Shanna Mahin’s acclaimed debut novel, “Oh! You Pretty Things,” traces the ups and downs of Jess, a troubled personal assistant who bears all the baggage of third-generation Hollywood. It debuts in paperback Feb. 16.
In this excerpt, the fast-paced scene and foibles of Jess on Day 2 of a high-pressure gig.
Jess Gets a New Job
I’m riding down Lincoln Boulevard on the morning of my second day for Tyler when my phone rings, an 818 number I’d normally let go to voice mail, but I am a celebrity personal assistant now, after all. I mean, what if it’s something important?
I stop at the corner and slip in my ear buds, balancing my foot against the curb. “This is Jess,” I say, pressing my mouth to the mic as a Humvee guns through the yellow light.
“Hi, Jess, it’s Steve Collier.”
“Oh, hey,” I say. Shit. Tyler’s business manager.
I immediately get a flutter in my chest like I’ve done something wrong, which, hello? I’ve been on the job for exactly one golden day.
“So, you had your first day yesterday,” he says.
“How was it?”
“Oh my God, are you kidding? It was great.”
“Good, good,” he says, and I can hear the buzz of an office behind him, people talking, computer keys clacking. “Tyler thought you were great, really top-notch, but there’s the little problem with your tardiness.”
The flutter in my chest migrates south into my stomach. “I’m sorry, my what?”
“Tyler told me he asked for you at ten, and you were almost half an hour late.”
“No,” I say. “Absolutely not. He said ten, but then he changed it to ten thirty. I’m positive about this.”
“There’s no need to be defensive,” he says soothingly.
What the fuck? I’m not being defensive, I’m being accurate. In my own defense. Aren’t I?
“Listen, Jess, I don’t want you to get off on the wrong foot. My suggestion is that you build an extra few minutes into your commute time so this doesn’t happen again.”
“Okay. Uh, thanks for the heads-up.”
“No problem,” Steve says. “I’m sure we’ll talk soon.”
“Great,” I say, but he’s already terminated the connection.
I wheel in on my bike at 10:25. I’m still not sure if that’s five minutes early or twenty-five minutes late, but I dump the bike in the courtyard like it’s on fire and paw frantically through my road-ravaged hair as I burst in the front door.
“Hello?” I call out, softly.
Zelda leaps from the sofa and gallops over to greet me, burying her nose in my crotch.
“In here,” Tyler calls from the kitchen, where I find him pacing and smoking in what looks like acute agitation. “I’m so glad you’re here! The espresso machine isn’t working. Again. I hate this thing. Can you run to Starbucks before we get into our day? Double cappuccino, extra dry.”
“Absolutely.” I’m hyperaware that I’m possibly late, but I can’t say anything, so my voice sounds all fake and tinny in my ears. “Do you want me to take my bike? I can probably get there and back in about twenty minutes.”
“Oh God, no,” Tyler says. “I can’t get through the next four minutes without caffeine, let alone twenty. Take the Bronco.”
In addition to the Carrera and the vintage 280SL Mercedes that lives under a car cover tailored better than anything in my closet, Tyler has a restored mid-’70s pistachio-green Ford Bronco, with a layer of mud along the sides that looks like it was painted on by a prop stylist. I’m there and back in nine minutes, mostly thanks to the fact that I hit a lull at what is normally a bustling Starbucks location.
Tyler makes a face when he takes his first sip.
“Too much milk.”
“Here,” I offer. “Try mine?”
He wrinkles his nose. “Don’t be silly. It’s fine.”
“I can run back and get you another. Or maybe I can look at your espresso machine. You know I have a degree in barista service.”
He laughs. “Don’t worry about it, Jess. I’m pretty low maintenance about this kind of stuff.”
Uh-oh. Death knell. When people say they’re low maintenance in L.A., it inevitably means that they’re anything but.
For the record, that was the last day Tyler’s coffee was “fine.”
* * *
Excerpt from OH! YOU PRETTY THINGS by Shanna Mahin. Reprinted by arrangement with DUTTON, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2015 by Shanna Mahin
Shanna Mahin just moved 1,500 miles away from L.A. and still it consumes her. She writes about celebrity obsession, body issues and fucked-up mother/daughter relationships — sometimes for money, sometimes for love, but both are her sweet spot. See shannamahin.com for the braggy parts.