In the summer of 1995 my cousin flew from LA to dance at ShowWorld in Times Square. A loyal following packed the house. Her stage skills had been honed by a choreographer. Sherri earned good money from her fans buying underwear and signed posters. At week’s end she had cleared over $3000, but the tips came at a cost.
“I wish I could dance in bare feet,” Sherri complained in her dressing room. The stilettos were spikes of steel.
“Those heels make your legs look great.” I had gone to two shows and each time had been amazed by XXX star’s acrobatic expertise on the steel pole. “Plus your crowd loves the look.
“So I’m stuck with the heels.” Pleasing the audience was her mission and it required more than taking off her clothes.
Saturday night the lithe brunette performed three extra shows and I picked her up at ShowWorld.
“I’m done.” Sherri packed her costumes and hurried from the theater through a crush of fans hoping to get lucky with their favorite actress. She blew them kisses and we jumped into a taxi. Normally Sherri liked to chill after a show. This evening she leaned forward and told the driver to take us to East 10th Street.
“You don’t mind, if we call it a night.” She yanked off her heels and put on sneakers. Her sigh of relief was exquisite. The driver headed downtown to my apartment in the East Village and Sherri said, “I have a few days off before I do my shows in Philly. We’ve been invited to Fire Island. You want to go.”
“Of course.” I hadn’t been to the barrier island in more than ten years. The weatherman was predicting temperatures in the high 90s for the next three days. I could use a break from the city.
“We’re guests of Rachelle Fly.” Sherri rolled down the window. The night was hot. The people on the sidewalks were melting from the stultifying heat.
“I know her.” The overweight stripper was Cable TV’s famed XXX cable TV spokesperson. “Not really know her, but I watch her show. Your promos are on all the time.”
“That’s not what she says.” Sherri stared out the window. “Rachelle says that she doesn’t owe me anything. Her husband doesn’t the books. He went to jail for fraud.”
“So this is a business trip?” I was being asked to come along as muscle.
“Pleasure too.” Sherri loved the sea and sun. “Her husband’s a schmuck. I’ll deal with them in my own way.”
“Good.” I had retired from working nightclubs the previous year and my last fight was a long time ago. “So we have an early night and get going in the morning, because tomorrow is going to be a hot one.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Back at my place Sherri undressed and lay in bed.
“Aren’t you going to sleep with me?” She turned the big fan onto top power.
“No, it’s too hot.” There was another reason and she knew it. “I’ll sleep on the couch. See you in the morning.”
After sticking wads of paper in my ears I fell asleep with a small fan blowing hot air over my body.
I woke with the dawn and went to shower off the night’s sweat. My cousin got up and stood by the tub with a towel wrapped around her body.
“Hurry up. I feel like a pizza.”
“I’ll be a second.” My apartment had little ventilation. The other rooms were baking ovens. The cold water rushed over my skin and I dreamed of swimming in the Atlantic.
“You ever think about getting AC?” Sherri lived in LA.
“The hot doesn’t bother me.” Heat waves in New York lasted a few days instead of the entire summer in the Valley. I stepped out of the bath and handed the spray nozzle to Sherri. “I’ll pack my things.”
Twenty minutes later we were in a taxi to Penn Station. We caught an ACed train from Penn Central to Patchogue. Most of the other passengers were day-trippers seeking escape. A taxi brought us to the ferry. The half-hour ride across the bay to the sandy barrier island was a pleasant excursion to another world.
We stepped off the ferry. Vacationeers greeted their guests. There was no sign of Rachelle.
“I know the way to her house,” Sherri explained, slinging her bag over her shoulder. For once she was traveling light.
“It doesn’t look like it’s changed much.” I looked at the passengers on the wharf. None of them seemed gay.
Back in the 70s Cherry Grove was synonymous with the decadent gay lifestyle; anonymous sex in the pine groves, one-hour stands in the hotels, and orgies in the beach houses.
“Fire Island hasn’t changed, but the people who come here have.” Sherri and I had lost scores of friends to AIDS and the seaside Sodom had been devastated by the epidemic.
“Same as the West Village.” The dying homosexuals had sold their beloved shacks to friends, family, and strangers. The dynamics of the summer community changed considerably, however the beach life remained free and open. There are no cars. Wooden walkways connect the various communities. For longer trips residents hired a water taxi. The island is devoid of 7/11s and fast food. Most people cooked at home.
Rachelle’s cottage was on the beach. Sherri told me to play nice, as we approached the two-story bungalow surrounded by a high wooden wall.
“Her husband is very jealous of men.”
“She was a porno actress.”
“That was back then and now she’s married to him, she can only have affairs with women, because he likes to watch.”
“I’ll be nice then.” The ocean was a clear cool blue. Waves thundered on the shore. A few people lay on beach blankets protected from the blazing sun by umbrellas. I was glad to be wearing a hat.
Sherri pushed open the door in the wall and called out, “Anyone home?”
“Only us naked people.”
Rachelle stepped out of the house. The squat forty year-old was thirty pounds over her prime. Two small dogs yapped at her heels. Flabs of flesh overlapped her belly.
“Excuse my state of undress, but I never wear anything on the island.” Rachelle bear-hugged my cousin.
“I might go naked myself.” I nodded to our hostess without really looking at her. She was a sore sight for my eyes.
“Be careful of the sun. It’s brutal this time of year.” Rachelle’s skin was the color of a worn football. There were no tan lines. “Glad you could come out.”
“The city is hell.” Sharon dropped her bag on the deck and stripped off her tee-shirt and shorts. Her trim body was a result of endless hours at the gym. She posed for Rachelle.
“You still got it.” The older woman caressed Sherri’s body. They had once been more than friends. She ogled my cousin with desire and then eyed me suspiciously. “So this is your cousin?”
“Yeah, on her father’s side.” Sherri and I have been calling ourselves family for years into order to save time about how we met playing pinball at an East Village after-hour bar. Even we got tired of our old stories, mostly because we were trying to outrun our pasts.
“I can’t see family resemblance.” Robin squinted to examine my face more closely.
Really?” Sherri moved beside me. She had been adopted out of Napoli and brought up in New Jersey.
“We’re almost twins.” Depending on the light my face resembled either an Irish cop or Yankee sailor.
“Almost identical.” Rachelle didn’t like me. Something about her manner said that she didn’t like men, but it was too late to disinvite me, so she said, “Come on inside.”
The house had been designed in the 70s. The white walls were covered by gleaming mirrors, as a homage to that era of narcissism.
“I bought the house from a man who found it too sad.” Rachelle led us through the living room. The dogs were nipping at my legs, as if they were under her command. She showed us our rooms.
“Of course you could sleep in one bed, if you’re kissing cousins, only I get to watch.”
“Two bedrooms will be fine.” Sleeping with Sherri was almost impossible. Her snoring was world-class. I took the smaller room, since I was the guest of a guest.
“Make yourselves a home.” Rachelle was speaking to Sherri.
“When on Fire Island, do as the Fire Islanders do.”
I thew my bag in the room and stripped off my clothes and joined the two women on the beach. They were talking business. Rachelle’s husband was in the city. I didn’t need to hear this conversation and I swam in the ocean. The air was hot, but the Atlantic was cold. My body temperature dropped every minute in the water.
Two hours in the sun torched my pale skin. I retreated for the shelter of the house. Sharon and Rachelle towel around my waist.
“Did you shower?” Rachelle demanded with a harsh sharpness.
“Yes, with soap too.”
“Just checking.” The ex-stripper was making a concerted effort to make me feel unwanted.
Her version of ‘mi casa es su casa’ was a mirage.
I could do no right.
The sand on the floor came from me, not her dogs.
When I nearly shattered my kneecap on a glass table, she screamed that I was clumsy.
Anytime I spoke with Sharon, she sat down with her arms folded across her flapjack breasts with her bulbous belly gracelessly hanging over her crotch.
That evening after dinner Sherri and I whispered in her bedroom. The thin walls of the beach bungalow were not conducive to privacy.
“Rachelle’s not very nice.”
“She’s like a sleeping rattler. She doesn’t like men.”
“I figured that from the little inquisition. I’ll tread lightly.”
The next day I hid from our hostess on the beach, but the morning in the sun scorched my flesh. Sherri came looking for me.
“You better cover up.” Her body glowed LA golden.
“Am I red?”
“I can’t go back to the house.”
“I know. It’ll only be another few days.”
“Where’s her husband?”
“So you’re not getting your money?” I was ready to leave.
“I’m getting my money one way or the other.” Sherri wasn’t going back to New York empty handed.
We built a tent from driftwood and torn sails. It was my home during the day.
Every noon a grizzly naked man in his fifties roamed the high tide mark. The bearded beachcomber carried a long staff of driftwood. His tattooed body was covered with grey hair and his penis was enormous.
“Did you see that?” Sherri exclaimed with horror.
“Not easy to miss it?” A horse would have been jealous of his thing.
“It’s Schmoses.” Sherri named the tramp.
“Carrying the staff of Schmoses.” I pointed at his unearthly shank of flesh.
That evening we joked about Schmoses at the dinner table. Rachelle saw no humor in our humor.
“The man has a name.”
“You live here. What is it?” Sherri wasn’t taking any crap from the fat woman.
“I don’t know.”
“Then his name stays.” She raised her wine glass. “Here’s to Schmoses.”
This joke became funnier the next afternoon, for Rachelle befriended Schmoses and we discovered the two of them in coitus by the pool. It was like watching a Neanderthal have sex with a walrus. I drank a bottle of Rachelle’s best wine to obliterate the image.
The next morning Rachelle and Sherri had a fight about money. My cousin held up a camera.
“I got it all on film.” She threatened to show the photos to Rachelle’s husband. “Your old man doesn’t mind you going with girls, but I know how he feels about you going with men. Your choice. Pay me or pay the price.”
“That’s blackmail.” Rachelle took out a checkbook.
“I like to think of it more as an early trick or treat.”
We left that afternoon for New York.
“Did you really take pictures of Rachelle and Schmoses?” I asked on the ferry ride back to civilization.
“Not one, but I sold her, didn’t I?” Sherri smiled with feline pleasure.
“I guess even the naked have something to hide.”
I never saw Rachelle again and I almost forgot about Schmoses until reading a BBC article how the Biblical Moses had received the 10 Commandments from Yahweh while high on psychedelic drugs, since the concoctions from bark of the acacia tree were an essential ingredient for religious rites in biblical times. I now understood the mysteries of Schmoses lay entirely on his staff.
His cock was really long and not only does Schmoses live, but his schlong grows longer with each telling of the tale.
Such is the power of the staff of Schmoses.