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[IC][Story][Arc 1] Matinee Ojou-san
[IC][Story][Arc 1] Matinee Ojou-san
November 15, 2016 (ed: date subject to change)
Venice Beach, California

Akari stopped by the common room looking quite confused, and asked Alicia, "So I took an reservation just now, and the customer said he had heard about us from our video advertising.  I still don't understand.  What videos?  Did he watch our anime or something?"

Overhearing this, Tomoyo declared, "Oh, that's wonderful!  I'm so happy my video is helping your company."

"What kind of video?" Alicia asked.

"Well, maybe you should ask Brent-san and Tomo-san."


Tomoyo stood at the door of Tomo and Yomi's apartment, where I was hanging out, "I was trying to explain the advertisement you made for Aria Company, and well, I thought maybe you'd better explain it?"

"Ano..." Tomo mumbled.

I said, "Maybe it would be better if the video explained itself?"

"Just what have you two been up to?"  Yomi got up off the couch, with a look of interest in her face, and followed us all down to the common room.

Tomoyo Daidouji, our resident AV technician, plugged her laptop into the projector, and navigated to YouTube.

"Are all the videos on your channel of Sakura-chan?" Yomi asked.

"Unfortunately not," Tomoyo replied. "Ah, here it is."

"Whoa!  Four thousand views!  I'm a celebrity!" Tomo exploded her fist into the air.

I snarked, "That and a dollar bill will buy you a cup of coffee."

And then the video started.


"Hi, Art Fern here!" I voiced with a distinct nasal tone and fast talking.  "This is your Tea Time Movie program, just in time for after school tea time!"  I wore a thrift-store red suit, a oily-looking short black wig, and a fake mustache.  "Friends, I'm here to introduce the greatest products from around the world while you wait for your video.  But first, let me introduce the lovely, the talented, the eye-candy: Matinee Lady!"

Tomo walked into the frame, wearing a goofy grin, a shirt tied above her midriff, and a pair of Daisy Dukes.  "Hi everyone, hi Art, hi cameraman!"

"Friends, let me introduce you to a new service that you're going to wonder how you ever lived without it.  It's an amazing European import that you're going to love, guaranteed.  I'm talking about…"

I stepped over to the easel with a stack of printed cards, and removed the top one from the stack, revealing my sales topic.  "Gondola Rides!" I read off the sign.

"Oh wow, I love rides," Tomo prattled.

"Believe me honey, I know," I remarked, then continued, "We'll take you on a beautiful tour of the canals of Venice, California -- now newly expanded!  Turn our freak accident of water into a freaking amazing day on the water.

"Friends, that's right, you can try out one of the gondolas at L.A.'s premiere transit company," I pulled out the next card, "Aria Company!  Take a ride with one of our smooth gondolas and it'll be smooth sailing. You'll be floating on cloud nine, while still floating in the best canals in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.  I mean, just take a look at our lovely gondoliers."

I paged through 8x10 glossies on the easel of Alicia, Akira, and Athena, showing them in casual yet beautiful poses atop gondolas.  "Wowza.  Maybe I should have asked one of these beautiful women to be my Matinee Lady instead."

"Now come on, Art," Tomo pouted, "This is the twenty-first century.  An actress isn't just valued for her pretty face these days."

"Oh really?"

"For sure.  Harvey Weinstein told me that I gave the best performance he's had in a long time!"

"Honey, I bet that's how he always couches his reviews."  Damn, my fake accent slipped in that part.

Tomo wore a broad grin, somewhere between acting proud and trying really hard not to corpse.

I took a small boat anchor out from under the desk.  "Friends, these gondolas don't need anchors!"  I threw it behind me.

"Anchors away!" Tomo said, bubbily.

I pulled out a propeller, said, "These gondolas don't need props," and chucked it back.

"But you do."

"Friends, Aria Company gondoliers use a good old-fashioned oars to propel your gondola through the most beautiful canals on this side of the La Brea Tar Pits.  It's time to show you some footage of the Aria Company, hard at work."

Thirty seconds of B-roll played, showing the undines looking pretty snappy on their gondolas.  Most of the footage was taken as an establishing shot for Sakura films by Tomoyo, but there was enough there to make the gondoliers look damn fine at their jobs.

And then the feed abruptly cut back to Tomo and I, locked in an embrace.

"Oh, and we're back already!" I said as we quickly tore ourselves away from each other.  As Matinee Lady straightened out her shirt, I asked her, "So, what did you think?"

Tomo took a deep breath, "Well, baby."  She smiled.

"About the gondolas."

"Oh, that.  You know, I'm going to take a gondola ride.  And then, while I'm riding, I'm going to call all of my friends and family, and say 'Look at me, I'm on a boat!'"


"Yeah, I'm on a boat, Mother–"

"Okay!  Someone here really loves her family," I interrupted.  "And why wouldn't you want to bring your family along for this beautiful ride.  It's fun for the whole family, and good for them too.  Because Friends, I'm offering an all-natural, 100% organic, top shelf, prime cut, bona fide, crème de la corn gondola service.

"We'll take you from the ghetto to the traghetto.  Even if you're a menace, we'll take you in Venice.  You'd have to be be lazy, you'd have to be crazy, you'd have to be Patrick Swayze to pass up this offer."

"Oooh, spooooky."  Tomo held up her hands in front of her limply and slowly swayed back and forth, in the classic Japanese "I'm a ghost" maneuver.

With a nasal twang, I continued, "Each ride with Aria Company comes with real Venetian gondoliers, real Venetian boats, and real Venetian blinds.  Not like that fake Vegas Venice, this is all the real deal!"

"I don't like fake things," Tomo blurted out.

I glanced down toward her flat bust, before saying "I think we can all tell."

"Really?" Tomo asked blithely.

"If you're heavy, we don't care.  If you're tall, we don't care. If you're flat as a pancake," I nodded in Matinee Lady's direction, "we don't care.  If you've kneecapped a figure skater, we still don't care.  If you don't pay —" I slammed my wooden pointer down on the table with a snap "— that's when we do care!  We take dollars, we take euros, and we Venetians even take dogecoin."

"Such payment.  Wow!"

"Now, you might be wondering, just how do I get there?"  I revealed a chart of swirling lines that looked like a hybrid between a freeway map and the Yellow Sign, and pointed out the way with my stick.  "Just take the Ventura Freeway to the Golden State Freeway through the East L.A. Interchange to the Santa Monica Freeway, then swing down to the San Diego Freeway.  Then take the Slauson Cutoff…"

"Get out of the car, and cut off your Slauson!" Tomo elaborated.

"And then get back in the car, and continue on to the fork in the road."

Tomo brandished a dinner fork in front of her, as if she was fending off an amorous Nyarlathotepian.

"Take a left on Washington Boulevard, and our offices are right there in Venice Beach!  Come to Aria Company today!  We'll keep our oars open!"

I segued, "Now, on to your feature YouTube video, starring Pepe the Frog, Pepe le Pew, PewDiePie, Ajit Pai, and a jeep with a Popeye in the film Make the Pie Higher."

Tomo and I embrace, and right as it looks like we're about to start a passionate kiss, the video abruptly stops.


"What the heck was that?" Akari asked, slack-jawed.

"It's called advertising!" Tomo enthused.

Yomi remarked, "Pretty good, Tomo.  You stayed in-character and kept the timing tight."

Tomo blushed, "Praise me, praise me more!"

"You've obviously put in a lot of practice as a total airhead," Yomi 'praised'.

I chortled, while Tomoyo giggled.  She critiqued herself, "I do need to work on the lighting a little bit more.  And I still think I could have made better costumes."

"No, no," I explained, making the incomplete pass signal. "The cheap costumes are part of the gag."

Alicia asked, "Can someone please explain… what that was?"

I said, "It's an old bit from a Johnny Carson routine."

"He's an American comedian from like thirty years ago." Tomo continued.

"He played this guy, Art Fern, always selling stupid products in movie theatre ads."

"And I was his bimbo starlet assistant, Matinee Lady!"

"And he always gave weird L.A. freeway directions, involving the Slauson Cutoff..."

"But we live next to the Slauson Cutoff," Tomo elaborated. "So we got to talking about it…"

"And then we saw Tomoyo with a camera."

Tomoyo inserted, "And that was when things got a little out of hand."

All three of us started laughing, then.  Yomi, a little, too.

But Alicia's face was still puzzled.  "So, do I have to worry about this?  There are lots of promises, and the image is a little…"

"Nah, no way." Yomi declared.  "Everyone can tell that it's a comedy routine, even if they don't get the references."

I guessed, "It's probably because they've heard about you on the news, and they want to find out more.  And then we stole all of your views."  Tomo gave me a high-five for this; I have no idea why.

"Would you like me to take some real videos of you?  Tomoyo offered. "Like a documentary, or an advertisement, or something in between?  I think what you do on a gondola looks really romantic.  And then, if you got a beautiful passenger to appear, like Sakura-chan, everyone would want to watch!"  She covered her cheeks with her hands.

"Actually, that sounds like a great idea for business," declared Alicia.

"I can't believe you two did this without me," Yomi warned.

"Oh, like, sorry." Tomo made a peace offering, "Maybe you could be Matinee Girl next time, an 'American' like you would play that better."

"No way.  You're much much better at pretending to be brainless."

Tomo's mouth opened wide for a second, then closed.  And in a flash, Tomo glomped on to her best friend.  "Yoooomiii!!"
"Kitto daijoubu da yo." - Sakura Kinomoto

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