After getting me in his truck and not telling me where we were going Keaton pulled the truck into a parking lot in a deserted-looking part of Arcadia.
I knew the place. I’d been to it before. K*******s. It’s a topless sports bar. That’s a polite way of saying it’s a strip club with a bunch of TVs tuned to ESPN.
Two of our outfielders are experts when it comes to strip clubs, they think this place is pretty tame as far as strip clubs go. Too tame. Maybe it’s my raising, but I like the tame ones. I got shit about that from the outfielders on the Crawdads (why are outfielders always the ones into strip clubs?), who made sure that I had my share of all-nude lap dances in strip clubs from Georgia to Delaware.
Still, I like my strip clubs tame. I’d rather have a dance at a topless place where I can get a beer than at a place where the girls take everything off.
So there I was in a strip club, with three beers in me and another one on the bar in front of me. Keaton had gone off somewhere, so I was back to feeling sorry for myself. I wasn’t even in the mood to pay attention to Sports Center, which is what was on the TV.
“Your girlfriend **** you over too?,” the dude next to me at the bar asked. He was a lot drunker than I was, and looked every bit as miserable..
“Yeah. They seriously need to get rid of Valentine’s Day. Four hundred bucks and she said she had to get up early for work tomorrow morning.”
“You got off cheap, man. My girlfriend made me order champagne and caviar.”
“Does she even like that stuff?” (I’ve had caviar twice. It may make me sound gay, but I kinda like it. Not that I’d pay two hundred bucks an ounce for it.)
“Of course not. She was just jerking my chain. And I ****in let her. At least I got buzzed off the champagne. We Ubered so I could drink.”
“I should have thought of that.”
“It wasn’t that good of an idea. She bitched about it. She wanted me to have hired a limo or something.”
“I’m Hunter,” I said. I was taught to introduce myself — and we’d gotten to a sulky pause.
“Carlos,” said the other guy, shaking my hand. I guess he saw my beer. “Can I buy you something stronger?”
“Thanks, man. I’m sticking to this.”
“I’m planning to get totally fucked up. I’m Ubering home anyway. We Ubered tonight, but my girlfriend didn’t think the car was fancy enough.”
“I didn’t bring you here so you could hit on dudes,” said Keaton, coming up behind me. “You’re making me look bad.”
I turned around and saw that there was a totally hot girl standing next to Keaton. Totally hot girl in a sparkly black bikini bottom, super high heels, and…that was about it. Since I like ‘em curvy and blonde, I figured out that Keaton had chosen this girl especially for me. Keaton was right: I wasn’t there to talk to dudes.
“Bubba likey?,” Keaton asked.
“Bubba likey mucho,” I answered, staring into the girl’s breasts.
“I’m Candy, and your friend says you need some cheering up.”
“Candy was the name of the girlfriend of the mascot of the team I played for.”
I was still staring at her breasts and wasn’t completely sober. So I said something stupid.
She caught my accent.
“Where are you from? Not Texas like your friend here.”
Again, the beers were talking to her breasts.
“Say something else.”
“You gotta say more than that to give her a chance, bubba.”
So out came:
“You’d be so lean, that blasts of January
Would blow you through and through.
Now, my fair’st friend,
I would I had some flowers…”
“That’s pretty southern-fried Shakespeare,” said Candy.
“Yeah,” I mumbled. I was going to explain that mom’s a librarian and made me read a lot of Shakespeare, but it didn’t seem right to talk about Mom in a strip club.
“North Carolina?,” she guessed. I liked it that she wasn’t making fun of my accent.
“Close,” I said, looking back at her breasts. “Tennessee. I’m from Maryville. Near Knoxville.”
“Bubba, the point of this place is that you can get a hot girl like Candy to sit on your lap without having to tell her your life story. I already told her your girlfriend messed with you tonight and wouldn’t give you dessert.”
“That’s what I’m here for,” said Candy. “You ready for a dance, handsome?”
Hell yeah I was ready.
“Here,” said Keaton, handing Candy what looked like a rolled-up $100 bill, “just keep going.”
So Candy led me to a booth and I got a lap dance. And another. And another. I think there was some kind of Valentine’s Day special going on or something. Or Keaton had given her more money than I thought he had. I don’t remember all the details…but it did feel good to have Candy’s breasts in my face, especially after the way Monica had treated me.
Okay. it felt real good. Maybe better than it was supposed to. Not since my first lap dance…
“Guess I chose right,” said Keaton, when I rejoined him afterwards. He looked at me and the smirk on his face got even bigger. “You’re blushing, bubba.”
I could feel that I was…and sat down in a chair, feeling very conspicuous. I looked up at Sports Center, which was beginning again.
Keaton left me there and came back a few minutes later with another beer. And a cocktail napkin.
“No, dumbass, I didn’t get it because of that. And don’t put your beer down on it either. It’s got a phone number on it.”
“The dude you were talking to at the bar. He said he thought you were hot and wanted me to give you his number. Score.”
It’s hard to tell whether Keaton is bullshitting, even when you’re sober. I looked at the napkin. It said ‘Jennifer’ and had a 626 number on it.
“Who do you think?”
“You mean she’s not really called Candy?” I was a little disappointed. I kinda liked it that she was named after Conrad Crawdad’s girlfriend. “And what am I supposed to do with her number? I’ve got a girlfriend.”
“Yeah. Some girlfriend. The kind that lands you in a strip club on Valentine’s Day.”
I folded up the napkin carefully and slid it into my pocket. When I got home, I unfolded it and put it on my dresser. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it…but I knew I didn’t want to throw it out.