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STARBOUND (fourth)

“Come to my place after work”, she said before taking a long pull of smoke and dropping the small butt into an ashtray.  Sylvia exhaled a long stream of bluish-white smoke into the air before she responded.

          “What’s up?” Sylvia asked.  “I’m pretty tired after running back and forth from this place to the Ziggidy Bar.  Two sets an hour, with a run up and down the street in between really takes it out of me”.

          “For one thing, sweetie”, Marisa said as she prepared for her own on-stage set, “I finished the slave girl costume you wanted me to make for you.  I must say, it looks great.  It’s a good idea you have for it.  The idiots in the audience will love it”.

          “For another thing?” asked Sylvia, checking her make up in the mirror.

          “I have a bit of special information for you that I think you’ll find interesting”, Marisa said, deliberately teasing Sylvia.

          “So tell me now”, said Sylvia.

          “No way… not around here.  You won’t want anybody else to know about it”, she said.  The other girls at the make up counter stopped talking together.

          “Hey!” said Princess, a young girl with a muscular body. “What’s with the secrets here?  Share, ladies… share if you care”.

          “It wouldn’t help you to know, Princess”, said Marisa with an arrogant toss of her blond mane.

          “Fuck you”, said Princess.  “You fag-broads make me sick the way you hang together”.

          “Eat your heart out, bitch!” said Marisa.  She turned back to Sylvia.  “So come over, Sweetie.  I want to check the fit of the slave girl outfit before I do the final sewing”.

          “Wait for me then, after your show.  We can share a cab”.

Sylvia Vichnorski was in her loose-fitting street clothes, resting in her chair in the dressing room of the Paris Paradise strip club.  She read the entertainment pages of the newspaper while she waited for Marisa to finish her last show.  It was the last show of the night for the club, so the dressing room was empty except for Sylvia.  Marisa’s music came through the wall, and Sylvia knew the show was coming to its conclusion.  The final song ended, and there was a smattering of unenthusiastic applause from the few members of the audience that were still there.  These were usually the loneliest men.  The men with no other place to go except empty apartments, boarding house rooms, or suburban homes where indifferent wives are already in bed, grateful for the absence of the husbands they don’t like.

Marisa strolled into the dressing room holding her costume layers balled up in front of her muscled abdomen, her milk chocolate coloured skin glistening with perspiration.

          “Another day, another three hundred dollars”, she said with a toss of her head.  “Hang on, sweetie, while I wash the stink of this dump off me”.

In the back seat of the taxi the girlfriends discussed how much money they made at the club, and how they could earn more when they danced at bars.  They commiserated about the comparative ease of performing at the club, with its admission-paying audience as opposed to the bar scene, where they were an attraction added to the drinking.  The bar owners hated having the strippers because of the expenses, including their salaries, their dressing rooms, and the general problems caused by the rowdy behaviour of the clientele.  As a result, the bar owners and managers were aggressive and insulting toward the girls.  In the end, the two girls agreed that it was worth the smaller pay to work at Paris Paradise.  But Sylvia was ambitious, and worked at bars while she worked at the club.  The dancers had an hour between shows, and that was often enough time to get to a nearby bar, dress, perform, dress, return to the club, and dress again in time to undress on stage.  The club featured the generally more pleasant and more appreciative audience, club owner and manager.

The cab pulled up in front of a large car wash building, silent in the late night darkness.  Marisa paid the driver and both girls climbed out of the car and entered a narrow stairwell through an obscure doorway beside the large exit door from the car wash.

          “This is a really cool place you have, Marisa”, Sylvia said as they climbed the long, straight staircase.

          “Thanks, Sweetie”, said Marisa.  “I love it because it’s huge and cheap, and the noise of the car wash is never a problem since I put down the thick broadloom.  It’s always closed at night, and this downtown street is silent during the late hours when I’m here.  And I’m only Marisa when I’m workin’, Sweetie.  Remember that.  At home, I’m simply Marnie”.

          “Yeah, sorry Marnie.  I forgot”.

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