Turning 30, Chapter 9

A small strip club was operating in full swing. A main stage had two poles with a stripper on each, and there was also two smaller stages with a pole and a dancer on them. In the corner opposite of the entrance was a full service bar. The stage closest to the door had a dancer named Cupcakes, who had luxurious pink hair and a cupcake-print bikini. A few men left her stage side, so she twirled around and waited for customers. Ashlynn and Will escorted Tadd inside and sat him in front of Cupcake’s stage. Will proudly commented, “There! The problem is about to be solved! This is the mecca for men with a broken heart!”

Cupcakes stopped mid-twirl when she heard this. “Aw, who’s got a broken heart?” Ashlynn and Will pointed to Tadd, who stared towards the stage but looked unfocused. “Aw, hon! How about a lap dance on the house?”

Tadd shrugged. Cupcakes straddled him and began the dance, but Tadd does not seem to care. Ashlyn and Will watched this awkward interaction for a minute. Ashlynn observed, “It’s like watching Feliz get a lap dance!” Will nodded in agreement. “Well, I’m gonna go get what I came for-nickel beer night!”

“Can you grab me one?” Will requested. He handed her a dime. “Here, first round is on me!”

Ashlynn joked, “Easy there, big spender!” Will laughed and grabbed a chair between the main stage and Cupcakes’ stage. Ashlynn went to the bartender and placed her order, “Two beers, please.”

The bartender replied, “Yes, ma’am.” He took her dime and gave her the beer.

At that moment, a very young-looking girl came over. She was wearing a raccoon-eared cap with a furry, grey bra, a grey mini skirt, and a raccoon tail. She sat next to Ashlynn, and when she requested her drink, Ashlynn thought her voice’s pitch was unusually high. “Beer please!”

The bartender replied, “Can I see your ID, Miss?” She showed it to him. “Okay, thank you.” She gave him a nickel, and he gave her a beer.

The girl noticed Ashlynn staring at her oddly. “I’m a sexy raccoon!”

Ashlynn told her, “Totally normal!”

The girl shrugged. “I know, it’s weird, but guys like it, so whatever.” Ashlynn smiled and turned her attention to her beer. The girl thought she looked sad, so she asked, “What’s wrong?”

Ashlynn responded with, “What makes you think something’s wrong?”

She told her, “You’re at a strip club sitting by yourself, it’s not rocket science!”

Ashlynn couldn’t deny that logic. “He called me ma’am! When did I become a ma’am? He didn’t even ask for my ID.”

She conversed, “I just turned twenty-one, but everyone thinks I’m much younger. That can’t be all that’s wrong with you right now though!”

Ashlynn actually found herself impressed. “You’re good!”

“Everyone always seems surprised when I show I’m smart!” she commented ruefully.

Ashlynn felt bad. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t judge. What’s your name?”

“My real name is Becky.” She extended her hand.

Ashlynn shook her hand. “I’m Ashlynn. By the way, I didn’t come here alone. We came to cheer up my friend who-”

She stopped mid-sentence. Tadd still had Cupcakes on his lap, but she stopped dancing. and had teary eyes listening to his sob story. Since Cupcakes took too long to continue her dance, another girl took over her pole. Will got squeezed out and tried to jump over people’s shoulders to see her. “Oh come on!” he shouted.

“Yeah, I’m here alone.” Ashlynn turned around and took a big swig from one of the beer bottles.

Becky enspeeched, “Everyone goes through ups and downs. Sometimes all the downs come out at once, but eventually it’ll go back up. I mean, no one is sad forever. It  may not go the way you planned, but you’ll find a way to make everything work out. I mean, it’s not like I expected to make a living as a naked raccoon! But since I’ve been here, I’ve made a lot of friends and helped a lot of people. My mom always said everything happens for a reason. You have a purpose here, you’ll see!”

Ashlynn felt touched by her words, but she did not know if she actually believed it. Before she could respond, a cocktail waitress came up to Becky. “Becky, sweetheart, can you return from your break a little early? I think the girls are gonna need a pick-me-up session…”

Becky and Ashlynn looked over to where the waitress pointed to. Tadd was surrounded by four very sad strippers. Tadd wailed, “I’m glad I didn’t give her my grandmother’s ring! She just would’ve pawned it for drugs!”

Cupcakes cried, “That’s so sad!” A couple of the other girls started crying. The men who came to watch the dancers looked very irritated.

Becky reacted, “Oh jeez!” She got up, but before she left, she told Ashlynn, “Hang in there, babe!” She ran behind the curtains of the stage to prepare for her act.

Will, who had heard that comment, came over to Ashlynn and jeered, “Woah! Is someone else coming out of the closet? How come you didn’t kiss her goodbye?”

Ashlynn shook her head. “What’s wrong with you?”

Will vented, “I came here to watch sexy girls dance! Tadd got them all depressed and everyone stopped! It sucks! So, gimme a break, will ya? This fake girl on girl action is all I got!”

The DJ dimmed the lights and put a spotlight on the center stage. “Gentlemen, please welcome to the stage the world’s sexiest raccoon-Randi!”

Becky came out, and all of the men got excited and gathered around the stage. As she began her act, one man reacted with a whistle. Tadd let out a howl, causing the whole show to stop. He began to throw a tantrum, and Ashlynn and Will grabbed him to escort him out. A bouncer went up to them and gruffly said, “I’m sorry, we’re gonna have to ask you to leave!”

Ashlynn retorted, “What do you think we’re trying to do?”

The club fell into an awkward silence. Becky realized she lost focus, so she got control of the room by shouting, “Hey guys! I’ve got ping pong balls!”

The men all reacted eagerly and gathered around the stage. The DJ started the music, and Becky gave Ashlynn a thumbs up to show that she had her back. Ashlynn smiled but also struggled to escort Tadd out. They were at the exit, and Ashlynn realized that she was struggling because Will was lingering, hesitant to leave. “Aw man, ping pong balls!” Will agonized. Ashlynn gave him a hard look, and he eventually helped her get Tadd out of the club.

 

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