: Bruce Halloran is in a snit.
No, not just a snit. A full-out snootfull of pissed off. One disquieted queen. One large, overripe, high-dudgeon, disquieted queen.
And the reason for his disquietude? The sheer stupidity of the throngs of people surrounding his luxury condominium next to Kajuns Pub. Sneering down upon the masses shuffling along the banquette below his rooftop courtyard, he drags his meathooks over his little Pomeranian/terrier/something-else-cute mix dog Ms. Sara Joy, named for the appropriated drag persona of timely-departed benefactor Gary Pitts, who willed Bruce the condo nearly three years ago. Rescued from the street outside the building, Ms. Sara Joy has grown very little since Bruce took him in, the result of his first year being on the street with nearly nothing to eat. With Bruce's unintentional ministrations, he has now pudged out to look like a Disney fox with dwarfism and an eating disorder. It isn't that Bruce doesn't love Ms. Sara Joy. In fact, it is probably the most loving relationship Halloran has ever had in his entire life. He just doesn't think in those terms, mainly because he can't get a laugh in a bar with sentiment.
Trying not to peer over the edge of his owner's reedy arms, Miss Sara Joy pulls against the increasingly intense "petting" his otherwise loving owner gives. Showers of red, auburn, and white dog fur drifts over the brick facade of the building and gently settles onto the unsuspecting youths below.
Because of this, one young man will be accused of infidelity by his brunette girlfriend. This event will set off a chain of events that will forever change his life. But...that's New Orleans...
A quick "Yip!" from Ms. Sara Joy alerts Bruce to the fact that he's petting too hard, and he bends down to release the dog, which fairly jumps for his life to the concrete roof. Catching his stride, he hoists his curled tail up to it's fully-festooned height and trots towards his rooftop food bowls, his anus and lack of testicles on full display for his owner. As always, it goes unnoticed. Ms. Sara Joy is aware of this, but it makes him feel bigger when he does it.
Bruce looks down again upon the crowd below, his late middle-aged upper lip curling into a snarl.
"Look at them," he mutters to himself, now all alone on his rooftop Xanadu. "Wandering around down there just because they think it's 'cool.' Children, all of the--ooh, hello young man! Ever thought of an older gentleman to..."
The words die in his hollow throat.
"Noooooooo..." he croaks. "Of course you haven't. To you, older means somebody under 35...if that." He turns away from the bustle on the street and wanders over to the virtually unused four-person patio set. He sits in the same chair he always occupies with a grunt, his spindly limbs sprawling away from his Idaho potato body.
Pitts always said, "you look like the pit of an avocado on toothpicks!"
Bruce's head fills with another memory. The first time he ever set foot in this place in the mid 90s, when Sara Joy first bought the place. Within an hour of signing the papers, every bar fag in New Orleans knew the story. He got it for 50% below market value from a cookbook writer who needed the cash. Pitts had picked up a few hustlers from the Golden Lantern, as well as a handful of bar trash from the Quarter, several bottles of K&B liquors, a 'dollar bag' of Maui Wowee, and a new bottle of real poppers. Before the games really began, the group had just finished polishing off the first bottle of vodka and a couple of joints. Bruce had laid claim to a sinewy young country boy called Duke from Auburn. Exactly his type, shorter than himself, thin, hairless, no fat, all definition. And willing. He was receptive! A treat for the oft-rejected Halloran.
Then the alcohol and drugs kicked in for Sara Joy.
“Duke!” he had suddenly called out as Bruce was guiding the Auburn boy to the door. “You don’t want to go off with Brucie. He’s only good for fetching drinks while you’re dealing with a real man.” Whereupon Pitts opened his fly and displayed his other assets. Bruce went home alone.
Gary "Sara Joy" Pitts had many, many faults. He was a sybarite who wielded his wit and his sexuality like a sword, cutting down foes, friends, and innocent bystanders with a common disregard. Addictive behaviors were his downfall. Smoking, drinking, sex, drugs, gossip, all of these were on the menu daily for Gary. Lacking any originality, Pitts even took his drag name from the character Judy Landers played in the sitcom "Madame's Place." The one good thing about him was his ability to give all his good friends free cable TV. He had worked for Cox Cable, and knew his way around the system. He was Bruce’s entryway into the company at the end of the decade, mainly because Bruce knew more about one of Sara Joy’s many dalliances than Sara Joy liked.
But, that was their relationship. Blackmail was a form of affection, as were beratement and manipulation. And when you live the bar life, it’s easy to forget all the times that someone was there for you. Easier still to focus on the times that someone screwed you over for a trick or slandered you at a social gathering where one might get laid. Still, like the elephant Pitts often compared him to when in pursuit of an evening’s entertainment, Bruce remembered. The night Sara Joy came downstairs in The Phoenix and slapped a cocktail out of his hand before laying into the bar trash that has poisoned the drink with Visine. The morning Bruce’s appendix had burst, and Pitts showed up with a Cox Cable truck he swiped to get him to to Charity Hospital. The day after his Bruce’s ex had caused a devastating scene in the Latrine, Pitts showing up at the door with a large bottle of bourbon, a bag of weed, a small bottle of poppers, and two “cable installers” he picked up from the Corner Pocket.
It was a hell of an afternoon.
And Bruce never forgot.
But those days are long gone. Today, as in days gone by an aging pleasure-seeker is just about as attractive (and similarly shaped to,) a mouldy pear. For Bruce, it is the cruelest cut of aging; still craving pliant young flesh while being the profuse, crinkled, overstuffed baggage that drives youth away like responsibility. He’s fighting it, but it is becoming clear to him that the only way he’s ever going to get a young man into his web is to accept the fact that he’s going to have to become a sugar daddy.
The idea is both abhorrent and intriguing. Something Sara Joy would have loved putting in front of Bruce: an inescapable choice. Either become the prey you used to hunt, or rot alone in a dead fruit’s old condo, partially-eaten by your dog before they find your desiccated corpse because the neighbors are complaining about the smell.Walking back inside to the first of the eight fully-stocked bars Pitts left behind, Bruce pours himself a couple of fingers of bourbon and walks back to the walk-in closet. In the back corner are all of Gary Pitts’ clothes, boxed up when Bruce moved in. None of it will ever fit Bruce, but the wardrobe can be sold so that Bruce can buy new and assume the role of sugar daddy in the bars...This Is My New Orleans.