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Part 7A of the Tragic Beauty Anthology
One of Three Potential Part Sevens

We had more than enough of Jerry's antics. He did not seem to care that we were getting out of the wet, windswept street and heading back into the club. He just chortled merrily and walked in the other direction. Once inside the strip club we breathed a sigh of relief and took seats up close to the stage to await Candy's next performance. The waitress brought us two beers and two shots of tequila and told us they were courtesy of the bartender. Yes, the bartender who was also known for taking very tasteful nude photographs of women.

We watched Candy's next performance, which began with her wearing a cheerleader outfit and doing interesting things with pom poms. Toni Basil's "Mickey" had never before sounded so plausible. We drank it in as quickly as we drank our liquor. Once her set was complete, Mitch the bartender pulled up a chair alongside us.

"You boys ever wonder why they have one of those child size urinals in the men's room here?"

Mitch's question made us feel comfortable. It was the kind of question Don and I often asked ourselves and others to break the ice at campus parties. It was easy. It was funny. It had nothing to do with actors being stabbed or women having their children taken away from them. Someone was finally dumbing this whole deal down to our level.


Mitch laughed and bought us another round. Candy came out of the back, once again wearing her transparent robe, g-string and Don's Hartford Whalers cap. She sat down on Don's lap and began running her fingers eagerly through his matted hair. Hat head is rarely kind to young people.

"I suppose you two want to know about my sister, Jayne?"

Once we thought about it, we realized we did not really care. Jayne's business was her own and we had no business intruding upon it. We were far more interested in Candy. Jayne had betrayed us to the police, thinking we had something to do with the murder of the actor chosen to portray Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. We did not trust or understand Jayne. Candy, however, was a schoolboy's wet dream. The fact that she was so interested in Don was enough to cause us to drop everything else from our minds and focus completely on the present.

"What happened to her?"

I supposed that the reason Don asked Candy the question was to show her that he was concerned about her sister. Although we were young and inexperienced, we still knew a trick or two about maintaining the interest of young women. Whether Don was working an angle or not was of little concern. I was quickly becoming a third wheel while they talked, got closer and eventually kissed.

Candy had an old truck, and it was parked just outside. She wanted to get out of the club and home as soon as possible. "Honestly," she told us, "I don't like being here any longer than I have to, but the money is damn good." Don put his arm around her waist, and she slipped her hand into the back pocket of his jeans and we walked out to the parking lot. Candy's truck was out back, and we had to walk past some rough looking customers to get to it. That did not matter, Don had reached a point of total bliss and no one could take that away from him.

We got to the truck and prepared to board, but then a familiar looking set of headlights pulled into the dirt parking lot. The headlights belonged to a Trans Am that belonged to Kettles Johnson. Drunk and overcome with emotion, he fell out of the driver's side door and stumbled towards us.

"Is she here?
God, I really do love her."

Candy obviously knew Kettles better than either Don or myself. She rushed over to him and caught him before he fell into the muddy roadway. Cradling him in her arms, she kept whispering the same words over and over. "It will be okay, baby. It will be okay." Then she directed us to park Kettles' car for him and informed us that our resident manager would be coming with us in the truck because he was too drunk to drive.

"Jesus, Kettles.
You ain't looking so good, huh?"

The trouble was that Candy's truck was designed for two passengers. Fitting the four of us required maximum effort, especially considering the fact that Kettles Johnson was falling down drunk. Not knowing who he was or where he was, he developed a tendency to chew on my earlobe during the drive to Candy's place while whispering "I love you, Jayne," into my ear.

"He'll be okay once we get back to my place and sober him up."

We tried not to worry about anything. Had we thought about it, we might have thought the world was falling apart around us. As it was, we were in a truck with a very drunk resident manager, which was great future bribe material. We were going back to the home of a very attractive stripper who found Don irresistable. If it hadn't been for Kettles chewing on my ear, all might have been okay with this picture. Then Candy pulled a bottle of peppermint schnapps out of her glove box and handed it to me as a token of peace.

"We have to keep moving right now.
I need something in my life right now.
I need you guys to help me.
I don't want to end up like my sister.
Oh, hey, do you mind if I put on some Rick Springfield?"

We didn't care if she put on a reading of Mein Kampf. The sounds coming out of the radio were of no concern to us. The real concern was the fact that there were a half dozen very attractive feral dogs coming down the road towards us and preparing to leap onto the hood of the car. Gosh, these feral dogs were unbelievably gorgeous. I never imagined a dog could attain such precious beauty.

"Don't even look.
My mother has been breeding these fuckers forever.
Part of some experiment to end the aging process.
If you ignore them they will go away.
Beauty atrophies when unappreciated."

We did as she asked, and eventually the dogs buggered off. Five minutes later, we pulled up at a ramshackle apartment complex and Candy killed the ignition. She smiled, giggled briefly, and then ran her slender little hand up the inside of Don's pant leg.

"Don and I are going to fall in love.
We'll be in love forever, you know.
Nothing will ever come between us."

I had to admit, it sounded pretty good to me. I followed them up to the apartment and while they departed into Candy's Room, I fixed myself a drink and watched Kettles Johnson pass out on the living room floor. I was honestly glad that Jayne was not there to see him. She never would have understood that the man who loved her so deeply was tearing himself apart over that love to the point where he no longer cared if he lived or died. I pulled out my notebook and wrote a reminder to myself. Love can never die. If it does, all that remains are weeds that used to be people. If the love is unchained, then those people attain wings and can live forever. Beauty be damned. Love was far more important.

Thus ends Part 7A of the Tragic Beauty Anthology
Part 8A: it all turned out all right but there was so much pain along the way

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