Excerpt from Rhythm and Boos

"Lady, you got a great pair of hooters, but you canít dance worth shit."

Sydney Shookerman, aka "Sinsuelle", paused in the middle of her dance to stare at the inebriated customer sprawled across his tiny table. He continued to stare up at her with bloodshot eyes. The flashing lights lining the perimeter of the stage made the manís sweat sparkle in rainbow colors. Seeing that he had her full attention, he saluted her with his bourbon and tonic, and tossed back the last swallow.

The big bass beat pounding from the overhead speakers reminded Sydney she was already behind on her choreographed moves. Quickly, she tried to resume her undulations around the two-inch brass pole, but her heart was no longer in it. Guys were always trying to sweet talk their way into her pants. Customers were expected to cop a grope. The last thing sheíd expected was to be told how bad a dancer she was.

The guy at the end of the dance floor was a regular. Mossman? Mosser? Sydney shook her head as she swivelled her hips. No matter. He was a regular every Thursday night. Same table, two bourbon and tonics straight up. But up until tonight, she had never known the man to speak to the dancers. At least, not to her.

The music ended. Sydney froze with her thighs spread, the required "open crotch" money shot. Someone whistled in appreciation of the view. Maybe another three or four clapped. Hurrying backstage, she passed Ophelia, on her way out to do her cowgirl number.

"Good luck," she tossed at the woman. Ophelia snorted, pasted a smile on her face, and stepped through the fiberglass beaded curtain as the refrain to Deep in the Heart of Texas began playing. Sydney always got a kick out of that. Ophelia was from Milwaukee. There wasnít a single Texas thing about her. Not even the costume. But the woman had a grand old time pretending to ride her six-shooter.

"Hey, Syd."

Mary Ellen gave her a nod as she entered the dressing room. The kohl-eyed woman was busy braiding her hair.

Sighing, Sydney dropped into her chair and kicked off the spiked heels. Her legs looked terrific in the damn things, but they were killers to dance in.

"Hey, donít get comfortable. Beejus wants to see you."

"Now?"

"Yeah, now. And heís in a pissy mood, too, so donít screw around. Better get it done and over with."

Crap. Just my luck. "Thanks, girlfriend."

Mary Ellen nodded. "Good luck. Hope itís not bad news."

Rather than slip her shoes back on, Sydney chose to go barefoot. If the boss wanted to see her now, and he was in a pissy mood, she was not about to take the time to slip out of her costume first.

B. J. Toomey ran Napoleonís, but he didnít own it. In fact, none of the girls who worked there knew who the real owners were, although Sydney sometimes wondered if Cash, the bartender, had some knowledge.

B. J. stood for Barlow Jessup, but he went by B. J. But one Halloween night about three years ago, he pulled a prank on Donna, a girl who used to work at the nightclub, and nearly sent her to the hospital. She later said the creep had nearly scared the bejeezus out of her when heíd come running into the dressing room, dressed in a mask and fatigues, and brandishing a real live chainsaw. Ever since then, everyone referred to him behind his back as "Beejus".

The bossís door was closed. As per his instructions, a closed door meant important business, so rather than just walk in, she knocked. A moment later she heard a voice telling her to enter.

Toomey was on the phone when she let herself in. He motioned for her to close the door as he finished his conversation. Sydney immediately didnít like the look he gave her after he hung up.

"Have a seat, Syd. How ya doiní?"

"Fine, thanks. Whatís up?" She sat on the edge of the faux leather chair. If the man was in a foul mood, but attempting to be civil, it couldnít be good news. She braced herself.

"Oh, not much." The man leaned forward over his desk and clasped his hands together on the pad. "I was watching you do your gig tonight." He paused, and she was almost tempted to prod him.

You watched me and...?

"I overheard Mr. Mossleyís remark to you."

Mossley! She knew it had to start with a moss-something-or-other. She almost patted herself on the back when Toomeyís next comment blind-sided her.

"You know, sweetheart, the manís right."

She locked eyes on him. "What?"

Toomey shook his head. "You got a great set of tits on you, but your dancing sucks big time. In fact, youíre probably the worst dancer we got. Sorry, sweet chops, but Iíve seen dogs humping that put on a better show."

She could see the ax getting ready to drop any minute now. He couldnít fire her! He couldnít!

A million memories paraded by. Foremost was the fight sheíd had with her stepdad, which was the reason why she had left her small town for the big city right after high school. She could no longer live at the house with him there, and trusted she could somehow make it on her own. Unfortunately she had no legitimate skills, no training, and no college. Hell, she barely had a high school diploma! What was she gonna do if she was let go? She barely made enough money now to afford anything other than the rent, the utilities, and a little food, much less lessons or classes. It had been by sheer luck sheíd gotten hired on at this nightclub when she did.

"No, Mr. Toomey! Please, donít let me go! I need this job!"

She almost considered dropping to her knees to beg, when the man grinned and waved off her pleas. "Hey, now, now. I didnít call you in here to fire your ass. In fact, I want to offer a solution."

It took her a moment to grasp what he was saying.

"Youíre not firing me?"

"Shit, no. At least, not in the way youíre thinking. You got a body to die for, Sydney, and the face to go with it. Men come in their pants just looking at you. But God didnít give you the genes to be a dancer, baby. Iím sorry, but Iím taking you off the pole."