In July of 1995 my cousin flew from LA to dance at ShowWorld in Times Square. The boyish brunette's loyal following packed the legendary porno parlor to worship Sherri's stage acrobatics. Thankfully pleasing her audience required little more than stripping off her clothes.
Her gloves cost $10. The filmy lingerie was $20 for the top and $30 from the bottom. Full nudity never less than $50 and the veteran XXX actress augmented her take by selling underwear and signing posters.
By week’s end my cousin had cleared almost $8000, but the small fortune came at a cost.
“I wish I could dance in bare feet,” Sherri complained in the shabby dressing room shared with the girls working the $1 peep shows. "These stilettos feel like two spikes are driven through the bones."
“They make your legs look great.” I had attended two shows and each time had been amazed by Sherri's grace on four-inch stilettos.
“So I’m stuck with the heels.”
"Just for one more night."
"Are you coming for the finale?"
"I wouldn't miss it for the world."
"Or ShowWorld." Sherri kissed me. Her lips were wet. Her skin smelled of exhaustion. She had never looked prettier. Her hand reached into her bra and came up with a damp twenty. "Go get yourself something to drink. I expect you here on time."
"Yes, mistress." I bowed my head in submission.
Sherri was a well-know dominatrix and ads played on the late-night sex shows promoting S & M.
I killed two hours at Bobby's Corner drinking cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and arrived at ShowWorld at 11:30. The Triple Threat Theater was packed to the rafters and Sherri performed a new dance routine. The crowd gave her a standing ovation and she returned for a black leather encore to Iggy's I WANNA BE YOUR DOG.
I escorted her into the dressing room.
“That's it. I'm done.” Sherri packed her costumes and changed into jeans 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 at a bar.
This evening she leaned forward and gave the driver the address to my apartment on East 10th Street.
“You don’t mind, if we call it a night.” She yanked off her heels and pulled on sneakers, sighing with relief. “I have a few days off before my shows in Philly. We’ve been invited to Fire Island. You want to go?”
“Of course.” The diamond exchange was closed for two weeks and I hadn’t been to the barrier island for more than ten years. The weatherman was predicting temperatures in the high 90s for the next three days and I could use a break from the city.
"Where we staying?"
“We’re guests of Rachelle Fly.” Sherri rolled down the window. The night air was hot and the people on the sidewalks walked like melted ice statues, but after the long years in LA Sherri still loved the smell of Nw York in the summer. It reminded her of being young.
“I know her.” The overweight stripper was Cable TV’s famed XXX spokesperson. “Not really know her, but I watched her show. Your promos are on all the time.”
“That’s not what she says.” Sherri turned to me with an angry glare.
"At least a couple of times a night."
“Rachelle says never and that she doesn’t owe me any residuals. Her husband does the books and Shelley went to jail for fraud.”
“So this is a business trip?”
"Always good to have a little muscle, but this will be pleasure too.” Sherri lived in LA. She loved the sea and sun. “Her husband’s a schmuck, but also very connected to the Mafia. I’ll deal with them in my own way. You're just insurance. Against Shelley, not anyone else."
“Good. My fighting days are over.” I had retired from working the door at nightclubs last year.
“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.
I kissed her good-night and went to the door.
“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.”
I lay on the sofa with a small fan blowing hot air over my body. Sherri started snoring almost immediately and I stuck wads of wet paper in my ears. They blocked out most of the noise, although I heard a neighbors shouted to get the truck out of gear.
I woke with the dawn and showered off the night’s sweat.
My cousin came out of the bedroom and stood by the tub with a towel wrapped around her still lithe body.
“Move over. I feel like an overcooked pizza.”
“Just a second.” I ducked under the lukewarm water and dreamed of swimming in the Atlantic.
“You ever think about getting AC?” Sherri dropped the towel. Her skin sheened with perspiration.
“The hot doesn’t bother me.” Heat waves in New York lasted a few days instead of the entire summer in North Hollywood. I moved against the rear of the tub.
"A tight fit. Have you been gaining weight?" Sherri settled into the tub with her back to me.
"Mostly beer. It will melt off by the end of the summer."
"A constant battle.You want to soap my back."
"Okay." I reached for the spray nozzle and Sherri murmured, "I love Splish-Splash."
We cut our bath short and caught a taxi on 1st Avenue to Penn Station to board an ACed train to the farthest reaches of Long Island and points in between.
Two men eyed Sherri.
They had probably seen her Robin Fly's promos.
After deboarding the ancient train at Sayville a shuttle bus brought us to the ferry.
The ride across the tranquil bay lasted a half-hour.
A thin line of green skimmed the horizon.
It was our destination.
"Fire Island doesn't belong to New York or America." Sherri stood at the prow.
"This boat trip is a magic spell."
"Leaving the rest of the world behind."
"I hope that's still true."
We stepped off the ferry at The Pines. Vacationeers on Harbor Walk greeted their guests. Water taxies took on passengers for Cherry Grove. There was no sign of Rachelle.
“I know the way to her house.” Sherri slung a small bag over her shoulder. For once she was traveling light.
We strolled through the cluster of cottages to Ocean Walk.
A deer raised its head from the shrubbery and bolted into a ticket on beach pines.
“It looks the same, but it isn't the same."
Back in the 70s The Pines was synonymous with a decadent gay lifestyle; anonymous sex at the Meatrack, short-time stands in the hotels, and orgies at the beach houses.
“The Pines is still Sodom by the sea, but it was never quiet like before."
What about on Sunday mornings?"
Well, Sundays were the day of rest for the wicked, but this is quieter."
There was a reason.
A sad one.
Sherri and I had lost scores of friends to devastating epidemic of AIDS. The departed's names had never died in my mind, especially since one had been my youngest brother.
We topped the dune beyond which spread a cool green Atlantic. Waves thundered on the shore. The few people lay on beach blankets protected from the blazing sun by umbrellas. I was glad to have a hat.
"The beach is empty."
“Same as the West Village. Dying homosexuals sold their beloved beach shacks to friends, family, and strangers."
"Different people now," Sherri said, as we stepped aside for a straight couple pushing a baby carriage onto Nautilus Walk.
"Not the same."
"None of us are the same now, but we're here,"announced Sherri, as we approached the two-story bungalow surrounded by a high wooden wall.
"I meant at Rachelle's."
The bungalow was second to the last on Ocean Walk.
“Just one thing. Rachelle's husband is very jealous of men.”
“She was a porno actress.” Promiscuity was a virtue in the trade.
“That was back then and now she’s married to him, so she can only have affairs with women, because he likes to watch. If he caught her with a man, then she'd be out on the street. Everything she has belongs to him."
“No worries. She not my type."
"Just play nice then.”
"I'll be a good boy."
We entered the pool area and Sherri called out, “Anyone home?”
“Only us naked people.”
Rachelle climbed down the stairs of the sun-warped house.
The squat forty year-old was thirty pounds over her prime and flabby flesh overlapped her extended belly.
Two small dogs scurried onto the deck.
“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. She made me feel thin.
“When on Fire Island, do as the Fire Islanders do, but be careful of the sun. It’s brutal this time of year.” Rachelle was tanned the color of a worn football.
“Sherri, I'm so glad you could come out.”
“The city is hell, but I had a good run at ShowWorld.” Sharon dropped her bag on the deck and stripped off her tee-shirt and shorts.
"What do you think?" The brunette provocatively posed for Rachelle.
“Those hours in the gym," sighed the older woman, as she caressed Sherri 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 to save time explaining how we met playing pinball at an East Village after-hour bar. Even we got tired of our old stories, mostly because we were tired of trying to outrun our pasts.
“I can’t see family resemblance.” Robin squinted to examine my face.
Depending on the light my face resembled either an Irish cop or Yankee sailor.
“We’re almost twins.” Sherri moved beside me. She had been adopted out of Napoli and her blood was my exact opposite of that running in my Yankee Hibernian veins.
Rachelle wasn't pleased by my reply, but it was too late to disinvite me, so she said, “Come on inside.”
The gleaming mirrors on the white walls paid homage to that era of 70s narcissism.
"Lovely place," complimented Sherri.
“I bought the house from a man who found it too sad.” Rachelle led us through the living room. "Too many ghosts."
"But not for you."
Rachelle's support for the gay/lesbian community was legendary.
I can live with them, if they can live with me. Same as my puppies."
The dogs nipped at my legs, as if by command.
"They're my little babies. Come on. I'll show you your rooms.
We climbed the stairs and Rachelle said, "If you're kissing cousins, then you can share one bed."
“Two bedrooms will be fine.” Sleep was impossible with Sherri's epic snoring three inches from my ears.
“Make yourselves a home,” Rachelle said to Sherri, opening the door to a large room with a beach view.
Mine was a tiny converted closet, but as the guest of a guest I had no complaints.
It was good being out of the East Village.
"How's the beach?"
"Same as ever."
"Some things never change."
I stripped off my clothes and accompanied the two women to the beach.
We sat on folding chairs under umbrellas.
A naked man with a beaded necklaces, a long beard and a even longer penis waved to Rachelle with a gnarled wooden staff.
"That's Moishe. He lives in a pine grove and scours the tide lines for treasure. In the winter he takes care of the houses. Some people says that he hasn't been to the mainland for years."
"Nice crank for an old guy," commented Sherri.
"I've never seen one bigger."
"I probably can't get it erection without passing out from loss of blood."
"Oh, he can get them alright." Rachelle caressed Sherri's arm and turned her back on me.
They talked business. I didn’t need to hear this conversation and I swam in the ocean. Every minute in the cold Atlantic surf dropped my body temperature. I should have been paying more attention to the sun, but I loved the waves.
Emerging from the sea I picked up my towel.
Sherri and Rachelle had retreated to the beach house.
Moishe was returning from his beach-combing expedition. I nodded to him.
He pointed his erect staff at my ass and said, "Ouch."
"Too much sun?"
He grunted yes and I hurried off the beach.
At the entrance to the deck I washed off the sand with a hose. Sherri and Rachelle were in the pool with a video camera recording their conversation. I toweled dry in the shade.
"Oh, my," laughed Sherri.
"Your ass is lobster red."
"Moishe said the same thing."
"He spoke? He never speaks." Rachelle seemed upset by my interaction with Moishe,
"Not so much spoke a grumbled a few syllable."
I touched my bum. It hurt to the touch.
“Did you shower before coming into the house?” Rachelle demanded with a harsh sharpness.
“Yes, with soap too.”
“Just checking.” The ex-stripper was succeeding in conveying her disdain for me and she continued her ungraciousness throughout the rest of the day.
I could do no right.
The sand on the floor came from me, not her dogs.
When I nearly shattered my kneecap on a low glass table sitting down for dinner, she screamed at my clumsiness.
"Be more careful."
She served me a small potion of salad, as if I should be on a diet.
When I told my cousin about how Fire Island had been formed by the Ice Age glaciers, Rachelle sat down with her arms folded across her flapjack breasts and her bulbous belly gracelessly hanging over her crotch.
Her eyes simmered with disdain.
I was her public enemy # 1.
That evening Sherri and I whispered in her bedroom.
The beach bungalow's thin walls were not conducive to privacy.
“Rachelle’s not very nice.”
“She doesn’t like men.”
“I figured that from the constant inquisition. I’ll stay out of her way.”
"Not a bad idea."
The next morning I looked in the fridge for food.
There was none.
Rachelle had hidden it somewhere.
Swearing under my breath I left the house and laid out my towel underneath the pines without taking off my clothes. The beach was empty. I remembered it with more people.
I didn't want to think about it and read my book.
RUNNING by Maxie Laing.
When Moishe passed, he shook his head.
I defended myself by saying, "Clothing is optional. So is nakedness."
He muttered under his breath. It couldn't have been anything good and I realized I hated the locals.
Sherri came looking for me.
“You shouldn't be out here.” Her body glowed with a LA golden tan.
“The pines should be protecting me.
“The sun is bouncing off the sand.” She scooped up a handful, "The remains of your glacier."
“They should a mile high here. Only 15,000 years ago."
I was estimating the numbers.
"You have breakfast?"
"How? Rachelle hid the food."
"I can’t go back to the house.”
“I know. When’s her husband coming back?”
“Not until the weekend.”
“So 'she' can't write a check?” I refrained from calling Rachelle a name.
“I’m getting my money one way or the other.”
"So we're stuck here."
"Better here than the city."
Sherri picked up a branch.
"Let's built us a hut.
"It can be my home away from chez Rachelle."
We erected a tent from driftwood and torn sails.
The sea breeze lulled us to sleep. Sherri didn't snore. It was pleasant to lie with a naked woman.
As the sun descend over the dunes, Moishe roamed the high tide mark.
Seeing Sherri his penis grew into an obscene erection accompanied by a satyr's leer. He walked up to us and said to my cousin, "I liked your films."
Sherri thanked the hermit, who licked his lips before wandering down the beach.
“Did you see that?” Sherri exclaimed with horror.
“Not easy to miss it?” A horse would have been jealous of his manhood.
“He shouldn't be called Moishe, but Schmoses of the Greying Bush,” Sherri renamed the tramp.
“Carrying the staff of Schmoses.” I raised my forearm.
"How about a drink at the Blue Whale?" Sherri liked a good bar.
"Vodka and Curacao liquor." The drink gave everyone 'blue tongue'. "Why not?"
The bartender recognized Sharon from her films.
"Before I came out, I pretended I was you."
Sherri autographed a napkin and the bartender comped us drinks.
"We'll see you at the Monster one night.
"Count on it." My cousin's feet had recovered from the ShowWorld stint.
That evening we joked about Schmoses at the dinner table. Rachelle saw no humor in our humor.
“The man has a name. It's Moishe."”
“I gave him a new one.” Sherri wasn’t taking any crap from the fat woman and raised her glass. "It fits his unearthly shank of flesh. Here's to the Staff of Schmoses."
Rachelle deserted the table for her bedroom.
Sherri and I drank another bottle of wine.
We swam in the pool.
There was no light from Rachelle's bedroom.
"She must be dreaming of Schmoses."
"And his staff."
We laughed quietly and Sherri said, "The Monster."
Well past midnight we returned to the beach house and went to our separate rooms.
"You sure?" asked Sherri at her door.
"I'm tempted, but my skin is too tender."
Sherri slid into the opening.
"I won't be rough with you."
And she wasn't, although made her leave later.
"Like a truck shut on ice."
I rose before the dawn and threw on a long sleeved white shirt and shorts.
It was low tide and the ocean was calm.
I beachcombed for jetsam.
Schmoses appeared in the distance and I abandoned the shells and whelps.
The beach debris belonged to him.
We nodded to each other in passing.
The old hermit wasn't talkative, but neither was I.
I opted for a peaceful breakfast and walked over to the beach landing to have bacon and eggs next to the Blue Whale.
Upon my return to the beach shack Rachelle emerged from her house and shouted, "Moishe."
The aging loner appeared from the pines. The TV hostess walked over to him and the two vanished into the pines.
For a long time.
I sat in the shade of the beach hut.
Sherri came out of the house.
"She said she never shows the ads."
"I told her my friends saw them."
"Friends meaning me?"
"Well, guess I should pack my bags."
"Have you seen Rachelle?"
"Yes, she went into the woods with Schmoses."
"Like to have sex?"
"Looked that way to me. Schmoses was in full bloom."
"The magic of video."
Sherri grabbed my hand and we ran to the house. She didn't bother to brush the sand off her feet.
Neither did I.
My cousin picked up the small video camera and said, "Follow me."
We tracked Rachelle's and Schmoses' footprint into the piney grove.
The two were coupling before Schmoses' hut. The arcane structure seemed to predate the last Ice Age. The breeze whispered through the boughs, The only other sound was the slapping of flesh and Sherri whispered, "It's like watching a Neanderthal mate with a walrus."
She ducked behind a bush from where Sherri shot them in coitus.
After a few minutes cousin nudged me and whispered, "I think I have enough."
Back at the house I drank a bottle of Rachelle’s best wine to obliterate the image of Schmoses and Rachelle's in coitus.
An hour later Rachelle arrived out of breath and the two had a fight about money.
My cousin held up a camera.
“I got it all on film."
"What?" asked Rachelle, but she knew what.
"You and Schmoses. 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. Plus I'll take cash."
"Here." Rachelle reached into her purse and came up with a wad of c-notes.
"And here's your video."
She glared at me.
"I want you out of here."
Sherri packed fast and we left the house. Schmoses stood at the edge of the pines. He waggled good-bye with his long prong.
My cousin blew him a kiss.
"I love my fans."
"And they love you."
We caught the last boat to the mainland. The ferry ride was a relief from the hot dunes.
"Did you really give her the video of Rachelle and Schmoses?"
"Not until the check clears." Sherri smiled with feline pleasure.
It had been a good trip to Fire Island.
Gay men still ran the beach.
And that was a good thing.
Back in the city we had steaks at Old Homestead on Rachelle.
Sherri left the next day for Philly.
At the Chinatown bus she gave me $500.
"For your troubles."
"There were no troubles."
"What about the Staff of Schmoses?"
"It was big."
"And it could get bigger."
Sherri was a good cousin and we remained through the years.
I never saw Rachelle again, but I recounted the Schmoses story to people from time to time. His cock was really long and his schlong grows longer with each telling of the tale.
Such was the power of the staff of Schmoses.