“At the Molten Rock” by Meg Tuite’s Exquisite Quartet

This is the latest in Meg Tuite’s Exquisite Quartet. To go to the column page, please click here.

So I get to the Molten Rock Gentleman’s club, late as usual, and something seems different, but I can’t pinpoint it. Frangellica is backstage muttering something about love, sneezing from allergies while she mixes her flammable charm potions into some kind of prayer to angelic pharmacists hoping her high will reach higher than the glacier she’s already landed on. The gods never hear her because the object of her desire is gayer than the Thanksgiving parade. Captain Pistolwhip is now out in the audience careening around in a chair on some guy’s lap.

BushWhacked is getting ready for her pole-proof winner. She can slither and writhe on that barbershop stick while a filet of tilapia raises its alert head toward the crowd, which amounts to a front row of drunken, lusty coeds and married men and a few couples in the back getting lap dances including the guy rotating around under the Captain. Slowly the frozen fish dislodges itself from her butt cheeks into the crotch of one of the lucky brigade up front, who finds himself with a slab of cold fish and nothing more unless he produces some dollar bills, but quick! BushWhacked paws at them and snarls until bills start bulging out of her g-string like a teller’s drawer at the bank.

And my shtick? Mango Aphrodisia stacked with a plastic fruit triangle teetering on my head, matching pineapple ring-rounded nipples and a g-string with a mango stuck to it. The real trick for me? Showing up every week. I thought exotic dancing would bring in the serious cash to supplement my other jobs—cashier at an upscale furniture store on Mondays and Thursdays and website designer on any day or night somebody actually answers my ad on Craigslist. I’ve only had two calls to date and they both wanted free information out of me to work their own damn sites.

BushWhacked let me in on her secret. “One job,” she said. “Don’t be another rundown housewife looking beast. Do the exercises. Men really like it, let me tell you. And go home with someone for once. Get over yourself. I don’t need for anything.” She smiled and flicked her jangly wrist with the zirconium bracelets as she got into her pink rabbit fur and skirted off on the arm of some staggering gentleman.

Tonight’s different than others. The energy slices in sideways, like a monsoon of noise and throbbing color. Distorted electronica seeps through the side speakers as if it’s some kind of threatening code and the stage wants to shift under my stilettos, doing this Tilt-a-Whirl, thing. I have my own mixtape, but Hal doesn’t play it. He’s trying to throw my cadence off, and that’s okay, sure it is, I’m a big girl, and I’ll prove it.

The guy in the front row has glasses with thick lenses that make his eyes look like eight balls. He keeps chewing left-to-right while he stares and I can see his tiny, spiked shark teeth. He calls me over by flagging a Benjamin in front of his nose and it’s all I can do not to just reach down and rip it out of his hands.

But that’s not how it works. Everything is a performance. The tease is the foreplay-is the theater-is the way to more fans and better hours, bigger paydays. Lord knows I need some of those.

So what I do is sashay over. Yes, that’s exactly what I do, I sashay. I picture myself as Madonna in fishnets, hand on crotch. I slip a finger inside the cloth and I’m actually wet. Mr. Bug Eyes can see that I am because he’s chewing faster and his chest is filling and emptying, but about the time I lean over so that my breasts are level with his nostrils, someone starts screaming.

It’s actually me. My hair extensions have somehow caught on fire underneath my plastic pyre of fake fruit. I dance a wild St. Vitas Dance improvisation, attempting by motion to fan out the flames. I notice that Mr. Bug Eyes, instead of trying to help me, is apparently aroused by my gyrations, and has inserted his small hand down the front of his pants and is jerking it back and forth spasmodically. “Christ!” I cry out in disgust and pain, but before the inferno reaches my headpiece my savior arrives in the form of a man in a powder blue serge suit. This strange gentleman has poured a silver bucket of ice cold water over my burning head, quenching, at least temporarily, my raging fire.

The next thing I know I’m opening my eyes on the divan in the private chamber at the rear of the club. A pink silk sheet covers my naked body. My rescuer, a dusky young man with slicked black hair, long sideburns, and a pencil moustache, is crouched over me, his hands gently caressing my naked shoulders. I am quite conscious of my erect nipples poking up under the yielding silk, betraying the sensations this dark stranger’s ministrations are arousing within me. “Mademoiselle,” he purrs in a heavy Eastern European accent, his searing black eyes piercing deeply into my soul, “have you ever dreamed of seeing the sun rise over the ancient city of Bucharest?”

Bucharest! As if I know where the hell Bucharest is, but I don’t care. I’ll go anywhere with this dark-eyed man right about now. But I’m still coming to, seeping back into my brain like a surreal pudding, and before I even begin to wonder why I’m naked under this sheet, I look up at him and he’s leaning in closer, just a few inches from my face. He’s got a sweet look, even if it is a little on the creepy side with that thin mustache and oil heavy hair, and he begins to speak again. “Lady, would you like to leave this place with me? You are too much goddess for a pitiful world like this.” It sounds like a phony fairytale and I don’t really believe it, but I’m nodding my head and he’s scooping me up in his arms.

We’re out the back entrance. I’m still naked in this pink sheet, and now I’m being put down in the back of some kind of large van. My eyelids are tugging on my ability to stay awake and then everything is dark. I feel like I’m floating, endlessly wisping away, through clouds and wind and muffled bellows.

The first thing I notice when I wake up again is the smell. It’s so weird. Heavy eggy musk, like the time I went to that sulfur saturated hot springs in Canada. I’m sure I’m awake, but can’t find the ability to open my eyes. I reach up and feel a sensation so horrifying vomit propels up my core and explodes out of me. It coats my skin like clumps of mud and that’s when I hear his voice. “Mademoiselle, you have been very bad. How is the master supposed to enjoy you with this stinking mess everywhere?” He tugs a jagged mask off my face, and as my eyes adjust, I see the inside of a brothel—a roomful of naked women giving howling men with bulbous stomachs blowjobs. There are whips and leather and chains scattered across the room. A window curtain is open a slit and I can see the image of blazing sunshine reflecting across strawberry tinted stones. I touch my burning head, but I can’t seem to find the fruit.

***

This month’s contributors to Exquisite Quartet are:

Len Kuntz is a writer in rural Washington State.  His work appears widely in print and online at places like Blue Print Review, Stacatto Fiction, Pale House and also at lenkuntz.blogspot.com

Steven Gulvezan is a disciple, in words, of the great sculptor, Alberto Giacometti.  At their best he hopes that his stories and poems are able to cut close enough to the bone of truth to make them worthwhile to read.  He’s recently been published in Underground Voices, Gutter Eloquence, and Danse Macabre.  Links to some of his writings may be found at:  http://www.mysterywriters.org/user/607

Kona Morris, who is the co-founder and editor of Fast Forward Press, as well as the forthcoming anthology series, Anthology of the Awkward. She received the Redwood Empire Mensa Award for Creative Non-Fiction in 2006. She has published many short stories and prose poems, and she is nearly finished with her first novel. Kona is originally from the small town art hub of Eureka, California, and she is currently a writing professor in Denver.  www.konamorris.com

Meg Tuite’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in over 50 journals including Berkeley Fiction Review, 34th Parallel, One, the Journal, Hawaii Review and Boston Literary Magazine. She is the fiction editor of The Santa Fe Literary Review and Connotation Press: An Online Artifact. Her novel “Domestic Apparition” is forthcoming in March 2011 through San Francisco Bay Press. Her blog: http://megtuite.wordpress.com.

More of Meg Tuite’s Exquisite Quartet at Used Furniture.

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