The Burgeoning Heart of Bambi Bazooms
by Matthew Wade
Following her fiftieth birthday, Cartoon striptease artist Bambi Bazooms decides to shake off her midlife funk and see what life has to offer outside of her pleasant but quaint neighborhood of McCayville (in Chicago, Illinois). On the first Human Night of August 1993, she meets a handsome options trader named Steve Warner (no relation), and is immediately enamored. What follows is a whirlwind romance, as well as an exciting new career as a legal secretary, courtesy of Steve’s friend Reggie Morton. However, as she further entangles herself in human affairs, will she alienate herself from her sister, Fanny Firecracker, her friend Cinnamon Bunns, and the rest of her Cartoon family? Start reading to find out! (To make matters even worse, humans and Cartoons mutually distrust each other, all because of a violent incident that happened many decades ago.)
I watch Fanny from the left side of the stage at the Sly Fox Theatre, and I’m grinning from ear to ear as she dances for her adoring crowd. When she rocks her chest back and forth, the pigs squeal with delight (and they squeal even louder when she whips off her beaded ruby top to reveal her sparkly pasties). The wolves howl their approval as she gyrates her belly while running her fingers through her long red hair. And the owls hoot with anticipation as she twitches her hips to the rhythm of music—Wynonie Harris’ “I Want My Fanny Brown”. Of course, Fanny’s last name isn’t Brown. It’s Firecracker, because that’s just what she is. And what are all these animals anticipating? The big finish, naturally. As the song nears its end, Fanny turns around and starts shaking her moneymaker, faster and faster as the music grows louder. Then, when Wynonie belts out his last lyrics, she unhooks her beaded skirt and tosses it aside to reveal her famed booty in all its glory. Clad only in a thong, Fanny quickly shakes it from side to side along with the closing notes. I’ve seen that act thousands of times, but it never grows old. Not so coincidentally, I suppose, neither do I.
That’s because I’m a Cartoon, nothing but ink and paint. So is the rest of the audience, as well as everyone else in McCayville. While we may not be flesh and blood like the humans, we still feel, and most of what we feel is joy. After all, there’s not much cause for sadness in this little neighborhood within the Windy City, because life is pretty predictable. Get up, go to work, run errands, go home. Maybe knock back a few drinks at the Wet Whistle Saloon on the way back, or catch a show here at the Sly Fox. But then it’s time to relax with the spouse and kids, if you have them. Of course, I don’t, looking how I look and doing what I do. I sometimes imagine what that would be like, though, and how happy I could be.
But I digress. I’m up next, dancing to “Snatch And Grab It” by Julia Lee. As the horns start up, I slowly stride onto the stage in my powder blue robe and slippers. But as Ms. Lee starts singing, I step back and forth, shaking my own booty to the knocks. Most of my own dancing is stepping, to and fro or side to side. I don’t have the moves that Fanny does. Still, I have what the crowd wants, what they paid to see. I gladly shimmy my hips and chest to the trumpets, and teasingly extend my leg to the crowd during the chorus. Oh, they can try to snatch and grab it, but Vic will never allow it to happen. No touching—that’s the rule. Try it, and you’re out on your keister. But they can look all they want, and look they do. Especially as the piano kicks in, and I start bouncing around the stage. My long blonde hair bounces, and so do the big ol’ boobs that give me my name. Bazooms they call them, though I’ve never learned why.
“Work ‘em, Bambi!” one of the wolves shouts from way in the back.
Yes, that’s me. Bambi Bazooms, the most famous stripper of them all.
My baby blues go wide and my pink lips pucker into a little “O” as I flick off my slippers and kick up my heels. As Ms. Lee starts to sing again, I grab the belt of my robe, pull it off, and shrug off the robe itself. Now I’m only wearing a bra and slip, and that bra looks like it can barely hold my straining chest. So, I quickly reach back, unhook it, and fling it away. And as Ms. Lee sings her final lyrics, my bazooms bounce up and down, and my blue tassels twirl clockwise, then counter-clockwise. It’s a neat trick, and the crowd claps and cheers. The final, tweeting notes play, so I unclasp my slip and drop it to the stage’s wooden floor to reveal my sparkly blue thong. With a bow, I thank the crowd for its hospitality and strut through the dark red curtain behind me.
“Great show, sis,” Fanny drawls in a Georgia accent, as I arrive in the makeup room. Her green eyes apprise me with a warm gaze as she stands there in her scarlet robe.
“Thanks, Fanny,” I say, glad that she was watching. “You, too.”
“Well, I guess I’m up next!” chirps a girlish voice with a subtle Tennessee twang. “Wish me luck!”
We watch as her reddish-brown bob and black cocktail dress pass us on her way to the curtain.
“Break a leg,” Fanny says cheerfully. Then, once the girl is out of earshot, she adds, “Hmph. If only.”
Once Fanny has turned her eyes back toward me, I frown at her with disapproval. “Why do you always have to be so mean to Cinnamon? We should all be in this together.”
“Sorry, I can’t help it,” she says apologetically, though not with deep regret. “She’s just too … perky. Her personality, her knockers, and especially that tight little tush of hers. Dang it all, why did Irv have to draw her so young and perfect?”
“I don’t know,” I reply, with what I hope is a concerned look. “Unfortunately, we can’t ask him, seeing how he’s long since passed away. But if I had to guess, I’d say it was the culture. Teens were popular back in the early 1950s, remember?”
Narrowing her eyes at me, Fanny reluctantly admits, “Yeah, I remember. What with their fancy convertibles, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and sock hops. Ugh, it’s enough to drive a girl to drink. In fact, I don’t mind if I do.”
With that, she walks over to a nearby makeup table—its mirror all lit up with bright lightbulbs that surround the frame—and grabs bottles of gin and tonic. Pouring herself a short glass, she turns around and asks me, “Want one?”
“No thanks,” I say, wrapping myself in a robe that’s powder blue.
Behind me, I hear Amos Milburn’s rendition of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” playing to the unseen crowd. Curious, I peek through the curtain to see how Cinnamon is doing. Stripped down to black pasties and thong, she’s turned to one side, shaking her butt at her many admirers. With one hand behind her head, she gives them all a wink, then blows them a kiss with the other. Watching that, I can see why Fanny is so jealous. All she needs are her looks and that “tight little tush”, and the other Cartoons are like putty in her hands. It’s that booty that inspired her name, after all. Cinnamon Bunns. It kind of rolls off the tongue … so to speak.
“How’s she look up there?” Fanny asks me with mild interest, then knocks back a swig of her drink.
“The usual,” I regretfully admit, then drop the curtain and look back to her. “You know, I wish she’d take her job more seriously. She could really be something.”
“So you’re on her side?” she accuses, setting down her glass before turning on me with a pout.
“I’m not on anyone’s ‘side’,” I reply, hurt by my ink sister’s sense of betrayal. “I just want us all to do our best. We’re supposed to be a family, right? Besides, it’s good for business.”
“Some family,” Fanny huffs, miffed by my support of my co-worker. “We don’t even share the same Artists.”
“No, we don’t,” I reluctantly agree, not happy with her feelings of jealousy toward Cinnamon. “But we have a lot more in common than Cartoons who do. Just be nice to her, that’s all I’m asking. Please.”
I stare at her pointedly, and her frown slowly becomes a reassuring smirk. “Okay, I’ll give the kid a chance. Who knows? We might actually end up getting along.”
Fanny chuckles to herself at that last remark, as if she doesn’t believe the possibility. I hope that time proves otherwise. I really do. However, she’s right about us not sharing the same Artists. Stanley Ehrenbaum created me and Fanny (in 1943 and 1941, respectively), and Irv Halberstam created Cinnamon (about a decade later, in 1952). Not that it matters very much, since neither man stuck around very long after creating us. For most of our lives, we’ve been on our own.
Just then, Cinnamon comes bounding back through the curtain, her performance having ended with much applause.
“Wow, that’s some crowd tonight!” she happily exclaims, her brown eyes wide with exhilaration. “If we keep packin’ ‘em in like that, we could see a little extra moolah in our futures. Know what I’m saying?”
Cinnamon gives Fanny a little wink and a nudge, but my sister merely flashes her a tepid smile.
“C’mon, lighten up!” Cinnamon persists, grinning widely. “This is the best job in the world! All we have to do is dance and take of our clothes, and the other Cartoons love us for it. What could be better?”
“Yeah, about that …”
But before Fanny can critique her performance style, we all hear a slow clapping coming up the hallway to the dressing room, just to the left of the makeup tables.
“Excellent as always, ladies,” a smug baritone says from the darkness, though we can see his silhouette quickly approaching. “You really do make me proud to be your manager.”
And then he’s standing in the doorway, his long bushy tail merrily swishing behind him. Victor Vulpine, our boss and the titular owner of the Sly Fox Theatre. Per usual, he’s dressed in his evening best—a three-piece green suit with a sparkly silver necktie. Of course, he has to make just as much of an impression as we do, seeing as he owns the place. But there’s just an air about him, like he’s on top of the world, untouchable. That overconfident grin of his just makes it all the more clear.
Suddenly he’s right beside me, with one arm wrapped around my waist. “Especially you, my dear. Our patrons just can’t seem to get enough of you. And neither can I.”
His paw gently squeezes me as I stand frozen in shock. Vic’s shown me physical affection before, but never in front of the other dancers. He’s also never been this forward before … or lustful. I don’t know what to say or do, so I remain quiet.
“Keep up the good work,” he whispers close to my ear, so close I can feel his hot breath against my face. Then, with a couple of soft pats on my rear end, he releases me and waves us all goodbye. “The rest of you as well, of course. And remember, aside from being the big day, tomorrow night is Human Night. So you must perform your absolute best, and you must be in tip-top shape. Sleep well, and ta-ta for now.”
With a humble smile and bow, Vic steps backward through the doorway, then turns and walks back up the hall. As soon as he’s gone, I relax my tight shoulders and let out a deep, long breath.
“Geez, what a scumbag,” Fanny says in disbelief, then takes another swig of her gin and tonic. “You shouldn’t put up with that shit, Bambi.”
“I know,” I softly reply, still in a daze from what had just happened.
Cinnamon simply looks confused as she muses, “Okay, so he’s a bit of a creep. At least he doesn’t abuse us, and he pays us well.”
“Ha!” Fanny suddenly exclaims. “That’s a laugh. We’re not exactly living high on the hog, here. Unless that hog is high in the sky, infested with fleas, and shaped like a cramped apartment.”
“You just have to manage your money,” Cinnamon sniffs, offended by Fanny’s rebuttal. “For example, I’m saving up for a big trip to Los Angeles. Ahhh, sunshine and movie stars. I can almost see it now.”
“Keep dreaming, honey,” Fanny retorts with a bemused smile. “It’ll take forever to save up that much dough.”
“Well, then, it’s a good thing we’ve got forever, isn’t it?”
Cinnamon gazes at Fanny with a satisfied grin on her cute little face, and my sister can only roll her eyes and sigh in defeat. “There is that. In that case, send me a postcard when you get out there. And be sure to take plenty of pictures.”
“Aye-aye, captain!” Cinnamon replies, giving her a mock salute.
Fanny chuckles softly at her buffoonery, then turns to me and asks, “Wanna hit the lanes? It’s quitting time, but it’s still early.”
I shrug and reply, “I don’t know. I’m not very good … “
“So what? Neither am I. But I think we all need to unwind a little. And there’s no harm in celebrating early, is there?”
“Okay, but no promises,” I say more brightly, and Cinnamon cheerfully claps her hands.
“Wait till you see me roll,” she says excitedly. “I’ve been practicing nearly every day.”
Fanny looks at her with annoyance, and asks, “And who invited … ?”
I clear my throat and shoot her another pointed look.
“All right, but don’t steal the spotlight,” she says reluctantly. “This is for Bambi. And throw on some clothes, will ya? It’s unladylike to stand around like that.”
Cinnamon merely looks down, shrugs and grabs her flannel shirt off a chair by one of the makeup tables. Fanny and I throw off our robes and put on our dresses and shoes, then we all head out the back door.
* * *
Alley Cat Lanes is only a few blocks away on Avers Avenue, near Leland, so we walk. As we head up the street, I shoot a quick look back at the Sly Fox. It doesn’t look like much on the outside—boxy, made of yellow and white brick, with white mouldings and arches around the windows. But the marquee above the doors tells you all you need to know. And like with a Cartoon, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
After we go inside the bowling alley, we grab our balls and shoes, then settle down at Lane 5. Cinnamon is up first, and of course she bowls a strike.
“YEE-HA!” she shouts with a country twang, jumping into the air and throwing up her arms as all the pins clatter and fall to the hardwood.
“Didn’t I tell you … ?”
“Oh, hush,” I say, interrupting Fanny’s admonishment as Cinnamon shakes her denim-clad butt in celebration. “Let her have some fun. It won’t ruin mine, I promise.”
“If you say so,” Fanny replies with a huff, then rises from her seat, smooths down her russet swing dress, picks up her ball, and takes her position behind the foul line.
In a series of fluid motions, she strides toward the line, brings her arm back, and then gently lays the ball on the lane. It misses its mark a bit, leaving a few pins just left of center. But she knocks those down on her second throw, giving her a spare.
Now it’s my turn. I gulp before getting up to smooth down my periwinkle A-line dress, then walk over to the ball return and pick up a ten-pounder. I slowly take up my spot behind the foul line, then inhale a deep, nervous breath and let it out. I know this won’t be pretty, but I just have to suck it up.
“Here goes,” I say softly to myself as I bring back my arm while beginning my stride to the line.
But it all goes horribly wrong. As I pick up speed, my big bazooms bounce on my chest, slowing me almost to a halt. I lose momentum as well as balance, and lean over too far as my throwing arm flings the ball onto the middle of the lane. It lands with a thud, then slowly rolls toward the right gutter. Thankfully, I’m lucky. I manage to pick up two pins before it clunks out of play.
Discouraged, I hang my head as I shuffle back to my seat. As soon as I plop down, Fanny places her hand on my shoulder and gives it a little squeeze.
“Don’t feel bad,” she tells me comfortingly. “Maybe you’re just not cut out for this sport. Tell you what, though, you could bowl the rest of the game from a standing position. Underhand, if you really have to.”
I shake my head, unsure if that’s what I should really do. “No, that would just make me feel silly. I don’t want anyone to pity me because I can’t play properly.”
“Hey, if it works, it’s proper in my book,” Fanny assures me. “If anyone teases your form, I’ll just tell them to shove off.”
So, I bowl the rest of the game from a standing position (but not underhand, because it’s not ladylike to stick my butt in the air like that). Bad form or not, I end up with a 45, which is much better than I had expected. Afterward, the three of us walk over to the refreshment counter and order malts—a vanilla for me, a strawberry for Fanny, and a chocolate for Cinnamon. It’s nice for a while, but then, out of the corner of my eye, I see a familiar figure sit down a couple seats to my left.
“I couldn’t help but notice your form out there,” the young man says in a nasally, Jersey accent, and I can sense him ogling every inch of my body.
“I’ll bet you couldn’t, Eddie,” I say disapprovingly, not even bothering to look at the greaseball. Really, he puts so much pomade in his hair, it’s a wonder it doesn’t catch fire when he smokes those stupid cigarettes of his.
“Not that form”, he oh-so-helpfully clarifies, so I obligingly turn to look at his goofy, freckly face. Eddie Dobbs is dressed in a silly tweed jacket and shorts, with a plaid bow-tie that he probably thinks looks cool. “That’s an Artist-given gift. I’m talkin’ about the way you bowl. I can give you a few pointers. All I need from you is a few minutes of your time, and you’ll be a pro in no … time … flat.”
“No thanks,” I tell him, politely but aloofly. “I think I can bowl just fine without your help.”
“Really?” he asks in surprise. “Seems like such a waste. Especially with your … obvious talents.”
“Didn’t you hear the lady, Ed-win?!” Cinnamon suddenly exclaims, turning on the pestering little twerp. “She said ‘No’! Now amscray before I have to pound some sense into ya.”
As she stares him down, Cinnamon pulls up her sleeve and threateningly flexes her bicep. Per usual, it bulges and pulses at twice the size it should (then again, she is a Cartoon).
“Okay, okay,” Eddie relents, finally getting up from the stool next to us. “You don’t gotta tell me twice. Geez, you gals ain’t nevah gonna get hitched with those attitudes. Just don’t come crying to me when you end up as shriveled old maids.”
“Like you’d ever be our first choice,” Fanny scoffs.
“Hey, I’ll have you know I’ve got ladies lining up for blocks just to go out with me,” he protests, turning up his nose at us and straightening his bow-tie. “But since you’re not interested, I’ll bid you a fond arrivederci.”
With a flourishing bow, he turns on his heels and walks away. Despite myself, I actually wait until he’s out the side door before looking back at my friends.
“Don’t let Eddie get to you, Bambi,” Fanny advises, flashing me a supportive smile. “You can do much better than him.”
“I know,” I say blithely. “After all, do I look like an old maid to you?”
“Not at all,” she says with a smirk. “If I had to wager, I’d say you’re not a day over twenty-five.”
“And of course you’d be right.”
We all laugh knowingly at that joke. After all, I do appear to be that age, because that’s how Stanley drew me. Just like Fanny looks about thirty, and Cinnamon looks eighteen. We’ll always look young. How I feel … well, that’s a different story. You see, tomorrow I’ll turn fifty. That’s not old, but I’ve still been around the block a few times.
While looking out the window in the door through which Eddie just left, I notice that the sun has just set beneath the horizon, and a brilliant orange tinges the growing purple sky. How appropriate. As if I need another reminder of how quickly time passes. Fanny follows my gaze and pushes herself away from the counter.
“Guess it’s time to go home,” she says with equal parts disappointment and content. “See you tomorrow night, Cinnamon.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” the girl chirps, then hugs each of us in turn. With a hop and a skip, she’s out the front door, whistling all the way.
“Listen,” Fanny says nervously, “I know you’re not exactly thrilled about the big party tomorrow, but try to have fun, okay?”
“I’ll be fine,” I assure her. “I mean, what’s another year to someone who will live forever?”
My sister smiles with relief, then wraps me in a light embrace and stands up. I do the same, and we walk out into the evening.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved reading. I participated in advanced reading groups as a child, and often read above my grade level. As a pre-teen, I gravitated toward science fiction and fantasy, and never looked back. My love of the fantastical inspired me to write my own short stories, which were often simple and crude (in terms of quality, not subject matter, though sometimes that, too). I didn’t have too many friends when I was younger, so books kept me company. However, my teachers always praised and encouraged my writing, and I was happy they did.
Today, I’ve found some friends who share my love of reading (and often the same genres and titles). I’ve also taken my writing much more seriously, In addition to my novels, I’ve enjoyed writing movie reviews for a Facebook group called Adventures in Videoland, as well as book reviews here on Goodreads. When I’m not reading, writing or watching movies, I enjoy attending Purdue sporting events, going to local cultural and food festivals, and visiting friends and family around the country. I hope that I can one day count some of you among my friends, and hope you enjoy reading my books!
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