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Porn Again-Part Four

The story continues as Happy’s brother ropes him into a ‘stimulating’ situation…

By lazarusInfinityPublished about a month ago 29 min read
photo courtesy of lazarusInfinity

Continued from Part Three…

New Orleans. The Big Easy. The Crescent City. Home of some of the greatest music, entertainment and culture the world has ever seen...and baby, there ain’t no place like New Orleans. Quickly swept away into a world far different from the one he’d always known, Happy struggled to relax a bit as the convertible sped off from the airport deep into the heart of ‘Babylon’, as his father referred to it. The blissful, seductive sounds of the city’s famed Jazz music blared from the stereo as the infamous humidity came breathing down on his neck with a stifling cloak of welcoming only a true Southerner could appreciate. Six feet below sea level, and wedged between a river and a lake, the city was well known for its hot summer days and even hotter nights...and things were only going to get hotter from here.

“How was the flight?”

Grinning from ear to ear, Lucky had the disposition of a Cheshire cat; that luminous smile hiding something that Happy wasn’t exactly sure he wanted to know.

“Phenomenal. So tell me more about this store.”

“Like I said, the place is in disarray, but the company is getting ready to spend a fortune on upgrades and rehabilitating it before the start of Mardi Gras season next year. Naturally, if they’re going to invest all that money in fixing up a retail store in the heart of the Quarter, they’re going to want a significant return on that investment...and that’s where you come in. Christopher went over your resume, and he was extremely impressed. They’ve been looking all over for somebody just like you. Somebody who-“

“Wait a minute Lucky. You never mentioned that this store was in the French Quarter.”

“I didn’t?”

“No Lucky, you didn’t.”

“That’s weird, silly me. It must have slipped my mind. Anyway, the store is located right in the heart of the Quarter, right on Bourbon St.” “Bourbon St??? I get the fact that this is my first time in New Orleans, but I’m not exactly stupid. There’s only bars and strip clubs on Bourbon St.”

“Not exactly my little Happy-san. This place is a certified retail store located on the one and only Bourbon St., which you will be in charge of. Christopher will be there soon to meet you. I told him ahead of time that I would pick you up from the airport and bring you by, so that you can check the place out from top to bottom and give your assessment. He can’t wait to pick your brain and hear your ideas.”

“Lucky, is there something you’re not telling me?”

“Hap, will you stop worrying about things? I’m trying to help a brother out here. Now you’re getting the use of my condo, rent-free of course. You’re getting a much better job than the one you had down in Florida, and you’re getting away from that no good, cheating wife of yours. What’s not to like? You’re on easy street now brother. Easy street in the Big Easy.”

Happy’s cell rang abruptly. Checking the display, he quickly ignored it and shoved the phone back into his pocket.

“Candy?”

“She’s been calling me left and right. Not really interested in hearing what she has to say right now.”

“I take it she’s not too excited about the new job.”

Happy didn’t respond.

“You didn’t tell her about the job?”

Still no answer.

“Whoa, hold the phone,” Lucky added. “You mean to tell me she doesn’t even know you left town???”

“Didn’t exactly get a heads up the day I walked in on my wife in bed with another man, so no Lucky, I didn’t tell her.”

“Wow. When she finds out, all hell is gonna break loose.”

“Do I look like a man who gives a damn?” Happy asked, to which Lucky only nodded. “You know what pisses me off the most about all this? It’s the fact that deep down, I knew something was going on. I knew it. I felt it in my bones and I said absolutely nothing.”

“How so?”

“Well Stacy and Rob put this crazy idea in her head to drag me down with her to South Beach for some big porn convention that was in town.”

“Really?” Lucky mumbled.

“Yeah, only we didn’t go to the convention. That was where I drew the line. I mean can you actually believe it? A convention for something as sick and depraved as the sex industry actually exists! I’m beginning to agree with Pop more and more; there’s nothing but godless depravity running amok in this country.”

“Yeah, tell me about it,” Lucky muttered as he slouched in his seat.

Far off into the horizon, Happy could see the familiar sight of the world famous Superdome looming, along with many other buildings of the Central Business District. They were almost there.

“But the worst part of it was when Stacy got Candy all excited over the idea of actually selling sex toys of all things! Yeah, apparently it was all Rob’s idea; something she does on the side because of ‘the economy’. I guess he’s really into that sort of thing, which would explain what type of man he is. I knew there was something a little ‘off’ about him. Anyway, they invite us to this ‘toy party’ at some swanky hotel overlooking the beach where Stacy is showing off all these different types of sex toys as if they were high-end consumer electronics! And even worse, all the women there loved it!”

“Well Hap, try to look at it from a woman’s perspective. Men have everything from the Apple store to Brookstone, which is pretty boring if you ask me. Women need to have fun sometime...and if you can think of a better way than that to have fun, I’d like to know what the hell it is.”

“Speaking of the Apple store, did you know that somebody got the bright idea to make a sex toy that vibrates to the music in your iPhone?”

“Really?” Lucky replied rather nonchalantly.

“Yeah! Isn’t that disgusting? I don’t know about you, but when I’m trying to relax and listen to some Merle Haggard, the last thing I want to think about is some contraption vibrating next to my crotch.”

“I think you can relax bro. Don’t think they were designed for men.”

“It’s flat out ridiculous. They’ve got vibrators that plug into your phone, all kinds of contraptions that you stick up your butt and God only knows where else. What’s worse is the fact that people make a lot of money selling this crap.”

“Slow down a minute Hap, the sex toy market isn’t a ‘crap’ industry. It’s a thriving, multi-million dollar business that caters to the needs and innermost desires of women...and the men who love them. There’s nothing vulgar or degrading about it. In fact, many find the idea to be quite romantic, not to mention a fun thing for couples to enjoy.”

“Jesus Christ, what am I trying to argue moral majority with you for? You’re dating a porn star for God’s sake. Lucky have you even thought about the possibility of STD’s?”

“Have you considered the possibility of ever catching one from Candy? She’s the one cheating, you know.”

The thought quickly hit him like a thunderbolt, and Lucky was right. In all the commotion and lingering anger, bitterness and depression, Happy never questioned his wife about whether she’d used protection. As if he didn’t have enough already on his plate, the growing fear of potentially contracting something added even more weight to the growing chip on his shoulder.

“I can’t believe this Lucky. All these years, and you’d think you would at least know the person you’re married to. Even now I can remember that look she had on her face when Marcus spoke to her at the party.”

“He was there?”

“Yeah, he was bartending as a favor to Rob. Apparently they’d been friends since college. He was even a male stripper back then. The conversation the two of them had was brief...but there was this look on Candy’s face when he handed her a drink. I never said anything...but I knew. I just knew.”

“Well even if you did know, don’t push your ultra-Christian, conservative judgment on the industry just because your wife wasn’t so virtuous. Maybe if you had more of an open mind, you could take a step back and learn a little bit about women and some of the things they like. Sex toys aren’t the Devil Hap. They’re actually a lot of fun. For example, me and Kitty were looking to try out this swing-“

“You know what Lucky, you don’t have to be so forthcoming with all the sordid details. I get it.”

Lucky’s phone rang as they veered off the bridge into the Central Business District.

“What’s going on Chris? Everything’s good. Yeah...just picked up the man from the airport and we’re heading over. Yeah, he’s really excited to check the place out. Great...we’re on our way.”

“Umm Lucky?” Happy asked. “Is there anything else about this place you want to tell me?”

“Would you just relax and trust me Hap? At this point, who can you trust, me or the wife back home?”

And with that, he gave his brother a tender pat on the back as they headed into the whimsical madness that was the French Quarter.

If these hallowed, historic streets could speak, oh what a beautiful tale they’d tell. Beautiful stories of majestic culture and beautiful tradition, coupled with that familiar, hypnotic energy that rattles the bones of the dead and stirs the souls of the living. From Bourbon St. to the Audubon Zoo; from Second Line parades to Mardi Gras escapades, there’s no city in the world like New Orleans...and yes, they all asked for you.

Tiny tots beam with smiles and laughter, while lovers cling hand in hand along the banks of the mighty Mississippi. Jubilant, joyful noises fill the air as the Saints go marching in. Can’t you hear that beat, that beautiful, wondrous beat? Even the dead come out to play; ‘Only in New Orleans’ as they say, as folks from all walks of life dance and party down Bourbon St. Do you truly know what it means to miss New Orleans? Oh my dear child, I truly hope you do. For God so loved the world, that he gave us this magical, majestical city. From world famous Canal St., to our beloved St. Charles Avenue. There’s truly no place like here, only in New Orleans my dear. And yes...they all asked for you...

***

Happy noticed a distinct pep in Lucky’s step as they found a convenient parking spot just off Bourbon St. and began to make their way down. Thrust into a world filled with bright scenery, colorful characters, music and culture, Happy almost felt as if he was on sensory overload as they ventured further. Whereas South Florida was this dull, cultureless void with only beach scenery to its appeal, New Orleans must have felt like a drug-induced stroll through the land of Oz. Kids tap-danced along the street in exchange for tips from unassuming tourists while colorful, costumed street performers and mimes performed routines Happy had only seen on television. The rather strong odor of beer and urine coupled with sanitation liquid spewing from trucks that weaved to and fro perfumed his nostrils. Intoxicated tourists mixed in with desolate-looking denizens riding around on bikes followed by dogs of all sizes. In an instant, Happy could feel, see and virtually taste the energy of a city that slowly began to swallow him whole.

Lucky quickly pointed out the usual wares of flesh on display, much to Happy’s chagrin. Bourbon St. was a world-famous carnival of strippers and the like. Anywhere else, this sort of thing would not only be frowned upon, but someone would’ve been arrested. Here in New Orleans, the ample breasts and other scantily clad body parts were not only wide open for the taking; this sort of behavior was celebrated. Happy’s face nearly turned beet red as he witnessed several topless women with painted breasts and bikini bottoms stroll down the street drinking beer and other alcoholic concoctions...and all during the middle of the afternoon. Was this even legal?

“Welcome to New Orleans brother,” Lucky remarked with a sneaky grin. “Welcome to your new home.”

Happy followed as Lucky led him to a distinctive-looking two-story building near the beginning of Bourbon St. A huge neon sign hanging outside read: INSATIABLE DESIRES. Happy gave the store a double take, wondering if Lucky had the wrong place by mistake, or if this was another one of his practical jokes. Judging from the scantily clad, yet nearly dingy looking mannequins in the storefront windows, he had to be at the wrong place. Happy took a second to take it all in, wondering if he was making the right decision. His ears nearly ringing from the local street band playing out on the corner of Bourbon and Canal, Happy’s attention was soon diverted by the influx of tourists and locals dancing in the street...and in the most suggestive of ways. There was definitely something about this city that once it got its hold onto you, it would never let go. A group of young kids all in company uniforms stood outside the front exit smoking cigarettes and chatting on their cellphones without a care in the world. If this had been the bookstore back home, Happy would have either written them up or fired them on the spot. Such a thing was unprofessional, and tacky at best. Presentation was key, and judging from what he was witnessing already, what lay inside could only get worse.

“You coming in or not?” Lucky asked him.

With a bit of reluctance, Happy slowly wandered inside. The first floor of the place was nearly packed with customers, at least in comparison to what he was used to back in Fort Lauderdale. That familiar ring of cash registers popping in and out brought back all those familiar instincts, most notably, the rush of increasing sales numbers. In the end, it’s always about the numbers.

“So what do you think Hap?”

Right away, his eyes traversed every inch of the front of the store. This was going to take more work than he thought. The windows were filthy, the floor needed some serious work and worst of all, not a single customer was being greeted as they came in. Customers who made purchases weren’t thanked for shopping at the store, the overall color scheme wasn’t very inviting...and the merchandising was a complete disaster. Happy steadily made his way past dusty shelves of souvenirs that held everything from shot glasses to beer mugs with slogans that read: ‘I GOT FUCKED UP ON BOURBON STREET’ or ‘SHOW ME YOUR TITS’. Classy...very classy to saytheleast. Fromwhathe’dseensofar,thestorehadanoverallracyfeelto it, which was to be expected considering it was located on Bourbon St. The back area of the store contained everything from apparel with more humorous slogans to lingerie, shoes and accessories. He could easily feel himself cringe inside from the poor customer service exhibited, along with the sight of an older woman coaxing her husband into the dressing room with her.

“So a few rough edges here and there. Nothing too bad for you to handle right?”

Happy continued to survey the sales floor. A few rough edges was putting it very mildly. It was going to take a lot of work and cracking of the whip to get the place up to standard. His years of retail management skills were certainly going to be put to the test.

“So what’s upstairs?” he asked, motioning to the second floor.

Lucky didn’t respond.

“So is this the guy?” an upbeat, assertive voice called to him from the back.

Lucky hurried over, shaking hands with a tall, bespectacled gentleman with a slim build and reasonably fashionable attire.

“Chris, meet the savior of this location. This is my brother Happy.

Happy, this is Christopher Wells, Director of Retail Operations.”

The two exchanged handshakes, with Happy feeling the weight of the man’s exuberance. Very firm and secure; not only was he a man who exuded confidence but clearly worked out as well. This didn’t help with Happy’s nerves at all.

“Happy?” the man asked.

“Harper. My friends and family call me Happy. It’s a childhood thing, nothing special.”

The man laughed. “Well that’s good. That’s real good. We could use a bit of ‘happiness’ around here. I take it Lucky here has given you a thorough briefing on the place.”

The two exchanged uneasy glances.

“Not exactly. What’s upstairs?”

“Wait, you haven’t seen upstairs yet? Lucky, you’re holding the man in suspense? Come on up and see for yourself.”

He followed the man’s quick movements as he bolted up the steps.

Something in the way the man moved; the way he spoke along with the way he carried himself reminded Happy of himself years’ prior. That vigor and fire now gone, he was looking for something...anything that would bring it back.

“So as you’ve already seen,” Christopher continued. “Everything on the first floor is our more tame items: bath & body products, apparel, lingerie, jewelry and accessories. Basically all the things to get the tourists and some of the locals in.”

“Excuse me, did you say more ‘tame’ items?”

“Well of course. Up here is where we keep all the fun stuff.”

Happy took a glance back at Lucky, who was trying his best to stifle his grin. He already knew what was coming...and then Happy finally saw it.

Oh fuck...

If looks could kill, Lawrence ‘Lucky’ Downman would’ve been a cold case file on the spot. The second floor was a virtual sexual stadium. A massive glass structure carrying different brands of condoms and sexual lubricants awaited them upon first glance. Water-based lubes, oil-based lubes, silicone-based lubes, flavored lubes and all other manner of seductive, sexual slipperiness awaited all who dared. Who the hell was having this much sex? Standing next to that was a wall filled with a mass collection of porno magazines, consisting of everything from fat girls, Black girls, big boobs to midgets. Whatever deviant fetish one possessed, it could easily be satiated by the fine literature on the wall...to which Happy already spotted Lucky flipping through one of the magazines. That no good son-of-a-bitch.

The madness didn’t stop there. Several glass bookshelves housed all sorts of sex manuals and erotic fiction, which were being vigorously thumbed through by a few derelict older men. Happy continued to follow Chris around the sales floor, observing customers browse around what had to be the largest collection of gadgets, vibrators, dildos, blow-up dolls, thingamajigs and DVDs one could imagine. He should have known better than to trust Lucky. No wonder the twisted bastard spoke so highly of him. He was surely in the thick of it now. Happy couldn’t help but notice a rather awkward exchange between a customer and an employee.

“There’s so much to choose from and this is my first time shopping here. Can you recommend anything good?”

The staff member, a sullen figure of a woman in her mid 30’s couldn’t have been any less interested. “Ma’am, they’re vibrators. All you do is stick ‘em in and turn ‘em on.”

Happy stood completely flabbergasted.

“Are you alright?” Chris asked. “You look a little flustered. I realize the place isn’t exactly in the best of shape, but that’s why you’re here. The company’s looking to invest a lot into this store to get it in better shape by Mardi Gras and with your sales knowledge and skills, I’m pretty confident we can do that. You’ll find that we’re a company that takes a lot of pride in paying for the best in order to get the best results. So now that you’ve seen the store, what do you think?”

At a complete loss for words, Happy could do no more than glare at Lucky...who was all smiles. That no good son-of-a-bitch...

***

When they finally arrived at Lucky’s condo hours later, Happy began to see even more evidence of where all the lottery money was being spent. Never one to shy away from the finer things in life, the condo was immaculately furnished, situated in a very posh, high-rise building right in the heart of the CBD. The place came complete with nearly every high-tech accessory one could ask for. A huge projection screen hung from a wall also adorned with rare paintings. Off to the corner stood a bar setup complete with a collection of top shelf whiskeys and other fine spirits. A massive bookshelf stocked to the hilt flanked the other side of the room. A beautiful, grand balcony overlooking the New Orleans city skyline complete with views of the Mississippi River nearly took his mind off the fact that he’d been duped. He’d been lied to, conned and drag all the way to New Orleans by none other than his brother. Happy should have known better. The coup de grace of the living room had to be a rare sight that Happy hadn’t seen in years: a framed poster of the actress Molly Ringwald from her role in The Breakfast Club. Some people just never grow up.

“Don’t even think about touching that!” Lucky ordered.

Happy looked on in amazement as Lucky approached the poster with reverence, dusting it off with his bare hands and remarking at the woman’s face.

“She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” he asked, blowing her a kiss. “Those fucking lips are amazing. I just want to kiss them and grab the back of her head, pushing them down on my-“

“You lied to me. You sick, twisted piece of shit. You knew I wouldn’t want anything to do with the place, so you conveniently kept it away from me until I got here.”

“I know what you’re thinking, but come on Hap. This is a good opportunity for you: 45K a year to start plus benefits. That’s not to mention the monthly bonuses, provided the store beats the sales numbers. Come on bro, we both know you could really use that money, especially with your marriage on the rocks. After all, I’d offer to split some of the lottery money with you but we both know you’d never take it.”

“You’re damn right you son-of-a-bitch! You dragged me all the way to New Orleans and led me on all because of a lie.”

“Hap, I’m trying to help you out here. Ok, maybe I was a bit uncouth in my methods, but what’s worse-your wife cheating on you or me helping you out with a better job and a break away from all that drama?”

If Happy had any guts at the time, he’d punch his brother right in the face for deceiving him. As much as he hated the idea of working in a sex store, he had to admit the very real fact that he had no other options. Between the near ending of his marriage back home, ridicule from his father along with no cash flow at the worst possible time, now wasn’t exactly the time to fall victim to foolish pride. Still, he felt like the biggest hypocrite. Here he was, a good Christian for all intents and purposes...and now he was going to be working in a sex store.

“Come on Hap. I’m really sorry, but I do think this could be a good thing for you. You can have the condo while Kitty and I are out of town and whatever else you need.”

“You know what Lucky? You’ve always been a piece of shit, pain in the ass, ever since we were kids. I realize you don’t know anything about love and commitment because you’ve never loved anyone but yourself. I just went through the absolute worst heartbreak I ever had in my life and the last thing I needed was this bullshit from you. Thanks a lot brother.”

Happy walked to the door, but Lucky tried to stop him.

“Come on Hap-“

It happened so fast Lucky never knew what hit him. Without any warning, Happy threw his brother up against the wall with a burst of rage that scared them both.

“STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME!”

With that, he quickly left the apartment, slamming the door behind him.

***

Several hours later, Happy’s stroll through the CBD eventually led him to the historic visage of Canal St. Tourists, locals, taxicabs and pedicabs moved along the street with a sense of urgency that was blistering. So full of life and frenetic energy this city was that it did little to dull the sense of tumbling down the proverbial rabbit hole. Walking through the city to a destination that was unclear, he felt as if he was the last man on Earth, not being able to relate to anyone...and not wanting to connect with anyone either.

As he made his way to the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, the growing yet beautiful serenade emanating from a saxophone player near the water amplified that familiar tinge of dread and melancholy. The old man’s hands, worn and wrinkled from years of love, laughter and pain played a tune that seemingly stroke chords so deep within Happy that he could barely contain the emerging tears dancing along the edges of his eyes. As a crowd of lovers and small children began to gather around the man, Happy appeared amongst the admirers, tossing a wrinkled $20 bill into the man’s saxophone case. The kind gesture was appreciated with a wink that wasn’t just one of humble appreciation. It was a wink of acknowledgement; one that simply said...’Brother, I understand’. He continued to listen to the man’s beautiful playing as he took a seat on an empty park bench overlooking the waves of the historic river. As the day slowly danced into night, the waves lapped to and fro, nearly putting him into a trance until the man approached him moments later.

“Everything will be alright brother.”

The words caught Happy off guard.

“I’m sorry?”

“Where you visiting from? Don’t look too much like a local. Besides, only tourists tip that much.”

Happy struggled to awaken from his daze. “South Florida...Fort Lauderdale actually.”

“Tumbling down the rabbit hole to Oz I see,” the man remarked.

“Mighty different place from home.”

“Indeed it is. That was a beautiful tune you were playing back there. What’s the name of that?”

With those words, the old man walked over to Happy and patted him on the shoulder.

“It will get better eventually.”

“How did-“

“Brother you have the look of a man who just had his heart chiseled out and smashed in a million pieces. It’s etched all across your face as plain as day.”

“Guess I should probably do a better job of hiding it.”

The old man laughed. “Son, ain’t no shame in a man showing his pain, especially when you’re talking about love. You’ll smile again brother. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not the day after that, but you’ll smile again. I promise.”

The man flashed Happy an encouraging smile before heading off. “What makes you so certain?”

“What other option you got? Life’s way too short. Gotta get started living somehow.”

And with those words, he disappeared into the crowd; the lingering notes from his saxophone being the only evidence that he was ever there.

“Gotta get started living somehow,” Happy mumbled to himself.

No sooner than he’d uttered the words, his cell rang. It was Candy. The phone burned in his hand almost as if it were acid. He continued to let it ring, hoping she would get the point and hang up. After several repeated rings, he finally relented.

“Yeah.”

“We need to talk...and I’d really like to know where the hell you are right now.” “Are you asking me...or are you telling me?”

The phone went cold for a few minutes that seemed to be an eternity. “Happy...I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I am. And I know ‘sorry’ really doesn’t cut it but-“

“So how long has it been going on? How long have you been fucking him? And don’t give me some ridiculous bullshit about it just happened.”

An awkward silence.

“Hap...what exactly do you want me to tell you? I don’t know if you ever noticed this but you and I haven’t been doing so well. We haven’t been in a very good place for a long time...just...pretending we were-“

“Oh that’s great Candy. That’s really fucking great. You’re telling me that all this is my fault now? You can’t always get your way, so you hop on the nearest cock you can find?”

“So you’re going to play the victim and justify your absence?”

“What the fuck are you talking about? My absence??? I work my ass off every single day, trying to make a living-“

“That’s the problem Happy! All you care about is work! Everything with you is work! All you are is an extension of your job and whatever the hell it is you want for your life. Well somewhere along the line, you forgot about me. Somewhere along the line, you neglected this very obvious void that’s been growing. You didn’t give me enough of what I needed from you, so don’t you dare make yourself out to be a fucking martyr in this!”

He could feel the anger burning so deeply within him that if there was a way he could’ve jumped through the phone...he would have. Then again, what good what it have done even if such a thing were possible? Confidence was a gift that Harper Downman only possessed in the corporate world. He was more adept at number crunching, merchandising strategies and leading a team to success than being a forceful and magnetic presence in the real word where it mattered. Still, in his mind, that didn’t justify the outcome.

“Well you know what Candy, I hope you got what you needed. I truly hope it was worth it. Now maybe it’s time for me to get out and get what I need.”

Silence...and then...

“And what exactly is that supposed to mean?”

“I never thought I’d say this...but I’m leaving Candy. Clearly you have an agenda all your own and maybe it’s about time for me to start living life and doing things a different way.”

“Where are you?”

“New Orleans...how and why is really none of your business. Just do me a favor; don’t call me and don’t harass my brother either. I’ll be back in a few days to get the rest of my things. You wanted change...well now you have it.”

“Hap-“

He quickly ended the call. Nothing more needed to be said. As he stared out at the waves of the Mississippi in rhythm, he thought back to that once magical night when they first made love. It’s quite interesting how everything always seems so beautiful and picturesque in the beginning. It’s almost as if someone created the greatest of paintings using the finest materials, putting it on display for the entire world to see and admire. Only this was no painting. This was no romantic Hollywood movie rife with humor, insight and the typical happy ending. This was the real world. It’s not always poetic and meaningful...and for Harper Downman...maybe it wasn’t supposed to be.

Instead of drowning his sorrows in a vat of alcohol like the last incident that led to this debacle, Happy chose to go in a different direction. He chose to rely on the one thing that often gave him strength-his faith. The St. Louis Cathedral was a world-renowned place of reverence along with being a beloved tourist attraction in the city of New Orleans. Faithful Catholics from all throughout the world along with tourists ventured to the city around the clock to marvel at the architectural majesty of the place. Happy made his way through the streets of the Quarter, largely ignoring the street hustlers, tarot card readers and local color of the neighborhood. Strolling through the confines of Jackson Square, the grand spectacle of the building seemed to call to him. Whenever he felt lost in life, it was often church that gave him a deep sense of calm and centering his thoughts. Unfortunately on this day, that calm would not come. It was already evening, and as Happy approached the steps of the Cathedral he could see that it was already closed. No such sanctuary on this day. He would have to face the cold, hard and bitter truth of heartache on his own. Maybe the man was right, maybe it was time for him to get on with life. Through an act of bitter betrayal, Candy had gone and made a decision that would change things forever. What would become of Happy’s life at this point wasn’t so certain. What would become of his broken heart at this point wasn’t so certain. But before he would get some sense of closure, before he would get some idyllic sense of peace or retribution...first things first...

***

“Throw in the car.”

Lucky thought about it for a moment. It had been a few hours since he’d seen his brother, and he wasn’t sure if he was about to get his ass whipped or not. There was something a bit off about the Happy who stormed out of his condo and the man whom returned. Maybe there was just no turning back.

“Done. Anything else.”

“From here on out, you deal with me 100% straight up Lucky. No lies, no games, no bull. If I find out you’re lying to me about anything else, I walk and take my chances back in Fort Lauderdale.”

“Deal,” Lucky said as he headed to the bar to make drinks for the two of them. “So now that you’ve seen the store top to bottom, what’s the plan?

Over the next hour or so, Happy hashed out his overall agenda for how he would run the store. The more he explained, the more he realized that in the world of sales, it really didn’t matter what you sold. Whether it was cars, electronics or even sex toys, presentation truly was 60-70% of the sale. For an environment such as a sex store, certain critical factors had to be taken into consideration. For Happy, the biggest challenge in managing a sex store on Bourbon St. of all places was in combating the overall stigma of it being a ‘sex store’ in the first place. The average person, while curious about shopping in such an establishment, would always have qualms about shopping in a place decked out in neon lights and blacked out windows. Catering to a consumer base which consisted primarily of women, Happy knew that the store would need a serious overhaul; one that would cater to the needs of female shoppers in all areas including aesthetics, product selection and the utmost professionalism of its staff. In spite of his personal opinions of what people were buying, he knew how to build a team and drive sales, first and foremost. He was a man who always brought in the numbers, and the more he spoke, the more he began to grow accustomed to the idea of building something from scratch. At this point, what choice did he have? His back was against the wall.

“If this place is going to work,” he continued; everything from the overall color scheme to the products to the merchandising needs to be as inviting as possible. It needs to be a place where single women and couples can come and feel welcomed. It needs to be very upscale and sophisticated, vastly different from any other stores in the area that may be selling this sort of stuff. If Chris is serious about overhauling the store, then this place needs to be a combination of Victoria’s Secret and Brookstone...only as a sex store.

Lucky was quite impressed with his presentation. “Looks like you really know your stuff bro,” he said. “As far as product selection goes, I think I can help with that. Kitty only uses the best products and we picked up a bunch of brand new stuff from L.A. about a month ago. Wait till you see this.”

Lucky darted over to the closet where he pulled over a box filled with shiny clamshells, boxes and packages of sex toys in all different shapes, sizes and colors.

“Do I need to wear gloves for this?”

“Relax bro, these are all brand new. What kind of person do you think I am?”

The two rifled through the packages, opening up a whole new world that Happy had only seen briefly. Staring him in the face was a wide assortment of everything from vibrating cock rings, anal toys, realistic dildos that made him a bit uncomfortable among other toys as well. Lucky immediately gave him a crash course in sex toys, explaining the differences in materials, what worked best in terms of speeds, functions, etc. Happy could nearly feel his head spinning from the overload of information.

“Now for the grand finale,” he beamed.

Happy looked on as his brother ran to the stereo, playing soft R&B tunes. Barry White. Can’t go wrong with Barry.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Just relax bro. I’ve saved the best for last,” he said as he pulled forward a gleaming yet upscale package. “Since most of your sales in the store are going to come from sex toys, you need to push these babies as much as possible.”

He looked on as his brother donned white gloves for the occasion, feeling quite impressed with himself so far.

“All these other toys I’ve shown you; they’re basically the sexual equivalent of Hondas, Fords or even a Prius. Harper Downman, allow me to introduce you to the LELO SORAYA.”

As Happy looked on, his brother opened the box, revealing a very delicate-looking, yet sturdy instrument of technology that looked more like something belonging inside an art gallery as opposed to a woman’s bedroom. He had to admit that it was very impressive looking.

“LELO is a Swedish manufacturer; one of the best if not the best in the business. Now you take the Soraya here, which retails for about $200-“

“Two hundred???” Happy blurted, nearly choking on his drink. “Who the hell would pay $200 for a vibrator?”

“Just hear me out Hap. This beauty is both waterproof and rechargeable. A woman can enjoy a nice evening either in the pool or the shower with this thing, doesn’t matter.”

Happy was at a lost for words. Waterproof and rechargeable? Not even Steve Jobs could come up with that one.

“Now this is very important. The material is made with medical-grade silicone, which is extremely safe for a woman’s body, make sure your staff uses that as a selling point.”

Happy sat back in utter disbelief. Here was a guy who didn’t finish college, didn’t vote and the only literature he read on a regular basis was Playboy Magazine. Yet here he was giving a dissertation on sex toys as if he was a world-class sex therapist.

“Now as you can see, it’s designed for both vaginal and clitoral stimulation. Women love that by the way, it’s like they’re getting the best of both worlds. A few days ago Kitty and I were in the pool-“

“Get to the point.”

“Right...so it has eight different modes of vibration, pulsation and escalation so she never gets bored. It’s very sleek, seductive and is a perfect gift for Valentine’s Day or any other day. And here’s the kicker. This baby comes with a one-year warranty and is also guaranteed to last for up to ten years! Can you believe that shit? This thing will outlast most marriages! Now that’s a damn shame.”

Happy picked up the item, almost feeling as if he was being handed a golden scepter or some mythical artifact belonging to a museum. He had to give it to his brother; the sick, twisted little deviant knew his stuff. If he was going to be successful running the store, he knew he needed to do some serious research on everything from the top brands to materials, features and functions. Being a man running a sex store was certainly going to come with its share of challenges, most notably selling high-end products to women. It would be hard to imagine a woman forking over $200 for a sex toy sold by a man. Naturally they’d assume that for obvious reasons, he wouldn’t know what he was talking about...and who could blame them? At that point in time, none of the other locations had a man as the Store Manager. Happy would be the first. His work was cut out for him.

“If you want quality, you pay for quality,” Lucky said as he grabbed the item and compared it to the others. “As for these other toys, a Toyota will definitely get you where you need to go, and it can be fun...but a Ferrari will give you the ride of your life. So Mr. Downman...will you go with the Toyota or the Ferrari?”

Happy smiled a little. “I guess I’m going with the Ferrari.”

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART FIVE…

RomancePlot TwistFictionCliffhanger

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