More than a snippet, actually… this follows the one that was posted yesterday.
The next morning, at breakfast, I got a text from Jeff. Val doesn’t want us to come. I tend to agree, especially for Colin.
I understand. Did you tell Col why?
Yeah. He’s unhappy, but he gets it.
Okay. Some other time.
For sure. You all be careful.
Pete was watching me. I said, “Val and Jeff have decided that now is not the time for Colin to visit.”
Kevin, wisely, remained silent. Pete’s face was dark, but he was externally calm. “So your nephews will never visit?”
I said, “Now who’s overreacting?”
Kristen said, “Once you figure out who’s behind this and neutralize them, I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
“Neutralize them?” The volume of Pete’s voice rose slightly. “Seriously? This is not a war.”
Kristen crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. I thought, Uh oh. She said, “You’re being forced to fight to be accepted and respected in this town. What would you call it?”
Pete snorted. “This episode is an anomaly.”
“There are thirty-three churches here that are Baptist, Fundamentalist, Church of God, etcetera. Thirty-three. Not that anomalous, I bet.”
“You counted churches?”
“I sure did. I wanted to know what you were up against.”
I sidled over to stand by Kevin as we watched Pete and Kristen argue. I didn’t have to wonder who would prevail in a contest of wills between them. Pete’s volume increased by another notch. “Unbelievable. This is not even your business.”
“No? Being concerned for my family is not my business? Wanting my brothers-in-law to be safe is not my business?”
“There is nothing to worry about!”
“And you are in complete fucking denial!”
I held up my hands. “Whoa, whoa. Can we table the discussion?”
Kristen said, “Fine by me.”
Pete didn’t respond. He shoved past us and went out the back door.
Kristen said, “Sorry.”
I said, “Don’t apologize. I appreciate your concern. Pete will, too, as soon as he chills out.”
“I’m not wrong.”
I sighed. “No. I’m afraid you’re not.”
Kevin helped me clean the kitchen, then he and Kristen went to the front porch. I poured water from a jug into a bottle and went out back to find Pete. He was in the far southeast corner, opposite the greenhouse, chopping at a hardened section of ground with a mattock. I leaned against the wall and watched him. Finally he stopped, dripping with sweat, and glared at me. “What?”
“Nothing. What are you doing?”
“This is where the beehives will sit. I’m leveling this piece of ground.”
“Do bees need flat ground?”
“No idea. But our bees will have it.”
He blew out a breath and stared at the sky. “This is not how I wanted my summer to start.”
“Me either.” I handed him the water bottle.
He took a long drink. “Someone’s trying to frighten us. Or provoke a response.”
“I’m sure they are. But there’s a difference between us not responding, and us completely ignoring the threat.”
“What do you propose that we do?”
“Proceed with caution. Do everything we planned while watching our six.”
“We planned to have Jeff and Colin visit.”
I sighed. “Pete, you’re not a parent. Jeff and Val are protecting Colin. That’s what parents do.”
He kicked at a loose clump of dirt. “Not mine.”
“Let me rephrase. That’s what good parents do.”
“Steve will be disappointed.”
“Steve will understand.” Probably.
He looked around the property. “I love it here.”
“So do I. But aren’t you glad we have an eight-foot wall?”
He grimaced. “And it was your idea. I didn’t think we needed it.”
“My intent was to keep critters out of our vegetables, and allow us to walk into the back yard naked if we wanted to. I didn’t realize we’d need protection from anything but coyotes.”
“I refuse to build a moat.”
I laughed. “That would drain the well, for sure.”
“I’ve never argued with Kristen before.”
“I don’t recommend it.”
He snorted. “I can see why.”
I wielded a level to complete Pete’s bee preparation, then we went inside. Pete headed for the shower. I took a Coke to the front porch, where Kevin, Kristen, and Ammo were sprawled in various poses. Kristen craned her neck to look at me. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah. He broke up some hard-packed ground in the back. He’s in the shower now.”
Kevin said, “We didn’t mean to be the guests who came to argue.”
I waved that off. “All of it needed to be said.”
Kristen asked, “Why is Pete being so stubborn?”
I laughed. “Do you know him? He is stubborn. But I also suspect that he really wasn’t expecting to have to deal with in-our-faces homophobia.”
Kevin said, “It’s not only stubbornness. This harassment is crashing into his vision of what living here would be like.”
“Yes. He’s constructed this idealistic vision of our future in Alamogordo.”
“He thought he could leave the troubles of his past behind. That moving here would be a fresh start for him.”
“Christine pointed out to him in December that this town could be a sister city to Barstow. He didn’t like that. But now he’s seeing that she was right, and he doesn’t want to accept it.”
Kevin said softly, “You have to brace yourself for more homophobia.”
“Oh, believe me. I’m expecting more.”
Kristen asked, “What will Pete do then?”
I shook my head, gazing into the distance. “I don’t know.”