One of the pieces of advice I give to aspiring writers is to read. Everything. But especially to read the kind of books you want to write. To learn. To observe. To understand. I’ve read mysteries since grade school. Thank you, Freddy the Detective. I write them, as well as young adult books, and a few other things. So I’ve read tons of young adult books. For example, each year, Publishers Weekly puts out a list of young adult books to which they have given starred reviews during that year. I go through them. Check for ones I might be interested in, especially those starred books that feature LGBTQ young adult characters. And I watch young adult shows and/or movies for as long as I can stand them. Usually not long. Spoiler alert. Spoilers coming.
On Netflix, I recently binged on season two of Thirteen Reasons Why and on the first half of season two of Riverdale. What do all the characters, teens and adults, heroes or villains, in both series, have in common? If I had to pick one phrase, I’d say, they’re stupid. Another phrase? They make incredibly poor choices. And secrets! If they all just told the truth the first time around, the shows wouldn’t get past the first commercial break. In my books, I do my best to have logic rule. Not in these things. But my most huge gripe here is with Riverdale. Again, as I said; spoiler alert.
It is revealed that years ago, the killer’s family were all murdered. And that members of the town came to that kid back then, and the kid identified the killer. And so the townspeople went and killed the murderer. Except the kid identified the wrong person. So now all these years latter, the kid, now an adult, puts the characters in the show through all kinds of hell, for no apparent reason. Or if reasons are given, they make no sense. The teens didn’t kill the wrong guy. Adults did. Years ago. To summarize: the kid picked out the wrong guy. They killed the wrong guy. And now, the kid as an adult is killing all of them for killing the wrong guy. Which he caused because he screwed up.
This makes no sense to me. What does this remind me to do in/for my books? That there must be logic.That I can’t rely on non-sensical secret keeping as a plot device. That I need to make my teens and adults realistic people that follow the dictates of logic. Sure things can go wrong, but they’ve got to be in ways that make sense. I hope I’ve done this all along, but certainly these two shows brought home the lesson even more starkly.
By Mark Zubro
Friday 6:15 P.M.
For the fourth time, Steve pulled up the zipper on his tuxedo pants. I stroked the soft mound of fabric covering his dick and balls with my fingers. I sighed.
We were dressing for the prom in my upstairs room.
Well, trying to get dressed.
I couldn’t keep my hands off him. When he slid on his black boxer briefs, I ran my hands over his thighs, his pelvis, his ass, felt the front of his underwear, touching and caressing his dick and balls where they gathered snugly together. I had done the whole thing when he’d put his pants on the first time. And then again. And again.
That’s why he was on his fourth zip up. While I kneaded his crotch, he had one hand cupping and squeezing my ass. His other was on the front of my pants outlining my hardon.
I shifted to bring our bodies even closer, opened my legs wide to give his hands the best possible access.
He’s always hot in my eyes, but this was blistering wild heat, and so different from our usual jeans and T-shirts.
For the prom, my parents had insisted we get tailor-made tuxes. Especially my mom. She’s like that. Rented were not to be borne. In this case, I agreed. My tux was perfect, broad in the shoulders and narrow at the hips. Steve’s encased his figure like a second skin. As skinny as he is, he can be hard to fit. This outfit had his shoulders well defined, but it was especially those pants, tight in his crotch, taut across his ass, legs like skinny jeans. Ultimate hotness on top of more ultimate hotness.
In the middle of all this intimacy, we were trying to be as quiet as possible. Kind of added an extra bit of spice.
Steve had been living in our renovated garage for months now. His mom, out on bail after being charged with murdering her husband, still lived in their house. That she even got bail was nuts. That wasn’t my fight though.
Besides murder and conspiracy charges against her and her co-defendants, other legal crap continued. Lawsuits and counter lawsuits among all kinds of people had been filed. We weren’t involved in a majority of them.
At that moment in my room, I was super turned on. I was leaking so much pre-cum, I had to change my underwear twice. It didn’t help that Steve didn’t bother to keep his hands and mouth from the covered mounds my dick and balls made. He insisted I wear the slider shorts that I wore with my baseball uniform. He loved the taut whiteness. He said I didn’t need the cup that came with the shorts since I bulged plenty enough without it.
Finally, sufficiently drained and dressed, we pinned on each other’s white orchid boutonnières. I suppose we could have managed ourselves, but I enjoyed the fussing and touching he and I did as we performed this simple intimacy.
The scent of the orchid filled the air and was great, but he smelled better. I love inhaling his aroma whether he’s drenched in sweat or freshly showered, with or without deodorant.
We stood together, holding hands and gazing into the full-length mirror on the back of my bedroom door. Steve’s suit coat hung far enough down on his hips to cover the damp spot from his leaking pre-cum. I thought we were total studs. Then again, we were in love, and could possibly be forgiven for some sappiness about prom night and bias toward each other about our looks.
Steve even smiled. He doesn’t do that often. It’s dazzling with his black hair and deep brown eyes.
He caressed my ass, put his arm around me. I slipped my arms around his shoulders. We pulled each other close.
I said, “I love you. You’re beautiful.”
He nuzzled into me and said, “I love you, Roger.”
I texted my parents that we’d be arriving at the top of the stairs. We’d promised to run the gauntlet of parental gushing and picture taking with equanimity and good grace. In this instance, I didn’t find feeding my parents’ pride a huge burden.
Cameras started clicking as we exited the bedroom door. At the top of the stairs, we turned and swayed for them as directed. The familial entourage was at the bottom of the stairs. Even my grandmother had shown up, unannounced so as not to drive my mom nuts.
My parents, grandmother, and my twin kid sisters all had their phones out taking videos, pictures, or both. We had to walk down the stairs three times so each of them could record all they wanted. Then pictures in the living room followed by us moving outside and then more scenes: on the lawn, in front of the limo, with us seated in the limo with the window down, and with us waving to them from inside the limo.
All in all, annoying in a good way.
The only hitch to the happiness motif was the pause in the picture taking for a meeting with our security contingent. They looked sort-of youngish, like just-graduated linebackers from division two colleges. We’d met with them before tonight along with the Riverside police, representatives from the FBI, and school officials including the principal and the head of security for the school.
We said hello to them then turned to our parents. Mom hugged me and whispered, “You do what the guards say.”
I said, “Mom, we’ve discussed this a thousand times.”
My dad leaned close. “Angela, the boys know what to do.”
We’d had death threats, bomb threats and so many anonymous vicious phone calls that’d we’d had to get new cell phone numbers. My parents got rid of the landline altogether, which I’d been campaigning for anyway.
Yeah, LGBT couples go to proms. And LGBT kids still get beat up. The school had hired extra security.
Steve and I had managed to piss off a whole lot of right wing zealots in Southern California, and for all we knew around the world. Lately, even a few classmates had upped their level of handing us religious tracts as we entered the school.
We could laugh off that last one pretty easily. The rest of the adult-level threats, not so much.
A few prejudiced parents had protested our attending the prom. A few people from each group had variously suggested we cancel the prom, or that Steve and I should forego attending, and other nonsense. My parents, the administration, and the civil authorities had all agreed the dance would go on as scheduled with us a part of it.
The school had assured everyone that all precautions were being taken.
We ignored all the extra fuss as best we could.
Our notion? Rampant homophobia should not be a reason to skip the prom. Hell, even the Supreme Court had agreed that ‘how other students might react,’ didn’t justify us or other gay kids being excluded. And that was in 1980. Steve and I were learning all this legal shit as we went along. Shouldn’t have to, I suppose, but trying to live your life on shouldn’ts is kind of a waste of time as far as I can see.
We stepped outside. With the sun setting, the record heat of the day had finally begun to abate. The slight breeze brought warmth not relief.
So security guards in place, last second familial hugs hugged, and we were ready to go. At the last instant, I reached into the limo and came out with special corsages for my twin sisters, my mom, and grandma. The girls squealed with delight at the specially made orchid corsages for their wrists. My mom and grandma gave us each another hug. Then Steve got out a special boutonniere for my dad. Finally, another last round of hugs completed, we piled in. Then the us-waving-as-we-drove-way pictures. We turned the corner and eased back in the seats.
As we held hands and the car gained speed, Steve said, “Your mom and dad are so normal.” He sighed. “They almost make me forget the craziness of all this security shit.”
Neither of us mentioned that our limo driver also doubled as a security guard. Our two guards sat up front near him. We’d been determined to face our fears and discuss them. That didn’t make it easier or make them go away, but at least we had each other to share them with.
Were we really scared that violence might occur against us or against the kids at the prom? A bomb placed in a flower pot?
Steve and I had decided that living in a permanent state of paralysis was pointless. We’d have no lives at all. We’d taken every possible precaution as had the conglomeration of security personnel. And in this day and age, other than being specifically aware of threats to us, really, there wasn’t much difference in the level of dealing with normal security threats. It’s the world we live in.
In the final hug before being whisked away, my dad had whispered, “Be careful. Be safe. We love you.”
In the car, we both sat musing for a few moments. “I could get used to that normal shit,” Steve said.
“That’s as close as we’re getting to a normal prom. Sometimes that’s all I’d like. To have my life be just normal. Less death, destruction, and hatred.”
I said, “We’re coming as close as we can.”
He gazed at me with his sad, doleful eyes.
Friday 7:32 P.M.
We picked up our best friends Jack McVeen and Darlene Banyon and their dates, Maria and Joey.
The limo ride was fun. The prom was great.
The venue was several exits past downtown Riverside on Highway 60 at the new Riverside Plaza Extravaganza Hotel and Convention Center. Kind of sterile. More striving for desert chic than elegant. The anemic plants in the atrium clustered in ‘desert interest centers.’ The palm trees dotting the lobby were about eighteen inches tall with mostly yellow leaves. The trickling stream that meandered throughout already had rust grubbing along the seams and edges. Cages twenty feet high took up space in the atrium lobby. The cages had real live parrots that screeched and called and shit and stunk. I wondered if the interior decorator ever got another job.
But tonight, I didn’t care. Each of us as couples joined the throng strolling in, hand in hand. More pictures were taken under a canopy.
Bryce Wold and Martin Uday, our resident Pride Parade and glitter specialists, had taken charge of decorating. The ballroom looked like Lou Rawls and Lady Gaga had been given an unlimited budget and told to go nuts, sort of kinky-modern, but very dark.
I didn’t care.
Steve and I swayed and swirled around the ballroom all night. Dancing with the man I loved and hoped to marry someday was perfect. I liked the slow dances where I could feel Steve’s hard dick pressing up against mine. It was like sharing a secret love in front of everybody. If there were sneers from some of the teens, adults, or chaperones, I didn’t notice.
Even Jack danced with both of us, as did Darlene.
It was a magic night.