Truck-Stop Whores and Racoon Bones: A Novel Excerpt

Written by J.T. Leroy on . Posted in Books, Posts.



Glad holds
the raccoon bone over my head like a halo. “I have a little something for
your own protection,” he says, leaning down over me so close that I can’t
help but stare up at the brown patches of skin that mottle the pure whiteness
of his face.


“Glad,
you look like you’re sharecroppin’ out your own private patch of cancer,”
some of the lot lizards would tease him. But I know the truth of it. Glad told
me himself. It’s the Choctaw in his blood. That’s why he’s got
good medicine. That’s why he’s a good pimp for a lot lizard to have.



“These
patches of brown be the In’ian in me, making themselves known,” he
tells me over a trucker special breakfast at The Doves Diner: a huge mound of
hollandaise eggs and thick-as-a-Bible persimmon pancakes. I know he wants me
to work for him. His stable is known for being the finest from coast to coast.
Glad’s little bits don’t have to stand outside the truck stop like
other goodbuddy lizards usually do. Truckers call in to arrange their appointments
months in advance. All Glad’s pavement princesses dress so comely in the
most delicate silks from China, fine lace from France, and degenerate leather
from Germany. If you didn’t notice them wearing a raccoon penis bone necklace,
and if you didn’t know what that meant, you’d never know they were
actually male. Most of his boys are either runaways rounding up some cash before
heading out with some driver one of these days, or they are like me, have family
working the main lot. Nobody bothers with Glad’s boys. Some of the lizards
say it’s because he pays off anyone that would ever have a say. Sarah told
me it is because all the ex-con truckers make sure they have Glad’s finest
boys to look forward to and the local law wouldn’t want to start no riot
by depriving felons of their sweet reminders of the penitentiary. But I know
it is because of the raccoon dick.


He holds it
over my head.


I lean down
and let him slip the rough-cut leather cord around my neck. I always see Glad’s
boys in the diner, fingering their coon pricks in a real show-off way. They
never have to pay their checks. I always hear the waitress saying when she puts
in the boy’s order, “It’s for them two of Glad’s with the
mountain man toothpick.” And a bill never comes.


The lizards
say Glad just pays their tab like any sugardaddy. Sarah says all the waitresses
secretly are in love with Glad and his boys so they don’t charge them.
But Glad tells me it’s neither. “They know most of their business
is hungry tricks that work up their appetite after a visit with my boys, and
they count on my boys leaving their tricks in a generous and lavish mood.”


“This
better than a policeman’s badge,” Glad says as he adjusts the necklace
over my black sweater. I knew he was going to give me my bone today, so I borrowed
a black sweater from Sarah.


“Gettin’
boned today is what I heard,” she called from inside the bathroom of the
little motel room one of her regulars on the green bean run pays for. I knew
she was soaking in the shower.


“I don’t
care how cheap the room and the hoe, a woman needs a soak same as a coal miner.”
She clogged up the drain with wet menstrual pads and towel-lined the shower
rim to add an inch or two to her bath. She sat in the corner huddled like an
orphan in a flood with the shower pouring down. “You’ll be soaking
your pump knot in here too once Glad puts you out.”


I went through
the always half-packed plastic attache case and picked up her black sweater.
I pressed it to my face and inhaled her familiar scent of stale cigarettes and
alcohol ineffectively masked by powder-scented air freshener.


“You better
not swipe my leather skirt,” she yelled over the shower water streaming
down.


I leaned into
the Sheetrock bathroom door. “I’m going as a boy,” I shouted.


I heard her
make a “that’s what you think” laugh. I kicked the door and it
shook harder than I’d meant. “You ain’t the first person to kick
in this door.” She laughed and I felt relieved she didn’t come after
me, but more than a little pissed she didn’t even take me half serious
enough to try to whip me. It’s ’cause she’s in her soak, I told
myself. I could smell the baby powder scent of her bubble bath and felt excited
to come home after a long night of trucker lovin’ and deserve my soak just
like she did. She never let me use her bubbles. “Buy your own when you
work your own!” she’d tell me when she’d see me fingering the
bottle covered in pictures of naked baby bottoms.


“I’m
coming home with some of my own bubbles!” I shouted into the door.


“And leave
the keys till you pay me half this rent.” Her voice raised some and that
gave me a tinge of pleasure and fear. I grabbed up the black sweater and opened
the front door. I walked back over to the Sheetrock bathroom door and said as
loud as I could without yelling, “You don’t even pay for this room
your own self, but since I’ll be making more than you As a boy,
I’ll kick you down some change.”


Then I ran.
Heard her pulling herself up before I finished. I slammed the front door and
didn’t even look back once.


“This
bone stands out nice against your sweater,” Glad says after he is done
adjusting it on me.


I turn and
look in the plate glass and there it is, on me, yellowish white like tobacco
chewers’ teeth. I always wanted to glide my fingers along its curvaceous
lines.


“Shape
always ‘minded to me like half a waxed moustache…how they get it in their
women’s privates is all but beyond me,” he says with a snort, and
some unswallowed Kentucky coffeetree drink sprays out at me.


I carefully
wipe the Kentucky coffeetree spray off my face. I’ve heard truckers talking
in low voices how Glad is known to have murdered a few drivers that did his
boys a bad turn. He did it with his coffeetree drink, some in the know say.


“It would
only be a Yankee with no manners or sense of self-pride that would hurt a young
defenseless boy trying to make a night’s wages,” I once heard Big
Pullsman Todd say between forkfuls of his Wellington of king salmon with truffle
mashed potatoes. “Yankee drivers,” about 10 other truckers swore and
spit in their spittoons that were fixed directly a foot and a half to the side
of each of their booths. Most would usually miss and make spattered lizard designs
on the fake marble with sparkles in its linoleum.


I subtly finish
dabbing up the Kentucky coffeetree droplets off my cheeks.


“You live
with family? In the Hurley motel, don’t you?” Glad asks, blowing in
his mug and accidentally spraying me again.


“Yes,
sir.” I nod and pat my face with a napkin. I’m not sure what Sarah
is supposed to be to me so that’s all I say and Glad says nothing more
on it either.


“I’ve
seen her working the lots. Pretty lady. I’m sure she does well.” Glad
nods and I nod. “Girls, ‘specially pretty blonde young girls, can
do themselves quite a turn.”


I look down
at my bone again. I hope everyone saw him putting it on me. I don’t think
it would be exaggerating to say I heard a dip in the volume when he did.


“I heard
it said you look fetching in a leather miniskirt yourself,” Glad says.


Sarah used
to dress me up herself. She would do my makeup. I loved watching her lick her
finger and run it gently under my eyes. It always reminded me of those nature
films of a mother bird regurgitating food into its baby’s mouth and left
me feeling as full as if she had. When we’d go shoplifting, it was better
for me to be a girl, even if I couldn’t be as pretty as her.


“Girls
have more cubbyholes to hide things in,” she’d say, shoving cigarette
packs down my dress and into my empty bra and cold wet chopped meat into my
panties. “Men only want to stuff those with themselves–they don’t
ever see what we hid in ‘em!” She’d laugh at the guards staring
at our legs and I laughed with pleasure at being included in her “we.”
But she’d stopped dressing me even though it’s easier to make your
way in the world as two girls. Easier when you’re sitting at a diner, loudly
fretting over only having enough for a Jell-O salad when a baconburger would
go down real nice, to get a man to lean down over you and say, “Let me
take care of this, little darling.” Easier to get invited to stay the night
at a man’s place instead of sleeping in the car. Most anything you want
in this world is easier when you’re a pretty girl. She stopped letting
me dress when it got too easy for those men to crawl from her bed into mine.


But I didn’t
stop. Sometimes I would put bows and sparkle gel in my curly shoulder-length
hair until it shimmered, just like Sarah’s. Now and then, when I knew she
had gone with a trick to gamble out on a delta boat, I would wander the tic-tac-toe-like
board lines between the trucks and act like a new girl, a new dress for sale,
out on the stroll. I kept to the dark and ran if a john or another lizard called
to me. I showed enough to make them interested in who this mysterious girl could
be. I thought no one ever saw me enough to know it was me. I convinced myself
I was like a comic book hero, hiding in the shadows, my magic stiletto heels
clicking away all evil. I watched the lizards climb in the trucks and I giggled
to myself as the cab suddenly started arockin’ and a-rollin’ till
the lizard would just as abruptly leap from the truck stuffing dollars in her
boot. I only got whipped once for using Sarah’s things and that was ’cause
I was sloppy and she found me out. I had stepped in a deep puddle, and because
I had stuffed newsprint in her shoes so I could walk in them, I lost my balance
and fell. I broke her heel and put a bad stain and tear in the fine leather
of her skirt I had paper-clipped high around me. I tried to get it fixed, but
she noticed right off. Before that no one had ever told on me. But folks knew.
Glad tells me how much the men are all of fond of seeing me dash under the lamplight
like a forest sprite. Even the girls think it’s sweet, and that I would
make an excellent lizard for real. That was what had brought me to his attention.


“Those
divine golden curls of yours are very much admired,” Glad says, with a
raise of his eyebrows and a sweet bowing of his head; asking my permission to
touch them.


I lean forward
and tilt my head like a cat under his caress. “Soft as pig belly.”
I almost fall flat on the table pressing my head into his hands.


“You’ll
be my guest when you dine here, so maybe you can fleshen up some. Our customers
tend to like a little meat on their girls.”


I thought of
Sarah saying, “I told you so!” So I say to Glad, “I could be
a boy too. I know what to do.”


“Lots
of boys want to work for me.” Glad takes my hand and genteelly holds it.
“What a man looks for in a boy is a lot different than what he looks for
in my boygirls.” He flips his long braid past his shoulders. I squint at
him to try and see the Indian in him. He always spoke about being Indian, but
aside from his long black braid and his facial spots, I can’t see it.


I heard it
said that his hair isn’t really black anyway. It’s just hair-care-product
black. His eyes are too blue, even though he tries to downplay it with his heavy
lids, keeping them half closed. His nose is flat, more like an Irishman’s
then like an Indian. But the story is, his great-grandmother or maybe it was
his great-great- or great-great-great-grandmother was a Mississippi Choctaw.
No one knew which, not even Glad himself. Mother Shapiro was the only one that
had seen the truth of it. She is the oldest and wisest lot lizard at any truck
stop in any state, and it is widely known that the sheriff visited her trailer
every now and then. She was a long time ago from the North, but no one holds
it against her. She likes Sarah. I’d often see Sarah and her cuddled up
in one of The Doves’ booths. Sarah would lean in against Mother Shapiro’s
Hawaiian Muumuu-covered mounds of flesh and eat banana creme brulee while Mother
Shapiro stroked her hair curls.


“His name
is Glading Grateful ETC… The ETC is in capitals with three dots after the
ETC sitting there like a trail into the sunset,” Mother Shapiro had told
Sarah as they sat in Mother’s round bed snuggled under goosedown blankets
from Hungary. Sarah told me all about it. And I knew she was trying to make
me jealous, so I pretended not to listen and kept saying, “What? What?”
until Sarah did stop and I had to beg her to tell me what Mother told her.


“Mother
Shapiro saw an authentic copy of Glad’s driver’s license,” Sarah
finally continued. “The Sheriff showed it to her because he couldn’t
believe anyone would put ETC and three dots in a name just because he don’t
know how far back the first Glad was.” Sarah loves to tell gossip when
she is drunk. Even if she had sworn to hate me forever, if she found out any
information about anyone at one of the bars she always stopped at after she
was through for the night, she would talk to me. I watch all the gossip shows
to arm myself with material.


Sarah was on
the bed, her head between her spread-out legs to keep from puking. But it didn’t
keep her from telling me what she’d learned from a night with Mother about
Glad’s Great-Grandmother ETC…


“A missionary
devoted his life to taking her from a Choctaw to a Christian. He gave her lessons
on how she could put Christ’s joy and love into her heart.” Sarah
rolled her head up and down in a little vibrating laugh and I knew it was a
move she copied from Mother Shapiro. “So he went about gladening her and
making her grateful and…” She laughed and let her whole body shake as
if she were round and undulating like Mother. “Glading Grateful the First
was born some nine months later.”


I moved myself
slowly till my side was next to Sarah’s arm and I cautiously let my head
rest on her shoulder. We sat there in the dark of the room, occasionally lit
up too bright by the glare of a truck heading out. I slid my feet under the
nubbly bedcover, slowly like a crab under sand, to be next to hers. And we stayed
like that until we both were asleep.


“Well,
I would like very much to have my own skirt of leather and my own makeup bag
that closes with Velcro,” I say to Glad.


“I can
get you a big sight more than that,” he says and thumps the table.


We start my
training right away in the caravans back behind The Doves. I try to tell Glad
I know what to do, that I’ve been with enough of Sarah’s boyfriends
and husbands, that if they had paid me I could buy a gator farm. Glad tells
me I have to unlearn bad habits learned by watching drunken whores, no disrespect
intended.


“You have
to learn to read a man and know when he’s just lookin’ for fun and
when what he really needs is for you to hold him so he can cry his eyes out
like a babe,” he told me as we drank strawberry Yoo-Hoos and sat on custom
satin-covered beanbag chairs. “You have to learn how to listen. There is
medicine in that penis bone to help you learn how to love like a real professional.”


I take daily
lessons from various boys of Glad’s, who affectionately refer to each other
as baculum, which Glad tells me means “little rod” in Latin.


I practice
rolling a condom on a man with my teeth without him knowing. I practice how
to take every bit and grain of a man in my mouth. I already knew that one. I’d
have contests with Sarah. We’d lie on our backs side by side on some motel
bed, with our heads hanging, tilted back over the edge of the bed, till our
mouths, esophagus, and throats would all line up. Then we’d put in a carrot
as deep as we could without gagging. We’d mark the carrot with our top
teeth and after we’d see who was the better head giver. Sarah always won.


“You win
’cause you’re older and bigger,” I told her once and she slapped
my face so hard I saw stars.


“Don’t
you ever call me old and big,” she said and ran out crying.


Excerpted
from
Sarah (Bloomsbury, 166 pages, $19.95). Copyright 2000 by J.T. LeRoy.



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