NO ACCOUNT - JONATHAN ASHLEY
I left the Christmas party after Anne threw her whiskey and ginger in my face. I mean how much does she think a man can take? Maybe I deserved it because of how I talked to her. But the way she’d treated me all night, avoiding me like I was an irksome little cousin her mother had forced to bring along, what else was I supposed to do? It was as if the men who worked at the restaurant with her were more deserving of her affections than I. Of course, being unemployed and inebriated most days and nights, placing the burden of rent and bills on her shoulders, what did I expect? How was she supposed to introduce me?
“Hey, everybody. This is my no account, unemployable fiancée, Lyle? Look at the opal ring he bought me when he proposed. He couldn’t afford diamonds, but that ain’t what matters, now, is it?”
When the strippers showed up and started dancing on the bar and Anne stuck that five dollar bill between her breasts for one of the girls to retrieve with her mouth, I’d had enough. Here she was, acting like a complete and utter libertine, gallivanting around in her see through dress that barely covered her ass. And she was doing all this right before my very eyes, like it didn’t matter that she’d had a man for four and a half years and needed to be settling down.
I turned away at the sight of her with the strippers, a gathering of her co-workers, mostly male, cheering her on, an orgasmic smile scarring her otherwise angelic face. She caught me outside as I was about to exit the patio, right before the marble fountain with the statue of Venus spitting water.
A corpulent sheriff’s deputy stood with his back against the brick wall of the business next door, supervising the work party, making sure that no minors were served alcohol, that there were no illegal drugs on the premises and that everyone behaved themselves. He wore a broad brimmed Stetson and a nylon green down jacket with a gold star emblazoned on the right breast.
“Where you going?” Anne asked.
“Home,” I said. “Leave you to your leisure.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I told you I liked your dress and the first thing you say back is, ‘You ain’t gonna ruin my time tonight. Don’t you be following me around all night like some sort of lost puppy.’ Remember you saying that?”
“You were making fun of my dress.”
“I said, ‘Nice little dress.’”
“‘Nice little dress.’ That’s your idea of a compliment. And you had a tone in your voice, making fun of me.”
“Well, you walk around dressed like that.”
“Not nearly enough.”
“Don’t go,” she softened up to me, trying to hold onto my hand.
I jerked it away and said, “Don’t touch me, you asshole”
“What’d you say to me? You called me an asshole.”
“At least I didn’t call you a cunt. You could always think of it that way.”
Then she reared back and splashed her drink right in his face. The deputy ran over, standing between the two of us and grabbing us by our shoulders. His face was red with something akin to fear, worried that he’d get jacked in the back of the head settling another domestic dispute.
“Y’all don’t simmer down, one of you’s going to jail and I don’t care which.”
I backed away, brushing Anne’s hand off my shoulder. I backpedaled toward the wrought iron gate that separated the sidewalk from the patio.
“Take her to jail,” I said. “She’s the asshole.”
“You piece of shit,” Anne said, chewing her lower lip, nodding her head dejectedly.
“It’s no problem, sir,” I said, still glaring at Anne. “I’m leaving anyway.”
The deputy didn’t bother to ask if I’d had too much to drink to be driving. He probably figured that was the least of his worries. He was just glad one of us hadn’t taken to throwing fists. I walked on down the sidewalk toward my rusted Dodge, Anne’s voice trailing me.
“Lyle,” she yelled. “Lyle, baby, wait.”
I ignored her as I fumbled with the lock on my car, trying to fit the key in right. It was only then that I realized just how much I’d had to drink at the party. I opened the door right as Anne walked up behind me. Just as I sat down in the driver’s seat and stuck the key in the ignition, she blocked the door so I couldn’t close it.
“Where you going?” she said.
“Nunya,” I laughed.
“You think you’re funny.”
“At least one of us does.”
“Don’t go,” she was whining now, begging me, thirty seconds after flinging alcohol in my face.
“You think I’m gonna stick around this place after you embarrass me like that. Sorry, hon.”
I started the car and began to back away from the parking space. The open door pushed her along until she finally backed away and it shut. She drew back her black leather purse and begun hitting the window and the side of the car with it, calling me everything but a child of God. I peeled out of the restaurant’s parking lot, Anne disappearing in the rearview mirror, the winter winds ruffling her close-cropped raven hair, her hand on her hip as she struggled to stand in one place.
Somehow I wound up on the West End, neon-lit liquor stores interspersed with dilapidated shotgun shacks. As I drove further west, boarded-up row houses littered each side of the street along with more liquor stores, bars on the windows. The falling snow whitened the rooftops and gave the town a hollow, bleak look. I drove aimlessly, trying to get as far away from Anne as possible.
I was in no shape to drive or, for that matter, to congregate with civilized folk. Perhaps that’s why I chose The Green Room as my destination, the seediest, sleaziest strip club in Louisville. Housed on South Seventh Street, the whitewashed building sat on the corner of one of the most dangerous areas of the city. Crack dealers parked themselves on brownstone steps, patrol cars speeding through red lights as not to get stones thrown through their windshields.
It was not a place for a white boy in his mid-twenties with a shaved head and a Black Flag sweatshirt.
I was too inebriated to care, still simmering with rage over the embarrassment she’d had put me through.
As I parked the car across from the strip club’s whitewash facade and headed to the front door, the corner boys yelling curses, the whores cat calling, I wondered what Anne might be up to. Had she found a suitable mate with which to exact her revenge? Had she passed out at the foot of the bar? Or was she merely flirting with one of her fellow servers or a bartender?
I shook my head, exorcising the thoughts. I needed to focus on walking a straight line. There was a cop car creeping up behind me. The bastard must’ve had guts driving that slow through this neighborhood. I glanced over my shoulder. The black haired cop had a thick handlebar moustache and looked like Wyatt Earp, the one Dennis Quaid played alongside the always pathetic and horrible Kevin Costner.
The cop saluted me and drove on.
I entered the dark club, red vinyl booths aligning the western and southern walls, a long mahogany bar to my right. Two stages were situated in the middle of the room, ebony skinned dancers writhing like serpents around rusty poles. A stout, swarthy looking man in a purple vest, an over starched white suit shirt and a bow tie stood at a podium to my left and held out his hand. He heaved a heavy sigh when my only response was to stare.
“Five dollars,” the man shouted over the hip-hop music that blared from massive speakers mounted above each stage.
“Jesus,” I murmured as I fumbled for my wallet.
I scrounged up five ones, placing the rumpled bills in the swarthy man’s sweaty, upturned palm. I turned away and headed to the stage to get a closer look at the dancers. A man in a green flack jacket and blue cap that read ARMY sat in a wheelchair across the stage. Long strands of gray hair peeked out from beneath his cap and he had a deeply pock-marked face. He gazed upon the dancers like they were angels bringing him legs. A crumpled pile of bills lay before him on the counter connected to the stage. The woman dancing closest to him was slightly overweight, stretch marks on her stomach and butt cheeks. But she moved lithely, like a woman half her size. The haggard dancer approached the veteran and crouched, grabbing him by his hair and shoving his face into her bosom, shaking so her breasts bounced his head back and forth. She let go of him and squeezed her breasts together. He placed a five dollar bill between them. A moment later, a waitress wearing nothing but a g-string, balancing a tray of drinks against her hip tapped the veteran on the shoulder. When he turned to order, the haggard stripper reached into his pile of money and came out with a handful, throwing it on the stage behind her with the rest of the cash customers had been handing her. The veteran reached blindly into the pile and handed the waitress a bill. The waitress placed a thin glass filled with amber liquid onto the counter and disappeared into the darkness.
The fact that the stripper had stolen from this war hero bothered me. In fact, I was enraged, angrier than I’d been when I entered the club. Revenge was in order. I could tell the poor bastard that he was being robbed, but what good would that do. It would just be my word against the dancer’s and the bouncers and management would undoubtedly believe her. Instead, I opted for something more personal. I stood, staggering away from the stage and toward the hallway in the back with the neon sign indicating a men’s room. I traipsed through the door and glanced under the stalls. I was alone. I entered a stall, unbuckled my belt and dropped my Levis. Bending down, I fumbled through the pockets until I found a one dollar bill. I folded it lengthwise, shoved it halfway up my ass and pulled it back out, making a mental note of which half was now covered in invisible fecal matter.
When I got back to the stage, the same dancer was working her angle, this time spreading her legs before the disabled veteran. I sat across from him and placed the clean half of the dollar bill in my mouth. She glanced over her shoulder, sensing my presence. I winked, knowing she’d noticed the dollar bill. She crawled across the stage, wiggling her ass as she moved, never losing my gaze, trying to draw me in with those big brown bedroom eyes. I pretended like it was working. She placed her lips around the dirty half of the dollar and drew it from my mouth, dropping it into her hand and throwing it over her shoulder with the others. She grinned and stood, stepping backwards toward the pole.
At this point, the PA crackled and the voice of the DJ came on. The DJ was a rotund black man in a seersucker suit standing in a booth to the left of the stage closest to the door. His voice was throaty, cigarette tinged.
“And now our star attraction,” he said.
I got up and walked outside and sat on the curb. I didn’t care to sadly sit there and watch the show anymore, to see these girls who were someone’s daughter, someone’s wife, someone’s fiancée, someone’s girlfriend, someone’s angel. As far as I was concerned, their star attraction sat in a wheelchair being robbed. Past the smokestacks of the outskirts of downtown and through the gusted clouds in the distance, all I could see was the face of my fiancée.
BIO: Jonathan Ashley is a reporter and columnist for LEO or Louisville Eccentric Observer. He has worked as a screen printer, aprivate investigator, a counselor for adolescent orphans and a coffee shop Barista. His stories are soon to appear in PLOTS WITH GUNS and THUGLIT. He has a BA from Indiana University and is currently seeking and MFA from Murray State. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.