Friday, March 23, 2018

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 29

In Chapter Twenty-Eight, Wyatt comes out on his blog Sunday night, and freaks out early morning Monday. There's no taking it back, and now everyone at school is going to know he's gay. Wyatt goes to Martin for help, and gets some advice he would never have predicted.

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Okay community, here's Chapter Twenty-Nine!

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Chapter 29
Monday February 2
            The ‘Lincoln Was Great – Lincoln Was Straight!’ yard sign on the way to pick up Mackenzie felt like a slap in the face the first time, but by the third one Wyatt was feeling numb. By the tenth one on the way to school he told himself he had to stop counting. He was on number thirteen when his mom made the turn onto Polk Street.
His mom was so happy Wyatt and Mackenzie had made up that she hadn’t stopped talking from the moment Mackenzie got in their truck, wearing a new sweater and dress outfit. “… two more weeks of these detentions? I don’t see why Rhonda couldn’t get you out of them. Something about respecting the Principal’s authority on the little things to help him save face, but really, it’s so unfair!”
 “Mackenzie, did you know your profile’s been offline?”
“Yeah.” Mackenzie said. “I needed a break.”
“Hmm. I hear you. I wish it wasn’t part of my job.” Wyatt’s mom snorted. “But then, I don’t know how much longer I’ll have that, so I shouldn’t complain!”
Busy merging into the drop-off line while talking, Wyatt’s mom didn’t see it. But Wyatt spotted it through the drizzle, and elbowed Mackenzie to check out the latest graffiti: blue spray-paint had added a line to their school sign so it read,
Lincolnville High School
Home of the Fighting Soldiers
No Queers Allowed!
            “I bet no one gets in trouble for that,” Wyatt muttered. Mackenzie didn’t disagree.
            “All right, have a great day, you two!” Wyatt’s mom pulled to a stop in the drop-off zone, and her voice was so cheery Wyatt knew for sure she had no clue what he had done.
            His eyes slid to the School Rock,
was still there. Nine days and counting. But they’d erased the truth in just a few hours.
            He got out and shut the truck door behind them, waving as his mom pulled away.
“Thanks, Liz!” Mackenzie called.
Wyatt pivoted to face the school and said low to Mackenzie, “Here goes nothing.”
“I’m going to be like Yoda on Luke Skywalker’s back.” Mackenzie assured him as they started for the entrance.
Star Wars? He gave her a what’s-up-with-that? look.
She shrugged it off. “No one’s going to do anything to you. I promise.”
* *
At lunch, Wyatt sat with Mackenzie, Jennie, and some of the other girls Mackenzie had rallied into Wyatt’s personal bodyguards. There was at least one of them in each of his classes, and Mackenzie had even promised to sit in on every detention with him so Wyatt wouldn’t be alone at school at all. She’d even figured out a way to be there in his P.E. class that morning with a camera, ostensibly for the yearbook. It had been enough to keep Coach Rails and Jonathon and everyone else in line.
Wyatt was grateful, but kind of embarrassed, too.
As long as he didn’t have to pee, he’d be fine. He pushed his chocolate milk away and took another bite of his dry leftover-chicken sandwich. He could drink when he got home.
Jonathon passed their table.
Mackenzie had just taken a big bite of pasta and looked like she wanted to say something to Jonathon, but before she could, he sneered at Wyatt, “Fag.”
Wyatt pretended to stare at his milk, but he was ready to run for it.
Mackenzie finished chewing and stood up, dabbing her lips with a napkin. “Jonathon, we need to talk.” She took him by the arm and led him to the side of the cafeteria.
Wyatt watched them, wishing they weren’t out of earshot. There was a lot of arm movement as they talked back and forth. Mackenzie crossed her arms. Jonathon got mad, and then calm. And then he reached out to touch her but she stepped back and turned and saw Wyatt watching them. She gave him a confident nod, then swiveled back to Jonathon. A minute later she was striding back across the cafeteria to Wyatt and the girls.
When she sat down, she said, “That’s taken care of.”
            “What did the jerk say?” Wyatt asked.
            “He’s not a jerk. He’s just… acting out because he’s afraid of what he doesn’t understand.”
            “Well, I don’t understand him but you don’t see me making his life miserable.”
            “Remember…” Mackenzie started, but checked first to see if anyone was listening. Jennie was busy talking with the other girls about starting up a math club that could visit elementary schools and change the whole ‘girls are bad at math’ myth. “Promise you won’t tell?”
            “Remember how much Jonathon loved Star Wars stuff? Back in third grade? Remember how we all got along?”
            “He wasn’t mean back then.”
            “Wyatt.” She lowered her voice. “You have to imagine that he’s still the same kid – he still loves Luke Skywalker, and C3PO, and R2D2, and pretending to save the Universe.”
            Wyatt snorted, not buying it.
            “Really.” Mackenzie insisted. “I was in his room – his bathroom, and he has all these action figures hidden there, in the toilet tank. Like a diorama. Luke saving Princess Leah.”
“So what?”
“He’s hiding it! They have a nine-thousand square foot house, and the only place he can be himself – the only place he can like what he really likes – is inside this tiny shoebox-sized toilet tank!”
“So that’s what the Yoda reference was about?” Wyatt asked.
“It’s been on my mind.” She looked back across the cafeteria at Jonathon, just as Charlie gave him a punch to the arm. “Maybe we need to think of him as a sci-fi nerd trapped in a cool kid’s life.”
Wyatt made a face. “Are you saying I’m supposed to feel sorry for him?”
Mackenzie shook her head. “I just want you to know that, on the inside, he’s still this good little kid, who just needs to find his way to the outside. So, you see? I talked to him, and it’s going to be fine.”
            Wyatt looked over at Jonathon, who was laughing with his sharks at something – or someone. “And you believe him?”
            Mackenzie unconsciously touched her fingertips to her lips. “I do.”
With a start, she moved her hand away, fast. When Wyatt turned back around a second later, she was busy twirling spaghetti around her fork.
* *
            After detention, which Mackenzie announced was ‘a lot like study hall,’ she and Wyatt walked to the B&B. When they got there, Wyatt told Martin how Mackenzie saved the day at school. Maybe saved every day, going forward.
Martin sang Mackenzie this corny “I’m Sorry” song to some tango melody on his guitar. It had been the first time he’d seen her since the séance.
When he finished, Mackenzie said, “Let’s just… move on.”
            Martin stared at the guitar in his hands. “Thanks.”
Wyatt couldn’t help grinning as the two biggest people in his life made up. He leaned close to Martin, and whispered, “Can we tell her about the parade? Please?”
“Sure.” Martin said. “She’s earned it.”
            Once they had explained, Mackenzie jumped in feet first, getting them organized with a chart of printed-out pages taped above the B&B’s living room fireplace. The final list was 262 organizations, and by 5 p.m. the three of them and Wyatt’s dad had made eighty-two calls in all. They were up to seven yesses, one maybe and another We’re not sure but we’ll get back to you. They had to get through the list this week – the parade was only twelve days away, and no one would be able to come at the last minute.
            His dad left the room to call Wyatt’s mom with an update, and Wyatt and Martin hung out while Mackenzie worked out the math. She ran down the numbers for them, “If we make forty-five calls a day for the next four days, we’ll do it. And if we can get four yesses a day, it will give us twenty-three entries total, three more than the bare minimum…”
Wyatt put his arm, friend-like, around Martin’s shoulders as he finished the thought for her, “…and we’ll have a parade.”
His arm stayed there as Martin said, “Forty-five calls a day? That’s fifteen each. Less if your dad helps.”
Mackenzie put out her fist for them to stack their hands. “We can totally do it.”  
“Go team us.” Martin said, putting his hand on hers.
Wyatt added his hand on top. He swallowed hard. “We have to.”
* *
Wednesday February 4
             “You can? Great! That’s great!” Martin hooted as hung up, wrote ‘YES!’ on the phone-bank spreadsheet and bent down to the dry erase board Mackenzie had brought over. He erased the big ‘12’ and wrote ‘13.’ “Lucky Thirteen!” Wyatt put up his hand and they high-fived.
On a call herself, Mackenzie shivered, jotted down ‘Let’s get to 14 fast!,’ and held the pad up for Wyatt, his dad and Martin to see. She spoke into her cell phone. “Yes, this February fourteenth… It’s not a lot of notice, no.”
Rhonda was on another case up in Seattle, and Wyatt’s mom had just left the living room to grab today’s mail. The Mayor had made her wash down all the folding plastic Rails Realty signs yesterday, insisting she do it while she was all dressed up, and Wyatt’s mom was still angry about her ruined clothes. She’d emailed Mayor Rails to say she was working from home today, and she’d told Wyatt’s dad that she wasn’t going to check for a response until late tonight. Wyatt thought it was a lot like what he’d done to avoid school but didn’t say it. Why kick her when she was down?
Martin’s was their second ‘yes’ today, ‘Northwest Disability Rights.’ And Wyatt’s dad had gotten this gay-family-and-friends group from Philomath, PFLAG, to come, too.
“Nicely done.” Wyatt’s dad said to Martin, and they high-fived, too.
Wyatt watched them, thinking it was kind of wonderful.
Wyatt’s mom came in with a stack of mail, five envelopes on top. “More donations!”
“We’re on a roll, Liz.” Wyatt’s dad gave her the news.
“So that means we need only two more yesses today?” Wyatt’s mom asked, checking the board.
“Yeah.” Wyatt said.
“We thought it would be an opportunity…” Mackenzie twisted a lock of short hair as she talked on her cell. “But this is for a really good–” she stopped. “I understand. Thank you for your time.” She hung up and put an ‘X’ next to ‘Albany College Marching Band.’
It turned out they’d told her what the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church of Bend, Oregon had just told Wyatt. That if they’d known months ago, they might have been able to make it work. But at least they had wished them well.
Wyatt checked the sheet for the next number and dialed. When they answered, he said, “Yeah, hi! I was wondering if Fight Anti-Semitism Now! has a group that can march in local parades?”
* *
            At 4:58 p.m. Mackenzie got the ‘Asian Pacific Islander Women’s Color Guard’ confirmed, which got them up to sixteen entries – one ahead of schedule. They even had three rooms booked for the parade weekend.
            As Mackenzie circled ‘16’ on the board, Wyatt’s mom asked, “Do we have any floats yet?”
            Wyatt shook his head. “None of our yesses have the money to build one.”
            “Or the time.” Mackenzie added.
            Wyatt’s dad thought for a moment. “Maybe we can turn our pickup into a float. After all…”
            Wyatt and Martin looked at each other, and then all five of them said it at the same time, “We have Lincoln!”
            That was the moment Wyatt felt a glimmer of real hope. They were going to pull this off.
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Queer As A Five-Dollar Bill Blog
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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 Thirty? It will be posted on March 30, 2018. Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them in comments here, or on facebook, twitter, or instagram. Don't miss a chapter - you can sign up to follow this blog and get emailed every post! Just enter your email at the top of the left column. Thanks for being part of my community, and for being one of my READERS!

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