Geri: A Post-Pandemic LGBTQ+ Novel About Something
Find out how to get a free PDF or epub of book at end of Chapter 1.
Dedication: This book is dedicated to the Rainbow, including all my LGBTQ+ family members and friends.
“When all . . . are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.” — Barack Obama
Geri Sender takes to the Klub de Komedy stage, with a red neon Klub de Komedy sign blazing behind them. They are in their early thirties, just over five feet tall, a solid build if somewhat slim-chested, wearing dark blue jeans, a tie-dyed pink t-shirt, and a carpentry belt with various tools in it. They pull up their carpentry belt which has slipped below their hips, brush back their rainbow streaked hair, place their hands to the sides of their deep-set eyes and peer into the audience in the small, dark room. They take a deep breath and begin.
“We’re four months into the year 2025. Six months after the coronavirus vaccine. Hope you’ve had your shot.” They flex a bare arm. “I’ve had mine. Still red and blotchy. But at least the headaches, nausea, and exhaustion have gone away. Not sure what’s worse: coronavirus or the reaction to the coronavirus vaccine.
“And we are officially five hundred years from 2525, the song by Zager and Evans recorded in 1968. They probably didn’t think that man would still be alive or that woman would survive by 2525. Or they wouldn’t have written such crappy lyrics.”
There is no laughter. Not even a mild guffaw.
“Okay, you have to know the lyrics to get that joke. It’s like the original computer coding guys didn’t think there’d be a year 2000, hence Y2K…”
Again, no laughter.
“Anybody remember Y2K? No? Must be a millennial crowd tonight. Anybody want to sing 2025 with me?”
There is some nervous shuffling of chairs in the audience.
“Ah, that explains the zero hits for the song on YouTube.” They clear their throat. “You know what song has a billion hits on the Tube? Breakin’ Up Is Hard To Do. Speaking of which, my partner, ex-partner, found it easy to do. She says, ‘If you get a penis, then I can’t get with you.’ Now I don’t know for certain that I want a penis. I think I do. But balls? Those wrinkled, dangly bits of flesh? How do guys put up with them? If I go for a penis, I wonder if it comes with balls? Maybe balls are optional. In which case, I’ll pass. Just a dick will do. Stick shift.”
At last, laughter.
“My partner, ex-partner… have to get used to saying that… still lives in the same house that I live in. Yes, today’s modern relationship. All the issues of living together; no sex. Between the two of us, we can’t afford the rent. That’s why two friends are moving in. Between the four of us, we still won’t be able to make the rent, but hey, when we get evicted, we’ll have a built in moving crew…”
Geri does five more minutes of comedy to a few laughs, pulls their hammer out of their tool belt, twirls it like a gun, and slips it back into the belt. They take an exaggerated bow to a smattering of applause, and exit stage right.
They go back stage where they meet Gaston, another comedian, loosening up his vocal cords. Geri notices some white powder on Gaston’s shirt. “You might want to wipe off your shirt before you go on.”
“Thanks,” says Gaston as he wipes the powder off his shirt into one hand and inhales it through one nostril. “Hey, good set.”
“It was crap,” says Geri.
“They applauded you off the stage.”
“I presume that they were happy to see me go. Besides, I hear next to nothing when I’m on stage. It’s as if I’m in a comedic trance. A great silence descends upon me. When I’m done, I exit stage right like Snaglepuss. Or did he exit stage left?”
* * *
“It’s less than two months until Pride,” Geri says to Ellie. Their rainbow-streaked black hair is shaved at the sides but longish at the front with several rainbow streaks flopping over their eyes. “I know we’re not together, but do you want to go to the Pride Parade with me?” They are sitting beside Ellie on a dilapidated couch, with strips of duct tape holding its faded tartan upholstery together.
“I don’t see why not,” says early thirty-something Ellie Kim, a waifish ponytailed brunette with an aquiline nose, high cheekbones and bright yellowish-hued skin. Her jeans are tight; her green top is loose. “Unless you’re with somebody else by then. Or I am. Not that I’m looking. In fact, if you were to tell me you’ve given up thoughts of getting a penis, I’d tell you that I’ve given up thoughts of breaking up with you.” Ellie is eating post-dinner popcorn. “I will always be fond of you, but… Penis? A girl has got to draw the line somewhere.”
Geri leans forward and reaches for some popcorn. “Hey,” says Ellie. “You said you didn’t want any.”
“I changed my mind. Besides, you can’t eat a full bag. You’re just going to toss the leftovers.”
Ellie holds up the clear glass popcorn bowl to the living room light, a bare bulb overhead dangling on a dark, twisted wire, and squints as if measuring the quantity. “Okay, but no more than three or four handfuls.”
“Other than a penis,” says Geri as they fish a fistful of popcorn out of the bowl, “I’d still be me.”
“Shouldn’t ‘me’ be ‘they’?”
“I’d still be they? Me? They? Me is a neutral pronoun so I think it works. But I’m not sure. The non-binary dictionary has still to be written.”
Ellie laughs and scoops popcorn out of the bowl. “You know I still love you. I just could not love, or even like, a penis.”
“Ah, when did you become so narrow minded?”
“You were lesbian when we met, as was I. You became non-binary shortly after we moved in together. I was still gay. And now you think you might be transgender. As for me? Gay. Gay. Gay. No pecker for me, thank you.”
“I’m evolving,” says Geri.
“Let me know when you grow legs and can walk on land.” Ellie reaches for the remote. “Anything good on tonight?”
* * *
Ellie is dressed for work in a blue dress and black leather flats. She is sitting on the couch eating breakfast when Geri comes out of the spare bedroom they are now sleeping in, wearing a ratty robe, yawning, and scratching their butt.
“How romantic,” Ellie says and she spoons another scoop of cereal out of her bowl. “I think even if you weren’t thinking of growing a penis, we’d be breaking up.”
“I’ve got nobody to get dolled up for,” Geri says as they pull a bowl out of a cupboard in the tiny kitchen, place it on the cracked laminated counter, and fill it with cereal. “Did you make coffee?”
“Pot on the stove, no?”
“And have you seen my tool belt? I told Nadir that I’d fix his garage door hinges. He said he’d cut fifty dollars off the rent, which is two weeks overdue.” Geri pours a cup of coffee. “I’ve got no rent money. A few bucks, if I don’t buy new socks or underwear.”
“And I have a few bucks coming from my part-time minimum wage job today, but I have to shop for some food on my way home. Or we don’t eat. Speaking of work, I have an early shift at Rainbow Theatre today. Box office administrivia. Frankie, our new recruit, has the late shift covered.”
“Just think, if I was a better comedian, we’d have money, and I wouldn’t have to do carpentry and repair work.”
“But you’re not, so you do.”
“Thanks for the support. I’d break up with you if you hadn’t already broken up with me.” Geri puts down their coffee, pours milk into their cereal, and then picks up their mug. They look into it, as if inspecting it, and then move to the old armchair across from the couch, placing their bowl of cereal on the ottoman that does not match any furniture in the room. “How goes the play writing?”
“Got to go to work,” says Ellie as she gets up and dumps her bowl in the sink.
“That bad,” Geri says. “Hey, don’t forget, Jorge and Krystal should be here sometime today.”
“Maybe between the four of us we can sort out the rent?”
“Maybe.” Geri swallows a mouthful of coffee and mutters to them self, “but somehow I doubt it.”
* * *
Thirty-something Jorge Costa is driving a Rent-A-Wreck car along Bloor Street. Krystal Orbit, also in her mid thirties, is in the passenger seat beside him, fidgeting with a rainbow-coloured facemask covering her nose and mouth.
“Ossington,” Jorge says. He is black, short, on the pudgy side with a shaved head to mask his premature balding, and a five o’clock shadow even though it’s not even noon. He’s wearing faded jeans and a black t-shirt because he thinks it is slimming. “I’m sure they said Ossington, south of Bloor. But where does Ossington hit Bloor? We’ve be driving on Bloor forever.” Jorge has pulled the front seat as far forward as he can and his nose is dangerously close to the windshield.
Krystal pulls down her mask. “It’s west of Yonge Street.” Krystal is tall and elegant, in an awkward manner. She is folded into the front seat like an accordion. Her red dress is coming off one shoulder and riding up her legs. She’s wearing a brunette wig, which she keeps on adjusting, when not fussing with her mask.
“We lived west of Yonge Street. We are west of Yonge Street. Would you take off that mask so we can pull over and ask somebody?”
Krystal holds both hands over her mask. “If we’re asking somebody, the mask stays on!”
“Krystal,” Jorge shouts. “The pandemic is over. We’ve all got vaccine shots.”
“But not the anti-vaxxers,” says Krystal. “And you don’t know what they look like. Could be anybody.”
“Well it’s not me, so take off the mask when you are in the car with me. You’re making me feel like I have the virus.”
Krystal adjusts her wig and tugs the mask down over her chin.
“I’ve been wondering,” Jorge says. “Since blondes have more fun, why did you get a brunette wig?” He unwraps a stick of chewing gum and shoves it into his mouth…
“It was on sale at The Dollar Store… Hey look,” Krystal says, pointing back at a road sign as they drive through an intersection, “Ossington.”
* * *
Jorge pulls into the driveway of 479 Ossington Avenue, a semi-detached, somewhat dilapidated-looking, red brick house on the east side of Ossington between Dewson and College streets. Geri and Ellie rent the first floor. “We are here,” he says.
“The eagle has landed,” Kramer replies.
“Let’s unpack and then we can take the car back to Rent-A-Wreck.”
Krystal fusses with her rainbow-coloured facemask, which is still wrapped over her chin. She pulls it up, then down again. “I have an even better idea,” she says. “Let’s unpack and then you can take the car back.”
Jorge shakes his head. “Then you have to give me your share of the car rental fee and transit fare, because I sure as hell am not walking back.”
Krystal opens her door and gets out of the car. She’s in heels and walking awkwardly. She opens the car’s passenger side back door and starts pulling out plastic bags and a pillow. “Transit fare I can do. I’ll have to owe you my half of the rental fee.”
Jorge gets out of the car and shouts across the roof. “Great. I lose my job, we lose our place, we can’t afford a cell phone plan between us, and I have to fork out the full cost of the car rental, which I don’t have!”
“Or,” says Krystal conspiratorially, “you could just drive the car back, leave it on the lot, and scoot. They don’t know where you live.”
Jorge opens the trunk and pulls out two green garbage bags and a pillow. “They have my license. I had to leave it in place of a credit card, which I also no longer have.”
“But your licence doesn’t have our new address on it. Since you no longer have a car you don’t need your licence.”
Jorge and Krystal, arms full of bags and other paraphernalia head towards the front door. Krystal is staggering in her heels.
“But I had to give them a phone number,” says Jorge.
“I gave them Geri’s.”
“We tell Geri to deny knowing you when they call. Case closed.” Krystal bumps into Jorge, stepping on his foot.
“Ouch!” Jorge starts hopping and drops some bags. “Do you have to wear those heels?”
“I’m getting used to them. After the operation, I’ll be wearing them all the time. Even in my sleep!”
“You know,” says Jorge, “women do wear flats.”
“Not this lady. Not this lady!”
As they reach the front door, they almost collide with Nadir Knight, the mid forty-something landlord, his early forty-something wife Deepa, and their eleven-year-old son, Armaan.
“Hello,” says Nadir. “May we help you?”
“Thanks, but no need,” says Jorge. “Just moving in some stuff.”
“Timing is everything,” says Krystal. “We were just going to ring the bell to let Geri and Ellie know that we’re here.” Krystal puts down some bags and shuffles her mask, lifting it up from her chin back over her mouth and nose. “Have you had your virus shots?”
Each Knight holds up and flexes an arm. Krystal nods and pulls down her mask.
Nadir and his family squeeze by Jorge, Krystal and their stuff. “Are you having a party today?” Nadir asks.
“Moving in,” says Krystal as she picks up her bags and trips over the step leading through the front door.
Nadir looks at his wife who shakes her head.
“Cool,” says Armaan as he picks up a Pink Floyd CD that fell out of one of Krystal’s bags. “Retro.”
“I have more,” says Krystal.
“How long will you be staying?” Deepa asks.
“Not long,” says Jorge.
Krystal shuffles her bags so she can take the CD from Armaan. “Until Jorge is able to find a new job or I have my surgery and find work. Whichever comes first,” she says.
“Surgery?” asks Deepa.
“I’m transitioning to heels on a more permanent basis. Surgery is the last step.”
“So if you’ll excuse us,” says Jorge with a chuckle, “we’ll lock up when we finish unpacking.” He and Krystal carry their loads through the front door.
“If you let me borrow your Pink Floyd, I’ll lend you my Led Zeppelin,” Armaan shouts.
“You’re on,” Krystal shouts back.
“Maybe you should go to the back and speak to Geri before we go shopping,” Deepa says to her husband.
“I was just thinking that,” says Nadir.
* * *
Geri is unscrewing rusted hinges from the garage door when Nadir comes to the back of the house.
“How is it going with the door?” he asks.
“Good. But the door doesn’t quite fit the frame. I can trim it to reframe it and add some wood to the bottom for a better look and fit, and then paint it so you can’t see the added wood. But then you might want to paint the entire garage…”
“Or tear it down and rebuild,” says Nadir. “It was a chicken coop almost a century ago.”
“That’s an option.”
“Okay, hinges and reframing. No paint. Sounds like a bigger job than we discussed, so one hundred dollars off the rent?”
“Speaking of which…” Nadir pauses. Geri says nothing. “May’s rent is two weeks overdue.”
“Ellie gets paid today, but has to buy groceries. She lost her insurance company job a while ago and is earning the minimum wage part time at Rainbow Theatre, the LGBTQ-plus community theatre she works for.” They turn a loose screw that does nothing but spin in place. “I have a paid gig at the end of the week.”
“Carpentry. The comedy clubs in Toronto pay very little. The queer comedy clubs pay even less, if at all. In fact all of the comedy clubs in the city pay very little or don’t pay at all, unless you are headlining.”
“And your friends? The ones moving in unannounced?”
“Ah, they’re here?” Geri pulls pliers out of their tool belt and tugs at the lose screw. “It’s only temporary.”
“Yes, until one finds a job or the other one has an operation of some sort.”
“You talked to them.”
“You know,” says Nadir changing the subject, “I am in charge of organizing the bank’s head office Pride gala. It will be held the Saturday before the Pride Parade.”
Geri pries the screw out and starts to unscrew the next one in the hinge. “You’ve done okay for yourself at Canada One Bank.”
“I have a business degree from university back home, and was able to find decent work here once I took some human resources night school courses.”
“Two screws to go in this hinge,” says Geri.
“I saw you on YouTube, doing your comedy routine. It was funny, although there must have been a sound problem because I couldn’t hear the audience’s laughter.”
“Yes, sound problems.”
“We lost our Pride gala comedian. Left for New York a couple of days ago. Says he is booked solid on a U.S. tour and won’t be coming back for Pride. If you could tone down your routine for the corporate crowd, we could use you at our gala. It pays enough to cover rent for May and June.”
“You mean we wouldn’t owe any rent until…”
“July first,” Nadir says. “But you’d have to make your routine suitable for our corporate crowd.”
“Give me some time to think on it,” says Geri as they successfully unscrew a hinge screw.
“Two days, maximum,” Nadir says. “Then I go to the next person on my list.”
“Just how many LGBTQ-plus comics do you know?”
Nadir shakes his head. “Two month’s rent. But I need to know in two days.”
* * *
Jorge and Ellie, back from work, are sitting in the living room, Ellie on the couch. Jorge is in one of two chairs across from the couch, feet on the ottoman. Krystal is walking circles around the room, rainbow-coloured facemask around her chin, trying to stay balanced on her heels. Geri, finished his work on the garage door, enters the room, tool belt around their waist.
“Hey folks!” he calls to Jorge and Krystal. “Welcome to our abode.”
“Good to see you,” Krystal says.
“Thanks for putting us up,” says Jorge.
“Not a problem, as long as you don’t mind sleeping on the couch and the floor.”
“Ellie was telling us that you are, um, sleeping in separate rooms,” says Jorge.
“But still loving each other,” Geri says as they sit on the couch beside Ellie and playfully put an arm around her. “So how’s the pasta?”
“Boiling. Not yet el dente,” Ellie says. “How are the hinges?”
Jorge shoves a stick of chewing gum into his mouth. “Ellie is not your real name, is it?” he says. “Your real name is a Korean name that starts with E, like Eunji.”
“Did you look that up on Google?” says Ellie. “It is and always will be Ellie. My folks were born in Coquitlam, B.C. I moved here to attend theatre school at Ryerson. What about Jorge? That’s not a black man’s name.”
“Oh, this is a good one,” says Krystal who plops down on the other chair in the room.
“My father was Slavic, my mother was Jamaican,” Jorge says. “When I was born they flipped a coin to see who got to name me.”
“So your father won,” says Ellie.
“Here it comes,” Krystal says.
“Actually,” says Jorge, “my mother won. She loved dad so much, she called me Jorge.”
“See,” says Krystal rubbing her hands together.
“My father got to give me my middle name.”
“Casmir?” says Ellie.
“Wait for it,” says Krystal leaning forward.
“Jamal,” says Jorge. “He loved her too.”
“JJ!” says Ellie.
“What about you Geri?” asks Jorge.
“Nothing fancy. I’m as white as they come. British and Maltese.”
“Maltese aren’t white,” says Jorge.
“Of course they are.”
“They’re more, I don’t know, tan.”
“Tan is not a race,” says Geri. “Not that I care what colour I am.”
“But when it comes to gender…” says Ellie.
“I’m checking on the pasta,” says Geri. They get up and go into the kitchen. “Hey, who wants a beer?”
“Beer,” calls Ellie.
“Way more beer,” says Krystal.
“Way, way more beer,” sings Jorge.
Geri and Ellie laugh.
* * *
The four friends are sitting on the living room couch and the two mismatched chairs, plates in lap, eating spaghetti.
“Sorry there’s no room in the kitchen for a table,” says Geri. “We normally use the ottoman as our table, but there’s really not room enough on it for four plates.”
“It’s a small place, but laps will do fine for the plates,” says Jorge.
“Delicious,” says Krystal as she slurps back pasta, mask around her chin.
“Considering what we had for breakfast and lunch,” says Jorge.
“We didn’t have breakfast or lunch,” Krystal says.
“My point,” says Jorge. “But yes, it is delicious.”
“Sauce straight out of a jar,” says Ellie.
“And pasta straight out of boiling water,” says Geri. “Sorry about the lack of parmesan cheese.”
“Do you know how expensive parmesan is?” asks Ellie.
“Not a problem,” says Krystal, rolling a forkful of pasta and lifting it to her mouth.
“You made quite the impression on our landlord,” says Geri.
“He was there, with wife and kid. We had to say something,” Jorge says.
“Anyway, here’s our apartment rental deal,” says Geri as they put their empty plate on the ottoman. Ellie gets up and heads for the kitchen. “There’s no more pasta,” Geri calls after her. She turns around, sits back down on the couch, and tosses her empty plate on top of Geri’s plate.
“So, what’s the rental situation?” asks Jorge.
“Ellie quit a job a while ago. She didn’t like being an insurance company secretary,” says Geri.
“Code for I got fired, but glad to go,” says Ellie as she slumps on the couch.
“But she’s now working for the Rainbow Theatre.”
“Part-time. At minimum wage.”
“I’m doing some stand up…”
“Earning less than minimum,” says Ellie.
“About the same as you make for writing your play, the one that you are not writing,” say Geri. “I have a few carpentry gigs coming up, that pay. And…” Geri pauses and rubs their nose as Krystal gets up and starts to totter around the living room.
“Don’t mind me,” she says. “I’m listening. Just have to keep practicing in these things. I don’t know how we women do it.”
“And?” asks Jorge.
“Nadir has asked me to do a stand up gig at Canada One’s Pride gala. Pays two months of rent.” Krystal bumps into the living room wall. “But I’d have to tone down my routine for his corporate crowd.”
Krystal leans against the living room wall and sinks to the floor. “So, we’re in. Rent free for two months.”
“Yes!” says Jorge.
“Not so fast,” says Ellie holding a hand to her head. “I think I know what’s coming.”
“I don’t know if I can do it,” says Geri. “I’m thinking about it, but don’t know if I can sell my comedic soul to the bank.”
“What’s to think?” says Jorge. He gets up and goes over to Krystal. “You take out this, that, and the other thing.” He puts out his hand and Krystal grabs hold. “Add whatever, whenever, wherever. And we’ve got two months rent free.”
Geri looks over their shoulder at Jorge pulling Krystal up. “That’s easy for you to say. You don’t have to do it.”
“Hey,” says Jorge, “if I could do accounting for a couple of years, then you can tone down one routine.”
“But you hated accounting. And you no longer do it,” says Geri.
“I didn’t hate accounting. I hated the company I worked for and didn’t get along with the people I worked with. If I had to go back to it, I could,” says Jorge.
“Good,” says Geri. “Because if I don’t take this gig, you might have to.”
“Take the gig,” Jorge says. He and Krystal sit back down in their chairs. “Take the freakin’ gig.”
“Krystal,” says Ellie, “Any modeling gigs lined up?”
Jorge snorts as Krystal straightens her dress and wig. “My new job doesn’t pay,” she says.
“You’re a volunteer?” asks Ellie.
“Not really,” says Krystal. “I am doing what I have to do–physically and psychologically–to transition to who I should be. Money doesn’t come with that. Thank goodness for health care.”
“And I’m looking for a new job and a new relationship…” says Jorge.
“Not necessarily in that order,” says Krystal.
“…So money is a tad tight right now for all of us. So take the gig. For all our sakes.”
“I’m thinking on it.”
“In the meantime,” says Jorge, “if I can help you with anything you’ve got going, let me know.”
“What do you know about carpentry, or comedy?”
“I can hold nails. You hammer them. Or hold wood while you cut it.”
“Well now, that would be funny.”
Read more about Geri online.
To get a free PDF or epub of Geri, email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line “Geri PDF” or “Geri epub”.
To read about all the books (20+) written by Paul Lima, go to http://www.paullima.com/books/