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After work, Vernon Mscy had the cabdriver drop him off a few blocks from Times Square, just to be safe. Briefcase in hand, he walked the rest of the way, his gray eyes darting mouselike around him, making sure there was no one around who might recognize him, in which case he would hurry down to the subway, catch a train home, and forget the whole thing.
He wasn't a tall man. He had a big nose and his salt-and-pepper hair, now covered with a gray fedora, had begun to disappear on top nearly fifteen years ago. His skin was pasty and flabby from forty-seven years of avoiding sunshine and exercise. When he wasn't sitting at his desk in the office, he was in his study at home, reading, smoking a cigar, doing anything to avoid being in the same room with Doris, his wife, or Janice, his twenty-two-year-old-daughter, who spent far too much time nervously flitting about her parents' apartment and not nearly enough in her own, where she seemed to do nothing but snort coke with her unwashed boyfriend and postpone her college education.
To make the coming weekend at home more tolerable, Vernon Macy had decided to do something he'd never done before. Something he'd never thought of doing before.
A week ago, he had overheard two of the younger men in the office talking about the strip joints and peep shows in Times Square, and how some of the girls, if given generous tips, would give blow jobs through holes in the walls. At the time, Vernon Macy had given it little thought. But that night, lying in bed next to Doris, the perfume she applied several times a day filling the dark room with a sickening sweetness, he thought of what that young man had said, and Vernon Macy wondered....
And in the early morning of that Friday, as he ate his breakfast and as Doris complained about the length of his toenails, he decided that he would give it a try.
The lights of Times Square flashed and glittered with lives of their own. The litter on the sidewalk became more unpleasant: a pile of shit that may or may not have been left by some stray animal, a moist yellowish puddle that had caught and held a newspaper blowing in the breeze. Some of it was human: lying beside the trash cans, against walls, at the openings of alleys -- old women wearing tattered feather boas and torn paper party hats, carrying all their belongings in shopping bags; old men with three-day beards, their ratty clothes stained and crusty, lifting bottle-shaped paper bags to ragged lips.
Vernon Macy tried not to notice. He pressed on as night gave way to the neon awakening of Times Square. He slowed before each strip joint, each peep show, each movie theater and video shop, trying to keep his head down as much as possible.
How could he tell?
And what was he supposed to do once he got inside?
They were all so bright and brazen, with pictures of naked women stretched on their sides, sultry, pouty, seductive, the more intimate parts of their bodies only barely hidden from view. Men stood in the doorways, beckoning.
"Bee-yoo-ful nekkid girls!" one fat man with a plaid shirt said. "Dey's so fine, wish dey was mine! C'mon, gents, check 'em out. Bee-yoo-ful nekkid girls!"
Vernon Macy passed that one. Too loud, too open. He wanted something quieter, perhaps a bit more hidden from view. They all seemed so brazen, though, so anxious to exhibit their treats to anyone who would slow long enough to watch.
He walked on.
Someone touched his elbow and he nearly dropped his briefcase, expecting to hear Doris's birdlike voice demanding to know why he was not home for the dinner she'd gone to such great lengths to prepare. Friday night was the night of their "special dinner" when she lit candles and brought out the best china for the exquisite gourmet meal she'd put together with the help of a videotape of Julia Child which she'd watched on the little television in the kitchen as she darted back and forth, talking to Julia now and then as she stirred and mixed.
Vernon Macy spun around and looked down on a wiry little woman wearing a pair of heart-shaped dimestore sunglasses with red frames and dark blue lenses. An old blue knit cap was stretched down over her greasy hair and only a few teeth remained in her wide, crooked smile.
"You got bus fare?" she rasped. "I gotta get outta here 'cause there's some Russians chasin' me. They know I know about how they been workin' with the space aliens, so they tryin' to make me -- "
Macy turned from her, irritated but immensely relieved, and walked away as she rambled on and on behind him.
He almost missed the next one, almost passed right by without noticing.
There was no one out front. And only one sign. He stopped in front of the place and looked up at the blinking words:
The letters flashed in red and the I in GIRLS flickered and buzzed softly. The sign was small compared to the others -- no more than five feet wide, maybe six feet tall. The front of the place was black. No other signs, no lights, just a doorway with a black curtain hanging in place of a door.
Vernon Macy stepped forward.
The sounds of traffic and voices and music, the pulse of the whole city seemed to diminish behind him as he neared the curtained doorway. His muscles tensed and he almost paused, almost turned and caught a cab to go home to that Goddamned dinner.
But he didn't. He stepped through the midnight-black curtain of Live Girls.
Copyright © 1987 by Ray Garton