"I have to find her."

Steve shakes his head.

"Why? I mean, it's not what I expected, but count your blessings. Can you picture yourself a father, Morgan: bottles, diapers, 2a.m. feedings? You'd lose your independence."

Leanne looms larger than life on the stage beyond.

 I'm gonna harden my heart

Morgan moves to leave; Steve grabs his arm.

"Look, Leanne's a mother. Can you imagine life with her. Baby-sitting the kid while she's here at work?"

I'm gonna swallow my tears

As if pressing home Steve's point, Leanne takes hold of a breast and gives it a mighty squeeze. Jets of milk erupt, to the delight of her open-mouthed patrons. Morgan shudders. Steve releases his grip.

"That's reality, my friend. These girls aren't metaphors, they're joys, sorrows, loves, hates, pleasures, and outright pains unedited, in the flesh, non-poetic parts and all, none in stanzas; this is a bar; that music is too loud, the beer 's flat, the tabletops are sticky, Chris waters down the drinks, the floorboards reek of booze and puke, and the women on that stage are mostly sad, pathetic creatures whose lives don't end in happily ever after, much less rhyme. If you insist on looking for Michelle, watch out, you just may find her."

Leanne's meaty thighs scissor a scrawny pole, then rub up and down.

I'm gonna turn and leave you here

Steve casts a wistful glance at the darkened pit.

"Sure you won't open your table?"

"I said I quit. I only came to ask about Michelle, have a talk with Cindy, then I'm out of here."

"While you're waiting, then. Come on, a hand or two can't hurt. Beats subjecting yourself, and me, to this."

Steve indicates Leanne, who wriggles in the hardcore light exotically.

"On second thought, would you ask her to meet me outside?"

Steve sighs; the Golden Spur, without Blackjack, is a prospect he laments.

 

 

"Cindy! Wait up, will you?"

"I'm late."

"Please?"

"I don't know where she's at, Morgan. Leave me alone. Chris will cook my goose, if I'm..."

"Didn't she mention anything? A place? Family? Is there anywhere you think she might have gone?"

Cindy did hear something, once, about Seattle—but nothing specific, and none of the dealer's business, she decides. 

"You don't figure, Morgan. Us girls been makin' eyes at you for months. Nothin'. Zilch. Dealer's got his nose in the air. So we go, 'fine, his loss.' Then alluva sudden, snap; you're hot for Michelle. Okay. Let her jump his bones, if that's the way he wants it. So off the two of you go; next day she splits. What's with that, we'd like to know? No answer." Morgan, at a loss, does not insist. Cindy softens. "Listen. I don't know what went on between you two, and frankly I don't care, but Michelle 's a real good person, and most of us was sad to see her go. And most of us believe it's all on accounta you. Hear what I'm saying?" She lifts his chin with her hand. "Want some advice?" He nods. "Forget her. If Michelle wanted you, or anybody else, to find out where she's at, you can bet your boots she would've dropped a hint. I gotta go."

Morgan watches helplessly as the stripper turns to leave, her long legs striding briskly, stalwartly, then halting. Cindy glances back.

"Once, for what it's worth, she mentioned Seattle. Not much help, I realize, but that's all I heard."

Her long legs take a few more strides then vanish.

Morgan tucks his pant legs into his socks, unlocks his bike chain, wraps it around his handlebars, and pedals away.

 

 

Two chips...

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