Alien Home

an excerpt



Chapter One

From where he sat in the University of Illinois assembly hall, Mike Carlson could hear the grunts of the wrestlers, the shouts of the coaches, the calls of the referees, and the comments of the crowd.

Next to him on his left, Joe sat rapt in his reading of the National Federation of State High School Associations Wrestling rule book. For a state-championship tournament Mike thought the matches were boring. He realized the kids had worked hard, and the parents were as proud of their charges as was he of his nephew. He knew there must be great skill and athletic ability involved in what he saw, but watching other people's kids was like watching the two hundredth slide of someone else's European vacation. You're reasonably happy they enjoyed their vacation, but you'd be just as happy being tortured in a dank dungeon or at home reading a book.

"How can you be so absorbed in those rules?" Mike asked Joe.

"I'm fascinated," Joe replied. "So many rules for what is essentially a brawl."

They were at the wrestling tournament to watch Mike's nephew, Jack Carlson, compete in the one-hundred-sixty-pound weight class. Jack was a high school senior and due to graduate in four months, on time with the rest of his age group, much to everyone in the family's surprise. It was Friday, the opening day of the Illinois State High School Boys' Wrestling tournament, held mid-February in Champaign-Urbana. Mike had taken the weekend off from his job as a waiter at Alfred and Oscar's restaurant in Chicago.

"How can a gay man find wrestling boring?" Joe asked. "Aren't you the one who's talked about the cult of the sports icon in gay male fantasies?"

"I used to dream about making it with the high school quarterback, but that was when I was in high school. Now I prefer to gaze at the crotches of NFL quarterbacks and Major League pitchers. Maybe the real problem is that you listen far too well and take all too seriously the depth of my comments on social issues."

"I remember everything you say to me."

"I know. You told me. That must be absolutely depressing. Tell me again how good it is to be an alien."

"Depends if you think the alien in this relationship is you or me. It's all in your perspective."

"Whose planet are we on?"

Joe smiled and went back to perusing the rule book.

Meganvilia and his lover Ray returned from a foray to the concession stand and sat down next to Mike and Joe. Meganvilia, who claimed to be the most famous drag queen in the Midwest, had sworn to try every kind of junk food being offered in the arena. Mike figured that at the rate he was scarfing it up, the supply of junk food in and around the university complex would be depleted for the next month. Ray toted enough camera equipment to supply a medium-sized television station. Meganvilia insisted on being the one who recorded all of Jack's athletic events and had done so for several years now. Meganvilia and Ray were nearly a second set of parents to Jack. With little demur, Ray accepted his role as beast of burden. Mike acceded to the drag queen's enthusiasm for photography. Mike was inept at handling cameras, and he had always hated the obnoxious picture takers who shoved their lenses or recorders into every orifice of an unwilling person's life. Meganvilia had no such inhibitions.

Meganvilia asked, "How much longer before Jack's weight bracket?"

"About fifteen minutes."

"Another eternity." Meganvilia gave an unlady-like snort and plunked himself down on the seat to Mike's right. Meganvilia's three-hundred-pound body was encased in an Armani suit with a bright orange and yellow ascot tie at the throat, a rainbow-hued handkerchief in the jacket pocket, and enough rings on his hands to stock a small jewelry store. He wore his most conservative cape draped over the entire ensemble. When plans were first being made, he'd vowed that he was going to wear full drag to every match. As he put it, "I am not compromising for these suburban nitwits."

Mike had explained, "Champaign-Urbana is not a suburb. It is a pleasant college community with lots of good, vibrant people."

"To which," Meganvilia replied, "I am going to wear full drag."

Ray had put his foot down saying, "All the attention needs to be on Jack. You've been spectacle enough in your life. Give the kid a chance."

Meganvilia had even toned down his makeup, wearing only a touch of foundation, a whiff of lavender eye shadow, subdued lipstick, and the faintest blush. Mike was more amused than alarmed at the ostentation that remained.

Mike's nephew, Jack, had thought the concept of Meganvilia appearing at the tournament in full drag was a big joke. Jack enjoyed Meganvilia and Ray. Mike knew his nephew was heterosexual, but the kid showed little prejudice toward that which was different. Mike found that refreshing in the teenager who was in his charge.

Few people stared outright at Meganvilia, and there had been little blatant hostility. Perhaps it was also because he stood well over six feet tall. It might have been because he looked stunning in such a costume. Perhaps it was also due to his lover, Ray, sitting next to him. Above a pair of faded jeans, Ray wore a leather vest over a flannel shirt with the sleeves ripped off. The outfit revealed him as burly, hairy-chested, tattooed, with a goatee, and well-developed muscles. He seemed oblivious to anyone's comments ever. He preferred Meganvilia in drag. His forbidding persona hid the fact that he was at heart a cuddly bear of a man. While Meganvilia preened, Ray watched the action.

Meganvilia said, "Michael Carlson, you are as bored as I am. These young men rub against each other for a while. People blow whistles at them, shout loudly, and cheer, all for no apparent reason."

"Be quiet," Ray said. "If you'd a listened to what I explained earlier, you wouldn't be so bored."

"Sports, dearest, this is sports. Remember the gay gene doesn't include liking, playing, or being within sweating distance of those who indulge in physical activity."

"I like sports," Ray said.

Meganvilia snapped. "Yes, well, we've been worried about you."

Mike said, "The only reason I'm here is to support Jack."

"There he is," Ray announced.

The four of them looked where Ray pointed. Mike saw his nearly six-foot nephew approach the mat. His tight wrestling outfit, flat white with red numbers and piping, helped emphasize his height and slenderness. The singlet also caused the area between his legs to bulge noticeably. "I told him to wear something more modest," Meganvilia said. "Look at him parading around for all the world to see."

Ray sighed. "It's supposed to look that way."

"Not on someone I'm an honorary aunt for."

"They all look that way," Joe pointed out.

"Just because they all look like potential tricks in a twinkie bar on a Saturday night, doesn't mean Jack has to look that way. Those cups are obscene."

"They don't wear cups," Mike said. "Jack doesn't own one."

Meganvilia gasped. "I don't want to hear about it."

"Hush," Mike said. He thought Meganvilia did high-dudgeon better than most anyone, but in this case he was sure all Meganvilia's complaints would be useless. Mike had tried pointing out the need for more modesty to his nephew. Jack had said, "Mandy likes it. So do all the girls." Mandy had been the teenager's significant other of the moment. Mike knew better than to rail against peer acceptance combined with a stud athlete's image of himself.

Jack had been the most incorrigible juvenile in the entire Chicago metropolitan area until four years before. That's when Mike had rescued him from an abusive father. Mike's sister, Rosemary, had been unable to control the youngster even after the father had gone to jail. Jack had run away to their home, and at his request, Mike and Joe had taken the boy in with willingness and enthusiasm.

Mike saw that his nephew's opponent was a good six inches shorter but far more compact. He looked at the program to check the opponent's name, Frank Farnsworth. His nephew had won thirty-two matches this year on the way to this competition. He only lost once early in the year to this same Frank Farnsworth. Jack had practiced for weeks for this possible pairing, even watching films of their previous match.

After last conferences with their coaches, the two boys took their places on the mat. The referee blew his whistle. The boys began to grapple.

There was a sudden blue flash, as if someone had taken a snapshot with a flash attachment on a camera.

Joe leaned over to Mike, "We have to leave."

"What?"

"We have to go. Now." His whisper was fierce and insistent.

Mike glanced at Joe while pointing at the wrestling mat below. "This is the reason we came."

"We've got to go."

"Why? Intergalactic complications?"

"Yes."