Friday, December 1, 2017

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 13

In Chapter twelve, Wyatt posts an annotated letter on his blog -- a letter he's sure proves that Abraham Lincoln was in love with Joshua Fry Speed.

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

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Okay community, here's Chapter Thirteen!

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Chapter 13
Saturday January 17

“Okay, you two, let’s try it again. And smile this time!” His mom used Wyatt’s new video camera to record Wyatt and Mackenzie, arm-in-arm, coming down the stairs to the B&B’s entryway. Like their own private paparazzi, Mackenzie’s dad joined in, snapping photos with his cellphone camera.
Mackenzie hadn’t mentioned anything about his blog all day, and Wyatt sure wasn’t going to bring it up. But she hadn’t called him ‘Honeybear,’ either. He figured she was either giving him another chance, or she hadn’t seen it yet – maybe she’d been too busy with karate and shopping with Wyatt’s mom. Whichever it was, Wyatt felt like he was juggling sticks of dynamite around her, and it all might explode any second.
This time, he remembered to stop on the last step. Mackenzie stepped down to the ground floor and swiveled so they were eye-to-eye. She smiled, but Wyatt couldn’t tell if it was for the cameras, their parents, or for him.
 “Gregory! You don’t want to miss this!” Wyatt’s mom called to his dad, who was still working on the ‘full and complete’ inventory of their store for the bank. Wyatt’s dad came over, clipboard and plastic bag of rifle pens in his hands. He gave Wyatt a proud that’s-my-son wink, which made Wyatt feel even worse.
Mackenzie’s dad said “It’s funny how teens date at night, and old people like us meet for ‘coffee’ on Sunday.”
“Dad… now?” Mackenzie criticized.
Wyatt’s dad asked, “Hey, you got a date?”
“It’s just coffee.” Mr. Miller put up his hands defensively to Mackenzie. “We’re only as sick as our secrets, and I’m not going to have any new ones. We’re all like family, anyway.”
“It’s perfect, their dating, isn’t it?” Wyatt’s mom asked Mackenzie’s dad, then turned back to her directing, “Now, Wyatt, slip the corsage on her wrist…Slowly!”
            “You do know it’s recording sound?” Wyatt asked. His mom was totally over-reacting, treating the Pep Rally where everyone had to wear some purple and some gold like it was Junior Prom or something. She’d gone dress-shopping with Mackenzie that morning in Corvallis. They’d found Mackenzie’s sparkly gold dress at a thrift shop, and Wyatt’s mom had even arranged for the purple-orchid corsage he was putting on his girlfriend like a bracelet.
Wyatt, for his part, was in his nice black jeans and an also-new-from-the-thrift-shop purple button-down shirt. But instead of the horrible gold-sparkle-cummerbund his mom insisted was ‘perfect’ but that he knew he’d never live down, that afternoon he’d used some of the gold-colored nailpolish they had to touch up frames in the exhibits to make his shirt buttons gold. He thought it came off pretty slick.
            His mom moved her head out from behind the camera. “Have some faith. Your dad and I had a wedding video.”
            “I’ve never seen it.” Wyatt wondered why.
            “Your father didn’t want to transfer it to DVD, or even video.”
            His dad made a note of the number of pens. “Eight millimeter film should be seen on an eight-millimeter projector.”
“Which we don’t have,” his mom cut in. “I don’t even know if we could track the film canister down after all these years.”
“It was beautiful.” His dad recalled. “They even sepia-toned the whole thing.”
            “What I remember,” Wyatt’s mom said, “is that they shot the picture, and replaced all the chit-chat with our song. As soon as you two tell me what your song is, we’ll do the same.”
            Wyatt knew his parents’ song – At Last by Etta James. They slow-danced to it in the kitchen every anniversary. And he’d bet that Mackenzie’s parents had had a song, too, but with that pained expression on Mr. Miller’s face, he wasn’t about to ask.
            Wyatt looked at Mackenzie. “Our song?”
            She shrugged. “I guess that’s one of the fun things couples get to figure out.”
            Couples. Like us.
Maybe they were okay, after all.

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Lincolnville High School Electric Sign:

Purple and Gold Pep Rally

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Wyatt’s mom pulled into the school driveway, right behind a jacked-up pickup Wyatt couldn’t help but recognize. Jonathon’s. Dangling from the undercarriage was an eight-inch long polished chrome scrotum.
“Classy.” Mackenzie said.
Wyatt could feel the heat starting at his neck. Was that about him, and the mosquito ball joke? Jonathon had to prove he had the biggest balls… or that his truck did?
            “Mom, just drop us off here, okay?” Wyatt asked. That way they could avoid Jonathon, who’d have to park.
            “You sure?” His mom said.
            “Yeah.” Wyatt looked at Mackenzie and offered her his hand. “Ready?”

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Amid a stream of decked-out students, Wyatt and Mackenzie walked into the crepe-papered gym. Cheerleaders chanted:
“Gold and Purple!
Purple and Gold!
Fighting Soldiers,
Never Grow Old!”
 There was scattered applause, and Coach Rail’s band struck up “Sweet Home, Alabama.”
“Mr. Yarrow, Miss Miller!” Spiffy in a 1950’s tuxedo, Mr. Guzman walked up to Wyatt and Mackenzie as they entered. The woman on Mr. Guzman’s arm had neon pink hair, and otherwise was dressed for the same 1950’s sock hop he was. He clicked his tongue and then told her, “Nikki, these are two of my best students!”
Nods all around.
Mr. Guzman said to them, “I’ve been thinking of starting a debate program, and I wanted to sound you out about it. The State Speech Championships are in April, which, of course, isn’t a lot of time. But next year you’ll be Sophomores, and we can grow the program. You have to start somewhere, right?”
Wyatt had to ask about his blog post. “Mr. Guzman, did you get a chance…?”
Mr. Guzman nodded. “I read your blog, Mr. Yarrow. I’ll be heading to U of O’s library tomorrow to do some research of my own. Nikki lives in Eugene, so that will work out.”
Nikki mocked offense. “How easy a woman do you think I am?”
Mr. Guzman made a clicking sound, “Not easy. Delightful.” He kissed her hand like she was royalty. “Delightful enough to join me chaperoning a high school pep rally on a Saturday night.” He turned back to Wyatt and Mackenzie. “I must attend to my Lady Fair... We’ll talk more on Monday. Tonight, you two enjoy!” Leading Nikki away, he suggested, “Let’s get some punch, shall we?”
            “That was crazy,” Wyatt said, to make conversation. Jonathon and Charlie walked by with the Freshman basketball team, all in uniform. Jonathon slowed down to scan Mackenzie top to bottom and back again.
            “Classy.” Wyatt joked under his breath, but Mackenzie just stared at Wyatt.
“You can’t let the Lincoln-being-gay thing drop, can you? Not even for one day.”
            “What? I just–”
            “I saw your blog, too, Wyatt.” Mackenzie’s voice amped louder. “You’re choosing that stupid idea of gay Lincoln over me!”
            It’s not stupid, he thought, but he didn’t dare say it. It was like Mackenzie had lit the dynamite, and he couldn’t juggle fast enough.
            “Did you ever really care about me in the first place?”
            In judgment but not in feeling…
            How could he explain? Wyatt was keenly aware Jonathon had stopped to listen. People were starting to look their way.
            Mackenzie’s words bit the air. “Do you know what a beard is?”
            Wyatt tried to keep it light. “You mean like Coach Rails is growing out?”
            “No. I mean like your ridiculous blog is saying Mary was to Lincoln. And Fanny was to Joshua. Everyone’s thinking that’s what I am to you!”
            Play stupid. “What?”
            The song ended with a drum roll and cymbal crash. In the moment of quiet that followed, Mackenzie’s words were practically a shout, “I don’t want to be the girl with the gay boyfriend!
“You’re not – I’m not!” Wyatt protested, then lowered his voice, “Can we talk about this later?”
            “No!” She lunged forward, lips puckered, and Wyatt pulled back.
            Mackenzie gave a short laugh but it sounded bitter. “You don’t even want to kiss me now, do you?”
            Wyatt looked everywhere but at her. “Well, you really set the tone there.”
            Her nostrils flared in anger. “A real guy doesn’t need tone! He always wants to kiss a hot girl. And I’m hot, Wyatt. Whether you appreciate it or not, I’m hot.” She swung her arm to include everyone in the gym. “Which guy do you want to kiss, Wyatt? Because it’s never been me!”
            Alarms screamed in his head as every skin cell burned with heat. Did she know? Was it a guess? Or was it just the worst thing she could come up with to hurt him?
            “That’s his girlfriend asking!” Jonathon crowed, and laughter pealed around them.
The burning fuses on the dynamite were nearly gone, and the only thing Wyatt could think to do was to get angry back at Mackenzie. “You know what? I don’t want to date someone who’s so intolerant.”
            “NO!” Mackenzie reared back, eyes wide. “I’m breaking up with you! You have no idea… You don’t even care what I’m losing here. Again! You want to say Lincoln was gay? Fine. Then why don’t you date him? Because you and I are done!”
The dynamite blew up as Mackenzie stomped away in Wyatt’s mom’s purple pumps – the ones that reminded him of butterfly wings.
            No more juggling.
Wyatt stood there, alone, in a sea of people.
            Mayor Rails’ voice carried in the post-detonation-quiet. “I like that girl.”
            “All right, enough soap opera!” Coach Rails said into the microphone from the stage. “How about some good ole’ country rock and roll to get this party started, before we present our Fighting Soldier teams?”
            The crowd roared its approval.
Wyatt noticed Coach Rails was clean-shaven – how was he going to be Lincoln in the parade now?
“This one made the top one-hundred country songs!” Coach Rails adjusted the mic stand. “I’m sure you know it. It’s called That Dog Don’t Hunt…”
As Coach Rails’ band launched into the song, Wyatt walked as fast as he could to the exit. His eyes took a last, wild spin around the gym. He didn’t see Mr. Guzman or his date. There was Mayor Rails, frowning at her husband, singing up on stage. And over by the punch table, Jonathon was talking to Mackenzie. Mackenzie’s friend Jennie was with them, and caught Wyatt looking their way. She scowled at him.
Not a single friendly face.
Outside, the night air slapped the heat in his skin. And it hit Wyatt that he didn’t have a girlfriend anymore. Or a best friend. And now, everyone at school was going to think he was gay. Know he was gay.
What was he going to do?
It was a long walk home.

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4 Outlets That Picked Up The Q Satellite Radio Story That Night
1.     San Francisco GLBT Times
2.     Pacific Northwest Queer Consortium
3.     Weird News of Western Washington
4.     Gay Guide ATL: Atlanta’s Rainbow-Hued News

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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 Fourteen? It will be posted on December 8, 2017.

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1 comment:

Coryl Lassen said...

Ok, I am seriously hooked here! Love the writing: characters, immediacy, high school life for anyone who’s different. Plot is emotionally gripping without being overdone. I know there is debate (actual evidence-based debate, as opposed to dismissive prejudice) about whether or not Lincoln was gay, and I love how the author unfolds the evidence just the way any smart high school student who is passionate about his thesis would.

So where’s the next chapter??!!