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    Parker Owens
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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.

A to Z - 12. Library Reading

Warning for violence. Please read with appropriate caution.

Questions raised by the characters can be discussed at the A to Z story forum.

June 14

This morning, I got out of the church before anyone spotted me. At least the First Presbyterians had hot water, even if there wasn’t any food. I was hungry enough this morning that my stomach hurt. I cleaned up a little, but I didn’t wash my clothes – I was too afraid of people walking around, spotting me or my drying shirt and pants. That would have been embarrassing. Bad dreams again – Uncle Ray dreams, Dad dreams - dreams that left me wide awake with a racing heart and eyes staring. God, will those bastards never leave me alone?

I wandered around town looking for a lawn to mow. No luck there, as it rained last night, and kept sprinkling on and off all day. Even I know that lawn mowing should be done on dry grass.

Right now, I am sitting in the Marshall County library, since it's raining again. It’s in an old mansion right downtown. I got here around noon and ducked into the public restroom. I browsed the magazines for a few minutes and pretended to have a reason for being here, though the librarian looked at me kind of funny when I passed her desk. Was she annoyed with me for being grubby myself, or did she think I was going to get her books dirty?

Still, I didn't let her watchful glare deter me from looking at the books. How wonderful it was to wander the stacks for a while. I took an old science fiction novel down out of the shelves and sat down to read. I tried to forget about my aching gut for a while.

I love to read, though I didn’t always have a chance to get lost in a good book when Dad was on the rampage. I wasn’t ever allowed to watch TV, so what else was I going to do, except Dad’s chore lists and homework?

Maybe a half hour later after I got here, I noticed people gathering near the big double doors at the end of the main reading room. Mostly younger parents and small children milled about at the closed doors. Nobody seemed to mind the noise.

I wondered what was up.

I soon overheard that a story hour was about to begin, and I felt this tug on my heart. I can’t explain it. Maybe it was because I could just barely remember Mom reading stories to me when I was little. I could never get enough of it. She was so good at doing all the characters in different voices and making every story exciting and interesting. Maybe it’s because I like reading and books. Call me crazy.

So when the doors opened, I had to venture in, following after the rush of kids and parents. I was aware that I looked dirty and unkempt, despite by best attempts at cleanup at the Presbyterian Church. I smelled more than a little funky, too.

At one end of the big room, a big chair sat surrounded by a carpet of fat cushions on the floor. Around these was arranged a ring of folding chairs at the back. The children all dashed to get good cushions near the big chair, and the folding seats were soon occupied by adults. I stood at the rear, trying to be inconspicuous.

A woman with iron grey hair, dressed in a sweeping, brightly colored dress floated into the room and made herself comfortable in the big chair. From a large, fluorescent orange bag she carried in, she withdrew a large picture book, and silence descended.

“The Elephant’s Child, by Rudyard Kipling,” she announced pleasantly and opened the book. She began reading. Her voice was rich and musical, and like my mom, she was good at making different characters come alive. There were pictures in the book, which she turned around to show everyone from time to time.

I couldn’t help it. I began edging my way around the chairs and found an empty cushion to the side. The pain in my side didn’t seem so important. I sat quietly, hugging my knees to myself, eyes on the reader, lost in the story. And I heard echoes of a forgotten voice, reading to me from the end of my bed. I remembered Mom. A tear ran slowly down my cheek. It was so long since I’d had the real pleasure of being read to.

Eventually, the story came to an end. There was polite clapping from the adults, and somewhat more enthusiastic applause from the cushioned section. The reader smiled.

“And now for the second part of the program,” she said. “You can all come and get a book from my bag here, and ask either your parents, or friends, or one of our volunteers to read it to you now.”

She opened her bag wide. The dozen or so children there hesitated until a little boy got to his feet, marched over to the bag and got one out. As he trotted over to his mom, book outstretched in his hands, several more children were making the trip over to the bag. The general movement was on.

I sat there, lost in thought. It seemed funny that I enjoyed being read to so much. I felt a nudge on my knee and turned. A little girl in a purple tee stood there, a large picture book outstretched in her hands. Her eyes looked wide behind her glasses, and she smiled shyly.

“Read me this book? Please?”

I hesitated. But she didn't look dangerous. How could I refuse?

“OK, sure.”

I wondered if she would change her mind, once she came closer and realized how dirty I was, but she didn’t seem to notice, and plopped herself down next to me on my cushion. I took the book from her.

“Hetty and Harriet,” I read the title of the book aloud and began reading. The little girl couldn’t see the pictures very easily, and I wasn’t used to reading aloud.

She scrunched up closer to me and peered at the illustrations.

“Wait,” she pleaded as I began to turn a page. “I need to read the picture.”

I slowed down a little, and we made our way through the book together. I lost track of what else was going on around the room, and we became engrossed in the story. All too soon, it was over. I closed the book, and she took it out of my hands and raced over to the big bag. I watched her extract another book.

I wondered if I was going to be nominated to read it, or if her parents would have the pleasure this time. And reading aloud was a real joy, I reflected. I wasn’t anywhere near as good as my mom, or the library lady as a reader, but I’d begun to get into it, and was enjoying reading to the little girl.

“Hey.” There was someone tapping my shoulder.

I found myself looking into a pair of dark, almost indigo eyes. Beautifully cut collar-length blond hair framed an attractive face. A guy about my age squatted down next to me. My heart beat faster. Damn, I couldn’t help myself. Good looking boys are always trouble.

“It looks like my sister adopted you,” he grinned. “I’m Colin.”

“Yeah. She’s kinda cute,” I replied cautiously.

“Say, I was gonna ask you a favor.”

This didn’t sound too good. “What?”

“I’m still working on something in the other room.” Colin pointed out the double doors into the main library. “Can you read to her for a little longer?”

I could do that. I wouldn’t mind. What else was I going to do on a drizzly summer day?

“Sure. Fine.”

He smiled a lovely smile at me and stood.

“Fantastic,” he said. “I’ll be out there.”

The little girl returned a moment later with a new prize.

“Can I sit on your lap?”

I wasn’t at all sure about that. I hold strangers at arm’s length, and even though she seemed harmless, I didn’t think getting close was a good idea. She didn’t wait for me to reply, though; she climbed right up and into my lap and snuggled in.

It wasn’t so bad.

We read “On Beyond Zebra.” We read “Ferdinand the Bull.” I think we read just about every book in the bag.

My voice got tired. I started to say so, when I realized I didn’t even know the little girl’s name.

“Hey,” I spoke up after the last book was done, “What’s your name?”

She turned to look at me with big wide eyes.

“I’m Maggie. What’s your name?”

“I’m Eric,” I replied with almost no hesitation. I was getting better with it.

“I like that name,” Maggie said, seriously. “You read good. Better than Colin. He hates reading me books.”

“Well, Maggie, my voice is getting tired. I thought I might look for a drink of water.”

“You won’t look far,” she said brightly, pointing to the far end of the room.

On a couple of long tables, someone had set up some refreshments. Of course, nearly everyone else had stopped reading a while ago and had helped themselves. A few little cups and bits of whatever had been on the plates remained.

I scrambled to my feet, the pain in my stomach fully alive again. Maggie and I marched down to the tables and we looked over what was left. I handed her a small paper cup filled with a bright red liquid. I took one and downed it in an instant.

Sweet. Ugh. Too sweet, but I wasn’t going to complain. If it had sugar, it had calories, and that’s what I need. Lots of them. I looked for another one, found it, gulped it down. It’s a good thing that the snacks were mostly gone – nobody was monitoring the table.

On the other hand, there weren’t many treats left, and I was ravenous. A few pretzels, a handful or two of orange chips, a stray cookie fragment, an odd grape or two – that was all. I didn’t even look to see if Maggie had gotten anything.

“Hey! Those were my crumbs!” she cried, as we both reached for a pile of cookie bits left on a plate.

I got there first. Mine.

Not that these scarce leftovers would even begin to put a dent in my hunger. I felt guilty as hell. I should have left the crumbs for Maggie.

Time for a distraction, for both of us. I took Maggie’s hand and grabbed my pack.

“Let’s go out into the library and see if we can find Colin.”

She followed docilely when I led her out into the hushed central reading area. We peered around the room. No Colin. We looked behind the low shelves holding the periodicals. No Colin. We commenced a tour through the stacks looking in all the corners the old building possessed. No Colin.

Upon returning to the central reading area, Maggie dragged me over toward the children’s books. For the next half hour by the library clock, I sat in a comfy chair, reading more stories to Maggie.

Still no Colin.

I’d been used, that was pretty obvious. Colin had ditched his little sister and left me as the babysitter. Which didn’t really say much in favor of Colin, when you think about it. I mean, look at me – ugh. What was he thinking?

I was to blame, too, I guess. I let myself in for it – I said yes. So I guess I deserved it. That’s what Dad always said – that I deserved whatever he was dishing out. If he assigned me extra chores that kept me up until midnight, well, I deserved them. If I was hungry from being chained up in the basement because I had caused problems, I deserved that, too. And I deserved every beating for disobedience or slowness or carelessness. He made sure I knew that.

It didn’t matter that Dad was dead or that I wasn’t in that house anymore. I deserved to be hungry. I deserved to be taken advantage of. I deserved to be alone.

“Eric?”

Maggie was tugging at my elbow, pulling me out of my gloomy thoughts.

“Another book Maggie?” I inquired.

She shook her head. She stood, shifting her weight from foot to foot.

“I gotta go to the bathroom,” she almost whispered.

Oh. I got up, took her hand, and led her over to the restrooms, which were separated from the main library by a big heavy door. Once in the little hallway beyond, I paused in front of the door marked LADIES.

“OK, you go ahead, and I’ll wait for you right here.”

“But Mommy always goes in with me.” Maggie looked up at me expectantly.

“Maggie, I’m not your mom.”

“Please?” she begged.

There were some things I just wasn’t going to do. I set my pack on the floor. I squatted down to her level.

“I’m a boy, and that room is just for girls. You know that. You’re a big girl, you’ll be fine. I’ll be right here, though, when you come back.”

I tried to be reassuring. It must have worked, because after a moment or two, she blinked, turned, twisted the polished brass doorknob, and pushed open the door.

Moments later, there was a muffled shriek, and the sounds of angry voices within. I couldn’t quite make them out, so I knocked on the door.

“Maggie? Are you OK?”

In an instant, the door opened, and I faced an angry, red-faced Colin.

“Colin?” I asked, stunned.

“You were supposed to be watching her!” he hissed at me, stepping out of the bathroom.

“I – I was. Maggie needed to use the toilet, so…”

“Shit, couldn’t you have kept her away for just a few more minutes?”

“But how did I know –"

Colin stepped closer and grabbed my jacket, pulling me close so I could see how pissed off he was.

“Listen, moron, when I asked you to chill with Maggie, what did you think I was going to do? Read books or something? I was thaaat close to getting some pussy, and you fucked it up!”

So that was what Maggie had found in the ladies’ room. Poor kid. She hadn’t come out. Neither had the person I assumed was in there with Colin. I didn’t have time to reflect on it, though.

Colin pushed me away, into the concrete wall of the anteroom. It hurt a little, but I was used to this kind of thing. I deserved it. Something white fell from my pocket. It was the card I’d gotten from the big man at the First Presbyterian Church. Colin bent down and picked it up.

He looked at it and got a nasty grin on his face.

“So. You’re one of Ozzie’s boys?”

My face must have betrayed my complete confusion.

“I can’t believe you’d hang out with that guy.”

I shook my head.

“Tell me,” he went on, “how long did it take for him to get his dick up your ass, faggot?”

What was I going to say? I doubt any kind of denial was going to make a difference. Still, the big man had been kind.

“I don’t know anything about that.”

“Sure you don’t. I just can’t believe I left my sister with you. Fucking retard faggot. I should have taken you to the men’s room and made you blow me.”

I didn’t think I needed to stay any longer. When I bent to pick up my backpack so I could leave, Colin took the opportunity to bring his knee up into my face. Hard. My vision tunneled for few seconds. It happened so fast, so silently. Nobody saw. Nobody heard. I went right down. Shit. Again. I deserved it.

I heard Colin’s voice by my ear, even as my head rang.

“If you ever come near me or my sister again, asshole, if I ever see you again, I’m gonna make you wish your faggot ass had never, ever been born, got that?”

At that moment, the restroom door opened. I could see Maggie’s sneakers, but not her face from my place on the floor. Behind her, another set of feet. Female ankles.

“C’mon, let’s get out of here.”

What else is there to say? I was stupid. I got busted because I trusted. The kick to the head wasn’t as bad as stuff my Dad did to me, but still, it hurt. I was a little dizzy when I sat up, put my back to the wall, and pulled up my knees.

Now, I'm nursing my head while I write at a big empty library table. Closing time isn't far away.

So, big question: do I have “gay” written on my forehead or something? In seconds, Colin had gone from being annoyed at me, to being pissed at the gay boy. And what did he mean by being one of “Ozzie’s boys?”

I’m not sure I want to know, or find out later. Especially if it means getting kicked in the face by complete strangers.

But back to the question: I know I like boys. How do people seem to know it before I tell them? I mean, James Fucking Ackerman knew. Dad seemed to know even before he got that call from the principal. Did Ozzie Francis know? Did Colin really know? It’s not as if I act different from other guys. At least, I don’t think I do.

Well, it doesn’t matter at all now. People just aren’t going to know. Period.

My continuing and copious thanks to Craftingmom for her encouragement and editing.

A review of any sort or description is always welcome.

Copyright © 2016 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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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.
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Chapter Comments

I love this story! You draw people in and make them wanting more. I look forward to more of this story. Please keep up the good work! :2thumbs::great:

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On 10/20/2015 04:00 AM, bloodstonemac said:

I love this story! You draw people in and make them wanting more. I look forward to more of this story. Please keep up the good work! :2thumbs::great:

Wow. I'm so glad that you follow this story. It's a compelling subject. Eric keeps raising questions as he goes along...thanks so much for reviewing this chapter. It's hard to tell what he ought to do next.

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Well Eric isn't gonna get help in that town :o time to move on, I guess. But he needs to eat. :(
A good chapter Parker, with nice sections of happy recollections and, of course, the reading activities. Bad moments too, like Creepy Colin :puke:
I can't wait to follow Eric some more!

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On 10/20/2015 06:26 AM, skinnydragon said:

Well Eric isn't gonna get help in that town :o time to move on, I guess. But he needs to eat. :(

A good chapter Parker, with nice sections of happy recollections and, of course, the reading activities. Bad moments too, like Creepy Colin :puke:

I can't wait to follow Eric some more!

If Eric knew how, he'd shake the dust of the place off his feet. You're right again that library snacks won't cut it, either. Remember bring read to? I have very find recollections of my grandmother on the front porch on a summer's day reading to me. Kinda inspired me there, I guess.

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I really would appreciate it if you gave the kid a good experience again. the old lady was the only one he had. What an asshole that kid was. The little girl was sweet. Shame she's related to that. I hope he avoids this Ozzie guy. How could he not understand what the kid means when he says 'Ozzie's boys' when he said flat out, 'how long did it take for...' He seemed to want to believe it would only happen b/c of his being gay. Well, I can't believe that this kid has such a homing device for cruel and misled people. I hope that you bring some nice people around b/c there just can't be so many cruel jerks in the world for him to have this many bad experiences. I desperately want him to learn to stand up for himself too. Or at least not accept people just abusing him. It's horrible. I understand why he does but wish it weren't so. I'm holding out for something good to happen for him.

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On 10/21/2015 06:38 PM, Cannd said:

I really would appreciate it if you gave the kid a good experience again. the old lady was the only one he had. What an asshole that kid was. The little girl was sweet. Shame she's related to that. I hope he avoids this Ozzie guy. How could he not understand what the kid means when he says 'Ozzie's boys' when he said flat out, 'how long did it take for...' He seemed to want to believe it would only happen b/c of his being gay. Well, I can't believe that this kid has such a homing device for cruel and misled people. I hope that you bring some nice people around b/c there just can't be so many cruel jerks in the world for him to have this many bad experiences. I desperately want him to learn to stand up for himself too. Or at least not accept people just abusing him. It's horrible. I understand why he does but wish it weren't so. I'm holding out for something good to happen for him.

Hang on, Cannd. Eric is still with us. And you're right that Eric appears to have a gift for attracting the Colins of this world, though the Maggies have begun to find him, too. The Ozzie guy is an enigma: is he an abuser, or a misunderstood do-gooder? In small towns, there are people like that who sometimes polarize by doing what they think is right. Some good has happened to Eric, but he has farther to walk.

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I'm finally getting caught up. :) I thought for a minute that Colin might be his salvation, but man was I wrong about that. The part about him remembering his mom reading to him was heart-breaking. At least he had a positive experience with Maggie, even if her brother is a total asshole. I'm wondering about "Ozzie's Boys". Is Ozzie a pimp who takes advantage of troubled youths or the exact opposite? Somehow I find myself wanting Stefan to lose that card. On to the next chapter... I hope things look up for him soon.

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On 10/26/2015 02:53 AM, Valkyrie said:

I'm finally getting caught up. :) I thought for a minute that Colin might be his salvation, but man was I wrong about that. The part about him remembering his mom reading to him was heart-breaking. At least he had a positive experience with Maggie, even if her brother is a total asshole. I'm wondering about "Ozzie's Boys". Is Ozzie a pimp who takes advantage of troubled youths or the exact opposite? Somehow I find myself wanting Stefan to lose that card. On to the next chapter... I hope things look up for him soon.

Ozzie is enigmatic. He's one of those chance encounter characters one could write about separately. Don't really have the flesh to put on the bones of that story, yet.

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Oh boy. Nice ...one of my fav words, faggot. Not.
This kids adventures/journey lead him into every possibility. I hope he runs into help rather more trouble.
Good chapter, thanks Parker.
tim

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On 10/27/2015 12:58 PM, Mikiesboy said:

Oh boy. Nice ...one of my fav words, faggot. Not.

This kids adventures/journey lead him into every possibility. I hope he runs into help rather more trouble.

Good chapter, thanks Parker.

tim

Do you have a memory of being read to? This part of the chapter was wonderful to write because of that kind of memory, though I had a difficult time because of all my favorite stories crowding into my head to get a mention...and then to discover Colin as an asshole, well, it just confirms Eric's theory about good looking guys, I guess.

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Well that happened. Kid can't catch a break! Colin is an ass for lots of reasons. Who dumps their little sister in the hands of a stranger to get off in the bathroom. At least a few things came out of this.. He recalled good memories of being read to, and was able to share that with Maggie, and even tjough it's Colin's word, he knows not to trust Ozzie.

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On 11/02/2015 08:17 AM, Defiance19 said:

Well that happened. Kid can't catch a break! Colin is an ass for lots of reasons. Who dumps their little sister in the hands of a stranger to get off in the bathroom. At least a few things came out of this.. He recalled good memories of being read to, and was able to share that with Maggie, and even tjough it's Colin's word, he knows not to trust Ozzie.

Yeah, Eric got used badly here. And Colin being a homophobe as well as a jerk hurt - literally - here. This is definitely one of those instances when one can't win for losing. But the reading to Maggie part was one of my favorite bits to write... :)

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OK... I finally figured out how this works.
I started reading today. I tired to leave a review after Ch. 10, and then again after Ch. 11. So I finally figured this out.
i just want to say that i am thoroughly enjoying this story. I almost quit after the first few chapters but I continued on and here I am at Ch. 13...
Great story...

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On 11/18/2015 01:03 PM, Nahrung said:

OK... I finally figured out how this works.

I started reading today. I tired to leave a review after Ch. 10, and then again after Ch. 11. So I finally figured this out.

i just want to say that i am thoroughly enjoying this story. I almost quit after the first few chapters but I continued on and here I am at Ch. 13...

Great story...

Thank you so much for sticking with this story. I really appreciate hearing from you. It is a tough story to read, but it was also tough to write. Stefan/Eric is in a very tough bind, and just because rural and suburban runaways seem to go unnoticed more often doesn't mean the pain and hunger are easier to take. Again, my thanks and hope you enjoy A to Z.

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Never trust, never do favors. If Stefen/Eric looked as bad as he described, what brother would leave his little sister with him even to get laid. Collin is just a creep. Yet another outstanding chapter though.

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On 12/08/2015 10:53 AM, WolfM said:

Never trust, never do favors. If Stefen/Eric looked as bad as he described, what brother would leave his little sister with him even to get laid. Collin is just a creep. Yet another outstanding chapter though.

Colin is a real creep, but we don't get to know him long enough to tell him so. Thank goodness. Poor Eric gets hurt again, though, and that has to lay up another layer of mistrust and wariness. But it was so much fun being read to, and to do the reading, too. Someone tugging at the better part of his nature. Thank you for reading to this point!

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My mother read to me and my younger sister and when I was able I read to them. As a father I read to my son. The joy of reading was instilled at an early age. It was touching that Eric had that chance too and then to share it with another...
Another pretty face with an ugly soul ... I know there must be someone decent out there that would show a little true kindness.

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On 12/31/2015 08:26 AM, dughlas said:

My mother read to me and my younger sister and when I was able I read to them. As a father I read to my son. The joy of reading was instilled at an early age. It was touching that Eric had that chance too and then to share it with another...

Another pretty face with an ugly soul ... I know there must be someone decent out there that would show a little true kindness.

My parents did the same for me...but the image I keep with me most is my grandmother reading to me and my cousin on the front porch of her house every summer. She would have loved Harry Potter, I suppose. For Eric, this was a chance to lose himself in something good, if on,y for an hour or so. The librarians must have been delighted to watch it.

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Omg,when is he gonna meet a nice same ageish guy you is gonna fall in love with him and take care of him for ever

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On 03/03/2016 07:11 AM, bubby1234 said:

Omg,when is he gonna meet a nice same ageish guy you is gonna fall in love with him and take care of him for ever

When you wander the roads and live on the margins, it's hard to meet good people. For Stefan - now Eric - he has learned that being quick to trust is to risk being a victim. What a pity, because he really seemed to enjoy the reading. Thanks a lot for staying with the story, and for your reviews. Hope you like what follows of Eric's journey.

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Eric doesn't have 'Gay' written on his forehead, it's a neon sign that says 'victim'! Years of abuse has given him body language that clearly screams 'victim' to bullies and should have been very obvious to teachers and school administrators.

 

In my personal experience, Gay men tend to seek out an escape from the societal disapproval or outright hatred either chemically (drugs or alcohol) or through science fiction. I did an informal survey of about a hundred Gay and bisexual men back in the nineties. It's anecdotal and dated.

 

Statistics do indicate that LGBTs and other minorities are at significantly higher risk for alcoholism and drug addiction. A much higher percentage of us smoke too. Alcohol and tobacco companies find us to be extremely attractive targets and spend millions to get their names and logos associated with our parades, film festivals, fund raising events, and our causes. We need to stop the vicious cycle of addiction, poverty, and self-hatred.

 

Fortunately Eric never started down that path. It would have been so easy and so tempting to numb his pain chemically, but that would never have solved his very real problems.

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On 06/28/2016 09:58 AM, droughtquake said:

Eric doesn't have 'Gay' written on his forehead, it's a neon sign that says 'victim'! Years of abuse has given him body language that clearly screams 'victim' to bullies and should have been very obvious to teachers and school administrators.

 

In my personal experience, Gay men tend to seek out an escape from the societal disapproval or outright hatred either chemically (drugs or alcohol) or through science fiction. I did an informal survey of about a hundred Gay and bisexual men back in the nineties. It's anecdotal and dated.

 

Statistics do indicate that LGBTs and other minorities are at significantly higher risk for alcoholism and drug addiction. A much higher percentage of us smoke too. Alcohol and tobacco companies find us to be extremely attractive targets and spend millions to get their names and logos associated with our parades, film festivals, fund raising events, and our causes. We need to stop the vicious cycle of addiction, poverty, and self-hatred.

 

Fortunately Eric never started down that path. It would have been so easy and so tempting to numb his pain chemically, but that would never have solved his very real problems.

You are absolutely right on this, on all you say. Everything about Eric's body language marks him as a victim. Given his father's obvious drinking problems and the very little unsupervised time he had, it is not surprising that he never started drinking or seeking refuge in chemicals. But he has plenty of self hatred. Thank you for you thoughts and reflections.

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4 hours ago, chris191070 said:

 Stephan really can't catch a break. But Colin, dumping his sister on a stranger, that's just wrong.

Colin is yet another self-interested guy who wants what he wants - and the heck with anyone else. His sister was merely inconvenient. At least Stefan had some real pleasure in her company.

 

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