Maddy Madre LaCrone

 It wasn’t the makeup that did it, not even the wig or the dress, it was when David slipped on his stockings that he was transformed into his drag persona, Maddy Madre LaCrone.  His demeanor utterly changed, the stressed masculinity of his formal life easing away, slipping into a soft, tranquil femininity. He took a deep breath, held it with his eyes closed, and communed for a moment with the Goddess, summoning Her Divinity and taking it inside…

Imagined as an incandescent, genderless being with gossamer wings, tiny like a dragonfly, manifesting from the ether to waltz on the wind in circles around and around until diving right into David’s heart. 

Eyes opened, he looked into the mirror and no longer saw David. It was Maddy that gazed back, a coquettishness twinkling in her emerald eyes, a slight, sly grin gracing her crimson lips. She wasn’t as stylized as the other girls, more of a natural beauty though no less fashioned from skill and craft. She grabbed her phone and stood, ready to traipse out into the world, head downtown, and perform for her small but adoring fan base.

She paused a moment to take in the news playing on her small, but sufficient flat-screen. Up in Dallas, a white police officer who had burst into the wrong apartment and shot dead the black resident was found guilty, as she should have been regardless of her tear-filled claims of profound remorse. Then again, at least she was apologetic. 

Here in Beaumont, a black man was arrested for murdering his four roommates. Footage of him being loaded into a squad car offered the world a glimpse of a disturbingly callous creature spewing religious hooey. He’d probably already imagined God had forgiven him his iniquities. What was religion for if not easing the guilt of the guilty? Sickened, she turned off the television.

Allowing herself to flutter like the Goddess’ Divinity, she twirled around the room turning off the various lights, her black vampire gown flowing about her with beauty and elegance. She continued her dance throughout her apartment until she was bathed in darkness. It was easy to get to the door, she’d lived there for seven years and knew it like the back of her hand. Outside, the heat hit her and she groaned. It didn’t feel like October yet, but there were times when Texas just didn’t get the memo about the seasonal change. She remembered entire Octobers from her childhood feeling like July, others freezing.

Texas, like its populace, could be schizophrenic.

Her ride showed up as she locked the door. Candice, an older neighbor, called out from her balcony wishing Maddy a fabulous evening. The drag queen thanked her without looking back, but did offer a British Royal’s wave as she slipped into the backseat. The driver said not a word, but nodded as he pulled away from the curb, off to the club, The Cabana.

Gay clubs in Beaumont didn’t tend to last long, but there was a steady rotation that didn’t leave prolonged gaps between them. It was frustrating for the community, but also for businessmen as well.

Maddy hosted open mic nights during the week, a gig that barely paid her bills, but a paying gig nonetheless and she was grateful for it. For a queen, those were few and far between in rural south Texas. Weekend shows were the most coveted engagements, but they tended to be handed to the establishment owner’s friends. It’d be easy to be bitter about such incestuous practices, but that could easily slip into ingratitude, and that was dangerous territory to traverse. Many a bitter bitch had gotten herself blacklisted and had to move. Maddy had an interest in moving, but not the money to even think about it.

After glancing back at her in the rear view mirror, the driver finally said something. “It’s a little early in the week to be all dolled up, isn’t it?” Square jaw, bald head, he was a stocky shell of a blue-collar man, perhaps a handyman with several side jobs including this one. She imagined him an absentee father of two with a drinking problem and a violent history. It was presumptuous, of course, but she’d met more than a few. Beaumont was filled with them.

The man’s brow was furrowed, and his tone of voice was gruff. Past experiences had taken their toll on Maddy. Though they had thickened her skin, unexpected comments or confrontations had the power to throw her off balance even when she was sitting down. Stomach knotting slightly, she said in her softest voice, “Part of the job really.”

“Well,” the man shrugged. “Most girls wouldn’t bother. You’re very pretty.”

She wasn’t sure how to take the compliment, but she responded cordially. “Thank you.”

“What kind of job?” His gruff expression did not change, the intensity of his gaze made Maddy even more uncomfortable, but she knew she had to keep her cool. It could very well be he was just making polite conversation.

“I host open mic at The Cabana. When we get there, do you mind dropping me off around back, the employee entrance?”

“No problem.”

To detour any further exchange, she buried her face in her phone and pulled up a mindless game to pass the time. It worked, the remainder of the ride was silent and uneventful. The driver did as she’d asked, dropped her off at the back of the club down a narrow, dark alleyway. She thanked him and closed the door, but was struck confused by the lack of cars in the small lot and the unlit street lights above. The dark gave the place an eerie atmosphere so she hurried the squeaking door. It slammed shut behind her.

The unease didn’t fade away. Usually the club was busy with employees scampering about preparing to open. She was alone, the harsh overhead lights on, the small stage, usually ready to go, was bare.

“Fuck,” she muttered lowly as she realized exactly what was happening. Hopelessness and fear washed over her. Sadly, she felt Maddy exiting the building and dreary, normal, boring old David returning. Over to one of the tables, she ripped off her wig and sat down.

“I’m sorry,” a voice came from the far corner behind the bar.

She turned to face the proprietor, Jackson Jacobson, a middle-aged former CEO who left the corporate world after coming out. Handsome, kind and flirtatious, it was hard to be mad at him, but she was anyway. “You couldn’t have called?”

He went to her and sat down. “I was just about to. I’d already called everyone else. You were literally next on my list.”

“The last on your list, you mean.”

The proprietor wanted to say something, but obviously decided against it, slapped his trap shut and hung his head, turning his eyes to his lap.

“God damn it, Jackson. What am I supposed to do? I don’t have a family or savings account to back me up. I was barely getting by to begin with. Waiting tables, no matter how many extra shifts I pick up, won’t cut it. Half the people in this fucking town don’t even know what tipping is. What else is there around here for a guy like me?” He thought of the dire implications, tears welling in his eyes. “I don’t know. My landlord might give me an extension just because I’ve been there so long, but I gotta pay bills and I gotta eat.”

Without looking up, the older man suggested, “Maybe it’s time for you to get out of here, move to a city where you’ll be more appreciated.”

David threw his hands up in frustration. “I can’t. I don’t have the coinage.”

Jackson looked up, his hazel eyes also filled with tears. “I’ll give you the money, but don’t use it to coast here. You get out, go someplace special and do something special. You hear me? Promise. Promise me right now. Don’t think about it. If you say you have to think about it, I won’t give it to you. Promise me you’ll get the hell out of Beaumont.”

His own tears rolling down his blushed cheeks, David couldn’t believe what he was hearing. There was a lump in his throat difficult to talk past. “Okay, I promise,” he said in little more than a rush of breath. The two sat there in silence for a long time, tears flowing, gazes locked, the atmosphere of the club around them oddly growing spookier by the moment, almost casting a melancholy spell on the only two people there.

David snapped out of it, an awkward chuckle coming out of him. Wiping the tears from his cheeks, he asked, “What are you going to do?”

Jackson cleared his throat and dried his face with his sleeves. “I’m not sure yet. I’ve thought about getting out too, but if I did I’d never get to see my son. I barely get to spend any time with him as it is. And my father was recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. I’d be abandoning a lot if I left. But you, my dear David, don’t have the same anchors I do. You can leave, and you should. Houston, Austin, Dallas, beyond. There’s an adventure waiting for you.”

A tender, friendly moment passed between them, but it was fleeting, disturbed by the creaky opening and slam of the back entrance. Both looked in the direction from whence the sound had come and were confused by the stocky man who emerged from the shadows. David recognized him immediately. It was the scowling driver.

“Fucking faggots,” the man spat as he lifted one arm, a corroded, ill-kept gun wrapped in his white-knuckle fingers. He closed one eye as he aimed it, tongue poking out as he focused, a dementedly amusing caricature of a gun-loving redneck that might have made the objects of his scorn uncomfortably laugh had the murder weapon not been aimed at them, but it was.

Their hearts leapt into their throats as David and Jackson jumped to their feet, but they didn’t have the chance to flee or beg for their lives before the driver shot them down in a deafening, rapid succession of bullets. 

© 2020 Joshua Skye (DRWJ), USA. All right reserved.



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