mirco mini for the Anchorage Press fiction contest: 25 words or under.
During the interview the groomer yanked on my facial hair. “I thought it was dog fur!” she gasped. So no, I didn’t get the job.
mirco mini for the Anchorage Press fiction contest: 25 words or under.
During the interview the groomer yanked on my facial hair. “I thought it was dog fur!” she gasped. So no, I didn’t get the job.
I am submitting “$20” as a short story to a local writing contest and have made some new edits. Here is the latest, more polished version.
It’s a little awkward trying to come up with a fake name to protect his identity because I don’t remember his actual name.
I was standing alone on the patio of the gay bar that stays open long after all of the others close. The fags I came with had pumped me full of whiskey and compliments all night, but now were nowhere to be found. I was feeling dejected in Anchorage, recently back from college and missing the kind of queers you find in big cities. I had just ripped off an itchy $9 witch wig and washed an eyeliner moustache off in the bathroom mirror. Maybe that’s why I looked acceptable to him. Let’s call him Henry.
I had made eye contact with Henry between making conversation with the gorgeous old fag from Chile and sipping random drinks I found unattended on the wooden picnic tables. He was pretty unremarkable. Tall, average white dude, crew cut, black hoodie, five o’clock shadow. But I kept catching him looking at me and was curious why. I’m femme enough to give off the straight vibe, sure, but I haven’t been approached by a man in years. So I found myself leaning up against the wall next to him. We talked for a while and he asked me if I wanted to “hang out”. I knew I was too drunk and bored to pass up this potential adventure for going back to the cold van I was living in at the time.
Henry is in the Air Force and very proud of his Irish heritage (maybe I should have named him Liam). He tells me such things while we walk to the gas station so he can buy cigarettes. I grab a bottled water and a gingersnap cookie and he buys. As we walk back towards downtown he says, “You have the most clear green eyes. Make my eyes clear like that. Tell me how to make my eyes clear like yours.” I can’t tell if we’re having a special moment, or if he’s just drunk or high. He says he has a lot of money and would rather get a hotel room than take me to his downtown home. When I question the idea he tells me it’s because he has a pit-bull. I try to explain to him that I work with dogs, a pit-bull isn’t an issue for me (is it for other women???) But he insists, so we ride around and around in a cab looking for a vacancy on a Friday night, and finally end up at a run down motel with holes punched in the head boards.
Henry turned on the cable and I shouted from the bathroom for him to find some porn. There was a jacuzzi tub that looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in ten years. Despite that, I craved a hot bath so I started the water, got naked and came out of the bathroom proclaiming that we would have a hot tub together. Henry did not argue. He did whine that the water was too hot though and I told him to “man up, soldier.” We eased into the steaming water, the only light coming from the street through the bars on the windows. I hadn’t told Henry that I was gay yet, so when we were soaking in the tub he put his hand on my knee. I decided I was ok with it. We talked about his wife. Apparently, this was the “pit-bull” he spoke of. He said they hated each other but the Air Force gave them some kind of benefits if they stayed married. I told him he should get a divorce. He put his head back and sighed, agreeing. Henry got too hot and left the tub. I relaxed in it a little longer and when I got out I found him sprawled on the bed. I laid down and closed my eyes, heavy from the heat.
We talked a little more, or I should say he talked more. “You’re really cool,” he said, “you’re so…. chill.” I laughed at him. My eyes were still closed and suddenly I felt him leaning over me. He rested his hand on my stomach and started sucking on my nipples out of nowhere in the middle of our conversation. I don’t know why, but somehow I was ok with this too. I figured if I just kept my eyes closed I could enjoy a little nipple sucking, why not?! I laughed and told him he wasn’t doing it hard enough. He got all timid and I remembered why I don’t like having sex with dudes. But, he was so nervous and kinda dorky that it was almost cute. He grabbed his dick and I decided to start masturbating in front of him. He was mesmerized. I actually got a little turned on by the thought of him watching me and told him he could fuck me, with his hand only. He didn’t get it at first, but with a little direction it turned out ok. “You taste really good,” he said at one point, pulling his fingers from his mouth. It was then I remembered I was still kinda on my period. He tried to fuck me with his dick a few times and I had to push him away and tell him no, like he was a dog or something. At one point, I had a little reality check in which I realized this burly bro could rape me if he wanted to and I was a little nervous for a second. I ended up coming three times and he was in awe watching me ejaculate. “I’ve never seen that in real life,” he said. I made him masturbate to orgasm and he was amazed that two people could have sex without penile penetration. Like it was some new secret trick. Afterward, I watched his face relax and then slowly turn into a grimace as he surely thought about his wife. “It’s alright,” I said touching his shoulder, “you’re human. It’s not the end of the world. Nothing is forever.” He nodded. Where were all these sagely words coming from?
Before we had arrived at the motel he had been saying “I’ll never lie to you, I’m a very honest person.” I didn’t think he was a bad guy and I decided I wanted to be honest with him now that we had been physical. “I should probably tell you that, uh… I’m a lesbian.” I blurted out. He looked confused and I braced myself. “Whoa, you’re like the coolest lesbian I’ve ever met…” He tried to kiss me and awkwardly missed. “You look kinda like Henry Rollins” I said as he pulled away. He didn’t know who that was.
I was starting to sober up and decided that if I was going to have some identity crisis because I just let a dude bro put his hand inside me that I should do it in the safety of my own van. He told me that he should go home, but that I could stay if I promised not to break anything. I told him I would rather just walk back to my van. I think he felt embarrassed to check out only a few hours after he had checked in. We gathered our belongings and I started toward the door. “Wait,” he said. I turned around and saw him shuffling through his wallet. He pulled out a twenty-dollar bill. “Take this,” he said. WTF? I told him “no”. He insisted. “Do you realize what you’re implying?” I asked. He told me it wasn’t like that, he just wanted to make sure I got home safe (even though my van was two blocks away). I wasn’t going to turn down cash. Henry walked me to my van. “Well, maybe I’ll see you around sometime,” he said and smiled. “Yeah.” I lied. “Are you sure you’ll be alright out here?” he said as he watched someone shuffling around behind a dumpster. “I’ll be fine.” I nodded. As he walked away he turned over his shoulder and said, “Well, if anything happens just scream and I’ll come back.”
Little ice-melt pebbles crunch under our boots as we trace her daily path through the hospital doors. There’s a little “cover your cough” stand with sanitizer and paper masks. She takes a mask and stretches it over her head, two boney manicured hands, ring finger diamonds sparkling. The taunt white elastic band presses onto the delicate skin of the scar on her neck. We pass a gorgeous photograph of a bear cub playing with a moose antler on a river bank, a white porcelain Mary, and a chapel. The chapel intrigues me. The chapel bothers me, as if to say, you’re going to need to start praying.
We sit down with the naturopath in his office. He is a handsome Jewish man who looks you directly in the eyes when he speaks. My first impression was that he was too hurried. She mentions a GI tube consult she’s going to later. He explains the ridges of the GI system, what chemo/radiation can do to it, and why it’s better to eat orally rather than through a feeding tube. Use it or loose it. Out the huge windows of his office is a wide view of scratchy black trees clinging to the white sky and fogged mountains. I wonder what makes things grow upward, what the trees reach for, what is beyond. It’s a good distraction from listening to my mother talk about loosing her sense of taste, hair and will to eat. He tells me to feed her lots of Indian food, tumeric. He turns to her, “Do you like the taste of ginger?” He asks her about her skin, explains melatonin with drawings on scrap paper. She shows him all of the new freckles showing up on her neck and face. I think it’s the cutest fucking thing ever and it makes me want to jump out of my seat and hug her. I think about tattooing them on me. I think about the matching freckle we’ve always had on our left hands just below the thumb.
As the naturopath wraps up the appointment he tells me to start stealing Queezy Pops for her from the radiation desk. I decide I like him.
Things with Friend had deflated a few days into the trip, with our plans to go to Forks, WA cancelled even sooner. Little Bird was upset that I was sleeping with her and other people at the same time and had asked me to find another place to stay. So I was laying on the big couch at Egan’s house fussing with my waistband. Cramping and singing quietly along to an old Tori Amos VHS , the sugar skulls on the mantle my audience. I felt like my guts were going to fall out, but I was happy. I was cradling a really really stong cup of coffee from the french press,watching the flecks of almond and coffee grounds swirling all together and knowing that the caffine might actually be making me feel worse. I love that Tori looks like she’s getting off when she sings. She was singing about roses and I thought about all the roses in Portland, now dead wet rolled up brown pieces of paper. I thought of the gigantic dead sunflower stalks across the street with their squishy white button tops. Everyone talks shit about the gloomy, rainy Portland winters, but I love it. I thought about how I was to return home in a few days and how nothing on this trip had gone as planned. “You are so cute right now”, Egan said as he came into the living room. I thought he was talking to the cat sleeping on a puzzle. “Just sitting here bleeding and watching Tori…” I smiled and thought yeah, this is exactly where I need to be right now.
Later, I felt better and I rode the bus down to the Hollywood district to the dog daycare I used to work at. My ex co-worker had arranged to sneak me in to see some of my old dog friends. There he was, Quincy, my four year old vizsla boyfriend. He remembered me and so did all the others. It was an amazing feeling to be back with those dogs I had cared about so much.
I left the daycare with a spring in my step and sang out loud walking on the overpass on my way to meet Egan. We met outside Grand Central and he handed me half a grilled cheese because he thought I might be hungry. I thought I might marry him. We caught the MAX downtown and sat so that everything rushed by backwards. Pioneer square looked like a movie, all of the lights and people rushing around christmas shopping . We talked about Aden and love and sex and gender and the past and the future. Egan is my favorite Leo of all time and every time we spend time together I am reminded of how amazing he truly is.
We stopped by Jackpot where he bought a special Efterklang record he was really excited about. After some time at Powells we headed to the bus and were stopped by an old friend from Anchorage who called to us out of the fancy bar she worked at in SW. She invited us in and gave us beer. We gave each other the cliff notes of our life and showed off new tattoos. “This is why I love Portland. Portland just gave us free beer!” I shouted as Egan and I ran to catch the bus.
Over the next two days we watched the Efterklang DVD that came with the record at least three times and I became a fan. I finished the scarf I was knitting for Friend that I had put so much energy into, like a metaphor. And I gave it to Egan as a token of my appreciation for saving my vacation with all the laughter and love.
On Christmas Eve Elena came over and watched Queen of the Damned with me. I gave them a speculum I had stolen from the hospital and we talked about love, relationships, abuse, celibacy and the emotional space we’ve had between us this past year.
On Christmas day I packed up my things, ate too much great food, and laughed with good people. As Egan drove me to the airport all I could think over and over was
How can I leave you? HOW CAN I LEAVE YOU?
What did it feel like?
It was more than physical pleasure, and different than regular penetration. I felt out of my body and I felt more in my body than I ever have before. I thought about birth, death, coming. But I didn’t even want to come, I just didn’t want it to end. The movement, the pushing, the twisting, the wetness of the lube on your hands. A version of home. I trusted you completely, but I was still a little scared. “Almost” you told me later looking at your hands.
It wasn’t our first time, but it was our first time face to face. I thought about how nice my First Time might have been if it had been with you.
Your nose ring kept falling out and you let me ride you on top. It felt amazing to hold you so close to me. Your body hard and soft at once. I was reminded of how nice it can be to fuck your friends. We kissed hard and soft. You pinned me back and pulled me back into your arms, I felt drunk. You bit my shoulder too hard, but I secretly liked the mark it left. We fucked with the lights on and I noticed scars, tattoos I hadn’t seen before. You made faces you hadn’t shown me before. Pressing up against you in the secret attic, I didn’t tell you about a forgotten crush rekindling inside me. You seemed to have enough on your plate.
In the morning you made us coffee and waffles and we talked about family and racism and cultural appropriation and cats and coming out. Outside it was dreary and drippy and dark, but I felt hopeful despite it. You made me feel sexy and respected and interesting. I walked home with music and noticed buildings and windows I hadn’t before.
On Christmas day there was bright sun above the trees outside the window of the empty bus. I watched the store fronts and people pass as I rode through parts of Portland I’d never really been through before. Hiking up my sparkly tights walking from the bus stop, I thought about holding your hand. I fantasized about you riding up on your bike as I clapped my boots down Interstate. You’d flash me that intoxicating smile and I’d think about how good you look in eyeliner. And you’d be thinking what I’m thinking: that I’m leaving today and it’s our last chance to make out. And you’d just kiss me right there and we’d laugh all the way to the party.
I went to a birthday party today over brunch. A vegan and gluten-free feast. Some of the people I knew, and some of them not. I was anxious because I hate small talk, it makes me so uncomfortable. I feel like strangers ask me questions just to hear themselves talk. I feel boring when I tell people what I do and I feel stupid when I tell them that I’m not in school because I can’t afford it right now. I glued myself to Kevin and Honey Bucket until they had to leave and I mostly had to fend for myself. I was anxious because the house was very fancy. Lots of art and rugs. Alaskana.
I went to the sitting room to put my card with the others and caught sight of the view out of the large windows. I pressed my forhead against the glass. The freezing Kenai Peninsula. It resembled the bluffs in Portland in some strange way. The window fogged with my breath. I thought of my mother. I remembered I was not in a place where it was appropriate to cry. I wondered if the tree I was looking at was a black spruce. I wondered about the foot prints in the snow. I tried to picture where I was oriented on a map. I drew a heart in the condensation and then wondered if I shouldn’t have.
Back in the kitchen and breakfast nook I submitted to the dreaded small talk and it wasn’t that bad. Emiline showed up, my savior. We sunk into a big love seat and talked about teeth and jokes past lovers made at the expense of our sensitivities. We talked about Boycations and Man Rambles and male nudity in film. We talked about our health and highschool and the journeys we made in college, physically and emotionally.
Matthew and Sarah played the banjo and accordian on the fireplace. Sarah looks like Portland, I thought. Thin flannel, thick rimmed glasses, greasy boyish haircut. She may be the only one in all of Anchorage. It occurred to me that this brunch, this vegan brunch with young people playing covers of Hurray for the Riff Raff, the beards, the flannel, the fact that almost half of the people there were queer, this might be the best of what is here. If this is all there is, I thought, at least I have found it.
Later some of the guests left, some helped clean up. I watched the lady of the house scrape a bowl full of left over cream cheese and a whole stick of left over butter into the garbage disposal. I talked to one of the lingering guests about whether or not God has lips, or any erogenous zones for that matter. We talked about wanting to visit villages but not wanting to live there. I showed him my leg tattoos. I told him about my grandfather’s memorial and it seemed like maybe his eyes got wet for some secret reason. I felt attracted to him. I made up a rule that it was ok to get a crush on someone who was a gender different from ones you normally go for if it was over the holidays.
The birthday girl opened her gifts and cards. I gave her a patch with a bike on it, a tube of glitter glue and a pin that says “I ❤ female orgasm”. Her parents gave her remote start for her car and $1000. I started to realize this friend of mine came from a class background much different than mine. I hadn’t thought much about her background before. I thought about what I could do with $1000.
My tires spun in the deep snow as I maneuvered out of the suburban winter hideaway. I passed my old elementary school. Everything looked so different. All the trees cut and a shopping center I didn’t even know existed. I put on that Des Ark CD I’ve been trying to take a break from so I won’t stop liking it from listening too much. I sang along and my voice sounded raspy and I liked it. I thought about my Holiday Crush. I thought about hating feeling stuck up here. I started to get anxious about What I’m Doing With My Life and The Next Step. But then I thought about my mom, and felt an unfamiliar a sense of calm. I realized that right now I’m exactly where I need to be.
We were all there on the boat in July. In the waters of Silver Bay. It had been years since I had set foot on a boat. Grandpa and my dad used to take me halibut fishing out in that bay.
I was afraid to be sea-sick. Grandma’s eyes were wet and everyone talked quiet and respectful. I held her arm in mine as we bounced and swayed out of the harbor. The breeze was warm inside, and out on the deck the air was clear. As we sped over the waves my stomach flopped and I only panicked for a moment. The captain pointed to the whale spouts and the kids and I all asked to follow it.
Out on the deck the wind blew my little flower printed dress wildly. I forgot to be scared of the water and closed my eyes holding the railing. I could feel the whole world melting around me. There was only this moment. Only the whales and the otters and the seals and Grandma and Grandpa in his tin. Only the wide sky and only the islands and sea birds and glitter on the waves. Being on the water was amazing and I didn’t cry, I laughed and laughed and something unlocked in my heart. Something weary and heavy lifted into the sky.
The captain steered us into Grandpa’s favorite fishing cove far far from the harbor. The engine cut and we floated, silent except for the wet waves lapping. The water was so dark and the cedars on the shores and cliffs were so dark and lush and green. Grandma said a prayer. Each of the three children scooped a little of Grandpa from the tin and let it into the ocean. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. They saved a little of Grandpa in an altoid tin for me to put into a locket. Grandma sniffled and mom ‘s eyes were red. My hot tears were overwhelming, but it was because it was so beautiful.
When we had soaked up enough of the moment the captain started the engine. He slowly turned the boat back towards Sitka. Suddenly I remembered Grandpa’s laugh. In my heart I could hear him just laughing and laughing. He was so happy we put him in the sea.