Friday, April 20, 2018

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 33, Epilogue, and Author's Note

In Chapter Thirty-Two, a staged trial of Wax-Lincoln with hundreds of Civil War reenactment soldiers is where Wyatt, Von Lawson, and Jonathon have their final showdown. Mackenzie and Martin are there, too, and with cameras running, it's the turning point for how Wyatt feels about himself and what kind of world they all want to be a part of. Now the parade Wyatt's pinned all his hopes on is about to happen... but will anyone show up?

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

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Okay community, here's Chapter Thirty-Three!

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Chapter 33
Saturday, February 14

Roooaarrr! Roaaar! Raaarrrrrrrr! The motorcycles got everyone’s attention. It was a great way to start a parade.
            Dykes on Bikes blasted into Union Square ahead of their pickup. Wyatt’s dad drove, and, with Lincoln hats tall on their heads, Wyatt, Martin, Becca, Mackenzie, and Jonathon rode in the back. Mackenzie had changed into a white gi, and Jonathon into a red polo shirt.
Wyatt and Martin handed over Lincoln hats to a cluster of three older women who waved and asked for them.
When they’d pulled out the broken arbor, Betty had overheard Wyatt ask his dad if, without making Mackenzie pay for it, they could just keep giving out the hats for free—everyone was so excited to get them. She’d called it “very clever promotional marketing.” Turned out she worked in PR. Wyatt’s dad gave his okay.
“You’re welcome!” Wyatt waved at the women, who thanked them and giggled at how they looked in the stovepipe hats.
            At least one hundred soldiers from earlier were marching behind them in Lincoln hats. As they passed Sandee’s Liquor and Candy Mart, the square opened up before them. It was less than an hour and a half later, but now it was packed, and more people were crossing down from where traffic had been diverted onto Second Street. Usually they said two thousand people attended Lincolnville’s annual parade, but Wyatt thought this seemed double last year’s crowd.
            Amid all the craziness, he had his first chance to talk to Martin. “I thought you left.”
            Martin shook his head. “We didn’t know about Von Lawson’s plan. But the mayor told everyone the parade wasn’t happening, and John Stevens’s producer wouldn’t listen to my emails or get on the phone. But I knew we had to document this with the right people. So we drove down to San Francisco. Mom and I talked to John himself, convinced him, and got his crew to drive back with us.”
            “But, you didn’t even call. Or answer my text!”
            “Mom doesn’t let me have my phone on when I’m driving. And . . . I didn’t want to tell you, in case it didn’t work out. Even when they agreed to come, we weren’t sure we’d make it in time.” Martin lowered his head. “I got my first speeding ticket.”
            He didn’t leave. He did all of it—even drove over the speed limit—for me.              
Behind them, drums and cowbells started up. Ba ba ba Bap—Bap Bap Bap—Ba ba BOP! Ba ba ba Bap—Bap Bap Bap—Ba ba BAHH!
            The rhythm got people cheering.
“I’m really glad you’re here,” Wyatt shouted over the noise.
“Me, too,” Martin said, then winked at Wyatt. “Nice shirt, by the way.”
Wyatt felt this crazy rush, and he couldn’t even try to return the wink. He just shouted, “You’re not getting it back.”
Martin laughed, and Wyatt joined in.
Wyatt’s dad made the turn onto Lincoln Boulevard. They’d moved a section of the stage next to the road, and Wyatt’s mom stood on it with her clipboard and microphone. As they rolled past, she ad-libbed the new parade addition: “Civil War–reenactment soldiers who support equality!”
Wyatt’s eye caught a movement by the library door. It was Mr. Clifton, closing the big entry door, shutting himself inside.
Wyatt just felt sad for him as they rolled forward.
His mom’s voice bounced off the library, amplified on speakers they’d set up all around Union Square.
“The Asian Pacific Islander Women’s Color Guard!”
“The Eugene County African American Equality and Justice Society!”
Wyatt spotted Mr. Guzman and his girlfriend with the pink hair in the crowd. Mr. Guzman gave Wyatt a thumbs-up. Wyatt waved back. He was so glad his old teacher got to see this. All of this.
Wyatt’s mom and the parade behind them kept going as they handed out Lincoln hats.
“The Corvallis Valley High School Gay-Straight Alliance!”
“The Society for Progressive Islam, Salem Chapter!”
In the front row of spectators, Rhonda looked out from behind her video camera and blew them a kiss. Martin grinned at his mom and Frisbeed her a hat. She snagged it midair.
“The Lake Medford Fire Department!”
“Northwest Disability Rights!”
Jonah from Pies and Pool and his girlfriend ran up to get two hats from Wyatt. Jonah insisted on shaking Wyatt’s hand. “Great job, man. Great job!” he shouted over the cheers.
Dykes on Bikes and their pickup led the parade past the Log Cabin. The buses were gone, and they kept passing out hats to the people five and seven deep on the sidewalks and parkway. The stores were open along Fifth and Johnson streets, busy with customers. Mr. Woo even waved to them, all friendly, as people browsed the costumes on his outdoor racks and talked about which photo packages they should get.
The parade finished just a block from their B and B. Wyatt’s dad stopped the truck and leaned out the window as they all jumped down. “You kids go catch the rest of the parade.”
“I’ve got to find the dojo.” Mackenzie waved bye as she headed up Sixth Street to where the parade groups were lined up on Hayes.
Wyatt checked with his dad. “You sure?”
“Go!” His dad chuckled. “I have a lot of cooking to do. Have fun!”
“Thanks!” Wyatt ran up Grant Street, Martin at his side. In three blocks, they made a right, and there were even more people in Union Square now. Wyatt’s mom kept announcing the entries:
“The Albany Art Museum’s Jewish Film Festival!”
“The Multnomah County Women’s Rights Project!”
Wyatt took Martin’s hand, partly to not lose him, and partly because he just wanted to. And he could!
It looked like everyone had shown. Forty-one parade entries in all. Forty-three, with Mackenzie’s dojo and the soldiers. It was a record, and twelve more than had signed up to march in the old version of the parade.
“The Pacific School for the Deaf!”
“Gresham’s Sci-Fi, Anime, and Comic Con!”
Making their way through to the stage where Wyatt’s mom was, they passed a young guy with curled fingers walking with crutches on his arms. He was all happy, chatting with a Latina girl with a Mohawk. For the first time, Wyatt really looked at the crowd. Under the Lincoln hats sprinkled everywhere, they were a mix of farmers and city folk, students from Oregon State and the University of Oregon, old people and kids, disabled and abled, straight and Gay, and probably Bi and Trans, too. They were Black and White and Asian and every color—and everyone was in great spirits, celebrating equality.
            Lincoln’s idea. King’s idea. And, for this parade, Wyatt’s idea, too!
            “From Ashland, the Oregon Theater Festival Players!”
“Parents, Friends, and Families of Lesbians and Gays, PFLAG Philomath!”
They’d just broken through to Lincoln Boulevard when Wyatt’s mom announced, “The Corvallis Yoshukai Karate and Martial Arts Center!”
Wyatt cheered for Mackenzie, Martin at his side. Mackenzie and twenty-five other teens and kids whipped their nunchucks through the air in perfect unison with a black belt counting out in Japanese, “Ich, ni, sahn!” Mackenzie grinned at Wyatt and Martin as she marched past, nunchucks flying.
The parade kept coming. “Western Oregon Atheists!”
            “The Gay Veterans Association, Pacific Northwest Chapter!”
            Then Wyatt’s mom announced, “And a last-minute addition: please welcome our very own mayor, Kelly Rails, and her husband, high school coach and country music star Bryan Rails!”
            Wyatt dropped Martin’s hand. The people around them applauded Jonathon’s parents sitting on the trunk of Coach Rails’s open convertible. Principal Jackson was driving, and Mayor Rails, dressed in jeans and a USA flag T-shirt, waved to everyone like she was the Queen of America.
            Martin snorted and leaned into Wyatt’s ear. “Just watch. She’ll be all over the news as a ‘champion of equality.’”
            Wyatt scowled. “She’s just doing it because it’s popular, and she’s probably figured out a way to make money, or get reelected, because of it.”
            “It’s a good thing, Wyatt. Doesn’t matter why she’s doing it.” Martin’s hand swept the parade and crowd around them. “You’ve already changed this part of the world.”
            Martin was right. Wyatt wasn’t going to let anyone ruin this.
            Wyatt’s mom announced the final parade entry, now number forty-four. “The First Metropolitan Church of Portland’s gospel choir!”
            All fifty choir members, in their gold-and-red robes, tambourines shaking and arms raised, started singing, “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last. . . .”
            Their voices rose up and filled the square, and Wyatt’s chest swelled with the words.
            Martin was smiling at him. “We did it, didn’t we?”
            His lips were beautiful.
            He was beautiful.
            “Hey, it’s Valentine’s Day!” Wyatt said.
            “Is it?” The light sparkled in Martin’s eyes. He knew, all right.
            “And . . . I’m going to kiss you for you, you know?” Wyatt told him.
            “Yeah. I know,” Martin said, moving in toward him. “Me, too.”
            And with thousands of people around them, and the singing lifting them all, Wyatt leaned in to touch his lips to Martin’s. Wyatt could feel Martin’s biceps graze the sides of his Super G T-shirt as they pulled each other close. Wyatt kissed him, and Martin kissed him back. He tasted like spice . . . and cinnamon.
            Free at last.
            How long can I make this kiss last?
            A sigh escaped Wyatt, and it was the big finale. No birds, or chipmunks, or little people. But music, inside as well as out.
            And goose bumps.
            And this feeling in Wyatt’s chest. His throat. His lips.
            Glowing. He was glowing.
            He was standing there, in front of the whole world, and he was kissing Martin.
            His first real kiss.
            And Wyatt was, finally, himself.
            Everyone around them was singing, and Wyatt pulled back to look at Martin. Friends, and more. Much more.
And in that instant, Wyatt knew. He didn’t have to go anywhere else to be himself. He’d found it right there. Elysium.
Ninth grade had been a war. And he’d won.
From his heart, Wyatt started singing along. Martin joined in, and their fingers and voices wove together and rose with the others to the sky. “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I am free. At. Last!”

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National Survey Results for the Week Ending Saturday, June 27
Von Lawson Productions

Sample: 1,000 US citizens, statistically randomized
Do you think Abraham Lincoln was romantically involved with Joshua Speed?
No:                  47%     (unchanged for the last 5 weeks)
Yes:                 47%     (unchanged for the last 5 weeks)
Undecided:      6%       (unchanged for the last 5 weeks)
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“Two Lovers”
Music by Irving Gordon
New Lyrics by Martin Sykes

For Wyatt

            Two lovers on their way,
            One wore blue and one wore gray
            No one knew that they were Gay
            All on a beautiful morning
            War was hell, they had their share
            One felt hope and one, despair
            Cannonballs tore through the air
            All on a beautiful morning

War was hell, they made it through
Didn’t care if the whole world knew
A kiss between gray and blue
All on a beautiful mo-r-ning!
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Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill Blog

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill
Blog Post: Sunday, June 6, 10:32 a.m.

Lincoln’s Rainbow
Bed & Breakfast
Invites you to celebrate LGBTQ Pride with us
in beautiful Lincolnville, Oregon!
Civil War–Era Suppers with Gregory
Tours with Mackenzie
Music with Martin
Hikes with Wyatt
Book early—we have only a handful of room nights still available!

And if you fall in love with our town like we have,
Elizabeth Yarrow Real Estate can help you find a place to call home.

If you’re in town the weekend of June 28, the Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce and the Straight for Equality: Rails for Governor campaign will be sponsoring a block party for local businesses, the community, and visiting friends opposite the Log Cabin on Johnson and Fifth. The chamber has distributed Gay Pride Rainbow Flag stickers, which you’ll see in nearly all of the storefronts in town.

And that Sunday, the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Nora Roberts (our new town librarian) is hosting a party installing Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s Most Intimate Friend on permanent display in the Lincolnville Public Library. You’ll have to ask first, and put on white gloves to touch it, since it’s now a Reference: Special Collections book, but anybody who wants to can read it.

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Endnotes for Epilogue

The “Two Brothers” Civil War song that Martin wrote new lyrics for is credited to Irving Gordon. A version with the original lyrics is included in Smithsonian Folkways’ Songs of the Civil War album here:

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Author’s Note

Dear Reader,
            Wyatt, Martin, Mackenzie, and Jonathon are fictional characters, but the evidence that convinces Wyatt that Abraham Lincoln loved Joshua Fry Speed is part of American history, and every historical quote used in this story is true. (And every direct quote by Abraham Lincoln is in bold. Check out the Endnotes section that follows each chapter.)
            While historians will continue to argue over whether Lincoln was Gay, or Bi, or straight, each one of us can read the letters, look at the evidence, and make our own decision.
            To me, it’s very clear that Abraham and Joshua were in love. Had I known, when I was growing up, that Abraham Lincoln loved another guy, it would have completely changed how I felt about myself—and maybe made my coming out as a Gay young man easier.
            I hope my fictional story of Wyatt and his friends, and the true story of Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Fry Speed, will inspire you to be authentic, too!
            This is my debut book, and I’d love to hear what you think. You can write me at authorleewind (at) gmail (dot) com, leave a comment on this blog post, or reach out on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. You’ll find all the links at my website:
            And now you have the power—to share this secret from history, and to help make this book a success. If you’re willing, I’d love a review of Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill wherever you read reviews. Reviews, and word of mouth, can make all the difference. So thank you. And please know that, for me, your having read this book means the world.
            The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
                                                            Los Angeles, California

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