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


Mandy runs back, sweat dripping in rivers of gray from her freshly dyed hair.  She grabs a paper towel and shoves it in her armpits.  “Your turn! Just get out there. He won’t let you dance tonight if he can’t get a good look at you first,” she says and does the same, stupid wink.  “He’ll like you, trust me.”

I don’t care if Red likes me or not.  I feel suffocated by this hazy backroom filled with cheap perfume, hairspray and the mountains of shiny panties. I don’t want to crawl around on the crappy floor and shove my ass in the air and smile or throw my head back like Mandy does.  But I want to leave town.  I want the money and a bus ticket, to trade in brown faded fields for the smell of wet city sidewalks and the sounds of disaster sirens. I’m sick of smelling fried food at the food court, hearing the circus music cranking from the carousel, watching it go round and round.  I’m tired of seeing all my high school friends knock around the mall with nothing to do but smoke weed, screw, have babies or get abortions.

“Just make him happy,” Mandy says.  I see Red sitting behind the bar smirking and drinking, staring like his opinion matters.  But somehow, it does. Somehow this man has a grip on the rest of us, like a gatekeeper that decides who can come or go. He is my future.

Mandy grabs me by my arm, her fingernails pinching my skin.  She pushes a dollar bill face up into the jukebox and plugs a random number. Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl.”  I stare into the eyes of a phantom audience, remembering to pick a focal point high above their heads like I learned in theater when I was in high school. But there are no plush seats or heavy velvet curtains.  Just a stage that smells like moth balls and beer.  My legs want to buckle, soft rubber limbs that are no longer my own.  My hips don’t sway like Mandy’s, but stiffly shift back and forth like a pendulum, a mechanical solider.  I can feel the overhead lights beating down like the mid-summer sun, red and raw against my skin.  Sweat slips down my face, the taste of salt and hairspray stinging my lips.  I see Mandy in the audience, gesturing crudely at her chest, pinching her nipples and sucking her fingers.  She’s my trainer.  Her eyes roll back, a teen bored, annoyed by her awkward pupil.  Finally, she screams, “You’re shirt.  Off with it! They want to see your tits! ” Red smirks. Mandy has unlocked a huge mystery in life: It all comes down to tits.

I turn around and face the deer head.  He is a buck with a proud rack, but his eyes are glassy and dazed, permanently confused as to how he ended up on a cement wall, watching naked girls and horny guys slip bills into panties.   His layers of skin and fur are stretched over his empty skull, a skull with a six pointed rack and those lost brown eyes that capture and reflect silver squares from the lopsided disco ball that sadly spins from the ceiling. I’ve always been afraid of deer, especially their nostrils all large and soft and pink like a tongue. When they’re dead on the side of the road with buckled legs and broken spines, it is the blood that drips from their soft nose that scares me the most.  But not as much as this, not as much as moving my body for crumpled, sweaty fists full of dollars, not as much as throwing my head back like Mandy so Red can stare and approve of me, too.


7 Responses to “Racks (Final) – or My Stint as a Michigan Stripper”

  1. FUCK that’s dark and raw.

  2. And so fucking good.

  3. 4 pinklightsabre

    Read this yesterday and really enjoyed the scene with the deer in particular. You have a really good eye for that. It reminded me of a guy I knew in a cafeteria in college, who used to take pictures of roadkill. He had a photo album full of it, and was exploring the artistic possibilities in it (though I see none). Thanks for this – keep going! – Bill

  4. 6 BehindMyBooks

    I feel like a lot of people would write something like this, and either shy away to much– therefore not creating a reasonable image for their readers; or they would go in for every gritty detail– making the moment into more of a freak-show than a real moment. You execute it perfectly without falling into either of these traps. You express so many details, emotions, and senses–yet you don’t become crude in the descriptions.

    I think it’s wonderful–as is all of this. 🙂

    • I’m so glad it came across that way. That was my goal in handling this piece – to take the subject matter on with taste and tact, while being honest. Thanks girl! I miss you…

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