Yves walked through the jumble of floats. Any group with enough support had something to roll today, even a car with a banner on the side. Many marched behind hand-held banners. Some marched hand-in-hand. Bars were fancier, while businesses that supported the gay community had more professional floats.
He ducked through an alley that took him through to Church Street. Over 100,000 people were expected this year and all of them were here now.
Someone handed him a flyer:
PRIDE rally at Queen’s Park
to protest the QUEER BASHING
The violence must stop
and only YOU CAN STOP IT.
The flyer gave a location to meet. Queen’s Park wasn’t as logical to him as City Hall, but who knew where the energy was best directed. It was only more media fodder.
He had to fight his way to the Thicket table. Like most of the booths, Thicket’s had photos of its activities, past productions and promotional material. A bald man behind the table pressed a sticker onto his chest.
“Don’t miss the show.”
“I’m looking for Evan?”
“You found him.” Evan wiped at the sweat on his head.
“Steven won’t be able to help out today.”
“What’s with her?”
“What is it?” The other man behind the table asked.
“Steve is copping out on us Tim. Can you believe it?”
“Nothing serious?” Tim asked Yves.
“Well …” Yves hesitated. “He and Luke were bashed last night.”
“What!” Evan shrieked. “Luke was the one murdered!”
“Good. I can’t face another memorial production.” Evan slumped into a lawn chair.
“Anything we can do? Should I call?” Tim asked.
“No. He’s not at home.”
“What!” Evan jumped up. “He’s not in the hospital is he?”
“No, no. Just relaxing where no one can disturb him.”
“Don’t scare me like that. I don’t want to have to replace my leading man.” Evan wrung out his handkerchief. “I mean,” he glanced at Tim, “neither of my leading men.”
Yves left and let the press of the crowd move him down to Lubba’s. He took Tony aside. The reaction was the same shock and dismay. Tony promised to inform Robert Ing.
Now that he had done his duty as messenger, Yves took time to enjoy the spectacle around him. TV crews were on opposite sides of the street to stop people for interviews. The crowd blurred into a faceless shift of gold, glitter, and flesh patterns.
It became clear to David that although he designed wild over-the-top outfits, his personal wardrobe was a dismal conservative array. What was with this moribund collection of drab, dull, grey, black, beige, with a dash of maroon? No wonder people were surprised with what he created when they saw the colourless stuff he wore. That will change today.
He went to a bin of pieces of bright or bizarre prints he had collected. He found a light cotton with pineapples, limes, bananas, grapes, scattered across bright red. He cut off a piece. A few snips and quick stitches for arms and neck and he had an unstructured top. Another square made a bandana to cover his head.
Outside he was thankful his creation allowed air to move around him in the humidity. He stood at the edge of the human river. At this point it was impossible to visit the booths. People behind were impatient with anyone who slowed to look.
If he stayed in one spot long enough, anyone he might wish to meet would flow past him, but if he leapt into the crowd he would never find anyone. A group of four shirtless boys, in gauze harem pants and army boots, with strings of big steel beads around their neck floated up to him.
“David, how are you doing? Love the pineapples.”
“Thanks, Brad. Love the pants.” They all were nude under the sheer fabric. The tease of their public hair and genitals was sweet. “I hope they are a natural sun screen.”
“My dick has shed more skins than a lizard,” one of them laughed, “and so has this ass.”
“I got some fab … ” Brad offered David a silver twist.
“Too soon in the day for me. But thanks.”
“Is it day?” One of them pushed up his sunglasses. “My God Maude, it is.”
“There’s Jimmy. See you.” Brad threw him a hasty kiss as the four of them were drawn into the crowd.
David risked the flow as far as Java Squared. Inside, Mark harangued a group about last night’s attack.
“We were decoys! Those fucking cops knew someone was bashing us and they let it go on till they could catch them. No warning for fear of scaring off these criminals. How many of us were they going to let die before they told us? How many?”
“It’s a bit late isn’t it?” someone said.
“No, it isn’t. I’m going to sue the fucking cops for reckless endangerment. If a mother left her child in danger, she’d be up shit creek. The cops did that to us. But we’re queers and don’t deserve full protection of the law. I’ll start a class action suit against the city and the police department.”
David nodded hello to Mark and went outside. The caffeine sped to his heart and brain. Across the street, he saw Kevin go into Lubba’s. A gulp of his coffee and he pushed into the crowd, afraid it would take as long to get across this street as it took for Kevin to have lunch.
Kevin for lunch, what a delicious image.
Steven didn’t know how long he had slept. He remembered he was at Yves’. He looked at the wood carving over the mantle. Yves had explained it was one of the Stations of the Cross. The sculptor had made sure that eyes were drawn to the faces of Jesus and some Saint who helped. He and Luke had wondered which of these figures Yves identified with, the helper or Jesus?
It was time to check in on Luke and on Lubba’s. Lubba’s first, to put Luke at ease. Gay men that don’t have dogs buy restaurants. That was one of their private gags.
He locked the door behind him. He was tender, but not as stiff as before Yves had worked his magic on him. When he got into his place, he checked his voice mail.
“You have eight unheard messages.” Eight!
The first two were from Tony: not to worry, he heard from Yves, all was as well as could be expected. The next was Tim’s gush of concern; one from Robert Ing to please, please, call him. The fifth was from Luke’s mother to say hello and wish them a happy pride day. Then one from Luke to bring something, anything to read, along with a cup of real coffee. The next was Evan Daniels with condolences and hopes Steve would be well enough to rehearse, though they could do scenes he wasn’t in for now. The final one was from Valerie Munata, of TOTV, with condolences on the death of his partner and would he talk to the press about it?
This stopped him in his tracks. Death. Luke? The hospital would have called if Luke had died, or would they call Luke’s parents?
Frantic, he searched for the number of the phone in Luke’s hospital room. It was upstairs in the pocket of the pants he had on the night before. He dialed the number.
“Is Luke Kwan there please?”
“Are you sure?”
“There’s me and an empty bed here.”
“Thanks.” He grabbed the phone book and got the number for admissions. Voice cues came up, please press yak yak. At last he got a live body.
“Can I have a number for Luke Kwan.”
“One moment, sir.”
A keyboard clicked in the back ground.
“He is in room 1523 and the number is 533-5323.”
“I called that room and was told he wasn’t there.”
“I see, sir. Please hold and I’ll double-check.”
The line went dead for an eternity.
“Mr. Kwan has been moved to Room 1520. I’ll connect you.”
“Hi,” Luke answered.
“Thank God! I got a call from Valerie Munata that you were dead.”
“I’m not surprised. I got a call from Robert Ing. He heard the same thing. I’ve changed rooms, not shuffled off this mortal coil.”
“What a scare that gave me, honey.”
“It hasn’t been our weekend has it?”
“I’ll be by in about an hour. Can I bring you anything?”
“I’d kill for that well-thumbed copy of Hot Hole Water Boy you hide in the laundry room.”
“Are you sure you don’t mean Rump Rangers?” Steven almost cried as the conversation fell into familiar banter.
“No, too many teeth marks. I love you so much, Steven.”
“I love you too, babe. Call the next time you change rooms.”
“Okay, okay. Get over here so I can ogle your bruises.”
Relieved Steven hung up. He hit the speed dial for Lubba’s. After several rings, a very harried Tony answered.
“Lubba’s, Tony speaking. How may I help you?”
“Hi Tony. It’s me Steven. How are things?”
“It is a mad house, but what do you expect short staffed without the two of you? How are you? Shit, it’s great to hear you. Like everyone is acting as if you two are dead or something.”
“Close. I’ve had condolence calls for Luke.”
“What!” Tony’s voice dropped to a ragged gasp. “I’m so …”
“No, no. Luke is alive.”
“Whew! Latest news is that those creeps killed at least two.”
“Oh!” The police hadn’t mentioned victims dying. “Everything is okay there?”
“Oh, yeah. How soon before Luke will be fit for service?”
“We’ll know tomorrow. Don’t expect him in for the rest of the week. Or me for that matter.”
“Thanks for the warning.”
“I’ll talk to Robert so you won’t be stuck.”
“Don’t stick me with Miss Ing or all our waiters will end up dressed like ABBA.”
“Have no fear. I’d better go.”
“All right love. Thanks for checking in. Bye.”
“Bye, and thanks again Tony.”
As soon as he put the receiver down, the phone rang.
“Hi Steven. It’s Tim.” The din of Pride Day almost drowned him out. “Everyone is talking about what happened. We’re so sorry about Luke. Must be quite a shock. Is there anything I can do?”
“Luke is very much alive, Tim. I just spoke to him.”
“Luke’s alive,” Tim shouted to someone. “With the news about someone being killed and we heard you were attacked one thing got connected with the other. But …”
“Thanks, Tim. If I need anything, we have our restaurant staff to call on.” He did not want Tim any further into his life. “You’ll have enough to do learning your lines. Thanks for calling.”
“No problem. But if –”
Steven hung up.
God, what a web we weave, when we try not to receive or deceive.
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