The last time Tony danced, he wore the spangles and tights of the Nutcracker’s Prince and the audience threw roses at the stage. One career-ending accident later, he’s dancing again, and he’s not proud of hoping that the audience will reward him with twenties.
Frost, the big, pale bouncer, has reasons of his own for keeping a watchful eye on Tony. He keeps his distance, too, until he has to bounce an aggressive customer who takes things with Tony too far. They have a short, shared walk home but a huge divide between their lives. Do Tony and Frost have more in common than they believe?
Excerpt: Tinsel and Frost
Thunderous applause and catcalls greeted Tony as he swept through the curtain and took the stage, his sequined costume dazzling in the rainbow of spotlights. Averting his eyes from the glare, he stalked like a panther in time with the driving rhythm of a techno tune set to a cheesy Christmas carol. Well, sometimes you just had to work with what was available. Striking with the speed of a jaguar, he grasped the pole and whirled himself around in a flurry of bright colors. The crowd went wild, never noticing him fouled up in miles of tinsel someone had foolishly festooned over the pole. How embarrassing—and how fitting. He’d just sunk to a new all-time low.
How he’d dreaded this moment, this sealing of his fate. With his first step onstage he’d officially become a stripper, hammering the final nail in the coffin of a once-promising career. Instead of twirling a tiny female in an off-Broadway production while dressed as a swan, he slowly peeled off a skin-tight T-shirt to reveal his freshly shaved chest in a strip club, way, way, way, way off Broadway. So far off Broadway that it would take a good long trip by car to get there.
Rude shouts of, “Take it off, baby!” brought him back to his sad reality. He wished the men were quieter, enabling him to at least pretend to be on stage in some major city, performing for a more refined audience. In retaliation he dropped to the floor in a full split, inspiring groans of imagined pain from his all-male audience.
Smoothing his hands down the legs of his costume, he discreetly thumbed open the side fastenings and rose smoothly, leaving the pants behind. A casual kick launched them toward the curtain for the stage hand to retrieve. Grasping the pole once more, he spun himself around, giving those closest a gratuitous view of his ass, exposed by a skimpy, flesh-colored thong. His only other clothing consisted of a silk wrap around his calf, hardly visible in the low light. If anyone noticed, they’d probably assume the covering a part of his costume. That is, if anyone even bothered to look beyond his crotch or his ass. Lower and lower he wound around the pole, fighting tinsel the whole way, finally ending up back on the floor in a pile of glittering plastic.
Once more visualizing himself a sleek predator stalking prey, he clung to his shredded dignity as tightly as possible while crawling on hands and knees to the edge of the stage. Schooling his features into what he hoped passed for a seductive grin, he focused on those most likely to dole out big tips. He paused a moment to search out the bouncers. Ah, there they were in all their muscle-bound glory, one at either end of the stage, ready to step in if he gave the signal. Confident of their protection, he slowly moved closer to the fists waving dollars in his direction.
The paper shoved into his skimpy garment tickled and scratched. He tuned everything out but his dancing; keeping his eyes carefully on the customers’ chins so he wouldn’t see the lust in their eyes. If he didn’t look, he could more easily imagine that he wasn’t the piece of meat they saw him as. Groping hands traveled down his flanks and he turned a forced playful expression on the offender, wagging a finger, delivering the first warning. The customer only got one more before the bouncers escorted him out, the main reason Tony worked at this particular club. Here they took care of their own, unlike some of the other places he’d auditioned for, who actually encouraged patrons to reach out and touch, and dancers to earn a little extra money after-hours. Tony may have fallen from his pedestal, but he wasn’t desperate enough to sell himself. Not yet, anyway.
Movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. An older, graying man held up a twenty. Tony donned a sly smile, crawling toward the offering, regretting not averting his eyes more quickly. Bile rose in his throat at the man’s superior sneer, a haughty glance saying, “I could pay for you; you’re just a whore.” Although Tony knew he wasn’t for sale, it still stung to have others believe such. Swallowing the remnants of his dignity, he reminded himself that playing the whore was small price to pay for the twenty about to be stuffed into his thong.
At the last minute the man slipped the twenty back into his pocket, throwing back his head and laughing, his mockery drowning out the music, the bawdy comments, everything. The braying grew louder and louder, impossible to ignore. Tony’s cheeks flamed, and he fought to keep his body moving to the beat when all he really wanted to do was run away and hide in shame.