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    Carlos Hazday
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 


“Okay, give me a few minutes and we’ll move to the sand.” Rogelio Tanaka, the photographer chosen by The Advocate for the shoot, placed his camera on the coffee table and turned off the light rings.

A reporter for the gay magazine had interviewed César and Brett earlier in the week and chatted with CJ and Owen over the phone while they were still in Mexico. Saturday afternoon was the most convenient time to take pictures of the four men together.

“I gotta pee.” Brett stood and dropped Liebe on CJ’s lap. “You should wipe her chin. She started drooling near the end.”

“How long have you two been in Mexico?” Tanaka, a freelancer originally from Los Angeles but based in New York City, had already mentioned while his father was Japanese, his mother was Mexican. He claimed it was one of those couplings common in California thanks to the state’s diverse population.

“Since September. CJ went down over the summer to line up a place to live and look for a nanny, but we officially moved after Labor Day Weekend. Do you visit often?”

“Not really. I have relatives in Tijuana, but they’re involved in not-entirely-legal businesses, so my mother prefers I don’t associate with them.”


“I guess… Unfortunately, border towns attract the worst elements.”

“That may be the case, but we’ve come to love the people we’ve met. The reception’s been warmer than I expected, considering how strained the relationship between Mexico and the U.S. has been in the recent past.”

The second and third sets of pictures were taken with the four barefoot men on the sand. They had all dressed in shorts and either polo or Hawaiian shirts for the shoot. Half of those taken on the beach had the house in the background, the other half breaking waves and blue sky.

“Too bad Ritch’s not here. This would have made a great family picture.” César wiped sand off his behind while helping Brett stand. “We should plan on taking a similar one when he’s around.”

The article was meant to highlight the efforts of four gay men in support of military veterans, and the publisher’s promise to make a big deal out of Heroes Haven was the reason CJ and Owen had, after declining the initial overture, relented and agreed to participate. CJ did not bother mentioning it to Northman but had bounced the project off the embassy’s public affairs office, and they had enthusiastically endorsed it.

“Gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure.” Tanaka shook hands with all of them after packing his equipment away. “I’ll be there tomorrow night. If you win, I’d like to get a couple of shots of you holding your Oscars.”

“What the hell do you mean if? Of course, we’re gonna win.” Brad high-fived CJ and winked at the photographer. “Just make sure if I’m in any of them they tag me as the straight one in the group.”


“Ry’s very upset he missed you.” Brock Burnett, their Malibu next-door neighbor, met CJ’s eyes in the rearview mirror. He had invited the men behind A Home for Warriors to dinner the night before the awards ceremony.

“Yeah, he texted me. But like I told him, if it was my senior year in high school and my friends were going to Cabo for spring break, I’d be down there too.” Ryker Burnett had discovered CJ’s Instagram account, become infatuated with his activism, and had been delighted when his idol’s fathers moved next door to his.

“Did he tell you he got early admission to the McCourt School?” Brock had taken his son on a tour of eastern colleges at the end of the previous summer, knowing Georgetown was his first choice even before they left California. He thought the teen needed to explore alternatives even if the Washington school remained at the top of the list. While in D.C., Ryker had met CJ and Owen before their move to Mexico City.

“He did. I put him in touch with our buddy Carson. He graduated from McCourt the same year I did from SFS, and he works for the city’s mayor.”

“I’m glad he’ll know someone closer to his age than your parents. Brett and César have been great, though. They offered him their basement if he wanted to live off-campus.”

“He can’t, right?” Owen turned to look at his husband and daughter in the back seat. “I remember the reason you could was because you were a Washington resident before starting school.”

“Yep. If you’re from out of town, you have to live in the dorms for the first three years. I hope he takes my fathers up for dinner invites and whatever else. I think the dads are traveling so much because they feel lost with Ritch and me both being gone. Ry could be good for them and vice versa.”

“They did mention something about that. Although they claim they miss having your friends hanging around all the time too.”

“When I moved from Australia, I was quickly assimilated into CJ’s crowd. A few of his high school friends remained in town after graduation, and he started adding college ones to the collection as soon as he started at GU.”

Burnett snickered “The collection?”

“My husband collects interesting people. Age, race, gender, nationality, occupation… None of that matters as long as CJ takes a liking to them. Sorry, Brock, but you’re not his first movie star.”

“Ugggh… I don’t like being called that.” Burnett had been a rising Hollywood actor until a divorce led to drinking and a slump. He eventually sobered up, came out, married a man he had gone to high school with, and experienced a resurgence in popularity. A widower after cancer took his husband, he claimed he was content being the father he was not when his son was younger.

“You’re listed as a favorite neighbor in the collection’s database, Brock. Don’t worry about it.” CJ’s chuckles were echoed by Liebe. The girl often mirrored her fathers’ moods.

“Ry’s gonna be in D.C. for at least four years; hopefully, he’ll get to see you guys when you visit Brett and César. I think both of you would be good role models.”

“Thanks for the trust. Is that it?” Once he saw their destination in front of them, CJ glanced through the rear window to see his fathers’ Jeep behind them. He had wanted to ride with Brock so they could talk about Ryker. CJ thought the kid had a future in politics and had promised to keep an eye on him.

“Yep, we’re here, guys. Michael’s. The most famous dining establishment in Santa Monica.” Opened in 1979 by Michael McCarty and Chef Johnathan Waxman, the eatery had been a pioneer in California cuisine, utilizing the freshest possible local ingredients. Succeeding chefs had gone on to become famous in their own right and open a multitude of other restaurants.

Owen glanced at CJ again and smiled. “You finally get to eat here, Ceej.”

“That a big deal?” Burnett put the car in neutral and waited for the valet attendant to open his door.

“You have no idea. CJ has a thing for celebrity chefs and their restaurants.”

“I didn’t hear you complain when I’ve dragged you to any of them. I like to try all sorts of food, Brock. We’ve eaten at Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto in New York City, had the opportunity to chat with him, and thoroughly enjoyed his superb food. Since I talked about Michael’s with its most famous alumn, I’ve been jonesing to come here.”

“I hope it lives up to the hype.” Brock was recognized not only by the maître d’ but by several diners. A few waved, but most simply stared as he walked towards the tented patio. CJ grinned, realizing once eyes swept over Brock, they did not waver from staring at the parade of seven men and a baby girl following. Along the way, snippets of conversations about skiing in Jackson Hole and lounging on a beach in Fiji reached him. This was not a place for anyone without deep pockets. He suspected menu prices would confirm his assessment.

They did. Owen acted like a kid in a candy store when handed the wine list and put in charge of ordering for the table, and CJ proclaimed the pork chop one of the best he had ever eaten. He did complain Liebe hijacked most of his thyme fries.


“And the Oscar goes to… A Home for Warriors.” Thunderous applause forced the presenter to raise his voice. “Brad Kennedy, Brett Davenport, Cesar Abelló, Cesar Abelló, Jr., and Owen Liston, producers. Anne Maki, director.”

The audience approved. From the initial private showings to the documentary’s official premiere in Washington, D.C., through its subsequent streaming, the film had garnered critical acclaim and popular support.

“FUCKIN’ A!” Brad’s exuberant reaction had those around him laughing. Lip readers had no problem hearing his enthusiasm even though the network censored the expletive from its broadcast. He rocketed out of his chair and stood in the aisle, urging his companions to join him. The five men and one woman were showered with praise as they walked down the aisle and climbed on stage to accept their golden statuettes. While Anne and Brad approached the microphone, the others fanned out behind the film’s director and star.

Anne uttered a few words before relinquishing the microphone to Brad. He said all the right things. Thanks to the production team, the Academy, and Heroes Haven’s residents for allowing him to document their experience. When music played to indicate his time was over, Brad stopped talking and turned to either side of the stage. His brow furrowed and his eyes narrowed in obvious anger.

“Whoever started that stupid music better shut it the fuck down right now. I’m not done. If you want to try and kick me offstage, come try. Go ahead, make my day.” The defiant attitude earned him renewed applause lasting longer than before. “And I better not see the cameras’ lights turn off. What I have to say has to be heard by everyone here and those watching at home.”

CJ struggled to remain still and quiet; his instincts screamed for him to stand next to Brad and endorse his sentiment. Owen squeezing his hand helped calm him.

Brad was not interrupted again; he was able to finish saying what he had to, concluding with a message to his family. “Finally, to my mother, my fathers, and my brother, Patrick. I love you all!” As he stepped back from the microphone, the music played again, and the audience stood and applauded. Brad offered Anne his arm and escorted her off the stage, followed by the others. The redheaded Ranger would later say he was satisfied with his performance.


When the documentary’s nomination was announced, CJ reached out to Hollywood acquaintances. Bradley Cooper, a fellow Georgetown University graduate insisted his young friend and his companions walk the red carpet with him. Interviewers along the way were coerced into including the A Home for Warriors men in their conversations with the movie star.

While Cooper facilitated their pre-awards activities, Jennifer Lopez took care of the post-Oscars celebration. She arranged for them to be invited to the Vanity Fair party. CJ tried to act cool when introduced to one celebrity after another, but even his chill façade crumbled while speaking with Morgan Freeman. One of his favorite actors, the man was gracious and posed for a picture with him and Owen.

“I think we need to buy a bigger house.” Owen stood with his husband and in-laws at the bar.

“What the hell, are you talking about?” Brett’s confused expression elicited chuckles. “You have enough rooms and bathrooms to qualify as a small hotel.”

“Not that, Cap. CJ’s in need of more space for his ego wall. How many pictures have you taken tonight, Ceej?”

“Screw you. Just for that I’m gonna photoshop you out of all the ones we took together.”

The goodbyes took an eternity. Since they had a morning flight to Mexico, CJ and Owen declined invitations to after-after-parties and their contingent stuck with them.

The limousine’s driver took Interstate 10 and the Pacific Coast Highway, covering the thirty-odd miles between the party and the Malibu house in less than an hour. “Where are you guys putting them?” Brad pointed at the golden statuettes CJ and Owen held.

“I’ll take mine to the office when I go back. Then I’ll put it somewhere in the apartment. What are you doing with yours?” Owen asked Brett and César.

“We’ll keep one at home and the other one in the office. What about you, CJ?”

The way CJ smirked and wiggled his eyebrows telegraphed evil intent. “Mine’s going in my cubicle at the embassy.”

“What’s with the smirking?”

“I can’t wait to rub Northman’s nose in the win. The guy’s a jerk. You remember when I first requested time off to come here he turned me down? Something about me being a junior staff member and not providing sufficient notice. It took the ambassador getting involved, out of her own volition, for him to approve the trip. She likes me.”

“Why am I not surprised?” Brad shook his head. “It sucks you guys won’t be around to do interviews with me.”

“You’ll be fine, Red. You and Anne have been doing this shit for a year. Just remember to stick to the basics: our vets need help, and places like Heroes Haven need everyone’s support. This is your time to shine, bud. Enjoy it. You’re gonna kill it.”


The hoopla did not end when they boarded the plane to Mexico City on Monday. The following morning, CJ found a flower arrangement on his desk; the card offering congratulations on behalf of the ambassador and the entire embassy staff. Based on how Northman reacted to the flowers and the stack of cards or Post It notes with similar messages, CJ doubted his supervisor shared the feelings. He openly scowled when Carter Ludwig, from the Public Affairs office, snapped a couple of pictures of CJ with the statuette for an internal email blast.

Northman’s demeanor deteriorated when on Friday morning he found CJ at his desk once again talking to Carter. “This is an April’s Fool joke, right?” CJ was certain the man was pulling his leg.

“I’m not kidding. The reporter will be here Monday morning and the photographer the following day. By the way, I understand you know him. A guy named Rogelio Tanaka?”

“Yeah! Roger. My dads, Ozzie, Liebe, and I just did a little photo shoot with him. For that article I cleared with you.”

“They sent me a couple of pictures from it so I’d have an idea of what his work looks like. You guys are all very photogenic.”

“Thanks. So what do I have to do?”

“Mr. Ludwig, is this to become a regular occurrence? Your distracting Mr. Abelló?” Following his usual approach, Northman had snuck upon them. “May I remind you he does not work in your department? Please allow him to do his job.”

Northman was unable to see Carter’s eye roll, but CJ had to swallow the chuckle it elicited. He knew Northman would complain no matter what, so he decided to lay it all out right then. “He’s not bothering me. He was telling me about a New York Times reporter coming to interview me for the paper’s Sunday magazine.”

Carter winked at him. “It’s not set in stone, CJ. You have to agree to do it, or I call him back and tell him to cancel the trip.”

“I would suggest you decline, Mr. Abelló. Your penchant for publicity can negatively impact your duties. You were not assigned to this embassy to see how often you could get your picture in the press.”

“Actually, Stephen, everything I’ve heard about him’s been complimentary. Well, maybe except what comes from you. CJ has a reputation as a conscientious, caring worker who goes out of his way to comfort those he’s unable to assist.”

“Well, that’s not his job. He’s supposed to follow our laws. If in the process certain individuals have problems with those, it’s not Mr. Abelló’s responsibility to hold their hands.”

CJ felt as if he was at a tennis match; his head swiveled between the two men talking about him. It was amusing for a few moments, but he was tiring of it.

“It’s his decision, Stephen. And since you feel he shouldn’t, maybe you would like to let Bryce Lilly, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, know how you feel. Secretary Lilly not only approved the Times’ request but strongly urged us to facilitate the interview.”

“I’ll do it.” CJ’s words seemed to surprise Northman and Ludwig. “I mean, I need to call my husband and get him to agree, but Owen will probably go along with it.”

“Excellent! Sorry, Stephen. You made the right call, CJ. If Lilly’s behind this project, you can bet he’ll be keeping an eye on you from now on. If he hasn’t already been doing so. It can only help your career.”

A defeated Northman shook his head and slunk away.


“I thought you said no more interviews. We turned down DNA and Out.” Owen gingerly extracted Liebe from her high chair, trying not to let her grab him with her messy hands. “As usual, there’s more food on her than in her.”

CJ ran plates under the faucet before stacking them in the dishwasher. “I’d say the fact she keeps growing proves she does eat. Anyway, I agreed to do The Advocate because the magazine approached the dads first, and they asked us to be part of it. I don’t want to do every gay magazine in the world. We shouldn’t be boxed into anything because of our sexual orientation.”

“We should have done DNA. You know, one Aussie rag, and one from America.”

“Then why didn’t you say so? Call them up. If they’re willing to fly someone in to talk to us, I’ll do it.”

Owen grinned. “How do you always know the right thing to say? Nah… I think I agree with you. I don’t want to be known as the gay environmental attorney who married a gay American diplomat. I’d rather be the married environmental lawyer who just so happens to be gay.”

“Let me know if you change your mind. Anyway, this NYT thing’s different. They went to Foggy Bottom, pitched the idea, and it was approved. Why they picked me I have no idea, but we’ll find out Monday when I meet the reporter.”

“At least we know the photographer. You think they’ll want Liebe in a picture or two?”

“Really, Oz? If they’re writing about me, you and the munchkin are part of the story. There’s nothing special about me without the two of you.”

Copyright © 2021 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you to my support team, you improved the story. Any remaining errors are my responsibility. And thank you to all readers for supporting me. I hope to hear from you.
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Story Discussion Topic

I miss interacting with readers. And since CDMX won't be published for a while, how about a look at part of chapter one?  
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