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Authors: TJ Klune

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BOOK: Tell Me It's Real
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His eyes flashed angrily at me, but then he seemed to deflate. “Oh, baby doll,” he said. “I think you are perfect just the way you are. I just want others to be able to see how perfect you are too.”

I refused to look at him.

“Go down with me?” he—
she
—asked quietly. “I’ll buy you a frou-frou drink that comes with an umbrella in it.”

“I think I’m going to stay up here for a bit,” I said. “Keep Charlie company.”

She sighed and stood up straight, becoming full-on queen and angry again. “Fine. You stay up here, locked in your fucking ivory princess tower. I’m done trying to help you.”

“I never
asked
for your help,” I reminded her. “You tried to do it anyway. If I’m so good the way I am, then why are you trying to help me do
anything
?”

She didn’t say another word and pushed past me, stomping down the stairs as loudly as she could. Even above the dance music that had started to play, I could hear the door slam.

“Boy…,” Charlie said, shaking his head.

“Not in the mood, Daddy,” I grumbled at him. I pulled my chair off to side and in the shadows so I could still see down onto the floor but no one could see me. Eventually, the floor filled again and people started dancing. Mr. Nice Thought While It Lasted came in with his friends. I couldn’t help but notice how he seemed to be looking for someone and would glance up at the balcony every now and then. I started to get this weird warm feeling in my stomach again, but it was gone the moment some big, muscley bear-looking dude came up and started rubbing up on him. He had a spark in his eye as Bear Dude leaned over and whispered something in his ear. He tipped his head back and laughed, and they started dancing all sexy-like, Bear Dude getting a nice handful of his ass as they moved. I looked away.

Charlie sighed but didn’t say a word.

Happy thirtieth birthday to me.

Chapter 3

Dear God: Fuck You

 

 

T
HE
next day, Sunday, I awoke in my own bed. Alone, of course.

Well, not
completely
alone. When I first got Wheels, I’d built this ramp thing that led up to the bed from the floor so Wheels could get up whenever he wanted to. It took him a while to get used to it, and his wheels squeaked when he was climbing up the ramp, but it was better than waking up in the middle of the night because he was trying to jump on his wheels to get onto the bed.

So I opened my eyes, not even remotely hungover, remembering I was now thirty, in a fight with my best friend, and had probably missed meeting the man who would undoubtedly be the love my life but was now probably waking up in Bear Dude’s bed, all because I was a gigantic vagina. Not that he’d actually been looking at me seriously.

Blargh.

“You still love me?” I asked Wheels, reaching up to scratch behind his ears, his tongue lolling out in that way he does when he knows he’s going to get his scratch on.

In books and movies, when asked a question by his lonely owner, a dog would most likely reach up and lick his master’s face in a way that let the master know that the world might be scary sometimes, but it would all be okay eventually. But my life is not a book or a movie and instead of licking my face, Wheels farted and then barfed up the section of carpet he’d been gnawing on when I’d gotten home last night.

“Augh!” I cried, trying to roll away. Of course, Wheels thought we were playing a game and tried to crawl after me, running his cart through his own vomit, spreading it over my sheets as he rolled. “No, you gross two-legged monster!” I shouted at him, but he was already distracted by his own vomit and started to eat it and I gave serious thought to urking up a bit myself, but then I realized I would just be feeding him even more, and I had to turn away. As soon as I got myself under control, I heard my phone ring.

“Hello,” I said, running to the bathroom to get a towel.

“Hi, baby!” my mom said.

“Hi, Mom,” I sighed. “Listen, now’s not the best—”

“Your father is on the line as well,” she said, interrupting me.

“Dad.”

“Hello, son,” Dad said.

Ah, Matilda (Matty) and Lawrence (Larry) Auster. My parents. You can’t say I haven’t warned you.

“How did last night go?” Mom asked. “Did you get any play?”

“It is way too fucking early for this,” I muttered, grabbing my bath towel and warming it under the water.

“Language,” my father warned.

“Sorry.”

“Well?” my mother demanded.

“Sandy called you, didn’t he?”

“Oh yes,” she gushed. “He asked me how much I thought you would try to murder him if he pulled you down on stage with him.”

“And what did you tell him?”

“That you’d probably crap yourself on stage,” she said.

“Language,” my father snapped.

“It was fine,” I said through gritted teeth, walking back to the bedroom. Wheels had the decency to look at least a bit contrite as I walked over to him. He hung his head a little bit, and I started to feel bad for the way I had glared at him, but then he farted again and I didn’t feel so bad anymore.

“It was fine,” I said. “Not that big of a deal.”

“You did it?” my mother squealed. “I am so proud of you!” And she was, in her weird, weird way. Both of them were. I hear horror stories all the time of people coming out only to be rejected by their families and kicked out onto the streets and told never to return. I was scared, yes, when I was seventeen and trying to work up the courage to out myself to my family. Sandy had already come out to
his
family and received indifference, so we figured we could expect the same from mine. Boy, were
we
wrong. Being their only child, of
course
they were upset. For, like, two seconds. Once my mom got over her tears and my father stopped frowning, they went online to look up two things: where the closest chapter of PFLAG was, and the proper way to use a dental dam. “For all we know,” my mother had said, “you may be into rimming now. We just want to make sure you are safe.”

I love them completely, don’t get me wrong. But they like to meddle just as much as Sandy does. They keep asking when I’m going to give them grandbabies. “We’re not getting any younger,” my father once growled at me.

“Well, I’m not quite fertile enough yet,” I had growled right back.

I don’t have the heart to tell them that I don’t have ovaries like they seem to think I do.

“You got up on the stage?” Dad said now, sounding surprised. “Did you take off your shirt?”

“It’s not
that
kind of a club,” my mother scolded him. “He wasn’t being auctioned off like some piece of meat. This isn’t Phoenix.”

Apparently I went to the wrong kind of clubs. When you’re auctioned off, does that still make you a prostitute? Money is still exchanging hands, so it sounded kind of whorish to me. I decided right then and there that I would not want to be a prostitute. Besides, I still had all my teeth and I didn’t look good in fishnets.

“Phoenix,” my father grumbled. “Such a blight on the world.”

“Did you shake your groove thing?” Mom asked me.

“No,” I said, picking up Wheels and wiping off his paws. He just grinned up at me adoringly, shaking his butt where his tail used to be. “You’re gross,” I told him.

“I don’t think shaking your groove thing is gross,” my mother said, sounding baffled.

“Maybe that means something different than it did years ago,” Dad said. “Like maybe now it has to do with unseemly things, like fisting or nipple clamps. Which,” he said, directing his stern words at me, “you better not have been doing in public. You could get arrested for that kind of thing, even if it was in a sex club.”

“It wasn’t a sex club,” I said, trying to scoop up leftover doggie discharge. “You’ve been there before, remember? For pride? You thought that leather bear had a neat vest and you asked him where you could buy one and he told you that he’d take you for a ride on his motorcycle?”

“Oh yeah,” Dad said thoughtfully. “The floor was sticky there.”

“From drinks,” Mom said. “Not semen.”

“Well, that
you
know of,” Dad replied.

“How does it feel to be thirty?” Mom asked me as I scooped up the sheets from my bed and headed to the washroom. “Hungover from any…
whiskey
?”

“I didn’t drink that much last night,” I grumbled and then I froze.

“Did you meet anyone last night?” Dad asked casually.
Too
casually.

“What?” I asked, trying to buy time. “No.” Then it hit me. “You already spoke to Sandy, didn’t you,” I accused them both.

“Matty,” Dad sighed, “I think we need to work on our subtlety.”

“Of course not, dear,” she sniffed. “We’re as subtle as the day is long.”

“Yeah, if the day is in Antarctica during the winter,” I muttered.

“What?” Mom asked.

“What?” Dad asked.

“She said you guys were subtle as the day is long. And I said only if the day was in Antarctica in winter.”

“We heard that, sweetheart,” Mom said. “We’re not deaf.”

“Days are really short in Antarctica during the winter,” I ground out, shoving the sheets into the washing machine.

“That’s nice, dear. Did you want to go there or something? That seems really far away. Consider going somewhere closer first, like Iowa. I hear the people there are very… Iowan.”

“Maybe it’s on his bucket list,” Dad said. “You know, now that he’s thirty, he’s trying to figure out all the things he wants to do before he dies.”

“Like have grandbabies?” my mom asked hopefully.

“That’s why I got a dog,” I said, hearing Wheels rolling his way to his dish in the kitchen.

“Granddogs?” my mother said, perplexed. “Not quite the same. Now, who was he?”

“Who?”

“Don’t do that, Paul. It’s annoying.”

“Yes, Paul. Don’t annoy your mother because then she annoys
me
.”

“Really, Lawrence, try to be a bit more sensitive.”

“I’m the most sensitive man you know.”

“No, Paul is. He always has been, ever since he was a little boy. I don’t know why we were so surprised when he came out. We should have seen it coming.”

“Like the time he wanted to be Cinderella for Halloween when he was ten?”

My mother sighed. “Though, now that I think about it, he should have been the fairy godmother.”

“Mom!” I choked out, as my dad started to crack up. “That’s not funny!”

“Oh course it is, sweetheart. I’m the funniest person in the world.”

“That makes me so sad,” I told her.

“What was his name?” she demanded.

“If you talked to Sandy then you know I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Why not?” Dad asked. “I don’t understand why you’re so quiet. Or so shy, for that matter. You’re just as good as any of the other homosexuals in there. Better, even.”

“The best,” my mom said fondly.

I tried not to let them know how their words affected me, only because I realized that this is why they had called to begin with. We didn’t speak on the phone that often, and if we did, the conversations were short and sweet. But Sandy must have told them I was upset and this was them trying to make me feel better, and I’ll admit, my eyes were burning a bit. All my anger fled at that moment, and what I really wanted was my mom and dad.

“I don’t know,” I said, my voice a bit rough. “You guys are just biased.”

“Well, even if we weren’t, we’d still love you to pieces,” Mom said. “We know you’re shy, Paul, and maybe you’ll always be like that. But one day, someone is going to come along and sweep you off your feet and it will be like magic. You’ll open up like a blushing, virgin flower filled with rainbows and sprinkles”

“Rainbows and sprinkles,” my father agreed. “The most sprinkliest virgin flower ever.”

“I love you guys,” I told them honestly, even if they were batshit insane.

“We know, sweetheart,” Mom said. “Feel better?”

“Yeah. A bit.” And I did. Dog-vomit eating and all.

“Good, because Sandy is sitting in your driveway, waiting for us to make you not mad at him anymore.”

I groaned. “You set me up!”

“And it was surprisingly easy.” Dad laughed. “Geez. I don’t know how you weren’t kidnapped as a child by a stranger who offered you candy. You’re so gullible.”

“Lawrence,” my mother admonished. “What terrible thing to say. Accurate, but terrible. Now, Paul, are you done being mad at Sandy?”

“I guess,” I allowed.

“Why don’t you ask
him
out?” my dad asked. “He’s already like one of the family. It’d just be so perfect! And then you two would be married and your mother could borrow that one outfit he wears that has the tail….”

“Larry!” my mother shouted, but even I could hear the smile in her voice.

I tried to scrub that image from my head, but it worked its way in. It’s a weird kinky pony-play outfit he found at some sex shop that he wears when he does Marilyn Manson at the club. It’s scary, but a little hot. “We’re not like that,” I told them. “Sandy and I are best friends. Like brothers. We tried it once, but it was just too weird. Not our thing. I love him, but not that way.”

“It’d be easy, though, right?” Dad asked.

“Oh, Larry,” my mother sighed. “Love is never easy.”

Oh gross. Not this kind of conversation again. You’d swear there were three people on the phone with a uterus instead of one. “And on that note, I gotta go. Sandy, and all.”

“Okay,” Mom said. “Don’t forget next weekend going to Nana’s for your birthday.”

“Wonderful,” I said. “There’s nothing greater for my self-esteem than to hear Johnny Depp call me a fanny-bandit.”

“That bird,” Mom said. I could hear the frown in her voice. “It needs therapy.”

“Is there bird therapy?” Dad asked, and I hung up gently, knowing
that
conversation would go on forever.

I thought I’d let Sandy suffer for a bit longer, but it was May, and it gets very hot very quickly in the desert. Part of me was vindictively gleeful at the thought of him sweating horribly, but then I realized he had air-conditioning in his car and he hates to sweat. “Guess who’s here,” I said to Wheels in a happy voice, getting him all riled up. “Guess who’s here! Is it your Uncle Sandy? Is it?” Wheels about shat himself when he heard the name Sandy. They’d bonded over a Milk-Bone and been soul mates ever since. The mutt pretty much hates everyone else. He’s very…
picky
about who he loves. Which, to be honest, was just a nice way of saying my dog is a jerk.

BOOK: Tell Me It's Real
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