by Richard Brenton

The men are lined up in a long conga line of buggery leading straight to the doors of hell. The invitation, the temptation to join them, is there, but I mustn’t. I mustn’t.

My fingers grip the thin length of wood. The weight of the placard is hard enough to bear but the wind picks up and tries desperately to snatch the message from my grasp.

Around me stand the other chosen few. We chant our chant, “the Bible says, the Bible says,” and make ourselves the laughing stock of the viewers on the other side of those stark television cameras pointed our way. The news reporter grips her microphone closer to her mouth, shielding its bulbous head from the wind, and it makes me think of her kneeling before me offering her open mouth to the rod of God between my thighs. God knows I have a weak spirit. He knows I dream of orgasm, no matter how hard, how hard, how hard the archdeacon tries to excommunicate the demon inside my pants.

I jostle shoulders with Bill. Dear dependable Bill. Broad-shouldered Bill. Beefy-armed Bill. Bulky-chested Bill. Bronzed Bill. Bulging Bill. How many hours now have I spent staring at his crotch? At his pert buttocks? At his thick thigh muscles flexing beneath the frayed edges of his torn denim short-shorts?

An involuntary erection strains within my pants. I lower my arms, holding the placard at my shoulder, to disguise the thin, too-small bulge with the sturdy wooden shaft in my hands.

Bill grins. “Doin’ great, Quentin. Doin’ great. Look’it all the folks round here. See the hope in their eyes? They don’t want this queer-fest fuckin’ up their lives, neither. We’re doin’ God’s work, son. God’s work, you unnerstand?”

The parade continues regardless of our presence. A multi-colored Aloha necklace is thrown at my feet. The flowers whisper in the wind. Whistles blow. A man in short-shorts, just like Bill’s, and a thin white vest, like John McLean, a thick black mustache, like Freddie Mercury, and a flashing LCD headband at his brow, blows a kiss at us.

The wind snatches it away and, with it, Bill’s terse response, “Fuckin’ queer bastard try that again I’m gonna fuck him up.”

A deep breath and I haul the banner up into the air once more. I join the chanting. Around me are flung invectives. “You goin’ to hell, boy. God never meant for man to fornicate with beasts. He never meant for man to fornicate with man, neither. You goin’ to hell.”

The wind takes a deep breath and in the pause the tinny music coming from the nearest float comes through loud and clear. “It’s fun to stay at the—”

And the wind returns and lifts the message clean out of my hands and dumps it in a pile of trash outside the Buy’n’Save. Bill is yelling something but I’m walking forward, I’m picking up the Aloha flowers and someone throws me a whistle.

God will understand. 


Richard Brenton is spending the long summer days indoors hammering the keys for his new novel, giving him a wan complexion. His love of hats has not been diminished by this lengthy internment, and writing beneath the brim of a brown fedora has helped him win a few writing prizes for short fiction.
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