Justin got a regular schedule - Mr. Sanford
and Mrs. James were both surprised that they had not thought about such
- and would be closing Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Mrs. James would
Wednesday, and Saturday. "She said she
wasn't so old she couldn't remember Saturday was a date night," Justin
laughed. "Don't know what she'd say if she knew I was sleeping with my
'date' seven nights a
The schedule meant Clarisa would have her
ethnic food night Monday, LaTasha would do Tuesday, and Consuela
Wednesday. Since Justin's mom had been too ill to help out and now that
Adam was no longer a
part of the Clan, Thursday was up for grabs
and we were to talk about it Tuesday night, but Bobbie said her mom
would make arrangements for food Thursday. Ms. Reed had called Clarisa
and gotten a stern
talking to when she said she'd have Bobbie
pick up Micky D's. They finally agreed Clarisa would arrange takeout
from some place which could supply relatively healthy food and Mrs. Reed
would pick up the
tab. I told Clarisa to have the bill divided
and two checks. "I will pay half each week since I know Mrs. Reed and
Bobbie have less than the rest of us, except Justin."
Nothing new at school Tuesday or Wednesday.
Adam was the same as he had been Monday and nothing was said or done
about Justin and my relationship so far as I could tell. The AP teachers
were really pouring on the coal, so the homework load was getting to be
a real pain in the ass. When we got to the Wilsons' for dinner Wednesday
evening, Mr. Wilson said he'd like to have a talk with us after dinner.
During dinner, Susan and Woody took opposite sides politically and the
conversation got pretty heated when they got into the war in Iraq. "I
suspect you might take a different view, Woody, if you faced heading to
East. Nothing romantic about war and even
less in this one, I think," Susan said and her dad agreed.
After dinner, Mr. Wilson said, "Why don't
you grab coffee, tea or hot chocolate and let's go to the den."
As soon as we were seated he said, "First
off, I want you to know that Susan has told me nothing about the change
in relationships in the Clan other than the fact that you and Adam had
broken up, Bobbie. I would
lose some respect for her if she had. No,
what I am about to say is based on some scuttlebutt I heard. I'd like to
get the facts from the source and not scuttlebutt, but if you don't feel
free to talk with me, I understand."
Mr. Wilson paused and Susan and Bobbie
started talking at the same time, then Susan said, "Sorry, Bobbie."
"Mr. Wilson, I think you'd be hard pressed
to understand how a woman could accept the role of "the little woman,"
if you understand what I mean."
Mr. Wilson laughed and said, "In this
household it's more like little men. Woody and I have to walk carefully
"Dad, you know that's not true!" Susan said
and we all laughed.
"Anyway, I had been Adam's little woman for
about as long as we had been more than grade school friends. I had just
accepted it as a role I would be in the rest of my life and then I got
my eyes opened. I guess it
sounds really weird, but it took a gay
couple to make me see the light. While we were in Florida, we spent time
with Sharky and Antwon, a gay couple, and when I saw their relationship,
I saw what a loving
relationship could be. Theirs was strong,
loving and they were equals, sharing the good and bad that came along.
Then when Adam got his nose out of joint over them and over Mar..."
Bobbie stumbled to a stop,
turned red and said, "Oh, never mind," Mr.
"Bobbie, I had heard about your breakup with
Adam and I hope if it's to be permanent, you both will find someone you
can really love and respect. If you can come to that point with Adam,
that too will be good,
but I wasn't talking about that. I was
talking about Marc and Justin."
John and the two girls immediately looked at
us and I glanced at Justin and saw that he seemed perfectly at ease
which helped me relax, because I definitely was not at ease.
Nonetheless, I took a deep breath
and said, "I guess it's all over town. I
knew it would be sooner or later, but I hoped it'd be later. Sir, it's a
bit of a long story, but the short version is: Justin and I are gay. As
of last week, we're lovers. The other four members of the Clan know
that. While John, Susan, and Bobbie are happy for us, Adam is another
story altogether. After the six of us sat down and had a discussion of
the situation, he seemed to be fine for the next few days, then when we
were on our trip to Dry Tortugas, Marc and I heard a very hot argument
between Bobbie and him. Part of it was about us, the rest was the break
up of the two. He, of course, blamed us. Justin looked at me and smiled.
"Actually, I don't know whether or not it is
all over town. Mr. Sanford was in my office on some business this week
and when I asked how things were going with Justin and the store, he
decided to unburden
himself. Without breaking any
confidentiality, he had high praise for you, Justin, and then expressed
concern that Adam would decide to 'get even' with you two and cause
"It's times like this, Marc, that I wish
your father and his buddies had voted differently. North Carolina has a
hate crimes law, but several attempts to add sexual orientation to it
have failed. What we do have are laws against intimidation. Keep your
eyes open and if someone decides to harm you, take action. I'll speak to
the sheriff confidentially, just to have him on the alert, unless you'd
rather I not. He is a solid young man and respects the law regardless of
how he feels about gays -- and I don't know how he feels since he keeps
his feelings to himself. I do know he was very upset last year over the
treatment of that gay kid at school when, because of the way the school
decided to handle it, he could do nothing about it. I won't mention this
to the chief of police and advise you not to do so until you have to. He
is, frankly, a bigot who keeps his job because he stays in the hands of
a few powerful people in town. Used to include your father, Marc, and he
still has some influence here.
"For right now, that's about all I can do.
Of course, your friends will stay alert, too. Oh, and congratulations. I
might have felt different before I knew Sue's brother. He was a
wonderful man with a rotten lover, but gays certainly don't have a
monopoly on that or my law firm would have a lot less business.
Since there was nothing unusual at school
Tuesday or Wednesday, I guess we relaxed and were really caught
off-guard Thursday. When we got to our lockers Thursday morning, there
were labels stuck on the
doors. Mine and Justin's read, "A Faggot
Lives Here". Susan's and Bobbie's, "A Fag Hag Lives Here", and John's,
"A Fag Lover Lives Here". I wanted to just scrape them off and forget
it, but I was overruled by
the other four.
"This needs to be stopped right here and
now," John said. He walked into the classroom nearest our lockers and I
knew what was coming on as soon as I heard the intercom click and
someone said, "What is your emergency, room 213?"
I couldn't hear John's first response, but
knew someone was about to learn just how unquiet quiet John could be
when I heard the intercom click again and a voice -- I recognized Cowboy
Swartz -- said, "Students
are not allowed to have emergencies. Only a
teacher or administrator is allowed to have have an emergency and push
the emergency button." True enough, only teachers or administrators were
supposed to push the intercom button and only in an emergency, but they
were regularly used for routine messages.
"Unless an administrator meets me outside
room 213 in less than five minutes, there will be an emergency because I
am calling the sheriff," I heard John shout.
"The principal is on his way," was the
immediate response. We all knew the threat of calling a law officer or a
lawyer always got a response, pronto!
A few minutes later, a student yelled, "Papa
Smurf on the hall!" and Papa Smurf came huffing and puffing down the
hall headed toward us. Of course, Papa Smurf wasn't his real name and,
well, he wasn't a real
principal. A new-this-year assistant
principal, his name was Mr. Yeager, but he had earned the nickname Papa
Smurf last fall, shortly after school had started.
Everyone had been in the gym for a pep rally
when a student came running into the gym dressed in a ski mask, that's
all, just a ski mask. Mr. Yeager had waddled out on the gym floor
shrieking, "Stop! You're
improperly dressed!" which sent the whole
student body into gales of laughter. "Stop, Stop at once!" Mr. Yeager
had continued to yell. Surprisingly, the masked guy had stopped - it was
very obvious he was
a he! -- turned to face Mr. Yeager and
called out, "Papa Smurf, catch me if you can," laughed, turned and
mooned Mr. Yeager, then raced out the side door of the gym. Mr. Yeager
became Papa Smurf --
permanently. Seldom to his face, but always
otherwise, he was Papa Smurf.
Anyway, John had just joined us at our
lockers when Mr. Yeager, about as wide as tall, came huffing and puffing
down the hall having climbed the stairs to the second floor. Like Papa
Smurf, he was blue in the
face, not naturally, but because he was so
When he reached us and before he could
speak, John, pointing to the labels, asked "Mr. Yeager, I want to know
what you are going to do about this?"
"About what?" Mr. Yeager asked. "I don't see
anything that needs attention."
"Papa Smurf, put on your glasses," someone
in the crowd which had gathered said.
I thought Mr. Yeager would explode, but when
he turned around and asked, "Who said that?" everyone was as innocent as
new-born babes. He swelled up some more, but did put on his glasses and
looked at the
labels on the lockers. "Petty vandalism.
Nothing to get concerned about. I'll have them removed. Now get to your
"Just a minute," I said. "We are concerned
about this. Last year a student was hounded out of this school and his
family driven from the town. That is not happening this year and we
expect the school to make sure that it does not. You check the school
board policy manual on harassment and sexual discrimination and get back
to us before the day is over or you will hear from my attorney." It was
all a bluff. If the school board had a policy on harassment I didn't
know it and I certainly didn't have an attorney, but let Papa Smurf
worry for a while -- he nothing else to do.
The labels had been removed when we went to
exchange books for second period, and I guess Papa Smurf and the other
administrative Smurfs thought it would all just go away. It hadn't last
year and I didn't
think it would this year. Last period, the
intercom clicked on and Mr. Agnue, the real principal said, "Teachers,
please send Justin Smith, Marcus Porcher, Susan Wilson, Bobbie Reed, and
John Thurmond to the office." We all arrived in the office about the
same time and Cowboy Swartz, who was filing her nails and chewing gum,
just motioned toward the principal's office with her nail file.
Justin knocked on the office door and Mr.
Agnue called, "Come!" Bobbie and Susan punched the three of us on the
arm and giggled. I turned red.
John said, "Good idea, wrong time."
"Yes!" Justin said as he pushed the office
"Come in. Have a seat," Mr. Agnue said,
standing behind his desk. As soon as we were seated, he said, "I have
talked with Mr. Yeager and Mr. Vickers, the second floor janitor. Mr.
Yeager felt the stickers on your
lockers was just a high school prank. Mr.
Vickers, who removed them, was very upset by them. He, I learned, was a
friend of Frank Allan's family. Frank, you will recall, was the student
who left school last year
and whose family left town over harassment
about his sexual orientation. While Mr. Yeager thinks we should just
ignore this incident, Mr. Vickers disagrees. Frankly, I suspect Mr.
Vickers knows more
about the school, faculty and students than
any of us administrators."
"I'm sure you're correct," Bobbie said.
"Everyone goes to Mr. Vickers with their problems and he definitely has
the respect of some teachers. Besides, he's like a nosy mom, nothing
"I wish everyone realized just how important
he and his fellow janitors are to the functioning of a school. Anyway,
I'd like to know what you can tell me about what's going on. I'm leaving
that vague because I want
it to be as broad a question as you want it
"In school only?" Justin asked.
"As broad as you want it to be," he
"Well, I guess it really started while we
were on spring break," I said. The five of us then gave Mr. Agnue a
pretty full and complete account of what had happened in Florida and
after we got back.
"So you think your former friend Adam
Sanford is behind this?"
"He has at least told his jock buddies Marc
and I had caused his breakup with Bobbie," Justin said. "We all know
those same guys were involved in driving Frank Allan out of school and
his family out of town."
"Nothing ever proven about that," Bobbie
said, "and I really don't think Adam was actively involved, just as I
suspect he is not actually doing anything this time, except egging on
the other three. Of course, that's
"I'm inclined to agree, Mr. Agnue said,
Unfortunately, Frank Allan and his family are in the past and we can do
nothing about it. It seems we have another problem developing and pray
we can do something about
it this time."
We talked until the bell rang for the end of
school, and all we really came up with was Mr. Agnue was going to speak
to the faculty and point out school board policy on harassment -- it did
have one after all. He was also going to meet with the sheriff and,
maybe, have him assign a deputy to the school. "I think he might do an
exchange with the sheriff from an adjoining county and get someone in
here who is not known, maybe even someone to pose as a student or new
Friday, when we went to our lockers after
the opening bell, they had been spray painted with the same message the
stickers had the day before. Of course, being spray painted, they
covered the whole door of
each locker. Standing beside the lockers
were Papa Smurf, Mr. Agnue, Mr. Vickers and Sheriff Anderson.
"I have a lab technician on her way over,"
Sheriff Anderson said. "I need you to wait until she has gone over your
lockers before touching them. I doubt we will find anything, but you
never know. Mr. Vickers saw the
lockers before anyone was in the building,
at least so far as he knows."
"I'm pretty sure that was done last night.
It wasn't there when I left after school yesterday because I came up to
check and see if the paint needed patching where I cleaned off the
stickers yesterday. I saw the paint when I came to work this morning
before students were allowed in the building. Someone with a key either
did it or let someone in to do it."
"I'm sure you're right," Mr. Agnue said.
"Mr. Yeager will do a check on keys today." he turned to Papa Smurf and
said, "Check and see who has keys to the outside doors and bring the
list to my office," he added. Turning to us, he asked, "What classes do
you have first period?"
"We're all in Mrs. Powers' AP world
history," Susan said.
"Well, go on to class and tell her why you
don't have your materials. I'm sure she will understand. If not, she
should see me."
Just before the end of first period, Mr.
Vickers came to the door of Mrs. Powers' classroom and said, "Sheriff
Anderson would like for the four of you to meet him at your lockers."
When we reached the lockers, a young woman
was working at our lockers. Sheriff Anderson introduced Miss Calhoun. We
all knew the sheriff. "Miss Calhoun is one of the best police lab techs
in the state,"
he said. "We're fortunate to have her around
and wouldn't have her or the facilities we do except she teaches in the
criminal justice program at the community college. Miss Calhoun, Susan
Wilson, Bobbie Reed, John Thurmond, Marcus Porcher, and Justin Smith."
Miss Calhoun peeled off latex gloves and
shook hands all the way around and then said, "Sorry for the mess. I
have dusted your lockers for fingerprints and taken samples of the paint
used. I don't expect
either to reveal very much since there are
numerous fingerprints on the four lockers, and I'm sure the spray paint
is not at all distinct. I will need you four to give me fingerprints for
elimination purposes but, before that, I'd like for each of you to open
your locker and check to see if there's been anything stuck in through
the ventilation slots."
We opened our lockers one at a time and as
each locker was opened, there was a folded note lying on the top of what
we had left in our locker overnight. John opened his locker first and
when he started to
reach for the note, Miss Calhoun practically
shouted, "Don't touch! Sorry, didn't mean to shout, but don't touch. Let
me remove the notes in case there's something in or on them we can use."
She put on a
fresh pair of gloves and removed the notes,
putting each in a ziplock evidence bag.
After all our lockers had been opened, Miss
Calhoun said, "I know you want to know what is in the notes and you
might be able to tell me something useful after you see them. Mr. Agnue
told Sheriff Anderson
we could use the conference room if we
needed it. Let's go down there and I'll use the table and spread the
notes without damaging any evidence, and we'll have a look and then I'll
get your fingerprints."
We all gathered around the conference table
and Miss Calhoun pulled on yet another fresh pair of latex gloves and
used the eraser end of a pencil to unfold the notes. When the last one
was unfolded, she said,
"Ok, all four are alike in that each is on a
single sheet of copy paper and, in fact, part of them is exactly the
same, probably from cutting and pasting in a word processor. See, the
words 'Warning!! Faggots, Fag
Hags and Faggot Lover!! Beware!!' and the
crude -- in at least a couple ways, it's crude -- drawing of two men
kissing while holding each other's penis with the universal sign for
'No', the red circle with a
diagonal, over the picture is exactly the
same on all of them. The handwritten additions may provide a clue. I'll
John's and Susan's messages were essentially
the same in that they warned they would be considered the same as
faggots since they were a secret faggot and a fag hag respectively.
Bobbie's was interesting in
that it had 'Watch your fag hag back,
bitch,' and 'Fag hag bitches who break up with real men are in the
bull's eye,' and had a bull's eye drawn over a stick figure of a woman.
Mine and Justin's were more threatening. Two
additional figures had been added, two men with baseball bats were
hitting the kissing figures in the head. Bright red blood was flying in
"I'll take these back to the lab and see
what more I can discover," Miss Calhoun said, "but I'll be frank, I'm
not hopeful. In the meantime, you might want to cut school a couple days
maybe even a week.
"Do you think you'll have something by
then?" I asked.
"Wish I could say yes, but I suspect not,
especially if the guys who did this are at all careful."
"I don't think we can afford to miss a week
of school right now," I said.
"Then do be careful. I don't think this is
just some innocent prank. Especially if something happens to get these
guys worked up. I suspect they are not strangers to alcohol and if they
get all worked up while
drinking, it could get deadly. Just be very
Four much sobered high school seniors went
to third period.
There was a lot of finger pointing going on
at lunch -- Adam and the Axis of Evil would call someone over to their
table, say something, point at us and laugh. After about five minutes of
that, John said, very quietly, "My pacifist conviction is being strained
"I know, but keep cool, John. Remember they
are beneath you," Susan said. "And remember Frank Allan."
"Yeah, we have something that poor Frank
Allan didn't have. He was a loner, I suspect because he was gay and
thought he was the only gay kid in the universe. We have been friends
and are still friends. We can
outlast Adam and his jock assholes," Bobbie
said. I suddenly realized she was getting a double dose: as our friend
and as someone who had loved and maybe still loved Adam.
I'm sure we were all glad when the last bell
rang and school was over until Monday. When we got to the parking lot,
Bobbie and Susan told us we needed to get together Saturday and decide
what we'd be doing for the prom. "What's to decide?" John asked. "We
need to get flowers for our dates. Dad is insisting we have a limo, so
transportation is solved."
"I've made reservations at the club for
dinner in a private dining room," I said. "Think that covers it."
Susan and Bobbie thought we weren't taking
the prom seriously enough and the three guys just laughed.
Justin reminded me he'd have a supper break,
but wouldn't be home to stay until later as he was closing and he was
still at the new store which was open until 9:00. He climbed into my car
and I was standing
outside, when he said, "You know, our
relationship is hardly a secret around here now."
"Yeah, I know," I replied, smiled and leaned
into the car for a long, open mouth kiss.
"Why don't you just go ahead and suck him
off?" Arnold Blake yelled as he leaned out of the passenger's side
window of Adam's car.
I turned around ready to yell a comeback,
but Justin said, "No, Marc." So I kept quiet.
"See you later, Babe," I said, closed the
car door and stood back as Justin backed up and drove out of the parking