When the sparkling chandelier reached the silver path, Darius saw a puff of silver glitter and a second later the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen from a distance materialized before his eyes. Her hair was long and blond and highlighted with silver sparkles. She wore a silver gown studded with crystals that had a long slit up the right side exposing her long shapely leg. Her silver stilettos matched her gown, and her earrings mimicked the large chandelier that had brought her down from the sky. She even had a large elaborate ring on every finger, long white manicured fingernails, and so much make up on her face it resembled marzipan.
While Darius stood there without saying a word, the woman took a step toward him, smiled in his direction, and asked, “Are you a good fairy or a bad fairy, doll?” She spoke with a deep, husky voice.
Darius gulped and said, “I don’t know what that means.” Even though she was dressed and made up like a woman she sounded like a man, with that deep throaty voice and those strong angular features. At a closer glance, he had a feeling she was a man dressed as a woman and he didn’t know how to react. He’d read once there were men who dressed as women and they were professional entertainers. Of course in his small world in Uranus that wasn’t common knowledge. He’d only read about it by accident while browsing through a book store on a class trip to the capital of his state. But most important, he knew deep down inside they shared something in common. He was still too young to put this into words, but all his instincts told him they were connected.
“Well, doll, it’s like this,” said the woman who was probably a man. “The Rainbowers summoned me because they said a fairy fell out of the sky and right on top of our evil Wicked Fairy of the East.”
She pointed to Darius’s old farmhouse and Darius blinked. At the foundation of the house, near the front steps, he saw two ankles and a pair of the most beautiful pink stilettos he’d ever seen. “How did that happen?” Darius asked.
“Listen, doll, you don’t have to pretend with me. You dropped that house right on top of that mean old fairy on purpose. And now I’m asking you, are you a good fairy or a bad fairy?”
“Well, I’m not a fairy at all,” Darius said. “Fairies aren’t real. They’re make-believe and they live in storybooks. I’m just a simple guy from Uranus and this is my dog, Sparky. Have you ever seen Uranus?”
“Honey, I’ve seen it all.”
Darius heard the sound of giggling, as if there were people hiding all around them and listening to them speak. “What’s that? Who’s laughing?”
The beautiful woman who could have been a man smiled and waved her long fingernails. “That’s the Rainbowers,” she said. “And they’re laughing because fairies are very real, indeed, doll. I’m a fairy, a good fairy, and that’s why they summoned me. My name is Miss Glitz and I’m the protector of all the Rainbowers here in the Land of Pride.”
Darius reached out to shake her large hand and said, “I’ve never met a real fairy before, especially one as beautiful as you. Can I ask you a question?”
“Of course, doll. You can ask me anything.”
“Are you really a man pretending to be a woman? Not that it matters. You’re still beautiful. I’m just curious, is all.”
“Have you ever heard of drag?”
Darius shook his head.
Miss Glitz laughed and said, “I’m a good fairy who’s a drag performer. In other words, I’m a man but I get dressed up as a woman because it’s what I love. You can use any pronoun you want with me and I won’t get offended. I’m only here to do good work and serve the Rainbowers.”
“Okay,” Darius said, “I think I’ll refer to you as a woman because you’re so beautiful.”
“Aren’t you a sweet little thing,” Miss Glitz said.
“May I ask you what Rainbowers are?”
“I’m sorry, doll, I should have known. You don’t even know about drag, you poor little helpless thing. How could I expect you to know about Rainbowers. Well, the Rainbowers are all the wonderful dogs who once lived and played on earth. This is where they come after they pass away. It’s not very widely known yet, but someday in the future you’ll hear more about it. It’s going to become very popular. The dogs cross something called The Rainbow River to get here and they become Rainbowers for all eternity.”
Darius glanced down at Sparky and smiled. “Well isn’t that wonderful. Did you hear that, Sparky?”
Sparky jumped up and barked.
Miss Glitz lifted her arms and waved them around above her head as if she were about to start dancing.
“Is everything okay?” Darius asked. Every move she made tended to be so dramatic and exaggerated he couldn’t tell if she was happy or in distress. “Are you ill?”
She smiled at him, and then started to turn in graceful circles while she repeated two words: “Come out, come out, come out. Come out of your closets and come out of your homes.”
While she turned in circles, Darius saw images appear from behind shrubs, trees, houses, and walls. They were dogs, but they were all dressed as humans in elaborate costumes that reminded Darius of old fashioned French paintings he’d seen once in a museum. There were beagles, poodles, bull dogs, and terriers. The males wore velvet waistcoats and the females wore lace-trimmed satin gowns. Dogs acting and behaving as humans suddenly filled the silvery path and started dancing and singing as if they were celebrating something wonderful and magical.
As each one came into view, he noticed every dog breed imaginable, including mixed breeds. They were large and they were small. Some wore hats and others eyeglasses. They moved like dogs and yet they all seemed to have the ability to walk on their hind legs. But more than that, unlike Sparky and all the dogs Darius had ever known, they all had thumbs. Dog thumbs, not human thumbs. But the dog thumbs allowed their paws to function like human hands.
While Darius stood there gaping at them, they started singing and dancing and cheering all around him. A male poodle wearing a black tuxedo jacket took Darius’s left hand and a male boxer wearing a red velvet waistcoat took his other hand and they guided him to the center of the silvery path to a large round circle. Miss Glitz, the good fairy, stood on the sidelines watching and smiling with her large hands clasped together and her knees slightly bent as if she were about to curtsy. A cocker spaniel in a pink ruffled dress gave Darius the biggest chocolate bar he’d ever seen in his life, and a sweet little Yorkie wearing a black fedora gave him a bag filled with rainbow colored caramel corn. They seemed to be celebrating something only Darius had no idea what it was. He kept glancing at Sparky to see how he was reacting to all these animated dogs dancing and singing, but Sparky looked just as confused as he felt.
When they finally settled down and the singing and dancing subsided, a German shepherd wearing a tall black top hat walked up to Darius and said, “We shall now present you with the top honor in our land. You have done the impossible, and we will forever be in your debt.” He handed Darius a gold star with the word “Hero” written in the center.
As Darius reached for the star and thanked them for being so kind, there was a puff of yellow and gray smoke on the other side of the silver path and all the Rainbowers ran to the sidelines for cover as if they were terrified for their lives. Everything had seemed so festive and light-hearted a moment earlier and now everyone hid and cowered in small clusters. He remained standing in the middle of the circle, with the gifts of love they’d given him in his arms and the gold hero star in his hand.
An image appeared from the gray and yellow smoke that resembled the heinous, mean-spirited Agnes McCain. It wasn’t Agnes McCain, but it could have been her twin sister, and she was wearing a dark brown plaid suit and chunky heeled lace up oxfords with square toes. He’d never seen such a horrible outfit in his life. It was so bad it hurt his feelings. As she glared in his direction and took a few steps closer, she pointed a crooked finger at the house that had fallen on the Wicked Fairy of the East and said, “You killed her.”
Miss Glitz walked over to stand beside Darius. “Don’t worry, baby, everything will be all right.”
“But you said the bad fairy was dead.”
“This is her identical twin sister, the Wicked Fairy of the West,” said Miss Glitz. “That was the Wicked Fairy of the East. This one is even worse, doll. She’s built her entire life on bad spells, too much gin, and a whole shitload of regret.”
Well. Darius wasn’t sure what to do so he moved closer to Miss Glitz and waited to see what the Wicked Fairy would do. While she shook her crooked finger in his direction, she screamed, “You killed my sister. You’ll pay for this.”
“I didn’t kill anyone,” Darius said. He resented her tone. “The house did it.”
Sparky barked and growled at this mean fairy version of Agnes McCain.
“It was your house that killed her and you’re going to pay for this,” said the Wicked Fairy.
At a closer glance Darius noticed that the Wicked Fairy even had the same long crooked nose as Agnes McCain. “It was an accident. My house didn’t mean to kill her.”
Before the Wicked Fairy could say another word, Miss Glitz said, “Aren’t you going to get the pink high-heels, you nasty old hag. They’re very special high heels. I know I wouldn’t let them go to waste if I were you. And from the looks of it you could use a decent pair of heels, doll.” She glanced down at the Wicked Fairy’s ugly chunky-heeled Oxfords and scowled.
“The high heels,” said the Wicked Fairy. “I have to get them.”
She turned and crossed back to the house so she could retrieve her sister’s pink glittery high heels. As she bent forward, a puff of pure white smoke appeared and vanished within a matter of seconds. When the clear white smoke was gone, the exposed ankles of the Wicked Fairy’s dead sister were all shriveled and decayed and the pink high heels were nowhere to be seen.
The Wicked Fairy turned fast and glared at Miss Glitz. “What did you do with those high heels, you nasty queen?”
Miss Glitz laughed in her face and said, “Doll, I take care of my own.” She patted Darius on the back and smiled.
Darius looked down at his feet and noticed that he was now wearing the pink glittery high heels. Even though he had never thought of himself as a woman, he had always wanted a pair of high heels just like this. He never in his life would have had the guts to wear a pair of shoes like this, because in his day and time men weren’t allowed to cross gender lines this way. He always thought it would just be a dream and that’s he’d live out his life fantasizing about wearing shoes like this. Because that’s what men like him were expected to do, especially if they wanted to survive.
Then Darius noticed his entire outfit had changed. He’d been wearing the typical homemade beige muslin farm shirt, worn overalls, and boots that most farm boys wore in Uranus. He’d always had one good suit and a good pair of black shoes to his name, and his overalls and boots were his daily outfit. Now he looked down at what he was wearing and he couldn’t believe his eyes. Instead of overalls, he was wearing black leather shorts and a black formal Tuxedo jacket. His shirt was pure white and open at the collar, and the entire outfit reminded him of a men’s formal tuxedo, with the exception of the short pants and no black bowtie.
He turned to face Miss Glitz and said, “What happened? Why am I dressed this way?”
“Doll, you don’t think I’d put you in those adorable high heels wearing those tacky old overalls, do you? Miss Glitz is no amateur, hon. She knows what she’s doing, and you have great legs, hon.”
The Wicked Fairy turned and glared at Darius’s feet. “Give me those shoes this instant. If you don’t give them to me I’ll destroy this entire Rainbow Village and everyone who lives here.
“Don’t you threaten me, doll,” Miss Glitz said. “You have no power here or over me. I’ll turn you into that old tired straight woman who lived in that ugly shoe and you’ll have so many kids you really won’t know what the fuck to do.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
Miss Glitz smiled. “You don’t wanna find out, doll.”
As Miss Glitz lifted her arm slowly, the Wicked Fairy took a step back and her expression filled with fear. But she didn’t back down totally. “Give me those shoes. You’re not a fairy. You look ridiculous in them and you don’t even know how to use them.”
Darius glanced down at his feet and checked out the pink glittery high heels again. He kind of liked them. He’d never been the type of man who cared all the much about women’s clothing, yet in the same respect he suddenly felt empowered by these shoes for the most unusual reason. Ever since his house had landed in this odd place called the Land of Pride he didn’t feel the same social restrictions he’d always felt back in Uranus. He’d always been attracted to other men, which had always made him overly self-conscious about the way he behaved. He’d always taken precautions notto appear too effeminate, and he’d always been conscious about the way he carried himself in public. Half the time he didn’t even realize he was doing this. It just seemed so natural to hide who he really was. Now that he was in this Land of Pride he didn’t feel the same need to self-censor every move and gesture he made, and the high heels he was wearing didn’t bother him the same way they would have bothered him back in Uranus. For the first time in his life he felt as if he was expressing himself in a different way, without judgment, shame, or restrictions.
“Don’t listen to her, doll,” Miss Glitz said. “She knows how powerful those shoes are and she’ll do anything to get them. Besides, they look so cute on you.”
Darius looked at the shoes again and turned his right foot sideways. “Do you really think so? You don’t think they’re too much?”
“Oh no, doll, they’re fabulous. You’ve got the legs for them.“
“Well you haven’t seen the last of me,” The Wicked Fairy said. “I’ll be watching you, and I’ll be watching your dog, too. I’ll get those shoes back if it’s the last thing I do.”
Then the Wicked Fairy took a few steps back and lifted her arms high above her head. She screamed and snapped her fingers 3 times. A second after that, she vanished into a cloud of yellow and gray smoke the same way she’d arrived.
“It’s safe to come out again, Rainbowers,” said Miss Glitz. “The Wicked Fairy is gone.”
While all the Rainbowers gathered around in the town circle, Darius turned to face Miss Glitz and said, “What will I do now? How do I get back to Uranus?”
“You’ll have to figure a way out of Pride,” Miss Glitz said. “The Wicked Fairy will be plotting and planning to get you now and you won’t be safe.”
“I’d love to go back to Uranus,” Darius said. “I’d love to go back to my family and my life. But I don’t know how to do that.”
“Well, doll, you are kind of needy and pathetic. You can’t fly and you’re not a real fairy, so you’ll have to walk to the Rainbow City. That’s the capital of the Land of Pride. The Queen of Pride lives there and he can help you with Uranus.”
Darius tilted his head in confusion. “The Queen of Pride is a man?”
“Don’t be so serious, doll. Of course he’s a man. You really don’t know much. It’s just a harmless, campy way people like us sometimes refer to each other here in the Land of Pride. King and Queen are gender neutral terms here and they are interchangeable. It’s like the way we use the word fairy and the word queer here in Pride. There’s nothing harmful or wrong about either word. We’ve taken ownership of those words and no one can ever use them against us. Just go with the proverbial flow, so to speak, and never remove those high heels and you’ll be just fine. Although, some people still refer to him as the Wizard of Pride.”
“I think I prefer the Wizard of Pride, if that’s okay,” Darius said. All this was so new to him it felt as though he was part of a unique culture and he didn’t know how to process it all at once. There was so much to learn, and he needed time.
“As long as you’re wearing the high heels, you’ll have no problems, doll.”
“Never remove the high heels? What about when I go to sleep?”
“Never, ever remove the high heels,” Miss Glitz said. “You’re safe from the Wicked Fairy as long as you’re wearing them.”
Darius took a few steps forward and turned all the way around to face Miss Glitz. “Which way is this Rainbow City? How do I get there?”
The sparkling crystal chandelier appeared again and Miss Glitz hopped up and sat on one of the arms. She pointed and said, “Follow the silvery gilded road, doll. It will lead you directly to the Rainbow City where you’ll find The Wizard of Pride.”
As Darius was about to ask another question, Miss Glitz smiled and the crystal chandelier began to rise quickly. It floated up into the sky and it grew smaller and smaller until it couldn’t be seen anymore. All the Rainbowers, all breeds and genders, jumped up and down and their fancy clothes and cheered Miss Glitz’s departure as if they were bidding farewell to a goddess. While everyone cheered, two others handed Darius a purple satchel so he could carry the gifts they’d given him.
When Miss Glitz was nowhere to be seen, a tall black poodle Rainbower wearing a royal blue velvet jacket and a large royal blue hat with a huge white plume walked over to Darius and said, “Just follow the silvery gilded path.”
After he said that, the rest of the Rainbowers began to repeat it in unison. Darius and sparky took a few steps forward and began their journey to the Rainbow City to search for the Wizard of Pride. He had no idea where he was going and he didn’t stop to think about it for too long. He didn’t have any choice. If he didn’t find the all-powerful and all-knowing Wizard of Pride he’d never get back to Uranus and see the people he loved the most again. He did find one thing interesting, though, the pink glittery high heels were the most comfortable walking shoes he’d ever worn. In spite of his concerns about wearing such tall stilettos, he didn’t stumble or stagger once, and it felt so perfectly natural to him it was as though he was walking on marshmallows.