John D Robinson was born in 63 in the UK; began working aged 15 and continues to do so; began writing poetry aged 16 and published 1st poem a year later; many of his poems have appeared in the small press, of recent in Bareback Lit, Red Fez, Dead Snakes, The Kitchen Poet, Pulsar, Poet&Geek, The Commonline Journal, The Chicago Record, Mad Swirl, The Clockwise Cat, upcoming work in Poetic Diversity, Your One Phone Call, Message In A Bottle; his short fiction has appeared in WordsCome Ezine, Opal Publishing, Jotters United; he is married with 1 daughter, 2 grandchildren, 4 cats, 1 dog and he loves drinking wine and forgetting about a lot of things.
Ten years ago for six weeks during the summer, I looked after Desirez and Secretz, an adult sex shop.
Aaron Powell owned the shop and was holidaying aboard a luxury cruiser in the waters of the Mediterranean and North Africa. By way of Jean Paulo, his son, I was asked to manage the shop and live rent free in the apartment above the shop. It was a compelling offer, the idea of free porn was attractive and as usual I was in desperate need of money. At the time I was a nineteen year old student studying fine arts at the local college.
The shop’s opening hours were twelve noon to nine pm, Monday to Saturday. Prior to opening up the shop I’d run the chore of banking the day’s previous takings, except Sunday’s of course.
Desirez and Secretz tended to be reasonably quiet up until seven pm. between seven and nine pm, business picked up. These were the pervert hours Aaron had told me and that’s all Aaron said about the shop and its customers.
My time at the shop was for the most part an easy life, but like everything else it had its moments of human drama, comedy and tragedy. Naturally I never got to know the customers and so to amuse myself I invented names for the more regular visitors of Desirez and Secretz.
One of the most frequently seen faces in the shop was Creepy Karl, a fifty something year old. He would call into the shop three times a week; Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s. He was a squat rounded fellow with long greasy thinning ginger hair that he swept back in an attempt to conceal the bald patch. He wore a pair of spectacles that had been repaired a couple of times with electrical tape. Creepy’s complexion was grey and oily. The black knee length raincoat he always wore was stained and soiled and littered with cigarette burns. He was very unkempt, his fingernails were long and dirty and he constantly scratched himself. Creepy must have been obsessed with large breasts. On each visit he’s spend an hour or more pawing through the DVD’s and magazines and always selected material that featured big breasted women. Creepy Karl never spoke a solitary word and would hand over the exact amount of cash for every transaction. He’d slide the purchase into a grimy plastic carrier bag that he would produce from out of a greasy overcoat pocket and then slide out of the shop quietly.
Mr and Mrs Curious, a couple in their mid forties called into Desirez and Secretz on three occasions and bought nothing. They were a seemingly ordinary pair, but appearances can be deceptive. Mr and Mrs Curious would head straight over to the magazines. They would begin at opposite ends of the display and slowly leaf through the publications until they met in the middle of the display. For a few moments they would exchange excited whisperings and then proceed to the opposing ends of the magazine rack and repeat the procedure. As the couple met in the middle for the second time they would appear more excited and animated, they would whisper and giggle and would touch one another in slow discreet movements. They would make their way out of the shop grinning and smiling and would pause to thank me. What they were thanking me for I do not know, but whatever it was it was working for them.
Mid Friday afternoon, during the second week, two muscle men came into Desirez and Secretz. Both were dressed in very expensive suits, their hair was slicked back and they both wore sunglasses. They looked menacing and as they entered the shop I felt for the steel chromed baseball bat beneath the counter.
“Mr Smith would like to request one hour’s private perusal of your shop. It would be very much worth your while to allow this” said one of the suits.
I thought it best not to ask too many questions and simply asked, “When?”
“Tonight, between seven and eight pm. Mr Smith is throwing a party tomorrow night” said the other suit. The other nodded his head.
“Okay, I said, I’ll shut up the shop to the public for that hour”.
The two suits left the shop without saying another word and I wondered what I had let myself in for.
At precisely seven pm a black stretch limo glided and pulled up outside the shop. The two suits climbed out and flanked Mr Smith as he entered Desirez and Secretz. I recognised Mr Smith, but could not place a name, but I knew he was famous, a celebrity. Mr Smith was of average height and a thin build. Although in his mid thirties he had a boyish youthful look. Several gold necklaces hung around his neck. He was dressed similar to his two protectors and he also wore sunglasses.
Mr Smith spoke not a word to me. He moved around the premises pointing at products and making comments, one of the suits took notes. The order took me about thirty minutes to package. I took a week’s taking in an hour. Mr Smith did not even look at me during his time in the shop. Cash was paid.
A queue of three or four were waiting for the shop to reopen, they stood open-mouthed and silent as Mr Smith and his bodyguards exited Desirez and Secretz and climbed into the awaiting limousine.
Naturally I was not prepared for the identical twin sister’s first venture into the shop. They were in their early twenties; blonde haired and slender figures that were tightly hugged by close fitting clothing. The twins dressed in identical clothing; it was kind of freaky and sexy. The pair sauntered into Desirez and Secretz and approached the counter. For a few moments they stood silently before me; they looked at one another mischievously and then said in unison, “Do you sell dildos?”
I stared at the two young women and could sense my face turning warm and red, despite my awkwardness I managed to blurt out “Yes”.
The twins looked at each other smiling and then asked in unison, “Can we try before we buy?” They began laughing loudly and turned quickly away and walked out of the shop.
The duo’s next visit to the shop happened a couple of weeks later, by which time I had forgotten all about the twins; as a consequence I was again unprepared for their unexpected sudden appearance. As before, they slowly strutted into the shop and approached the counter.
“Hello ladies, can I help you?” I said smiling.
The twins glanced at one another; they grinned and then said in unison, “Do you sell nipple clamps?” This time around they did not move or laugh but looked back at me waiting for an answer.
“I’m sorry, I said, we’re all out of nipple clamps. Sold the last pair just a few days ago, we have some on order. Sorry”. I tried to smile but it didn’t work out.
The twins looked hard at one another with serious disappointed faces. “Is there anything else I can help you ladies with?” I asked confidently.
The twins shook their heads and then turned towards me and together said, “No nipple clamps, so fuck you”.
Before I could come back with something smart they had disappeared.
Most evenings after closing and locking up the shop I’d relax in the comforts of the apartment above Desirez and Secretz. Every night for the first week of my residency, I selected two or three DVD’s to amuse and entertain myself. It’s a damn wonder that I didn’t go blind during this time, but truth is I quickly tired of the films. They became repetitive and boring and dull. I then began to fill my evenings with wine and the making of small abstract pictures in watercolours.
Every now and then a street drunk would stagger into the shop and begin slobbering and dribbling over the magazines and DVD covers. I’d let them have five minutes and then tell them to either buy the magazine or film or to get the fuck out of the shop. On occasions I would have to get a little heavy and threaten them with the baseball bat or the police.
I cannot recall exactly when she first came into Desirez and Secretz; I know it was one evening, literally just minutes before closing time. The service counter is at the front of the shop, to the right as one enters. From the position of the service counter one had a clear view of the whole shop. As she entered she glanced over and acknowledged me with a sweet smile. I nodded my head in return and watched as she moved slowly around the store.
I’ll call her Lucy. Lucy was in her early thirties, she was tall and thin and wore her dark black hair in a short style; she was attractive in a plain and ordinary way. She was dressed in black from head to foot. There was something mysterious about her, which I could not explain, but right there and then as I watched Lucy mooch around, I fell in love with her. I made my move and asked, “Can I help you?”
Lucy looked over and said nothing but smiled another sweet and beautiful smile.
After a few minutes I said, “Okay, it’s time to lock up. I must ask you to leave, please”.
Lucy glared hard at me, the smile had gone and she looked worried. She moved quickly towards the service counter, blindly searching in her shoulder bag for something. I wrapped a hand around the handle of the baseball bat and then moved towards the edge of the counter.
Lucy approached and said, “I’m being followed, that’s why I came in here, to get away. He may still be out there, waiting for me”.
“Who’s following you?” I asked not knowing what else to say.
“I don’t know. It’s been happening for the past three days. I’m scared”.
“I’ll call the police”.
I could hear the panic in her voice as she said, “No. No, don’t call the police. I don’t want you to call the police, please”.
“I’ve got to lock up the shop now; I said flatly, I’ll call a cab for you, to take you home safely, how about that?”
Lucy shook her head silently. From out of her shoulder bag she produced a mobile phone. After a few moments she said, “Here, look at this. This is the man who has been following. I don’t know who he is”.
I took the phone and looked at the image. It wasn’t a particularly good photograph. It looked like a random photograph of a busy town centre, a number of men, women and children, nothing remarkable. None of the people in the picture looked as though they were aware of the photograph being taken. I handed Lucy the phone back and asked, “Why do you think he is following you? Are you rich? Do you owe someone some money? What’s the purpose of his following you? Have you any idea’s?”
“I don’t know why he‘s following me” Lucy said softly.
“Look I want to close the shop. I can’t help you. You’ll have to leave, I’m sorry” I said.
“No, please, Lucy pleaded, Can I stay for a while? Please”.
I looked at Lucy and again I fell in love with her; but I remained composed and said to her, “Look, I’m sorry, it’s not possible for you to stay here. I’ve got to lock up the shop now, okay?”
A fake smile broke across her face and then she said, “If you let me stay a while I’ll let you fuck me”.
I shook my head. I was tired of this game and said as firmly as I could, “Listen to me, you’re very pretty but all I want to do is close the fucking shop. I’ll call a cab for you. That’s all I can do to help you okay”.
Lucy said nothing at first then she began to again search blindly and feverishly inside her shoulder bag. She then rolled up the sleeves of her thin summer jacket to reveal the red, raw scarred mass of old and fresh cuts to both sides of her arms.
I looked on silently not knowing what to do or how to react, her arms were a horrific sight and I began to feel a little uneasy with what was happening.
Lucy threw herself onto the floor and began to slash at her arms with a sliver of broken glass that she pulled from out of her bag. I gripped the baseball bat and moved towards her.
“Stay the fuck away from me, Lucy screamed, you come near me and I’ll cut you”.
I backed off a little, the baseball bat hanging from my hand. “Okay, please stop doing that to yourself. I looked down of the splattering of blood upon the floor, Please stop it” I asked again.
The shop’s door suddenly swung open and in stepped a startled customer. Before he had the opportunity to open his mouth at the scene before him, Lucy began screaming. I moved towards him, raising the baseball bat in my hand and snarled, “Get the fuck out of my shop, we’re closed”. He took one final look at the screaming bleeding lady sprawled on the floor and fled into the evening.
Lucy stopped screaming. She rose to her feet, dropping the sliver of glass onto the floor and smiled before she silently ran out of Desirez and Secretz.
Five minutes following Lucy’s departure the police arrived, having been anonymously informed that there was an ongoing incident in the shop. For an hour I repeated the story before they too disappeared having been satisfied with my account of what had happened, and providing a detailed description of the young woman.
Ten years on and Desirez and Secretz is still in business. Aaron is no longer around having emigrated to Greece several years ago. Jean Paulo now manages the shop along with his wife, Lucy and every now and then when I’m in town I make an effort to drop by and say hello.