Halloween = Dolly in Drag

As you’ve probably guessed from my website, I’m unemployed and on the job hunt. One of the (many) jobs I’ve applied for was a fiction writing/editing position; and as part of the process, I was given a few prompts + instructions, and told to write a short scene. (and you *know* I love a good prompt.)

Here were the instructions:


– Male main character entering into the building to accomplish a mission
– A beautiful woman is the gatekeeper
– Protagonist sweet talks/flirts his way past the woman
– Enters deeper into the building
– Encounters a guard
– Attempts to fast talk past guard, doesn’t work
– Protagonist and guard fight.

– Male first person past tense point of view
– Protagonist thought process (navel-gazing) about mission
– Description of the female gatekeeper.
– Clever dialogue
– Description of the guard
– Fight scene

• The story setting doesn’t matter. It can be fantasy, science fiction, or modern/thriller.
• The objective/goal of the mission doesn’t matter.
• You should be able to bring the reader into the story quickly, so that they understand the setting and objectives.
• There is no length requirement for this sample.


Seems fairly “straight”-forward, right? (heh heh) Soooo I went the route of Dolly-drag-queen – obviously. I’m not totally off-base – Dolly recently produced the soundtrack of the novel-to-a-Netflix-film “Dumplin'” and if ya’ll haven’t seen it yet, here’s a taste of the amaaaaazing movie, in the form of an equally-amaaaaaazing montage of some queens singing Dolly. (You’re welcome.)

Here’s the scene I wrote (*spoiler alert* I didn’t get the job… but also have zero regrets). Have a safe, wonderful, Dolly-tastic Halloween!

James moved out from the dark side street and onto the sidewalk, lit dimly by the streetlight above. Reaching to pull open the iron-gated door of the run-down drag club, he mentally thought through the building layout one last time. 

Go down the stairs, past the bar, head stage right, elevator on the left. 

Even though this wasn’t his first gig, James still felt the familiar pressure of anxiety building in his chest as he moved through the dingy bar entrance. He found himself in a neon-lit alcove, lined with tattered playbills advertising a range of fan-favorites – from Tina Turner to Cher – and stopped, noticing the tall, blonde woman, nonchalantly lounging on a stool, behind a giant plated glass window.  If James hadn’t spent the last three weeks memorizing every inch of this shithole, he would have thought he’d stepped into a movie theater, not a drag club.  

This room wasn’t in the blueprints, he thought, his nervousness replaced with irritation. Guess we’ll try Plan B. 

His thoughts were interrupted by crackling static and a Southern drawl, coming from behind the window. He looked up to find Dolly Parton, complete with wavy blonde locks, full lips, and beauty mark just under her bottom lip.

“Hey, honey – we don’t open until 5, but how can I help ya?” 

A classic Dolly smile accompanied her question, and James noticed her subtly lean forward and push together her arms, boosting her already ample silicone inserts. 

James improvised, playing up his act. “Hey, girl! So…I was just hired on as a lighting guy, but the email said I should just come on back?” 

Dolly tilted her head to the side and squinted, the glitter from her eye-shadow throwing the light from her desk lamp, before sitting back upright.  

“That’s funny – Mikey didn’t say anything about a new hire. And you weren’t given a password or number or anything?” she asked, now rummaging through papers on her desk and only half-focused on James.

“I was told I should come on back and start setting up for tonight.  They didn’t mention anything about – all this,” he said, gesturing to the booth, “security nonsense, oh my gah. What is this place even, a bank?” he asked with a laugh, attempting to lighten the mood. And also avoid notice. 

“Yeaaaah,” she drew out the word in a deeper, knowing voice – “last week we had an incident, so the boss wanted some extra stuff put in place. And I don’t make the rules, I just break em, if you know what I mean, honey” she said, winking at James. “But I can call somebody to come down and let you in?” she asked, her hand moving towards her phone. 

“OH – no, no, that’s okay, doll.” James started to panic. “I can’t get fired on my first day!”  He played the sympathy card. Dolly watched him, biting her bottom lip and twirling a blonde lock between two manicured fingers. 

James went a different route. “Honestly, I’m just sad that I won’t be able to show a true country woman like you, what a real rodeo’s like,” he said, with a flirty smirk, adjusting the collar of his tight, leather jacket.  

Dolly blushed, fanning herself comically with her hand, then paused.  She looked around cautiously, and gestured for James to come closer to the window; and leaning down into the mic, she whispered, “Pick me up at 8 – and if anyone asks, Cher let you in.” 

A jarring buzz and unlatching sound came from the inner door, and James blew kisses back at Dolly, while pushing through.  As he let the door close behind him, James found himself at the top of a stairwell. Back to Plan A. 

He moved quickly through the memorized steps, attempting to make up for lost time, while mentally warding off any other surprises. The area behind the bar was still empty – but James heard the muffled sounds of kitchen prep from somewhere close by, and sped up.  The stage area was also empty, but a giant staircase loomed at the center, backlit from a few flood lights in the rafters.  

Making the final turn into the hallway with the elevator, James crashed into a wall of muscle and stumbled back, barely staying upright.  

“What the hell?” a deep voice boomed, grabbing and pulling James forward by his coat collar.  “Who are you and what the fuck are you doing back here?!” 

“Easy, easy – I’m a new hire!” 

“If we hired someone, I’d know about it,” the beefy man snarled, not releasing his grip on James’ jacket. “So, I’m gunna ask you one more time – why the fuck are you back here?” 

“Dude, I thought this was a drag bar – what the fuck is your problem…” James said, shoving the man back and brushing off his collar, feigning indignity.  It worked, for all of two minutes, until the shock faded and James saw a beefy fist come hurling at his face.  He didn’t dodge it fast enough, and heard his chin crack just before the intense pain shot across his jawline. 

The man lurched forwards, reaching his bloodied hand to grab James again, but this time it was James that threw the unexpected punch, knocking the man back and giving James time to find the hilt of his ankle knife. Regaining his footing and even more pissed, the assailant hurled his massive body towards James, who swiped up with one hand, burying the knife deep into the man’s steel chest, while James’ other hand found and clamped down on his open mouth, stifling his screams. James waited until the man’s body went limp before yanking out the knife and wiping it on the dead man’s shirt. 

Well, this didn’t go as planned, James thought to himself, stepping over the body and pressing the up button on the elevator.  As he waited, watching the numbers count down with each passing floor, James mentally reminded himself to get Dolly’s number on the way out.

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