Paul Coy's real estate business was on fire until the housing bubble burst back in '08. His four girls, ages 6 through 14, and his 11-year-old son were attending a great parochial school His wife, Haley Venkler-Coy, as she liked to be referred to, was a top-tier sales manager for a Fortune 500 network marketing company.
Things couldn't have been any better – they were all living the dream - but then 2008 happened, the bubble burst, and as time progressed, the entire Coy family found themselves living on the wrong side of the tracks before too long. Those details don't really matter, because today, Paul wasn't coaching his daughter's lacrosse team, or playing paintball with his son. No. Today, he would be delivering two pounds of White Widow Sativa to J Carlos Moreno, the owner of several Subaru dealerships in the greater El Paso area. It was going to be I-25 S the whole ten hours from Colorado Springs - give or take with pit stops of course. He broke down and agreed to make the drive from one of his higher-ups, yearning to be back on track with the bourgeoisie scene, laughing with his old buddies from the country club. All this and a host of other life-altering extremities eventually convinced him to start taking more criminal liberties.
"I'm fifty-eight," said Paul, his coffee cup shaking a twitching.
"You're at least sixty-seven. I'm good at guessing ages. Don't you spill any of that stuff on me," said Alexis. "Actually," she scoffed, "I don't give a shit as long as it don't burn my leg. It's your money paying for this get up anyway."
Alexis Troutman was a 23-year-old transgendered prostitute who today was dressed in a woman's business suit from the Banana Republic. That was their first stop before they hit the highway because Paul wasn't going to make the journey with this strange tranny sitting shotgun, looking like he maxed out his daddy's AmEx at discountstripper.com.
"And I kept the receipt sweetie. We're returning it once we get back. Otherwise, it's coming out of your pocket – purse – whatever day it is for you."
Paul was uneasy from the start when he found out Alexis would be making the journey with him. He wasn't versed in the culture and found the rather large Adam's apple a little disturbing.
"You uh ever think about uh," he said pointing to his neck, "getting that filed down?"
"That's none of your business," said Alexis, crossing her legs, putting her head down.
"Sorry," said Paul scratching his beard. "They can do that now... you know...doctors and stuff... they can-"
"So you're like my professor in How to Be a Shemale 101 right now?" snapped Alexis, cocking her head to the side.
"I just... ugh... forget I even asked," he said, pulling out his phone, pretending to be reading a text message. The car was old and rattled and shook as they cruised down the highway. All Paul wanted was a little peace and quiet.
"Well we're stuck together," said Alexis, breaking the awkward silence. "For at least another seven hours," she said pulling out a box of Tic-Tacs from a microscopic handbag. "Want one?"
"You don't like me do you?"
"You... as in you people... or you personally?"
"Different lifestyles. That's all."
Paul wanted to go on a rant about everything he disliked about the LGBT community but didn't want to make the situation any more uncomfortable than it already was, so changed the subject.
"You wanna stop for dinner soon? I'm starving,"
"I don't care as long as there's a toilet I can puke in afterwards."
Paul couldn't hold back any longer.
"So what makes you wanna wear a dress? Huh? I don't get it. You don't like being a boy?"
"I'll be whatever I want. I know I'm sassy, but what chu wanna know about? Look, honey, uh huh... I was raised in an orphanage if that paints a clearer picture for your dirty mind."
"All I'm sayin' is..." said Paul, his voice starting to shake. "You're hard to talk to. I don't know if I'm talking to a boy or a girl right now."
"You're talking to a human being for one," said Alexis, touching up her mascara in the vanity mirror.
"I bet you didn't like sports when you were growing up. That's the problem with you people – no fathers to toughen you up for the real world. You uhhh.. sneak around in mommy's dresses and high heels when they went out to the movies?" laughed Paul, taking the last sip from his coffee mug.
"I bet YOU did Paul," said Alexis, one eyebrow up.
"Who me?" said Paul. "Nah. Never. You gotta be kidding me."
"Baby, you'd be surprised what some of these clean-cut white collar family men would tell a bitch like me."
"You're full of shit. You don't know what the fuck you're talking about."
"Please," sneered Alexis. "You need to get out more."
"Don't you worry about that. We'll all get out a little more in our own way once this eagle has officially landed."
Then the old Buick sputtered, and twelve seconds later, the engine stalled completely.
"You're kidding me," said Alexis, stepping out of the car, lighting a Camel.
The 1984 Buick Riviera was a rental and Paul overestimated how much was in the tank.
"Now we're fucked!" he shouted, throwing his coffee mug across the barren desert. "You have any cell phone service, Trixie?"
"It's Alexis. And no. Nothing. Chill out... someone will be along in a second."
"I better put you in the trunk. One look at that Adams apple of yours, and they'll speed right off."
"You're kidding – right?"
"Not really. Do you mind?" asked Paul opening the trunk.
The two stood there in silence for about five seconds, pacing, laughing quietly, glancing between both directions of the highway and the open trunk.
"I'm not getting in there," said Alexis shaking some desert sand from her stilettos.
"Look, I got a pair of jeans and a t-shirt in my bag you can wear," he said throwing them into the back seat of the car. "Move your ass and wipe that makeup off too. You wearing panties? Why do I even ask? Here's a pair of boxers too. Let's get you looking like a young man again."
"Ugh," said Alexis jumping in the back seat, "fine."
About a half hour passed and still no cars.
"There," said Paul getting back into the car, opening a bottle of water, "Now you look almost normal."
"Thank you, Paul," said Alex, staring at his game of Candy Crush.
Moments later, an old Chrysler minivan pulled up and stopped after Paul and Alex waved them down.
"Let me do all the talking bitch. You keep your fucking mouth shut."
"Whatever," said Alex crossing his arms.
A guy in a Texas A&M tank top stepped up and approached them slowly but confidently.
"Looks like you two fellas there might need a little help. You broke down?" he asked.
"Just ran out of gas," said Paul, the two shaking hands. "This is my son Alex."
"Hey," waved Alex, a much deeper voice this time.
"Mind if we get a lift into town?"
"Well now hold your horses now," said the man, laughing while walking around the Buick, "I'm from Texas and we do things a little differently around there. Now how do I know you two ain't wanted by the law or something?"
"That's a fair question," said Paul pulling out his ID, "Colorado. Swear to God," he said flashing it. "It's me... I don't know if this helps, but I'm just a normal hard working American family man like you. My son, Alex and I were headed to his mothers."
The man nodded in silence and looked out into the desert, holding his right hand above his eyebrows.
"Well, just how long you two been stuck out here?"
"About an hour. I'm surprised no one has stopped yet. You're the first. Look if you can just take us to the closest gas station, you'd really be saving us out of a real mess. My wife, Linda is cooking dinner tonight, and we haven't all been together in months. Alex and I just got back from vacation in Lake Tahoe. We don't have any cell phone service. How far is it till the next one?"
"Tahoe! Good God almighty!" the man exclaimed, "la di dah... hob knob in' it a bit now ain't we? Well, why you driving around in this piece of junk then? I'm kidding. Long. About thirty minutes. Driving normal speed," he said looking over at Alex. "You don't say much – do you kid?"
"Nope," said Alex, looking away.
"This really your son?"
"Yeah. He's uh. Oh.... what... 19 now?"
"Oh that's right," said the man. "19 I see."
"You know I never got your name," said Paul approaching the man slowly, extending his hand for yet another handshake.
"Well, you can call me Sparky."
"Sparky," said Paul.
"Yeah," said Sparky looking back over to Alex.
"You got an ID too son?"
Paul laughed quietly and pointed with his chin away to the other side of the car. "You stay right here son, Sparky and I are going to have a little talk man to man."
The two walked away from Alex as Paul whispered, "Now look Sparky. Alex is a couple cans short of a six-pack if you know what I mean. My wife and I are homeschooling him, but he doesn't talk much. Severe learning disabilities. Go real easy on him or we might see a full blown temper tantrum in a few minutes.... and none of us need any of that. I really appreciate you stopping and helping us though... I mean that... we're stranded as hell. So if you could just talk with me from here on out that'd be great."
"Now look Paul," said Sparky so everyone could hear. "I stopped here out of the goodness of my heart. I don't know about you two now. I think I'd really like to see some ID son."
"I don't have mine on me," said Alex. "Do I dad?" he asked looking over to Paul.
"You know it's at your mothers," said Paul softly.
"Well how do I know you two ain't … eh... you know... eh."
"What?" said Paul three seconds later.
"You know," laughed Sparky. "You know."
"No I don't know," said Paul, eyebrows down.
"Now look here you two," said Paul walking around to the other side of the car. "How do I know you two ain't related? Hmm? Or that you two wasn't on your way to some no-tell motel up the road down there?" Paul found his Texan vernacular amusing, even given the set of circumstances.
"Why?" asked Paul. "Is there one up there? I wouldn't know."
"You fellas ain't from around here... are you?" asked Sparky standing next to the trunk.
"We uh..." stumbled Paul following him over, just as Sparky pulled a 9mm from his sock, waving it in the air, pointing to the trunk with it. "Let's get this trunk open and have a look now shall we?"
"Now Sparky. We're not looking for any kind of trouble... we just need to get to -"
"Open it!" said Sparky firmly but with an aura of indifference.
Sparky had the two stand in front of him as he rifled through the trunk. Eventually, after getting to where the spare tire usually is, he found the two bricks of weed.
"Well now what do we have here?"
"Look Sparky, this is a rental. I don't know what the hell that stuff is."
Sparky picked one of the bricks up and took a few deep whiffs.
"This is some pretty good marry jew wanna you two have here. You plan on sharing it with me? Hmm? That'd be real nice – wouldn't it?" he said pacing around slowly. "What do you say we start a fire over yonder and have ourselves a little summer smoker tonight? Yall wanna? That sound like fun? I got a case of Mad Dog in the van. A cooler full of ice. 2 cartons of Newports. TV to... you boys like to watch movies? We'll all have ourselves a real shindig tonight. What do yall say?"
"That sounds like fun," said Alex. "What do you think... … dad?"
"You keep your mouth shut boy," said Paul practically inaudible, gripping Alex by the arm.
"Ahhh!" shrieked Alex, "Child abuse! Help me Sparky!"
"You take your hands off that boy," said Sparky, pulling Alex away in one hand, pointing the gun back and forth at both of them. "Now I ain't decided what I'm gonna do with you two yet."
"You set this whole thing up? Didn't you?" asked Paul, his hands still in the air. "Look, this sounds like something I didn't know I was going to be involved in today. Are you some kind of drug dealer Sparky?"
"Yeah... it's none of my business but did you have a chat with someone at the car rental place and set this thing up? For you to follow me out here into the middle of nowhere or something?"
"You got your wires crossed pilgrim," said Sparky, putting Alex in a headlock, pointing the gun to his head."
"Look. No guns. Please, Sparky. I know we don't know each other, but honestly, we're just taking Alex to his moms. Don't you have it in your heart to -"
"I ain't got no heart," interrupted Sparky backing away slowly, slapping Alex on the back. "Let's make our move princess."
Alex winked at Paul and laughed while taking the two pounds of weed out of the trunk.
"I knew it. Something didn't feel right about all of this," said Paul shaking his head in disbelief.
"And I'm keeping the dress," laughed Alexis taking her luggage out of the back seat of the Buick, prancing back to the minivan. "I love you daddy," she said blowing Paul a kiss and waving.
Then Sparky pulled the trigger.