Take Five



April 2005

{ Florida }

Tony slapped the framed photograph on the bar and grinned like a Cheshire cat on speed. The loud, inebriated cackle that followed turned several heads in his direction, but he didnít care. He was on a mission, a very important mission.

"Charrrlie," he slurred in a sing-song manner. "Oh, ChaRRR--lie."

The voice of absolute boredom answered. "Yes, Tony. How may I help you?"

Tony held up his find and showed it to the person tending bar, the same person who had listened to his current list of woes for the past several nights. "Charlie, my love, Iíll pay you a thousand bucks for this baby." Tony poked a finger at the picture now lying on the scarred surface of the bar, making sure he hit two very specific areas in the photo. "Yep, yep, a thousand bucks."

Charlene ĎCharlieí Serranto, part owner and bartender, ignored Tonyís drooling grin and served two new customers before digging beneath the bar and pulling out a thick, leather album. Itís cover was blazoned with the words, ĎRodís Tiki Tavern Wet T-shirt Hall Of Fame Winners.í She glanced indifferently at the picture frame Tony was now dancing side to side on the bar and with a weary sigh flipped open the book to the exact year noted on the bronze plaque attached to the base of the frame.

"Rod charges fifty dollars per copy, and all proceeds are donated to charity."

The words were stated in such a manner that Tony knew he was not the first to offer money for the photos lining the wall leading to the head. "Iíll take five to go," he said, "and donít worry Ďbout gift wrapping Ďem." Tony leered lopsidedly at Charlie. "Iíll take Ďem as is. Wet, wild and revealing."

Tony saw the way Charlie rolled her eyes and that just caused him to grin even more -- which by the way was starting to hurt his mouth. He tried to force a straight face but after three unsuccessful tries, gave up and just let his smile rip wide open. "You have no idea how much fun Iím gonna rack up with this cutie."

"Oh, I can guess. After forty-three years of tending bar during Spring Break, there ainít much I canít imagine." Charlie wrote down the number assigned to the picture and nodded at Tony. "Iíll be right back. Try not to drool all over the merchandise." The tall, former Miss Orange County Harley Davidson Leatherette patted the binder Tony was avidly flipping his way through.

"You got it. No drooling." Locating a separate section in the back of the album, Tony nodded his understanding. "Wait!" he called out, preventing Charlie from walking away with a quick grab of her wrist. "These are . . ." He lowered his voice to an astonished whisper. ". . . these are men." The last word was said with an exaggerated flourish, and once again, Charlie rolled her eyes in response.

"Yes, Tony. Those are pictures of men. Son, your detective skills simply astound me."

Instantly sobered by the lust-inspiring photos he was staring at, Tony ignored the womanís sarcasm and his hardening dick. "Itís all men. The contestants, the winners." Tony looked up at Charlie and winked, ". . . the audience."

Charlieís sigh was clearly one of annoyance, and her tone of voice confirmed that fact. "What can I say? Rodís an equal opportunity sorta guy." She reached forward and took the album away from Tony. "Every Thursday night we turn the bar over to our son. Who, by the way," Charlie explained with a ĎI dare youí glint in her eye, "just happens to be gay." She nodded toward the burly redhead guarding the clubís entrance. "The gay boys enjoy a good wet t-shirt contest same as the rest of you heathens."

Charlie looked through several more pages and tapped her finger on a particular photo. "Boy, do I remember this one. He was on fire that night, and if his ass wasnít fucked to the max after winning the contest, Iíll eat Rodís stinky old Stetson."

Charlie returned the album back to Tony, and he nearly fell off his stool in shock when he recognized the face in the photograph.

"Charlie, forget that other photo. Iíll take five, hell, make it ten, of this one."

Tony lifted the album in the air and laid a loud, wet, slurpy kiss on the plastic-encased photograph. "Your ass is mine. Oh yeah, it is so mine."


{ Washington, D.C. }

Kate looked up at the man standing beside her desk, her piercing gaze noting the minute shudder and widening of the eyes. "Is something wrong? You look . . . well, you look strange."

Her companion tilted his head to the side. "Did you hear that?"

Kate listened for several seconds. "No, nothing. What was it you heard?"

"Laughter. Maniacal laughter."



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