Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"The Cost of Living" - Act I Part II

Scorpio had replied, “I’ll be at your place, 10:00 sharp.” After Muscleman was grateful for Scorpio’s response, he finished crying himself to sleep. “I can’t believe it happened.” He said to himself. “We both made that promise that the life or death tattoo wouldn’t be seen and she’s acting like I did that on purpose. I’d never hurt my kids!” His head was spinning and eventually, it led to his nerves being damn near shot. Writhing, grimacing and consumed with the fallout of the note, he nearly collapsed on the bathroom floor after attempting to vomit. Eventually, he managed to fall back asleep on the couch and waited for 10:00 AM to roll around.

In true Scorpio fashion however, it wasn’t even 9:30 that morning before he was ringing the doorbell. “You knew full damn well I wouldn’t actually show up at 10:00. Open up and let me know what the fuck happened probably not after five minutes after clocking out.” Muscleman knew he was telling the truth, got up from the couch and let him in. Scorpio took a seat on the couch and merely asked “What the fuck happened last night?” before he let Muscleman figure out it was a rhetorical question. What he knew Scorpio was really asking was “It’s worse than we thought, isn’t it?” As much as he wanted to be nonverbal, it was impossible with a concerned but stern level eye contact that had Muscleman break down again.
“My kids are gone. She took the kids and left me.”
“The tattoo wasn’t to blame was it?”
“She said it reminded her we needed to end.”
“So she lied through her teeth…”
“…and had my youngest write a note basically confirming that.”
“What the fuck? She dragged the youngest into this?”
Muscleman handed him the note and had him read the part where Catherine’s senses were sharper than her mother gave her credit for. “I want to fucking puke at this stunt.” He said.
“She’s a kid and she’s being treated like she doesn’t know better.” “Her mother and I weren’t married.” Muscleman began. “Even if I were enraged enough to take her to court, what money do I have to say to a judge ‘Your honor, I’d like custody of my children from someone who I never contractually obligated to at least assure joint custody in the events of us splitting up?’ Now I have to figure out how the fuck I have to start over at 30.” Scorpio half countered Muscleman’s claims before concurring, “Despite the fact people fight over kids in unmarried situations almost all the time, you’re right in pointing out the last thing you need is another money induced headache.” With little but meaningful solace provided, he finished the conversation by advising Muscleman to, “Shower that stench of grief and whatever the hell is in that couch off of you. You have money to make tonight.”

As he was showering, Scorpio called up Hi-NRG and told him to meet up for lunch. Perplexed, Hi-NRG wanted to know what this was about. “I’m just leaving the gym and can be there in 10 minutes but what is this for?” “It’s about you know who dealing with the fallout from last night.” Scorpio replied. Hi-NRG was able to piece it together and asked, “Where do we meet to talk about it and is he coming?” The response from Scorpio was only half chilly but still poignant; “The burger joint by where he lives. We’ll deal with him again after work. I’ll call Jamie and tell him the same thing.” He hung up the phone and then dialed up Jamie.

He answered with a huge sigh of relief. “Dude! Thank God you answered. I tried getting a hold of…you know who…but I can’t get him right now.” Scorpio assured Jamie, “By now, he’s showering off what happened last night. Meet me and ol’ ‘Energizer Gym Bunny’ at that burger joint sort of near all of us. Where we talked last time.” A few minutes had passed after the conversations before Scorpio, Jamie and Hi-NRG met up to discuss how to handle the potential time-bomb of Muscleman’s emotional state. The mood was set right when the score was known.
“If you thought it was bad, it pretty much was the worst case scenario for him.” He began. “That conniving bitch up and left, taking his children with her.” Jamie exclaimed, “That’s fucked up to leave someone just because of a tattoo their kid wasn’t supposed to see!” Scorpio then added, “That’s not the worst part. His youngest, Catherine; the one whose name is tattooed the biggest on his body, was essentially used to break his heart even though she knew her mother was using her.” Hi-NRG was stunned. “No offense, but how the fuck is he even alive after that?” “It’s fucked up, I know.” Scorpio finished. He then collaborated with them as to how to deal and work around whatever eggshells they were about to walk on with Muscleman.

Jamie put out there, “If we’re too sensitive, he could snap, thinking we’re afraid of him.” Hi-NRG added, “If we act like nothing happened, he could snap, thinking we couldn’t give a remote controlled fuck about his feelings.” Scorpio eventually pieced together a scenario in which he framed it, “We have to let this happen organically but at the same time knowing the score whenever he reaches out to us.” To ease the looks of confusion on Hi-NRG’s face, Scorpio finished by saying, “In other words, don’t be weird about it and if he wants to talk to you and only you, do it.” Just as they agreed to the terms, Jamie’s phone was ringing and Muscleman was waiting on the other hand. “Excuse me, guys. He’s calling and I might have to put my part of the plan in action.”

He left the others at the table and took the call inside his car. “Hey. I tried calling you a little earlier and I was told you might be in the shower.” Muscleman confirmed that by saying, “Yeah, I had a lot on my mind as I’m sure you know by now. It’s not totally why I was in the shower for a little bit but sorry I missed your call.” Jamie assured his friend, “I was just wondering about you. You know we’re cool like that and I got you, right?” Muscleman was pleased to hear this and said, “Yeah. We’re good. See you at work tonight. Tell the others I’m OK.” “Cool, see you then.” Jamie replied. He hung up the phone and let Scorpio and Hi-NRG know the time-bomb was diffused on his end. “You two probably have to deal with him yourself, but if you deal with him tonight you look to be OK.” Relieved, Hi-NRG said “It could blow over too. In case it won’t at least he’s in a good mood tonight.” His near childlike innocence framing of what could come suddenly had Scorpio telling Hi-NRG, “I might have to soften whatever fuckups you commit tonight if it comes up. I’ll try to be there to make sure you don’t end up in a ditch.” Hi-NRG only responded, “Oops. Guess I have to sweat it out a little longer.” Jamie in turn quipped, “So it’ll be like every night you dance, and slick the bar with your sweat, right?”

Hours passed until it was time for a particular night at Core where a new DJ would be tested. The night as they understood was called “POP Goes the Playlist” where instead of the usual near sleazy Hip-Hop and R&B cuts were played, the near sleazy Pop and Dance/EDM tracks would reverberate inside. Jamie saw Scorpio, Hi-NRG and then Muscleman step in, in order to ready themselves for a theme night they hoped would make them a lot of money. Jamie locked eyes with Muscleman to make sure they were still on the same good terms as they were earlier that day. “Stare at me much longer, you’ll have to buy me dinner before I fuck you.” Muscleman quipped. For Jamie, that was more than enough to make sure his friend was fine. To everyone else’s surprise, Blondie showed up as it was assumed he was already back in Austin. “Not expecting you here, but what’s up baby?” Jamie lightly pressed. Blondie simply replied, “I’m slated to work this night and maybe three more after that.” Going with the near rash scheduling, Jamie prepped the two Fireball shots he knew Blondie needed in order to have his nerves not get in the way of his work. “Thanks.” He said before downing both shots in record time.

Blondie surprised Scorpio in the changing area. “This is a surprise.” Scorpio began. “I was planning on telling you what happened with you know who about the other night right after work.” Blondie assured Scorpio that wouldn’t need to happen by saying, “I assumed when you didn’t text me in the morning, you were dealing with it as you see fit.” An unexpected variable finally crossed the minds of all involved that night once they saw Dave walk through the door. “Shit.” Scorpio muttered. He turned to Blondie and told him, “I’ve got to let him know. Stall him; get a private dance; small talk that dude, won’t you?” “No problem. I’ve let him do more to me than you think.” Blondie said playfully.

As Scorpio was rushing to Muscleman, Blondie approached Dave and began to be friendly with him. “Hey baby. Nice to see you again.” Dave responded cheekily, “How’s my favorite?” “Am I really your favorite?” Blondie asked, playing along. Dave replied, “Of all the ones I’ve gotten lap dances from, yeah you’re my favorite because I miss you the most. You live in a different city too, but yeah; you’re my favorite.” Blondie decided to roll the dice and pump an answer out of him. “And when I’m away, who’s your favorite?” Dave snidely answered, “I guess that blonde is natural if you can’t tell who’s my favorite of the San Antonio exclusives.” Knowing that Scorpio was trying to diffuse a different time-bomb, Blondie decided to take a decidedly hustle-driven initiative and ask him if he wanted some alone time. “Got any tips…maybe Inner Core money for me?” Dave saw through that front but respectfully said, “I’ll let you loosen up. We know that has to happen a bit before anything like that happens.”

All the while, Scorpio let Muscleman know of the unchecked box waiting inside. “I’ll take the fall for this one because I didn’t think of him being a factor.” Muscleman replied, “I already took care of the bigger things with Dave. He knows where we stand and it’s not like I’m swinging on his side of the fence in real life anyway. No matter what it looks like.” 

All Scorpio countered with was, “Even if you played on our team, he could still be downplaying his feelings as to not be hurt so hard. That’s not even the issue. He still knows you as having kids and a home filled with them.” Muscleman concurred at that but self-assuredly said, “For as personal as we are, he doesn’t ask that much about my life and he doesn’t expect me to give a shit about him that much outside of here. He even told me, his money validates me and gives him male contact. The dude knows what’s up, but if it…what we’re actually dealing with mind you…comes up, I’ll tell the truth.” Scorpio reluctantly accepted Muscleman’s rationale on the issue. He still thought to himself, “That cocky son of a bitch might slip if one gets under the other’s skin but in that really weirdly mutual way.”

While that time-bomb was successfully detonated, Blondie let Scorpio know that everything with Dave was fine. “I tried to get him in the Inner Core, but he said I need to loosen up before anything happens.” Scorpio playfully teased him, “Hustling on someone else’s regular? You should be ashamed of yourself.” Blondie laughed it off remarking, “Don’t act like you wouldn’t have done the same, fucker.” As expected, Dave along with the other patrons of Core were taking in the view of the dancers as Pop Goes the Playlist was proving successful. Icy, trippy EDM, sweat inducing Dance and catchy, infectious pop music reverberated in Core and as a result, Scorpio, Hi-NRG, Blondie and Muscleman were each making bank from patrons’ tips alone. Dave being the generous type, tipped each dancer and playfully smacked their asses in supporting the arts. Muscleman accepted his tips and then proceeded to wrap his legs around him as he hung from the metal scaffolding above. The two locked eyes for a bit and they both had a sexually mischievous expression on their faces. A small billfold of $20s were rubbed on Muscleman’s right leg. The last words uttered as he got down from the bar top were “Let’s go.” They snuck off to the Inner Core where they knew what each were getting with delight.

The two of them stealthily inhabited the Inner Core where almost instantly, Dave ravished Muscleman who was almost too happy to commence half-teasing/half-pleasing his on the clock folly. As Muscleman let Dave suck his nipples, sniff his armpits, kiss on his neck, nibble on his earlobe, the two of them crossed a tame but notable line. Dave snuck a kiss on Muscleman’s lips. Their eye contact let the other know that this could only happen with each other and the two proceeded to sneak kisses until Muscleman let Dave have him how he wanted. Facing him and pulling his thong to his left, he offered himself in one way Dave couldn’t refuse. His mouth sent minimal but welcome signals of pleasure to Muscleman. “I’m into this only on the clock, but he’s really good.” He thought.

After a few minutes, Muscleman stowed it away before facing away from Dave. Dave’s lips on each of Muscleman’s glutes with a smack on the right cheek signaled him to offer himself in another way he enjoyed. Pulling his thong to his right, he pulled his glutes apart slightly and let Dave’s tongue get as much as it could with every passing song. Internally Muscleman was raving about the tongue sending subtle signals of pleasure. “On the clock action isn’t new but how good they turn out to be is. Fuck, he’s really good.” Timing worked out for them both as they were able to finish up and even sneak a last kiss as they were being ushered out from the Inner Core. “Thank you baby.” Muscleman said. “That was fucking hot.” Dave replied.

From a distance, Hi-NRG and Scorpio were surprised at how relatively intimate and cozy they saw Muscleman and Dave were. “He isn’t into guys, right? I mean outside of a side hustle, he isn’t, right?” Hi-NRG posed. Scorpio answered, “If I were to say the words ‘sexual politics’ or ‘Kinsey scale’, he’d be lost in a heartbeat.” Hi-NRG countered, “Even if he were like us, Dave wouldn’t be his type…well it wouldn’t seem like that, right?” After having to actually ponder of what Muscleman’s type of guy would be, Scorpio eventually confirmed Hi-NRG’s assessment.
“He would at least let Dave down gently and maybe fuck around on the side.” He began. “If they were the same age, something could work for three months before Dave would get sick of being treated like a secret. They’d hate the shit out of each other until they could come to an agreement just being friends that once upon a time, fucked each other.” Seeing Muscleman approach, Hi-NRG asked, “We don’t have to mention this too, right?” “Mention what?” Muscleman chimed in, knowing he was the subject matter. “He’s being a jackass about something.” Scorpio assured. “By the way, I didn’t know Dave could smile. What happened between you two?” Laughing it off as merely work, Muscleman replied “Well we weren’t planning a summer wedding for five songs worth of money.” Hi-NRG was able to laugh it off and eventually spot one of his regulars. “You two have fun, I got a little money to pump from a sweetheart of my own.”

Before Muscleman and Scorpio could take Hi-NRG’s offer, they noticed Blondie trying to hustle Dave for whatever money he had left. To Scorpio’s amazement, Muscleman confronted Blondie and Dave. “You cheating on me or something?” he asked. Dave answered, “We’re not dating…” before he whispered to him, “…besides, he doesn’t do what you and I do.” He cheekily added, “I support the arts. You should know this.” Blondie added, “Relax. I won’t be long.” Dave and Blondie headed to the Inner Core much to Muscleman’s surprising display of jealousy. Scorpio tapped him on the shoulder and motioned him to the patio. Once situated by the outdoor bar, he asked Muscleman, “What was that delicious bit of territorial behavior I witnessed?” It took Muscleman a minute before he replied, “He’s supposed to be my regular goddamnit!”

Scorpio took this chance to delve into the potential sexual mobility or liberation Muscleman had been undergoing he suspected. “I wrote you off as some skirt-thirsty pussyhound but it looks like your tire swings on the other side too.” Muscleman retorted, “That’s not the case dude. So I think Dave is a nice guy that happens to shove my thong full of money when he stops by. Doesn’t mean I’m going…” Scorpio rightfully interjected, “Stop right there before you say ‘going gay’, you son of a bitch.” Realizing poor word choice wouldn’t help his case, Muscleman took a different approach. “Let me try again. This isn’t some realization that I’ve been in the closet. I like what he does, but it’s not opening the floodgates if that’s what you’re getting at.” Scorpio didn’t accept the answer given. “Let’s just say that it is merely a hustle thing and that Blondie ‘stole’ some money from you. You’re not the only one hustling in this place or in any bar or club where every Dave in America like shoving money down thongs and underwear of men just so they can get their kicks too.” He ended the conversation when he noted Dave and Blondie were only done after three songs. “Isn’t this sweet? Your on the clock boyfriend only spent three songs with another man. I think that summer wedding can still happen after all.” Muscleman accepted the chin-checking from Scorpio and headed back inside to talk to Dave again. “I don’t know what it is about what happened, but shit…it happened.” He thought.

Hugging Dave from the side, Muscleman asked him, “You done for the night, baby?” “Just about.” Dave replied. “Why the near jealous outburst earlier? You and I both know we couldn’t work outside of here, right? It sucks, but it is what it is.” “Wait what?” he asked Dave. “That sounded like you want this to work somehow.”
“You know full damn well what I mean.”
“I like you, I do.”
“…when I have money and I validate you, vis a vis, you validate me back.”
“You can still like me. I think it’s cute.”
“How is it I’m the love-struck wacko, but you’re the one who doesn’t get it?”
Not wanting to end the night on a bad note, Dave hugged and kissed Muscleman as he left.
“Be safe.” He said as he walked out of Core, hating that his emotional state was confronted. Little did they both know, Scorpio, Hi-NRG and Blondie witnessed the whole ordeal. Muscleman thought to himself, “I am about to get such a nutkicking for this.” Scorpio told the others who were short of seething outright, “We confront him off the clock. If you can wait 30 minutes, you can have the first words and be as petty as you want if he fucked up.” As Hi-NRG and Blondie got back on the bar top to finish up Pop Goes the Playlist night, Scorpio gave a glare that he knew Muscleman could feel. “Just you wait, you self-hating gym bunny.” He thought. “You confronted someone doing their job over someone you barely met. Hate to break it to you missy, but that’s love, right there.”

As Pop Goes the Playlist wrapped up its Pop and Dance/EDM offerings, all four dancers faced each other in a pregnant pause in the changing area. Even Jamie thought to himself as he was walking out, “There’s usually some type of laughter or shooting the shit going on. Better stay out of this one, too.” Eventually, all four dancers were out the door when Muscleman surprised the bunch and said, “Let’s talk about what happened somewhere private. If not private, somewhere like that fast food joint up the road.” Scorpio wanted to confirm, “The one across the street by that weird ass car wash/hippie co-op looking place?” As he nodded his head, Muscleman knew that he couldn’t fake his way out of offering a place to break bread and diffuse a different time-bomb. He would lead the two following cars of Blondie and Scorpio and Hi-NRG to the fast food joint, making sure he wouldn’t be tempted to fake his way out of having to talk. “Here goes everything.” He thought.

Once inside, Muscleman and Scorpio found a booth to sit in while Blondie and Hi-NRG ordered some meals to assist their slightly inebriated states. Almost on cue, Scorpio initiated the conversation. “What the fuck happened tonight? You see someone you claim isn’t ‘making’ you gay, get a harmless offer from someone else who does this for a living and you freak out like you’ve been fucking him exclusively. What gives, dude?” Muscleman had to think long and hard about his response. He knew that another string of poor word choices could potentially strain the friendship. Scorpio sensed that cognitive defense and posed a different question to him. “What actually happened between you two, just now?” Muscleman was ready to explain himself. His breathing was heavy and he was on the verge of suddenly faking out, but he ended up giving his side of the story. “All I did was more of our thing where I do the ‘you cheating on me?’ shtick and me and him know that’s the joke.” Scorpio’s healthy skepticism was written on his face but he prodded Muscleman for more information. “Go on. I’m not stopping you yet.” Despite the heaviness of his breath, Muscleman explained that “Once he said we can’t be together, ‘it sucks, but it is what it is.’ I told him that he can still like me and that I thought it was cute.”

Scorpio realized just how love-struck Dave had actually been. “I’ll call off the others from chewing your ass out over this. Be right back.” He got up from the booth to a calmer but still internally seething duo of Blondie and Hi-NRG at the soda machine and had them throw their arms down. “False alarm. Dave’s a bit of a love-struck wacko putting on a front of devil may care slickness.” Blondie replied, “Bullshit. He knows the score with what guys in our field do. Besides, I’m his favorite. Ahead of ol’ loverboy over there even though he wins for being an S.A. exclusive.” Scorpio countered, “Be that as it may, we can’t give him a verbal nutkicking over this because he wasn’t confronted for being jealous of you hustling.” Blondie concurred, “That is what me and ‘Keith Sweats’ over here were going to rip him apart for. Now I see why we can’t.” However, Hi-NRG did pose that this could be a way of Muscleman coming to terms with himself. “I mean, even if they don’t go on a date, this will spur him to come out, right?” Scorpio answered, “We’ll have to talk about that another time.”

Blondie and Hi-NRG’s orders were ready, meaning they and Scorpio can assure Muscleman that no verbal blood shall be spilled. Muscleman looked relieved once he saw complacent looks on their faces. “I didn’t mean to swagger-jack you, dude. We do the same thing.” Blondie replied, “You do your thing slightly differently but yeah; we’re in the same boat so best not to financially cock-block anyone.” Hi-NRG festively added, “Enough about boy problems, let’s just eat up before heading to sleep.” With the air having been cleared and food being digested to combat mild inebriation, Blondie headed out while Hi-NRG was placed into the passenger seat of Scorpio’s car. “That ought to hold our little gumdrop for the night.” Scorpio remarked. He turned to Muscleman and plainly prompted him to tell the truth about his feelings for Dave, as he still didn’t quite understand how his crushing on him was cute.
“Tell me the truth about Dave.”
“I just did. He’s sort of in love with me but wishes things were different.”
“Do you wish things were different?”
“You got someone in the passenger seat…”
“Don’t act like you haven’t seen him drunker than he is. Answer the question.”
“Dude, don’t do this.”
“Do you wish things were different, yes or no?”
Muscleman let out an exasperated sigh. He was beside himself that Scorpio was hung up on something like the state of his acquaintanceship with Dave. Eventually, Scorpio’s inner conscious had him drop whatever accusation he had made against Muscleman. “He isn’t going to answer because he really hasn’t confronted this himself and this isn’t helping.” Scorpio thought. “Just like me coming out as bi, he needs to confront these feelings himself if he’s really gay.” After that thought, he hugged Muscleman and apologized. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean this.”

As the two of them went their separate ways for the night, Muscleman did eventually come to a realization that he had sort of led Dave on. “He knows the score, but maybe I led him on with all the stuff we’ve done.” He thought. The speed limit was followed to his empty nest where for the first time, he felt like an outsider looking in. Once inside, he went to his bedroom and stripped naked to have a much needed moment to himself in the shower. Turning the knobs to his desired level of warmth, Muscleman was hoping to hygienically atone himself of his perceived wrongdoings. Realizing no one was in the house anymore, he could actually voice his innermost thoughts. It scared him half to death, but having lost his front for keeping the hustles up meant he could forsake any hopes for privacy.

Every ounce of warm water that traveled down his body was passing by the upper body art and now painful reminder of what he lost. Streams of warm water were soaking through his Catherine covered skin and his life or death tattoo that most likely drove his front of a family away. Now as it seemed, the thought of what he and Dave actually were, was racing faster than the shower’s warm water. “I don’t know what to make of this.” He said. “Even if he didn’t know the score, what’s to say he wouldn’t have figured it out by now?” Recanting his small talk with Dave was the only thing Muscleman could do to see if there were missing puzzle pieces he hadn’t seen until now. He thought of Dave opening up that all he was, was a lonely 25-year-old who just liked what he got out of him. He reenacted the conversation as best as he could.

“OK…” he thought. “I came in that night, he waves to me and I change into my thong.” Remembering he had yet to say anything, he suddenly remembered Dave saying, “About what happened…”. Sadly, this recanting did nothing but remind him of the intrinsic tornado of emotions he had been grappling with. “If not that instance, what other conversation could help me right now?” he asked. “This is confusing the fuck out of me.” Muscleman did know that the phone number wasn’t the root of the issue. “Giving my number out to someone who might need a friendship of some kind isn’t wrong.” He had to think harder about any missing details from any of their conversations. “Maybe the time before the underwear auction where he and I talked about the deal being stacked against me.” Muscleman had remembered a crucial moment in which he and Dave had talked about the fiscal fuckery of Core. At Core, dancers give trips to the Inner Core at a rate of $20 for one song, $30 for two songs, $40 for three songs and so on. As Dave had been told by Muscleman (and by Ranger before that on another night), Core takes $5 from the dancers per song. He said aloud, “It was either the time I had him help me stash $40 of a $60 Inner Core trip or it was right around before Bae-sil was trying to be funny the other night.” Not wanting to risk another mental storm, Muscleman quit while he was ahead and finished showering. Minutes later, he had toweled off and decided to sleep in the nude. “Why not?” he thought. “Not like I have anywhere to be the rest of the night.”

The next morning, he woke up from a surprisingly good sleep and made a decision that would’ve earned disapproval from Catherine’s mother if she were still in the picture. He drove to his “moral” dollar source, a rather popular fitness center in town, to try and put in his two weeks’ notice. His manager, Miguel, advised him to reconsider. “I know things haven’t been easy recently, but this is a safer fallback.” He began. “I’m not saying anything you do outside of our facilities is immoral or of bad judgment, but don’t throw this away.” “What am I supposed to do?” Muscleman asked. Miguel replied, “Just do what you can to survive. Anything else is risking it all because you think you have nothing else going for you.” Reluctantly, Muscleman accepted Miguel’s rationale of his situation. “When you put it like that, I’ll get to what I need to in here.” Miguel was pleased he got through to him but sternly told Muscleman, “Don’t take it out on the customers. The last thing I want is an actual reason to let you go.”

The rest of that day went without incident and Muscleman thanked Miguel for having him reconsider. “I owe you big time, sir.” Miguel thanked him and playfully told him, “Just clock out already. See you in a couple of days.” Later that night, after changing in his tracksuit with a signature blue and white thong, he arrived at Core and was greeted by Alejandro. “Hey big guy. How you feeling tonight?” he asked. Muscleman replied, “Better. Shit nearly went left, but I’m cool.” Alejandro whispered to him, “Heads up. Some theme night may or probably will come up because somebody fucked up the dates. Jamie’s pissed about it.” “Thanks for the warning, dude.” Muscleman replied. As he headed in, he did indeed see an angered Jamie. He approached him cautiously but wanted to know what was going on.
“Which theme night might come up?” he asked.
Jamie replied, “Theme itself isn’t the problem. Blue Ball Night in case you care.”
“Well what’s the issue then?”
“The dates got fucked up and I’m supposed to make more money on BBN.”
“Wait a minute…weren’t you supposed to get that…”
“Two weeks from tonight. It’s not actually BBN so I don’t get the increase.”
Muscleman was almost flippant about it until he asked, “Wait. What about us dancers? Are we affected by this fuck up too?” Jamie condescendingly assured him, “No need to get your panties in a bunch. Same shit different day for you and the others.” Muscleman glared at him before proposing a way to make up the difference. “Well, I can be all ‘Throbbin’ Hood’ and hustle how much more you’re supposed to be getting.” Realizing he was placating his anger at a friend, Jamie grabbed a pen and pad and wrote down the amount he would’ve gotten. “Do it discreetly, dude. We could get into some real shit if we’re caught.”

With an ulterior but honest motive now applying to his hustle, Muscleman worked Blue Ball Night like he hadn’t before. Blue Ball Night was a special theme night that would pop up intermittently for the Core patrons to “release their tensions with blue drinks, blue men in groups” and other cheap blue puns that made Muscleman squirm internally. Although not normally a night in which he would resort to offering himself in the Inner Core, one or two marks could help create a safety net toward the $110 difference to earn Jamie. “I can’t hide everything, or I’ll get fried for two people.” He thought. “Jamie wouldn’t sell me up the river unless he were under the gun. Not disloyal in anyway but protecting yourself is the M.O. of this place.” Once out of the changing area, he sexually brandished his secret weapon for any of the potential marks in the room. “Come and get it boys.” He thought to himself.

Patrons were more than generous to this brash method of attraction Muscleman displayed. $1s and $5s poured into his thong, although he knew at least some of the money had to be a decoy if things went right. Still, as the Hip-Hop, R&B and occasional Pop offering was blaring from the speakers, his hustling went into overdrive. Later in the night, two potential obstacles looked to complicate Muscleman’s plans. Hi-NRG and Dave walked in only minutes after each other. “Shit.” Muscleman thought. “That goddamn hyperactive dance machine can coin up pretty well on nights like these. As for Dave, he likes my competition too.” Not wanting to lose momentum, he focused on the customers in front of him. Once enough money was in his thong to stash, Muscleman started to devise an exit strategy once he counted $55 in tips as a result of his overhaul. He would hold onto $45 in those tips for Jamie’s difference and divide accordingly as the amount increased until its $110 goal was met.

As for Dave, Muscleman knew he had to tread lightly without blowing him off. He walked over to Dave and greeted him in a newly longing way. “There you are! I haven’t seen you in ages!” Dave though happy to see Muscleman back told him, “I need to pace myself.” Muscleman wondered, “What do you mean, baby?” Dave responded, “I kind of go nuts over this. I like it and all but I just want to pace myself is all.” “Aw, baby you just got here. You sure you’re not ready yet?” he asked. “I’ll let you know. I got $40 for you, so don’t worry.” Dave assured. A smack on the ass later, Muscleman’s plans hit only a minor snag. “I can always count on his honesty, there’s that.” He thought. As for Hi-NRG, his complication came from his muscly form being complimented by his blue briefs and the current onslaught on Hip-Hop beats. “Shit, this little video ho is getting his groove on and stealing some tips.” He began to think. “If I steal even $1 from him, he’d hate me and I’d have to answer to a cold stare and maybe death from his ex.”

Knowing Blue Ball Night wouldn’t bring about generosity the entire shift that night, Muscleman simply continued to charm the crowd as only he could. Every other Hip-Hop song was something that could compliment his moves too. However, Hi-NRG was making just as much money as Muscleman and it was starting to drive him to madness. “Goddamnit, of all the nights to actually compete against someone and it’s against this son of a bitch right here.” He thought. Then before he knew it, $40 was being brushed up on his leg by a concerned by leverage heavy Dave. They locked eyes and per usual, the last words uttered were “Let’s go.” The two snuck into the Inner Core successfully and for a stashed $40, the two of them received intimate interactions as only on the clock antics could allow.

Dave’s Arabica roast eyes locked into Muscleman’s chocolate eyes tinged with dollar signs and they snuck kisses before the standard nipple sucking, armpit sniffing and other above the thong play transpired. Oddly enough, they opted to not go further than that. All Dave did was savor every bit of Muscleman’s skin, nipples and lips when he could. Eventually, their time was up but not before Dave snuck a kiss from Muscleman standing up. “That was hot.” He uttered. Muscleman thanked him back and retreated to the changing area where Jamie was waiting for him. “Hey, what’s up?” Jamie replied, “Let’s talk outside.” “Not until I pool enough money for the difference.” He assured. “I’m either on the nose, really close or slightly over the goal by now.” Jamie whispered to him, “You didn’t have to hustle for me dude. I wanted to at least pool together our earnings to make up the difference anyway.” Thinking he was atoning for his outburst earlier, Muscleman said to Jamie in an assuring tone, “I’m the one with more to lose tonight than you, dude. Wait at the bar and we’ll find out if I made enough money.” Knowing there was at least $85 to his name, he went to the changing area to count up the rest of the money. Dave’s $40 and the other sets of $1s and $5s brought the total before skewing to right at $100. Risking what he made that night in tips and a trip to the Inner Core, he snuck the $10 put to the side to bring the total right at $110. Acting fast, he caught Jamie under the ruse that he had wanted a shot to unwind.

“A shot of my usual, Jamie.” He said, hoping he would sneak the difference in unnoticed. Jamie obliged the shot, but whispered to Muscleman, “I managed to sneak $25 for myself. Just give me $50 and we can keep going another night.” The response was met with a little relief as he had Jamie in turn follow him to the changing area. Alejandro was only a little suspicious but was able to have been thrown off with Jamie telling him, “I spotted him some money for lunch once, and he’s got enough to pay me now.” Muscleman showed him the $110 made and made an offer to him. “Take $85 and stash that shit. I can pretend that Dave only had a $20 and it’s believable considering how he’s kind of a regular by now.” With only a millisecond of guilt that came and passed, Jamie took the $85 and mixed it with his $25 to have his difference paid for. “I owe you a lot more than this, dude.” He said.

As the two of finished up the night and clocked out, Hi-NRG caught up with Muscleman in the parking lot. “Hey! I almost forgot to tell you something.” He said to him. Muscleman faced him and asked, “What’s up? Anything important?” “Yeah.” Hi-NRG began. “Scorpio says to call him as soon as you get off tonight. Says it’s about settling some matters or something.” Muscleman didn’t know what of the message, but still thanked Hi-NRG for the heads up. “I’ll call him up before I hit the road. Thanks for letting me know dude. Take it easy.” As Hi-NRG headed to his car, Muscleman got in his car, locked the doors and only had the car on as he dialed up Scorpio trying to process this latest potential complication. “As if tonight wasn’t already playing with fire, now this bit of news to brace for.” The other end picked up and Scorpio in his usual direct self, skipped any pretense for pleasantries.
“We need to talk. Your place. You just got off right?” he started.
“Yeah, I just clocked out, but what the fuck is this about dude?” he queried.
“There’s something unresolved between us.”
“Dude, we’re cool. No beef between us.”
“It’s not that…entirely. Can you be at your place soon?”
“I can sense this really can’t wait, so yeah…be by mailbox. See you in a few minutes.”
Muscleman then started his car and tried his best to let the speed limits be the only thing to slow him down some. He wasn’t used to hearing such a vulnerable tone of voice from Scorpio and feared that maybe there was some unresolved conflict that had been stewing. “I don’t think I did anything else to piss him off, but he’s been there for me a lot so I owe him this.” He contemplated.

Once near his house, he spotted Scorpio’s car right by the mailbox. No smoke was coming from the inside, so Muscleman instantly ruled out being high or vaping from Scorpio. “Well, he’s clearly in a right state of mind somehow, so let’s see…” he thought. Once in the driveway, he walked to Scorpio’s car and lightly knocked on the window. “Hey, I’m here. Sorry to keep you waiting.” He said to the driver’s side window. The car unlocked and Scorpio exited looking as vulnerable and contemplative as he had sounded. As he locked the car, he let Muscleman lead him into the house. He hadn’t said a word, but Muscleman knew that Scorpio being this quiet meant something very serious was on his mind. “This is about get ugly or really weird and I don’t know which will come first.”

The two then faced each other once inside and Scorpio had locked the door. Not being one to miss a blatant signal, Muscleman asked his cryptic guest, “It’s going to be a while isn’t it?” Still getting no response by now, he asked only one more question. “If I did anything to upset you, tell me now dude. I’m not used to you being…well…dormant. What’s going on?” Scorpio began responding carnally, by stripping his clothes and laying a kiss on Muscleman. While he enjoyed it at first, he replied, “Wait, what the fuck did you mean by ‘something unresolved between us’?” He had kissed Muscleman again before answering, “What’s unresolved are some feelings I caught for you. At the very least, sexual tension but I knew how to hide that well, didn’t I?”

Before he could find the time to be flabbergasted, Muscleman found himself being Scorpio’s latest conquest. As they stripped their clothes in the living room and dashed to the bedroom, they knew their physical juxtaposition was undeniable. Scorpio’s lithe but strong, tattooed frame was wrapped around the sculpted and partially inked physique of Muscleman himself. “Why now, dude?” he asked Scorpio. “I couldn’t fake not getting hard for you anymore. Or at least, I need an outlet and I can only turn to you this time.” He replied. While he didn’t feel used, he gave in to Scorpio’s demands once he heard, “If you’re not into this, kick me out now or just get ready to fuck like rabid animals.”

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