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Worldwide Ace » Arm Candy – Part II

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Arm Candy – Part II

17 February, 2009 (11:09) | Growing Up

For context, read
Arm Candy – Part I.

shooters

As a little kid, I adored being the center of attention. My parents have a picture of me sitting at the piano in pajamas, banging on the keys randomly and entitling the piece “Storm” with such panache and veracity no one could argue that it was simply noise. I had a perfect fake smile down to a T, though by the time I was eleven or twelve, it had turned from cute into awkward and creepy.

Eventually I developed stage fright, putting an end to my extroverted jaunts into the spotlight. While I was small, however, there was nothing that could keep me from being in the limelight.

Nothing except expecting me to perform.

Uncle Ted drove a beat up Cadillac that was likely a hand me down from one of the elders in the family. The silver paint had been flecked with rust and the hubcaps had run off screaming. Uncle Ted buckled me in as I crawled into the massive wasteland of fast food wrappers and beer cans that made up the back seat.

We pulled up to a moderate sized brick building with a glowing neon sign that said “Shooters.” The Os had red crosshairs quartering them that blinked.

“Sweet, dude,” said Kevin. A wide grin split his face, separating his baggy eyes from the stubbly excuse for a beard that painted his chin.

Inside the heavy outer doors, on the other side of the vestibule, hung a western style saloon gate. I was immediately enamored with the restaurant as the gate swung open to reveal a western themed restaurant, the honky tonk piano tickling my six year old ears with dreams of cowboys and Indians. The walls were covered with photos of stagecoaches, old style guns, bows and arrows, and all sorts of old west memorabilia.

“Welcome to Shooters,” I heard a musical voice announce. “My name’s Karen. What can we do for you today?”

“Three please,” said uncle Ted, his ratty Red Sox cap suddenly clutched nervously in his other hand. The hostess was surprisingly scantily clad as she stepped out from behind her podium, a frilled hide skirt barely coming midway down her thighs, her cowboy boots hugging tight to her calves, the tight sheriff’s vest revealing a toned midriff and ample bust.

saloon gals
Image by Karolina Lewis.

“Holy shit, she’s hot,” I heard Kevin whisper to Ted as we followed the Hostess. Ted’s arm flailed out and slapped him in the arm with his hat.

“Shutup,” he said through clenched teeth.

“Here you go,” said Karen, waving us to the table. Uncle Ted’s hand slipped from mine as he slid into the high booth. “Hey there, little guy. What’s your name?” she asked me, bending low to meet my eye level.

“Ben,” I said sheepishly.

“Would you like some help up?” she asked.

“No. I can do it myself. I’m almost seven, you know.” She laughed.

“Well aren’t you darling!” Karen leaned down and gave me a hug, my face perilously close to being lost in her cleavage.

“Lucky little bastard,” I heard Kevin mutter.

I threw myself up into the booth, my feet dangling off the end despite being tall for my age. In front of me sat a kid’s menu and a little box of crayons. I gave the room one more once over and then began coloring voraciously. Every once in a while, I would glance up and watch one of the small TV’s attached above the bar.

“Did you see the rack on that one?” commented uncle Ted.

“You were right,” replied Kevin. “Bringing kids here was a wicked awesome idea.”

I didn’t bother to pay attention to what they were saying, but even to my six year old brain, it was becoming apparent I wasn’t here because they liked me.

I now know Shooters was the local equivalent to Hooters, even down to the name. They used to troll the college campuses in New England for “talent,” promising a chance to be in Playboy or start an acting career. I don’t know if they ever expanded beyond the one location as they had all but disappeared a few years later when I moved to Boston, but I’m sure their closing had a lot to do with some of the shadier business practices and probably a sexual harassment lawsuit or two.

By the time I was done with my chili fries, I was done with Shooters and I was done with uncle Ted and Kevin. All afternoon, the scantily clad waitresses of Shooters had come up and bantered, bending low and smiling and talking to me. I couldn’t get a moment of peace. Uncle Ted and Kevin were loving it, letting off shuddering sighs as the blond and brunette beauties cycled through.

I was angrily scribbling red outside of every line and connecting the dots to read “poop” instead of show a picture when Kevin slid back into the booth from a bathroom break.

“Alright, little dude. Get ready for a surprise,” he snickered. I was even more puzzled when Ted joined him.

Birthday cupcakeOut of the corner of my eye, I saw movement, blanching when I turned and found a cupcake with a candle flickering in front of my eyes.

“Ready girls,” said Karen the hostess, the chorus of girls behind her beaming and twittering as their birthday song began.

I wish I could remember how the routine went, but I was in shock at the time. At that age, I’m not sure I had felt more used and embarrassed than watching those girls dance and sing for my non-birthday. Never, after that, did I let anyone claim me a birthday at a restaurant again.

The entire room of skeevy men turned to watch, their tongues lolling and saliva dripping onto their crustily stained shirts. Kevin giggled maniacally throughout the performance.

“Now blow out your candle,” Karen instructed.

“But it’s not my birthday!” I protested. I glanced at uncle Ted, but my temporary ward just sat back watching.

“We know,” explained  Karen, “but your uncle Ted told us how you were only visiting for a few days and they wouldn’t get to celebrate your birthday. So it’s ok.” Her smile almost made me feel alright about it.

I deliberated a moment before blowing out the candle with a pointed glare at Kevin and uncle Ted. The girls all clapped and then, one by one, kissed me on the cheek.

“You know it’s my birthday today too, sugar” a gruff voice from one of the other tables called. The place erupted in laughter, the girls all frowning as they walked away.

Karen gave me another hug on the way out the door. “Come back anytime, cutie!” I smiled and waved with my left hand, my right wrapped in uncle Ted’s sweaty palm as we slipped out the door. Despite the sour taste in my mouth, I liked Karen. She was nice.

Kevin caught up with us a moment later. “She gave me her number, dude!” He flashed a cocktail napkin with something scrawled in crayon.

“Wicked sweet!” said Ted, releasing me to double high five his friend. “You didn’t happen to get one for me, did you?”

“Fuck no. Get your own numbers.”

I sulked all the way back to the lake house. It was dark out by the time we got back . Everyone was hanging out inside.

“Til next time, little dude,” said Kevin, b-lining it to the cooler.

“Go find your mom and dad, Ben,” Ted told me as I yawned. “It’s probably time to get you to bed.”

When I finally found them, my parents sternly reprimanded me for going off with uncle Ted.

“Don’t worry,” I told them with completely veracity, “I won’t do that again.”

I’ve never gone to a Hooters or anyplace similar since that trip. There’s something that just doesn’t sit right with me about places like that. When I see kids wandering in with parents or uncles or adults of any sort, it makes me wonder about the quality of those people.

Then again, maybe they really are just there for the wings.

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