St John Karp

Ramblings of an Ornamental Hermit

Quake City

Quake City Cover

Andre met his best friend Amy on a night like tonight. The way Amy tells it she had to stop him from climbing over the bar at Aunty Bob’s to punch the bartender, though if you ask Andre he’ll say, “What? That never happened. I don’t even know what you’re saying to me right now.”

Now Amy is worryingly missing in action, and Andre goes to Aunty Bob’s on a quest to find her. No sooner does he walk in with his depressingly heterosexual date than his best hat is spirited away by a lesbian in the throes of breaking up with her girlfriend. She in turn has it stolen from her when she starts a fight with two twinks at the bar. The hat makes its way around Aunty Bob’s from one head to another, giving glimpses into the dozens of stories playing out at the same time, unaware of each other but colliding in catastrophic ways. Can Andre find Amy before this party devolves into a nightmare of broken hearts, malevolent drag queens, and spontaneous human combustion? Or has it always happened this way, every night, at Aunty Bob’s Quake City Club?

Available in paperback and DRM-free ebook from Bold Strokes Books.

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Excerpt

Andre ~ 8:09 p.m.

“I don’t want to go to a party,” says Tom.

I arch an eyebrow at him skeptically. Yesss, look at this. No human can withstand the eyebrow. I am crueler than Cruella de Vil and more magnificent than Maleficent. Tom shrieks and withers under the shade my eyebrow is throwing at him, begging me for mercy, apologizing through his tears for being so depressingly heterosexual and refusing to go to one teeny tiny party.

Or at least he would be. If he was looking at me. But he’s still lying on my couch with his head on the armrest, browsing KinkBitches.com on his phone. I hold my eyebrow arched like that for a second in case he looks up and I can pretend I’ve just done it. Come on, Tom. Look at me. Look at me.

My face muscles start spasming. I drop the eyebrow and rub the side of my face, pretending it never happened. I don’t know why I bother trying to have facial expressions for Tom. He even ignores the one I call “The Judgment of Meredith.” Lookit. See? It’s all in the eyebrow and the lips. Before you even realize what’s happened, I have become someone called Meredith. You don’t know anything about Meredith, but you know she’s judging you. She is judging you for all your dumbass ideas and your weird music. I imagine Tom has just told me Grace Jones is a second-rate singer. Come the fuck on. Who doesn’t like Grace Jones? She’s a goddess. Fucking Tom. He wouldn’t know sexy if it came on his face. Who does he think he is, anyway?

“Fuck you, Tom,” I shout. “You think this is all about you, but it isn’t. You know? It just isn’t.”

Tom is so startled he loses his grip on the phone and drops it on his nose. I would laugh, but Meredith is too angry with him.

“What’d I do now?” he says, giving me a sideways scowl.

“You know what you said, you son of a bitch.”

“All I said was I don’t want to go to a party.” Oh right, the party. I put my angry face away for the time being, but the ghost of Meredith still haunts my eyebrows.

Tom’s all right looking, I guess, if you’re into that kind of thing—though his hair is always too long, and his hands are too rough from climbing mountains or wrestling goats or whatever it is straight people do all day. Now he’s trying to act like a party is such a huge deal. If he’s going to crash on my couch and mooch my hospitality for a week, the least he can do is come with me.

I know how much hotels cost in San Francisco. Tom’s saving a fortune, which means he owes me like a thousand dollars payable in chocolate and wine. Has he even said thank you? What do you think? He just lies on my couch all day stinking the place up with his hormones. He’s coming to this party if I have to break his legs and roll him there in a wheelchair.

“Tough,” I say. “You have to go. There’s only one key, so you won’t be able to get back in without me.”

“So, I won’t go out.”

“What if there’s a fire?”

“Then I’ll die,” he says.

“I don’t even know what you’re saying to me right now. Why you gotta be so freakin' weird about it?” I turn away from him to check my hair in the mirror. “Maybe we’ll run into someone I know,” I say. “Like my girlfriend, Amy.”

I check my phone, but Amy hasn’t texted me back. She hasn’t been returning my texts for a week now. And then today she deleted her social media accounts. It’s almost the kind of thing you could put down to being on her very long, very colorful shit list, but she’s done this before. And I’m the only reason she’s still here.

I go into the bathroom with a can of hairspray so Tom won’t get suspicious. I jam my finger down on the nozzle to cover the sound as I call Amy. The air is filling up with hairspray. It’s making my nose itch. I can practically feel the ozone layer shrivel up and die. But no one picks up. I dial again, just in case, and suddenly there’s a voice on the other end, and I’m so surprised it takes me a second to go, “Amy?” And she pauses, like she’s really thinking about answering.

Then she hangs up.

I march out of the bathroom in a cloud of hairspray fog and throw the can into the laundry hamper. “I can’t do this right now.”

Tom says, “What? It looks good.”

“Yes, it does,” I snap at him, but I secretly double-check my hair in the mirror. Does it look good? I guess so. I tease it a little bit until it has that nice, unaffected look. It’s not so bad. Maybe I can do this. I give myself a side-on to make sure everything’s where it should be: skinny black jeans, tight white T-shirt, and a black blazer with lime green crosshatching I got at a thrift store in Camden a few years ago. It’s a good ensemble. And I’ve got them good Mexican genes, so in juuuust the right light, you can see through the shirt and see the outline of my nip-nips.

“Do these jeans make my ass look big?”

I can tell he’s not looking, but he answers. “Massive.”

“Good,” I mumble back. “But booty massive, not bootsy massive, right?”

“Bootsy? What the hell are you talking about?”

“Never underestimate the power of the ass.”

“I never have,” he says.

I turn to give him a view of it and flex one cheek after the other, doing an accent: “Tohhhm. Look deep eento mah aye. Ah vill heepnotize you vith mah sexy powerrrr.” But he’s not paying any attention, so I do another voice. “Oh, well what’s this? My stars, I appear to have dropped my handkerchief. I better bend over and pick it up before I get an attack of the vapors.” I bend over in front of him and give him a face full of my magnificent ass.

He looks at me and says, “What kind of a party is this, anyway?”

“It’s a gay party.”

“Urrrgh,” he says, rolling his face into the sofa. “What you mean is there’s no chicks and I’m gonna spend the whole time being letched on by queens. What am I supposed to do all night?”

“Oh my God, it’s like you have no idea how this even works. Listen up, Thomas. Women love the gays, and more importantly they don’t seem to mind that we don’t give a flying fuck about them.”

“What?”

“It’s like you and lesbians. They have what you want, but you’re not allowed to have it. We’re what women want and it makes them insane. Who can blame them? Smell me. How can anyone say no to this?”

I thrust my neck at him so he can properly appreciate how magical I smell. He wrinkles his nose. “It’s burning my eyes.”

“What? What are you saying? This is Jimmy Choo. A friend of mine once wore this, walked into a room full of tits, and came out sucking the only dick in the whole place. Maybe I’m not wearing enough.” I fumble for the tiny bottle of very expensive fragrance and spray a cloud into the air. With grace and poise, I waft myself through it. The droplets land on my skin, cool and refreshing, making sure I’m sexified enough to withstand a night of sweat and cigarette smoke.

“You look like a fish,” says Tom.

I look over. Here I’m trying to impart my wisdom, and he’s lost in his phone again. I snap my fingers at him. “Tom? Thomas? Tom-boy?”

Tom’s eyes dart up from his phone. “Sorry, I thought you were gonna be a while.”

“How dare you. You lie there humping my sofa and drooling over digital pussy when I’m offering you the real thing.”

“What are you even saying to me right now—” he starts, but he stops himself. I’m standing here with a big openmouthed smile on my face just to rub it in. Can you believe it? He’s starting to talk like me. Maybe he’s not completely hopeless after all.

“Can we discuss what just happened?”

“Can we not?” says Tom with a pained look.

I’m basically a merciful god. I decide not to rub it in too much. “What I’m saying, Tommo, is that the club is going to be full of lady-girls, all horned up and nowhere to go. There might be other straight men there,” I say, waving my hand dismissively, “but you have a gay wingman. Harness the power of the butt-lovin’s. I give you my personal guarantee that you’ll be swimming in tits by the end of the night.”

Now he starts cracking up, apparently for no reason. Maybe he’s having a breakdown.

Swimming,” he gasps, a little too melodramatically if you ask me. Take it easy there, Liza, you’re not up for any Oscars. “Like there’s a pool full of disembodied tits? Is that how this works?”

“An Olympic-sized pool full of tits,” I say, trying to impress him with the scale of what I’m offering him. But now he’s just being dumb.

“Is that what you think straight men want?” he asks, then goes all serious. “Wait a minute. You think you could pass for straight, don’t you?”

“Hells damn yes, I could pass for straight.”

“The shame!”

“Look, I’ll do it right now.” I drop my voice to sound like a stupid jock. “Dude, that’s totally baller, I’m hella down for some beer pong, I’m gonna saddle up that poontang and ride it over the mountain Gangnam Style with a tuba fulla brewskis and… all right I have no idea what I’m saying any more.” My straight impression died a sudden death. But between you and me, for the first two, maybe two and a half seconds, I shone like a star.

“It’s uncanny,” says Tom.

I nod. Clearly I’m starting to get through to him.

The last thing I need is an ascot I tie at a Scooby Doo angle around my neck. And maybe a hat? Is tonight a hat night? I’m not really feeling it, but the outfit looks like it’s missing something without it. I try on a red fedora with a broad brim. I turn to Tom. “What do you think? How do I look?”

He looks up from his phone. “Like Liberace, only gay.”

I still need to teach Tom he shouldn’t try to be funny. He’s not as good at it as I am.

“I choose to take your raging jealousy as a compliment. Aren’t you getting ready?”

“I am ready,” he says.

Can you believe it? He’s lying there in his baggy running shorts and black tank top like he was raised by wolves. Though he does actually look okay in them, in a perverse gangbanger/fratboy kind of way. I swear with a bit of grooming and a nose-hair trimmer, he’d clean up to a seven. Maybe an eight with rounding.

But I’m not going to let this fly. “I see what you’re trying to do,” I say. “You’re going to make this hard for me. It’s fine, I like a challenge. You can dress like a Soviet bag lady if you like, I’m still going to get you laid by the end of the night.”

“With a girl, right?”

“If you insist. Honestly, I don’t know how you ever get laid if you’re this picky all the time. Sometimes I don’t know why we’re even friends.”

“I make you feel less like the crushing inevitabilities of life are bearing down upon you.”

Yeah. He’s a real funny motherfucker. “All right, then. Let’s go.”