01:13 UTC: Deb, Gaby, Wen, and I arrive at our secret location in Riverside County and begin unloading the equipment.
“I can’t wait for this one,” Deb says. “There’s gonna be so many fun people. And this year we’re actually having it on Halloween!”
“Yeah, who’s all coming?” Gaby asks.
I pull the list out of my pocket and read off names.
“Angela and Renee. The Beckhams. Janet 1 and Ali 2. Reese is coming again. Mary Carey is coming again.”
“Oh, she’s fun,” Deb interjects.
“I keep hearing things about her,” Gaby says.
“Did we ever get Lindsay Lohan?” Wen asks me.
I tell her, “Her people never got back to us.”
“Tony and Eva?” Deb asks.
“The Spurs are playing tonight,” I answer.
“Against whom?” says Wen.
“Who cares?” I ask.
“The Blazers,” Deb suddenly says, looking at her telephone.
“Psh,” Wen replies. “They don’t need him. He should totally be here.”
01:55 UTC: Our setting is taking shape, slowly.
“How much did all this shit cost?” Gaby asks Deb.
“You mean a lot, or a lot?”
“What’s the difference?” I ask.
Gaby says, “Well, like, is it more money than I’ll see in a long time, or is it more money than I’ll see ever?”
“Well, these days you never actually see money,” Wen says. “You know, you get direct deposit, and you pay with credit cards, and shit.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” Gaby responds. “We should see money more. Like on game shows.”
Deb says, “Like the safe on Win Ben Stein’s Money?”
“Yeah. That was cool.”
“Son of a bitch!” Wen shrieks.
We ask what happened.
“This light just shocked me,” she says. “It, like, blew, and then zap! It hurts like a mother!”
“Shit,” I say. “You want me to take over there?”
“No, I got it,” she answers.
“You sure? You can come over here and do the sprinklers instead.”
“No, I’ll be fine.”
02:38 UTC: Edvard, Janet 1, and Ali 2 arrive to begin setting up the night’s game.
“What is it this time?” Deb asks them.
“Like we’ll just out and tell you,” Ali 2 teases.
I ask what their costumes are. Ali 2 again refuses to disclose anything.
“Can you tell us anything at all?” Deb says.
Edvard says, “I can tell you that Reese, Vickie, and Ashley are playing tonight’s game.”
“Ooh, a three way!” Gaby exclaims.
03:22 UTC: “So are we done?” Gaby asks.
“I think so,” Deb says.
This is our first GoobNet Halloween party with a pool. Sprinklers are mounted at the sides, as well as a couple above the pool.
We have a series of illuminated columns, each with a large letter on each side. Depending upon where you stand, you can see the words HI, GOOBNET, COOKIE, SPRAY, and BREAST.
“‘BREAST’?” Deb asks. “Whose idea was that?”
I hold up my hand.
“That’s kind of funny,” Wen says. “I’m gonna go change into my costume now.”
“Yeah, me too,” Deb says.
We split up.
03:30 UTC: I decide that those American Gladiator outfits are about as comfortable as they look. Which is to say: not at all.
03:40 UTC: “Hey, there you are,” Debbie says as she enters.
“Hey Debbie,” I respond. “Help me with this?”
I turn around, and she laces up my black corset.
“How’s that?” she asks as she’s nearly done.
“How about this?”
“Ack!” I gasp. “Too tight!”
She loosens the cord.
“Still too tight,” I say.
“I can’t go any more,” she tells me. “Otherwise your belly will stick out.”
“It’s not sticking out,” I say. “It’s not, right?”
“Do you want the truth?”
“No, no, nothing like that,” she says to me. “It’s just, you might want to think about some abdominal crunches,” she continues, putting a hand on my stomach. “I started doing them a couple of years ago. They really fucking work. Here, punch me in the stomach.”
“Come on, do it!”
“What’s the matter?” she asks. “Think my rock hard abs will break your hand? Or are you just afraid to show that you’re horribly out of shape? Just make a fist and – oof! Fuck, Amber Lynn!”
I look down at the fist that I just punched her with. She bends down, holding her bare midriff. There appears to be some sort of mark on there.
She looks up at me and asks, “So is that a superhero costume?”
“No, it’s Crush, from American Gladiators.”
“Oh. Well, the thing about the abdominal crunches still stands, but I don’t think you need to work on your stomach punch.”
03:46 UTC: Debbie and I make our way to the main drag of the party setting, with a few high tables that overlook the pool. Other than Rich, the entire GoobNet Special Projects Enhancement and Enforcement Division [SPEED] is here, along with Deb.
Wen is wearing a white blouse and black pants. I ask her, “What are you?”
She holds up a stopwatch in one hand and shines a flashlight down on us with the other. “For one hundred dollars: Which television host am I?” She starts the stopwatch and adds, “Meredith Vieira. Ellen DeGeneres. Rachael Ray. A very confused Howie Mandel.”
Deb, Debbie, Jhonny, and Nina laugh.
I continue to stare at her.
“Five seconds,” Wen says.
I roll my eyes. “A, Meredith Vieira, final.”
She stops the watch and says, “With one second left, you have it for a hundred dollars!”
The others clap.
“Hey, I found something for you,” someone shouts.
I look toward the pool to see Gaby tossing me a pugil stick.
I catch it and say, “Thanks. You knew what I was going to be?”
Gaby says, “Actually, that was going to be a giant Q-Tip. This is better.”
Deb calls down to her, “What the hell were you going to do with a giant Q-Tip?”
“Clean the giant’s ears!” Gaby answers. “What the hell else would you do with a giant Q-Tip?”
We stare at her.
“Ask a stupid question...” Jhonny says.
04:02 UTC: Mary Carey shows up. She holds a finger to her lips, then sneaks behind Deb and grabs her round the waist.
“Eek!” Deb shouts.
“Calm down,” Mary says. “It’s just little old me.”
Deb gives her a hug, and the two talk like old friends.
04:18 UTC: I finally find Janet Love 1 and Ali Liminisi 2, who are sitting behind the bar writing something.
“Hey you guys,” I say.
“Hey Amber Lynn,” they say.
“Love the costume,” one of them says.
“Sorry,” I answer. “Which one are you?”
“I’m A-Two,” she says. She’s wearing a red power suit and glasses, and her hair is up.
“Thank you, Governor Palin,” I say.
I turn to Janet 1, who is dressed like an ordinary teenage girl, but she has a pillow up her shirt.
“I think I know who you are,” I tell her.
She holds up her hand, which has an engagement ring.
“Yep, that’s what I thought,” I say.
Janet 1 then points to Ali 2, who points a shotgun into her back.
04:51 UTC: Gaby walks up to me and says, “Hey, I found the other one.”
“The other what?” I ask.
She holds up another pugil stick. “You ready?”
“What?” I ask. “You want to joust?”
“Come on,” she says. “You chicken?”
“The last person who called me chicken got one hell of a bruise,” I say.
She leads me to the pool, where two platforms have been placed.
If I didn’t know better, I would think they’d been planning this the whole time.
04:57 UTC: “Is the contender ready?” Jhonny shouts from the side of the pool.
“Ready!” Gaby says.
“Yeah,” I reply.
“Three, two, one, fweep!”
As soon as Jhonny’s imitation of a whistle goes, Gaby applies a blow to the head. But I hold my ground and answer with a couple of quick jabs and then a pair of broadsides. She goes down into the water on the second one.
Some of the people watching sing, “Na na nah-nah, na na nah-nah, hey hey hey, goodbye!”
A blonde woman says, “Oh, me next! Me next!” She jumps into the pool and swims past Gaby to the other platform.
05:00 UTC: “Is the contender ready?”
“Ready!” the newcomer says.
“Three, two, one, fweep!”
She waves her stick at me repeatedly, but never really comes close to landing a significant blow. I strike her twice and force the stick out of her hands.
“Fweep fweep fweep!” Jhonny says. “Contender dropped the stick. Contender’s disqualified!”
We both jump into the pool. As I swim back, Wen says, “Wait. Can I go?”
“Later,” I tell her. I turn to the new person and say, “I’m Amber Lynn.”
She stops swimming and says, “Daniela.”
We shake hands in the pool.
“What are you supposed to be?” I ask her.
“I’m a hockey mom,” she says, pointing to her shirt.
I peer at it, but I can’t read it through the water.
She looks down at herself and giggles. Then she climbs out of the pool and stands before me.
The shirt reads PROPERTY OF WASILLA HIGH HOCKEY, YOU BETCHA.
Debbie places a hand on my shoulder and whispers in my ear, “The over-under on tonight is four Sarah Palins.”
05:36 UTC: “So do you know everyone?” Deb asks me.
I look around. “Not everyone,” I say.
She points to people in rapid fire form. “Angela Ellen Keathley and Renee Thomas. Dave and Vickie Beckham. Mary Carey. Reese Witherspoon. Daniela Denby-Ashe. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Natasha Kai. And three Deal or No Deal models.”
“What?” I ask.
Deb hesitates. “See, the thing is... they agreed to come here on the condition of anonymity. That means you can’t write who they are, or even which country’s version of Deal or No Deal they’re on. I promised them.”
“Okay,” I say. “Can I at least say that they have an accent?”
“Sure. Just not what kind of accent.”
We watch the festivities, sitting at a high table.
“So what are they doing here?” I ask.
She says, “They wanted to meet the Beckhams. And one of them wanted to meet Mary Carey, too. I think she was also hoping we’d have Tila Tequila here.”
“Did we invite her?”
“No, thank jebus,” Deb replies. “I can’t stand her.”
“What about her?” I ask, pointing to the woman who reminds me of Tila Tequila.
“Hm,” Deb says. “Now that you mention it... Hey Natasha!”
She waves for Natasha, who steps up from the dance floor to join us.
“Amber Lynn, this is Natasha Kai, from the US women’s team.”
“Hi,” I say.
Deb asks her, “What are you?”
“See?” I say.
“Did you guess it?” Natasha asks me.
“Way to go.”
“Hey, Natasha, can we – I’m sorry, it’s really rude, I know, but can you give us a couple of minutes? I just have a couple more things to go over with her.”
“Yeah, no problem.”
“Yeah, no, it’s okay. Come find me when you’re done, yeah?”
“Okay,” Deb says.
“I meant you, actually.”
I look up, startled. “Me?”
“Yeah. Amber Lynn, right? We’ll talk later.” She walks off toward the pool.
Deb raises an eyebrow at me.
“What?” I ask.
She inclines her head toward Natasha, over my shoulder.
I’m about to turn toward the pool, but Deb hisses, “Don’t look!”
“What, you think she’s...”
Deb nods again.
“Are you sure?”
“Oh,” I say.
“You didn’t see it?” she asks.
“Maybe,” I say. “But I didn’t... you know...”
“You’re not into her?”
“Not really,” I shrug.
“Oh,” Deb says. “Anyway, what was I going to tell you? Oh, right, about the Deal or No Deal girls. They, well, they live together, and –”
“They fuck together?” I interrupt.
Deb replies, “You do have a way with words.”
“I do my best.”
“Anyway, yeah, they fuck together. Sometimes, when one of them brings a guy home, they’ll all have some fun with him.”
“Well, there aren’t many guys here.”
“No, but they really want to do Beckham,” Deb says.
“The tabloids would love that,” I say.
06:12 UTC: “Why don’t you get up and dance?” Debbie asks.
“What are you?” I ask her.
“You can’t tell?”
I shake my head.
She turns around, leans down, and holds two fingers down behind her ass.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I ask her.
“I’m a Georgian Brazilian beach volleyball player, of course!”
“Oh, right. How could I not get that?”
Her costume first appeared to be a skimpy red and white bikini, but when she turned around, I saw GEO on the back of the top.
Debbie points to Janet 1, of the fake belly. “She looks good,” Debbie says. “Like she’s really pregnant.”
“Oh, sorry about earlier,” I say.
“It’s okay,” she says. “No apology needed. You just don’t know your own strength, that’s all. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m capable of either.”
She looks down at her feet for a moment.
I’m about to get up and find Natasha Kai when Debbie speaks again.
“I turn forty in a couple of months.”
She then meets my eye and adds, “I know. We’ve got so many of us old bitches around here. Reg, Edvard, me. I think the three of us have something in common. I think we all can’t believe just how old we are.”
“You... um... you don’t seem that old.”
“I’ve been doing Interaction for almost nineteen years now. I’m wondering what else I could do. You know? There must be something else that I could do. Something else I would be good at. Do you know what I mean?”
06:58 UTC: “You guys coming? It’s game time!” Wen says as she walks past us.
Debbie looks up and surreptitiously dries her eyes.
We had talked for more than half an hour. Actually, Debbie talked. She talked about what she had hoped to have done by the time she reached forty. She had a long list, but all of it seemed to come back to two things: marriage and motherhood.
“Why the hell haven’t I found a man?” she asked me at one point. “Are they afraid of me? Is it just because I do a television show?”
I muttered something about there being plenty of guys out there.
“Then where the fuck are they?”
“They’re around,” I said. I don’t think I was even convincing myself.
“Sometimes I think I should just go to a sperm bank. You know? Just some guy I haven’t met and have no connection to. It doesn’t really matter by now.”
“I know,” she says. “You’re young. You think you’ve got your Mr Right out there somewhere. Or Miss Right. Maybe you do. And there’s probably a shitload of stuff you want to do before you start a family. I was like that. I wanted to get a good job and accomplish things and be somebody. I’ve done all that.”
After another pause, she went on, “Now I just want to share it with someone.”
But now that the game is about to start, Debbie is standing up straight and is back to normal. She holds out a hand and lifts me to my feet.
Well, she’s almost back to normal. After I rise to a standing position, she continues to squeeze my hand. She whispers into my ear, “Hey, thanks for... for listening.”
She then walks ahead into the crowd.
07:01 UTC: “Hello, I’m Ben Stein,” we hear. “And today, I’m going to make history. I’m putting up 16,384 Silly Bucks that says I know more than you. So if you’re smart enough, fast enough, and if you’ve got the guts, you can Win Ben Stein’s Money!”
Reg, wearing a suit and sneakers, walks out onto the stage. Reese, Ashley, and Vickie are the contestants, but Reese and Vickie are both dressed as Sarah Palin. Ashley is a peahen. No doubt somebody tonight has called her a “peacock”, which is the male of the species. The females are called “peahens”. Everybody got that? Good.
07:44 UTC: Reese is the “winner”, but even that is charitable. She won 1,536 Silly Bucks and lost the final round, 7-3. In the second round, Reese and Vickie took only one question away from Reg; he got all the others but one.
08:10 UTC: Natasha picks up the pugil sticks and tosses me one.
“All right, fine,” I say.
“You don’t want to?” She looks a little hurt.
“Sure,” I say. “Let’s go.”
I jump into the pool, and she follows behind me.
09:02 UTC: I jump back into the pool. I defeated Natasha, two of the Deal or No Deal girls, and Reese. Wen was the only one who fought me to a draw.
As I climb back onto land, Rich grabs my hand and lifts it up, announcing, “Come on, Gladiator maniacs! Let’s hear it for the unbeatable, the awesome Crush!”
I ask him, “Hey, is Debbie around?”
“No,” he says. “She flew back to England.”
“Hey, Amber Lynn,” Mary-Kate says. “Good to see you again.”
“Good to see you,” I answer. “What are you?”
“I’m a peahen.”
“I thought Ashley was the peahen.”
“No, she’s the peacock. I’m the peahen.”
Her costume is similar to Ashley’s, but her plumage is a dull grayish-brown.
Mary-Kate continues, “See, a lot of people don’t know. Only the males, the peacocks, have the bright colours. The peahens don’t have the colours.” She turns to the side and points to her plumage.
I say, “So she’s the peacock, and you’re the peahen.”
I start to giggle.
“Spare me,” she says. “We’ve heard it all.”
“Well, you had to have expected it when you picked those costumes.”
“Yeah, but since when have we cared what you think?”
10:33 UTC: I am sitting at the bar gazing down at everyone. I’ve danced with a lot of the guests, and I’ve spoken with a lot of the guests. Thankfully, no one had a heart to heart with me like Debbie did.
“Hey you,” Natasha says as she sits next to me.
Hold that thought.
“Hi,” I say.
“So you work for these guys?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“What do you do?”
“Mostly stick my hand into the printer when it jams.”
She laughs. Then she glances at me and says, “So... um... are there other things you like to do with your hands?”
Maybe that wasn’t the best joke to use.
11:11 UTC: Having disentangled myself from the Natasha situation with a minimum of awkwardness, I made my way back to the dance floor.
I’m dancing to something with a lot of high pitched female warbling when I suddenly feel pinches on either cheek of my ass. I turn around to see Janet 1 and Ali 2.
Janet 1 gives me a hug, as best she can, and says, “We’re going to start taking the stage apart. See you in a little while.”
I nod, and they leave.
I look around and realise that I’m alone on the dance floor. Rich and Nina are sitting by the pool, Mary is making out with Jhonny and one of the Deal or No Deal models, and Natasha is talking to the other two models. Deb, Reg, Gaby, Wen, and Reese are swimming in the pool.
Natasha sees me and waves me over. I walk down around the pool and sit in the space she’s made between her and the model on her right.
Natasha says, “So have you met Kath and Kim?”
Since we promised not to reveal their identities, those are fake names.
“Briefly, yes,” I say. “Hi again.”
They both say hi.
Kim says, “I thought you were very good in...” She holds her hands out, then waves them around as though holding a pugil stick.
“The joust?” I ask.
“The joust, yes. You must be very strong.”
She puts her hand on my upper arm, squeezing the muscle. “Yes, very strong. How much weight can you lift?”
“I don’t know.”
“You do not lift weights? Exercise?”
“A little bit.”
“Can you bench press me?”
“What?” I ask.
Kim asks, “Would you like to bench press me?”
“Do it!” Natasha shouts.
“No!” I say.
“Do it!” Kath says.
Eventually they pressure me into it.
11:21 UTC: I bench press Kim.
12:06 UTC: We have taken apart the setting; only the pool remains.
“Well, there’s only one thing left to do,” Reg says.
“What’s that?” Deb asks.
“Cannonball!” he shouts, jumping into the water.
At this point, all of the guests have gone home except for Reese and Mary, who insisted on helping clean up. It is now only myself, Reg, Deb, Wen, Jhonny, Nina, Reese, and Mary.
“So I never did ask you guys,” I say. “Reg, you’re Oscar Bluth from Arrested Development.”
“Correct,” he says.
“I got you already, Wen. Jhonny, you’re Captain Morgan.”
He smiles and lifts his leg, striking the pose.
“Nina, you’re a dominatrix.”
She holds up her whip and says, “Nnnno.”
“A nearsighted dominatrix?”
She points to her glasses, then winks.
“What?” I ask. “You’re Sarah Palin too?”
Her dominatrix gear is perfect: tight leather boots, a black halter top, hair pulled back, a studded belt with several devices dangling from it. Some of those devices make my ass hurt just looking at them.
She says, “Well, I’m completely humiliating the Republican Party and making it feel like it’s not worthy of holding either the White House or the Congress. So yes, Sarah Palin would be correct.”
I laugh and then continue, “And Mary, you must be a well endowed Sarah Palin.”
Mary laughs at me. “No, mine actually has nothing to do with Sarah Palin.”
She has glasses, a red blouse, jeans, and calf high boots. Noting that she is also holding a large E from one of the columns, I say, “How about a well endowed Vanna White?”
Mary laughs again. “No. I mean, I will sell you this vowel, but no, it’s not part of the costume.”
I think for a while and finally admit, “No, I’m stumped.”
Mary says, “I’m Toshiko from Torchwood, having gotten a boob job in a desperate attempt to get Owen to notice me.”
I shrug my shoulders, but Deb laughs. I think she’s the only person who gets that reference.
“And that brings us to you, Deb,” I say.
Deb puts her hands on her hips and stares at me, as though daring me to guess.
I guess, “An amalgamation of all the characters that Angelina Jolie has played, from Gia Carangi to Lara Croft.”
The others laugh and make their ways to the cars.
Deb says, “That’s close enough.”
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