In Honor of Thanksgiving, a Free Story Just for You!

Gifts Cover Low Res (427x640)Last night, as I began making my cranberry-orange compote, which I do every Thanksgiving and Christmas, my thoughts flew back to past holidays. Some have been bitter, some sweet, but all have been connected by loving moments between family and friends. This recipe that I was making was given to me in the early 1990’s by my dear friend Stephen Chappell. He was part of a group of guys whom I knew through my then-partner Shane. This group did everything together and were seemingly unseperable, but after Shane’s death, the group slowly splintered and fell away. Even things we count on drift away, regardless of our grasp.

All of those emotions must have been sifting through me many moons ago when I sat down to write a short story for my collection, Gifts Not Yet Given. I had no grand plan; all I knew was that I needed an emotional piece centering around family and Thanksgiving. But knowing that, I sat down and just started to write. And somehow, this cherished recipe found its way into this story.

I hope you enjoy it.


Glenbourne, IL

IT WAS A SMALL TOWN with few memorable attributes. Kelman’s Grocery Store was little more than a tiny market with one shelf of fresh produce. The post office had one clerk window and one staffer, in addition to the two mailmen, which meant that if Mrs. Hellner was sick, the office stayed closed, mail deliveries be damned. Glenbourne, IL, was far enough south from Chicago that suburban expansion hadn’t touched it, which left it quiet, if lacking in modern features. There wasn’t much in Glenbourne to attract visitors, though those who chose to stop could always stay at the Glenbourne Manor Guest House, which was rather grandly named, given its basic white farmhouse design and the fact that it rarely held more than two guests at any one time.

The high school closed a few years back, with students now bussed to the neighboring county, but otherwise life in Glenbourne had changed little in the past 20 years. In fact, as Glenn pulled down the main street, visions of his distant youth played out before him as if they’d occurred just yesterday. The long ride into town on his bike on a hot summer’s day with just a dollar in his pocket. Standing at the faded Sherman’s Ice Cream freezer, half frosted over, debating between the orange Creamsicle and the ice cream sandwich. Kelman’s Grocery Store was still there, though Glenn knew from his last visit that the old freezer had since been replaced with one storing Haagen Dazs. Glenn couldn’t imagine many here willing to pay for such an upscale treat, but if that change meant that good things could still be found in his old home town, he wouldn’t complain.

The elementary school had changed color, but otherwise looked the same. He could remember how safe he’d felt back in his youth, having no knowledge of the world and how challenging life could be. Not insurmountable, he often said. If there is no hope, I’d rather hang it up.

But with hope, Glenn felt certain he could conquer anything. Almost.

Sarah instinctively placed her hand on his knee, as if interpreting his thought, and again he felt hope. They were still a mile out from his mom’s, which gave him time to reflect on the jewel sitting beside him. I am so fortunate, he thought, his hand covering hers with a warm squeeze.

Try as he might to be objective, he couldn’t quite see what she’d seen in him. Glenn would’ve easily passed himself right by. But Sarah had seemed certain, content even, from their very first meeting. “You’re a good person,” she’d noted. “And my instincts are never wrong.” That had been five years ago, and she’d seen him through so many life moments he’d begun to lose track. There had been the wedding, of course, held exactly 365 days after they’d met. His father’s death just a few months later. His lay-off from the firm and their consequent move to and reinvention in California. And the recent cancer scare, which had shaken him, but had left Sarah unfazed. “If it is part of God’s plan,” she would repeat, “it’s useless to worry.”

While Glenn didn’t share Sarah’s deep love for the Lord, he knew better than to argue, and she knew better than to push him. He respected her faith and wished he felt the same, but all he could think about were those times as a child when he’d prayed fervently for God to cure him, only to be greeted by silence.

Sarah had been so wonderful, so complete a partner, Glenn’s only regret was that they hadn’t had children. He knew that while he had doubts about his own ability to parent, Sarah would excel enough for both.

The turn for his mother’s drive appeared on the horizon and Sarah immediately checked her hair. She still felt a need to impress his mother, which was an urge that Glenn himself felt as well. There was something about Harriet, or Mother Burke, as she preferred to be called, an air of superiority, which demanded respect. Though Mother Burke was never fearful or mean, Sarah wasn’t the first to have submitted to her and certainly wouldn’t be the last.

“I wish she’d at least let me make something,” Sarah sighed as they turned up the drive. “It feels weird, walking in empty-handed.”

“You know Mom,” Glenn grinned. “She’s got to have her finger in every pie—and her arm up every turkey.”

Sarah nodded, resigned. It was easier to give in than to spend countless hours shopping, prepping, and baking, only to have your handiwork dismissed with a grimace. Sarah had time, she reasoned, to find something suitable to contribute to the feast, and the bonus was that such a quest would supply plenty of excuses to journey out from the house.


When they pulled in, Mother Burke was already on the porch, fists on hips, as if barring entry to her own home. “Well there you are,” she said, stating the obvious. “I was wondering what you two were up to!”

Glenn went, almost childlike, enfolding himself into his mother’s waiting arms. She squeezed him tight. “How’s my baby?” she sighed. “My precious baby… You look thin.”

He laughed, “I’m great, Mom. Just, you know—”

Sarah stepped forward, arms conveniently and purposely full, and kissed Mother Burke on the cheek.

“Hey Harriet, good to see you,” she offered, quickly moving inside and into the room she and Glenn always used. The screen door swung shut with a clatter.

After Sarah was deep within, Mother Burke noted, simply as fact, “She hates me.”

“Aw, Mom, don’t start.”

“You always say she’ll warm up, but you’d think after five years we’d at least be a step closer to tepid.”

Glenn picked up their bags. “I’m not doing this,” he stated, firmly but gently, moving inside and kissing her cheek as well. “And neither are you,” he laughed.


After they were settled, Glenn and Sarah converged in the kitchen, as they always did.

“Wine?” he smiled.

“You read my mind,” Sarah sighed. And it was true, in a way. While Mother Burke may have had issues with her, Sarah and Glenn were united, with words used almost as afterthought. It was that way during their first blind date and had been ever since.

He reached into the fridge, pulling out the Chardonnay they’d picked up on their way from the airport, knowing it unlikely Mother Burke would have anything alcoholic in the house aside from cooking wine. Glenn fumbled through a drawer before retrieving an opener. Gazing at Sarah affectionately, he began pulling out the cork when she looked up, catching his bemused smile.


“I can’t get over how beautiful you are.”

As Sarah blushed, he handed her a glass. “You are some sweet talker…”

“Oh yeah?” he grinned. “What’s it gonna get me?”

“Stop!” she laughed, knowing Mother Burke was likely listening to their every word. She decided to change the topic. “When does Carly arrive?” she asked.

“Oh, you know Carly—”

“Whenever she wants!” they laughed together.

“She’s bringing Tommy,” Glenn noted, with special emphasis, “and his kids.”

“Kids?” Sarah was surprised. “Wow…” She let the thought linger. “Well, that’ll make for a change. Usually it’s just us.”

“It will be nice,” Glenn agreed.

There was something about an adults-only family gathering that, to him, felt rather sad. Prior to Tommy, Carly had never wanted kids, and the revolving door of disappointments she brought to each gathering had made that decision seem wise. But everything changed when Carly met Tommy. Maybe it had been the idea of giving birth that had turned Carly off. Maybe the typical maternal urges had never surfaced. Regardless, meeting Tommy, who already had three kids of his own, forever altered the equation. Carly, who had never met a barstool that didn’t fit, now found herself chauffeuring his trio all over town and seemed quite thrilled to do so. Perhaps she’d grown tired of the life she’d been living and realized she wanted something different, but more likely, the right situation landed directly in her lap and Carly—for once—had done nothing to screw it up.

Mother Burke joined them in the kitchen, but while she pulled out a chair and set down her lemonade, she herself never actually sat. Instead, she busied herself, needlessly wiping down the sparkling counter, cross-checking recipes and shopping lists, and doing all manner of straightening, though, to the untrained eye, her kitchen was already perfection. These many and varied tasks, however, did not prevent her from talking, but hers was little more than mindless chatter: long anecdotes about friends from years past, funny stories overheard at the grocery store, and what little local news there was to share.

Sarah sat, watching Mother Burke moving and talking without end, and wondered how on earth the two would ever manage once Glenn was gone.


The next morning’s noisy arrival of Carly changed the house’s dynamic for the better. Her years of bartending had honed her skills as an easy and amiable conversationalist; whether the topic was light and breezy, political, or depressing, Carly adeptly knew how to navigate the waters. Tommy’s three boys, nearly a year apart each, were barely distinguishable from each other, but it didn’t matter. Each was polite, upbeat, and playful, leading to random bursts of laughter, echoing throughout the house.

Sarah and Glenn were still in bed when the troop arrived, and Tommy’s orders to the boys rang through loud and clear, his years in the military clearly demonstrated. Glenn glanced to Sarah. She looked at him with such tenderness, he again regretted they’d not had children. Sarah smiled softly at the expression on his face.

“What?” she prodded, her fingers absentmindedly trailing over his naked chest.

“You would’ve made such a great mother.”

She took his hand in hers, kissing his fingertips. “I still can be. You never know.”

“Hmm…” he murmured, noncommittal. His eyes drifted to the open window, where the cool breeze brought in the sound of the boys exploring the yard below.

“We don’t know what the future holds, hon,” she affirmed. “Keep the faith.”

Glenn nodded, but knew that his path was set, and no amount of wishing would make it less so. Still, this weekend was all about family and showing gratitude, and Glenn vowed that his illness would not play a starring role. Aside from Sarah, he was determined to tell no one.


“I could not shut her up,” Mother Burke was saying when Sarah and Glenn joined the rest in the kitchen. Hugs and greetings were happily exchanged, Mother Burke’s monologue continuing throughout. “You know how she was in high school—Betsy Herndon? Well, now she is Elizabeth, and you’d think by the way she reacted when I called her Betsy that I’d killed her firstborn. Lord, give me patience!” she said to the ceiling. “Well, that Elizabeth went on and on, when I ran into her at Walmart about how Glenn was her first love. Like I needed to hear that.”

Hearing his name, Glenn tuned in. “Me?”

“Yes, you! Who else am I talking to?” Mother Burke snapped, ignoring the others in the room. “Elizabeth Herndon. Your old girlfriend.”

Glenn exchanged looks with Sarah, who’d heard all the stories.

“Oh…” Tommy grinned with a nod. “Even I’ve heard about her!” he snorted as he stepped outside to supervise his boys.

“She’s known far and wide, that one. Well, Elizabeth wouldn’t let me go,” Mother Burke insisted, “until I promised you’d come for a visit this afternoon.”

“What? No—” Glenn managed. “Not the day before Thanksgiving!”

“Oh, come on,” joked Sarah. “You’ll have fun!”

“You aren’t coming?” Glenn pleaded.

Sarah glanced to Carly and her mother-in-law. “I’m off myself, on a quest for a contribution to our feast.”

“Oh, don’t worry yourself, dear,” Mother Burke purred. “There’s no need to go to any trouble.”

“But I want to, Harriet. Really,” Sarah insisted, grabbing the car keys off the counter and giving Glenn a quick peck and wink. “You can take your mom’s car.”

“But—” Glenn sputtered.

“No hanky-panky, now—you hear?” Sarah sang over her shoulder, bouncing outside.

Glenn blushed, flattered to think Sarah still thought him desirable enough to be the slightest bit jealous.


A few minutes later, he was gone as well, leaving Mother Burke and Carly alone in the kitchen. Tommy had taken his trio to a matinee to give Mother Burke some breathing room, which was just as well with her. His children were sweet and well-behaved, but they were still boys, and as such came with all of the usual indelicacies. Her back was sore from picking up the soiled sweat socks and underwear, strewn all over their room.

At the stove, Carly lifted a pot lid, inhaling deeply.

“Cranberry orange relish,” her mother noted, with a hint of pride.

“Ooo—my favorite,” Carly cooed. “There is something about that dish that just feels like the holidays.”

Mother Burke nodded. “Except for the pies, it’s my favorite thing on the table.”

Carly continued to lift lids and open Tupperware, scoping out the next day’s preparations. “Can’t we just dive in now?” she pleaded with a laugh.

“I have pumpkin soup for lunch, if you want to heat it up. But you’re not getting into anything else without stepping over me!”

Giggling, Carly crossed to her mother, giving her a hug. “Don’t worry. I wouldn’t dream of interfering with Mother Burke’s famous Thanksgiving spread. I know better.”

“Well, I don’t mean to sound boastful, but I do think this year will be quite special. And I think we all need it,” she added, leaving much unspoken.

“He looks good, though—right? I mean, healthy.” Carly looked to her mother for confirmation, but was met with a non-committal smile.

“Glenn will be just fine—don’t you worry. He always pulls through,” Mother Burke noted. In the fridge, Carly found a bag of baby carrots, which she immediately dug into before offering to her mother, who declined with a shake of her head. “Remember, when he was a kid? That boy was always sick.”

Carly looked up at her mother. “Glenbourne, IL.”

“What?” Mother Burke looked startled.

“That’s what the kids used to say. They would always joke with him: Glenn. Born. Ill.”

“That’s awful… I never heard that.”

“We didn’t always tell you everything, Mom.”

“No…” Mother Burke muttered in agreement, then stopped herself. “But why, though? I mean, why not tell me everything? Were you afraid I’d get mad? Judge you?”

“You can be a bit intimidating…”

“Me? Pshaw!”

“Look at Sarah. She walks on eggshells, trying to please you.”

“But you’ve never been scared of me.”

Carly let out a belly laugh. “That’s because I was a fuck-up. From day one, you knew I was trouble!”

“That’s not true.”

“You knew I’d shoot straight. I’d call you on your shit, but even if you didn’t like what I had to say, you let me say it.” Mother Burke could do nothing but nod, as it was completely true. “With Glenn, being sick all the time, you constantly hovered. You’d watch, observe, searching for the slightest cough or a drippy nose. He lived under a microscope.”

“But I don’t do that with Sarah. I don’t hover.”

“Because you’ve already judged her,” Carly observed. “She threatens you.”

“Me? Why should I be—?”

“Sarah and Glenn are perfect together, Mom. They feed each other, give what the other needs. She kind of took your place.”

Mother Burke for once was silent.

“Sarah has tried, Mom. She’s made efforts—lots of them—trying to please you. To gain favor. Even now, she’s off finding the perfect gift. To make you happy.” Carly set aside the bag of carrots, facing her mother head-on. “She wants your blessing. Sarah needs to know that she is part of this family, no matter what happens with Glenn.”

Mother Burke looked up, suddenly worried. “Do you know something I don’t?”

Rushing over to her mother, Carly clasped her hand. “No! I just meant—if.”

“So…” Mother Burke sighed, “I’ve been a real—uh—?”

“Bitch?” Carly finished, biting her lip, trying hard not to laugh. “Pretty much.”


Betsy’s parents’ house, like most everything else in town, seemed little changed from their school days, Glenn noted. A brighter trim had been chosen, better accentuating its Victorian roots, and the hedges and landscaping had been meticulously overhauled in a distinctly feminine manner.

He heard rushed shuffling noises from upstairs as he rang the bell, and realized he should’ve called first, but there was something about the way his mom had orchestrated this meeting that made him fight against it. He hadn’t seen Betsy since high school, aside from a quick glimpse at their 10-year reunion. His date that night had been in a foul mood, ruining everything, so they hadn’t stayed long, but as they were leaving the banquet hall, he saw Betsy emerge from the women’s room, smoothing her hair, then taking the hand of Bobby King, who had once been Glenn’s best friend.

The door opened and for a brief moment, Glenn thought that Betsy’s mother had opened the door. But Mrs. Herndon had been dead for 15 years, at least, and Glenn quickly realized that he was staring into the eyes of his first love.

It wasn’t that Betsy looked old, or fat, or ugly. In fact, she looked fit and trim, with just a few stray lines on her face, nagging reminders of the years that had passed. She smiled broadly, showing her teeth before letting out a girlish squeal.

“Why Glenn Burke—I’ll be!” She opened the screen, pulling him to her in a tight hug.

“Hey…” came his muffled reply, Glenn’s head buried snugly in her shoulder.

“When I saw Mother Burke, I never dreamed you’d actually show up!” She led him into the bright and cheerful living room, which had also had a facelift. “Can I get you something? Iced tea? Coke? Water?”

He shook his head. “I’m fine,” he insisted.

“I usually don’t drink in the middle of the day, but something about this visit calls for celebration. Wine, maybe?”

“Sure,” he granted, deciding it best to be agreeable.

Betsy moved into the kitchen, talking loudly the whole time, and he could hear the chiming of glasses and the popping of a cork, and some other noises he couldn’t quite decipher as she rattled on about common friends and schoolmates. Emerging with a bottle of Merlot, she also produced a plate of cheese and crackers.

“Wow,” he exclaimed, “this is quite the feast. I realize now that I’d forgotten lunch.”

“Well, eat up then!” Betsy chortled. “Don’t mind me!”

It was a while before they got around to talking of anything personal, which was alright with Glenn. He wasn’t sure if there was an agenda to this encounter, given his mother’s prodding insistence that he attend. When the actual topic was revealed, however, it still took him by surprise.

“She told me, you know. About your cancer.” Betsy looked at him expectantly, as if it were up to him to respond. But he didn’t. He couldn’t believe that his mother had told one of Glenbourne’s biggest gossips. She should’ve just sent it to the Enquirer. Betsy looked at him purposefully, then asked a question, which seemed to take an eternity. “How are you?”

Glenn just stared. “I’m fine…”

“You don’t want to talk about it?”

“I’m just—surprised. I mean, we haven’t seen each other in years. I figured you wanted to reminisce or talk about Bobby or—I don’t know. Not this.”

“Does it make you uncomfortable?”


“Folks call me Elizabeth now.”

“Right. Sorry.”

“Your mother told me, Glenn—she shared your news with me—because I am a healer.”


Betsy nodded, proudly. “I don’t know when it first started. After my parents died, I guess. And I just—I realized that I have a gift. Somehow, in their passing, they gave me a talent, which I can use to make this world better.”

Glenn couldn’t believe his ears. This was too much. He’d been to the best oncologists in Los Angeles, had every test known to man, tried natural remedies and eaten right, but little Betsy Herndon thought she could cure him. No matter what he’d done, the tests all said the same. He had bone cancer. It wasn’t so much a matter of whether he would die, but when. The question itself usually didn’t bother him, but returning home to Glenbourne, that question seemed to be all around him.

It hadn’t helped that just before leaving, he’d had his blood work done and was anxiously awaiting his results. Dr. Orlan had promised to call before Thanksgiving, but given that the holiday was now less than 24 hours away, it appeared he’d been left hanging.

Crossing, Betsy knelt beside him, taking his hands in hers.

“Betsy—” he stood, dropping her hands. “I really don’t—”

“It’s okay, Glenn,” she assured him, not bothering to correct her name. “You don’t believe.”

“It’s not that. I just—” Glenn looked down at his hands, now empty. “Well, maybe I don’t believe. I’ve tried believing before—”

“Only to have your hopes dashed,” Betsy nodded. “I know.”

Glenn stared. How much of his illness had his mother shared? Or was Betsy more perceptive then he’d thought?

“I’m not trying to be rude—really. You’re sweet and all…” He let the thought hang, heading for the door before turning back. “You’re a healer. That’s great. I’m glad for you. But all that chanting and stuff, to me it’s just a whole lot of mumbo-jumbo. I’m sorry if that offends you. Really. It may work for you, but that stuff just isn’t for me.”

He waited for her to protest, but instead she just smiled. “It’s okay. I get it. It’s not for you. But just as an FYI, I don’t do all that chanting. What I do is called touch therapy. And I’ve already touched you, so—” she smiled pleasantly, letting the thought hang above them.

“What—?” he managed.

Betsy stood, offering a shrug. “The process of healing has already begun.”


Sarah combed through every store within thirty miles, but found nothing. Well, in truth, she’d found lots, but nothing that would satisfy Mother Burke. As she finished filling up the tank at Shell, she spotted an old antique store across the street whose paint was peeling, sending rust-colored flakes flurrying out onto the sidewalk. The sign in the store’s window read “CLOSED,” but as she watched, a weathered hand reached in, turning the sign.

It’s part of God’s plan, Sarah thought. This is it.

Parking the car next to the store, Sarah glanced at the time and realized she didn’t have long to find something. It’s hard to believe tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Where had the time gone? Moving quickly, she stepped inside the store, screen door clanging behind. An old woman with a broken smile greeted her.

“Hi there,” Sarah nodded. “I’m so glad you’re open.”

“Wasn’t planning to, with the cooking and what-not, but I got it all done, so figured I may as well, if only for an hour. Thought perhaps there might be a few visitors passing through.”

Offering the woman a smile, Sarah began browsing. It was the same collection of discarded kitchen tools, antique tins, and mismatched china she’d seen in every other store. Still, Sarah was convinced she’d find something. If it is part of God’s plan, she told herself, I’ll find it.

The saleswoman followed Sarah from room to room, more from boredom than in thinking Sarah a potential thief.

“Visiting relatives?” she inquired, politely.

“Hmm… My mother-in-law. Which is why I need the perfect gift.”

“That’s sweet,” the woman affirmed. “Just remember, dear, it isn’t the gift, it’s the giving.” Offering a wink, she shuffled back to her stool behind the register.

It’s true, Sarah thought. This has caused me far too much worry. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be.

She sighed, looking about, when her eyes landed on something shimmering near the window. Moving closer, Sarah smiled. It may not have been perfect, but it was darn close.


Mother Burke was finishing the stuffing, readying it to sit overnight, when Glenn returned. Upon hearing his car, she quickly busied herself, uncertain what to expect. Hearing the car door slam loudly, she prepared for the worst. It wasn’t the best decision, she knew that now, but it had seemed the right one—and still did—though she may pay the price for it.

To her way of thinking, every avenue, each opportunity, needed to be tried and exhausted before giving up. Which was partly why Sarah so bothered her. This “part of God’s plan” belief was to Mother Burke merely an excuse for not trying. Why bother doing anything at all, if God knew better and would provide? But, she reasoned, how were they—mere mortals—to know what the Heavenly Father intended? What if, for example, His plan was for Mother Burke to connect Glenn with Betsy? Others might call that interfering, but God might call that intention.

She barely glanced up as Glenn entered, preferring instead to tell him every ingredient she’d put into the stuffing. Not that Glenn cared, as he’d never been interested in cooking, but he knew that this was one of her favorite delaying tactics, and so he just sat, waiting patiently, until she finally drew breath. When she did, Glenn let out a sigh, loud and long, letting her know that like it or not, it was time to talk. She again tried a diversion.

“That Betsy—or Elizabeth, I should say—she is a talker, huh? When we met at Walmart in the produce aisle she just went on and on and on…”

“Apparently,” Glenn eyed her steadily, “she’s not the only one.”

Mother Burke stopped what she was doing. He was angry, that much was clear. Irritation, she’d expected. Gratitude, she’d hoped for. But the look in his eyes told her she’d made a supreme miscalculation, the damage of which was not yet clear.

“I can’t believe you told,” he stated, keeping his calm. “Her, of all people…”

“I thought she could help.”

“Sure—she can help! Help spread the news…”

With an emphatic shake of her head, Mother Burke interjected. “Not this time. I don’t think so.”

Staring at his mother, Glenn knew instinctively that she was right. Betsy was a gossip, but only about things that didn’t really matter. He had seen, quite clearly, a look in her eyes. No matter what he believed, he was certain that Betsy did. She took her healing seriously, so why couldn’t he?

He stood, realizing he wasn’t up to arguing with his mother, and wasn’t entirely certain he should. Instead, he turned without comment, his feet echoing as he moved to the room upstairs.


Thanksgiving morning was awkward all around. The equilibrium within the house had shifted, interrupting its peaceful flow, and no one knew how to reverse it. Mother Burke and Carly launched into full prep mode, readying the turkey and sides, while Tommy and the kids, still in their p.j.s, laid in front of the TV, glued to the parade. Still in bed, Glenn and Sarah lingered in their room, the voices below a low murmur.

Sarah rolled onto her side, propping herself up on her elbow. Glenn had shared with her all the details of what had occurred, but the way in which he’d spoken was odd, subdued. Usually so forthcoming, something about this situation had him unhinged. It was only fitting, perhaps, that it was in mid-conversation last night that Dr. Orlan had called.

From the way Glenn talked, phone held firmly and questions answered methodically, it was unclear to Sarah if he’d received a pass or more bad news. She knew he’d share with her, whatever it was, but prayed nonetheless. Together, by the grace of God, we can handle anything.

That morning, Glenn hadn’t yet said a word. Instead, he stared directly up at the ceiling. Sarah inched closer, snuggling.

“Do you want to talk?”

Glenn let out a long sigh, his eyes never leaving the ceiling. “This wasn’t my room. I had the room right next to Mom’s, in case I needed her in the middle of the night. It was small—well, you’ve seen it—it’s now her sewing room. My bed was pushed far against the wall, so I wouldn’t be exposed to any draft from the window.”

Sarah was quiet, knowing he needed this moment.

“I felt—I don’t know—both special and trapped, I guess. I mean, you’ve never seen folks make more of a fuss over a kid than they did me. And the thing is, there was never all that much wrong with me. I mean, yes, I got sick a lot, but there was never any one disease I was battling or any extended bout of illness. I just happened to pick up a lot of bugs. It got so that even a hangnail would send Mom scurrying for not only clippers but disinfectant… It was nice that she cared—I know how lucky I am—but at the same time, I feel like I never really stood on my own two feet. I was tethered to her—and Carly. I leaned on them, or they propped me up—I’m not sure which—but I feel like I never really was able to claim my life as my own.”

As he exhaled, Sarah lightly stroked her fingers over his chest. “They were just trying to help.”

“I know, but there were times when I hated them both. I never wanted to feel weak… And yet, if they hadn’t been there for me, I would never have survived.”

“Those feelings are natural.”

“Yeah,” he said, rolling onto his side to face her. “But when you never really learn to take hold of your life, you feel subservient. That’s one of the reasons I love being with you. You don’t coddle. You love me, yes, and you support me, but you also challenge me. We have a nice balance.”

“We do.”

“I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wish I had more of a balance with Mom. To her, I’ll always be that sick little kid, in need of something. I want to live my own life, without my every move being scrutinized.”

Sarah simply nodded, placing her hand comfortingly on his chest.

“Whatever ends up happening, I need to feel like I’m in control.”


Just before the meal, Sarah approached Mother Burke, wrapped gift in hand. Wiping her hands on her worn apron, Mother Burke smiled broadly. “For me?”

Nodding, Sarah gestured. “Open it.”

Mother Burke untied the satin ribbon, tucking it into her pocket for later use, and gently removed the beautiful paper, etched with gold foil leaves.

“So pretty, I hate to ruin it,” she grinned. “But I’m gonna!”

Opening the box, she carefully extracted the antique tureen. It was made of exquisite amber-toned carnival glass, which caught the light beautifully. The top formed a chicken, sitting aloft a nest-shaped bowl.

“Oooo—it’s lovely,” Mother Burke cooed, as Sarah blushed at the rare praise.

“I thought, maybe, for the table, or—”

“I know just the thing,” Mother Burke winked, taking the tureen into the kitchen.

Sarah turned to find Glenn watching, offering an impressed “thumbs up.”


“Our Father, for these blessings we are about to receive, we thank you,” said Mother Burke, head bowed. The family held hands around the table, with Glenn seated beside her. She continued in prayer, offering his hand a gentle squeeze. “This family means so much to me… May you keep us safe, healthy, and happy, Lord. Amen.”

“Now let’s eat,” crowed one of the boys, met by laughter all around.

The food was amazing: a turkey rubbed with butter, garlic, and fresh rosemary, mashed potatoes so creamy they could’ve been dessert, and a multitude of side dishes. As everyone dove in, assembling their plates, Mother Burke stood abruptly.

“Oops. I almost forgot.” She disappeared into the kitchen, then reappeared bearing the amber tureen, filled with her cranberry orange relish. “Looky here, everyone! It’s my favorite dish, in my favorite dish!” Sarah ducked her head with a smile as Mother Burke winked.

Glenn reached for the bowl, taking it from his mother. “That looks awesome, Mom!”

“Wait’ll you try this,” Carly offered, holding out the relish to Sarah. “The mix of flavors, with cinnamon, it is just the thing for the holidays. And the colors—like jewels!”

“Definitely! I missed it last year,” Sarah noted with a laugh. “By the time it got to me it was all gone!”

“That’s impossible,” countered Mother Burke. “I always make too much.”

“But you always eat too much, too!” laughed Glenn.

His mother pouted, then chuckled, “You’re right. Now pass me the relish!”


The kids had already returned to the TV, this time for football, and the meal was winding down when Carly piped up.

“Okay, it’s that time.”

Glenn groaned audibly, then yelped as Sarah offered a quick kick to his shin. “Play nice!” she said, sweetly as Carly continued.

“I am grateful for… Tommy, definitely, and the boys.”

“Whatever their names are,” Glenn quipped.

“And all of you,” she continued, shushing Glenn with a wave. “This family—all of you—it’s everything. And it’s just not the same with you two in California.”

His sister had always had a generous spirit, but Glenn, not so much. In fact, he resented being put on the spot with this annual ritual of showing gratitude. Shouldn’t it be up to the person to decide if they were indeed feeling grateful? Why only on a specifically-mandated day of the year? Shouldn’t showing gratitude be an ongoing element of being human?

He’d felt his mother’s eyes on him all morning, silently begging for forgiveness. And although he would eventually acquiesce, Glenn had to admit that there was a part of him that enjoyed seeing the high and mighty Harriet Burke squirm. She seemed to think she knew what was best for everyone, and while that might have actually been the case with him, Glenn still resented her intrusion. He didn’t like feeling helpless. Glenn had been born ill, in Glenbourne, IL, but that wouldn’t define him. He would show them, through his actions, he had risen above and was his own man, cancer and all.

Still, as they went around the table, he grew more anxious as to what to say. He was grateful for many things, particularly the call last night from Dr. Orlan, but wasn’t sure that sharing those details was the best option. After all, he knew better than anyone that a sudden jump in his cell counts, which had been dangerously low for some time, did not necessarily mean that all would be well. The cancer was still there, deep within, hiding, and could again be revealed at any moment. Sharing these latest results might instill false hope, which was the last thing he wanted to do.

Sarah, when it came her turn, had a response ready. “I’m thankful,” she said with a smile, “for God and all that He has done in my life. He led me to Glenn, and all of you, who have given me more of a sense of family than I ever had with my own. For that, I’m truly grateful.”

All eyes looked to Glenn, who was the last to speak. He took in each expectant face, wondering what on earth he could say that would communicate all he felt and thought inside, the relief, wonder, and endless appreciation for this respite from illness, however temporary. How much their support meant, especially that of his mother, and how rotten he’d felt about how dismissive he’d been about their attempts to help.

With a nervous cough, he gathered his breath, then exhaled with a smile. “I,” he said, “am thankful for Betsy.”


The next day, Sarah and Glenn packed up, and he took his bag down to the rental car, prepared to return home. As wonderful as it had been to be with family, they were also anxious to return to California, to their new life, new friends, and new opportunities. It may not be their forever home, but the anonymity California offered gave them breathing space from the tangled emotions that stirred here in Glenn’s hometown.

As Sarah finally squeezed shut her suitcase, there came a knock at the open door. Mother Burke stood, holding something in her hand. “I’m glad I caught you,” she grinned. “I wanted you to have something.”

Holding out her hand, she pressed an index card into Sarah’s palm.

“I know how much you liked it,” she said, then gave Sarah a quick, somewhat awkward hug. Mother Burke started to exit, before turning back with a smile. “You take care of our boy.”

Sarah nodded as Mother Burke left, her footsteps echoing as she marched downstairs.

In Sarah’s hands, there was a recipe card for Mother Burke’s famous Cranberry Orange Relish.

But it was what was on the other side, written in Mother Burke’s familiar and steady script, which touched Sarah most:

Please don’t share, outside the family.

From the Kitchen of Harriet Burke
Cranberry Orange Relish
3 oranges 2 apples
1 bag cranberries 1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup golden raisins 1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp. cinnamon 1 tbsp. Grand Marnier

Grate 1 tbsp. orange zest. Peel and core apples, chunk. Peel and section oranges, cutting into thirds. Combine all, save oranges and Grand Marnier. Bring to quick boil over medium heat. Simmer until it thickens. Remove from heat and add Grand Marnier and oranges. Put into dish, with plastic wrap on top of mixture, form fitting. Cool in refrigerator.

9/11: Never Forget

Dan, David and RonOn this somber anniversary, I invite you to celebrate with me the lives of Ron Gamboa, Dan Brandhorst, and their young son, David, lost far too soon. Please click here to read my tribute to them, written just after Bin Laden’s death. It was a difficult piece to write, and I hope you find some value within it.




Our Summer

Russ, Kergan, Mason and MarcusDearest family and friends,

Russ and I have for many months been wanting to share with you the ordeal our family has been facing, but haven’t been able to, until now. As most of you know, I adopted Mason with my now-ex, and I was the stay-at-home father for the first year and a half of Mason’s life. Upon our breakup, I became Mason’s primary custodial parent and have served in that role to this day. Our family quickly grew to include Russ and Marcus, leading to many years of amazing adventures, emotional bonding, and terrifically fun times.

Once we had made the decision to put our house on the market, we discussed this with Mason to find out if he wanted to move with us to Colorado or remain in California. He said he wanted to be with us, as we are the only family structure he has known, and he has reaffirmed that decision many times over. Thus, we were shocked several months ago to find that my ex had filed suit for full custody of Mason, which would mean he would remain in Orange County and we would have only a few visits with him each year. Ever since, our entire family has faced a whirlwind of emotions. Not only have we had to deal with the tremendous stresses of selling our house, buying a new one, and the subsequent pack/move/unpack–while also fulfilling our full time jobs–but we have had this emotional legal battle hanging over us the entire time, ripping our family apart. We have been so saddened to have Mason taken from us over the summer, as moving him wasn’t permitted by the court until this matter was settled. Marcus has missed him terribly, and Russ and I have had countless sleepless nights. You simply can’t imagine how horrific it is to potentially have your child taken from you, against his wishes.

Finally, after months of hearings, court investigations, and testimony, on this past Monday the judge finally ruled that Mason could move, and we flew back to Colorado that same night, as Mason had already missed the first day of school.

Today, we are relieved, but exhausted and emotionally tapped out.

Needless to say, we have appreciated your support throughout these months. One of the many reasons we moved to Colorado was for a less-expensive life, as I have been struggling to pay back debt, only to find ourselves with what will be over $50,000 in legal fees. I’ve opened so many credit cards to cover the attorneys fees, and have no idea how to pay for them, which only serves to make my stress even worse. (I would prefer to work this debt off, so if you know of any freelance writing projects or marketing work which could be done in the evenings, please let me know.) Reluctantly, on the advice of friends who want to help us out, we’ve also set up a GoFundMe account, should anyone like to contribute.

Still, as daunting as the debt may be, that is nothing compared to the incredible relief we feel to have our “Boo Boo” back home with us. Our family simply wasn’t the same without him. And we are especially grateful to all of you for your support, encouragement, and prayers.

Family has always been paramount to us, and we are so grateful to finally have ours back together.

Kergan and Russ

P.S. Please don’t leave any negative comments about my ex. This entire episode has been so emotionally draining, we want only positive energy moving forward. Thank you for respecting our wishes!

A Note to My Republican Friends. (Yes, I Have Some.)

republican-democrat-battle1This is to all my Republican friends: Many of you have told me that while you yourself have more liberal social views, you vote Republican because you see that party as being for limited government and a strong economy. PLEASE CONSIDER THIS, THOUGH: Your actions in voting Republican are leading to the death of the planet, as your leaders disavow climate change and are indeed working to ban even the phrase. Your leaders, putting corporate profits above ecological sensibility, continue to push for deregulation of corporate oversight, and that deregulation and lack of oversight leads to increased pollution. This, despite a mountain of evidence that our earth is changing quickly, and not for the better. Devastation of species and the environment are imminent, and YOUR VOTE LED THIS TO HAPPEN.

Many of you have told me that while you personally support LGBT equality, you feel that Republicans actually are–at their heart–LGBT allies, but are just appeasing the louder voices of the party’s right wing base. But your actions in voting Republican are leading to laws which discriminate against the very people you claim to support. People can be turned away, simply from ordering a meal, or holding a job, or having a roof over their head just because they’re gay. What year are we living in, you may ask? Good question. Just remember, YOUR VOTE LED THIS TO HAPPEN.

Many of you have said that while you support tighter gun control, to avoid the kind of mass shootings we’ve seen, you don’t want your guns “taken away.” Well, guess what? In the last 10 years, your guns HAVEN’T been taken away, have they? At the same time, your vote has led to inaction on behalf of stricter laws. We DON’T HAVE tighter gun control laws, which means senseless killings and mass shootings will continue, and YOUR VOTE LED THIS TO HAPPEN.

Many of you say that you think Republicans are better in terms of national security. Yet the biggest terrorist act against the U.S. occurred during a Republican President’s watch. YOUR VOTE LED THAT TO HAPPEN.

Many of you say you want a peaceful, diplomatic foreign policy, yet voted for a man who led us into two ill-considered and expensive wars, killing countless in the process. YOUR VOTE LED THAT TO HAPPEN. Meanwhile, Democratic Leadership is trying to bring peace to areas of strife. You might not agree with every decision made, but it is all with the goal of peace–yet the Republicans in Congress seem determined to screw up even that. Just remember, if an Iran agreement isn’t reached due to Republican interference and war occurs, YOUR VOTE LED THAT TO HAPPEN.

And finally, for those who vote Republican due to fiscal concerns, just remember this: It was your Republican President who got us into the financial crisis and collapse in the first place, and it was a Democratic President who got us out of it. The economy has now gained nearly five times more jobs under President Barack Obama than it did during the presidency of George W. Bush, and the unemployment rate has dropped to just below the historical average. Corporate profits have nearly tripled, and stock prices have soared. ALL THIS ECONOMIC ADVANCEMENT, from a Democrat, not a Republican.

Now, you may want to quibble the details–and I’m sure many of you will–but my point is this: YOUR VOTE MATTERS, and your vote is killing the planet, creating discriminatory laws against LGBT people, ensuring pay inequality for women, enforcing a lower-than-liveable minimum wage which leads people to poverty, and so much more–none of it good. Yeah, the Democrats have problems too. Lord knows, they ain’t perfect. But they aren’t trying to kill the planet either. Peace.

Wisconsin Bans Phrase “Climate Change” When Discussing, Uh, Climate Change

Put a Ring on It: Why Marriage Equality Matters

02-Kergan-Russ-Wedding-Ceremony-331-colorWhile the LGBT community continues to battle discriminatory legislation in Indiana and states contemplating similar such laws, it gives me some measure of comfort to know that this month the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the long-raging debate over same gender marriage. For some, the court’s eventual decision will be solely intellectual, but for me, that verdict will be extremely personal, and it is my every hope that marriage equality will be the resulting law of the land in all 50 states. After almost 12 years together and raising two children, my partner Russ Noe and I were legally wed in California on June 7, 2014. That moment was a lifetime in the making and as the gold wedding band slid onto my finger, I was fully cognizant of all that it meant, both legally and emotionally… For as it happens, in my recent history, I’ve experienced inequity more fully than most.

One fall day in September 2001, I lost almost everything I held dear when I stumbled upon an email not intended for me. In it, I learned that my then-partner of six years, “Rob,” had broken the commitments we’d made and that, in fact, I’d been lied to from the start of our relationship. As that email glowed onscreen, I remember looking over to where our infant son lay sleeping, wondering what our collective future held. Rob and I had created a life together, had a commitment ceremony, bought a house, and adopted a child… I’d given up my career to be a stay-at-home dad, only to soon discover that while I was the primary caregiver, with a stronger emotional bond to our son than Rob, I had no legal parental rights whatsoever. Should Rob so choose, he could lawfully banish me from my child’s life.

I couldn’t imagine losing my son, nor how devastating that might be for him emotionally. He was my touchstone, and I vowed that somehow I would find a way for us to remain together.

I was urged by my attorney not to confront Rob about all I’d discovered and instead wait until my rights were settled, as I was then undergoing a process known as a second parent adoption. And so I returned home, plastered a smile on my face, and attempted to act as if everything were fine. I went about my daily life, taking care of our house and son, though I was tormented and wracked with fear inside.  During this period, I even went with Rob to one of his therapy sessions, only to hear the therapist say that the only issues in our relationship were my doubts about Rob’s faithfulness, and that Rob was a moral and ethical human being. For one hour I sat, boiling inside, unable to stand up for myself and all that I’d discovered to be true.

Rob and I had stood in front of our family and friends, declaring our love and commitment toward one another. We called each other “husbands” and combined our finances, which were intended to be shared 50/50. We acted like a married couple and built our life like other married couples, but we didn’t have the same legal protections and benefits as our peers. This discrepancy became even more pronounced as time passed.

After two months of silence, unable to confront Rob, a court case in California placed all second parent adoptions–including mine–on hold, determining them to be incompatible with state law. To clarify this confusion, the California State Supreme Court would have to eventually rule on the legality of second parent adoptions, which could take months. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to remain silent indefinitely, I finally confronted Rob about all I’d discovered. In the process though, in order to ensure my rights were established, I pretended to give him hope that our relationship could be salvaged. I told him that we should take time apart and live separately, to see if we could mend the rift and find a way forward together as we had intended, as a family. In other words, in my attempt to hold onto my son, I became a liar, just like Rob.

We sold our house, and on the day it closed escrow, Rob went to the bank and took out the proceeds, leaving me what he alone determined to be “fair.” I had no choice but to live with that, and any other crumbs he offered, as I had no legal recourse. In the eyes of the court, we were no more than roommates, and I couldn’t afford to rock the boat until my parental rights were firmly established.

Eventually, a court date for my adoption was established. Even as Rob stood next to me in the court room, I waited, breathlessly, afraid he would halt the proceedings and take away this child whom I loved so dearly. At last, the judge signed the paperwork and the adoption was complete. After walking to my car, I sat in the front seat, holding my son and crying uncontrollably, grateful to no longer be afraid and for the ordeal to finally be over.

I had been in a similar emotional state before, in 1995, when my partner Shane Sawick died of complications from AIDS. In that situation, I endured months of anxiety, not to mention the physical and emotional toll of being a daily caregiver, but I did so all with the knowledge of how his story would play out. I knew that the end would come and I knew what it entailed. Still, when it did, it was agonizing.

At the time, I thought that never again would I experience anything as painful, but the prospect of losing my son and the months of uncertainty and turmoil that provoked proved far worse to my psyche.

It took me a long time to fully work through my anger and learn to trust again. Moving forward wasn’t easy, but I did it, with the support of my son and those I loved. That journey led me to Russ and the subsequent adoption of a second son.

Almost one year ago, as the sun shone brightly on a beautiful June day, Russ and I stepped out into our garden wedding ceremony, walking behind our sons, who served as best men. They each had written notes about the importance of family which they read to our assembled guests. Russ and I shared our vows, which we’d also written, publicly proclaiming our promises and commitment to the life we had crafted. At the end of the ceremony, as Russ slipped the gold wedding ring onto my finger, all the emotions and moments of my life seared through me, reminding me of the road I’ve traveled, the battles fought, and the promise of things to come.

Our rings are just simple bands, nothing fancy. But they are durable and signify the legality of our union. They are gold wedding rings, meant to last a lifetime.

This originally appeared on Kergan Edwards-Stout’s debut novel, Songs for the New Depression, was the recipient of a Next Generation Indie Book Award. His collection of short stories, Gifts Not Yet Given, was named on multiple “Best Books of the Year” lists. He is currently at work on a memoir, Never Turn Your Back on the Tide.

Photography by Sara + Ryan, flowers by Untamed Designs, and event coordination by Bridal and Event Lounge.

I’m on Rated G Radio Thursday March 26

Garrett Miller Looking for some great conversation? Join host and hottie Garrett Miller and me as we chat about the topics of the day on Rated G Radio. It all happens on Thursday March 26, 7pm Pacific/10pm Eastern. You can follow the show at Super Gay Radio and call in with your comments at 323-657-1493.

Last time we chatted, we covered everything from the Long Beach port shutdown to Lady Gaga, and everything in between that is gay-gay-gay, so you know you’re in for a good time!

Twenty Years Ago Today…

Shane - LouvreIt is astounding how our bodies hold and store memories, filing them away, only to open their drawer unexpectedly to remind us of their presence. I had planned on sleeping in late this morning, as I rarely do anymore given that we have kids, but our dog Toby was whining to be let out. Even so, I tried to remain half asleep as I did so, returned to bed, and placed an eye mask over my eyes. On my first deep inhale to restore sleep, though, I immediately woke fully: today marks Shane’s last full day of life, exactly twenty years ago.

It seems impossible that so much time has gone by, as so much of him and that experience remains within me, prompting memories such as this. I think of him often and relate to our children each year, as we unpack Shane’s trove of nutcrackers, just who he was and what he meant to me. And yet I’ve also packed so much into those subsequent years (a commitment ceremony, the birth of Mason, the unexpected and dramatic breakup of that relationship, subsequent costly court battles with my ex, the years of trying to heal, eventually meeting Russ, adopting Marcus, getting married, writing books and embarking on countless other new adventures), that the length of time also seems substantial… As if another life, one so disconnected with the life I lead today.

Just a few weeks ago, on March 5, I turned 50. It was twenty years ago, on the day of my turning 30 in 1995 that we checked Shane into the hospital, where he would die two weeks later.

That year, we had planned for me a simple 30th… Given Shane’s months of decline, I could not bear any major celebrations, of attention being placed on me instead of Shane, and instead opted for my family to join us in L.A. for dinner and cake. When I called my mom to tell her that couldn’t happen, as Shane would be in the hospital, her words and tone communicated to me that she felt as if his health were a direct attempt to sabotage her plans.

For this year’s birthday, I opted for no celebration as well. For some reason, I just didn’t want the attention. I took my birthday off Facebook, blocked the ability of people to post to my wall, and decided instead to have a simple family dinner. Many thought that I was hesitant about turning 50, but I have no qualms about aging. I wear my years on earth and my varied experiences as a badge of honor. But this morning I realized that my reluctance for attention is also tied into Shane and what he was going through 20 years ago on this very day.

Shane and Kergan - Eiffel TowerIn the fall of the prior year, 1994, we’d gone to Europe. I’d never been and Shane wanted to return, both as a likely last-hurrah and to share it with me. While he’d had a few minor health incidents in the months leading up to our trip, as well as a decline in t-cells, he was still relatively healthy. But our 5 week journey to France and Italy took an increasing toll on him as each day progressed. By the time we got to Rome, from which we’d depart, it was physically apparent how taxing the trip had been–you could see the strain on his face. All of the walking and stairs had been too much, and those last few days he would journey out from our hotel only once each day, to quickly take in a sight, sometimes just from a taxi cab window, and then we’d return back to the hotel again. Too weak to go out for meals, I’d bring him takeout–he was craving McDonald’s–and I became inordinately familiar with their location near the Spanish Steps.

Upon our return to the states, his health began to quickly spiral downward. He began having mobility issues. Walking down a straight corridor, he would suddenly veer to the right or left, or stumble. Driving, he would either abruptly stop short, or too far into a crosswalk. It soon began to affect his speech, as his words became muddled.

His eventual diagnosis was Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML), which essentially is a lesion which grows on the brain and increasingly affects the motor skills.

Shane Michael SawickIn just a few months, he went from a vibrant young man, filled with exuberance about life and excitement about our upcoming trip, to a bedridden, shrunken figure, rarely leaving our bed.

While we had hoped to keep Shane at home and comfortable, his body and organs began to fail him, leading to his hospital admittance. In just two short weeks, he lost the ability to speak, as well as the ability to blink to signify “yes” or “no,” and even to squeeze my finger. He was fully alert inside, with all of the knowledge and emotions he’d always had, but he was completely unable to communicate any of it. Each night, after his mother had returned to our apartment and all visitors were gone, I would crawl up alongside him in bed. I would talk to him about my love for him, share the news of the day, and remind him of all the wonderful things we’d experienced together. I talked often of Italy and France… Of the countless kitties of the Pitti Palace. Of the jasmine-like scented grapes we ate in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. And of our last night ever of sex, in Rome, when it became clear the end would soon come.

Shane and friends - Boothbay Harbor, MaineI hold Shane up today, as I have continually over the twenty years since. In that time since, his dear mother has died and his beloved sister, whom I think he loved most of all, has bravely battled cancer. Shane’s best friend Vivian still lives on, but Shane’s L.A. circle of friends has drifted apart. We lost David to AIDS not long after Shane’s death. Another of the group with AIDS came close to dying, but through the miracles of an experimental treatment is alive today. I know Shane would be disappointed to know that this dear group of guys, with whom years of memories were made, would not survive his passing. In many ways, he was the glue, and his absence led to consequences none of us would have imagined.

Shane Michael SawickAnd so today, on the 20th anniversary of his last full day on earth, I hold up Shane Michael Sawick. Without loving him, I don’t think I would have come to love myself. Without him, I would never have become a writer. And without him, I couldn’t have grown up enough, to have explored myself enough, to be the father and partner that I am today.

Shane died on March 22, at 12:22am. He was surrounded by his family and friends, and we played a tape cassette of his beloved Bette Midler singing his favorite song, “Shiver Me Timbers,” as they pumped morphine into his veins and he took his last breath.

He will not be forgotten.

Interview with Award-Winning Novelist David Pratt

Looking After JoeyDavid Pratt, Lambda Award-winning novelist for Bob the Book, is back with a funny and touching new novel, Looking After Joey (Wilde City Press). In it, Calvin, a single accountant, must look after Joey, a porn character who unexpectedly steps through the TV into Calvin’s life–and can’t go back. Calvin’s friend Peachy comes to the rescue, declaring that he and Calvin will teach Joey what he needs to know to be a gay man in this world—from Cher and Liza to how to cross the street without getting hit. But on a deeper level Joey’s presence causes Calvin to reevaluate what he desires, and his yearning for connection propels everyone through the story, as they find themselves forming a family of choice.

As our work shares many themes, primarily those of love and family, I appreciated the time Pratt took to connect to discuss our definitions of family, particularly their meaning for us as gay men.

Kergan Edwards-Stout: David, thank you so much for taking the time to chat! As you know, I was a big fan of Bob the Book, and was so pleased to hear of your new novel. One of your gifts as a writer is in bringing objects to life. In Bob the Book, you animate a book, and in Looking After Joey, you create depths and layers in a porn character.

David Pratt: In Bob, I actually created humans in the guise of books, who live as books might if books were sentient. In Looking After Joey, it’s Joey’s vulnerability and curiosity that bring him alive. He’s a porn character who crosses into our world, like a baby bird fallen from the nest. His reactions to what we call “real life” are hilarious and touching. Or both at once, as when he sees his first handicapped person. There is humor to it, but the scene is also gripping.

Edwards-Stout: Key to my enjoyment of the book was the role that family plays in it. Your lead character, Calvin, is on a quest to find a relationship, but ends up finding much more than that. It occurred to me, though, that while I know much about you as a writer, I don’t know much about your personal life, aside from your relationship with your partner, Rogério. How did you meet him? Read the rest of this page »

Rated G Radio Appearance

Looking forward to chatting once again with the personable Garrett Miller and Rated G Radio! Garrett Miller I’ll be on-air Thursday February 19, 7PM (Pacific), and while I have no idea what we’ll be talking about, our conversations are always stimulating!

UPDATE: It’s a good thing RatedGRadio​ is not televised, as my IPL photofacial today left me looking–well–lobsterish. Garrett Miller​, I look forward to talking to you tonight at 7PM Pacific. Anyone wanting to listen in or call with a question, check out the phone number and streaming broadcast here.

Fun to See Our Family on The Huffington Post!

Christmas 2011After being interviewed by Corinne Lightweaver of RaiseAChild.US for this The Huffington Post article, I flashed back to when I first met our youngest, Marcus, in his foster home. When my social worker and I walked up to the door, Marcus–without knowing me or why I was there–ran up and gave me a hug. I took that as a sign… (I ignored “the sign” of my next visit, when I took him to a park and he cried for two hours uncontrollably.)

There was also another child there at the foster home, Christian, who was about 11. He was a beautiful kid, loved basketball, and he asked if I was there to adopt Marcus. I told him that I might be, and it was clear to me that as happy as he was that Marcus might be adopted, he knew the chances for himself were slim. I walked away from that home happy that I’d just met the newest member of our family, but also sad that I couldn’t manage to take Christian as well…

Did you know that the number of LGBT people willing to fost-adopt children FAR OUTWEIGHS the number of kids in foster care??? Simply by making adoption by LGBT people across the U.S. legal, we could provide houses for all the kids in foster care. Astounding, and sad–for all the “Christians” in the world–that we can’t do just that.

Thanks to Corinne Lightweaver and Raise A Child, USA, for the chance to chat! Read the interview here!