Michelle enters the bar, looking haggard.
"So where the hell is everyone? It's almost five o'clock."
Crystal, menthol-fresh, is bursting with the news.
"Didn't Molly tell you? They all got fired."
"Everybody, almost: Bambi, Linda, Trudy, Liz... (she mentally counts) ...Caroline."
"No, not Helene. She was off last night. That's when everybody split. Chris had seven dancers scheduled and there was maybe four customers in here at any one time all evening. The girls got pissed 'counta Chris wouldn't let nobody leave."
"So they walked?"
"Yup. You shoulda seen it! Bambi was the ringleader."
"Yeah. Ain't that a kick? Figures Liz put 'er up to it, but Bambi was the one that everyone followed. It was great! They gathered up their clothes 'n stuff and shot ol' Chris the finger as they marched on out."
"What he do?"
"Nothin'. Just sat there, suckin' his beer."
"Katherine stayed. And Pinky."
"They're new. I guess they didn't wanna quit, seein' as how they just got hired. You'll meet 'em later on; I think they're scheduled."
"Just the three of us?"
"Unless Helene shows up."
Michelle signs in, then trudges off backstage.
The room is a disaster. Magic-markered profanity defaces all four walls; cushions have been slashed, mirrors cracked—one completely shattered. A charred spot, on the carpet, suggests that someone tried set the place on fire.
I really didn't need this; not tonight.
Michelle brushes off a chair and sits down wearily. One arm rests in her lap, the other hangs at an obtuse angle. Her clothes reflect an overall disarray: blouse, improperly buttoned, exposes her lack of bra; skirt is a map of crisscrossed crimps and creases; hose have ragged runs like inauspicious fate lines.
"Holy she-it!" Her eyes perform a left to right reconnaissance. "You on da rag, or what, girl?"
"Do you really think I did all this myself?"
"Mutiny, I gather. We missed the boat."
"I did; you lookin' shipwrecked."
Michelle regards herself in a shard of mirror.
"Like you been through it. Come on, let's us two get dis dump clean' up."
Michelle shrugs off her lethargy and helps Helene.
Katherine, followed by Pinky, ambles in. The latter pulls a sneering face; the former acts disdainful. Both exchange a look, then knowingly nod. Mouthing 'eeny, meany, miney, moe' to Katherine, Pinky idles. Introductions, pointedly, go unmade.
Michelle, initially unaware of what this pair is up to, tunes them out. Helene appears oblivious; she is sweeping.
Pinky (sotto voce) lip-syncs the rhyme '...if she hollers,' as Katherine finally deigns to lend a hand—by wiping off whatever Helene has touched.
A fist hits the dressing room door.
"Let's shake it."
Pinky hustles out, her cohort close behind. Michelle, at last clued in, consults Helene.
"Were those two being crude, or what?"
Helene maintains aloofness, her drug-dulled eyes exuding a dubious nonchalance.
"Which two be they?"
Michelle, foreseeing trouble, sounds a warning.
"Don't you do it."
Helene just wields her broom with an absent-minded ease.
Michelle proceeds to the door.
"Enough. Let's have a drink; my treat."
Helene waves her ahead; she will lag behind.
Saturday's crowd has gathered; the stage already is flanked by a boisterous gang of bikers—wearing their colors (against house rules), though most of them appear to be unarmed. Tattoos adorning biceps flex, as beers are jointly guzzled. Pinky, nearly nude, has worked up thirsts.
"Alabama slammer, please."
Michelle puts in her order. Molly, tending bar, concocts it.
Pinky (lewdly) spreads, her chubby legs displaying a remarkable elasticity, as her sequined crotch makes contact with the none-too-cleanly stage—all eyes drawn to the fringe of her g-string's panel.
In the background, angling right, the pit-spot flickers on... revolving; Morgan mans his blackjack station.
Pinky (foreground) flails; her bulbous boobs and thick-set waist resemble fruit and tree trunk (as a toddler might depict them using crayons).
Morgan brushes off the table.
Pinky airs her armpits.
Arranging chairs in a semi-circle (backs to the performer), Morgan works his way back to his seat.
A "THWACK" is heard; Michelle, with one gulp, chug-a-lugs her slammer.
Morgan stocks his chip tray.
Crystal, slightly frazzled, serves.
Michelle (retrieving brain cells), grips her stool for equilibrium.
Pinky slinks, her tongue out snake-like.
Morgan, finally set, observes the Golden Spur in all its smutty splendor.
"Hey, I'll have another."
"Chris won't like it."
"No? Just pour."
Michelle, her vision slightly blurred, squints at who has joined her; forearms dark as stout caress the counter.
"G'won get drunk?"
"It kinda early."
"Late, from my perspective." Helene veers left, as "THWACK" Michelle invigorates her encore, tossing back its fizz with another single gulp. "More."
"Uh uh; you've had enough. Besides, his nibs just moseyed in."
Chris, in golfer's cap and grimy Miller High-Life t-shirt, bellies up to the bar and gestures for a beer—dispensed by Molly.
"So... How're tricks?"
Michelle, with mock sobriety rolls her eyes, then steers unsteady steps to a nearby video game. She plays. Mechanical bird-voice-chirps "Help-Help" accompany her exertions, as she lackadaisically plies the twin controls.
"What's up with her?"
"The rag, I reckon."
"Christ, you broads are once-a-month monstrosities."
Pinky, back for her second number,
casts a glance at Chris, who counterfeits disinterest,
"You get that mess straightened up back there?"
Helene affects a dialect.
"We done ah bes', boss, yassuh, we been sweepin' an' scrubbin' real..."
"Cunts! I know it wasn't you, Helene; I'll get those lousy bitches. Anyone shows to get 'er pay, I swear I'll shoot to kill."
Again he takes a long pull on his beer, eyes darting sideways, slyly, shiftily, warily; Chris is always on alert. He keeps a loaded gun behind the bar, another in his trailer, and a rifle in his pick-up truck, each oiled and primed to serve.
Pinky's third in progress, she has
realigned her g-string; its skimpy fabric cleaves to flesh illegal to
"You like the new recruits, Helene? I got 'em cheap."
"Lured 'em from the 'Deuces."
"Who'da thunk it?"
"You bein' smart? I've had enough o' smart-ass bimbos; no one 's irreplaceable."
Helene, unmoved by Chris's threat,
extends her buff-brown palm, and gives his upper thigh a naughty stroke. He burps. She
manipulates her cocktail straw with lips that look prehensile.
peels itself from the pea-green wall, parading 3-D script in front of eyes in full eclipse, their pupils blotting all but hints of iris
the slogans of employees come to life
in a whirlwind of invective that encircles Katherine's wits
as veins conduct a lava-like infusion through her limbs, her clothes constricting, feeling much too tight for respiration, while her reason, on a rampage, conjures insects—huge, grotesque; an army of them creeps and crawls, inciting Katherine's fidgets
prompting her to itch, to rake her skin, to shed her clothes; once naked, she feels nauseous; her mouth tastes rancid, tongue—engorged—obstructs attempts to speak; she merely gurgles—BLOOD!—mistakes saliva for a hemorrhage... when a force, beyond her own, arrests her shoulders:
Pinky, in a rough attempt to quash her friend's convulsions, heightens Katherine's panic; LSD maintains its grip; the mint Helene left out was dosed profusely.
"Molly! Chris! Come back here, QUICK!"
"Pinky, get her OUT of here!"
"But Chris, she's sick or somethin'."
"Sick my ass; she's whacked on smack."
"I'm callin' nine one one."
"The hell you are; and have the vice squad close me down for good? OUT, I told you, o, u, t!"
He gestures toward the exit, as Pinky drapes her undressed comrade, helps her up, supports her, drags her to the threshold (where she barfs), then down the steps, to stagger through the parking lot's rain-filled potholes.
"And don't you dare come back, you hear me?"
Chris slams the door.
Helene makes slurp-slurp sounds as she consumes her margarita, siphoning its dregs through a double-barreled straw. All gone, she grins... then, easing from her bar stool, she progresses to the jukebox, cues up three selections, hoists her petticoat, mounts the stairs, and struts across the stage (now claimed as spoils).