Dolores waited tables at the Strater Hotel for Steve's first year at Fort Lewis College. During the second winter, she got a job at the Red Lion and began deflecting the passes of wealthy businessmen looking for entertainment in a small town. A month after she was hired, she realized that Elizabeth Macrae, another waitress two years older and not as pretty, was selling sex to some of the men. Elizabeth talked to her about it one evening while driving her home.
"Yeah, I give them what they want, sometimes. Why not?"
Dolores was smoking a cigarette. They had one window cracked to let the smoke escape; frigid mountain air swirled in and around their heads.
"Does Tom know?"
Elizabeth laughed sharply. "You kidding? He'd kill me. But he eats the steaks happy enough. He says I must be a pretty good waitress, to get such great tips. I tell him it's a posh hotel."
"It is," Dolores murmured.
"The best! And the men who stay there expect more than a tidy bed and a clean towel in the bathroom. Room service."
"You go to their rooms?"
>"I'm not that crazy, hon. They wish." Elizabeth signaled a left turn. "You want me to spell it out for you?"
Dolores imagined Elizabeth on her knees, weaving a little, in front of a businessman in the dark of a stand of trees. There were trees down along the river, a quiet riverside walk, scarcely frequented at night. She imagined Elizabeth's head moving, tilting and turning, and the man in a dark suit, his teeth gleaming for a moment when he opened his mouth. He put his hand on Elizabeth's head.
"Twenty bucks," Elizabeth said. "Twenty bucks for five minutes' work. That's not so bad. And they're clean, you know. Most of them just want you to lift your skirt and bend over for a minute, that's all."
Dolores' house was caught in the lights. Elizabeth slowed to a stop.
"You won't tell, hon?"
"Who would I tell?" Dolores said.
"They'd fire me, for sure. And Tom would find out."
"He'll find out some time; he'll figure it out."
"Not if I'm careful. I don't do it a lot, you know. One guy last week. He was really hurting; just divorced, and he lost the kids; he hadn't seen them for nearly six months. And he was sweet. We drove in his car up to the state road just north of town, before Purgatory, and we did it in the back seat. He thanked me. He said he'd come back looking for me."
"What about Tom?"
"Well, what about him?" Elizabeth said in a flat tone. "We get along. I bet he has his one-nighters on the road. We do all right."
"Don't you love him?"
"I guess. We have some good times. It's not like we're married. I was married once. A real asshole. It was a couple of years. I turned tricks on demand, cleaned house, did dishes, and popped beers for his buddies. I got paid three squares, a roof, and pocket money that allowed me some pretty things. That's prostitution, honey."
A few weeks later, when Steve heard a rumor that one of the waitresses at the Red Lion was turning tricks, he slapped Dolores around. Their sex life had gone stale, and now he thought he knew why. He demanded a confession.
"It's not me!" she screamed, dodging his second blow. He caught her shoulder, then her hair. He yanked her head back.
"Well, who is it then? Who is it if it isn't you?" He jerked her head painfully.
"I don't know!"
He went calm then, studying her face. "Yeah you do. You know who it is. Who is it?" She would not meet his eyes. "Annie? Nah. Not Pat; she's too old. Liz Macrae. It's her, isn't it? She's the only one you'd lie about. Tom Matton's old lady. Shit."
He let her go, muttering Tom's name again. Two days later, Elizabeth did not show up for work. Durango is a small town; Dolores pulled into a U-Gas-It one afternoon as Elizabeth Macrae's Toyota was pulling out. Elizabeth pretended not to see her. She never came back to work.
ms., Diseases of the Heart
I left Reno Friday afternoon and stopped again at Annie's on the way back to Denver. It was as much bravado as desiremore, to be fair. I had no sexual hunger, but Shiera's anger nagged at me. It was not true that I was relaxed about diseases. I had been shamelessly relieved when Dina produced the condom and explained the rules. This second time, after I parked across the street from Annie's, I didn't head straight for the brothel; I imagined the disapproving glare of a woman looking out her sitting room window at the traffic across the street. I circled the block at a slow, casual pace, thinking whimsically of my father's insistence that you get back on the horse that threw you. I went inside.
This time, I struck up a conversation with "Annie," an attractive woman a little younger than I. After a few minutes, she pointed out amicably that I was not spending any money. Dina was not available. Annie kept a photo album on an end table, and she handed it to me. The first few pages were innocent enoughher staff in negligées or bikinis, a few in wet tee-shirts and in one case nothing else.
Looking at Dina's familiar face and her flame-red teddy, her golden flank nude to the hip, increased my disappointment that she was gone for the evening. After the introductory photos, the album became a little more explicit; a second sequence of pictures reprised the girls in tasteful nudes. Then more pictures, first pornographic shots of each of them alone, their hands in places women put them for such pictures, and finally hardcore scenes, the girls performing sex acts with unidentifiable men or each other. Each picture came with a caption identifying the available performers.
"If I choose one and take a trip to her room, can we talk afterward?" I said, examining a picture of Dina spread like dessert on a red velvet bedsheet, one hand on her breast, the other curled above her head, her legs spread wide and her face turned invitingly to the camera.
"You and me?" Annie said; I nodded. "My time is expensive, honey," she said. I looked up. She had a wonderful smile, at once wary and friendly, warm and guarded. She was younger than I had thought at first, perhaps thirty-five, and lovely in the harder, more solid way an older woman can be. Befitting her role, she wore a tasteful but revealing white polyester dress.
"Are you available?"
"You're sweet. I'm not, really." She grinned.
"Not at all? Doesn't that violate a basic tenet of brothel business?"
"You mean, you can have anything, if you can afford it?" I nodded. "Well, yes and no. I run a safe housesafe for girls and clients. You can't buy rough trade, or underage, or animal shows here. That's not so unusual either. Outside of Nevada, outside the licensed houses, you can get whatever you'll pay enough for, sure. But I'm not supposed to turn tricks anymore, and I doubt if you want me bad enough to pay what it would take to make me break the rules. Or want to."
"Who makes the rules? Aren't you Apple Annie?"
"Sure. From four p.m. to midnight." She grinned again. "Now stop window shopping and show me the color of your money."
She summoned the available women, four of them. The young woman I chose was quite different from Dina, in both appearance and behavior. Linda was sun-bleached blonde with a California tan. Where Dina was businesslike without rudeness, performing the desired act with an almost medical efficiency, Linda was more tentative. We took our time; twice she kissed my neck with a kind of affection.
|Chapter Two continues...|