Pumpkin (Dumplin' #3) - Julie Murphy Page 0,2

wheel. I timed today perfectly. If we run by and check on Grammy like Mom asked and make it home by four thirty, I should have just enough time to rewatch every episode of this season of Fiercest of Them All before tonight’s live finale. There are maybe three things I take seriously in this world, and Fiercest of Them All is right up there after my grammy and my post–high school master plan.

Fiercest of Them All is in its sixteenth season and was basically Drag Queen 101 when I was a ten-year-old boy at the library pretending to do research on photosynthesis while I was actually watching YouTube clips of this mythical art of drag I never even knew existed. Honestly, I think some people in this town would have been less disturbed if they’d caught me looking at porn rather than grown men in dresses. Not that anyone should have been surprised. I’ve always been the kind of gay that announces itself and asks for a wide berth. Flamboyant, as Grammy says.

It was in that library that I gobbled up the history of drag and all the ways it’s woven into queer history, especially Black queer history, which is definitely not something I had any luck finding reading materials on within a five-hundred-mile radius. Thank Goddess for the internet.

As for Fiercest of Them All, it wasn’t until I was in middle school that I figured out how to watch episodes from sort of sketchy websites. (I’d like to think that the drag gods would forgive me for my early and ill-informed pirating days.) Around that same time, all the things about me that signified to other people that I was definitely not straight grew bigger and took deeper roots.

Some people are obviously queer, and others . . . aren’t. I just so happen to fulfill some of the broader stereotypes surrounding gay guys. Mom once admitted that when I was younger, she and my dad thought it might be a phase. Maybe just my grandmother rubbing off on me. It’s true that her love for glamour, themes, and drama was contagious, but I never did grow out of it, so by the start of high school, watching Fiercest of Them All on the family TV was suddenly the least shocking thing about me. And sometimes, Mom and Dad even sat down to watch an episode, which in real time was annoying, because I was constantly having to explain context and how the show worked. Now, though, with only a few months left at home, it’s easy to feel nostalgic for their old-people quirks.

I honk—with love—as Clem pulls Hannah through the parking lot. My sister gives me a hmph as she slides in next to me with Hannah in the passenger seat.

“Sorry to make you wait, Waylon,” says Hannah in a voice that honestly doesn’t sound that sorry, if we’re splitting hairs. She bites on her lip ring, a recent addition and birthday gift from Clem. Not my style, but it complements Hannah’s whole look, which is combat boots and shaggy bangs. Some people say the eyes are the windows to the soul, and if that’s the case, Hannah’s thick, wavy bangs are the curtains. Of course, there’s the matter of her teeth too. A little oversized and a little gapped. Hannah’s been getting shit about them for years, but what those losers don’t know is that some people become supermodels thanks to their quirky teeth, so if you ask me, Hannah’s teeth are a major future asset.

“He barely waited,” chimes in Clem. “We got out of school like eight minutes ago.”

“Listen,” I say as I shift the truck into drive. “It’s not my fault our parents have done us the inhumane disservice of not including DVR in their cable package.”

Clem groans. “It doesn’t even matter. This season is a done deal. Ruby Slippers has it in the bag.”

I let out a hiss as the truck rumbles out of the parking lot and into downtown Clover City. “Don’t you speak that evil in my Beulah.”

“Our Beulah. Our truck,” she reminds me.

“Mimi Mee is the one true queen of season sixteen and I will accept nothing less.”

“They’ll never crown a fat queen,” Clem says. “At least not anytime soon,” she adds gently.

Hannah lets out a here-we-go-again sigh.

“It’s not that I don’t think they should,” Clem continues. “But how many plus-size queens have we seen make it all the way to the finals season after season only to be shut down