The Screen Door

 

Jeffrey didn’t really grow up with screen doors. They’re just not really a thing in Europe. “What are they for?” he asked his grandparents while visiting their cabin in Trinity’s Field when he was ten.

“They’re to keep the bugs out,” said his grandmother.

This wasn’t enough for young Jeffrey. “Why don’t youj just keep the door closed?” he asked.

“Gets awful hot here in the summer,” she said. Then she was back to her cooking and her puttering.

It was his grandfather who leaned into him then and whispered “Bugs aren’t the only thing they keep out.” He didn’t say anything else, just winked conspiratorially. But then, Robert MacGregor always was an odd duck.

Later that summer, Jeffrey’s father yelled at him in their native German for leaving the screen door open. An insect the size of Jeffrey’s thumb—the largest he’d ever seen up close—had gotten into the house, into the very kitchen, after Jeffrey had failed to close the screen. Most houses, the screen door swings on a spring, but the MacGregor cottage in Trinity’s Field had sliding doors you actually had to pay attention to.

<<You did this!>> Wolfgang yelled at his son, who was grateful his American relatives didn’t do languages. <<What if it had gotten in the lasagna? What if it had laid eggs?>>

Years later, after he graduated high school in Brussels, Jeffrey decided to take a year off before going to school in the U.S. The simplest way to facilitate this gap-year was to take his mother’s parents up on their offer to house him while he worked to save up some money and played a few gigs on his guitar and violin in town.

It was that year his grandfather finally started to lose his mind completely.

One day, as Jeffrey was headed out the door to his job cleaning rooms at the conference center in town, he was surprised to hear a voice in the house he didn’t recognize. When he turned around, though, it was only his grandfather sitting in his favorite chair, but the voice he was using, younger but also rasping, uttered words in a language Jeffrey didn’t recognize—but it was definitely a language.

“Grampa?” Jeffrey said, loud enough to wake him.

Robert made a snorting sound and jolted, then acted like nothing was the matter.

Jeffrey didn’t think much of the incident while he was at work, but a few days later, he came downstairs in the middle of the night for a bite to eat and noticed that the screen door was open. The regular door was closed, so it wasn’t a German-yelling disaster, but it was odd and unsettling and made Jeffrey think of his grandfather’s cryptic warning half a lifetime ago.

“You know something, don’t you?”

This time, Jeffrey recognized his grandfather’s voice, but there was something off about his inflection, like he was an actor—a good actor—playing a different part.

Robert MacGregor was sitting in that chair again. It seemed almost like he was rocking in it, but it wasn’t a rocking-chair. Was it just his imagination?

“Grampa?” Jeffrey said. “What are you doing up?”

Robert opened his mouth like he was yawning or popping his ears, but instead he shifted his jaw in a way that was painful to look at.

“Sleep is for…” he hesitated. “Other people.”

“Guess you don’t gotta be up in the morning.” Jeffrey still struggled with Southern Dialect, but liked to practice. He opened the fridge, took out a can of Mountain Dew. When he closed the door, his grandfather was right next to him. “Well, hey, there.”

“I like it when you sing,” said Robert MacGregor. “I like it when you play the guitar and the violin. I like that you write songs. I like… I like you, Jeffrey.”

His grandfather reached out his arms. Physical affection had always been a priority for their family, but this “hug” was something else entirely. Jeffrey backed away.

“What do you know?” his grandfather asked.

Jeffrey darted his eyes in the direction of the front door, but didn’t get all the way there. He didn’t want to take his eyes off his grandfather.

“You remember what I told you,” his grandfather said. “You’re concerned about the door being opened, about what it might have let in. That’s what I love most about you, Jeffrey: your mind is open. You accept that there’s more out there than most people believe.”

He came in very close to his grandson, unnaturally close, forehead to forehead. “And what,” Jeffrey finally asked, “exactly, had gotten in?”

His grandfather chuckled. “Nothing.” He chuckled some more. “Nothing at all! At least…” He stopped chuckling. “Nothing that wasn’t here before. Years ago. Decades. You have no idea, my dear, dear grandchild. You have no idea how… how liberating it feels to finally…

“You’re not coming out of the closet, are you?” Jeffrey found himself quickly weighing his homosympathy against the pain he knew it would probably cause his grandmother.

But Robert MacGregor just laughed. He laughed higher and more maniacally than Jeffrey had ever heard him (or anyone else his age) laugh before in real life. “No, no, no, no, no, no,” he kept saying for entirely too long. “No, my dear boy. Not exactly that.”

“Not exactly.”

“There’s more than just the one closet.”

That was the most answer Jeffrey got out of his grandfather that night. Seconds after he said it, his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he collapsed. When Jeffrey and his grandmother managed to revive the old man, he laughed it off, but Jeffrey was always uneasy with him after that, wondering between the closet and the screen door if his grandfather had lost his mind or if something even stranger had invaded it.


The Wrench

A lot of people make assumptions about Trick Fenwick based on the fact he’s a mechanic. They think he’s one of those macho men, all gruff-and-tumble, very alpha, very to-the-point. He is all of these things to some extent, but not to the extent peopel assume from his appearance.

Another thing people tend to assume based on Trick’s appearance and profession is that he’s straight. These people go from puzzled to perplexed to downright offended when they witness Trick’s boyfriend Enrique Valdez coming into the shop, flamboyantly strutting about and kissing his man sweetly on the cheek.

It isn’t just the revelation of Trick’s gayness—it’s also the fact that his boyfriend is Latino, and they’ve also assumed from the mechanic’s appearance that he’s at least casually racist. But Trick is no more racist than he is a cherry-flavored McMuffin.

However, once people discover that Trick is a gay man with a Latin lover, they start to act on an entirely new set of equally erroneous assumptions. Like the idea that he likes Musicals or has an especially keen sense of fashion (“Oh honey,” Enrique lovingly mocks) or that he’s some pansy liberal pushover snowflake who will bend to the wishes of organized crime after they capture his boyfriend and threaten dire consequences should he not comply. Let us be perfectly clear: All assumptions made about Trick Fenwick are false.

Because the one thing nobody “assumes” just from looking at Trick, even after verifying that he’s a mechanic, is the one thing that is most important about him: Trick Fenwick can communicate with machines.

It isn’t like “talking”—not exactly. Machines don’t use words like humans do, so it’s almost like a kinetic sign language, but one that can be practiced from across the room.

Computers he can talk to, also, being as how they’re machines, too. But he doesn’t like them. They’re moody and full of themselves, overblown with their own “complexity”, even though, for crying out loud, it all boils down to the same mathematics.

They also don’t respond well to wrenches.

Of all the workshop tools, the wrench is Trick Fenwick’s favorite and out of all the wrenches he owns, his favorite is the eleven-inch cast-iron beauty he likes to call Delilah. He calls her that because no matter how uppity any of his machines get on him, with the help of old Delilah, he can cut their hair and make ‘em settle.

Any time his straight friends or colleagues or idiot customers hear him complaining about how the government and the church keep screwing over gay people and they tell him and his boyfriend they need to “get a grip”—it’s always Delilah Trick likes to think about, and all the things a wrench can do.

“You at least gonna leave any of ‘em in one piece?” Delilah asks him. (Wrenches, you see, they’re machines, too.)

“Don’t see what for,” says Trick, hanging Delilah off his belt and strapping himself onto his motorcycle, Mike.

“What?” says Mike the bike, waking up. “What’s going on?”

Trick explains the situation. “Say what?” says Mike the bike.

“Those assholes, I always knew they was trouble.”

“That why you were flirting with their Lamborghini?”

“I wasn’t gonna try nothing, just pumpin’ her for information.”

“Keep telling yourself that.”

Far as machinery went, the only other thing Trick Fenwick brought along with him was his cell-phone, Connie, who complained the whole way how Trick wasn’t paying her enough attention—kept telling him he should call the cops, or he was going the wrong way.

“I could smash her for ya,” said Delilah.

“Nah,” said Trick. “Don’t need her now, but we might soon.”

Now, here’s the part where I really wish there was more to the story, some set of complications or amusing circumstances at least, but really it was just a straight-up rescue situation featuring a superhero underestimated by some third-tier villains in the classical manner. See, the supposedly organized criminals made a mistake they didn’t even realize by holing up in an abandoned warehouse filled with discarded but still perfectly functional relics who, with their 1960s values, made Connie the cell-phone feel out of place and vaguely threatened as a millennial.

But because they were still functional, they were easy to manipulate and they came on and freaked the everliving fuck out of the kidnapper’s goons and even ended up trudging out of their old trappings and squashing a couple of them.

I would go into more detail right now but unfortunately, I don’t speak machine like Trick Fenwick does.

“What took you so long, Baby?” asked Enrique.

“Connie,” Trick blamed. “Wouldn’t shut up about G.P.S.”

“You should have left her at home.”

“Yeah, well, I know that now, I just, I don’t know, I assumed this would be, I don’t know, hard?”

“Oh, Trickicito,” Enrique coo’d. “You should know better than anyone living, you should never make any assumptions.”


The Angel in the Empty Room

I don’t want to go in there.
I don’t want to and you can’t make me.
I don’t even want to open the door.
That door hasn’t been opened in…

I like the way that door looks, closed—no, I don’t.
I like the way the hallway looks with that door closed.
The other doors—open, closed, it doesn’t really
matter to me, but that door—

please don’t make me say it.

I know what’s behind that door.
I know what’s supposed to be there, anyway.
I know what was there before,
back when the door was open,

don’t I?
Is it there still?
Is there anything else there now?
I don’t care—I know what’s supposed to be there.

I’ve seen it before, so why should I bother?
No, I didn’t hear a noise.
I know what’s in that room—there’s nothing in that room.

What would there be to make noise?
What kind of—you know what? It doesn’t even matter.
There’s nothing there. It was just your imagination,

playing tricks on you.
Or it was you playing tricks on me.

Either way, just shut up about it.
There’s nothing behind that door.
Nothing but memories. And who the hell needs those.


“Parisienne Moonlight”

Raven has been having dreams of Declan. I know this because I’ve been having dreams about Declan and because in those dreams, I have been Raven.

In the dreams, they have seen each other across rain-swept alleyways. They have met in moonlit closets that turned out to be crowded dance-floors and they’ve hugged and they’ve kissed and they’ve fucked and she’s woken up not remembering if she was herself or if she was him pretending to be her.

The Acid Monsoon song “Exit Sandman” is about this, if you hadn’t guessed already.

“Come to one of my shows,” he hears from her by text.

“I can’t,” she finds out, “I’ll be clear ‘cross the country.”

She finds that she misses him. It’s a feeling she doesn’t recognize, so it takes her a long time to unpack it. Why do I feel bad? doesn’t work as a question until she tries What will make me feel better?

“I miss you.” It’s a text he doesn’t get to read because she keeps not sending it. She knows she’s acted horribly, treated him with… like… She just has a lot of regrets.

“I still love you.” That one, she doesn’t even type out. She knows better.

“I don’t think I can do this,” she confesses to Caspar June. She’s been sleeping with him casually, off and on, but that’s not what makes it a confession.

“How can I make this easier on you?” For him, it isn’t just the fact that she’s a wonderful singer, it’s the fact that even after a year and a half of modest fame and personal glory, she still hasn’t turned into a diva, which is promising. He does not want to lose that.

They come up with the idea together to try to lure Declan’s Gorgasm band into touring with them.

“And then what?” Caspar June asks her. “You are gonna stay with us?”

“I don’t see why I shouldn’t.”

It takes far too long for him to give in. They try money, they try gigs. They send presents.

“I don’t get it,” he tells his bandmates, because he’s stupid. Because he knows it can’t be true and doesn’t want to give his hopes up.

“Why are you doing this?” he finally asks her.

She has finally managed to lure him to dinner and the question is… well, the question is everything. “I just wanted to know…”

“What?”

“I wanted to know if there was still a chance for us.”

At the dinner, he sighed.

“You know you’re being a shithead, right?” Declan had been casually sleeping with Rachel for a while, but that wasn’t why she said it. “I know you’re still in love with her and you know she’s still in love with you, so for fuck’s sake, Declan!”

“Also,” said Tally, “I kinda want to chase the Monsoon. Those guys are tight as, like, an obscene thing I don’t want to mention in mixed company.”

“A virgin’s asshole?” Rachel suggested.

“Sure, let’s go with that.”

Meanwhile, Raven waits by the phone, at least proverbially.

“Why do I do this to myself?” She hears the voice behind her and at first she thinks it might be her own. “If I could have you, if you would have me back… Why would I keep punishing you?”

She looks at him and shakes her head.

“I don’t want to punish you,” she says.

She rushes into his arms.


Manic Girl, the Dream Pixie

She was that girl. The one you called cute. The one who was in that story as the weird, inhuman anima leading the hero to discover himself.

She was what your Southern gramma woulda called a character, a “real kick in the head”. She had character, all right… but did she have a personality?

Did you even bother to check?

What was she even doing there, to begin with? I know it seems like she was only there for you. But come on. Are you really that guy? The guy who acts like it’s all about him? If you are, I’m not even sure I should be watching this movie, reading this book, taking the time out of my day.

What does she want? What does she care about? I want to know what’s wrong with her, that she would put so much faith in you. That she would so blindly, blithely follow you around. I mean, you’re obviously such a fuck-up yourself—otherwise, why would you need her?

What if she did something unexpected? I know she’s quirky, but by now quirky is what we want from her, it’s what we’ve grown to expect, for her to be off the wall, off the cuff, dragging you off the cliff into a leap of faith that will lead to your salvation. But what if she said something you didn’t want to hear? What if she drew the attention away from you? Or worse, what if she used you the way you’ve been using her, and changed?

I have met the Manic Girl, that Pixie of your Dreams. I have stood at her threshold. I’ve been waiting, but her time is almost come. Soon you will know what it is that she wants. Soon you will be made to care. And chances are, you will not like what you see once it’s not about you anymore.


Togethernesses

I like it when we’re together.
I like seeing you.
When I can’t see you because we’re not together,
it doesn’t mean I like you any less.
At least, that’s what I keep telling myself,
and I hope that you agree.

We keep saying
we should spend more time together.
But where are you and where am I?
Do we even have any time to spend?
I have time and you have time—
sometimes our times even overlap.

But time is not the only problem.
Sometimes, when I’m alone
in the middle of the day
and I don’t have anything else to do,
I wonder where you are
and what you’re doing.

I wonder whom you’re with.
I wonder if these are things I would still be wondering
if we were closer.
I wonder what I would wonder
if knowing the answers to questions were possible.
I wonder what I would ask you
if knowing the answers would make any difference.

I want you.
It makes you sound like an item on a Christmas list:
A book about goblins,
A game about nuclear fallout,
You,
maybe a decent paring knife for the kitchen,
And of course, Santa, please do take care of those student loans.

But what do I really mean when I say
that I want you?
What do I want from you?
What do I want for you?
What do I want for us, once we’re together?
What would being
together
mean?

Do you ever wonder about me?
Do you ever wonder who I’m meeting at work?
Who I’m talking to at church, or at meetings?
Do you ever wonder whom I see when I’m out on the town,
or whether I ever even really go out to town?
What are the things that you wonder, and why?
Do you ever get jealous?
Is that why I’m asking these questions?
Do you wonder because you don’t want me seeing anyone else,
or do you wonder because you do?

I’m worried about us.
I want to be together, but how can we ever be together
if we’re so far apart that being together
means being alone?
There are other ways, we tell each other, of being together,
as we speak to each other,
each still struck by lightning,
over the miracle of electronic cloud talk.

But I don’t just want to whisper in your ear, gij lieveling,
I want to feel and touch.
We can pretend that kissing and stroking and nuzzling with words
is some substitute,
but it isn’t.

I love you.
I love you. I do.
But you’re so far away, and I don’t know how to reach you.
You’re so far away that it’s hard to see how this could possibly qualify
as “together”.
I just don’t know what else to call us.


Sappho and Phaon

She is the reason we have the word “Lesbian”.

Sappho of Lesbos is one of the most notorious poets who ever lived and it is not unreasonable to say that she invented the language of love.

But much as we might like to tout her as a same-sex icon and prop her on the rainbow throne, the only actual cohesive love stories we have about Sappho are about her relationships with men. Her most famous lover is Phaon.

If I were a storyteller from antiquity or a cheap Hollywood screen-guru, the next thing I would say is that I am about to tell you how it really happened, the true story of Sappho and Phaon. As it is, I am unfortunately too much of an academic for that. So instead, I will simply say that this is my version.

Sappho got into some trouble in her youth. She got wrapped up in a rebellion against Pittacus, who was tyrant of Lesbos, probably because she was taken with fellow-poet Alcaius, who was one of the ringleaders. When the rebellion failed, they all fled to Lydia, on the West Coast of Asia Minor, which is now Turkey. There, Sappho was eventually found by her parents (one of them, anyway—sources seem to agree that one parent died, but don’t agree which one) who forced her into a marriage with a man named Cercylas of Andros. It seems quite certain this name was a fabrication of later times, as it literally translates to “Prick from the Isle of Man”.

On the crossing back from Lydia, though, Sappho met a man named Phaon. He was not of noble birth like she was, in fact he was the lowly ferryman driving her boat, and he was old, much older than she, but the kindest man she had ever met. When her husband took her away with him to Syracuse across the Mediterranean and made her bear him a daughter (named Cleïs after Sappho’s own mother), Sappho never forgot the kindness that Phaon had showed her. Then one day, when her marriage was in its tarnished middle years, a young man—a very young man—came to her town and started to flirt with her. He introduced himself as Phaon.

“But how could that be?”

Well, he explained that he had ferried Aphrodite herself across the strait while she was disguised as an old woman and she had rewarded his legendary kindness by granting him a second youth. So now, as a young man again, he had decided to use this gift to the fullest and seek out that young woman who had stolen his heart all those years ago.

At first, Sappho thought having Aphrodite’s gift bestowed on him might have washed away all of Phaon’s kindness, but upon contrasting his behavior with that of her husband, she decided to allow herself to be seduced—though the seduction was not without its surprises.

Finally, Cercylas did catch his wife in the act with this other man, this significantly younger man. Enraged, Cercylas drew his sword and ran the boy through—only to discover that it wasn’t a boy. As it turns out, Phaon had actually died and his granddaughter Cydro had assumed his identity in order to seek out the beautiful lady from that day.

So in the end, it turns out that wasn’t a man at all for the love of whom Sappho flung herself from the white cliffs. So now, let them both rest in rainbows at last.


Entertained

As writers go, Darryl Madsen had been very fortunate. While still in college, he had been recruited to write stories for one of his professors, whcih led to a moderately well-paying position as a fiction editor at a small press. But that was not enough for Darryl.

“I want more,” he said to his friend and long-time editor Amber Weaver. “I want to touch hearts and minds, you know? Grip them!”

“Of course you do,” said Amber. “But I still don’t think you should be moving to LA. You know why.”

If he moved to LA, he’d be throwing away the perfectly good job he had for the infinitessimal chance of maybe getting some gigs writing movies. “Not TV,” he specified. “I mean, I know it’s a good place to start, but I don’t really want to be writing other people’s stories.”

“You would rather hand your story over to a director who’ll butcher it and take all the credit?”

Darryl Madsen didn’t quite understand how Hollywood works.

But he went anyway, armed with nothing but the three screenplays he’d written, several years of editing experience and a modicum of credits as a performed (if not quite published) playwright.

“And heart!” he was quick to add. “Don’t forget heart! I’ve got that, too!”

He was so annoyingly clichéd about it that people were genuinely pissed off when he got a break almost immediately.

“You went to UNC-T?” said Kimberly Han, the young woman interviewing him as a prospective roommate. “I grew up in Trinity’s Field!” Turned out, not only did they have at least ten solid acquaintances in common, but she was on her way to being a bright and successful young up-and-coming film director.

“You’re actually coming here at a pretty good time,” she told him later, “There aren’t a lot of really good writers out there right now.”

“What are you talking about?” he asked. “This is LA, everybody has a screenplay! Even just statistically, there’s gotta be—“

She interrupted him: “Everybody has the same screenplay.”

She showed him ten of them, randomly selected. Different writers with different backgrounds. It took him three to realize what she meant, but she was right. They were all the same movie.

“This is not what I signed up for,” said Kimberly Han. “I wanted to tell stories that were different. People keep saying ‘You need to write what you know,’ well I know this, these, are all crap!”

“So why don’t you write your own?”

“You think I haven’t? No one will read them! Hollywood talks a good game about wanting Fresh New Talent, but when you bring them something inspiring that’s actually original, they buy it and rewrite it into this!”

He read it. “The Truth Is a Fire.” First writer: Kimberly Han.

Second writer: Sidonie Quince. The Butcher.

“Guess which one of us is running a studio right now.”

Turned out, Sidonie still owed Kimberly a favor—and was still taking her calls. “It’s very simple,” she said in her meeting with Darryl. “There are lots of good ways to make a movie, sure. But only one of those ways is the best. We know now that this pattern you’ve noticed in these scripts is the best, most effective way of affecting an audience.”

Darryl had the impression that if he’d pointed out that fewer and fewer people were actually going to see big-screen movies, he would not have gotten a second meeting.

“It is a good pattern,” he had to admit, “It’s just… too much of a good thing, maybe?”

“And the worst part is, they’ve been telling themselves and the public that nothing else works so much that the audience is starting to believe it! You ask someone coming out of the movies if they liked it, first thing out their mouth is whether they understood the protagonist and their motivation!”

“Not every story has a single, clearly defined protagonist,” he said.

That was when she kissed him.

They both kind of freaked out about it afterwards. “Do I like you because I like you,” Kimberly wondered, “or do I like you because I’ve been trained to think of my life as a romantic comedy?”

Darryl hesitated before pointing out: “Couples in romantic comedies are always supposed to fight right after they’ve hooked up.”

“Dammit!”

There was something insidious going on. Something nefarious.

“Hollywood has been brainwashing the American people—“

“Not just America! Movies are one of our most important crops for export.”

“It’s diabolical—but what are we going to do?”

The answer was obvious. A writer. A director with connections. They were going to make a movie.

It was a spectacular success. They spent their last dime making it and then some, but the returns were phenomenal: Sundance, Cannes, five Oscar nominations, one win, and four Golden Globes. Most importantly, though, their profits were more than 2000%.

“No, that’s not the most important,” Kimberly protested on a talk show. “I don’t just want people to pay to see my movie, I want it to have an impact on them. I want them to feel it.”

“Well,” Sidonie Quince replied when Darryl finally returned her call, “they can feel it all right. You know, I underestimated you—her, too, but I think you were the brains of the operation, am I right?” She offered him two million dollars. “I’d like to pick your brain,” she said. “What you’re doing obviously works. I’d like you to do more of it.”

She wanted him to make movies, wanted to pay him to write. To write his way, not hers. But to what end? Just to make more money? He knew what she was trying to do. She wanted to usurp his abilities, appropriate his technique and bend it to her own will. He had started a revolution and she wanted to televise it to sell disposable dish-towels, whatever those are.

No matter what the message of the films he made for her, they would always be twisted, they would always be wrong, it would always be a lullaby, even if covered in blood, to soothe and lull the populus into submission. To make them good consumers.

Was it even possible? The kind of revolution he wanted? Was it possible to uphold his ideals—more than that, was it possible, could it be possible, to create real change? Or would his stories always blend into the background in the end?


“Deer Dance”

Have I ever really been able to tell the future? It’s something that’s always kind of bothered me. I keep thinking, inside each moment as it’s happening in time, as it’s breaking apart, I keep thinking… What if I’m wrong? What if I’m making it all up? What if I’m just rewriting my memories after I see something and thinking “Oh my God, I had a vision of that!” and then convincing myself that it’s real? What if I’m crazy?

As a senior in high school, I have lived with this condition for almost seven years. Most people know by now that I’m weird. A couple know why and how. No one actually knows what it feels like. Then one day, a shooter comes to school.

I’ve known for twelve days that it was going to happen. I wonder if twelve days ago was when he made the decision. I guess I could consult some kind of record, maybe track down the guns, but honestly, at this point, I’d rather wonder.

I never actually see the shooter’s face in my visions. I see what’s happening in the world through his eyes, and there are no mirrors. I see him with the guns, I feel his determination. I catch glimpses of fantasies he has, of who exactly it is he’s going to target. But I’m good enough by now to distinguish these fantasies from actual vision and the only person who’s in the vision, the only person he actually points a gun at, is me.

I should be terrified. I know from this vision that twelve days thence there will be a gun pointed at me. Why am I not freaking out?

Because I can see myself in this vision and in this vision, I am not afraid. In this vision, by the time it happens, I will know exactly what to do.

The details come in pieces. What’s happened to the boy, poor thing, how ladies jilt him, how his parents just don’t understand.

Is he bullied? Everyone is bullied. And if he knew how hard his own bullies had it, maybe they would be friends.

By the time I meet him in the hallway, I know everything that’s happened to the boy and I know everything I’m going to do to him.

I am a bit surprised by his face. When he kicks the door open, no doubt imagining himself some action hero from the latest videogame franchise, an automatic weapon in each hand, I see a boy I’ve always thought of as one of the kindest in the school. Too kind to talk to. Perhaps too… breakable.

No wonder he’s broken.

He wasn’t expecting to find the hallway so empty. He doesn’t know, of course, about the bomb threat I placed from the pay-phone. The entrance he used is out of the way, not part of their procedure. He doesn’t know there is no one here but me. He points one of his guns at me.

He’s confused that I’m not afraid. He’s upset.

“If you shoot me with that,” I say, “one-handed, are you sure you won’t break your arm?”

By the time he pulls the trigger, I’m already out of the way. He had one arm up, so I’m on the other hand with the gun. I’ve had twelve days to practice this one move with the confidence of a psychic, so I break his wrist with my palm using mostly the weight of the gun for balast and then slam my elbow up into his jaw.

“Guns are not the way to solve problems,” I tell him. “You solve them with your own two hands.”

We leave the guns in the hallway. The police will find them when they sweep the school. There will have been reports of gunfire. They’ll check, find prints. They’ll track Linus Phelps to the facility I checked him into. He isn’t violent right now. (More than anything, that’s the part that scares me.) They’ll ask and find out who checked him in. And then they’ll come for me.

“What can I say, officers? I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time and I made the most of it.”

No one was hurt. No one was killed, at least. There was some destruction of school property, but we straightened all that out. Linus is getting the care that he needs.

And I’m getting attention.

Celebrity doesn’t look good on me, so I avoid the rumors from the press, their requests for interviews. I don’t need the world to know. It’s enough for me just to have validation, just to be able to say “Mom, Jasper, I was telling the truth. I really can see the future sometimes and now I’m a superhero,” and have them not be able to not believe me anymore.

But I don’t do that. Because for all I know, maybe I really was at the right place at the right time to be a hero. Maybe I just justified all that by telling myself it was visions that did it. That’d be okay, I guess. It would qualify me as crazy. But at least I’d be the right kind of crazy.


Misplaced Vagina Monologue

This is a little hard for me. I wasn’t certain–I wasn’t prepared to do this tonight, but… perhaps tonight is the right night to do it after all, unprepared, or at least not as prepared as I would like to be.

I hope you don’t mind if I read off a sheet. This is not stand-up comedy. It’s not even comedy. Not by far. But I’ll get to that.

Given the title of this piece, it might seem odd that I would be the one up here and not… well…

Let me just say that in my country, there are no homosexuals.

I know that may seem odd considering where we are, but there you have it.

I was born.

My parents were thrilled to have a son after so many daughters. My father was somewhat important and having five girls seemed it would prove both disgraceful and expensive. They were excited to have a boy.

But that boy was me.

And there were other boys…

I didn’t know what it was that I felt when I met him. I didn’t even know that boys could… well… with each other… But I wanted to. I wanted to with him.

I quickly found that I loved every part of him. I liked the look of his legs as he walked towards me. I liked the sound of his voice at my ear. I liked the feel of my hand between his shoulder-blades. I liked the feel of his hand against my face. And I liked his eyes. The way they followed me wherever I went, not… not threatening, but… protective. I loved every part of him.

Especially the parts that I wasn’t supposed to love.

My father was what they call a dignitary. I had a duty and there are no homosexuals in my country. It’s not allowed. It’s not acceptable. It’s against God and when we go against God, things must be set straight.

And so when they inevitably found us, they took him and they set him straight on God’s path.

And they made me watch.

They made me watch as they took from him all those things that I loved.

I watched his spine scream when they shattered the shins that would never again support his weight.

I watched the light in his eyes die when they stole the hands that would never again touch me.

I watched as my lover–as I finally knew him to be–was burned and ripped open and fed to the dogs. By dogs.

They made me watch as they tore him apart, one sacred piece at a time, peeling back all of my desires to render them rancid, stale and bitter. Hoping to turn my longing to disgust with the sight of sundered flesh.

But, of course, it didn’t work. And they knew it.

So then they turned to me. God’s path had to be righted, and in a country where no one is gay, we know how to fix this.

So they “fixed” me.

I was born a boy, yet now I bleed. Not very much, not all the time, but once a month, for a couple of days, I bleed where they cut me.

Because no one can stay gay in Iran.