"Hot enough for you?" The beer was almost in my mouth. I flinched, sending a lukewarm, amber wave sloshing over the lip of the glass and down my wrist. I sighed, then completed the all-too-familiar motion,draining the flat Budweiser in a gulp. I looked over at the sweaty, grinning face of the fat man to my right. His flesh was doughy and discolored, flushed red with heat and alcohol. His mud-brown eyes gaped wide with expectation, his thin lips curled in a cheap salesman's smirk that screamed "Gotcha!" "Fuck off," I told him. His smile jerked into a twitch and he snorted something green out one nostril. He quickly wiped it with the back of his hand then turned away from me, back to his drink. "Turd," I muttered. ..... My name is Marty Burns and once, a million or so years ago, I was a minor celebrity. Sometimes I think there isn't any other kind. At the ripe age of sixteen I'd starred in a situation comedy called Salt & Pepper. You probably remember. It was one of those godawful sixties atrocities about two white-bread suburban families with apple-pie perfect moms and zany, feuding dads. It's best remembered as the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question: what show did Russell Johnson star in after Gilligan's Island? I played Sandy Salt, the teenage son who was secretly in love -- a la Romeo and Juliet; ain't TV writers clever? -- with Penny, the ever-so-perky Pepper daughter. There was a precocious little sister, a fat baby brother, a grumpy old grandpa -- Gale Gordon, no less -- and more pratfalls than you could shake a keystone kop at. At least once every episode I was obliged to shriek the line "Hot enough for you?" to the howling delight of a goosed laugh track. It became a catchphrase, like Mork's "Nanu-nanu," or Maxwell Smart's "Sorry about that, chief." It caught on with the public for a while, too, at least until Judy Carne and "Sock it to me" came along. I even got to say it to Carson on the Tonight Show once, during my brief tenure as a teen heartthrob, but then Salt & Pepper was sent to its proper resting place in sit-com hell by All in the Family. And before you could say "receding hairline" David Cassidy took my place on the cover of Tiger Beat. The show did last almost three full seasons. Along with my personal 900 seconds in the Kleigs, Salt & Pepper netted me a spiffy Jaguar XKE and more teenage twat than any horny American boy could ever have dreamed about. But the money had been blown before the last episode even aired and my acting career pretty well took to the skids thereafter. I made a passel of low-budget flicks and a couple of dreadful network pilots before my scumbag agent ditched me. I gave up the life for good one day when I found myself playing yet another pizza-faced high school virgin in a woeful titty movie opposite one of the girls from The Brady Bunch. Or was it Family Affair? In any case, I walked off the set halfway through the shoot and swore I'd never work in front of a camera again. I hoped and thought that I'd slipped into comfortable obscurity only to find Salt & Pepper cursed with eternal life in cable syndication. I still look pretty young for my age and thanks to the lovely folks at Nickelodeon, who run the show every damn night, I still get recognized all these years after the fact. It's the only residual I do get. Hardly a week goes by that I don't run into some pathetic simp thinking he's god's gift to the art of wit demanding to know if it's "Hot enough for me." I've been busted twice for assault as a result, though I was pretty drunk each time and neither case went to trial. I usually drink for good reason -- Immanuel Kant's birthday, the anniversary of my third paternity suit -- but I was just trying to pass the time while I waited for the client. I generally feel obliged to maintain the illusion of sobriety on such auspicious occasions, at least until I have a cash retainer in hand. After all, who'd want to hire a private investigator who wasn't hard drinking? God bless that Raymond Chandler for making it easy for all the woeful sots who've come into the racket since The Big Sleep.