Take Me Always: a Gay The Notebook Parody
When I read about the alleged homophobia of Nicholas Sparks yesterday, I remembered my all gay parody of the novel, The Notebook. I haven’t posted about that book in a while, so I figured I’d share something again. You can read more about Nicholas Sparks and alleged homophobia below this.
When I was asked to write this parody of a popular straight story like The Notebook, I hesitated for a second, and then I decided to do it. And for one main reason: gay people didn’t have anything like that growing up. We still don’t have any content like that in the mainstream, and I wanted to write a parody to point that out. When my book was released 10 years ago it did well within its genre and I never expected it to do anything more than it did. But I also think the parody still stands today as a reminder, and both as satire and as a good example of what gay people never get in fiction from mainstream publishers. I also thought it was timely because of the recent homophobic allegations about Nicholas Sparks.
You can check out Take Me Always, here. And here’s one reader review from 2018 that I didn’t even know was there. I haven’t posted about Take Me Always in a very long time.
Wonderful story of Kadin and Gregory. They meet and then are separated due to Gregory’s parents realizing that there is more than a boss and employee friendship. It takes many years but they find each other again and stay together even though Gregory is diagnosed with Alzheimers. A wonderful story!
Nicholas Sparks Responds To Homophobia Allegations
There are many different pieces out there about the recent allegations against author, Nicholas Sparks, regarding homophobia. I figured I’d be fair and link to one about Sparks’ reaction to the allegations. I don’t like it when I see the way people are judged in the media and on social media. The article also goes into a lot more detail about the entire situation that I’d rather not get into in a short post.
Sparks posted a response to the Daily Beast on Twitter today (read it below), saying the article repeats “false allegations and claims,” and that claims of discrimination and harassment made by Benjamin have been rejected in court
Here’s the link. Even though I’ve never been a huge fan of Sparks, I’ve always thought he was authentic and true to his fiction. So I’m not jumping to any conclusion about him based on what I’ve seen online so far. The Internet is always too quick to judge.
FREE GAY Excerpt Meadows Are Not Forever
In keeping with my free excerpts for Pride month, here’s chapter 6 from my novel, Meadows Are Not Forever. I posted Chapters 1 and 3 earlier this week. But Chapter 6 places the main character in a whole new setting that’s important to the story.
Cade’s mother hadn’t changed much in the past seven years. Daisy Johnston may have put on a few more pounds, but they’d been distributed evenly and she only looked a little fuller everywhere…as if she’d been inflated with a few more pounds of air. When Cade knocked on the front door, Daisy greeted him in one of her flowery short sleeve dresses with a matching belt that cinched her thick waist. Though she was overweight, these dresses gave her an exaggerated hourglass figure. This dress was a pink and green cabbage rose affair, with a full flowing skirt that stopped at her knees like all her other dresses. Daisy wore suits on occasion, but only when it was for something formal. She’d lightened her strawberry blond hair since Cade had last seen her. But it was still styled the same way she’d worn it since she’d been in high school: short with a tight, curly perm, flat at the crown and puffy everywhere else. It had always reminded Cade of a cauliflower headband.
She kissed Cade on the cheek and said, “I can’t believe it’s been seven years since you’ve seen your mother.” She was smiling and she still smelled like the same sweet, powdery perfume she’d worn since high school.
Cade smiled and hugged her. It had been seven years since she’d last seen her son, too, but he didn’t mention this aloud. Even though she wore three inch white high heels, he still towered over her. “It’s good to see you, mother,” he said. He decided to let the comment go about not seeing her for seven years. He couldn’t say he’d been so busy he hadn’t had time.
She stepped back and glanced at him. She looked him up and down and smiled. “You look so thin. Alice Smith is making fried chicken and garlic mashed potatoes for dinner and I’m going to make sure you have two helpings. And you look a little tired, too. Maybe you’d like to nap. Alice Smith has your old room all ready.”
He didn’t feel tired. He didn’t think he was too thin. But his mother rarely ever handed out positive compliments. Alice Smith was his mother’s long time housekeeper. His mother had mentioned in a letter Alice Smith had fewer hours now, but she made sure she cooked enough meals so that all Daisy Johnston had to do was reheat the food when she wasn’t there. Daisy had never been much of a cook. She could bake anything and make fudge. But everyday cooking made her upper lip twitch. This is partly because she’d never learned to cook, and partly because she couldn’t stand the thought of touching raw meat of any kind. Just glancing at a raw chicken or turkey made her press he palm to her chest and sit in the nearest chair.
Cade glanced around the entrance hall. He noticed nothing had changed. The same hard, uncomfortable Chippendale loveseat rested beneath the hall window, the tall grandfather clock near the parlor entrance was still ticking, and the large crystal egg finial at the end of the banister of the semi-circular staircase was still sparkling. But Cade wasn’t looking at the Persian rugs or the crystal chandelier. He didn’t give a damn about the Asian cache pots or the Baccarat bowl on the Hepplewhite table. Cade was looking for his father. Evidently, his father didn’t feel like coming out to greet him.
After she told him he looked tired, he felt a yawn coming on. He’d left LA on a seven o’clock flight: ten o’clock Philadelphia time. And hadn’t landed in Philadelphia until two o’clock LA time, which meant it was really five o’clock in Philadelphia. By the time he retrieved his luggage, bumped into the poor guy with the cupcake, and arrived in Salem, it was after six-thirty. “I think I will go upstairs and rest for a while.” He didn’t ask about his father. He figured his father was either in his greenhouse, tool shed, or the library.
“Excellent,” his mother said, with a hint of hesitation in her shrill voice. “I’ll tell Alice Smith to hold dinner until seven-thirty.” She gazed down at the rings on her chubby fingers and frowned. “I’m sure she can manage. She was going to serve at seven as always and then go home. But I don’t think she’ll mind staying a little longer tonight. She’ll be thrilled to see you.”
This would be the hard part about being home again. Life in Hollywood was always so casual and unplanned. Sometimes he didn’t eat dinner until nine or ten o’clock at night. But at Great Oaks dinner was always served promptly at seven, without fail. So he smiled and said, “Then I’ll just go up and change for dinner. I don’t need to rest. Don’t hold Alice Smith up on my account.” He also knew his father didn’t like change. He figured it wouldn’t help his situation if on his first night home in seven years he threw them all off schedule, including Alice Smith. He would have liked to just skip dinner altogether. He wasn’t hungry at all. But refusing dinner, he knew, would have been even worse than making them eat a half hour later than usual.
His mother exhaled and smiled. “Ah well, if you think that’s best, dear. We’ll eat at seven as always.” She hugged him again and gazed into his eyes. “It’s so good to have you home again. I’m sure you’ll look a lot better after you’ve been here a few days.”
They didn’t dress as formally for dinner as they’d done when his grandfather was still alive. But Cade put on a crisp white dress shirt and fresh pair of dark navy dress slacks because he knew he couldn’t show up at the table in jeans on his first night home. When he went back downstairs again at seven o’clock sharp, his mother was sitting at one end of a long Chippendale table and his father at the other. He stopped in the entrance way and sent his father a glance. Broderick Johnston had aged more in seven years than Cade had been prepared for. His salt and pepper hair had turned white, he seemed hunched over, and the blue and white striped dress shirt he wore looked a size too large. When Cade left, Broderick had just celebrated his seventieth birthday. I was hard to believe he was pushing eighty.
Cade nodded and said, “Father.” He’d always called him father; he wasn’t being snide. And then he entered the dining room and crossed to where his father was sitting.
Broderick didn’t make any attempt to stand. The old man reached out and shook his son’s hand. “You look well,” he said. Cade noticed one of those walkers old people use on the other side of the table near his father’s chair and didn’t say anything.
“Thank you,” Cade said. “So do you.”
“I’d get up,” his father said. “But I’m having a little back trouble, as you can see.” He forced a smile and gestured to the walker. He glared at the walker as if he were about to go to war with it.
Cade looked at his mother and she looked down at her lap quickly. Before anyone could say another word, Alice Smith came barreling through the kitchen door carrying a platter of her famous friend chicken. She set the platter on the table and put her hands on her slim hips. “Well if you’re not a sight for sore eyes,” she said. “Get over here and give old Alice Smith a big hug.”
Cade crossed the room and hugged her. She still wore a light blue maid’s uniform, with white work shoes with soft soles. He noticed a few more winkles in her dark brown skin, a few strands of gray in her black hair. But she hadn’t changed much at all. She had to be about seventy now. “It’s so good to see you,” Cade said. “I tell everyone in California about your cooking and your famous coffee.”
She stepped back and gaped at him. “Well you didn’t get here a minute too soon, Mister. I swear you look thinner now than when you were sixteen. Law, if that don’t beat all. You better get over to that table and sit down right now. Get some good food in your body for a change.” She gave him a gentle shove toward the middle of the table. “Livin out there in California with who knows what they eat with that gluten-free tofu and all them grainy foods and raw fish, I’ll bet you ain’t had a decent meal in all the time you been gone.”
If it hadn’t been for Alice Smith, there wouldn’t have been any excitement in the house at all that evening. And when she served dinner and announced she was going home for the night, Cade had a sinking feeling in his stomach. He wished she’d stay at least until dinner was over, to keep the conversation moving and keep those long awkward pauses from happening. But she told them she had to go home to feed her own family, and then go to late choir practice for her church.
Before she left, she put another fried chicken breast on Cade’s plate and she told Cade’s mother, “I’ll be back Monday morning. And my nephew will be here tomorrow morning for the pruning up front. I can’t believe it’s pruning time again.”
“That will be fine,” Cade’s father said.
“I hope he comes this time,” said Cade’s mother. “Last time he never showed up.”
Evidently, Alice Smith’s nephew wasn’t the reliable type. “Oh, you can depend on it, Daisy,” Alice Smith said. “I’ll get him there if I have to drag that boy by the ear.”
Cade smiled when he heard Alice Smith call his mother by her first name. He realized a few things had changed since he’d been gone. They seemed more like old friends now than employer and employee. But when Alice Smith was gone, they lapsed back into an awkward silence that made it difficult for Cade to swallow. He didn’t want another chicken breast, but felt obligated to eat it just to be polite. Cade’s father talked about how he wanted the azaleas pruned and his mother said she wanted the boxwoods pruned a little shorter this time. Cade ate in silence, glancing back and forth at them, wondering whether or not they were going to ask him anything about his life in California. He knew the topic of being gay wouldn’t come up. They would avoid that at all cost.
After dinner, Daisy served one of her famous baked chocolate concoctions, with coffee. This turned out to be individual chocolate fudge cakes that were soft and melted in the center on purpose, covered with a thick layer of chocolate gnash, topped with three inches of white butter cream frosting to form a point, and covered with another layer of gnash. The finished product formed a cone shape on the plate. Daisy called them “chocolate frogs” because they reminded her of a certain kind of cake she’d had years ago from a bakery that was no longer in existence. They looked more like little dark brown pointed breast implants to Cade, but he just smiled and lifted his dessert fork. When he bit into the first mouthful, it was so sweet his back teeth hurt. By the time he’d had three mouthfuls, Daisy had nearly polished her chocolate frog off completely and was eyeing another one in the center of the table.
“These chocolate frogs just hit the spot, don’t they dear,” Daisy said to Cade. “Just the perfect balance of cake and frosting. I so hate when there’s more cake then frosting.”
Cade and his father exchanged glances. There was so much frosting is was hard to swallow. Cade said, “Ah well, they’re very good, mother.” He’d noticed his father was just pushing and shoving his chocolate frog. Cade had no idea how he’d finish his frog in one sitting. He’d never been a fan of sugary sweets and rich desserts, especially cake frosting. But he didn’t want to insult his mother, so he kept forcing it down his throat.
When Daisy finished her second chocolate frog, she stood up and said, “Cade, will you please help me clear the table. Just get the dishes and I’ll do the rest.” Then she glanced at Cade’s father’s untouched chocolate frog and said, “I guess there will be more for the rest of us since you didn’t like them.”
Broderick set his fork down and smiled. “I just wasn’t too hungry tonight. They were wonderful, dear.”
Cade managed to finish his frog without gagging. He felt a little green now. He rose and started gathering silverware and plates, avoiding the urge to open the button on his pants. He didn’t mind cleaning up. He would have done it all himself just to get out of that awkward, uncomfortable dining room.
As he was stacking the sink with dishes, his mother walked up behind him and said, “Stay in here for a few minutes and I’ll get the rest, dear. Don’t go back into the dining room until I tell you it’s okay.”
He turned and sent her a look. “I don’t mind. I want to help. I’ll get the rest.”
She sighed. “You’d better stay in here. Your father is getting up and it takes him a while. He doesn’t want you to see him struggling with the walker. He’s too proud. He refused to let me tell you what’s really going on with him.” She frowned and shook her head. “Once again, here I am and I’m caught in the middle of a family conundrum.”
Cade leaned back into the counter. It was still the same old fake marble Formica that had been there since he was a child. “I don’t understand. He said his back was acting up. It didn’t sound serious. What’s wrong with him?”
“I may as well tell you,” she said. She turned to the sink and started rearranging the way Cade had set the plates. “But you have to promise you won’t say anything.”
Cade shrugged. “I promise.” She’s always been dramatic this way, exaggerating the smallest detail.
“He has a serious disc problem and degeneration of the spine due to old age. There’s a medical term I never can remember. Some days he’s in so much pain he can’t even walk at all. I knew it was getting worse when he asked for the walker. Two years ago I couldn’t even get him to use a cane he was so stubborn. I even had to set up a bed in the library for nights when he can’t do the stairs to get up to our room. And this is one of those nights he’ll be sleeping downstairs.”
“Isn’t there something they can to?” Cade asked. “Isn’t there some kind of surgery or medication?” He’d always thought of his father as unbreakable, able to take on any task and never back down. He’d never thought of his father as old. As far as Cade knew, his father had never even been to a doctor up until the time Cade moved away from New Jersey.
Daisy shook her head. “No. There’s a long explanation for what’s wrong with him I’m not even sure I understand. We’ve tried all kinds of things. We even drove out to some quack near Atlantic City for these special miracle injections that didn’t work. We’ve been to the best doctors in Philadelphia and they all said the same thing. Manage his pain with medication and keep giving him steroid shots when he needs them, hoping they will help.” She wiped her hands on a towel and reached for his arm. “Promise me you won’t say anything. He’d be very angry with me.”
“I promise,” he said. “I won’t say a word. I’ll help carry him upstairs if you want.”
“Oh, dear lord, no,” she said. “That’s the last thing I need.”
When he went up to his bedroom later that night, Cade did tell Meadow what was going on. By the time he’d finished helping his mother in the kitchen, his father was already settled in the library for the night. Cade didn’t go in there and say goodnight; his mother asked him not to do it. She thought it would be better if his father slowly let him know about his condition on his own terms, especially now that he was sleeping on the first floor most nights.
“There has to be something they can do,” Meadow said. She was eating something; her voice sounded warbled. She was probably sitting in the living room on the sofa watching an old movie with a big pizza on the kidney shaped table.
“My mother says there’s nothing,” Cade said. He was lying face down across the bed he’d slept on all through his childhood years. There were athletic trophies on the mantle over his fireplace and his old high school yearbooks were stacked on a bookshelf next to the desk where he used to do all his homework. He smiled at the humongous computer monitor. His old baseball glove on top of his cherry dresser made him laugh. Evidently, his parents hadn’t touched a thing in his room, not even the wrestling singlet hanging behind his door.
“I’m sorry,” Meadow said. “It must be hard, especially with all the underlying things between you all.”
Cade shrugged. “At least my room is at the back of the house and there’s an air conditioner in the window. It’s so hot and humid here, worse than I remember growing up. I’d lose my mind if I had to sleep without air conditioning.” He didn’t mention the underlying issues Meadow was talking about. She seemed to have this image of Cade sitting down with his family discussing his life in LA and that he was openly gay. Cade knew this would never happen, at least not completely. His mother and father already knew he was gay. He’d come out of the closet after high school and that’s why he’d moved away. And although they were civil now and they seemed to accept him on the surface, there would never be any long, open discussions about it between them. Cade’s family didn’t delve into emotions like other people did. They skimmed the surface, made a few comments, and continued forward as best they could. And, frankly, Cade wasn’t sure he wanted more from them.
Meadow told him about a few small events that had happened to her since he’d been gone: she’d lost her keys and forgotten to put out the trash that afternoon. She mentioned Kevin had been working on the old woman’s lawn behind them and he’d asked if Cade had reached New Jersey okay. “Kevin went out of his way to get my attention,” Meadow said. “I think he really likes you.”
Cade smiled and smoothed out the white bedspread with his palm. “I like him, too,” he said. “But I doubt there’s going to be anything serious between us. He’s just not the one. And this isn’t high school.”
Meadow said, “He’s a nice guy. Are you sure about that?”
Cade sighed. “Unfortunately, yes I am.”
* * * * *
Early the next morning, Cade crept down the back stairway, into the kitchen, and out the back door. After the huge meal he’d had the night before, he wanted to run a few miles so he’d be in shape for his casting call next week for The Gay Bachelor. Cade had never been one of those types who needed an expensive gym for a good workout. He didn’t need inspiration; he didn’t need other people around him taking his time and energy. If anything, an environment that was too social ruined his concentration and his work out suffered. All he needed was a safe place to jog and a couple of chairs to do deep push-ups for his upper body. For his abs, he did crunches on the ground; any flat surface with a slight incline would do.
Because of the flat terrain in Salem County, he ran up Virginia Road, out to the main road, and monitored his run by time instead of actual miles. He knew that he ran about a twelve minute mile, which was fine for him; he wasn’t competing with anyone but himself. He wasn’t going to go on Facebook and Twitter and brag about how fast he’d run when he got home. So he ran a half hour in one direction, and then a half hour back to the house. By the time he jogged up to the front walk, his body was drenched in perspiration and he felt a little light-headed. Running in heat in Southern California wasn’t always easy, but running in heat and humidity in New Jersey was a challenge he’d forgotten about.
His mother and father were on their way to Sunday services at the Baptist church in Salem they’d belonged to all their lives. His father was already in the big old Imperial on the passenger side; his mother was rounding the driver’s side holding her boxy white wicker purse in one hand and the car keys in the other. She wore a blue and white striped dress that morning. The same style as the cabbage rose dress she’d worn the day before. Her strawberry blonde hair was little puffier and her blood red lipstick a little heavier.
“There you are,” Daisy said. “I was wondering what happened to you.”
Cade bent down and rested his palms on his knees so he could catch his breath. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I went for a long run this morning. I didn’t want to wake anyone.” He noticed his father on the passenger side. Broderick was staring down at his lap, as if embarrassed to be seen. And Cade had a feeling he knew why. His father had always driven when they went to church in his Cadillac…or anywhere. Broderick wasn’t fond of his wife’s driving skills and had never hesitated to point out why. And now here he was, at Daisy’s mercy. Even Cade felt bad for the poor guy. When Daisy drove, she pushed the electric seat up as far as it would go and hunched over the steering wheel with her elbows pointed out. On the straightest roads, she tapped the accelerator and released it constantly, causing the car to lunge and jerk all the way to her destination. And she jiggled the steering wheel so much anyone in the car with her wound up with their hand pressed to their stomach by the time they reached their destination.
Daisy smiled and opened the car door. “I was hoping you might want to come to church with us,” she said. “I’ve been telling everyone my bachelor son from California is coming home. Hazel Ann Travis, your old piano teacher, has been asking about you for weeks. She’ll be there playing the organ.”
Cade took a quick breath and smiled. He’d always thought Hazel Ann was a lesbian: she’d never been married and never dated men. They called her a spinster woman. He wanted to roll his eyes, but stopped fast.
So that’s how Daisy referred to him with her friends, as her bachelor son living in California. He knew she’d never tell anyone he was gay; she had to tell them something. If only she knew he was auditioning for The Gay Bachelor next week.
“I’m sorry, mother,” Cade said. “I’m really not in the habit of going to church anymore. I believe in something spiritual. But I don’t follow organized religion.” He figured he’d better set her straight fast, before he wound up singing in the church choir.
Daisy’s upper lip tightened; she clenched her purse. “Well, I see,” she said, with a hint of annoyance on her tone.
His father said, “Leave him alone, Daisy. If he doesn’t want to go, he doesn’t have to go. He’s a grown man now.”
Cade’s eyebrows went up. He hadn’t expected his father to support him. His father could have been casting a sardonic comment, too, referring to him as a man. Cade wasn’t sure. But he knew he wasn’t going to get roped into church, especially not their church. It was one of those fundamental, conservative places, where women knew their places and gay people were either condemned or pitied. Besides, services started at ten in the morning and you were lucky to get home by two in the afternoon.
“I was only suggesting,” Daisy said. She sat down behind the steering wheel and started the car. “Maybe next week.” Her smile returned.
Cade walked over to the car and closed the door for her. “Is there anything you want me to do while you’re gone?” he asked. “Any outdoor work, anything that needs to be moved or lifted.”
“Don’t worry about it, dear,” Daisy said, slipping the huge car into gear. “Alice Smith’s nephew is coming over this morning to work. We’re paying him good money to handle everything outside now. You just go for a swim. We’ll have a nice lunch when we get back. Alice Smith left a nice bean casserole and all I have to do is heat it up.”
Then Daisy hit the gas and the Imperial lunged forward. Broderick’s head jerked and Cade stepped out the way the way so she wouldn’t run over his feet. He stood there, dripping in sweat, watching them swerve halfway down the road. They stopped for a moment for a white pick-up truck heading in the other direction toward the house. The truck stopped next to the Imperial and Cade turned and walked up the front steps. He figured the pick-up truck was Alice Smith’s nephew. He also figured his mother was giving Alice Smith’s nephew last minute instructions on how to prune the bushes. Daisy could be like that when it came to hired help. She didn’t have a mean attitude and she didn’t insult them. She just let them know what she wanted and that she was the boss, often driving them insane at the same time.