Bernie was a ‘somafabitch’. All throughout his life when a girl liked him he made her life hell. His reputation could only be matched by his wife, Esmerelda. A woman who throughout her existence had played the innocent but had a long and prodigious record of enticing suckers and then taking them for all they had. How the two of them had initially met, much less tied the knot was beyond anybodies comprehension? It just happened that one day some ten years previous one was seen in the other’s company for more than time to time. The boys, Rocco and Hans, who worked as muscle for Bernie at the BimBamBoom club, that slightly sleazy gentleman’s club figured that attraction came in the form of the virtual ‘gold mine’ of this place raked in a prodigious amount of cash from select locals and conventioneers. Certainly, there was no doubt that fresh smell of green that the squares laid down each weekend when their wives went back home to see their mothers. The game was as old as time. That original first business that Plato had mentioned where when the customers were looking the wrong way at the shadows they got fleeced. It seemed to be an agreeable arrangement as the customers rarely came back to complain if their feathers got a little overly ruffled. The cops for their part took their cut twice a month and looked the other way.
Bernie may have not been the easiest guy to work for but one thing he valued was loyalty. Anyone who would take his guff and come back for more must have been an all right guy. He and his Frau used to chuckle sometimes at the end of the night about the crap they had pulled upon some unsuspecting mark. Esmerelda coming on to him just short of a lap dance and then Bernie entering the scene screaming and yelling like the irate wounded husband waving his discontent in the form of the chrome nickel plated .380 he kept in his coat. Usually this was followed by a flow of hundreds and a not too pleasant escort by Rocco and Hans to the back alley door. It was bad for business if the local regulars saw this kind of stuff while they were occupied in other ways slugging down twelve dollar watered beers and seventy dollar bottles of rotgut champagne. The two of them sometimes talked with genuine amazement of how a few of the fellas could come back night after night after drinking that swill and where the likes of some of them got that money. All Bernie could figure was that somebody’s dear mum’s pension check was all but gone each month?
The arrangement seemed to work well over the years as it yielded a new top of the line caddy and periodic trips to Vegas for the couple where they both unloaded a fair amount of the cash they were accumulating. To Esmerelda, this was a heavenly match. One even her nagging bitch of a mother had to keep mostly silent about. Things were going pretty well for someone who was substantially past her twenties but sure wasn’t telling. Bernie presented little trouble for her. Perhaps the rarified atmosphere of all that female flesh roaming around nightly had dulled his sword? If not that, then perhaps the overpowering funky reek of human sweat and cheap perfume that seemed to have settled in permanently throughout the back stage area where the girls changed costumes? Maybe the hard pecker crowd of degenerates out in front that the girls were draping themselves upon dug it. But her old man dug another scent. The wafting acrid odor of stacks of government green. When she thought back about it, with the exception of a couple days when they were first together she had never seen his hard-on? Something that didn’t bother her in the least as she indulged her occasional diversions discretely and far away from him.
The disjointed union of the two of them seemed to continue on interrupted for another decade or two far past the era of Elvis through the reign of a spook named Hendrix and all those Hippie shits. But now, decades past and up to the present the customers had thinned down to bare minimum of previous ‘better days’ . The kinds and qualities of girls that they could once easily corral had diminished to a few old reliable pros who demanded more scratch for a lot less profitable youthful attractiveness. The two old hellions that ran the place had taken on a shared communal visage of what one might have expected upon a cheap plastic mask at Halloween. Rocco was gone, killed some fifteen years back on a car wreck with one of the girls after work. And Hans could barely keep on his feet for more than an hour and had to keep a chair by the door. Even the cops had given up on the place only demanding a third of what had once been their non-negotiable end. The customers, such as they were were old timers who came their only to get it up to simply watch what had become the same old predictable routine of bump and grind.
Occasionally a small party of college kids would come in for a laugh. Something that would drive old Bernie nuts as there wasn’t much that he could do to intimidate then with rheumatoid arthritis and a cane. The fun of it all had gone out of it for him years back. He had lost his pistol years back in some forgotten card game. He was simply a scarecrow that loped about the bar area with one hand on the back of the chairs to steady himself on his back and forth journeys. Esmerelda was generally no where to be seen. She mostly sat in the back office watching re-runs of soaps and old movies of Anthony Quinn when he was young. “He was the man I should have been with all along”, she would quip dreamy eyed in private. “Instead I ended up with this old crud!” No love was lost at this point between them. All the piss and vinegar had long ago departed for points West. Al that the two of them had to look forward to now where monthly trips to the hospital and perhaps a good send off to the Catholic cemetery down the road.