Here’s this week’s episode of Queer Tango for you. I hope you’re enjoying the daftness and you have your tango hats ready for Episode 3: Hats Not Right.
Episode 3: Hats Not Right
The cold, wind-propelled rain crashed onto Paulette’s head and dribbled into her eyes as she squelched along the street with a huge bag of mats under her arm.
Only a few months ago, she was laughing and joking with her hunky boyfriend—who everybody else in the cast wanted—and signing autographs for huddles of fans in the foyer. Now… now, she was in the Mens Rea stage of committing several crimes and she didn’t know what Mens Rea was but she was going to stick her plimsoles up one man’s rear, Ricky, when she got hold of him.
‘Paulette,’ Agnes said as she got of the community bus ahead of her. ‘I told you to get a bus pass. You could go all over Bumblebridge then.’
‘I will… but I have to wait say… forty years?’ Paulette sneered at the driver who dared to smile at her. What was he so cheery for anyway?
‘I didn’t say a free bus pass, dear,’ Agnes said, put up her brolly and headed up the steps into the community hall where she lingered. ‘Hurry up then, my hair’s getting damp.’
Paulette peeled her own hair back from her face and gritted her teeth. Yes, now she had a car that liked rain less than she did and conked out on Seamstress Avenue… right on the hill… and her boyfriend was dating a minor celebrity and having pictures taken with her in magazines where she was quoted as saying how he’d always loved her and that he had been trying to win her heart for years.
‘Years,’ Paulette grunted at Janis as she got out of her nice warm, fully working car. ‘He’d been with me for years.’
Janis raised her eyebrows then glanced around. ‘Who?’
‘Chadley Norris,’ she said and squelched her way up to the steps. ‘I was in love with a man with a ridiculous name and he was in love with her… for years.’
Janis pulled her brolly out and smiled as she took Ceri’s hand and helped her out of the car. ‘I say he’s stupid.’
‘You think that about Trevor too,’ Ceri said and pecked her. ‘And several of the women in the bingo club.’
‘Because they keep missing the paper and dab my table,’ Janis muttered then escorted Ceri up the steps like she was royalty. ‘And Trevor is stupid.’
Paulette sighed as Janis held the door open for them and turned to Ceri. ‘If I found overalls attractive, I’d fight you for her.’
Janis blushed and rubbed at her neck. ‘Just opened the door. Dunno why that’s so good.’
‘It’s caring, attentive, kind,’ Ceri said then ran up and down the steps twice before checking her step-count. Hah, Sally wasn’t winning today, oh no.
Janis peered over her shoulder then chuckled. ‘Mum is beating you both.’
Ceri flicked to Janis’ mother’s step-count and slumped her shoulders. ‘Out stepped by an eighty-eight year old.’
Paulette tried to look interested but water was dribbling down her spine and making her wiggle. Of course, it was in a perfect salsa-shimmy, but skilled or not, she was going to beat Ricky with her exhaust pipe. And she could… because it had fallen off.
‘Catch up!’ Lanie yelled over her shoulder and skidded to a stop next to the bike racks.
Miriam puffed her way to a shuddery standstill and grimaced her way off the bike. She shouldn’t have borrowed her brother’s bike because he was about a foot taller and Surreptitious Street had potholes. Good thing she wasn’t sitting down in class.
‘You were faster on the hill when we used to ride to school,’ Lanie said with a chuckle as she pulled off her helmet. They’d always ridden together until Neal asked her out and then Miriam caught a lift with him. Smug scumbag.
‘That was like twenty years ago,’ Miriam said and although she thought of herself as fit, she’d struggled up the hill as a seventeen year old. It was one of the stupid reasons she’d agreed to go out with Neal. ‘And it’s raining. I’m slower when it rains.’
‘Next you’ll blame the gears.’ Lanie tapped her on the helmet and pulled her rucksack off her shoulders. She went to lock up her bike then spotted Tracy screeching in and picked up the bike… safer.
‘Lanie, you can let go of the bike,’ Miriam said wondering if she needed to contact the cycle club to see if there was a helpline for addicts. ‘It’s okay to be without the saddle.’
Lanie picked up Miriam’s bike too. ‘It’s not okay because Tracy might take a shine to them.’
Miriam was oddly okay with that.
‘Oh, it’s the happy couple again,’ Tracy said and flicked her alarm on her car. She wasn’t sure why she bothered because if it got nicked, it would either be on her drive or Tammy’s. ‘How nice, matching lycra.’
‘And they are glued together, again,’ Tammy added, yanking her sizable bum out of the passenger seat then yanking her even more sizable bust out. ‘When are you moving in?’
Tracy snorted while munching on Nicorette—elite skill—and winked at Miriam who was turning as pink as half of her hair. ‘I should call Neal and catch up with him. Been ages since we chatted.’
Miriam narrowed her eyes. It was bad enough Neal was Tracy’s brother but it what made it worse was that she’d been blind enough to think he was different. ‘Feel free but his new wife might wonder who you are.’
‘He’s got a new on already?’ Tammy raised her eyebrows. ‘How come we weren’t invited?’
‘I can’t imagine,’ Lanie said then smiled at Miriam, trying not to show how delighted she was that Neal had re-married. ‘You should go visit him.’
Tracy dragged a huge box out of the car and glared around it. ‘He’s not married. He wouldn’t remarry without telling me.’
‘He remarried a year ago,’ Miriam said hoping that Lanie heard the joy in her voice.
Tracy chewed, mouth open then ‘ah’d’ and smirked at Tammy. ‘I was inside.’
‘You was inside.’ Tammy nodded and they both clomped into the hall.
Lanie winked at Miriam. ‘There’s a surprise.’
Miriam rolled her eyes. ‘So was he though… married a guard.’
‘He didn’t?’ Lanie tried to hold open the door but carrying two bikes made it hard.
Miriam held it open for her and bowed low until her helmet fell off. ‘The worthy victor of the bike race, you should proceed first.’
Lanie flicked up the helmet with her foot into Miriam’s hands. ‘I hold open the doors. It’s weird when someone holds them open for me.’
‘You’ll just have to deal with it like we both dealt with Mr Mary-Lou on a bike.’ Miriam snorted as Mary-Lou and Hedges pulled into the carpark. Mary-Lou had instigated staff fitness and her husband had led the way in full pink too-tight lycra.
Lanie shuddered. She was focusing on Miriam in lycra instead. Nicer picture.
‘You’re setting a wonderful example, Lanie,’ Mary-Lou chimed as she bounced up the steps with a huge snow-proof jacket on.
‘It’s a difficult role but Miriam is happy to offer talc.’ Lanie said with her best innocent smile on.
‘I doubt you need talc to fit into anything,’ Miriam muttered and shoved Lanie in by her pert bum. ‘Some of us need lots of it.’
‘Some of us need a new job instead,’ Hedges mumbled then hid behind Mary-Lou as she spotted Gaynor and Stan getting out of their car. Stan’s newest poem had been more detailed and mushy than before. She’d read it out, like a good sport, because Stan was being so good with her son, but the customers had cheered her and Mrs Jones from three doors up offered her discount on an engagement ring.
‘You want to cut hair?’ Mary-Lou said wondering why Hedges was attached to her butt. ‘We’re not those kinda friends, honey.’
‘Don’t you start,’ Hedges muttered and dragged Mary-Lou backward into the hall. ‘My husband keeps asking me if I’m gonna do a Trevor on him.’
Mary-Lou raised an eyebrow. She was relieved to be out of the cold and confused by Hedges, yet again. ‘A Trevor?’
‘Don’t mention him,’ Glynnis snapped as she strode from the kitchen. ‘Barry has three front teeth missing, three.’ She glanced over at the hall then stopped and her eyebrows shot up. ‘Are my glasses steamed or did Ceri just kiss the caretaker?’
‘Janis,’ Lanie said slightly in awe how quickly Janis could win over a woman. ‘And yeah.’
Glynnis threw her gloved hands in the air. ‘He left her for refuge collector and she’s shacked up with a caretaker…’ She narrowed her eyes. ‘They both went to Cambridge… Cambridge.’
‘I’ve been to Cambridge,’ Hedges said, keeping Mary-Lou between her and a glazed over Gaynor. ‘It’s nice. We walked along the river.’
Lanie snorted, dumped the bikes in the kitchen and held open the door for Miriam. ‘I lead.’
‘Only ‘cause I let you,’ Miriam poked her in the stomach and waddled into the toilet/changing room/storage space for table tennis tables.
‘You are as sweet as the spring rain,’ Stan said in a gruff, low voice. ‘Your lips are as its drops on petals.’
Hedges ducked down further and Mary-Lou peered back at her. ‘I still don’t get the Trevor thing?’
Gaynor stopped, eyed Mary-Lou and slunk onto one hip. ‘Did you say Stan was like Trevor ‘cause he ain’t like Trevor.’
Stan laughed. ‘He does accounts.’ He pointed to himself. ‘I do putting up the filing cabinet.’
Gaynor glared at him. ‘And flower arranging. Even Trevor doesn’t arrange flowers.’
‘I’m secure enough to enjoy more sophisticated things.’ Stan said then took Gaynor’s hand. ‘And to woo the woman I adore.’
Gaynor rolled her eyes. ‘You married me. We’ve been married fifteen years. How much more wooing do you want?’
Stan furrowed his brow. ‘You don’t like my way of showing you how wonderful you are.’ His eyes turned to that puppy dog expression Gaynor had been swayed and emotionally battered by for so many years. ‘You said you liked romance.’
‘I was talking about books,’ Gaynor said then sighed and shook her head. ‘I like romance novels.’
He nodded. ‘Yeah, and you were talking about how the bloke was all into flowers and stuff.’ He met Mary-Lou’s eyes wondering why she kept moving her bum away from them. Had she ripped her snow jacket? ‘Women like a bloke who has a girly side, right?’
‘Barney drinks beer and watches football,’ Mary-Lou said with a shrug. ‘He shouldn’t wear lycra… and not pink lycra… we needed a discussion.’
‘She means American football,’ Hedges peeked out from behind Mary-Lou then realised she’d blown her cover, shrieked and ran into the hall.
‘Who said women like a girly bloke?’ Gaynor asked pretty sure that whoever said it must have been Andy and girls loved him because he had pecs you could drool over.
‘I read it.’ Stan nodded then frowned and trudged into the hall. ‘You never appreciate me.’
Gaynor rolled her eyes. ‘I miss beer and football.’
Mary-Lou patted her on the shoulder.
‘Hello!’ Andy chimed and flounced into the hall with a flourish. ‘I would like to know if we’re ready for full costume.’
‘I don’t think you are.’ Tammy glared in the box Tracy was searching.
‘Why?’ Diane said, strolling in with a plate of chips and gravy. ‘We’ve been practicing for weeks. I even start on the right foot sometimes.’
‘Left foot,’ Paulette muttered whose toes were still sore from trying to show her. ‘You start on your left foot.’
George strolled in with a chuckle. ‘I just start with whatever foot Diane hasn’t stood on.’
Tracy pulled out a feather boa. ‘I’m not sure Ricky got the right idea, luv.’
‘Ooh,’ Diane said and took it then wrapped it around herself while finishing off her chips with the kind of skill George was awed by. He’d never seen anyone eat like Diane nor had anyone he’d ever seen moved him as much when devouring fried ice cream.
‘In that case,’ Tracy handed a panama hat to George. ‘Fancy some cricket?’
‘Howzat,’ Tammy said with a snort and pulled out a Welsh woman’s hat. ‘I think your Ricky nicked the wrong box.’
‘I’ll say,’ Tracy said and thunked the hat on her head then handed Tammy a Welsh shawl. ‘I once went Wales… They do nice prisons.’
Tammy handed a fluorescent bobble hat to Gaynor. ‘It has fake ears on it.’
Gaynor yanked it onto her head. ‘Maybe it comes with earplugs?’
‘Here’s the perfect hat for you,’ Tracy said and placed the glittery blue Stetson on Andy’s head. ‘Nearly matches Ruby’s hair.’
Andy grinned and flounced into a line dancing move then grabbed Glynnis by the waist and swung her around. ‘We’ll get you some boots.’
Glynnis squealed then tapped him on the nose. ‘I have some.’
‘I like this side…’ Andy said and swung her around as Paulette rolled her eyes. ‘You don’t like line dancing, Paulette?’
‘I’ll leave it to the glittery-hatted,’ she said and peered in the box. ‘They’re the only costumes we have?’
Tracy held the box upside down. ‘Um… yeah.’
Lanie strode in with Miriam in gym wear and shook her head at the box. ‘Let me guess, Ricky couldn’t nick a whole set?’
‘Oi, he said there weren’t much in the local theatre group… they have less members since they did that high-energy play.’ Tracy tapped her Welsh hat. ‘Guess I’ll have to send him out to nick more.’
‘Nick who?’ Agnes said from over her kettle. She hoped that Paulette would let them have an extended tea break because she had left over low-fat biscuits and her knitting group had turned their noses up.
‘His… er…’ Tammy scratched at her shawl. ‘Boss.’
Tracy nodded. Ricky did love his Aunty Agnes and didn’t even nick flowers out of her posh garden. He was a gentleman like that.
‘I’ll wear this,’ Lanie said and stuck her bicycle helmet on. ‘Least it won’t fall off.’
Miriam again wondered about Lanie’s cycling urges but nodded to appease her anyway. She’d prefer Lanie to pick her up in a car because then they could talk and maybe do something other than get splashed by passing traffic.
‘I’ll just stick my jumper around my waist like a skirt,’ Miriam said and tied her sleeves together.
‘I’ll use these,’ Ceri said pulling the fluffy parts off two feather dusters and attaching them to each shoulder. ‘I can polish while we dance.’
Janis chuckled and pulled out her yellow cloth and a marigold and with skill and precision created some kind of mohawk hat. She perched it on her head and rubbed at her beard. ‘Goes with the dusters.’
Ceri sniggered and gazed up at her while Glynnis tried to understand just what kind of people her grandchildren would grow up and marry. She wasn’t paying for them to go to Cambridge, that was for certain, her girls had studied overseas. She’d send the grandchildren there… they might manage to marry someone who’d graduated school then.
‘What you think?’ Stan said and motioned to his toolbelt sash. ‘I can even keep my measuring tape in it.’
Gaynor fanned herself with her fake ears. She did like him in that belt. ‘Now, that’s better.’
Stan raised his eyebrows then puffed out his chest. ‘Wait until I got Andy’s wig on then.’
Andy snorted. ‘She’ll have to fight off George then.’ He winked at George who glowered from under his panama. ‘Sticky wicket that is.’
‘No, chips, pie and three dollops of cheddar is a sticky wicket,’ George said hoping that Andy would hand over the pictures of him dancing with Ruby. It was dark and he shouldn’t have downed those ten chasers.
‘You can wear this,’ Mary-Lou said and placed her daughter’s snapback on Hedges’ electrified hair which always tickled her nose during turns.
Hedges touched it. ‘It’s the wrong way around.’
‘No,’ Mary-Lou said with every kind, patient tone she needed with poor uneducated people… which is what she’d been before her daughter told her but Hedges didn’t know that. ‘It’s a snapback. It sits that way.’
‘It’s a baseball hat,’ Tracy said and rolled her eyes.
‘Rounders,’ Tammy said with a snigger then scratched her neck. The shawl was nice but itchy and the daffodil attached to it kept sticking in her shoulder.
Mary-Lou pulled a fluffy towel from her gym bag and wrapped it around her self. It was the perfect dance attire for Bumblebridge: warm.
‘Ay, Hedges,’ Tracy said with a cheeky smile as Paulette tried and failed to get her sparkly CD player to work. ‘Why don’t you recite some poetry to Gaynor while we wait?’
Hedges, with electric hair firing from under her hat, glared up at Tracy and her felt hat. ‘It’s not funny. My Bill thinks that I’m gonna do a Trevor.’ She glanced over at Ceri and Glynnis and shrugged. ‘He does. I gotta keep telling him I have enough stress with him let alone trying to deal with extra PMT.’
Lanie snorted. ‘There is that.’
‘Tango is the dance of love not gossip,’ Paulette muttered then realised she hadn’t brought the plug for the CD player. ‘You don’t slow, slow, quick, quick, slow while discussing whether Hedges fancies Gaynor.’
Diane wiggled as George shimmied around. ‘What do you think, Agnes?’
Agnes, from behind steaming kettle, peered up through misted spectacles. ‘I don’t think Gaynor needs her hedge done. Stan only cut it two weeks ago.’
Stan nodded. ‘I did.’
Paulette folded her arms. ‘Just get into hold, will you?’
Andy smirked. ‘Keep your hat on.’
Tammy smirked. ‘Hats off to you, luv, you know how to keep us in check.’
Paulette glared at them. ‘I will make you try Argentine Tango… do you want Tracy to kick you?’
‘Hat isn’t the way to talk to people,’ Hedges said then snickered then hid behind Mary-Lou.
‘Manners an’ all hat,’ Tracy said and got into hold, Welsh hat on the slant.
Lanie winked at Miriam and twirled her around. ‘It’d be hard to top hat.’
‘I think we should headdress this,’ Andy flopped Glynnis over his arm. ‘You don’t need to snapback.’
Hedges pointed to hers with a snort.
‘She’s brimming with the need to teach us some Stetson,’ Diane chimed and placed her right foot forward.
‘Diane, concentrate!’ Paulette stamped her foot and put her hands on her hips. ‘Hats not right.’
The class laughed and Paulette waved them off for tea. Hats not right, yeah, that summed it up nicely.