He wasn't looking forward to this luncheon. He would be forty years old tomorrow and some of his fellow salesmen had decided that he would be entering the twilight of his sexual life, and on this, his last day of potency, they would regenerate his sex drive with a visit to a notorious strip club. Perhaps it was supposed to be a comment on his modest lifestyle. Whichever, he had never been one to frequent those places. He found the atmosphere to be smoky and uncomfortable, the music unreasonably loud, and the women generally unattractive. All-in-all, it wasn't his particular "cup of tea." It left nothing to the imagination and the audience wasn't likely to be found at the opera the next night.
It wasn't that the women weren't blessed with beautiful bodies. It was just the predictable form that the so-called entertainment took. He lived in a city where the dancers were permitted to be completely nude as long as none of the patrons touched them. Naturally, the rules were stretched to the limit in order to maximize the audience, and of course, the tips. Lap dances were permitted as long as the dancers wore at least a bikini bottom and top and still, no touching. Again, the definitions of bikini and touching were broadened to the maximum, or perhaps more accurately, the minimum.
It was in that frame of mind that Brent Gordon pulled into the small parking lot adjacent to the Wagon Wheel Club at noon on a Wednesday, reluctantly joining eight of his fellow employees at the noon show. His best friend, Adam Richards, had been made responsible for insuring that he would show up. Brent had a customer meeting at eleven that morning, and promised Adam that, although he wasn't delighted, he would arrive at noon or close to it. As he looked around for the guys, he saw that they were front and center, and he walked over to the three tables that had been pulled together, finding a seat had been saved for him that faced directly toward the main stage.
He sat down and was immediately presented with a glass of beer. He looked around the table and took note of who was in attendance. He was surprised, and a bit unhappy that Ron Dixon was sitting in the group. They had history and it wasn't pleasant. He knew that almost everyone at the table was aware of that, but somehow someone thought it appropriate to invite him. He was sure Dixon hadn't just shown up on his own, but he decided to let it slide. He was supposed to enjoy himself.
The dancers had already started their predictable routines, and after a while, he found them boring and quit watching. He looked around and could see that the place was almost full. It was obviously a good business. The customers were pretty subdued so far. None of the girls had stirred their interest, but if he remembered correctly, the headliners would be coming along shortly before one o'clock, and the noise level would undoubtedly rise then.
Adam, Johnny Martin and Brent were taking turns swapping stories about aging and what it felt like. At that point, they were able to hold a conversation without having to yell at each other. He had managed to nurse his first beer for almost 45 minutes before another appeared before him. He was determined not to overdo it this afternoon. He would have a hard time explaining to Jeanette why he stunk of beer and cigarettes in the middle of a work week.
They had been served some bad sandwiches at what were undoubtedly inflated prices, but since he was the "guest of honor," he wouldn't see the bill. The sound level was increasing as the first of the headliners appeared. He managed to finish his sandwich and sat back in the chair to watch what the so-called premier performers had to offer. It was a case of more of the same with bigger boobs and smaller g-strings. The crowd seemed to be more inclined to approve however, as the catcalls and whistles were building quite nicely for her second set.
He quit watching, and for a while he and Adam could still converse. The girl on stage finished her routine, and after a five minute break the announcer returned with his next introduction. He wasn't paying attention until Dave Terry called to him.
"Hey Brent. Here's one especially for you. She's a real knockout, and just your type."
He shot Dave a funny look, and then Ron Dixon jumped in.
"Yah, Gordon, this one definitely is your type. I hear she's something special with the blow-jobs. That's why she's called "BeeJay!" He was laughing, but it wasn't a humorous laugh. There was something else in his expression.
He turned toward the stage and the next dancer appeared from behind the curtain and moved out to the center stage. He was looking at her body and thinking that she was another of the very good looking women that danced at this club.
"Hey BeeJay, look who we brought to watch you today!" It was Dave again.
Then Dixon piped up. "Yah ... BeeJay ... show us your pussy!"
Brent just shook his head, and looked up at the dancer to find out what all the fuss was about. It took him a couple of seconds to process the information in his brain. The woman on stage was not young. She was about his age and as he'd already determined, she had a very lovely body. But it was the face that stopped him cold. There on the stage, preparing to dance before the crowd, soon to be completely nude, was his wife, Jeanette.
He lost his ability to breath, to hear. He knew there were catcalls and crude remarks being fired from all directions, including their table, but he had lost all capacity to comprehend. He looked up again and there was no mistake. It was Jeanette, his wife of eighteen years. He looked around the table and while Adam and Johnny and several others were looking shocked, Dave Terry and Ron Dixon were laughing and pointing at him and at the stage.
He had to get out of there. He had to go, and go now. He stood, knocking the chair back as he did. He turned and began to work his way through the tables, weaving unsteadily as he tried to find the way out. He was unaware that Adam was beside him until he held his arm as they lurched through the door. He stood on the sidewalk, gasping for breath. He couldn't comprehend what he had just seen. Johnny had joined Adam.
"Brent, let me drive you home. You shouldn't drive. You don't look good." It was Adam's voice, but he wasn't able to respond.
Finally, he took several deep breaths. He had to get some space, some time to think. He turned to Adam and Johnny.
"I take it you didn't know anything about this?" he gasped.
"No ... you know better than that," Adam said in a sad voice. "What are you going to do?"
"I don't know. I'm going to go home and I'm going to have to decide what to do. I don't know. I just don't know."
"Don't do anything crazy, Brent. If you need anything, you only have to call. Just don't do anything crazy ... OK?" It was Johnny, being Johnny. If Adam wasn't his best friend, Johnny would be. He looked around. No one else at their table had come out to see what was happening. Only the two guys he knew he could count on had made the effort.
"I'll see you guys later. I'll be OK in a while. I just need to have some time to think." He was beginning to get control of his emotions, and he wanted to be alone to try and reason out what he would do. He was supposed to celebrate the fortieth birthday of Brent Charles Gordon, and in a few hours it would go down as the worst day of his life.