No matter where she stands in the room, Susan has the illusion of
being far too small. She is standing in the interior of a restored ballroom,
apparently built during the early thirties, and everything, from the height
and breadth of the room to the proportions of the regally trimmed furniture,
is intentionally oversized. It is a grand and impressive space, in spite of
the odd dimensions. The black and white interior has Susan feeling like she
is inhabiting an old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie. The occasional
flashes of color in the room - blue hair, red sashes, red hair, blue
fingernails - felt like details from a painted still.
Susan wanders over to a plush black brocade sitting-room chair and
pushes herself up onto the seat – her feet don't even touch the floor, and
she's 5'8" for Gods sake – then slowly surveys the crowd. There are perhaps
two hundred people in the room at the moment and they are all dressed in the
same type of outfits. A visually striking surprise. Amusing and creepy.
The men are all wearing knee length black pleated shorts. These were
authentic Sansabelt Formal shorts, matched up with starched white shirts and
short skinny black ties. Oh, weren't they a funny looking bunch.
The women were offered a choice of two different outfits; they could
dress in either pleated plaid skirts with plain white blouses buttoned up to
the neck, or navy blue jumpers with plain white blouses buttoned up to the
neck. The plaids seemed to be the popular choice tonight.
Everyone wore shiny black leather shoes and white knee socks.
Susan felt like a bit of a misfit in her black razor jeans and
black/white Cannibal Corpse t-shirt.
In a sense, as a first timer, Susan was more than appropriate for the
room. Melinda had known that she would be. Susan was now sporting a bright
red nylon sash, Miss America style, with the word VISITOR spelled out in
shiny silver letters. Scanning the room, she picked out a couple dozen other
people who were similarly identified as newcomers. Many of the other
visitors looked as if they had known in advance what was expected from them
style-wise. They seemed puppy-dog eager, dressed in clothing that
approximated the standard attire of the members. Melinda had given Susan no
hints about the club, even insisting on meeting her inside, so as not to
spoil the surprise.
Susan watched with bemused detachment as a Nun with very big hair
approached her from the far side of the room. The Nun's eyes were made up in
heavy Carnaby-style sixties blue.
“Susan,” said the Nun, (proving that she at least had the intelligence
to read name tags), “Would you care to join the other boys and girls?" Her
mouth was split in a full smile, revealing red lipstick stains on her teeth.
"You are invited, Susan.”
This was kind of gross and kind of funny, but the words felt
particularly evocative, right out of 'Blue Velvet'. Susan was amused.
Wouldn't it be funny if they played the 'Blue Velvet’ theme? The Nun’s words
came across like a shy request for an audition. Tonight’s entertainment –
the Fabulous Susan! But then that was so obviously the charm of the place,
the reason people were lined up outside behind the purple velvet rope. What
club used a purple velvet rope these days? Susan hadn’t even been on the
list. Melinda knew she wouldn’t need to be. Susan had been escorted right
inside the moment the doorman spotted her.
The funky Nun took Susan firmly by the hand, and balancing
precariously on four inch heels, led her across the ballroom floor and into
a brightly lit dressing room. Her heels made a metallic clacking sound. No,
wait. Her shoes had taps.
Throughout the room, there were schoolgirls primping. A few gave
quick, shy glances at the newcomer. Reproductions of Bosch and Bruegel
morality plays were ornately framed above a gleaming line of gold-fixtured
basins where one would expect to find mirrors. There was a row of dressing
mirrors, running the full length of the opposite wall, decorated in a pink
frost vignette and framed by velvet cranberry curtains.
“Skirt or jumper?” asked the Nun. The Sister does have a name tag, but
the script seems to be in Assyrian.
Susan chose the jumper.
Permissions was the name of the club.
Permissions had opened three months earlier and was becoming somewhat
of a sensation exclusively through word of mouth. Susan’s presence here
tonight was a present, something completely different for her forty-first
Birthday. It actually seemed a little too different to have been planned by
Melinda. No way that she would have come up with this. Susan thinks that it
must have been Stan's idea; she’s pretty sure that he reviewed it a few
weeks ago in the City Paper. Presuming that was the case, she was most
interested in seeing how her friends would react to the evenings
entertainment. Susan knew for a fact that whatever happened, she was
going have a good time, but it would be quite funny to see how timid little
Melinda reacted. This was such an amusing place.
Susan felt that her consciousness might not be quite ready for the
room yet. She could go for another couple of lines, so she ducked into a
stall the moment the Nun left. There was nothing she enjoyed more than
ranking on people - everyone looked so ridiculous to begin with, it was a
scream - but this didn't seem like a good time for her to start laughing.
Not yet, anyway. Everybody seemed to be keeping a straight face.
uniform rental was surprisingly cheap, only twenty bucks. The Nun returned
in a few minutes with a jumper and blouse, without ever having asked for her
size. The Sister had nailed it.
Susan didn’t have on the requisite black shoes - black sneakers would
have to do - but after she bought a pair of knee socks from a very
interestingly stocked vending machine, the rest of the outfit seemed to look
apropos. Studying herself in the long mirror, framed in a fairytale frost,
she felt that she looked absolutely… absolutely… uh, whatever. Oh why not,
she thought, just one more little touch. She selected a wide white ribbon
from the accessories machine and tied back her honey hued hair in an
Reentering the main room, Susan was no longer among the outcasts. She
had been 'invited'. I’m cute as a little button, she thought. Most of the
visitors were still milling around, hoping to be selected. Look at those
losers. On the Invited side of the room, properly dressed boys and girls
were all smiling and nodding at her now. Tiny white Christmas lights
sparkled throughout the room. The air smelled of Brylcreme and White
portly middle-aged man approached Susan from behind, tapping her politely on
the shoulder and introducing himself as Milton. He looked strangely familiar
to her, but she couldn’t place him, and didn’t really care to.
Milton was a sight. He was dressed in the same schoolboy outfit as the
other men in the room, with the exception of a black baseball cap which had
a delta symbol embroidered in silver above the bill. His white shirt was
just barely capable of constraining a sizable beer belly, which hung down a
full three inches beyond his too tightly belted shorts. His wiry beard
looked as though it had been shaped with hedge clippers. Susan wished that
she had brought a camera, even at the risk of having it confiscated at the
"Would you care to accompany me for the next dance, Darlin?" Milton
had a shy boyish grin. That was the sole thing that looked boyish about him,
in spite of the outfit.
"I'm sorry, I'm very well behaved." Susan thought that this seemed
like an appropriate response. She was actively ignoring Milton, scanning the
room, trying to locate her friend.
An elderly severe-faced woman approached her, dressed formally in
1950's dragon lady red and black party attire, with long black lycra gloves
extending nearly to her armpits. She glided up beside Susan, and placed a
firm hand on her shoulder. She applied a surprisingly strong grip with her
"Go ahead Dear. I know that you're shy, but you just go ahead and have
yourself a nice time. We all want to be your friends here. As a newcomer to
our happy gathering, here are some basic rules for you to remember. When
you are dancing, the rule is six inches, no closer. Hands at all times above
the waist. The chaperones will be watching. Now get out on the floor and
Well, alrighty then. This guy Milton had a seriously disturbing look
about him. She noticed that his mouth was forming funny shapes, as if he was
making an unsuccessful attempt at silently talking to himself. Susan took
another look around the room for the friend who had set her up for this
delightful evening and spotted her across the room watching her. She was
accompanied by Vickie, a friend of hers that Susan knew slightly. They were
making woo-woo mouths. The girls were too far away to shout at. If
shouting was allowed. Melinda had her hand up to her mouth. Susan knew that
she was laughing. Vickie wasn’t even trying to keep a straight face.
Well, this would be a night to remember. Milton held out his hand for
Susan as the sounds of Bobby Vinton filled the room crooning 'Blue Velvet'.
"You know what, darlin?” Milton drawled. “You've got a couple of the
prettiest blue eyes that I've ever seen in my life."
"No shit!" Milton stopped dead in his tracks and stood motionless,
looking at Susan's eyes in disbelief. He seemed genuinely stunned by this
"You know what? You're right." His face crinkled
up in laughter and he shook a scolding finger at her. “You’re right!”
A Nun with long red hair approached Milton from his blind side and
whacked him across the wrist with a wooden ruler.
"Watch your language, young man, or we'll march you right out of
here." The nun was at least 6'2", with a rather lumpy complexion.
"Oww, shit! Wha'd I say?" The nun looked outraged as she whacked
Milton once again.
"Oww. Oh fuck, I said shit!" WHACK!
“Oww. Oh shit, I said fuck!" WHACK!
Milton's eyes become wide and round, and his complexion quickly turned
an alarming shade of red. "If you’ll pardon me, darling, I think I'm gonna
go catch me a break."
Under his breath, Milton spoke urgently to Susan. "You got to watch
out for these bitches. They can be pretty damn mean sometimes. They keep a
detailed record of everything you do when you’re here. Oh yeah. They're
watching you now." He hesitated a moment as if he were on the verge of
telling her some alarming secret. "I'm gonna get me a drink. You want
Susan says no.
Susan quickly tracks down Melinda and Vickie, who have been pointing
in her direction and making faces for just about long enough now. Soon the
three are breaking out into spasms of laughter. A Nun with a blond beehive
cautions them to hold down the volume if they have any intentions of staying
for cake and punch. This makes them laugh even harder.
“Melinda, you look absolutely adorable.” Susan is sincere with the
compliment. With her petite figure and schoolgirl plaid, Melinda could
probably pass for fifteen. She has her long brown hair pulled into pigtails,
and is wearing light pink lipstick that she has bought from the cosmetics
machine in the changing room. Melinda has no eye shadow or mascara – some
mean Nun had said that it made her look like a young whore and told her to
wash it off – so her pale blue eyes are unadorned. She has a dreamy
expression. She knows she planned a good surprise. Susan probably thinks
that it was Stan's idea.
Susan points out Milton to the girls – unnecessarily, since Melinda
and Vickie have both been spying on her the entire time – and tells the
story of his crime and punishment in mouth-watering detail. They giggle and
snort as they watch Milton make his way over for a drink. The bar is at
least five feet high, and manned by a bartender in red Cardinal’s vestments.
People have to reach up high to retrieve their orders, and if they spill
anything, they get whacked. The last time Susan sees Milton, the Cardinal is
making him blow up a balloon.