Hollywood Dirt

By: Alessandra Torre

INTRODUCTION


Southern women are unique; there is no disputing that. We are women born of conflict, our pasts littered with battles and chaos, self-preservation, and protection. We’ve run plantations during wars, served union   soldiers tea before watching them burn our homes, hidden slaves from prosecution, and endured centuries of watching and learning from our men’s mistakes. It is not easy to survive life in the South. It is even more difficult to do it with a smile on your face.

We have held these states together, held our dignity and graciousness, held our head high when it was smeared with blood and soot.

We are strong. We are Southern. We have secrets and lives you will never imagine.

Welcome to Quincy.

Population: 7,800

Average Household Income: We’ll never tell.

Secrets: Plenty

The town of Quincy, Georgia was once the wealthiest town in the United States. Home to over 67 Coca-Cola millionaires, each original share is now worth ten million dollars, making this small town of Southern Belles one very lucrative place. Yet, you don’t see Bentleys and butlers as you drive through. You see a small town—its plantation mansions gracious and well-tended, keeping with the simple Southern traditions that have existed for centuries. Smile. Treat your neighbor as yourself. Be gracious. Keep your secrets close and your enemies closer.

And from the beginning, Cole Masten was my enemy.





CHAPTER 1


Hollywood doesn’t mix well with dirt roads. They don’t understand how we work. Don’t understand the intricate system of rules that we live by. They think that because we talk slowly, we are stupid. They think that the word ‘y’all’ is an indication of poor grammar. They think their Mercedes makes them a better person, when—to us—it’s just an indication of low self-esteem.

The cavalry arrived on a Sunday afternoon in August. Semis followed by limos, work trucks and buses trailed by matching sedans. Catering trucks—as if we didn’t have restaurants in Quincy. Some more semis. The scent of our camellias competed with their exhaust, the huff of diesel bringing with it the scent of pretension and importance. Brakes squealed and everyone in the tri-county area heard it. Even the pecan trees straightened in interest.

A Sunday. Only Yankees would think that was an appropriate time to thrust themselves into our lives. Sunday, the Lord’s Day. A day spent in the pews at church. Under live oaks eating brunch with our friends and families. Napping through the afternoon hours, front-porch visiting time at dusk. Evening was for quality time with your family. Sunday wasn’t a day for upheaval. Sunday wasn’t a day for work.

We were at the First Baptist Church when the word hit. A whispered stream of excitement down the long line of the table, scooting by and hopping over cornbread, dumplings, pecan pie, and broccoli casserole. Kelli Beth Barry was the one who passed the news to me, her red hair coming dangerously close to some marshmallowy sweet potato during the relay. “They’re here,” she said ominously, the excited glow in her blue eyes not matching the dark tones of her message.

I didn’t have to ask who ‘they’ were. Quincy had been waiting for this day for seven months. Ever since the first hint reached Caroline Settles, assistant to Mayor Frazier, who received a phone call on a Monday morning from Envision Entertainment. She had transferred the call to the mayor’s office, picked up her box of Red Hots, and settled into the chair outside of his door. Chewed her way through half the box before scooting to her feet and back to her desk, her round butt hitting the seat just in time for the mayor to walk out, his chest puffed, spectacles on, a notepad in hand that she knew good and well only contained doodles.

“Caroline,” the man drawled with some level of importance, “I just got a call from some folks in California. They want to film a movie in Quincy. Now we’re just in preliminary talks but—” he looked over his spectacles with a degree of sternness and dramatics, “this needs to stay within the walls of this office.”

It was a laughable statement, Mayor Frazier knowing what would happen the minute he turned back to his office. In small towns, there are two types of secrets: the kind that we pull together as a mini-nation to protect, and the juicy. The juicy things don’t stay quiet. They aren’t meant to. They are a small town’s sole source of entertainment, the morsels of fat that keep us all healthy. Those secrets are our currency and little is as valuable as a first person, no-one-else-knows-this testimony. Within five minutes, Caroline called her sister from the mayor’s personal bathroom, settled in on a padded toilet seat where she breathlessly recounted every word she’d heard through the closed door:

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