Million Dollar Girl
Version Date: October 11, 2008
I thought the same kind of offering would be helpful for a work of written
fiction, so that readers could see some examples of what was cut out or
altered from the drafts. It is often said that the true secret of good
writing is knowing what to leave out. Here is a selection of deleted scenes
that should reinforce that point. And for further reinforcement, know that
I left out from this sample some even worse scenes.
All this to say that Amy, like many another person who harbors unusual
ideas, was unwilling to share them with Shelley until she felt more secure
in their relationship.
“Hi there, Amy. I’m Barbie the Bellybutton. I’m always at the center of attention when we’re at the beach. Can your bellybutton come out and play?”
“No!” said Amy directly to Shelley’s navel. She had been watching Shelly’s navel “talk” and had neglected to look up at Shelley before answering. This realization made Amy feel foolish. Just then, however, Tina returned to the room, holding onto Matt’s hand. Amy was Tina’s security net, and since Matt’s was Amy’s, um, friend, then Matt was a legal surrogate.
“What are you guys doing?” she asked, with an almost troubled look on her face. Who knows what her mind was doing with this subject matter.
“What are you guys doing?” asked Amy, not altogether comfortable seeing Tina holding Matt’s hand.
“The performance is over,” Shelley said. “The curtain falls.” She dropped her T-shirt. “Oh, oh, curtain calls,” she said excitedly, flapping her shirt up and down a few times.
“What?” Tina asked with a little confusion and somewhat urgently.
“We were just having a bellybutton contest, and I won,” Shelley said to Tina. “Mine talks and Amy’s doesn’t.”
“Theater majors,” said Matt.
“Are such stereotypes?” asked Shelley.
“Well, I gotta run. Barbie and I need to go find Ron and go for a ride
on his bike.
At this comment, Amy’s eyebrows went up, as if to say, “Huh?”
“Look, aren’t the actors in high school and college plays usually really lame?”
Amy remembered being in some plays in high school. “I guess,” she said.
“That’s because they are acting rather than being a character. They try to form themselves into a character and act the way they think another person would behave and it comes out fake and obvious. The good actors form the character to themselves and then act like themselves, except for the differences the character has, like speech or something. They don’t think of themselves as acting. That’s my opinion.”
“I can’t believe you actually said something serious.”
“The great actors can change themselves into another personality, but those are the types who get academy awards.”
“But why don’t actors follow the obvious step of being themselves when they act?” asked Amy.
“Fear,” answered Shelley. “Only by deliberately and badly pretending to be someone else can they escape the fear of changing themselves or of exposing themselves. What if the audience thought they were really like the character they portray? Or worse, what if they really are? Killers, lechers, cheaters, or worse, boring, uncool rejects?”
“Are you sure you weren’t a psych major before rather than an English major?”
“Then there’s the fear that the actor will be believed by the other actors or the audience.”
“What do you mean by believed?”
“You’ve left your mark on me,” she said. “Including a scratch out.”
“Oh, that’s the right reply,” she said sarcastically.
They arrived at Matt’s room but he was not there.
“My dad says you can tell a lot about a guy from his check book register and credit card receipts. They always collect those during an investigation. Since Matt has no money to create very many receipts, I guess we’ll have to learn about him from some other clues.”
Amy looked around the room. “What can you tell about Matt from what you see?” she asked Tina.
“He’s definitely a guy,” Tina said, surveying the storm-damage appearance of the room. Clothes, books, empty food containers, a bicycle, some sports equipment, even a hammer, were all strewn semi-randomly around the room.
“He must be rich,” Tina continued, “because everything has money on it.”
“Ah,” said Amy, but look more closely. Put your detective’s thinking cap on and look at the detail, not just the overall scene. What kind of money do you see?”
“Change. Lots and lots of change.”
“What kind of change?”
“Nickels and pennies, mostly. And an occasional dime. The dimes look lonely.”
“No. Don’t see any,” Tina said, looking around from the table next to the sofa, to the coffee table, to the kitchen counter, to the bookshelves, to the desk. “Oh, here’s one.”
“Then what about your conclusion relating to riches?”
“Maybe he isn’t so rich.”
“And have you ever ridden in his car?”
“Yes. Remember, we rode in it last week.”
“And was it a new, fancy sports car?”
“I think it was rather old and creaky.”
“Do wealthy people usually drive old and creaky cars?”
“I doubt it.”
“Good, Tina. You are catching on.”
Tina smiled, as if Amy’s comment actually gave her some happiness.
“Okay, now let’s look at something else. What else do you see?”
“Lots of junk,” said Tina, confidently.
“That’s exactly right. It’s good to have a general view of the situation. But we also need to look at the specifics. Look, for example, at what makes up the junk. What specific pieces of junk do you see?”
“That’s right. What can you tell me about some specific clothes?”
“They’ve mostly already been worn and need washing. Eww, this one stinks. And there are more T-shirts than anything else.”
“This is fun,” said Tina. “What else?”
“Well, we can tell a lot about a person by looking at the information they read. What kind of information do you see around here?”
“Books,” said Tina, picking up one and examining it as if she were a detective. “This is a textbook. A history textbook,” she added, making a face that few history professors would appreciate. “But we kind of already know that he’s a college student.”
“That’s right. So what else can we learn about him?”
“Well, here’s a pile of old newspapers. They’re several days old. So maybe he sometimes keeps up on the news.”
“What section is on top?”
“And here,” Tina continued, moving over to the coffee table, “are some advertisements. ‘The Tool Warehouse.’ Here’s other stuff for hardware stores. And here’s one for a computer store.”
“Which tells us?”
“He likes tools and computers?”
“You get an A.”
“My dad’s a detective.”
“Ooh, a private eye, who chases wayward husbands and reports back to the wronged wives?” Shelley asked, very dramatically, putting her hands over her heart at the “wronged wives.”
“No, he’s a police detective.”
“So he studies clues. Let’s see if I can be a detective.” Shelley’s curiosity was once more put in suspense while her need for drama took over. “They say you can tell a lot about a person by examining the detritus of their lives,” she continued, picking up the wastebasket next to Amy’s desk. “Ah ha! Crumpled paper. Smashed together with anger after reading the unwelcome contents? Are you a jilted lover, perhaps.” Then, opening the crumpled paper, “Oh, this looks like a woman’s handwriting. Your own, I presume? Don’t attempt to deny it, if it’s true. We have experts who can compare handwriting.”
“That’s scratch paper. . . .”
“Okay, let’s look for clues on your desk.” Shelley looked at Amy’s desk. On it, lined up with modest neatness were the figurine of a ballerina, a box of tissues, a mug with pens and pencils, a set of books between ceramic sleeping cat bookmarks (a dictionary, a Bible, several textbooks, a few magazines), a photograph of a middle-aged couple with Amy between them, and a clock. On the wall was a class schedule, a calendar, and a photograph of a young man.
“You’re a dance major?”
Shelley paused and stuck her index finger under her nose in dramatic detective style, as if contemplating the case.
“Let’s see what we can discover about your roommate,” Shelley said.
She looked at Markayla’s desk. On it were a bowl of fruit (apples, bananas,
“We’re young. When we get older, we can worry about all that meaning stuff. Right now, we’re still mostly empty blackboards.”
“The questions is, What do we write?”
“I hate writing.”
“Why do we have to write anything?”
“I want pictures.”
“If we don’t do our own writing, someone else will do the writing for us.”
“Maybe they write better, so that’s okay.”
“Hey, I know. Maybe we can copy. I want to copy a beautiful, wealthy person’s words.”
“Yeah, you want to live a plagiarized life, like lots of people. If you’re going to copy, why not copy advertising? Everyone there is deliriously happy and successful.”
“At least after they use the right product.”
“Didn’t we already talk about advertising? We’re going in circles.”
“Okay,” said Amy.
In the background, she could hear her father whisper, “And remember, she’s only nineteen.”
“Hello,” said the voice on the other end.
“Hello, Mr. Jordan,” said Amy.
“You have a notebook computer, is that right?”
“Yes,” said Amy confidently.
“Are you on a dialup or a LAN?”
“I don’t know,” Amy said. Jordan could almost hear the frown.
“Okay,” said Jordan, with just a little testiness coming into his voice. “How many wires do you see coming out the back of your PC?”
Amy looked. “Two.”
“Okay, and one of them eventually goes into the electrical outlet, is that right?”
“Let’s see. One of them goes into a black brick and then a bigger wire comes out of the brick and plugs into the wall. I think that’s the power supply.”
“Yeah. So look at the other wire. Where does it go?”
“Into the wall.”
“And where it goes into the wall, is it flat or round?”
“Sort of halfway.”
“Does the wire say anything on it?” Jordan asked with a slightly irritated tone.
“Let me look.” Amy picked up the wire. “Yes,” she said, “it’s got a million letters on it, all along it.”
“Start reading,” Jordan said.
Amy read. “CAT 5 UTP 24 AWG 4 pairs E13892 and a little symbol and then AWM 2835 60 degrees C CSA LL81295 FT4 ETL verified EIA slash TIA dash 568A.”
As soon as she had read “CAT 5” Jordan had turned to Amy’s father and said, “She’s on a network.” Amy continued reading, not knowing that no one was paying attention.
When she stopped, Jordan said, “You’re on a network.”
“I knew that,” Amy said.
“Then why didn’t you say so?” Jordan asked, irritated.
“You didn’t ask. You asked about something else.”
“I asked if you were on a network.”
“You said dialup or LAN.”
“A LAN is a network.”
“I didn’t know,” Amy said with a bit of apology in her voice. She didn’t like Jordan very much.
“Now tell me, what kind of a firewall do you have on your computer?”
“What’s a firewall?” Amy asked.
Jordan thought briefly about asking Detective Herbert, “Is your daughter a blonde?”
How odd it is that we so often devalue others just because they do not know what we know, and what we therefore think everyone else should know. And regarding the blonde reference in the unspoken comment, had Jennica heard that, she would have said, “See, I told you.” We are stereotypers, however much we deny it.
For the next few minutes, Greg Jordan not very patiently took Amy through her computer’s operating system and checked on the running processes and available software, only to conclude that her computer had no firewall at all.
“Okay,” he said.
Jordan took another fifteen minutes of his valuable time to talk Amy
through the downloading and installation of a free software firewall. A
look at the firewall’s alerts revealed that there were no evil servers
running on the girl’s machine. Amy’s computer was now protected from attack
from the outside. In fact, the computer itself was now invisible on the
network, because the firewall was set to cloak the computer’s presence.
The gate had swung closed. But the horse was already out of the corral.
“Who’s her boyfriend?”
“Don’t know him.”
“Anyway, when he looks at her, she bats her eyelashes at him.”
“In front of everyone else? I could never do that.”
“You don’t know Shelley.”
“So then what?”
“So then Ron takes the flower from her mouth and puts it behind her ear. She closes her eyes and stands on her tiptoes.”
“Yes? Come on.”
“So he kisses her.”
“On the forehead.”
“Yeah, so then Shelley goes, ‘You missed.’”
“So what did Ron say?”
“He gave her a little peck on the lips.”
“Just a little peck?”
“Yeah, he was embarrassed, I think.”
“How do you know all this, anyway?”
“Brandy Wang was Shelley’s front man, watching to signal her when Ron was about to come out. She told me the whole thing.”
Read about the making of The Million Dollar
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