The strip club's base beat in time with the feelings of guilt and fear that pulsed through Max's heart. His wife, Amber, as going to kill him. Todd Farnsworth he cursed in his mind. Todd always thought a strip club was the perfect place to seal a business deal. "They create a bond among the players," he'd said when Max had complained about it. Max looked up at the female associate on the other side. Janice looked at her watch then at the exit. Max agreed with her. The sooner they were out of here, the better.
Max wasn't the only one to notice. Todd, the object of her and Max's scorn, raised his hand and whistled out for a girl he called Trazelle. The scantily clad dancer strutted over to their table, went behind Todd and ran her arms down his chest. Her absurd fake breasts squished around Todd's thick neck and she nibbled on his ear. Todd turned and whispered in hers. The club's music drowned out what the two were saying to each other, but whatever Todd was saying, the girl nodded her agreement to it and Todd slid her a wad of cash. Max couldn't tell how much, but the top bill was a hundred and he could see there were several other bills underneath it.
The stripper, acting out her payed-for commands, walked over to Max's companion in misery. She put her arm around Janice and motioned for her to come with her. Janice shook her head no, then Trazelle said something else and pointed towards the exit. A look Max took to be relief spread across Janice's face and she got up to follow the bleach blond dancer towards it.
Max tapped Todd's shoulder and his partner leaded over so he could hear what Max had to say. "Can I get out of here, too?"
Todd looked at him and asked, "What do you mean?"
"Well, you just sent Janice home, didn't you?"
Todd's scoff was audible over the music. "She ain't going home, man. Have a shot. Calm your nerves. We've almost got this one locked up for five years."
Sitting up, Todd took his own shot glass and a second for Janice's partner. He handed it to the man and pointed at the girl shaking her large, bare breasts on stage. The man said something that made Todd laugh and the two of them downed their shots together. Max just looked at his glass. Like Janice's glass across the table from him, it still contained all its light brown liquid from the moment it was set in front of him. Amber would know he'd been at a strip club, he didn't want to make the looming showdown with his wife any worse by being drunk as well.
Max sighed. His life was a series of ifs. If only he'd been partnered up with someone besides Todd when he'd joined the firm. If only Todd hadn't been such a good partner outside of the strip club mess. If only Todd understood that they didn't create a bond for everyone. If only they hadn't been so successful, not a month had gone by where the two of them weren't the top ranked sales team. If only Max could be happy with what he'd already made. With what he'd earned teamed up with Todd, Max and Amber had been able to leave their small apartment behind and get a nice ten mortgage on a two-story just outside of town. If only Max would have begged for a new partner years ago. Teaming up with Rodger would have given him enough in commission to keep making the payments. If only Amber was more forgiving of his partner's tactics. Max knew no matter how hard he tried there'd be no way he could hide that he'd been drug to another strip club.
He had no idea how long he'd stared at his glass when Janice came stumbling back. Her previously kempt hair was a mess and lipstick was smeared across her lips and face. Her pantyhose was gone and the zipper on her skirt was twisted from its proper place on her side to being in the front like a pair of pants. She grabbed her glass off the table and downed it before sitting down. She leaned over to her partner and whispered to him. He in turn said something to Todd.
Todd's face lit up. He shook the man's hand with both hands. After that, there was a flurry of activity, most of which had Max sitting by as a spectator. Contracts were pulled out and signed by both sides. Trazelle reappeared with a fresh looking coat of make up. She gave Janice a wink which cause the other girl to blush before Todd sent the stripper backstage on an errand. Seconds later, she came back with the dancer whom Janice's partner had been ogling. The man stood up and put his arm around her waist while Todd gave her a thick roll of bills. The man said his thanks and walked off. At some point, Janice and Trazelle had also disappeared, but Max didn't notice until he realized he and Todd were alone.
"What just happened?" Max asked.
"Max, my boy, I am a god. Ten years! They agreed to ten fucking years!"
Max's heart skipped a beat. "Ten years? Did you say ten years?"
"That I did." Todd took Max's untouched drink and downed it. He slapped Max's shoulder and said, "Come on, let's get out of here."
Stunned, Max followed Todd out of the club. Outside they congratulated each other again and went their separate ways. Max floated home more than he drove. His head buzzed despite not having taken a sip of alcohol. They'd worked months on building their pitch and Max would have been happy with a one year deal. The commission on that alone would have been almost more than his income from all of last year. The five years Todd had been going on about seemed like a pipe dream to Max, but with what he was about to make with the ten, he could ditch his current mortgage and flat out buy that five bedroom off the golf course that he'd been dreaming about.
So lost in his joy, Max almost drove past his house. He squealed into the driveway and hopped out of the car. Max flew through the door, looking for his wife to tell her the good news, then crashed into flames as he ran into her eyes that shot beams of anger. Amber's round jowl shook with her rage. She raised one of her short, pudgy fingers and pinned Max to the wall with it. Her bulbous nose grew even larger as her nostrils flared out, smelling Max's shirt. "You went to a strip club again."
Max couldn't meet Amber's stony, blue eyes. Instead, he looked down at the large black shirt that hid her rotund form. When they'd first married, she'd been thin and fit, but after Max had admitted to being drug to a strip joint by Todd, jealousy and paranoia had gripped Amber. The stress caused her to eat, which turned her once athletic figure into a crude imitation of a ball of cabbage. That only added to the jealousy and paranoia.
Before Max could open his mouth, she was on him again. "Don't deny it. I can smell it on you."
"Oh my god! You didn't even try to deny it!"
He tried to find some of the exuberance that had carried him home, but it was all gone. Max felt like his body was an empty husk, devoid of all emotional feeling. It was replaced by a numb emptiness. He looked at his wife. The glower she wore made her once joy-filled eyes completely disappear into the fleshy folds that her face had become. The realization hit him hard. He no longer loved her.
"Take me there," she said.
Max was taken aback. "What?"
"I want to see what it is you love so much about those places."
"I fucking hate them! Todd's the one dragging me there because he thinks that they make a good place to close up deals. And he might be right! We just closed an account that will more than triple all of what I made last year! All of last year!"
Meaty hands beat into his chest. "I'm sick of hearing that lie! You go there because you like to look at those other women! Now FUCKING TAKE ME THERE SO I CAN SEE WHY!"
The house echoed from the couple's screams and then died down. He was done. He was done with this woman he'd been sharing his life and hard-earned money with. He didn't care what her deranged reasoning was for wanting to go nor did he care about what insight she thought she might gleam by going. It no longer mattered. He just wanted to get ride of her. Maybe he could just take her there, dump her off, and never see her swollen face again. "Fine. Let's go," he said.
He turned and walked back out the door. He hadn't been home more than five minutes and his whole life up to that point was gone. His marriage. The joy from his big payday. Any sort of happiness. All of it was gone. He'd gladly pay every penny now to get rid of his wife. He couldn't take her any more. Yet here he was, taking her to the last place in the world he wanted to go back to.
Max had already sat down in the car and put his seat belt on when he felt the vehicle sink down further as his wife put her full weight down next to him. He didn't speak as he pulled out and headed back to the seedier side of town. Neither of them spoke as the buildings passing by the car got dingier and older. It wasn't until several neon signs advertising nude shows had past by that Amber said in a monotone voice, "Which one was it?"
He didn't know. Max was sure Todd had drug him to over half of the strip clubs in the area and all of them blended together. Had it been Chix on Dix or Topless Bottom's? It didn't matter at which one he stopped. Any one of them would have been the same to him and thus the same to Amber. He was sick of feeling her presence in his car next to him.
"That one," Max answered as he pointed at the first place that popped up. He pulled his car into the club's parking lot. The bright pink sign reading "Reality Changer's" reflected off his car's hood.
The seat moaned as Amber leaned around to take in the sight. "You sure?" she asked.
"Yeah I'm sure," Max lied. "I just left here. I think I can drive back to some place I just left."
"Uh huh. It's probably because you love it so much and come here all the time."
Anger welled in Max, then slid off like water. He was done with her. "Well, you going to go in and see 'what I like so much about it'?"
The seat screamed again as she shifted her girth to look at him. "I said, 'Take me there.' That means you're fucking taking me inside."
Out of anger and habit, he turned to look at his soon-to-be ex-wife. "No! I just left one of these dumps! I don't want to go back."
"'One of these dumps'? So it wasn't this one!"
"Fuck if I remember what one it was, crazy bitch!"
"Take me to the one you just left!"
Max's ears ached from Amber's scream. "I didn't care enough to remember what one it was. They're all the same and this is the one we're parked at." With that, he opened his door and crawled out of his car. He didn't look to see if his wife was coming, but the creak of the suspension followed by the metal-bending slam of the door let him know she was behind him. He shoved his hand in his pocket and pressed the lock on his key.
As he approached the entrance, he pulled his wallet out and readied his ID. From behind him, he heard his wife sneer, "Look at the strip club pro." Max marveled to himself that he'd put up with her this long. He tried to imagine how he'd done it, but was more stunned that he had.
He gave his ID to the bouncer at the inner door. He waited for Amber to do the same because the bouncer hadn't okayed him to go through yet. The entrance room seemed large compare to some of the other one's he'd waited in with Todd, but Max felt like he was being crushed by Amber's presence, physically and mentally.
"Couple, huh?" the bouncer grunted.
"Something like that," Max replied.
"Been here before?"
"Can't really remember."
The bouncer handed Max his license back. "Nah, you'd remember if you had. How 'bout you?" he asked Amber.
"I've never been to one of these type places before."
After taking all of Amber in, the bouncer smiled. "I think you'll both quite enjoy it." He gave Amber her card back.
"I doubt it," the married couple said in unison, then shared a hate-filled stare at each other.
"Well, you two seem like you could use a little of 'what you say is what you get'," the bouncer said as he handed Max a red disk. "Be sure to put this on your table." Max took the disk and the bouncer waved them through. Max didn't have a clue about what the bouncer had been going on about, nor was hee in a state of mind to even wonder about it. He just shoved what he'd been given in his pocket and entered the club.
The techno beat that had been audible in the entrance room pounded into Max's heart. The beat penetrated it and poured into his soul. None of the other clubs he'd been drug to had music that seemed to hit him so profoundly. Other's had assaulted his ears with similar noises, but this time it actually felt like music to him.
In contrast to the music, the club itself was a let down. It was indistinguishable from any of the other ones to where Todd had taken him. Reality Changer's might as well have been poured out of a cheap strip club jello mold. In the center of the room, a half-naked girl danced on a brightly lit stage that was surrounded by darkness. Silhouettes of customers could be made out in the shadows around it, and the room was light enough that someone could tell where an empty table was, but not bright enough to make out individual faces. In the far back corner, a bartender worked at a dimly lit station, filling orders that women dressed only in bras, panties, and ridiculously high heels took out to the waiting customers. All their clothing, the bras, panties and heels were a tacky gold that sparkled even in the club's gloom.
Max led Amber to one of the tables far away from the stage and far away from the bar, thus far away from all the other patrons. The only people nearby were two college aged boys who were sipping on beers while watching the girl on stage.
"I see how it is. Embarrassed to be seen with me here?" Amber asked as she slid around on the vinyl cover of the crescent moon shaped seat.
"No, I'm embarrassed by being here," Max said, though there was a tinge in him that he'd never felt before. As Amber had put on all the weight, he'd never complained about it. It had never really bothered him, but now he was disgusted by her size. He was embarrassed to be seen with her.
Before either of them could say something else, one of the wait staff wearing the golden panties and bra showed up at their table. She had a practiced sexuality to her, an aura of command. She knew what she was doing. She knew what to do to make herself sensual. "Hey guys, I'm Candy. Can I get you something to drink?" She asked as she groped her breasts. Then one of her hands snaked its way down to her crotch. "Or how about something to eat instead?" she asked as she rubbed her hand over her panty-covered mound. Nobody laughed. Despite the cheesiness of her lines, her performance was pure eroticism.
Max didn't answer. He leaned back and shoved his hands in his pockets. He felt the red disk in there and remembered what the bouncer said about putting it on the table. He took it out and chucked it on top of the table. He saw Candy's eyes go wide as it clinked down. Then a vapid expression replaced the look of shock as Amber said, "Go fuck yourself, you cheap stupid whore."
There was a second where Max wondered if the girl was violating any laws by parading around without any panties on, just her shaved crotch exposed to the world. Where her pubic hair should have been was a large tattoo that said "$5" and an arrow pointing down to her vagina. She smacked on some gum while twirling her hair. The way she stood with her hip cocked to one side and slightly staring out to space gave Max the impression that if the girl ever did get someone's order right, it was pure luck.
"Like okay! That sounds so fun!" Candy said. She spun around and headed off to an empty booth down the way. As she walked off, Max read the "$10" tattoo above her ass with an arrow pointing down to it. He saw the dumb tramp flop down into the booth and the dark shadow of her legs popped up on top of them. She'd followed Amber's instructions to the letter.
Momentarily forgetting his contempt for his wife, Max chuckled and said, "I bet she's so stupid she tries to pay herself after masturbating." The icy stare Amber gave him in response reminded him of his newfound hatred of her. He averted his eyes from her and looked at the stage. Some girl with her breasts exposed was twirling down the pole and just as quickly as he'd looked away from his wife, Max looked down to the table and at the red disk.
He wondered what it meant. Candy had obviously known, which surprised him because he didn't think she could have tied her own shoes laces. He spun it around with his fingers and wondered how long Amber would try to force him to be there. He'd spun it around several times when she broke the silence between them.
"Why don't you just admit it. You fucking love strip clubs. You love everything about them."
Max was set to deny it again when the answer out of his own mouth shocked him. "Yes, I do. I fucking love strip clubs. I love the music, the sleaze, the booze, the boobs. Fuck, I can't think of anything I don't like about them." The instant the last word left his mouth, he knew it was true. He loved it all. Fond memories of nightly visits to various joints across town sparkled in his mind. His lunches were always eaten while he stared at some girl shaking her tits at him.
He looked back up a Rachelle on the stage. He liked her. She wasn't hot enough to make it in his top ten, but she always put on a good show. He gave a lecherous smile to his wife. She'd never understood his love of exotic dancing, but she'd known about it since before they got married. Fuck her for being jealous and complaining that he put more of his commissions in the panty-lines of strippers than he did in his bank account.
"Yo, Candy!" he called.
The waitress showed back up at their table with a bottle of beer. "Maxie!" she squealed.
"You gonna open that or what?"
"Oh, right." Candy squatted down and put the bottle of beer up her bear twat. She gave the bottle a twist and pulled it out of her hole. A second later the bottle cap fell out.
Max took a swig of beer and enjoyed the flavor of the beverage mixed with the juices from the whore's cunt. He'd been the one who'd suggested she get her prices tattooed on her since she was to dumb to remember them.
Still standing there swaying back and forth with her finger twirling in her hair and smacking some gum, Candy pointed at Amber. "So this is your wife or something?"
Looking over at his flabbergasted wife, Max said, "Yeah, or something."
"They way you talked, I thought like she'd be lots fatter."
Max looked at Amber, she couldn't have been more than two hundred fifty pounds, but she was still huge. "Yeah, why don't you go bring us on of everything on the menu in a big trough or something. Let's see if we can't finally get her over that six hundred pound mark. Five hundred ninety is just pathetic."
In front of his eyes, Amber ballooned out. Rolls of fat expanded out and drooped onto the table. Her expression of hatred was lost in the folds of fat and skin covering her face. At last she stopped expanding in to the form that Max knew her as. His memory of the two hundred fifty pound version of his wife had long ago disappeared into the Jabba the Hutt form that now sprawled in front of him. Max didn't understand how she'd gotten there, how she could move with so much mass. She couldn't blame him for it, though. She knew what he was like before they got married. He didn't feel responsible that she ate herself up to five hundred and ninety pounds.
Candy laughed with him, even though he could tell she didn't get why they were laughing. He waved her away with his hand and said. "I'm just kidding. We don't need anything else. Go on and go find someone to fill your holes." The girl bounded away and Max turned to watch the show on the stage. He couldn't bare to look at Jabba any more. Now that he'd decided to dump her, he couldn't think of his wife by her real name any more.
"Why do you have to be so mean about it? It's your fault I look like this."
Without looking away from the action on stage, Max said, "It's not, Jabba. I didn't make you shove shit down your throat instead of doing something like working out. Fuck, jealous people like yourself need to know that they should take action instead of moping. If you're jealous of what I'm doing, go to the goddamn gym. Make yourself attractive, God dammit!"
A small, powerful hand struck Max across the cheek. It didn't just sting, it hurt. There had been real power behind it. He turned away from the stage to see his lithe, athletic wife in her usual getup. Her brown pony tail was pulled up behind her head. He firm, pert breasts were incased in a black sports bra that was just visible under the tight white exercise halter over it. Her thin, yet toned arms were hidden under a light grey Under Armor jacket. Max knew if he looked under the table he'd see the matching pants and the bland white sports shoes she always wore.
Amber was as obsessive with her exercise as Max was about going to titty bars. If he was at a joint, she was out exercising. In the last year alone, Amber had completed two Olympic distance triathlons, three half marathons and two full marathons. Max was no slob, but Amber put him to athletic shame.
"No," she said as Max rubbed his cheek. "You don't get to call me that anymore. The second I hit one ninety, I started exercising my ass off. Literally. I've probably got only a tenth of the body fat you do. In fact, I'm going to start calling you Skeezy Tub-o."
Amber continued on uninterrupted. "You should really start to watch how much beer and shit food you scarf down at these holes. It's really starting to show."
The second Amber finished speaking, Max felt his gut expand out. The tightness of his pants hurt. He'd walked in wearing a thirty-two inch waist, but he last remembered wearing that size years ago in high school, back before he became a regular at strip clubs because he wasn't old enough yet. The pain soon eased as his pants ballooned out to a more appropriate size of forty-eight inches. They still dug into his stomach, but he preferred his over-hanging beer belly to breaking down and buying something over fifty inches.