Rupert and the Girls’ Night Out
by Ron Van Sweringen
Word has reached us that Ron Van Sweringen passed away early this year. With more than 80 titles between issues 342 and 659, Ron ranks as one of Bewildering Stories’ most prolific contributors.
“Rupert and the Girls’ Night Out” appeared in issue 420, on February 21, 2011 and qualified for the 2011 Mariner Awards. The story’s good-hearted humor and optimism are characteristic of Ron’s prose fiction, and the topic seems as timely today as it was five years ago. Thanks for this and many other good memories, Ron. We’re glad to have had you with us.
Miss Tammy Fay’s thirty-something birthday party was tonight and Rupert had just found the perfect gift: a jumbo roll-on dispenser of “Mascara by the Yard” clump-proof up to six inches out with three refills in a color called “Luscious Lavender” to complement Miss Tammy’s new Rita Hayworth “bombs away” wig. Once a drag queen, always a drag queen!
Rupert slipped it into a jumbo black and white polka-dot condom and tied a red ribbon around its neck, with a card reading: “Prolonged use of this packaging can result in sleepless nights! (if you’re lucky).”
Miss Tammy Fay, one of the original drags working the stage when Rupert first arrived at the “Dirty Girl Club,” had been like a sister. Platinum blonde in those days, now Rita Hayworth red, he had a weakness for good-looking cowboy types with loaded saddle bags.
It was after four when Rupert climbed the last flight of stairs to his apartment and stopped to catch his breath, arms full of groceries and his evening gown, just picked up from the dry cleaner’s.
Mrs. Miller cracked the door to her apartment and peeked out. Rupert noticed her shaking hand on the door jamb and, as he got closer, the tear stains on her pale cheeks.
“Honey,” he said softly, “what’s wrong?”
The little old woman opened the door wider, standing there in her flowered house dress and worn bedroom slippers. Rupert had never before realized how frail she was or how beautiful, with little wisps of white hair framing her face in the afternoon sunlight, like a halo.
“I just wanted to make sure they didn’t follow me inside,” she said, her faint voice quivering.
“Tell you what, honey,” Rupert said, reaching out with his free hand, “you come up to my apartment for a while and we’ll have a nice hot cup of tea and talk about this. Come on now, I’ve got two hungry pussies waiting for their dinner.”
Little crinkles appeared at the corners of the old woman’s mouth when she smiled, gently taking Rupert’s hand.
* * *
Miss Tammy Fay was excited. It was his kick-Ass birthday and he would never see forty again, now that he was permanently thirty-five. Frank Sinatra was heating up the room with “I’m in the Mood for Love” and melting the ice in Tammy Fay’s double screw driver with its penis-shaped straw.
A purple-sequined evening gown with a pink cabbage rose at the waist and pink tulle shoulder wings, carefully graced the back of the white fur sofa, which took up most of the living room in the small apartment.
“Life for this drag queen is good and about to get better,” he thought. “It’s girls’ night out!”
* * *
Rupert sat the tea cups on the coffee table and settled down on the sofa beside Mrs. Miller.
“Now tell me what’s wrong? he said, giving her his full attention.
The old woman seemed to have regained her composure somewhat, being more at ease, perhaps because of the warm tea.
“They took my money,” she said, looking down at the twisted handkerchief in her crooked fingers, “all I have for the month, my whole Social Security check.”
Rupert leaned forward, looking into the old woman’s eyes. “Who took your money, Mrs. Miller?”
She answered slowly, apprehension creeping back into her voice, “A gang of young toughs, by the alley near Young’s market. They know when us old folks get our checks and they wait for us.”
“You mean this has happened before?” Rupert asked in astonishment. “Why haven’t you gone to the police?”
“Oh, we couldn’t do that” she answered softly. “They said they would hurt us if we went to the police.”
* * *
Miss Carmileta Come was cha-cha-ing across the living room floor, a stuffed hot tamale in his hand, Ricky Martin on his mind, on the wall and on the radio, filling the small apartment with penis power.
“Git it, git it, git it girl.” Carmileta laughed, shaking his tamale to the rythm, “Yew are some hot number babee!”
A short red strapless evening dress lay across the bed, with matching spike heels and a large black feather boa, constricting on its own.
“Time to get gorgeous, babee.” He smiled, shoving the tamale in his mouth and winking at Ricky while closing the bathroom door.
* * *
Rupert felt much better after a hot bath. Everything was pink again, his favorite color, even the spray-painted brass knuckles he took from under his crotchless black lace nightie in the bottom drawer.
The knuckles were carefuly placed next to “Knight of Passion De-flowered” perfume spray mist in his sequined evening bag.
A half-hour more and he was finished, except for his signature Joan Crawford lips. They had to be especially perfect tonight. He knew what the competition would be. Four drag queens together on a girls’ night out! Tora! Tora! Tora!
It was eight o’clock when Rupert came out of his bedroom. Mrs. Miller was just as he had left her earlier, covered by an afgan and sleeping comfortably on the sofa. Minerva and Devina were curled up next to her.
“It’s amazing what a shot of brandy will do for a cup of tea,” Rupert smiled, stepping out into the hall and locking the door quietly.
A six-foot-six electric blue vision in chiffon and sequins, dripping rhinestone earrings and stiletto heels, Rupert checked his watch. Right on time for the birthday girl’s party at eight-thirty.
The night was hot and going to get hotter!
* * *
Miss Lola Luscious kept trying to get his mole on straight, halfway over the right tit and three inches above the neckline of a silver lamé gown that Jean Harlow would have given a kidney for.
Hands on hips, staring in the bathroom mirror, he looked gorgeous, no question about it. The only flaw was an Adam’s apple, big enough for an Acapulco diver to somersault off of.
A long white fox stole thrown around his neck and shoulders took care of the diving board and a few sprays of “Roll Me Over In the Clover and Do It Again” cologne took care of any nooks and crannies that might have hidden air pockets.
Getting a cab to the “Dirty Girl Club” by eight-thirty was one of two problems left for Miss Lola Luscious, who stopped halfway down the stairway adjusting his jockstrap.
* * *
Rupert, Tammy and Carmileta were on their second grasshopper by the time Miss Lola arrived at the table.
“Sorry girls,” he sighed, “ it was the cab driver. I got stuck in traffic.”
“Small, medium or large stuck?” Tammy laughed, holding up his middle finger and wiggling it.
“I wouldn’t slam a door that hard, babee,” Carmileta burst out, laughing so hard his Taco Bell sunglasses fell into his grasshopper.
“Screw you! I need a drink.” Miss Lola pouted, sitting a purple foil gift bag on the table in front of Tammy. “Happy birthday, slut.” He smiled, searching for a cigarette.
“Oh no! what did you get me?” Tammy gushed, holding up his hands in mock surprised anticipation.
“Hopefully something you’ve never had before,” Rupert said with a smile. “There must be at least one left, somewhere in the world.”
* * *
The lights in the room dimmed and a lone blue spot came on flushing the edge of the stage, a male voice called out, “Sing for Us, Tammy.” The familiar opening chords of “Over the Rainbow” echoed and the calls became louder, mixed with applause and the rhythmic chant, “Judy, Judy, Judy!”
Tammy Fay turned to Rupert, and wiping his hand nervously across his face, asked, “You hear what they’re calling for, don’t you? Well I’m ready!”
What followed was unforgettable. Tammy Fay moved in a blue haze, seated on the edge of the stage with his arms extended to the audience.
“Someday I’ll wish upon a star,” his voice drifted over the piano to tell the story everyone in the room knew. The yearning to take Judy’s hand and to find their way home to Kansas and Auntie Em.
The magic continued until the highpoint, when he sang the last line of the “Trolly Song.” Everyone in the audience stood and sang it with him. “And it was grand just to stand with his hand holding mine, to the end of the line.”
The applause was fantastic and Tammy Fay had a hard time getting through the crowd and back to the table. “Where’s my drink?” He smiled, dabbing the persperation from his forehead. “Clark Gable is waiting for me in the men’s room.”
* * *
Rupert’s watch said nearly eleven, and when the music stopped for a moment, he reached across the table, resting his hand palm up, in the center.” I have a problem, girls,” he said seriously, waiting for a response.
“No yew don’t babee,” replied Carmileta, placing his hand on Rupert’s. “We have a problem!” Then came Tammy Fay and finally Miss Lola Luscious piling on hands.
“O.K. Rupee,” Tammy Fay entreated, while checking her make-up in her compact mirror, “lay it on us.”
Rupert told them the story about Mrs. Miller and her friends having their Social Security checks stolen by a gang of punks.
The table grew quiet and no one spoke for a while, then Miss Lola Luscious broke the silence. “My mother lives on a Social Security check, in a little burg in Pennsylvania. I’ll probably end up like her some day, when Hollywood is finished with me.”
The laughter was hysterical as the four hands clasped in the middle of the table.
“Yew know what?” Miss Carmileta exclaimed, leaning across the table and shaking the hell out of his blow-up boobies, “I think we should all walk Rupee home tonight!”
“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” Miss Tammy Fay added, “and I’ve got two bottles of French champagne for my birthday, one for each hand.”
“Are you sure you girls can take that much exercise?” Rupert smiled. “We might be a little out of shape.”
“Fug that!” Miss Lola Luscious replied indignantly, standing up, bending over and pulling his gown up over his ass. “Does that look out of shape to you?”
Someone at the next table yelled out, “If anything turns up, spank it!”
“Up yours, Mary,” Miss Lola laughed, “in your dreams.”
* * *
Warm night air met them from an earlier rain, when the girls left the club. Neon lights reflected in newly formed puddles, like unstrung jewels on the worn concrete sidewalk.
Rupert lived six blocks from the “Dirty Girl Club” and each block became darker, quieter and more residential. They were greeted by faded-brick apartment buildings, small frame houses in need of repair and an occasional overgrown vacant lot.
When they turned the corner of Wilson and Fourteenth, Rupert checked his watch: eleven-thirty on a Friday night. He could see the lights in Young’s market on the corner, open until midnight on weekends.
Miss Carmileta, with the help of a few grasshoppers, demonstrated a Flamenco. The sound of his high heels echoed on the sidewalk as they approached the corner.
A cat-call came out of the dark as the girls neared the alley alongside Young’s market. Five darkened figures stepped out of the shadows, blocking their way.
Rupert slid his hand very quietly inside of his evening bag and Miss Tammy Fay swung one of the bottles of champagne up over her shoulder while Miss Lola Luscious did the same with the other bottle.
Rupert could see that they were punks all right, but it was hard to tell how old they were under their pull-down knitted caps. The one standing nearest Rupert held a short length of rusted iron pipe in his hand. Another held a piece of tire chain.
“Hey girls, what’s happening?” the one holding the iron pipe asked. “Got any spare cash on you, or haven’t you sucked enough dicks yet tonight?” The others laughed and shuffled closer.
“If you don’t have any money, we might take it out in trade,” the young punk smiled, rubbing his hand over his crotch, then squeezing and shaking it.
Rupert carefully slid his fingertips into one of the brass knuckles, while Miss Carmileta, the Mexican spitfire, with hands on his hips, threw back his head and yelled, “Yew little pimp, go suck yor momma’s tit,” while picking up a broken beer bottle at his feet.
A loud click split the moment’s silence, and what looked like a flash of lightning in the dark, became the largest switch blade Rupert had ever seen. No one had even noticed the arrival of the short figure in the black leather jacket who now stepped out of the shadows.
“Are you ladies having a problem here?” he asked, stepping in front of the punk with the iron pipe, and adding “Drop that thing dude, before it get’s you in trouble.”
The punk quickly complied, and so did his buddy with the tire chain.
“They attempted to rob us,” Rupert spoke up, stepping forward, “and they have been robbing senior citizens in my building, taking their Social Security money.”
“That’s a bunch of crap,” the punk yelled out. “Are you going to believe these cock-sucking queers?”
The stranger slowly brought the switchblade up, popping off all four buttons on the punk’s black leather jacket, one at a time.
“Tell you what, dude,” he said, “empty out your pockets. All of ’em. Right now. On the ground.”
“Hell no!” was the reply. The stranger’s knee came up full force between the punk’s legs, lifting him in the air.
“Would you ladies like to help him empty his pockets?” he asked standing over the punk, now doubled up in agony.
“Nine-hundred and sixty-five dollars,” Rupert said, counting the money. “And four uncashed Social Security checks, all going back to the people you robbed.”
“Guess what, If I ever catch you giving these ladies a hard time again, or bothering any old people in this neighborhood,” the stranger said, bending down next to the punk’s face, “my friends and I will split your nuts and make you eat ’em. Now get out of here, you pussies.”
The punks quickly disappeared into the dark alley, dragging their groaning leader. The stranger turned, slipping the switch-blade into his jacket pocket and flashing a broad smile , exposing two very large and very shiny gold teeth.
Miss Carmileta gave a scream of delight, throwing himself into the stranger’s arms, landing with his legs wrapped around his waist .
“This is Carlos, my new boyfriend,” he laughed, throwing his arms around the stranger’s neck and kissing him. “I told him to follow us tonight, to make sure we got home all right. Caarrramba! I’m in love again!”
Rupert gave a sigh of relief, his hands shaking. He really wasn’t the brass knuckles type after all, even if they were pink.
* * *
When they opened the apartment door, Rupert expected to see Mrs. Miller on the sofa, but she was gone and something smelled wonderful.
“Oh my aching tushie,” Exclaimed Miss Tammy Fay, “that smells like homemade chocolate cake.”
In the kitchen there was a fresh cloth on the table and Mrs. Miller was standing beside the most decadent chocolate cake Rupert had ever seen.
“When I woke up from my nap, for some reason I felt so refreshed, I decided to bake you a cake.” The old lady smiled. “I’m so glad you brought the boys back with you.”
Rupert looked at Miss Tammy Fay, who looked at Miss Lola Luscious, who looked at Miss Carmelita Come, who looked back at Rupert, and then they all looked at Mrs. Miller.
“Oh, I know you’re all dressed up so beautiful, just like Hollywood movie stars.” Mrs. Miller smiled. “I may be an old woman” — she winked — “but boys, I still know when not to put the toilet seat down.”
Copyright © 2011 by Ron Van Sweringen