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by Kiernan Kelly
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica
Description: Living on the down low in their small Bible Belt town is just a fact of life for Hank and Beaver, two lovers who've been together for twenty-five years. They've always kept to themselves, careful not to make waves, particularly since their town is home to an infamous anti-gay preacher and his rabid congregation, who go out of their way to make sure that not one queer stone is unturned, including the only gay bar within a hundred miles. When small town bigotry forces them out of the closet they've shared for a quarter century, they find their love, their friends, and their very lives in jeopardy. Everything spirals out of control until at last, backs to the wall, Hank and Beaver choose to fight back. From the betrayal of friends to outright violence, they're not sure if they'll survive the war with their hides--and their love--intact. Sometimes, a bar is more than just a building. Sometimes, it's a belief.
eBook Publisher: Torquere Press/Top Shelf, 2009 http://www.torquerepress.com
eBookwise Release Date: July 2009
26 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [264 KB]
Reading time: 174-244 min.
Outland wasn't much to look at, for all that the name sounds proud and mighty. Used to be a stable (and, oh, the lame religious jokes that bubbled up like farts from a bulldog's ass over that bit of trivia), reborn as a bar.
Actually, I can't honestly call it anything as significant as a rebirth--wasn't anything near as grand or glorious. All Hank and me did was sweep out the mess, throw a coat of paint over everything--eggplant, he called it, even though it looked like plain ol' purple to me--and plug in a second-hand jukebox. Busted up a few old crates and used the wood to build a bar, set a couple of tables here and there, hung a fan smack in the center of the ceiling, and stocked a couple of Frigidaires with bottles of Bud and Miller. We printed Outland in plain, block letters on an stray piece of wood, hung it outside next to the door, and figured we was in business.
We were, too.
Word spread faster than I ever would've thought possible. One day it was just him, me, our friend Fargo, and Hank's three-legged, near-blind hound dog, Leroy; and the next, the damn place was full to the rafters with strangers. Didn't know but a few of them; didn't know how they even found the place, being stuck up in the hills like it was over a rutted dirt road half overgrown with weeds. There were no sign markers, not even a fucking breadcrumb trail for them to follow.
They found it, though, and came in droves. Started with just a few good ol' boys grown up in and around Meridian, but before long all kinds of folks were showing up every Friday and Saturday--queer and straight both. Nice group for the most part-friendly, good people.
A few drag queens came; Miss Amanda Allure and her friends "adopted" Outland as "their" place. At least, that's what they told Hank and me. They were the ones who built the stage out of cast-off lumber and brought in all that fancy electronic shit, lights and microphones and whatnot. Purt near gave our old generator a heart attack running it all, but me and Hank didn't mind. Lord! Sometimes you could hardly hear the music over the racket the genny was making! Truth be told, they put on a pretty damn fine show, dancing in sparkly dresses and feather boas, lip-syncing to music. They made tablecloths for our old beaten up card tables, too, rainbow-colored ones with gold fringe, and matching vests for me and Hank to wear when we tended the bar.
A friend of Fargo's, Skeeter, stopped in and near took a shit-fit when he saw the wires and whatnot the queens had plugged in here and there; lines crisscrossing the floor like thin black snakes. Skeeter was a bonafide electronics wizard. The boy knew his shit, I'll tell you. Went to school for it at the community college over in Twilla, got a fancy diploma to prove it, too.
First thing, he cleaned up the wires, made 'em all neat and pretty. Then he brought in a crapload of hardware and a skinny little laptop computer, and I'll be dipped in Hank's eggplant paint if he didn't have a genuine light show going for the girls in no time flat. Spotlights and colored lights flashing to the beat of the music and videos playing on a screen he hung up behind the stage. Told us we were going to need a bigger genny, and I told him he needed his head examined if he thought we were spending another red cent on the place.
Didn't have any employees--couldn't afford none. Me and Hank did it all, with some help from Fargo, the queens, and Skeeter. We tended the bar, which really only involved digging into the Frigidaires for beer, and filling up bowls with dry roasted peanuts for the tables. No fancy mixed drinks with those teeny, paper umbrellas at Outland. No, sir! Good, old-fashioned beer n' peanuts was all that was on the menu. We swept up the floor, cleaned the tables, threw out the trash, and washed what few glasses we used.
After a little while, we began to put names to the faces who showed up every weekend--Merle, Buster, Big Pete and Little Pete, Sally, Linda, Frankie, Carl, Dermot, Boone, and Shelby Joe were some of the regulars me and Hank got to know real well, but there were others, and new faces came in all the time. Truckers who'd pop in for a beer--big, beefy guys who used to park their rigs down along the shoulder of the highway and hike up the dirt road to the bar. Men from the mill over in Twilla, still wearing their workpants and boots covered in sawdust, and other folk wearing suits and carrying briefcases without a single callous on their smooth, manicured hands. Didn't matter what they did for a living. When they walked in the doors of Outland there wasn't one better than the other--they all got along just fine, clinking bottles and dancing on the scuffed wood floor.
We had a couple of fights, nothing major, just good ol' boys drinking a little too much and loving a little too hard. Mostly, they were just a few minutes of circling, some name-calling, and a little pushing and shoving. They were over almost before they started, and nobody ever drew so much as a drop of blood at Outland. Me and Hank would've beat 'em silly if they had.
More than one person who came to drink and dance at Outland told us they were happy we'd had the balls to open a gay bar, and hoped our stones were big enough to keep it open. Hank and me, we knew what they were saying. It's one of the reasons I had my doubts about opening the bar in the first place ... well, before Hank went out and bought twelve gallons of eggplant paint. After that, it was pretty much a done deal.
See, Meridian is a real small town, only a half-spit bigger than a wide spot in the single, two-lane highway that passes through Haggerty County on its way to somewhere else. It's a pimple stuck right smack in the middle of the Bible Belt's ass, not even big enough to be a dot on a map. Folks here live in old, tired houses that seen their best days back before the First World War. Got us some even older homes, too, a few newer, and all of them scattered over acres of hardscrabble land. Other folk make do with trailers, mostly singles with a few doublewides thrown in here and there. Everywhere you look, you find hard-working folk who earn a living on hourly pay, people who know how to pinch a penny until it screams good and loud.
Most folk keep to their own selves, living in glass houses and having sense enough not to throw stones. Some are friendly, always smiling and ready to lend a hand to a man in trouble. Like anywhere else, we got us a handful that ain't so neighborly.
Hank has it all figured out. Says some folks don't have much in the way of charity, and a few of them have hate seeded in their hearts from birth, be it for the color of a man's skin or the choice of lovers he takes to his bed. Some lash out at what they don't understand or because they see something in others they hate in themselves.
I think ol' Hank has it right on the money.