"But you're really a lot older."
"Correct. I'm 18."
"Old enough to be in porn, darling."
"My exact thought."
"You're from Uranus, aren't you?"
"Watch this." Ned flung his head in the direction of the dashboard. Just before impact, his pants exploded and out popped a huge rubbery air bag.
Nancy looked over at Ned, amazed. "My God, are those testicles?"
Ned blushed. "Yes, they are, if you insist on calling them that."
"What a lovely-horrible piece of anatomy you have there. The men on our planet . . . never mind. I'm telling you this in all sincerity. I bet you could fit at least two people comfortably on your penis."
"You think so?"
"Yes I do. It kind of looks like a couch, like a huge bolster cushion, or a davenport. Do you think you can get that thing back in your pants. It's burning my elbow."
"Sorry." In one swift motion, his sex-organ air bag was folded up and inserted back into his pants. "How many miles does this get to the gallon?"
"Like a thousand."
The next 24 hours passed in a blur. The car sputtered as they approached North Hollywood. A freeway sign said, PORNO CAPITAL OF THE WORLD NEXT 10 EXITS.
"Magnolia sounds like a good-luck street, turn off here."
"We have no choice."
"We do have a choice. We either produce our own line of videos -- I got a camera, see?" Ned pulled a tiny silver box out of his pocket. "Or, we waltz into one of these gas station/porno boutiques and let them exploit us."
"I say we make our own. Keep it small and personal."
"Nancy, I'm kind of getting a crush on you. I want you to be in them with me."
"Ned sweetie, you're an E.T. I'm a good girl. I'm the driver. I eat rhubarb pie every chance I get. Plus I have allergies. You don't know this, but I'm allergic to paper money for example. We need to find you two girl-next-doors. We also need to figure out a way to coat your skin so you don't burn your co-stars."
Nancy drove straight to the North Hollywood Greyhound station, figuring it might be a good place to pick up 17-year-olds desperate for cash. Pulling the parking brake, Nancy envisioned two large-boned, moist-faced girls huddled beside the pay phone, one plaintively whispering that they hadn't eaten in so long, since yesterday's lunch, while the other's lip trembled and her hand closed around the receiver. Nancy would be helping.
When she walked inside, Nancy saw the only person in the place was a lummox of a woman with a short grizzled perm, sitting behind the scarred Plexiglas, reading the Weekly World News. Nancy panicked; she looked out the plate-glass window, where she saw Ned leaning against the passenger-side door.
"Nothing," Nancy said, walking near enough to Ned to touch his sleeve, wondering how close before she got burned. He wasn't looking at her, but across the street, where several fast-food joints were doing morning business.
"That's what a hamburger's all about," he said, crossing in the direction of In-N-Out.
"You eat?" Nancy asked as he walked away, noticing Ned's shoulders overfilling the cape. He's getting bigger, Nancy thought, and, I have to find a john.
She walked into the bus station and straight for the bathroom, which ã was bizarrely clean, literally sparkling, and not smelling of urinal cookies or turds but oxygen.
"Nice," Nancy said out loud, seating herself on the toilet. Just before she relieved herself, she let out a choked cry. Looking down between her legs, she realized it would have to be her. Since her mother's death, she had not felt up to the responsibility of even simulating procreation. She'd been fixating on death for so long, on void, and now this man, boy, Ned . . . could she take it? What were the ramifications? She could stop the plan right now. It had been her idea. She was allowed to make a decision.
"I can," she said, releasing a hard stream that simultaneously pushed out a few tears.
As she reached for the paper, Nancy heard the bathroom door open, and what sounded like a tin pail touch the tile floor. Nancy held her breath and listened -- nothing, then a light padding, a glimpse of pale pink Chinese slippers. Nancy felt a flare in her chest, fear or expectation. She quietly zipped and stood and peeked through the slit of the stall door. She saw a small girl -- not necessarily young, but with a tiny frame, fine platinum hair partly obscuring a calm, heart-shaped face that seemed to give off light; there was a soap-bubble radiance about her as she knelt by the wash bucket.
They don't have crack on Uranus, and at first Ned thought the Ronald McDonald hunched over the toilet in the In-N-Out men's room was going to shoot at him with a glass blowgun. He'd once picked up a flickering Tarzan movie where the handsome natives, in little tiger-striped loincloths, had fired poison darts at the bad white explorers with bamboo blowguns.