14 November 2008

Three Months Early

Happy Valentine's Day!

"Love Lucy" was my last story published on 365 tomorrows. I haven't changed it much for this reprint; maybe added a sentence or two. See my HotSheet post from May 2007 for notes on the inspiration and writing process for this piece.

More recently, D and I watched The Notorious Bettie Page, and I was reminded of it while recording this week's audio post. I have no idea how accurately the movie depicts the circumstances of Bettie Page's life, but I thought the most interesting thing was how they presented her as an innocent. She never really understands why people get upset over her "smutty" photos; she describes them to others as "just silliness." To her, it's simply dressing up and playing in front of the camera. Bettie doesn't understand why some men might find these pictures so arousing, and she's not concerned about what they do behind closed doors. This, of course, is the polar opposite of Lucy, who can't stop thinking about it.

Incidentally, I'm in Los Angeles this weekend doing The Sitcom Room. After I get back, I may have some 'splainin' to do.


Audio: "Love Lucy"

Music: "At a Loss" by Fireproof_Babies, licensed under Creative Commons from ccMixter.

I think I've figured out my recording setup now. Please feel free to comment if you have any issues, suggestions, or other feedback.

(And yes, I was trying for a Blade Runner feel with the music.)



"Love Lucy"

By Curtis C. Chen

Lucy's hand shook as she traced the stylus over the text of the contract. Her agent had assured her that this was a good deal, but she had to make sure there were no surprises in the fine print.

The house paid very well, much better than temping, and even offered an advance. After a year of not getting work as an actress, Lucy needed the money.

She finished reading and signed at the bottom of the tablet. The paralegal came back into the room. She wondered if he'd been watching the whole time. His plastic smile was not reassuring.

The first room was the hardest.

Lucy sat on the exam table, alone, for a long time after she had changed into the gown. She didn't want to put her feet in the stirrups. She couldn't refuse; she knew that. The contract with her signature was binding.

And it was so much money.

Lucy was glad to see that the gynecologist was a woman. The exam didn't take long. The sensor ring around Lucy's waist hummed while the doctor picked up the speculum and aimed it between Lucy's legs.

"Try to relax," the doctor said in a tired voice.

Lucy bit her tongue. The metal instrument sliding into her had been warmed, but it still felt cold.

Next came the imaging chamber, where Lucy removed her gown and put her bare feet inside the outlines on the floor. Her knees felt weak, but she willed herself to stay standing while the blue scanning beams crawled over every inch of her naked body.

In the last room, Lucy sat, fully dressed, in front of a brightly lit mirror. Glowing words appeared on the mirror, one after the other, and she made a face to match each word while hidden cameras recorded her expressions.

It was like an audition. A creepy, weird, impersonal audition.

The first faces came easily: SCARED. TIRED. ANGRY.

The later ones were more work: BIRTHDAY. GRATEFUL. ORGASM.

Two hours after she'd walked in, she was done.

Lucy went straight to the bank to deposit her advance check. She felt numb as she stared at the receipt.

It was a lot of money. And there would be more, after the house built the androids: royalties based on how often they were used by the house's clients.

This was good, Lucy told herself. She wouldn't have to worry about paying the bills anymore. She could really focus on her acting.

And she wouldn't have to know what those clients were doing with the androids that looked like her, thousands of miles away--the contract stipulated that her likeness would only be used overseas. Those men wouldn't be touching Lucy. Each android would have her face and body, but it was only a machine. Not Lucy.

Just a picture of her. That's all. Just a stupid doll. Nothing more.

Lucy went home and took a shower. She scrubbed herself until her skin was raw and the hot water had run out, but she still didn't feel clean.