Below is the 4th installment of The Prism Pages that was featured in the September + October Nerds! Issue. Enjoy 🙂
Not Being Queerbaited
BY: ELAINA NICHOLAS
Did that really just happen?
I hit rewind
And they kiss again
For the first time in recorded history they kiss
Sound the alarms!
Take to the internet!
Tell your friends!
Start drawing your art!
There will be payoff
After years of watching and waiting
After so many glances
And voice of god gaslighting us
Two characters on television kiss
And we can’t even believe it
There are many shows that can be listed where the characters are left listless
Romantic tension cuts like a knife
The internet is divided
We get a kiss
Elaina Nicholas (she/her) is a gay junior in high school. She spends most of her time in the theatre department and loves all of the creative arts. She has written several one-act plays, one that was performed by Playhouse on the Square. She has also published a short story in her school’s literary magazine.
If You Knew I Was Trans
BY: JENNA LEE DUNN
You see me on the streets and you tell me I’m pretty.
Would you think the same if you knew I was Trans?
You were my waiter at that nice restaurant, you said my dress was pretty and I had a pretty smile.
Would you feel the same way if you knew I was Trans?
You helped me carry that heavy box into the office.
Would you have done the same if you knew I was Trans?
Would you talk to me, care about me, respect me, see me, love me….. If you knew I was Trans?
The Flower Seed
BY: JENNA LEE DUNN
As I planted flowers this morning I realized that we as Trans People have a few things in common with the flower seed. You see the Flower Seed came from a grown flower the same way we are offspring from our parents. And like the Flower Seed which needs water, sun, good soil and love to grow, we as Trans People need certain things to be able to grow and be happy. We need support and understanding, patience and love. Then we will be able to break through the shell that holds our true beauty inside and grow into the beautiful Flower we were meant to be.
Jenna Dunn is the newest team member at OUTMemphis! A leader in trans advocacy and support in Memphis, Jenna creates a sense of safety through her work, her presence, and her writing! Find her at @jennaonfire.
It’s Renbo Street, 1967, sunshine and warm breeze on a Saturday morning in June. Fun is at an all-time high for Sam Josweik and friends, what with their matching Daisy BB guns and a bet over who can play himself most like a man and who will remain a ten-year-old know-nothing.
Prospects are good for Sam, who runs fastest even in his plastic suit of armor—just a breastplate and a helmet to keep him protected as long as no one aims for his legs. He’s already drawn blood with a shot that grazed Martin’s cheek and is feeling both optimistic and (inadmissibly) anxious.
Fuelled by embarrassed rage, Martin shimmies up a loblolly and perches on a lone branch to try his hand at sniping. Sam knows Martin is good with long-range, so he turns his attention elsewhere. As for Lem, he’s barely taller than a kindergartener and runs about as fast, but he’s a fine marksman and not to be taken for granted. Lem in fact delivers a BB into the back of Sam’s helmet as Sam stands in the open, pondering his next move.
Sam takes this sneak attack quite personally. He cocks his gun and spins around in one smooth pirouette, but Lem has already ducked safely behind the Josweiks’ new Ford Country Squire. Sam knows better than to shoot within fifty feet of that baby blue, wood-paneled trophy of his father’s legacy. His father, the fixer of all things inanimate and broken, the owner of Dr. Mender’s Repair Shoppe, one of the most widely used and respected businesses in town. Once, Sam’s father turned a black stone into a sparkling plum jewel. The handsome towheaded man who paid for the job kissed his father’s cheek—his father let him do it. Sam had hated that customer for months, and for nights he dreamt of climbing his father’s beard to peck his rosy cheek.
How many Christmas toys has the Mender saved? He’s more important than Santa Claus. Every child has a train, a music box, a rocking horse fixed by him. He’s is the real deal. A legend. Someone kids can point to and say, “That’s our magic man.”
The Ford is the horse and Sam is the stable-keep.
Sam taunts Lem, calling him a namby-pamby as he advances on the station wagon. “Come out, come out, before I chase you out!”
“How am I the namby-pamby?” says Lem, without showing himself. “You’re the one wearing armor.”
“Move away from the Ford.”
“Come on, Lem. You know we can’t shoot here.”
“Take off the costume.”
Neither boy budges or breaks the silence. Sam glances back to Martin’s loblolly and catches him taking aim.
“Hold fire!” Sam yells. He turns back to the wagon, rips off his helmet, and tosses it where Lem can see. Then he rolls away from the Ford and onto a patch of grass that’s flanked on one side by his own house and on the other by that of his neighbor: Mr. Salty McMillan, a formidable man who values efficiency of movement, word, and breath—a man who would never abide a trespassing shootout. Sam hunkers down in the grass and mutters a prayer to Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Doc Holliday.
“Where’s the breastplate?” ask Lem from somewhere behind the Ford.
“I’m keeping the plate,” says Sam. “You keep the helmet and get the hell away from my Daddy’s car.”
A BB plinks off the concrete at the foot of the Ford’s driver-side tire. Martin has taken a shot.
Sam pushes himself off the ground and brushes the dried grass clippings from his pants. He swaggers over to the station wagon and examines the polished blue paint for any scrapes or dents. He received the gun as a birthday present just last week—the last of his friends, his dad being a pacifist and all. He knows he’ll be stripped of his prize at the slightest transgression.
The car appears unscathed, but Sam longs to make the idiot pay anyway. He pictures Martin’s limp body on the ground at his feet under the towering loblolly. No, he won’t kill that ten-year-old know-nothing—Martin will be fine—but Sam hopes to make him cry and beg for mercy. He sprints toward Martin’s tree.
“Give me one reason not to kill you,” he shouts up at his friend. Out loud, the words sound smooth and tough as leather. Before he considers his vulnerable position, Sam is shimmying up the tree with his gun hooked to his belt. The bark tears at his wrists and biceps and thighs and calves. “We won’t both fit up here!” Martin yells from above, the barrel of his gun pointed down the tree. Sam’s muscles are taut and humming with hot blood. He can’t do a thing but climb.
A BB plinks off the bark near his right cheek. Martin turns his gun toward Salty McMillan’s house, and Sam follows his aim and sees Lem hunkered belly-down atop the back-porch overhang, aiming his gun right at the spot in the tree where Martin is perched. Sam pauses on his branch.
“I’m gonna shoot,” says Martin, and he does.
Lem spins onto his back looking hit, but the yowl comes from inside the house, through an open window on the first floor: “Fuck’s sake!”
Lem scrambles down the awning while Sam and Martin work their escape down the tree, catching more than a few scrapes along the way. With his generous head start, Lem makes it far enough near his own home to be counted safe, but Martin and Sam are standing smack-dab in the middle of Salty McMillan’s front yard when the old man thwacks open the screen door.
“Boys!” he commands.
They halt where they stand. Pay respect or perish, is Sam’s thinking, and also: play dumb.
Mr. Salty leans forward onto the porch rail. His lips and brow are loose, unfurrowed—he appears calm, even. Sam begins to count himself and his friend spared.
“I used to play wild like you,” begins Mr. Salty. He inhales deeply and stares out somewhere beyond the boys. “They called me Aloicious the Vicious, and friends and me would chase each other through the corn fields with pockets full of rocks and nails. We’d split each other open if we had the chance. End up with considerable wounds—the kind that don’t heal right without a doctor.” Mr. Salty pulls out a pocket knife and flips it open. Sam assumes he’ll use it to clean his fingernails, as many of the men he knows are accustomed, but the old man begins to saunter toward them, wielding the knife like a pointer. He punctuates his sentences in a flourish of sliced air: “We fought like starving panthers. But we also made sure to keep harm away from the innocent ones. A stray dog or two, for example, might wander onto our grounds in search of small snacks or whatever else, and no matter how chief the play, we’d lower our weapons to let the hounds pass.”
He stoops over Sam. He grabs the back of Sam’s head and holds the knife millimeters from the boy’s cheek. Sam holds the old man in a stone stare.
“But you boys,” he says, “have no dignity. You bring your empty war upon a man whose only hope is peace on the john. No peace, says the ape as he sends a BB across the tip of my nose.” He presses the flat side of the blade against Sam’s cheek. Sam doesn’t flinch. It’s the least scared he’s ever been.
Years ago, Sam swore to his friends that he saw his father save a pet frog from what everyone on Renbo called death. It had been dead—Sam was sure. After his father pumped the limp thing back to life, the frog hopped around a couple times, probably aiming for an escape out the window. It fell dead again only seconds later, but the momentary rebirth changed Sam forever. He told Marianne from Miss Welch’s fifth grade class: Don’t you know? The dead can live! I seen it with a frog, and a stone, too, but Marianne thought otherwise. He didn’t impress her then, and he never would.
With the thought of Marianne creeping up from somewhere deep inside, Sam loses control. “I didn’t do it!” he shouts before he can help it. “It was Martin!”
All present can guess that Martin is thinking about running. Mr. Salty catches his wrist and has the blade to his palm before he can take a step.
“Cowards!” bellows the old man. He scowls at Sam, “You coward,” and then at Martin, “and you coward.” Martin’s palm blushes with the blood Mr. Salty has trapped with his grip.
“Josweik,” says the man, “remove that gun from your belt.”
Sam immediately obeys. He drops the gun to the grass at his feet.
“Pick it up, you fool,” says Mr. Salty, and Sam obeys. “Here, point it at your friend’s thigh.” Sam does so without hesitation, even though he feels awful about it. Mr. Salty bends down to meet Martin’s frantic eyes. He doesn’t loosen the grip. “If you admit you shot that BB through my bathroom window, I’ll let you off with a knick on the palm. But if you tell me your friend Josweik done it, I’ll nick him instead. If you lie—and I can tell these things—I’ll nick you both and let Josweik shoot you in the thigh.”
Martin’s trembling now. Sam considers turning the gun onto the old man to shake up the situation a little, but Martin makes the first move. “I was aiming for my friend,” he says, pointing off in the direction Lem had fled. “I didn’t mean to I’m very sorry Mr. Salty, oh!” Martin’s tears surprise Sam. He full-on sobs.
Mr. Salty lowers his knife. “To think of a grown man slicing a little boy,” he says with a chuckle. He turns to Martin. “No, I wouldn’t. But I bet your friend would have pulled the trigger.” He pushes the barrel of Sam’s gun away from Martin’s thigh and pats the weeping boy on the shoulder. “Cry it out,” he says. He rubs Martin’s back as the boy heaves with sobs. “Child, you’ll be fine. You showed bad marksmanship, is all. I had to give you hell.”
Mr. Salty turns away from Martin and points the knife at Sam. “You, boy—you’d better figure out how to be less of a goddamn tattling disgrace.”
Sam backs away into his own yard, leaving his sobbing friend behind.
In the basement, on Daddy the Mender’s worktable, Sam is punished for his abuse of a weapon. Next to him sits Mrs. Welter’s torn heirloom quilt and the Kluiters’ broken color television. As the belt cuts through the air and lashes his bare bottom, Sam chooses elsewhere. All time collapses in the domed glass of the broken television across the room.
As a toddling, bobble-headed boy who barely knows how to say his words, Sam thinks: give Daddy the pretty rose quartz you found in the garden, show him forever like you saw in the morning under white, window sun. But Daddy says, “For all that happens, it happens down here and not in the skies with God.” See the frown? Always the frown. He throws your quartz in the wastebasket.
In the basement, in the now, the sometimes pacifist frowns again at the sometimes boy. With another thrash of the belt, the Mender bellows,“You are no soldier. You are my girl. No more guns for my little girl.”
But Sam is long gone, somewhere in the future. It’s a quiet spring afternoon, the day after an F5 tornado had torn through Renbo St. Sam tries to return to the old block, but he can’t find it. All the street signs in town have been chewed up and spit out, nowhere to be found in all the wreckage, tossed together with the houses and trees and cars and swing sets in one big salad of terrible beauty.
Ponyboi is a high kicking space cowboy who does rowdy rodeo style drag while having the heart of a true laureate! Find them at @mrponyboi on Instagram.