When we got home from the Palm Sunday Eucharist, I discovered Clarisa had invited the Wilsons, Reeds, and Thurmonds to Sunday dinner. I was even more surprised to discover Miss Amy Louise in the kitchen working as hard as Clarisa getting dinner ready. As soon as we walked in the door, they conscripted Justin and me to serve drinks. We prepared Bloody Marys for the adults who wanted one, and Virgin Marys for the rest, including the older children. The Wilsons' two youngest asked for Shirley Temples. I had to check with the women in the kitchen because I had never made one. "Two parts ginger ale -- Sprite or 7-Up if you don't have ginger ale -- one part orange juice and a splash of grenadine," Miss Amy Louise said without looking up from the salad she was dressing. "I always served them in champagne flutes," she added, plating the salad.
As soon as the Shirley Temples were ready, Miss Amy Louise and Clarisa joined the rest in the library where Justin and I were serving drinks. The youngsters were having fun over in a corner and the adults were generally making light conversation. When Clarisa and Miss Amy Louise joined the group, Mr. Wilson said, "I saw the usual Palm Sunday processional as it passed First Presbyterian..."
"Well, not exactly the usual, Woodrow. Since that maniac has been at Asbury, the Methodists have not been part of the processional. Well, some of us are, but Asbury stays inside with that noise."
"Understand," Mr. Wilson said.
"And there was not the usual Palm Sunday sermon afterward, but we'll talk about that later. Right now I suggest we feed the body, assuming the soul has been fed today," Clarisa said, and led the way into the dining room. Our dining room assumed there would be crowds at times and today was one of those times. Clarisa had me at the head of the table and she occupied the other end. "Marcus," she said as soon as we were seated.
"The Lord be with you," I said and got the expected response. I used my own form of a Hebrew blessing in which God is blessed in thanksgiving for the food. I assumed since we had food it had already been blessed. We had a delicious meal -- Clarisa had reminded us that in spite of it being Lent, Sundays were always feast days and the meal she and Miss Amy Louise had prepared definitely was festive. When we had finished, except for dessert, Clarisa said, "Dessert and coffee or tea in the library."
As she was speaking, Miss Amy Louise pushed a tea cart from the kitchen and announced, "Youngsters, if you like, you can have chocolate milk or juice."
As soon as we were all served, Clarisa said, "I want all of you to know that you are welcome and we are delighted to have shared a meal with you, but it is not all quite above board..."
Mr. Wilson laughed, "One would never have guessed unless tipped off by two of Elizabethton's powerhouses serving Sunday dinner. And, if I may say so without offending, I am often impatient with the progress we have made in race relations, but when Amy Louise joins Clarisa in the kitchen and Clarisa sits at the head of the Porcher Sunday dinner table, you can bet things have changed -- for the better, I'd quickly add."
"Just shows how damn foolish we were for years," Miss Amy Louise said.
"Agreed," Mr. Wilson replied.
"Before we get into why Amy Louise and I asked you here today, Marc, could you get the youngsters settled in your place?"
I took the younger Wilsons upstairs, gave Woody a computer game I knew he liked and put a DVD into the player for the girls. Before leaving, I made sure the bedroom door was fastened. I could just see the three marching downstairs, each holding a dildo and asking, "What's this?"
"Well, we are here because of that awful article in the "Town Crier" this past week. I have a very special reason for being upset by it as do the young adults among us. We all know my babies are gay..."
"Who? Oh! You mean..." Mrs. Wilson said.
"You didn't know? Well, yes, Marc and Justin are gay. Thought everyone knew. Anyway, just wanted all of you to know we know and we are supporting them. Now, Amy Louise and I have some pot stirring to do this week and thought it best we tell you before we start. I know how hatred, bigotry, and prejudice can get right nasty, and want you to know it's likely to touch all of us. Had some experience of that."
"And I know how they can erode the soul since I've been there. It's Holy Week and time for us to love the things God loves and He loves his creation and that includes the poor, the hungry, the sick, and gay men and women. He even loves bigots, but that's a strain for me," Miss Amy Louise added.
"So you are going to shake up Elizabethton," Mr. Thurmond said. "Well, I've done a little shaking up and it sure left me a happier person, so shake and I'll shake with you!"
Sitting in a comfortable library having coffee and dessert, it sounded like a good adventure was afoot, but I wonder what we would have said if we had known some of the consequences.
After dessert, the older adults huddled, working on what they would be doing and what could be done about the situation in Elizabethton. The Clan had its own concerns and since the youngsters were in my place, we went to the deck overlooking the inlet. We got settled and talked about the dinner table discussion for a few minutes, then Susan said, "I don't know what Clarisa and Amy Louise have in mind, but I doubt that Elizabethton will be quite the same Easter Sunday as it is Palm Sunday."
"I'm not sure I look forward to things getting stirred up if it's about HIV/AIDS or even sex education," Bobbie said. "I know Mom caught a lot of flack last year when she and the women's volleyball and men's basketball coaches teamed up to do that thing about STDs. All Mom had to do with it was the evaluation of the essays students were assigned, and pick first, second and third place winners for each grade. Even with just that involvement, she got calls and threats 24/7 for quite a while after the thing was finished."
"That reminds me," John said. "The 'Elizabethton Bugle' and the 'Town Crier' both were supposed to publish the winners and their essays. The 'Town Crier' backed out completely and the 'Bugle' only published the first prize winner and then was inundated by hate mail. Nice little town we have here."
"And the county's worse," Justin said. "I see more of the county than the town when making deliveries and I can tell you, much of the county is backward and I mean backward. I have learned to keep my mouth shut when I run across a racist or sexual bigot. Some of the most hateful things I have ever heard have come from the mouths of some country preachers. Really hateful stuff about gays, African-Americans, and the few Indians we still have around. Blacks and Indians would be made slaves in a heartbeat."
"I guess we just wait and see what they are up to -- and be prepared to roll with the punches," I said. "But I'm more concerned, I guess, about what's going on at school than in town or the county. Not just because it's aimed at Justin and me -- I'll admit that gives it a certain urgency -- but I'm also concerned about Adam and what this is doing to him. I wish I knew what was next, but then I'm sure we won't have to wait long."
Before we broke up, we all agreed we'd do several things. For beginners, Bobbie suggested we each write three letters to the editor. One to the school paper, one to 'The Elizabethton Bugle' and one to 'The Elizabethton Town Crier.' John pointed out that none of the three printed anything that called the status quo into question. Bobbie said she thought she could at least get them in the school paper, but didn't say how.
After the others had gone, Justin and I decided to go for a ride, something we hadn't done in a long time. Also, I was interested in seeing something of what he and Clarisa talked about. He drove and we went to parts of the county I had never seen. Previously there had been no reason for me to leave the main roads and travel along the roads serving the farms and communities out in the county. I must confess, I found some of the roads Justin drove over required a bit of a stretch to be called a road since they were nothing more than a path beaten down by passing farm tractors and occasional vehicles. It didn't take long to see why Clarisa had said there were poor, hungry and needy people in the county.
We eventually got back on a main road and drove south to the county line where Justin turned into yet another secondary road then after a couple miles, he took a "track in the grass and weeds road" which ran beside a large creek and surrounding swamp. He came to a sudden stop under a huge old oak, then backed up a bit and pulled over to the side of the "road." Pointing, he said, "I almost ran over that limb in the road." I hadn't seen it until he pointed, then I saw a major limb lying across the road.
Justin parked, looked around and got a great grin on his face and said. "If we're in luck, you're in for a surprise." He came around and opened my door, took my hand and we walked to the edge of the swamp. "Keep your eyes open, but don't get too close," he said as he walked back to the limb and grabbed one end of it. Holding that end and the other on the road, he jumped on the limb a few times until he managed to break it into two pieces. He drug the larger piece out of the road then said, "Think I can handle this much," as he picked up the smaller piece and walked back to the edge of the swamp. "Ok, I'm ready. Don't come too close and don't get behind me!" and started slapping the water with the limb. He'd slap pretty hard, making a really big slash, then with less vigor, but still making noise in the water.
"You lost your mind or something?" I asked. Suddenly he jumped back and as he did, I saw a small 'gator attack the limb." That's a frigging 'gator" I said, making sure I was well back from the bank.
"Yeah, most folks forget we are below the Virginia-North Carolina line which lies right on the line between the subtropic and moderate areas of the county and we do have alligators. There's not many -- well, compared to further south -- and they are usually pretty small like for a mouth-open, plenty-of-tongue, kiss, then laughed and said, "And, Babe, your ass is mine and I don't want you feeding any of it to no 'gator."
"I don't think you need to worry about that!" I said, and repaid his kiss with one just as hot. When we had broken the kiss, I asked, "How did you know you could get him to come over?"
"Couldn't be positive, but I delivered a new TV to a farmer on down the road and we got to talking while I helped him connect it up. He told me about one of his kids' pups tackling a 'gator -- and lost, of course. He said 'gators are pretty dumb, can't see very well, can't smell, but have decent ears so when they hear something slashing in the water, they come and grab. Told me how he used to beat the water with a limb and get them to attack."
Back in the car, we drove further down the road, then cut across to what was a pretty decent country road. Soon we were passing the farmer's place where Justin had delivered the TV. It was a very neat and nice house with beautiful roses on the fence surrounding a large, well-manicured lawn. "This doesn't look like a poor farmer's place," I said.
"He's not poor. He has a nice sized farm which he and his sons handle with little outside help. Two of his sons have homes back off this road. There's a third son who wasn't interested in farming and after serving in the Marines, came back and earned his RN. He helps out at the Cup. Really nice family." The thought occurred to me that Justin knew a lot more about where we lived than I did, another example of Clarisa's belief in the narrowness of our horizons.
When we got back, Clarisa wasn't around so we fixed a couple sandwiches, grabbed some veggies from the stock Clarisa kept ready for snacking, and went upstairs where we ate and tackled the homework we still had left. I finished before Justin and decided to check my e-mail. Most were short notes from people I correspond with all the time, but one new address, firstname.lastname@example.org popped up. When opened it, there was no body, just the subject line, "Faggots Beware!" and an attachment. When I opened it, it was much better drawn than the pages in our lockers, but it was essentially the same thing: two guys kissing and holding each other's more normal, but sizable cocks, the red "No" symbol over them and two crudely drawn figures with baseball bats smashing their heads and red blood flying in all directions. Underneath the picture, in lousy handwriting, was "A good fag is a dead fag." I felt sick, and, frankly, scared.
When I showed the e-mail to Justin, he wrapped me in his arms and said, "Babe, it's disgusting. Hatred and bigotry like that is disgusting but, I agree, it is also frightening. To tell the truth, it scares the shit out of me. Sometimes I think I am ready to fight the world and then at times like this, I'm not ready at all."
"Yeah," was all I could answer and we were both silent for a couple minutes. Looking at the drawing, a thought occurred to me. "You know, as scary as this is, it may be a real break. We have an email address and a very well-drawn picture to turn over to the sheriff."
"Could help," Justin said. "The drawing of the kissing guys is very well done so it should be easier to trace than the crude one we all got before. Why not call the sheriff with this information?"
I called the sheriff's office and, of course, he was not on duty Sunday night, but the dispatcher asked if I could bring the drawing by. "Got e-mail?" I asked.
"Sure, what do you have in mind?"
"I'll just forward it to you," I responded. "One copy is as good as another in this case." The dispatcher agreed and I forwarded the e-mail along with its complete header.
As we were getting ready for bed, the computer beeped, indicating a new e-mail message. This time it was from the same account, but back to the crude drawing. Two men -- obvious because they had tiny, tiny dicks -- were kissing and a third man -- dick hanging down to his knees -- was holding a gun. A bullet had passed through the two kissing men and again, red blood all over the place. Scrawled under the picture were the words, again, 'A Good Fag is a Dead Fag.' I immediately forwarded it to the sheriff's office.
I realized just how much Justin and I had been affected by the two e-mails when, in bed, we talked about them, then just hugged each other and exchanged soft kisses, nothing else.
Justin was asleep before I was and, as I snuggled against his back, I had all sorts of horrible thoughts and images racing through my mind. When I finally did drift off to sleep, it was uneasy as I felt as though there was a horrible threat just beyond my consciousness, but ready to break through at any time. When the alarm went off, I felt as though I had not slept at all.
"Babe, you look like shit," Justin said as he turned in bed to face me.
"Lover boy, if that's true, then I look like I feel because I feel like shit."
"Bad dreams again?"
"Kinda. It was like I was in some terrible situation, but couldn't figure out what it was. Like something was waiting for me in the shadows."
Justin kissed me softly and said, "We'll get through this, Marc. I know we will."
Monday, when we met the other three members of the Clan in the parking lot, Justin asked, "Any of you popular enough to get e-mails last night?" The three shook their heads and looked puzzled. "Well, Marc got two," he said as he reached into the car and got the emails off the back seat and handed them to John.
John looked at them and passed them to Bobbie without comment. After looking at the emails, Bobbie said, "Ok, this is serious shit. This is a threat and what more would you need to charge someone with intimidation, probably assault?" As she handed the e-mails to Susan, she asked, "Have you called the sheriff?"
"Last night," I responded. "I forwarded the emails to the department."
"Well, we definitely have a break this time," Susan said. "I don't know who sent it or added to the drawing, but I know who drew that nicely drawn picture of the two men kissing. I'll bet a month's allowance on it. Sandy Jenkins drew that. He's in my art class. He does the assigned exercises half-heartedly, but he draws all the time. He draws men, well-built men with baskets threatening to burst out of their jeans."
"What do you know about baskets?" John asked.
"I know the difference between a real basket and someone who uses his Jockeys for a sock drawer," Susan replied and three men blushed.
"Damn!" John said.
"What? You think women don't notice men? Just because we don't go all goggle-eyed doesn't mean we don't look and don't notice. Anyway, Mr. Cobb once picked up one of Sandy's drawing and said, 'Inspired by Tom of Finland I'd assume.' I looked up Tom of Finland on the 'net and Sandy's drawing are definitely in a similar style, homoerotic images I believe is the term. That's a Sandy Jenkins drawing, bet anything on it."
"Yeah, I can see how homoerotic would apply," John said. "I think if I caught myself drawing men like that and did it all the time, I'd begin to wonder about the team I batted for. Maybe Sandy is the closet gay who hates gays because he hates himself."
"He must be one because he protests too much?" Bobbie asked. "Not showing any prejudice are you?"
"I hope not," John replied, "but I guess so."
"Ok, we know Adam has to be involved, at least in outing you two guys if nothing else, and he is tight as skin with the three we know were involved in gay bashing last year. Susan is sure Sandy Jenkins did one of the drawings. But Sandy being involved doesn't make sense," Bobbie said. "I mean, ok, he's Kev's brother and may be gay and in the closet. Susan says he definitely did the drawing, but I don't buy his being a part of gay bashing last year or this. I have had classes with him and he's just a nice, quiet guy. Maybe a kind of lost soul, so to speak, but a nice guy. He's treated like shit by that lummox brother of his, I've seen that, so why would he go along with them? I think something else is involved here, more than meets the eye.
"How's this: his brother is one of the jocks involved in torturing that gay kid last year. Sure, no-one caught, no-one punished, but we all knew who was in on that: three, maybe four, football players, super jocks. And even if Adam wasn't in on the mess last year, he's as thick as a tick on a dog's back with the three now. Sandy knows that and he knows what they are up to. To protect himself -- why he feels threatened is beside the point -- he goes along. Makes kind of sense, perverted, but possible."
"We all need to keep our eyes open and protect you two guys and I think we might keep an eye on Sandy as well. I think he might be in danger as well 'cause I'll go with Bobbie's intuition," Susan said, "yeah, and with my own experience."
"But right now, I say we call the sheriff and report Susan's observation. Maybe not firm evidence, but that drawing is the first break we've had," Justin said.
"Maybe we can do more than that," I said as Adam roared into the schoolyard. "I'm going to try something." I took the e-mails from Susan and started walking toward Adam's parking place as he roared to a stop. As soon as the car was still, the four jocks piled out and were followed by Sandy. As he had done before, he didn't hang around, but started walking quickly toward the school. "Well, here goes nothing," I said to myself and called out, "Sandy, hold up a minute."
Sandy stopped, turned, looked at me, then looked back at the Four Jocks. I wasn't sure he was going to wait for me, but he did. When I reached him, I showed him the drawing. He turned white and said nothing.
"Sandy, someone has identified this as your work. Is that true?"
Sandy shook his hanging head, but made no other answer.
"Are you sure you had nothing to do with this? Might be to your advantage to get this settled now before I turn it over to the sheriff."
Sandy's color had returned but, once again, he went white and sucked in his breath, but then shook his head and said, "I gotta go," turned, and raced into the building.
When I turned around the Four Jocks were swaggering toward me. The Clan was approaching from the other direction. Three guys, not outstanding athletic types and two girls facing four varsity football players. Massacre predicted. We were, I suspect, literally saved by the bell as the four turned toward the building when it rang.
When I commented on that, Justin said, "They accomplished what they wanted. They have Sandy scared shitless and let us know they planned to have our asses."
I think all of us were a bit hesitant about going to our lockers, but we had no new paint jobs or notes.
Adam, as usual these days came to history just before the bell rang. As soon as he was seated. Mrs. Powers said, "I know it is prom week and that I did not warn you, but we are doing a practice test this morning. If you'll spread out, we'll get started."
I thought I had done pretty well, but the test was difficult enough to remind me that there was no way to get any college credit for AP without some sweat between now and exam time. I think one reminder would have been enough, but the AP teachers had conspired to really call our attention to what was important, since every one of them gave us a practice test. Needless to say, all our butts were dragging when the day was over.