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Tragic Rabbit

Masquerade, by Josh

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Don't miss Josh's new story, a four-chapter-plus-epilogue tale of three best friends: Tim, Jason and Sam (short for Samantha). They explore their neighborhood, each other and the pains of growing up in Masquerade, a wonderful, sweet and sexy new story from Josh. :icon11:

NOTE: Story currently inhabits our Halloween Festival Box but will move to regular front page status after these Gay High Holy Days are over.

http://www.awesomedude.com/haloween_2006/M...%20Chap%201.htm

From Masquerade, p1

A year after Aunt Ellie?s divorce -- when I was four and Jason was five -- Samantha?s family moved to San Antonio; into the two-story, wood-framed house next door to mine.

Jason and I watched them move in, hoping for a boy our age. Instead, there was a girl with thick, dark-red hair. She saw us, and walked right up. My height, she looked right into my eyes, and I was like ?whoa!? and backed up a step.

Samantha looked from me to Jason, said ?hi,? and that was that. It was Jason, Timmy, and Samantha after that; the three of us constantly together, and usually at Sam?s house. Her parents were warm, friendly, intelligent? all the things Jason?s and my folks were not. And they always welcomed us there.

Sam didn?t just follow Jason and me on our ambling adventures around the neighborhood, she often led them. She was an equal partner in our triumvirate. She could climb a tree as quickly as us. She ran faster than I did. Princess Leia herself couldn?t have wielded a light saber any better than Samantha did when we took on the Empire.

There was a small, wooded park near our homes, and it became our kingdom; its depths, our fortress. The three of us built castles there, explored continents, and flew to far galaxies.

Don't forget to email the author!

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I want to explain my lack of comment here. I am going to read it when it's done. I'm sure my comments will say how wonderful it is because I love all his stuff, but I'm going to wait. So there :)

Ditto - except I did read it and can't wait for more.

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OK, guys. We posted the last of it this weekend. Be honest... if you liked it.

Be kind if you didn't. I was trying to get out of my box.

Sit down, 'cause I'm going to be brutally honest here. I don't want you to fall over.

I loved it. Really loved it. Fantastic. Amazing. Wonderful. It may be the best thing you've ever written. I can think of several reasons why I probably shouldn't like it, but I do anyway. So there.

Nice job. Very nice.

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Thanks for the kind words! I certainly enjoyed writing the story, and I'm especially delighted to hear that you guys (at least one or two :icon10:) liked it.

In emails, a couple of readers as to why I wrote Masquerade and what I was trying to accomplish with the story. I thought I would give some answers, and in the process, reveal some of the thought processes of at least one author in the writing of one story. Since I plan to go into a little depth here, it might be best if you haven?t read the story, to skip this post for a later reading.

I have been reluctantly fascinated by intersex issues for sometime. I say reluctantly because like most people, I?m naturally a little put off by the strangeness of hermaphrodite and intersexual physiology. Nevertheless, my heart has always gone out to those souls, even as my thinking and even my view of this world have always been challenged by their existence.

When a recent episode of the TV show House featured a CAIS individual (though I don?t believe they called it that), and House in his typical fashion was mercilessly cruel to that person, I became as angry as ever at the House character. (Really, some writer is working out a hell of a lot of angst with that show and he or she really should pursue something else until he get?s his hatred dealt with? sheesh! But yeah, I watch the show. The writing has gotten better and it does have some really redeeming features. Anyway?) I really hate cruelty, and resolved to write a happier story for someone with CAIS.

As I thought about it, I knew the story would be a challenge to write and a challenge to readers. And so, I decided to make the story a challenge to readers at several levels. A challenge to straight readers who so often compartmentalize love into good or bad based on the genders involved. A challenge to gay readers, who so often hunger for love but have so much difficulty giving it, especially to those who are physically unlovely (I know, I know? broad generalization? you?re getting out the knives and pistols? fire away!).

The story has had an unusual affect on me. I almost prefer it to all of my other stories, and I think it is because of them all, this is most purely a love story, and one in which a great sacrifice is made. It is a story with a long-term commitment ? a life commitment -- and deep, abiding affection.

And in this story, two of my favorite characters developed. Tim, despite the hardships of his life and wounding of his spirit, really is a good man. And Sam is an almost mythical, mystically beautiful creature... a boy/girl with a heart from the beginning, only for Tim; a heart made vulnerable because of that love and because of his body.

Certainly I was afraid that readers wouldn?t stay with me through the story. Straight and bi readers might not go for it from the start, and gay readers might drop out as soon as Sam started to come on to Tim. It was a challenge to try to keep readers through all the necessary plot development, and also build sympathy on their part for the characters. I just knew that gay readers were going to hate Sam for being an interloper in the romance between Tim and Jason. And yet, the Sam character would have those feelings and perhaps at least those actions and they needed to be portrayed.

It was tricky to build a heart and life for Tim that would lead him to choose Sam, despite Sam?s physiology. It was tricky to give Tim an absolute aversion to females without crossing into pathology. It was tricky giving him a gay romance that would addict him to romance without locking Sam out as a possible lover. And it was tricking giving Tim gay experiences without those experiences ruling out Sam as a possible future lover. That was another reason for the early sex scenes between Sam and Tim. (I don?t call them love scenes because they weren?t at that point.)

The story had to build to a point where only Tim?s aversion to females prevented him from realizing his love for Sam. And in the process, it had to ride the edge and not go over to Sam looking for another boy to love. And so much had to be implied, like Sam?s willingness to identify as a male after discovering his condition, at least in private, because of Tim?s need for that.

The only other way to write the story was for a straight guy to love Sam, and then choose to love him anyway after discovering the truth. But our audience is the gay and bi reader, and I think the story is far lovelier with a gay character making the sacrifice. For one thing, the sacrifice is much greater.

When I wrote the story, I was concerned that readers would be put off by the strangeness of Sam?s condition and by the sex appearing to be bi or straight. But I have come to realize that the story could put off some readers for an entirely different reason.

In this post-modern era, the thought of love requiring sacrifice is not attractive. We tend to find someone who attracts us physically, emotionally? and we love them. We screw each other until the love feeling goes away? worn down by the other person?s revealed shortcomings and the attractiveness of all those other potential lovers out there. The idea of loving someone when it is no longer convenient or easy -- loving them beyond the point at which the feelings are no longer there -- is pass?.

And yet, unless we find someone who will love us in that way, we will never find the love we desire. We all have shortcomings. We all grow older, fatter, thinner? there will always be younger, more attractive lovers out there. And don?t we all have a sense of the ugly duckling in us? Especially those of us who are gay or bi... that mix of male and female, CAIS in our emotions and spirits, ambivalent in our desires... not so much as to boy or girl, but as to love and desire. Even the vainest of us know our vulnerabilities. We each long for a lover who will choose us over all others for life.

Of course, that lover should be the person of our dreams? ideal physically, an exact match emotionally, and? easy to live with. Double standard is our middle name.

Tim?s love is attractive. His sacrifice isn?t.

I honestly believe that the post-modern antipathy to Christianity is just as much about what Christianity clearly commands as what it is perceived to forbid. A religion whose founding concept is self-sacrificing love is anathema to a society of self-serving lovers. And give me a break -- we all tend to be self-serving. Even when we do find that perfect lover, we still look at other bodies, and given half a chance to jump into bed with some good looking partner, we jump.

And yet, sacrificial love is lovely. We recognize that only a lover who makes sacrifices, daily, enduringly, will stick with us, complete us, make us happy. And we long for someone like that? just someone beautiful, failing to realize what makes for beauty.

I'd like to think, and the story is about, even someone like Sam having someone like Tim out there; someone made for him, who loves him no matter what; someone who lays down his own life because he?s convinced he?s found a treasure greater than all the rest the world has to offer, and who commits to enjoy that treasure as long as he lives. I find that surpassingly beautiful. I suppose I'll always try to write that kind of story.

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Oh, wonderful, Josh! I?m so glad you posted this essay; it adds so much to my appreciation of the story.

Full disclosure; I?ve already exchanged emails with Josh, telling him some of my thoughts about this story ? at a little bit of length. But the important thing I left out in my email was, that it moved me . . . and I walked away from the screen, still thinking about it. Which is all I ever wanted to accomplish as a writer, myself.

I did, on first read, pick up on the ?challenging? aspect of the story; that we are presented with, well, a different kind of love, something with which we?re unfamiliar, and being tested for our reactions. Our ability to accept. And I thought it was, indeed, a nice twist, effective not so much on the conscious level, as the gut level. For me, anyway.

(By the way, I admired the way Tim?s choice of pronoun for Sam switched from she to he in almost mid-thought, unconsciously; nicely done.)

And I think I did also understand the nature of Tim?s sacrifices for Sam . . . but I think here?s where my worldview is just a bit different from yours, Josh. I guess because I?m myself so monogamous as to be dull . . . and because I live in San Francisco near the Castro, in a neighborhood with an awful lot of (very) long term, older, gay and lesbian couples . . . because of that, I think I maybe see more daily evidence of the kinds of sacrifices we all make for love. (Not, of course, that I myself have gotten thinner, fatter, or less than the epitome of desirability I?ve always been . . . cough, cough.)

Oh, that part of the story certainly still worked for me, and was absolutely central to what moved me. But on reading your posting . . . I hope you haven?t lost too much faith in humanity, and gay humanity is particular. Long term love is the human condition; and the frequency of its occurrence is not inherently moderated by sexual orientation. Humbly submitted.

Other reactions. I liked all the physical love scenes between Sam and Tim! But you?ve always been very good at that. The scenes with two boys and two girls all together in ?Sealing Our Fate? were almost ? but not quite ? enough to make me reconsider my lifetime membership in the Boys Only Club. (I do sometimes wish I was more flexible, that way . . . )

And post-modernist turning away from Christianity? Oooh, oooh, what an opportunity for a pie fight! But instead, I?ll just mention in passing a new book by David Levithan, a wonderful author of young-adult books for straight and gay audiences alike. It?s called ?Wide Awake?; the plot centers around a teenage gay couple, a few decades in the future of the US, who are volunteer workers in a Presidential election whose outcome is being challenged extra-legally. He is a wonderful writer, and I recommend it.

But the point is, in Levithan?s future, the Evangelical movement has undergone a sort of sea change (sorry, couldn?t resist) ? becoming much more centered on a Sermon on the Mount sort of worldview and much less, or not at all, a Levitican kind of worldview. The teenage couple has a group of Evangelical friends who love their neighbors and play Christian rock on the car stereo, on the way to support a gay Jewish President-elect. Wonderful stuff.

(Levithan?s day job, by the way, is as an editor. If I recall correctly.)

Anyway. A wonderful job on Masquerade, both in this kind of substance, and on so many technical levels. Thank you for posting it!

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Umm... quick caveat... I meant to paint with a broader brush than to simply paint the gay community. If anything, the straighter world is even more relationship challenged these days. And no pie fights, please. I think I'd like the book!

Thanks for the kind reply,

Josh

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