Category Archives: fiction

Teaser Tuesday: Sneak Peek at Get Yourself Another Butch

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Chapter 10

Autumn 1968

Traf balanced on the gently rocking boat, enjoying the heat of the summer sun on her back and grinning at Tio Marcio as she pulled in a full line of struggling sardines. She held the string of small silver fish high as she tore free the ones that didn’t drop to the boat floor themselves. She scooped up her wriggling catch and threw it into a large metal can, then hurriedly checked the down pigeon feathers she’d carefully tied to each small hook and threw her line back in. “I’m glad you asked for my help this afternoon,” she said happily. “There haven’t been any sardines around the island for months. I’ve never caught so many at one time before.”

They’d sailed out of Praia on an early afternoon in the middle of September, on the smaller of his two fishing boats. Traf used to crew for Tio Marcio as a commercial fisherwoman before joining the US Air Force and still went out with him when he needed her. He’d left word for her at Mãe’s house that the sardines were running and he could use her help to fill an ‘all you can catch’ order for the fish market. In the center of the boat stood two large tin garbage cans, lids tied to their sides. With one already half full, they had every hope of filling both that night.

“You wait,” laughed Tio Marcio, reeling in his line with all but one of his ten hooks full. “We’ll catch plenty more before we’re through. We’re getting special help.”

His comment surprised Traf. Although he didn’t allow his crew to swear, she didn’t think of Tio Marcio as a particularly religious man but, like most fishermen, she gratefully accepted any divine intervention. “We could sure use it,” she said, nodding at their now slack lines. She reeled in and peered over the stern of the boat.

“Sqwoooo, sqwoooo, ski-swi, sqwoooo!” Someone shrieked right behind her.

Startled, Traf spun around to find a porpoise no more than arm’s distance, standing on its tail almost completely out of the water, shaking its head at her and grinning with sharp teeth. Terrified, she nearly toppled out of the boat but dropped at the last moment, rolling to the side and making herself small. She uncovered her head and stared at Tio Marcio who grabbed his sides and brayed like a jackass.

“You heard her,” he said, picking up the largest sardines from their catch and throwing them one after another back into the sea. “They want their share.” She watched in shock as her fishing mentor lost his mind right in front of her. After he’d thrown close to fifty of the largest fish back into the water he sat down and wiped his forehead, waving at a half-dozen fins in the distance. “Eat well and thanks for your help!” he called after the disappearing porpoises.

“Why did you throw away so many fine fish?” Traf asked, picking herself up from the bottom of the boat and staring at the horizon. “That was easily four or five lines full,” she complained, peering bleakly into the somewhat less-full garbage can.

“We’ll get those back and more,” said Tio Marcio, gesturing off to the side at the porpoises breaking the water, throwing themselves playfully back and forth as they swam in their direction. “They’re herding the sardines toward us now.”

Traf heard the wild cawing of seagulls and watched them dart down to the water right in front of the school, picking up fish to carry off. Sure enough, the surface of the water roiled with silver flashes as the swirling school of sardines dashed heedlessly away from one danger right into another. Her fishing line went taut, and her pole tip dipped toward the water as they struck. She reeled in one line after another for an exhausting fifteen minutes. Finally, the fishing slowed to a stop and before she could be scolded again, Traf jumped up and started flinging the biggest live ones back overboard.

“You know,” said Tio Marcio as he helped her, “there are plenty of stories about these great fish helping people who are drowning, swimming between their legs and throwing them up on the rocks.

“I’ve heard some of those,” Traf agreed, opening a jar of cold coffee she’d brought along to drink while they waited to see if the sardines would come back. “But I thought they were fish stories, tales you old salts tell each other on long fishing trips.”

“You could have found out yourself, tonight,” he teased her. “I thought you were going over the side for sure when that porpoise came out of the water. I saw her coming and knew she was going to do that. She’s done it to me before.”

“What? Scream like a tortured woman right in your ear?” Traf screwed the lid back on the coffee and checked her jig, replacing two of the missing hooks. “There’s not much that scares me out here, but that did.”

“Oh, really?” razzed Tio Marcio. “I seem to remember you trying to cut loose a moray eel rather than bring it in teeth snapping.”

“Yes, then your nephew landed it and left it on the floor of the boat! That thing bit my boot and wouldn’t let go ‘til you clubbed it to death. I hate to tell you something you don’t know,” she grinned at her old boss, “but your nephew’s an idiot.”

He ignored the jibe and her clear attempt to redirect to one of his favorite topics of conversation. Refusing to be baited, he teased, “Yes, the eels bother you, moray, crongo, electric, but I also recall something about octopus, right?” Tio Marcio watched the bobbing sea horizon, searching for fins, sparing her a glance and a wink. “Something about when you were little, right?”

She remembered the story she’d told him years ago. “Oh, yeah, that. My father used me for bait one time,” she shuddered. “I was little, splashing my feet in a tide pool while he looked for crabs. He saw an octopus in the pool near my feet and told me to keep splashing. It grabbed my leg and started to climb up me, the suckers left big bruises. It wrapped its tentacles around me and squeezed before Father grabbed its gills and killed it.” She shuddered and spat over the side. “Just one of the many times he’s failed to protect me.”

“You’re kidding, right? Why would you say that? It was Gaspar’s idea for me to bring you out here and have a chat with you.” The boat captain’s usually cheerful countenance became serious. He ceased watching the waves and turned his attention on her.

 “There’s talk going around, Traf, about your club and your friends. Some people are saying you girls need to be taught a lesson to keep out of men’s business.” He watched her absorb this information without notable emotion. “Doesn’t that worry you? This isn’t just idle gossip, they’re serious.”

She nodded her head in acknowledgment.

“Your father overheard them planning in a bar. He asked me to warn you. He and your brother-in-law, Joaquim, have warned all of Lajes what’ll happen if anyone touches one hair on your head, and I’ve spread the same warning here in Praia, but we thought you should know.”

Traf stared at him. “Did you just say my father warns men against attacking me?”

“Sure, he’s been telling that around since before you came to work for me,” said Tio Marcio, surprised by her surprise.

Traf had always been thankfully amazed she’d never been assaulted as so many of her butch buddies had been over the years. Would her father, the same one who beat her with a two by four, do that for her?

“Thank you for warning me.” Traf grimaced. “I’ll spread the news and we’ll take extra precautions, make sure no one’s alone and…,” she hesitated just a moment, swallowing around a bitter lump in her throat, “…we’ll make sure it’s safe inside when they get home.” The Troublemakers had learned that lesson the hard way. “We’ll take care of each other.” She lowered her repaired line back in the water, studiously looking out to sea.

“Well, good, but I’d still feel better if you’d steer clear of that whole court business,” Tio Marcio said. “Acosta and his buddies are stirring up trouble. They’ve been talking big and …”

“Uh oh,” she interrupted, pointing toward the horizon. “Look, a pack of sharks is coming right for us.”

“Those are the porpoises, woman. Sharks can’t work together. They’re not that smart. These porpoises are smarter than you.” He dropped his own line, smiling and waving as the playful porpoises jumped in and out of the water, circling the scrambling school of fish, enjoying the game of herding them to the boat. They fished frantically, reeling full lines of sardines in and dropping empty ones back as fast as possible. An eternal twenty minutes later it ended again. This time the porpoises ate and disappeared. They knew the sardines swam away when the seagulls flew off, always searching for easy prey.

“Both garbage cans are nearly full,” Traf pointed out. “But the sun hasn’t even set, yet. It’d be a shame to go in so soon.”

“Take some sardines and bait some two-line jigs with the bigger hooks.” While she did so, Tio Marcio dumped a few buckets of seawater in to top off the garbage cans and tied their lids down, covering them with wet burlap sacks. “We’ll see if we can land some cod to take home for dinner.” He took one of the baited jigs, attached it to his line, and let it out.

Traf took the other and did the same, but as her line sank out of sight she thought she saw a bright blue spark, like a tiny lightning bolt. “What the hell?” she said, immediately embarrassed. “I mean, what was that?” She described what she’d seen.

“Sounds like an electric eel…”

Traf hastily reassured herself that her line was of nylon and not the thin wire she used for hand-fishing. She thought about reeling up anyway.

“…and they’re always in the company of…” Tio Marcio excitedly climbed up on the engine cover in the middle of the boat, staring around at the surface of the water. “Ah hah, what luck! Speak of the devil and he appears. We’ve got an octopus, Traf, see the ink in the water over there?” He raised the anchor an arm’s length and maneuvered the boat’s rudder to drift in that direction, lowering the anchor again where the last traces of ink dissipated.

Traf, who felt a tug on her line, said over her shoulder. “Fine, you fish for octopus but I’m after cod. Don’t expect any help from me if you catch one!” She started reeling in but hissed between her teeth when the line wouldn’t give. “Great. I’m stuck on a rock. Probably caught while we were drifting,” she complained, giving the line a hard yank and reeling steadily until it broke. She lost both hooks.

Grumbling, she watched Tio Marcio pull in a large rock cod as she prepared another jig. Ready at last, she dropped it to a meter above the bottom and it immediately caught again. “We must be over a bunch of rocks or coral. I keep getting caught!”

“Of course, octopus like caves and holes to hide in.” He looked at her tugging. “Ease it loose, the hooks cost money, you know.”

She wiggled the line up and down and back and forth to see if she could work it free. She jerked it straight up, but still, it didn’t give. “Shoot,” she said, more careful about her language. “I’m going to lose this rig, too.” She started reeling, watching in disbelief as her pole tip bent nearly double without the line breaking.

“What the…?” The line gave minutely under her relentless reeling. “Oh, great, this cheap line is stretching.” She straightened out her pole and angled it into the water, pulling to make the line snap. Instead, it again reeled in incrementally. Traf redoubled her efforts as Tio Marcio pulled in his line, this time with two small fish on the hooks.

“I don’t believe it. I must have picked up a sunken log or something,” Traf complained as the ruined line slowly began to wind around her reel. Tio Marcio threw the small fish overboard and reached with his hands for her line.

“We’ll just snap it free,” he said, adding his muscle to the pull. “Holy Mother of God,” he shouted, staring down into the water. “You caught it, you caught the ‘pus. That’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen.”

“What?” Traf shrieked, standing up on her toes to look over the side. Directly under them, she saw only spotted brown where the usual gray-green of the sea would be.  “That’s all octopus? It’s huge! Oh no, Lady of Fatima save me.” She reached for the clippers she kept in her tackle box.

“Don’t cut the line, are you kidding? That thing is worth two thousand escudos, maybe more. Look at the size of him!”

“I’m not catching that octopus,” Traf shouted.

“Think of the money!” Tio Marcio barked. “Pull it this way, toward the shallow stern, or we’ll never get it over the side.”

“I’m not touching that thing!” Traf growled, throwing her pole at him. “You do it if you want it so bad. I’m not going near it.”

Tio Marcio grabbed the pole before it fell overboard and shouted, “You fool. I’ll do it by myself.” He glared at her. “You only get the chance to catch a fish like this once in a lifetime.”

“Not my lifetime.” Traf scrambled to the higher end of the boat, as far away as possible. “Or yours either if you don’t let that monster go!”

“Damn it, Traf, don’t be such a coward!”

“Go for the gills and pull its head over until it sprays ink. That’s how Father killed the other one.” She shrieked, pointing at a tentacle as wide as her ankle snaking over the boat side and waving about.

“I know how to kill an octopus.” Tio Marcio angled the line so it pulled in smoothly, reeling steadily as the great fish came closer. “Shut up and get the gaffe, woman.”

“No,” she yelled, throwing the long-handled hook to his feet. “You’re an idiot, it’s not worth your life!”

“What a girl you’ve turned out to be after all, little trafulha,” Tio Marcio taunted, breathing hard with his efforts. “I’ll be teasing you about this for the rest of my life.” He didn’t see the tentacle searching for something to grab coming closer to where he stood at the side of his boat, but she did.

 “Watch out, it’s trying to get you. Cut the line, save yourself, get rid of it!” Traf tugged at the anchor as if preparing to move the boat.

“I’ve almost got him.” Tio Marcio, a seasoned fisherman, kept reeling in the line and the water began to shift just under the surface. “I thought I’d never get one, but this is my dream catch, a once in a lifetime. An octopus this size brings more than any other fish. Restaurants pay top money for the huge ones.”

“There’s not enough money in the world. I won’t risk it. There’s no way I’m touching that thing or letting it touch me.” Traf shouted as another tentacle began sliding over the side. “Cut it loose! I’ll buy you more line, man, and a new pole if that’s what you’re worried about. I’ll pay you the two thousand escudos myself if you just let it go!” She paled visibly as a third tentacle tip reached over the side of the boat and wrapped itself around one of the boat captain’s arms. “Too late,” she whispered, aghast. “The devil’s got you.”

“Help me,” Tio Marcio shouted as much longer lengths of the tentacles climbed over the side, as wide as his thigh and searching for something else to wrap around. “Quick, Traf, grab hold of it.”

“You’re a dead man!” She stared at him in horror as a tentacle seized his ankle.

Tio Marcio threw down the fishing rod, using his free arm to frantically tear at the thing holding his other. But, by then other tentacles grabbed the boat and one reared up directly behind his back.

“Watch out,” she screamed.

He turned as the tentacle wrapped around his throat. “Traf,” he screamed, “help!”

“Fight him,” she shouted, wrapping her arms around her chest. “I told you not to mess with octopuses!”

The choking man strained against the creature and every time brought it a little farther into the boat until it’s huge head, easily four times as big as a soccer ball, rose up and over, it’s squinty eyes glaring at them. The massive beast took command of the small boat.

“Tink uff ta mummy.” Traf strained to make out what Tio Marcio said. “Tink uff ta mummy! Helfff meeee.”

“What are you saying? I can’t understand you.”

“Dabbid, wommn, hep me ged dis fitch. To somtin!” His free arm tore at the sucking tentacle at his throat.

The monster slithered across the boat deck, searching over the side for deep water. “It’s going back to hell and dragging you with it!” Traf watched, terrified, paralyzed.

“Todt letti goh. Stawp id. Tink uff ta mummy.”

“Don’t let it go? Think of the money?” Traf laughed crazily. “Don’t worry, man, your wife will soon be a rich widow with plenty of insurance money.”  She closed her eyes. “That thing is going to kill you!”

“Gawwwht tammit!” Tio Marcio reached for the giant fish’s gills under its massive head, stretching as far as he could go. His face turned a dusky shade of blue and his eyes started to roll back before he finally got the grip he needed. Yanking with all the strength left in him fueled by all the fear in the world, he ripped the massive gill out. The dying octopus slowly loosened its grip as ink and life leaked from its body.

Traf stared at the raging sea monster terrorizing her only a moment ago, now a gelatinous mass sprawled across the boat deck. Tio Marcio struggled to remain standing, still caught and gasping for breath. Recognizing her fears as childish, she grabbed the lifeless tentacle around his throat and pulled, peeling its suckers free. As he gasped for air, struggling through racking coughs, she worked at the tentacles around his wrist and ankle, marveling at purple bruises the size of oranges.

She fetched the jar of cold coffee and wordlessly handed it to him. Tio Marcio drank gratefully and then let loose a stream of profanity and oaths noteworthy for both their complexity and diversity. He called Traf every kind of coward, heaped aspersions on her ancestry and curses on her great-grandchildren, and then called upon Satan and all the powers of Hell to punish her.

“You would have watched me die, rather than help me fight off that octopus!” He shook his head in disbelief. “You fuckin’ bastard, you cowardly bitch.”

Traf glared at him as she pulled up the anchor and started the engine, heading for shore. “I told you I wouldn’t go near that thing before you pulled that monster up onto the boat. You’ve known me long enough to believe what I say.”

He finished the coffee and calmed down before they reached port, and even started chuckling through his bruised throat. After loading the fish and octopus into his van, he gave her the keys. “Drive me home, then take this sucker to Beira Mar in Angra. Make them give you at least two, no, three thousand escudos. If they ask why the price is so high, tell them. Deliver the sardines to the fish market and explain I expect at least two thousand down on my account. Then get back here and scrub out the boat.”

When she got him home, climbing painfully down from the van he said, “Thank God my wife is visiting her sister tonight and isn’t home to see me like this. I’d never hear the end of it.” He placed his hand on the van window and leaned in. “You’ll still get your full twenty percent, Trafulha Troublemaker. You made a thousand escudos tonight. But next time I’ll take your two thousand escudos instead of counting on you.”

He walked toward his door but stopped and turned around after a few steps. “Remember what I told you, my young friend. Take precautions and be vigilant. You never know who might not be there when you need them.”

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BLOOD MONEY MURDER Book Review

blood-money-murder-1mbBLOOD MONEY MURDER SLAYS!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and here it is:

Author Jessie Chandler always hits my funny bone. I’d never heard of cozy mysteries before starting this series, and now I’m seriously hooked. Her latest book in the Shay O’Hanlon series, Blood Money Murder, is seriously feeding my addiction.

Life is never easy for Shay, co-owner of the popular coffee shop and bakery, The Rabbit Hole. This Saint Patrick’s Day, her crusty but caring surrogate mother, Eddy, is visited by two unsavory characters. Shay is immediately protective, but doesn’t understand the significance of their threats until she and her half-sister are kidnapped by two leprechaun disguised thugs.

Handcuffed to irritating, favor currying Lisa and trapped in the basement of an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere, Shay has to fight her way free of jealousy before they can attempt an escape from their bonds. JT Bordeaux, her long-suffering policewoman lover, risks everything she’s ever worked for to search for her missing girlfriend.

The usual posse of delightful characters rally around. Sweet geniuses Tulip and Rocky, and Coop, Shay’s oddball friend from childhood, jump in with their brand of genuinely funny detective work. Together, they tackle a thirty year-old robbery and murder completely unaware that it’s one of their own who has the biggest confession to make.

Blood Money Murder earns five stars. I recommend this book to everyone as a delightful read, and a perfect gift for lighthearted mystery lovers.

 

A Whole New Form of Literature

I am proud to announce the publication of A Man’s Man, the second of my Rainbow Family novels for kids being raised in same-sex families. Except for picture books for the pre-reader, and YA novels for teens and older students, there are no (correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve looked long and hard) books written about growing up with same-sex parents for middle readers. 

If you are a Rainbow parent or grandparent, this book is for your kid. If you know Rainbow parents, this book would make an excellent present for their kid. If you don’t know any Rainbow parents or their kids, buy a copy and donate it to your local library. These kids deserve to see themselves represented in fiction.

After the sudden death of his mother, RJ, a thirteen-year-old eighth grader must go live with his gay father and his boyfriend Stephen. RJ longs for the days when his father was living with him and his mom, so he devises a complicated plan to change his father from gay to straight. The resulting scandal has unintended consequences, forcing RJ to come to grips with just what makes A Man’s Man.

Read the first chapter here, then follow the link to buy your very own copy. 

A MAN’S MAN

Chapter 1 – On The Farm

It’s like this, see. My dad’s a fag, his boyfriend’s queer, and I think I might be gay. I mean, I think it’s catching or something. 

I never used to think about it back when I lived with Mom. But now she’s dead and I have no one to live with except Dad and Stephen. Everyone knows that kids raised in faggot families turn out all messed up. I figure it’s just a matter of time before I start prancing around, or my wrist goes limp, or I start speaking with a lisp. 

I tried to talk to my Dad about it once but all he said was, “RJ! Those things don’t really happen!” and then he changed the subject. I guess he doesn’t see it as a problem if I grow up to be a homo, but to me it’s a death sentence. I think I’ll have to kill myself if I start liking guys. 

Back when Mom was alive things were easier. She could talk to me about anything and I’d understand. If I didn’t understand at first, she’d take her time and talk it out with me until I did. Now I don’t understand anything. 

Damned drunk driver! How come he’s still walking around right as rain, and she’s in a box six feet under? Explain that to me. 

Mom never liked it when I swear, but now she’s not around to remind me, words slip out without my even knowing I’ve said them, mostly. She never liked it when I called Dad a fag, or queer, or homo, but that’s what he is, so what’s wrong with saying so? It’s not my fault he’s not normal. But it’ll be his fault if I’m not. 

“It’s rude,” Mom would tell me. She said I should just think of him as Dad, which I did. My faggot father. My queer dad. My homo pop. Ha, ha. 

It’s been two months since we buried Mom, and school is starting next Monday after Labor Day. I’m so not looking forward to it. As if it’s not bad enough to be known as the new kid in school, I’m also the kid who’s Mom died. And when they find out, I’ll be the new motherless boy with two dads, which is totally untrue because Stephen is not, and never will be, a father to me. But once the kids know, the damage will be done. Eighth grade is so going to suck. 

Which is totally unfair, too, because I was way popular back in my old school in San Diego. I was good at sports, I got good grades, and I had lots of friends. They’d come over to my place to play, or I’d head over to one of their apartments. It was fun. We’d play outside almost all year long, and swimming at the public pool was my favorite thing to do. 

Out here in Minnesota no one knows me, and there’s no one to hang with nearby. I live on a farm, now, of all things. Can you believe it? I left sunny, warm San Diego and now I’m stuck out here in the middle of nowhere, with only two other farms in sight. I miss the sounds of traffic in the night. I miss the sound of voices everywhere. I miss Mom’s voice.  

I’m afraid I’m forgetting it, but once in a while I think I hear her call my name. I always look around before I remember she’s dead. Dead, it’s an ugly word. I didn’t know what it meant before. It’s being alone, all the time. It’s never seeing her again, or talking to her about things that matter, and things that don’t. I’ll never hear her voice again. Never hear her call, “RJ!” in just that way.

I’m forgetting what she sounded like, and even sometimes what she looked like. When that happens, I panic. I get out my pictures, and a CD she made of stories to put me to sleep from when I was little and visited Dad in the summers. I listen to it as I look at all the pictures of Mom and me. I’ll remember her always, even if I have to look at them every single day for the rest of my life. 

Dad grows corn and milks all the cows twice a day, and Stephen cares for the rest of the stock and takes care of the house and garden. They think I’m going to do some healing or some such, just by helping out with the animals. Well I’ve got news for them. I’m not a farmer, and I’m never going to be. They can milk their own cows and feed their own chickens, and don’t even start with me on the goat. As soon as I’m old enough, I’m lighting out of here. I’ve got plans, and they don’t include Minnesota. 

Being thirteen is better than being twelve, but only by a little. I’ve still got eighth grade ahead of me, before I’ll finally be in High School, where you start to grow up. Everyone still treats me like a little kid, and now that Mom’s gone there’s no one who really understands me. I feel like a desert island, and I’m the only survivor. I want her. 

She was like sunlight. I know I’m remembering her maybe better than she really was, but so what? She’s gone, and I’ll never have her again, and if I want to remember her as wonderful, what’s wrong with that? And she was like sunlight, all blond and fair. Her blue eyes were the color of a cloudless sky, and she had tiny little freckles sprinkled all over her nose and her knees, which probably no one ever noticed but me. When she smiled, the whole world smiled with her, me most of all. She could always make me feel better, no matter what the trouble. But she can’t help me with the trouble I have now, ‘cause she left me. 

I get so angry at her sometimes, I just want to hit something, or yell until I don’t have a voice anymore, or just lie down and die myself. She promised me once, when I was real little and scared by a storm or something that she’d never die. She lied. She might not have meant to die, but she did, and now I’m alone. It’s not fair, and I want to yell at her and call her a liar, and then she’ll apologize and call me Little Man like she used to, and I’d do anything to see her smile once more. 

But instead I’m imprisoned out on some cow palace in the middle of nowhere, with no kids in sight, much less any boys my age. I’m hoping to meet some guys to play sports with when school starts, but you never know. I’ve never been the new kid in school before, though I’ve seen plenty of them. Never looked like much fun to me. 

I don’t think I’ll have trouble with the school work. If I was at the top of my class in San Diego, I doubt if these country bumpkins will be able to keep up with me. The teachers better be decent.  

I’m going to be a doctor when I grow up. Mom and me, I mean I, planned it all out, and I’m going to make it happen. The first step is getting all A’s on my report cards. That I’ve been doing since first grade. The second step is playing team sports, so I can earn a scholarship. This was going to be the year that Mom signed me up for every sport, starting with football in the fall. She promised she’d be at every game and every practice too. 

Yeah. Well. She lied. 

I’ve already told Dad that I want to go for sports, and he sees nothing wrong with it. Good thing, because I would have done it anyway. I mean, imagine me letting a pansy stop me from doing sports? No way. Good thing he didn’t push me on it. 

I guess I get my height from my Dad, because he seems kind of short to me. Stephen is at least a head taller, and with blond hair and blue eyes, a lot better looking, too. Dad looks like me, a homely little guy with dark brown hair and gray eyes. He’s not handsome and never will be. That’s all you can say for him, with his deep lined face and eyes all squinted up from working in the sun. But even if he is small, he’s got some pretty good muscle on him. I watched him slinging hay around in the barn one day, and later when no one was around I tried it. Boy, it was a lot heavier than it looked! 

Now Stephen, he’s just a fairy, a tinker bell, a poof. He waltzes around here like he’s dancing everywhere. I had to look, one time, to make sure his feet were still on the floor and he hadn’t started flying. He’s very excitable, and it doesn’t take much for him to raise his voice, unlike Dad who hardly speaks at all. 

I gotta hand it to Stephen, though. For a poof, he’s pretty handy to have around. Since I’ve been here he’s already done a tune up on the tractor, delivered a litter of puppies, and made a batch of strawberry preserves, which he put up in glass jars now lining the pantry shelf. Pretty tasty, too. He’s repairing a window pane I accidentally busted when practicing my throwing yesterday. He said I could help him this morning, if I want to. 

So I wander over to the front yard, and sure enough, there’s Stephen, shirtless in a pair of old overalls, wearing thick gloves and pulling the broken shards free from the window pane. He’s slender, but with his shirt off you can see he’s got some muscle. It looks strange on him. I keep expecting to see him in an apron or something. He looks up and sees me, then waves for me to come join him. I walk up closer, but keep my distance. 

“Want to hand me that hair dryer, RJ?” he asks, and since it’s close to hand, I do it. I laugh. 

“What you gonna do with that, Stephen?” I ask, all cocky. “Your inner hairdresser straining to come out?” I put my hand to my ear, pretending to hear someone. “Oh, there’s RuPaul’s Drag Race phoning.” 

He just laughs at me, and plugs the hair dryer in to a thick extension cord he’s got coming through the window from inside. Then he aims it at the window pane and turns it on. “This’ll heat up the putty,” he explains. “Soften it up so it’s easier to take out.” 

Well this I’ve got to see, so I wander on over to take a better look. Sure enough, that cracked old putty is loosening up and we start to work it with our fingers. Pretty soon we’re pulling most of it down.

“Now we scrape,” says Stephen, and picks up something that looks kind of like a really wide, flat screw driver. “This is a putty knife,” he says, and starts shoving it gently against the putty that hasn’t pulled free. It scrapes up nice and clean. 

“Now hand me some of that linseed oil, and we’ll prepare the wood for our new pane,” he says to me. I cast around looking and find a tin can on the ground with a clean rag sitting on top of it. Stephen pours some smelly oil on the rag, and begins wiping down the wood of the window pane. 

When that’s done he has me look the new pane over to decide which side is the “out” side, beveled he calls it. Then he gives me a piece of fresh putty and I roll it in my hands until it’s a little thinner than a pencil. He takes it from me and shows me how to fit it into the bare window pane. 

He takes the glass and sets it in real careful, making sure the beveled part is facing outside. Stephen hands me these pieces of metal, kind of like large staples, and tells me to wedge them into the putty every few inches, tapping them in gently with the butt of the screwdriver. Those will help hold the glass in place while it dries. Then we take a little extra putty and press it around the corners. Finally he shows me how to use the edge of the knife to wipe away the extra. When it’s all done it looks just like the other panes of glass except for the color of the wood. Stephen says it will dry for a couple of days before we paint it real carefully so it’ll match. 

“Good job, RJ,” says Stephen, but I try not to take it too much to heart. After all, what a poof thinks of you doesn’t count for much. But I tell him thanks anyway, then go sit on a big tractor tire they’ve got hanging from a tree in the front yard, missing Mom again. 

“Why don’t you go down to the lake, and see if you can catch yourself a turtle for a pet?” calls Stephen as he gathers up the stuff to put away. More of a command than a suggestion, but it sounds like as good a plan as any, so I thrust my hands deep in my jeans pockets and start walking down the road.

It’s hot, already August, and there’re millions of gnats singing in the air. They swarm around my head, and I bat at them, but it only drives them away for a minute and then they’re right back at me. I remember something Dad told me a long time ago, and I start humming with as deep a voice as I can muster. Sure enough, those gnats must not like my singing, because they float away and decide to go bedevil something else, most likely the cows. 

I can smell the manure just hanging on the hot air as I pass the holding pen outside the milking barn. Dad’s out there shoveling away what’s left from this morning’s crowd of milling cows, and he looks up and waves as I go by. I pretend not to see him, kicking up dirt clods like it was the most important thing on the Earth to accomplish. 

I don’t know why I’m so mad at him, besides the fact that he’s a queer and ruining my life, I mean. It’s not like they kept it a secret from me. After all I came here to visit for a month every summer, back in first and second grade. But he wasn’t really gay because he didn’t have a boyfriend. It was just us, then, and he was just my Dad. 

Then he wrote Mom a letter and told her about Stephen, and she decided I shouldn’t go out to visit anymore. Probably didn’t want me seeing them kissing and stuff. Not that they do that around me, but still, it would gross me out, make me hurl. So I haven’t been up here on the farm since I started third grade. I guess that’s too long, because everything seems different to me now. 

I used to enjoy feeding the chickens, but now I just want to kick them in the face. I hate the way they crowd around me, trying to get the food before I toss it to the ground. Greedy guts, that’s what they are. I told Stephen I don’t want to do it anymore, and he said that’s all right, he’s used to doing it. So good, I figure. Let him. 

I remember how big everything used to be, but I guess that was just because I was so little. It seems to me Dad looked so tall once, he could reach up and touch the sky with his bare hand, but now I just see him as short. And the corn used to taste so sweet it was almost like candy. Now it tastes like the dust covering my shoes. 

I get to the big tree sitting at the corner of the dirt path that will take me down to Silver Lake. Our land butts up to it, but it’s a lot quicker to go by this worn down path, probably first walked by Indians a thousand years ago, and maybe even cavemen thousands of years before that. 

Stepping off into the woods it’s easy to feel like I’m traveling back in time. Everything is so dark and cool beneath the heavy headed trees nodding in the summer breeze. Huge mosquitoes buzz around my ears, and I know I’ll be covered in itchy bites, but I just don’t care. In here, where no one can see me, is where I cry what tears I’ve got left. 

This morning I wait for some to come squeezing out, but there doesn’t seem to be any need, so I just stomp on down the path. When it suddenly opens onto Silver Lake I stop and stare, just like the first time I saw it all those years ago. This is the one thing that hasn’t changed. The lake is always beautiful, ringed with tall trees and grasses, about a hundred different greens. Even now, when the nights are starting to cool, the leaves are still green. In a few weeks they’ll turn red, gold, orange, all the colors of autumn. But right now, everything is its own shade of green. 

When Dad first left us, I was only four years old, too young even for school. He and Mom gave me some lie; I don’t even remember what it was now, about why he had to go to a place called Minnesota. When I asked where the mini soda was, he’d burst out laughing and crying at the same time and told me it was far away from San Diego, but that he’d visit me, and I’d visit him. I don’t think he knew he was lying about visiting me, I just don’t think he figured how much work goes into a farm, though he should have, having been raised on one. 

When Dad was married to Mom, he was a banker, and we had a big house, with a lawn and a backyard to play in. Then there was some trouble, it had something to do with him finding out he was queer. Someone else found out too, and made trouble for him at his bank. Mom always said it wasn’t fair that they fired him. Anyway, we had to move into a small apartment, and suddenly Dad wasn’t a banker anymore. He wasn’t anything at all for a while. Except sad, maybe. 

Then Grandpa died and left him the farm and that’s when he decided he didn’t want to live in a city anymore, or be married to Mom and me anymore. He divorced us, and went back to his roots. When I was young and dumb, I thought that meant the roots of his corn but I found out it meant he wanted to go back to where he grew up. So my roots are in San Diego, where I lived with Mom. 

Dad might have thought he was going back to something, but from where I stood in San Diego, it sure looked a lot like running away to me. 

I kick off my shoes and settle my hot feet in the cool water lapping up on the shore. Away off in the distance I can see a motor boat, but it’s not moving so I figure someone’s out there fishing, probably some straight dad who took the time to show his boy the manly arts. Dad and I used to go out on a rented boat to fish, before Stephen. I enjoyed it, even if we didn’t catch enough to eat. Just being out on the lake alone with Dad was enough. We don’t fish anymore. Stephen. 

I search the bank for baby turtles, but don’t find any. They’re probably almost grown by now, or waiting to start school, like me. Maybe they feel the same way about it I do, partly wanting to go just to have something to do, and also wanting not to go, because I know there’s going to be trouble. If I had a shell maybe I’d just crawl inside and wait everyone out until I was grown up and could make up my own mind about stuff. 

The coolness of the water feels good against my hot dry skin, and I think about jumping in to swim. But besides the harmless box kind you can keep for pets, there are snapping turtles in that water, and I’m a little afraid of getting chomped. Dad showed me once how they latch on to what they bite, and won’t let go, by teasing one with a broomstick. We finally had to throw the whole thing in the lake for the snapper to let go, and wait for the broom to float back to shore. The bite mark it left on the broom handle convinced me I don’t want one fastened on any part of me. No way, I’m not that stupid. 

No sense in getting myself bit. Best to stay as far away from unseen dangers as possible. You never can tell what’s out there, going bump in the night, or hiding below the surface to bite. Or driving drunk on a dark and lonely street.

Give the Gift of Bullying

http://www.amazon.com/The-Boxer-Rebellion-ebook/dp/B007WZHCH0/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1342213950&sr=1-6&keywords=the+boxer+rebellion

Here’s an idea! The e-book copy of The Boxer Rebellion, is FREE today. Let’s make a full-moon Friday the 13th something to remember.

I’m sure you  know people who need to understand bullying in all it’s horrific glory, librarians, teachers, politicians, family members, or even your next door neighbors. You know, people who can help make every school safe for every student.

Send them the link, recommend they read the book, urge them to do the same with others. Request the paperback version at your local library. Gift the entire school board.

But remember:  This book has triggered survivors of teenage bullying. Although The Boxer Rebellion is set in high school and peopled with teenagers, it is a mature subject matter NOT for the faint of heart. It pulls no punches, and uses the crude language of bullies.

TRIGGERS:  LGBT bullying, cutting, suicide, cruelty, and crude language.

Book Review Friday – Bring It Home

Bring It Home (Midwestern Shapeshifter)Bring It Home by Deb Elliott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

She’s returned home to her parents, lost her fiance and house battling vampires, and dodged offers to join either the FBI or an international paranormal policing agency. However, instead of being allowed to grieve in peace DJ Jesserey finds herself once more in a battle against the forces of evil. Her father, the local sheriff, is receiving a disturbing number of missing person reports, so DJ goes on the hunt and discovers a ruthless group of rogue shape-shifters. Forced back into action before she’s ready, under the compulsion of her first moon mating, and once again defending unsuspecting humans from paranormal dangers, DJ Jesserey must succeed, or innocent people will die.

Vivid characters, quick pacing, excellent writing, and the occasionally hot sex scene will keep you turning pages late into the night. The second of author Deb Elliott’s Midwestern Shapeshifter series, Bring It Home is easily also a stand alone novel.

Excellent read for a weekend. Grab yourself a copy and enjoy. Buy it from Amazon here: Bring It Home

View all my reviews