I hope you have your plimsoles on and your Snickers ready to munch as you enjoy this week’s episode of Queer Tango.
As always, please excuse the typos,
Episode 36: Feather Dusters and Polishing Cloths
Paulette did like a good performance: The anticipation of the audience as they settled into their seats; the honking of the orchestra tuning up; the smell of perfume and mouthwash; the feel of oily stage make-up and the flap of costumes backstage.
In the case of her intrepid class however, they weren’t in a theatre, they were in Squishy’s makeshift theatre which sort of resembled a school hall with the school chairs set out in rows—Ricky might have ‘borrowed’ them from Bumblethorpe school… hopefully with permission…; the anticipation of the audience was more to do with the prices on Squishy’s new furniture collection and the smell of Agnes’ biscuit stall; the honking was clunking and muttering and swearing as Trevor had broken in and nicked the music for the performance so Mr Hedges had brought over his keyboard and Colin and Ricky were trying to figure out if they could sing well enough not to deafen people.
The smell of perfume was more so air freshener because Trevor or Barry or whoever had broken in stank of beer and some gone off egg-scent—Barry must have done the bin round before they broke in.
The stage make-up had also been nicked so they were using some donated from Agnes’ knitting group; and the costumes had been nicked so they had whatever items Ricky had managed to persuade the punters at the Bee to hand over.
Paulette smiled at little Agnes as she gurgled and rolled her eyes. She had no idea why Trevor had then sabotaged the toilets so that the audience couldn’t get in, Ceri—who’d decided to clean them—couldn’t get out and Janis was trying to take the doors off the hinges with some cutlery borrowed from Squishy’s canteen.
Yes, they were elite performers in prestigious settings.
‘I can go and pick up my tools from the house,’ Stan said as he wrestled to put his wig on.
‘You’re not walking outside looking like that,’ Gaynor said from under oversized earphones, safety goggles and overalls—Ricky had managed to get a donation from the local building site.
‘Why?’ Stan asked and yanked down his crop top and tried to fuss with the back of his mini-skirt—Ricky had bribed one of the barmaids to cough up her ‘work uniform’ although Paulette didn’t know what pub had barmaids who dressed that way but she wasn’t taking Andy there for a drink. He’d get ideas and want one of his own mini-skirts.
‘You look a bit… bare,’ Lanie said in a pink leotard and, yes, her bicycle helmet. ‘You’d get cold.’
‘Guess,’ Stan said then rubbed at his clean shaven chin. ‘I don’t know how you ladies put on lippy because I can’t see in this light.’ He dipped his brow then smiled to himself. ‘Oi, Georgey, flash your headlamp this way, will you?’
George turned around, dazzling half the class and stumbled over in white overalls and clomping boots. ‘That help?’
‘Cheers’ Stan peered into Hedges reflective headband and narrowed his eyes. ‘Don’t want to get any on my teeth. I’d look a right state.’
Gaynor shook her head and her headphones slipped off on one side. ‘That’s exactly why you’d look a state…’ She rolled her eyes and slunk over to Diane who was tipping her yellow hardhat to one side and using a level as a cane. ‘Is he providing strobe lighting for your dance?’
Diane snorted and waved her level around. ‘He’s dropped it so it keeps going through the settings.’ She winced as George’s headlamp flashed at Stan who smeared lipstick all over his cheek as Hedges wobbled off in a daze.
‘Honey, wobble this way, I need to run through our entrance,’ Mary-Lou chimed from the side in Barney’s cycling outfit. ‘I can’t seem to figure out my steps.’ She adjusted Barney’s glasses. ‘I don’t know how he sees anything.’
Hedges reached her then raised her eyebrows and lowered her eyes. ‘I should stand over there instead. We can dance at distance.’
‘Why, don’t you dig the pink. It goes with Lanie’s… outfit.’ Mary-Lou smirked over at Lanie who folded her arms.
‘It’s a microscope… Have you got stitches?’ Hedges whispered then waved at Mary-Lou’s chest. ‘We don’t need to have that much of a close up.’
Mary-Lou looked down at her chest. ‘It’s a fastener.’
Hedges averted her eyes again. ‘That makes me feel better. I was going to tell Barney off for making you have surgery.’
Mary-Lou hoisted her boobs up. ‘I don’t need surgery, honey.’ She smirked at Lanie again. ‘But she might need therapy.’
Lanie pursed her lips. ‘I don’t know why I had to wear the leotard.’
‘Because you’re tall,’ Miriam said, adjusting her tutu. ‘And Andy’s friends only had the outfits in these sizes.’
‘But even my… shoes are pink.’ Lanie shook her head. ‘Stop laughing.’
Miriam clamped her hand over her mouth.
‘Stop it.’ Lanie grunted then turned and stomped off, the sparkly design glimmering in George’s flashing headlamp.
‘You just need to hit it,’ Tammy said, took off her chef’s hat and clonked George across the head with it. He ooof’d but his torch stopped flashing. ‘There.’ She pulled her Snickers from in her cooking apron and chomped on it. ‘I quite like my outfit.’
‘You look… like a posh George,’ Tracy said with a snigger then dipped her top hat at Glynnis trying to yank up the trousers she’d been given… by Hedges. ‘I don’t think anyone would trust me to park their car though.’
‘That’s a valet,’ Andy said, bouncing over in swim shorts, very tight swim shorts. ‘You are posher than a posh George… you’re a well… the posh person who stands on the hotel doorway.’
Tracy looked him up and down then fanned herself with her gloves. ‘You forget your outfit or do you just wanna make us all need to faint?’
Andy tutted then flexed his muscles. ‘Ricky couldn’t find another outfit so Paulette suggested these.’
Paulette nodded and smiled smugly. ‘If George knocks anyone over, we’ll make Andy do the Rhumba.’
Diane roared with laughter. ‘Can we make him do it anyway?’
George wagged his finger at her. ‘Oi, you have a husband, thank you.’
‘Yes, but…’ Diane waved in Andy’s direction.
Andy winked at her then raised an eyebrow at George. ‘You’re just pouting because I don’t have my Ruby outfit on.’ He tapped George on the nose, adjusted Stan’s wig and surveyed the lipstick across his cheek. ‘Drinking before a show isn’t a good move, Stanetta.’
‘Just try not to put your foot down the pan,’ Janis yelled loud enough that George’s headlamp started flashing again. ‘I don’t think there’s enough gap for you to climb over.’
‘I’m not being stuck in here because of him,’ Ceri muttered back then thunked the toilet door. ‘I just need squeeze through.’
Janis stared up at the ceiling. ‘Without putting your foot in the pan.’
‘Paulette, we need to get Ceri on stage. They start the show,’ Mr Hedges said then looked Hedges up and down, then Stan, then Lanie, then Mary-Lou, then Andy then raised his eyebrows. ‘I… They…’ He raised his eyebrows again.
‘Janis, can you use the lollipop stick to break the door open?’ Paulette said and strode over in her muscle top and tight jeans—Andy’s idea.
Janis turned then raised her eyebrows. ‘Didn’t know you had muscles.’
Paulette winked. ‘Andy isn’t the only one who would get attention in swim shorts.’
Andy smiled a smug smile then went back to fussing over Stan’s lipstick as Gaynor tried to adjust her earphones.
‘Can you get the lollipop to work?’ Paulette asked and tapped the round top to the black and white stick with ‘Stop, children crossing for school’ on it.
Janis picked it up and thunked the door with it.
Ceri ooh’d and splashed again.
‘Don’t think it’ll work. I put reinforced hinges on because I thought Trevor might nick the taps or something’’ Janis shrugged. ‘Didn’t think he’d know how to turn the hinge around and make it self-locking.’
Tracy strolled up, took off her top hat and rolled up her long jacket sleeves. ‘I am not married to Ricky for nothing.’ She took her tag-bearing ankle, smirked back at Tammy then stuck her shoulder into the door.
It opened and Ceri fell into Janis’ arms with a sopping wet foot.
Paulette screwed up her face. ‘I don’t get how you did that?’
Tracy tapped her finger to her nose then chuckled and held up a key. ‘Ricky’s mate at the Bee makes master keys.’
Tammy snorted with laughter. ‘But we need to get Ceri a new outfit. I don’t think the audience want a Charleston with wet toilet smell.’
Paulette sighed. ‘You clean Ceri up. I’ll start the show and you follow.’
The class grinned at her.
‘Don’t grin, I’ll need ice for my ankle.’ She trudged to the stage, then out onto it and nodded to Mr Hedges. ‘I work evenings at the knitting factory to make enough money to buy this wonderful person called Ruby plenty of shoes.’
Andy cheered then shrugged as the audience chuckled.
‘But, the knitting factory has some dropped stitches thanks to an ex-employee called Trevor.’ Paulette nodded as the audience booed. ‘And, because he’s nicked all the uniforms… we’re stuck with Mary-Lou’s stage outfits.’
Mary-Lou raised an eyebrow. ‘Why couldn’t they have been Hedges’ stage outfits?’
Hedges peered up at her then lifted her microscope out of the way. ‘Because I have fillings and people who wear dentist’s outfits shouldn’t really have fillings.’
Miriam whistled then adjusted her tutu. ‘I don’t have any fillings.’
Lanie whistled. ‘Me neither.’
George whistled and his headlamp flashed. ‘I don’t know why we’re whistling are we providing the music?’
Diane tipped her hardhat to him. ‘I don’t know but you could try giving her some spotlight.’
George hurried to the front of the stage, tripped then shone his lamp at Paulette’s shoes.
‘Perfect lighting.’ Paulette slid through her steps and dipped her tango hat to him, then plucked some polishing cloths from Janis’ pocket as she tried to towel off Ceri’s foot and one of Ceri’s feather dusters from her shoulder. ‘Trevor, is a bit of a Trevor, don’t you think?’
The crowd murmured agreement.
‘And he leaves a stink,’ Stanetta yelled—she couldn’t think of him as Stan in that tight a skirt.
The crowd chuckled.
‘Then I need to give this place a clean.’ Paulette nodded to Mr Hedges who shrugged and started plonking out some daft tune. It certainly wasn’t Liza-worthy but then little Liza was with little Agnes and her mother next to the kettle. She smiled then twisted over to the front of the stage and cleaned off George’s lamp then burst into a full-daft-shimmying rendition of a Charleston crossed with impressions of George. The audience clapped as Ricky and Colin made up lyrics about Trevor and the class clapped with them as if forgetting they actually needed to perform too.
Then Ceri dragged Janis out onto the stage and put her hands on her hips… as she was meant to for the show. It was authoritative in the show because she had a clipboard but instead she had Stan’s toolbelt, Miriam’s spare trainers, Mary-Lou’s yoga pants and one of Andy’s wigs.
‘You evening workers are all the same,’ Ceri said in her best ‘I’m acting’ voice. ‘You just whip the polish around and think that it’s clean.’ She strode over, took her feather duster and thwacked Paulette on the head with it. ‘What kind of cleaning is that?’
Janis leaned back and twirled her lollipop stick around. ‘Dunno, she hasn’t even got the chewing gum off the chairs.’ She strode over and took Paulette’s polishing cloth. ‘I think you need to find Andy and ask him if there’s a job on the trouser knitting line.’ She thumbed in Andy’s direction. ‘He don’t seem to mind if you don’t do a proper job.’
Paulette fanned herself with her hat. ‘I can knit…’ She winked at the audience and hurried off the stage bit to the side then smirked as Ceri ignored the fact her shoe had been put outside by Lanie and threw herself into a Charleston with Janis.
Yes, like most performances, it was fun to work around the challenges and… what better way to get around the challenge of Trevor than with some feather dusters and polishing cloths.