“Take a real bit of LA home with you,” I shout to surfboard clones heading towards the biggest set of waves. Further down the boardwalk is a man selling hotdogs; we both look at each other and nod with faces that suggest our souls have melted away in the sun. A girl with dark brown hair comes to my stall and inspects my merchandise. Most of it found on the very beach she has been lying on. She wears sunglasses so I can’t see the colour of her eyes and a shirt so I can see her breasts. I wonder if this means if she is wearing underwear.
“If you need help with anything, let me know.” I say to her. Her head moves up in my direction, but her sunglasses hide whether she heard me. She runs a few more shells through her fingers and then puts everything back where she found it, and walks down the boardwalk. I stand there watching her walk away, the way her ass carries her into the sunshine. Her beauty may turn so many heads that the sun will stay up longer just to see her.
“Hey, Johnson,” Turner says to me.
“Get this,” he says, with a smile bearing teeth so I know what he says next will be hilarious. “What if we send the receptionist up to Angela in accounting with a note that just says – you’re fired!”
We both start laughing and Owen walks into the room with three beers in the bottle and asks what we were laughing about. Turner repeats the jokes to Owen and he laughs so hard that he almost knocks over the beers before he can hand them to us. We look out of our boardroom. The building towers over London. We founded the company ourselves ten years ago as teenagers, now we sip cold ones overlooking the houses of parliament.
“It’s the simple things,” I say to Turner and Owen. They both nod. We finish our drinks and head into the lobby. On the last day of the month we always head out somewhere to celebrate our success. It may be extravagant and somewhat cliché, but it’s the simple things. Our elevator carries us down into the lobby. We stop by the reception desk and talk to Jenny, our intern on her break from university. She knows where all the good places are. She tells us about a club she knows where all the students go nowadays and for some reason that’s the crowd that we follow. It must look cool for them, when we walk in the club and buy the champagne. We’re dressed up in our suits ready to go out. The radio comes on and plays the song from the beginning of Reservoir Dogs and I decide that I’d like to be Mr Pink.
The sun has set and now the worst of California has come out to play under the shroud of nightfall. I fold up my stand into the back of my car; three trips across the boardwalk to fit everything in the trunk. My money stays on me at all times and I can tell from my untouched merchandise that it is the only valuable thing I have to offer. My last trip allows me to get close to my car. The darkness makes the ocean waves crashing on the beach seem violent. The negative force of nature. The beach is quiet now, other than the sound of night clubs in the distance and a squeal of a car horn echoing through the streets. A man walks up to me under the cover of the darkness.
“Give me all your money or I’ll kill you where you stand,” he says, grabbing my throat.
“Don’t kill me, please. I have a daughter.” I say. I lie.
I hand the man the scraps of dollar bills I own and chuck him a few coins with the faces of dead presidents on it for good measure too. I hand him a necklace with seashells on it.
“I don’t want this shit,” he says. He can see the disappointment in my face. He indents it with a single punch. I lay on the floor, my tears mixing with seashells and the waves keep breaking the beach.
The booth overlooks the dance floor and the three of us feel like emperors of the coliseum. People dance before us on the floor like it’s their last night on earth. Champagne flows out the bottle and the three of us clink our glasses together and the noise sounds like a schoolboy playing the triangle. We sit and drink, we smoke and we take girls home in our cars and we fuck. The morning after hangover serves as a memento to the preceding night. I clear my head with a couple of aspirin and a glass of cranberry juice in ice. I wait for my blonde debutant to leave and after my chief cooks me breakfast I head back into London, into the office. I drive a convertible even though it rains all the time. I drive past the Thames, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and feel an overwhelming sense of pride about the country. For better or for worse, we’ve been here longer – we’re old. And America hasn’t got shit on that. I park and head into the reception and talk to Jenny about my night. I go straight up to my office and turn on my computer, turn around and look out of my window at the ever moving city in front of me. It’s the simple things.