DINNER IN L.A.
a short story in three chapters
The helicopters made a wide sweep over PCH and the ocean, then back over our hillside. Had they come to check out my rooftop body? Effie did say the police would be here “any minute.” Was a dangerous criminal on the loose… a new hillside strangler? Did the strangler murder the man in the Hawaiian shirt? We bandied these thoughts around until Jim noticed that, except for some police cars, PCH was void of traffic. We all looked down on the empty highway, then saw a stream of headlights in the distance. As the lights got closer, we realized that this was just another high (or low) speed chase. We decided to go into the house so we could continue our scintillating conversation without having to scream over the incessant chopper engine noise.
We gathered in the living room, as Susan brought out a sinfully rich chocolate cake from the latest trendy bakery. I don’t do desserts (the only food vice I don’t have) so I plopped down on the sofa facing the view that was unobstructed by a wall of windows and sipped my wine. The helicopters continued to circle and when they were over the ocean, total blackness behind them, they appeared to be eye level, giving me the sensation that I was hovering in a plane. I wondered what would happen if someone in one of the helicopters discovered my body and alerted the others. Would they try to land on the roof, ruining a possible crime scene, or would they tape it for the 11:00 news? Probably both--- this is L.A., after all.
We endured the muffled noise for another ten minutes before the helicopters left, presumably because the high (or low) speed chase was over. We didn’t bother to turn on the TV. After watching O. J. in his white Bronco all those years ago, the chases just seem redundant now, though local news never seems to tire of them as they try to recreate that O. J. drama. They don’t seem to get the fact that we watched that chase because it was O. J. Duh!
Back outside I grabbed another piece of now-cold pizza and was surprised that the rock music was no longer blasting from below. We were all laughing as Carol told us about her latest ad campaign for a “feminine hygiene” product that was using the slogan “A Rose By Any Other Name,” when we heard a gun shot. Automatically, we hit the deck (a practiced reflex in L.A.), but after lying on cold flagstone for a few minutes our southern California comfort trumped our fear, so we got up. Ben brazenly looked over the edge of the terrace and began to laugh. We rushed over to see what was so funny and saw that a movie screen had been added to one end of the faux Neutra house’s cement terrace. Bridge chairs were arranged in rows in front of it and the catered party guests were watching an old black and white gangster movie. Bogie appeared on screen, drew a gun and fired, the shot reverberating off the hillside. I half expected to see my rooftop body get up and return fire. But he continued to lay motionless and alone.
It had been a few hours since I first called 911 and I was getting angry. Why hadn’t the police come to investigate? Where was the CSI team or medical examiner? Didn’t anyone but me care about Mr. Hawaiian Shirt?
I again took out my cell and dialed 911, ready to give whomever a piece of my mind. Effie was still on duty. She was silent as I vented my frustration for a full minute. Finally, she cut me off.
“Look lady, yours is not the only dead body in L.A.”
That said it all. I hung up and grabbed another piece of pizza. This time I tried the arugula and pine nuts.