by Art Arduous





            Pedro Gin drove the El Camino. The 1966 indigo blue Chevy was a souped-up working man's car and all agreed it would send a more humble message to the Freemani Jewelry clan than the limo. Muk liked to arrange appointments to avoid traffic but the Freemani's convenience got them pinched on Sunset driving through Hollywood. The stop and go allowed them a long look at Crossroads of the World, an outdoor shopping mall from the 1930's that was towered by a glorious neon spinning globe, concrete (and plaster) proof that the universe was centered right here, right now in Hollywood.


            Muk liked the cozy bench seat of the El Camino. The boys sandwiched Blu who was gussied up once again in her va-va-voom, kitten-with-a-whip costume. Muk leaned back and put his arm around her shoulder. Deeply regrettable, Muk was too young to have experienced the days of easy romance before car safety took the sex appeal out of the automobile and forced everyone to remain chaste in their separate bucket seats.

Blu was dressed as blonde Sugar Fox-Honey Bare. She might deliver the added distraction that the meeting needed. At the very least, if Muk could save the deal, the Freemani's would demand a price concession. At the worst, the crew would lose the gig entirely. It was strategized that a little T and A might help soften up horny Bobby Freemani, the most volatile of the two brothers. 

Muk reached over and undid one of the buttons of her pink angora sweater to expose a little more cleavage.

Blu smiled, arched her back and heaved her breasts forward. She whispered, "Oh, baby!" and winked. With the right bra and posture, she could fake an impressive cleavage that she didn't really have. She liked the game. Blu got a kick out of playing with the power of boobs and the instant effect it had on most men of any age. At the same time, she was glad she wasn't burdened with them either. It was nice to be able to turn it on and off.


Fifteen minutes of bumper to bumper later, they curved along Sunset where the cartoon statue of Rocky and Bullwinkle crown an old animation studio. Blu, smiling slyly, reached over and unbuttoned the top of Muk's button down shirt. "Ya never know, Big Sister might be there," she said.

Muk mulled the move. "I seriously doubt it." Then he rebuttoned his light blue oxford. "Cosima's never in the office."

"It'd be easier if she was," surmised Pedro, "Her brothers are a lot calmer when she's around."

"They know their place."

"That's a kitty with a whip."

"Nah," Muk drawled, "Cosima's got the good taste. She just hides behind the curtain."


As they passed the SoHo House where the Sunset Strip abruptly melts into suburban Beverly Hills, Muk cried out to no one, "C'mon, baby! Bring us some luck! Luck us up!"

He and Pedro automatically touched a small shield shaped pin emblazoned with a regal 'F' that they both wore on the lapel of their blazers. Blu knocked twice on the dashboard.

Muk believed in luck and chance. As a matter of fact, he was working to make a religion out of it. The 'F' on the lapel pin stood for Fortuna, the ancient Roman goddess of Fortune. Muk liked Luck because she provided a simple explanation to the universe. Luck covers all the biggies, like why bad things happen to good people and vice versa. Fortuna dishes out the good and bad to the smart and stupid and the beautiful and ugly without favor or prejudice. You can't buy Luck. And the crew needed it right now.


The El Camino rumbled into the Beverly Hills shopping district where the streets got narrower and the drivers more rude. Pedro followed the puzzle of the one-way streets so that he could turn north onto Camden, also a one way.

"Look at that!" Muk pointed to an empty parking space just down from the Freemani's.

Pedro hit it fast, lurched into reverse and slipped in before someone could steal it.

"How's that for Lucky!" Muk saw it as nothing less than a good omen. "TV Parking! It's gonna be a good day!"

"Doris Day Parking!" said Blu.

"What?" asked Pedro.

"My grandfather called it Doris Day parking because, I dunno, his favorite actress always got the parking space. Or something."

Muk laughed, "My Mom called it Tom Selleck parking."

"For Love and Parking."

They got out of the car. Pedro began to feed a fistful of quarters into the meter, one at a time. Muk leaned in to get the wrapped painting that he had placed behind the bench seat.


The House of Freemani Jewelers had been on Camden for over eighty-five years. Their regal facade was four shops south of the Gagosian Gallery. Pedro saw him first. Larry Gagosian was walking out of his museum with a brunette in a black dress. Muk would later recognize her as Alitra, one of Gagosian's New York gallery assistants. Pedro stopped feeding the meter, worried and unsure of the play. Blu caught his shoulders squaring and followed his gaze to the silver-haired art dealer. She quickly turned on her very high heels to stand in front of the open car door, blocking her boss. She suddenly had an urge to pee. Muk_McKaylee


There is no greater, more powerful, nor respected art dealer in the world. Larry Gagosian has thirteen galleries graced everywhere luxe, between Hong Kong and Athens. His stable of artists flow from Ed Ruscha and Mike Kelley to the dead and the priceless. He has sold billions, not millions, of dollars worth of art. His impish face was young for his age. Larry's poolside tan offset his grey hair and gave it a silvery glow, like a beatific halo or a Basquiat crown.


Muk's head was buried in the car with his butt aimed at Beverly Hills as Larry and the willowy brunette strolled by and stopped suddenly.

Muk stood up with the painting in both hands. His smiling face froze when he saw the art dealer. Pedro shifted so that he could step into the middle of anything. Blu stepped into character, batted her long false eyelashes and wrapped her arm into Muk's.


"Hello, Larry." Muk would have never intended to say it the way it came out, but it sounded exactly like Jerry Seinfeld sneering a droll "Hello, Newman!"

There was a pregnant pause; everyone wanted to laugh but the uncomfortable situation would not allow it.

"Hello, Muk." Larry pointed to the wrapped package, clearly a canvas, "Are you having a sidewalk sale?"

Muk started to laugh but the Sugar Fox-Honey Bare on his arm shook her blonde locks and licked his ear. "C'mon, baby! Let's buy me some jewelry."


Pedro went into torpedo mode, stepping in between them with some menace and officially ended the soiree.

Larry and Alitra turned to saunter away. Larry trailed with, "Good to see you Muk. You know I'll pay anything for that Camino any time... Call me."


Muk was stuck in the what-in-the-fuck-just-happened mode. Pedro slowly backed away to feed the parking meter with another handful of quarters. Blu smoothed her skirt and repositioned her bra. Muk slammed the car door hard. He took a long, deep breath. It felt like it was his first in a decade.

The artist carefully handed his painting to Blu. Then he slowly reopened the car door and deftly depressed the lock while holding the button of the door handle. With his leg and free hand, he cushioned the car door closed as if it was the most precious and delicate car door in the world.

Muk cleared his throat. "Now where in the hell were we?"


Look for the next exciting chapter of Emperor Muk!





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All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.







© Gordy Grundy, All Rights Reserved


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