Vespers: A Never Prayer Story, Episode 7

Aaron Michael

I watch Eladio park his car and give Goy a rub. Then the young man sludges his way through the snowstorm and into Martini’s, the strip club where Fiona’s mom works.
I’m careful this time. Strip clubs are sewers of desire and desperation. I’ve been in such places before with my work. I went there to convince wayward, agonized sisters to go home and take care of their little brothers.
Every time I go into a place like that, it feels like crawling on my hands and knees through the messiest part of a pig farm.
The entryway is a tight space, between the outer doors and the inner doors. Prisons have similar spaces to them. Bouncer is a meaty man with no neck, a bald head, and a drooling moustache. He grabs Eladio and barks two words: “ID. Money.”
Eladio has his driver’s license. He’s eighteen. Legal. And he has a twenty-dollar bill which he can’t afford to give up, but he does. Bouncer lets him go, and Eladio is shaky as he puts away his wallet. He is escorted through the inner set of doors and into the strip club. To his left are tables and booths, mostly empty, on a snowy Thursday afternoon. To his right is a bar with the sparkle of liquor bottles on glass shelves. On the glass stage in front of him are women as sparkly as the booze bottles.
The place stinks of sweat, body spray, and alcohol.
“I was wondering if I could see Jasmine Suite,” Eladio says. Fiona’s mom’s real name is Jennifer Baron, but of course, she has to have a stripper name, another personality that has the strength to get up on stage and dance in front of men for money.
Bouncer shrugs. “She don’t go on ’til 5.”
Eladio’s eyes are lowered. He’s embarrassed. A dancer is up on stage, a few men sit around her. An old drunk sits at the bar. The bartender’s eyes linger on Eladio. Something isn’t right about him. Not right at all.
I make sure I can leave. Outside, I enjoy the cold and cleanliness of the storm. Then I turn and fade through a wall, back into the heat and lust and drunkenness.
Eladio argues his case with Bouncer. “I don’t want to watch her dance.

Read the entire exciting installment in the March 2019 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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