Conversation with a Working Girl

a Short Story by Kellis

February, 2000


“What’s your fee for a half hour’s conversation?”

The girl whirled in his direction.  He was sitting at a table against the rail, nearly concealed by a large potted palm.  An hour earlier he had looked up from his book at the sound of a door opening and seen her emerge from 403.  She had looked furtively up and down the wide balcony, then consulted an object taken from her purse.  She had proceeded immediately to 407 and was promptly admitted.  A half-hour later she had emerged from 407, again scanned the balcony and the object from her purse, then knocked at 417, again to be promptly admitted.  Now she had just re-emerged on the balcony, performed her quick surveillance and was again consulting the suspected pager.  She was a pretty brunette, attired in clean slacks and a colorful sleeveless blouse appropriate to the Florida spring, carrying a substantial black purse suspended from her shoulder.

She wended her way through the spaced tables and chairs to stand before him.  “How long have you been on this balcony?” she asked.

“Longer than you.”

She glanced around.  “Have you seen anyone else?”

“Only some of the men who let you into their rooms.”

Her eyes narrowed.  “Are you a cop?”


“Are you sure?”  Her lip curled.  “The cops are such liars!”

“Of course you know them.”

She shrugged.  “Enough to know that.  If you’re not a cop, what’s your interest?”

“Isn’t that obvious?”  He smiled slightly.  “My name is Glenn.  What’s yours?”

She studied him.  At last she said, “Call me Lily.”

He nodded.  “Appropriate: a flower that lies spread open.  But you didn’t answer my question.”

“‘A flower that —’”  She grinned slightly.  “But not open for talking.”

“Why not?  I’m not your competition.  Our conversation won’t be personal — just intimate.”

“I get it,” she said with an ironic grin.  “You want to ask why a girl with my looks is doing this, right?  Mind if I sit down?”

He stood up.  “Please do, and excuse me for not offering.”

He resumed his seat as she took the indicated chair across the table.  She lowered her purse to the deck and interlaced her fingers on the tabletop.  Her nails were a dark pink that matched her lipstick.  Her eyebrows were evenly curved lines and her mascara seemed freshly applied.  When she smiled, teeth glistened evenly in healthy pink gums.

She tilted her head toward his book.  “What are you reading?”

He turned it to show her the cover but said, “Presumably you’re doing this because the pay is better and the work is easier than other things you’ve tried.”

She shrugged.  “I guess you could say that about the reason for most lines of work.”

“My question is, why don’t more women do it?”

She parted her lips to reply but hesitated briefly.  “I could say, ‘Who knows?’  But actually I do know.  It’s because most of them are sheep.”


“They do nothing, especially in regard to men, unless they sense that all their girl friends agree it’s a good move.”

“You don’t think the law has anything to do with it?”

She sniffed.  “The law never stopped anyone.”

“Not you, at any rate!  Sheep, eh?  How did you get away from the flock?”

She grinned slowly.  “You really want to hear my sordid tale?”

“Very much.”

“All right.”  Her slight grin widened into a smile.  “I’ll tell you in just a minute.”

She fetched up her purse and took out a small cellular telephone.  She punched it twice and held it to her ear while staring into Glenn’s eyes.  She waited briefly, the remains of her smile still on her lips.

“Lily,” she said.  “Finished the fourth floor.  417 ought to be calling in.”  She paused.  “Not a complaint.  Wants to negotiate a pool party.”  She listened for a moment before snapping, “Let Eris do it.”  Another pause.  “I don’t care.  Math exam tomorrow morning.  I’ll check in when it’s over.  Bye.”

The telephone returned to the purse, the purse to the deck.  She leaned back in her chair, licked her lips, sighed and said, “I’m thirsty.”

He took an even smaller telephone from a shirt pocket and punched a single digit.  As she had done, he stared at her with the instrument against his ear.  “Room Service?  Hold just a moment.  What will you have, Lily?”

She smiled.  “A large chocolate shake.”

“No kidding?”

“I need the calories.”

He shrugged and relayed her order.  “Add a brandy alexander to that, will you?  And a scotch on the rocks.”

When he had repocketed his instrument, she asked, “Only one button?  Is that the phone from your hotel room?”

“Yes, smarty.  They can locate me even out here on the balcony.”

“Bet they lose a lot of them.”

“Nope.  It’s only a cordless.  Beeps like mad if you take it out of range.  But a milkshake at your age?”

Her eyes twinkled.  “You think I’m too old for a milkshake?  If I’d thought of it, I’d’ve asked you to have them put a couple eggs in it.  Mind if I smoke?”

“Go ahead.  Eggs!  You’re slim but I wouldn’t call you skinny.”

“Thanks, I think!”  Reaching down, she took a pack from her purse and knocked out a cigarette, fitting it into a long black holder.  She lit up, leaned back and took a deep puff.  Sighing in contentment, she blew out a gray cloud.  Cigarette and holder thrust up from her teeth at a jaunty angle.

His eyebrows rose appreciatively.  “I haven’t seen anyone use a holder in years.  Are they becoming stylish again?”

She laughed.  “Style has nothing to do with it.  It’s for the johns.”

He studied her.  “They like the looks of it, do they?”

“Looks!”  She snorted.  “Haven’t you noticed?  Men have just about quit smoking.”

“So what?”

“So they object to the odor of it.  This long holder keeps it out of my hair.”

“What about your breath?”

Her head tilted toward the purse, now still on the table.  “A mint spray,  just in case.”  She chuckled.  “Though most of what I kiss can’t smell.”

“Ah … yes.”  He shook his head.  “I won’t bother to say you ought to quit.”

“I started it to lose weight.  It works;  I lost twenty pounds.”  She chuckled wryly.  “Now I’ve got to gain ten back.”

“Who says?”

“The director.”

He cocked his head.  “As in the movies?”

“As in the movies, if I can get to 120 and a C-cup.  Who’s the brandy for?”

“Anyone who likes a chocolate shake will like an alexander.”

She inhaled another deep draft and said while blowing out the smoke, “Did you want to ask me some questions?”

He nodded.  “How about the question you suggested:  why is a girl with your looks doing this?  But I would rephrase it.  What are looks worth?  Don’t you make all your arrangements by telephone?”

“‘What are looks worth?’” she repeated rhetorically.  “Let me tell you about Peeper.”

He grinned.  “Is that a person or a room with a hole in the wall?”

“Peeper is a 25 year old woman who looks to be about fourteen:  cute, skinny, short, hair always in a pony-tail, no boobs … and she wears braces — when she wants.  They’re special ones that she can pop in and out.  She puts them in before she knocks on a strange door.  A lot of the johns run her off, but those who don’t, pay big!”

He nodded.  “That’s not surprising.  What’s your point?”

“You asked what looks are worth.  I’d guess in Peeper’s case, about a hundred bucks extra per trick.”

“I was thinking of conventional good looks — like yours, for example.”

“Conventional, you say?  Thank you anyway.  It’s the same thing.  If I mess up my hair or smear my mascara, the next john will get cold feet — or if he doesn’t it could be even worse.”


“How do you think?  When you look rough, people get rough!”

He nodded slowly.  “‘Rough’ is an interesting word.  I’d use it for the girls that stand half-naked on San Francisco street corners, or even worse, Times Square.  They look rough.  Or pitiful, shivering in winter.”

She said thoughtfully, “I’d guess they have a different problem.  They need to look different from the clamps.”

“The … what?”

She grinned.  “Clamps.  That’s what my crowd calls the girls who keep it clamped.”

“Are any like that left?”

“Relatively speaking.”

He chuckled, observing, “Here come our drinks.”

She turned to see a uniformed servitor approaching, balancing a tray of drinks on the tips of his fingers.  He lowered the tray to their table and waited for Glenn to sign the chit, after which he bowed, expressed ritual gratitude and departed as briskly as he came.

She stuck a straw into the milkshake and sucked powerfully, collapsing her cheeks.  Her eyes twinkled on his.  She released the straw, swallowed and asked with a leer, “Are you thinking of golf balls and garden hoses?  I’m good, but not that good.”

He smiled.  “I gather it’s a thick milkshake.”

“Almost too thick.”  She winked.  “Did you ever wonder how it feels to the straw?”

“I know how it feels to the straw!”

She chuckled.  “Was that cocktail for me?”

“Sure.  Try it.”

She transferred her straw from the milkshake, took a sip and nodded.  “Right:  a milkshake with punch.”

“Good description,” he agreed.  “It contains chocolate liqueur, heavy cream and brandy, in equal parts.”

She took a deeper pull then admitted, “I don’t know much about alcoholic drinks, but I could grow to like this one.”

“Lily …”  He hesitated.  “You’re very young, aren’t you?”

She considered her answer, at last admitting, “It knocks me over that Peeper has to buy me a beer.”

“You’re under 21?”

“And now they’re starting to get mean about cigarettes, too.”

He shook his head.  “That was inevitable when they did away with the draft.”

“The draft?”

“You’ve heard of it, haven’t you?  When they could send all the eighteen year olds to war, to die as necessary, it stuck in the craw to deny them beer and smokes.”

She sniffed.  “Well, it’s your generation that makes the rules.”

“Maybe so, but it’s not a generational thing.  It’s the damned do-gooders, the same crowd that wants to stop your visits to strange hotel rooms.”

She shook her head and said confidently, “Actually it’s just more sheep.”

“What do you mean?”

“The women sheep say, ‘Don’t do it unless the flock approves.’  The men sheep say, ‘And we’ll hurt you if you do it anyway.’”

“Succinctly put!”  He leaned back in his chair.  “Your words?”

She shrugged as she finished the cocktail.  “I read a lot of history last fall.  It’s pretty obvious.  Human society was always like that.  And that’s why I’m doing this.  I decided not to be a sheep.”

She transferred her straw back to the milkshake before settling her eyes on his.  She took another deep pull of the thick liquid.

He asked, “Isn’t that just teenage contrariness?”

She grinned.  “Do you have a daughter?”

“Two, both teenagers.”

“You think they’re contrary, do you?”

He shrugged.  “I just pay the bills.  It’s my sister who thinks they’re contrary.”

“What’s your wife think?”

“Nothing.  I’m a widower.”

“Sorry.  Your daughters will slip back in the fold when they get a bit older.  But in my case …”

When she trailed off, he said, “You were going to tell me your sordid tale.”

She grunted.  “Santa Claus ruined me.”

“Santa Claus?”  He stiffened.  “You mean some Santa molested you?”

“Just my head.”  She leaned back.  “Escaping the flock was a little easier for me, I think.  Most girls model first on their mothers and their mothers’ friends, but my mother got killed by a drunk driver when I was four —”

“I’m sorry.”

She waved a hand.  “Probably I should be, too.  I hardly remember her.  My father hired a housekeeper to raise my brother and me.  And warm his bed now and then, but that’s another story.  She was more interested in him than us kids.  I think it’s a rare woman who mothers step-children a tenth as well as she would her own.  Of course, that’s not news to anybody, is it?

“The point is, I wasn’t so surrounded by the flock.  The housekeeper didn’t keep close tabs on me.  One result of that was introduction to sex sooner than most girls.  When I understood what it was, I couldn’t believe all the hype about it.  What’s the big deal?  Then I understood.  It’s the same kind of thing as Santa Claus:  another big lie.  Just another pressure point to control you.”

He smiled.  “Were you disappointed to discover the truth about Santa Claus?”

“I believe astonished is the right word.  His red suit was everywhere:  TV, magazines, billboards, ringing a bell on the street corners, taking me on his lap in the mall.  All a lie.  Even as a little kid I was devastated by the scope of it.  The whole damned world was in on the scam!  People don’t realize the damage this does to everything else they want a kid to believe.

“Most kids probably shrug and pass it off, but I decided they’d never hook me again.  So when sex ed told me all the flock-approved rules for sex, I was ready to tell the flock where to flock off.”

“Lily, you know some of those rules are valid.”

“Yeah, the practical ones, like keeping your gums healthy if you plan to suck and putting fresh condoms on the dicks for everything else.  But the so-called moral ones are crap, like Santa Claus.”

“You mean you, ah, do oral sex without condoms?”

She grunted.  “It’s not dangerous if your mouth is healthy.  A lot of guys really hate to come in a condom.  They’ll pay extra.”

“You don’t swallow, of course.”

“Good god, no!  And you rinse out right away.”

“Do you take a douche?”

“That’s one advantage of condoms — unless he wants to lick, which is rare.”  She tilted her head towards the purse.  “I’ve got a couple douche kits just in case.”  Her lip curled into a leer.  “Only the old ones go for that.”

“It sounds like business is good.”

She took another long pull on the milkshake before responding.  “Yeah.  Too good sometimes.  Della would break my back if I’d let her.”


“Pretty close!  When I called in just now, she had two more waiting.  In this same hotel.”

“But it’s a Sunday afternoon!”

She laughed.  “You don’t hear me singing Never on Sunday.”

“Saturday night I could understand.  But a Sunday?”

“Sunday afternoon is hot!  And Thursday night.  Saturday, too, but not as much.”

“Why Thursday?”

“That’s when the sin thumpers get paid.  After a week of goody-goody they’re ready to party!”

“Then most of your, ah, clientele is local?”

“Only on Thursday.  On Sunday it’s mostly early arrivals for Monday business, like you, except they know Della, of course.”

“She’s your dispatcher, I take it.”

“‘Dispatcher!’  I’ll have to tell her that one.  She’s our madam, or would be if we had a regular house.  She knows all the tricks and has all the contacts.  They say she used to be a real madam.”

He watched her take another deep pull, apparently the last.  Air at the bottom of the cup rattled flatulently.  “So what’s in it for you, Lily?  Anything besides the money?”

She shrugged.  “It’s my job.”

“And I understand it pays well for the time invested — unless you get hurt.”

“I don’t get hurt.”

He nodded.  “Until you do.  Your phone conversation suggested you’re a student.”

“Right.  But that’s not the reason for the job.  I wasn’t raised in a trailer park, Glenn.”

“You mean you don’t need the money?”

She grinned.  “Don’t tell Della.”

“Then … you do this for fun?”

“Sure.  But not the way you think.”

“You don’t enjoy the sex?”

“No!” she laughed scornfully.

He spread his hands.  “Fun?”

“It’s exciting.  The johns are interesting.  I should say, the differences between them are interesting.  What they do … that’s just stupid.”


“I’m their Santa Claus!”

“In what sense?”

“In the worst sense.  Santa Claus is supposed to care what you personally get for Christmas, right?  The johns think I care how they wiggle, how big a dick they have, how much they jizz.  I compliment them and play the game just like the mall Santa Claus, oo-ing and squealing, so they’ll ask for Lily the next time.”

“You have lots of repeat customers?”

She nodded.  “Especially on Thursdays.”

“What do you care about?”

“Little things.  How close they shave, their underwear, the way they smell under the arms, their accents, the crazy things they say.  Balls.  I like the feel of balls.  Tell me something:  why doesn’t playing with them do more for a man?”

He grinned.  “From what I hear, it depends on the man.  They’re easy to hurt, you know.”

“Oh, yes, I know.”

“Did you ever have to kick a pair?”

“Not yet.”  She grinned.  “I learned it on myself, would you believe.”

“On yourself?”

“When I was a kid, the boys would let me play sandlot softball with them.  I was playing third base one afternoon when I was about fourteen.  The batter hit a line drive and before I could get my glove down the ball hit me, ‘kerplop,’ right in the crotch.  I grabbed it from between my jeans, meaning to throw him out at first, then realized I didn’t have to.

“I looked around.  Every boy was staring at me with his chin dragging.  One of them put real feeling into his voice.  ‘You better be glad you’re a girl!’”

He chuckled.  “I can just see it.”

“They wouldn’t let me play softball any more.”

His chuckle became a laugh.  “Obviously you had an unfair advantage.”

“I guess.  But if they’re so sensitive, why doesn’t it please to roll them around?”

“Like a handful of marbles?  Ouch!”

She laughed.  “I mean gently.  Or suck on them?”

“You’re saying it doesn’t work?”

“They just push the cock head at me.”

He nodded.  “That’s where it’s at, as you kids say.  Where is it at for you?”

She frowned.  “You mean —”

“What gives you the most fun?”

She grinned slowly.  “Talking about it.”

“Just talking?”

“Della gets us together for what she calls a ‘Monday Morning,’ whether it’s Monday or not.  I guess it’s a term from the old days.  We tell her and each other what happened during the week.  She makes notes on the johns for future business, and —”

“How does she identify them?”

“Most pay by credit card.  That gives her a real name and card number.  What she wants is how they behaved, what they asked for, how they tipped, do we want to see them again.  You understand:  future business.  We compare notes.   Sometimes it gets really funny.”  She smiled reflectively.  “We’re our only true friends.”

“A sisterhood, eh?”

“A good one.  Della sees to that.  No bimboes, no druggies.  Blood tests every week and a six week paid vacation when we turn up positive.  I should say, if.  None of us has got a positive yet.”

“All your … customers are agreeable, are they?”

“Oh, no!  Not hardly.”

“Then what’s the good of Della’s notes?”

Her eyes flashed.  “We don’t go back to the bad ones!”  She shook her head.  “It’s the drunks.  A lot of johns need to get their courage up.  Then they can’t keep what matters up!  That gets frustrating for everybody.  If they don’t come they won’t pay.  Sometimes they blame the girl.”

“And then what?  Do they get violent?”

“Once in a while.  The worst I’ve got is kicked out of bed.  One of us got herself knifed pretty bad in the hip.  She stayed to argue.  You have to know when to skip.”

He regarded her thoughtfully.  “That’s what I meant about not getting hurt until you do.”

“I knew what you meant.”  She shrugged.  “So there’s a risk.  That’s what makes it exciting.  You never know what a new man’s going to do.”  She smiled.  “He might even buy you an alcoholic milkshake.”

He grunted.  “Which you aren’t old enough to drink.”

She smiled defiantly.  “That’s only the law talking.”

“But you never enjoy the sex?  That’s terrible!”

She cocked her head.  “Oh, I wouldn’t say never.  Sometimes at a party the sheer intensity will get me off.”

“‘A party.’  You mean an orgy?”

She nodded.  “I’ve heard them called that:  lots of men, several girls, big payoff.”

“Several men at once?”

“Sure.  And another one on as soon as one is off.”

“Who has parties like that?”

“College fraternities, for example.  But the largest I’ve seen was the Burtonham crew.”

“The what?”

“Navy destroyer.”

“You mean the one that bought 10,000 tickets and won the lottery?”

“Yeah, that one.”  Her eyebrows rose.  “I didn’t know it made the national news.”

“They threw a dance,” he mused.  “My daughter attended it.”

She leered.  “And they threw a wild private party afterwards.  So you’re a local!  Why are you staying in this hotel?”

He grinned.  “Better service here.  That party must have been something to see!  How many guys:  three, four hundred?”

“Probably.  Who counted?  And they all knew each other.  They weren’t so finicky about a little mess.”  She shivered.  “I was sore for a week.”

“Do you know how many girls were working?”

“Della said 25.  Several clubs.”


Lily nodded.  “That’s what we are:  just a little social club.”

“300 guys and 25 girls.  Have you done the arithmetic?”

“Huh!  That ship had just returned from the Persian Gulf.  Do you think each john only popped once?”

“Didn’t that … scare you a little?”

“Scare us?  All those cocks were hard.”

“Well, of course —”

“Men aren’t so dangerous when their cocks are hard, Glenn.  Then you know what they want.”

He stared at her.  “An interesting theory.”

She lit another cigarette.  “One of our girls did get hurt.  She slipped in a puddle.  The john doing her from behind fell on her and made her break an ulna.”

His eyes widened.  “An ulna?”

“It’s a bone in your forearm.”

“I know what it is.”

“It was the way she fell, a freak accident.  Ten johns picked her up and hauled her to the hospital.  Nice fellows — even if four of them did bang her in the ambulance!”

“Yeah.  Nice fellows.  Do you ever work parties on yachts?”

“Oh, yes.  But you have to watch out.”

“For bad behavior?”

“Bad?”  She giggled.  “That’s what we’re there for.”

“I mean violent.”

“On yachts?”  She shook her head.  “What I meant was sunburn.  I have light skin that burns too easy.  And deep tans are a lot less popular than they used to be.  Do you think blue veins look sexy?”

“As a matter of fact I do.  So you prefer darkness on a yacht?”

“That’s right.  They won’t let you stay in the cabin, so I give daytime boat rides a pass.”

He waited while she blew a long stream of smoke, then said, “I understand nighttime boat rides can get exciting.”

She nodded noncommittally.  “A little.  I like the fresh air.”  She grinned.  “Actually it’s just another orgy.  What’s the word?  Sedate.  That’s it.  It’s a sedate orgy — the opposite of the Burtonham.”

“How about the Millicent rescue?”

“The what?”

Millicent was the name of the yacht.”  His eyes narrowed.  “You didn’t hear about it?  Last spring, maybe April.  The owner fell overboard and one of the girls jumped in after him.”

“Oh.”  Her face lost all expression.  “Did you know that guy?”

“I’ve met him.”

She studied him carefully.  At last she said, “Nothing happened.  They turned on the flood lights and pulled him aboard in a minute or two.  Nobody was hurt.”

“Then you were there?”

She snubbed out her cigarette.  “What’s your interest in it, Glenn?”

He shrugged.  “Nothing.  Curiosity.  I heard he was chasing one of the girls, tripped over a rope and fell overboard.”

“Yeah.  He was chasing my best friend.”

“Your friend?”

“That was before she broke her arm.  He was drunk.  I told you about drunks.  He had this cock-shaped piece of ice he wanted to poke her with.”

“He meant to rape her with it?”

“Oh, they were playing.  He wasn’t that drunk!  Everybody was naked, which is why she ran.”

“Who was brave enough to jump into the dark water after him and keep him afloat until they could throw out a life preserver?  Was that you?”

“No.  It was the same girl he was chasing, my best friend.  Actually she did get hurt a little.  Cut her leg on a cleat getting back aboard.  Had to have a few stitches.”

The man took a deep breath, then leaned back in his chair.  All the previously evident fascination was gone from his face.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“Tell me one other thing.  Did Della arrange that party?”

“Sure.  That’s her main …”  Lily’s voice trailed off.  She peered at him searchingly.  “Don’t I know you?”

His head dipped.  “Yes, you do.”

“You are a cop!”

“No, not a cop.”  He sighed.  “Your name is Nancy Bricker, isn’t it?”

Her face whitened suddenly.  She stared at him with wide eyes.

Approaching high heels rang loud on the deck.  Both turned distractedly toward the arriving figure, neatly attired in a woman’s business suit with ruffled blouse.  Despite her slimness, the woman clearly belonged more nearly to the man’s generation than the girl’s.

He got quickly to his feet.  “Hello, Mabel,” he said quietly.

“Sorry I’m late, Glenn,” the newcomer responded in a mature contralto.  She smiled.  “At least you’ve been entertained.”

The girl swept up her purse and sprang to her feet.  Eyes averted, she declared, “Just remembered:  gotta go!”  She turned away and marched head down toward the balcony egress.

The woman looked after her curiously.  “I’ve seen that girl before!  Who is she, Glenn?”

He sighed.  “My daughter’s best friend.”



Copyright © 2000, Kellis

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