Happy Valentine’s Day readers! I hope you’ve enjoyed all the romance on the zine so far. Here’s another little helping – a tongue-in-cheek and clever poem from Jeff Baker that could easily be written about a Valentine’s Day dance… Don’t forget to check out Jeff’s other writing at his website.
My date stood me up for the dance
He said he’d found another guy
So I went dancing with the Seven Deadly Sins.
First, I danced with Pride, and danced better than anybody else.
Then I danced with Envy, both of us feeling
The others on the floor were dancing so much better than we were.
I swirled around the floor with Greed, all the while
Eyeing his shoes, his gold belt buckle
And wondering how much he paid for his car.
I was dancing with Anger, who said he felt the same way.
And would have beaten up Greed, or Envy or Pride
If he could make up his mind who to hit first.
I was uncomfortable dancing with Lust
Who bulged in all the wrong places
And somehow danced way too close.
Then I danced with Gluttony, and that didn’t last long
We did a turn then we danced our way into the kitchen
Where we filled up on junk food.
Lastly, Sloth and I sat on the chairs that surrounded the old school gym
And watched the others whirling away, in the dimming light
Happy to be there, happier still to be sitting down.
Watching the other dancers making us even more tired.
Here’s another nice sweet (okay, maybe even mushy!) romantic story, this time with added ghosts, to get you in the mood for Valentine’s Day. As Jeff explains, the story was inspired by his local store: “The convenience store down the street from the College I went to was a real place (still is!) and I really did wander down there with my friends for beer, snacks and comic books just over forty years ago. Don’t know about romantic ghosts but it’s a possibility!“
He had been named after the sylvan glade of mysteries and after Merlin Sylvestris, the sorcerer. But the old convenience store with its pocked pavement and peeling paint was hardly anything pastoral. Nonetheless, something he sensed caused Silveria to stop the car (no traffic in the early evening, thankfully!) and take a second look at the young man standing at the corner of the building where the payphones had once been.
At first glance, he seemed a young man of Silveria’s age; his early twenties. But his clothes were subtly out of date; bell bottom jeans and a button down shirt with an owl stenciled on the side. Silveria realized the man was not of this world.
The man had no shadow.
“Hello,” Silveria said, walking from where he parked the car. “I know who, or rather, what you are.” Silveria realized he could see through the young man, who looked up startled.
“Connecting with spirits is my family’s gift. We help spirits move on.” Silveria said.
“Uh, that really isn’t necessary,” the ghost said.
“I am Silveria, and I…”
“Look, I’m Johnny and I’m sure you mean well, but I don’t really need that,” the ghost said interrupting. “I’m okay, I’m just waiting for someone,”
“I don’t think you realize what happened to you.” Silveria said. “I can help you.”
Johnny started to say something when another young man came around the corner, seemingly not paying attention and bumped right into Johnny. The newcomer was wearing plaid knit pants and a worn brown jacket over a blue t-shirt with the old name of the college that was a few blocks away.
Both men were slightly transparent.
“Oh, my gosh!” the new ghost said, taking no notice of Silveria. “I’m sorry! I wasn’t watching where I was going! I was just…”
Johnny was shaking his head and pointing at Silveria. “Ralph, this guy can see us.”
“Wha?” the second ghost said looking up open mouthed.
“I am Silveria,” he said. “I am here to give you passage. I can open up the way to the realm beyond for you.”
“We already have that,” Johnny said. “He thinks we need help,” he said to Ralph, the second ghost.
“Ohhhhhhh,” Ralph said. “Look, we’d better explain.”
“My name is Johnny Cole,” the first ghost said. “This is Ralph Mayhew. We were going to Millington College back in January of 1976…”
“It’s the University of Millington, now.” Silveria said.
“Wow.” Ralph said.
“Anyway,” Johnny said. “One January evening, right after school started back up after Christmas Break, I drove down here to get some munchies.”
“And I bumped into him, literally when he was standing here making a phone call.” Ralph said.
“I asked him if he needed a ride back to the dorm and he said yeah…” Johnny said.
“Then we went into the store to get some snacks…” Ralph said.
“And a six-pack of beer!” Johnny said, grinning at the memory.
“This place never checked I. D.” Ralph said.
“I don’t think they even make that beer anymore,” Johnny said.
“Yeah, it’s too cheap.” Ralph said.
The two ghosts laughed.
“We went back to his dorm room and drank the beer,” Johnny said.
“And I got a little tipsy and I said a couple of things I shouldn’t have.” Ralph said.
“Like telling me you liked what I was sitting on, and you didn’t mean the chair.” Johnny said.
This time all three men laughed.
“To make a long story short, we realized we were…” Ralph said.
“Simpatico.” Johnny said with a grin,
“We moved into our own apartment the Summer of our Junior year.” Ralph said. “Discreetly.”
“We were together for what? Thirty-two years?” Johnny said looking at Ralph.
“Then all those cigarettes caught up to him.” Ralph said.
“Yeah,” Johnny said, glancing down at his feet for a moment.
“I joined him a few years later,” Ralph said. “And when we found out we could, we came back here on the date we met to re-enact how we first met.” The two ghosts grinned at each other, not looking creepy in the least.
“We do it every year,” Johnny said. “And afterwards we go back. Of our own volition.”
“What? No beer?” Silveria asked. The three of them laughed again.
“One year we went into the store,” Ralph said. “Y’know, for old time’s sake? But the lights are too bright for us now.”
“Okay,” Silveria said. “Sorry to bother you. Look, happy anniversary.”
“Thanks,” the two ghosts said grinning.
They waved as Silveria walked back to his car. As he drove away, he could somehow still hear the ghostly voices:
“I wasn’t watching where I was going! I was just…well, I’m sorry!”
“That’s okay. Hey, haven’t I seen you up at school? I’m Johnny Cole…”
Thanks Jeff for this thought-provoking article about an early portrayal of a gay character on US daytime television, at a time when this was kept very much in the nearest closet. It’s certainly an era I knew very little about – and a surprise role, perhaps, for actor Billy Crystal? Over to Jeff to explain…
“This is the story of two sisters…”
That opening line of the 1977 TV comedy “Soap” sets up the premise of the weekly sitcom spoof of daytime dramas (called “Soap operas” back then.) A show that was controversial even before its premiere. Religious groups in particular organized so many protests that the network could promote it with the line: “If you miss the premiere of Soap, you’ll be the only one.”
Created and mostly written by Susan Harris, the show dealt frankly (for the time) with (among other things) sex and the fact that people enjoy sex, especially when the two sisters get together to talk.
JESSICA: “Our mother never told us that it would be pleasant.”
MARY: “What Mother said was that it was required, like going to school had been and the best thing to do was to lay back and make out your grocery list.”
One of the show’s biggest controversies was the presence of openly Gay character Jodie Dallas, younger of two sons of Mary Dallas-Campbell (one of the aforementioned two sisters.) And Jodie remains controversial to this day in some circles.
Played by Billy Crystal (yes, THAT Billy Crystal in one of his first breakout roles) Jodie was initially written as being a nelly, cross-dressing caricature who hatched the extreme plan of having a sex change operation so he can be with his football-player boyfriend. But neither Crystal nor the writers wanted Jodie to remain a stereotype and they worked to change how he was depicted making Jodie a well-rounded character, albeit one who was living in a soap opera. “It felt like we had the chance to do something special and important,” the actor recalled years later. The nelly aspects were dropped in favor of more human moments such as when Jodie is dumped by his boyfriend on the eve of hospital treatments and swallows a load of pills in an effort to end it all. Jodie lives and gets his act together.
Jodie is pretty revolutionary for TV of the time: he has apparently been “out” all his life and makes no apologies for who he is and is one of the first regular Gay characters to love sports.
And, like everyone else on the show, Jodie can be very funny. Witness the scene where he tells his mother and stepfather Burt that he’s going to be a father and stepdad Burt (the magnificent Richard Mulligan) gleefully freaks out. And then there’s his conversation with his dippy Aunt Jessica explaining that there have been Gays throughout history.
JODIE: “Alexander the Great was Gay. Plato was Gay…”
JESSICA: “Plato? Mickey Mouse’s dog was Gay?!?!”
The controversies in later years come from the fact that Jodie has a one-night-fling with a woman that produces a child. Was Jodie really Bi all along? Or was the network pressuring the show to make him straight? LGBT fans today are leery of the idea that Jodie was anything but totally Gay and claim that his character was watered down due to pressure from network sponsors.
Nonetheless, Jodie fights in court for the right to raise his daughter and is an excellent father. Watch the tender and funny scene where Jodie and his infant daughter Wendy are together for the first time.
Of course, there are soap opera-style complications to their lives.. Like a kidnapping, the court case and Jodie’s accidental regression through hypnosis to a previous life as an elderly Jewish man.
Looking back today with what we know about the complexities of sexuality and its fluidity, Jodie’s seeming indecision about his sexual preference makes sense and that he was most likely Pansexual instead of Gay or possibly Bi.
“Soap” is still playing in reruns and is on DVD and is a very well-done series especially in its first three seasons. It can be hilarious one moment (Jodie and his brother trying to gross each other out) and heart wrenching the next, as in the scene where Jodie finally convinces his brother Danny that he really is Gay after years of his being in denial.
“I’m still the Jodie who plays tennis with you, I’m still the Jodie who bowls with you, I’m still the Jodie who laughs with you, I’m still the Jodie who counts on you.”
Jodie Dallas is still among the Gay characters in the pre-Will and Grace era who was a touchstone to LGBT youth who didn’t see themselves depicted in any positive way on screen. And the show still holds up and is entertaining generations who weren’t born during “Soap’s” four-year run forty-plus years ago. When my twenty-something niece saw the show recently she laughed her head off and pointed at Jodie and asked “Who’s that guy who looks like Billy Crystal?”
For more information on Crystal’s portrayal of Jodie, check out Billy Crystal’s autobiography “Still Foolin’ ‘Em,” published by Henry Holt and Company, 2013.
Real Life TM has intervened temporarily which means I’m not getting time to update the zine quite as often as I’d like. However, this should calm down soon and in the meantime, here’s another cute little story from Jeff, as part of his Marogas Hills tale. I hope you enjoy it – and don’t worry, Jeff assures me there’ll be another episode soon!
They had climbed the hills and found a passage between two of them when the sun came up. There was an area like a natural bowl made of hills and a steep rock wall in the middle of the hills.
“There,” Zinack said, pointing to a clump of dark green bushes amid the rocks. They could see a patch of darkness through the thick greenery.
“The caves?” Zayas asked.
Zinack nodded and signaled for quiet. Zayas wondered why, if they were alone.
They climbed over the rocks and past the brush to a low opening in the reddish stone. Zinack pointed and Zayas followed him into the cave. Once inside, Zinack breathed a sigh of relief.
“We should be safe now,” Zinack said. “Even if they track us, they won’t be able to come in here.”
The inside of the cave was about the size of the back room they usually slept in. The roof was low and Zinack stretched his arm up and touched the roof. Zayas looked around; there was what looked like a tunnel toward the back of the cave.
Zayas was going to ask something when he felt a breath of wind from behind him and heard a sound. A deep sound, like a huge animal breathing. Then there was another rush of air.
The cave was breathing.
Zinack nodded. “There’s a wind hole a little further down the cave. Just steer clear of it if we have to go in deeper.” He felt along the walls of the cave and peeled what first looked like shadow but was a black moss. He sniffed it and smiled, then he tore the sheet of moss in half.
“Here, have some of this,” Zinack said, handing it to Zayas. “It’s good as long as it hasn’t gone yellow.”
Zayas cautiously tried the moss. It was surprisingly salty but tasty. He hadn’t eaten anything since their rations at sunset.
“This is good.” Zayas said. “How did you know about edible cave moss? Did that water cave monk tell you about it?”
“Something like that,” Zinack said. “I read about it when I was in school. The monk confirmed it would be here.”
Zayas shook his head. He had never learned to read, it was not considered necessary for a slave to read but Zinack had not always been a slave.
“We’ll be safe here, but don’t try to step out of the cave,” Zinack said. “We’ll figure out where we’re going after we’re sure nobody is tracking us.”
Zayas nodded and finished eating the moss.
Zayas woke with a start.
The angle of light from the opening meant he had been asleep for a few hours. He was huddled up next to Zinack, his soft breathing and the breath noises of the cave had lulled him to sleep. It must be near Middle-Day.
He reached up and put his hand on Zinack’s shoulder; he was still asleep. Zayas realized he was staring at their bare arms where the binding tatts had been. Zayas realized he couldn’t remember sleeping this late, or even being allowed to sleep this late. He smiled as he lay his head back on Zinack’s chest.
He heard a sound form outside the cave. In the distance but getting closer. Talking. And barking. Trackers! And their dogs!
Zayas shook Zinack awake and clamped a hand over his mouth and then pointed at the cave entrance.
The sounds were coming closer.
“We need to run.” Zayas whispered.
“We can’t.” Zinack said.
“To the back of the caves,” Zayas said scrambling to his feet and pointing to the dark hole in the far wall.
Zinack grabbed his arm. “No. We can’t go to the lower caves. They are back there.”
“They?” Zayas asked but Zinack hushed him. The sounds of the dogs were coming closer.
“In there,” came the voice. “They’re in there!”
Zinack clenched his fists. Zayas glanced around the floor and walls of the cave looking for rocks, branches, anything to use as a weapon.
“I will die here before I let anyone become my master again,” Zayas muttered.
They could hear the dogs and trackers just outside the cave entrance and even see their shadows. Then there was a low, guttural roar that swelled around them and then a cold wind from the back of the cave blasted past them almost knocking them over. They could hear the wind roaring outside the cave and see dust and leaves swirling in the daylight and then they heard the screaming of the men and the agonized howling of the dogs.
Then the wind died down into silence.
“The power of the Dal Lords,” Zinack said. He looked pale.
Oh, Zinack, what did you get us into? Zayas thought.
“We cannot stay here,” Zinack said. “By middle-week all three moons will be in the sky. We must leave here by then.”
“Where do we go?” Zayas asked.
“Toward the Moonrise,” Zinack said. “Along the edge of the desert. We will be out of the domain of our Master.” He shrugged. “That is all I know.”
Zayas held Zinack and they kissed, but Zayas noticed Zinack was still shaking.
Just for a laugh, I asked all of the contributors the same three silly questions – and these are some of the answers they came up with.
Have fun reading them, check out the ‘Meet the Team’ tab (above) to find out more about all of us, and Happy Christmas!
What’s the one thing you’d take to a desert island?
Jeff Baker: Assuming I wanted to be there and already had food, water and shelter I’d say a Kindle loaded with all the books I want to read. If I didn’t want to be there, I’d take a fully-staffed luxury yacht or a very long bridge!
Jay Mountney: A boat. With an engine. And that’s one thing, not two!
Kaje Harper: A dowsing rod to find fresh water?
Fiona Glass: My first thought was a boat too but as that’s already been taken, a comfortable bed. None of this sleeping on gritty sand!
Ellie Thomas: I’d love to wax lyrical about a favourite tome to take with me, but let’s face facts here. I’m a pale-skinned Celt, so it had better be a vat of Factor 50 sunscreen.
What’s your favourite (or least favourite) Christmas song?
Jeff Baker: I’ve loved “Do You Hear What I Hear?” since Grade School when our teacher told us the song was written “just a few years ago.” Plus, it’s a wonderful song. There are days (usually days spelled with a “y”) where I get absolutely sick of “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime!” With all due respect to Sir Paul.
Jay Mountney: Don’t Stop the Cavalry
Kaje Harper: My anti-favourite is I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (especially the little kid voice version that has the kid threatening to tattle in between the verses.)
Fiona Glass: My favourite is Fairytale of New York, with Greg Lake’s I Believe in Father Christmas a close second.
Ellie Thomas: Honestly, by this stage of December I’m sick of the whole boiling lot of them, so I’ll plump for none. Bah humbug!
If you could shape-shift, what creature would you change into:
Jeff Baker: When I was younger (yes, I think about this stuff and have for a long time!) I thought maybe turning into a crow when I wanted would be handy. They can fly and are pretty inconspicuous since they are all over. Of course, I might go with the traditional wolf, as long as I wasn’t vicious (and didn’t leave a mess on the carpet!)
Jay Mountney: I would rather not have to change into a shifter but if I had to I like hedgehogs.
Kaje Harper: By nature, probably a sloth, but by preference, a peregrine falcon – I’d love to fly.
Fiona Glass: No real preference, but it would be nice to be tall enough and/or have long enough arms to reach supermarket shelves, so perhaps a gibbon. Or a giraffe.
Ellie Thomas: Ooh, that’s a tricky one. I’m undecided between something slightly scary like a leopard that would keep people on their toes or something small, nippy and easily hidden like a mouse. Plus with the second option I might get access to cheese. Win/win!
A brand new insight into an unusual episode of an old US comedy show. As Jeff himself says, “Just in case you never saw it: “That 70s Show” was an American sitcom about a bunch of friends hanging out and smoking weed in the 1970s in the fictional Point Place, Wisconsin.” It was first aired in 1998 and ran for eight seasons, but the gay character that was planned for the show never fully materialised… And we m/m fans can dream about Jeff’s final sentence!
“So, she’s like your girlfriend?”
“I dunno. I dunno.”
“It’s okay to be confused, Eric.”
Eric Forman isn’t confused, but he is a little naive. Okay, he’s a lot naive.
We won’t be naive as we go for a deep dive into “Eric’s Buddy,” the eleventh episode of “That 70s Show,” written by Philip Stark, which introduced a Gay character who was supposed to be a series regular. But it didn’t happen that way.
Buddy Morgan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a somehow unspoiled rich kid who goes to the same high school as Eric and his friends. Buddy and Eric meet when they are assigned to be lab partners in science class. He has a snazzy new car that Eric admires and soon they are riding around and hanging out to the dismay of Eric’s other friends who are dismayed that he seems to be neglecting them. There is a fun montage of the two of them palling around in Point Place with the “Best Friend” song from “Courtship of Eddie’s Father” playing in the background. It is implied that Buddy does not get along with the rest of the gang who hang out in Eric’s basement, as they can be jerks sometimes. A fact Eric actually acknowledges.
It is while parked and sipping sodas that Eric begins to talk about his relationship with his sort-of-girlfriend Donna and Buddy misunderstands and tries to take their relationship a step further by leaning over and kissing Eric there in the front seat. Eric’s panicky reaction presents a wonderful bit of physical comedy from Grace which was not well-received by the LGBT community at the time but which comes off as very human and very funny at the same time as he registers utter shock at the kiss he didn’t see coming.
This leads to Eric showing up in the basement hangout and making a big deal out of being straight while trying not to let on that he’s just been kissed on the lips by a guy.
The scene is plain old hilarious. Especially Kelso (the underrated Ashton Kutcher) and his vain assurance that any Gay guy would first make a pass at him!
We never learn Fez’s real name, let alone where he’s from but he is the one of Eric’s friends who realizes that Buddy is Gay, even before Eric tells anybody. This leaves us with some implications, some of them rather dark. First off is that probably Fez has been around enough Gays in his young life to put the clues together. Secondly is the very dark implication that the very good-looking Fez (who is straight) had a few Gay sexual experiences in his home country, maybe even some forcibly. This is a very dark speculation which goes against the general pot-fueled merriment of the show and it is unspoken, but it is there.
It all leads to a well-played scene between Grace and Gordon-Levitt in the school parking lot where Eric asks Buddy timidly “Why…me?” Buddy’s response is wonderful: he likes Eric for probably the same reasons that Donna does. During this scene we get the feeling that Eric has really never imagined himself as the romantic lead in anyone’s story. The two of them realize that they can still be good friends.
“Eric’s Buddy” caused some controversy among fans, which was probably ginned-up by the conservative right in those early days of the internet who opposed any appearance of any positive Gay character.
For whatever reason, Buddy Morgan never appeared or was mentioned on the show again. But Gay viewers can speculate that he was always there, just outside the scene and didn’t get along with Eric’s other friends and he and Eric kept up a largely platonic friendship. Probably. But maybe Eric realized he wasn’t as straight as he thought he was, even though he was in love with Donna. Remember, the producers brought Buddy in as a potential “love interest,” so who knows?
In the episodes where he and Donna split up, maybe Eric sought refuge in Buddy’s arms?
A thought-provoking article about the old US sitcom Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in, which seems to have had hidden lgbt depths! Over to Jeff Baker to explain more:
“It’s a Coo-Coo, Bet-Your-Bippy, Sock-It-To-Me, Gayer-Than-You-Think Laugh-In World.”
“Sock it to me sock it to me sock it to me sock it to me sock it to me…”—-Laugh-In
You can’t look it up in your Funk and Wagnalls but the legendary comedy show “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” was probably a lot Gayer than you would think for a show that aired in the Sixties.
The show, which aired from 1968 to 1973 was a fast-paced series of blackout sketches, topical one-liners and physical shtick, augmented by guest stars from Sammy Davis Jr. to Orson Welles and cameos from everyone from Gore Vidal to Richard Nixon (uttering the series’ catch phrase “Sock it to ME?!?”) And regular features like the Laugh-In News, the Farkle Family and the Party.
And they managed to squeeze in more than a handful of Gay references into the mix.
Start with the cast: At least one of the regulars was openly Gay, Lilly Tomlin was an out Lesbian whose partner (professionally and in life) Jane Wagner (they married in 2013) wrote her album featuring her Laugh-In character, five-year-old Edith Ann, even though references to their relationship were excised from a Time Magazine cover story on Tomlin in the 70s.
Alan Sues never officially came out but was survived by his “partner” and he was typed in playing campy, flamboyant roles on “Laugh-In,” including a drag version of Jo Anne Worley. One of his characters is extremely notable.
“Big Al,” the sportscaster played by Sues is flamboyant without being “swishy” but he loves the bell he rings for attention. (“Love that tinkle!”) His may be the first portrayal of a Gay sports-related figure who wasn’t suicidal. Also in a Western sketch, cowboy Sues ambles up to the bar of a Western saloon and orders “a frozen daiquiri.” Sues later played a flamboyant Peter Pan in a series of peanut butter commercials, but lamented that he was typed in comedy as he was adept at serious roles, especially on stage. One of his serious roles is in the anything-but-funny “Twilight Zone” episode “Masks.”
Gays and “The Gay Liberation Movement” were occasionally referenced on “Laugh-In,” not always for a cheap laugh but for satire, especially in the news segment. There are several gags where a man turns out to be married to another man! And there are a lot of jokes about England’s “Queen.” (When the QEII docked in San Francisco, their line was “It was the second biggest Queen” in the city.) But the show could go for the cheap laugh. In the first episode after the first performance of Tiny Tim, Dan Rowan says: “It kept him out of the service,” and Dick Martin quips “I bet the Draft Board burned HIS Draft card!” (Note: from all I know, Tiny Tim was straight!)
“Laugh-In” was a product of its time; not just the liberated Sixties but the stodgy era of network TV and cheap-shot nightclub jokes. The show’s major flaw was too many fat jokes and short jokes. But the show could be forward-thinking and ahead of its time.
In the sixties and early seventies, times for Gays were changing. And “Laugh-In” was ahead of the curve.
A magical short story (in more ways than one!) involving love, spells, and dragons. This is part of Jeff’s Food Garden Court series – don’t forget to check out his website for more.
As Jeff himself says, “The Food Garden Court and its denizens were created for a flash fiction picture prompt site (“Friday Flash Fics”) with the picture being a garden-area food court. I’d worked in one so a magical mall in a magical world seemed like a fun idea. I’ve written three earlier stories and the idea of Skid and T’amec being more than friends just popped into the most recent story, despite hints in the other two. It was fun exploring their relationship as well as the usual mall strangeness. Thanks for reading!“
The banners that hung around the Food Garden Court proclaimed “Dragon Sale.”
Skid and T’amec spent some of the lunch rush assuring customers that the pet shop sold live dragons, but that Food Garden Court in the Mall wasn’t selling dragonburgers.
“Wish the signs had been more specific,” T’amec grumbled.
Skid grinned as he refilled the broth canister and gave an extra glance to T’amec’s lean, lanky frame. He’d been working there for over a year and had only noticed him like that in the last few months. T’amec saw him, smiled and gave Skid’s shorter, more muscular body the once over. He’d been feeling the same way.
When the lunch rush was over, Skid and T’amec sat at one of the tables in the Court under a potted palminor tree and resisted the urge to tell passing mall customers they were eating dragon salad sandwiches.
When they finished, Skid got serious.
“Hey, I enjoyed going to the micaball game with you the other night,” Skid said. “In fact, I like doing about anything with you lately.”
T’amec blushed. “Thanks,” he said.
Skid took a deep breath. “But what if it’s not real?” Skid said. “The way we feel.”
“You mean, like magically not real?” T’amec said.
“Yeah, what if this is just magic and we don’t, y’know…”
Skid left the line hanging there. T’amec slid his hand across the table to grab Skid’s hand.
“What if we start officially dating and, y’know, get married and a year later ZAP! The spell goes away?” Skid said.
“What got you started worrying about this?” T’amec said. “We’re taking this slow, remember? Got a good friendship and don’t want to wreck it, right.”
“I keep thinking about that fae nest we took out a few months ago,” Skid said. “They enchanted you to do whatever I said…”
“Yeah, I remember,” T’amec said with a shudder. “But that wasn’t a love spell.”
“I know, but we had to kiss under the moonlight to break the spell.” Skid said. “And we both liked that, right?”
“But that was the first time we…I…felt something other than just being buddies with you.” Skid said.
“So, in case this is some kind of residual fae magic, I wanna check this.” Skid said.
T’amec sighed. “My Grandma knows this ritual with lilac leaves and goose fat to find if your lover is sincere and…”
“We’re not checking for love, we’re checking for magic,” Skid said. “We’ll do it scientifically. We’re still on break and the Augur’s shop is at the other end of the mall.”
“We can’t afford the Augur’s shop,” T’amec said.
“We get a Mall Employee Discount, remember?” Skid said. “Plus, I have that coupon I won a while back. So let’s do this, okay?”
The Augur’s shop was dim and dank with neon signs on the walls breaking up the dimness. They told the young Assistant Augur their problem and more importantly showed him Skid’s coupon. The Augur rubbed his goatee, checked the coupon and said that a residual fae spell was unlikely but they could check for magic or enchantment of any kind.
The process was, as the Augur said “Simple, but yucky.”
The Augur cut off a lock of each of their hair and put them in separate bowls. Then Skid and T’amec each spat on the lock of the other’s hair. The Augur made a face as he picked up the bowls.
“Should have the results back in a couple of hours,” he said.
“We’ll be back when we get off work,” T’amec said.
The two of them were laughing and walking along the upper level of the mall along the tall railing pointing at the signs when a green streak shot past them from the lower level. It circled in the air above them and they recognized it as a small, baby dragon.
“The pet store,” Skid said. “Some kind of promo?”
T’amec was about to answer when a shrill voice called out “My Dragon!”
A little girl ran up the stairs, eyes on the circling dragon.
“Dragon! Dragon!” The girl ran past Skid and T’amec only watching the dragon. When the dragon swooped low and then flew over the railing of the walkway the girl lunged for the dragon and hit the railing and toppled into the open space above the first floor. Skid had run after her, afraid of what could happen and he managed to grab her leg with both hands, but the weight started to pull him over too.
“SKID!” T’amec screamed. He jumped and grabbed Skid’s feet as he was pulled over the railing. Bracing himself with his feet against the base of the railing, T’amec was able to hold on to Skid’s legs until several passers by were able to pull both Skid and the girl to safety.
The little girl’s mother had run up and was holding her and scolding her through her tears.
T’amec and Skid sat on the floor by the railing sobbing and kissing.
“I love you. Oh, my Oaths, I love you!” Skid said.
“I love you too,” T’amec said. “And you know,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t think we need to go back to the Augur’s.”
They were laughing, crying and kissing as the dragon circled overhead.
Here’s another short poem set during Halloween, but one with a difference. It took me a while to get it – until I really sat up and took notice of the date in the title (above). After that, I realised just how true, and just how poignant it was. Thanks, Jeff!
There is a full Moon, orange and bright
Rising over the rooftops, part of the ancient clock
Timed once in a generation or so to light the way
For neighborhood children, garbed in finest shrouds
Clothing of superheroes or cowboys, bags in hand
The sacred rituals of Halloween
But this October Thirty-First is different from all others
Even those during the Wars, for fear is not make-believe
And masks have a different meaning this dark, mad year
Doors are shut, children inside, candy unused
Spirits of the past swirl the empty, moonlit streets
Real life got in the way yesterday so I’m a day late posting the next offering in our Halloween celebration – a spooky little number that’s actually about the Mexican festival of The Day of the Dead, but works equally well for Halloween! As Jeff himself says, “I started writing about Billy Gonzalez and his knack for stumbling into the weird about twenty years ago. I pulled him out of the closet a few years ago. I am a lot more white-bread than he is but we are both Bi. Hope you enjoyed his latest adventure!“
“C’mon, Billy! Whaddya got to lose?” Schuyler said with a grin. “It’s your heritage!”
My great-grandparents emigrated from Mexico a century ago. But my Dad grew up in New York City and my Mom was from some weird little town in Indiana. They met in college in the Midwest. Me, I grew up where I’d gone to college in Wichita, Kansas. I wouldn’t be back at the college that last week of October if it hadn’t been for Schuyler.
Schuyler Rowley was with the school’s Alumni Association and I’d kind of crushed on him during our largely-closeted school days and we’d gone out a couple of times in the five years since. But now he was standing in front of me in a skeleton costume. And he had another costume for me. Complete with full-head skull mask.
“It’ll be fun!” Schuyler said. “We dance around in the Quad during the party and we can do some partying afterwards. It’s for the Scholarship fund, remember? And we can go out later…”
“Yeah, yeah. Hand me the skull,” I said, feeling like Don Juan in that play about Hell.
The Quad, the big patio between the Library and the Gym was lit by electric lights and flickering torches, but I guessed those were just to keep the bugs away. Grinning alumni were seated at tables with skull centerpieces. The menu included candy skulls and a lot of Tex-Mex. There was a band playing on a makeshift stage. Skull decorations everywhere.
Schuyler gave me a thumbs up and we walked around the edges of the Quad; dark costumes with a white skeleton printed on the front. I’d never done anything for The Day of the Dead before, but my cousin’s family had. Sort of a cross between Memorial Day and Halloween. I looked around and waved at a little kid seated at one of the tables who was staring at me with wide eyes. I grinned, forgetting that I was wearing a skull mask with a built-in grin. I looked over and saw Schuyler by the snack table goofing with a couple of guys I remembered from school.
I looked over towards where Father Bernau was sitting with some big-pocket alumni and saw a third figure in a skeleton costume standing behind them, partly in shadow. I didn’t recognize him; I thought there were just the two of us. The third skeleton backed into the shadows of the tree and building.
The evening went on. The crowd seemed to be enjoying themselves and the late October evening was warm and pleasant. I’d helped myself to a candy skull and then I saw that third skeleton peeking behind the big tree by the shadowy corner of the new library. I glanced around and saw Schuyler kidding around at a table on the other side of the quad. Yup. Whoever that was, it wasn’t Schuyler. Munching the candy skull I walked over and found the third skeleton in the shadows of the building.
“Hey,” I said. “I’m Billy Gonzalez. Class of…”
Then I stopped. The figure had moved far enough out of the shadow so I could see what I thought was a black costume with a skeleton design on it, well, it wasn’t. It was a skeletal figure standing there. I glanced up, no wires, no nothing. I made a gurgling noise. If this was a trick, it was a very good one.
The skeleton turned and walked into the deep shadow of the wall. It turned its, well, skull to look at me and I would have sworn it’s grin broadened. I could just make out the brick wall which the skeleton passed through. I backed away from there fast, tripping over one of the big tree roots and then scrambling to my feet.
I remembered stories I’d heard about the Old Library being haunted. Somebody joked that had been the real reason they tore it down and put up the new one, not the structural problems with a 100 year old building. I realized I had probably been standing where the Old Library had been. I staggered over to where the snack table was and grabbed a can of beer. I didn’t care if I was supposed to wait.
Then I heard something behind me.
I jumped. I spun around, glimpsed a skeleton standing there. I screamed and tossed my beer into the air. It landed with a splat on a nearby table.
“Hey, what the hell’s with you, man?” That was Schuyler in his skeleton outfit. At least he didn’t say I looked like I’d seen a ghost.
Well, it could have been a lot worse. I stuck close to Schuyler for the rest of the evening and afterwards we went out for coffee. The college had rooms in the dorm for alumni from out of town and I’m sure Schuyler and I could have grabbed one, but that night I did not want to stay on the same campus as that skeletal figure I’d seen by the Library.