This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Johanna will be awarding one ebook to one randomly drawn commenter and one print book (US only - international winners will receive an eBook substitution) to a second randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
By Johanna Parkhurst
Not Long Before Emmitt Met Dusty…
At least there’s hockey practice tonight.
That’s what I keep repeating to myself over and over as I slam my locker shut and head towards AP history class. Right now, nothing sounds better than writing an essay about why the North should have let the South secede.
But I know my mind’s going to be back in the lunchroom, replaying every decision I just made.
I was just sitting there with Eric Perry and a few of the girls from our Trig class, talking about some party Eric’s girl wanted us to go to that weekend, when Josh Benners slid his tray next to mine, shaking his head. “Dude, bio class is outta control. We got all these faggots in there who get all kinds of pissed off over nothing. They just got Lackey detention.”
I scowled, because Lackey isn’t a guy from the team I like spending my free time with.
“What happened?” Eric asked.
“We were talkin’ bout viruses, and HIV, and this geek soph says something about how this is why gays should have always been allowed to get married or something stupid like that. I mean, how does letting faggots get married stop HIV from being a disease?” Josh shook his head. I thought about opening my mouth right then, but decided to wait it out and listen to the rest of the story. Partly because I wanted to hear the rest of it, and partly because I didn’t really trust what was going to come out of my mouth right then.
“So then Lackey gets pissed and tells the guy that it would be just as easy to put all the people with HIV on an island and kill ‘em, so why don’t we just do that? And then the teacher gave him detention!”
My mouth dropped open, and I couldn’t keep quiet anymore. “He said that? He deserved detention. What a jerk.”
Josh’s mouth dropped open then. “Whaddya mean? He was being honest! That would end the disease! Plush, that soph faggot needed to hear it—talking about gays getting married. What kind of crap is that.”
“Why shouldn’t they get married?” I couldn’t believe I said it as steadily as I did, ‘cause my hands had to be shaking.
Josh’s eyes practically bugged out. “It’s in the Bible not to! Plus, it’s gross!” His eyes narrowed. “What are you, LaPoint, some kind of faggot too?”
I’d actually thought a lot about what I’d say if anyone at school ever asked me that. At night sometimes, thinking about that guy at hockey camp I’d gotten really close to last summer, I’d sometimes get really brave in my mind and fantasize about just saying, “Yeah, I am.”
But actually? No one had ever asked me before. And in real life, I had no idea what I was about to come out of my mouth.
As it turned out, though, it didn’t matter, because just then some kid with long blond hair and a green military jacket hanging all over him walked by us, and Josh stood up.
“Hey! You! Shut up in bio from now on, will you? You get Lackey detention again, he’s gonna miss more hockey practices. And the rest of us on the team aren’t going to like that.”
The kid sneered. “I don’t think the whole hockey team could keep him from getting himself detention.”
I was impressed.
“Listen, faggot,” Josh hissed, “Fudgepackers like you? You wanna keep quiet around the real men like us. So shaddup with all the fag talk, okay?”
It was like that last line finally snapped me out of whatever trance I’d been in. “Hey!” I said, standing up myself. “Josh, shut up. Lackey was out of line, and you know it. You don’t talk around rounding people up and killing them.” I looked over at Military Jacket Kid. “Hey, good for you for standing up to Josh. He’s a dick sometimes, but he’s harmless, I swear.” I narrowed my eyes back at Josh. “Stop using the word faggot. Makes you look ignorant.”
Military Jacket Kid blinked rapidly. “Wow, a smart hockey player,” he finally said before he walked away.
Josh was fuming, so I sat down and waited for whatever he had to say. Eric and the girls had watched the whole scene in silence, looking back and forth between us like we were in some kind of crazy tennis match. None of them said anything.
“Emmitt,” Josh finally choked out. “What was that, man?”
I could’ve done it then. I could’ve taken a bit of my burger, chewed and swallowed, looked him in the eye and said, “I’m a fag.”
Instead I said, “I want our team to look good. We’re not going to be ignorant a-holes who go around disrespecting people because of who they are. We’re better than that. You’re better than that.”
Now I’m heading to class, thinking that maybe I should be proud. I know Josh won’t start anything with Military Jacket Kid after this, and Lackey will back off too once Josh talks to him. I’m the captain of the team, after all.
And there’s hockey practice tonight. That’s where I can zone out, take my mind off everything that’s happened today.
But for the next few hours or so, I know my mind’s going to be back in that lunchroom, wondering what really makes someone brave.
That’s the last thing Dusty Porter learns in his Colorado history class before appendicitis ruins his life. It isn’t long before social services figures out that Dusty’s parents are more myth than reality, and he and his siblings are shipped off to live in Vermont with an uncle and aunt they’ve never met.
Dusty’s new life is a struggle. His brother and sister don’t seem to need him anymore, and he can’t stand his aunt and uncle. At school, one hockey player develops a personal vendetta against him, while Emmitt, another hockey player, is making it hard for Dusty to keep pretending he’s straight. Problem is, he’s pretty sure Emmitt’s not gay. Then, just when Dusty thinks things can’t get any worse, his mother reappears, looking for a second chance to be a part of his life.
Somehow Zebulon Pike still got the mountain named after him, so Dusty’s determined to persevere—but at what point in life do you keep climbing, and when do you give up and turn back?
About the Author:Johanna Parkhurst grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont before relocating to the rocky mountains of Colorado. She spends her days helping teenagers learn to read and write and her evenings writing things she hopes they’ll like to read. She strives to share stories of young adults who are as determined, passionate, and complex as the ones she shares classrooms with.
Johanna holds degrees from Albertus Magnus College and Teachers College, Columbia University. She loves traveling, hiking, skiing, watching football, and spending time with her incredibly supportive husband. You can contact her at Facebook or find her on Twitter. Buy the book at Barnes and Noble, Dreamspinner Press, or Amazon.