By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"Hey," he said. "It's the girl."
"From the set."
Lucy joined to watch. At odds with herself, the urchin moved inexorably toward the specialty vehicle as if pulled by a great magnet. The reflective glass made it impossible to see her audience.
"Look! She can't help herself," said Lucy.
Boulder glanced through the window, then flopped onto a $10,000 Costa del Sol Alcazar night spread. "I hate it when crew bring their fucking kids to the set."
"I don't think she -- she looks kind of homeless."
"Maybe she has AIDS."
"Boulder," said Lucy. "That is so mean!" She tended to be exclamatory around her famous friend.
"Or hep C -- everyone's got hep C. Or scabies! Oh God, do you remember, Lucy?"
"I so hated having scabies."
"Well," said Tull, "I'm going to ask her in for lunch."
"Boulder, we haveto. I'll use it for my essay."
Lucy put on her girl-detective/best-selling-author face. "It's research. I'm getting credit for writing about visiting you."
Boulder sighed. "I so hate the homeless."
"Oh my God, Boulder, that is so vile!"
The movie star laughed devilishly and tickled Lucy until she begged for mercy.
"Edward," said Tull. "You decide. It's your Mauck."
"It's my Mauck," sang Boulder, "and I'll cry if I want to!" She did a spastic dance and laughed another starry, bigger-than-life laugh.
"You're stoned," said Lucy.
"Well, what say, Eddikins?" ventured Tull, in a terrible rendition of some upper-crust character. "Shall we ask her in? Are you a man or are you a Mauck?"
"I say," said the cousin, hand poised thoughtfully to chin brace, "that we haul her unwashed homeless butt aboard."
Boulder beseeched the unsavory visitor be kept at the door with her back to them, like at the Belgian beach.
The sight of her crushed him. Why had he set all this in motion? Tull felt like one of those World War II GIs on the History Channel giving candy to children amid the rubble of cities -- only he was about to lure the little one to a death by embarrassment at the hands of his rarefied friends. He hung back in the passenger seat, afraid she'd run.
"Hi," he said. "I'm Toulouse."
He never called himself that.
"Tull," he corrected. "Tull Trotter." He felt ridiculous. "What's your name?"
The girl said nothing.
"Do you want -- would you like some lunch?"
He hated himself. She just kept staring. Then: "Amaryllis."
An eternal pause, in which he thought she'd bolt.
"My name is Amaryllis."
"Like the place in Texas?" Another massively dumb thing. Again her ancient stare, like the bas-relief of a child's tomb. "My friends -- my friends want to meet you." Epic dumbness. Silence. She twitched. He'd blown it. "We have tons of food. If -- if you're hungry."
Nothing to do now but retreat. She came closer, like Edith Stein to concentration-camp gas. Lucy effusively threw an absurd, corn-fed "Howdy!" at the girl. Tull gave her a look and his cousin demurred. Then he went inside and strode to Mr. Hookstratten's pleated seat, tearing the cellophane off the absentee tutor's tray, wanting to feed her right away. After a minute or so, Amaryllis poked her head under the gull wing, trembling. Tull beckoned and she clambered in. She stood before them, a muted cable-news anchor laughing beside her head.
"You must be so hungry," said Lucy, coaxing.
"What's your name?"
"It's Amaryllis," said Tull.
"Can't she talk?" said Lucy.
Boulder rolled her eyes, shook her head and picked up Teen People.
"Your name is Amaryllis? That is sopretty!"
"Would you like some chocolates before lunch?"
The orphan turned to see where the voice had emanated from, then focused on the seated apparition ladling soup into its mouth behind a gossamer yellow hood. Astonished, she moved backward, falling. Tull rushed to her aid while the others tittered like munchkins.
"Don't mind Edward. He's, uh, disabled."
The beautiful girl who had played for the camera had spoken. She was lying on a quilted bed, languidly flitting through an old Weekly Variety. Her beauty -- her luminescence -- had a strangely comforting, nearly soporific effect upon the visitor.
"Disabled but still able to dis," said Edward.
"Oh, just come and sit," said Boulder to the girl imperiously. "Don't make us beg. It's not attractive."
Amaryllis obeyed. She moved toward her seat and promptly stepped on the dozing Pullman. She shrieked. Barely stirring, the animal broke wind. Amaryllis smiled while they all laughed, then grew self-conscious and sat grimly, as if reprimanded. Tull was amazed by what that smile did to him.
He took her greasy backpack and hung it from a peg. With his artful encouragements, she began to eat while Lucy and Edward peppered her with questions. Where did she live? (Nearby.) Where did she go to school? (Not far.) Why wasn't she in school? (Getting medicine for her mother.) And what did her mother do? (Worked. Sick today.)
Amaryllis had hardly taken her eyes off Boulder; finally, the stare became fixed.
"Are you an actress?"
"She doesn't know who you are!" said Lucy, delighted. Perversely, Boulder made as if she liked that. Lucy turned back to their guest. "She's a veryfamous actress."