Archive for March 2004

Horton Helps a Homo

March 22, 2004

I really don’t remember the incident I’m about to recount very well at all. I’ve stored it away like a headline, and it’s a good headline. I knew pretty soon after it happened that it would make a good, if very short, story. There was no need to work extra hard at reminding myself of names. Since the people involved were so important to either myself or the rest of the world, there was no risk of forgetting them. The whole story could quite accurately be told in eight words (yes, I counted) and you may well be completely unimpressed. But I’ll get to the eight words later.

I don’t remember the year. It was Hallowe’en, though, and I remember the darkness. It seemed to embrace us, though I could clearly see my thin blonde friend Lisa. If I hadn’t been queer, I’m sure she’s the type of girl I would have pursued for marriage. She had an ugly early childhood, filled with violent orthopedic surgeries and leg braces. But not a trace of her tortured past and disfigurement remained by the age of nine. Enduring such experiences also made her categorically non-judgemental. She was the perfect gal pal for me; pretty and smart and bright, yet with a dark past to rival my own. Though I was still physically a child in every way, none of her qualities were lost on me.

Lisa and I were huddled (not touching, of course) on the upper bank of a ravine. There was a road to one side, a creek and newly built mini-mansions peering over some woods on the other. Neither side seemed safe. The slope was steep and who knew what shape of threat was loitering in those woods. The wide and well-lit road made us perfect targets for more hooligans. Though cold and nearly blind in the dark, we knew we were all but invisible there on the open embankment.

I don’t recall our costumes, though they were no doubt simple enough. We were both careful not to draw too much attention to ourselves. I was already too tall for my age and Lisa was even taller. She was rarely believed as a nine-year-old. On top of that, nine seemed to us an age too old for trick-or-treating. I must have been encouraged (or downright forced) by my parents to go out halloweening, since it was well known that I didn’t much like candy and neither Lisa nor I cared for strangers. We both agreed it was embarrassing to still be children, so evidence of our youth was given out on a need-to-know basis only.

Earlier, we had come across some friends from school. Jonathan, decked out in a terribly garish pirate costume, and Matt, who was a B-movie vampire.

“You guys see the big kids?” Jonathan asked. “They’re like stealing candy. Guess they’re too old to get it the real way.”

Matt’s pestering younger sister poked her curly-haired little head from behind his back.

“What are you, anyway? You’re supposed be dressed up for Hallowe’en, stupids.” They were sizing us up in a way that said they would soon be teasing us. “Ha ha, you guys don’t have any candy,” sang Matt’s sister. I was in no mood to be harassed by a little girl. It was time for us to leave them and go home.

It was on the way to Lisa’s when we first we spotted them: A small gang of big kids, un- costumed, with bags and bags of candy. They were laughing and swearing as they tore down the middle of the road. I tried to make myself small as I steered Lisa onto a neighbouring lawn to give them a wide berth. But I only became more clumsy and obvious in my terror. Just when it seemed they hadn’t spotted us, one of them turned on a dime and, while running backwards, hollered “Look, it’s a fag. Don’t stare at me, faggot. What do you two asswipes think you’re doing? Those supposed to be costumes?”

“They’re freaks! They don’t need costumes” said an even bigger big kid.

God, I wished I could be as clever and quick with insults as the big kids were. But my throat had seized up and my mind went blank. I knew that, when safely home, esprit de l’escalier would strike and the perfect retorts would come to me with ease.

I quickly moved my hands beneath my shirt, clasped my hands desperately and sent ten silent prayers up into the netherworld. “Please let the big kids go away and not bother us or anyone else.”

I was practiced enough at praying to know that the request had to be simply worded, be beseeching (never demanding), and at least appear to be altruistic. I also knew the prayer had to be repeated ten times without error and in complete secrecy. Sometimes I was so deft at entreating a higher power incognito I could even speak while praying. There were, inevitably, errors. The most common was a miscount – and any misstep meant having to start the whole process from the beginning again.

The restarts did afford me the opportunity to amend my request, though. I could get more specific: “Please let the big kids leave us and everyone else alone tonight near my and everyone else’s home starting now” (repeated ten times). This would go on until the situation changed or I was forced to disengage. It was a loop of prayer, really, a self-perpetuating equation of sorts and it….

Lisa launched into one of her daddy-long-legs strides towards our tormentors. I was mortified. I’d have to fight them if they began attacking her, and besides, my prayer loop was hopelessly severed. Just then I heard a cackle of laughter coming from a group of feather-haired girls, one of whom still had her leg extended. The backwards-running Big Kid stumbled and let out a string of expletives as he landed in the middle of the girls’ little coven. He seemed so enraged. Still, he managed a sort of sly smile for the very young ladies.

“You suckhole, Patty!”

“I’m not the spazzoid who fell, Davey-Wavey” Patty was smiling too.

Lisa stopped charging the boys. I was beginning to start up my looping again. One of us had thought better of standing around, and suddenly we were practically flying away from the Big Kids and their new feathered-haired girlfriends. They didn’t seem to notice our departure, but we still kept sprinting at full tilt. I always suspected my new runners were super-fast, and now I knew for sure they were.

We ended up on the bank of the ravine, safe for a time. My looping had worked. I was sending up a brief thank-you prayer when, seemingly out of nowhere, the Big Kids appeared – only inches away form us. The big Big Kid gave us a stare that made time stop for me. I started right back looping. I could hear, as if from a room far away, a snarling demand for candy.

“Please, please, please let the Big Kids go away now. Please.” I got to about the fifth iteration and lost count. I also couldn’t readily hide my praying hands. I began to feel the sensation of floating away. I looked at the whole scene rather objectively.

The Big Kid reached out to grab my arm. His runners seemed to glow in all their whiteness. His feet were huge. (Hands, too – more like oven mitts.) Lisa tried to hide her measly bag of candy behind her wafer-thin bottom. Her pretty face, framed in that almost-white blonde hair, looked more stunned than frightened.

And me. I could see myself too, or at least parts of myself. My feet in their own scuffed tobacco Adidas, stained from the wet of the dewy grass. I could see that I was not shaking and the expression on my face was completely blank. It betrayed none of the terror I surely must have felt. I noticed an emaciated tanned arm rising into the air with a glossy white bag dangling form a talon-like hand. I was giving up my quarry, the bag waving like a white flag of surrender.

As suddenly as time had slowed down, it turned itself around and erupted into hyper-speed. I saw the bag of candy snatched instantly from my hand. A deep, booming voice, as though from another room, roared into the sky.

“Hey, you kids! What do you think you’re doing? Stop right there!”

I turned to the voice, and by the time I turned back the Big Kids were tumbling and sliding down the into the ravine. They splashed through the creek below and dispersed into the woods. In no time they had disappeared completely from view.

The voice had come from a mammoth of a man. He had come through the gate of a yard across the street from us. I knew the house that yard belonged to. Everybody did. This was where the famous sport celebrity lived. There were other celebrities in the neighbourhood; some even played on the same team. But this was the man who also owned a chain of shops that bore his name. He was beyond famous; he was a household name.

And now he was coming towards Lisa and me. With impossibly long strides he crossed the street and arrived in an instant, towering over us. He was so large he seemed to utterly block out the weak light that remained. Or maybe it was that I stared directly at the navy blue sweatshirt spanning his seemingly endless torso.

I began to feel my own body again. I felt my heart racing when before it had seemed to stop. I felt the heat rising into my face. I noticed I was sweating, even in the cold of the late October night. And I felt something else. A new, or at least very rare sensation welled up from my thighs in waves. There was no need for looping now, though. I had never felt so safe as I was then, my face at the chest of this friendly giant. The tingling excitement made me want to hug our hero tight and never let go. I felt myself being warmed by the heat from his body.

“You girls OK?” his rumbling but gentle voice asked from somewhere way above my head.

“We’re fine. Thanks!” replied Lisa, holding out her bag of candy.

Although the wonderful tingling stopped as soon as my hero said “girls,” I was not ashamed. I accepted his evaluation without bitterness or frustration. After all, I was a tall, impossibly thin person with long, thick, tumbling blond hair and features so fine I was often photographed and told I was ‘”a beautiful boy.” True, older boys and even some too-masculine men had asked me straight out if I was a boy or a girl. But they knew the answer before they even asked – and they knew that I knew they were trying to be cruel. Meanwhile, I never had trouble charming grown women. They never goaded me about my masculinity and no one ever said I was ugly – ever.

It was a so very dark where he met us there on the bank of the ravine across from his house. How could find any fault in him? He was who he was, after all. A famous athlete. Our saviour. My hero and the largest, kindest, most powerful man I had ever met. He could be forgiven for thinking I was a girl. Most of the world must have seemed feminine to a such a real man.

Lisa thanked him again on both our behalf. Anything I would have said (had I been able to speak) would have disappeared into that endless chest of his. He gently ushered us on home with massive hands on our backs. The tingling returned for a moment, and then he was gone. We made our way lazily home saying hardly a word.

I said. “That was so, like, cool.”

“Yeah,” replied Lisa. “[insert full name of famous sports figure] rescued us from hooligans on Halloween!”

And there you have your eight words.

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