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Just a Kiss Away: A Tale of Headless Strippers and The Rolling Stones

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My story, "Just a Kiss Away" was released last week in the anthology Broken Mirrors Fractured Minds, available for a limited time at just $.99. This is an excerpt from the story dealing with a horrifying legend surrounding the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter."

Tomas Reynolds has just been spellbound by a stripper named Dolly, born with a rare genetic disorder that left her fully functional as a person, just completely headless.

That night, Tomas stayed till close, and knocked on Wade's door. The manager had obviously just finished a line of cocaine, and was trying to play something on a guitar instead of counting the night's earnings. It took Tomas several seconds to realize that if the instrument had been in tune that tune would have been "Gimme Shelter."

"Give me that," he said taking it out of Wade's hands. "Fucking singers, never learn to tune." With that he took out his smartphone and began turning knobs until his tuning app told him he had achieved the E God had intended.

"That new girl is something else, huh," said Wade. "Man, I've got to tell you. I had some doubts about it, but I didn't want to be, you know, racist or anything. I let her audition and I swear I almost poked myself in the eye with my own boner. Dolly... Dolly, Dolly, Dolly. That girl's got a body you could peel potatoes with!"

"She's... different," said Tomas, finishing the tuning. He started to play "Gimme Shelter," but decided instead that "Beast of Burden" might be safer. Wade started counting the money, his nerves soothed by the soft music.

"What did you think?" he asked. "The girls all like you. You've got a good eye. Do you think she'll work?"

"She's gorgeous, and the headless thing didn't seem to bother anyone. Most of the guys that come in here don't see the girls as anything but life-support for tits and ass anyway. I'm not sure if they even noticed she didn't have a head unless they were maybe using it to imagine a blow job. I think she'll do just fine."

"Yeah, 100, 200, 300, 400, I think she will, too, 700, 800, 900," replied Wade, counting. "There's one thing that bothers me, though."


"That song," said Wade.

"It's the Stones," Tomas. "They play the Stones in every strip club in America. Hell, probably every strip club in the world."

"Oh, sure, sure," said Wade. "But they play 'Brown Sugar' and 'Jumping Jack Flash' and shit like that. You get a goth girl every once in a while that wants to try out 'Sympathy for the Devil' but 'Shelter' is just fucking eerie, Tom. It's about an ever-present and skull-fucking death. You know the legend?"

"No," smiled Tomas. Wade never made much of a musician, but he was a walking encyclopedia of bizarre pop-rock knowledge. Just because he snorted cocaine through rolled-up magazine pages didn't mean that was all he got from them.

"Alright, let me lay it down for you," he began. "It's the late sixties, and all around you are war and death and protest, but mostly the first two because it takes a whole fucking lot of evil to make self-righteous entitled college kids get the hell out of bed to march. There's like, I don't know, Shiva hanging overhead waiting to clear the path for Brahman to create anew. It was like Y2K except theirs didn't suck."

I'm paraphrasing, but that's how Keith said it in an interview. Just the violent state of the world coming through in an apocalypse soundtrack he and Mick were working on. Now, Jimmy Miller is producing Let it Bleed for the Stones, and he here's this track. Miller gets the idea that they need to get a girl to back up Jagger on the song, and you've got to admit it's that fucking waiiiiiiiiiiiil of hers that makes it. It's pretty much the definitive contribution by a female artist to the Stones catalog.

That girl was Merry Clayton, just some singer you've heard in the backing tracks of a thousand songs that Miller liked. Well, she comes into the studio and her and Jagger just fucking dance, Tom. They skip to my lou all over that motherfucker."

"That's the legend?" said Tom smiling.

"No, that's Wikipedia. This is the legend. Listen to that song again, and pay very close attention around the three-minute mark. You can hear Clayton's voice break from the strain. It just shatters from the power of Sister Clayton's notes, and Jagger makes a little, 'Whoah' sound because he's obviously impressed. It's number four of the top five incidental moments in classic-rock history.

But later... well, Clayton was pregnant at the time she was hitting those incredible notes. Right after this performance that has gone down as one of the greatest in recording history she suffered a miscarriage brought on by the singing. She lost her baby making that song like some kind of evil omen. I don't like it."

Tomas was silent for a minute wondering if it was true. Wade was well-read, but his interpretation of things could be skewed.

"Know what the worst part of that story is?" asked Wade.

"You've got something to top 'dead baby?'" said Tomas.

"Yep," smirked his friend. "All that, and when Let it Bleed came out they misspelled her fucking name. She aborted human life for that record, and they couldn't even get her name right. That's why I don't like that song, and don't necessarily like the girl who insists on it to dancing to it to the exclusion of all else."

"Just a Kiss Away" is available in Broken Mirrors Fractured Minds along with 25 other stories by Carmilla Voiez, Nelson Mongiovi, Danielle Farman, J.T. Lewis, and more at $.99 for a limited time. The real-life Merry Clayton is also featured in the film 20 Feet From Stardom, now playing at the Landmark River Oaks Theatre, 2009 W. Gray


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