‘Why read a book when you can have sex?’ repeated the shapely Chinese lady, a foot taller than her Philippine counterparts.

I was looking for the Power Plant bookstore on Burgo Street in Manila. She invited me under an umbrella, cooing, ‘You’ll be surprised at what it costs on a night like this.

‘I’d rather read.’

‘Ok, sir. I’ll walk you to the store.’ She led a roundabout route, and then slapped her watch saying, ‘Darn, the bookstore closes in five minutes. Why not hear a little about me?’

She is a fresh university graduate in tourism with strong English, and opted to become an international madam. ‘I shag foreigners, send them to rooms and massage parlors, and take a commission. A massage with hand job costs $10, blowjob $15, and sex with a wonderful young girl $20. I get $3, $5 and $7 respectively in a country where the minimum wage is $1\hr. In a month, I’ll have $1000 to go back to Macau where my Philippine girls rape double the profit.

‘Sex in the Philippines is a commodity,” she chimed. ‘Philippine girls are known worldwide to be more passionate, durable and kind.’ It stopped raining and she shook and folded the umbrella. ‘Sometimes I do the real work myself.’

‘I don’t want to embarrass anyone,’ I replied, as the bookstore light dimmed. She stared silently.

‘$5 for a hand job, and I don’t pay for a room.’ She led me between two bushes and, misunderstanding, grabbed my private.

‘I mean,’ I insisted, ‘the price includes the room.’

‘No problem,’ she avowed, and guided my elbow to an alley $5 hotel. I balked in the lobby, asserting, ‘This doesn’t make sense. You’re a business woman.’

‘You pay for the room, the sex is free, and I use the room the rest of the night for other clients.’ ‘I never pay in advance.’

‘Okay,’ and she led me around the block to another entry, nudging me inside with instructions, ‘Rent a private room for $1 an hour, and I’ll follow. You can pay after for the rest.’ Inside, kids pounded and howled at computers around a clutch of cubicles.

Back outside in a jiffy, I griped, ‘It’s an internet cafe, and the private room is hardly big enough to stand in.’

‘What did you expect for a buck?’

It started to rain, so she spread the umbrella, crying, ‘You owe me $3 for damages!’

‘I’m sorry, no.’

She tailed me down Burgo Street poking my buttocks with the umbrella point, and screaming, ‘Don’t make me mad!’

‘Supply and demand,’ I hurried on in ankle weights, and lost her a few blocks before meeting Louis L’Amour in my hotel.