Jumpin’ at the Go-go
by Andrena Zawinski
Jill gave the elevated dance floor a cursory glance inside Go-go’s, a dance bar tucked into a corner of a small Ft. Lauderdale strip mall. What she gave a second look was the bull rope hooked to the ceiling above the deck-shaped floor, its nautical knot dangling above a wine barrel.
The owner, Jack, was easy enough on the eyes with his sun bleached hair and deep tan in a white lifeguard tank tee. She expected to have to dance for him to get the job, so she had practiced with her new friend Cathy, a petite strawberry blonde whose ballet training shone through her hip shaking and shoulder shimmying, arm pumping and jumping. Cathy had worked at Go-go’s for a few months and tipped Jill that Jack likes jumping. She added it was a good gig, everything under-the-table.
Jill didn’t dance at her audition. Instead, she—in what she later heard the other dancers call “drop the top”—was told matter of factly to show him her boobs. Caught off guard and surprising herself, she did. Jack rummaged through a drawer, handed her a pair of adhesive breast lifts along with a strip of silver sequins and white drapery fringe to pin to her bikini, snapped some polaroids, then announced her stage name as Cherry. She guessed he came up with that from her brick red dye job. He said to come back before opening so dancers could show her the ropes, which he meant literally because they swung off a barrel down to the dance floor in the Go-go’s signature move. Jill understood then what Cathy meant by “Jack likes jumping.”
On her walk back that night, music gusted from Go-go’s as she passed Beach Bum Motel, one of those places with its sleazy out-of-the-way feel, even if you didn’t know rooms could be rented by the hour. Inside the Go-go, blue fish shaped bowls held free popcorn to whet whistles
for the 7 to 8:00 drink specials—Blue Lagoon, Sex on the Beach, Tequila Sunrise—all scrawled on boat paddles above the bar decorated with life rings, fishing floats, nets.
The first set kicked off at 9:00 with Jack’s favorite, Leda, the stage name he gave Cathy, dancing to “The Wah Watusi.” The other three regular dancers, one-by-one, followed with “The Twist,” “Locomotion,” “Respect.” Jack was big on anything Rolling Stones, so those and anything upbeat filled the rest of the playlist, dancers each with their own mix of pony, swim, hitchhike dance moves. As Leda closed out the night, after Jack had downed a few of his favorite Mojitos, he belted out “Shake a tail feather, shake it, shake it, shake it,” firing up the lingering middle-aged men to join in, waving arms overhead for an encore.
A sad sack of a pudgy man took a fancy to Leda, a photographer who threw winks and puckers her way as she danced. Leda never mixed with patrons on or off stage, although Jack hinted he could set up dates after hours for a cut of the “tips.” She only accepted one job offer from the shutterbug, whose photo of her was tacked out front on a sandwich board titled: “Nightly Special: The Swan.” She was reluctant to model for the lingerie spread he said was for a local retailer; but because Jack promised to be there to supervise, she agreed.
“Call me your wingman,” he said, flapping his arms and finally getting a laugh out of her.
The shoot was at the Beach Bum. Cathy riffled through the garment rack’s chiffon robe, lacy body suit, sheer chamise, skimpy baby doll pajamas. As she slid one hanger past another,
Jack handed her an iced tea; and after a few sips, she dropped the glass, her knees buckling, and fell into his arms. When she woke, she could barely distinguish the photographer off in the corner in a blur. Jack was on her and in her; but when her eyes opened, he jumped up and off.
Later that night, Jill walked into the Go-go dressing room where Cathy was sobbing and applying heavy stage makeup to her bruised thighs. Jill held her tight, as she trembled and whimpered, finally blurting out she had been drugged and raped, seamy details cropping up in hazy bits and pieces.
Jill listened patiently but abruptly pulled away, furiously pounded her fists on the dressing table yelling: “He has to pay!”
The next day, Jill clumsily boarded the plane back to the Midwest on crutches from a misstep on the barrel that threw her off kilter and landed her with a sprained ankle, putting an end to her the runaway summer. Cathy, red-eyed with bloated face, waved her off from the departure gate. Once settled in at her window seat and up in the air, Jill gave a goodbye salute to Lauderdale’s stretch of white sands umbrellaed by a spray of sea foam clouds. She pulled the
Sun Sentinel from her travel tote and turned to the local’s Section 1B where the headline read: “Go-go owner found dead hanging from bull rope.” The brief article revealed that a local photographer found Jack bare-chested in speedos with his feet crammed into white patent leather go-go boots. It went on to report that customers and employees alike agreed he had been having recent trouble keeping his dancers on the floor and doors open for his customers, all while he was drinking heavily and appeared progressively unstable.
Jill folded the paper neatly and tucked it back into her bag, put on her sleep mask and headset, and hummed happily along to the first song on her playlist: “I am woman, hear me roar…”
About the author
Andrena Zawinski’s flash fiction has appeared in Unlikely Stories, Summer Shorts II: Best Kept Secrets Anthology, Digital Paper, Panoplyzine, Beneath the Rainbow, Short Stories and Poems Weekly, Ginosko, Sabr Magazine, and Loud Zoo. She has three full poetry books and six smaller collections in print. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA she has made her home the San Francisco Bay Area.
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