Saturday, March 04, 2006

The End

Friday, March 03, 2006

Gwen Gets Her Way

This is post 25 of Section V. To begin at the beginning, go here. Section II begins here. Section III begins here. Section IV begins here, and Section V begins here.

Stephen, meanwhile, seized their opportunity. “Come on, Professor!” he yelled, and plunged over the line, just as the transgendered float was passing. This was a simple wooden platform to which were moored two enormous inflated stick figures with flowing streamer hair, perpetually swaying toward and away from one another in an awkward, but oddly seductive dance. Bennett found himself appallingly close to it. He knew Stephen was in his vicinity, because he could hear Serena Mayfield quite close, screaming, “I can’t! I just can’t! I’m sorry Steve!” but he was unable to locate the boy because after the exertions of the day, he was suddenly overwhelmed by the heat, which until then had seemed merely one oppressive nuisance among many of that afternoon. He felt dizzy and weak, and the noises were reaching him through an annoying buzz of static. His glasses also seemed to have gotten foggy or something, and he was fumbling with them and staggering a little when a willowy brunette, somewhat husky in the voice, caught his elbow. “Hey, mister. You shouldn’t be walking around in this heat,” she said loudly into Bennett’s ear, so as to be heard above the crowd. Waving her free arm, she yelled, “Yo! Madison!” A very clean-shaven young man on the float grasped the problem and came to the edge nearest Bennett. With surprising strength the two managed to boost him up to the platform, where he collapsed on a lawn chair beneath the giant figures. Madison handed him a bottle of Naiad from which Bennett drank, gasping out his thanks.
He felt better immediately and was able to sit back and take stock from his new vantage point. To his left he could see Serena standing just over the yellow line, looking back to her mother. The female police officer was trying to take her hand and get her back behind the line, but she just stood there stiffly, tears streaming down her face. Her mouth was moving, but she was no longer audible, owing to the divine bowlers, who loomed on Bennett’s more immediate left, their faces distorted with anger, chanting “God hates queers!” To his right, with equal anger, rival chanters proclaimed their support for sundry alternative persons. He spotted a small knot of particularly annoying junior faculty from his college and raised his water bottle to them in ironical salute. Startled, they held a brief consultation before resuming their counter-protestations. Finally, looking straight before him, Bennett could clearly see Gwen, with Stephen walking resolutely beside her under the red PFLAG banner, taking no notice of Serena. Lizzy looked happily round from her perch on his shoulders. Behind them he could see the AIDS Alliance, then Unitarians and other assorted friendly straights. In the distance, he could hear the revving of engines and see a large lavender balloon that probably bore the legend, “Her-ley Davidson” in giant black letters.
Focusing on Gwen, he noticed that she was giving him the shining-eyed look. “Ah well,” he thought, as he toasted her with his water. She had gotten her way after all, but he was getting used to that.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

An Incident

This is post 24 of Section V. To begin at the beginning, go here. Section II begins here. Section III begins here. Section IV begins here, and Section V begins here.

The jazz band took a hiatus. Bennett was noting the sheer fabric of Robert’s shirt with renewed distaste when the amplified voice behind the megaphone sang out, “Attention—Mitchell Grout!”
Bennett was quite close to the barrier, but was not sure he had heard correctly above the din. He leaned over and looked along the line of protesters. “You forgot this, honey!” the amplified voice continued. “Lucky for you I found it again!” Peering around a burly officer, Bennett saw the rubber arm arc toward the protesters to his right. A police officer dashed forward toward the float, but at the same moment Bennett saw a placard swing savagely forward, making contact with the arm and sending it winging toward the officer, whom it struck in the head. Her helmet was dislodged and her hair freed from its restraints, but she apparently sustained no injury.
Nevertheless, surrounding officers rushed to her assistance. With vicarious satisfaction, Bennett saw them subdue the placard swinger, who was indeed Mitchell Grout. Not only was this a course Bennett himself had often longed to pursue vis-à-vis that individual, but he had the added gratification that he would not be the only one in his circle of friends to be embarrassed on the TV coverage that evening. All this he merely remarked in passing, however, for at the same time other officers, including the ones nearest his little group, rushed to the float to take care of the fist hurler. As they scaled it, though, a large African American actor clad in a spotless white linen suit and panama hat (again, he seemed vaguely familiar to Bennett) detached himself from a theatrical tableau to offer assistance, and proved so effectual that the ginger-haired perpetrator was able to bound away into the friendly crowd on the other side of the parade, not to be seen again.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Parade

This is post 23 of Section V. To begin at the beginning, go here. Section II begins here. Section III begins here. Section IV begins here, and Section V begins here.

Just as the tension between the voluptuous contents of her T-shirt and its printed message (“Dare to say No”) threatened to overwhelm him, Mrs. Mayfield’s voice cut in. “Oh look! They’re coming.” She hoisted her placard.
It seemed to Bennett that bedlam had broken out. Everyone around them was yelling out insults, warnings and slogans; the police were snarling at them to keep back; and the first paraders—a rag-tag and bobtail lot of gay men and lesbians marching under a rainbow banner—were thundering out their mantra: “Two four six eight! It’s our turn to celebrate! Say it strong and say it loud: We are out and we are proud!” Altercations broke out along the perimeter. Bennett saw that the police could not be everywhere at once and turned to look for Stephen, who nodded at him, edging toward the barrier with Serena and Lizzy in tow.
For some time, however, no significant disturbances occurred around them. The floats, sponsored by gay-friendly local businesses, began to roll past. The Grotto sponsored a poolside scene with giant inflatable bottles on the corners and the pool composed of blue flowers; a gym and the Naiad bottled water company had body builders; the Interior Designers Alliance and the local Association of Antique Dealers had put together a living room under an awning, with people lolling about on Chesterfields and divans. Behind this was the largest float in the parade, “The Arts.” Bennett could see Robert playing in the jazz band on it, under a gigantic cardboard cut-out of Michelangelo’s David, which Mrs. Mayfield had mentioned prominently in her censorious account of previous parades. Also on the float, Bennett could see, as it rolled past, were costumed actors and actresses from the Endersburg Stage, the theater company, and—a slight figure with spiky ginger hair, holding a megaphone to his lips and brandishing a rubber arm with a fist. He seemed somehow familiar to Bennett, who thought he must be perpetrating some repulsive performance art and resolved to ignore it, if possible.


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Serena Tempted

This is post 22 of Section V. To begin at the beginning, go here. Section II begins here. Section III begins here. Section IV begins here, and Section V begins here

Serena examined the toe of her sneaker. “Mom made me,” she said, in a low voice. She continued more plaintively. “What am I supposed to do? My whole youth group decided to go.” She indicated a number of people in T-shirts like hers who were standing nearby. “You think I’m just gonna stand up in front of them and my parents and our pastor and everyone and say, ‘I think you’re ignorant about the Bible and I’m not going’? Oh yeah. That’d go over real well.”
Stephen looked at her face, raised towards his in appeal. Then he put an arm around her shoulders. “Come on, Serena,” he said in her ear. “You’re not a lemming. Listen. The professor and Lizzy and I are going to sneak over the line and join the parade the first chance we get. For once in your life, be your own person. Come with us. Your parents love you. They’ll get over it.”
“Yeah, come on. We’re gonna be on TV, Serena,” piped up Lizzy, who had heard the end of the conversation.
Serena smiled down at the little girl, and then looked up at Stephen and giggled. “I might do it, just to see their faces. Oh my God, if Dad saw me on the news!”
“That’s the spirit,” Stephen said, giving her an encouraging squeeze.


Monday, February 27, 2006


This is post 21 of Section V. To begin at the beginning, go here. Section II begins here. Section III begins here. Section IV begins here, and Section V begins here

Mrs. Mayfield shook her head and looked admiringly from Lizzy to Stephen. “She’s a darling. Aren’t you, angel? And you are obviously great with kids, Steve.” Lizzy took refuge behind Stephen, who briefly considered doing the same behind Bennett. “Professor,” Serena’s mother continued, in a lower tone, “Don’t you think this scene is just a little—adult—for a small child? Maybe you haven’t been before, but let me tell you, these—people—get up to some pretty X-rated antics.”
Bennett expressed a polite interest, and in an undertone, Serena’s mother filled him in on incidents of preceding years, thereby giving her daughter a chance to clarify matters with Stephen.
“What are you doing here? I thought your dad was—you know.”
“Just as you know as ever,” Stephen said. “We got lost. What’s your excuse? I thought you said you were, you know, open-minded.”


Saturday, February 25, 2006


This is post 20 of Section V. To begin at the beginning, go here. Section II begins here. Section III begins here. Section IV begins here, and Section V begins here

“Hi Stephen,” Mrs. Mayfield said brightly. “It’s great to see so many young people involved, isn’t it? I see you brought your little sister. Hi, cutie!” She waved down at Lizzy and made a face.
“Hi,” Lizzy said, ignoring the face. “Who’re they, Steve?”
“Oh!” Stephen said. “Uh—Lizzy, Professor Bennett, this is my—friend, Serena, from school, and her mom, Mrs. Mayfield. This is Professor Bennett, my, um—”
“Friend of his father, Mrs. Mayfield, Serena,” Bennett broke in, coming to the boy’s rescue. “And this is my granddaughter, Lizzy.”