City  of Valleys – 14 



Two men in police uniforms and a woman in a Gay Pride t-shirt sat behind a table. A police woman spoke into a microphone beside the table. They were surrounded by reporters. The police woman was one David had seen before as a spokesperson for the department. She read from a sheet of paper.

“Last night, in separate incidents, male residents in the Church-Wellesley area were attacked by three men. The men attacked were singled out because they might be homosexual. These attacks have resulted in one death. A forty-year-old man died of blows to the head. The suspects where thwarted in their third attack by quick-acting citizens. In that attack, one man is serious condition in hospital. Names of all are being withheld until their families have been notified.

“All the suspects are in custody at the present time. If you recognize these men please contact us.”

Photos of the three men came on the screen.

“How do you know the three attacks are connected?” Asked a reporter.

“We have positive identification from witnesses of all three attacks.”

“Is there any connection between these attacks and a recent ones targeting gay men?” another reported asked .

One of the police officers went to microphone.

“There is an ongoing investigation into these attacks. If you recognize these men please contact us. We have little to connect last night’s attacks with those other attacks.”

“Was the gay community warned about this series of attacks?” someone asked.

“There has always been violence directed towards this community. Warning them seemed of little value. We didn’t want to alert those responsible that we were aware of them. As a target community, gays have to be prepared to take all precautions necessary for their own protection.”

He sat and the female officer returned. “I’d like to present Gail Clayton, the Gay-Lesbian Police Liaison. Gail?”

Gail stepped to the microphone. “These incidents are painful and immediate proof that much remains to be done. A police state of protection is not the solution to homophobia. We are here, we’re queer, and we aren’t going to be frightened. After the parade, there will be rally at Queen’s Park to protest lack of governmental support for equal rights for all.”

The others on the panel weren’t prepared for a political outburst.

“I am going to march in the Parade. Proud and fearless.” She went back to her seat.

“We return you to Vince Marlin who is at the Gay Community Centre …”

David shut off the TV. What did “all precautions necessary” mean? Don’t walk the streets after dark? Carry a concealed weapon? It sounded as if gays were at fault for the violence directed at them. If only we’d be quiet and stay out of sight. 

To hell with that. He wouldn’t avoid scaring the straights. He went to his closet for the most out-there outfit he could put together. If he was to be attacked in the street, he would look his best.


Groggy, Steven leaned at the bathroom mirror. His face was barely recognizable. A bruise swelled from his eyebrow, around a bloodshot eye, and down to his jaw. The other side of his face was tinged green. His lips were swollen, the inside of his mouth was raw. His jaw ached, his mouth hardly opened. 

He had to stay at home but wanted to be at the Parade. He was supposed to man the Thicket booth to help promote Three-Quarter Time. He was is no condition to explain things, but things had to be explained.

He put on a t-shirt and shorts and walked down the stairs. Each step pulled at his ribs. The bruise on his right side tightened around him. By the time he reached the last step, he was in tears. He sat on the arm of the sofa to catch his breath.

His smallness, his helplessness against the forces around him, washed over him. One minute he and Luke walked through their safe world and in an instant that safety was torn from them. Worse, they were torn from each other. The pain would have been less if Luke was in the house.

He pushed himself up to continue over to Yves’. When Yves came to door he almost wept again. Yves had to help him into the house.

Yves lead him to the living room.

“‘Ow are you?” 

As Yves hands moved through the air around Steven’s face the pain lessened in his jaw.

“As bad as I look.”

“Sounds normal, considering.”

“I was afraid you might be gone to get Jake.”

“Well … no.” Yves brushed a tear away. “‘Ow is your ribs.”

Steven rolled up his t-shirt. Yves put his hands on them and closed his eyes.

“Jake won’t be going to the parade.” 

“After all that work you two put in getting him re … ouch … ohh that feels good.”

“Jake … is with the Lord now.”

“Oh fuck, fuck fuck fuck!” Steven repeatedly punched the sofa.

“I will take his spirit with me. It is here.” Yves touched his heart.

Steven took a deep breath. “Can you take a message for me? If you are up to it?”

“Tell me.”

“Let Tony at Lubba’s know everything is all right and I’ll get a hold of him later today. Evan has to know I won’t be at the booth.”


“Evan Daniels. Thicket Theater. Let them know I won’t be there to help. I don’t want anyone to know what’s happened. I couldn’t take all those calls.”

Steven sputtered to a stop. He had no more energy.

“Why don’t you stay ‘ere. I won’t tell anyone you are ‘ere.”

“Except Luke. I’ll call him. Thanks Yves. Sorry about Jake.”

“I know.” Yves muttered. “Now, I got to get out of here.”

Steven sat in the quiet living room. After several slow deep breaths he drifted to sleep.


“Ian I feel so queer in this.”

“‘Real men eat men.’” Ian read Kevin’s t-shirt. “I’d rather ‘Real men! Eat me.’”

Ian’s Rainbow Books booth on Church Street was Kevin’s first stop. Along the curbs on both sides of two blocks were tables set up by gay community groups and businesses.

“There’s so much. I don’t know where to start.”

“Babe-in-the-woods, there is no hurry. Do it slow and safe. Which is how I hope you took it last night.”

“I sang at Big E’s last night!”

“What! Miss Thing let you share her stage?”

“I sang at his garden party and he had to have me sing at his bar.”

“‘Slow’ certainly isn’t your middle name. You got in with the right people pretty fast.”


“Luck. Looks. Youth. Can you sing?”

“I did on the east coast. People liked me.”

“Any other hidden talents to use as you claw to the top?”

“If you know anyone hiring a first-class automotive engineer, I’m the one.”

“Ooh, I have the exact film for you,” Ian sorted through a pile of ‘reduced-to-queers’ videos. “‘Grease Monkeys.’ It’s an old one, pre-HIV, full of hot garage action.”

Kevin was tempted but he didn’t have a place for it at Mitch’s. That reminded him he should call them.

“Maybe later. I gotta make a phone call.”

On his way to a pay phone, Miss Ing floated through the crowd in her huge hoop skirt. Kevin went to the subway station where he had called from yesterday. Mitch should still be laid low by the night before but Therese would be up to do laundry.

“Hi T. It’s me. I’m fine. I’ll be home by supper.” He raced before she could ask anything. “If I’m going to be later, I’ll call you. G -” 

“Your Mom called.” 

“Shit. Anything important?”

“The usual Mom stuff. You sure you’re okay?”

“Fine. There’s someone waiting to use the phone.”

“Mitch pulled that shoulder muscle of his again. Darts and booze never mix.”

“Any excuse to lie in bed. Well, look, I really gotta go.”

“Okay, honey. Play safe. You understand what I mean.”

“Yeah. Safe. Bye.” Did she know more than she let on? “Play safe” was a slogan he had seen everywhere downtown. 

“Nice T,” a passer-by complimented him.

“Thanks.” He imagined the look on his mother’s face as she hung the shirt up to dry.


“Even though you expect it, it’s unexpected.” Nancy leaned next to Yves against Jake’s bed. The body had been taken down to the hospice’s temporary morgue. “Even when you expect it, it still isn’t easy.”

“For some of us, it never gets any easier.” 

Outside of a few photos stuck in the mirror, a couple of stuffed snakes and clothes, there wasn’t much of Jake in the room.

“You can go down.” Nancy hugged Yves.

“I will. Thanks Nancy.”

Once she was gone, he wasn’t sure what to do. Most of the men who passed away here had friends or family to take care of what was left behind. But Jake didn’t have anyone other than Yves and the occasional guy from a bar he’d worked at. He had never spoken of his family and had refused to give any information to help anyone get in touch with them. 

There were some empty boxes on the floor. Yves filled one with Jake’s clothes. The clothes went to a group who that saw HIV patients who needed them got them. Some had come to Jake that way. A circle within a circle.  

From the room’s window he could see Jake’s wheel-chair float in the back courtyard. The palm trees were lopsided, but they were up, their fronds for the world to see. He put the photos in his pouch. He picked up the stuffed snakes, Jake’s rainbow sweater and went downstairs.

The basement room was cool, soundless. The light was harsh and bright. Jake lay under a pale green sheet. Yves hesitated to lift it. He moved his hands in the air along the contours of Jake’s body. The energy was cold. Gone. It sent a chill of fear up Yves’ spine.

Jake’s body was thinner than it had been yesterday. There was no air in the lungs, no fire in the belly to keep it warm. He slid the sheet off. Yves put both his hands on the chest and breathed on them as if to breathe life into Jake.

If only You could reveal where the spirit goes when it leaves this box of skin and bones.

He kissed Jake on the forehead and lips. He crossed himself. “A bientot mon ami.”

In the courtyard he coiled the stuffed snakes around the palms and secured the trees tight to Trigger. On a sheet of neon pink Bristol board from the hospice supplies, he taped a large photo taken when Jake was in his physical prime.

At the top, he wrote Jake’s name in big block letters. Under the photo, he put the date Jake passed away. Jake’s birth date was another of his guarded secrets. He made sure there was a fresh battery for Trigger. He had never steered one without someone in it and after a quick practice run, went to where the floats in the Parade were gathered.

The staging area for the parade was chaotic. Disco music blared around him as each of the floats tested its sound system. Several were full-fledge flatbed truck entries.

“Soon we’ll be televised like the Santa Clause Parade,” he shouted to parade security.

“That’ll be the day,” she replied.

The music stopped. He read her name off the official tag around her neck.

“Grace, how much longer before things get going?” 

“Hours by the look of things.”

“Will this be safe here?” he asked her.

She read the cardboard plaque. “Jees, he kick today? Yeah. Don’t worry. It’ll be safe. Be back in an hour ‘cause things will be crazier then.”


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

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees  sweet,eh? 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.