Archive for February, 2012

February 19, 2012

Family Photo, by Roger H. Hooverman

Mark took one hand off the wheel and patted my leg. “Don’t sweat it, Tim, it’ll be okay. They’ll all love you.”

It was easy for him to say; my stomach was in knots. “I’m sorry, Mark, but you never know how some people will react. Look what my parents did when I came out to them.”

“Hey, buddy, you’re worrying too much. You’ve already met my folks, and they like you, right?”

“Yeah, and I’m really grateful for that, but…”

And you’ve met my sisters and their families, and they like you, don’t they?”

“Well, Ellen’s boyfriend was kind of grumpy.”

“He’s like that with everybody. Tim, look at it this way. My sister Claire will be there with her twin girls, and no husband. My sister Ellen will be there with her live-in boyfriend. And I’m going to be there with my live-in boyfriend. You and I have every bit as much right to be there as they have. You remember that.”

“There it is now,” I interrupted before he missed the turn. Ahead was the sign for the county park and a banner Massey Family Reunion festooned with balloons. We crunched to a stop in the parking lot.

“Promise me,” I said. “If anybody makes any kind of a crack, we’ll both leave. Okay?”

“Okay, but it won’t happen. Trust me.”

We had barely gotten out of the car when two identical little blond girls came running up. “Uncle Mark! Uncle Tim!” Claire’s girls, Kristin and Kimberly. I could never tell which was which. They jumped up and down and held up their arms to be picked up. Mark and I each swung a twin onto our shoulders and joined the group.

Mark’s dad and another man were setting up grills. John Massey wiped his hands on a smudged apron and greeted me with a strong handshake. “This is my brother, Hank.” The second man, heavy-set with an even grubbier apron, had an even stronger grip. “Glad to meetcha. Beer’s over there.”

Claire appeared, smelling of insect repellent, gave us each a hug and a peck on the cheek and rescued us from the girls, who ran off shrieking toward the playground. Mark and I each grabbed an icy Heineken from the big red cooler. “Come on, Tim, I want to introduce you to the family matriarch.”

I pictured a formidable old lady, severe, scowling and judgmental. Summoning all my courage, I determined to do my best to charm the socks off her.

She was enthroned under a huge oak tree, thick legs like tree trunks planted on the footrests of her wheel chair, frizzled white hair poking out under a broad orange sun hat.

“Grandma, this is my partner, Tim Hendry.”

I put on my most captivating smile and stuck out my hand. She removed her pink sunglasses and squinted, looking me up and down, then nodded and broke into a broad grin. She reached up two pudgy freckled hands to grasp mine. “Tim, I’m so glad to meet you.” She patted a camp stool next to her. “Sit down, tell me all about yourself. Mark, be a good boy and get me some lemonade, will you?”

Grandma Massey turned out to be the focus of the party. Sooner or later, everyone in the family came by to visit with her, and she would introduce me. “This is my new grandson Tim, Mark’s special friend.” The men shook hands pleasantly; most of the women gave me a hug or a kiss. If anyone didn’t approve, they were polite and didn’t show it.

Soon the smell of burgers grilling over charcoal was followed by the call of “Come and get it.” I brought back paper plates of hamburgers, potato salad and ambrosia for Grandma Massey and myself. Mark joined us, and as we ate his grandmother entertained us with embarrassing tales of his childhood.

“Photo time!” someone shouted. “Everybody gather ‘round Grandma.”

The photographer had sat up her tripod right in front of us and everybody bunched together behind us. I started to move out of the way, but Grandma Massey caught my arm and pulled me back down. I looked across to Mark, on her other side. He grinned and mouthed, “I told you so.” Claire and the kids found places on the ground in front of us and one of the girls climbed into my lap, smearing her dripping ice cream cone all over my shirt.

“Say money!” cried the photographer as she clicked the shutter. “One more. Good. Thanks, folks.”

The photo came out fine. I framed the print and hung it in our front entryway. Now whenever we have guests, someone sees it and remarks, “Who are all those people?”

I answer with pride: “That’s my family.”

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I’m an openly gay man, seventy-three years old, retired and writing full time. “Family Photo” is based on an actual experience.

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February 13, 2012

A Circle of Sodomites, by Anel Viz

Twisting and turning, the narrow, rocky path sloped downward till I could barely see the top of the cliff to my left.  As though creaking in the wind, a low moaning sound passed through the dense brambles on either side of me and through the overhanging trees, but the air was still.  It filled my lungs with its weight.  At last the path widened, the brush fell away, and I saw the wide beach stretched out some two yards below where I stood, and in the distance, the sea.

As I stepped out of the forest shadows, the heat of the afternoon rushed down on me like a blast from a smelter, and I dropped my beach bag.  The sun hung high in a cloudless sky, so intense it blotted out the blue.  It seemed to drip liquid fire onto the burning sand.  I had moved from a world of gray into a world of white – not a blade of beach grass poking through the white sand that stretched uninterrupted beneath a white sky until it merged into the blinding white patina of the sun reflected on the sea.

A small scattering of naked men sat or lay on the beach, soaking up the sun.  It surprised me not to see a single beach umbrella.  Surely they would blister, no matter how much sunscreen coated their skin.  Then it struck me.  Not one of them had a blanket to lie on or even a towel.  I bent down to check that I had brought enough water and had a full bottle of sunscreen.  My bag had disappeared.  Could I have left it in the car?

I was about to go back for it when I stopped to admire a line of athletic-looking young men running naked along the water’s edge.  They ran lifting their knees high, as if the sand scorched the soles of their feet.  To see them reminded me of the title sequence from Chariots of Fire, and from then on I could not get the theme music out of my head.

They swerved and jogged into the surf, but the water around their calves did not splash up when they thumped their feet down into it, nor did it impede their progress.  There was no ocean, just the shimmer of a mirage, heat rising from the baking sand as far as the eye could see.

What kind of place had I come to?  This was not how I had imagined the gay paradise I had heard so much about and had finally gone to see for myself and, yes, to hook up with someone if I could, giving in to temptation after years of repressing my desires.

A half-dozen men rounded the corner beneath the outcropping of rock where I was standing.  One of them glanced up at me and cried, “Hey, would you believe who’s come to join us!  If it isn’t Mr. Straight Man!”

I recognized the voice, but not the person – Bruno of the beautiful body whom I had lusted after in secret, his skin bright pink, peeling and blistered, the lovely golden hair on his head dull and singed, his eyebrows burnt away, the hair on his chest and limbs like a coating of ash on his body.  “Bruno, are you here?”

“Where else would I be?” he asked.  “You know how I lived.”

The men joined hands and ran in a circle at my foot as he spoke.  “We can’t stop moving,” one of them explained, “or the fire will land on us as it does on the blasphemers.”

“Of all God’s ironies, this is the cruelest,” Bruno continued, “to have to wait until here to see you with your clothes off.  You’re more handsome than I imagined you.  It won’t be long before you’re as charred as we are.”

Was he out of his mind?  I wasn’t about to climb down onto that beach!  And what did he mean, with my clothes off?  What about my swim trunks and Hawaiian shirt?  I looked.  They, too, had vanished, like my beach bag.  The wood behind me had closed like a wall.  There was no sign of a path.

Bruno dropped the hand of the man beside him and reached out to me.  “Come run with us.”

Unforgiving God!  Was it enough to have sinned in thought?  Had setting out with the intention of sinning damned me forever?  To hell with Him, then, not to reward me for having lived a hell on earth!  No, don’t even think that.  Better to run with my fellow faggots than to lie on the sand like the blasphemers.

I jumped down onto the beach, landing on my hands and knees.  In a second I was on my feet, my palms and shins seared from my brief contact with the sand.  I exchanged a first and last hug with Bruno, and we followed his companions as they ran off across the endless desert of
Divine Judgment.

February 4, 2012

I’ve Been Waiting to Hear Those Words, by Thomas kearnes

Carver is drunk after two hours of blackjack. He took a shot each time he went bust. A few of the players now nest around the high kitchen table, all sipping beers. I should tell them mixing liquors guarantees a blackout, but I’m not in a generous mood. The other men at the party stagger their way to the living room, or the patio. Or the bedroom.

“He doesn’t even know I’m here,” Carver says. He drains his beer. “I had to sneak away after he passed out.”

“Yeah, I haven’t seen you with him in a while,” says one of the men.

“That’s because he drops Xanax all day,” Carver says.

I’m so tired of hearing about these men and their unhappy lives. No one looks at me, wonders if I could make him happy. I know I could. I just need the chance.

“Jesus Christ, he’s gotten fat,” Carver goes on. “We were in bed the other night, and he wondered why I didn’t wanna fuck, and I told him it was because—he’d just gotten so big.”

The other men laugh and shake their hands. Our host is one of those rich middle-aged fags who hands out free booze so the younger, prettier men will hang out at his house. He swings by, collecting the empties.

Dustin sits next to me, across from Carver. He doesn’t cluck in commiseration along with the other men. He stares at Carver as if he were a stain on your best suit. He’s slim and angular, maybe thirty. His hair juts from his head in a series of dark spikes. The other men don’t like him. I’ve heard the rumors.

Carver signals the host to get him another Heineken. “I really like being here with you guys, and—wait, what time is it?” He’s too drunk to notice the hubcap-sized clock hung high on the kitchen wall.

“Eleven-thirty,” someone tells him.

“Oh, shit. Sweetie, I gotta jet. He usually wakes up a bit around this time. I told him I’d bring back a pizza.” Carver plucks his overcoat from the coat rack, begins kissing the cheeks of all the men in the room.

“Why don’t you leave him?” Dustin asks. I’m not sure Carver heard him.

The other men swiftly stare down Dustin. It takes Carver a moment to realize he had spoken.

“What did you say?” he finally stammers.

“I said, Why don’t you leave him? If you’re so goddamn unhappy, find a new apartment and get the fuck away from him. He’s not the only man in town.”

Dumbstruck, Carver gapes at him. Absently, he picks up a beer and takes a swig. He doesn’t answer but instead stumbles from the room. We hear him rush through his goodbyes to the men in the living room. We hear the door slam shut.

The men continue to glare at Dustin, but none of them say anything. They’re cowards, probably itching to begin their whispers when he leaves the room. He obliges them by downing his last swallow of beer, scooting back from the table and trotting out the swinging door. I miss him immediately.

“God, he’s such a bitch,” someone says.

“Who the hell invited him?” asks another.

It goes on like that, all the men getting in on it. When our host returns with the fresh beers, they hassle him for inviting Dustin. He merely shrugs and shakes his head. “I didn’t want to tell him about it,” he says.

I can’t take this scene, so I leave the room, too. The living room holds even more men, all laughing, drinking, gossiping. I wish for a horrible disease to take them all out. I’m not particular about which one.

Through the glass patio door, I see Dustin alone. He grips the railing, smokes a cigarette. One of the men grabs my arm, asks me where I’ve been. I shake him off without answering.

After sliding open the door, I sneak onto the patio. I’m sure Dustin heard the squeak of the door, but he doesn’t turn around. Standing there, wondering how to win his attention, I listen to the party continue. One of the men hoots with laughter.

“You came all this way,” Dustin says, still looking out into the night. “The least you could do is speak.”

Emboldened, I cross to him, stop at the railing. He’s beautiful, Dustin. I hadn’t noticed until just then. The angles of his face, the depth of his dark eyes. I wrap my hand around the back of his head and pull him into a kiss. It’s deep, wet and wonderful. I no longer hear the party noises. The silence of the night envelops us.

Finally, he pulls back from me, gazes at me with the shock of an accident victim. I’m hold onto his arm, feel it tense in my grip, as if he means to leave. I don’t let go.

About the author

Thomas Kearnes is a 35-year-old author from East Texas. He is an atheist and an Eagle Scout. His queer-themed fiction has appeared in PANK, Storyglossia, Night Train, SmokeLong Quarterly, Eclectica, Word Riot, JMWW Journal, wigleaf, The Pedestal, Thieves Jargon, Underground Voices, A cappella Zoo and elsewhere. He has also appeared in the gay venues Blithe House Quarterly, Velvet Mafia, Educe Journal, the Best Gay Romance Series, Queer Fish and elsewhere. He is a columnist for Flash Fiction Chronicles and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee.


					
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