RUNNING AWAY was the only viable option. Darwin peered over his date’s shoulder to the door. He could make it. One quick motion. Stand, dig in his wallet, rip out a couple of twenties to toss on the table, and then run through the crowded restaurant, past the ceramic Hamburger Mary’s statue, and book it outside.
Oh, right. He’d driven. That would leave his date without a car. Whatever. Darwin would just toss down another twenty for Uber fare and call it good.
Hmm. Sixty bucks. He didn’t have much cash. Did he even have a twenty?
“See someone you know?”
Darwin looked away from the exit and forced a smile at Mark. “No. Sorry. Just zoned out there for a moment.”
Mark motioned to the other side of the restaurant. “It’s okay. I was zoning out on that guy. Fucking hot, right?”
Darwin turned around in his seat. Even though Hamburger Mary’s was packed, there was only one person Mark could mean. The bartender. Solid muscle. Skintight tank top. Wavy black hair. Glowing brown skin. Model face.
“He’s hot, right? Not my usual type. Kinda unusual-looking for a black guy.”
Oh dear Lord. Sometimes the city wasn’t much different from his little hometown in Missouri. Darwin attempted a smile as he turned back around, but he was fairly certain he failed. “That’s because I’m pretty sure he’s Indian.”
Mark’s eyes bugged, and he lowered his voice. “Bro, I don’t think you’re supposed to call them that anymore. It’s Native American now.”
Darwin almost laughed. Almost. But the urge to scream swept the laugh away. “Except I meant Indian. Like a person from India, the country.”
“Oh. Yeah. I don’t know what you call them.” Mark took a chip from the huge plate of nachos between them. “You sure you don’t want something besides nachos? I know it’s good to be a cheap date and all, but you’re cute enough to earn a real dinner.”
Damn you, Match.com. Damn you.
“No, I’m good.” Darwin glanced once more at the door. He doubted he had more than a twenty on him, which was fine. He’d never make it, anyway. Probably dump the contents of his wallet all over the floor as he tried to stand, or trip on a chair leg and crash in the middle of the crowd.
The background noise of the TVs was suddenly muted, and an electronic feedback squeal cut through the remaining chatter, causing Darwin and everyone else to flinch.
“That’s one way to get your attention!” From her spot on the small stage in the front of the dining area, a drag queen in a golden Victorian gown and a pile of yellow curls towering over her head leered at the crowd and readjusted her microphone. “Sorry about that, boys. But I do wish you could’ve seen your faces! Looked like each one of you had a tiny orgasm.” She motioned to the woman at the host stand. “Pat, can you get someone to mop up real quick? We don’t want all these men to get stuck to their seats.”
The woman didn’t miss a beat. “You sure about that, ManDonna?”
“Oh, honey, you know me well.” The drag queen turned her attention back to the crowd. “There are several of you that I’m more than okay with being stuck right where you are. Don’t you worry. I’ll make sure you enjoy your stay.” She motioned toward a couple of muscle boys wearing nothing more than barely there Andrew Christians, who walked up to the stage as she’d been talking. “You two, go get me six of the hottest men in the room. We’ve got some Family Feud to play.”
“God, I fucking hate drag queens.”
Darwin glanced back over at Mark, missing ManDonna’s next words. “What? How can you hate drag queens? They’re awesome.”
Mark’s expression made it clear Darwin had dipped on the ten-point scale he was certain Mark used on every guy he saw. “Seriously? They’re so cliché. And offensive. They make gays look bad, like we’re all a bunch of nelly, prissy girls.” He leaned closer, the thin fabric of his T-shirt straining, and his voice took on a condescending tone. “Just because we’re gay doesn’t mean we can’t still be men. Drag queens are only living up to all the femmie stereotypes people say about gays.”
Darwin couldn’t help himself. He truly couldn’t. “Aren’t your eyebrows waxed?”
Mark flinched, a flush instantly rising in his cheeks. “That’s not the same thing. Being well-groomed and taking care of our bodies is—”
“You are gorgeous. Come up on stage with us.”
Brandon Witt's outlook on life is greatly impacted by his first eighteen years of growing up gay in a small town in the Ozarks, as well as fifteen years as a counselor and special education teacher for students with severe emotional disabilities. Add to that his obsession with corgis and mermaids, then factor in an unhealthy love affair with cheeseburgers, and you realize that with all those issues, he's got plenty to write about....
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