Straight – A Novel by J L Foster


Straight – A Novel by J L Foster


A Novel by

J. L. Foster


Straight – A Novel by J L Foster

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Straight All rights reserved Copyright © 2007 by J. L. Foster ISBN: 987-1-4303-2990-9 Published by “Rid” and “Matthew” Copyright 2003, J. L. Foster, Originally published in Social Disease: A Collection of poems from the life of a gay American Male. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form without written permission by the author. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in embodied in critical articles or reviews. The song "The People Outside" - used in the special eBook edition and advert - Copyright © Shiloh Circle and is used by permission from the artist. Original version is available on the CD Sex is Life.


Straight – A Novel by J L Foster


Straight – A Novel by J L Foster


Straight – A Novel by J L Foster

I know all there is to know About the social disease. I’ve been a victim Of the social disease. Maybe once or twice in my life Have I been open about myself. Not because of low self esteem Or because I’m not what I dream. It’s because I’m not What you dreamed me to be. I, too, am your Social Disease. I’m not the perfect age. Some say I’m much too young. I’m not the perfect weight. They still tease just for the fun. I’m not the perfect optimist – Today is just another day. I’m not the perfect spokesman – To you, I’m just another gay. It wasn’t a vast decision To remind me of my flaws, So I won’t reach for the top. That’s better, so I’ll never fall. Deprive me of humanity And show me I am a sin. I cannot fight this any further. I cannot try to win. I cannot argue with the church And say that I’m right, too. I cannot tell the government The lies they tell aren’t true. In the event that this country Is brought down to its knees And learns a lot about the way To abandon the holier-than-decrees, I will then feel like myself. I will then feel free. We will then be rid Of this social disease.


Straight – A Novel by J L Foster


Straight – A Novel by J L Foster

Dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard. May you live forever.


Straight – A Novel by J L Foster


Straight – A Novel by J L Foster

Senior Prom, 1999

As he stood before the door, readying himself to open it, Matthew Grey swallowed hard and felt himself beginning to sweat. His first concern was that the sweat would soak through his rented tuxedo and show throughout the night. His second concern was that he would stink. He had applied his favorite – and heaviest – cologne this evening – a French scent entitled La Bouche. The Kiss… That was Matthew’s third concern. This was the evening of his senior prom, and he had been warned by his friends what would be expected of him. It was no secret that he was a virgin, and tonight, he was destined to hit a home run. Taking a nervous glance behind him, he looked to his father who stood by the bottom of the stairs. His father had an eager, giddy look upon his face, pressuring Matthew to open the door… to get it over with. In all honesty towards Matthew, this was his very first date. “Go ahead,” Father spoke, ushering his son closer to the door. “The bell’s rang twice now. Do you want to chance it happening a third time?” Father had always spoken with logic, and it forced Matthew to a grounded position. The seventeen year old boy knew that it was now or never. If he didn’t open this door, his date and his senior prom would both be gone. Sighing heavily and swallowing again, he gripped the golden knob with a sweaty palm and gently twisted it. The clicking of the latch was so loud in his ears that it made his brain thump a moment with pain, and despite the nervous shivers that ran throughout his spine, he managed to creak the door open. 10

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “I was wondering if you had stood me up,” the voice whispered from just across the threshold, standing beneath the moonlit sky. “So, are you ready?” “Actually,” Matthew whispered, swallowing yet again through his dry throat, “my father sort of wanted… to meet you…” “That’s cool.” Stepping aside, Matthew let his date enter the house, and just as nervously as he had answered the door, he shut it. Following slowly behind, he watched as his father extended his date a hand. “Ronald Grey,” Father said, offering his sturdiest of shakes. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” “Thank you, sir,” the date said, feeling the pressure of the older man’s hand. “I’m Joey Martin. I believe my mom works on your car.” “Estelle’s a wonderful woman,” Father commented, smiling whole heartedly. “Now, I trust you won’t keep my boy out too late tonight?” “The after party ends at three, if that’s okay with you, sir.” “You seem like a fine boy, Joey. You kids have fun tonight.” Finally pulling away from the handshake, Father nodded his humble approval, and Joey turned to Matthew. Matthew, in turn, smiled with a look of relief and exhaustion. He had never brought a boy home to meet his father before – he’d never had one to bring. It was more than just relief that Father seemed to approve. It was, in a way, the death of a bad nightmare. Father’s approval meant more than anything. The man was, after all, the reverend of their church. His word counted more than any other. “Oh, and Matthew,” Father added, stopping his son just as he opened the door. “Be safe, son.” Taking a look back, Matthew stared into his father’s wide, brown eyes, and he smiled. Then, offering him a solemn nod of his head, he turned back to Joey, and the two walked hand in hand out the door. 11

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “Oh, wow…” Matthew breathed, gaping at the sight of the black limousine that awaited them. “You really went all out.” “You are my prince tonight,” Joey smiled, taking him by the hand and leading him down the front walk. “Only the best for a prince.” Matthew blushed a bright red at this, finding himself rendered speechless. Squinting his eyes, he laughed a bit – only a chuckle – and fell silent the rest of the way to the limo. Joey opened the door for him, and as he climbed inside, he found that this limousine – unlike those most rented for prom nights – was not filled with a dozen other seniors. Joey had rented this one solely for them, and the nervous flutter in his chest grew a pace quicker. He settled in and fastened his seatbelt just as his date joined him and shut the door. The interior lights dimmed and the chauffeur began the trek to his known destination. As they pulled away from the house, Joey edged closer to Matthew, resting his hand upon that of the nervous boy. “I couldn’t believe it when you told me you didn’t have a date,” Joey began, obviously reflecting over the school-time memories that waltzed throughout his mind. “Every guy in school must be an idiot for not having gotten to you first.” Again, Matthew knew not what to say. He had heard a lot about Joey from his friends and random classmates. Joey was somewhat of a player, and many boys in school had ‘fessed up' to being his at one point or another. But, despite the protests and confessions of Joey’s hit list, Matthew somehow seemed to find him genuine. Joey was handsome – there was no doubt about that. His green eyes shimmered against his pale skin and curly red hair. At six feet, three inches tall, he was the captain of the school’s football team, baseball team, and wrestling team. He was an honor roll student and was due to attend Whitman University – named and founded for the acclaimed poet – in the fall on pure scholarship. His fathers wouldn’t have to pay out a dime. 12

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “Are you feeling okay?” the athletic escort asked, squeezing Matthew’s hand. “You haven’t said a word since we left.” “No, I’m okay,” Matthew answered, smiling a simple grin. Accordingly, he strengthened the grip of his own hand in Joey’s, spreading just a touch of warmth. “I was just thinking of how lucky I am to be here… with you… tonight.” “Luck has nothing to do with it, Matt,” the varsity boy whispered, breathing into Matthew's ear and sniffing the soft of his blond hair. “We’re here tonight because we were meant to be.” Sniffing again, he added, “You smell so good…” And now, his nervousness was at high peak. Matthew blushed a deep shade of red and pulled away a bit, readjusting himself in his seat. Seeing this as only a temporary set-back, Joey turned toward his window and watched the flow of traffic, letting loose his grip of his date’s hand. Stillness evolved throughout the limo, and silence rang present through the remainder of the drive. When they arrived at the school, however, Joey was back to being the perfect gentleman, and he held the door open as Matthew stepped from the chariot. At first glance, Matthew realized that nearly everybody he knew was here – scattered outside of the gymnasium and flooding the floor within. There was Jack from the Drama League… Mike from chemistry class… Joel and Jamie – the twins from Canada… Ellen and Marsha… Ellen and Marsha shared the role of President of the Student Council. They tied in the election, and rather than have a second voting, they decided to share the position… and their lives together. Off all the couples in school, everyone knew that Ellen and Marsha would last. They planned on getting engaged after graduation and married after college. To Matthew, this all seemed so perfect. They hadn’t had to search for their soul mates. Their soul mates had been brought to them. Matthew wondered often if he even had a soul mate… Looking into Joey’s wide, green eyes, he knew that it wasn’t him. 13

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “Come, my prince,” the date smiled, entwining their arms and escorting him up the short walkway and through the gymnasium doors. Disco music drilled through the air, and the entire gym was a whirlwind of color. The band performed center stage against the large purple and white curtains that represented the school’s colors. There was barely room to breathe, as person against person filled the dance floor from wall to wall and corner to corner. Boy against boy, girl against girl, the couples danced with a wisp of motion, stepping to the beats that had monopolized the charts for nearly thirty years. At the far end of the room, the partiers that had arrived stag mingled amongst one another, each one noticing as Matthew entered the gym with Joey on his arm. “The bitch,” one boy said, sipping his punch. “Matt said he wasn’t even coming,” said another, huffing just a bit. “Just like him to steal the hottest boy in our class too,” added a third, tapping his chin. “I don’t know though. Joey’s a bit out of Matt's league.” “I hear Matt’s never even dated before,” the first boy pitched, enjoying the tense discussion. “You know he’s a virgin, right?” “No…” the other boys breathed, almost in unison. “Really. He’s never even gotten to first base.” “That’s just sad, man… very sad.” “So, what do you want to do?” Joey asked Matthew, guiding him across the floor and off to the side. “Would you like punch… or maybe to dance?” “Punch would be nice,” he said, smiling again. To his surprise, Joey leaned in and kissed his cheek, disappearing immediately after to fetch the requested punch. Somehow, this nervousness that Matthew felt was not that of a flutter. The kiss had made him cringe. As Joey melded in with the crowd and Staying Alive broke out through the band, Matthew stood along the wall, softly tapping 14

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster his foot to the beat of the music. Joey’s request had startled him. Somehow, and completely unknown to his peers, Matthew had no rhythm. He could not dance. If it was possible to have two left feet, then he had three. A part of him knew that eventually Joey would get him out onto the dance floor, but he still hoped to postpone it as long as he could. For now, he would simply drink punch. “Here you go,” Joey announced, startling him a bit, as he hadn’t seen him approach. “One fruit punch, for my prince of the night.” “Thanks,” Matthew said, noticing the crack in his voice as he spoke. “You know… the after party’s being held in room 117 of the hotel.” “Yeah.” “Well…” the boy continued, pulling a plastic hotel key from the pocket of his jacket. “This key opens the door to room 121. Just down the hall. And I am the only one with a key to this room.” “Okay…” Matthew wasn’t quite sure what to say. He knew this conversation would have come up eventually, and he had known before hand that Joey was a wild man and wild men always caught their prey. “I thought maybe we’d hit the party for a few minutes… you know – make the scene a little. And then I thought that maybe we could sneak away together and… get to know each other a little better.” Nearing Matthew a bit closer now, he leaned in and looked deeply into his pale blue eyes. “How does that grab you?” “Sure…” the boy said, not knowing what else to say. “That… sounds nice.” Truly, in the back of his mind, the last thing he wanted was to be alone with Joey. The thought frightened him beyond belief. The sheer beauty of the boy was intimidating enough alone, but even more so was the fact that Matthew was not in the least bit 15

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster attracted to him. The thought of being with a man disgusted him to the point where he feared he would be ill. This was a silent sickness, however… One he could not discuss. Focusing his attention anywhere and elsewhere, he sipped his fruit punch and listened to the disco music beating through his brain. Couple after couple danced the dances that he had only heard of or seen on television, and the longer that he watched them, the wearier he became of his own inability. Never – in all of his seventeen years – had he ever met a man that couldn’t dance… couldn’t Hustle… couldn’t do the Locomotion. “Hey, there’s Kelly,” Joey said suddenly, noticing the short, built man with tiny black locks enter the room. “Looks like he’s alone… Care if I go say hi?” “Suit yourself,” Matthew replied, not caring either way really. He knew of Joey’s relationship with Kelly. They were old flames and, apparently, still friends. Joey disappeared once more into the crowd of dancing teens, and in a split moment, he was gone. Sighing again and swishing his punch in his thin paper cup, Matthew looked down to the floor and wondered exactly how much longer was left of this date. Eventually, time would pass, and he would be able to go home. Until then, he simply had to wait, smile, and pretend that he was enjoying his date with the school’s hottest hunk. Ahead of him, another gaggle of students entered the gym. This was a group of girls – three couples, two of which had been together since sophomore year. Andrea and Amy were the two girls that seemed out of place – as Andrea was fully engaging herself in the conversations of the other four girls, and Amy was left, hanging alone on the outskirts of the group. It was not long before Amy found herself in Matthew’s position – standing along the wall while her date mingled with other friends and floundered around for punch and snacks. Their eyes met – briefly. This was long enough for them to 16

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster exchange a quick smile and nothing more, but the smile made Matthew’s heart thump and a lump form in his throat. Again, he took a glance at Amy… Her dark brown hair was long and past her shoulders, and her lips were wide and pink. The dress she wore accentuated her most delicate and feminine features, and for just a moment, Matthew was lost in her beauty. She looked at him again with a strange, wondering smile, and again, Matthew looked away. He knew that, by now, he was starting to blush, and he couldn’t place himself in a giddy situation when his own date would return at any moment. A brief search for Joey found him far away, completely on the opposite side of the gymnasium. He was near the stage, conversing still with Kelly and several other lads that Matthew recognized from the football team. Swallowing dryly, he realized he still had a few minutes left standing alone, and he turned his attention back to Amy. She was no longer standing where his eyes had last left her. In fact, looking around the crowded gym and searching throughout every dancing face, Amy was no longer anywhere. She had disappeared – possibly with Andrea – and Matthew was back to staring in boredom at the spots on the walls and the hundreds of heads in the room. So, now, standing and waiting and not seeing his date – who had moved around yet again – Matthew felt he needed a vice. He needed something to relax him, and the emptying cup of punch in his hand was not doing the trick. So, patting softly against the pocket of his slacks, he felt upon the pack of cigarettes that he had sneaked out of the house, ensured that a lighter was there for him, and slowly, he edged himself over to the side exit of the gymnasium. Outside was just as noisy as indoors. There were a lot less people, but they were able to be rowdy here – as there was room to move around and no music to deafen one’s speech. Still, there were too many people. The son of a minister, Matthew could not 17

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster be caught smoking – not even by his peers. His father wouldn’t hear of it, and if he found out, this would be Matthew’s last social outing until he was an old, gray man. Easing off to the left, he wandered several paces up the thin sidewalk, edging his way toward the band hall. This area seemed clear of students, and he disappeared into its shadows. At the back of the small brick building, he pulled a cigarette and the lighter from his pocket, igniting the small flame and the cherry of the smoke. The first drag was long and smooth, but as he progressed toward the second one, the sound of the voice behind him made him toss the cigarette to the grass. “Hey,” said the voice with a hushed tone. “Can I get one of those?” Turning around, Matthew released the breath and the smoke he had been holding. Relief touched upon him as he saw Amy – who had also disappeared from the sidelines. She stood alone, beautiful under the moonlight and cascading shadows of the band hall, and she was asking him for a cigarette. Just as he had with Joey, he found himself speechless. Only this time, it did not have a sick feeling with it. He was simply in awe. “I didn’t make you throw down your only one, did I?” Amy asked, taking a step closer. Her red gown seemed black in the darkness and it disappeared completely, leaving only her head and bare shoulders to be seen. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I saw you sneak off and figured this was what you might be doing… this or smoking pot. I was up for either.” “I don’t have any pot,” Matthew whispered, finally finding his voice. “Never have touched the stuff… But I do have more cigarettes.” “Are they menthol?” “Of course…” “My hero.” Her smile was as gorgeous as the moon, and for the moment, it lit Matthew’s entire world. 18

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster She watched him for a moment – caught notice of his eyes staring into hers. Still… yearning for her nicotine, she began to grow edgy, not wanting to have to ask again, but not wanting to have to wait, either. Matthew eventually found the strength to move again. Amy’s words had momentarily stunned him. But as he jerked back to consciousness and fumbled clumsily through his pocket, he pulled free the pack of menthols, pulled two out, and tucked the pack back in. Handing one to Amy, he struck the lighter just as the cigarette touched her lips, and like a true gentleman, he lit her fire. Lighting his own, he returned the lighter to its home in his slacks and smiled nervously. “I feel so bad…” Amy smiled, giggling a bit and sucking down a drag of smoke. The nicotine gave her an instant buzz and she began to swoon. “Wow. I’ve become such a light-weight.” “Light-weight?” Matthew asked curiously. “Yeah… I used to smoke a pack a day, but I quote-unquote quit and am now just a social smoker. Meaning I bum from people at parties. When you don’t smoke all the time, it gives you a high.” “Highs are good…” he mumbled, knowing nothing else to say. He was pretty speechless – standing here with one of the most beautiful girls he had ever seen… smoking a cigarette… making small talk… feeling weak in the knees and not really knowing why… “So,” she began again, looking to the ground. “What’s it like being a preacher’s son? That must really suck.” “Yeah,” he blushed, kicking at the ground. “Sometimes. But he’s really not that bad. I just don’t get to sleep in on Sundays.” “Yeah, I know. I see you in the pews sometimes… nodding off.” “You go to our church?” There was no attempt to hide the surprise in his voice. “Only when my moms won’t buy my sick act.” Amy’s laughter 19

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster was just as beautiful as she. It was, in fact, music to Matthew’s ears. “How come I’ve never seen you there?” the boy asked, finding that the words were coming easier to him now. “Most of the time, Momma Deb wants to get home to watch the game, and Momma Jo doesn’t normally wake up until it’s time to leave. Sometimes we don’t go at all, but when we do it’s straight there and straight back home.” “Your moms sound cool.” For the next moment, as the teens enjoyed their cigarettes and the visions of one another, there was no more speaking. Matthew’s eyes caught hold of Amy’s again, and this time they stayed there. He forgot to breathe at first. His head did not need oxygen. It had Amy’s image chiseled into it, and there was no room left for anything else. In fact, there was nothing else. Everything was Amy. Eventually, he forgot also the cigarette that burned between his fingers. The cherry slowly worked its way down; the ashes grew long and fell to the grass. And finally, in the still of the moment, the ember reached between his fingers, sending a burn into his skin. With a small yelp of pain, Matthew threw the butt to the ground and grabbed his hand, feeling the instant blister as it welted between his fingers. “I burned myself,” he cried, still trying to smile and keep his cool. “Let me see it,” Amy ordered, and taking his hand between both of hers, she stared down at the burn. “Water will cool it down.” “We’ll have to go back to the gym,” Matthew sighed, knowing that this special moment was over and feeling his heart fall empty. “Here,” she whispered, pulling his hand up to her face. “This will help some.” Then, quite suddenly, she wrapped her lips tenderly over the burn and began to wet it with the tip of her tongue. 20

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster Again, he wanted to speak, and again, he was rendered totally speechless. The warmth of her tongue against his flesh sent goosebumps raging over his body and chills flowing up and down his spine. His nipples grew hard and his earlobes tingled. Closing his eyes, he wondered if he was about to faint. The tongue and lips left his hand and he pulled it back blindly. Still, there was silence, and as Matthew finally began to open his eyes, he found Amy’s only a few inches away. Again, suddenly and without warning, she placed her lips on his body. This time, however, it was not his hand. She was kissing him, fully on the lips. Nervously, he parted those lips as if to protest, but that only made room for Amy’s tongue, as it thrashed inside of him and began to work against his. Now, he no longer protested. Instead, he pulled her into his arms and fell into the kiss, offering up as much passion as his virgin body could muster. In this embrace, there were no sounds, no prom, no outside, and no world. There was nothing at all but a boy and a girl, kissing for the very first time. It was more than magic. It was brilliance. “Michael Grey!” the older, angry voice yelled suddenly, forcing the kiss to end and sending Amy fleeing off into the depths of the nighttime shadows. “What is the meaning of this?” “Principal Wilson…” Matthew stuttered, again growing weak in the knees and feeling the urge to faint. “Oh…” “Was that a female I saw you with?” The administrator’s voice was thin and drawn. When Matthew did not answer, he repeated his question. “Was that a female I saw you with just now?” “Yes…” the boy choked, fighting away tears. Looking to the ground, Wilson could see the cigarette butts, glistening from the moonlight. “Smoking too… On school grounds. Come with me, young man. We’ll discuss this in my office.” Now, the tears fell and there was nothing Matthew could do to hold them back. In a bit of frustration and panic, he turned from 21

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster the principal and began to run, fleeing off into the shadows of the night. He did not know which direction he was running, but he knew he was running away. “Get back here, Mr. Grey!” Wilson shouted, raising a fist in the air for emphasis, but this was to no avail. Matthew was off school grounds and running at a terribly fast pace down Main Street. He ran until he no longer realized that he was running, and then his steps were like the spread of wings and he was flying. He passed street after street, business after business, home after home. He ran until he inadvertently turned down his own avenue, and then he ran to his home. Rushing through the front door, he turned and slammed it shut, locking it and resting his forehead against it. Panting heavily, he allowed his body to catch up with the racing speed of his heart, and he realized that he was now covered with sweat. Finally able to somewhat compose himself, he stood straight and turned from the door and toward the living room. Father sat in a chair beside the steps. As always, he had his smile on his face. “Hello, Matthew,” he grinned, his eyes glistening from the ceiling light. “How was the prom?” “Dad…” the boy yelped. All color rushed from his face. “I just had a very interesting phone call with your principal, Mr. Wilson. Would you care to pull a chair up and have a seat with me for a minute?” “I… I really need to go upstairs now…” “Mr. Wilson said he caught you kissing a girl and smoking a cigarette?” Still, Father smiled. “I…” There were no more words. For the umpteenth time tonight, Matthew was rendered speechless. “I was afraid that this would happen…” Father continued softly. “All those new television shows and movies… They make heterosexuality seem cool and hip. But really, Matthew… It does nothing but damn those poor souls. Do you want to be 22

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster damned, Matthew?” Matthew did not answer, but his ears detected the sound of a door shutting upstairs. With a jerk of the head, his eyes rolled up the stairs and he saw a shadow moving down from the room nearest the landing. His room. “Is someone in my bedroom?” he asked, eying his father again. “It’s just Paul,” Father replied, mentioning his eldest brother. “He’s just packing up a few of your things for you. I promise he won’t get into your cigarette stash. I’ve taken care of those myself, and the ones that are left in your pocket… you can just set them on the table for me.” His words alone were startling, but Matthew wished more than anything that he would wipe that holier-than-thou smirk off of his face. “Don’t you worry about a thing, Matthew. We’re going to beat this devil. After a few months at the Straight and Narrow Camp for Christian Boys, you’ll be cured of this… heterosexuality, and you’ll be fixed. Good as new.” “You’re sending me away?” he asked – Father’s statement having fully melted into his head. “Not forever. Just for a while. With any hope, you’ll be gayer than a spring daisy by the time college rolls around. “I… I won’t go,” he stated plainly, nervously. “I won’t go. You can’t make me!” Then turning back toward the door, Matthew went to it. The only thing to stop him was the ringing of its bell and the knowledge of someone on the other side. Slowly, he took small steps back. “Go ahead,” Father persisted. “Open the door.” Nervously, Matthew obeyed, and with a shaky, rattling hand, he unlocked the door and pulled it open. A short, elderly woman stood on the other side. Behind her, two very large men in white t-shirts and pants waited with horrible patience. On the breasts of their shirts, the Straight and Narrow logo shimmered under the porch light. Without being 23

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster asked, the old woman stepped inside, and the two muscular men blocked the doorway. “Matthew,” Father said, standing from his chair, “this is Miss Eloise from the Straight and Narrow. She and her two escorts will be driving you to the camp.” “I’ve got his bags!” Paul yelled from the top of the stairs, and quickly, he worked his way down. Crossing over to the doorway, the two men moved apart and let him exit the house. As he carried the bags out to the white van that waited in the drive, he added, “Let’s get that nephew of mine fixed already. This is disgraceful!” “You can’t make me go!” Matthew cried again, but as he looked around the room, he saw that there was no place else he could go. Father blocked the stairs. The two men blocked the door. Miss Eloise stared at him with old, hungry eyes. “We’ll clean you of this sin, boy,” she said – her voice a slither of a breath. “You can’t take me!” Matthew attempted again, but the two men stepped up, each one taking him by an arm and lifting him off of his feet. He fought against them and tried to kick free, but it was no use. They were too strong for him, and devastation had rendered him weak. “I’ll visit you on Parent Day!” Father called with a smile, waving happily goodbye to his son as he was carried out of the house. “Be good for Miss Eloise!” “Don’t do this to me!” Matthew pleaded once more, and his cries shrilled throughout the night as he was loaded into the back of the van, shackled to his seat, and then injected with a drug that would make him sleep throughout the drive. When he next opened his eyes, he was in his dorm room at the Straight and Narrow.


Straight – A Novel by J L Foster


Straight – A Novel by J L Foster

DECEMBER, 2008 The lady on the television screen smiled brilliantly as the prompter announced her name. Clarissa Davis – reporter for the Washington 411 News – batted her pretty lashes and winked an eye hello. Then, glancing only once over her shoulder, she began her report. “I’m standing here, just outside the gates of the White House, where the President has just signed a bill that will permit prayer in schools on a National level. This is the first of the many campaign promises that President Wallace has drafted into a reality…” As Clarissa Davis continued her spill, the image on the television flashed to the newly appointed President – an eager, fifty year old woman named Margaret Wallace, who recently took over the seat after the unexpected death of President William Willis. “President Wallace says the next thing on her agenda – signing the amendment to ban opposite-sex marriages.” This comment made the man look up from his drink and stare wild-eyed at the television set above the bar. “Nearly every state already has amendments on their constitutions banning the marriages, but this amendment would make it more difficult to get them overturned by a judge…” “Can I get you another?” the bartender asked, noticing the empty bottle that the man held in his hands. “Yeah…” he moaned, handing the bottle over and taking the new beer. He chugged it down with zest. Glancing up to the television set, the bartender made himself 26

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster comfortable on the counter. “Can you believe this?” he asked, shaking his head. “There shouldn’t even have to be an amendment. Guys do guys… girls do girls… It’s the way the world works! What’s so hard about that? These friggin’ breeders come around and think they can rule the whole damn place. It’s about time someone put them in their place!” “You like Wallace?” the man asked, finishing his beer and passing the bottle over. “Hell yeah! There are just some things those heteros have no business doing. Marrying is only one of them. Before you know it, they’ll be having children left and right, and population will get out of control, and damn it if they won’t try to take over the whole country.” “England has started to allow opposite-sex marriages…” “They’re nothin’ but a bunch of breeders too… Little straighties… They try to act right, but I know better…” Looking down at the empty bottle, the bartender asked, “Another beer?” “No… No, I’m fine,” the man replied, pulling his wallet out and removing a pink twelve dollar bill. The photograph was the image of America’s most famous President – Rock Hudson. “Keep the change,” he added, standing from his seat. “Thanks, buddy!” And as the man stepped through the bar, edging closer to the exit, the bartender couldn’t help but wonder two things – why was this man alone, and why wasn’t he going home with him? Smiling at himself, he watched as the stranger exited the shop and slowly he began to clean up the rings left from the beer bottles. Outside, the man zipped up his jacket and fought against the cold of the wind. It had started to snow. Not much, but enough to make large flakes flutter down gently around him. Moving down the sidewalk, he watched as couple after couple passed him by. Near a store window, two young men stared through at the electronic Christmas display that impersonated Santa in his workshop. The man smiled at the sight of the two, enjoying their 27

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster warmth as they held onto each other in holiday splendor. This sight, for the moment anyway, made him feel very lonely. Passing the store window and the onlookers by, he continued his path down the cold, dark street, turning a corner onto a smaller, less occupied one. For six blocks, he kept down this street, until making a right onto Mark Street and journeying another three blocks to his apartment building. The building – Millie Hills – was the oldest building in the area, standing eight stories tall and crafted from the finest stone. It was not a cheap place to live – not by any means – but it was comfortable, and for the most part, safe. Climbing up the five front concrete steps, he pushed through the front door, shutting himself in from the cold. The doorman nodded his hello and wished him a good evening as he moved over to check his mailbox and then take the three flights up the stairs to his own humble home. The mail was all junk and he dropped it into the trash the moment he stepped inside the apartment. His coat landed across the sofa, and his baseball cap nearly joined it, landing instead on the floor. Into the kitchen, he pulled out a soda bottle from the cupboard, unscrewed the lid, and drank a fourth of the fluid down. Wiping his mouth clean, he placed the bottle in the fridge and turned around to see Sam, his roommate, staring at him from the hallway. “You’re home late tonight,” Sam said with a smile. Then, twirling around in a circle, he asked, “You like my new robe? Half off a Bull’s new shop!” Bull was one of the butchest men in town and he had just opened his own clothing store, complete with his own line of soft, elegant fashions. “He sewed every stitch himself.” “I think you have a thing for Bull…” “Who doesn’t have a thing for Bull? He’s looking so good lately! Working out… whew!” Wiping imaginary sweat from his brow, Sam skipped across the living room and gave his roommate a quick peck on the cheek. It was accepted coldly. “What’s 28

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster wrong? Have a hard day at work? Care for a mixed drink? I bought vodka!” “I had a couple of beers… I’m fine.” “Beer… Ew… A vodka cranberry is what you need. I’ll fix!” “I’m fine,” he insisted, but Sam seemed not to notice as he fumbled through the cupboard for two glasses. Setting them on the counter, he opened the vodka, poured double what was needed, and then added just a touch of cranberry juice. Stirring the drinks with a spoon, he passed one glass over to his reluctant mate. “Drink up,” he insisted, taking a long sip of his own. “It’ll do you good.” “You’re just trying to make me woozy…” “Woozy… silly… Either works for me. Just as long as we get that glim-glum look off your face. It’ll bring wrinkles, you know. And… heaven forbid… gray hairs.” “You’re a piece of work, Sam… You really are.” Giving in to his friend’s temptation, he drank heavily from his vodka cranberry. “So, did you call Donny back? I’ve gotten his number for you twice now… I’m not an answering service.” “But you do it so well!” he laughed, patting Sam on the back and carrying his drink into the living room. There, he plopped down on the jacket-covered sofa and kicked his feet up onto the coffee table. “I just cleaned that glass,” Sam protested, sweeping the feet off to the ground as he passed by. “And you’re going to ruin this lovely leather coat if you keep lounging around on it like that. Didn’t your maternal egg give you any manners?” “Would that have been before or after my father’s sperm was injected into it?” he chuckled, feeling the buzz of the vodka blend in with what remained of that from the beer. “Babies aren’t just born!” Sam retaliated, climbed onto the sofa, and settled his head in his friend’s lap. “I can’t believe 29

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster you’re still single… Twenty six years old and becoming an old maid…” “I’m not an old maid,” he laughed, throwing Sam’s head off his lap. “I’m just… waiting.” “For what? Mister Right to come trampling along? Ain’t gonna happen, baby! You’ve got to hunt for him!” “Maybe I’m tired of hunting.” “You haven’t even started yet!” Sam was no longer laughing, and as he drank down another sip of his vodka cranberry, it was known that his mood had become serious. “So, how about Donny? Are you going to call him?” Sitting silently for a moment, he thought his answer over. A million thoughts ran through his mind, but none so much as the one that wanted him to tell his roommate to mind his own business. He did not say this, however. Instead, he whispered in a tired, simple tone, “What’s the number?” “That’s my good girl,” Sam exclaimed, patting him on the thigh. “It’s written down by the phone. There’s his home, work, and cell numbers, plus the numbers of his moms in California if you want to find out what he’s really like.” “Wow…” he awed through tightened amazement. “When you get a number, you really get a number…” “Let’s waste no more time with this chitchat!” Sam demanded, scooting his roommate from the sofa and towards the phone by the window. “Call! Now!” Settling down at the telephone desk, he embraced the chill that zipped down his spine and over his goosebump-riddled flesh. Sam stared at him with earnest joy, pushing him to lift up the receiver and dial the numbers that glared out right below his nose. Taking a deep sigh, the timid man nodded his head and lifted the receiver off of the hook. Dialing in the seven digits, he waited silently as the line rang. The call was answered after the third ring. “Donny?” he asked, feigning excitement in his voice. “Hey, 30

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster man… This is Matt. Matt Grey… I was wondering what you’re doing this weekend…”


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On Saturday morning, Matt woke to prepare himself for an evening that he knew he was not going to enjoy. Sam was gone for the day already; he had palates on Saturday, followed by his daily two hour aerobic workout and weight training at the gym. He truly amazed Matt sometimes. Matt could barely find the time to exercise once a week, let alone every day. In this fashion, he was an outcast. He was in good shape as far as that was concerned, but it seemed the entire world was more health conscious than he. While he sat in bars drinking beer and taking in pork skins and Sunday sports activities, the rest of the world was enjoying their rice cakes, carrot juice, and holy Sunday sermons. Matt hadn’t stepped inside a church in so long that he figured it would burst into flames if he ever decided to again. Having the apartment to himself, he found no hurry to dress. Standing from his bed in nothing more than his plaid boxers and white t-shirt, he stretched tiredly and rubbed the sleep away from his eyes. As it was Saturday, he had not set his alarm clock the night before, but glancing at it on his desk, he saw that he had not slept in. It was just nearing seven-thirty. For a moment, he stood still in thought – wondering if he should climb back into the bed for another hour of sleep, or if he should be brave and face the cursed day ahead of him. Giving in to more thoughts of his date with Donny, Matt sighed and stepped further away from his bed and moved into the hallway. Peeking into Sam’s bedroom, he found it empty, just as he had known it would be. The bed was perfectly made, everything was clean, and the lights were off. He had obviously been up and gone for hours. In the living room, he found that his coat had been removed 32

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster from the sofa and his hat from the floor. Sam had even cleaned up his mess, as the gracious fairy did so often. With a thankful smile, Matt shook his head and crossed over to the kitchen. Opening the refrigerator door, he stared at the half gallon of soy milk, the container of whole grain flakes, the various fruits and fruit juices… flaxseed bread… soy butter… goat cheese… tofu… tofu chicken… tofu burgers… tofu corndogs… The sudden sight of the food made his stomach churn and he pulled out a bottle of carrot juice, pouring a glass half full. For the other half, he added a double shot of vodka from Sam’s liquor stash. Stirring it in together with a celery stick, he took a long, hard drink, downing a third of the glass. The burning sensation was nice as it trekked down his throat and to his empty belly, filling him with his morning buzz. Once the glass had been emptied – twice – he turned back to the living room and moved to the window. Although it was still snowing outside, he opened the window and sat against its ledge, staring out into the world. Then, pulling up one of the stones from the aged but beautiful window sill, he removed his secret stash of cigarettes and lit one, hiding the rest securely back into their hole. The smoke thankfully blew naturally into the air outside and not where Sam would smell it when he returned home. Sam had a knack for smelling things, and cigarette smoke was his least favorite smell of all. He had smelled the stench once before, two or so years ago, and he had made a fuss to defeat all war. Matt had lied and claimed a friend had been over smoking – a man – and Sam had cooled down after that. Anything to keep love and relationships afloat… That was Sam. Matt had made it a habit from then on to only smoke out the window and only when Sam wasn’t expected back for many hours. It was a bit chilly, sitting in the window in his underwear, and he choked down the cigarette as quickly as his lungs would allow, tossing almost half of it down to the ground below. Climbing 33

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster back inside and shutting the window, he rubbed against his arms, fighting the chill away. It was still rather warm inside despite having had the window open, and it was not long before he thawed. Settling down on the sofa, he flicked on the television and watched as the weekend crew delivered the morning news. The headline of the day was the marriage between two celebrities in London. They were both top musicians – million sellers – and they were both… straight. A man and a woman – they were united, finally, by law. Matt sighed at this, remembering a time not so long ago when he had hopes of a lifestyle quite similar. Amy had never left his mind – though he had not once seen her again since that fateful night at his senior prom. “Now for today’s baking tips!” Seth Miller said with a chipper voice, placing on his oven mitts and reading his list of tips and ingredients off of the unseen teleprompter. He was then silenced as Matt clicked the remote control, shutting the television off. “Nobody cares about your baking tips!” he shouted to the blank screen. “You suck!” Standing again, he crossed over to his cell phone, which was charging beside the toaster oven in the kitchen. Flipping it on, he pressed in his four digit security code and prepared himself to listen to his messages. There were sixteen of them. Each was from Donny Boyd, all confirming their date for the night. “Is he psychotic?” Matt asked, flipping the phone closed. “Once was really enough…” Setting the cellular back on its charger, he crossed through the living room and into the hallway, turning sharply into the bathroom. After a long release at the toilet, he shower and, finally, dressed. It was apparent that he could not wear the clothes he had on to his date. Ratty jeans and a baggy t-shirt… Moving back to his closet, he glanced inside, searching for something decent to wear. But Matt was a construction worker. Everything he owned was considered work clothes. None of them were appropriate. 34

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster Shutting the closet door, he turned away and sighed. Much against his self-concealed will, he was going to have to go shopping. Hurrying back to his cell phone, he located Sam’s name in its computerized address book and hit the “send” button. The phone rang only twice before his roommate answered. “Matt!” Sam scolded, having noticed Matt’s name on the caller ID. “I’m in class.” “I need you to go shopping with me,” Matt rambled rather fast. “I need new clothes.” “Oh, this is what I’ve been wanting all Christmas long!” the lad cheered, hushing himself when he received glances from his fellow palates students. “When are we going?” “Half hour?” Glancing to his watch, he knew that Sam’s class would be over by then. Reluctantly, Sam replied, “I… I can’t.” “What?” Shock filled his voice and Matt ran a finger into his ear to make certain he was hearing right. “Come on! You’ve been wanting to take me shopping for months!” “Well…” Sam began, hushing his voice as much as he could, “you know that cute instructor who took over my class?” “Yeah…” “Let’s just say in another… twenty-three minutes, he’s all mine!” “You devil!” Matt smiled, despite the letdown he was feeling. “That’s cool though. I can get someone else to take me.” “Don’t buy too much!” the roommate challenged. “Tomorrow, you’re definitely going shopping with me.” “Deal,” the young man smiled, and then with his goodbye, he flipped the phone closed. Now, he stood with a new challenge… figuring out exactly which poor soul he would take on his excursion. Matt was a bit… oblivious to current fashion and what was in and out. He needed help. Fashion had only been covered for two weeks at the camp… 35

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster Opening the phone again, he began to search through his contact list, hunting for the perfect person. Actually, the perfect person was Sam, but Sam was otherwise occupied. Finally forcing a vast decision, Matt stopped on Bull’s name and hit send once again. His call was answered during the first ring. Fifteen minutes later, he was standing in Bull’s shop – Lovely Lads and Lasses. Bull greeted him with open arms, lifted him off of the ground, and offered him a kiss that a normal man would have sold his father for. Then, when the embrace ended, Bull sat Matt back down on the ground and gave him the look over. “Not bad…” he said, nodding his bald head and scratching a finger against his thick goatee. “Not bad at all… You’ve got great muscle tone for someone I hear never works out.” “You’ve been talking to Sam,” Matt replied with a smile. “He called right after you did… said I was in for a challenge after I told him you were coming. I’m not supposed to sell you a lot.” His smile was charming, and he held it a moment longer than normally expected. “I’ll need to take your measurements.” Matt swallowed hard, recognizing the devilish look in Bull’s eyes. It was the same look Sam gave him when he would accidentally walk in and catch him in the shower. It was a look of lust, and it was unmistakable. Looking around the store, Bull smiled again at the fact that he and Matt were the only one’s there, and that there were no other customers for him to worry with. His time – for the moment at least – belonged to his handsome friend. “I’ll need you to unbutton your jeans,” he said, eying Matt’s crotch. “I can’t measure your waist with that denim around there.” As Bull searched his countertop for his measuring tape, Matt reluctantly did as he was told – unbuttoning the jeans, but not unzipping them. Before he could think twice, Bull dropped to his knees before him. The man smiled up at him, pulling out the 36

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster measuring tape and wrapping it around his waist. “Thirty two inches…” the man said, releasing the tape. “Nice.” Next, he pulled the tape down over his crotch, measuring Matt’s groin area. With a sigh, Matt rolled his eyes into the air, feeling just a bit on display. Then, he jerked back with a shock as he felt Bull’s hand on his crotch, feeling through his boxer shorts. “At least six inches soft…” the shopkeep noted, grinning wide. “Very nice.” “Can we stick to the clothes please?” Matt pleaded, rezipping what Bull had unzipped. “Whatever you want,” the man said, standing and winking his eye. “I’ve got a couple of things that’ll look great on you, but you’ll need to try them on. Not working out has really taken its toll on your thighs. They’re about an inch flabbier than they should be.” “Just show me the clothes please,” Matt insisted, a bit thrown off by the crude remark. “Follow me,” Bull instructed, leading the way. “And no use buttoning up. I say we just throw these old rags in the trash when we’re done. Honey, you’re gonna be stellar.” “But I like my jeans,” he pleaded, buttoning them in simple protest. “They’re comfortable.” “Comfort went out with plaid, baby. It’s so passé.” Showing Matt to the dressing room, Bull disappeared for a moment, returning shortly with a large stack of garments. Ten pairs of slacks and twelve shirts and jackets. When Matt tried to protest again, he was silenced rather quickly. “Fashion is everything,” Bull instructed, placing a finger to his lips. “Forget about quantity. Forget about comfort. Try these things on and we’ll see what you look best in. Besides me, that is.” With another wink of the eye, he pulled the dressing room door shut, leaving Matt alone to change. “Oh, yeah,” he called, stepping away. “Don’t forget to model each outfit. I was warned not to trust your judgment!” 37

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “Sam…” Matt griped, pulling off his t-shirt and tugging down his jeans. “He thinks he’s such a queen…” Throughout several costume changes, Matt smiled quietly while Bull gushed and awed at everything he wore. From bellbottoms to snakeskin pants, each outfit looked brilliant on him. Despite the extra inch of fat in his thighs, Matt was made to wear these clothes. It wasn’t until the last costume change that things grew a bit uncomfortable once again. Stripping off the black leather pants, he sat them on the small bench and removed a pair of pinstriped slacks from a hanger. From behind, he heard the dressing room door open. It closed again before he turned around, but when he did, he was face to face with Bull. The two stood together – their chests nearly touching in the four feet by four feet space. Bull held a curious smile and it took Matt a moment to place it, but there was no doubt of it’s intention when the shopkeeper kissed him, grabbing again through the cotton of his boxer shorts and onto his manly prize. In protest, Matt backed away, pulling Bull’s hand off of him and tucking himself back inside. “I’m just here for clothes,” he whispered, wiping the taste of Bull from his lips. “That’s what they all say…” the man replied, unbuckling his belt and unzipping his black leather pants. Aggressively, he cornered Matt against the wall, pressing his lips back against the young man’s quivering ones. “I said… get off me…” Matt grunted, pushing Bull away from him once more. This time, the man obeyed, wiping his cheek in detest. “I’m sorry, Bull,” he continued, straightening his boxers. “I just… can’t right now.” “Hey, whatever, man!” Bull laughed, throwing his hands into the air. Then, returning them to his crotch, he exposed himself clear as day. “But this is what you’re missing, man. This is what all the boys want, and you’re gonna miss it.” “That’s fine with me…” the young man stammered, dressing 38

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster himself back in his ratty jeans and t-shirt. “Just ring everything up. I’ve got to get out of here.” “Everything? But what about tomorrow?” “I won’t be coming back tomorrow,” he replied plainly. “I’ll just take it all now. Please.” “Whatever!” And throwing his hands back in the air, Bull gathered the items and carried them from the dressing room, shutting the door behind him. With an exasperated sigh, Matt fell back against the wall and slowly slid down to the bench. There, he sat for a moment, regaining control of himself and pushing away the fear that had boiled into his gut. It took him a moment to finish dressing, and when he stepped back out into the storefront, Bull had his purchases rang up and bagged. “Good luck on your date tonight,” the butch man sneered, still feeling a bit let down after his advances were shot away. “Yeah,” Matt whispered, signing his check and taking the bags. Nothing more was said between the two, and hurriedly, the young man fled the store, thankful to be back onto the cold streets of town and out of Lovely Lads and Lasses. The experience proved not so lovely at all.


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“You look fabulous!” Sam shrieked as Matt stepped into the living room. Dressed in the pinstriped black and white pants with an untucked black button-down shirt, two silver chains, and a derby hat that Sam squealed was to die for, Matt had to confess even to himself that he looked better than he had imagined. He was the image of a black and white film star, but with prettier skin. “Are you sure this looks good? I don’t want to give the wrong impression.” “What wrong impression? You look great!” “I don’t look… cheap?” “You wish!” Sam laughed, tossing his hand in the air. “You look dynamite. Everything but the shoes. I love the clothes but the shoes don’t work.” “These are the best I own,” Matt pleaded, noticing for the first time ever how scruffy they were. Then, he hated himself for noticing. “”You’re about the same size shoe as I…” Sam continued, staring endlessly at Matt’s feet. “Follow! I have just the thing.” In Sam’s bedroom, the closet door was thrown open and the two stepped into the impressively large space. On the right side of the closet was Sam’s shoe stash – over one hundred pairs of the finest shoes crafted from all around the world. They were his pride and joys, and for him to loan out a pair was like the devil tearing up a contract on a soul. It rarely – if ever – happened. Yet, the thirty year old man crawled down to his knees and slunk deep into the closet, digging through pair after pair of shoes. Eventually, he came up for air, returning with a pair of black Malcolm Daniels. Retail, they had cost over six hundred dollars. 40

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “If you damage them,” he said to Matt with a smile, “I’ll castrate you.” “You just want to touch it,” Matt grinned in return, taking the shoes from him and checking them out. “They’re beautiful. These must have set you back a pretty penny.” “It’s worth it just to see you go out and have fun… with another human being for a change…” Offering his occasional peck on the cheek, Sam led him from his bedroom and back into the living room. “You do look fantastic, by the way. Bull really did a number on you.” “Did he ever,” Matt mumbled, not wanting to confess the terrible thing that had happened, but not being able to keep completely silent either. Bull was the hottest thing in Newark, Tennessee, and almost every man around wanted him. Matt, however, did not, and if he had told Sam of how he had pulled away, he never would have heard the end of it. “So… what time is your date?” Glancing at the digital clock beside the television, Matt thought hard to himself. Then, as if suddenly snapping into reality from a dreamland he hadn't known he was in, he answered, “In half an hour. He’ll meet me out front.” “Do you have protection?” Sam asked suddenly, smiling brightly still. “There are bad things out there. You can never be too safe.” “I don’t think I’ll be doing anything where I’ll need protection…” “Then you don’t know Donny,” he grinned, batting his eyes and returning to his bedroom. A moment later, he appeared again with a handful of condoms in various sizes, textures, flavors, and colors. “Take your pick,” he offered, extending them to Matt and dropping them in his hands. “You’ll find just about any size or style you need there… Take a couple if you want… just in case you bottom.” “Bottom?” he repeated, questioningly. “I’m not planning on 41

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster bottoming.” “Again, you don’t know Donny.” Matt caught the glimmer in Sam’s eyes and immediately knew what was happening in his mind. Matt had seen men like Donny before. He had even dated one once… for one night only, in a time that seemed so long ago. A boy named Joey… A cunning animal… “So,” Sam continued, giving Matt the final once-over. “You’ve got the clothes, the skins, and definitely the looks. You’re a prize tonight, so don’t forget to make him earn it.” “Earn what?” he asked, lost in Sam’s words. “It…” the man said plainly, eying him from top to bottom. “And if you don’t know what I mean, then you’re in more trouble than I thought.” Adding a whimper of a laugh, he turned in his pink feathered robe and moved softly down the hallway, back to his bedroom. Opening the door and taking a step inside, he took one glance back. “Have fun on your date, stud muffin.” Then, in a flash, his door was shut and Matt stood alone. Turning around, Matt steered himself to the kitchen. He prepared himself a vodka and juice, downing it quickly. Wiping his lips, he felt his world spin briefly and he stumbled back to the living room. Opening the closet door there, he removed his black leather trench-coat and donned it. Checking himself for his wallet, keys, and, of course, his cigarettes, he took a deep breath and opened the front door. Moving into the hallway, he shut the door behind him and wondered briefly exactly what he was doing. He had no interest in Donny. In fact, he didn’t even like the man. So, why was he going out with him? He had nothing to offer him. Any advances, Matt would reject. He simply wasn’t interested. Hiking down the stairs and flowing into the front lobby, he nodded his greetings to the doorman and took a quiet seat on the bench beside the door. Glancing up at the clock above the doorman’s desk, he saw he still had fifteen minutes left. The 42

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster lobby was musky and in need of a good cleaning, and he wondered how long he could stand sitting there. Finally, after only three minutes had passed, he nodded at the doorman once more and stepped outside. The cold hit him like a bullet from a gun and he shivered on its impact. Moving to the sidewalk, he stepped down until he reached the shadows of the snow-covered trees. There, he turned the corner of the building, moving as far away out of Sam’s window’s range as he could. On one step, he nearly slid down, having slipped on a puddle of icing snow. He couldn’t remember when the last time Tennessee had seen such a downpour, and he was thankful for it. He loved the snow. It was a grounding tool for him. It kept him steady and on top of things – as much as possible, of course. Another thing that kept him steady was a cigarette, and that was what he lit in this moment. Again from the heavens, the snow began to fall, but he pushed the chill away, enjoying the feel of the nicotine as it flowed throughout his body. When the cigarette had finished, he flicked the butt to the empty street and waited for just a moment. Then, breathing the cold of the winter into him, he began to walk back to the front of the building, still readying himself for Donny’s arrival. He had met Donny twice before – once at a night club with Sam and once at the grocery store. Donny’s shopping cart had consisted of no more than a case of spring water and a tabloid. He had been manhunting and that was when he rediscovered Matt. He’d had his eyes set on him ever since. Matt cringed at this thought, feeling more like a piece of merchandise than a man. He knew that a date with Donny would be like a day in the lion’s cage at the zoo. Fierce and hectic. He imagined it would be a lot like it was with Joey at first – romantic, yet self-satisfying. And then, most probably, it would end terribly. This thought scared him, and he considered going back through the front door of the complex, rushing up to the apartment, and hiding in his room until the night was over. Sam 43

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster would never hear of it though. He would hear him enter, and then he would do his best to force him back out on his date, where he would be the product of some excited man’s fantasy come true. This sickened him, but there was little he could do. The Straight and Narrow had cured him, and these ill thoughts of relationships were simply demons that he had to force away. Whether he thought he wanted it or not, he had been taught that men were for him and women were for sin. So, realizing his past lessons, he remained outside of the apartment complex until the long, white Oldsmobile pulled up front and Donny stepped out of the driver’s seat to open the passenger side door. The scene was all too familiar for Matt, and for the first time in many years, he felt he would faint. Still, somehow, he managed to steady himself, and plastering a smile over his otherwise drawn face, he walked down to the car and climbed inside. When the drive began and Donny pulled them away from the complex, the escort asked, “Are you ready to have a good time?” “It depends on your definition of good,” Matt replied, still holding his smile. He reminded himself of his father now – steady and refusing to flinch. “Dinner, drinks, and a whole lot of dancing,” Donny said, hopeful. Dancing, Matt thought, cursing that gods that had cursed him. He had never learned how to dance. They had taught him a few steps at camp, but that was so long ago and all the moves had changed since then. Well… with all hope, he would get drunk enough to at least fake it… “Sounds like fun,” he whispered, desperate to keep the conversation alive and… at ease. “Oh, you don’t know fun until you’ve been on a date with Rockin’ Donny!” The man’s laughter rang into Matt’s ears like an explosion on a war field. “Where are we going?” he asked, holding his voice steady. “Nashville, baby. We’re gonna have some fun tonight!” 44

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster


Straight – A Novel by J L Foster

The lights of the big city glistened within the night scape, lighting the towers and buildings of Disco City, USA. Nashville launched and supported the careers of almost every major performer since the fifties, and the legacy shown throughout the city. On the voyage through downtown, Donny drove Matt past the Disco Music Hall of Fame, the Fashion Café, The Betty Davis Lounge, and Madonna Haven, just to name a few prime touristy locations. Their destination, however, was none of these places. Donny had something much more unique in store, and tacky themed dinettes were not on the menu for the night. He parked in a paygarage, stepped from the Oldsmobile, and opened Matt’s door. Extending his hand, he helped his date out of the car – his eyes glistening and his face grinning for recognition. Matt returned the smile, but he could not shake the uncomfortable feeling that rattled his bones. “So, where are we going?” he questioned again, praying for the evening to be quick. “First stop,” Donny announced, as charmingly as possible, “is the Nashville Junction.” The Nashville Junction was a small restaurant built in the basement of an old factory. The restaurant served everything from tofu to grilled fish to pork sirloins, and it served it well. Yet, despite the great food and surprisingly elegant atmosphere, the Nashville Junction was a place for the elite. Only those who knew of it ate there, and those who ate there told very few others about it. Too many customers would have ruined the feel for the regulars, who paid dearly for the meals they ordered. Matt had never actually been to the Junction, but he had heard stories – all 46

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster of which had made him yearn for the delicacies contained within. So, to begin their date, Donny was taking him to dinner at the Nashville Junction. Things were starting off with a rather smooth sail, and this more than anything made Matt uncomfortable. If the night began perfectly, Donny would expect it to end perfectly… The meal was quite exquisite. Donny feasted on oysters and veal while Matt restrained himself to a tofu salad with balsamic vinegar as dressing. To drink, Donny ordered them champagne. Matt was not a fan and he let his glass last him most of the meal, only having to be refilled once. Small talk was kept a part of the meal, with Donny spilling off his long-ago accomplishments. “My mothers were quite proud of me,” he cheered, sipping his drink. “They’re the ones that pushed me to go for the fancyball scholarship, and man, I excelled. I owe those women everything. But most importantly, I made my own man out of myself.” Sitting in his olive colored suit with no tie and a white shirt only halfway buttoned, Donny smiled at his own remark. Eying him with just a bit of scrutiny, Matt suddenly realized that the man was attractive. There was no doubt about that. But there was something untrustworthy in the man’s eyes. As they darted into his own, Matt saw the flicker of deceit that sizzled from within them. He could see the hardness that truly was Donny. The handsome, chiseled exterior was just that. An exterior. “So, this is like the first time we’ve ever really talked,” the man continued, sipping his champagne. “Are you from Tennessee – born here and all? Or are you like the rest of us… People who have moved here for no other reason than work.” “I’ve been here since my eighteenth birthday,” Matt answered softly. “I moved here after the summer of my senior year in high school. It was the furthest away I could get from my father on what little money I had.” “So, where are you from?” “Texas,” he sighed, shaking his head. “My father is a minister 47

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster there. He’s the head of the Conservative Christian Coalition.” “Your father’s Ronald Grey?” Donny asked in surprise. “I love him! I watch him on TV all the time.” “He’s a bastard,” Matt smiled, finally taking another swig of the bland champagne. “The two of us… we don’t get along so well.” “Well…” Donny sighed, straightening in his chair, “just listen to what he says and keep God in your heart, and the two of you will be just fine.” Eagerly, he smiled again and finished his champagne, instantly pouring himself another one. “Your dad’s single, isn’t he?” “Yeah,” he whispered, wishing to speak of anything but Ronald Grey. “He’s never married.” “Does he date?” “A little I guess…” Then, catching the man’s stare, he asked, “Why?” “Your dad’s pretty hot, man.” Donny’s reply was simple and to the point. “That’s sick, dude…” “It’s true. I see him on the television… His pants are so tight he can barely contain his goods. He’s got the prize, man! The prize!” “Okay, can we please talk about something other than my father now?” Matt’s tone was harsh and firm and all conversation of his father ended with it. This outburst was followed by tense, thick silence, and Matt wondered what the evening could hold next. Soon, however, the mood passed and Donny became talkative again, turning on his boyish charm. “There’s a smooth disco just down the block,” he said, winking an eye. “What say we go cut the rug a little?” “I can’t really…” “Nonsense! It’s a night out with Rockin' Donny! I guarantee a good time.” Calling the waiter over, he paid the tab and offered a generous tip. Immediately after the waiter stepped away, he 48

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster climbed to his feet, bringing Matt up with him. Before the young man knew it, they were out of the restaurant and trekking down Second Avenue to a club known as The Joint. The Joint was a hole in the wall compared to the Nashville Junction. The line outside the entrance consisted of stragglers and trance boys, and inside, the place was dark and dirty. Through the dim lighting, one could barely see a foot in front of one’s self. Matt’s only knowledge of Donny as they entered was the man’s hand on his hip. Matt wasn’t exactly pleased with this, but he did not push it away. In this dark and intimidating place, Donny was his guide – whether he liked it or not. The sounds of an early Michael Jackson tune filled his head, and as they entered into the dancehall, he watched in amazement as nearly fifty men line-danced to Thriller under the disco balls. Donny started to dance beside him, and he felt the pressure as the man ground against his hip. His hand was edging to dangerous territory, and Matt clenched the muscles in his rear tight. Sure enough, that was where Donny’s hand managed to stray. “I sure could use a drink,” he said suddenly, pulling the hand from his ass. “A vodka would be good.” “With cranberry?” Donny grinned with the charm of a frat boy. “Sounds even better,” he whispered, smiling just a touch and nodding his head. Matt watched as his date disappeared through the crowd of people and into the blinding darkness and occasional colored strobe lighting, working his way to the nearest bar counter. Through the smoke, flashing lights, and brightly clothed dancers that were packed only inches away from Matt, Donny could no longer be seen. Taking a deep breath, Matt sighed and took a step back. He touched upon a surprisingly bare section of wall and relaxed there, kicking one foot up against it. Closing his eyes, he felt the beat of the music change to a remix of an old Madonna tune, and despite himself, he let his head roll to the music. He had never been a fan of Madonna – ever since she became 49

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster President in the early nineties, she seemed so plain and ordinary compared to most of the other artists out there. Then he thought about Dolly Parton. She was one of the hottest lesbians around, but she could dance the night away with the best flamer or bear cub around. With her wild pink hair and outrageous antics, Dolly had become the bad girl of Disco City, USA. Matt was quite fond of her. He could dig anyone who showed their rebellion freely, and he could certainly dig a night alone with Dolly… Opening his eyes, he saw Donny meld into sight again, approaching with the vodka cranberry and a small smile across his lips. Accepting the drink, Matt downed it halfway and wiped the moisture from his lips. He noticed that Donny’s eyes were locked on his and they were completely unflinching. Smiling a bit more nervously now, Matt glanced down to his drink. “Drink up,” Donny said, beginning to move a bit to the music. “I don’t know if I should be drinking so much,” he replied, swishing the remainder of the drink in his glass. “On top of that champagne…” “You barely drank the champagne! Enjoy! This is a date! Have fun…” Thinking it over a moment, Matt nodded and smiled. “You’re right,” he agreed, lifting the glass back to his lips and drinking. “How often do I go out anyway?” “Not often,” came the reply. “With me, anyway…” Finishing the vodka cranberry, Matt sat his glass on an empty countertop and leaned back against the wall. He felt just a bit dizzy, and as Donny stepped in front of him, he saw three… four… two… three of the man. The entire dancehall was spinning – both on the dance floor and in Matt’s head. “You wanna dance?” Donny asked, leaning in until he was only an inch from Matt’s nose. “I’ve got some good moves.” “I… I don’t think I can…” he stammered, not remember vodka ever having effected him this strongly. “I think maybe I should sit down…” 50

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “Follow me,” the man whispered, taking his hand and bringing him upright on weak, wobbly knees. “We’ll go outside to the courtyard. It’s cold and snowing, but no one else will be out there. It’s too crowded in here to find you a seat.” Obeying Donny but not really hearing or understanding what he had said, Matt fell into his arm and let him lead him through the club and to a black door at the far side. He closed his eyes for just a moment, and when he opened them again, he was being led outside and the door was shutting behind him. He caught a glimmer of Donny leading him, but Donny was more like a shadow moving through a strobe light. That was how everything was… The snow that fell on his head and around him… the table that he was led to and bent across, the ground beneath the glass table when his face was pushed to it. “What’s…” he started, wondering what was going on, but he could not speak and he could not resist. He could feel his new slacks as they were unbuttoned and unzipped, then pulled down to his knees. The same was done with his boxer shorts. “You think you’re such a fucking tease,” Donny said, smiling heavily and lubing up the erection with his spit. “You ain’t gonna just tease me anymore…” Matt felt the pain when he entered him, but he could not cry out and he could not pull away. His body was going numb and he felt like he could barely keep consciousness. The speed of the thrusts behind him quickened and he began to slide off the table, but Donny knocked his derby hat to the ground and pulled him back by a handful of his hair. Then, as the man pressed his face further to the glass, Matt heard the groans behind him beginning to grow and felt the pounding hips as they buckled out of control. Finally, Donny collapsed on top of him, finishing the spreading of his seed. “Fucking bitch boy,” the man cursed, slipping free and zipping up. “That’s what you are. You’re a fucking bitch boy…” Looking back to Matt, he found him completely passed out now 51

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster from the powder that he had slipped into his drink. Hurriedly, he pulled the man’s boxers and slacks back up and lowered him into one of the snow covered chairs. Then, forcing a kiss on the sleeping man’s lips, he rushed back inside, through the chaotic disco, and out to his car where he disappeared into the night.


Straight – A Novel by J L Foster


Straight – A Novel by J L Foster

He woke with the sun shining brightly into his tired, blurry eyes. His entire body ached. He was sore from head to toe… and then some. Trying to stand, he moved up onto two weak legs, nearly falling back into the chair. Deciding sitting was a good thing, he gave in, spotting his derby hat on the ground beside him, covered in snow. Reaching down, he lifted it and shook the snow off, placing it onto his head – which was also snow covered. Matt was absolutely freezing but he just now realized it. He searched for his jacket, remembering that he had left it in Donny’s Oldsmobile. And then, he wondered where Donny was, and where he was, for that matter. The courtyard he sat in was relatively familiar, but he could not place it. Tall stone walls worked as a gate around him, sealing him in with snowy statues, tables, chairs, and a gazebo. The stone wall connected on two sides with a brick building and an unmarked black door that opened into it. Attempting to stand again, he moved as best he could to the door and tried to open it, but it was locked from the inside. Looking around once more, he saw that this was his only exit. Thinking as rationally as he could, he began to pat himself down, searching for his cellular. It, he sadly recalled, was still in his trench coat, which was in Donny’s car. “I can’t believe he left me here,” he yelled under his breath, kicking the snow with Sam’s favorite shoes. The shoes had been snowed on all night long too, and they now appeared quite ruined. Currently, however, Matt did not care about this. He simply had to get out of here – wherever here was. For the life of him, he could remember nothing after he and Donny left the restaurant last night. Nothing at all… 54

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster The stone wall was his only option for escape. If he could scale it, he could jump to the other side and at least be able to get to a pay phone. He was obviously still in Nashville, and Newark was not a hop, skip, and jump away. He would need Sam to pick him up. The wall stood about eight feet high, and Matt pushed one of the tables over to it to give him an edge. The tables were glasstopped, and he prayed that this one would hold him. Climbing atop, he braced his feet on the sides of the glass, not wanting to put all his pressure in the center. Then, when he was content that he heard no crackling or crumbling sounds, he grabbed the top of the wall and slowly began to lift himself upwards. His left hand slipped from the snow and he almost lost himself and tumbled down to the glass table and hard concrete below. But he quickly caught hold again and continued his upward pull. When his elbows were rested on the top of the wall, he was able to elevate himself a bit easier, and shortly, he was sitting atop of the wall, overlooking the projects of Nashville. “Oh no…” he whispered, looking over the terrible ruins of the downtown projects. This area was the most dangerous in Nashville, and the drop from the stone wall fell right into it. Now he knew the reason for the wall. It was meant to keep out the poor, the drug ridden, and the dangerous. “It’s Sunday,” he whispered again, moving to the edge of the wall and starting to lower himself down. “Maybe they’re all in church…” The comment struck him as amusing, as God hadn’t shined his light on these projects in many a decade. To the people that lived here, he did not exist. This thought scared Matt, and as he dropped from the wall and onto the dirty, broken concrete below, he wondered if he would survive the trip to a pay phone All was quiet on the street of South Queens Avenue, which intersected with an equally quiet East Queens Avenue. He moved 55

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster with quick caution down the sidewalk along the trail of rotted wooden homes and crumbling brick-o-block buildings. Even though the sun was shining brightly in the cloudless sky, it was still rather dark here. Trash littered the walk in which he stepped, and broken glass appeared every third foot. Matt moved with his hands tucked into the pockets of his slacks and his chin kept low. It was best to attract as little attention as possible, though he wondered whose attention he could possible attract. Even though a part of him knew better, this group of projects seemed quite abandoned. Spotting no pay phone or open store, he turned onto West Queens Avenue and followed it to Militant Row. He did not particularly care for the name of this street, but it – like the others – seemed vacant. As the bare trees and towering, dark buildings around him threw shade over the sun’s light, he turned onto yet another avenue, leaving Militant Row but not noticing the shadows of the four figures that followed him from behind. The shadows grew closer and closer to him, and as Matt finally rounded onto what he saw as North Queens Avenue, two of the shadows moved up in front of him. “You got a quarter, man?” one of the dark men asked, snapping his bubble gum and walking backwards as he faced Matt. “Give me a quarter, man.” “I’m broke, dude,” Matt replied, quickening his speed but seeing now that he was surrounded by the men – all in pink and black. He had heard of them… seen them on the news and in the papers. They were the Pinkies – one of the most dangerous gangs in the Nashville hood. And now, Matt was face to face with them, unarmed and without a quarter on him. “The toll’s a quarter, dude,” the second man in front of him stated, patting his side gently. Matt could see the bulge of the knife. “Can’t go down our streets without paying the toll…” “I don’t have any change on me,” he repeated, quickening his speed still. Yet, as his own legs grew tired, the four gang 56

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster members seemed to be bursting with energy. “He said to pay the toll,” a rough voice from behind him called, and when Matt turned around, saw the guns that were pointed at his head and the two men behind them who smiled with grim, wicked features. “What’s going on here?” Matt asked, feeling a dreaded lump fill his throat. Even in this cold day, he was beginning to sweat. “I don’t think he’s gonna pay,” one of the men cried, but he could not tell which one. His head was spinning and they were all around him. “I think we should make him pay,” said another, and the men slowly began to close in on Matt. This was the end, he thought. They were going to kill him for a quarter. The sound of a car honking directed everyone’s attention and Matt breathed heavily. The police, he figured, finally here to save him. Looking toward the street, he saw a ratty, red Pontiac approach – a middle aged black woman behind the wheel. She rolled the window down as she neared them, cutting her speed low and climbing partially out the window. She most obviously was not the police. “There you is!” she hollered, looking directly at Matt. “I’ve been lookin’ everywhere for you, boy! You’s supposed to help me with my sink today!” “You know this man, Miss Wanda?” one of the men with a gun asked, pulling his firearm back. When the woman nodded her head and smiled, he put the gun completely away and stepped back. “Sorry ‘bout that,” he said to Matt, walking away. “But next time, bring the quarter, fool!” another one spat, joining the other three men and they all disappeared into the shadows. “Well, don’t just stand there,” Miss Wanda yelled to Matt, who looked at her with complete confusion. “Get your butt in the car already. It’s cold out here.” 57

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster In the middle of the most dangerous area of the big city and with nowhere else to go, Matt conceded and hurried to the car, climbing into the passenger’s side. Miss Wanda – his savior – fell quiet until they drove away, and when they were out of range of the Pinkies, she grunted in her seat. “You coulda been killed, you know,” she said plainly, pulling out a cigarette and lighting one. Matt followed her step, lighting one of his own. “I know,” he mumbled, enjoying the pull of the nicotine. “You lucky I drove by,” Miss Wanda added factually. “Thank you…” “Now, what the hell you doing out in the middle of the projects? You’re white and – by the looks of your clothes – not bad off. What you doing down here?” “I… I don’t really know…” he began, trying again to think back to last night but finding that it only made his head hurt and all his memories came up foggy. “I was on a date last night with some guy, and when I woke up, I was in the middle of the courtyard of some place down the road. I had to scale a wall to get out, and that’s how I ended up here.” “Sounds like you was at a club, but I don’t know how you managed to fall asleep there…” Miss Wanda glanced at him out the corner of her eye. There was a look of sympathy in her expression, and yet it was still filled with confusion. “Well… right now, you’re going home with me. I just did my grocery shopping and everything will be frozen if I don’t get it home.” “Do you have a telephone?” “Yes…” she smiled, nodding her head and sucking down more of her cigarette. “I’ve got three of them, actually. There might be one that still works.” “May I use it?” Matt’s voice was strained and desperate. “Sure,” Miss Wanda grinned, nodding her head again. “But I ain’t paid my bill, so if they ain’t shut it off, you’re more than welcome.” 58

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster Settling back in the tattered covered seat, Matt sighed heavily, wondering for a moment if he would ever get back home. With any luck, Miss Wanda’s phone would be in order and he would be able to get through to Sam. Then, maybe, he could get through to Donny and find out what happened last night and why he woke up in the courtyard of a disco. Putting his burned-down cigarette into the over-filled ashtray, he pulled another from his pocket and lit it. Taking a deep drag, he glanced to Wanda, who smiled at him with strong but mysterious lips. Then, he looked back to the road, wondering which of the destitute houses belonged to his newfound friend.


Straight – A Novel by J L Foster

Miss Wanda Parker lived in the oldest house in the neighborhood and one of the only ones on her side of the projects not to have been condemned. The house was built in 1902, and her family had lived in it since 1913. Wanda took over ownership of the house in the early eighties, and near the middle of the decade when she fled Tennessee for Atlanta and fell in love with the woman of her dreams – a teacher named Cindy Gables – the house stood vacant, allowing itself to deteriorate over the years. Cindy was killed in a car accident in 1996, and in 2001, Miss Wanda found herself finally able to leave the home she had shared with her deceased love and return to the house that her family had cherished for many decades. When she returned to the Nashville house, however, she discovered the damage that the many years of vacancy had caused it, and she swore to never leave her poor home again. Aside from trips to the market and the tobacco shop, that is… Still, even in the sad shape that the old home held, Matt marveled at its beauty. Large and grand, what remained of the yellow paint that hadn’t chipped away gave a glimmer of its past prime, and there was no doubt that it had once been the show house of the area. In its day, this area was not the projects, but was filled with the wealthy and the well-to-do. “This is my home,” Miss Wanda stated, finding her key and unlocking the door. “Ignore the mess. I haven’t cleaned in ages…” Stepping inside, she let her hand trail along the wall. “Let’s see if they’s cut off my power again.” With a flick of the switch, light flooded into the front parlor room. “God said let there be light,” she continued, setting her two 60

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster bags of groceries on the ground. “And then he made the black woman turn it on…” “This is a beautiful home you have here,” Matt gawked, marveling at the old photographs that hung in ornate frames along a wall. It was apparent that nothing had been touched in this room for decades, as even the antique knickknacks had dust an inch thick around them. But the dirt did not matter. This home was beautiful and relished with a style that nearly every other house around seemed to lack. Matt’s experience with a lot of lesbians had been that they were not always gifted with the decorating gene. Miss Wanda and her family were the exceptions to that rule. “Did all of these prints belong to your family?” he asked, gazing at the black faces that smiled out from the vintage photographs. “That one’s my grandfather,” she replied, stepping up beside him. “He died when I was a child so I don’t remember him very well, but my moms shared some great stories with me before they passed.” “Are these your moms?” he asked now, moving to a photograph of two women, embraced in 1960’s attire. “Yes,” she replied, smiling a bit. “Weren’t they beautiful?” “Who’s the maternal?” “That one,” she said, pointing to the lighter of the two woman. Matt immediately saw the resemblance. “Momma Bertha. She was like an earthly angel.” “She was gorgeous…” “She sure was,” Wanda sighed in reflection. Then, gathering her shopping bags again, she added, “Would you like a drink? I’ve got some bourbon in the kitchen. Nothing fancy, but it’ll make your toes curl and warm you up in this cool house.” “That would be nice,” he smiled, feeling the draft over his body that she was speaking off. She probably hadn’t been able to afford having the heat on in years. This made him wonder of her 61

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster family’s wealth. From the pictures, the house, the location – in its prime – and the antiques, he knew that they had been well-off at one point. So, what happened? “Here ya go,” Miss Wanda called a moment later, stepping back into the room with two glasses of bourbon over ice. “Drink it fast and it’ll make you feel really good!” Raising her glass into the air, she downed half of it in a single gulp. Matt followed suit, only managing to get down a third of it on the first sip. The taste was warm and bitter and it made him shiver timidly. Still, he took a second sip. This time, his taste buds adapted and accepted its thick, harsh gift. “It’s good,” he said, watching her finish hers. “Thank you.” “Drink up!” Miss Wanda chimed, shaking her emptied glass. “There’s plenty more.” “That’s generous of you.” “It’s cheaper than going to a bar!” she laughed. “Those bars are expensive! My aunt once gave me a great piece of advice.” “What was it?” “When in a bar, only tip the bartender ten cents per drink. That way, you only spend a few dollars on tips by the end of the night and it doesn’t burn such a hole in your pocket.” “Ten cents?” he asked, more than a bit surprised. “A few dollars? That’s a lot of drinks.” “Don’t judge me,” she grinned, taking his glass with hers and venturing back to the kitchen to refill them both. Matt followed her this time, entering the kitchen and finding himself once again in a state of bewilderment. The kitchen – unlike the outside of the house and the front parlor – was impeccably clean and modern. Through the kitchen, he could see into a hallway and a bedroom – just as clean and modern as this room. The front of the house was all for show… an act. “This is rather impressive,” he suggested, looking over the stove and refrigerator that couldn’t have been more than a year old. “And so clean…” 62

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “Oh,” Miss Wander whispered, turning to face him. “You followed me. No one’s ever done that.” “Don’t get me wrong,” he continued with a smile, “I love your front parlor, but why the act? Why do you keep it so rundown and dirty?” “Let’s just say that we all have reasons for our secrets… I live in the worst neighborhood in all of Tennessee – leaving out the entire city of Memphis, of course. It’s no wonder that it’s nicknamed Hell, USA… But if the people in this neighborhood knew that I had money and that my home had all this expensive shit in it, do you really think this would last? Those boys on the street would clean me out faster than I could call the police.” Matt was silent for the moment, sipping lightly on the fresh drink that she passed him. “So, tell me,” she continued, relaxing against her kitchen counter. “What’s your secret?” He thought about this for a moment, lowering his eyes to his glass and pondering the question. Then, raising his eyes just slightly and nodding his head, he looked to her again. “I really should make that call now,” he whispered, choking down the feelings that threatened to rise up his throat. “Okay then,” Miss Wanda whistled, standing tall again – or as tall as her five feet one inch body would allow. “Let’s go see if they’s cut my phone off yet.” “You really didn’t pay your phone bill?” “No, fool! I paid it! But damn… I worked hard on this poor act. At least let me use it.” Matt had to laugh at this, and he followed her out of the kitchen, through the hallway, and into a second parlor – this one immaculate and decorated with fine art. The phone was an antique rotary and it sat atop a stone pedestal near a window looking out over her back yard and the garden that had died with the winter. “The one in the front room don’t work,” Miss Wanda said, 63

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster showing him the way. “I keep a dead one in there to fool them assholes on the streets. This one works though. And don’t make no long distance calls either. I ain’t your mammy.” Her smile brightened just a bit and she stepped from the room, leaving Matt alone with the phone and giving him the privacy for his call. Steadily, he lifted the receiver to his ear and began to dial Sam’s cellular. It rang five times, and then voicemail picked up. “To leave a message,” the automated recording began, “press One. To leave a numeric message, press Two…” “I can’t press anything,” he told it, though he knew it could not hear him. Giving in, he hung up and dialed the apartment number, praying that Sam was home. The line was answered after the second ring. “Matt!” the man exclaimed in a high pitch tone. “I’ve been worried just sick about you! Where are you? Are you safe?” “Yeah…” he explained, glad to hear the familiar voice. “I’m in downtown Nashville – the projects. Some woman has let me in to use her phone.” “I can’t believe you ditched out on Donny, man!” Sam continued, taking on a paternal voice. “What are you talking about?” “He said the minute you got to the club, you hooked up with some other man and disappeared and he never saw you again. He dropped off your coat and cell phone this morning.” “That’s bull,” he retaliated. “I never…” “Well,” Sam interrupted, clearing his throat, “you’re safe now and all accounted for. That’s good. Give me the address where you are and I’ll come get you.” Searching for something with an address on it, he finally spotted it printed on the base of the phone, just below Miss Wanda's telephone number. After spilling it off, Sam agreed to be there in an hour or so, and Matt hung up in relief. Turning around, he found Miss Wanda, approaching him with his half finished drink – completely topped off. 64

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “Are you trying to get me drunk?” he grinned, accepting the drink and sipping it. “Well… there’s nothing else to do around here, and we can’t go play outside unless we want the snow to end up a blood red. There were two shootings out there just last night.” Settling down upon two Victorian seats, they made themselves comfortable and sipped on the strong bourbon. Matt informed Miss Wanda of his conversation with Sam, and the woman graciously obliged to shelter him until his friend arrived to pick him up. “Just don’t make a mess,” she said, smiling. “I ain’t your momma and I ain’t here to clean.” “So, do you have kids of your own…” Matt asked as the minutes passed, finding that he was beginning to enjoy this woman’s company. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “I can barely tolerate the kids in the neighborhood. If I had one of my own, I’d have done hung him up by his ears by now…” She laughed at this, showing the humor in her speech. “Besides, I never took the opportunity to have one when I was younger, and now I’m growing too old. I’m forty-three now… I’d be sixty-one when the kid graduated high school. I don’t mind being someone’s old momma, but I’d rather it be in the sexual sense.” Again, she laughed and drank from her glass. “What about you? You’re young enough to go to the clinic. Hell, men can go at nearly any age.” “I’m a little out of touch with the modern ways of doing things I guess,” Matt answered, sighing heavily. “I’d sort of like to see the woman whose egg I’m purchasing before I buy it.” “Make sure she ain’t some fat, ugly, white woman?” Wanda asked pleasantly. Then, smiling, she added, “No offense of course.” “None taken,” he grinned with a wave of the hand. “I’d just like to know the mother of my child.” “But you know the law prohibits direct impregnations. The 65

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster child would be either terminated in the first trimester or become property of the state until it reached adulthood. What do they call these again…?” “Straight pregnancies,” Matt replied, roughly. “Anything straight and the government’s against it.” “Ah…” Miss Wanda sighed, touching her finger to the corner of her mouth. “Okay, now I see…” “What? Now you see what?” “Your secret…” she whispered, her eyes growing wild with excitement. “You’re… straight.” “I am not!” he cried, jerking out of his seat and standing. “I… I just have straight friends! I… I want what’s best for them.” “Honey, it don’t matter to me if you’re straight,” Miss Wanda added, standing and moving toward him. “You can do whoever you want to do. It’s none of my business.” The sound of a car pulling up the drive jerked their attention, and in a moment, a knock came to the front door. “That’s Sam,” Matt stammered, heading from the room and toward the front of the house. Miss Wanda followed closely behind. “He’s a couple of minutes earlier than he thought…” “Look at me, boy,” the woman said sternly, turning Matt toward her as they reached the front door. “It’s dangerous out there, so you two be careful. Them Pinkies think they own these streets now, and if you ask any one of the residents here, they do. It ain't very safe.” “We will, Miss Wanda,” he said, smiling. “And thank you so much for your hospitality.” “If you ever need anything, or you find yourself stranded again, you’ll remember me?” “I could never forget you,” he whispered, leaning down and giving the woman a kiss on the cheek. Then, with a quick smile, he opened the door and stepped out into the cold day. From the door window, Miss Wanda watched as her new friend greeted his roommate on the porch, and the two hurriedly made 66

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster their way to Sam’s car. When the car had been cranked and began to disappear into the distance, Miss Wanda stepped away and looked back into the front room of her home. Then, quite eagerly, she sat to finish her bourbon on the rocks.


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Back in Newark, Matt climbed into the shower, cleansing the body that felt so dirty. And it wasn’t just his body. For some reason, he felt dirty. Last night’s date was still foggy to say the least, but now he somewhat remembered making it to the club. Still, he did not remember disappearing with another man, as Donny had suggestion. Something about the story simply did not add up. Stepping from the shower, he towel-dried himself and moved to the mirror above the sink. Wiping the fog away, he stared at his tired, drawn reflection. His five o’clock shadow was rough, and his eyes held deep bags and dark circles beneath. This was from sleeping outside in the snow, he imagined as he shot evil eyes at the reflection, and therefor, at himself. Wrapping the towel around his body, he opened the bathroom door and stepped down the hall to his bedroom. His room was right next to Sam’s, and Sam’s door was closed. This was odd, as normally when Matt was in the shower, Sam was close by, ready to sneak any peek that was offered. Shrugging the roommate’s absence off, he stepped into his room and shut his door. Dropping the towel to the ground, he moved to his dresser and pulled free a pair of boxer shorts. Swiftly, he donned them with a t-shirt, stepped into his house slippers, and moved back into the hallway. In the living room, he finally found Sam sitting on the sofa. “I really think you should call Donny and apologize,” he said, quite crudely. “The man takes you out on a nice date and you ditch him…” “But I didn’t ditch him,” Matt protested. “At least, I don’t think I did…” 68

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “It’s no wonder you don’t date. You can’t even remember who you screwed the next day.” “Either way, I’m not calling him back. He left me stranded out there with no phone or coat. I woke up in the snow. I slept in the snow.” “You probably ended up with one of those dirty project thugs and don’t want to admit it,” the man snapped, sipping his homemade margarita. “Then, I had to drive all the way to Nashville just to pick you up. Couldn’t even have your trick bring you home…” “There was no trick!” Matt protested again, growing tired of the accusations. “I told you in the car. I don’t remember what happened last night.” “Sure… Just like when Bill Clinton couldn’t remember when he slept with that woman…” “Now that’s enough!” the agitated man insisted. “What do you want me to do, huh?” “I want you to call Donny and apologize…” “Well, that’s not going to happen…” Seeing that he was getting nowhere with Sam, Matt disappeared back into his bedroom, dressed in a pair of jeans – an old pair of jeans – and grabbed his wallet, trench coat, and cellular. Then, storming wordlessly through the hallway and into the living room, he pulled open the front door, stepped out into the hallway, and slammed the door shut behind him. “Some thanks I get!” Sam shouted after him. “See if I pick you up again!” Matt heard none of this, as he had already begun the trek down the steps to the complex’s lobby. In the lobby, he past by the doorman in silence, stepping out into the cold, mid-afternoon winter’s day. It was then that he realized he had forgotten his car keys, and instead of hiking back up to the apartment and facing Sam’s irrational rage again, he decided it best to move by foot. He was heading to a bar, so it was probably best that he was 69

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster walking. The law strictly prohibited anyone drinking even one drink and then operating a vehicle. He had been arrested for this twice, and he’d be damned if it would happen a third time. Easing down his avenue and venturing onto Clark Street, he followed this road by the light of the moon as it rose over the setting sun and the dim street lamps that flickered quickly to life, until he reached Stewart Street, turned a right, and hurried down to Main Street. Here, he pushed against the snow until he reached downtown. There was a new bar on the street named Michael’s, and though he had been leery of it before, he had finally found the nerve to go inside. He needed a drink – no matter how much bullshit the locals would be dishing inside. Opening the front door, he stepped inside and found the place less crowded than he had imagined. There were four or five tables full of people – each engaging in their own private conversations. At the bar, only three stools were taken. Moving unnoticed through the center walk, Matt stepped up to the counter and took a seat upon one of the stools. It took the bartender just a moment to notice that he was there, but shortly, the thin, tiny woman approached him, snapping her bubble gum and flipping her cap backwards. “What’ll it be, newblood,” she grumbled, making audible note that she had never seen his face before. “Just a beer,” he said quietly, refusing to make eye contact. “Whatever’s fine… just in a bottle.” “Coming right up…” Pulling a cigarette from his pocket, he found he was down to four, and lighting the first of these, he enjoyed its trickle down his throat and the soft burn as it reached his lungs. A moment later, the tender sat the beer down before him, relaxing on her elbows with slanted, careless eyes. “Six fifty…” she grumbled, waiting with tapping, impatient fingers as Matt pulled a fiver free from his wallet. Adding to it six quarters, he smiled and pushed the cash to her. 70

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “Thanks,” he grinned, sipping from his beer. “Yeah, whatever,” she smirked, dropping the money into the register. “I’ll be over there if you want another.” And sluggishly, she moved down to the far end of the bar and resumed a conversation with the large, bubbly woman that she’d been talking to when Matt entered. He watched them for a moment as he sipped on his beer and toked on his cigarette. When speaking to this woman, the bartender appeared rather happy. Yet, when she had to deal with a customer and was pulled away from her lady love, she took a bitter, tough approach. This amused Matt in a way. He had always wondered how people could act differently around different people and never as themselves. He, on the other hand, had never played “roles”, so to speak. He was himself no matter where he was or who he talked to… This thought made him cringe. Partially – if not fully – it was a lie. He was rarely, if ever, himself. Every moment of every day of his life, he took on the persona of a different man – a gay man – and despite the teachings and brain washings he’d experienced at the Straight and Narrow, he was – very much – a heterosexual. To have actually spoken the word out loud would have gotten him ushered from the bar, and if the townspeople knew, he would be forced from his small, comfortable burg. This was a gay man’s world, and there was no room for straighties in it. Again he cringed, and with a sudden nervousness, he finished his cigarette and snubbed it out. Many questions filled his mind and as they were sudden, they frightened him. What if the people in this bar could tell he was straight? What if he let off some sort of straight vibe or had a certain look about him that would make him seem straight? What if that was what the bartender was laughing with her friend about? They knew he was straight, and they were downing him like there was no tomorrow… “No…” he whispered, taking a swig of his beer. “No one knows… I’m being foolish…” 71

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “You say something?” the bartender asked, nearing him closer. “No, sorry,” he smiled awkwardly. “I was – sadly enough – just mumbling to myself.” “Ha,” she grinned, smiling at him for the first time. “When you start answering yourself, let me know. That way, I can cut you off.” Winking her humor at him, she sat another beer before him. Then, she added, “I’ll just start a tab. You seem like an honest boy.” “That’s kind of you,” he said, raising his fresh bottle a bit and sipping from it. The bartender smiled one more time and disappeared back to her chubby, giggly friend. Matt watched them for a minute longer, sipping on his beer and feeling the pressure against his bladder. Standing, he caught the bartender’s attention once more and ushered that he was going to the restroom – not skipping out – and she nodded her approval and pointed in the direction of the little faerie’s room. Thankfully, he nodded and hurried in the direction of her finger, spotting the men’s room just around a corner near the video game machines. Glancing at The Super Mario Twinks, he considered playing a game but decided that the urge to urinate was stronger and the game would have to wait a moment. Hurrying into the men’s room, he took the first of two empty urinals and stood beside a tall man in military garb. The man offered Matt a grunt and a nod of the head. Then, shutting his eyes, he returned silently to his piss. Matt did the same, closing his eyes and tilting his head back… feeling the warm relief as his bladder slowly became emptied. When he opened his eyes again, he caught the military man watching him and barely saw the man’s erection before he tucked it back into his pants and rushed out of the restroom. “Damn…” Matt groaned, shaking himself and tucking himself back into his jeans. “Can’t a man even take a piss anymore?” Washing his hands, Matt waited at the sink a moment, giving the man plenty of time to head back to wherever he was going 72

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster before stepping back into the bar. Figuring he had given him enough time, he took a deep breath and opened the door, and remembering the game in the hallway, he fished a couple of quarters from it and started toward it. At the game, he found the military man standing, fully indulged in the Super Mario Twinks. Dropping the quarters back into his pocket, Matt decided against the game and turned the corner towards the bar counter. There, he collided with the waitress. “I’m so sorry!” he cried as the tray fell from her arms and she tumbled down to the ground. “Oh my… I did not mean to do that…” “Really,” the girl said, looking down at her tray of toppled, empty glasses. “It’s fine… I was just taking them to the washroom…” Taking her hand to help her up, Matt caught his first glimpse of her face, and in a brief state of shock, he let go of her and sent her slipping back to the ground. “Amy…” he whispered, finding that he could say no more. He had, as with the last time he saw her, been rendered speechless. “Matthew,” she whispered, catching the familiar look in the man’s eyes. “Matthew Grey…? Is that you?” “Amy…” he repeated one more time, and then softly – with memories of prom and the Straight and Narrow all flooding back to him – he reached for his chest and fainted.


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Weakly and with bleary eyes, Matt came to with Amy’s voice. “Matthew,” she asked, gently patting his cheek. “Matthew…” “It’s Matt,” he said, finally opening his eyes. They fell immediately into Amy’s. “But you can call me whatever you want…” She smiled at his remark, and as he began to stand, she let him raise his head from her lap where she had cradled it. “You fainted…” she whispered, as if he didn’t know. “Was I out long?” he asked, standing tall and wiping against his blurred eyes. “Not long… twenty seconds… No one even knows you fainted.” “Good,” he sighed, looking into her wide eyes. “That would have been embarrassing.” “It would have cost me my job,” she smiled, standing quickly. “This is my fourth spill this month.” “We’re only the second week into it…” “I know,” she sighed, still smiling. “I’m not a very good waitress, I’m afraid.” Straightening himself on his own two feet, he grinned at her shyly. “I don’t know about that,” he whispered, gleaming into her eyes. “If I hadn’t knocked you down, that tray would have made it all the way to the kitchen… No doubt.” Amy laughed at this, finding herself blushing in front of this one time familiar friend. Looking down at the tray of scattered glasses that she had regathered, she lifted it into her hands and smiled brightly. “Let me get these to the washroom,” she said. “Then, I’d really like to catch up.” 74

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “That would be nice,” he whispered, watching her move past him and through the double doors of the washroom. When she was out of sight, he swooned. “Amy…” he whispered, reflecting on a night so long ago. “Wow…” She returned a moment later with an empty tray. Quickly, she removed her apron and balled it up on her arm. With a large smile, she stood eagerly before Matt. “I didn’t get you fired, did I?” he asked, wondering what was up. “Not at all,” she grinned. “I’m actually off duty now. I pulled a double yesterday, so this is a half day…” “I need to pay for my drinks, but I’d love to take a walk with you.” The familiar voice and face made Amy gleam and she hurriedly agreed. Matt stepped away from her long enough to pay his tab and offer the waitress a tip – a bit larger than ten cents a drink. When he turned away from the bar, Amy was beside the door and waiting. He moved slowly to her, reminding himself to pretend that she was just a friend. But then again, wasn’t she just a friend? Outside, they walked two blocks past the bar before Matt stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. By instinct, he pulled free a cigarette and lit it. Then, remembering his company, he offered Amy one – which she graciously accepted. “I’ve been wanting one of these since my shift started,” she said, lighting it from the flame as Matt struck the lighter. “Sort of like old times, eh?” he asked, tucking the lighter back into his pocket. “Yeah… Just a different time and a different place…” “And we’re older,” he added, grinning. “Nine years older, actually.” “You know, it’s funny…” Amy chimed as they began to walk again. It was dark outside now, and the snow was still falling. “After that night, I never saw you again. Not in class… not at 75

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster graduation. Not even during the summer. I really didn’t think I’d ever see you again.” “I wondered the same thing about you,” he admitted. “Many times.” “So what happened after Principal Wilson caught us? Where’d you go?” Falling silent for a small moment, he took another drag from his cigarette. Then, still walking, he asked, “You ever heard of the Straight and Narrow?” “That’s that Christian camp, right? The one they send straight people to in order to cure them?” “I spent four months there. The principal called my father the moment I ran off, and when I got home, Dad had already made the arrangements to have me sent off. The lady from the camp – Miss Eloise – arrived at the house with her brutes shortly after I did, and the next thing I knew I was waking up at the camp.” “That sounds terrible…” “You don’t know the half of it…” Rounding a corner, Matt sat down on a bench, ushering for Amy to join him. When she did, he continued his story. “There were nine of us when I got there. There would have been twelve, but three of them had been kicked out just before my arrival. They hadn’t given in to the system… In other words, they hadn’t been broken. That’s what they do to you there. They break you.” Amy shuddered with his words. A piece of her knew that, had it not been for her, Matt never would have been sent there. With ringing ears, she listened heavily. “The first couple of weeks were probably the worst,” he continued, swallowing hard. “For the first five days, I was kept in isolation – unable to mingle with or even meet the other boys at camp. I had to be sterilized, as they called it. It’s sort of like when you quit smoking. You have to wait a few days before the nicotine’s out of your system. They say the same thing about straightness. Eventually, it will just be out of your system…Well, 76

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster after a few days of being locked in small rooms, alone with ministers and teachers who read only from the bible and spoke nothing else… I was ready to claim that the straightness was leaving me just so I could go. There was no sleep during this. They stayed with me in shifts and read all day and night. The only food was bread and water… Men are treated better in prisons…” “Especially since they just got the new padded toilet seats,” Amy grinned, trying to force humor into the conversation. At this, she failed. “When I was finally able to meet the other boys, I was introduced with shame. They were warned to keep their distance from me, as I still had the sin in me. I was beat up twice that first day after meeting the others. They beat me up again every day for the next four days. And when they weren’t beating me, they were raping me. They claimed it was what they were supposed to be doing… Having sex with men. Me… I lost my virginity there – by six of the nine guys. I never wanted it, but I was given it anyway.” “That’s awful…” she whispered. “That’s life…” he grimaced. “The beatings and rapes stopped after the end of my second week, when another poor lost boy was brought to camp. He became their new prey, and I just sat along the sidelines and watched… quietly… biding my time. “They taught bogus classes like how to cook, clean, sew, and shop… Things all people should know how to do, but they classified them as gay qualities and insisted that heterosexuals could not handle such things. Then, we were each set up on dates – with each other, of course – and graded on our date performance. These included viewing foreign films and musicals in the movie room, preparing supper for each other, making small talk, and naturally, kissing. Sadly enough, I was graded poorly on that one.” Amy laughed at this, and it made Matt smile too. He looked at 77

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster her for an interlude before continuing – remembering the moment he had stared into her eyes under the light of the moon so many years ago. She looked then quite like she did tonight – stunning. “And then what happened?” she asked, breaking the silence and Matt’s concentration over her beauty. “And then… I was eventually let go. I had graduated to the status of a homosexual. Two of the guys in my group weren’t so lucky. They eventually just refused to participate in activities – kissing the other guys, cooking the meals… They were forced to stay an extra term, as the camp refused to give up on anymore of their projects. The day I left, they were each sentenced to eight more days of sterilization… I heard later that one died from this, but it’s never been clarified.” “That’s so tragic,” Amy sighed, and more importantly, she meant it. “Most people who know about the camp and others like it don’t see anything wrong with it. One less straight person is one less problem for our society. One less predator to attack our children… One less bum to feed in the soup kitchen… One less outcast, killed and buried with the taxpayer’s money. One less sin in God’s holy world.” “But you survived,” she said, turning to him and giving in to his deep eyes. They glistened helplessly through the light of the street lamps “You got out and now look at you!” “I’m a single construction worker who can’t even remember where I was last night.” Turning his face from her, he pulled out his final cigarette and lit it. “When I got out, my father wouldn’t even take me back. My straightness had leaked out to members of the church, and I was a shame to him. The day I went home, I found all the locks had been changed and there was a new little boy occupying my room. Dad had adopted during my sentence at the camp, and I was no longer his son. So, having nowhere left to turn, I hitched my way to Tennessee and here I am.” Taking a long drag from the cigarette, he passed it to Amy. She 78

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster took it easily and brought it to her mouth, taking a slow hit. Then, passing it back to Matt, she found herself at a loss for words. Matt was quick to change this. “So, what about you?” he asked, gazing intently into her eyes. “Where’s life taken you, other than Michael’s Bar…?” “Well,” she sighed, looking down to her feet. “After that night at the prom, I stayed with Andrea for a little while. Then, after graduation, we got an apartment together. We each got jobs, and we rarely ever saw each other… One day, two years into this, I came home from my shift and caught her in bed with another woman… To be honest, I didn’t really care. I was with Andrea for convenience, but neither of us was happy. This just gave us an excuse to end it, and I’ve been waiting tables ever since. I left Texas for the same reason you did. There was nothing left for me there. So, I followed a friend to Memphis, waited at a couple of bars there, and eventually I worked my way out this way. I thought I could go to Nashville and become someone famous – a singer or a dancer. Instead, I ended up here. I was head waitress for the Newark Chop House until they closed a few months ago, and now I’m at Michael’s, and I’m realizing how bad at it I really am…” “How bad you are at waiting?” Matt asked, edging closer to her. “How bad I am at life,” she corrected, laughing just a bit. “I gave up going to college because Andrea wanted me to. It’s too late to pursue my career as a star singing and dancing, and I’ve gotten a little too good at busing tables and cleaning up vomit off of restroom walls.” “Are you any good at it?” he questioned, forming a smile over his lips. “At what?” “Singing and dancing, of course.” She offered him a smirk and a bat of the eyes, edging softly in her spot. “A little,” she replied, looking away. “Do you 79

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster remember the year I won our school’s talent competition?” “Yeah,” he laughed, nodding his head. “You performed What’s New, Pussycat. If I remember correctly, you were a hit.” “I had more girl’s phone numbers than I cared to count by the end of the day.” When she giggled, it was impressive and it sent Matt’s heart fluttering. She looked at him again, took his hand in hers, and asked, “You don’t happen to have another cigarette do you?” “Still the social smoker?” he questioned. “No… I quit years ago… There’s just something about you that makes me want them.” “I’ll take that as a compliment,” he said, strengthening the connection between their hands. “I’ll also sadly inform you that that was my last one a little bit ago… There’s a store just down the road though. We can get more.” “Just down from that is the movie theater,” Amy added, factually. “While we’re down that way, it’d be a shame not to take in a film.” “It would be a sin,” she giggled, squeezing his hand again and following along as he led her across the dead intersection.


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At the theater, they sat through a romantic comedy starring two of Glamourwood’s hottest leading men. When the film ended, both Matt and Amy were nearing tears. Both pushed the feelings away though, so as to not be embarrassed when seen by the other. They realized this when they looked at each other as the credits began to roll. Then, in a hysterical laugh, they each let their tears fly. Stepping out of the theater, they moved out to the sidewalk and the moonlit night, watching their shadows lengthen as they began to walk down the street. It was colder now, and more snow continued to fall. Neither of them could remember ever seeing so much of it in all their lives. In Texas, they had never been graced with it, and Tennessee usually seemed to limit itself with no more than an inch or two here and there, and almost always after Christmas… sometimes in March or April. “I should have worn a heavier coat,” Amy admitted, trying her best to warm herself as they walked. “I just didn’t think it would be so cold.” “Here,” Matt offered, removing his trench coat and draping it over her shoulders. “That’ll keep you warm.” “But you’ll freeze now…” “I don’t know,” he grinned, looking into her eyes. “You’ve got me pretty warm.” Amy blushed at his comment and looked back down the sidewalk. The few people who had stepped from the theater with them had disappeared now, all off to their cars or the various side roads leading to their homes. Matt and Amy, however, had no destination in mind as they walked. They simply strolled along, side by side, enjoying the cool of the night and the fall of the 82

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster snow. They turned a corner onto Lightning Avenue and stepped up to a small coffee shop. Inside, few people sat, scattered about from booth to booth. For the most part, though, it was relatively empty and the perfect place for the two to unwind after the movie. “Coffee?” Matt asked her, cocking an eyebrow. “I’m a hot chocolate sort of girl,” Amy countered with a challenging laughter. “Hot chocolate it is.” Opening the door, he let her enter first, and moving through behind her, he followed her to a booth at the far end of the diner near a window. There, the two sat quietly, gazing out at the snow falling just on the other side of the thin glass. When the waiter approached, Amy and Matt both spilled off their order. “A hot chocolate,” she smiled pleasantly. “And a cup of coffee,” Matt added, tossing on, “and two cheesecakes,” at the last minute. “Cheesecake?” she asked him as the waiter disappeared. “We have to eat.” His voice held just as much of a challenge in it as her own had, and she had to give in to him. When the cheesecake arrived, she ate heartily. There was not a lot of small talk involved in this trip to the coffee shop. Matt and Amy both sipped their drinks in silence, barely making a bit of noise when they chewed on the cheesecake. It wasn’t until Matt pulled his fresh pack of cigarettes out that the two conversed again. Automatically removing two cigarettes and passing one over to Amy, Matt struck the flame to light them both. Tucking the lighter away, he leaned back in his seat and smiled coyly. From his first drag, the smoke trailed around his head in a circle and Amy could not help but laugh at him. “You think I’m funny, eh?” he asked, crinkling his eyebrows but still continuing to smile. “You are funny!” she giggled, covering her mouth as she let a 83

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster snort escape through her laughter. “Oh, my!” she cackled, gaining realization of the snort and accidentally letting another slip through during the outburst. “Oh, man…” Matt laughed, enjoying the sight as his long-lost friend turning red in the face. “I did not do that!” she insisted, trying her best to control herself and swallowing hard. “I didn’t!” “Whatever,” he said, still laughing but not as heavily. “You know, it’s been a long time since someone’s made me laugh like that.” Amy caught the look in his eyes, but she did not say anything. Instead, she smiled and took another drag from her smoke. “Thank you,” Matt added, very seriously. The waiter returned then with their check and Matt paid quickly. Then, snubbing his cigarette out and waiting for Amy to do the same, he stood and extended a hand for her. She accepted, and the two moved hand in hand out the door… without thinking about it, of course. They received cocky glances from the waiter and the cook, the man behind the counter and the customers seated at it, the few tables that were full and the stragglers that were entering off of the street. And when they had stepped outside and the door shut behind them, conversation immediately started up about the breeders, and all eyes followed them down the sidewalk, until the couple disappeared into the dark of night. “This was fun,” Amy whispered a few blocks down the road. “I’m glad we bumped into each other,” Matt replied, and then with a smile, he added, “figuratively and literally.” “Yeah,” she laughed, looking to her feet. “One more cigarette?” he asked as he pulled the pack free. Offering her one, she took it; he lit it. Lighting his own, he returned the pack and the two walked down another few feet, out of the light of the street lamp that had built a bright glow over their snowy bodies. “I’ve really got to get home,” Amy said sadly, rolling her eyes 84

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster up to the sky. “I had a great time with you though. I wish tomorrow wasn’t another work day. We could hang out a little longer.” “Perhaps we could do this again sometime.” “I pull a double tomorrow, but I get off at five on Tuesday.” Her answer was rushed, as if she had been preparing it and simply waiting for Matt to propose the opportunity to use it. “I’ll be there early,” he said, stepping a bit closer to her. “So I can look at you more…” Then, closing his eyes, he leaned in and kissed her. For just a moment, this threw Amy off, but then she remembered the feeling of their kiss so long ago, and this was too familiar not to enjoy. So, she embraced it, realizing shortly into it that it felt even better than she remembered. So much, in fact, that she never wanted it to end. Eventually, however, the kiss did come to an end, and as Amy lowered herself back down off of her tiptoes and onto her heels, Matt opened his eyes and grinned wider than a happy child on Christmas morning. “Wow…” he whispered, touching the corner of his lips. “We were able to finish this time and everything… No Principal Wilson to sneak up and scare us.” “Did we finish?” Amy asked, and again, she lifted up on her toes and pressed her lips back again his, caressing his face and running one hand along his back. Goosebumps rose across both of them, mixing with the cold and snow as it embraced their bodies. This kiss lasted a bit longer than the one before it, and Matt was certain that the snow around them would surely melt. With this kiss, neither of them closed their eyes. Their eyes remained connected to each other – not blinking… not flinching… not breaking. This kiss was more than just a kiss of passion and teenage memories. There was something a bit more special behind this one, only neither of them could place a finger on exactly what that was. Regardless, the kiss made them feel 85

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster something neither of them had felt in a very long time. It made them feel truly, genuinely happy. And for just a moment, it was wondered if they also felt love – and the feeling of being loved. Pulling away one more time, Matt stepped back a few paces, as to not get caught up in yet another magical embrace. He felt speechless now – a feeling he often found himself harboring when around this girl… this woman. “I… I really have to go now,” Amy said, blushing and turning her head away. “But you’ll remember Tuesday?” “I could never forget it…” Matt whispered, still in awe at the beauty of the creature that had kissed and caressed him. Before he could say another word, Amy offered one last, perfect smile, and then turned to walk, quickly disappearing into the shadows of downtown Newark. Realizing his cigarette had burned down again, he flicked the butt to the street before it burned his fingers, and instantly, he lit another one. He no longer cared if he smelled like cigarette smoke when he returned home. On this night, Sam could screw himself, for all he cared. His thoughts were with Amy and no one else. After his stint at the Straight and Narrow, he never thought he would see her again, but on this day, Fate had intervened and joined the two together. There was no other explanation for it that he could find. The Fates had, indeed, conspired. He believed this was why the military man had been at the video game at Michael’s Bar. Had the game been available, Matt surely would have played it and he never would have bumped into Amy. She would have simply passed by unnoticed, safely delivering her tray of dishes to the washroom, clocking out, and going home. But the Fates, however... they had had different plans… Deciding that he enjoyed this thought, he smiled to himself, briefly reflecting again over the passionate kisses, and began his trek back to his apartment. He finished his cigarette less than half way, but just to spite Sam on the off chance that he was home and 86

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster awake, he lit another one when he reached the complex. He wanted to smell like cigarettes tonight. It was the one scent that would forever remind him of Amy, and he wanted the scent on his body as long as possible. Finally sucking down the last of the smoke, he flicked the butt into the bushes, blew the last puff out of his lungs, and hurried into the warm complex and out of the snowy, cold night.


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Opening the door to the apartment, Matt found Sam just where he had left him – on the sofa. The man had fallen asleep in his feathered robe and nothing else, apparently watching the adult video that played muted on the television. Soundlessly, Matt approached the television, shut it off, and then pulled the hem of Sam’s robe back over his legs. There were some things that he just did not need to see. As he ventured into the kitchen, he heard Sam stir on the sofa behind him. Ignoring the man, Matt opened the refrigerator and drank directly from the grape juice bottle. “Is something burning…” Sam asked, half asleep and still in a daze. “I smell smoke…” “It’s cigarette smoke,” Matt announced, rather loudly. “It’s my new scent. I hope you like it. You’ll be smelling it often.” This woke Sam up completely and he leapt from the sofa and faced the kitchen, his robe hanging wide open. “Could you close that please?” Matt asked, glancing down to the man’s exposed groin. “I think I might like to eat at some point again in the future, and I don’t need that vision clogging up my mind.” “You’ve been smoking, disappearing on dates, and venturing off to god knows where at all hours…” It was obvious that Sam was a bit more than mad. “And now you start insulting me. Who are you? What have you done with my nice, quiet Matt? I want him back and I want him now.” “Get over yourself,” he laughed, moving past him and stepping to the front closet to hang his coat up. It was then that he realized he was without it. It was still draped over Amy’s shoulders. “Lose something?” the roommate asked snottily. 88

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “No…” Matt replied, shutting the closet door. “Everything’s just as it should be.” “You’re full of revelations tonight…” “I’m full of life.” “So… where were you, anyway?” “Well,” he began. “If you must know, I ran into an old friend from high school.” “Here in Newark? But you went to school in Texas.” “People move,” he said, roaming back to the kitchen to fix himself a strong drink. “They have dreams and aspirations, and they chase them. At least some do…” “So, what are your aspirations?” Sam’s tone was flat and sterile. “My aspirations are to finally become an adult and not have to answer to my friends,” Matt grinned, passing by Sam one more time, turning down the hallway, and shutting himself in his bedroom. Sam remained in the living room – outraged – but he did not follow him. Instead, he released a great huff, turned the television back on, laid back on the sofa, and picked up on his movie where he had left off. “You should really get a date!” Matt yelled from his bedroom, knowing exactly what Sam was getting back to. “I don’t need a date!” the man retaliated. “My hands are warm and it’s cold outside.” Inside his bedroom, Matt collapsed exhausted on his bed. He had been awake and full of life when with Amy, but now he felt wiped out. Either she had drained his energy or Sam had, one. It didn’t really matter though. Matt was still in a trancelike state of heaven. Laying back against his pillows, he closed his eyes and thought of the girl that had made him swoon. He remembered how she was nine years ago – young, fresh, full of hope and life… Then, he remembered her today. She was still young, but the freshness, hope, and vitality seemed to have vanished somewhat. Life had 89

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster been hard on her – just as it had been on him. In Amy’s case, she had lived every day working and simply trying to make due, having no time for love or romance or life or music… the things she seemed to love. For Matt, it was quite the same. He, too, had been rejected by life, warned that he was different and not accepted. And therefore, to the world outside, he was not really alive. He was no more than a disease that the majority of the population continuously searched for a cure for. He was a plague… a sickness… Whether he told everybody or not, he was still their worst nightmare. He was straight. Now, his smile curved down to a frown and he felt a familiar old headache beginning to pound against his brain. Rubbing his temples for a moment, he rolled onto his side and opened his eyes. Lying in this position, he faced his dresser mirror. His image was still tired and drawn like it had been earlier, but the vacancy in his eyes seemed to be filling. Despite the sad twists their lives had gone through, Amy had been delivered back to him, and that gave him hope for a better life. Still, even with Amy’s return, there was a burden over him. This burden was new and fresh. It was the burden of loving someone that he knew he shouldn’t have… couldn’t have… but wanted. This want was riskier than any other he had felt before. He had been hiding in his closet, shielding himself from this want for years now. Running from it. And now, if he chose to be with Amy, he would be hiding from the consequences of the want. No matter what he did, he would be hiding... running... flinching from the fear that would always surround him. Pushing these bad thoughts to the back of his mind, he smiled at the thought of a fantasy life with Amy. They would live in a small house in the country with a farm, animals, and crops that they would grow with their own two hands. He thought of the children they would have. He would impregnate her himself, of course. There would be no clinics and mechanical impregnations. That would be completely out of the question. He 90

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster wanted to do it himself where the children would be real and his. He thought of breakfasts together at the dining room table and late nights snuggled up in front of the television, watching sitcoms or dramatic movies. When they would tuck the children in to bed at night, they would do it together… telling them a story or singing them a song. Amy loved to sing and he knew that she would do it beautifully, sending their children into a magical wonderland of sleep and fairy tale dreams. This was a fairy tale dream, he thought, forcing the images of his happy family out of his head. There was no sense in dreaming about children that would never be, houses that would never exist, and a marriage that was forbidden, illegal, and considered a sin. There would be no family breakfasts or romantic nights on the sofa… Not knowingly, anyway… not by many people. No, his thoughts, dreams, and desires of Amy had to remain in his head. He couldn’t tell a soul. Not Sam… not his coworkers… no one. He had a whole day and a half left before he would see Amy again, so settling down and clicking off his lamp, he closed his eyes to venture to sleep. He hoped to sleep until the very moment when he was to meet Amy again, but he knew this wouldn’t happen. Sam wouldn’t allow it, and neither would his boss. He had to work in the morning, but currently he did not care. The last vision to fill his head before he fell asleep was that of Amy and how she looked in the moment that they kissed... Not the first time at senior prom. How she looked tonight...


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The day and a half seemed to last forever. Sam had remained quite snooty towards Matt, only speaking to him when it was absolutely necessary. He was still quite bitter for Matt not calling Donny to apologize for running out on him, but for the life of him, Matt could not remember running out on him. In fact, he knew he didn’t do it, but he couldn’t prove it. Sam liked having evidence, and as long as Matt could not prove himself innocent, he was guilty. This suited Matt just fine. The less he spoke to Sam, the better. The two had been friends for a long time, but eventually, he knew that they would take a bitter road. Sam was too moody and very emotional, and his friendship was a demanding one. Matt no longer felt like giving into his demands. Eventually, Tuesday rolled around and Matt woke with a terrible rush. He knew that the day would pass by as normal, but everything seemed to go fast paced for him. He had work to do at a new shopping development. His team had crafted the structure of the building by mid-fall, and now they were adding the finishing touches. The project promised to be over by Christmas, and the shifts had been cut down to only five hour days due to the unusual weather. All and all, it was a relatively easy job for Matt, but it stood in between now and the moment when he would see Amy again. That simply did not suit him right, but there was nothing that he could do about it. So, breezing past a silent Sam on the sofa, he hurried out the door, rushed from the complex, and arrived at work twenty minutes early. His foreman was already there, and he was allowed to get an early start. This, with any hope, would get him off early for the day. If he got off early, he could shop for flowers and candy… maybe a card or a new winter coat for 92

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster Amy… “No…” he whispered to himself as he began his work on the drywall. “If I show up with all that stuff, people will start to wonder… More likely, they’ll know what’s up…” “What’s that, Grey?” Mason Diggs asked from beside him. The two had worked together on many projects in the past, and this was one of the only times Matt could ever remember him speaking to him. “Sorry about that, Mason,” he replied with a half smile. “I guess I’m just rambling off at the mouth today.” “You seem hurried,” the man argued, noticing the sloppy application of his work. “Clear your head, man. You want to stop for a breathing exercise?” “I’m fine,” he smiled, patching up the area he had botched. “I’ve just had a rough couple of days.” “You were like this yesterday too,” the construction worker continued, setting his palate down. “Anything you want to talk about?” Thinking a moment, he said, “Yeah…” Then, stopping his work all together and staring into the crystal blue eyes of the muscular worker, his face went blank. It was apparent he was searching carefully for his words. “I have a friend,” he began with the old cop-out line. “He’s in love with somebody, and due to many circumstances, he knows it’s best that they not get together. Yet, he can’t help himself. He’s really in love…” “And he came to you for help?” Mason asked, almost laughing. “From what I understand, you’re like the ultimate, forever bachelor. Rumor has it you’ve never even dated.” “So?” Matt asked, a bit thrown back. “So,” the man continued, “why would he ask you anyway? That’s like asking a breeder to suck you off. He simply won’t know how. Just like you, I bet. You don’t know how to answer your friend, so you’ve come to the best, most obvious choice of romantic advice… Moi.” 93

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster Matt wanted to tell him to mind his own business and that he didn’t come to him for advice. Mason had wormed the problem out of him. But he did not say any of this, and instead, he relaxed and listened. “Well, here you’re getting a special treat, Grey!” Mason said impressively, as if his advice was something highly valued. “I don’t usually talk to people – share my secrets and all. That would mean less men for me, you know!” His laughter was annoying, but Matt still listened with a patient grin. “Tell him, no matter what the reasons for staying away from this boy, your friend should go for him! Don’t let one moment pass! Not one, man! Get him, nail him, and in the morning if he’s still there, fix him breakfast. If it feels right, do it. It’s as simple as that.” “And the consequences?” “Screw the consequences. We only live once, Grey. And if we can’t be happy in life, then what’s the point in living?” Ironically enough, Mason’s advice made some sense and Matt accepted it with a nodding head. “That sound good?” the handsome worker asked, waiting for some kind of verbal response. “That sounds perfect,” Matt whispered, looking into the sparkling blue eyes. “I’ll relay the message to my friend.” “You do that,” he grinned, winking an eye. “And if you ever need anything… else, you just come to Daddy Mason.” Smooching at him through the air, Mason laughed heartily and returned back to his work. A moment later, Matt did the same, but his co-worker’s words rang throughout his mind for the rest of his shift. At two-thirty, he was free to leave. It had begun to snow again, and he shivered against it as he initialed his timecard and stepped out to the street. The sun was bright, yet it did nothing to shield against the snow. Wrapping his hands around his arms, he rubbed against the thin jacket he had found in his closet and reminded himself to keep an eye out for his coat when he saw Amy. He 94

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster wouldn’t ask for it back – never. She was welcome to keep it and wear it as long as she liked. He simply hoped she’d offer it back. It was, after all, cold. Turning down Main Street, he followed the sidewalk to the Millie Mike's Gift Shop, where he stepped into the warmth of the heated store. The old man behind the counter nodded his hello and asked him how he was doing. Matt returned the gesture with a nod of his head and one single word… cold. They both shared a quick, uncomfortable laugh from this and Matt began to stroll aimlessly throughout the shop. He was on the lookout for a nice, inconspicuous gift for Amy. Flowers, jewelry, and candy were simply out of the question. Then, people would know… He checked out the teddy bears and glanced at the greeting cards. At one point, he considered buying her incense and a burner, but then he feared of allergies, and he did not want his gift to kill her. Finally, against a wall at the far end of the shop, he spotted his heart’s desire. Made out of genuine leather with a pure wool lining, he lifted the heavy coat into his hands and brought it up to his nose. Smelling it, he sighed deeply. It was heaven. The coloring and appearance were like that of a warm bomber’s jacket, but the style was modern, the stitch-work more sophisticated, and the cuddle effect was definitely a lot higher. Checking the sizes, he removed two from the rack – one a medium and one an extra large – and he carried them up to the checkout counter. “Someone’s going to have a good night,” the old man said, taking the coats to ring them up. “These are the best coats around. They’re comfortable, can be dry cleaned, and they’ll last you forever. They’re imported from Europe, so you know the quality is good.” Matt smiled but said nothing as the man rang him up. Then, pulling his wallet free, he readied himself for the total. “That’ll be six hundred and twenty-five even,” the man said in a matter of fact voice. 95

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “Do you take plastic?” he asked, seeing only six eighty dollar bills and three twenty-twos. “If it’ll spend, we’ll take it.” Pulling out his purple bank card, he passed it over and watched as a portion of his account was quickly drained. The coats were quite a bit more than he had wanted to spend, and the federal fashion tax had set the cost even higher. There was also the fact that he had just bought clothes recently, so this splurge was sudden and unexpected to him. But… one of these coats was for Amy, and lately he felt as if he would do anything in the world for her. Leaving his coat in the bag with hers, he headed back out into the cold and edged down to the liquor store. There, he purchased a mid-level bottle of merlot, a cork screw, and two plastic wine glasses. Then, for his final stop, he bought a blanket and a large basket at the This and That store off of the town square. Placing each of his purchases into the basket, he headed towards his ultimate destination – Michael’s Bar and his beloved Amy. Through the smoky front windows, he could see her, busing what appeared to be her last table. Another waitress was on duty, working her way through the thin crowd of customers, all seated at random tables and spread throughout the room. As Amy lifted her tray of dishes, she caught Matt’s gaze through the window and returned his smile. Then, glancing down to her watch, she mouthed “two minutes.” Matt nodded his okay and watched as she moved across the floor, turning the corner and disappearing from his vision. Then, turning away from the window, he leaned against the brick of the building, looked up to the sky above, and sighed contently. The vision of her through the window had been wonderful and quite a surprise, as he had thought he would have had to search the bar for her. And now, in a minute and… twenty seconds, she would be standing right there with him, on the streets where he could see her beautiful features up close and… with any hope, in a personal 96

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster manner. When the door opened, he nearly jumped. In a hurry, he rushed over to meet her. She smiled at him with gracious eyes and an aura that made Matt’s head spin. “Come with me,” Matt said, taking her hand and leading her down the sidewalk, around a corner, and down another long walkway. Finally, they made one more turn and arrived at Matt’s destination – Newark City Park. On this cold, wintry day, the park was nearly empty, and to Matt’s joy, the couple had their choice of spots to sit. “What are we doing here?” Amy asked, catching her breath from their quick sprint. “You’ll see,” he grinned and took her hand, leading her into the park and past several trees, benches, and stone-encased grills. Finally, at an out of the way, bare spot near the lake, they stopped. Setting his basket on the ground, he looked her romantically in the eyes and crouched down low. From the basket, he spread the blanket out, sat down upon it, and asked Amy to join him. When she curiously obliged, he grinned even wider. “I have something for you,” he said eagerly, barely being able to contain his excitement. “What is it?” she wished, feeling a bit nervous. Retreating back to his large basket, he pulled out the bag from the gift shop. Searching inside, he took hold of the medium sized coat and pulled it out. Amy’s eyes lit up even brighter as he handed it over to her. “Just a present,” he said with a stutter. “For a friend I’ve not seen in a long, long time.” Then, he pulled his matching jacket free. “You got us matching coats!” she exclaimed, trying it on immediately. “They’re beautiful, and so warm!” “You like?” Matt asked, pulling his own coat on. He was thankful he had bought it. Amy wasn’t wearing his and he saw it no where around her. 97

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “Oh, I love!” she cried, wrapping her arms around him. “Thank you so much!” Then, as an extra thank you, she gave him a quick kiss on the lips and stood from the blanket. “I… I don’t know what else to say.” “You don’t have to say anything,” he vowed, standing and moving up beside her. “Seeing that smile on your face is all the thanks I’ll ever need.” “This… must have been expensive…” she added, feeling the delicate leather and wool. “No price is too expensive,” Matt said, coming up behind her and wrapping his arms around her, “as long as it’s spent on you.” “Oh, Matt…” she sighed, turning to him and melting in his arms. Then, despite the cold, wet snow on the ground and the flakes that continued to fall, the two retreated back down to the blanket. There, they spent the next twenty minutes doing the thing that they never got the opportunity to do at prom. They explored one another, in a physical, personal way. “You smell so good…” he whispered, sniffing her fragrant hair as she cradled on top of him. “Amy…” Amy could not speak. She had never felt anything like the pleasure that she was experiencing. She had been told by the many women in her life of the terrible pains and feelings that came with having intercourse with a man, but she experienced none of those things now. She only experienced him – Matt – the man that she loved, inside of her… sharing his life with her. When he cried out in his joy and she collapsed on top of him with a faint pant of nirvana, they shut their eyes and rested a moment under the falling snow. A moment later, Amy rolled off onto her side, and she and Matt redressed themselves – he, buttoning and zipping his jeans, and she tugging her panties back up under her skirt. Shortly thereafter, Matt opened the bottle of wine and filled both glasses. The two drink in silence, using each other’s embrace as their eternal comfort. They remained like this until 98

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster the bottle was empty and the winter sun had begun to set. Then, they stood quietly and Matt refilled the basket with the blanket and trash. Even though the temperature had gotten a bit colder over the couple of hours they’d been there, they remained quite warm. Whether it was the brand new coats or the comfort and heat of their passion was unknown, but neither was complaining. “Amy,” Matt said as they began to head back out of the park, “this day was magical for me…” “You make me feel like a princess…” “You make me feel loved…” “You are loved,” she whispered, and before they stepped back out into plain view of the world, she kissed him. Pulling back, she added, “By me.” And when the sun had fully set and the moon shone high above, Matt walked her to their familiar corner – the corner he had left her at just two nights ago. They spoke no words here. There was nothing either could think of to say. So, doing the next best thing, they kissed again. Matt sat his basket onto the ground for this one and he took her in his arms, as only a man could take the woman he loved. Endless time past here and when the kiss and embrace broke, both felt as if they had died and gone to heaven. They looked at each other, eye against eye, and softly, they pecked lips one more time. Then, looking to the ground, Amy smiled and turned away. A moment later, her figure was lost in the darkness and Matt stood once again alone.


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They watched from across the street – the four figures dressed all in black. In the shadows, they seemed to disappear completely, but they were still there, watching as the breeders across the street kissed – rather deeply – and parted. They held steady as the girl disappeared into the darkness, rounding a corner and beginning her route to wherever home was. A couple of cars passed by, and the figures stood silently, not wishing to draw any attention to themselves. Then, with slow steps, the male breeder began to walk, heading off down a lonely, dark street. Now, the figures followed. They followed at a pace of about fifteen or twenty feet behind him at first, turning several corners moments after he did and only quickening their speed the further he traveled down the empty, dark streets of downtown. Tossing an empty liquor bottle to the ground, one of the figures shattered the glass over the sidewalk, bent over, and picked up the most jagged piece he could find. Matt heard the glass shatter behind him, but he did not turn to see its source. Instead, he picked up his pace, walking faster and faster down the dark, deserted road. He could hear the footsteps behind him, picking up their pace as well. There were many of them, he could tell. In a frantic move, he turned right at the next corner. Here, he found himself in an alley with a large brick wall at its dead end. Matt stared at it in awe for a moment, and then he turned to head back. The sound of the footsteps was much closer now, and he could see shadows reflecting from the moonlight. The shadows grew closer and closer to him, and he found himself growing into a deep state of panic. Quietly yet quickly, he backed 100

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster down the alley, hiding in the darkness by the brick wall. For a long moment, he heard nothing. The shadows were suddenly gone and the footsteps had completely disappeared. In relief, he took a deep sigh and relaxed, taking a step away from the wall. He had been crouched there for only three minutes or so, but his knees popped from the forced position he’d held. Somewhere from above him, he heard a racket. When he looked up, he saw the source of the racket – the man in black crouched atop the brick wall. The man smiled at him and offered him a nod of the head. Then, with quick force, he pounced from the wall onto him, knocking Matt to the ground. At that moment, the other three figures in black stepped out from their hiding places on the street and entered the alley slowly… one by one… until they all surrounded the man on the ground. “What the hell’s going on here?” Matt questioned, but he was afraid he already knew the answer. “We saw you on the street,” the man who had jumped him said, running a finger over Matt’s trembling cheek. “We saw you with that girl, breeder.” Oh, shit, he thought, breaking into an instant sweat. He was about to be straight bashed. “We let the chick escape,” another said, whispering into his ear. “But we’ll see her again. Don’t you worry about that.” “We’ll fix your breeder girlfriend up good,” said a third, smiling giddily. “Stay away from her,” Matt panted, only to be slapped across the face by the one figure who had not yet spoken. This was the figure that held the broken glass. “So where you heading, breeder?” the first man asked, pushing Matt back to the ground as he tried to stand. “Off to fuck more girls!” the second one hollered. His voice was English and drunken. “Is that true, straightie?” the first one asked again, pulling Matt up just a little by his jacket. 101

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster “I was just…” he began, but he wasn’t allowed to speak. The first figure’s fist connected with his jaw, cracking a tooth and causing blood to spew out his mouth. Matt yelped from this, falling backwards onto the concrete ground. “You like to fuck girls?” the third man asked, kicking him in the side. “You like it? Huh? You like this?” Again, he kicked the man with the steel toe of his boot, forcing bruises to melt over his side beneath his clothes. “He’s a fuckin’ hetero,” said the second man, bluntly. “Of course he likes to fuck girls! He’s a fuckin’ demon, man! A demon!” Adding to the brutality of the third man, he, too, kicked the fallen Matt. This man’s foot landed against Matt’s nose, again drawing blood from him. For the first time, the fourth man – the one with the glass – spoke. “Maybe we should make sure the breeder learns a lesson or two… Teach him why straight simply ain’t…” And then, to Matthew’s horror, all four men were upon him, showering him with brutal punches and forceful kicks, knees to the groin and stomach and slices from the glass across his face and arms. His new coat was destroyed in a matter of moments, and the glass shredded through most of his other garments, piercing into his flesh and raising more and more blood. One eye was punched and then the other. A tooth was knocked out… another was cracked and broken in half. The only sound he could hear was the buzzing in his head, and he could no longer see the men as the ravaged over him. When he no longer felt their kicks and punches and he could no longer sense them being on top of him, he rolled onto his side in devastation and tears. His mind told him that they were gone, but his mind was a liar. They were not gone at all. They had, in fact, only stepped off to the side, long enough to grab two metal bars, a thick broken tree branch, and an abandoned baseball bat. It was a short time before they returned to Matt’s side, and when they did, they brutally finished the beating that they had started. 102

Straight – A Novel by J L Foster Finally, when he no longer cried, struggled, or even seemed to breathe, the four figures stood, tossed their weapons aside, and each basher took one last swift kick to his side and gut. Then, as if by ritual, they took turns spitting on him and turned from the alley, leaving him alone to rot and, with any hope, die.

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