eyes, that remind me of my mother’s widen behind his big-framed glasses. “Helen?”
Although this is not my name--it is the name of my mother--I nod and respond, “Now, as I was saying, I will pay you what I have now and come back with--” Remembering the man in the suit standing behind me, I wink conspiratorially at the cashier and continue, “--the money.”
He contemplates my proposal and starts thinking out loud. “But--the sign says--come on, man.” Fifty dollars fall from my right hand and lay beside the drug lord’s business card that I had set down earlier. He looks at the cash, picks it up, and puts it in the register. “If you’re not back by Wednesday, I’ll be fired.”
Telling one of the biggest lies that I have since the one I told at age fifteen, I look into his drugged brown eyes and whisper, “I will be.” Then, I place the dress on the counter without being able to remove my gaze from the too-familiar eyes. He reluctantly wraps the only part of my mother that I will ever possess again with the delicacy that it deserves.
Before I know it, I’m heading towards the door, where I meet the eyes of the man in the suit, and am instantly certain that the man knows exactly what just happened. Yes; this professional, handsome man knows everything that happened from the minute he walked in and up to this moment. But...what is the look in his eyes? What is the smile on his face? Is he...impressed? This man should be halfway to the police station to report me and the high cashier, but instead, he is standing here dumbfounded, admiring my ability to lie just by the look he is giving me.
Realizing the importance of getting out of the situation, I proceed to the door and forcefully push it open. The “NO HAGGLE PRICING” sign dangles along with the jingling bells.
Halfway across Main St., I hear, for the third time today, the sound of jingling bells. Now, I run fast across the street, and almost turn the corner at the sidewalk when I hear a deep voice shout “Hey!” from a short distance away. Something compels me to stop running and turn around. As I had just done, the man in the suit jogs from one sidewalk of Main St. to the one on which I’m waiting for him. He arrives in front of me and offers a charming smile that stretches from ear to ear. He reaches in his pocket, removes a small rectangular paper, and places it in my small hand. After reading it I, too, cannot help but smile with relief that a business card is in my hand not for a drug-dealer, but for a casting director named Stewart Neild.
Then, Stewart utters the words that change my life. The words that, without being spoken, would have never put me where I would be in a few years: in my mother’s precious, gold velvet dress on the terrace of a Beverly Hills penthouse. The words that made it possible for me to send my mother to rehab, making the dress turn out not to be the only remaining part of her old self.
Through his grin, Stewart enthusiastically tells me, “I’ve got a job for you!”