June 22, 2010

Chapter 8

They found the books we made. So what? In the end, nobody would have read them to the children anyway. In the end, there would be nobody there to walk the children through page by page, to explain and reinforce those ideas about what's normal. Kids can't just pick up a book about a tranny and understand. They need their parents to help them, and their parents never would.

What we need to do is replace their parents. My anger is so intense now that it isn't even anger. I'm floating. The sun outside the window is shining through me. Children are too important to be left to their parents.

I open Richard's closet and pick out a dark blue suit, nice but not flashy. It says "politics" more than anything and it fits me snugly. Richard has a credit card in the top drawer of his night stand, and I slide it into my pocket. I find my lockpick set, and I take that, too. I feel like a mobster. I want to comb my hair with a switchblade comb, to slick it back all wet and black.

I call Michelle.

"Can I come over?" I say. "I have a plan."

She's still eating breakfast when I get there, sugared puffs of wheat. She has a bruise on her shoulder in the shape of a mouth, so fresh you can still see individual teeth. I can hear Alex singing to punk rock in another room. I take my suit jacket off and fold it over a chair.

"We should take the remaining books down to a bookstore to donate them," I say. "We'll leave them in a box out front, with an anonymous note. The stores can sell them and give the profits to charity," I say. "Or they can just give them away. At least the books will get into homes and someone will read them. And we won't get arrested. It's perfect." Michelle nods.

Alex comes in. She runs her hands through Michelle's hair and says "I want to do more. Every day we should do something bigger. I want to be on the news every night."

"We will," I say. "The cartoon heterosexual paradigm hates to be fucked with. By the end of the day, we'll be on the run from their cartoon lawmen with their big black billy clubs." Alex grins. "Pack a bag," I tell her. "You too," I say to Michelle. "I have a plan. I have so many plans that my head feels heavy. We'll be gone for a few days."

Richard comes to pick us up in his car and everyone piles inside. The books go in the trunk.

"This is a good idea," he says, smiling in the driver's seat. "I'm glad that people will actually get to read the books, instead of just burning them on TV." He puts his hand on my shoulder, and I wonder if he's fucked that boy in the photocopier room again. I want to kiss him, to taste the other man's come on his lips, but I don't. What if there's no taste at all?

Our first stop is Venus Envy, a sex shop downtown. Richard parks the car and we climb out. "Can I do the talking?" Alex says. "I think the girl who runs it, Maggie, has a crush on me." She grabs a stack of the books from the box. She and Richard haven't spoken yet, but it's none of my business. Michelle laughs while Alex fixes her hair in the reflection of the car window.

"Are you sure that Maggie's the one with the crush?" she says, and Alex doesn't answer. Our masks are in the trunk beside the box of books. I can't stop staring at them.
Inside the store, Alex smiles the whole time. She puts the books down in front of the manager and she says "We thought you might be able to sell these, or give them away."

"What are they?" The manager, Maggie, lifts up one of the books and grins. "These are the books from the news?" she says.

"You didn't get them from us," Alex says, and she leans across the counter. "We could get in a lot of trouble," she confides. "Our organization has made a lot of people very angry. We're above the law!" There's a whole wall of dildos in here. The lighting is calm.

Michelle rolls her eyes at Alex and she says "You should donate any money you get from them to a charity of your choice. The important thing is that mothers who care will read them to their children."

Maggie leafs through the book.

"I know people who work at a queer summer camp," she says. "I can arrange to get copies to each of the kids there. And I'm gonna steal a copy for my girlfriend Jesse. She would love this. She's working on a book, too."

"Are you and Jesse, uh, exclusive?" Alex asks. She's playing with her hair again. "Have you ever gone out with a revolutionary?" she says. "Maybe you need to be overthrown."

In the car Richard kisses me, and he tastes like mint. We drive to the next store, and Richard and I wait outside. We make out in the car for the next three bookstores, too. It's nice to just make out, to kiss and touch his chest and not move right to sex. It drives me insane and it calms me down.

While we drive around, Alex goes on and on about the girl from Venus Envy. "She's going to see me on the news one night," she says "and then what will her girlfriend have on me? I'm doing something. I'm going to save the world. We all are," she adds, grinning around at us. "We're going to save the world, aren't we?"

"One child at a time," I tell her.

After the last bookstore, I climb into the driver's seat and Michelle says "Where to now? Food?"

"We've got one more stop," I say.

"That was the last of the books," Michelle says. Alex and Richard are sitting in the back seat, quietly. They still haven't spoken.
"We aren't dropping off," I say. "We're picking up." I remember the address, and it takes us twenty minutes to drive across town. I fix my tie and turn the car into the driveway of the school.

"I'll just be one second," I say. "Keep the engine running."

It's a huge, gothic looking building. The most expensive and exclusive private school in the city. It houses grades primary right through high school. The money that these parents pay for tuition isn't even a real number. I don't feel jealous about money at all these days. It seems like part of a make believe world that people create for themselves. A TV that costs eighteen hundred dollars just sits in some straight person's home, waiting for me to steal it.

It takes me five minutes to find the head office. I smile as wide as I can, and I say "I'm here from Dr. Verge's office. Sorry to trouble you again."

After that I walk casually out of the school, holding David's hand. We get to the car and Michelle is staring at me, confused. Alex and Richard don't look up until I pull open the back door on Richard's side, and tell David to climb into the middle.

"Everyone," I say. "This is David. Say hello, David."
He's silent.

"I told them I was one of Dr. Verge's assistants," I say, sitting behind the wheel. Nobody else says anything. "I said that we needed David here for another televised save-the-family rally."

In the back seat, David sits looking straight ahead. I wonder if his father has given him instructions not to speak to the help. I wonder how he's going to like being a little girl.

"Children are too important to leave to their parents," I say. Alex is grinning.

"His dad is that anti-gay marriage guy?" Alex says.

I nod, and then focus on driving. Michelle turns to face the boy in the backseat.

"Have you ever worn a dress?" she says.

In a thrift store, I buy two dresses, one in my size and one in David's, because I think if he sees me in the dress he won't feel as weird about wearing one himself. Mine is nice, a simple black dress that I drape a chrome spiked belt over. My boots are covered in mud, and with the stubble I have a confusing look that I find appealing. I have a small clutch that I keep the lockpick set in.
Out in the car, I pass the dress to David.

"Put this on," I say.

He unfolds it and holds it up.

"This is for a girl," he says.

"I'm not a girl," I say. "I'm wearing a dress."

"You're probably a gay," David says. There's an edge to his voice, a tone that he's gotten from his father. "You wear dresses in parades," David says. "You think you're a girl anyway. I'm not gay."

"How old are you?" Richard says.

"Eight years old," David says. He folds the dress carefully and hands it back to me.

"Put it on," Alex says. "Or we'll make you put it on." Michelle turns to look at her, but Richard speaks first.

"Right," he says. "We'll just hold him down and pull his clothes off. Then we'll force him to dress up like a girl. I'm sure that on top of kidnapping it won't make that much difference if we forcibly remove his clothes."

"I have a knife," David says. He pulls out a little Swiss army knife. And carefully forces the blade out with his fingernails.

It's Alex's idea to refuse to feed him until he puts the dress on. At the truck stop I keep the doors locked while Michelle runs inside and buys us some food. The hamburgers are greasy and I leave mine half eaten in the bag. "This is good," Alex says, and she forces herself to smile. "Mmmmm." Michelle and Richard eat quietly. David stares out the window.

When we're back on the highway, David says "Where are we going? Where's my dad?" and Alex sticks out her hand to shake.

"I'm Bert," she says. She points to Michelle. "That's Ernie."

"Bert and Ernie are puppets," David says.

Richard offers his hand too. "I'm Wonder Woman," he says. "Don't laugh."

I meet David's eyes in the mirror. "I'm Velma," I say.

We drive for hours, and I push the car too fast, wind coming in the window and slipping up my dress. I can feel every hair. The material waves and flaps. I hate driving. On the radio they're playing country music. I have no idea if they're talking about us on the news or not. I don't care. I meet David's eyes in the rear view mirror.

"You don't like dresses?" I say. "Why, because boys don't wear dresses?" I say. "You only do what your father says you can do. What do you like? Race cars?" I press my foot down, and the car goes even faster. "Did you know that I'm a race car driver?"

"You are not," he says. He looks sullen. There's a car ahead of me, in the right lane, and I speed toward it. At the last minute, I swerve out to pass and my stomach lurches to the right. We pass the car and I swerve back in front.

"I used to race at Daytona," I say. "I had a car with those rims that keep spinning after the car stops. I think they would have kept spinning, anyway. I never found out. Do you know why?" I say, and I lurch the car to the left again, passing an SUV. "Because I never stopped."

We drive all day, and into the night. It's Michelle who sees it first. "Hey, stop the car," she says. "What the fuck is that?"

"What?" Richard says, leaning into the front and trying to see what she's pointing at.
"It's gone."

"What was it?"

"Just stop the car," she says, and I pull over to the side of the road. We all climb out, even David, who hasn't spoken in hours. Michelle stands looking up at the dark night sky, with its slowly drifting clouds. "There!" she says, and she points.

There's a cut in the darkness of the sky, an incision, with light shining out of it. It's a green that's too bright to be natural. It looks like the trail of an airplane, but lit up, and too perfect.

"Is it a comet?" Richard says. The line is broken in two, now. It's still as straight as an incision, but there's a gap. Then it fills in. "What the fuck," Richard says. "It's so green."

"It's a laser," David says. "It's a laser beam."

"Lasers are red," Richard says, and David shakes his head.

"There are green lasers too," he says. "Look how straight it is." A cloud drifts into the beam above us. "It's behind these trees," he says.

"Weird," Alex says. "Can we get out of here? It's creeping me out. It looks like something out of a science fiction movie."

"Let's go and find it!" David says.

"I'm sure it's past your bedtime," Alex says. "Let's get back in the car and go find a hotel. Come on." She grabs Richard by the arm, and it's the first time they've touched today. He looks startled and then turns to me.

"Yeah, let's get going," he says.

I can't stop staring at the laser beam. I can't see the whole beam, just streaks where it hits cloud or mist in the air. It's obvious that it's a laser now, but for a brief moment I really did think there was a tear in the sky. When the end comes, I hope it's as strange as that. I hope that the sky tears open and the world is washed with colors that we've never seen before. David is looking at me.

"Can we go and see it?" he says. I look back at the car. Alex and Richard are already inside, and Michelle has her door open. She's standing and watching us.

"You guys try and find a hotel," I say. "Grab Richard's cell phone for me," I say. Michelle leans into the car and says something. I see Richard pass her the phone. "Just give us a call when you find a place to stay tonight," I say. "We're gonna go find this laser."

Michelle hands me the phone and looks me up and down. "In that dress?" she says. "We're in the middle of nowhere. You're going to get the shit kicked out of you in front of a little kid."

"I'll be fine," I say. I turn and look up again. The laser is gone, and for a moment I feel sick with disappointment. Then it slices into view again. "Hey David," I say. "You've got your knife, right?"

"Yeah," he says.

"See?" I say to Michelle. "David will protect me." I put the cell phone into the small clutch I'm carrying.

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