I can barely believe my luck, Joe thought to himself as he pedaled back home. He cast a quick glace over his shoulder at the building before focusing on the traffic. Soon, he was at home, and, after placing the bike in the rack near the door, walked in and sat himself down on an overstuffed sofa chair.
He took a look around the room. Photos of family and various art prints were placed everywhere. He glanced fondly at the piebald feline snoozing on the windowsill and reached over to give her a stroke. She briefly woke, glanced at Joe, and settled back to snoozing.
“What a great idea,” he said, stretching a bit and yawning. “I could use a nap myself.” After glancing at the clock – he still had many hours to go before eight p.m. – he closed his eyes and snoozed, dreaming of being chased by jock-clad kangaroos and snow leopards.
Joe arrived at Barjocks at seven p.m., due to his nervousness on his first day. He was dressed in sweats and sandals, and he carried a small messenger bag filled with stuff; he didn’t know what to expect with the rest of the crew. After chaining the bike to the post, he took a deep breath and, after saying a brief prayer to whoever was listening, walked in.
Carl, still polishing a glass, noticed him and grinned. “Heya moosie,” he said, waving at him to take a seat. He wore a loose-fitting plaid shirt and a pair of suspenders. “Glad to hav’ya back, kid.” He walked around the bar and gave the moose a hug. He took the bag and placed it on a stool. “Give me a moment, and I’ll ‘ave Mike come over.”
“No need for that,” Mike said as he walked to the bar, still dressed as before. He also gave Joe a hug. “Glad you came, dude. A bit early, though.”
Joe shrugged. “I didn’t want to be late.”
Mike chuckled. “You’re not late, dude.” He waved to him to follow. “Come on. A few of the guys are here at the gym, getting in proper condition.”
“You have a gym?” Joe said as he walked with the ‘roo around various corridors.
Mike nodded. “Yeah, it’s a nice one,” he said. “The bossman had this place mostly for us workers. He spared no expense, really. Ah, here we go,” he continued, coming into a large room filled with weights and racks and bars. A few guys dressed in workout gear were benching.
Joe nodded in approval. “Is this something for work hours?”
“Work hours?” Mike said nonplussed, but then he laughed. “Oh no, it’s here for all employees. We open at eleven a.m. and close at midnight. During weekends, it’s at one a.m. During that time, you can come and hang. Have a drink, get a workout done, that kind of thing.” He noticed two otters coming over. “Let’s get you introduced, eh?”
Moose looked at the duo. They were identical twins, dressed in matching blue and red striped singlets that reminded him of 90’s bodybuilders. They were heavy-set, both wrestler build. “Heya Mikey,” one said in a booming bass. “Who’s this guy?”
Mike motioned to Joe. “This is Joe Moose, the replacement.” Mike motioned to the twins. “Let me introduce you to Albert and George Fritz, Joe. Been in the business for five years.”
Albert, the one who spoke, reached over to give Joe a firm handshake. “You’re the reason the boss had us coming, eh?” He nudged his brother, who grinned and shook the other hand. “I was wondering why we were coming on a Wednesday.”
“They’re usually weekend guys,” Mike explained. Joe nodded.
George eyed Joe’s frame. “Wrestler?” he asked.
“No,” Joe said. “Powerlifter.”
The two nodded. “We have another powerlifter right now,” Albert said, pitching his thumb at the other guy in the gym, who was just racking the bar. “He’ll give you a run for his money, I’m sure.”
Joe looked at the rising figure. He was a lion, massively built. His mane was set in braids with small metal bells at the ends. He wore no shirt, showing off his heavy chest and a slightly protruding beergut. He glanced at the four and walked over.
“Heya Sam,” Mike said, grinning widely. “Let me introduce you to Joe.”
“Ah,” the lion said in a rich, accentuated voice. “The guy replacing the fils de salop. A pleasure, mon cher!” He gave the moose a hug that felt like he was being crushed by rocks. “Samson Bulaire, at your service, Monsieur Moose.”
Mike tried to pull an arm away from Joe. “Careful, Sam. You’ll give him cracked ribs.”
“Ah, many apologies.” Sam released Joe, who looked none worse the wear. “I am overcome with emotion, you see, at seeing the idiot gone. He was, as you say, a thorn at our side. A knife at our throat.”
“Sam’s one of the original crew,” Mike said.
The lion nodded. “Indeed. I started working here ten years ago, a freshly settled business in need of people. My wife, she was belligerent. She said why would I let men touch me when I had a woman who can do the same?” He shrugged. “Now, here I am still married and three children later. She grumbles still, but she knows that I will always return to her.”
Now that it was pointed out, Joe did notice a ring of gold on Sam’s hand. “So no one cares that you’re married?”
Sam shrugged. “It gives the people a thrill, a very naughty thrill, to see a married man, especially one as virile as I, dressed in scraps of cloth and serving them. I flex –” and he did a double-bi, his arms exploding into thick balls of muscle, “—and they grope. They also tip extra.” He let go of the pose and grinned toothily. “I buy my wife lovely gifts, and she doesn’t grumble as much.”
The twins were already at their workout, but Joe had one last question at the lion. “Does your wife visit?”
“On occasion,” Sam said. “I do the occasional dance for her, and she plays occasionally plays along. Monsieur Huxley does not mind that.” He took a step back and motioned to the bench. “Forgive me, but the weights, they call their song to me. I will see you later tonight.” And with that, he walked back to his workout.
Mike glanced at Joe. “You’re okay, dude? Sam’s hugs are rather bone-breaking.”
Joe moved about a bit, but felt nothing out of place. “I’m alright. Bound to feel something in the morning, probably.”
“Knowing Sam, in the next fifteen minutes.” He slapped Joe’s shoulder. “Come on, let me finish the tour.”
= = =
It was twenty minutes later.
Joe sat on a bench and leaned back against a fitting room locker, trying not to wince in pain. The hug brought a really bad case of cramps around his arms and shoulders. Mike was out of the room, looking for painkillers, or at least a jar of menthol cream. He reached up to rub his neck. This was not something I want to have on my first day of work, Joe thought to himself.
“Hey, you’re that moose Huxley hired, right?”
Joe looked up in mid-rub to see a heavy-set tiger in a t-shirt and slacks standing at the door. He looks familiar, Joe thought. “Yeah. Pleased to meet you.”
The tiger chuckled. “Sam got a hug on you, eh?” He walked towards Joe. “Passed by Mike a moment ago, and he was trying to get some meds from Bill with no success.” He reached over to shake Joe’s hand. “David Hand. Pleased to meet you, also.”
“Joe Moose,” Joe said, shaking the hand, then wincing a bit. “Ow…”
“Ah, allow me,” David said, putting his hands on Joe’s shoulders and rubbing.
“I think we’ve met before,” Joe said as he felt the cramps melting away. “You look familiar.”
“Really? You probably met my aunt during the interview.”
“Huxley’s secretary.” David grinned toothily. “She got me the job a while back, and I’ve been here keeping my nose clean. Lots of ladies love a tiger in speedoes, dontchaknow?”
“Oh.” Joe didn’t know what else to say. Instead, he concentrated on the massage and moaned out as the rubbing fingers hit a rather sore spot.
“Ah, I feel the knot. This might hurt a bit more.” David rubbed harder, causing Joe to wince.
“Hey, Joe, I found some aspirin…,” Mike said, walking in. “Oh, you found Dave, eh?”
“Uh huh,” Joe said, slack-jawed in relaxation. “I haven’t had a rub like this in ages.”
“I can make that a testimonial,” David said, lightly pummeling Joe’s shoulders. “Rubbing the moose since Twenty-Ten!”
Mike laughed. “That sounds dirty. I like it.” Then to Joe, “Dave’s getting his certificate in massage therapy. We might have him as a part-time resident for the crew.”
“If the aunt approves,” Dave said, finishing up. “She’s so danged Victorian sometimes.” He stepped back. “How you feel now, Joe?”
Joe moved around a bit. “A bit of tightness, but no cramping.” He looked at the tiger. “Thanks!”
“No problem,” David said, grinning. “If you need another session, let me know.”
“I will.” They exchanged another handshake, and Dave walked out.
“Everyone’s really friendly here,” Joe said to Mike, who sat down next to the moose. “I can see why the other guy didn’t fit.”
The ‘roo nodded. “Yeah, we’re a tightly-knit group. Milhouse couldn’t understand that. Barjocks is not just a business. We’re a family, and we treat everyone who comes in as family.”
“Mind me asking how long you have been here?”
Mike closed his eyes a bit. “Hm. Six? Seven years, I think. Could be more, though. I’ve seen lots of things happening here and met lots of good friends.” He grinned at Joe. “You’ll do fine, don’t you worry.” He playfully punched Joe on the shoulder.
“He will, thanks to you,” Mr. Huxley rumbled out as he came into the room. “Glad you’re here, Joseph. How’s the shoulders?”
“They’re alright,” Joe said. “David knows his stuff.” Mike nodded.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” Huxley said. “I think we can do introductions right now. Mostly everyone is here.” He motioned the two to follow him. “Let’s get started.”
“I’m getting nervous again,” Joe said to Mike as they stood in front of the crowd of people.
“Don’t worry,” Mike said. “You’ll do fine.”
They stood behind Huxley, who stood in the front of two tables. Guys of various builds and species were sitting around one, getting an eyeful of Joe. Another group was around the other table. “The office and kitchen staff,” Mike whispered in Joe’s ear. Joe nodded.
“Now,” Huxley said in rolling tones, “you all are probably wondering why I called all of my staff here. Well, I am happy to announce that we found a replacement to Mister Milhouse.” He had to pause due to all of the cheering that erupted from both tables. “Yes,” he continued over the noise, “I know how much of an ass he was to everyone here, and I am sharing your joy to have him gone. However bad he was, we have to understand that he will probably cause trouble later on, and we will have to keep guard.”
The bison motioned to Joe, who stepped forward. “So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Joseph Moose, the newest Jock to rock the bar.”
Everyone cheered and whistled as Joe waved shyly.
“Thankfully,” Huxley went on, “seeing today is a slow day, we’ll have him just walking around. Guilotti will keeping an eye on him tonight, but please feel free to give him pointers, guys.” He nodded to a small blue dragon dressed in a black polo and khakis. “Yes, Matt?”
He stood up and looked at Joe. “You’re not going to goof around in the kitchen, right?” A couple of people nodded. “I’m asking because the other guy kept tripping us around.”
Joe shook his head as Huxley answered the question. “He will not be allowed to serve anything tonight. Tonight is for him to walk about and get himself acquainted with the surroundings. In uniform, of course.” A few people, including Mike, whistled lewdly as Moose blushed. “You have a question, Sean?”
A built griffin stood up. “For us single folks, what’s his orientation?”
“I’ll let him answer that later,” the bison said smoothly; Moose blushed harder.
“Aw, he’s so cute when he’s blushing,” one of the ladies said. A few other people chuckled.
“I think that covers it,” Huxley said, clapping his hands. “The staff can leave, but I have to ask the guys to stay.”
The second table of people left the room. Joe looked at the other table. Mike came up to him and rubbed his shoulder. “You’re okay?”
“Nervousness, that’s all.”
“Joe,” Huxley said, motioning to an empty seat. “Sit here. Now,” he continued as Joe sat down, “chances are we’ll have Milhouse here tonight causing a ruckus. We’ll have Billy at the door as bouncer.”
A good number of guys chuckled as a rhino in leather suspenders growled out, “You can count on me, sir.”
“And if that fails, we’ll have Chris take care of him,” Huxley continued as he motioned to a stout fireplug of a bulldog. “He’s the secondary bouncer tonight,” he explained to Joe.
“We will make sure ça pute will not come here, Monsieur Moose,” Samson said, pounding the table.
“Alright guys,” the bison said. “I see you are all enjoying the company of our newest member, who I’m sure will do his best to make our Bar proud, right?” Joe nodded as the crowd cheered. “But right now, he’ll have to get ready for tonight. Mike?”
“Get him ready for opening. Everyone else, you’re dismissed!”
Mike motioned Joe to follow him while everyone else went their separate ways. “Come on, I want to show you something.”
They were soon in a rather threadbare room, the walls covered with assorted signed photos of bodybuilders. A desk of polished oak stood at the middle, complete with a roller chair. A slat-backed chair was in the front.
“What is this place?” Joe asked before Mike came up to him and gave him a peck on the cheek. “What was that for?” he said, blushing up a storm.
“A gesture of thanks,” Mike said, smiling. “The bossman was at wits end with Millhouse, and he had no idea what to do. Then you came in. I think that’s why you’re stalking tonight.”
“Stalking?” Joe said as Mike picked up something from a side table. “Hey, my bag!”
“I had one of the guys bring it over here,” Mike explained. “Lots of yarn in there.” He raised a quizzical eyebrow at the moose.
“Uhm, I knit,” Joe said, rubbing the back of his head. He grinned at Mike’s blank expression. “You never know when you’ll need to make a pair of socks.”
“Okay then,” the ‘roo said, clearly at sea. He cleared his throat. “So, yeah, stalking. You’re going to walk around the tables and just be eye candy. Give the folks something to look at and grope at. However, we still have a bit more to do before you do that.” He reached over to pluck something off the desk and tossed it at Joe. “Get dressed, and I’ll get you ready.”
Joe looked at the item. It was a bright red jock strap. “What?”
Mike was already taking off his shirt, revealing a very thick torso, all covered with grey fur. He reached down to unbuckle his belt and looked to Joe. “Come on, get going. I’m not going to bite.”
Joe turned around and took off his shirt, then the sweats, much to Mike’s approving eye. Yeah, he thought, he’ll do fine out there. Then he tried not to stare as Joe removed his briefs, turning around and blushing hotly.
The moose was not paying attention to the attention he was getting. “I’m glad that I’m not doing this in the changing room,” he said. “I dunno what the guys would have said.” He looked over his shoulder and got an eyeful of solid ‘roo rump encased in a neon green jock. “Damn, you have a nice ass. I mean, er…”
“It’s okay,” Mike said. “I’ve been complimented on it before.” He turned around to see Joe dressed in the jock, his equipment already testing the confines of the pouch. “Damn, look at you, kid.” The ‘roo walked over behind the desk and pulled out a small bottle. “Only posing oil,” he said, squirting a bit in his hand and giving himself a few light brushes on his chest and shoulders. “Got to look good tonight, as every night. Here, allow me.” And he came up to Joe and did the same. “There we go.” He pointed to a full-length mirror hanging from the door. “Look at yourself.”
Joe saw himself ready for the night. He raised an arm and flexed hard, the arm popping into a softball of muscle. “Wow,” he said, slightly amazed. “I do look good.”
“Yeah, you do,” Mike said. He grinned hugely. “Alright then!” Mike slapped a hand on Joe’s shoulder. “Come on and follow me! We got a job to do!”