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We called him Drag Queen Mab, at the club. Because, in his green gown and mauve boots, he ruled over all us fairies.
Every Karaoke Thursday he’d put on the wig, the lashes, the heels and the earrings and take the train to the club. His caffeine-wide eyes would alight on one of us and that was that – we’d play the part of his plaything until closing time.
‘Felix,’ he said to me one ghost-town-dead night, ‘you’ll never guess what’s between me legs.’
Knees akimbo on the bar stool, he withdrew a pen-like thing from his garter and plonked it onto my bottom lip.
‘Now suck,’ he said.
Heads turned. People thought he was taking my temperature. Even the old codger crooning his way through Maybe This Time craned his neck, shut his trap and breathed through his heavily-populated nostrils.
‘Suck, darling, suck.’
And so I did. It was one of them electric cigs. Not the oddest curio Mab’s brought in, I thought. Until I took a long, hefty drag and inhaled every particle of dust the place had.
The dead skin cells formed a beige fog, the fallen-out hair, floating apostrophes, the lint: a monochrome cloud that pricked on the way down. My heavy, heavy lungs were fit to burst with the stuff.
So Mab walloped me off my seat; sent me to the floor on all fours like a dog. I coughed static up out of my mouth onto the Jäger-stained tiles.
It was fuzzy, susurrated like a flame and was just a little less hot. The sound it made switched into a quick tattoo of rum-pum-rum-pum. Then the spat-out dust whirled and grew, reformed itself into an effigy. Brunette, short, alive. With a moustache as thin as kettle vapour.
‘D’ya mind?’ it asked me – (a communal gasp) – and I promptly swung my leg over so that I wasn’t astride him.
But he whipped it right back and stole a hug from me. The hair on his skinny chest like velvet, the sticky ground cold on his stark bollock naked skin. He trembled.
‘Let’s fix that,’ Mab said, emptying the cartridge out of the e-cig and slipping it into a box marked amour.
He swapped it for one from a box labelled armoire and put it to his lurid blue lipsticked lips. Our resident drag queen took a drag and – instead of dust – all my clothes converged on the tip of the cig in a nigh-on perfect silhouette of me. (It looked, now, like Mab was taking more than my temperature).
He blew and my shirt, my jeans, boxers, socks wrapped around the boy I had coughed up.
‘Call me Connor,’ he said and clenched his lips like a fist and smacked me right on the cheek. We walked all the way home, joined at hand and hip and those fist-shaped lips, singing to the tune of rum-pum-rum-pum. Rum-pum-rum-pum. But it wasn’t his heart that swelled for me.
Next day I woke up to find the bed, of course, empty. Following Thursday, Mab sold me the cig, no questions asked.
I huffed – And puffed – And almost blew the place down.