Please give me some feedback on this scene from a long short story of mine called "Dorothy Parker's Writing Case." I can't decided whether the scene is anti-homosexual and should be dropped from the story. Or if it's more human than that and I should keep it.
Let me know what you think.
At the time set for the funeral home viewing, I noticed Mr. Martinez, the director, pacing under the St. Agnes canopy, so I knew something was up. He spotted me and rushed over, a fresh pink carnation wobbling in his buttonhole. "Dr. Zimmer, I want to warn you, things are a leetle beet unusual."
"Some kind of problem?"
"No, no. Just be prepared."
Mr. Martinez escorted me to the viewing room and gestured at the buzzing crowd inside. Wow! Guido, my dead brother's lover, must have rung up every number in Robby's address book.
I edged into a room full of cross dressers. I tried not to gawk, but I couldn't help staring at one she-male. She wore a see-through black blouse with a standup collar. Huge chunks of fake amethyst hung around her neck and from her earlobes. Arrows ran up her patterned thigh-high hose; her short black skirt exposed a glimpse of her buttocks. What a pavement princess!
Scanning for Guido, I followed the princess as she sashayed on six-inch heels toward Robby's casket. When we neared the polished wooden box, I held back. I saw that my little brother wasn't inside; some woman was. The Georgia peach ruffles of her ball gown overflowed the coffin's edges.
I turned to leave and bumped into a she-male in a white floor-length gossamer gown. It glittered like a waterfall. Inside stood Guido. I barely recognized him in his shoulder length blonde hair, a gardenia clipped to one side.
"Trying to pass for a fairy godmother?"
"Make a wish?" Guido brandished a silver wand. I pushed it away.
"We're in the wrong room," I told him.
He grinned, grabbed my arm, and marched me to the coffin. "You didn't recognize your own brother!"
I peered into the casket. When I saw Robby's face above a Georgia peach bodice smothered with rhinestones, I yelped and clutched my heart. My defibrillator kicked in, a painful jolt in my chest. I grabbed the coffin's rim, hoping not to faint, and sat gratefully in a folding chair someone opened. Around me, voices rose and fell like the chattering of a flock of sparrows.
I knew Robby was gay, but a transvestite? That made him seem like a changeling. Or maybe that fairy streak ran through his veins as he clomped in Mom's shoes, pulled her dresses over his head.
"Oh, Guido! You scared me," the princess said. "I thought you were Robert sprung up from the dead. Where are your roller skates?"
"I don't fit into his shoes, they're way too big for me."
"I know what you mean." The princess leaned over the casket. "Why, this doesn't look like her!"
She dipped into her Coach bag, plucked a make-up kit, and dumped its contents on the casket's glossy lid. She opened a lipstick and spun out its color. When she leaned over Robby and touched his face, she jumped. "Oh my God, you're cold!"
I chuckled. What did she expect? "Mr. Martinez just took him off ice."
The princess glanced at me. I cringed as she leaned down to redden Robby's lips.
"Oh, honey," the princess said to Robby, "what have they done to your hair?"
"Don't blame me! I brought a wig, but that old body snatcher wouldn't use it." Guido giggled. "I gave him Robert's dainties, too, but he said he wouldn't need no underwear."
I felt recovered enough to stand. Robby's blood red lips glowed. As for his hair, the undertaker had combed it forward to disguise his bald spot. Nothing wrong with that.
Then a skinny man dressed as a French maid, scurried up shaking her feather duster. She peered into the coffin. "Where's his wig?"
"We'll just have to make do." The princess pawed through her purse, then pouted. "I don't have any hair spray."
The maid cried to the crowd, "Oh my God, we ain't got any hair spray! Which of you bitches has got hair spray?"
A dozen cross-dressers rummaged noisily. Then a she-male in a black leather corset dress pulled a can from her purse and strutted to the coffin. The princess combed Robby's hair and sprayed it.
I feel nauseous, no doubt from the shock of my defibrillator going off, so I moved away, eager to stop watching those she-males glam up Robby like a carnival doll.
Guido, standing by the casket, called, "Where's the florals?"
The transvestites quieted. None remembered flowers, but Guido waved his wand and Robby's friends, moving like a school of fish, left to shop.
Alone, I sat next to a plain wooden lectern, hoping eulogies would start soon. I longed to say my piece and go home.
Soon Robby's friends, covered with florals, poured into the room. The French maid, a red rose wreath circling one arm, cried, "We cleaned them out!"
Like a schoolmarm, Guido used his wand to orchestrate the placement of each basket, spray, wreath, and bouquet. The room became a riot of color with fiery spears of red and orange gladioli, heart-shaped wreaths of red and pink roses, white calla lilies, bold yellow chrysanthemums, orange birds of paradise, and arrangements in peach, pink, crème, and lavender.
How had Robby merited this? How had he touched these lives to receive a viewing so exuberant, so full of love?
In a flash, I envisioned my own demise, in an empty room, devoid of eulogies and florals. I shook my nasty thought away, and watched a short, heavyset nurse plug in a boom box.
Some of Robby's friends sang and danced their good wishes to his corpse, while others fought about music. They booed "Killing Me Softly"—"who wants to be killed, any old way"—in favor of "Sugar Daddy" and "Two to Tango."
Watching dancers twirl reminded me of a costume ball Dorothy Parker attended. She'd sat in the balcony watching hordes of young men dressed to the nines as young women. Finally, unable to bear it, she shouted, "Come on up, anybody. I'm a man."
At last, Mr. Martinez slipped through a side door and launched the eulogies with a canned accolade. Guido broke down while giving his. This crowd tied my tongue, but I resolved to speak honorably.
"This is a sad day," I said. "Robert's death was so sudden. When I heard the news, I could not believe it. My little brother was too young to die. However, I'm not here to grieve his life but to celebrate it.
"You probably know that Robert was quite a character. Oh, he had a serious side, but he did know how to joke. I'm grateful for the special moments he left me, and probably you. I'm sure he will live on in our hearts and minds."
To my surprise, my voice caught when I turned toward the coffin and said, "Robert, you are gone too soon, and you will be missed."
A hefty fellow in a swashbuckler's hat spoke next. The hat, trimmed in black lace and red satin bows, featured a towering ostrich feather which bobbed when the speaker moved. I found him hard to understand. He spoke about a Skatin' Kate, someone I didn't know.
"Remember that gorgeous white gown," he said. "Three-quarters length, of course, to highlight her calf-high roller rink skates. White leather."
Cheers and whistles erupted.
"Liked to skate in the Village," the swashbuckler continued, "particularly Christopher Street. It was her stage.
"She'd twirl down the street, looking for a button-down square. Did she know how to pick 'em! She'd spot one, swoop down on him, tap his head with her wand, and cry, 'Abracadabra! You're a fairy.'"
The crowd roared with laughter.
Then the swashbuckler turned to me and shook his finger. "You should carve 'Skatin' Kate' on his tombstone, sir. I mean it! Hundreds of people know him that way."
Good God, was he talking about Robby?
Guido wept again. Huge sobs exploded and tears rushed down his cheeks. That broke up the eulogies. The French maid slung her arm around Guido's shoulder, and they walked toward the door as Robby's other friends streamed out into the sunlight.
I couldn't move. I was reeling. I stayed until Mr. Martinez and I were the only people left.
Then I watched him lean over the rental casket, inspect the polished finish where the princess dumped cosmetics. "Look at that!" I thought. "Figuring how much he can charge for scratches. Guess my little brother is going to stick me with one more bill before he goes."
When I left, I saw Guido under the canopy talking with friends. I approached, and silence dropped. Compelled to speak, I said, "Guido, you know, when I told you to pick out clothes for Robby, I thought you'd choose a suit."
"For Robert?" he said. That broke the ice.
"For his job interview," the swashbuckler said.
"More likely for his court date," the maid replied.
From the edge of the circle, someone called, "Initiate him, Guido!"
Other voices joined: "Go ahead, Guido." "Give him one for Skatin' Kate."
Guido did. He faced me, lifted that damn wand, tapped me on the head and cried, "Abracadabra! You're a fairy."