a fiction by John K. Adams
Mark said, “My Dad is a gigolo.”
Shouts of protest and guffaws dominated as the group erupted in reaction to this.
Sally asked, “What’s a gigolo?”
Tom started humming ‘Just a Gigolo’.
Marian couldn’t stop laughing into her napkin.
Ed just looked at the table strewn with drinks and beer bottles, shaking his head, “No, no, no, no…”
Grace touched Mark’s hand and gave him a look of compassion. Mark started to laugh. Then he put his arm over her shoulder. “It’s okay. I doubt they’ll even remember…”
Then Mark called out, “Anyone beat that? I didn’t think so. Pay up, ladies and gents.”
They were playing Family Secrets. Everyone had to buy a round for the one who had the most shocking, most outrageous revelation about their family. No one came close to this.
The table settled into relative quiet while they contemplated the ramifications of Mark’s announcement.
Sally again, “No, really. What did he mean?”
Marian leaned over to Sally, “It’s a man who gets money from women for, you know, sex.”
“Men do that too? But I thought…”
Another burst of laughter.
Ed lent support, “Often talked about, Sally. But seldom done.”
Sally persisted, “But what about his Mom?”
“She died,” whispered Marian. Sally picked up her drink.
Trying to control his own laughter, Tom tried to calm the group. “As the unofficial devil’s advocate, I have some questions for Mark. How do you know this? Do you have any proof? And, how does one get started in this? Is it a side gig? Or is it, like, his main source of income?”
The shouting and hilarity erupted again. Mark raised his hands indicating he was waiting to answer. The group quieted.
“I know, because he told me. Though he didn’t use that word specifically.”
“What word did he use?”
“He was pretty lubricated when he told me. He said he met these women in Beverly Hills and was dating some of them.”
“No, wait. But then he bragged that they are ‘loaded.’ And it came with a ‘debit card’.”
This set Grace off. “No! Did he really say ‘debit card’?”
Mark nodded. There was too much noise to be heard.
Marian added, “Nice meeting you Mr. Debit… I mean, Mr. Donato.”
“Debit Card Donato,” chimed Ed. “Donate to Donato! I can see his ad now.”
“But wait!” Sally protested. “But this is terrible.” She shook her head, trying to make sense of it all. “Mark. I didn’t know your Mom died. Are you okay?”
Mark composed himself. “Yeah. I’m okay.”
“Was this recent? I mean…”
“Yeah. Back in November.” Mark looked down and away. Grace touched his shoulder.
“But that’s only four months! And he’s…”
Marian gestured to Sally to let it go. Sally rolled her eyes in exasperation. “But… Mark, I’m sorry.”
Mark waved her off.
Tom took the floor again. “I’m sorry for the delay, folks. But the rules of the game state, there has to be more than vague grotesqueries presented. We want the goods before we pay up.”
Mark composed himself and addressed the group. “I’m not going to use his exact language. But he more or less said… they pay him for his… uhm, `time.’ One of them is an artist. She’s painting his portrait.”
“Among other things,” Ed interjected.
“Which can be left at that,” Mark concluded.
Ed asked, “Is it a nude?”
Mark laughed and shrugged. “I doubt it, but…”
Marian asked, “Or smoking a cigar? Wearing a ruffled collar? Like a Dutch Master?”
“A close up?” Ed again. “Does he charge by the brush stroke?”
Tom asked, “Where are you going to hang that picture?”
Grace said, “Not over the fireplace.”
“Maybe, in the fireplace,” countered Mark.
“Or the bathroom,” offered Marian.
Sally could only say, “Ewww!”
“It’s Dad’s house. He’ll hang it, wherever he wants.”
Tom tapped one of the beer bottles with a knife. “Ahem… I’m sorry folks, but again, we are digressing. We need to focus.”
Marian reacted, “We’re just having fun, Tom. It’s a game, remember? Do you always have to crack open Robert’s Rules?”
“Not always, Marian. But someone has to be the pompous ass. I figured tonight was my turn.”
“And every other night…”
“I’m sorry. Am I stepping on your lines? I meant to give you a break. Relax.”
“No, go ahead. Please.”
“Thank you. Back to the game… Mark. This has been a very entertaining revelation. You put us all to shame, with your shameless confession. But you haven’t offered any proof.”
Everyone got quiet. Sally sipped her pina colada.
Mark pulled a plastic card from his pocket. “Alright, you doubters. I just happen to have exhibit A, a debit card in my possession. It isn’t mine. I borrowed it from my father.” He held it up. “You’ll see it doesn’t have my father’s name on it either.”
Ed grabbed the card and looked closely at it. Others huddled in to see.
“I need that back, guys.”
Ed held the card up. “Drinks are on Mark!”
Tom added, “Or, more accurately, Ms. Greenberg…”
“Guys. I need it back. I won the game. You are supposed to be buying the rounds. Not me.”
“Nor Ms. Greenberg…” added Grace.
Ed returned the card to Mark. “Of course. We don’t want to stoop to the level of ‘he, who shall not be named.’”
Marian asked, “What’s your Dad’s name again?”
That got a laugh.
Tom waved the waitress over. He turned to Mark. “So, do you want all these drinks now? Or would you like them on account?”
“I’ll take one now. And you guys can treat me over the next… week or so. Is anyone keeping track of this?”
“We won’t forget.”
“Nor will I.”
The waitress arrived at the table. Tom ordered a Mai Tai for himself and for Mark. “Anyone else? The night is young…”
Sally raised her empty glass. “Pina Colada?” But everyone else passed.
The waitress cleared some of the empties and went to the bar.
Grace pulled on Mark’s sleeve. “Your Dad won’t miss that card, will he? I don’t want you to get on his bad side.”
The others leaned in to hear Mark’s response.
Mark shook his head. “Actually, you won’t believe this, but he enjoys this. He brags about it, being the stud. He told me he feels about twenty-five.”
Tom weighed in. “It’s a different mindset for a man… I mean, I would never…” Everyone laughed.
“They have robots for that now, Tom.”
“Oh, Marian, a robot could never do what I do.”
“So here’s the kicker,” Mark continued. “Now, mind you, I’m not condoning this. But my Dad seems to think there’s an opportunity here.”
“That’s the worst! Pimping his son’s friends?”
Mark pocketed the debit card. “I draw the line at free drinks from you guys. I have nothing more to say.”
The waitress set the fresh drinks on the table.
Marian turned to Ed. “Tell me you wouldn’t do that.”
Ed smiled at all eyes turned on him. “Now hear me out…”
“Oh no. Here it comes…”
“No, really. As male fantasies go, that may be tempting. But the reality? I would have to draw the line at that. I wouldn’t sell myself. Not that way, anyway. I never paid for it. And I’m not a taxi for hire.”
Mark raised his glass. “Here’s to Ed’s moral clarity!”
Sally said, “Here’s to love!”
Everyone chimed in, “Here’s to love!”