Jerry Mullins grew up in central West Virginia, and has lived in the Washington, DC suburbs in recent years. His work has recently been published in or is forthcoming from Columbia University Journal-Catch and Release, Wilderness House Literary Review, The Broadkill Review, Tower Journal, Newfound Journal, and internationally in Nazar-Look (Romania) and Southern Cross Review (Argentina).
“Girls Night Out”
Now just let me tell you it was getting boring over here in this little town ever since that new preacher moved on to another church. Not many like that around here – kinky little blonde hair, blue eyes. Not just the younger women but some of us older girls too just loved to gossip around the details of his doings, like it was the last big thing they would ever be involved in. And I can understand that. I’ll tell you what, I sure would like a big night out once in a while. But that is a story for another time. I haven’t had time to tell you lately about some other things going on, but some funny stuff just comes to mind.
So, here we are in this little town just bored to death, and several of us down at the Senior Citizens Center – we go down there every day we can to have lunch and see our old friends we grew up with – and we were talking one day and Louella spoke up – she is always the biggest talker around here you know – and she said “We need to figure out a way to keep busy and make a little money, and maybe have a little fun doing it.”
“Good luck on that idea,” Maysel said, “with so many mines shutting down there’s just not much money around here.”
“But there are the same retirement checks coming in every month for the older people and that’s the big deal around here,” Louella said. “It’s a shame so much of it goes to the liquor store or that beer joint down by the river.”
“Yes, and we ain’t going to change that much, always a lot of misbehaving going on.”
“Well, maybe that’s it,” Luella said. “So maybe just a little misbehaving is what we can do. But here we are a bunch of old women just sitting around talking and getting even more bored.”
So we went ahead with working on an idea, and figuring how to do it. First, on setting up a phone connection, we figured on using the pay phone at the Senior Citizens Center, to see how it would go, and how we could make all this work. We certainly couldn’t use our home phone because our old men at home would get suspicious, but no problem at the Senior Center since people get calls all the time there.
Next we had to figure on how to advertise without being too loud about it, since we had to take calls at the Senior Center. Now Louella, who is up on all this computer and internet stuff, said we could go on there where they have all these nasty people looking for each other but we could do it in little cleaner, low profile way. I didn’t know what she meant by all that profile talk, maybe it was computer talk, but she sounded like she knew what she was talking about and some of us figured maybe she had been on there looking right along with the nasty people. So Luella came up with some words to use and they sounded alright for starters because we were still taking this one step at a time you know.
And we knew we needed a name to use. We certainly couldn’t say something like “Old Ladies’ Massage Services” or anything like that, so Louella came up with “Happy Endings Massage Salon and Health Spa”, which made it sound like a classy place to go sit around and just talk, that “Salon” part anyway. And the other words Luella came up with sounded pretty good, most of it about ‘a relaxing place to sit and talk, a welcome time away from all the pressures of your busy life, for the mature gentleman” and all that. We wanted to say something straight out about being older so no surprises for the customers.
And the first calls in to the Senior Center were a little strange I will say because we had to say we only did business outside wherever the customer was. Some of them liked that and actually expected it but we agreed on a rule that we would only go into private homes, not hotels or motels with young men out on the road. That sounded way too dangerous to this old girl, but we got so we knew how to talk to people, and we started to get a little relaxed how to do all this because most of the men calling sounded lonely. And some started calling back for a second visit after a little while and then we knew we had something here. And we started kidding with each other about getting the really big tips if you know what I mean about tips and started to be a little more comfortable doing this, and then we figured we needed a real location and a real business setup.
We looked around and right away found empty space in those rooms in behind the Sheriff’s office that used to be a county welfare office with a lot of small interviewing rooms that were just right for our little visitor’s rooms and pretty soon we had some real professional tables and seemed to be rolling right along.
Some of the best people started coming around and that included some lawyers and business men from down in the city. I guess they figured they were safe coming up into this little town twenty miles up the road where nobody knew them. And some of them told us it was a tickle we were located right behind the Sheriff’s office, so they didn’t have to worry about their car being broke into while they were in our place getting a treatment. Yes, that is what we started calling it, “treatment”, and it worked pretty well. Even the Sherriff would drop by sometimes but he would simply just sit in the front room when he wasn’t busy on a call and talk with whoever was working at the time. He didn’t want to pay any money we could tell and after he found out we would not do anything for free like a lot of businesses around here for the Police to keep on their good side, he did not push it. But we all knew he has had this girlfriend in town for years named Lou Lou and we certainly didn’t want to get tangled up with her or the Sheriff’s wife who lived right across town here, or that whole mess between them. Anyway he is a little short, fat guy, loud mouth, nasty at times even on the police radio that everybody listens to and we all think he gets nasty sometimes just to show off. But anyway we all knew he got shortchanged in the downstairs department if you know what I mean because all the way back to high school here in town when he on the football team the boys in the shower called him “The Button” he was so small. Maybe that was why he didn’t want to get on a table with one of the ladies for a treatment.
So we worked up to a pretty good mix of people for “clients”, as we called them, some business men, and lawyers, and the town undertaker, some state house people from down at the capital from towns all over the state and during the legislation session on their own and likely to get into all kinds of shenanigans. But we keep them straight and orderly in our place. And come to find out we had a couple of judges from down there who told each other about our place. But our favorite was a big healthy plumber who was a fine looking man who made most of us feel like we had missed out on a lot in our life. And once in a while we would get a call for a male-to-male service and we tried to get Luther here in town to get involved with us to handle that because we all know he had a problem in the school system over in the next county where he used to work, but he said “No, and I think you girls are going to end in a peck of trouble and a hell of a fix when it’s all over with if you aren’t careful.” But we were running a good clean place without any problems. And Luther would drop by sometimes and just sit in the front room and talk.
But then all hell broke loose one day when a preacher from a little ways out of town barged in the door, and started yelling at Maysel about condemnation and all kinds of fire and brimstone preaching as they call it right there in the front room area, with his face so red and sweating like he was going to have a heart attack. We tried to talk to him and calm him down but he was not having any of that and was marching up and down the hallway shouting “You are all going to hell for sure, no doubt about it – you have got to get right before it’s too late.” Then he stopped like someone had dropped a rock on him and looked at the pictures on the wall of all our lady staff. We have pictures up there just like the places in big towns and it helps the clients feel comfortable with our people we figure. The preacher stopped dead-cold in front of one picture and looks at it a long time and asked “Who is that?” We tell him it is one of our best people who only works part-time because she is in college.
“I know, I pay her tuition, she is my daughter, but she won’t stay at home anymore because she says her Mother and I are too hard on her.”
By that time there were a couple of us standing there around him and we didn’t say much at first. He seemed to hang his head down a little.
“Maybe you want to think about that some,” I said to him. He didn’t look at us or say one more word and then just walked out the front door.
Now that was months ago and no problems of any kind since then.
But just the other day, which is why I am telling you all this as the big news for the week, we were running right along as usual and a State Policeman comes in the door, a good looking young fellow like they all are, bright and sharp, but he had nothing but business on his mind you could tell.
“We have a complaint from out in the community you are running a disorderly establishment here,” he said. The minute Luella, who was standing right there beside me, heard that she headed down the hall to the back door of the Sheriff’s office. The officer noticed that but did not say anything.
I did not want to ask him to go into detail, but only said, “Officer, we are just a group of older ladies as you can see, doing therapeutic massage work for the community and we have never had any problem at all – no complaints.”
“Well.” he starts in, “It does surprise me you all seem to be older, but we do have a serious complaint. Maybe I shouldn’t say too much but there is a local lady who says her husband comes here and then comes home very pale looking and she is worried he might drop dead if he gets involved in anything too strenuous.”
Just as he finished saying that, hell breaks loose. The Sheriff comes down that hallway between our space and his, and he is spluttering something about the States should have coordinated their action on all this with him, and he is so mad I couldn’t really understand much of what he was saying but mainly it was like “Hot damn, don’t you State guys have enough to do to not be coming into small towns like this and getting into local things that we have under control and what in the hell do you have in mind here that is if you have even thought about it and I don’t figure you have.”
And the State guy got just as hot and yelled back at the Sheriff so people probably all the way out on the street could probably hear him, along the lines of “Don’t tell us at the State level how to do our business when you don’t have a handle on your own town. Don’t for one minute be obstructing here,” and the Sheriff broke in again “You just go back down the road to your state capital where you hang out because you sure have enough to do to keep all those politicians in line.”
With all the yelling and confusion, clients in the back rooms starting coming down the hall to the front door because that is the only door out except for the one to the Sheriff’s back door with that “Blocked/Locked” sign on it and several of them came out with their ties in their hand and their nice business suits and then I couldn’t believe it when the State Police stopped what he was saying right in the middle of a word and his mouth dropped open as one of the clients we call “The Judge” although I don’t know a thing about him otherwise walked out toward the door, then another client who is his friend who brought him here walked out and it was the same thing, the State guy nodded to him like he knew him and then looked down as if he didn’t have anything to say and then that stupid jackass of a Sheriff goes right back at the State guy with “Now you see there is nothing but respectable people around here and you don’t have any cause for a commotion here.”
Then the State Police looked over to me with kind of a blank look on his face, and just walked out the front door. And we haven’t heard a word on this since. I don’t even mention a word on this when I see the Sheriff around town, just like it never happened. But I do remember the Sheriff gave me a big wink as he went back to his office. I guess he figured I owed him something. You know how these small town police are.
Now I am sure you might be worried about all this, but don’t worry, us old country girls will be getting along just fine.~JERRY MULLINS