199. While You See a Chance

There was a bellydancer waving silks and hands in front of the table when we returned, dollar bills forming a green counterpoint to the blue sequins of her costume. She coaxed Digger up and danced with him to the too-loud piped in music, circling around him with her scarves while he did a kind of drunken boogie, chugging his fists forward and back like a Rock-em Sock-em Robot.

I sat on his pillow next to Remo and joined the general jeering and laughing. Bart darted forward suddenly with a dollar in his hand and stuck it into Digger’s pants, producing howls of laughter from the rest of us. The dancer led him back to the table and snake-charmed him down onto a tuffet and then made her way sinuously away to dance in front of some other patrons.

“Ho ho, very funny,” he said as he threw the dollar onto the table, but he was enjoying himself. “I can’t stand these fucking teases! God help me!” He turned to me and Remo. “Hey, kids, what say we head south of Market after this. It’d be like… old times.”

Remo opened his mouth but nothing came out as he looked at me, maybe wondering if he should be trying to rescue me from the old man or what. I said “Yeah sure, if you’re payin’!” I was thinking about what Chris said, about being in your face and then they can’t touch you. There was nothing that could hurt me in a strip club but my own ugly feelings. When I was fourteen I didn’t know that. Now I did.

So here’s Remo and me and Digger, Digger walking slightly ahead of us and gesticulating in the grand way of drunks, down a pretty steep sidewalk. He wasn’t drunk enough that we had to worry about him falling down or anything; if anything I was the drunkest of us all, not to mention stoned, but I’m a pretty quiet drunk. We followed him to a place he seemed to know and took up residence with a round of cocktails at a table along the runway. This place was smaller, more cramped, than the old Foxy Lady had been. The Lady had been a free-standing building of course, on a little highway in New Jersey, between two strip malls and down the way from a diner. This was some kind of urban industrial space that had been subdivided many times and whose ceiling was barely high enough for a stage show.

These girls were smart. They pegged Digger for a horny old bastard who thinks his money makes him important and who likes to throw it around. I don’t know exactly what kind of thing is legal to do in these places–I thought I remembered there being laws about there being no touching allowed but maybe that was Jersey–but some of these girls who really wanted to milk him would climb right down off the stage and crawl into his lap. I was fascinated by the way they’d stalk down and then put a hand on one of his shoulders and then the other, and then one leg over one of his legs, and then the other. As soon as they leaned close enough, Digger’s face would go slack, eyes rolled up into his head, like he’d gone to another planet, or Heaven maybe. When she’d back away he’d come alive again, and whistle, and wave more money in the air.

And I wondered a couple of things like, is that what he would look like having sex? or was this better than actual sex somehow for him? And, is that what I look like when Ziggy crawls onto me on stage? I could imagine him doing this, somehow, peeling off his clothes and teasing, the audience crowded around the runway, until that moment when his hard on would spring free, and he’d lower himself to a willing mouth (mine), people pushing each other to be the one to reach out with a tongue and take him in…

Fuck. Maybe I did have a little too much to drink. Funny, somehow deciding it was over between me and Ziggy had somehow given me license to fantasize about him again.

Yeah, so maybe it wasn’t as over as I thought.

Remo caught my eye and smiled wryly as Digger hooted and hollered. I gave a shrug. Let him have his fun.

Then Digger turned to us. “You see anything you like? For a little extra at this place, you know, you can have what you want.”

Remo shrugged. “Ah, jeez, Dig, I can’t keep up with you anymore. I’m too bushed.”

“Ha, bushed,” said Digger. “I’m going to get myself bushed, ha, bushed. How about you, kiddo, do a two-fer with the old man?”

“What?” My eyes snapped open like faulty window shades and I stared at him.

“Jeezus, kid, these girls love it. One in the front and one in the back. My god, you can bone them all night that way.”

I think I said ‘what’ again, stunned and off-balance, waiting for him to say he was kidding. You know, just when I think I’m figuring things out…

“It’s a bargain, too. Almost two for the price of one.” His face was open, red, eager. “C’mon.”

No you go ahead, is what I was trying to say, but the words wouldn’t come, I couldn’t encourage him to fuck one of these girls for money. “You’re joking,” I finally said.

“Jeez, I’ve been waiting forever for you to…” His lips went sour. “You were always a pussy when it came to women, weren’t you.”

“Excuse me?” I would have stood up, but Remo had a hand around my wrist under the table. “Are those the two choices, be a pussy, or be a fucking suck-my-dick whoremonger?” Oh yeah, I was drunk and flying high and kept thinking of the words In Your Face.

“Jeezus kid, I didn’t mean it that way. But show a little respect here for what I’m offering you. I mean, Christ, I never would have thought you’d turn out to be the same prude your mother was.”

“I get my dick sucked plenty, thank you.” Remo’s fingers were digging into my arm like he was trying to warn me off, but there was too much booze in me and the chance was too good for me to let it pass. “But I guess it’s nice to see I’m not the only pervert in the fucking family.”

“Pervert, who said pervert?” He was looking around like some culprit would show up, his hands held out like he was balancing something. Girls were clattering by in their high heels, waiting to get his attention again and then moving on. “This is all perfectly legal, you know. Like gambling or drinking. If you don’t want to, hey, okay, but don’t go judging me for my choice of recreation. You’re old enough to know every man’s got to get off somehow. You don’t judge it.”

“You mean that.”

“You fucking bet I do.”

“Alright, then don’t you go judging me either.”

“Shit, kiddo, you think I care if you smoke weed or screw your Girl Friday there six ways from Sunday? I don’t care if you’re digging up corpses and fucking ’em in the eye sockets. Well, I mean, as long as you’re not getting arrested or having to go to rehab or otherwise killin’ yourself.” His voice was not mollifying or joking now. We were staring into each other’s eyes across the table and I wondered if Remo’s other hand was clamped onto Digger’s wrist, too. “Fuck no, Mister Big Time rock and roll star. You do what the fuck you want. And don’t you dare judge me.”

“I won’t judge you if you won’t judge me, is that the deal?”

“Yeah, sure.”

I was wishing Ziggy was there right then because I would have given him a deep tongue kiss. Instead I decided I’d said enough. Just enough. “Well okay,” I said softly, maybe too soft to be heard over the music. “Okay,” I said louder, sitting back. The tension went out of both of us and Remo let go. I suppressed the urge to smirk and instead I put some cash down on the table. “I gotta get some rest.” I still couldn’t bring myself to say to get himself a girl but the money probably said the same. Remo and I stood up at the same time.

Digger smirked, wiggling his head back and forth as he eyed us through slits. “Oh all right. I’ll see you in the morning probably, before you head out.”

Remo clapped him on the shoulder and we all nodded to each other and then Remo and I made our way to the street.


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