Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fan Art - a teen boy crushes on his guy best friend... and the art class girls who try to help get them together



Fan Art by Sarah Tregay

Jamie Peterson has a problem: Even though he tries to keep his feelings to himself, everyone seems to know how he feels about Mason, and the girls in his art class are determined to help them get together. Telling the truth could ruin Jamie and Mason's friendship, but it could also mean a chance at happiness. Falling in love is easy, except when it's not, and Jamie must decide if coming clean to Mason is worth facing his worst fear.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Inspiration from Martin Luther King, Jr. on the holiday honoring his memory - words for the resistance, words for creativity, words for our lives



"If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving." 

–Martin Luther King, Jr., the final lines of his “Keep Moving from This Mountain,” Address at Spelman College on 10 April 1960. Read the whole speech here.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 19

In Chapter Eighteen, Wyatt's parents have a big cancellation of booked rooms for their B&B, and Wyatt can't reach Martin to get him to take down queerasafivedollarbill.com. The next morning, Wyatt confronts Mr. Clifton outside the library. After all, Mr. Clifton gave him the book. Didn't he want him to know about Lincoln and Speed? The answer stuns Wyatt.

Want to start reading from the beginning? Click here for chapters One and Two.

To read about why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free on this blog, click here.

Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them as comments here or on social media (facebook, twitter, or instagram.)

Okay community, here's Chapter Nineteen!

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* *

Chapter 19
Tuesday January 20

            It was still dark outside, but the not-quite-period grandfather clock by the stairs said it was 6:15 a.m. Wyatt hung back in the kitchen doorway. His dad and mom were at the table, with the ledger book. His dad put down the phone and crossed out another name. “And that last one was the junior high from Albany.” He said it like someone had died. “That’s two tours and eleven room-nights cancelled. And we haven’t booked anything since Saturday.”
            His dad’s eyes travelled to some papers on the table in front of them. Wyatt recognized the logo: Lincolnville National Bank. They had the loan on this place. The payments that Wyatt’s family couldn’t miss even one more of. Whatever fire he had left inside him fizzled out. Damn ripples.
            His mom glanced up and saw him. “There you are.” She came over and kissed Wyatt on the forehead, then pulled him to the table. She reached into her purse and pulled out his cell phone. “We’ll come up with a different consequence. This is not for interviews, but for now, don’t use the land line.” She handed the cell over to him.
            Wyatt gave her a what’s-going-on? look.
            “There were some pretty nasty messages this morning.” His mom looked away, like just talking about them hurt. “You don’t need to hear that.”
            Wyatt tried to swallow past the lump in his throat. He’d done this. Gotten them into this mess. How was he ever going to fix it?
            “Excuse me.”
They all turned to stare at the teenager standing in the kitchen doorway, a blue guitar slung over his shoulder and a rolling carry-on by his side.
“Martin?” Wyatt had trouble believing it.
But the smile he gave Wyatt felt like the sun when you get out of the cold ocean and you’re all goose bumpy. “Hi, Wyatt.”
Wyatt couldn’t help checking Martin out. His teeth and eyes were electric white against the deep river-stone brown of his skin. He was wearing jeans and a tight blue tie-dyed Superman T-shirt that was a ‘G’ instead of an ‘S.’ Wyatt wasn’t sure what it stood for, but it did show that Martin was in really good shape. Scratch that, he was hot.
Martin pointed over his shoulder to the front of the house. “My mom says she won’t come in while the Confederate flag is flying outside.”
“Oh, uh…” Wyatt crossed to the doorway. “I’ll take it down.”
Wyatt tried to pass him but Martin went to his left just as Wyatt went to his right. Then they did it the other way, and Martin laughed low, “wanna dance?” He flashed his impossibly bright grin at Wyatt.
“I… uh–” Wyatt could feel his face get lava-hot and couldn’t get any words out. He slipped past him, nearly brushing against his shoulder as Martin held his guitar out of Wyatt’s way.
Wyatt darted down the corridor, through the entry hall and out the front door, taking the stairs in a rush. A woman stood there by a pile of luggage. Martin’s mom. Rhonda. She was staring at the flags, like they were stopping her from taking even one more step forward. Like they were Kryptonite.
Wyatt yanked the Confederate flag out of its holder and started to roll it up on its four-foot long stick. “I’m really sorry about the flag – it’s not meant to disrespect African Americans. It’s just that we’re a Lincoln and Civil War site, and having both flags seemed kind of … fair…” Did that sound terrible?
Rhonda pulled out a camera and aimed it at their ‘Lincoln Slept Here Bed & Breakfast’ sign. The flash went off as she snapped the picture. “Documenting everything is critical.”
Wyatt glanced to see if it was that different without the slave-holding states’ flag, and saw what she had really photographed. Someone had crossed out the ‘Here’ on their sign with pink spray paint and wrote in ‘WITH GUYS.’
Making them the ‘Lincoln Slept WITH GUYS Bed & Breakfast.’
Wyatt cringed, wondering if he could get that off before his dad saw it. While he was busy with the flag, Rhonda lifted her carry-on and started up the front porch steps. Wyatt grabbed the other two bags and hurried to join her. His dad, mom and Martin were in the entry hall.
Rhonda glanced around her at the exhibits, and Wyatt felt a flash of relief that their military mannequin was still in his Union Blues. That could have been awkward.
Martin’s mom’s eyes lingered on the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote above their ‘The Great Emancipator’ display case. She read it out loud, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.” She frowned. “You’re missing the next line.”
Wyatt checked the wall. That was where their quote ended.
Rhonda spoke to her son, “You know it.”
Martin recited from memory, “…But a hundred years later, the Negro still is not free.” He said it with force, and meaning. His mom gave him a ‘well done’ dip of her head. He looked down, kind of shy.
He was mighty cute. But Wyatt was going to be straight. He had to.
Rhonda turned to him. “You must be Wyatt? T.V. is always so deceptive.”
Wyatt gave a nod.
“Forgive us,” Wyatt’s dad said, “But, do we have a reservation for you? We certainly have room, it’s just that…”
She pulled out three business cards, handing one each to Wyatt’s mom, dad, and Wyatt himself. “I’m Rhonda Sykes, attorney of record and field representative for Legal Advocates of Oregon.”
Wyatt looked up from the card in his hand. “They’re here to help.”

* *

            “The new blog picked up right where the old one left off!” Martin had put his guitar on the far side of the kitchen table and was setting up his laptop, running the internet over some cellular data card because the B&B’s setup was quaint. “It took me a while to re-link stuff, but three more aggregators picked us up, and one of them was huge. We were at nearly 200,000 hits when we left Idaho…”
            Wyatt had gone over how he’d contacted Rhonda twice already, but his mom still studied the business card clutched in her hand. “It says ‘Oregon?’”
            “We were in Boise, helping out with a class-action gender discrimination suit.” Rhonda explained.
“Let’s make it load on top of the old visits…” Martin grabbed a muffin from the basket Wyatt’s dad offered as he worked. “Drove all night to get here. Did it in just under nine hours!”
            Rhonda pulled out a chair and sat heavily. “I’m so glad Martin has his provisional license. I couldn’t have done that by myself.”
            “Coffee?” Wyatt’s dad asked.
            Rhonda stretched her neck side to side. “Please.”
            “Me, too.” Martin said, left hand up as he typed. “Half way.”
            He drinks coffee?
            Wyatt’s mom got a second mug for Rhonda while his dad poured Martin half a cup. Martin filled it the rest of the way with milk and seven packets of sugar. He took a tentative sip.
            Well, I like coffee ice cream, too.
            Martin hit a final key and whistled. “I thought so! Von Lawson’s show was like rocket-fuel.”
            Wyatt leaned over Martin’s shoulder to check out the new stats. His nose picked up the waft of sweet coffee and bright citrus, like what your hands smell like after you peel a tangerine. Was he wearing aftershave? Focus, Wyatt.
            The new statistical readout page showed a bunch of big vertical lines. Page loads per day. Today’s was shorter. Wyatt was trying to make out the numbers when Martin moved the cursor to point out the total.
            “We’re over a million?” Wyatt asked. That couldn’t be right.
            “One million two-hundred and thirty-two thousand one-hundred and seventy-nine!” Martin raised his hand for a high-five, and their palms connected. Wyatt’s was suddenly sweaty. He wiped it on his sweatpants.
            Wyatt’s dad frowned. “Unless we’re somehow getting a dollar for each of those visits, that T.V. show – and that blog – actually destroyed our business!”
            Wyatt didn’t mean to flinch, but the truth hurt.
            Martin shrugged. “We can’t get a dollar, but we could probably get some fraction of a cent a hit if we put advertising on it.”
            “We’re going to lose this place!” Wyatt’s dad fumbled his coffee and it spilled across the table. “Can we close the computer and focus on what’s going on in the real world?”
            “Hey!” Martin leapt up with the laptop and grabbed his guitar into the air, too, even though the spreading puddle of coffee was still a foot away from where his guitar had been.
            Rhonda used some paper napkins from the holder to blot the spill. “We’re here now. And we can help.”
            Martin still held the laptop and guitar, like he didn’t want to put them down.
Wyatt’s dad just sat there, motionless, staring at the chipped handle of his now-empty Jefferson Davis mug.
Wyatt’s mom squeezed his dad’s hand and spoke to Rhonda. “There are already 1.2 million people who won’t be staying with us. You want to help? Get your son to take that website down.”
            What if his mom was right? Who knew if anyone visiting his blog even agreed with him about Lincoln? It was probably just looky-loos. Or Von Lawson’s audience, working themselves up. Getting to know who they needed to hate. Him.
1.2 million people who hated him.
Wyatt’s voice cracked oddly. “Are they going to come after me?”
            “We won’t let them,” Rhonda said. “But, let’s take things one at a time.”

* *

            The adults decided Rhonda would take the case pro bono – which meant Wyatt’s family wouldn’t have to pay her. In return, like a barter, Rhonda and Martin would stay with them for a week or so. And, instead of the Confederate Flag, the B&B would fly the 33-star and the 35-star Union Flags, from the beginning and end of the war. And the blog could stay up, for now.
Room One, down the hall from the Lincoln Room and in the front of the house with a big bay window, would be Rhonda’s room and temporary office. Martin would stay in Room Two, closer to the stairs. Closer to Wyatt’s room, one flight up and down the hall.
            Outside, in the darkness that had lightened to inky blue, Wyatt spent a half-hour in the B&B sign’s light, trying to remove the pink graffiti. It wouldn’t come off. Dumping the useless cleaning stuff in the downstairs closet, he peeked in the kitchen. Rhonda sat at the table with Wyatt’s dad and mom, using a red pen to scribble notes on the lawsuit the Mayor had hit them with. After Von Lawson’s show, local businesses were going to lose a lot of money. Money they didn’t have, if they lost the lawsuit. What would happen then?
He wondered where Martin was. Probably in his room…
Wyatt searched his brain for a reason to go up there. Clean towels! He raced up the stairs to the laundry room on the third floor. Then, arms loaded with a pretty good excuse, he walked down the flight of stairs to Martin’s room.
The blue guitar was outside the doorway, propped against the blue-gray and orange-brown leaves of the hallway wallpaper. Wyatt wondered if he should pick it up and carry it in for him, or if that wouldn’t be cool. He was about to ask but froze when he saw him. Martin was wearing plastic gloves, and a white face mask with those yellow rubbery head straps. He had the mattress off the bed, and a giant silk bag halfway over it.
            “What are you doing?” Wyatt asked.
            “Dust mites,” Martin said, carefully pulling the bag all the way over the mattress and then zipping it shut along the side. “You ever seen one in a microscope? They’re like aliens.”
            He finished with the mattress, and then, like it might bite him, cautiously fit another silky bag over the room’s pillow. Once that was zipped shut, he pulled his gloves inside-out, careful to not touch any of the parts that had been on the outside. Putting the gloves in a plastic bag, he knotted it, and put that in the trash can under the antique desk. Then he took off the facemask. “Mom says it’s like I go all Howard Hughes, but we’re in a different place every couple of days…” He shrugged, zipped open his rolling carry on, and pulled out his own sheets.
            “We do wash things here.” Wyatt said, putting the towels on the desk.
            “It’s just allergies. I’ve kind of got it down.”
            Wyatt helped him push the hermetically-sealed mattress back on the bed. He’s weird. Cute, but weird. Or maybe… weird, but cute.
            Martin’s mom came up the stairs. “Wyatt, you need to get to school. We can’t be giving them any excuses to suspend you. Martin, I need our system up and running an hour ago.”
            “I’m on it.” Martin said.
            Man. Wyatt had been hoping no one would bring up school. He checked his cell phone. It was 7:25 a.m. He was already thirteen minutes late.
Once he’d locked himself in the third floor bathroom, Wyatt closed his eyes against the day he knew was ahead:
Sharks in yellow T-shirts, saying they’d rather celebrate the guy who killed a hero than acknowledge a hero might have been gay. Basically saying they’d kill Wyatt if they knew he was gay, too. And then celebrate it with custom T-shirts printed for the occasion.
Mackenzie, getting all lovey-dovey with Jonathon.
And probably some camera crew following Jonathon around, for the new reality T.V. series he was probably going to star in.
Wyatt ran the hot water until it gave the glass & mercury thermometer a high enough ‘fever’ to be convincing. Sometimes, his dad’s insistence that old-fashioned things were better was useful.
There was no way Wyatt was going to school.
Just thinking about all of it made him feel sick.
So it wasn’t a total lie.

* *

Wyatt holed up in his bedroom until lunchtime, when hunger got the better of him. He was heading down to the kitchen when Martin called out from his room. “Hey, it’s you.”
Martin came to his doorway, running a hand back along his close-cropped hair. His T-shirt rode up and Wyatt could see a line of skin pulled taut over muscle. Wow. He needed to look somewhere else, anywhere else, and recognized the stripy cover of the book in Martin’s hand. It was Absolutely, Positively Not… He must have bought it! And Wyatt guessed Rhonda was okay with that.
Did that mean…?
Maybe it didn’t mean anything. After all, he wasn’t wearing a rainbow bracelet like he had in that video. Maybe he was just cool with gay people.
But maybe…
Martin’s smile was a little lopsided. “Feeling better?”
Wyatt’s mouth was suddenly dry. “You wanna get out of here? I’ll show you our town.”
The house was empty, and Martin explained that the adults were off in Corvallis at the Benton County Circuit Court. They snagged two granola bars and were out the door. Martin wanted to bring his guitar along, but Wyatt said no – they didn’t want to attract any attention on this mission.
“So, being home schooled must be heaven, huh?” Wyatt thought it would be sweet to never have to set an alarm again. Never have to see Jonathon, either. They were on the school side of Jenson’s Stream, since the near side was too overgrown with Himalayan Blackberry. But walking along the bank at the bottom of the ravine, it wasn’t like anyone would see them. Wyatt was thinking he would take Martin all the way to the covered bridge into town. They could pop up there, and Wyatt could show him Union Square and stuff without his getting caught cutting school.
“It’s all right,” Martin said, picking up a pine cone by the path.
They were both quiet for a bit, but it was okay. Martin stopped to put the pine cone gently into the water, like he was launching a boat. They watched it bob along. “How many seeds do you think are in there?” Martin asked him.
Wyatt had no idea. “Fifty? A hundred?”
“That could go all the way to the Ocean, and travel to New Zealand. Start a forest there. That would be cool to see.”
It would, but Wyatt knew his future was some big anonymous city, where he could just disappear. The pine cone was almost out of sight and Wyatt wondered if it would make it past the ford. His voice got quieter, and a bit sad. “The second high school is over, I’m out of here.”
Martin seemed like he wanted to ask a question, but didn’t. Instead he said, “Being home schooled? My mom only gives me a hard time about doing my work, not about being myself.”
“You were getting crap at school for being Black?” Wyatt didn’t think that was it, but he had to ask.
Martin scoffed. “I was getting crap for thinking Daniel Craig coming out of the ocean in Casino Royale was hot. Instead of Ursula Andress in Dr. No.”
“Craig is completely the best Bond!” Wyatt said, but inside he was screaming He’s gay! He just said he’s gay! Act cool.
“You watch them, too?” Martin asked, his smile like a superpower that short-circuited Wyatt’s brain.
Wyatt managed to squeak out, “Yeah,” and they started walking along the bank again. Did Martin know about him? He couldn’t. Could he?
Wyatt turned, hoping to see it again. Feel it again. They caught eyes, and the look Martin gave him made Wyatt feel like his stomach had dropped out of his body. Like Martin wanted Wyatt to stop everything and just look at him. Let him look at Wyatt.
Wyatt’s breath caught and he plunged ahead.
Why didn’t I ever feel like this with Mackenzie?
After a while, Martin started humming. His voice fit, somehow, with the birds and the gurgle of water, even their crunching footsteps on the path. Wyatt didn’t talk anymore. He just wanted to listen, hoping to get his pulse to stop pounding in his neck.
Ten minutes later they were climbing the bank by the covered bridge to top out on Route 37. As they gained altitude, Wyatt saw there was only a single car by the log cabin. Usually there were at least a couple of tour vans and buses. Martin touched his arm as they got to the road.
“Wyatt,” he started.
Wyatt jerked his arm away – anybody could see them.
“Look.”
 Wyatt followed to see where Martin was pointing, at the ‘Welcome To Lincolnville – Real America’ sign.
But the sign on the red bridge had the same pink graffiti as the B&B sign at home. This time, the word ‘Real’ had been crossed out and ‘QUEER’ was scrawled over it instead.
Wyatt felt sucker-punched. Trapped. He couldn’t get away from it. Any of it.
Martin pulled out his cell phone and snapped a photo of the sign. “My mom will want that.” He saw the sick expression on Wyatt’s face, and gestured back to the stream trail. “Let’s get out of here.”
Wyatt’s feet obeyed. But as they headed down the ravine, and the whole walk back, he couldn’t get the image out of his head. The sign shouting,

Welcome To Lincolnville – Queer America



Hiding out in his bedroom for the rest of the week, Wyatt felt like he was caught in an avalanche, and the whole hillside was sliding out from under his feet.

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Endnotes for Chapter 19

Rhonda reads and Martin finishes the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote from his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. You can read the entire speech transcript and listen to the audio here: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm The speech video, which Wyatt and Martin watch in Chapter 21 is available from www.thekingcenter.org

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Want to know why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free right here on this blog? Click here.

Ready for Chapter Twenty? It will be posted on January 17, 2018. Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them in comments here, or on facebook, twitter, or instagram.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Dreadnought: Nemesis - Book One - A Transgender Teen Superhero Adventure!



Dreadnought by April Daniels

Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world's greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she's transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny's body into what she's always thought it should be. Now there's no hiding that she's a girl.

It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny's first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father's dangerous obsession with "curing" her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he's entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she's in over her head.

She doesn't have time to adjust. Dreadnought's murderer--a cyborg named Utopia--still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can't sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.

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Monday, January 8, 2018

A New Year, Sadness and Joy, Challenge and Resolve, and One Direction: Forward!

My good friend and writing buddy Claudia Harrington Kallmeyer passed away last week after a long and courageous, often irreverent, and at times even funny (think pranks on her doctors) battle with brain cancer.

Claudia was a joy to know. She was funny, and could write funny, she was kind, she was determined, she worked hard, she cared about others, and she was generous with her time and talents, volunteering for over a decade as the Regional Advisor of the Los Angeles chapter of SCBWI.

And she was my friend.

This moment, captured by Rita Crayon Huang, is from the 2011 Los Angeles SCBWI Writers Day conference. I'm on the left in the black T-shirt, and Claudia is at the lectern, holding the ceremonial scepter of leadership - which, as she and Edie (pictured in the tiara) couldn't find, ended up being a toilet plunger wrapped in tin foil with a ribbon for show...

Claudia's family, including her three great kids (two grown and one teen) and her husband, and her mom, and all her friends like me who hold her memory dear, are an ongoing legacy - we got to know and love Claudia, and our lives are more filled with light and joy because of that. And who knows how that light and joy will continue to change the world, long into the future?

Claudia's creative legacy includes 12 picture books (the "My Family" series highlighting the diversity within a child's classroom) and 8 early readers (the "Hank the Pet Sitter" series - four out now and four more in the pipeline, revised manuscripts accepted and currently being illustrated. Her books are funny, and heartfelt, and I'm so glad the world has them. Who knows the lives those books will continue to touch, long into the future?

So the challenge seems to be to take the sadness of missing Claudia and transmute it into resolve: Creative time is sacred, because it lets our light shine. So I need to treat my creative time as important, as a priority. Because every day is a gift, and there are no guarantees. So we (I) need to carpe diem, and more forward as best we (I) can.

My mantra for the adventure ahead:

Trust my journey. Trust my process. Trust in myself. FLOW... And be grateful for all my many blessings... 

including having this platform to share with wonderful readers and members of my community: YOU!

Here's to the good memories, and the joy, and each of us shining with our own unique light – because that's how we change the world. Like my friend Claudia did.



Friday, January 5, 2018

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 18

In Chapter Seventeen, Wyatt goes on Earnest Von Lawson's TV talk show and is completely side-swiped by the conservative, dog-whistled, and hate-filled reaction to his Lincoln-was-gay message. Lincolnville is pilloried, and just when Wyatt thinks things can't get any worse, Jonathon appears as a special guest on the show, wearing a t-shirt that reads: "If you think Lincoln was gay, then I'm a proud member of the John Wilkes Booth Appreciation Society." Everyone in the studio audience gets a T-shirt and Wyatt's surrounded.

Want to start reading from the beginning? Click here for chapters One and Two.

To read about why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free on this blog, click here.

Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them as comments here or on social media (facebook, twitter, or instagram.)

Okay community, here's Chapter Eighteen!

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* *

Chapter 18
Monday January 19

            No one said anything for the first half-hour of the ride home, while Wyatt used nearly half the box of tissues trying to wipe the makeup off his face. Wyatt’s mom was driving, because his dad was too much of a mess. His mom’s cell rang, and his dad answered it. He talked for barely a minute, saying only, “I understand,” and “Okay,” and, “Yes, we’ll refund your deposit.”
            He hung up. “The Collier wedding. Seems they’re big fans of the Von Lawson Report.”
            “That was all eight rooms!” Wyatt’s mom glanced over from the road. “For this weekend! How are they going to find another venue in time?”
            The rain beat on them and the rest of the freeway traffic.
            “That’s not really our problem, is it?” Wyatt’s dad turned in his seat. “You get this friend of yours to take down that other website pronto!”
            “I’ll need my cell.” Wyatt said.
            Wyatt’s dad pushed the purse at him.
            Wyatt fished out his phone and tried dialing Martin. Four rings and it went to voicemail. “He’s not answering. Should I leave a message?”
            His dad and mom chorused, “Yes!”
            There was the beep. “Hey, Martin. It’s… Wyatt. Call me, okay? It’s kind of important.”
He pressed ‘end call’ and sent him a quick text.

                        Wyatt                          8:47 p.m.
                        where are u? we need 2 talk!
                        u were right. about not going
                        on the show.

            Finger snaps got him to raise his head. His mom held out her hand for the phone. Wyatt surrendered it, and watched it drop back into her purse.
            The three of them rode in silence for the next two hours, until they got home. They staggered inside from the kitchen porch, no guests tonight.
            Maybe no guests ever, after that.
            Wyatt noticed the voicemail light was blinking on the B&B line, showing they had six messages. But no one hit play, or said anything.
            In his room, Wyatt peeled off the fancy clothes that were still damp. He pulled on sweats and crawled into bed, wanting to do a Rip Van Winkle – fall asleep for a hundred years, and have it be a totally new world when he got up. Or maybe, he was mixing that up with Sleeping Beauty.

* *

Tuesday January 20

            Wyatt woke up more than an hour before he had to. By now, with the internet, probably everyone at school had seen replays of the Von Lawson Report. He buried his head back under the comforters. He wasn’t moving from this bed.
His eyes opened, and he scrambled to his backback, on the floor by his desk. Digging in it, he found the flyer and uncrumpled it to check. Yeah, he was right. Tuesdays meant early hours at the library.
The B&B was quiet. Wyatt snuck out the front door, past the Confederate and Union flags in their holders on either side of their B&B sign. The flags were limp from last night’s rain. With everything going on, he had forgotten and left them up overnight. Well, he figured, it saved him a chore this morning.
 He did a slow warm-up run the five blocks to Union Square. Nobody was around, and it was dark since it wouldn’t be daylight for another two hours. But Wyatt had fire inside him. As he cut past the square’s metal arch that spelled out ‘Lincolnville,’ his breath puffed into the cold air like steam – like a dragon on a war-path. When he got to the library parking lot, he jogged in place behind a hedge. The streetlamp light was just enough to make out that the lot was empty. He didn’t have a phone to check for the time, but it didn’t matter. It wouldn’t be long.
Figuring working out again wasn't such a bad idea, he’d done two sets of ten pushups and was just about to try for more when Mr. Clifton’s half-sized Smart Car made the turn from Route 37. Mr. Clifton didn’t see him. He pulled into a spot right by the loading dock door, triggering the yellow motion-detector flood lamps. Wyatt waited until Mr. Clifton was getting out and headed over.
“Why did you give me the book in the first place?”
Mr. Clifton turned from picking up his briefcase. “Wyatt!” He wasn’t happy to see him. Which was fine with Wyatt, since that made two of them.
Wyatt thought Mr. Clifton might make a run for the door and he stepped forward to block his way. “Did you guys destroy it yet?”
“I… I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to say.” Mr. Clifton fidgeted with the keys in his hand. “Though I’m not sure it matters, as you’ve put the whole thing online.”
“Why, Mr. Clifton? Why let me know about it and then slam me for saying it?”
“I was trying to be kind!” Mr. Clifton jerked his head both ways to check the empty parking lot, but no one had heard him. It was just the two of them in the amber-lit darkness. “I wanted you to know that you’re not alone. That… we’re not alone.”
Wyatt’s mind spun. He’s gay? And he knows I am, too?
But, that meant Mr. Clifton thought they were the same. That Wyatt was like him. “You mean, in the closet?”
“Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do, to get by. Fly under the radar. Keep quiet. Surely you can understand that.”
“I’m not like you!” Wyatt shouted.
“Shhhh!”
Wyatt stared at Mr. Clifton. His eyes showed white, all around the irises. His nostrils flared, breaths shallow and fast. He was a cornered animal, posing as a grown-up.
Wyatt didn’t want to be afraid. Or quiet. Not anymore. But he couldn’t come out – not now, not when the whole truth about Lincoln hung in the balance.
But did that mean… Wyatt couldn’t bear to look at Mr. Clifton any more.
Was that going to be him, in forty years?
The idea was like a punch in the gut, and Wyatt stumbled away.
Mr. Clifton cleared his throat. “I’m sure you won’t tell anyone. I suppose it’s a bit like the U.S.S.R. and America during the Cold War.  All those nuclear weapons pointed at each other. And it turned out the best deterrent was mutually assured destruction.”
Anger flared inside Wyatt, but he didn’t turn around. Instead, he started running, pounding his fury into the ground with each step. It’s probably a good thing they don’t give teenagers the nuclear codes.


* *



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Friday, December 29, 2017

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 17

In Chapter Sixteen, Wyatt's parents feel the heat for Wyatt's outing Lincoln - a lawsuit from the Mayor for lost business revenue, and the threat of Wyatt's mom losing her job... unless they can bury the story completely. But then, Wyatt's invited to appear on a popular T.V. talk show, one with seven million viewers. His mom is convinced it's their best chance of salvaging the situation -- and getting huge publicity for their struggling B&B. They race to downtown Portland to make it to the T.V. studio in time.

Want to start reading from the beginning? Click here for chapters One and Two.

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Okay community, here's Chapter Seventeen!

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Chapter 17
Monday January 19

Ms. Eagle’s Bible Cheat Sheet: Phineas (also Phinehas)
Numbers 25:1-5
The people of Israel were whoring around with the daughters of Moab, and starting to follow their gods, and the LORD told Moses he was pissed off.
Numbers 25:6-9
Phineas, the son of an Israelite priest, saw his countryman Zimri, the prince of a chief house of the Simeonites, getting it on with Cozbi, a high-born Midianitish woman. Phineas got a spear, went into their tent – where the couple was getting busy – and ran them through.
Numbers 25:10-15
God was pleased with Phineas, because he had been zealous for the sake of the LORD. Good things happened for the Israelites after that, because God wasn’t angry with them anymore.

* *

            The announcer’s voice boomed around Wyatt and his parents as they stood just off-stage. “A conservative in the heart of the liberal Pacific Northwest… A thorn in their back-side… Your friend, and mine… And a Great American… Ernest Von Lawson!”
            The studio audience of seventy screamed like they were at the Superbowl as Ernest Von Lawson walked past Wyatt onto the set in a dark blue suit, white shirt, red tie, and green and black cowboy boots that Wyatt would have bet ten bucks had never seen a horse. “Hello, Real America!” Von Lawson waved like a rock star and sat at his desk.
            The show started with a couple of jokes that Von Lawson read off a teleprompter. They went over big. Someone with a clipboard tapped Wyatt on the shoulder. “You’re on in two.”
            Wyatt’s mom straightened his thin black tie, something his dad had from college, and pulled at the sleeves of the gray dress shirt Wyatt had gotten for his Great-Aunt Freida’s funeral last summer, like that was going to make it fit. The whole time, she was reviewing Wyatt’s robot-programming. “Okay, Sweetie. Remember to call him Mister Von Lawson. Be respectful. Get our points in – Tours. Lincoln Heritage. Cozy Rooms. Yummy food. A real taste of the Civil War-Era.”
            His dad soft-punched him in the arm. “Knock ‘em dead, soldier.”
            Soldier?
            He guessed he was. And the battlefield was national T.V.
            Someone pushed Wyatt to start walking. His mom whispered urgently behind him, “Make sure someone says The Lincoln Slept Here B&B in Lincolnville, Oregon, or they won’t be able to find us!”
            Von Lawson wound up his introduction. “He’s one of our youngest guests ever, blogger and ninth grade student at Lincolnville High School in, where else?, Lincolnville, Oregon, please welcome Wyatt Yarrow!”
            There was applause for Wyatt, which he thought was cool, and he followed the line of red tape on the floor out onto the set. He shook Von Lawson’s hand and sat in the black leather armchair nearest the desk. The lights were really bright, and the makeup ‘so you won’t be shiny’ made his face feel tight, but he was pretty pumped up.
            “Wyatt.” Von Lawson leaned forward on his desk, all friendly. Wyatt tried to focus on what Von Lawson was saying and not on the cameras. Which one was on?
            “It seems you’ve decided to try and single-handedly destroy the Republican Party.”
            What?
            “Destroy the memory of the greatest President the United States of America has ever had.” Von Lawson paused, making sure he had everyone’s attention. He had Wyatt’s. “Destroy the proud legacy of Abraham Lincoln.”
            Boos. The crowd was booing him.
            Oh no.            
Von Lawson turned to the audience. “Let me tell you what this young man has done. He started a blog, an innocent enough thing, to do a book report on President Lincoln. Honest Abe. Sounds okay so far, right?” Cautious nods. “Gentlemen in the audience, who here has a best friend? Can I get a show of hands?” Men who looked like truckers and farmers and High School coaches put their arms up. Every guy in the audience had a best friend. So did Von Lawson. With a leer, Von Lawson lowered his hand. “Now tell me, are you having carnal, unnatural, immoral relations with him?”
The studio audience bellowed like a zoo full of furious, injured animals.
            Von Lawson patted the air to get the audience to listen. “Well, Wyatt here, he thinks you probably are!” The people in the front row made faces like Wyatt was a steaming pile of poop. A shot of Wyatt’s school blog was projected on a screen behind Von Lawson’s desk, Wyatt’s blog header shouting ‘QUEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL’ in ten-inch-high letters.
Von Lawson kept going. “In fact, his blog – paid for with our taxpayer money – says that our sixteenth president was doing the nasty nightly with his best friend, Joshua Fry Speed. His best friend! Have you ever heard something so disgusting?” Hisses and boos. Someone yelled, “Pervert!” One woman crossed herself as a guttural growl travelled through the audience.
            People started shouting and Wyatt struggled to make himself heard. “It’s not your tax money anymore… The school deleted the blog!”
Von Lawson turned on him. “Ahh, but you, with your deviant homosexual agenda, put it up on another site, didn’t you? Queer as a five dollar bill dot com. These images are live from the internet.” Von Lawson signaled over the audience and the image behind them changed to Wyatt’s new blog. It scrolled down both of the posts about Lincoln being gay; the video and the letter. Von Lawson continued, “He even included his so-called ‘proof,’ stealing images from the book about Lincoln’s best friend and posting them illegally!” The website showed those pages, too.
Words flashed at the bottom of the monitor that showed Von Lawson what was being broadcast. Wyatt couldn’t help but read it:
Lincoln. Under. Attack!
“You know, it’s such a crazy idea, that we here at the Von Lawson Report did a national survey.” On the screen, graphics appeared by Von Lawson’s head as he spoke. “And it turns out that two percent of people think Lincoln might have been ‘sweet’ on another guy – as absurd and toxic a lie as that is. But, that survey has a plus or minus error of three percent! Which means that something less than zero percent of people actually believe our President Lincoln, founder of our Republican Party, was a limp-wristed fairy.”
Sitting there, Wyatt knew he had to say something, but Von Lawson wasn’t about to stop… “Even with more than a hundred-and-one percent of people knowing it’s nothing short of historical terrorism, Wyatt and his attack on Lincoln are getting quite a bit of attention. As Lincoln isn’t here to defend himself, it falls to me. To all of us. To stand up…” Here Von Lawson got up and walked around his desk to be right in front of the audience, “and say, repeat it after me, Hell no!
            “Hell, no!” The studio audience roared to its feet.
            Von Lawson relished every shouted syllable. “Lincoln was great!
            “Lincoln was great!” It flashed through Wyatt’s mind that the only thing that kept them from being a mob was that they didn’t have lit torches and pitchforks.
            Von Lawson slashed the air like his arm was a sword and he would have first blood. “Lincoln was STRAIGHT!
            “Lincoln was STRAIGHT!” It was pandemonium, and Wyatt wished he could just disappear.
With a satisfied expression, Von Lawson shook his head from side to side. After a long time, he motioned them to settle down. He got a solemn look on his face. “It’s in moments like this, when we need to ask ourselves… what would Phineas do?”
A roar exploded out of the crowd.
What? What did that even mean?
“What would God ask of us, in the face of this plot to make an idol of their perversion, to flush our country down into the sewers of chaos and madness, to destroy the very foundation of this Christian nation?”
A photo of Wyatt’s family’s B&B appeared on the screen behind them.
Oh no.
Von Lawson gave a sly smile. “Would He want you to visit the place that’s saying that Lincoln had this lethal addiction, spending four years doing terrible things against God’s moral order with his best friend? Well, if you think He would, then you go visit Wyatt’s family’s Bed and Breakfast, amusingly enough called the ‘Lincoln Slept Here Bed and Breakfast.’ Though after hearing what they’re saying went on in that bed, I know I’ve lost my appetite.
 “But here’s an idea for you heathens out there: Why don’t you make a day of it?”
The screen behind Wyatt and Von Lawson started showing photos of the different businesses in Lincolnville, with Photoshopped drag queens and Gay Pride Rainbow flags and shirtless guys holding hands in front of them. Von Lawson said, “How about, after getting your queer history at their Lincoln-Was-A-Sexual-Deviant B and B, you get your homosexual Civil War photo taken at Woo’s Historic Photo Shop? Do some queer shopping on Johnson Street and the Gay ol’ stores on Union Square.”
            The studio audience howled, eating up the pictures and every word. “Hungry yet? Get your homo food at the Lincolnville Pantry, and your how-to-be-queer books at the Lincolnville Public Library. And evidently, you can get your nothing’s-too-sacred-to-be-gay-for-us education at Lincolnville’s very own public High School. You want to know what’s wrong with our country today, Real America? The radicalized and destructive homosexual agenda coming out of Lincolnville, Oregon!”
            The audience cheered.
Wyatt felt pummeled. He was trapped there in the chair by Von Lawson’s desk, cameras on him, and nowhere to hide. He could feel himself sweating through his shirt, and hoped it didn’t show.
Wyatt noticed someone with a clipboard give Von Lawson a thumbs-up, and then the host changed gears. “But the news out of Lincolnville isn’t all bad. Another young man – a Real American! – has courageously stepped forward to respond to these allegations about our beloved 16th President…”
            There was a drumroll, and Von Lawson flung his hand to the side of the stage as a cymbal crashed.
Wyatt whipped his head up in time to see a spotlight hit Jonathon, standing there in jeans and a blazer over a yellow T-shirt. The audience fell silent.
Jonathon’s voice rang out across the stage: “If you think Lincoln was gay, then I’m a proud member of the John Wilkes Booth Appreciation Society!” He took off his jacket so the cameras and everyone could see his T-shirt, with black letters that said that very thing:
            IF YOU THINK LINCOLN WAS GAY
            THEN I’M A PROUD MEMBER OF
            THE JOHN WILKES BOOTH APPRECIATION SOCIETY
Then Jonathon turned around, so they could all read the back:
…AND YOU’RE A BIG FAIRY
The crowd went wild as Wyatt tried to not freak out.
Wyatt watched a red-light-topped camera push in on Von Lawson as the host laughed, “I want one of those!”
“I’ve got one for you!” Jonathon strode across the stage and, from the side of the leather chair next to Wyatt, lifted a small shopping bag. He presented it to Von Lawson, who pulled out a T-shirt of his own. To whistles and huge applause, Von Lawson took off his blazer and pulled the T-shirt on over his shirt and tie.
Time seemed to slow as Von Lawson got back behind his desk and Jonathon sat in the chair to Wyatt’s right. Wyatt could see the two paths ahead:
If he admitted he was gay, no one would ever believe him about Lincoln. The whole thing would disappear again into history.
Or, he could stay on the path he was on. Stay ‘straight,’ and like Martin said, let the story of Abe and Joshua make a difference. In lots of people’s lives… just not his own.
Steeling himself, he spoke as soon as the noise dropped down enough to be heard. “Believing Lincoln was gay doesn’t make you a fairy!”
Jonathon stared accusingly at him. “But you are!”
Wyatt stood his ground. “I’m not. But Lincoln might have been. Not… not a fairy, but, in love with another guy!”
            Jonathon’s come-back was whip-quick. “Where’s the real proof? All you have is stupid letters. They had kids! Lincoln and Mary had this pretty beautiful traditional family – and there’s power in that!”
Wyatt tried to sound confident, “Why can’t intelligent people – intelligent straight people – disagree?”
Von Lawson cut them both off, standing to model his new t-shirt for the cameras, “Well, Wyatt. If you think Lincoln was gay, then I believe that makes me a proud member of the John Wilkes Booth Appreciation Society!”
Hoots and applause.
Von Lawson turned to Jonathon as he sat back down, “I suppose that makes me your first official member?”
“There’s no formal society, yet…” Jonathon said with a shrug. “It’s really more to show just how stupid it is to think that Abraham Lincoln was anything other than a red-blooded, woman-loving, real American!” He looked at Wyatt, then over at Von Lawson. “But, sure. You can be member number one!”
“Then I guess that makes you: President of the society.” Von Lawson said to Jonathon.
Jonathon laughed in surprise. “I guess it does.”
The studio audience loved that and applauded again.
Von Lawson eyed the camera. “See? I told you he was a good kid. Now, as for this awesome – you teenagers still say awesome, don’t you?”
Jonathon nodded.
“As for this awesome shirt,” Von Lawson addressed the people in the first rows. “.. a way to speak back to this shameful attack on all that’s right and honorable about our history, and the answer to What would Phineas wear?, I bet you all want one, too!”
Enthusiastic nods.
Von Lawson stood up and walked around his desk, signaling Jonathon to join him. They stood in front of Wyatt, blocking him, as Von Lawson put an arm around Jonathon’s shoulder. Wyatt considered running off stage, but didn’t want to call any more attention to himself.
His voice all conspiratorial, Von Lawson said to Jonathon, “You have something to tell them, don’t you?”
Jonathon grinned. “There’s a free T-shirt under all their chairs!”
The crowd exploded, like they’d all just won the lottery. Everyone reached down to pull out a shirt and then started putting them on – over dresses, over sweaters, over dress shirts. In a minute the audience was a sea of yellow T-shirts, all shouting their membership in The John Wilkes Booth Appreciation Society.
Von Lawson crowed. “There you have it! Remember Phineas, hold great and straight Lincoln in your heart,” He pounded his own chest, “and we’ll be right back with this…” He clapped Jonathon’s shoulder, “How did you put it? Red-blooded, woman-loving, Real American Teenager!”
The show’s going-to-commercial theme music blasted and the studio audience leapt to their feet, screaming their cheers.
The red on-air lights above the three cameras and the set doors went off and an ear-splitting buzzer sounded. The noise dropped to a dull roar. Wyatt was pushed offstage as makeup people and Von Lawson’s staff hurried on set. Someone yanked Wyatt’s body microphone cord off so hard, it left a red line across his neck. People were jeering, yelling at him.
The producer who had welcomed them and given them free drinks in the green room before rushing them to the set waved as Wyatt’s mom hurried his dad and him past the makeup room. “That will be great ratings! And hey,” she shouted after them down the corridor, “any publicity’s good publicity, right?”
As they passed a different green room then the one they’d been in, Wyatt heard a voice he knew, “When’s the best time to give Von Lawson my demo? I want to make sure he hears it, and it doesn’t just sit there.” Wyatt glanced in and saw it was Coach Rails, talking to another producer. A large-screen monitor was on the wall behind them, showing the set. Von Lawson was getting his face touched up by a makeup person, while someone handed Jonathon a soda.
Against his will, Wyatt’s feet slowed. Mayor Rails was on her cell phone, “He knows how to work a crowd, all right. But this could be an disaster for local businesses…”
Becca was there, too, on the room’s couch, folding a stack of yellow T-shirts and putting them into individual plastic bags, which already filled two large cardboard boxes. She glanced up and caught Wyatt’s eye. She gave him this small smile, like it was all some big game, and not his whole life on the line.
Of course, she’d seen it. His complete humiliation, and Jonathon’s star moment.
And then, Wyatt remembered: Millions of people had seen it.
He ran to catch up with his dad and mom, and they didn’t even stop to put on their jackets as they burst out the door to the parking lot. It was pouring rain.
The door shut behind them and the three of them just stood there, silent in the downpour. Stunned.
* *



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Ready for Chapter Eighteen? It will be posted on January 5, 2018.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 16

In Chapter Fifteen, Wyatt discovered that his outing Lincoln may have cost his teacher his job... and that it happened just as Mr. Guzman was maybe starting to believe him! And Wyatt learned that the school shut down all the student blogs (especially his) to bury the story. Overwhelmed, he cuts out of school and calls Martin, who tells him everything's backed up and still online, on a new website the school doesn't control. And then, Wyatt gets a text from his Mom to get home - she's heard. Everything feels like it's starting to crash down on him...

Want to start reading from the beginning? Click here for chapters One and Two.

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Okay community, here's Chapter Sixteen!


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Chapter 16
Monday January 19

            Wyatt found them in the kitchen, hovering over the speakerphone. His mom was in a workday skirt and blouse but her hair was still wet from the shower. There was a half-inch stack of papers that looked like legal stuff in her hand. Wyatt’s dad, in his messy-job overalls, held up a finger for him to be quiet.
            Wyatt’s mom was talking. “First it was two – two! – tickets on my truck, which made no sense, then the library’s letter, and now you’re suing us, too?”
            The speaker crackled with Mayor Rails’ voice. “On behalf of the town. You’re not giving me much choice here. It’s your family spreading this destructive rumor that’s getting completely out of control. I’ve tried to contain it, but as the elected leader of this community, they’ll be coming for my head soon if I don’t act for the common good.”
            “But this is crazy!” Wyatt’s mom attempted a laugh but it didn’t quite work. “It’s just a book report, for Heaven’s sake.”
            Mayor Rails’ voice was knife-edge serious. “Five organizations have dropped out of our parade. Five! Our Grand Marshall just cancelled, and it’s not even nine a.m.! Businesses are screaming at me to fix this, our local economy stinks, what am I supposed to do?”
            Wyatt slunk over to one of the chairs around the table. Sitting there in the center next to two parking tickets signed by Mackenzie’s dad – one for being too far from the curb, and the other for mud on their license plate, which was ridiculous because everyone in Lincolnville had mud on their license plate – was the letter from the library, saying Wyatt owed them all that money. That the library was going to sue them.
            Did they find it? Heart pounding, he leaned forward to check, and saw it was stamped “Second Notice.”
            Oh, crap. The bookcase key Wyatt was still carrying around in his pocket, like a good-luck charm, suddenly burned like it was radioactive.
            His mom checked the papers in her hand. A lawsuit. “So you want us to pay… a thousand dollars a day, for lost tourism revenue?”
            The Mayor scoffed. “If you read it more carefully, you’ll see that the amount is tied to lost revenue. A thousand’s just an estimate, but whatever businesses lose, you’ll be on the hook to make them whole.”
            “She knows we can’t afford any of that.” Wyatt’s dad said quietly.
            “Greg, I’m glad you’re on the line with us.” The Mayor said. “If you can’t pay for the damage you’re causing, then your only choice is to wipe this story off the internet, destroy the radio program files,”
At that Wyatt’s mom shot him a ‘what exactly have you done?’ look.
“…and get Abraham Lincoln’s – and our town’s – good name back.” There was a staticy pause on the Mayor’s end of the line. “Look, Elizabeth, I don’t want to be unreasonable. If you can make this whole thing go away, and have the parade be the success it needs to be, I’ll let you keep your job as my assistant. But if it all crashes and burns, so do you.”
            A dial tone filled the kitchen and they realized the Mayor had hung up on them.
            Wyatt’s mom put her forehead in her hands. His dad’s eyes darted from object to object like he was figuring out what they could save and what they’d have to sell once they were homeless.
            Neither of them looked at Wyatt.
            He knew why. He’d done this. Speaking up. Telling the world about Abe being gay. He’d ruined their lives.
            He stared at his wet feet. It wasn’t ripples. It was a storm at sea, and he needed things to calm down. He was never going to be able to come out to them.

* *

            “It’s the third offer, Gregory. The Von Lawson Report. I think we should do it.” Wyatt’s mom was holding the phone in the kitchen, some producer on hold. The B&B line hadn’t stopped ringing since they got home from returning Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s Most Intimate Friend to the library’s drop box. Wyatt could just imagine Mr. Clifton looking all smug when he found it there after school. At least the entire book was still online, and they couldn’t hide it anymore. But the whole seven-block ride home, Wyatt’s dad and mom were on him to call Martin the minute they got back to take the new blog down.
It was the last thing Wyatt wanted to do.
That call had had to wait because his phone was at home in his mom’s purse. His parents had confiscated it – No more technology for you, young man – as part of the big lecture, about how could they ever trust him again after he hid the library’s we’re-going-to-sue-you letter from them, and lied about being 18 so he could do the radio interview. About how hurt they were that they had to find out he’d broken up with his girlfriend from Mackenzie’s online profile. About how honesty was so important.
            And he’d sat there in the truck’s backseat and couldn’t say anything.
            Then they got home, and the phone calls started. Two news outlets, and now this T.V. show, they wanted his blog up.
            Wyatt’s mom kept trying to sell it to his dad. “It’s a nationally syndicated show. The book’s returned, and we couldn’t buy this kind of publicity. Maybe this is how we get through this – the silver lining. If we can make the B&B support us, then I don’t need to work for Kelly!”
            “Liz, you don’t believe Lincoln was gay any more than I do.” Wyatt’s dad reminded her.
            “If we’re smart, we can spin this!” His mom held her hand over the phone. “Wyatt can take the line that intelligent people can disagree about Lincoln. The main thing is to not pass up this chance. It’s once-in-a-lifetime!”
            Wyatt’s dad twisted the strap of his overalls. Neither of them asked Wyatt what he thought. He just sat there, as they decided his fate.
            “Seven million viewers!” His mom’s eyes were lit up with hope.
Wyatt’s dad asked her, “Are you sure about this?”
            She was. “If we can get to their studio in Portland by seven, Wyatt will have a chance to talk up the B&B, coast-to-coast.”
            His dad said, “We’ll need to coach him with exactly what to say – to not make a big deal of the bed or anything that makes people think about what Lincoln might have done in bed.”
            Wyatt tried to keep his face a mask and not show the flash of pain he felt. Anything gay, you mean.
His mom nodded. “Kelly gets prepped before all of her public speaking engagements. And we’ll have two-and-a-half hours in the car. But we have to go now if we’re going to make it.”
“All right.” His dad agreed. “Tell them we’ll do it.”

* *

Coaching Wyatt took nearly two hours. He was supposed to talk about the tours they did, about Lincoln and how important he was to their town, and he wasn’t allowed to say anything about who he thought Lincoln slept with or loved. And if he could get in how comfortable the rooms were, that would be good, too. And the Civil War-Era dinners.
“And don’t mention the bed at all.” His dad insisted.
Wyatt thought that was crazy. “We’re the ‘Lincoln Slept Here Bed and Breakfast.’ How am I not going to say the word bed?”
“Just say B and B!” His dad changed lanes even though he didn’t need to. “Stress the other stuff.”
His mom agreed, “It’s like the social media updates I do for Kelly. If you want people to like you, or vote for you – or stay at your B&B – you can’t talk about anything bad, or anything that’s going to make people uncomfortable.”
But then you end up with a world that’s all fake.
Instead of arguing, Wyatt just bobble-headed it, and went back to repeating what they wanted to hear.
When they were finally satisfied, his parents started talking about all the things they’d do if the B&B were a success, his mom didn’t have to work for the Mayor, and they had some extra money. Be one of the sponsors for the big summer Civil War battle re-enactments on Asgur’s farm. Go to Hawaii on vacation at Christmas. Put money aside for Wyatt’s college.
They were dreaming, and Wyatt didn’t want to burst their bubble.
One of the photocopies Mr. Guzman had left him turned out to be from a book they had a copy of in the glass bookcase. Wyatt had noticed it when his dad and mom made him get Joshua Fry Speed out of hiding to return it. So he’d grabbed Herndon’s Life of Lincoln for the ride and was flipping through it when he found a poem Lincoln wrote, on page 48:
            For Reuben and Charles have married two girls,
            But Billy has married a boy.
            The girls he had tried on every side,
            But none he could get to agree;
            All was in vain, he went home again,
            And since that he’s married to Natty.”

It turned out ‘Natty’ was a nickname for ‘Nathaniel.’ Abe wrote it as a mean joke when he was in his twenties, but Wyatt thought it was pretty wild that Abe was thinking about this kind of stuff. That he wrote a gay poem, about two guys getting married, back in the 1830s. Something he and Joshua couldn’t do when they met and fell in love.
Maybe I should read this on the T.V. show. He snorted at the thought. Dad and Mom would freak.
He needed to talk to Martin.
His mom’s purse was on the floor between the two front seats, and his cell was in there. They were exiting the freeway and his mom was squinting at her smart phone’s map for shortcuts. His dad was cursing the traffic and the rain, even though it wasn’t much more than a drizzle. They were both busy, and Wyatt went for it.
He pretend-dropped his book on his mom’s purse, and, hand fumbling around, managed to grab his phone. He pulled his knees up. Blocking his phone with the book, he saw he had four new voicemail messages. All from Martin. He couldn’t listen to them, or call him back. He’d have to text him.

                        Wyatt                          6:39 p.m.
                        hey! returned book after all.
on way 2 vonlawson report –
I’ll b on live show 2night!

            Wyatt turned off the sound, pressed send and waited, hoping for a response. Outside the window, downtown Portland was all lit-up buildings and shiny asphalt streets. The funny step-pattern of Big Pink winked by. A city of skyscrapers, full of strangers, caged off from nature. He swallowed against the thought that he’d have to live someplace like it, someday.
Come on, Martin!
            A text flashed silently on his screen.

                        Martin                         6:42 p.m.
                        hey! wondered if u were ok.
                        bad idea 2 go on vlr. stop it if
u can.

Wyatt looked at how intense his dad and mom were about just getting him to the studio on time. There was no way he was getting out of this.

                        Wyatt                          6:43 p.m.
                        can’t.

                        Martin                         6:45 p.m.
                        ok. never told you this, but
                        knowing about von steuben,
                        & lincoln & joshua, it makes
                        a difference. makes it easier.
                        for me. for a lot of us. don’t
                        forget that. speak truth to
                        power. & know

I’m cheering u on.

            His chest felt warm as Wyatt powered down the phone. Truth to power. Maybe Martin was right. Maybe, in the middle of everything his parents wanted him to say, Wyatt could make the argument. Convince some more people. Keep the real story of Abe and Joshua alive. After all, like his mom said, intelligent people could disagree…
            “Take a right here!” His mom ordered.
            His dad protested. “It’s an alley!”
            “I know! But traffic is blocked up ahead, and I can get us through.”
            He had to put the phone back. “How much longer?” Wyatt leaned forward like he was trying to see out the windshield as his dad turned them away from a mass of red brake lights. Wyatt slid his cell back in his mom’s purse without them seeing.
            His mom’s eyes flicked to the dashboard clock. 6:47 p.m. “We’ll get there.”
            His dad’s fingers were tight on the steering wheel as they picked up speed.

* *
* *
Endnotes for Chapter 16


In this chapter, Wyatt comes across the poem Abe wrote in his twenties about two guys marrying each other. As cited, it is from page 48 of Herndon’s Life of Lincoln.

* *

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