Friday, February 9, 2018

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 23

Don't forget the big cover-reveal and kickstarter launch happens
this Saturday February 10, 2018 at 12 Noon Pacific, 3PM Eastern!


In Chapter Twenty-Two, Mackenzie reaches out and tells Wyatt she's breaking up with Jonathon because of what he said (and didn't say) on the TV show. Wyatt learns (from Martin) that Abraham Lincoln wanted to deport all black people out of the US - there's no such thing as a perfect person. Martin shows Wyatt the video of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech, and there's a moment when Wyatt is tempted... but then he remembers that he can't come out. Because no one will believe a gay kid saying Lincoln was gay.

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.

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Okay community, here's Chapter Twenty-Three!

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Chapter 23
Saturday January 24

            Wyatt was still awake at 11 p.m. when there was a light knock on his door.
            A soft voice, “You asleep?”
            Wyatt’s palms got sweaty.
            “One second!” Wyatt whispered and changed fast to jeans. He didn’t want to seem like he’d been about to go to bed. He didn’t even want to think about being with Martin anywhere near a bed.
            Wyatt opened his door just enough to peer out. Martin was wearing jeans, his Super ‘G’ shirt, and carried a lime-green down jacket and work gloves.
            “Hey.” Martin grinned at him, and Wyatt felt temporarily blinded.
            “Going somewhere?” Wyatt asked.
            “Yeah. So are you.”
 Wyatt pointed at Martin’s shirt. “What’s the ‘G’ stand for? Is your middle name ‘Gabriel’ or something?”
            “The ‘G’ is for Gay. Sort of… Super-Hero Gay.” Martin shrugged. “I like it.”
            Wyatt pulled the door all the way open. Martin sure looked the part. By Martin’s feet, Wyatt noticed the plastic bin of painting supplies his dad had used to de-graffiti their B&B sign. “What’s with the paint?”
“Von Lawson gets more than seven-and-a-half million viewers for each show. We’re getting outgunned, with just the blog.” Martin glanced at the paints, and then up at Wyatt with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. “I figure it’s time for another front in this war.”

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            An hour later they were standing under the street lamp at the corner of Garfield and Route 37, with its banner eight feet up,

Celebrate February 14!
Abe and Mary: A Great Love
Parade 9 a.m. Union Square

            Once Martin had explained the plan, it turned out they didn’t need the paint after all. Instead, Wyatt had used the entire stack of do-it-yourself bumper stickers from their store. Usually they printed a Lincoln quote with his picture, and sold about two a week, but for this they only needed one word, printed big.
            Martin shimmied up the pole, and, holding on with his legs and one arm, reached down. “Ready,” he said.
            It was hard to peel the backing off the bumper stickers with his weeding gloves on, but Martin had insisted: No fingerprints. Wyatt finally got two of them, handed them up, and Martin slapped them onto both sides of the banner. He climbed down and they inspected their work,

Celebrate February 14!
Abe and JOSHUA: A Great Love
Parade 9 a.m. Union Square

            “Awesome.” Martin said, and Wyatt couldn’t have agreed more.
            Hiding the few times a car passed them, they used all forty-six of their bumper stickers on Route 37 and in front of the library on Union Square. While that only ‘fixed’ about a quarter of the ‘Abe and Mary’ banners, it would have to be enough.
            There was hardly any traffic now, and Wyatt and Martin walked through town, tearing off every last yellow and black John Wilkes Booth Appreciation Society flyer and stuffing them in the plastic yard-trash bag Wyatt had brought along. Eighteen blocks in and out, around Union Square. When they finished, the only line of more flyers went East on Route 37. Martin used a flashlight to help them not fall on their faces as they crossed the covered bridge and made the turn onto Polk Street, following the trail and ripping them down as they went.
            The flyers marked every light and utility pole down to the high school. Their bag was stuffed, and it was supposed to hold 13 gallons! 13 gallons of hate. It seemed to Wyatt that it weighed a lot more than that. 
Opposite the School Rock, Martin ripped down the final flyer and stuffed it in the bag. A flashlight check didn’t show any more within view. Wyatt knotted the top, slung the sack over his shoulder and cut across the lawn to the dumpster by the gym.
            Wyatt huffed the words out, “It’s like we’re Santa Claus – only instead of giving presents – ” He paused as, together, they heaved it off his back and into the metal container. “Our gift is taking away the ugly.”
“That’s pretty brilliant.” Martin said.  
The compliment made Wyatt feel suddenly shy.
            They headed back to the street, and Wyatt noticed one of the lights on the corner of the gym lit up the words ‘Paddle, Rattle, Skadaddle’ on the School Rock. Stupid. He walked towards it, staring. And he got this crazy idea. Crazy-awesome. “We’re going to need the paint after all.”
            The light in Martin’s eyes danced. “You thinking what I’m thinking?”
            And then Wyatt wasn’t thinking about the rock, or how they needed to go back home to get paint. He just wanted to touch his lips to Martin’s.
            Let him know what it meant, doing this together.
            How he felt.
            Was Martin leaning in?
            Wyatt thought so. He knew he wasn’t breathing. Neither was Martin.
            Martin had gently closed his eyes, and he was so beautiful. Did he look like that when he was asleep?
            Wyatt couldn’t believe this was going to happen. He leaned in, too.
            Headlights raked across the front of the school as a car turned into the main driveway. Wyatt pulled Martin down behind the School Rock a split second before they were caught. Wyatt’s breath came fast and he tried to pant silently. He waited for the lights to pass, then peeked over the top of the boulder. A police car. No – a Parking Enforcement car!
            Mackenzie’s dad, stifling a yawn as he scanned both sides of the driveway. Like he was a patrol officer, or something.
            Wyatt felt like he’d just outrun a speeding train. That was close.
Too close.

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            Sneaking back into the B&B for the paint, Wyatt expected everyone to be asleep – it was nearly two a.m. But when he and Martin tiptoed to the cleaning supply closet opposite Wyatt’s parents’ room, he could hear they were still up. Talking.
            “Gosh, you’re tense.” His mom’s voice. “You need to go bowling again.”
            “We can’t afford it.” His dad’s.
“You should go anyway.”
“One tour, Liz. That’s it. And only eight room-night reservations left, unless more cancel tomorrow.”
            “I was on the phone all day – no one wants any part of the parade.” His mom said. “I can’t believe Kelly already told the bank I was going to be fired! And how dare they send us a letter warning us they’re going to foreclose when we haven’t even missed the payment yet!”
            “I did promise Benny we wouldn’t miss another, and they won’t let us do a third mortgage. We don’t have the equity. But it’s just a warning. We have ‘till February sixteenth.”
            “Did you find anything we can sell to help make it?” His mom asked.
            “Not much – most of the good stuff’s on display, and if we sell any of that, then what’s the point? We’ll be just like the Morris Lodge Express, except they have that pool!” He sighed. “I did pull some of the older books that were tucked here and there. I’ll have Wyatt check auction prices. Maybe there’s a first edition that will surprise us…” He didn’t sound convinced. “We could sell the pickup, but that’s no solution. How are you going to get around? And what am I going to do, bicycle to Costco?”
            “It’s hard enough with just one car,” his mom agreed. “Maybe we should sell this place. Move, and start over somewhere else…”
            They were silent a long moment. Then Wyatt’s dad said, “I don’t know how to fix this.”
            “How could you?” His mom’s voice was tender. “You didn’t break it.”
            Wyatt swallowed hard. Was he making things worse? But being silent didn’t solve anything. It just made you a punching bag. It made you Mr. Clifton.
            Martin leaned into Wyatt, his breath tickling Wyatt’s ear. “That Churchill line? It’s also a country song,” He sung the line real low, “Don't stop goin' when you're goin' through Hell!”
            Wyatt knew Martin was right. The blog was north of three-million eight-hundred thousand hits. And earlier, Martin had showed Wyatt all these cloned blogs. People from all over the country, and the world, who had copied everything on Wyatt’s blog and put it up on websites they controlled. At first Wyatt was kind of pissed off. I mean, plagiarize much? But then Martin explained it was kind of like insurance – this way, if Wyatt’s blog went offline again, the truth would still be out there.
            …Which meant that even if they took down their own blog, there was no way to stop this anymore.
            All Wyatt could do was keep on going. And if he was straight, then no one could say he was just saying Lincoln was gay because he was gay. That meant no more thinking about Martin like that. No more almost-kisses.
            Wyatt handed the brushes to Martin and silently grabbed the quick-dry white primer and the can of green left over from re-doing the fence in back.
            They had a rock to paint.

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