In line, they wait. Their souls offered up for money that has touched the lining of too many unwashed trousers. Desperate, they trade favors with a god they don’t believe in and compose promises they never intend to keep. Biting filthy nails, picking at half-healed sores or chewing on their darkly painted lips, they wait, marking time with the song on the stage that provides their next meal. Adjusting what little material covers their oiled skin, they shift from stiletto to stiletto making an effort to forget a family they no longer know.
The music stops, the microphone booms. Collectively they inhale and lift their chins. Unlike cattle headed for slaughter, they know their fate, their unexpected destiny. The next girl goes on as the other descends the rattled stairs, bare, belittled and destitute as the owner extends his grimy hand before allowing her to pass. Head bowed like a child she delivers the bills to him, wrinkled and damp.
He slaps her and the surprise sends her reeling against the metal stage.
She crumbles to the floor.
“Next time do better,” he says and steps over her naked body without pause.
The girls dissolve into themselves, blind to their reality for the sake of self-preservation, and they wait.
Joanne Spencer, who once had her life saved by a naked man, has had work published in Fresh! Magazine, Woman’s World and will soon have a poem published in Mother’s Always Write. She is a published author of one novel, The Letter Keeper, and is currently working as a contributing journalist for her local publication, The Creekline, as well as writing reviews for The Review Review. She resides in Northwest Florida where she pretends to cook, clean and do laundry all while secretly writing on a notepad she keeps in her back pocket or her bra, depending on her outfit that day.