Monday, September 12, 2011

Week of 09/12/2011

“Busy Ness” and Her Games
– by David Matthews 2

Once upon a time there was an “exotic” dancer named Ness who danced her nights away at the Free Market Gentlemen’s Club. Folks called her “Busy Ness” because that was what she claimed she always was, busy, busy, busy.

Ness was the most popular of the dancers in the club, and for good reason. It’s not because of her figure, which wasn’t as “small” and petit as she continually said it was; rather it was because she knew how to work a room to get every customer there to give her money. It didn’t matter if they were there alone or in a group, if they were celebrating or trying to forget the day’s troubles, “Busy Ness” made sure that they each gave her some attention by the end of the night… and some money, of course. It was always about the money.

Of course the men in the club would say that the attention she gave them was worth it. She made them feel special. She made them feel important. No matter how they felt when they came in, Ness would make them feel great by the time they left for the night. And of course they tipped her well for it, and the more attention she gave them, the more money they gave her. It was, after all, always about the money.

As with all other dancers in the club, Ness had her collection of favorites. These would be regulars that she could rely on to be there every week, or even every night, to spend money on her, and often on nobody but her. She knew them only by her personal nicknames, like “Brit” or “Frenchy” or “Little Italy”.

But there was one regular that she didn’t need to invent a nickname for… and that was Sam.

The other dancers referred to Sam as Ness’s “Sugar Uncle”. He appeared to be older than Ness, although Ness would say that appearances were deceiving. He was there almost since the first day the club was opened, and everyone in the club knew who he was.

Sam was a simple customer. He had simple tastes in drinks, and the bartender would have his beer ready for him by the time he walked in and he took his usual seat at the end of the bar. The bouncers knew that Sam was a pretty calm customer. Sometimes he’d get a little rowdy, but never to the point where he’d cause trouble. When Ness was busy with other customers, Sam would play pool, or he’d watch the movies on the little TV on the other side of the bar. He was always patient, knowing that Ness would always be back to see him before closing.

But there was something else about Ness that stood out above all the other dancers in the club… unlike all the other dancers, Ness would never “reveal” everything. She would always show “just enough”, and she would talk about showing even more, but no matter how much money she got, even in the private VIP room, she would always show “just enough” and nothing more.

Everyone thought that if Ness would show “everything” to anyone in the club, it would be to Sam. After all, he had been there the longest and he stayed with her almost since day one. He was always there when she needed him, supporting her through thick and thin. She had his cellphone number on speed-dial, and he always answered when she called. When she would get in trouble with the bills, he’d bail her out without any kind of conditions. He’d shower her with gifts on her birthday or on special occasions. He’d get her lunch and dinner when she was tired of the club’s food. They’d talk about going out on dates and even on vacation together. Sadly, though, it was just talk. But the rumor persisted that if there was anyone that would see “everything” of Ness in the VIP rooms, it would be for Sam before it would be for anyone else.

Ness would tell Sam everything about her problems. There was always a new bill coming up, some new expense that needed to be covered. And Sam would be generous with his monetary gifts to her, no matter how much it would hurt him personally. No matter if he was late on a few of his own bills or if he had to cut back on things like food, he would always made sure there was money for Ness.

Like the other dancers, Busy Ness would say that she was in a relationship once upon a time, but that she didn’t have the time to be seeing anyone outside of the club anymore. That was why she said she could only see Sam in the club. But every so often she’d call him at home to make sure he would be going to the club to see her. Sometimes she’d call him up in the middle of the day to ask him to change his normal days that he’d visit, which he would do eagerly because he believed that it would mean more time with her, but no matter how close she supposedly was to his home, she’d never pay him a visit. It was always in the club, and no-place else.

Dancers came and went in Free Market, as was the nature of the gentleman’s club. The only constants seemed to be Busy Ness and her “Sugar Uncle” Sam, but even their interactions had their ups and downs. Every so often their relationship entered what Sam best called a “dry spell”, which would be when Ness would say that she needed to work even harder with some of the other customers instead of spending all of her time with him. That often meant that Sam would be spending most of his time in the club by himself. Even though Ness would offer to have other dancers spend time with him, Sam always said he would wait patiently for her.

It was during one of these long dry spells that the club hired a new dancer named Penny Foyer. Penny was a fresh face and eager to build a following in the club. She was given a rundown of the rules, including the unofficial ones from the other dancers. The really big one was to stay away from “Busy Ness’s boys”, especially Sam. Be polite, she was told, even be friendly, but never try to take regulars away from “Busy Ness”.

But as Penny watched Sam spend long hours by himself at the bar or at the pool tables, she wondered what kind of hold Busy Ness had over Sam to allow him to be neglected like that. She checked with the other dancers and found out that Sam would always be there with at least three hundred dollars on him, which he would spend mostly on Ness. Even if they never went to the VIP room, he’d still give Ness the money, sometimes for no reason other than because he intended to spend it on her anyway.

Penny Foyer thought someone should speak to Sam about that, because it just seemed wrong. She waited until Sam went to the pool tables to approach him. She offered to play a friendly game with him while he waited for Busy Ness. He was a fair player; not really skilled, but certainly not a novice. She let him win a game and then talked him into a second one. While he racked up the balls, she let him in on “the secret”.

“Did you know Ness is living with Cash?” she asked him.

Cash Profit was the club’s dee-jay. He played the songs that the dancers moved to, and of all of the club’s employees, he was the one person that Sam could never interact with.

“She’s been living with him for years,” Penny told Sam. “Seriously, the only reason why she’s giving you the cold shoulder now is because they had an argument the other week about still stringing you along.”

Sam really didn’t respond to the news. They finished the game, which he lost, and he thanked Penny for her honesty before returning to his favorite stool at the bar.

Later that night, as the club was closing, Penny returned to the dressing room to find Ness waiting.

“You told him, didn’t you?” Ness asked Penny. “You told Sam about me and Cash.”

“He deserved to know he was wasting his time,” Penny said.

Ness had to restrain herself from doing something violent, especially in front of others.

“You know he’s in love with you,” Penny continued.

“Why do you think he keeps coming back year after year?” Busy Ness blurted out. “Of course Sam loves me! My little ‘Sugar Uncle’ has been in love with me ever since he first came here. They all fall in love with me at some point. Britt, Frenchy, Little Italy, Chin A, Indy, Russkie, they all fall in love with me. They all do what they do to woo me and get me to give them attention. That’s the name of the game in this club! It’s about teasing them to get what we want! But let’s get brutally honest here… I’m in love with Cash Profit. I’ve always been in love with Cash Profit, and at the end of the day, the only person that I will go home to and the only person who will see everything about me is Cash Profit.”

“Then why not tell them the truth?” Penny asked. “Why don’t you at least tell Sam the truth about you and Cash?”

Busy Ness was taken back by the bluntness of the question. “Why don’t I...? Because Sam gives me money! Every week he shows up with money just for me. Money that I use to pay the bills and buy new clothes. Money that we put away for the day when I won’t be able to tease the others. And as long as Sam thinks there’s a chance that I’ll share with him something I won’t give anyone else, he’ll come back here every week with that money. And now… thanks to you… I’ll have to sweet-talk him even more just so he’ll come back.”

The bluntness of Busy Ness’s answer shocked Penny Foyer. She never realized just how cruel and calculated Ness really was until then.

But what shocked Penny even more was the following week, Sam was right back at the club, sitting at his favorite stool, talking with Busy Ness like the previous week never happened.

Penny tried to make sense of it all as she watched Ness take Sam by the hand towards the VIP room. Even if Sam never knew that Busy Ness and Cash Profit were married, even if he only knew that Ness and Cash were just living together, Penny couldn’t figure out why Sam would be willing to keep coming back week after week, throwing his hard-earned money into a dream that really was nothing more than that.

It was business as usual for the Free Market Gentlemen’s Club as the night moved by one song at a time, one unfulfilled fantasy at a time.

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