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Beverly Hills Adjacent

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If its pilot season, working actor Mitch Gold probably hasn’t noticed that his wife, June Dietz, has a really good new haircut. Or that she made spicy Thai shrimp from the Farmer’s Market for dinner. During pilot season, Mitch becomes another man. And June, a tenure track poetry professor at UCLA, suddenly isn’t sure that she likes what she sees. While Mitch competes for acting jobs with the casually confident Willie Dermot, June is being tortured by Willie’s insufferably uptight wife Larissa and the other ...

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Overview

If its pilot season, working actor Mitch Gold probably hasn’t noticed that his wife, June Dietz, has a really good new haircut. Or that she made spicy Thai shrimp from the Farmer’s Market for dinner. During pilot season, Mitch becomes another man. And June, a tenure track poetry professor at UCLA, suddenly isn’t sure that she likes what she sees. While Mitch competes for acting jobs with the casually confident Willie Dermot, June is being tortured by Willie’s insufferably uptight wife Larissa and the other stay-at-home-exercisers at her daughter Nora’s preschool. June’s not clicking with anyone in L.A. these days.

Enter Rich Friend, smart, age-appropriate, bookish, and a wildly successful television producer, who focuses on June the way nobody has since she moved to L.A. June doesn’t just fall into an affair with Mitch: she wallows in it. But she’s also feeling guilty and unsure about what the next step might be: leave her marriage for her lover, keep both going, or cut off her fantasy life?

Set in the real west L.A., Beverly Hills Adjacent is satire with a giant heart; a sparkling debut novel with a lovable and very modern heroine at its center.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Steinhauer and Hendra's debut casts a reproachful gaze on the television industry as hopeful actor Mitch Gold stumbles from audition to audition. It's pilot season, and as Mitch fails to land a role and his career woes burden his marriage, his wife, UCLA poetry professor June Dietz, begins to lose sight of tenure and catch the eye of a television writer. Though Mitch is affable and insecure, there's a predictable rhythm to his troubles: first, he auditions, then he panics. Hendra and Steinhauer are at their best when they stick to June, who is lovable and sympathetic: an amateur gourmet with a caustic wit and a longing for New York, she loves her daughter and despises the mommy politicking that runs rampant at preschool, providing a rich line of comedy as svelte mommies say they love cupcakes before cutting them into bits and spitting them out, and ostracize June for having a career. The marriage and Hollywood troubles will be familiar to fans of light Tinseltown fare, but the authors' sense of humor gives this book plenty of pep. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
A debut novel about the TV industry during pilot season. An English professor at UCLA, June Dietz is out of place in Hollywood. But her husband is an actor, and his quest for work rules their lives. It's not surprising, then, that June falls for the handsome TV producer who likes poetry. Will she leave her husband, or will she find a way to save her marriage? This is the question that fuels the plot, but it's unlikely that readers will care much about the answer. Steinhauer (Los Angeles bureau chief of the New York Times) and Hendra (How To Cook Your Daughter: A Memoir, 2005) present June-a professional woman and a mother-as the real, righteous antithesis of the "stay-at-home exercisers" and other L.A. caricatures who people the novel, but June is no more appealing and at least as self-absorbed. On the whole, this novel does not suffer from an overabundance of realism. Major events turn on the fact that the heroine has either forgotten her cell phone or turned it off-a plot device that is annoying once, and which becomes ridiculous with repeated use. As satire, the book doesn't tell us anything we don't already know about Los Angeles, though there may be a potential audience in readers who long to know how a TV pilot gets made. Unfortunately those readers will have to endure such prose as, "He leaned quietly against a wall with a large white sign that read HOT SET, which meant that the room, which had been made to look like a coroner's office, would be used soon and should not be disturbed."Not very good.
From the Publisher
“Crisp, fast and sharp, Beverly Hills Adjacent has an ear for the crazy cadences of Hollywood, marriage and modern life.”—Meg Wolitzer, author of The Ten-Year Nap

"A smart novel about a Hollywood couple trying to survive TV pilot season."—People StyleWatch

"The authors' sense of humor gives this book plenty of pep."—Publishers Weekly

"A laugh-out-loud novel about the skewed mores and hungry hearts of Hollywood."—People

"Steinhauer and Hendra have a gift for Hollywood vapidspeak."—New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312638368
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/13/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.58 (w) x 8.38 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

JENNIFER STEINHAUER is the Los Angeles bureau chief of The New York Times. JESSICA HENDRA is the author of How To Cook Your Daughter: A Memoir. They both live in Los Angeles.

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Read an Excerpt

Beverley Hills Adjacent

CHAPTER 1

The trouble with starring in a network television show about a bipolar dentist who is looking for love on the Internet is that no matter how deft the flossing puns, or how diverting the high jinks with your Puerto Rican hygienist, it all comes down to the time slot. For Mitch Gold, this was the unpleasant axis upon which his world spun.

"Hello?"

"Mitch Gold, please"

"This is Mitch."

"Hello, Fiona from Creative Artists here. Can you hold for Tim Zelnick?"

"Sure."

"Hi, Mitch, it's Tim, and Angie Varone is on the line too. How's our favorite bipolar dentist?"

"Hi, guys! So how did Molar Opposites do last night?"

"Well," Tim answered, "it came in fourth."

Mitch stared out the window and noticed the parched garden. "Fourth? Yikes."

"Hey," Tim said, "what do you want? You're up against American Idol. But I talked to ABC. They're still very committed. They're gonna run a bunch of promos during Brothers & Sisters and see if they can bring in more women. They just want it to do a little better every week."

Mitch took a breath. "What were the numbers?"

"Well, it's a blue-state show, no question. The Hispanic audience eighteen to forty-nine was good, you were strong there. But you droppedin the second fifteen minutes. You pulled a 1.8. I think the network would like to see a 2.5."

"Wow." Mitch was quiet for a second. "They want a million more people. How can we do that?"

"Hey, you never know. It's a good show," Tim said. "And you're fantastic in it, Mitch, seriously."

Angie Varone piped up. "I do have to wonder why they put Rosie in that purple skirt. Wardrobe really dropped the ball there. She looked like a walking Jamba Juice."

"Really?" Mitch asked.

"Totally. Anyway, hang in there, Mitch."

"Thanks, Angie. And Tim. See ya."

Mitch went to hang up from the call with his agents but hit the mute button instead. In this fateful move—one that led Tim and Angie to believe that Mitch had hung up when in fact he was still listening—the truth leaped out from behind the telephonic curtain.

"Tim, you still there?" Angie asked.

"I'm here. Did you actually see that piece of shit last night?"

"No, I watched Idol. I saw that skirt on one of the ads."

"Well, it blows." Tim said. "That never stopped a hit, but with a 1.8, I bet it was behind the Weather Channel. I can't believe the network's gonna let it go more than another week."

Mitch heard someone—probably Angie—take a deep slurp from what he imagined was a venti vanilla latte, with Splenda.

"They won't dump that many Hispanic viewers just like that. But I agree it's a long shot." She continued, "Mitch books a lot. But man, what is this, his eighth failed series? He's had his chances. If Molar Opposites gets canceled and Mitch doesn't get another pilot this season, I think we should drop him."

"Yeah." Tim agreed. "Plus Mitch is a conflict with Willie Dermot, and Willie's got more cachet and a higher quote."

"Right, but if I have to take one more call from Willie's bony-ass wife sniveling about her husband getting passed over for Jack Black, I'm gonna open a vein. I'd love to know which fucking intern gave that freakazoid my cell number."

"Angie, that's why God invented caller ID. So anyway, let's give ittill the end of pilot season. If Gold doesn't get anything, we cut him loose."

"Okay." Slurp. "Where do ya wanna go for lunch? Craft?"

Mitch hung up the phone, lunged for his nine iron hidden behind the door, and began smashing it on the sofa. Fucked. He was fucked. Willie Dermot was going to get a hit this season and Molar Opposites would be canceled. That would mean the end of Mitch Gold at CAA, and perhaps the end of his career. And that he could not afford.

Six months ago, the Golds had embarked on badly needed renovations to their 1926 Spanish-style house, but the contractor had run off with the $150,000 deposit—perhaps back to Russia, who knew?—and now they had no savings. Plus, the writers' strike had added further financial pain.

A character actor such as Mitch might easily go two years between jobs. So having no savings and no steady income was a calamity waiting to befall the Gold family.

Should Mitch be dropped from his agency, he would have damaged-goods disease, and everyone in town would fear catching it. His auditions would diminish, and the ones he got would become perilously fraught, enveloped with the stench of desperation. Desperation was repellent to already desperate producers. Mitch would be reduced to Viagra commercials and trade shows to keep the bank from foreclosing.

June must never know.

 

June squinted up Sunset Boulevard from out the passenger window of the town car, which had slowed in front of a low-rise strip mall. She saw a liquor store with the R in LIQUOR hanging from its sign like a fallen rock climber, a Shakey's Pizza, and a twenty-four-hour tattoo parlor. There was no evidence of a swanky nightclub. "Are you sure this is the block?" she asked her husband.

"I don't think those security guards are here to protect the pepperoni," Mitch said as the car slid through a line of beefy, beckoning men in black T-shirts gesturing determinedly like ground controllers at Andrews Air Force Base. Mitch and June had indeed arrived at their destination, that rite of winter, the ABC All Star Round Up Party, a repository of cast members from all the network shows who gather to walk the redcarpet and bask in the glory of good ratings, network executive adoration, and media scrutiny.

From the backseat of their town car Mitch and June took in the mass of clipboard-bearing interns standing on the sidewalk, and beyond them, a troupe of entertainment reporters crowded around the front of the unmarked nightclub. Young women in something approximating prom wear, their faces twisted with joy at being at a Hollywood event courtesy of a college friend who worked as a production assistant on The View, gathered near the door.

June felt something scratching her back. She reached behind her, and pulled a caramel-coated candy wrapper from the crack in the seat. She wanted out of the dingy car. "Mitch, why are we sitting here?"

"Let's see if someone comes."

Mitch looked hopefully out the smoked window to the spot where, last year, at this very same event, one of the ubiquitous network girls had instantly materialized. At that time he had been on the massive hit Beverly Hills Adjacent, on which he played an alcoholic plastic surgeon. But that was last year. (After Mitch made a crack about the head writer's bald spot, his character, Dr. Hyatt, was killed off by a patient whose left breast he had rendered sans nipple.)

For three minutes June itched behind the T-strap of her sandal, mulled the difference between parody and allegory, prayed that her four-year-old daughter, Nora, would not wake up at 5 a.m. again, and wondered with vague alarm if she had remembered to buy cake flour. Mitch chewed frantically on a wooden coffee stirrer that he had pulled from his pocket, one of the many he collected at Starbucks each week. It was a habit only slightly less off-putting than his proclivity for chewing the corners of used Post-it notes.

"Enough!" said June, grabbing the masticated stirrer and shoving it in her open evening bag. "I think we are more than capable of alighting from this car unassisted."

Mitch sighed. "We got an intern last year." He craned his neck out the town car window. "I mean, look at America Ferrera over there—she's got three!"

June heard a voice in her head trilling in a loop that had become increasingly familiar after a decade of network television parties. Whofucking cares? Who fucking cares? But her mouth uttered the words she had also come to memorize for these occasions. "Oh, sweetie, you're reading too much into this." She leaned over and opened the car door.

On the sidewalk, eyeing the red carpet, Mitch and June were stymied. Where to go? Finally a network intern, her name badge askew (Syndee, a curious name for a pudgy white girl clearly from the Inland Empire), loped toward them.

"Uhhhhhhh ... hi. Remind me who you are?"

"Mitch Gold."

"And friend?" Syndee said, glancing toward June.

"June Deitz. I'm his wife actually. Thanks, Syndee."

"Ah, it's SynDEE. So, do you wanna do the carpet?" SynDEE had already turned her eyes toward the limos arriving behind them.

"All right," Mitch said, and walked to the rug's crimson edge like a woman facing her bikini waxer. June trailed behind him. Suddenly the Golds were abandoned by SynDEE, who rushed toward a steel blue Prius pulling up to the curb. From the driver's seat emerged the TV megastar Michael Thomas O'Shea. His car was quickly commandeered by the valet, who ushered it away.

With the help of SynDEE, now animated, Michael Thomas and his wife, the actress Cass Martin, were escorted toward the carpet. Just finishing an eight-year run on a hospital drama, Eye See You, for which he had won four Emmys, Michael Thomas was instantly enveloped in a swirl of flashing bulbs and reporters screaming his name. As one of the few African American actresses who could open a movie, Cass was a singular draw herself. Her espresso-toned skin seemed untouched by a makeup artist, and she was inches taller than her shorter-than-you-would-have-thought husband.

With Cass in tow Michael Thomas ambled past Mitch and June, his phalanx of interns clearing a path around him. He wore dark jeans and a cotton T-shirt bearing the single word GREEN.

"Michael Thomas," squawked a tiny television reporter from E! "Who will Dr. Armstrong end up with in the final episode? Deb or Sandra?"

Michael Thomas countered, "You know, Brandy, tonight I really want to focus on what we in the Industry can do to heal our planet."

"Of course, Michael. So ... um, Deb?"

June and Mitch bravely pushed on down the carpet. A shout rang out from the pack of press gathered along the side. "Mitch! Molar Opposites guy!" Mitch realized the voice was coming from a photographer, and he turned instinctively toward him, his face exploding into a giant smile. "Mitch, can you move? You're blocking Marta," the photographer, moons of sweat soaking his underarms, said, referring to an arriving hot newcomer from Beverly Hills Adjacent. Turning bright red, Mitch tried to erase from his brain what had just happened.

Once inside, the first person they saw was a stunning Thai server sporting a long ponytail and white yoga pants and a loose shirt embellished with a large sun. Ah, Ra, sun god, June noted to herself, recognizing the preferred polytheistic deity for Angelenos' yoga wear and nightclubs.

"Uh-oh, this place is full of wactors," Mitch said, his word for waiter/actor.

June looked around. "Sweetie, this is a great sign for you! Ra protected his people from the dangerous primordial waters of the underworld. Maybe that is why the network had the party here."

"Two years ago Ra was a dangerous primordial 7-Eleven on this very same corner," Mitch shouted over the din of music. He grabbed a glass of pinot noir off a passing wactor's tray.

"Touché." June laughed. Finding humor in the face of humiliation was one of Mitch's enduring charms.

"But you know what," Mitch said, draping his arm over his wife's shoulders, "your point is well taken. This is still going to be a fun night. Let's drink the network's wine, or try to find some scotch. Anyway, I'd go to a cement-mixer trade show as long as I got a night out with you." June reached up and squeezed his hand.

The room, which June noted was loosely—very loosely—modeled on the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor, was almost entirely white. Vinyl banquettes were arranged in circles around giant plaster lions in a crouch. The walls were adorned with relief sculptures depicting small cats and topless women dancing in what appeared to be a festival of Hathor, but who were probably modeled on a scene from that orgy movie starring Tom Cruise.

Mitch looked around to see if he could spot any of his fellow cast members from Molar Opposites. The show had been a midseason replacement for a failed comedy starring an extraordinarily expensive celebrity as a self-help-book publisher whose life was perfect in every way but one: relationships. Mitch feared tonight would confirm what his agents had presaged last week: Molar Opposites would be losing its time slot to yet another show, this one about a failing sex-crimes detective who is successful in only one way: relationships. There remained a glimmer of hope, of course, that his show would not be canceled, but the lack of an intern was the first dismal augury.

"Hey, I see Rich Friend over there," Mitch said.

"Who?"

"Rich Friend and his wife, Justine Fein. They wrote that lesbian show, Hi Moms I'm Home."

"You play golf with him, right? Isn't he the one who wrapped his putter around a tree at Riviera?"

Mitch chuckled. "It was a five iron, June. But yeah, I shot a seventy-eight that day. He didn't take it well."

"Isn't it hard to write with one's spouse?"

"People do it all the time," Mitch said. "Sometimes writers divide it up by genre, say action or comedy, sometimes the man writes the guy parts, sometimes the woman writes the female parts. It just depends."

Bored by the idea of chatting up yet another television visionary, but intrigued with the idea of meeting the man attached to the absurd name Rich Friend, June agreeably grabbed Mitch's hand. They sauntered over to the food station, where Rich and Justine were debating the choice of sashimi or Yorkshire pudding.

"Hey, Rich, how's it going?" Mitch said. "Nice to see you, Justine. This is my wife, June."

June studied Rich. He had the body of tennis player, thin, muscular, but without those weird bulging biceps that men in Hollywood often sported. In short: a handsome man who looked his age.

After a quick hello with Mitch, Rich Friend turned his gaze to June, looking at her with what seemed utter fascination. "Mitch told me you teach poetry at UCLA?"

"I do." June waited for him to look behind her for someone else totalk to. At network parties, few people even asked what she did for a living, and once they heard, they suddenly had to use the restroom.

Rich remained focused on her. "Is it true that you actually studied Nibelungenlied in its original German?"

"Did Mitch tell you that?"

"No, I Googled you."

Slightly stunned, June felt her face get hot. "I thought people in this town only Googled themselves."

Rich laughed. "Well, research first, and then conclude. So did you?"

"It was a long time ago. You forget Middle High German once you pay off your student loans."

"Well, I'm awed."

The corners of Rich Friend's azure eyes crinkled up and seemed to animate his entire face. June noticed his teeth. They did not blind her with bleach tones, and his lips seemed alert with impending cleverness. He looked like someone she knew, but she could not quite place him.

Rich's wife chimed in: "After Berkeley I devoted a summer to reading all ninety thousand verses of the Mahabharata. I think I did ten."

"That's not the same kind of accomplishment, Justine," Rich said.

June looked at Justine to see if she registered this as an insult, but her face revealed nothing. Her thick blond hair fell to the middle of her back, and she was swathed in silk scarves. She was in no way fat, but no one would use the word "thin" to describe her either. She had warmly rounded edges, June noted, a sort of Kate Winslet, circa Sense and Sensibility . Her eyes, a deeper green than June had seen before, were partly obscured by her red oval glasses.

"I love that poem. What compelled you to take it on?" June asked, though in truth she found it incredibly tedious. Justine spent several minutes explaining her fascination with India, seeded during her year as an exchange student in high school, and the two compared notes on a variety of authors. Rich chimed in: "Did Justine mention she couldn't get off the toilet the first three weeks in Bombay?"

Justine laughed a little. "It's true. Delhi belly."

June smiled at them both, wondering when the conversation would end. Mitch jumped in again, and began to talk to Rich about his new driver.

"I have an open spot at Rustic Canyon this weekend. Wanna play?" Mitch asked.

"I can't. Aspen."

"So, another time?"

"For sure," Rich said.

Justine turned to Patrick Dempsey, who had just sidled up for a bear hug and plate of sashimi. Rich joined his wife and the TV star, but not before glancing at June once more with greater admiration than both the conversation and their minimal acquaintance seemed to merit. This was a sort she had seen before, the one who professionally shines his light on you, as if you were the first person he had ever met who actually spoke English, too, until the next customer comes along. Except that June, with nothing to offer the world of Hollywood commerce, was rarely the target of such an unfettered gaze.

"It was so nice to meet you, June."

"Later, potato," June said, oddly.

Rich Friend laughed.

Mitch and June glanced around, looking for someone else to talk to. Mitch's eyes fixed on a burly ginger-haired man. It was Willie Dermot, Mitch's longtime nemesis—a possible Duke of Wellington to Mitch's Napoleon—on an undersized white seat alongside his elegant, sharp-featured wife, Larissa.

Willie and Mitch, both tall and the same age, had similar abilities to play sarcastic, law-enforcing, or unbalanced. With his dark hair and Eastern European features, Mitch was viewed generally as the "urban" (i.e., Jewish) choice, whereas Willie, redheaded and fair skinned, would be the WASP alternative. And so it had been: two decades of the weatherman in a Hollywood blockbuster (Willie); town sheriff in a horror-film spoof (Mitch); sex-crimes investigator (both, many times); wacky friend of the bride on half-hour comedy (Willie); bipolar dentist (Mitch).

"Shit," Mitch muttered. "Why does Willie have to be here? He doesn't even have a show on ABC this season."

"How do you think I feel? Now I have to listen to Larissa Dermot spend twenty-five minutes describing the color pallette choices for the preschool auction."

"Well, I hope you brought a swatch book, because they see us."

Larissa's snug sheath dress accentuated her perfectly toned biceps, acquired by daily classes between school drop-offs and pickups at a Brentwood Krav Maga studio. Her iPhone sat humming on the table, downloading e-mails about flower arrangements for teacher appreciation week and her next dermatology appointment.

June pulled on her dress. She had meant to get her hair blown out for the party, but got distracted cleaning the errant carrot tops and dried-out fennel bulbs from the bottom shelf of her refrigerator. Next to Larissa, June always felt as if her thighs were pudgy, and she tucked her legs close together as she sat down. June had an untidy elegance, with a slightly heart-shaped face, decorated with delicate features, like an antique teacup on display in a breakfront. Her auburn hair, which frizzed in the humidity, fell just to her shoulders, and she cut it when it grew beyond them. Her eyes were dark brown, and held the bulk of her emotions, daggers when angry, dancing in the light when pleased. Her face, free of anything but lipstick, and her eyebrows, which were unwaxed, pegged her for "natural," which in Los Angeles was not a compliment for a woman over twenty-five.

"Hey, man, how's the show going?" Willie asked, hugging Mitch. Over Willie's shoulder, Mitch caught sight of a large network poster festooned with a montage of all the season's shows. Among the eight-by-ten publicity shots of medical dramas, situation comedies, Beverly Hills Adjacent, and three glossies of Michael Thomas O'Shea solo, the promotional photo for Molar Opposites, smaller than a baby tooth, poked out embarrassingly at the bottom of the poster.

"Did you get picked up for the back nine?" Willie pressed Mitch. June always wondered how Hollywood came to adopt a golf expression to refer to the final nine episodes of a new show's first season. Why didn't they use a swimming term? The final nine laps? She mused about this further, tuning Willie out.

"We're on the bubble," Mitch answered, now internally conceding that the degrading spot on the poster signaled the bubble had alreadyburst. "You guys opened huge this weekend," Mitch went on in a determinedly sunny tone, referring to Willie's role as the voice of villain Poison in the animated film Super Roach.

"Number one in the country and I'm a Happy Meal action figure!"

Mitch mentally added up foreign residuals, first network showing, and DVD sales of Super Roach, plus the toy thing. A million at least.

"That's some bucks," Mitch said. Larissa smiled and seemed to inflate like an anorexic puffer fish. June stared at Willie, who reminded her of that giant Paul Bunyan statue in Baxter, Minnesota. He had the same almost comically oversized shoulders, out of proportion to his scrawny legs. His grin was slightly lopsided, and his eyes seemed to vacillate between overzealous glee and sheer bewilderment. June stifled a giggle, thinking of Larissa as Willie's decidedly spindly blue ox.

Willie went on. "Hey, I caught your little film at the ArcLight this weekend. I wish I could afford to do quality work like that, but you gotta feed the bulldog!"

"Yeah, ten screens, and I'm an action figure at Whole Foods," Mitch cracked.

June attempted to change the conversation. "So, who do you guys like in the governor's race?"

"Whoever brings down our property taxes!" Larissa said, laughing.

"Well, property taxes are statutorily determined in California. In fact—"

"Yeah, right, I forgot about that," Larissa interjected, hoping to head off yet another one of June's newspapery blah, blah, blahs with a quick toss to the safe world of their children's preschool. "June, will you be on the coloring committee at Tot Shabbat this winter?"

June was amused by how Larissa and Willie, who were not Jewish, had thrown themselves into the world of Temple Beth Israel, joining the synagogue in order to get their daughter, Chloe, a spot at the coveted preschool. They had no intention of converting, but they had learned to pray phonetically so as to participate in the random bread blessing and Passover seder, even as they continued to attend the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills every Sunday. "Um, I'm a little busy this semester," June said.

Mitch overheard this and began to smile broadly. "Hey, did Junetell you that she won the William Parker Riley Prize? It's a huge honor in the academic community. And she's up for a big grant this year, too." Mitch was immensely proud of June's professional accomplishments, which were many, though she rarely spoke about them. Two years ago, her students had nominated her for a teaching award at UCLA—something she never mentioned, even though she had come in second.

Larissa clucked, "Oh, I could never have time to fill out papers for stuff like that. I have so much to do at home. You know, that's why I left the business when Chloe was born. It is just so hard to work and be the kind of mom I want to be. And now I'm busy looking at schools, which is a major execution, because, as you know, Chloe's very gifted."

June nodded, remembering that the last time she saw very-gifted Chloe she was chowing down on a dollop of paste. "Yes, that must be quite an execution."

June thought about trying to activate that feature which makes your own cell phone ring and reached inside her bag to grab it, and a soggy wooden stirrer fell out onto the table. Larissa looked repulsed, and June quickly stowed the stick back in her purse.

At that moment a youngish man in pleated khakis with a reporter's pad in his shirt pocket approached Mitch. "Hi, I'm Owen Thrush from the Calgary Herald!" he said. "Molar Opposites! You're big in Canada!"

And so the lovelorn bipolar dentist gave his one and only interview of the evening. Calgary Herald. Roughly twenty-one seconds.

Q: Is mental illness common among medical professionals in the United States?

A: I think we really are highlighting disabilities in an empowering way.

Q: Are you coming back next season?

A: Here's hoping!

Willie snickered as Owen Thrush walked away. Mitch looked sheepish. The four made plans for a family picnic at Roxbury Park, which June knew Larissa would cancel, likely under the pretense of a hideous lactose incident that had left Chloe incapacitated.

Twelve minutes later Mitch and June were back on Sunset waitingfor their driver. The hem of June's dress had snagged on a plaster sphinx and her hair was beginning to frizz at the ends. June noticed a woman's head bobbing up and down in the backseat of a passing car.

"You don't see a lot of postparty blow jobs anymore. Why?"

Mitch peered over June to take in the action. "Shame, really." June giggled, but Mitch began to stare at the ground. "We're getting canceled. That's clear."

The driver pulled up and they poured themselves back into their repellent strawberry air freshener/Winston Light-smelling car.

"I seriously could puke," June said. "What kind of person creates a cardboard strawberry, dips it in toxic chemicals, and proclaims it a nice alternative to body odor?"

"You're right. No more town cars to Hollywood events. Let's move to Oregon!"

"Oregon? I don't like the shoes they wear in Oregon."

"What?"

"Those ugly rubber boots. And what would you do there anyway?"

"I don't know, do theater again. Finally read The Faerie Queene with you by the fireplace. Watch you make gnocchi."

"Oh, gnocchi never works at home. Anyway, I'll take that under advisement. In the meantime, here in Los Angeles, do you want to go to the Apple Pan? The food at that party was inedible."

"Why not?" Mitch raised his voice, a bit too much as usual, addressing the driver. "Take us to Pico and Westwood please." The driver tugged on his cell phone earpiece.

"Huh?"

"I said Pico and Westwood. Sorry for interrupting. Thank you!" Mitch pulled a new wooden stick out of his jacket pocket. "Was I just rude?"

The car had turned west on Santa Monica Boulevard and June was looking out the window, trying to see if bougainvilleas were starting to bloom. In the wash of the streetlights, she could make out their hot pink buds, licking at the night air. "Yes, you were rather rude, frankly."

"Well he wasn't listening."

The town car pulled up to the famous hamburger spot—a midcentury shack of a restaurant slumped under the neighboring low-rise, itsgreen faux-thatched roof seemingly sunk in on itself—and Mitch and June grabbed a place at the curved counter.

Sitting under a cloud of hickory grease, among lobster-shift utility workers, hipsters on their way home, and a group of drunken teenage girls in halters who maybe recognized Mitch, the couple dug into their burgers. June poured her Coke into a white paper cup. Mitch picked the tomato off his burger, tossed it aside, and snorted: "Big in Canada."

BEVERLY HILLS ADJACENT. Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Steinhauer and Jessica Hendra. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

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