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Authors: Frank Anthony Polito

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BOOK: Drama Queers!
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Either Jack never got the letter or he intentionally ignored my request. Thirty-three hours later, I still haven’t heard from him.

On my way up to the high school, I stop by his house. Maybe I can talk some sense into him in person. At least I hope I can.

Standing outside the door to Jack’s bedroom, I dread what’s about to happen next. How many times in the past have I knocked, thrown back the accordion-fold, and found my Best Friend happily waiting inside? I don’t know why, but I feel this won’t be the case.

“Like sands thru the hourglass…”

On the other side, I hear the voice of Macdonald Carey reciting his
Days of our Lives spiel
. Rather than giving Jack the opportunity to ask who it is and tell me to get the fuck out, I open the door. The familiar scent of the room hits me full force, making me a tad melancholy.

Jack sits up on his bed, looks over his shoulder. He says nothing once he realizes it’s me.

We exchange some casual pleasantries…

“Hey, Jack…I was in the neighborhood so I thought I’d stop by.”

“Nice suit.”

“I borrowed it from my sister Janelle’s fiancé, Ted…”

I’m not complaining, it’s a nice navy blue suit with pinstripes, but I’m swimming in it. Lord knows I can’t afford to buy my own, just to wear to some stupid dance. Especially since I didn’t get crowned Homecoming King at the football game last night.

That honor went to my favorite person: Tom Fulton.

Surprise, surprise!

Wanna know who his Queen was?

None other than my Chorale partner: Jamieleeann Mary Sue Good.

Add another credit to her resumé!

Standing in Jack’s room feels foreign to me, even though I spent sooo much time here the past five years. I notice he moved his bed from where it used to rest against the side wall to over beneath the window. The same one we once climbed out on the night Jack went with me and Luanne down to Heaven.

For a second, I consider asking him why he never wrote me back, but I decide to be the bigger man. “I was wondering if you might wanna meet me after the dance…I thought maybe we could go down to the bar together or something.”

Jack asks if I think Shellee Findlay’s gonna get pissed at me for skipping out early. I remind him she’s my “Top 5” partner,
my date. Besides, Shellee’s got a boyfriend, Kyle Henke. He graduated in ’87, drives a Corvette, and thinks he’s LL Cool J, even though he’s Caucasian.

“I don’t think I’m up for the bar tonight,” Jack declines.

“Okay…Maybe we can go out next weekend instead?”

Again he refuses. “I shouldn’t be spending a lot of money.”

We stand in silence a moment.

“You’re not still pissed about the whole ‘Top 25’ thing, are you?” I ask, taking a seat on his bed. “Why are you letting it bother you so much, Jack?”

He gives me a look, like I just asked the dumbest question ever.

“All I ever wanted since we got to high school was to be on ‘Top 25,’” he informs me, even though I already knew this. “God knows I deserve it a lot more than those other guys…But because they’re all popular, people vote for them.”

“Would you stop whining for a minute and listen to yourself?” I ask, interrupting his rant. “You know ‘Top 25’ doesn’t mean anything…Nobody cares if you’re on the list or not.”

“Easy for you to say,” he spits. “You’re the one wearing the sash.”

In the five years me and Jack been Best Friends, I think this is the meanest thing he’s ever said to me. What did I do to deserve this treatment?

“You know I had nothing to do with the votes, Jack,” I calmly remind him. “I just about shit my pants when they called my name for ‘Top 5’!”

Jack rolls his eyes. “You weren’t the only one.”

Okay, I tried.

I get up and head towards the door. As I reach out for the handle, I decide to make one final attempt at patching things up. “I thought you’d be happy for me,” I say, turning back. “But you don’t even think I deserve to be on ‘Top 5,’ do you?”

Jack responds with something about the movie
. Does he really think I’m gonna get pig’s blood dumped on me at the dance? No wonder he took up writing…Jack Paterno has got the most overactive imagination of anybody I know!

“Just because people don’t like
, Jack,” I snarl, “doesn’t mean they don’t like me…We’re not the same person.”

His jaw drops. “You think those Jock Jerks at school really like you? Wake up…The only reason they’re even nice to you at all is because your sister Janelle is totally hot and they all wanna fuck her!”

Like the woman in the “Bob and the Kids are Dead” joke, I’ve had

“Fuck you!” I shout, temper rising. “It’s one thing to insult me—I’m your Best Friend, I’ll forgive you…But do not talk that way about my sister, okay?”

I barely comprehend what Jack says next, I’m so pissed. Something about the reason he won’t ever go to parties is because Tom Fulton and all the other Jock Jerks hate him.

Defeated, I throw my arms up. “What reason could anybody have not to like you?”

“That’s what I wanna know!” Jack explodes. “What have I ever done to deserve being treated like this? It’s not like
the one going out to gay bars all the time.”

Now we’re getting somewhere!

So that’s what this is
about? The fact that I’m a Big Fag so I can’t possibly deserve to have any friends or even be considered for Homecoming King?

“Your being the way you are has nothing to do with this,” Jack answers, after I confront him.

“Yes, it does!” I snap. “You’re jealous because people like me, even though I’m gay.”

At this point, Jack starts rambling on about me wanting to be a famous actor someday and aren’t I afraid people will find out I’m gay? Not to mention what happened with Rock Hudson dying from AIDS, which is the dumbest thing I ever heard! Until Jack mentions something about spending the last five years of his life busting his ass to convince people he’s (quote-unquote) normal.

I repeat, “Normal?” This is the biggest insult yet. “You think I’m not normal?”

“That’s not what I meant…But it’s your choice.”

Strike three!

“Being gay is not a ‘choice’ you can make.” For a straight-A student, I’m surprised by Jack’s ignorance sometimes. “You either are or you aren’t.”

I realize he’s been going thru a rough patch ever since the whole Joey Palladino/letter from his mom incident. But that happened like a year and a half ago…Get over it!

Remembering what Mr. Dell’Olio told us in Drama the other day about trying new tactics to get what we want, I attempt a new approach.

“I’m not saying this to be mean,” I say softly. “But I’m your Best Friend, Jack, and I really think you are.”


He looks away from me, chewing on the inside of his cheek. What I wanna do is reach out and give him a hug, even though I know Jack won’t go for that. Not since what happened between us back in 11
grade happened, but that’s a whole ’nother story!

“I know you better than anybody else,” I remind him, “but until you can admit the truth about who you really are—not just to me but to
—I don’t think we can be Best Friends anymore.”

And with that, I fling open the accordion-fold and walk out the door.


Dress You Up

“All over, all over

From your head down to your toes…”



dressing up.

As far back as I can remember, it’s always been a thing with me.

Not just like in costume, but like playing Dress Up.

Being the only boy in a family of four kids, you never got much of a choice in the games you played growing up. At Dayton’s Depot, there weren’t a whole lot of toys back in the ’70s. Or in the ’80s, for that matter. Like I said, Dad worked for peanuts as a Troy cop, and Mom didn’t earn squat as a stay-at-home housewife. I guess when you got four mouths to feed in less than six years, food becomes more important than Fisher-Price.

Hence the Tickle Trunk.

Mom totally stole the idea from
Mr. Dressup
. When we were little, me and my sisters watched the show every morning at 10:30 AM on channel 9 from across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario.
Mr. Dressup
is sorta like
Sesame Street
, except it’s just this one guy named (what else?) Mr. Dressup. He’s probably in his 50s, and he’s got a couple puppet friends—a boy named Casey, and a dog, Finnegan.

Mom used to say I looked like Casey because he’s got red hair, too. If you ask me, the kid always creeped me out since he’s just this plastic head with a mouth that doesn’t move attached to a cloth body. For the longest time, I thought Casey was a
. He sure as hell sounded like one. And poor Finnegan is a fucking mute, so that was even freakier!

But Mr. Dressup is an awesome guy. He’s always telling stories and cracking corny jokes, and singing songs like “Down by the Bay,” and “Wheels of the Bus.”

This is where the Tickle Trunk comes in…

Every once in a while, Mr. Dressup would break out this huge red-orange trunk decorated with these ’60s-style decal flowers. From inside, he’d pull out these costumes (a bear, a snowman, maybe a dragon), and he’d
dress up
in them, putting on a show for Casey and Finnegan and all the little girls and boys out in TV Land, like me and my sisters.

Maybe I got my desire to perform from watching
Mr. Dressup
, now that I think about it.

Maybe he’s the reason my life has taken this turn down Drama Queer Lane.

Maybe Mr. Dressup is the reason I started dressing up in my mom’s clothes whenever I got the chance.

That didn’t come out right, did it?

What I’m taking about is the Tickle Trunk—I mean,
Tickle Trunk. The one my mom made for me, Janelle, Nina, and Brittany.

Janelle I already mentioned a few times. She’s nineteen and she’s got a boyfriend—I mean,
—Ted Baniszewski. He’s twenty-one, drives a Camaro, and works up at Country Boy’s on 9 Mile. In fact, Ted got me my first job working there as a busboy back in 9th grade, even though I hated it. He’s a good guy, that Ted. In fact, he looks a little like Robby Benson from
Ice Castles
. Him and Janelle started shacking up after she graduated from HPHS in ’86, much to our Southern Baptist churchgoing mother’s dismay. Did I mention Janelle’s got big boobs and she’s totally hot?

Number two sister is Nina. She’s not a redhead like the rest of us, lucky her! She gets her coloring more from Mom’s side of the family. Nina’s fourteen and a 9
grader at Jardon, the Special Ed school in Hazel Park next to Webb. I guess technically they’re both in Ferndale, but that’s a whole ’nother story!

Yes, it’s true, we do go to Hazel Park Schools, but we do not (repeat, do
) live in Hazeltucky. Like I said, the Daytons live in Ferndale, which is almost just as bad, but not quite. At least it’s not Detroit, you know what I mean? Still, it’s close enough since Dayton’s Depot is only four blocks north of 8 Mile on the corner of Wanda and Webster. Back in the day, it used to be a store. Not like a Party Store-store, more like a small grocery store.

I’ll never forget the first time Dad took us to see it back in the late ’70s after our house in Center Line burnt down. I remember thinking it was sooo glamorous because the huge, sunken-in family room, which used to be the main part of the store, has super-high ceilings with these great old chandeliers. And three bedrooms—two downstairs, one up. Thank God I got my own. Being the only boy outta four kids doesn’t always suck.

God bless her heart, Nina was born premature with a slight trace of cerebral palsy. She’s been in and out of the hospital for years, and had a ton of operations to replace the shunt in her head from having water on the brain. I love her to death! Sure, she’s a tad slow, which makes things hard for her, and for Mom. This is why
Mr. Dressup
was such a great show for us all to watch together.

Number three sister, Brittany, is in 8
grade at Webb, so that makes her thirteen. Talk about cute! “As a bug’s ear,” like Grandma Victor always says. Maybe I’m prejudiced because she’s my baby sister, but Brittany Dayton is bound to be a real heartbreaker someday. How can she not? She totally looks like our mom, except she’s got our dad’s red hair and freckles, same as me and Janelle.

Back to the Tickle Trunk…

Mom knew how much us kids enjoyed watching Mr. Dressup get dressed up in the costumes he pulled out from his Tickle Trunk. So one day, she goes up to the Goodwill or the Salvation Army or some other secondhand store in Royal Oak somewhere. This is like 1979–80, and remember, the Daytons are dirt poor. We can’t even afford to shop at SS Kresge’s, let alone Kmart’s.

And what does Laura Victor-Dayton find at the thrift store?

This huge trunk that not only does she buy, she also paints red-orange and decorates with these ’60s-style decal flowers she got from God-only-knows-where.

Somehow, a good portion of Mom’s own wardrobe wound its way into the Tickle Trunk where me, Janelle, and Nina, and Brittany (once she got older), would fight to the finish over the finest. Of notable mention: the white cotton Country Girl peasant dress accented with embroidery, the groovy orange and blue horizontal-striped mini-dress with mini-belt, and the beige two-piece polyester pantsuit. Of course, none of these fit any of us in the least. This is why I always preferred the mini-skirts since they came all the way down to the ground on me.

And don’t forget the shoes.

My favorites included: a pair of avocado open-toed sling-back pumps with matching leather bows on the front, and these rust-colored cloglike platforms with a cork sole that had to be at least three inches thick. On more than one occasion, I almost killed myself making my way down the steps into our sunken-in family room wearing them!

Or how can I forget the bright red faux-leather knee-high Wonder Woman boots? All shiny with thick wedge heels and full-length zippers running up the inseams. Me and Janelle used to take turns pretending we were Princess Diana sporting those things…And each and every item magically appeared from inside the Dayton family Tickle Trunk courtesy of Laura Victor-Dayton herself.

Thanks, Mom!

So tonight I’m going to a Halloween party.

Not a party-party, like the ones Jack used to have in his parents’ basement where we’d always end up playing Spin-the-Bottle and Truth-or-Dare. In fact, this isn’t even a real party.

Me and my friends are getting dressed up and going to see
The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Wanna know who I’m going as?


The tap-dancing groupie-friend of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, and alleged lover of Meat Loaf—I mean,
—originally played by Little Nell.

Imagine how difficult it is finding a gold sequined tailcoat with black sequined, unnotched lapels, and matching top hat with black scrunched hatband. Thank God there’s this costume shop, Lynch’s House of Sequins, up on Dequindre and 11 Mile. You can bet the nondescript middle-aged woman working behind the cash register thought I was a Total Freak asking if she could sell me a black sequined bustier with flat sequins (not cup) in a
size 38…Luckily, I don’t have to wear a wig since Columbia’s got the same haircut as me—short in back, longer on top, and red.

One day about a year ago, Jack called me up and was all like, “Oh, my God…We must see this movie!” He started rambling on and on about how his 28-year-old coworker (Corrine? Collette, maybe?) told him all about this totally great musical from the ’70s. “Everybody in the audience gets up during the middle of it and acts it out.”

Well, when I heard that, I knew I had to see it. I wanna be an actor, don’t I? I should experience these things. Too bad Jack could never get his friend (Colleen!) to take us. We had to wait till we were seventeen and could purchase the tickets ourselves. So I decided to celebrate my birthday on September 4
of last month by going to see
Rocky Horror
out at Lakeside Mall.

So far I seen the
Picture Show
seven times—once a week for the past two months, except on the night of the Homecoming Dance. That’s the problem. They only show it on Saturdays at midnight, which is part of the reason Jack only went with us the one time for my birthday. He always works till 11:00 PM on weekends, so he’s too tired to do anything. (Persnickety!)

“Be careful driving.”

Mom kisses my cheek, after Nina snaps a Polaroid of me and her and Brittany with the camera we bought Mom for last Mother’s Day.

“I will,” I promise, checking my lipstick one final time in the side of the toaster.

Brittany cries, “I wanna see!” when Nina starts shaking the photo into focus.

“No fighting,” Mom warns. “Or it’s off to bed.”

Good luck!
These girls are pumping so much glucose thru their veins from all the Mary Janes and SweeTarts and candy corn they scored tonight, they ain’t never gonna sleep.

The four of us gather in a small circle, awaiting the finished product.

“Don’t you look pretty?” Mom beams once our image has materialized. She’s not even the least bit embarrassed to be observing her 17-year-old son looking like a transvestite from transsexual Transylvania.

Personally, I think I look good as a girl. Sizing myself up in the white plastic square, I’m amazed at what a little lipstick and mascara can do to transform a boy. Not that I’m one of them gay guys who wants to be a
or anything. I’m perfectly content with what I got between my legs.

“You look pretty too,” Nina tells Mom, who blushes.

“I look
,” she groans, even though it’s not at all true.

At forty-one, Mom is as gorgeous as ever. Sure, she’s gained some weight since my favorite picture of her with the cat’s eye glasses and bouffant hairdo was shot back in 1964 when she graduated from the other HPHS—Highland Park High School. That’s what happens when a woman has four kids before she turns thirty!

“No drinking,” Mom warns. “You hear?”

Feeling the flask of fuzzy navel strapped to my freshly shaved thigh, I secretly cross my fingers. “Never.” Boy, do I hate lying to my mother!

It’s been a while since I walked in three-inch heels and I forgot the degree of difficulty. As I stumble down the back porch steps, I almost crash into the cream-colored ’68 Valiant parked in our driveway. Leave it to my dad to give me a car that’s two years
than I am. I can’t complain, I’m just happy I finally got my driver’s license. Surprisingly, it only took me three tries to pass my road test.

Climbing inside, I take care not to snag my stockings in the process. Leave it to my dad to give me a car with a busted dome light. With my key, I feel around for the dashboard ignition. After finding the hole, I fire up a glamorous Virginia Slim Light 120 that I bought special for tonight’s festivities, and away I drive.

First thing I do once I buy my movie ticket is hit the concession stand…Well, the second thing, after I look around the empty mall for the rest of the Drama Queers I’m supposed to meet here by 11:45 PM.

My heart races for the finish line as I step up to the register. Why am I so nervous about buying a stupid pop? Because I got a bit of a crush on the dark-haired Chaldean guy with the bulging biceps working behind the counter, that’s why! His name tag says: JERRY, even though I’m pretty sure that’s not his
name. I think it’s Ahmed.

Wanna hear the funniest thing?

Jerry looks up from behind the cash register where he stands in his cute little uniform: dark polyester vest over white dress shirt with matching bow tie. I can’t see the pants, but I imagine they’re super tight and his ass looks totally hot.

BOOK: Drama Queers!
8.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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