Sparky the burn victim (formally known as Randy Prescott the small town sports star) is reunited with his self-appointed guardian friggin angel, Dwayne Handy, outside a Connecticut truck stop. Despite Dwayne’s attempts to persuade Sparky to return home, Spark holds to his simple plan—walk until he finds sense in the tragic accident that left him burned faceless and without friends or family. Dwayne, an impatient angelic pain in the ass, refuses to accept this plan without a fight, which happens during morning commute on the side on Interstate 95. The result: Sparky and his angel are cuffed in the State Police barracks. A few flipped matches later, the barracks are aflame and they escape through a side door. Dashing from the police, they stumble on a taunt wire and a young conspiracy theorist helps them secure new identities. Unforeseen circumstances lead to an apartment in New York City where Dwayne takes a tumble on the wild side. Skylar, a new cross-dressing friend, hearing of the Connecticut fiery exploit, applies female attire, makeup, and accessories, buys them bus fare south, and leaves the “babes” at a bus station.
Beyond imaginin’—that’s us. Me and Spark.
Just beholdin’ the transvestosteroned burn victim, crossin’ the terminal in form-fittin’ black and a wig’a corkscrew curls goin’ berserko, like the “girl” got blasted with a fat bolt’a lightnin’, and his ‘do’s crazier than Skylar’s pink poof—seein’ Spark’ like this’s enough to get old grim-faced Abe Lincoln guffawin’ out’a that bullet’s path.
Imagine Abe livin’ on, all he mighta done: A log cabin for everyone! Lyin’ outlawed! Yeah, if Spark was back there, remade by that dude looks like a lady Skylar, and Lincoln uncovered the rooster in Spark’s henhouse, hell, his guffaw’d be famous now!
And here’s Spark, strugglin’ on his heels…this’s gotta be some whacked-out dream. And not a sweet dream. None’a this. If I wasn’t so hungover, dead-tired, I prob’ly be laughin’, or chucklin’, but I am and I’m not. All’s I can do’s wish this was a dream and watch the reruns and goblins on my mental flat screen.
And the wide-awake true’a how we got from that mirror-mad bathroom to now?
The answer’s a car ride to some madhouse bus terminal.
Welcome to my night terrors. Okay, first you gotta visualize a grubby little shit with an invisible Kick me in the fuckin’ head! branded on his soul (the little shit’s me as a boy), gettin’ resurrected as I sat in weirdo palace, blowin’ ugly chunks’a remember-when across kitchen table. After an all-day brew fest. And once yesteryear’s outta my nut and wormin’ into NY, NY screwball ears, well, truth is, it’s a friggin’ blank. All that nude-in-Sammy’s-bed shit, I don’t know. And the not knowin’, it scares the fuck outta me. Add embare-assment to the mix and, as Queen Sparktoria ducks into the little girl’s room, I’m flashbackin’ like a motherfucker.
‘Cause, like Bowie sang—all the nightmares came to play—the waked-up nightmares that come when a guy lets that old ugly shit get loose, only bad can result. Bad like a clearly hetro-sapien’s peepers poppin’ open to Monty Hall’s door number four: a naked dude tryin’ to boner-rize you.
Which’s why I don’t usually visit Memory fuckin’ Lane. All that shit about how the little shit, me, had to survive.
And how’d the kid I was survive?
Well, when survive’s staple-gunned to the top’a your gotta-do list, every friggin’ day, how ain’t nothin’ but doin’ whatever it takes. Like takin’ punches. Or when your real cool, BFF dad cracks up crazy into a blubberin’, boozin’, mainlinin’ shadow’a what he was—till nothin’s left but a c’mere, kid…hop in…that’s it…now go down under the covers…yeahhh dad, and when that shit’s shiftin’ gears for business as usual, you learn how.
You collect the few valuables Mom left when the cancer took her and you bail out a window.
And when the cops nab you and drag you back once, twice, you get tricky—before you answer his drunken calls and shimmy under those sheets that stink’a piss and sweat and feet, and the gag-inducin’ rest, you punch 9-1-1 and whisper that you’re eleven and’re bein’ sexed on a grown man, a monster. “My own dad,” you say into the phone. And you say it to survive.
And when Old Slimeball’s locked up and you’re parentless, and some smug stooge in a fire-red Trans Am and a grayin’ goatee and the shaggy hair of an eighteen-year-old zooms you to a foster “family” where the “brothers” and “sisters”’re huffin’ model glue and bangin’ each other, how’s that you drop out another window. First one, then two, till finally you disappear. To survive.
So how? Now? How do I get past a thing that may or may not’a happened between me and a gap-toothed bozo named Sammy, who got kicked around same as me? Keep the Dwayno rockin’ and rollin’ attitude, while livin’ with the friggin’ possibility? How?
Like this: Have some transvestite I just friggin’ met costume me up in drag and dump me and my burn victim charge at a Greyhound line, a bus goin’ to destination unknown. Take the tickets to a town and state I ain’t readin’ the name’a. “Surprise me,” I tell our surrogate man-mom.
And back at the ranch’a now, here comes Gumby’s pink cross-dressin’, wild-wigged cousin, fake tits high and firm, wobbly-walkin’ up to yours truly on the pointy heels.
“Got your ticket, Sparketta?”
“Nobody’s gonna believe we’re women.”
“Why’d ya hafta look in that goddamn bathroom mirror again? You like goin’ in the ladies’ can, don’t ya? Hear the girls peein’. Haha.”
“I gotta keep this hair in my face, so no one sees…fuck. This’ll never work.”
“What face? Listen. Just tuck that shawl thingy higher. Tug it tighter. That’s it. Just keep the fake hair flattened down. Yeah, like that. Now you’re just some butt-ugly chick and since no one feels right about starin’ at ugly, you’re cool. But. Do you got your ticket?”
Sparkerella the Drag Queen waggles his bus ticket.
“Good. ‘Cause that’s our bus. C’mon.”
Done-up like a pair of royal fools, missing my hoodie, we secure the backmost seat. Next to the bus toilet. Maybe not the most pleasingly aromatic spot, but we’re less conspicuous here. Just a couple of college girls going home. Or back to school? Nothing unusual as the bus belches soot and starts rolling away from its dock and into New York traffic.
The bus is evenly populated: elderly, middle-aged, young; obese, healthy, thin—and one upset baby traveling with a caretaker who cannot be more than fifteen. And who cannot handle the Chihuahua-sized creature whose toothless maw broadcasts a piercing siren. An infant with tiny scarlet hands that reach, wild with tremors, desperate. For something.
The teen seems oblivious, earbuds planted deep, foot bopping.
The bus lurches, and we passengers jerk with it, and, diesel engine grunting black smoke, we’re on a freeway.
The baby’s wail continues.
This amplifies my hangover headache, and though I know Dwayne is studying me and my hokey getup, just as I know he wants me to acknowledge him and his attention, I focus on the miserable miniature human and the teen mom’s indifference. I resist the urge to intervene, because what do I know of childcare? I had no brothers or sisters. I’ve never even held a baby.
Dwayne clears his throat—in my ear. Or through the fake hair that covers my lack of ear. “Hey,” he says over the keen.
Keeping my voice hushed and girlishly high: “You sound like a man.”
“So the fuck what?” Dwayne says in his regular voice.
Into his wig, I whisper, “So, we’re trying to maintain our cover.” I clear my voice as if I lacked testicles.
Dwayne smiles. “Ya know, Spark. You don’t gotta worry ‘bout your lack’a friggin’ face, with boobies like those. They’ll attract all kinds’a friggin’ attention. You know, lookin’ at em, I popped a sausage.”
Yeah, I think, missing Sam. Aloud I say, “Fuck. You.” Because I’m hungover and frazzled from the shrieking kid, and anyway, who’s he to judge? Pulling breath, I say, “Yours look like balled tissues. Breasts made of snot rags. Used snot rags.”
“What?” Dwayne examines his Skylar-made breasts. “Yeah right,” he says, “you’re just jealous.”
“Jealous of a bodice stuffed with toilet paper? I don’t think so. I got the half-moons, or whatever Skylar called them. Mine even feel real.”
“You been fondlin’ your own boobs?”
I redirect my gaze to watch gray city flash by.
“Waaah-waaah-waaaaaah,” wails the purple shrunken head.
“You have!” Dwayne says, snickering. “S’that why you kept hittin’ the women’s head?”
“Women don’t use the ‘head’?”
“Huh? They gave you head in there?” He grins shark-like. “What, you lifted the dress and all the girls squealed?”
The screaming continues; the child-mother’s foot bounces to some beat only she can hear.
“Blowjob? Or’d they lift their skirts too? Kinky, Spark. You shoulda tried that with Lori-Anne!”
“Is that what you did?”
“What? Well, a few babes—”
“No. Last night. With Sam.”
Dwayne’s face is a royal flush. “Fuck this.” He stands, hefts his knapsack, and slams into the heavy-scented hotbox toilet.
The baby wails on.
Fuckin Spark’s what I’m thinkin’ as I rip off Skylar’s handiwork. Literally. The skirt and blouse tear, the nylons run, then shred, the heeled shoes that must be special made to fit a man’s feet go splash in the sloshin’ pool’a chemicals, piss, and poo.
No underwear, I tame the uncontained serpent into layin’ flat down my friggin leg—to my knee, girls! I almost catch my man-pelt in the zipper teeth’a my not-clean-but-far-better blue jeans.
A last gander at the girlie shoes, as they ride the deodorant and waste blue-foam-capped waves like a couple’a stupid little boats, kinda like me and Spark, and the lid goes down, and my ass goes on that, so I can put on my socks—socks that might be alive but smell like they died—and tie the worn laces’a my rugged sneaks. Every drag thing I take off goes in the Greyhound shitter.
Coverin’ the floatin’ girl shoes. The stupid friggin’ boats. They’re like me and Spark, disguised, concealed, hidin’. Hell, like every one’a us. Imaginin’ we matter, thinkin’ there’s some magical friggin’ point to our lives, that there’s some Hollywood happy endin’ we’ll reach, when, far as old Dwayno can see, the only point’s to make your life the one you wanna live—cause if it ain’t and you ain’t friggin’ happy, you’d be better dead. Bein’ happy’s the only point. Fuck all that flashback shit. That’s what we all gotta shed, throw in the stink-hole, and walk the fuck away from. Cause if every clown suckin’ air could be happy, could make that the point’a their lives, the world’d be better—
“Occupied, but vacatin’ soon.”
What the fuck?
I crack the door, feel the cool, realize my face’s a friggin’ river’a sweat—and I see Magilla.
“Gotta get in there,” he says. Maybe six-seven in height and three-sixty friggin’ pounds, there ain’t no way Magilla’s fittin’ in here.
“I ain’t quite done,” I says.
I look at him; he looks at me…I seal the crack and flip the lock.
I ain’t bein’ a dick for kicks—locked means occupied and I got rights. Squatter’s rights. Cause what if I was in the middle’a loosin’ a Magilla Gorilla turd, was pushin’, and by now the thing’s halfway out, well you get the picture. Locked means locked means business.
See, I lost the Skylar attire, and good riddance, but revertin’ to my old duds means I look like me and that means the Eye in the Sky will spot the culprit in the Connecticut cop-shop arson crime. These days eyes’re anywhere, everywhere. Could be a goddamn camera in here.
I scan but find nothin’ that’s in the least camera-like.
But you never know.
So fuck Magilla.
Outta my knapsack I produce a—voila!—handheld nonelectric razor, and I go at it.
Dozing’s not easy when there’s a diaper-rashed or hungry or feverish—and totally ignored— screeching mini-kid and you’re still alcohol-sick and agitated over how your demented cohort first ogled then insulted your fake strap-on boobs—when yours were clearly more authentic-looking than the inferior falsies Skylar fixed him up with—and you’re being harassed by some sumo-looking dude who was banging on the bus-bathroom door for a good ten minutes before noticing you but now is sitting close, grunting Barry White words of love—dozing is out of the question when you’re tormented not only by his pawing at your padding but also by the pinch of straps and artificial boobs and other female undergarments, the dress, wig, and makeup—and none of it was your damned doing. When none of this was in your plan, you don’t give a flying fuck whose fake boobs look more real…and you’re fuming. In unfathomably absurd and surreal instances such as the one you now inhabit, dozing may be the hardest thing you’ve tried.
And you have tried. Many times. You have tried and failed, and tried and succeeded. You have finished marathons, won football championships, held the most valuable player position in five sports simultaneously, and have been assured admission, via promised athletic scholarships, to insanely prestigious Ivy League schools, as an underclassman. You have lived through horrible injury, the loss of all you held dear, and then you rose from those ashes. Yes, you have achieved the unachievable. But slipping into slumbers, here and now, on this foul bus—it’s like jumping to the fucking moon.
And still, in time, it happens: Sumo loses interest, you lose consciousness, tumbling deep into nothingness, a soundless, sightless, thoughtless state that doesn’t include flamboyant and closet gays and beautiful female-looking persons who claim innate possession of mixed genitalia; you resolve to a blissful anti-realm where there’s no suffering incineration, no evading incarceration, no donning women’s clothes, no shame or fear, or walk and walk and walk; you become air too thin for dreams, for nightmares of Dwayne Handy yammering at your side, into your grotesque face, saying he’s your guardian friggin angel…
Or you must have drifted off, in spite of the busload of obstacles, the insanity stretching behind you like a loathsome strip of toilet paper—because Dwayne Handy is above you, saying:
Or what I wake to is something close to Dwayne: a six-foot guy, in Dwayne’s filthy clothes and an expertly painted face and a sloppily shaved head.
“Dwayne,” I say.
“Incognito,” he answers.
I sit up on the two-and-a-half-person rear bus seat to make room for Dwayne and I adjust the shawl and the crazy black curls that obscure my throat, chin, and the rest (I hope).
“Boobs still look good enough to suckle,” he says. His grin is perverse; an effect amplified by Skylar’s makeup, the low light of the dying day the abrupt, the almost total lack of hair—and Dwayne’s stare.
Turning my attention downward, I see that the stretchy material of my low-cut top has radically shifted, allowing one of my breasts to pop free, my nipple looking markedly non-synthetic.
“Oh,” I gasp, “Fuck me.” I collect and tuck away my girl part.
Dwayne sets his knapsack between his feet and leans close. “Ya switched friggin’ genders, buddy. So what ya gotta ask yourself now is, ‘Am I a lady or a tramp?’ ‘Cause, right there”—his pointer suggests the right member of my bountiful pair—“that show-offy shit’s kinda trampy.”
A Sam-related homosexuality-insinuating comment burns my tongue, but I swallow it, and surrender my awareness to the speed-smeared scene outside the bus window: diminishing city draped in shadows.
Roanoke friggin’ Virginia.
Thirteen obnoxious hours, consistin’a nine stops’a varyin’ amounts’a waitin’ time, a bus switch, and, in middle’a the trip, at four-friggin-thirty in the a.m.—Washington, DC. Goddamn HQ’a the nation. I mean, for chrissakes, we were there. How many times’s that happen to a clown like me? A’course I’m anti-government/unpatriotic as the next dope, but….
Honest Abe’s Monument?
‘Cause with Greyhound? You miss your bus (and you hang onto your ticket), you can just catch another grey dog later. Gives a guy the freedom to choose—and ain’t that the cock-n-balls’a the American way? Old Dwayne might’a missed a few grades’a school but he caught that much’a the star-n-stripes gist. Free and sleazy.
Then there’s Sparketta, like one’a Cinderelli’s ugly stepsisters, that queen ain’t havin’ none’a it. Afraid’a losin his bag that’s locked up under the bus—with his friggin’ dude clothes in it. I goes: “Ask the friggin’ deadbeat with the driver’s cap to unlock the stowaway area. Say you gotta get a tampon or some shit. Hell, I’ll explain it to the guy. He ain’t a cop, after all. What’s he gonna do, check under the dress? See if you’re smugglin’ some danglin’ dick? All to, what, call up the law, cause he recognized your ugliness and’s lookin’ to cash in on the reward the feds’re offerin’?”
“Go ahead,” Spark says. “Go,” he adds.
“Without my friggin’ charge? Spark, how’m I gonna do that with a clear conscience and all? I mean, you know I’m your guardian friggin’ angel, and as such, well, it’s like forbidden fruit to a guy in my position.”
“Okay,” I says, as we stand sorta between the snack area and the restrooms, so we won’t catch a full whiff’a either.
A guy gets pretty sensitive to smells after eight or however many goddamn hours camped beside a Greyhound shitter. Seems they don’t change that slosh, and believe you me, it gets damn ripe. Can get ya woozy, those toxic fumes. Got me and Spark slumpin’ and bumpin’ into each other in a semi-consciousness stupor. Passengers gettin’ on and off prob’ly decided we were lovers, what with all his boob flashin’ action. All’a which’s why I wanna get off at Obama stop.
“So, Spark,” I go, continuatin’ my previous thought, “you prob’ly don’t view me as a validated angel, and I will admit, I’ve had my ups and downs—even on this friggin’ trip—but I, well, I got my obligation, a story I’ll tell in complete detail someday. Like when the cows come home. But thing is, bein’ a guardian friggin angel’s quite a different gig than bein’ your regular, sorta run’a the mill angel.”
Spark nods his irritated queeny noggin, like he’s about to be on the rag. And after a few further bickersome minutes, I follow, as the woman he’s bloomed into mounts those Greyhound steps and wobbles for the bus’s rear end.
All’a which—and more—leads here. Why our man-mom sent us here’s any bozo’s guess. But at midnight? Skylar’s get-you-boys-outta-the-pan plan needed some rewritin’.
But it’s past revisin’ time, and bein’ the stupid little boat I am, I figure this’s what it is.
A’course I’m always on the lookout for Clarence’s cows. I seen some gnawin’ hay but they were not Clarence’s batch’a bovine. A guardian friggin’ angel, he intuitives such true or falses.
Spark just wants to get to a restroom to lose the drag-fag getup.
Which’s how we end up in the bar. Most’a our stuff stashed in some innocent-lookin’ bushes I found. Sparky fought it, but in the end, when I started tryin’ to whip up his dress to see what Skylar got him to wear down there, he grabbed a rolled up change’a uniform and chucked his pack in my suggested spot.
Nothin’ classy, but after this long without a goddamn shower, who wants classy. And it bein’ so un-classy and late, nearly one a.m., prob’ly’s how I got talkin’ to Jethro.
About 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.