Arachnophobia Short Fiction

Another prompt line, with a 20 minute deadline produced the first draft of this. It’s not autobiographical, I swear…

There I was, stuck on top of the bathroom cabinet, wondering how I was ever supposed to get down. It would be at least an hour before my husband got home from the store, could I wait that long? I felt the unmistakable stirrings that indicated I had a serious need for the toilet below me, but I couldn’t reach it with my feet, try as I might.

It started innocently enough. My husband, Mr. Strong Silent Type, had come shrieking out of the bathroom all rattled because there was a quote, very large spider, unquote on the ceiling. I, of course, knew that I was pushing his buttons when I told him it was his turn to kill the bug. My husband is fearless as a driver, intense in business, formidable on the playing field, and a complete wuss when it comes to spiders. His motto: Fear nothing, except spiders, especially anything that looks like it might be a Black Widow. For some reason, that kind really freaks him out.

So, after enjoying the look of sheer panic on his face, I let him off easy. I handed him my shopping list of at least a hundred grocery items, and told him we could swap. He does the marketing and I kill the spider. At the time I figured I was on easy street.

As I heard him drive off, I carted our small indoor ladder into the bathroom. I spotted the spider, and I will say it was fairly large, hairy legged, and might have bitten the head off her husband before mating, I couldn’t be sure. So I went to the kitchen and armed myself with a giant can of bug spray.

Mounting the ladder, I realized the pesky thing had hidden behind the bathroom cabinet and not willing to let it get away, I climbed up and followed, accidentally kicking out. With a crash the ladder fell down into the toilet seat, breaking the lid and skittering sideways into the window, which shattered with an ear splitting crash.

There I was, legs dangling in mid-air some seven feet off the floor. The cabinet on the wall was sturdy, but so was I and I wasn’t willing to bet which one of us was stronger. I angled way over and tried to get my toes to touch the counter, but being on my belly I couldn’t get my footing. Then I saw her.

The spider was advancing. She had me cornered and she knew it. As I watched her evil eyes, all eight of them, I realized I was on her menu. It was do, or die. So I swatted at her.

She jumped. I jumped. We were deadlocked, eye to eye, and neither one of us was backing down. Yet, enough mutual respect was in the air that neither one of us advanced on the other, either.

When I finally heard my husband’s car in the driveway, I was relieved until I panicked. Would this become a humiliating story told around our dinner table for time immemorial, or would I emerge wounded, but victorious? There really was no option. I told the stories about others, I was not the sad-sack subject of them, and no eight-legged beast was going to change that status.

I took the can of bug spray from my pocket. Clinging to the cabinet with one arm, I took aim and let it fly with all my might. I held down that aerosol spray button for as long as I could. A roiling cloud of bug spray filled the room. Even as it was escaping the broken window, I inhaled a bunch of it.

Hacking and spluttering I fell down to the floor of the bathroom amid the broken ladder and window glass. I was on my back gasping as my husband finally pushed open the door and found me. “What happened?” he asked, staring around wildly.

“I killed it,” I answered. Grinning lopsidedly, a thin trickle of blood dribbled from the empty socket where my front tooth used to be. I hoped the tip of my tongue would grow back.

Just then, the spider dropped through the dissipating cloud of noxious fumes on a long web strand. She chuckled, deep and low, and climbed back up to resume her stance on the ceiling. I swear she winked at me, four eyes closed, four open.

I heard her tiny, triumphant voice before I passed out. “No, I did.”

Gays are Bullies, Says Michele Bachmann

Yes, you read that right. It’s the gays who are bullying people, according to the congresswoman from Minnesota’s sixth congressional district.

I don’t mean to be catty (okay, yes I do) but the only bullying by a gay Michele Bachmann is likely to be experiencing might better be called spousal abuse.

Turning truth inside out to blame the victims is nothing new for Michele Bachmann, or her ilk. She and some of her most generous supporters worked for years to create a hostile environment for LGBTQ students in that district. A group calling themselves Parents Action League, an outgrowth of the ultra-conservative group Minnesota Family Council (which seems to be a virulent copy of the Family Research Council) helped put in place a policy colloquially called No Homo Promo. That finally ended fourteen years later in 2009, far too late. But under pressure by PAL, the Anoka/Hennepin district followed up with a feckless Neutrality policy that told teachers they could not address any gay issues. Afraid for their jobs, confused by vague language, teachers and staff members were afraid to do anything to protect targeted students. This gave bullies free reign, and they took full advantage.

Members of PAL claimed that by coming out the students brought the bullying on themselves, so for their own good they should stay in the closet. Any attempted formation of a Gay/Straight Alliance club on campus, they warned, would bring on more suicides. They neatly turned the tables and announced the recognition of oneself as LGBTQ to be so depressing an experience it drives teens to suicide.

In less than two years in the Anoka/Hennepin school district, nine kids committed suicide. Four of them self-identified as LGBTQ, or were perceived by their peers to be so. They were viciously bullied in schools and online. Funerals were held with frightening regularity during 2008 and 2009. Across the nation other students were choosing death over living in a hell on earth. It was Tyler Clementi’s death that focused the national attention on the suicides prompted by bullying.

I had already written two novels about children in rainbow families for middle-grade students, Riding the Rainbow and A Man’s Man (expected release date December 2014), and each had elements of bullying. But what was happening within miles of my comfortable home demanded stronger action and reaction. I pulled no punches in The Boxer Rebellion, did not flinch from the agony of the victims, and used the same vulgarities hurled daily at students in schools everywhere. book is a fictionalization of the events in Anoka/Hennepin school district during those two years. Many of the types of incidents I depict did happen to unfortunate victims during that time. Each new suicide was the tolling of a bell reminding us that no one is an island. We were so focused on those nine, it was easy to ignore the ten times as many kids who attempted to kill themselves during the same time period. More continued to suffer the cruel combination of bullying and the lack of protection from school staff. Sorrow and horror hung over not just the district, but the entire state of Minnesota.

Years have passed since those nine died, but the pain of the parents and friends of the victims continue to resonate in the community. Kids are still being bullied, and unfortunately we still have suicides. 

Parents and schools have agreed there need to be rules and consequences for bullying on and off the campus. Michele Bachmann strongly disagrees, constantly arguing against allowing LGBTQ students to live easy in their own skins.She still turns the story around to suit her own conservative Christian agenda. As recently as two months ago, she declared that it’s the gays who are bullies. My book may be fiction, but it is based on one big truth: bullying kills.

If you feel that people aren’t taking gay bullying seriously enough, buy a copy of The Boxer Rebellion and give it to a school teacher, librarian, or principal. Donate one to your local library, or request they purchase one.

Join the rebellion. Up the rebels!

RIP LGBT Warrior Stormé DeLarverie

Stormé DeLarverie passed away just a few days ago on Saturday, May 24, 2014 at the age of 93. Hers should be a name that flows easily from the mouths of both young and old, yet is in danger of fading away in obscurity. Sharing her story is my honor as I kick off Pride Month.

“It ain’t easy being green, sho’nuff!”, she’s say once in a while. Born in 1920 in New Orleans, her father was white and her mother was a black servant in his house. While they continued living in Louisiana where interracial marriage was illegal, she remembered her mother being well supported. Later her father and mother moved to California and were married.

Stormé stated in interviews that she started singing in her teens, first as a woman and later dressed as a man. She traveled in a jazz band to Europe, with a rich baritone voice that lead her eventually to a career as MC of the Jewel Box Revue, a racially diverse drag show that she hosted from the mid 1950s into the 1960s. Tall, talented, and very handsome, she was the only drag king among a bevy of beautiful drag queens.

She’d told friends there was a period of time when she worked as a bodyguard for several Chicago gangsters. It is well known that during the time period she describes, mobsters and mafia often ran bars that catered to an ‘unusual’ clientele, sometimes the only gathering places for people who identified as other than straight. The bars’ owners paid regular bribes to local police forces, and put up with the occasional raids to harass and arrest LGBT patrons so certain politicians could whitewash their records before elections.

Diane Arbus’ photo of Stormé DeLarverie

It was during such a raid on the night of June 27, 1969, that Stormé DeLarverie kicked off perhaps the most significant riot in the history of gay rights. She was at the Stonewall Bar, which no one disputes. Later that night, standing outside the bar and about to be arrested, a cross dressed lesbian (woman dressed as a man) was manhandled by the NYPD and pushed/hit back. The cop landed on his butt, and the riot began in earnest. Many maintain that lesbian was Stormé, and her close personal friends say she admitted to them she’d done it, but others dispute her claim.

One way or the other, it is a fact that she spent decades patrolling the streets of Manhattan, tall, androgynous, and armed with a knife or gun. Ever vigilant, trouble in the form of baiting and bullying, intimidation and humiliation (which Stormé called ‘ugliness’) had a way of disappearing when she walked onto the scene. Her presence was intimidating, but her love for the gays and lesbians on her streets was boundless. No one was going to hurt her ‘baby girls’, a term of endearment  she used for young lesbians.

Personally, I’d heard through the grapevine (can we call it oral tradition?), that there was a lesbian who started the riot, fanned the flames in the following days, and later patrolled the area to keep other gays and lesbians safe. She was said to dress like a man and to fight like a man, but she was all woman. I choose to believe that was Stormé DeLarverie.

Listen to an interview she gave a few years back. In the background you’ll hear her still singing at the age of ninety.

Rest in peace, Stormé DeLarverie, and thanks for your service. I’m sorry I didn’t know your name until you died, but I won’t forget it, or you, warrior woman.

Read more about Stormé  DeLarverie’s life and death by following these links.

The Advocate
Huffington Post
New York Times

Yes, All Women

As I’ve shared with you, I spent the long Memorial Day weekend at WisCon, a convention of feminist science fiction/fantasy enthusiasts. It was a growth experience that caused a steep rise in my personal learning curve.

While I was hip deep in discussions about diversity and privilege, how to reach readers and sell myself, queer radical theory and medieval POC, a shocking act of misogyny was unfolding in Isla Vista, California. The #YesAllWomen phenomenon began to grow, forcing a public discussion that was far more divisive and dismissive than the ones going on all around me.

Many people have addressed the messages posted on #YesAllWomen (if you visit this page, please do not post for reasons you will see below) as well as the truly ugly misogyny displayed in the first days at #NotAllMen. There have been some excellent blog posts and ezine articles discussing both sides of the issue of whether or not women have the right to complain about being treated badly by men.

Yes. You read that right. The discussion is not about how women are hurt by our rape culture and male privilege, it’s about women even bringing the subjects up at all. Some outrageous statements were made that basically shook down to ‘if women would sleep with any man who wants them, men wouldn’t join anti-women websites, write manifestos about how evil they are, or even take a bunch of loaded guns to hunt down any woman on the assumption she won’t go to bed with him’. Excuse me while I, and the entire rest of the female populace of the world, cry BULLSHIT.

Okay, and then there are the feminist allies who also derailed the conversation by insisting they be recognized as ‘not like that’. Women who posted their real life experiences were hunted down and hounded by men who demanded they stop being so angry at men. ‘Only some guys do that, so you should only be angry at THOSE GUYS.’

Um yeah, maybe, but even feminist men are not innocent of this aura of privilege all men across the face of our planet have, that women are denied from birth. You all, every single one of you, benefit from this system in ways so subtle you don’t even see it. By laughing at certain jokes, attending mainstream movies, participating in, or standing by in complicit silence while other men, and even unaware women, hold conversations where people are seen as ‘other than’ or ‘less than’ any man, you become part of the problem.

So, good men are upset. They want to be told how to fix the problem, how to stop the pain that the women they love suffer on and off throughout the entirety of their lives. They want to help. The only problem is, that’s not the discussion at hand right now.

Women want to be heard, in our entirety and with every voice we have. We need to tell our stories, so that in the sheer strength of our numbers we find solace in not being isolated, set apart from or worse, against each other. This is our opportunity, a time to talk as women, to women, about being women. I want to hear from others like me in gender, and unlike me in so many other ways. I want to have my eyes opened to my own privileges, to see them for what they are and to work so all women enjoy the same privileges an accident of birth granted me. I need to rant about wrongs done to me, and empathize with the outrageous experiences of others. I want to weep on womanly shoulders and offer comfort with my feminine arms.

I have needed to have this conversation for fifty-seven long years, and I just don’t have the time to be pulled aside and distracted by the needs of my male friends, no matter how loving and supportive they are. Guys, you’re on your own for a while. I am not available to tend to your wishes (talking to you right now), wants (worrying over your feelings), and desires (to see you as heroes). I’m busy with more important stuff. Talk amongst yourselves and look within for answers. I see and recognize your statements of support, and somewhere deep inside me I thank you for them. But I don’t want to talk to you, not at the moment.

I, and all women, must have this time to ourselves to mourn our dead and missing, to identify and localize horrific current events, to finally come to terms with the unfathomable depth of misogyny running through the cultures of the world. We need to self-identify and help our resistant sisters to lift the veil of our male centered societies from their eyes. We will heal from this and rise stronger, ready to reach out to allies and take up the intense struggle necessary to secure the safety of every, yes, all women.

And in an ironically infuriating addendum, I must report that the #YesAllWomen HT is being abandoned because its creator has been frightened sufficiently to request no one post to it any longer. Crazy people are making insane threats to her, and her family’s, safety. Her situation has become a stark example of why we need to tell our stories and reclaim our strength, synergizing courage in numbers.

#EachEveryWoman is an excellent place to be right now.

Oh My Dear, #WisCon Was A Blast!

I’m so sorry I’m a day late in posting this week. I spent the long Memorial Day weekend at a fabulous convention for feminists and science fiction aficionados in Madison, Wisconsin. I’m sure WisCon will feature heavily in my blog posts for awhile, because I met wonderful people and was given so much to think about it will take months to filter through the old brain-pan.

This was the 38th year of WisCon, and I’m very sorry that I’m missed the last 37. Just imagine how much further I’d be along the road of writing if I’d attended every one! It boggles the mind.

Much of the conference centered around the reality of privilege, how to recognize when you have it, what steps you might take to counteract the effects of privilege, and how to be a constructive ally to those who are oppressed. It was most interesting to realize that most of us fit somewhere up or down the ladder of privilege. More on that in the next few days, I promise!

Tomorrow I will post another short short story, because I’m preparing a special post for Pride Month, which as everyone in the entire frickin’ world ought to know by now is JUNE. Some celebrate the last weekend in the month, others choose to celebrate during the early part of June, and then there are those of us who celebrate the WHOLE month:

I wrote this several years ago in response to a woman’s original post on Facebook, and her follow up response to me. To protect her privacy, I’ve omitted her name and words, but I’m sure you’ll get the gist.

D., I’m so sorry that you feel this way. I’ve known you as a FB friend and Farm Ville neighbor. I believe you to be a good kind woman, and I’ll miss you.

But I am a lesbian in love with the finest woman I have ever known. She and I share two daughters, and four grandchildren. We are normal people, just like you. We go fishing, mow the lawn, take care of our family and house, pay our taxes, bury our dead and celebrate our births. We go to church, read ourselves to sleep, bake food when someone’s ill, visit with the neighbors, and shop in local stores.

You’re choosing to follow the teachings of your church – not your religion. Your family is Christian, and my family is Christian. Your church teaches one thing, ours another. Yours teaches exclusion, ours inclusion, yours will tolerate a penitent sinner, ours doesn’t offer mere tolerance, but total WWJD acceptance. We choose our religions, and our churches. I never chose my sexuality, I was born this way.

Your choice to help maintain the inequality between heterosexuals and gay folks is a deliberate choice to make me and my family ‘less than’ you and your family, separate from you and yours. But separate is never equal D. And your choice to support inequality is a clear decision to continue hurting my family.

We are American citizens, and as such we are GUARANTEED equality under the law. Since you choose to ignore our Constitutional rights and our very real needs as a flesh and blood family filled with hope, love, and laughter, I will delete you as a friend after giving you a chance to respond to this post.

I wish you well, both you and your family. May you never, ever, have to watch one of them suffer being a second class citizen in his own country, the land of his birth.

Oh, and unless someone’s lying, Jesus died for me too. I stand up for Him every single time I stand up for equality, and acceptance, and love.

And I just have.


Ah, D. See? I knew you were a good kind woman. I’ve just been able to feel that about you since I’ve known you.

The problem is choice. You believe the idea that every single gay or lesbian has chosen to become one. I know that isn’t true. I know for a fact that some of us were identifiably gay before we even learned to talk. And others of us have been so terrified by beliefs such as yours that we deny the truth even to ourselves for many many years. But we are as God made us, and eventually we find the path He chose for us. If we’re lucky He helps us find a soul mate to make a home and family with.

 I wonder just how many close friends you have that are either gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans. I’m pretty sure you have identified a hair dresser or two, but I doubt you’re friendly enough to really know their lives, their partners, their families. I think it’s much more likely that you’ve been told by someone, or the TV, or you heard a story from somewhere, and most likely a combination of all three about people making the ‘choice’ to be gay or lesbian. Because D., as I think we both can agree, I live in and among a LOT more LGBT folk than you do and I’d say at least 95% insist, as I do, that we had no choice. My sexual orientation was mine at birth, just as yours was. And after years of self-loathing, doubt, and fear I found a welcoming church of Lutherans who helped me understand more about just who I am, and where I fit in God’s plan.

Biblical interpretation is a fascinating topic. Your church’s ministry obviously focuses on the Old Testament which is filled with various abominations that most of the civilized world no longer fear, such as raising two crops side by side in the same field, or touching the skin of a pig, or eating shellfish. I don’t for a moment think that your church condones execution for insolent teenagers, or forcing a woman who’s just given birth to stay in her home for weeks. You’ve stopped focusing on those commands of the Old Testament, and don’t give a moment’s thought to enforcing them. But you do focus on this one, ancient command to despise gay men. The Old Testament were the laws we followed before Christ’s birth, when we were still Jews. The New Testament gives us His life, and His words to follow. You ignore the fact that Christ Himself said not one word against gays or lesbians in the entire New Testament.

My church’s ministry focuses heavily on the words of Christ, and following His commands to judge not, lest ye be judged, to give unto these, the least of Mine, and to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. My fellow Lutherans do not merely tolerate me as an unrepentant sinner, they welcome me in acceptance as one of God’s children and help guide me in ways that celebrate the life of Jesus Christ. I won’t be looking for any guidance from groups that refuse to recognize that I am as God made me, whole and complete. I’ve found a church that satisfies all my spiritual needs, and expands them.

What you don’t understand is that your vote to keep marriage only to yourself, and adopting children only to yourself, and sharing health benefits with your mate only to yourself, and bringing a foreign love to America only to yourself, and all the other literally thousands of rights only to yourself is shouting to the world: Heterosexuals are better than gays! LOOK! We get all these goodies, and they don’t! We win!

In my eyes, that’s not a very Christian attitude. I’ve been to churches like yours, was raised in one. Have you ever visited a church like mine? If not, please do. You’ll be welcome! And maybe when you can love one of us in true Christian fellowship, the mote will fall from your eyes and you’ll see the Truth that God doesn’t make mistakes and has created a world with heterosexuals, and lesbians, and gays. Then you’ll have to explain to Him just why you chose to discriminate against some of His children. But He’ll forgive you when you’re truly repentant, He always does!

I’m saying this next part gently, because I know you’re a woman of good intent and I don’t wish to offend you. But I will state my truths.

I will delete you as a friend, because I cannot continue to enrich your life in even the smallest way with my FV gifts and FB friendship while you actively seek to deny my family their basic civil rights. You’re my oppressor, and I don’t play games with people who are part of a majority keeping down a minority.

You (and all the others like you) are the reason I was not allowed to be with my Beloved in the hospital when she had a heart attack. You’re the reason that my girls suffered intolerable rudeness and incivility because of who their Moms are. You’re the reason our legally obtained marriage certificate was stripped from us, leaving us once more in legal limbo. You’re the reason we pay more in taxes as individuals than you do as part of a married couple, pay more for health coverage and insurance. You’re the reason we walk the streets ever vigilant against physical attack. You’re the reason that I won’t be able to go to a retirement home with my lifelong love. You’re the reason that I’ve lived as a second class citizen in my own country. You’re the reason so many people feel justified in cruelty and attacks against LGBT folk and their families. You’re the reason so many young people develop serious depression, self-hatred and self-harming actions up to and including suicide. Your actions have already cost me and my family way too much, and other poor souls much, much more.

You might just as well pick up a spray can and decorate your garage door with: GOD HATES GENTA.

Goodbye D. – God’s Peace be with you.

When Prompts Lead to the Weird

Tonight there is a brand new meteor shower in the sky. 
I am on the road, attending the WisCon conference for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers and Feminists. Yes, highly specialized and right up my alley. You might wonder how I’ll ever segue between the two.
I’ll do so by leaving you today with another bit of fancy sparked in the sky. Enjoy the meteor shower, and the story below.
The falling star shot through the firmaments, lighting the night sky with brilliance.
It was the way of things when you have lived your life as a star. First you’re majestic in your golden youth, then resplendent in the red heat of dying. But once a star explodes and sends out her billion bits of self she becomes the thing of legend, lighting the way for those afraid or worried. When a meteor is dying, she brightens the skies with her story, granting wishes along the way.
On this night, the meteor showered down upon the young planet not long after sunset, catching the dreamers out staring at the sky. A thousand wishes a second were given to her and she blazed through the atmosphere bravely, granting and refusing them at her whim.
But rather than burn up, this meteor grew strangely stronger. Her light glowed, then glared, then finally absorbed the sky like a sun. Just before hitting the Earth’s surface she metamorphosed into a woman of ephemeral beauty and danced from rooftop to rooftop, footsteps of fire lighting her path with destruction.
One after another the wooden buildings fell victim to her heat. Blazes roared around her as she brought her destructive beauty to life once more. Once a star, she now became the spirit of fire. The cold indifference of her life above had transformed into a heated passion on this world. Now instead of granting wishes, she granted disaster, reminding her once again that transformation is a bitch.

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