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american gothic redux: chuck and lola
by robert a. melos

Chuck Crawford knew returning to Taft was going to open up some old wounds, like his entire life, but he had to do it. It was like returning to the scene of a crime, he thought, as he looked out the window of the taxi passing the cookie cutter houses and the newer condos and townhouses that sprung up in more recent times. It wasn’t the same small town he left, and he hoped it wasn’t the same small-minded town either.

Scott and Toby both led him to believe it was possible for things to have changed in the 17 years since his departure. Most obvious for him was Scott growing up and becoming a man. He shook his head at the realization he had a grown-up son. They talked almost every day for the past couple of years; first on the phone, then with web cameras over the Internet. Now he would once again get to see his son in the flesh.

Toby on the other hand was a whole other matter. His would-be brother-in-law, and former high school sweetheart, saw Taft with the eyes of a man who suffered through the closed mindedness of small town bigotry and survived. Being one of the wealthiest men in town helped, Chuck thought.

The taxi pulled up in front of the old farmhouse, now situated on little more than two acres of what he remembered to be a good 80-acre farm when he was growing up. Of course his father had sold out to a developer the first chance he got. The old farm was surrounded by condos and townhouses, and somehow Chuck liked it a lot more now than when he was a kid.

“We’re here, sweetie,” he said to his companion.

“Chuck, I’m nervous,” Lola AKA Larry Moskowitz said. He opened his purse, withdrew a compact and did a quick once-over of his makeup. He checked his blonde Dolly Parton wig, and brushed his hand across the skirt of his sky blue cocktail dress. “What if your family doesn’t like me?”

“Honey, what’s not to love?” Chuck said, placing his hand on Lola’s.

Lola glared at Chuck. “Don’t mess with me. You made Scott promise not to tell anyone about me. How do you think waltzing back into their lives with a drag queen for a wife will set with your parents?”

“Mom’ll love you to death,” Chuck said, trying to pull Lola from the backseat of the taxi.

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Lola said. He reluctantly allowed himself to be extricated from the cab by his very strong, former high school football star of a husband. “If your parents kill me, it’s on your head.” He struggled to walk on the gravel of the driveway in his spiked heels, clutching his matching purse.

“Drag queen and drama queen,” Chuck mutter loud enough for Lola to hear.

“I’m warning you, Charles. I’m on my last nerve. You uprooted me from a lovely West Hollywood location to bring me to Hooterville.”

Chuck looked around as he paid the cabdriver. “Baby, this is hardly Hooterville. We’re half an hour from New York City.”

Inside the house Jo Crawford was peeking out from behind the curtains of the picture window. “Holy shit!” She exclaimed.

“What is it mama?” Her daughters Tiffany and Heather asked in unison.

“Oh nothing girls,” Jo replied. “I think your Uncle Chuck has a few surprises for us, that’s all.” She moved from the window as Chuck and Lola approached the porch. “Scott, your father’s here.”

Scott came into the living room followed by his grandmother, Jean.

“Where’s Floyd?” Jean asked.

“Dad’s in hiding,” Jo said. She was fighting back a smirk. “Scott, why don’t you go open the door for them?”

“Them?” Jean asked.

Jo just stood with a grin covering her face.

“Dad!” Scott yelled as he opened the door. He was caught up in a bear hug.

Chuck brought his son back down to the floor. “You’re almost bigger than me,” he said. Once again he embraced his boy. He then turned to face his mother, standing a few feet away with her mouth hanging open. He noticed his two nieces also stood staring. Only his sister, the ever smartassed Joan, stood with a smirk that told him all he needed to know.

“Everyone, I want you all to meet my life partner, Lola.” Chuck said, pulling his frightened, he couldn’t call him blushing, bride further into the room.

All eyes were on the six foot three inch tall extremely slender young man in drag. He touched the dainty string of pearls at his throat and smiled. “Hello. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

“Oh my God!” Jean shouted before slumping down on the couch.

“Mama,” Jo said, still struggling with her grin and trying to show concern for Jean’s health. “Are you all right?”

“She, I mean, he,” Jean pointed toward Lola. “Honey, are you one of those transsexuals I see on those talk shows from time to time?”

Lola smiled. “No ma’am. I’m a gender illusionist.”

Jean stared blankly.

“He’s a drag queen, grandma,” Heather said.

“Scott, it’s so good to finally meet you in person,” Lola said, offering his hand.

Scott smiled. “You know I’m not gonna call you mom,” he said, taking Lola’s hand and pulling him into a hug.

“Oh, you’re strong too, like your father.” Lola exclaimed, freeing himself from Scott’s hug. “You try calling me mom and I’ll snap you in two like the twinkie you could be.”

“Lola,” Chuck cautioned.

“So what should I call you?” Scott asked.

“That’s a good question.”

Everyone turned to see Floyd Crawford standing in the living room doorway.

“Well, you may call me Lola. I wish you all would,” he said, feeling very uncomfortable as all eyes were on him.

“That may be good out in La La Land,” Floyd said, “but I’m sure your parents didn’t name you Lola at birth.”

“No,” Lola cast his eyes downward. “No sir, they didn’t. When I’m in drag, as I am now, you all should call me Lola.”

“Yes, you’ve made that clear.” Floyd said. “But what is your given name, son?”

Lola took a deep breath. “Larry. When I’m dressed in male attire it would be appropriate to call me Larry.” He felt Chuck taking his hand.

“Don’t let my dad intimidate you, sweetheart.” Chuck held his hand tightly in his own.

“Do you have a last name?” Floyd asked.

“Moskowitz,” Lola answered, almost in a whisper.

“It’s Moskowitz-Crawford,” Chuck added.

“Christ boy! Not only are you fornicating with another man, but he’s a Jew!” Floyd shouted.

“Floyd!” Jean exclaimed, as she leapt to her feet. She turned to Lola. “I’m very sorry. My husband isn’t anti-Semitic, I assure you. He’s just a little on edge.” She turned back to Floyd. “You apologize. You’re a Christian and, in spite of what you feel about homosexuals, the good Lord does not approve of anti-Semitism.”

“Oh Christ, Jean. Our son’s a pansy, and he’s brought home a queen.” Floyd turned to leave, pausing to look at Chuck. “I’m glad you look healthy, boy.” He said, before leaving.

“That went well.” Chuck said.


Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos


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