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by Andrew Minh

Vera enters the dressing room with a hefty stack of ones and fives. She bends it, makes a flip book of Lincoln and Washington, and shuts it in the safety of her locker. Before going back out for her tip rounds, she sits down. She's been feeling kind of sick and lightheaded the whole night. The stares that eat you up, the thudding music... the relentless energy of the club takes its toll. Two other dancers - Lynette and Mia - are talking.
    After a few seconds Vera gets up and says, "Look, Mia, I'm going back out there, but I wanted to talk to you about something." Rick, her boyfriend and the club's MC, has been avoiding her all night. She's starting to get suspicious. Mia is someone she can confide in.
    "You go do your thing mamma. We'll talk later."
    "Yeah, and there's this freaky guy out there talking to himself," adds Lynette, the ingratiating, heavily made-up veteran of the club. She's also the kind to make stupid snap judgments.
    Mia shakes her head. "Aww he looks harmless, Vera. Like he might be retarded or something."
    "I'll check it out. You pussies."
    She walks into the thinning crowd and weaves her way through the tables. Vera's extremely agreeable smile wins her a few tips and some genuine compliments, but not even one private dance, where the real money is. She, like the rest of the girls, is sucked into the social Darwinism of the strip club hierarchy – wherein the more money you make, the better skilled you are. It doesn't matter if you're a better dancer, or better looking. All that is subjective, and the girls intrinsically understand that. It's the amount of moolah that gets slapped down in front of you, and this simple fact brings out Vera's competitive side.
    Near the back she sees an unassuming man dressed in grey Dockers and white polo. His left arm is in a sling, which forces him to draw his shoulders in. He's smiling, and with the overhead spotlight reflecting off his table Vera finds it hard to tell if he's looking at her. He's swaying arrhythmically to the music pumping over the club sound system - reminding her of an autistic kid she knew growing up. Guess this is the guy they were talking about, thinks Vera, but he looks more helpless than like a freak.
    "Hi there, did you like my show?" asks Vera.
    He grins even wider, and nods.
    "Glad you did, baby. Can I sit with you?" She finds space and sits snug against him, and notices his broken arm. "How'd you hurt your arm?"
    "Mah... mah gurlfrennnnnn."
    Vera can't understand him through his liquor driven lisp. After a few seconds, she continues, "Not much of a talker are you?"
    "Feel good... that."
    "Just me sitting next to you?"
    "Saaaaaaaaanra? Is that you?"
    "No silly. That's not my name. But if you wanna call me that, you can."
    "You're nice."
    "What's your name?"
    "You're nice."
    "You're just shy aren't you? How about a private show in the back? You're my last for the night and I'll make it special, just for you."
    He gazes at her with liquid eyes. His grin stretches even further.
    In the private room, along with two other customers and two other dancers, Vera gives him the lapdance of his life. Bachanalean red limns pulsating flesh… the smell of sweat mixing with booze… bass notes rumble deep… From her angle she can see his eyes lost in her muscular thighs, the dip of her waist. One by one he stuffs bills in her g-string and one by one the songs keep playing. She can feel him tracing her skin with his fingers, not groping like most other customers. She feels his hands slip down, lightly resting on her thighs.
    When Vera hears the closing announcements, she turns around and finds him passed out. Even after nudging him he doesn't respond. That same grin is stamped on his face, however. Seeing him like this doesn't really surprise her, after all she's seen in the few weeks she's been working. She's seen customers come in their pants. One kid whipped out a dildo and asked her to use it on him. There's even one guy they call "the licker", who pays money to be able to lick the soiled seats in the back rooms. It doesn't surprise her that this one passed out on her. He did seem pretty tossed. She goes to Jimmy, one of the ushers guarding the girls in the private room, and asks for some help.
    "Hey man... get up... party time... is over." Jimmy looms over the man, grabs his good, un-slinged arm like a dumbbell, and jerks him up. He escorts him to the door and shoves him out with the rest of the derelicts.
    Vera looks down at the sum of cash the man has just doled out. Big bills. Four hundred and twenty dollars in all.


A tinny, southern accent drawls forlornly over a cheap, radio/cassette player. The story is twice told, fitting for this well-lit, pedestrian place: Vic's barbershop, downtown, at the confluence of the financial district and the seedier drag with the dive bars and the strip joints. The clientele are a mix of suits and the down and out. Charlie, the apprentice barber, is slouched in the far left stool, shallow watery eyes looking not at the mirror, but beyond it. He's decided to avoid his reflection, hating the fact that he looks 10 years beyond his actual age, hating the fact that his broken, slinged arm reminds him yet again of the irony of his manhood. Everything in this life beats down on him, and all he needs now is Sandra's nagging. Her shrill voice is piercing through his cell phone. Charlie knows where this is going. Who wears the pants? Who wears the pants? He hates being laughed at and Sandra always emasculates him with her condescending tone.
    "Yeah yeah whatever Sandra! Who are you, my mother? Hello?" He says this loud enough so Arturo and Vic, his partners, can hear that he's still in charge of the situation. "You know what Sandra? I'm sick of you living my life for me."
    Arturo, sweeping the floor for the day's final cleanup, shrugs at Vic who chuckles to himself. They know the routine well, like their regulars' haircuts and extra marital affairs... Arturo, "el chistoso" as his wife calls him, calls out to Vic in a low conspiratorial tone:
    "Heh.... heh.... Te apuesto diez... that she hangs up." (I'll bet you ten...)
    "Te apuesto viente that he hangs up."
    "Ok man, you're on!"
    Charlie is sinking deeper into his desperation. Sandra knows how to push all the right buttons, and unfortunately all the wrong ones as well.
    "Just once can't you listen to me? I was all happy and everything for my birthday. What the hell is wrong if I treat myself to a little something..." he pushes himself up in his chair, careful not to molest his broken arm. Still, he winces from the strain. Mimicking Sandra's voice he continues, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard! ... Hello? Hello?"
    Arturo plays the miniature violin, motioning to Vic to pay up. He walks over and puts his arm around Charlie, making him yelp like a puppy dog.
    "Oh man Charlie, sorry."
    Charlie shrugs Arturo off and labors to the counter where he has his pain medication. He fumbles with the orange prescription canister until Arturo walks over and opens it for him. Vic, buffing a razor blade on a leather strop, just shakes his head.
    "Damn Charlie. That Sandra is a real ball buster."
    "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" He scoops a pill into his mouth and swallows it down, dry. "I can handle myself."
    "I just mean you should do whatever you want with your money. I mean she just don't understand the value of season tickets. I mean if you can afford them and shit if it's your birthday..."
    "He's right, Charlie," says Arturo, "Let me and Vic take you out for a couple drinks. You'll feel better."
    "God she can be such and unreasonable bitch!" He gets up and grabs a broom with his one good hand and tries sweeping, using his armpit for leverage, albeit without much success.
    "Drop it man. Let me handle it. It's your birthday, you relax."
    Charlie sits back down, dejected. Vic, still laughing, says:
    "Who ever heard..." then the three in chorus, "of a one armed barber?" Even though it hurts him, and he tries to suppress it, a laugh simpers out of Charlie.


Vera's gaze follows a strand of smoke curling from a flaccid arc of ash. She hears a booming bass loop and amplified voices, sees a painted hole where a mouth should be, smells a free jazz mash up of man-killing perfumes, dozier, cum, tobacco...
    A voice booms in through the dressing room walls, announcing Mia's stage entrance. Vera, for a brief moment, imagines herself sitting in the darkened club amongst the frat boys, nerdy execs, and drunks... the girl sashaying to center stage, the first bumps and grinds, the whoops and howls. But the fluorescent lights ripple on and the magic is gone, she is sober and the whole thing is exposed, belly up. The girl isn't alluring without the shadows cast down on her, the furniture is scarred and faded.... the floor, suffused with cocktail napkins, straws, spare change...
    Back in the dressing room someone is talking to her. She can feel it like a stare from across a crowded room. It's Lynette, her co-worker:
    "... and she ended up doing a porn movie and now she really got dough..."
    "Damn... how much do you get for that?" asks Vera.
    "Like a g."
    "Serious cash."
    "She can get her shit together long as she don't start thinking she's a playa... the girl is so easy to con."
    "Yeah she kinda struck me as naive."
    "She got jocked by all the guys in here."
    "You ever think about doing one of those?"
    "Those movies, I mean."
    "Aw hell no. I wouldn't fuck for money. No way on tape. I mean I wouldn't get fucked by a guy or anything. But I done them with girls."
    "Right, right. Of course." Vera takes a glass pipe from Lynette's outstretched hand, rolls the safety wheel on her fuchsia colored Bic, and lights the half burnt bud resting in its bowl. She sucks the prickly smoke in.
    Lynette looks absurd to her. Her breasts are pumped up too much, and in a certain light Vera has seen ugly wrinkles and scars down around the creases. Vera can't judge her for that, she's thought about a slight augmentation herself – only Lynette's over-eagerness to please, like her out of proportion breasts, is busting out and irritatingly impossible to ignore. Her hair is frazzled from too much processing, her eyes kind of distant, like madness resides within them... on her wrists faint scars... pink.
    In a way Vera is disgusted that Lynette gets more attention, more tips in the club. She's an absurd mannequin, yet the men who visit clamor for her. She herself doesn't do all that badly, and she knows she carries herself with style, knows she is more of a catch. A cascade of smooth cobalt hair swept sideways to reveal almost Asiatic eyes, a tall naturally full figure - if anything she intimidates men who come here looking for the clichéd, two-dimensional harlot. A flirty young professor once told her she looked like Anna Karina, the nouvelle vague actress. Sometimes she wonders what it would be like to transport herself back into a fold in space and time and live a disjointed jaunt through Godard's jazz noir Paris. It isn't easy, though. After the time she and Rick rented Une femme est une femme, he said he wouldn't watch that "art fag shit" anymore. Vera continues:
    "But you would never make one with a guy or anything because of your boyfriend, right?"
    "No it's no even that. I just wouldn't fuck for money."
    "Uh huh." Vera passes the pipe back to Lynette.
    "If I was about that I might as well be a straight up ho. Sell my body and fuck for money."
    "And you're not about that."
    "Right. I'm a clean dancer and I don't ever suck dick or fuck even if the guy offers me a bundle of cash ´cause I got standards. Like a moral code, you know? I might do toy shows with girls and stuff, but I never cross the line with guys... uh uh... it ain't happening."
    "Not even if you were single?"
    "It's not even about that, though I know he'd get hella jealous. I just wouldn't even consider it, period."
    "But still it could be a start..." The momentum of their conversation is easy for Vera to ride, she's done it so many times before. In back of her is Sandra, one of the barkers, arguing over her cell phone. While she's talking Vera twists in her seat and sees her violently gesturing in the air. Sandra's not bad looking, a little on the big side, so that's why she's not an "exotic dancer". She's got a hell of a mouth however, and is good at fishing drunk men in from the streets... Vera looks back at Lynette, sucking on the pipe. "I guess some make it, you know," she says.
    "Whadaya mean? Like real movies?"
    "Well, obviously. I mean, in some cases, it's not just about the money, they have to offer you something else, a prospect or something."

At the soundboard is Rick, Vera's boyfriend and introduction to the club - tall with recently shaved dreadlocks, black tee hanging over black Adidas trainers, ringed knuckles on large hands. He's never had a problem with women, at least in these circles, even though he's got a fragile ego that he sublimates with tough talk. Like his head is floating perpetually in a cloud of A-1 blow. It puts things in perspective, he says to Vera's occasional admonitions, helps him keep his edge on in this place. He's gotta be "on it". He fades down the music track and fades up the mic.
    "Ahhhh yeah gentlemen.... don't forget to show your appreciation with the green baby green for your girl Mia when she comes back around. She works hard for that money and who knows there might be a little surprise for you in da back... room...  That's right gentlemen line up now for your own 1 on 1 therapy with nurse Mi-a. But save some of that luv 'cause this next one, oooh baby, she is gonna change the shape of your pants…. Out… of … sight… Coming on is the lovely, the luscious.... Lynette!  Mmmm mmmmm mmmmmm... give it up baby!"

"That's my cue," says Lynette.
    Mia comes bounding in and fumbles with the roller dial on her locker. She pulls out a tip jar, heads to the mirror and dabs at her face. Lynette stands up, following Mia with her eyes, then looks down at Vera. She swipes at her ruby red hairpiece, adjusts her breasts in their pink frilled supports.
    "Look. You're new here and you're also Rick's girl. You gotta know what you're doing before you jump into something like that. I'm not new to this shit. Rick can tell you that, he's the veteran here. Anyway I gotta go, that's my song."
    As Lynette walks out Mia follows behind, tip jar in hand. As she passes Vera she bends down and whispers, "Don't listen to her. That girl sucks dick for blow."


Arturo orders another round of Tsing Taos from the crusty old Asian bar maid. In the back room are some guys playing poker under a red, Scorsese-esque wash, but at the bar in the front is a fluctuating crowd. Over the last few months Lemongrass Joy has become one of the hip dive bars, and clueless advertising execs and twenty something temps are elbow to elbow with the gang of three from the barber shop. This has been their joint for years, and they know Michelle the bar maid by name. She hooks them up and charges the hipsters extra in compensation.
    Arturo and Vic are scoping out the well-dressed women, an anomaly here up until recently when the City's guide revealed the "sleazy Tom Waitsish vibe" of the Lemongrass. Arturo nudges Vic and both turn around, face away from the bar.
    "The one with the spandex jeans and the red top... See her?
    "Yeah, I was checking her out too."
    Charlie, just over the din, asks Michelle for another shot of Wild Turkey. Vic leans over and says to him, "You know, it wouldn't hurt to start talking to some other women. I mean Sandra gives you nothing but hard times." His eyes drift down to Charlie's broken arm, then back up to his sorrowful mug.
    "Yeah. Nothing but grief."  He throws back his shot and immediately follows it with a pull off his beer.
    Arturo, four beers down the line, yet in a lot better shape than Charlie, says, "So, did you get a hold of her yet?"
    "Third time I've tried in two hours and still nothing." He sways, held up only by the battered bar.
    "Damn Charlie, that booze is really hitting you tonight," says Arturo. Vic adds:
    "Sure you should be drinking so much on that pain medication?"
    "The point is Charlie, not to worry so much about her. Get out and live a little. Take, for example, those women over there. The one with the jeans and the red top over there with her friends. You notice there's three of them."
    "We can work the other two while you go in."
    "Charlie man... check this out. It's all about strategy. You know I read about this in Maxim the other day. You gotta have your wing men to make the other ones feel wanted too because women are like that. They don't want their girlfriend to have all the fun."
    "Man it works. I've seen him in action."
    "And there are other simple things like optimum placement. You gotta find the spot with the most traffic to increase your odds."
    "Yeah, and tell him about fat chicks..."
    Charlie, beyond the profound reach of this conversation, staggers off unnoticed by his partners, his wing men. They're lost in a sea of tight jeans and cleavage, facing away from the exit. The jukebox is playing something by Lee Dorsey way too loud he is thinking. Even the polluted downtown air, the steady hum of traffic would be a relief for his frazzled nerves and rumbling stomach.
    Vic, noticing the gap next to him, can't see Charlie anywhere. He's already been swallowed up by the crowd.
    "Hey Arturo. Donde ha ido?"
    "Man, that Charlie is too much sometimes."
    They push past the meat market, the jesting hipsters, and
    "Te dije que no debía beber cuando toma la medicacion."
    "Yeah, that pain medication is heavy... maybe he went to look for Sandra?"
    "Maybe he's in the bathroom."
    "Te apuesto... te apuesto 20 bucks a que no!"
    "Heh. All right, you're on."
    They spin around and walk past a group smoking outside. Charlie, half a block away, stumbles into the jungle. The sidewalks are playing tricks on him, taking sudden turns, placing trashcans and newspaper boxes in front of him. Charlie, as usual, feels the weight of the world on his skinny shoulders, laments his sorry plight along the sidewalks. The swill of whisky, beer, and pain meds a volatile cocktail in his tummy. He sees the blurry outline of a woman passing with a man. It's like everything is vibrant and too bright, and he's looking at her through a grease smeared lens.
    "Sannnra?" He steps closer, manages to grab hold of her coat. "Sannnnra, is that you?"
    "Don't touch me, freak!"
    A male voice coming from another passer by:
    "Lay off her, man."
    She brushes her coat off and steps away with sharp stabs, leaving Charlie gap mouthed, staring after. Just adding to my problems, he reasons through his stupefied haze, Sandra is ignoring me, acting like I don't even exist. He wobbles to a lamppost and leans on it.
    "Why can't you listen to me? Peeez listen to me. You are selfish. You are.... you are."
    People walking by are used to the spectacle of raving homeless madmen. The City's a magnet for all the west coast freaks and the destitute. Charlie, more deranged by the clashing cocktail in his system, fits neatly into place. The City's undesirable fauna castigating ghosts.
    "Why," continues Charlie, in a woman's voice, "do you have to take the money! It was my money anyway..."
    From an apartment up above, a woman's voice:
    "Get your crazy ass out of here before I call the police!"
    Charlie looks up at nothing. Beyond the orange of the street lamp, the black impact of night. "Fuggin... fuggin... stuuuuuup...." His unsteady legs propel him further down the sidewalk, away from that bitch. Up ahead, red and green neon ripples around a leggy cartoon babe. Bare... naked... XXX... Words even a staggering souse can understand.


Sitting in the empty dressing room, Vera suddenly has the weirdest craving for split pea soup, which she detests. She gets up and leaves. She really needs to talk to Rick, if only for a couple minutes. He might finally have time to talk about her lightheadedness, about how her stomach feels like it's filling with water, getting softer and swollen at the same time.
    She walks through what seems like a wall of disembodied, blood-shot eyes, transfixed on the stage. She hears scattered applause, hollering. She doesn't notice the stage, the focus of their attention. Just the dark club, the eyeballs.
    At Rick's booth, she leans on the door frame and sucks in a smoke. To her right she has a full view of the club, of Lynette on stage grappling the pole, teasing it with a slow circular dance. Rick is rattling off on his cell, she can't get a word in edgewise.
    "Don't know dude. The club man where d'ya think shit. No look, number one we gotta hook up those, you know, 'cause we got some peeps waiting for 'em, two we gotta find out if he's good for it.... no tomorrow ain't gonna work." He turns to Vera and winks. "Hold on baby..." Vera blows a nimbus of blue-gray smoke out over the dark, transfixed club. Up here, it's still illegal, but no one notices.
    She feels his irritation with her. A couple months ago he would've dropped anything he was doing, but now even the briefest conversation seems perfunctory. There still is something, though, and she knows it's her weakness. Faith in people, faith in change. She sucks down the last of her cigarette, squashes it into the black tile below, and waits for Rick, still oblivious as he blabbers into his cell. Despite his affectations, she can't help but like the fact that he is tall and seems so sure of himself. Her last boyfriend was a whiny momma's boy with issues about everything from his penis size to his joblessness.
    "Yo that's dope..." He looks back at Vera with her arms crossed, still in the door frame. "Hold... hold on a sec," then to Vera, "What is it baby?"
    "C'mon Rick."
    "Vera, you know I got tons of shit to do. It's just Neddy. He wants to hook up a little somthin' somthin'." Rick starts pumping his fists and rocking his head to the track he just faded up. Down below, Lynette moves into the next sequence, minus her top.
    "Seriously, I haven't talked to you in the three hours we've been here so far. I haven't talked to you, for real, in days. I really need to talk."
    "Whatever, Vera."
    "Yo let's talk later, all right?"
    Through the dim light Vera can see the glint of his pierced eyebrow, arcing. He repeats, for effect, "Later, all right?"
    A man twice her girth grunts as he pushes past her. Her view obscured, she hears Rick's enthusiastic greeting, the routine introduction to his next sale. Fuck man. The guy is the door to the score, like he was my entrance to this club. A wanted man. She wonders if that's part of the attraction, the fact that she has to compete with everybody for just a sliver of his mercurial attention.
    She watches the rest of the routine from her vantage point, then walks back through the club to the dressing room and slumps down in her chair. Rick's indifference still has her peeved. Lula, another exotic dancer, is in there talking with Mia... girl talk, thinks Vera. The same platitudes, night after night. Always variations on the same themes of money and fucked up relationships. How did she ever get sucked into this scene? She gets up and grabs her faux silver leopard cat coat, slips it over her lithe, uncorrupted body, and grabs her pack of smokes. She needs to break away from this hen house. Even the polluted downtown air would be a relief.
    She steps outside under the deflected halogen spot that illuminates Sandra and her massive man-baiting cleavage. She can't understand what is happening to her, and almost wants to cry with joy at the sight of passing cars, red and yellow lights blinking up and down the streets, faint rap loops coming from spanking new candy apple red Beamers, the cold sweep of evening chill. She pulls out a Dunhill, strikes a match, inhales slowly.
    "Hi ya cutie," says Sandra.
    "Howz it going tonight?"
    "Not too hot really. Been fighting with my boyfriend."
    "Tell me about it."
    "He's so helpless sometimes. If he could only get his shit together..."
    "Why don't you bring him by sometime? I'd like to meet him."
    "He doesn't even want me working here. He's in denial about it. But the truth is he can't cut it by himself."
    "And the way things are going between you two..."
    "Yeah," Sandra nods, laughs as if a revelation just hit her. "It's shitty working out here anyway. You guys make all the money."
    "Yeah, but that comes with its own price."
    "I think I'm gonna get one of the other girls to cover for me, it's pretty slow anyway. I need to patch things up with him." She pulls out a pack of her own cigarettes, Kool menthols, and lights up. In front of them is an older man, brown, desiccated skin clinging to a tight wound face. He's obviously bone thin, despite the onion layers of jackets and pullovers he's got on.
    "How you ladies doing tonight? Could you make a little donation?"
    "You know you're not even supposed to be here," says Sandra.
    "OK. How about a cigarette then?"
    "My last one," says Sandra.
    "Here, take one," says Vera, pulling out her pack. She gives a sharp glance to Sandra who avoids eye contact, then a faint smile to the homeless guy.
    "Thank you, miss."
    Vera turns and starts walking back inside. "Later," she says. She barely catches a sarcastic, "Yeah, later," when the door shuts behind her. She feels nervy. The dark club, the trick lights, the piped in music, all seem so... But she's only got one more dance tonight, and she knows she can hold out.


Arturo and Vic, after a total of five minutes searching, returned to Lemongrass Joy and got so drunk they even started flirting with the crusty old bar maid. Charlie had long since escaped their radar of concern. Stepping out now, into the night, reminds them of their lost partner and they decide to renew their search. They head towards the main strip with all the nudie clubs and taxis. At least from there they'd be able to catch a ride home.
    At the corner they see Charlie tumbling out to the sidewalk, clutching his arm. A door slams behind him.
    "Charlie! Charlie! There you are. We've been looking for you all night," says Arturo, with apparent genuine concern.
    "Yeah, Charlie. Were you in the strip joint the whole time?"
    "Sandra was at the Lemongrass looking for you."
    "Yeah, me and Arturo were worried sick. Goddamn Charlie. You look like a wreck. C'mon. C'mon, Art. Give me a hand with this guy."
    They stagger off, Charlie crucified in the middle.


Vera has just finished her last private dance for the evening. On her way back to the dressing room she encounters Mia. The overhead halogens are on now, revealing the mess for tomorrow morning's cleaning lady. Vera's getting that weird feeling again, that weird soft and bloated feeling.
    "What's wrong?" asks Mia.
    "I don't know."
    "I saw you go back with that guy. Is that it?"
    "Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is."
    "Have you ever felt bad about taking money from a customer?"
    "It's just a job like anything else. And some of the guys ... uhhh. you know what I mean."
    "This guy. He seemed a little handicapped. Like he was retarded and a little sad."
    "Sad is more like it. You can't feel bad for him. You didn't force him in this place did you? Any man knows exactly what he's getting into coming into a place like this."
    "But this guy... the thing is it didn't seem like he knew what he was getting into. He seemed a little, you know, slow."
    "He deserves a little fun, doesn't he?"
    She holds up a half inch wad of bills and leafs through them. "Four hundred and twenty dollars? When I turned around the guy was passed out. He could hardly form a syllable when he was awake!"
    "You can't think like that. There's suckers that come in here all the time and we do our job. They're begging us to do the routines. They tip us to keep us working and to show their appreciation. You start thinking like that, you start working for free, and I don't know what that makes you."
    "Look, I'm going up to get my things."
    At her locker she's not hearing the small talk in the hen house. She's completely self-absorbed and racked with and stupid guilt for taking that guy's money. She knows she's justified, even though the scales this time gave her an unfair advantage. The guy was lost enamored of her. How could she be so cold?  She takes the bills he gave her - 50s and 20s and stacks them next to her night's tips. After paying her fees she's up to over eight hundred dollars. She puts on a pair of sweats and her faux fur coat, hoists her duffel with her work clothes and heads out. But first to Rick's booth, who still hasn't shown.
    She passes Lynette on the way, stuffing a glossy magazine bindle in her bra. She yanks aside the curtain to Rick's booth and sees him - with forced smile - greet her. She sees his shirt half tucked into his trainers. He never tucks in his shirt. There are some lines on a jewel box next to his mixer. His eyes follow hers down to his crotch, and before he can stammer out his usual coke addled obfuscations she swipes at the jewel box and hisses, dispersing yellow powder over the faders and knobs on his mixer. "Jesus, Vera... my fucking mixer.. my..." She's already memorized the rest. There's something inside her and she feels more vicious and protective than ever. She doesn't need anymore of his subterfuge and bullshit. She needs the final exit to this place.
    Outside, the cool night air hits her like an illuminating moment. Distant voices, neon lights bounce off her, and suddenly she knows it's impossible to turn back.

About the author:
Andrew grew up in California and lives in Barcelona where he contributes to a newspaper called Catalonia Today and writes a monthly column on His fiction has appeared on , and is forthcoming on He can be visited at his blog, Guirilandia.

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