Character: Police station clerk
Action: Tightening a knot
Setting: A meeting for a subversive group
Prop: Decorative songbirds made from vinyl records
by Kait Heacock
In the basement of Dana’s house, she and her girlfriend Jay had converted the rec room space next to her bedroom into a practice room for their as yet untitled band. They moved the couch and recliner back towards the wall to clear space for the drum set, guitars, microphones, and amps they planned to buy. They put posters of their favorite bands on the wall for inspiration and brought Dana’s mom’s record player downstairs. Dana’s mom even loaned her old acoustic guitar, which was the only instrument they had to fill the newly emptied space.
For now, this was the official meeting spot for the unofficial female protest group the two had started, along with their friend Bethany (the only other open lesbian in West Valley High School, and sometimes, they felt, in all of Yakima) and Jay’s tagalong little sister, Mary. At sixteen, Mary didn’t know much of who she was yet, but she knew that she liked how much her older sister pissed off their parents with her bleach blonde pixie cut and the leather jackets and bowties she always wore. Jay would make the perfect lead singer in their band, Mary assumed, not because Jay ever sang, but because she had presence. She already made a good leader for their protest group, writing in graffiti “Fuck cops” on the sidewalk one night when she was drunk, and other stuff too.
Dana had said she wanted to play the drums, something about how she liked the idea of wearing a dress and wailing on the drums at the same time. Bethany, the only one who had actually played an instrument before, would be the bassist. Jay said that Mary should learn the guitar and when she gave Mary her old Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill CDs, she said, “These will change your life.”
Jay and Dana already had plans to apply to Evergreen State College to study studio art (Dana) and political science (Jay), but they still had senior year of high school to finish, and besides, it was summer now so they had other concerns, like finding a way to pay for instruments and figuring out what their group should protest. “It’s not ‘riot girl,’ idiot, it’s ‘riot grrrl,’” Jay had explained to Mary at their first official meeting a month back.
Now Dana waited in the basement, smoking the end of a joint and listening to her mom’s old records. Bethany had already cancelled for their weekly meeting because her parents were forcing her into a two-week family vacation to visit relatives in Northern California. Jay and Mary were late and Dana was beginning to worry. Twenty minutes earlier, Jay had sent her a text message saying, “Is anyone else home?” Dana had responded with, “No, love, you know mom’s at Burning Man.”
“We’re here,” Jay yelled from the top of the basement stairs.
Dana took the stairs by twos, her vintage 1950s dress fluttering around her legs as she ran. She straightened Jay’s collar and kissed her hello.
“Oh good, I need this,” Jay said, about the kiss and the joint. She took it from Dana’s hand and inhaled deeply. “I did something kind of crazy, and before I tell you, I need you to promise you won’t get mad.”
“That’s unfair, Jay, to make me promise before I know what you did. And you’re late; we were supposed to start our meeting a half hour ago.”
“I already started the meeting, or at least I started phase one of our first protest. Come out to the van and see for yourself.” Jay took Dana’s hand, led her through the kitchen, and outside into the driveway. Jay’s dad’s old Volkswagen van (“The only cool thing he ever owned”) was parked out front. When Mary saw Dana and Jay approach, she hopped out of the passenger seat.
“Did you tell her?” Mary asked as she ran to them.
“Tell me what, Jay?”
“Tell her about the guy,” Mary insisted.
Dana gave Jay a look that made her regret all her decisions. “Come on,” she said and grabbed Dana’s hand again, leading her to the van. She opened the door and revealed a man, older than them but not by much, unassuming and very much asleep, sprawled across the floor of the van.
“We kidnapped him!” Mary squealed.
Jay punched her sister on the arm to quiet her.
Dana backed away a few steps. “What is this?”
“We’ve been spending the last month imagining all these great things we’re going to do—burning our bras in the girls’ locker room, streaking through an assembly wearing Mitt Romney masks. The truth is, we haven’t done any of that. I decided today it was time to do something,” Jay explained.
“Oh man, Dana, it was great. We walked out of Northtown Coffee and on the way back to the van this guy here walks by us coming from the police station,” Mary says as she points to the man laying face down.
“Save the story, Mary. We’ve got to get him inside before anyone sees us. These are the suburbs, for fuck’s sake, somebody’s always watching.”
“We’re not taking him into my home,” Dana protested.
“We have to, babe. This is phase one.”
“‘Phase one,’ she says. I’m scared to ask what phase two is.”
Between the three of them—Mary holding his head and Dana and Jay each with a leg—they were able to carry the man downstairs and back into the basement. Dana refused to put him in her bed (“I haven’t had a man in there yet and I don’t intend to now.”) so they propped him up on her desk chair. Dana found rope from the garage and Jay tied his wrists behind his back.
Dana lit a fresh joint. “Okay, we got him down here. I let you bring a strange, unconscious man into my home. Now you need to tell me why.”
Jay reached for a hit and started talking. “It’s like Mary said, we were hanging out at Northtown, avoiding mom and dad until it was time to come here. As we were walking back to the van, this asshole here walked past, stopped, and called out to us. He said, ‘Hey, come here,’ and he did it with this awful gesture with his index and second finger,” she explained, trying to recreate his movement.
“Yeah, that’s how you signal someone to come towards you.”
“No, it wasn’t like ‘come here,’ it was like ‘come here,’ like he was using his fingers to show me what he was thinking, just really fucking vulgar. So I said to Mary, ‘just follow me.’” Mary nodded along to the report. “He started asking us questions, telling us we we’re cute, just generic guy bullshit. I invited him back to the van to smoke a joint. Then, while the three of us we’re sitting back there, he leaned in to Mary like he was going to tell her something, but I knew he was trying to put a move on her (my little sister, for Christ’s sake) and I picked up an empty pop bottle from the floor and hit him on the back of his head, you know, like they do in the movies. I hit him once and he just flopped onto the floor.”
“It looked pretty cool,” Mary added.
“He’s not dead or anything. We checked his pulse and his breathing and everything. He’s just out cold. So I got the idea to make an example of him.”
“Yeah, like we could strip him down and tie him to a tree, or something like that,” Mary suggested, turning giddy from all the smoke in the room.
“Go open a window, will you Mary? I don’t want you getting buzzed from all the smoke in here. I don’t want to accidentally hotbox my little sister.”
“And what are we supposed to do with him?” Dana asked Jay when Mary was on the other side of the room.
“We’re going to teach him a lesson.”
“What kind of lesson?” Mary asked when she sat back down.
“We’re going to show him he can’t treat girls like that.”
“Oh yeah? And how are we going to do this?” Dana asked.
“Well,” she said, stalling while she thought. “Well, we’ll cut off his dick.”
Dana crossed her arms and sighed. “Are you out of your mind, Jay? We can’t cut off his dick.”
Jay stood up triumphantly. “Yeah, we’ll cut off his dick and we’ll put it on Youtube.”
“We’re going to put his dick on Youtube?” Mary asked.
“Not just his dick, dummy. We’ll put on masks, you know ski masks like Pussy Riot wears,” she said and pointed to the posters on the wall. “And we’ll film him sitting in the chair all tied up. Then we’ll wave his dick around in protest. We’ll wave it like a flag.” She waved her arm in the air to demonstrate.
“Protest of what?” Dana asked.
“Of men. In protest of asshole men who think they can do things like this, treating women like objects, like shit, and getting away with it. We’ll cut off his dick and then he’ll never forget about the day he messed with the wrong girls.”
Mary looked concerned. “Who’s going to do it? I don’t want to do it. I’ve never even seen one before.”
“Trust me, you’re not missing out,” Jay answered.
“Okay, we need to calm down. Nobody is cutting this guy’s penis off. We’re going to wait until he wakes up, make sure he’s okay, and then let him go,” Dana said, taking on a stern, motherly voice. She put her hand on Jay’s shoulder. “You need to calm down.”
Jay was about to argue when the man began to stir. He squeezed his eyes shut and moved his head back and forth. “Dim the lights a bit,” Jay instructed Mary. “That way he won’t be able to see our faces that well.” Then Jay walked up to him and slapped him across the face. He popped his head up and opened his eyes. “What the fuck? Where the fuck am I?” He asked as he moved, squirming in his chair.
Jay moved behind him and tightened the knot. “You’re in your worst nightmare, buddy.”
“No, no you are not. She’s just messing with you,” Dana said in an attempt to reassure him.
He looked between the three girls: one dressed in a men’s button up shirt and jeans with a scowl on her face; one wearing some kind of old prom dress with her hair in a beehive on her head, but with a cute face, red lipstick, and curves; and the last one, some little thing sitting away from him on the couch, wearing just a sundress, long hair, folding and unfolding her hands in her lap.
“What is this? Is this some kind of kinky sex thing? Are you filming this?” He looked around the room, trying to make out the setting in the low light. It looked like any old basement that hadn’t been refurbished since the seventies—dark wood, thick carpet. The walls were covered with posters of women wearing ski masks and bright dresses. In some they were holding instruments, but he didn’t know what band they were from. “Pussy Riot,” he read the name from one of the posters. “What is this?”
“This is a kidnapping, motherfucker,” Jay answered, standing over him. She pulled a ski cap down low over her head and with that and the no makeup and the cigarette she just lit, the guy thought she looked like Jack Nicholson in that movie about crazy people. “Now, we’ll ask the questions from here on out.”
“Look, I don’t know what you want. I just wanted to smoke some weed with you in your van,” he looked to Mary and smiled. She looked down at her hands.
“I know. This is just a big misunderstanding. My girlfriend got a little upset. Sometimes she gets paranoid when she smokes. As soon as everybody calms down, we’ll let you go. We just want to be sure you’re not going to hold this against us,” Dana explained.
“Hold it against you? You fucking knocked me out and kidnapped me. That’s illegal.”
“I know, and we are very sorry. What’s your name? My name is Dana and these are Jay and Mary. All I want is for the four of us to walk out of this calmly. Does that sound okay to you?”
“Yeah, what the fuck ever. This has to be the strangest Tuesday I’ve ever had. My name’s Jason. Nice to meet you.” He nodded at the three in lieu of a handshake.
“What were you doing at the police station? Were you in trouble?” Mary eagerly asked. “I mean, if you don’t mind telling.”
“I work there,” he answered.
“Shit,” Jay said under her breath. She walked to the other side of the room and sat down.
“Are you a cop?” Mary asked.
“No, a clerk.”
“What does that mean?” Dana asked.
“It means I’m basically a glorified secretary.”
“Bummer,” Dana said, rolling a joint. “So you answer phones and make copies?”
“Yeah. It’s the first job I could get after finishing my associate’s degree at YVCC.”
Jay sat back with her head on her hands, looking mad but not saying anything, just watching.
“Can I have a hit? My wrists are killing me,” Jason said.
“I don’t see why not,” Dana said and held the joint to his lips.
“Thanks,” he said as he exhaled.
“Won’t you get in trouble at work for smoking? It’s a police station, they must have random drug tests.”
“I haven’t had one yet. I only had to stay clean for the drug test they run when they first hire you. Besides, my dad got me the job there (he’s sheriff), so I’m not too worried about getting busted.”
“Sheriff? That’s fucking great,” Jay said to her sister.
“So what’s the deal here? Are you some kind of lesbian anarchist group? What exactly do you plan to do?”
“Nothing yet,” Jay answered.
“Nothing at all, really. This was a mistake and as soon as everyone calms down, we’re going to let you go,” Dana said again in a reassuring tone. “We just want to be sure that everything is okay between us first.”
“We’re also a band,” Mary said. “And I’m not gay, it’s my sister and Dana who are.”
Jason smiled. “So what’s your band called?” He nodded to Dana for another hit.
“We haven’t decided yet, but we’re thinking something along the lines of Vag Tag or Get Clit,” Dana answered as she held the joint back to his lips.
“Or Pussy Wagon. I like that one,” Mary added.
“We can’t call ourselves Pussy Wagon, Mary,” Jay scolded. “We’re not greasers in the 1950s. Besides, it has to rhyme. It sounds better if it rhymes.”
“Pussy Riot doesn’t rhyme,” Mary reminded her.
“I know, but it isn’t about them.”
“Well, yeah it is. The only reason you started talking about starting a band is because you saw them on the news. Isn’t that why you wanted to start our protest group too?”
“They were inspiration, Mary, but I don’t do anything because other people are doing it. God, I do things because you can’t make change without a little action. You’re such a child sometimes.”
Mary pouted, but didn’t say anything in response.
“Why don’t you just call your band Angry Girls?” Jason asked with a laugh. “Seriously, a protest group in Central Washington seems a bit out of place, don’t you think? What kind of change are you going to make happen here?”
Jay stood up to talk, but Dana cut in. “We have to start somewhere, that’s the point. Maybe the citizens of Yakima, Washington don’t give a shit about what we have to say, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.”
“Yeah, and our band is going to kick ass too,” Mary added.
Dana put her arm around Jay and kissed her on the forehead. “Why don’t you go lay down in my bed for a while? You look tired and stressed out. We’ll stay here with Jason.”
Jay rubbed at her eyes, suddenly aware of how tired the weed had made her. “Okay, just be careful with him. He could be dangerous.”
“Me, dangerous? You’re the one who attacked me on the street,” Jason said with a snort.
Jay didn’t say anything. Dana walked her into the bedroom and closed the door. In the bedroom, Dana tucked Jay under her covers and reminded her that in a year from now they would be the hell out of this town and never look back.
“What’s with all the birds?” Jason asked Mary, the only one left in the room with him.
“They’re Dana’s mom’s little sculptures. She makes them out of old vinyl records and sells them at flea markets,” Mary answered. She stood up from the couch and walked to the record player. She ran her fingers over the stack of records. “I think she does pretty well with them. She sells them in Seattle and Portland. People over there love decorating with that kind of stuff. My mom never would. She’d think that’s chintzy. Our house is full of Thomas Kinkade paintings.”
“My mom used to be a folk singer in the seventies. She’s the reason I’m convinced I’ll naturally be able to learn an instrument, like an instinct or something,” Dana said as she closed the bedroom door behind her and joined Mary at the record player. She pulled a Joan Baez record out and put it on. “I’m really sorry about all of this, Jason. Sometimes Jay gets really worked up about stuff and her ideologies get bigger than her grasp on reality.”
“She’s really great, you know, just a bit stubborn about stuff. I’m sorry too. Jay just seemed so set on kidnapping you,” Mary said and sat back down on the couch.
“Don’t say ‘kidnap.’ This is just one of those things we’ll look back on one day and laugh about. We’re going to let you go tonight, I swear. But I need you to promise you’ll let this go.” Dana relit her joint and pulled up a chair next to Jason.
“Why should I let this go?” Jason asked, eyeing Dana beside him.
“Do you really want to explain to people that a couple of teenage girls took you hostage? It is kind of embarrassing, don’t you think? At least, I think that’s what your dad would think.”
“Fuck. You think you’re so smart, don’t you?” Jason said.
Mary giggled on the couch.
“Yes,” Dana said and kissed Jason’s cheek. “Now, let’s untie this knot and finish this joint. Then I am sure the lovely and sober Mary would be happy to give you a ride home. She just got her license last week and she loves to drive. You would be happy to escort Jason home, right Mary?”
“Of course,” Mary said and looked over at the decorative songbirds adorning the shelves.
Dana placed the joint between her teeth and bent down to loosen the rope around Jason’s wrists. The rope fell to the ground and Jason rubbed his sore and reddened wrists.
“There, much better,” Dana said and sat back down, trying her best to feign calmness in an attempt to prevent the situation from escalating.
“Give me the joint,” Jason said and reached out his hand. He was still sitting. “Fuck, this is the weirdest night I’ve had in a while,” he said and lit the joint. “Do you have more weed?”
“Sure, I have some left. A peace offering?” Dana said and walked over to the dresser holding the record player. She replaced the record and pulled a bag of weed out of the drawer below it.
“Yeah, why not? You ready to take me home, kid?” Jason looked at Mary and stood.
Mary jumped up from the couch. “Yeah, of course. It’s the least I can do.”
“Oh, I’m sure I can think of a few more things,” Jason said with a smirk. He grabbed the bag of weed from Dana and pocketed her lighter. “Nice meeting you, Dana. Good luck with the band. And tell your girlfriend to calm the fuck down. I’m just a guy. I’m not the enemy.”
Dana gave him a nod and showed the two out, handing Jason one of her mother’s songbirds as she said goodbye. “Call me when you’re on your way home, Mary. I think Jay should stay with me tonight. Tell your parents she got sick or something.”
“Will do,” Mary said, waving with the hand that held Jay’s van keys. She looked at Jason, who was smiling with heavy eyelids.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here, kid,” he said and put his arm around her.
Dana walked back into the basement, put the rope back in the garage, and climbed into bed with Jay.
Jay stirred at Dana’s touch. “What are you doing? I thought you and Mary were watching Jason. You shouldn’t leave her alone with him.”
Dana yawned. “Don’t worry, love, it’s all over now. He’s actually not that bad of a guy. I gave him some weed and made amends. Mary’s driving him home now.”
“What?” Jay asked and sat up in bed. She reached over and turned on the bedside lamp. “Where’s my phone?” She reached for her phone and dialed her sister’s number. She stood and paced through the room as the phone rang.
In the van, Jason sang along to the radio and threw the little songbird out the window, where it flew, indelicately, to the ground. He kept his hand rested between their two seats, so close to Mary’s skin that she could feel the heat radiate off him. Mary ignored her sister’s phone call.
“Why are you freaking out about this?” Dana asked Jay when she hung up the phone. “He’s not going to tell on us.”
“I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about Mary. I don’t want her to be alone with him.”
“What difference does it make? She’s just giving him a ride home. He was nice to her. Besides, I think she liked him. There’s nothing wrong with that. If anything, it will mean he is less likely to press charges against us. This is a good thing.”
“There is something wrong with it.” Jay walked back to Dana’s bed and sat down. “Listen, it wasn’t random, bringing him back here, I mean. It was random that I ran into him, but I knew who he was when I saw him. He didn’t recognize me because I look different now, but I knew who he was immediately when he called out to us on the street. He wasn’t a stranger like I said earlier. I only said that because I didn’t want Mary to know.”
“To know what?”
“Who he really is.”
“Isn’t he just some loser named Jason who works at the police station?” Dana rubbed circles on Jay’s back, her trick for calming her down.
“That’s not who he used to be,” Jay snapped and shrugged Dana’s hand off her.
Dana sat up. “What are you talking about?”
“He used to be a senior at our high school before you moved here. He was a senior when I was a sophomore. He was pretty popular, you know, a douchey jock. He played lacrosse. He asked me out before I came out, back when I had long hair and still wore dresses.”
“Ah, back in your Jennifer days.”
“Yeah. He was the one and only guy I ever kissed.”
“How come you’ve never told me about it before?”
“Because I was embarrassed. Not very many people know about it.”
“It’s okay that you kissed a boy, Jay. I won’t revoke your gay card. I kissed a few back at my old school, you know that. It’s all part of figuring stuff out.”
“It’s not like that. It wasn’t just about a kiss with him.” Jay sent a text message to her sister that read, “Please call me.”
“What’s it about then? Why did you bring him back here tonight?”
“Because I saw him and I was so angry and I wanted to teach him a lesson. I wanted to hurt him.”
“For what he did to me,” she answered and looked at the wall on the other side of the room.
“What did he do? Tell me what he did. I don’t like this, Jay.”
“It was on our date, at the end when he drove me home. We were parked in his car in my driveway.”
“Yeah, and what happened?”
“We were in his car making out. God, I only went on the date because my parents insisted. They said, ‘Why don’t you act like other girls your age? Any girl in school would be ecstatic to go on a date with him.’ So we were in his car and he was coming on real strong, leaning all the way into my seat and then trying to pull me on top of him. The emergency brake kept pressing into my thigh and I told myself I’d pull away after I counted to one hundred. I wanted so badly to just be normal, but nothing about it felt right. I pushed him off me at fifty-five.
“He said, ‘What’s wrong, babe?’ Then I just started crying, and I was so embarrassed I hid my face in my hands. I said, ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t do this. This doesn’t feel right.’ And he kept telling me I would like it and I would get used to it. All the girls do. He kept saying that, ‘All the girls do.’ I told him I wasn’t like the other girls. I didn’t want to be with a boy. He sat there quiet for a minute like he was trying to figure out what I was talking about. I put my hands down and looked at him and he just lunged at me, sort of like an animal. He was on top of me, kissing me again, and he put his hand up my skirt. I couldn’t push him off me; he had all his weight on me. And then he took two fingers and stuck them up inside of me. He whispered right in my ear, ‘I guess this is how you like it then, dyke? I promise I can give you something better. I’ll fix you.’
“I yelled, ‘My dad.’ He turned to look behind him at the house, and that’s when I pushed him off me. I opened the car door and fell out onto the driveway. My dad wasn’t there of course; he was asleep in the living room in front of the TV. I ran into my house. Jason graduated a week later, I chopped all my hair off, and told my parents I wouldn’t answer to Jennifer anymore.”
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry. Why didn’t you tell me about that before?”
“I’ve never told anyone. I wouldn’t let myself think about it. And most of the time I don’t think about it. But then I saw him walking down the street today. He looked exactly the same, so fucking smug. And I hated him all over again.”
Dana and Jay sat there until the record stopped playing. Jay checked her phone, but her sister had not responded. Dana got up and flipped the record over, hoping for a better song.
In the car, Jason picked his hand up and rested it on the top of Mary’s thigh, saying nothing. Mary goosebumped at his touch, knowing nothing but that his look made her feel special and that all she wanted to do tomorrow was play music with her sister.
But the truth was there would never be learning to play the guitar, rock concerts, or revolutions. The truth was there would only be hands on thighs, a squeeze of skin, and her dress inching up farther than she wanted.
© 2012 Kait Heacock