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20 Years

In the Presence of the Damned

by Luis Rivas



I

HAD JUST RETURNED from depositing the weekend earnings of the strip club where I work. The clerk was standing behind the counter, a look of uncertainty on her face. The security guard, who really wasn’t a guard but was labeled one because the owner was too cheap to hire an actual state-certified-and-licensed security guard and figured it was cheaper and easier to hire a somewhat-legal Salvadoran immigrant who doesn’t mind spraying pepper spray at the faces of drunken Mexicans who can’t keep their dicks inside their pants and who doesn’t mind mopping up cum off the shiny black marble floors, was standing there too, awaiting instructions, unsure of the company’s policy for this. They both looked at me, the manager, for answers when I came in. The guy was in a wheelchair, drunk and rambling about Viet Nam and God and his ex-wife and the general fuckedup-ness of living. The normal procedure is to kick out a drunk. But what does the employee manual say about customers in wheelchairs, sober or not; how do we handle it so that there are no legal ramifications afterward; how can we exercise our right to refuse service to someone and still not be labeled discriminatory or prejudice? Answer: treat the customer with respect; without customers we wouldn’t be here; the customer is always right; if needed be, perform fellatio on customer while keeping continuous eye contact, amen.



“Sir, is there anything we can help you with?” I said.
I need a lobster dinner, a massage, a new prosthetic foot, an eight-hour sleep and to wake up and repeat it all again the next morning!


“Yeah man, yea, as a matter of fact there is – there’s a whole lot I need help with, ‘know what I mean? I need a lobster dinner, a massage, a new prosthetic foot, an eight-hour sleep and to wake up and repeat it all again the next morning!” he said while constantly rubbing his beard and rubbing his footless right leg, the balled end smooth and black from weeks or even months of collected dirt. The clerk and guard looked at each other and walked away from me, confident that I would use my managerial skills in solving the matter at hand.

“Right, ok, how ‘bout anything in this store. Is there anything in here we can help you with?” I said, decided he wasn’t too unmanageable, that if he wanted to buy a lap dance, the girls at least wouldn’t have to worry about him getting up and trying any funny shit

“Hey, let me ask you something. You have the best job. What’s you name, man? How long you been working here?”

“Luis.”

“How old are you? How long have you been working here?”

“It doesn’t matter how old I am, or how long I’ve been working here.”

“Yea, well, sure, but how long have you been working here,” he continues. I re-asset the situation: he has no money. He’s lonely and looking for a psychotherapist or a friend, or both.


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About Luis Rivas


Luis Rivas lives in Los Angeles, California. He was a telemarketer, construction worker, flower delivery driver, fast food cashier, sales clerk, non-profit canvasser, adult store and strip club manager and package handler/zip code sorter. His work has appeared in the following publications, some of which he contributes to regularly: Zygote in My Coffee, Unlikely Stories, My Favorite Bullet, The Hold, Cherry Bleeds, Corium, Rural Messenger Press, Thieves Jargon, Origami Condom, Outsider Writers, Full of Crow, Counter Punch, Gloom Cupboard, where his is Poetry Editor and Red Fez, where he is author of the Last Days of Los Angeles column. He dropped out of Los Angeles Valley College where he was studying journalism to work full-time at a porn shop. Then he got fired. Now he has gone back to school, continuing his studies in journalism and Chicana/o Studies at California State University of Northridge and Los Angeles City College. He is currently building up his own literary website, peaceisillegal.com and plans on publishing a book on his youth. Once upon a time, he grew a beard. (There is evidence on the Internet.)

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