Stephanie slinks in the chair kicking her legs in the air as You Can Leave Your Hat On by Joe Cocker plays. She has been trying to get this routine down all day. All month, it seems like, but her legs seem like barely attached appendages rather than her own legs. On her back now, she points her toes and tries to do a roll all the way to the other side, but she over rolls landing on the other side and face down on the ground, an external force causing her to lose concentration. That force? Her father's eyes. 

"What in the Sam Hill is going on here!" 

Reverend Farmer stands at the doorway seeing his only child chair dancing like a common stripper. Suddenly, the big grown businesswoman of six months withers into a child before her father's eyes as she starts with "I can explain, daddy."

"Explain? The heck you can. I've seen water turned to wine. I've seen lame men walk. But there ain't no way you can explain to me how my church got turned from a house of god to a house of hell in a span of six months." 

"Well, daddy, it's a very long story that will probably get it's own miniseries someday." 

"Do tell." 

"Well, you see, um -- you know pastor Froman." 

"Yes, a good pastor who I entrusted my church." 

"Yeah, well, he was screwing the deacon's daughter." 

"She's eighteen! He's FIFTY!" "

Told ya. Miniseries." 

Stephenie can tell by her father's look he's not feeling the miniseries joke. So, she pushes on.

"Well, anyway, as you can imagine adultery kind of puts a damper on church spirit. So eventually, attendance was down to three people a week, if you count the homeless people."

"And if you don't count the homeless people?" 


"The pastor couldn't take the stress and started taking crack again." 


"Yes, and let's hope he's not OD'd in a ditch somewhere. But church became me and my friends reading inspirational quotes to one another and sharing pictures. Kind of like Facebook but -- you know -- in person." 

"Imagine that." 

"Yes, so we started doing workouts together, we have to pay rent so we started charging for classes."


"Then yaddy yadda yadda strip club." 

"I feel like you Yaddy yadda'd over a whole lot to get to a strip club." 

"Well, it's not A strip club. It's THE Strip Club. It's our name. It's not a place where men go to get drunk and engage in faux sex. It's a place where women AND men go to feel empowered," and slowly Stephanie realizes why she did this as she continues, "To release themselves from the strains of modern life. Suddenly, they're not a housewife or a sales clerk some guy with his belly sticking out who can't get laid. Suddenly, they're feminine, they're beautiful. they're FREE..."

 "Well that sounds very inspirational," her father says.

"Thank you," she smiles, fully soaking in her father's approval. 

"Too bad you're all going to hell." And just like that, it's all ripped away.  

"Or at least to jail," he says, looking around at what was once his beautiful church now turned into a den of whores. "You turned my church into a whorehouse honey. I can’t forgive you for that. I'm going to change all this back and get things back on track." 

He walks toward the door and the decision is made, Stephanie's dream is going to disappear with the snap of a finger. But then before she realizes what she's saying, she blurts out, "Wait!"

If it was anyone else, he would keep walking, but this is his one and only daughter, so he turns. She never expected him to turn, so she just stands there stupidly not knowing what to say. He raises his eyebrows as if saying this is her last chance to speak up to him once and for all. He will turn and go out the door without a thought and tomorrow his church will be back to normal. when she does not speak, he turns and walks out, by the time she thinks of her response it is too late to turn his glance with a word. So she dashes between him and the door, 

"You call this a whorehouse," she says, letting him know in her tone how hurtful the phrase was. 

"But," she continues confidently, "I guarantee you every woman who comes here has healthy relationships."

Her father scoffs at the idea, but she remains determined. 

"We focus on confidence and freedom. Freedom to be ourselves. Not just here but out there. Ask Sholanda whose marriage was on the ropes before she took my class and it rekindled the sexual life between her and her husband. Or Kendal who left her abusive boyfriend because she realized she was worth more than that." 

His smugness subsides and suddenly he is listening. 

"And yeah, there's two guys who hooked up here which I know is frowned upon in the first half of the Bible but it's a healthy relationship! We focus not just on movement but attitude. The two are actually one in the same." 

Now, she feels like she's in uncharted territory because she has his undivided attention. She paces around, going in for the kill. 

"As a matter of fact, from what I heard, the Pastor wasn't just screwing the deacon's daughter. The choir director was screwing Sister Clare's husband. The drummer was screwing, Mister Johnson -- everyone was screwing everyone at one point. So if anyone was running a whorehouse, it had to be you." 

Her father becomes livid. 

He points his finger violently, "You watch your --"  He breathes, allowing Jesus's spirit to soothe him. 

Finally, he says, "Rome wasn't built in a day. It will take months to rebuild my congregation. You can keep going with this den of satan until in the meantime." 

Knowing this is her father's way of giving in she. gleefully jumps into his arms, "Thanks daddy."

 "Don't thank me. Thank Jesus. He's the one that kept me from shakin,' the hell out of you for that last line." 

"You wouldn't dare touch me, daddy." And he knows she's right. 

So he just eases toward the door again, but this time he stops of his own volition. "Oh, and by the way, you may be sending these people's souls to an inevitable hellfire the likes of which no man has ever known, but for what it's worth, I'm proud of you." and he adds, "Just don't tell Jesus I said that." 

Then he leaves and Stephanie is finally alone just her and her chair. She cruises around it and then falls to its surface, arching her back and kicking her leg into the air, she quirks her body left and right, the rest of the world is a blur as she disappears into ecstasy.

November 27, 2020 18:17

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