The Continuing Adventures of Sparky and His Guardian Friggin Angel – We 3 Queens of NY-NY by Marc D. Regan

Chapter 3 of The Continuing Adventures of Sparky and His Guardian Friggin Angel. You can start on Chapter 1 here.

Chapter 3

Sparky:

An hour of mad-dog morning commuter traffic and Dwayne’s braggart banter; two hours of nerve-grinding start-stop rush hour traffic and Dwayne’s braggart banter; the worsening ugly of man-and-machine-created grime under ever-darkening skies and Dwayne’s braggart banter; a crossed-bridge entrance to New York with its rat’s maze of rights and lefts and lefts and rights and Dwayne’s braggart banter—after all this, Sam finally halts his crumbling hatchback at a curb. Cutting Dwayne off mid-sentence—mid-word—he says, “Home sweet home.”

We haven’t slept all night, but we have our IDs: I am Emanuel Waters and Dwayne has become Nicholas Noyce. At least our ID forger had a sense of humor.

And now, as we behold the aged multistoried building beyond the streetlight illuminated sidewalk, there is silence sweet silence. Almost.

Sam’s yet-to-be-shut-off Pontiac, like the hope-stripped emphysema patient who lights up to celebrate the long trip’s end, coughs and wheezes.

We humans are still, like actors in a paused movie.

Until: “So go on up those steps right over there”—Sam points at the solid stairs that wait—“and ring the buzzer for 14C.”

“You just dumpin us?” Dwayne’s face rumpled with apprehension.

Sam laughs, almost inwardly. “Parking’s the downside of living here. Lots of life, culture and—”

“Sammy. It’s been a long goddamn ride.”

“I hafta park a few blocks away. In a garage.” Dwayne’s stony stare has Sam adding: “I’ll call up. Okay? On my cell. Tell ‘em we’re here. That you guys’re coming up.”

Sam calls, we climb out; he drives away, we go up the big stone steps.

“What number’d he say?”

“Uh.”

“Spark, the friggin number.”

“16, I think.” Being in the back seat, I wasn’t paying the closest attention.

“16 what?”

“You were up front. Didn’t you hear him?”

“Alright, Sparky. Shut up and let me think. Ah. Alright. Pick a letter”—he checks the buzzer buttons—“between A and F.”

“What?”

“Just friggin say one. F’chrissakes.”

“D.”

“16D it is. Go ahead, push the button.”

“Me? I just picked the number, which is probably wrong. It’s your turn.”

Dwayne grumbles, aims a finger, and, slowly brings finger to button—and pushes.

“Yeah?” comes from the outdated intercom speaker.

“Yeah,” Dwayne echoes. “We’re with friggin Sammy.”

“Sam? Well, buddy, ya got the wrong floor.”

“So what’s the right floor?”

“Who the fuck’re you?” says the distorted voice.

“The guy who’s bonin’ you’re friggin mother—”

“14,” I say. “14, I think.”

Dwayne’s mask of irritation shifts my way.

“Maybe I oughta come down there and ‘bone’ you with my Glock,” says the speaker guy.

“You, your imaginary Glock, and which friggin—”

“The fuck,” says Speaker Guy, and the static dies.

“14?” Dwayne barks at me.

“It might’ve been 14. Try it.”

“Now you remember?”

“I’m good under pressure.”

“Good. That moron can pressurize you with his Glock! So what’s the letter?” A pause. “Never mind. C for the cocksucker on 16.”

“Uh-huh?” says a new speaker voice.

“You know Sammy?” says Dwayne.

“C’mon up,” says the voice. “The coffee’s on.”

Bombs

Dwayne:

The smell. Like piss and pretzels. Thick air hangin’. Stink’a rottin’ garbage mixed with a whiff’a sex. New York, New York. Might sound like a complaint, but bein’ here, standin’ on a grungy street, ringin’ the goddamn wrong buzzer—no words do it justice. Or the aroma of bein’ alive—maybe that’s it; but here’s what’s missin’ from Anderson. Me and Sparkola included.

So. I push the apartment number we’re suppose’ta be buzzin’—and voila!—we’re in.

After a look-round, I goes: “Where’s the friggin elevator?”

Spark a’course is no help, he ain’t sayin’ boo—I can’t even see the burn victim’s claim to name. But I ain’t complainin’—if not for his meltdown, I wouldn’t be guardian friggin angel to the kid, and neither of us’d be here. So lucky ducky.

Anyways, Spark finishes sayin’ that this must be our lucky day (readin’ my mind, gettin’ it wrong) cause we get to hump fourteen staircases and we hear the sound’a feet boundin’ down the very stairs we’re about to go up. When the boundin’s loud enough to have both me and Spark backin’ up, so’s we don’t get trampled by whatever’s comin’ from above, a fruitcake voice yells:

“Yay! You boys made it!”

I take another step back and glance round the little rundown but antique-like lobby area where we stand, but it’s only us—or it’s us and this new sorta-dude with pink stand-up hair and the painted face of a French friggin whore, whose red wet-lookin’ lips go:

“Ooo, you’re cute!”

Fruitcake throws his bone-rack body against mine. Holdin’ on like I’m his life preserver and we’re in the middle’a deep, dark, shark-swarmin’ waters. A’course old Dwayno’s shocked as shit, but since by then homo-aromo’s in my nose-o I ain’t surprised when he says:

“Oo. You’re stiff as a board.” A second passes and he adds, “Stiff might be good!”

Now, I don’t know what Spark’s seen or hasn’t seen from inside his hood, but my guess’s that he’s heard what’s comin’ and’s not too blown away by Fruitcake’s fitful hug-and-a-half. I’m witness to the way this sorta-dude’s sorta rubbin’ himself (big-time) against Spark’s road warrior body and I got zero doubt: Flamer. Sword Swallower Supreme-o. Fudge-Packin’ Meat Muncher.

Lettin’ Spark go, All’a-The-Above goes: “So. I’m Skylar.”

Just when I’m thinkin’ runnin’s the best friggin choice, the door behind me opens.

“Ah. You’ve met,” says Sammy—who I feel like throttlin’, but before that or escape or somethin’ violent-like can happen: “Should we go up?”

Bombs

Sparky:

Once we’ve climbed the fourteen flights and are inside the spice-scented apartment and all six locks are relocked and introductions are made—there’s only one new girl named TJ—and Dwayne’s uttered several thinly-veiled gay bashes and has whispered to me that TJ’s really a guy and we’re seated in their lived-in but homey lower Manhattan kitchen with cold beers in front of us, Skylar falls into small talk with Sam about his trip to visit his sister in Connecticut. I sip the Heineken I was given—though coffee would have been nice—and try to ignore the headache I feel climbing my spine.

Dwayne scowls and gives me looks that say We should get the fuck outta here, Spark.

“You can’t get high with that big hood on.”

“Honey, before anyone gets high, my nose tells me that these boys need showers.” Skylar checks our faces for agreement and finds it in Dwayne’s pained grin; my skull of scars of course reveals nothing.

Dwayne showers first.

Skylar stands with Sam at the kitchen counter sharing words I cannot hear, and I doze in the safety of my hood. I pop awake to breakfast scents: pancakes, bacon, scrambled eggs—a road warrior’s daily fare.

“Eat up, Spark,” says Sam, setting a loaded plate before me; I devour every bite and then a second plate.

No one says much while eating, so Dwayne’s reentry proclamation booms like a cartoon cannon: “Food from the gods!”

Skylar laughs and I excuse myself. The shower rains strong and fast. And long. I could stay in the glass stall womb forever. Humidity blinds me, cleanses my lungs, and when I leave the bathroom, trailing steam, wearing clothes slightly cleaner than those I just shed, I feel refreshed. Dry lightning still flashes behind my eyes and threatens a full-blown migraine, but warmth of cheery talk and clattering beer bottles has me reclaiming my seat.

“Still the hood,” says TJ, as if she’s been awaiting my return just to repeat the words.

I turn to spy TJ lighting a fat joint, one eye closed to the smoke, the other fixed on me. A good thirty seconds pass and TJ says nothing, what with holding the toke, and neither do I. The thought of peeling back my hood and revealing my monstrous head causes my gut to clench, and with the worsening headache, I’m not in an explaining mood.

Not that I need to explain—Dwayne’s happy to provide colorful commentary. And doing so seems to dispel his anxiety.

“Okay,” he begins, “The kid’s real name’s Randall but he’s now called Sparky cause on his sixteenth birthday he got his friggin face melted off—almost dripped off his skull bone like hot wax, but not quite. The burn unit docs stopped that much.”

“Oh my god,” says Skylar as a righteous toke of ganga rushes from his lungs.

“Point is,” Dwayne goes on, “now the kid hides in the hood.”

Not only do I realize that everyone is waiting for me to say something, but it’s my turn—Sam’s extending the joint my way. I count to three, and remove the hood. To distract myself, I suckle a huge hit that gets bigger in my chest. I erupt with a string of hacks—embarrassing and painful—but it’s another welcome (albeit fleeting) distraction from my exposed hideousness.

After what feels like a sloth’s crawl through molten tar, Skylar makes a face that strikes me as loving and says: “Can I…touch it?”

Just as I’m about to proffer excuses that will deter this, Dwayne gives the go-ahead. Says that he does it all the time. That it’s good for the kid, makes him feel lovable. Apparently needing no additional permission, Skylar’s long skinny fingers with the rainbow colored nails cautiously touch my scars—which means my entire head.

“Does it hurt?” says TJ, who has joined the touchy-feely action moment.

“I’m used to it,” I say, quickly, to deny Dwayne the opportunity to speak for me.

“It feels awesome,” says a voice that sounds like Sam’s, but with my eyes closed it’s hard to be sure. Soon, everyone’s curiosity apparently quenched, the gentle caressing stops and I open my eyes. To see the joint held toward me.

Time passes.

At some point Skylar says, “Are you open to me talking about my situation? I ask because I think you may, perhaps to a large degree, be able to relate. And be honest. A yes isn’t required. It’s just that looking at you is like looking in a mirror—and seeing my soul.”

Dwayne takes a noisy slug from his bottle of Heineken, and I imagine his thoughts: You and Spark, the same? How the fuck’s that work? Yeah, a mirror—I’ll bet every fuckin’ homo you blow, fondle or poke makes you feel like you’re havin’ sex with a mirror! But Sparky, he don’t go that way, never. You shoulda seen his girl in high school, from before his accident! No dangler between those luscious thighs. I don’t doubt that Dwayne wanted Lori-Anne, just like every other guy between the ages of eight and eighty did. But for once Dwayne says nothing.

“No. Go ahead,” I tell Skylar, and soon it’s a roundtable dialogue about being viewed as odd, being ostracized, feeling alienated. Shunned by family and friends, and feeling ashamed—of who you are. Everyone but me has, growing up, been, more often than not, ashamed of simply being born, being alive.

It’s getting dark.

The story Sam tells is the most normal. Though I—a white guy who’s never really known or even spoken to a black person, never mind someone of mixed race—can’t truly understand his plight, the feelings are similar; he speaks openly about being shunned, beaten and hating himself, and that’s a language I understand. Sam goes so far as to admit that he, for a long time, detested his parents—for creating a child of mixed-race. “Where I grew up,” he tells the room, “you were black or you were white, preferably the latter. Kids like me were subhuman, dogs.” I feel moved to tell him that after being burned my experiences were similar.

Sam, however, is blameless—I am not. I hold my tongue. And I drink.

And about detesting his parents—how can I not hate mine for becoming pathetic drunks? How can I not blame them for my scars? If they hadn’t made my athleticism so important, had they not pushed and pushed me, those guys might not have torched me—or they wouldn’t have.

No, I never would have burned.

Because, if not for my glorified name, I wouldn’t have grown into such an arrogant prick. Wouldn’t have been so full of myself. Wouldn’t have preyed on the less fortunate, those lacking the popularity I didn’t really earn. Yes, I trained, but my physical prowess was innate, as were my looks. And without my looks and aptitude on the playing field, who would have bothered?

People covet praise, recognition, and privileges, and therefore, I was resented, hated, by as many as loved me. Maybe by more. I ate the love and hatred up. I kicked ass. So what do I tell Sam? He’s blameless; I’m guilty. I’m appalled to hear that racism still exists—in Connecticut—but how do I tell him that, without sounding like a bigot myself?

Skylar says he’s a gay cross-dresser and no longer hides it. “I shed my hood years ago!” He laughs. TJ claims to be intersexual; admits incredible confusion over being born and growing up with “mixed genitalia”. This last information nearly topples me from my chair. Thankfully I am no longer able to blush, because otherwise my naïveté would be obvious.

I pound another beer.

“The breasts though”—TJ gave each an upward nudge—“are surgical additions.”

My headache radiates from the center of my brain, stabs my temples, that spot behind my eyes. Even my ears and teeth pulse with pain.

“I’ve always, mostly,”—a laugh—“been attracted to men, but now only Skylar,” TJ says.

“We’ll be celebrating five years together on Christmas,” Skylar adds.

Again, these two were born into their lot—I assholed my way into mine. The difference is glaring; without lying, there’s nothing I can say. Though my facial expressions are impossible to read, my body language isn’t and TJ tells me to Google intersexual. I won’t—not because I’m against anyone being who they are but due to my feelings about technology.

“We’re all rejects!” TJ shouts.

“Power to the misfits!” Skylar adds.

“It’s about feelings,” stresses TJ, making eye contact with me, then with Dwayne. “No, we’re not all the same around this table, but we’ve all felt shame, that we were less than others. Suicidal? I know I have.”

I nod but stay quiet. Guzzle beer, smoke pot, trying to numb my brain. Shut it up.

As the empties collect, the kitchen table becoming crowded, even Dwayne talks about his role in Anderson—a role he never wanted, a place in the town hierarchy he had no choice in. “I inherited an invisible brand that says ‘Kick me in the fuckin’ head!’ But,” he says, finger in the air, “there was a time when I loved my dad. The guy knew his music. He was a movie buff. A regular trivia trove! Then that town, goddamn Anderson, it devoured the good about him, bite by bite, till only a despicable bastard was left—may he rot in Hell.”

“He’s dead?” says Sam.

“He’s in fuckin jail. Prison, maximum security, forever.”

“And your mom?” says Skylar.

“A fuckin’ angel and angels don’t last long in this world.” Dwayne shoots me a look and I pretend not to notice.

But it’s a lot. Having my hood off, hearing these people tell their stories, the realization that today, now, we’re all truly the same at this table: misunderstood, despised, freaks—humans deserving of the same respect and acceptance that’s shown to others. Yeah, it’s a damned lot for me to process.

Pain flashes thunderous around my skull. Add pot, the beer, and, “I’ve been alone,” I say, far louder than I intended. “I didn’t know… I mean, how do you adjust? What was I supposed to do? Everything flipped and fast, people who’d loved me were freaked out by me. And yeah, TJ, I wanted to die, plenty of times! I wanted to take a chainsaw and cut off my hideous head, my face. So ugly, horrible. I was an athlete, a star…but now…”

Now you got a guardian friggin angel. You ain’t garbage, Spark.”

“Thanks, Dwayne. But I was gonna say that now I can finally be real. Or figure out who I really am. Or start to.” I feel sick, broken—hoodless.

“Sparky, you’re not alone, and you never will be,” Skylar says. “So many people live on the fringes. Talking, sharing who you really are, with others who’ve been betrayed like you, by the world, that’s what’s going to save you. It’ll heal you.”

I know I’m going to cry. But my ducts don’t work anymore, meaning tears mix with snot and foul fluid oozes out of my misshapen nose, and I can’t stand for these guys—anyone—to see that. “Thanks,” I say to the roundtable, “all this means…more than you know. But my head…the beer and weed. Lack of sleep. Can I lie down somewhere?”

“In the living room,” Skylar tells me. “It’s dark and quiet there. The couch is a futon. Up or down it’s real cushy.”

I stumble that way.

“The bathroom’s right off the living room,” calls Sam. “There’s an indigo nightlight.”

“Night, Spark,” Dwayne calls after me.

“Love you, Sparky,” Skylar adds. “If not for TJ, I’d be sneaking in there tonight—you’re one hot daddy! Don’t forget it! There’s a girl out there and she’s waiting for you! All of you!”

I pee and then collapse on the futon couch, and that’s all I remember—

Until: “WHAHH?!”

A prison shank stabs through the outer flesh of my dream world: a realm where Lori-Anne’s humid breath coats my ear, a summer mist condensing, assuming the velvet slope of her hips, her full breasts, her lips whispering her heart of hearts message, I’m so, so sorry, Randy—I’ve missed you. The brutal metal knife then takes the full weight of hell’s most massive inmate’s heel, and the fabric of that better Lori-Anne world tears, a gaping gash created, causing the balm of her breath to fade, the purity of her words to slip beyond hearing, dissolving, morphing into:

“What the fuck!”

A NY, NY living room clarifies around me—a dim space that contains the surprising detail of Dwayne Handy’s buck-naked body backing through a doorway, entering this room that houses my borrowed futon. He’s reversing toward me, bellowing: “What in the fucking FUCK!”

An unseen but familiar voice answers. “Dwayne, baby, take it easy—”

Easy?” Dwayne’s tone is the sharpened blade that extinguished my dream of Lori-Anne, but now his cry cracks under the combined force of shock, outrage, and yes, shame. The volume rattles windows.

“After last night, I… Dwayne, I’m sorry—”

Sorry?” Dwayne is a parrot, mimicking, agitated, and turning, finding me, his audience of one—his face blooms scarlet. Sam emerges from the darkened room. A bed sheet draping his shoulders and arm-pinned to his torso, a hank of bloodied tissues held to his nose.

Before either can speak another line, Skylar, lacking last night’s exquisite makeup and a silky, peacock-embossed peignoir, appears, saying, “Oh my.”

Dwayne spins a circle, his genitals exposed, wagging. “Fuckin’ fags,” he spits.

“Now, now,” says Skylar, “Let’s everyone calm down.” A piercing glare lands on Sam. “Let Dwayne get dressed,” Skylar tells him.

Sam raises crimson-stained Kleenex in surrender and to cast himself as victim, and my Guardian Friggin Angel, grumbling obscenities, disappears behind a slammed bedroom door.

Again, windows shake. Bedclothes still clutched tight to his chest, Sam sits beside me on the futon, eyes glued to the Oriental rug, tissue wad pressed to his nose.

“Now,” begins Skylar.

Bombs

Dwayne:

Fuckin’ rape.

I grab my not-so-clean jeans off the floor—looks like someone friggin threw ‘em there. One leg in the hole, then the other, and up they go.

Imagine comin’ to with some little moon-eyed dude playin’ your fiddle. Nibblin’ your kielbasa. Not a happy good mornin’ image, right?

Fly zipped, I cross the dark room—shades tucked together, not unlike my friggin eyelids last night while Sammy went down. Or whatever shenanigans he got up to. And what’s a decent hetero to do? Chrissakes. It’s man rape. Thought that shit only got packed behind bars, in prison showers. What this hetero did was knuckle-hammer the bone-lovin’ little twerp in his goddamn mulatto nose.

Now I ain’t a bigot, as I showed in our group talk last night, but when a pussy-lovin’ man wakes to such a violation situation, it ain’t a multiple choice question. One answer: Rufies in my brewski. Cause I sure as ugly didn’t walk my own self into that bed—I was put there.

And ain’t it funny how Sammy omitted that bit’a crucial information in our confessional conversation? Answer: No, it ain’t. Obviously the closet bone-hound kept his lips sealed so he could kiss the anaconda later. A private property serpent, by the way!

And Spark. Jesus, the kid was out cold. Maybe they gang-banged his butt-blossom too.

Only, that don’t seem like the other two’s style.

And my ass don’t hurt—I sit on the scene’a the crime mattress to check. I finger probe the poop shoot, once, and then a few more times (to be sure) as I pull on my stinky socks.

On the long ride to homo haven, Sammy promised we could wash our clothes—sure.

Hell, I didn’t even see a washer.

Anyways. The old ass feels same as usual.

But…what if the rufies cause ass numbness? For like twenty-four hours?

God. The sneaker-stink’s even worse than the crusty socks but this’s no time to think on hygiene. Can’t tie the goddamn things, my hands’re shakin’ so bad.

Friggin Spark: We gotta walk, Dwayne.

Guardian friggin angel—Christ!

And where’s my goddamn shirt? Not on the floor. Not lost in the sheets. What the fuck—it’s on homo’s side’a the bed.

But once he, or they, threw my limp body on the no doubt cum-splotched sheets—what?

I could’a already received the death fuckin’ sentence: AIDS.

“Dwayne? Are you decent?”

Skylar. The fruit-loop. But I don’t know if he had a hand in this. I twist the knob, let him see: I’m dressed. Set to hit the miserable fuckin’ road. Fact is, I say that to Spark, who’s standin’ a ways behind Skylar. Spark, who looks as ready as I am. Hood tugged up’n at em.

Sammy’s nowhere to be seen. Prob’ly hidin’.

“Spark,” I says, “time to become scarce.”

“And where ya gonna go?” Skylar says in his man-tryin’-to-sound-woman voice, pink hair pointin’ in every direction but straight.

“Outta here,” I tells Skylar.

“Walking?” His face at least looks sorta regular-man without the drag queen makeup.

“Gee, Skylar. Let’s see. Last time I friggin checked I had no car, so…yeah. Walkin’. That’s what me and Spark do, remember? We told ya—before the fuckin’ rufies.”

“Before the…” Skylar makes a sad face. He’s like the mom in Nutter Butter Land, so it’s no surprise when he goes: “Dwayne. After Connecticut, is walking really in your best interest?”

Why the fuck am I even here?

“Dwayne. Honey. Walking is not a sound idea. Okay? Because it could lead to prison and prison is not a good place. So, I’m giving you a ride to the bus station”—Skylar’s glare stops me from sayin’ that we got no Benjamins—or Washingtons or Lincolns; hell, I don’t have a penny—“and I buy you each a bus ticket.” Skylar waits: one; two; three. “After we disguise you.”

Bombs

Sparky:

Three guys never kept such a clean bathroom. As if a toothbrush scrubbed every corner.

And the mirrors: not only are they without water spot or smudge but these two seamless mirrors cover opposing walls, thus creating endless visual echoes—to dizzying effect.

Me and me and me and me…each as monstrous as the last. I have avoided all reflective surfaces (mirrors, chrome, toasters, window at night, cutlery, et al) since the accident, but in this bathroom it’s inevitable. And not so bad. Last night we established: we’re bonded, and freed, by our shared uniqueness. Here, with these individuals, I can be unashamed of what I see: not only infinite Sparkys, but also Dwaynes and Skylars. Endless Sparkys sit on closed toilets and witness each Dwayne leaning into an oversized sink, countless faucets spraying tap water. Heads of red-brown hair are snipped and pinned up. Foundation is applied, and subtle tones, vibrant colors, et cetera enhance the myriad but identical faces of Dwayne.

A satisfied blow of breath and the Skylars turn. Reflected beckoning fingers announce that, although scarred beyond appearing human, the Sparkys aren’t immune to Mr. Mom’s tools of transformation. Brushes and application wands. Wigs.

Then: “Strip down.”

We level surprised and apprehensive stares at kimono-wrapped, hands on hips Skylar.

“How’m I gonna do this with you boys dressed? And don’t worry, I won’t touch you—much.” This last sentence is said while maintaining direct eye contact with me, a lopsided grin hanging on a strangely alluring, confusingly feminine face. Or both female and male. Or neither.

A human being called Skylar.

The longer I watch this makeup artist in action, the more distinctions blur. Skylar is at peace. Free. True to himself. Could it be that I’ve never met such an honest person before?

Dumbfounded by these thoughts, by the day’s whacko events, last night’s lessons, I have no response to the request. Not one I can articulate. But I make no move to undress.

“What the fuck’s with you homos? First Wham-bam Sam and now you?”

“Dwayne. I’ll leave and you can put this”—women’s clothes sway from wire hangers—“on yourself. But, chances are, I’ll have to help you adjust your outfit and hide your package. Believe me, it’s nothing I haven’t seen.”

“What the f—”

“Another man’s body, not yours in particular. And, to relieve your homoerotic fantasies: I did not venture even a peek into Sam’s room last night. But do you want me to speak candidly?”

Dwayne looks at me; I offer no response. He shifts his stance, crosses his arms. “What the hell. Go for it.”

“First, last night, you, my friend, were drunk. And had toked a pink path to cloud nine. But you were not drugged—or rufied as you call it. Okay?”

Arms in a tight X on his chest, Dwayne shrugs.

“And second, you were…how should I say it? Flirty? Hitting on Sam?”

Dwayne scoffs. “Fuck you and your impression and whatever he-she horse you ride.” But his words lack vehemence.

Skylar shrugs. “You guys have made a mess. We’re just trying to help you out of it. And yes, Sam should have come out to you guys, but we all have hurtles we’ve yet to clear. Not an excuse, a fact.” This man, like no other man I’ve ever known, watches our faces. “Luckily it’s Sunday so I don’t have to work, but if we’re going to get you safely out of here, I want to get it over with. And do it right.” Arched drawn-on eyebrows punctuate all he’s said.

“Alright. Jesus,” says Dwayne, his arms swinging with frustration. “We had to strip down in front’a that ID guy yesterday…or the day before. Whatever the fuck day it is.” He kicks off his sneakers, an act that immediately scents the room unbearable.

Skylar opens a bathroom window high above the toilet.

Since Skylar can’t dress and gussy us both up simultaneously, my clothes stay on. I reclaim my seat on the closed toilet, and watch as an army of Dwayne Handys—a sarcastic, rude, crude, and deflated platoon—become…something else. At least on the outside.

“Hope you enjoyed the Bosom Buddies makeover,” he says, when Skylar steps away from him and nods—the artist, satisfied. “And I hope you”—he eyes Skylar—“enjoyed glimpsin’ my massive manhood,” Dwayne adds, “but all that friggin peek and touch shit’s over. All’a this. We get where we’re goin’, Spark, and things’ll be back how they were—Spark and his Guardian Friggin Angel. Tryin’ to find home.”

I’ve never heard Dwayne say this, and the words reassure me. Find home. Maybe, despite last night and today’s makeover and the other day’s fire at the police station—despite everything, maybe me and Dwayne are finally on something like the same page. At least the same book. Or section of the library. Wherever we are, I feel hopeful.

But him saying it looking like he does—I struggle not to laugh.

“And now it’s your turn,” Skylar says to me.

Another half hour or so, and a couple of major renovation projects come from that crazy-clean, crazy-mirrored bathroom. The ta-da of a magic trick: Me and Dwayne are gone.

The babes have arrived.

Marc ReganAbout the author: In a previous life Marc D. Regan zigzagged the U.S. in search of reason. He then got involved in a collective of musical misfits that blew up P.A.s and created soundtracks in various basements. Today, he lives and writes fiction in remote northern California. His work (writing and two dimensional art) has appeared in Microfiction Monday Magazine, Crab Fat Magazine and other publications. His story “Appearances” was included in Bird’s Thumb Magazine’s February 2015 issue. He has been a Finalist for Glimmer Train contests, twice.

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