A humorous novel about brilliant schemes (scams), profound friendship, and second chances.
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River Rat Press
Beauty Tips for the Dead is about two young guys, David and Jonathan, who are marketing executives in an advertising company. They want badly to become product placement specialists. Before work, after work, at lunch, and during coffee breaks they develop multiple uncensored marketing plans that display their creative talents. They believe these schemes will inevitably bring them fame and riches beyond comprehension. But they never actually get the chance to implement their ideas. Then, David gets fired. With time on his hands he develops a master plan for a grand festival – a marketer's dream. He searches for the catalyst, the trigger that will blow this little weekend outing into an earth shaking event. The festival combines two historical events which, frankly, should never be joined.
Beauty Tips is equally about Mary and Jane, two young professional women: one is a nurse and the other is a writer/musician/mortician's assistant. They are both quirky - one is almost a saint and the other is a bit dark. As children they were as close as sisters, but a confounding event sent them in dramatically different directions. Years later, when they each become disillusioned with their jobs and lives, they both decide to make a new start. Bringing an assortment of life's baggage with them, they meet again in grad school. Just when they get started with their new life plans, they meet David and get caught up in his precarious plan.
Beauty Tips is about friendship and betrayal and curve balls. Life is unpredictable. The book is about choices and how one's very worst moment may lead to the very best consequences - or not. When life gives you lemons, you can make lemonade; or you can slice one, squeeze it, and even smash that sucker flat.
Jonathan’s knuckles glared white above his bulging veins as he manhandled the screaming Volkswagen Beetle in a death grip across Ashland Avenue.
“Shift, for God’s sake, shift! You’re going to blow the motor!” David shouted over the piercing scream of the engine.
“Eeeeee – ahhhh,” the engine sighed as Jonathan shifted and the engine relaxed into third gear, but accelerated even faster as they careened around corners, flew down alleys, and skittered over forgotten side streets.
David tightened his seat belt and straight-armed the dashboard as he pressed his foot into the floor board seeking succor from a fantasy brake.
“Slow down, you’re gonna kill us!”
Jonathan dared a quick look at his watch. “It’s 6:24. I can’t
slow down. We’ll never make it.”
He flew out of an alley, turned left up the wrong way of a one-way, laid on the horn, scattering children left and right like Nogales chickens.
“Short cut,” he said as David searched through the back window for signs of torn and broken kids.
Jonathan’s eyebrows furrowed and his chin tucked ever so slightly as he set his jaw and stared grimly at the stop light, still green, but so far away. His foot began to vibrate from holding
the accelerator so desperately to the floor, sending psychic urgency to the little engine.
David was transfixed by the green light, still holding, holding, holding as they approached at a dizzying speed, but he chanced a quick look at the mad man who had commandeered their vehicle and taken over gentle Jonathan’s fragile mind.
Jonathan grinned and laughed hysterically as he bore down on the fading green, now yellow light.
David closed his eyes, envisioning the mythical hay-rack pulled by the donkey, and screamed as they passed safely through the intersection, just as the light turned red.
Jonathan snapped a U turn, jumped the curb, plunked down off the curb, and screeched to a halt as he threw his door open and raced to the house, keys in hand. When David caught up to
him, Jonathan was madly twisting the key in the lock and begging the door, “Open, open, please in the name of all things sacred, OPEN.”
When the lock gave, Jonathan flew through the door and scrambled to the flat screen TV. He looked left and
right for the remote, ran to the sofa, tore the pillows off, turned a
circle desperately searching the room and found the remote on the end table. He clicked it on, set the channel, and assumed his Buddha-like position,
exactly fourteen inches from the huge, flat screen TV.
Pat Sajak and Vana White came briskly onto the stage of “Wheel of Fortune.”
Pat said: “Hello everybody and welcome to our show.”
Vana said: “Hello.” And Jonathan sighed as the day’s stress visibly drained from his body.
Pat said (to Vana): “I’ll see you on the other side.”
Vana said: “Okay.”
Jonathan was transported as he muted the TV but continued to watch intently, cravenly.
David, watching the transformation but, remembering his recent near death experience, paced behind the sofa fuming.
“Are you out of your. . .”
“Shhh,” Jonathan shushed him with a look that could quick-freeze a side of beef.
So David paced and fumed as he watched Jonathan watching Vana strut back and forth, turning the letters on the puzzle board.
Jonathan’s eyes took on a glowing intensity as he watched her walking, standing, strutting silently right and left, left and right, then standing, waiting, waiting for her cue - her cue, which she never, ever missed.
“Magnificent," Jonathan marveled as he wiped the corner of his mouth, having forgotten to swallow for a very long time. His eyes revealed intensity, passion, and lust of course, but much more. They showed deeper and stranger feelings, like the possessiveness of a son’s love for his mother. But Jonathan’s mother was no Vana White; his mother looked a lot like. . . no, exactly like Dick Chaney: same hair, same shape, same gravelly voice. How could Jonathan transpose, transfer, transport, transmogrify his mother (Dick Chaney) into Vana White?
David watched in wonder as Jonathan transformed from the raging maniac, cursing and screaming his way across town, to the horny little Buddha, mesmerized and worshiping Vana’s
performance extraordinaire. Then he looked at Vana and concluded, “Not bad, for an old broad.”
The program was coming to an end. Jonathan, discovering the remote still in his hand, punched the sound on and shot David another “Shut up or I’ll kill you with my bare hands” look.
Jonathan held his breath.
Pat Sajak said: “Thanks for coming everybody.”
Vana White said: “Goodbye.”
Jonathan watched as Vana waved goodbye to him. Then he clicked the TV off, turned to David and said, “Now, what were we talking about?”
“Talking? Who could talk? I was too busy trying not to die out there! And when I finally arrive alive, and I think I’m in the sanctuary, the sanctum sanctorum, all I get is shushed until you finish your slavish worship,” David scolded.
“Slavish? Moi, slavish? I think not. But Vana is a goddess deserving of worship.”
“She turns over letters on a puzzle board for. . .” And before the last word had even left David’s mouth, he knew he had gone too far. He’d stepped over the line and needed to back up
quickly. “I’m sorry. Of course she’s. . .”
But Jonathan pounced. “She’s more than a TV star. She’s a movie actress and. . . and a goddess.”
“I know, I know. I‘m sorry. We‘ll watch her movie again, I promise. Maybe Thursday night. With the sound off of course.”
“Of course. Dialog would only interfere with the essence of the beautiful creature she plays so wonderfully.” Jonathan, mollified and relaxed, flopped contentedly onto the sofa.
“So why don’t we have the consummate, ultimate Pee Pee plan of action yet?” Jonathan asked, and he was serious. They had been working off and on for months only to eventually discard whatever plan they had developed. By Pee Pee he was
referring to the position of Product Placement Specialist to which they both aspired at Saul and Son Advertising, the firm for which they both worked.
“It seems to usually come down to money. We come up with a dynamic plan, but somebody else ends up with the money. Take car racing. The stadium, the billboards, and even the guardrails are covered with advertising, and the best spots cost the most because they’re the ones that are most likely to get camera time. The race car is covered with advertising; so much
so, there’s no more room for ads. Until we came up with the center of the wheel ad. . .” David said.
“Brilliant,” Jonathan interrupted.
“And it was brilliant, but no one would buy it because the ad was always going round and round at two hundred miles per hour,” David continued.
Jonathan took over. “Until we pointed out to the customer (Flush-o-matic Toilets) that the best close up shots are on the service pits and the pit crews, when the car is stopped, and the wheels are NOT going around. We convinced them their ad was more centrally featured than any of the other ads on the entire car, because the cameras are trained on the pit crew
changing the tires. We did it, and we made a few dollars.”
“For the company. For Saul and Son. Not for ourselves,” David corrected. “We made a pittance on the idea. Our time, our effort, our research, and planning, and what do we have to show for it?”
“A full time regular job with benefits, three weeks of vacation, and a salary that’s not too bad,” Jonathan answered.
“True. It could be worse. But it’s just not enough. We need to have our own business to make the big bucks. Maybe the reason we haven’t developed the killer Pee Pee is that we know
that someone else always gets the fruit of our labors. Maybe we have to think in terms of a project so hot and sexy it would actually propel us out on our own.”
“Woodstock. Remember Woodstock, the rock concert?” Jonathan asked.
“No, I don’t remember Woodstock. I wasn’t even born yet and neither were you. But I saw the film, like when I was twelve or something.”
“I did too. I think my parents made me watch it to show me what I should never do, or become. Or maybe it was about what happens to your brain on pot or. . .”
“I think my aunt was there,” David said.
“Yeah, right. Everybody over fifty says they were at Woodstock, and they all lie,” Jonathan said with disdain.
“No really. Remember the rainy day and the mud slide?”
“I love that part.”
“Remember the tall blond? She was completely naked and you only saw her from the back, just as she was going into the grove of trees? I’m pretty sure, no, I know that was my aunt,”
“I can still see her. I was in love for forty days and forty nights. But I just got a fleeting look because my mother popped out of her chair like a linebacker and fast forwarded through the whole mud scene, until she saw the bandstand again. The woman stunted my sexual development, I swear.”
“Why did you bring up Woodstock?” David asked expectantly.
“All of today’s venues are covered with ads, right? I mean we have to be extremely inventive to squeeze one more ad into a space that’s already overrun with ads. Baseball parks, basketball
stadiums, hockey rinks, even soccer stadiums for God’s sake, they’re covered with ads - and soccer isn’t even a real sport. Skateboarders. Bicyclers. Have you watched the X Games?
Twenty years ago it was just another way to get your nuts crushed, and all of a sudden they have stadiums, indoors and out, covered from floor to ceiling with advertising. Where were we? How did we miss it?” Jonathan asked. He was puffing from his mental strain.
“We were getting our nuts crushed like every other stupid kid who thought he could ride to fame and fortune,”
David said with a grimace.
“Not me. My mother had me in so much protective gear I couldn’t walk, much less balance on a board. But, the point is that all the venues are taken. Sure, we can get some space in a movie or a television series, but then we have to deal with agents and producers and oh, God, my head hurts just thinking about it. I hate those people.”
“And actors,” David chimed in. “I hate actors. Small actors, tall actors, fat actors, skinny actors, foreign actors, especially foreign actors and fat female actors.”
“You left out beautiful female actors,” Jonathan observed.
“Well, you can’t hate an entire profession. That would just be unreasonable now, wouldn’t it?”
David was vamping with nonsense as he typically did when he was chewing on an idea. It was a skill he had honed with Jonathan as the audience/partner, although Jonathan often didn’t know he was being vamped upon until much later - usually after it was too late. David found this technique to be extremely helpful when working with a recalcitrant client whom he would keep entertained with one side of his brain, while the other side developed an alternative, plan B strategy to close the deal.
“Woodstock, the second coming. Hmmm,” David said, looking with raised eyebrows and a queer grin at Jonathan, who gave him a double eyebrow bob in return.
“You’ve got that look,” Jonathan said.
“Look? What look?”
“The look that says you’ve come up with a brilliant idea, but it might just be a wee tad risky. And I think, simultaneously, I’ve discovered why Saul never lets us be the Pee Pees and
actually sell the idea to a customer. And why he always takes all of our hard work, research, development, creativity, and leg work and gives it to someone else to sell. Specifically, he gives it to William Bently the third, who sells it, takes the lion’s share, and leaves us the crumbs. THE William Bently who has a wife and 2.3 children, drives a three year old Ford Taurus, belongs to the Junior Chamber of Commerce, and goes to church every Sunday. I’m sure that the asshole mows his stupid lawn horizontally, then
diagonally, exactly once every five days. And I think I know why Saul refers to us as Petrol and Sparky.”
“Refers to us? He actually mentions us by name?” David asked.
“Not by name, but he does refer to us as Petrol and Sparky, which suggests a volatile mixture, implying that he doesn’t trust us to understand the limits of our creative activities.”
“Are you suggesting we quell our zest for adventure in advertising?” David asked.
“Of course not. What’s life without panache? Paris awaits mon ami and all that. I wouldn’t think of it. But still, the die is cast and not in our favor I’m afraid.”
“Hmmm. More’s the pity. More’s the pity. Pity, pity me. What shall we do? What shall we do? Dance a little jig, a fig and a flea.” David danced about the room staring at the ceiling and rubbing his chin.
“You’ve got something don’t you? Don’t you? Spill it,” Jonathan demanded.
“Not yet,” David said. “It’s not ready. It has the right color and the perfect texture and the taste is delightful, but the bouquet is too, too delicate. It must steep in essence of David for days, perhaps weeks, and then, and only then, will I trust its fragrance to the assiduously discerning nose of the great Maestro Jonathan. Until then, I must bid adieu and take my leave. Paris awaits,” he
said as he flounced out the door,
looking far more gay than he intended.