STRIKE A POSE by Donnàrd Ricardo Sturgis

Jeremy Lyon @ 01-03-2005

“Strike A Pose” by Donnárd Ricardo Sturgis is a touching story about a lonely drag queen trying to make her mark in Glamtasia’s annual fashion show-cum-full-contact death-brawl with the help of a little Santería. And that’s just half the fun.

Note: This story contains sex, violence and lots of naughty words. Please avert your eyes if you’re homophobic, overly sensitive or a young ‘un.

[ IMPORTANT NOTICE: This story is NOT covered by the Creative Commons License that covers the majority of content on Futurismic; copyright remains with the author, and any redistribution is a breach thereof. Thanks. ]

Strike A Pose

by Donnárd Ricardo Sturgis

It was like one of those antique mirrored disco balls exploded in my face. My fashions! Silver chips, like sequins scaled from a dying gown, fluttered around me towards the ground as I tried in vain to catch them. I was devastated. How could he have just flung my fashion discs out of the window like that? Probably drunk again on Red Stripe. Then his jerk-chicken-eatin’ ass had to get all black and ignorant and shouted at me.

“And no come back in ’ere, man! You hear me? I told you before — it’s over and me no want you. Me just wanted your tight rass.”

I felt like I’d been tripped on a runway by a jealous Thin Girl. I just couldn’t believe it. I scrambled to pick up the FDs, but a gust of wind carried most of them into the street and another surge swept some into the gutter. At least three hundred holographic outfits lost. It had taken me weeks to design some of those programs. But what did that Jamaican bastard care? The fucking bloodclot. I catch him in bed with some gymnast queen who’s got her legs stretched around his neck while she’s getting plowed, and I’m the one who gets thrown out?

My options were few. My parents were appalled at having a drag queen — wait, excuse me, I mean gender illusionist — for a son; and my two brothers had terminal cases of homophobia. More importantly, living with any of them would mean leaving Glamtasia, and the style and elegance withdrawals alone would be deadly. I didn’t yet belong to a house, so where would I go?

#

I sat in the News Café at Eighth and Ocean Drive, sipped a café con leche, and planned my next move. First I had to find a place to live. Sleeping in the streets was out of the question. By myself, and without a dog to guard me as I slept, somebody would kill me for some house or crew initiation or just for fun.

My mind wandered, searching for options until a stench snatched me back to the restaurant. I looked up to see a homeless woman — or burnt-out drag queen — push a cart filled with her belongings. She must have been crazed to insult the lavish glamour of Ocean Drive with her seediness. What if — oh, shit!

Two gray uniformed women, and one man, Tourist Police, caught girlfriend by surprise.

“No beatings! Not in front of my customers!” shouted the wannabe model — presently hostess, from her sidewalk podium. “Just get it out of my sight.” She glared at the woman with contempt scrawled across her face.

“Simply disgusting,” said a richly dressed Asian man seated at the table next to me. The woman with him nodded and smiled in agreement.

I would have hated to learn that the wretch really had gotten her ass kicked, but — wait. Let me stop lying. Bad minded or not, some sense of style had to be enforced. You just can’t have tramps traipsing about on the most expensive hotel strip on the island. If you’re that damn crazy then maybe you need a beating. But enough about her, I had my own shit to deal with.

I gave my best friend, Dondifish, a call. Though he and his lover didn’t have any room, maybe he had some ideas. He was on the Metrorail when I reached him, on his way home from work.

“Girl, you lying,” he said. “I can’t believe that man did that to you. But then again I can, I tried to tell you about him, but you always want to live all this high drama and -”

“Please, I’m really not in the mood to hear this now,” I said. “I need a place to stay.” The tears were streaming again and I didn’t care who saw my makeup running. With all those space stations and shit floating around, you’d think that makeup would really be waterproof by now — it can’t be that damn hard.

“Stop crying, girl. He ain’t worth all that. When do you have to work again?”

“Tonight,” I said, trying to mop up the tears with a pink silk Versace scarf.

“Meet me over at my apartment in twenty minutes and you can shower and change there.”

“What about your man, girl?” I asked.

“Never mind him — if you can’t stay one night then no one can. You know that saying, lovers come and go, but friends are forever. Now don’t worry about it ’cause you know you don’t dance your best when you get all depressed and you need tonight’s tips. Okay?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“Bye, girl,” Dondifish said.

Well, that was a drizzle of good news in this sea of shit I’d been swimming in all damn day.

#

When I got out of the shower Dondifish had tea and biscotti prepared.

“Sit, dear,” he said while crossing his legs with the grace and ease that a supermodel would claw a girl’s face for, “so I can enjoy tea and crumpets with the queen.”

“You so crazy,” I said with a giggle. “But if anyone can laugh me out of this depression, you can.”

“I got good news,” Dondifish said with a broad smile. Actually, he would have made a better woman than me, with his petite frame and elf-boy looks. I was really pushing it, being six-foot-three in my stocking feet. With heels on, I had NBA scouts sniffing up my dress.

“But before I get to that I want you to think about not Voguing in the ball this year, or if you do, just do the forms competition — not full-contact.”

“Why not? Don’t you think I’m good enough?” I asked.

“Of course you’re good enough when you’re focused, but with all of this shit going on and the ball only a week away I wish you would just wait. Remember three people got killed last month at that ball at Club Waterfront.”

“If nothing else I’m too angry to lose. I should have fucked up that lying faggot who pretended to be a man.”

“I don’t want to sound mean,” Dondifish said followed by a sip of tea, “but we’ve been friends longer than I can remember, and I’m saying this because I care about you. You are one of the most talented people I know, but you just don’t have confidence in yourself. You put up with shit that a dog shouldn’t have to deal with. That man, and most of the others you’ve dealt with were bad from the get go.”

“I know, girl.”

“No, I don’t think that you really do. You need to give yourself some credit.”

My sadness was suddenly swallowed by anger. “I should’ve had some conjure woman put some roots on his ass — let him wake up with his dick looking like a piece of beef jerky.”

“Girl, you don’t want to put those kind of vibrations out in the Universe. He did you wrong, but it’s not really about him. It’s you.”

I stared at the floor for a moment. Tears started again.

“I’m only telling you this because I love you, girl.”

I wasn’t feeling this conversation. “Well, the ball is what I’m focused on now and once I win I’ll have the sweet pleasure of watching his poor ass come crawling to me for coins. I ain’t never known him to have any money worth talking about. But he’ll get nothing but shade. Now what’s this good news?”

“One of my cousins knows these girls who got a two bedroom place over on Eighth and Pennsylvania and they’re willing to let you sleep on the couch if you help out with the rent and do a little cooking and cleaning.”

I thought about it for a moment. It could be worse. When I first started doing drag shows, there were three of us living in a one-bedroom place in one of the cheap deco hotels. So this would be okay for a couple of months until I got my money straight.

“Is your cousin sure these girls are okay?”

“All he said was that one of them used to be in a house and that the other two were house wannabes.”

“Used to be in a house?” I said frowning in disbelief. “How can you used to be — oh, no!” I gasped and then laughed.

“That’s right, girl. She’s homeless.”

That was the ultimate disgrace: mother of a house losing a Vogue challenge and the new mother further humiliating her by letting her ass live. No, this former mother lived in disgrace in the drag ball circuit of Glamtasia. No member of any of the Houses of the Children would even acknowledge her ass.

“What house was she the mother of?” I asked.

“Oh, not one of the Haute Houses, one of those tired shacks — House of Spencer, I think,” Dondifish said, grinning.

“That late, broke house?” I said. “No rat or roach would let itself be caught dead with them hoes.”

“You ain’t never lied, girl.”

#

As I walked to the girls’ apartment I really noticed buildings for the first time that I’m sure that I had passed hundreds of times. Funny how not having a home will do that. Most of Glamtasia was made up of Art Deco buildings. The majority were two and three-story boxes, some with palm-filled courtyards. The ornamentation was very drag queen: Egyptian, Greek and even Mayan motifs were plastered on buildings in a tropical climate. The vibrant blues, pinks, greens, and yellows were painted on as heavy as some of my eye shadow.

When I stood in front of the apartment building a feeling of dread surged from my stomach and made me sick. This place was a fucking dump. But I had no choice, and I promised myself it would only be for a couple of months. I rang the buzzer as I stared into the tiny camera above the door. The door lock chirped a soft click and I made my way to the third floor. The door to the apartment was slightly open. I knocked.

“It’s open. Why do you think we opened the door?” a rough voice barked.

I opened the door and there sat these two drag queens on a dirty flower print couch (my bed, I later realized) glued to the web-link screen, puffing smoke like twin dragons.

“You must be Cindy,” the one dressed in a tacky Chanel wedding gown knock-off said.

“I’m Anger, but my enemies call me White Woman Anger and this here is my sister, Beyond Real.” Judging by her neck, Anger had a pretty blue-black complexion but her face was painted white, with red, purple, and black accent stripes. Her hair was this long, indigo blue, untamed madness that was spiked in places, adding to this total demented Kabuki effect of an angry, mythical woman-creature.

And this Beyond Real thing, decked out in silver hot pants and an orange-peel-textured black tank top, looked me up and down and rolled her eyes back to the television. She had a Puerto Rican flag holo-tattooed on her left arm that looked like it was just waving in the wind. I don’t know what she did for a living, but her body was tight and muscled as hell. Maybe she was a bodyguard. She was almost too perfect, and I think that was the reason for her name. It was like she was trying to be one of the Santa Supermodels: more of a woman than a woman ever could be, a beauty goddess. Her hair, which was done up in this Jackie-O bouffant, was fire-engine-red. Each strand was in place, like somebody had sat up and laid them there one by one. Her eyebrows were not her own. I don’t think she had had her own there for a long time. No, these were shiny, black holo-tattoos. I could go on and on, but what would be the point? This wasn’t beyond real, it wasn’t real at all.

“Both of the bedrooms are taken,” Anger said, “so you’ll have to put your things in that hall closet you just passed. Then you can start cleaning that kitchen — it’s trashed.”

“Girls, girls!” A voice floated from one of the other rooms, followed by a short old queen wearing some Gone With The Wind styled holo-dress, one of those numbers that would have taken a bolt of material to make if it was real. This was a good holo, not one of those cheap things they sell in downtown Miami or the flea market. I couldn’t even see her projector catsuit underneath. She walked up to me, took my bags, and held my hands as she gazed upon me.

“Well, don’t we have a fine specimen here,” she said with a grin that unnerved the fuck out of me. “Don’t you think so, girls?”

“Whatever,” one of them said. I could feel a roughness to her hands even through her opera gloves, definitely caused by years of Voguing training. She looked to be in her late fifties, but with all her makeup, and the surgery and root-magic available it was hard to tell. She made her point though by wearing a holographic outfit, the garment of choice for Vogue Combat at a ball: I may be homeless, but I’m still deadly, so tip lightly on my runway.

“Now, Cindy, we’re going to be great friends and I want you to call me Mommie Dearest. Do you have any questions?”

“I’d like to use your web-link this week to work on my gown for the Future Legends Ball.”

Mommie Dearest raised an overly arched eyebrow with a slight look of surprise. “Well, of course you can, dear — after you’ve finished your chores.” There was a snicker from those two on the couch and I tried to ignore it. Mommie Dearest twisted her face into a fake smile. “Which category at the ball are you going to walk in?”

“Vogue Combat,” I said with as much self confidence as I could get up. There was outright laughter from the couch girls.

“I should warn you that Beyond Real here has been training intensely and with her in the competition you don’t have much of a chance — I’d hate to see your body dragged off the runway. You might want to change your mind and enter the Vogue Forms category. I must admit that I would be delighted to see some of your moves. And that reminds me,” she said with a sudden shift in her tone from sickly sweet to harsh. “Get yo’ lazy monkey ass off that couch and start doing some stretching exercises.” The syrup sweetness returned. “And you, dear Cindy, let me take a picture of you. I’d like to have pictures of all three of my girls.”

Pictures? One of her girls? What was she talking about? I’m not one of her daughters and I certainly wasn’t going to be here past two months. I started to protest, but I realized that I really didn’t have a choice. She got a camera from the dining room table, snapped a picture and disappeared into her bedroom and shut the door.

“You heard what Mommie Dearest said about your chores,” Beyond Real gasped while doing a full split. “There’s plenty of dishes and laundry, and that kitchen floor needs to be scrubbed.” She glided her body into a flawless handstand, supporting herself with both hands. Next she used only the finger tips of one hand. This girl was fierce.

“Before you get into that,” Anger said without looking up from the web-link screen. “Would you bring me some chips and a beer?”

Reluctantly I walked towards the kitchen. I noticed a wire hanger framed on the wall and it had a black and white photograph of Joan Crawford in the middle. There was an odd odor coming from Mommie Dearest’s room, probably just some weird incense.

A shriek choked in my throat when I entered the kitchen. There were several towers of dirty dishes that had some disgusting flying and crawling tenants. These lazy hoes didn’t even bother to load the dishwasher. It looked like they would just buy more plates instead of washing them. The stove had dried crud all over the cooking surface, and the refrigerator had a nasty smell hovering around it, as if the thing had just farted. I had seen cleaner floors in bars at closing time. How could anyone live like this?

I had barely gotten back to the living room with Anger’s snack when I suddenly felt very dizzy. I fought to maintain my balance, but the beer and bowl of chips crashed to the floor, followed by my body.

“Is she dead?” I heard someone say as I slowly gained consciousness and opened my eyes.

“No, the poor thing is just a bit stressed out,” Mommie Dearest said as she held my head in her lap, and patted my forehead with a cold, wet face cloth.

“Here, drink this dear,” she said, offering a cup of tea.

“How long was I passed out?” I asked groggily. Anger and Beyond Real both stood over me with their arms crossed, staring as if with contempt for a homeless hoe lying on a piss- and dog-shit stained sidewalk.

“I hope she snaps outta this soon,” Anger said. “There’s a lot of cleaning to be done around here and I’m tired of doing it all.”

Beyond Real turned to her. “I don’t see how? You’re so busy bringing your tricks and trades up in here that you hardly have time to wash yo’ stank ass. Which of ’em today? Gary? Issac? Alex?”

“All right, bitches, that’s enough,” Mommie Dearest said. “Help me get her on the couch.”

They laid me down with all the grace of a herd of rhinos.

“How are you feeling, Cindy?” Mommie Dearest asked.

“A little better. I don’t know what could have happened to me.”

“Oh, I know. You’ve just worried yourself sick. We heard about what your ex-boyfriend did to you. He’s going to get what he deserves. You’ll see. Cindy, what a lovely name you have.”

I sipped some more of the tea. Strange and interesting flavor. I didn’t remember having it before. “Thank you. I really admire Santa Cindy. I still download some of her old runway work and even the House of Style shows. There’s always something to learn.”

“Yes, she was one of the catwalk divas,” Mommie Dearest said. “But my favorite is Santa Naomi, La Gran Mama Negra of the Houses. Now she was one to watch. To think there was actually a time when women modeled women’s clothes on the runway. It seems so bizarre, like taking a subsonic flight to Europe. But enough of this religious history, girl. You’ve got to get your chores done, ’cause everyone works in this house — or you don’t eat or sleep here. There’s just one rule about cleaning. Never, ever, under any circumstances enter my bedroom. I clean it myself. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Mommie Dearest.”

I was only to happy to stop talking about religion. Gettin’ paid for modeling was all that concerned me. It took me most of the day to get that damn kitchen cleaned. And I thought that was bad until I saw the girls’ room. Dirty dishes, clothes, and roaches — both the living and smoking kind — were all over the place, and it stank. I was on my knees, with my back to the door, pulling some dusty junk from underneath a bed when the unbelievable happened.

I was snatched from the floor and flung, face down, onto the bed.

“What the fuck is going on?” I screamed.

“Shut up, bitch!” Beyond Real said as she tied my hands behind my back. They ripped open the back of my catsuit and greasy fingers probed my ass. This just could not be happening.

“Stop!” I screamed, but several fists slammed into my back was my answer.

“I told you to shut up.”

I may as well had been back with that asshole. Hate and familiarity mixed in my mind as I replayed an old song. My will to resist faded. Time suspended for me. A phantom voice cursed.

“Swallow it! But one bite and I’m kicking your ass.” I felt drugged out of my head. This wasn’t about sex. They wanted me to feel like a helpless hoe-bitch. They wanted me to know they could do whatever the fuck they wanted when they wanted. They meant to hurt me. Their pleasure was in my pain. Bitches.

Their commands were like half-remembered nightmare fragments draining out of my mind and I was barely conscious of them finishing their sick fun.

“Go clean yourself up,” Anger said. “Then get back to cleaning, and start dinner — I’m hungry now.”

My mind was numbed to what had happened. I felt I should have been furious, but I wasn’t. Why not? Why wasn’t I mad as hell at what just happened? I cooked chicken curry, with rice and peas; I had learned something from that Jamaican rass. He may have been a nasty, drunken hoe, but he could cook. Those casting call rejects from Macbeth devoured that food like a swarm of locusts.

#

Close to midnight the bitches were fast asleep and snoring like they were calling hogs from hell. I finally had access to the web-link.

I downloaded some designer applets and started work on a new gown. I must have been working for two hours or so when I heard one of those wretches slither out of her lair. I tried to close the file down but the system was slow as hell.

“That shit is tired. You can’t be serious.” I slipped off the interface shades and looked at her. It was Beyond Real, and she was the one who looked tired, dressed in some cheap-looking Frederick’s number. It looked like it was made from the material they line caskets with. I glanced at my watch and saw it was two-thirty in the morning.

“Get me some donuts and a coke,” she ordered.

“Isn’t it kind of late for that? Besides, I really got a lot of work to do.”

Her unintentional Bride of Funkenstein hairdo fluttered as she shook her head in anger. “Look, bitch, you do what I tell you to do when I tell you to do it, or you’ll find your po’ black ass out in the street sucking dicks for sandwiches.”

I was going to let her have it with a Givenchy open palm smash — but a sharp pain pierced me in my ass. I screeched in horror. Beyond Real smiled as another pain tore into my stomach. I doubled over to the floor once again. Some root shit must be going on. Then I stared in disbelief as Beyond Real reached over my paralyzed body to slip on one of the interface gloves. I passed out from the agony before I knew exactly what she had done.

When I came to, I was lying naked on the floor and my ass hurt like hell. Not again.

“I’m sorry about my girls,” Mommie Dearest said. “But you’ve got to learn not to be so hard-headed. Beyond Real told me what you said to her. Yo’ mouth is overloading yo’ ass. I would’ve beaten you with a wire hanger myself had you given me that much back-talk. Now we’ve got to go out and get a few things for tonight’s ball and -”

“Tonight’s ball!” I screamed. “It was Wednesday night when I last remember anything.”

“That’s right, missy,” Beyond Real said. “And you been lying on yo’ black lazy ass for three days and now this house is a mess. Luckily you had some money in your purse or we could’ve starved.”

These wretches had let me lie here naked on the floor for three damn days? Stole my money? I had to get the fuck outta there. But even the thought of walking out that door gave me a wicked headache and unnaturally cold chills.

“Oh, yes,” Mommie Dearest said with an over acted stern look (she was really taking this Joan Crawford routine too far), “make sure you polish and collapse all of the girls’ shoes, and mine of course, and divide them equally into three bags.” She nodded to the pile of pumps in the corner and turned away with more of unnecessary drama in her moves, as if a camera was following her ass. There must have been a hundred pair of shoes there. Mommie Dearest stopped in a runway pose, and gave an over-the-shoulder look.

“Cindy, dear, as a little reward, once you’re done you have my permission to go out and get ready for the ball.” She couldn’t even get that out of her mouth without laughing. She knew I didn’t have enough time.

I sat on the floor cleaning those stank hoes’ shoes and feeling nothing but helplessness. My mind got lost in my slave duties. Once a shoe was collapsed it was perfect for traveling or being sacrificed at a ball. It’s funny calling it a sacrafice. Sure, you throw your shoes and they are gone, an offering of glamour and style, but with that comes the chance to knock someone you can’t stand in the head! Last year I even noticed a couple of guys getting all hard before they tried to give somebody a black eye with a shoe.

A pair of yellow, open-toed numbers folded neatly into the thick three-inch heel, leaving the leatherette rose on the instep sticking up on top of the heel. A pair of cute, white stilettos transformed into two doves. But despite the surprise at finding out what the shoes would end up looking like, it was still about two hundred shoes to go through and I was not feeling up to it.

Stacked neatly near the shoes were about thirty prayer bricks. These were the things that really drew the blood (other than Voguing of course) during a ball sacrifice. While a Voguer could be hurt with a heavy enough shoe, you could chalk-line a bitch with a prayer brick. The cheaper bricks were brightly painted with an image of a shoe; the expensive ones were white, with a fashion disc on top. The FD would activate the hologram of a shoe on top of the brick once it was thrown. Tied to each brick, with colored ribbon, was a written prayer and a saint card for the Orisha who was supposed to answer the prayer.

I’m not sure if I believed all this about the prayers being answered, but the Orisha Vogue Children certainly did. They said the Orishas wanted blood and pretty pumps as payment for answered prayers. Go figure. The balls gave a Voguer the chance to win a fierce modeling contract and the spectators could get their prayers answered, and have a good time doing it all. It made more sense to me than sittin’ up in somebody’s church listening to some preacher go on about the very sins his ass was doing more than anyone else. But I wouldn’t get the chance to Vogue my way outta this hell hole.

I cried as I vacuumed the living room floor, thinking about another missed ball, when the doorbell rang.

“Hello,” I said.

“Girl, what’s been going on with you?” Dondifish’s voice beamed through the intercom. I buzzed him in and he was upstairs in a flash. I opened the door to meet him and as soon as I stepped across the threshold I felt all dizzy and shit, and like I had just been kicked in the stomach. I fell to my knees just as Dondifish reached the top of the stairs.

“Cindy! Girl, what the hell is wrong with you? Maybe we need to take you to a kooran,” he said.

“No, I don’t need a healer. Let me just catch my breath.”

“Why haven’t you returned any of my calls?” he asked. It took me a moment before I had the strength to answer.

“What calls? Didn’t nobody tell me nothin’ about you callin’.”

“Girl, I’ve tried you every day you been here. Whoever answered the web-link wouldn’t turn the video on and would just say that you was sleeping.”

“Sleeping? When I wasn’t passed out, I was working like a slave. When they sleep I try to take some time to work on my outfits, but that’s so late at night, I didn’t want to call and wake up that man of yours, you know how he is,” I said.

“Cindy,” Dondifish said as he looked around the apartment. “This place is spotless. You’ve been cleaning your ass off.”

“It should look good. I’ve been a fucking slave twenty-four seven. I’m exhausted. I feel like I runwayed an entire Fall Line by myself.” The tears started again. I just couldn’t help it.

“Girl, what’s wrong? And why haven’t you been to work this week? One night I even called from the club. I stopped by there to see you and they said that they hadn’t seen you in days.”

“Something is wrong with me, girl. I just haven’t felt like stepping out that door, at least not until you showed up. And then I was out on the floor for three days and nobody thought to call a root woman or a kooran or something.”

“Where are those bitches now?”

“They went shopping to get ready for the ball.”

“Good. We’re getting the fuck outta here — now!”

We rushed to the closet and gathered up my things and were about to go out the front door when I remembered the kick I had gotten before. I had a thought.

“Why you just standing there? Let’s go before they get back.”

“I just thought about something,” I said as I put my bags down.

“What?”

“That old witch took a picture of me and I never saw it.”

“Do you know where it might be?” Dondifish asked.

“You’re damn right I know.” I ran to Mommie Dearest’s bedroom door, but it was locked. I stepped back and, with a jump kick, split the door in two.

“You Vogue, bitch,” Dondifish said with a laugh.

“That motherfucking hoe!” I screamed when I saw my holographic image, sitting on an altar, surrounded with rusty nails and chicken wire as if I was in a cage. There was also a long stick, with a quartz crystal on the tip, pointed at my ass. This whole thing sat in a stain of what looked and smelled like dried blood. I spotted a jar of leaves on her dresser and when I opened it the odor of that strange tea I had been drinking floated out. I heard Dondifish at the door behind me.

“Oooh — I knew they had some root shit on you and that’s why you weren’t calling me.”

I grabbed the disk projecting my image and knocked the rest of the altar to the floor. Someone yelled from the second floor apartment, but of course I didn’t give a shit about the noise, I was outta here.

Suddenly, my mind swirled with a fiery rage. Images of the rapes, memories of the verbal abuse, and the realization that they had stolen all my money fought like coked-up gangstas for my attention. Without the altar intact there was nothing to suppress my emotions, nothing to make me sit and take their shit. My anger tore through the room, using my body as a vengeful machete.

Dondifish just stood there for a moment, staring at the destroyed bedroom.

“Damn, girl, you went deep.”

“Not as deep as I’m going to go when I stick my foot up their asses.”

When we got in the hallway we heard footsteps coming up the staircase. Dondifish and I exchanged glances. A white poodle emerged wearing a ridiculous haircut that tried to make him look like a lion. The dog was followed by some flimsy queen with a buzz cut who was twitchin’ and stompin’ like he was cute or something. Sometimes switching really should be left to women and drag queens.

We started down the stairs and when we opened the front door there was Beyond Real.

“Bitch! What the fuck are you doing out of the house?” she screamed. White Woman Anger and Mommie Dearest also looked shocked.

“I thought that root you put on her would keep her in the house,” Beyond Real said.

“It was supposed to,” Mommie Dearest snapped back.

The rage in Beyond Real’s face was unbelievable. The frowning and excessive reddish-orange makeup made her skin look like a burnt sweet potato. But this witch was really pissed; her right fist shot at my face like a lighting bolt. I had never seen her move that fast before.

I dodged the blow just in time, but she faked me out. Her left foot hooked around my right, and I tumbled on to my back, knocking Dondifish to the ground. Beyond Real raised a foot high over my groin and shouted.

“I hope you wasn’t planning on any babies, bitch!”

To my amazement Mommie Dearest yanked her from up over me.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Beyond Real screamed.

“Save yourself for tonight,” Mommie Dearest said with a smile. “I don’t know how you got past that root I put on you, but if yo’ ass is so black and bad, then show up tonight at the ball, sweetie.”

“And wear what?” I asked. “That hoe-bitch deleted all my new shit and —”

“You figure it out,” Mommie Dearest said in another exaggerated Joan Crawford imitation. “But it won’t matter anyway after tonight. Beyond Real will win Vogue Combat, get the Elite modeling contract, and girls will lust to be in my house — the House of Opulence — an honor you could’ve had, Miss Cindy. Now just get the fuck out.”

Dondifish and I stepped past those three hateful hoes with their evil-ass expressions. I wanted to kill all of ’em. As we walked down the street the tears started again.

“What the hell am I going to do?” I looked at my watch. “It’s almost four o’clock and the Grand March starts at eight.”

“Girl,” Dondifish said. “You’ve got to pull it together.”

“Pull what together! Don’t you understand? I’ve got nothing new to wear. No new clothes means no marching on the runway. Simple.”

“Just chill, girl. Let’s go see that santera at Sobe Bruja. Then we’ll get some of your old outfits together — you’ve got some cute pieces and I’m sure —”

“Isn’t kind of late for the santera? She can’t do nothing. Be for real. My future for tonight is fucked and can’t no Orishas change that in four hours. Those Yoruban gods and goddesses could care less about my problems. The only thing I can hope for is to get a chance to sling a pump at Beyond Real’s nappy woven head — that bitch. I’m going to take your pair of mahogany clogs and knock that bitch out. Better yet, let’s go on to the botanica. I can buy a prayer brick and use it to split that slut’s head open!”

#

SoBe Bruja was a botanica located on the west side of the island, on Alton Road at Fifteenth street. The store was stocked with supplies for both Voudou and SanterÌa, and sometimes other spiritual systems. You could even find peyote and ayahuasca here. When those cheap-ass hoes in Congress snatched health care, people like me had to depend on conjure women, shamans and things like that to help stay well. One could gather some fierce coins owning a botanica.

Dondifish did the talking while I was still fuming about waiting another year to join a house. Of course there would be other balls before then, but the Haute Houses of the Children only chose members at the Future Legends Ball.

A cute Latino boy showed me to the back room. This glorified closet was located behind a curtain next to the cash register, and in there sat the santera with only candle light to read by.

I gasped when I saw her; she was ancient. Sitting there motionless, she looked like an eight-hundred-year-old drag queen. Age had carved deep crevices in her ebony hide. She was far beyond the help of any beauty products. It seemed she would be more at home as a statue guarding a temple — no, tomb — than perched in this small room telling fortunes for a few dollars.

She wore a dirty, finely-crocheted dress that had once been white; it seemed one of my grandmother’s old tablecloths had found an afterlife. The dress was adorned with a chipped Cuban flag lapel pin. Dondifish said that she was a Marielita, but that was impossible since the Cuban boat lift was almost a hundred and thirty years ago; but then again, that face held centuries. She sat behind a wooden table that looked like it was designed for a child. A conch shell served as an ashtray for a smoldering cigar. The table tilted to one side when I lay down my Fendi clutch as I took a seat in front of her. How could anyone supposedly so good at reading the cards be working in such poverty?

She was orthodox SanterÌa, not the Orisha Vogue offshoot that was popular with the houses. The santera shuffled the tattered cards with years of ease and familiarity.

“Separate the cards into three piles, mija,” she said. She dealt several cards and her eyes opened wide with a look of surprise.

“What?” I asked.

Chica, the saints are very strong in you — especially Oshún.”

That was interesting. One of the aspects of this Yoruban goddess was love, but my love life was shitty at the moment. The santera dealt more cards and then suddenly stopped.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, but this hag didn’t say nothing. She just sat there with her eyes glazed over.

“Dondifish,” I hollered, “get somebody back here. I think this woman is having a stroke or something.”

“No, mija, call no one in here. No one else can hear this.”

I heard a voice from the front room.

Mamita, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, but we’ll be longer than I first thought,” she said.

The santera leaned across the table and I could smell the rum and cigar smoke on her breath as she whispered.

“Listen very carefully, mija. Something special has just happened to me. Oshún herself spoke to me and that is why I stopped reading the cards — I don’t need them. She told me everything you need to know.”

Now I do respect everyone’s religion, as long as it doesn’t cause me some mental or physical harm, but whenever someone gives me that “God spoke to me” line I get suspicious.

“Well, what did she say?” I asked, half expecting her to tell me some shit that would encourage me to buy out half the store’s supply of soaps, perfumes, and candles.

“She said to spread honey all over your body and then take a nap.”

I can just imagine the expression the santera saw on my face.

“Say what?”

“You heard me, mija, now just obey Oshún.”

“Is that it?”

“No.”

Finally, some mysterious SanterÌa ritual to perform; I got goose bumps from anticipation. She paused for a moment, like she was trying to get me all anxious and excited.

“Oshún said you can’t eat pumpkin.”

“Is that it?”

“That’s all she said, mija. You can pay my grandson at the front counter,” she said before sticking the cigar back in her mouth. I felt doomed as it was, so there was no sense in being upset with the santera. What was I expecting? Reluctantly I bought a jar of honey and went back to Dondifish’s place.

“I can’t believe that I’ve gotten so desperate, girl,” I said.

“What do you have to lose? Get those clothes off and spread that shit all over.”

“And have your man come home and find me sweet, sticky and butt naked? Where am I going to sleep with that stuff on?”

“Carlo won’t be home till late and we’ll be long gone to the ball. Those sheets won’t be no worse than when we play on them. Now just do what she told you, it’s almost seven o’clock.”

As I smeared the honey on my body a horrible thought crept up in my mind as I remembered the ant problem Dondifish sometimes had in his apartment. If nothing else, I could take a nap, wash this honey off and make it to the ball in time for the Voguing competition. Hopefully that Beyond Real would get knocked off the runway and then I’d be throwing more than shade.

When I lay in the bed, sleep came quickly, as if my body was just soaked up by the mattress. Then I got this drowning feeling. I thrashed underwater, and as I fought to get to the surface my lungs burned and my heart pounded. I started to panic. This water was heavy — real heavy, and some of it got into my mouth. It was honey! My arms and legs ached from trying to swim in the stuff. I just knew that I would drown.

Suddenly, I felt something grab me and turn me flat. There was a force at my neck and legs pushing me upwards; this force felt strangely comforting. At last I gasped some air. I felt dizzy and was seeing stars until focused on what — or I should say who was holding me. She had to be ten feet tall, and she didn’t have a stitch of clothing on. She was a deep honey color and her body sparkled in the sunlight. But her body wasn’t really a body, I mean like a person, because light could go through it. It was like looking through a jar of honey. It had to be Oshún — goddess of love, money and culture. Her beauty was stunning and her hair glistened like nothing I had seen before. It wasn’t this long, flowing Creole-looking stuff. Naw, girlfriend had this afro, this big Angela Davis-looking ’fro, and it wasn’t even made of human hair. I pulled one of her locks, ’cause this shine was so hypnotic, and Miss Thing had hair made from tightly curled peacock feathers. I know that I looked all surprised and stuff, but Miss Oshún just smiled and unveiled all these beautiful gold teeth.

“Your Mama has come to teach you to Vogue,” she said. Her breath was the sweet aroma that any diva queen would recognize — Chanel Number Five.

“But first you need to eat, baby. Take a sip from Mama’s breast.”

Without hesitation I leaned forward and took the nipple of the supple honey-breast into my mouth. A sweetness and intense, tingling warmth came over me. The heat felt like I had just stepped from some shade into the bright sunlight. I couldn’t drink too much of her milk, it was like some very rich candy that you can only eat one or two pieces of.

I turned away from her breasts and noticed that we were in a river of honey and there was a dense rain forest along the riverbank.

“Now it’s time to learn to dance, baby,” Oshún said as she carried me towards the riverbank.

“Dance? I thought you were going to teach me some Voguing moves? I have to be able to fight.”

“Mama has a lot to teach you, baby.” Once she sat me down her body shrunk and was about six feet tall. She stared up into my face.

“Don’t I need some clothes on?” I asked.

“No,” she answered with a smile. “Here there is no pretense — none of that fronting and illusion of self-importance. There is only the Vogue, the Eternal Dance of Life.”

“Voguing is for fighting. That’s what the houses use it for,” I said.

“That is what some people use it for. You are meant for a greater interpretation. Through dance you will unite with Olofi — God the Formless One, God the Pose-less One, God the One who strikes an infinite number of poses simultaneously. Voguing isn’t about fighting, it’s about merging with the Universe. Now let’s Vogue, my daughter.”

Day and night for weeks Oshún took me through pose after pose, all with exotic names like “Snatch Thing’s Weave From the Runway” and “Pooch, Beat and Swirl.” I was amazed at what her honey-body could do. Everything she taught me I had never seen before. But I knew the Legends Ball was long over and I had not even asked her how I got here. I was happy again after years of boyfriend tortures, and nothing else seemed important but keeping this happy feeling. But finally I had to know.

“Oshún, my Mother, how did I get here? I’m not into SanterÌa or religion period for that matter.”

“You called me and I came to get my daughter.”

“Called you?”

“You called me in ways you don’t realize. You have lived a life without enjoying the sweetness that living has to offer. All those terrible choices you made in men, your feelings of unworthiness, and denial of your obvious talents. All of that and more begged for my blessings. Those self-inflicted torments were a child’s deafening screams in my ears. I could not allow it to continue. You have denied yourself riches that were yours for the asking — all you had to do was reach out with your mind and pick those rich, ripe fruits. But I had to teach you how to reap those rewards.”

“Rewards? What did I do to deserve rewards?” I asked.

“By being a child of God. But now that you are aware of you power it is your responsibility. If you choose to cling to mediocrity my senses will be unmoved by your actions. I have done my part.”

“How long have I been here?”

She smiled that smile that meant that she was about to say something cosmic.

“This concept of time is meaningless here, but to answer your question you can say that you’ve been here five years.”

“Five years! How is that possible?”

“As I said, time has no meaning here.”

“Where is here?”

“Everywhere at once, but now you must return to your other life. I will teach you more later. But before you go I want you to have this.”

She held her arms out in front of me and a beautiful gold gown appeared. At first I thought I had never seen anything like this, but then I remembered that it was similar to the gowns that the girls in the House of FierceThings wear. The material looked like it had been spun by spiders, and there must have been hundreds of tiny gold-backed mirrors shaped like pentagons. You could get blinded looking at this dress. And that collar — it was like those Egyptian collars, but it was made from crocodile skin with what looked like a bunch of crocodile eyes, except the eyeballs were made of diamonds, and they moved. At the very top of the collar was a row of cowry shells. It was the loveliest dress I had ever seen.

“This is for me?”

“Yes, my daughter, and if anyone asks you where you got it you tell them I gave it to you and told you to wear it.”

I felt intense exhaustion hit me and I fell to the ground. Oshún said one more thing as my heavy eyelids closed with me clutching the gown.

“Remember, daughter, do not eat pumpkin.”

I thought Oshún was trying to wake me, but the roughness I felt couldn’t be her smooth honey-hands — no, it was those rusty husks that Dondifish never seemed to put enough lotion on.

“Girl, it’s seven-twenty-five. You know how you like to be at the ball for the Grand March. Get in there and take a shower,” Dondifish said.

“What ball? What are you talking about? The ball has been over. In fact, five balls should have been over,” I said. I lifted my arm and was amazed as to how it was stuck to the sheet. What the fuck?

“What ball? Was that just honey you done spreaded all over your body or what? Wake up and smell the Cuban coffee, missy, I’m talking about the Future Legends Ball,” Dondifish said slowly and loudly, as if I was hard of hearing or couldn’t speak English.

This was too confusing. Oshún said that I had been with her for five years and now Dondifish was acting like I had just lay down for a nap.

“When I last fell asleep I had just finished Voguing with Oshún,” I said.

“Don’t you remember that we went to the santera and she told you to put honey on your body and take a nap?”

I raised myself up on my elbows hoping that sitting up would help my head clear. The sheets didn’t want to let go of me for nothing. Slowly the memories of the santera were coming back, but there was so much stuff swirling in my mind. I could make the ball? It still hadn’t sunk in. But what would I wear? Just thinking about clothes caused my head to spin. Fashions started flashing in my mind; I had never felt this way before.

“Help me to your web-link,” I said trembling.

“Girl, why you shaking like this? You having a fit?”

“Please — just get me to your web-link — quick!”

I damn near snatched the interface gloves out of the computer once I sat down. I shoved the interface shades on my face and relief from the pounding images of fashions was my reward. It was like the relief from an explosive diarrhea shit as the vision of this gown leaped from my mind into the link. My throat was parched and my head ached when it was done.

“Girl, I ain’t never seen nobody work that fast. But I couldn’t even get a good look at what you did, all I know is that it was gold colored.”

“Just help me to the shower and bring my makeup. I’m going to show those hoes what it means to work a runway tonight.”

#

We arrived at the Mayan Ballroom just before the start of the Grand March. We dashed to the registration desk and this Muscle Mary tried to give me fever for registering late, but I wasn’t having it. He didn’t realize that I was crazy, so I proceeded to inform his ass.

“I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown and-”

“Oooh, boy, I know you!” Dondifish shouted, followed by a huge grin like the Grinch That Stole Christmas. “I tricked with you the other night in Flamingo Park.”

The Muscle Mary’s face flushed with embarrassment, so I knew it was true. Dondifish had pulled himself a nice one. That tank top stretched on the Mary’s ’roided body was about to rip to shreds and the face wasn’t bad either.

“Well, I’ll let your friend go ’head and register even though I shouldn’t.”

“Oh, you would want to, Miss Thing. My good girlfriend could Vogue your ’roided ass up this wall, and have you screaming just like you did when you were holding on to that palm tree for dear life while I fucked you.”

The Muscle Mary’s face turned even redder with that last read. That must have really been a sight, Dondifish’s petite ass just slamming it to the Mary. Those big mannish things like to get fucked too.

There were thousands packed into the club for this ball, for this was the ball of the year. The crowd was divided into two sections by a wide strip of space along the dance floor. This was the Minor Runway, which was used for the Grand March and all categories except the Voguing competition. After Voguing, the march was my favorite part of the ball. It reminded me of when I would visit my grandmother in N’Orleans during Mardi Gras. The music got a little lower so that the representatives of the houses could be properly announced as they pranced.

The MC was this caramel-complected boy who had these rainbow colored dreads down past his ass. He was dressed in black top hat and tails, looking like some Rasta Abe Lincoln with a dreaded beard that extended to the middle of his chest.

“This is the Future Legends Ball and some of you may not know what it means to be Legendary. If you don’t, then I hope you aren’t planning to march your ass down the runway tonight, ’cause you know how the Children can read.”

Miss Thing paused at this point, trying to build up all this drama that I was not in the mood for.

“To be Legendary means to perpetually punish costumes and terrorize runways without mercy.”

Oh, the Children hooted at that line and I thought it was cute too. And Thing continued.

“To be Legendary is to demolish the pumps each and every time you march. To be Legendary is to cause spaghetti straps to shudder at the sight of you, and to give gauchos grief beyond recovery.

“And you know to be Legendary means you have to serve, darlings, and I don’t just mean bringing your glamour before the judges. The Orishas want theirs too and sometimes that means blood.

“In other words, Children, to be Legendary simply means to work that motherfucking runway!”

There were all these screams and finger snaps from the Children for Miss Thing’s little speech. But I was truly ready to get on with it. Finally the club went dark and I could feel the anticipation for the Grand March. Slowly the DJ brought up the volume on some house music to almost a fever pitch and the Minor Runway was hit with these blue and white spotlights. The crowd then started the traditional religious chant.

“March, beat, serve, destroy — work! March, beat, serve, destroy — work!” There was something very colorful jumping up and down, but I couldn’t see it very clearly. The MC started announcing the houses.

“And now, serving us Great Wall realness like no other house can — the Imperial House of Wushu, mothered by that Dim Sum diva herself — Dowager Empress Wu!”

Oh, those Wushu girls really went deep this year. They came in with this Chinese dragon that had the head of a drag queen. And the head had this lovely, black silky hair sliced into an ovah Sasson bob that the Wushu Children were just dragging on the floor. Do you hear me? I mean dragging, honey. Dragging. And on top of all that, some of those girls were slinging fire crackers on the runway just ahead of them as they marched.

Next came the House Of Quintessence. These were some really strange Children who never Vogued in public, and were known for their fierce healing powers. They could also make a bitch deathly ill too, but only if you fucked with them. This time they were serving this Amazon-rain-forest-shaman realness. Damn near butt naked except for these headdresses that looked like each of them had a flock of birds on their heads. I hoped the feathers weren’t real because there would be some pissed off macaws and cockatiels somewhere. But the really weird thing was that from the waists to their necks they were covered with these long, neon colored acupuncture needles. That shit had to hurt when they walked, but they seemed to be really getting into it.

The houses of Infinity and Righteous Shade paraded by but my attention was already on the house that glittered in gold at the back of the runway, the one I lusted to become a member of.

“Now we know that no Future Legends Ball would be completed without this house,” the MC said. “Fiercely thrashing the catwalk into submission is the House of FierceThings — ruled by that ovah mother — Shandaleer Oshún FierceThing!”

The music suddenly mixed to an ancient Yoruban chant to the goddess Oshún, but with a house music beat, and those Voguing divas showed their asses. I just couldn’t contain myself.

“Prance, Children! Prance!” I shouted till my voice gave out. Those girls must have had two dozen peacocks tipping in front of them, and these birds were trained to walk with all this attitude, beaks in the air. It was as if they were thinking “Peasants, all of you!”

After the peacocks came five of the FierceThings. Each of them dressed in a stunning gold gown. I froze for a moment and remembered a dream fragment. Though each dress was different, all of them had tiny mirrors on them like the gown Oshún had given me.

More houses were marching in, but I was too busy trying to catch my breath to appreciate them properly. When I was breathing normally again I realized I was hungry as hell.

“Dondifish, let’s get something to eat. It’ll be at least three hours before they get to Voguing.”

“Yeah, girl, I could use something on my stomach before I start drinking.”

It took us a few minutes to make it through the crowd to the bar, and when we got there I could smell rice and beans and jerk, as well as fried chicken.

“I’ve go to run to the bathroom, just get me some soup or something,” Dondifish said.

“Okay, girl, but don’t be too long, you can meet a man some other time,” I said with a smile. I thought about a pose that Oshún taught me and I knew there was no way I could lose. I may even get a chance to bash Beyond Real if someone else didn’t get to her first.

I bought two bowls of soup, along with some cornbread, and I was almost finished with mine by the time Dondifish got back.

“What took you so long?” I asked.

“Girl, that line was simply wretched in there.”

“Yeah, I bet,” I said, full of doubt. “Here, have some of this soup. I ain’t never had it before, but the shit is real good. It’s some kind of beef stew, I think, but you know some of these island Children are liable to stick some goat in there and tell you it’s a cow.”

Dondifish ate a spoonful and smiled.

“Oh, girl, this is Soup Joumou.”

“Yeah, that’s what that child who served me told me, but I ain’t heard of that before.”

“Remember that Haitian man I used to date? Every Sunday we would go over to his mama’s house and she would fix this. It’s just beef stew with pumpkin and some other —”

I didn’t hear what else he said after that. My empty bowl shattered on the floor.

“Girl, what’s wrong with you?” Dondifish asked.

“I wasn’t supposed to eat any pumpkin!”

“What you talking about?” he asked with a confused look on his face.

“When I had that dream about Oshún she told me not to eat any pumpkin. The santera told me the same thing too. I ain’t never eaten no pumpkin in beef stew. Why would somebody want to make some shit like that anyway? Oh, shit! What am I going to do?” My breathing started getting short as I felt panic snatch hold of me.

“First just calm down, girl. You could be getting all excited over nothing.”

“You just don’t understand!” I screamed. “You’re the one who wanted me to go to that goddamn santera in the first place!”

Several people had now turned towards us and I realized I was screaming at the top of my lungs now. The MC blared something through the sound system, but I didn’t make it out clearly because my mind was elsewhere.

“Girl, let’s try to enjoy the ball. Once we start keekeeing at some of these gypsies you’ll forget all about that soup.”

At times Dondifish could really be irksome when it came to believing in magic. He accepted what he was comfortable with and just kicked the rest to the curb. We watched the ball, which as usual was long as hell, with categories like “Butch Queen In Pumps On Calle Ocho” and “Ovah-the-top Fem Queens At The Opera Realness.” But my mind wasn’t on this madness; I was restless with worry, not to mention that this part of the ball was boring to me. The stakes weren’t high enough to tingle my balls. The only consequence was that you didn’t win. Not with Vogue Combat — if you didn’t win then only the very lucky escaped with just a beating.

It was eleven-thirty before they got to the Voguing competition and I could hardly wait to get a piece of Beyond Real’s ass. The silence before they raised the Great Runway seemed endless. Plenty of incense filled the air and I thanked the Orishas that smoking was not permitted during these religious events unless the priests or priestesses were doing it as an offering. Sometimes these dramas got on my nerves, but right now I was still thinking about that damn pumpkin soup. Why didn’t I ask that queen what was in it? How could I have been so stupid?

Finally, the amplified sounds of the hydraulic lifts started beneath the Minor Runway, as the machinery transformed it into the Great Runway. The lights were dimmed (more drama of course) and slowly the runway rose from the floor. It was the length of an Olympic-size swimming pool, and stood a meter and a half tall. A tall queen like me could be across the width in just four graceful strides. There was a shout to my left and I noticed a couple of butch boys a few feet from us who must have gotten the Ghost because they fell out on the floor, rolled around in ecstasy I guess, and gibbered in tongues. The sight of the Great Runway did that to some of those Orisha Vogue Children. They took their religion seriously. I noticed that one of those ghost boys had a stain in the crotch of his pants. He had actually had an orgasm from getting all excited.

Then came the champagne. The Future Legends Ball was known for treating contestants and fans right. Besides, some Voguers would die before the night was over and they should get a drink. The Dom Perignon was served by gypsies in French maids outfits and the MC took a bottle and held it high in the air. About sixty or seventy of us got on the runway and you could just feel the blood lust tingling in the air.

Once you were served you dared not take a sip, not until the Orishas got theirs. The MC poured at least half the bottle on the floor, an offering to the Yoruban deities, and then finished off the rest in one long swig. There was the ripple sound of breaking glass as the crowd flung their empty glasses at the base of the Great Runway.

Mentally I ran through my Vogue moves again. My confidence returned and fear of the soup fled. I just could not be beaten tonight. As I stood in a Dior Standard Combat pose, you know, one foot pointed out in front and my hands on my hips, a couple of Voguers gave me these wicked looks, trying to be shady and psyche me out. This was a nervous moment and I tried to pay it no mind, but some bitch’s glare was eating a hole in the back of my wig. I did a cute little turn and there was that Beyond Real hoe looking up in my face. She was about ten people away from me, but we knew we would come for each other once the fighting started. I would kill that bitch tonight. She was good, but she was no match for the Oshún realness I would unleash on her ass.

“Okay, Voguers,” the MC said, “you know the rules — first the Pose. And I don’t want any touching. You touch and your ass will get chopped.”

We then activated our projector catsuits and it was like turning on some fashion Christmas tree. The outfits were fabulous. There was this butch queen from House Kundalini in these white genie pants and shirt that looked and moved like clouds. He also wore these dangling ankle bracelets. Though his outfit was a hologram, the bracelets were real and with these bells on them you could hear his ass a mile away. Not smart for fighting.

The House of Ebony had a light-skinned child wearing this new Alfaro number: cute red dress that looked like a slip —- simple, but cute for her high-yellow ass.

Then there was some hot Asian gypsy, I don’t know from what house, if any, but this guy had on Eighteenth century drag, accented with real gladiator knee and shin guards, and a white wig. A combat Amadeus effect I guess. I would have to keep my eye on him, I might be his type.

The MC looked a little disappointed that nobody had touched.

“Good,” he said, “or I should say too bad. You bitches listened this year and didn’t touch. Usually one of you stupid hoes touches somebody. Well, you’re about to start doing some touching now.”

That meant he was about to lead the ancient prayer to invoke the blessings of the Madonna and Crystalline Water Child.

“Don’t just pose there,” the MC said.

“Let’s get to it,” the Voguers and crowd said in response.

“Strike a hoe,” the MC continued.

“There’s nothing to it,” added the crowd.

The MC held us in suspended animation with this long-ass pause and my bottom lip quivered till he said the final word of the invocation.

“Vogue!” he shouted.

I stooped in an instant as some gypsy tried to take my head off with a Highlander kick. She over-rotated and my fist smashed into one of her kidneys. She seemed never to have felt anything that fierce before, judging by the scream she let loose as she crashed into another girl. That Voguer kneed her in the face and I’m sure she was dead. But there wasn’t time to be certain.

I was a whirling dervish of deadly fashion. With each opponent I activated another outfit. Their screeches of agony were ecstasy in my ears. I knew that the judges would read me for having seasons-old fashions, but I did have one new outfit to serve them when the time was right. At times Beyond Real and I exchanged evil glances; she was kicking ass too. I was in deep concentration when it happened: the first person had fallen off the Great Runway. Unfortunately, she landed face-down on the glass and she was still conscious. Her scream chilled my boy-pussy; it was dreadful sounding.

“My face — my eyes!” she hollered.

“No more modeling for you, sweetie!” someone in the crowd shouted. Others in that vicious throng just laughed, but most simply had no mercy. The rules state that if you fall off the runway and can still move then you have to exit at the back of the runway. She couldn’t have been on the ground for more than five seconds when the shoes and prayer bricks started flying, along with crazed chants of “Pump it up! Pump it up!”

That poor wretch had barely gotten to her knees when an unfolded, heavy-ass platform shoe conked girlfriend up side her head. Still, she got to her feet and started to run, but the pumps and colorful bricks zeroed in like a swarm of angry bees. Her ass was pelted to a bloodied, lifeless heap while that sick sounding chanting continued.

“Pump it up! Pump it up! Pump it up!” Even with no signs of life, I saw some butch trade wind up like he was playing baseball and slam a brick into that poor girl’s head.

“You’re next, hoe!” some Muscle Mary yelled as he lunged at me, snapping my attention back to the task at hand. I grabbed his arm and did a basic “Sling-Thing-From-The-Runway” throw and he too went flying into the broken glass, shoes and bricks. I really didn’t have time to think about him as I forced his screams outta my mind ’cause this Thin Girl almost kicked my balls into my throat. I side stepped her, and followed up a few Westwood-pimp-slap-fakes with a finger-fork to the eyes. Santa Vivian would have been proud.

I wiped her eyeballs off my nails on some boy’s back, and the Thin Girl even fought a little longer. Her eyeless sockets were nasty as hell though. She was no longer a threat to me so I was going to leave her alone, but then I caught something flash up in the air and I recognized Ivana Bootyskyya, better known for flinging her black ass up in the air at other times. She had done a somersault and landed on the Thin Girl’s shoulders, sending missy crashing to the runway with a broken back. The Black Russian was fierce tonight.

I managed to snatch a moment of rest and looked around me. I had worked my way to the far end of the Great Runway and now there only seemed to be about a dozen of us left. I could hear people in the crowd shouting at me, amazed at my glamour.

“That twirling cunt is letting them have it!” someone yelled.

“Work, bitch — work!” another added.

My heart pumped from excitement and breathlessness. I took a few more gypsies out so fast I really couldn’t remember what I did. I was fighting with the moves of Oshún, so who could beat me? I savored the thought of the slow, excruciating death I would serve Miss Beyond Real. She wants to see me scrub? Well, I’m going to scrub this runway with her blood and nappy head.

Then I saw her going after my cutie. I couldn’t make it to him in time. If she killed him…But the Asian Mozart thought his ass was slick. He was losing the fight so he leaped off the runway and somebody flung him a shield like a Frisbee and he dashed his ass down the side without a brick or shoe touching him — smart butch queen.

After the Asian boy jumped, Beyond Real charged this cha-cha queen dressed as a matador. She killed the Latin boy to the shouts of olé! from the Children.

“It’s just you and me, bitch!” she screamed. “I hope you brought that flea market Fendi clutch, ’cause you’re going to be taking your pussy home in it.”

“Kill that wench!” a familiar voice shouted from the crowd. I glanced over and saw that Mommie Dearest was right up front with a bag of shoes I had packed. White Woman Anger stood next to her, grinning while holding a shoe in one hand, and a brick in the other, waving her arms like some damn fool.

Beyond Real and I stood some distance apart as some people came on the runway to clear off the bodies and mop up the blood. As I was plotting what move to open up with the clock began chiming midnight. A voice stepped all up in my mind.

“I told you, my daughter, not to eat pumpkin — that is my food.”

A wet chill sliced down my spine upon hearing Oshún’s voice and my breath shorten, then disappeared all together. I tried to think of my poses and to my horror I realized that I was forgetting them. They were running out of me like queens from a club on fire. I froze and fright dry-fucked me without mercy.

I saw Beyond Real coming for me but there was nothing I could do. My body refused to move.

“Bitch!” she said as her fist slammed into my chest. I stumbled backward, but quickly regained my balance. She attacked again, this time with a Lagerfeld Stiletto Heel kick aimed at my knee. I retreated and the crowd was not having it.

“Pose and fight, bitch!” someone shouted.

“Serve us runway — not run away!” another said with a laugh.

Finally I had an opening. Beyond Real spun around, showing her back in a beautiful move, I must admit, trying to work some artistic impression points. The crowd was loving it, but she followed the move with an over-confident punch at my throat. I deflected and caught her elbow in a Halter-Top lock.

“I’m going to rip your scrawny arm out the socket, cunt!” I said. She struggled, but the Halter-Top lock tightened. We were face to face and her breath was funky as hell.

“Don’t you brush your teeth?” I asked.

Veins in her sweaty forehead bulged in anger. She was better than me, but I had her ass. Beyond Real pushed me back towards the edge of the runway so I served her more pain.

“Stop moving, cunt,” I said. She screamed and I delighted in every painful winch her face gave me. I was about to break her arm and finish her when something hit me hard on the side of my head, almost taking my wig off along with an ear. At first I thought she had managed some weird hook kick.

“What the fuck?” I said. I was dazed for a moment and I staggered.

“Oooh! Somebody is throwing shade at her!” Someone yelled. Fuck shade, some bitch broke the rules and hit me with a brick. My ass was lucky it just grazed my head, fucking up my ear though. I could feel blood streaming down my neck. Beyond Real got serious and took full advantage. Like I said, the bitch is good. She popped, dipped, spun, kicked, punched, and flung my ass hard to the runway. A pain stabbed me at the base of my skull and I tasted blood. I realized that I was going to die. This bitch was going to kill me just like I would have killed her. If I jumped off the runway and ran, those bitches would cut me down.

Beyond Real kicked me in the ribs and I almost rolled on to the broken glass. I was hanging on the runway by my fingers. Shoes exploded in my back as I dodged the more deadly bricks. Those hoes were supposed to wait until I fell! Beyond Real hovered over me, ready to stomp my fingers.

No — not like this! She’s not going to kill me like I’m a piece of shit. I don’t want to die. Fuck that! I’m not some used pussy anymore. I deserve to win this. I fucking deserve it! An idea struck me. I activated my last outfit as I swung my leg up on the runway. The bright gold gown startled and blinded her only for a moment, but that was all I needed.

“No she didn’t,” someone said.

“They’re going to kill her for that,” another voice added.

I could tell from Beyond Real’s reaction that she didn’t believe I had done this. I was obviously wearing a FierceThing gown and they would be pissed — the least of my worries at the moment. But as I wore the gown, some amazing shit happened. A warm honey flavor replaced the blood and I remembered one more move. I thought I was dreaming. I couldn’t do this.

Beyond Real didn’t give me time to give my doubt a familiar hug. She charged and my body reacted. I threw myself up and backward, catching her in the jaw with a hard, cracking heel kick. Her head jerked backward in an ugly motion. The crowd screamed with finger snaps and shouts as I completed a Strictly-Ballroom-Nadia-Comaneci-back-hand-spring-layout, with a Debbie Allen twist. Holo images of flames shot out from my heels when I nailed my landing with a Dior Standard Combat pose. The Children gagged. I’m sure the judges scored me with tens across the board.

“You better work it, bitch!” some queen yelled.

“She peed for that,” a butch voice belted.

“No, honey,” someone else said, “she squatted and shitted!”

I walked over to Beyond Real and she was sprawled there with her head in a grotesque position; this bitch was dead. It wasn’t just Beyond Real that lay there. The part of me that let people take advantage of me was also there. That bitch deserved to die as well as Beyond Real. Good riddance. I savored every moment of this victory. No one would ever abuse me again.

Five of the FierceThings, with machetes drawn, marched onto the Great Runway followed by a few Muscle Marys dragging two kicking and screaming queens. They were really going to kill me for wearing this dress. The FierceThings stopped a few feet from me and eyed me between whispers amongst themselves, probably deciding which one would stab the shit outta me.

“Where did you get the design for that gown, Miss Thing?” Shandaleer asked.

I curtsied before answering, though my body screeched with pain, but no need to piss them off any further; they could make my death long and painful.

“I was given this gown in a dream.”

“Given by whom?” she asked, accenting the question with a raised eyebrow. I held my throbbing head high. I had nothing to be ashamed of.

“By the goddess Oshún,” I said, looking Shandaleer straight in the eyes.

“She’s a god damn lie,” Mommie Dearest said. “She told us that she wanted to work your house’s last nerve.”

“That’s right, she’s tryin’ to diss you,” White Woman Anger agreed. They had to realize that this dress was the work of a goddess — not some stupid attempt at throwing shade.

“What is your name?” Shandaleer asked me.

“Cindy.”

“Turn around, Cindy,” Shandaleer said. “Let me see all of your outfit.” I did as I was told and there was more whispering amongst the FierceThings.

“Bring the Grand Prize trophy,” Shandaleer ordered.

“Aren’t you going to kill her for dissin’ your house?” Mommie Dearest demanded.

“Yes, more blood will be offered tonight, the Orishas will eat well. But you and that hoe with you will feed them.”

“Good, just let me at her. She killed my daughter.”

“Bring it here,” Shandaleer said. She took the trophy from the cute Muscle Mary and held it high over her head. Those things were heavy as hell, but she lifted it up like she was putting on a bonnet.

“The House of FierceThings now has a new sistah.”

“Oh, shit,” Mommie Dearest hissed.

“They wouldn’t,” White Woman Anger said. But they did.

“Cindy Oshún FierceThing is our newest neophyte!” Shandaleer said as she handed me the trophy. The Children served me a sea of finger snaps and lit cigarette lighters. I was now Legendary and I had the Elite modeling contract too. I would be fierce for coins.

“And now for you, bitches,” Shandaleer said with a pissed tone. “Bring these hoes a pair of red Come-Fuck-Me pumps.” There was a gasp from the crowd.

“Shandaleer, have mercy on us,” Mommie Dearest pleaded.

“You know the rules. You can’t bash someone with a prayer brick or pump until they have fallen on the glass.”

I smiled at their groveling asses as the Muscle Marys forced them to put on the death pumps. Mommie Dearest’s feet were a little too big, but after a few machete slices to the toes, and greased with her blood, the shoes slipped right on.

I think that I even saw tears in White Woman Anger’s eyes, but don’t start me to lying. The bitches were left at the front of the Great Runway and the rest of us moved to the back.

“And throwing Shade is mine, readeth the Diva. A lash for a lash, and a pump for a pump,” Shandaleer said solemnly, reciting the Orisha Vogue scripture. The Great Runway glowed with a blue aura at the end with Mommie Dearest and White Woman Anger, and the electricity caught their asses with a nasty jerk. As their bodies did the electric boogie there were maddening shouts of “Model! Model!” from the crowd.

Those witches were fried in a few minutes and the charred pair fell over the edge with a thud. Dondifish later told me that it just looked like someone had dumped used charcoal from a barbecue pit on the floor.

I would say that I lived happily ever after, but this is Glamtasia, whose wicked beauty has no mercy. Get real, Miss Thing. This place thrives on dissin’ folks wet dreams, but it’s all so glamorous. Why live anywhere else?

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