Bimbo’s Rainbow Room buzzed with anticipation as the trio of girls dressed as boys dressed as girls seeped onstage. They reeked of post-punk cool.
The band swung its sledgehammer rock/alt/pop/folk/glam thing through the place. The cheap glass chandeliers shook and big bootied dance floor divas in hot pants quaked.
Donald sipped from his gin and tonic and let the thrashing waves of hard rock crash over him. He bobbed his head as the hipsters jived and never took his eyes off the stage.
The girls/boys/girls owned the stage. They completely lost themselves somewhere in gender-confused rock goddess/god/goddess mania. Nobody except for Donald seemed to understand and appreciate the importance of the moment they were witnessing. He sopped up the way the lights flashed across their faces and how they thrust their hips in startling unity. The seizure-shock-zoned-out ecstasy splashed across each of the trio’s faces burned itself into his consciousness. The hipsters continued jiving, their little fingers tracing the beat in the fogged-up air like time warped hippies stuck in a K-hole mating dance.
The set ended and the band swept itself offstage in a post-performance sparkle. Donald followed them over to the bar and bought each member a double shot of Jack as the hipsters watched their favorite band, The Pony Princess Posse, take the stage. But Donald ignored the children’s cartoon music and watched the girls/boys/girls throw the shots back.
“Who are you?” Donald asked with a spark of fire in his eye. “You were amazing. What are you called? I think I missed the intro.”
“Garçonetteurs,” one of them burped.
“What are you called?” another one whispered in his ear.
“Quack quack,” the third squealed. “Donald the duck fuck, quack quack!”
Garçonetteurs laughed up a riot and pushed a hipster off a barstool.
“The Garçonetteurs,” Donald repeated, pressing the sounds of the name up against the backs of his teeth.
“There’s no article,” one of them said.
“We fought, but couldn’t decide on a reason to put one in. Maybe we are The Garçonetteurs, but maybe there are others, we would never presume to be so important,” the first one purred as she rolled her eyes. “Everything’s a fight with us. You’ll see.”
“I will?” Donald asked, his eyebrows shooting up his forehead.
“If you want,” the middle Garçonetteur giggled. “But we’re not going to force you to see. You can close your eyes if you want. We are not all opposed to blindfolding either. You can just listen. You’re free.”
“Sometimes you can’t though,” the third one said. “We often fight using a series of glances and gestures. These are some of our fiercest battles, in the early parts of the morning usually, but like we said, you’ll see.”
“When can I see?” Donald asked, squinting for hints of sarcasm in any of their faces.
“Right now if you’d like,” one of them grunted as she/he/she slid off her stool.
The others followed suit and they held Donald’s sweaty hand as their four link chain snaked out of Bimbo’s and into the hot, humid night.
“We have a place above the Little Caesars around the corner,” the lead Garçonetteur said as she/he/she pulled the others along in a cacophony of platform heels clicking and sequins rustling. “It smells like pizza, but we like pizza.”
“I’m allergic,” the third one said, “but I still like it in theory. I’m sure it’s very nice.”
Sweat dripped down Donald’s face as they turned a corner and slid through a cracked glass door. The band pushed him up the wooden steps and down a narrow hallway to the door at the end.
“Open it up,” one of them said. “We never use the lock.”
Donald turned the knob and pushed into the candle-lit studio. The band followed and immediately began to disrobe in one of the better lit corners. Sparkling dresses and feather boas hung in the air, floating down to the floor in slow motion. Donald watched from the middle of the furniture bare room as they dropped tissue filled bras and ripped strips of duct tape from their crotches, flinging tucked hot dogs to the floor. They helped each other unwrap ace bandages from around their chests, then released each other from their simple black sports bras. They flicked their granny-panties down to the floor and took their wigs off before shaking the bobby pins out of their slicked back hair. Each one with the same color and style, shoulder length, shaggy black hair.
Simply girls again, naked, they looked into Donald’s eyes. He smiled as they filed into the bathroom. The shower turned on and Donald walked a route around the apartment. The kitchen was stocked with tomato soup and frozen French fries filled the freezer. There was a large, bare mattress underneath the window that he fantasized all three of them sleep in together. He circled around to the pile of performance clothes they had left near the door and picked up one of their hot dogs. He sniffed and released it as the shower turned off and the girls filed back in, naked and wet.
“What are you doing?” the left one asked.
“Just taking a little tour, hope you don’t mind,” Donald said, clasping his hands behind his back.
“We saw you sniff that dog,” the center one said.
“I’m sorry,” he said, turning pink.
“Why?” the third one asked.
“I didn’t mean anything by it,” he started.
“No,” she said. “Why didn’t you come in the shower with us? We would have washed you. You could have washed us. Are you a homosexual? Bisexual leaning towards homosexual? Heterosexual with manners? Just plain boring?”
“Stop it,” the left one said. “Maybe he’s anti-shower. He could live in the woods. Or the desert. Or the sewers. Imagine if he went back to any of those places smelling like he’d just taken a shower. He would be outcast, downtrodden, perhaps killed.”
“But he has normal clothes,” the second one responded.
“I’m not, I just live in an apartment,” Donald said. “A one bedroom.”
“A whole one?”
“I think so.”
“I’m not convinced,” the middle one said, putting her dripping arms around the girls on either side of her. “If you live in a whole one bedroom apartment you would know it. You’d be more sure.”
“I’m pretty sure, I just, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. It seems like you’re maybe talking about something else that I don’t know about.” Donald said.
“Don’t worry about it,” the right one said. “There’s another fight going on here. Started in the shower. You can’t tell? We’re all very upset about it. One of us said something that can’t be taken back.”
“What happened?” the left one asked. “Was I washing my hair when this happened? I don’t remember anything.”
“Shut up,” the center one said. “You’re the one who wanted to bring him back here. You started all this.”
“I’m not sure what’s going on, should I just go?” Donald asked. “Really, I can go, it’s not a big deal.”
“Come here ducky,” the right one said. “We love you because you love us and you love us because we’ve put so much love out into the world through our music, it’s just that you’re the only one who understands. We wanted you to come in the shower with us. But now it’s too late and it can never happen again. This thing, shower, is over. But there will be other things. Can you smell the pizza from downstairs?”
“Yes,” Donald said, “smells pretty good.”
“Dead meat, rotten milk, vaginal dough.” the right one said as the girls went to their bed and laid down. “We love this bed. Will you come in? We love you.”
Donald came and sat at the edge of the mattress. The girls cuddled each other and blinked their eyes at him. One of them reached out and put her hand on his shoulder, still wet. Another took hold of his knee while the third traced circles over his stomach.
“What’s going on?” he asked. “I just want to be sure of what you want me to do. I mean I’m happy to do this if you want.”
“We’re still fighting,” the stomach tracer said, “but it’s getting more interesting at least. Different from before. We love you.”
“Are we going to fuck?” Donald asked, the girls’ hands reaching under his clothes to feel his skin. “I think, are we?”
“What do you mean by that?” the shoulder groper asked. “Are you asking if we love you? We told you already. We love you. We think, know, you love us.”
“I just mean, like, are we going to fuck tonight?” Donald asked again. “I have condoms.”
“We love condoms, but you have to hold us together for now, that’s all. Common goal brings us together. One of us is trying to leave, but we don’t want to die. Death is so sad. It’s a real commitment to die. Once you’ve done it you can’t do anything else. You want to fuck us to death, but we thought you loved us. We love you.”
“I don’t understand,” Donald whispered. “What are you guys talking about?”
“Guys are over there,” the knee rubber said. “Remember, you sniffed. Do you want us to put the hot dogs on again? Maybe you’ll understand more if we do. hot dogs are always better for explaining things. Something about the casing, we think. Simpler.”
The girls rolled out of the bed and dug through the pile of clothes at the other side of the room, looking for their hot dogs. Once retrieved, the girls slapped each other playfully with the sausages as they looked around the apartment for something. One of them came up with a roll of duct tape and they took turns taping the hot dogs over their crotches, each one belted around their hips with the thick tape.
“There, do you understand now?” one said. “We put the hot dogs back on. Get it?”
“I’m not sure,”
“One of us is leaving,” the third one said.
“One of you is leaving. The band? The Garçonetteurs? I’m sorry, Garçonetteurs?” Donald said.
“Bingo,” the first whimpered. “But we don’t know which one yet, anymore. That’s what you’re here for. It’s why we put the hot dogs back on. To help you decide. Well, not decide, but help. You have to help the one of us that wants to leave get out. We’re not sure which one it is, but we still have time to figure that out.”
“I don’t think the hot dogs are helping me any,” Donald fumed. “I’m just not getting it. Can you be more clear? Start from the beginning. Please.”
“We’re wearing hot dogs,” the second one said. “I’m not sure that we can be clearer than that. Our hot dogs are not subtle, but we can try because we love you. In the beginning we were doing our set at Bimbo’s, then when we were finished, you bought us drinks, then we talked for a little while and invited you back here. We went in for a shower, but you didn’t come so you missed out on everything because you were out here smelling a used hot dog, which we saw, but anyways, we started a fight in the shower and now one of us wants to leave the band, but we can’t figure out which one. Does that bring you up to speed, Duckie?”
“Not at all. I already know that stuff, but what started the argument in the shower?” Donald asked.
“You weren’t there. It was a fight.”
“I know, but it seems like I was supposed to be or something. Whatever’s going on it started in that shower, but I wasn’t there, so you have to tell me what happened,” Donald pleaded. “I don’t understand how I’m supposed to help you if I have no idea what any of this is.”
“Hello?” one of them laughed.
“Is any one there,” another whispered.
“I think we’re all alone on this island.” the third bellowed.
Donald looked at the girls, completely lost. They began tramping around the room, pulling on the various pieces of clothes they found around the room. After a few moments of searching and dressing, Garçonetteurs were fully clothed, each one in stained wife-beaters and cargo shorts. They pulled on pairs of cowboy boots near the door and smiled at Donald.
“Are you coming along?” one said. “Please come with us. We need to work this out. Figure it out. We love you.”
“Where?” he asked.
“We have to go to the park a few blocks over. We go every time we’re having a fight. Somehow the fresh air helps us think. It makes everything better. Wind blows things away so easily. It can be very helpful. Especially at nighttime.” the left one said. “Come with us. It’s very beautiful. Perfect for resolution, which we need.”
“Okay, I guess,” Donald said, standing up from his perch on the edge of the mattress. “But I really don’t understand. The hot dogs aren’t helping.”
Donald followed Garçonetteurs out of the apartment and into the muggy street. Their cowboy boots scratched along the sidewalk as a floating mist emerged from the air. One Garçonetteur began twirling in circles as the group continued on. Donald watched his feet and followed the sound of the band’s heels stomping out the route. Their heels quieted as they passed onto the damp grass of the park, which squeaked underfoot as they continued to the concrete edge of a raised flowerbed, which they hopped up and sat on.
“Come on up, Duckie,” one of them said. “Better perspective from up here. You can look down on things. From above is almost always better. Everything’s smaller. People like ants.”
Donald crawled up to the edge and dangled his legs over as the Garçonetteurs had. He tapped the backs of his shoes against the concrete and they bounced up and down. One Garçonetteur stood up and danced on the concrete edge as another sat back into the dripping flowers. The mist continued spraying them and the light from the lamps danced on the windblown curtains of moisture.
“Now Donald,” one of them said. “We need to figure this out. We love you, but one of us is finished here. Can you tell us which one yet?”
“How am I supposed to know?” he asked.
“Perhaps by smell,” the dancing one suggested. “Smell each of us, like you did the hot dog, and whichever one of us smells different is the one who wants to leave.
“No, smell never works,” the one sitting in the flowers said, taking a lick of water from a leaf. “We’ve tried it before, and we always smell the same. No one can ever tell which one it is by smell. Not all secret desires have smells. This is a case like that. You should really know by now though, it’s taking far too long and you’re putting us all at risk.”
“At risk?” Donald asked. “What are you talking about at risk? It’s just a band. They break up all the time. And I’m not even sure you guys want to break up. How do you know someone wants to leave, but you don’t know which one? That doesn’t make any sense. Wouldn’t they have to tell you they want to leave, and then it’d be over? Just like that. Done.”
Garçonetteurs regrouped in their seated position on the wall, holding each others’ hands in their laps and resting their heads on each others’ shoulders. The center one began to hum and the others followed along for a moment, then drifted off into their own sonic zones. The humming crept into Donald’s ears like tiny planes flying air-show patterns near his brain. The humming got caught up in the mist curtains drawn down around the wall as the wind picked up and Donald hopped off the wall.
“Donald, don’t go. We’ll never find out if you go now. Just wait,” the left one said as the humming cut out. “I can only tell you that we don’t know which one of us it is because we’re all the same. This whole thing started as an identity joke, a game, art maybe, but now we can’t separate. It’s how we fight with glances. We can see in one of our eyes that we’re done with this whole experiment, but we don’t know if that one is really feeling like that or just mirroring someone else. Do you see?”
“You can’t see an identity masterpiece,” the right one said. “He’ll have to use some other sense. I don’t know which one. We love you.”
“It’s clearer, but I’m still confused,” Donald said. “I need help.”
“The hot dogs are working now,” the middle one said from the wall.
“It’s like we’re all mirrors for each other,” the right one said. “We’ve been reflected so many times though; we can’t quite sort it all out ourselves. We used to have more definition, but it’s all been reflected out. We have everything we are, we just can’t figure out which one of us it belongs to. We can’t place it. We’re not sure if I’m her or she’s me or who she even is anymore.”
“This is impossible,” Donald whimpered. “I can’t figure this out. I don’t know who you people are. You’re going to have to just decide.”
“But which one of us decides?” the middle one said. “How do we just assign the feeling of wanting to leave to one of us, if we’re not sure? Then there’s going to be two of us and one of us will still want to leave, and we won’t be able to figure out who it is.”
“Just, the one who wants to quit the band, raise your hand,” Donald said. All three raised their hands above their heads. Donald cringed.
“It’s not that easy,” one of them said. “There’s more sorting you have to do. We all feel it, but we’re not sure it belongs to us. We’re not thieves, so it’s not that we’re trying to steal, we just can’t figure it out from inside. There are too many reflections. Maybe some refraction. Reflections we can’t get back, or back out of. They won’t move. Just keep on reflecting and refracting.”
“What if you can’t see them?” Donald asked. “If there’s no light, if you can cover the mirroring effect somehow.”
“That’s very interesting,” one of them said, dropping down to the ground with a thud. The other two swiftly followed.
“I mean, maybe we could figure this out if you guys can’t see each other anymore or something,” Donald shrugged.
“Isolation as solution,” the middle Garçonetteur pondered. “Let’s go try while we still have time.”
Garçonetteurs linked their arms together and shuffled away from the raised flowerbed and through the park as Donald followed behind. The band dodged the spots of light cast on the wet concrete by streetlights, tracing a curlicue route through the night. They pushed through a crowd of smokers outside the apartment and hopped up the stairs like dazed rabbits. Donald waited until they were finished hopping and followed them up and into their apartment, where the band had removed their clothes, each member standing near the window with hot dogs dangling from the tape around their waists.
“You may begin isolating us,” one of them said.
“We are ready to weed out the individual,” another whispered.
“Do you need some kind of supplies?” the third asked with a blank stare.
“I don’t think so, I’m not sure,” Donald said as he scratched his chin, clenched his eyes shut, and took a deep breath. “Actually, maybe some blindfolds.”
“Earplugs for audio reflections,” the middle Garçonetteur said. “Those are hard too. We can never tell which one is talking.”
“Okay, earplugs too then. I’m not sure how long this is going to take, I have things to do. I work in the morning,” Donald said.
“It’s okay,” the one of the left said, shuffling over to the kitchen and riffling through a drawer. “It shouldn’t be that long. It’s a simple enough problem. We only need a moment of individuality. It doesn’t need to stick.”
Another Garçonetteur dug through the pile of clothes, pulling out a large navy tee shirt. The one in the kitchen returned with a pair of scissors and began hacking up the shirt, fashioning two-ply blindfolds for each band member. The third took the scissors, knelt down, and cut the tips of the each of their dangling hot dogs into two pieces, whittling the pieces down to ear canal size.
“That should do it,” one of them said. “Duckie, administer the cure.”
Donald tied the blindfolds around each Garçonetteur’s head and helped them squeeze the hot dog pieces into their ears. He false punched at each one’s face to make sure they can’t see, and they don’t flinch.
“Can you hear me?” he asks loudly as the band stands naked in front of him, each member’s arms hanging down limply.
They did not respond to the sound of his voice, so Donald led each one to a corner, where he sat them down, each of their backs against a wall. Donald sat down in the center of the room, his gaze moving back and forth as the band members sat isolated. Outside, rain began to pour down, the wind bringing it slapping against the window. One Garçonetteur’s foot began tapping while another’s head bobbed back and forth. The third’s shoulders shimmied as Donald looked on. Garçonetteurs moved independently in their corners and their motions were completely unrelated for the first time of the night. Donald smiled as he watched them each fall asleep. One snored loudly while another’s pinky twitched wildly and the third’s mouth pursed and un-pursed regularly.
The sunlight glowed orange through Donald’s eyelids as he woke up, his back stiff from sleeping on the hardwood floor. He squinted through the glare and stretched his back out until it cracked twice. There was a sticky, sour taste in his mouth, which he tried to spit out onto the floor. His eyes scanned the room a few times, stopping over the empty corner in the room, where he had left a Garçonetteur the night before. The other two sat in their corners, blindfolds and hot dog ear plugs in place, but their breathing was in perfect time with each other. Donald checked the kitchen and bathroom for the missing one, but each was empty. He looked at every scrap of paper and napkin he could find in search of some kind of note that wasn’t there. He removed the blindfolds and hot dog earplugs from the two remaining Garçonetteurs, who immediately embraced.
“I think it worked, right?” Donald said. “I mean, one’s gone.”
“The right one is gone. That’s all that matters. We love you. I need to pee,” one said as the other crept into the bathroom.
“You’ve done a great service for us. We owe you something great,” the Garçonetteur said with a wink. “You know where we are if you are in need of a favor. Favors. We won’t mind.”
“What time is it? I think I’m missing my shift,” Donald said, pulling his phone out of his pocket to check the time. “It’s nine, I’m an hour late already.”
“You don’t need to stay,” the Garçonetteur said. “Everything is fine now. We love you. Come to more of our shows. We need fans.”
“I will,” Donald said as the toilet flushed and the second Garçonetteur reappeared and hugged his neck.
“We love you Donald. Duckie. Duckie Fuckie.”
Trevor Lanuzza graduated from Lake Superior State University. He lives in Lansing, Michigan.