by Kenneth Pobo
Pete Moranz couldn’t afford a car yet, so he borrowed his parents’ Chevy to pick up Gary Sunterfield who said, just yesterday in Study Hall, that he “really liked” Jim in a “you know, serious way.” To their fellow high school seniors, they were pretty much nobodies, not into Homecoming, not into Prom, friendly but not outgoing.
When Pete arrived, the idea was to look like “buddies”—to the school, to their parents, to anyone. Otherwise, the others set traps, tangled you up in insults and assaults. They talked about cars and sports, didn’t hold hands, and attended church. No one was the wiser.
Pete drove them to a secluded area off of a dirt road, a little risky as the car could get stuck in sand or mud. Shy with each other, it was easier to lower their pants than to kiss or to speak about what they were doing.
“If you kiss, then you really are gay,” Gary said.
“As long as we don’t love each other, we can do whatever we want,” Pete responded.
“Guys can’t fall in love anyway. I mean with each other.”
“It won’t happen to us. We’ll get married, to girls, and maybe our kids will become friends.”
It did happen to them. In a few months they knew they were in love, but still acted as if they were two padlocked crates. Pete worried that the other kids would guess their secret. Gary tried to block it out, spending most of his free time listening to music or playing his guitar to drown out most any fear.
“Our only hope is to get the hell out of Micah,” Pete said, a year before they actually did leave. That year mostly was spent working, Pete at The Cattle Pen diner and Gary at Mom’s Laundromat. They had both graduated and turned eighteen.
Making both sets of parents unhappy, they moved to Seattle, a long way from Missouri, and waited tables or did temp work. Their cramped apartment was barely large enough for one, but money was tight.
They slowly had stopped looking over their shoulders. They got to know each other all over, rain smearing the window, a sad gray rain that seemed totally beautiful.
Coming out can be a challenge anywhere, but doing so in a small town can be particularly rough. My characters here had to leave before they could fully claim their gay identity. Originally I had the town of Micah set in Kentucky. Over the years it has migrated to Missouri.
One of the attributes of flash writing that I love is how much can be done by suggestion. As in a poem, an image can linger and leave a strong impression. One may not have as much room to develop characters, but a well chosen scene with acute imagery can do much in a smaller space. A criticism of flash is that it is made for people with short attention spans. Would we say that of a Basho haiku? Sometimes a mountain can fit in a lunch box.
Kenneth Pobo has two new books of poetry forthcoming: Bend of Quiet from Blue Light Press and Booking Rooms in the Kuiper Belt from Urban Farmhouse Press.