Racks (1) – or My Stint as a Michigan Stripper

05Mar13

Mandy’s been driving for forty minutes through endless stretches of brown fields with mechanical sprinklers that look like anime giants.  We slow down in tiny towns with only one traffic light and speed on the county roads where farm houses are swallowed by crops and tractors and dust.  This is the landscape of my childhood – fields bound by sharp wire dusted with rust.  I’ve tried to jump them my whole life, in dresses and jeans, sober and drunk, but no matter how many times I try the barbs snag and catch my clothes, sting and slice my skin.

“Don’t worry.  You’ll be fine.  I’ll loan you some clothes,” Mandy says as she hands me another cigarette to light for her.  She has one hand on the steering wheel, the other on the stick shift.  Her red, polished nails shine like a sports car fresh off the assembly line.   I don’t want to wear her clothes, but I have no choice.  I’m going to an audition, and all I have is grubby blue jeans and a polyester button up from Goodwill.

“Shit, it would have taken you months of selling shoes in that fucking mall to make what you’ll make in just a day or two,” Mandy says.  She sounds like a middle of the night infomercial that only insomniacs or drug addicts see.

Mandy’s made this drive for months now, down unpaved back roads jamming cigarette after cigarette into her mouth, carelessly tossing the spent filters into the ashtray, an anthill of brown paper tattooed in burgundy paint from her full lips. Her lashes are thick and heavy, coated with coal-black mascara that smears against her silver brushed eyelids, leaving wet traces of black lines like tiny footprints on a muddy roadside. She makes herself up before she hits the road with paints and perfumes, jangly jewelry that crashes like cymbals.  She is harsh and bright and too loud in the daylight, but as stars begin to spread out and the moon boasts her lily-white skin, Mandy’s make-up changes from clownish to exotic.  Her features are no longer garish but vivid and strong against dark velvet drapes and streetlights.

She smooths her hair into sleek black locks, taming the tangle of frizz that creeps in while she sleeps.  She always wakes with swollen eyes, raw and red from stale cigarette smoke, her voice strained from screaming at her junkie boyfriend Cy.

It was Cy that hooked her up with this gig. He wanted to be a chef, but gave up knives and chopping blocks for needles and heroin.  He broke his leg a few months back riding a motorcycle on a gravel road behind their trailer.  He was going too fast, way above the speedometer’s top of 70, with a street bike with smooth tires on a country road blanketed in sharp stones and dirt.

Now, he gets stoned and slurry, whispering how sexy it is when she strips for the country boys and hunters, the businessman passing through with gold wedding rings they forget to slip into their coat pocket.  He promises he’ll work when his leg is better, but the cool autumn air makes it ache several months later.  Sometimes, he escorts Mandy to the club and tosses down free whiskey and Cokes courtesy of Red, the owner.  But mostly, he waits in their trailer until four in the morning, when Mandy’s pumpkin carriage returns, her make-up drippy and blotchy from sweat and fingertips of greedy customers hoping for a cheap feel.

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9 Responses to “Racks (1) – or My Stint as a Michigan Stripper”

  1. You have wonderful descriptions. Particularly enthralled with the change she goes through between sunlight and moonlight!

  2. 3 pinklightsabre

    Great writing Lennon.

  3. “Traded knives and chopping blocks for needles and heroin…” Wonderful description conveying s much in so little. And the quick references to sharp, pointy objects — knives and needles — instantly makes the connection that he’s the kind of person whose going to cause pain, emotionally, physically or both. Truly, truly love your stuff.

    • Thanks for the top-notch feedback, Ned. I appreciate you taking the time to read and thoughtfully comment as well. I’m glad you’re enjoying this series!

  4. This is truly great writing. I love your work!


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