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Day One Hundred and Sixty: A Time to Talk

October 28, 2011 6 comments

This is a story for the Halloween contest over at FridayFlash.org. The rules are pretty simple: “Write a short piece of flash fiction, 500 words or less, that incorporate the title of your chosen [horror] flick.” In other words, I had to pick the title of a horror movie and put each word of that title in the story – just not all together. The fun part: guess what the movie is!

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Warren couldn’t help looking around Hal’s bathroom when he got out of the shower. The place was cluttered with countless… things. Miscellaneous tchotchkes, like the little painted doll heads that were lined up in a row above the door, or a framed magazine ad for cologne that hung above the toilet and which had several cartoons drawn on sticky notes stuck to it. There were Mardi Gras beads hanging off the hook on the door and a little bowl of marbles on the toilet tank. Some of it was probably stolen, like the Denny’s sign that read, Por favor lavarse los manos ante de salir that was pasted in the corner of the mirror. Ever obedient, Warren washed his hands, adjusted the towel around his waist, and went out into the apartment.

The bedroom was the same as the bathroom, only larger. The bookcase probably held more miscellaneous knickknacks than it did books, and he’d had trouble the night before finding his way through the stacks of stuff that were on the floor. If it all weren’t so interesting, he would have to leave. No one wants to date a hoarder. Not that Warren was feeling too secure in his dating habits right now as it was. The thoughts he’d tried to wash away in the shower were back, and they made his stomach hurt.

“You okay?” Hal asked. He was lying on the bed, barely covered by a thin sheet, and for all that it covered him, it didn’t really hide anything. He stretched like a cat, and Warren had to look away for a moment. There were things to do, he had to go to work, and if he watched Hal stretch, then none of that would get done. Of course, that was really part of the problem.

He sat down on the edge of the bed and said, “Hal. I think we should talk.”

Hal sat up and wrapped his arms around his knees. “Uh-oh,” he said. “That’s never good.”

“No, no,” Warren said. “It’s just…” He shrugged, and a moment later felt a hand on his shoulder. “I just want to know where this is going, you know?” He patted the bed. “I mean, this is fun and all, but still.” He turned around, and saw his own concern mirrored in Hal’s face, and that gave him some measure of hope. Perhaps Hal the collector was willing to give him a chance. “Where do we go from here, Hal? What do we tell people?”

They sat in silence for a little while. “I don’t know,” Hal finally said. “I guess we just have to trust to fate on this one.” He knelt upright on the bed and held Warren close. Warren let himself lay back in his cousin’s arms, and felt the tingle of skin contact. “Some things just… happen.”

Warren nodded. “Fate,” he said. “Right.” And it was then that he knew that this – whatever it was – wasn’t going to last.

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Day Fifty: Breakup

As my cast list grows, every now and then I’ll randomly choose two or three characters and see what happens when I put them together. Insofar as there is a canon to any of these stories, these are not canon. Or maybe they are. We’ll see.

This story features Dr. Traci Keniston, who was mentioned but not seen in day 48, Creative Thinking; Ty Palmer, one of the leads from day 7, Confession; and Treva Vanderberg, who was shot and injured in day 33’s Monsters. Let’s watch and see what happens…

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Dr. Keniston put the phone down and shook her head. She didn’t know how Dr. Bettencourt had gotten that grant money, but it had clearly gone to her head. She took a look around her desk and did a quick mental calculation. Papers were graded, the exam was nearly finished, and she’d just finished inputting grades for the semester. There was nothing on the schedule until the faculty meeting at three. Just time for a quick lunch.

The student union was nearly empty, being just after the lunchtime rush. There were pockets of students sitting around tables, studying and listening to music on headphones. Some of them chatting about whatever it was they were going to do instead of study. A could who knew her waved and said hi, and she waved back. Not a lot of professors liked to eat with the students – some sort of professional pride or other nonsense. Dr. Keniston felt that it was best for the teachers to know a little bit about the kids they were teaching. To mingle, and get a feel for the world. She ordered a burger and picked up a salad to go with it, and drummed her fingers on the counter while she waited.

An idea for a short story popped into her head – a short-order cook who overhears a murder plot – and quickly jotted it down in her idea book. It might not go anywhere, she thought, but there was no point wasting it. She got her burger, paid for it, and sat down in one of the booths.

Luch was a great time to think, so she ate in silence, without her usual lunchtime reading, until the conversation from the next booth over caught her ear.

“Ty, it’s not you, it’s….” The girl’s voice caught, and she sounded like she was trying to get herself under control. “No, it is you, Ty. I’m so sorry, but it is!”

“Treva, I don’t understand.” Dr. Keniston knew this voice – Ty Palmer, one of her students. She took out her idea book and started spinning the pen in her fingers. Was it right to eavesdrop on what was obviously a breakup? No, of course not. Completely unethical. Only a monster would mine it for dialog ideas.

She tapped the pages, impatient for the next line.

“Ty, it’s just that you’re never… there. Even when you’re here, you’re not here.”

“What does that even mean, Treva? I’ve always been here!”

The girl sniffled again. “No, you’re not, Ty.” She paused, and it was a meaningful pause. “Ty, when we’re… together, you always seem like you’re thinking of something else. Maybe someone else, I don’t know. You don’t look at me, and when you do…” Now the tears came, and there was little point in trying to stop them. Keniston made a couple of notes, but so far nothing had really struck her. Ty said something soft, hard to understand.

“No, Ty,” Treva said. “It’s not just that. I don’t think this is something you can really fix, and I know you want to. I…” Keniston got her pencil ready. This should be it. “You left your computer browser open the other day, Ty. When I came by to drop off your sneakers.” That meaningful silence again. “I saw what you were looking at, Ty.”

There was a sound of someone – Ty, probably – trying to get out of the booth, and she was trying to keep him there. Their words overran each other. He tried making excuses to leave, she tried to stop him, and it wasn’t until she finally came out and said what she’d been holding on to for the last fifteen minutes that he finally sat back down.

“I know you’re gay, Ty.”

The quiet made Keniston’s fingertips itch.

Treva’s voice was quiet, but there was some core of strength to it. “I want you to be happy,” she said. “But I can’t be the one to make you happy.”

“But…” His voice was dry. “But you do make me happy, Treva. You do.”

“Not the way you need,” she said. “And if letting you go means that you can find that person, then… Then that’s what I have to do.” She slid out of the booth and stood up. “I’m so sorry, Ty,” she said. “I love you too much to let you stay with me.” With that, she walked away. Keniston caught a glimpse of her as she headed for the door, a beautiful girl who walked with a cane. She’d seen her around the science buildings before, but never had her in class.

She looked at her notebook, where she had written Treva’s parting lines, and she could feel, like a kind of pressure, Ty in the booth behind her. Perhaps it was a trick of the ears, or her mind making her hear what she wanted to hear. She was pretty sure he was crying. She looked at the notebook again, sighed, and tore the page out and crumpled it up. She took her tray and stood, trying very hard not to look behind her at the poor, ruined boy in the booth. She stood there a moment, not moving, and then turned around.

Ty looked up as she sat down across from him. His eyes were red – she had been right. Even so, he was a handsome one. He’ll make some lucky guy very happy someday, she thought. She set the tray aside and leaned towards him on the table. “I overheard, Ty. I’m sorry.”

He nodded, sniffed, and wiped his nose. “Yeah,” he said. “Me too.”

“Dessert,” she said. “My treat.” She stood up, waiting for him to do the same. He rubbed his eyes clear again, nodded, and stood, not even bothering to sling his bag over his shoulder. “C’mon,” she said. “Nothing like ice cream when you’re the dumpee.” She put an arm around his shoulders. “Make it through this,” she said, “and you’ll have a great story on your hands.”

He started talking before they even got out of the student union. And she was right.

Day Thirty-five: The Day the Gays Came

The day the gays came, no one was prepared. Families sat in their kitchens, eating breakfast and getting ready to go to work, to school. Hard-working Americans set off to earn an honest day’s pay. Husbands kissed their wives good-bye, wives their husbands. The sons and daughters of American families went off to their lessons, sure in the knowledge that their futures were bright and their success was ensured.

And then the gays came.

Where they came from, no one knew, but come they did. They descended on those breakfasts, those fathers and wives, daughters and sons, and no family was left untouched.

The day the gays came, they lined up all the men in the world. With sass and sarcasm, the Gaystapo culled the men, taking those they could use and discarding the rest. The handsome flowers of American youth were swept away in great flurries of leather and denim and glitter to the Homofication Camps in San Francisco and New York, Provincetown and Key West. There they raised their young gay army of football players and swim team captains, drama queens and emo boys, creating a virile, hedonistic force to overrun the world.

The day the gays came, drive-by renovations were endemic. A man could not step out of his house without being surrounded by teams of designers and decorators, and he was lucky if he made it out with his old Metallica t-shirts intact. Souvenir shot glasses were replaced with hand-blown, free trade glassware, Precious Moments figurines were dashed to the ground and traditional Japanese phallus sculptures were put in their place. Refrigerators were emptied of hot dogs and onion dip, old Chinese food and microwave pizza. It was arugula or death. Walls were viciously repainted, furniture upholstered without mercy, and no kitchen went without Marthafication.

The day the gays came, the ugly, the unfashionable, the irredeemable – they were sent away to work in the great Versace and DKNY factories that were swiftly erected across the Great Plains. Men would slave for Dolce and Gabanna until they died, overseen by hulking dominatrices and oiled-up security guards. The goods they made in the Dior Re-Conditioning Camps would flow to the queer elite, who would use them for exactly one fashion season before leaving them in the rubbish for the hipster nomads to upcycle into keychains and beer can holders.

The day the gays came, a great Amazonian kingdom emerged. Women in workboots and flannel, free-loving hippie girls and high-powered femmes fatale converged to create the Great Sapphic Kingdom. Their embassies were hardware stores and college campuses, coffeehouses and indie guitar shops and women’s prisons. There they engaged in the ancient rituals of womynhood, celebrating their mother Earth and sister Moon and calling forth the great life force to which only they could ever truly connect. Any man unlucky enough to witness their rites was torn limb from limb – a price he paid happily.

The day the gays came, the Lilith Fair ravaged the land. It moved across the country like a swarm of locusts, devouring all in its wake. As it came, it took the girls it found and absorbed them into itself. Daughters and sisters, mothers and wives all bonded together into a great lesbotic hive-mind, served by its mindless, eunuch slave-men. Discipline was strict, unrelenting, and merciless, and their ranks swelled daily with their only desire being to serve Empress DeGeneres.

The day the gays came, gyms sprung forth from the earth, vast and loud and terrible. The new fitness junta was inescapable, participation mandatory. Enforced by elite teams of aerobic instructors and weightlifters, any man without a six-pack was held indefinitely. Until he could master his core zone, he was not fit to be called a man. Unless he had the abs of an underwear model, biceps like oiled pythons, and an ass that could crack walnuts, he would never again again see the light of day.

The day the gays came, the churches were turned into rave halls. Great marble Madonnas were re-made into Madonnas, and the sacristies were rededicated to saints Garland and Minelli, Gaga and Beyonce. Where once the walls rang with the songs of holy choirs, now they pulsed to the beats of PrePhab, Junior Vasquez, and Deadmau5. The priests were evicted, but the altar boys were kept, and the parties in God’s houses never ended.

The day the gays came, the Homopocalypse, the earth shook and danced, the skies glowed mauve and the world came to a halt. The day the gays came, Fagnarok, there were poppers and X in every Happy Meal and every lunchbox had a flavored condom. The day the gays came, Queermageddon, the world was turned upside down and inside out, and all that was good was made fabulous.

The day the gays came, all creation was unified under the Rainbow Flag and its fearsome masters and mistresses.

The day the gays came was the best day ever.

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(Congratulations to New York State for legislating equality of marriage for all its citizens. A long time coming, but wonderful to see.)