Thursday, March 18, 2010

The "Coffee Shop" (working title)

I thought I would share the first installment/chapter in my pet project. What do you think?

As usual, the coffee shop was teeming with customers. It always seemed to be that way after “bar rush”, the time before last call at the bars and prior to the drunks going home to sleep off their night of drinking. Most of the burnt umber vinyl booths were already full with rowdy drunks, eating plates of French fries and drinking gallons of overdone coffee. The only booth that wasn’t filled was number one. This booth sat directly next to the managers office and across from the walled off station where the wait staff prepared shakes, pies, and other desserts for the customers. There were two sections in the restaurant, “smoking” and “non”. On a bar night, you couldn’t tell the difference as the number of smokers smoking created a cloud of smoke that filled the entire building with the acrid smell of used ashtrays and bad coffee.

About twelve a.m. the “regulars” that have the unofficial reservation for the first booth in smoking right next to the managers office will be showing up soon.

“I hate those guys” whined Shelly, her shrill voice would kill small children if it were released in public. As the lead waitress, and resident speed freak she was not happy to have customers that demanded a bit of attention. Her preference would be that they sit down, shut up and leave as quickly as they came in, of course they should also leave a large tip. Shelly shook her head at the night manager Philip, her stringy brown hair creating a dirty wave around her face.
“I’m going on break before they get here.”

“Ok, just be ready to pick up your orders when you get back in here.” Philip, a diminutive chubby Hispanic, who, no matter the situation, always smiled and never had a harsh word for anyone shouted to her as Shelly walked out into the parking lot for her break.

“Yea, Yea I know.” Shelly muttered between clenched teeth holding her cigarette. Her cigarette wasn’t your typical Marlboro or Camel, this was her “special” cigarette. It was loaded with 2 rocks of crystal methamphetamine shoved into the end. When Shelly was secluded in a dark corner of the parking lot, she lit her cigarette and inhaled the first hit of speed. The effect was immediate, her pulse jumped up, everything around her seemed to slow down, even the cars passing on busy State Street seemed to be moving at five miles per hour, not the normal forty-five that the street signs called for. The air was cool on her skin, the perspiration of working in the coffee shop was evaporating off of her, cooling her. Shelly took another deep drag on her smoke, the smoke filled her lungs like a warm fog.

“I don’t want to go back in there” she muttered to herself, the tiresome work of being a waitress was not what she wanted for herself. Another deep drag on her cigarette.

As she exhaled the smoke, watching it billow out of her mouth and into the night air, she thought back to why she moved to Salt Lake City in the first place; she wanted to be an attorney. Her dream was to get into law school at the University of Utah and become an attorney. She knew that if she stayed at home in Idaho, she would always be the daughter of a diesel mechanic and work in her fathers truck wash in Pocatello for the rest of her life. So, move to Utah she did. She applied to the School of Law and was turned down for admittance. Her grades in high school were not good enough to get her into Law School and she hadn’t yet completed her prerequisite courses.

She then enrolled in school at Salt Lake Community College and started work on her Associates Degree, this didn’t last long, she began using speed as a way to study late at night. This turned into a daily habit that eventually forced her to quit school and look for work to support her habit. Since she had no real skills to speak of, she began working as an escort.

Contrary to popular belief, escorts do NOT simply go to dinner with rich men and dress in cocktail gowns and sip champagne with high society. Escorts work as “legal” prostitutes. For a few months Shelly spent time stripping and sucking the cocks of fat, bald, sweaty Johns for eighty dollars an hour, plus tip. Once this got old and after being arrested and dealing with a solicitation charge, Shelly had decided to go straight and get a job where she wasn’t being paid to take off her clothes and perform demeaning sex acts on strange men. This is when she began working at the coffee shop. It wasn’t the fifteen hundred dollars a week she was used to making; it was at least respectable work though.

“Damn, breaks over..” Shelly muttered as she took the last drag on her cigarette and began grudgingly walking back into the coffee shop. About half way through the parking lot, Shelly heard the deep throaty rumbling of multiple motorcycles pulling into the parking lot, accompanied by the banter of guys chatting as they pulled in.

“Shit, they’re here. There goes my night.” she really disliked those guys. They always showed up about this time every damn night and stayed till the coffee shop closed. All they ever drank was coffee, and sometimes, just sometimes, they would eat something. If they tipped, it was something south of five bucks. The worst part was that Philip would “comp” their drinks and food, meaning that they NEVER paid for anything. Philip said this was because they were “unofficial security” for the late night hours of the coffee shop. Really, Shelly thought is was because they were bums and never wanted to pay for anything they didn’t have to.

“Hey Shelly, how’s it going?” one of the guys shouted as he got off his motorcycle. That would be Pete. This guy always wore a black leather motorcycle jacket (the kind of jacket that you would see in old fifties biker movies) along with black leather chaps, black jeans, and a plaid patterned button down shift. His jet black hair cut into a mullet that reached the middle of his back. Pete sauntered over towards Shelly, his body moving side to side, similar to the way a cowboy who had been busting horses all day would walk.

“Gimme a hug!” Pete shouted as he moved toward her, his grin widening on his face as he approached her, his heavy work boots clomping on the ground.

“Ugh, not again” thought Shelly. This guy always wants to hug. She could taste the vomit rising in her throat.

“How you been, sweetie?” Pete asked as he approached her, all grins.

As he approached her, she could clearly see his unshaven, patchy beard and goatee. As his smile widened she could also see the multiple missing teeth and the ugly brown stains of tooth decay working their way through his remaining teeth.

“He would be attractive, if he had all his teeth and would shave once in a while,” she thought to herself. “Well, that and if he had a job.”

Pete hadn’t held down a job in over two years, he claimed it was because he was clinically depressed, which he used to “pick up women” on a regular basis, believing that women were attracted to dark, somber guys that never said much. This was in stark contrast to the behavior he was showing now, all toothless smiles and hugs.

“Been good Pete, how are you?” she replied. She really didn’t care. It was just the reaction to the question posed.

“I missed you. Had to come see you.” This was Pete’s attempt at flirting with Shelly.

“You were here last night, the night before and every other night for the last month, dude, so how did you miss me?” The sarcasm wasn’t obvious to Pete as he kept smiling, opened his arms, and stepped in to hug Shelly.

“Still missed ya, sexy.”

As Pete hugged Shelly, she could smell the combination of beer, bad aftershave and stale cigarettes. Not exactly a sexy mixture. The hug to Shelly, seemed to last far too long for her taste. Pete wrapped his arms around her and pushed his crotch against her, Shelly pulled back away from Pete.

“Gotta go back to work, Pete. See you inside, ok?”

Shelly quickly untangled herself from Pete and briskly walked back into the coffee shop, leaving Pete watching her walk away.

“Ok, babe.”

“Whatever,” Shelly whispered as she hurried back into the confines of the coffee shop. His neediness was obvious.

Pete watched her as she walked into the restaurant, thoughts of her naked on top of him running through his mind. He turned back to his friend who was just dismounting from his motorcycle, an older blue Yamaha 650 with a tall “bitch seat” on the back.

“I will get in her pants one day bro.”

“SURE you will, you know she doesn’t like you right?” laughed Byron.

Byron shook his long shoulder length brown hair out of his eyes, straightened his black leather jacket, pulled the black leather gloves off his hands and began walking towards the entrance to the coffee shop. His broad frame lumbering bear-like as he moved.

“No, dude she does. She just doesn’t know it yet,” Pete said confidently.

“Riiight, that’s why she looks at you like someone just pooed on the floor in front of her?” Byron stopped, reached into the inside pocket of his jacket, removing a pack of cigarettes and his Zippo, he lit a cigarette, inhaled and smiled at Pete.

“She doesn’t dude, that’s fucked up bro.” Pete was not amused by this observation. Pausing, Pete pulled a smoke and his lighter out of his jacket and lit up as well. Byron reached over, patted Pete on the shoulder.

“Whatever man, let’s go get some coffee and relax.” Byron knew what the deal was between Shelly and Pete. He wanted her, and she wanted him to never talk to her again. It was like watching a puppy try to play with a cat that just wasn’t interested. Pete was going to eventually get his nose scratched.

Together they walked into the coffee shop. It was a bustling hive of activity. There were waitresses moving back and forth between tables pouring coffee and bringing sodas and fries to the various tables and booths scattered throughout the smoke filled restaurant.

“Look, the tables open bro,” smiled Pete behind his lit cigarette.

“Cool, I gotta hit the bathroom, be right there. Get me some coffee will ya?” Byron asked as he walked through the non-smoking section with his cigarette burning on his way to the restroom. Smoke trailed behind him as he moved to the restroom.

“oy, yoy yoy, you know you aren’t supposed to do that Byron!” Philip the night manager told Byron as he passed him.

“My bad, flipper.” Byron didn’t really care, after all this was HIS place and Philip wouldn’t do anything about it anyway, well besides “comp” his coffee and probably his dinner if he ordered one tonight.

The beer in Byron’s bladder drained from him into the urinal in a solid stream. It felt good to return the “rented beer”. After about 45 seconds, Byron shook the remaining drops from his penis and zipped back up. After washing his hands and checking his hair in the mirror, he left the restroom. On his way to the table where Pete was waiting Byron stopped. Bent over picking up some dropped silverware was Nikki, a little redheaded waitress with a butt you could bounce quarters off of. Nikki saw Byron watching her, looked up un-amused.

“Like the view?” Nikki asked sardonically.

“Of course.” Byron smiled, she had a nice low cut shirt on, and he could just about see her dime sized nipples poking through her flimsy lace bra.

“I bet you do.” Nikki went back to picking up the silverware, trying hard to ignore Byron’s attention.

“Yeah, have fun.” Byron walked past Nikki, nodded to Pete, waved to some other acquaintances sitting at their tables and booths and sat down across from Pete in their booth.

“You know she hates that bro?” laughed Pete as he stubbed out his cigarette and took a long swallow from his coffee cup.

“Uh, huh. That’s why I do it. It’s more fun that way.” Byron poured himself a cup of coffee.

“How’s the coffee?” Byron asked as he surveyed the restaurant.

“Shitty as always.” Pete smiled. The coffee was always crap here, but they didn’t come for the coffee. They came because that was what they did, and the coffee was free as long as they helped Philip control the “riffraff” that sometimes came into the coffee shop.

Byron stubbed out his cigarette, smiled and swallowed some of his coffee. It was bitter and tasted burnt. “Yup, it sucks as usual.”

“You guys gonna have anything other than coffee?” Shelly really didn’t care, she just had to ask. Her disdain was obvious.

“What kind of pie you got?” Pete asked.

“Apple, Cherry, Peanut Butter Cup, and Lemon Meringue.”

“So, is the Cherry good?” Pete winked as he asked, leering at Shelly’s ample chest.

“If you mean the pie, yes. If you are referring to something else, you will never know will you?” She was not amused by this attempt at being dirty.

“How bout some cheese fries?” Byron was hungry, but not for real food; just something to munch on.

“Anything else, or just the coffee and fries?”

“That’s it for me, Shelly,” Byron nodded to Pete.

“Just coffee for me.” As usual, all Pete could afford if Philip didn’t comp him was coffee.

“Uh, huh” Shelly turned and walked from the table, went back to the kitchen.

“Cheese fries for Byron,” the cook looked up at her.

“What no ticket?” The cook was new and he didn’t know that there was NEVER a ticket for fries.

“I wish.” Shelly was more than a bit irritated with the whole thing. If she had her way, they would never come into the restaurant again. For some reason Philip just insisted that, that was what happened.

“Ok, one cheese fry”

Shelly walked away from the window shaking her head and wondering just why she kept working here, tolerating all the stupidity that the coffee shop had to offer left her jaded.

Byron scanned the coffee shop from behind the mug of stale coffee. From his vantage point, he could see just about every table in the restaurant. In the booth next to his, a young couple were talking, the guy trying really hard to be interesting and funny while the girl toyed with her slice of apple pie alamode. Across the room sat a lonely looking elderly man that seemed to be staring off into space, almost as if he were waiting for a visit from the Grim Reaper to take his pain away. Scattered throughout the dining room were drunks, scantily dressed club girls, and various other folks just trying to eat their late dinners.

Pete lit another cigarette, inhaled and stared at the ceiling. “I really need to get laid. This dry spell is killing me.”

Turning his gaze away from the activity of the dining room, Bryon stared at Pete, swallowed more stale coffee and shrugged.

Pete, annoyed with the lack of response stared. “Well, you have nothing to say?”

Bored with the thought of dealing with Pete’s lack of a sex life, Byron leaned forward whispering to keep their conversation in the booth.

“Get a hooker, bud, if you really want to get laid. Just fucking do it already.”

“I want a relationship, B. I don’t just want to get it wet. Ya know?” Pete was a love freak. Every time he got laid he thought he was engaged to be married.

“You just told me you wanted to get laid!” Bryon was laughing, this guy was just too much.

“I want a girlfriend, sex and everything.” Pete always looked so melancholy when he started talking about relationships.

“And you think you will find that here, in a coffee shop?”

“I don’t know, I hope so.” Loneliness is such a depressing thing to watch.

“Rather than looking in bars and coffee shops, try grocery stores or the park. You will probably do better there man. Also it wouldn’t kill you to get a job.” It was a bit of a dig, but it needed to be said though.


Pete really didn’t want to hear that. He honestly believed that he was so depressed that it was a handicap and he could get disability and never have to work. Of course, inherent laziness never qualified anyone for disability income.

“What do you want to do later? I really don’t want to hang out here till 5a.m. again.” Watching Pete pine for Shelly was getting old.

“I don’t have any cash.” Of course he didn’t. He never did. The only time he ever had any money at all was after he donated plasma at the blood bank. Then the twenty or so dollars he got went into the gas tank of his motorcycle and a couple packs of discount cigarettes.

“How do you expect to get anything other than old hags at the bar without a job?” Pete just didn’t get it, you need to have some kind of money or at least be a decent prospect if you wanted to get with anything other than horribly ugly and or disfigured women that live in poorly lit bars. Being jobless, toothless and chronically depressed was never going to get him anywhere.

Byron lit up another cigarette, inhaled deeply and looked out the large glass window next to the booth, watching the late night traffic cruising up and down State Street. Across the street from the coffee shop, he could see a pair of street walkers offering their services to passing cars. Occasionally, a car would stop, one of the girls would lean in the window her short skirt riding up, giving an open view of her panty free crotch blanketed in dark hair. Her thick thighs wrapped in thigh high lacey stockings completed the view. She wasn’t terrible looking, but obviously a prostitute. Even if she dressed up, her body language would have given her away for what she was.

“Hey, Pete I see your future wife across the street!” Byron pointed out the window at the prostitutes across the street. Now maybe this would be fun he thought, to have a little fun at Pete‘s expense. That will make the night go by faster. Well, at least make it entertaining.

“Not funny.” Pete stared into his coffee cup. He hadn’t even bothered to look up or out the window. He turned the mug back and forth in his hands staring at the steam coming off the coffee, the cigarette between his fingers burning into a long cylindrical ash.

“Great, Dane’s here. Hide your smokes Pete.” Bounding into the restaurant was Dane Ogden, a rather rotund redhead. Usually, Dane’s company was welcomed even if he were more than a little annoying and had a tendency to be embarrassing from time to time. Every time Dane came around, he reminded Byron of an overexcited puppy dog, doing ‘shake’ for a doggy treat. Dane meant well, he just never seemed to get it to work out that way.

“Hey guys! Can I bum a smoke?” Now, Dane worked. As a matter of fact, he had two packs of unopened cigarettes in his jacket. He just didn’t see any problem in smoking everyone else’s cigarettes if he could get away with it.

“Jesus, Dane, you have smokes don’t you?” Annoyed by this, Byron wasn’t about to give up on forcing Dane to admit he had his own cigarettes.

“Well, I do. They just need to last till I get paid again.” The cheap ass son of a bitch was playing the ‘gotta last’ card. Not a new tactic, just a bullshit one.

“And mine don’t? Smoke your own, bud. I don’t have any to spare either.” Byron picked up his smokes and put them back in his jacket. After all, if you leave them on the table, they are free game.

“Fine.” Dane reached into his jacket and grabbed his cigarettes, pulling the cellophane wrapper off the pack he opened it up and slid out a cigarette.

“Move over.” this was said mid-motion as Dane’s large posterior slid in next to Pete.

“Whoah, you could have waited till I put down my damn coffee!” Pete was now wearing some of his coffee. Byron laughed loudly enough that the rest of the people in the restaurant could hear.

“Now that is funny!”

“Move fat ass, now I have to go clean up! Jesus, dude!” Pete slid across the vinyl seat of the booth, his now wet leather jacket making sucking noises as he moved.

“Relax, it’s only coffee. It’s not like I dumped a whole pot on you.” Dane was never good at just apologizing and letting things end. Dane flopped down into the booth.

“Oh, waitress, coffee me!” Dane waved his chubby hand at a passing waitress. The waitress stared at Dane, her face contorting into a ‘I just smelled pooh’ face and turned to the kitchen.

The restaurant was completely full now, people were moving from table to table passing out hugs as if they were anti war flyers in 1970. Everywhere Byron looked he could see smiles, drunken kisses, spilling drinks and harried waitresses running between tables doing their best to keep up with the constant ‘over here’ and ‘I need this or that’ requests from the customers. There was a near mob in the lobby of the restaurant all waiting to be seated, people were pacing, chatting and staring at the customers already seated at their scattered tables and booths.

Shifting in his seat, Byron picked up his coffee mug, sipped the now warm coffee, grimaced at the taste, and put the mug back on the table. The thought of spending the entire night in the coffee shop really did not appeal to him, but with friends with no job and no life what else was there?

“There has to be something besides sitting here we can do.” The monotony of always sitting at the coffee shop was getting to Byron.

“We could go to Sociables, except I don’t have any extra money.” Dane was suggesting the strip club that was a block and half away from the coffee shop. The strippers there were not exactly attractive, although with their over-inflated chest balloons they were something to watch, and the beer there was cheap if you bought it by the pitcher. Dane, just like Pete, never had any money to buy beer or tip strippers. Actually, a more accurate statement was this: Dane had the money, he would just rather mooch off his friends than spend any of his ‘hard earned money’.

“Fuck it, let’s go. I’m bored and want to do something other than spend another night sitting here staring at drunks and drinking this battery acid that they pass off as coffee.” Even though Byron would have to spring for the beer at Sociables, he would at least be doing something different tonight. Also, if he worked it right he could get one of his friends to maybe, just maybe, spring for a couple games of 8-ball on one of the bars fifty cent a game billiard tables.

“Soon as Pete gets back dude, we are going.” What was keeping Pete in the restroom anyway? All he had to do was clean up some coffee. It wasn’t like he had to wash his clothes in the laundry or something.

Pete, standing in front of the mirror in the men’s room stared at his reflection. The mirror was dirty and covered in water spots. The staff at the coffee shop didn’t exactly do a great job of cleaning the restrooms even with the ‘we pride ourselves in our cleanliness’ sign hanging on the door. The coffee stains on his shirt and jeans would be obvious for the rest of the night.

“Stupid fucker, never pays attention to anything.” Pete wasn’t talking to anyone in particular, just himself in the mirror. Pete tugged on the bottom front of his now damp and coffee stained shirt. His jacket and jeans also would smell of coffee for the rest of the night. If Pete wasn’t such a wimp, he would have walked out of the restroom, marched up to the booth and kicked Dane’s teeth to the back of his throat. Instead, he just sighed, thought about how ruined his night already was and turned to leave the restroom. Pausing to take one last look in the mirror, Pete ran his left hand through his feathered hair, pulled out his comb and brushed the tangles out of his mullet.

“Damnit,” just a sigh as Pete turned to grasp the large steel door handle and pull the door open.

Pete walked out of the restroom, turned towards the dining area and, rather than walking past all the non-smokers he had just recently offended, opted to take the short-cut through the kitchen area back to the booth where Byron and Dane were talking.

“Hey! You aren’t supposed to walk through here!” Nikki shouted from the salad station.

Pete ignored her and kept walking through. He knew that she wouldn’t do anything to stop him other than go whine at Philip, and everyone knew that Philip would never do anything to stop him or any of his friends from doing what they wanted. After all, they were all ’unofficial security’ at night for the coffee shop.

“You are such a dick-head.” Nikki liked Pete and his friends about as much as she enjoyed her annual exam with her gynecologist. She turned back to the salad station and continued dropping pre-made salads into the small glass bowls in front of her. The wilted lettuce and spongy carrot shavings would soon be covered in the dressing of choice for the people ordering them. Nikki drenched the five bowls of salad in dressing, placed them on the tray, and turned to walk out of the kitchen area.

“Tray out!” Nikki walked around the corner, tray held in one hand above her right shoulder, grabbed a tray stand and moved towards her table.

As Pete approached the booth, Byron and Dane were smoking and chatting.

“Hey, move you’re in my spot.” This was Pete’s attempt at being a tough guy. He was going to bully Dane into moving so he could sit by the window. Dane turned his bulbous head toward Pete, shrugged and slid toward the end of the booth.

“Sit down.” Dane was seated next to the window now. Pete stood there for a brief second, torn. He wanted to sit by the window, but he just didn’t have the balls to force the issue with Dane. Rather than push the issue, Pete slid in the booth next to Dane.

“Gimme my cup.” Dane slid the mug over to Pete, the small amount of cold coffee in the cup sloshed around at the bottom. Pete reached to the middle of the table, picked up the plastic coffee urn and poured some into his mug. After adding four packets of sugar and stirring loudly with the dirty spoon in front of him, he lifted the mug and swallowed.

“This stuff is horrible.” Pete mumbled placing the mug back on the table.

“So, what’s the plan? We just hanging out here tonight?” All Pete wanted to do was drink coffee and fantasize about ‘making love’ to Shelly. Pete never just thought about having sex, he thought if you were going to go to the trouble of taking off your clothes and touching boobies and sticking your penis in a vagina, you should be making sweet love to her. Like all other males in their mid-twenties, what he considered ‘making love’ was in reality just clumsy fumbling and three minutes of ecstasy followed by the embarrassing moment when you realize you have to pull the condom off your penis and have no place to put it. This usually is the case since he didn’t have his own place to go with women and he usually wound up having to ‘make love’ in the back seat of a car or behind some bushes in a nearby park.

“Let’s go to Sociables. We can get a beer and watch some titties.” Byron was already going with or without Pete. This was just a formality. Invite Pete, let him know that you were going, he would more than likely go. If he didn’t it was nobody’s loss but his own. At least if they went to the strip club he would have some new mental material for his nightly masturbation.

Pete gulped down the last of his coffee, banging the mug loudly on the table.

“Why not? Let’s go see some boobies!” his toothless grin was large on his face, if it were Halloween, he would have made an excellent Jack-O-Lantern. Sliding out of the booth he shrugged his jacket on his shoulders, stood up and walked toward Shelly.

“Hey, I’m leaving.” Pete opened his arms as he approached Shelly. He was moving in for the ‘good-bye hug’. His look of expectation was enough to turn Shelly’s stomach. Shelly tried to turn away and ignore Pete. Maybe if she appeared busy, he would go away and not want the hug. Not a chance. She would have to hug him to get him to leave her alone.

“Leaving already? What’s the occasion?” her animosity was obvious to everyone within earshot, except to Pete. Inside her head a brass band began playing every happy celebration song she had ever heard. This was great! Those losers were leaving, they were only in the coffee shop for just under an hour, must be some kind of record. She was curious though, what would draw them away from the coffee shop? There wasn’t a Metallica concert or anything tonight, all their other biker buddies hadn’t shown up, and none of them had looked at their pagers and used the desk phone.

“Why are you leaving so soon?” She knew she was going to regret this question, it would be just her luck that Pete and friends would decide to stay and not leave.

Embarrassed, Pete didn’t want to give her the answer. He was still wanting to make her his girlfriend, and firmly believed that if she knew he were going to Sociables, she would be disappointed. He stood there and, if he were a deer, he would have been creamed by the SUV bearing down on him.

“Uh…um..” He was just stalling now.

“Pete, you going to hug her or stare at her, let’s go!” Byron shouted at him from the entrance to the dining room.

“We got strippers to tip!!” Dane always with a lack of decorum announced to everyone within earshot. Shelly laughed.

“Strippers? Is that what it takes to get you to leave early?” Amused, she reached out and hugged Pete.

“Have fun, enjoy the show.” Pete embarrassed hugged Shelly, squeezing her tightly so he could feel her ample breasts push into his chest. This caused a slight erection, noticeable if you were looking closely at his skin tight Wranglers. Shelly noticed and giggled.

“It was Byron’s idea, not mine.” He was still trying to salvage his perceived embarrassment. He didn’t need to be, Shelly really could have cared less about what Pete did for fun, and if he were going to Sociables, he wouldn’t be in the coffee shop, and that meant she could have a night of peace, as peaceful as it would be in the coffee shop after the clubs closed.

“You need to pay for your coffee!” Nikki charged toward the doors nearly bowling over an elderly couple walking to the counter to pay for their meal. She was determined that they wouldn’t be getting out of their bill again.

Philip, standing behind the counter at the register, turned to Nikki.

“Nikki, you know I comp their coffees. Why do you always do this every night?” It was easier to comp some coffees and maybe some pie or an appetizer than have to deal with broken dishes and police reports should a fight happen to break out.

“They are mooches, Philip, they don’t do anything except hit on the bar sluts, and ogle us. They should be kicked out, not given free stuff!” Nikki was right for the most part, Byron, Dane and Pete rarely if ever actually DID anything. Most of the time if the three of them just walked up to the booth where the rowdy people were, and asked politely for them to behave they usually did. Philip just liked having them there, so he would continue to comp their orders.

“Oy, oy, oy, Nikki just go back to work. I will deal with this.” He really didn’t do well with confrontation and would rather she just left it alone. Philip waved to Byron and friends.

“Have fun, see you later?” He knew they would be back, just had to ask every time. After all, he did just comp their coffees, he should be getting some security out of it tonight.

“Yeah, we will be back in a couple hours. Keep our booth warm bud.” Byron waved over his shoulder as he walked out the door into the warm night air. It would be nice to hit the bar, have a beer, and watch some strippers for a while.

Byron, Pete, and Dane began walking the short distance from the coffee shop to Sociables, on the dark street the two prostitutes Byron and Pete saw earlier were still plying their wares. If all the street lights worked, they would have been able to clearly see the red track marks on the insides of their thighs. Instead, all they could see is skinny prostitutes looking for their next customer, desperate for their next fix, and willing to do just about anything to get it.

“Check her out, nice legs!” Dane was almost drooling. If the prostitute had been a bell, Pavlov would have been impressed with the reaction.

“Dude, that’s a hooker, you know that right?” Not surprised by Danes reaction, Byron just didn’t think he knew the difference between a street walker and an available girl out for a good time. He was after all a thirty-two year old virgin. Everyone knew this about Dane, and there were numerous theories as to why he was still a virgin. Dane said it was because he respected women too much to have sex with a woman outside of marriage, or at least a serious relationship, and that was the kicker. Dane refused to get into a relationship, because he was terrified that he would hurt her feelings and then she would hate him. Being a people pleaser left him lonely and with a very satisfied right hand. Byron believed that the reason he was a virgin was simply this: he was a social pariah, he didn’t have the decorum of a cockroach in a bathtub and was always saying the wrong thing and the wrong time. Well that, and the fact that he looked like a balding, red-headed Pillsbury Doughboy with a perspiration problem.

“They aren’t hookers, hookers don’t work this far south.” This was a surprising statement coming from Dane.

“Like you would know.” Jumping into the conversation, Pete had to get at least a jab in even if wasn’t all that creative.

“Dane, is there something you would like to tell us?” Byron tapped his index finger on his goateed chin, trying to do his best ‘I’m a shrink’ impression.

Dane stopped, placed his hands on his hips and thrust out his man boobs. “No, everyone knows hookers only work down on North Temple.” He was sure of this, or at least he wanted Pete and Byron to think he was. Being the know it all he was, he couldn’t possibly be wrong, and even if he were he would NEVER let them know or admit that he could be. “Well, North Temple and Second South.” He was confident now that they wouldn’t be able to ‘call him on it’. It was common knowledge, hookers all worked down there, that is Salt Lake’s ‘unofficial’ Red-Light District. He had never had the balls to go get himself some from a prostitute, although on numerous occasions all his friends had offered to put together a ‘Get Dane Laid’ collection so he could get a hooker. Pete always extolled the virtues of ‘getting some’ and Byron never let a day go by that he didn’t ask Dane if he could get him a hooker, Byron insisted that getting laid would relieve all that tension and he wouldn’t be so worried about hurting some poor girls feelings, and he could find a girl to hang with. That, and Pete said most women didn’t want to ‘train’ a thirty-two year old man how to ‘do it’.

Byron put his hands on Dane’s shoulders, leaned in close to his face whispering in a conspiratorial tone. “Dude they ARE hookers, and Pete and I will pay if you want to get some. Hell, we’ll pay for you to have both of em’ bro.” Moving one hand from Dane’s shoulder, Byron reached down and grabbed Danes butt. “You aren’t gay are you, you do like girls right?” needling Dane always made Byron’s night, and this was going to be NO exception.

“I don’t want a hooker, and I’m NOT GAY!” Dane was shouting by the time he finished the sentence, his voice echoed off the sides of the buildings, causing the prostitutes to pause and turn towards the three friends. In a slow flood, the blood rushed to his face the bald top of his head turning crimson in the yellow street lights.

One of the prostitutes, a thin Hispanic girl with thick black hair and smallish breasts turned toward the three friends. Walking to them, her hips swayed in a hypnotic rhythm, the metronome of the streets. She reached one thin hand up into her hair, pulling the long dark locks away from her narrow face. “Hey, you boys looking for a party, or just window shopping?” her heavy Spanish accent made her sound sultry and wanton at the same time. She stood there, placed her hands on her narrow hips just above the hot pink thong peeking above her leopard print mini-skirt. Her low cut halter top showed just enough of her cleavage to make a potential customer curious.

Dane stood there staring, his mouth agape and eyes bulging from their sockets. “Umm. I. Umm. Well..” he stammered. Byron stepped back, folded his arms across his chest, looked up at the streetlight above his head laughing. It wasn’t the kind of laugh you hear when a comedian is performing a hilarious routine. It was more the laugh of an evil genius seeing his plot come to fruition. Pete put his hands into his jacket pockets and stared at the ground in front of him as if he expected the ground to open up and some great revelation to occur.

The tension was visible. Nervous twitches and coughs came from both Dane and Pete, neither of them were willing to say anything to the prostitute in front of them and they didn’t dare look at her either. Instead, they both just alternately stared at the concrete and the traffic passing on State Street.

After more than a minute of tense silence, the prostitute began tapping her booted foot impatiently on the concrete, she was becoming obviously irritated. “So you guys gonna get with this or not?” she moved her hands up and down her body in a wavy motion as she said this. It was her attempt at being alluring. It came off as dirty, and unattractive. “Well, who wants his dick sucked?”

Curiosity was getting the better part of Byron now, he wanted to see how far he could push this situation before somebody went over the edge. “How much…for a whole deal, not just a B.J. but for everything?” Byron didn’t want anything from her. He had other plans. If she were cheap enough, Byron was going to buy either Pete or Dane a hooker and then give them grief about it for weeks to come.

It was amazing; her demeanor suddenly changed. No longer aggressive and annoyed, the prostitute became a salesperson. “Baby, it’s $10 for a B.J., $20 for a B.J. and straight up sex, and if you want my backdoor, you have to give me $20 more.” It was like hearing a waitress read off the daily specials at the local greasy spoon, very dry and businesslike. “Oh, and if all three of you want a go, it will cost you an extra $20 each.” She was all business, there was no coyness or shyness with her, just money.

Enjoying this conversation, Byron pushed on. “How much then for these two with backdoor and they get to come more than once?” Pete and Dane shocked, turned and glared at Byron. Their fear and embarrassment were obvious and hilarious as far as Byron was concerned, he was going to have some fun, even if it cost him some money.

Her eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas, “Umm. For both of them and backdoor and more than once. Hmmm. I’ll do it for $40 each.” Smiling, the prostitute thought she had just made an ‘easy’ $80.00. Her mind racing, she began calculating how quickly she would be able to get these two guys off and get to her dealers house to get her Heroine. She was feeling it, she knew she would need a fix soon. “Who’s first, my place is across the street.” She was pointing to the Temple Motel. It was a rat trap of a motel dilapidated roofs, dirty windows and doors, and the smell of sweat. The kind of place a crack-whore would work out of.

One more request, Byron was ready to see what she would say to this last request. “Wait, they both want to do you at the same time. They really like to see each other’s faces when they shoot.” This was evil he knew. Pete and Dane were both so homophobic that they refused to sit next to each other in a crowded movie theater. There was no way they would both get naked and screw a hooker in the same room at the same time.

The prostitute stepped back two steps from where she had been standing, put her hands up in front of her as if to ward off demons. Her eyes were the size of Frisbees. The shock of this statement had taken her by complete surprise. “No, no, I don’t do that. You two are some sick fucks!” she turned and ran across the street, nearly being run over by a large white pickup truck. The truck swerved, honking, tires squealing on the pavement. When she reached the other side of the street, she ran up to a large black man standing next to the motel with his arms folded across his chest. He was a giant of a man, nearly six foot four and not a pound under three-hundred and muscular as hell. She began waving her arms as if directing aircraft on an aircraft carrier.

The black giant of a man pointed across the street, the hooker nodded emphatically. “HEY! You sick fucks!” the giant began walking towards the three friends.

It was obvious this was not going to end well. Byron realized that he had probably pushed this gag too far. There was no reason to get himself and his friends killed tonight. “Guys, it’s time to go. That dude looks pissed.” The three friends abruptly turned and as quickly as their feet could carry them, they began running toward Sociables. The neon signage on the building beckoning them to the safety of the bar and bouncers. The flashing nude dancer flickered above the entrance to the bar. Looking over his shoulder Byron could see the black giant running behind them. As he reached the entrance, Byron reached out grasping the handle of the door. “Inside, get inside, no way he follows us in here.” Out of breath and panting heavily Byron, Dane, and Pete burst into the bar.

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