Lou & Billy Joe

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There is a place—the Night Owl— in the fictional town of Rolling Hills in California's San Joáquin Valley where local men of a type flock on weekends to see the headliner, an auburn-haired pole dancer calling herself 'Poler Bare.'

Most Night Owl customers couldn't imagine the star performer, the object of their unrequited sexual dreams, also worked a day job. Had they known of it, they would not have accepted it as proper for the 'lady' of their fantasies.

There is more they couldn't imagine.

'Poler Bare' dared to lead a third life, one requiring compassion, cunning, and courage—a life fraught with danger, including the possibility of death.

The secret of these separate lives began to unravel when a brash, young smart-ass asked a boorish question. From that point, a chain of events brings readers face to face with one of the most intractable social, economic, and political problems of the 21st century.

FROM THE BOOK: The inexplicable exterior mix of stucco and asbestos siding that passed for the Owl’s façade were partially responsible for dissuading patronage from the well-thought-of and the blessing of elites in Sacramento and Washington with the power to identify and preserve America’s heritage.

 

The chipped, grayish asbestos siding of the Night Owl reminded the well-traveled visitor of corner taverns in the rundown but honest ethnic neighborhoods of Midwestern or Eastern cities. Sadly, the comparison ended at the curb, for Rolling Hills was missing the comforting umbrella of shading maples and oaks that typified distant metropolises ...

A single square window, three feet on a side with a decaying wooden sash, seemingly planted as an afterthought amid those cracked asbestos shingles, prevented any encroachment of sunlight inside, as well as the curiosity of passersby. As if needed, a hand-painted sign in the window held in place by dried out, pealing duct tape, read, ‘Adults Only,’ followed by the familiar words of legal necessity that one had to be 21 years of age to see what exactly all the fuss was about.

The thick wooden door, which was more appealing than the stucco and siding, begged for fresh stain and a coat or more of lacquer. The door’s expensive, oversize and incongruous brass handle thrust itself toward the sidewalk and, in a figurative sense warned those tempted to enter: ‘Touch me at your peril!’...

 

Before a customer’s eyes could adjust to the dark, before he—sometimes she—could find a chair and table, he would need to maneuver, nearly blind, across a checkerboard floor of black and white cracked and chipped tiles.

Three brass poles, each about two inches in diameter and sufficiently separated to give each dancer space, occupied an otherwise empty stage. The poles disappeared above behind a wine-colored, velvet ceiling valence that hid the lights illuminating the stage.

 

The purpose of this auditorium was no mystery to anyone who ventured inside.

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FROM THE BOOK: Billy Joe’s most recent problem began when he picked up Gloria May Paul. She and her bright pink and green hair shared too many boilermakers and too many rowdy pool games with Billy Joe at ‘Rooster’s Blues Bar.’ Gloria May bested him at drink, but he proved to be her master on the beer-stained and cigarette-burned green felt. Later, in room 217 of the Motel 6 on Towson, Gloria was all over Billy Joe, but those boilermakers kept him from doing anything about it, despite her professional-like coaxing that, had he been less inebriated, he would have performed like a man in his early twenties.

 

The next morning, while vigorously rectifying the squandered opportunity of the night before, Billy Joe’s condom gave way to the strength of his ardor. In a word, it sprung a leak. In fairness, however, we can’t be sure that first night bore responsibility for what came next; there would be other nights—and days—with Gloria May, with and without condoms.

Five weeks later. Gloria May, whose period was late—admittedly she wasn’t particularly healthy on a junk-food diet—sat on a toilet in that same Motel 6 staring in dismay at the result of a Walmart pregnancy kit.

“Look what you done to me, Billy Joe! You bastard!” she shrieked toward the bedroom and her cowed paramour.

“Maybe the test is faulty,” he offered sheepishly. Shouldn’t you try another one? Maybe from Walgreens? All that Walmart shit comes from China!”

FROM THE BOOK: “Look, Lou. Here’s the way I see it. You saved my life and I read somewhere that means you own me … Wait! Better way to say what I mean is that I owe you my life. So, I’m here to offer myself to you to have me do whatever you want. You name it and I’ll do it or die trying. I mean it!”

 

Lou looked at Billy, realizing that this might be that ‘Ah, ha!’ moment she thought might have been in him all along, despite the crap he’d thrown her way. He was beginning to get to her. He suddenly seemed vulnerable, looked a lot more handsome and acted a whole lot more mature. And he had discovered some manners. How much more did she want him to grovel, even though she enjoyed the spectacle? The guy damn near died!

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