Part two of a three-part short story.
Two brothers, one a recent veteran from the war, and the other, a younger and less disciplined young man, out for a fun afternoon instead find trouble they never asked for.
"Looks just the same,” Norton said, as they pulled into the parking lot of the strip club called Bad Lands. “Can’t wait to see Rick.”
They went inside, Norton asking for the manager. The hostess disappeared through a beaded doorway separating the dance stage from where the brothers stood. Above the doorway was a sign, NO TOUCHING ALLOWED. Kenny leaned back and peeked in with the curiosity of a child.
The club was small and dim in the hazy glow of neon beer signs. Black light lamps mounted to the ceiling illuminated walls adorned with paintings of nude dancers, motorcycles, and rock stars. Kenny thought it strange there was no bar, only cocktail-style mini-tables with tall stools, and a long runway adorned on the edges with what appeared to be miniature Christmas tree lights. The hostess reappeared with a heavy man following her.
“Well, I’ll be!” the man said. It was Rick. He thrust his hand out. “Norton, I missed you, man. Glad you’re back safe and sound.”
Rick was a barrel-chested man with saggy cheeks like a bulldog. He wore a short-sleeve shirt with a palm tree print. Motorcycle tattoos covered both his beefy arms. A large sap hung from the large belt holding up his baggy jeans.
“So you boys come looking for some action, huh?” Rick asked. “I got a stable of beautiful girls just wait'n for you.”
“No, just came to see you, grab a few beers, and take in the scenery,” Norton said, elbowing Kenny.
They took the table nearest the stage. Kenny looked around. “Where are all the girls? I don’t see any.”
Rick laughed. “Enjoy yourself, son. Charlie’s coming on stage a bit later. She’s worth the wait.”
They drank beer after beer, Rick and Norton talking, Kenny sitting and listening for the next hour. He thought about the two girls from the clothing outlet, curious if they were still in town—and the fact neither seemed appreciative for Norton's stand against the bully of a man. He also thought about the guy. How embarrassed the man must have felt when he was helpless on his knees and harmless, a lot more humble than when he walked in like some in-your-face, crap-talking badass.
A waitress in tight, white leotards and a short, brown leather skirt stopped by. “Another round of beers, boys?’’ She fanned Kenny's cigarette smoke from her face as she dumped an ashtray. “Better order now before the regulars pack the place.”
Norton looked at his watch. “No, we’re good, and gotta leave soon.”
Kenny shot him a hateful look. He held up his beer can to the waitress. “Another, please.” He leaned toward Norton. “Where the fuck are the dancers? I wanna see some tits and ass!”
“Hush up and finish your beer,” Norton said. “Make it your last. You’re getting too drunk.”
“I wanna get drunk!”
“I know, but—“ The dance music started, drowning Norton out. Four large speakers, suspended above the stage, throbbed and blasted loud and clear the song American Woman by The Guess Who. A dancer appeared down a long hallway and strutted toward the stage. Rick got up and met her halfway, holding her hand as she stepped up the stage stairs.
She undressed slowly, hanging her lacy bra on a wall hook at the far end of the stage. She wore only a G-string and red stiletto heels. Her oiled legs, long and well-muscled, glistened under the stage lights. The soles of her heels flashed red and black as she stepped lightly and in-time to the music. Hair dark as Cleopatra’s hung against her back and just above her slender waist. Her pale white skin, beaded with sweat, looked almost translucent under the glow of neon and black lights.
Norton gave her a long up-and-down look, sized her up: early twenties, nice breasts, maybe too nice, more than likely fake. Her smile, brilliant as it was, was probably fake as well.
It was only when the dark-haired dancer tweaked her nipples by pulling on them that Kenny got up and walked to the side of the stage. He liked the way she affected him, like some kind of drug. Maybe it was the perfect proportion of her hips and waist, the way she moved them almost snake-like. Or maybe it was the way she pranced fluidly across the stage and gazed soulfully into the eyes of the men holding out crisp greenbacks. Kenny wanted her attention. He waved the fifty-dollar bill overhead. Almost, as if on instinct, the dancer spotted the large bill.
Though the money flowed from the crowd of men ringing the stage’s curved end--crisp dollars slid under the dancer's garter as she squatted, the band to her G-string reserved for fives and an occasional ten--the dancer never took her eyes from the money in Kenny's hand. When the crowd of leering men had finished tipping her and returned to their seats, the dancer whirled around and dropped to all fours and crawled to Kenny, growling like a big cat. She continued to growl as Kenny took his time pushing the fifty-dollar bill under her G-string.
Her voice was sultry, her smile seductive. “Thank you, baby,” she said, puffing out her lips and blowing Kenny a mock kiss. Her smile faded as she stood and strutted back to the center of the stage to work the brass pole until the next song. When her two songs were over, she bowed to the crowd of clapping men, hooked on her bra, and stepped off the stage. She walked past the brothers and Rick and blew them a kiss. She disappeared back down the long hallway and behind the door to a dressing room.
“Holy shit!” Kenny said as he sat back down. “I’m in love!”
Rick laughed and said, “Well, Norton, it’s obvious your little brother’s never been eye-fucked before. Seems he got himself a lifetime hard-on.”
Norton wasn't laughing. Exasperated, he closed his eyes tight and shook his head, grateful for having the wisdom and courage to not be taken in by the illusion his brother had just experienced. He looked around the room full of bikers, lone-wolves, love-sick psychos, and cheating husbands and boyfriends, and suddenly felt out of place. After a succession of five dancers had had their turn at the pole--and the pockets of the men watching--Norton decided he’d had enough. He stood, ready to leave, and looked to Rick to say good-bye when the next dancer walked out of a dressing room and strutted toward him.
“Here comes Charlie,” Rick said, Norton barely able to hear him over the crowd whistling, cheering, and clapping. The tall, slender dancer known as Charlie looked Norton in the eye and smiled at him as she passed by. She stepped up to the stage and began dancing to Run Through The Jungle by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Norton sat back down, speechless as he watched her.
It was the tall blonde from the outlet store.