We are excited to welcome professional actress, Christine Elisa McCarthy, to the Highlighted Author. You’ve watched her on U4EA, Beverly Hills 90210, ER, and Child’s Play 2 among other shows and films. Today we’re featuring her debut novel Bathing & The Single Girl. It’s hilariously funny. It’s fabulously relatable. It’s totally Christine. Enjoy! –Jo Grafford, Highlighted Author Co-Hostess
The life of an actress in LA isn’t all glamour, money, and bedding rock stars. Sometimes it’s more about humiliation, red wine hangovers, and the bad decisions they fuel. Ruby Fitzgerald has barely worked in years, not that anyone remembers her for anything but her short stint on a long-canceled but iconic TV show. But that was back when her career prospects seemed on the upswing — longer ago than Ruby cares to admit, and awkward sex with regrettable partners is doing nothing to take the edge off. Everything once functional in her house is going on strike, but the unemployment checks barely cover the mortgage, and a self-respecting girl needs to be able to pay her bar tab — so repairs are on hold. One more bubble bath and a few more cocktails. A gal can always get responsible tomorrow.
With everything mounting against her, a cranky and increasingly despairing Ruby will have to find out if her life’s larger indignities are the result of bad luck, or a chronically bad attitude. What follows is a walking tour of the hilarious depths you can sink to if you stop exercising your best judgment.
As a writer, she has written three episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210 as well as characters and storylines for the series, a pilot that was optioned by Aaron Spelling, and comical true-life essays that she performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade and Naked Angels theaters in LA. She maintains an irreverent food porn blog called
www.DelightfulDeliciousDelovely.com for which she provides recipes, photographs and sometimes shares details of the triumphs and, more frequently, the humiliations of her own life. She has a great passion for photography (www.MyPinUpArt.com) and has shown her pin-up and decaying Americana imagery in the United States & Paris. She has been on the selection committee of Michigan’s Waterfront Film Festival since its inception in 1999, she is co-director of the Victoria Texas Independent Film Festival, programs for the Self-Medicated Film Festival and The Lady Filmmakers Film Festival, and consults & judges for many others. Her directorial debut, Bathing & the Single Girl, was accepted into over 100 film festivals and won 20 awards.
Bathing & the Single Girl, inspired by the short film, is her debut novel.
“I’m sorry, but is anyone sitting in the seats on either side of you?”
He turned and looked at me with huge blue eyes which were set off by an amazing quiff of nearly white hair. I’m not one that typically goes for towheads but something about his face made my heart pitter pat. He appeared to be in his early thirties. He looked at the seats beside him and turned to me and shook his head.
“Well, would you mind terribly moving over one so that my friend and I can sit here?”
“Fo shizzle,” he replied and scooted over a seat. Eliza and I bellied up to the bar.
“This your first time here?” he inquired.
“What? We look like we don’t belong here?” I snapped back defensively and reflexively removed my granny sweater.
“Whoa, Cuz. I was just making small talk.”
“I’m sorry,” I said as I tucked my sweater beneath me and wondered if I’d really just been addressed as “Cuz.” “It is my birthday and it hasn’t been a very good night so far.”
“Happy birthday! Let me buy you guys a round, Big Willie style.” He smiled a shy smile that was in contrast to his urban verbiage and he touched my shoulder. He called the bartender by his first name (Thaddeus) and I ordered a glass of champagne. Eliza was still pawing her first glass of wine.
“Thanks. That is very sweet of you. So, you must come here a lot, huh? You know the bartender by name and all.”
He nodded as he sipped what looked like a gin and tonic but more likely involved exotic tinctures and artisanal liqueur and probably set him back thirty bucks. I eyed the candied lime astride the rim and wondered if it was made of fruit or Chuckles. You could never tell with hipsters these days, what with their irony and irreverence. Thaddeus placed a glass of champagne before both me and Eliza, made some hat-doffing, semi-bow gesture and moved away.
“Ya dig, my Thaddeotis. Celeb mixologist. I’m all about livin’ nappy, yo. Know what I’m saying?”
I did not. Undeterred, I forged ahead.
“Can I ask why you come here? This place sucks.”
“Co-owner Mos is my OG homie skittle, son,” he explained and touched my cheek.
I tried to put an expression on my face that 1) suggested I understood what he had just said and 2) looked noncommittal enough to suggest that I agreed with him—whether what he’d said had been good or bad and 3) hid the fact that I was secretly swooning every time he touched me. Eliza kicked me under the bar. I grabbed my champagne and took a long swallow, trying to distract my platinum wigga from seeing in my eyes that I had no idea what the fuck he was talking about.
“My name is Ruby. This is my friend Eliza.”
“Word. I’m Bunker.” He smiled again and pierced me with those baby blues. He reached out and removed an invisible bit of lint from my dress. It was all I could do not to press my heaving bosom into his retreating palm.
“Bunker? Really? Bunker? Eliza, did you hear that? Isn’t that unbelievable?”
“Yes. I have been listening and yes, it is unbelievable.”
Her sarcasm was lost on me.
“My dog! I had a dog named Bunker. He just died last month. His name was Edward Bunker.”
I said that to Eliza, as if she didn’t already know.
“Facheezie on the reezie! That is some crazy shiznit, Holmes. My middle name is Edward,” interjected Bunker, and then he touched my champagne glass. I took it to mean I should finish the glass. I drained it and, as I chewed the green-tea infused lychee that had been at the bottom of the flute, I gestured to the bartender that I was ready for another. I was very excited about this Bunker business.
“This is amazing! Are you a fan of Edward Bunker?” I asked him and, without even waiting for his response, I turned back to Eliza. “Can you believe this, Eliza? Isn’t this crazy?”
“Craaazy shiznit, fo sho,” Eliza quipped. I heard her mocking tone that time. I mean—she never said shiznit at home. I threw her a little warning stink-eye. A fresh glass of champagne was before me. Bunker touched it twice and then touched my cheek again. He looked directly into my eyes when he touched me. I blushed and grabbed my drink. My head was swimming with wine and champagne and the crazy odds that I would meet a cute guy that shared a name with my recently deceased dog. And on my birthday. It had to be sign. I looked at Eliza and I could tell she saw the hearts bursting above my head. I fixed her with the “Wow, can you believe my luck?” look.
“I’m gonna go to the ladies’ room. Ruby, will you come with me?”
“Go ahead, Shorty. I’ll watch your drinks.” He touched my shoulder again.
I giggled a thank you, took a huge slug of champagne. Standing up, I suddenly felt the impact of the five plus drinks I had had in probably just over an hour. Hoping Bunker was watching us, I tried very deliberately to suck in my gut and be sure I did not stumble in my heels. I could hardly wait to get into the privacy of the bathroom and discuss these exciting new developments.
“Oh my God! I LOVE him! And his name is Bunker! How perfect is that? Isn’t this crazy?”
“Word, Dawg,” she said and flashed me a gang sign.
“I know, but, I don’t know. Maybe he is trying to talk black to… compensate for… being practically an albino…” I said, stumbling into an end to a sentence I had begun with no formed conclusion. “AndheissocuteandhekeepstouchingmeandhisnameisBunker!” I thrilled.
“I don’t know who is more retarded, you right now or Yo MTV Raps out there.” Eliza was laughing.
“You don’t think he is cute?”
“I guess he’s okay. You know who he is, right?”
“No. Who is he?”
“He is an actor. He was in that movie about the kangaroo that became President.”
“THAT’S Jerry O’Connell?”
“No, the other kangaroo movie. The impossibly dumber one…”
“Dumber than? …oooh…” I exhaled my realization, deflated by this new information. “But still. Tonight sucks. My life sucks. My career is on life support, I’m hopelessly broke and I haven’t kissed a boy in five years.” I let that soak in for both of us before I continued. “Fuck it, Eliza. He is very cute and every time he touches me I think I am going to faint.”
“I saw him on Oprah a long time ago. He has Tourette’s syndrome,” she said gingerly, as if it had great meaning. I stared blankly back at her. I was pretty buzzed. Then it dawned on me.
“Oh! You think that’s why he hangs out here?”
“You know. Shouting out ‘FUCK’ and fucking… blurting out racial slurs… might not seem so offensive in a restaurant with ‘Nga’ in the name and bizarre, culturally insensitive art on the walls… right? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s like a racist free for all in here.”
“No. No. Some Tourette’s manifest as ticks—like OCD. Like—counting stairs and washing hands and… you know… touching things. He has no ability to control the urge to touch stuff. That is why he keeps tapping you and your drink and everything else.”
“Oh.” This was even more disappointing news to digest. I was determined to have a good birthday now, though.
“Well, his name is Bunker.”
“This is true,” Eliza charitably conceded.
“Five years, Eliza. I’m squandering my sexual prime! Tonight. Tonight, I’ve found a new sense of purpose. You know what comes after middle age, Eliza? Old age. Old age, Eliza. I need to find some fucker out there to step to the plate and blow the dust off my cooter and breathe some Goddamn life back into it. If you go too long without using it—it just puckers up, you know? Eliza. Yes. Like a prune. And nobody likes shriveled snatch flaps, Eliza. Nobody,” I said in my gravest tone.
“I think you are mixing some very unappetizing vagina metaphors there but thanks for the visual all the same.”
“I’m serious. I heard an unused twat gets all dried out and powdery like the elastic in your sports bra—you now—the one you find years later at the back of the drawer,” I said while pretending I was stretching the band of a crumbling athletic top. “I don’t want an ashy bajina!”
“My dry spell has been at least as long as yours but… this guy… really?”
Eliza was laughing but still not giving me the green light I was angling for.
“He really has Tourette’s and isn’t just, you know, unable to keep his hands off me because I’m wicked fabulous?”
“Well, would that explain why he talks like the D.O. Double G?”
“Eh—fuck it. I like him and I hate everyone. I’m going to go back out there to New Jack City and I’m going to flirt my ass off. It doesn’t mean I have to marry him. Right?”
“Heck to the yeah, Cherry Coke! Stop trippin’.”
“I had no idea you were so street, beatch.”
“Let’s get out there and get some of that dope mac-n-cheese, home slice,” she answered, dryly.
“Okay, Cockblockie. I get it. Shut up.”
We returned to the bar to find a new round of drinks next to our old ones. Bunker’s seat was now the perch for a scantily clad, Britney Spears look-a-like hooker slut. I looked at the two glasses in front of me and waited for the champagne to explain this new development.
“Bunker had to go but he bought you guys another round before he left,” Thaddeus said and stepped away quickly as if to avoid further questions. I got the distinct impression that he was embarrassed for us. For me, actually, because I am the center of the universe, a hundred years old, poverty stricken, fat and unfuckable. I looked at Eliza, trying to mask my humiliation.
“He probably just heard there was a blue light special on dookie ropes on Hollywood Boulevard or something,” Eliza said.
~ ~ ~