Thursday, 23 September 2010

Trix by Stephanie Theobald

Another road-trip across the US, this time from Florida to California, in the company of the volatile and unpredictable Ruby Rose, small time hustler, dominatrix and California courtesan...

Shy and uptight Mo is on holiday from Scarborough when she runs into Ruby in a New Orleans diner and is equally captivated and appalled by her. At six foot and fifteen stone, Ruby is larger than life in more than one sense, with an interesting taste in drinks, Mo notes, as a jug of fizzy stuff the colour of the ocean in Biloxi appears:

She pours a slug of Jack Daniel’s into her glass, followed by some of the yellowy brown liquid. “Damn climate,” she says, “God’s punishment for country music.” She takes a swig and bangs the glass down on the counter, panting. “Jack Daniel’s and root beer: best drink in the world.”

Agreeing to give her a lift to New Mexico, Mo finds herself becoming increasingly obsessed by her new friend, a woman with an insatiable thirst for food, drink, drugs and sex. She is also beginning to wonder if Ruby isn’t in fact bonkers. In the darkness of a power cut, Ruby starts on the sauce again:

Another match is struck. The blackness shrinks back to reveal a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and a brown and orange can. An ear of flame appears from a hand on the bed. “Are you mad?” “So I’ve been told,” she says, with a ripple of laughter... “Once, I set fire to three acres of hillside,” she says, taking a swig from the Jack Daniel’s bottle and slashing another match.

Beneath her chaotic exterior, Ruby is hiding deep and terrible secrets, which are slowly coming to the surface in a haze of whiskey and marijuana. Between drinking bouts she scribbles a memoir of her troubled childhood in a diary and Mo cannot help sneaking a read. Their arrival in small town New Mexico sees them at a tiny motel run by the sexagenarian Vera who at least is up for a glass of something herself:

Vera looks pleased to see us. “Good to see you girls made it!” she says, thumping the bar. She asks us what we’d like to drink and Billie orders tequila for both of us... “Let’s get really hammered?” Billie says, to nobody in particular, slugging back her tequila. “You go, girl!” Vera says, downing her whiskey in a few gulps. “They say that the beginning’s one half of the deed.”

While a drunken and shocked Mo contemplates what she has read in Ruby’s diary, he friend is coaxed into performing her burlesque of Doris Day/Courtney Love. Truly unhinged, it’s Ruby’s tour de force, complete with stage props of fake drugs and a bottle of vodka:

She wraps the pink dress around her hurriedly and carries on lip-synching ‘Que Sera Sera’, mouthing sweetly about what she’s going to do when she grows up. And then it comes again: the music rips savagely into Courtney Love and the deranged, twisted Doris comes back to life. She gulps down the rest of the vodka, she chucks a handful of Valium down her neck, she tears open the cocaine envelope, throws the contents all over her face and cleavage, then rips off the dolls head and pulls out the day-glo red and blue brains with such frenzy that I’m not sure this is play acting any more. I think that maybe she’s gone completely off the rails and as the Love music becomes slower she takes the vodka bottle and licks the rim suggestively, ominously... The only thing that keeps coming back to me is the line from the Doris Day song when the little girl asks her mother what the future holds. And I want to cry but I can’t do that or I’ll give the game away. So I drink. I drink and drink.

With still two states to drive through before they reach the Pacific Ocean, none of this augurs well...

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