Another day, another dreamer.
Fallon strolled around Runway Room Two. He checked the audio and video equipment and the positions of the lights—everything was good to go—then sat on a folding chair before a table that supported a control panel. He crossed his arms over his chest and his legs over each other and impatiently began bobbing the uppermost.
"Tyler?" he called out, then checked the wall clock.
Although Tyler Burke was paying for ninety minutes’ worth of coaching, he was again pissing away at least thirty of those minutes in the dressing room. Fallon had yet to see him in street clothes. He always arrived at Stage Right before Fallon got there, and he always departed after Fallon had left the room.
Fallon rose, walked the length of the runway, and went to one of the two doors flanking the stage. "Ty, you don’t have to practice in costume, you know."
"Yes I…fuck…yes I do."
Fallon leaned an ear toward the door. "What happened? Are you all right?"
Another "fuck," this one clipped and muted. "Yeah, I’ll be okay. I just speared my goddamned cornea with one of my eyelashes." He obviously meant the fake ones.
"I’m telling you, you don’t have to be in full—"
"Just go away and let me get ready. Christ knows I’m paying enough."
Sighing and shaking his head, Fallon went back to the console table. Many of the hopefuls who paid for Stage Right’s services were lost causes—Tyler Burke was a perfect example—but the coaches and instructors weren’t allowed to tell them that.
Five more minutes went by. For the umpteenth time in the past few weeks, Fallon touched his face. The rash, or whatever the hell it was, had put a heavy damper on his sex life. Going out in this condition didn’t net him anything but negative attention. He’d found that out at Bent this past weekend and at Lady Dah’s the weekend before. Humiliating, being treated like a leper. One tantalizing techie he’d asked to dance had even said to him, "Sorry, man, I don’t know if you’ve got scabies or herpes or what, but I sure as hell don’t want it." After that, Fallon had gone on the Internet to look for a less threatening skin condition he could call his own. Now he blamed the blotches on eczema. Todd fell back on the latex allergy and Jake claimed to have a form of dermatitis.
None of the excuses helped much. He and his friends were still generally shunned.
"David thinks we’re cursed."
A chill crawled across Fallon’s back. What a bizarre thing to say. David Ocho didn’t seem like a nutjob. Then again, Fallon didn’t know any writers other than him. Maybe they were all a bubble off plumb.
Occasional thumps and mutters came from the dressing room and redirected Fallon’s thoughts. He checked the tune Tyler had picked for this session.
"Oh no," he groaned under his breath.
Etta James, "Tell Mama."
The dressing room door opened, and the World’s Ugliest Drag Queen rocked and teetered up the steps to the stage.
"Well?" Tyler said. "Hit the lights."
His vocal register was closer to Paul Robeson’s than Etta James’s. Good thing he’d be lip-syncing. Fallon hit the lights.
A blinding sparkle and gleam surrounded Ty’s beefy form. Fallon squinted against it. Tiny stars born of sequins, glitter, and bugle beads went nova every time he moved.
Fallon lifted a hand to shield his eyes. "Don’t you think that gown is a little . . . Vegas showgirl with relatives in a Chinese bead factory?"
"The boss likes glamour." Ty smoothed his square hands over his platinum wig, highlighting the stitchery of fine black hair on the backs of his fingers. "Besides, I got this for a steal from a guy who’s retiring from the business. I can’t afford new costumes."
Fallon wanted to say, Ty, for godssake, you look like a man piñata at a birthday party for Cher. You are not cut out for this line of work.
"I’ll show you what I’ve come up with so far," said Ty. "Then you can help me finesse it."
"But we haven’t finished ‘finessing’ the Nina Simone song yet."
"I worked on that at home. Now I need to get his one down." Ty glanced at his palm.
"What’s on your hand?" Fallon asked suspiciously.
Fallon sagged. Why on God’s green earth, he wondered, had this man decided to become an entertainer?
Ty was getting antsy. "Let’s just kick this off, okay? I’m starting to itch under here."
There wasn’t much Fallon could do except honor Ty’s wishes. The client was king—or, in this case, some bizarre king-queen hybrid. After adjusting the level of light, Fallon checked the angle of the stationary camcorder and turned on the music.
With a series of body-wide jerks, Tyler "Bubbles" Burke began his assault on Etta James.
Fallon paced around the runway, studying his student. He mounted the stage and regarded Ty from the rear. He had a damned nice ass, but it was hardly a girly ass. His shoulders were too wide to convey lithe grace. And his movements . . .
"Stop!" Fallon clicked off the music with the remote he carried.
Startled, Ty turned. His feet wobbled, ankles nearly buckling.
"Okay," Fallon said, walking up beside him. "For starters, you need lower heels. You’re either gonna cripple yourself or somebody in the audience when you fall off the damned stage. For another thing, you’re too focused on remembering the lyrics to ‘act’ the lyrics. We’ve discussed this before. Let the rhythm of the song and the story it’s telling determine your movements."
He looked up at Ty. Damn, the dude was tall. Within the tar pits of his eye makeup, his gray irises were astonishingly pretty. Fallon suddenly wished he could see this man in his natural state, stripped of all the goo and bling.
"Are you sure you’re gay?" he asked without thinking.
Ty put his hands on his narrow hips and compressed his glossy lips. "Actually, no. Even though I haven’t been near pussy in the thirty-one years since I emerged from the womb, I’m still not sure." His sarcasm morphed into suspicion. "What are you getting at?"
What he was getting at hit Fallon in a most abrupt and jarring way. I’d love to see you come out of that dressing room looking like a boxer instead of a bitch. "Nothing. Never mind. Just stand at the end of the runway and watch me. I’ll show you what I mean and talk you through it."
His reaction to Ty rattled him. Fallon had been attracted to a man in drag just once before, and that was six years ago in New Orleans. But that man was physically flawless, moved liked a gazelle, and was done up only for Mardi Gras night. It was all in fun, and he worked that fun to perfection. Tyler Burke, however, was trying to make this a second career, and he looked and moved like an alien inhabiting a human body.
When Fallon wondered if Ty could see his "eczema," his surge of self-consciousness rattled him even more. Why should he care how he looked to this guy?
He reran the song to the beginning. Ty took up his viewing position at the end of the runway.
Just do it, Fallon told himself. Just ignore him and do it and don’t think.
It wasn’t hard for Fallon to let the song carry him away. As long as he could remember, his body had responded to music as naturally as a planet responded to gravitational force. So, as Etta James sang, his arms made a fluid flourish here, his hips swayed there, his hands and feet rose and fell in pantomime, and his upper body shimmied seductively. It felt great. Better than a swim in a cool, clean lake on a hot, muggy day. Better than any drug- or alcohol-induced buzz. People who said they didn’t like to dance always left Fallon incredulous.
"Repeat please," Ty murmured after the song ended. He stood with his arms crossed beneath his false bosom.
Fallon went through the song a second time, explaining why certain motions and gestures fit certain parts of the lyric. He tried to keep his improvisations similar to the first run-through so his student wouldn’t get too confused.
Tell mama, he cajoled his audience-of-one, what you want, what you need.
Ty didn’t look confused. He looked mesmerized. And Fallon was starting to feel just a little aroused. He didn’t know if dancing was doing it, or the fact he had such an attentive audience, or, God forbid, the thought of a butch man in a lounge-singer dress suffering the unique agony of a growing erection. A hideaway gaff, designed to keep one’s dick tucked neatly between one’s legs, was not a boner-friendly piece of apparel.
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~ from Fugly, copyright (c) 2010 K. Z. Snow