DISCLAIMER: All characters in X:WP are copyright MCA/Universal/Renaissance Pictures. They're not exactly here, but no copyright infringement intended and no profit gained. The story is mine, so please ask permission before trying to sell it to Lifetime for a TV movie.
SEQUEL/SERIES: This is a sequel to the "White Trash Trilogy" ("Love & Death in the Trailer Park," "Ways to Be Wicked," & "Mayonnaise and Its Discontents"). You should read those before proceeding here, otherwise you'll have no idea what's going on; it's bad enough that I don't know what the hell is happening…one of us should be lucid, don't you think?
BETA BABES: Thanks to Heather, my personal druglord! And tears of mushy, Oscar ceremony-type gratitude to Lela, for cracking the beta whip over my un-grammatical ass: When I think about you, I touch my…thesaurus.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

I've Been to Pocatello, but I've Never Been to Me
By Vivian Darkbloom


1. An Interlude in the Manner of Pinky and the Brain

"Gabrielle, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"I think so, baby. I'll go get your fire helmet and the nacho cheese dip."

"No, I'm not thinking about that."

"Okay. Let me try again." A hopeful pause. A batting of fair eyelashes. A comely pout. "Your fire helmet and the vibrator?"

Zina sighed. Her fire helmet—the penultimate symbol of her profession, a badge of pride, a lifesaving device—had been reduced, by Gabrielle, to both a fetish object and a receptacle for foodstuffs. She was just grateful that Gabrielle had decided the helmet was ill-suited for use as a pitcher for margaritas (her hair had smelled like tequila for weeks). "I'm thinking…"

"Always a bad sign, baby."

"…like maybe we should go to the movies."

Gabrielle regarded her skeptically. "Really?" She loved to go to movie theaters, but since Zina found the entire experience stressful—dealing with large, inane groups of people was not the firefighter's forte—they did not go very often.

Zina cleared her throat. This "being sensitive" shit is really hard. "Listen, Gabrielle, I thought, you know, you deserve a night out, a night where we do something different…'cause, uh, I know your finals were hard."

"I agree, absolutely. So like I said, let me go get your helmet and the vibrator…"

"Now, how is that special? We've done that plenty of times."

"Well, this time I'll let you wear the helmet, stud." With a wiggle of her eyebrows, Gabrielle ran upstairs. Grinning, Zina followed. She was more than willing to do whatever it would take to make the little poet happy…especially when it involves sex, thought the firefighter, as she took the steps two at a time.

Cyrene stepped out of her Volkswagen, humming the crazy violin part of "Baba O'Riley," her head bobbing up and down, and approached the front door of the farmhouse. She lingered on the porch as she peered into the daunting recesses of her macramé purse, looking for the house keys, something that was hard to do in the evening light. A full fifteen minutes passed, during which she found some Chiclets from 1977 and the results of an VD test from 1990 (Hey, I'm negative! Cool!), before she finally found the keys. Still humming, she entered the darkened home that her daughter shared with Gabrielle. She wound her way through the black hallway to the kitchen, where she snapped on the light. She clapped her hands together and rubbed them briskly. Okay, I've got a half an hour before the meeting, just enough time to make hummus…

"Ayiyyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyi!" The strange cry ripped through the room and, not wasting any time, Cyrene grabbed the nearest butcher knife and, with a less exotic shriek of her own, jumped on the kitchen counter. Her daughter was crouched in the doorway, nude, ready to pounce, wielding a baseball bat…and with a fire helmet ever so slightly askance on her head.

"Jesus, Zina!" Cyrene cried, as her adrenaline rush subsided. "What the fuck was that?"

Zina grinned. "Just a little something I picked up from the Discovery Channel," she said proudly. "Didn't know you could still jump that fast, Mom." She rose to her full height and leaned the bat in a corner. "Sorry. I thought you were a burglar or somethin'."

"I didn't think you were home, honey. Gabrielle said I could use the house tonight for an LPN group meeting."

"LPN?" Zina echoed. Her mother wanted to become a nurse?

Cyrene sighed. Another disbeliever. "Legalize Pot Now."

The firefighter snorted. "Oh, for Christ's sake."

Cyrene jabbed a finger of maternal authority at Zina. "Yeah, man, scoff all you want. All I can say if it weren't for pot, you wouldn't be here right now!" Somehow a Chevy van, a bottle of Boone's Hill strawberry wine, an 8-track tape of Badfinger, and a draft dodger with a droopy mustache had appeared all the more erotic and alluring under the influence of a fat joint.

Footsteps on the stairs announced Gabrielle's arrival. The lithe poet had taken a minute to make herself presentable for dangerous felons, and had thrown on a t-shirt and shorts. But her mussed hair, reddened lips, and flushed face announced, louder than a Siegfried and Roy show at Vegas, what she and her hunky firefighter had been up to. "Cyrene? What the hell—"

"You forgot, didn't you?" Cyrene accused gently.

"Oh…shit! I did! I'm sorry." She apologized to two generations of bad-ass chicks at once. Both scowled at her. "Uh, Zina, didn't you say you wanted to go to the movies?"

2. Mrs. Peel, We're Needed

The trip to the movies also involved babysitting Purdy, who was having a fight with Lila. He had called up Gabrielle a few minutes before they were about to leave for the theater, to see if she wanted to get drunk at the Saddle. Soft-hearted little poet that she was, she invited him along. "Is that okay?" she sheepishly asked Zina after the fact.

Zina shrugged. "Sure."

"Zina, you're so nice to Purdy. It's sweet."

"I figure anyone who dumped you for your sister needs some special treatment, if you know what I mean." She waggled a finger in a circle alongside her head.

They met Purdy at the theater. He stood, sulky, in the parking lot, leaning against his Ford pickup, John Deere cap pulled low in an attempt to make his babyfat face more menacing. "Hiya, Gab, Hiya Zina," he greeted. "So, what movie are we seeing?"

Gabrielle smirked with pride. "The Avengers."

Purdy made a face. "Gab, you always pick these artsy-fartsy foreign films!"

Zina nodded in agreement. "Yeah! With these snooty British people or something," she piped up.

"Knock it off, both o' you. I'll have you know that things blow up in this movie, and that Uma Thurman chick runs around wearing leather. It can't be bad."

A skeptical grunt issued forth from the firefighter as they headed into the multiplex. After they bought tickets, Gabrielle immediately took off in the direction of the concession stand. But she didn't get very far before Zina snagged her arm. "Don't do it," her companion purred in her ear.

Such a suggestive, seductive tone made the blonde poet want to do it even more. "I don't know what you're talking about," she protested, lying, trying to squirm out of Zina's grip.

"You know what I mean, Gabrielle. Don't do it. Don't give in."

Gabrielle stopped thrashing and met Zina's eyes. "Okay, okay. I won't. I swear."

The blue eyes held her gaze for a moment. "All right, then." The firefighter released her. "Get me a Coke, okay? See you down front." She headed for the theater.

As Gabrielle waited patiently in line, she drank in the smell of rancid popcorn and butter. Popcorn. I'll just get some popcorn. With feigned casualness she surveyed the boxes of candy in the display case; the green eyes flickered and hesitated for a nanosecond at the Raisinet boxes, but then continued their thorough scan of the candy. Okay, that was fine. I didn't feel a thing.

Nonetheless she turned away abruptly and studied the faded wallpaper. Oh my…that's a nice pattern. I never thought green and brown could work together like that….Then she turned her attention to a new movie poster: Weekend at Bernie's 3: "This Time It's Personal…Hygiene."

Then the voices began.


No! She clutched her forehead. "I'm not listening," she muttered aloud, causing a glance from the burly gentleman in front of her wearing a cowboy hat and a Charlie Daniels Band t-shirt.

Gabrielle! It's us. Please listen!!!

"Stop it!" Gabrielle growled. The large cowboy shifted away from her slightly.

You must listen. Only you can set us free. Gabrielllllllllllle…


Look at us.

She shook her head savagely.

Come. Look. Or do you fear us?

Timidly the poet turned, slowly, and looked.

The box of Raisinets glowed with a preternatural beauty, even more striking than Zina in full firefighter regalia (or buck naked for that matter), and the voices of the Raisinets, blending together with mellow effervescence and sounding precisely like the two midget women in that little box from the Mothra movies, sang their siren song of freedom to their golden-haired liberator: Gabriellllllle…buy us, eat us!

"Ohhhhh…all right!" screamed the poet, scaring away not only the Charlie Daniels guy but also the couple in front of him, and thus effectively shortening the line.

Arms cradling the Coke, the popcorn, a bunch of candy bars, and the evil Raisinets, Gabrielle waddled down the aisle to where her companions sat. She tossed a giant Kit Kat bar at Purdy and thrust a Coke at Zina; both firefighter and mechanic noted the Raisinets lying in her lap.

"Don't say anything," Gabrielle snarled at them.

A long silence ensued. It was finally broken by Purdy's guffaw. "You'll be on the can all night long, then havin' bad dreams," he chastised her. "Man, I am so glad I don't live with you anymore!"

She gave a lunge toward him, sending popcorn flying, but was restrained by Zina's powerful arm. "Down, girl," said the firefighter.

"They…they…" stammered Gabrielle.

"Yeah, I know, honey bunny, they were talking to you…" Zina replied, as if Gabrielle were a reject from the Special Olympics.

"They were!" wailed the poet, as the previews began.

Twenty minutes later, as Zina snored through a trailer for a Brad Pitt film, Purdy, arms folded, threatened once again: "This better be good."

"It can't be bad," assured Gabrielle, whose childlike faith in Hollywood, while tremendously touching, was sorely misplaced, misguided, and plainly retarded.

It was bad.

"How stupid could I be!" cried Gabrielle, as they left the theater for the lobby. "To think that anyone else could be Mrs. Peel!"

"Well, duh," Zina agreed.

"But things sure blowed up pretty good," Purdy said. Zina nodded in assent.

It was all that mattered, really.

"Hey, isn't that Callie over there?" Gabrielle asked apprehensively, grasping her beloved's arm and nodding to a small, poorly dressed group that circled the front of the multiplex and carried strange signs: "THE AVENGERS" PROMOTES UNNATURAL CLOTHES, one said. LEATHER IS FOR BOOTS ONLY, proclaimed another.

Sure enough, the crazed blonde was in the eye of the protesting storm. However, upon spotting the movie-going trio of Zina, Gabrielle, and Purdy, she bore down on them like a bulimic toward a toilet bowl.

"Well!" sniped Callie by way of greeting, "I can guess what sick film you three have been seeing."

Zina rolled her eyes. "Callie, you are pathetic. There was nothing weird in that film. Hell, it was so boring I fell asleep who knows how many times."

"Five," supplied Gabrielle, with some measure of irritation.

"It figures you wouldn't notice the fine details, Zina," Callie sneered haughtily. "The clothing was scandalous and suggestive. It was perverted." Even speaking of the dreaded film caused Callie to grip her jumbo-sized Sprite a little tighter, even though her hand could barely get around it as it was.

"So I take it you actually saw the film?" Gabrielle asked coolly.

"No, of course not! I'm not spending money to see such filth!"

"Lady, you are bonkers," Purdy mumbled.

"What?" hissed Callie.

"You heard me!" he retorted defiantly.

She threw her drink at him, drenching him with sticky carbonated coolness. "You crazy bitch! This is my best flannel shirt!" he cried as she stalked away from them.

"Yeah! You get back here, you bitch!" Gabrielle shouted. She tried to take off after Callie, but found Zina's restraining arm around her midriff.

"What the hell's gotten into you?" Zina asked, perturbed that Gabrielle would get so upset over such a matter—of course, it would have been different had Callie thrown the drink on her, then it would be acceptable for Gabrielle to flip out. But over Purdy? She makes absolutely no sense when she's PMSing, thought Zina, who nonetheless enjoyed the sensation of the wiggling Gabrielle pressed against her.

"She's pushed me too far, Zina! I can't have her throwing drinks at my ex-boyfriend! I got my pride!"

"Yeah, and it's pretty warped, I'd say."

"Lemme go!" demanded the angry poet.

"Gabrielle, don't you remember once…you told me the cycle of violence and hatred must be broken…."

Finally Gabrielle slipped out of the firefighter's loose grasp. "For Christ's sake, Zina, I had four shots of tequila when I said that! Now lemme go kick that twat's ass!" She stomped over to Callie for a Meeting of the Blondes. A brief interaction ensued: Callie, motionless, with eyebrows raised, watched Gabrielle gesticulate all over the place.

It ended with one punch.

Zina was amazed at how quickly Callie could run in heels. The minister was in her Camaro and tearing out of the parking lot before she and Purdy reached the prostrate poet.

"Gabrielle?" The firefighter gently shook the unconscious form. Her frightened blue eyes locked onto the anxious Purdy. "Quick, get some chocolate!"

"Mrs. Peel?" The voice, with its clipped British accent, was vaguely familiar to Gabrielle. Nonetheless her eyelids refused to open until she felt something soft tapping her cheeks.

Willpower pried open her eyes, which could not believe what they were seeing.

It was Zina, kneeling in front of her, grinning, wearing a dark blue pinstripe suit and a bowler hat, a white carnation gracing her lapel. "Mrs. Peel, are you all right?" Zina asked again, in impeccable, more-upper-class -than-thou English tones.

Those goddamn Raisinets!!!! She tried blinking several times in hopes of dispelling the hallucination. No go. "Is it Halloween again?" she whispered timidly.

Zina frowned. "I say, my dear, you simply are not yourself. You even sound different, Mrs. Peel."

Why does she keep…Gabrielle tried to move and her body, which felt taut, tense, and immobile, made a strange, flatulent noise. She looked down the length of her form. She was clad in a tight black leather bodysuit and boots.

…calling me that? She was attired just like Mrs. Peel. "Oh, God," she moaned. She looked at Zina, who was still looking ever so concerned in a restrained, British kinda way.

"So. You must be Steed." Gabrielle ventured the guess nervously.

The tall, dark-haired woman smiled at that. "Verrrry good," she replied with imperial condescension. "Now, do you remember anything else?"

Gabrielle gritted her teeth as she attempted to sit up again, which elicited a protracted farting noise from her leather outfit. This time she was successful. "Like what?"

"Ohhh, let's see," Zina sighed in thought, "The Cybernauts? The Hellfire Club? Castle De'Ath?"

"Uh…yeah. I do." Except I wasn't Mrs. Peel, I was only sitting on the floor in the living room eating Screaming Yellow Zonkers and wishing I were her.

"Encouraging!" replied Zina/Steed.

And they were off, driving through the countryside, drinking champagne, listening to Petula Clark…. Downtown!

She held out her glass for more champagne (and how did Steed manage to pour and drive at the same time?) but when she brought it to her lips there was a telegram inside the glass. "What's this?" she asked.

"Good news, Mrs. Peel. Your husband, Purdy Peel, has been found in the Amazon…"

In an Amazon? Surely not Effie! "My husband? But I—I was never married!" wailed Gabrielle.

"So I'm afraid it's time for all our glamorous adventures to come to an end…"

"They can't!"

"But you must do your duty…"


The Bentley entered a tunnel. All was darkness….

….and Gabrielle opened her eyes. She was back home, in the bedroom she shared with Zina, and the tall firefighter was sitting on the bed, watching her with concern. Fortunately, sans the bowler hat.

"Sugar booger!" she cried, sitting up. She flung her arms around Zina.

"Gabrielle! How are you feeling, honey?" Zina gave her girlfriend a squeeze, a kiss on the cheek, and rubbed her back.

"Better. Baby, I had this crazy dream—"

"Didn't I tell you not to eat the Raisinets?"

"I know. But this was different somehow...."

"You mean you have diarrhea this time?"

"No! Zina, listen. I was going through a tunnel, and you know that usually means—"

"Sex!" Zina's sapphire eyes lit up like a gas grill.

"Yeah, but it scared me a little. Like I feel the tunnel represents something else. 'Cause I was afraid to go through it. You know how I hate change…like I was ready to kill you when you got a different kind of toilet paper. But I think this is something serious, something I gotta think about. Like what I'm gonna do with my life. And what everything means. I feel like this dream was trying to impart some important message to me about my life, my writing…but what the bowler hat represented, I have no idea…" Gabrielle trailed off, and so had Zina's infant-like attention span—the baby blues were focused on the switchblade she pulled out of her

pocket. With a flick of the wrist, Zina began to pare her nails. Gabrielle cleared her throat loudly. "Honey, do me a favor. Would you get that big book out of the bathroom for me?"

Zina nodded. Still fiddling with the switchblade, she shuffled into the bathroom. Five minutes passed. The toilet flushed. "I don't see anything!" she finally cried.

You damn—"It's under your copy of Guns and Ammo!" Gabrielle yelled.

A pause. "Oh." Zina returned, with a large hardcover tome. It was titled The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols, Signs, and Secret Meanings: Dream Interpretation for Quasi-Feminists. The book had been a Christmas gift from Cyrene. With the book splayed in her lap, Gabrielle flipped pages until she reached this entry, nestled between "Bowl of Oatmeal" and "Butane Lighters":

Gabrielle looked at her companion skeptically. Zina was flipping the switchblade in her hand, then, with a sudden growl and a cry of "Hee-yah!" flung the blade across the room until it landed, bull's eye, in a decrepit dart board. She smirked with pride.

"Zina, I'm having a spiritual crisis kinda thing going on. Least you could do is leave the switchblade alone."

The firefighter blinked and looked at her girlfriend. "Oh. Yeah, sorry, Gabrielle." Like a scolded puppy she returned to the bed.

"Maybe this is why I'm having a writer's block, too," mused the blonde.

"Don't worry, honey, you'll get your groove back." Zina admired her neatly trimmed nails, then shot Gabrielle a sly, lusty look. "We could have sex—that usually helps you write."

"Yeah, but I usually end up writing epic poems about your thighs. Not that that isn't a worthy subject, but…no. I gotta work this out. It's like a…quest. A spiritual quest, you know?"

"No." No, of course not. For Zina, a spiritual quest would be finding the perfect hunting knife.

"Well, it is. I have to discover who I am, and what my life means, and find inner peace."

They were quiet for a long minute. "I still think sex would help," Zina finally said.

Gabrielle pondered this. "Better safe than sorry." She peeled off her shirt.

3. Anything that Moves

The following day found Gabrielle answering a fateful knock at the door.

She blinked at the tall, dark stranger on the doorstep. "I am looking for Zina." He spoke heavily accented English.

Mentally, Gabrielle pulled out the Zina Ex-Lover Checklist (Male Version):

The Male Version of the Checklist did certainly help narrow the field a bit, unlike the Female Version, which was:

She leaned in the doorway. "Okay, man, I got your number. Welcome to Zinaholics Anonymous. I'm Gabrielle, and I can't sponsor you, because I'm a happy addict."

The man scowled at her. "A simple 'hello' would work just as well."

"Who are you?"

This did not erase his look of displeasure. "My name is Boris. I have come to see Zina about…" He paused melodramatically. "…our puppy."


"Da. We had puppy together…many years ago."

"A puppy?" Gabrielle gasped. Talk about commitment! Zina never wants us to have a pet! Every time I bring it up…"Too much responsibility, Gabrielle." She stomped over to the foot of the stairs. "Zina!" she roared up into the air. "Get your ass down here now!"

Various curses filtered down from the second floor of the house. "All right, all right, goddammit." A clunk emanating from above indicated that a barbell was threatening to come crashing through the ceiling. Sleek, sweaty, and pumped, Zina trooped down the stairs. And stopped just before hitting the last step. "Boris," she snarled. "I thought you were dead!" Great, another ex for Gabrielle to deal with. I'll never hear the end of it.

He looked blank for a moment, then threw up his arms. "Can't you read? The telegram said Dagnine killed me in the chess tournament. Not in real life, you eeediot!" He shook his head, dismayed, then gave her a less severe scrutiny. "But…Stolichnaya!" he murmured. "You still look fabulous!"

The firefighter ignored this. "What the hell do you want?"

A hurt look crossed his face. "What a greeting! Zeeeeena, I have not seen you for…what? Ten years?"


"I thought that was when you met Julie Caesar," Gabrielle interjected.

"Ummm, maybe five."

"Who is Julie Caesar?" Boris said.

"Maybe it's closer to eight…" Zina mused.

"Or nine," added Gabrielle.

"Maybe I should ask Mom…"

"Zina, every other week your mother thinks it's 1972. I don't think so." Only a few days prior Cyrene had traipsed up to Gabrielle and said, "Hey, man, they're starting this cool thing called Earth Day! Wanna go?"

"Who is this Julie Caesar?" Boris demanded again.

"Look, dickhead, I'm the main squeeze here, not you, so stop acting jealous. Okay, Zina," Gabrielle pointed at Boris, "let's hear all about this one. I'm ready for another long, crude story about your past. I just bought a jumbo-sized tub of potato chips, so I'm set. Spill it."

"Gabrielle, I can't—it's just too damn ugly." There were few things Zina was truly ashamed of doing…but this part of her life, with Boris, was simply too painful and hideous to contemplate. And if she couldn't deal with it…what made Gabrielle think that she could?

"Come on, I know everything else, baby. The drug deals, the stolen cars, setting Callie's house on fire—"

"You set somebody's house on fire?" cried Boris, aghast. The Russian's eyes widened in horror.

"—the shoplifting, picking up a Girl Scout—"

"She told me she was a troop leader!" the firefighter blurted in feeble defense.

"—beating up your parole officer, all the ABBA albums you had—"

"Why won't you admit 'SOS' is a great song?"

"—so the point is, Zina, I know all the bad stuff, so…trust me. I love you. I married you. I wash your t-shirts. Tell me."

"You want the truth? You can handle the truth!" Zina roared.

A stunned silence followed.

The firefighter shrugged sheepishly. "Sorry. I always wanted to say that."

"Tell me," demanded the poet quietly, folding her arms.

The firefighter sighed in defeat, and her beautiful countenance hardened into a spiteful sneer. "You wannna hear about it? All right, Gabrielle, you asked for it…" Her jaw shifted defiantly. "Boris and I were semi-professional ice skaters. We spent years—well, I guess maybe only one—trying to make it big at the Pocatello Ice Follies."

"Pocatello…?" echoed the poet.

"Da," Boris affirmed. "It's a town in that—ahhhh, what do you Americans call your potato state?"

"Idaho," Zina supplied curtly. "Anyway, the Ice Follies….It's like a dry run for the Ice Capades."

Gabrielle backed up away from her beloved, and gripped the arm of the decrepit couch. No. Totally uncool! My big, tough macho dyke girlfriend…a figure skater?

"And we made Tonya Harding look good," Boris added glumly.

"Yeah, Boris is right. We were the worst of the worst. The lowest of the low. I wore a pink chiffon bodysuit. And Boris made Rudy Galindo look butch." The Russian scowled at this. "We performed to 'You Light Up My Life'…"

"And that cute song from Cats. What's it called, Zina?" Boris started to hum "Memory." Without thinking, Zina picked up the melody and did the same.

"STOP!" shrieked Gabrielle. Pink? Ice skating? Debby Boone? Eyes staring blankly, she sank numbly into the depths of the couch.

"Zeeeeena, I think she's in shock," Boris said, waving a hand in front of Gabrielle's glassy, fixed stare.

4. Another Obligatory Flashback

Practice ended badly; a poorly executed triple axle landed Zina on her ass and ripped her costume. Boris was supposed to catch her, but he was not on his mark, where he should have been, but was at the edge of the rink with Alti, their coach, indulging in a prolonged smoke and discussion about various brands of vodka. Furious, she stomped over to her oblivious lover, cold-cocked him (eliciting an evil cackle from Alti in the process), and stalked back to their trailer, which was parked outside the rink

She didn't hit him too hard—he was only unconscious for half an hour—and, as she anticipated, he skulked back to the trailer, apologetic, and they proceeded to make up by screwing frantically under the canopy of the fuzzy, musty panda bear blanket they had bought from Woolworth's a few months ago.

Afterwards, while she snored he threw on a pair of jeans and hunted for another bottle of vodka. Bah! She hid it again! Greedy bitch! He returned to the bedroom, determined to wake her up and find out where the vodka was. However, sitting down beside her, he was overtaken by a moment of tenderness as he watched her sleep. Softly, he called her name. "Zina."

She sputtered, drooled, and grunted. He smiled. How he loved her! Gently, he shook her naked shoulder. "Zina, my beloved. Light of my life, fire of my loins, my sin, my soul, Zeeeena—"

A bleary blue eye cracked open and glared at him. "We're outta condoms, so don't even think about it."

He laughed merrily. "My darling, your crudeness is so charming. No, I just wanted to tell you…" His dark eyes were solemn. "I think I love you."

Like a cultural Pavlov's dog, all Zina could think about was the Partridge Family. The big yellow bus! Danny Bonaduce! Susan Dey in all her bitchy glory! "I think I'm gonna puke." She rolled over.

"This was not the reaction I had hoped for."

"Too fucking bad."

"It's all this…stress, all this nonsense that's making you act like this." He disregarded the fact that she had always been like this, even when they were trying to open up the Chinese/Tex-Mex restaurant with Lao Ma. He still shuddered involuntarily at the thought of it; he loved her, without a doubt, but he was damned if she didn't have the weirdest ideas when it came to food. And why Lao Ma indulged her…Well, I know why Lao Ma indulged her, he thought darkly, reflecting upon that miserable day when he caught them together. She was just washing my hair, Zina had said, and then we both got all wet, so we took off all our clothes to dry, but there weren't any towels, so we were just rubbing our bodies together—just to get dry!

But oh, Zina, if that's true, then why were you still…so wet? He wanted to cry, the pain of the betrayal was still so fresh. But he forced back the thoughts. "Zina, please," he continued. "I mean it. We could be so happy if we only stopped doing this…crap. Let's face it, neither one of us can skate to save our own lives."

Her body rippled with a sigh.

"You know I'm right," he pushed.

"Yeah, I guess you are," she conceded. "We should talk to Alti later and tell her it's not workin' out. Right now, I wanna sleep."

Unfortunately, a banging commenced upon the semi-sturdy door of the trailer. "Go the fuck away!" Zina shouted, pulling the blanket over her head.

He sighed. Apparently the Big Love Discussion would have to wait as well. He padded over to the door and opened it. It was Alti, a Pall Mall dangling (as always) from her lips, her mascara heavy and smeared, making her look like a cross between an aging Cure fan and an insomniac raccoon. "Boris, is she all right?" She nodded toward the bedroom.

"Is she all right?" he spat, incredulous. "She's the one who hit me!" Furious, he pointed at his swollen nose.

"Whatever," Alti grunted. "Can we come in for a moment?" It was at the mention of "we" that Boris noted a lithe blonde woman, wearing a short coat and a skirt, hovering inconspicuously behind Alti.

He frowned with suspicion. "I guess." He stepped aside to let them in, and

shouted in the direction of the bedroom, "Zina! We got company! Get dressed!"

A minute passed and the sullen Zina sauntered into the main room, wearing black underwear and a tank top.

"Now that's what I call dressed," Alti rasped with approval in her Brenda Vaccaro voice.

Boris, who had pulled on a sweatshirt, folded his arms and scowled. Ignoring them all, Zina headed for the kitchen and returned with a Heineken.

"What, you don't offer our guests anything?" Boris snapped at her.

"Fuck you. What am I, a maid?"

"Why, I ought to—" he raised a hand. She hissed at him.

Alti groaned. "As fascinating as I find this, we need to talk."

"About what?" Zina asked.

"Schedule change. The first performance of the Follies this season is next week at the Shriners' Arena, so we gotta pick up our pace."

"A week?" Boris gasped. "I thought it was in three weeks."

"It was. But the Militia Job Fair is all that week, in downtown Pocatello, so they moved it up to this week."

"Bastards!" snarled Boris.

"Look, Boris, what does it matter?" Zina said impatiently. "We might as well tell her now." She turned to Alti. "We were just talking about this whole thing a few minutes ago. Alti, we're sick of the skating. We're no good at it. So we're quitting."

Rage contorted the visage of the Mascara'ed One. "What? You can't quit! We have an agreement!"

"Screw the agreement," Zina retorted. "I'm not doing it anymore. I'm sick of wearing pink chiffon and skating to Whitney Houston."

"Should I let you pick the music?" Alti growled. "If I did, you would be banging your head on the ice to AC/DC."

Zina groaned. "Look, I just want out."

Alti looked to Boris, who was quiet, his face expressionless. "What do you think, Boris?"

"She speaks for us both," the Russian proclaimed.

"I see," Alti rumbled. She turned her head slightly, catching the attention of the blonde woman, who stepped out from behind the skating coach. "Well, I guess if that's your decision, Zina, then it's done. Oh, by the way, have I introduced you to my…new assistant?"

With a sensual shrug, the Blonde's short jacket fell away, revealing creamy bare shoulders above a halter top, followed by a firm, flat tummy and a short skirt. She pursed her full lips, winked at Zina, and purred a hello.

With delight Alti noted that her star skater's blue eyes were glazed with lust and her jaw shifting with the barely suppressed urge to devour the woman on the spot. So predictable, Zina, the coach thought. She smirked and watched as Boris fumed silently, figurative steam shooting out of his ears like a busy laundromat.

Eyes not moving from the Blonde, Zina groped blindly for her wallet, which was sunk into the pocket of her Levi's, draped on the couch. "Hey, Boris baby, why don't you an' Alti go down to the tavern for a while, have a couple rounds…" Absentmindedly she pulled a twenty from the pocket and tossed it in the general direction of her Russian companion.

Alti intercepted the flying money, and gently grasped Boris's arm, relieved to see that he was not protesting as she steered him toward the door. "We'll talk later about next week. All right, Zina?"

Like a bird of prey in a cocktail lounge, Zina took a few steps toward the Blonde, who tittered. "Sure, Alti, sure."

"See you at practice tomorrow?"

"Yeah, yeah, go on." Impatiently, she waved her coach away.

With a final shove Alti scooted Boris out the door and closed it behind her. Immediately, in rapid succession, she heard a low growl, a playful shriek, a giddy giggle, and a tortuous moan.

Boris heard it too. Oh great, now I really have to cheer him up, or else he'll spend all evening talking about Dostoevsky. She threw an arm around him. "Come on, Boris. Nothing but Stoli for you," she said. If we can find some in this Godforsaken town.

"Really?" he asked with timid hopefulness and puppy dog eyes.

"Really." Ah, as long as there's no shortage of blondes and vodka….

Gabrielle glanced at the empty bottle of peach schnapps on the kitchen table. After Zina had begun the sad tale of her skating days, Boris had taken over the narrative, trying to explain the hold that Alti, their evil coach, had on them. In the interim Zina had wandered into the living room to watch a football game. It had taken him two hours and the empty bottle of liquor to complete his tale…which, unfortunately, had led into further discourse on the larger theme of the evening: Zina was an Evil Bitch Who Could Not Be Trusted.

He drained his glass of schnapps and slammed it on the table. "I put up with a lot of crap from her. First she dumps me for Lao Ma, then we're back together again and I thought everything was okay, then all of a sudden she's doing this blonde bitch…" A sob escaped him, and Gabrielle, cursing her good nature, found herself patting his arm.

"There there," soothed Gabrielle. "It's all over now, baby blue." Damn Cyrene, making me listen to Dylan over and over and over….

He sniffled into his shirt sleeve. "She'll do the same to you! You're better off without her," he said sullenly.

She stood up to stretch. "Boris, trust me. Zina's not like that anymore. She's a good person now. She's changed. She really has."

"WOO-HOO!!!! BUCKEYES!!!!!" came a scream from the living room. A few seconds later Zina strutted out, cocky and proud. "Goddamn forty-five yard TD! Sonofabitch!" She playfully slapped Gabrielle on the ass, grabbed a Rolling Rock from the fridge, then ambled back to the TV.

"Changed, huh?" Boris grunted.

Gabrielle rubbed her tingly butt and smiled. She hoped the strangely named football team would win, because it would put Zina in a really good mood afterward.

Indeed, the fortunes of Zina's favorite college team held, and Gabrielle awoke the next morning with a sigh that signified blissful satisfaction. She wandered downstairs to find Zina in the kitchen, making one of her "power shakes": raw eggs with Tabasco sauce and seaweed.

"No good morning kiss for you," mumbled the sleepy poet as she padded into the kitchen.

The firefighter unleashed her evil laugh. "That's what you think," she growled happily, and swung Gabrielle up onto the counter, so that she was sitting among cracked eggs and dried bits of ocean gunk. Then Zina's lips fused with her own. And that burning sensation…was that the raven-haired woman's intense passion sizzling against her with tactile abandon, or was it the Tabasco?

Several minutes passed as they engaged in swapping heated spit, but as Gabrielle opened a lazy, lustful eye, movement from the living room, quite visible from her perch on the counter, caught her attention. Intrigued, she pulled away slightly from her partner, only to have the firefighter attach her lips to Gabrielle's neck. "Zina?"


"Why is Boris still here?"

The dark head flew back. "What?"

Gabrielle nodded toward the living room. "He's in there…" She and Zina peered intently in that direction. "…and he's eating my Cocoa Puffs!" shouted the poet.

"And he's wearing my pajamas!" Zina added with outrage. Disengaging herself from Gabrielle, she stomped into the living room and sat down on the couch beside Boris, who was watching "Donny and Marie" on TV.

"Good morning!" he said.

Fucking bastard. Always a morning person. "Boris, what the hell are you still doing here?"

"Zina, I told you last night…I am not going anywhere until you turn over our puppy." Boris did concede to himself that he could have picked his moment better. It was right after the Buckeyes won and the postgame makeout session was in full swing. ("Yay, Butt-Thighs!" Gabrielle had cried triumphantly as she was chased up the stairs.)

"I don't have our goddamn puppy! And another thing, he's probably a dog by now!"

"He will always be a 'puppy' to me, Natasha," Boris replied, letting slip the pet name he had sometimes called Zina when they were still together. They were Boris and Natasha, out to destroy Moose and Squirrel, and take over the world…."Well," he continued, with an exasperated sigh, "where is he?"

The firefighter stared guiltily into the distance.

"I, uh, gave him to Lao Ma."

He did an abortive Danny Thomas: instead of spewing milk and cereal all over the place, it only dribbled all over his beard. "You gave OUR PUPPY to Lao Ma??? Are you mad?"

She moaned. "Look, I'm sorry. We had broken up, and you left to play chess in Geneva, so…I didn't think I was fit to take care of a dog, Boris…"

"But…Lao Ma??? She probably turned him into a lunch special with an egg roll and choice of soup!"

"Cut that out. That's just some…whaddya call it…urbane legend," she replied nervously, chewing her lower lip. At least it better be, Lao!

"How could you?"

"Believe me, I didn't want to, Boris. I feel bad that I had to."

"Ha!" he shouted. "You felt bad about something. That's only slightly more amazing than the fact that some TV executive thinks that these eeeediots"—he pointed at the mugging Osmonds—"still have careers!"

In the interim Gabrielle had entered the living room; she too was munching

on the ambrosia of the lower classes, Cocoa Puffs. "Hey, who's that dopey guy who looks like Purdy?" she asked, gesturing toward the TV with her dripping, milky spoon.


5. Enter the Dragon

"This is stupid," grumbled Gabrielle, as she followed Zina into the Green Dragon. "Why can't he track down his own damn puppy?"

"Look, it's like a debt I have to repay," Zina muttered as they were underwhelmed by the dim lighting and the Orientalia of the restaurant: blood red and gold tones saturated the murals of Chinese characters and temples, and little figures dancing with giant peaches….

"Debt my ass," retorted the poet.

Just inside they were greeted by the surly visage of Ming Tien, Lao Ma's son, who, as usual, was manning the cash register. His skinny arms were folded over his Sailor Moon t-shirt. He sneered at them, adam's apple bobbing furiously. "Ah, my mother's erstwhile seductress dares to bring shame to our dwelling once again."

Zina snatched up a pair of complimentary chopsticks from a large bowl in front of the register. "I'm telling ya, kid, one of these days…" She mimed jamming the sticks into his head.

"Like I'm sooo afraid of you!" he taunted. She lunged at him and he skittered off his chair, seeking refuge behind Gabrielle.

"Stop it, both of you," Gabrielle chastised them. "Look, Zina, let's get this over with, okay?"

"Is she in the kitchen?" Zina barked at Ming Tien.

"Yeah," he replied, sulking.

The two women walked through the nearly empty restaurant to the kitchen. They found Lao idly stirring a huge cauldron of egg drop soup, which sat next to a metal table covered with a mini-army of little wax paper bags filled with dried noodles. "Ah, Zina. I knew you would come," she murmured with serene confidence.

Lao Ma's mystical side always fascinated the ex-con. "Yeah? How'd you know this time? A vision? Reading tea leaves? A talking eggroll?"

"No. Boris called me."

"Lazy bastard," muttered Gabrielle.

"Your jealous heart reveals itself, Gabrielle. Like a dumpling hiding spinach…soon, the truth is wedged bitterly between one's teeth."

Gabrielle rolled her eyes.

"Lao, baby," Zina began, folding her arms so that her supple biceps were highlighted, then tossing her black hair and grinning seductively, "you'll remember a few years back I gave you a puppy…"

"Ah, yes. A most unexpected gesture. Touching and beautiful."

"Thanks, Lao."

"Until you demanded money for the wretched creature."

"I just thought of that as a loan. Anyway, Lao, honey..." Zina stretched to emphasize her broad shoulders and perfectly rounded breasts. Lao's stirring of the egg drop soup grew agitated. And Gabrielle's blood simmered hotter than the most potent of Tabasco sauces.

"...I need the dog back. I'll buy him from you, even."

"Yes, I know. That's what Boris was calling about. He said he was sending you over, and that you would either seduce me or kill me for the dog."

"You know Boris. Loves to exaggerate. 'Cause if I kill anyone, it would be that bratty kid of yours."

Lao Ma sighed. "Ming Tien is so misunderstood....you see, I had to get rid of the dog for him."

"Whaaaaat?" Zina asked, with a growl building in her throat.

"Ming was the allergic to the animal. And it kept attacking him. So I took it to the local animal shelter."

"Attacking?" echoed Zina. "Lao, it's a dachshund, for Christ's sake."

"They have many sharp little teeth..."

"Yeah," drawled Gabrielle facetiously, "who can resist the raging dachshund?"

Lao Ma's cool eyes flickered to the angry poet. "A sarcastic bitch is like a Barbra Streisand CD: It yields unpleasantness for all within hearing range."

"Oh, yeah? Well, a bitch who drowns in a pot of egg drop soup is like…"

Zina and Lao watched, with anticipation, as Gabrielle struggled to find a metaphor. Both women raised eyebrows.

"…like….like…a bitch who drowns in a pot of egg drop soup!" In sheer frustration, Gabrielle kicked at the stove. Poor baby, Zina thought, she really is blocked.

A flicker of alarm crossed Lao Ma's face. "Gabrielle, do not kick my stove. Unless you want to find extra MSG in your next Szechuan Chicken." She turned to Zina. "Please, remove your dangerous girlfriend from the premises."

"C'mon, baby, let's go," Zina tugged gently on her companion's arm.

"Don't you threaten me with acronyms, you!" roared Gabrielle.

With a sigh, Zina flung the poet over a broad shoulder and exited the Green Dragon.


6. Of Pussies and Puppies

When Boris was not contentedly watching Sally Jessy Raphael, he pondered his ex-lover, Zina. It amazed him to see her so utterly under the thumb of this little blonde person, Gabrielle. The dark, dangerous woman who excited him so, who defied the law and good taste, well, she was now…what do they call it? Ah…pussy-whipped!

Now she knows what it's like, he thought spitefully.

The door of the farmhouse burst open, interrupting any further Russian ruminations. Zina stomped in, with Gabrielle on her heels.

"Did you have to hit the guy at the pound?" the strawberry blonde was complaining.

"Don't you give me any lectures, missy! You were about ready to cold cock Lao Ma at the restaurant!" the firefighter retorted angrily.

"Well, the difference here is that I didn't hit anyone, Zina. Besides, Lao Ma is a bitch."

"You're jealous."

"And you're practically homicidal!"

"I know I am! I've admitted it, Gabrielle! Whaddya want me to do, tell the world I'm gay? I'M GAY! I'M GAY!" Zina shouted to the heavens.

Gabrielle rolled her eyes in defeat. It's not even worth telling her.

"And you…you're a fine one to talk about us being homo-cidal. You haven't even told your parents yet!"

The poet flushed. "They're not ready to know!"

Boris decided that the ridiculous bickering had gone far enough, and it was time for a man—a force of reason—to intervene. "Did anyone bring 7-Up?" he asked calmly. "We're all out."

The two women stared at him. "What the hell are you still doing here?" Zina snarled.

"Zina, I told you…"

"Yeah, yeah, the dog. Well, I got news for you, Boris. The dog is in the pound and they won't let me have 'em unless I pay $1000."

The Russian's dark eyes swelled with emotion. "A thousand—but, they can't do that! Why is it so much money?"

"It's some retarded county law," Gabrielle said. "Zina was registered as the dog's owner, and since she 'abandoned' him and he ended up in the pound…well, they're fining her. It's a misdemeanor."

"Miss Demeanor? I once knew a drag gentleman by that name."

"Drag queen," Gabrielle corrected.

"Da." Boris looked over at Zina, who was slumped in the recliner, looking defeated. He squirmed—instinct told him something else was wrong. "What?" he prompted.

Gabrielle bit her lip nervously. "It's also a violation of Zina's parole, and if we don't pay the fine she'll go to jail."

Zina tried to convey indifference with a shrug. "I don't have that kinda money," the firefighter muttered. Damn. And I swore I would never go back….All the money they recovered from the sales of Barbecue Salsa Mayonnaise was gone, spent on their vacation and on fixing a dent in the Impala—Gabrielle's lone attempt at driving the fabled car having gone seriously awry when she accidentally ran over Crassus, one of Julie Caesar's dogs. The contrite poet had cried a river of tears on Zina's Black Sabbath t-shirt, but had eagerly agreed to the firefighter's plan to bury the dog in Farmer Draco's backyard and not tell Julie.

"I don't either, Zina," Boris implored, "but if we don't pay the money…they kill him."

"And you'll go to jail," Gabrielle added softly.

"Maybe they should just kill me and send the dog to prison," Zina grumbled darkly.

"Can they do that here?" asked the Russian, a mite too eagerly.


7. You Don't Need Pants for the Victory Dance

Gabrielle found the prospect of connubial visits at Shark Island Correctional Facility quite unappealing, and quickly decided upon the best approach to earning quick cash to keep her beloved out of the pen: She applied for employment at the Shimmy Shack.

Sid Moskowitz, the chubby, engaging proprietor of said establishment, was quite pleased when Gabrielle called him to inquire of job opportunities. Sid had an eye for natural talent, and ever since he had spotted Gabrielle in the supermarket, wearing Daisy Dukes and bending over to pick up a rather large box of detergent, he knew her assets would do well on his stage.

Nervously, Gabrielle walked into the dark, empty club. In the light of day, such an institution is rather like a gutted animal—hollow, smelly, dark, and dead. Nonetheless, Sid's cheery disposition did its best to dispel this impression. "Hiya, sweet pea!" Sid greeted her happily. "Glad you came!"

"Hi, Sid."

"How's that old psycho girlfriend of yours, baby?"

"She's fine."

"Yeah," he sighed wistfully. "I still remember the first time I met her. She was dealing dope in my club and I had her kicked out…later that same night, when I was closing up, she beat the crap out of me." He smiled nostalgically. "The very next day, I hired her as a bouncer. She was the best ever. I've never seen anyone inflict pain and humiliation the way she did!" Tears welled up in his eyes.

"That's a beautiful story, Sid. It gets more beautiful every time you tell it."

"Yeah." He moaned. "Ach, such memories! Now, honeycakes, before we get in too deep here….Zina does know about this, doesn't she?"

The blonde twitched. "Well, not yet. But I swear, Sid, she'll be cool with it. I mean, I'm doing it for her. We need the money to pay off all these fines and stuff about the dog."

"Yeah. Poor Killer."


"That's the dachshund, sweet cheeks."

Gabrielle shook her head sadly. No wonder they never call him by his name. "It figures," she muttered.

"Okay, angel muffin, shall we get on with the interview?"

"Sure." Gabrielle slipped out of the long raincoat she was wearing, revealing a body clad in a lovely two-piece bikini.

Sid sucked in as much air as he could, as several blood vessels in his head threatened to burst. Having done so, he found himself unable to exhale—he was afraid that if he did so, this woman of sheer perfection might vanish. Or simply run away at the smell of his breath.

"Well?" demanded the poet impatiently, hands on hips.

"Are you kidding, honey?" he wheezed. "Just looking at you takes five years off my life span."


8. Benefits of the Missionary Position

The ritual began.

The lights were dimmed, candles were lit, and empty cans of Rolling Rock were lined up on the floor. Mentally, Zina counted them again. Twenty-four. Yes, that should do nicely. As usual, Gabrielle had requested that Zina play the softest music she had, which, unfortunately, was a tape of Joni Mitchell's Blue that Cyrene had left behind one evening. As the guitars tinkled gently and Joni mumbled something about the wind from Africa, Gabrielle entered. She sat on the bare floor near the cans and assumed the lotus position, while Zina wished that she were watching women's volleyball on ESPN. It wasn't that she really minded helping her girlfriend, once everything got started, but getting there just took so long. The firefighter suppressed a sigh….

…But apparently not well enough. A green eye opened and peered at her in annoyance.

"Sorry," she mumbled. She stretched out along the floor, waiting.

A few minutes passed while Gabrielle continued to meditate. The firefighter was about ready to fall asleep when the poet announced quietly, "I'm ready." The blonde unfurled her body from the yoga position and laid down on her back.

Zina, on her knees, loomed over her beloved. She reached for the first beer can. "Okay." Gently, she placed the can on its side against Gabrielle's bare midriff. It sat there precipitously, its green sheen merely the reflected glory of the poet's eyes, until the young woman's body jackknifed with amazing speed and power….Zina had seen it happen many times, but it never failed to amaze her: The can was now flatter than the topography of Kansas.

"The Amazing Abs," Zina whispered in reverence. She removed the flattened can.

Gabrielle smiled proudly. "Plus the recycling people love me!" she crowed. "Next!"

Zina placed the second can on the poet's tummy. "Can't wait to see you at the club tomorrow night."

Crunch! "I'm really nervous, baby. I'm so glad you'll be there." Another innocent Rolling Rock can was placed in the abs of death. "I still can't believe"—Crunch! —"you're cool with this. I thought you'd be all pissed and everything."

"Are you crazy? It's like the dream of every red-blooded American dyke. To have a girlfriend who is an exotic dancer! I can go up to any slob in the crowd while they watch you dance, point at you, and say, 'That's my chick, man.' Ha!" she cackled in triumph.

"You're so fucked up," concluded Gabrielle with a sigh. Crunch!

"But you love me anyway," retorted Zina smugly.

"Like the way I love pork rinds: I know they're bad, but I just can't resist." The poet affirmed this with another crunch.

Zina pondered this. "That'll do," she observed, as she selected another can.


9. Thanks for the Mammaries

Sid leaned against a wall in the club. He plucked at his black polyester shirt, which shimmered in the low light, and sighed. She simply isn't getting it, he thought. Such potential—I mean, oy! That body! But…. He had spent the last half an hour watching Gabrielle dance, or do something resembling dancing, and it was about as erotic as watching a spastic have a fit. He stopped the tape deck, and ZZ Top's "Gimme All Your Lovin'" once again died in an abrupt fashion, which mirrored the disjointed style of his private dancer. As silence filled the room, the young woman stumbled in her heels and fell onto her ass. She looked up at Sid helplessly.

"Sweet cheeks," he began warily, "hasn't Zina ever asked you to shake your titties, eh?"

Gabrielle blinked. "What the hell kind of question is that?" she asked, irritated. "It's none of your damn business." Carefully she stood up, hoping that no part of her skimpy bikini was askance; I'm not showing flesh until the meter starts running, she thought.

"Honey thighs, the name of this joint is the Shimmy Shack. You don't have to be goddamn Ginger Rogers to dance here, but…you need to shimmy. You need to shake it up. C'mon, stick 'em out, and vibrate. And later….when you latch onto that pole, you gotta hump it like hell. Okay?"

She stared at the dismal aluminum pole stuck in the middle of the stage. "But…it's a pole."

Sid sighed again, in utter exasperation. "Babycakes, aren't you a writer or somethin'?"

Gabrielle nodded furiously. "Do you need me to write—"

"No, I don't need you to write anything. All I'm saying is—use your imagination. Pretend that pole is Zina's thigh. Pretend all the guys you're dancing for are, like, a big lesbian soccer team or something."

The poet frowned skeptically.

"All right, a big, smelly, drunk lesbian soccer team."

Gabrielle's frown deepened. "All right, Sid. I'll do my best."

Sid smiled; he wasn't buying it. "Shit, sweetheart, I'm sorry you're having a rough time with this. Maybe Natalie can help you."

"Who's Natalie?"

"My best dancer, baby. Look, take a load off, go back in the dressing room. She'll be here soon."

So Gabrielle went back into the bowels of the club, into the tiny dressing room she was to share with about three or four other women. She pulled on her t-shirt—the chilly air had made her nipples so erect and prominent that they could hail a taxi of their own accord. She sat down in front of a mirror. Scattered on the table in front of her were various accouterments of femininity: lipstick, rouge, baby powder, eyeliner, tampons …and a book. She picked it up, curiously—it was entitled A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan.

As she started to page through the book, someone quietly entered the room.

"It's a great book," said a woman's voice.

Surprised, Gabrielle gave a little jump, then turned around. A woman with short blonde hair stood in the doorway, wearing jeans and a flannel shirt. Red alert! Red alert! Lesbian in the vicinity! Gabrielle's gaydar screamed. Nervously, the poet placed the book back where she found it. "Was this your book?" she asked the woman. "Sorry, just curious."

"No, no, it's all right," replied the woman. "It's nice to have someone around who's interested in the same thing." She walked over to Gabrielle and offered a hand. "Hi, I'm Natalie. Sid said I'd find you back here." Natalie's grasp was warm and tingly; Gabrielle felt a thumb brush lazily over the veins in the back of her hand. She squirmed slightly, partly uncomfortable and partly…aroused. "Gabrielle, is it?"

"Yeah, that's me." Natalie wouldn't let go of her hand. With a little tug, she finally reclaimed it.

"Cool. Sid said you're a student at the community college."

"I'm majoring in English."

"Wonderful! I used to teach there, you know."

Gabrielle brightened. "Really?"

"Yeah. I taught ethics. But then they got rid of the philosophy department. Cheap bastards. So I'm reduced to doing…this." Natalie waved her hand around the dismal dressing room.


Natalie unleashed a dazzling smile. "Well, it's certainly not your fault." She began to strip rapidly, tossing her clothes over a lonely chair and revealing a thin, bikini clad form. "Okay, I guess I should show you some moves, like Sid said."

"Uh, sure, that'd be great. And, um, maybe afterward you can tell me all about this book," Gabrielle replied, picking up the Carlos Castaneda tome again.

"Oh, I'd love to!" responded the blonde stripper enthusiastically. She knelt down in front of Gabrielle, between the young poet's legs, and gazed at her with shining eyes. What the hell is she on? Gabrielle wondered, all the while fighting the delicious chills that turned her thighs all goose-pimply. "It's such a wonderful book. One of my favorites. It helps you see the world in a totally different way…"

The blue Volkwagen sputtered to a halt in front of the Shimmy Shack. Cyrene took the keys out of the ignition, and looked over at her daughter, whose knees were pressed uncomfortably against the dash; she had forgotten that cramming Zina in her tiny VW bug was like putting Michael Jordan on a tricycle: It was not a good fit.

"Y'know, this is the kind of place I used to picket in the 70s, Zina," Cyrene grumbled.

"Look, Mom, don't start. She's just doing it for the money." Zina's muscular forearms were folded. While the firefighter was quite happy to show off her lover's body to the world, she was rather concerned that the look, don't touch policy firmly entrenched in her mind—and echoed by Sid's frequent admonitions to the crowd—would fall apart within the reality of the Shimmy Shack. She had been a bouncer too long at the dump to think otherwise. It made her tense. And a tense Zina was a hairsbreadth away from punching out anyone who dared annoy her.

Cyrene sighed. "You owe me for this, honey."

"The White Russians are on me, Mom."

"I-I think I'm getting stage fright," Gabrielle stammered.

"I think you're just nauseous from eating three Snickers bars," Sid rumbled at her.

They were standing backstage. Natalie was on, dancing to "You Spin Me Right Round (Like a Record)."

"Oh shit, Sid…what if I bomb?"

"Honey, you're not gonna bomb. Just remember, you got the bod. You're halfway there. Shimmy the T, wiggle the A, hump the pole, and you'll be fine."

Wild applause and wolf whistles followed the sweaty Natalie as she left the stage. The number of $20 bills stuffed down the enticing pouch of her g-string made her look like she was packing in an odd kind of way. "Whew!" she said to Sid and Gabrielle, pushing damp strands of her blonde hair away from her face. "Those boys are primed now. They'd go nuts even if Shelley Winters went out there and danced."

Gabrielle gave a look of despair.

"Aw, Gabrielle! I'm just kidding!" Natalie hugged her impulsively. In her nervous state, having an attractive sweaty female body rubbing up against her own was almost too much. Almost. Natalie pulled away and all parties present noticed that the poet's nipples were harder than bullets.

"Well, somebody's ready to perform," Sid noted wryly. He patted her behind—Gabrielle resisted the urge to deck him—and headed onto the stage, in order to announce her.

"Just remember your mantra, Gabrielle," Natalie reminded her.

The young blonde nodded. "Yeah…shimmy the T, wiggle the A, hump the pole…" she mumbled.

"Actually I meant the other one we came up with. You know, your personal one: 'love, pop-tarts, and peace.' "

"Oh. Right. But hey, Natalie, like, aren't you supposed to not say it out loud?"

"Aw, shit!" the former professor winced.

"Gentlemen, we have a new performer tonight…I'd like you to give a warm welcome to…GABRIELLE!"

The poet stumbled toward the stage, and hesitated; her nerves felt so exposed that she imagined them—and not her body—bathed in lurid swaths of multicolored stage lights.

"Go toward the light!" Natalie shouted.

And which fucking light was that?

"Wow, man, that was awesome," Cyrene babbled as she and Zina wound their way through dark hallways to the dressing room. "I mean, I never knew that she was so—" Cyrene's hands cupped imaginary breasts.

"Mom, shut the fuck up. You are seriously freaking me out," Zina retorted, while pondering the closed door in front of her. Her blood seethed with lust…who knew Gabrielle could dance so seductively? Zina had only ever witnessed the pogo-like maneuvers of the poet as she did the "Blitzkrieg Bop" to her favorite Ramones song. But now, she wanted nothing more than do ravish her companion…after that.

She kicked open the door. Cyrene rolled her eyes. Drama queen.

Zina's baby blues were greeted by the sight of Natalie painting Gabrielle's toenails while the poet pored over the Castaneda book. She did not miss the adoring look that the strange blonde woman was giving to her scantily-clad girlfriend, even though Gabrielle was clearly clueless to the attentions of the ex-professor. Indeed, if Oblivion were a town, Gabrielle would be mayor.

Nonetheless, at the startling sound of the door bursting open, both women turned their attention to the dark-haired firefighter.

"Baby!" Gabrielle squealed. "What did ya think?" She jumped up and ran over to Zina. The furious exchange of saliva prompted Natalie to read the label on the bottle of Dangerous Pomegranate nail polish and Cyrene to examine a selection of tassels hanging from the wall.

Zina broke off the kiss. "You were fantastic, baby. The best ever."

"Thanks…hey, I made almost $25 in tips!" she pointed to the bureau, littered with crumpled currency.

"That's great!"

"Yeah, I mean, I can't believe it…couple more weeks, we should have your fine paid off."

"Er, Gabrielle, why don't you introduce me to your—partner?" Natalie piped up unctuously.

" 'Partner?' " echoed Zina. "We don't work together. We sleep together."

She glowered at Natalie.

"Oh, uh, Zina, this is Natalie…she, uh, used to teach at Olympus." Nervously, Gabrielle looked from one woman to the other. Her new "mentor" and her beloved were not getting on well at all. "Honey, Natalie taught me how to dance. Ain't it great?"

Zina arched an eyebrow. Natalie smirked. "Yeah, great," muttered the firefighter.

"Well, I'm off…" said the blonde stripper breezily. She sailed past the three women, giving Gabrielle a wink. "See you tomorrow, Gabrielle." And she was gone.

Gabrielle disentangled herself from Zina. "You coulda been nicer, you know," she chastised sullenly, as she slipped on a t-shirt.

"I never said I was a nice person," Zina shot back.

In the interim, Cyrene had noticed the book lying on the bureau. She picked it up. "Oh man!" she cackled. "I haven't seen this used as a seduction technique since 1972!"

"Whddya mean, seduction?" snarled Zina. Her blue eyes snapped to Gabrielle. Who looked away.

"Don't be silly, Cyrene," scoffed Gabrielle. "Excuse me, I have to go see Sid about my schedule for next week." With a cultivated, haughty air borne of careful examination of Joan Collins in Dynasty, the exotic dancer left the room.

Zina half-leaned, half-sat against the makeup table, looking defeated. "Shit, Mom."

Ah, my articulate child. "Look, honey, who knows what this chick is all about. But I'm sure Gabrielle is happy with you…and doesn't want to look elsewhere."

"I'm not so sure," mumbled the firefighter. "Maybe she needs to be with someone…like that. You know, who reads and stuff. Who understands poetry."

"…And who doesn't sit in an open pot of rouge." Cyrene concluded, nodding at Zina's behind. Zina jumped up, cursing. Her mother patted her arm affectionately. "I'll wait outside, in the car." The older woman ambled out the door.

After confirming her schedule with Sid for the following week, Gabrielle was about to return to her dressing room when she was intercepted at the bar.

"Sweetie!" shrieked Chad, her fellow homo student at OCCC. He hugged Gabrielle. "You were fabulous!" Gabrielle was relieved to note that Chad wore no incendiary t-shirts, like I'M NOT GAY BUT MY ACADEMIC ADVISOR IS (an advertisement actually true). Although sporting a lilac-colored Ralph Lauren Polo shirt among the Shimmy Shack crowd was asking to be noticed.

"Aw, Chad, you came! I'm really glad."

"Oh, mary…" He took her face in his hands. "You have no idea how many screwdrivers I had to get through this…"

Vodka-influenced breath wafted over her. She blanched. "Yes, Chad. Yes I do."

"But Good God, Gab. I didn't know Natalie Hood was strutting her stuff here too."

"Hey, so you know her?"

Chad's eyes widened. "Oh yeah…man, I'm so glad they fired her."

"Fired? She told me they closed the philosophy department."

"Oh. that little liar!" Chad exclaimed petulantly. "No, she was canned for sexual harassment. She would pick a student she liked, and try to seduce them. You know, say she'd give them a higher grade." His thin lips trembled. "She even tried it with me once!"

"Duh, can't she tell you're gay?"

"That's what I said!" Chad wailed.

Gabrielle frowned in thought. Maybe Zina was right not to be suspicious of her. I mean, the big dope is right about some things…I should give her more credit. "Chad, I gotta go…I have to finish dressing" –the collective eyes of the bar were devouring her bikini'ed bottom, making her nervous—"and Zina's waiting for me."

" 'Kay, sweetie…Tell Zina I said hi, and that I want a date with a firefighter real soon."

When Gabrielle returned to the dressing room, Zina was swatting her Levi-clad butt with a towel.

"Baby, what the hell are you doing?"

"I got…stuff on my ass." Upon closer examination, the poet saw that some reddish powder clung to the denim. She chuckled. Zina scowled.

"I swear, you're like a big kid sometimes…" Gabrielle took the towel from her companion's hands. She dampened a corner with some bottled water left behind by Natalie, then successfully removed the powder. "Maybe this'll teach you not to sit on things a body shouldn't be sitting on."

"Yeah, right," grumbled Zina.

They were quiet for almost a minute.

"Do you…like her?" prompted the firefighter quietly. To mask her nervousness—which only emphasized it even more—she toyed with a stray cosmetic applicator…what it was exactly, she had no frigging idea.

"Who? Natalie?"

"Well, yeah."

Gabrielle shrugged. "I guess I did at first. I thought she was kinda cool…"

"And you thought she was cute."

" Yeah, she's cute…but so what? I just saw Chad outside, and he told me she's really an asshole."

"Really?" Zina frowned. "I had a bad feeling about her."

"You were right, honey. I'm sorry." The poet wrapped her arms around Zina's waist and propped her chin on the firefighter's broad shoulder. "So, um, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you jealous or anything. I love you, you big jerk."

Zina grinned. "And I love you too, you little bitch." She exhaled with relief. "Wow…so I was right about her, huh?" Gabrielle nodded. "I'm glad I'm right about something."

"You have good instincts, Zina. Except about your own strength."


Gabrielle nodded at Zina's hand. Which was covered in inky black stuff. "You just crushed my eyeliner."

Three weeks passed and the appropriate funds were procured, upon which Killer was sprung from the pound. Now, Boris was sprawled happily in the backyard with his dog. "There's my boy," he cooed, as Killer charged at him, the dachshund's ears flopping merrily.

"Your move," Zina grunted. The firefighter sat at the picnic table, where a chessboard lay before her. She had spent 20 minutes pondering how to put Boris into check. Having failed this particular objective, she opted for rearranging some of his pieces.

With a sigh, Boris stood up and returned to their chess match. Tomorrow he was off to Brussels for another tournament, with Killer in tow, and had decided to get in some practice with Zina before leaving. She was a good player, he admitted to himself, but her endgame was a weakness: She would grow impatient and then, ultimately, lose.

He sat down in front of the board and frowned, glaring at her. She simpered. He restored his knight and queen to their original positions.

Meanwhile, inside the farmhouse, Gabrielle was fending off Sid's advances, such as they were: "But, honey tits, are you sure you wanna hang up your G-string? You're my most popular dancer now!" the club owner protested as he stood in the kitchen and watched the lovely blonde make chocolate chip cookies.

"It's tempting, Sid…"

"I'll say."

Gabrielle stopped mixing cookie dough. "What do you mean by that?" she demanded.

"I got a good look at that car of yours. Oy, baby. An Escort? And it's gotta be rustier than Jesse Helms's dick."

A new car would be nice…Her lips twitched, but she said nothing.

Sid stroked his beard thoughtfully. He knew she was tempted. He decided to try another offer. "Look, sweetie, you know…I make movies too." He sidled up next to her. "And the money for that is even bigger than the dancing!" he whispered gleefully.

Gabrielle dropped her wooden spoon, covered in yummy cookie dough gunk. "You want me to be in porno?" she sputtered.

"Baby lamb, just one film will net you close to ten thou. You could buy yourself a Saturn, for God's sake!"

Her expression remained doubtful.

Damn. I almost had her. "Look, Gab, it's not really porno. It's erotica. There's a difference, y'know. Smart girl like you should know that." Still, she looked less than convinced as she rinsed off the wooden spoon. "This film that I want you to be in…it's ground-breaking, sugar cake. It really is. I can honestly say that there is no other film like it in existence. It touches me on a deep, religious level—in fact, I consider it a service to my people, because it's the first of its kind." Her green eyes fluttered with intrigue. He grinned. "You wanna know what it is?" he said eagerly.

"Yeah!" she exclaimed, caught up in his enthusiasm.

"The first ever Orthodox Jewish erotic film: Rabbi or Not, Here I Come."

Gabrielle groaned. "Jesus, Sid."

"Now that's one personage who will not be in this film." She shook her head and wiped her hands on a kitchen towel. "Come on, Hasidim deserve to have lively sex lives too, you know."

Through the back door Gabrielle saw a flash of movement: It was Zina, pinning Boris to the ground and trying to jam a rook into his ear. "Poor baby, she lost again," the poet murmured.

Sid noticed this too. "Ah, good old Zina. Making the world a little more dangerous," he sighed appreciatively.

"Yep, good old Zina," Gabrielle agreed happily.

"Who's that fine-looking fellow, babycakes? I think he would make a good rabbi."

Gabrielle flung open the back door. "Zina! Boris! Both of you knock it off, or no cookies!"

"She started it!" shouted Boris.

Zina sulked from her position, sitting on Boris's chest. Angrily he slapped her muscular thigh. "Get off me, you eeediot! I want cookies!"

She raised an eyebrow in disdain, and stood up.

Sid bustled past Gabrielle. "Zina, baby, what do you think of your girlfriend starring in a porn movie of her own? Eh?"

The blue eyes froze. Sid raised his hands in hapless self-defense. "But sugar lump, I got this great idea...maybe you could play the rabbi who seduces Gabrielle..." Sid brightened at his own idea. "This is great," he murmured to himself. "It increases the kink factor!"

"Rabbi?" Both dark eyebrows lifted, and a strange expression came over Zina's lovely face. With a shock, Gabrielle realized her lover was...thinking.

"Zina!" she cried. "You can't be serious!"

"Well, why not? You were real good in that home video we made—"

From his position on the ground, Boris nodded vigorously. "I agree! It was a wonderful performance!"

The blonde poet went pale. "You showed him...the tape?" Many months ago, a rainy Sunday and a borrowed video camera had yielded a long-playing tape filled with about five hours of frenetic sex, fifteen minutes of arguing, twenty minutes of eating pizza, and twenty-five minutes of Gabrielle napping and snoring between orgasms.

"Well, when Hank and Effie saw it they both thought that you were faking it in that one scene, you know, the one with the"—the firefighter made a vague hand gesture which could have represented anything from a kumquat to a plastic water gun—"and Ed wasn't sure, so I wanted another opinion..."

"For myself, I must say I was very convinced!" Boris declared solemnly. "A scream like that, it comes from the heart. Or someplace, um, similar."

"That's what Mom said too." Zina replied, feeling affirmed.

Sid, hands on hips, whined, "Now why haven't I seen this?"

Zina recognized the fury in her companion's green eyes and, throwing down the gauntlet of a shit-eating grin, took off running.

"Oh, you better run!" Gabrielle shouted after her. "'Cause someone's gonna be on the receiving end of the strap-on tonight, and it ain't me, missy!" Which is probably exactly what she wants anyway. As she dashed into the twilight, leaving the menfolk alone with the cookie dough, Gabrielle felt her anger dissipate as she followed the unmistakable laughter of the firefighter.

The End

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