10 Aug Chapter 19: Strip
I’m sitting at a round banquet table in the monstrously tacky hotel ballroom. Laik is sitting next to me, along with hundreds of other dressed-up people at tables like ours. I didn’t really want to go to this evening’s scheduled conference entertainment but he guilted me into it. Plus it’ll get my mind off of yesterday’s boating debacle.
Laik was shocked when I told him about the whole misadventure—it turns out his project here was just talking to a local source about mob activity in the area, not breaking up a full-on child trafficking ring or whatever it was. He asked if I wanted to go back home—his concern for how I’m doing is touching but I told him I’m perfectly fine (which is mostly true).
Up on stage a very silly skit which seemed to go on forever finally ends. “Now ladies and gentlemen, let’s play everyone’s favorite game, Painful Decision!” announces the MC, whose obvious toupee is lifting up at the corner. “Come on up, contestants!” The audience applauds.
Several people leave their tables and walk up on stage. One guy with thinning hair clearly was signed up for this by his coworkers and doesn’t want to go—he has to be pushed up there. The MC asks everyone to introduce themselves and then turns to the audience. “All right folks, this is how the game is played. Each contestant has ten seconds to make a decision. If they can’t decide before the music runs out, they get a swat on the rear from the council president!” A distinguished looking man at the frontmost table walks up on stage holding a wooden paddle. He raises it above his head, riling up the audience. “Successful contestants win a donation to the charity of their choice.”
“Okay, contestant number one, get in position.” The council president with the paddle walks over to the left-most victim: middle-aged man who bends over as requested. “You mistakenly make plans for your mother and mother-in-law to come over for dinner tonight. They hate each other. What do you do?”
A musical jingle starts playing. The contestant puts his hands on his head. “Um, I, I would, uh, I would tell her, no I mean the other one, no I would, wait…” The jingle reaches its end as the president hits the poor guy with the paddle. The losing contestant hops up and down while rubbing his butt. The president pats him on the shoulder and moves on to the next victim, a woman in her thirties.
“Next contestant please. You discover your spouse in bed with the service helper. What do you do?”
The second contestant wrings her hands together while she thinks. “I know this, I know this, I would, yes I know this, I would… I would join them!” The music ends early and she pumps her fists in the air; the crowd cheers. The president kisses her on the cheek and moves on.
“Well done. Now on to our third contestant.” The guy with thinning hair who didn’t want to play points a finger at himself and mouths “Me?” The company president playfully grabs him by the back of the neck and bends him over.
“You’re on the toilet. You’ve just taken a crap you and notice there’s no toilet paper. What do you do?”
The contestant stands up straight to think and the president has to bend him over again. “This is easy, I’ve got this one, toilet paper, out of toilet paper… wait… oh this is hard.” The music runs out and the paddle swings down. He howls and does a little dance on toe tips.
I look over at Laik—he’s really enjoying this. The last two contestants save themselves from the paddle and then the MC announces the next game.
“Wasn’t that fun? Okay, next up is Strip Step. Volunteers please come to the stage and partner up!” Around a dozen people head up the stage steps, some already connecting with who they want as their partner. “Oh no, this lovely lady has no partner. We need one more volunteer.”
I grab Laik’s arm and hold it up. He tries to pull his arm down but before he can the MC points at him. “You sir, don’t be shy, come on up.” Laik kicks me under the table before he gets out of his chair.
“Here’s how it’s played: everyone form a line along the stage, facing your partners. When I say step, you have to step to the right or left. If you don’t mirror your partner or if you can’t decide which way to step, you must remove one item of clothing. If you’re down to your last item and you fail the following round, you’re out! Judges, please make your way to the front.” The players hurriedly line up.
A man who looks like someone’s grandpa points at Laik. “Wait a second, this one’s a youngster. He has an unfair advantage.”
“Not to worry, not to worry, we have a solution for that.” The MC rushes over to the side of the stage and picks up a blindfold. He puts it on Laik.
“Okay ladies and gentlemen, get ready, STEP!” Chaos reigns as partners step the wrong way, or step on the next person’s toes, or don’t step at all. The judges tap those who have to remove something. This goes on for multiple rounds, as piles of clothing fill the stage. One woman removes her bra to stay in the game. A man strips down to thong underwear clearly chosen for the occasion before being tapped out.
Blindfolded Laik and his partner are doing really well—he and she still have their slacks on. Finally it’s down to two pairs: Laik and his partner and another male/female duo. The man is down to his white briefs, Laik, his bright red boxers. The women have on just their bras and panties. I can’t help but notice that Laik sure is a scrawny little thing (but that just makes him all the more adorable).
The MC yells “Step!” The pressure has clearly gotten too great for the man in the white briefs and he can’t pick which way to step. Laik and his partner successfully step the same way. The MC shouts, “We have a winner!”
Laik doesn’t know he’s won until his partner grabs his hand and lifts it in the air. Laik rips off his blindfold and jumps up and down with his ecstatic partner. He rushes back to our table and I stand to give him a hug. One of the judges comes over with his clothes. As he puts on his shirt he says to me, “You must admit that was fun… Aren’t you glad I convinced you to come?”
“To see you strip down to your underwear in front of hundreds of people? I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”