It’s the end of a long slow night. I had made twenty dollars, which left me in the hole, until an hour before closing when a kind gentlemen came in and dropped a few hundred on me. Credit card money. You know, virtual money that exists in machines and wires until the end of the night, after you’ve dressed and gotten the manager to sign your slip, when the bartender turns it into the soft green of well worn bills in your hand.
Last song, and neither of the two customers want it. In fact, they are busy looking at naked women on the internet in their phones, which they find hilarious. I wander over to the bar.
“Hey,” I check with the bartender, “you charged his card for six VIPs, right?”
“Yep. You know I gotcha, girl.”
The manager, at the end of the bar in her patchwork vest and old lady glasses stares at me. I smile. When I make me money, I make her money, because the bar takes a cut of VIP dances here.
“You know you ain’t getting all that money tonight.”
“What?” I’ve certainly gotten all my credit card money every other night I’ve worked here, often much more than a couple hundred. And I need the money, because I’m leaving tomorrow, and because you never leave without your money.
“You heard me, missy.” She grins, gleeful. I’ve heard about this, about how these managers used to run whores and they’ll lure you in and then cut you down. I always thought it was sensationalism, because they’ve always been reasonable and respectful with me, but I see it now in her sick smile.
I turn around and walk to the dressing room to get dressed. I think of all the things I could say to her. Subtle things, like, you know, missy, with all the emloyment laws you break in this bar you’d think you wouldn’t go out of your way to make trouble. Or direct things, like fuck you bitch.
Usually I keep my mouth shut, don’t burn bridges. But looking back in life I always regret the things I haven’t said more than any bridges I’ve burned. The thing is, though, that I really do want to be able to work here again.
At the bar, my slip is waiting. Three sixty. This is a game, I tell myself, and I know how to play it.
I hand my slip to her and she asks what we’re deducting.
Sixty for house, I say, and sixty for dances.
She raises her eyebrow. Anything else?
It’s my turn to smile. Am I getting my money?
That, she says slowly, doesn’t have anything to do with my tip.
I tip according to the service I receive, I tell her. If I’m getting my money I’d like to tip you twenty dollars. If I’m not getting my money then I don’t feel like I’ve received any acceptable level of service.
She clears her throat. We can’t have direct conflict, because she can’t give in. She writes the slip out without her tip, but she brings it to the bar with me.
Do we have enough in the till to pay Tara, she asks the bartender. Of course they do. There have been a lot of drinkers tonight, a lot of guys buying drinks for all the ladies but no dances.
He hands it to her, two forty. She fingers it all, lingers on the last twenty giving me that sick smile, before handing it all to me.
I smile back, just as sick but at least I won, and hand her the twenty dollars. Every day extortion in the titty bar.
Thank you, I say. Here’s your tip.
By the time I get to the van I don’t want to punch her anymore, and I’m actually really happy to find that Bro hasn’t thrown up the rotten meat he got into earlier like I’d expected.