We nighttime girls called the day shift at the club the dog shift. Everyone knows that the ugly girls are hired for the day shift. They usually had to be extra sluttish in order to make any cash. I was confident that my 600-dollar hair extensions, sweet smile and granite ass would blow these "but-her-faces" right off the stage and cash right out of the guys's wallets. It worked well at night, anyway. I brushed on another layer of black mascara and signaled the D.J. that I was ready to go. I asked him to play some Marvin Gaye for me.
The P.A. began to blare, "Let's get it on" and I took my cue, stepping out onto the stage. "…and here comes the beautiful, Marianna! That's right; she'll bake your tamale. Speaking of tamales, gentlemen, don't forget to take advantage of our free lunch buffet over there behind the stage. Yes, we do take good care of you at the Zebra so show your appreciation to your cocktail waitress and of course, the phenomenal and sexy, Marianna!" I was used to this cheesy, racist DJ intro, minus the buffet part of course.
I looked out at my audience and saw only two men sitting in front of the stage. There were five people standing in line at the buffet, but three of them were dancers.
Are they actually eating strip club food? Another dancer named Candy smiled at me before shoving a forkful of macaroni salad into her mouth. I smiled back just to make sure she wouldn't go in the dressing room and try and pee on the lipstick I had left on the counter. You never know about these Dog shift girls.
I twirled around the brass pole and landed on my knees in front of the first guy. He scratched his head and leaned forward with anticipation. Slowly, I untied the back of my mesh bikini top and tossed it on the floor. As his mouth widened in a grin, a piece of stray, fried chicken fell from his lips onto the stage. Hmmm. Attractive. I turned around and bent over to give him the canyon view and hide the look of disgust on my face. Closing my eyes helped me get into the music and I went through my routine.
As the song ended, I crawled on all fours up to the chicken guy. Wearing my most seductive smile I said, "Hey baby, wanna private dance?"
"Is it two for one?" He replied.
"That's okay. I'll wait."
I opened my mouth to protest but instead decided to give up. I picked up the dollar he had left next to his plate and approached the only other guy at the stage. Before I could even finish my one sentence pitch, he shook his head and said, "No English."
Not a stellar beginning. I tossed my two dollars onto the dressing room counter and slumped into a plastic chair. It wasn't even 1:30 but I needed a drink. Just then, the dressing room curtain parted and the club owner, Fat Mike, sauntered through. Fat Mike was an older Persian man, who squeezed into the same, fancy Armani suit day after day. He had recently bought the club from the previous, Armenian owners who sold it to him for exactly one million. I think he got it so cheap because he agreed to launder their coke money through the club.
He was always very friendly but most of us tried to steer clear of him. He was known to occasionally take a new dancer into his office for a "meeting". I had seen a few new girls go into his office and not come back out for a long time. When they did, they usually didn't come back into the club to work or worse, left crying. No one actually said what happened in there but the rumor was that he had a bottle of Patron spiked with GHB sitting on his oversized, oak desk.
"Marianna!" He cheered and kissed me on the cheek. "I am so happy that you come in day shift! But Why? You do very good at night."
"I'm leaving for Hawaii tomorrow and I need spending cash." I replied.
"And how much spending cash does a pretty girl like you need on vacation?"
"At least two grand if I want to have any fun."
"Ah, but there are easier ways to make that money, Marianna." He began to massage my shoulders with his meaty hands. They smelled like garlic.
"Yes there are but you know I like to keep it clean, Mike."
He laughed and patted my shoulder. "Such a good girl you are. But if you ever want to become bad, well, let me know and I can make you much money, my dear."
"I'll make sure I do that, Mike." I shot him a fake smile.
"You know, you are not supposed to smoke in here, sweetie. It against the law now. But if you want to, you can come back to my office and smoke. Relax and have a drink until more customers come."
Immediately, I put my cigarette out on the dressing room counter. "I think there are some new customers," I said, and walked out of the room.
It was time to make some cash.
"Hey baby, want me on your lap naked?" I methodically worked every guy in the club, from left to right. Not that there were very many. Selling dances was a numbers game, and I would diligently work my way around until one of these numbers flipped and said yes.
"No, thanks," said the first guy.
"Will you do it for ten bucks?" the second guy said. I told him this wasn't a flea market.
I never understood why men never seemed to get the way business works in a strip club. They are supposed to pay, and I am supposed to dance naked for them. It is a very simple concept. Yet, it seems to me that most men think that we dancers are here looking for a mate. Sometimes I'll sit and talk with them for a minute before asking them for a dance. Then they act all hurt and whine that I was just talking to them because I wanted a dance, not because I really liked them. No shit! Whether I like someone or not, I've got bills. I'm here to work. If I were looking for friends, I certainly wouldn't be looking in a strip club. The only friends I'm looking for in here are green and fit in my purse. It doesn't take a brainiac to realize this.
My heart was beginning to sink but then I looked up and saw Bryan coming through the front entrance of the club. Bryan was my regular customer. He has been coming into the club at least three nights a week for the past year and loyally doles out two to three hundred dollars on private dances with me every time. I had called him earlier and told him that I was working the dog shift today. He had found that hilarious and said he would try to make it.
"Bryan, Honey! You made it!" I ran up and gave him a big hug. "Oh baby, you don't even know how glad I am you're here."
"Hey beautiful." He smiled, but I could see that he seemed nervous. Bryan was never nervous. His eyes quickly darted around the place and I noticed that his hands were sweaty.
"Are you okay?" I said, leading him straight to a private dance booth. I could sense the other dancers lurking in the background like hyenas around fresh prey.
"Yes." He said, but I could tell he was lying.
"Let me make you feel better." I sat him down and straddled his lap. Slowly, I began to move my hips back and forth and exposed a nipple two inches from his nose. Usually this made him crazy but he seemed preoccupied. "Hello, boob to Bryan, come in Bryan. Gees baby, are you sure you're okay?"
He looked straight into my eyes and said, "I need to ask you a favor."
"I need you to hold this for me." He pulled a very small key from out of his jacket pocket. "No questions asked. Then I need you to go home."
"What? I can't go home. I just got here and I need to make two grand for my trip tomorrow."
He opened his wallet and counted out twenty one-hundred dollar bills. "Will this suffice?" he said, as he put the cash in my hand. Dazzled by all of the cash, I nodded my head and took the key. I undid the clasp of my necklace and hung the key right next to the tarnished, butterfly pendant that I never ever took off. My sister gave me that necklace. It was a long time ago.
I wondered what the key was for but before I could open my mouth to ask him, he said, "No questions." Then he stood up.
"Don't you want to finish the dance?" I wasn't used to being pushed off someone's lap.
"Baby, you know I love you, but I really can't right now. There is a note that I left in your car that will tell you what to do with the key. After 9 tonight, follow the instructions on the note."
"How do you know which car is mine?"
He laughed and said that he likes to know what kind of car he's been making the payments on. I told him he was a weirdo and escorted him out to the door.
I tipped out the club and grabbed my things out of my locker. I needed to use the bathroom, but it was locked and I could hear two girls sniffing lines behind the door. Candy was checking herself out. She bent over in front of the full-length mirror and adjusted her clit ring. Two small, weighted balls swung from delicate chains that hung from her pierced labia. She noticed me looking and said, "Oh these. I use them for self-defense." she smirked. "You know, you're going to have to use the men's bathroom out there." she pointed out to the public restroom . "Those bitches will be in here for a while."
I decided that I would rather piss my pants than use the public restroom here so I grabbed up my things and walked out towards my car. I checked my 68 mustang over from front to back but I didn't see a note anywhere. Annoyed, I sat down in the driver's seat and called Bryan on my cell. The sound of a ring tone came from my back seat and I almost did piss my pants. What the fuck is that? I grabbed the phone from the back and saw that it was my phone calling it. Written on the touch-screen in permanent marker were the words, "WAIT FOUR SHE NOT."
I sat there for a moment confused and a little scared. Was this the note? How the fuck did he get in my car? However, I was too excited about the two grand in my purse to acknowledge the pang of dread coming from my gut. Aloha bitches! I shrugged off the bad feeling as I backed out. I didn't notice it then, but a black Mercedes with tinted windows silently followed me as I made my way merrily back to my apartment loft in Korea town.
Now I'm living in Portland, Oregon, from Roslyn, WA, after leaving Los Angeles, CA in 2010. Searching inside and out for a new paradigm is my major goal in life right now. The patriarchal, racist and classist world that we live in gives me complete and utter indigestion (literally); so I continue on my spiral journey, keeping my eyes open for other worlds and drawing inspiration from those who are also searching.
("Sloth Womyn," is a reference from, "The Womyn's Holy Book of Mysteries," by Z.E. Budapest.)