title. The Ballad of Proxy Moss
name. Brooks Hudgins
right now. Fourth year studying Film at Edinburgh College of Art
Hunter finished his Natty Lite, crushed it between his thumb and forefinger, and left it in the golf cart cup holder.
“Good night, buddy.” he said
“Golden, man. See you tomorrow” Tommy responded.
He crossed the gravel driveway, then took off his flip flops, shoved them in his back pocket, and opened the porch door.
Ariana was awake, sitting on the couch watching Grey’s Anatomy reruns and scraping layers of makeup off her face. Fierce and unforgiving, Ariana had been Sharpie marking her booze since Hunter turned 8. But he wasn’t surprised to see her. They shared these hours together.
“Fuck were you?” she asked.
Hunter didn’t answer and poured himself a glass of Fanta from the lukewarm bottle decarbonizing on the counter.
“How was dinner, mom?” he asked.
“Weird. He was a weirdo again,” she said, her mouth was dry and her voice was coarse.
She’d been trying to date again. Her last boyfriend, Eric M., was employed by a petrochemical company based out of Texarkana and would come out to Southern California for weeks on end to slow divestment and cheat on his wife. Apparently she had found out, and Eric now restricted environmental progress from a basecamp in Northwestern Oregon.
“He was in between jobs. His name was Baron. Shame to call someone such a fancy name only to have him be stupid and unemployed at 50,” she got up to throw away the makeup wipes and kissed Hunter on the head.
“How was your night, babe?”
Hunter finished his Fanta and turned to face his mother with a smirk.
“I met a girl”
THE BALLAD OF PROXY MOSS
On the sunburnt coast of Southern California, just north of Los Angeles, there lies a kingdom of beige cookie cutter houses pried from the dreamscapes of indigent Midwesterners. Although this kingdom existed outside of the societal, political, and economic norms of its surroundings, this kingdom was not like those of the fairy tales of our childhoods. For this kingdom was called Calabasas, and its self proclaimed princess lived at the end of the third cul de sac on the west side of the fourth gated community called Villa Sorrento Estates. And in a not so special house in a room just like many others, lived a very special girl named Proxy Moss. Her mother left when she was a baby, and the only thing she kept of hers was her first name “Penny”. But when her daddy remarried to a wicken of an Idaho cum dumpster named Heather, her name became Proxy. That’s what Heather called her. Because she said her dad only used her to make Heather mad, or upset, or jealous. But in the strange way that strange things happen in the strange place called Calabasas, Penny fell in love with the name and proclaimed herself Proxy Moss, Princess of Calabasas from then on. Albeit her daddy, Vincent, or Vince for short, had no desire to be a king, and Heather certainly was no queen. He had met Heather at the Gumball Rally when it came through on its way to bigger and better hills down south. They both liked fancy cars and Vince could afford them so they shacked up together and brought Proxy with them to Calabasas, where Heather’s mom knew a real estate agent who cut them a great deal on a big ol’ dream house, just like the ones going on Sotheby’s TV ads late at night. Before that, when Proxy was still Penny, they lived in a small bungalow type house in Venice Beach, near where Vince had worked in computers or advertising or something. But he didn’t have to work anymore because of something Vince called the “dot com boom”. When people at school asked her what her dad did, she said he “blew up the internet in the 90’s” like she always heard Heather saying on the phone to people. Proxy had always hoped nobody got hurt in the boom. But she was wrong. Apparently lots of her daddy’s friends weren’t his friends anymore, and as a matter of fact it was better that they were moving up to Calabasas anyway. To get away from it all.
Anyway, by the time of our story, Proxy had turned 16 and was in the middle of a full fledged war of attrition with her step-mother. Heather had a habit of spending lavishly on luxury shoes and clothes, and Proxy had a habit of wearing them to school with certain alterations made for size discrepancies. Vince stayed out of it solely because he’d never won a battle, and therefore pledged never to get bogged down in a land war in Asia like he heard on the news when he was young. Proxy had grown into a beautiful young woman, just like or despite her mother depending on who you asked. Heather told her she was doing everything she possibly could to ruin her natural good looks. This included bleaching her hair till her scalp burned, cutting it short above her shoulders, and never EVER wearing any makeup. She wore a combination of her father’s jeans and her stepmother’s Balenciaga. They were currently up to 3 weeks of not speaking to each other, still a far cry from their record of 3 months last summer, but definitely the beginnings of what could be a record breaking streak. It started quite naturally when Proxy got out school for the summer, and was around the house a lot. Heather had forgotten just how many hormones the realtor said could fit in one cavernous dream home, but clearly they should have looked for an upgrade. Heather attempted to rule the home with an iron fist, but guerrilla warfare was incredibly effective against her quick temper. Heather implemented rigorous scheduling and activity in order to keep Proxy out of the house. But a simple door lock was more than enough to solve this. After Heather had the lock removed, Proxy simply used Vince’s credit card to have the front, back, and side door locks changed while Heather was at Bikram Yoga and Vince was in Malibu. Then Proxy really ruled the castle. For a whole 12 hours until Vince came back, there was extensive interior design updates, and the master received a thorough strip search. After clearing out the drawers and cupboards of Heather’s respective sides of the bed, bathroom, and closet, Proxy had amalgamated enough material for some serious blackmail. From then on, Proxy Moss never forgot that ammunition need not be fired to be effective.
She left out the backdoor, snuck out of her cul de sac, and reached the gate. The security guard was a Phillipino guy named Gary in his 50’s. Gary was the gatekeeper to the kingdom, and nobody came or went without his knowing. He had eyes everywhere from inside his monitoring hut, and had committed his career to keeping the neighborhood out of harm’s way.
“I’ll catch you later, Gary” she said as Gary extended a silent fist bump. He buzzed the pedestrian gate and she fiddled through one of Heather’s Louis bags for her phone. She could hear it buzzing but eventually gave up as a black Mercedes G-wagon with dealership plates and freshly tinted windows pulled up beside her. She opened the door and the tell-tale distortion of bass happy teenagers with factory standard car stereos pounded bluntly against her ears. She got in and before she’d slammed the door, it took off back toward the 101 onramp.
“Where’s the BMW?”
“My dad has it. Taking my mom’s car today,”
“Does it have a charger, Jimmy?”
“Nah I’m using it sorry, I think we’re taking the 101 toward North Hollywood - hold on, I need it for maps babe,” Jimmy said, still looking for the onramp.
“Why are we going to Hollywood? Fuck hollywood. North Hollywood isn’t even Hollywood it’s the valley. Why are we going to the valley?” Proxy asked quietly.
“It’s a surprise,” Jimmy said. He must have hit puberty at 9 Proxy thought. He had more of a beard than her dad. But he still kind of had a baby face. Or baby eyes at least. Big, dark eyelashes like a Pixar kid. He seemed trustworthy, and he didn’t drive too crazy like some of the other guys. Proxy trusted people by the way they handled unexpected traffic obstacles. She vowed never to date anyone who hesitated at a yellow turning red. Or anyone who honked and yelled while tailgating the minivan in front of them. Vince kept his golf clubs in his trunk, but his driver in the backseat. Proxy hated it because she had to share the backseat with it, but Vince wouldn’t let her put it in the trunk. One time when a guy hit a motorcyclist behind them, Vince got out and tried to stop the guy, but he drove off. That was the closest Proxy ever got to seeing him use it. And she was glad.
Jimmy took the 101 South toward Hollywood and eventually Downtown. They passed all the weird Porno offices in the valley. You could smell something in the Valley, even with the windows closed. It was the smell of Middle America’s abandoned hopes and dreams. No, that’s harsh, Proxy thought, it was all of America, and most of the world. Pretty much the whole world’s abandoned dreams. You dream you are gonna make it to Hollywood, and you get so damned close, but end up frying in the basin as the sun sets on the other side of the hills for the famous people to watch with the good seats while you’re in the parking lot without shoes on trying to stay on only the white bits of paint so you don’t burn your feet…
Proxy woke up as the car slowed to a stop. She looked around and didn’t see any of the big buildings ahead of her anymore. She peered behind her and saw them. They had come far. South east LA, even further south east than Fashion District, where some guy named Elliot had taken her to a rave once. No, they were past the abandoned warehouses and the crackhead tent cities that inhabit them, and into the bustling City of Industry. An area where nobody who didn’t want their hands dirtied by 20th century money making methods would never dare to venture. They still used trains here, packed full of produce and shipped straight into the gullet of the American Southwest where they couldn’t grow anything but crystal meth and moto-x tracks. Jimmy puffed on his vape and got out of the car.
“You better not sell me for my organs, Jimmy, you know Heather has dibs on anything extra,”
“Chill out. Stay in the car,” he said, approaching a side office next to the warehouse entrance. It was unlabeled. She waited for a few minutes. The car was silent now that he’d gotten out with the key and his phone had disconnected. She sighed and got out of the car on the far side, hidden from the office. She turned around and faced the street. Empty lot after empty lot, warehouse after warehouse, with only smog stained buildings no more than 6 stories high as far as she could see. This wasn’t her kingdom anymore. She felt usurped. Or diplomatic, she thought. A visit to the outer reaches. To improve the conditions of those less fortunate, to extend the hand of good will to those in the face of evils unknown. She saw a homeless man approach from down the street, then stop abruptly and begin emptying his shopping cart of miscellaneous items onto the ground, then proceed to put them back in. She turned around and looked at the massive Mercedes-Benz, shining starkly against its drab backdrop. Vapes and xanax, the proletariat ski mask of the overdeveloped world’s underdeveloped. A wave of malaise washed over her, and she began to feel very claustrophobic. Jimmy had been gone for only a few minutes, but she felt something was wrong. She was out of view from the office window, and realized she didn’t have her purse or phone. Proxy turned around and saw Jimmy exiting the office.
“Proxy, come on!” he said, waving her over.
She took a deep breath and yelled back:
“Open the fucking car, Jimmy. I need my purse and this place is scaring me.”
The car beeped, she opened the front doors, and she followed him in.
Jimmy opened the doors for her, and they approached a long metallic hallway. Two men let them through without question, slicing deeper and deeper into the industrial compound. She looked behind her, but the lights shut off as she continued.
“Jimmy,” she said softly.
“Trust me,” he said as he moved his hand and gripped her shoulder. Proxy didn’t relax. She could feel vibrations getting heavier and heavier the further they went. She stopped in her tracks, and as she opened her mouth - she heard it.
Are you drunk right now?
I’m just sayin’ you could do better.
The eyes burned her eyes and warmed her face, and she stood silently next to Jimmy. She looked out at the hundreds of people opposite her; teenagers dressed in Fred Segal collabs, young women with shaved heads and brand name personalities, but industry professionals, mostly.
“Secret OVO party,” Jimmy yelled over the thundering bass. “Invite went out this morning. Virginia Black launch or something. Free booze, free weed, arcade games, bouncy castles. Eat your heart out,” he told her. She realized she was backstage in the restricted area, and started to notice the expanse beyond her. Jimmy pulled off a rubber wristband and handed it to her.
“You can have my 21+ pass, I can’t drink tonight.”
“Why not?” Proxy asked.
“I told Aubrey I’d give him a ride back. He’s our neighbor. That’s how we’re backstage, babes,” he smiled at someone over her shoulder and left her wandering on her own. She’d actually already seen Drake before, when she was 14 and he came to Staples Center on the Take Care tour, so she wasn’t that fussed. Plus, he was played out. She looked at the bar queue, and just didn’t feel up to it. She followed the queer draft of silence through the crowd into the smoking area. She stood outside. She didn’t have a cigarette. She didn’t want one. She didn’t care about Drake. She didn’t care about cars. She didn’t care about all the people around her. And she realized, she didn’t care about much. She looked to her left and saw what seemed to be a remnant of a sentient being encased in plastic and skin wearing so much make-up, Proxy could smell the daddy problems from where she was standing. She looked like everybody else here, every 18 year old girl, every 40 year old woman, and Proxy didn’t. The woman smoked a jont wrapped in gold leaf paper, and stared at her phone which seemed to have harnessed all of her self-importance and utilized it to achieve a brightness Proxy had hitherto witnessed. Scroll, scroll, scroll, tap, tap, motherfucking tap. The woman of the future, Proxy thought.
“The woman of the future,” Proxy said out loud accidentally.
“What?” the lady said.
“Nothing.” Proxy replied as she turned her eyes to the other creatures surrounding her. Dad hats
and meaningless word combinations; slogans and sluts everywhere. For what felt like the first time in her life, Proxy began to cry without warning. No implication, no altercation, no context, just tears.
“You weird, bitch.” the woman said as she walked away. “But I kind of like your style, like Kim Possible.”
Proxy couldn’t help but laugh. She looked up and saw two boys, barely 18, if that, staring at her. They looked out of place, one was wearing flip flops, and they were drinking the shitty Natty Lite that only Southerners drink. Tourists, she thought. Out of place, stalking the streets of an unfair city with unfair prejudice heaped upon them by unfair people. She felt like a tourist she thought. She all of the sudden felt an intense need for attention, to be talked to, to be wanted. She thought about her dad, and how he wanted Heather more than her, and how Heather wanted fucking her dad more than her, and how Jimmy wanted to fuck Drake more than her, and maybe these boys would want her more than anything else. The taller one walked over to her, and sat down next to her. Without warning, Proxy asked,
“Will you drive me home?”
Vince didn’t call the police for almost 2 weeks. The thing he couldn’t get out of his head was that when he finally did, he had to report ‘Penny Moss’ as missing. He didn’t know who Penny Moss was, Penny Moss never existed. Penny Moss never wanted to exist.
“She ran away all the time. She’ll come back,” Heather said.
They found Heather’s Louis Bag on the side of Mulholland Drive. They found Proxy Moss a few yards away. And from where she lay, you could just make out the sounds of the celebrity parties in the gated communities wafting up through the air. The smog of millennium culture kept Proxy Moss warm while she rested forever, thus is the funeral march of the Princess of Calabasas.