Monday, July 30, 2007

Good Work If You Can Get It

In a desperate attempt to bring more money into the house, I did some work over the weekend that took me out of my familiar comfort zone of the Green Dragon Tavern and into… Well, it wasn’t the first time I’ve worked as a stripogram but it had to be one of the most uncomfortable.

My destination was a house that sits on the outskirts of Bangor but, other than this one detail, I can’t say too much about it. If you know the area, you’d immediately know where I’m talking about and you’d undoubtedly know the people involved.

The phone call from the agency came in a seven o’clock last night. It gave me the usual clear directions to the house and some further instructions as to the role I was to play. I had to get there at ten o’clock, wearing my policeman’s uniform, and having memorised a speech down to the specifics of a cat’s name.

At nine fifty three, I turned the car up the short drive leading to the house. Fearing that my arrival might be noticed, I parked in the shadow of a low willow that resembled a hunchbacked gardener sweeping the path. It gave me the cover I needed to get prepared and only when my helmet was sitting snuggly on my head, with my hair pushed tight down my collar, did I make my way up to the front door and ring the bell.

I should have realised that something was wrong the moment the chimes began to play ‘Morning Has Broken’ but I didn’t have time to think of much about anything other than trying to remember a cat’s name since the door opened almost immediately.

The woman standing there was dourness dressed in a plaid skirt and a light green blouse fastened at the neck with an old fashioned broach. She couldn’t have been older than forty but her shoes looked to have come through World War II with her. They were in black leather, block nosed, with a buckle on the side and utterly suited to the opaque stretch of thick nylon stockings that concealed her shapeless legs.

‘Yes?’ she asked.

‘Miss Primrose?’ I replied, a bit flustered at the time but not enough now to make me reveal the woman’s real name. I really should save her the embarrassment.

‘Yes, that’s me,’ she said, a tight voice fit for good breeding and manners.

‘Could I come inside? I need to talk to you about Mr. Marmaduke,’ I said, beginning to suspect I had the wrong address. ‘I believe he’s your cat?’

‘Oh, yes, yes, he is,’ she said, her hand straying to her neck in that nervous way that some women have. She ushered me inside. ‘What’s wrong with him. I’ve only this minute let him out of the kitchen...’

The hall led into a front room where I found four other women, all of the same age as Miss Primrose, and all of them of the same kind of slightly repressed spinster types.

‘My friends,’ she explained.

‘Ah, I’m sorry to interrupt a party,’ I said.

‘Oh, we’re just having a quiet drink,’ she explained. ‘It’s my last night as a single woman.’

‘I see,’ I said. ‘Well, I’m sorry to bother you when you have guests but I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news. Won’t you sit down?’

‘No, no, tell me now,’ she said nervously but, nevertheless, sitting down. I smiled. It would make my job easier.

‘Yes,’ I continued, ‘you see, I have rather sad news about Mr. Marmaduke.’

‘Has something happened to him?’ she asked, tears coming quickly to her eyes.

‘Not at all,’ I said. ‘I’m here to investigate reports of neglect.’

‘Neglect?’ Her voice conveyed the right degree of outrage. ‘I don’t understand…’

‘I’ve had reports that Mr. Marmaduke has been neglecting your lovin’.’

It was corny, I know, but it’s what I’d been told to say.

‘I beg your pardon?’ asked Miss Primrose, suddenly flushed and looking quite confused. It was time, I thought, to clear up her confusion.

‘I’ll show you what I mean,’ I said and took out the small tape cassette player from my pocket, hit the play button, and set it down on a coffee table. The flat tinny strains of Tom Jones singing ‘Like a Woman’ radiated no further than the table as I began to unbutton my tunic.

Well she’s all you’d ever want,
She’s the kind I’d like to flaunt and take to dinner.
Well she always knows her place,
She’s got style, she’s got grace, she’s a winner.
She’s a lady, whow whow whow, she’s a lady…

It was all rather pitiful. Normally when I begin one of these strips, the women in the room are ready for it and it’s not long before the screaming begins and the music is drowned out by the excitement.

Only, in this case, there was nothing. Not a scream, not a groan, not even a shocked intake of breath. All I could hear was the ticking of an old grandfather clock in the corner of the room as five women looked at me with faces which began white and only got paler as I started sending my policeman’s uniform to all corners of the room.

I was down to my thong when Miss Primrose interrupted me.

‘I take it that you’re not with the local constabulary,’ she said.

I dropped my hands to my side, already feeling a bit warm from all the gyrations and hip thrusting. I looked down at my naked torso, glistening with sweat.

‘What gave it away? Was it the body glitter?’

She shrugged and pressed stop on the tape player. ‘I think we've had enough of dear old Tom. Why don’t you sit down and I’ll get you a cup of tea,’ she said. ‘You look exhausted.’

‘You don’t want me to finish?’

She looked around the room. ‘I’ll go and make the tea,’ she said. ‘And in the meantime, why don’t you find out which of my friends put you up to this.’

I slumped down into a chair, disconsolate at another professional failure.

‘Don’t worry,’ said a mousy little woman sitting on the end of the sofa. ‘You’ll get your money.’ She smiled and looked at her friends. ‘Don’t tell Sarah, but we all paid for this treat, only I think there’s been a mistake. You were meant to be a singing telegram. You were meant to sing “We have a friend in Jesus.”’

‘Sing? I can’t sing,’ I said. ‘And what kind of hen night is this? Asking a man to sing about Jesus?’

‘Hen night?’ the woman laughed. ‘This isn’t a hen night.’

‘But your friend said this is the last night she’ll be a single woman.’

‘That’s right. Tomorrow, Sarah’s taking the vow. She’s becoming a bride of Christ. She’s becoming a nun.’

Well, I’ve known plenty of nuns in my time but not one of them had been religious, unless, of course, lap dances have become sanctified by the Church. I was about to mention this when Miss Primrose came back in carrying a cup of teal in one hand and a small leather bound book in the other.

‘Now then, I want you to drink this while I read you something,’ she said.

‘You’re not going to save me, are you?’ I asked.

She smiled and patted the book. ‘I don’t save anybody. I leave that to a very good friend of mine. He can be very persuasive.’

That I didn’t doubt.

I sank back into my chair and gazed down at my thong as the woman began to speak. It might have been a trick of the light or something in the tea, but I swear I saw a bearded face looking back at me from the sequins.

And, thought I couldn’t be sure, I like to think that he was grimacing too.


rilly super said...

chip, old chap, Jesus wants you for a sunbeam, a convertible where the top comes off naturally...

Ms Baroque said...

Chippy, that's right. This could happen to anyone!

No, wait... okay, maybe not - but mot chaps wouldn't have seen Jesus in their thong sequins. I think you've got something there! You should listen to Rilly...

Ms Baroque said...

Most chaps, I mean. I mean most strippergrams. See, once you've speed-written a novel strange things can happen.