Millicent was a literary groupie and her plan was simple. “I’ll screw F. Scott Fitzgerald and end up a character in one of his books.”
Here’s how she planned to do it.
First of all she painted on her best Cupie-doll lips. Then she checked her long imitation pearl necklace that hung down to her stomach to make sure it wouldn’t tangle when she flapped for Millie was a flapper and this was the Jazz Age. You could hardly expect one without the other.
She checked her mascara and smoothed her shimmering silk stockings down over her shapely legs with the palm of her hand. They were magnificent. Then she looked back to check the seams. They were straight. She adjusted the angle of her hat, picked up her beaded purse and was out the door, hot on F. Scott’s trail.
Millie hadn’t always been a literary groupie. It’s not as if she woke up one day and said, after eating her Wheaties, “I know what I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be a literary groupie.”
The process had started slowly when she lost her cookies with her professor in her college English class. Later he did a description of her “well turned” legs in his book, “Coeds I have known.” He meant “known” in the Biblical sense, of course. It became a best-seller and gave her a taste of fame.
Then a dime-store novelist met her at a book signing, and the same thing happened. After one night with Millie he named a character after her. He described her to a T. She was thrilled when she read it, convinced she’d seen proof of her own magic. Now she’d set her sights higher. She decided to do the horizontal bop with the best, all the way to the top, and see what would happen. She got off the trolley at the Biltmore, but before she went in, she unfolded her compact and re-rouged her cheeks. A man passing by in a model T whistled like a hungry wolf.
“Look out F. Scott,” thought Millie. “I’ll be coming on like Gangbusters.”
Besides the fact that she’d read This Side of Paradise she knew nothing about him, not even what he looked like, only his name.
“Which way is the book signing?’ she asked the bellboy, “Mr. Fitzgerald is expecting me.”
He directed her to the elevator.
“Top floor,” and pointed the way.
The room, when she got there, was packed.
From the corner she heard, “POP!” They were drinking champagne. A waiter arrived with a tray. She took one and while drinking it, regarded herself in a nearby mirrored column. The woman she saw there looked twenty-two. She took off her hat and revealed her bobbed auburn hair. The fringe on her little black dress hung just to her knees and below that were her marvelous silk-clad legs.
“They are well-turned. And worth a full paragraph at least.”
As much as she admired the woman in the mirror she admired herself even more.
“But what’s this? Smeared lipstick?”
That would never do.
“Which way to the ladies room?” she asked the waiter when he returned for her empty glass. She took another. He motioned to a door across the crowded room.
“I’ve got to check my face.”
The ladies room suited the hotel. It was art-deco. On one side was a long white marble counter, the faucet gold plated, above it the mirror. Two chairs were beneath it. On the other side of the room were the stalls. A woman was sitting in one of the chairs checking her mascara. Millie could tell from her dress and shoes and purse she was pure upper-crust. Her bottle of Faberge was still out on the counter.
She snatched it, saying, “Do you mind?” and gave herself a squirt.
The woman never even looked up, though she noticed what happened. She was too busy, her face only inches from the mirror.
“What’s the matter?”
“It’s this eyelash; it’s stuck on my eyeball!”
“Here, let me help.”
Millie wet a towel and touched it gently. It came off at once.
“Thank you. I owe you.”
“Then you can pay me back. Tell me, which one is F. Scott Fitzgerald?”
The woman’s face brightened.
“You don’t know him? Just what are you here for? It’s an exclusive signing you know.”
“Of course, I know that.”
Millie looked around. It was quiet and seemed safe enough. She took the woman into her confidence and revealed her entire plan. The professor, the unknown novelist, and now… an author of repute. When she was finished the woman looked at her legs and admitted,
Well, you’re right. They do deserve at least a whole paragraph! Maybe a whole chapter!”
“Maybe,” Millie confided, “an entire book!”
“But how exactly are you going to do it?” the woman said keenly. She had an appetite for the stuff.
“With a little of this!”
Millie pulled up the hem of her dress revealing one of her awesome legs.
“And a little of this!”
She did a bit of bump and grind.
And if that fails, a little of this!”
She reached in her purse and took out a small bottle with a gold spoon attached to the cap with a chain. Obviously, the champagne had gone to her head. It was cocaine.
“Oh, You HAVE been drinking, Honey. You’d better do a spoonful yourself.”
After Millie did a spoonful, she offered one to the lady.
“That’s OK Honey, I don’t indulge.”
Millie understood. The lady had too much class.
They talked a minute longer and the lady promised she’d point out Fitzgerald.
“So you know who he is?”
“All of us southern girls know him. I know a girl that actually dated him! We’re like this,” she crossed two fingers.
“It’s really nice of you to help out!
“Don’t mention it.”
“But before we go out, I need to pee.”
“Don’t let me stop you. It’s the champagne and cocaine that does that.”
Millie went into the stall. She peed and found there was no toilet paper.
“Say, can you give me some paper?”
“I don’t have any paper. Can you hand me some?”
Nothing at all.
She pulled up her panties and lowered her dress and opened the door to the stall.
Nothing, nobody, and most of all, when she saw her purse was still there, no cocaine.
Just then a black attendant appeared at the counter to straighten the towels. Millie walked over, opened the door and looked out.
The room was seething with people. Over in the corner where the champagne just popped a large crowd was singing.
“Can you tell me which one is F. Scott Fitzgerald?” she asked the attendant.
“Why yes, Mam.”
The attendant was short and had to stand on her toes.
“It’s hard to see, Mam, there’s so many people, and they’re so far away. But there he is, standing by Miss Zelda.”
Millie recognized the woman standing by the handsome fresh-faced man. She’d seen her close up. Now she was putting something under his nose, and after she finished, he sneezed. They started laughing harder than ever.
“Who is Miss Zelda anyway?” she asked hot and bothered.
“Why,” the attendant answered looking puzzled, “Don’t you know? Miss Zelda be his wife.”
Ironic isn’t it, how much shattered dreams sound like champagne?