Ryder scrubbed his penis hard with a toilet brush, but the urine stains lingered cruelly. Amputation seemed the only way. Sound of people snorting Kokaine™ in the next stall helped him wrestle for another viable option. "Bleach," he said aloud, the only cleaning product he hadn't tried. Zipping up his jumpsuit, careful not to catch any hairs this time, he exited the bathroom though the swinging doors, no need to extend an arm to aid passage, his protruding chin absorbing the brunt of both doors like a confident cowboy.

Whistle around his neck, life preserver by his side, he was supposed to be on duty, peepers locked on clubbers in the pool, but the situation with his penis took precedence. Carefully avoiding the pool area where the girls bandied his name back and forth in time with the boys tossing their unsinkable balls and rods higher and higher into the blackness of masculine rencontre, Ryder crossed the dance floor, grooving to the beat of the strobe lights, weaving though bodies dancing and bodies just standing around looking cool.

The line at the EXtasee™ stand was four abreast, making passage to the kitchen difficult, if not impossible, so he cut through the bowling alley. No games were played. Union now represented the bowling pin jockeys, but mutilation risk was so high in that profession, not even the lucrative unions could afford the insurance premiums. But the kids enjoyed the break in service: wooden lanes perfect for dancing. Boys in pants so baggy, barely hanging on their hips, torsos in constant motion to keep the wide waist bands circling around their hips like hula hoops, slid down lanes on their knees while girls with silvery glittering cheeks stood around in packs like pink and purple colored pins, smoking long thin cigarettes, waiting to be knocked down.

Tommy-No-Nods, a bulging security guard pinned with that moniker because he never nods out no matter how much Hair-o-ine™ he pops, was stationed at the far end of the alley, licking his lips and spinning his billy club like a lasso -- a wide circle of translucent gray which he appears behind as though peeking through a fan. Taking a hard right, Ryder found himself in the mailroom. He'd been stationed at ClubLand five years, but still had difficulty finding his way through the labyrinthine rooms -- Level 12, with its vats of warm heady liquids, was the most vexing; an errand to that floor took several days. In a cluttered mail cubicle, two postal employees worked at each other like loose hinges, wriggling violently to the silent beat of their conjoined groins. Unimpeded by curiosity or even a banal sense of dismay, Ryder skirted the lovers, his back clinging to the wall, letting his hands search blindly behind him for the handle to the janitor's cabinet he knew was somewhere along that smooth surface.

Safely inside the small dimly lit closet, he easily located the clorox next to a crumpled pack of menthol cigarettes, turned up the plastic bottle and drank it dry. He smoked one of the menthols while waiting for the cleaning agent to take effect, but before he had a chance to unzip his jumpsuit and perlustrate his stain, the closet door lurked open. Pappy, the old three-legged janitor, chuckling quietly to himself, watched the young lifeguard smoke his cigarettes.

"Sumbitch ain't getting' away wit this shit. Thems be black men's smokes," he yelled, barely keeping a straight face as he spit out the words along with a few teeth. Producing an imaginary cellphone, he mimed calling security. "Tommy, Tommy-No-Nods," he shouted into his hand, "wake up you junkie bastard, I got me a wanna-be homeboy up here tryin' to get his stinkin' white hands on my gen-u-wine African art-y-facts."

The two old friends had a good laugh about obsolete technology as they polished off a couple more bottles of cleaning solution, chasing it with menthol cigarettes. That was all they needed to get high.

About the author:

Sarah M. Balcomb, philosopher, critic, novelist and dramatist, holds a position of singular eminence in the world of French letters.