Ruth Rabinowitz had a waking nightmare that she had hit a transvestite crossing Highland at Hollywood Boulevard. In her mind the transvestite would be lying in the crosswalk surrounded by Shreks and Dorothys and Princess Fionas; Batman would call 911 while Japanese tourists took pictures of the fallen one with their cell phones. The transvestite would be fine, of course – it was a waking nightmare – and when s/he was set upright on his/her extremely tall platform shoes, s/he would look down on Ruth from six feet up and say kindly, Go ahead, honey – you cry if you want to. Ruth would break down right there, and the transvestite would take her gently in his/her arms – and his/her skin would be wonderfully silky and toned from hours at the gym – and smooth her hair from her face while she wept.
That’s how much pressure she was under.
Driving into Hollywood was always harrowing, and though she and her thirteen-year-old daughter, Bethany, had been in Los Angeles for only three weeks, she had already learned that the smoothness of the trip to a casting studio was inversely proportionate to the importance of the audition. Right now it was three o’clock, Bethany’s callback time had been two forty-five, and they were stuck in choking traffic on Highland near Santa Monica.
Admittedly, some of their tardiness – all right, most of it – was Ruth’s fault. She had a tendency, even under routine circumstances, to dither. She’d changed clothes twice before they’d left, even though no one would care or even notice what she was wearing. She’d checked and rechecked an e-mail in which Mimi Roberts, Bethany’s manager, had forwarded the callback’s time and location. She’d printed out, misplaced, reprinted, and then found the original copy of the MapQuest directions she’d pulled up – even though they’d driven to the same casting studio just yesterday. Now she heard the same maddening refrain looping endlessly inside her head: You should have left sooner, you should have left sooner, you should have left sooner. Her blood pressure was so high she could feel her pulse in her feet. “I just can’t believe there’s this much traffic,” she said.
“Mom,” Bethany said with newfound world-weariness. “This is LA.”
“Well, you can certainly see why it’s the birthplace of road rage.” They moved up a couple of car lengths and then stopped, still at least eight cars short of the intersection. Beside them a young man in a BMW cursed energetically into his Bluetooth…
This is an excerpt from the opening of Seeing Stars: A Novel by Diane Coplin Hammond. This entertaining and charming book will be reviewed in the near future on this site. Seeing Stars was released by Harper on March 23, 2010. This trade paperback sells for $13.99, and is available as a Kindle Edition download for $9.99.