... as they settle onto bar stools side by side... lip-stick coated whispers issue in between... uttered at a volume purposefully audible. Their game is "snare-the-pigeon," aka "con-the-john." Their game is vaguely principled and clearly a risky business.
"No, no; he's a pinky-dick."
Cindy's burst of laughter bubbles through her nostrils, mixed with tonic water. She coughs and sputters.
"Stop! Always when my mouth is full."
She shoves Leanne peevishly. The latter retaliates.
"When isn't your mouth full?"
Elbows duel as voices trill hilarity.
"Him, then. See? The cowboy?"
"Oh, yeah. Now there's a man could bust a bucking bronco."
"Horse shit on his boots, I'll' wager."
"Long as there's no caca on his weenie."
Their ribs convulse with uncontrolled hysterics. Chris, from behind the bar, snaps a towel in reprimand. The two simmer down... then once more crane their necks in search of likely targets. Leanne spots Billy.
"You see who I see?"
Conspiratorial backsides reconvene.
"Don't look, wait; he's watching. Wait... wait... now."
Cindy steals a peek. Together, she and Leanne pronounce the name.
More naughty giggles escape...
...as Billy tries to concentrate on his pool game... fits his cue to the chalk and methodically grinds... hopes that his 'admirers' appreciate technique. Sure, he misses a few shots now and then, but is no less capable... having perfected a "cool head, and a keen eye." He clamps the cue between his over-pudgy knees and powders his over-pudgy palms. People always notice. "Like silk," they tell him; every move he makes is "smooth as silk". He fits the cue between his fingers, works it, works it, works it, prepares to make a shot.
"Look. He's jacking off his thing."
The women howl. Chris slams shut the cash register to arrest their shenanigans. His look is utterly fierce. The pair sobers up... not that they are truly drunk; Chris has served the drinks, keeping count, watering them down. Still, they had better shape up, and cut the crap. They nod obsequiously.
Billy sprawls for a cross-the-table straight shot. As his right shoe lifts, it points, like an outsized ballerina, his belly all but consuming the table's rounded edge. CRACK-PLUNK; he drills the 6, the cue ball drawing to a stop in position to make the 3. He glances at his 'fans,' pleased they have noticed.
"Aren't fat men gross? I mean, look at that gut; as big as my whole body."
Cindy casts comparing looks at the two physiques.
"Well, not quite."
"You rat! I'm trying. Okay; I'll try a little harder. Some men like a bit of flesh, you know."
"Relax, Leanne; I think your body 's beautiful. No foolin'." Leanne sucks in her envy; Cindy's body drives the men berserk. She could have any man she wants, not settle for the fat-freaks. "Our pool shark, over yonder, is a whole other story, though."
Eyeballs glint in unison, mock the player's sprawl. CRACK-CRACK-CRACK; no PLUNK. Must have made that shot a hundred times. How could he have missed it? Sighting down his cue, Billy checks it for warp... reaches toward the wall rack... finds a replacement... tests it on the tabletop... ensures it has no limp... chalks it automatically... works it, works it, works it, prepares to make a shot.
"Jack-off time again."
CRACK-PLUNK! He steps back like a painter, reviewing a canvas—a bluish streak of chalk across his fly. Leanne spots it.
"Look. See that arrow? Where it's pointing?"
Cindy squints, then giggles...
...as Billy executes a triple bank shot, sinking two balls at once (the second by luck). Solitary pool does have its drawbacks; make a combination like that and it goes unobserved. Except the svelte one maybe saw it—or so Billy suspects, having grown acutely aware of the strippers' scrutiny.
Leanne tugs Cindy's arm.
"Don't stare; he'll get ideas." Emboldened by his latest triumph, Billy thinks to offer Cindy a game. "Too late. Shit; now you've done it. Lardo 's comin' over."
"Good evening, ladies. Either of you two play?"
Leanne and Cindy roll their eyes, check with one another, then roll them back.
"No, we two just drink."
Leanne points to her empty glass. Billy takes the hint and signals Chris (who quickly mixes a refill—mostly of water).
"And what about you, Miss? Cindy, isn't it?"
Cindy warms to Billy's genteel manners.
"No, I'm fine, thank you."
Chris glowers. Billy pays for Leanne. Chris keeps the change.
"So, how's about a game?"
Leanne declines for them both, as she turns her back.
"Cindy, I meant."
"Sure. Why not?"
Cindy sashays off; Leanne feels betrayed.
Billy regards himself as the luckiest man alive; Cindy is gorgeous, her yellow nylon dress so sheer she might as well be nude, will be, soon enough, right after their game, when she goes back up on stage and strips off every stitch (almost), right in front of him, in front of everybody else, for that matter; but who cares at the moment? Billy's imagination romps unrestrained. For now, she is his alone; and later? Billy inserts a quarter and rams it home. He racks. He chalks. He powders. He steps to the side and signals Cindy to break. She smiles, sidles in front of him, cocks her hip to the left, bends over, and takes careful aim... then shoots. CRACK; the balls flare out in every direction. None drops. Cindy shrugs.
"Name 's Billy.
"Your turn, Billy."
"No, no. You shoot again; I'll just watch."
"Let's call it a handicap. You get two for every one of my shots—which is only fair; I'm pretty good, you know."
Cindy bends again. Billy drops his gaze to worship her behind. Leanne, alone at the bar, looks on with malice.
"Damn; I missed again. Sorry, Billy. I don't play so good. Afraid I won't be givin' you much competition."
"Ah, never mind. What's competition anyway? A man should do his best, is all. A woman, too. That's my philosophy; always do your best, then no one can fault you." Billy sinks three balls in quick succession, then pauses to ponder. "Yup, always do your best, then hold your head high." He plots his strategy. "Which doesn't mean you're hard on yourself; that's important." He sets himself up. "You, for instance..."
"What about me?"
CRACK-PLUNK! Billy glides away to the far-side corner. CRACK, CRACK, CRACK... CRACK... PLUNK!
"I've seen the way you dance. You're good; you really are. You do your best, and you do it will absolute ease."
CRACK-CRACK. He misses.
Cindy's overall attitude has undergone a shift, even though she can feel his eyes caress her haunches... massage them... revel in their wiggle as she once again takes aim... CRACK-PLUNK!...and sinks one.
"There you go; nice shot!"
He pats congratulations on her drum-tight bum. Leanne has seen enough; she stomps backstage.
"You see? Your best always pays."
A spotlight lit Leanne—sans g-string—looms in the background. Chris, enraged by the infraction, rushes the stage.
"GODDAMN-IT! GET YOUR FAT ASS DOWN FROM THERE! YOU TRYIN' TO GET US BUSTED?" He pushes through a crowd of six or seven onlookers. "OFF!"
Leanne, with meek obedience, turns tail and scoots. Patrons roundly boo. Chris pursues the offender into her dressing room.
"You stupid cunt. What's the big idea?"
"Don't 'huh' me. Look at yourself. South of the border."
Leanne regards her crotch, then seems aghast at its blatant indiscretion.
"Oh, Chris... I... I'm sorry; I didn't realize. I wasn't thinkin', I guess."
"You wasn't thinkin'? You walked out there on stage in the goddamn buff? Beaver and all? And I thought Cindy was dumb; you take the cake. You're fired."
"No, Chris, please! I didn't do it on purpose; honest, I didn't Honest to God! Please, don't fire me, PLEASE! I really can't afford to lose this job."
Leanne's attempt to reverse the irreversible is hopeless; Chris has spoken. No matter what she says, he will not relent. She starts to cry.
It is 3am and Leanne is still in tears... at Michelle's place... in Michelle's kitchen. The wad of Kleenex in her hand has practically decomposed. Michelle pours more coffee. Leanne ignores it... disinterested in anything save her wretched grief... which catches in her throat each time she expresses it... attempts to tell Michelle her side of the story.
"I... I wouldn't care, you know, if it was... only me. But I... I got Jasmine... and Tony. Tony's only seven weeks. I couldn't hardly make ends meet before... workin' full time. Now, without no job..." Her tear ducts leak—though sobs and woeful laments have finally stopped—despair having settled in. A drop of mucus drips in a slow-mo strand, links her nose to the tabletop before she wipes it away.
"Can't you get Welfare?"
"I get Welfare. Welfare's not enough."
"Who from? You must be joking."
"What about the father?"
"Prob'bly in jail. Jasmine's, anyway. Tony's..." Leanne shrugs diffidently. "... was a one-night-stand." Her chin quivers. Mascara runs in tracks all down her cheeks. Michelle retrieves a tissue and tries to erase the damages.
"I still don't get exactly what happened; you went on bare?"
"You don't know?"
"I don't remember. Not clearly. I was so pissed off at Cindy..."
"Cindy? What's she got to do with you going on undressed? Were you two drunk?"
"Chris was tendin' bar; how the hell could we've been? No, I just got mad, is all."
"At Chris, at Cindy, at Bum-rush Billy... At myself, mostly."
"Why, is what I'm asking."
"Because I'm so fat. Fat and dumb and ugly. I can't help it; havin' those kids ruined me. And diets, exercise, fasting; nothin' ever works. I'm just gross."
"You're not. Not at all."
"Not completely, maybe. Not yet. But suddenly I realized I sure as hell would be; fat and dumb and ugly and worst of all old."
Leanne envisions babysitter costs, utility bills, the price of groceries... life is too expensive for an unwed teenage mother... doctor, dentist, and outpatient fees... for an unskilled high school drop-out... laundry, clothes, and medicine outlays... for a night-worker unemployed... not to mention last month's rent and how to evade her landlord... life is too expensive for a "plumper" to survive.