Job Hazards
  FIVE STORIES by Teresa Milbrodt
  1  Job Hazards
2  Charitable Causes
3  Fat Lady to Marry Skeleton
    Man: Tickets 25 Cents
4  Bodies in Motion
5  On Camera
  About the Author  |  |  November 2014 Fiction Issue

Charitable Causes

She has you where she wants you, salivating at McDonald's. She paid for the weekly treat, your fries and Big Mac. You got the napkins and ketchup and straws but she holds the tray and therefore your future happiness, and it's then she asks for the little favor.

Your jaw drops, in part because of her request and in part because she's asking in a McDonald's of all places. No way in hell are you pole dancing for anybody.

“You're a local celebrity,” she says with her sexy smile that usually works, but not this time. She wants to boost your ego and your confidence and your sense of duty to charitable causes. You do not have the heart to tell her that being reminded of your could-have-been stardom just pisses you off.

You did well in local races, tracks around the area, but after the awful crash that shattered your leg into God knows how many pieces, you didn't have the stamina anymore. People don't realize why racecar driving is classified as a sport. It exacts a physical toll on your body even if you don't crash.

Sadly, you're still the best excuse the town has for someone notable, the guy who could have been someone twenty years ago but became the go-to local mechanic. You haven't minded the job since it's lower stress than driving at two hundred miles an hour and trying not to wipe out. You have relaxed into middle age. You enjoy having two beers a day instead of one. You relish your weekly Big Mac that your wife is still holding hostage until you tell her yes, you will pole dance for the teachers at their smarm fest.

“It's not a smarm fest,” she says, “it's a fundraiser for the school library.”

You ask why not an ice cream social or wrapping paper sale.

She says this will be more fun.

Fun for whom, you think.

It sounds like the plot to a bad sitcom. Middle-aged men attempting eroticism is always good for a laugh unless they are Richard Gere or George Clooney. You are neither. You wear boxers, not briefs. You wouldn't be caught dead in briefs. No, reverse that, if you were caught in briefs, you would die.

There is something natural and expected about men your age going to a skin club and ogling scantily clad girls pole dancing. They'll never have those girls, they'll just put dollars in their underwear. But there is something disturbing and smarmy about a room full of teachers ogling you and putting dollars in your underwear, even if those dollars will buy Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl books.

You have met your wife's colleagues at holiday potlucks and chatted with them about their kids and grandkids. You have repaired their cars, after which they recommended you to friends as a fast, fair, and honest mechanic. They’re a very nice bunch all in all, but a few of them call you “Dear” and remind you entirely too much of your great aunt. This is very wrong, but your wife smiles and surrenders your lunch and grins at you across the table.

“I really appreciate this,” she says.

You take an extra large bite of burger, because if you actually said anything right now it probably wouldn't be nice. Then you almost choke on that bite of burger when your wife waves to someone across the dining room. One of her colleagues out with her husband. He's beach ball round and wearing jeans and a plaid shirt. Your wife's teacher friend is wearing a flowered dress that looks like a tablecloth and gives you a flirty little smile and a wave. Flirty, for God's sake.

You stop chewing. She knows. Lord in heaven, she knows. Your wife must have already volunteered you like she has a habit of doing. You stuff half of your fries in your mouth because you still can't think of anything kind to say to your wife who is explaining how the PTA funds have been cut and the library has no more money for books and really this is the only way.

She gives you her sexy smile again and you try not to narrow your eyes. The show is in two weeks. This is not your form of heroism. In your book, heroism should be accomplished without clothing removal. At least not all clothing. But if your wife has decided this will be one of your contributions to the greater good of humanity, you'll have to start getting ready. You never did anything half-assed, and you're not going to start now. Those teachers will indeed see all of your ass, covered as it might be with your boxers, because dammit, you're going to salvage that much pride.

But you will start practicing in your shop with a broom. In the morning before you open, at night after you close. You will shake your Big Mac booty, and if those teachers want to wolf whistle or gape in horror, well, that's up to them. You're doing this for those little kids so they can grow up literate, with culture and Shakespeare who was pretty damn smarmy himself and probably would have liked driving racecars if they'd been invented back then. Who knows, he might have even tried pole dancing, or at least had one of his overweight male characters do a little shimmy. You can envision the rewrite of The Merry Wives of Windsor with a strip club scene, something bawdy with lascivious background music a fat guy shaking his ass in front of a bunch of screaming women, and man, that's going to be you.

  © Teresa Milbrodt, 2014

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