“A Feminist Manifesto for the 21st Century” by P.J. Kaiser

Welcome to the launch of Metro Fiction. Please review the Welcome page for more information about us. This week we bring you a Staff Selection, “A Feminist Manifesto for the 21st Century” by our editor P.J. Kaiser in which a bell boy seems to have his own agenda for our protagonist. Our next Staff Selection will be available on December 18: “Company’s Coming” by Debra Marrs, our editorial advisor. Please enjoy this week’s selection:

The bell boy wheeled my bulging suitcase down the hotel hallway with me running to keep up. My heels clicked on the marble tile. Just when I was wondering how such a short guy could walk so fast, he stopped cold at a doorway. I couldn’t halt my feet in time and careened into his side. The suitcase broke my fall, but I landed in a heap at his feet.

I blushed. He extended a hand and pulled me to my feet.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, thinking perhaps he needed to apologize to me.

I smoothed my skirt and pushed back a curl that had wriggled free from my barrette. His hand still held mine.

“You can make yourself comfortable in here,” he said, as he pushed a door open and released my hand.

Bright lights from the room illuminated us. Women – perhaps a dozen or more – hurried around the room in a sea of silk, crinoline and lace. A musky flower-laden scent wafted from the room and I took a step back.

“But … but I’m a writer. I’m here to do a signing and give a talk about my book.” I pushed my glasses up on my nose. “If you could just point me to the table where I can start to get my books set up …”

“I know, Miss. This is just an area for you to relax until it’s time for the lecture. Have a cup of tea. The girls are very nice; they’ll take care of you.” His eyes drifted down towards the “v” in my v-neck blouse. He pushed my suitcase inside and left it, then slipped out, closed the door, and left me amid this bustling sea of women.

Some ladies seemed to be just coming back from a performance of some sort while others applied makeup and adjusted their dresses.

A gray-haired woman in a black dress approached, put her arm around me, and, in a pack-a-day voice, said, “Hi – are you the new girl? Come have a seat over here next to Betsy.” She pointed towards a woman in a violet dress with a plunging neckline who was brushing matching powder on her eyelids. The older woman gave me a gentle push.

I furrowed my brow and dug in my heels. “I am not the new girl! I am a writer and I’m here to give a lecture about my new book, ‘A Feminist Manifesto for the 21st Century.’ It’s currently on the bestseller list-”

“Oh, dear. That’s such a shame.” She frowned, stepped back, reached up and put her hands on my shoulders. “You are such a beautiful girl. And so tall! Well, if you just take off these glasses and put some Wild Cranberry on those lips, you’ll be just stunning.”

I could tell that she was serious; her eyes scanned me from head to toe. Part of me wanted to run out the door, but the other part – “Do you really think so?”

“Oh, yes!” She reached to a nearby clothes rack and pulled out a ruby-red dress with a lacy bodice and cascading skirts. “You know, very few of our girls are tall enough to pull off this dress, but it would look amazing on you.” She handed the dress to me and I held it up against my body. I had never worn such a dress.
I checked my watch. With four hours until my lecture, I supposed I could at least try it on.

The woman called to Betsy. “Sweetie, could you help our new friend into her dress and get her dolled up?”

Betsy patted her nose with the puff one last time and rose from her chair, layers of deep purple silk spilling around her. In a thick southern drawl, Betsy said, “Sure, boss. Oh, she’s a sweet one.” Betsy took the dress and gestured for me to get undressed. My eyes darted around the room and Betsy giggled at my modesty. I couldn’t help but giggle also. She helped me climb into the red dress, adjusting straps and pulling the bodice tightly around my waist. Fishnet stockings and black stilettos completed the look.

As Betsy moved to let down my hair, I caught her hand. “But what do you girls do? I’m not about to strip -”

Betsy laughed. “Don’t worry, toots. We just dance for the lounge. Some of us take on ‘escort’ jobs later in the evening, but that’s … optional.” Betsy winked.

My cheeks flushed. “But I don’t know anything about dancing. I don’t know what I’m doing here – I have to go -”

“You’ll do fine. Do you like Lady Gaga?”

The question caught me off guard. I nodded and whispered. “My favorite song is ‘Dance in the Dark.’”

Her firm hand pushed me into a chair. She plucked the barrette from my hair and removed my eyeglasses. Betsy smiled. “Do you like to dance in the dark?”

I giggled like the teenager I once was. “Yeah, sometimes. When I get stressed out.” I squinted in the mirror at the brown curls encircling my face and the Wild Cranberry balm she applied to my lips.

“See, you’re a natural.”

She ran a brush through my hair, then grabbed my hand and pulled me to a nondescript door where three other ladies were already standing. “We’ll start with some strobe light Lady Gaga moves and then just do our own thing throughout the rest of the song. Got it?”

Betsy snapped her fingers towards somebody who turned off the dressing room lights. She turned the handle and she and the other girls slipped through the door. I stood in the doorframe squinting into the darkness. Floodlights illuminated in time with the first beats of the song – a male staccato voice. I could barely see the sea of faces beyond the lights but their hoots of encouragement rose up to meet the music.

I took a breath of the perfume-laden air and strode onto the stage. The heat from the strobe lights caressed my skin as I closed my eyes and conjured my best Gaga attitude.

Still unsure whether I had walked into a dream or a nightmare, my idea that this would give me plenty of material for my next book slipped away as I threw my shoulders back and my hips began to sway.

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One Comment

  1. The perfect story to launch MetroFiction today since PJ’s protagonist is also about to launch “with attitude” too. Looking forward to the frequent new short story fiction releases here at MetroFiction!

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