by D.Muk (c) 1996

Uptown Saturday night - that's how it started. I'm not sure I know how it finishes yet.

Relationships go in the strangest directions; yesterday there was no one, now it seems I'm in love with someone who may not be really there.

It was about two in the morning. Jen and I were cruising the clubs down in Westwood and off Wilshire as we did about every other week or so. Once I moved to this screwed-up town the first couple of months were purgatory until I ran into her. She works for one of the boutique photo studios, as an Art Director or some such fancy title. Older than me by a few years (she won't say), Jenni kind of took me under her wing. Started to show me the "Real L.A." as only a long timer could do.

We had just gotten thrown out (OK, I had just gotten thrown out) of the Cantina for spilling a drink on some big-shit producer. The night was not anywhere near finished, so we drove. In L.A. everyone drives; drunks too.

I pointed the car, that is, Jen gave directions and rode shotgun. Every now and then she'd yell out something useful like "Bus!" and I'd maneuver. We made a good team but thinking back it was the lame leading the blind.

Jen and I never got involved, stayed friends despite the fact she's really great looking for an older lady. Sorta like a big sister, if you were lucky enough to have one that looked like Michelle Pfeiffer. She did, in a way, with a willowy sort of figure that most of the time hid inside sweats and jeans. In a swimsuit, though, she turned heads. When we were cruising, I became her 'date' if someone started to hit on her. If she really wanted to accept the pass there was a subtle signal (usually a kick in the shin) that I took to mean 'find your own action'.

This Saturday was pretty bleak; the next club was kind of emptying out because the band had quit. We were rapidly looking like we might end the evening in a booth in Denny's.

Suddenly she brightened, "Hey, I wonder if MQ's is still open? It's not too far from here."

"What's that - I never heard of it?"

"Private club, in a way. I hung out there in my younger days." She closed her eyes, imagining a map. "Turn left at the next light"

"Kay" It took a bit of concentration to take the corner smoothly and miss the bum who was weaving his own path homeward in the crosswalk. He stuck me the finger anyway but saw only taillights. "Now what?"

"Slow down a little. Take the second right -- it's hard to see."

"You mean that alley?"

"It's got a road sign. Bumpkin" That was her nickname for me.

We pulled between two tall buildings, towards a patch of blue neon deep in the darkness. There was a lot across from the door that had a few spots open. I found two and straddled them. We could walk to the curb from here.

As Jen and I came up to the entry, the neon jumble resolved itself into flowing script: "Club Mannequine" A models club? My French was lousy. I knew Jenni had done some stuff before retiring behind the camera. There was a painted subtitle that didn't give much more of a clue. It was faded but looked like "Tableaux Vivants". Shit; more French. The door was flanked by two marble statues of women in classical gowns; there was no bouncer.

"I thought you said it was private. Jen? Will they let us in?"

"Mostly, it's just out of the way. Doesn't get the top bands; never did."

Inside there was a little reception stand and a rope across the aisle. We waited (Jen waited; I fidgeted) until the hostess came to seat us. She led us to a table near the curtained stage. Lighting was dim, but not enough to keep me from noticing what a great looker our guide was. Poured into a white satin evening gown, she had that lithe, overly curvy figure that shouted 'undiscovered starlet' (or 'porn actress'; same thing). She took our first drink order and disappeared into the back, where the bar was.

The music was subdued, but jazzy. Atmospheric I would have called it if I could have pronounced the word that night. "Groovin" was easier to say. Jen and I smiled at each other while she continued to glance around the room, checking it out. A few tables over there was a second couple (the girl was another "Miss Cornhusker" -- I'll never get over the quality of babes this town attracts). Seated with them was an well preserved older lady costumed in a white spangled leotard and wearing a spangled top hat. Her long legs were sheathed in white (of course) fishnet stockings. The effect was two parts showgirl and one part ringmaster, the latter role apparent from the wireless headset mike she wore. Must be the talent, I thought.

The ringmaster was engaged in an animated conversation with the babe while the boyfriend looked on. I'm not sure what was being said, but they both took it as amusing. It reminded me of a stage hypnotist act I'd seen once. The performer finished with a flourish and then swiped her hand from left to right just in front of the girl's face just as she was raising her wineglass. The young girl seemed to take on a blank look...

"Here you are sir; miss." The hostess was back with our own drinks, so I was distracted with her while we started a tab. Jen and I toasted (not the first time that night let me tell you) and sipped: She with a wine cooler, me with a screwdriver. Now it was my turn to look around.

While sparsely furnished, the clubroom was hardly bare, thought not exactly a lively crowd. Besides the tables, bar, and stage, there were a series of low pedestals spotted around the room. One of them held another classical statue, the other what looked to be a wax figure of some starlet. The remaining ones were empty, including the one closest to our table.

I glanced back at the adjoining couple and wondered for a second if I had finally lost my grip -- the girl hadn't budged an inch. She seemed exactly the same as before. Same position, same expression of delight; still raising the glass to her lips, gazing intently at now empty chair. Had I lost track of time? I didn't think it was that late yet. No, it was her that was in limbo; had to be. I continued to watch her for at least another couple of minutes. Not any kind of movement. Nothing at all. Her date seemed to be taking it in stride, sipping nonchalantly on his drink.

I turned back to my guide. "Jen, what exactly *is* this place?" She 'shushed' me, then as if in response an overhead spot came on and the showgirl/ringmaster emerged from the split in the curtain into the nimbus of light. The music became muted as she spoke, her amplified voice just enough louder than normal speaking tone to ensure she had everyone's attention.

"Welcome to the Club Mannequine, where timelessness is elegance and perfect beauty is always in repose." She scanned the small audience with her eyes and continued, "Our next performance is titled 'The Ascendance of Aphrodite', I hope you enjoy it as much as we have!" She made a small sign to the couple next to us; he kissed his motionless date on the lips and she awoke with a blink and a shake of the head. She seemed a little confused; I could understand why - she had been stopped motionless for almost ten minutes, in some kind of trance.

I heard pulleys squeaking as the curtain drew back, revealing a stunningly still diorama.

Arranged on the stage were a series of nude figures, mostly female, posed in what looked like a scene from some play. Or rather 'instant' because they were all frozen stiffly in position like living statues. There was not a quiver or a blink from any of the performers even though some were holding palm fans aloft or were paused in mid-gesture. Some of the positions must have taken a lot of effort to hold, but everyone was totally motionless. Colored spotlights bathed the figures and emphasized the curves and muscles of each performer, heightening the illusion that they were statuary. Thirty seconds or so passed, then the center of the stage began to slowly rotate like a turntable. The tableaux rotated along with it but the figures remained frozen.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, our featured player is Sharon West as Aphrodite and the guards are ably led by Justin Cooper" The central figure held a chalice aloft into the flood of spotlights; it picked out glints as it turned. She seemed rather familiar until all at once it hit me that Sharon was also our hostess! That perked up my attention as I watched her stiff figure. The interplay of the lights on her breasts and torso was very intriguing. There were these dimples at the base of her tailbone that could only be seen in relief once every rotation. She was gorgeous, as were the others. Despite the fact they they were all nude (well, G-strings) this wasn't really a sex show; there were plenty of those down the strip. Somehow the lack of movement made it okay to stare. The display set lasted another few minutes and then the curtain closed again.

The couple next to us started to applaud, as did Jen. I sat there stupidly until she elbowed me to join in. There came fainter clapping from the bar. Jen leaned over to me and commented, sotto voce, "That was a what you call a 'Tableaux Vivant' - a living picture. Neat, huh?"

Then the music came back on and everyone resumed their conversations. After a few minutes, more folks drifted in and sat down. Some walked around and admired the displays, maybe they were regulars. Since the hostess was unavailable, the bartender took their orders. The ringmaster emerged from the dressing room and sat down at our table without hesitation.

"Well, Jen, long time no see. Who's your friend?"

"Scott Ingram, meet Liz Tropell." I nodded to her; she smiled in response.

"I see you finally remembered where were are. Work keeping you busy?"

"No joke, Liz, I am exhausted. Recently I can barely make it to the weekend."

"Why didn't you call me? I can give you a relaxation verse. Or, better yet, put you into the tableaux. You know that always relaxes your muscles."

"Hmm, hadn't thought about it; but you're right. I remember how tranquil it made me feel..."

"Wait a second," I broke in, "You mean you worked here as one of those -- one of those statues? I thought you just hung out at this club!"

"In a manner of speaking. Yes, Scott, that's part of my past. There's nothing here to get worked up about. I've always been proud of my physique and don't mind others seeing my naked body. It's not like this is anything like pornography or a girlie show. When you don't move, it's like you're a sculpture."

I couldn't say anything more. It was so weird, thinking of Jen posed as a statue. Other guys ogling her naked curves (like I had surveyed Sharon's). Wait a minute -- it wasn't like she was my girlfriend or anything. We just hung out together. She was a pretty lady and an adult; what she did with her body was her own business, not mine. So why was this bothering me so much? The two old friends were chitchatting while I tried to grasp it all. Then Liz said something which got my full attention back."

"OK, Jen, how about doing a quick tableaux for us? For old times' sake?"

"I really can't, Liz, I don't have any of my body makeup or a change of clothes."

"Pooh, girl, then just do a vogue. That dress really looks good on you - why not show it off for everyone?"

"I don't know... I'm not sure I remember the phrases..."

"Nonsense," Liz pronounced. She stood, and I heard the faint "pop" of the mike coming on.

"Everyone -- we have a volunteer!" That got their attention again; faces swiveled towards us. I could see Jen was turning red but she had been had. It was too late to back out now. "This beautiful lady, Jen is it?, has agreed to become a mannequin for a short while for us. What do you think of that?"


Jen slowly stood, not exactly sure yet. Liz led her up to the nearest pedestal and she stepped onto it as an overhead light came up to highlight them. In the pool of light, it was clear just how pretty Jen was and how well she filled out the short rayon slip-dress she wore. The dark hose and high-heeled pumps totally completed the fetching ensemble.

Liz started to pose her as she launched into a well rehearsed spiel. "Beauty in repose; you see it every day, made up of little things. The curve of an arm, the way one holds their hands; all part of an elegant timelessness." All the while she was talking, she was also guiding Jen into position with quick touches and nods. "There are ways to stretch that moment of perfection; all it takes is a little concentration and the desire to experience what lies just beyond the blink of an eye." She continued as Jen seemed to flow into the pose of a display figure and remain there effortlessly.

"That's wonderful, Jen, you know what that one perfect moment of elegance can feel like, draw it out now into timelessness. Let it flow throughout your body with every passing second. You're almost there now, raise your head a little; smile, this will be so peaceful for you, Jen. Now when I pass my hand in front of your eyes, you will be perfectly still and quiet, tranquil, exquisite in repose.

You will become the finest display mannequin the world has ever seen:
NOW!" She passed her hand lightly across Jen's face and the transformation was complete.

Like the girl at the table and the figures in the tableaux, Jen had become completely frozen. She stared out with a glassy gaze that I had seen before only in a store window. Her hands and arms were composed and rigid, one hand resting on the strap of her handbag. There was no sign she could see me or react in any way. There was no hint of movement, not even a blink. She WAS like a statue. Or the mannequin Liz had told her to become.

Liz brought her fingers up inches from Jen's face and snapped them; no reaction whatsoever. She nudged the figure to show that it was completely rigid, then surveyed the audience with her eyes.

"Beauty in timelessness - demonstrated here by the lovely Jenni!" More applause. "We'll have another scene for you in about twenty minutes. Meanwhile, relax, have another drink (a chuckle from the room on that) and enjoy the ambiance here at Club Mannequine..."

She exited behind the curtain and the highlight on Jen's pedestal faded, bringing her display back to normal - if you can call being turned into a mannequin figure normal.

What can you do when your date 'stiffs' you? Well, I turned to the bar and got a refill, then examined the other immobilized ladies with much greater interest. The "waxwork" was another real frozen girl, of course, posed rigidly much like Jen. Her face was familiar from some movie. But the statuesque 'marble' figure was something else again. The model here was coated with ivory colored makeup, then dusted with sand for the effect of carved stone. Her eyes were stone disks too; contact lenses? Her hair looked like a carving; it must have been molded from something light. Like the others, she held the pose with rigid resolve. I wondered how long she had been on display there. I would have to check out the statues at the entry more closely.

The drink evaporated and I ambled back to the bar for another (no sense waiting for Sharon) when there was a bit of commotion at the door. A large group had entered, including some burly types who looked uncomfortable to be in such a new location. Bodyguards. They flanked the entryway and glanced back at the body they were guarding as she made her grand entrance: Priscilla Landers!

She seemed to be wearing one of the costumes from her recent film which did stupefying things to her already amazing shape. Her silicone trademarks were barely contained by the black leather cups and the corset had molded her waist into a wasp-like hourglass. Dark stockings and calf high 6" heel leather boots added to the visual extravaganza.

Pris was simply stunning and she knew it.

By now someone had alerted Liz Tropell and she hurried up to meet the entourage at the door and show them to the tables herself. The one I had occupied was commandeered, along with most of the choice seats. That was OK. I could see all I wanted to from my perch at the bar. Yowza!

The star took her time though, and sauntered past the pedestals first. All conversation had stopped; the click of her high heels on the hard floor was the only sound. Her sky-blue eyes took in the static displays; every now and then she paused to spend more time looking at them. Jen's mannequin pose received a full walkaround. Finally, Priscilla took her seat and, as if by magic, the floor show began.

Unlike the earlier tableaux, this scene started with some action. One of the dancers, wearing a ceramic mask of an old man's face, strolled silently through a garden of golden flowers, setting the scene. Then a young lady in a flowing robe entered and mimed excitement and joy to the old man as he shrank away. She touched his arm, and the joy immediately turned to surprise. Spinning away, in a balletic pirouette, the girl seemed to slow down as the lights on her figure cross faded to bright yellow. In some theatric manner her robe fell away just as she was completely motionless and the lights were completely golden. Midas's daughter had been turned into a solid gold statue by the king's touch. The man approached the statue slowly, then stroked her golden cheek with his hand. She did not move. Other figures danced into the scene, did a few turns before being drawn to the "golden" figure like moths to a flame. One by one, they touched her and immediately froze into position, adding to the glowing motionless sculpture. Finally all was quiet; the lords and ladies of the court stood transformed into gold. The old king fell to his knees and drooped his head in sorrow. The lights in front faded rapidly, silhouetting the figures for a moment before the remainder dimmed to black. The curtain closed.

There was a strong round of applause, led by the bodacious Pris, who was standing. Soon all of her entourage was on their feet too, followed by the rest of the audience. Encouraged by the acclaim, the two players took a curtain call; and then a second one. Finally everyone sat down again and the club resumed its normal routine, save for the unusual number of male eyes focused on Pris' chest.

One of the fellows in her party whispered something in her ear just as Liz returned to the clubroom. They motioned her over and the three had a brief discussion punctuated by the man's agitated hand waving, Liz' shaking her head "no", and Pris' breathing. Liz stalked off, which signaled it was time for the entourage to leave also. They filed out in some sort of odd social pecking order, which appeared to be based on proximity to the star.

Other patrons started to decamp also, it was getting late and the big thrill was over for tonite.

Shortly it was down to myself, a sedentary drunk at the bar, and Jen. She was being patient, as mannequins tend to do. Liz sat down beside me, a drink in her hand for the first time this evening. She seemed drained by the recent conversation/argument.

"What was that all about?" I ventured, expecting and almost getting a 'none of your damn business' look in return. Liz thought about it for a long minute, then replied.

"Idiots -- they were idiots. Film people! It seems they're making another movie and this time they have some characters turned into statues. The director, that was the one with the bad excitability problem, wanted me to hypnotize the cast for them. As if it was that easy!!"

"It's not?" Her act had seemed pretty polished, and the thought of Prisicilla Landers frozen in her tracks like a life-sized Barbie Doll was compellingly erotic. My mind wandered off a bit.

"Of course not. I'll cut you some slack because you're new and also Jen's friend, but a remark like that is enough to get you on my blacklist!" That threat seemed to calm her a little, and she continued. "Anyway, I'm mostly just a guide; my subjects reach their state of peace pretty much on their own. Take Diane over there (she indicated the amazingly detailed marble sculpture.) A few nights a week she comes in, plunks herself on a pedestal, and freezes up. She does her own makeup too; although I may borrow this effect for one of the shows. Right about closing she wakes up, gets her robe on, and goes home. I never asked her to do anything. Then these bozos offered to buy out the club and me with it, just to get their damn movie done..."

"Wow." Great conversationalist, huh? Gimme a break; I was still thinking of a Pris statue.

"Or Jenni. She's really a natural; was one of my best performers a couple of years back. Don't let her mumbo fool you. It used to be motionless tranquility was so much a part of her personality that she could go into limbo almost instantly. A couple of times she did do just that in the middle of a dull conversation, reanimating whenever things got interesting or a response was needed. Seeing her so drawn-out like today it makes me sick. I know I tricked her into posing, but she needed the restful timeless state to recuperate a little."

"She's still up there, you know. How do you release her?"

"I differs a bit for everyone, and different things work better than others. Kiss her, with passion - a peck on the cheek won't do it. It's the least I could do for you two..."

"You know, Jen and I are not --"

"No, but you might be. Call me Cupid Liz. Goodnight!" With that, she stood up and walked slowly to the dressing room. The bartender made bartender sounds; the music had cut off long before. Jen waited patiently, the same expression on her face from hours earlier.

I stepped up to reach her (she's almost as tall as I am) and smootched her on the lips. No effect; she remained a mannequin but wobbled slightly. I didn't hold back on the next one, wrapping my arms around her rigid body and coming up only for air. This time it worked.

Even so, this time it took Jenni a while to reanimate and relax her display pose. She had really been under deeply! Eventually she noticed me, the empty club, and the house lights.

"I..." She stopped to clear her throat, "I guess I needed that." She brightened slightly. "Hey, anything interesting happen while I was posing?"

"Not much," I lied, "I'll tell you about it on the way home." We found the car really easily, it was the last one in the lot. Driving across town to drop her off, I told her about the visit from Priscilla, the new tableaux, and the argument Liz had had. About halfway through, Jen's little 'um-hum's faded out and I thought she had fallen asleep. Not hardly. When the traffic eased enough so I could look over, a blank stare greeted me; Jen was frozen again! I shook her as best I could but no effect.

She was deep in her 'tranquility' again. I let her stay that way the rest of the way back; figured I could wake her if a cop stopped me for driving with a display figure passenger in the HOV lane! That never happened, but I did get some odd looks from adjacent cars.

Reaching her place, I pulled into the driveway. It had worked before so I kissed her now. This time it didn't take quite as much effort. Jen looked around and concluded "Out again?"

"Yeah; you must be really tired!"

"Oddly, no. I feel better now than when we started out tonight! If you weren't so slack we could go watch the sunrise."

"Not today. Let me show you to the door." It was a good neighborhood, but I never got the habit of just bailing out on someone. We got onto the steps and hugged before I turned away; I wonder if she had remembered those kisses?! She waved good-bye to me.

Starting the car, I cast a glance back before driving off. It was a good thing I did, because Jen was a mannequin once more; this time in mid wave. Her house was open, anyone could have waltzed right in while she stood there like a (very sexy) smiling lawn ornament!

This time I carried her the rest of the way inside and administered the revival kiss again. Jen revived all right; I think she noticed me. All of a sudden the kiss got a lot more hungry and her hands made their way over to my back, then downward. It was just strange luck (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it) that her couch was placed so we fell into it when I tripped over her rug. It was late, she was pretty and willing, I was there: we did 'it'.

'It' was glorious...

The next morning (actually later that same morning, but why be picky) when I woke up, Jen was laying in the bed next to me, the covers pulled demurely up to her breasts, stiff as a board again with a warm, satisfied, smile on her face.

Hey, if a treatment works, why change it? I kissed her again, she responded, then responded!
Off to the races once more -- what a way to spend a day!

Author's Notes:

L.A. is such a bizarre place I had to write something about the night time scene. Needless to say, there is no such place (or I haven't found it yet) and names have been changed to protect the clueless.

Comments/suggestions Email to Dmuk@aol.com

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