The Stripper and the Salesman

This is a flash piece that I wrote a decade ago, and recently stumbled across. It doesn’t have much of a plot, but has a kind of loose style that I’ve forgotten how to write. 


Down on Black Acid Alley, where the pushers and the punters mingle, where buyers wait and sellers wrangle, Electra plies her trade. Where the nervous and the needy twitch, the poor seek riches and the rich go on pleasure hunts for their lost souls, lovely Electra offers her comforts.

She knows everyone from the top to the bottom. Rock stars and Presidents, sweepers, hucksters, shysters and salesman, cooks, cleaners, screenwriters, strippers and whores. There are no social barriers in Black Acid Alley, and Electra is mother, sister and lover to them all. There’s not a single piece of her unclaimed.

She knows the lies the town is built on, knows the snakes that coil in the corridors of power, knows the psyche’s darkest depths in all their stinking banality. She dreams of something better, a simple place, drenched in sunlight, her name spoken straight out, instead of whispered in the neon-lit rooms where the politicians go to shuck their dusty skins and come alive. It’s a small, quiet dream; tucked away somewhere so private she’s forgotten it’s there. She doesn’t realise she has any private places left.

This morning something feels a little different. Smells a little different, after the rain; a strange dry scent in the air. Electra pauses on her way home, looks out to the west. Dawn will break behind her in another hour. She borrows a coat and goes out to meet her destiny.

Her destiny is the desert, reflected in the chrome bumpers of a young man called Ernest. That is to say he thinks of himself as a young man. The shock of disappointment when he looks in the mirror only gets fiercer every day. Somehow between the morning and the night, he forgets the sagging jowls, airbrushes out the wrinkles and the few, stubborn grey hairs. He remembers the pimple on his hairline, but it only helps him to imagine he’s still the right side of thirty-five.

Ernest’s hair is as slick as his patter. He sells classic hot-rods; runs a showroom and a service yard. Man, he loves those cars. He strokes them and feeds them and rubs down their gleaming flanks. He hates so much to sell them, hates the wanker bankers that buy them, with their wads of ready cash, their sharp suits, their obvious, aching need for a big, bright-red penile substitute. Ernest is the most honest used-car salesman in the universe.

He dreams of getting out of the business, selling up, taking one of these beauties and hitting the highway. Himself, burning into the sunset as the credits roll. He doesn’t take this dream too seriously. He knows that life offers no romantic endings. After the sunset comes the night, and the night is made of neon and tequila and flesh and forgetting and then the sun comes up and you’re right back where you started. The road doesn’t go anywhere. All roads lead to the city he lives in.

On a nihilistic spin, going nowhere, he picks Electra up on the outskirts of town. She looks like all the things he’s trying to escape. She’s a one-woman lost-and-found. Black Acid Alley is in her eyes, her hair. Her mouth is full of secrets, but she smells like the desert. “Nice car” she purrs. “Penile substitute?”

Ernest laughs, presses his foot to the floor. Sunset is sixteen hours away. It will be long enough to see if the road can lead to anywhere other than here.



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