Striking Johnny Depp's Dog With A Bible
By Rodger Jacobs
The Institute must have been setting her up for failure, Sharon thought, otherwise why would they have saddled her with the impossible Malibu door-to-door route? Getting someone to respond to a doorbell’s summons at one of the posh houses that dot the Pacific Coast Highway, let alone a living and breathing person willing to listen to a spiel from a Bible-toting sales lady, was a task dreamed up by a gleeful sadist.
Sharon had no doubt that the Institute For Higher Consciousness Through Integrated Theosophy was stacked to the rafters with sadists and con artists. “Most charitable religious institutions are,” she said to a friend over scones at a Brentwood café one recent afternoon.
“Then why do you keep getting suckered in?” her friend implored.
Sharon hiked her shoulders and washed down the last bite of the flaky pastry with the dark, ash-colored remains of her double espresso. “It’s all I know,” she said.
Sharon was addicted to double espressos. She also had a dependency on tuna salad sandwiches, John Garfield movies, and fringe religious groups. She spent her formative years at a Topanga Canyon commune devoted to the study and worship of wood nymphs. Her mother and father, Tristan and Cronus, nee Lisa and Harvey Martens, founded the commune in 1979 with a slim handful of followers that blossomed by the late 80s into 7,000 members worldwide.
Sharon’s birth name was Gull Wing but when she turned eighteen and left the commune she had a legal name change to the more realistic Sharon Martens. Tristan and Cronus expressed moral outrage at her decision and condemned her to wander the “acid bath” streets of Los Angeles “without aim or purpose” until she repented for her blasphemy.
Ten years later, the curse that Tristan and Cronus cast upon Sharon’s head was still in effect.
She came to the Institute after a dismal run as a fund-raiser and booster for a sect based in Silverlake that believed in the imminent resurrection of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. The 300-member sect made regular pilgrimages to McPherson’s tomb at Forest Lawn to pray over her tomb that they likened to the tomb of Lazarus.
The Institute sold reconditioned Gideon Bibles door-to-door for $100 donations. “Reconditioned” meant that the binding had been re-set to accommodate a 150-page screed by the Institute’s founder, J. Johnson Jules, called “The Newer Testament”, that warned of an impending worldwide apocalypse. Members of the Institute, Jules warned, could escape the lakes of fire through the regular ingestion of opiates.
Sharon had ingested her fair share of opiates the morning she parked her black Honda CRX in one of the public lots at Will Rogers State Beach and, tote bag full of reconditioned Bibles in hand, started her trek down Pacific Coast Highway.
She wore a simple, flowing white cotton dress that exposed her slim arms and generous bosom to the sun. Her skin had the lush, dark look of waxed wood but it was soft as a gull’s underbelly to the touch. In another lifetime she could have been a fashion model or a trophy bride or a porn star but her brain was already too scrambled by mixed religious doctrines, more espresso than any human being was ever meant to consume, a hopeless crush on the late John Garfield that was beginning to border on psychotic infatuation, and, of course, the opiate mixtures provided by J. Johnson Jules.
Sharon marveled at how close to the highway the waves of the Pacific Ocean actually broke. At the first door she approached, a Mexican maid answered and professed an ignorance of the English language when Sharon launched into her pitch. There was no human interaction despite repeated aggressive knocking and doorbell pumping at the next five spectacular beach front homes. She knew it would be like this all day long and into the night but she was under strict orders to not return to the Institute compound in Calabasas without selling at least three Bibles.
After two hours of pointless door-to-door searching she came upon a lavish shopping center on the west side of the highway’s ribbon near Malibu Colony. There was a large grocery store, a bank, and several small shops and eateries. Sharon bought a double espresso and a biscotti at Starbuck’s and roamed the open-air shopping center with her bag of Bibles.
It was the second espresso that lubricated the creaky mechanisms of her creative capacity. She still had $400 in her savings account. If she withdrew $300, discarded of three Bibles and claimed that she sold them, Sharon would be welcomed back into the Institute, just in time for the late afternoon poppy tea ceremony.
Sharon withdrew the $300 from the ATM and then began searching for a garbage bin in which to dump the three books of scripture. But she couldn’t do it. The bad karma from throwing holy writ into trash cans was more than her future could bear. Once again, the creative side of her nature provided the answer: “Toss them,” the inner voice said, “toss the books over the fences and gated doors of three homes at random.”
Sharon was so pleased with the concept that she promised her creative side -- which she regarded as an entity separate from herself – that she would strive hard to nurture it along more in the future.
The fist house had a ten-foot high redwood door fronting PCH. Sharon simply flung a Bible over the fence, heard it land with a dull thud on the other side, and moved on to a house seven doors down. At that house, a triangular-shaped home with port-hole style windows and a roof that appeared to be of sheet metal, she heaved a Bible over a high gate. Instead of a dull thud, greeting her ears was a sharp smack and then the heart-sickening yelp of a stricken beast.
Her knees were scraped and bleeding from the manic scramble to the top of the gate. She landed hard on the patio and heard a distinct snap as her tendon decided it wanted no part of such a acrobatic feat. The dog, a well-conditioned Rottweiler, lay on its side on the brick patio, tongue lolling with every deep inhale and exhale, a neat gash on the top of its head where the sharp corner of the Bible struck the poor animal.
For the first time in years Sharon found herself praying to the wood nymphs to restore the stricken animal to good health and disposition. She was praying and chanting so loudly and with such manic fervor that she didn’t hear the alarm screaming or see the slovenly dark-haired man in black slacks and torn T-shirt standing near the sliding glass door. The man’s shirt was smudged with oil paint and he held a delicate paint brush in his slim hand.
The sliding glass door opened with a whoosh and the man, paint brush still in hand, emerged onto the patio. The girl, he could plainly see, was hysterical. The dog, as usual, a lazy mutt, was laying on his side in the sun, drooling like a fool as he soaked in the sun, and the gash on the animal’s head was no more than a minor scrape, really, but to the frantic young woman it must have looked worse, much worse.
“It’s alright,” he said, stepping forward. His voice was as smooth and comforting as a deep pillow. “Really, he’s okay.” He noticed the Bible on the bricks. “Did you throw that over my gate?”
Sharon confessed her guilt with an incessant nodding of her head. Her face was streaked with tears.
“Well, I know it can’t be a supplement to the Sunday paper, so would you like to explain your actions?” he asked.
But Sharon could not explain herself. Looking up at the gentle man through her watery eyes all she could see, through the opium mist, was the object of her affections.
“You – you’re John Garfield,” she declared. “Are you sure the dog’s alright?”
“The dog is fine. And I’m John Depp, not John Garfield.”
Sharon sat on the patio, her severed tendon throbbing, and studied his face, searching for a trace of John Garfield. It wasn’t there. Her eyes – or something more vital and sinister – had failed her.
Long after the Sheriff’s Deputies took the strange and beautiful woman away, Depp was haunted by her. Not haunted in a romantic way but in a way that tugged at his artist’s imagination. He replaced the canvas he was working on with a fresh one and began dabbling with the right combination of colors and texture that he would need to capture that face in paint. It was a face all-too familiar to L.A., he thought, and he had seen that visage on many a human head but she, like no one he had ever seen before, possessed it like no other: people who cannot conceptualize the fact that they have lost complete control of their minds.
© 2004-05, Rodger Jacobs
All Rights Reserved