The following work is complete fiction. Any similarity with existing people or places is purely coincidental. It may also contain scenes of sexual activity between males; if it is illegal for you to read this or if you feel you may be offended by reading it, please do not do so. Because the story tales place in 1971, some characters may engage in behavior which is considered unsafe today. If you are not abstinent, please respect yourself and your partner by being safe.
I invite your comments. Please emailFreeThinkerCG at yahoo.com. I look forward to hearing from you and I thank you for reading my story! Please note that if you are underage, you should not be reading this story and I cannot respond. Please understand.
The middle of August is the hottest time of the year in Clarkesville. Sometimes, you might go for two or three weeks with highs above a hundred. Of course, everyone talks about how "this is the hottest summer, except for the Summer of '36." Well, if the Summer of '36 was worse than the Summer of '71, and they didn't have air conditioning, then I have a lot more respect for old people! It was so bad that Donald and Emily's environmentalism lost out to the desire to survive and, one afternoon, as Alex and I tried to survive one hundred and five degrees by laying half naked under the maple tree reading, (me- Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Alex- The Greening of America), Donald's beat-up Ford Fairlane pulled into the driveway of their house followed by a delivery truck from Fenster's Appliances.
As the delivery men opened the back of the van, Donald stood in the front yard and glowered as they carried out an air conditioner and took it into the living.
"He did it," Alex muttered. "I don't believe it. He did it. He did it! He did it!!"
Suddenly, Alex jumped up and ran across the street, his arms waving wildly, idiotically screaming, "You did it! You did it!"
He fell at his father's feet, grabbed his legs, and began to cry out, "Thank you! Thank you! Oh, my merciful Father! Thank you!" as the delivery men looked on curiously. Donald looked at me and called out, "This is all your fault," before he shook his head with disgust and, disentangling himself from Alex's arms, stormed into the house.
In fact, it was not one, but three air conditioners, one for the living room, one for Donald and Emily's bedroom, and even one for Alex's room. Once his had been installed and the men had left, Alex stood shirtless in front of the vents, his arms out, a look of absolutely ecstasy on his face, declaring, "I'm cold. I'm cold! I'm cold! Bwahahahaha!"
Two floors down, the telephone rang and as I laughed at my crazy boyfriend, Emily called up, "Chris! You mother says its time to come home!"
"Yes, ma'am!" I called back. Alex just stood in front of the air conditioner, muttering over and over, "I'm cold!"
I kissed him and left him to his frigid delirium.
Daddy was just pulling into the driveway as I crossed the front lawn. I walked around to the garage and he was just emerging with his briefcase and a serious and tired look on his face. Daddy would never discuss what was happening at the court house, but I was getting the impression that this was the most difficult case he had every handled. I didn't understand why. Burris admitted he had killed Stephen. They had Stephen's blood on his boots. The had the Robertsons' identification of Burris. It seemed to me that this should be the easiest case he had ever done.
"Hey, Daddy!" I said as we approached each other. Daddy gave me a tired smile and we hugged on the driveway. Together, we walked to the back porch and into the house.
Dinner was somber. Daddy looked so serious. I could tell he had he had a lot on his mind because he didn't even notice Brian sitting on his foot or taking bites before he had finished the previous one. Daddy was always a stickler for good manners.
Mother swallowed and said, "Ted, Marian Forsythe called today. She says that dreadful Hardesty is calling business owners downtown and asking them to demand your resignation if you don't drop the case against Burris."
"I am aware of that," Daddy said evenly.
Mother took a bite of salad and, after swallowing, added, "The bridge club is wanting to know why you are insisting on prosecuting Burris when it is perfectly obvious that he was just defending himself from Stephen."
I threw my fork down on my plate, but before I could say anything, and I was planning to say a lot, Daddy looked at me and said in voice I knew I couldn't question, "Christopher! Silence!"
I glared at Mother and then looked down at my plate. I heard Daddy take a deep breath.
"Jim Holt today filed a missing persons report with the police about his oldest son. He thinks he ran away to Kansas City. Phil Jensen, the officer that was here the night Stephen was murdered, says the boy was homosexual and that Jim beat him for it. I had lunch at the country club today with the mayor and a few others. They've fired three of their waiters; the mayor says they were probably fairies. This town is going crazy. Because of Hardesty and those damn speeches on the court house steps every day, we're in the middle of a witch hunt and it is going to get worse."
"Well, for God's sake, Ted. Make it stop! Drop the case! You have your career and your family to think of!"
Daddy gave Mother a contemptuous look, something I had never seen before. He said nothing; he merely looked at her.
"Ted, it looks strange."
Daddy threw down his napkin on the table.
"Helen, you know what I think about homosexuals, for God's sake! How many perverts from the college have I prosecuted for lewd behavior? But, murder is not acceptable! And, Stephen wasn't like those others, anyway. It's all bullshit that he went after Burris."
I looked at Daddy in shock. I had never heard him use profanity! Ever!
"Oh, for God's sake, Helen! Can you imagine Stephen Kincaid making a pass at someone like Leroy Burris? In a public restroom? Yes, its disgusting to say this, but he loved Jack. It is just not possible that Stephen made a pass at Burris in the restroom, let alone that he forced himself on him and that Burris's only option to save his virtue was to kill him."
I was frightened. I had never seen Daddy so agitated. Daddy was always in control. He never lost his temper or became emotional. Even Mother's eyes were wide as she watched Daddy.
"Everyone in this town is coming down on me for this case. I hate homosexuals just like everyone else. But, we can't have anarchy! We can't have people murdering people they think are homosexual. Good Lord, Helen, do you remember when Harold Morgan and the John Birch Society were claiming half the faculty at Clarkesville College were Communists? Dear God, now the town's going on a witch hunt for homosexuals!"
"Daddy, what's a homosexual?" Brian asked.
Daddy raised a frustrated hand to his eyes and rubbed them.
"Helen, I can't let this go. Its not right. I can't let Burris get away with this. Could you look Grace in the eye if I did?"
"Ted, its our family and your career. My God, you're up for re-election next year! What if you lose? You'll never be Attorney General! You'll never be Governor!"
Daddy looked at Mother with an amazed expression.
"Is that all you're worried about? Whether you get to move to the state capital?"
Daddy looked down at his plate in defeat and sighed. Mother said nothing in reply. After a long moment, Daddy scooted his chair back and stood up. Saying nothing, he left the dining room and walked slowly to his study.
After dinner, Alex knocked on the front door as I was about to go upstairs to my room. I joined him on the front porch.
"Daddy is really upset about the trial and the way Hardesty is turning the town crazy about anyone gay."
"Yeah. I'll bet."
"Man, I just don't see how your Dad can work with someone like Hardesty."
"I don't know," Alex replied. "I know what he says about everyone needing a fair trial, but this is bullshit. I think Dad just wants to be a hero."
I looked to my right and saw the window to Daddy's study was open. Daddy didn't really like air conditioning and he usually left the windows open to his study. I put a finger to my mouth as I heard Daddy say from inside the room, "Yes, Sarah? Ted Conrad, here. Oh, they're great. They're just great. Helen sends her love. Yes. If he's free. Yes. Mike, yes, Ted Conrad, here."
I looked at Alex wide-eyed.
"Its the Attorney General!" I whispered.
I heard Daddy sigh.
"Well, I've never had such an open and shut case before, but you know what that son-of-a-bitch is doing?"
A look of outrage came over Alex's face. I put my finger to my mouth again and whispered, "Hey, you called him that, too!"
"Yeah," he whispered back to me. "But, I'm his son. I can do that."
"He's using, get this, temporary insanity! Temporary insanity! Have you ever heard of such a thing?"
I had been wondering, if Burris had admitted to killing Stephen, why there was still going to be a trial.
"Well, I admit from an intellectual point of view, its an intriguing strategy. Partridge is a brilliant lawyer and if I had his case, I would be looking for something revolutionary because to be honest, he has absolutely nothing in his favor. We've got blood, we've got witnesses. For Pete's sake, we have a confession! Dear God, I've had DUI's harder to prosecute than this."
Alex looked at me and raised an eyebrow. I suddenly felt scared.
"You can't tell your father this!" I whispered savagely. Alex frowned and nodded.
After a moment, Daddy said, "Well, he's arguing something called 'post-traumatic stress disorder.' He claims that a lot of veterans coming back from the war suffer from some form of shell shock and that causes them to act in violent ways under certain circumstances. Well, I have to admit its an intriguing idea and if I were a defense attorney it would certainly be something to consider. Well, he claims that Burris was accosted by homosexuals in Vietnam and that, supposedly, when Kincaid was supposed to have accosted him in the restroom, Burris found himself back in Vietnam and reacted accordingly. Well, of course its ridiculous. Well, lets be honest. I can see in certain situations how that could possibly be a valid defense. Well, from an intellectual point of view. But, not in this case. And, if Partridge wins on this, then every killer in America who wants to can claim they were temporarily insane. My God, by 1980 or 1990, this could be the easy way out for murder. Well, I've got to nip this in the bud. We can't let this be a precedent. I agree. Well, I called KU and MU and I've got a friend at Northwestern who's willing to fly out here to put this to rest. Well, I'm not challenging the post-traumatic whatever crap. I think that may actually be valid. But, not in this case. This son-of-a-bitch knew Kincaid was queer and went after him because he was queer. It was premeditated"
I was totally blown away by this conversation. I knew that if Daddy knew I was eavesdropping on this, not even considering that Alex was listening, I would face God only knew what kind of grounding.
"Well, if I get my own experts here, I can beat him. Partridge is not infallible. If its my experts against his experts, I'll win. No, he doesn't want to change venue because he's counting on the town's prejudice. That's what's scaring me. For God's sake, Mike! You're the Attorney General! You know the prosecution can't ask for a change of venue!"
Alex was listening to every detail. I looked at him with a serious, almost angry expression. He scooted over to me.
"You know I'm on your side," he whispered. I suddenly felt like a shit.
"No," Daddy continued, "the only thing I'm afraid of is Webster Hardesty stirring up emotions. He's already making daily speeches on the court house steps demanding my head. Well, the town's descending into a McCarthy-like witch hunt. Hell, even Helen wants me to drop the case. Mike, you know I don't give a rat's ass about the next election. This town has never elected a Democrat. Give me a break. Mike I don't give a damn what the Party says. This prosecution is right. Well, I'm sorry you feel that way. I thought you of all people would understand and support me. Well, you bastard! Don't threaten me. Well, I will win this. Just keep your mouth shut and for God's sake, don't let the Governor say anything. Trust me. I can win this case. Just you and the Governor stay out of it. Let me handle Partridge."
"Come on," I said grabbing Alex's hand and dragging him off the porch. Reluctantly, he followed me. We jaywalked across the intersection, not having Donald to warn us, and walked into Centennial Park.
"Man," said Alex, "your Dad's really got a lot of pressure on this."
"Yeah, I know. I'm really worried about this. What's this temporary insanity stuff your father's pulling?"
Alex shrugged. "Dad never talks about the case. I have no idea."
We looked toward the rec center and saw Alvin Turner and Jim Whitney smoking cigarettes at one of the picnic tables. They threw them down and started menacingly toward us.
I started to turn and head back home, but Alex stood his ground.
"Headin' to the restroom to suck each other's cocks? Be careful; someone may just give you a taste of the medicine that faggot Kincaid got!"
I stopped. I couldn't see Alex's face, but I saw his body stiffen.
"Yeah," Jim added. "We're cleaning all the fags outta this town! Hardesty's gonna make sure we get rid of all the perverts like you."
I had just about had it with these two.
"Let me get this straight. I catch you two in the restroom jacking off with each other and you call me a faggot."
"We weren't jacking off with each other," Alvin snapped. "We were jackin' over a Playboy."
"With each other."
"Fuck you!" Alvin said stepping forward menacingly. "You were the one lookin' at our dicks."
"Well it's kinda hard to miss when you first walk in and find two guys jacking off with each other."
Daddy was standing on the porch, his fists on his hips, watching.
"Yeah," Alvin spat. "Go home to your faggot daddy."
That did it.
I leaped forward, surprising Alvin and punching him in the nose. As he fell back, I started wildly punching and hitting and slapping wherever I could. Alex pulled Jim off me as he came to his friend's aid. I was too busy pummeling Alvin around his head to notice how Jim ended up on the ground curled into a ball of agony. But, I gradually regained control as Alex pulled me off Alvin and then kicked my prone tormentor in the groin.
Daddy was running up to us.
"What in the hell is going on here?"
I was panting, my anger still strong as Alvin and Jim continued to roll around on the still brutally hot concrete in pain. I looked down at Alvin and kept silent.
"Christopher, answer me."
I sighed and angrily turned to my father.
"He called you a faggot. He says their gonna clean all the faggots out of Clarkesville. He says Hardesty told them to."
My father looked momentarily surprised and, then, his face hardened. He looked down contemptuously at Alvin and Jim, who were too afraid to look Daddy in the eye.
"Alex," Daddy asked, "is this true?"
"Yes, it is."
I looked up and saw Hardesty's Town Car pull up to Alex's house.
"Look," I said pointing.
I saw a look of determination come over Daddy's face as his eyes focused on Hardesty climbing out of his car. The preacher walked up to the front porch and as he entered, Daddy said, "Come on. Its time Hardesty and I had a little talk."
Daddy took Alex's hand and then mine; he marched quickly and purposefully through the park toward Alex's house, leaving Alvin and Jim laying on the concrete watching us.
We jaywalked through the intersection at Eleventh and into Alex's yard as we heard from the open window in Donald's study, "I'm the defense attorney! I'm representing Burris and I will defend him MY way. And, if you interfere with his defense anymore, you and I will tangle and it won't be pretty. Now, get the hell out of my house!"
Daddy stopped and we all looked on in shock as Hardesty strode furiously out the front door. He stopped on the front porch with Donald behind him.
Daddy looked beyond Hardesty to Alex's father.
"Donald, you should know that Alex and Chris were attacked by two boys from Pastor Hardesty's congregation. They're alright, though the two thugs from Pastor Hardesty's congregation may need a little healing."
Donald looked at Alex and asked, "It was self-defense?"
"Pastor," my father continued, "these boys seem to be under the impression, apparently fostered by you, Pastor, that I am homosexual. Now, I'm not going to ask you if you have been telling people this. But, I will tell you that since you've come to town, the number of domestic violence reports have skyrocketed. I know of a boy who was kicked out of his home by his father, people are losing their jobs, a young man was murdered, others are being beaten. And, every day you hold forth on the steps of the court house. Now, we require the anti-war protesters at Clarkesville College to get permits from the City Council. There are a number of legal remedies to the problems that have descended on this town since your arrival. And, believe me, I'm not afraid to use them. I won't have you taint the jury pool. I won't have you tamper with the jury. I won't have you incite violence."
Hardesty's face looked as if it were going to explode. His eyes were shooting pure Satanic venom at my father. I was scared for Daddy, but I was also proud of him. He stood up proud and tall, facing this evil man with courage.
"Hardesty, I know some of why you left Oklahoma."
Hardesty took a deep breath and then, in an even controlled voice, replied, "Conrad, you will know the wrath and the just vengeance of the righteous."
"Are you threatening me in front of these witnesses?"
"No," he replied smoothly. "I am just telling you what the Lord has told me."
Hardesty turned and walked to this car. He said nothing further and didn't look at us again as he climbed into the car and drove rather quickly away.
The four of us stood there, quiet.
"You OK, boys?" Donald asked.
Alex and I both nodded. Daddy was still holding our hands. He let them drop as Donald asked, "How about you, Ted?"
"I want you to know that I have nothing to do with anything Hardesty is doing or organizing. I want no part of that."
"I know. I believe you."
They looked at each other and smiled sadly.
"Come on, Chris. Let's go."
"Daddy, can I stay a bit?"
Daddy frowned but nodded silently and then walked away. I felt so sorry for him as he walked that I ran after him and hugged him. We stood on the corner and hugged for a long moment before he smiled and patted my shoulder.
"Go have fun with your friend."
When we entered the unusual cool of the Partridges' living room, Emily met us with a tray of iced teas. Alex sat down at the piano with his and started playing the Moonlight Sonata again. Emily and I sat on the couch as Donald stood at the fireplace, resting his right on the mantle and watching his son play as he brooded.
"Whenever Alex is upset," Emily whispered to me, "he loses himself in his music or his art."
I watched his slender arms move, his slim fingers expertly working the keys, his hair falling back and forth as played. As he continued, though, I could see and hear him hitting the notes harder. I knew this was not an angry or turbulent piece, but by this time he had transformed it. As soon as he finished, he went right into something else that I was not familiar with. I guessed from the rapid, mathematical style that it might be Bach, but I wasn't certain. Alex was just concentrating, furiously hitting the keys, his arms flying, his hair flying. He made a mistake and then another and then another.
Finally he simply crashed his fingers down on the keyboard and began to cry. I jumped up without thinking and ran over to him, putting my arms around him. He clutched me as tightly as he had the night Stephen died and cried into my chest. His father came over and put one hand on Alex's should and one on mine. He smiled at me and walked away. Emily came over and hugged us both, kissing me on the cheek as Alex's sobs subsided.
Sunday morning was quiet at both home and at church. I knew why Daddy was quiet. Monday would be the start of the trial. But, as I walked into the sacristy, I saw Ryan Corcoran and his oldest brother, Patrick, silently slipping their robes on and saying nothing.
Patrick had just returned from Vietnam and, as a former acolyte, had been recruited by Father Partridge to succeed Stephen. Patrick had been pretty quiet since his return. Ryan had said that it had been terribly difficult for Patrick. He came home with two Purple Hearts, but he never spoke about his service. But, today, he seemed even quieter.
"Are you OK, Ryan?" I asked. Patrick touched him on the shoulder as he took the crucifix in his other hand. Ryan looked down and shrugged.
It was not until Father was climbing the steps to the pulpit for his sermon that Ryan leaned over and whispered, "Dad kicked Jason out of the house last night."
I turned in shock. Ryan was looking down at his lap, a tear slowly falling across a freckle on his cheek.
"He caught him gettin' it on with his best friend."
"They were camping out back. Dad went ballistic."
I looked across at Patrick, who gave Ryan a murderous look, which only made Ryan silently cry. I couldn't hold his hand or put my arm around him, so I leaned against his shoulder. He pressed back against mine and we sat silently, sharing our friendship and pain as Father Partridge began his sermon.
"A number of weeks ago, we shared a passage in The Gospel of Luke in which the Pharisees objected to Christ's sitting with sinners. It was a lesson in love and not closing doors to the possibility of salvation. Today, my friends, it saddens me to look at my beautiful town, my home for many years, and to watch a dark cloud descend over its houses and parks and, yes, churches."
I looked out across the congregation. Grace Kincaid sat proudly, stoically, in the front pew of the sunny side of the congregation. Behind her, the Corcoran family sat unusually quietly, the parents having no trouble keeping the younger ones in line. Behind them, my father's eyes were firmly on the Rector as Mother glanced around nervously.
"A cloud of suspicion, a cloud of accusation, a cloud of anger, a cloud of Phariseeism has settled over our town, like a poisonous smog, choking away the natural goodness of our people."
From the Dark side, I could not only see the discontent on the faces, but hear it as well as a low rumble began to grow. Old Man Morgan's apoplectic face seemed on the verge of actually exploding as Dr. McAdam's eyes looked as if they had been turned into the heat-ray projectors from that cheesy War of the Worlds movie, the one where the Martians attack LA and blow up the police station skyscraper that's always on at the beginning of Dragnet. It was sad, but funny.
"My friends, this has truly been our Summer of Discontent. We have seen fathers turn against son, stranger against stranger, friend against friend. We have seen our brothers turn to violence. We have seen one of our own killed."
Stephen's mother continued to look courageously up at Father Partridge as he spoke; but Morgan and his wife suddenly stood. Morgan ostentatiously turned away from the Rector and slowly, dramatically walked up the aisle and out of the church. Dr. and Mrs. Dr. McAdam stood as well and followed, as did several others from the Dark Side.
I looked at Ryan in shock, but he was looking in terror at his family. There, his parents were standing, his mother looking decidedly uncomfortable as she shepherded her children out of the pew. Mr. Corcoran had a look of pure disgust on his face. He looked up at Ryan and Patrick as Father Partridge silently watched. Ryan looked to Patrick for guidance; his oldest brother signaled for Ryan to remain where he was. Patrick refused to look out at his father or the congregation. After a moment, Mr. Corcoran stormed up the nave following his family.
I looked at Daddy, his face a mask. He turned from watching the Corcorans leave and looked up at the Rector, who stood silently waiting for all who wished to leave. Mother was giving Daddy a murderous look and I could see her perfect facade seemed shattered. Her face was nearly as red, even through her make-up, as Old Man Morgan's.
Father Partridge sighed and set aside the text of his sermon.
"Let us remember the teachings of our Savior and his message of love."
after the service, Mother and Daddy did not remain for the socializing. Daddy shook Father Partridge's hand; Father whispered something and it looked as if they were praying for a moment, and then Mother and Daddy disappeared, Brian following silently. I wanted to escape to Alex's, but I knew this was probably not the time to ask. I followed quietly behind and when we entered the house, Daddy went into his study and closed the door just as Mother started to approach. She stood in anger and frustration and then stormed up the stairs. Brian and I stood in the foyer and watched, my little brother struggling not to cry as he saw his parents' anger with each other. I put his hand on his shoulder and squeezed.
"Let's change and then go over to see if Alex wants to play Frisbee.
I couldn't sleep. I was sitting at my desk, the light off, listening to the chirping of the crickets outside. Beyond the park and the treetops and the roofs of the houses to the north, I could see the North Star and the Little Dipper. The Big Dipper was below the treetops.
My town had been torn apart. My church had been torn apart. And, now, it appeared that my family was torn apart. All because people hated homosexuals. I was a homosexual and I was in love with another boy who, also, was a homosexual. What would happen if my family were ever to learn? What would my mother do? What would my father do?
They must never know. But, how could I keep it secret? How many others were there in Clarkesville like me, like Alex, like Ryan's poor brother, like all the others that were beaten by their fathers or by bullies, like those who had been fired, like Stephen, who had been killed.
Across the street, in the park, a lone figure walked past the bandstand. I watched as Jack stopped and looked around and, then, slowly walked on until he came to the maple tree. He sat.
Headlights turned the corner to the west on Tenth Street, approaching our house, slowly. Suddenly, the headlights went off and the car came up and stopped in front of our house. My heart quickened as I started to get up, when, suddenly, a load explosion, like a firework. Then another and another and another. I heard glass shattering downstairs as I fell to the floor in terror. Then I heard tires squeal and a motor rev and then silence.
I heard the door to my parents' bedroom crash open. Daddy burst into my room. Seeing me on the floor, he cried out, "My son!"
"I'm OK Daddy!"
He closed his eyes and sighed such as I have never heard before. He grabbed me and held me for a moment and then ran to Brian's room. Brian had the back bedroom; he was crying but alright.
We all met in the hallway, Daddy hugging us both, Mother standing beside us and looking at Daddy. Daddy reached out to her. She stepped away.
So ends, Chapter 10. Please let me know what you think atFreeThinkerCG at yahoo.com. I look forward to hearing from you!