Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – a Novel



“I am sitting, alone, in a brothel,” he said out loud.

The door slid back; it was the hostess. She carried a pitcher of water and some glasses.

“Hi, Patrick?” she said. “Mind if I sit down?”

“Sure. Sit down.” She sat on the couch that was perpendicular to his and poured two glasses of water.

“How’s your night?” she asked.

“What can I say?” he said, and exhaled heavily.

“Mine was lo-o-ng,” she replied, slipping off one of her shoes and rubbing the sole of a stockinged foot.

“What time did you start?”


“What time do people start coming in?”

“They can come in from eight, but generally there’s a rush between 11 and 2. That’s when they start striking out in nightclubs and bars.”

“You must get some pigs.”

“Not really. It’s very expensive here, as you probably know. Keeps most of the riff-raff away.”

“I like that.”


“Riff raff. You assume that we’re not.”

“Really, you’re not. What’s the relationship between you? Are you brothers?”

“No, the old guy is Johnny, and he’s Stevie’s dad. I used to work for both Johnny and Wally, and, now… I work for them again.”

“That’s sweet, his dad bringing him for his birthday. Is he…”

“Mildly retarded.” Pat shook his hand in a ‘so-so’ gesture. “Are you…” asked Pat.

“Am I what?” she asked, the light flashing on her glasses as she turned her head sharply. “Oh, I see. No, I’m just the hostess.”

“What’s that, like a madam?”

“Not really. A madam is a woman who looks after the girls and the house and everything else. This place is owned by a man, and a madam can end up blocking things, like a union.

“The guy that owns this place is pretty smart. He has me to do most of the admin-type stuff and the meet-and-greet, but I don’t have enough power to cause any trouble.”

“Have you been doing this very long?”

“A little while. I started off as a stripper when I finished school, but this is more money for less work.”

“Is stripping hard?”

“Christ, yes. Gymnastics in heels for eight hours at a time?”

“I guess I didn’t think of it that way.”

“Are you the designated driver?” she asked.

“No, I’m the alcoholic.” Both her hands stopped where they were working into her arch.

“Is Johnny paying you to watch me?” asked Pat.


“Pass it here,” he said, reaching out for her foot.

“Okay,” she said. As he took her foot into his lap, it changed her seating position and she was left without anything to lean against. “This is uncomfortable,” she said. “Do you mind if I come and sit on your couch?”

“Be my guest.” She moved onto his couch and sat with her back against the opposite arm like she was sitting at the other end of a rowboat. He lifted her foot so he could get his thumbs into the arch and push down on her heel bone.

“Oh my God,” she said, “Big, strong hands. That’s something I’d pay for.”

“Lucky we’re friends,” he said. “Didn’t Johnny tell you why you were watching me?”

“He just asked me to keep you company and take you some water.”


“How come you didn’t want a girl?”

“I’m on anti-depressants. They interfere with my…” Pat paused.

“I know what you mean,” she replied. He sensed that maybe she was hinting at her own experience, but had stopped short of giving too much away.

“Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but I’m actually quite fat as well…”

“You’re not fat,” she interrupted.

“Oh, come on,” he said. “I’m not one of your girlfriends.”

“But you’re not!”

“I am,” he said. “Look.” He lifted his shirt and showed her the white roll of flab that his navel was set into, rolling towards his belt buckle like a lazy eye.

“It feels horrible, and if I had my gut pressed up against a woman that I was attracted to, I’d just about have a heart attack for shame. No one wants to fuck me voluntarily – paying a woman to do it is only going to make me feel worse.”

“Do you think the others feel the same?”

“Come on. Johnny’s a thousand years old and Stevie’s retarded. And Wally, Wally’s got no shame. He isn’t capable.”

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