Junebug versus Hurricane

Missy’s Big Chance

Desperate Living

Taylor Black


[Listeners’ Guide: These here blue links are songs that should be played behind your reading of the story.  The words don’t work otherwise, this shit is choreographed!  Click where it says click and you’ll have a nice time.  xo, Jbg]

Restraining Order Blues

Saturday nights are Missy Barker’s favorite. Even though she had already had herself three other Saturday nights in the past week, the stars seemed aligned tonight.  It was Saturday night after all.

“Memaw!  Can I have $20?  I’ll get it back to you once my man Blake pays me back next week.”

Her grandmother sighed, tried to look away from her reflection in the TV screen, awoke a bit, collected herself and then lit a cigarette—Tareytons 100s if you are the kind of person who likes banal information like that—and, after taking a long, gratuitous drag put down her lighter on the coffee stand, flipped on the lamp next to her Lazyboy and answered her dear Missy’s request:

“What the hell are you going to do with $20?  Don’t you think for a minute you can just buy a bunch of beer and invite half of the ingrates of Kernersville over here tonight—it’s not gonna happen, like hell you will.”

“Memaw!”—a name Missy, her brothers and now even her own parents used in place of the one her parents gave her, the one she was recognized by when hope still seemed salvageable,  before people started calling her ma’am and waiting for her to shuffle off to the forevereverafter.  In fact, Dora [I know what you’re thinking: “Dora?  You mean like Dora the Explorer?” No, Doe-ra, as in Dooooooe-rrrrra], her name before Memaw, suited her. After all, a name like “Memaw” that is affectionate; it’s meant for someone who washes clothes all day long, cooks pots and pots of pinto beans and wakes every morning just to tell you how much you mean to her.  But Dora, Dora Dora: the woman’s about as folksy as as a truckstop and as feminine as one of the eighteen wheelers huddled together in the parking lot outside, waiting for their drivers to put down the 17-year old call boys they’re ravishing and the “Surf and Turf” dinner specials they’re eating.”—“shut the hell up and tell me where your money is.  You know I’m good for it.  Besides, I wouldn’t be asking you if I hadn’t gotten my money stolen at The Odyssey the other night.”

Poor, petulant Missy.

With the mind of a child and common sense of an inbred Rottweiler, she really believes that she’s important enough to get robbed.

In fact, no one stole money from her; hell, everyone in there is basically fluid bonded, since it was the only homosexual establishment within a 30 mile radius.  Everyone knows your name at The Odyssey, but only out of habit.  The same folks are always doing and saying the same things there every night, wasting what’s left of their paychecks on drinks composed mostly of knockoff mixers and sprinkled with watered down liquors.  Like dogs who circle and circle their vomit before finally giving in and eating in, the denizens of Winston-Salem’s hottest, and only, gay club made their eternal rounds each and every night inside its black-lit halls.

“Go on and get a twenty from my room.  I got a pile of money on top of my chest of drawers, but don’t think for a second I don’t know how much is there, don’t even do it Melissa Jean.  You take your $20 and get your lily white ass on out of this house so I can get some peace and quiet: your brother was nice enough to show me how to tape all my stories that I miss during the day [napping, going to the pawn shop to shoot the shit with her friend Peggy who’s been working there since her husband’s disability checks started going to his growing collection of Sudafed and jet fuel that he was keeping out back in his toolshed, and stopping in at the liquor store to buy 6 airplane bottles of Smirnoff at a time—anything more would be unladylike…).”

Missy opened the door to Dora’s cell and thought to herself that the smell of mildew was finally beginning to overpower the smell of 40 years of cigarette smoke that had before that time overpowered the entire abode.  Memaw’s sentence on earth was certainly coming to a close sooner rather than later.  There was something in the air that made it certain.

As she slide a $20 into the coin-pocket of her new [knockoff, bought from Rose’s, tossed aside not from last season’s collection, but from 1998’s collection…brought down to North Carolina just for her to shove herself into] True Religion’s she paused. . .and then told herself that dangerous phrase that she said so much that it almost became a tic, the one that made her feel butch but really just admitted how little she had to lose:

“Fuck it.”

Missy then checked herself out in the mirror, liked what she saw—save the unsightly bumps on her chest that even her sports-bra and extra-large men’s dress shirt from couldn’t do away with—grabbed an unsolicited $10 bill and her old Memaw’s discarded wedding ring and she was ready to go.

Tonight was going to be a good night, or at least that’s what Missy wrote in her text message blast to all of her friends as she sauntered out of her Memaw’s room and her house too.

Before Missy got into her car—it’s a teal-green ’95 Acura, but you knew that already—she remembered she needed to fix her hair.  In the same way that Aileen Wuornos used to do—hands behind your back (in handcuffs if you’re Miss Wuornos), you keel over until your face is at crotch-level then bam, you throw yourself, your head and all of your hair back up to standing position—and she was ready to go.

I Want To Come Over

Walking into The Odyssey, Missy felt ashamed that she didn’t have anyone by her side.  All of the other butches entered the venue in style—walking like cowboys in too-tight jeans and blister-bound boots, grabbing their femmes by the neck the way a hunter holds a dead jackrabbit when he’s asked to pose for a picture.

Spitting tobacco and looking over their shoulders, the butches walk in a deliberate, yet paranoid way–as if they were walking through a prison yard.  The femmes can’t quite get the hang of sauntering in the high heels; their strides are long and cautious,  like that parking lot was a damn cotton field.

“Fuck that shit,” Missy mumbled to herself… and then text-messaged her friends: “I’m tired of this fucking town anyway.”

But, in the back of Missy’s mind she knew that things would be alright.  After all, she had thirty of her grandma’s dollars, an antique Woolworth’s wedding ring and her good looks.  Maybe she’d find a girl tipsy, or at least alone enough to take home to Memaw’s place.

With her $2 cover paid, phone set to vibrate and hair-fixing ritual repeated, Missy finally walked

Truth is, and don’t tell her I said this, but Missy didn’t even lose the money the other night, she spent it on alcohol—always gambling her nights away, looking for someone to recognize her for something she knew she wasn’t, but hoped that some of Memaw’s cash might compensate for.  Tonight, sadly, would be another one of those occasions.   Missy was gonna go for broke tonight.

Once she heard the intro guitar riffs to one of favorite Melissa Etheridge songs—the one they played almost every night, and strangely always at 11:30—she knew things were just about to be right.

Checking in with herself by glaring at her image reflected back from a mirror behind the bar that read “Colt 45: If the 4 don’t get ya the 5 will,” Missy noticed a real pretty girl holding court among a gaggle of sensibly dressed lesbians who all managed to get their genders wrong and come in looking a damn mess [think: stonewashed jeans w/ elastic that looks like it’s about to give up hope and tight striped rugby shirts; not butch, mind you, sloppy].

Telling herself that this was her big change, Missy pushed away her anxieties and swallowed what was left of her drink [if it makes it more enjoyable for you, it was a double-shot of Goldschläger—actually bootleg Sambuca, but who can tell the difference—that Missy mixed with the 20 ounces of Mountain Dew she brought in with her that evening] and sauntered over to their party.

Rather than introduce herself or show any signs of good social grace, Missy went in for the kill: “What are y’all drinkin’?”

In her mind she was being confident and manly, but unfortunately she only seemed lonely and dogged.

Totally ignoring any of this, Missy felt good as she stood waiting for her audience to recognize her chivalry.  Hands in her back pockets and eyes fixed on her new girl with the intensity of a pin-light, Missy relaxed a bit and grinned a kind of Howdy-Doody grin, the one she reserved for moments of real conquest. . .moments, as she imagined, just like this.

“Kamikaze’s work,” The Femme said, or, rather, shouted into Missy’s ear, which was now ringing from the shock of this girl speaking to her as if they were at Walnut Creek Amphitheater seeing (what’s left of) Lynyrd Skynyrd, and not standing in a gay bar that was clearing out, save for our Missy, this femme and her friends and two drunk faggots sleeping with their heads on the bar in a pool of Natural Light and their own filth.

Missy wiped The Femme’s JC Penny lipstick—color: blush if you’re west of Winston-Salem; bashful if you’re in the rest of the state—from her attached-earlobe and reached into her pocket, and then tried to ordered a round of shots of this thing she could neither remember the name of nor even begin to pronounce.

In her own softball player kind of femininity, The Femme hurled her ample frame in the direction of the bartender so that she might save the transaction (as well as the ever-sinking level of alcohol floating around in her bloodstream):

“She said Ka-mi-kaze,” drawing the word out for emphasis as if the bar tender was slow; as if it were an actual drink or an actual word.

Brushing off the horrible way the word “She” sounded coming out of that girl’s mouth in reference to her-self, Missy moved on.  “Fuck it,” she thought, as she witnessed herself asking The Femme for a dance.

Swallowing her kamikaze as desperately as she could—head and body bent back: searching, waiting for one more drop of liquor before it’s over—The Femme figured she’d oblige the poor thing at least until the song was over.  She loved Melissa Etheridge too.

As the two began to dance, Missy looked over at her partner’s friends and thought how jealous they must be that she was holding the woman they all wanted to badly, that she was man enough to scoop her up and take her away.  In reality, however, Missy’s “jealous” triangulators weren’t jealous at all—instead, having finished their shots too, they began rifling around looking for their coats, allthewhile making fun of Missy to each other, recycling all the same insults and lines that they had heard directed at themselves when they were back in high school.

The song’s about to end; Missy knew she had to do something.

The $10 bill she absconded from her Memaw’s dresser fell carelessly to the ground as Missy shoved her tiny white fingers into her jeans-pocket and pulled the ring.  Adopting what she imagined would come off as a suave glare, Missy looked deep into her new love’s eye-sockets, then grabbed her chubby hand and tried to push the ring down its middle finger.

The Femme giggled a bit as the ring fell to the floor and rolled out of sight.

Missy shouted hysterically: “That was my grandmother’s wedding ring!”

Unable to control her horrible self (or her nasty mouth) following a night drinking overly sweet mixers laced with tinted liquors, Missy’s femme laughed again.  So that she would know she was coming, the femme repositioned her body 45 degrees to her right and gave her friends a wink.

Then, face-to-face with her half-a-song Romeo, The Femme gave poor Missy one of her classic sideways glance that she saved for ugly people who bought things for her [she’s one of those girls who slow dances with you only to have a chance to eyeball the rest of the room], pinched her ruddy cheek and said: “You’re cute.”

Cowboy Take Me Away

Dateless, penniless, and now ringless, Missy stood alone on the dance floor as a slow-dance song came on.  With no one and no-thing to salvage from the evening, Missy swayed back and forth by herself until she saw stars, dancing to her siren song of sorts: the song she longs for someone to sing about her, the song no one ever will.

“Time to go home,” Missy thought; “Fuck it,” she text-messaged.

At least there was less than 24 hours to wait until Missy descended upon another Saturday night.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

taylor, you are drenched in the songs of the south. lost as a crumpled ten dollar bill on a dirty dance floor. – yr biggest yankee fan

Comment by glas

okay, first of all– this butch is flipping her hair?? I think my all-time favorite parts of this are: 17 year-old hustlers; fluid-bonded bar; and Missy’s attached earlobes (gross!)

Comment by Oli

I really enjoy the realness of Missy’s desperation. I think you’ve captured the essence of small-town gay bar in a way that is uncomfortably awesome. I also thought the way she took that shot was so honest. AND RUGBY SHIRT SLOPPY BUTCHES!! I screamed “YES” out loud at that.

Comment by Bevin

I’m a writer, and that was great. I think that I’m just like Missy…. It’s as though the writer was writing my mind.

Comment by Taii Stetter

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