Julie was in a lot of trouble.
University for a country girl was a tough row to hoe and having
hit the city on her own at nineteen, she hadn't developed the
street smarts to filter out the crud.
She had the smarts to land a
full tuition, but the family ranch simply couldn't supply her
with a living while going to school. As a result, Julie had
tried a convenience store job but after the second 3 a.m. robbery,
she came to understand minimum wage and top level stress was
not compatible with good school work. She quit.
To make things worse, her father
was killed in a plane crash. He and the pilot were searching
for a lost group of cattle when the plane went down. Her mother,
who had longed to be off the ranch for years, quickly sold and
moved to town. Julie was shocked to see her mother picked up
with a family friend almost from the outset. For the first time,
Julie had found her mother had been cheating and the marriage
had been over in all practical sense of the word for years.
Julie was numb. Her father was already buried when she found
out he was lost. She cried herself to sleep for weeks but had
no desire to visit home. She had no more use for her mother.
Working the night shift in a
bakery didn't work either, when the wife of the boss became
convinced she was rising more than the bread with her husband.
The old guy was nothing but respectful and easy going, but the
meeting with his wife in the bathroom ended her employment rather
The truth was, Julie's fresh
good looks and quick grin were her downfall. That bitch was
far too insecure to allow anyone attractive to work for her
It was about this time, she
was introduced to Tony. He ran a local body shop near the campus
and he seemed to run with the more popular kids from ASU. Tucson
finally had a friendly face. Over a beer on the patio of a local
pub, Tony slipped her a couple of Ben Franklins when he found
out she was not going to make her room and board that month.
He seemed happy to help her, and simply asked her to pay it
back when she got work. He also offered to land her a decent
job if she didn't have any good leads.
This was more than Julie could
have hoped for and frankly she had no leads. She told Tony so
and he smiled. The conversation that followed was the beginning
of the end.
"No problem. Meet me at
the Wild Horse on Speedway at 11 tonight. They need a floor
waitress and you seem like you could pull it off."
"Wonderful. I'll be there."
She met Tony that night as she
said she would, and on first view, she had second thoughts.
The waitresses all had light white tee shirts with the Wild
Horse logo and micro minis and the wet tee shirt contest had
Tony grinned his disarming smile
and explained the benefit to the tips. These girls often made
a couple hundred dollars a night just on tips. This was opposed
to an average of sixty or seventy dollars for those who wore
heavier shirts or never got involved in the water sports.
Julie remembered her last week's
work and grinned back, but understood the implications. She
had no clue that much money could be made as a drink waitress.
Tony had introduced her to Freddie,
the club manager. His quick glance up and down her frame preceded
a single interview question.
"Can you balance a tray
full of drinks on your finger tips?"
"I think so."
"Report to Sylvie behind
the bar. Tell her Freddie said to fill you in. Tony, how's it
hangin'? Want in the game tonight?"
Since she was dismissed, Julie
went to see Sylvie.
"Freddie asked me to come
see you about a position. He said you would fill me in."
"Come back behind the bar,
honey. Watch what's going down while I serve the floor."
Julie followed instructions
and watched with wide eyes as the pole dancers started. The
crush of men on the floor swarmed the stage and jostled for
position on "Gynecology Row".
Within a week Julie had three
evening shifts a week, but unwilling to show more of herself,
her weekly income was often less then one hundred and fifty
dollars. Tony told her to loosen up and get with it. "Do
you want the big money or not?"
He was right. She wore the tee
shirts, got wet, got a bit too familiar with her customers and
was now clearing seven hundred a week.
Her schooling suffered, however.
The evening shifts grew longer as she was expected to serve
the back room poker games after work. Between school, homework
and the club, she was getting an average of three and a half
hours of sleep in the afternoons and a couple hours before school.
She lost touch with family and friends. Tony was the only constant
in her life, and he seemed to have a harem surrounding him most
of the time.
The next step in her spiral
downward began with a conversation with Tony after the poker
game one Friday night.
"Tony, my grades are slipping.
I'm not getting enough sleep."
"Well doll, how would you
like to make more money in less time?"
"How would I go about that?"
"C'mere." He got up
and climbed the stairs at the right of the bar.
Julie followed him to a room
at the top of the stairs and after a short knock, was led into
a well worn apartment with a team of girls splayed out over
the furniture. Julie recognized the dancers from the club.
"Roxy, come meet Julie."
Julie's heart was racing as
she realized Freddie's intentions.
She started to protest, but
he held up his hand and waved Roxy over.
After a very friendly kiss,
he pointed to Julie and said. "Roxy, I want you to meet
"Hi, honey, welcome to
paradise." She giggled and winked.
"H... Hi R
"Roxy, Jewels works downstairs,
but needs more money and less work for her college fund. She
got legs that won't quit."
"I see that. So you want
to be a dancer, huh?"
I didn't, I mean,
I don't know."
"Well, darlin', I work
for two fifteen minutes shows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
nights and I make two grand a week. Would that work for you?"
"Wow! I just don't know.
I can't imagine getting almost naked in front of a room full
"Darlin', they pay better
than any other job you can find and you are already showing
your tits as a barmaid. How hard can it be? Can you move?"
"I have never even thought
about dancing to a pole, but I have been known to dance pretty
good with a partner."
"OK, school starts tomorrow
before you go to work. Come here."
Roxy showed her a pole set up
in a bedroom with a hardwood floor. "Meet me here tomorrow
The next morning in class, Professor
MacAdams gently woke her up at the back of the class.
"Miss Phillips, I know
my seminars can be rather dry and boring, but I'm afraid you
will need some of my information to pass."
"I'm sorry, sir, I'm just
so beat. I need my evening job to get through school but it
means I don't get much sleep. I think I just got a new job that
will ease up my days and let me get some sleep."
"I'm glad to hear that,
Julie. Your marks have been sliding. Is there anything I can
do to help?"
"No, sir. I think I'll
be alright now."
"Julie, I want you to feel
free to come talk to me if you are having trouble. I can help."
The friendly dark face creased
in a smile that showed uncommonly bright teeth.
"Yes sir, I sure will."
Julie was a quick learner. A
week later, she was finished with the barmaid job and had been
introduced on stage as Jewels. The wage was very small, but
the tips were very good and with a little coaching, they became
excellent. She was the youngest dancer, so she gained popularity
quickly. Her natural rhythm and athletic nature ensured her
act was on cue from the start and increased in quality quickly.
Roxy taught her how to identify
the heaviest tippers, and allow peeks for those who donated
the best. Her popularity increased. And some of the girls talked
her into trying out for the matinee review over at the Kitten
Club. Again she found success and a new income.
All of this growth was hinged
on her training and practice time. It wasn't long before time
again was a problem. The girls showed her some uppers to help
keep up her energy, but they became a necessity and it was showing.
She was losing ground.
Professor MacAdams pulled her
aside and asked her to stop by his office after the lecture.
She was scared as hell. Her
marks were on the borderline.
She knocked on his office door.
"Come on in, Miss Phillips."
She silently sat in a chair
across the professor's desk from the distracted educator and
waited for him to finish typing on his laptop.
He typed for a couple minutes
more, then slid the machine back on the desk and directed his
attention to the scared girl on the other side of his desk.
"Do you mind if I call
"No sir, that would be
"Julie, I want to see your
big picture. I want to see what you want to do with your life
and how you plan to get there. I would like very much for you
to open up to me."
The large black man smiled softly
and Julie melted. She had no reason to hold anything back.
"Dr. MacAdams, I am in
trouble. My dad worked hard on the ranch to get me into college.
I wanted to be a veterinarian so I could be valuable on the
ranch. My father died a few weeks ago and my mother sold the
ranch. I no longer have a reason to get my degree."
"I'm sorry to hear that,
Julie. From where I sit, it looks like your future has changed
"I have no future. I have
no reasons in my life now. I work, I come to school, and I sleep
when I get the chance. My life is not my own."
"Where do you work, Julie?
How are you living?"
She dropped her head and her
"Sir, I'm a stripper over
She could hardly believe she
dropped the bomb, but there it was, out on the desk.
He smiled gently. "Julie,
my mother raised seven kids by dancing against a pole. She did
what was necessary to get me into university. She paid for the
start of all our careers, then retired to be a wonderful grandmother
to our families. I am the only one who has yet to supply her
with a grandbaby."
Julie looked up with amazement.
The Doctor of Biology just smiled.
"Julie, if you could start
over, what would you like to do with your life?"
"Sir, I would make it simple.
Just make a living and live outdoors as much as I could. I love
animals of all kinds and would love a chance to help them. I
don't care where anymore, or even how, but it sure as hell wouldn't
be in a city."
"Julie, do you trust me
enough to visit me tomorrow after school? I have something to
show you that may solve your problems and give you a new goal.
I will supply dinner, but don't worry, this will not be a date,
I only want to show you some possibilities that your brain and
nature could fit rather well."
"Well, sir, I have trusted
far less scrupulous people with my life, so I would be happy
"OK, be ready after school
tomorrow and you can ride with me."
True to his word, Dr. MacAdams
was packed up and locking the lab when she found him after school.
Julie was a bit surprised to see he drove an old Ford pickup
with no bells and whistles. The back of her straw cowboy hat
didn't bend against a head rest. She normally had to take it
off in a vehicle. She commented as much.
"Well Julie, I don't need
much. I find I carry more cargo than people and I am quite easily
satisfied with the basics. You'll probably notice that side
of the bench seat is hardly even broke in."
Looking down at the seat around
her, she had to agree. The vinyl cover still had a waxy sheen
and the cushion provided no clue of wear.
"Where are we going?"
"A friend of mine owns
a quaint little bar out on South Yale. Are you old enough to
eat in a bar?"
"Well, I have been twenty
for a couple of months now, so I suppose to keep your reputation,
it had better be a restaurant."
"No problem, Buzz has two
sections. We will have a better talking atmosphere in the restaurant
section. I was aiming for it for other reasons as well."
The pulled up to a diner type
restaurant with neon reminders that they served the best prime
rib in the country and had a fully qualified lounge for non
smokers. The cooks and wait staff new the professor and shocked
Julie with their familiarity with the easy going teacher.
"Hi'a Black Mac, What's
cookin'?" The head chef was peering through the serve window
and waiving at Dr. MacAdams.
"I 'spect I should be asking
you that, Rudy. How's Penny?"
"All good, Prof. Prime
rib is spectacular tonight."
"Sounds like my usual tonight,
but let's see what Jewels would like from the menu first."
Julie snapped her eyes toward
the big man as the waitress tugged his elbow.
"This way Black Mac, your
table's waiting." Her smile was genuine. These folks loved
"How did you know about
that stage name?"
A touch of fear rose in her
throat as she imagined this genial man watching her show from
the back of the audience.
"No worries, Jewels, I
am not a dancer stocker. The name fits but if it really bothers
you I'll go back to Julie or even Miss Phillips if you prefer."
"No sir, I was just surprised
you had heard it."
"Well Jewels, since we
are on friend basis now, please call me Black Mac like the rest
of my friends, or if you are squeamish about black, simply Mac
They sat and accepted the menus.
Julie took off her hat and set it upside down on the seat to
"I know what I want, so
you take a look and pick what you like. Don't worry about cost.
I have a great discount at this place."
Julie looked over the menu and
flipped it closed.
"Do you mind if I get a
coffee and a flat steak salad?"
"Not at all. That's one
of my favorites too."
The waitress dropped by to fill
the coffee cups and take the orders. When she left, Mac showed
her the laminated place mats on the table. Julie recognized
the show bill for one of the clubs on Speedway.
"Turn it over, girl."
She did and her jaw dropped.
"That's the poster for
the review. That's me!"
"Yep, you see you are more
famous than you think."
"Jewels, I'm going to offer
you a chance to start all over a world away from here. Are you
"That depends." She
looked suspiciously at the gentle brown eyes across from her.
"Well come with me a moment."
He stood and headed down the hall toward the restrooms.
She stood but hesitated when
she saw his direction. He stopped short of the restrooms and
opened a door with a sign that said "Employees Only."
She followed as he flicked on
the light switch. Mac opened the steel door on a breaker panel
and pointed at a small button by itself near the bottom. There
was no marking and the button was a simple white half-inch diameter
"Girl, when you are ready
to move to a whole new world, live mostly outdoors, work with
a wide variety of animals and be productive in a much simpler
life, when you are fed up with life here, when you are ready,
He headed back to the fire,
so she followed.
They just had time to sit down
when their meals arrived.
"Eat well, Jewels."
"What will that button
do? Where do you want me to go? What will happen?"
"Jewels, the button will
take you to a whole different life. You have never heard of
the place. You can come back at any time, but people you know
here will simply find you missing. There will be no trace. If
you come back, the button will be moved to protect the world
you have seen but can be used again if you follow the right
They ate in near silence.
"Can I get to the button
if I decide I want to go?"
"Yep, you will find the
room unlocked when you come back."
The professor dropped her at
her boarding house before ten and drove off to the tune of a
Julie contemplated the conversation
She had no reason to stay here.
Her degree was hollow, her father was gone, her mother moved
on and her job was a downward spiral.
The next day in class, there
was a substitute teacher. Professor MacAdams was suddenly on
holiday. It took only two days to work up her courage, but she
pulled on her straw hat and went back to the steak house.
As she entered, she was greeted
as a friend. "Hi, Jewels. Would you like the usual?"
"Hi, just a coffee please.
I don't think I will stay long."
She drank half her coffee while
building strength, left two dollars by her cup and got up. With
hesitant steps, while watching for witnesses, she opened the
Employees Only door and found the metal panel. There was the
button, alone and ominous at her eye level. She felt completely
silly and scared, but she pushed he button.
* * *
She began to show signs of life.
I saw eyelid flickers turn to clinching as she became aware
of the bright sunlight. I took a moment to relish in her obvious
charms. I hoped Mac's description of her soul was as good as
her physical appearance.
Her hands came up now to rub
her face and eyelids. She groaned as she rolled her head to
the shadow side and tested her eyesight. Her first sight on
Terra was the landing pond. She smiled lightly and stretched
like a cat in a sunbeam as her body drank in the warmth of Pegasi.
Still smiling she rolled her head back the other way and caught
sight of the pole towering over her, with its lonely little
"Take note of that button,
Jewels. That is your ticket home if you decide you don't like
She jumped at my voice and looked
past her naked body to find me crouched on my heels on top of
the little grassy mound above her. She panicked and covered
her chest and pubic triangle.
I grinned and threw her the
white tunic I was holding.
"Kind of modest for a pole
dancer, aren't you?"
She glared at me and slipped
quickly into the tunic.
"Here you go." I threw
a sash with a crystal mounted on a clasp to cinch it around
her waist. I also tossed a set of sandals that laced over the
calf muscles. This kept them more than secure for a lifetime
of pedestrian travel.
"Let me introduce myself.
I'm Popeye. Also known as Paul back on Earth."
"Uh, I'm Julie
Jewels. Where am I?" Looking down at her tunic, she continued.
"Is this Greece?"
"Jewels, you aren't in
a different country, you are on a different world. This is Terra.
We are on the fifth planet of a star called 51 Pegasi. We are
a small band of humans transported to a different solar system
than you have known all your life, and we live a much simpler
life. You shoot and gather your food here, you don't have a
Safeway to shop. You make your own weapons, tools, clothes and
life. There are no taxes, money or stock market. If you want
something you don't have, you make it or barter for it with
something you do have. Your assets are your skills and the products
you can create.
Jewels stood up and shook the
folds out of her new garment. She fastened the clasp on her
sash and asked what the clear gem was on the clasp.
"That is a raw diamond."
"My god, it must be a hundred
but who's counting? They are plentiful on this planet and have
a lot of uses. Don't forget your hat. This sun can be damn hot
at this latitude. Let me know when you are ready to travel."
She sat, laced on the sandals,
pulled the tip of her hat down over her eyes, stood and said,
"First, let's fill these."
I pulled two water skins off my shoulder, gave her one and stepped
down to the small pond to fill mine. Jewels followed suit.
Packed with water, we set out.
"Does everyone arrive here
I chuckled. "Yep, one of
the first things you will figure out is we have scrapped off
our weird society hang-ups from Earth. You will see a lot of
nudity here, but it is not wrong. It is not dirty, and it is
not illegal. You will find a lot more liberal world here in
the ways of human nature, but you will also see a lot more uncommon
sense in the taking of life for food or self defense only and
the utilization of everything we take from this world. You will
find very little waste."
"Wow, a world of common
"Note, I said uncommon
sense. Think of the term common. Common means everyone has it
and if everyone had sense, earth wouldn't be in such a mess.
Uncommon sense means our rules follow much closer to nature.
If you need an example, look at the laws of nature. Nudity and
sex is natural. Killing for food and resources is natural, encouraging
life and growth of everything else is natural, for preservation
of our own species."
Jewels went silent and I let
her work through her thoughts as we marched toward boot camp.
She would do just fine.