The job was suit-and-tie stuffy, but, still a rebel after years of conformity, Will fought the dress code by wearing Sex Pistols T-shirts under his white button-down shirts and leather thong underwear that made his butt crack itch. He felt the itch was more than worth putting up with considering what it said to the world about who he was. Will was in his thirties and living a dual life. He worked for the DIP Corporation. They manufactured everything from baby formula, sold for consumption outside the U.S. only, to the plastic heel tips on women’s shoes.
DIP Corporation was painting itself green for an upcoming consumer advertising campaign, and Will was one of several assigned to buying other companies’ pollution credits so that DIP could keep on polluting as usual, but say they weren’t. His new job assignment was like being stuck in a McDonald’s drive thru on a hot summer day with the car’s air-conditioning on the fritz. Some days he would drift off and daydream of a future where he would free himself of his corporate trappings and show up on casual Friday, wearing only his favorite Sid Vicious tank top and red leather thong, and maybe his poolside flip flops.
But until then he would have to content himself with his parallel life as a doorman and bouncer at Dingo’s Dive Down Under, a greasy spoon turned nightclub just over the river in the industrial part of town that was being encroached upon by high-rise condo Towers. Many of his DIP coworkers lived in these condo towers with their concrete walls and spackled ceilings, but Will hadn’t run into any of them in line trying to get in to Dingo’s and been forced to integrate his day job persona with his night job.
At Dingo’s they called him Cow Killer, or just Cow, because he wore a lot of leather, and this was Portland, Oregon, where even a homeless guy on a tricycle was politically correct about wearing animal skins. In winter Cow wore a leather overcoat over leather jeans, and in the summer he wore leather shorts, not lederhosen, but tight black hot pants you’d be more likely to see on Stark Street where the gay bars and saunas were at. But Cow didn’t swish that way. He just loved his leather painted on tight so it would creak like a schoolgirl’s desk.
It was in these shorts that he bent over to pick up the fake ID of a very nervous yet pretty teen, when he heard a terrible sobbing. It was pure emotion, a young woman wailing in pain. He stood up and looked along the line of eager ravers waiting to get in to the club, but he didn’t see anyone who was crying or even looked like she’d been crying. His gaze paused momentarily on one woman who looked familiar, possibly from work, but she was dressed too outlandishly in a pink Pippi Longstocking look for that, and his gaze moved on.
He handed the teenager back her fake ID and let her and her two friends in, then he heard the crying again. It was quieter now, more of a resigned sobbing.
“Do you hear that?” he asked the rocker standing in front of him as he took his proffered ID.
The rocker’s expression was blank. His iPod was plugged into his ears, and he could hear nothing over the Megadeath vibrating his synapses. Cow handed back his ID and checked the next person’s. “Did you hear that crying a moment ago?” he asked the woman whose ID stated that her bursting cleavage was twenty-three.
“You must be an empathy. That’s mother Gaia feeling the pain of global warming. Mankind’s pestilence is making her sick.”
Cow returned her ID. “Shouldn’t that be humankind?”
She slipped her drivers license behind her bra with a smile. “Not until womankind runs the show.”
He let her in ahead of the rocker, who was resigned to waiting. The rocker didn’t care. He looked like he’d smoked a full bowl of Oregon homegrown before showing up and didn’t care about anything.
A new silver Cadillac pulled into the valet parking in front of Dingo’s, and the club’s owner got out. He was short, portly and bald and only in it for the money. He always said, “Give the kids what they want, they’ll come and their parents will pay dearly for it.” He’d put this into practice twenty years ago when he opened Portland’s first underage dance club. It was a big success and really pulled in the predators. He had to hire guys like Cow to keep them out by checking IDs for anyone over twenty-one.
“How’re they hangin’?” the owner asked Cow as he stepped to the head of the line.
Cow unhooked the red velvet rope and lifted it aside. “Close to capacity.”
“It must be those shorts you’re wearing. One of my Stark Street clubs is in a slump. Maybe I should move you over there.”
Cow was trying to think of a snappy comeback when he heard the sobbing again. “Do you hear someone crying?”
The owner grinned. “I sure do. That’s my ex-wife, still in the trunk since she asked for a divorce,” he said with a conspiratorial wink. “I got a tip the fire marshal is out tonight doing surprise code checks, so don’t over pack it, okay?”
“Sure thing. I’ll hold the line here,” Cow said, then added, “I was serious about the crying.”
“I was serious about my ex-wife,” the owner said and disappeared into Dingo’s darkness.
At the end of the night when the club stopped serving drinks and closed down, Cow and one of the barmaids, Serena, went to an after-hours speakeasy in Chinatown and ordered “cold tea,” a teapot full of beer sold illegally after serving hours. He hadn’t heard the crying again, but asked Serena about it anyway.
“Nope, I didn’t hear anything like that, but you can’t hear in the club,” she said. “Once that music gets going it’s just thump, thump, thump, like a rhino humping a keg.”
* * *
On Monday morning, Cow, now Will, was in the DIP office following up on some loose pollution credits he hoped to snatch up to meet his quota for the month so he could slack off for the rest of the week and daydream. One of the girls from the secretarial pool entered his office and set on his desk a couple of sales contracts from last week she’d just finished typing up. “Wow, it’s really loud in here. Do you hear that shouting?” she asked, looking about the office for its source.
He didn’t hear shouting, but the crying from the club was back. Now he was worried. Maybe he was going crazy with voices inside his head. But then Will’s and the secretary’s eyes met and they recognized one another.
“You’re the bouncer at Dingo’s,” the secretary said.
“You’re Pippi Longstocking.”
“My friends and I stayed in line until it stopped moving. Those were some hot pants you had on. I dare you to wear them on casual Friday.”
As he looked her over and liked what he saw, he realized the crying had stopped, and she noticed the shouting had stopped, too. The room was quiet, and a sense of calm filled Cow as he filled the silence with his smile. “Sure, but what will you wear, Pippi?”
And she smiled back.