The Back of the Store
Donna Renee Anderson
Clove-scented smoke floats from my mouth and rushes away from my face. My lips wrap around the Djarum Black filter and curve into a smile. The steel of the balcony rail cools my sweaty palms. I am a genius. If the party people of New York City and Chicago can host empty subway cars for moving parties why can’t I host roving warehouse parties? It was a fantastic idea requiring little overhead and not much upfront cash. All I had to do was find a discount department store with lots of warehouse space. The proceeds would contribute to the owner’s rent and we’d move the party to a new location the next month. Customers’ daytime shopping trips would morph into nighttime schlepping bottles of craft beers.
I look down on large floor space cluttered with naked and gaudy street-clothed mannequins strategically placed around the room mingled with clothes racks strewn with neighborhood cast offs. Glass display cases hold brown and clear alcoholic spirits as well as the kegs of craft beers. There’s no traditional bar with stools. There are old chairs from dressing rooms and benches and stools from make-up counters—good old warehouse décor.
I always wanted to open my own club—women only, fluid sexuality. It used to be called slummin’; hidden in late night adventures to lesbian bars. But now some women’s open experimentation brings them a soft gentleness unfulfilled with a man. No more hiding for them or any other woman for that matter. Girls night out has a new more free meaning—bi-curious I believe it’s called. I finger my cigarette, dropping ashes into my portable ashtray. I saw Hercule Poirot use one during my late night PBS binge watching.
“You better not be smoking up there!” came a blaring over the sound system.
Marybeth, my fiancé, didn’t like me smoking and I didn’t have the desire to quit. I’d decided I’d give it a go before our wedding. We were finally getting married. I found someone and someone found me.
“Come on sweetie.” I crooned. “You know a night club’s got to have the scent of cigarette smoke and alcohol to feel right.” I laughed.
“Put it out and get down here. We’ve got to test this karaoke system you said we just had to have.” She said and blew me a kiss through the air and my left hand caught it, placing it over my heart.
“It’s the best money can buy for what we want to do and sweetie I got it for you at a decent price.” I said.
Opening a late night roving club, bar, pub or whatever I wanted to call it became an entry on our joint bucket list and Marybeth wanted mandatory karaoke nights. She says every woman should experience the joy of singing karaoke, shouting her wild inner being to a song of her choosing. I call it primal scream therapy.
The view over the main room from the upper balcony is better than a camera. However, of the two balconies this one wasn’t ready for seating yet. Someone could get hurt. The other balcony had a balcony rail wider and thicker; great for a DJ box. Marybeth’s voice drew me from my mind-wander as she began singing K.D. Lang’s Once in a While in her full-heart voice. The sound system would not be bullied, withstanding the force and timbre of her voice. By the time she’d sung the line, I’ll drive you crazy, I was at her side and kissed her quiet.
“Beautiful babe, simply beautiful.” I whispered.
“Thank you honey.” She cooed.
A noise from the second floor balcony startled us and a woman walked from the shadows. She was tall and pale, thin sharp features with a severe ponytail; not attractive, just mean looking.
“Who is that?” Marybeth asked grabbing my arm.
Her applause of three slow beating hand claps preceded her, “You two should be proud of all this.” Spoken in a smoke-scratch voice.
“That’s the ex who took back her investment; the ex-business partner.” I spoke loud into the room.
“You girls…” she began and I didn’t let her finish.
“We’re not open yet and you don’t get an invitation. You might want to come down from that balcony.” I said and squinted at more moving shadows below the balcony.
“We don’t know how you got in here but we’ll escort you out.” Said a strong female voice from the shadows and two uniformed female police officers walked into the light.
“Our guardian angels.” Marybeth whispered.
The ex, hung her head, walked down from the balcony and one of the officers escorted her from the building.
“I’m Tango. Nice place you’ve got here. My partner Cassidy and I wanted to know if you could use the security we’d like to work for you.” A statement with a smile.
“That would be wonderful.” Marybeth said shaking the woman’s hand. “I’m Marybeth and this is Maggie, my fiancé.”
I gave Tango our business card with an invitation for dinner on their next off day to go through logistics and security protocols.
“You know we’ve not settled on a decent name for this place.” I said.
“I like what’s on our business license and we won’t need a sign. The Back of the Store.” Marybeth said matter of fact as she turned on the music.
We held hands and walked through the rough dressed mannequins, the liquor filled display cases to the dance floor singing karaoke to K.D. Lang.
© 2015 Donna Renee Anderson