City of Valleys – 5



Kevin sat on the subway opposite the route map over the door to count off each stop. The closer he got to town, the more his heart raced. It was hard for him to stay seated. When the train flashed above ground, he watched the blur of buildings.

It was odd not to have Mitch or Therese there to talk to, or to alert him about what stop to get off. It was a challenge to sit in silence, and he resisted the urge to strike up a conversation with strangers. Each time he had been tempted, the stony blankness of people’s faces stopped him. 

The closer he got to downtown, the closer he inspected men for signs that they might be gay. What should he look for? Mitch claimed you could always tell a fag by the amount of stink water he wore to cover up the stench of the asshole that had just been on his face.

Kevin eyed several men he hoped were gay, but if they were and they acknowledged him, he didn’t know where that might lead. The train filled at Pape, and a man squeezed into the seat between him and a large black woman.

“‘Scuse me.”

Kevin was too nervous to glance at the man. He peeked down at the man’s thighs, shoes, hairy forearms, but he couldn’t get himself to look at the face. 

The man got off a few stops later, and as he got up he adjusted his crotch. Kevin glanced up. The train jarred to a stop, and momentum pushed the man’s fly closer to Kevin’s face. The man exited. Kevin took a deep breath and realized how tense he had become.

So tense he almost missed the stop at Yonge and Bloor. He followed the flow of passengers to the street. 

As he crossed at the corner, he hoped his eyes didn’t bug out to push off his sun glasses. He was in a sea of people all intent on getting past or around each other to something important. He was sure that if he stopped at a store window, the crowd would shove him along before he could focus on anything. 

His stomach reminded him it was time to focus on food. He stopped at Pizza Palace and went in for a slice.

At a stool in the window, he had a chance to sit and watch. 

“Mind if I sit here”’ A guy about his age nodded to the stool next to his.


“Lots of people in town for Pride Day.” 

“Pride Day?”

“You from another planet or what?”

“Call me Kevin from Jupiter.”

“Ian from over the Rainbow.” Ian shook Kevin’s hand. “I can’t imagine any self-respecting faggot not knowing what Pride Day is. Oops!” Ian covered his mouth. “That is if you are? I mean I took it for granted that you were and if you aren’t I’m sorry for mistaking you for one.”

“I’m one.” Kevin laughed. “What’s this Pride thing.”

“Tomorrow is Gay and Lesbian Pride Day. There’s a parade of hundreds of thousands of crazed queers out and proud.” Ian finished his slice. “I gotta run. Drop in at Rainbow Books up the street. We have everything you’ll need for gay life. You picked the perfect weekend to come out.” Ian disappeared into the stream of people.

I’ll take his word for it. Kevin finished his pizza.


Outside the hardware store, Yves lashed the sturdy cardboard tubes to the back of Trigger. As long as they avoided doors with less than six feet of clearance they’d have no trouble. The tubes, to make palm tree trunks, were a bit too straight but with a wrap of burlap they’d pass.

At Fabrique Place they bought burlap and found some rainbow terry towel in the remainders bin. A couple of balloons covered in the terry towel became Jake’s all important “nice big coconuts.” Next they needed something to make leaves.

“Yves, as a writer you should know, are they called leaves or fronds? Because it helps if you know who your fronds are.” Jake laughed as they moved forward. “You’ve got to have fronds …”

“It helps to have fronds in high places.”

“Yves, a frond in need is a frond indeed.”

“You’ve got a frond.”

“Some my best fronds are …” 

“Fronds! Romans! Countrymen!” Tears poured down Yves face.

“Stop! Stop! I can’t take any more.” Jake pounded his chest with his hand.

Yves let silence settle as they both caught their breath.

“What a way to go! Laughed to death,” Jake gasped. 

“Sounds like you two are enjoying the sun.” Someone came up behind them. “Or is it that ample gentleman in the black net bikini sunning himself in the park that’s tickled you? Jake how you doing?”

“Mark Winslow! Fuck! Did you get a life transplant!” 

“No, Jake, a magic cocktail.”

“Must be magic. Last time I saw you, you were …”

“Don’t say it, Yves. We thought that last time was the last.”

“Fuck man, I hardly recognize you. You look …. healthy.” Jake tugged at the knees of his sweat pants. “You were the guy with all those friends, right?”

“Oh yeah, my recovery buds.”

“Lucky. You are so lucky, man, to have so many.”

“That I know.”

“I hardly recognized you Mark.”

“Everyone says I rebounded amazingly. I’ve put on nearly twenty pounds and am back at the gym, and thanks to God and my meds, I’m feeling fine.” Mark shook his backpack. A bottle of pills inside rattled.

“What meds are you on?” 

“If this is going to be another pharmacist convention I’ll leave you to it and …”

“I don’t have time to get into anything here, but tell you what, I’ll drop in soon and get caught up? I’m surprised you aren’t on this regimen.”

“Non-insurance doesn’t cover magic cocktails.” Jake frowned.

“We’ll talk Monday. I’ll check with my doctor.” With a quick air kiss, Mark continued on his way.

“Time for lunch? The patio at Mama D’s is open. No ceiling fixtures to worry about.”

Jake’s mood change was predictable. He picked at his food while he railed about the system and how only the rich would survive.

Yves took what he had learned to be the best approach in these circumstance. He agreed with the negative, echoed the positive, and was hopeful, though he himself didn’t understand how or why some people lasted years and others died within weeks.

How some people responded to medications while others got worse, no matter what they tried, was one of the angels that he wrestled, and each time he had to accept that life was a mystery only God could solve. 


After lunch David stopped by Rainbow Books with his résumé. He liked the aura of Rainbow Books. Two large floors of homo-energy that lived up to its claim as the Biggest Queer Store in the World. Whenever he did drop in, it was hard not to reorganize the shelves so people could find the books they wanted.

Ian Fisher, the owner, had explained that the confusion was a way to force people to talk to the clerks, to lure them out of their book closets.

David went up to the second floor and found Ian in his cluttered office.

“How’s the pre-Pride sale going?”

“Not bad. Are you checking out our prices for Bookies to undercut.”

“Please Ian, the gayest thing we carry is the Australian Rescue Team calendar. I wanted to drop this off.” 

“Business there that bad?” Ian dropped to gossip whisper.

“Worse. Index Ink has bought us out.”

“Fucking Yanks. When?”

“Today. No warning. A golden handshake and the offer to maybe become sale associates in the future. You have a sign outside ‘Staff Wanted’.” He put his résumé on the desk.

“Part time, summer stuff while we all take well-earned vacations. I was thinking of some college type and the pay is minimum.”

“Suits me fine. I want to start sewing my fingers to the bone but need to keep some money coming in at the same time.”

“When can you start?”

“You mean I got the job?”

“Contrary to current rumours, you don’t have to blow anyone to work here.”


“Tuesday it is.” Ian shook David’s hand.

David went downstairs and it was now harder to restrain himself from organizing the piles of books. As he came to the entrance, he was stopped in his tracks by a male vision in front of the events bulletin board.

With a deep breath, he allowed himself to savour the man in front of him. The guy stood about five-foot-eight, in ragged cutoffs, with a light dust of hair on his sturdy legs and a firm upper body. David gazed on this image of perfection. The face wasn’t pretty, but solid, masculine and topped off with short cropped brownish hair, it sent a signal to David’s balls that he hadn’t heard for a while. The man’s burgeoning moustache iced the cake.

He saw David. “Sorry, am I in your way?”

“Uh … no … not at all.” David’s eyes darted up and down. He tried to think of anything to say to make this man talk to him. He was grateful that being black meant no one could see him blush.

“David!” Ian called from behind him. “I forgot to get you to fill out this employee form. It’s for the book-keeper.”

David took the form and when he turned back the apparition was gone. 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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