Volume 34, Number 4

Trick Boy Down

Ian Grey

Eyes snapped shut, Deke imagined David Bowie’s ice-white face glowing like a high-glam saint, so hot, cold, alien and forgiving. Maybe Jelly Dangereux, a black Jean Genie in his scarlet windbreaker and painted-on jeans showing off all the business, maybe Jelly would show up and together they’d escape the Chicken Shack’s sour miasma of aerosolized sweat, popper fumes, boy-trick desperation. Maybe Deke could even stay wherever Jelly was staying and chain-smoke dank and menthol Trues to continue the wonderful endless argument whether side one of Station to Station beat side two of Low. Maybe Jelly would finally share with Deke a full-blown tongue-kiss before freaking out and over-explaining how yeah, he was queer for johns, of course, but preferred girls, totally.

Deke opened his brown eyes, blinked, but the Shack still there, a black-walled garage-sized room pumping disco and packed with writhing boys, dangermen and dime-store glam-hags hurled in and out of dirty-colored light by cracked strobes.

Then the Quaalude kicked in and Deke’s fingers and lips went numb and the crowd abstracted into a blur, the pain from his latest foster father-thing’s most recent beating dissolving in methaqualone benevolence. He imagined being old enough to escape without being arrested, of getting an actual job even if he couldn’t read or pass for older than his thirteen years. So maybe he was in the right place but who was so awful that they deserved this?

A tap on his back, an insinuating greasy tenor. “Deke? Is that you, boy? It’s me, Vic.” A weird, jittery laugh. “But friends call me Uncle Vic.”

Deke put the man on mute because, over by the DJ booth, that tall, thin, punk-cut looker, was that Jelly?

But then a strobe hit the boy’s face and no, just another dope-trashed trick, very pretty, no doubt, but no Jelly Dangereux, Jelly who could pass for legal, could read and play bass, who promised Deke that people could rent you but nobody was anybody’s boy, end of story.

And so Deke looked backwards to face this Vic, a balding, marble-eyed Central Casting creep stuffed into a Members Only jacket. A creep who knew Deke by sight and name, so Deke was afraid of him right off but then again, Deke was afraid of pretty much everyone. He watched his fingers tremble as he lit a True and murmured, “Yeah? So?”

Uncle Vic gave him the reptilian predator smile Deke knew from the stalls, back seats and alleys. He said, “So I know your foster from work, from drinks after work. What a guy, am-I-right?”

No, no, no, you can’t know my foster—"anyway, pops said you like movies, like, big time, like Carrie most of all.”

He said, “Yeah, movies are all right,” thinking, I’d kill for three consecutive hours of threat-free sleep.

Vic grinned. “Well, I make ’em. At my studio. Movies. What the business calls niche, very, very niche, but still, movies.”

Deke managed to not roll his eyes. Was this Vic unaware that every third chickenhawk in the Valley dangled a movie play at some point?

Vic leaned into Deke’s space, grinned his horrible grin. “And I have a spare couch. Because even pros get tired, yes?”

Sudden exhaustion, absolute. Vic cleared his throat. “You there?”

Deke rifled through his jean pockets, found the mixtape of Aladdin Sane and Young Americans. When he woke three days later in the Mount Sinai ICU with lacerations to the face, neck and hands, he’d realize that he could have said no. But he didn’t. He asked, “You got a cassette player too?”

Uncle Vic laughed. “I have a fuckin’ Harman Kardon 730 amp and Tannoy Gold 15 monitors.” He mimed tapping out a line on his hand. “I kind of have everything, you know?”

Deke looked blindly at the floor, didn’t bother stating costs, just murmured, “Okay.”

Uncle Vic feigned disappointment. “’Just ‘okay?’”

”Okay, sir.

Vic licked a finger, ran it across Deke’s face. “Now that’s a boy.”