Things That Are Real II
By Amy Lane
So, in my last blog tour post, I talked about “things that are real”—things from Bonfires that had their roots in my real life and experience. There was actually a lot that I drew from—enough to make more than one post!
Frosties and Fries
What? Doesn’t every suburb have a Frosty? Nope, Amy, only small towns.
In my hometown, a few small towns over, we had Cagle’s, and like a lot of girls, I worked there. It was your typical greasy spoon—hamburgers, fries, pastrami sandwiches and frosty cones with that hard chocolate shell on top. Mm! In a small town, people met at the frosty after school—in fact, one of the locations was practically on the K-8 school property. Open invitation!
One summer night I have a clear memory of my family walking the mile and a half to the frosty to order frosty cones—including one for the Labrador retriever, Blue. Sounds idyllic, no?
Well, sort of—I think it’s necessary to mention that part of my memory was getting my ass groped by the owner. Apparently it was part and parcel of minimum wage.
So to make things clear, I didn’t live in the hills proper. We never got snow—but it did get damned frosty—a lot. But my parents were both students when they bought the house, and that house needed a lot of work. For the first five years, we would spend ten minutes a day pulling starthistles, every summer, until they didn’t grow back.
There was a fireplace that had two sides exposed, so it didn’t project any heat, and insulation? Forget about it. Not until year five.
And money was pretty tight—they’d sunk everything they had into the house in the hills, and while it’s returned their investment many times over, we were counting every penny.
Hot or cold, using the thermostat was a luxury.
Of course, in the winter, my folks would call uncle, because you couldn’t think when you were cold, but that didn’t mean we needed heat between ten o’clock at night and six in the morning.
Interesting fact, though.
My dad used to wake up every morning during the winter months at 5:30. Without putting on, uh, pajamas, he would run from his bedroom to the kitchen and start the coffee maker, then turn on the heater, then go back to bed. When the alarm went off again—at 6 a.m.—the coffee was made, and he could no longer see his breath.
Larx’s obsession with the thermostat was sort of an homage to my parents, and their desire for us to have a house to grow up in—even if our feet got cold.
The Weird Fireplace
Uhm, about that fireplace…
The fireplace and the chimney were built in the middle of the house—and exposed on both sides. Most fireplaces have a “back” so the bricks can project the heat into the room, but this one just sort of let it dissipate.
One of the things my parents got a couple of years ago was an insert for the fireplace itself. The effect was that of a Franklin stove—you fed the fire on one side, and the iron back heated on the other side and helped keep the whole house warm.
If I’d been a kid living there I would have loved it, because the heat lasted for hours after we went to sleep.
As an adult during the holidays… well, we used to joke that my parents thermostat had a big icy zone of normal, a tiny sliver of Nirvana, and a giant flame titled “Your adult children are passing out.”
There’s a moment in Bonfires when Aaron and a friend of Larx’s are listening to the band kids playing the “Where do you wanna go?” “I don’t know, where do you wanna go?” game. Larx’s friend implies that it doesn’t matter—they’re all going to get knocked up anyway.
Aaron says that the band kids don’t get knocked up—they’re going to college, so they’re carrying rubbers.
On the one hand, it’s funny—adults watching the courtship antics of the young with a jaundiced eye.
On the other hand, it points to a sort of class divide present in a small town.
Of course, every town is different, and so is every school. The stereotype of the dumb jock and the ditzy cheerleader has long been supplanted by the realities of grade requirements and competition for scholarships and the hopeful ideal of the student-athlete.
But band kids—those kids are almost always the dreamers. The band kids are the artists—the band kids and the drama kids and the art kids are often the same kids—and band kids in a small town have one common goal.
To get the holy fuck out of the small town.
Yeah, sure—they have just as much sex as the next clique (and in a small town, what else is there to do?) but the band kids are the ones to bring the condoms and sometimes the lube. Smart, precocious, and often thinking outside the box, don’t mess with the band kids.
They’re the ones who are going to get out, and sometimes? They’re the exact same kids who are going to break back in as teachers and counselors, to show the other kids the way.
So, that’s it for this post—tune in for my last post in the tour, with Things That Are Real, part III!
Ten years ago Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron George lost his wife and moved to Colton, hoping growing up in a small town would be better for his children. He’s gotten to know his community, including Mr. Larkin, the bouncy, funny science teacher. But when Larx is dragged unwillingly into administration, he stops coaching the track team and starts running alone. Aaron—who thought life began and ended with his kids—is distracted by a glistening chest and a principal running on a dangerous road.
Larx has been living for his kids too—and for his students at Colton High. He’s not ready to be charmed by Aaron, but when they start running together, he comes to appreciate the deputy’s steadiness, humor, and complete understanding of Larx’s priorities. Children first, job second, his own interests a sad last.
It only takes one kiss for two men approaching fifty to start acting like teenagers in love, even amid all the responsibilities they shoulder. Then an act of violence puts their burgeoning relationship on hold. The adult responsibilities they’ve embraced are now instrumental in keeping their town from exploding. When things come to a head, they realize their newly forged family might be what keeps the world from spinning out of control.
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About Amy Lane
Amy Lane has two kids in college, two gradeschoolers in soccer, two cats, and two Chi-who-whats at large. She lives in a crumbling crapmansion with most of the children and a bemused spouse. She also has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day! She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and m/m romance–and if you accidentally make eye contact, she’ll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She’ll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.
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Follow the Tour!
March 17 – MM Good Book Reviews
March 24 – Divine Magazine
March 27 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
March 27 – The Novel Approach
March 28 – Alpha Book Reviews
March 29 – Love Bytes
March 30 – Gay Book Reviews
March 31 – My Fiction Nook