Milo finds a new voice in a lesbian standup comic. Change doesn’t come easily.
I’ve mentioned before, some of my stories have turned into series. The characters keep talking to me. I don’t have a story or character arc planned out. The continuing stories arise as they do.
Milo lost his beloved Maurice on stage one night. He was abandoned to the floor of a dressing room closet. He had a few adventures, with Maurice’s spirit helping him out of tight spots.
He has now been thrown together by serendipity with standup comic Moneen. They start a life which may be brand new for each.
Voiced by a Lesbian Comic
Standup comic Moneen Quirk waved to the audience, grabbed her water bottle, and left the stage to a healthy round of applause. Backstage the club manager called her over.
“You did good. I’d like to have you come back. Call me in a month or two, when I have a fresh audience.”
He paid Moneen in cash. “Don’t forget. Call me.”
Deeper backstage in the deserted dressing room, Moneen counted out the cash, stuffed it in her jeans pocket. She wiped makeup off her face, ran her hands through her hair to soften the gel in her spiked blond tips.
“Time to hit the road,” she said aloud.
She reached into the closet for her jacket. The hanger broke, the jacket landed on the floor atop a pile of makeup-stained towels. Moneen reached down and her hand struck something hard. She took out her jacket, reached back in to find a head. The head of a dummy.
A ventriloquist’s dummy.
She pulled out the dummy. “Hey buddy. Who are you? What are you doing here?”
Waiting for someone to find me, Milo thought.
Moneen set the dummy on the counter, grabbed a cotton wipe and dusted off its head and shoulders.
She studied the dummy. “Hey, you look pretty spiffy. Navy pants, striped shirt. A continental look. Can’t imagine anyone leaving you here.”
Moneen smiled, dropped her voice. “I spent a year working a ventriloquist routine. Couldn’t make a go of it. Never found the right dummy.”
She glanced around the empty room. “How would you like to take a road trip with me?”
Anything but this.
Moneen threw her backpack over her shoulder, tucked the dummy under her jacket, and dashed out the rear exit before anyone spotted her.
In the parking lot sat her white Chevy Silverado 1500 all-wheel drive pickup with a low profile camper in the back. She set the dummy in the passenger seat, climbed in, fired the engine and hit the road.
A few miles ahead she pulled in at a McDonald’s drive through, ordered a Quarter Pounder and a coffee to go.
As she ate in the truck, she said, “My next gig is tomorrow night. A three-hour drive. How about you and I just ride, see if we can get comfortable with one another.”
I can do that.
Moneen settled in behind the wheel.
“One thing is non-negotiable, Milo. I love driving the night roads.” She reached for the radio. “I prefer good old rock when I drive at night. Anything with bass, and lyrics that touch me…you must enjoy feeling the fresh night air, buddy. Been a long time, huh?”
Amen to that.
Moneen reached over to stroke Milo’s head. “Here we go.”
An hour down the road Moneen spoke. “Hey, buddy, I am so sorry. I haven’t introduced myself. Name is Moneen. Full name Moneen Felicity Quirk. I’m a standup comic. Travel mostly the northeast US, sometimes Montreal when the weather is warm. I live on the road six to eight months a year. This truck is my home. Wifi and internet is my lifeline.
“In the morning I’ll google you, see if I can find out what happened. At least I can find your name.”
My name is Milo. I can’t tell you that because I can’t speak without someone else’s voice. But I have feelings. They’re locked inside.
The wonderful silence of nights on the road fell over them.
After three hours they pulled off the road into a free camp site. Moneen turned the music off. “Have to move quietly in here, or they’ll toss me. We can sleep here. Clean restrooms and good showers.”
The two moved to the camper shell.
“You can bed in here with me. Hope I don’t embarrass you. Don’t know if I snore. Been a while since I was with anyone.”
Moneen set the dummy on a seating ledge, then nestled into a sleeping bag on her bunk.
“This is my life most nights. You’d think I can’t come up with any comic material living a boring life. But the humor is here. Gotta look for it, listen for it. I usually take the deep winter months off. Otherwise I play colleges and towns big enough for snow clearance to be a priority.”
In the morning, shortly before noon, Moneen stirred. “Morning, buddy. Let me hit the showers, then we can talk.”
Half an hour later Moneen searched the Internet for clues to what happened to the dummy.
“Aha. You worked an act with Maurice. He died on stage at the club we just left. Almost two years ago. They left you there…your name is Milo, right?”
“Milo, I know you must have been close with Maurice before he died. I hope I can be a friend too.”
“I have an idea. We don’t know one another yet. I can’t pretend to be your voice. How about this? My next few gigs you can sit in the wings. Absorb my act, how I connect with audiences. After a while, you can come on stage with me. Remain silent for a bit if you’re not ready. When you are, we’ll try out an act.”
“And we’ll spend time on the road getting to know one another. That will help.”
Better than sitting in a closet.
“You know, I started my career as a ventriloquist’s assistant. Worked my way up to ventriloquist for a short time, but I transitioned over to standup and never looked back.”
Moneen put on a jacket. She ran her hand over the dummy’s control mechanism.
That feels good.
“Let’s go for a walk. We can talk for a bit.”
The two set out on a path that led to a small lake.
“I should tell you something. I’m a lesbian. Part of the LGBTQ community. I hope that doesn’t put you off. Being voiced by a lesbian.”
Milo spoke through Moneen. “I don’t do well with change. I guess it would be okay.”
“Ah, there’s your voice. Okay, we’ll try it. Might work. A lesbian standup comic voicing a straight dummy.”
They walked for an hour, tentative voices exploring one another’s personalities. As they approached the camper, Moneen said, “I am really slow on the uptake. Milo, you must be feeling a lot of pain. Losing your partner suddenly, in the middle of the act. In front of an audience.”
“It hurts like hell. We were together for a long time. Maurice’s wife divorced him. Said he talked to me more than to her. I was his best friend.”
“Alright, let’s hit the road. There’s a good diner near the next venue. Early dinner, and then we can scope the audience before we go on.”
That night Moneen set Milo on a chair in the club’s wings. She ran through most of her routine to a strong audience reaction.
Moneen glanced over at Milo. Nodded. Turned to the audience.
“Hey, you guys have been great. Before I finish I want to introduce a friend to you all.” She walked over, set Milo on her arm, and brought him out on stage. The audience stared.
“This is Milo. A new friend. I rescued him from the bottom of a closet.”
She had Milo face the audience. “He’s kinda shy.”
“Not shy,” Milo said. “Never been voiced by a lesbian before.”
The audience hooted and clapped.
“Okay, maybe not so shy. A new world for both of us. I worked a ventriloquist act a few years back. My dummies were all gay.”
Moneen unbuttoned the denim overshirt she wore, to reveal a white tee shirt with large bold letters that read: The Future is Female Ejaculation.
The audience erupted. A woman down front yelled, “I hear you, sister!” In the rear another woman stood, shouted, “You rock!”
Moneen sucked in the audience reaction.
Milo spoke, “I’m a straight guy. This is all new to me.”
“Uh oh,” Moneen said, “I think I embarrassed you.”
Later, sitting in her truck, Milo balancing on her knee, Moneen said, “I owe you an apology. Too much too soon.”
“I told you, I don’t handle change well.”
“Milo, would you consider a costume change? Would you be more comfortable in a different outfit?”
Milo turned to glare at Moneen. “Okay, so we had an awkward moment, and already you want to change me. I’ve worn this outfit for years. Been this character since I can remember.”
“No, no. Just a thought. If you would be more comfortable…”
“I don’t want to talk about this.”
The two lapsed into silence. Moneen whispered, “I’m sorry. I don’t do change well either.”
Milo did not answer.
Moneen set Milo in the passenger seat, pulled out onto the highway.
“No gigs till the weekend,” she said.
They drove in silence for hours. At the next campground, they tucked in for the night.
In the morning, Moneen drove to a pancake house for takeout. In the camper, she said, “If I said again I was sorry, would you hear my voice?”
She reached for Milo’s controls. Silence.
Moneen laughed. Milo turned to stare at her.
“I had a crazy thought. We could dress you in a monk’s robe. You could hold a jar of jam. You have a vow of silence. You never speak onstage.”
“Aha, you’re hearing me.”
Milo said, “I’m this guy. I won’t change. Don’t try to make me something I’m not.”
Moneen nodded. “And I won’t change either.”
Milo said, “A straight and a queer. We can make it work.” He blurted out, “Okay, if one of us has to change, how about I take on a James Dean look? Jeans, white tee, cowboy boots, slicked back hair.”
Moneen laughed. “Yeah. Jett Rink from Giant.”
Milo reached over, hugged Moneen. “A straight and a queer with the same sense of humor.”