Chapter 1: How she does it
I suppose it’s possible to say that she has a flair for anyone attractive, not just Louis. But at the moment Louis is her man, for lack of any better option. At times she stands on stage, just looking at that poor, miserable sap sitting in the front row with that dumb-ass look on his face, and she thinks to herself, This is not the man I married. And she’s right. This is not, in fact, the man she married. This is, in fact, some other guy entirely. Some guy named Arthur Stanhope, who is one of the biggest soap opera stars of all time. But she does not care much for soap operas, or Turtle Wax, for that matter, so she has no clue who this man is. All she knows now is that he may or may not be her husband. As she exits the stage, escaping from the painful glare of the floodlights, her eyes slowly adjust, and when she can finally see clearly, she realizes that he is gone. She will never know the truth about him.
But what’s worse is she will never know the truth about herself. Who is she? What does she want from life? What kind of track is her train riding? And who’s in the third car? WHO’S IN THE THIRD CAR???
Dammit, she doesn’t care.
She goes to the bar to grab whatever’s left at 1:30, after all of the patrons have made pigs of themselves. She’s left with a few cold Buffalo wings and a slowly melting ice cube that one asshole had carelessly left on the bar, melting, for all to see. But she’s the only one who notices it.
She thinks that in a way the ice cube represents her life, but she’s not sure why. She was never good at metaphors.
As it melts, it forms a small river, flowing down toward the end of the bar, which makes her realize that either the bar itself is not level, or the bar is completely level and the ice cube is just feisty. Either way, the river makes its way down, down, down, flowing over a credit card receipt for a pretty hefty tab, the name Travis Dunn scrawled haphazardly on the bottom. She takes a look around the bar, searching for this mysterious Travis Dunn character, but he is nowhere to be found. The only man that she can see is a strange little guy with a peculiar grin and an even more peculiar hat in the corner of the room. She hears his pager go off, and he rises quickly up and shoots out the door, neglecting to pay his bill.
Whatever. It doesn’t really matter to her who pays their tab and who doesn’t. She doesn’t get a percentage of alcohol sales. She doesn’t get much in this fucking place. She really needs to have a talk with Myron about her future here. Sure, she gets paid well by the customers, very well. Well enough to eat, pay her rent, and pay her bills. But it’s not enough to send her through school. She’s falling behind on her tuition payments, and is in grave danger of getting her butt thrown out if she doesn’t make some effort to pay. Not only that, but she needs health insurance. She doesn’t see why she or any of the other dancers here can’t get that. This isn’t some seedy dive. This is the Blue Iguana, the biggest strip club on the entire West Coast. There are enough employees here to start a small colony, and possibly form a somewhat ineffective militia group in the Midwest, were they so inclined, so there should be enough here to get a good group rate on insurance.
But talking to Myron isn’t easy. Sure, he has a nerdy name. It should be easy to talk to a guy named Myron about ergonomics, stock market trends, email viruses, Will Shatner, Weird Al memorabilia, and pruning shears. But not this Myron. This Myron you can’t talk to about anything. The name does not suit him. He’s the typical strip club owner- too many gold chains, too many v-neck shirts, too much chest hair, too much mousse. Too long of a mullet for it to be acceptable in any modern culture. And a hard-ass attitude. Get out there and take your clothes off, honey, the look on his face seemed to say. I don’t pay you to stand around here talking to me about salaries and health insurance. I pay you to dance. And even though his last name is McShea, he looks Italian to her. She can’t quite put her finger on it, but something about him seems to suggest that he has slight ties with the mob. Not that the mob is that tough on the West Coast. They’d just as soon settle for a nice nose tweak or spit on your shoe than gun you down or throw you in a trunk. But they are intimidating, nonetheless.
So she decides to just let it go. Tomorrow she’ll start looking for a second job to supplement her income.
She runs her long pretty fingers under the length of the bar until she finds a discarded wad of chewing gum. She uses her French-manicured fingernails to scrape the gum off. She holds it up to her nose and takes a sniff. Mmm, cherry. She thinks about chewing it; sometimes gum still has its flavor even after it’s been stuck to the underside of the bar for a few weeks. Instead, though, she wanders her sweet little ass into Myron’s office. Even though he doesn’t work on Tuesday nights, he leaves his office unlocked, which is very trusting of him, but also very ignorant. She picks up the receiver of Myron’s telephone, moistens her fingers with saliva, wipes them on the earpiece of the receiver, sticks the wad of gum on it, and walks back out of his office. Not a very deadly or even dangerous prank, but to someone in the Mild Mafia, he was sure to take great offense.
But fuck Myron, she thinks. She doesn’t want to offend him. Nope. That would be letting him off the hook way too easy. She has taken enough of his shit in the five months she’s been working there to last a lifetime. Why won’t he ever listen to her? Shouldn’t a boss be open to their employee’s concerns? She shouldn’t have to work two jobs to support herself. That little fuck won’t do anything for anyone but himself. For Christ’s sake, they have to get tested monthly working at that job; the state mandates it. And he doesn’t even foot the bill for that.
No, the chewing gum won’t be enough. No sir. Taking a minute to think, her plan is taking shape.
3 a.m. All the customers have gone home for the evening. The last employee, Sue the manager, has just left and locked the door. She makes her way from her car, carrying the can of gasoline she had gone home to get, to the back of the building, looking around her, making sure no one is watching. Although whoever would be watching her at this time of night, be they vagrant or thief or ghetto thug, wouldn’t be friends with authority anyway, so there is nothing to worry about. No one would run to the cops even if they did see her throw the can of gasoline through the window of Myron’s office with the lit match chasing it.
It didn’t take long for that place to burn right to the ground. It was an accident waiting to happen. That place was all too close to being shut down for fire regulations anyway. Sometimes for being over capacity, (but you know Myron. Squeeze anyone you can in here, then squeeze ‘em dry). Quite a few times were for a lack of fire exits. A couple of times were for frayed wiring. And once for having Great White play there.
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