Drag Act by Andrew Smith

Anna Phalactic-Shoque had always enjoyed appearing at the Manhole Club — except for that young psycho bitch, April Showers. Anna could too easily imagine what acts of depravity April must have committed to snag the full-time Mistress of Ceremonies gig.

April always came across all innocent with her butter-wouldn’t-melt-between-her-buttocks act, but Anna knew better. Bitch wore a different pussy-revealing school uniform for every set she introduced, and licked a giant red lollipop, all wide-eyed, pre-pubescent, and Bambi-like, as if she had no idea that the phrase ‘give head’ even existed, let alone what it meant.

As Anna had told the lawyer who the police assigned to her, she didn’t set out to ‘off’ the bitch, she just happened to have a hammer in her handbag because she’d bought it for work on her way to the club. Some bastard at the building site where he worked had nicked his.

Anna lapsed into the appropriate gender pronoun depending on the context and how he/she presented. He/she was too old for all that ‘they/their’ rubbish that the young queens were using.

Hammer bought, Anna had gone into the supermarket to steal nail varnish — if she scratched the bar code off the bottle with her finger nail, it didn’t set off the alarm at the door. She really wanted ‘Fluorescent Fuschia’ nail varnish from Boots, but they had too many CCTV cameras for comfort, so she’d have to make do with ‘Pink Noise.’ She also nicked an apple because it didn’t carry a barcode and she was always ravenous between sets.

“Tell me about the scarf,” asked the lawyer.

Anna told him about the handsome young man who’d accosted her outside the supermarket. How he’d called her “madame” and asked if she was interested in a “genuine silk” scarf. He’d whipped his coat open and showed Anna a selection.

“Only five quid,” he’d said. Anna had chosen one with sparkles. “To match my eye shadow,” she told the lawyer.

Anna described how she’d started to get angry when April had introduced her to the punters as “marvellous for one approaching a well-earned retirement.”

It’d put Anna off her stride and her set hadn’t gone over as well as it should have.

“When that bitch came on stage wearing the fucking scarf I’d just bought, I knew she’d been into my bag.”

Anna described how, after that, she really didn’t remember much. First thing she could recall was feeling something wet in her cleavage, she looked down to see blood and grey stuff dripping down the front of her dress. It wasn’t until a guy in the front row vomited that she looked up and realized she was holding the hammer.

“So, you definitely didn’t set out to injure anybody?” asked the lawyer.

“Course not,” said Anna.

“Best plan now then is to plead manslaughter,” said the lawyer.

All Anna could think was how April would have hated that word — manslaughter.

“Fine by me,” she said, taking a bite of her apple.

Andrew Smith’s first novel, Edith’s War, was self-published and won a gold medal at the Independent Publishers’ Book Awards, U.S.A. Smith’s second novel, The Speech, was published by Urbane Publications, UK, in 2016 to critical acclaim. His short fiction featured in the Journey Prize Anthology and the CBC Literary Awards.


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