I can't recall the exact time I wrote this short story though sometime during the 80s is a safe guess. It's about a man, an American Indian man, visiting a strip club to watch his sister perform. The idea came to me after I had visited a strip club. I'd had a conversation with a dancer who was upset because her father had come into the club to watch her perform and to try to convince her to quit her job. The bouncer had thrown him out before he'd had a chance to do either.
Reading the story again after many years I can still feel the anger in my words that I felt following a failed marriage and, most likely, still suffering from PTSD from my time as an infantry machinegunner in Vietnam. The sentences are choppy and the dialogue stilted but I refrained myself from launching into a massive edit job because it was written by the person I was at the time and not the same person I am now. Thanks for reading Pole Dancer and I hope you like it anyway. P.S. If the subject of nudity offends you then please stop reading now.
Another hot Oklahoma day, dry clouds streaking a faded sky as dervishes of swirling dust burnished Joe Redbird's elbow. Two crows, examining an armadillo carcass, moved out of his path. Joe had other things on his mind and didn't notice as he passed a slow-moving pumping unit, siphoning the last greasy sips from a dying reservoir. Scattered remnants of a once proud industry littered both sides of the road, staining the dry earth with dirty water. Overhead, a lone hawk floated in a thermal updraft.
Redbird pulled into a pea-gravel parking lot surrounding a freestanding cinder block building. Broken neon lighting, mounted on two pilfered stands of drill pipe, proclaimed the place Valley of the Dolls.
Shading his eyes from noon sun, he steered the pickup between a red Chevy and a dented Fat Bob Harley. Waves of damp heat flooded the cab when he opened the door. He didn't bother stretching as he side-stepped a drunk Okie leaning against the wall.
He squinted into murky darkness, smoke accosting his eyes and loud music his ears. At least the air-conditioning felt good, chilling his sweaty neck as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. A half-nude waitress encircled his waist with slender arms, pressing her breasts into the small of his back.
"Whatcha having, Geronimo?"
"Pitcher of Bud," he said.
"Smile, Chief. Can't be all that bad."
Redbird's expression remained dark, despite the young woman's friendly prodding. He nodded toward the bar circling center stage. His mousy-haired server puckered her lips and made lewd kissing sounds. When he refused to respond, she wriggled her nipples between thumb and forefinger and then kissed him on the cheek.
"You need something, just whistle. I'm Anita."
Redbird's features remained impassive as Anita winked and backed away through the crowd. When his eyes dilated enough to see, he glanced over his shoulder at the dozens of other patrons. Bikers in leather and chains, soldiers with shaved heads and roughnecks in dirty overalls. They filled the large room to frantic capacity, and he had to elbow his way to an empty chair at center stage.
His dollar tip earned him a wet kiss when Anita returned with his pitcher of beer. Ignoring her, he wiped the lipstick off his face with the back of his hand. Anita shrugged and eased away through the crowd. After draining the first glass, he poured another. Then he faded into cool darkness as pulsating-neon flooded center stage.
Several-dozen prairie voyeurs rattling beer bottles soon replaced the jukebox. A new dancer was preparing to come on stage, and shrill whistles began piercing the darkness. Redbird cocked his head for a better view of the wooden stage.
Staggering up the short ramp, a young blue-eyed blond woman licked her lips. Clad in only a bra and gold sequined g-string, she smiled at the whistling, cat-calling audience staring back at her. When the jukebox began, she gyrated in a drunken simulation of sensuality. Above blaring rock and roll, a high-pitched voice shrilled.
"Hey baby, show us your snatch."
When someone put two soft hands on Redbird's shoulders, he knew who it was without turning to look.
"What are you doing here, Joe?"
Redbird pivoted in his chair, gazing up into a dancer's dark eyes.
"Pete Thompson said I'd find you here."
The young woman's long hair draped in raven waves over bronze shoulders. Reflections in her dark eyes rippled like black paint in a blender. Joe's neck grew warm as he sensed the gaze of everyone around them. They were admiring the attractive dancer, a woman with smooth skin, brown as his own.
"Pete's right. I'm a dancer."
Glancing over his shoulder at the girl on stage, Redbird said, "Like her?"
When Victoria shut her eyes, Redbird could almost feel the hot flush spreading up her neck. Opening them, she stared at the floor.
"Mom send you?"
In a voice barely audible above the loud music and grating background voices, he answered, "Mom doesn't know you work here. Maybe you can tell me why you do?"
Redbird leaned forward, touching her hand, causing her to wrench away and back into a drunk at the table behind her. The man groped her leg before she could move away.
"I have no answer. Least one you'd understand."
"Vicky, you're up next," someone called from behind the bar.
"Have to go," she said. "Finish your beer and get out of here before you embarrass us both."
"Will it embarrass you to have your big brother watch you strip and do squat thrusts while these monkeys masturbate in the dark?"
Vicky shook her dark mane. "I don't do that. They are to watch me dance. That's all."
Glancing at the girl weaving drunken circles on stage, Redbird said, "You call that dancing?"
"What about you? You've been here before."
"Different," he said.
Victoria tried to smile, but her quivering lower lip betrayed her true feelings. She leaned against the table so no one else could hear her reply.
"Why is it different?"
"Because people are laughing behind your back," he said.
"Who are they laughing at? You or me?"
"I don't dance in a titty bar."
"Yeah, and I suppose all your friends have great respect for the way you earn a living, driving a garbage truck."
"So is dancing."
"This isn't dancing, Vicky. It’s obscene. I feel sorrow for you and shame for our family."
"Only thing you feel is your throbbing head and queasy gut when you wake up Sunday morning with puke on your pillow."
"Doesn't change things," he said.
Victoria touched his hand and said in a whisper, "I can't expect you to understand. I've wanted to dance since I was a little girl."
"But why here?"
"Because we all have decisions to make, and don't always have enough choices."
Redbird folded his arms and shook his head. "These scumbags don't care if you dance, or parade around on all fours. In fact, I'm sure that's what they would prefer."
"I do it for myself, Joe. Not them, and not you." When he didn't reply, she said, "Just get out of here. Please."
He stayed in his chair, noticing glints of sadness flicker and fade in the darkest corner of her eyes. Her lip quivered, and she drew a breath, almost losing the tiny halter covering her breasts when she exhaled. Clutching it to her bosom, she hurried away through the crowded tables.
Though impassive, his shoulders began shaking in an almost imperceptible tremble. Sitting straight up in the rickety bar chair, he locked his folded arms against his chest and turned toward center stage. Everyone locked on to the blue-eyed dancer. No one had noticed the confrontation. Enveloped in her third song, she'd already discarded the sequined halter covering her breasts. As he watched, she yanked on her golden g-string.
With eyes like a stalking wolf, she promenaded across the stage on hands and knees. When she spotted Redbird and saw his frown.
Pulling the snap of her g-string, she twirled it once around her head, sniffed it, and then tossed it around Redbird's neck. With a satisfied smirk, she flipped over, wrapping long legs around her neck. She rolled across the stage, displaying her shaved privates. Her performance brought whistles from the drunken crowd.
Redbird turned away. Some perverse curiosity returned his gaze to the stage. He locked onto the young woman's sweating body, dirty from the dust tracked floor. She writhed in widening circles, not forgetting Redbird until the music ceased.
When the song ended, she collected the dollar bills scattered across the stage and grabbed her outfit in a slight bend of the knees. Redbird folded his arms and turned away, trying to lose himself in the remaining slug of beer. At least, until a hand touched his shoulder.
"Another pitcher, Chief?"
Redbird nodded. After returning from the bar, Anita filled his glass, sipping from it before handing it to him. Confused by his rampant emotions, he studied the rose tattoo on her breast and the strange gold fleck in her left eye. She licked foam from her lips with an overt flick of her tongue. His dollar tip earned him another wet kiss, followed by solitude as she departed to wait on someone else.
Attracted by the booming jukebox, Redbird's gaze returned to center stage. As beautiful Victoria appeared through the neon-lighted darkness, he held his breath.
Except for her near-nudity, she seemed a beautiful princess, ascending dirty steps to a royal throne. Behind Redbird, the anonymous audience whooped and whistled their approval. He couldn't look her in the eye but couldn't take his own off her body. His face and neck grew red. Victoria was tall and dark, moving across the stage like a dandelion wafting in the breeze. She pirouetted in slow, measured circles, long raven hair billowing in synchronous waves. Her eyes, dark and liquid, mesmerized and quieted the audience, Her movements possessed them. Victoria whisked off the tiny halter covering her breasts during a slow turn on the polished pole. As a single entity, the crowd gasped.
Joe Redbird watched, along with bikers, soldiers, and roughnecks. His skin flushed with rising anger. Unable to forget the leering creatures gaping at his beautiful sister, he turned away. His head began to shake with a subtle flutter that crept into his shoulders and down the base of his spine.
Victoria's last number sheathed its patrons in a tight knot of rapt concentration. As bass notes resonated through the murky darkness, her movements entwined them. Nothing disturbed her as she revolved around the polished pole, like a holographic vision in a giant music box. Finally, she whisked off her last garment.
Screaming shouts and wild applause punctuated her curtsied finale. Smiling at the ovation like a prima ballerina, she waved, acknowledging their praise. As she prepared to exit the stage, Redbird hoisted his half-filled pitcher of beer, hurling it at his sister.
She dodged the missile, watching it crash into the wall-length mirror behind center stage. An explosion of flying shards liberated the audience as angry patrons closed around Redbird. A fat security guard bullied his way through the crowd. When he reached for Redbird, the tall Native American took a round-house swing and knocked him on his ass. With fists raised, he pivoted in a semi-circle, daring anyone to touch him. Someone did.
Willowy arms encircled him; the gentle pressure of soft breasts in the small of his back calmed him like water on a lighted fuse. With fury bleeding from his soul, he allowed the woman to back him to the front door.
"Get the hell outa here and don't ever come back," the fat security guard called after them.
Someone started another song on the jukebox, and another dancer took center stage. Bar patrons grumbled but returned to consuming more beer and watching the next performance. Mousy-haired Anita pushed Joe Redbird into bright August sunlight of the graveled parking lot. He halted when she shouted at him.
"What right have you got pulling a stunt like that?"
Naked, except for a yellow strip of tawdry cloth covering her pubic hair, she waited for his answer. It never came. Instead, his apathetic stare caused her to shield her bare breasts with a perfunctory arm.
A pickup passed on the highway, honking its horn and raising dust devils on the blacktop. Heat from late afternoon sun sent perspiration trickling down Redbird's neck. Wiping it away, he continued staring at Anita in silence.
They stood like gunfighters preparing to draw their weapons. Brilliant sunlight revealed all the young woman’s physical flaws. Her self-confidence began to wane, and even the rose tattoo on her breast seemed to fade. Redbird stared at stretch marks on her breasts and belly, blinking as he studied her bowed legs. After gazing at angry scars of adolescent acne on her almost pretty face, he turned away.
Her shoulders sagged. Taking a single step backward, she tripped on a rock in the uneven parking lot and almost fell.
Quivering with emotion, she said, "Victoria is beautiful. Everyone loves to watch her dance. If you didn't want to see, you shouldn't have come."
Redbird didn't answer, unsure of what he had seen, or how he felt. Returning to his pickup, he lowered the windows before cranking the engine. The heat felt like the last agonizing breath of a bursting lung.
As he pulled out of the parking lot, he glanced again at sad Anita, her arms folded across her bare breasts. Numbed by emotion and too much beer, he spun the tires in loose gravel and drove away back down the lonely blacktop road from where he had come.
Born near Black Bayou in the little Louisiana town of Vivian, Eric Wilder grew up listening to his grandmother’s tales of politics, corruption, and ghosts that haunt the night. He now lives in Oklahoma where he continues to pen mysteries and short stories with a southern accent. He is the author of the French Quarter Mystery Series set in New Orleans and the Paranormal Cowboy Series. Please check it out on his Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iBook author pages. You might also like to check out his website.