One of the Men

by Lana Spendl

The Friday-night lineup was in full swing at Pony Express, the only strip club in town, when the police were called. Three young men were sitting at a table and hurling insults at the women who served drinks. They grabbed at the women’s legs and breasts and thighs as they walked by. One of the men—too drunk to see—grabbed the upper thigh of trucker Dave, who walked with a woman, and Dave decked him with a fist. Owner Joe stepped in to hold Dave back. Dave was taken to a corner, where he huffed and felt as if he were trapped in a cage. He trembled and paced and he wanted to shake the walls with his hands. He stared across the room at the man who had touched him. “Nothing like that is supposed to happen,” he said to himself. But the man’s thick-lashed eyes looked so drowsy and his lips looked so moist that Dave for a moment did not know if he was looking at a woman or a man.

And some of the women went to talk to Dave. They stood around him and said words of comfort and adjusted their bras so that the underwires were not digging into the skin. They felt critical of the guy who had provoked Dave. Dave was a regular and he always told them about living with his mother and taking her to hair appointments. And Dave tipped them well. They felt safe around Dave. Now they put their hands on his chest to soothe him and rubbed his back, and Bernadette even smiled and promised him a free dance. But there was no consoling Dave. He did not know where to look. He did not know how to stand in place. Something inside him had been unleashed—like when you pulled the bathtub stopper and the water, uncontrolled, rushed down the drain—and his teenage boyhood washed over him and he saw the gleam of moonlight on a flat man’s chest and he felt shaken and exposed and terribly afraid. Tears warmed his eyes but he blinked them away.

The three men refused to leave until the police came. Then they divided and ran for the door—suddenly fast and sober like rockets—and the police chased them and caught one blocks away. The man told them in resentment that his buddies were hiding in the bushes across the street. The whole story ran in the Saturday paper the next day. But Dave felt uneasy as he took his mother for their Saturday drive. He kept pulling the brim of his baseball cap down, and when they drove past Pony Express, he averted his eyes. He felt watchful and scared, and he felt that he could never see Joe and the girls again.

LANA SPENDL’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Greensboro ReviewThe Cortland ReviewHobartQuarter After EightFiction SoutheastMonkeybicyclePrick of the SpindleMidway JournalGargoyle, and other magazines. She holds an M.F.A. in creative writing and an M.A. in Hispanic literatures from Indiana University. She can be found online at