Twenty-five years ago this summer, I became a published author when my short story, Hostage, appeared in the anthology Certain Voices. To mark the occasion, Hostage is now available for the first time in digital formats, including as an ebook, for a whopping $0.99 cents. (Buy or get a sample at Smashwords; or buy or get a sample for Apple’s iBook).
I’ve been writing seemingly my whole life, from stories I wrote to myself as a child, to working my way up to editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper, to writing professionally in my younger days during my career as a promotional writer/producer for three television networks and a major Hollywood studio, but … I truly began to find my own voice, to use a phrase common in writing circles, with the release of Hostage.
In Hostage, a young black gay man is fed up with being called a sissy, having HIV/AIDS and rap music. To exact revenge, he holds his two older brothers hostage in their childhood bedroom and puts them on trial (at gunpoint) for their homophobia, AIDS-phobia, and for liking rap music.
The story came to me in a dream, during which I realized, “write this down; this will be your first published short story.”
I obeyed that voice in my dreams and found my way to Certain Voices, published by gay publishing giant Sasha Alyson and his Alyson Publications.
What an honor it was to be part of an anthology put together by Darryl Pilcher, the editor who unfortunately passed away before science could see a better day for people living with HIV/AIDS.
His efforts live through me, however, and the works of the other writers in the book, people like Lev Raphael, Guillermo Reyes, Michael Nava, and Larry Duplechan, whom I had the privilege of appearing with during a reading for Certain Voices at A Different Light bookstore in West Hollywood on August, 10, 1991.
Reading with Larry Duplechan was quite an honor. While I was dreaming of writing books with black gay characters, he was doing so, blazing the trail I would eventually take with signs that said, “yes, young, black man, our voices count!”
Duplechan, along with James Earl Hardy, served as role models for me and a generation of aspiring black gay writers in the 1980s and 90s.
Without them, my story Hostage and my voice might never have been set free.
Excerpt from Hostage:
The impact of LeRon’s forearm crashing against the bedroom door was so violent he could feel the blood immediately gush through his arm, almost causing him to drop the gun. A ringing nausea stung the insides of his head, temporarily blinding him. He stumbled through the door. As soon as he regained his balance, he pointed the gun all around the room he had spent the first eighteen years of his life in. The lights were out, the windows covered with blankets. He squinted, trying to figure out what to blow away first as he began screaming:
“Get up! Get your shiftless black asses out of bed!”
Both his brothers were lying there as he knew they would be, sleeping in the middle of the day like two lazy bums, as they’d done for twenty-six and thirty-one fucking years. That’s all the fuck they did. Sleep, then terrorize, then sleep some more. To think they were older and supposed to set the example for him.
“Get up!” he shouted. “Somebody’s gonna pay.”
“What—” James yelled, all gruff and half-asleep.
“Muthafucka—” Darrin said, jolting wake with the kind of panic he was probably used to, since he was a fucking two-bit dope dealer.
“LeRon?” James rubbed his eyes quickly.
“That’s right, the pussy,” LeRon said. “Now wake the fuck up!”
It had been a month since he had been in the house visiting Moma and a year since he had been in this damn bedroom, this dark, dingy hellhole he’d shared with James and Darrin as a kid. It still smelled like a fucking locker room — stinking clothes thrown everywhere, the fucking pictures on the wall lopsided, broken sports trophies, pussy magazines, dirty dishes, drug paraphernalia. Thank God — or who the fuck ever — he’d gotten out of here — and South Central L.A. — when he did, else he’d be sleeping here in the middle of the fucking day and selling dope at night just like his two bum-assed brothers.
“Get the fuck up—”
He wanted to fire the gun right then to show them he was for real, but James saw the shiny black barrel and jumped up in his filthy bed, sitting on the edge and grabbing onto the mattress.
“Get some fucking light in here.” LeRon rushed over and yanked at the stale-smelling blanket that covered the window. “Middle of the goddamned day and you two are fucking sleeping your life away.”
The blanket came off, sunlight flooded the room, dust floated everywhere around them. Out the window, he saw the concrete floor of the backyard, then the little shed where James and Darrin used to bring girls.
“What the fuck are you doing, man?” Darrin sat up.
“I came here — I don’t know why I came here — all I know is somebody’s gotta fucking pay. I’ve had enough.”
“What you talking ’bout, boy?” James said in his threatening, I’m-the-oldest voice. Both LeRon’s brothers were much bigger than him, but the gun was all the size he needed.
“Had enough what?” Darrin asked.
Were they taking him seriously? They’d better take him seriously. LeRon Davis wasn’t going to be the pussy of the family anymore. Fuck life as he knew it, he’d thought on the way over here. Fuck the apartment in Culver City, fuck the job at the video store, fuck junior college. Fuck twenty- four years of shit, fuck feeling okay about being gay, fuck rappers and rap music. Fuck dying. Especially fuck dying.
“I’m sick of all this shit, sick of people like you two and—” LeRon glared at the framed poster of Big Daddy Kane — James’s favorite rapper — on the wall, “—and him.”
“He’s gone off, man,” Darrin whispered harshly to James.
“I ain’t done shit.” LeRon pointed the gun at Darrin, looking at him down the shaking barrel.
“Put that gun down, boy.” James’s voice rumbled as it had when they were kids and James was going to beat the shit out of him again.
“What do you want, man?” Darrin asked.
“Here, boy, give me the gun.” James stood up.
“Don’t look at me like I’m crazy.” LeRon held the gun up higher, high enough to reach James’s head. “I’m not the one who’s crazy. I’m getting my college degree, I got a place on the west side. It may not be shit, but I got out of here. I got a job. Video Plus Video Store. We sell movies. I’m the fucking day manager. They trust me — stay back.”
“Give me the gun, boy.” James kept getting closer with that big-brother forcefulness.
“I said stay back.”
That big-brother forcefulness he hated so much—
“Give me the gun.”
Hated with a fucking motherfuck passion—
“Give … me … the gun.”
“I said — stay ba—” He extended his arm and swung toward the poster of Big Daddy Kane. Fucking Big Daddy Kane. Fucking motherfucking rapper. He closed his eyes. The last thing he saw was James’s arm reaching out—
Hostage is now available in digital formats, including as an ebook, for a whopping $0.99 cents (buy or get a sample at Smashwords; or buy or get a sample for Apple’s iBooks; other ebook vendors coming soon).