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The bus lets me off a few blocks from the City Times office. I try to hurry and

when I arrive Marcia (pronounced Mar-see-a), my DJ, is pacing the hallway. She’s

young and oh so trendy.

“God, Shirley. What took you so long!” she says.

“It’s the awful buses.” I take my coat off and throw it on a chair. “Can’t wait for

my first real contract. Then I get my Mustang and look out – its ride, Sally, ride.

Cruising Belle Isle on a Friday Night. Taking off to Chi Town for the weekend. And I

get to tell Richard to shove his pitiful allowance up his ass. How’s my hair look?” I have

on shiny blue press-on nails to match the color. I run my hands through my hair to make

it stand up and look electrifying.

“Hair’s great. Come on,” Marcia says. “I’ll help you with your clothes and

make-up.” We’ve got the routine down to fifteen minutes. Like Clark Kent in a phone

booth, I become MC Mama. Good thing the steam heat is on high in this old building.

Goosebumps wouldn’t photo well, I think.

I walk into the room, which is set with bright lights for the shoot. Marcia is

telling me something about Saturday. I catch just a part of it. “Shirley, Bernie said that

those Japanese promoters are in town. Saturday’s for real money. It’s the Big Time –

our break! Wham. Bam. And we are out of here.”

“Shirley, baby, good to see ya.” George, the city editor, comes over and stands on

his tiptoes to kiss my cheek. I am a big woman, like I said. Both wide and high and,

with my spiky heels on, I’m a virtual tower of power. George is a small, affectionate

guy. I give him a big squeeze. The click of the cameras tells me they are shooting this

too. A pseudo stage covered with Christmas lights is set up in one corner with a mic.

“We want this to look like the Juke Hall. We’ll be out on Saturday too for extra

shots of the crowd, and of Daddy2Cool. We asked him to come down today and do a

photo op with you. He ‘don’t do that,’ he said. ‘See my agent.’ So, honey, you are it.

You’re the centerfold. The City Times playmate of the month. One color shot and the

rest black and white.” George looked out the window. “That about sums up this town

too. One color shot and then black and white.” He shook his head and left the room as

the photographer went to work. He took a lot of shots from below. I’ll probably end up

looking like Paul Bunyan or his sidekick, Babe the Blue Ox.

Marcia takes charge of the beats and scratches while I rap a bit to loosen up. I

get nervous in front of a crowd. Nervous pumps me up. Gets me going at 99 miles an

hour. Makes my brain shimmy and slam. It feels odd to be rapping in a room with only a

photographer and a light man. I think about Daddy2Cool. Whooping and hollering and

grabbing his crotch. That gets me nervous enough to start jammin’. Saturday’s show is

not a head-to-head open mic showdown but a three act, coin-toss order of performance.

Me, Daddy2Cool and this kid, SlamJamJoey. The kid is ok. Uses some pretty worn

retreads and isn’t a showman. Daddy is my competition.

“One more shot, please,” the photographer begs. “Just lean over. That’s right.

Thanks baby.” I squeeze my arms against my chest. They press my big bosom further

towards his cyclops camera. I lick then purse my big red lips. Shut my eyes. Blue glitter

falls out of my hair, cascading towards my cleavage. Marcia is good at these touches.

The blue glitter. I find it everywhere for days after the shows.

“Come on,” Marcia says after the photographer has finished. “I’ll give you a lift

home. I don’t have to be at work for a couple of hours.” Marcia waits on tables at the

Great Lakes Bar and Brewhouse when she isn’t working shows for me. It doesn’t seem

like much of a life but she’s young. A friend of my daughter’s introduced us and we’ve

been a team for the last couple of years. MC Mama and DJFineBody (her stage name).

We head north up Woodward, across 8 Mile Road and into the burbs. She whips

her car into my drive and screeches to a halt. We sit for a moment and stare at the porch.

Someone’s been there. White chalk is rubbed everywhere and something that looks an

awful lot like blood is smeared on the stairs. I unfold my big self and jump out of her car,

slamming the door.