Real Fur

By Roger Hooverman

Certainly, Officer. Please come in and sit down. Just push those frocks on the sofa out of the way.

Okay, here goes.

First, you have to know about Wolfie. When I first met him, I had no idea what he was capable of; I only knew that I wanted him.

Oh, yes, of course. Just for the record, my name is Paul Garbo, G-A-R-B-O, as in Greta. No relation. And I’m a professional entertainer, doing standup comedy in gay clubs.

Now let me tell you my story from the beginning. I was shopping in Sally Ann’s boutique – that’s the Salvation Army thrift store – and there he was: Gorgeous. Perfect. I ran to him, took him in my hands, ran my fingers through his hair. He was exactly what I was looking for. A fabulous vintage silver fox fur stole, complete with head, feet and tail.

Lifting his chin, I looked into his furry face. His glassy eyes, one amber and one blue, peered back as if he were sizing me up. This was not your ordinary fur stole.

Carefully I untangled him from the wire hanger and draped him over my shoulders. He snuggled around my neck as if he belonged there. We bonded instantly. A name came to my lips, “Wolfie,” and I felt the tip of his bushy tail twitch. That was it. He was mine, I was his.

The girl at the checkout counter didn’t bat an eye to see a balding middle-aged man with a big nose and a leather shoulder bag buying a fur stole. She’d probably seen stranger sights in that neighborhood.

Wolfie would be perfect for my act. I perform in drag, playing two different women at the same time, switching between them with a deft change of voice and body language. One is sexy and sultry, with cleavage down to her navel and full of double entendres. Her name is Regina Saskatchewan. The other is her exact opposite: haughty, judgmental, and oh, so prudish. Her name is Winifred Manitoba.

The two of them comment on news of the day, make catty remarks about people in the audience, insult one another, and more or less say whatever comes into their minds. It’s part scripted and part improvised, as the spirit moves us.

You know, doing improv can be scary, because you never know what’s going to happen. The characters take on a life of their own, get totally out of control, and do and say things I would never dream of myself. I just stand there and watch and listen. Once, one of my characters actually got into a hair-pulling fight with a drag queen in the audience. The DJ had to break them up. I was embarrassed to death.

But it takes work, too, to develop a character that comes alive. I brought Wolfie back to my apartment, put him on in front of my full-length mirror and went into my act.

For Regina, I draped him low off my shoulders and smoothed his glossy silver pelt sensuously over my breasts – at least over where my breasts were going to be when I put them on. Without makeup and wig, the bald-headed creature in the glass was not a pretty sight, but as she toyed with Wolfie, twirling his tail like a burlesque queen’s boa, her personality came through loud and clear: Sassy, smart-ass, and available.

For Winifred, I pulled Wolfie up tight around my chin like my grandmother’s shawl, clasped him tight over my Adam’s apple, and looked disapprovingly down my big nose at the drag queen in the mirror. Your stereotypical church lady: part parole officer – no offense intended – and part nightmare mother-in-law.

Back to Regina. She located a hunky stud in her imaginary audience, locked eyes with him, thrust out her hips and, without a word let her tongue protrude sensually and lick her lips. While our spectators howled, I stiffened my back and Winifred glared out at the same invisible stud. “Child,” she rasped, “be careful of that tongue of hers. You never know where it’s been.”

Wolfie got into the spirit right away. On Regina, he stretched himself sensuously across my body and panted down my neck. On Winifred, he pulled back his teeth and snarled like a mother wolf protecting her litter.

Whoa, there was an insight into Winifred’s personality that I hadn’t seen before. She wasn’t just a bitch that disapproved of having fun, she held to strict standards because she didn’t want her pups to get hurt.

We shifted back to Regina. Now she was more than a slut out for a good time. She had a puppy-like playfulness that took the edge off her blatant sexiness and made her more fun to hang out with.

It was all due to Wolfie. I smiled into his mismatched glassy eyes and gave him a big kiss on his little black nose. “Wolfie, my love,” I said, “you and I make a great team.”

I think he winked at me.

That night I draped him over the top of my makeup mirror before going to bed. In the morning, he was curled up at my feet. I figured I must have gotten up during the night to go to the bathroom and, half asleep, brought him back to bed. My friends say I do that – take odd things to bed with me, that is. I couldn’t imagine any other explanation, can you?

Anyway, Wolfie and I rehearsed our act together all week. Wolfie would make his début on Friday, but by Thursday I couldn’t wait to take him out on the town and show him off. As it happens, Thursday is ladies’ night at the Queen of Clubs. If you go in drag, you get two drinks for the price of one. They’re not sexist about it; lesbians who go dressed as women get two for one as well. I’m joking. Actually, a lesbian gets what she wants no matter how she’s dressed.

Now where was I? Oh, yes. I rummaged through my closet – pardon me, my wardrobe – and selected a slinky midnight blue dress with sequins that set off my ash blonde wig and brought out the silver highlights in Wolfie’s fur. All treasures from Sally Ann’s, of course. Wolfie absolutely wriggled with anticipation as he settled across my shoulders.

It was a pleasantly warm evening, so we walked, taking the diagonal across Victoria Park. There were a few folks loitering about already. Some stood furtively near the bushes, others sat on the benches, smoking and watching the passers-by. You probably know the scene, Officer.

Believe it or not, we actually got a few wolf whistles – now that’s dating me! That brought out Regina. Standing tall in her high heels, she thrust out her chest and strutted down the blacktop path swinging her hips.

Suddenly Wolfie’s fur bristled. No kidding, his hair really stood on end. I could feel it tickling my neck and scratching under my chin. I looked about, not breaking my stride. Yes, over there by the lamp post, a guy in jeans and a black leather jacket smoking a cigarette. Something about the way he eyed me gave me the creeps. Definitely bad vibes coming from that one. Don’t look back, I told myself, as I struggled not to break into a run. I slipped my hand into my bag and grasped the little can of Mace I always carry with me. Ever since my pal Danny got beat up by a couple of fag bashers, I never go out without it. Where the hell are the Mounties when you need them?

Much to our relief, Wolfie and I emerged from the park, unscathed and unscrewed, into the bright lights of High Street. Across the road beckoned the red neon of the Queen of Clubs.

My buddy Stan was tending bar that night. He’s a great big daddy bear with a broad chest and thick dark hair curling out from the neck of his tight tee shirt. A girl feels safer with a man like that around.

“Hi, Paul,” he greeted me, “what’ll you have?”

Normally I drink draft beer, but tonight I was a lady. “White wine, please, Stanley. Chardonnay if you have it. Two for one of course.”

“Of course, sweetheart.” He placed two brimming glasses of chilled wine in front of me. I lifted one, ladylike, to my lips. An excellent vin du carton. I grabbed a handful of peanuts.

Stan leaned his hairy arms on the bar in front of me and bent closer. “Nice fur you have there. May I?” He reached one hand down toward Wolfie’s head to let him sniff his fingers, then lifted the head and peered into the mismatched eyes. “I think I’ve met this guy before.”

Wolfie’s tail started to wag. I reached up with my free hand and held him still.

“You have?” I said. “Where?”

“He used to belong to a friend of mine from Buffalo, Thalassa DeWine. A drag performer, like you. One of the best.”

“I think I’ve heard the name.” I set my glass on the bar and thoughtfully raised the tip of one red fingernail to my lips. “She died, didn’t she?”

“She was murdered, right there across the road in Victoria Park. She was in town last year, doing a guest spot at one of the clubs. Somebody lured her into the park and bashed her head in. They never did find the guy.”

I shivered and stroked Wolfie’s head in sympathy. No wonder he had taken to the act so readily. He had studied with a pro.

Sipping my wine, reflecting on the vicissitudes of life, I caught sight of my buddy Danny on the far side of the U-shaped bar. Danny has a passion for rough trade and, as I told you, once ran afoul of gay bashers. Tonight he was alone, nursing a draft and, in his pale green Ralph Lauren shirt and neat blond hair, looking very preppy and far younger than his thirty-two years. He saw me and waved. I waggled my fingers and was about to get up and join him when Wolfie’s hackles rose again.

I glanced in the mirror over the bar to see who had come in. It was Black Jacket from the park. He scanned the room, passed over me, thank God, and went over and sat down – you guessed it – next to Danny. Wolfie was putting out a low growling sound alongside my ear and, when I reached up to calm him, his body was coiled tight as a spring. I wondered if he had run into the likes of Black Jacket before.

I tried to send Danny mental signals. I even thought of lighting up a cigarette and sending smoke signals. But he was entranced. Poor Danny, who always felt that if sex wasn’t slightly dangerous it wasn’t fun. He didn’t have Wolfie to warn him this guy was really dangerous.

Watching them closely, I finished my first glass of wine and started on the second. Wolfie twitched like a predator waiting to pounce. Black Jacket placed his hand on Danny’s thigh. My second glass was gone before I knew it. Regina wanted another – after all, it was two for one – but Winifred nixed it, saying we should keep all our senses about us, just in case.

Before we could decide, Black Jacket’s hand moved higher and Danny was a goner. The two of them got up and left the bar together.

I laid some bills on the counter and picked up my purse, and Wolfie and I followed Danny and Black Jacket out the door.

Keeping our distance, we crossed the street behind them and then on into the park, now darker than before and more densely populated. It took our eyes a moment to adjust. Wolfie saw them first as they disappeared into the bushes. Almost immediately we heard a scuffle and Danny’s voice crying out – not in pleasure, I assure you – followed by the sound of fists hitting flesh.

Winifred the wolf mother took over. Wolfie and I charged into the bushes, not even thinking of what could happen to my sequined gown. In the dim light, we could see that Black Jacket had Danny on the ground and was pounding him senseless. I shrieked and leaped onto Black Jacket’s back.

I’m not sure exactly what happened next, Officer, because it was so dark and everything moved so fast. I grabbed Black Jacket’s leather collar, and the next thing I knew Wolfie had left my shoulders and was wrapped around his neck. I heard a terrible snarl and a gurgling scream, and we all went down in a roaring, howling tangle.

When I finally struggled to my feet, holding tightly to my purse, my wig and Wolfie, most of my fake fingernails had broken off and Wolfie and I were both wet and sticky as if we had been rolling in mud. Black Jacket was a motionless dark heap. Danny, more visible in the gloom because of his light shirt and chinos, was on his hands and knees making retching sounds. I helped my friend up and we stumbled out of the bushes to safety. Holding his trembling body against my padded chest, I stroked his hair and made little comforting sounds until he began to sob and his tears soaked my once beautiful midnight blue dress.

In the dim light from the lamppost, I could see it was not sticky mud on Wolfie and me. It was blood. It was all over Danny too.

About then we saw flashing red lights and heard car doors slamming. We got the hell out of there.

I don’t know where Danny went, but Wolfie and I went right home and stood under the shower until the hot water ran out.

Do you mind if I pour myself a drink, Officer? This is a very traumatic memory. Will you join me? It’s very good gin. Yes, of course I understand. Coffee, then? Oh, well…

The next day was the début of our act, and Wolfie was still a bloody mess. I thought about taking him to the dry cleaner, but decided instead to call my friend Marcie at the Pampered Pooch pet salon. She gave us an appointment right away.

Perky in her Audrey Hepburn bob and crisp celadon green jumpsuit, Marcie greeted us with excitement. She pointed to the little TV set in her waiting room. “Paul, have you seen the news? There was a gruesome killing in the park last night.”

That was when I learned that Black Jacket was dead. Marcie told me his throat had been torn open and, from the nature of the injuries, the police were looking for a wild dog or a wolf running loose in the park.

Then she saw the blood on Wolfie and did a double take. “So where was he last night?”

I smiled primly. “Marcie, when I go out, I don’t tell him what I do, and when Wolfie goes out, he doesn’t tell me.”

She eyed us both suspiciously for a moment and shrugged. “That’s probably a good thing,” she said.

She spread Wolfie out on her salon table and treated him as she would any other client. He got an expert shampoo and blow-dry, and a special oil massage to keep his pelt lustrous. By the time Marcie was finished he was better than new. She even scrubbed his nails and brushed his sharp little teeth.

I was still feeling freaked out about what had happened, so Wolfie and I went shopping. We found a fabulous silver lamé dress to replace the bloody one we had to put in the dumpster. After that, we went back to my place and watched a Bette Davis movie.

So you won’t find any evidence on Wolfie or on my clothing, Officer. I’m sorry, we didn’t mean to obstruct your investigation. But you must understand that after a girl has an experience like that, she wants to wash it away and put it all in the past.

After all, I never intended to go public. I never imagined that the regulars at the Queen would tell you they saw me and Wolfie follow Danny and Black Jacket out of the bar that night. But I’m glad they did, because you came here and I told you all about it. It gives a kind of closure to the whole sordid experience.

I’m only sorry that there’s no one to corroborate my story. You won’t find anything out from Danny. He was flat on the ground the whole time and in no condition to see anything. But believe me, officer, what I’ve told you is the true story of what happened. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, every last word, cross my heart. You can ask Wolfie. I’ll get him for you if you’d like. He’s my only witness – unless you want to talk to Winifred.

I see you don’t believe me, do you, Officer? I can tell from that look on your face. You think I’m just some ditzy broad who’s craving attention. But listen, lighten up, don’t worry so much about logic. When Wolfie and I go out on stage, I’m more than a lonely middle-aged queen with a big nose and a second-hand fur. I’m real, and so is Wolfie. Come to my show and see for yourself. Hey, wear your uniform, the boys will love it. You will too. Really. I can tell.

© Roger Hooverman

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