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    R. Eric
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North Meets South, Worlds Collide - 1. Chapter 1

Tony is from the North. Mitch is from the South. Tony is Catholic. Mitch is Baptist. Tony grew up in the city. Mitch was raised on a farm. Tony drives a Mercedes. Mitch drives a pickup truck. Tony wears designers. Mitch wears jeans and t-shirts. It's a mismatch made in Heaven.

It was April of 2002 when my life changed. All I wanted was to sit in a pew.

Okay, let me set things up here. My name is Mitchell McKenzie, at that time I was thirty one, turning thirty-two in following October. For all my life I tried to be what I was supposed to be. Straight. I was twenty-eight when I tired of the daily headaches and this queasy feeling my death was right on my heels. Going to the doctor, he sent me to a psychologist where I told him there was something I hadn’t told anyone. I liked men. Women were fine as friends, but that was not who I wanted as a mate. I had tried to live as my parents wanted me to, and society as a whole seemed to hate those who were gay, but if I didn’t come out of the closet, I was going to die. Drastic, huh? I had come out once at sixteen. I told my parents. That was a huge mistake. I was born into a country family of rural mountain people. I was raised on a farm to the West of Asheville, North Carolina to parents that were very, very conservative. Southern Baptists, to be precise. I love our farm. I grew up with horses, cows, chickens and a field Mom used as her garden for fresh vegetables. We weren’t a farm for profit, that wasn’t what they did for a living. Dad was a preacher. I had one sister, Lynn. Three years older. Let’s just say, she didn’t like being a preacher’s daughter and got in big trouble when she discovered boys. She claimed she lost her virginity at sixteen, but I think it was a lot earlier. She was the black sheep in the family. I was the good child. Then there was alcohol, then drugs and then marriages. Several marriages, all to get away. Until I became an adult, I never even touched alcohol. Not so much as a beer! We lived in Candler. Morgan’s Branch to be specific. It was a very, very small town with only a few hundred families. If you did something you shouldn’t, the network of “concerned neighbors” knew about it and told our parents. So, I was a good boy too afraid to get caught doing something. But telling my parents at sixteen, they just knew this demon could be cast out me. I went to this “doctor” in Asheville twice a week. His treatment was not really sanctioned and discontinued after I’d completed my ”treatments.” Twice a week I was taken to a room, shown pictures of some very handsome naked men and then given shocks. Not a lot at first, just enough to be uncomfortable, but if I got an erection, the voltage went up. So yes, I got some good jolts. The doctor I saw later said that was why I was having the headaches later. I was gay! AIDS had just come to the surface and everyone was panicking. I now convinced I’d die if I came out and was gay, but I would die if I didn’t! Either way, I’d die!

Then the other wrinkle. I was a deputy. I had gone to college, a junior college, and gotten a certification in Law Enforcement. Then went to the Police Academy and began serving my community. I then met Susan and married her. Another huge mistake. The psychologist I went to on my doctor’s advice said I should move away. Tell my wife, end the marriage and come out. But coming out anywhere in Asheville made me sick to even think about. I couldn’t risk it. Then I was shot. It was pretty bad, I was shot in the hip by some punk just causing trouble. I had to go through some intense rehabilitation. My days as a police officer were over. As I recovered I released I had to get away. I told Susan the truth and of course, she filed for divorce. I gave her the house out of guilt and begged her not to tell my parents, my parents just knew I really loved her and begged me to reconsider. How could I tell them I was gay? As I recovered, I went to a tech school and got a certificate in Hotel Management. Just about my thirtieth birthday, I got the divorce only contesting giving her alimony. She got everything, I wasn’t supporting her the rest of her life! I headed out of town and headed East. I ended up in Charleston, South Carolina. I got a job at a hotel and rented a very rundown house in a pretty bad part of town with a lot of questionable neighbors. A lot of drug activity and gangs. For a while, all I had was a TV, the house I rented, a mattress on the floor and my pickup truck. I would have fought tooth and nail to keep that. It wasn’t even a new pickup, but a red Ford F-150. But I knew almost every nut and bolt of him. My truck was no lady, I named him Bubba.

The main draw of the house was the alarm system. It worked and I paid monthly fees to keep what few things I had safe. I did buy a computer and some clothes, but that was it.

Now that psychologist asked me if I could ever consider that there was no God? What!? No God!! No. Impossible! All my life I was worried about where I’d end up, never once did I consider that I might not go anywhere. No. Then the psychologist had suggested I find those, like me that were Christians, but gay. Did they exist? I had no idea, but with my computer, I found a church. It was the Metropolitan Community Church. Part of an internationally known church community founded by a gay man!! I was ecstatic! I remember going to where it was supposed to meet, and having only really been a Baptist all my life, I was completely unprepared for what I saw. I walk in and there were dozens, maybe over a hundred men and women talking laughing and they were gay!! All of them I saw! Including the preacher! And it was a woman! Some are saying, so? You have to understand, women did not preach in Southern Baptist Churches. They weren’t deacons or anything like that. They could be teachers, but never a pastor. Well, here was Terry. And she was pretty. I know, I know. I’m gay, so how do I know if she was pretty, well she was! My point is she had a partner, a woman and that partner was black. Terry was white. And get this. She was raised Southern Baptist. Say what you will, but God had to be involved, because I walked up to her, hadn’t heard her even preach yet and asked her. “How do I join?” She was very nice, let me know that I needed to be confirmed, whatever that was…but I learned about the church, its mission and what it meant to be a Christian, who was gay! I was beginning to feel safe at last.

What about the pew I wanted to get in? I’m getting to that. I went a few months, saw a few I might be interested in, maybe, but that day in April, I walk in and saw something I never expected to see. A man was sitting there and you just knew…he didn’t belong here. Let me explain that. Now, I had been raised as a preacher’s son. I knew that Sunday was a day you didn’t wear jeans or t-shirts, which was my favorite way to dress for any occasion except work. Most that came wore jeans, t-shirts and even shorts with sandals. That was never considered appropriate attire for church. I would never consider it. This man was tall, had a dark complexion with this olive colored skin. Jet black hair. But the thing that really made him stand out, he looked dressed up. I mean he wore a grey suit and red tie. It looked great. He looked great. Scanning the surrounding pews, I only saw a few spaces next to him. Damn. It was my lucky day! Oh, that’s one thing I did do. Cuss. Only with people that knew me. I walked up to him.

“Could you slide over?” I asked.

He looked at me with brown eyes that were warm and you could see the mirth in them, but he shook his head. “No, I can’t.”

Okay, that was unexpected. You didn’t say no. His smile came on his face.

“But you can sit here.” He pointed next to him, inside the pew, he even stood to let me in. He had an accent. I’m Southern, and we were supposed to have an accent, but I didn’t really hear it as I did too. This was something else. He was a Yankee!

Okay, something wasn’t adding up here. Here was this guy, a little older than me, probably in his mid to late thirties, well dressed in great grey suit I could only guess the price of. His short hair was combed and styled expertly and in place. I looked at his left hand, but there was no ring, but…and I know, there’s no such thing as gaydar. But we all know some you just knew were gay. Not this guy. Did he have the wrong church? If he was with someone, I would be disappointed, as always. But he could not be gay! I had to know more about him. I put my hand out to him. “Mitch McKenzie.”

The man smiled. “Tony Delveccio.”

I nodded. “Okay.” Then I pressed on. “Forgive me, but I’ve never seen you here before. Are you just passing through?”

He shook his head. “I’m thinking of moving here. My son goes to the College of Charleston.” He shrugged. “It just made sense to move here.”

That was also disappointing. Then I wondered if his son were gay and he was just coming with him as his father. But he had a son! That means he had a wife. Damn, damn, damn! But I looked around, didn’t see anyone looking to sit, not like Tony. “Should I move? Maybe he will want to sit with you.”

Tony shook his head. “No. My son’s not here. He’s eighteen and doesn’t care for church anymore. And he’s not gay.”

I nodded. “Then you know this is a gay church?”

He smiled bigger. “I went to the MCC when I lived in Manhattan. I emailed Terry to find out more about it. This is my first Sunday at this MCC.”

Then I caught a scent. A musky smell, very pleasant. It was him!! But I’d been here before. I knew how to be cagey. “Manhattan? I thought I heard an accent.”

Tony chuckled. “I born and raised in Queens.”

Delveccio. That explained his complexion and dark hair. The man was very, very handsome.

Tony looked around the congregation. “I was beginning to think I stunk or something. No one seemed to want to sit near me.”

He comment was so…odd. Was everyone blind!? He was gorgeous! Then I nodded. “That’s because they can smell the Yankee in you.” I grinned. I pointed at his suit. “And see it.”

Tony’s eyes widened, then he chuckled. “Does it show?”

I laughed. “And how.” As we were sitting on the second row from the front, I stood up and turned around to everyone. “We lost the war over a century ago! Get over it!” Then sat down again as Tony was laughing at what I said.

“Are you always like this?” Tony chuckled.

“’fraid so.” I grinned. “Want me to move now?”

He shook his head. “Absolutely not.”

“You are a rare one here. Not many Italians from Queens in Charleston.”

He eyebrows rose again. “No? I can’t believe there aren’t any Italians in Charleston.”

“Nah, we assimilate them. When we’re done, the only thing left Italian is their last names.” I said as the music began. “We’ll talk later.”

“I look forward to it, Mitch.” Then he crossed himself. I grinned bigger. An Italian Catholic from Queens! He was indeed rare.

Now the MCC had many of several denominations that attended the same service. We had a few Lutherans, Presbyterians, and a few other Catholics, but most were Baptist. And there were the others of non-denominational backgrounds, one Church of God. But beggars can’t be choosers, you went where you won’t be tossed out after they find out you’re gay. The service had a little of everything, including the Lord’s Supper that we all went up to take. Everyone was invited to take it. As we went up, I couldn’t help looking at Tony. He was tall! Six feet and couple of inches? He had a V shaped back. Even in the suit, which was tailored to him, showed he was in good shape. And as he was on the end of the pew, he was right in front of me, so I looked.

I was not an ugly man, but not as tall as he was. I only grew to five feet and ten inches. I had a lighter black hair, but not his jet black. I had brown eyes, but his was chocolate brown, my green eyes had a smattering of green in the brown. I’m told that was due to Mom’s dad being German or something. Her mother, my grandmother was Scottish, so were both grandparents on Dad’s side. So, I was Scottish by descent. I even had a tartan to prove it. Kilt to those that don’t know what a tartan is. It had our family plaid on it. And I had been a cop for five years before I was shot and I thought I was in good shape. I worked on it even now. I used the hotel’s gym as I was allowed. And I was pretty nice looking I thought. Then after service I turned him around.

“There’s no way you’re gay.”

He smiled. “No?” Then he leaned in and kissed me! On the lips! Right there in church! It was nice, but he didn’t love me, so it was just a kiss. “Would a straight man do that?”

“They might!” I argued. “I don’t need anything else like….” I waved at him. “…sex, but you might be straight.”

He nodded again. “Who was in Evita?”

That was confusing. “Evita? The movie? Madonna.”

His eyes rolled. “Patti Lupone!”

“Who?”

He shook his head, but still smiling. “Now, I’m doubting you’re gay. You don’t know Broadway Theater!? Hand in your gay card!” He held his hand out to take it.

“It’s not my fault you damned Yankees up north hogged all the Broadway Theater.” I growled, but liking that he wasn’t letting up. “The off Broadway stuff here is just that. Off.” Then I thought. “I only know what they make into movies. I did love The Phantom of the Opera.”

“I am a damned Yankee and damned proud of it!” His eye narrowed. “Do you mean Phantom of the Opera movie?”

“No!” I shook my head. “The one with Michael Crawford! I have the soundtrack. I can even sing the whole thing, Michael’s part at least.”

Tony nodded. “Okay, you can keep you gay card for now.” But he was chuckling the whole time. “And thank you for saying Italian, not Eye-talian!”

I cocked my head. “Is there are difference?”

“Damned straight!” Tony said firmly. Then he looked at me seriously. “Do you eat Italian food?”

“I have.” I nodded.

He grinned again. “Want to get some for lunch?”

I smiled. “Are you asking me out? You just got here!?”

His eyes rolled again. “It’s lunch.” He shrugged. “I’ll buy.”

“Am I going to have to worry about a hit or something?” I asked.

“Hit!?” He asked surprised, then smiled larger. “You mean Mafia!?”

I shrugged. “You could be. I don’t know. I’ve seen all the Godfathers, Goodfellas and like that.”

He was now laughing hard as tears were forming in his eyes, holding on to me to keep from falling over, but he loved it! “No, no Mafia connections, I swear.”

But the way he said swear. “What’s sweaha?”

“You makin’ fun of my accent?”

I nodded. “I am.”

He was still chuckling. “Look, hayseed, do you want to grab lunch with me or not?”

“I ain’t no hayseed.” I growled. “But sure, I’d love to. Where?”

Tony shrugged. “I just got to Charleston. You pick, but no Olive Garden.” He pointed out.

“Why not?” I asked.

“They are about as Italian as you are.” Tony said back.

“I ain’t Italian!” I said.

“Exactly!” He said flatly. He turned me toward the aisle. “I like you.”

Tony is from the North. Mitch is from the South. Tony is Catholic. Mitch is Baptist. Tony grew up in the city. Mitch was raised on a farm. Tony drives a Mercedes. Mitch drives a pickup truck. Tony wears designers. Mitch wears jeans and t-shirts. It's a mismatch made in Heaven.

Copyright © 2017 R. Eric; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

Interesting start. It should be interesting to see where this leads.

 

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I don't know about Southern Baptists, but lots of the AMEs and COGICs around here have female leaders because the congregations are predominately female. Either that or they import their preachers from Africa. Lots of Deaconess _______ or Sister _______. And very homophobic.

 

But a few towns away in Berkeley, there are many Welcoming churches of all sorts of denominations.

 

I had the "pleasure" of hearing lots of sermons from unqualified speakers at the Rescue Mission when I was homeless. You have to sit through an hour of random religious ranting if you want to eat dinner. Of course, the entire audience is filled with alcoholic, crack-using addicts whose sins have caused them to be homeless – according to the speakers (and the people who run the Rescue Mission). Plus no matter what the topic of the sermon, they'll probably include Number 0.5 on the Ten Commandments – you know, the sin worse than murder: men lying with men as with women!

 

Sorry. If I weren't already an Agnostic, I would have 'converted' after my experiences at the Rescue Mission. Exactly the opposite of their intentions…

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On 12/09/2016 08:29 PM, droughtquake said:

Interesting start. It should be interesting to see where this leads.

 

.

 

I don't know about Southern Baptists, but lots of the AMEs and COGICs around here have female leaders because the congregations are predominately female. Either that or they import their preachers from Africa. Lots of Deaconess _______ or Sister _______. And very homophobic.

 

But a few towns away in Berkeley, there are many Welcoming churches of all sorts of denominations.

 

I had the "pleasure" of hearing lots of sermons from unqualified speakers at the Rescue Mission when I was homeless. You have to sit through an hour of random religious ranting if you want to eat dinner. Of course, the entire audience is filled with alcoholic, crack-using addicts whose sins have caused them to be homeless – according to the speakers (and the people who run the Rescue Mission). Plus no matter what the topic of the sermon, they'll probably include Number 0.5 on the Ten Commandments – you know, the sin worse than murder: men lying with men as with women!

 

Sorry. If I weren't already an Agnostic, I would have 'converted' after my experiences at the Rescue Mission. Exactly the opposite of their intentions…

The thing is...it's true! My husband did that, not let me in the pew and spewed all that at me. And he was wearing designer stuff. And my father was a preacher. You'll learn more truth about our wild life. And it's you fault. I got a headache from the overload of stuff. I couldn't sleep! So when I said "owe" in the email. There really was an "owe."

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I can identify...raised Southern Baptist, church pianist, good child, gay...it was tough. I resigned when I was in college and came out. It wasn't a pleasant breakup. That was 32 years ago. I now serve as organist in a Disciples of Christ church where most, if not all, of the congregation knows about me and is ok with it. I've been there 18 years.

 

I'm interested to see where this story is headed. That's quite a connection they've made on their first meeting.

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What fun! You got the conversation right, and it seems like a great concept for a story. I could be hooked.

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I can tell this is going to be fun! You've got great characters and a great set up. Looking forward to more. Thanks. Jeff

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Great start. Looks like Tony and Mitch are gonna be quite the entertaining couple! Can't wait for their journey to continue!

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An excellent chortle invoking start, I am looking forward to reading the continuation of this story. Thank you for sharing your story,

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On 12/10/2016 02:04 AM, hohochan657 said:

Wow ! Based on a real life event ! Wow !

Wait until you read what I post tonight after midnight. That's 12/10 after midnight. It was hard, but it's true.

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Please allow me to point out what may seem to you an insignificant detail, but which to me, as a reader, is a vital aspect of your story.
"Tartan" is the name of the checked cloth made in Scotland. It also means the particular pattern used by a clan in their cloth. "Plaid" is the name of the shawl-like upper garment made of tartan. "Kilt" is the name of the pleated skirt-like lower garment. (OED)
Why, you ask, is this important? Because every Scotsman knows these simple facts. You misused all these terms, and that leads me to think you are not of Scottish heritage. Yet you claim that your story is based on your own life. Do you see how this makes me suspect untruth? You have alienated your reader, the thing a writer most wants to avoid.
Whether you are writing fiction or fact or embellished fact, when you are careless about the details of daily life you end up "breaking the spell" and leaving the reader cold.

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On 12/12/2016 04:13 AM, JakeW said:

Please allow me to point out what may seem to you an insignificant detail, but which to me, as a reader, is a vital aspect of your story.

"Tartan" is the name of the checked cloth made in Scotland. It also means the particular pattern used by a clan in their cloth. "Plaid" is the name of the shawl-like upper garment made of tartan. "Kilt" is the name of the pleated skirt-like lower garment. (OED)

Why, you ask, is this important? Because every Scotsman knows these simple facts. You misused all these terms, and that leads me to think you are not of Scottish heritage. Yet you claim that your story is based on your own life. Do you see how this makes me suspect untruth? You have alienated your reader, the thing a writer most wants to avoid.

Whether you are writing fiction or fact or embellished fact, when you are careless about the details of daily life you end up "breaking the spell" and leaving the reader cold.

I am. How dare you claim any of this is made up!! I know the difference! Avoid it. I'm speaking to everyone. In my family it was called the family plaid! Don't you dare claim otherwise! I have the damned kilt! I am Scottish!

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This is good very good.

 

I noted one of your reviewers took offense with your usage of tartan, plaid and kilt. I sell kilts. All tartan is plaid but not all plaid is tartan. A tartan is a registered pattern belonging to a Clan or other organization. We refer to tartans as plaids. The shawl like piece is a plaidy. A Victorian invention. The original great kilt is all one hand pleated piece of fabric. The term kilt actually originally referred to the pleats themselves and thus any pleated fabric was kilted. All that being said you are correct in your use of the terms.

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This was an interesting start to what I hope is an equally great story, I have enjoyed all of your story's so far. I think a chance meeting in church is going to turn intoone heck of a romance for these two misfits. You have one from New York and one from the mountains of North Carolina. I'm going to continue to read it and I might even post a few comments from time to time. 

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