He stared at my résumé like it was an SAT question. One of the hard ones where you just bubbled in C and kept it moving. After a minute—I counted, since there was nothing else to do—he finally looked up and smiled. “So, Dayna Anderson … ”
He got my name right. The interview was off to a pretty good start. “So what in your previous experience would make you a good fit for this position?”
He smiled again, this time readjusting the Joey, Manager. Ask me about our large jugs! nameplate that was prominently placed on his uniform. Since I was sitting in the Twin Peaks coffee shop interviewing to be a bikini barista, said uniform happened to be a Speedo. I pegged him for twenty-two, tops. And it wasn’t just because he didn’t have a centimeter of hair anywhere on his body. I made a mental note to get the name of his waxer.
“I make a mean cup of coffee,” I said. “Not to brag or anything but it’s been compared to liquid crack.”
I smiled and he frowned. He was actually serious. Maybe a drug joke wasn’t the best opening line. I quickly attempted to rectify my mistake. “This position just seems tailored to my competencies. I’ve always been a people person.”
He nodded and glanced back at my résumé. It felt like it took him years to ask the next question. “So why do you want to work at Twin Peaks?”
Because I needed money and this was my first interview since the head Starbucks barista turned me down for being overqualified. “Because it just seems like a great place to work. I’ve known Richie since I moved to LA five years ago from Georgia.”
The Richie thing was the first true thing to come out my mouth. He’d opened the first Twin Peaks down the street from my first apartment. The coffee was good enough that I could overlook the whole “the person serving me basically has no clothes on, which cannot be sanitary” thing. I’d come in every morning after the a.m. rush and every morning Richie would offer me a job. At first, I’d dismissed it as harmless flirting but Richie was serious. He’d extol the virtues of working for him. Dental. Vision. Even tuition reimbursement because, like strippers, the majority of bikini baristas were apparently just doing it to pay for college.
I’d always turn him down. I didn’t care how great the 401(k) match may be, no way I’d ever reduce myself to being half naked for a paycheck. Being half naked for free? No problem at all. I did live for the beach, after all. But definitely not for a paycheck! Of course, after months of not receiving a paycheck totaling more than a couple hundred bucks from jobs that required you to be fully clothed, I’d suddenly seen the light.
Swallowing my pride, I texted Richie out of the blue to ask if the offer still stood. It did. He was opening a new downtown location and would be happy to set up an interview with the manager. Even though I was happy for the opportunity, I still had to give myself a ten-minute pep talk to walk in the door. Words like self-worth and college degree flew around in my head, but I banished them for the only two words that now mattered: steady and income.
Joey smiled again and this time it was actually genuine. Maybe this could actually work. “How much do you weigh?”
Or maybe not.
“Enough,” I said.
He gave me a once-over and apparently was not too impressed. “Our biggest uniform is a size six.”
“I’m a six.” If it was really, really, really, really, really stretchy.
I’d kinda, maybe, sorta put on a few pounds since Richie had last seen me, blossoming from a size four to a ten. Not considered big in any state known to vote Republican, but in LA, I might as well have been fused to a couch and needing a forklift to help me get up. “I’d be happy to try on the uniform,” I said.
Joey didn’t say anything. Just looked at me. And then something changed. I knew that look. It was coming. The question I dreaded most, even more than the tell-me-about-yourselfs. He was going to ask if we’d gone to high school together.
People always knew I looked familiar but just couldn’t figure out why. So they assumed they knew me from home. I’d been from places like Seattle, Omaha, and in one case Wasilla, Alaska. I’ve always said there is at least one black person everywhere. Folks all seem to think that lone integrationist is me.
“You look like someone I went to school with,” he finally said.
There it was.
“Oh?” I said. “She must be beautiful.”
I smiled, just so he’d know I was joking. He said nothing. Just stared some more. I waited.
It took a few seconds, but it finally hit him. “Don’t think so, boo! You’re the ‘Don’t think so, boo’ girl in those commercials.”
“Was,” I clarified. “I was the girl in those commercials.”
I had been considered famous once upon a time. But unlike Cinderella and Snow White, my fairy tale had not ended with happily ever after. Instead, it came crashing down a year and a half ago, and I had joined the rest of the mere mortals.
Having had fleeting fame, I was not recognizable as much as familiar. The familiarity was courtesy of the Chubby’s Chicken chain. For almost two years, I would somehow end every situation—and commercial—with the catch phrase “Don’t think so, boo.” If the scene called for me to be really upset, I’d even give a quick little finger jab, a long neck roll, and a sophisticated sucking of my teeth. Rosa Parks would be so proud.
Eighteen months ago, Chubby’s had abruptly ended my contract with the all-too-standard “we’re going in a new direction” spiel to my now-former agent. Silly me had been under the impression Chubby’s would be just the beginning, not the end. I knew there was more in my future than just chicken wings. I was wrong and now officially unofficially retired from acting.
“You gotta say it. Just once.” He looked at me, all goofy-like—a complete 180 from the wannabe-grownup of a few minutes before.
I shook my head. I hated that phrase even more than I hated my life at that moment.
“That was a lifetime ago.” A lifetime and an almost-repossessed Lexus. “I don’t act anymore.”
“Oh come on.” He was practically begging. “We love those commercials. ‘Don’t think so, boo.’ Just say it one time.”
I was tempted to tell him I’d say it every time I brewed a freaking XXXpresso if he would just give me the dang job already.
“Wait,” he said, as if I was actually about to do it. “Bobby needs to be here.” He turned in the direction of the counter and screamed at the top of his lungs, “Bobby get out here.” The bleached blonde at the register barely blinked.
Before I knew it, a tall redhead was in front of me, his uniform staring me smack-dab in the face. It was obvious he didn’t have a clue who I was, which was fine by me.
“Dude,” Joey said.
“Dude,” Bobby responded.
I could tell by the inflection that each dude had a different meaning, but it was a language I didn’t know or care to learn.
“Don’t tell me!” Bobby said. “I wanna guess.”
I sat there while Bobby and Joey both stared. And stared. And stared. Like I was some kind of exotic tiger. At least they fed the animals at the zoo. All the Chubby’s Chicken talk was just reminding me I’d skipped breakfast. I needed out of there. Unfortunately, I could only think of one way to make my escape. “Don’t think so, boo.”
I even added a neck roll.
Joey really didn’t give me the job. Instead, he made some joke about how I obviously preferred my two-piece to be chicken orders, not bathing suits, and sent me on my merry little way. He was lucky I didn’t curse because he surely would have gotten a mouthful.
Twenty minutes later, I sat at a stoplight on Vermont Avenue staring longingly at an Original Tommy’s Hamburgers. At that moment, I wanted a chiliburger almost as much as I wanted world peace. It was almost lunchtime, after all. I went for my purse, hoping to scrounge up enough cash for at least some fries.
My retirement from acting had only been official for about six months. Each and every second of those six months had been used to make up for every meal I’d missed in the three years of my illustrious acting career, hence my aforementioned hypothetical size six status.
I checked my wallet. Three dollar bills. I was counting my change when the light turned green. It took the guy behind me all of .00013 seconds to honk. I hit the gas. Nothing happened. So I hit it again. Still nothing. I looked down. The gas gauge was past E.
The guy behind me pulled around me with one hand while still blowing his horn with the other. I casually gave him the finger. Like I said, I never cursed. Hand gestures, however, were fair game.
Putting on my hazards, I got the gas jug out the trunk. A station was a couple of lights up the road. I made it with no problem and just stood there. The cheap stuff was $4.89 a gallon. My new-to-me pale pink Infiniti was twelve years old, had a cracked windshield and a temperamental horn, and was nearing 200,000 miles. The gas was worth more than the car.
There went the French fry fund. Since I didn’t have my emergency credit card with me, I rooted around in my purse and found a stray nickel and a penny. That upped my disposable income to $3.56. I was about ten miles from home in Beverly Hills. Was it enough? I was attempting to do the math when curiosity got the best of the gas attendant. “Help you?”
“I ran out of gas,” I said, motioning down the street, where the Infiniti was causing quite the traffic backup. Eek. We walked over to an empty pump.
“Pretty car,” he said, then looked me over as I removed the nozzle. “Pretty girl.”
Not to sound too conceited or anything but I actually was pretty. Of course, this was Los Angeles. Everyone was so pretty—the men even more so than the women—that you had to resort to a sliding scale, on which I was closer to cute than beautiful.
My skin was what Maybelline dubbed Cocoa and L’Oreal deemed Nut Brown, while MAC had bypassed all food groups to call it NC50. I had straightened black hair that was just long enough to get caught in stuff. My nose had been on the receiving end of many a nose job recommendation. But I’d gotten my boobs done first and the pain was so bad I swore off any further surgery. When I was little, I was as bug-eyed as a Bratz doll. But now that I was grown and the rest of me had had a chance to catch up, my eyes were my pièce de résistance. I didn’t even own a pair of sunglasses.
I used them to look at the attendant.
“Smile,” he said. “It’s not that bad.”
And with that, he walked away. I wanted to scream after him that I’d just been turned down for what was probably my last chance at steady income—a bikini barista job at that. So yes, it was in fact that bad. I was ready to have a full-out meltdown in the parking lot of an Arco. I needed a distraction. Pronto.
I found it on a billboard. It was your typical high school graduation photo, complete with a hand awkwardly holding a graduation cap tight to the chest. The girl was blonde and young. On the pretty scale, she’d definitely be considered beautiful.
The copy was straight to the point. Wanted: Information on the hit-and-run murder of Haley Joseph. Tuesday, August 18th, 11:30 p.m., Vermont Ave near Hillside St. And across the bottom, right over her press-on French manicure, $15,000 reward.
I peered closer at the billboard, looking for a hint this was a brilliant marketing scheme for some new movie. I was tempted to call the number, sure I’d hear some prerecorded message letting me know what time and day it would be airing on Lifetime. But I realized this was real. The address was right up the block. They wouldn’t put the cross streets on there if it was for some silly movie. Haley Joseph had died.
I stared back at her, and then my eyes moved to the date. It was familiar. Too familiar. I realized why.
That was the last time I’d seen him.
copyright 2017 Kellye Garrett
Kellye Garrett writes the Detective by Day mysteries about a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress who takes on the deadliest role of her life: Homicide Detective. The first, Hollywood Homicide, won the Agatha, Lefty, and Independent Publisher “IPPY” awards for best first novel and is nominated for Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards. The second, Hollywood Ending, will be released on August 8, 2018 from Midnight Ink. Prior to writing novels, Kellye spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for Cold Case. She now works for a leading media company and serves on the Board of Directors for Sisters in Crime as the organization’s Publicity Liaison. You can learn more at KellyeGarrett.com and ChicksontheCase.com.
- 2017 Agatha Award for Best First Novel
- 2018 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery Novel
- 2018 Independent Publisher Book Award for Best First Book – Fiction
- Anthony Award Nominee for Best First Novel
- Barry Award Nominee for Best Paperback Original
- Macavity Award Nominee for Best First Mystery Novel
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