Category Archives: fun stuff

The Whiteboard, part eight

Welcome  to all my news fans and followers…if you are just now getting into The Whiteboard, you have a bit to catch up. We are about to start on Part Eight. If you want to read part seven go here

The Whiteboard Part Eight by ©Kim Smith

throat

Anne rose from bed on Friday morning to go to the bathroom, and as she always did, she glanced at the mirror.

Black marker dotted her throat as if someone had drawn the dashes to create a pattern to slice it open.

She screamed in terror.

High on the mirror was the handwritten note of the writer.

“Live or die, the choice is yours.”

She clutched at her throat and tried to wipe off the hateful ink, but to no avail.

Panicked, she grabbed a washcloth and wet it with water. She tried to remove the marks, even to the point of scrubbing her neck until it became red and inflamed. The marks faded only slightly.

It was like she’d been tattooed in her sleep.

Who had done this evil thing? She looked at her reflection in the mirror. No answer there.

What did this even mean?

“You know what it means,” she told her face as she looked at herself. This was terrifyingly real. The writer had somehow broken into her home, accosted her person, and written on the mirror without her even stirring.

“How? How did this even happen?” she questioned aloud.

She strode to the door. Locked from the inside, and just as she’d left it. She strode to the windows. None had been jimmied.

What if this writer had come and done this to her personal space while they had the keys and she’d been too overwrought last night to notice? She’d thrown her clothes on the floor, slipped into a teeshirt, and gone to bed.

“I never even brushed my teeth.”

What if the writer had taken the liberty of making copies of her keys? It would be a small matter to follow her home, and let themself in while she slept. They had done their damage and let themselves out again?

That didn’t seem as plausible as her first thought about coming in while she still worked. She re-entered the bathroom and gazed at the writing.

Who hated her so much?

She turned her head and looked at the marks on her throat again. Whoever this was had started this assault out so innocently, and now had invaded her home.

Anne strode to her bedside table to call the police. Abusing her whiteboard was one thing. This was another.

__________________

Hope you are having a great day! Be sure to share the link on your social media accounts.

Part Seven of The Whiteboard is here!
I hope you are enjoying this little strange tale. I think you will enjoy how things speed up from this point forward. Poor Anne. She’s a victim but she can’t seem to understand how to deal with it.

You can read part six here

Last time, she went to her boss for help…we left her about to explain to him what has been going on.seven

©Part Seven of The Whiteboard by Kim Smith

“Yes. A visitor,” she repeated. “And whoever it is, you see, I don’t know their identity, so whoever it is, is writing on my whiteboard.”

He stared at her, waiting. She couldn’t fathom how what she’d just told him didn’t shock him, but he didn’t look at at all shocked.

“You mean, without permission?” he asked, politely.

“Yes.”

“What is this person writing?”

“Nothing earth-shattering. They or he or she made mention of my social life and put up a bit of song.”

“Nothing violent? Nothing threatening?”

She shook her head.

“Anything that could be deemed harrassment?”

She shook her head again.

He leaned forward. “So, why are you telling me? If it’s not threatening or harrassment, there’s very little the company can do.”

“The whiteboard is company property. Can’t I report it as being misused or damaged or something?”

He thought a moment before speaking. “What do you hope to accomplish by reporting misuse of company property? The worst that would happen is that it would be removed. Is that what you would like?”

“I would like to find out who’s been doing this, is all, sir. They have taken to writing on my car, as well. I…I believe they may have stolen my car keys. I’ve just gotten back from the garage, where they were lying on the ground just under my car. I am hoping you can help me figure out who this maniac is.” She hated the way her voice turned into whining.

“Are you sure you didn’t drop the keys? I don’t mean to sound skeptical but this all sounds like high school stuff.”

“Doesn’t the company have video cameras around?”

“No,” he frowned. “They have them in the parking lot, as a security measure. But if this person is really up to no good, they will figure out how to get around that. Haven’t you ever watched the crime dramas on television?”

She bit her lip, trying to think of another way to get help, as he was beginning to grate on her nerves. Did he think she was a total idiot? How did he get to be in his position, anyway?

He interrupted her thoughts. “Was there any damage to your car?”

“Not that I could tell.”

He leaned forward and gave her a piercing stare. “How is this person getting into your office at night?”

That was the one question that she dreaded the most.

“I don’t lock my office.”

He glanced at his watch ready to put this behind him. “I see.”

He placed one hand over the other and she felt like she was standing in a lawyer’s office, getting advice.

“I think you should start,” he said.

Her heart fell like a stone. No help forthcoming from this man. Her mind went higher, to his boss. Maybe someone else would show a bit more compassion.

She turned and walked toward the door. “Thank you for your time. I’ll do that.”

“I’ll speak to Joe downstairs about the video cameras and see if they have copies of the recordings. I wouldn’t pin all my hopes on it though. We likely have to have a piece of legal paper to get at them.”

She turned to give him a last moment to offer something of assistance to her. She clasped her hands in front of her and let out a held breath. “Okay. Thank you.”

When he spoke next, she knew assistance was not forthcoming.

“Close the door, will you?” he asked, waving her out.

She did, a little strongly. On the other side of the door, she resisted the urge to just lean against it and cry.

“Not helpful at all,” she whispered as she walked away.

She fretted over the situation all afternoon, and found herself looking around for someone watching her all the way to her car that evening. Nothing happened, and her car seemed quite un-molested.

Then, Friday came, and everything changed in Anne’s world. A dreadful, insidious force had found her and they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

~@~

Hope you are loving this short story. It’s hard to believe we are up to PART SEVEN! I am rewriting it now, putting more in, and editing it *yes, you have been getting first draft material here* egads! I hope to have it in a published form sometime this year. 

Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have something to add.

 

Part six of The Whiteboard

You can find part five of The Whiteboard here http://wp.me/p3VxaG-1QS

part

So, here is the sixth part or installment of our strange tale. The Whiteboard is about a woman whose dry erase board at her job suddenly starts issuing someone’s opinion and becomes the object of their interest with her as the recipient.  Today we find out what happens next.

©The Whiteboard Part Six by Kim Smith

The writer didn’t put out new whiteboard writing at all on Thursday. By the time Anne got ready to leave work, she had convinced herself it was just a silly office game someone was playing with her and best left ignored. She wanted no part in it.

But when she prepared to leave for the day, she couldn’t locate her keys.

She was fastidious to a fault and to misplace anything was not her norm. She checked her sweater hanging on the back of the door, took every item out of her purse. turned it upside down and patted it to make anything inside fall out.

Nothing did.

And she had an immense set of keys. They were impossible to miss when they were lying on the desk or in the bottom of her purse. She checked her desk, every nook and cranny, even looking all around on the floor.

The keys were officially missing.

She gazed up at the whiteboard. Nothing there to give her a hint.

Or was there?

In very tiny writing, using the yellow marker this time, was one single line that she had completely missed.

“I like your car.”

Now, a cold drip of fear sucked through her belly. Did the writer take her keys?

She had to go to her car.

Of course, the writer had taken the keys.  Why else were they missing? The writer was taunting her. Anger made her breath come out in a whoosh as she strode from her office headed straight for the elevator.

If this lunatic had done anything to her car…she’d kill him. Or her. She didn’t care. When she got her hands on them, they’d be a believer.

When she walked outside, she blinked at the brilliance of the sun as it shone on her face. She would love to be able to just sit on the concrete steps and enjoy it. But instead, she thought about how unfair life was. She couldn’t even enjoy the seasonal beauty because someone had gotten focused on her and now had her heart filled with hate.

When she arrived at the car, her keys were lying just underneath the car’s door. Did she accidentally drop them? Had she been all keyed up over the writer’s activities and been at fault all along?

She scooped them up and walked around her car, suspiciously. She had had to have them in her hands to lock the vehicle’s door’s with the clicker. It was obviously locked. Besides, hadn’t the writer said in the latest writing that they liked the car?

Frustrated, she rushed inside the building to go straight to her boss’s office. Enough was enough. When she walked into her supervisor’s office, it was like it wasn’t even her moving her legs. She was a robot performing some weird pre-designed action.

“What’s up?” Mr. Stanton asked.

“I…I have a problem,” she replied, looking at the various items on his desk, formulating her thoughts.

“Like?”

He was being kind.

She was approaching this all wrong. She dove in anyway.

“Y-yes,” she stammered. “I’ve been having a visitor at night in my office.”

She glanced at him.

He steepled his fingers together and sat back.

“A visitor?”

__________

Well, there you have it, my friends. What do you think will happen next?

 

 

 

The Whiteboard part four

Welcome to the latest (fourth) installment of The Whiteboard. This story has been keeping me company for weeks now. I am sort of liking the fact that I can just write about 500 words on it (equivalent of 2  pages or so) and let that be the writing for the day. A writer writes. So, I am. I hope you are enjoying this little tale. (I actually do have an ending!)

Here are the three previous links to parts one, two, and three.

Part one

Part two

Part three

The Whiteboard by Kim Smith ©2017

fourth

She was disappointed in Beatrice’s reply. Her co-worker hadn’t seen anyone coming or going in Anne’s office, except Anne. This was met with a bit more dismay than Anne wanted to admit.

She walked up to the board and wrote in her boldest hand, “Who ARE you?”

“I’ll play for one more day,” she said, aloud. Then, she gathered her things to go home. When she touched the doorknob, she considered locking it. What was going to be learned from someone who snuck into her office and played games, anyway?

Finally, she left it unlocked. One more day, she told herself. Then it’s going to be locked up tight.

As she headed toward the elevator, she remembered an 8:30 a.m. meeting on Thursday that she would be having in her office. The writer had better be prepared to divulge their identity and get out quickly or face a few others crowded into her small office to be a new and less attentive audience.

She forced herself to breathe in and out and smile inwardly. Nothing to be done about this business now. There was a well-dressed man on the elevator when she got on. She had never seen him before, but that wasn’t all that remarkable. She didn’t know everyone person on every floor of the massive office complex.

He allowed her to exit before him, as a well-bred man should do. At least, in her opinion. Not that she was an authority or anything . She didn’t even have brothers or uncles and her father had never been home long, preferring to work two jobs and long hours.

She was something like him, she supposed.

When Anne reached her car, she looked up at the building where she spent so much of her time. She couldn’t see her office from this vantagepoint, but she knew where it was. Her life seemed wrapped up in that one place. Now someone was invading her space. It was enough to make her frown as she clicked the button to open her car doors.

When she sat inside, she could see the writing on her windshield, in the dust of the pollen that had begun to collect everywhere thanks to the abundance of trees around the garage.

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall,” it said in the perfect handwriting she’d already come to recognize.

A drip of cold fear gripped her. What did that even mean? How did the writer know her car? This meant the writer KNEW her and her habits. Should she take this to the authorities? Was it harmless or dangerous. She sat there a long time before finally turning on the washer and wipers, obliterating the writing from her view.

“Take that, you weirdo,” she said, putting her seat belt on.

~@~

I hope you enjoyed this fourth installment! More to come! Please feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you think…

 

 

 

Interview with Jordan Nasser, author of This Fire Inside

jordan

Jordan was on my podcast, Writer Groupie, not too long ago, and when his third book came out, he contacted me to do another one. (there is an excerpt and synopsis at the bottom of this post) As some of you know, I am on a hiatus at the moment, and so I decided to do a special promo blog post for him. If you haven’t picked up the first two books in his “Fire” series, you totally should and can in this post by clicking on my links.

Jordan Nasser, writer extraordinaire, answered a few questions for me…

Share about yourself

Jordan’s website at Jordan Nasser dot com

My family is originally from California, but I was raised in Tennessee. I studied theatre and French at the University of TN before moving to New York City in my mid twenties. My career in marketing brought me to Stockholm, Sweden, where I settled in 2008.

Share about your work

I was lucky enough to have some free time between jobs, but I didn’t want to just have a great tan and some fun experiences as memories, so I decided to try my hand at writing. I wanted to create something that I could hold in my hand, as most of my work in marketing was simply digital. I knew I wanted to write a fiction story that centered on a same gender relationship, but I didn’t want the novel to fall so easily into the romance category. I was looking for fun, general fiction. In using bits and pieces of my own experiences growing up in the South, I worked to create a story of love and friendships that included a whole array of quirky characters.

Tell us about your writing style

I prefer to write in first person narrative that is very conversational. It helps me to really get into the mindset of my main character. People tell me that I have an easy, storytelling nature to my words, and I appreciate that.

What do you find challenging about the writing life?

Very few writers make a living writing, and that is indeed a challenge. Eventually I had to go back to the office life, and my challenge now is to continue writing in my free time. I’m also not fond of all the self-marketing. There’s a fine line between promoting your art and begging others to help fund your creativity. I believe in my writing, and I hope that it will take off on a grander scale, but the odds are definitely against independent authors.

If you could write from any place on earth, where would you choose to write from?

I get distracted easily, so I prefer to be alone when I write. The bulk of my three books were written while on vacation at the beach where I have no access to internet or wi-fi, so that is perfect for me. I get some sun and recharge during the day, then sip some wine while writing on the balcony in the early evening.

When asked to set goals, what do you see for yourself or current WIP in five years with your writing?

Having just released the third book in my Home is a Fire series, right now my goal is to try my hardest to make sure the work is seen! I have a personal goal to start a new work this year, but at the moment, I need a bit of a break. Writing “This Fire Inside” took a lot out of me. In the future I would love to combine these three books with a new forward and perhaps a short story as an addendum.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished reading The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman. My personal tastes veer towards light fantasy and YA lit. This one is an odd mix between an adult Hogwarts with a bit of Narnia, and I liked the collision of worlds and the allusions to past works.

Who is your favorite author?

I am a huge fan of Armistead Maupin. My Home is a Fire series owes a great deal to his Tales of the City, a sprawling series of books depicting a colorful set of characters who inhabited a shared boarding house in San Francisco in the 1970s.

Give a bit of advice for an aspiring author

Writing is fun and terrifying and fulfilling, but until I started to think of it as a job, rather than a hobby, I was unable to get very far. Commit to writing every day, for either a set time or a set number of words, or both. I prefer to start the day by editing what I wrote the day before, then starting on something new, for at least 1500 words. Then back to editing the next day. Get a few beta readers to check your work, but ask them to check for specific things (typos, character development, plot), otherwise you will get generic “I liked it!” feedback. Make the tough edits! Your work will be all the better for it.

Links to buy his books (click covers to go to Amazon)

Book one-Home is a Fire

Book two-The Fire Went Wild

And book three is now available!

THIS FIRE INSIDE synopsis

Home is a Fire, Book 3 by Jordan Nasser

Derek and Luke thought revealing their romance to their small Tennessee community meant they had overcome their biggest obstacle…until they visit New York and bump into someone from Luke’s past.

Everything was going great for Derek and Luke. Until it wasn’t. It took courage for the couple when their hidden relationship was revealed in their small hometown in Tennessee. Now that the noise has begun to die down, the two escape to New York City for a well-deserved break.

But the excitement of the big city quickly goes off the tracks when they bump into an unexpected face from Luke’s past. This man’s personal chaos places a wedge between them, creating fresh wounds, igniting old desires, and revealing hidden regrets.

Will Derek and Luke be able to weather the tumultuous emotional storm that engulfs them? Can Luke find the light beyond the shadows from his past?

This Fire Inside is the delightfully entertaining third installment of the Home Is a Fire series, welcoming readers back into the heartfelt world of Derek, Luke, and the quirky residents of Parkville, Tennessee.

Excerpt!

THIS FIRE INSIDE excerpt

Home is a Fire, Book 3 by Jordan Nasser
 
School was out and so were we. Literally. Somehow my super-closeted football coach boyfriend had decided to take the leap and publicly declare his love for me, his fellow Parkville High School staff member. The reaction from the community was swift, and decidedly unfriendly. Even worse, his sister Lana, along with his former high school sweetheart Amber and her son Jett, had been at the forefront of an intense reactionary campaign against us. Thankfully our other family members and friends rallied to our defense, but it took a few backroom deals and surprise revelations to tie up all the loose ends. Ultimately we were able to keep our jobs, but was that what we really wanted? I was pretty sure I didn’t, after the way we had been treated.

Luke and had I talked to each other about leaving the school, and we decided to look for other options. My Uncle Barry’s friend, Lloyd Barton, had let it slip that he was considering selling his catering company, Lloyd’s. He was tired of the hard work and he wanted to spend his twilight years playing around, like his pals in the Bears’ Club. He asked Uncle Barry if he wanted to buy the whole thing as a turnkey business, but Barry was enjoying his own retirement, so he passed. Lloyd then suggested that Luke and I might like to try our hands at something new. It was an easy decision for me to quit teaching, but it was harder for Luke to walk away from coaching. Instead of saying yes or no right away, we decided to splurge on a summer trip to New York to clear our minds and get back to the question at hand when we returned. We went ahead and set up a meeting with Lloyd in two weeks. It wouldn’t hurt to get all the details before we said no, right?

Luke’s place…I mean, our place…was located near the university campus. A hidden gem in a sea of run-down Victorians, it had somehow escaped the wrecking ball that had turned so many colorful dollhouses into concrete parking structures and mini marts. It was home for now, and we were both working hard to make it a place that felt just as comfortable to me as it did to him.

To a Southerner, home is everything. When I came back to Parkville from my decade-long adventure in New York, I moved back in with my mom, Audrey, and her brother, my Uncle Barry. When my long-lost dad, Johnny, reappeared and swept her off her feet again, she moved in with him, and we all hoped their relationship would last this time. My uncle didn’t react well at first, but now that Mom has fully settled in at Casa de Johnny, Barry has taken the opportunity to turn Mom’s old place into the gay bachelor palace of his dreams. Did I mention that he finally came out after 60?

I pulled my old junker into Barry’s driveway and took a look at the chaos. Lovingly nicknamed Willie Nelson thanks to the “Honk if you love Willie Nelson” sticker Mom had placed on its bumper years ago, my car was the least out of place thing here. The men from the local construction crew milled about with Styrofoam coffee cups in hand, walking between well-ordered stacks of lumber and bricks. There was even a small bulldozer parked in the yard. Barry, this isn’t a teardown. What are you doing?

I stepped out of the car and walked up the small, wobbling wooden gangplank that led into the house, using my hands to part the thick sheets of plastic in front of me. My friend Tommy, clipboard in hand, gave me a quick nod as he directed a small group of men. I’m glad he was here to act as the foreman of this circus and to keep Barry on track. They were definitely in the mid-demolition phase.

“Barry?” I called out. “Where are you?”

“Over here, Dolly!” he answered. I was rarely “Derek” to my Uncle Barry. He preferred “Dolly” or “nephew” or even “kid.” I took this as a sign of love; especially coming from a man who called himself “Beret” while he was lip-syncing show tunes in sparkly drag gowns at the Bears’ Club downtown.

“Watch your step, kid. They’re taking this wall down today.” He walked over and gave me a hug, and then handed me a plastic construction helmet to wear. His headgear was bedazzled of course, but this simple yellow plastic one would just have to do for me. “This house has never seen so much action. Just wait till we’re done! Ha! Come on. Let’s take a walk out to the front. It’s pretty safe out there.”

We stepped gingerly over a few two-by-fours and walked out onto the front porch. He pulled the glass door tight to silence the noise from inside, and the screen door shut itself, squeaking softly along the way.

“I thought you were just putting in a hot tub?” I said, staring amazed at the chaos.

“Oh, you know me, Dolly. Diamonds and sequins on feathers. Once I started I couldn’t stop. When your mom moved out I realized that I finally had the chance to make something of my own. I feel invigorated. The bitch is back!”

I had to laugh. Barry’s coming out wasn’t a major surprise, but he was embracing it with full gusto after he had seen Luke and me survive the town pitchforks. His generation may have led the way historically, but now he had some catching up to do, and he was tackling it with all the glitter he could find.

“So,” he started, excitedly, “first I was just going to put in a hot tub, but then I sat down with Tommy, and things just kind of escalated. We’re taking down the dining room wall and making more of an open plan layout here on the first floor. The kitchen will flow into the living room and eating area. Better for entertaining, you know? This happy gal plans on throwing a few parties! Then Tommy suggested opening up the room a bit more by putting in a double sliding glass door to the terrace. Great idea, right?! The hot tub will go over to the left on an extended deck. We’re putting in a line of tall shrubs to create a little privacy hedge, if you catch my drift. We’ll have a fire pit, grilling station, the whole enchilada. I’m so excited!”

“Do you have the money for this?” I asked.

“Well, your Aunt Janey and I always were good with our finances. We saved up a healthy nest egg for our retirement. After she passed, I had enough saved for two, and well, now there’s just me. I’m pretty sure she’d like me to have some fun.” He didn’t speak with an air of sadness. It was honest, and he was right. Janey would be pleased with the new Barry.

“It sounds great and I can’t wait to see it,” I said, reassuring him. “Listen, I came over to ask a favor. Is it all right if I borrow that designer duffel bag I brought you from Chinatown? Luke just has gym bags and they won’t let me back into New York City with one of those. I’m afraid they may even have velvet ropes at the airport now.”

“Even if they did they’d still let you in, kid. You’ve got that look on your face that says step aside. I know what I’m doing. You always have. And I have no idea where you got that,” he said, winking. “Come on. The duffel is in my old room.”

We made our way back through the maze of plastic tarps and sheetrock and up the stairs into Barry’s former bedroom. He dramatically flung open the double doors to his closet while I removed my construction hat and sat on his bed, watching the show. This was a free ticket, and no matter how many times I had seen it, I loved it, every time.

“Now, let’s see,” he said, pushing his way through a sea of sequined gowns, “I just used that bag the other day. Oh, yes! Here we go.” He opened the faux leather duffel, emptied it of a few brassieres and a pair of shiny red patent heels, and then handed it over. “Good as new! And I expect that back, by the way. Actually, I could use a new tote bag, too, if you happen to see one.” He grinned.

“No problem,” I said, smiling. “If I can still find my sources. I’ve heard Chinatown isn’t the same since I left. I’m afraid a lot of New York won’t be the same.”

“Do your best, nephew. No worries. Oh, you’re gonna have a blast,” he assured me. He sat next to me on the bed and carefully placed his sparkly helmet beside him. “And Luke will love it. Help him come out of his shell, a bit. I think you’ll be surprised.”

I hadn’t even thought of that. Luke had spent his whole life here in Parkville. He was the local football hero turned coach, with a secret that he couldn’t share, until I showed up and turned his head. He had a lot of amazing qualities, but I like to think that I brought out his best side.

“Yeah, that’s true. Luke’s knowledge of gay bars includes Bottom’s Up, and that’s it. We haven’t even trekked down to Atlanta for a weekend. He’s barely been exposed to anything.”

“Well, watch out for him, then,” he counseled me. “That country hunk of yours is bound to attract some attention, wanted or not.”

“Oh, we’ll be fine,” I assured him. “I’m taking him to some of my favorite old haunts. If they’re still there, that is. It seems each consecutive mayor of New York decides to ‘revitalize’ more and more of the seedier parts of town that I loved so much. CBGB is now a designer clothing store and Mars Bar is a bank. Punk is dead, long live punk.” I flipped my middle finger into the air in a mock salute and stuck out my tongue.

“Who are you trying to kid, kid? You were never punk. Spunky, sure, but punk?”

“Hey, gimme a break! I saw some things,” I said, defensively. “Maybe I didn’t do as much as I wanted to, but I definitely observed.”

“That’ll make a great headstone.”

“Well, at least I left Parkville for a few years.” I knew he was just teasing me, but sometimes I did feel a bit defeated, considering I eventually left the city of my dreams to return to the scene of my fumbling youth. “I’m so happy I lived in New York. I needed that time away, you know?”

“Of course you did, Dolly. And I’m proud of you. I wish I’d had the courage to move up there for a few years. My situation was a bit different of course, with Janey.” He grew quiet for a moment as he collected his thoughts, and I could feel his emotions shift. “I’m really glad you stopped by today, actually. Now that I’ve granted you a favor, your fairy god-uncle needs to ask one of his own. You up for it?”

“Sure,” I said, cautiously. You never knew what to expect with Barry.

“I made a few solo trips of my own up to New York back in the ‘80s, you know. I had a buddy there I used to visit. Just a friend, nothing more, so don’t give me those eyes. But we did have some crazy nights together. He did drag, of course. I guess you could say he was my inspiration.” He paused, and then launched directly to his request. “I was wondering if you could look him up for me? We lost touch years ago. We were friends before e-mail and cell phones and all that social media hoopla that you’re into. Back then, we actually met people. In person. And if you said you’d be there, well you actually showed up. Crazy, I know. Anyway, it was one of those interminably hot summer months. Janey and Mabel were going to spend a week in Florida so I decided to take a bus up to New York for a few days, on my own. Some me time, you know? It took forever. I think we stopped in every podunk town along the way. When the bus pulled into Port Authority I could just feel the electricity in the air. It was early in the morning but the city was just buzzing with life. I got my bearings and walked down a few blocks and over a few avenues and checked myself right into the Hotel Chelsea. I had seen Lance Loud on that American Family documentary on PBS and I was kind of hoping I would run into him, if you want to know the truth. I never did, though. Can you imagine?! Ha! I could have had a totally different life.”

He shifted his body on the bed and used the palms of his hands to smooth his trousers. Uncle Barry had lived through some amazing times. My respect for him grew every day of every year, and definitely with every new story.

“I spent the day exploring the town, and then came home to clean up for my nighttime adventures. I was alone in the city, after all. Far from home, with no prying eyes from Parkville. I was free to be me and to have some fun, with Janey’s approval, of course. AIDS was ravaging New York City at the time, but I was informed enough to make smart decisions. At least, the best decisions I could with the limited information that we had then. Those were scary times. Anyway, I had freshened up and I was just stepping out of my room at the Chelsea to go dancing when I bumped into Charlie in the hallway. He smiled. I smiled. And, well, you know how it goes, Dolly. We theatre folk just seem to find one another. He asked if I was alone and I said yes, and before I knew it, we were running down the stairs to catch a cab to the Village. He took me everywhere. Places I’d never seen and things I could never have imagined even existed. Midtown, downtown, discos, the bathhouses! It was a different scene then. Trust me. We stayed out until five in the morning, only coming home to nap for a few hours and then we went out and started all over again. You know how it goes. Charlie performed in drag on the weekends so I tagged along to see his shows. He had real star power. Such a following! Young boys just threw themselves at him. Ha! His female illusion was just tops. The best. He had gowns and sparkles and heels. And the wigs! Oh! His room at the Chelsea was just chock-full of fantasy. He was really living his life to the fullest. Charlie took advantage of everything that city had to offer, and he loved every minute of it. Even better, kid, he was out. Out and proud, out. I have to admit, I was so jealous of him, and I couldn’t help but wish that I could do the same. But some things just weren’t meant be, at least not in the same timeline. My moment came later, of course. Hell, I didn’t even come out officially until this year. But here’s the thing. That queen showed me what I could be. Who I could be. He was my goal and my inspiration…and then I lost him. I just know he went on to do great things. I do.”

He turned to look at me, very seriously. “So you think you can find him for me, Dolly? I can’t even imagine the exciting life he is leading now, after all these years. I just need to know what he has done with his amazing gifts.”

“Absolutely, Uncle Barry. I’d be honored. Charlie, right?” I made a mental note. “Do you have any other info on him? His last name? He can’t still be living at the Chelsea?”

“Oh, sorry, nephew. I don’t know why I did that. Old habits. I met him as Barry, not Beret, so my pronouns are all messed up. I don’t think you can find him. But you’ll definitely find her. He never went by Charlie. She was fabulous, after all. I’m sure you’ll be able to find her. Just go to the best clubs and ask around for me? There must be someone who knows the amazing Chinois Zarée.”