shouts with a raw voice.
In the distance, past erected necks, past beer-bottle troupes at attention, past pool sharks, chronic video players, drunks, and plain-clothed Vice, Michelle, immersed in her element, romps unrestrainedly.
From time to time her face is cloaked by a shock of errant hair, that doubles as a veil, in the swamp-cooled draft--air so damp its breath breeds sweat in lieu of goose bumps.
Unconcerned about who they are--as long as they are ogling, unconcerned about crude remarks--if dollars nonetheless flow, Michelle performs with a self-possessed satisfaction.
Paralyzed, in the strobe-light's flash, the dancer halts, stock-still:
You really wanna know?
Okay, I was with some friends at a bar--not this bar; another dump across town--where four of us went to tie one on and do a little dancing. The place was really grungy--I never would have gone alone--but the guys were hot to trot and lured us in; Alice and me. "Come on," they kept on coaxing, "it's not that bad." It was--a hole for horny studs that we called "disgusting," hired help fleecing customers for all we were worth. Still, it wasn't so offensive as to kill our curiosity. Eyeballs bugged like bullfrogs, in we went. Alice pissed me off, the way she acted so superior. Guess, if she bitched long enough and LOUD enough, she figured, it wouldn't fall on her that we were there.
Anyway, the four of us got pretty sloshed, then this guy showed up at our table, wanting to know if either of us girls had ever stripped; on stage, he meant. Well that caused a whole lot of laughing and wise cracks and dares and stuff. Alice, of course, was offended, but no less 'impaired'... and I think flattered; these women, for the most part, were built like centerfolds. And earning, in tips alone, a hundred per night! Well, that caught Alice's attention; mine was snared already. Besides, we weren't to go on until after last call. Which meant, even if we flopped, the crowd would have thinned. Plus peeling off our underwear would not be required. Our dates were doing back flips, trying to talk us into it. Alice, true to character, flatly declined. So I said, "Why not."
You gotta bear in mind how much I'd had to drink--not paying for a drop past twelve o'clock; they kept on comin'.
Then, lo and behold, I was strutting my stuff onstage. Half-naked. Though I honestly don't remember how I got my clothes off. I do recall, however, hearing catcalls and cheers, and seeing my lingerie chock-full of legal tender.
From that night on I knew, I'd found a career.