Monday, June 27, 2011

Awake excerpts by Nancy Garden, Robin Reardon, Jordan Taylor & Brian Katcher

Awake is a collection of four novellas: A girl trapped in a war between her school, her church, and her own family. A boy facing the pain of injustice and prejudice in the same rush as new love. A town shocked by the death of a young person, while one alone knows why. A loner fighting a losing battle inside, terrified by society, longing for respect.

Poignant, funny, tragic, uplifting. Awake brings together the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens through four gifted authors, including Nancy Garden (author of the groundbreaking Annie on My Mind), Robin Reardon, Jordan Taylor and Brian Katcher. All have donated their time and talents to Awake and The Trevor Project.

The Trevor Project is the nation’s leading organization dedicated to ending suicide among LGBTQ youth. All net publisher proceeds from the sale of this book will benefit The Trevor Project.

Title: Awake
Editor: Tracey Pennington
Authors: Nancy Garden, Robin Reardon, Jordan Taylor, Brian Katcher
Publisher: Cheyenne Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-9828267-6-8

Excerpt from Worth Waiting For (by Nancy Garden)

The four of us try to stick together all day, although it’s not easy, since we don’t have many classes together. Bianca and Molly and I are all in the same enormous gym class. Molly and I are in English together, and I’m in math with Jackson.

Nothing very exciting happens until dismissal. As the four of us head out, I notice that the bulletin board in the main corridor has a bunch of sign-up sheets on it. One’s headed ACTIVITIES, which makes me think “GSA,” which in turn puts me into an annoying cold sweat. But I detour to it anyway, and Molly follows.

I skim down the list and there it is: Rainbow Gay-Straight Alliance, in big, bold letters. Under that it says, “For LGBTQ students and their straight allies.”

“Hmm.” Molly’s scanning the other sign-up sheets. “Lots of good stuff on the Arts list. I think I’ll try Sketching Club. I’m kind of weak in drawing.” She signs up for it, then turns to me. “How about you? Hey, look,” she adds, “Your friend Bianca Sokol’s signed up for the Gay-Straight Alliance.” She sounds surprised.

My mouth’s already turned so dry I’m not sure I’m going to be able to answer. “Yeah.” I clear my throat and try to look casual as I fish in my pack for a pencil. But I’m not sure I want to sign up while she’s watching.

“Wow,” Molly says softly. “Cool.”

I find, but don’t take out, the pencil. Coward, I scold myself silently. Why am I so nervous? It’s not as if Molly’s going to squeal to Mom.

“There was a GSA in my old school,” Molly says, like it’s just normal conversation. “They put on The Laramie Project last year. Lots of kids were in it.”

I nod. I make my fingers close around the pencil.

“You know, the play about the murder in Wyoming of that gay kid, Matthew Shepard? It’s really powerful.”

I nod again. “Were you—” I sputter as I’m trying to figure out how to stop my heart from beating so loudly. “Were you in it?”

“No.” She’s watching me really closely now, but maybe I’m imagining that. “I was on stage crew.”

I realize I’m rolling the pencil between my thumb and index finger. Coward, I scold myself again, and I take a deep breath.

“I’ve read The Laramie Project, but I’ve never seen it,” I say carefully. “That was a horrible thing, that murder.”

Molly nods. “That poor guy! What he went through must have been terrifying.” She glances back at the Arts list and erases her signature there. “Sketching Club’s the same time as the GSA,” she explains, “and I’d rather be in the GSA.”

Whoa! Does that mean anything, I wonder?

“Besides,” she’s saying, “at least I’ll already know someone else, since Bianca’s signed up.”

You have to understand that kids are weaving themselves around us on their way out to the buses, and some of them are trying to get to the sign-up sheets. Pretty soon we’ve been elbowed halfway to the doors, and Jackson’s rushing past us and saying “Come on, you two. Green Lake’s bus is honking!”

So I shove my way back into the crowd and, with what feels like half the school looking on, I put my name under Molly’s on the GSA sign-up sheet.

Excerpt from A Line in the Sand by Robin Reardon

Monday. And it’s sunny again, thank God. That means the parentals go golfing and I go to the beach. And so will handsome hunk, I’m hoping.

He’s already in the water before I get there, and I’m there pretty early. I’ve brought a lime-green beach towel to make it easier for him to spot me, and I choose an umbrella farther up the beach than yesterday, a little closer to the Marriott. Still, it’s maybe forty-five minutes before the wimpy waves carry him close enough for me to be sure he’s seen me. I’m staring right at him—no time to be coy—and he stares back so long that he nearly loses his board. He retrieves it and heads out again, but I can tell that even though the waves are pushing him down the beach a little, in my direction and away from the Marriott, he’s taking no pains to stay in front of the resort. In fact, it seems he’s allowing the waves to push him as directly toward me as possible.


He’s pretending that he doesn’t care that I’m watching him, and since the waves aren’t providing a lot of surfing opportunities, he starts doing this thing near the edge of the water where he throws the board forward, sideways to the shore, and then jumps on it to see how long he can ride it. It’s like practice surfing, I guess. Anyway, I can tell he’s showing off, and that he wants me to notice him.

So now I drop the intensity of my stare, aiming at nonchalance but happy to project “mildly interested.” But he stays in the water instead of approaching me, so I jam in my earbuds, lie back, and close my eyes.

And then there’s sand all over me.

I sit up, scared, furious, and yank my shades off and my earbuds out. My gorgeous gay guy has just kicked sand at me! I’m about to yell “What the fuck?” at him when he laughs. But he’s not laughing at me. In fact, he’s holding a hand out.

“Come on. Wash it off in the ocean.”

He lets go of my hand as soon as I’m on my feet and races toward the water. I just stare after him, hands on hips, wanting to follow but not wanting to be told what to do. Who does he think he is, anyway? And what is he, still ten years old? If I wore my hair in pigtails, would he yank on them? I weigh my options and come up pretty empty on the point-of-pride side, so I walk slowly forward, doing my best to look sexy but not cheap (it’s a fine line), keeping my eyes on him. He looks toward me a few times, probably to make sure I’m following, but he spends most of his time underwater. Which makes me nervous. I like wading, even “wading” up to my shoulders, but I’m not a swimmer. Or a diver. I’ll have to keep my distance in case his list of pranks includes dunking people, and so I can make my escape with some dignity if this turns out to be a bad idea. I don’t even know this guy’s name, let alone whether he’s actually some jerk.

When I’m about twenty feet from him, he stops diving and just watches my face as I approach. With maybe six feet between us, I stop.

“Sand all gone?” he says.

I give him a glance, let a beat or three go by; I don’t want to seem eager. “The last guy who kicked sand on me paid a price.”

“Oh?” He spits out a bit of wave that throws itself into his mouth. “What price was that?”

There had been no price. But I don’t have to admit that. “Nothing you want to have to pay. That’s all I’ll say.”

The distance between us is shrinking, and not because I’m moving.

“My name’s Randy. What’s yours?”


“Glad to meet you, Dustin.” We bounce once or twice with passing waves. “Are you from South Carolina?”

“No. Georgia.”

He nods. “I guess the accents are the same.”

They’re not, but the nuance of southern speech is not where I want to go from here. “And you? Where’s home?”


“So we’re both here on vacation, it would seem.”

His grin makes me think he’s amused by me, somehow. “It would seem. In fact, I’m here with my parents. My sister is doing an internship for school, so she couldn’t come.”

So that must have been his mother with him Saturday, but I don’t want to ask; I don’t want to admit I was watching him that closely. Still trying to play it cool. “I’m here with my folks, too. They’re out golfing.”

“So’s my dad. D’you golf?”

I shake my head. “No. My father really wants me to, but it looks so boring.”

“I like it sometimes. Just not as much as my dad.”

We bounce with a few more waves. Then he asks, “D’you like to walk along the beach?”

My turn to look amused. “And getting caught in the rain. And moonlit nights. I’m into theatre and fashion, and I’m looking for a man with a great sense of humor.”
Maybe at some point in my life I’ll learn to think about what I say before I say it. I’m pretty sure he’s gay, based on the look he gave me the first time he approached—and the way he held his hand out to me after covering me with sand—but am I sure? Am I really, really sure? Because if I’m not, telling him I’m looking for a male romantic partner is a risk. It’s too late to take it back, though, so I decide to be philosophical; better to know now, right? Thank God, he laughs. His laugh is infectious, and I’m grinning despite my determination not to. He says, “Have you ever noticed that people think someone else has a great sense of humor when it’s exactly like their own?”

You know that line that goes, You had me at hello? Well, Randy has me at insightful. I say, “Good point. Shall we find out how similar ours are?”

He’s still grinning, but his eyes are intense. In a good way. I’m hoping someday he’ll be able to say, He had me at insinuating. I don’t say anything; I turn and head toward the shore, trying to make pushing through the waves look effortless and casual. He follows me, this time.

Excerpt from Shattered Diamonds by Jordan Taylor

Days become weeks while I tell no one about Jeremy. In a town of four thousand, I am the only one who knows why Jeremy Madden’s ashes are scattered over the lake, rather than the living Jeremy walking its shore.

It took time to learn what happened. Before, I only knew one side of the story. But that is not why I haven’t told. I tell myself he didn’t want them to know. I tell myself it’s over; there is nothing I can do. The truth—that tiny, precise spark which occasionally crosses my path—is that I do not know how to face his mother and say, “I killed your son.”

Tell me how. Show me how to look into the eyes of a stranger and justify death like a science experiment. I do not know where to begin. I cannot face death as Jeremy did—without looking back. I cannot look forward into the eyes of pain.

So I write this. Because I don’t know what else to do. But I have to do something.

+ + +

Jeremy moved to town with his mother and what fit in her ancient station wagon on an August day so hot the tar at the end of the driveway felt like melted mozzarella. Mom made chicken salad and homemade rolls bundled in a white kitchen towel.

“Come meet the new neighbors with me,” she called into the family room, where I had a game on.

“What new neighbors?”

“Down on Crescent.”

“That’s three blocks from us. They’re not our neighbors.”

“Everyone’s a neighbor to everyone here. Come on.”

“That’s okay. You go without me.”

It wasn’t until the first day of school, a week later, that I got a good look at Jeremy Madden. A pale, skinny kid, Jeremy slunk into class with a backpack so crammed with heavy books he appeared to be nearly tipping over. His baggy jeans had holes in the knees. His tennis shoes looked too tattered to last through the day. He was not the smallest guy in tenth grade, but he looked it—the way he hunched over, meeting no one’s eyes, as if trying to hide.

Nick and Logan followed me to our usual table at lunch. When we reached it, Jeremy Madden sat at one corner, alone, bent over a sandwich from home. A brown paper bag lay next to him on the table.

“Hey,” I snapped. He did not react as we approached. “Hey, new kid,” I said, louder. “Beat it. This is our table.”

Jeremy glanced up from his sandwich—two slices of dry bread with what looked like a single slice of bologna and mayonnaise between them. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “There wasn’t anywhere else to sit.”

“This isn’t a place to sit either, noob,” Nick said. “This table is reserved.”

Jeremy glanced around. “I don’t see a sign.”

I blinked and stared at him. “You don’t seem to understand how things work here, so we’ll be nice today. But if you don’t move—now—we might change our minds.”

Jeremy’s eyes flicked from one face to the next. I thought he would look scared. He should have looked scared. But Jeremy, his eyes like empty blue pools, stared at us, one after the other. At last, he stood with his lunch and walked away.

“Insolent little prick,” Nick said as he took his seat.

Logan sat across from him. I stepped to the table, but turned to watch Jeremy.

“What’s wrong?” Logan asked.

“Nothing.” I sat down.

“New guy’s living near you,” Nick said. “That old shack Ted Benson rents out. It’s a pit. Thought the fire department was going to practice on it.”

“Did you see his shoes?” Logan asked. “I’m surprised they can afford to rent a doghouse.”

“They can’t,” Nick said. “That’s why they’re living in Ted’s place.”

We all laughed.

Excerpt from Pervert by Brian Katcher

Carefully, carefully, he began to walk to the living room. It was difficult. If only he could try this more often, he could develop the grace in heels that seemed to come naturally to his mother and sister. As things stood, he could only practice once a month at best.

If I hadn’t been so concerned with balance, would I have heard her in time? He asked himself that in the months that followed. But he didn’t hear anything until it was too late. By the time he was aware of his sister’s voice, she was at the front door. He attempted to run, and stumbled. His sister was home early! And she was talking to someone! Twisting his ankle, he only regained his feet when the door opened.

His sister, thank God for small mercies, was talking distractedly on her cellular phone. At least she was alone. Maybe she won’t notice.

Holly stopped talking mid-sentence when she noticed her brother, standing there exposed in the living room, wearing their mother’s clothes.

After a moment, she laughed.

If the boy hadn’t been on the verge of tears, he might have noticed that it wasn’t a mocking laugh. It was the laugh of someone amused, as if Holly had caught him singing along with the radio. Shaking her head, his sister resumed her conversation and disappeared into her room.

The boy fell to the floor in his rush to remove the pumps. Within seconds, he was sitting on the bathroom floor, ripping off the blouse, kicking away the skirt, tearing off the lingerie. Fear and shame fought for his attention. HOLLY KNEW! She knew her brother was sick! How would she handle it? With hateful words and eternal scorn? With mocking cruelty? Or would she deny what she’d seen, pretend it hadn’t happened, but always know and always hate him? Would she…tell anyone?

He thought of running away…but where would he go? Maybe, maybe, he could control things. Tell his sister he’d just been…been what? Practicing for a play? Not likely. Trying on a Halloween costume, three months early? No. Curious? He might have to risk that. She’d still be disgusted, of course, but if he lied convincingly enough, maybe she’d think it was a one-time thing.

Tears began to dot the panties he’d discarded on the bathroom tile. He couldn’t put it off any longer. He had to face the music. Find out how low she thought he was. He pulled on his male clothes.

Timidly, his arm shaking with black horror, he knocked at her door. It swung open at his touch. His sister was dialing her cellular phone. How can she be making calls at a time like this? Unless…oh sweet Jesus, no!

“Hello, Jessica?” Jessica was her best friend. “You’ll never guess what I just saw…”

Only the effort to keep himself from vomiting prevented him from crying out. For a few seconds, all he could do was keep his gorge down. Why, why does she have to tell the world about me?

She continued on the phone. “Stephanie, you know her? She was kissing Cameron. Yes, Cynthia’s Cameron! No, she doesn’t know…” His sister looked up and saw him in the doorway. Making the ‘just a second’ motion with her two fingers, she continued gossiping.

At least…at least she wasn’t spreading the word. Then again, why would she? What girl would want her friends to know about her brother, the sicko?

His sister continued her inane chatter for several more minutes. He half-hoped the conversation would go on forever so he’d never face her, and half-hoped she’d hang up soon so as to end the agony. At long last, she rang off.

“Holly,” he choked, wondering where to begin. “About what you just saw…”

He never expected her to answer the way she did. Giving him a brief raspberry, she laughed. “Didn’t expect me home tonight, did ya? Now calm down. You were just messing around, don’t sweat it.”

Could he have been that lucky? Was she just blowing the whole episode off as an experiment?


“C’mon. I bet every guy in the world has tried on a dress at least once, just to see how it feels. That is what you were doing, right?”

“Of course!” He prayed his relief wasn’t too obvious.

“So there you go. Hell, I’ve stuck a roll of socks down my panties to see what it’d look like. Everyone wonders. Now go hang up Mom’s clothes before she blames me.”

The boy returned to the bathroom. Turning on the tap full blast, he wept with relief.
That night he lay in his bed and stared at the ceiling until the sun peeked through his window. He had escaped. His sister had seen him and didn’t realize what he had been doing. She had thought he was simply satisfying his curiosity. She never suspected the dark, weird reason behind his actions. He had been so very fortunate.

As he finally drifted off to sleep with the dawn, he realized that his old companions, fear and shame, now had a new friend. One that was much more subtle, much more cunning and maybe even much crueler. Its name was hope. It was an emotion he’d never dared experience before.
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