Fear and Courage (MM)
Growing up is hard enough, but it’s worse as a pacifist whose country is at war. Jim and Brian are neighbors, best friends, and high school graduates heading for college. In 1970 the Vietnam War raged, and Brian and Jim, both pacifists, worry about being drafted.
To make matters worse, both men are gay and far from out. When Brian finally admits his feelings for his friend, he’s surprised and pleased Jim feels the same.
Brian’s father teaches jujitsu, and the two men learn the ancient art, though neither believes in fighting. They struggle to overcome their pacifist tendencies amid racial tension and homophobia that threatens to tear their lives -- and their love -- apart.
Can Brian and Jim turn fear into courage and learn to defend themselves, and each other, to create a life of love?
Two days later, Dad and Michelle left for work early, and Jim went home to do chores. Later, as Brian opened the windows facing Jim's house, George's voice bellowed. "Where the hell have you been, you little shit?"
Jim answered, "I slept at Brian's. I left a note."
"I didn't see any fucking note."
Jim's mom said, "Jim, just go to your room."
The jerk yelled, "Not until he accounts for himself."
"Don't you have a job to go to? You don't want to be late, you know?"
"None of your business, punk. Where have you been?"
Jim kept his voice calm. "I just accounted for myself. Here's the effing note right in the middle of the effing table, eighteen inches from your effing cereal bowl. You still so drunk you can't see that? I didn't think you could stay a decent human for too long. Tigers don't change their stripes."
Brian tensed. He knew what was coming. The smack was louder than usual, followed by yelling and more hits.
George yelled, "You bastard, don't you dare hit me."
Brian's mouth fell open. Jim was defending himself!
Jim's mother cried out, "Stop. George, for God sakes, stop! Put the knife down."
Brian's heart jumped to his throat and a cold chill ran through him. He couldn't survive without Jim. He jumped for the phone and called the police.
"San Jose Police. Can I help you?"
"There's a big fight at my neighbor's next door. It's real bad and worse than usual. Someone said to put the knife down." He gave the address and the dispatcher promised to send the police. Shit, the department was only four blocks away; how long could they take?
George's voice took on a scary tone. "I should have done this a long time ago you little queer-loving bastard."
"George, nooo!" Jim's mom sobbed.
Brian ran to his dad's closet and grabbed the .38 revolver.
He ensured it was loaded and ran to Jim's house. He burst through the unlocked front door and found them in the kitchen. The shouting continued, and George had Jim by the hair bent backwards over the table with a knife to his bleeding throat.
"I'll cut your heart out if you ever disrespect me again. Apologize."
Fear flooded Jim's face, but he gingerly shook his head.
Brian froze. Jim's mother stared in silence, clashing her hands to her mouth. George slowly stroked the knife across Jim's throat. Jim groaned. More blood flooded out. Mrs. Dwalde shrieked.
Brian's blood ran cold as he raised the gun. Like dad taught him, he took a deep breath and a balanced stance and lined up the sights on the target, George's ass. He fired at one cheek and then the other. Smoke floated in an eerie swirl from the barrel. Brian felt numb. Would Gandhi have shot? Would Gandhi even pick up a gun?
George screamed and spun around to stare at Brian.
Jim fell into a chair.
Jim's mother shrieked again.
With hate in his eyes, George, still holding the knife, took a halting step, and a second, closer as Brian aimed at the center of his chest. Bile climbed his throat.
George said, "I'll kill you." He raised the knife.
In a calm and steady voice, Brian countered, "No! I'll kill you, you dirty stinking bastard and will gladly go to hell for it."
Brian put a steady pull on the trigger and the hammer slowly pulled back, but he stopped when George faltered in mid-step, moaning and holding his ass. George's legs buckled, he dropped to his knees, and his face hit the floor right after the knife. "Damn it, call an ambulance."
Brian held the gun down along his leg. The heavy sound of an engine came down the street. Out the window, Brian saw a police car halt in front. One officer rushed out as another police car arrived, and a third. With guns drawn they rushed in. It all seemed so unreal, like a movie or cartoon. Brian felt nothingness, as though he floated.
Jim's mom held a towel to Jim's neck. "Oh, Jim."
"Freeze! Drop the gun."
Brian slowly turned to face three police revolvers pointed at him. One officer knelt on a knee, and two were taking cover at the sides of the doorway, and Brian wondered why. He would never hurt an officer. Until today, he wouldn't hurt anyone.
"I said drop it." It was a deep voice that seemed to float.
Brian continued to hold the gun at his side. He worried it might go off if he dropped it. He couldn't think of anything to say. Nothing seemed real and for a moment he wondered if it was a dream. He felt cold. A fog filled his head as he stared down the barrel of one of the officer's gun.
One officer commanded, "Drop it or I'll drop you."
Another one was calmer. "Come on, son, we can talk about it, whatever it is. Put the gun down."
Brian swallowed and his heart pounded and he let his gaze move in slow motion to the officer's sharp, dark blue uniform, the badge, gun belt, pants with white stripe. Jim would look so good in a police uniform. He'd do good and serve humanity. Brian was pretty sure he did the right thing. He defended someone who was being hurt. Everything seemed to move in slow speed and voices barely made sense anymore. In the distance about half a world away another police car arrived, the usual deep-throat engine seeming muffled.
Brian was not afraid, but he couldn't move.