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Kim Chinquee

Shot Girls

When Dot and Rache turned twenty-one, they thought they were invincible. Theyíd thought that way before, but somehow being twenty-one gave them an edge, as if it were some feat like running a marathon or hiking barefoot across the world. They were twins. They didnít dress the same, but they didnít try to look different, either. Dotís hair was always longer because it grew so fast. They shared a wardrobe, which they kept in one big walk-in closet, with outfits in sizes three and four, and forty pairs of shoes lined neatly on the carpet.

They were still in college, and after their birthday theyíd gotten jobs at a dance club called "The Heap." Dot was the "shot girl," and Rache was a bartender, although she wanted to be the shot girl too, but Dot got the job because she could sell a little more with the way she sometimes flaunted, though she wasnít proud of it. It was just the way she was. Rachel was more reserved, but wanted to be like Dot. Sometimes, they envied one another. At the bar, guys would ask about them being twins, and Rache was stuck behind the bar, while the guys followed Dot on her rounds, going from table to table carrying racks of test tubes filled with drinks with sexy names Ė Blow Jobs, Screaming Orgasms, Watermelon Screws. Since the shot girl could wear what she wanted, Dot wore short skirts and skimpy tops. When it got late, she carried the tray above her head, getting fondled along the way, which came with the job. Sometimes she wished she were the bartender, just so she wouldnít always feel invaded, and she pictured herself with Rachelís job, using the counter as her barrier, her Great Wall.

One day they walked to a tattoo shop by their apartment. The smell of the place reminded Dot of laundry detergent, and it made Rachel think of the freshener in their motherís blue Toyota. They wanted identical tattoos, so Rache told that to the tattoo artist, the guy with his name, Frank, tattooed on his cheek.

He looked at them with their same blue eyes and thin dark hair, but he didnít say anything about it because he was too anxious to show them his tattoos. He took off his shirt, exposing the wispy vines and circles that wound around his chest and biceps, and a big red dragon that was spread across his middle. "Itís horimono," he said. "Japanese tattoo art."

"We donít want to go that far," Rache said.

Dot sneezed and Rache said, "Bless you."

Since tattoos seemed so mainstream to them, they wanted something different and unique, yet something that would make them more alike, so they chose the Japanese character for friendship.

Afterwards they went home and freshened up before they had to go to work, feeling proud of what theyíd done. Dot closed the blinds, looking down at the passing headlights, wishing she had enough money saved for her own car, and Rache flipped the TV to CNN, to a broadcast about Dianaís death which wasnít new. People were crying on the screen, and Rache wondered what was wrong with them. Dot went to the end of the hallway to look in the full-length mirror, straightening it before unzipping her jeans so she could see her new tattoo. While she removed the gauze, Rache asked what she was doing, then went to see her tattoo in the mirror, too. They stood hip-to-hip, matching up their tattoos as if they were coded birthmarks. They compared their new tattoos, and each thought the otherís looked better.

"Yours is darker," Rache said.

"I think itís inflamed," Dot said, touching it.

"Iím really glad we did this," Rache said.

"Me too," Dot said, putting her arm over Racheís shoulder.

They stood there for a while, looking at their reflections in the mirror, telling each other they made a perfect team.

***

That night, before going to work, they went to see their grandfather, who had had a stroke a month before. The left side of his face hung lower than the right, and he slurred his speech a bit. Heíd lost weight, and stayed in bed a lot, although when Rache and Dot came to visit him, his face lit up and he tried to look like he was healthy. Since the stroke, heíd been staying with their mother, who worked as a medical assistant, and lived in a small brick ranch, where Dot and Rache had lived until their birthday.

They walked in without knocking. Their mother was sitting in a chair beside the table, reading last weekís Sunday comics, sipping on a cup of coffee, still wearing her blue scrubs.

"Thereís a fresh pot if you want some," she said, looking up. Then she went back to reading and the girls sat across from each other at the table, trying not to lean back on the chairs since their tattoo sites were stinging. Theyíd decided they werenít going to tell their mother about what theyíd done that day.

"Grandpa still alive?" Rache said.

Their mother looked up quickly, saying, "Jesus, Rache, donít be saying things like that."

"Iím kidding," Rachel said.

"How is he?" Dot said.

"You could stay with him every now and then. I canít afford the help."

"Weíre in college, Mom," Rache said.

"We could come between a couple classes," Dot said.

"Weíre all heís got," their mother said, curling up the corners of her paper.

They went into his room, where he was lying in the bed, clicking the remote, switching the show to Lawrence Welk. "Your grandma liked this guy," he said.

He was in his king size, which the twinsí mother had moved over in a U-Haul, with all his other stuff. Now he had the twinsí old room, traces of them still left behind, the picture of them in their cheerleading uniforms, extending their arms to make a crooked W for the West Side Wolverines. The Boys 2 Men poster was taped up behind the bed, and a Brad Pitt centerfold was tacked to one side of the door. The TV was on the white dresser that theyíd used since they were babies, that held their small pink socks and training pants and frilly Sunday dresses, although recently it held their pastel bras and skimpy shorts and bright bikinis.

They sat on either side of him, and he smiled, the left half of his thin lips slightly paralyzed, which made his smile crooked. "How are my twin girls?" he said, slower than he used to, yet there was vigor in his voice, and it was as clear as an adolescentís whistle.

He put his arms around them as they crawled in like they did when they were younger and stayed with him, when theyíd wake up early in the morning, smelling the coffee, scrambled eggs, and bacon that their grandmother had made, and theyíd get under his sheets and rouse him in his sleep, staring closely at his face, at the sleep still in his eyes, at the curl at the corner of his lips that made him look like he was smiling, which made them wonder what he had been dreaming. He was always warm under the covers, and as they woke him and he spoke, they could smell the newness of his breath, that was sort of sweet, and they watched the wrinkles forming under his green eyes as he smiled and welcomed them in his arms, into his waking world.

Now they still loved to cuddle under his soft covers, feeling the warmth of his aging body, and they felt like they were ten again, their grandmother scurrying in the kitchen, banging pots and pans, and right now, as he watched Lawrence Welk, Dot thought she remembered the melody that the band was playing, and not just that but some tender moment, although she couldnít recall exactly what it was. It was familiar to Rache too, but to her, everything about the show brought the same reaction, and she didnít cherish the memory quite like Dot, who had more affection for her grandfather.

They talked to their grandfather for a while longer, telling him about their jobs, about their school, explaining to him they had to find a major. He didnít understand since he hadnít even graduated high school. Heíd been a welder.

***

At the bar, Rache made the shots, and Dot wasnít on till nine, so she sat there smoking cigarettes. Rache looked at her sister, envying her perfect body, although Racheís was identical to Dotís, except she had longer arms, and she had on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt that said "The Heap" in crooked golden letters. Dot shivered, and asked Rache if she could have a cup of coffee.

"Wear something for a change," Rache said, pouring the French Roast, then going back to funneling Baileys into narrow tubes.

"Have you ever seen a shot girl with long sleeves?" Dot said, flicking her lighter off and on. "Iím supposed to show my skin. Itís my job."

"You can always bartend."

Dot lit a cigarette. "Maybe Iíll call Frank."

"Youíre not afraid of anything."

"Nu-uh," Dot said.

"I wish I was the shot girl," Rache said, putting the whipped cream inside the silver compact fridge.

"No, you donít," Dot said. "You donít want this slutty job."

Later the place got packed, and Rache ran around behind the counter, spilling drinks over her long sleeves. Dot got burned in the face with a slender cigarette that a tall thin woman waved around, and then a big-necked guy in a Giantsí sweatshirt grabbed Dotís ass. Dot pretended that she liked it, and asked him, "Whatís up, soldier? You want a body shot? I have a new tattoo."

He asked her where it was and she said, "In my panties," then he dropped a hundred in her glass and told her she could show it to him later.

At shut down, Rache had her sleeves up, wiping up the counters with a soppy rag while Dot sat at the bar. "We should find new jobs," Rache said.

"Some guy dropped a hundred in my glass. He wants to see the tattoo."

"No shit? Jesus," Rache said. She was jealous. "Keep that up, and youíll be rich."

"Maybe we can apply for scholarships," Dot said. "Or maybe Mom will help us."

"Think again," Rache said.

"I guess it isnít all that bad," Dot said.

"Yeah, youíre right," Rache said, picking up a broken bottle from a sticky tray. "It can be sort of fun."

Outside, the hundred-dollar guy was leaning up against the brick, toeing pebbles with his boot.

"Thatís the guy," Dot said. "You can go ahead."

"Youíll be OK?" Rache said.

"Iím good at this. Iím a sleaze, remember?"

When Rache got to the corner, Dot turned to the guy. "Whatís up?" she said.

"You want to see my truck?"

"Yeah, OK," Dot said. She knew she shouldnít be going to some guyís car alone this late at night, but he looked innocent enough, and she knew she was a tease, and then she thought about the hundred dollars, figuring she must owe him something.

After they got to his truck, she pulled up her skirt and slid her panties down an inch, as if she were showing her driverís license to the Wal-Mart clerk while buying Camel Lights. "There it is," she said.

He lit a cigarette. "My wife left me last week. Iím real young, separated. I donít want a relationship, just sex." He had nothing else to lose.

Dot had heard all that before, "no relationship, just sex, no relationship, just sex," as if it were some recording sheíd heard so many times, a scratch on her favorite jazz CD, that kept replaying in her sleep, and sheíd gotten used to it, knew when it was coming and didnít even think to fix it. Now she felt obligated.

Dot looked at the moving shadows that the flailing branches made. The streetlights shone past them, through the tinted windows of the truck. He kept looking out the window, then at her, then down at the floor, and Dot thought he was going to cry. She thought he needed cheering up, so she leaned over and unzipped his pants. When she was done, he took her home.

Rache was sitting on the sofa, watching a rerun of Threeís Company, picking peanuts out of a jar of Skippy with a fork. She had been worrying about her sister, and feeling lonely and left out, when Dot walked in, dropping her purse and keys on the table by the door.

"How was the guy?" Rache said. The air conditioner hummed, sending a blast of cold across the room.

"Just like all the others," Dot said. "Donít worry. You didnít miss anything exciting."

***

The next night, he came back. He waited afterwards, leaning against the building, playing with a stick. Rache and Dot walked out together, and Rache leaned in toward Dot, telling her to ask if he had friends to set her up with.

When Rache walked away, Dot went up to him. The moon was full and bright, shining on his curly hair.

In the car he said she didnít look old enough to be working at a bar, and she said he didnít care how old she was, and he admitted that was true. He said he felt sort of revengeful towards his wife, that the younger Dot was the better. He laughed to himself a little bit, then leaned over, kissing her. They took off all their clothes. His skin was hairless, smooth, like a sports car that had just been shined with Turtle Wax. After everything was over, Dot said, "Iím eighteen," pulling down her skirt and putting on her panties.

He rolled down the window and lit a cigarette. She watched him blow smoke out the narrow shallow gap. She looked at him, noticing his satisfaction. She didnít want to let him go.

When Dot got home, Rache was waiting, worried, anxious, just like always, and she asked Dot how it went, and Dot said it was great, that Doug was a super guy, and that theyíd had sex in the parking lot.

"Oh," Rachel said. "Really?"

***

Rache and Dot rummaged through the kitchen at their motherís, trying to find the chocolate cookies. "Shit," Dot said, looking into the black and white cow jar. "I bet Momís boyfriend ate them all."

They made sandwiches with white bread, Miracle Whip, and fresh tomatoes from their motherís garden, and they left their knives sitting in the sink, then went to see their grandfather, who was lying in his bed. He was sleeping, and the TV was still on. It was MTV. They sat on the floor next to their dresser, close to one another, their backs leaning up against the wall. "Heís not going to make it, is he?" Rache said.

His chest rose and fell and as he exhaled, his breath escaped through the gap in his front teeth, making a small whistle. It reminded Dot of a toy Santa they had when they were younger that whistled in his sleep. "Looks like Santa," Dot said.

"Iím serious," Rache said. She was almost crying.

"Heís only eighty-one," Dot said. "Grandpa Brunner died at 102."

They sat there, eating their sandwiches, then wiping off their lips with their paper towels, and they decided to let him sleep, so they left him a note, telling him how much they loved him.

***

For a couple weeks Doug waited for Dot, and she started staying at his motel room. He teased her, saying she was cheap, since she did anything he asked. She wanted him to be her boyfriend, yet she was content with having sex, figuring soon enough heíd divorce his wife, and realize how good she was to him. Rache felt left out, and she resented her sister for always putting her guys first. When Rache did see Dot, she asked if Doug had a friend for Rache to possibly go out with, but Dot said she could do much better.

One morning after Doug had brought Dot home, Rache and Dot sat on the checkered sofa at their apartment holding bowls of Raisin Bran, smelling the brewing coffee that had started automatically.

"So what if his friends arenít decent," Rachel said, stirring her spoon, mixing up the sugar, scooping out a clump of raisins. "You always get the fun."

"Iím a slut," Dot said. "You donít want to be like me. It can be fun at first, but after a while, all you are is cheap. You can lose control."

"Well, I want some fun. Iíve only been with Roger, and that was only high school. How many guys have you been with? Twenty-something, right?"

"I lost count," Dot said. She got up and went into the kitchen, almost tripping over a stack of books. She set her bowl on the Formica, and she poured two cups of coffee, adding cream and sugar to Racheís purple cup.

***

A few nights later, after the bar was closed, Rache and Dot put on their leather jackets and stepped out, seeing Doug leaning up against the building in the alley.

"Itís set," he said. "I have a friend for Rache."

"Not a loser, huh?" Dot said, reaching in her purse and pulling out her pack of smokes.

"Dot, stop it," Rache said, nudging her.

"Sheíll like him enough," he said.

Dot lit her cigarette. He said, "Come with me." After they walked to his truck, Rache slid in the tiny seat in back, anxious and excited, and Dot got in the front.

As he drove, Dot looked out the window, at the glowing lights, at the letters on the billboards, at the cars that they passed by.

"Sheís sexy," he said to Dot. "Just like you."

"Be nice to her," Dot said. "Sheís not a whore."

"I still want some action," Rache said, leaning forward. She was smiling, bright-eyed. She grabbed Dotís cigarette and took a drag.

"Donít worry," he said. "Youíll get your share."

He drove to the Days Inn and stopped the truck. His room looked the same as always, shoes scattered on the floor, Ruffles bags and beer cans sitting on the table, and the TV was still on. He grabbed the ice bucket and said heíd be back, and then he left the room.

"I canít wait," Rache said, going to the mirror and touching up her eye shadow.

"Jesus," Dot said. "Itís nothing special. You can get sex anywhere." She sat on the bed and Rache sat on a chair beside the table, toying with an empty beer can.

When Doug came back, he put ice in plastic cups and opened a Coke and poured it before adding shots of Jack. "My friend is coming in a minute," he said, giving Dot a drink, then Rache.

Dot took a sip right away, then slammed the rest, and Rache sipped slowly, saying she didnít want to be drunk when she met his friend. Doug opened a nightstand drawer and took out a joint and lit it, then sucked on it and handed it to Dot.

"Where you from?" Rache said.

"Nowhere special," he said.

"Heís separated," Dot said, sucking in the joint.

"Yeah, Iím married," he said. "Dot takes care of me." He laughed.

"Like a Virgin" was playing on MTV. It was some Madonna marathon, and Dot started dancing on the mattress, moving in sync with the music, undoing the top button of her shirt, sliding a hand up and down her curves, balling up her other hand, putting it to her lips as if it were a mike. Doug told her she was crazy.

Rache sucked on the joint, then got on the bed and moved in front of Doug as if she were a stripper. "Whereís my tip?" she said.

Another song came on and Rachel poured herself more Jack. Dot felt dizzy and got down, leaning into Doug as he spun her around. "Hey," she said. "You spike these drinks, or what?"

He laughed and then she laughed and then they started kissing.

"Hey," Rache said. "Whenís my guy getting here?"

"Pretty soon," he said.

Dot plopped down on the bed. She felt funny, like things were fuzzy and she figured it was the joint, and she thought it worked rather quickly compared to the other stuff sheíd done. It all belonged to Doug.

Rache was getting drunk. She took another hit, then laughed, and she grabbed Doug, dancing close to him.

Dot tried to get up, but she could barely move, so she lay back on the bed. She felt paralyzed. Then everything was black.

Dougís friend finally arrived, and Rache danced between the guys like a sandwich. She said she wanted to have a little fun. They talked to each other and to her, calling her a piece of trash, and Rachel, said "Yeah, I am. Come and get me, hotshot." They kissed her, took off her clothes and she got on the bed and danced around, feeling like an exotic dancer, holding a beer in her right hand, raising it to the beat of the song on MTV.

***

Dot woke up first. She didnít know how long sheíd been asleep. Couldíve been seconds, minutes, hours. It almost seemed like days. The place reeked of sweat and cigarettes and booze. She noticed her shirt was unbuttoned all the way, her skirt hiked up past her thighs. She pulled on her skirtís hem and as she buttoned her pearl buttons, she looked over on the floor, and saw Doug sleeping, and Rache lying next to him, naked, her hands tied behind her back, and a thick gold rope around her neck. On the second bed was a guy sleeping on his back, one leg hanging, his left toe touching the red carpet. He was snoring, but just so slightly that if she hadnít seen him, she probably wouldnít have noticed because of the racket coming from the air conditioner. His hair was long and stringy and his chest was hairless just like Dougís.

When Rache finally woke up, she could barely open her eyes. Her whole body hurt, and she didnít know where she was until she saw her sister, and then things started coming back to her. Dot untied her. "What happened here?"

"Holy hell," Rache said.

"Jesus," Dot said.

Dot helped Rache get dressed, lifting her shirt over her head, pulling up her jeans, then they sat around the table, on the plaid cushions of the wooden chairs. The morning light shone through the thick green curtains that were held together with shiny metal rods, and the TV was still on, its volume low, and there was some program on CNN, a pulled-together lady with bright lipstick.

The whole place smelled and looked like sex, like a porno movie that had gone on too long, gotten out of hand, the director and producer and the crew joining in even after the camera had gone off. Polaroids sat on the dirty table, snippets of ash floating all around them. In some of the photos, Dot was lying naked on the bed, her arms and legs sprawled out, Doug lying next to her, his hands between her thighs. In the other photos, Rache was naked, lying with her hands tied, and Dougís friend was on top of her, his back to the camera, his head turned with a half-grin on his face. Another was of Rachel on her knees, Dougís jeans down past his hips, her legs and hands tied with that golden rope. Her bunched eyebrows and widened mouth that took him in made her look like she was screaming. Dot sifted through the pictures, tossed them across to Rachel. "Jesus," Dot said. "We need to call the cops."

Rache shoved the pictures in her purse. "No way." She started a cigarette. "Some friends you have," she said.

"Iím a slut," Dot said. "We all know that."

Dot picked up Dougís Leviís from the floor and rummaged through his pockets. She took his wallet, cigarettes and keys. Then she found the other guyís gray shorts by his feet and felt his pockets, but all of them were empty.

"Over there," Rache said, pointing to the nightstand that was filled with empty cups, and wet from melted ice cubes.

Dot picked up his wallet, letting the water drip. She looked at his driverís license. "His name is Len," she said. "What a stupid name. Guyís only twenty-one."

"Youíre not going to steal it, are you?"

"Like they didnít steal from you?"

"I said I was fine," Rache said.

Dot got the Jack, went for the beer, then grabbed their clothes and put them in the bathtub and soaked everything with booze. She opened the dresser drawers and dumped the catsup and the mustard that sheíd gotten from the fridge on all of Dougís belongings. She hiked up her skirt and pulled down her panties and urinated on the bed where Len was sleeping. She wiped her crotch with a faded pillowcase that looked a shade of yellow.

"Youíre such a freak," Rache said.

"Serves him right," Dot said.

Rache turned off the TV, and Dot stuffed all the wallets and keys inside her purse. She messed up the sheets, and wrote on a piece of Days Inn paper, "This isnít over," and left it on the bed.

"Iím telling you," Rache said. "It wasnít all that bad."

They opened up the door, and the new sunlight was dim, but it made their eyes hurt. Rache and Dot looked back, then sat on the lawn next to the pool and Rache leaned against a tree. They just sat there for a while, staring at the uneven rays reflecting off the water, at the dirty edges of the pool, at the blades of grass drifting off in numerous directions. "I guess we better go," Dot said. And then they got up, and walked arm-in-arm for a couple blocks, and they knew they were close to home, but too far to walk in the state they were both in. So they walked to an Exxon station and Dot called a cab, and they waited on the curb in silence, just sitting feeling the warm sunrise, watching cars pass by, ones driven by people who looked as if they were on their way to work.

"We have to call the cops," Dot said.

"No," Rache said. "No cops. Whatís the difference between Doug fucking me and fucking you? Same with the other guy? You would have done it too."

"I asked for sex with Doug," Dot said.

"So did I," Rache said.

"Not like that," Dot said.

Rache told her she was fine, that everything was fine.

They got tired of waiting for the cab, so they got up and strolled along the sidewalk. Trash lay on the curb, McDonaldís bags, and broken beer cans, a pack of crumpled cigarettes. A loud truck zoomed by and the driver honked its horn. The sun was hot, but the air was still a little chilly. Small clouds wandered overhead.

They walked along the edge of the Bay, streetlights glowing down, sunrise peeking up. Birds were singing over the drum of the distant train that came through town at the same time every morning. Dot took the wallets from her purse and counted all the money, about a hundred dollars, and she gave Rachel half. Dot handed Lenís wallet to Rache and took Dougís credit cards and tossed them in the water, one by one, but all they did was float. Dot looked at the pictures in Dougís wallet, one of him and his pretty brunette wife, and she crumpled it and tossed it overhand just like a baseball.

"Look at this," Rache said. She handed Dot a picture of a young girl in a purple swimsuit sitting on a swing. There were four snapshots, each with different poses. "Thatís odd," Rache said. She put the pictures in her purse, and then removed the photos from last night and filtered through them, one by one.

"I wonder if heíll come back," Rache said.

"He never will," Dot said, tossing Dougís wallet in the water, watching it splash slightly as it sunk.

"Heís going to need his wallet," Rache said. She studied the picture of her on her knees in front of Doug. She handed it to Dot.

Dot stared at it, looking at Racheís face. Dot almost started crying. She took Racheís pictures and threw them in the water. She watched them as they turned with the small wind that made the water stir.

"I guess that was pretty awful," Rache said.

"Are you kidding? It was horrible. A nightmare," Dot said. "Letís not do that again."

She remembered how they used to dare each other to jump into the Bay, how theyíd feed the seagulls tiny breadcrumbs, letting the birds get so close they pecked the girlsí bare feet. Now Dot stared at the falling moonís reflection on the water, and she thought she saw a figure, like a girl, floating on the bay, moving in a quiet motion with the gentle chilling waves. It was Rachel, it was just the way she pictured things ending up, Rache floating in the Bay, shining in the watery light.

They sat on a bench and rested, watching a small boat slither by, sending a slight wave in the water. A bird landed on a wooden stump, perching its beak upward, turning its petite head at a slender angle. Then it spread its wings and flew away.

"I know why Grandpa loves you more," Rache said. "Youíve always been the brave one."

"Thatís not true," Dot said. She heard a splash coming from the water, a fish jumping like the jack-in-the-box they had when they were kids. "Remember that time we went fishing in the lake? And you and Grandpa did the breast stroke? Racing across while I stayed in the boat? I was scared to death. And then you won, so he bought you extra ice cream. I was so upset. I hated going fishing." She looked at her sister. The air was getting hot.

Rache put her arm around Dot, feeling her lean arms, feeling the strength in all their smallness. She said, "We are so alike."


Kim Chinquee's work has appeared in Noon, Denver Quarterly, Conjunctions, Fiction, Notre Dame Review, The Pushcart anthology, and several other venues. She teaches creative writing at Central Michigan University.

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