Excerpt from We Don’t Say Gay in Tranquility Bay
The hair on the back of Nick’s neck stood up. Something was not right. Warning signals sounded in his head. What is it? Why is this group of students milling around the parking lot different from any other day?
They were the same kids as always, well, mostly. Pretty cheerleaders and their jock boyfriends stood under their tree, potheads giggled in clusters between parked cars, and band nerds held instrument cases and stood around awkwardly. He looked them over again and realized most were on their cell phones, and a whole lot of them seemed to be checking him out.
Nick turned slowly all the way around. He scanned the area for Julian but didn’t see him among the crowd. Paranoid much?
He tried shrugging off the feeling, but it grew stronger as he walked past the old sugar maple and across the parking lot toward the sidewalk that led home. I’m not imagining it, everyone’s watching me. He turned to look behind him; most of the students followed, still texting furiously on cell phones. His heart started pounding.
Nick broke into a sprint and groaned when a contingent of football players started chasing him. He lived ten blocks down. I’ll never make it.
Crossing the first intersection, the biggest, fastest jock almost caught him. Nick turned long enough to throw his backpack right at his pursuer’s feet. The giant crashed face downward. Nick took advantage of the momentary confusion to race down the sidewalk.
But he only made it to the third block before a big hairy hand spun him around and Nick came face to face with fury. He knew this jock with the skinned, bleeding face, a senior held back in algebra, a dumb football player named Brent. What’s his problem anyway? More jocks ran up behind him.
“What do you want?” Nick ignored the squeak in his voice and tried to balance on his feet like Dad taught him. He bunched his hands into fists, remembering to leave the thumb out. Six against one were serious odds, but he’d go down swinging.
“Well, queer, my cousin Julian says all fairies wear red sequin jockstraps. So we made a bet, and I’m here to collect.” He turned to face the other jocks behind him and the onlookers who were just catching up. “Give us your underwear, Tinkerbelle.”
“What?” Nick heard the crowd laugh. “What?” Cold sweat drenched him, he felt sick to his stomach, afraid he’d faint.
“You heard me.” Brent sneered. “Give me your underwear.” Nick froze, terrorized. Brent laughed, reached out, grabbed his arm, and the punching began.
Nick swung hard and connected with the football player’s nose. He heard a sickening crunch just as Brent’s fist landed a blow to his ribs. Other hands turned him around and started punching too.
“Don’t hit anywhere that will show.”
He fought back hard and fierce, hitting at everyone, not caring if it would show. Blows landed on his shoulders, his chest and belly, his back, even his legs; still Nick fought furiously until he realized there were hands grabbing for the waistband of his pants.
The horror of what was about to happen hit him and in a rush of panic Nick swung, kicked, fought, and punched harder than ever before, but was soon caught by a dozen hands. Still he thrashed against their hold, screaming with rage while they stripped him of his shoes, then yanked his pants off his legs, and finally took his underwear.
With his boxers in their hands, the jocks let him go. Nick cowered on the sidewalk listening to cell phones snap pictures. Finally, his tormentors capered off with their prize in hand, waving his boxers like a trophy over their heads. The crowd followed after them and more than one said, “Pathetic.” Someone tossed him his trampled backpack but he didn’t look up to see who. He fumbled for his jeans.
WE DON’T SAY GAY AT TRANQUILITY BAY
Expected Publication Date: June 1, 2022