Title: My Life as a Myth
Series: Seasons of Chadham High, Book One
Author: Huston Piner
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: August 28
Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Pairing: No Romance
Genre: Historical YA, coming of age, depression, drug/alcohol use, family drama, friends to lovers, grief, historical/late 1960’s, homophobia, humorous, no HEA or HFN, tear-jerker, YA
Can a cool reputation really deliver on promises of happiness?
Nick’s got problems. He’s a social outcast who dreams of being popular, he’s an easy target for bullies, and he doesn’t understand why he’s just not attracted to girls. So, after a series of misunderstandings label him a troublemaker on his first day of high school, he’s really stoked to have Jesse Gaston and his gang take him in.
Jesse starts a PR campaign around campus to give Nick a new image, and the shy loser soon finds himself transformed into an antiestablishment hero. While Nick would rather explore his growing attraction to Bobby Warren, he’s forced to fend off would-be girlfriends and struggles with the demands of acting cool. And things at home are spinning out of control as the Vietnam War’s destructive impact threatens to change his life forever.
Nick’s story is both humorous and haunting–a journey of ridiculous misadventures, unexpected psychedelic explorations, and tragic turns of fate. Can a world still reeling from the sexual revolution and the illicit pleasures of marijuana and underage drinking accept two boys in love? Can Nick and Bobby’s relationship survive a hostile time when acid rock rules, status is everything, and being gay is the last taboo?
My Life as a Myth
Huston Piner © 2017
All Rights Reserved
Chapter One: Wouldn’t It Be Nice
Wednesday, August 27, 1969. 4:45 p.m.
My first day of high school. Boy, do I wish I could start over. I mean, I need to start over. I bet if you were me, you’d feel the exact same way.
What a day. It’s bad enough that I’m already the casebook example of a loser. A social life? I don’t have one. My few acquaintances don’t really count. If I vanished out of their lives, they’d never even notice. My only real friend is Bruce Philemon. He says I just need to try harder. So to help me try harder, I’m starting this journal.
Okay, about today: There I was, in front of the elementary school, waiting for the bus for my first day at Chadham High. Three or four girls were standing on the sidewalk talking with four or five guys. The girls had clearly spent a lot of time deciding what to wear, and given the way the guys were looking at them, they were all smiles.
Now, these guys were all bigger than me. And while we might have gone to the same middle school, they were two or three years older and looked kind of dangerous. So I decided to keep a safe distance.
High school—the great unknown. All I knew was we’re expected to be “adolescents,” which apparently means “emerging adults,” and act mature, and be interested in girls. And see, for me that’s a problem. How am I going to get a girlfriend when they gross me out? I mean, guys talk about how girls make them feel, but just looking at the Playboy Bruce swiped from his dad kinda made me feel sick.
So anyway, I’d been standing there a couple of minutes when Andy Framingham showed up. Now I’ve known Andy since first grade and he’s one of the most profoundly stupid people I’ve ever met. He had a can of Coke (his mother doesn’t trust him with bottles), and he foolishly tried to chat up one of the girls (a bad idea). One of the guys was obviously her boyfriend.
I moved a little farther away from what I knew would soon become “the scene of the crime.” A couple of the guys—who were all cracking their knuckles—started talking to Andy. Now, I was too far away from the scene of the crime to hear the exact conversation, but I got the idea one of the big guys challenged Andy to put his soda can somewhere that would probably be real painful.
At that point, Andy actually got down on one knee like he was saying his prayers—which I thought was a pretty good idea. Then he held up the Coke can like he was trying out for the Statue of Liberty and swung it down onto the sidewalk with the speed and force of a jackhammer.
It erupted like Mt. Vesuvius and sprayed the side of Andy’s head. The fizz also hit two of the big guys all over their shirts and chins. And as the can spun around, it ruined the girls’ first-day-back dressed-to-impress fashions.
Just as they all prepared to kill Andy and hide the corpse, Mr. Wiggins, the elementary school principal, came running from the building. He yanked Andy out of harm’s way and announced he was reporting everyone to the high school principal. Then he pulled out his notepad and started taking names.
At first, I thought I’d been far enough away from the scene of the crime to avoid guilt by association, but no. Mr. Wiggins finished writing down the name of the last soda-splattered girl and marched over to me.
“Name,” he said.
“Nick, uh, Nicholas—Nicholas Horton, sir.”
“Horton? I remember you. Still making trouble, eh? Well, this time Mr. Fuddle will see you pay for it.”
“No, sir. I’m Nicholas Horton. Not Raymond.”
The whole six years I went to Chadham Elementary, Mr. Wiggins treated me like a punk because he kept confusing me with my older trouble-making brother. But I’d hoped to put all that behind me at Chadham High. My plan was simple: keep doing what I’d done in middle school and lay low for four years. It should have been easy. After all, Raymond had been long gone by the time Mr. Fuddle took over as principal. But now, identified as an accessory to the crime, I would be squarely on Fuddle’s radar screen. Not good!
Mr. Wiggins warned everyone not to move and went inside to type up our death sentence. Then he came back out, slapping an envelope against his thigh. He stood there glaring at us until the bus came, gave the envelope to the driver, and watched to make sure we all got onboard.
Needless to say, the trip to Chadham High wasn’t very festive.
When we turned into the parking lot, I caught sight of a tall bald man in a cheap suit. His white shirt looked dingy, and the skinny tie could have come straight from a game-show host’s wardrobe. It was none other than Mr. Fuddle himself, arms crossed and scowling. Mr. Allen, the assistant principal, stood next to him. A couple of inches shorter than Mr. Fuddle but beefier, he was dressed just as square. He wasn’t smiling either.
Mr. Fuddle boarded the bus and gave each of us the stink eye before speaking. The driver handed him the envelope, and he read off the names of the condemned. Somehow, my name had gone from last on Mr. Wiggin’s list to first on Mr. Fuddle’s. Andy Framingham’s name concluded the roll call. With that, Mr. Fuddle told us to “stop by” his office during our lunch breaks, and emphasized we’d better see him before eating.
Deleted Scene with Commentary
This is a deleted scene in which Nick meets the lawyer who will represent him for his movie theater arrest. Ultimately, I found it unconvincing, unrealistic, and unessential to the story.
I couldn’t join the guys for the daily smoke break Tuesday. My dad had arranged to pick me up to meet his lawyer friend, Mr Brady. I’d have preferred my mother to pick me up because she’s always been more oblivious to things like people eyeing her son like he was Frankenstein. My dad, on the other hand, has always had a keen ability to sniff out that kind of thing, and he caught the sneers of from office staff immediately. As soon as we got in the car, he engaged in a long soliloquy about the shame I had caused the family by my stupid and scandalous behavior. And he clearly still didn’t buy my story about it all being an accident that I was busted at “a queer theater.”
After we got downtown and parked the car, we entered a door that I first thought was part of a bank, but it turned out to be the entrance to a staircase. Mr Brady’s law firm occupied the second floor. A quick look at the piles of paper and general disarray around the office didn’t quite inspire any Perry Mason-like confidence.
My father told the secretary who we were, and she had us take a seat. In a couple of minutes, Mr Brady came out to greet us. He was a tall weedy man who looked to be about my father’s age, with a large head edged in grey hair and skin crowning the top. He shook my father’s hand then took mine, and without releasing the grip, he took my arm with his other hand and led us into his office.
Before we got down to business, he spent a couple of minutes chatting with us and made several jokes that were quite funny and immediately forgettable. But they did do their job and put both dad and me at ease.
Then he turned to the reason we were there.
The meeting lasted over two hours, but in the end things shook out like this: Mr Brady had already read the police report before we arrived. He went over it with us and politely chided me for not ‘remaining silent.’ The report apparently mangled several things I had said hoping to convince them to let me go. My cheeks grew warm as he read a couple of the supposed quotes that for all the world made it sound like I was propositioning the cops for sex. The worst part was my father sitting there next to me and knowing that since my arrest he was already inclined to believe that kind of thing about me.
But did listen as Mr Brady had me explain about Bruce’s invitation, the mix up, how I got inside – the truth this time – and my shock at what came on the screen. I finished with a brief description of the raid, my humiliating trip in the paddy wagon, and how terrified I’d been during my time behind bars.
During all of this, Mr Brady nodded his head with a sympathetic smile, and once I had finished, I fully expected him to rub his hands and assure us that this was an open and shut case. He’d have it dismissed before the cops could even raise their right hands to testify. I mean, a kid, a rainy evening, a misunderstanding, a less than vigilant theater staff, etc., etc. The judge would say, “Case dismissed,” and I’d be singing “I’m Free” all the way home, right?
So imagine my shock, when Frank Brady – friend of my father, attorney at law, my savior from having a criminal record and doing time – folded his hands and said, “Well, Nicholas, you’ve really landed in a mess. This city’s ordinances are some of the strictest in the nation. The district attorney’s already drawing up papers to add the charge of a minor entering an adult entertainment for immoral purposes. Even if the jury believed your story – and the DA will make your version of things sound even more ridiculous than it already does – in the end, you’ll be lucky to get out of reform school before graduation.”
I sat there slack-jawed staring from him to my dad and back. Dad, also obviously not expecting this outcome, sat there bug-eyed and motionless.
“Frank,” he said after a pause so long it made me wonder if he’d turned to stone, “isn’t there anything you can do? I mean, he’s a good kid – stupid as shit, but he’s no criminal.”
Mr Brady leaned back in his chair, bringing his fingertips together, and staring at me as if he were surveying a murder scene. “There’s only two ways to go with this, that is, if you discount pleading guilty on all charges and throwing yourself on the mercy of the court. The first way is to plead not guilty due to psychological ineptitude.”
I furrowed my brow and asked, “psychological inepti –”
“He means being too stupid to know any better,” my father clarified.
“Now,” Mr Brady continued, “depending on which judge we get, that might work: by pleading mental incompetence, we might avoid a trial altogether. But I have to tell you, getting a soft judge in this district is a crapshoot. And since three of the four judges are up for reelection this year, the odds are they’d want a public trial and a hard sentence to appeal to the voters.”
I cleared my throat, wondering if the sixty-three dollars and seventeen cents I had saved up would be enough to bribe a judge.
“And the other option?”
“Well,” he said, “the other option, and I think the best one, would be to challenge the whole thing on constitutional grounds.”
“Constitutional grounds?” my father and I said at the same time.
“That’s right,” he went on. “We challenge the city obscenity ordinance, at least so far as it applies to movies. The motion picture code is not law, and it’s up to the theatre owner to choose who he’ll sell a ticket to. We challenge the ordinance; we get the reaid thrown out, and with that, your arrest gets thrown out too. Now the best part of this – for you – is that I’m also going to be representing the theatre and we can get that case put first. By bringing you in as a material witness to the raid, your story gets more sympathy and increases the likelihood of getting everything thrown out, maybe even the ordinance being overturned too.”
He paused melodramatically, “And if not and you are convicted, we appeal. Trust me, if we stand firm, they’ll crack in the end.”
As Dad and I walked to the car, I was less concerned about the city cracking in the end than I was Dad cracking my end, hard and repeatedly, as soon as we got home.
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Meet the Author
Huston Piner always wanted to be a writer but realized from an early age that learning to read would have to take precedence. A voracious reader, he loves nothing more than a well-told story, a glass of red, and music playing in the background. His writings focus on ordinary gay teenagers and young adults struggling with their orientation in the face of cultural prejudice and the evolving influence of LGBTQA+ rights on society. He and his partner live in a house ruled by three domineering cats in the mid-Atlantic region.
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