10 December 2003
Every now and then, as I'm sure everyone will agree, something pops into one's head that they have to do, something they have to get on paper, and so on. Kind of like a pet insistently pawing at you, leash in its mouth, while you're trying to talk on the telephone, and there's just no making it go away. This short story is one of those things. I was in the middle of a chapter for my other story, "Two Lives-Two Loves", in the College section, when the idea for this story popped into my head and wouldn't go away, so if readers of "Two Lives" are wondering if I fell off the face of the Earth, I didn't...it's just that this story wanted, demanded to be taken out for a walk first. <grin>
I thought that this story would be a short, short story...no more than ten pages or so. As it turns out, it ended up being nearly thirty pages. I guess the 'pup' wanted a longer walk than I originally guessed! Call it a personal quirk, but I didn't want to ask readers to go blind, staring at their monitors for thirty pages, so I've decided to break this story into three parts, which I will submit over the course of the next day or so as I work out kinks in the HTML.
"Light from Darkness" is the story of a young gay man's personal ordeal...of stepping, or being shoved, up to the edge of the abyss and feeling the ground begin crumbling under his feet, so to say. It is set at Christmas time but is nowhere near as idyllic as is "Two Lives". It is a darker piece and I wanted to let that be known up front. It also concentrates on relationships and their emotional interplay much moreso than sexual contact, which is mentioned only as needed in passing reference.
I hope you like this new offering. As always, I welcome any helpful comments, so please feel free to write if you feel so inclined.
Thank you for your attention,
And now that I've talked long enough..........
The author retains all rights to this story.
Reproductions or links to other sites are
not allowed without the permission of the author.
He and Life hadn’t always gotten along well together, but those words, repeated over and over, rang clearly and agonizingly in Bobby Fulton’s head. They burned liked a hot poker shoved against his backside. His hands still shook from the odd mixture of anger and fear as he tried to sip the cooling coffee from the heavy china cup as he hunched over the counter in one of those 1950’s style diners. This one wasn’t one of those sparkling little remakes, however; this was the real thing. One of the few of its kind still operating, together with all of the chrome and grease related thereto.
He and Justin had decided to confess at the same time and get it all out on the table in one fell swoop. What a mistake that’d been. For his part, Bobby realized now that he should’ve waited until everyone was sober, whenever that was, before he decided to break the news, to impart to his parents his little secret. But no, he couldn’t wait, like a child who was just bursting to tell some momentous news to which he alone was privy.
Despite his occasional brushes with trouble, Bobby was still a bit of a sentimentalist at heart. He thought that they would just sit there and discuss the situation and, after the initial shock had worn off, life could move on. Taking another sip, he wondered to himself what fantasyland he’d been in when he thought they could all talk rationally. He knew now that he’d thought wrong. Very wrong. And that blue and pink neon clock above the counter was not moving backwards, so there was no undoing what he’d said. No I’m-sorries. No do-overs. No mulligans. He was totally screwed and he knew it. But right then, he just wished that he could get his hands to stop shaking; he was spilling his coffee a few splashes at a time.
The velvety strains of Bing Crosby’s rendition of “White Christmas” were straining his endurance, as well. It was coming from every speaker in the diner. The longer it played, the more he hated that song and it made him want to hurl his coffee cup at the nearest little tabletop jukebox he could find; anything to make it stop. He wanted no reminders of how miserable he felt at this ‘festive’ time of year. He bottled it up, however, and just grimaced, stared into his coffee, and clutched his cup so hard that it might have broken were it not so stout. Two days before Christmas and all he wanted to do was crawl up inside himself and die.
“You okay there, sport?” The waitress behind the counter asked as she eyed him with the skepticism born of years of practice at spotting the potential troublemakers and check-beaters.
“Yeah,” Bobby muttered, nodding his head, glancing up only enough to make the barest of eye contact. She probably thought he was an addict going through withdrawal.
“Lemme warm that up for ya,” she said as she topped off his cup and wiped up his spillage with a damp bar cloth.
She walked away to tend to one of the other customers but he could still feel her eyes on him, wondering what his story was, wondering what some teenager was doing sitting in here with the truck drivers and the transients in the middle of the night. She should’ve been with him earlier that evening. She would’ve gotten an eyeful then, enough to keep the beauty parlor chattering for an hour, at least. Enough to qualify for a spot on one of those late night ‘Talk’ shows where people beat the crap out of each other under the auspices of ‘honesty’ and ‘openness’. That’d been his day.
She could’ve watched the expression on his mother’s face turn, in an instant, from one of feigned interest to one of utter rage amplified by cheap vodka when he told her he was gay.
His father was worthless, worse than no help at all. He just put down his beer, moaned and let his shaking head sink into his hands. Dear old mom, however, was not so docile and let her feelings be known clearly as her right palm made sharp contact with his left cheek. Bobby recoiled as the blow fell, falling with a thud to the cheap linoleum floor. His mother…his own mother…flailed at him as he tried to pick himself up while shielding his face from her 100 proof swipes.
“You damn FAGGOT!” she yelled. “Get OUT!” he heard her scream as she beat at him, driving him towards the door. Bobby called to his father for help.
Walter Fulton couldn’t even be bothered to look at his son. He just waved at him dismissively. A shit job, a drunk for a wife and now a fag for a son. Some trifecta, he snorted to himself as he went back to sulking in his beer while his wife tended to the dirty work.
“GET OUT!” she screamed.
“Mom, can’t we…?” Bobby pleaded as he began to back away, followed by her strong swats every step of the way. He had grown to strong, young manhood, able to give a good accounting of himself against anyone near his size. But now, he felt nearly defenseless against this woman, eight inches shorter and fifty pounds lighter than himself. That thought alone kept him off balance.
“No…..NO!” she screamed at him again, her face now twisted into something barely human and most definitely not humane. “GET… the FUCK… OUT!” Her words echoed off the walls of the single-wide they called home, ringing in his ears with venomous hatred.
Bobby backed away slowly, his hands up protectively. He almost tripped over the leg rest of the Lazyboy his father called home only to fall into the small, silver-boughed, K-Mart tree. Rolling free of it, he tried desperately to talk to the mindless creature that was once his mother. She was having none of it. She wanted him gone, treating him the way she would’ve treated a sewer rat unexpectedly found in her kitchen. He managed to get to his feet, keeping his arms up, guarding his face as his mother continued to hurl punches and curses at him, until, finally, Bobby literally felt the doorknob hit him in the ass. Seeing no way to stop this drunken onslaught, Bobby reached behind his back and turned the knob, catching himself awkwardly on the top step as the wind pulled him out along with the door.
His mother yanked his denim jacket off the hook next to the door and threw it at him as he tried to regain his balance. Energized by her sudden hatred, it may as well have been a rock as it hit him in the face and caused him to lose his balance again. He fell the remaining three steps to the gravel walk, landing painfully, shoulder first.
“That’s IT, ya HEAR? I don’t wanna see you around here again,” She’d shouted from the doorway. “EVER!”
Bobby watched and listened in stunned horror as his mother pulled the door shut behind her, slamming it and making a deliberately noisy show of locking it. For a minute, he was frozen, his mouth agape as he listened and watched the shadows against the curtains of his former home. It was quiet at first. Then he heard the arguing begin and he clutched his jacket as if it was a security blanket. The din grew, swelling as his mother screamed at his father as he screamed at her as she screamed at him.
He gave it about twenty minutes before the red and blue lights began bouncing from trailer to trailer, accompanied by the clipped muttering of the Sheriff’s radio as he answered yet another disturbing the peace call. He always did. Sheriff Thompson had been out here so often, in fact, that they were almost on a first name basis with him.
Bobby noticed his vague shadow disappear from the ground as the lights went out in the adjoining trailer. He turned, wiping wind driven tears from his eyes as he saw the curtain being pushed almost imperceptibly aside. Who were they kidding? He’d seen it enough. He knew what to look for.
“Nosy assholes,” he thought.
He knew the clock was ticking. The dime had been dropped and he wanted no part of what was coming. He’d had enough for one day and pushed himself up, pulling on his jacket and hunching his shoulders against the cold wind. The lining of his jacket kept him from freezing but that was about it and a thin waistcoat wasn’t the best of choices for this kind of weather. He had to get someplace warm and fast. Feeling at his pockets, he pulled out the little ring that held his two keys, one for the lame-ass skateboard he called a car and the other for his one time home. Overcome by fear-driven rage, he worked it off the ring and hurled it at his parent’s house, listening to the slight ding as it bounced harmlessly off the aluminum and landed in the gravel below. Pulling himself close against the wind, Bobby double-timed it to his beaten up excuse for a car and shakily turned the key in its lock.
He dove inside and pulled the creaking door shut after him, cursing as he had to slam it twice to get the lock to engage.
“Cheap-ass, fucking Yugo’s,” he muttered as his cold, shaking hand fumbled to put the key in the ignition.
He’d been a proud new owner the day he’d bought it with the $450 he saved from his summer job but it hadn’t taken long to figure out why he’d gotten it so cheap. High mileage, rust everywhere, timing problems, electrical problems, and just general, overall fatigue. Bobby had quickly found that duct tape and baling wire were requisite companions with this car. He cranked the engine, cursing under his breath when it refused to cooperate. Quickly pushing his brown hair out of his eyes, he tried again.
“C’mon, c’mon,” he whispered angrily, banging his fist against the wheel.
He paused for a second, his pulse and breathing rapid from the extreme irritation that obstinate machines of any sort gave him. Where he should’ve heard the semi-rhythmic firing of the pistons, the only sound he heard was the whistling of the wind across the field of rusted out holes in his floorboard.
“C’mon, sweetheart,” he coaxed. “Be nice for daddy,” he whispered, his freezing breath clouding the windshield, as he turned the key one last time. His small amount of patience was rewarded by the coughing, sputtering sound of the engine finally firing up. He waited a few seconds, letting the oil warm up before he switched on the heat, fearing that the engine would die on him if he himself moved so much as a hair too quickly.
The heat finally started circulating around his feet. Bobby rubbed his hands together furiously, trying to get some warmth in them. After a few minutes, he felt warm enough to get going. He didn’t have the faintest idea where, but he could get going. He put the car in gear and started to back out when he saw the curtain in the kitchen window of his former home being pushed aside to reveal his father’s face.
Bobby put his foot on the brake and locked eyes with the man staring back at him, his face revealing no expression. For a fleeting instant, he hoped for a redemption of some sort. He hoped that, somehow, his father would call him back in. It would all have been just a bad dream, a joke that didn’t come off right. But he knew it was no dream. He knew there was no going back. The more he looked at the man who refused to help him, the less he wanted to go back. Bobby eased his foot off the brake and looked back over his shoulder, easing out of the parking space onto the gravel road that passed for their main street and pointed the car towards town.
He had to go find his boyfriend, the guy for whom he’d just poked his nose through the gates of hell so they didn’t have to sneak around. He hoped that Justin was having a better time of it than he’d just had. He figured they could talk it through together, work something out. Maybe he could stay at Justin’s for a few days, anything, until he could figure out what to do.
A quarter of a mile down the road, he passed Sheriff Thompson heading the way he’d come. Bobby just waved.
He cruised slowly through the small, old, colonial downtown, staring numbly at the oversized candy canes festooning every streetlamp…at the happy shoppers clutching their bags…at the street-corner Santas ringing their bells…the tinsel…the bows…the blinking lights. The sights of all of this happiness were causing a knot in his stomach, the kind of knot wrought by envy. “They’re all so damn happy,” he thought. Why couldn’t he be happy too? This was the season for miracles, wasn’t it? What was wrong with him having just one little miracle of his own? Why couldn’t he and his parents have actually just had a rational conversation about his sexuality and moved on? He cursed at himself for being a stupid, naïve jerk and banged the steering wheel again in frustration. He wiped crystalline pools from his eyes with the back of his hand and sucked air through his nose, clearing the gathering blockage.
The driver in the car behind him at the light leaned on his horn when Bobby didn’t respond fast enough to the green. Out of frustration, he flipped the guy the bird, “Merry Christmas to you, too, ASShole!” he yelled, spitting out the words as he started moving…slowly, just to tick the guy off. He wasn’t in too much of a hurry just then; Justin’s house wasn’t too far away.
Justin’s family lived a few blocks over from the main street in a large, three story colonial townhouse that they’d renovated. It was a quiet street and a visitor never would’ve known that a small but bustling shopping district, filled with trendy little boutiques, restaurants and antique shops was so close at hand. The streets were narrow, just as they’d been in ages past except that asphalt had replaced the cobblestones as the paving material of choice.
Bobby had visited Justin there, surreptitiously, several times, but he’d always come in the back way. He was always amazed at the size and opulence of the place compared to what he was used to. He thought he remembered Justin saying that his father was a developer or something. Whatever it was, it paid well enough. Just by itself, the large, brass knocker he rapped against the front door looked like it was worth more than his car.
Shortly, the door opened, held half shut by a woman Bobby guessed to be in her mid-fifties.
“Yes?” the lady asked, eyeing him with aloofness and the polite suspicion reserved for door to door salesmen and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
There was an almost regal air about the woman that made Bobby contract within himself somewhat as he pulled his jacket a little tighter. He guessed that this must be Justin’s mother. Who else could it be? He truly felt like a peasant as she eyed him with the barest dash of condescension. He understood her apprehension, though. After what he just gone through, he must have looked as awful as he felt.
“Mrs. Lindstrom? I’m Bobby Fulton,” he began, trying very hard to keep his teeth from chattering in the cold. “I’m a friend of Justin’s. May I speak with him, please?” he asked, summoning the best manners that were never practiced at home.
She paused for a second. He could tell she was asking herself ‘How-in-God’s-name-does-Justin-know-this-person?’.
“Wait here just a moment. I’ll see if he’s in,” she said, closing the door slightly.
“Gee, thanks for inviting me in, lady,” Bobby muttered into his cupped hands, trying to get some warmth to his fingers. “I’ll see if he’s in? Afraid he’ll want to talk to one of the field hands, your highness?” he thought. He took an instant dislike to her and her demeanor.
Waiting, Bobby warmed himself with memories of Justin and him. How they’d met at a post football game party one Friday after school had started that year. It had been one of those across-a-crowded-room kind of moments when nature happily conspired to make everything click. Scanning the room, his eyes found and locked with Justin’s. He was fascinated by them immediately. They were dark but shining, like his almost pitch black, short cropped hair. The broad shoulders capping the lean physique didn’t hurt things a bit in his mind, either. It was more than just casual eye contact but it wasn’t the aggressive male sort of eye contact. It was the sort of eye contact where each is magnetically drawn to the other and Bobby threaded his way through the crowd to talk to him. That’s the way it always was. Until then, Bobby hadn’t known Justin too well; they didn’t have many classes together. But he knew from talk around school that people went to Justin. Justin never went to anybody. He wasn’t one of the football heroes that people fawned over, he just had that sort of personality that didn’t have to go find people because people were drawn to him automatically and it showed in how he treated them sometimes. Bobby didn’t care.
They talked for a while and found that they clicked even though they were from totally different sides of the tracks. They liked the same music, the same teams, even the same movies. Justin suggested that they cut out and go get something to eat. They found a quiet place for burgers and talked forever but it only seemed like a few minutes to Bobby. By the end of the night, they were completely enthralled with each other. By the end of the week, they were sharing air, slowly dueling with their tongues. By the end of the month, they were sharing each other, furtively; usually at Justin’s or anyplace else they could find privacy.
Love was a rare commodity at Bobby’s house. His parents loved their cable TV; they loved their liquor and their pro wrestling. Him? Him, they took for granted. He was the potted plant that they had to feed and talk to occasionally. Love was doled out on an as-needed basis with a narrow set of parameters and it only happened during those infrequent moments of clarity. He stayed out as much as possible but kept mostly to himself. But with Justin, he felt different. For probably the only time in his life, he felt genuinely wanted and needed when they held each other.
Bobby heard the creak of the hinges behind him and snapped out of his dream, turning to see Justin step out onto the landing. He looked liked he’d just stepped out of a catalog, with his dark green sweater and black, pleated trousers.
“Bobby……What’s up, man?” he said, his eyes darting quickly around. Bobby was a little surprised, sensing the essence of aloofness in his voice that dripped from every pore of his mother’s body.
“Justin….Hey,” Bobby began. “How’d it go?”
“How’d what go?” Justin responded in that tone he used when stalling for time.
“Whadda you mean….,” Bobby asked, puzzled and becoming annoyed, his temper made short by his days events. “…How’d it go when you told your parents?”
Justin closed the door behind him and turned back to Bobby, lowering his voice.
“Hey, Bobby, look…,” he began, his eyes sinking to the ground as Bobby’s grew wider in slowly dawning, fearful apprehension. “I decided not to…I…,”
“You what?” Bobby, not believing what he’d just heard.
“I decided not to.”
“Justin…,” Bobby stammered, his mind approaching overload. “Why?” he exclaimed.
“Keep it down, keep it down, will you?” Justin said, unconsciously putting his body between his house and Bobby as if to prevent anyone inside from hearing their conversation.
“Keep it down? Justin we agreed…you promised me!” Bobby said. The wind caused his eyes to well and he wiped it away with the butt of his palm. “You said we’d just put it all out there and we wouldn’t have to sneak around anymore!”
“I know what I said; I don’t need you to remind me,” Justin snapped back, drawing himself up defensively and frowning.
“Then why?!” Bobby asked, the heat of his anger sending fire to his extremities.
“”Cuz my parents made some nasty remarks about some fags we saw yesterday when we were out shopping…” he said. Bobby was a little startled by Justin’s use of the word ‘fags’.
“Justin…,” Bobby began, taking a step towards Justin only to be stopped by his hand to his chest. He looked up into Justin’s eyes. They weren’t shining now as much as they were glaring. This was going badly and Bobby felt another wave of fear creeping over him. He started shaking again.
“…and I decided right then that I wasn’t going to risk fucking up my life. I mean, why should I?” Justin said with a sweep of his hand back towards his warm and brightly lighted home.
Bobby was stunned. At that instant, all molecular motion in his body froze for an instant. His anger stoked his furnace back into life. “Justin, please don’t do this to me,” Bobby said slowly, his voice choking.
“What can I tell you, Fulton,” Justin said, shrugging. “Guess our little fling’s over, huh? Besides,” he paused, “…I don’t even really think I’m gay…” he finished, glancing around, anywhere but into Bobby’s eyes.
“You don’t even really think you’re gay?” he repeated slowly, drawing himself up. He noted that he was just ‘Fulton’ now, not ‘Bobby’. “Well, excuse me, Your Majesty…,” Bobby snarled, “…but you look an awful lot like the guy who CAME IN MY ASS last Saturday!” he yelled.
“Hey, FUCK you, Fulton,” Justin shouted, slamming both of his palms into Bobby’s chest, trying to shut him up before someone heard him, almost knocking him down the steps.
“Fuck ME?” Bobby yelled again, pulling himself back up. “Fuck YOU, you bastard! You’ve fucking ruined my life!”
“Pffftt,” Justin snorted, “What life?” he sneered. His words bit at Bobby like a rabid dog.
It came straight from Bobby’s sinewy shoulder. No advance warning, no telegraphing of any kind. His emotions were on autopilot and Bobby’s fist whipped out almost of its own accord. Justin didn’t see it heading for his eye until it was too late to duck. He lurched backwards, slamming into the oak door with a resounding thud that could’ve been heard a block away if it weren’t for the wind.
“Motherfucker, I stuck my neck out for you tonight and got it chopped off!” Bobby screamed. “My parents threw me out! I don’t have a home anymore; and now you do this to me?!”
The door flew open. Justin’s parents looked at the scene, dumbstruck.
“What the hell’s going on out here?” Justin’s father thundered.
Realizing from experience that trouble was coming hard on his heels if he didn’t get going, Bobby turned and bounded down the steps two at a time, almost diving into his car. People like Justin’s parents called police. People like him avoided them.
“Justin, what happened?” his mother asked worriedly as she tried to help him up. “Who is that boy?”
“Nobody, mom, just some kid who thought I owed him something,” he said quickly, brushing her help aside as he jumped up. “Get outta here, you piece o’ shit!” he yelled after Bobby as he started down the stairs after him, fists clenched.
For once in its miserable life, the Yugo started the first time he cranked it. Bobby sped off down the street. The tires squealed angrily as he took the first corner faster than what they liked. He took the most direct route out of the old downtown that he could, trying, consciously, to mind every rule of driving. He didn’t feel like getting stopped by some cop in case Justin’s father had decided to release the hounds. As he drove, the knot in his stomach continued to grow, welling up inside of him to a point where he could no longer resist it.
Spotting an empty parking lot behind a small, darkened office building, Bobby pulled in around back, next to the overflowing dumpsters. ‘With the rest of the trash,’ he thought to himself. He stopped the car and just stared into space for a moment.
Bobby’s eyes squeezed shut and he began to sob. Uncontrollably. His head fell against the wheel onto his folded arms. He didn’t know how long he wept. He didn’t care.