Farrar, wearing a paisley robe and red slippers, expects the posse to arrive at any moment, though he prefers that they’d come precisely at noon, setting up a showdown, Gary Cooper style.
He sits on a divan in a living room crowded with possessions and peers through the front window. There’s still no sign of the sheriff, or the realtor, who hand delivered the eviction order a month ago. With large hair and spiky lashes, the realtor bore an uncanny likeness to Tammy Faye. The similarity, however, stopped there. It was Tammy who, in 1985, defended a gay minister with AIDS on the PTL Club, scolding Christians for ignoring the crisis, the near death of a generation. The realtor is doing her best to make the survivors disappear in 2021.
Fancy, an overweight mixed breed (mostly Rottweiler) with graying jowls, lies at Farrar’s feet. Perhaps she might pee on the eviction order—outside of course. Floor stains cause nightmares.
The vintage cottage has been home for forty years. Once Farrar’s evicted, it will likely lie vacant until leveled to make way for a mansion. He’s willing to bet his Social Security check that the new owners are from Silicon Valley and that they’ll look like they just stepped out of a Mercedes commercial.
“Snuggle.” Farrar snaps his right hand, and Fancy climbs onto the divan. He’s exhausted from searching for places to live. They both are. Everything’s too expensive. At least there’s a homeless shelter that takes in dogs, but it’s in Santa Rosa, far from Guerneville.
Fancy whimpers, and Farrar rises to open the front door.
The dog, unable to amble to the boxwood hedge in time, emits a yellow stream as soon as she’s in the yard. Diabetes is hell. Farrar knows from experience.
On the road out front, cars head to Guerneville’s business district—tourists drawn by the quaint shops and river beach.
“Come,” Farrar calls to Fancy just as the sheriff pulls up.
Deputy Abbott rolls down the window to remind Farrar that today’s the day. Abbott’s father, now deceased, was a local fisherman. Before Abbott was born, he and Farrar used to meet in Armstrong Woods. No one wore condoms, back then.
The sheriff rolls on.
Back inside, Farrar heads to the closet. Even if he had a place to move outfits, they’re too fragile—too well-ironed—to squish into a box. He flips through plastic-wrapped garments on padded hangers, remembering hours at the mirror, blending, matching, aiming for demure or domination, pert or nasty. The scent of mothballs tickles his nose like sharp breath mints.
The suitcase-sized boombox, a vintage Sharp with LED graphic equalizer, four speakers, and two tape decks, sits in a rolling shopping cart. “Where’s the noise?” Farrar asks Fancy, who has returned to the divan.
Farrar loads a techno mix he’d once choreographed to a T, each boom and break synched to a snap, thrust, pivot. He misses the strobes, sweat, beer, the fans that adored him, as he sashayed at Auntie Max’s on the catwalk, along the bar, sometimes out front, busking for throngs of men—lovely men in thongs—descending onto Guerneville on Saturday nights. They can’t all be dead.
The bass pulses, and Farrar wriggles a body that he’d never call over the hill into a tight skirt of shatter-glass blue spandex. He chooses a blouse of feather fabric with shoulder pads, à la Tammy Faye from the cover of We’re Blest, her 1979 LP. The shoes are a problem—comfort (Reeboks) or fashion?
Farrar goes for stilettos.
“Come,” he calls to Fancy. Once she waddles over, he fits her with a white chiffon tutu—simple, airy, elegant. “Love is a parade, right, hon?” He rubs her ears, and she grunts.
He locks himself in the bathroom for the bra, wig, makeup, jewelry, prayer.
Shortly before noon, Farrah emerges. She’s in a platinum mane falling to hip level, magenta-fade eyeshadow, and high-definition, black-licorice lip gloss. She admires her bust in a mirror. “We’re fabulous, Tammy Faye. Blest.”
Back on the divan, Fancy by her side, Farrah fusses with a hem. She peeks out the window once more. Abbott has not returned. The eviction order never specified a time.
Opening the door, she hits play, and pulls the shopping cart containing the boombox. The voice of Frankie Goes To Hollywood echoes in the river valley, summoning ghosts and lazy bears to rise from deep sleep.
They strut into the middle of the street, Farrah holding up her hand, forcing cars to halt, Fancy traipsing behind. Loud hoots turn to jeers and then obscenities as they make their way to the thunderous beat, blocking traffic.
Within reach of Auntie Max’s, now a bistro advertising California fusion, Farrah hears a siren in the distance. Tourist families with inflatable turtles, beach towels, and lunch baskets gawk. Traffic backs up in both directions, drivers banging horns to no particular rhythm, yelling for Farrah to get out of the way. She throws more torque into her strut, sweat streaming from under the hot wig.
Fancy picks up the pace, no longer straggling.
The sheriff’s car screeches to a stop, and Abbott rolls down the window. “You’re blocking traffic. Don’t make me cite you.”
Abbott’s mouth and nose resemble his dad’s, a lonely man who never strayed from the closet. It’s a mystery—what sons actually know of their fathers. Farrah scans the tourists and shopkeepers lining the sidewalk. What do any children know or care about?
“Let them see us melt,” she says, rewinding and hitting play once more, expecting her name to be called by someone who remembers, who was there, who never left.
Abbott lights his strobes and clears the way for Farrah and Fancy to march to the end of the strip. He’s prepared to offer them a ride back home, and to even help Farrah decide what she can bring, and what she must leave, forever, behind.
Sons know more than they let on. (Psst, Farrar, Abbott’s kid has your six).
Very well done, Michael. Precise, crystal clear imagery, and wonderfully absent of the politics that seem always to creep into stories much to their detriment.
Such a great story. Sashay on, Farrah. Xxx
What a great reminiscence of times sadly past. Great writing.
Vivid characters. Sad, sweet and funny. Really liked this story!
Very lively and original, the sad nostalgia of times which have changed even though, somewhere, the spirit lives on. Farrar’s (Farrah’s) eccentricity comes across strongly…colorful, precise details. Well done!