Parallel Parking

[Fiction on the blog.]

“It’s cool inside,” he said as he shoved a flyer in my hand. Then he glanced up at the sun for emphasis, as if I needed reminding that the thermometer had already reached 100 degrees a few minutes before noon.

I looked at the flyer. Two-4-One Cocktails it promised in thick black letters on cheap red paper. I looked up at the sign on the building I’d just parked in front of.

Girls! New Shows Hourly!! Private Booths!!!

“I don’t think so,” I said, trying to hand the paper back to him, wondering why the only open parking spot on the block had to be in front of this place.

“Keep it. My boss gets mad if I don’t hand these out.”

I looked around for the person I was meeting for lunch. I was really early, the sun was really hot, and the street was really bare of shade.

I think he took my inactivity for hesitation.

“Sure you don’t want to go inside? Plenty of a/c, no extra charge.”

I shook my head. “I’m just waiting for someone.”

“Bring him inside too.”

“It’s a her.”

“Even better. The ladies love this place.”

Somehow I tended to doubt that my aunt would appreciate it if I took her inside for lunch. “I heard that restaurant across the street is good.”

“Yeah, Afghan food. Eat there sometimes,” he said. “Don’t mind Indian and Pakistani food either.”

“Really? Me too.”

I looked him over. Smooth face, skinny build, worn jeans and a slightly frayed clean T-shirt. He looked 12 years old to me. Then again a lot of people look 12 to me the older I get. He wanted to talk? Let’s talk.

“Are you old enough to work at a place like this?”

“I’m 21. Been working here since my birthday.” He handed a flyer to a skateboarder rolling by. “Worked a lot of other places before this.”

“I had a lot of jobs by the time I was your age, too. Bussing tables, painting houses, even a maid in a cheap resort once.”

He laughed. “I’ve never been a maid before, but I’ve done a lot of those other jobs. What I really wanted was to work here.”

“You were just waiting to get old enough, huh?”

“Yeah, my mom’s idea.”

I choked on some saliva. “Your mom wanted you to work here?”

“She knows the owner, knew he’d take care of me.’

“Friend of hers?”

“One of her ex-boyfriends.”

“Oh.” I considered getting in my car and moving it across the street to a spot that just opened up. Another car pulled into it. “So, your mom was able to stay friends with her ex. That must be … nice?”

“She used to work for him, too.”

“Where was that?” I asked, thinking we were getting on to safer ground here.

“In there.” He pointed at the open door and the cool blackness within. “I told you he owns the place, remember?”

“Oh, right. She worked inside …”

“Of course. The girls can’t do their jobs outside.”

“I guess not.”

“They make money inside.” He threw me a look. “Haven’t you ever been in one of these places?”

“You mean have I ever been in a … a …”

“In a strip joint. What did you think it is?”

“The flyer says it a Gentleman’s Club,” I said disingenuously. I know what Gentleman’s Club means.

“Not many gentleman in there,” he said, thrusting a flyer into the hands of a couple walking by. The man looked at it. The woman took it from him and crumpled it up as she let it fall to the ground.

OK, I figured if this kid wanted to have this conversation, I’d have it with him.

“Was your mom a bartender or something?”

“It’s a strip club. She had the job that brings in the money. The girls make a lot more serving up themselves than serving drinks.”

“Is the pay really that good?”

“Not pay. Tips. Especially in the private booths. Her boyfriend took a cut. He does from everybody. But mom still made out pretty well.”

“Probably not the kind of place you came to when it was take Your Kid To Work Day, huh?”

“I came here plenty. Not inside the bar, but in back in the changing room. Mom made me do my homework after school. Some of the girls helped me with it.”

“They could help?”

“Sure. They’re not dumb, you know. In fact, there’s a couple college students inside working right now. Mom said I had better tutors than money could buy.”

“My mom did that, too,” I said.

“Yeah, like your mom stripped.”

“No, I had to go to her work after school. She was a librarian. There were a lot of older kids who came there in the afternoons to hang out and some of them’d help me.”

“I didn’t like coming here all the time but mom said I had to so she’d know where I was.”

“Mine too.” I saw my aunt walking up the street from around the corner.

“Do you get a lunch break?” I asked.

“I could if I wanted one I guess. Usually don’t want one. I’d have to ask.”

“I skip lunch a lot too. How ’bout asking.”

He poked his head in the doorway. “Hey Frankie! Any problem with me getting something to eat across the street? Yeah, I’ll bring back some flatbread.”

“Aunt Miriam, how are you?” I said, giving her a hug. “I asked a friend of mine to join us. This is …”

“Scotty.”

“This is Scotty. We’ve got a lot in common.”

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15 Responses to Parallel Parking

  1. lauradroege says:

    This is really moving, Tim. It reminded me of a conversation I had in college with one of my fellow students, who, like Scotty’s mom, was/had been working as a stripper while she was working her way through school. I didn’t handle the conversation as well as you did, though; I couldn’t see how this lady and I had anything in common, even though we did. I love that you invited him to lunch! Thanks for the reminder to look beyond surface differences and see what we have in common with other people, and the reminder that God uses interesting means (lack of parking!) to bring us in contact with people we might not otherwise meet.

    • Tim says:

      I hope I would handle it this well if I met this situation, Laura, but I have to say that this is merely a fictional dialog. On strippers I’ve met, though, I did write about it here.

  2. My girls often like to tell of their only experience in a Jack-In-The-Box restaurant. We were vacationing in Nashville when Dad decided that we will try a different spot for lunch and something quick. There was a guy standing outside who looked hungry so we invited him in for a bite to eat. Twenty (Just Him) dollars later, he was still eating on his burgers when we gave him ours and left. Never been back to a Jack-In-The-Box since. Rarely did we run into a person standing outside an eating establishment like that again, that was definitely a divine apt.

    Of course they will also tell you about Dad driving down a one way street, the wrong way, with cars coming at them. Leaving them in the car alone while Dad went in a Biker bar asking for directions. Yes, that was quite an adventure that trip.

  3. Adriana says:

    You’ve been holding back on us, Tim. This is not “merely” fiction — this is excellent! The dialog is so natural, I didn’t think for a second that you made it up. Poignant and gripping!!! Now that I know what you are capable of, I will be hoping to find a fictional post here on a regular basis!

  4. Jeannie says:

    I thought this was a real-life story too, Tim; it’s very believable, and I can see you having just such a conversation. I love how the narrator focuses on what he and the boy have in common. He’s a real bridge-builder. I admire him.

    • Tim says:

      I do too. I’d like to build bridges as well as that guy. Although I will say that I did bus tables, paint houses and work as a maid at a cheap resort on my way through college.

  5. Aimee Byrd says:

    I love how this article leaves me with so much to think about, Tim. That kind of fiction is my favorite!

  6. Pingback: Parallel Christmases | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

  7. janehinrichs says:

    I didn’ read this back in Sept. Glad you put up the next installment today. Both are great.

  8. Pingback: Parallel Planes | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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