Phillip Denton was walking down the street on a seemingly normal Thursday evening. He was going home after his 7 hour double shift at the local KwikFill where he worked for 3 and-a-half normal hours selling gas, cigarettes, lotto scratchers, sodas, and what-have-you=s, and listening to people complain about high gas prices. He lived in a shabby $230-a-month apartment in the 8th room on the 3rd floor. Apartment C-8 was his sanctuary so it was no wonder he was so depressed. When a mans life is so mundane, he can=t help but despair. But their was a glimmer of hope. In his hand was a ticket for another ride on the Ferris wheel of basic comforts; a pay-check. A whole $48.53 after taxes to do with what he wished and then repeat the process next week. Now, how to spend the 12 dollars and 3 cents that he didn=t put into paying his rent and buying groceries?
He usually spent half, then put half away in case of emergency. He was a simple man, he didn=t even own a car and didn=t need much other that a dreary apartment and groceries every 3 weeks. But he felt especially audacious today, audacious enough to spend a whopping $12.03 on himself. But, that was absurd! >Snap out of it Phillip!= he told himself, >Come to your senses and stop being so fiscally impaired! You=ll do as you always do, and always have done, and always will do... always...= Never had it occurred to him before that always was a very long time to be doing or to have done anything. He was 33 (34 in 2 months), single (as he had been since he was 18) even though he was charming enough and easy enough to look at, though people didn=t take time to look at him. He had styled his dark hair the same way for 23 years, wore the same unframed glasses over his light eyes for 20 years, and wore the same drab clothes from JC Pennies on his tall, lean body ever since he started shopping for himself. Was it time for change, or would change come with time? But he couldn=t help shuddering at the word >change= unless, of course, used in a specific context like, for example, exact change. When change did come, it would not come easy for Phillip Denton, and he didn=t plan on changing without a fight.
He turned into the M&T, shaking the thoughts of changing out of his head and replacing them with thoughts of exact change from the bank teller. As he slid his check across the counter top, he got a shock. There, standing in front of him on the opposite side of the counter was James Fornling, his old roommate!
AJames?@ Phillip questioned, just to be sure.
AI can=t believe this! It=s been almost 7 years!@
APhillip? Phillip Denton?@
AYeah! Who else would it be?@
AWell, Hell! How have ya= been, man?@ James reached across the counter and gave Phillip a friendly slap on the shoulder.
APretty good, you know. You seem to be doin= alright, look at you!@ He made a sweeping motion across the sleek counter
AI know, I got lucky. How >bout you? You get that hotel you always dreamed about?@
ANo, no, I work down at the KwikFill. But, hey, I see you pursued your dream job.@
After an exchange of pleasantries and invitations to go get a drink sometime, the line started to grow so they promised to keep in touch, and Phillip left his old buddy to his work. Seeing his roommate made him think back to when he ate change for breakfast, rolled with the punches like a wheel in a boxing ring, and was eager for more life. But those were different times when owning something to call your own seemed to be the only meaning in life and responsibility was just the icing on the cake to him. But look at him now; owning a hotel would be way too much, and too much frosting made him gag. Even James, who was more vivacious than he, realized that and settled for less; working in a bank and being successful was better than bitting off more than he could chew by owning a bank. Take what you can get, and be successful at it. Slow and steady, safe and easy. And besides, a hotel would be a huge leap from KwikFill.
Phillip glanced at his watch, 5:23. He was about to cross the street to his apartment building, when he heard a strange pulsating beat from behind him. He pivoted slowly, he had never heard this odd thudding before and was a little nervous to see what was causing it. Behind him was a humongous black glass building with a big, shiny metal door. Purple search lights pierced the sky from the very top of the glistening box. The noise seemed to be the heart beat of this structure, pumping life to every room and recycling old, used energy into more life. At first, he thought maybe he had died or was hallucinating or something. How did this area go from an empty plot to an amazing, grand building? He feard this place. He was absolutely dumbfounded. He tried to walk away, but something stranger than the building its self happened when he walked. Something drew him toward this odd building, the lure of the steel door was too immense to resist. He walked between the deep maroon velvet ropes, feeling the soft, bristly material as he came closer to the gleaming door in a curious, ecstatic stupor. There was a white gold U shaped knocker. He lifted it once and let it drop. It fell with grace and ease, hardly seeming to be on hinges. He lifted it again and let it drop. Once more he did this, and a slot opened in the door, revealing a pair of reflective sunglasses.
AWhaddya want?@ Growled the sunglasses as if deeply annoyed.
AI was just w...w...w...wondering what, um....@suddenly feeling foolish, he let go of the comforting velvet rope.
AI was just curious as to the nature of this building@ Phillip managed to piece together.
AName.@ the sunglasses suddenly demanded.
AUh...@ he hesitated
AYou got a name?@
AThen spit it out!@
AHold on a sec.@ there was a brief, somewhat awkward pause and then AAlright, come on in, my friend! How are you? How=s everything?@ the metal door swung wide open, revealing a bouncer who was at least twice Phillips size. ASorry about the delay, sir, but orders were to tighten security.@
Phillip gasped for air as he stood, glazed over with complete and utter amazement. The place was lit by disco balls, lasers, and black lights. On the wall to the right, there was a big silver counter with rows of purple stools; the bar. To the left there were many cushy looking purple arm chairs and sofas with silver coffee tables. The rest was a huge dance floor with floor tiles lighting up in different shades of purple according to the rave music that was pumping threw the speakers. Modern paintings and contemporary designs covered the high black walls. The decor was all very tasteful. Glitz and glamour simply oozed from the very foundation, but every last detail was shrouded with a sort of mystic secrecy that one can only feel in a half conscious state, but at the same time being all too real. It was too trippy and too nonchalant to comprehend.
AWhat is this place?@ Phillip barely whispered.
AThis is Club U.@ answered the bouncer.
AClub me?@ he asked with a start.
ANo, Club U, as in the capital letter. It=s here to please you, as in y-o-u as a person, yourself. Anything you want or need, anything at all, just ask the staff and then enjoy!@
AWait, wait, whoa. I mean, this sound... astonishing, but, this has to cost, like, a small fortune to get in! I don=t even have a quarter of within a dollar of when money is considered to be a fortune! I can=t afford to go in there!@
AYes, you can.@ shrugged the bouncer.
AOh, how much?@
AThe price is right; 0 dollars and 0 cents. You=re on the list.@
AI... wow! So I can just go in and... whatever?!@
AExactimundo. There are only 5 rules to follow here at Club U.
1: No smoking outside of designated areas (they=re marked with signs).
2: don=t over stay (or over drink) your welcome.
3: don=t hassle the staff (personal thanks for that one).
4: don=t do anything to disturb other peoples enjoyment.
5: (This ones the most important) DO NOT under ANY circumstances give ANY BODY (staff included) this pin.@
The bouncer took a purple button with a silver U on it out of his pocket and pinned it to the lapel of Phillips coat. AThat shows that you=re on the list. People do surprising things for surprising reasons to get that pin. If you decide to break 4 rules, I most strongly advise that number 5 be the one you follow.@
ABut, wait.@ Phillip looked out at the dance floor full of very chic looking people, then down at his own drab garments, AI=m not gonna fit in with all of these people!@
AYou kidding me?! You=re wearing that pin; you=re at the high point of fashion looking down on all these slobs in potato sacks! Now get out there, Phill, and don=t forget the 5 rules. You shouldn=t, they=re posted everywhere.@ Phillip was shoved out on to the crowned dance floor. He tried to feel the beat, but his skin was too thick. He decided to go get a drink, instead.
As Phillip approached the bar, people greeted him and shook his hand and patted his back as though they had known him his whole life. He figured that it must have been the button on his lapel. He sat down on one of the many purple stools at the silver counter. He was approached from behind the bar by the bouncer.
AHey! How did you get over here so fast?@
AWhat do you mean? Everyone else has a drink, where else would I be?@
AI mean, you were just at the door, weren=t you?@
AI=m the bar tender. Why would I be at the door?@
AOh. Is the bouncer your brother or something?@
ANo sir, no family left and I=m an only child, except for my baby sister, Ursula, and she owns this place. Crazy, huh?@
AOh. Yeah. Okay. So, what do drinks cost around here?@
ANothing for you, you=ve got a button.@
AOh. Alright, then. Uh, let=s see. Can I have a... how >bout just a beer?@
AOne cold one, comin= right up!@
The bar tender gave him his drink and he took a swig. He glanced over and saw a man wearing a golden tux looking at him. He gave the man an acknowledging nod and went back to his beer. The man came and sat down next to him and ordered a glass of wine. He gave a heavy sigh as he sipped his deep red wine. He had a pin identical to Phillips.
AInsane place, huh?@ he said casually. Phillip took a swig of beer and nodded. ASay, what=s your name, friend?@
APhillip. Phillip Denton.@
AHoward Porter, I=m in real-estate and career advisement.@
AYou own a rig?@
ANo, I work at a gas station.@
AI see,@ Howard laughed, A if you ever want something, you know, better, give me a call.@ he pushed a card toward Phillip and walked away. Phillip put the card in his pocket and drank.
After his beer, Phillip made his way around the dance floor. He didn=t dance, but he walked around. He noticed the bouncer near a wall and made his way over.
AHey there again.@ he said to the bouncer.
AYeah, it=s me... oh, never mind. Uh, hey, where=s the rest room?@
AStraight to the back wall, you=ll see two hall ways, take the left one.@
Phillip made his way delicately passed dancers to the back. He kept walking toward the flat black wall until he was almost touching it. He then looked to the left and right and there was, in fact, a hall way on either side of him. The flat black wall was an optical illusion. He walked down the left hall way at the back of which was a door with a stick figure man on it.
He stepped into a luxurious silver bathroom that one would find in perhaps only the most glorious of mansions. The towel man looked exactly like the bouncer and the bar tender, but he had stopped trying to figure this out. He walked over to the urinal only to see Howard there with the same purpose as he.
AWell, we meet again!@ said Howard cheerfully.
AWe certainly do.@ Phillip replied.
ASay, when you=re all finished up here, why don=t you join me and my friends in the lounge pit?@
AAlright, don=t mind if I do.@
AGreat, I=ll save you a seat!@
After washing his hands with nice warm water and sweet smelling soap, Phillip walked out and found Howard surrounded by a group of people on one of the purple sofas. He took the empty seat on Howards right and was introduced to people who=s names he would never remember. They all had pins. The conversations were strange and Phillip was uncertain on what he was talking about, but the people were all very nice. Perhaps the conversations would have made more sense if he wasn=t the only sober one in the group. After he danced with every girl Howard introduced him to, they started to talk. Phillip told Howard his old pipe dreams of owning a hotel. Howard said he loved the idea and agreed to fund Phillip just so long as he didn=t give up on his dreams, pipe or not. He drew up a hodgepodge contract and everything. Then, one of the bouncers came over and escorted Howard and his friends out of the club for >over drinking= their welcome.
Could this drunken promise mean fulfillment of his life long dream; or was it just that, a drunken promise? He decided not to worry about it until he got the call from Howard, if he ever got the call from Howard. He sat down in a chair with a >welcome to smoke here= sign above it. He pulled out a cigarette and lit up. He didn=t usually smoke, only about every blue moon, if that. He didn=t see how anybody could get addicted to something so awful. He sat there taking slow, thoughtful drags. He was close to done and preparing to take a last drag then stamp the butt when a sudden hand on his shoulder made him jolt and he looked up into his reflection in a pair of sunglasses worn by a bouncer. He ground the butt in an ash tray and looked again at the bouncer.
AYes?@ he asked cooly.
AThe boss, miss Ursula, wants to see you.@
AGood or bad?@
ANot my place to say.@ the bouncer shrugged. He waited until Phillip got to his feet, then grabbed him by his elbow and dragged him to the back wall and took a right. He punched a button and the metal elevator doors opened and Phillip was flung into the purple box. His stomach went down as he went up, and the dull music did not help his nerves. Finally, he reached the top and the doors opened.
He stepped into a black room with a white desk, white book case with many books, and two white chairs, one on either side of the desk, and a fish tank where the back wall should have been. Standing there, facing the fish tank, was a tall, thin women with bleached white hair and wearing a black pant-suit. She turned, she had a beautiful face (Phillip could see the family resemblance) and deep, dark eyes that contrasted her hair and fair skin.
AMiss Ursula?@ Phillip questioned, though it was all too obvious.
APhillip Denton?@ she asked mockingly. She had a wonderful, sing-song voice.
AWhy did you summon for me?@
AI wanted to meet you. In person. I=ve been hearing a lot about you.@
AReally? Me? I...@
She laughed, her laugh filled the room with a glorious sound. She sat down opposite him, this made him a little more comfortable.
AGood things, don=t worry.@ she put her chin in one hand and stared at him. AI can tell that you=re all those nice things I=ve heard and more.@
AWhat have you heard, if I may ask?@
ANo, you may not. I prefer to keep information given to me private, no matter who it involves or to what degree they are involved. Just one of my little quirks.@ She stood and walked around to the wall behind Phillip. AI have always wondered if there were people like you, and now I know. Thank you.@ she suddenly turned to him. ADid you enjoy my club?@
AOh! Uh, very much so, yes.@
AGood. Good. I would be crushed if you didn=t.@ she walked up to his side and looked him directly in his eyes. AI knew that people like you were out there, just waiting to be found by people like me. Waiting, and wanting...@ she leaned over and kissed him so softly that their lips barley met. The last thing Phillip remembered hearing was >closing time= then there was a rush of air and color and he was warm and his heart was swollen, then, he looked around. He was outside Club U.
He glanced at his watch. Almost 8:30. Still time. He ran to the nearest store and bought some new clothes. Clothes like he saw everybody else wearing. Exciting, hip, cool clothing. Then, he got a hair cut. No, he got his hair styled. Then, he went home and examined himself in the mirror. Something was missing. But what? What? Oh well, he could figure that out in the morning, but he=d had a big day and was exhausted. He slept that night, dreaming of clubs, and hotels, and of old friends, and new friends, and of Ursula. He woke up the next morning with the same vigor to match that which he had in collage. He showered, shaved, brushed his teeth, did his hair, put on his new clothes, then figured out the missing link. He put in his rarely used contact lenses instead of his glasses. He examined himself in the mirror. A stranger starred back. This wasn=t Phillip Denton. This was Phill.
He grabbed his pin and raced down the stairs. The club wouldn=t be open, but the pin would be safer with him. He burst out the door and was almost blown down by the sight he saw. The glossy black building, his fantastic night, the place where he was one of the beautiful people, had vanished. There was nothing. Nothing! Just side walk. He went back upstairs and laid face down on his bead, motionless. 45 minutes later he felt in is pocket. The pin was still there. He looked in his coat pocket. The contract was still there along with Howards card. He picked up the phone and dialed the number on the card, his last desperate grasp at some hope of last night being reality. Calling...ringring, ringring, ringring, ringring, ringri...
AYes, hello. Howard?@
AYes, who is... wait a minute... Phillip?@
AYeah. It=s me.@
AHey bet you=re calling >bout that contract, huh?@
AYeah, I am. Is this a bad time?@
ANo, it=s a great time, Phillip.@
AYou can call me Phill.@
AWell, Phill, stop by my office tomorrow afternoon and we=ll see what we can do with your supposed >pipe dream=. Sound good?@
AYeah. Yes. That sounds great! I=ll see you tomorrow!@
He hung up the phone. He couldn=t believe it! He was going to own a hotel! And, this meant, last night was real. So, where was the club? He needed to sort things out. Maybe a drink. A drink? He picked up the phone again and dialed another number.
AHey, James, it=s me. Phill Denton.@
AHey man, what=s happening?@
ANot to much, pretty boring. Hey what are you doing tonight?@
AUh, nothing. Why?@
AWanna grab a drink at that bar down the street from your bank?@
AYeah sure! See you tonight!@
He went to the bar that night with James and had a great time. He talked and laughed and flirted, it was as though he was back in college! Even James, who=s bed time was 3:30 in college, was worn out by the end of the night. But the next morning, Phill was up and ready to go at 8:30. He rode his bicycle down to Howards office. He went in and met eyes with Howards secretary. It was the bouncer/bar tender/ towel man from Club U. He had the same eyes as his sister. He was about to say something when Howard popped out of his office and called him in.
ASo, Phill,@ he said leaning back in his chair, Awhat is it that you want to do, exactly?@
AWell, not really anything special. Just a hotel.@ Phill paused. Inspiration just hit him. AActually, I do kind of have an idea of what I want it to look like.@
AAnd I know where we should put it. You know that empty plot across the street from that dingy apartment building?@
One year later, a bustling, tall black glass building with a metal door was bustling with people. The Denton was the most popular hotel in the city. Each room was purple and silver, but at the very top, there was one black room with white furniture. This is where Phill resided, right across from where he used to live. Right on top of that awesome club, which he never saw again. He never even found any clues. Howard said they met in a bar. The bouncer said they never met, and was suspicious as to how Phill knew his sister, who immediately fell for Phill when they met at the Denton=s grand opening.
His life was great, he had his dream job, an outstanding girlfriend (soon to be fiancee if she said yes at dinner that evening), and he was happy. Was this change, or was it fate? Was there a difference between the two? Did he care? He was happy! Change, fate, it didn=t matter, he had a great life! Club U was right where it always was. For Club U lived on within him. He was, in fact, Club U. But, how to explain the button, which he pinned on the inside of his jacket every day. It had to have been real. His life wouldn=t be complete until he met someone else who had been in that club, who knew about it, who could tell him where it was. Not until he found it again, would he be able to be completely happy, no matter how happy he was now, or would be in the future. Club U exist. But the button is a one way ticket, for a one night only show. Once you leave, you know all you need and can never, ever return. Even if you only got a sample.
>thank you for visiting Club U=