The general wretchedness of Mondays was further cemented by the rain pummeling the roof of the two bedroom cottage, but he still loved them.
Atlas smoothed the wiry charcoal hair camouflaging thinly boned arms and buttoned each cuff. Meticulously, he tucked a wild hair up the custom tailored sleeve, straightened the silk bowtie pinned below a clean shaven Adam’s apple. Atlas stepped back to appraise himself.
The mirrored door of the medicine cabinet framed the countenance of a slight man who reminded one more of a rodent than an accounting supervisor. To be fair, he was born in the Year of the Rat, and so were his parents, so it was not a wholly unkind observation.
His nose, a most distinguishing feature, came to an unnatural and bulbous point which made one suspect he might be apt to sniff you out before you ever entered the room. As such, he was ever poised and waiting behind the oversized desk when a co-worker came to call.
At the slightest whiff, Atlas would halt his work and rest his delicate hands atop one another where they would hover in the air above his desk. This is how they always found him. Usually, it was a simple request for Atlas’ lunch order, which had never once changed in all the years he’d worked for the Cheshire Accounting Firm.
#Say cheese please
‘A cheese sandwich and a seltzer water, room temperature, please. That’s all, thank you,’ he’d politely respond then resume tapping at his computer keyboard.
It was Ermine’s week for the lunch run. Ermine was, how to put it gently, obnoxious and lazy. Everyone in the office agreed, but she had her priorities and auditing was high among them. She was the best they had. Nevertheless, when the warm afternoon sun came streaming through the window, Ermine could be found stretched out on the sill beside her desk doing nothing more than studying her nails. To everyone’s disgust, she would sometimes groom herself in plain sight. According to the janitor, a day or two after this unabashed display of vanity, she would usually develop a hacking cough and yack into the wastebasket beneath her desk.
Ermine made scant little effort to hide her feelings for her supervisor. After confirming his lunch order, she drifted from his office door with a languid show of avarice. She had had enough of this little rodent man ordering her around. Today he’d feel the pain of his own hubris, she thought to herself as she padded quietly away.
Ignoring Ermine’s attitude, Atlas returned his attention to the spreadsheet on the screen. The ordered budget cuts had caused him a restless night, and now they were continuing to torture his morning. Someone had to be laid off, his boss had spelled it out. Cut your department’s budget, or you’ll be eating your cheese sandwiches in the unemployment line.
As clever and resourceful as he was, he’d felt trapped and this simply would not do. It would be easiest to lay off Ermine since he was well aware of her distaste for him. However, she was one of the best auditors the company had, and he could not bring himself to fire her based on his personal feelings of distrust.
Atlas thought a walk might clear his head. Just before lunchtime he scampered out the side door into the stairwell and down to the street.
Like a tomcat on the prowl, Ermine slunk around the corner of her supervisor’s office door and quietly shut it behind her. The office was deserted for lunch and Atlas had taken a rare break. It was now or never. She carefully opened the top right desk drawer and gingerly placed the mouse trap well into the shadows. The trap was set with Limburger, the smelliest cheese she could find. As she bent to listen, Ermine closed the drawer in short increments to be sure the trap remained ready to snap. Satisfied with her efforts, she slipped from Atlas’ office undetected.
“Ermine, where’s my lunch, please?” the speaker on her desk crackled to life with Atlas’ thin voice.
Ermine pressed the intercom button and sweetly purred, “Oh, since you were out, I put it in your desk drawer to keep it fresh.”
“Ah, thank you Ermine, that’ll be all.”
Still waffling over the decision of who would be fired, Atlas slipped open the drawer to his desk, which had begun telegraphing the delicious scent of cheese toward his twitchy little nose.
“SNAP! YEEEOOOWWWWWWeeeeeeeeee! Thhrrrrrruuuuuppppppffftt!”
The pain was so sudden and intense, Atlas to let go a scream followed by a noisy stream of flatulence.
For the second time in five minutes the intercom on Ermine’s desk crackled to life.
“Ermine, could you come into my office?” Atlas squeezed out the request as calmly as he could given the intense pain clamoring through his right hand and up to his brain.
“Right away,” Ermine purred and clicked off.
She’d barely gotten the door to his office closed when Atlas pointed the mousetrap, still clamped to three of his mangled fingers at Ermine, his best auditor, and ask, “Do you know anything about this?”
“About — whaa….whaaaat’s that smell?” Ermine demanded, waving a hand in front of her face.
“Don’t play cat and mouse with me, Ermine! This!” Choosing to ignore the obvious question hanging in the air, he shook the mousetrap firmly attached to his hand at her and grimaced again.
Ermine looked out the window, distracted by a robin. Office politics were usually such a bore. “Well, are you going to fire me or not?” she sighed, hiding behind a subterfuge of boredom.
Not for the first time that day, Altas felt backed into a corner. “Get out! And no more lunch runs for you!” Atlas shouted, turning slightly to cover a tiny smile.
He would never let Ermine know how much he enjoyed playing cat and mouse with her no matter how many times he lost the game.
©Sandy Knight, 2019, All Rights Reserved
She believes too much
In her own intuition and the ambiguity
Of a convincing dream
Remembering how her hand felt
On the splintery rudder of the tiller
Turning over the night sky, dividing it
Into parcels of starless black soil
She would clear a space
To divine futures from the pitch blank
Of uncertainty; planting fragile seeds of hope
Into furrowed fields yawning with pretense.
Isn’t all life
Thus so, as to be an undiscovered
Meadow fertile among the stars,
Dense with potential to be harvested amid
The stark brilliance of mornings that challenge
Reason’s capacity to distinguish life
From what had grown and what had not?
Though she knows too much
Romanticism may ransack the common
Sense residing within the least of her wits
She will resist plucking stars from the brooding night
For a few more moments of fruitless sleep.
Lies of omission
grown in the silence between
take on lives of their own
robbing from each
stolen from the justified
borrowed on fear
bloated and taut
truth springs unguarded
from lips fully
formed, as virulent
as a virus without
yet, having the power
to heal the troubled
heart of a liar
©Sandy Knight, 2019, All Rights Reserved
Originally published in A Cornered Gurl
In the late 1990’s Key West, like Las Vegas, was a vacation destination for the type of tourist who indulged in a state of temporary debauchery by affirming “What happens in Key West, stays in Key West.” Here, the rules of society were suspended in favor of fantasy making it a female impersonator’s paradise.
Sandy Bottoms was the captivating creation of Larry Finegold. Larry, having been raised in the Midwest where the rules were well defined and always in play, made his first trip to Key West after graduating from the University of Minnesota with a Fine Arts degree and, not counting a quick trip back home to collect his belongings, never left again.
Naturally gravitating to the stage, Larry began rehearsing a routine for a female persona he became deeply attached to. She was a brassy blonde he named Sandy Bottoms. He honed his lip syncing skills and dance steps to sultry perfection, and having a solid falsetto, he actually sang some of the vocals himself. When Sandy was ready for her debut, Larry soon discovered the business was highly competitive and the old queens who’d been sashaying up and down Duvall Street for decades wanted no part of giving a leg up to the younger competition. But envy aside, they could already see Sandy Bottoms was on her way, she was going to cement her place in drag queen history one way or another — with or without their help.
Larry Finegold worked hard on his act and in the process became obsessed with making Sandy Bottoms as real to the world as she had become to him. Naturally, he wanted authentic breasts so he began estrogen injections. As the weeks passed, Larry would stand at the full length mirror in his tiny bedroom turning this way and that marveling at the mysterious shadow of cleavage deepening between his nipples as his flat chest began to plump up inside the bra’s shallow cups.
Larry spent obscene amounts of money on a battery of brassieres for his shows. His closet and drawers were crammed with the strapless, the lacy, the sequined, the whimsical and the downright raunchy ones with nipple cutouts he’d purchased from Fredrick’s of Hollywood.
A gender-bender, essentially a stretchy sling shot which looks a bit like a hammock, is meant to pull a female impersonator’s genitals behind him in a way that makes them less obvious. If worn correctly, this device effectively allows an audience to convince themselves the impersonator is indeed a woman. Needless to say, this is probably the most important piece of wardrobe attire a female impersonator should own, but Larry skimped on it, preferring to buy bras instead. Finally, he did acquire the cheapest one he could find, treating it like an afterthought, as though he’d totally forgotten he still had a penis.
Unfortunately, Larry discounted what could happen if that forgotten penis involuntarily escaped confinement at the wrong time and place, and how it would be of disastrous consequence for Sandy Bottoms and Larry Finegold, if it did.
It was a raucous Saturday night at Club La Bella Boi. It was Spring Break 1995. The show was going well. The headliner, Sandy Bottoms, had packed the place full of oblivious, horny, drunk college boys (and girls) willing to eat right out of the palm of her slender hand. This was a dangerous time of year for a good female impersonator, because the crowds were largely comprised of little more than inebriated kids roaming from bar to bar without registering the sort of entertainment they would be exposed to.
Howling and whistling, they pushed toward the stage like a pack of hungry pups clamoring to tuck dollar bills into her bra or the waistband of her bikini bottoms. Both locales were moving targets as the pounding beat of electronic dance music created a writhing tribal tableau in the strobing stage lights. Sandy danced and flirted with pure bravado, winking, pouting, then blowing kisses toward one young man in particular who swayed in glassy-eyed adoration as he enjoyed a moment of Sandy’s singular attention.
Aroused and giddy with adrenaline, Sandy gyrated closer to the corner of the stage where the young man beckoned, waving a ten dollar bill in the air. She thrust her pelvis toward him seductively to receive the tip and that’s when reality collided with fantasy.
The long neglected gender-bender gave way and her bikini bottoms immediately bulked up with the undeniable evidence of Larry’s reality.
The young man first recoiled while jerking back the extended bill, then he regained a vicious composure in front of his buddies who had begun laughing and pointing. Blindly, he threw a punch that connected with Sandy Bottom’s knee cap. The pain and shock of it alerted Larry to the very dangerous situation he’d found himself and he moved to get Sandy safely off the stage.
Disoriented, Sandy looked down at the offending groin as if it belonged to someone else. On six inch platform heels, she tottered backward from the edge of the stage and disappeared behind the curtain amid a jeering mob while Donna Summer finished “The Last Dance” without her.
The club manager discretely followed Larry to his dressing room, punched his head through the extra thick curtain hung for privacy and said, “You know the rules. Never let ’em see you’re junk. You’re fired, kid. Get your things and clear out.”
It was that simple. Sandy Bottoms was finished.
Still wearing the sequined bra and bikini, Larry pulled on sweat pants and a t-shirt and gathered his make-up, wigs, and several bras from his wardrobe closet. He shoved everything into a duffle bag and slipped out the back door into the alley where the previously enamored, and now, quite belligerent young man waited.
The newspaper report was shamefully brief. The headline read, “Female Impersonator Found Dead”. The Chamber of Commerce hoped the story would quickly fade. No suspect was ever charged in the murder of Larry Finegold. When Larry Finegold’s parents came from Minnesota to collect his body, they swore Larry had only been doing standup comedy; however, they found nothing funny about Sandy Bottoms, whom they believed had actually been the one to murder their son. They sold Larry’s entire estate, which included and extensive show wardrobe with a total of one hundred and fifty fancy bras and a dozen wigs, in their spring yard sale the following year.
©Sandy Knight, 2019, All Rights Reserved
Originally published by The Weekly Knob
eager fingers slip inside
deep creases of lust, tracing
of despair obscured by hope
at some point we chose
to fold ourselves
into each other and
disappear. i smoothed
my wrinkled planes
and blunted corners,
preparing my emptiness
for new dreams
full of pulpy moons
and plentiful tides
but we grew bored
of flat seams and glass seas
we were so sure
would forever please
yearning for more
you traded your heart
for paper wings
then took to the skies
my heart nearly torn
bounced helpless in a swale
until i showed her
she could float
by folding myself into
a red paper boat
©Sandy Knight, 2019, All Rights Reserved