The Devil in Blue Jeans by Jules Winistorfer
y wife had just finished a second cup. She blew a final puff of smoke and poked a cigarette butt into the spilled coffee in her saucer. "Don't you know that shit stains the dishes, Peg?" I said.
She scowled without a word.
"What's that for?"
"If you're going to be pissy, I'm out of here. The boys are coming over for some poker tonight. You and Jimmy can stay over at your mother's so we don't keep you awake."
She shrugged and stalked out of the kitchen. I split for work. I didn't know which was worse, her torn, red bathrobe and ratty slippers, with separated soles that slapped on the linoleum floor, or the rusty '85 Buick I drove to the post office every day. I don't know why she was like she was. Maybe the thing me and the boys cooked up about four months ago had her steamed. I hoped not.***
Other than a lock-down over at the prison once in a while, nothing exciting happened in Lewisburg, P-A, population 5785. Sam and me sorted mail at the post office. Jack delivered it. Freddy, the fourth guy in our poker group, was a clerk at a movie studio outside town.
Our mischief started after the pretzels were gone and everybody cashed out for the night. As usual, I'd saved a beer for each to tide us through our foggy end of the night bull session. Sam and Freddy seemed real tired. I knew I was. But Jack was wired-jacked so to speak. Maybe because he'd won big, he carried the conversation. "Did you ever have a dream about doing something you always wanted to do but never had the guts to do it or even talk about it to anybody?" he said.
As one, we wagged our heads no. What the hell did we know?
"Well, let me try this one on you," he said. "Last night, I dreamed I starred in a porn movie."
We sat up straight in our chairs.
"No comments, guys?" Jack said.
"What's to comment?" I said. "You got our attention."
"And you want to do this?" Freddie asked. Sam and me just listened.
"Well, yeah," Jack said. "Tell me you never gave it a thought."
Sam chimed in. "A fleeting thought maybe, but not serious."
"Why not?" Jack said. "Thousands of people do it every day."
I said, "Yeah, but they're trying to make a living at it-think they'll become movie stars. Rarely do. Besides, our families would find out."
"Not necessarily," Jack said. "Freddy here works for Animation Studios, Ltd. Converting people movies to animated movies is just a matter of rendition, right, Freddy? It's not like starting from scratch with new animation."
With a finger, Freddy squeegeed sweat from his bald head. "Yeah, conversion of a one hour movie would take minutes. The cost would be almost zilch -- a couple hundred bucks maybe."
The idea fed on itself. Soon the guys talked about when not if.
Sam frowned. "Bag the animation. We could wear masks like they used to in the old days. I'd like to be Frankenstein, Jack and Bernie could be elves, and Freddy could be Santa Claus."
"What do you think, Bernie?" Jack said.
They all looked at me. "They haven't used false faces since the thirties. Let's stick with the animation."
Sam giggled. "What about female actresses?" Everyone agreed there were bevies of college girls glad to participate for a hundred bucks apiece. Especially since their identity would be lost in the animation.***
Auditions and recording went without a hitch. The only animation interventions were changes by Freddy to the faces to avoid recognition of the stars. Before we left the studio, Freddy ran grinning toward us, waving a disc.
I'm not sure why-insanity maybe-but we delighted in the results. Freddy beamed as we congratulated him on his achievement.***
Unbeknown to us, at the time, troubling events had begun to develop. Freddy was only a property clerk at Animation Studios, Ltd., but his job gave him access to the equipment, and we knew he'd enlist the expertise of his buddy, Tony, an animation technician at the company.
However, Tony turned out to be a greedy prick. He kept the real people recording and made dozens of DVD copies, which he offered for sale for ten bucks a pop through a friend at Carnal Corner, here in town. You can imagine our alarm when it came to light Jack had bought one of the DVDs, billed as an amateur skin-flick shot locally. I was not concerned about my wife. Peg wouldn't go near a place like Carnal Corner. Jack, Sam, and Freddy's wives (Lori, Fiona, and Muriel) however, seemed less prudish. Yet, I thought, what are the chances they would go shopping for porn movies?
Tony avoided Freddy at work.***
Because of certain circumstances, the next developments remained unknown to us for a long time.
It seems Sam's wife, Fiona, was a skin-flick junky and one of the best customers at Carnal Corner. She stumbled on Tony's people version of our movie and bought it, causing her a dilemma. How could she confront Sam on the issue without disclosing her porno addiction? Yet, how could she let those assholes get away with this? She stewed on it for weeks.
Turned out Sam knew all along about Fiona's hang-up. But when he found our movie among her latest purchases, in her special closet in the basement, he panicked.
"I knew we shouldn't have listened to Jack, Bernie. What are we going to do?"
"Nothing," I said. "We'll wait until it plays out. Maybe she won't say anything to the other wives. If she doesn't, we would have worried for nothing." After a while, I began to think the thing had indeed played out in our favor.
But, as we now know, Fiona decided to confer with the other wives. Jack's Lori and Freddy's Muriel shrugged it off with a boys will be boys attitude. But my Peg was pissed. At least that's what I heard from Sam to whom Fiona blabs everything, almost. This knowledge tortured me.
Peg continued to bang stuff around the kitchen and jam cigarette butts into wet saucers, but she said nothing. Most of the time we ate our hot dogs and beans from white, dollar store pieces. But still.***
Without explanation, Peg's behavior improved a few weeks later. She got to whistling as she ironed in the kitchen. "More coffee, Bernie?" she'd say pot in hand. Her new demeanor made me nervous.
After a week or so, I asked "To what do I owe all this cheerfulness, Peg?" She smiled and winked then bounced out of the kitchen. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy the change, but I felt like she was up to something. I hounded her on the issue. At last a clue leaked from a crack in her resolve.
"I'm planning a surprise for you, Bernie."
"What kind of surprise?"
"I ain't talking," she said.
"I feel better already, Peg." She kept the act going, making me a wreck.***
One lunchtime, down at the post office, Sam pulled me aside. His hands shook and his breath smelled of booze. "Feona tells me Peg is planning a birthday party for you. She's engaged the back room at The Dixie Grille. She's inviting our poker group and about a dozen people from here at the post office. With spouses it could be thirty-two people, but Feona says we should fit."
"Sam, I'm gonna be forty-seven years old in two weeks. Why a fucking birthday party?"
"I don't know, ask Peg." He breathed in, turning a laugh into a snort. "Fiona says Peg's going to tell you the four of us are having supper at the Dixie."
Sam told Jack and Freddy. They didn't say a word. I kept my mouth shut and went along.***
When Peg and I got to the party, the place reeked of smoke and everybody was well oiled. They all hollered, "Surprise," and continued drinking.
Peg settled for a cup of coffee.
"What's the big screen TV at the end of the room for, Peg?"
"Oh, that's part of the surprise."
I swallowed hard and kept quiet. The food looked great, but I only picked, washing it down with a beer. Everybody was having a blast except Jack, Sam, Freddy, and me.***
A title flashed onto the big screen TV: The Devil in Blue Jeans. The title faded and costumed devils appeared-masks, red shirts, boots, and blue jeans. In the background, out of focus, men in Speedos lounged on sofas. The costumed figures turned facing away and looked over their shoulders at us. Then they stripped off their jeans and slunk toward the men.
Freddy pointed at the screen and blurted, "The one on the end of the row is Muriel. I'd know that big ass anywhere." The place went delirious. With our hands folded on the table, Jack, Sam, and me looked at the ceiling. Our wives leered.
I turned to look at Peg. She blew smoke in my direction and jammed her cigarette butt into the coffee in her saucer. "They ain't our dishes, Bernie," she said.