follow us:

“THE bikini contest says anyone over nineteen can enter,” Marcy points out on the hand-scrawled poster. We flash our black mascara-ed eyes across the wood bar at the beerman. He lets his Jet Ski eyes glide over every watery inch of our bodies, especially Too-tall Marcy’s, a former teen model for the Sears Mail-order Catalogue.

“We’re at the quarter finals, girls,” the beerman says, noting my paltry breasts; he looks like he could go south on us.

“But we came all the way from Calgary,” Marcy says.

We can almost see his spring-moose deliberation in the un-conditioned air above the bar as he surveys Marcy’s pretty body once again; and she lets him. Then we all glance towards the comely lake out the large window; the town’s frontyard, backyard, their every aqueous whim and playground. Despite the backwater current in the bar, the choking reek of coconut emigrating from the beerman’s shaved head that wafts through the hot, dank room.

The pristine lake out front with the blackfly smatters of motor/speed/power boats throbbing, pulsing, vibrating, an entire circling suburb of searching-for-fun houseboats atop the turquoise water. Puerile girls in string bikinis on boats, on ski ropes, on public display.

“Thank fact they are not nineteen,” Marcy whispers to me in relation to the tweeners that the beerman is monitoring closely, likely his every aqueous whim. We monitor the V-man shape of the teenaged boys playing beach volleyball that we wish were nineteen.

The stealthy way the perpetual wake sneaks up the blistering sand, cooling your toes, rhythmic-like on your sun-scorched skin, anesthetizing your every skepticism—a personal ocean, really. We look back at the bartender.

“No t-shirts, no buckets of cold water, no pig blood,” Marcy states, more than inquires.

He smiles at Marcy, for her wit, we think, but then his swimming eyes pause, distracted, and we think less wit, more the wet-daydream he’s having.

“A four-hundred dollar diamond ring?” Marcy asks.

The beerman nods, flashes his tinfoil teeth at us.

The scene we envision: Us in our swimsuits on stage, tittering and laughing with the town girls while the judges look us over, then make their (no-doubt) quantified decision. Although the town girls may not laugh and titter when they find out the beerman let us tourist girls in at this late quarter-stage final. Nonetheless.

He pours a couple Bushwacker Browns. Sets up whisky boiler shots that Marcy knocks back, the cagey diamond player she is. Strong black smell from the brown water beer, I’m afraid of contracting Giardia like dogs. I sip on the whisky as disinfectant.

“So you mean we just stand in a line in our bathing suits with the other girls?” I ask.

“Something like that.” The beerman snorts.

“I could do that in my sleep,” Marcy says to me under her boozy breath.

“Wish you would, honey,” says the beerman.

Marcy, unfazed, allows the corner of her pink mouth into a half-smirk. He looks at Marcy again, his loitering eyes, her well-proportioned breasts.

He lifts his chin at her, and me by default, motions with his unsheathed, lubricated head, tells us to go on down, get ready, tourist girls.

• • •

The quarterfinal girls are smoking cigarettes in the cement cellar next to the wood pallets stacked with the Bushwacker Browns, Station House Blondes and Talking Dog Wit from the local beer brewery in Salmon Arm. Too-tall Marcy has to duck under the low ceiling. The girls give us a once-over, searingly so, but we know they don’t want to sleep with us, they only want to slot us in like that poker game, Higher or Lower? Lower, me, they decide after checking out my hundred-pound, meekly breasted body (is that muscle beneath her biceps, are those developed triceps?). They linger over Marcy’s body, such the Sears Teen package she is; the heavy look on the town girls’ faces says Higher.

Notwithstanding, the Hacky Sack thrasher girls are stiff competition. They are loose, agile, tanned in every orifice, definitely a lively playing field. Only the girl in the London Fog overcoat with the matching fedora and high heels will speak to us after the town girls turn away.

“You a body-builder?” she asks me.

“Amateur,” I say.

“You girls have nice bodies,” she says, not unkindly, sizing up Marcy.

She pulls her ivory belt tighter around her lean waist, no municipal sludge on her, either.

“What’s with the coat?” Marcy asks.

“Like a private investigator,” the girl tells us.

Marcy rolls her eyes at me.

“Like an act?” I ask.

“I want that diamond ring,” the girl says, goes back across the low-lit room in her high heels.

Marcy lights a cigarette, we sit on a narrow bench. The soundman comes down later and asks us if we’ve chosen our music. The town girls titter and laugh, share a joint with the soundman, not us.

• • •

We’re lined up on the small stage behind a black curtain that the spotlight shines through the cigarette burn holes, which, if more evenly placed might seem mystical, transcendent even. But the burns are arbitrary, an impulsive randomness that makes me think more West Coast Seed(y) than Eastern Enchantment; that in combination with the hooting, hollering, boisterous sea of drunk males demanding the show begin.

The beerman/Master-of-Ceremonies, holding back the curtains, Parting the waters, he announces as he inspects the line-up of town and tourist girls (us) while we wait backstage for the soundman to cue up the music. The beerman’s Let’s cut it up, girls introduction that makes the crowd of intoxicated males roar, the town girls laugh, Marcy smirks, my exposed skin ripples.

Then the Red Hot Chili Peppers Give it away, give it away now from six-foot Sonic speakers. The yellow blare of the naked spotlight, the town girls parade out one-by-one, bikini-clad, alone on the stage amid the wolf whistles and ya babies (!) and rutting grunts. When the girls come off stage, their half-mast eyes are shiny, faces aroused, limbs sweaty.

Ahead of me, London Fog girl adjusts her fedora, fidgets with her belt. The cheers, the whistles, the applause determining the Higher or Lower rating from one girl to the next is an unrestrained wave of white water noise. We can’t discern one from the other.

London Fog goes out. We catch glimpses of her through the burn holes. How she twirls her belt, coyly adjusts the slant of her fedora, winningly looks out over the ocean of stirred males as if in search of a partner, or better yet, multiples. Then the bass drops into dubstep, heavy, rhythmic, we feel the pulse in our own groins—it’s London Fog no more, nothing but her tanned, brazen skin, thonged bikini. She can do the splits. Her hips-don’t-lie gyrating to a skanky beat we’re not familiar with. She gets a standing ‘Oh’ and thunderous applause that we’re pretty sure means High Higher Highest.

“Gonna have to step up our game,” Marcy breathes into my ear.

“From the city of Calgary, a professional body-builder,” the beerman bellows.

Amateur, I want to say. Then the slow, sultry intro of David Bowie’s Putting Out The Fire. I walk barefoot out onto the plywood stage in my leopard-skin bikini. The yellow spotlight assaults my eyes, renders me blind, the narrow runway that leads, horrifyingly it seems, into the gesturing arms and fingers and tongues of the lake-drenched males, the V-man teenaged boys (questionably nineteen) pressed up against the stage. The yeasty stench of Bushwacker and Talking Dog sans Marcy’s Wit, the fermented guy-heat in the pulsing, darkened room.

I can hardly stand the mandatory six seconds at the end of the stage. Every guy’s eyes on my amateur body—their every aqueous dream and skin playground. The trucker with the ponytail beard that wants to do me, the shooter group at the bar mock-thrusting their pelvises in time to Bowie’s chorus putting out the fire with gas-o-liiiiiine.

My boiler-shot stomach roils. I sprint back upstage, which prompts an encore mantra from the teenaged boys, and I’m forced to walk the wood plank once more.

Regardless, the rowdy applause (high, though not London Fog high) from the non-discerning males, my backstage humiliation.

“Well, you sucked,” Marcy says to me, her turquoise eyes flashing.

And suddenly I’m torn between my own shame, London Fog and Marcy In The Sky With Diamonds. Tangerine trees, marmalade skies, the girl with kaleidoscope eyes. Marcy bursts through the curtains, shifts her Sears Catalogue shoulders back in her black rayon bikini, skillfully thrusts out her stunning breasts—an audible gasp from the Ever-Ready males. John Lennon in the air, psychedelic Lucy in the sky, Marcy struts the length of the plywood runway like she’s in Milan and not some slant-water, backside lake bar. Her shoulder-length red hair, the long, cool drink of her Too-tall body, the swing of her professional teen hips, her parting-waters, her pink, bursting lips. Giving it away on her own terms, which is what I adore about Marcy. The guys go wild chanting her name, like a moving, pulsing, ceaseless wake in the wet air. And secretly, beneath the West Coast Seed, the Eastern Disenchantment, the skanky beat I now know, I chant along with them Marcy Marcy Marcy.


Lee Kvern is an award-winning author of short stories and novels. Her novel Afterall was selected for 2013 Canada Reads. The Matter of Sylvie was nominated for the Alberta Book Awards and the Relit Awards. Her short stories are also well celebrated: she is a National winner of the CBC Literary Award, and has been nominated and/or a finalists for the Howard 'O' Hagan Award, Malahat Open Season, and Lush Triumphant Literary Award, among others. Her work has been produced for CBC Radio, published in Event, Descant, Air Canada enRoute, SubTerrain, Joyland, and Found Press. Her latest is the short story collection, 7 WAYS FROM SUNDAY (2014, Enfield & Wizenty).

MORE: Twitter | Website

LF #028 © Lee Kvern. Published by Little Fiction | Big Truths, October 2012.


download | SHARE:TouristGirls_files/Tourist%20Girls.epubshapeimage_8_link_0
tourist girls

by lee kvern