Arts & Entertainment
8 min

CHAPTER 12: Bimbos from hell

Foodsluts at Doll & Penny's Café

Credit: Ken Boesem illustration

Many an idea was hatched around Table 31; some were far-fetched, but others came to fruition, like the play about the Mermaid Café. It was a casual observation about the relationship between sex and tips that lead to the Bimbos from Hell theme for Halloween night.

“I made a fortune tonight,” I said, putting my tips into my wallet.

“Haven’t you noticed you make more money when you wear those walking shorts of yours?” Elsa pointed out. 

“No.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“I don’t consider myself sexy.”

“I would kill for your gams,” Andrew chimed in.

“You think I dress like this at home?” Elsa said, modelling her spandex top with a lit cigarette.

“Waiting tables is just another form of prostitution,” said Andrew. 

“And tip is a four-letter word,” Elsa said. “We should dress up as the sluts that we are for Halloween.”

Elsa’s idea made it into the manager’s book for Donna to read and seize upon. She dangled a prize of $100 for best costume if we dressed up as Bimbos from Hell on the graveyard shift Halloween night.

I was at a complete loss for a costume. Andrew made several in the two weeks we had to prepare. Chakra just dug out her old prostitute clothes. Who knew what the hell Elsa would do.

“Dex, you have to help me dress like a slut.”

“Why don’t you wear those walking shorts?”

“It’s Halloween, not come as you are. How does a guy even dress like a slut? I could dress like you.”

“You’re just jealous.”

I was. Dex had fucked everyone except me. He snapped his fingers like he had an idea.

“Go as a Roxy-going Gino metalhead from Surrey!”

“I love it! You can be pretty smart for a guy who’s not very bright.”

“That’s what I keep telling you.”

It was an easy costume to assemble. I bought some spandex leggings and a zebra shirt at a head shop; Andrew added some fringe to them and styled one of his wigs into an Eddie Van Halen for me.

“Wow,” Dan said when I walked into the café. It was the closest we had come to a non-work-related conversation in months.

Every head in the café turned as I walked back to the crow’s nest. Dex was picking up an order when he saw me. He didn’t recognize me at first and instinctively went into cruising mode.

“Dex, it’s me — Tony.”

“God! Yes!” he said, shaking his head like he was coming out of a trance.

“Are you hard?”

“No, of course not. I’ve got to run this order.”

Elsa was chewing a wad of gum, smoking a cigarette at the bottom of the stairs. She was dressed in a pink spandex cat suit, accessorized with a hundred or so belts and as many bracelets on both wrists, fruit earrings and a huge curly red wig.

“I’ve got this locked,” she said, blowing smoke in my face.

“I’m turning on my coworkers.”

“We’re not the Bimbos from Hell for nothing.”

Andrew looked like a backup dancer for ZZ Top in a denim miniskirt accessorized with pink pumps, tennis socks and a bikini top. Chakra showed up in a pair of Daisy Dukes and a tube top.

“Where’s your costume?” Andrew asked her. Chakra grabbed her crotch and gave him the finger.

Our costumes reinforced what most customers thought: that you must be a slut to work in a gay establishment. They assumed we had our pick of the litter and that we went home to fabulous sex every night. Some expected a blowjob with the bill and didn’t leave a tip when they didn’t get one.

The bar rush nearly over, an old familiar voice said, “Tony? Is that you?”

This was to be my last table. My neck hurt and I was sweating from the Eddie Van Halen wig. I could not have looked worse. I squinted through my cloudy contacts to see who it was.

“Monty?” Monty from Toronto, the hottest man I had ever been with. The man I had moved across the country under an assumed name to forget. “What brings you to Vancouver?”

“I’m helping with the Gay Games. Vancouver really agrees with you.”

“I’m not normally dressed like this.”

“I know,” he said. “So when do you get off?”

“You’re my last table.”

“Is that on the menu?” Monty asked, noticing the hard-on in my leggings.

“It could be,” I said, as Dan sat Dante at a table adjacent to Monty’s in Andrew’s section.

It was October and Dante was still wearing microshorts, his thick, hairy thighs squeezing out of them like sausage. Dante had these things on his feet that were hybrid ice skates-roller skates. The only thing keeping him warm was his leather jacket. Everyone noticed, including Monty.

It did not take long for Dante to migrate over to Monty’s table. They played footsies and fed each other fries — pretending they didn’t know me — as I served, billed and then watched them go home together. I stepped outside for a cigarette so no one would see me cry.

“I sucked your cocks, you assholes,” I shouted into the empty alley. “You could have at least said good night!”

“Tony?” Andrew called out from the green metal door.

“Over here.”

“Hey, girl. Would you mind covering the rest of my shift? Some guy wants to fuck me in drag.”

“I would were it any other night, but I just want to cash out and go home.”

“Christ, I could use a good lay. I have poppers and everything. I’ll pay you cash!”

“Andrew…”

“Fuck it. Can I have a drag of that?” He took my smoke from me and warmed himself. Standing there like that, I could picture him working Davie St, trying to make rent off unsuspecting johns from Surrey and married men in denial. Someone howled like a werewolf in the distance.

“Can I ask you something?” he said.

“Sure.”

“Do you find me attractive as a boy?”

“Oh, Andrew, I think of you more as a brother…”

“Don’t panic. I’m not hitting on you. I’m thinking of getting a sex change.”

“Shouldn’t you be asking a psychiatrist that?”

“You know, I bend over backwards for you guys. Whenever you need a costume, a dress or a shift covered, I’m right there. I can’t ask for a measly piece of advice without you getting all weird and uptight?”

“I’m sorry… I’m upset.”

“Screw it,” Andrew crushed the cigarette out with a pink pump. “I’m giving that guy a blowjob in the bathroom.”

“You’re still working.”

“So?”

“Isn’t that like prostitution?”

“Girl, it’s never prostitution if you would do him for free.”

I hurried through my side duties and cash, anxious to get home. Dan counted my cash under his breath as I spied the table of my ruin from the crow’s nest. The counting stopped and Dan spun me around the old swivel office chair, opened his arms and gave me the hug that I needed.

 

*** 

Since neither Dan nor I had to work the Christmas party, we decided we would do a number for the talent show. We didn’t rehearse or try on our outfits until the night of the party. Dan was shivering and dripping wet when he walked through my door.

“Give me your clothes,” I said. “I’ll throw them in the dryer. Did the costumes get wet?”

“They’re made of polyester,” he said. “It won’t matter.”

“Did you bring a blank tape?” 

“Shit, I forgot!”

“Rhoda!”

“I’m fucking with you.” He handed me a blank Maxell from his backpack.

“We have about an hour to rehearse, unless you want to get there after the kitchen crew has drunk all the booze,” I said.

“Wait a minute! Don’t you know what tonight is?”

“Duh… the Christmas party, and we still haven’t choreographed our number or tried on our outfits.”

“Duh… this is the night we became buddies.” Dan pulled a bottle of champagne from his backpack and put another chip in the ceiling with the cork. “Here’s to a year of Mary and Rhoda.” We clinked our glasses, linking arms to take a sip.

“Remember Kate?” Dan said.

“And Ivy!” I said. “What a year. We went from cleaning the place to practically running it.”

“From friends to lovers to friends again.”

“I’d be open to lovers,” I said.

“You would, would you?”

“You’ve been the only constant in my life this last year — you and the café. I’m tired of looking for something I’ve already found. Don’t tell me you’re not.”

“You’re forgetting something.”

“What?”

“I’m not your type. I’ve seen the boys you notice, Tony. We hit it off emotionally, but in bed you’re sort of distant.”

“Am not!”

“Are too!”

“That doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”

“I love you too, but love isn’t enough. I’m at an age where I want my partner to be invested in having sex with me, and you’re not.”

We entered the café and dropped our secondhand overcoats like they were minks, revealing the Florence Henderson pantsuits Dan had purchased for us at Value Village. We had not bothered with makeup or wigs; we looked less like women and more like boys trying on their mothers’ clothes.

Daphne was wearing last year’s dress; Spike had on his leather vest and matching bow tie. Andrew resurrected Jessica Rabbit, and Elsa had on her Christmas dress. Chakra was the Philippine version of Janet Jackson while Blair and his partner had opted for street clothes this year. Yolanda was drunk and his lover was pretending to ignore him. I found myself looking for Scooter. We all were.

The talent show began as always with the same thank-you from Papa and Mama Ed followed by Daphne’s rendition of Anne Murray’s “Snow Bird” to boos and heckles. Dan and I made a point of following him to bolster our act, but timing was no compensation for a lack of talent, even where talent isn’t necessarily required.

“You suck!” Yolanda shouted, his lover trying to quiet him.

“Do you mind?” Dan yelled back. “We’re putting on a show here!”

“No you’re not. Bring back Daphne!”

“That’s going too far!” I said, breaking what little character I had going on.

“That really sobered me up,” Yolanda said, when we got off-stage.

Our number was followed by Donna reading highlights from the manager’s book that read like Celie’s letters to God in The Color Purple. “Kate had a nervous breakdown… closed early after someone called in a bomb threat and the kitchen staff did all their drugs…” The show ended once again with Chakra’s rendition of Karyn White’s “I’m Not Your Superwoman,” despite her Janet Jackson façade.

After the show was over, I went to get Elsa and myself a drink from the bar. I watched Dan flirt with the new graveyard waiter, who was tending bar. Dan was all smiles and innuendos; he made sure to put his tip into the waiter’s hand. He didn’t have a chance. It still hurt to think of Dan with another man, but at that moment it didn’t hurt as much.

Elsa had disappeared from the table when I returned with our drinks. With no one to talk to, I started opening Christmas cards. “Of all the people here, you’ve come to mean the most to me,” Blair wrote. I went over and told him how much his card meant to me.

Blair was drunk and couldn’t speak, so he picked up the card he had given Elsa and showed it to me and then picked up another and another… Blair had written the exact same thing in every card. Little did I know he had foreshadowed every relationship I would ever have with a man.