Norma Anapol

He entered the room like a boxer, dancing lightly, lips drawn in a sneer. The men, half-dressed, eyed him.

A fat, sweaty man with cigar in mouth, looked him over, then spoke gruffly. "Okay, pretty boy, get a move on, let's see some flesh, take off that shirt and jacket, and the pants.

Reluctantly, Ralph obeyed, trying to look macho. Very slowly, he took off his clothes. He prayed silently not to gum up. Finally only the undershirt and bikini shorts remained.

"The shirt!" barked the fat man.

Ralph pulled off his undershirt. He was glad he had shaved the black hair from his chest and shoulders.

"That's good. Now let's see if you can dance." The man turned on a tape. Grinding, thumping belly dance music. Ralph began, contorting his body in time to the music.

The men smiled, friendly now. One by one they joined him, until the whole room was alive with wriggling, stretching, shaking, dancing men. Ralph forgot everything but the dance. The music stopped.

Taking the cigar out of his mouth, the fat man said, "You'll do. Be here at six."

The men crowded around. "Don't give away too much. Tease 'em. Make sure your bikini has a pocket for bills."

Ralph put his clothes back on and smiled. The job was going to be okay. He wished he'd thought of doing this in 1948 when he entered the priesthood rather than now, 1958. Being a priest was hard work. This was his real calling.

First published: May, 2003