Hope you had a wonderful week full of smiles. I’m starting to feel a little bit better but still only intended a short episode… hmmm… didn’t quite work out that way but I hope you enjoy this week’s Queer Tango… and Ferb’s paw-made cooling dog basket.
Episode 20: Swinging It
Inspiration was the pure essence of being a performer and having a creative mind was both a blessing yet set an artist apart from their non-creative peers. The day-to-day business of going to work, being a functional staff member and straying upon this regimental institutional way of life had always proven difficult for Paulette.
When she’d been a teenager, she’d taken on a range of jobs but each one only felt like a temporary role and her mind and heart were set on the stark white light bathing the stage as she waited for her chance to function as she should.
Her pupils, friends and hub-ilicious Andy were adept at the mechanical nature of a ‘day job’ and as much as they marvelled at her for being able to choreograph, perform and astound audiences, she marvelled at them for their ability to do the same thing everyday without wanting to cry.
Yes, pregnancy gave her thoughts a profound level and other such contemplations involved this following list:
– Just why Tammy was focused on Snickers more than say milk chocolate or rich mouse filled treasures that her mother, Agnes made;
– How Mary-Lou managed to keep her eyebrows so preened and perform such athletic feats when she was in her fifties.
– How Lanie and Miriam, who were clearly besotted with each other, could perform a raunchy dance while discussing onions.
– Why Diane was having her wedding reception with Ceri’s, and why George didn’t like waistcoats.
– Why Tracy was limping yet sporting a smug grin and how she managed to chew nicotine gum without gagging.
– How Gaynor was already snapping back into shape, her hair was back to perfect and Liza’s hair, all three to five strands of it, was silky.
– How Janis, singlehandedly had rebuilt the entire structure of the Squishy Garden Centre to be and how Ceri had made a building site spotless while performing functions as a dental nurse.
– Why Glynnis had taken back her husband who was trying to romance her with her own money and just how an amazing woman like her had given birth to Trevor.
– How Hedges managed to naturally grow hair that resembled a hedge when holly jutted out of it and how a lady so small wielded power tools three times her size without breaking a sweat.
– Why her mother, the doting, cake making, blue-rinsed, Pink Plimsole-d, Agnes, thought she would be delighted with her knitting baby booties.
– And, without much needed persuasion to think deeply about… Andy… How anyone could be as gorgeous, as handsome, as fabul-lushlous in a dress; could hunk up any roof, steal any stage-spotlight, smile with every genuine big-hearted, sensitive, wonderful—and did you gather Paulette was in love?—how anyone that absolutely sensational thought someone who couldn’t cope with domestic duties or holding down a real job could be worth wanting to move in with and have babies with.
Yes, Paulette tended to drift off herself during class mostly for sanity preservation reasons but if this was baby-brain then clearly mini-Plimruby (as Andy had dubbed them) took after him not Paulette. Usually her drifting off involved pretending she was still on stage and not briefing her intrepid dance group who managed to eat more biscuits than perform routines.
‘So, I’ve added you—’ Paulette glared at Tracy who was grinning at her phone. ‘—when you’re not busy?’
Tracy chomped on her gum and smirked at her screen until Tammy knocked her top hat off.
‘Quit flirting with your fella, you know Paulette gets grumpy,’ Tammy muttered at her then waved in Paulette’s direction until Tracy looked up.
‘Sorry, Ricky was checking on my ankle,’ Tracy said then pocketed her phone. ‘Did I get the steps wrong?’
‘We haven’t started yet,’ Tammy said with a shake of her head as if she never ever got distracted—ooh was that a Snickers….?
‘I’ve added you to the routine,’ Paulette said hearing her voice get that harsh edge. ‘You’re going to be helping Tammy to persuade Mary-Lou not to leave Hedges.’
Hedges nodded with pursed lips. ‘She’s not allowed to do a Trevor.’
Mary-Lou snorted. ‘Honey, you’re the only gardener for me.’
‘I’m those kinda friends with her integrated sprinkler system,’ Hedges said then paused then raised her eyebrows. ‘That came out well… wrong.’
‘I ain’t sure what you’re doing with my sprinklers, just keep going ‘cause my lawn looks good enough to walk bare feet on.’ Mary-Lou patted her on the shoulders. ‘But my garden has that way with a girl when she provides manure.’
Paulette glanced at Andy who had his cute smirk on—which usually meant he really wanted to say something smutty but wouldn’t because they were in class.
‘Anyway,’ she said, hoping to move off Mary-Lou’s sprinkler system. ‘You’re now part of the show dance with Hedges because you were the mean, hunky stud that Tammy left her husband for and you treat Tammy badly but she can’t help herself.’
Tracy chewed more smugly. ‘I showed her my Snickers.’
And the class sniggered between themselves.
‘I could do with a Snickers,’ Tammy rubbed at her stomach. ‘Colin is protesting because I needed to buy a smaller bra. He told me that I can’t be his candyfloss if I haven’t got much floss up top.’
‘I have inserts if you need them,’ Andy said with a nod and flapped his hand around in his extravagant way. ‘Chicken fillets are always handy.’
‘Only if you stick rosemary on them first,’ Agnes said from her kettle behind Paulette. ‘They work well with cranberry on occasions and then you could brown them up with a touch of whiskey-based butter.’
Tammy rubbed at her stomach again. ‘That’s healthy, right?’ She glanced at the others. ‘It’s not red meat or anything.’
‘Tracy, you are working with Tammy and Mary-Lou… move.’ Paulette narrowed her eyes, understanding why Gaynor had been scary when she was first pregnant.
‘Sure,’ Mary-Lou produced a rice cake from a bag in her pocket and waved it at Tammy. ‘It tastes like it should be a thousand calories… special recipe.’
Tammy followed her, hypnotised as Tracy pulled out her phone and did the same.
‘Lanie, Miriam, you’re working on the third section of the rhumba. Miriam you need to show the audience that you can’t help yourself and that Lanie has you smitten,’ Paulette said hoping that would make their dancing less like someone performing a root canal. ‘Miriam?’
‘Sweetheart?’ Lanie patted Miriam on the arm but she was transfixed by a catalogue or picture book of some kind in her hands. ‘Put the x-ray studies down.’
‘Sorry,’ Miriam mumbled and shoved the book behind her back. ‘I have a complex back molars to remove and I can’t keep asking Janis to pop in and yank them out.’
Andy held his face, turned white and hid behind George.
‘I’m engaged, Ruby, you missed your chance,’ George said with a chuckle.
Andy peered up at him. ‘I’ll remind you of that when I wear the split leg blue number next.’
Paulette fanned herself as did George and Stan, Lanie and, to her surprise, so did Ceri.
Janis peered down at her. ‘I don’t wear dresses.’
Ceri smirked up at her. ‘No but I’ll take you to the show when Ruby goes blue and you’ll understand.’
Andy batted his long eyelashes. ‘How sweet you are.’ He smiled his appeasing smile. ‘So, my lovely Plimsole, do Miriam and Lanie have the routine to go by?’
Paulette wagged her finger at him then pulled Stan to her. ‘Whereas, during the dance so far, you’ve been resisting…’ She held Stan to arms’ length. ‘In this section, you’re all over her.’ She slid her hands up over Stan’s shoulders and performed a climb-step, kick move. ‘If you can resist molars during rehearsal.’
Miriam pulled Lanie over then performed the move exactly as she had done only instead of making Lanie blush and sweat, like Stan was doing, Lanie smiled and pecked her on the cheek.
Andy chuckled because he knew full well how much it bugged Paulette.
‘You need that filling, don’t you?’ She muttered at him then waved Miriam’s way. ‘Even though you’re so very busy in work and have to keep cancelling.’
Andy folded his arms. ‘Plimsole, you are in your fluctuation mood again. It’s not good for Plimruby is it?’
‘Filling,’ she shot back as Miriam chuckled and pulled Lanie over to practise. And there was plenty of room to practice because Janis had built the walls, helped Andy to redo the roof and had laid perfect, smooth wooden flooring that shone because Ceri had used the floor polisher on it… or maybe did it by hand, Paulette was never sure with those two.
‘We are working with Stan, Saucy,’ Andy said turning to Glynnis as if he wasn’t listening or bothered. ‘We need to bring out his inner Ruby.’
Stan swallowed. ‘I don’t think I’m qualified.’
Andy tutted. ‘You’ve taken to the wig, darling. It’s a slippery slope.’
Glynnis and Andy dragged Stan off into the corner as Paulette pretend-scowled after him. It wasn’t her most convincing performance… a bit like Miriam’s as she leaned into a seductive arched bend then asked Lanie if she’d remembered to pick up more milk.
‘Janis and Ceri,’ Paulette said hoping they were more interested in class. ‘I have a special dance for you… I wanted a comedic scene where the cleaner and the maintenance guy rework the blueprints for the jumpers to a Charleston.’
Janis puffed herself up. ‘I can be a maintenance guy.’
Ceri nodded enthusiastically. ‘She can. She’s wonderful with a screwdriver.’
‘And she’s wonderful with dusters,’ Janis said with such pride.
Paulette nodded. ‘Well, a Charleston isn’t an easy dance. It takes a lot of charisma to pull it off.’ She gently showed them an example throwing her arms forward and her legs back in a muted version. ‘But it’s always a crowd favourite.’
Janis threw her legs back and arms forward in an exact copy but with complete daftness to the point she tipped her hat to Ceri and made her laugh.
‘You’re fantastic,’ Ceri said and clasped her hands to her chest. She flicked her feather dusters out and waddled in a twirl. ‘My uncle loved to Charleston and we used to watch the dancers do it.’
Paulette handed over the paper with the instructions. ‘Start working through it and I’ll be over to help.’
Ceri grasped the paper then Janis and dragged her off to the cleanest part of the room where the workbench used to be.
Well, that was easier than Paulette had expected.
‘Oh, stingy nettles,’ Hedges muttered then put her hands to her mouth. ‘I knew he’d gotten his haircut for a reason.’
Paulette looked to Gaynor and Liza, George and Diane. ‘Translations?’
‘It’s our anniversary,’ Hedges said and flapped her hands around as Agnes’ kettle bubbled away. ‘And I can pretend that I am doing what Ricky did because I haven’t even bought him a card.’
‘He has forgotten too probably,’ Gaynor said and patted her on the arm. ‘Stan always forgets and keeps giving me anniversary gifts when it’s actually when he needs to MOT the car.’
George sniggered. ‘At least he doesn’t give you an MOT certificate when it’s your anniversary.’ He chuckled to himself until Gaynor held his gaze.
‘Your beard is growing again,’ she said in her customer-friendly glare.
George sucked in his chin and hid behind Diane. ‘You won’t let her shave it off again, will you?’
Diane leaned back and eyed him. ‘You’re not having a beard in our wedding photos.’ She tapped him on the lips with her fingernail. ‘And if you forget, you will be bald.’
George hid behind Agnes instead. ‘What’s our dance routine?’
Paulette rubbed over her baby bump as Liza started to grumble. ‘You’re waltzing with Diane as you are the younger version of Stan and Janis and performing a romantic sweet routine that will make the audience sigh.’
‘If you give them safety mats,’ Gaynor said, rocking Liza to and fro. ‘I can’t feed you in public, George will faint.’
‘Breast feeding is natural,’ Diane muttered at him. ‘It’s a beautiful connection between a mother and her child.’
‘They’re boobs,’ George said then blushed then glanced over at Stan for support but he was too busy swishing his hips and producing pouty lips. ‘Andy… I need male support.’
Andy turned and peered over his shoulder. ‘I’m remaining neutral because Ruby and I are in conflict about it.’
Paulette raised her eyebrows. ‘You’re in conflict with yourself?’
‘Yes,’ Andy turned and placed his finger to his lips. ‘Ruby is with Diane. It’s an essential bond that is a beauty to behold.’
‘And Andy?’ George said, nodding encouragement.’
‘Is thinking that I quite like boobs and I’m not sure how to pretend I don’t fancy them.’ Andy shrugged at Paulette. ‘In conflict with myself, Plimsole, what can I say? Your beauty gets me aflutter.’
Gaynor eyed George. ‘He’s allowed to think that, they’re moving in together. You’re not meant to think that about other women.’
Stan pushed out his lips and flicked his wig hair. ‘Unless they are as gorgeous as you.’ He nodded to George then winked at Gaynor. ‘It’s appreciation the same as when you appreciate Andy on the roof.’
Andy snorted. ‘Or in a slit leg dress.’
‘But back to the dance,’ Paulette said hoping she didn’t sound confused herself. ‘Hedges and…’
‘Any ideas for presents?’ Hedges asked. ‘That I can source from either this building site or Squishy if you’ll let me pinch something.’
Tracy paused mid-being Mr Mean while cha-cha-ing. ‘Ricky could pinch something for you… I have a set of golf clubs which are engraved with “for my sure-shot.” Any good?’
Hedges studied her. ‘I’m tempted but he can’t play golf very well. He joined the club years ago and they banned him because he was more of a hazard than the water feature.’
‘But you would be dancing with Gaynor in class and it’s a swing number while you Gaynor reminds you why you don’t have to run off with Stan,’ Paulette said trying her best to keep her class focused on dancing. ‘Here’s your sheet.’
‘What about poetry?’ Stan asked as he swung his hips to the side violently then winced. ‘Clicked my hip.’
Glynnis nodded. ‘Mine are clicky these days too. I use Glucosamine and cod liver oil.’
‘How ‘bout dinner, honey?’ Mary-Lou asked with a smile. ‘You could try that new restaurant over in Stinkton?’
Andy chuckled. ‘It’s Tinstickton,’ he said then dabbed at his eyes with his fingers. ‘We used to call it that in school.’
‘Tinstickton?’ Mary-Lou shook her head. ‘You got real weird names here.’
‘It was called after the factory that made stickers for tin items… like the labels on a spade,’ Hedges said in her tour guide voice. ‘Although most items weren’t actually made of tin, it’s just that metalstickton was too long to spell.’
Mary-Lou nodded like she’d pull out a camera. ‘So take him there.’
‘He’s not fussed on the mixed grill,’ Hedges said then smiled at Stan. ‘And he’s been trying to recite poetry to me all day but I just thought he was practicing for a customer.’
‘How ‘bout a takeaway. I could rustle up something spicy and succulent.’ George puffed out his chest and eyed Gaynor. ‘Give me that look all you like, you fancy my fried scones and you know it.’
Tammy let out a sob. ‘I fancy them too.’
‘I can’t buy him a takeaway,’ Hedges said although she sounded desperate enough to try it. ‘He plans his present and his card for months before and he feels it’s the way to keep our relationship solid.’
Mary-Lou mmm hmmm’d her agreement. ‘He knows how to treat his lady.’
‘I say takeaway. You’d go for that, ay, Stan?’ George said while peering over Diane’s shoulder at the dancing instructions he’d fluff up and hit safety mats in the process.
‘I would. I fancy a fried special with onions.’ Stan nodded then patted Tammy on the shoulder as she sobbed.
‘If you dance, I’ll get George to fry a Snickers for you,’ Paulette muttered then raised her eyebrows as Tammy launched into frantic… well… dancing wasn’t quite the right term but she was moving.
‘We’re not having fried food at the wedding reception though,’ Diane said softly as Ceri stared over with panic in her eyes. ‘You need to relax and enjoy being cooked for instead.’
George put his hands on his hips. ‘No beard and now you snub my food?’
‘The girls don’t like grease,’ Janis said while flapping her hands and legs around with skill. ‘They’ll want salad.’
George waved it off. ‘Kids today, you try to give them calories and they eat vegetables and tell you about exercising more.’
Diane nodded. ‘Your niece especially.’
‘She’s friends with Bailey,’ Ceri said with a doting smile. ‘Our youngest.’ She motioned to Janis with another doting smile.
Janis smiled just as dopily. ‘Good kids, both of them.’
‘I think a wedding should be traditional,’ Agnes of kettle and biscuits piped up while knitting away. ‘We only had a small breakfast and you didn’t attend your own reception… you were off on honeymoon.’
‘Is knitting woollen itchy garments traditional?’ Paulette muttered then sighed. She didn’t know why her mother had knitted several pairs either.
‘They are bootie-ful,’ Andy said with a chuckle. ‘Oh, don’t give me that look, Plimsole, I’ve been baking cakes for you and learning to sew.’
‘I made booties,’ Glynnis said in a daze. ‘And look what Trevor turned out like.’
‘You do realise you’re going to be maid-of-honour?’ Ceri asked while dancing with Janis in a way that Paulette wanted to ask them to go on tour with.
‘I…’ Glynnis touched her cheeks with her hands. ‘Okay… are you sure? I would love to.’
Janis smiled then paused mid-twirl to fix a stack of tiles ready to be put on the wall.
‘Talking of Trevor,’ Hedges said hopping about. ‘I’m going to be living in the shed if my husband realises I’ve forgotten.’
Paulette looked over to Miriam and Lanie hoping to see them hard at work which they were but as Miriam slid herself down Lanie she paused to look longingly into her eyes.
‘Do you want lettuce in your bacon sandwich?’ she asked.
Lanie stilled. ‘Dunno… I might go for cheese… or maybe those organic onions.’
Paulette stared up at the very well constructed ceiling. ‘Try dancing… it worked for Janis.’
Hedges cocked her head. ‘I’m not sure he’s into me in a suit.’
‘You need to work with something because he’s just headed into the reception,’ Mary-Lou shot from the doorway. ‘Barney says he’s kind mad.’
Hedges looked to Paulette. ‘Help.’
Paulette sighed. She trudged over to Stan, took his wig and placed it on Hedges’ head then met Andy’s eyes. ‘Fillets and split leg.’
‘In my bag, Plimsole,’ he said with a clap and hurried to his holdall. ‘I have some lippie in here too.’
‘Mary-Lou, find something Hedges won’t need to live in a shed to afford that you think Barney would like,’ Paulette fired it and Mary-Lou hurried off. ‘Tammy, Tracy, slow him down and I’ll fry you two Snickers.’
Tammy grabbed Tracy and yanked her out of the door.
‘Glynnis, teach Hedges this,’ Paulette held out the dance they were supposed to be learning.
‘Janis, Ceri… show him your routine, then we’ll go for Lanie and Miriam’s routine if they can ignore food discussions… he should like that.’ Paulette ushered the class into different positions. ‘Diane, Gaynor… do the jive number you learned; Stan, grab Liza and come up with some poetry… Andy…’ she looked at him. ‘You usher him in and sit him down with a dance… George…’ She winced. ‘You go find something resembling flowers.’
George grinned and ran out.
‘We’re rehearsing,’ Tracy said in a terrible attempt at acting.
‘And Gaynor’s breast feeding,’ Tammy said. ‘It’s not polite.’
‘She was meant to be home for dinner, it’s cold.’ Mr Hedges sounded very upset. ‘I borrowed the recipe from my mother.’
Hedges screwed up her face as Andy and Agnes fought with the dress and wig.
Mary-Lou hurried in from the store with a rocking chair. ‘He always tells Barney how he wants one.’
‘But it’s two thousand pound,’ Hedges whispered. ‘I can’t afford a two thousand pound chair.’
‘It ain’t two grand, honey.’ Mary-Lou rolled her eyes took a pen off Glynnis who was pointing at the dance instructions as Hedges nodded, glazing over then Mary-Lou scribbled the noughts out and nodded. ‘Two bucks.’
Hedges narrowed her eyes as Andy applied eye shadow.
‘I want to see her!’ Mr Hedges bustled in as George sprinted in the other way… and they both found the safety mat in a heap.
George winced and held out a squished pile of daisies. ‘Happy anniversary?’
Paulette nodded to Janis and Ceri. ‘Go for it… one section.’
Glynnis threw a dust sheet over the rocking chair as Mr Hedges got to his feet mesmerised by Janis and Ceri cleaning up Charleston style. Mary-Lou shoved him down onto the sheeted chair as Andy moved Hedges behind the kettle.
Mr Hedges stared.
Paulette hoped he wasn’t concussed then nodded to Lanie and Miriam as Ceri and Janis cleaned the floor with Ceri’s duster.
‘This is very nice but…’ Mr Hedges tugged at his collar as Lanie and Miriam gave him a very sultry rhumba… well… sultry for them unless someone gave Lanie a bicycle.
Paulette nodded to Stan.
‘Your played your keyboard and won me over,’ he said with Liza gurgling beside him. ‘You make me smile and feel so merry.’ He waved his hand about like he was getting into it and Gaynor rolled her eyes. ‘It doesn’t matter how much we are now older.’ He gave a dramatic pause then smiled. ‘I’m always delighted to wish you happy anniversary.’
Paulette held her breath and nodded to Hedges who slunk out in her best Ruby-attempt, dress slit to her thigh, chicken fillets aplenty and she performed a very decent swing number to Agnes tinkling her kettle and tea cups and Andy singing a harmony with Paulette.
Hedges stopped beside his chair and pecked him on the cheek as he stared at her like he’d been allowed to kiss Ruby in her blue dress. ‘Happy anniversary.’ She yanked the bedsheets off the rocking chair and slipped onto his lap and gave him a very rhumba worthy kiss. ‘Sorry, I missed dinner, but I wanted to surprise you.’
‘It’s not our anniversary,’ Mr Hedges said breathed out a swoon-filled breath.
‘Then why are you angry?’ Hedges said with confusion on her face.
‘I had the car MOT’d and you forgot to pick me up,’ he said then smiled.
Hedges let out a long groan then slumped into a kiss anyway. ‘Then you’d better count this as an early anniversary present.’
Mr Hedges picked her up in his arms and got up from the chair. ‘I’ll say. I’ve always wanted a Hedges-Ruby.’ He carried Hedges out and Paulette wandered to the kettle, picked up her tea and let out a long sigh.
Well, as a performer would say, the challenge of live performance was when you fluffed up but the mark of a true artist was when they were capable of swinging it.
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