: Bruce Halloran stares disdainfully at the drive-in movie screen of a television that dominates his living room. He sits on the expansive chocolate brown sofa, Miss Sara Joy clinging to his right hand, and the remains of a full go-cup of expensive neat bourbon. The images from Orlando are, sadly, all too familiar. People screaming, young gay boys running for cover, tear-streaked faces of young sorrow. The death of innocence and altruism. He's seen it before.
He flips between channels, each one broadcasting a steady stream of repeated images and news tickers abalze.
"...we have a lot of information at this hour on this individual. Who he is...he held his weapon legally, we're just now learning. It would appear that the suspect worked as a security guard..."
"--pick-up truck, racing to the scene of that incident, trying to get life-saving aid to...to-ah, to the victims of this massacre. Again, we don't know if this person actually survived the shooting..."
"...you know, uh, never is that kind of firearm standard issue for a security guard. We know that between two and nine am, he made a 911 call, gave his full name, and made a pledge of allegiance to ISIS--"
"--we do know, from the shooter's father, that he was angered several days ago in Miami when he saw two men kissing. His father says that was the motivation for him to go into this nightclub, Pulse, uh, a well-known gay club in Orlando, uh, and begin shooting his way into this club--"
"We are now getting word of an incident in Santa Barbara. A man has been taken into custody after explosives were allegedly found in the man's car, ahead of the LA Gay Pride Parade. Authorities are saying they have not yet found any connection to the incidents in Orlando last night and early this mornin--"
"And, what they have found, is that there are people, disenfranchised people, uh, troubled people out there who are susceptible to this--to the message that an, an action like this sends. Authorities have known for years about so-called "copycat" attacks. There are people out there who will see this attack, this massacre, and think seriously about doing the same thing."
Just then, the tinny strains of Blondie slurring "I Know What Boys Like" oozes from his cellphone, causing Miss Sara Joy to leap down onto the carpet and take up his usual place beneath the coffee table. The screen is filled with an unattractive picture of Ambrosia, the drag queen he's recently befriended. It usually makes him smile. He taps the screen.
"Hello Ambrosia, whom are you under today?"
"Nobody you've done. Are you watching the news?"
"Yes. When I said I was feeling nostalgic, this wasn't what I had in mind."
Ambrosia snorts a little in response.
Bruce takes another swig of his bourbon, and says with a slight gulp,
"Ah, yes, the good old days. When shooting faggots was all the rage. Better spruce up your closest, ladies. We're goin' back in."
"I've seen your closets. In Japan, that's a boutique hotel."
"HA!" guffaws Halloran, startling Miss Sara Joy. "Give me liberty, or give me closet space! Patricia Henry. What about you, Ambrosia? Got enough room in your closet?"
"Excuse me?" she trills. "I have never had any problems passing."
"I know several barstools that beg to differ."
Ambrosia laughs shrilly, forcing Bruce to pull the phone away from his ear. She calms down. There is a silence that goes on a little too long before Bruce says,
"At least this time around, it's not the cops coming after us."
Stunned by this unexpected moment of sincerity, Ambrosia takes a moment before speaking.
"Well...that's true. But, let's be honest. They're coming for everyone."
"But it's always us. Always! It is always pissy, self-important, soulless zealots that come for us. That hurt us, and kill us. And they always have the same excuse. 'It was God's will.' Leviticus whatever-whatever...blah, blah, blah. pow! Dead. At least now, the funeral homes will take a dead fruit...goddamnit...they've always hated us because we dare to exist. And it's always the same goddamned question--who were they hurting? Who was being harmed by a bunch of gay boys and fag hags in a dance club, ferchrissakes--"
"Halloran! They're terrorists! This is what they do!!"
"Then why weren't they terrorists when they were killing us back then?!?"
He trails off, finishing the rest of the bourbon in a large gulp. He sits for a moment, feeling the burn all the way down to the pit of his stomach. He's gone further than he wanted to go. The hollow of his chest tightens as he remembers all the times he's seen his friends beaten and shot. Things he's kept buried for decades, now demanding to be present. He bites the inside of his lip until the taste of copper begins to fill his tongue. Taking a deep breath, he brings the phone back to his ear.
"...sorry, I...I had to--"
"I know, I know. You had to drink, you old sponge." Ambrosia says, brassily. "Tell ya what, let's make a strike for democracy and fighting ISIS by stepping out tonight for a cocktail. If we don't drink, the terrorists win. My treat."
Now it's Bruce's turn to be momentarily stunned.
"Did I just hear the words "my treat" come out of that filthy mouth of yours?"
"Yes, Virginia, there is a bar tab. Where shall we meet?"
"I'm a lazy queen, just come over to Kajun's. What time were you planning from rising from your crypt?"
"I refuse to be seen before 7pm."
"I'll see you then. And bring your big girl purse, I'm thirsty!"
Bruce stabs the screen triumphantly, ending the call with the last word. He looks back to the screen, still flashing the same footage ad infinitum. He brings up the sound again.
"--but they have focused on the report that he was enraged by gay men recently. We spoke to one of the neighbors in the housing complex where Omar Mateen lived. She told us that there was an apartment where a group of gay men lived, and in recent weeks, the shooter, Mateen, had spent time in that apartment, he was seen coming and going from that apartment in recent days. So, authorities are not certain yet if this is a hate crime or a terrorist act."
Across the city, Avalena Beasley turns off her burner cellphone, and drops it into her purse. Looking up, she stares at herself in the mirror. Right now, she's a middle-aged woman in a middle management position, who works with a hateful, vicious old queen named Bruce Halloran. In four hours, she will be Ambrosia Delight, drag queen of indeterminate age, who's best friend and biggest fan is Bruce Halloran. Carelessly, she pulls a loose strand of graying hair from her face and replaces it behind her ear...This Is My New Orleans.