Monday, January 25, 2010

Too Damn Big

Judith Blue stands out in the parking lot and watches as two women scream at each other out their car windows. “Jesus! Will you learn to drive that thang!”
“I was here first.”
“So the fuck what! You can’t drive worth shit!”

She turns and looks at the line of women that snakes out the door and down the sidewalk in front of the small specialty stores that share this rather large strip mall with The Beefeater, the restaurant, bar, and disco she manages for Chuck. Women are beginning to push each other in front of Yin Lee’s Chinese Gifts.

“Oh god, what am I going to do now?” She thinks this aloud and the sound of her own voice startles her. A very pregnant woman gives a mighty shove at the woman in front of her, who goes down, hits the pavement on her knees, and as her hands come down on the concrete she screams, “What the…….”

Judith turns toward the restaurant and starts moving as fast as she can, considering her high heels and the slope of the parking lot. She keeps thinking, ‘I didn’t know this many women lived in Springfield. Oh god, what am I going to do?’ When she gets to the doors she slips past a trio of women waiting to get past the two waiters stationed at the door. One of the guys guarding the door whispers in her ear as she squeezes through, “We need more wait staff.” It’s 5 p.m. Tuesday night. The show doesn’t start for two hours and the place is packed. The only men inside the place work there. She wants a couple more big guys with good manners and attitude on the front door.

A month ago she took this job as a lark. She needed a distraction from the faculty wives parties. When she and Henry first arrived she’d amiably gone along with the suggestions that she “participate.” The first abomination was a tea for faculty wives. It looked for all the world like the DAR and Junior League all wrapped into one. Then there was the Gourmet Club. What a fucking joke that was. Someone brought a green bean casserole, with canned green beans and Campbell’s mushroom condensed soup. Gawd. It was funny and sad at the same time. 


At one faculty dinner party they attend, she and Henry are seated across from each other, and each time someone addresses a question to him he looks at Judith to deliver his answer as if the two of them are alone at the table. She looks at the person who asked the question, hoping the hapless questioner sees her as merely the medium through which his answer is transmitted. She can barely keep a straight face. After that she knows she has to get a job to escape faculty wifedom. It is a role for which she has no talent.

During her interview with Chuck she asks all the questions while Chuck’s girlfriend/accountant gives her the skunk-eye. Both Chuck and his girlfriend come from Paducha where Chuck’s daddy owns the Caddy dealership. Must be a lot of pimps in Paducha. Chuck and his accountant are in their late twenties and have no idea what they hell they’re doing. Judith must be his first interview. When she’s through asking him questions, she asks one more. “Do you want to ask me any questions?” He stands up, giving her his most charming look which is an Elvis lip curl, sticks out his hand and says, “Welcome aboard.” She shakes his hand and asks one last question. “What do you plan to pay me to make this into a profitable venture?” His left eyelid flutters a little and he says, “$800. 00 a month” and beams. She says without batting an eye, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and turns toward the door. He says, “Whoa, not so fast, that’s just base salary. If you can turn a profit, I’ll give you 2% and of course, you eat and drink for free.” She pauses for a couple of seconds and says, “I’ll think about it and get back to you.”
“4%?”
“Make it $1,000. and 5%, and don’t hassle me about the changes I want to make. By the way, what’s your advertising budget?” She looks at the accountant who looks at Chuck who says, “Let me know what you need to spend, and we’ll pay the bills.”
“On time?”
He looks at her sideways and says, “Sure. Is that it?”
“No, I need to spend a week or so assessing staffing. Supplies., talent. Any changes I want to make, you’ll okay?”
“You’re the boss.”
“If I find that you have not paid staff, or vendors, or advertisers on time and in full, I’ll quit. Are we clear on all of that?”
“Yes ma'am.”

Walking to her car she knows she has just made a huge mistake, not asked for enough, got nothing in writing, but what the hell, she can always quit.

When she gets home Henry is there, smoking, drinking straight lukewarm vodka in a half full ice tea glass reading student papers. If you are a lucky student he gets to your paper just before that ice tea glass is empty. By then he doesn’t even bother to read them. He just gives these last four or five A’s and leaves it at that.
“I got a job.”
Silence.
“Have you eaten?”
“NO.”

He says this rather too loud for her taste, and she wants to say, “Henry, go fuck yourself,” but refrains for once because she really doesn’t give a shit if Henry’s eaten or not, she’s not cooking for him, so, why engage?

She heads for the shower. An hour later, after the shower, drying her hair, and getting dolled up a little, she grabs her handbag and starts toward the living room. Henry says in his whiniest voice, “Aren’t you going to fix dinner?”
“How astute, Henry. Was it the click click of my high heels?”
“Yes.”
“Want to have a conversation, Henry?”
“NO. Are you going out?”
“Yes.”
“Why?”
“I got a job, Henry. I told you, but it didn’t seem to register. I thought maybe you’d nodded off. I’d take you to dinner, but I doubt you could walk, and really, I want to see what the dining experience is like for a woman alone.”
“Why.”
“Henry? Are you in there? Why, to what? Are you so obtuse in class?
“A restaurant? Really? Will you bring me something back?”
“Probably not, since you’ll be asleep before I get back. Stay sober and I’ll buy you dinner tomorrow night. Good night Henry.”

As she drives to The Beefeater's, Judith thinks about the possibilities. The place is huge. The restaurant seats two hundred. The bar is another hundred . Fire code says the disco can hold a maximum of three hundred. She does not know the population of Springfield, but thinks keeping this place busy is really going to be a challenge. It's Thursday evening, just past 6 p.m. when she pulls into the parking lot. Stores are still open, but even so, the lot is almost empty. Oh God.

The first week she feels she has located all the major staffing changes she will need to make. She spends most early afternoons meeting with the back of the house—mostly the three cooks, one of whom has Culinary Institute training. They revamp the menu with specials that will not necessitate reprinting menus. Add dessert specials, everything is made in-house, bread, desserts. They work on a new wine list. Not necessarily more expensive, but better. Printing costs will be small. She gets rid of the English serving girl dresses with all the cleavage exposed and the long skirts that are a tripping hazard, and put everybody in black pants and crisp white shirts.

She spends her evenings in the bar. They have a cowboy quartet that starts playing at six. She gives them two weeks notice and puts up posters at the University’s music department and an ad in the classifieds of the News-Leader asking for jazz musicians. On Wednesday afternoon she auditions three groups. Hires a jazz band called Entropy. Judith thinks the bands name is pretentious and not apt, since they play quite swinging or soulful Jazz standards but decides it isn’t worth arguing about, since very few bar patrons will have the slightest idea what the fuck it means. She hires a great looking female bartender and keeps the one male bartender who doesn’t hit on her right off. She asks everyone to put out the word that she’s looking for another bartender. She has three cocktail waitresses to start with. She’ll add them as she needs.

Judith Blue is now on a mission to poach talent from restaurants and bars in the surrounding counties since she’s stolen all the good ones in Springfield. She’s left Horton’s alone because it is her only refuge from 
The Beefeater, so Larry and his staff are safe for now. Henry is too deep in his cups to really notice her absence and perhaps he's got a girlfriend again. It's been his habit in the past to accept the advances of pretty coeds. Who besides Judith can blame him? He isn't exactly getting much attention at home. But then he isn't exactly scintillating company or much fun in bed. When he started passing out and pissing the bed she started sleeping in the other room.

Now she is concentrating on the disco. Its days as a disco are numbered. Donna Summers is sort of old hat now, and it's time to transition to another incarnation. But what the fuck will that be? The place has a stage and dance floor and is too big by half. One morning in Fayetteville she stops for breakfast at a coffee shop near the the UAF campus, and while reading the paper, notices a small piece on page four about a club in Kansas City that sparks her interest. This little club, the Plug Nickel, has made news by offering the ladies a male strip show. The reason it makes any news at all is the huge crowd it draws—all women. Fancy that. She finishes her coffee, puts out her smoke, and tucks the paper under her arm and heads for the parking lot. She climbs into her Gran Torino and lites another cigarette before she turns toward Springfield. It’s a beautiful drive once you get past the strip malls that blight the landscape around Fayetteville, Benton, Rodgers, then she’s off the beaten track and on to Cassville and then Monett. Gorgeous farmland, no strip malls here. And she’s thinking all the way home.

She spreads the word among her staff of mostly S.W.M.U. students, that she’s looking for male dancers, real dancers, for an all female audience. Within a week she has fifty-eight names on the audition list. And The Beefeater is buzzing. Business is picking up at a steady rate. Sometimes on Friday and Saturday nights there is a waiting list for dinner and the overflow is enjoying jazz and cocktails in the bar. Everybody’s making money and bickering and backstabbing is at a minimum. Even Chuck and the accountant are pleased.

So far the disco is a cavern still mostly empty, despite the sound of Donna Summer, Grace Jones, Gloria Gaynor, and Chic blaring from the huge speakers. The glittery disco ball still twirls in the darkly lit space. She has banned the Bee Gees from the play list, but there is always a small crowd late at night around the long bar, and a few diehards still making the most of the big dance floor. But the times, they are about to be a changin'.

For three mornings she holds auditions in the empty disco. There are the dancers, the cocktail waiters, and the female DJ’s all in separate lines. Judith stands on the bar platform and tells them her plan. DJ’s have always been guys, but that is going to change on Tuesday nights. The women auditioning for DJ head to the booth. Dancers are limbering up down by the stage. And the first players in this performance are the cocktail waiters. Sixteen guys begging for ten spots. Mostly college athletes and frat boys thinking this is going to be easy. They have to audition just like the dancers. She is going to turn the nightlife gender roles upside down and see what falls out just one night a week for a month. She tells everyone exactly what her intentions are and what she expects of them. She will be the choreographer and majordomo of this whole shebang. An experienced cocktail waitress from the bar gives lessons to the waiters auditioning. They have to be able to carry a heavily loaded tray high above their heads, arm fully extended, weaving their way through closely placed tables, with a certain grace and agility without spilling a drop. Almost every guy fails his first try. The regular DJ is demonstrating in a showoffy way the inner workings of the booth. Music gets going and then stops abruptly. She leaves the bar tournament to the cocktail waitress and female bartender who will now make Tuesday night a regular part of her schedule. She's filling fake orders and loading the trays for these desperate waiter wannabes. Judith heads for the dancers.

This is going to be the tricky part of the whole deal. So they needed to have a little sit down. “Hi, I’m Judith Blue. Nice of you boys to show up, but this might not be exactly what you understood from the ad and posters. We are going to put on two shows a night one night a week for an all female audience. I repeat. Women only. You guys will be the entertainment.” There is a slight rise in the energy level of this group of attentive young men. They look at one another and smile. “I want to incorporate several elements to this performance, but I know this is a highly religious community, so to be fair to all of you, I must tell you first off, that there will be a little stripping involved. Anybody object to taking off your clothes while dancing and ending up nearly naked on a stage ought to leave now. We’re not doing anything illegal, but…” She shrugs, and sits at a table looking at the handsome, eager faces arrayed before her, spread out in repose on the dance floor, languid and muscled young men. Not a sound. No one moves to leave or even shifts his weight. “Is there a choreographer among you?” Three hands shoot up. She motions them over. They take chairs flanking her. “Will the remaining fifty or so of you break into groups of ten or eleven”? She waves her arm in the direction of the DJ booth. “Keep the volume low for awhile. We need to be able to talk in a normal tone, okay?”

There is a low murmur taking place in every part of the room now, then a large crash as one of the loaded trays hits the concrete floor. Dead silence for just a long moment, then the murmur starts again.

She has a powwow with her three choreographers and sketches out what she wants to see tomorrow, same time same place with some rough costuming. Is this possible? Yes, it turns out, it is.

Everywhere she goes she tells the women, in hushed and whispered tones that they might want to come for a special night just for women at the disco. At the bank, the grocery store, the doctors office, and throughout her strolls through the halls of academe.

By the following Monday morning they are ready for a dress rehearsal. She has ten well-trained waiters in short, tight black shorts and white wife-beater t-shirts, wearing white tennis shoes on their feet. She was tempted to make them wear high heels, just for the object lesson, but decided against it in the end. Her DJ is not only a hot babe, she has great taste and timing. Judith’s strippers are dressed up and ready to go. The only thing missing is the audience, but it all works flawlessly in practice.

By six, the restaurant is full and the bar is overflowing. Women all over the place, and the excitement of anticipation is palpable. Conversation is decidedly more animated this evening. Judith surmises that without the sobering influence of the menfolk, the women are a little more uninhibited. She opens the disco doors and there is a near stampede from the bar. Women are running for the tables up front. Oh my God. Judith has the first of what will be many moments of dismay this evening. She stands inside the huge room and watches it fill in minutes. Her waiters are in full swing fast. She slips into the stock room behind the disco bar and uses the wall phone to tell the boys tending in the bar to come into the disco and assist the waiters at either end of the bar. This frees the two women bartenders to mix drinks for the female customers three deep the length of the disco bar. Oh shit, this is not going to work as planned, there are just too many of them. Not one single ad and this is what has happened? There is a half hour to go and she already senses the chaos that might ensue if the bar fills with men waiting for the end of the shows and the emerging women. She checks with the wait staff in the restaurant. All the waiters agree that they will help out in the bar or disco when their tables empty. The waitresses express their displeasure at being left out. Judith says, “Check your pockets at the end of the night and then tell me how left out you feel.”

The show is perfection. But it is not the show that concerns Judith, it is the audience. This is like a fucking rock concert. Women are screaming and jumping up and down, throwing their panties. Waiters have come to her saying women are pulling their shorts down when they bend to take an order. These guy are getting groped. What the hell’s going on here? She gets goosebumps on the back of her neck, b ut gives a quick demonstration on how to squat at a table to take an order so as not to get ones shorts pulled down. This does not however solve the groping behavior. These guy are going to get groped. Nothing she can do about it now.

There are obviously kinks to be worked out, but there is no denying Judith is on to something here. Just what, she is not sure. She decides right then and there to do a fashion show on Wednesday night. She wanders into the bar and sees a milling mob of men. They are waiting almost patiently.

After a month of strip shows with an ever growing horde of women and the men who follow them, she has received television news coverage as far away as Kansas City. Now she gets a visit every Tuesday evening from the Fire Marshal to make sure they do not exceed capacity. Two burly cops flank the stage. Boys are coming out of the woodwork begging to cocktail for free, claiming all kinds of experience. But the crowd of screaming women of all ages and in all kinds of conditions, like hugely pregnant, or swooning and falling from the arms of their chairs where they stand to get a better view? This she cannot deal with. So, once the first show starts, she heads for Horton’s for a drink and a quiet dinner.

©2008 Peggy Pendleton



3 comments:

Paul D. Brazill said...

Splendidly vivid.

Utah Savage said...

Thank you, Paul

Mercutio said...

Dear Ms. Pendleton:

A process server has been attempting to contact you for the past three weeks to effect service in a pending federal judicial proceeding.
There is reason to suspect that you may be actively avoiding service.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(e) states:
SERVING AN INDIVIDUAL WITHIN A JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF THE UNITED STATES.
Unless federal law provides otherwise, an individual— other than a minor, an incompetent person, or a person whose waiver has been filed—may be served in a judicial district of the United States by:
(1) following state law for serving a summons in an action brought in courts of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located or where service is made;
URCP 4(b) states:
(ii) In any action brought against two or more defendants on which service has been timely obtained upon one of them, (A) the plaintiff may proceed against those served, and (B) the others may be served or appear at any time prior to trial.

As it is suspected that you are actively avoiding service, it has become necessary that I should file a Motion to Effect Service by Alternate Means, requesting that the Court grant leave to serve you by publication, assigning to you all related expense.
It is necessary that I save this page in .mht format to e-mail it to the magistrate who will rule on said motion as proof that you have had sufficient notice to make yourself available to the process server.

If you are not attempting to actively avoid service, please call (801) 596 – 2455, identify yourself as Ms. Pendleton, and schedule a time at which the documents might be delivered to you.

Thank you in advance for your consideration in this matter.