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Magic Candles

By Jim Ganley

The Sheraton Wayfarer implemented some major operational changes after the riot of that fateful night in October. First, the new bouncer had been summarily relieved of his duties in The Zodiac Room because according to reliable sources it was he who had precipitated the altercation. Even worse, he had deserted his post in time of need. The bouncer's position had been eliminated entirely. In its place, management had contracted a local security service to provide armed guards, thereby precluding the possibility of riots recurring.

Biff the bartender was let go as well. The Sheraton's general manager, Brooke Donaldson, was adamant about this in his memo to Danny Hart, claiming that dismissal was their only recourse in view of the fact that Biff had caused several thousand dollars worth of damage in subduing the riot of the previous night. Bernard McAllister, as was stated in Donaldson's memo, was a loose cannon.....a powder keg ready to blow with the least provocation.

The way Biff explained it to Jack Benson, both Danny Hart and Brooke Donaldson were very diplomatic about letting him go. Without actually telling him that he was fired, they politely asked him to leave and not come back. Losing his bartender's job served to complicate Biff's situation because he had needed the extra income to cover the shortfall brought about by his VA reclassification.

By no coincidence the other guys began to notice a change in Biff's behavior. No longer spending inordinate amounts of time hanging out in front of Thom McAn's shoe store with his pals, he was now compulsively checking his wrist watch and would disappear for up to an hour at a time. Whenever asked about where he had gone or what he was doing, Biff would either talk evasively or change the subject altogether.

Jack Benson used to go with Ron Dupa and a few of the other guys to hangout at Biff's apartment after they had finished their workouts at the 'Y'. Living in a studio/efficiency on the 4th floor above Caesar's Pizza on Elm St., Biff's prized possessions included a bust of Beethoven, books on philosophy and political science, Weider muscle magazines, and an extensive collection of classical music records. Rainy afternoons in the autumn of 1971 would find Jack and the others lounging around the apartment while Biff expounded upon his plans to establish a new world order or, the way he described it, a 'Pax Americana' under his leadership, which of course would be some years down the road after he had graduated from law school and attained elective office. Aaron Copeland's Fanfare For The Common Man was usually playing as background music for such political diatribes. Biff would explain to his friends ! that in ancient Rome, during times of national emergency, the powers of the Roman Senate would be suspended, granting Caesar absolute power in running the empire. McAllister went on to explain that a similar approach was needed in the present day. He would regularly lecture his friends at length on this subject.

"The shit is gonna hit the fan, my friends!" Biff would shout, "And when it does, we'll need a tireless leader who isn't afraid to rid this country of all the nonproductive scum and welfare assholes who have literally brought this once great nation to its knees! The lenient courts have allowed convicted felons to walk the streets, virtually immune to prosecution. The Soviets know what's been happening, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if they were behind most of these problems and exacerbating them for their own ends."

On the surface Biff seemed to be espousing a quasi-Aryan supremacist philosophy to the extent that he so frequently criticized all of the federally tax funded racial preference programs targeting minorities. But he really wasn't a racist. Actually he had risked his own life in combat to save many Blacks and Latinos with whom he had served. He did however have a way of putting things that was incredibly funny. For example:

"The War On Poverty and 1964 Civil Rights Act were just a ruse concocted by Lyndon Johnson to buy minority votes for the Democratic Party. Nobody else will come out and say it....I just did! I mean, hey......sitting around the house spittin' out watermelon seeds while on welfare just doesn't cut the mustard! Such nonproductive behavior isn't even good for the one's receiving the federal help. People need to have pride in what they do.......How can you have pride in doing nothing? Most o' those Black boys are strong and fast......they should be out working construction, building roads and bridges........Hell, guys! A strong back is a terrible thing to waste! The way it is now, all most of 'em do is eat, poop, and procreate! "

While sermons such the preceding may have been normal for Biff, running mysteriously from his friends and obsessive clock watching as he had been doing for the past several days, were decidedly out of character. Perplexed as to the motives behind this changed behavior, Jack decided to stop by for a visit to see what he could learn. Upon entering Biff's apartment, he found everything was normal; normal for Biff McAllister at least.

Richard Wagner's Ride Of The Valkyries was playing loudly on the stereo. Biff, wearing nothing but a tattered pair of Manchester 'Y' gym shorts, stood in the center of the living room flexing his muscles in a full length mirror mounted on the opposite wall. Jack got right to the point and asked Biff what was wrong.

"Wrong? Nothing's wrong, Jack.....It's just that I need a more focused existence. I need to get into law school, my friend, and it's not going to be easy. Look at yourself with the rejections from medical school."

Jack didn't buy this explanation at all.

"Cut the shit, Biff! There's more to it than that!"

Suddenly choosing to speak with atypical candor, Biff went on to explain that because of his tight finances, he had begun to offer his services to the love-starved wives of certain prominent professional men. Telling Jack what seemed to have been an extreme fabrication, he claimed to have become involved in an elaborate 'Play For Pay' scheme.

Jack was shocked.

"Huh?"

Biff, now on the defensive, attempted to justify his actions.

"There's nothing wrong with it, Jack! Y'see, my friend, these women have certain physical needs and fantasies that have never been fulfilled. Their husbands either can't or won't perform.......So that's where I come in!"

Jack was amazed by this revelation.

"Wow! Do you mean you're a male prostitute, Biff?"

"Well......yeah," Biff admitted sheepishly, "I guess I am, Jack. But you need to understand that I'm providing a valuable therapeutic service so that these women won't leave their husbands and families because they're sexually frustrated. It's also giving me enough money so that I can graduate from college, go on to law school, and then get started in politics."

Biff knew what he wanted and would let no obstacles come between him and his goals. He elaborated by telling Jack his service and fee structure, and revealed that he had been scheduling appointments at his apartment during the day either before or after his college classes. He went on to relate what seemed to have been preposterous tales of wife-swapping orgies among Manchester's socially and politically prominent couples.

Then, glancing nervously at his watch, he asked Jack to leave, claiming that he had scheduled a 3:30 PM session with Beatrice Coutourier, wife of Dr. Alphonse Coutourier, a respected general practice physician at Sacred Heart Hospital, explaining that,

"I do the things that her husband would never dream of doing for her."

Jack thought he knew what this meant but, as it turned out, was way off base.

"Yeah, Biff......I know, stuff like bondage, enemas, lewd dancing, and stuff like that, right?"

Biff smiled and sat down at his bridge table.

"Nah! I just give it to her straight, talk to her, perhaps show her affection, or ask about how her day has been. Sometimes it's the little things that can make the difference between a good relationship and a mediocre one."

Jack suspected that Biff was going soft.

"Hey, Biff.......are ya fallin' in love with her or what? Jeez! What is she..... forty something?"

"I'm not falling in goddamn love with her!" Biff snapped, mildly irritated at his friend's amusement,

"I'm just giving her what she's paying me for!"

Then he showed Jack the door and sent him on his way, but as Jack was boarding the elevator, a handsome, well dressed woman with silver hair got off and walked down the hallway in the direction of McAllister's apartment. Curious, Jack exited the elevator, went back to Biff's several minutes later, and noticed that the lights had been dimmed. When Jack knocked on the door, Biff answered in the nude.

"Jack! What the Hell is going on?" Biff demanded in a loud whisper, "I thought I told you I was about to perform!"

"Uh....just checking, Biff......Just checking."

And as Jack peered beyond Biff into the dimly lit apartment, he was able to discern the silhouette of the woman whom he'd just observed getting off the elevator. But at this point she was in the midst of disrobing. Sure enough, Biff had been telling the truth. He was in fact, a hired stud, an authentic gigolo.

"What do you want?" Biff asked him, by now growing extremely annoyed.

"Well, uh....." Jack inquired, starting to laugh, "Do ya think you could leave the door ajar so that I can peek while you're drilling Mrs. Coutourier?"

"That, my friend," retorted Biff, before slamming the door in his face, "would be decidedly unprofessional!"

So successful was Biff's unorthodox business venture that his financial problems vanished seemingly overnight. He was now having liaisons with more neurotic, menopausal women than he or his friends could keep track of. It may have been that he was using sex to anesthetize himself to the loss of his fianc?e, though he would routinely deny this, claiming: "I must have lust, my friends! I must perform! I must grab for everything!"

Jack Benson had problems of his own to contend with. With the exception of a two day stint as a bell hop at The Holiday Inn, he had been out of work since September. His social life during this time, except for hanging out at the YMCA, local bars, and dance clubs, was nonexistent. On a more positive note, he had taken The Dental School Admissions Test, done well, and applied to a dozen different schools. Now all he could do would be to hope for the best. But in the meantime he would need to keep his parents off his case by finding a job to tide him over until the fall of '72. Workouts at the 'Y' would help to manage the stress of not knowing what to do with his life, though everyone else seemed to have an opinion.

Jack's father rarely spoke to him about anything of substance.On the other hand, during breakfast every morning Jack would be asked by his mother about his job search and if he'd ever thought about joining the Navy.

"No, I don't think so, Ma." would be his standard rebuttal for the Navy thing, though the job search had very quickly grown predictable. "Most of the job interviewers tell me that I'm overqualified, whatever that means."

Mrs. Benson shook her head and commented, "It means either the pay is lousy, or the job is for morons"

Then one day Mrs. Benson, considering the time and effort that this youngest son of hers had been putting into working out, came up with what seemed to Jack to have been a crazy idea.

"Listen, Jack......it just dawned on me that if you put as much effort into pursuing a career as you put into that weight-lifting and exercise......you'd become a millionaire!"

Jack cleaned off his plate, took the last swig of milk from his glass, and bolted for the door.

"Yeah, Ma! That's easy for you to say! I'll be home this afternoon."

"Where are you going, Jack? What are you doing?"

Jack stopped in the kitchen door and began to explain, "Goin' to the 'Y' to lif...," before being cut off in midsentence by his father, looking up from his ever present newspaper.

"Your problem," chided Mr. Benson, is that you won't listen to us, but you'll believe all the crap that big galoot Biff McAllister and those other goons have been filling you with! I'm telling you, Jack......if you don't get into dental school.....you're outta here!"

Jack sighed in disgust.

"Yeah, Dad....right."

Jack's search for work had been centered around the 'Help Wanted' ads in the local newspaper. That afternoon when his workout had been completed, he sat in the YMCA study pouring over the employment section in the paper There was a job notice that read:

HELP WANTED: BARTENDERS AND WAITRESSES

NEW, EXOTIC LOUNGE OPENING DECEMBER, 1971

APPLY IN PERSON TO ALIBABA CABARET

ROUTE 28 LONDONDERRY, N.H.

Jack went to the pay phone in the 'Y' lobby, called the listed number to make an appointment, and hitch-hiked out there the following afternoon. His hope was to be hired as a bartender despite the fact that he lacked experience. His plan was to talk his way into the job with the two people conducting the interview, an elderly gentleman named Derek Staplefeld and his associate, a young woman named Linda Montenegro. Derek was an amiable old gent who had overseen the design and construction of The Alibaba. Linda was his assistant and draftsperson.

Jack approached this interview by discussing the college chemistry courses he had taken and attempted to convey the crossover value of mixing solutions of varying concentration in the chem lab to mixing adult beverages behind the bar. For reasons that at that time were unclear, Linda had been eyeing Jack carefully as Derek spoke about hiring him in some alternate capacity. Then she asked Jack if he would mind standing up and turning around. Jack rose from his chair and obliged her unusual request.

"Pretty good shoulders and back on this one, don't you think?" was her candid observation to Derek.

"Hmmm!" Staplefeld remarked thoughtfully, "What's your point, Linda?"

"My point," Linda revealed, standing up to shake Jack's hand, "is that I think we've just found our Thief Of Baghdad."

"Yeah," Derek agreed with a chuckle, "he does fit the profile. How 'bout it, Jack........are you interested?"

Then Linda explained that The Alibaba was looking to hire someone to work the door in addition to wandering around the lounge hawking junk jewelry, performing simple tricks, and telling jokes to the audience during two nightly floor shows. This was so ridiculous that Jack just had to know more and, needing a job as badly a he did, within a couple of minutes accepted the position, with instructions to go to the club's seamstress to get fitted for his costume.....sandals, white balloon pants with cummerbund, red velvet vest festooned with gold coins to display his exposed abdominals, chest, shoulders, and arms. He was to wear a gold earring in one ear. When so attired, he bore a striking resemblance to the genie in Alladin's lamp.

On his way out of Staplefeld's office Linda called out to him.

"Oh, Jack.....do you know any other musclemen? We'd love to hire an experienced bartender with a build similar to yours."

Jack turned around and gave her one of his cocky grins.

"Listen, I can get you as many muscle guys as you want. Just say the word."

Later that night at Biff's apartment........

"So they want muscles do they?" Biff laughed, flexing his massive arms in his living room mirror. "Well, if it's muscles they want......then it's muscles they'll get! Jack, you and I will be making out like bandits, my friend! We'll be meeting more women than a sales clerk in a women's hosiery store!"

Biff raced out to The Alibaba Cabaret the next afternoon attired in gym shorts and tight tee shirt, pretty unusual attire for a cold December day. Needless to say, he was hired on the spot.

He and Jack soon discovered that The Alibaba was no ordinary lounge. Exquisitely decorated in teak, the interior of the club featured wicker chairs and Bedouin tents, the purpose of which was to offer the illusion of privacy for intimate couples. Quilted pillows lined the walls, and the room's supportive pillars were trimmed with gold. Potted palm trees rounded out the decor, imparting an image to the place right out of The Arabian Nights. Top entertainers such a Dean Martin, Tiny Tim, Frankie Fontaine, and Soupy Sales were booked for performances. Derek stated with a certain degree of smugness that the Iranian and Iraqi ambassadors had been invited to the grand opening.

Staplefeld had hired a second bouncer. Charley Bogert was his name. He was 22 years old, and looked like 'Meathead' on the All In The Family television series. Benson and McAllister met him about a week prior to the grand opening. Charley told them that he worked for the Manchester Park and Rec Department during the day as a laborer, was married to a 19 year old former waitress named Sharon, and together he and his wife had an infant daughter named Melissa. By no means could Charley be considered a family man. An ex-Marine, he appeared to have been obsessed with sex to the extent that he would share the most intimate details of his love life with anyone polite enough to listen. One of these stories, corroborated to Jack by Charley's co-workers at The Park Dept., had him nearly losing his job when cau! ght by his supervisor having improper relations with a watermelon in Derryfield Park. Probably for this reason among others, Jack Benson and Biff McAllister always felt uneasy around him. As Biff had very astutely observed, "What's next after watermelons? I suspect that Charley Bogert got his wires crossed somewhere along the way!"

Of more immediate concern was the fact that Charley loved to beat people up and often swore that he would brutally murder his wife if he ever caught her with another man, and would then explain in vivid detail how he would go on to torture and mutilate her lover ......a pretty unusual statement coming from a guy who molests fruits and vegetables, though not altogether unexpected. Charley was a pretty unusual guy. Enough of him for now; back to the job at The Alibaba.

The entire Alibaba's staff were expected to be in character for their respective roles. The waitresses, for example, looking like members of a shiek's concubine, were attired in transparent, multi-colored balloon pants and veils. Their tops amounted to little more than a skimpy, satin bra. Surely this would serve to attract many males and increase the number of indecent proposals if not their tips.

Biff and Charley were expected to wear gold polyester jackets and white turbans, the effect here being to make them come across as Near Eastern mystics. The floor show was to feature Jack descending from the ceiling under special lighting, posed on a rotating stage bordered by ivy ensconced Grecian columns. He would have Charley balanced precariously on his shoulders as they descended upon the audience.....Pure theater. Sometimes Jack would leap off the stage into the audience like Douglas Fairbanks to read women's palms.

"I see two camels," he announced after having subjected a young woman's palm to fastidious scrutiny.

"Ooh, what does it mean?" begged the lass inquisitively.

"It means," Jack told her, poking the elderly gentleman sitting next to her in the ribs, "that after only two humps your beau here will be through for the night!"

Nobody appreciated the humor, especially not the woman's escort.

The Alibaba Cabaret was owned and managed by a wealthy young man named Larry Van der Waals, whose father had provided the financial backing for this Persian lounge hype. Half Dutch and Indonesian, Larry was a 21 year old ninth grade drop out who would have been pushing a broom in a shoe factory had it not been for his father's money and influence. Larry was beginning to have ever increasing problems with Biff, Jack, and Charley. It upset him tremendously that these three spoke so lewdly to the female patrons. Yet whenever he dared to voice concern, they would just laugh and tell him to get lost. Pehaps the only reason Larry kept them around was that he couldn't find anyone else to fill their roles; that and the fact that they appeared to be drawing customers and were good for business despite their off color remarks.

Even though Jack had met many women on the job here, after two weeks he had yet to obtain a single name or telephone number, much less a date. The major probem from his perspective was that The Alibaba Cabaret wasn't a singles club. Rather, it was an expensive show club for well to do couples. While this may have been an obstacle of sorts, Jack didn't let it cramp his style and continued to pursue his quest for lust.

Late one Thursday evening near his post at the entrance while conversing with an attractive brunette named Vivian, the subject of sex came up. Vivian boasted to Jack of her insatiable need for physical love, going on to describe to him some of the most outrageous bed room acrobatics that he had ever heard. As she was confessing her carnal desires for Jack, she would stroke his sinewy arms and whisper softly into his ear. Jack thought for sure that he had gotten lucky when Biff walked by and gave him the 'thumbs up' sign. Jack knew positively that this would be a sure shot deal when Vivian reached out to embrace him, stroked his rippling abdominal muscles sending shivers down his spine and into his groin, and then told him that she wanted his body.

"Sounds great," Jack told her eagerly, "How about as soon as I get off work in an hour?"

Sudden as a summer cloud burst, Vivian changed her tune, claiming she'd had a long day and was much too tired.

"No problem, Vivian......How about tomorrow night?"

"Well, no......I can't really. I have plans for tomorrow."

Nervously chain-smoking cigarettes, Vivian rushed back to her table, gathered her belongings, and fled from the club as if fearing for her life. Puzzled by what he had just experiened, Jack told Biff about it when they were driving home at the end of the night, explaining that he had become thoroughly confused by this very stange woman.

"I don't get it, Biff. Why would she advertise if she didn't plan to deliver the merchandise?"

After taking a long drag on his pipe, Biff thought for a moment before responding to his naive friend's plea for advice.

"Well, Jack, paraphrasing Mark Twain's observation on the weather........everybody talks about sex, but few ever do anything about it."

Then Biff elaborated on this statement by explaining how most women frequenting the night clubs and bars were flawed in one way or another. Most were divorced or had recently broken up with their 'steady'. Sex was used as leverage against men in retribution for bad experiences with the males in their pasts.

"I'll tell ya, Jack........you really oughtn't to take any of this stuff personally. It's their problem, not yours.

As usual, what Biff had said made perfect sense. Jack's next opportunity for lust would come from as an unlikely a source as any.

At seven o'clock on Christmas Eve, he received a phone call from Charley's wife, Sharon. "Why is she calling me?" Jack wondered to himself, considering the fact that he had never even met her.

Sharon began this call by sighing deeply.

"Oh, Jack.....I'm so depressed that I don't think I can go on!"

Speaking to Sharon in a subdued tone so as not to be overheard by his parents, Jack asked her what was wrong.

Sharon sighed once more.

"It's Christmas Eve, and Charley's gone out drinking with The Park & Rec Boys.....He'll be gone all night. I need to see you, Jack. I need to speak with you in person. Charley admires you and has told me good things about you. But he doesn't understand me. He's killing me. I.....I'm afraid I may take an overdose of sleeping pills to end this shit! Please, Jack! I need you! If I can't spend the night with someone......I'll kill myself!"

Perhaps because he was so naive, Jack rushed over to see her and was surprised to find her reclining on the living room sofa attired in a blue, transparent negligee. Sharon began the conversation by telling Jack that she was planning to leave her husband because she could no longer tolerate living with him.

"Charley drinks too much and he smokes pot. Sometimes he comes home drunk and beats me late at night," she explained to Jack in a melancholy tone.

Nervous under these circumstances, Jack kept his eyes glued to the television set as he replied, "Well, uh.......gee, Sharon! Charley seems like an okay guy to me. If you'd like, I could talk to him about it."

But Sharon would have no part of Jack's solution.

"Oh, no! You mustn't do that, Jack! If Charley finds out that you've been over here talking to me like this, he'll kill the both of us!"

Jack swallowed hard, got up off the sofa, and headed for the door.

"I've gotta run!"

Sharon did her best to dissuade Jack from leaving, mentioning something about giving him a couple of good reasons not to run, and then letting her nightgown fall away from her shoulders, revealing the best looking bare breasts that he had ever seen. They were also the only bare breasts that he had ever seen, making him somewhat less than an expert in this area, and not particularly discriminating.

Without saying anything for a minute, he grinned nervously and skipped out the door.

"Bye!"

Then Jack took off on a run through the streets of Manchester's Northeast side. He just couldn't understand why Charley would prefer to go out drinking with his work crew. As Jack ran over the tightly packed snow coating the city's streets, he thought briefly of what it would be like to service Sharon Bogert for pay the way Biff had been servicing Beatrice Coutourier.

"Naah," he concluded, " Too dangerous!"

Swaying his decision to leave was Charley Bogert's habit of packing a .38 caliber hand gun loaded with hollow point bullets. Jack certainly didn't want to get holes blown in him if he could help it. He would have yet another problem not being able to tell Biff about this, seeing as how he had turned down an opportunity for sex, a cardinal sin in McAllister's catechism of lust.

Jack would last at The Alibaba for perhaps a couple of months. Likewise for Biff and Charley. Their demise here had to do with Larry Van der Waals. Jack and the other two guys despised him, but did their best to tolerate his presence. Their jobs offered easy money with minimal effort. There was also that prophecy Biff had made about being like salesmen in a hosiery store, so one would expect it to be to their advantage to stay in Larry's good graces. Not likely. It wouldn't be long before they would give Larry just the reason he needed to fire them.

It was a Friday night at about 10 o'clock. Jack was standing at the door to The Alibaba listening to Charley talk about humping female manikins in the stockroom at Sears when he was 16.

But before Charley could finish his tale of passion, a tall, thin, pensive looking man with long, greasy black hair and thick eyeglasses showed up at the club's entrance, pressed a twenty dollar bill into Jack's palm, and said:

"Listen, Benson.....I expect to get laid tonight. Now here's twenty dollars to find me a woman who'll perform."

This young man's name was Alexander Kuderewicz, friend of Biff's, and an intercollegiate debate champion in his junior year at St. Anselm's. Al stood astride an expensive pair of Italian boots, was wearing a black, vested suit, and white shirt with a black necktie. Kuderewicz had come by the nickname 'Lewd' because of his proclivity to engage in spontaneous sex acts, either with women or by himself. There was no telling what would set him off.

Jack shook hands with him, returning the twenty and telling Lewd Al that he would need to find his own women. Then he suggested that he go inside the lounge to mingle. In hindsight all of the involved parties would realize what a blunder this would prove to be. Al would interpret Jack's suggestion to 'mingle' as a green light for going wild, and would he ever!

Not two minutes later Al sprang into action, intercepting a group of four couples making their way into the darkness of the lounge. Unannounced, he butt in, shoved the men aside, and then moved in on the women folk. After having seated them at a table near the dance floor, he turned toward their angry male escorts and attempted to soothe their ruffled feathers.

"Excuse me, boys," Al told them gruffly, "Your women are most ravishing! Now I've just ordered a dozen Manhattens and put them on your tab. Relax.....if you can't finish the drinks, I'll do it for you."

Lewd Al, as usual, was getting into water that was clearly over his head. Having downed several of these mixed drinks, he quickly became extremely intoxicated.

Perhaps several minutes later, Jack was standing in the lobby talking with Charley when they were approached by the largest of the four women's escorts.

"Are you guys the bouncers?"

"Yeah," Jack agreed reluctantly, "What's the problem?"

"That guy," explained the large, angry man, "the skinny guy with the long hair and glasses in the black suit.....He's out of control and has been inflicting himself on my wife. If you don't keep him away from us, I'll have to nail him good."

Jack raced into the lounge, hoping to avert disaster, and found Al down on one knee before the big guy's wife. It looked as though he was getting ready to propose to her. The women sat there visibly shaken while their husbands stood a few yards away staring menacingly at Al. Jack moved in on the table in time to hear Al promising each of these disgusted women the time of their lives, claiming he could drive them relentlessly to the netherworld of orgasm if only they would give him the opportunity to prove himself a better lover than their husbands.

&! nbsp;

"Wow! What nerve!" Jack thought to himself

Offended by Lewd Al's provoctive remarks, one of these women reached over and shoved Al away, knocking him over, and causing him to tumble onto the dance floor just as Nadira the belly dancer was descending toward the dance floor on the rotating stage. Al sat there for a minute watching the dancer as she shimmied and slinked across the floor toward where he lay. Then, jumping up to face her, Al danced toward her like one of The California Raisins, removed his pants and suit coat with a flourish, and stripped himself down to a pair of white boxers. Then he began 'Devil dancing' circles around the bewildered dancer to the deafening applause of the Alibaba's patrons. The grand finale took place when Al moved in behind Nadira, latched his chapped hands onto her bosom, and began to vigorously ram his pelvis against her well-formed rump, s! howing everyone present that he had come to be known as 'Lewd' for good reason.

By now Larry Van der Waals was furious. There was no way he could ever permit such debauchery to go unchallenged in his establishment. He ran up to Jack and delivered a most succinct order.

"GET HIM OUTTA HERE!"

But Jack was incapacitated with laughter as were Charley and Biff. Neither of these three could move, much less make Lewd Al leave. No longer able to mix drinks, Biff was lying across the bar laughing so hard that he seemed to be in tears.

"Al!" he bellowed, "Lewd Al! Grab! Perform, you wildman!"

Eventually, when Jack had been able to regain his composure and approach his lewd friend about leaving, Al was staggering around the periphery of the dance floor, wearing nothing but his boxer shorts and eyeglasses.

Jack walked out onto the dance floor, retrieved Al's clothes from where they had been dropped, and then told Al that he had pretty much worn out his welcome at The Alibaba Cabaret.

"C'mon, Al......you've got to leave."

As he was being led off the dance floor, Al suddenly made a break for it and ran behind the bar where he unravelled a fire hose and began hosing down the entire lounge. Hitting the bar area with an intense spurt of water, he easily sent at least two dozen bottles of beer flying off in different directions, then went on to spray Larry Van der Waals, knocking him over two tables and clean through one of the bedouin tents. Eventually Jack led Lewd Al, under restraint, out of the club. However, once outside, Al exposed himself to several middle aged women and went on to urinate into the coin fountain decorating the club's entrance, laughing like a lunatic as he did so.

Larry had notified the Londonderry Police moments before from the phone in his office. Then, dripping wet from the fire hose, he returned to the lounge and demanded an explanation.

"Jack! Who was that maniac?"

Jack feigned ignorance.

"Larry, I've never seen the guy before in my life!"

Jack hoped that this denial would dissociate him from Lewd Al's horror show, but it was doubtful Larry believed him. Then, before the police arrived, Jack slipped out the side door, grabbed Al, and stashed him, by now with clothes on but unconscious, across the front seat of Biff's car in the parking lot. By the time Jack was able to get back inside The Alibaba, the Londonderry Police had arrived and were taking down information.

"It was awful!" Exclaimed Nadira the belly dancer, lighting a cigarette and coughing, "I was beginning my floor show when all of a sudden I was set upon by that......that PERVERT! Then he sexually assaulted me!"

"Are you sure, mam?" asked the police sergeant.

"I'm certain of it! Look!" she whimpered, pointing to a moist, minor abrasion on her upper thigh, "Here's where he bit me! See? There's his saliva!"

"Are you sure that's really saliva?" Jack asked her as a joke, but no one laughed.

Then the police sergeant continued the investigation by questioning key eye witnesses.

"I'll tell ya," Biff opined, "The man is a real degenerate who deserves to be incarcerated!"

"Never saw the guy before," commented Charley.

Eventually things quieted down, and after the club had closed for the night, Biff was driving home along Route 28 with Jack and Charley in the back seat and Lewd Al asleep in the passengers seat. Suddenly Al awakened and once more went out of control, blaming the three other occupants of the car for his lackluster love life. Then, slamming his foot on top of Biff's and pinning the accelerator to the floor, he caused them to shoot down the lightly travelled road in excess of 80 MPH. With Jack and Charley looking on in horror, Al reached around Biff, by now in a catatonic state, opened the driver's door, and attempted to push him out of the speeding vehicle. Hanging from the open car door, all that prevented Biff from falling from the car and tumbling down the highway was one hand on the steering wheel and Al's foot pinning his to the floor boards as the car swerved all over the road at a ridicul! ous rate of speed.

Lewd Al, with eyeglasses askew, was screaming and whining incoherently, as Jack and Charley reached over from the back seat and helped get Biff back inside the car. Once the car was under control, Biff very patiently asked Al for an explanation. Anyone else would have been angry about what had happened. Perhaps out of pity, Biff offered to take Al out to dinner at the Mr. Steak late night restaurant in downtown Manchester.

So the four of them drove directly to Mr. Steak where they ordered massive quantities of food because Biff had assured them that it was 'on the house'. By coincidence Maureen, one of The Alibaba's waitresses, was at Mr. Steak having a coffee by herself. Biff invited her to their table and offered her a major meal as well. Charley had been besotted with Maureen ever since The Alibaba's opening night and was now hoping to go home with her.

Waves of food came to the table......appetizers, main courses, drinks, desserts. Everyone there had missunderstood Biff's announcement that the food would be on the house. They had assumed incorrectly that this meal would be Biff's treat. Actually what Biff had meant was that this would be an 'eat and bolt' operation with everybody skipping out the door before the waitress and restaurant staff found out.

"Charley," Jack attempted to explain on short notice as soon as Biff had gone out to the car, "C'mon! Biff's gonna pull up to the entrance in his car and honk the horn. As soon as he does we're supposed to run outta here and jump in the car!"

But Charley was so engrossed in his conversation with Maureen that he failed to comprehend the late breaking news which Jack was attempting to convey. A moment later Biff pulled up outside the restaurant and honked, Jack and Lewd Al bolted, leaving Charley behind to pay a bill in excess of fifty dollars. They had barely gotten into the car when Biff laid a strip of rubber and peeled out of the parking lot like Parnelli Jones at The INDY 500.

Biff was cruising along Elm St. in a northerly direction when Al once more began to gripe about his need for sex. Biff took a right onto Amhest St and explained his solution to Al's problem.

"Well.....okay, Al. I know where you can get a pretty good piece of ass tonight."

Jack was skeptical.

"At this hour, Biff? Who is it, some hooker?"

Biff sighed as though annoyed.

"No, my friend. It's Sharon Bogert."

Jack was shocked.

"But, but......She's Charley's wife!"

"I realize that," admitted McAllister, smiling in an eery sort of way, "But she really is a great piece of ass! I've been banging her for the past month when Charley was out drinking with his buddies."

Jack chose to remain silent about his own close encounter with the notorious woman.

Then Biff pulled up in front of Sharon's apartment building, parked, and told Al that Sharon had a thing for intellectuals. Jack wanted no part of this and attempted to reason with him.

"Biff! Listen to me now! Sticking Charley with that bill at Mr. Steak was bad enough, but you sick Al on his wife and he'll kill us all! Charley's crazy!"

Biff was unconcerned.

"He's a puke! C'mon Al. Let's go see Sharon! Let me do the talking and I'll cajole her into tickling your fancy. Ha-ha-ha!"

Laughing, Biff and Al disrobed and entered the apartment building. Sharon called the police. Jack ran home.

Next night at work there was a big fight between Biff McAllister and Charley Bogert. It wasn't much of a fight, actually. It ended when Biff, after having been attacked by Charley, picked him up and rammed his head through the ceiling, peppering their dressing room with ceiling plaster. Moments later Biff lost his job and so did Jack and Charley. Biff and Jack were let go becuase Larry Van der Waals suspected that they had instigated Lewd Al's actions the night before. Charley, it was learned a moment later, had been caught having a threesome in the back seat of Larry's Mercedes with Larry's fiancee and good looking teenage sister.

Out of respect and admiration for what Charley had allegedly done, Biff walked up and shook Charley's hand.

"I've gotta hand it to you, Charley.......You've done a better job on Larry's head than Jack or I ever could've done. I only hope you're not holding any grudges on acount of what happened last night with Sharon. Y'see, my friend, it wasn't my fault. It was all Lewd Al. That man is deranged!"

Surprised by Biff's praise, Charley commented:

"Grudges? I'll promise not to hold any grudges if you'll promise not to ram my head through the ceiling again!"

Then, laughing heartily, he shook hands with Biff and Jack as he filled them in on the minute details of what had gone on in the back seat of Larry's Mercedes. It would have been out of character for Charley if he hadn't. While Jack and his two friends had lost their jobs and made Larry Van der Waals their lifelong enemy, they didn't seem to care, each believing that their lives would have bigger and better opportunites in store for them.

The next morning at breakfast Jack mentioned to his mother that he'd been fired, adding quickly, "It wasn't my fault, Ma. It was all Lewd Al Kuderewicz, Biff's crazy friend."

Mrs. Benson shook her head in disappointment as she cleared the table.

"Well, maybe it wasn't your fault, but that doesn't make me any less worried about you."

Then she told Jack that she had been visiting The Precious Blood Monastery and paying money to light votive candles accompanied by prayers to help him mend his ways.

"Ah, jeez," Jack told her, somewhat embarrassed, "Save your money, Ma. Don't you know that candle prayer stuff is a ripoff?"

His mother went over to the pantry and picked up an envelope from a pile of unopened letters and junk mail flyers, explaining that it had come for him in the mail the day before.

"I happen to believe it works, Jack. Here, this is for you. It's from Georgetown University School Of Dentistry."

Jack leaned back in his chair at the kitchen table and stretched.

"Yeah, probably another rejection letter to go along with the eleven others. This'll be my last one. Hey, why dontcha just toss it in the trash."

His mother smiled patiently and suggested very strongly that he open the letter.

"Oh, alright, Ma.....but just to get you off my back.

"

Jack opened the letter and read it in silence, his eyes widening noticeably as if surprised by the information revealed therein.

"I don't believe this," came his eventual comment. "The admissions committee at Georgetown Dental School has scheduled me for an interview two weeks from Monday!"

"What do you think about the power of prayer now, Jack?" his mother asked him smugly.

"Gee, Ma......could you light a few more of those magic candles?"

Copyright 2005 Jim Ganley

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