Tag Archives: books

Episode 1 of the Last Driver – Submitted for Editing

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook

Hey 3.5 readers.

Your old pal, BQB here.

Good news.  I’ve gotten the first draft of the first episode of “The Last Driver” done to the point where I felt comfortable submitting it to my editor.  It’s a good feeling and that’s my overall dream, to continue building up my Amazon offerings.

“The Last Driver” takes place in a future where self-driving cars reign and human driven cars are a thing of the past.  Humans are no longer allowed to drive themselves anymore.

Of course, we need a cruel, dystopian, dictatorial government, the One World Order, who controls everything on a global scale.  When rebels kidnap 63 year old Frank Wylder’s granddaughter, the old man is left with no choice to put his pedal to the metal again, having been long retired from his past career of being a bank heist getaway driver.

I love the cover and give major kudos to 99 Designs.  You know, it’s funny, as early as the 1990s, when I was a youngster, I thought it would be possible to build a writing career and bypass the gatekeepers, but for the lack of ability to find good, quality artwork.  99 has really helped me with that and I’m sure there are other options out there as well.

So, look for it next year, 3.5.  My first piece of self-published fiction is on the way.

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Get a Free Book

Yes, I’m back again, peddling my free book.  It’s free.  You don’t have to do anything but download a free copy and help me increase my stats.  Why won’t you help your beloved magic bookshelf caretaker/yeti fighter, 3.5 readers?

 

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My book is still free…

Still free, 3.5 readers.  Just click.  Please download a free copy and if you like, leave a review.  Come on, earn your keep around here, nerds.

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I’m Available for Interviews

Hey 3.5 readers.

If you have a blog and would like to interview me, BQB, for it, because apparently only 3.5 people only read your blog too or else why would you waste your time on me, I’d be happy to, seeing as how my book is free all this week.

Leave a note in the comments or send me a Tweet or DM on Twitter – @bookshelfbattle

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My Big Book of Badass Writing Prompts is Free All Week!

Hey 3.5 readers.

Your old pal BQB here.  My big book of Badass Writing Prompts is free all this week on Amazon.

Free.  Gratis.  You pay zilch, zero, nada.  So, if you want to help keep the lights on around here, all you need do is go and download a copy, for free, and that’s it.  Leave a review and you’d be helping a lot but otherwise, just give me a download to add to my states.

Thanks, 3.5:

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Bookshelf Q. Battler’s Big Book of Badass Writing Prompts is the Perfect Gift…

…for someone you only mildly care about.  I mean, seriously, if we’re talking about your wife, you can give her a copy, but add a diamond ring, a car, or a trip to Hawaii, you cheap son of a bitch.  Don’t go blaming your divorce on me just because I said my book was a good gift.

Read the fine print. I said it’s a good gift for someone you only mildly care about.  Like that guy at work who thinks he’s your best friend but you can barely remember his name.  That guy is a 99 cent book of writing prompts kind of a friend.

Your mistress?  She needs a gold bracelet and some earrings.  Seriously, handle your shit, son, before your wife and mistress start telling each other about each other’s existence.

This is all very facetious.  As if any of my readers have social lives…

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Rate the Bookshelf Battle Cast!

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

CHECK OUT MY PODCAST HERE

So…I don’t have a big interest in becoming a podcaster at this time.  My voice sucks, my improv skills stink, my main talent lies in writing so that’s what I need to focus on.

But I’ve been toying with the idea here, learning Garageband when I could…I figured it couldn’t hurt to read “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens and see how it goes.  Sadly, I have found all sorts of errors and all around shittyness just after listening to the two episodes, but each time I make one I learn how to improve for next time.

Should I take them down and fix them?  Probably.  But I think for now it’s just a learning exercise and getting them produced and up there.  I’d like to finish “A Christmas Carol” reading and then get back to my writing and not worry about podcasting for awhile.

It’s water I’d like to dip my toe in but isn’t really my forte.

I do think if I could improve there would be some service i.e. you could listen to me read public domain fiction rather than pay for audio books.  On the other hand, I’m a shitty reader who coughs a lot and sounds like I have a mouthful of farts so you get what you pay for.

It’s on iTunes.  It’s on Soundcloud.  The link above is for iTunes.

Follow me on Soundcloud here.

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Bookshelf Battle Cast – Episode 002 – “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens – Stave 2 – “The First of the Three Spirits”

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Dang, 3.5 listeners.  Old Scrooge is going through some serious shit.

In Stave 2, the Ghost of Christmas Past visits our favorite crusty old prick.  Scrooge is tortured to see how happy he used to be, how much hope and promise his life once held, and how he lost sight of that happiness in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

#1 – The Ghost of Christmas Past is an odd looking mannish sort of creature, with flames glowing out of his head.  He carries a hat that looks like a candle snuffer, a little piece of metal that in the olden days, people would put over a candle to put the light out.

Is the past like a candle?  Intangible – you can’t really hold it without experiencing the physical pain of the flame.  Similarly, thinking about the past can bring about some good.  There are beautiful moments that shine like a candle flame.  However, there are sad moments, regrets, things we wish we had done differently.  If we reach out and try to make those memories real in our minds, we are burned, just as if we touch the candle.  The past cannot be changed and yet we often wish it could be, because we grow older, we realize how all the mistakes we made add up and how if we had just made different choices, our lives would have turned out better.

Are there any choices you currently face that might have an impact on your future?  Think as yourself as Scrooge in the future, observing your actions right now with the help of the Ghost of Christmas Past.  Would your future self have any advice to give? What would it be?

#2 – Fezziwig was Scrooge’s former boss.  This is a case where Dickens exceeds at “show, don’t tell.”  In Stave 1, we received a rather dour discussion of Scrooge’s counting – house.  Ice cold, grim, Scrooge working on business until the very last second of the day, excoriating his clerk for the slightest error.

Was such heavy handedness necessary?  After all, we learn that Scrooge’s old boss, when Scrooge was a young man, was Fezziwig.  Fezziwig too was rich, yet he managed to get his business done and still find time to play.  In modern parlance, “Fezziwig worked hard and played hard.”

Whereas Old Scrooge cursed his clerk for wanting Christmas off, Fezziwig bars the doors of his office, has everything moved to create a dance floor, and brings in fiddlers and dancers and food and fun, inviting Scrooge and other employees to quit work early and dance the night away.

Is Dickens trying to teach us about having a balanced life?  Is it possible to work hard and play hard and be successful at both, or must one give way to the other?

#3 – Scrooge was once engaged.  Alas, his fiancee grows weary over the fact that Scrooge spends more time chasing money than he does doting upon her.  This seems to be an issue in relationships.  Couples often fight over money, which means one spouse must work more to obtain it, but then they often fight over quality time, which means a spouse must work less to gain it.

How can couples work together to achieve a balanced relationship, one where there’s enough money and enough time to be happy together?  Is such a notion possible?

#4 – Clearly, the past pains Scrooge.  He thinks about his old life in the countryside, his sister, his old boss and work friends and parties, his lost love.  The past cannot be changed and yet regrets have a tendency to eat away at us.

To get older is to be peppered with constant spoilers.  To be young is to have all of life ahead and to be comforted by beliefs that things will get better.  To be old is to be aware of how things turned out yet to have no comfort in thinking that things will get better as there is much less time left.

How can we live our lives so as to be regret free?  Is that possible?  If we have regrets, how can we learn to live with them so that they don’t weigh us down?

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Bookshelf Battle Cast – Episode 1 – “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens” – Stave 1 – Marley’s Ghost – Discussion and Study Questions

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Huzzah, 3.5 readers!

The Bookshelf Battle Cast lives!  Yes, on this fine blog, I’ll be reviewing pop cultural happenings, attempting to be funny, and telling you all about my adventures as a magic bookshelf caretaker, yeti fighter and so on.

The podcast will be very different.  I am very, very far from being the world’s greatest vocal talent, so I’ll be playing it straight.  Each episode, I’ll be reading a piece of public domain literature.  After you listen to me read it in my mush mouth voice, stop by this incredible blog for a discussion and study questions.

FYI – apologies.  I’m new to this.  There were some technical difficulties.  I said I’d let my spokeswoman tell you all about who I am, but for some reason, Garageband did not like that file.  It became a big production to try to re-record the podcast, so I’ll try to figure out that for the next one.  Forgive me people, I’m learning as I go.

Oh well.  Check out what my spokeswoman would have said here:

In Stave 1 – “Marley’s Ghost” we begin with a classic line in literature – “Marley was dead to begin with.  Scrooge pops the joyous bubble of his nephew and local charity collectors, only to be warned by the ghost of his fellow usurer Jacob Marley that if he doesn’t change his ways, he’ll be a ghost too, forced to trudge the world with chains attached to him, lamenting the life he wasted on counting coins instead of helping the less fortunate.

STUDY QUESTIONS:

#1 – Dickens really, really, really wants the reader to know up front that Jacob Marley is dead, engaging in humor to insist, almost to a ridiculous degree, that he’s dead.  What’s the point of that?

#2 – Scrooge’s nephew states to his uncle that there are things that exist that bring him no monetary profit, but they make his life better just the same.  Christmas, says the nephew, is one of those things.  Is the nephew a positive thinker, a man who knows how to build spiritual wealth, or do you side with Scrooge, i.e. the wealth in your piggy bank is all that matters?  Can you think of some things that don’t bring you a monetary profit but still enrich your life?  Would you give those things up in order to make more money?  Can money buy happiness?

#3 – The charity collectors attempt to separate Scrooge from some of his dough, arguing that men of means have a duty to provide aid and comfort to the poor.  Scrooge counters with the claim that he supports prisons, union workhouses and so on (through taxes) and thus doesn’t owe the poor anything else.  What say you?  Are taxes enough, or should people with bucks to spare share them with the poor as well?

#4 – Jacob Marley is a ghost.  Chains and cash boxes and other monetary related devices are attached to him.  He must drag them around wherever he goes.  Further, Jacob spent his life never venturing past the counting-house, collecting money and ignoring the plight of the poor.  His punishment, like the punishment of the many souls Scrooge sees outside, is that in death, he must wander the world, seeing all the things he could have experienced and enjoyed in life, but now is unable to do so because he’s dead.

Will you be a ghost one day?  That’s a bigger discussion.  You will be old one day though…and your body will eventually give out on you.  When you’re old and gray and your knees fail, your body gives up and it exhausts you to walk more than five feet, what will you wish you had done in your youth?

CHALLENGE: Make a list of things you want to do before it’s too late to enjoy them…then DO THEM!  Picture your afterlife as a Jacob Marley-esque ghost, forced to drag chains and wander the world.  What would you like to see and do so that, if you ever become such a ghost, you can be happy knowing you got to do those things when you were alive?

Thanks for listening, 3.5 listeners.  The second stave will be out as soon as possible.

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The Last Driver – Episode 1 – Chapter 7

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook1

December 24, 2017

…bitch!”

If you ever find yourself looking for a sign that you’ve spent way too much time at a strip club, the sight of two scantily clad skanks cussing each other out over whose mark you are is surely it.

“He’s mine!” Chastity said. Sigh. Every strip club had a “Chastity.” So cliché.

“I saw him first,” Cinnamon said. “I’m giving him a lap dance first and you can just make do with the sloppy seconds.”

It doesn’t take much to make a man happy. Beer. Titties. Ass. Those are the big three, and they usually work best in that order. It was one in the morning. I was sitting at the bar of the Sneaky Squirrel, LA’s premiere gentleman’s club at the time, though there was nary a gentleman in sight as far as I could tell. Just a bunch of lonely, sad sack horn dogs looking to give away their hard earned money in exchange for a few pathetic minutes of friction that would be long forgotten by tomorrow morning.

Sadly, I was one of them. Worse, there was an ass directly in front of my face, but somehow, it just didn’t make me happy.

The owner of the aforementioned ass stood all the way up. Despite her high heels, she was still able to maintain her balance on the bar. She addressed the bickering hussies. “Bitches, hush!”

“Stay out of this, Sugar!” Chastity said.

“Girl, this is Crystal’s man,” Sugar said.

Chastity threw her hands up. “Whoa shit. No one told me that.”

She walked away. Cinnamon followed. “Last thing I need it is to be cut.”

I looked up at Sugar’s sweet face. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it,” Sugar said as she held out her hand. I slapped a bill into it. She returned the ass to the general vicinity of my face. It was cute, small and shapely and yet, it might as well have been a bag of rocks. I was in no mood.

“Someone fart on your pancakes?” Sugar asked.

“Huh?”

“I don’t know,” Sugar said. “You know…you had some pancakes. You were happy. Someone farted on them. Now you’re sad.”

“Something like that,” I said. I pulled out another bill and sat there, feeling sorry for myself. There was a slap on my shoulder.

“Bitch,” Bernie said as he took the stool next to me. He set down a big, overflowing plate. It was covered with chicken wings, nachos, dip, mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers. “You have got to visit the buffet.”

“No thanks,” I said.

“You wouldn’t think a place called ‘The Sneaky Squirrel’ would put out a decent spread but damned if they don’t,” Bernie said as he attempted to hand me a chicken wing. “Come on, have a nosh.”

“No thanks,” I said.

Bernie shrugged his shoulders and chomped down on the wing. “Suit yourself.”

“Hey Bernie,” Sugar said.

“Hey Sugar,” Bernie replied. “Your walking up right I see?”

“You know it,” Sugar said.

“I was worried,” Bernie said. “I thought I was a little too rough on you.”

“Oh,” Sugar said. “You were good but I bounce back quick.”

“Ugh,” I said.

“What?” Bernie asked.

“You disgust me,” I said.

“Like you aren’t doing the same thing with Crystal,” Bernie said.

“It’s different,” I said. “She’s my girlfriend.”

Bernie snickered. He bit the end off a mozzarella stick. “Kid, that girl is every man’s girlfriend.”

“Whatever,” I said. I sipped my beer.

“You look like someone pissed on your potatoes au gratin,” Bernie said.

“It’s cereal,” I said.

“Huh?”

“The expression is, ‘You look like someone took a shit in your cereal,’” I said.

“Is it now?”

“Yes,” I said. “Because when you sit down at the table and dig your spoon into a nice heaping helping of your favorite cereal covered with ice cold milk, the last thing you want to pull out is a shit.”

“I should say so,” Bernie said.

“That would put you in a bad mood,” I said.

“Colloquialisms aside,” Bernie said. “What’s your problem?”

I turned to Bernie. “You.”

Bernie was aghast. “Me?”

“Yeah, you,” I said. “You told me that tunnel was just going to get filled up with smoke.”

“Shit,” Bernie said as he looked around, then leaned towards me. “Will you keep your voice down? These bitches have ears.”

Bernie pulled a twenty out of his pocket and handed it up to Sugar. “Baby, take five will you? Go check out that biker down the bar. He looks like someone took a shit in his cereal.”

“OK Bernie.” Sugar strutted away, keeping her footing on the bar the entire time.

“I’m sorry for the deception,” Bernie said. “Would you have participated otherwise?”

“No,” I said.

“There you go,” Bernie said.

There was a TV monitor hanging over the bar. The news channel was on. Footage of the collapsed tunnel was playing. An anchorman spoke in a voiceover. “…the Governor is calling this the worst act of terror in California’s history. Authorities believe a series of charges were planted at the end of the tunnel and triggered to aid the bank robbers in their escape.”

“All those people, Bernie,” I said.

Bernie took a swig of beer, then dipped a nacho chip into a pile of dip. “Very sad. Boo hoo. Life goes on.”

“What you did was wrong,” I said.

Bernie dropped his chip and grabbed my arm. His usual carefree demeanor turned grim. “What ‘I’ did?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Listen, prick,” Bernie said. “I’ve got news for you. You’re just as responsible for what happened tonight as I am.”

“Bullshit.”

Bernie released my arm. “I’ve got you figured out.”

“Do you?”

“Yeah,” Bernie said. “Look at you and your jacket and your little fancy driver outfit. You think you’re just responsible for the transportation part of the caper but let me tell you, a heist is a big job. Requires a lot of people. One asshole fucks up, the whole crew goes down. A crew needs a man like me to figure out the logistics. They need a man like you behind the wheel to get them where they need to go. If we don’t get involved, a heist doesn’t happen.”

“Blah, blah, blah,” I said.

“Fuck you, Frank,” Bernie said. “You may think you’re slick. You may think your shit don’t stink but trust me, your hands are dirty. Every time you show up to be a wheel man and take a cut, your hands get that much dirtier. You may not be sticking a gun in the face of some poor teller making minimum wage but you might as well be.   You’re just as responsible as the rest of us.”

I was quiet for a moment, collecting my thoughts. “I’m aware of that.”

“I don’t think you are,” Bernie said.

“This job was different,” I said. “Roman’s fucking up.”

Bernie raised an eyebrow. “Well…one man’s fuck up is another man’s planning.”

“What’s that supposed to me?”

Bernie sucked the chicken off a bone. “It means Roman knows what he’s doing.”

“Carmine was better at planning a job,” I said. “He always brought in pros who knew about crowd control,” I said.

“True,” Bernie replied.

“They got in, they got out,” I said. “There were never any shots fired…certainly no reason for…”

I watched the footage of the rubble on TV. “…that.”

I drank some more beer. “You knew those guys were clowns. You knew you’d have to do something like that.”

“Look,” Bernie said. “Kid, we work for a family business.”

“So?”

“So,” Bernie said. “Sometimes there’s a downside to working for a family business, say, when father and son don’t exactly see eye to eye.”

“Huh?”

“Roman wants to be a big shot,” Bernie said. “And Carmine is happy to keep him as a little shot.”

“I don’t get it,” I said.

“Roman wants more money,” Bernie said. “The old man is a cheap bastard so the kid’s finding other ways to get it. So, he cut some corners. Rather than recruit some pros, he finds a bunch of shitheads that nobody will miss and…”

“Gets you to fix them,” I said. “And keeps their cut…without the old man being the wiser.”

Bernie tapped the side of his nose. I watched the TV. “Carmine can’t be happy with this. This is so much heat.”

“It’ll blow over in a week,” Bernie said. “This time next week, the news reporters will be talking about some famous broad’s tits or which celebrities got divorced. The collective consciousness of society has the attention span of a gnat.”

“Still,” I said. “Carmine…”

“Carmine is an oblivious fuck who doesn’t care about heat until he needs to care about it,” Bernie said. “We’re in the clear. This will never be traced to us. Lighten the fuck up.”

Bernie reached into his pocket and pulled out a big stack of bills, at least ten thousand dollars. He shoved it into my hand. “Here…what do you know? A stack accidentally fell off the truck. Doesn’t even apply to your cut. What the goombas don’t know what kill them. Grab some of these bimbos and live it up. Take your mind off it.”

Photos of people who died in the explosion rolled on screen. “But Bernie…”

Bernie pounded his fist on the bar, then calmed down. “Kid, what I’m about to say is a long time coming…”

“What?”

“You are a great driver,” Bernie said. “Really. You’re a maestro behind the wheel. Your brain and your foot are simpatico. You and your little ride get in and out of scrapes like nobody’s business.”

“OK,” I said.

“You’re a great driver,” Bernie repeated. “But you, my boy, are also a shitty criminal.”

I laughed. “Fuck you Bernie.

“No,” Bernie said. “Fuck you.”

The fixer reached for my chest and grabbed my cross. “This shit…right here…its gonna get you killed.”

“You’re nuts.”

“No,” Bernie said. “I’m completely sane. The world is nuts. Everybody beebopping along, worshipping an invisible man in the sky, worrying that every little thing they do might offend him. ‘Oh, I better not fuck this bitch I’m not married to!’”

I laughed. Bernie carried on. “’Oh, I better not take that thing I want because it doesn’t belong to me!’”

Bernie chomped down on another nacho.   Crumbs spewed out of his mouth. “’Oh, I’m so sad because a bunch of people I never met fucking died so I could live and enjoy some money that isn’t mine while I stay the fuck out of prison.’”

“Over a hundred people,” I said.

“The number is inconsequential,” Bernie said.

“The methods are,” I said. “It’s possible to do what we do without so much of…”

The TV continued to run coverage of the explosion. “…that.”

“Yeah well,” Bernie said. “Now your new boss says its necessary.”

“Roman’s not a boss,” I said.

“You tell him that,” Bernie said.

“No thanks,” I replied.

“Look, kid,” Bernie said. “I’ve got no conscience. I can fuck one of these bitches today and change my number tomorrow if she tells me she’s pregnant and sleep like a baby.”

I smiled.

“I can eat this entire plate of shitty food and not care what it’s going to do to my body,” Bernie said. “I can swipe things that don’t belong to me and double cross the idiots who helped me do it and yeah, I can even…”

Bernie looked at the TV. “…do that…and sleep like a baby. You know why?”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t give a fuck,” Bernie said. “This…Bernie said…this life is all there is. There was nothing before it. There’s nothing after it. You’re never going to answer to anyone. There’s no one that’s going to take your angel wings away and sent you into a pit of fire. There’s no devil to rape you in the ass with a ten foot pitch fork.”

“Good,” I said. “Because that would be uncomfortable.”

“He’s got jokes,” Bernie said. “Good, he’s got jokes. He’s lightening up a little. Kid, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but we’re all just meat puppets.”

“What’s that now?”

“Meat puppets,” I said. “Piles of meat with mouths that move up and down, able to move and talk and breath due to a plethora of highly scientific processes coming together and it all sounds very nice and special but it’s not.”

“It’s not?”

“No,” Bernie said. “Everybody thinks their unique, their special, they’re important, their thoughts and feelings matter. None of this matters, kid. You were born. You are alive. If you’re smart, you will experience as much pleasure as you can before you don’t exist anymore and you’re a fool if you let anything get in your way.”

“Even other people?” I asked.

“Especially other people,” Bernie said. “Fuck ‘em. They were never going to live forever. They’re dead and I get to spend money that isn’t mine and have fun.”

I watched the TV. “We can’t do this forever.”

“You can’t,” Bernie said. “I can. I’m fully aware this ends with me either dead or in prison but again, nothing is permanent so, fuck it. The price you pay to live another day.”

Bernie lightly slapped my cheek. “You’re a great driver…but a shitty criminal. You feel too much. You worry too much.   You care too much. You don’t have a soul. Nobody does. But you think you have one, so you care too much – about yourself, about life, about what happens to other people. That shit will eat you up inside until there’s nothing left. Get out while you still can.”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“I do know,” Bernie said. “If you die, that slut you’re banging will be sad.”

“She’s not a…

Bernie raised his eyebrow again, challenging me to finish the sentence. I declined.

“For like five minutes, she’ll be sad, then she’ll move onto the next guy, but sadness on her part will definitely happen.”

“Fuck you, Bernie.”

“Then there’s prison,” Bernie said. “Put you in prison, and you’ll be a bitch, passed around like a doobie, being used in all of your orifices by day, curling up in the fetal position and crying by night.”

“I would do better than that,” I said.

“I was being gracious,” Bernie said. “Honestly, I think you’ll be shivved on your first day and left to bleed out on the cafeteria floor by noon. Me? I’ll be running that joint within a week, making deals and turning wheels, pulling strings and trading things, baby. I’ll be making the bitches.”

“We’ll see,” I said.

“No,” Bernie said. “I’ll see. You won’t…because you’re getting out of this game. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.”

I shook my head.

“Great driver,” Bernie said. “Shitty criminal. Remember that.”

The house lights flickered. A 1980s death metal song blared. The DJ got on the mic. “Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you’re enjoying the buffet, the best in all of LA, now if you’d be so kind, give it up for the girl making her way to the main stage…it’s Crystal!”

Bernie and I swiveled around on our stools. There, on the stage in the center of the club, a Goddess strutted out and struck a pose. She was tall, slender and supple, curvy in just the right places – a raven haired brunette. She wore a seasonal costume that was best described as, “Sexy Mrs. Claus.” She grabbed a spray bottle, spritzed the pole, and wiped it down with a cloth.

“I’ve never understood that,” Bernie said.

“Understood what?” I asked.

“These girls,” Bernie said. “They gobble three, four knobs a night, but germs on the pole they worry about.”

“Crystal doesn’t do that,” I said.

Bernie glared at me.

“Shut up,” I said.

“Here she is, folks,” the DJ said. “This ho, ho, ho is ready to jingle your bells and fa la la your la…give it up for Crystal…”

Dozens of lonely perverts belled up to the main stage, making it rain dollar bills as my girl gyrated against the pole.

“I’m going to marry that girl someday, Bernie.”

The fixer raised his beer bottle and took a gulp. “My condolences.”

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