Calvin's blubber hung out all over the place, making for the appearance of a very large jellyfish caught up in the steaming hot jets of white water. He looked like big bubba brother sunk inside a pool of little bubble brothers.
Pale as foamy water, suds rose in popping platoons around him. It was a wretched, ridiculous sight.
"The water's hot," Calvin C. Clean complained.
"I get paid to lay in here with you. So it don't bother me none," the woman close to him chirped like a chipmunk.
"Where did you say you was from?" asked the naked, anorexic girl.
"The Gulf Coast," C. C. Clean answered.
"Florida?" she asked, with a bored yawn.
"No. Alabama," he answered. "Right here in old Sweet Home Alabama."
"Sounds nice," she chirped in a falsetto voice, sounding much like a small insect.
The girl was skinny, but pretty, with delicate features like an adorable little dog or cat, maybe even a little rodent like a mouse or even a chipmunk. And like all who made their living at this "gentleman's club," she had to be overly nice to ugly ogres and strange-looking misfits like Calvin C. Clean.
This visual brothel, selling lust, legs and a number of other delicious specialty side items, had the following title on its neon marquee which jutted up 100 feet above the interstate like some crazy comet about to hit Mother Earth: THE SEX STILL.
The young woman sitting beside Calvin C. Clean in the backroom hot tub would be considered one of the subculture that in today's society is termed "a cocaine slut." To be fair, however, this woman that C. C. Clean was laying beside, Mona Lisa Lezzard, has always been a few steps up the stigma ladder from the more common, generic "crack whore," or "crack ho," to use more common vernacular. She was a hoity-toity powder cocaine abuser. There is a difference in the nefarious drug culture.
This entertainer would do virtually anything for two forms of currency only: dirty, seedy green money or white, powdered cocaine. Rocks of crack cocaine? Well maybe, but the john had to be pretty generous, like a gravel slinger in a quarry. Virtually all the bills Mona Lisa made went to powdering her pretty little nose. That was her favorite pastime and only hobby.
Yes, Montogmery - to both whirlpoolers - has always been, and will continue to be, a wicked and wonderful wayward city. Although most of Montgomery is staunch Bible belt proper, and with the city being the state capital, it certainly has its reputation to protect. No, Calvin C. and Mona Lisa cannot be seen as Montgomery's status quo. But even the nicest house has a few vermin crawling around. And the prim and proper of the New South are avid bug smashers; and unlike many northern cities, the Deep South's little big towns are so attractive and clean that you could probably eat breakfast on the sidewalk and feel sanitary and really good about it all. And the heat's usually so hot in May, June, July, August and even September that your bacon and eggs would fry on that concrete and your pan of grits would boil over, as well. But Calvin C., being a multi-millionaire's son, was pretty much a big ole' bug. Sort of a very gregarious and social brown recluse spider. . . .
Montgomery is a good hundred miles from where Mona Lisa Lezzard was raised by two good-looking, God-fearing, hard-working parents. In that little cow crossing, there are only two churches - one Pentecostal and the other Southern Baptist - and a gas station at the crossroads. Down the street a couple hundred feet from this intersection is her modest family home. It looks like every other family home on this main route through town, give or take a few varying features.
An only child and a spoiled brat, that place, today, for Mona Lisa Lezzard is about as useful to her as is a closed checking account with an overdrawn balance.
Now old and gray, her dear old Ma and Pa would surely have nothing to offer her. She never visits, never calls - even on holidays like Halloween and New Year's (any dancer's big cash cow days and nights when working a double shift means green paper and white powder galore). Mona Lisa never visits on Mother's Day, or any other occasion, for that matter. She hasn't been home for six years, when she ran away at age 15.
But she always orders her mother a few books about raising horses around Christmastime and never leaves a return address. She makes a special trip to Birmingham to mail the parcel.
Mona Lisa's mother has never owned a horse, but enjoys reading nonfiction about raising horses. If Edith Elsie Lezzard does one thing before she dies - if she's allowed just one item on her "bucket list" - it would definitely be taking part in equine husbandry. And she dreams of owning a black stallion and naming the animal "Max".
Meantime, Calvin lives in a little city on the eastern Gulf Coast of Alabama that offers about as much in the way of nightlife as the slow, epoch-long movements of tectonic plates. In a little hamlet where time is set in stone, a rolling stone with an eye for naked ladies is never a welcomed mineral. That's why Calvin has been spending all his time in two of Alabama's little big towns - Montgomery and Birmingham.
Well, Calvin C. used to spend a lot of his time in New Orleans. That is, before The Great Flood and all. Yes-sir-eeee: Before FEMA Flops, Attaboy Brownies and dirty water so filthy it became a primordial ooze. The Big Easy was either the prim and proper Belle of the South or the wicked daughter run away with the circus, depending on which street you were on and with whom you were associating on any given day.
Sadly, today the city is still recuperating from drowning. But back when New Orleans was more like a city than a village, that sultry piece of swamp water could be spooky during the day. And it wasn't because of the ghosts that haunt the city. It's always been about the things those Pentecostal and Southern Baptist ministers rave and rant about every Sunday morning.
Yes, there have always rumors of spiritual relics of long-deceased voodoo practitioners drifting around obscure little corners and crevices of The Big Easy, like the city's cemeteries, where all the dead bodies and skeletons are entombed above ground (since the city is below sea level). Caskets would emerge from six feet under if they were planted six feet under. That would definitely be a gawd-awful haunting if there ever was one!
So if you're not going into that mausoleum into the afterlife, it's ashes to ashes and dust to dust to you. No. Calvin wasn't intimidated by the rumors that actual vampires roamed around the Big Easy's alleys late at night, or that malevolent ghosts supposedly amble around in the foggy blackness of night, just beyond where shapes and likenesses end and shadows and unending darknesses of all sorts begin. He went to New Orleans for one reason only - to hop around from strip club to strip club.
And of course, on most Saturday nights when she lets her hair down and hypothetically travels in time, space, and place, Atlanta can sometimes be a white witch or a red headed bitch in crimson fishnets, too. But Atlanta isn't crazy-crazy like New Orleans. She's just a little fun and funny, most nights.
Atlanta has always been akin to a prim, proper southern girl who everyone respects - except, of course, for a few of the guys on the football team.
Meanwhile, back on the fake boobs plantation, Calvin Clean was happier than ever. Far from being the wildlife craver that Lou Reed sings about in those sordid songs he recorded in the 1970s, this displaced furniture salesman has always been quite content with just seeing one set of naked breasts after another.
The wild side need not hyperventilate while emitting orgasms and throwing sharp darts. Calvin C., a former volunteer fireman and furniture and appliance salesman, knew that Sweet Jane need not be a beast from mythology who grows facial hair, howls at the moon, and preys on lions and tigers.
No. Calvin's cinnamon tastes bordered on the sweet, not the hot-hot-hot. A set of unblemished 'D' cups would do for Calvin. And THE SEX STILL had enough 'D' cups (along with 'C', 'B' and 'A' cups) to start a Deep South confederate revolution. Those southern girls sure are pretty and oh, how they talk so nice, like angels!
Looking like a zeppelin with an overload valve about to implode; yep, that's our Mr. Clean, all right. That's the Calvin C. Clean so many of those pretty little ladies know well. And gawd, how they hate that creepy vampire! But they always talk so nice to him because he's like a chain-smoking ATM machine.
So many breasts are always jiggling around THE SEX STILL. They're always flopping here, there and everywhere in a virtual smorgasbord of T & A lust. Calvin's eyes are a window to an expert's chamber. Yes, Calvin C. Clean has always been an authority on the overall texture and quality of women's breasts. In fact, Calvin C. Clean could be considered a quality control expert of this very narrow, limited specialty. A staunch feminist would have a field day ripping away at the way this Neanderthal man objectifies women; and in a parallel universe up north somewhere, say in Gary, Ind., or Flint, Mich., Jersey City, N.J., or Toledo, Ohio, there is another Calvin C. Clean. Yes, and he's a lot uglier and hideous thinking than this privileged southern man we're dissecting in this perverse biology experiment here.
Yes, Calvin C. Clean is like a watchtower judge in a Henry Ford assembly line, of sorts, and his focus is always on those flesh sacks that hold the female Homo Sapien's mammary glands intact.
What a job, huh? It's good work if you can get it.
THE SEX STILL, a gargantuan amorphous structure that looks like a UFO that crashed alongside a busy thoroughfare, has neon lights all around, even in its driveway and on its roof. The place is colored in pinks, purples, blues and reds. Inside, the carpet's paisley design glows like drunken lightning bugs. And on a hot, humid night in July, sometimes drinking a lot of alcohol in the Deep South's humidity can have the same weird effect as a wet fifth of primo-fino, $280 per bottle, glowing Russian absinthe. But those frosty draft beers and cheap, ice-cold "well" drinks don't have microscopic worm-like things swimming around in their murkiness that drill holes through the human brain, as the antediluvian, Old World, grisly green comforter is credited as doing.
Anyhow, let's just say THE SEX STILL is like one big candy factory for sexual addicts of nearly all assortments and varieties. . . .The way the dancers flaunt their feminine wiles epitomizes the dysfunctional layout of THE SEX STILL. Big, whirling lights spin around everywhere and the center stage, along with several side stages, appear to be a pagan altar for the worship of the female Homo Sapien's sexual organs and what highlights them. If THE SEX STILL was a human grocery store - let's just say for selling womankind's most edible anatomical accoutrements - the fruits and vegetables would appear so grotesquely genetically altered that one would wonder if this stuff wasn't actually brought to earth by some extraterrestrial rapist.
Yes, T&A takes on a totally different dimension at THE SEX STILL. What nature gave women as such generic and common commodities would be highlighted in this fantasy world as something to be worshipped and idolized? Why did throngs of frustrated beings with high testosterone levels keep THE SEX STILL open almost 24 hours a day? Why was it kept in the black and never in the red? And why were a legion of pretty, nubile, young girls willing to kill just to have an audition at this nightclub?
Because sex sells in a capitalistic society.
Even if the product's lousy, if it's sexy enough, or the service and window dressing surrounding it are sexy enough, just name the price and it will be in demand.
Build the model of sex dripping like wax from a candle and watch those hideous gray moths with tattered wings dart at the light.
"Hey Uncle Bob, I traded in that beat-up old Camaro you signed over to me for this brand new Porsche Boxster. Isn't it neat?!"
"Yeah girl, go 'head get down. We all thought and wished you'd gone to Auburn or Bama, though."
And any Montgomery politician, even an alderman, would never enter this antiseptically secular, amoral, sleazy dive. A sophisticated system of video cameras rolled 24/7/365. The whole ordeal would undoubtedly consummate in a 30-second blip on the Montgomery nightly news. And what about theft? The last person who got caught putting his hands in the open cash register during a strong armed robbery is now somewhere in the 'gulf' part of the Gulf of Mexico.
Meantime, Calvin C. could probably do just about anything in the confines THE SEX STILL short of murder or arson. He has always been a very big man at this hot spot. If the place was a casino, he'd be considered a high roller, which equates in commercial terminology to a big loser. He'd be considered a whale.
Yes, he's cajoled, coddled, and caressed by not only the beautiful dancers at this very refined visual whorehouse, but also, by the cowboy hats perched on the monolithic heads of the scabrous salacious joint's strapping and humungous bouncers, who all call him "Sir," "Mister Clean," or "Mr. C. C."
You can say that Calvin C. Clean is the emperor, the Caligula, of THE SEX STILL.
Calvin C. Clean was the most successful furniture and appliance salesman who worked for a fairly large furniture store on the Gulf Coast. Although he was the top salesman, he rarely showed up for work. His salary was the highest paid to almost everyone on the payroll, except for the man who owned the store, Melvin V. Clean, Calvin's father. And if Calvin went through his whole two-week paycheck at THE SEX STILL or any other house of dance, he had a trust fund that generated seven grand a month. And although Calvin C. at one time worked for his father nearly 60 hours per week, after a series of horrid mistakes - generated by not tallying up itemized sales slips with the proper use of mathematics - Calvin was given a promotion of being "emeritus sales person;" and now, he has less to do with his father's company than ever before. He picked up another grand a month and now has to show up at the store for only 15 minutes every two weeks. To pick up his check and say a few words to his father.
Calvin C. became a little bored by not having a job and decided he wanted to try his hand at journalism. He got a job at a little ragtag publication that had a small circulation which reported on extermination of insects.
Sometimes Calvin C. Clean would upset pest control personnel as well as a few obscure insecticide manufacturers. He knew absolutely nothing about pest control and every piece he wrote proved this fact. But the longwinded, nine, ten, and sometimes even eleven or twelve page stories he wrote about spraying for bugs and killing them were read for their entertainment value by those in the trade. Lunch chatter on the open tailgates of pickup trucks between bug-control personnel would often be something like this:
"This guy's a nitwit."
"This guy knows absolutely nothing about bugs."
"This basket case is the Three Stooges of the pesticide business."
"Where'd they get this bozo, out of an insane asylum?"
"This nut never killed a bug in his life."
"If there was a Barney Fife of bug control, guess who he'd be? This Calvin C. Clean guy. He's a fraud."
Word got out that Calvin C. Clean was intentionally making mistakes in his bug-killing columns to intentionally try to capture the attention of an exotic dancer at THE SEX STILL named Cricket, whose ex-husband was an exterminator. Cricket always praised C. C. at the nightclub and sometimes even called him "a great writer" or "a genius" and C. C. would always stuff a $20 or a $50 into her garter after she gave him such compliments.
And all this brings us full circle to the beginnings of this trite little tale (or tail? Which spelling really fits here?!). Right where Calvin C. Clean and his concubine laid in the hot, steaming bath.
Let's jump in the time machine and turn back the rewind nob: Over a half century ago, a 26-year-old man, home a few years after serving with the Army in WWII, lost his life in an illegal still explosion. The man couldn't find a job after returning home from nightmare after nightmare that occurred in Nazi Germany; his own private viewing of a three-year war movie. So when he returned to Alabama and couldn't find work, Ben Waller made a still, just like his Daddy had done, and his Grand Daddy, had done, as well.
The explosion's effects on Ben's body could have made him the poster boy for Prohibition, if he was born a few generations before. All of Ben's skin was burned off and his corpse looked like a blackened stiff hotdog poking up from the cinders of the smoldering coals of a fire that burned and blazed all night long.
Today, the Calvin C. Cleans of Montgomery and its outlying environs spend a good portion of their paychecks to sit in the miserable scalding water with crack cocaine-addled sick-o's who normally only practiced real sexual intercourse with other fine-looking young women.
But the special effects are grand - young, nubile woman abound, bouncing their petite little thighs and hips around better than any other money launderer could ever hope to masque larceny.
Gyrating like a primitive piece of industrial machinery, she's the one, yes, she's the one, they often say, late into the evening, when all the fun pops like a beer bottle cap and all the money is gone from the wet bar's surface and into the garters of these artful-dodging stray dogs and cats.
Meantime, the ghost of the man who died in the primitive, toxic, moonshine still visits his old haunts routinely.
This man, who is now actually a spirit or ghost - Ben Waller - was a highly decorated combat Staff Sergeant during WWII. Yeppers, he was a real war hero amongst many of his warrior peers.
They say the dead who are dead due to violence, like still explosions or war, may hang around the scene of their deaths for a generation or two, before venturing down some other boulevard of the afterlife experience. It's just conjecture, but some of those paranormal "experts" claim this to be a truth, anyhow.
But not the ghost of Ben Waller. His spirit left the deep lonely woods of his still and bee-lined right to the Montgomery strip joint. And his ghost is always around the place, in some way, shape, or form. When the ghost of Ben Waller returns for a good laugh at what he missed in a world of fleshly desires and earthly inebriations, he never comes up short. As a young man and as a soldier, Ben never got to spill his seeds the way things are spilled at THE SEX STILL. And sometimes, Waller's spirit sits in the corner of the whirlpool room and laughs uproariously as old, balding, fat, ugly men sit in the steaming bath with young, paranoid, drug-addled women with tight bodies, floppy boobs and asses as round and protruding as planets.
"What fools these mortals are," he screams like a deranged crazy person.
Nobody can hear him, of course. Nobody can see him. He's just part of the highly polished, rotting woodwork inside the nightclub. All of the sudden, the ghost's laughter turns to a bitter, whimpering set of "yips" and "yaps".
He reflects on his own life on earth - how sad and brutal his short-lived existence was, and how unappreciated and impoverished it was, as well. After fighting for Democracy and coming back home to live the American Dream, he had to resort to a life of crime just to feed and clothe himself. Nobody was flocking to The Old South then, not even WWII vets who grew up there.
But some nights, when Ben Waller realizes that after watching these fools at the nightclub, he comes to the realization that he has no right to be so pessimistic. Even shooting a machine gun overseas beats the hell out of spending a sea of green at the THE SEX STILL, and being shortchanged time after time, his spirit believes.
"These people are real losers," he thinks right before he floats far into the bar, then out the door and into the trees. For a wavering moment just before that window shatters because some drunken reprobate throws a rock from the driveway into its glass, there is always a quick whistling of trees. And usually someone is out in the parking lot to hear it and feel it - like a dancer with a mean scowl on her face, smoking a cigarette and experiencing a hideous otherworldly chill. And this frail, broken spirit swears she hears another pale ghost, with a young man's voice, utter a jubilant, "I'm free, I'm free, I'm free."
That echo rings high above the mighty oaks, cypresses, and sycamores that line the parking lot. And until the spirit world becomes more attractive than bellying up as a gray ghost to the bar and whirlpool, Ben Waller's otherworldly self will remain in the rustle of the wind and the freshness of the rain.