The Mississippi Company
by Mark Kertzman
Ravi knew that life couldn’t be better.
He got out of the cab, paying the driver with a hefty tip included. As the cab sped away, giving off a cloud of exhaust that smelled of coconut oil, Ravi turned away from the busy dark street, and entered the Miramar nightclub.
The cool, neon-lit sign over the club door was matched by the equally neon-lit interior. Various colours winked off stainless steel tables, chrome-plated high chairs, brushed-steel wall panels, and glass bar-tops and dance floors. The effect would have been dizzying, were it not for the bodies already crowding much of the club. Most of them were young, good-looking, and rakish, dressed in slim-fitting and revealing clothing. They were dark-skinned and possessed of a natural slimness.
Ravi threaded his way through them, heading for the bar.
A slim brown arm grabbed his jacket, gently and insistently. The owner of the arm was tall, slim and pretty.
When he saw her happy sparkling brown eyes, his face lit up into a broad smile. It was the kind of smile that could charm almost any woman and not a few men, too.
“Hey there, Vali, baby. Long time no see.” They exchanged kisses on both cheeks.
“Where you been?” she asked, brushing a curled lock of jet-black hair out of her face.
“Oh, traveling on business,” he replied. He liked the way that sounded, just rolling off his tongue. Traveling on business.
“Oooh. Big man. Come meet my friends.”
She tugged him back to a little booth, away from the crowd at the bar. Already sitting at the booth were two other girls. One was more heavy-set than the other. Yet they were more alike than different; young, hip, brown-skinned, black-haired, wearing tight low cut spaghetti-strap tops and shiny colourful plastic pants.
“Hey guys, this is Ravi.”
“Nice to meet you.” Ravi, ever the gentleman, kissed each of their proffered hands in turn.
“Ravi, this is Dani and Luta.”
The girls giggled. Dani, the slimmer one, replied, “Nice to meet you, too.”
Ravi settled himself into the booth, brushing some dust off his pleated pants. When he looked up, he realized that the girls were sizing him up.
“So, what do you do for a living?” Luta asked, batting her eyelashes at him.
He smiled, going into flirting mode almost instinctively. “Well,” he responded, “I run an investment company.”
“Really?” Dani interjected, not wanting to be cut out of the fun. “So, what, you, like, buy and sell stocks?”
“Yeah, kind of like that.”
“It’s a pretty good racket?” Luta asked, covertly eyeing the platinum bracelet on one of his wrists and the Omega-Nexttech diving watch on the other.
His smile got even wider, if such was possible. Leaning back, he nonchalantly replied, “Yeah, you could say that.”
They continued to flirt, talking loudly to be heard above the beat of the dance music blasting through the club. Ravi reached into his jacket pocket, extracting a small plastic case.
“What’s that?” Dani asked when she noticed it.
He popped it open, showing her the little white pills inside. “Just a little something to make the evening go smooth. Want one?”
“What are they called?” she responded.
“Tetra Five. Goes better with alcohol.” He proffered the little pillbox.
“Sure.” Dani dipped her fingers into the box, her pewter-coloured manicured nails clicking against the plastic
“I’ll get us something to drink.” Vali stood up. “What do you want?”
“I’ll have a Sex Bomb, ” Luta said.
Dani giggled. “Me, too.”
“What’s that?” Ravi’s curiosity was aroused.
“It’s a martini, silly,” Vali answered. “Want one?”
“Uh, no. Make mine a Tsing Tao.”
Nodding, Vali threaded through the crowd towards the brightly-lit bar. It took a few minutes to get the bartender’s attention, what with the bodies jammed in next to the bar and the raucous noise. Finally, she got the drinks. It was a neat trick, balancing three martini glasses on her splayed fingertips, the heavy bottle of beer penduluming from two fingers pressing the neck of the bottle hard against her lower palm. With a final relieved gasp, she put the bottle on the table, followed by the three glasses.
Ravi was finishing off some story. The other two girls were watching him intently.
“So when I cashed out, it was at one-ten, and I made a nice little profit.”
“Ooooh,” Luta cooed. It was starting to get on Vali’s nerves.
“Of course,” Ravi finished, “I never told the oil man about my cut.”
Dani and Luta laughed at that, somehow finding it uproariously funny. Vali couldn’t see why.
“Cheers,” Vali interjected.
They all drank. Ravi put his beer back on the table after a long pull and leaned back, a smug smile on his face.
“Come on!” Vali jumped up, grabbing Ravi’s arm. “Let’s dance!”
He lurched easily to his feet. This was the life he was meant to be leading; drinks and pills to enjoy, women fighting over him, hanging out in the hottest club in town. Smiling and beginning to sashay to the beat of the music, he followed Vali towards the brilliantly-strobing dance floor.
Copyright © 2011 by Mark Kertzman