DISCLAIMER: All characters in X:WP are copyright MCA/Universal/Renaissance Pictures. They're not exactly here, but there you go. The story is mine, though, so please ask permission before doing anything to it, or I'll be like the ex-girlfriend you wish you never had (you know, the one who makes Callisto look like Jane Seymour on Valium).
SEQUELITIS: This is a sequel to "Love & Death in the Trailer Park" and "Ways to Be Wicked." You should read those before proceeding here, otherwise this story will be even more incoherent than I intended.
SOMETIMES WHEN WE TOUCH, THE HONESTY'S TOO MUCH: As usual, we got the girls in love with one another. Nothing too graphic (sorry), but if you can't deal, please take up a worthwhile hobby.
WHAT ELSE, VIVIAN, AND MAKE THIS QUICK: Swearing, drugs, an air of general raunchiness, and a sense of a country going straight to hell in an Impala. Also, fans of Absolutely Fabulous may notice a certain exchange between Cyrene and Zina resembling one between Edina and Bubble in a particular episode. (It's called "literary license," sweeties.)
ALSO: this is a revised, new and improved version of "Mayonnaise Wishes, Impala Dreams." And if you write me and tell me you liked the old title better, I'm gonna scream.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Mayonnaise and its Discontents
By Vivian Darkbloom


1. Precious and Few are the Moments We Two Can Share

The firefighter filled out the broken-down plaid couch with her long body. A walkman lay against her muscular stomach, and a wire traipsed seductively over a swelling breast, galloped down into the valley of muscle, skin, and tendons around the neck and shoulder, blended into dark tresses, and climbed over the crevices of the ears, where it was attached to an earpiece blaring out beautiful musical dissonance: Black hole sun, woncha come, and wash away the raaaaaaaain….

Her eyes were closed tightly against the world. It had been a long, horrible day. Three fires in one day. Flames, dirt, near-death. She came right home after the third one, exhausted, took a bath, and flung herself on the couch. She craved the oblivion of loud music, so she put on her walkman, since she knew Gabrielle was upstairs studying.

And she calls me insensitive, Zina thought grumpily. I can be kinda sorta sensitive when I want to be. She had drifted off into a light sleep when she felt a familiar weight straddle her lap. The weight wriggled around suggestively. She smiled and opened her eyes.

"Hey stud," Gabrielle said. Her beautiful girlfriend wore a t-shirt that said FIREFIGHTERS DO IT WITH RUBBER HOSES (better than the last such shirt she saw, which said FIREFIGHTERS DO IT WITH DALMATIANS) and a pair of Daisy Dukes—the shortest of blue jean shorts. It's like she's takin' fashion tips from Callie or somethin', thought Zina. (Not that she minded that much.) Gabrielle held a dirty slip of paper in one hand. "I found this attached to the bottom of your work boot."

Zina peered at it. "Uh…looks like my pay stub."

"Thought so. You want it?"

Zina gave her a Look. Then she shoved the earphones back in her ears.

Gabrielle wriggled again. Zina opened her eyes again, and plucked the 'phones out of her ears…again. "What?" A thin line of patience was threatening to snap.

"Zina, do you ever look at these things?"

"Why should I? I know how much I get paid. Plus I really don't want to know how much money the goddamn government is stealing from me." Maybe I should join the Militia…her eyes darkened at the thought. Sure, they were all a bunch of fat wads who could barely pull a trigger, but give her two weeks, she'd whip those pussies into shape, and soon, they'd be chanting her name as they took over the county courthouse…

A slap stung her thigh. "Zina! Stop having daydreams about the Militia!" Gabrielle barked.

The firefighter sulked. Of course, I'm kinda whipped myself.

"Now listen to me. There's this column on your pay stub, says 'Vacation'…"

"Uh huh."

"And under it is a number: 1,055."


Gabrielle blinked in astonishment. "So…you have over a thousand days of vacation coming to you?"


"Oh." The little poet hid her disappointment.

"It means I have over a thousand hours of vacation." With this, Zina placed the phones back in her ears, and her head started thrashing in a very Beavis-and-Butthead-like fashion to "Spoonman."

"Holy shit! Over a thousand hours of vacation???" shrieked Gabrielle. Alas, her beloved could not hear her joy. She wriggled again, but got no response from Zina. Then she yanked the earphones out of the lovely ears all by her own self.

She was rewarded with a glare worthy of the most disturbed serial killer.

"Sorry, baby, but I'm trying to talk to you. " Gabrielle replied patiently. Love means never having to expect social skills above a third-grade level, the poet realized.

Zina's black bangs flew as she released an air of exasperation. "All right," she growled.

"Since you have so much time coming to you, why don't we have a vacation?"

The blue eyes blinked at her in utter incomprehension.

"Oh, wow," Gabrielle breathed with awe. "You've never had a vacation. Have you?"

"Vacations are for wimps, Gabrielle," muttered Zina.

"Bull. Every summer, my parents took us on a vacation. Sure, it was usually camping, or Graceland, or something like that…but we always went, every year." And every year it was hell. Her parents always argued, they always got lost, and Lila always won every back-seat slugfest they had. But Zina doesn't need to know that.

"I guess that sounds nice. But my mother's idea of a vacation was following around the Grateful Dead." Zina winced, trying to quash the memories that flooded back: greasy smelly hippie guys pawing at her, portable toilets that—mystifyingly enough—smelled better than the guys did, spilled beer going rancid in the harsh sun, pot, acid tabs, and more pot, and those goddamned fifteen-minute drum solos.

Hmmm, Gabrielle thought. It sounds like we've both had sucky vacation experiences. "Hey, I've been thinking. Like, as a vacation, maybe we could go visit Effie and those guys. Whaddya say?"

"I've been to Memphis, though."

"And so has Lyle Lovett, baby doll. Well, they aren't in Memphis right now. They're out in the country, recording their second album, at some studio in Tennessee. It's real pretty, Effie says."

"That sounds cool."

"Yeah, it would be fun, baby. I'm dying to see Effie. I miss her so much. And you—well, Hank would be there…"

"And we could go fishing!" Zina perked up.

"Yeah!" Gabrielle loved to see her happy.

"And then we could play horseshoes! And golf! And basketball! And football! And I'll beat him every goddamned time!!!!" shouted the firefighter triumphantly.

"Honey, I love you, but you are a fuckin' maniac."

Zina beamed at what she perceived to be a great compliment.

"Hey, what the hell you doin' on my Harley?"

—Serge Gainsbourg, "Harley David Son of a Bitch"

They simply could not agree on what vehicle to take. Gabrielle thought it too dangerous to ride a cycle all the way there, and Zina said that it would only be over her dead body that they would take the Escort.

"I can't be seen in an Escort. 'Sides, we'd be lucky to make it to the county line in that thing."

"Well, I'm not riding a Harley all the way there. We won't have room to take anything. And my ass will be numb and fall off by the time we reach the county line." Gabrielle rubbed her perfect posterior for emphasis.

The firefighter scowled, deep in thought. "I have an idea." She stood up. "Come on, we're going to Ed's."

Ed stood in his bedroom, thoughtfully examining the two bras that he held, one in each hand. He loved the black one, but the material was so scratchy, on the other hand, the red one was a little too red, but it felt so silky…

A banging on his door caused the entire house to shake. Only two people he knew were capable of that: Hank, who was not in town…and Zina.

A squeak of distress came from his lips. Frantically, he stuffed the bras under his mattress and ran downstairs.

Indeed, the sullen beauty stood at his door, wearing her trademark outfit: black shitkickers, a black t-shirt, and faded Levis. This time the t-shirt showed a mutilated cartoon figure and the caption I KILLED KENNY. Well, I wouldn't put it past her, Ed thought. But he sighed with relief when he saw Gabrielle peeking out mischievously from behind the tall firefighter; the thought of a tete-a-tete with Zina was simply too much.

"Hi Ed!" Gabrielle chirped.

"Hey, Gabrielle…hey, Z."

Zina raised an eyebrow. Her knew her well enough to know that this was her way of requesting entry into his home.

"Sure, come on in, guys." The happy couple sauntered in. Zina flopped down in his recliner. She raised another eyebrow. "Beer?" he stammered. She nodded. "Gabrielle?"

"No thanks," replied the poet. "Got anything to eat?"

He ran into the kitchen, grabbed a can of Bud and a bag of pretzels.

Gabrielle tore open the bag. "Got any mustard?" she asked.

He ran into the kitchen and came back with a jar of French's.

"No Grey Poupon?"

"What the hell's that?" Ed said, face pulled into distaste. Why anyone would want to put something gray on a perfectly innocent pretzel was beyond him.

"Never mind." Gabrielle cast a look at her soulmate, who was chugging Bud. "Shall I?" she asked. Zina nodded. She began. "Okay, Ed, it's like this. Remember when you hit the cow?"

He winced. "Oh…yeah."

"Well, you know, Farmer Draco came by the other day…"

"Shit!" Ed blurted.

"Yeah, and he was asking us if we knew who killed his little Bessie Sue…" Gabrielle shook her head sadly. "It just about broke my heart, to see a big ol' grown man like that cry." And it did, although on Zina's part, the firefighter had giggled at the way the huge, dramatic feathers in Draco's cowboy hat bobbed up and down as he sobbed. "Right, Zina?" The big firefighter nodded dutifully. "And he cursed, and he cried, and he said, 'If I ever found out who killed Bessie Sue, I'll de-ball the fucker with my own teeth!' "

Ed blanched. His vision dimmed and he felt woozy. I won't faint! I won't!

"And do you know what we told him?"

Ed bit his lip in fear and agony.

"We said we didn't know. And you know why we said that, don't you, Ed?"

Ed nodded.

"Because you're our friend, and we don't want to see you de-balled. Right, Zina?"

Zina burped in the affirmative. She did concede to herself, however, that she wouldn't mind seeing Ed de-balled...it might be kinda fun, actually.

"And that's what friends do for each other. They take care of each other. They support each other—"

"They cover each other's stupid hairy asses after drinking half the county," Zina interjected.

"That's right," Gabrielle said soothingly. "So! That brings us to why we're here…"

"Whatever you want, take it!" he cried.

Zina bared her teeth in a feral grin. "We want the Impala."

Agony. He knew, someday, that she would ask. Years ago, he, Hank, and Zina had pooled their paltry financial resources and bought a decrepit 1968 Impala. Together they had rebuilt it into a gleaming icon of big, American simplicity. By the sheer good luck of having a garage, he was Keeper of the Impala. Hank was far too reverent of the vehicle to actually drive it, and would only come over and gaze at it wistfully every once in a while. Zina, however, had been "shut off" from the Impala after a particularly strenuous "test drive" that resulted in the tragic death of several chickens (property of the unlucky Framer Draco). But that was two years ago, and Hank had since declared his best friend fit to drive the beloved vehicle, if she chose to do so. And Ed knew that, one day, she would come around and ask to use the car that both he and Hank were too chickenshit to even drive to the Uni-Mart. She was that kind of woman. Fearless. Confident. Powerful. Perhaps a bit of a sociopath.

He sighed, and headed for the garage. The women followed him silently. When Ed flung up the garage door, he whispered reverently, "There she is."

The 1968 Impala, a dark, royal blue, glinted as afternoon sunlight hit its hood. It sat regally, patiently awaiting their ecstatic worship.

"Isn't she...magnificent?" Ed prompted, using one of the biggest words he knew. His eyes misted over.

"Oh…yes!" Zina gasped, delirious with joy.

Gabrielle shrugged. "It's cute," she said flatly, jealous that something other than she could make Zina gasp with delight. It was another annoyance; she already had to battle the Harley for superiority in the firefighter's affections: "Look, missy, what would rather have between your legs—that cycle or me?" she had demanded of her lover one fine afternoon.

The firefighter had frowned and contemplated the question for a long time.

"Let me put it another way," Gabrielle had interrupted the laborious mental process, "can that Harley give you an orgasm?"

Zina had nodded vigorously. "It depends on how fast I'm going, and how bumpy the road is."

And now, she frowned at the harmless Impala. This thing probably does her so good she smokes a pack of Lucky Strikes afterwards, Gabrielle thought in a most discouraging way, while two pairs of horrified blue eyes stared at her.

"Cute?" roared the firefighter. "Gabrielle, this is, like, the Super Bowl of cars!"

"Yeah!" Ed cried. "I rebuilt this thing three times—"

Zina turned on him. "My ass! The second time Hank helped you, and the third time I practically did it myself!"

"No, you didn't!"

"Yes, I did!"

The poet rolled her eyes. She leaned against the car.

"Get off the car!" shouted the firefighters in unison.


2. The Ex Files

After procuring the Impala for their impending trip, they went to the grocery store.

It was not Zina's favorite place to be. The fluorescent lights gave her a headache, as did the canned music (currently warbling "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight" by England Dan and John Ford Coley), and Gabrielle wouldn't let her pop wheelies with the cart. So she leaned against the shopping cart while Gabrielle tossed box after box of Pop Tarts into the metal receptacle. "Blueberry, brown sugar, fudge, cherry…" she rattled off each flavor as they landed in the cart.

The firefighter sighed, and looked to the end of the aisle. What she saw there caused her blue eyes to narrow into such hardened blocks of ice that not even Sharon Stone in her Basic Instinct incarnation—armed with her trusty little icepick—could have cracked them.

Gabrielle was not totally oblivious, in her Pop Tart delirium, to notice her girlfriend's change of mood. "Zina…what's wrong?" she asked as Zina stormed past her, toward a display in the frozen food section. Pulling the cart behind her, she followed Zina to the end of the aisle.

Many plastic containers of a strangely colored liquid formed a small pyramid, which paid homage to an arrogant-looking young woman featured in the cardboard poster that loomed over the plastic cups. The poster read thus: "Julie Caesar, Olympus County's very own Martha Stewart and host of WAR-TV's 'Conquering with Cooking,' presents the latest delicacy from her kitchen: Barbecue-Salsa Mayonnaise!"

"Ya want some, Zina?" the poet asked.

The firefighter regarded her with eyes of rage and incomprehension. "Do I want some?" she hissed violently at her small companion. "Do I want some!!" she repeated incredulously.

"Baby, chill out, okay? If you don't want to try it, don't sweat it."

"Gabrielle, you don't understand," growled Zina, waving at the display, knuckles pounding the cardboard image of the smirking yuppie goddess, "this BITCH stole my recipe!!!"

The little poet blinked in disbelief. The only culinary effort she had witnessed her girlfriend perform had been to mix Rolling Rock, Heineken, and tabasco sauce together and declare it a "cocktail."

"She stole my idea! She betrayed me!" wailed Zina.

"Oh no…" Gabrielle moaned. "Don't tell me…another ex-lover, right?" How many were there? On top of Artie (loser!), Hank (can't fault Zina here, the man is flawless), Ed (doesn't really count)…there was Callie (bitch!), Midge from the gas station (who kept calling Gabrielle "little lady," whenever she got gas—bitch!), Nancy, who managed the automotive section at the Wal-Mart and still gave Zina "discounts" not to mention lingering, lovestruck glances (bitch!)….

And then there was Lao Ma.

Lao Ma, the beautiful woman who ran the Green Dragon, the Chinese take-out restaurant, whose Hong Kong movie career did not take ("Don't even say the name Michelle Yeoh to me," she once murmured in her calm, menacing way to a customer who dared to ask), who always gave Zina vaguely obscene fortune cookies ("Lick a pearl every night to refine your oral skills") and who offered Gabrielle cryptic commentary whenever she would pick up their order ("Noodles are soft, but who could withstand the raging lo mein?").

Gabrielle sighed and seethed, hands on hips. "Well?"

I'm not talkin' about movin' in...

Zina rubbed the back of her neck in that way she did when she was uncomfortable.

...and I don't want to change your life...

"Look, Zina, just tell me. Did ya lay her or not?"

...but there's a warm wind blowing and...

"Aw, shit, Gabrielle." Translation: Yes.

...blah blah blah blah...


...and I'd really love to see you tonight...

"Uh, yeah, quite possibly," mumbled Zina.

"Oh, man," Cyrene moaned, burying her graying head in her hands. "Zina said I'd tell you everything about her and Julie Caesar?"

"Yeah, Cyrene, she's way too pissed to talk about it. We kinda fought about it." Gabrielle was in the farmhouse kitchen with Cyrene, Zina's mother, who sat at the kitchen table while Gabrielle put away groceries.

"'Kinda?'" Cyrene echoed sarcastically. When she had arrived on the scene Zina was tearing off on the Harley while Gabrielle was screaming after her, "You suck! And I don't mean in a good way either!" from the porch.

"Okay, you saw it. We fought. But just before she left she said you could explain everything." She tried to mask the nervousness in her voice. What would the raging Zina do? Would she get thrown out of "Hooters" again? Would more of Farmer Draco's errant livestock suffer at her murderous wheels? She needed the full story, so that she could help her lover rein in those sociopath tendencies. Not to mention her own jealousy.

"I need my bong," the older woman muttered, digging through her purse. With expert hands, she loaded the bong with pot contained in a little black plastic film canister. She lit up, and offered it to Gabrielle.

"No thanks, I only smoke when I study now." Gabrielle had decided to cut back on the pot-smoking for a while, ever since making the declaration in her Film Aesthetics course that Baseketball was "A Citizen Kane for the 90s."

"Okay," Cyrene sighed, "here we go. It all happened, oh, about 10 years ago. Or maybe it was 8. Or 5…."

Gabrielle rolled her eyes.

"Anyway, it was when Zina was still Bad." The way Cyrene said it, one automatically knew that "bad" began with a capital B.

"Oh…" replied the poet. While her voice retained a forced tone of neutrality, she squirmed in delight. Ooooh…bad=sexy. Sexy sexy sexy. Hello, my name is Gabrielle and I'm addicted to Bad Girls. I realize I am powerless over my addiction to sullen brunettes…

"Yeah, honey, she was Bad. What I'm about to tell you won't be pretty. But we Amphipolittis—like most Italians—have always been a honest, proud family, unashamed of our mistakes."

Gabrielle frowned. "I thought you guys were Greek."

"Whatever." Cyrene waved a bejeweled hand.


3. The Obligatory Flashback

As the Harley tore down the street, Zina was comforted by the cool .45 nestled against her trim waist. Ever since the last time she got out of jail, she had stopped carrying the gun all the time, just in case she got busted again, but whenever she saw her parole officer she brought it along. It was very effective to let the sweaty bastard catch a glimpse of the steel. It kept him off her back.

She pulled into the parking lot of the municipal building, where the office was. She parked the bike and started to swagger toward the main entrance when an altercation near a white Volvo caught her attention. A grungy young man was trying to divest a yuppie-ish young woman of her ownership of said Scandinavian vehicle of marvel.

"C'mon, lady, hand over the goddamn keys. I got a gun." The dude had his back to Zina, who crept over to them, unnoticed.

The woman had a stylishly messy, Beatlesque haircut, and wore a blue rain slicker, chinos, and those very preppy LL Bean kinda shoes. Hey, is she a dyke or what? Zina thought, as she watched the woman arch an imperious eyebrow at her would-be assailant.

"I'm sorry," she replied in oily, unctuous tones, "but I'm unable to comply with your...rude request. You see, I just had my car cleaned, and I don't allow vermin inside."

"Vermin? What the hell are you talkin' about, lady? I ain't a deer!"

"Let me amend that. Stupid vermin."

The man gave a growl of rage, and as he reared back an arm to hit her, he found his limb ensnared in Zina's powerful grip.

"Hey, ya need this?" growled Zina, squeezing and twisting the arm painfully. With her other hand she pulled out the .45 and grazed it against his sweaty cheek. "I dunno if you have a gun, but I sure do, so I think you should get your sorry ass outta here right now."

Perhaps she only imagined it, perhaps it was wishful thinking, but Zina later thought that, out of the corner of her eye, she caught a rather fascinated—and pleased—look on the woman's face. Almost like she was turned on.

"Okay! Okay! Lemme go!!" he cried.

"No, no, wait a minute. First, you gotta squeal, like a pig."

"What? You outta your damn mind?"

She pressed the barrel into his cheek.

"Weeeee! Weeee! Soooo-EEEEEEE!!!"

Zina unleashed a demonic laugh. She released the sad man, this victim of her recent screening of Deliverance, and gave him a boot in the ass as he stumbled, then ran away. She was still laughing as she turned her attention to the woman who, despite the fact she wasn't blonde, was still kinda cute.

The woman examined her from head to toe, with no discernible emotion on her face except a detached yet intent curiosity. "Hmmm, I suppose I must thank you for your assistance," she murmured regretfully, as if she hated the thought of being indebted to anyone.

Zina transformed her smirk into a dazzling grin, as she decided to do the "aw shucks" routine, which usually charmed the pants off these suburban mom-potential lesbo types. "Weren't nothin', ma'am. Glad to help."

The woman was not instantly charmed. She continued to look at Zina in that same dour, supercilious manner. "You're...interesting, for someone of your class."

"Class? I'm not in high school anymore, ma'am. But when I was, I would usually cut 'em."

"What's your name?"


"How intriguing. Like that strange alcoholic drink they market nowadays."

"Don't start with that." Zina dropped the cute act. She'd had enough Zima/Zina jokes to last a lifetime.

"I won't," the woman responded coolly.

Zina skulked a little. This wasn't going her way at all. "So, uh, what's your name?" she mumbled, striving for politeness.

The woman looked shocked. She smirked. "You mean you don't know who I am?" she asked, tone dripping with condescension.

Zina frowned. "No. Should I?"

"You should. For someday, the world of TV will be mine."

Zina wanted to roll her eyes. She'd heard this on a regular basis from Artie since his religion kick started.

"Tell me," the woman continued, "do you like steak au poivre?"


The woman sighed. "Steak. Do you like steak?"

"Shit, lady, who doesn't?"

A business card was pulled from silver holder within the jacket. The card was handed to Zina. "Come to dinner this evening. We'll become aquainted." she nodded. "Until then." Then she was in the Volvo and driving away. Zina looked at the card. JULIE CAESAR. CHEF. CATERING. INTERIOR DECORATING. LIFE CHANGES.

The sexy felon gave a confident roll of her shoulders. "Damn, I still got the touch," she drawled to herself.

Usually she was reluctant to drive through the more affluent towns because she got hassled a lot by the local gendarmes. But she felt secure as she drove down a winding road in the scarily perfect village of Port Rome; she had a feeling that the business card nestled in her leather jacket would make any pig back off. This suspicion was confirmed when she pulled into the driveway of Julie Caesar's large, mock-Tudor home. She stopped the bike in front of the garage door, next to the Volvo parked there, and no sooner had she hopped off than she heard the furious barking of dogs.

Two large Dobermans rounded the corner of the house. The dogs paused and regarded her in the same supercilious manner that their owner had earlier in the day. Then, as if a light bulb went off over their collective little canine heads, they charged toward her.

Zina barely had a moment to jump, with unerring grace, on top of the Volvo. The dogs were deterred by this; they seemed reluctant to jump on the car, probably because she trained them not to, guessed the worried con. But they jumped and bounced around the vehicle unceasingly, barking, their jaws snapping. A vicious line of dog drool splattered angrily against one of her boots. Shit, I wish I brought my gun!

"Pompey! Crassus!" A woman's voice boomed from the walkway along the side of the house. Julie appeared, wearing a denim apron, frowning with disapproval at the beasts. "Heel!" she commanded.

Immediately the dogs were transformed into meek, whining creatures. They both sat down obediently, awaiting their mistress's next order.

Julie pointed toward the backyard. "Go!"

Tails between legs, the dogs galloped away.

Zina took a deep breath to calm her pounding heart. "Jesus, that's a real suburban kinda greeting."

"I'm sorry about that. They're angry that the steak I'm making is for you, not them." Julie smiled. Zina blinked. No, wait, she really smiled.

"Yeah, I guess they were just doing their job."

"They were. They don't get much excitement out here. They haven't attacked anyone in long time, poor dears." Julie sighed, and stroked her chin thoughtfully. "Perhaps I should go back to catching live rabbits for them...."

Zina's baby blues went wide with horror. "Rabbits?" Bunnies? Little fluffy bunnies? And people think I'm some bad-ass psycho?

"Yes," drawled Julie. "And once they kill them, I can make a lovely rabbit stew. Now do come inside."

"Okay." The con did not budge.



"That means you have to get off my car. Please."

Once inside, Zina was sitting on the immaculate counter in the well-equipped kitchen, the kind she had only seen in magazines, where copper pots and pans hung from ceilings, where little chopping machines were neatly lined up like sentries, where there was a dishwasher...where everything gleamed. She fully expected her new friend to yell at her to get off the counter, but Julie merely smiled indulgently and handed her a cold bottle of beer. "Want a glass?" the hostess asked.

Zina's eyebrows furrowed. "For what?"

"Never mind."

Shrugging, Zina tried to read the label of the bottle she'd been handed. Except it was in French or something. "What the hell's this?"

"It's a pilsner."

"A what?" I thought she said it was beer.

"It's a kind of beer, my dear Zina. Try some. It's actually quite good."

"I will." She looked at Julie. "So, uh, you cook for a living?"

"Not exactly. I do many things. I cook. I entertain. I show people how to make their miserable lives worth living. I think it's useful."

Zina snorted. "Sounds like you got all the bases covered."

Julie raised a triumphant eyebrow. "I do. It's all one big marketplace when you look at it, but if you break it down, it's quite easy to conquer. Just remember, Zina: divide and conquer."

"Whatever." Zina sniffed the bottle suspiciously, and took a tiny sip. "Mmmm...not bad," she said with grudging surprise.

"I'm glad you like it. Now come into the living room."

Does she talk to everybody the way she talks to her dogs? wondered Zina as she followed Julie into the huge, rustic-looking living room. A fire blazed. The con stood and surveyed the living room with the same awe she did the kitchen. "Wow. Nice."

Julie indicated the couch next to the fireplace with a wave of her arm. "Sit."

"Uh, I'm okay standing."

"Really?" Another arching of the eyebrow.

I gotta learn to start doing that, it's kinda cool. "Yeah."

She wasn't prepared for the playful shove from the domestic dominatrix. "I said...sit." Zina landed on the couch with an oomph. Through much skill and experience, she managed not to spill the beer.

But Julie had a skill all her own. Before Zina knew it, her belt was unbuckled, then her jeans were unbuttoned, unzipped, and flying at half mast, around her knees.

Her body contracted in delight at her hostess's firm ministrations. I'm drinking beer and getting head all at once. I think I'm in heaven. If only the TV were on....Her eyes flickered to the remote sitting on the coffee table, just out of reach. She stretched out an arm in vain.

Gabrielle nearly choked on her fourth Pop Tart. "Ugh, Cyrene, she really told you...about the sex stuff?"

Cyrene had propped her weary head in one hand. "Yeah, honey, she did. Like, during that whole time period we both gave dysfunctional a bad name, you know? And she was so taken with Julie, so...she just couldn't help herself. I think she really dug the power trip Julie was on. She always liked chicks—and guys—like that: Powerful. So it's kinda surprising she fell for you."

Gabrielle scowled.

"No offense, honey. You know I think you're the best thing that's ever happened to her."

The poet was assuaged for the time being. "Thanks, Cyrene. But, uh, I was wondering—"

"What, Gabrielle?"

"Um. Well, Zina doesn't, you know, still tell you, uh, intimate details, does she? You know, like about her and me?"

Cyrene laughed and waved a hand. "Oh, no way, honey. We don't do that anymore."

"Heh." Gabrielle chuckled with relief. "That's good."

"I mean, she doesn't have to."

"What?" Gabrielle asked uneasily.

The older woman snorted. "Hell, honey, the fact that you have her limping and bowlegged about every week speaks volumes, doesn't it?"

Gabrielle buried her face in hands. Shit, I bet no one buys that "I hit a really bad pothole on my cycle" story....

There was a knock at the kitchen door. From the window both women could see red flashing lights. "Uh-oh," Cyrene mumbled, shoving her marijuana and all its accouterments in her purse, and making a mad dash for the upstairs. Gabrielle waited patiently for the older woman to make her getaway, then answered the door.

Zina stood scowling, arms folded, with a tall female police officer behind her, who was grinning under the penumbra of her big state trooper hat.

Gabrielle sighed. "Hi, Officer Minya."

"Hi, Gabby!" responded the cop enthusiastically. "I believe this big bundle of joy is yours." She tapped Zina's arm with a nightstick. The firefighter snarled at her.

"Yeah," Gabrielle groaned, "it sure is. What was it this time?"

"Not drunk. Just disorderly conduct. Punched out some dude at the Saddle who said Sammy Sosa sucked."

"I'm tellin' ya, McGwire is nothing but steroids!" roared Zina.

"Yeah, yeah, put a lid on it, smart ass. So whaddya wanna exchange for her this time, Gabby?" Two months ago, after a similar incident when Zina was accompanied home by Officer Minya, the policewoman delicately suggested that she would be willing not to let Zina sit in jail for a night if she could have something in exchange. Gabrielle had given her a chicken salad sandwich. Then another time it was left-over pizza. The poet frowned. This could not go on, she decided. Zina needed to be taught a lesson. "Okay, Minya. How about a whip?"

The cop's eyes lit up. "Awesome!" she gurgled.

"No!" Zina wailed. "Not my whip!"

"Yes, missy, your whip!" Gabrielle cried triumphantly. "And if that don't teach you to behave yourself and stop getting into fights, I'll give Officer Minya your Harley next goddamned time!" With that, the poet stomped up to the bedroom, got the whip, and delivered it to Minya, who thanked her profusely and left.

Zina sulked at the kitchen table. "You just gave away my, my…pride and joy. My womanhood. My, uh…"

It always amused Gabrielle when her companion tried to get deep. "Lay off it, baby. You can always get another whip. Look, I know you're pissed about this Julie chick, but let's just try to think about this thing. Maybe we can get her to come around to our way of thinking." She grinned.


4. The Bimbo Bard

"I decided to be what crime made of me."—Jean Genet

"Consequences, schmonsequences. As long as I'm rich."—Daffy Duck

The usual suspects swarmed outside the studio where "Conquering with Cooking" was filmed every week. Julie eyed them with disdain: women, housewives old and young, mindlessly following her every dictate. She sighed with the burden of it all. When, she thought, will I see a fresh face, someone interesting, someone...

Her eyes fixed on someone near the end of the line. Like that. A young beauty. Strawberry blonde. Sucking a bottle of Nestle Quik through a straw. Young. Coquettish. Ah, my Lolita! thought Julie, as she surveyed the young woman, who was dressed like white trash, no doubt about it: green halter top, scandalously short shorts, little hiking boots from which gray and red tube socks peeked out mischievously. But her beauty easily defeated all those shortcomings. As her crimson lips wrapped around the straw yet again, her lovely gray-green eyes met Julie's.

With studied nonchalance Julie sauntered past the crowd, past the calls for her attention and the hands that tried to grab at her, to this nubile little goddess. "Hello," she greeted smoothly. "thank you for coming to the taping."

The girl nodded. "You're welcome."

"I don't think I've ever seen you here before."

"No, this is my first time," she replied with a charming giggle.

"Really?" Julie grew inquisitive. "Tell me why." Gently, she linked arms with the young woman and guided her away from the crowd. They turned the corner of the studio hallway, headed toward Julie's dressing room.

As soon as they cleared the crowd the woman had extracted her arm from Julie's. "I've become interested in you," she said to Julie, eyelashes fluttering like shadows of leaves against a sun-dappled window. Then she slowed to a halt and leaned against the wall, and resumed sipping her chocolate milk.

"I'm glad you've become interested in me, whatever the reason." Julie leaned with predatory possessiveness over the girl. She dragged a finger over the girl's taut abdomen, which rippled like a pond.

"You don't want to know why?" the girl asked, pouting slightly.

This should be interesting. She probably did my horoscope, and determined we were fated to meet. "Tell me."

"We have a mutual friend."

Julie raised her eyebrows: one in amusement, one in disbelief. Who could this waif possibly know among her acquaintances?

"You remember Zina, don't you?" The girl slurped at the drink again.

Julie's eyes narrowed and her spleen made a grinding noise, as if her intestines were mashing coffee beans. "Yes, I remember her very well. An exquisite lay, as I recall."

Gabrielle smirked. "Yes she is, isn't she?"

Julie sighed and straightened. "Now it all makes sense. All right, o concubine of Zina, what do you want?"

"I have a message from Zina: she wants half the profits from the mayonnaise deal, or she reveals your real name to the press."

Julie's nostrils flared. "She wouldn't dare," she rumbled.

Gabrielle smiled the smile of the triumphant. "Oh, wouldn't she, Hermoine Kaputnik?"

Zina's efforts at napping were futile. She lay stretched out in bed, staring at the ceiling, possessed by worrying. I never shoulda let Gabrielle go to Julie by herself. That crazy bitch probably cut her up and served her to those damn dogs…complete with a sprig of mint. Or would Gabrielle taste better with parsley? What the hell am I thinking?

She sat up expectantly when she heard the familiar death rattle of the Escort. A car door slammed. Silence. Then the front door opened, and Gabrielle's beloved bellow: "ZINA!"

"Up here," she called down to the poet. Then she heard Gabrielle galloping up the steps. And then she was there, in the doorway, grinning at her.

She melted. She always did, at that smile. Always would. Ever since I saw her across a crowded, smelly bar…and she smiled at me, without even knowing me. How the hell could I not love…that?

"I got good news and bad news," Gabrielle was saying.

"Bad first," the firefighter quickly replied.

"Okay. The bad news is that Barbecue-Salsa Mayonnaise is going under. They're discontinuing it 'cause of poor sales."

"Well, I ain't surprised," Zina snorted. "She probably didn't make it right!" Damn Julie. She musta put in too much salsa….

Gabrielle decided it was best not to go there. She continued: "But the good news is this."

She pulled a wad of cash out of the pocket of her Levi's jacket. "Payoff. Your half of what she already made."

"How much?"

"Nine hundred." She walked over to the bed, and tossed the money, all 10s and 20s (Julie had gotten the cash from an ATM), into the air. As the bills fell and scattered like leaves, Gabrielle jumped onto her lover. They fell back on the bed in an embrace.

"Blackmailing is fun, baby. No wonder you love being bad," Gabrielle said, after a long and breathless kiss.

"Don't enjoy it too much, Gabrielle. I don't want you ending up in jail."

"I won't. I'm just kidding." The poet indulged in nibbling the firefighter's firm neck. "So can we go on vacation now?"

"Sure…with money like this, hell, we could afford a Holiday Inn."

"Hey, " she said, surveying the money-covered bed, "this is just like that movie…Indecent Proposal." She regarded Zina with lust-glazed eyes. "Which is pretty cool, stud…'cause I got a very indecent proposal for you…."

"Gabrielle, the way you walk down the street is an indecent proposal all by itself…."

"You always say the sweetest things to me!"

"Mom, get the fuck off the car." Zina tossed a duffelbag into the open trunk of the Impala. Cyrene was lying on the hood of the car, taking in the early morning sun and meditating…or falling asleep, depending on one's religious beliefs or lack thereof.

"Oh come on, man," the older woman grumbled, not moving.

"Let her go, Zina. She's not doing anything." Gabrielle said from the car's interior, where she had been sitting for an hour: She was that excited. The passenger door was opened and her legs were stretched out. A curled, worn paperback copy of On the Road lay in her lap. "Are we ready yet?" she asked her beloved for the millionth time.

Zina slammed shut the trunk. "Yeah, I think so." She walked over to the hood, where Cyrene, sun warming her face, had drifted off into half-sleep, half-sixties flashback: heeeeere comes…the Suuuuun Kiiiiiiing….But her daughter's gruff voice cut into her paisley and psychedelic subconscious: "Okay you, listen up," grunted Zina. She dropped a set of house keys on Cyrene's stomach. "Water Gabrielle's plants everyday."

"And don't forget the plant food," added the poet.

Incense and peppermint…da da da da…

"Right," continued Zina. "And make sure there's food on the back porch for the cats. And give them fresh water every day. Oh, and call the gas company about checking the meter. Cancel my fly-fishing trip with Ed. And cancel my dentist appointment too. Call Tommy Ray at the fire department and tell him that if anyone uses my ax while I'm gone, they're dead. And make sure you call Lila and tell her that Gabrielle can't babysit for her on Thursday."

Cyrene smiled beatifically.

"You got all that, Mom?"

Cyrene opened her eyes, blinking. Whether blinded by the sun or a hashish brownie, she realized that she was talking to Grace Slick, and it was 1967. But why was Grace calling her "Mom"? Oh, it was all so confusing sometimes…poor Grace, fucked up again. Just humor her, Cyrene. So she crossed her fingers for good luck. "Consider it done."

Zina stared at her dazed and confused mother. "Gabrielle, your plants are gonna die."

Cyrene sat up, and slid off the Impala. "Okay, time to get ready for the Filmore."

"Oh boy," Zina sighed, and quickly hugged her mother. "See you in a week, Mom."

Gabrielle stood up and did likewise, in addition planting a kiss on Cyrene's cheek. "Yeah, Cyrene, see ya."

Cyrene stared at Gabrielle. "And Julie Christie too?" she muttered, wandering back to the farmhouse.

"You think she'll be okay?" wondered the poet.

"Yeah, she'll sleep it off." Zina slid an arm around her lover's shoulders. "Ready?"

Gabrielle turned to face her. "Yeah. This is so awesome, baby. A road trip. Just like Kerouac and those guys." She looked at her book. "A trip into the heart of darkness. The heart of America. A voyage into self-discovery." She stuffed the book down her jeans, then took Zina's face in her hands. "I am Kerouac, and you are my Neal Cassady," she intoned solemnly. "Dig?"

The beautiful blue eyes were a tabula rasa. "Yeah."

"You don't know what the hell I'm talking about, do you?"


Gabrielle kissed her. "I love you anyway." Reluctantly she let her hands slide from Zina's face, and the firefighter walked over to the driver's side of the car.

"But you know," Gabrielle continued, "Kerouac, writing in his diary, called himself 'the buckeye bard.' I'd like to have a title like that, someday."

Zina eyed Gabrielle's tight halter top and skimpy shorts. "How about 'the bimbo bard'?"

As she sprinted away from the car, with Gabrielle close at her heels and threatening serious tickling, she thought, once again, damn, I am so whipped.


5. The Heart of Darkness

"American black hole…

Life's too sweet to eat like candy"

—Girls Against Boys, "Black Hole"

It was like being in the Twilight Zone: Every rest stop was the same, except perhaps that this one had a Burger King, and that one had a Hardee's, and yet another one had a Sbarro's…Gabrielle fought her disgusted way out of the all-too-moist bathroom (everything seemed wet: floors, counters, toilet seats…) and into the parking lot.

Zina was leaning against the Impala, mirrored sunglasses firmly in place, growling at anyone who got too close to the car.

"Okay, let's go." Gabrielle tossed her purse in through the open window.

They both climbed into the car. The firefighter sat in front of the wheel, unmoving.

"Baby, you okay?" Gabrielle asked, touching her beloved's leg.

"Gabrielle, I want you to know…we're entering dangerous territory here."

The poet frowned. "Dangerous how?"

Zina took a deep breath. "We're in Tennessee now."

"Well, yeah, so what?"

Zina turned in her seat, and took Gabrielle's hand. "You've noticed the radio signals are getting weaker."


"Gabrielle, very soon…" The taciturn firefighter simply didn't know how else to put it. "Very soon we may be stuck with nothing but country music stations."

Her fair-haired companion, however, set her jaw in determination. "I thought so, Zina. I know it'll be tough, but…I think we can handle it."


6. Postcards from America: An Excerpt from Gabrielle's On-the-Road Journal

At first it was even kinda fun. We just kept making fun of the songs they played. Like on two-shot Tuesday they were playing Bonnie Tyler, and I made up lyrics to her songs: "I Need a Hero" became "I Need a Homo" and "Total Eclipse of the Heart" became "Total Eclipse of the Brain." Zina laughed and that was good. But as the day dragged on it got harder and harder.

And today was the second day without real music. If I hear another Clint Black song I'll kill someone. I hate country music for making me want to listen to Hanson again.

I'm writing this at a diner. Zina and I aren't really speaking right now, 'cause she did something really horrible. Earlier she had to make an "emergency stop" so she pulled over along some road and ran into the woods like a jackrabbit. While I sat there I decided to read a little of On the Road again and started looking for it. but I couldn't find it. It wasn't on the floor, wasn't in the back, or in the glove compartment. I was totally confused until Zina came back. By this time I was standing outside the car. As she walked toward me I noticed something sticking out of her back pocket: It was my book!

I'm not so naive as to think she really wanted something to read while doing number 2. So I said, "Why do you have my book?"

She looked nervous and just shrugged. "I dunno," she said. She is the worse liar ever.

I snatched it out of her pocket, and immediately noticed that a big chunk of the book was gone...then it dawned on me.

She didn't even have the decency to look embarrassed.


7. If You're Feeling Sinister

"So if you're feeling sinister

Go off and see a minister

He'll try in vain to take away the pain of being a hopeless unbeliever..."

—Belle and Sebastian, "If You're Feeling Sinister"

Zina parked in the furthest recesses of the lot. "I don't wanna risk the car getting scratched," she said to her sulky companion.

They were at a mall. A mall that had a Barnes & Noble. Zina knew that this was the only way she could get her girlfriend to start talking to her again: If she took Gabrielle to a bookstore and bought her a brand-spanking-new copy of On the Road.

But Gabrielle sat, arms crossed, unmoving.

"Come on, baby," Zina cajoled gently. "It'll be a nice new copy...I know the old one had your notes in it..."

Gabrielle glared at her.

"...And a love sonnet addressed to me..." the firefighter admitted guiltily.

The poet sighed melodramatically.

"Yeah, I know, I'm totally unworthy of you, but I am sorry, and I'll buy you whatever you want."

Gabrielle was out of the car and jogging toward the bookstore.

Feeling relieved, Zina locked up the Impala and sauntered toward the entrance. However, her satisfaction did not last long. A Barnes & Noble minion handed her a flyer as she entered the superstore, and normally she would not have even read it except for the photo of a certain grinning blonde psychopath: "Reverend Callie de Ash reads from her first book, I Didn't Find God But He Sure Did Find Me, today, at 3 pm."

A clock on the wall indicated that it was twenty till 3.

Zina cursed softly. Although not so softly that the underpaid lackey did not hear her say, "Son of a goddamn fucking bitch."

Quickly she paced through the maze of the monolithic store, looking for Gabrielle. She had wandered in the huge but desolate Art section when she felt a hand snag her arm and, with surprising force, pull her down. She flopped into an overstuffed chair. Why is this whole place like someone's goddamn living room, she thought irritably, as she looked up...into Callie's face. The blonde, wearing a dark brown skirt and matching suit jacket, grinned down at her. "Will wonders ever cease," she sighed. "Thank you, Lord!" she cried with a heavenward glance.


"Hello, precious!" Callie crooned, once again settling her eyes on her prey. The mad minister straddled Zina's lap. "It's so nice to see you again...even though the last time we met you tried to crush my foot." She caressed Zina's chiseled cheek with a finger.

"Stop it, Callie. It was an accident," replied the firefighter through gritted teeth.

"Yeah, yeah, just like burning down my house was an accident. But my time with the Lord has shown me forgiveness, and I do forgive you, Zina. Verrry much," she purred, grinding against a taut thigh.

"That's great...Callie," Zina whispered. Oh boy, if Gabrielle sees this I am in big trouble...not even all the books in the world would get me out of this jam. "Please...let me go."

"What? You're not gonna stay for my reading?"

"I, uh, Gabrielle and I are on vacation..."

Callie stopped lap dancing for a moment. "You mean...oh, of course the little tart would be along. Honestly, Zina, I don't know what you see in her. But I bet I could show you something much better..."

Even through her industrial strength Levi's, Zina could feel the heat of her desire, so much so that..."Callie?"

"Yes, my raven-haired wonder?"

"Are…you…wearing underwear?"

Callie giggled. "Panties are the devil's diapers, my pretty."

I just had to ask.

Suddenly, from the next aisle, they heard a man's voice: "Callie?"

"Oh great, it's my agent," Callie whispered. "He's coming this way." She looked at Zina. "Don't say anything, just play along." She clamped her hands to Zina's face much like one of those little monster spawn from the Alien movies. The firefighter's head was immobile, thus, she could not turn to see his approach. "The power of Christ compels you!" Callie shouted as he rounded the corner.

"Callie, what are you doing?" demanded a male voice.

"Sweet baby Jesus, Bob, can't you see I'm in the middle of a healing?" she snapped, glaring at him. Then she turned her eyes to Zina once again. "Sister, let the Lord take away your torment and pain—I cast thee out, demons! Beelzebub! Mephistopheles! You are no match for me!"

"So, like, what's wrong with her?" Bob interrupted again.

"Brain tumor."

"Oh." Bob sounded disappointed, perhaps expecting something more exciting, like paralysis or leprosy.

Zina grew desperate. Callie's sweaty palms were suctioned to her head, and she had to find Gabrielle and get the hell out of this crazy place. "I feel it, I feel it!" she shouted.

"You do?" cried Callie, wrapped up in make-believe.

"Yes, I do, Callie! Praise God! I AM HEALED!" By sheer force of will, she catapulted herself out of the chair and Callie tumbled to the floor, legs up in the air, skirt revealing her valley of heaven.

"Oh wow..." Bob murmured appreciatively, as Zina galloped away.

She sprinted down to the first floor of the store, and spotted Gabrielle sitting, with a bag of books, slurping some fine overpriced coffee drink from the espresso bar. She smiled at Zina's rapid approach. "Hi, I just got done, and you know, these flappacinos aren't half bad..."

Zina snatched the large bag of books, grabbed Gabrielle's hand, and pulled her toward the door.

"Baby, I know you hate shopping, but don't you think this is kinda extreme?"

"Not now, Gabrielle, I'll tell you once we get to the car."

"Zina, what's that wet stain on your leg?"


8. Chuck Connors, Here We Come

The highway was endless. The driver was edgy.

"Zina, relax. We only got two more exits to go."

The firefighter sighed heavily. They were already doing 70, but it felt like 40. With the tiniest contraction of her foot, the speedometer approached 75. It made her feel better. Until she looked in the rear-view mirror, and saw the flashing red lights. "Shit!" she yelled.

Gabrielle looked up from her copy of The Dharma Bums. "Huh?" She turned around. "Uh-oh. Well what do you expect, Zina? You're speeding."

"Goddamnit, if they find out I have a record, I'll get hassled to no end..."

"Don't worry, honey, they won't," Gabrielle assured her as they pulled over.

Zina pounded her head against the steering wheel. "How do you know?" she wailed uncharacteristically, as the large patrolman lumbered toward the Impala. I swore I would never go back to jail….This would be just like one of those old Chuck Connors movies, Escape from Macon County or whatever. They'll lock her up on trumped-up charges, she'll get raped by the inbred deputy, Gabrielle will get sent to the mental institution and they'll give her a lobotomy and/or electro-shock therapy, and…and…they'll trash the Impala!

The state trooper's pink face was framed in the driver's side window. "Y'all speeding," he mumbled, eyes unseen behind the mirrored sunglasses.

Zina's own sunglasses mirrored his own mirrored visage. Her jaw clenched.

"Can ah see your license?"

She dug through her Levi's and produced her license.

"Huh," he snorted softly.

Gabrielle scooted closer to her lover. A little too close, Zina thought. Oh shit...what is she up to?

"Where you going in such a hurry, ma'am?" the officer asked.

"Just visiting friends," muttered Zina.

"And whut friends would those be, ma'am?"

"Is there a problem, officer?" Gabrielle drawled. She leaned forward a little, so that he could hear her clearly and see her cleavage. She wiggled provocatively.

"Not yet, miss." Hey, how come I get called ma'am and she gets called miss? wondered the perpetually pissed-off firefighter. "I'm just tryin' to ascertain here, what the situation is," he said in ominous doublespeak.

"Aw, officer, we ain't doing nothing wrong, we didn't mean to speed," Gabrielle pouted. Oh, I get it. She's just flirting with him, so he'll go easy on us. Lessen the fine. "We can't help it. We're just excited."

"Excited by what, may I ask?"

Suddenly Gabrielle flung her arms around Zina's neck, and pressed her curvaceous form close to her beloved. "Why officer, me and sweet pea are gettin' married in Memphis!"

The closeness of her sunglasses prevented Zina's eyes from totally bugging out of her head. Okay, now I have no idea what she's doing. Chuck Connors, here we come.

The patrolman sputtered. "Whut in Sam Hill you talkin' about? You're both girls! You—you—can't get married!"

Gabrielle gave her best wide-eyed innocent look. "But officer, didn't you know? Tennessee now allows same-sex marriages!" she nuzzled Zina's hair. "Isn't that right, sugar booger?"

"Uh...huh," Zina mumbled the reply, wondering if there was some quick way she could simply kill the patrolman and be done with it.

"Aw, come on now, lady!"

"No, it's true! Don't you read your newspaper?" Gabrielle chastised.

He frowned. No, just the sports page, he admitted.


"I'll be damned! This whole country's goin' to hell in a handbasket, I swear!" the trooper spat.

I know...whip off his glasses and stab him in the neck, just like the one guy did to the other in the Godfather Part III. Zina allowed her hand to stray out the window…

"Now, sir, that's no way to speak to a lady on her weddin' day!" Gabrielle pouted anew.

The power of the pout was one of the poet's greatest weapons. Duly chastised, the trooper apologized. "Look miss, no offense, but...I just don't get it."

"Don't get what?" Gabrielle asked.

He threw his arms up in frustration. "Y'all are both girls!"

Finally, Zina spoke. "Look, buddy," she said to him, arms around the flawless midriff of Gabrielle, "let me put it this way. If you were me, wouldn't you want to marry her too?"

"I...I..." he stammered, hypnotized by the green eyes of the beautiful poet. "Never mind. Just fergit it. Just fergit the whole damn thing. Have a nice honeymoon."

"Thanks, officer!" Gabrielle chirped happily. She lurched into the back seat, and brought forth a bag of Krispy Kremes. "Wanna doughnut?"

Well, he thought, warily accepting a powdered jelly doughnut, maybe homos aren't so bad after all.


9. The Twinkie Defense

Several hours later, the Impala was creeping along a dirt road in scenic, rural Tennessee, in search of the elusive recording studio where Effie and the Amazons were holed up, recording their second CD.

The radio had been abandoned. Zina was so desperate for half-decent music that she permitted Gabrielle to sing every song she knew from Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" album. The musically challenged poet was currently winding her way through "Paradise By the Dashboard Light": "I gotta know right now, do you love me, will you love me forever—hey, Zina, doesn't that guy up there look like Elvis?" Off in the distance was a figure standing on the left side of the road.

"Told you not to eat all those doughnuts, Gabrielle."

"No, look!"

Sure enough, standing innocently at the side of the isolated, back-country road, as if he were nothing more exotic than a sparrow, was an Elvis. He resembled 1970s Elvis: chubby, with the spingle-spangle-shiny white suit, lots of jewelry, an unnaturally jet-black pompadour, and big fat shades.

The Impala rolled to a halt beside him.

"Howyoudoin', ladies," he murmured, index finger and thumb cocked, like a gun.

"Fine, Elvis, how are you?" Gabrielle responded politely.

Zina gave her a Look. Then she addressed Elvis. "Hey, uh, you wouldn't happen to know where Jimmy Joe Bob Hightower's studio is?" Jimmy Joe Bob was the Amazons' producer.

"Youbetcha, ladies. Down this here road just another mile. First turn on the right. Can't miss it."

"Thanks," Zina said with a nod.

"No, thankyou. Thankyouverymuch." With one fluid motion he flung the white scarf around his neck through the car window, where it landed on Zina's lap. The firefighter bit the inside of her cheek in an effort not to scream in pure disgust. She let it slide off her legs, onto the floor.

"Bye, Elvis!" Gabrielle waved.

Zina put the car back into drive and they continued down the road. They were quiet for at least a minute.

"Maybe we've both had too much sugar," Zina conceded.

"Yeah. Maybe we should lay off the sweet stuff for awhile and just eat potato chips."

The sight of Effie waving frantically from the balcony of the large wood house almost sent both women into tears of relief. Zina allowed herself to collapse over the wheel—after the car was stopped and parked, of course.

Then the squealing began. Effie had sprinted down the stairs and ran outside to greet Gabrielle, who jumped out of the passenger side. Soon they were jumping up and down like rabbits on crack, shrieking with joy at the sight of one another. Pony and Sally had wandered outside as well, and contributed to the cacophony of camaraderie.

Zina, eyes closed, head pressed against the steering wheel, weary from driving 8 hours straight, moaned. And this is a goddamn vacation? She tried to block out the jabber of voices and relax for a moment.

She had almost succeeded, when a voice a scant three inches from her eardrum shouted: "HEY YOU DAMN OLD GOOFY-ASSED MOTHER!"

Her head snapped back and her eyes popped open.

Hank was leaning in the window, grinning at her. "Heh, got ya," he chuckled. He pulled away just in time to avoid the furious swipe of her hand. "Hey now, Z, take it easy." She was out of the Impala in a nanosecond. "Car looks great. How'd it drive?" he asked, trying to change the subject. But he knew, seeing the wicked grin on her face, that it was too late.

"Start running, you sonofabitch," she growled pleasantly.

And, with a whoop of joy, he did.


10. The Best Freaky Trip Ever

Sally placed a hamburger in front of Zina, who sat at the picnic table in the backyard. The friends were having a barbecue. Pony and Hank were at the grill, and Sally was serving while Effie made potato salad in the kitchen. "So, did ya see my uncle Pete out there?"

"Huh?" Zina was sufficiently distracted by the question that it afforded Gabrielle the opportunity to swipe the burger from under her lover's nose. "Hey, you pig!"

"Is that any way to talk to the love of your life?" Gabrielle sniffled with mock tears.

"Yeah, when she eats all my food."

Gabrielle grinned. "So what's this about Uncle Pete?"

"Did you happen to see Elvis on your way here?"

"Holy shit! Yes!" cried Gabrielle.

Sally smiled proudly. "Well, that was my Uncle Pete. Best Elvis impersonator this side a' this Mississippi. I sent him out earlier to look for you guys, in case you got lost."

"Wow, it's nice to know I wasn't hallucinating," Zina said, who had earlier wondered if, due to her mother's drug proclivities, she was genetically predisposed to spontaneous freaky trips.

"No, you weren't," Sally laughed. "I just had to keep him occupied. He's been driving us crazy, keeps doing his lounge act for us every night, wants to marry us all—"

"Marry?" blurted Gabrielle.

"Yeah, he's a minister too. He wanted to get Hank and Effie hitched, then he even said he marry me and Pony." Sally rolled her eyes.

"Crazy dude," affirmed Zina, with a swig of beer; bored, she wandered over to the grill to hassle Hank and Pony. It was then that Sally noticed that Gabrielle looked as if she had been hit by a lightning bolt.

Zina was firmly pinned to the bed by Gabrielle's weight. Her wrists were ensnared by the poet's hands and pressed into the mattress. Gold hair tumbled in her face, and Gabrielle's scent was sweet, intoxicating…

"Come on, Zina," purred the poet.


"Make an honest woman out of me."

"You're already an honest woman, Gabrielle."

"Don't avoid the question."

"Who's avoiding?"

"You are, bitch."

"It don't prove anything. It's not legal."

"I know, I know. But it's symbolic, ya know? Like showing your love…"

"I love you."

"Prove it."

"Why do I have to?" A challenging arch of a black eyebrow. "Don't ya believe me?"

Gabrielle paused. Well, that's a good point. She touched her lover's face. Oh, I do believe you. And I don't need to hear a Celine Dion song to know it either. She smiled. Then she nodded slowly. She relaxed her predatory crouch and stretched along the length of Zina's body, resting her head against a strong shoulder. So, it doesn't really matter. But…what the hell? It might be fun.

Hank wrapped an empty can of Bud in one of Elvis's disposable white scarves, placed it on the ground, and jumped on it. Up and down. Several times. "Mazeltov!" he roared.

Effie laughed. "You're not Jewish, you!"

Hank smiled. "Come on, honey, you gotta get in the spirit of the thing."

She grabbed his arm and squeezed it. "I think…there's been way too much spirit—or spirits—already, Hank," she commented wryly, surveying the twilight backyard.

The tape deck blared as Sally and Pony danced around, and Elvis—a.k.a. Uncle Pete—approached the newlyweds: Gabrielle sat in Zina's lap, while the firefighter's head lolled back on the lounge chair, as the two six-packs she drank before the ceremony were really kicking in and seriously impairing her ability to move.

"Congratulations," said Uncle Pete. "I'm sure y'all will be very happy."

"Thank you, Elvis," replied Gabrielle solemnly. "It was a beautiful ceremony."

"Yes ma'am, it was. The weather was perfect, and, you know, I don't perform that special love medley for just any couple."

"Oh, I know, I know. It was just…great. I'm sorry Zina fell down during it."

"That's all right, little lady. Y'all take care, now." And he went back into the house.

A pithy one-liner fought its way through twelve Rolling Rocks to Zina's conscious mind. "Ladies and gentleman, Elvis has left the backyard!" she slurred. She peered at Gabrielle. Who had flowers in her hair. "Did I tell you how pretty you are?"

"About a million times. But keep telling me."

"And I said 'I love you' and 'I do' and all that stuff?"

"Yeah, Zina."

"So I got it all right?"

"You sure did, baby. Now I'd like you to sober up a bit so our wedding night is not a total bust."

"So we're…married?" Zina gazed at Gabrielle in pure wonder.

"Yeah. Kinda."

"But not…really." Trying to wrap her drunken mind along the elusive concept was too much.


"So we're both married and not married."

"Gotta love this country, huh?"

"Yeah, but…Gabrielle?"


"It's not so bad, is it?"

Gabrielle looked around her. Her friends were happy, and their laughter rang out through the yard. The setting sun slanted and tinged the fading blue sky with gold.

Blue skies, blue eyes. "No," she replied softly. "It's not bad at all."

In fact, it was pretty damn good.

The End

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