“John Wayne Learns He Is a Woman in Barcelona” by Kayla Miller

Issue 9 / Spring 2017


Temember that lesson when you were small, about taking candy from strangers? John Wayne’s mama never taught him that; he heard it through TV, sure, but no one ever told him explicitly not to, ’cause mama didn’t think she needed to, really. John Wayne was a big bitch from day one, a towering motherfucker who took up more space than was necessary, even by adult standards. So mama didn’t think to tell John Wayne to protect himself, because protection seemed so natural to such a big body.

And protect he did. Cowboys are good for that: lookin’ after those they love, granted you are good (white) enough to earn it. Cowboys can ramble from state to state and country to country and end up in Spain without ever loving a soul. So when John Wayne loves, he protects something fearsome. Like a snake. A mean one.

And he’s good at it. Be his little sister and you’ll see. John Wayne’s little sister don’t never get bullied.

But protectin’ himself? Well, shit. That seems easy. Second nature.

John Wayne’ll kill your spiders and roaches to make you feel safe. He don’t even flinch when insect guts touch his skin, as long as you feel better.

So John Wayne tromps through Barcelona and says hola, hola to the strangers he meets. He forgets the sex between his legs because it’s easy; in good ole Estados Unidos, all you need is a loud voice and six-feet-one-inch-in-combat-boots to keep predators away. And language. It’s time John Wayne learns the value of language, how necessary it is to

  1. have language

in order to

  1. break the script

so that you can

  1. keep yourself safe.

John Wayne learns he is a woman like any other in Barcelona, biceps and inches and feet aside. Without language, there is no script to break. And yes, John Wayne is yet again thankful for that cowboy strength.


Kayla Miller is a rambunctious queer gal with an MFA. She’s currently situated in the Wild West, but hails from the south side of Atlanta, Georgia, where she was born and raised. She is the author of the fiction chapbook See & Be Seen & Be Scene, published by Five [Quarterly]; her fiction has also appeared or is forthcoming in PANK MagazineThe Collapsar, and Tahoma Literary Review, among others. She writes about ugly folks doing ugly things; a collection of her work can be found at kaylamillerwrites.com.

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