I hope that you are smiling and enjoying some sunshine as this week’s episode of Queer Tango has a sunny theme to it.
As always, please excuse any typos as I free-write the episodes as a spot of fun for you and I to enjoy. They tend to change length too as I write them in one session and they are designed to feel like a sketch show but I’m enjoying developing the characters’ storylines while I’m going. There are sixteen main characters to keep track of along with their ‘taglines,’ and the extra characters who are associated with them. Then there’s trying to compose terrible poetry, translate for Mary-Lou, and remember where Paulette has left her plimsoles… but I hope it makes you laugh, smile and be uplifted by the daft characters of Bumblebridge.
Episode 6: Al Fresco
The spring sunshine sizzled off the multi-coloured streamers, stalls and arrangement of furniture. Frazzled parents dragged whining kids along the displays of “Pool Essentials” hoping that one of the stalls sold ear defenders; Frazzled staff glared at the glazed over parents who were ignorant to the sticky handprints left on the exclusive fabric, and frazzled management tried to pretend they thought baking their customers was a good idea in case Mary-Lou or Barney strolled by.
Yes, Squishy’s grand reveal of their spring collection had drawn customers from all over Bumblebridge and two busloads of pensioners who had been on their way to the nearby designer outlet but then heard Agnes was running the cake stall.
Stan wiped his peeling forehead and shielded his eyes from the sun. He’d been working hard with Mr Hedges, Andy and his dad, Janis and George to build the temporary stalls and “make them look pretty” as per Mary-Lou’s instructions. So, Stan had dragged in Hedges to provide flowers for the flower boxes (and poetry,) stuck up a load of fairy lights Tammy and Tracy had provided, and he hadn’t even had a cuppa. But, a bloke had rough it out sometimes.
‘Have a lemonade,’ George said, pulling out a pack of cans from under his refreshment stall. He didn’t really like closing up his shop but there weren’t many people who needed fried produce in the heat.
‘Cheers,’ Stan said and cracked open his can and drained it. Tasted nicer than lager but he wasn’t admitting it. Especially when there were so many rumours that he was going to start a double act with Ruby. He didn’t mind the dress and the heels but he wasn’t singing. No way.
‘Not a beer but it’ll do,’ George said hoping it sounded gruff and that he wasn’t drinking lemonade out of choice. He really liked lemonade, especially when Diane bought him one from the vending machine after dance class. ‘I heard that Gaynor swatted Mr Hedges with the latest flower delivery.’
‘Yeah,’ Stan grunted confused why Gaynor didn’t glow with joy at his gifts. ‘Took him ages to learn how to play the maracas too.’
‘If she doesn’t like it so much…’ George swallowed his lemonade the wrong way and spluttered as Diane swayed over to the make-up and hairdressing stall. ‘Why do you keep giving her flowers?’
‘Because I care,’ Stan said sure that he could write down the response and stick it to his sizzling bald patch. ‘We haven’t had brats,’ he said, glowering at two kids trying to shove a toffee apple in the display of pool shoes. ‘An’ she’s gone all distant so I read that women go funny when they…’ He glanced at Gaynor who snipped away at some victim’s hair. ‘You know… when they go through the change.’
George sucked in a breath then clutched his can for support. Women’s stuff? Were they really talking about women’s stuff? ‘Oh… wouldn’t know.’
‘Because Ruby is far too young, thank you,’ Andy said, winked at George and grabbed a lemonade and glass—He was well brought up. ‘You think she’s menopausal?’
‘Yeah. The magazine said that women need to know they are loved and supported.’ Stan shuddered and ducked under the stall in case Gaynor overheard. He never used duck but he had taken to hiding in the garage most evenings because otherwise he was ‘crowding her.’ He didn’t get how, they had a five bedroom house and there was only the two of them. ‘I want her to know I love her and then maybe I can sit in the kitchen or something. There’s seats in the kitchen.’
George glanced over at Diane. ‘Do you think all women are like that… I mean… if you manage to… you know… live with them.’
Andy snorted. ‘Diane is in her mid-fifties. I think she’s cleared the hurdle.’ He rolled his eyes. ‘And Gaynor is always in a mood…’ He eyed the very beautiful yet snippy hairdresser. ‘How did you get together anyway?’
‘She fancied me loads,’ Stan said with a smile, reminiscing at how she would cuddle up to him on the walk into school, sneak off with him at lunchtimes and cuddle him all the way home. ‘I saved her from getting gum in her hair when Tammy’s older brother was picking on her.’
Andy raised his eyebrow. ‘Oh, that explains it. If I had hair like hers, I’d have married someone for saving it too.’
Stan beamed then sighed. ‘I can’t really ask Tammy’s brother to stick gum in her hair now.’
‘Why?’ Andy sipped at his glass and winked at two ladies swooning at him.
‘In jail,’ Tammy yelled from her stall.
‘Who is?’ Tracy said, counting out the beer barrels. She did lemonade sometimes but it got in the way of getting drunk if you had too much.
‘My brother,’ Tammy said, then frowned at the bottles of spirits. ‘Where’s the rest?’
‘Ricky only dropped this much off… said that was the whole supply from the pub.’ Tracy exchanged a glance with Tammy. She did love her Ricky but sometimes he needed sorting out. It would do him some good. ‘Paulette,’ she bellowed over to Agnes’ packed cake stall. ‘You got any plimsoles left?’
Tammy snorted. ‘My Colin said he could handle Paulette if she came at him with a plimsole.’ She punched out a text message to Colin without even looking at her phone. ‘I told him, luv, if Paulette came anywhere near you with footwear, you’d shriek and hide behind me.’
Tracy nodded. She’d seen Colin hide behind her countless times. ‘Ricky ain’t hiding behind me. I put up with the dodgy costumes he dropped off at class this week but stealing my beer is too far.’ She punched out a text message without looking at her phone then lit her e-cigarette with the same hand.
‘I dunno, the outfits were pushing it,’ Tammy said. She was all for dancing and flashing a spot of skin now and again but only people like Andy could wear that little without the need for low lighting.
‘They were.’ Tracy flashed a grin at Miriam who was fussing over customers. ‘Worth it to see the look on Lanie’s face though.’
‘Didn’t think Miriam would try it on during tea break.’ Tammy bellowed out her laugh. ‘Thought Lanie was gonna faint.’
Miriam heard Tammy’s laugh but ignored it, her focus on placing two loungers in exactly the position Mary-Lou’s sketch demanded. She had to make sure Mary-Lou was happy because she was only on a temporary contract and she wanted to keep working at Squishy. Although she had qualified as a dentist in her mid-twenties, she didn’t want to set up a practice in Bumblebridge. Imagine changing Tracy’s fillings?
‘Why is there a business need for pool furniture in Bumblebridge?’ Glynnis asked, relieved that she no longer had to keep thinking of ways to get people to buy soft furnishings.
‘Mary-Lou thinks that we all have pools and big yards, as she calls them.’ Miriam shrugged. Bumblebridge wasn’t an extravagant place. The staff had been completely confused when Lanie had presented Mary-Lou’s idea for car-pooling. Miriam tried to explain that the closest locals got to cars with pools was when they bought a vehicle off Ricky and it rained.
‘I don’t even have a pool,’ Glynnis said and she knew she was one of the richest people in Bumblebridge, thanks to Mary-Lou and Barney. ‘I have a pond, does that count?’
‘Can you sit around it?’ Miriam didn’t have a garden because it was her mother’s house and her mum had decided that grass and flowers were too much effort so got Ricky to pave over the whole lot.
‘Depends if you like nettles and the rose bush up your nose,’ Glynnis wasn’t much of gardener and her husband could just about tie his own shoelaces. That’s where Trevor got his ‘brains’ from.
‘I don’t think we have chairs for that.’ Miriam spotted Lanie—who hadn’t been able to meet her eyes since class—and waved.
‘How did your holiday go?’ Glynnis asked, hoping that Miriam would let through some gossip because Andy and Tracy thought Lanie had popped the question, while Diane was with Hedges in saying that Miriam didn’t seem interested in a relationship, and Gaynor felt that Lanie might already have someone. Ceri had been very supportive and believed that Lanie didn’t think Miriam could love her and how hard it would be for her believe they were now adults and it was okay for them to go out. The class didn’t gossip much. Glynnis had no idea but at least Lanie had a job and it was a good job unlike Trevor who now wanted to be a bus driver.
‘Oh… holiday was… okay.’ Miriam tried to sound cheery but Mary-Lou had shown up and she didn’t want to get fired for talking.
‘And Lanie…?’ Glynnis furrowed her brow. She’d employed Lanie when she’d returned home and was fond of her. She didn’t want to be a bus driver or run off with the refuge collector.
‘Lanie…’ Miriam dipped her head. She wanted to be able to tell everyone that they were together or that they were getting married or something really romantic… wanted to. ‘I managed to get her to share an ice cream… Well, we went halves on one… she started blushing… and, well, class nearly made her pass out.’
‘Maybe you should be bold,’ Glynnis said but she was completely distracted by large potted plant which seemed to have grown feet and was walking toward her.
‘You think?’ Miriam asked as Lanie pretended she had missed Glynnis chatting to her. Lanie was rubbish at acting dumb so Miriam didn’t know why she thought it was convincing.
‘Yes, you could send her a plant,’ Glynnis mumbled wondering if Trevor becoming a bus driver had tipped her over the edge as the large walking plant reached her.
‘That’s a great idea,’ Miriam said then smiled at the plant. ‘Hedges, can I borrow you?’
Hedges peeked out from behind the foliage. ‘You’re going to make me sing, aren’t you?’
Glynnis scuttled off before Hedges blamed her for more poetic flower deliveries and found herself next to Diane who, for some reason, was applying makeup to lines of customers while Gaynor gave them a trim.
‘Is there a reason why cosmetics are needed to sell furniture?’ Glynnis asked, not too sure that elderly gentlemen should wear makeup.
‘Oh, it’s tinted suncream and sunblock… Mary-Lou didn’t want any litigation from sunburnt customers,’ Diane said and gave the elderly gentleman a pretty flower pattern of sunblock on his cheeks.
‘I’m not sure they’ll like designer white patches either,’ Glynnis mumbled and wandered off before Diane strayed too close.
‘They wanted them,’ Diane said then glanced around and shrugged. Glynnis liked to flit about. ‘At least they aren’t red patches,’ she said to Gaynor who attacked a young boy’s floppy fringe with gusto. ‘I have red patches.’
‘Then tell him to shave,’ Gaynor said and flicked her scissors around. ‘Tell him that it’s bad enough he steps all over your feet and you don’t want his hairy beard in your face.’
‘I think he might think I don’t like him near me,’ Diane said. Her late husband had always been clean shaven and well presented. She hoped, in some way, George might try that too but her mother always told her that trying to change someone wasn’t fair but then her mother didn’t have itchy spots on her cheek from the sharp bristles of her beloved.
‘Oi,’ Gaynor said, yanked George by the scruff as he tried to scurry past and shoved him into the seat next to her young customer. She ‘ever so accidentally’ shaved an entire line across his face.
‘My beard!’ George felt over the bald patch but didn’t glare up at Gaynor because women going through the change sounded scary let alone Gaynor going through any change.
‘It’s horrible,’ Gaynor said and shaved off more of it. ‘It’s covered in grease from the fryer and your hair is a mop.’
George glanced at Diane hoping that she would charge to his rescue like Stan with the chewing gum but she smiled instead.
‘You don’t like my hair?’ He asked, wounded. He always felt that he looked mature and sophisticated.
‘I…’ Diane smiled hoping that Gaynor would keep going and give him a nice tight shave at the back and maybe trim some of his shoulder hair which tickled her nose. She adored George but it was fair easier to groom them when you were married to them and George had managed to hold the car door open for her so far.
‘If you’re going to dance with a woman, you need to look tidy.’ Gaynor shaved away, enjoying the pain on George’s face especially as she had to put up with Diane whinging about the fact George didn’t have enough backbone to ask her out.
‘George, you want me to serve these customers?’ Ceri called, wiped over George’s stall and polished the till while waiting for him.
‘Please,’ George whimpered, rooted to the spot with fear and Gaynor’s claw like nails.
‘The cans keep rolling for some reason,’ Ceri said while serving five customers, cleaning the customer’s glasses for them and doing extra steps.
‘I’ll fix that,’ Janis said, simultaneously ushering Ceri’s girls to walk on the spot and hand over cans to Ceri; fixing the dodgy shelf, hoisting two packs from the back and checking over her designer beard in case Gaynor had shaved it when she wasn’t looking. Nope, still there. Good. Ceri loved her beard even if she didn’t but if Ceri was happy then she was happy.
‘I might need you to help with moving because my landlord said he wasn’t extending the lease,’ Ceri said between jogging on the spot to keep up with Sally’s steps, handing out cans and taking money. ‘If you’re happy to help?’
Janis pulled more cans from the packs and handed them to the girls who handed them to Ceri. ‘’Course I will. Least then you won’t need to march around the table in single file.’
Ceri took more money, jogged faster because Sally could get in more steps with her shorter stride and smiled at Janis. ‘Why’s that?’
‘I have a bigger dining room.’ Janis lifted Ceri’s youngest, Bailey, up to waist height to hand over a can to a customer.
Ceri dropped her can and cocked her head. ‘Move into yours?’
‘Yeah.’ Janis grunted it and Bailey kissed her on the cheek.
‘Really?’ Ceri forgot the line of customers and Glynnis who was using a can to cool herself off. ‘You want…?’
Janis shrugged. She was wandering around with a beard voluntarily, wasn’t she? ‘Yeah, Mum expects a wedding though so you’ll have to marry me before.’
Bailey peered at her mum hoping she’d say yes so they could live somewhere that had more than one bathroom because Sally kept hogging the bath.
‘Did you really propose?’ Ceri fanned herself with her polishing cloth. Trevor had proposed because Glynnis had threatened to cut him off.
‘Yeah,’ Janis said and pulled the ring-pull off a can and held it out. ‘You can walk up and down the stairs as much as you like… I have hard wearing carpet.’
Ceri slid on the ring-pull and cuddled Sally, Bailey and Janis. ‘And you have laminate in the dining room.’
Glynnis held the can to her aching forehead. Yes, her grandchildren were going to be raised by a janitor. How posh. She sighed then hugged them too. Who cared, hopefully they’d let her plan the wedding.
‘What’s with the hugging?’ Mary-Lou whispered to her husband, Barney, as she shivered away in her sweater. She didn’t get why everybody was so red. It was sunny, sure, but it was sunny like this back home in Florida… during the winter.
‘Maybe they like pop?’ Barney said with a chuckle and straightened out his tee and pants. He thought it was warm but she was sending him to their therapist to talk it out.
‘You mean soda?’ Mary-Lou glanced around and saw Hedges among the flower display. ‘Your flowers look real neat.’
Hedges straightened up and grinned. ‘Thank you.’ She smiled at Barney then sighed. ‘I wish you’d tell my other half to stick a t-shirt on, he thinks he’s Andy…’ She rolled her eyes then motioned to the bright pink guy with blistering shoulders. ‘He’s really not Andy.’
Mary-Lou sucked in a breath. Yeah, Mr Hedges looked pretty pink. ‘I’ll go rustle up some yogurt.’
Hedges nodded, plucked her bunch of flowers and steeled herself. Hopefully Lanie wouldn’t be as cutting about her poetry recital as Gaynor. She strode up to Lanie, marshalling the customer service representatives and thrust out her bunch of petunias. ‘I’ve loved you since I wore braces…’
Lanie turned, mid-conversation, not sure if Hedges had confused her with Gaynor or she needed to explain they weren’t those kinda friends.
‘But when I got married, you went and did a runner,’ Hedges said, ignoring the sniggering from the two kids nicking the ‘to the pool’ signpost—Tammy’s kids. ‘So, as you aren’t getting the hint.’ She took a deep breath. ‘These flowers are to tell you that you’re a stunner.’
Lanie collared Tammy’s brats—kids—and took the signpost off them which now read ‘to the poo’ then peered at the flowers Hedges was giving her. ‘Um… I don’t have a bald head.’
Hedges smiled. ‘No, Miriam doesn’t fancy Stan though… I think.’ You never could tell in Bumblebridge.
‘Miriam?’ Lanie dropped Tammy’s kids who sprinted off and fanned herself with her clipboard.
‘Yup.’ Hedges handed over the flowers then groaned as Mary-Lou walked out with yogurt and raised an eyebrow. ‘I am not doing a Trevor.’
‘Oi,’ Glynnis muttered from the refreshment stand.
‘Sorry,’ Hedges called out then motioned to Lanie. ‘Miriam is trying to ask Lanie out… I’m helping.’
Mary-Lou clapped then spilt yogurt over Mr Hedges head. ‘Go, girl.’
Lanie wandered, with flowers and clipboard, over to the nearest stool and sat down only for Gaynor to glower at her.
‘If you’re going to recite poems, I’m going to shave off your eyebrows.’ Gaynor buzzed her razor threateningly and pointed to George who had the smoothest chin and a short back and sides. ‘Do you want your eyebrows, Lanie?’
Lanie stared up at her. ‘She thinks I’m a stunner… since she wore braces.’
Gaynor eyed Hedges who nodded. ‘Stan didn’t think you’d want another poem.’
‘So he just quits?’ Gaynor narrowed her eyes.
‘That’s nice you appreciate it,’ George said to Lanie, trying to sneak off before he was as bald as Stan. ‘How is a bloke supposed to know how to support a woman going through the change?’
Lanie blinked then stared at the flowers. ‘What bloke?’
‘Stan,’ George said from a safe distance. ‘He’s trying to tell Gaynor she’s alright… and he loves her… even if he’s not allowed in the kitchen.’
‘He thinks I’m going through the change?’ Gaynor turned, razor buzzing.
George ran. He didn’t care if Diane thought less of him, he was just glad he hadn’t married Gaynor.
‘Well you are moody,’ Diane said, gently, because she knew Gaynor had been as stable as the perming machine that kept electrocuting customers. ‘Can’t blame him for trying to help. I think it’s sweet.’
Gaynor placed down the razor and spun on her heels. ‘Oh, I’ll give him poetry, alright… I’ll give him a plimsole too.’
Tracy ducked at the sound of the word plimsole then steadied herself on the nearest beer barrel. ‘I’m emotionally scarred.’
Tammy snorted and sorted through the extra supplies of alcohol her Colin had dropped off. ‘Yeah, Colin says that’s every bit of booze.’
Tracy folded her arms. ‘Then where’s Ricky and why ain’t he helping?’
‘Colin said something about Glynnis’ daughter being a barrister,’ Tammy said, handing out beer then swigging on her own. ‘He sold her a car?’
Paulette overheard from behind the assortment of cakes and Agnes’ blue rinse and growled. ‘He sold my car?’
Agnes peered over her glasses at her daughter. It wasn’t easy to get gentlemen interested in Paulette when she kept growling all the time and yes, the gentleman in front of the stall was only slightly younger than seventy but maybe Paulette would enjoy bowls.
‘Calm, Paulette, calm,’ Andy said and fanned her with a spare plimsole—he wasn’t sure why she kept so many plimsoles on her person but he did loved her designer top and she looked pretty too. ‘Ricky sells a lot of cars… it might not be yours.’
‘If it is, I’ll use my tap shoes on him.’ Paulette flopped into his bare shoulder and blinked away the suncream which stung considerably.
Andy patted her back hoping Agnes wouldn’t ask him if he planned to propose again. Although, he was partial to Agnes’ cake and Paulette’s wardrobe.
Lanie wandered past in a daze and placed her flowers in the basket of her bicycle. She met Miriam’s eyes across the crowded luxury seating section and Miriam winked and blew her a kiss. Lanie flopped onto the sun lounger and, yes, swooned.
Gaynor slapped her across the head as she stomped up to Stan. ‘You think I’m going through the change and that I’m some scary lady.’
Stan nodded, then hid behind the lounger in case she booted him.
‘But the reason I’m in such a mood,’ Gaynor said, held out the flowers as if she’d beat him. ‘Is because we’re having a baby.’
She lowered the flowers, then braced for him telling her that he didn’t want kids because he’d never wanted kids.
‘We are?’ Stan grinned. ‘Like… really?’
Gaynor nodded, then smiled a relieved smile. ‘Like really.’
‘YES!’ Stan picked her up and twirled her around.
‘I feel fat,’ she muttered. ‘I don’t like being fat.’
‘You’re more beautiful than ever.’ He chuckled then whooped and yes, there was the tango flourish as he leaned Gaynor back over his arm and kissed her.
Mary-Lou once again wondered what was going on with all the hugging and kissing and flowers. Bumblebridge sure didn’t mind showing their feelings.
‘We’ve sold out of loungers,’ Barney said in shock then kissed her on the cheek. ‘I didn’t think we would but we have.’ He wrapped his arm around her shoulder. ‘Seems like love is blossoming more than the flowers.’
‘Well,’ Mary-Lou said with a grin. ‘Sometimes it’s better said Al Fresco.’