Monday, March 3, 2008

Drag Thing, or the Strange Case of Jackle and Hyde excerpt by Victor J Banis

An excerpt from DRAG THING, OR THE STRANGE CASE OF JACKLE AND HYDE, by Victor J. Banis, my spoof of the mutant superhero genre. Mild mannered dress designer Peter Warren is accidentally injected with (yes) the secret formula and turns into an enormous drag queen – think The Hulk in a dress. There are lesbian scientists, a Monster-Pussy, a pair of queer Homeland agents, a trio of hapless gangbangers, chickens fornicating, a villain who dresses as a giant owl and a Great Dane with lavender toenails – in short, your usual romance fare.

In this bit, Dr. Janet Jackle has spirited her lover, Melissa (who is in a coma) from the hospital by stealing the ambulance of EMT Luis Cordero, and San Francisco Police are on the lookout for ambulances…

Drag Thing, or the Strange Case of Jackle and Hyde
Wildside Press (January, 2008)
ISBN: 1434401928


It had been a first for EMT Luis Cordero, losing his ambulance.

“Thirty years, and we’ve never lost one,” his dispatcher said with an angry shake of his head.

“Listen, it wasn’t just us,” Luis had pointed out. “Don’t forget, Saint Maria Alfonso lost a patient.”

“Well, that’s too bad for them, but they lose patients by the carload, every day of the week at that joint. The difference is, they don’t get their paychecks docked, like we probably will. Do you have any idea how much an ambulance costs? You’ll be paying forever. We both will. Till we’re old, old ladies.”

Nevertheless, the emergency workload in San Francisco was too heavy to have a driver just sitting on the bench. An hour later, Luis was on the streets again, in another vehicle—and none too soon, either. He was barely behind the wheel when he got a call on an emergency appendectomy.

He made it to the scene in no time flat. He had his record to think of. If he got no more demerits, the company might give him a break and write off the missing ambulance. More than that, there was his reputation to consider. Plus, though this was something of an afterthought, occupied as he was with the damage to his work record, but there were the wounded and the sick to consider as well. You couldn’t altogether ignore them.

They had barely shoved the patient into the rear of the ambulance before Luis was behind the wheel and they were moving, headed once again for Saint Maria Alfonso.

“Hey, wait a sec,” his paramedic shouted. “I haven’t even got this guy strapped down yet.”

“No time,” Luis called back. “You said yourself this one was critical. Just hold on to him, why don’t you? It’s only a couple of miles. We’ll be there before I could stop and help you get him fastened down. Okay?”

“Well, okay, I guess so,” was the somewhat reluctant answer. “But step on it, okay?”

“Trust me,” Luis said. “You won’t know what hit you.”

“Please,” the patient moaned in a feeble voice. “I’m really….”

“Don’t you worry now, sir,” Luis called to him, “You’re going to get a ride you will never forget.”

They had gone no more than a couple of blocks, however, when Luis saw flashing red lights in his mirror and heard the wail of a siren. A police car—his immediate thought was that they must have caught the call on the emergency, and were here to give him an escort.

“All right,” he said aloud, grinning broadly, and speeded up. With a squad car clearing the way for him, he’d be at the hospital quicker than ever. A couple of record-time trips and he might even make Employee of the Month. Let them try to fire him then. More than likely, he’d get a raise. For sure a commendation. Everyone would forget all about that missing ambulance. It was just a woman in a coma, after all. Who was she going to complain to? Maybe she hadn’t even been kidnapped, maybe she had just run away. That happened sometimes with patients at Saint Maria Alfonso—not that he could blame them, really. He’d heard rumors recently of pee-stains on the floors and bedpans left lying around.

The police car caught up with him and pulled alongside on the left and the officer on the passenger side waved out the window. Luis waved back, encouraged, and shot ahead. The ambulance rocketed around a gaggle of cars. The black and white fell behind, then came alongside again, the officer waving all the more frantically.

“Go to the side,” he shouted.

To Luis, with the wind noise and both sirens screaming, it sounded like, “Go for the ride.” He laughed with delight and gave the man a thumbs up. “I’m with you, man,” he shouted in reply. It was times like this that made it all worthwhile. Plus, there was something to be said for saving lives. Especially if you could have fun doing it.

“What’s happening, bro?” the paramedic asked from the rear. The vehicle was bouncing and tilting frenziedly as it whipped around traffic. “You’re going awfully fast, aren’t you? I’m having a helluva time trying to hang on to this guy.”

“Hang on to your jockstrap. We’re going to set a new land speed record,” Luis called back.

“Uh oh. We’d better. I think we just lost him.”

They jounced violently over a railroad crossing, the ambulance airborne for a few seconds before it crashed to the pavement again with a mighty groan.

“Urgh,” the patient cried, regaining semi-consciousness.

“That brought him back,” the paramedic shouted, “but it’s touch and go. Maybe a minute, two, even, but I think that’s the max.”

“We’re almost there,” Luis cried. “Hold on to him.”

Shots rang out. Holes suddenly appeared in the vehicle’s rear doors.

“What’s that?” The paramedic, a black man, grew visibly paler. “What’s happening, man?” he yelled in a panicked voice.

“I…I think…,” Luis said, disbelieving. The black and white pulled alongside once more. This time, the officer on the passenger side had his gun in his hand. He fired again.

“Jeez, they’re shooting at us,” Luis said.

“Shooting at us?! We’ve got a dying man back here. This is no time for cowboys and Indians. Wait, I’ll bet they’re white asses, aren’t they, both of them? Man, I hate when those honkie cops start playing that macho shit on us. Can’t you explain things to them?”

“How can I explain anything to them at eighty miles an hour?” Luis asked, careening around an old lady in a Ford Taurus. The driver of the car, startled out of her wits, lost control and crashed into a pair of parked vehicles, metal shrieking in agony and sparks flying.

“Stay where you are, ma’am. We’ll be back for you in a couple of minutes,” Luis shouted out the window at her. That would be another quick trip. That commendation was beginning to look more and more like a sure thing. Except for the pesky guys in the black and white….

The cop started shooting again. It crossed Luis’ mind in a flash that maybe these weren’t even real cops. In San Francisco people dressed up all the time. And tomorrow night was Halloween. The fact that they were in uniform proved nothing. He knew half a dozen queens who, when they got in uniform, looked more like cops than the real thing. If there was anything gay men understood, it was dressing up.

The fact that they were in a black and white proved nothing either. If they could steal ambulances, who was to say they couldn’t steal cop cars, too. Besides, he’d already had one ambulance stolen out from under him this evening. Maybe this was another attempt at a theft, an elaborate scheme to hijack him. Maybe ambulances had become the hot new commodity on the stolen vehicle market. Sure, that was it. Had to be.

“I’ll bet those punks think they’re taking this baby to their chop shop in the Mission,” he muttered to himself. Or it was on its way to Tijuana. And he’d have two of these busses to pay for. He’d be eating canned frijoles for the rest of his life.

“Well, they can just think again, they won’t get another one off me,” he declared sternly. He wasn’t falling for their ruse, however cleverly they had planned it. Faux uniforms and stolen black and whites? What did they think he was, some kind of a Rican dummy?

“No way, José.” He gripped the wheel ferociously and leaned over it with a determined set to his chin, his eyes fixed on the street ahead. He’d been driving ambulances for fifteen years. The cop had not been born yet who could out-drive him.

The black and white tried to get in front of him, to cut him off. "Hah!” Luis scoffed. “You’ll have to do better than that, Jack Off.”

He jerked the wheel violently to the left, and his front bumper caught the squad car, sending it skidding with a squeal of tires on pavement. Watching in the mirror, Luis chortled. Probably they thought he was some kind of sissy. That would show them.

In the lead again, he goosed it, pedal to the metal. Checking the mirror, he saw another set of flashing lights in the distance. They must have called in back up. Man, this was some elaborate set up. Two stolen squads. These guys must want ambulances really bad. Maybe there was some kind of crisis in Mexico. Drugs, he’d bet. Or hookers. Think about it, hookers operating out of ambulances, a portable bordello—it was diabolical. His thoughts drifted. He wondered briefly how that might work in the Castro. Say you had a line up of hotties…it would definitely cut down on commute time…

He made a corner on two wheels, the rear of the ambulance catching a utility pole with a loud crunch of metal and bringing his attention back to the moment. More shots rang out. A crack like a giant spider web appeared in the windshield. They bounced over some more tracks.

“Awk,” the patient cried from the rear. “Aieee!”

“Fuck! I’m hit,” the paramedic yelled. “They got me, man.”

“Hang on,” Luis said. “We’re almost there.”

Another black and white appeared in front of them, sliding into position to block the street. Luis veered to the right, onto the sidewalk by the Safeway market. An Indian woman in a bright green sari stepped in front of him, pushing a grocery cart. She saw the ambulance roaring toward her and leaped out of its path with a terrified cry, but he caught the cart. Eggs and milk and something else he couldn’t identify splattered across the windshield, practically blinding him. He hit a fence and roared across someone’s yard, the ambulance’s rear end yawing on wet grass, hit a culvert and went aloft, sailing across a drainage ditch. A snippet of green fabric trailed behind it, flapping like a pennant in their wake.

The patient screamed from the rear. “Help! Help! Someone, help!”

“Be quiet back there,” Luis snapped. “Like, I’ve got my hands full up here. Try thinking about somebody beside yourself for a second, why don’t you, fella? Can’t you see I need to concentrate?”

He turned on the windshield wipers. The eggs and milk became an omelet. He was flying totally blind now. Something crunched beneath the front wheels—a bicycle, he thought. He hoped there was no one on it.

Gran Díos, save me, save me,” the patient cried.

“Shit, save your own ass, dammit,” the medic answered. “I’m gone, bro.” He threw open the rear door and as the vehicle slowed for a moment to make a tight right turn, he dived through it. The stretcher had only been half fastened, however, and the violent bouncing and swaying had broken it loose altogether. With one last agonized shriek, the patient flew out the flailing door after the paramedic.

Rose Taylor and Estelle Marmachuck were strolling home from grocery shopping, arms linked, chatting about grandchildren and vacation plans, when an ambulance roared past them at breakneck speed.

“What on earth?” Rose cried, but before Estelle could reply, a black man flew out the rear door of the vehicle, arms waving, and landed atop them, knocking all three to the ground—luckily for them, as Rose pointed out subsequently: only seconds later, an airborne stretcher sailed over their heads and landed beyond them in some bushes with a crunch and a horrible wail of anguish.

“We might have been decapitated by that man in the bed,” Rose said. “Very thoughtless of him, if you ask me.”

“It was like that movie, The Night of the Living Dead,” Estelle told the police later. “Bodies flying through the air. It was so exciting.”

“Only, I lost my milk,” Rose said.

In the ambulance, Luis heard a final shriek quickly dying away. “That’s better,” he said, as the ambulance got suddenly quieter. “Thank you both.”

He tried the windshield washers. He must be close to Saint María Alfonso’s by now—if only he could see….

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