Friday, February 23, 2018

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 25

The kickstarter to empower LGBTQ Teens by funding both the professional publishing of "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" AND the donation of  400 paperback copies of the novel to LGBTQ and Allied Teens has passed it's goal! Now, we're seeing how many more LGBTQ and Allied Teens we can empower! Please join in, and visit my Kickstarter Project here: http://bit.ly/QAAFDB

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In Chapter Twenty-Four, Mackenzie's Dad (doing his best impression of a police officer) shows up to question Wyatt about the vandalism, but Martin's mom calls his bluff. Mackenzie reaches out to Wyatt to help her conduct a seance to figure out if her mom is alive, and if not, if her mother has a message for her. Martin tags along, and there is a message for Mackenzie during the seance... just not what anyone expected – certainly not Wyatt. And then, when Wyatt and Martin get back to the B&B, there's the shocking revelation of what Wyatt's dad has done...

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 Twenty-Five!

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Chapter 25
Sunday January 25

            After thirty minutes, Wyatt was way downstream, and his run down-shifted to a walk. The bank on this side wasn’t much more than a footpath, and that petered out at a jumble of boulders up ahead. They formed an eight-foot waterfall that dropped into a swimming-deep pool before the stream narrowed down again. It wasn’t dramatic enough to be on any tours, but it was pretty beautiful all the same.
            He’d miss this when he got to San Francisco. Or maybe New York.
            Wyatt climbed over the rocks, still out of breath as he picked his way down the far side. The off-center flat stone in the pool was bright with sun, too far to get to without swimming. A flash of silver in the water caught his eye. A Steelhead.
            He was already all sweaty.
            Wyatt kicked off his muddy too-small sneakers, stripped down to his boxers, and put his clothes high on a rock. He was starting to feel cold, but he couldn’t think about it too much or he wouldn’t do it.
            “Aaahhhh!” With a shout he long-jumped in, and it was like some crazy ice-plunge as the water swallowed him up. Thrashing to the surface, he whipped the hair out of his eyes. Arms pumping, Wyatt kicked fast, and the ripples didn’t stop him. Six strokes and he pulled himself up on the flat boulder, baked in the sun. The air cooled down his wet skin and Wyatt shivered. But the sun was bright and hot. He looked around. This place was hidden in the woods, and even in the middle of summer, it was rare to see anyone – only the occasional hikers. And while it was warm for January, it was January. Wyatt listened carefully, but there was only the rush and fall of water. The high ta-ta-tah-ta trill of some red-winged blackbirds. The drip of his wet hair on the rock. He was alone.
            Go for it.
Stripping off his boxers, Wyatt wrung them and spread them out in the sun next to him. He lay back.
            The wash of it.
            The sun on his body, on his closed eyelids.
            And he unknotted, bit by bit.
            The bed was fake. His ‘proof’ was fake.
            But Lincoln was gay. Or bi. Or whatever you called it, he’d been in love with Joshua. Even if they didn’t have the bed. The letters proved it! And when Wyatt had gone to the online site for the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois, there had been photos showing that Abe and Mary not only had separate beds, but separate bedrooms! But Abe and Joshua had shared a bed, even if it wasn’t that one, for four years.
            Wyatt started to warm up.
            Their whole town and everyone in it was being called gay. Queerville. And everyone was blaming Wyatt. But all he was doing was telling the truth about history.
            The solidness of the rock under him made him feel like he was solid, too. If only there was some way to make this part of Oregon gay-friendly so he wouldn’t have to move to a big city to be himself… That would be the fantasy.
            He inhaled the mineral-rich smell of the water. The mud on the bank. Squinting his eyes open, he caught the kaleidoscope of greens and browns all around him. Wyatt leaned back again and let the sun, radiant, fill him up.
            It felt good to be this free. Not hiding, not even behind clothes. And lying here, Wyatt didn’t feel vulnerable being naked. He felt powerful.
            His thoughts went to how his parents were on the defensive. How he’d been on the defensive, his whole life. It was maybe a way to avoid losing too badly, but defense was not how you won the game – any game. You won with offense.
            Wyatt sat up. He wasn’t even all dry yet, but he knew what he had to do. Holding his boxers high, he slipped back into the freezing water and swam-kicked to the bank. Dripping, he grabbed his cell phone out of his jeans pocket and speed-dialed Legal Advocates of Oregon.
            Rhonda picked up. “Hello? Wyatt?”
            “Can we sue them?” Wyatt asked her, toweling off with his sweatshirt and trying to not get the phone too wet.
            “What? Slow down.”
            “We should sue all of them – Principal Jackson, Mayor Rails, the school board, the people who write the history books! I mean, they’re all lying about Lincoln!”
            “If there’s any doubt about that, and there is, you have no case.” Rhonda said.
            “I don’t have any doubt!”
            She was quiet a moment. Wyatt tucked the phone between his ear and shoulder and pulled on his jeans. Finally, she said, “Answering their frivolous lawsuit with our own isn’t my style. It just alienates the same judges you want on your side another day.”
            Wyatt plopped down on a boulder. “But then how are we going to play offense? How are we ever going to win?”
            “We do what Civil Rights Activists do: Speak Truth to Power. And trust that Truth is our strongest weapon. We can talk about it more tonight.”
            Wyatt mumbled, “yeah,” but what was the point of talking any more if she wasn’t going to do it? His thumb was on ‘end call’ when he heard her again.
            “Wyatt? You’re doing it with your blog.”
            He hung up and pulled the rest of his clothes on, thinking about what she’d said.
            Truth to Power?
            He wasn’t. Not completely.
            He’d been telling the truth on the one hand and lying on the other. Just like Lincoln.
But, maybe, the truth about Abe and Joshua was strong enough on its own. Wyatt stood up, nerves jangling with energy at the thought. If the truth didn’t need the bed to still be true, and it didn’t… Maybe, it didn’t need him, either.
And that meant… he had the chance to do something Abraham Lincoln never did.

* *

            As Wyatt jogged back, carrying his wet boxers and sweatshirt, he decided to head past the School Rock. It was Sunday, no one would be there, and he’d get to check out their ‘Abe Lincoln Loved Joshua Speed’ in giant green and white letters. Charge him up to do this.
            Moving got Wyatt warm again, and he crossed over at the ford and cut up the ravine. The parking lots and outdoor basketball court were empty, and the place seemed abandoned. Wyatt slowed down as he neared the corner of the gym – he didn’t want to run into a big group of people by the rock. He just needed to see it for himself.
            He peeked around the corner to scope it out. No cars. No people. But the School Rock had been completely repainted. The whole thing. A light brown.
            Wyatt walked out slowly to the giant piece of caramel on the lawn. A few flecks of green and white paint were still on the grass, but otherwise, it was like what he and Martin had painted  last night had never been there.
            They had erased it. Like the truth about Abe had always been erased.
            Wyatt spun around and broke into a run.
            He was not going to be erased.

* *

            Wyatt paused just outside Martin’s doorway. Martin was playing his guitar and singing softly, like he was figuring out the words as he went along.
“Two lovers on their way
one wore blue and one wore gray
with their love locked safe away…”
He stopped, then strummed the opening chord and tried again, voice shimmering,
 “Two lovers on their way
one wore blue and one wore gray
 no one knew that they were gay…”
Sitting on the bed, Martin leaned forward to type on his laptop. He glanced over and saw Wyatt standing there. “Hey!” He hit a key and a screen saver popped up.
“Sounding good,” Wyatt told him, but his eyes were on the transformed computer screen. It showed an old-fashioned painting of… Wyatt moved closer to make sure. It was! Some naked guys by a river! Did Martin know he had just…? “What’s that?”
“Still trying to work out new lyrics for the ‘Two Brothers’ song.”
“No,” Wyatt’s eyes drew a line to the naked guys. “That.”
Martin turned and saw what Wyatt was staring at. “Thomas Eakins. Don’t laugh, but it’s called Swimming Hole.”
Wyatt could only imagine how much a guy could get teased for that.
He leaned in to study it. It wasn’t… sexual, they just weren’t wearing clothes. It was a bunch of guys hanging out. Swimming. Being themselves.
Wyatt put a hand on Martin’s arm. “Dude, you know I’m…?” It was so hard to knock down the wall he had spent forever building.
Martin pulled off his guitar and stood to face him. “You can say it, Wyatt. I am, too.”
“Okay.” Tears were in his eyes and Wyatt whispered it. “I’m gay.”
Martin put out his arms and Wyatt fell into him, sobbing. He didn’t have to hold it all in so tight anymore.
After a minute, Wyatt pulled back, wiped his nose with his sleeve. “I need to tell my folks.” He checked out the painting on Martin’s computer screen again. “They look… free.”
Martin didn’t take his eyes off Wyatt. “Yeah, I think they are.”

* *

            “You sure you want us here?” Martin whispered as Wyatt led him and Rhonda down the corridor to the living room where Wyatt had his dad and mom waiting.
            With Rhonda, who accepted her gay son, and Martin there with him, Wyatt figured it was insurance against his dad and mom freaking out too badly. They couldn’t disown him, or kick him out, or tell him they hated him – with witnesses. At least… that was the plan.
            Wyatt bobbed his head nervously. “Yeah.”
            Telling Rhonda had taken two minutes. He’d gotten a hug, and a little advice. “You might need to give them some time to get used to the idea. Think how long it took you to feel good about it.” But Wyatt couldn’t stop and think. This was like jumping into the stream – he had to do it fast or he’d get cold feet.
            Wyatt’s dad and mom looked up as they entered, and before Martin and Rhonda could even sit, Wyatt blurted it out: “I’m gay.”
            The room was silent. For what seemed like forever.
            Wyatt stole a glance at his dad, who had stopped restacking the wood in the iron log holder. Then, Wyatt took a quick peek at his mom in the lounge chair by the glass bookcase. They seemed afraid to move – like they were china and might break.
            “It’s not actually a bad thing…” Wyatt’s words faded out. He wanted to scream, disappear, explode. Was this the end of everything he knew? Were they going to hate him now? Would he lose them? Why didn’t they say anything?
            Wyatt’s dad cleared his throat. Twice. “So, this whole Lincoln thing was your way of…?
            “I don’t know.” Wyatt stood there, squirming. “It’s true, about Lincoln and Speed, and I thought it was like… a way to see how it would go?”
            “And it’s gone so spectacularly well, that now you’re telling us you’re gay, too?” His dad tossed the log he was holding onto the stone hearth, THUNK.
            Oh no.
            “Well, maybe it hasn’t gone that well, but… more people know the truth about Lincoln, at least.” Wyatt’s voice got really soft. “I wanted you to know about me, too.”
            “But, what about Mackenzie?” His mom asked, like she knew Wyatt was wrong. About who he was.
            Wyatt shook his head. “We were just friends.” Now wasn’t the time to feel guilty about Mackenzie and how he’d lied to her, too. About himself, and the séance. Blood pounded in his ears.
            His dad sighed. He and Wyatt’s mom exchanged a silent look, but it was parent-language, and Wyatt couldn’t read it. Had they expected this? Or had he hid it too well all these years?
            What were they going to do?
            “Lincoln did the right thing.” His dad started.
            No – the right thing by being closeted? By never speaking his truth? Wyatt’s eyes burned.
            His dad continued, “…Even when it wasn’t popular.” And then, his dad’s mouth slowly wrenched into a pained smile. “Maybe you learned that lesson better than I did.” He exhaled, buzzing his lips. “I guess, better to know the truth now than never.”
            What? Was he talking about the bed or Wyatt?
            His dad continued. “Gay or not, I’ll always admire President Lincoln. And I’ll always love you.”
            Wyatt didn’t want to ask it, but he had to. “Even if we lose this place because of me?”
            His dad looked right at him. “Even if this B&B comes crashing down around our ears.”
            “But, it’s your dream…”
            His dad shook his head, and gazed up as if seeing the whole building around them. “Maybe this will never be the success I want it to be. But my son? My Wyatt?” His dad’s voice caught for a moment. “You will never cease to make me proud.”
            He put his arms out, and then Wyatt did something he hadn’t done since he was a little kid. He rushed into them, wanting the reassurance of the hug, wanting to know it would all be okay.
            “Why are you wet?” his dad asked, but Wyatt just laughed and held him tighter.
“It’s going to be such rougher seas for you.” Wyatt’s mom stared into the empty fire grate. “I always thought that if I could just avoid making waves, my boat would never capsize. And I wanted that for you, too.” She scoffed. “But it doesn’t even work for me.”
She stood up, awkward. “I think my mother’s sister was a lesbian.”
“Great Aunt Freida?” Wyatt was stunned.
His mom shrugged. “She lived with this other woman for more than thirty years.”
“How come I’ve never heard this story?” Wyatt asked.
“Well, they didn’t advertise it.” His mom said. “You met Shara at the funeral.”
Wyatt had no idea which old woman it had been. But it blew his mind to know that even in their family, he wasn’t the only one…
Wyatt’s mom picked up the log from the hearth and placed it carefully with the others in the holder. “There are going to be so many mean, uneducated people to deal with...” She turned to Wyatt, wiping bark debris from her hands. “Are you ready for that?”
“I don’t know,” Wyatt said. “I guess… I have to be.”
We have to be.” His mom corrected. “And we will. Together.”
            Wyatt put out his arm and his mom stepped into the hug, letting her fancy blouse get wet against him. Her right arm clenched Wyatt’s ribs so fiercely it hurt, but there was no way he was going to complain.
            “I love you, Sweetie.” His mom said, her voice hoarse in his ear. “You’re my son, and I love you.”
            Wyatt managed to squeak the words out, “I love you guys, too.” He told himself to not cry. That this was a good thing. But his face was wet all the same.
            Standing by the door, Rhonda found Martin’s hand and squeezed it tight. He squeezed back as they watched.
            After a long moment of the ice thawing inside Wyatt, his dad held him out at arm’s length. “Now, you go take a hot shower. You’re shivering.” Wyatt didn’t even know he was.
            But it didn’t matter. He had told them. And it was okay.

* *

            Wyatt was all warm again and almost done toweling dry when he heard the knock on the outside of the bathroom door. “Wyatt?”
            Martin. His voice was tender. Wyatt double-knotted the towel around his waist.
            “I’m really happy for you. It took me three days to get to the hug.” He was just on the other side of the door.
But they didn’t need a door, or anything, between them anymore. Wyatt just had to be brave enough to act on what he’d finally said. His heart jackhammered in his chest.
There was a long pause, and then Martin said, “Congratulations, man.”
Do it! Wyatt held his towel tight with his left hand and with his right, whipped the bathroom door open. Martin was right there, his deep brown eyes meeting Wyatt’s. Wyatt leaned forward, lips together, to get a real first kiss…
“Whoa! Not so fast, astronaut.” Martin blocked him with a hand on Wyatt’s chest, pushing him back.
What about spooning in the not-Lincoln bed? Their hands touching in Martin’s room? The almost-kiss by the School Rock? “But I thought, now…?” Wyatt could feel his face get hot.
“You’re like travelling at supersonic speed. You just came out to other people for the first time. To me, my mom, your parents! Give that half a minute to sink in.”
“But I want to kiss you!” Wyatt did. He’d never been able to say it out loud before, and it sounded good. He wanted to know what it was like. He tried to lean over Martin’s hand, get his face next to his. Martin felt it too, didn’t he, this thing between them?
Martin’s hand, warm against Wyatt’s chest, held him away.
“Don’t you like me?” Wyatt was so confused.
“Yeah, but right now, you’d kiss a frog if it was gay.”
Wyatt tried to make a joke of it. “I hear some frogs turn into Princes!”
But Martin was all serious. “I don’t want to be wanted just because I’m the only other gay guy you know. That you’ve ever met. I want to be wanted for me.”
“I do!”
“Wyatt.” Martin stepped back, hand leaving Wyatt’s skin. The place over Wyatt’s heart where it had been was suddenly cold. Empty. “For now, let’s just be friends.”
Wyatt’s face must have betrayed him, because Martin said right away, like he didn’t want to hurt Wyatt’s feelings too much, “Good friends. And… let’s see where it goes.”
So Wyatt didn’t get his first real kiss.
All he got was his first gay ‘let’s be friends’ kiss-off.
* *
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Endnotes for Chapter 25
Wyatt considers how Abe and Mary had separate bedrooms in their home, in contrast to Abe and Joshua sharing Joshua’s bed for four years. You can see the online photos of the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois (showing Abe and Mary’s different bedrooms) here: http://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/liho/houseTour.html
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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-Six? It will be posted on March 2, 2018. 

 Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them in comments here, or on facebook, twitter, or instagram. 

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Thanks for being part of my community, and for being one of my READERS!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Dolphins in the Mud - A Gay Teen struggling to care for his autistic younger sister meets another teen guy who could change everything




Dolphins in the Mud by Jo Ramsey

How can a young man rescue everyone when he’s entangled in his own net?

Chris Talberman is tired. Tired of taking responsibility for his autistic nine-year-old sister, Cece. Tired of his mother disappearing for hours at a time. Tired of having no friends and an oblivious father.

When a pod of dolphins is stranded in the cove by Chris’s home, his life changes. It starts when Cece runs toward the water’s edge and Chris must pursue her. That’s where Chris meets Noah Silver. Noah’s life of travel and homeschooling intrigues Chris, and the two begin a friendship they both hope will lead to more.

But when Chris’s mother abandons the family, Chris’s responsibilities increase exponentially. He’s only sixteen, but he knows how to take care of Cece better than their father. Chris wants to lean on Noah for support, but Noah is hiding an untreated mental illness—which could lead to tragedy..

Add your review of "Dolphins in the Mud" in comments!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Livestream Event for "Queer as a Five-Dolllar Bill" - Instant Antiquing Demo and Q&A with author Lee Wind

UPDATE: The live event went great, and you can watch the recording here: You can check out the video recording here: https://www.facebook.com/leewind/videos/10214628586084874/



Hi Community,

I hope you can join me for this Live event today, Monday February 19, 2018 at Noon Pacific time.

You should be able to see it here:
https://www.facebook.com/leewind/videos

And if you're on Facebook, you can access the livestreamed video from the event page here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1565897090190780

What will we be doing?

In the first chapter of my YA novel, our main character Wyatt is doing one of his chores for his family’s Lincoln Slept Here Bed and Breakfast – instant antiquing brand-new laser-printed documents (copies of the Emancipation Proclamation) to make them look old and more “authentic,” even though everyone knows they’re not. It’s something they sell in their B&B’s Lincoln and Civil War Memorabilia Alcove.

To write this scene, I had to figure out exactly how Wyatt would do it. So I experimented in my kitchen lab (okay, my kitchen) and, with some help from my brother John Wind, came up with the perfect recipe.

In this livestream event, I’ll demonstrate cooking-show style how you can make your own instant antique, and answer questions about the novel and the ongoing (and already past its goal) Kickstarter campaign to empower LGBTQ Teens with a secret from history!

I haven't done a Facebook Live event before, so here's hoping the technology learning-curve is smooth. Here's also hoping you can join us!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

p.s.: If the timing doesn't work for you to join live, the recording will be available on my Facebook timeline, and I'll share it here after the livestream.



Saturday, February 17, 2018

Stretch Goals for the "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" Kickstarter!

We did it (in 6 days)! What an amazing community! Now, let's empower even more LGBTQ and Allied Teens!




If we reach $11,500:


On behalf of all of you, I’ll donate a bonus 50 copies of “Queer as a Five-Dollar bill” to a QAAFDB Nonprofit Partner (see below for the call for QAAFDB Nonprofit Partners.)

Stretch Goal Call for QAAFDB Nonprofit Partners


For every $1,000 raised beyond our initial goal, we can donate a bonus 50 copies of “Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill” to LGBTQ and Allied Teens (over and above the donated copies built into the backer rewards.)

And here’s the cool new twist: while the backer reward-donated copies will be distributed with the help of Camp Brave Trails in Los Angeles/Southern California, there are LGBTQ and Allied teens who could be empowered by knowing this secret from history, by reading this novel, who live in YOUR area, too. And each case of 50 bonus copies can be given away to LGBTQ and Allied Teens by one of those nonprofit partners!

So let’s do some matchmaking!


  • We’re looking for nonprofits who work with LGBTQ Teens.
  • Who will commit to distributing 50 free copies of “Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill” to their LGBTQ and Allied Teens.
  • Who will agree to help vet the book with the language: “A [name of nonprofit] Recommended Read!” (This is super-important as the book isn’t being vetted by traditional publishing.)
  • Who will share about the project with their community (i.e., via email and/or newsletter.)


Think you’ve got a likely match? Have a point person at that nonprofit reach out to me at: leewind (at) roadrunner (dot) com and we’ll get it set up. Please note:


  • First come, first served.
  • QAAFDB Nonprofit Partners will be announced in September 2018.
  • If more bonus copies of "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" are available for donation than there are QAAFDB Nonprofit Partners, they will be distributed with the help of Camp Brave Trails.


Let’s see how far we can take this.

Let’s see how many LGBTQ and Allied Teens we can empower!

Thank you for your help, and for continuing to spread the word!

How many copies will be donated to LGBTQ and Allied Teens so far?


Visit this blog “I’m Here. I’m Queer. What The Hell Do I Read?” at http://www.leewind.org/ and check out the top right column for a daily updated total! It's magical, watching the number grow!

Visit the Kickstarter Campaign for "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" here!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 24

If you'd like to help empower LGBTQ Teens by funding both the professional publishing of "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" AND the donation of at least 400 paperback copies of the novel to LGBTQ and Allied Teens, please visit my Kickstarter Project here: http://bit.ly/QAAFDB

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In Chapter Twenty-Three, Wyatt and Martin team up to open up another front in the culture war... by changing all the banners in their town advertising Abe and Mary's great love to read: "Abe and JOSHUA: A Great Love." Back at the B&B, the pressure's building, but Wyatt realizes there's no going back. If you're going through hell, don't stop. Keep going, that's the only way through. And he and Martin head out to do one more gorilla-style LGBTQ Pride action.

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 Twenty-Four!

* *


* *

Chapter 24
Sunday January 25

            Wyatt got up thinking about how it was his mom’s pick for their Sunday movie. Outside, the sky was cloudy but bright. He wished they hadn’t seen the Bond movie yet, since Martin would have probably wanted to see it. Maybe his mom would let him switch weeks and they could watch 007 save the world again. He pulled on yesterday’s jeans to go ask Martin what movie he’d want to see. After all, his parents had wanted to give Mackenzie a turn and she hadn’t been living with them!
            He spotted the envelope on the floor, like someone had slipped it under the door while he’d been sleeping.
            Wyatt opened it, and read:

                        Wyatt,
                        3,986,017
                        Went to get some daylight pics for the blog, to take us over 4 million.
                                    Yours Forever,
                                    Martin

            Yours Forever? Abe’s words to Joshua. And now Martin’s to him… But Wyatt wasn’t going there. He couldn’t.
            He stumbled to his door and swung it open to head down to the kitchen. His mom was standing there, like she’d been about to knock.
            “Hey,” Wyatt said, rubbing one eye and hiding Martin’s note in his back pocket.
            “Sweetie.” His mom was way-serious. “We need you to come downstairs.”
            The air seemed to slow Wyatt down when he saw Mackenzie’s father, standing in the entryway with Wyatt’s own dad. Mr. Miller was all dressed up like a police officer, which Wyatt had always thought was funny, since he was just a parking ticket cop. But nothing about this looked funny.
            Was it about Mackenzie? Or had Mr. Miller seen them last night?
            Behind Wyatt on the stairs, his mom prodded him to keep walking.
            Looking like he hadn’t gotten enough sleep, Mr. Miller didn’t even say hello, just stared at Wyatt’s jeans. Wyatt glanced down. There was a smear of green paint by his left knee.
            “I guess I’ve caught you green-handed, huh? Should I just cuff you here, or are you going to come peacefully?”
            Wyatt’s voice cracked. “You’re arresting me?”
            “No one’s arresting anyone.” Rhonda had followed them down the stairs and walked forward to hand Mr. Miller her card.
            He read it and gave her a wary look. “Counselor.”
            Rhonda noted his badge. “Parking Enforcement Officer Miller.”
            He bristled. “I’m in training! I’ve got him on vandalism and defacing public property.”
            “Where’s your proof?” Martin came in the open front door, and walked around to stand at Wyatt’s side. Wyatt thought it was a pretty superhero move, even with the guitar strapped across Martin’s chest.
Mr. Miller was all suspicious about Martin and the backpack in his hand. “What else did you and your friend vandalize? What’s in the bag, young man?”
            Martin shrugged. “My stuff.” He didn’t seem that freaked out. Maybe Wyatt was freaking out enough for both of them.
            “Care to show me?” Mr. Miller reached for the bag.
            Rhonda put out a hand to stop him. “I’ll thank you to not interrogate or illegally search my clients without probable cause. That would be police – or parking enforcement officer – harassment.”
            Mr. Miller glared at Rhonda. “You want to see probable cause?” He went down the front porch steps to his car, parked by the curb. Wyatt saw that the back of Mr. Miller’s car was stuffed with cream-colored fabric.
Yanking out a rectangle as big as he was, Mr. Miller stomped back up the steps. He thrust the material at them. “How’s this?”
            It was one of the Abe and Mary banners, chopped off top and bottom, with their JOSHUA bumper sticker over Mary’s name.
            “So that’s where they all are.” Martin whispered to Wyatt. He turned to Mr. Miller. “Cutting them down’s a little extreme, isn’t it? Couldn’t you have just taken the stickers off?”
            “Stop talking!” Rhonda snapped at Martin, and cut her eyes to Wyatt, ordering the same.
            “They don’t come off!” Mr. Miller tugged on a sticker edge to prove it. The banner fabric tore, leaving a ragged gap.
            Oh… Wyatt realized it would have to be some pretty strong adhesive to stay on a car bumper. He hadn’t really thought of that.
            Rhonda stepped between Mackenzie’s dad and Wyatt and Martin. “You can’t prove that was done by my clients.”
            “Your…” Mr. Miller’s face reddened. “Who else would it be?” He tried to get past her to their Lincoln and Civil War Memorabilia Alcove by reception. “They sell bumper stickers here, don’t they?”
            They had used up all the bumper sticker paper, but Wyatt realized the empty box was still in the trash can right under the computer. Mr. Miller would see it if he went behind the counter! A trickle of sweat slid down Wyatt’s back.
            Rhonda stayed on Mr. Miller like it was man-on-man defense and backed him up to the front door. “You’ll need to come back with a warrant.”
            Wyatt’s cell vibrated in his pocket. He stole a glance at the text.

                        Mackenzie                  10:28 a.m.
                        emergency! I need you here 1pm.
                        about my mom.

            Her mom? Wyatt pocketed it before Mackenzie’s dad could maybe see it.
Wyatt’s lingering anger at Mackenzie – waiting for an apology after she was going to break things off with Jonathon – suddenly felt petty. She had news about her mom? Wyatt should be there for her. He would be there. That was, if he wasn’t in jail.
            “Really?” Mr. Miller stared at Wyatt’s dad and mom, who were standing as still as wax-Lincoln. “You’re going to make me go bother the Chief and a judge on a Sunday morning to get a freakin’ warrant, when anyone can just walk in there and buy a bear? Who is this crazy woman?”
Wyatt’s dad cleared his throat. “Ms. Sykes is our lawyer.”
They stood in a silent face-off. Then Makenzie’s dad said, “I’ll be back,” and clomped down the front porch stairs.
Rhonda called after him, “No, you won’t!”
Wyatt liked how she didn’t give him the last word.
But the second Mr. Miller drove off, the adults were all talking at once.
“What were you thinking?” Wyatt’s mom.
“We’re trying to put out the fire and you’re pouring kerosine on it?” Wyatt’s dad.
And Rhonda: “What’s the paint about?”
            Wyatt tackled Rhonda’s question, since it was the safest. “We just painted the School Rock. Everyone’s allowed to – it’s the rules.”
            Rhonda gave her son and Wyatt a pained expression. “They’re not going to be playing by the rules. You both need to be model citizens moving forward. Understood?”
            They nodded, Wyatt thinking how the bumper sticker box would make the perfect kindling for the fire he was about to start in the living room fireplace.

* *

            Mackenzie looked surprised that it wasn’t just Wyatt at the door. Martin was with him, guitar in hand.
“What’s he doing here?” Mackenzie asked.
            Wyatt ignored that and asked his own question, “Your dad’s not here, is he?”
            “No. He’s having coffee in Philomath.”
            “Good.” Wyatt caught eyes with Martin and they both relaxed.
Mackenzie didn’t move from the doorway.
“Can we come in? Geez.” Wyatt pushed his way past her. “Is your power out?” He reached for the light switch but Mackenzie put her hand out to stop him.
            “It’s supposed to be dark.”
            Wyatt gave her a strange look as her cat Tali, drawn to the warm sunlight, rubbed by her leg. Martin noticed, and Mackenzie snapped at him as she scooped up the cat, “It’s not a sing-along, you know.”
            “I don’t know what it is.” Martin answered her. “I’m here because of Wyatt.”
            Mackenzie turned and whisper-hissed at Wyatt, “I thought it was just going to be you!”
            “Well, is this an emergency, or isn’t it?” Wyatt asked. “We can both go, or we both stay. You said it was about your mom.”
            “Fine.” She whipped around on Martin. “But this is serious. You have to be respectful!”
            Martin put up both hands, all innocent. “I’ll give what I get.”
            Mackenzie pushed the front door closed with her shoulder and let Tali go. She gestured to the entry bench. “You can leave your guitar and shoes there. You won’t need them.”
            She nodded a late ‘welcome’ to Wyatt as he kicked off his sneakers.
He gave her a half-smile. “How did it go with Jonathon?”
Mackenzie made a face, “I can’t talk about it. I have to concentrate on what we’re doing.”
“What are we doing, again?” Martin asked, settling his guitar on the bench and lining up his loafers neatly under it.
“Did you hear from her?” Wyatt asked. “Your mom?”
Wyatt had filled Martin in on Mackenzie’s missing mom on the way over, and they both looked at her expectantly.
“Follow me.” The shades were down, and Mackenzie led them along the darkened hallway to her bedroom.
Wyatt took it all in. Unlit candles set up in the four corners; North, South, East, West. Ivory Scrabble game letters A through Z arranged face-up on the back of a game board in the middle of the floor. She’d used black marker on the blank side of ten extra tiles for the numbers 0 to 9. And then on two pieces of paper, she’d drawn a sun with the word ‘Yes’ next to it, and a Moon by the word ‘No.’ There was also a pink plastic heart about the size of Wyatt’s palm, probably an old preschool toy, sitting on the board.
Another unlit candle with three wicks sat on the board, near a pen and paper, and a photo of Mackenzie’s mom laughing – Wyatt remembered that birthday party when Mackenzie had gotten a trampoline – she’d been twelve. Mackenzie’s hair today looked exactly like her Mom’s in the picture: red and super-long.
“We’re going to do a séance.” She told them.
“What?” Wyatt thought for a second that she was joking, but that was a lot of prep for a joke. “Why?”
“Mary had eight séances in the White House. Why more than once if it didn’t work?” Mackenzie lit the vanilla-scented candle on the board. “I think it did work.”
“Doesn’t it need to be dark out?” Wyatt asked.
“Why would ghosts care?” Martin shrugged, walking around the room and checking it out. “They don’t need sunglasses or anything.”
“Not ghosts, spirits.” Mackenzie corrected as she lit the other candles.
Martin picked up a two-sided framed postcard of Machu Picchu, Peru, and turned it over. He read aloud, “Dearest Mackenzie, the Incas were amazing! Hope to show you someday,”
“Hey! That’s personal!” Mackenzie raced over and took the framed postcard from him, re-setting it on her bedside table.
“It was just sitting there...” Martin looked at Wyatt. “The next line was happy birthdays. Not happy birthday.”
“It’s the last card she got from her mom.” Wyatt told him. “Right after she turned thirteen.”
Martin made a face like he’d really messed up. “Sorry…”
“You know what, let’s just focus.” Mackenzie said, heading back to her setup in the middle of the room’s white carpet. “This is a Spirit Board.” She plunged into explaining. They were each to sit on one side of the board, fingertips of both hands on the pink plastic heart, that she called a ‘planchette.’ She gave them strict instructions that they weren’t supposed to move it, but let the spirits move through them.
“You really think you can find out about your mom this way?” Wyatt tried to keep his voice gentle, but this was crazy.
Mackenzie just nodded yes.
Wyatt shared a dubious look with Martin, and they sat down.
“Sensi Jodi in Karate says that if you play a string on a biwa–” Mackenzie started but Martin interrupted her,
“What’s a biwa?”
“It’s like a Japanese guitar.” Mackenzie explained. “Anyway, she was saying that if you play a string on it, it will make the same string vibrate on another biwa. It’s sort of about teamwork and how the dojo has an energy you can tap into.”
Wyatt looked over and caught Martin nodding.
Mackenzie gave a nervous smile. “I’m thinking a séance probably needs an energy, too.”
She took a moment to focus, then sang a clear ‘G’ note. “Ahhh…” She motioned for Wyatt and Martin to join in.
Martin’s lips twitched like he was fighting back a laugh, and she stopped singing and gave him a stern look. “You promised.” She turned to Wyatt. “I’d do this by myself, but I can’t. It won’t work.”
Wyatt gave Martin a ‘come on, let’s try it’ look and they settled back in their places.
“Ahhh…” Mackenzie sang again, and this time they joined her. The air vibrated in harmony.
“Spirits, speak to us!” Mackenzie called out. They fell silent, staring at the plastic heart. “Is my mom there?”
Wyatt thought Mackenzie sounded like she was eight years old again.
They waited a long minute. No response.
“Maybe, ask it in a different way.” Martin suggested.
Mackenzie tried again. “Is there… a message for me?”
Another long wait. Just as Wyatt was about to say he didn’t think it was going to work, their hands slid as the planchette scraped three inches along the board to rest its point against the ‘D’ tile.
Wyatt jerked his hands away like it had burned him. Mackenzie and Martin let go fast, too, knocking some tiles off the board.
Wyatt’s eyes were wide. “I didn’t move it.”
“I didn’t either.” Martin seemed stone-serious now.
Mackenzie’s words sounded like they were squeezed out of her throat. “I know I didn’t.”
Wyatt stood up and paced. “I don’t know, Mackenzie. I don’t think this is such a good idea.”
“Please. I need to know.” Mackenzie blinked hard. “Please, Wyatt.”
Martin reset the letters on the board and gestured with his head for Wyatt to sit down again. “Come on. We said we’d help.”
Wyatt wasn’t happy about it, but he sat. Mackenzie nodded at Martin. She put out trembling fingers to once more join theirs on the planchette.
“Nobody let go.” Martin instructed. “Ask them again.”
Mackenzie spoke the words slowly. “Is. There. A. Message. For. Me?”
Four long seconds passed, and then the planchette swung into action, touching its point at
            D
            E
            V
            It moved faster, and Wyatt saw the hair on Mackenzie’s arms was standing up.
            O
            L
            Mackenzie fought for breath
            R
            U
            Suddenly, the planchette shot off the board, hitting her trash can and making a hollow gong sound.
            Martin scrambled to write it all down.
                        DEVOLRU
            “Does it mean something to you?” Martin asked her.
            Mackenzie shook her head.
            The three of them stared at the message.
            It didn’t make any sense. But then, suddenly, Wyatt saw it. He gasped. “Look at it backwards.” He pointed as he spelled it out. “U. R. LOVED.”
            Mackenzie stumbled up with a wild animal scream. Then, her body seemed to crumble. Tears washed her onto her bed and she clutched a pillow to her stomach as waves of loss tossed her about.
            “I know that’s true.” Wyatt sat as close as he could to her, not sure she could hear him over her sobs. “She loves you. Wherever she is, your mom loves you.”
            Mackenzie just kept repeating, “She’s gone – She’s gone – She’s gone –”
            Wyatt held her now, rocking her back and forth. “I know. But she loves you, still.”
            It was all he could think to say, all he could give Mackenzie to hold onto amid the cross currents of grief that wracked her, until finally, exhausted, sleep came for her.

* *

            Careful to not let the cat out, Wyatt eased the condo door closed and he and Martin headed down to the street. Someone had tilled the dirt around the thorny-fingered cut-back rose bushes in the front planter, and something about the smell reminded Wyatt of a freshly dug grave. He shivered.
            Martin made sure his guitar was wedged carefully on the floor behind the driver’s seat, then got in. The second he’d closed the door and they were alone, Wyatt turned on him. “How could you lie to her like that?”
            “What?” Martin started up his mom’s Volvo to get them back to the B&B. Their moms had agreed he could drive the few blocks as long as they were extra careful.
            “Tell me the truth.” Wyatt crossed his arms and leaned against the door. “You moved the thingy.”
            Martin did a slow three-point turn to get them heading South on Grant before he said anything. “Otherwise, we were just going to sit there all day.”
            “I knew it! Martin, now she thinks her mom is dead!”
            “I didn’t sign it from her mom or anything. It could have been a message from a great-great-grandmother. Or… Cleopatra, for that matter.”
“Ha – ha.”
Martin slowed them down as they got to the four-way stop at 6th Street. “Right?”
            “No, one more. She’s sure the message was from her! Oh, grawww! And I broke your stupid code.” Wyatt pushed Martin’s arm. “I can’t believe you made me part of it!”
            “I’m driving here!” Martin scolded.
            Wyatt rolled his eyes. There was no traffic, they were going about 13 miles an hour, and it wasn’t like he’d punched Martin and made him lose control of the car or anything. He drives like an eighty year old. Wyatt seethed as he directed Martin through the painfully slow sequence of turns. Right on 7th. Left on Hayes. And right again into the B&B lot.
Martin’s foot jerked against the accelerator and the old car staggered into the spot. Wyatt braced himself, hoping they wouldn’t hit the foundation latticework. He didn’t want to have to repair it.
            Once they were safely landed and Martin got the car into park, he asked, “She’s not really going to believe it was her mom, will she?” He sounded a little guilty.
            Wyatt ran a hand through his own hair. “I’m going to have to tell her tomorrow that you lied to her. That we lied to her!”
            “I didn’t. We didn’t. She is loved.” Martin shut the car off. “You love her. Anyone can see that.”
            Wyatt sat up taller and tried to peek sideways. Was Martin maybe… jealous?

* *
           
A sampling of Op-Ed Pieces and Headlines From National Papers that Saturday
Queerville Problems in Oregon
            Teen Catches Lincoln With His Pants Down
            If Lincoln Was Alive Today, Would He Get Gay-Married?
            Small Town Re-Writes History One Gay Bed-Bug At A Time
Could Lincoln Be A Hero For A Whole New Generation?
            If Lincoln Had Gay Orgies In Springfield Then Hitler Was Santa Claus’ Brother
            Homosexuals Kill Lincoln… Again!

* *

Martin was on his laptop in the kitchen, reading Wyatt and his parents the headlines.
            Rhonda walked in, cell phone by her ear. “My contact at the John Stevens Show is calling again… John really wants Wyatt to come on his show.”
            “No!” Wyatt said it fast.
            Martin made a face like Wyatt was making the wrong call, but Wyatt wasn’t going to be set up again. Rhonda left to tell whoever was on the phone that the answer was no. For the third time. No to them and to everyone else who had been asking.
            The B&B line rang. They all froze. It had been non-stop since they had gotten back from Mackenzie’s. Either people screaming at them or cancellations. Wyatt and Martin weren’t allowed to pick it up.
It rang again.
            Wyatt’s dad’s face sagged like a condemned man as he walked over and picked it up on ring number four. He listened. “Yes.” Listened some more. Hung up. And then he just stood there, staring at the phone. Finally, he said, “That’s it.” and pulled the phone jack out of the wall. Then he walked out of the kitchen.
            This is my fault!
            Chair scraping, Wyatt jumped up to follow his dad. He heard him on the stairs. Where was he going?
            Wyatt found him in the Lincoln Room, stripping the sheets off the mattress. His dad usually washed them on the first of the month, but Wyatt guessed he was keeping busy.
The hairs on the pillow! Wyatt remembered in a panic, then found them on the lip of the china wash basin. …Where he’d left them when he’d been in here with Martin. Wyatt’s cheeks blazed just thinking about it. He tipped the hairs into the basin for safe-keeping.
Wyatt’s dad carefully pulled the flat bottom sheet out of the far corner. “Maybe we should call this place something else. Go back to being The Civil War Bed and Breakfast. Sell off all the Lincoln stuff while it’s still worth something.” Wyatt’s dad scanned the room with a sour expression. “Let someone else deal with this headache.”
“But-But…” Wyatt stammered. “What about the bed? Isn’t it always going to be worth a ton?”
His dad folded the sheet on top of the others, in a neater pile than Wyatt did his clean clothes, then crossed the room and shut the door. Wyatt flashed on Martin closing it, and wondered if his dad somehow knew about them being in here yesterday afternoon. If he knew about Wyatt. And then his dad said, “It’s not real.”
Wyatt wasn’t sure what he was talking about.
His dad gestured at the wood bed frame, which seemed naked without its sheets and pillow and quilt. “Well, it’s a real bed. And it’s from the same era, more or less. But it’s not Lincoln’s bed. Not from those years in Springfield. No one knows what happened to that bed.”
Wyatt felt his dad’s words knock the air out of him. “So this whole thing is… a fake?” He had really believed it. And he’d been telling everyone it was real. For years…
“You’ve got to sell people what they want.” His dad said, like that explained it.
Lies. He’d been selling lies. Wyatt had been selling lies.
“Wyatt? You can’t tell your mother.”
He had to get out of the room.
“I never meant for it to make you think Lincoln was gay!” His dad was calling after him, but Wyatt was through the door and already halfway down the stairs.
“You have to understand… Wyatt!”
He let the front door slam behind him, and pumped his legs. Zig-zagged to Grant Street and then down Jenson’s Stream Road. He made a right at the ford, and raced along the bank. Going with the water away from town. Away from everybody.

Away from all the lies.
* *
* *
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