Jeez. Go away for a week and you’d think the world had stopped.
I’ve been bouncing around the three stores, part of Master P’s pot-stirring. He’ll rotate everyone a half-turn, see what happens and adjust accordingly. I’ve been spending a lot of time at the Waterfront Store. This week marked my return to the Nightclub Store.
To borrow a line from Sally Field: “They like me. They really like me.”
My first customer of the day was a topless dancer. It’s rare seeing her in the daylight, much less at 3 PM. “What you up to?” I ask.
“Started a new job at a bakery last week.”
“You not doing your, um, other gig?” I cleaned it up when a businessman fell into line behind her.
“No, I’m only stripping two nights a week, until I can pay rent with just the bakery job. I’m tired, and one can’t rely on their looks forever.”
“YOU can,” I said with a wink.
“Aww, you’re always so sweet to me. Want a cookie?”
You know the day is gonna be good when it starts with a stripper giving you a cookie.
A few minutes later, Agent Starling walks in. I looked at my watch to check the date. “It’s Monday. What are you doing here?”
“It’s the Nightclub Store. What are you doing here?” she countered.
We caught up quickly. The owner of the building has been tiling the basement floor, and toxic-smelling fumes have been inundating the store for a week. “I’ll talk to you later. I can’t take the smell in here.”
It had faded to almost nothing. When I’d worked the previous Tuesday, the scent was so strong people accused me of huffing. I was too high to care.
Starling headed for the door. Since no one was in the store, I chose to follow. As she was walking out, I made eye contact with the woman walking in. Could it be? The beautiful chocolate skin and smattering of freckles confirmed it.
“Well, hello Angel.”
“Look at you!” She snuggled into my arms, and I held her for a good minute.
“How ya been?” I asked. “I was just thinking about you ten minutes ago. You look GREAT.”
“So do you. You all hairy!” She ran her fingers through my hair. “Gettin’ skinny, too.”
“Check this out,” I said. I pulled the oversized shirt open and beckoned her inside. “I’ve lost enough that I can cover both of us.” I nibbled her neck and took in her scent. “Goddamn, you always smell so good. Your hair is growing out nicely.”
“I’m gettin’ bushy. You like it?”
“I like bushy,” I said with a leer.
Of course, ten people came in and I had to corral my hormones. A recent penitentiary occupant and an insistent man with a gambling issue were in a hurry, so I got rid of them. It was pointless. As Angel made her way to the door, I shamelessly flirted, complimented, smiled. I wanted so badly to smoosh those lips of hers against mine. Instead, I blew her a kiss and asked, “Same phone number?”
Someone got a very naughty text message shortly after.
I got a lot of “Where ya been” and “Good to see ya” comments. Co-workers came by. Creepy Uncle Warbucks got to say hello to his little redheaded munchkin. About lunchtime I got a text from Meg. “When is lunch?”
“7 or 8, I fucking hope.”
“All righty then!” was her written response.
I figured I’d better call. “Hey, sorry if that seemed snappy. Elmo is the lunch person tonight, and he’s being a real diva lately. He may or may not show. If he does, I will be there post-haste.”
Elmo showed up, albeit an hour and fifteen minutes later than scheduled. I decided to start my lunch after I got to my destination, since lunch now involved nineteen blocks of walking. Unless I wanted to wait 28 minutes for a bus… I walked slowww…
Meg met me in the hallway, took my hand and led me to her room. I gave her the tee-shirt/dress emblazoned with a Victoria’s Secret logo. “Damn, I wish the weather was still hot!” I said.
“Not to worry,” she smiled. “It’ll get hot in here in the winter…”
I spent a few minutes relaxing on her bed. Despite previous crankiness, I chose to take the high road and return from lunch on time. Elmo was outside, awaiting my arrival. We talked shop for a minute. I got the Norma Rae update. Then he was gone, off to the Mothership to give lunch to Saucy Alfredo. I wish I could watch. They couldn’t hate each other more.
The night was a flurry of beauties, all happy to see me. The hotel hottie from Hawaii (say that three times fast) with her birthdate tattooed on her knuckles. The lovely bartender Delilah. The overnight gal whose name escapes me but I will give a day’s credit to because I see her every night. It did my heart good to see their faces light up when they saw it was me working.
All good things must come to an end. I relinquished control of the store to Rumpole and did a slow mosey to the bus stop. I was circled three times by cops, but not stopped. I decided to forgo the shortcut through the park, as it seemed like they were looking for probable cause to stop me. I had nothing to hide, but I didn’t want to miss my bus, either.
The bus stormed off the bridge and screeched to a halt in front of me. It was not the tall blonde sixty-year-old regular guy. This was a big, scary looking Mexican guy, and he greeted me with an upraised middle finger. “This is for you, buddy.”
“Well, shit the bed! Hello, Gary.”
I piled on and we took off like a shot. A fellow that commutes from southeast to Hillsboro has minus one minute to catch the last train every night, so we lay over near the MAX. As we pull up to the stop, Gary points out the window. “See that bitch out there? She’s CRAZY!”
I see crazy women all night. Meh.
“No really, you should look.” He was adamant.
I looked out the window, and saw a figure with long black hair approaching the bus. When she saw me, a high-pitched squeal followed, and she made a break for the bus. She handed her cigarette to Gary and boarded. By now I’d risen and made it to the aisle of the bus. She practically tackled me, and the hugs were on.
“Hey, stranger.” Blythe is one of a few take-me-home hotties I’ve gotten to know off the bus. We swap war stories of dealing with the public and such. We shared a hug that lasted as long as a big scary looking husband would likely tolerate, then stepped off the bus to say hello. I gave the lovebirds a minute alone. The fellows on the bus gave me a disgusted look. Sorry guys, work on your personalities and maybe she’ll greet you like that, I thought.
And then we were off.
The ride was quiet, with the exception of a layover at the Hawthorne Theater. We listened to the “singing” coming from inside. Gary shook his head. “And people wonder why I like country music…”
“Do you think that’s the act, or a drunk chick caterwauling behind the bus stop?” I pondered.
“Christ, I hope nobody paid to hear that,” Gary agreed.
I read the marquee. “Karaoke night. That explains it.”
“Okay, we’re outta her then.” Gary put the bus into gear, and we were gone.
As we pulled up at the end of the line, I gave him a fist-bump and a thank you for one of the more amusing rides of late. “Oh, one more thing. Wifey said give you these.” He pulled out a bag of Smack Yo Mama cookies.
“Woohoo!” I sorta-shouted. “My day started with a stripper giving me a cookie. That’s not a euphemism.”
“Well, I love ya Charlie, but I’m keepin’ my clothes on.”