Pride and Parents

Several years ago when I was an emergency medical technician (EMT), we were toned out on a call about men in a fight at the local general store. When we arrived, the two men who had instigated the fight were gone. The two young men who were the victims were still there.

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There’s still a general store down there.

One was bruised but okay. My patient, however, had been kicked repeatedly, in ribs and in the head. He was talking to me with full cognitive abilities, but because of the mechanism of his injuries, we wanted to transport him to the hospital anyway.

I was in the back of the aid car working on him, asking him questions, getting a history, blood pressure, and so on. As a precaution, I’d put him on oxygen. I asked a question, and got no answer. When I turned to him, he was out. Completely unconscious. Within seconds. I yelled for the driver who called out the paramedics to meet us.

It was a lesson to me in three ways.

I was fairly newly certified at that time, and it was a lesson in how dangerous head injuries are, and how fast they can change for the worse. Even in someone who had presented no symptoms only moments before. It was scary, and a lesson I never forgot. He survived, and actually, a few years later, came back to town to thank me for being with him. He remembered my holding his hand, not being afraid to touch him. Of all the things that happened during his treatment, and that touch was what stood out for him.

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We look so young. This was our engagement photo.

Why you might ask? That’s the second lesson I learned.

The two young men had come to our area of the woods because there was a large and well-known private campground, that actually was across the street from our cabin. And it was a gay campground. This was back in the 1980s.

The two young men had been sitting outside the general store, waiting for an order. The other two men pulled up in a truck and asked them if they knew where the campground was. When they gave directions, those two men got out of the truck and attacked them.

Those men knew about the campground and had come to the mountains specifically looking for those who camped there. Looking for gay men to attack and beat up. I was shocked by the cruelty and bigotry. (They were eventually arrested.)

That campground was busy on weekends. It was in the woods and our place was the only neighbor. The road was narrow with trees to the edges and not much shoulder, so on weekends the road was crowded with cars on both sides.

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Which meant that in the mornings, those cars would have slashed tires, broken windshields, and nasty graffiti painted on them.

My father, from a generation when being gay wasn’t as well known, was angered by this. He took to patrolling the road in the evenings, an old man in bib overalls and black-framed glasses, with his thinning flat-top haircut, and an old Savage short-barrel shotgun over his shoulder.

Dad

He’d decided all those going to the campground were ‘his boys’ and he took on the job of watching out for them.

It quickly became known in the campground what my dad was doing. It didn’t take long before campers, men and women, were crossing the street to visit. They would sit in that tiny cabin and have coffee and cookies with my mom. They would potter around with my dad. They helped stack firewood. My parents became their surrogate parents, an old couple accepting them, not judging them, and loving them. Several long-term friendships were created.

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The cabin before a face-lift. That’s an old metal door nailed to the wall to cover where a window used to be. My dad was innovative…

I remember one man, Jeff, who became a good friend of mine, and who ended up moving permanently to the neighborhood. When I first started going out walking with the man who would become my husband, Jeff took him aside and had a talk with him. Told him if he ever hurt me, he would have to answer to Jeff.

Another friend from the campground, Kevin, had a huge crush on my husband. And my husband, being the strong and wonderful man he is, was flattered rather than horrified or embarrassed, or threatened.

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He’s not short; that’s deep snow.

Which leads me to lesson three. For as much bigotry and hatred that still exists today, and seems to be growing, there are still those who care. As Pride Month draws to a close, I hope those who love continue to outnumber those who hate.

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Beginnings

For the past three years I’ve been writing a new story. I’ve mentioned it here a few times, but only briefly because I’m superstitious that if I talk about an infant story too much, it dies and I never finish it.

Three years. Granted, I’m a slow writer in the best of times. But this has been hard because I’m trying to stretch my wings as a writer and am not sure if I’m succeeding. This one has multiple perspectives and story lines. It’s darker than I’ve written before, and it’s scary. Well, my goal is to make it scary. I’m not sure it’s scary enough.

My editor has her fingers in the story now, and she’s challenging me to delete chapters, strengthen motivations, and work on the scene/sequel process. It became obvious the beginning was very rough and needed a lot of work. No surprise there because beginnings can be the hardest thing to write as they have so much to accomplish.

The idea for the story came from a news event, but I don’t think I could have written it without being in a darker place myself. Without saying, ‘these are the things I’m afraid of in this world’ and then trying to place those fears on paper.

Anyway, I am hoping to have the book available by the end of summer. Cover art is in the process and I’ll share versions here to get opinions. But in the meantime, below is the beginning. The prologue. It’s still in edit but I’ll share anyway. Comments, first impressions, and opinions are appreciated.

And of course it’s copyrighted.

Prologue

The Hole in the Wall wasn’t really a hole but a dead-end shaft with a steel door that could be barricaded from within and locked from without. And the Wall wasn’t really a wall, but a granite mountain deeply fissured and hung with a dark and shadowed forest curtain. One that went straight up, creating a sense of severe vertigo overwhelming anyone leaning back, and back, and back, to see the top. Here and there, stunted fir and cedar and hemlock twisted and bent waiting to fall.

Occasionally the Wall would free boulders to plummet down and leave deep impact craters in the forest floor.

Few rock climbers, hanging with harnesses and bandaged knuckles, knew the door was there, far below them where the forest washed up at the base of the Wall.

Curtis Jonason locked himself in the Hole five days a week. Some days he imagined himself a climber suspended in the heights, able to see for miles, see the rushing white water of the Skykomish River, speckled with daredevil kayakers. Or to gaze down on the tiny, tiny town of Index, Washington nestled a mile off Highway 2 in the Cascade Mountains. But he wasn’t an adventurer. And he had long ago come to terms with the reality that his adventures were only found in imagination and books.

Instead, each day, in cold weather gear, he unlocked the Hole with his smooth scientist’s hands, slipped into the dark, and bolted the door behind him. There, he would spend fourteen hours alone burrowed into the granite, a small stream rushing under his workstation, a flashlight his only illumination.

Alone with his machines.

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Morningstar climbing route on a small portion of the Wall

Lost Dogs and Writing

Some of you have heard part of this before. Several years ago my son asked if he could go hiking with a friend. He also wanted to take along his dog, Arwen, who was not yet full-grown. My response was yes, with the qualifier that they could not go up the Lookout Point trail because it was too steep for Arwen at her age.

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At obedience class

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Still my favorite photo of Arwen

So of course, being young and immortal, that’s exactly where they went. And they also went bushwhacking off trail. Along the way Arwen ended up stuck on a boulder outcropping. Both us mothers filled out backpacks with equipment but it quickly became obvious that a rescue attempt would be dangerous.

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View from Lookout Point trail

To make a long story short, we spent a horrible, sleepless night, imagining Arwen out there alone. With the sunrise though, rock climbers and friends gathered and she was rescued.

The boys of course were grounded.

The fellow-mother came up with a great idea afterward when we were calmer. She asked each of us to write our version of what happened. It was wonderful to see the same drama from different points of view and to see what each of us found important enough to record.

My son wrote his in story form. I was thrilled. A writer was born!

Then nothing.

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Until a couple of years ago when he asked me a question about a specific piece of writing craft. I tried not to scare him off with my excitement. I simply sent him home with this GIANT three-ring binder full of resources on craft.

Last night he asked me to edit something he’d written on world-building for a science fiction piece he’s working on.

I calmly assured him I’d be more than happy to give him an honest opinion.

I managed to wait until he pulled out of the driveway before celebrating. I think I had the piece edited and sent off before he got home.

There’s a fine line between supporting him and pushing something on him that he may not want. Or overwhelming him.

But I keep going back to that story he wrote when Arwen was lost in the woods. Little does he know I still have it. Maybe some day I’ll point to it and say ‘this was the beginning’.

a story about dragons