Monday, March 18, 2019

The Widow's Club by John Conaway

A mischievous group of ageing widows hire a male stripper for entertainment, but they don't get what they expect; by John Conaway.

Fran gets the chocolate chip cookies started while they wait for the naked house cleaning guy to arrive. She'd found out about the service through one of her friends and talked the girls into giving it a shot. The cost, based on the number of attendees, is $350.00. The woman who answered the phone tells Fran that the house cleaning will take about half an hour and that their cleaning guy's name is Steve.

The girls get together about once a week. They talk. Sometimes they watch movies. They smoke pot, get the munchies, and bake cookies. Lately they've been watching porno on Fran's laptop, something new to all of them except Fran. They always express amazement at the endurance of the actors - if that's what you call them.

They call it the Widow's Club although they're not all, strictly speaking, widows. Sandy was a widow but remarried. Fran's husband, from whom she's presently separated, was on the plane that crashed into the Hudson so she was almost a widow. She's always telling people, "If it wasn't for that fucking Sully Sullenberger I'd be lounging on the deck of my Palm Beach condo right now." They assume she's joking. Joan's ex died after they were divorced. Only Deidre and Deb are actual widows.

The girls agree to divide the fee evenly, $70 each. "What about a tip?" Joan asks.

Fran puts a tray of cookies in the oven and within seconds the entire house smells chocolatey. "I suppose we should plan on giving a tip," she says handing Joan the joint. "Why don't we make it $10 each? That sound ok with everyone?"

"That's only a $50 tip," Joan says. "Is that enough?"

"How would I know if it's enough," Fran says. "I've never hired a naked cleaning man before."

"Don't snap at me," Joan says. "What did your friend say?"

"I didn't ask," Fran says lighting another joint and passing it to Deb.

"Why don't you call her back and ask about the tip," Joan says.

"Why don't we not worry about it?" says Deb. Deb is their voice of reason, always there to settle a dispute or divvy up a restaurant check using her famous math skills. "How much to tip a naked cleaning man hasn't even been established yet. It's a new business model. Let's just tip whatever we feel like tipping. $50 is roughly 14%. That's pretty good."

"We should probably wait to see if we're satisfied with the service," Joan says.

"By that you mean how well he vacuums or how much we like his bod?" Fran asks.

"Good point," Deb says. She has an odd way of smoking a joint. She puffs at it. Fran wonders if she's pulling a Clinton on them. She also wonders if Deb colors her hair. "We don't really have a clear deliverable," Deb says.

Fran, holding a spatula, takes the tray of cookies out of the oven and flips them onto a plate. "Come get them," she says.

The girls empty the plate in a hurry. Fran puts another tray into the oven. The kitchen faces the street. Sandy goes to the window, parts the blinds and looks out. "Nothing yet," she says.

Fran boots her laptop and clicks on dampdreams.com. The girls gather around Fran's laptop. They like the site because the "actors", if that's what you call them, are good looking, especially the women. Some of the men are Neanderthals but the women are often quite beautiful. It's got a kind of beauty and beast thing going.

There are categories of videos to choose from and Fran scans them. They quickly vote. It's unanimous - Dorm Darlings. The available videos are teasers. You watch eight minutes and if you like what you see you can download the rest for a price. They never download the rest.

There's usually a little story line accompanying the videos. The one they select is a hot threesome - two girls and a cute guy named Jimmy who for some reason is wearing sun glasses - doing it in the dorm room while little Miss Priss, who has a test in the morning, studies at her desk.

The actors are engaged in a bit of kissing which is almost quaint by porno standards. Most of the videos get right down to the nitty-gritty. The foreplay is kind of sweet in a way.

The plot is that the "bad girls" are trying to persuade little Miss Priss to make it a foursome. They tease her but she doggedly sticks to her Biology book. Maternal feelings take over and the girls hope she'll stick to her guns and her homework but it's not to be and before long she's joined the festivities, riding Jimmy reverse cowgirl.

Fran scoops Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey into bowls and the girls eat ice cream. The moans of the actors sound tinny on Fran's laptop speakers. After eight minutes the video stops and there's a message saying Click Here to See the Rest of the Movie. "Anyone want to see the rest of it?" Fran asks.

"Why would we want to see the rest of it," Joan asks. "They all end the same."

"Now there's some breaking news," Fran says.

Sandy says, "They always end with some poor girl pretending to have enjoyed it."

"Maybe she is enjoying it," Joan says. "Or at least maybe she enjoys the paycheck."

"I wonder how much they make," Deidra asks.

"They don't make anything unless we download the rest of the movie," Fran says.

"If you feel guilty go right ahead," Joan says.

"You'd actually give your credit card to dampdreams.com?" Sandy asks.

"Could it be more dangerous than giving it to Target?" Fran asks.

"It's really kind of educational," Joan says. "I'd never heard of reverse cowgirl until we started watching these pornos." She asks Deidra: "Had you?"

"I never heard of anything," Deidra says. "I used to turn the lights off and shut my eyes until Fred was finished."

"I just think it's so informative," Joan says. "I just wish they had these porno movies when I was younger. They're really very educational."

"Who needs PBS when you've got dampdreams.com," Fran says.

"They've had pornography forever," Deb says. "It's just easier to access it now. You don't have to go through the embarrassment of checking them out at Blockbuster."

"I checked out many an adult movie from Blockbuster, God rest its soul," Fran says. She hates being lectured on pornography by Deb. "They used to have porno night when I was in college. Everyone went with a date. After the movie you could barely make it back to the car without ripping your date's clothes off."

"Goodness!" Joan says.

"I think I just heard a car pull into the driveway," Sandy says.

She separates the blinds and peeks out. "He's driving an old Lincoln Town car," she says.

"Did you tell them you lived in Sun City?" Deidra asks. "Maybe they sent us a financial advisor instead."

"What does he look like?" Fran asks.

"He hasn't gotten out yet," Sandy says.

"Let us know as soon as he does," Fran says.

"Whoa, that's no retirement advisor," Sandy says.

The girls gather around the window. He's a sandy haired, slender young man about six feet tall, dressed in blue jeans and a light green tee shirt. He looks younger than their grandchildren. "Not what I expected," Joan says.

"What did you expect?" Deb asks.

"She expected some cowboy dressed in leather chaps and a thong," Fran says.

"What would be wrong with that?" Joan asks.

"Too Magic Mike," Fran says.

"You didn't like Magic Mike?" Joan asks.

"The whole male stripper thing is pretty gay," Fran says.

"I didn't know you were so homophobic," Deidra says.

"I'm not homophobic," Fran says. "I just like men who act like men."

"Matthew McConaughey doesn't act like a man?" Joan asks.

"Not when he's pole dancing," Fran says.

"He looks so young," Deidra says staring through the window at Steve.

Steve sees them peeking at him through the blinds and waves. "He's cute," Fran says. "Did you see those dimples?"

"He's skinny," Sandy says.

"So?" Fran says.

"So, that's not what I expected."

"He's the boy next door," Joan says.

"I'm not so sure I want to see the boy next door naked," Deb says. She's still stretched out on the couch.

Fran says to Deb, "No one twisted your arm. Make yourself useful. Go let him in."



The day so far has been a Chinese fire drill for Steve. Sara gets the call from Fran and then calls Steve's cell. He's in class at the time but skips out only to find that his car won't start, dead battery or something; finally a chance to make some cash and now this. So he calls his dad who agrees to loan him his Grandfather's Lincoln until he can get the Saturn fixed. Steve's grandfather has Alzheimer's and no longer drives. The car is like this huge embarrassing gas guzzler but he has no other good options. So he leaves the Saturn on campus and takes the bus seven miles to his father's place, picks up the Lincoln, and drives all the way out to Sun City to do the performance.

He started the business, Sweepers Peepers, less than a year ago with his girlfriend Sara and he hasn't done enough performances yet to have the business model down to a science. The original idea was to have Sara do the performances for male audiences while he'd entertain the females. But Sara chickened out and now just handles the inquiries that come in through their website and he does all the performing. Luckily all the requests so far - and there haven't been many - have come from female audiences, except one. The one from the male audience turned into a big hassle. They refused to pay the full fee. The guy says to him, "Dude, you're hung ok but your body is pretty ordinary. You need to work on that." They did pay half. That was the only complaint he's gotten so far. The females, for the most part older ladies, have been happy with what they've seen. He's gotten some nice tips and compliments on his body but also on his house cleaning techniques.

This Sun City gig has the makings of a piece of cake. The ladies are old and probably haven't seen dick in eons. Deb still has nice legs for an old lady and is slim but she has a skeptical attitude like the whole thing is a big waste of money. Fran looks horny. The others look embarrassed like they can't believe they've been roped into this. The house reeks of weed and chocolate chip cookies. These old broads are all high as a kite and laying on the calories.

Fran asks if he'd like to use the bedroom to undress. This is one of those things he hasn't got down to a science. He's never quite sure which way to go. Stripping in front of them is a little more dramatic and sexy but if he uses the bedroom he can prepare himself a little better. Also, because this was a last minute deal and because his car broke down he hasn't had time to prepare himself. He was late for class this morning and didn't have time to shower. He'll use the privacy to give himself the sniff test. Any body part not passing can be washed or sprayed with something. There's always some decontaminant in a lady's bathroom cabinet he can use.

When he walks out into the living room he's completely naked except for a tool belt around his waist. The tool belt was Sara's idea. Part of their research in starting the business was going to strip bars and she thought, like the female strippers, he needed something in which to collect tips. There's nothing on the belt except a small whisk broom and a couple of dust rags. It's a pretty audacious outfit, a modified garter belt.

"I meant to ask you," Deb says, looking straight into his eyes. "Where did you get the wheels?"

He briefs them on his hectic morning. He unwinds the vacuum cleaner cord and Fran points out the nearest wall socket. So far not one of them has lowered her eyes to look at him. They're keeping their eyes focused above the waist. He bends over to plug in the Dyson. The house is already immaculately clean. The floors are hardwood and shiny. There's a large oriental rug in the middle of the room. He decides to start with it. The only furniture on the rug is the couch and a coffee table. Deb has her long legs stretched out on the couch. It's hard to read her face. She looks almost angry. He watches her eyes slide down his body. These old ladies look almost reverent, like they're at a church service although they've dropped their above the waist rule and are looking at him now. He'd like to loosen them up a little more.

He finishes vacuuming the rug, pulls one of the dust rags out of the belt and begins dusting the coffee table. He restarts the vacuum cleaner, pulls out the extension wand and the upholstery tool, attaches them, and begins vacuuming around Deb. He kneels on the couch next to Deb and playfully vacuums her blue jeans. She glares at him. The other ladies giggle. A lot of times when he gets up close to a client she'll be embarrassed but Deb is pretty brazen. She's studying his crotch now. Suddenly she reaches out, grabs his belt and tucks a $10 bill into it. Usually he has to explain what the belt is for but she's figured it out on her own, smart chick.

He sees the other ladies reach for their purses. They want in on the action. It is right about then that he begins to feel the constriction in his windpipe. He starts wheezing. He instinctively reaches for his inhaler. The inhaler is out in the car. Thank God he remembered to bring it. But he can't go out to the car naked. It crosses his mind that he needs to add his inhaler to the tool belt. He tries to take a deep breath but just can't force air into his lungs. He hasn't had a bad asthma attack in years. He bends over and tries to suck wind into his lungs but comes up empty. He starts coughing. He can't speak. He needs someone to go out to the car to get his inhaler but he can't tell them what he needs. He begins to panic. He's flailing. He is about to pass out.



The girls are on their feet. They think at first that this is some kind of weird shtick he's performing, part of the act. But no, something is definitely wrong.

"He's choking," Joan says.

"He wasn't eating anything," Fran says. "How can he be choking?"

"Maybe he swallowed his gum," Joan says.

"He wasn't chewing gum," Fran says.

"Look, his lips are turning blue," Deidra says.

"He's having a heart attack," Sandy says.

"He's too young to have a heart attack," Fran says. "We've got to get him dressed."

"We've got to call an ambulance," Deidra says.

"All these old people and it takes forever to get an ambulance out here," Joan says.

Fran says, "They should have one on site, like they do at car races."

Deb has her arm around him. "What's going on Stevie? Talk to me Stevie boy."

"Can you do the Heimlich?" Fran asks Deb.

Deb asks Steve if he has asthma. It looks like he's trying to answer but instead he starts coughing and doubles over. "Franny, go in the bedroom and check his clothes. See if he has an inhaler," Deb says. "Help me lift him up on the couch,"

Joan and Deb lift him onto the couch. It's weird handling a naked man. Joan is careful where she puts her hands. He's thrashing and coughing. Deb takes him in her arms and cradles him like a child.

"Nothing," Fran calls from the bedroom. "He doesn't have one."

"Stevie, do you have an inhaler?" Deb asks.

He looks like he's about to pass out but he nods. "Go check the car," she says to Joan.

Fran comes into the living room with his clothes. "We've got to get him dressed," she says.

Deb is running her fingers through his hair. "Calm down, Stevie," she says. "Try to relax." She's massaging his shoulders. He's shaking but he begins to wheeze again. This is a good sign, a reversal of the original process of going from wheezing to not breathing at all. "Relax, relax," Deb says massaging his shoulders.

Joan comes running in with the inhaler. Deb holds it to his lips which are still blue but he is beginning to breathe again. He inhales and gradually begins to relax. The wheezing turns to regular breaths. He appears to have fallen asleep on Deb's lap. The girls breathe a collective sigh of relief.

"Whew, that scared me half to death" Joan says.

"He's kind of cute curled up like that," Sandy says.

Fran asks Deb, "What are we going to do with him?"

"We're going to wait until he wakes up, pay him, let him get dressed and send him on his way," says Deb.

"Pay him for what?" Fran asks. "He didn't do anything."

Deb says, "I think he made a good faith effort."

"Since when is almost dying on someone's couch and good faith effort," Fran says.

"I'll pay him myself if no one else is willing," Deb says.

All of the girls except Fran express a willingness to pay him. "Maybe he'll give us a discount," Joan says, "since he didn't complete the house cleaning."

"I don't think the house cleaning was the point of the whole thing," Deidre says. "We did get to see him naked."

"We'd still be seeing him naked," Fran says. "If Deb would move the damn sofa cushion."

"Leave it where it is," Sandy says. "I've seen enough."

"I'll pay my share," Fran says, "if Deb admits that she colors her hair and doesn't inhale."

"I don't color my hair," Deb says. "It's like this naturally. It's always been like this."

"She has beautiful hair," Sandy says. "I'm so envious."

"I'm glad Deb was here," Deidre says. "The rest of us were clueless. What would we have done if she wasn't here?"

"I don't know but I know what we'd be doing now," Fran says.

"What," Sandy asks.

"We'd be driving to the landfill with him in the trunk," Fran says.

"What a horrible thing to say," Deb says.

If that stick in the mud is horrified all the better Fran thinks. "I was just kidding," she says. "Where's your sense of humor?"

"It would have been quite a scandal," Deidre says chuckling.

"Male stripper found dead in home of Sun City widow," Sandy says.

"I thought Fran was supposed to be such a big libertine," Joan says. "You'd think being caught with a naked man, dead or alive, would be a badge of honor."

"Is he sucking his thumb?" Deidre asks.

"I wouldn't blame him after what he's been through," Joan says.

"He is kind of cute," Sandy says.

"Maybe we should cover him up," Deidra says.

"He's resting peacefully," Fran says. "Maybe we should get an eyeful. How often do you have a naked man asleep on your couch?"

"Me? Never," Deidra says.

"Naked boy," Sandy says.

"Even better," Fran says.

"A day to remember," Joan says.

"We're not dead yet," Fran says.

"Something to remember when I'm an old lady," Deidra says.

"You're already an old lady," Fran says.

Deb is running her fingers though his hair, humming a lullaby. He's breathing regularly now in her arms, curled up like a baby.

4 comments:

  1. Sweet ending. The ending humanizes the story. Steve is believable. I suspend my judgement re believability of the old ladies and just enjoy the ride. Is truth stranger than fiction or fiction stranger than truth? Funny story.

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  2. Good fun. Dialogue carried me along. Just asking ... what is a “reverse cowgirl”? 😀

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  3. Funny. I am amazed that, as a man, you are able to get inside the heads of these old women and write it down. Good job. You made a good faith effort.

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  4. excellent and very entertaining and with more than a hint of credibility.
    Mike McC

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