Dreams on Board

cruise fashion show3 (2)

(650 words)

“‘Clothes horses,’ that’s what she calls ‘em.”
“That’s all they do, walk up and down the deck, flaunting themselves.”
“Uh-huh. That a problem, sir?”
“Who, me? No … no, it’s just that she … that’s my wife, Josie, she doesn’t like me looking at them. Says I shouldn’t ‘gawp at other women’s anatomy’!”
The bartender wiped a glass, smiling wryly. “Well, you have to admit, sir, they’re lookers.”
“They sure are. Those crazy long legs, long blonde hair, low cleavage showing their ripe mangos! What are they, dancers in the shows or something? I never see ‘em during the day, just the evening, ‘bout seven, I guess. Up and down, up and down they walk, eyes straight ahead. Till about eight.”
“D’you ever get to speak to one?”
“No, no, I mean, well they look too, er, haughty, I guess you’d say.”
“Well, you’re wrong there, sir, it’s not such a big deal. Say hello, and pay ‘em a compliment. You’ll get a great big smile. And she’ll be happy to chew the fat with you!”
“Really? Well, I guess I’d like to, but there’s Josie you see, she wouldn’t like it. Can’t say as I’d blame her.”
The bartender put down the glass he was polishing, took another one from a shelf and poured a large shot of bourbon into each. “Here you are, sir, on the house!”
“Why, that’s kind of you!”
“You’re welcome, sir.” The bartender took a sip. “Look, sir, I’ll let you in on a little secret.” He winked.
“Those gals, they ain’t human.”
“What! Whaddya mean, they aren’t human?”
“They’re robots. They’re goddam robots!”
“Come on, you don’t expect me to believe that!”
The bartender’s smile vanished. “God’s honest truth. Cross my heart.”
“That’s amazing. They seem so … real!”
“Oh, they’re human-looking all right, right down to their sweet little beavers. And you can try ‘em out too, although it don’t come cheap!”
“So, what, … I mean, why?”
“It’s the company. They don’t advertise it, but word gets around. Come on these cruises, ogle the women, parading their wares every night. Have a few beers and back to your cabin with one, or two if you’ve got the dough, and they’ll do anything you want. And I mean anything!”
“No one gets hurt, the gals make it clear that they’re there just for customers’ entertainment, nothing more.”
“But, I mean, don’t guys realise the girls aren’t … well, human?”
“They aren’t told, but if for any reason they find out, they keep it to themselves, or … no more pussy on these cruises! No one’d believe ‘em anyway … Well, lookee here!”
A tall, slim woman with curly red hair, prominent breasts and a glossy smile walked into the bar.
“Oh, that’s Josie,” said the man.
The bartender’s jaw dropped.
Josie joined her husband at the bar. “A large white wine, a large Bud and whatever you’re drinking,” addressing the bartender, “You look like you could use one!”
“Oh, thank you, ma’am,” He busied himself behind the bar, shaking his head.
She flashed him a gleaming smile, revealing ample cleavage as she leaned forward to take her wine. “Thanks, hun.” She blew him a kiss, then headed to a table in a corner.
The man grinned at the bartender. “Yes, guess I’ll stick to good old flesh and blood!”
“Of course, sir. I don’t blame you. By the way, the company’s just decided to do a half-price cruise in a couple of months’ time. Quite a few of the, er, ‘extras’ will be half price too … if you get my drift.” He winked, producing a flyer and putting it on the counter.
The man quickly perused the brochure, paying special attention to the price list. He glanced over at his wife, busy with her phone, then folded it carefully and put it in a back pocket. He nodded to the bartender and, smiling to himself, went to join her.

Featured in the book and audiobook, To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. II: 88 Little Stories

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