An excerpt from Brian McMahon's Jaguar Ride

Columbus, Ohio 1973

Davy's supposed to be the lookout and cover - picking out a 12-pack of beer to buy with the few bucks change we'd managed to scrounge this morning from pockets, purses and couch cushions at the crib where we four'd crashed the night before. Jodi and Miss Earl, drag queens we'd met at the Cat's Meow, have come in separately and are workin' the BREAD / CAKES aisle while I'm in MEATS stuffing bacon and baloney down the front of my pants along with an indispensible giant hot garlic dill...which unfortunately reminds me so much of last night's Miss Earl surprise package that I have to put it back (I make a mental note to check for baby gherkins on the way out).

Moving down the cooler, I eschew the colby and reach instead for a real crowd-pleaser, deli-style 90-day aged swiss cheese slices in the 12-ounce thin-pack. Suddenly, an unmistakable brand of cat-fight vitriol cuts a jagged swath from CRACKERS to COLD CUTS. I'd heard a similar rant rip apart a couple of butch fags last night at the 'Cats' - it's pure Jodi. As I slide the Kraft in alongside the Hormel, Oscar slips down the leg of my trousers and comes to rest in the top of my boot. Hurriedly, I limp off like Chester Good skeedaddlin' down to the Long Branch lookin' for Matthew Dillon to handle a lynch-mob crisis back at the jail 'cept I'm lookin' for Davy prayin' he's on the beverage aisle so I can use that beer transaction to get my ill-gotten gains past a cashier and out of the store.

"You straight motherfucker, don't you ever try to touch my titties again!" Jodi is lettin' somebody have it. "No baby, I wouldn't blow you now if you begged me!" A slashing scythe through the muzak underscore, Jodi's voice continues to track steady and uninterupted toward the exit "... and you ain't gonna do nothin' honey, but watch my sweet ass walk right out that door, you limp fuck..."

Any other time I'd be enjoying the show, but right now I'm about 10 pounds heavier than I oughtabe and pensively running down options on how I'm gonna get out the door myself. Dave and I cooly walk the Blatz half-case across the front of the store, quickening our pace around a trail of broken Snowballs and Jim-Jams, toward the only cashier still at her station. Store personnel inexplicably begin to surround her register. Are they on to us? Probably not, I decide, as all eyes turn toward the parking lot where a dumbfounded little mouse in a shortsleeved white shirt and red clip-on tie stands flat-footed, menacing a pricing-gun in the direction of Miss Jodi who's fluently gushing expletives...and the irrepressible Earl, who's turning their defeat into victory with the single throw of a flamboyant kiss at our gaping group. An act which of course precipitates the gathered employees trashing of the trash, a festivity we're tacitly invited to join. And join we do, with vigor I might add. Of course all to the greater purpose of deflecting attention away from ourselves and our spoils, and toward the "pitiful miss-fits out yonder," as they say in southern Ohio cashier-speak.

"They oughta hack somefin' offa dat one but I can't rilly say wha' in fronta no ladies," remarks what has to be the head bagger. To which we all mutter our consensus (including the "ladies" referred to). Ironically, that's the very operation that Earl's been saving up for...if they only knew.

Fortunately, the departing queens were so outrageous that Dave and I, by comparison, are now viewed by stockboys-to-managers as pretty normal even "all-right guys." In fact, either Davy's goofing very discreetly or he's actually digging this rare acceptance to the point where I'm getting a bit concerned he's gonna bond with somebody in another second if I don't get us outta there quick. So I throw a glance at the baloney bulge above my boot and he takes the hint. Two blocks away, Earl and Jodi are waiting on High Street out in front of the Blue Danube.

"Oooh, Brian! ... sorry, hon' ... we got caught," Miss Earl turns to Jodi like a twin who knows her sister's about to speak. "Fuck, I knew it Earl. Remember, I said we'd get fuckin' caught. That little shit of manager guy came right over and squeezed my Twinkies," Jody starts to laugh. "I was so fuckin' shocked all these packages kept fallin' out of my jacket and that man's tellin' me to open up my blouse that goddamn little pervert! He can kiss my ass."

Minutes later we're in hysterics at a window seat in the "D'ube" and Miss Earl's pullin' out the fiver she panhandled walkin' to the bar while Dave and I were still fag-bashing her back at the grocery. A jukebox argument ends, the Rolling Rocks arrive and quick as the waitress can make change, Davy's punching A-11 on the booth's Select-o matic. As the needle drops into the groove of "John, I'm Only Dancing," Jodi follows with B-3...and another B-3, Al Green's "Call Me." "Twice for us girrrrls," she growls.

"Dontchya think we look hot enough to deserve a double-play, hon?" pouts Earl, teasing my beer away to her side of the table. But in the harsh light of day, all I really think is she could sure use a shave.

a memoir in 24 serialized installments beginning October 2001 at electriceels.com

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