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by Hennie Denny

Of the 61 women attending Gloria’s Tuesday Evening Fellatio & Hand Job Workshop, 14 saved $5.00 by pre-registering either at the East Village Community Center or online. She’d been expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of 20—25 tops—and so as more and more continued to arrive, Gloria began to feel flustered and inadequate, and needed to center herself by taking full even breaths from her diaphragm while focusing on her inner strength and stability, dismissing doubt and other bad vibes. Space was not the problem. Tenth Avenue Theater, home to the Eveoke Dance and Sledgehammer Performing Arts groups (tonight sublet to Gloria for her workshop) provided superior line-of-sight seating for up to 110 persons. Out in front, the large free-standing glass-encased monument sign to the left of the four cement steps leading up to the edifice’s high arched entryway offset the stuccoed façade’s otherwise perfect architectural symmetry, and had probably advertised sermons back when the building was a church. It had that sort of testamentary look. Written in white capital letters on a black matte surface was: WOMENS ART WORKSHOP 8PM. No one arrived late. There were no punctuation characters in the sign’s letter tray. It wasn’t that the extra, presumably word-of-mouth, attention and consequent revenue weren’t appreciated, only that Gloria was accustomed to cozier gatherings in which students got to know and help each other and she could provide one-on-one instruction as needed. She hoped the personal guidance she prided herself on giving wouldn’t be too diluted in this larger, less intimate group, and found it curious that her knack for tailoring her curriculum to each participant’s tastes and needs, the very thing that made her fellatio & hand job workshops stand out among all the rest, might now be lost because of it. Though she was way too positive minded to see this as ironic.

Gloria greeted her students as they arrived, and collected payment from those either not on the register or not marked on the register as having already paid. ‘Welcome!’ she said to women who looked older than herself—‘Hey!’ to those she thought peers or younger. ‘Thank you so much for coming. Please don’t be shy. Sit as close as you can. Remember, you’re not here to watch; you’re here to participate and have fun. Some of our exercises will require a friend. So get to know each other. I’m not at all ashamed to say I’ll probably learn more from you than you will from me.’

Of the 47 attendees who had not prepaid and so had to cough up the full $40.00 at the door, 26 responded, ‘Maybe you should pay us then,’ or something to that effect. With each, Gloria laughed sincerely and appreciatively and, after touching them either on the hand or shoulder, said, ‘You know, I would if I had to,’ as if the thought had just occurred to her, which in a way it had.

Of the entire class, only 12 came alone, none of whom had prepaid. Seven of the 14 who had prepaid received an additional $5.00 discount for inviting a friend. All but one, a spirit-guided financial planner from up in Oceanside, passed this savings along.

Only Mary and her two friends Tina and Jill failed to bring an unripe banana, cucumber, carrot, zucchini or similar as requested in the course outline, but which turned out not to be a problem since someone had brought extras. Gloria, who knew how to run a business, could offer Mary no additional discount for having brought an additional friend, $30.00 being the absolute lowest she could possibly go.

Mary, Tina and Jill all lived a few miles northeast up in Normal Heights where they attended a nearby First United Methodist Church with their respective husbands Marc, Tony and Jake. All three couples sang with the Contemporary Singers, one of the church’s three adult choirs, where members learned sacred choral music from a variety of contemporary styles every Tuesday evening from 6:30 to around 8:30 PM. Tonight was the first any of them had ever missed a rehearsal. Tina might have resisted Mary’s invitation a little more than Jill had, though neither had taken much arm-twisting. Tacitly it was hoped that the bad blood generated by a minor lapse in judgment during last Sunday’s dinner party at Jake and Jill’s might be, if not cleansed, then at least afforded a healthier perspective by this ladies’ night out. Even though First United Methodist was just down in Mission Valley off Highway 8 and so less than half a mile from the farthest of their homes, and despite Normal Heights being regarded as the most pedestrian friendly community in all of San Diego and maybe even California, they’d always carpooled. Ever since the nation’s 9-11 tragedy, they’d all been getting together either the second or third Sunday of every month to dine, fellowship, drink a little wine and then play either Scrabble or Boggle, and, yes, flirt with each other’s spouses a bit, but in a way that’s upfront and image building and not at all sly or pathetic, and they always had a really positive fun time together with none of the negative group dynamics you tend to associate with threesomes, which just made their recent unspoken falling out all the more egregious. But even beyond their last get-together having gone somewhat horribly awry, each of the three women had their own private personal reasons for attending Gloria’s workshop, reasons that were for the most part way too repressed to even think, much less talk about.