Tricks, by Hopkins, Ellen
- ISBN: 9781416950073 | 1416950079
- Cover: Hardcover
- Copyright: 8/25/2009
Eyes Tell Stories
But do they know how
to craft fiction? Do
they know how to spin
His eyes swear forever,
flatter with vows of only
me. But are they empty
I stare into his eyes, as
into a crystal ball, but
I cannot find forever,
movies of yesterday,
a sketchbook of today,
dreams of a shared
His eyes whisper secrets.
But are they truths or fairy tales?
I wonder if even he
Never find the right kind of love.
You know, the kind that steals
your breath away, like diving into snowmelt.
The kind that jolts your heart,
sets it beating apace, an anxious
hiccuping of hummingbird wings.
The kind that makes every terrible
minute apart feel like hours. Days.
Some people flit from one possibility
to the next, never experiencing the incredible
connection of two people, rocked by destiny.
Never knowing what it means to love
someone else more than themselves.
More than life itself, or the promise
of something better, beyond this world.
More, even (forgive me!) than God.
Lucky me. I found the right kind
of love. With the wrong person.
Not Wrong for Me
No, not at all. Andrew is pretty much
perfect. Not gorgeous, not in a male
model kind of way, but he is really cute,
with crazy hair that sometimes hides
his eyes, dark chocolate eyes that hold
laughter, even when he's deadly serious.
He's not a hunk, but toned, and tall enough
to effortlessly tuck me under his arms,
arms that are gentle but strong from honest
ranch work, arms that make me feel
safe when they gather me in. It's the only
time I really feel wanted, and the absolute
best part of any day is when I manage
to steal cherished time with Andrew.
No, he's not even a little wrong for me
except maybe -- maybe! -- in the eyes
of God. But much, much worse than that,
he's completely wrong for my parents.
See, My Papa
Is a hellfire-and-brimstone-preaching
Assembly of God minister, and Mama
is his not-nearly-as-sweet-as-she-seems
right-hand woman, and by almighty God,
their daughters (that's me, Eden, and my
little sister, Eve -- yeah, no pressure at all)
will toe the Pentecostal line. Sometimes
Eve and I even pretend to talk in tongues,
just to keep them believing we're heavenbound,
despite the fact that we go to public school
(Mama's too lazy to homeschool) and come
face-to-face with the unsaved every day.
But anyway, my father and mother
maintain certain expectations when
it comes to their daughters' all-too-human
future plans and desires.
husbands within their faith.
Mama: Our daughters will not
date until they're ready to marry.
You Get My Dilemma
I'm definitely not ready to marry,
so I can't risk letting them know
I'm already dating, let alone dating
a guy who isn't born-again, and even
worse, doesn't believe he needs to be.
Andrew is spiritual, yes. But religious?
me once. Followers and puppets.
At my stricken look, he became not
quite apologetic. Sorry. But I don't
need some money-grubbing preacher
defining my relationship with God.
At the time, I was only half in love
with Andrew and thought I needed
definitions. "What, exactly, is your
relationship with our Heavenly Father?"
First off, I don't think God is a guy.
Some Old Testament-writing fart
made that up to keep his old lady
in line. He paused, then added, Why
would God need a pecker, anyway?
Yes, he enjoyed the horrified look
on my face. More laughter settled
into those amazing eyes, creasing
them at the corners. So sexy!
personal way. Don't need anyone
to tell me how to do it better. I see
His hand everywhere -- in red sunrises
and orange sunsets; in rain, falling
on thirsty fields; in how a newborn
lamb finds his mama in the herd. I thank
God for these things. And for you.
After that, I was a lot more than
halfway in love with Andrew.
The Funny Thing Is
We actually met at a revival, where nearly
everyone was babbling in tongues,
or getting a healthy dose of Holy Spirit
healing. Andrew's sister, Mariah, had
forsaken her Roman Catholic roots
in favor of born-again believing and had
dragged her brother along that night,
hoping he'd find salvation. Instead
he found me, sitting in the very back
row, half grinning at the goings-on.
So..., he whispered. Come here often?
I hadn't noticed him come in, and when
I turned to respond, my voice caught
in my throat. Andrew was the best-looking
guy to ever sit next to me,
let alone actually say something to me.
In fact, I didn't know they came that cute
in Idaho. A good ten seconds passed before
I realized he had asked a question.
"I...uh...well, yes, in fact I come here
fairly regularly. See the short guy up there?"
I pointed toward Papa, who kept the crowd
chanting and praying while the visiting evangelist
busily laid on his hands. "He's the regular
preacher and happens to be my father."
forth, Papa to me. You're kidding, right?
His consternation surprised me. "No,
not kidding. Why would you think so?"
so normal, and this... He shook his head.
I leaned closer to him, and for the first
time inhaled his characteristic scent --
clean and somehow green, like the alfalfa
fields I later learned he helps work for cash.
I dropped my voice very low. "Promise not
to tell, but I know just what you mean."
It Was a Defining Moment
For me, who had never dared confess
that I have questioned church dogma
for quite some time, mostly because I am
highly aware of hypocrisy and notice
it all too often among my father's flock.
I mean, how can you claim to walk
in the light of the Lord when you're
cheating on your husband or stealing
from your best friend/business partner?
Okay, I'm something of a cynic.
But there was more that evening -- instant
connection, to a guy who on the surface
was very different from me. And yet,
we both knew instinctively that we needed
something from each other. Some people might
call it chemistry -- two parts hydrogen,
one part oxygen, voilà! You've got water.
A steady trickle, building to a cascade.
Was the poser type, things would
probably be easier. I mean, if he could
pretend to accept the Lord into his heart,
on my father's strictest of terms, maybe
we could be seen together in public -- not
really dating, of course. Not without a ring.
But Andrew is the most honest person
I've ever met, and deadly honest that night.
It seems kind of, um...theatrical.
We had slipped out the back door,
when everyone's attention turned to
some unbelievable miracle at the front
of the church. I smiled. "Theatrical.
That sums it up pretty well, I guess.
You probably couldn't see it in back, but..."
I glanced around dramatically, whispered,
"Brother Bradley even wears makeup!"
you come, then? Pure entertainment?
I shrugged. "Certain expectations are
attached to the 'pastor's daughter' job
description. Easier just to meet them, or
at least pretend they don't bother you."
It was early November, and the night wore
a chill. I shivered at the nip in the air,
or at the sudden magnetic pull I felt toward
this perfect stranger. Without a second
thought, Andrew took off his leather
jacket, eased it around my shoulders.
the signs point to a hard winter.
He was standing very close to me.
I sank into that earthy green aura, looked
up into his eyes. "You don't believe in
miracles, but you do believe in signs?"
says I don't believe in miracles?
They happen every day. And I think
we both knew that one just might have.
It Was Unfamiliar Turf
I mean, of course I'd thought guys were cute
before, and the truth is, I'd even kissed
a few. But they'd all been "kiss and run,"
and none had come sprinting back for seconds.
Probably because most of the guys here
at Boise High know who my father is.
But Andrew went to Borah High, clear
across town, and he graduated last year.
He's a freshman at Boise State, where his mom
teaches feminist theory. Yes, she and his rancher
dad make an odd couple. Love is like that.
Guess where his progressive theories came from.
That makes him nineteen, all the more reason
we have to keep our relationship discreet.
In Idaho, age of consent is eighteen,
and my parents wouldn't even think
twice about locking him up for statutory.
That horrible thought has crossed my mind
more than once in the four months since
Andrew decided to take a chance on me.
Of him coming to church with Mariah,
both of us patiently wading through Papa's
sermons, then waiting for post-services coffee
hours to slip separately out the side doors, into
the thick stand of riverside trees for a walk.
Conversation. After a while, we held hands
as we ducked in between the old cottonwoods,
grown skeletal with autumn. We joked about
how soon we'd have to bring our own leaves
for cover. And then one day Andrew stopped.
He pleated me into his arms, burrowed his face
in my hair, inhaled. Smells like rain, he said.
My heart quickstepped. He wanted to kiss
me. That scared me. What if I wasn't good?
in my right temple. Will I burn if I kiss you?
I was scared, but not of burning, and I wanted
that kiss more than anything I'd ever wanted
in my life. "Probably. And I'll burn with you.
But it will be worth it." I closed my eyes.
It was cold that morning, maybe thirty
degrees. But Andrew's lips were feverish
against mine. It was the kiss in the dream
you never want to wake up from -- sultry,
fueled by desire, and yet somehow innocent,
because brand-new, budding love was the heart
of our passion. Andrew lifted me gently
in his sinewy arms, spun me in small circles,
lips still welded to mine. I'd never known
such joy, and it all flowed from Andrew.
And when we finally stopped, I knew
my life had irrevocably changed.
Day by Day
I've grown to love him more and more.
Now, though I haven't dared confess
it yet, I'm forever and ever in love with
him. After I tell him (if I ever find the nerve),
I'll have to hide it from everyone. Boise,
Idaho, isn't very big. Word gets around.
Can't even tell Eve. She's awful about
keeping secrets. Good thing she goes to
middle school, where she isn't privy
to what happens here at Boise High.
I'm sixteen, a junior. A year and a half,
and I'll be free to do whatever I please.
For now, I'm sneaking off to spend
a few precious minutes with Andrew.
I duck out the exit, run down the steps,
hoping I don't trip. Last thing I need
is an emergency room visit when I'm
supposed to be in study hall. Around one
corner. Two. And there's his Tundra across
the street, idling at the curb. He spots me
and even from here, I can see his face
light up. Glance left. No one I know.
Right. Ditto. No familiar faces or cars.
I don't even wait for the corner,
but jaywalk midblock at a furious
pace, practically dive through the door
and across the seat, barely saying hello
before kissing Andrew like I might
never see him again. Maybe that's because
always, in the back of my mind, I realize
that's a distinct possibility, if we're ever
discovered kissing like this. One other
thought branded into my brain is that maybe
kissing like this will bring God's almighty wrath
crashing down all around us. I swear, God,
it's not just about the delicious electricity
coursing through my veins. It's all about love.
And you are the source of that, right? Amen.
Copyright © 2009 by Ellen Hopkins
A Poem by Seth Parnell
As a child, I was wary,
often felt cornered.
To escape, I regularly
in the closet,
comforted by curtains
of cotton. Silk. Velour.
Avoided wool, which
the ever-present rashes
on my arms, legs. My skin
reacted to secrets, lies,
and taunts by wanting
to break out.
Now I hide behind
a wall of silence, bricked
in by the crushing
desire to confess,
but afraid of
my family's reaction.
Fearful I don't have
the strength to survive
As Far Back
As I can remember,I have known that
I was different. I think
I was maybe five
when I decided that.
I was the little boy
and ant farm tending
better than riding bikes
or playing army rangers.
Not easy, coming from
factory workers. Dad's big
dream for his only son has
always been tool and die.
My dream is liberal arts,a New Agey university.
Berkeley, maybe. Or,
even better, San Francisco.
But that won't happen.
Not with Mom Gone
She was the one who
plan. You reach for your
dreams, she said. Factory
work is killing us all.
Factory work mayhave jump-started it,
but it was cancer that
took my mom, one year
and three months ago.
At least she didn'thave to find out about
me. She loved me, sure,
with all her heart. Wanted
me to be happy, with all her
heart. But when it came tosex, she was all Catholic
in her thinking. Sex was
for making babies, and only
after marriage. I'll never forget
what she said when my cousinLiz got pregnant. She was just
sixteen and her boyfriend hauled
his butt out of town, all the way
to an army base in Georgia.
Mom got off the phone withAunt Josie, clucking like a hen.
Who would have believed
our pretty little Liz would
grow up to be such a whore?
I thought that was harsh,and told her so. She said,
flat out, Getting pregnant
without getting married first
makes her a whore in God's eyes.
I knew better than to arguewith Mom, but if she felt
that strongly about unmarried
sex, no way could I ever let
her know about me, suffer
the disgrace that would havefollowed. Beyond Mom,
conservatives hate "fags" almost
as much as those freaks in Kansas
do -- the ones who picket deadsoldiers' funerals, claiming
their fate was God's way of
getting back at gays. How in
the hell are the two things related?
If God were inclinedto punish someone
just for being the way
he created them, it would
be punishment enough
to insert that innocentsoul inside the womb
of a native Indianan.
These cornfields and
gravel roads are no place
for someone like me.Considering almost every
guy I ever knew growing up
is a total jock, with no plans
for the future but farming
or assembly-line work,it sure isn't easy to fit in
at school, even without
overtly jumping out of
that frigging closet.
I can't even tell Dad,though I've come very
close a couple of times,
in response to his totally
cliché homophobic views:
Adam and Eve, not Adam
and Steve, and no damn
Most definitely not thisbleeding-heart liberal.
Of course, Dad has no clue
that's what I am. Or have
become. Because of who
I am, all the way inside,the biggest part of me,
the part I need to hide.
Wonder what he'd say
if I told him the first person
to recognize what I amwas a priest. Father Howard
knew. Took advantage, too.
Maybe I'll confess it all
to Dad someday. But not
while he's still grievingover Mom. I am too.
And if I lost my dad
because of any of this, I really
don't know what I'd do.
So I Keep the Real Seth
Mostly hidden away.It is spring, a time of hope,
locked in the rich loam
we till and plant. Corn.
Maize. The main ingredient
in American ethanol,the fuel of the future, and
so it fuels our dreams. It's
a cold March day, but the sun
threatens to thaw me,
like it has started to thawthe ground. The big John
Deere has little trouble
tugging the tiller, turning
the soil, readying it for seed.
I don't mind this work.There's something satisfying
about the submission, dirt
to churning blades. Submission,
yes, and almost as ancient
as the submission of onebeast, throat up to another.
One human, facedown
to another. And always,
always another, hungering.
Drives the beast, humanor otherwise, and it is
the essence of humanity.
Hunger for food. Power.
Sex. All tangled together.
It was hunger that mademe post a personal ad
on the Internet. Hunger
for something I knew
I could never taste here.
Hunger that put me onthe freeway to Louisville,
far away enough to promise
secrecy unattainable at home.
Hunger that gave me
the courage to knock ona stranger's door. Looking
back, I realize the danger.
But then I felt invincible.
Or maybe just starved.
I'd Dated Girls, of Course
Trying to convincemyself the attraction
toward guys I'd always felt
was just a passing thing.
Satan, luring me with
the promise of a penis.I'd even fallen for a female.
Janet Winkler was dream-girl
pretty and sweeter than
just-turned apple cider.
But love and sexual desiredon't always go hand in hand.
Luckily, Janet wasn't looking
to get laid, which worked out
just fine. After a while,
though, I figured I shouldbe looking to get laid, like
every other guy my age. So
why did the thought of sex
with Janet -- who I believed
I loved, even -- not turnme on one bit? Worse, why
did the idea of sex with her
Neanderthal jock big brother
turn me on so completely?
Not that Leon Winkleris particularly special.
Not good-looking. Definitely
not the brightest bulb in the
socket. What he does have
going on is a fullback'sphysique. Pure muscle.
(That includes inside his
two-inch-thick skull.) I'd catch
myself watching his butt,
thinking it was perfect.Something not exactly
hetero about that. Weird
thing was, that didn't
bother me. Well, except for
the idea someone mightnotice how my eyes often
fell toward the rhythm
of his exit. I never once
lusted for Janet like that.
I tried to let her downeasy. Gave her the ol'
"It's not you, it's me"
routine. But breaking up
is never an easy thing.
Not Easy for Janet
Who never saw it coming.When I told her, she looked
as if she'd been run over
by a bulldozer. But you
told me you love me.
"I do love you," I said."But things are, well...
confusing right now. You
know my mom is sick...."
Can't believe I used
her cancer as an excuseto try and smooth things
over. And it worked, to
a point, anyway. At least
it gave Janet something
to hold on to. I know, Seth.But don't you think you
need someone to...?
The denial in my eyes
spoke clearly. She tried
another tactic, slidingher arms around my neck,
seeking to comfort me. Then
she kissed me, and it was
a different kind of kiss
than any we'd sharedbefore. Swollen with desire.
Demanding. Lips still locked
to mine, she murmured, What
if I give you this...?
Her hand found my own,urged it along her body's
contours, all the way to
the place between her legs,
the one I had never asked for.
To be honest, I thoughtabout doing it. What if it
cured my confusion after all?
In the heat of the moment,
I even got hard, especially
when Janet touched me,dropped onto her knees,
lowered my zipper, started
to do what I never suspected
she knew how to do. Yes...
No! Shouldn't...How...?The haze in my brain
cleared instantly, and I pushed
her away. "No. I can't,"
was all I could say.
All Janet Could Say
Before she stalked offwas, Up yours! What are
you, anyway? Gay? Not
really expecting a response,
she pivoted sharply, went
in search of moral support.So she never heard me say,
way under my breath, "Maybe
I am gay." It was time, maybe
past, to find out for sure.
But not in Perry County,Indiana, where if you're
not related to someone,
you know someone who
is. All fact here is rooted
in gossip, and gossip canprove deadly. Like last year,
little Billy Caldwell told Nate
Fisher that he saw Nate's mom
kissing some guy out back
of a tavern. Total lie, butthat didn't help Nate's mom
when Nate's dad went looking
for her, with a loaded shotgun.
Caught up to her after Mass
Sunday morning, and whenhe was done, that church
parking lot looked like a street
in Baghdad. After, Billy felt
kind of bad. But he blamed
Nate's dad one hundred percent.Not Nate, who took out
his grief on Billy's hunting
dog. That hound isn't much
good for hunting now, not
with an eye missing. SinceI'd really like to hang on
to both of my eyes and all
of my limbs, I figured I'd
better find my true self
somewhere other than PerryCounty. Best way I could
think of was through the
"be anyone you choose to be"
possibilities of online dating.
Granted, One Possibility
Was hooking up with a creep --a pervert, looking to spread
some incurable disease to some
poor, horny idiot. I met more
than one pervert, but I never
let them do me. Nope, hornyor not, I wasn't an idiot. No
homosexual yokel, anxious
enough to get laid to let any
guy who swung the correct
direction into my jeans.I wanted my first real sex
to be with the right guy. Someone
experienced enough to teach
me, but not humiliate me.
Someone good-looking.Young. Educated. A good
talker, yes, but a good listener,
too. Someone maybe even
hoping to fall in love.
Unimaginably, Loren turnedout to be all those things,
and I found him in Louisville!
He opened my eyes to a wider
world, introduced me to the
avant-garde -- performance art,nude theater, alternative
lit. He gave me a taste
for caviar, pâté, excellent
California cabernet. After
years of fried chicken andPabst Blue Ribbon, such
adjustments could only be
born of love. Truthfully,
love was unexpected. I've
said it before, and I'll repeat,I didn't fall out of the tree
yesterday. But that first day,
when Loren opened his door,
I took one look and fell
flat on my face. Figuratively,of course. I barely stumbled
as I crossed the threshold --
into his apartment, and into
the certainty of who I am.
Copyright © 2009 by Ellen Hopkins