Monday, January 5, 2015

First Exposure excerpt by Alan Chin

Alan is very excited to be sharing the story of First Exposure with readers because it is loosely based on his becoming the target of homophobia while serving in the US Navy, when he took a second (off duty) job delivering flowers at a gay-owned florist.

In First Exposure, straight, married Petty Officer Second Class Skyler Thompson battles homophobia from his Navy buddies, the military, and his wife when he takes a second job creating flower arrangements at a gay-owned florist. But rather than yield to pressure and quit, he refuses to give up the joy of creating beautiful arrangements, battling homophobia for artistic expression. His dream is to leave the navy and open his own florist shop.

Ezra Dunphy—his shipmates all call him Dumpy because of his obesity—is a gay sailor who likes to dress in drag. He is shunned by his shipmates, tragically lonely, and uses drugs to cope with his solitude. What he wants more than anything is someone to share his life with.

Can these two men, opposites in every way, help each other achieve their dreams?

First Exposure
Bold Strokes Books (August, 2014)
ISBN: 9781626391253e


He crept up behind Skylar and stood close to the only man aboard who had treated him with any amount of kindness. He leaned forward until his nose hovered inches away from those broad shoulders, inhaling the fragrance of lavender-scented soap. He also detected the piquant odor of shoe polish softened by a trace of talcum powder.

He pulled back and lifted his head to scan the same starlit sky, reading it like the dog-eared pages of a favorite novel. That made their slim connection somewhat stronger, more intimate. Thin clouds scudded across the moon. It was what the crew called a “peekaboo night.” He focused on a cloudless patch, through the firmament and beyond the myriad of familiar shapes—Pleiades, Scorpius, and Hercules with its dazzling star, Vega—and even beyond the dim specks from the most distant stars, surveying the darkest regions of the unknown. His mind emptied and he felt himself become the unknown, until a voice echoed in his head.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?”

It took him a moment to realize Skylar had spoken to him. He struggled to engage his brain to understand and respond. He stepped back to put some distance between them.

“Yeah, the bang put all this into motion. It’s overwhelming.”

“The big bang?” Skylar asked. “Right. Whatever exploded must have been gargantuan.”

Dunphy shook his head. “A few advanced minds think it was the size of a golf ball. Space-time and matter and energy compressed into something unbelievably dense and hot.”

Skylar chuckled. “Unbelievably dense and hot, sounds like Travis Bolton.”

Dunphy had to bend his mind to accommodate Skylar referring to any man as “hot.” Tuning in on his gaydar had never been Dunphy’s strong suit. He tilted his head, wondering if it were possible that Skylar batted for both teams. The notion became thrilling and unnerving.

After a silent pause became awkward, Skylar said, “That was a joke.”

Dunphy flashed him an arid smile, realizing that he had read too much into it. But still…as his mother used to tell him before he was kicked out of the house, at the heart of every joke is a kernel of truth.

Skylar fished in his pocket for a cigarette and accepted one from the pack of Marlboros Dunphy offered him. “I only smoke at sea. Rosa would kill me if she knew.”

Dunphy presented Skylar a light and was pleased when Skylar cupped his hands around his own to shield the flame. That slight touch sent needles of ice down his spine to zap his testicles. He flicked at the lighter, but it refused to fire in the breeze. They both hunched closer, coaxing it to life.

Dunphy took a long drag that dizzied him. He slipped the pack and lighter back into his pocket.

Skylar looked at him with an expression both melancholy and avid. After holding his stare for a heartbeat, Skylar glanced at the sky again. “You think there are other beings living on other planets? Like, are those rumors of little green men in Los Alamos even possible?”

The wind rose, pressing against their bodies like a living force. They inched closer so their words wouldn’t be carried away by the breeze, and stood staring into the dome above.

“Living on other planets, sure, why not?” Dunphy said. “Them coming to earth? The distances are too great for any sort of humanoid to journey here, unless they are so smart they know how to travel faster than the speed of light, which is impossible. Any beings that visit us would have to be a race that has evolved into super intelligent androids.”

“What about worm holes?”

“You watch too much sci-fi. See those stars? They could have died and collapsed into themselves a hundred thousand years ago, and we don’t have a clue because we’re only now seeing the light they spawned back when dinosaurs walked the earth.”

They both grew quiet. Dunphy drew on his cigarette and expelled the smoke. The warm night air felt deliciously comfortable after the stifling humidity of the day.

“How do you know all this?”

“They’re called books, Skylar.”

“So you took astronomy classes?”

Dunphy stuck his cigarette between his lips and shoved his hands in his pockets. He suddenly felt cold.

“Naw. Never made it to high school. I left home on my thirteenth birthday. On the streets, you don’t have TV or money for movies. You spend a lot of nights looking up at the stars and a lot of days at the public library trying to stay warm.”

“Really? What was your childhood like, I mean, before you left home?”


Dunphy realized that Skylar deserved a better answer, but he didn’t want to spoil the mood with his depressing saga.

They both dropped their cigarettes to the deck and crushed them. Dunphy struggled to find a new topic, one that had nothing to do with his past. Living it had been hell; reliving it was futile. He liked to stay in the present as much as possible, and right then he reminded himself that he had four more OxyContin pills in his pocket to help him do just that. His fingertips caressed the pills. He glanced sideways looking for a quick retreat, but at the same time he said, “I’m sorry I got you sucked into standing watch. You didn’t have to stick up for me, though. I can take whatever they dish out.”

“Right.” Skylar nodded. “No tears. I get it. What I don’t get is how you swallow crap from every swinging dick on this ship. I mean, I’ve never seen anyone eat so much shit.”

“Hell, this is a five-star cruise in the Bahamas,” Dunphy said, and laughed.

“Compared to what?” Skylar waited, but when no answer came he said, “You don’t want to tell me. Why?”

Dunphy sighed. “Before I left home, my old man beat me every chance he got. The five years I lived on the streets, I ate out of garbage cans and was hassled by thugs and perverts. No, the navy’s good to me, relatively speaking.”

“Garbage cans? That explains why you always chow down like there’s no tomorrow.”

“At enlistment, I weighed ninety-four pounds,” he said, noting the incredulous look on Skylar’s face. He could hardly believe it himself. Only two years ago, he had been a petite, narrow-faced, willowy creature as exotic as an osprey. He was definitely expanding much faster than the universe. “Yep, that’s the great thing about the navy—three squares a day, clean sheets, and we never have to march.”

Dunphy studied Skylar’s hands as he talked, noting how big they were, like Dunphy’s father’s hands. But Skylar kept his nails trimmed and clean. His father never wasted time on hygiene, nor had the old man been approachable or self-assured like Skylar. Standing there in the moonlight, Dunphy could appreciate the contrast, but why, he wondered, was he comparing the two men? Why was it important?

What happened to Dad after I left? His father’s light still reached him like a star glow, light waves from his distant past after years of empty space, sieving into his bones.

“Say,” Skylar said, “what the hell is your first name, anyway?”


 “Well, Ezra, don’t feel sorry on my account. I don’t mind staying aboard ’cause I spent most of my pocket cash making sure Rosa got flowers on our anniversary.”

Dunphy had not been called by his first name since leaving home. He felt tears welling up in his eyes, and his voice sounded funny when he said, “Wow, that’s so thoughtful.”jj                       

“Yeah,” Skylar said through a beaming smile, “she’s gonna love ’em.”

Dunphy glanced at the horizon as he inhaled the airborne brine. Over the city, stars drizzled into the pale mouth of dawn.

To read another excerpt from First Exposure, see the entry in this blog for July 28th, 2014.

To purchase ebook and/or paperback from Bold Strokes Books, click http://tiTo
Topurchase ebook and/or paperback from Amazon, click Amazon

1 comment:

Victor J. Banis said...

Alan is a master at painting pictures with words - I almost feel I'm on the deck of that ship with these two characters, looking up at the night time sky.

Thanks for posting this