Tom’s rules

At the bottom of the 8th inning a father leans against the low cement wall, holding his son in his arm while the mother gets ready to take a picture. Before it can all happen Tom is there, letting the man know he can’t touch the wall. The child begins to cry and Tom regards him for a moment. “Sorry, it’s for your own safety.” He walks back to his post at the bottom of the stairs and scans the crowd, making sure everything is in order.

Game’s over, home team has won. Lights begin to fade and the announcer’s voice ceases to echo and boom. Tom watches the stadium slowly clear out. Grimaces as he catches a young couple casually drop their litter before climbing the stairs. “Too far away to stop them”, he thinks. “Why can’t people just follow the rules?”

Tom walks to his locker deep in the bowels of the stadium basement. He’s had this job for almost all his life. Retirement in three years, because that’s how it’s done around here. He turns the dial of the locker, savors the orderly click of the lock mechanism and ignores the crowded room around him. Changes from his dark blue uniform and into khakis and a white shirt. Puts his glasses back on and walks out from work, checking his watch. No one says hi. He’s aware they find him too strict but Tom believes in rules, without them everything could go wrong, like they did for his mother.

He stops for dinner at the restaurant around the corner, orders a burger with no bun, salad instead of fries. Washes his hands before tucking in and chews each bite thoroughly as he watches the chaos of the city on the other side of the window. Waitress comes over to drop off the check, a steaming coffee pot in the other hand. “Thanks Tom — refill?” He shakes his head no, pays the tab and walks out.

The Platinum Pleasures strip club sits on an almost empty block by the highway, tucked between a storage facility and a taxi dispatch. Their logo is cursive neon in pink and baby blue, with matching lights that wrap around the top of the building. As he gets closer Tom can hear the familiar sound of muffled bass lines. He walks in and the bouncer ignores him the way he ignores all the regulars. At the bar he orders a cranberry vodka and waits for Gina.

She’s wearing the blue outfit tonight. A tight top that pushes her tanned breasts up high, with scattered sequins that catch the light as she walks under them. Gina is scanning the room, looking for anyone lonely or horny enough to make her shift worthwhile. She sees Tom as she comes to his side of the bar. At over six feet tall he’s hard to miss, even if he weren’t so familiar. “Evening handsome.” She purrs the words and runs an index finger down the front of his shirt. He watches as it progresses towards his belt and smiles back. She guides him past a heavy curtain and into a small room. Things quiet down, it’s just the two of them now.

“You look beautiful.” Tom says. He is sitting down, looking up as she straddles him and tosses her dark hair to one side. It’s her signature move and she’s justifiably proud of it.

“Thanks baby.” Gina moves against him and listens to the music. She closes her eyes, mouths the lyrics, and feigns something like ecstasy. She feels a hand on her side then and pushes it off gently. “Sorry sweetie, you know the rules about touching.” She feels him harden, watches him get flush with excitement. Gently pushes against him and then away, letting him finish what he always starts.

When it’s all over Tom open his wallet and presents her with crisp bills, hands shaking slightly. “You always know how to make a girl feel good Tom.” She smiles at him, winks and tucks the money away. Holds his hand as she pretends to lift him from the couch and guides him to the bathroom at the end of the hall. As the door closes she goes back out to the bar and continues her shift.