-her map of Tasmania. It’s her first show, and she’s terrified and ecstatic. Her mother watches, fretting with glued-on lashes a flurry of spiky black around gem-bright eyes. Sequins and rhinestones catch the cheap-lightbulb fluorescence that surrounds the makeshift dressing-room mirror as she puts her scissors down and picks up a pair of sheer stockings. The fleshtone nylon whispers and scratches as she unrolls it over her skin, encasing herself with a drag queen’s first line of defense.

She stands, smoothing her slitted gown over her bestockinged thighs. The slice in the fabric nearly reaches her naval, and slides as she moves, a shifting peep-show that shows far too much but never quite …everything.

“You all tucked up, honey?” her mother asks, and the virgin queen reaches between her thighs, giving the space there a quick once-over with cherry-taloned fingertips. Nothing comes loose, and she strikes a pose. The line of her posture is nervously perfect, from the tip of her glittering stiletto pump to the peak of her lace-front bouffant. Someone must have bled on her lips to get that color of red, and her lashes are a falsely modest line against her carefully porcelained cheek as she shyly ducks her head and blows her mother a moue of a kiss.

“You’re beautiful,” whispers her mother through proud tears that threaten to make her eyeliner run, and with all the frightened determination of a robin in late spring, she nudges the virgin through the curtained door, down the dimly-lit hallway at the end of which the stage is waiting, dollar bills in hands around it, waiting for a garter to receive them.

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