The only peaceful spot to rest your head at Moonlight Vixen’s Gentlemen’s Club was outside on a dead patch of grass. If business is slow, which it has been as of late, I’d step outside and lay my head down, looking at the sky full of stars and the moon. It was full and bright tonight, a stark contrast inside of the Moonlight Vixen’s Gentlemen’s Club.
It isn’t the most glamorous place to work. Especially if you’re a stripper—excuse me—dancer. I’ve been interim manager since my dad has been in the hospital for four months now. Cancer is a bitch, and so I didn’t want to trouble him with nonsensical inquiries about day-to-day operations that become murky, a gray area of sorts between the signatures and paperwork. It’s a tad difficult to concentrate with EDM thumping in the background. But that thumping hopefully meant business was as well.
I’d been groomed for the business ever since I graduated with my bachelor’s in business administration two years ago, even though it took me five years to earn it. But I only usually handled finances and the boring paperwork that my father didn’t care to do anymore now that he had me to shove the work to.
I picked myself off the ground, stumbling from the two shots of whiskey I had earlier and cursed myself for having to leave the moon and all its beauty outside. As of late, I didn’t need to analyze the books to realize the business was beginning to bleed as red as a menstrual cycle. And if we, now I, didn’t do something drastically different the business would eventually be another strip club laid to rest among the rest of dive bars and tattoo parlors in the area that had an ‘out of business’ sign plastered on them like a well-aged prostitute. Even I felt aged. Because of my graying hair, women often referred to me as a ‘fox’.
I tried promotions like ‘drink vouchers’, ‘amateur nights’, ‘theme party nights’, and a few others that aren’t really worth mentioning because they didn’t make a difference in revenue anyway. Even the dancers began to complain about the lack of customers. As a first time manager, I provided false hope and told them it was just a temporary setback, and things will be on track in a couple of months. Some of them said they couldn’t wait a couple of months to feed their children and pay the bills. Although I suspect many of them needed the quick cash for their drug habits. I empathized and suggested they find a second job during the day. Of course, this was met with bitching and moaning. And not the good kind of moaning they fake for their customers during a lap dance.
I had taken my time outside with nature and the moon, not only because it relaxes me, but because it somehow speaks to me. Tells me what to do. Not like I’m crazy, and I hear voices. It’s more of a gut feeling it provides me. I had to terminate someone for the first time ever. Her name is Trixie Sinn, or legally known as Harriet Rockford. She has been employed at the club for almost four years and is one of the best performers. When she gets on stage, customers spill their beer to run up and drool over her, then sprint to the atm like flies on shit to spend their money on her lap dances that come from the horned angel she is. It was quite comical to watch. And sad.
I didn’t want to fire her. My stomach rumbled, and my palms felt clammy against the plastic telephone as I called the front desk and asked that Trixie come see me in my office before she began work. To appear strong and in control I chugged some water and popped a couple of my antianxiety medications that I recently had prescribed to me when I found out about my dad’s cancer.
I waited in my office, tapping my fingers and rehearsing what I would say. But none of it sounded natural or convincing, even. I sounded like a boy telling a woman what to do with her body, just like a far out right-winger. But it had to happen. Then I heard soft knocking on my door. She would knock softly; that’s who she is—a soft, smooth and beautiful woman who oozed seduction from every pore.
“Come in,” I said with a firm voice.
Trixie came in dressed in a beige overcoat. Her bright pink hair was frizzy, and her dimples were as deep as the debt we’re in.
“Hi, Mr. Mazzeti. I was told you needed to see me,” she said.
“Yes, please. Have a seat.”
She had a seat and crossed her legs. I tried my best not to look. Even though I’ve seen every part of her a hundred times, it never got old.
“Harriet, I know what’s been going on here.”
“Going on? What-what do you mean?”
“In the VIP lounge area,” I replied.
“What about it?” she asked.
“I…I know about the extra money you make in those private rooms. The things you do that are…plain out illegal,” I whispered.
She leaned in, and her ample breasts pressed together. I took a quick peek before retreating my eyes to hers. She was smiling, almost as if she were going to laugh.
“Neil. It’s okay if I call you Neil?” she said in a tone that indicated she wasn’t exactly asking but rather telling. “How do you think us girls afford such luxurious rides and the finest jewelry?”
“Well…well,” I stammered. “Good tips and a hard work ethic?”
“I can’t believe your father never told you how this place really operates. He leaves in the hands of an inept little man-boy,” she giggled.
“Hey, I’m your boss and you need to respect me as such,” I furrowed my brow.
“Not for long you’re not. Right? Isn’t that why you called me in? To fire me?”
“Unless you’ve worked a night of horror for these creeps, you don’t have a damn thing to tell me,” she said, her Hispanic accent fluctuating.
“I can’t allow that in—”
“So, you’re just going to allow your daddy’s business to drown. This is how things operate. If you fire me, you’ll have to fire Foxy, Lissette, Starr, all the girls.”
I clasped my hands together, still clammy. She reached out and placed her delicate hands over mine. “It’s okay, Neil,” she said, now rubbing my hands.
“Doesn’t’ it-it make you feel, I don’t know, degraded?” I asked, looking into her hazel almond-shaped eyes.
“Quite the opposite. We’re free. It’s a sexual revolution, and we’re starting an empire,” she said, now beaming with joy. “Don’t you want to be an emperor?”
“That would look good on my CV,” I laughed. My anxiety was leaving my body as Harriet’s words echoed in my mind.
“A sexual revolution?” I asked.
“Women and men have the right to express their sexuality however they see fit, as long as it isn’t harming anyone,” she promptly replied.
“Except their wallets.”
She laughed, and I swear it sounded like the calling of angel bells and the other cliché BS that makes a man fall in love. But I wasn’t in love with Harriet? Was I? Is that why I wanted to fire her, to free her?
“So, we’re okay here?” she asked, pulling her hands back.
“Yeah, but can I show you something?”
“Sure, you’re my emperor!” she giggled.
We left my office and slipped past all the dancers and customers and all other distractions designed to waste money, until we reached the back door.
“Okay, are you ready?”
“I think so. Not going to murder me, are you?” she laughed. And again, I did the male version of swooning.
I grabbed her hand, like leather leading velvet to the patch of grass. My patch of grass. Where I could see the night sky and the moon. Especially the moon. I plopped down on the floor and held my hands behind my head as a makeshift pillow.
“Come on. Join me. I don’t bite,” I said.
Harriet placed her hair in a bun with a hair tie she had inside her little purse, then laid on the ground beside me. It’s the closest I’ve been to her since I’ve worked here. We didn’t speak for almost two minutes, or so it seemed. Time was separate from the physical Earth at this moment, and we looked at the moon and listened to the crickets’ chirp, as though they were playing music just for us. In those two minutes, even though we didn’t physically touch, I felt we established a connection deeper than any customer has gone with her.
I turned to my side and cusped her chin. “Tell me you want to be my empress.”
She blushed under the starlit sky and nodded. We sealed our empire with a static kiss and continued to look at the stars and moon for an eternity more.