Donald Zagardo is a former Professor of Modern History at St. John’ University, New York. He has a life-long passion for literature of all kinds. In the past few years he has directed his writing efforts toward short stories and flash-fiction – searching for unusual topics. He is presently assembling a collection of his own work and is delighted to have his “Cannibal Logic” published in Scarlet Leaf Review. Donald lives and writes in New York City and enjoys international travel, foreign languages and photography.
Jasper waited by the phone for his mother’s call. Her sweet Southern voice, the way she said hello and pronounced his name made him homesick. She called her Japer every Friday, precisely at noon, rain or shine. She loved her boy and he loved his mom with all his heart and soul and was generally a good son. He had always been her little treasure, her baby boy, her reward for being such a good Christian woman. But Jasper was a long way from Atlanta and he had developed a personality and life style of his own, that his dear sweet mother knew nothing about. Jasper dressed as a woman on weekend nights, danced with a pole, half-clothed on stage, and could be had for a smile and a cigarette.
Jasper’s mom, in her mid-sixties, has walked with a cane ever since a stroke a few years ago. She spends all her extra time at the Antioch Baptist Church deep in the heart of Atlanta and is conservative in all religious and political matters; a loving mother to be sure, but strict. She phones her only son every Friday to remind him that she and God are watching. Jasper waits by his phone.
Later, Jasper will dress in his very best dance costume of grape purple and bright red, put on high heeled sexy black shoes, makeup his eyes and lips excessively, go to the subway then head for Ruby’s, a transvestite bar way downtown. Ruby’s on the west side has the worst reputation of any NYC tranny dive. People get robbed and raped inside and on the streets outside the club. But Jasper doesn’t care. He dances on stage in his purple and red costume from ten til daybreak. The work is hard, hours long, but he always has a good time.
On the way to the Carroll Street station, then to work at Ruby’s, Jasper magically appears at the front door of Louie’s Café, standing in the open doorway pretending it’s raining outside, shaking counterfeit raindrops from his counterfeit plastic coat, tormenting Louie with his flashy cloths, sexy shoes and girlie wiggle. Good old Louis has a way of smiling and frowning at the same time whenever he sees Jasper in drag. It’s a love, hate thing. Louie loves Jasper and hates himself for loving him the way he does, and Jasper loves to watch Louie squirm. After three or four minutes of this cabaret, a happy Jasper blows a kiss to Louie and is off to the tunnels. Louie just laughs.
Cat calls and whistles are par for the course once Jasper hits the streets of Manhattan. He is accustomed to teasing. When it starts Jasper hugs himself tight for security then yells as loud as he can back at his tormentors, “Paris is Burning, Mothers…,” and then the high-sign, and more yelling. He gives as good as he gets: an amiable quality as far as Jasper can tell. “You need to be able to take it, and to dish it out in equal measure, if you’re going to last around here my little friend. It’s eat and be eaten, that’s Cannibal Logic,” he was once advised by a big old queen. Jasper understood exactly what she meant and took her advice to heart.
Ruby’s dirty stage fills with light and color bringing excitement and daring to sweet Jasper’s very soul. He places his left hand on the gleaming silver pole centered on stage. He sings and wiggles along with the familiar INXS tune, “Elegantly Wasted.” His feet and heart dance to its addictive rock rhythm.
Jasper is instantly transported to a complementary reality, an ideal place where the seedy bar that was Ruby’s is transmuted. The smell of stale beer and the post-gym romp-stench of Ruby’s become perfume. Jasper is in pole-dance-tranny heaven, floating above the down town crowd, swaying between high, white clouds. He moves like a winged ballerina, impossibly free and full of grace. He forgets for a moment that he’s a boy-girl from Georgia and a marginal citizen of New York City. “Look at me momma,” he whispers to only himself, then hollers out loud, “I’m the queer queen of Ruby’s! The star of Manhattan, yea!” This makes Jasper peaceful, jubilant and untiring.