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A Night At The Ariston Baths
Picture it! New York City. Late June, 1969. Theodore McCall and Jasper Webb have been a couple for more than sixty-six years. At their age, about the most ambitious thing they could do was to watch television. When the evening news that night mentioned an uprising that had occurred the previous night at a place in New York City called the Stonewall Inn, Theodore, nearly 90, hopped out of his chair and tried to dance, overwhelmed with joy.
It had finally happened! His people had finally had enough and had finally fought back. The younger people had been pushed enough that they said, “Enough! No more!” and they had refused to be pushed around and beat down anymore. Theodore had never heard such glorious news as that one brief news report. He had lived to see it. He had lived to see things come full circle.
For it was right there, in New York City, where sixty-six years earlier, when Theodore’s world had fallen into ruin. He’d been forced to watch his best friend, Martin, be arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to Sing Sing Prison for the felony crime of Sodomy. Theodore was devastated by this, and by the countless other lives that were ruined by increasingly aggressive raids by New York City Police against gatherings of men who wanted to have sex with men.
Theodore hadn’t expected to live long enough to see his people be able to fight back. But it happened and he had lived to see it. It had finally happened, even if the confused newscaster had only given the story perhaps fifteen seconds of airtime. Curious? Read A Night at the Ariston Baths to see Theodore and Jasper’s story spanning more than sixty five years in a pivotal time in gay American history.
In rural Pennsylvania, Theodore McCall lives on his family’s farm and works as a clerk at the local general store. While his best friend, Martin Fuller, thrives in New York City, Theodore trudges through life. But on New Year’s Eve, 1902, Theodore’s world is turned upside down, and big changes call for bold action.
Theodore, who has never ventured more than eight miles from home, undertakes the daunting journey to New York City to join Martin. But the Martin he finds in New York is a stranger, a different man, doing things Theodore finds shocking. After just two months in the City, Theodore’s world is upended again as he and Martin are swept up in the events at the Ariston Baths.
Haunted by his experiences in New York, Theodore returns home, wondering whether he’ll ever find happiness in life. When he meets Jasper Webb, Theodore must boldly risk everything for the love he so longs for.
THE EVENING news usually didn’t make Theodore jump up and try to dance and do a cheer, but it did on Saturday evening, June 28, 1969.
“Theodore, stop!” Jasper warned. “You’re going to fall and break a hip.”
But Theodore didn’t care. “They did it. By God, they did it!” he said as he thrust the fist at the end of his skinny arm into the air.
“Who did what?” Jasper asked, confused.
“Our people,” Theodore gasped out, as he fell back into his chair. “Our… people.”
“Mr. McCall, you having trouble breathing, baby?” a health aide asked anxiously when she saw Theodore panting for breath.
“The old fool was just trying to dance a jig or cheer or something ridiculous,” Jasper said critically but with a hint of concern. “What were you thinking? You’re nearly ninety years old. You can’t do things like that anymore. Especially after being in the hospital just two weeks ago.”
“Oh, hush,” Theodore said. “This is a day… that will go down in the history books. And I lived to see it. I’ve dreamed of this, but I was afraid I wouldn’t live long enough. But I did. What a glorious day.”
“What are you talking about?” Jasper asked, looking more concerned about Theodore than he was about having an answer to the question he’d just asked.
“That last news story. Didn’t you hear it?”
“I must have, but I couldn’t tell you what it was about.”
“There was a riot last night—this morning, I suppose.”
“Who rioted about what?” Jasper asked.
“Our people. The homosexual youngsters.”
“Right here in New York. Some place called the Stonewall Inn.”
“Have you been there?”
“No. And you know that, because you haven’t been there, and you and I go everywhere together. We have for more than sixty years now.”
The health aide had been taking Theodore’s pulse while they talked. “You’ve known each other how long?” she asked.
“More than sixty years now,” Theodore said.
“Sixty-five years,” Jasper corrected.
“Good Lord,” she said admiringly. “My mama wasn’t even born yet when you two met. I’m not even sure if my grandma was alive yet.”
“That’s because we’re older than dirt,” Theodore said.
“Hey,” Jasper said, “speak for yourself, old man. I’m younger than you are.”
“Only by a couple of months,” Theodore said. “It’s not like I robbed the cradle.”
“Whatever you say, oldster.”
The health aide laughed. “You two are too much. My job wouldn’t be half as much fun if I didn’t have you guys here.”
“Thank you,” Jasper said.
“How did you meet?” she asked.
“I hired him to work in my store in 1904,” Theodore said. “Best decision I ever made too.”
Looking at Jasper, she asked, “Now don’t you know you’re not supposed to have workplace romances?”
“I was the only employee. It was him and me. We didn’t have any rules like that back in our day. And let me tell you,” Jasper said, leaning forward as if to share confidential information, “if you could have seen him… oh, my goodness. Just the sight of him made my heart race. The man was quite a looker.”
“You weren’t so bad yourself,” Theodore added.
“We were much more focused on living without attracting a lot of attention. It was hard to be homosexual back then,” Jasper said.
“Hell, it’s never been easy to be gay in this country. Doesn’t matter that we’ve been here right from the start, a part of every single generation that made this country what it is today.”
“We had to conduct business, live our lives, and help everyone believe they couldn’t see and didn’t know what was going on between us. Everybody knew, but God forbid their safe little worlds be disrupted by something that didn’t fit their concept of what was what.”
“Everybody had their heads buried deep in the sand. Sometimes I wondered how they managed to breathe,” Theodore said.
“You spoke about something going down in history. Gentlemen, you are history.”
“You trying to say we’re old?” Theodore asked with a smile.
“I didn’t say anything about you being old,” she said. “I said you two are history, not historic.”
“This day, today, what just happened last night, is finally our people not quietly letting the cops beat us down and abuse us and treat us like less than dirt. This is for Martin.”
“Well, one of you better start and tell me that story.”
“Well, you see, it started on the last day of 1902, New Year’s Eve. But let me back up a little. It was Christmas Eve, 1902….”
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About the author:
Anytime I'm asked the question of who I am I have to stop and try to decide how in the world to answer. I might biologically be middle age, but inside I feel like a randy teenager anxious to explore the world. Dreams of writing have been a part of my life since I was five years old.
Two of the greatest influences on me as I was growing up were my two grandmothers. Both were strong women who had unbelievable burdens thrust upon them when they were widowed very early in life. Both of these incredible women loved stories. They loved reading stories and telling stories, and the stories they had to tell were incredible.
For as long as I can remember I've been writing stories. What has been different over the last five years is that I've finally been brave enough to allow someone else to read what I'd written. When that happened I found that others liked what I'd written which made me beyond happy.
In addition to writing, my other love is photography. Taking photos of some of the beautiful men of the world is my current focus. With any luck, one of those photos will grace the cover of a Dreamspinner novel in the near future.
My partner and I have traveled the world, trying to see as much as possible. When not traveling, we live in Washington, DC with our best friend, a throw-away dog we adopted twelve years ago. To pay the bills, I am Director of Information Technology for a national organization based in Washington, DC. While I'd rather be writing full-time, I haven't figured out how to make that a viable option - yet.
Please stop by www.gayromancewriter.com to learn more.
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