I met Party several times after school, mostly at a run down pool room across the street from that old sheet joint. He ran his notions down for me, squeezed by degrees into the shape of the actual facts of the matter. At first it was in general, what if a man and a woman worked it together. Hours of pratting later the facts wrung out : they'd be better off pimping, like every chilli pimp since the dawn of time, which is why they do it that way and not this way. No need to do the Murphy if it's a man and a woman doing it, just too much trouble for much too little payoff, and also all the risk. The next time was, what if the woman's not really a whore. She'd be a thief then, as it turns out. She'd have to be. Maybe she'd carry an old lush, but there's no reason for her not to learn picking pockets, and no good reason to not play alone. It's just how the angles work out. Then after that it was, what if the whore's not really a woman. Turns out this is exactly what he had in mind all along : I'd put on a pair of frayed red satin high-heel shoes and a twenty-cent red dress from the Salvation Army. I'd pin a scraggly piece of hair just inside the front inner band of a faded blue straw bonnet. I'd tilt it on my head at a sexy angle, somehow, and better pray the ringlets of uneven hair hung down over my eyes like bangs.
The way dirty ole Joe figured it, I'd stand wide legged, thigh and hip muscles flexed against the tight red dress, aping the whore's stance in some dark alley. He'd give the pitch to some old guy, some lonely fat drunk guy, some bottom feeding, side scraping, backalley skirting character while I jerked my skinny ass in a series of bumps and grinds, and hopefully wave him toward me. Maybe the skinny black bitch the chump saw'd light a fire in him. Maybe he'd fumble for his hide and hand a bill to Party. Maybe he'd be lucky, and that'll end there ; or maybe not, maybe he'd flash a wad large enough to qualify him for the back of the head express. Maybe he'd be quick, but hopefully not quick enough to catch up with me as I did my best to evaporate through whatever path we scouted out aforehand, my heart pounding in excitement as I galloped through the alleys toward our next prearranged duck blind. The thing with people's everyone always has an angle, as if they were in charge of the flow. The boss of the floor. Every two bit huster with more rapsheet than bankroll still figures himself clever enough to call his own shots, and everyone else's too thrown in, why not. So when you know how it's gonna go, that's the best time to pay attention to what they all say, who don't yet know. It'll turn out informative, you know ?
I stretched out my legs, gave him a look, let out a sigh, looked up at him again... then after another pause I let go. "Party, man, I've got something here. There's this chick, Vera. She'll be the bait." ole Joe was blank, incomprehending. You could almost see the lone solitary cog spinning by itself in the caveman skull of the best hustler of Zionville or wherever he was from. "She's young, you see. She's twelve years old." His eyes opened wide and he drew a sharp breath enough to inflate a New Year's float to bursting. "The way we play it, you tout. You tell it true, too : this is one fine young bitch. She's ran away from home, you tell them. We'll have her mostly naked in that alley there, so the sucker can see her baby titties on her and everything. Then when the chump's all over her, I show up. I make like I'm her brother. I throw a screaming fit. If he tries to strongarm me, then you show up. If not, you just stay back. Pick respectable looking chumps. I'll tell them I recognize them from church. That I'll tell their inlaws. They'll be begging me to take their wad from them." Party Time was teetering like I hit him in the head with a garbage truck. He sat down and exhaled like a steam press. He gave me a look like I had just baptised baby Jesus. "You're a genius, Kid. That's what you are." He gushed all over me a while, then it finally dawned on him. "I'll have to see this bitch." he said. Of course he will.
The next Friday night we got down with our hustle. Mama was serving a party so I could stay in the streets until at least one in the A.M. Come nine Vera was at the bus stop, just like I told her. We walked together down the backstreets, hand in hand, like we was to be married. Party Time had taken the room facing the alley. The window was open like we said. I squeezed her by the back of her neck. She looked at me like only now it was getting real for her. She wimpered but didn't say anything. She took off her clothes, one by one. I bundled them up for her. A moment later there she stood, stark naked in that dirty back alley. I lifted her into the room through the open window. I left her shoes atop her bundled clothes on one of the garbage cans. If anybody takes them, I thought to myself, she ain't ever going back home ever again. Nobody did, though, when we came back they were right there where I left them. I jumped into the room myself. There they were, naked Vera standing, eyeing Party Time, dressed, stock straight, eyeing her back. It was like two tigers or something. I wanted to fuck her again. I'm sure he wanted to fuck her too. I said "Are we a coupla chumps or what, Party ?" He shook his head, like a dog out of water. "We're not gonna just sit here and fuck the bitch all night like two chumps. Are we ?" I asked him. Honestly I could see it either way, that Vera bitch was fine. It does something, for a girl, to go where the women go, to be in the room where whores fuck, to look like one in the setting of one, if you know what I mean. I does a lot. I wouldn't have traded her for the white man's wife, that's for damn sure. Right then I wouldn't have traded Vera for the world.
Party Time shook his head again. He grabbed her work clothes bundle and pushed it into her tit. Vera got herself dollied up. The whole bundle looked like it went for less than three dollars, but on her it looked like a million bucks. Before ten that night we were in an alley in the heart of the vice section, Seventh and Joliet. My place was a little up, around a corner. I told her how to walk, I showed her how to bump and grind, how to flaunt herself. I showed her how to expose herself when the punter's looking. Party looked her over from head to toe. He shook his head, mumbled the name of our saviour and walked toward the mouth of the alley, to catch a sucker. Within five minutes he gave the office that he had someone. Action was coming down the street. I wondered if the whole harebrained scheme had enough voltage to get us anything besides an asskicking. An elderly gent walked up towards Vera. He looked like a preacher, or a school principal maybe. She smiled at him, lifting her arms over her head, her bare tits going along for the ride. He pounced on her like she was cotton candy. He was mouthing her tits, right hand under her dress, when I let out the first yell, three paces off. "My god, sis! Mary! Is that you baby ?" She hissed "Go away. God damn it!" like we said. The guy on her was giving white new meanings, like he was trying to play paper sheet. I yelled my head off. "Oh, I know you! I know you! She's my little sister, she's not even twelve years old, you dirty bastard! You're going up for life for this, I'm telling Dad. I'm telling... I know your church, I've seen you. I'm going Sunday and I'm telling everyone! Filthy! Filthy!"
I said all that came to my mind. The take for five minutes' work was a hundred thirty eight dollars, a coupla silver nothings and a boatload of excuses and promises. The god damned setup was hot! We beat several other suckers in the same way. One of them had almost five hundred on him, the rest chickenfeed, but every few slats add up. After the third or fourth Vera chipped in. "Wouldn't it be better if I let 'em do her first ?" she asked, just like that. She wasn't after a thrashing or anything, she wanted to know. Scientific-like, as it were. A curiosity she had, nothing more. Better how, I asked her right back. Not like a chump can give you mre than what he has no matter what you do, and if they've done the deed they can't quite walk away. She let out the same "Ooh", and then I asked her if they fingered her any ? Yeah they did, she said. In the cooch ? I pressed her, just for the fun of it. Yeah, she said, and lifted her skirt. Right here, she showed us with her finger in and out. "Do you figure they couldn't tell if you're already full of it ?" I asked her. "Ooh" came back again. "It's bad for business if they fuck you, honey. Just let it be." She pouted and nodded her head. Jesus what whore she'll be! I looked at PT, and he looked at me. As dumb as he might be, I tell you I could feel he was thinking the same thing.
We worked until twelve-thirty, then climbed back through the alley window. Party went in through the door. The take was almost a grand if you can believe that. At a time when every working stiff took home forty-fifty bucks a day, two kids and a two bit hustler took almost a grand between the three of them in three-four hours. That's how hot that Vera bitch was! Party had this idea of splitting down the middle, but he saw the light soon enough. I didn't need him for touting and a bit of muscle, not like he needed us that's for damn sure. We split it three ways, and Vera gave me her part on the way to the bus station. I didn't even ask for it or anything, she reached it over like it was obvious. I guess it was obvious. Before we parted ways though she said "There's still a little bit of time..." and before she was done I had her by the neck, bent over, and ole Joe was pumping her ass like his life depended on reaching through. She was pulling herself open with her hands, while I held her by the neck. My tenting erection found the way to the back of her throat by itself, I don't know how I ended up in there except for thinking that the bitch got too much air. I kept cutting it for her, she kept gulping it down whenever she got a chance. PT was long done in by the time I splattered all over the face. She went over to the sink, hooked a foot up on the wall and washed herself with her hand. Then she washed her face, put her old clothes back on, and we went back out the window, leaving PT snoring behind, half dressed half lying on the bed.
As good as it was, that was the only time we pulled it off. Saturday Party ran head on into a round brick balloon. It was only five feet tall, but it weighed close to three-hundred pounds. It was about ten. The vice section was overrun with Johns. It looked like every white man in five states was out there, scratch in one hand and rod in the other, ripping and running after the black whores with the widest, blackest asses. We set up in a blind on the fringe of the section, because with all that mad action in the center it would be a hectic cat-and-mouse game with the cruising, rousting vice squad. It'd have been something less than pure kicks to get busted in our setup. Party hadn't strong armed since his last bit. There was positively no need to, but I guess he felt humiliated. He wanted to contribute something, something big. He wanted to show Vera what a real man is. Something along those lines, anyhow. From my place around the corner I watched Party eagerly talking to... something. Was it a man? Was it some kinda machine? No, it was a walking, living, round balloon with a fat poke and a flaming itch for black tush. It stood there fascinated by the two of them, looking back and forth, from Party's ugly lips flapping to Vera's pretty titties flapping and back again. I could feel this is no good, like a thousand devil feet pricking all over my back. From my place there was jack shit I could do, we were too dumb to have arranged a ditch signal. The balloon took his hide out. Party jerked rigid at the sight of its contents. There must've been three grand it there, if not more. Even as the balloon bounced towards her, I was thinking this is one she might have to take. The strong-arm lust had exploded inside Party, though. Sure as Hell he was going to come up that alley, and smash the air out of the balloon.
Then there was guttural grunting. The balloon had Party in a crushing strangle hold. Vera was gone. I don't know where she went, or when. She was just gone, in a blink, like very fast smoke. My heart-beat back fired and all but melted the starch in my duds. I fell on my ass, plain and simple, my knees buckled, then gave way, and there I was looking at my upturned toes. The balloon must've also been a champion weight lifter, because poor Party spent a brief moment of his career hanging high over the head of the monster and then flew to the alley floor with a shattering "whoomp". He lay where he landed like a broken rag doll. The balloon hollered as he leaped into the air and then fell like a ton of concrete on Party's moaning remains. I was to the point of almost puking in pity. Poor Party! That strongarm game sure has its barbs, huh! I just couldn't find the strength to get off the ground and join the fray. Anyway it didn't look like it'd have made a difference. The derrick scooped Party from the alley and flung him across his back. I watched Party's rubber neck bumping against the balloon's rear end, like a woman's that was captured by some caveman back in the caveman days.
I jetted out of there on flaming trails. Vera grabbed my arm a little ways off. She was waiting in an alley leading to our hotel room. I watched for the rollers. I was sure as sugar they were hot on our trails, coming to bust me. They never came. Old Party had had the funky luck to try the strong arm on a professional wrestler called the Blimp. He went back to the joint for a yard after he got out of City Hospital, but he never tipped a whisper to the heat. I guess the one thing about him was that he wasn't copper hearted. When he got older, and lost his nerve to hustle, he got a crazy desire to pimp. He wasn't the type, but he kept trying until he ran the Gorilla game on a dope dealer's broad and they set him up for a hot shot. Party tried his fists and muscle until the pimp game croaked him. The pimp game is like the watchmaker's art, it's tough. Party went through his life struggling to make a watch while wearing boxing gloves.
Vera asked me what now ? I think she was game to keep at it. I explained to her we can't do it without a toot, because she's jailbait, and we can't have just any tout, either. It has to be one just about as dumb as Joe, but hopefully not as dumb as Joe so he lasts more than one Friday. I can't do it because then we'll need a clincher, and that's harder than the tout for hot merchandise like her, that practically sells itself. She didn't say anything for a while. Then she asked again, what now ? I was just starting to say, "now we go back to..." when it hit me like another ton of bricks. Her clothes, we left in the room this time. Party Time paid for it, he had the key for it, we closed the window before leaving like square idiots. She was better off not going home at all, than going dressed the way she was. I had enough scratch together to get her a place, but tell true, I was just a kid. I didn't know my asshole from a hole in the ground, I didn't know what I was doing, what I was passing up. I should have put her up somewhere, but I didn't think to do it.
We racked our brains a while. Breaking the window seemed a sure-fire way to jail. Lifting it was sure not to work, I remembered keying it closed with the little metal bit. Eventually the way out came to me : I bought some fried chicken, had them wrap it for take-out, went by the front desk nodding and then slipped the old janitor a buck to open the door for me, with some tall tale about how Party Time's coming later and he sent me ahead with dinner. It was stupid enough to wash by everyone with flying colors, five minutes later I was lifting the unlocked window to see a completely nude Vera looking at me from the alley below. I don't think she'd have minded if fifty guys went at her right then. I dragged her inside, and then she rolled up on me like a whole precinct full of nigger-hating pigs. I was turned to dust, dessicated, by the time she was through with me I didn't have enough liquid content for a decent spit. I took her to her bus station in a cab, I kissed her like we were engaged and that was the last time I saw her. Monday in school I found out her parents moved somewhere on the West Coast I think, and I never heard of her again.
I still miss you, baby. Always have. Always will. We could've set the world ablaze together, though I hope to god you did yourself my little bit the better.