The light comes on and I hear someone behind me chambering a round. I don’t need to be told to freeze.
“Turn around slowly,” she says.
When I do, I’m staring down the barrel of a shotgun. She has it tucked under her arm with the stock braced against the back of her wheel chair. If the gun goes off, the recoil will send the chair flying backwards to slam against the wall, a comic effect I won’t be able to appreciate.
She’s holding a twelve gauge. The barrel looks about as short as the law allows. From the set of her jaw, I’m guessing that she is spiteful enough to have it loaded with double naught. She isn’t aiming it. She doesn’t need to. If she decides to touch the trigger, I won’t just die. I will come apart.
“Who are you?” she demands.
I’m Hung Low—that’s the handle the Sisters of Satan gave me. My real name is Miko Macarthy. My dad is Scottish-¬Italian. My mom is Filipino-Japanese. They met while he was on R&R from ‘Nam. I speak English with a Castilian singsong and Japanese with a brogue. I gesture a lot while I speak. I guess you could say I’m a typical American kid.
Mom gave me almond eyes and lustrous black hair that grows long and thick down my back. I could sell off my braid for a battleship hawser. If you’re starting to imagine some frail Japanese flower—erase that. I have Daddy’s bones. I teach aerobics. Nobody fucks with me.
At least—it’s been that way up till now.
I’ve been riding with the Sisters ever since I decided to drop out of college and come out of the closet. It was no big change, really, just a decision to stop trying to be something I couldn’t. Maybe it was when my boyfriend Jack proposed, and I realized that saying yes would mean spending the rest of my nights staring at the ceiling and pretending that Sharon Stone was between my legs instead of some smelly guy.
Maybe it was when I realized that a degree in comparative linguistics was worth zip out there in the real world.
Maybe I just got tired of being called a “cunning linguist”.
Maybe it was when Mom and Dad told me that they had decided they didn’t have to stay together for the sake of the children anymore. I couldn’t honestly say that it was any surprise to me. The angry whispers that had drifted through their bedroom door when my sister was still home had grown in volume after she married. I had been wrapping a pillow around my ears at night, muffling the sound enough to make sleep possible. I didn’t want to stay with Mom and hear her rag on Dad, and Pop’s new squeeze made it clear that I sure as hell wasn’t welcome in their little love nest. When they split—I split.
So one night I was getting quietly drunk in some rathole bar downtown when the Sisters of Satan came in. They were blasted as usual, and being obnoxious just to see the solid citizens blanch and turn away. I looked them over, wondering if they were as butch as they seemed. They were pretty intimidating in all that leather and steel, pierced, tattooed, and stoned out of their skulls. Still, a couple of them looked as though they might be cute if you cleaned them up a little. They weren’t much of a gang, as gangs go.
Sheena was de facto leader. She was a leggy red head who used to be a stripper, but now sang for a local rock band. Honeytwat was her bitch, a sweet little number who seemed out of her depth among all those greasy Huns, until I got to know her and found out she had done some hard time for assault. Furpie was bi-polar, bi-sexual, and, like me, bi-racial. In her case she was black and Vietnamese. Gypsy was a space cadet who kept everyone supplied with grass and did tarot readings on the side. Bonny was just plain mean.
It was Bonny who saw me watching and snarled across the room.
When a biker challenges you, the best response is a mumbled apology and a hasty retreat, but I was drunk and depressed and feeling suicidal enough to flip her the bird.
She should have squashed me like a bug, but my chutzpah surprised her and she laughed instead. An hour later, I was buying beers all around. Two hours later, I was in bed with Sheena and Honeytwat. I was pretty much hanging with the gang off and on after that.
Mom said I was in bad company, and only bad would come of it. I said fuck that—her life was no American success story. We had a big fight, and after that I pretty much lost touch with the whole family.
I never moved into the gerbil warren they called a clubhouse, but we rode together in the evenings. I got a bike of my own. I started wearing more leather. I had a snake tattooed around my arm. The transformation from co-ed to stud bull dyke took about a month. Gypsy said that it really wasn’t necessary to open the closet door with an axe, but she understood. Sometimes you get tired of hiding in the dark.
I enjoyed looking as butch as I felt. I would slouch down the street in full kit—leather jacket, biker boots, chaps, keys jangling from the chain on my trucker’s wallet. There’s nothing scarier than a dyke with an attitude. I got a secret thrill from watching young mothers take a firm grip on their daughters’ hands and scurry across the street when I approached. Sometimes they threw a quick glance over their shoulders, and the tight, disarming smiles they flashed at me would reveal a secret longing.
Back in my Connie Co-ed days, I got more approval and less grief from the straight world, but advertising pays. The sweet femmes who needed my kind of rough trade liked my package. Then I met Sophie, and Sophie liked the girl inside—huge difference.