Joyeux fêtes des mères

Mom: Oh, I packed up a bunch of your pants.
Me: (aware it’s Mother’s Day) What kind of pants?
Mom: Oh, nice, nice pants. Silky dress pants.
Me: Mom, no. I appreciate it but nobody wears those out here. Not even for professional jobs. It’s all twill, denim, knits.
Mom: You’re gonna make me open that box? Think of all the money I wasted on tape.
Me: Think of all the shipping money of yours I’ll waste when I drop them off at Goodwill. Besides, you said you wanted to ship this out for my birthday. I only want things I can and will wear.
Mom: Oh…you can’t wear them?
Me: No one wears those anymore.
Mom: Well, you can. Why can’t you?
Me: (thinking tactfully & quickly) You get rain on them and they just look horrible. You get a splash of mud on them then spot cleaning them makes them look worse.
Mom: OK. I guess but, why can’t you wear them?
Me: Think of all the money you’ll have wasted on shipping when I just drop them off at Goodwill! Wouldn’t you rather send me things I’ll actually use?
Mom: Well, if that’s what you want.
Fifteen minutes later it was revealed I had an astonishing nine pairs of Kenneth Cole black & charcoal “dress pants” from when I was obediently serving corporate America. Among the ruins of Kenneth Cole were found to be several favorite tee shirts. A patrol-style military cap in camo of which I was once fond. When I rode a bike, of course. We continued going through my things. She patiently read the labels off to me. Oh, there were an additional two pairs of chinos, two pairs of twill, and two pairs of jeans. Things I will wear.
Mom: I forgot how many clothes you had. Why, why’d you have so many clothes?
Me: The vintage shop, remember? You worked there too…
Mom: You put me to work, yes. But I had fun.
Me: Is there a beige sweatshirt, with brown horizontal stripes?
Mom: What — what’s a sweatshirt?
Me: It’s way handier in Portland than silky dress pants.
Mom: Ha. No, what do you mean by sweatshirt?
Me: (thinking) Oh, you know those ugly green things people wear? The ugly green shirts with the Eagles logo on them.
Mom: Ewww! (and with real disgust) I hate those, hate those. You don’t have anything like that. You’d never.
Me: No, of course not. This one in particular is hardly an Eagles sweatshirt. It’s from the 1970s and the label is in French.
Mom: Yeah, that’s more like you. So, you sure you don’t want any of those silky dress pants? They’re made so nice!
I once again objected to the silky dress pants. I requested one particularly ancient sweater in a hideous knit of blues. Amazingly, a bathing suit and a few pairs of underwear were found.
Mom: One pair looks broken.
Me: Broken?
Mom: The back is open…just straps. Andrew Christian is the name on them.
Me: Oh, yes send those.
Mom: They’re broken.
Me: They were very expensive. Just send them.
Mom: No dress pants but expensive broken underwear?
Me: (sipping coffee and almost choking) It’s a jockstrap mother.
Mom: Oh. (pausing) OK. (changing subjects) There’s bathing suits.
Me: A bathing suit? Wow. I thought I packed them all up to Florida. If it says Ocean City, NJ on it please…please toss.
Mom: Well, there’s a gold and black one. I think it has the price tag on it. The tag looks old. Like, faded.
Me: Oh, that might be vintage. Yes, please send that.
Mom: You want someone’s old bathing suit?
Me: I don’t think it’s ever been worn.
Mom: How do you know that?
Me: The price tag looks faded you said. So, I doubt they were ever worn.
Mom: Oh, right right. OK. Ah, here. There is a pair which says Ocean City, NJ on it.
Me: Yeah, don’t send that. That was an emergency buy one random August. Heather and I went down to see her mom at the shore.
Mom: They’re cute.
Me: Well, you know…maybe do send those. Maybe they’re ironic enough for the West Coast.
Mom: Ironic, how?
Me: New Jersey.  Everything about New Jersey is ironic.
That was our Mother’s Day.  She has a surprise on the way to her. I was just unable to send it prior to the actual holiday.  We spoke for an hour. Going through my clothes. Talking about Mother’s Days when she came to New York, or I made her day special at home in Philly. It was nicer, I think, than sending a bunch of balloons.
Mom: (many years ago) And never send me balloons. They’re ugly. (emphatically again) They’re ugly. Never send me balloons.

The Paschal Phoenix

The Paschal Phoenix

by A. Sebastian Fortino

The sunlight pouring in through the arched, Victorian clerestory windows of the nave at Trinity Memorial Church on Easter Morning recalled my friendship with Andrew.  Recalling those memories was fitting because I was standing as godfather to Andrew’s infant son, Alexander, that morning.  Of course, this sacred occasion was almost marred by my being late.  My taxi dropped me off on a bright spring morning that still smacked of winter as I frantically dialed Andrew’s cell phone.  When he didn’t pick up I ran through the side entrance, into the church’s Sunday school and fellowship rooms.  There, half my life ago, I once attended Maundy Thursday dinners with Andrew’s family.  I entered through the side entrance of the sanctuary, already expecting mother, father, baby, godmother-aunt, grandfather, and grandmother arranged around the Baptismal font with the blessed water already being poured over the infant’s head.

        No one, I imagined, would let me slip in quietly wearing my cropped trench coat, and carrying a large Jack Spade bag unnoticed; especially of course the grandmother in question.  In high school I slightly feared Andrew’s mother, who was known to me as an often-accusatory voice through her household intercom system.  So of course being late to act as godfather to her firstborn grandchild – in her church, before her family, neighbors, and friends – seemed inevitably appropriate.

        Mercifully my watch said it was ten-thirty-two, and I was blessedly only two minutes late.  Two minutes in my mind only however, as the baby’s attendees were expected to be there at ten-fifteen to prepare.  In reality, therefore, unfortunately, as usual, I was truly late: by seventeen minutes.  However, I found the baby’s family arranged in the first row of chairs to the left of the circular altar.  The infant Alexander was blessedly still burdened with Original Sin.

        Had I come in through the main doors of the Church I could have slipped into the row behind them, quite unnoticed.   I am doomed however in that my entrances are never anonymous.  Although she was wearing a large-brimmed hat, appropriate for an Episcopalian of Rittenhouse Square, the grandmother was the first to look up, turn around and discover me standing there.

        “And look who’s here,” she said.  “The godfather.”  I swear I saw her gently glance at her watch before she named me by title.  Perhaps, had I been any later, she would have nominated someone else.  

Andrew looked up, his face blushed with anxiety, a product perhaps of the fact that I was going to and was indeed late.  His wife looked up too.  As she did not know me very well she was unsurprised at my semi-prompt arrival.  The baby beheld me with an air of indifference, and would later confide in me at the following meal he was a Quaker.  He did not care for the rituals of the Anglican Communion.  I slipped into the back row, safely behind the grandmother. The congregants began to sing, and returning to teenage years I awkwardly looked to Andrew for permission to sing out.  Little was granted as he stumbled over the words on the program before him.  The baby turned occasionally at me, in his mother’s arms, and – as he made eye contact with me and reacted to the faces I made – I felt as if he was truly something, someone to me.  He was not just Andrew’s son, but my godson, and he did not care that I was tardy.

        I tried to follow the service but found the baby, the sunlight, the smell of the hyacinths, and the sound of the singing, to be too much stimulation for me to concentrate.  My eyes instead wandered over the congregation, hoping to find faces I knew underneath the sunlit nave.  There were none.  Until I found a face that seemed to be familiar, but perhaps I was confusing her with Patricia Routledge, of BBC’s “Keeping Up Appearances.”  She was not hatted and gloved, but her floral dress with a bow at the neck and string of pearls vaguely reminded me of someone from my youth, a mother of one of Andrew’s friends, perhaps.  

        The recognition was vague, it self-implied insanity, or was merely the dregs of wine from the birthday dinner I attended the night before.  The baby, now returned to his carrier, meant I could not focus on his little face for diversion. After about thirty minutes, during which the priest, Father Ted, or Ed, had apologized for the Baptism replacing the opportunity for a lengthy Easter sermon we took our places at the Baptismal Font.  The baby did not cry, and was peacefully handed over to Father Ed, or Ted.  He held the baby face down into the font, claiming Alexander was too curious to receive the Sacrament at four months faced-up.  Then, he remembered something.  He called all of the congregation’s children up to the font to welcome the baby into Christendom.  I should point out two things.  Firstly, Father Ed or Ted was the most zealous kind of religious: a convert.  I had a friend whose mother finally converted from Presbyterianism to her husband’s Catholicism, within two years she was secretary to the local archbishop.

        Secondly, children have never been a particular favorite of mine, even when I was a child.  He mentioned calling the children up to the altar the day before, when godmother-aunt and I were debriefed on the office of godparent.  I had ardently hoped the invitation to the children would be one of the things the ambitious priest forgot.  You see, my lapsed, Roman Catholic mind oddly thinks of all these modern, progressive, ecclesiastical innovations as heresy akin to Martin Luther’s Ninety-Nine Theses.  Father Ed, or Ted’s, other modern, progressive suggestions did not end there.  One idea united with the Eastern and Orthodox Churches and involved giving the infant Holy Communion.  He would be force fed a morsel of bread dipped in wine, but this did not go over with the infant’s mother.

        She cited giving the baby alcohol as a negative.  Fortunately I did not tell her I thought it was fine.  Nor give examples of my parents rubbing my teething gums with Sambuca, or that they put a teaspoon of brandy into my milk if I was not going to sleep.  That I was rarely a bad childhood sleeper should be noted for the sake of my parents.

        Standing in the church with Andrew’s family made me think on the past, not of little Alexander’s future.  Andrew was the first WASP I became friends with, and really the first Protestant.  The Italian- and Irish-American, newly, so-called, Born-Again Christians I knew from my days at an Assembly of God School did not count to me as Protestants: they were Vatican traitors who spoke to me menacingly of reading their family’s discarded Catholic Bibles on the toilet.  That they tossed my Confirmation Bible around like a football was fortunately met with disapproval from the school’s administrators.

        After the actual Baptism I involved myself in singing, awkwardly, quietly, happy to know I was not being neglectful in not offering to hold the baby.  Mother, step- and grandmother, and godmother, the sole paternal sibling-aunt, dutifully held the baby who did not cry, even when the holy water was poured over his head.

        “We warm the water a little bit,” the priest, Father Ed, or Ted, boasted the day before.  This was the only modern, progressive idea impressive to me.  I wondered if the Catholics had taken such care with me as a novitiate into their flock.

        Instead of looking at the congregants this time I looked up into the sunlight that drenched the church.  We sang and remembering the Maundy Thursday Dinners and other hallmarks of our teenage years I looked at Andrew.  Then his infant son, his wife holding him in the sunlit church, and it all made me very sad, yet very thankful.  Andrew, you see, had gone to Afghanistan right after the attacks on my then-home New York, and didn’t think he’d come back.  I hoped but didn’t know that he would live to have a child that would one day be named my godson.

        I didn’t want to cry.  People cry at weddings, and funerals.  The only people that cry at Christenings?  Babies.  I looked up into the sunlit clerestory once more, at the fanciful Victorian stained glass to prevent tears.  Then, lost in the preponderance of childhood memories, going to the video store wearing baggy jeans, the meaning of the phrase “friend of the family,” the delight in being a godfather, the beauty of life, the smell of hyacinth, Andrew’s returning home unscathed – In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the third, modern, progressive element of Father Ted, or Ed interrupted my partial tears.  To symbolize the rebirth of the Spirit on Easter Sunday the priest intended to fly a kite over the heads of the congregation.

        No: not something droll, like an Easter Bunny to involve the children, but a phoenix.

        A phoenix after all rose from the ashes, much like Trinity Memorial Church that had suffered a fire several years before the arrival of the current priest, and more importantly, Christ Himself in the Resurrection.  The kite was mounted on a long rod, similar to a deep-sea fishing pole.

        Yes – like the children at the altar – this was something I hoped the priest would forget.

        The phoenix itself is a mythical creature; therefore its plumage was substituted with peacock feathers.  The “eyes” of which were a Christian symbol of the Medieval Church, depicted in religious art as the all-watching eyes of God.  Peacocks however, do not really fly, and once again I thought myself insane.  This time not for the woman who would later confirm she was the mother of a certain Phillip, the lady who looked like Patricia Routledge, but for trying to attach any facts about peacocks and phoenixes to the priest’s nylon kite.  I was not alone however, being lost in such details.  Andrew, later on the drive to Easter and christening lunch, also expressed confusion over the kite.

        “It looked like a peacock, they don’t fly,” he laughed, while cursing the GPS system announcer, named something unlikely, like Caldonia.   “Why not make it look like a dove?  Why not like a damn eagle?”

        But perhaps that was the military talking.

        Although I wanted to look away from the phoenix in mid-flight it proved impossible.  My eyes followed it as it was flown over our heads, manned by the priest in vestments.  He held the deep sea fishing pole like a glorified Fisher of Men in a Caravaggio painting.  The symbolic phoenix was not passed over our heads just once or twice, or even three times in honor of the trinity.  It made its flight consistently throughout the closing hymn.  Its yellow, three-dimensional talons provoked me to imagine it landing on someone’s hat or lifting a child into the air.  I finally turned my attentions toward to the congregants once more, afraid of laughing out loud at the mid-air kite.  The congregation however also stared at the phoenix, with expressions that varied from confusion to awe.  My attention returned to the phoenix when it began to descend.  As it artfully circled in increasingly narrower spirals to the altar, one of the plumes of the synthetic phoenix touched one of the Paschal candles surrounding the altar.  

        Try as I might to contain it a single laugh coughed out of me.  The possibilities for disaster instantly, irreverently, took over my thoughts.  What if the bird flamed up?  What if it then ignited the ceiling and set the Church aflame? Again, just as it had thirteen years before?  Wouldn’t that be strangely symbolic?  I laughed again.

        Just then, my biggest fear, the grandmother, turned around.  She was going to make an accusing face.  She was going to put her finger up to her mouth to shush me for laughing at the kite at her grandson’s baptism.  I would not be invited for the following luncheon.  She would not believe my eyes were red from emotion, maybe some tears, and laughter.  This sentimental, special, title of godfather would be stripped.  Alexander would only learn of me in hushed tones, perhaps opening with the phrase, “Your father used to have this friend…”

        Surely, she would point out, that I was the only one in the church to laugh at the priest’s misfortune, or near-misfortune.  This fact boomed out silently over the memory of the intercom in Andrew’s childhood bedroom.  I flashed warm.  Then oddly regretted wearing only a cashmere-cotton sweater and soft gray chinos, no tie, no blazer.  Yet, her look was unexpected beneath her Easter hat.  She did not criticize me.  Instead, she smiled then quietly laughed with me, as fleetingly as the synthetic kite was hoisted, from the now-extinguished flame of the Paschal Candle. The phoenix, fulfilled its mystical promise, and through the miracle of synthetic fabrics did not catch fire.  



The Loss of the Shepherd Boy

The Loss of the Shepherd Boy
By Sebastian Fortino

It was a chilly Christmas season on South Beach, and the locals were happy to serve soup. To the natives, it was a novelty, bowls filled with piping hot soup, instead of ice cream. A warm, hearty scent filled kitchens, instead of light salads, and grilled proteins. While my friends were being creative with their tureens, at his house it was always the same damn soup! Homemade vegetable beef soup. It was salty, with a metallic tang to it. The potatoes did not hold much form, yet the broth didn’t infuse them with any real flavor. The green beans were obviously frozen, prior to this incarnation.  There was never any garlic in it, not even one miserable chunk. There were not any herbs, fresh or dried. Finding the crumbs of beef — in this watery grave — was a challenge. I’d search out the odd pea, and pretend the carrot rounds had some bite. He served this always with small dinner rolls, sliced open, stuffed with ham or summer sausage, or spread with a non-descript, soft, white cheese, and a faint shitstain of mustard. There was also a hint of butter. “I’m English, well we came from there centuries ago,” he said, “we always butter our sandwiches. Even if butter is so dear to buy these days.” They reminded me of the little sandwiches served in the department store dining rooms of my early childhood with my grandmother. There were always two little sandwiches for each of us, but he’d always save one of his “for teatime.”

The he in question was Dickinson McPherson, but everybody unfortunately called him Dickie. His mother, wanting a girl, originally intended to name him after Emily Dickenson, her fourth or fifth cousin something-removed. When it was revealed she had produced a male, she quickly decided to call him after her literary cousin’s surname. I came to know him out of personal desperation, as I was newly arrived in Miami. There was a new boyfriend at first, new job, there were parties every night, we went to Art Basel, there was champagne, well, cava actually, and of course cocaine. Lots, and my my my my my do I mean lots of cocaine. However, like late-night highs, chased with tiny bubbles, all of it faded into reality. The company I worked for suddenly closed, then the boyfriend suddenly dumped me. I found a gig house sitting but I knew that wouldn’t last forever. Dickie was a dealer of antiques and artwork. In the Northeast I’d worked in several auction houses. So, on a lonely afternoon in mid-December, at a strange little French cafe owned by Franco-Argentines on Biscayne Boulevard, I met him after answering an ad online to be his assistant. Simple work, I’d be researching items for provenance, cleaning them if necessary, accompanying him to estate sales or auctions, and putting things online.


There was also the eventual option to earn less cash, but move in with him. I, aware of my low estate, put myself into the primrose path of surrender for assistance. Not like a sheep to slaughter. More like someone trying to relax on uncomfortable furniture. I didn’t want to consider it, but what was I to do? His forthcoming offer was something I suspected from the moment he laid eyes on me. If I lived with him, of course, I was welcome to walk around in any sort of undressed state I preferred. Or, he preferred. He preferred me in jockstraps.


“Of course, when I’m at home, I generally wear nothing at all…or maybe just a light robe. I do, I do love a guy in a, you know,” he said, as he sipped a three-dollar glass of sugar water, masquerading as a champagne happy hour special. He blushed. He waited for me to ask, and I played naive.


“In, in a bathing suit?” I  believe I even added a fake swallow, and a raised eyebrow, implying trepidation.


“No,” he laughed, tittered at me as he sashayed his flute de champagne in a just-so spot above the upper right corner of his placemat. “Silly, that’s silly, no. In a,” and here he lowered his voice, “in a jockstrap. One of those new, sexy ones.” He pulled the word out into an elegant thing. Yet, hearing him say it I didn’t think of hot men, with their butts exposed. I thought of turds. Not nice, easy to pass turds, but…something rough. Something unpleasant. Perhaps undigested kashi, spelt, pomegranate seeds. Sand?


Despite being the ripe old age of thirty, I pretended I was twenty-one. “Oh, really. That’s so hot.” I closed my eyes as I said “hot,” which I deliberately trailed into something sexy, as elegantly as he enunciated jockstrap.


He smiled, and even that was unsettling. There was something unpleasant about him. Like, a lingering smell which you didn’t hate but didn’t care for either. Not creepy. He did not have the wits to be creepy. He was a prude. Creeps are generally not…prudes. I could tell any move he’d make on me — beyond seeing me in a jockstrap, of course —  would be so grandmotherly an attempt that I could easily pretend not to notice it. He would retreat, never mentioning it. His only creepiness would come to fruition as caresses, attempted caresses, as I slept.

One day, a few days before I officially moved in with him, I arrived and found he was “out on an unexpected errand,” according to the note taped to the door. He hated cell phones, even having to call or being called by someone on their cell phone offended him. The concept of an Android or “smart phone” mystified him. He called them “computer phones.” I let myself into the apartment. There was another note in the kitchen, telling me to enjoy some lunch. “I put it for you in the crockpot, I know you young people hate microwaves,” he wrote. “I so want you to be happy.” It was a bit of cursive thought from him. It was clearly his sticky-note version of the cinematic offer of a young Norma Shearer entering a room in a neglige.


There was the frigging crockpot, covered by a glass lid with beads of moisture on the convex of the dome. Midwest in Miami. Once again, the homemade vegetable beef soup. Everyday, the same damn soup. I never went through his cabinets before, but it seemed appropriate at the moment. Inside the pantry there were more than a dozen cans of so-labeled beef stew. I don’t remember the brand, but knew I’d never seen it before. It was the kind of pantry good, the kind of dismal thing, sourced at one of the remaining bodegas or gas stations on the Upper East Side of Miami. Next to the cans of stew were cubes of bouillon. I looked in the trash, as he didn’t recycle. “Because I’ll die long before Miami gets swallowed up by the ocean,” as he used to say.


He told me the story of how he arrived in Miami. An uncle of his, a carpenter had to deliver, of all things, a coffin he constructed for a widow who was dying in the Florida Keys. She had ordered it from him years ago, before she and her husband moved to Key West for their retirement. They were driving down in winter. There was snow and ice, everywhere. Everywhere there was winter, until they reached South Georgia. Dickie didn’t like his uncle, who sexually abused him from the time he was ten years old. By the time he was fifteen he knew, not only did he like it, but he wanted to do it with someone other than a relative. Dickie knew Key West, even back then in the 1950s, was known as a hotbed of homosexuality. So, the day they arrived and dropped off the coffin they checked into a hotel. They intended to make a vacation out of it.


“As much a vacation as one could have, dropping off a coffin,” he said. “Well, that night I snuck out of my room. I thought it was curious my uncle didn’t just keep me in his room, in his bed. The whole family knew what he used to do to me, well, by fifteen, what we used to do together,” Dickie said, with a smile both filled with regret and nostalgia. “I snuck down to the front desk. I’d heard things about Key West, Mr. Tennessee Williams was there, Mr. Truman Capote, came often. Well, I was going to look on my own, to find other likeminded men. But, I didn’t have to try too hard. The young man at the front desk was gorgeous. He wasn’t like me, short, wearing thick glasses, with weak arms. He was tall, muscled, with biceps, and blond hair. Yet, the tight pink shirt, and the shorts he wore, and his manner of speaking let me know that he’d know where to go.”


Dickie loved to recount this story. It was one of his happier tales. The hunk at the front desk knew what he wanted when Dickie, now eighteen years old, said, “I’m looking for a place. Something like I don’t have back home in rural Illinois.” The young man smiled and told him where he could find such an establishment. Adding, “You don’t have to hide here, not too much. Just if you do meet someone, make sure you keep your hands to yourself should you go outside. They might be accepting on Duval Street, but we still try to be discreet.”


Young Dickie then marched out of the hotel. He walked the three or four short blocks to a small bar, just off of Duval Street. In it, he hoped to find the luminaries who flocked to Key West. Alas, there seemed to be no celebrities that night. He ordered a drink. He stood in the smoky room, smiling, trying to make eye contact with the right “fella.” He was there an hour he said when he heard a familiar voice. There, a few feet down the bar, was his uncle.


“He was telling this young man about the drive down from Illinois. How he’d got stuck with his queer nephew. ‘My retarded queer nephew. So what, yeah, I like men too but, he’s a dirty fairy. Ugly too. He likes to get fucked by his uncle though. Takes it good up that ass, only nice part of him,’ he told the guy. They both laughed at me, but I wasn’t there to defend myself. I was an ugly, retarded fairy. I was stupid. I was practically blind. I had a mole on the top of my head, beneath my thinning hair. I watched as he, and I admit, my uncle got all the good genes from my grandparents, insulted everything about me. He was short like me, but he was built beautifully, had all his hair at nearly forty. He didn’t need glasses. He mocked me and I heard it all. I had another drink. I slipped to the other end of the bar, farther away from him. I saw in movies, all the time, about people sending a drink to someone they like. So, I told the barman to send my uncle a drink, but I asked him not to say who it was from. After he’d had about four drinks, and the bartender still wouldn’t tell him who was buying them, I finally told the bartender, ‘Tell him it’s from your ugly fairy, dirty queer nephew, who doesn’t like getting fucked by you.’ I watched. I waited. That’s when I learned to do it, to watch, to wait. When my uncle heard the drinks were from me, the group of men he was talking to burst out laughing. Now him, not me, was humiliated. He scanned the room and he saw me. He came marching over, anger lighting up his face, burning his eyes. He grabbed me by the shirt. He lifted me off of the floor. ‘What the fuck are you doing here, you miserable little bastard,’ and, and he was about to punch me. That’s when a strapping, gorgeous man, came over to us and pulled my uncle off of me. This stranger knew the bartender and told him he was ‘taking out the trash.’ My uncle resisted, and tried to get me to leave with him, saying, ‘You stay here, don’t expect a ride back with me to Illinois. You son-of-a-bitch queer.’ The man, that handsome man, had had enough of my uncle. He punched him dead in the face. He went crashing down to the floor. A minute later, the other gay fellas had had enough of him too, calling other people queer. ‘Who you callin’ queer, sister,’ they said to him. They made a wall separating us, they then brought me forward, ‘You wanna go home to Illinois with this faggot uncle of yours,’ one of them asked me. I said no. ‘The only way I’m leaving is in a box, and we already dropped one off.’ They all laughed. My uncle left. I never saw him again. The handsome man who helped me turned out to be the boyfriend of Tennessee Williams, the famous Frank Merlo. Mr. Williams was out of town, but Frank took me back to their little house. I tried to make love to him but, despite him being my hero, he wasn’t interested in me. Then, a few days later, as I was trying to get a job, I met Gustavo, my Cuban. He moved me to Miami. And, well, this is where I’ve been, ever since,” he sighed. “I never got to meet Mr. Williams. I was lucky already but I wish I’d gotten to meet him.”      


He was the epitome of the older, urban gay. Or, no, it’s more apropos to say, the older, urban, single person. A life, or at least an adulthood, lived in the city. Granted, Miami was not the subways of Manhattan, nor the super-traffic of Los Angeles, but…all cities have these living personifications of urbanity. These staunch, non-driving, bearers of city living, of libraries and the best thrift stores, of happy hours with shitty free-with-cocktail buffets, of monthly gallery visitations with wine and cheese, of that perfect dry cleaner, and often of heartbreak. Yes, these people exist in every city. Desolate, they exist, inwardly superior to everyone, outwardly shy. Yet, they are happy in their weekly lunches at the same restaurant with the same constant frenemy.  Some are kind, most are too withdrawn to be so inclined.

Anyway, in the trashcan, there were two bouillon cube wrappers, and yes: an empty can of beef stew.

It made sense then, as to why his soup was so salty. The “homemade” vegetable beef soup was a can of third-rate beef stew, mixed with water, and two cubes of bouillon to enrich it. No, stretch it. Dickie didn’t enrich anything. This was of course to save money. Even the way he pronounced expensive betrayed how he felt about spending anything. He did not say ex-PEN-sive; instead, he seemed to say, ex-PAIN-sive. It was as if the very thought of dispersing money – whether his or someone else’s – caused him physical pain. He called canned salmon, “a luxury;” he called cable TV, “a racket;” going out to eat, “a fool’s errand.”

Emboldened, I realized I never before opened the fridge. He always rushed to serve me water, or iced tea, or a glass of chilled white wine spritzer made with boxed wine and generic lemon-lime soda in the late afternoon. Inside his icebox, as he called it, there were all sorts of cured meats, along with square, triangle, and log-shaped packages of hard or soft cheeses. Of course, the boxed wine was present. But it was eclipsed by the bounty lining the shelves. A mass of tiny containers of mustard, exotic mayonnaises, spreads and dips, small jars of olives, tapenades in multitude and one from Croatia, tomato sauces with roasted wild mushrooms, dainty clay pots of pâté, tuna in olive oil and herbes de provence in jars you could reuse as they were “that pretty,” petite vitrines of fancy pickled things, anchovies with capers, cheap caviar, and even port in small bottles with portuguese ribbons and single serve bottles of cheap, but real, champagne! It was a horde of gift basket novelties! I never asked about his technique de cuisine for his soup, but I did ask about the assortment of unbasketed goods in his refrigerator.

“Oh,” he said, in a grand manner. “You see every Christmas I buy as many gourmet gift baskets as I can — with discounts and coupons — and that gets me through at least a month, some years until the end of February. I don’t have to worry about the sodium because I only really eat once a day, then a simple teatime, then a little snack before bed. I drink a lot of water, so yeah, I love salt. When I go out, I’m careful. If I order a steak, I order a salad with it and hope my friend orders the French fried potatoes. Or any kinda’ potato. The way I don’t cook, a potato is a treat,” he said with the smile of a declasse gourmand.

He was so delighted to share these tidbits of dietary advice that well…I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. He blushed. He didn’t think of eating as a pleasure. He denied himself even that. Dickie took not the smallest, not the least interest, in feeding himself well. All he cared for were his pieces of art, his porcelain ladies, and his many plates, cups, bowls. Even how he displayed his treasures was miserly. The furniture on which his delicate bibelots were placed came from the Bombay Company. Some of which he sourced used on Craig’s List, requiring cabs with deep storage to fetch his pieces. He ran to K-Mart whenever there was a sale on picture frames, to house even his so-claimed priceless etchings. Next off to the framer to mount them. I witnessed him begging for scraps of acid-free matting, “In any color,” he said to me on our way there. “I’m not shy. Gets me a deal by paying cash, in full, upfront.”


The smallish apartment was a miserly treasure trove. Yet, such stunning things. There were rooms, there are rooms, in England like his. A gentleman’s room. The mismatched, often eccentric pairings and varieties of colorful mats around the antiques should have lent it some solid character. It did, but it was lost. Betrayed. Because while, like its cousins across the pond, the room held some potentially priceless pieces, it was still sadly tricked out with fake mahogany. It came off as campy. It could and should have looked distinguished. He did not even love his prized pieces enough to praise them with adequate furnishings. It betrayed, revealed, exposed just how truly little he just didn’t enjoy anything. Not even those things which he should have treated best of all. True, Dickie spent much of his time staring at his things. Possessing them, never enjoying them. Beholding them. I don’t think he was capable of loving them, not even what he considered to be sacred. This is not how he should have lived. Dickie’s business was quite successful. He had a magical touch when it came to finding valuable paintings and etchings, rare prints and drawings, porcelain figurines and all sorts of objet d’art. There was one grand wall in the apartment. There was a van Gogh sketch, a Renoir sketch as well, an Icart, a Beardsley, and treasured 15th C etchings, some from the Florentine school. There were even a few modern pieces, a Salvador Dali, a Chagall, peppering the lot. He bought everything from people who “didn’t know what they had.”

There was one piece in particular which one could call the ring to his Gollum. The piece was very tall. It sat upon a stand in his bedroom. The bedroom was rather a communal affair. I slept on one of two full-sized beds which made up the room, you see. That’s how he caressed me while I slept. This particular piece was all beautifully, finely made. In a frothy, sort of Baroque or Rococo manner, it depicted a shepherd boy dressed like a courtier at a costume ball. It was the kind of piece a master maker of porcelain would be commissioned to produce, or perhaps make for a showroom display. Really, it was a masterpiece of white paste, painted, flourishing. Handsome, a piece of delicate pastry. It was 18th C., German, Meissenberg porcelain…or was it Sevres and French? It doesn’t matter. He claimed only four were made, one was lost in a war, one was in France, the other in London, and this was one of three remaining. It was not the kind of piece one would ever imagine seeing in the bedroom of an old queen in Miami. I handled a great deal of eighteenth-century porcelain at the auction houses. It was hardly the kind of thing you’d see in the neighborhood of Belle Meade, which was only just up-and-coming once again, thanks to the hipsters. That it was in the bedroom was especially odd. It was about the height of a toddler child. The bedroom was as large as the living space. Still…it was invasive in a bedroom. It was almost like having a Christmas tree not far from the foot of one’s bed. It intruded, it didn’t belong there. Still, it was a stunning piece.

“Priceless,” he whispered to me the first time he showed me. This priceless piece he added “came from someone who didn’t know what they had.” I was of course standing looking at the shepherd boy in only a jockstrap at the time. He was in a short, silk, Japanese robe. Yet, the story he told me was far creepier than our attire.

“She was going out of business a few years ago. Ten years before she wanted to go into business with me, right after she met me, but I didn’t like Phyllis. I met Phyllis at a winter teatime party for,” and he paused and swallowed bitterness, “for another bitch at her rich bitch house. They never invited me to the parties at the country clubs. Well, I didn’t like Phyllis but I knew she had money though…her dead husband left her loaded,” he said enviously, with a silent stupor of hatred. “Well, set-up-rich-bitch dropped me like a hot potato when she left Miami for Palm Beach. I wasn’t good enough to visit the country club. The bald, wig-wearing, ugly, queen of the bitches.” I laughed. I wasn’t sure if he was describing himself or Phyllis, but he thought I was laughing at his description of her.

According to him, he recognized the piece when Phyllis displayed it in her shop, and she called him for advice. He advised her to price the piece fairly high, telling her it was rare. Secretly however, he told her to price it so no one would be interested. This, while he told her it was a merely a good late-nineteenth century piece. “Perhaps a late copy of an earlier piece,” he told Phyllis. “Or, maybe even 1920s,” he said menacingly. “Probably made to go with a suite of custom made, reproduction antique style furniture.” When she sold her business a decade later he told her the reduced price of $4,000 was too much but he’d pay $400.

“…but I knew it was priceless,” he said without any shame in his voice. “I had to have it. It had to come home with me. I was ready. I deserved it.”

“How were you ready,” I asked him.

“I bought the stand five years before I got ahold of the statue,” he said. “It’s a real antique, seventeenth-century, Parisian.”

There was a chair, sitting in front of the shepherd boy as if he were a television. I went out to the local gay bar that night. Later, as a guy named Moses put a line of cocaine for me on a small mirror, and his boyfriend Juan went down on my hard, yet coked-up cock, I imagined Dickie at home. Staring at his shepherd boy, recounting what he thought was my envy. Instead, I was disgusted by how he acquired the piece. Not only had he gotten something for a steal – he premeditated it all. For years he’d seen it in Phyllis’ shop, lusted after it, waited quietly, never saying a word about its importance. For five of those years a vacant altar sat at the foot of his bed. I despised him but strangely, I felt sorry for him. It is one thing to lust after a person, or to long for someone. They can disappoint you with their actions. They can tell you “no.” Dickie longed for something eternal, something he could just get his hands on if only he had the money, if only he lied. It offered him no opposition, it was a rape.
“Maybe, maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on him,” I thought, now going down on Moses while I fucked his boyfriend. “Maybe it’s none of his fault, maybe Phyllis wronged him, and this was just his way to win.”

After I slinked home, unable to walk because Moses insisted on fucking me with his ten magnificent inches, I slept for a few hours on the full-sized bed opposite Dickie’s. When I got up, he was out again. At lunch, for me breakfast, more of the soup, more of the little sandwiches, and more iced tea, which was actually the only thing he made from scratch. Dickie was in an unpleasant mood, talking about a terrible designer he was working with, supplying her things for an apartment on Palm Beach’s famed Worth Avenue. I was unsurprised to learn it was Phyllis, the same Phyllis of the shepherd boy. She became a designer when she moved to Palm Beach. She worked with the very rich, but not general celebrities or Miami housewives. Phyllis catered to the gray-haired descendants of the “real rich.”

“It’s just not fair. I have to give her a dealer’s discount, and I bet none of the people in that apartment on Worth Avenue will have ever heard of Dickie McPherson. I’ll never get invited to the country club. They’ll never have me to the unveiling of the finished place. If only, if just once I’d get just some of the recognition these designers get, that Phyllis gets. It’s so easy too, these rich bitches want the same look, Palm Beach Aristocrat. It’s really just shopping, not designing,” he said, angrily. “You know, I had a chance to be somebody. I could have gone to the country club. Did I? No. I stayed in Miami serving food and earning my keep for a man who ended up dying on me. Then, when he died, did he leave me any of his millions? No. He left it to his children. He didn’t think of me, if he loved me, I didn’t have any proof, not right away anyway.”


He then looked onto his things. His wall of stunning art. His little porcelain cups from the eighteenth century. The porcelain deer, the thistles, the mermaids. The lonely sadness of beautiful things. There were so many speeches like this, it was sometimes hard to pay real attention to him. However, in the few weeks since I’d known him he’d never really talked about Gustavo. Instead he referenced him, like a fictional character.

“You, mean, he left you nothing,” I asked him, cautiously. I knew a long story would follow.

“Not a thing. He never told me what I was to him. His wife died a few years before I met him in Key West. Soon after, I just moved right into his place in Miami, this place.” My heart skipped a beat, much like the shepherd boy, he did something to get this place; something calculated. “His children knew about us, but it was never spoken about the few times a year I had to meet them. Gustavo, never said love, or boyfriend, or lover, not to me. In those days a boy like me – a boy from Illinois who’d never left the farm – doesn’t really know what to ask for from a man he loves. Gustavo, the Cuban, did teach me everything I know about the antiques business. Oh, I had to earn my keep though, you believe me. He sent me out to do catering work, at the country club. Sometimes if the snowbirds were here they’d send me to The Breakers,” he said mournfully, in a discreet, overwhelm of envy. “He used to sell Cuban rums, before art, so he knew all the restaurant people, catering companies. We were together for thirty years,” here Dickie blushed, whispering he didn’t want me to dwell on his age. I’d later learn the last time anyone recounted his age was for a 40th birthday party in the early 1970s. “Then, Gustavo just died. I went to the neighbor’s for a cup of coffee. Came home. There he was, the Cuban, lying dead in his favorite chair.”

“I’m so sorry, Dickie,” here I reached out and put my hand over his. He pulled back. I did too, in another jockstrap, a black one this time. He had a fetish for buying me a new one every week.

“It’s fine. I had my time with him, then since had my years to heal, even though I never got to go to the country club,” and here that discreet overwhelm of envy flashed into a panicked rage.  “He used to go, but not with me,” he said, sobbing. “Someday, someday I’ll find another man to take me to the country club. I’ll show them all. Even if I wasn’t in the will.”

It dawned on me, from whence his fascination arose with country clubs. Since he used to work at them, and their elegant sisters The Breakers, and the Fontainebleu, La Forge, and the Eden Rock, no one invited the help, and he had no one to take him. He expected someday perhaps the Cuban would have taken him. Perhaps after he retired from earning his keep. But no. Gustavo betrayed him even in that, as he died before Dickie retired. He had not been an attractive youth, and Dickie in his later years was still of course short. He had a small, noticeable paunch. He had a completely bald crown, with an immense mole on the top of his head, and spoke with an affected lisp. I felt sorry for him, he looked like what people once called a twerp. His mannerisms, like his lisp, were decidedly those of a classic queen. He did not however possess any great wit. He was not rich, for if he was wealthy, he could have cultivated these defects, deflected those defects, into assets.  With a decidedly marmish personality and no mansion, and no yacht, and no place in the Bahamas of his own, he could not excuse the lisp. Dickie was, decidedly, not country club material.  

“What did you do? How did you manage, not being in the will and all,” I asked. “You know in my last breakup I was out on my heels.”

“Oh,” he laughed. “You’re lookin’ at it, told you this was his place! I stayed. I won.”

“I thought you said he didn’t leave you any…”

A smile beamed out across his face. “Here it comes,” I thought.

“When I learned the will didn’t include me, swift action,” he said, pointing to himself, “on my part. I got those four brats to listen to me. They had the best schools, the best trips to Europe – I didn’t. Gustavo never took me to Europe, said he’d seen enough, said I wouldn’t like it. He wouldn’t even take me to Cuba before the revolution. Well, I told the four of them his grandchildren would receive a letter when they turned eighteen. This was the 1980s you know, people were still sensitive about those things. So, I told them that letter would have some special pictures of their dear old grandfather, and his business partner Mr. McPherson. I offered to show them the pictures but they refused,” he said, grandly. “Next thing I said — the very next damn thing I said — was to sell me the place in Miami for one dollar, just to transfer the deed, since he left behind close to  two million to them. Well, they did, they gave me the deed the next day, my lawyer also negotiated for a cash settlement which I put away safely. Just enough to pay upkeep and taxes for two years, since the death was sudden.”

Well, bravo but, in effect, blackmail.

“So, you got this apartment…”

“No, the whole building,” he said, with a terrifyingly proud grin. “Six very beautiful  apartments in total. They thought they got out easy. They thought this part of Miami would never clean up. Their father knew he was smart to buy here. The neighborhood was just alright, but it’s on a dead end street with only two other buildings. No one even can find me unless I am specific about instructions. Oh, would you look at it now,” he demanded, “just look at it when you’re next outside. I just knew Belle Meade would revive. It may have taken a while but I was patient. We never told the tenants that Gustavo, now I, own it. All the rent is collected, and the building is dealt with by a manager.”


“Well, aren’t you shrewd,” I told him. I was just vaguely angry. I mean, he cried poor and served me cheap soup. Yet, he owned six apartments and, knowing the rates in the area, was collecting at least a grand each month from them. “You’re a shrewd little queen, aren’t you,” I stammered. He was normally very sensitive. However, he basked in my words. He knew — he was proud of it — that he was a shrewd little queen. “But, how did you get pictures of you and the Cuban having sex? I mean, you didn’t have digital cameras, you certainly didn’t have cameras on phones. How’d you do it? Did you hire a photographer?”

He smiled. He let out a sigh. He sat back deeply in his chair at the dining room table. he was luxuriant in his memories. So much so that, even though it was not three o’clock, he got up, went to the kitchen, and poured two glasses of the sugary, cheap, boxed white wine, with three bright splashes of generic lemon-lime soda.


“Spritzer, cheers,” he lisped, he said, not offered, not asked, but ordered me to have the drink. I was captive as his audience. He wanted this to last. “Funny you should ask me that. You see…” but he paused.


I sipped my spritzer. Dickie just revealed his greatest accomplishment. He was now about to reveal more.

“I was angry before,” he said, falling back in his chair, a bit coquettishly. “You calmed me down, my boy. Every now and then a person must share their wins in life. Not just their defeats. You’ve made me happy, cheers.”

I smiled, as it was hard to not admire his glow. I sipped my wine. I fell back in my chair too, perhaps a bit coquettishly as well. I was here in his world, an objet d’art all on its own, which he created. A sort of Fabrege egg he made for himself through lying, manipulation, and deception on a grand scale.

“You know, you see, it’s a good damn thing those brats didn’t ask to see the photos. There were none. There were never any dirty photos,” he toasted me. “Cheers.”

A heavy stillness fell over the already quiet apartment. All the beautiful things surrounding me seemed trapped. The porcelains on their shelves, the artwork in their frames, the plates on the wall, all seemed yearning to be released. I raised my spritzer to my lips. He was not creepy. No, creepiness was not awarded him, even as I sat there in the skivvies of his choice. He was not evil, he could never be that clever. He was sad, and jealous, and shrewd, and self-serving, but not evil. Another few weeks passed. I was very careful about the money, what precious little, I had in my bank account. I decided to not mention the question of my hourly pay for the work I did. I decided to wait for a full month, to be kind as he had been kind. I carefully saved my hours into a spreadsheet. After a month of living with him I sat down and broached the subject.


“Now, since I am living with you, and not paying any bills or rent, I have tallied up my hours for a month. It’s been just shy of eighty-eight hours but, I’ll only charge you for eighty, since you said you’ll pay in cash. So, I would normally charge twenty an hour but, since I am not paying rent, I am willing to charge you only ten dollars an hour.”


He looked at me, this time wearing a thin-strapped tank top and a pair of what he called his “flirty boxer shorts.” I was wearing, of course, a jockstrap which he surprised me with that morning. This one was more complex to get into and, as it had a built-in cock ring, pushed my assets out rather pointedly. I therefore was standing at the dining table, my package pretty much sitting on the fake mahogany. I knew what I was doing. He smiled. He reached over. He gently, ever-so-gently, knowing I might lurch back, touched my balls over the cloth. I didn’t lurch back. I was giving him what he wanted.


“Oh, dear boy,” he smiled, still caressing my puch. “I can’t possibly pay you ten-dollars an hour. That’s eight-hundred dollars. It’s slow now, with the antiques market. Bad economy. It’s just past Christmas so people won’t be buying like they did leading up to the holidays,” he said, he pouted. “I just can’t do that right now. Tell you what,” he said, “I’ll pay you five-dollars an hour, but in cash, like I promised. You should have talked to me about the money right away. I would have told you that. I have the money all ready for you, in fact.”

He then got up, went into his bedroom, “our bedroom,” closed the door, locked it. I heard him rummaging through some things. A few minutes later he came out with four one-hundred dollar bills. “He’d planned this all along,” I thought. “He must just want to pay me one-hundred per week.” For the first time, I felt ashamed to be standing there in the jockstrap he bought me. I normally thought it was empowering. This man thinks I’m sexy, even if I was 30, even if I hadn’t been to the gym in six months. I absentmindedly put the four bills in the pouch of the jockstrap. This made him laugh.


“Do, do I get a strip tease,” he asked me.


“Those will cost extra,” I smiled back at him and said, as I turned to go to the bathroom. “I have to shower and change to meet a friend for lunch.”


Slowly, very slowly he said, “How much then? How much to see you shower and change.”


He was cheap. It wasn’t worth twenty-dollars for me to turn around and tell him he could watch me shower. So, to make myself feel as if I was offering the impossible, namely something he’d never pay, I said, “I think another one-hundred dollar bill would do it.” I smiled, I turned around to go to the bathroom.


“Oh, I think that’s a great offer, to see a beautiful young man in the shower. So many pieces of great art from ancient Greece depict young, beautiful men bathing,” he said. I heard him get up out of his chair. “Go get the shower nice and hot. I’ll wash your beautiful back.”


Now, now I felt empowered again, despite my ass fully exposed to him, despite him caressing the pouch of my jockstrap. I did swallow guilt, and shame as I walked to the bathroom door. “But,” I thought, “it’s worth the money.”


So, that’s how we continued. Once a week, each Friday he paid me for twenty hours of work, at five-dollars an hour. Once a week, usually on a Wednesday afternoon, he would watch me undress, then get in the hot shower. I’d turn around, and he’d delicately wash my back. He didn’t want to wash anything on my front. He’d lovingly watch the soap lathering my crotch but, he never tried to touch me there. He’d give me another one-hundred dollars. Then, I’d dress in the living room, while he locked the bedroom door and tried to pleasure himself. He was not impotent, he claimed, but “it only happens occasionally.” Somehow, I didn’t feel dirty. I should have felt shame but, I knew just watching me in the shower, just washing my back, filled a lonely void in him that I would hope to never understand. When I met my few remaining friends from the break-up at the Deuce Bar, or Score, or Twist, or at the News Cafe, they must have had some idea as to what I was doing. That “it was dirty.” I know this because they never asked me any questions about where I was living, or what I was doing for money. Finally, my friend Margot who moved to Miami after our college days in New York, and was a reason I moved to Florida as well, cornered me in the corner of the Deuce Bar.


“Listen, everyone is curious, how exactly are you making any money? What, also what’s going on with this roommate who you supposedly work for? Everyone assumes you don’t want us to meet him. Juana and Bernadette said they offered to pick you up at your house a few times, but you insist on meeting them at the little French cafe around the corner. Luis, he found a shirt of yours which you left after his pool party last month, and when he wanted to walk it over to you, again, you met him at the cafe.


I told Margot everything. She was not surprised. She did however, get worried.


“Are you safe,” she asked me, putting a hand on mine.


“Yes, he’s a shrewd little queen but, he’s perfectly harmless.”


“Washing your naked back in the shower perfectly harmless. Touching your jockstrap pouch, harmless. Occasionally, caressing you while you sleep, perfectly harmless. Come on,” she said, “be careful. Promise?”




She did admit, as long as he kept the one request of watching me, and washing my back, he was probably perfectly harmless. Later that evening, she introduced me to a friend of hers. A friend looking for a proper gallery assistant. The pay would be only ten an hour, and only twenty-five hours a week. So, that meant, I would be making two-hundred-fifty dollars from work for her, and one-hundred from Dickie. Plus, the other one-hundred for “showertime,” as Margot named it, meant I would almost be earning an almost respectable amount of money.


That night, as a hot daddy from El Salvador laid out a line of cocaine on his glass coffee table off of Lincoln Road, I imagined how Dickie, who always wanted the best for me, would rejoice over my second job. I didn’t think too long about him though. How could I think about him? Here, now? No, not with this hot papi who fucked me silly, and came all over my balls, as he screamed “dio mio.”


Back in Belle Meade, I found Dickie in the living room, sipping his coffee.


“Good morning,” he said. “How was your night handsome?”


“Oh, fine. Well, great,” I said as I took off my shirt. “You see, a chick downtown wants me as her gallery assistant. It’s part-time so, I still have plenty of time to work for you.”


I was in the other room, taking off my pants, getting “undressed” for work. I heard nothing. Just silence. Then I heard the unexpected slam of the coffee cup. Dickie, he was angry. I turned around to find him standing at the bedroom door, wearing only the short silk robe. His face was pained, wracked with anger.


“I don’t think you can work for a gallery downtown,” he said. “That’s not real art. Your talents will be wasted. What will you be selling? Those awful saturated photographs they blow up on plastic, illuminated glass skulls, some photos of dicks turned into a collage? No. You can’t work there. Not, not in one of those modern places. I — I need you here. I need you as much as possible. I — I have inventory I have to move.”


He didn’t want to share me, I thought. He wanted me all to himself. The thought terrified me.


“You know, Dickie, I have to make more money. I came down here with a job, the place was doing some illegal practices with their customers’ credit cards, and they closed. I need another job on paper, for my resume, so people don’t think my only job in Florida is working for a shady company,” I said to him, shaking my head, feeling once again ridiculous in the sexy pink jockstrap he gave me the day before, my uniform. “You know I can’t live with you forever…”


He crossed the room, he sat in the chair opposite the shepherd boy. I was standing next to the statue. He held before him the boy in clay he could have entirely. Next to him was the boy, well young man, in flesh he could only have just a very little bit of, and for a price.


“Well, you do realize, part of your income is your room and board here,” he said. “Can your friend downtown, at her shitty gallery, can she give you a bed?” He motioned over to my bed. He was right, on this account. I could not afford a place to live. Surely he couldn’t forbid me from working at a gallery. Yet, that’s what he did. He slapped his hand against his knee. “All I have given, all I am giving you, you will not go show off downtown at one of these shitty art galleries. You can see your friends, but no jobs in galleries. Do you hear me? You don’t get to mix with all the modern artists while I stay at home. I never even got to go to the country club.”


He then began to weep, with no control over his tears. I actually felt pity for him. I was angry at him, I didn’t like being told not to work, then receive permission to see my friends. Yet, he was kind to me, and there was something so sad about him I truly felt bad for him. He didn’t get to go to the country club to socialize with all the swells. He wouldn’t let me go to the gallery to meet the swells either. It somehow made sense. I went over to him. I put my hand on his shoulder. His face was just even with my package, once again in a pouch equipped with a cockring, he liked these it seemed. He looked up at me, then he caressed my balls again over the pouch. I held him against my stomach, and I let him cry on me. Gently, just gently, he slid a finger into the band of the pouch so he could touch my scrotum. The actual flesh. He looked up at me and smiled.


He asked me, coyly, if the next time I showered, if he could wash my balls. “I’ll pay you another one-hundred dollar bill. Two-hundred a shower,” he said. He was a shrewd little queen. Somehow he’d get what he wanted, while keeping me from something I wanted, but giving me more money. I would be earning more money for the shower sessions than I would for his antiques business. The shrewd little queen had me in his web. What was I to do?


I emailed the girl with the gallery job, telling her I was needed for a special project for a few weeks. “A big estate sale in Palm Beach. We’re in charge of tagging the items, that sort of thing.” While the girl with the gallery was convinced, Margot was not. I didn’t tell her about Dickie washing my dickie. Instead, I repeated the same story about the estate sale in Palm Beach. She shook her head and told me to be careful, suddenly our maybe plans for dinner were now, “something came up.” That evening, I walked up the length of Biscayne Boulevard from a cafe in the mid-thirties. It was over thirty blocks, that walk home. I knew she knew something else was going on. She didn’t want to have dinner with me because she was perhaps afraid I’d tell her the truth. All of sudden she said her boyfriend wasn’t feeling well, and wanted her to have dinner with him. Back at home that night, as I was lounging on the sofa, wearing a jockstrap of course, Dickie came bursting in. His little face was full of excitement and anger.


“Oh, that bitch,” he said, as he sat down next to me. He didn’t even stop to notice I was wearing yet another jockstrap which he’d surprised me with a few days before.


“Let me guess, Phyllis?”


“Yes,” he said. “Oh, it makes me so mad I could…I could smoke.” I didn’t know he smoked. I’d been there over two months, I had never seen him smoke. He walked over to a particularly beautiful piece of Wedgwood, which sat high on a shelf. It was a jar, with lid. He took it down, opened it, and revealed Nat Sherman cigarettes in a plastic bag. What I thought was a small plate, and just a figurine, turned out to be a matching ashtray and lighter.  He sat down, arranged the things on the coffee table. He lit a cigarette. I took the lid off of the jar. I pulled out a cigarette too, and lit it with the old lady lighter.


“I didn’t know you smoked,” he said.


“I didn’t know you smoked,” I replied.


“Fair enough, beautiful boy,” he laughed. “Yes, oh yes, it’s Phyllis. I was at a party given over on Golden Isles, big houses there, you know, famous people, rich people. Of course, it wasn’t an A-List party. I never get invited to those. It was a cocktail party with passed appetizers. Well, she’s been to Europe again. She, well, she went to Versailles, as she had never been. Well, she saw…she saw the shepherd boy. She is very, very angry. She, she wants to buy him from me for the proposed asking price she offered. She says if I agree to that she won’t press charges.”


He was hysterical. He wasn’t crying. He was smoking heavily, quickly, the ash getting everywhere, all over everything but on the little blue ashtray of the Wedgwood smoking set. “She can’t press charges. I paid her in cash, never got a receipt. She says though, she says she has proof it was in her shop for a decade. She says witnesses will agree I gave her misinformation. That I lied to her. That I manipulated her.” He finished his cigarette. He lit another, frantically. “She, she wants to take him away from me. I have only showed him to three people, you, a friend who sold me the stand, and another dealer I haven’t spoken to in years. He knows her, too. He can’t stand me. They’ll get him from me. They’ll take him from me.”


“Well, now, Dickie. You did manipulate her,” I said, drawing on the long, brown cigarette. “You did lie. She may have some rights to the statue, after all.”


He looked at me in disbelief, as if he’d never realized what he had done.


“Oh, Shepherd,” he said. If I haven’t mentioned my name before now, here is why: you may not have believed it. You see, my first name is Thomas, but my last name is Shepherd. Thomas, or Tom, never suited me. Soon after starting college everyone called me Shepherd, because I was always leading friends to parties. “Shepherd, you can’t mean that. You know, he’s my everything. He is my all. I have nothing in this world without him.”


I stood up, he noticed the pink jockstrap and he smiled. I was not however going to give him what he considered affection. “You have another Shepherd, a real shepherd,” I said. “I am here for you. I can be your friend, far better than a statue.”


“Oh,” said Dickie, now ignoring the cigarette, as it faded in the ashtray. “But Shepherd, you won’t ever love me, not like the real shepherd boy does.” In one slow, yet sudden movement, he ashed out the rest of the cigarette, and went to his, our, bedroom. “I am going to be with him now. He’ll tell me what to do. He always does.”


He closed the door. He locked it. For the first time in the few months I had been there he didn’t come out again for the rest of the night. I read. I heard him masturbate. It must have been successful because he shuddered loudly after what seemed like a very long time. I wanted a joint. Like cocaine, I kept this habit hidden from him. I smoked my weed outside of the house, where he couldn’t see me. I crept around to the side yard. He always had the bedroom drapes drawn so, he’d never catch me smoking out there. However, the moon was full and I could easily see the drapes were not drawn. Slowly, I moved to the bedroom window. He must have noticed the full moon, and noticed it would perfectly light the statue of the shepherd boy. For, inside the bedroom, through the drawn drapes, he was spread out on that chair at the foot of his bed. He was expired. He was kinkier than I thought. Around his spent penis was a cockring. There was a small bottle of KY jelly and a bottle of poppers on the table next to him. A dirty pair of my underwear, a jockstrap, was on the floor where I’d left it earlier. He hadn’t used them as part of his masturbation, I always assumed he did since he encouraged me to leave them on the floor. He claimed he liked putting them in the hamper, then washing them himself, it was his way to “play mother.” However, he hadn’t even noticed them. He masturbated over a shepherd, just not this Shepherd. He jerked off to the statue, to its soft glow in the dazzling moonlight. If Phyllis were successful, she wasn’t just removing something which belonged to her. She was removing his lover. A lover who could never criticize him. A lover with whom he would never have to worry about lisps or country clubs, bald crowns or moles on his head. After he reached orgasm in front of the altar of his obsession, he fell right asleep. He almost…he almost looked beautiful in the light. His bald head seemed to glow like a halo.


I went to sleep in the living room that night. He didn’t like me too but, the door to bed was locked. I didn’t want to disturb him. I woke up very early, well, early for me, at nearly eight o’clock. There was no smell of coffee. There was no sound of the radio in the kitchen. There was no singing coming from the shower, something Dickie delighted in doing. I went to open the door. It was still locked.


“When people get depressed,” I thought, “they sleep in late. Makes sense. I’ll make coffee. Maybe that will wake him up. I’ll do showertime in the morning for a change, that’ll make him happy.”


I made the coffee. The smell did not bring him out of bed. I put the radio on, classical of course. The sound did not wake him. I smoked a cigarette, one of his, and used the smoking set. I hoped the smell, and the sound of opening the container, lighting the cigarette, would wake him. I hoped he’d come and yell at me for making a habit of smoking indoors. This also did not wake him. I began to grow nervous. Perhaps, perhaps he was lying awake, nervously staring at him, at the statue. Thinking only of that awful moment when Phyllis would march in with their mutual friend, or her lawyer, to take him away.


I went to the side yard again to smoke a morning joint, I was nervous about Dickie. I didn’t look at the window at first. I was halfway through the joint when I absentmindedly walked past it. The drapes were still wide open, as they were last night. I looked through the window. There was Dickie, unmoved from last night. His face was frozen, his eyes wide open, in the better light of morning I saw his right hand was covering his heart, his left hand was limp in his crotch. He must have died as he reached orgasm, and tried to clutch his heart. I dropped the joint and went running into the apartment. He told me there was a key for the bedroom door underneath a lamp. “Should it accidentally lock, it does that,” he told me. I found it, opened the door, ran to his body. He was stiff. He was cold. He was quite dead. The muffled climax I heard last night was not an orgasm alone, but a heart attack. His eyes were wide open when he died. He died at climax, as he stared at the one shepherd who could love him. He said he had trouble reaching orgasm, all his life. I could make out, on the upholstery, he had been successful.


I was very scared. I put on clothes. I put all the jockstraps in my suitcase, out of the underwear drawer he’d given me. I feared if the police saw them, they might have questions. I finished the joints I had pre-rolled, and buried the rest of the pot fittingly into a pot out back. Of course, I had every right to be there. He went with me to the DMV to get my new ID with his address. I knew I had done nothing against him, nothing to hurt him. Reluctantly, I called the ambulance. The police did question me, but only because there was a dead body in the bedroom. They saw I had legal rights to live there. Apologized for the stress of it all, then they wrapped up poor Dickie, zipped him into a bag, and put him in the ambulance.


“The only way I’m leaving is in a box,” he said when he first got to Key West in the 1950s. I smoked all the cigarettes. I sipped the cheap white wine. I felt like a widow with the old lady Wedgwood smoking set, with the absence of the dead man with whom I shared a bedroom, if not a bed. I didn’t want to be there, but where could I go? The Miami sun got brighter. I realized it was almost two o’clock, that’s when the sun really becomes high noon in South Florida. It was a warm enough day to turn on the air conditioner. The remote for it was on or in his desk. This one was not an antique, but it wasn’t Bombay Company either. It was a reproduction from the 1940s of something from the 1780s, something shipped down from Illinois when his mother died. I went through the little drawers and “pigeonholes.”


“Oh, come on, where did you keep it this time,” I asked aloud. “Dickie,” I called out, then remembered he was no longer there. Would never be there again. I sighed. Then, in one of last pigeonholes of the desk, I found the remote for the air conditioning. It was sitting next to a long, envelope. The envelope was thick with paperwork. There, noted in Dickie’s handsome script,


“Last Will and Testament.”


A few weeks ago he said he was drawing up a new one. He claimed he didn’t have an heir in mind. He said he did one every year, because as he sold or acquired pieces, the inventory of valuables and accounts changed. I wondered, I wanted to know, who got the statue of the shepherd boy. I didn’t look at the first page of the real will, but went through hoping to find an inventory. There was such a list, but it wasn’t very long. It was a list of mostly bequests to art museums around the country.  He liked smaller institutions, although it mentioned nothing of the shepherd boy. Maybe he mentioned it in the letter part, the actual last will and testament. Although I felt like I had no right to do so, even less right to do so than opening the inventory list, I read it.


“I Dickinson McPherson, being of sound mind, do hereby leave and bequeath the whole of my estate to Mr. Thomas Shepherd, who as of the creation of this document lives with me at my primary residence. Certain bequests have been made to museums, a list is enclosed. However, all assets, including the apartment building in Belle Meade, and all of the objects, funds, and monies associated with my name will pass to Mr. Shepherd.”


Dickie, who never got to make further love to me than through a shower loofa, had bequeathed me his entire estate. I walked into the bedroom. I imagined I could smell death. I imagined it lingered in the air. I forgot about the remote for the air conditioning, and opened the window. I looked at the statue of the shepherd boy. There were two things I could do, take the damn thing he coveted so much and bash it on the floor, into a thousand pieces, then bury them with Dickie. Or, or I could call Phyllis and tell her the shepherd boy was for sale, and it had killed Dickie. I looked at him, at it, as he glowed pastel and white in the sunshine. He was a beautiful shepherd boy, and Dickie’s last memory was for him a beautiful one: an orgasm, as he looked at the object he most loved. I couldn’t make this decision alone. I picked up my phone, I dialed Margot, “You were saying, you wanted to see my living situation? Well, today is a perfect day,” I told her. “No, he won’t be here. Well, you could say I have the place by myself, indefinitely.”  


The will was read, there were no disputes from any living relations. I sold the statue to Phyllis for the four-thousand Dickie initially refused to pay. I donated the money to one of the museums, one I learned was from his hometown in Illinois. I got rid of all his furniture.


Then sold most of the fussy porcelain, he would understand they weren’t my “cup of tea.” The multi-colored matted picture frames stayed in their spots. They let me build a proper backdrop for my “gentleman’s room.” I continued to run his business, and wouldn’t have to add more inventory for at least six months. The one piece of his furniture which remained was the stand upon which Dickie kept the shepherd boy. His will stipulated he be cremated, and his ashes kept by me. There was one piece of Wedgwood which I refused to sell. Of course Phyllis wanted it, knowing its value. It was a large vessel, a ginger jar with a lid, one of his best pieces. “That’s one I’m afraid to realize the value of,” he once said. “So, I know it’s very old, and rare, but I just love it too much to give it up. If I heard an extravagant amount I might sell but no, I want to keep it with me, forever.” It made a fitting urn to hold his ashes. I set the Wedgwood onto the stand, where once before stood a priceless shepherd boy.





By Sebastian Fortino


Characters: Donald Trump (DT), Chris Christie  (CC), Paul LePage   (PL), Herman Cain  (HC) They are all wearing navy suits with red ties & white button down shirts.

[we hear the oceanside sound effects; we hear them talking, coming in offstage]




Listen, all we gotta do — this, this’ll be fantastic — look, I know business, I know how we make it work. We default on all our bills. We change a few account numbers. We refuse to pay contractors. We file for bankruptcy. [gestures] We walk away with maybe a couple hundred-thou each.  

Chris Christie

We can’t do that Donald.


Excuse me?


Mr. Trump.


That’s better.


We can’t do that Mr. Trump, none’a the funds are in our names. Fox is payin’ for this reality show. Fox was afraid you’d try that.


That’s right, that’s right…what if I sign it all over to my beautiful daughter for a dollar and she calls up some illegals? [crossed arms, puts chin in hand] Doesn’t, doesn’t that sound like a fabulous idea? My beautiful daughter Ivanka…you know if I wasn’t her father I woulda’ banged her when she was 18?


We can’t! And please…stop talkin’ about your daughter like that! I’ve heard enough.

Paul LePage

Besides you don’t fuckin’ own all of the Atlantic City Boardwalk! You don’t even own this building.


I don’t? [others shake heads, say no, etc.] If I buy all of Atlantic City Boardwalk, I can bankrupt it, sell it to the Chinese? Think about it people. Am I right? [arms] I gotta get Melania on that. [scratches chin] [screams] Melania! Melania!


My wife isn’t here. Your wife isn’t here.


Mine is home too, we gotta to do this solo, pal.


Excuse me…

CC [looks sad, walks away, whispers]

Mr. Trump.

PL [shakes head, walks over to DT, whispers]

Hey, hey, Donald. Let the kid call you Donald. [gestures] Just while we’re on the job together. Make you feel comfortable, he’ll call you Mr. Trump back at the beach house.

CC [making happy, little boy reaction]

Oh, golly? Can I? Really Mr. Trump?


All right. Why not. He did do some pretty spectacular work with that bridge business.


Yes, he did. But we got more important things to worry about.


I know, like, think about it? Who makes pizza? Mexicans, pizza’s Mexican, right? Anyone’a you guys know how to make a friggin’ pizza?


I don’t know how to make’a fuckin’ pizza…my family’s French-Canadian. I can make poutine.

DT [annoyed]

Hey, my relationship with Mr. Putin is not top-secret. It just happens to be highly private, classified, and confidential. [shakes head] Why, why is it so wrong my daughter goes on vacation with Putin’s ladyfriend?


Nobody’s talkin’ about Putin! He meant French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds.


Oh. That sounds terrible, really disgusting, just disgusting. [shakes head] Who, who knows how to make pizza?


I’d say [looking at CC] the kid over there…he looks like he knows how to make a pizza.


Whoa, whoa, pal! I don’t know how to make no pizza!


Why not, you’re fat?


Just because I’m fat Donald, doesn’t mean I know how to make no pizza! [shakes head] I’m the governor of the greatest state in America.


Ok, Ok. Before we even worry about the pizza, I was thinking, we should probably name this place something. Maybe…maybe we should go with, I don’t know. Maybe, maybe Trump’s “Most-Amazing-Pizza-Place-in-the-World, Believe Me, Whadda’ya Got to Lose Pizza.”


No way, Donald. Why’s your name gonna be on it? We’re in this together!


Yeah, Donald, we’re a team.


See, I like to name all my businesses after my name, and words…words I like. I know the best words, believe you me. For instance, when I named Trump Taj Mahal I was thinking for a long time about how much I’d like to put Ivana in a tomb, but, a really, really, stunning, classy tomb.


What about Trump Tower?


I was thinking about my junk. [grabs crotch] You know, my tower. [sighs] If Ivanka wasn’t my daughter…


Enough, enough with your damn daughter! Now look, we need to do this as a team. Like a Canadian, I mean, I mean an American hockey team. We gotta come together on a name. [looks at CC] You in it to win it kid?


Yes I am, sir!


We gotta think of a name we all like. Say, Donald, you like words, we like words. We all use a lotta words strung together which the goddamned Democrats say make no kinda sense.


I see what you’re sayin,’ Paul. It’s like, like we’d be doing something radical, something different. Not like real politicians with their fancy, out-of-touch political science or legal degrees. [ponders idea] We’ll each…you know, come up with a word we like. Then, we’ll put’em together. What, what words do we all like?


Hey, I have a political science degree, and a legal degree, Donald.


Sure ya’do kid, sure’ya do, and I pay my contractors. Look, let’s think. It’s — it’s gotta be something catchy.





Something catchy, huh?



Yup, something catchy. Somethin’ people are gonna remember. A word you really like…



If I had to think of a word I liked, I’d say, well…I’d say “Cocksucker.” It’s a noun and can be an adjective, or an adverb.


I don’t know — that might chase away the families with kids!

PL & DT [look at CC, say in unison]


CC [looks sad]


Hey, other than Trump, I think my favorite word is Fabulous.


I don’t know Donald. [shakes head] You say fabulous you’re gonna get’em gays in here. Then, after the gays, you’re gonna get them transgenders goin’ into the bathroom.


Ah, you’re a smart guy Paul, smart guy. Maybe the smartest guy to come outta Maine. You’re brilliant. Just amazing. I know. I know brilliant. [pauses to think] How about another favorite word? Fantastic? Fantastic, it’s a fantastic word.

CC [smiles like a little boy, happy, claps hands]

I love it!


So, we got fantastic, and cocksucker. What about you kid? [walks over to CC, puts his arm around shoulder like a kid] Whadda’ you say? What’s your favorite word?


I’d have to say my favorite word is pizza! So that means we’ll call it…

[they all gather in center of stage, give a high-five]



There’s only one thing we haven’t figured out!


Who is gonna make the pizzas?




Well, legal ones, yeah.


So no, can’t do that. Wait…wait a minute! I gotta guy. I got just the right guy!

[stage goes dark]



[same summery music, same background ocean noises; Donald Trump, Paul LePage & Herman Cain are all wearing navy suits, and red ties; they have tee shirts or aprons over their suits which say “Fantastic Cocksucker Pizza;” we can blur this out physically or via photoshop.]

Donald Trump

I gotta tell you Herman, my African-American, you…you know how to make a damn good pizza. The best. Simply the most fantastic pizza I have ever tasted in my entire life. Simply amazing people, simply amazing. I know pizza, pizza and I get along very well. [takes bite] It’s delicious, and you’re black.

Herman Cain

Oh, Donald, Paul — come on guys. This was great for me too. All I do is sit at home reading tweets from ignorant people who think I’m Ben Carson. When you said, “Come on, come to Atlantic City, we want you to show us how to run a pizza business. The GOP needs you,” it was like well, guys, like [tearing up] like bitin’ into that first slice from your first pie!


Herman, Herman, my African-American pizza maker, you really knocked it outta the ballpark, like Jackie Robinson. Everyone loves our pizza, thanks to you.

Paul LePage

There’s no way we coulda’ done this. Fantastic Cocksucker Pizza has taken the beach by storm, LIKE HURRICANE SANDY!!! And, and we work so well together, we work so hard, even if one of us ain’t white! Ah, you’re one’a the good ones, Herman. [patting his back] You, the godfather of pizza [all laugh] teaching us everything. Donald here, managing the books and inventory, me doing sales, and the kid out delivering pizzas. We’re a dream team! [tears up]

[phone rings]


Oh, well, you know the deal, I gotta get the phone. [pats both men on back] We’re like brothers!

PL [at phone, answers]

Hello, Fantastic Cocksucker’s, Governor Paul LePage speaking. How can I help you today? First time calling? Sure, I’ll tell’ya what we got. We’re all family here at Fantastic Cocksucker Pizza.

We got a delicious, traditional cheese pizza, it’s called “The Single Mother,” that’s an 18-in-pizza which we deliver with a large side of Italian dressing so you can supplement the pizza with that ninety-nine-cent head of iceberg you’ll tell the kids you “need to use up.” Please note: No, we don’t take food stamps.

We got the “Fuckin’ Pepperoni Pizza” which [pauses] Excuse me? No, that’s the name of the pizza. Why? Because, cocksucker, It’s a fuckin’ pepperoni pizza? Yeah, ma’am then I was insultin’ you!

OK, we got the “Communist Cocksucker Bernie Sanders Pizza,” that’s a whole wheat crust, local organic tomatoes, local organic mushrooms, handmade Vermont mozzarella. Upon delivery the delivery kid will call you a communist and tell your neighbors you’re a transgender.

We have the “TrumPutin Pizza.” This is a thin crust pizza, very delicate, easily breaks. It’s loaded with a sauce made from tomatoes grown in the Kremlin greenhouse, caviar from Russia, foie gras from Long Island Sound, wheat grown on top of Trump Tower, and the world’s most expensive cheese, a Serbian donkey milk cheese. It tastes decadent, and quite frankly horrible. It will cost you a one-bedroom condo in a Trump building…that’s if you’re white. What? Oh, if you’re not white we’re fresh out.       

We also gotta’ “Halal Pizza.” That’s a “Fuckin’ Pepperoni Pizza” but, if you refuse to eat it, the CIA will burst through your backdoor and interrogate you for sixteen hours.

We got the “Crooked Hillary,” that’s any of our pizzas. We then charge you a sixty-percent surcharge, we put it in a box, then our delivery kid carries it under his arm like a purse.    

OK, you’ll have one Mother, a Pepperoni, and one Halal for your neighbors the al Fussain family in the downstairs unit. Got it! Don’t worry, Fantastic Cocksucker Pizza always arrives within thirty minutes.

[hangs up; scene ends]




Herman Cain

You threw down, you are top of your game, Paul. But just, I just wonder, how’s the kid doin out there?


Oh, we really turned Chrissy the Kid around. He does all the deliveries by hand, on foot.


It’s so cute. We put that fat little bastard on roller skates.


Roller skates?


Yup, and you won’t believe how much he loves it! The first few days we had to drag his ass up to the top of a slide in the kiddie park, then shoot him down, let the inertia take’im flying up the boardwalk until he got control. What a fuckin’ sight to see but, ever since then, he’s been skatin’ like a regular homo on ice.

[we hear the sound of roller skates, the ocean sounds, etc.; then…]


Oh, I think I hear him…you know, I might just raise his allowance. [smiles, shakes head] He’s just so sweet. I think I love’im as much as Ivanka. Except, you know, I don’t want to bang him.

PL [rolling eyes]

Anyway. Yeah, that’s him.

CC [excited, skates into the kitchen, rolls offstage into another direction, we hear plates, boxes, etc., fall as he crashes]


Is the kid all right?

CC [shouts from offstage]

I’m fine! That’s how I stop. [comes out, covered in flour] Gettin’ started, no problem. Stopping, that’s tricky.


You’re gettin’ better, kid. You’re less and less stupid everyday.


Kid’s fine, kid’s fine.


Well, I don’t have any concern with your current operation. It’s just, we gotta meet quota for FoxNews — it’s been six days. If we don’t meet quota that’s it, challenge over. We gotta sell another couple hundred pies in twenty-four hours. I just don’t think we can meet the challenge.


Should we raise prices?


No, no…this isn’t the kind of business you can really raise prices. What, what do you think we could do?


Should we get on the Twitter?


No, no, we’re on the Twitter. I tweeted this about 30 minutes ago, “You better come down to hashtag FantasticCockSuckerPizza it’s the best. See if Crooked Hillary makes a better pizza. She can’t. I know. Believe me.”

HC [thinking]

You need to focus on your foot traffic. We gotta get people into the store. We gotta get them onto the boardwalk in greater numbers. Then divert traffic into our store.

PL [shakes head]

I mean, I could go out there, call everybody who doesn’t come in a cocksucker socialist.


That didn’t work yesterday, not that well…

CC [thinking]

Hey, I got some ideas. I got a big, big idea.


What would that be?


Oh, I can’t tell you, nope. Top secret governor of New Jersey stuff. Lemme work my governor of Jersey magic!


Hey kid, if you really think it could work…


I say we let’im have a shot.


Ok kid, you got thirty minutes — go work your magic.


Oh boy, oh you bet I’ll make magic! Be right back guys! [skates off happy, like a little boy]

[fades out; we then hear beachy sounds, crowded restaurant sounds, etc.]


You did it, you really did it!


So proud’a’ya kid!


Yes, yes he did! We sold six-hundred pies in less than six hours! We made even more because they bought slices and whole pies! This is just the best summer ever! [pats CC on back] But you really did it, you really packed’em in.

CC [eating an ice cream sundae]

Aww, shucks! All I did was close the outgoing Atlantic-City bridge for the rest of the afternoon. Now, nobody can get out. They all ate most of their coolers, the kids wanna get outta the car. [pauses] But it wasn’t all me!


Look at you kid, giving thanks to my African-American over here! Herman, he’s right, your nine-ninety-nine walk-in special…


…my nine-nine-nine plan for a large, plain, takeout pie has really bumped up sales.  

CC [eating a whole pizza]

Hey, come on team! Let’s have a group hug!


Aww, well, sure, why not! I’ve never hugged a colored! Come on guys!

[they all gather for a group hug, more beachy music comes on, or the Golden Girls theme song]



The Trumps Meet the Queen

By Sebastian Fortino


Setting: Buckingham Palace Garden Party
Characters: Queen Elizabeth II, Trump, Melania


We hear party chatter in the background; perhaps just a backdrop of Buckingham Park/Palace, etc.


Trump & Melania

Trump: I gotta tell you, this place is phenomenal — fantastic — this is just a well, what would you call it? This palace is just…palatial.


Melania: I don’t know Donald, seems small. Not tall. Not gilded enough with gold. What is other flags up doing? We own now America, Donald. Why, why we not own England?


Trump: [laughing] Oh, Melania. I told you before. England used to own America. Not the other way around. I mean it’s fabulous. It’s a fabulous country. But, you know [pauses to scratch chin] you know, that isn’t a bad idea. American-England. I like the sound’a that…you know. We own America now, why not England? You’re a real asset to Trump Presidency Industries. [kisses Melania] You know, I just may grab you by the pussy later. You’re a real asset. Oh, here she comes. It’s the Queen of England!


Melania: Thank you Donald! You mean me, right?


Trump: No, that’s our hostess, the Queen of England. See [points] that little old lady in a crown.


Melania: [scowling] I no see crown. You mean little diamond hat? I wear one to bed which bigger.


Trump: [laughing] Don’t talk about that. [sly whispering] We borrowed that from our friend in Moscow, the wife of the president of the United States doesn’t wear crowns.


Melania: Ok, Ok, Donald. Whatever you saying.


Trump: Now, remember as Americans we don’t have to curtsey. When that imposter Obama met them — he bowed, and that Michelle, she curtseyed. We don’t have to do that, we’re not intellectuals or Socialists.


Melania: Well, we certainly are ineffectuals. That what whole press saying.


Trump: [sighs] They say we’re ineffectual, not intellectual.


Switch to Queen


Queen: As I live and breathe. They look even worse than We expected. I guess he’s the perfect shade for “Cheddar of the Free World.”


Enter Queen into shared screen with Trump & Melania


Queen: Hello, good day, welcome to Buckingham Palace.


Trump: [grabs queen’s hand, shakes forcibly, visibly shaking puppet] It’s just great, great to meet you today. You’re such, such an inspiration. I just love, just love everything you do. Your wave. Your smile. Your place here. It’s just magnificent.


Melania: I was telling Donald could use more gilding on lawn furniture.


Trump: [to Melania] That’s enough. Although, you know…well [smiles, crossed arms] we’ll talk business, me and the king in a few minutes.


Queen: Prince Philip is not the king.


Trump: Ah, every man is king in his castle. Is that the king over there? I’ll go and break the ice. Talk mano a mano to him.


Melania: No, please, no Donald. What you leave me for with old lady in diamond hat?


Trump: Hey, we’re big time now. Just look how nervous she looks. You, you hold your ground. [walks off screen, says to unseen Philip] Say, Phil, I was wondering…what do you think about turning over one wing of Buckingham Palace over to Trump Hotels International. Rebrand it something classy, like…oh, The Trump Palace at the Buckingham. We can put in a real classy steakhouse. Something like I got at home in New York. A grill, with an E at the end. Say [pauses] grill with an E, I bet that’s English!


Trump walks off screen.


Queen: [stares off into the distance] Lovely time to be in England.


Melania: Is nice. Is small, no? Smaller than America, Queen.


Queen: [growing annoyed] Well, England may be smaller than America but, you know at one time We did rule most of the world. And, Mrs. Trump, don’t call me “Queen.” Call me Your Majesty, then you may call me “ma’am.” Didn’t they tell you that at your protocol briefing?


Melania: Oh, queen, Donald told me I too intelligence be made do briefing.


Queen: [whispers] Oh shit. [to Melania] Well, someone should have told you to address me as Your Majesty, then ma’am, as in ham.


Melania: OK, ma’am as in ham. You may call me queen.


Queen: No, no dear. Mrs. Trump, you are not a queen.


Melania: Well, you right. Czarina is ok.


Queen: [annoyed] Look, you little upstart! You are not a queen. You’re no czarina…


Melania: Our friend Putin, he give me czarina’s diamond hat which I only allowed to wear to bed. [pauses] You know, your style, I can tell quality. Maybe, maybe you should dress more like someone older with style having. Like maybe Donatella Versace or Cher.


Queen: Oh, that’s funny…coming from someone who designers refused to dress for the inauguration. Anyway…  


Melania: [undeterred] I like your earrings.


Queen: Oh, thank you. These were my great-grandmother’s.


Melania: I wearing pair just like it.


Queen: You’re, you’re not wearing diamonds in your ears.


Melania: [laughing] I no say in ears. They you know, in nipples.


Queen: [sighs] Oh dear. Say, do you like gin?


Melania: Gym? I no go to gym. Tapeworm and bottled water. Sometimes apple.


Queen: No, not gym. G-I-N, it’s a clear liquor, very good. Look, the only way we’ll get through this is if we tie one on. Come on, I have a flask in my purse. Let’s go learn all about your friend Mr. Putin.


Melania: Oh, I have so much to tell about Secret Co-President of America!


Queen: Oh really dear, do tell me all your secrets…



Grill With an “E”

Grill With an “E”

By Sebastian Fortino


Characters: Trump, Sebastian Fortino (SF)



Sebastian Fortino: Have you read this latest restaurant review?


Trump: All wrong. All wrong.


SF: The writer said the Trump Grill could be the worst restaurant in America.


Trump: Trump Grill with an E, with an E, it’s just one of the classiest joints in the country. Real class. Truffle oil. Short rib burgers. Lady food, like salad.


SF: It says the writer was served, “gray Szechuan dumplings with…flaccid, gray innards,” that doesn’t sound good. Also, they had truffle oil on them. Truffles don’t really belong in Asian cuisine. She also mentioned something about humus with ricotta, they don’t really go together either. Oh, and she described the “Trump Grill’s (Grille’s) Gold Label Burger,” as a “short-rib burger blend molded into a sad little meat thing, sitting in the center of a massive, rapidly staling brioche bun, hiding its shame under a slice of melted orange cheese. It came with overcooked woody batons called “fries”—how can someone mess up fries? — and ketchup masquerading as Heinz. If the cheeseburger is a quintessential part of America’s identity, Trump’s pledge to “make America great again” suddenly appeared not very promising.”


Trump: Not true, not true. You know, you wanna hear, believe you me, what is true? No talent, Graydon Carter Vanity Fair Editor is in big trouble. Big trouble. He’s goin’ down.


SF: Well, he’s not goin’ down to your grill — with or without an E — any time soon.


Trump: Like I’d let him. No talent. He’s goin’ down.


SF: You have quite a vendetta against the editor of Vanity Fair. It really doesn’t make sense. I mean, almost every journalist can’t stand you, why do you single him out?


Trump: He said something about me I didn’t like a while back. Something about my hands. He’s a terrible editor. Terrible. Just, just the worst editor out there.


SF: Yeah, you tweeted, “Has anyone looked at the really poor numbers of @VanityFair Magazine. Way down, big trouble, dead! Graydon Carter, no talent, will be out!” That’s what you said on December 15th. You have…you have any proof to back that up?


Trump: I am going to make it so the government has to approve what goes into the press. We will have boards of government officials to monitor what’s going on in the press. We’re gonna close up a lot of the Internet. Close it up. Terrible, terrible what people say in the press. Terrible, just terrible, about me what they say on the Internet.


SF: So, censorship?


Trump: No, not censorship. We’re just making sure only the right things are out out there for people to read. Yeah. Maybe, you could call it censorship.


SF: So, censorship.


Trump: I mean not really censorship, but really, we gotta stop them. Think about it, think about what they said about the grill with an “E.” Look, my place is very classy. We capitalize prosciutto, and julienned. Those are very classy words. Like house salad, we capitalize that.


SF: That doesn’t mean the food is any good. That doesn’t mean you get to take down Graydon Carter and Vanity Fair magazine.


Trump: There’s also my taco bowl. I love the Mexicans. Until recently I had a lot of Mexicans in my kitchen. I love my hispanics. I asked them what they eat at home. They tell me, taco bowl. So, I had to put that on my menu. Had to, had to honor them.


SF: Had to, until recently? I guess you had to let the illegal staff go.


Trump: I never said that…


SF: Moving on. The writer says the waiter was sticking to talking points, some sort of script, maybe.


Trump: Oh, I am sure it was perfectly normal.


[puppets walk off screen]


SF: It says, [reads from paper] “Oh, I’ve shaken hands with him before, and they’re pretty normal-sized hands,” he responded.” Does that sound like a normal thing for a waiter to say?


Trump: No. See, that’s why this story is fake. We gotta take down the press. I’d never shake hands with a waiter. Believe you me. I’d never shake hands with one of them.


SF: Oh, I bet you wouldn’t.


Trump: I mean, I don’t have a problem with’em, but most’a those waiters — they’re queer. God knows they’d love a piece of the Donald.



@31plays31days Play Thirty-One: The Frozen Turd

Play Thirty-One: The Frozen Turd

By Sebastian Fortino



A home office; we see the writer at a desk, in front of a laptop, the desk is covered with bottles of wine, beer, gin, etc.; he looks like he hasn’t showered in days; he’s exhausted.


The Writer

See above.



The Writer [he’s sleeping, he wakes up after about a minute of obnoxious snoring]

Oh Jesus Fucking Christ! Did — did I make it? Did I fucking make it! [checks computer] Yes, yes, yes! Fuck yeah! I fucking made it! I am sure I offended some people…or I would, if anyone read them, there’s that naive possibility. My God. Another August! Another year I almost drove my wife to divorce me. Another August I had to be an asshole at my son’s camping trip. Fuck, another year I have to give up gin for a month!


I mean there were days, days when Caryn just would — well, fuck — she’d come in here brandishing her pussy and I was like, “Babe, I got plays to write!” Friends asked me to ballgames and barbeques and one bar mitzvah and — can you believe it — a fucking barnraising in Amish country and you know what I said? I said, “No. No, can’t make it, sorry. The wife and my son and daughter will come but man, I can’t. I have to write plays.” I’d them crack open a beer and stare at my computer while my daughter begged me to take her hunt for mushrooms. But, could I? No. I was so dazed by plays I handed her the book my grandmother gave me on foraging mushrooms. I told her to go herself.


Well, that wasn’t good. The wife was very upset. So was the doctor who pumped her stomach. I said, “She had no chance of dying, she’s just gonna be extremely aware of her psyche for the next couple of years” but, you can’t reason with these people. My wife, the doctor, my hallucinating daughter…they don’t understand what it’s like for me to do write the damn plays!


I think, eat, drink, shit, and even fuck these plays. Now, I am just as upset to have revealed it as she is to know it but, occasionally, when I am intimate with my wife I often fantasize about my next play. One time, one time I tried out dialogue from the play on her in bed. She caught on. She responded by freezing a turd and shoving it up my ass the next time we made love.


That, that was a wonderful, cyclical response. I had notes, which I read to her when we were sharing a lovely dinner for two, bottle of wine, at a BnB this month…and the main character thinks about freezing a turd and using it to pleasure his wife anally. Well, she did that, but in reverse. I couldn’t go anywhere with it so, so, guess what?




@31plays31days Play Thirty: Donatella Versace’s Our Neighbor

Play Thirty: Donatella Versace’s Our Neighbor




Petra about 38, man in drag or transgender actor

Anton same age; dressed conservatively

Sabine their made; any age

Donatella Versace not seen, only heard offstage



A grand room in a Gilded Age Era townhouse; for this effect I would suggest an image of an old fashioned, 18th C French style room, such as you’d see in a Vanderbilt or Newport, RI home. A sofa, and some gilded chairs and a chaise lounge face the audience; slight angle, etc.




Oh, Anton, Anton, Anton! Are we really here! Are we really, really here! I close my eyes just so I can open them again and — and see, and see where we are!


Anton [reading paper]

Yes, yes mien liebling. We’re here, where you always wanted to be, in Manhattan. We own a townhouse, with the watch shop downstairs, we’re on 62nd Street, just off of Fifth Avenue.



Oh, oh darling, I can barely contain my excitement over this miracle! It’s been six weeks and I just can’t get over it! I can’t believe it. I am just, I am so amazed this came true. To think, we were living in Zurich, in the family townhouse near the Rasthaus, and now…like a dream we are living in New York. I lived in a place in which I couldn’t breath, now I live in a place in which I am constantly out of breathe with happiness!



Yes, my little sparrow, it’s a miracle. [laughing] A miracle that sent us here. Not the fact your bikini bottom came off when we were with my parents in Sicily. Not the fact my mother and father saw your lulu bobbing around in the water.



Oh, well, I was sorry about that but…darling! It was an accident. I told you, Sabine accidentally packed the bikini I wear to sunbathe — with the ties on each side — and not the one which just sits above my thighs.



Well, whatever brought us here [puts down paper] so be it! You think I loved Zurich? Well, I did. But to manage your family’s company, walking blocks from the factory, only a few kilometers from your parents’ house in the hills above the city, was getting to me too! Now, instead of managing the entier business I was downsized! Downsized and sent to New York to start the first flagship store of Mattenberger watches in the United States!



Oh, I know. I know, it’s so exciting! And, and how kind of your parents to let us come to New York.



Yes. The minute they saw your penis they decided Manhattan would be the best place for us.



And, and to think! They discussed it with you over lunch while I was shopping. Then by the time I got home for dinner — they already bought the tickets and had me booked at the Pierre Hotel. Talk about luxury! It makes Zurich look like New Jersey.



Oh, come on dear! I am still Swiss, I may live in Manhattan but I follow the Zurich team, read the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and have a coffee and cake afternoon with my staff. [looks dreamy] Ah, I don’t have my mother & father breathing down my neck; I don’t have those bastards from accounting, design, or production glaring at me. All I have is a beautiful townhouse, with a ground level, street-level shop. You know, it’s very much how my ancestors started way back in the 18th century. Except, haha, I don’t make…I don’t even repair them! I just sell them, sell them…by appointment only! Only five days a week unless by special audience, which requires a retainer of $10,000 in case they don’t buy. [laughs] Oh my…New York has now become what Switzerland or Monte Carlo once was, an altar of worship for capitalists.


Petra [gets up off of chaise lounge]

Well, my little cuckoo clock, I must agree. I still don’t know how we can afford this place. I mean, a townhouse, valued at fifty-million, with an elevator, and a retail space on the first floor, how can we afford it?



Ah, Petra, you fail to realize it’s all through the business…also, you know, the family townhouse in Zurich was worth nearly twenty-million and our watches start at, oh well, you don’t care. You’re staring out the window again. Why, why are you always staring out the window again?



Well, remember how kind your parents were, you know, sending me out here to buy a home? They told me, just make sure it was near Central Park or Fifth Avenue with a retail space of some kind?



Ja, ja, what a fine job you did! Every rich bitch and bastard walks or drives down this street.



Remember, remember how a few months ago I won that contest to have Donatella Versace over?


Anton [lights cigarette]

Oh my…do I? Do I ever.



Well, I didn’t just use a real estate agent to find the place. I, well, I enlisted the help of a friend.



By friend, somehow you mean, Donatella Versace?



Yes. That’s the case! You see, she not only helped me find the place but…she bought the house across the street! We’re to be neighbors with Donatella Versace!


Anton [coming behind Petra at window]

Oh no! Are you kidding me? What! [jumps up] Is, is she moving in now? You…you promised me after that never-ending weekend, which was only supposed to be one night, that she would never ever come to our house again!


Petra [sighing, looks away from window]

You said “house,” you never said “home.” This is our new house. [smiles] Besides, you promised me a glittering social life in New York. We trade some watches for some clothes, we get to go to all the best parties on the Upper East Side. [turns back to look out of window] Oh, oh my! There she is! Oh, she’s looking up! Wave Anton, wave! Oh, she’s using her hands to say, “Can I come over?” [nods shouts] Yes, yes, come over!



Oh God!



Oh, relax, it’s just for a few days. They have to install an hydraulic system to balance her stature when she walks after too much Dom Perignon.


[buzzer rings, Petra answers buzzer]



Frau Mattenberger, it’s Donatella Versace, she rang the private doorbell. Shal I let her in?



Yes, yes of course! Go prepare a little light snack tray, bring up some champagne, and a bucket for Signorina Versace in case she needs to purge.



Oh my God.



Oh my Anton. Please, have fun. You know, she did ask about a Versace-Mattenberger line of watches. Your father reluctantly agrees we need something for department store shoppers if we want to expand our line. [blows him kiss] Our line, and our profits!




@31plays31days Play Twenty-Nine: LGBTQQI Scholarship Ceremony

Play Twenty-Nine:  LGBTQQI Scholarship Ceremony

By Sebastian Fortino


Belle Vagine A drag queen, hosts the event. She should recall Divine in some way, but her dress should be outdated; something frilly, with ribbons, sort of like early Princess Di evening gowns; before the split from Charles.


The Kids They are all queer, teenage youth, 17 through 19-years-old. All of them are fairly flamboyant, very expressive, in both their dress and their actions. They all have style. All of them reflect the stereotype/subgroup they are supposed to be part of, except one.   


Jack Quimby Very tall, blond, preppie, classic look; theater yet jock type.

Ideal on football field or on stage, all-American blond guy.

He’s getting a partial scholarship for theatre, he has a partial for
football. Central High School. Boy nextdoor, WASPy.

Desiree Holmes She’s transgender, male to female, African American or mixed-race.

She has a sexy but bookish look. She’s getting a pre-law scholarship.
Bodine High School for International Affairs.

Tim Ching He’s Asian, very, very skinny & petite; super-stylish, expensive labels.

He’s getting a scholarship to study molecular biology.   
Central High School. (Jack & Timothy are all over each other.)

Alice “Al” Morrow Qenderqueer; wears all black, piercings, glasses, a rainbow flag scarf.

She’s getting a scholarship to study child education and queer theory.

Girls High School.

Max Santosusso He’s got no style really; literally make him not have any style; bad hair. Ugly glasses. Typical geek. Buttondown, khakis, neat, barber-shop hair.

He’s getting a dual scholarship in fashion and interior design.

Philadelphia High School for the Creative & Performing Arts. (CAPA)


Setting It’s at an outdoor festival celebrating gay youth. Summer time. The play opens and closes with very “gay music.” Maybe “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in the beginning by Judy Garland, & maybe “We Are the Champions” by Queen on the way out.


Belle Vagine [she walks out on stage]

Hello, hello, oh wow! I am your host, Belle Vagine! [pause for applause] Look at all of you out there! Wow, just every year the festival keeps growing. Every year more and more of you come back! Every year it seems more and more of you keep having kids and gettin’ married! Makes me feel so at home…minus the fact I’m a spinster and barren. [laughs]


As you know we like to close out the festival with scholarships awarded to four youth nominated from our local LGBT-affirming high schools and preparatory schools here in the Philadelphia area. We’ve got an exciting, diverse group of proud, out there, intelligent, LGBT youth for you this year…   


Alice “Al” Morrow [from offstage]

Belle, Bell! Excuse me!


Belle Vagine

Oh, excuse me, someone seems to need me offstage. [walks offstage]


Alice “Al” Morrow [she comes a little offstage so we can see her correcting Belle; in a loud whisper]

I do not mean, in any capacity, to tread onto and disrupt your space. It’s yours. It’s personal. It puts you in touch with your personhood. But, I gotta tell you, it’s not LGBT anymore. It’s LGBTQQI.


Belle Vagine [counting on her fingers, thinking aloud, mumbles]

L – I got that one; G – I know that one; B – yeah, Bi; T – got that one; Q – got that one, queer. What’s the other Q & the I mean?


Alice “Al” Morrow

That means Questioning and the I means Intersex.


Belle Vagine

Thanks doll!


Alice “Al” Morrow

Please [closes eyes] I am more on the queer, or genderqueer, part of the spectrum. Please don’t label me with a gender-specific code word.


Belle Vagine

Um, you are on my stage, in my space, I have been calling everyone “doll” regardless of identity — mine, or theirs — since I was 12.


[Belle, back to audience]


Anyway, we’ve got an exciting, diverse group of proud, out there, intelligent, LGBTQQI youth for you this year. Let’s give a big hand, a big round of applause for:


Jack Quimby [he enters stage, he is making out with Tim Ching]


Belle Vagine

Boys, boys! Wow, this is a family show! Let’s save that for later. [Belle splits them up, sends Tim Ching backstage] Hi, Jack! Wow, you are one talented, and one good looking young man! Wait, can I say that? How old are you?


Jack Quimby

I just turned 19 last week!


Belle Vagine [putting arm around his shoulder, feels muscle-bound arm]

Well, then yes, I can call you a good looking young man. [reading from paper or iPad] It says you are receiving a partial scholarship from us after your portrayal of the titular role in your school’s production of “Amadeus.”


Jack Quimby

Yes Ms. Vagine, that’s correct. I already have a partial scholarship to play football for the University of Pennsylvania.


Belle Vagine

And you just graduated from Central High School? There you were both active on the football team, the theater department, and you spent time mentoring young athletes for youth in disadvantaged areas. What a well-rounded character you seem to possess. My, my, you’re going to have to beat the boys off with both hands! [pauses] I mean, beat the boys off with a stick!


Jack Quimby

Well, I’ll have to beat off both, because I identify as Bisexual.


Belle Vagine

Oh, how sweet! Let me know how that’s going for you next year this time. [moves away from Jack] Now, now we have Desiree Holmes, our Transgender activist and youth mentor. [Desiree enters stage]


Desiree Holmes

I would just like to say, it’s an honor to be here, it’s an honor to accept this scholarship. I want to thank my grandmothers, my mother, my father, my family, and my pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church. I also gotta thank Jesus! He made me, he protects me, he has led me through the wilderness of depression, the dry wasteland of suicidal thoughts, who got me into Temple University, and who gave me new life as the proud black woman I am meant to be! Praise His Name! Black Lives Matter! Black Trans Lives Matter! Trans Lives Matter!


[from offstage, from the audience, someone shouts “Amen, you know that’s right!”]


I see you granny, I love you! [waves]


Belle Vagine

It’s so refreshing to hear someone young and [thinking for a word] queer thank both their family and their God on stage. Personally I’m not a believer but I do feel spiritual at the Gospel Music Brunch they host at Woody’s on Sundays! Praise Jesus’ Name, by that I mean Jesus Diaz who serves the best damn Bloody Marys in the Northeast!


[audience, silent; except for a profound, “You need Jesus” from Desiree’s grandmother]


  1. OK. Well, we all get our faith in different ways. OK. [looks at iPad or paper] It says here you just graduated from the Bodine School for International Affairs, where you focused on political science, history, civil rights, and international affairs.


Desiree Holmes

Well, it was an international affairs school, so yes, that’s a given.


Belle Vagine [annoyed]

OK, OK. Makes total sense. Also, it says you mentor transgender youth. What fascinating work. We are proud to award a scholarship to Temple University where Desiree intends to focus on political science and pre-law. Wow, what a motivated young woman, who wants to — in her own words — wants “…to be a shining light in the transgender community. Ms. Holmes wishes to lead communities of color into understanding, often faith-based relationships, with their LGBTQQI peers, neighbors, friends, colleagues, and family. Whether as a lawyer, activist, or person of faith Ms. Holmes wants to provide inspiration as a vehicle of process, a vehicle of change, a vessel of holiness, pride, and open-speaking.”


Well, that’s powerful all right! What, please tell me, what’s open-speaking mean?


Desiree Holmes

Open-speaking? It means discussing openly, even if they are hurtful observations or preconceived notions, to foster change. Here, I’ll give you an example: You, Belle Vagine, should change your name. It fosters a homosexual male concept of the vagina being anathema, disgusting. By calling yourself Belle you’re conceding to the idea that heteosexual men fetishize the vagina. You are trodding on the heads of your transgender brothers and sisters. See, that’s open-speaking.


Belle Vagine [smiles]

Well, thanks Desiree. I will think about that. Thank you, Ms. Desiree Holmes, everybody!


[audience applauds, grandmother makes comment, “You know that’s right!”]


Next, next we have [looks at paper/iPad] Mr. Tim Ching.


[Tim comes running onstage; he is far shorter than Jack Quimby; he throws himself onto Jack; they start making out with Jack holding Tim, Tim’s legs wrapped around Jack]


Belle Vagine

Whoa. Whoa! Guys, guys! Like I said, this is a family show! But damn, isn’t that a Comme des Garcons shirt, and I think those loafers are Valentino. That belt, is that Prada? You have some stylish threads young man! Great style.


Tim Ching

Oh, well of course yes, to all my clothes. Don’t even ask about the jeans, I know you can’t afford them. [jumping down from Jack] You see, I have had a crush on Tim for four years and this last year I was doing a year abroad in Amsterdam so, when he came out I was in Holland and this is the first time I’m seeing him and just, the attraction is too much to ignore!


Jack Quimby

Oh, you little cutie, I had the biggest crush on you too! Freshman year, when you came to school wearing your Hello Kitty pajamas because the electricity went off in your house and everybody overslept. [he picks Tim up again, they start making out]


Belle Vagine

Enough! Enough, OK, enough! [pauses] You know what? I was young once too. Fine. You boys show off your love, just keep going. We’ll discuss Tim after we’ve made all our introductions. Next up, we have Alice “Al” Morrow. [“Al” comes onstage] She…


Alice “Al” Morrow

I am sorry but, it’s “zhe,” not she, not he. It’s “zhe.”


Belle Vagine [rolls eyes]

OK, Alice…


Alice “Al” Morrow

…Al, it’s Al, Belle. Al.


Belle Vagine

OK, Al, it says here Al is a compassionate animal lover, a source-conscious vegan chef, painter, and fair-trade herbal tea fanatic. She spends her after-school hours educating LGBTQQI youth at the William Way Center, tutors reading, math, and science for free to at-risk students, and — now this is impressive — has written a history of queer youth leaders of the modern era through 2010. Very cool. Am, am I in there Al? [laughing]


Alice “Al” Morrow

No, no you are not.


Belle Vagine [laughs, shakes head, annoyed]

What a way to work a room, right? So, [continues reading] Ms. Morrow, who just graduated from Girls High School, is receiving a scholarship to pursue child education with a minor in queer theory at Penn State University. “Ms. Morrow,” no wait, “Al seeks to bridge the gap between the classic academy approach to education and the unaddressed needs of the queer community in urban cores.” [nods] Interesting. Interesting. OK, to our lovely audience, please, please give a round of applause to Al!


[audience applauds]


Belle Vagine

OK, OK folks, we have one more recipient. His name is Max Santosusso and he goes to school at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, we all know it as CAPA. He has been passionate about design — both interior and fashion design. At CAPA he has designed sets as well as costumes. At home, since he was a little boy, he has designed dollhouses for his sisters and cousins, decorated his parents home, and even design clothes for his extended family, everything from men’s bathing suits to the mother-of-the-bride dress his mother wore to his older sister’s wedding this past May. Wow, impressive, he must have been knee deep in finals and taffeta.


[audience laughs]


Come on out Max Santosusso, just don’t take my measurements!


[Max Santosusso enters; she is looking at the audience, waving, carrying on; she doesn’t notice when he enters]


Max Santosusso [whispering]

Belle, Ms. Vagine. Belle. Hey, hey, it’s me…Max, Max Santosusso.


Belle Vagine [turns to face him, jumps back]

Woah, my goodness! Who are you?


Max Santosusso

It’s Max.The guy you just introduced.


Belle Vagine [walks a few feet back]

Wait, no. This is a joke. [laughs] Right? I mean, let me read this again…oh! I see, I see there was a mistake. Sorry audience! This is Max Santosusso and he is getting a scholarship to Drexel University for molecular biology and engineering. That, the guy sucking Jack’s face, is Tim Ching. He’s getting a scholarship for Philadelphia University to study fashion as well as interior design. Well, I am glad to clean up that mistake.


Tim Ching

Woah, wait, what! No. I got the scholarship in molecular biology and engineering. You think…you think my parents let me have a trainer and do most of my shopping at Barney’s on Rittenhouse Square because I’m going to study design! I’m Chinese, come on, let’s keep at least one stereotype going. Asians are good — great, in fact — in science and math.


Max Santosusso [upset]

Are you saying that because I — because I look this way — [shows off frumpy, boring, outfit, ugly glasses, and haircut] I can’t have excellent fashion sense. The late Bill Cunningham, fashion photographer for the New York Times he wore almost the same outfit everyday. Just because, just because I wear very simple clothes, and I’m not very stylish doesn’t mean I can’t produce style. It doesn’t mean I can’t recognize trends and materials, looks and ideas which translate into great design. My clothes might be boring but — I made the shirt and the pants myself. It’s how I feel comfortable, It’s how I express myself.


Alice “Al” Morrow

Yeah, you should express yourself exactly how you feel. That’s what the LGBTQQI movement is all about, Belle. Today I’m wearing all black, basic, androgynous street clothes, and a rainbow flag scarf, but tomorrow my favorite great-aunt may invite me to out. Not because she asks me to but because it’s fun, I’ll put on a vintage dress, curl my hair, add a pair of flats, even a little makeup, and wear gloves to have lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel. Today we, LGBTQQI youth, are been empowered to express ourselves how we want.


Desiree Holmes

That’s what I’m sayin! Preach on, preach on! Our identities are forged my God then given to us to experience and learn about, through prayer, and open-speaking, through forming a community of feeling!


[from audience, “Preach it girl, praise His name!”]


Desiree Holmes

Praise His Name!


Jack Quimby

Yeah, I heard that little remark about calling you in a year. We’re young, we can express ourselves however we want. Regardless of your age, like you know, you should I am bi now, I might be gay next year…


Tim Ching [bites lip, smiles]

I hope so! You know the Drexel Campus shares a border with UPenn?


Jack Quimby

And I just love Asian boys, bro! I mean I think I do. I banged an Asian chick last week.


Tim Ching

Oh, rice queen in training! Here, feel my chopstick! [jumps into his arms again, they kiss]


Max Santosusso

Yeah. I think you’re forgetting gay identity has evolved. We can embrace it anyway we want to! Speaking of open-speaking, I’d love to design a dress for you…these numbers wear are, just so, what, what am I thinking here?


Tim Ching [stops kissing Jack]

You’re thinking Dynasty-meets-Diana-before-the-divorce-from-Charles.


Max Santosusso

Absolutely, come on Belle Vagine! Let’s get you into some new duds…


Desiree Holmes

…some duds that ain’t duds.


[from audience, “You know that’s right! Get her at least somethin’ fit for a queen…somethin’ that’s not a drag!]


Belle Vagine [startled]

Well, I could go onto a great diatribe about how my style, my act, my performance is a work of art that’s all my own! But…but I won’t! [pulls out a gun from a pocket in her dress, puts it to head] I am ending it all!


Jack Quimby [pushes Tim Ching off of him; runs to Belle; does a high kick, karate move, something exaggerated, to get the gun out of her hand; the gun goes off; the stage goes dark]


Belle Vagine

Goddamn it! Don’t you realize that’s a cap gun! I wouldn’t kill myself on stage. You young LGBTQQI-XYZ alphabet fucking people can’t even take a joke!








@31plays31days Play Twenty-Eight: What Else Have You Done?

Play Twenty-Eight: What Else Have You Done?

By Sebastian Fortino


Marc & Danny

They are a gay couple in their 30s; they are unpacking in their new apartment. The play can open and close with “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis.




I hate unpacking. I mean, packing is bad enough. After you get to your new home everything should just, you know, jump out of the box onto and into the right spaces.



Like in “Mary Poppins?”



Exactly, like in “Mary Poppins.”



Hey, I have something that’ll make the unpacking more fun! [pulls out joint from a plastic case]



Oh — you naughty boy! I figured you’d go to that weed shop around the corner as soon as you could. We’ve only been in Oregon for 24 hours!



I know. It was 22 hours too long! When you sent me out for coffee this morning, that’s when I hit up the shop. [lights joint, inhales, hands to Danny]



Oh no. You know I can’t, you know I’ll just be a puddle on the floor.



Relax, it’s a Sativa.



I thought it was marijuana?


Marc [laughing]

It is marijuana. It’s a Sativa strain, which means it gives you energy.



So, so what? It’s laced with speed, or cocaine?



No, there’s Indica which makes you relaxed, sedated, and mellow; then there’s Sativa which makes you sort of excited, focused, and fights off fatigue. So, the guy at the store told me this was perfect for unpacking furniture. He said we could even make it into a game.


Danny [laughing]

Like “Mary Poppins?”



Like “Mary Poppins!”



OK, I rarely do, but I will today. I hate unpacking! [takes joint from Marc, takes a hit]



How’s that?



Mmm, tastes fresh! Not like that dry, cheap shit you’d bring home in Florida.


Marc [takes hit]

Hey, well, the only way to get good shit in Fort Lauderdale is to really overpay. In Oregon, since it’s legal, this joint was only eight dollars!


Danny [takes hit]

Wow, you know. Only a few hits in and I feel like…I feel almost excited to get this unpacking done. Wow, is this, I wonder, is this what cocaine feels like?


Marc [laughing]

No, no, it’s not what cocaine feels like.  



Wait…wait a minute! You never told me you’re a cocaine addict.



What? I’m not a cocaine addict!



Well, you do cocaine?



Oh my. Look, I went to college in New York and I lived in Miami. [laughing, smoking] Sure, sure I did coke a few times. Sorta’ goes with the territory.



What? Goes with the territory? What else have you done? Tell me!



I was 24, I went to clubs every night. I even worked as a gogo boy for a while….between jobs, you remember? I told you.



You said you were a dancer! I thought you were like, you know, on stage.



Oh, it was a stage all right! The whole bar was my stage! [laughing, smokes joint]



This is not what I was expecting to hear! You went to art school. I assumed you took some dance classes, maybe a friend of yours called you up to be an extra or something when they were short. A gogo boy! A gogo boy on cocaine?


Marc [rolls eyes]

Hey, I never got into trouble.


Danny [starts unpacking box]

Well, I’d hope not…


Marc [starts to unpack box as well]

I’ve always been a good guy. What can I tell you?



Well, you are the man I married. [motions for joint]



Look at you, “gettin’ lifted!”



Nice. With you talking about cocaine gogo boy stuff.



Hey, what can I say! I’ve always been able to handle my drugs. Never a problem with me.


Danny [pauses, stops unpacking]

Oh, well, I guess some people can handle it. [pauses again] Wait! You don’t consider marijuana to be a drug.






And you said, “handle my drugs.”






So, so this means you’ve done other drugs?



Well, I mean, you know…there have been times.


Danny [angry]

Times! Times what?



Well, in college, in New York we used to go to the big clubs, dance, take ecstasy. The older guys on the dance floor would, you know, give us some ketamine. To really get un into the music, get totally spaced out, get relaxed, get down. [laughing] Go down!


Danny [annoyed]

Wow, well…really! So you could get taken advantage of by older men? This, this you didn’t tell me before we married? You had three years before we got married to tell me.



I told you, clearly I remember telling you, I used to party but it never got in the way of my day-to-day life. You knew about the amount of acid I used to do — I tripped a lot when I was like oh, from the age of about 16 until 22. Wow, it’s amazing I don’t think I’m a glass of orange juice now. [laughs, looks at Danny] What, you never heard the urban legend about the guy who took so much acid he thought he was a glass’a orange juice?


Danny [crosses arms]

No. I’m sure it’s hilarious. Do tell me.



He was afraid that if you pushed him he’d die because he’d spill all over the place! [laughs] People have believed that for at least fifty years!



When you told me you used to party and trip I thought you had a fun social life and bad balance!


Marc [hands joint to Danny, he refuses, Marc puts it out in an ashtray]

Oh. Oh. Wow. You really had no idea?



None! [pouts] Sits down on floor. I mean, other than the occasional joint with you or friends, I’ve never done anything else. I was always afraid. But, as long, as long as you stopped all that stuff, it’s fine.


Marc [goes to hug Danny]

Oh, honey, all the stuff I’ve done that I told you about it’s just not in my world anymore. I just — I liked to experiment. That was in my earlier days. I know who I am now. It was fun, in a way I found myself.


Danny [pulls away]

Wait. Oh, there’s more isn’t there?


Marc [dramatically]

Oh come on! It was years ago. [Danny looks at him suspiciously] All right…in prep school I used to go to art class high on opium.



Opium? What — were you dating Sherlock Holmes?



No, a friend’s father lived on a ranch in South America, he grew opium poppies, and he used to send it home for when he came back for visits. We’d sneak some out of his stash and make a nice, iced tea.


Danny [shakes head]

Now I’ve heard everything! Teenagers, doing opium. I didn’t even know you could get opium today. I mean, they use it to make heroin.



Oh, heroin. Now that’s a story.



Heroin? Now that’s a story? Have you no shame!



It’s not like I shot the shit up! I snorted!

Danny [sarcastically]

Oh, well, isn’t that swell! Is that all? My God. I thought I married a nice, clean, sober guy…



Bullshit, I mean, clean and sober but I like my weed and I enjoy drinks. Hey, so do you!



Of course, but…my God. Wouldn’t you find this shocking? After you married someone to, you know, reveal you had a whole laundry list of drugs they used to do — several years after you met!  



Baby, you gotta realize, this was a while ago! I lost interest and, amazingly, I never got hooked on anything other than pot. I wasn’t stupid!



This, it’s just not fair to me. You should have told me years ago about this!



I tried to — it was all in the past! I don’t do drugs anymore.



I know you don’t! We share a bank account. Geez, of course I know that! If I saw money coming out, I’d like to know where it’s going. [pauses, sighs] But still…I wish you’d given me the slightest notion you were such a druggie.



I was never “a druggie.”



Whatever, look, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. [hugs Marc] I just am glad to know you told me all the stuff you’ve taken. It makes me feel closer to you.



Aww, baby! You know I’m always close to you, and I won’t tell you about all the methamphetamine.






Well, you know, before you, a few years before you, for a while I was hanging out with this guy named Leo who was into all kinds’a crazy sex and sex parties. So, of course there was always like meth and GHB and whatever Farmer Bill used to come over.



Farmer Bill? Why the hell was he called Farmer Bill?



He had a sugarcane farm out near Lake Okeechobee.



Oh, OK.



That and he used to like to shove sugarcane stalks up everybody’s ass…good times, good times.


Danny [shakes head]

You know what? I am going to finish that joint.






It might only be marijuana but I feel as if I need to catch up.


Marc [laughing]

Fair enough.