We arrived at school a few minutes
before the opening bell -- Kenneth and Bobbie just ahead of us
and Michael and Sandy, Susan and John hugging our tail. We had
barely gotten parked when Bobbie was out of the car, leaning
toward Kenneth and exchanging a passionate kiss with him. When
they broke the kiss, Kenneth waved to us, backed out Susan's
T'bird and headed for the Thurmonds' place. Lacy would take him
to the airport for a flight back to Raleigh in an hour. Prom
weekend was definitely over.
I guess we were so involved with each other that we didn't
notice the crowd surrounding King James Stewart -- K.J. for
short -- and Ox, his lieutenant, who were leaning against the
tailgate of K.J.'s pickup, parked a few cars down from us. As we
headed for the entrance, Adam came up, looking pretty shy, and
said, "Morning. Won't say 'Good morning' because K.J. and his
crowd are up to no good. Ox called Arnold and me last night and
'invited' us to join them in 'kicking some faggot ass.' Not sure
what they have in their so-called minds, but they are out for
your heads, more than upset about, as Ox said, 'the faggots and
lesbos ruining their prom.'"
"Their prom," I said, indignantly. "I thought it was ours as
"Yeah, you don't have to convince me," Adam grinned. "I never
had as much fun at a prom as I did this year. Hell, it was worth
the price of admission just to see old Stevens hit the floor."
We all laughed, recalling the event, then Adam became very
serious. "Look, I know I have been an asshole and all and I'm
not trying to make it up to you guys, but I have really missed
y'all, needed y'all as friends, if that's possible. And I am
really concerned about what K.J. and his bunch might do. Anyway,
watch your backs, I will be," Adam responded.
Adam turned to walk away when Justin said, "Thanks, Adam, we
appreciate it," and extended his hand. When Adam took it, Justin
pulled Adam to himself in a bear hug. "I really mean it," Justin
said. "I know what your coming over and warning us cost you."
That started a hugfest as one after the other member of the Clan
hugged Adam and said thanks in one way or another. Bobbie was
holding back but finally said, "Oh, hell," hugged Adam and
Michael had an arm around Sandy when he extended his hand to
Adam. After they shook hands, Sandy hugged Adam and said, "Good
to have you back, Adam." Later I realized that in so speaking,
Sandy had accepted Adam back in to the Clan and had included
himself. He had accepted being accepted.
During the hugfest, Arnold walked up. "Checked out what's going
on inside. Some grumbling, but nothing like K.J. and his jerks.
Oh, by the way, welcome back. I guess Adam told you Ox called
last night. Ox is right. The dumb jerk went into what all K.J.
and his gang had in mind for you -- well, he called you faggots
and lesbos -- anyway, he had gone into all that before he
invited me to join them. Told him I didn't think I'd have time
and when I said that, he said, 'Yeah, well, maybe laters.' Maybe
nothing will come of it, but Adam and I thought we'd keep an eye
out. We owe you that and more."
"Thanks," Justin replied. "It means a lot," he added as he
extended his hand. We had never been close to Arnold like we had
been with Adam, so the guys just shook hands and the girls gave
Arnold a quick hug.
Before we could dismiss K.J. and his pack, they started making
big macho noises. K.J. had climbed in the bed of his pickup and
stood facing us, when he grabbed his crotch and yelled, "Which
one of you fags wants to suck on this? You don't have to worry,
there's enough to go around. 'Sides, my boys got some for you
too." He kept up the harangue, his cohorts joining in. I guess I
had hoped Adam and Arnold had overreacted, but it was now pretty
clear they had not.
When the bell rang and we started toward the door, it set off
yet another outburst from the hate mongers. As we walked, I
realized I knew very little about K.J. "You know anything about
K.J. and his jerks?" I asked. "I don't. They're so far out of my
world, I know practically nothing about them beyond their
"I know little more," Adam said, "but Arnold knows them."
"It's a long story. We'll talk about it at lunch or after
school. For now, just remember Ox and K.J.'s other lieutenant,
Puny, are almost as bad as they come and K.J.'s ten times worse.
They are all mean sons of bitches, so watch yourself and each
other's backs. Adam and I will also keep an eye out for you."
"Thanks again," I said.
"Yeah, as Adam said, we owe you big time."
I don't know what I expected once we got inside and, while there
seemed little physical threat, it was bad enough. We went to the
senior lockers where Michael quickly got what he needed from his
locker and, holding Sandy's hand, the two headed toward the
junior lockers. As they turned to leave, four or five girls, I
think sophomores, hissed, "Faggots! Queers! Faggot Queers!"
Sandy stopped, still holding Michael's hand, and called after
them, "My dear young ladies, Faggot Queers is redundant. You
need to discuss that with your English teacher. Miss Mathais is
the freshman English teacher, isn't she?"
I was laughing to myself as the girls turned and one, the
obvious leader of the pack of she-wolves, snarled, "We are
"Oh," Sandy responded, a sickeningly sweet smile on his face, "I
was confused by your middle school behavior."
Noses in the air, the girls swished down the hall.
The exchange was funny, but also disheartening. I thought the
arrests earlier in the year had meant gay bashing was a thing of
the past at school, but that little exchange, added to K.J.'s
show outside, indicated just how wrong I could be.
"So much for 'God's in His heaven; All's right with the world,'"
Justin said, watching the she-wolves depart.
The rest of the day was no better than its start. In fact, it
only got worse. Snide remarks and outright name-calling were the
order of the day. All of us had books shoved from under our
arms, got slaps on the back of the head by cowards hiding in
crowds and otherwise annoyed. Of course, most made a point of
avoiding us, not getting close enough to touch books or persons.
Guess they thought they might catch a disease or become faggots.
Who knows? The long and the short of it was that we were made
very aware of the fact that we were pariahs. It did strike me
odd that the most vicious remarks came from freshmen and
sophomores who would have had nothing to do with the prom, but I
guess that had a great deal to do with insecurity about one's
Some of the teachers were rumored to have made some pretty snide
remarks. Mr. Agnue, I guess, finally had enough and made an
announcement over the intercom reminding everyone that there was
school policy about using pejorative language and derogatory
names. I'm not sure it helped. He also announced a faculty
meeting after school where, no doubt, the events at the prom
would be discussed.
Anyway, had we not gotten the idea we were pariahs before, it
was certainly clear in the cafeteria. When we walked in -- as a
group -- our 'fellow students' responded in a way that looked a
bit like the parting of the Red Sea before Moses and the
Hebrews. Their rush to avoid us had one advantage: we were
immediately at the head of the line, but I did expect shouts of
"Unclean, unclean," any minute.
Misti and Pat found the way cleared for them as well. "Mind two
lesbos joining you?" Pat grinned, sadly.
"Sure, if you don't think you'll be contaminated by faggots,"
"Or straights," John laughed and motioned the two ahead of him.
With Michael and Sandy and Misti and Pat, the Clan lunch table
was no longer adequate. Michael and Sandy, Justin and I started
moving two tables together when Miss Stevens, who was on lunch
room duty, headed over. "You boys know you are not permitted to
move the tables." Justin and Michael just looked at her like she
was out of her mind. "I suppose I should have expected no better
from young men who would ruin a prom." When we continued to
ignore her, she finally gave up, made a sound of disgust and
The tables and chairs had been moved into place when Adam and
Arnold arrived. "Guess we're welcome," he said, "since this is
obviously the most inclusive group around."
The two were barely seated when a voice well-known in school,
town and county asked, "May I join the leper colony?" It
belonged to Sissy -- actually Walter Stepphenwolf Lancaster --
the backbone of both the school dramatics club and the town's
little theater. He was also host of a Saturday morning radio
program aimed at area teens.
Sissy was an excellent example of a southern phenomenon, the
much-loved and tolerated "sissy boy." While the South, with its
generally literalistic and fundamentalistic religiosity, is
probably more openly homophobic than other areas of the country
-- we're accused of that anyway -- we seem very tolerant of one,
probably no more, sissy boy -- known elsewhere as a flaming gay
-- in our midst. Of course, we'd never call him gay -- if you
don't talk about it, it doesn't exist -- but if there is a more
flaming gay in the world than Sissy, it would be international
news. When one earring rendered a guy more than a little
suspect, Sissy had two. When guys started wearing a single small
stud, Sissy had two "tasteful," his word, gold hoops. Before the
sun-streaked look appeared among beach hangouts, Sissy's hair
was bleached as near white as he could get it. Sissy "walked
like a girl" and, of course, had a limp wrist. It was as though
he had read a manual on how to be a flaming queen and followed
it without missing a beat. What was, perhaps, even more
remarkable, Sissy was African-American.
Well, I said he was much-loved and tolerated and that was mostly
true. Jocks, especially his African-American brothers, avoided
him. The plus side of that was he was not harassed.
In spite of what happened when the school learned Justin and I
were gay, Sissy's attitude toward us -- generally neutral --
never changed. Now that we were really outcasts, almost two
tables full of outcasts, I was surprised when he appeared asking
to join us. As I said, although he was a flaming gay -- or had
that persona -- he was generally accepted and by sitting with us
threw that away. That takes balls, big balls!
"All are welcome," John said. "Not sure you'll be welcome
anywhere else after eating with the leper colony, though."
"Then anywhere else will just be depriving itself of my
magnificent and scintillating personality," Sissy answered,
striking a dramatic pose. That done, he put his tray on the
table, sat down, and said, "I'm gay...."
"No! You're breaking my heart," Bobbie laughed.
"Well, I guess I haven't been in the closet as far back as I
thought," Sissy laughed, waving a limp wrist, "but, yes, I'm gay
and I have never really suffered because of it. My parents have
just accepted it or, maybe, just ignored it because it's never
been mentioned by either and they have continued to indulge me.
At school, I played with the girls and before I was out of
elementary school was called "Sissy" and it stuck. I don't think
anything about it and don't think many others do. By the time I
was eight or nine, I guess, I knew I liked to play with the
girls, but I also liked boys. By the time I was twelve, I knew
why. I thought, 'Well, I'm gay so I guess I better start acting
gay.' Wasn't sure what that meant, but worked it out -- how to
act like a flaming queen, no less -- and here I am. Decided when
I saw you beautiful people at the prom that I had hid long
enough -- well, I guess I wasn't quite hidden."
Pat said, "Hardly, but I know what you mean. So, we're all out
-- you straights are out -- as straights, and no doubt, as fag
hags or whatever. Suspect most 'round here wish we were out of
here and on a desert island somewhere."
"Arnold, you promised to tell us about K.J. and his Gang of
Three," Susan said as soon as everyone was settled.
"How much do you want to know?" he asked.
"Yeah, and anything Arnold doesn't know, I can fill in," Pat
said. "My place is a couple miles beyond theirs."
"Then you and Arnold have known each other...."
"Since before we started school," she replied, "and, of course,
we went to Muddy Creek elementary together and East Middle
"And our families -- mine and Pat's -- have been friends
forever," Arnold added. "Anyway, to begin at the beginning, I
guess, my dad says old man Stewart, Dick, was a real hell-raiser
growing up. Then he got religion, real hell fire and brimstone
religion, when he was thirty. Settled down, started Muddy Creek
True Church of God, married the preacher's daughter and started
"Started having daughters," Pat interjected. "He had four --
Elizabeth, Margaret, Mary and Sophia...."
"Named after the daughters of King James," Arnold added, "who he
said wrote the Bible...."
... in less than four years," Pat continued. "Mom says Mavis
Stewart was always a sickly woman and her fifth pregnancy ended
in a stillborn baby and her death. Four years later, Dick
surprised everyone when he brought home a new bride. She was
just twenty-one, almost ten years his junior. It was the talk of
Arnold took up the tale, "Less than nine months later, she gave
birth to Henry, the first son. After that it was five more years
before King James was born. Someone had tried without success,
to convince Dick King James had not written the Bible and to
make his stand known, he told everyone he had named his youngest
son after the man who wrote the Bible, and still does.
"Since he had waited so long 'for the Lord to truly bless me
with male offspring,' Henry was impossible by the time K.J. came
along, I have heard. I do know he was in jail for sexual assault
on a fifteen-year-old boy last year. Of course old man Stewart
said that was impossible because his son would never lay with a
man as a woman because that was an abomination and he would be
stoned. The old man bought someone off, I've heard.
Pat injected, "In addition to being a son, K.J. is also the
baby, so he is doubly indulged and always has been." That said,
the rest of our lunch conversation was not very different from
what it might have been had the prom not happened, just high
school chatter. The bell rang for the end of lunch and we went
our separate ways.
Afternoon was like the morning. Well, there was an extra helping
of pejorative names thrown at us and not a few threats. Some of
the threats were especially vicious. As I walked down the hall
headed to my last period class, I thought, "The next few weeks
are going to be hell. Thanks God, I -- we -- have friends who
will stick by us and have done so." It meant a lot.
Turns out, things weren't so bad as they might have been. As the
days went by, other events -- a couple of "she be fucking my
babydaddy" fights and the usual breakups and makeups of boy and
girl friends -- caught the fickle minds of our classmates and
most generally forgot about the prom. It was old news. As a
result, harassment decreased as the days passed.
Well, while that was generally true, K.J. and the Gang of Three
never let up. They were smart enough to avoid being caught
inside and usually restricted their verbal abuse to the parking
The fact that several more students had more or less joined us
for lunch helped. Additionally, other students, while not
joining the group at lunch, made it clear they supported us.
Officially, Mr. Agnue sent out an announcement about school
policy on harassment and homeroom teachers were required to read
it to their charges. That definitely helped, especially when
three guys got suspended five days for using pejorative names
and making obscene remarks. In short, by the end of the week,
life seemed to be back to normal, whatever that was.
Good thing, because the Clan needed to focus on school. Maybe we
would have noticed more had we not been busy preparing for AP
exams and pushing Sandy to get his grades up. Michael was also
behind that push and usually joined us for our study sessions in
the evening. Sandy had no complaints and his grades were
In addition to sweating the approaching AP exams, Adam and I
were also sweating from plain hard work. The store was doing a
booming business and all the deliveries requiring two men were
left for us. Mr. Sanford had hoped to get deliveries down to
emergencies -- someone's fridge or freezer goes out, they don't
want to wait for a replacement -- and Saturdays. It hadn't
worked out that way. As a matter of fact, Adam and I were
working every day after school and could have worked over every
night, but that was not allowed because schoolwork came first.
Of course, we sometimes ran into problems on a delivery and
couldn't make it back to the store before quitting time, but
that happened only a time or two each week. We were working hard
and, surprisingly, enjoying it and being together. I would say
he was the old Adam, but that was not true. The new Adam was
more mature and more fun to be with. More importantly, there was
no question that Adam was a friend. He had proved that when he
took a lot of shit over standing up for and with us after the
Adam and Bobbie? No question about it, I still saw him,
occasionally, looking at Bobbie with longing in his eye, but he
made no move, knowing it would be futile. Bobbie wasn't
interested and the fact that she was all excited because Kenneth
was flying in next weekend underscored where her interests lay,
no pun intended.
In short, the prom had come and gone and was about forgotten as
AP students prepared for exams and the "end of school" euphoria
was in full blossom across the board.
Justin's and my love-making was definitely in fine shape and
improving every day. Depending on how tired I was after work and
what else was going on, what we did varied, but all was good. We
were as horny as ever, but had learned the beauty of slow and
easy. Didn't mean we always followed that route, and jumping
each other's bones was also good.
I guess the weekend gave some people time to work themselves up
again because when we got to school Monday, bad things started
happening and only got worse as the week wore on. With K.J., Ox
and Puny sent home to cool their heels, the loud parking lot
harassment stopped, but that certainly didn't end it. There were
two clusters of students just standing around in the parking lot
Monday morning when we arrived and they all gave us the finger
as we walked toward the entrance. A similar situation prevailed
All the guys had "faggot" written on our lockers with Magic
Marker Tuesday. Mr. Vickers was busy using spray and a rag
removing the tag when we reached them. "I'll try to get your
lockers touched up today," he said. "This Magic Marker remover
works pretty good, but you can see where something has been
written. Like to write something on a few faces around here and
it wouldn't be nice. Sorry you are having this mess your senior
year," he added as he worked. He may as well have waited because
our lockers were messed up on a daily basis -- if not with magic
marker, spray paint or such, with something poured or sprayed
through the vent slots -- catchup, Pepsi, blood and worse.
There was plenty of other crap going on -- middle school stuff
mostly -- but there were some more serious or more disgusting.
Disgusting indeed! For example, one PE class after Misti
showered and went to her PE locker to get dressed, she found her
pockets stuffed with used tampons. Likewise, in his English
class, Sandy pulled his notebook from his backpack only to
discover used condoms hanging out of it, some of them shitty.
Bad as those things were, the physical attacks were more
serious. We all learned to avoid crowds to prevent being tripped
or shoved -- especially on stairs -- after both Justin and I had
been tripped and took a tumble down the stairs. Adam joined
Sandy in the "shoved to the floor in the hall" club. Frankly, we
were all getting pretty paranoid -- not without cause. Mr. Agnue
was doing all he could and Mr. Bingham was especially alert and
watchful, but there were only two of them and there were a dozen
plus of us more or less under attack. After an incident in the
shower in which someone distracted her while another girl turned
the shower to hot water only, Pat's PE coach made sure she was
safe in the shower, but she couldn't be two places at once and
midweek when she finished showering and started to get dressed,
her clothes were gone.
Same day, as Michael started downstairs to his next class, a
couple of guys gave him a shove, but Michael is built like a
tank and managed to turn as he was falling and grab the two by
the ankles and all three tumbled down the stairs. At the bottom,
Michael was on top of the pile and only suffered bruises. Dick
Leugar had his face in the floor, but the rest of his body,
along with Michael, was atop Teddy Swartz, who had an arm
twisted under him. Both were moaning and groaning, well, Teddy
was doing more than moaning, when Michael grabbed both by the
back of their shirt and "guided" them to Mr. Agnue's office
marching right past Ms. Swartz -- the receptionist and Teddy's
mother. As they marched, she cried, "What have you done to my
baby? Teddy, sweetheart, what has that bully done to you, Baby?"
Michael paid her no attention. Reaching the principal's door,
Michael tapped on it with his foot and marched the two into Mr.
Agnue's office when told to enter.
According to Michael, Mr. Agnue bade them have a seat and
without further ado, handed each of them a pad and pencil and
said, "Before you say anything, write out what happened."
"Mr. Agnue, I can't write," Teddy whined and held his arm up.
Mr. Agnue looked at it, called to Ms. Swartz and said, "Ms.
Swartz, call 911. I'm afraid we have a broken arm in here. Also
call Coach MacArthur and have him stand by for a trip to the
emergency room." He then said, "Michael, Dick, back to writing."
When the EMS arrived, they examined Teddy's arm and said they
were sure it was not broken, but took him to the emergency room
to be checked out. Mr. Agnue had Coach MacArthur follow and
bring him back to school after he had been x-rayed and had his
arm put in a sling, which he would be wearing for a while. Mr.
Agnue had had the EMS take Teddy out the back exit so he didn't
have to go past his mother. When he came back and she saw his
arm in a sling, she started carrying on and was going to take
him right home, but Mr. Agnue insisted he record a statement of
Michael and Dick had been placed in separate rooms to write
their statements and left there to cool their heels until Teddy
got back, then Mr. Agnue listened to Teddy's statement and read
Michael's and Dick's. When he had finished, all three were
brought in to his office. He told them he had three different
accounts of what happened and would have believed Michael had
started a fight and shoved the two down the steps, "But your
stories are not consistent," he said to Teddy and Dick.
"Fortunately, several students who saw what happened felt they
should also give written statements. Do you need to hear them
and maybe revise yours?" he asked.
"I don't" Michael said, "I wrote exactly what I believed and
Dick and Teddy said theirs were true statements too, but when
Mr. Agnue said the three would have to go to tribunal and
pointed out there were six witnesses who agreed with Michael,
the two decided they might revise their statements and accept
the punishment Mr. Agnue gave them. Ms. Swartz was adamant that
Teddy had done no wrong and she would take it up with the school
board. Mr. Agnue said she was free to do so, but he thought she
might like to read the witness statements since the school board
would definitely send the case to the tribunal. After reading
the statements, she was still very angry and kept insisting
Teddy was being wronged, but dropped any talk about going to the
school board. Later we learned Mr. Agnue suggested she needed to
stay home with Teddy while he was suspended for 10 days and then
come back to discuss her future at the school.
Thursday everything was pretty quiet until lunch when Sissy came
to lunch red-faced angry. As soon as he was seated he said,
without his usual drama, "I am really, really pissed. I was on
the way to my math class when I passed Mr. Chandler's door. You
know the man is a white-trash redneck and has been in trouble
for coming close to using the 'n' word -- never African-American
or black, it's always Negro, which, I guess, was once considered
the polite term, but even then, my grandmama says the way he
says it, like Neg grow, was an insult." Well, anyway, he said,
'Yeah, we've got faggot teachers around here and put up with
that queer Negro Sissy, now we have faggots and lesbians ruining
our prom, dancing together and kissing on the dance floor. Now
when I was in school, we would not have put up with queers and
such. Well, nothing I can do about it. It's your school.' He
then got on with the lecture." Sissy was shaking he was so
"OK, we've pretty much taken what's been thrown our way, doing
nothing except defending ourselves when we could," John said.
"This time, we act." Sissy was reluctant to go to Mr. Agnue, but
John insisted and practically drug him to the office. Mr. Agnue
listened, asked which period Sissy had heard Mr. Chandler's
remarks and said he'd talk with us later.
First class after lunch, Mr. Agnue announced a faculty meeting
immediately after school. "All faculty, and I underscore all,
will be in the library ten minutes after the final bell. Bus
duty will be covered by staff, detention hall is canceled and
any scheduled meeting, team practice or other event is canceled.
There are absolutely NO exceptions. To be blunt, if you expect
to continue on the payroll, you will be present when the faculty
roll is called. Mr. Chandler, Mr. Yeager will be in your
classroom in five minutes to free you to report to the office.
Of course, we didn't know the details of what went on in Mr.
Agnue's office when Mr. Chandler got there, but he wasn't in his
classroom Friday and rumor was he was suspended without pay and
had to attend a diversity training program, for all the good
most of those do. Some of the teachers apologized for
disrespectful remarks and for not being better at stopping name
calling and bullying. There was much less harassment and the
change was welcome.