A Mallorn Blooms
The bar where she worked, The Pouncing Pony, was hardly more than an airless little cave, and her boss, Hank, liked to waft incense about in a largely unsuccessful attempt to cover up the unpleasant smells that gathered like foul smog in the establishment's dingy corners. Trouble was, the incense kept finding its tickly way up Adrianne's thin bony nose.
And in less time than it takes to say "she sneezed on the customer's face", she'd done just that; and the short fat man was wiping his red angry face with a napkin.
He swore at her and shouted for the manager, and Adrianne could do nothing except watch in embarrassment as she fought another sneeze.
Three times in one week she'd sneezed over customers. And it was her first week in the job! Two fat bastards and a bloody shrivelled old lady whining about "tons of snot and spit" spraying across their tables, their meals…their faces.
Adrianne sneezed again. Someone took the tray from her, and Hank rushed up behind her and pushed her out on to the street. It was raining heavily.
"Here's what you're owed." Hank stuffed twenty dollars into the pocket of her denim jacket while she stood there passively, blowing her nose and getting wet.
She walked around the corner and along the street until she came to the bus stop. Her long dark hair hung like damp rags around her face. She was utterly miserable.
Then the brown overcoat appeared.
"Could you do that again?" her asked from under his hat.
"I asked if you could do that again." The overcoat looked up into her eyes and became a short smiling man. Adrianne had seen him in the bar every night for the past week.
"But I'm being rude," he said. "My name is - "
"Ron Wilson," she said. "You're a regular in the Pony, right?"
"Well, not quite a regular. I've only been going there since Monday."
"That's when I started work!" She pushed wet hair from her face and grinned at him. "But wh…what...were...yo…" Her voice fell away as a physical urge overtook her; and her mouth quivered and opened, and her eyelids fluttered and began to close. "Eh... het-ehsheeew!... Oh, scuse me... What where you asking me to do again?"
"Exactly that. Sneeze."
She laughed. "There you are then."
"No no...Later, I meant."
"Um, I'm not sure I understand."
"What would you say if I was to offer you a job?"
"I'd probably say that I have twenty bucks left and I'll take anything."
The short man handed her a business card. "Well then, please turn up here on Monday at 10am. Okay?"
"What's this place? And what's it got to do with sne - "
"Ah." He held up a commanding hand. "Here comes my bus. See you in three days."
The vehicle's doors opened and swallowed him up.
Adrianne stared blankly at the bus for a moment, and then looked at the card.
* * *
She was still two streets from the address on the card when she looked at her watch, and it gave her that big ugly "you're late" grin. She sighed irritably and glanced at the watch again. No good. Time was still going forward, and now it was 10:15am.
Her long elegant hands rose to her face and she half stifled a wet sneeze. It was spring, and allergies were beginning to trouble her. Just her bloody luck! Of course, when you've only got twenty bucks, you can't afford both allergy medicine and enough food for three days.
Adrianne reached the address, but it seemed to be the wrong place. The building looked really old, two of its windows were walled up, and the whole dilapidated façade needed painting.
Curiosity killed the cat, she thought as she rang the doorbell. But she'd always considered herself a pretty tough kitty. Before she'd taken her finger from the button, the door opened and she was greeted by a girl who had the most dazzling grey-blue eyes that Adrianne had ever seen.
She was only just over five feet tall, but she possessed a compact charm that was concentrated in her friendly grin. "C'mon," she said in a low soft voice. "We've been waiting. We didn't want to start without you."
Her dark blonde ponytail, as sleek and rich as velvet, swung as she turned and led the way down a short corridor and through another door. The room they entered was like a Wild West saloon. The only source of light was a little lamp above the bar; and next to the bar stood two men.
One she already knew. "Adrianne. Glad you could make it," Ron Wilson said. "I see you've met Laura, and this is Freddy." He indicated the man next to him. "They'll be your co-workers - if you agree to join us."
"Mr Wilson, I don't want to seem suspicious but, well, I get the impression this isn't just an ordinary waitress job."
He smiled at the others, then at Adrianne. "Very astute. This is not an ordinary establishment. The Mallorn is to be a bar for sneezing fetishists."
"Let me explain. In the last few years, the Internet sneezing fetish community has grown quite large. I don't know exactly why, but many of them live and work in this very city."
"You've gotta be kidding."
"No he's not," said Freddy. He was around five feet seven or eight, with dark shoulder-length hair. He wore black jeans, and a brown leather jacket over a Ramones T-shirt. "There are a lot of dudes out there willing to pay for it."
"Pay for what?"
Freddy was smoking something that didn't smell like tobacco. He took a drag and exhaled slowly. "What did you do that got you fired from your last job?" From his smile, she could tell he already knew the answer.
"No way!" she said, grinning. "Wow!"
"Friday and Saturday nights, two grand a month," said Ron Wilson.
"Where do I sign?"
As if to confirm all Adrianne had just been told, Laura gasped sharply, pinched her small pretty nose and stifled a sneeze. "He-mpf!" She blushed. "Sorry. It's all that... hee... he-het-MMPFfff!…dust in here."
"Bless you, babe," Freddy said. "But could you keep it for Friday?"
* * *
On Friday night Adrianne was feeling a familiar tingle in her long bony nose. Wilson had told her and Laura to write a list of their allergies. Then, referring to this information, he had filled The Mallorn with flowers and incense…and his diligence was paying off.
Since Adrianne's last visit, just four days ago, The Mallorn had undergone major changes. The façade was now painted a sober green, the bricks had gone from the windows, and the old, blistered front door had been replaced with one of polished wood.
Two huge doormen stood on either side of the door, and the bare entrance corridor had been transformed into a carpeted foyer.
It was an hour until the Grand Opening.
The bar had also been polished, and a small stage had been built in the centre of the room. Lighted candles were everywhere, and each table was separated from its neighbour by a paper screen. This meant that the view from the tables would be limited to the stage and the bar.
Obviously, she thought, no one wants to be seen while engaged in the realisation of their most private fantasies. And she began a schoolgirl giggle that was cut short when she sneezed three times into a cupped hand.
She sniffled, wiped her nose with her hanky, and then joined Laura, who was standing at the bar and chatting with Freddy. He was now behind the counter and was wearing a white shirt and black waistcoat. Adrianne noticed two details. First, Laura was holding a tissue to her nose, and second, she was barefoot.
"What happened to your shoes?"
"The 'f' in the card, remember?" said Laura. "Some of the customers are also foot fetishists. It's a hundred bucks extra a night if you work bare - " her eyes closed for a second and she rubbed her nose furiously with her tissue, forcing a sneeze to retreat " - barefoot."
In fact, Adrianne was very proud of her small, slender feet. "They walk so well," she would tell her friends. So she went to the staff-only room and took off her black boots and white socks. Easy money.
She returned to the bar and Laura handed her a sheet of paper. "Here are some guidelines on how to treat customers." Her voice was very nasal, and immediately after she spoke she stifled two quick sneezes behind a fresh tissue.
Freddy said: "When they made their reservations, we asked them what type of, well, what kind of show they wanted." He puffed on a joint.
Adrianne took her hanky from her grey jeans and sneezed wetly. Then she joined Laura in "Nose Blowing for Two Girls in A Minor, Third Movement".
Adrianne wore a white T-shirt - short and tight - and had tied back her long hair. Laura had black jeans, ripped across her knees and thighs, a black T-shirt and a dark green jacket. Her dark blonde hair was tied in a high ponytail.
Soon the customers began to arrive.
Ron Wilson met them. All looked very wary and embarrassed, and Adrianne guessed they had paid a lot of money to be here, judging by the high ratio of waitresses to customers - only five tables were occupied, and the two girls were ready to serve them.
She saw two young yuppie guys, sitting at separate tables, a forty-ish man, and a nice fifty-something lady in a scarlet dress. She held a tissue in front of her face and was gasping in an unmistakable manner.
Before she got to her table she buried her face in the tissue and let loose four very feminine, very soft sneezes: "Heh...tet-tishoo!...tishooww!...Tet-tishh!...Ihh-ih-tet-TISHEEOOW!...Oh dear!"
She sniffed, wiped her nose and, smiling, sat at her table as Ron Wilson blessed her. He told Adrianne to serve the woman, and added in a whisper: "Remember the rules: no, um, major physical contact, except for foot caressing. Always be polite and kind, unless you are specifically asked not to be. Oh, and one more thing before you go…"
"Yes, Mr Wilson?"
The woman was sniffing the flowers arranged in a vase on her table. Though not young, she looked in good shape. She was tall and slender, with huge blue eyes and short light blonde hair. Her eyes started to close and her mouth fell open. Her nostrils flared and she began to sneeze.
"Ih-titsheeew!...Its-SHEEEeew!...Tee-SHEEE-sheew!" She sniffed loudly.
Being so close to the pollen-rich flowers, Adrianne felt her own nose begin to tickle. She held the urge in check and said: "That's a bad cold you have, uh, madam."
She had been instructed to say this, rather than draw attention to the woman's deliberately stimulated allergy.
"Yes, darling, please bring me some cognac and a box of tissues, will you?"
"Sure thing, madam."
When Adrianne returned, the woman asked her: "Would you like to smell the lovely flowers?"
It was an invitation that, under club rules, Adrianne could not refuse. She bent and inhaled, and the pollen took effect immediately.
She held her handkerchief with both hands, and over the top of it saw the customer blushing and smiling. One of the woman's hands was beneath the table, and her arm was moving rhythmically.
"Oh, God bless you, darling. It seems you've caught my cold. I'm so sorry. Please let me help you." The blonde lady took the hanky from Adrianne and wiped her nose for her. "Please sit next to me for a moment. Oh, let me warm your little feet."
She lifted Adrianne's feet and placed them in her lap. Then she began to massage the toes, the soles, the arches.
And as she caressed Adrianne's feet she sneezed: "Ih... ih-it-sheew!... Sheeeew!... Tet-SHEEW!... *sniff*... Ohh."
Adrianne wiped the woman's nose tenderly with a tissue, and then launched into her own fit of violent sneezing.
The customer wiped Adrianne's nose, and Adrianne saw that the woman's face was red and tense and that her jaw was clenched and her eyes were closed. She gasped and groaned, but she was not going to sneeze again.
For fuck's sake, she's really coming! thought Adrianne.
With a whispered thank-you and a smile, the woman returned Adrianne's hanky. The waitress went to the staff room, blew her nose, checked her notes, then headed for the next table on her list.
The forty-ish guy looked up as she approached. She was taking deep breaths, her nose responding to various allergens in the bar. And before she could get out her hanky or say anything to him - "Ha-HET-CHEEW!...CHEEEEW!" - she had sneezed into his face. But this time she would not be sacked. His expression was one of pure pleasure.
"What would you like to drink ple...eh...eh-IT-CHEEW!...please, mister?"
Adrianne could smell the booze on him, despite her inflamed nasal passages. And she knew his nose wasn't red because of allergies and that the whisky she was about to fetch for him would not be his first that night.
"It's...it's....ah... ah-et-sheeew!…on it's way, sir."
"Wait a minute, girl. I think you should stay for a while." He leered at her and reached for her arm. "Come on, sneeze over me again. What do you say? Sit on my lap and sneeze for me."
"Sorry, mister, that's not allowed."
"C'mon, baby. Don't be a bitch. C'mon, sit here."
He had grasped her wrist and was pulling her hard.
"Sir, please…I've just told you..."
His whole face was red now - with fury. "You dirty bitch!"
He put his free hand on her left breast and squeezed. Adrianne gave a yelp of fear.
In less than a second, Freddy had jumped over the bar. "Release her - now!"
The man let Adrianne go and bent his knees - crouching, prepared for violence. He may have been drunk, but he was not uncoordinated. He pulled out a knife, and swung it at Freddy's face…