HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
By Axel Craig Osterberg
“Hey, Faggot, you are going to get your ass kicked. Oh great, I am almost home from school and here’s Jimmy Walmart and his cousins. I start running fast over the crust of snow and cut across Old Lady Henderson’s field. Big mistake. The crew fans out. Jimmy by-passes me left, and the Walmarts, big beautiful red necks that they are, out run me by a mile. I’m surrounded and the beating begins. I fight like a girl, I am later told by Kenny Walmart. Kenny is one of my secret boyfriends. My eyes tear up and my nose breaks as they punch me. I can see Kenny standing back a bit, his face all twisted and purple from the hatred he is screaming. I am glad he doesn’t hit me though. Old Lady Henderson starts yelling from her trailer door. “You little shits, cut that out!” She runs out wielding a broom. Jimmy and the crew land another kick apiece as I lay on the snow. “Faggot” Jimmy hisses as he spits in my face. They all run off laughing. Old Lady Henderson swipes at them with her broom as they fly past her. My nose is gushing blood and now I am pissed. I am up on my feet when Old Lady Henderson gets to me. “Jesus H Christ! What the fuck did you do to them?” She cackles as the snow cracks under her slippers. “Shit, boy, you are a mess.“ She holds a handful of snow to my nose and it turns crimson in her weathered hand. “Oh for Christ’s sake stop crying! You’re Lil’s kid, ain’t ya?” I nod. Inside her trailer it’s hot, like a nursing home. The blue and white flowered wall paper is yellowed from years of chain-smoking. We light up together and smoke in silence. She hands me her drink and I quaff it down fast., “Easy, buddy! Easy! Hey, you want me to call your mum?”
“No thanks“ I sulk. The walk home is cold and my head starts to throb. Mom’s shiny new Gremlin X is parked in the driveway. I decide to go to Dale’s house. Dale is my other secret boyfriend and my neighbor. He is also Jimmy Walmart’s cousin, those backwoods freaks! Dale’s mother Kitty opens the door to their trailer. Her dinner smells great! Suddenly I am starved: for dinner, for Dale, for love. I hear Dale’s father yelling inside. I hear Dale, too. He is crying. He is getting another beating. Kitty draws deeply on her Marlboro Light. Marlboro Lights are the cigarette choice of every white trash girl and trailer park faggot in Maine.
“Oh, honey, you’d better get out of here! Dale told us about you two, you know, and Dad is just rippin mad! He says you can’t ever see Dale again, and said if you ever come down here again he’s going to kill you!” Kitty hugs me because I am crying again. “Oh, honey, I love you and I always will. It’s okay to be, uh, like you boys are. I still love you. You are a good boy but you gotta get out of here, now.”
Kitty is crying a little too. I stumble home. I am scared. Mom’s in the kitchen with the lights down again. She’s drinking vodka and seven with a Marlboro Light dangling from her lips.” Old Lady Henderson called and said you been fighting”. She was pissed. Her hand stung hard as she reached out and slapped my face, “Don’t lie! You were, weren’t you?” She slapped me again. I run into the bathroom and puke. Sometimes I just puke, just like that. I think “What a shitty day!” I open the medicine cabinet. I look at all the bottles of Mom’s pills. After a while, I take her bottle of tranquilizers and pocket them.
In my room, I roll a joint and put on Joni Mitchell, real loud. Now I am scared, pissed and depressed. Self hatred fills in all the holes left by my self pity. Stupid Dale! “Fuck fuck fuck FUCK it all!” I turn Mom’s pill bottle over and over in my hands. I take the pills one by one. Then I lay down and start to cry, loudly, being prone toward the dramatic. I can’t wait to die. “I’ll show them! They will all be really sorry when I die!” I tell myself, but in my heart I know it’s not true, nobody will care. I start to feel funny, light headed, you know. And is that my stomach starting to hurt? I try to puke but can’t make myself throw up. Suddenly I am terrified! This isn’t nearly as glamorous a death as a fourteen-year-old faggot had imagined! “Shit, shit, shit!!” I think as I sneak into the living room to steal a smoke and get the phone. No problem! Good old Mom is comatose on the couch. I pinch a cig as I grab the phone. In my room, I call my best friend Liz. I am now dying so I spill my guts. “Liz I’m a fag! And Kenny Walmart told Jimmy that we did it, and him and the Walmarts beat me up after school, and Dale told his Dad the we did it too, and Mom and dad and they are going to kill me so I took a bottle of Mom’s pills and I am going to kill myself.”
Liz, a strawberry blond Aries girl with big boobs flies to the rescue. She is my best friend. Everyone thinks we we are boyfriend and girlfriend because we disappear together for hours, but all we do is talk and smoke a lot of pot.
“Where’s your Mom?” she asks. “Passed out on the couch drunk” I answer.
“Hang on! I will be right over!” She hangs up. I wait 30 or 40 minutes to die. I don’t. Liz shows up finally and she has got my dad with her. Great! She has called my Drill Sergeant dad away from his job to bring me to the emergency room because I am committing suicide because I am gay! Good call Liz! We are silent on the 30 miles drive to the hospital except for my occasional sigh. Dad keeps eying Liz’s tits. “Nice sweater” he finally barks and Liz and me nearly die trying not to laugh. In the emergency room Liz blurts out “He’s trying to kill himself because he is GAY and he took a whole bottle of his mom’s tranquilizers.” Nurses and orderlies surround me. I am whisked off for examination. Lights shine into each of my eyes. “What kind of pills did you take? How many pills did you take? What is the name of the pills? When did you take them? All I can do is cry. They pump m my stomach. In a little while I see my dad and he is talking to the doctor. They are whispering but I hear them talking about Ward 86. I know it’s the psychiatric wing of The Maine Medical Center. Mom stays there from time to time. In the Emergency Room Waiting Lounge, an ambulance driver chats with Liz’s breasts. She likes it/him. Liz suddenly remembers. I have given her the pill bottle on the ride to the hospital. She jumps up shouting “I have the pill bottle! I have the bottle!” She thrusts the bottle into the doctor’s hands. He studies it intently. He pulls my dad aside and they whisper again. As they approach me I hear the doctor “I still think he should spend the night on Ward 86, just for observation.” Dad groans audibly and barks “No fucking way!” He barks a lot. He grabs me by the shoulder and drags me out of the ER. We are silent on the ride home too. Dad’s old GMC 8-cylinder lulls Liz and she falls asleep with her head on Dad’s shoulder. At home, I am immediately sent to my room. Liz is told to wait in the car. I hear Mom and Dad arguing. Dad leaves to take Liz home. I wait a few minutes, then sneak into the living room to snag another smoke. Mom is talking on the phone laughing. “Yes, the stupid little queer tried to kill himself!” her laugh was filled with disgust.
“Oh, yeah, he’s a faggot alright! The neighbor caught with his son. I’ve known he was a little faggot since he was six years old.” She is laughing again. “I know it’s not funny! You know how much this little stunt of his is going to cost us? Stupid little queer can’t do anything right, not even kill himself. I mean, stupid little faggot took a whole bottle of my Premarin. Yes. Premarin, my estrogen replacement pills! Thank God they pumped his stomach, he’s queer enough already!” I hear my Aunt cackling over the telephone line. Mom suddenly sobers up a bit. “Oh, yeah his father knows all about it! He had to leave work to take him to the ER!” And he is going to kick his faggotty ass when he gets home! That ought to teach him!” She hangs up and hears me crying. “I know you’re there! I can hear you blubberin’!” She knows by my tears that I was listening. “That’s right little mister, you are going to get the ass kickin’ of your young life when your dad gets home. Just you wait!” I make her a drink, real strong, out of habit. I hand her the tumbler of vodka, seven and ice. She laughs as she palms me a smoke and settles in on the couch. In my room, the cigarette helps.
Liz calls me the next day because I didn’t go to school. “You alright?” she asks.
“Dad didn’t beat me up” I say. Liz hesitates just a second, then she says “I let him feel me up on the ride home.” I know right then that she is the best friend a fourteen years old fag could ever have.
“I owe you big time” I say.
“I liked it” she says.
“I know” I say.
About the author: Axel Craig Osterberg lives in San Francisco. He is facilitator of All Tribes Playhouse, a living arts workshop whose mission is to Celebrate the Sanctity of Daily Life with creative arts. Axel volunteers at Maitri Hospice. He writes, acts, and directs for the Theater. He has two amazing service dogs named Tuffy and Lovey Howl Osterberg. HIs astrology column, ASTROLOGIK has appeared in HIP INK, Odyssey, CreamPuff and Oblivion Magazines. HIs plays include “12 Steps to the Bar”, HOMELESS, the Odyssey, Viagra Falls, and HOSPICE or Dancing with Starlight.