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Turn Around Bright Eyes

BecHavn Publishing Copyright Š 2013 BecHavn Publishing All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. First Edition. ISBN: 978-1-304-01520-4

Printed in the United States of America Cover by Todd Kachinski-Kottmeier Edited by Steve Hammond BecHavn.com By Steve Hammond

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Turn Around Bright Eyes

Turn Around Bright Eyes By Steve Hammond and Todd Kachinski-Kottmeier

Foreword

Not a single gay or lesbian book in the history of BecHavn Publishing has such a storied past. The novel interwove itself throughout many other books in our company. In collecting the information to create the Cassandra character in this book, we had posted questions on facebook, pertaining to the drag community. By the time the dust settled, “Turn Around Bright Eyes” had sidetracked to become the groundbreaking, “Official Drag Handbook.” Very few fictional protagonists in history have such a rich character as Cassandra. Literally, hundreds of entertainers across the nation submitted information to create the drag performers in this book. It is our desire to share the information taught to us by so many female and male impersonators in the characters of this book. This novel stands alone in its story. Though Auggie Summers virtual life survives in the 2010 prequel novel, “Two Days Past Dead,” and the life after death 2011 play, “Best Said Dead,” his story in this novel does not base itself on any previously published details.

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Dedication By Todd Kachinski Kottmeier

I dedicate this novel to Steve Hammond, my muse. He reached into the grave to rescue me, to give me hope when few people on earth believed I would live to the end of the year. He sat me up, taught me to walk again, to become relevant, and find hope for a long future. With him, as my writing partner, editor, and friend, I proudly stand here a stronger man, publishing our twenty-second book. _________________________________

Dedication By Steve Hammond

To my life-partner George Summers for his commitment, support and undying love. In memory of Lincoln who came to us as a four week old puppy and enriched our lives for fifteen glorious years. For Starbuck and Demon, our four-footed family members, who bless us daily with their unconditional love. And‌ to Todd Kachinski-Kottmeier for giving me the opportunity to grow, his steadfast friendship, and his amazing love.

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Turn Around Bright Eyes

Turn Around Bright Eyes The Drag Queen Killer

By Steve Hammond and Todd Kachinski Kottmeier

By Steve Hammond

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Turn Around Bright Eyes

"People are always whispering I died. Believe me, when I die, the voices will not be whispers." Todd Kachinski-Kottmeier

Chapter One

Cassandra slowly picked her bag up, slinging it over her shoulder. It was not necessarily a fancy piece of luggage, nor was it a plastic grocery bag, but inside it held her makeup, several wigs, and three costume changes from the show she performed that evening at The Phoenix Galleria. She left the makeshift dressing room, which once operated as a utility room for the restaurant turned bar. The door gently closed behind her, leaving Cassie in the dark hallway leading to a long service alley long vacated since the bar’s last call two hours ago. She used her right hand to pat the wall, seeking the emergency bar on the exit door to allow her to leave the nightclub. The cool, fresh air pushed back the smell of rotted beer yeast lingering in the old establishment. It was a beautiful night. It was one of those evenings, which are not too hot nor too cold, not too dry and not too humid. She was proud as she walked toward her new shiny black Chrysler Sebring convertible, tucked behind the bar next to the Barber Shop in the far corner of the shopping strip. Three customers that enjoyed her show were still lingering in the parking lot near their white S10 pickup truck. Without hesitation, she approached them to thank them for the contributions of dollar bills lining her pocket. “Why are you boys still hanging out here?” Cassie asked flirtatiously as she approached the more attractive collegiate boy of the group. She giggled, realizing how ridiculous she must seem toting her By Steve Hammond

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American Tourister suitcase. Over her left arm, she held her purse as she grasped the keys to her car. “You were so incredible this evening,” yelled a much younger boy sitting in the back bed of the Chevy. He watched as Cassie came closer to their two vehicles. “You kissed her a good ten times, Buster, before you realized she was a boy,” rebutted the taller young man now standing next to Cassandra. An uneasy feeling pulsed through Cassie’s body, the type of warning signal that reminds you things are not right. “Oh boys, the three of you are so damn precious”, Cassie interrupted, trying to work her way to the car. In her mind, she realized she almost used the word ‘adorable’, but caught herself, as nothing made her seem older than referring to college-aged men as adorable, sweet, or cute. “Bet you fucking think it’s funny when you catch three straight guys in your fucking fag bar.” In six seconds, the air in the parking lot vanished. Cassie looked nonchalantly around the parking lot, hoping to catch the attention of a random barback taking out the trash or a bartender leaving for the night. As she glanced off to the right, she realized the older person next to her had lifted his arm. An excruciating pain shot through the left side of her face as this man, twice her size, struck her with all his force. Falling backwards, she tumbled over her blue bag, forcing her to cartwheel head first onto the concrete parking lot. By nature, her body forced her arms into the air trying to prevent her fall, only to feel a second facial blow, but this one dead on. She felt her nose snap to the side. Terror was in her heart. Cassie knew instantly this was going to be a fight she would not win. She knew this fight would not end unless someone opened the rear door of the bar leading into the back parking lot. With the same thought came the ripping of her cheek as it grated across the asphalt, placing rubble where there was once skin. She was able to let out a scream, but only for a moment, as her body collapsed in the parking lot followed by the first kick into her gut. By Steve Hammond

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Having the breath knocked out of her, she could no longer scream. By now, all the boys circled around her, taking their turns kicking at her small body. She laid there limp, heaving from the momentum of each kick. They say a person beaten to death, reaches a point where their brain disconnects from the pain, caused by a rush of adrenaline. This was not one of those moments. She felt one of the boys tear her wig from her scalp pulling chunks of hair from the braids she created with her own hair to hold the wig in place. The older man in the group pressed his kneecap into her chest, proceeding to punch her face one solid blow after another. She could not see anything. Her eyes swelled, her five foot six frail frame twisted in the parking lot. It is at this point, a person prays that Cassandra had died. Any rational person would beg for this to be the moment where Cassandra could feel nothing. Nothing on earth sounds similar to a heavy chain dragging across corrugated metal of a truck liner. Cassie’s limp body fell still as the boys proceeded to tie this rusted brown towing chain around her waist while they screamed derogatory terms into the still calm air. According to the Phoenix police reports the following day, the violence started at the nightclub, situated on Seventh and West Marshall Avenue. It is estimated by the Maricopa Sheriff’s department, that the unknown suspects were traveling south on Seventh Avenue at such a great speed that the body was no longer dragging, but bouncing violently across the pavement. Body pieces slowly separated for six blocks until the torso finally snapped at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Colter, leaving a dismembered victim. An hour later, an unsuspecting neighbor, walking down Colter Avenue, stumbled upon a three-foot section of a body best described as the chest area. Unaware of its relationship to a human body, he left the scene to walk back home. The concrete, and the friction of the tumble, shaved the arms and head from the torso. The jerking of the chain eventually stressed the torso, snapping it in half as the white truck disappeared into the night. Slowly, the white truck vanished past Camelback Road, leaving By Steve Hammond

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nothing but the echo of a distant bell, the sound the chain makes as it dances, driving away from Seventh Avenue.

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“If you don’t protect those people on your side fighting with you, then all you leave are those trying to harm you.” Todd Kachinski-Kottmeier

Chapter Two

The great thing about being a senior in high school is each day brings you closer to graduation and the chance at starting a new life. Charlotte and her sister Clara were eager to head to the bus stop at the end of the street. It was not even seven in the morning and already the Arizona sun had the temperature pushing ninety. Seventh Avenue is one of those streets that regulate traffic flow by limiting the center lanes to one-way traffic based on the time of day. In the morning, the center lanes become a thoroughfare to assist the traffic flowing downtown. On this particular morning, they rerouted the traffic for some unexplained reason to the unaware driver. A person that woke up early enough to turn on the television realized a horrific crime took place while they slept. For two hours Cassandra’s torn body was shredded along six blocks. None of the pieces was over eighteen inches. As the morning traffic built, most of the drivers passing the limbs and broken torso assumed the remains belonged to some unlucky pet. Travis Taylor, a reporter at the television station on North Seventh Avenue discovered the first body part as he smoked his first morning cigarette. As the truck left the bar parking lot with Cassie’s body hours earlier, it swung widely, whipping the chain, and instantly tearing off Cassandra’s left arm, flinging it obnoxiously into the parking lot of KTVK, a local station. Travis left the television station with fellow reporter Judy Taplin to sneak a cigarette in between commercials. As they exited the secured studio, and passed the windowed booth that held the By Steve Hammond

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receptionist behind bulletproof glass, they entered the front parking lot. In morbid curiosity, Judy kept looking at the mutilated cat resting in front of some aqua green Toyota Celica. Almost five minutes passed with her staring at the torn flesh of the cat, before she realized that in the area that would normally have a tail, rested five fingers accented by a diamond cocktail ring catching the glimmer of the new morning sun. Not thirty minutes passed before the reporters from Channel 3 notified Sheriff Joe Arpaio himself of body parts strewn across the asphalt near the Target store leading up to Camelback Road. The night before, as some unknown suspect tore down Seventh Avenue, dragging the petite frame of Cassandra Garcia, not a soul was in sight. The harvest moon placed a surreal calmness onto the tragic event. The momentum of the swaying truck flung her body widely, as it tumbled violently across the pavement. Not even a half block later, Cassandra’s head was torn loose and tossed into the Missouri Avenue Car Wash as the truck picked up speed, racing past a vacant soccer field often used by Hispanic youth players. The pressure from the metal link chain finally severed the torso, throwing the chest area into an apartment complex while the pelvis tumbled feverishly, coming to rest in front of some brush on the north end of Valley Lutheran High School. In a constant replay of the events, the news organizations began an ongoing chant of pleas, begging for a city to offer a single clue. Charlotte and Clara were still carrying their school bags as they unexpectedly approached the end of Oregon Avenue. To them it looked like a parade. They could not understand why there had been no notice of a special event. On both sides of the street, three and four people deep stood their neighbors. It was not until they were within arm’s reach that they realized the facial panic of the people crowded on each side of the street. An elderly man that frequented the local Mary Coyle Ice Cream Shoppe, where Charlotte worked weekends, pushed them By Steve Hammond

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gently back away from the street remarking, “Don’t come here. For your protection, do not look.” The girls could tell that the man had been crying for a long time. They could tell that everyone on the street had swelled eyes, and concern for their presence at the scene. By ten o’clock, over fifteen thousand people crowded from Camelback Road north to Bethany Home Road. By noon, an entire country sat by their radios and television sets, as the details of the most violent crime to take place on a public major thoroughfare became national headline news. An eerie panic started rumbling through the Alhambra neighborhood, as alarmed citizens discovered the details of the brutal crime. This part of Seventh Avenue is far from the cleanest or safest part of Phoenix, Arizona. With the same respect, it is not a dangerous part of town. Its streets battled the same plague of poverty of every lower middleclass neighborhood, as crystal meth tore Arizona apart, and the insecurities of a new immigration crack down since the 9-11 attack in New York City two month’s ago. Respectable families struggling to achieve the American Dream for them and their children intertwine the fabric of the area. The constant stream of news led nowhere as the police sought clues. Fingerprints on the severed arm revealed no information as to the identity of the victim. The friction from the pavement dissolved any facial recognition of the head. The crime took place for a quarter mile stretch, on one of the busiest vertical streets in Arizona, without a single witness. The circuit boards of every cell tower in Maricopa County overloaded as the population frantically tried to take attendance of family members and friends. The only clue offered by the police department was the victim is a Latin male, approximately forty years of age, and by the quality of the clothes and jewelry, had been determined to be a person of means. Before the clock struck noon, over seven thousand calls registered to the West Washington Sheriff’s office, each call pleading for resolution of a missing loved one. Sheriff Joe Arpaio took personal By Steve Hammond

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control of the media blitz, trying to calm a city, now spiraling out of control. Stewart Carrier and his boyfriend drank too much liquor the night before at the Phoenix Galleria that offered a twelve-dollar liquor bust each week. The all-you-can-drink promotion, mixed with performances by Cassandra and a couple of her friends, always seemed like the perfect way to end the Sunday tea dance. Stewart was able to set up a table to help raise awareness for the need of a LGBT Community Center in the county, at the Phoenix Galleria that evening, but left when most of the guests exited the property, leaving Cassandra and the bar staff to clean up the mess. Lucky for Stewart, one of the customers offered them a ride home after noticing how intoxicated he had become with his boyfriend Andrew. The following day, as he drove back to the nightclub to pick up their car, he heard the shocking news repeatedly played over the radio in the cab. As he approached the bar, he found it strange to see Cassandra’s convertible still parked next to his. His face flushed, noticing that Cassandra’s small-wheeled suitcase was sitting, pitched under the left rear bumper. Andrew and Stewart slowly got out of the taxi and walked over to Cassandra’s Sebring. He could feel the goose bumps spreading up the back of his neck. The bluish-gray flannel luggage was tightly wedged under the low clearance of Cassandra’s car. He could feel the tears starting to well in his eyes, as the acid from his stomach entered his throat creating a burning sensation in his sinuses. For the first time, in his long friendship with Cassie, his calls went to a recording stating, “The mailbox is full.” He walked to the windows in front of the bar and cupped his hands to look toward the rear of the building, only to see it vacant. He could feel the trembling of his fingers as he pressed his hands on the window glass. Across the street, he noticed a police officer pushing the crowd away from the car wash on the southwest corner of the intersection. Nervously, he walked up to the officer. As Stewart began to explain the theory of his missing friend, he felt his legs start to buckle, as a hard acidy stream of vomit poured violently though his nasal passages, out of his mouth, and across the officer’s crisp uniform, By Steve Hammond

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leaving a mash of the previous night’s cocktails, with a “Ferguson” name badge dripping of vomit. By sun down, the police were able to confirm the fingerprints from the car and suitcase belonged to Constantine Lopez Garcia, 46, the only surviving child of war hero Victor Lopez and Isabel Garcia of Guadalupe, Arizona. In the initial commotion of the revelation, the news organizations only seemed to focus on the fact that Constantine was an employee of the nightclub known as The Phoenix Galleria. Most people are under the assumption that a conservative Republican state, strongly held in the grasp of John McCain, would have difficulty sustaining a gay culture, when actually many highranking Arizona politicians are out of the closet. The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual community is very organized in Maricopa County. Their ranks include the Mayor of Tempe, council members, and the movers and shakers that represent Arizona. Their relationship, though sometimes shaky with the police department, is still one of the strongest in the nation. There is nothing passive about the Valley of the Sun’s gay and lesbian community. A few months prior to Cassandra’s murder, Phoenix had broke frontline news across the country by leapfrogging over both Dallas and San Diego to become the fifth largest city in the United States. Even with its massive size, the gays seemed to know one another, and everyone knew Cassandra. Today, a nation knew Cassandra. The eldest son of a family torn from their roots, watching a flood of reporters trampling the proud yard of Midiron Bermuda grass, desert marigolds, and pillars of magenta bougainvillea. Today everyone lived in the Valley of the Sun.

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"The day God made dogs, He just sat down and smiled." Steve Hammond

Chapter Three

Auggie Summers sat at the outdoor bar of the Suncoast Resort, watching the awning disintegrate into disrepair before his eyes. It seemed only yesterday, that the club had opened with spectacular fanfare in its southern Saint Petersburg neighborhood. Off in the corner of the bar sat Dammon, Jason, and some guy stating his name was Jay with an “a.” Auggie thought for a moment, “Didn’t Jay always have an A in it”? A bartender seemed to ignore all of them, as he spoke to an entertainer calling herself PurrZsa, crying uncontrollably across the bar. “Don’t get drunk Auggie. Your mom expects us to physically go to the matinee with her today,” lectured David as he drank the last of his dark coffee. He watched Auggie finish off his second vodka and orange juice. All day long, he was David, not Dave…, but David. He was not a morning person. In the morning, before noon break, it was best to walk gently around Auggie’s boyfriend. Check out of the hotel was still an hour away, and their weekend getaway from Tampa went far too fast. The constant laughing from the group of boys across from the bar, seemed to get more irritating as they finished their continental breakfast. The drama of PurrZsa continued to play in the opposite corner of the bar, as Auggie ordered one last screwdriver for the road. “A little drama to start your morning?” David asked the bartender. The bartender, John, slowly removed the empty plastic cocktail glass from in front of Auggie, while giving a discouraging By Steve Hammond

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eye to David. Auggie slowly scrunched his face, crossed his eyes, and twisted his lips mocking the bartender. “Hey!” a tall, slender black man jumped up from the other end of the bar, using Auggie’s silliness as an invitation to introduce him into the conversation. “I remember you guys from The Pro Shop in Clearwater.” With that, Dammon extended his hand to introduce himself. “My friends and I are sharing the funniest stories of what we did while we were fucked up, and we need a judge.” With that, the other two friends joined Dammon, sitting on both sides of the couple. Before David had a chance to create a response, the first man began his version of his silliest moment. “My name is Jason Bogart,” and with that, he curtsied. Jason continued, “About three years ago, I followed this boy home to Sarasota to fuck around with him. It took almost an hour and a half to arrive at his home, which turned out to be in a gated apartment complex. I made the mistake of telling the kid that there was no way I was going to drive all the way back home so early in the morning. The boy gladly offered me the opportunity to spend the night. This boy was hot!” Upon saying the word hot, Jason’s whole body seemed to shutter as if living the moment from years ago. “As we pulled up to the gate of the complex, he entered the password, allowing this large metal gate to swing open so both cars could enter its secured location for residents only. For about two hours, I had the time of my life, until he finally fell asleep next to me. I sat there on the bed, feeling like the cat that ate the canary, looking at this extremely sexy man that I knew, with a proper amount of sleep, I could play with again in the morning.” By now, Jason’s eyes were wide and sparkling. Auggie could not help but giggle reminiscing of his own youthful innocence. “I was so tired; I thought my eyeballs were going to pop out of my head. Do you ever get so tired that you feel like you’re going to vomit? I laid my head down on the pillow, next to the kid. I’d tell you his name, but I haven’t the slightest idea,” Jason said with a smile, thinking that he had so many conquests that he could not remember one name from the other. By Steve Hammond

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“I laid my head down on the pillow. Fuck, I could have sworn that pillow was hugging me back it felt so great. I knew that if I could get just three hours sleep, my nap would produce incredible sex upon waking. I guess it was about thirty seconds later that the most disturbing loud noise started bellowing out of this ninety-eight pound boy’s nasal passage. I’m not talking about your normal snoring, I’m talking about the type of snoring where glassware is shaking in the cupboards and furniture is moving across the room. No matter how many times I pushed this kid, no matter how many times I twisted his body, woke him up, or screamed, I could not stop the terrible noise. The pillow clutched feverishly over my head was not thick enough to muffle the gurgling beats, which by now were setting the dogs in the neighborhood off in a howling chant.” All five of the men at the end of the bar let off a simultaneous laugh, as each one remembered their own-shared experiences. The loudest laugh came from David, so Jason knew that only having told half the story; he would surely be the winner of this easy contest. “So what did you do?” asked the excited group. “I jumped in my damn convertible Volkswagen Bug sped to the iron gateway to find a fucking keypad on the exit. Never in my life had I ever seen a key pad for leaving a property.” David glanced at the boy speaking. He looked fourteen years old, but could possibly be in his twenties, thinking it was strange hearing the kid use the phrase, “in my entire life.” A brief memory flashed in his mind, of his two-year-old niece, Shari, pointing at a child in the carrier, whispering, “Look. Baby,” when she was but a child herself. Now, Jason’s story started to pick up its pace, the friends could tell it must be coming to an entertaining conclusion, as this massive smile permanently lodged itself across his chubby cheeks. “It was four in the morning, and not a single damned car was coming or going out of this stupid complex, and all I knew is if I didn’t start heading home soon, I was going to recline my car seat to sleep right there in the parking lot. It was too damned hot outside to sleep in a Volkswagen Bug with seats broken by thirty years of wear and tear. Fuck, the car was almost as old as my Dad was. I finally gave up and By Steve Hammond

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started driving back and forth through the complex trying to find a path to retreat to north Tampa. I noticed a small sidewalk snaking past a dozen buildings leading to the leasing office. Without much consideration of the path leading to a swimming pool or a closed walk-in gate, in my haste to evacuate the property, I jumped the curb, proceeded down the sidewalk, past random lawn chairs, and soon to be destroyed toys. About halfway down the path, this elderly woman slowly walked onto the sidewalk, holding a small trash bag heading to the dumpster. Her face was startled, as she retreated into her neighbor’s patio to avoid my oncoming vehicle. I reached out my window, trying to rescue my silliness, brought on by the cocktails and my progression of the evening. Before she could regain her composure, I snagged the plastic bag from her hand while nonchalantly looking up to say, “don’t worry ma’am, I’m with Waste Management, I’ll take it out for you” Jason had not completed the last three words before the entire group burst into such laughter, with David almost falling from his stool. Auggie sat there, at the end of the gathered friends, and appreciated the intrusion of strangers. Auggie would have laughed a little bit harder, but once owning the Orlando Galleria nightclub always made his eyes wander when he was in other bar properties. The laughter at their end of the bar seemed surreal in the backdrop of the hysterics now developing at the other end of the bar. Across the pool, in an upper balcony of the hotel, a loud screeching ‘hello’ echoed across the vacant patio area separating the front hotel to the back patio bar. In the distance, you could see Angel Glamar, the performer from the previous night’s show, working her way down the third story staircase, as if it was a modeling shoot in Paris. Before descending the steps, she stretched out her arms, showing a black and white Diva print bathing suit best worn by Joan Crawford in “Mommy Dearest,” and a flowered swimming cap, as she cried out a chorus of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” “Oh booger, sit down, I can beat that story Jason,” said Dammon as he stood up at the bar. To five foot nine David, he looked like a tall lanky twink, one of those sixteen-year-old adolescent boys stretched out into manhood. Dammon still held the By Steve Hammond

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grin of adolescence but with the glimmer of wickedness in his eyes. A massive smile encompassed half of his skull as he proceeded to tell his version of the funniest story of being wasted. You could tell Timothy did not have a story to tell as his eyes wandered around the patio bar at the random automobile license plates nailed to the beams. Off in the distance, you could still hear the cackling noise of Angel Glamar entertaining herself, as she slowly worked her way down to the ground level. “Two years ago, I was the ugliest booger that ever walked the streets. I had just moved out of my parents’ house and into an apartment with my first boyfriend. He worked the late bartending shift at Cityside. The neighbor who lived on the opposite side of the complex was a bitch. I don’t know if she hated us because we were gay, or because we are interracial. All I know, is every time I would pass the front door of her apartment, she would come out to lecture me. She lived on the second level of the apartment complex, and the angle of her view looked directly into my front window. Often, I would see her sitting on an upside down pickle barrel staring into my apartment. When we moved into the complex, I didn’t like the front area that accented my living room window leading past my front door, so I went to the Home Depot and bought cement pavers and palm trees. I built the most beautiful garden for my boyfriend to sit at a café table early in the morning. This seemed to upset the old German bitch. She made it a point to knock on my door to let me know that I had violated my lease, even though she had nothing to do with the leasing office, by adding permanent fixtures as she proceeded to point at each of the plants. One day, I was walking through the complex; it always seemed covered with dog shit. The leasing office offered free empty pet poop bags on poles throughout the property, so I picked up one of the piles of crap into the brown poop baggie to dump it into the trash bin adjacent to the mailboxes. I don’t think the fucking doggy bag got half way down the garbage can before her front door flew open, with her charging out onto the front stoop screaming at me. Something about her being sick and tired of the neighbors, and me, By Steve Hammond

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making her apartment smell of dog shit from the sun baking down on the trashcan. With the most polite manner, I apologized to her, retrieved the bag, walked three steps past the trashcan to the yard area in front of her door, slowly opened the bag, and let the crap fall back into the grass. With the most innocent face I could muster, without looking too sarcastic, I explained that I had now put it back where I had found it.” The friends burst out laughing. Jason realized his story might be funnier than Dammon’s but Dammon continued, “The fucking cunt. I walked back to my apartment. I knew it was now me against this fucking German bitch. Later that night I sat at the bar trying to think of the most diabolical scheme to get her kicked out of my complex. Unfortunately, I can only be mean so far, even with Courvoisier taking over my mental thoughts.” Dammon began to whisper, forcing the group to lean forward, “I’m not going to lie and tell you I didn’t drive home drunk. I arrived to find the fucking bitch perched on her northern white cedar barrel, looking down at my apartment at two o’clock in the morning. I parked my car in such haste, that I didn’t even put it into park. I just turned it off and jumped out the door, not realizing it would back itself to the side of the road while I slept that evening. I secretly ran across the courtyard, hiding in the shadows so she could not see my black skin in the absent moonlight, into my apartment, fell upon the floor with the lights still off, and I slowly opened up the curtains and blinds. In drunken silliness, I peeked over the window ledge, to make sure she was still sitting out there, laughing hysterically as she rearranged the pickle barrel to stare into my apartment more closely.” By now, all the friends at the end of the bar were looking at Dammon, trying to visualize where the story would travel. Would he take off his clothes, possibly dress in his worst drag outfit, or possibly even improvise a death scene? “I have this artist friend, Jesse; he makes the most ridiculously awesome papier-mâché animals. The month, before the old broad pissed me off, I paid him to make me a seven and a half foot giraffe, which I named Molly to decorate my living room. So there I was, By Steve Hammond

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sprawled across my living room floor, drunk, drunk, drunk, using my toes to flick on the lights from the panel near the door to turn on the halogen lamp across the room. With the light on, catching the bitch’s attention, I proceeded to hold Molly by her legs from floor level, making her dance on the carpet as if a wild beast grazed in my home. For ten minutes, I laughed so hard, snot and tears poured from my face, wondering what this bitch thought of the dancing giraffe across the courtyard. Finally, I could not take anymore and reached up with my toes again to turn off the lamp. I never realized how funny my joke was until an hour later. There was a knock on my door from the Phoenix police department due to a frantic report claiming a domesticated giraffe was rampaging inside my apartment.” Now the pace of the friends’ laughter, that now included the bartender, was picking up. David precariously perched upon his tilted stool, trying to contain his laughter. “I repeated this scene at least a dozen times over several weeks, now purposely leaving my back bedroom window open so I could sneak into the apartment to let Molly frolic in front of the window. I don’t necessarily know if the ending of the story is as funny later in life as it was at that moment, but the following month, after living there for seventeen years, this elderly woman had vacated the property. When I inquired about her to the leasing office as to her departure, the leasing manager informed me the family had determined that she had become senile and they had placed her in a nursing home.” Before the friends had a chance to respond to the conclusion of the story, they were distracted by the over jubilant Angel Glamar entering the backside of the bar to meet PurrZsa Kitten. Three seconds after hugging, she stepped back, noticed PurrZsa crying, and asked what was wrong. During Dammon’s conversation, the friends had slowly watched the obnoxious entertainer and her friend from across the bar, wondering what will happen when a moving object strikes an immovable force. One was overly happy while the other had been crying for the last two hours. In the fourth second, the flamboyantly happy Angel Glamar fell to a lump, screaming loudly, By Steve Hammond

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catching everyone in the bar off guard. David froze. All he could think of was his smart-ass comment to the bartender regarding breakfast being too early for drama. Reactions like this only come when people like Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, or close friends die. Now, not a single person in the bar was making a sound. The younger boys, caught off guard by the emotional outburst, watched David’s eyes water up; he was the type of person easily consumed by others emotions. “Do you know PurrZsa, honey?” whispered Auggie into his boyfriend’s ear. David did not respond. He just kept staring at the corner. He had one of those faces that someone has moments before crying loudly. His sudden change in behavior placed a knot in Auggie’s stomach, the way close people share the same emotions. Without saying another word, the three friends slowly stood up and exited the area returning to their room, to watch the news. John, the lumbering bartender, slowly excused himself to bus the empty cocktail glasses in front of Auggie. David inquired as to what disaster was unfolding that has caused such an outburst. John realized that all of the rude remarks from the group came from patrons unaware of the Arizona tragedy. “You have not heard about Phoenix?” John asked as he picked up the three glasses and offered to pour David another cup of dark coffee. Both men shook their heads no as John continued, “last night the largest hate crime ever committed in public, happened in Phoenix, Arizona. Someone took a rope last night and sped down the main street with a drag queen tied behind the car. All they found this morning were bits and pieces of her along the road. They have no suspects.” Auggie froze. This time David was more concerned about Auggie. David looked up to the bartender, “My boyfriend just moved back from Phoenix, Arizona. It must have been somebody famous for everyone to be so upset.” Quickly the bartender spoke “Cassandra; a famous west coast performer.” By Steve Hammond

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David watched his boyfriend’s face turn flush as John reached across the bar to grab Auggie before he fell to the floor. The startled bartender quickly asked if Auggie would be all right, just as David’s head slowly looked down and glanced back up to say, “Cassandra is his ex-boyfriend.”

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Turn Around Bright Eyes

"People unwilling to draw the line against hate become the people perpetuating its growth." Todd Kachinski-Kottmeier

Chapter Four

“Honey, don’t do this,” David pled as his hand rested on Auggie’s tense shoulder. Auggie darted from one side of the bedroom to the other, sloppily tugging clothes from the closet. Wooden hangers fell across their Laura Ashley bedspread and onto the floor. Small piles of traveling attire hastily accumulated from the drawers and adjoining master bathroom. “Honey, I understand that you are upset, but running to the airport without an airplane ticket is crazy.” Auggie glanced over at his boyfriend and tried to push off the ill feelings of knowing that in his haste to rush back to Phoenix, he had disrespected the feelings of his new soul mate that had given him nothing but love since they met two years ago. David’s brown eyes now seemed gray from pleading on the trip back from the resort for Auggie to remain calm. It wasn’t that David was concerned about his husband’s affection for a love long past, but knew that Auggie’s heart could not take the stress created by this crisis. “If you are going with me, then pack your bags, because I’m leaving in an hour for Tampa International Airport.” Auggie’s comment seemed threatening, which further alienated David. David sat down on the corner of the bed and watched as one of the frilly shammed pillows fell onto the floor. As he reached down to pick it up, he felt the urge to wrap his arms around the pillow, hugging it securely, displaying his newfound insecurity. “You mean you planned to go to Phoenix, Arizona without me?” David could feel tears welling up at the corners of his eyes, as he realized until now, this was the only option on the table. By Steve Hammond

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“Barbie girl, stop mauling that damned pillow, and start packing your bags. At no point did I not think you were joining me.” Auggie turned, facing into the closet so David could not see him rolling his eyes in disbelief. Part of Auggie’s subconscious whispered the validity of David’s rationalization. Without turning around, Auggie felt relief as he heard the wooden drawer pull open from David’s dresser. May starts the suck months of summer. It sucks in Florida, and most definitely sucks in Arizona. Travelers from Phoenix suffocate in the humidity of Florida’s terminal as they depart the aircraft. On the other hand, Floridians are stunned by the one hundred twenty degree weather forecast from the Valley of the Sun, and residents that seem to sing in harmony, “Yes, but it’s a dry heat.” Luckily this was November, and a cold one indeed. Auggie thought it was strange to be in Phoenix under such unusual circumstances. As the escalator brought them to ground level, Auggie could not help but remember the first time he saw the sheetrock mural of stone that marked his arrival at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. David tagged behind Auggie in complete frustration. He did not understand Auggie’s game plan. It seemed out of character for his German boyfriend battling daily with obsessive compulsive disorder to jump on an airplane, from a ticket hastily purchased at the check-in desk, travel across the entire nation, to arrive in a city with neither transportation nor lodging arrangements. This trip was going to be expensive, jeopardizing their financial stability in the near future. David kept quiet, biting his lip, trying to calculate any form of rational reasoning to share with his boyfriend. Processing through Enterprise Rent-A-Car was quick and efficient, and soon the two men sped towards Charlie’s, a country western bar, and Auggie’s old hangout. He was to meet Irwin Blattman, the friend that first introduced Auggie to Cassandra in the previous decade. By Steve Hammond

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Charlie’s occupies one of those non-descript buildings. It has no clever landscaping or architectural ambience, and its plain exterior easily hides the characters that dwell within its walls. Phoenix is a bizarre city. Its massive acreage consumes the equivalent mass of Los Angeles. Its county, Maricopa, thrives in a country that deems their city isolated. The sprawling population creates the fifth largest city, which includes the famous, political dynasties, rich, and one of the largest concentrations of illegal residents in the nation. Nothing about Phoenix, Arizona is super. There is no super-sized mall. There are no super-sized apartment complexes, and nowhere amongst its millions of residents will you find a single mega nightclub. Charlie’s was no exception. If you were to place Charlie’s in any city in the country, it would qualify as a normal sized nightclub. In Phoenix, one of the largest cities in the country, it was oddly out of place. Not because of its size in relationship to the city, but for the detail that the bar only held a few hundred people, and was by far the largest gay bar in town. “Grand Marnier?” David asked the bartender, as if doubting that a country bar would be able to understand his request. The bartender disappeared around the center island. If there was ever a reason to want to drink, David thought, it was now. He giggled, trying not to show a smile, since obviously any sign of happiness seemed out of place. It was bizarre changing his watch to 8:00 pm to match the time change on a Monday night. He sat trying to involve himself in the conversation, as more people collected around the bar. Off near the front entrance he could hear Auggie feeding quarters into the pay phone, as he tried to contact friends from an outdated telephone list. David wished he had that frilly pillow to hug, as he sat there feeling alone. He knew nothing about Cassandra. None of the people on this trip would have the slightest idea of his identity. Auggie had promised his life in Phoenix, Arizona vanished after his health crashed a couple years ago. One hundred eighteen, David thought to himself. There are one hundred eighteen bottles on the top section of the bar. He was By Steve Hammond

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now bored beyond belief as he watched a disproportionate amount of Hispanics feed into the bar. He thought, how sad for all these white people to have to live in a town with so many of these Hispanics; for now the whites were the minority; something he could relate to being a Georgia Southern boy from Georgia attending a New England suburban private school as a child. He could almost hear Auggie yelling at him for thinking such thoughts. David shrugged it off. What do white people know? Most of them still confuse Latinos with Hispanics. One hundred forty two bottles below counter. Seventeen different beers. David felt the shadow of someone approaching from behind just as a stool beside him screeched on the floor. Auggie had returned, this time with a blond woman in tow. “David, this is Mandie, she’s a friend of mine from my previous life in Phoenix.” With that, Auggie quickly rephrased the introduction to include, “the innocent parts of my life.” David let out a laugh not shared by either of the friends. He now wished, once again, he had that frilly pillow. For the next hour, friends joined the group, and just as quickly departed the group. Each new addition Mandie introduced “David, the boyfriend” with exaggerated flare. Auggie had a terrible habit, brought on by insecurity, of constantly adding the word boyfriend to David’s name, as if one could not survive without the other, so now it was Mandie’s turn to mock his friend like a parakeet. David sat on his padded stool watching the dart players hustling games of 301 near the entrance to the bar. An Adam’s apple; Mandie has an Adam’s apple. David tried hard not to stare, wondering what thoughts go through a man’s mind that convinces him to believe the drama of living a transgender life is worthy of living past society’s hate and misunderstandings. For a moment, he glanced at Mandie’s hands. Guy hands, he thought seconds before a voice reminded him in his head, “David, these are also the hands of your grandmother.” Point taken. David sat, slowly analyzing Mandie as she spoke about the murder of Cassandra Garcia. He now heard the story so many times, that the reincarnation of this version sounded much like, “blah blah By Steve Hammond

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blah blah blah blah blah.” David paused, glanced down at Mandie’s hands one more time, and remembered that his old grandmother, not only had the same hands, but most likely the same jewelry. By midnight, the bar was filling up with patrons hoping to get the latest information. The gay bar version of delivering information three ways quickly into the community held firm, “Television, tele-graph, tell-a-queen.” There are only so many cocktails a one hundred twenty pound man can drink before the drinks physically alter the barstool he sits upon. Mandie constantly placed fresh Tequila shots in front of her new friend; each took a drink every time they heard the word Cassandra. Upon hearing the hundredth official version of the exact same story of the previous night’s events, David whirled his barstool to look Auggie straight in the eye and demand that they call it a night. At least that was his intent. The stool he was sitting upon, however, was not a swivel seat, so it flew off the floor, its metal legs dumping him with a thunderous crash amongst the patrons. Cocktails flew in every direction as each customer smacked into the next, listening to David scream like a girl, tumbling to the concrete floor, and bursting out in pure laughter.

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Turn Around Bright Eyes

“If you live life beyond your limitations, you will exceed everyone's expectations." Todd Kachinski-Kottmeier

Chapter Five

Charlie’s sits on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Camelback Road. Across Camelback Road, there is a Fry’s Supermarket and a Target. Behind the Target is Cortez Apartments. Across from the apartment complex, sits the Lutheran Church and a park where the last remaining body parts once rested. Less than twenty-four hours ago, the LGBT community forever changed how it viewed security when leaving a bar. It was not the first killing of a gay person, and it would not be the last. Matthew Wayne Shepard was a twenty-one year old teenager living a gay life in Laramie, Wyoming before a stunned world read about his murder. The story of his lost innocence broke the hearts of millions as details became more apparent day by day. Only three people had firsthand knowledge of the horrific tale shared by the press, and yet it changed a nation. In telling the story, each innocent bystander felt drawn into the violent crime, as if standing next to the fence as his tears washed away the blood on his cheeks. Not a day had passed since Cassandra’s savage murder. Not a single clue discovered on the blood soaked asphalt. Mandie was able to secure them a motel room at the Ramada Inn that sat diagonally across from Charlie’s, behind the crime scene. On this evening, the hotel was full, as reporters from across the nation joined a vigil of neighbors. By now, the police department had closed down Seventh Avenue south to Camelback Road, pushing the onlookers an additional block past the road, realizing any clues discharged from the suspected vehicle were now contaminated by the ever growing, massive crowd. Hotel windows facing the crime scene booked By Steve Hammond

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quickly with news crews trying to angle their cameras towards the throng of people accumulating throughout the day. Auggie could not help but laugh, as he exited the hotel at 4:00 am with David passed out drunk upstairs on the bleach-emitted bedspread. Leaving the hotel, he watched four different elderly Hispanic men following each other on bicycles equipped to sell some form of Mexican ice cream to the onlookers. He looked closer at the fourth man’s cooler chest. Written in neon yellow, it read, “Hot Corn on the Cob.” Two years ago, Auggie left Phoenix to return to Florida. The doctors had written his heart off after a year of battling complications for being HIV positive since 1983. The virus was not killing him, but the medications placed him into ICU on a regular basis. The stress from the drugs eventually brought on diluted cardiomyopathy, and finally sent back to say his final goodbye. That was two years ago, and here he stood alive on the verge of using the word “healthy.” Something about watching good people die made Auggie feel guilty. It is great to cheat death, but watching other people die instead sometimes brings remorse, survivor’s guilt. Tonight Auggie felt very sad. It made no sense. Why would people, like Cassie, that changed worlds through her charitable work die, while Auggie continued to live? He knew the world did not work like this, but sadly, his mind did. Auggie decided instead to take a fourteen-block walk to the gay Denny’s, a name that everyone in Phoenix gave that particular restaurant based on its proximity and usage by the gays. It had been two years since Auggie worked the streets for the drug task force as a criminal informant. He pondered where each of the participants of his previous life was tonight. Over two hundred convictions attributed to his assistance, but in all reality meant nothing to the overall affect of drugs on the streets. He watched three smaller dealers replace each dealer; like roaches eating their own. His life was always about pressing his luck. He was always two days past dead, living on borrowed time, teetering between those he betrayed and health betraying him. He had found a good place in his life. He had paid for his crimes to society by assisting in the apprehension of hundreds of felons. He had repaired damage to By Steve Hammond

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his family by consistently behaving well over the past two years. By becoming a better man, he was able to attract a better man. He laughed, picturing David’s bony legs flying through the air as the stool tumbled into the crowd of make-believe cowboys. It did not take long to walk fourteen blocks, reminiscing about old Phoenix, laughing about the silliness of his boyfriend, and making fun of his home bar. Charlie’s. Auggie could never understand the gimmick behind a country western bar in a big city like Phoenix. Its patrons are not cowboys, though they dress up to be. Its customers are not farmers. Auggie remembered when he first moved to Phoenix, he went shopping at Fry’s Market, in fact the Fry’s Market across from Charlie’s, of all places. Two things struck him off guard in his new city; a half dozen homeless people approached him in the parking lot as he worked his way from his car to the front door to go shopping. Six different panhandlers, vying for his attention, made him wary that he had moved to Calcutta. The second thing that caught Auggie off-guard were the prices. Except for soda and limes, everything in this store seemed to be higher in price until he got to the meat department where upon freaking out at the high prices, asked the deli manager, “For being the cowboy state, what are you cowboys of?” It was then; Auggie realized this was a state into “role-play.” Two years later and nothing in the state had changed. The same crappy upholstery in the Denny’s still wrapped the booths. Patrons laughed at a waiter’s mention of a train or transit system planned down Central Avenue. The manager bragged of some intrinsic value to Cassandra’s death. The worn out, beaten down Ramada Inn used as drug drop offs, quick fucks after the bar closed, and hookers was now booked solid several days in advance. The bars were abuzz with gossip, and Denny’s, on a Monday, had a line. Everyone wanted to be part of the latest gossip. Auggie sat there looking down with disgust at such behavior, until he realized he himself might be guilty. He did not know where he was heading yesterday as he left the Suncoast Resort, heading to Phoenix. He forced his boyfriend to By Steve Hammond

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tag along in silent protest, and rented a room for an undetermined amount of time. Auggie blindly obligated himself to a rental car, with no agenda for a single action. He thought of David’s ass slamming to the ground in total drunkenness and realized his own guilt. He now understood why David was drinking to hide behind the emotions bottled up by forced participation. Passing out drunk was his escape. On the table in front of him sat his third glass of iced tea, next to the glass were three wedges of lemon. Each time he ordered a glass of tea, he would beg the server to avoid placing a lemon in it, knowing damn well his pile would continue to grow. Auggie needed an agenda. He needed a game plan for tomorrow, and he had none. He needed an Auggie moment, that point of time where you pull some redeeming value from nowhere. “Holy shit, it’s Auggie Summers,” a loud shrill voice cried out over the crowded restaurant. From across the room you could see Tod Medler darting back and forth through the crowd, as he ran up and sat down across from Auggie. “I thought you were dead.” Auggie thought, why do gay people always think in the absence of your presence that you died? Straight people do not think this way. Straight people think you moved away. Straight people think that you do not like them so you were avoiding them. Hell, in Auggie’s group of Phoenix friends, straight people would have thought Auggie was in prison the last two years. However, Tod is not a straight person, so therefore Auggie had no choice but to die for his disappearance to make sense. All of forty-five minutes passed with the two friends reminiscing of events that occurred in the past twenty-four hours. At the end of the conversation, Tod realized Cassie was the first person Auggie dated when he moved here several years ago when Auggie sold drugs in Arizona. There is nothing in Auggie’s history that would indicate any desire to date Cassie Garcia. Though Cassie was an extremely attractive man, he did not live his life as a woman or a man. Her wardrobe each day fluctuated between women and men’s attire. Though many women have no problem wearing clothes made for men, few men have a large wardrobe of women’s clothing. She had By Steve Hammond

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not labeled herself as necessarily transgender or transsexual, and often reminded people that ultimately she was a drag queen. When she was not on stage, she did not pretend to be a girl, but in all fairness, it is not as if she went around pretending to be a boy. Drag queens live in an alternate reality. They will tell you, without hesitation, that they are a boy. They will tell you, without blinking an eye, that they are only a female when they are on stage as a performer. Auggie knew better. These same boys rarely refer to each other with their boy names. The thought of dating a drag queen never appeared for a moment in Auggie’s imagination. It was not because he did not think they were beautiful. It was not because he thought they did not work hard, or were talented. Even in the silence of their home, he knew he could handle their aggressiveness, but it was their passion for the art where Auggie knew he would fail. In Auggie’s apartment, everything was in place; diagnosed with mild OCD, disorganization easily sent him in a screaming rage. The thought of more than three items around his vanity, the vision of pantyhose hanging down from the shower curtain, dresses hanging from door jams, the smell of hairspray, makeup smudges, lipstick, liners, blushes, foundations, eyelashes, and fake breasts propped upon his dresser would surely push him over the edge. Auggie was always a patient person, but it was only an inch deep. For these are not the type of people that date drag queens. The thought of Auggie walking behind a drag queen, toting a wheeled Samsonite bag, was ludicrous; His friends joking about the thought of him dating a drag queen often sent them into hysterical laughter, most likely the same kind of laughter that would have sent them to the bar floor, right next to David. Auggie had only been in Phoenix for seven months before he met the boy version of Cassandra at Harley’s on Seventh. Cassie was only two years younger but had one of those looks that caused clerks to card him when purchasing cigarettes. Almost three weeks of dating passed before Auggie found himself spending the night at his house. Cassie was not one of those stereotypes created by Auggie of a drag queen. He pleasantly decorated his home with simple By Steve Hammond

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furniture and mementos from his strong Hispanic heritage. His father, Victor Garcia, held Arizona’s record for saving the most lives while serving in Viet Nam. Cassie’s father was a kind and gentle man that used his fame to fight for rights amongst migrant farmers picking lettuce in Yuma. The first night Auggie spent with Cassie revealed no indication of his life as a drag queen. On their tenth date, Auggie realized calling Cassie “Cassidy” was wrong and laughed, knowing it took so long to correct. The following night fell on Friday. In his excitement to bring Cassie to lunch, he stopped by while Cassie and some man named Richard practiced dance moves. At first, Auggie sat there puzzled, watching Richard choreograph moves to the same dance number. It was not until they started lip-synching the words to the song that Auggie put the pieces together. Auggie was good at that. He had a long list of meeting men that later on confided that they had performed as a female impersonator. He had never intentionally dated a drag queen; it just always worked out that way, somewhere in their history, his date once wore dresses. Auggie sat there on the floral couch that Cassie’s mom selected from the Montgomery Ward catalog and quietly calculated his response to the two boys dancing before him. Up in the air, hands up in the air, to the left, twist around, jump down, jump up. Auggie sat there while his brain confirmed both boys looked cute with their hands up in the air, moving to the left, twisting around, jumping down, and jumping up, smirking as the two boys pranced back and forth. He felt like a dirty old man watching the boys twirl. He glanced across the living room and noticed every piece of furniture piled with drag attire and wondered why he had not noticed any of the signs. Auggie did not date drag queens. At the third beat of Sister Sledge, he glanced as Cassie officially transformed to Cassandra before his very eyes, wondering if she knew he was selling cocaine to the Phoenix meth dealers. He followed his phrase of not dating drag queens with her voice whispering back, “I don’t date fucking drug dealers.” Auggie’s arrival to Phoenix six months prior came as a surprise to his family and friends in Florida. Out of nowhere, he had By Steve Hammond

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sold his popular bar, The Galleria in Orlando, which held the title of the largest male stripper bar in the United States. To the average family member looking into Auggie’s life, nothing made sense. Those people that knew Auggie the best also knew Auggie was escaping the microscope of Florida law enforcement agencies after the brutal death of his best friend. Only two friends understood Auggie was now secretly funneling drug dealers to law enforcement. Nobody in the inner circles of Auggie’s life had the slightest clue that Auggie was working for the DEA through a shared task force with the Maricopa Sheriff’s Department. He had entered the state with sixty-two East Coast convictions to his record, which single-handedly was the largest record for any confidential informant. Auggie had his secrets, but there he sat on the floral print couch wondering if he could handle the obsessive behavior of a drag queen. Then again, could Cassandra tolerate dating a drug dealer? When a person has a secret to tell, there are three people to avoid. They should never tell a parent a secret, since someday they would use the information against them emotionally. They should never tell their best friend or an employee because someday they will not be their best friend or the employee and may use it against them. God forbid they ever tell anyone they are dating a secret, because they will use it against them emotionally while they are together, and definitely with law enforcement, after they separate. There is a reason people use the word secret for secret. It is a piece of information not shared. Auggie knew his life functioned on his ability to maintain his secret. His parents did not have the slightest clue. Siblings were oblivious to any altered behavior, and even his closest friends did not have the slightest idea that his actions were for the good of society. Auggie’s greatest strength was that disarming smile, combined with a wicked twinkle in his bright green eyes suggesting he was constantly up to something of no good. Everyone had to believe “Auggie is bad, for Auggie to be good.” His mind was spinning as fast as Richard and Cassandra were twirling. By looking at his face, it was easy to tell that By Steve Hammond

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something was now wrong. Auggie was good at bullshitting, but was terrible at hiding the emotions. If he was quiet, everyone knew he was pissed off. If he would not look someone in the eyes, they knew he was sad and refused to let them acknowledge the thought rambling through his brain. One hundred memories were flickering through his mind, in random order, as the Denny’s server refilled his beverage. Auggie glanced at the bead of water racing down the side of his iced tea glass. He stood up, placed three dollars on the counter, and walked out the front door. If ever he needed to hug someone, it was right now, and that person was sleeping in the hotel.

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By Steve Hammond

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By Todd Kachinski-Kottmeier


Turn Around Bright Eyes