The Unknown Hooker

bbq picnic crop

The Unknown Hooker

The late-summer sun languished in the yellow sky as six friends sat around a concrete picnic table in front of Shelby Singer’s apartment building. During a lull in the conversation, Shelby reached over to the built-in grill and rotated the ears of corn roasting there. Dave opened a cooler to retrieve some hamburger patties and placed them onto the small Smoky Joe.

As the food cooked, the group, all members of the same inner-city church, fell into conversation. “We should do this more often,” Dave’s girlfriend, Sue, commented. “It accommodates the grad school budget better than eating out.”

Amid the general agreement, Dave spoke up. “I think female seminary students strapped for cash should feel free to start turning tricks on Independence Avenue.”

“I don’t think prostitutes on Independence Avenue make much money,” Matt remarked. Trish, his fiancée, gave him a look, and he began to back pedal. “I mean, how could they? Have you seen them? I saw two on the sidewalk across from the church last Sunday, and neither of them had their front teeth.”

“Shelby.” As Ed addressed her, Shelby felt the blood rush to her face.  She knew what he was going to ask. “How much money do prostitutes on Independence Avenue make?”

Shelby swallowed to regain her composure. “I don’t know, Ed. You never paid me that night.”

“And you never put out.”

The other four fell silent. Ed and Shelby began to laugh. “I guess you better tell them the story, Ed.”

“Yeah, well, uh—“

“C’mon, Ed. This has to be a good story.” Dave began flipping burgers on the small grill.

“Okay, so, a couple months ago, when Pastor Bill was out of town, Shelby and I had to lock up the church on Wednesday night. We waited for everyone else to leave before getting into my car. Apparently that’s when the cops noticed us in the parking lot. They followed us and pulled us over, thinking she was a hooker.”

Shelby shook her head while the two couples shifted awkwardly in their seats. “Seriously, Ed? That’s the way you tell that story?” Ed rolled his eyes while Shelby continued. “The police car pulls into the church parking lot in time to see Ed let me, clad in Dockers and a t-shirt, into his car. We see the police, but this brainiac decides to head out the back way.

“We get about a block down the alley, and the officer pulls us over. He and his partner surround the car, and it dawns on me that they think I’m a prostitute—even with my hair in a bun and no makeup on. Ed just thinks the alarm went off in the church. He explains that he’s on the worship team and was locking up after a late rehearsal. Then the cops shine their flashlights on me, and one of them barks, ‘Who’s this, your daughter?’”

Laughter from the group interrupted Shelby’s narrative for a moment, and Dave began removing food from the two grills.

“In my defense, I figured out what they thought at that point.”

“Right,” Shelby continued. “Which is why he starts stuttering. I’d been dancing with the worship team that night to practice an interpretive worship piece we were preparing, and all I can think is, ‘Please don’t tell the officer I’m a dancer.’”

“Oh dear. What did Ed say?” Trish asked.

“Ed says, ‘This is Shelby and she’s a d—she’s a d—she worships with us too.’”

The Shelby’s guests dissolved into fits of laughter.

“So, the cops let us go, and there’s this awkward silence. Finally, Ed blurts out, ‘They thought you were a hooker.’ So much for being a good church girl. Apparently now I’m a hooker—even though I am ‘to a man as yet unknown.’”

The conversation moved on as the group savored the meal together. Shelby studied her circle of friends in the waning light, then jumped up suddenly, realizing that her gaze had lingered on Trish’s ample bosom. “I forgot—I have a cake in my apartment.” Her face reddened as she hurried inside to regain her composure.