Sam Gurr is probably the most bizarre person I have
ever met, and I love him so much for the person he is
inside. I secretly (or at least it was a secret until now)
idolize Sarah Jane Woodall. She is fearless, sweet,
hilarious, caring, loving, generous, smart, and just a
wonderful person down to her core. I could go on
forever about how awesome some of my Burning
Man(aka Burner) friends are. The following are some of
the most incredible people who have inspired me to the
In no particular order they are: Christopher,
Cameron G., Mike P., Malicious, BamBam and Pebbles,
Mike and Debbie, Fifine B., Big E, Gabriel, Nefarious
Grin, Conclave Dave, Judy Booty, Captain Bill, EriKA,
Craig S., Magic Carpet Mike, Mason Dave, Richard,
Hilarity Jane, Merritt and Nikki, Bryan A., Bob H.,
Spider, Topless Deb, everyone who helps make the Party
Naked Tiki Bar a success; and of course, Sam and Sarah.
Abundant gratitude goes to Fifine Brightman, Lora
Rose Robb, and Linda Poelzerfor rock star editing
andproofreading, Gary McCluskey for making the cover
art pop, and Anastasia Bogdanova for the majority of the
playful chapter heading art.
Additional appreciation to the beta readers,
sounding boards, brainstormers, and supporters on this
project: Sarah Jane Woodall, Sam Gurr, Mike Pierce,
Melissa Cassidy,Hilarity Jane, Ammy Anderson, Leanna
Cowan, Tim Geiges,Lisa Lucas, and the never-ending
encouragement of Matt Hamilton and Cameron Evans.
A Note from Sarah Jane Woodall
As a directionless bimbo wandering the Vegas Strip,
I was basically a pinball inside a giant machine—hit this
light, win $200! Hit that one, win $500! It’s all fun and
games until the ball rolls down the hole and its GAME
OVER…but I kept those flippers moving, and they
bumped me into the secret bonus level of Torcher Town!
A Note from Sam Gurr
In the last few years, I’ve become a rather weird
person…and yes, I realize that sounds kind of odd
coming from me. However, reading these stories
reminds me of a lot of crazy adventures I’ve been on,
and it really makes me smile. I still come out of the
shadows on rare occasions to see some of my old
friends, but for the most part I’ve been in my own little
world lately. Saminal makes me feel good about all the
cool people I’ve met.
I saw some pretty trippy and inspirational things in
the Burning Man community, and I never really even
intended to be a part of it. It was an amazing experience
and I think I’m just about ready to be part of the next
adventure! Perhaps it’s time to build a new monster.
Random Notes from the Author
Although this is a product of fiction, parts of this
story are loosely based on, or inspired by, real people,
real events, real art, and real animals.
Be it inner beauty or controlling demons, the
characters in this fictional story see each other for who
they truly are inside.They are all just smiling skulls with
skin on a quest to discover their soul’s HOME.
The origin of the word fireplace is related to the
words focus, home, and family. Since the beginning of
time, people have gathered around fire to feel a sense of
belonging. Without feeding the fire that fuels our
passions, we lose focus on who we really are, and what
is truly important—a place to feel like family, in a place
we call home.
This book’s content is intended for mature audiences
who can handle the F-word as well as brief artistic,
natural, and fetish-related sensual activities that may or
may not be related to the storyline or characters.
This book is dedicated to Sarah and Sam.
Texas Whale ...........................................................................10
Bottoms Up! ...........................................................................20
Fremont Freaks ......................................................................39
The Brick Called Reality..........................................................51
There’s No Place Like Home...................................................62
Passing the Test-E-Call ...........................................................71
Fire Power ..............................................................................80
Trailer Treasure ......................................................................90
Just Shoot Me.........................................................................99
Kicking Rocks ....................................................................... 109
Casino Carnival.................................................................... 119
Wonderhussy® .................................................................... 128
Eye Sore............................................................................... 138
Sleep Woking....................................................................... 148
The Male Box....................................................................... 157
Socks and Seats ................................................................... 167
Three Goddesses and a Moon............................................. 178
Stiletto Crush....................................................................... 184
Belly Butterflies ................................................................... 193
Beetle Butt........................................................................... 205
Let Freedom Ring ................................................................ 214
Vader the Icon..................................................................... 223
9. Vegas Baby!
As she stepped off the Greyhound bus in Las Vegas,
Saraw (Sar-RAW) was bound and determined to land a
sugar daddy within the first 24 hours there. She was 23
and still a virgin. She wasn’t sure how that happened,
but it was true.
She had connected with a girl on-line that she
vaguely knew from high school named Angie, who now
lived in Vegas. Even though Angie wasn’t an ideal
choice, it was still a sign from the universe that with a
little faith, a bit of research, and a lot of guts, anything
was possible. So, for the sole purpose of providing that
first stepping stone—that first dot that would connect
the remaining dots—to her big, life-changing, picture-
perfect, new financially-secure future—Angie would
have to do...for now.
Saraw had been waiting for what seemed like
forever to do that thing where you inhale deeply through
your nose and take in that first fresh breath filling your lungs
with renewed vigor.She stepped off the bus with her carry-
10. Teresa X. Roberts
on suitcase, smiled, and looked up to the light blue sky,
outlined by casino rooftops. Then she did it—she took
that first deep breath, the one she had been practicing in
her mind for the last few hours. Then she started to gag
uncontrollably from the stench of the downtown bus
She coughed so hard that people were starting to
stare. They just gawked, of course, didn’t offer to help,
didn’t ask if she was okay, didn’t even pull out their cell
phones to record her imminent death.
With the air quickly slipping from her balloon of
high hopes, she clumsily lugged her suitcase over to an
uncrowded corner of the station. Once she parked her
luggage and regained an element of composure, she
retrieved her cell phone from her hippie-style backpack,
and found Angie in her contacts list.
“Hey Angie, I’ve landed—uh…I’m here,” she said
weakly after the life-threatening episode she’d just
endured. She gathered her thoughts and continued,
“When you pick me up, we need to go shopping right
away. You’ve got to help me pick out the perfect outfit
to snag asugar daddy!”
“I’m on my way, but look Saraw, I have no idea how
to snag a sugar daddy. I mean, do you really think there
is a certain kind of outfit required to catch one? Where
would you buy such clothes, The Sugar Daddy Gap?
I’ve been with Jim for 10 years now; I haven’t been to the
Strip, downtown, or even anywhere near the dating
Saraw became confused. How could someone live in
Vegas and not hang out on the Strip all the time? What would
be the point of living here if you didn’t love the night life?
Angie pulled up in an older model 4-door Honda
that had clearly seen better days. Despite a few minor
things not playing out so far as she expected them to in
her mind, she convinced herselfto maintain a positive
11. Torcher Town
attitude. Saraw jumped in and was almost bouncing in
the seat, eager to begin her new life in Vegas. She knew
the bus station had to be close to the Strip, but became
baffled when after driving for 20 minutes and finally
getting to Angie’s neighborhood, she had not seen one
single casino since leaving downtown.
“Where the hell are all the casinos? What kind of
Twilight Zone shit is this?” Saraw said confused.
Angie calmly replied, “You know Saraw, most
people ask that before they visit an actual person living
here. For some reason, people think the residents live in
the hotel rooms and the only jobs are in casinos. We
even have children here, who go to schools and
everything. We have parks, sports, music, art events,
farmer’s markets, and…” she paused for effect, “even
churches. It’s almost like a real city,” Angie added in a
As Angie pulled into the short, cracked, oil-stained
driveway, Saraw tried not to let her face show what she
was thinking, but failed miserably. With a deer-in-the-
headlights look, she stared out the dirty, hand-smeared
windshield at an oldstucco duplex with a broken garage
doorthat hung at least six inches lower on one side than
She quickly got out when the car came to a stop so
Angie wouldn’t see the shocked look on her face. Saraw
opened the back door to grab her luggage and glanced
over the roof of the Honda to observe a car parked on
the neighbor’s lawn, perhaps because the driveway was
full of random, beat-up kids’ toys. “Holy shit!” she
mumbled under her breath. What the hell have I gotten
Once inside, Angie led Saraw to a twin bed in the
room that she would be sharing with her daughter until
Sarawcould find a place of her own (or better yet, land
that sugar daddy). The young girl appeared to be four or
12. Teresa X. Roberts
five with brown eyes and matted hair that looked like it
hadn’t been brushed in days. She was sitting on her bed,
wearing nothing more than Wonder Womanpanties,
brushing a naked Barbie Doll’s hair while chomping on
gum like a cow chewing cud. Saraw immediately
noticed her fancy crayon artwork all over the walls and
what she presumed was silly string hanging from the
The room reeked of either a constantly wetted
mattress or a plate of three-week old spaghetti long
forgotten under the bed, and she wasn’t sure which she
liked the thought of the least. The image of the glitz and
glamour of winningCraps tables with beautiful people
cheering, clapping, drinking, and winning butt-loads of
money was quickly dissipating from her mind.
Saraw tossed her suitcase up on her designated bed
which was covered with a tattered Dora the
Explorercomforter, and began assessing what she
already had that might work for the evening. It had
quickly become clear that Angie didn’t share Saraw’s
enthusiasm, or care to play a role in her mission of
landing a sugar daddy. Luckily, she had brought a
shimmery midnight-black cocktail dress with shoes and
a purse to match; it would have to do until she could get
to a local shop.
She hung the dress in the closet, while stepping over
mounds of discarded toys that she was sure were
exciting for five seconds, eons ago in kid years. She left
all her other clothes folded neatly in the suitcase, hoping
with all hope, that she wouldn’t be there long. She lifted
the comforter to see if Dora was hiding a plate of left
overs under the bed before sliding her luggage
underneath her watchful eyes. Saraw then turned
around, sat on the bed, and for pure theatrics gave
Jezabelle a very clear get lost kid look and laid down for a
13. Torcher Town
nap. She knew she would need all her energy for her
quest that night.
Her sleep was interrupted a short while later by
footsteps clomping up and down the hall sounding like
an old, crippled,drunk horse trying to make its way back
to the barn. “What the holy hell? Geezus Christ. Really?”
she growled loud enough for Jezabelle to realize her
mission of waking Saraw up was accomplished.
“Did you have a good sleep?” Jezabelle chirped
while clasping her hands together at her chest. “While
you were sleeping I put your makeup and stuff in the
bathroom for you. You sure got a lot of makeup. My
mom don’t got that much. You got a lot!” she said with
eyes as big as glass balls on a Christmas tree.
Before Saraw could stop herself from hyper-
ventilating with fear for the current condition of her
makeup, she glanced down and cringed when she saw
that the shoes she had planned to wear that evening
were on Jezabelle’s tiny feet. They were covered in dried
mud and half of each foot was sticking out of the open
toe part. It was very evident they were stretched out to
the point of being within an inch of total ruin.
Saraw slowly closed her eyes and hoped it was a bad
dream. Afterseveral seconds she re-opened them to see
Jezabelle’s chubby face staring right back at her, still
chomping on what was surely a whole pack of gum.
“A-a-a-a-a-C-K!” Saraw said out loud as Jezabelle
bent her back in a wave motion to repeatedly bounce her
belly on the side of the bed. Jezabelle clearly displayed a
look of total accomplishment that she had successfully
won Saraw’s full and undivided attention.
Saraw pushed Dora aside and went to assess what
she knew would be a mess of her makeup. Sure as shit, it
was all over the bathroom sink and counter. Her
expensive makeup brushes were matted to a pulp and
all over the floor that most likely hadn’t been cleaned in
14. Teresa X. Roberts
months. All the eye shadow containers were wide open
and it looked like there were actual fingernail dig marks
in some of them. Her mascara brush was laying in the
bottom of the sink, drying out, with the tube part of the
container nowhere in sight. Her best styling hairbrush
was stuck in a giant doll’s head of hair in the tub that
was partially filled with what appeared to be day-old
Saraw quickly gathered her makeup, angrily tossed
it all back in the cosmetic bag, and somehow managed to
resist acting on her thoughts of beating the kid senseless
with the poopie-residue-filled toilet brush. She thought,
if this is the worst that’s going to happen to me in Vegas,
fine…FINE! FINE! It’s done! It’s over! Moving on!
Since she was already in the bathroom and it didn’t
appear she and Angie had any real connection for
conversation purposes, Saraw decided to just start
getting ready for the evening. It was only 5:00 in the
afternoon, and she assumed things probably wouldn’t
start rolling until at least 10or 11:00, but if she got to the
casinos early, she figured she could get her bearings. She
would justify the time spent as research.
“Don’t worry about me, okay? I’ll find a way back to
the house unless something better comes up,” she said to
Angie as she quickly stepped out of the hideous Honda
that stood out like fresh turd on a tile floor among the
luxury cars lined up to be valet parked at the Bellagio.
Saraw knew just about anything would be better than
sleeping in a room with Jezabelle and Dora.
Angie nodded with a blank, glazed-over stare that
did nothing to hide her yeah-okay-right-whatever look and
didn’t even wait until Saraw shut the door to roll her
15. Torcher Town
Striding confidently through the massive glass
entrance doors, onlookers would never guess her
thoughts were consumed by trying to judge how badly
her feet were going to hurt in a few hours. After
Jezabelle did a number on her Saint Laurents that she
had scored slightly used on eBay for $200, she was
forced to grab a cheap pair of shoes at Payless Shoes
because Angie refused to stop at the mall.
A slight panic attack consumed her as she slowly
scanned the casino floor and saw only touristy-type
Asians toting cameras around their necks, elderly people
with walkers, canes, or oxygen tanks, and college-aged
adults that looked like they were on spring break. She
stood in her sequin-covered, form-fitting cocktail dress
that barely covered her bits, and her borderline tacky
high heels, trying not to look like a fish out of water.
She suddenly realized her gaping mouth was
starting to dry out as much as her eyes,before she
remembered to blink. This scene was totally unexpected
and did not match the research she had done—not in the
least. Now that she was faced with the reality that
perhaps she had watched (and believed) too much TV
about how glamorous the casino world, or Vegas for
that matter, was made out to be, she was forced to
Think—think—think—there MUST be rich fuckers
somewhere; I mean, look at this place—this shit is expensive
and it can’t all be paid for with social security checks, the life
savings from Chinese people who probably make $1.13 an
hour, and the allowances of mommy and daddy who think
their kids need money for pizza deliveries to dorm rooms,
To take her mind off this little setback, she decided
to wander around and check out this garden-thing
Angie had told her about, but had never actually been to
16. Teresa X. Roberts
To her amazement, she was genuinely impressed
with the garden.Her breathing and blood flow had
actually returned to a normal state. She found herself
ooohing and ahhhing right next to children and adults
alike, who were astonished bythe way plants and water
were used to create living masterpieces. Although the
garden was fairly small compared to the size of the
casino as a whole, it packed a huge visual punch within
the allocated space.
She snapped a few selfies to add to what would be
the first post to the Vegas Baby! category in her blog. She
obliged a few tourists by taking group photos for them,
and also managed to sneak a few shots of foreign
tourists pointing at things; giggling to herself while
thinking up hilarious captions to include in her blog
Strolling out of the garden, she headed toward the
Chihuly glass sculpture suspended from the ceiling in
the hotel lobby. There she took a seat on one of the many
lounges that were specially designed to allow your body
to lean back far enough to take in the wonderful blown-
glass flowers. She tried to choose a favorite one, but soon
realized it was an impossible task. One of the glass
flowers reminded her of an expensive vase her
grandmother used to have before she smashed an
intruder over the head with…
“Listen Darl’n,” shouted the cowboy in an
exaggeratedbooming Texas drawl, “I’m gonna tell ya
one more time. I reserved the penthouse suite, and I
made those reservations the LAST time I was here, in the
penthouse suite—which I probably could very well have
paid for entirely with all the money I blew here on my
last visit alone. Now, why don’t you be a little lamb
chop and either get me in that suite or get me someone
17. Torcher Town
The man was irate. Saraw was yanked without
warning from the dreamy la-la land in her mind, she
brought her chin back down to see what all the ruckus
was about. About 20 feet away from her was an older
gentleman scolding the desk clerk for allegedly screwing
up his reservations.
When he spoke, his 10-gallon hat shook on his head,
and his Lucchese cowboy boots that surely had never
seen the inside of a barn, were being stompedin
angerlike a tap dancer on meth.
BINGO!Saraw thought. NO, no, not Bingo! Bingo is for
old people. SHAZAM! Uh, no, no that is totally juvenile.
YES! Yes! Yes it is! YES! With the look of a gnarly-O-
climax-face she did a fist pump! She now had her eye on
18. Texas Whale
Saraw knew this was her shot—the jackpot she came
to Vegas for. She had an unobstructed visual in Tex’s
direction and was obviously within earshot, so she
quickly looked away before he could notice her. She
most certainly didn’t want her eavesdropping on his
little temper tantrum to be his first impression of her, or
for him to assume she would already have a first
impression of him. She used her peripheral vision to
determine where he might be headed as he stormed
away from the reservation counter, penthouse keycard
clearly in hand. Saraw had seen enough of the casino
floor to guess that it could be easy to lose someone in the
sea of seniors and tourists. Then again, she mused, most
weren’t wearing 10-gallon cowboy hats.
Luckily, he headed straight for the elevators with a
bow legged stride that seemed to be exaggerated for
dramatic effect. SHIT! What’s he gonna do now? How long
19. Torcher Town
is he gonna stay in his room? How long am I going to have to
wait ‘til he comes back down so I can make my move? Shit—
are there other elevators in this monstrous place—SHIT. I
may not even see him come back down if I wait here. Think,
She jumped up from the lounge and walked as
quickly, yet as nonchalantly as possible, over to the
elevators. She had to get noticed, but not in an obvious
way. Saraw stood confidently, only a few feet from Tex,
while she waited for the elevator doors to open. She
noticed out of the corner of her eye that Tex had both of
his eyes on her. She couldn’t help but smirk a little, and
that smile on those glossy red lips was just the cue Tex
needed to introduce himself.
“Hey there lil’ lady…name is William, but you can
call me Bee-alll,” he stated arrogantly with southern
accent. He swung his right arm around his belly and
turned to take her hand in his, then bent over slightly to
lay a soft kiss on the back of it. Saraw smiled and
allowed herself to blush, showing a bit of shyness to
clearly indicate she was NOT a professional lady of the
night (or day, since you can pretty much get anything
24/7 in Vegas).
“Nice to meet you Bill,” she said quietly. “I’m
Saraw.” Despite her putting less of an emphasis on the
latter part of her name than she usually did, he still
“SaRAW? Mmmmm, sounds like you got some tiger
in ya, there.” Bill leaned back with a pondering look
wondering if she was the pounce-and-take-your-face-off
with-one-bite, or the gentle purr-and-lick-you-to-death
type. He was already fantasizing on the latter.
Again, Saraw did her best to just smile and blush,
trying to look innocent and naïve, which was ironic
because she actually was, but in her head trying very
hard NOT to be.
20. Teresa X. Roberts
“Do you live here Saraw? Or are you here for a good
time?” Bill caught himself realizing that he was
overdoing it, and that didn’t come out right at all. He
instantly corrected himself, “I mean, are you here on
vacation…visiting,” and after a brief pause added, “with
your husband?” letting that last part of his query linger
in hopes she was not attached.
“Just here on vacation,” Saraw responded in a way
that would leave him curious for more. The elevator
doors opened and Bill motioned for Saraw to step on
before him. To Bill’s disdain, a large group of Asian
tourists and an old lady in a walker came from nowhere
and piled in as well. The only benefit being, that it
allowed Bill the excuse to innocently get cozy next to
Because Bill’s room was a suite, Saraw knew she
could push a floor number close to the top to ride along
with him as long as possible, but still get off before he
did. She smirked again and giggled silently to herself,
Yeah, it’s always nice when you get off before they do.
When all the people in the elevator started reaching
for the floor buttons at the same time, Bill started
sweating. He wished he had noticed what floor number
Saraw hit because he had no clue how much time he had
to charm her before they stopped on her floor.
Bill whispered to her, “Maybe you’d like to join me
for dinner this evening, if you don’t have plans?” He
handed her his business card indicating he didn’t expect
an answer onthespot, in case she happened to want to
shoot him down.Saraw smiled, shook the card a little,
and after biting her lip ever so slightly, she responded
with, “I just might do that,” along with a wink for good
As people exited the elevator on their respective
floors, Saraw tried not to move away from him too
quickly, or too far. She made a noticeable, but not too
21. Torcher Town
obvious gesture of regretfully having to leave his side as
the elevator doors opened up two floors short of the top.
She stepped out and purposely didn’t look back
knowing he would want to take the opportunity to
check out her backside without being caught. Once the
doors closed, she did another fist pump.YES!
Her thought now was that she didn’t actually have a
room, and more importantly, another sexy outfit to
change into now that he had already seen her in this one.
SHIT! I didn’t think about this scenario. I had it in my head
that I would just mosey up to a Craps table next to some big
shot, and butter him up from there. I didn’t plan on a multi-
part plan of attack, much less a wardrobe change.Think, think,
think. Okay, if you can think of a reason to call him quick
enough, you could get away with an excuse for not changing.
The challenge being, to not appear desperate.
“I got it!” she said out loud to herself. She proceeded
to play out the scenario as realistically and thoroughly as
she could to prevent any suspicion or possible mishap.
She walked down the hall to the furthest room, stood
there for just a moment, then walked back to the
elevators and returned to the lobby.
She quickly surveyed the closest three bars in the
casino, and while amazed there were actually so many,
she knew choosing just the perfect one was crucial—a bit
like Goldilocks would chose porridge.Yeah, just like that,
she thought.She needed to lockin thegold! She cracked
herself up with that thought. Got it! She found a bar that
provided for a somewhat private conversation, but not
so cozy that she would feel trapped, or risk invitingtoo
much, too fast.
Saraw pulled out her cell phone and texted him
hoping that he was tech savvy. If she didn’t hear back
within a few minutes, then she would call.
Saraw: Hey, it’s Saraw; we just met in the elevator.
My girlfriend left a secret sign on our room door
22. Teresa X. Roberts
indicating she is busy with her BF so I’m down at the
Baccarat Bar if you wanna join me for a drink while I
wait for the coast to clear…
His reply was nearly immediate.
Bill: Sorry to hear ur locked out of ur room. I’ll B
down in 2 shakes of a calf’s tail. B a doll & order a Brora
Scotch on the Rocks for me wood-ya? Put our drinks on
Rm 3013’s tab. Hmm, not only is he tech savvy, but knows
his Scotch. And now I have his room number—a little tid bit
that might come in handy later.
Bill didn’t want to seem overly excited so he paced
for a full eight minutes in his room before he went down
to join her. He wanted to wait longer, but just couldn’t
stand the idea of this pretty young thing sitting in a bar
by herself. The thought that he might lose his shot to
some gawd damn yuppie college prick who wouldn’t know
how to use his wiener if he got a hold of the best set of buns on
the planet, had him in quite the tizzy.
Saraw was sitting on a tall stool at the far end of the
bar, where it seemed the most secluded without being in
a dimly lit booth; that would be a little weird and she
definitely didn’t want to send the wrong message. She
wanted to appear casual, totally indifferent to him, as if
she had no agenda at all. She had her legs crossed and
positioned so they could be seen from the entrance but
decided to forgo applying fresh gloss to prevent
lookingtoo interested. She needed to save a few tricks for
later; her pace had to be perfect.
Bill stretched the front of his blazer to hide as much
of his gut as possible before he waddled through the
double entry doors of the bar. He noticed how the soft
glow from the low lighting kissed her legs as he walked
toward her with a grin he couldn’t hold back if he tried.
23. Torcher Town
Before he took the seat next to her, he blatantly admired
her legs now that he was up close. He said nothing, nor
made any gesture; he merely let his smiling eyes show
her that his thoughts were complimentary. He grabbed
his drink as he sat down and held it up to offer a toast,
“To your girlfriend’s perfect timing.” Saraw giggled
softly as they clinked glasses.
They chit-chatted for more than an hour and to
Saraw’s surprise, the more he drank the less arrogant he
became—heactually seemed like he could be a genuinely
nice guy. Saraw had a knack for always seeing the good
in people, even true-blue assholes.
Without any warning, Bill motioned the bartender
for the check. After signing the drinks to his suite, he
offered his bent elbow for Saraw to take his arm. She
obliged, with only a slight hesitation, and curiously said,
“Where are we heading?”
“I’m gonna show you what a real meal looks like.”
Bill had a smug look on his face. He explained, “You
have a nice figure and all, but a little meat on them
bones won’t hurt you a bit, I promise.” Bill leaned a bit
back to look at her ass. Saraw shot him a huge grin, not
because she was flattered, and not because she was
getting a free meal, but because she knew her hook just
went in a little deeper.
Bill walked Saraw through the casino with his hand
on the small of her back the entire way until they got to
the entrance of Sensi. Saraw was a little surprised when
Bill announced to the hostess, “Reservations for Cooper,
party of two.” Saraw’s mind was a little sluggish from
the drinks but she was trying to wrap her head around
how and when he had made reservations, let alone for
two. The hostess ushered them to an exclusive area
where asingle candle provided the majority of the light.
Saraw was torn between being excited, nervous, and
knee-knocking scared as hell that this was actually
24. Teresa X. Roberts
happening; not as planned, albeit, but yet, actually
Bill ordered the ribeye and Saraw ordered the petite
filet mignon. She knew she wouldn’t be able to eat the
whole thing, but she also knew ordering a chicken
caesar salad would not impress this die-hard Texan in
the least. They had a conversation-filled dinner while
maintaining their buzz,consuming more than three
quarters of a bottle of Dom Perignon. Being the first time
she had seen an actual bottle up close, combined with
her intoxicated mind, she kept thinking the label looked
like the crest for a super heroes dwelling. It was all she
could do to not giggle out loud that Bill lookedlike
anything but a super hero.
As dinner winded down, Saraw realized she had no
idea what her next move would be; this was NOT how
she had played it out in her head, over and over, for
months prior. She excused herself to go to the ladies’
room, not to leave him to handle the check or to freshen
up, although those things were on her mind as well.
What she really needed was time to think of her next
move, as well as a way out if things went awry.
Thinking of an escape route was something she hadn’t
given much thought to before. Now that she was
thinking about her prior plans, she realized she hadn’t
really thought past meeting someone at a Craps table
who would then pamper her from that day forward.
The women’s room was just outside the restaurant.
The moment she stepped out onto the casino floor she
had a slight sense that someone was watching her. She
quickly brushed it off with a confident shrug when she
remembered all the senior citizens she had seen earlier,
and thought she was probably getting some looks
because of her looks.
She appliedthe lip gloss that Jezabelle had nearly
destroyed, while checking the rest of her makeup in the
25. Torcher Town
mirror. Trying to get the thought of that little brat out of
her head, she pondered for a moment how big his dick
might be. She remembered some joke in high school
about cowboys over-compensating for small dicks with
ginormous belt buckles. Bill was not a young cowboy
though, and now that she thought more on it, she
couldn’t remember seeing one. A belt buckle, that is.
Was there one at all? Or did his fat belly just cover it up?
She was surprised to see Bill waiting for her outside
the restaurant entrance when she returned from the
ladies’ room. She didn’t think she had been gone that
long. Once again, he held out his elbow to her, but
unlike before, she decided not to question where he
planned on taking her next. She was all in; she had to be
at this point. They walked through the casino
awkwardly as he had a slight inebriated waddle, and
she was somehowstill able to maintain her delicate
He took her back through the hotel registration
lobby and out the main doors. Before she had a chance
to wonder what his plans were, he said, “I thought we’d
enjoy watching a couple of fountain shows on the Strip
now that it’s gotten dark.” For the second time, she
really let her guard down as he actually seemed to be a
sincerely nice guy. He wasn’t the kind of guy she would
normally go for, of course, but a far cry from the full-of-
himself prick she had seen scolding the hotel clerk just
They chatted and watched two water shows before
returning back inside. “Are you much of a gambler,
Saraw?” She wasn’t at all and had no clue how any of
the table games were played, nor did she care. She knew
playing dumb about them, which wasn’t actually
playing at all, would work to her advantage anyway.
“This is my first trip to Vegas, so I haven’t had a
chance to play much yet.” Bill escorted her over to the
26. Teresa X. Roberts
Craps table and it was then that Saraw felt the most
comfortable.Things finally started to appear as she had
played and replayed them out in her head.
As she stood beside Bill, who clearly knew how to
play the game well, since his purple poker chips had
quadrupled in just under 15 minutes, she felt like a
million bucks just being his arm candy. Just as she had
started to relax, she felt that same twinge that someone
was watching her just as she did before. Again, she
brushed it off. She figured they were probably
wondering what a pretty young girl was doing with this
fat rancher. She chuckled to herself that she may as well
get used to that feeling if this is going to be her new life.
After about 45 minutes of extremely impressive
winning, Bill gathered his chips, leaned over and spoke
near Saraw’s ear, yet within earshot of half the table,
“How ‘boutwe let this snot nose yuppie who can’t wait
to blow his daddy’s money, have the table. We can have
more fun in the penthouse suite.” For emphasis, he
gently slapped her ass with his free hand to scoot her
away from the table.
Game on, Saraw thought; but now what? The curtains
are being drawn open—it’s show time; can I really pull this
Bill proudly held four full racks of $500 chips in one
arm and Saraw’s dainty arm cradled in the other as they
strode toward the Cashier Cage. A man dressed in all
black with a gold name tag appeared out of nowhere
and stood solidly in front of Bill, taking both of them a
little by surprise.
The man made questioning eye contact with Saraw,
which made her feel slightly uneasy, then almost glared
down at Bill, “May I handle those for you
sir…securely?” The man had a deepand growly voice
that freaked them both out.
27. Torcher Town
Bill let his arm drop out of Saraw’s so he could use it
to pat the man’s shoulder as he said, “No, I got it; if I can
hogtie a 75-pound pig, I think I can handle a few small
pieces of plastic; thanksanyway pal.” The man hesitated,
glanced at Saraw again, and then stepped aside.
“That was odd,” she said quietly as she leaned in
close to make Bill feel like he had protected her from the
big, bad, growly-voiced man.
At the Cashier Cage, Bill slid the racks across the
counter and asked that the money be put on his marker.
As he turned away before getting a receipt of any kind,
Saraw was baffled at his trust. She could only assume he
was not only a regular, but obviously among the most
She grinned ear-to-ear as they made their way to the
elevators. Apparently, she hadn’t gotten her hooks into
just any old fish in the sea, she was about to harpoon a
real whale. Once in the elevator, Bill pulled the suite’s
keycard out of his wallet, waved it over the card reader,
and then turned around to surprise Saraw with an
aggressive slobbery kiss. It was so gross; she almost
couldn’t keep a straight face.
She discreetly wiped her mouth acting like she was
fixing her lipstick while Bill just grinned knowing he
was finally going to get the prize he had his eye on all
28. Bottoms Up!
Once they were in the suite, reality set in. Could she
really do this? Could she really do the deed with a dude
she was not attracted to at all? Her first deed ever, at
that? While she certainly knew without a doubt that he
wanted in her pants, or dress as it were, she just wanted
in his bank account, or so she thought. In her head she
had it all thought out:images of hideously unattractive
rich men and their arm-candy wives kept whirling in her
Saraw stood just inside the suite, trying to hide the
fact that she was freaking out deep down in her guts.
She felt like a prisoner walking to the gas chamber.
STOP IT! Stop it…this is not the end of my life; this is the
beginning. This is what I’m meant to do, to be, a rich man’s
wife, to be pampered and spoiled. Why am I freaking the fuck
out?There was a war going on inside her head between
morals and money. Team Morals was gaining
29. Torcher Town
“Pick your poison, doll,” Bill said as he waved
onehand over the bar selection while holding an
emptyglass in the other.
“Pa-Patron, I’ll have a Patron,” Saraw said a little
nervously. Bill gave her an approving nod anda wink
that nearly hollered that’s my girl! When he handed her
the half-full glass, he gave her a look that told her she’d
better not think about sipping that drink. He wasn’t
about to wait long to get her in the sack. He then raised
his glass to toast hers.
“To the future memory of tonight’s good time.” The
sound of the glasses clinking vibrated through her
ears.She had already had enough to drink.Another
round could really put her in a place of not thinking
For the life of her, she couldn’t tell where the
bathroom might be. “I’d like to freshen up a bit—if you
could point me to the powder room?”
She glanced around the suite and wrapped her hand
around herglass in hopes he wouldn’t notice herdrink
was virtually untouched. She was also banking on him
being too focused on her assets to even notice her glass.
Bill raised his stubby arm and pointed towards the
back of the bar, “As enormous as this place is, you could
get lost, but at least they did one thing right and put the
toilet right close to the bar. Now hurry your pretty little
ass back! Ya hear?” She forced a quick giggle as she
excused herself to have a face-to-face pep talk in the
“You can do this,” Saraw said to herself quietly in
the most pathetic and non-convincing whisper she had
ever heard come out of her mouth. Ugh. She hung her
head down and slumped her shoulders in defeat. She
was way out of her league and she knew it. She was no
match for those Barbie Doll arm candy girls hanging on
the fat, balding, old rich dude’s arms. She had been
30. Teresa X. Roberts
studying those types of lifestyles as if she was a little kid
drooling over a new bike.
She shook her head as she realized she was just a big
kid with a stupid dream. This wasn’t even as logical as
wishing for a new bike.This was like being someone she
was not. It was about being conniving and deceitful.
That’s not me! She looked at herself in the mirror and
stood up straight in her own defense. She almost
laughed at herself as she whispered out loud, “I’m
defending myself and yet I don’t even know who the
fuck I am anymore.” She had been dreaming of this
moment for so long, it seemed she had lost her true self
somewhere along the way.
She slammed the drink down her throat, and as it
burned in her chest, she realized that was probably the
last thing she should have done if she wanted to think
clearly. Damn it! Why didn’t I just pour it down the drain
and ACT like I drank it… Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!
Saraw stepped out of the bathroom trying hide any
hint of her insecurities and doubts. Despite her efforts,
her chest was pounding inside like a giant snare drum.
Bill had already poured her another drink in a fresh
glass. It was big; like Texas-size big. Then again, her first
drink was settling in and she wasn’t sure if her eyes
were just playing tricks on her. Bill’s eyes were
extremely glossed over which told her he had probably
had another drink while she was busy having a chat
Bill raised his glass and said with a huge grin, “We
should have done this with our first drink, but always
better late than never.” He extended his glass to toast
“What are we toassshting to dis time?” Saraw
31. Torcher Town
Bill responded with an even bigger grin than before,
then reached down and pulled up his belt as he snorted,
“How ‘bout, here’s to saddl’n up with a new filly.”
Saraw almost vomited a little in her mouth trying
with all her might to keep her last drink down. She put
her free hand to her lips and tried to force a smile as
they clinked glasses.
Bill slammed his drink in one gulp as Saraw took a
bigger sip than she had planned to. He took the glass
from her hand and set it on the bar, then leaned in to
make his move. He was wasting absolutely no time in
his quest to get what he wanted, while Saraw was
frantically trying to think of a way to exit stage left.
Bill quickly grabbed Saraw around her waist and
pulled her against him. For a big man, he was moving a
lot faster than Saraw thought he was capable. Out of
pure instinct, and before she could stop herself, she
threw her head back, feeling almost repulsed.
As soon as she saw the look in Bill’s eyes she knew
he wasn’t too pleased with that reaction. He tilted his
head, squinted his eyes, and gave her a look that said
don’t even think you’re going to play hard-to-get now. She
knew she was in too deep to get out of this completely
unscathed. She had to be strategic and smart; two things
made even more challenging by copious amounts of
She responded by leaning forward and initiating a
kiss to set him back at ease. It was just a peck, although a
slightly lingering one. It was all she could muster at the
moment.She knew right away he sensed it was lame and
forced. Rather than continue to make a fool of herself,
she decided to let him make the next move and
convinced herself that she would go with it, no matter
what it was. She had come this far, and she was going to
see this through; at least until the deed was done and
she could sneak out while he was conked out.
32. Teresa X. Roberts
What she did not expect was Bill pulling the right
side of her dress down and grabbing her breast like it
was a leather saddle horn. She almost slapped his face in
reflex but quickly stopped herself. She allowed her hand
to linger down his arm as she slowly pulled away and
asked if he didn’t mind if she finished her drink first. He
knew she was stalling but he obliged and motioned for
her to sit back down at the bar while he just stood
there…and waited. He made it clear that there was
going to be no more conversation from him—notnow.
Bill made his power and control perfectly clear. He was,
after all, the type of man who was used to getting what
She looked away and glanced around the room
trying desperately to find something, anything, to talk
about. She spotted a Chihuly glass sculpture on the table
in the foyer and slid off her chair to go admire it closer.
She honestly hadn’t thought far enough ahead that it
was conveniently by the front door and she could just
dart out. She was desperately trying to figure out a way
to stall until she could collect her thoughts.
As she stood in the rather large entrance of the suite,
there was a knock at the door. She glanced at the door,
then back at Bill as if to say are you expecting someone?
She hoped her look gave the impression of surprise
more than excitement that she might be saved. Bill
looked confused,then angry at the interruption.
Saraw stepped aside as Bill opened the door. She
didn’t turn around to see who it was just in case it was
another woman. She wasn’t sure what she would do if it
was. A man’s voice that was low and deep said, “Room
Service,” as he pushed a cart past Billwithout even being
“I didn’t order any gawd damn room service!” Bill
bellowed out as he raised his arms in the air to motion
the man back out so he could resume his mission.
33. Torcher Town
The man wheeled the cart past the bar and into the
living room area as if he didn’t hear a word Bill had
justsaid. “Compliments of the hotel sir…to congratulate
you on your windfall this evening sir.” The man stood in
front of the cart slowly pulling the covers off various
sized trays of fresh fruits, cheeses, and other spreads.
Saraw briefly glanced over at the server who had his
head down and slightly turned away from her.
As Bill walked toward him hollering the whole way,
it dawned on her that this was her chance to dart out the
door and be gone in a flash. She took it! Saraw grabbed
the door handle, quietly turned it, and slipped out.
As Saminal (Sam-INAL) looked past Bill to see the
door silently close behind the girl, he smiled knowing
his plan had worked. He had seen her type more than a
few times while working in the casino. They come to
town with these big dreams of finding whales and then
chicken-shit out. He could always peg the type a mile
away. He didn’t always go out of his way to save them,
however. In fact he almost never did. He had come to
learn there were mainly five types of girls that run away
The first type were the ones that do whatever it
takes. These girls he could easily pick out in crowd; they
were what he calledsoul-less. He would say they were
after a whale’s money like a zombie is after brains, and it
sickened him to think of it. They had a deliberate,
determined, and ruthless look in their eyes.
The second type were the extreme opposite. They
were what he called damaged goods. These girls were
often runaways, abused or neglected by their parents.
They had a chip on their shoulder and they were going
to prove to someone, to anyone, that they were worth
34. Teresa X. Roberts
something. Saminal knew they were worth something
alright, but not to a whale. They would most likely end
up working for the first pimp that could smell ‘em the
minute they arrived in town.
The third type were the girls he called ETs because
the first thing they did when they realized they were in
over their heads was phone home. He guessed some of
these girls came from broken homes and just wanted to
be wanted, and others probably came from homes where
they had everything they wanted, but they just didn’t
realize it until they ran into trouble.
The fourth kindfit the damaged goods type but lacked
just enough confidence to catch a whale. What they often
caught instead, were old Vegas mobster wanna-be’swho
would slap them around because they had no power
where they really wanted it. Most of these girls would
end up on the liver transplant waiting list from drinking
too much, or in rehab clinics with tracks in their arms.
Finally, there was the kind of girl like the one he had
just saved in the suite. He called this typecouch tigers.
They were tough yet playful, like a really lovable house
cat. They were determined yet uncertain. They were
bold yet cautious. They wanted to play with the lions
but their stripes always kept them out of the big game.
He liked these kinds of girls the best. They were always
fun to watch. He would see the thoughts of big dreams
sparkling in their eyes that made them so confident in
themselves. However, he was keen enough to pick up on
the innocence in their mannerisms that screamed help
me, I have no idea what I’m doing here.
This girl was the best example of a couch tiger he
had seen in a while. He was intrigued from the moment
he saw her standing next to the Texas whale while he
was delivering more chips to the Craps table.
Being the nephew of the casino owner allowed
Saminal flexibility in wearing many hats. The real
35. Torcher Town
reason, of course, was so he would be familiar with all of
the ins and outs of what it took to run the business so
someday he would be in senior management. This was
his uncle’s dream, not his. Though the thought of
climbing the pile of gold bars to the penthouse office
never appealed to him, he did enjoy switching roles at
his whim, whatever his reason might be at the moment.
Saving this rare couch tiger that he deemed worth the
effort was a welcome diversion from his routine, and he
hadn’t had a good distraction in a while—at least not at
36. Circus City
Saminal lived on the other side of the mountain
range from the Vegas valley, though it was not far
enough to get away from the bright casino lights
entirely. On clear nights the stars were fairly
visible.However, occasional cloud cover would ricochet
the bright city lights back down onto Torcher Town.
Saminal’s home resembled a circus tent more than it
did the typical stucco houses most Las Vegas residents
live in to escape the brutal summer sun, and
surprisingly cold and windy winters. Although he was
single, like nearly everyone in his community, he shared
his home with a variety of non-human creatures that
were more like companions than pets. If pets were
labeled as people, his two cats, Castiel and Milo, and his
dog, Madra, would be considered his close circle of
friends. He also had two turtles, Archimedes and
37. Torcher Town
Socrates,that lived in a wet/dry aquarium. These
companions kept him calm and serene, something he
needed after a hectic day in Vegas.
Then there was Snicker Doodle, his Striped
Whipsnake, and Trever, his Bold Jumper Spider, who
somehow lived together in perfect harmony inside a dry
aquarium. They represented those people you keep in
your life with the motto keep your friends close, but your
enemies closer. However his best friend, barnone, was a
rooster that just happened to waddle right up to his
front yard one day, seemingly out of nowhere;Vader
was Saminal’s pride and joy.
Madra technically wasn’t his dog; she actually
belonged to his roommate who was always away
working on long-term job assignments—but he loved
her just the same. He felt bad that he had to keep her
indoors most of the time due to the extreme heat, so
when he came home from work, taking her for a walk
was always the first order of business.
It was mid-May and the temperatures were already
nearing 100 degrees. Madra’s coat had started to thin for
the summer months, which made her look more like a
coyote than a German Shepherd. Saminal picked up
clumps of fur everywhere. He also made it a point when
he walked Madra to always go barefoot. Although he
understood the pad on a dog’s paw could endure more
extreme temperatures than a human foot, he felt it was
the least he could do to better judge the distance of the
walks during the hot months.
Rounding the first corner of his street was always the
most dreaded part of the trek. That’s where the odd girl
lived. Saminal was never quite sure if she wasn’t right in
the head or if she was just entirely too far behind in her
schooling. She was about 10, always wore the same
shorts that were beginning to get too small for her
growing body, and she was usually barefoot. On the rare
38. Teresa X. Roberts
occasion she wasn’t barefoot, she would have on her
mother’s flip-flops, which were always different,
surprisingly enough. Saminal always wondered how the
mother could have a dozen different kinds of flip-flops
but her child wore the same shorts, no shirt half the
time, and quite possibly didn’t have any shoes of her
The young girl always saw Saminal coming; she
knew what time to start looking for him every day and
dashed out of her dome to greet him. Saminal growled
out loud—he never kept silent for anyone’s benefit, not
even little kids. It’s not that he didn’t like kids, he didn’t
like them any more or less than most grown-ups; he just
wasn’t what anyone would ever label a people person,
not even close.
He always tried his best to limit any communication
with the strange girl, and therefore, never asked her
what her name was. He referred to her as Strange Girl if
he had to call her by something when he did speak to, or
Saminal made an announcement to the world, which
was only heard in his own head: Note to parents, I don’t
care if you live in Torcher Town or not, you shouldn’t let your
kids be around me. It’s not that I’m dangerous or potentially
harmful, it’s just that I am just not a good example of a
friendly adult. Most adults should probably stay away from
me too, for that very reason.
He would pick up his pace before he passed her
place [Editor’s note: that almost sounded like a line in a
typing test], but she would skip, run, or do whatever it
took to keep up with him. She asked question after
question, which in turn would accelerate the rate of his
growls, to which she was completely oblivious.
“What is your dog’s name? What kind of dog is he?
Isn’t he hot with all that fur? How sharp are his teeth?
How much does he poop? Does your dog talk to you?
39. Torcher Town
Do you know what he’s thinking?Does he sleep with
you or does he have his own bed?”
After the second time he had answered all these
questions, especially correcting her that he was a she,
Saminal realized the girl wasn’t even absorbing the
answers in her hyperactive little undeveloped brain. He
resorted to grunts and growls instead to refrain from
snapping at the annoying child. As he rounded the next
corner, he would always stop and yell at the girl to go
home. She would always put up an argument that it
would be okay with her mom if she kept going, but that
wasn’t the issue! He just wanted to walk Madra in peace
after a stressful day at the casino.
The remaining walk around the unpaved, flat playa
streets of Torcher Town wasfairly uneventful at that
time of day. Once he got home, Vader got
Saminal’sundivided attention for the rest of the evening.
For being a rooster, Vader had an odd palate. He didn’t
like ham by itself, or lettuce by itself, or crackers by
themselves, but if you mashed it all together he went
NUTS for the concoction. Saminal was always trying to
change Vader’s menu up for pure fascination, but also
because he cared for Vader more than he did for himself.
Saminal’s main staple for dinner was a six-pack of beer
and maybe some Cheetos.
Sitting in a plastic patio chair in front of his place
watching Vader peck around in the front yard was his
reward for not killing anyone that day, ending up in
prison, and leaving poor Vader an orphan. It never
failed, however, that a kid passing by just had to stop
and ask silly questions about Vader, cutting his
downtime short. Most of the questions were fairly
typical, especially after Strange Girl down the street
asked him if Vaderwas a skunk. One kid even asked if
he could trade his bicycle for Vader. Kids! Saminal
growled and shook his head.
40. Teresa X. Roberts
All he wanted to do was unwind and pass a few
hours before the grown-up residents started coming
home. It was then that Torcher Town came alive.
Shutter was usually one of the first ones to come
home. Sometimes he came back for the night and other
times he was just back for a pit stop and a quick
recharge, literally, and then he was off again. Shutter
was a professional photographer and was forever
forgetting to charge one of his extra batteries,or had to
grab a critical piece of equipment.
He was more of a hands-on photographer than most.
Where some photographers were extremely bossy,
ordering models to do this or that, he usually just spent
the first hour or so shooting from the tripod and
adjusting the models gently when necessary. He often
made up funny nicknames for particular poses to put
the models at ease and loosen them up a bit. Contrary to
popular belief, he found most models to actually be
pretty intelligent, so they picked up on the names fairly
quickly, and were usually easy to work with.
Once the models had the positions down pat, he
could then hold the camera and move freely while
providing minimal instruction. As photographers go, he
was favored by most models he worked with, except for
the part of having to break to recharge batteries.
“Hey Vader. Hey Saminal,” Shutter called out as he
strolled by the corner where Saminal lived, which was
near the entrance to Torcher Town. Saminal nodded in
acknowledgement that he heard him; he wasn’t much
for conversation with many people in the community, or
people at work, or people in general. Saminal continued
to watch Vader peck at his plate of mashed goodness.He
also had one eye on his cats,Castiel and Milo, who in
41. Torcher Town
turn had their eyes on a group of pigeons. He knew by
the way Castiel was positioning herself on the side of the
tree that she was going to try, once again, to get her own
food. The cat food Saminal fed her was okay, but she
couldn’t tame her animalistic nature to hunt for her own.
She lay low to the ground and slowly crept around
the tree. First moving her front paws, then slowly and
softly, adjusting her back paws forward. Saminal knew
this was going to be good so he got his phone out,
pressed the video icon, and aimed. He didn’t have to
wait long; just when he had Castiel in focus, she kicked
her back paws quickly to dig them in for traction, and
took off like a rocket. Well, that is if a rocket was big, fat,
and fluffy. Despite being at least five pounds
overweight, Castiel flew about three feet up in the air to
maneuver a kitty bomb dropping effect on the
unsuspecting pigeons. To no avail, the rats with wings
were faster than the fat cat once again. There would be
another day, Saminal was sure, and one day
Castielwould have her victory!
Sox almost snuck by Saminal without him even
noticing; he was too busy smothering Vader with
smooches. To reclaim his manliness, Saminal grunted a
what’s up as Sox strolled by. Sox was the yoga,
meditation, spiritual guru of the community. He was
into RootismYoga which helped keep him grounded and
balanced from his day job as a videographer for high
performance sports like the X Games. Sox contributed to
the community by offering brief daily lessons in Rootism
followed by a short stretch and then deep breathing
meditation for 20 to 30 minutes. Everyone was welcome
to come for a whole session or just part of one, as long as
42. Teresa X. Roberts
they came and went quietly, and wore only their
sockswith nothing else.
Saminal had never attended Sox’s offerings, nor
many others in the community for that matter. He found
solitude in sculpting horror-film-worthy-monsters out of
resin, plaster, and anything else he could get his hands
on. Also, he didn’t really get into the whole naked thing
at all. Pyroland (Py-Roland), on the other hand, was the
kind of guy Saminal could relate to on more levels.
Pyroland was in charge of all-that-is-fire in the
community. He didn’t care too much about the fire
spinners however, as long as they had taken his fire
safety course before playing with fire. Prerequisites to
the course required them to spend a fair amount of time
with non-fire poi and then they had to convince him,
without a doubt, they would never play with fire
without a Burn Buddy present. The Poofers, on the other
hand, built their projects under the watchful eye of
Pyroland; honestly, they wouldn’t have it any other
way. Pyroland was the master when it cameto big fire
and was highly respected in the community for his
dedication, not only to safety, but also to badass
[Author’s note: Yes badass is officially a compound
word now] effects and creativity.
When Pyroland rolled in with the Torcher Town
solar-powered truck loaded with tanks, pipes, and sheet
metal, Saminal quickly picked Vader up and returned
him to his coop. He then headed down to the far end of
the community to see what Pyroland was cooking up
next. Saminal built most of the large installations, but
more on the soft materials side. He had a feeling with
the large amount of metal on the truck that his services
would not be required this time. Nevertheless, there was
43. Torcher Town
always something Saminal could either contribute to, or
learn from, when working with Pyroland.
Just outside the community entrance, carts were kept
for charging when not in use. The carts got their juice via
solar powered awnings, which also doubled as
elemental protection from the desert sun. When Fransis
saw Saminal chasing after Pyroland on one of the carts,
she backtracked to Saminal’s place to visit his critters.
She used to visit them during the day while he was
at work, but they acted scared, yet protective of his place
without him there. Fransis always knew that once
Saminalhad come home, the critters were confident he
was nearby, and therefore less combative. They were
also more alert and friendly since they had just been fed.
Usually Fransis could tame the wildest beast but just
as Saminal was different, so were his creatures. There was
something about Saminal’s voice that calmed them,
which tickled the hell out of Fransis because it had the
opposite effect on the humans in the community.
She figured that was another odd bond that
Pyroland and Saminal had; they both had raspy,
gravely-sounding voices that caught most people off
guard the first few times they heard them speak. She
never forgot the day that Lenz, the unofficial mayor of
Torcher Town, directed her to find Pyroland to deliver
him some supplies. She was new to the community and
had not met him yet, so of course she asked what he
“He looks like a Neanderthal’s distant cousin to
Tony Robbins,” Lenz replied without any deep thought
at all. He was very big on honesty so when he described
someone, he didn’t sugarcoat it; he was always accurate,
if nothing else. “…and he sounds like he just swallowed
44. Teresa X. Roberts
a handful of razorblades; oh, and he never has a shirt
on—ever; don’t let that scare ya though, he has a heart of
gold!” Fransis recalled that first description and
chuckled, realizing it was spot-on because she
recognized Pyroland instantly when she saw him, and it
was further confirmed once she heard his voice.
She then remembered how Saminal was described to
her before she met him in person. One of the women in
the community said Saminal was more strange and
oddthan you could possibly imagine a person could be.
The woman added that even though he looked as creepy
as he sounded, most women in the community would
probably agree that he had an odd sex appeal about him,
but no one would ever admit that out loud.
When she first heard this description she couldn’t
imagine how someone could be both creepy and sexy.
That is, until she met him, and was instantly fascinated,
a little uneasy, and yet a little turned on, all at the same
time. It was almost an animal instinct type of attraction.
Pyroland was very similar in that there was a distinct
hotness factor to him also, and she was certain it wasn’t
just the fire he played with.
To say Lenz had a full plate was an understatement.
In addition to making sure Torcher Town ran smoothly,
he was the lighting engineer for many of the big shows
on the Strip. He was also the most in-demand
photographer in the region for HDR photography.
If it wasn’t for catching a private grounding session
with Sox at least once a week, he would have surelyhad
a brain aneurism by now. Perhaps that’s why he felt the
need to always be so honest; he just didn’t have the time
or patience to worry about people’s feelings. That is not
to say he was a dick. He was anything but a dick. He ran
45. Torcher Town
a tight ship and always knew the right person to put in
charge of the main functions that kept the community
Lenz carefully chose a great leadership team:
Pyroland in charge of fire, Toony in charge of music,
Saminal in charge of art installations, Treesaw in charge
of the community kitchen, and Careee in charge of
community events. Sox was in charge of what he termed
Element Management, which included everything guiding
the universal chemistry of the community.
Sox monitored topics ranging from the mentorship
of Mother Earth and Father Sky, to gently steering
people in the right direction when the wind blew them
off course. The majority of the community had, at one
time or another been saved by Sox,from drowning in the
floods of their own insecurities and fears. He also helped
the community balance their childish, yet creative
whims, with their adult responsibilities that were often
necessary outside of Torcher Town. Sox knew a lot of
shit about a lot of shit, yet, willingly and humbly
admitted he wasn’t certain of anything.
Treesaw and Careee often worked together, as food
and events usually went hand-in-hand. They were
always cook’n up something together for the community
to enjoy. That is, when they weren’t consoling each
other; both were often convinced no one appreciated
what they did. After all, the logistics involved with food
and events were the backbone of the entire body,
surrounding the community, but neither brought out the
ooohs and ahhhs like big fire and incredible art
installation unveilings did.
Currently, Treesaw and Careee were collaborating
on the annual Torcher Town Test-E-Call event. This
46. Teresa X. Roberts
would be one of the few times that the community
opened itself to outsiders.
Many homes in Torcher Town were circus style or
military grade tents held up by telephone pole type
beams or intricately engineered domes covered with
thick canvas. Some domes were covered during the
summer months with only camouflage mesh, except for
the few days that the weather called for rain. Those that
had the mesh domes would always welcome the
community in during extremely hot days. The airflow
inside was heavenly,especially when accompanied by a
loose-fitting, damp sarong.
On the few rainy days, community members would
either string tarps over the mesh covered domes, layered
perfectly for proper rain flow, or be welcomedinto
othersrainproof structures. No matter what kind of
structure, or how people contributed to the community,
everyone worked together. There was rarely a word
spoken in the form of a request; the community always
knew what was needed, and provided accordingly. The
Torchers referred to this way of life as a “Do-ocracy”.
47. Fremont Freaks
Saraw laid in the twin bed alongside Dora at Angie’s
house feeling sure it was used by Jezabelle during her
transition from the crib to herdouble bed that was just
three feet across from hers. The whole room reeked of
odor-killing products that she just knew were over-used
in an attempt to cover up the smell of piss. Hey, she
used to be a kid too, so she knew and understood that
kids wet the bed, but that didn’t make her feel any better
having to sleep in it as an adult. Saraw feltlike leaping
out of the bed and jumping into the shower, but feared
the filthy, toy-filled bathtub even more than the urine-
She also dreaded finding out what else of hers
Jezabelle had gotten into, since she had been up for
hours before Saraw. Even more, she dreaded facing
Angie. She knew Angie had most likely been practicing
her best snicker at Saraw’s obvious failed attempt at
48. Teresa X. Roberts
landing a sugar daddy. She finally squirmed out of
bed,dreadfully accepting the mental anguish and pain of
facing reality. Ugh! I need a shower, Saraw thought.
Peeking with great hesitation into the hall bathroom,
she was pleasantly surprised that her things were still
where she left them the evening before. Just when she
felt the slightest sense of relief that being awake might
not be so bad, she opened the shower curtain to turn on
the water. Piles of naked Barbie Dolls AND all their
accessories covered the entire bottom of the tub. All the
dolls had their hair in what appeared to be an attempt to
give them Mohawks using glitter glue. It is way too early
for this shit, Saraw thought, despite the fact that it was
almost 1:00 on Saturday afternoon.
For some crazy reason, Saraw expected Angie to be
in the kitchen whipping up breakfast, but instead she
was in the living room folding laundry in neat stacks all
over the couch. Saraw opened the fridge and helped
herself to a bottle of orange juice then plopped down in
“Rough night?” was all Angie could think to say that
didn’t sound too snarky. Saraw thought, Hmm…do I
detect the slightest bit of jealousy? After chugging a third of
the bottle, she let out a ghastly belch, and then gave
Angie a look that seemed to say, Do I really need to answer
that? Angie got the hint and continued with her mind-
numbing task of sorting socks.
Saraw asked Angie what she had planned for the
day in hopes that she would show her around Vegas a
bit, but Angie started rattling off a list of chores so long
it nearly made Saraw feel nauseated.
“No problem,” Saraw cut her off knowing she might
grow old before Angie got to the end. “I will find my
own way around, but do you think you could maybe
give me a ride to the Strip later? I was thinking about
doing a tour, you know, with all the old people or
49. Torcher Town
something?” Saraw could barely hold back a slight
attitude as she said it.
“Jim can take you after he gets cleaned up; he’s
changing the oil in my car right now.” She motioned
toward the garage. “I really don’t like driving down by
the Strip if I can avoid it.”
Saraw was trying to wrap her head around quite a
few problems with this exchange. Different parts of her
mind were ranting about a variety of topics:
a) How do you live here in Vegas and avoid the Strip?
How is that even possible and WHY would you live
here and WANT to avoid it?
b) What the fuck? You can’t break away for 30 minutes
to help me out here? Do you expect me to just sit here
in this recliner and watch you fold fucking clothes all
day? Did you not realize when you said I could stay
here for a while that it would come with a tad bit of
helping me out with something other than a potty-
training bed and a ragged Dora the Explorer
comforter that’s barely big enough to cover my body?
c) I know if someone came to MY house and they wanted
to start a new life, I would bend over backwards to
help them out, if for no other reason so they DON’T
sit around and get the idea to homestead at MY place.
Not that there is a worry in the world in THIS case,
d) All of the above—really?
Saraw got up and went into the garage to check on
Jim’s progress. Anything, to keep from having a further
conversation with Angie, or heaven forbid, Jezabelle!
She couldn’t see Jim but she heard the sound of a
ratchet. “How’s it goin’ under there? Need any help?”
she asked trying to hide the prying pressure in her voice.
Jim banged his knuckles and dropped his wrench.
50. Teresa X. Roberts
“Uh, no, can’t imagine there is anything you could
help me with… Oh wait, uh, yeah, grab me that rag over
there if you would. I guess I just cut myself.”
Saraw felt like shit.She instantly thoughtit was her
fault for startling him and started to panic. “OH, NO…
that rag is filthy, let me go get you a clean one.” Before
Jim could stop her, she ran in the house and frantically
burst out, “JIM HURT HIMSELF, HE’S BLEEDING.
Where’s a clean towel or something? QUICK!”
Angie looked at Saraw like she was a child. She
didn’t reply at all, just gestured at a pile of laundry with
a look on her face that seemed to say, What are you dumb
or something?You were just in here watching me fold clean
towels. Take your pick, they are all over the couch.
Saraw got the unspoken message and grabbed a
towel from the first stack. “NOT ONE OF MY
GOODTOWELS, for gawd sakes… here, take one of
Saraw looked at Angie with really big eyes as she
thought, What the fuck is wrong with you? Your husband is
bleeding to death out there! Who cares about your GOOD
TOWELS? But of course she didn’t say it. She merely
grabbed a not-so-good towel and ran back out to the
Angie knew he wasn’t bleeding to death.He had
probably just nicked his knuckles like he always did
when he changed the oil.
Jim and Saraw rode in awkward silence to the Strip.
He was working his peripheral vision to near super
human capacity checking out Saraw’s upper thighs
where they met the hem of her short skirt; his mind on
fire with unspoken thoughts. He hadn’t seen Angie in a
skirt, or even women’s clothing, since high school. She
51. Torcher Town
mostly wore sweats and his oversized t-shirts with her
hair almost always in a ponytail.
If it had been anyone else, Saraw might have been a
bit flattered or even hiked up her skirt a little more by
accident just to give the poor guy a better view. But this
was Jim, and Angie was her friend, whatever that was
worth, even though she had pawned her off on him.
Most importantly, Saraw sure didn’t want staying there
to be any more uncomfortable for anyone than it already
was, especially her.
Jim finally spoke, “Where do you want to be
dropped off?” As if Saraw knew what to say. She didn’t
know jack crap about the Strip.
“Uh, I don’t know, where do you suggest? Where
would I most likely be able to meet wealthy men?” She
laughed nervously hoping Jim would think she was half
joking but still spit out the correct answer anyway.
“Well, I don’t know anything about where wealthy
men would be since I’m about as far removed from one
as a man could get—you’ve seen where I live.” The
words fell out of his mouth with an almost ashamed
smirk.He hoped Saraw would somehow respond with
something, anything, to stroke his ego. When she didn’t
take the bait, Jim continued, “I guess maybe the MGM,
but that’s probably mostly Asian men. The Hilton would
probably mostly be dudes here for conventions—
probablymost of ‘em have wives at home. But they
might act all available and rich—probably look stupid
doing it too, I imagine. So I’d stay away from that spider
web! The Bellagio is pretty classy but they have a weird
mix of families and uppity art snobs. Maybe some of the
art snobs would be rich, but again, they probably have
snooty wives hidden somewhere. Any snooty artsy-
fartsy type that is single is probably secretly gay, if you
52. Teresa X. Roberts
Saraw was seriously contemplating opening the door
and leaping to her death to put herself out of this
hopelessness. Then it got worse, sort of.
“I’d stay away from downtown for sure though,”
Jim’s seemingly jaded view of casinos continued to pour
out. “Nothin’ but oldschool mobster types down there,
probably just makin’ deals and smashing kneecaps in
back rooms like the movies.” Saraw clenched onto the
door handle tight and her fingers started to twitch
Jim continued, “Under that new canopy they got
downtown, it’s a mix of families who realize they
screwed up by bringing their kids on vacation when
they see the Glitter Gulch Girls, college kids acting
stupid, and a bunch of middle-aged hippie freaks who
refuse to grow up. I mean—”
“Take me there!” Saraw blurted out before he could
say another word. She knew she needed a change of
scenery after her first failed attempt on the Strip. What
better place to do that than with old school dudes and
her kind of people? The hippie freaks who refused to
grow up, that is. She knew enough about preppy college
kids from her days as a waitress while she put herself
through college, not that her degree haddone her any
good so far.
“HOLY SHIT!” Saraw exclaimed with her eyes open
wide as she stepped on to Fremont Street. The canopy
was way more massive than it had looked in the
commercials she’d seen in California trying to lure
visitors to Vegas. The scene was fantastic; it was done
well with an odd mix of past and present. The Vegas Vic
and Sassy Sally vintage signs were still fully functional.
There were huge stages being set up for live music, and
53. Torcher Town
giant LED signs displaying dancing strippers with stars
covering their nipples.
That was something Saraw couldn’t
understand.What is so top secret or pornographic about a
nipple?she often wondered. She assumed they had to
maintain some level of propriety in case there was a kid
within 500 yards of the casinos, who’d somehow never
seen a nipple in their life.
As she looked around, she let a big smile escape her
gloss covered lips; she knew she was in the right spot.
She felt comfortable even though she was totally alone.
“Hey Peaches, you look a little lost. If you’re looking
for your husband, he probably ain’t flying around where
you got your wide eyes looking—besides, you keep that
up and you’ll have a sore neck by 1:00am and he’ll have
to spend half the night massaging it for ya.”
Saraw looked back down to greet the man speaking
to her. “Oh, I’m not married—I guess I’m just your
typical tourist, checkin’ shit outand being quite obvious
about it… obviously,” she said and laughed at herself.
“Yeah, you had that look about you alright. I’m
Lenz; my crew is running late, as usual, and the show
can’t go on if it can’t even get started, ya know?” he said
as he pointed back to one of the stages. “Since you’re by
yourself, I wonder if you wouldn’t mind giving me a
hand for a bit; I can almost promise I’ll pay better than
these one-armed bandits will around here.”
“Uh, SURE! What can I do?” Saraw quickly dropped
her hunt for Mr. RichyRich and snapped right back into
the nature of her true personality.
“Well, for starters you can seal off the VIP section.
The concerts are free but a few idiots pay a flat VIP ticket
price so they can meander in and out of the VIP sections
of all the stages down here.” Lenz looked over his
shoulder and pointed, “Just take those cones and caution
tape and square off an area.”
54. Teresa X. Roberts
“Okay, how big should I make it?” Saraw was trying
not to sound dumb. “I mean, how many VIPs are you
Lenz smiled and tried to hide that he was impressed
already; it wasn’t often he found a pretty girl who was
smart and hard working. He took notice that she asked
questions about the task and not how much money she
might make. “Make it big enough for four people for all
I care, we just need to have something for appearances
—to make those shmucks feel special, ya know?” Lenz
gave her a wink that said he was kidding about the four
people, but that he trusted her judgement.
“Uh, okay.” Saraw felt a little bewildered, but hid it
Lenz suddenly realized that he might have come off
rude since he just asked this nice girl to help him, then
kind of snapped at her, “Sorry, I’m just under the gun
here! There’s already a stack of the right amount of
cones in front of each stage for the VIP areas and a roll of
caution tape next to each stack. Put a cone about every
10 feet, you will figure out quick enough how big the
space needs to be. Oh, but leave an opening in the back,
about five feet across for in-and-out traffic.If you paid
attention in sixth grade, this is just like one of those
word problems you never thought you would
experience in real life.” Lenz sprinted off before Saraw
could even think to open her mouth for another
She was suddenly glad she had decided to bring her
crossover bag instead of a big clutch purse. This way she
could work with both hands while keeping her few
dollars and ID secure. Gawd only knows she didn’t need
to lose what little cash she had. At least helping this
Lenz guy kept her from stepping into the tourist role
and blowing money on machines or souvenirs. She
wasn’t leaving town, however, without one of those
55. Torcher Town
Mayor Goodman bobbleheads with him holding a
martini. Saraw had to give the guy props for being cool
enough to be okay with that.
“HEY PEACHES, YOU’RE HIRED!” Lenz shouted
from about 50 feet away as he approached Saraw as she
waswrapping the caution tape around the last cone on
the third and final stage. He never dreamed in a million
years that she would actually stick around and do it—he
expected her to bolt the minute he turned around.
Saraw looked up and proudly smiled at Lenz. It felt
good that he noticed her commendable work, even if it
was just setting cones and stringing tape.
“What are you really down here for?” Lenz was
flustered all of a sudden, “Shit, I didn’t mean to—uh, I
guess I really didn’t think you would help out like that.”
“Eh, it kept me from spending money on souvenir
crap—and I really didn’t do it all anyway,” she looked
around to give the proper credit. “A couple of frat boys
helped me out—they just went to grab a few beers.”
Lenz let out an unexpected laugh which was
directed more at himself. He should have known
someone as cute as her would have attracted some
attention in the form of assistance.
Lenz looked down and noticed Saraw was wearing
heels and said, “How ‘ya doing in those shoes? They
don’t look too comfy.”
“I can actually go all night in these, believe it or not,”
she said confidently. “It’s an odd talent, I know.”
“I suppose you’re ready to have some fun then and
enjoy the downtown festivities—the bands should be
doing sound checks pretty soon. Once they start, it can
get a little crazy down here.”
56. Teresa X. Roberts
“Yeah, I’m sure,” Saraw nodded. “I honestly didn’t
mind helping out though, I’d rather keep busy and
productive than stand around like one of those fake ass
dancing girls that sound like their heads are maracas
with all the rocks rattling around up there.”
Lenz chuckled at her quick wit and said, “Well, if
you want, you could walk around, check out the rest of
Fremont Street for a bit, and then about 10:00 you could
stand at the entrance of the VIP section of the main
stage. These shmucks buy these VIP tickets but we
usually don’t have someone standing there to check for
them anyway so it’s kind of ridiculous. However, you
will meet some interesting people doing that gig at least.
There are a lot of muckity-mucks that come in packs—
and you know how men are—it’s a competition to see
who can turn the most charm on to a pretty girl like
Lenz had her at muckity-muck. She was totally
down to help this guy out because after all, he
hadalready given her $50 cash for just two hours of
work, and he even seemed pretty coolto boot. However,
now there was an added bonus…she could let the sugar
daddies (aka muckity-mucks) to find and charm her
instead of her trying to be all strategic about shit. Fuck
yeah, this will work out nicely.
As she checked for VIP wristbands and tickets,
Saraw was just as charming to the women as she was to
the men, always complimenting something they were
wearing or the way they did their hair. She knew damn
well that there were plenty of snobby rich bitches that
only cared about their husbands’ money; sometimes to
keep their marriage, they looked the other way when
their man charmed other women. Hey, maybe I should just
57. Torcher Town
approach this with training wheels on for a while,she
thought. Maybe it would be better to be the mistress anyway;
I’d get some spending money and still have my independence
She continued to work that smile, turn up that
charm, and occasionally dropped their tickets by accident
if she wanted a little more time or attention with a man.
They usually didn’t mind the view of her bending down
either, of course, and she knew it.
Eddie Money was on the main stage which was
cool.Even though he was before her time, she still dug
his music. It was the perfect blend of good ol’ rock and
roll and love songs.
Saraw was getting ready to start planning how the
hell she was going to get back to Angie’s place when
Lenz came up and asked if she wanted to join him and
some of the other crew members for a drink. She had
been on her feet continuously from 7pm untilwell after
midnight, so Lenz’s invitefelt like she had just won a
mini jackpot. More importantly it would postpone
thinking about how to get back to Dora and Barbie-
“Sure, I could use a drink. My throat feels as dry
and scratchy as a lizard break dancing on sandpaper,”
she blurted out before she realized how dumb that
sounded. Thankfully she didn’t think he heard her over
the sudden sound of clanking metal.
“I got some of the crew tearing the stages down so I
got a few hours before I have to come back and button
everything up for the night. My friend Gauge runs the
Phoenix; it caters to a gay crowd, but he makes a point
to ensure everyone feels comfortable and welcome. It’s
just around the corner,” Lenz said as he extended his
arm to lead the way.
58. Teresa X. Roberts
Everyone she met at the Phoenix was super
awesome.Most were guys of course, but there were
some cool chicks too. Although they all offered her a
ride home, she accepted from Fransis. Tall and toned
like an athlete, she looked like she could hold her own,
but she also had an earthly grace about her that gave her
a goddess glow. Though Saraw and Fransis seemed very
different from each other, she still somehow felt a
When Saraw got back to the house after four in the
morning, she opened the front door as quietly as she
could to not wake anyone. She took her heels off before
entering and tip-toed down the hall. She slipped her
shoes under the bed,primarily for fear that she would
forget and step on them when she woke up, but also
hoping Jezabelle wouldn’t clod around in them when she
got up in just a few hours.
59. The Brick Called Reality
“WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT NOISE?” Saraw said, not
at all quietly, as she was awakened by the brutal sound
of a lawnmower. [Author’s Note: I googled what does a
lawnmower sound like; Wiki-Answer’s response was: Try
turning one on and listening. Thanks; what a big help
you are Wiki-Answer!]
It was 7am. Who the fuck mows the lawn at 7am on
Sunday? The morning after a Saturday night, in Vegas no
less!She pulled Dora over her head hoping the thinning
cotton would muffle the sound; no such luck. Instead it
created a Dutch oven effect for the smell of Febreze-
covered piss. She swung the comforter off and promptly
stepped right on her high heeled shoes. “WHAT THE
FUCK?!” she screamed. I know I put these under the bed for
this very reason, damn it.
Angie came running down the hall to see what was
wrong. She stood in the doorway with her arms crossed
over her frumpy oversized t-shirt, with Jezabelle hiding
behind her legs, waiting for Saraw to explain her
60. Teresa X. Roberts
“I put my heels under the bed so they wouldn’t be in
the way so neither me, nor anyone else,” she paused to
glare at Jezabelle, “would step on them—and somehow I
just did, nearly busting my ankle in the process.”
Angie looked down at Jezabelle in a stern manner.
Jezabelle looked back up at her mom with a please-
don’t-beat-me face and softly said, “But I didn’t want the
monsters to eat them… so… so I pulled them out from
under the bed so…so they would be safe.”
Gawd damn kids, Saraw couldn’t help thinking, even
though that was pretty fucking cute. She knew she had
to do something to get out on her own before this kid
managed to grow on her, in spite of her being an
annoying little shit.
Saraw somehow made it through the day despite
suffering through Angie droning on and on about how
expensive day care was and how she couldn’t wait until
Jezabelle started to school so it wouldn’t costas much.
Jim seemed to have his routine of staying in the
garage most of the day. Saraw wasn’t sure if he actually
didanything out there or if he was just avoiding the girls.
Should I stay or should I go? That was the question on
Saraw’s mind as she sat on the curb in front of Angie’s
house. A housewhich looked pretty much like every
other house she had seen in Vegas so far. Cookie cutter;
that’s what these houses are…and so are a lot of people,Saraw
mused. I’m so not cut out to live in a cookie cutter home, or
be a cookie cutter person for that matter—and I sure as fuck
wouldn’t be mowing the gawd damn little patch of grass in
front of my cookie cutter house at 7am on a Sunday morning,
that’s for damn sure!
As Saraw was getting herself pumped up, she wasn’t
exactly sure where she was going with all this energy,
61. Torcher Town
but as long as it was in the opposite direction from the
norm, she was okay with that. She was begging the
universe for a sign indicating her next move; either stay
in Vegas or go back to California.
As if on cue, her cell phone rang. She looked down
and saw it was Fransis. She didn’t remember getting her
number, much less putting her in her contacts list so she
was a little confused. Her excitement trumped her
curiosity as she quickly answered the phone.
“Hey chickie, how are ya?” Fransis said in a chipper
voice.Saraw could easily visualize her bright white teeth
in contrast to her deep, rich, mocha colored skin.
“I’m good. I’m good, thanks. What’s up?”
“A bunch of us are going to go clean up a vacant lot
downtown for a few hours today. Wanna join?”
Uh, I knew I was sending a message out to the universe
that I didn’t want to be normal, but I’m not sure cleaning up a
vacant lot downtown was what I had in mind either. Saraw
tried to calculate which was worse, staying there and
doing battle with Jezabelle for the few possessions she
had, or picking up trash on a vacant lot.
Fransis sensed she was taking a minute
contemplating a response so she added the purpose
behind the mission. “We are actually cleaning it up in
preparation for an awesome event that we just got the
city to approve. We are going to burn an icon at the next
“SURE! I’m in!” Saraw responded, knowing full well
that she had no idea what “burning an icon”meant, what
First Friday was, or what all was involved with cleaning
this lot, but it sounded a hell of a lot better than sitting
on the curb hiding from reality.
“Great, I’ll pick you up in about an hour,” then
Fransis abruptly disconnected.
Saraw ran inside to find appropriate attire and
realized she had none that suited this unplanned
62. Teresa X. Roberts
occasion. A pair of shorts and a borrowed t-shirt from
Angie would have to do. Saraw tried not to cringe as she
pulled what was surely one of Jim’s old shirts over her
head. How did this happen? How did I go from coming to
Vegas to land a sugar daddy to donning a grubby old t-shirt
and cleaning up a vacant lot downtown? Yet these people are
cool as fuck. What kind of warped reality did I step into?
“I didn’t want to tell you on the phone because, well,
since you’re not from here, you probably wouldn’t know
that the area we are cleaning up is mostly used by
homeless people who drink and do drugs, and who
knows what else there. So, there will probably be a lot of
broken glass and needles and shit.”
“Greaaaaat!” Saraw said with an obvious lack of
Fransis looked down to see that Saraw was wearing
tennis shoes, “Oh, I see you wore good shoes though, I
didn’t even think to tell you to leave your heels at
home.” Fransis smiled to keep the mood light.
“So, what the hell is an icon? And why are we
burning it? And what is this First Friday thing all
“Well…” Fransis started as she took a deep
breath,“we are part of a community that believes in a
philosophy of living our lives in a meaningful, powerful,
thoughtful, caring, and artistically self-expressive way.
We are all pretty unique individually, but we also
collaborate on a projects as a community too, even with
the Big City Vegas folks,” she smirked. “We are all about
music, fire, art, dance, and creative expression.”
“Oh, like Burning Man? I’ve heard of that—“ Saraw
offered up her limited knowledge of an event she had
never attended, “it’s where a bunch of crazy people
63. Torcher Town
camp in the middle of the desert and burn shit; it’s like a
giant rave where everyone is high on drugs and runs
around naked and has sex with strangers, right?”
“Well, no, not exactly.” Fransis didn’t take offense
because she’d heard that false stereotype many times,
but also because she didn’t take offense to most things in
general. “Yes, that event is a bunch of crazy people—
about 50,000 actually—and yeah, you could honestly say
they are crazy as the conditions are pretty harsh and the
effort some people put into the event is over-the-top;
and yes, they do burn shit; but I wouldn’t describe it as a
rave. It has all the elements of a rave I suppose, but it’s
actually more mature, fairly safe, and moderately
responsible. Believe it or not, it’s mostly made up of
highly intelligent people who pretty much all contribute,
rather than spectate.” Saraw slowly nodded her head as
she took it all in.
Upon arrival on the job site, they both walked over
to Treesaw’s car where everyone was chowing down on
homemade rum balls that she made for the crew. With
everyone’s mouths full, Careee seized the moment and
took the lead by laying out the plan of attack. She
handed out gloves and buckets and asked everyone to
spread out about three feet apart while walking from
one end to the other to gather what she called “MOOP”.
She added that if anyone ran across something they
needed help with, to just holler. As everyone started to
disperse, she shouted, “…and remember, leave no
trace—starts at the base!”
Saraw took off her t-shirt to work in her sports bra as
it was only 10:00 in the morning and already getting
close to 105 degrees. She scanned the ground for trash
while occasionally looking up to see what the other
crewmembers were busydoing. There were a few guys
running a backhoe pulling out huge bushes and leveling
off an area that she assumed would be for the icon. Then
64. Teresa X. Roberts
they dumped a shit-ton of pea gravel while a couple of
guys started spreading it around in a circlewith shovels
It was just a bit after noon when she finally noticed
that almost all of the vehicles were late model luxury
cars. I wonder where these people work, Saraw thought.
“Wow Saraw, you collected a ton of MOOP!” Careee
said as she came around with a big trashcan on a
“MOOP?” Saraw finally inquired.
“Matter Out Of Place,” Careee replied as she took
Saraw’s bucket and dumped it in the big can.
These people have their own way of living, and they have
their own language too? She wasn’t sure if she was more
freaked out or curious to learn more. She noticed a guy
walking around taking pictures of everyone in action.
He moved seamlessly around the separate crews that
were all working toward one goal. All this work to burn
something? Saraw stoppedfor a reality check to remind
herself why she was doing this and how it made any
sense at all, but somehow it did.
The photographer was wearing all black. He wore
baggy black pants, a black long sleeve shirt, and a black
baseball hat backwards over his long blonde hair that
was obviously bleached from the sun. As he came closer
to Saraw she became intrigued by his smooth gait. She
also couldn’t figure out how in the world he could be
wearing all black in this heat.
“Hi, I’m Shutter,” he said as he moved his camera
out of the way to extend his hand since she was clearly
staring at him.
“Hi, I’m Saraw,” she said, as she took off her glove to
shake his hand.“Nice to meet you.” She continued on to
provide an explanation for her obvious staring, “Hey
I’m just curious, how in the hell can you deal with this
heat wearing allblack?”
65. Torcher Town
Shutter chuckled a bit. “That’s a funny secret that not
a lot of people realize; heat doesn’t just come from the
sun, it also comes from your own body, which is just a
tad closer to you than the sun is. When your body heat
hits white clothing it actually reflects it back to your
body, which basically cooks it. Black absorbs heat from
the sun but it also absorbs energy from your body
instead of reflecting it back. With a little help from the
wind Gods to maintain airflow, black is actually your
best bet to beat the heat. Kind of ironic, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, I’d say so.” Saraw nodded and was glad she
was wearing sunglasses to hide her glazed-over eyes.
She had gotten lost somewhere around “white clothing,”
then again; maybe it was just the heat making her brain
Saraw found herself at the Phoenix once again
hanging out with Fransis and some cool new people she
hadjust met at the job site. She still couldn’t really wrap
her head around the lifestyle of these seemingly smart
and clearly financially stable people. Now that she
thought about it more, she wasn’t sure “job” site felt
appropriate. She actually enjoyed the work despite
picking up about 200 wine caps from what was no doubt
the cheapest wine that panhandled money could buy.
She only found two hypodermic needles, which amazed
her, given the warnings of what she would probably find.
Even though she couldn’t quite figure these people
out, somehow they seemed so much more real than
normal people. The more time she spent with her new
friends, the more real their lives seemed than those 9-to-
5 script-following, so called normal folks in the world.
“Well are you ready to hit it?” Fransis laid a $20 bill
on the table to cover her one drink, consumed well over
an hour ago, along with enough left over for a generous
tip. “I’ll take you back home if you’re ready.”