By David McLeod
The First Challenge
The J'ville LGBT Alliance filled the back room of the coffee house. Lucy went from table to table, stuffing blue and yellow packets of chemical sweetener among the brown packs of unrefined sugar, and eavesdropping. There was only one topic of conversation: what would happen to Marty? He had broken the Prime Directive: "If you out somebody, you're out." There were two questions in everyone's mind: Will Marty come to the meeting? Will Larry really call for his expulsion–and ostracism?
It all started a week ago.
Only two people knew that Marty and Danny were a couple: those two people were Marty and Danny. Marty was out, and an active member of the alliance. Danny was so far in the closet he was in Narnia. The two boys didn't hang out together. Although both were on the swim team, they seldom spoke publically to one another. Their affair was hidden, sporadic, furtive, and often conducted in dirty, uncomfortable, and dangerous locations. Today, they'd planned to meet behind the school and ride their bikes to a subdivision where a partly-build house would offer shelter for their activities. When Danny didn't show up, Marty went looking for him.
Marty found Danny in the pool pump room. Colin was there, too, on his knees. Danny, hips bucking furiously, stood in front of Colin. Danny caught sight of Marty. "Oh, shit!" he said, pulling away from Colin and trying unsuccessfully to cover his erection with his hands.
Marty spun around and ran from the room. He skidded and nearly fell as he ran alongside the pool. He pushed through the double doors and slammed into Tony.
"Whoa! Whoa! Marty, what the heck?" Tony picked himself up.
"What the heck is that Danny is my boyfriend and Colin is blowin' him in the pump room!"
Half a dozen heads snapped toward Marty's voice. "Colin . . . blowin' . . . you mean?" one of them asked.
"Yeah," Marty was shouting, now. More heads turned. "Colin was sucking Danny's dick!"
Holy crap, this can't be good. Tony walked quickly toward the pool. He met Danny and Colin before they reached the door. "Guys? Marty just outed you . . . yelled that he'd caught you doin' . . . you know . . . Gamma Club had just broken up . . . at least thirty people heard him. Whoa! Danny! Catch him!"
Colin's eyes rolled upward and he collapsed. Danny caught him before his head smashed onto the pool tiles.
Danny wasn't in much better shape than Colin. Tony knelt by the pool and splashed a handful of water into their faces. Colin revived, but still seemed dazed. "Come on, guys, you gotta get it together." Tony led the two boys out the back door just before the first of the curious came into the pool.
Tony hurried Danny and Colin across the teachers' parking lot to his grandmother's car. "Come on, you two. Get in. Grandma will be here in a few minutes. Nobody will look for you here."
"My bike?" Danny mumbled.
"Locked?" Tony asked. Danny nodded, and got into the back seat of the SUV. Colin followed more slowly. Tony shut the door and climbed into the driver's seat.
"Tony? What do you want?" Colin spoke for the first time.
"Want? I don't want anything," Tony said. "I just figured you two would need a little time to get your story together, and that wasn't going to happen with half the Gamma Club–Danny! Grab him!" Colin had fainted, again.
"Colin, what the fuck is the matter with you?" Danny shook the boy.
"Hey! Cut it out!" Tony said. He reached back and slapped Danny's hands away. "Come on, Colin–take it easy–it's not the end of the world–"
"Look, I've had enough of this. I'm leaving . . . I'll take my chances . . . ." Danny opened the door of the SUV, and was gone.
Tony saw the look in Colin's eyes, and stammered. "Uh, it isn't, is it? I mean, the end of the world?"
Colin hunched against the door. He fingered the handle, and looked out the window. Then he turned back to Tony. "It will be when my father finds out," he said.
"Your father . . . Oh . . . Oh." Tony's mouth fell open. Colin's father was a retired Marine who now was the J'ville City Manager. Every patriotic holiday on the calendar–and some that weren't–retired Gunnery Sergeant James Malone was at the center of the city's celebration. He gave the same speech each time: how the Marine Corps had rescued him from ignorance and poverty and made him a man; how the Marine Corps took boys and made them men and heroes; how J'ville was an incubator for men's men, boys who grew up hunting and fishing, and tramping through the great outdoors. For Gunny Malone, the Marine Corps had been one long camping trip. After the mayor had gotten a few complaints, Malone had added a few words acknowledging the contributions of Women Marines.
Tony realized that there was little reason to believe that Mr. Malone would be happy when he heard the news about his son–and, he'd probably hear it, soon. "We need reinforcements," Tony said. He pulled out his cell and punched buttons. "Shit. Voice mail." He stabbed more buttons.
"Paul? Where's Larry? Good. Yeah, it's Tony. You and Larry gotta meet us at his dad's office–ten minutes. Oh, thank you, Jesus, it's Grandma . . . no, I wasn't talking to you. Did you hear about Danny Westin and Colin Malone? No? You will. Gotta run. Please–be there." He snapped the phone shut just as his grandmother got into the vehicle.
"Oh! I didn't know you brought a friend," she said.
Tony had the engine started before she could finish the sentence. "Grandma," he said. "Colin Malone–that's him–got caught having sex with another boy. At school. Colin's dad–you know who he is? We've got to get to him before he hears–Larry Bowen . . . you know who his dad is . . . he's going to meet us at his dad's office."
"Tony?" Colin's voice came softly from the back seat. "I don't want to tell my father? Maybe he won't hear? Maybe he won't believe?" The boy's wistful tone turned each statement into a question.
"Oh, my," Mrs. Goodman said. "Colin, I'm sure your father will hear. And, he'll hear it from the principal. It really would be better if you told him first, or as soon as you can." She snapped open her own cell and speed dialed.
"Principal Pewterschmidt? Lillian Goodman. I'm with Colin Malone. Have you called his father, yet? Good. Please don't. We're on the way there, now. Danny?" She covered the mouthpiece. "Tony? Where's Danny?"
"He bailed, Grandma. Said he'd take his chances."
Mrs. Goodman pursed her lips in disapproval, but relayed the information.
Larry and I were outed a little more than two years ago. It was a nasty situation for a while, but it stirred the school board to pass some very strict rules about bullying and whatever they wanted to define as hate speech. There was a lot of publicity, and our names got spread around more than just Jacksonville. Since then, it seemed that we were called every time there was a gay crisis in J'ville. Today's call was the first one that involved a member of the LGBT Alliance. At least, it was a member who reported it and who asked Larry to help.
Tony's phone call wasn't helpful. In fact, it was confusing. He asked to meet Larry at his dad's office. Larry's dad is a lawyer who's also been a prosecutor, a district attorney, and a state senator. He was currently the city attorney. The names Tony said–Danny Westin and Colin Malone–were two boys from school. They were on the school swim team, and we'd swum against them in intramurals, but I didn't know them any better than that. I thought they'd gotten into some trouble, and Tony was trying to rescue them.
The truth was even more surprising. We got there fast. Tony showed up a couple of minutes later with his grandmother, Mrs. Lillian Goodman, the senior English teacher, and Colin. Tony was practically carrying Colin. Mrs. Goodman took charge. "Larry? Is your father in?"
"Yes, ma'am. He said we could come in as soon as–"
"Let me talk to him, first, please. You boys take Colin and wash his face. Get him some water."
I was happy that Mrs. Goodman was there, whatever the problem was. She had a very logical mind and just about everyone in town knew her. I wasn't prepared for what Colin told us, with frequent encouragement from Tony.
Larry's dad and Mrs. Goodman were waiting for us. Mr. Bowen was in charge, now. "Colin? I'm going to take you to your father's office. I will tell him that you are here to talk to him, and that I will be outside when you finish."
Larry added, "We'll all be there, Dad."
Mr. Bowen nodded. "Of course, son." He looked at Colin. "Can you do this, lad? I've known your father for only a few years, not nearly as long as you, but I do know he is a good man."
Colin nodded. Tony took his hand and squeezed it, and then Mr. Bowen led Colin down the hall.
Mr. Malone's secretary was clearly curious. She kept looking from Mr. Bowen to Mrs. Goodman to Larry and Tony and me. She sharpened the same pencil six times without even using it. After about an hour, Mr. Malone came to the door. "John? Mrs. Goodman? What? All of you?"
Larry's dad nodded. "As many or as few as you want."
Mr. Malone ushered us all in. There weren't enough chairs, so he invited Mrs. Goodman to sit behind his desk. Colin smiled when Tony walked in. I noticed; I don't think anyone else did, not even Tony.
"Colin and I have had a father-son talk. It is not the talk any father would look forward to, I don't think. I am not happy."
All I could think was, Oh, shit. But, Mr. Malone surprised me.
"I'm not happy, but I'm not stupid, either. I know this isn't Colin's fault." He held up his hand to forestall Larry, who was about to interrupt. "I don't even know if fault is the right word, but it's the only one I've got right now, okay? I know this isn't his mother's fault or mine. Now, I need to know, why are you all here?"
We were all surprised. Mrs. Goodman recovered first. "I am here because my grandson, Tony, asked me to help Colin."
"I'm here because my son asked me to help," Mr. Bowen said.
"Paul and I are here because Tony asked us to help," Larry said. I didn't have to say anything. That's the way it is with Larry and me. We're a team.
"Tony?" Mr. Malone asked.
"I'm here because Colin needed a friend," Tony said.
Well, it would be easy to say, "…happily ever after," but real life isn't like that. Colin got a lot of static for letting another boy stick his penis in Colin's mouth. Ever since President Clinton said that "fellatio isn't sex," I don't know what the big deal was. (Just kidding…it is a big deal; all sex is a big deal and those who don't understand that are the ones who get into the most trouble.) Still, no one ever said anything to Larry or me. Just what did they think we did? And I'm pretty sure there were a lot of straight couples who thought they could remain virgins even though the girls . . . Okay, that's TMI–too much information.
Colin got very depressed. A lot of us tried to cheer him up, Tony, most of all, but it didn't work. Colin wouldn't join the LGBT Alliance, and he rejected offers of friendship. After about six months, his father resigned as city manager, and the family moved. Colin didn't say goodbye to anyone.
Danny tried to deny that anything had happened, but no one believed him. He got expelled for beating up Marty, and ended up in reform school in Red Rock.
Marty? We were going to kick him out of the Alliance and shun him, but Tony and Tiff defended him. Claimed it was a "crime of passion." Tiff pointed out that the Alliance had the right to determine the qualifications of its members, but asked how we could claim to be inclusive and exclude someone for, well, being human. We couldn't answer that, especially when Marty was so apologetic.