This is Part 2 of "Beatitudes"
The other sections in "Beatitudes".
Features Justin Taylor, Brian Kinney, Jennifer Taylor, Lindsay Peterson, Daphne Chandors, Emmett Honeycutt, Sergeant Jim Stockwell, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian and Justin become part of the local art community. Pittsburgh, October/December, 1957.
Jennifer Taylor parked the Plymouth in front of an old warehouse. It didn't look anything like an apartment building to her. Jennifer checked the number again just to make certain. Yes, this was the address Justin had given her to forward his mail.
"Mom," said Justin, sliding open a metal door. He was wearing an old pair of paint-stained overalls, but no shirt or shoes. The huge room was chilly, even though it was only early October. "What are you doing here?"
"I brought some of your things, honey. My, it's cold in here! Good thing I have your warm sweater. Here, Justin." Jennifer pushed by her son and marched into the flat. It was basically a large, empty space, but she noticed that Justin's canvases and paints filled one bright corner. He seemed to be working on some kind of abstract, full of vibrant colors and dribbles of paint splashed on the canvas. Jennifer frowned. She liked Justin's realistic portraits so much better. Pictures of people and things, not all these blobs and smears!
She handed Justin a duffle bag packed with his clothes. In her other hand Jennifer gripped her purse and a large shopping bag full of food.
"Mom, I don't really need all these things. I have enough clothes." Justin grimaced at his mother as she looked around the loft curiously.
"You hardly took anything with you when you moved out, honey. You'll need your coat and boots when it begins to snow. And those clothes I bought you for school. You left most of them behind in your room."
Justin blushed to think of the button-down Van Heusen sports shirts and carefully pressed slacks and chinos hanging in his closet at home -- clothes he wouldn't caught dead in now. Embarrassing symbols of his former boring, middle class existence.
"I thought you boys might like some of my homemade meatloaf and mashed potatoes," Jennifer continued. Her high heels echoed on the cracked linoleum floor as she looked around for the kitchen. "I worry that you aren't eating well on your own. Where's the refrigerator?"
"Over there," said Justin, pointing to another corner. "It isn't much of a kitchen. Just a sink and a stove and this old fridge."
Jennifer frowned, looking for a place to put down her shopping bag. She finally set it on the edge of the sink. "You boys need a table and some chairs! Where are the cupboards?"
"We have... this box. I put the plates in there after I wash them," said Justin, showing her a selection of mismatched dishes and cups in an old orange crate. "We don't need anything too fancy."
Justin could tell by the disgusted look on his mother's face that she thought their pad was a dump. But it wasn't! It was THEIR place and Jennifer Taylor with her WASPy suburban notions of what was right and proper couldn't even begin to understand the way they lived. Possessions were meaningless! It was art that mattered. Art and love.
"Justin, this isn't really what I... imagined," Jennifer said frankly. "This isn't like any apartment I've ever seen. Where are the closets? And the dining room?"
"Mom, what would we do with a dining room?" sighed Justin.
"Where do you sit, honey? Where do you eat?"
"We sit anywhere. On this chair. On the floor." Justin showed her the old easy chair, which Justin had covered with an Indian bedspread, and some big throw pillows he'd bought at a flea market with his earnings from the diner. "Or on the bed. What's the point in having a lot of useless furniture?"
Jennifer's eyes moved over to the bed. It was just a mattress sitting on the bare floor, covered with a blanket. One mattress.
Jennifer had told herself that she wouldn't come over here and interrogate Justin about things that were none of her business. But this WAS her business! Justin was her son, after all! His life and what he was doing with it was her concern and always would be.
"Aren't there any other rooms, honey?" she asked.
Justin shrugged. "The bathroom." He gestured to a wooden door. "There's a toilet and a shower in there. It's pretty clean," said Justin, hoping that his mother didn't decide to investigate that claim too closely.
"And where is your room, Justin?"
Justin snorted. "My room?" Justin ran his hand over his head. His blond hair had finally grown back in from the brushcut he'd worn at camp. Brian told him that he liked hair long, like the European boys wore it, so Justin was growing it long. It felt funny hanging down around his neck and falling forward into his eyes, but he loved the way Brian tugged at it and ran his fingers through it when they were fucking. "This IS my room, Mom."
"But... where do YOU sleep, honey?" asked Jennifer, smiling weakly.
"Where do you think, Mother?" Justin answered impatiently. "In the bed! Isn't that what you came over here to find out? In THIS bed! With Brian. My lover! Where else would I sleep?"
Jennifer's face crumbled. "Justin... I... I don't know what to say to you! But this is so wrong! You KNOW that! You weren't raised that way, honey!"
"This has nothing to do with the way I was raised, Mother," Justin sighed. "I've been attracted to other men ever since I can remember. This isn't anything new. I just never had the courage to act on it -- until I met Brian."
"It's that Brian. I knew it!" Jennifer huffed. "I knew he was trouble the minute I saw him in that leather jacket!"
"Don't blame Brian, Mom! This isn't about him. It's about ME! I'm a queer, Mother, so face that fact. I'd be one even if I'd never met him. But I'm glad I met him, because I'm happy." Justin looked his mother directly in the eye. "I thought you always wanted me to be happy? I have my art and I have my lover -- what more do I need?"
Jennifer swallowed a huge lump in her throat. She was trying not to start crying, but she was failing. "Justin, think about what you're doing! Please! It's... against the law. And you're so young. You're only 18! You are too young to know what you want!"
Justin gazed at Jennifer evenly. "How old were YOU when you had me, Mom? How old?"
Jennifer's lips quivered. "I was 18. But... but things were different before the War! It was the Depression and people grew up faster then!"
Justin shook his head. "You lived in a nice neighborhood and Grandpa was a doctor, Mom, so don't give me that crap about the Depression! You wanted to marry Dad and you did. Well, I want to live here with Brian -- and I'm doing it. I have my job, too, at the diner, so I'm contributing to the rent and food and everything. I'm not letting Brian support me completely."
"But... but what does Brian do for money, Justin?" Jennifer inquired. "He doesn't seem to have any kind of job."
"He gets Disability from the being wounded in Korea. And he writes. He makes some money from his poetry -- sometimes," said Justin, looking away. "We get by, Mom, so don't worry about it."
The door of the loft slid open and Brian sauntered in, stripping off his leather jacket and tossing it on the old easy chair. "Never again! That bastard over in Shadyside is a fucking FREAK! He can forget it from now on! Let him get someone else to...." Brian stopped in his tracks when he saw Justin's mother standing in the middle of the room in her blue wool suit, high heels, and single strand of pearls. "Oh -- um -- hiya, Mrs. Taylor."
"Hello, Brian," she answered. Brian could feel the distinct chill in the air. "I was just leaving." Jennifer Taylor picked up her handbag and walked to the door. "Try to call me occasionally, Justin."
"We don't have a phone, Mom," Justin said. "We use the pay phone on the corner, or else at the coffeehouse three doors down."
"Whatever. Call me when you can. Goodbye, honey. And Brian." And Justin's mother stalked out of the loft.
Brian shook his head as she slammed the door. "Jesus! Let me guess. Her sweet little boy has been raped by the nasty faggot. Right?"
"Something like that," Justin replied. He went over to Brian and kissed him.
"Fuck it! I've got 75 bucks and a bag of weed!" Brian walked into the kitchenette while Justin followed closely. "And it looks like Ma Kettle brought some food. So what are we waiting for?" Brian took the containers out of the shopping bag and began eating chunks of cold meatloaf with his bare hands.
"Nothing," said Justin, grinning. "I'm not waiting for a thing. Everything is perfect." He reached over, took a piece of meatloaf, and popped it into his own mouth. "Perfect."
And he meant just that.
Lindsay Peterson surveyed the crowd with satisfaction. The Austin Gallery was packed with the creme de la creme of Pittsburgh's art scene for the annual Winter Solstice Festival. As the new manager of the gallery, Lindsay had selected all of the featured artists and poets herself and she wanted the event to be a complete success. When the Board of Directors chose her, a woman, to run the Austin, she knew that it was a breakthrough of sorts. No other woman was running a gallery in Pittsburgh and she wanted to make the Austin Gallery a showplace of young and vibrant talent.
So far everything was going swimmingly. The red and green decorations, while cliché for the Christmas Season, actually looked very chic in contrast with the Post-Modernist works of art. The food and drink was being consumed avidly. All the major critics and dealers in town were present. The main buyers of avant garde art were busily checking out the new works and a few sales had already been made. There was an especial interest in her youngest artist, an angelic-looking boy named Justin Taylor whose ability to impress in a number of different styles was gaining him no small attention. Justin's large, colorful abstracts alternated with some stark and graphic nude line drawings. Many of the attendees were particularly intrigued by these explicit drawings of his very recognizable subject. A subject who was just about to make his own mark at this Holiday celebration.
Brian Kinney stood on the stage while everyone gathered near in excited anticipation. The buzz about this writer had been building for a while. He certainly looked the part of the angry young poet, tall and ridiculously handsome, with unkempt chestnut hair and a penetrating glare, but he was dressed more like a street thug in blue denims, white tee shirt, and black leather jacket, a cigarette hanging from his full lips. He was a fairy, too, although he didn't fit any limp-wristed stereotype. But his boyfriend, the slight, fair-haired artist, who claimed to have just turned 19, but who barely looked 16, had been hovering at his side all evening, openly holding his hand. Even among the artistic elite such a blatant show of affection between a pair of men was unusual. But then this talented couple wasvery unusual for a place like Pittsburgh.
At the fringes of the crowd, Jennifer Taylor tried to look inconspicuous, but it was difficult. She was dressed more for an Arcadian Country Club dinner, in a tasteful red dress and pearls, than for a gallery showing and poetry reading featuring Pittsburgh's young avant garde. So far Jennifer had suffered through two so-called poets who had rambled on for twenty minutes at a time. None of the poems rhymed and she hadn't been able to follow what they were about.
Justin had also introduced his mother to two friends of his, people he met working in that diner on Liberty Avenue and hanging out in a seedy coffeehouse near the warehouse where Justin and Brian lived. The girl, Daphne, was a Negro, about Justin's age, who seemed quite polite and well-mannered. But the man, Emmett, was... well, he was a very obvious and very loud homosexual. He was wearing extremely tight pants, a garish purple shirt, and a trailing crimson scarf. When Emmett was introduced to her he kissed Jennifer's hand and pronounced her 'fabulous'! Then he asked her where she got her shoes. Looking at this man made Jennifer very uneasy. Is that the way that her son would eventually act? Would Justin flounce about, wearing ridiculous clothes and saying outrageous things? Isn't that how homosexuals behaved? It was odd, though, because Brian wasn't like that at all. If anything he seemed the epitome of swaggering masculinity. And yet he was sleeping with her son! Jennifer couldn't get her mind around it at all. This world was just too odd for her to comprehend.
Jennifer had finally managed to look at Justin's art in peace while he was preoccupied with Brian elsewhere in the gallery. More of those big paintings of blobs and splashes. Except for the obscene drawings of his... his male lover. Unfortunately, those works were completely representational and more detailed than any decent person could endure! Justin seemed obsessed with drawing one particular portion of Brian's anatomy to the exclusion of almost anything else.
While she looked at the drawings, two rather flamboyant men stood next to her, commenting on Brian's pictured endowments. The first man assured the second that the artist had not exaggerated. "Obviously," drawled the effete fellow. "We BOTH know THAT from personal experience!" And the two men laughed crudely.
Jennifer steamed. They were talking about HER son and that Brian! She wanted to confront the fellows, but she was afraid of making a scene. She didn't want to embarrass Justin and cause him to order her to go home. He had reluctantly allowed her to attend the opening, but only on the condition that she promise not to say anything Justin considered embarrassing. Yes, anything Jennifer Taylor might say would be embarrassing, but flaunting naked drawings of your male lover was okay!
Lindsay Peterson hushed the waiting crowd and then spoke. "I would like to introduce our final poet for the evening. Many of you know him and his poetry. And some of you have seen him portrayed in the work of one of our new artists, Justin Taylor, who we are also introducing tonight. Justin, please take a bow." Lindsay led the applause as Justin stepped forward shyly and gave a little wave.
Lindsay smiled serenely. "So, without further ado, our featured poet -- Brian Kinney."
Brian stepped forward slightly, holding his sheets of poetry in his right hand. His voice boomed out strongly in the crowded gallery. "I want to read a poem about truth. About the reality of our existence as human beings in this repressive society. It's called 'The Pittsburgh Beatitudes, Christmas 1957.' Dedicated to J. T." Brian coughed softly and then began to proclaim:
"'Blessed are the outcasts -- for they will inherit the True Kingdom!
Not your plastic paradise, Pittsburgh,
Not your smoke-shrouded skies,
Not your gray, damp streets full of your gray, damp people!
But the True Kingdom,
Where people can be free,
Where they can live and love
And not fear
The fist of hate,
The words of envy and disgust,
The looks of scorn and derision,
The armies of the enemies of Love and Art
Who would throw black paint over works of beauty,
Who would throw harsh words over acts of love,
Who would condemn what they cannot have for themselves --
Blessed are the whores who bare their pale breasts in garbage-strewn alleys!
Blessed are the junkies who fill their veins with your pure poison!
Blessed are the wounded who spilled their only blood for you
And now have no hope!
Blessed are the thieves who live like rats in the darkness
But who crave the light!
Blessed are the drunks and derelicts who drown in your scorn
While you suck up your own liquid comfort safely
In your carpeted living rooms
and your country clubs!
Blessed are the mad whose minds have been damaged
By looking at the truth!
Blessed are the insane who wander wild-eyed in the streets,
For they are the True Poets!
They will know the True Kingdom,
For they already live in the clouds!
They are the ones who see the world's lunacy and don't deny it!
And blessed are the faggots
Who refuse to yield to your bourgeois perfection, Pittsburgh!
Who refuse to bow to your notions of Good and Evil, Pittsburgh!
Who deny your out-moded, hypocritical morality, Pittsburgh!
Blessed are the queers
Who aren't afraid to kneel and worship at the altar of Cock!'"
Brian paused for a moment and licked his dry lips as the murmurs began to grow all over the gallery. Justin was standing directly in front of him, nodding eagerly. His eyes were shining up at Brian in adoration. He also saw Justin's friends from the coffeehouse, Daphne and Emmett, whispering to each other by the side of the stage. And Lindsay was looking very worried. But Brian took a deep breath and continued on towards the climax of his poem.
"'Blessed are the cocksuckers
Who drink the essence of life directly from the source!
Who offer their perfect asses to your perfect tongues!
Blessed are the fairies who won't apologize
For knowing who they are
Or what they are!
Blessed are the buggers who don't regret their deviance,
But celebrate it!
Blessed is he who lies down on the pale body of some perfect Angel,
All white and gold,
Who offers himself up in a dark, bare room,
Who takes my perfect cock into his mouth,
Into his heart,
Into his ass,
Which is like the Gate of Paradise,
Who cries out in perfect ecstasy as he submits himself to me!
As he presents his perfect white gold ass
To be fucked by me
In the perfect darkness!
"All right!" yelled a voice. "That's enough! This reading is now at an end -- by order of the Pittsburgh Police Department Vice Squad! I have deemed this to be a Lewd and Indecent Performance!"
But Brian refused to stop. "'Blessed is he who cries out, "Fuck me again, Wild, Dark Angel!"
Take me to another, better World
With your perfect 9-inch cock!'"
That last line Brian spat out at the plain-clothes policeman, who stepped up onto the stage and pushed him backwards viciously. Another uniformed officer appeared and grabbed Brian from behind. "You are under arrest for Public Obscenity and Disruptive Behavior causing a Breach of the Peace," the first cop exclaimed.
"Fuck YOU, you fascist bastard!" Brian screamed, as the entire gallery erupted in chaos. "This is ART! This is TRUTH! The only obscenity is in YOUR fucked up head, Stockwell! You and all the other fascist stormtroopers who would try and stop my right to Free Expression!"
"That's enough out of you, Clarence Darrow," warned the plain-clothes cop, Sergeant Jim Stockwell. "If you don't shut up we'll have to gag you!"
Three more officers appeared and it took all four uniformed policemen to drag Brian off the stage and throw him on the ground. Brian was thin, but amazingly strong, especially in his energized fury. Sergeant Stockwell tried to handcuff Brian, pressing his face hard against the cold tile floor. But Justin launched himself at Stockwell, kicking and yelling. Jennifer and Justin's friend, Emmett, tried to pull the boy away, but Justin had a tight grip on the cop, refusing to allow him to handcuff his lover.
"Justin, please!" Jennifer begged. She knew that Justin would be the next one they would arrest for hindering an officer of the law in the performance of his duty.
"Arrest me, too!" Justin cried. "You fuckers! Arrest ME!"
Sergeant Stockwell finally cuffed Brian and shook Justin off, knocking him back into the arms of one of the other cops, who held the boy firmly. But he made no move to arrest Justin. Their target was obviously Brian and Brian alone.
"Justin, get away!" said Brian. "It's all right. I've been busted before. It's no big deal for me."
"But I want them to take me, too!" said Justin in despair.
The cops yanked Brian roughly to his feet. Brian had stopped struggling. "I'll go quietly if you promise not to arrest my friend," he said to Sergeant Stockwell. "He didn't do anything wrong."
"And neither did you, Brian!" Justin insisted. "I WANT to be arrested! I want to go with YOU!"
"No, you don't, Justin," Brian stated bluntly. "Stay out of it. Please. Do what I say."
Two of the cops pushed Brian towards the door of the gallery. The crowd stood back, hissing and booing the police, but making no move to stop them. Lindsay was pleading with the sergeant that it was all a misunderstanding, but he brushed her off.
"Let the kid go," Stockwell told the officer who was holding Justin.
"I'm his mother," said Jennifer, stepping forward. "I'll take charge of him!"
Stockwell glared at her. "Get your son out of here, ma'am. This is no place for a nice kid -- or a pretty lady like you."
"NO!" shouted Justin, following the cops to the door. "Fuck YOU! Take ME!" But the policemen handling Brian pushed Justin away as they hustled Brian out to the squad car.
Some of the other artists were grabbing their canvases and splitting out the back door, afraid that they would be the next targets if the cops returned. No one wanted their paintings confiscated or their own asses hauled off to jail. Most of the other artists and poets agreed that it was a terrible thing, but that Brian Kinney always went just a little too far. He had provoked the cops before with his poems and his antics -- and this time the police had been waiting to make an example of him.
Justin couldn't understand why everyone was standing around doing nothing while Brian was being taken away! His own mother was just standing there! Daphne and Emmett were sympathetic, but helpless to do anything.
"We have to get a lawyer! Please!" Justin begged. "We have to go to the police station NOW and get Brian out! I don't want him to stay there all night!"
"Where are we going to find a lawyer right now, honey? In the morning we'll call around and see what we can do," Jennifer said, trying to reassure him.
"In the morning? What about NOW?" replied Justin in a panic. "We can't leave Brian in jail! We can't!" Justin's eyes spilled over with tears. "You don't understand! I have to be with him. He's... he's afraid of the dark!"
Jennifer patted Justin's arm. "Brian is a grown man. He was in the Army! He was in a war, honey! He'll be all right alone for a few hours."
Daphne put her arm around her friend and hugged him. "I'm sure he'll be okay, Justin. Brian is really strong. He can take care of himself."
Emmett handed him a handkerchief and Justin wiped his eyes. "None of you understand at all," he said quietly.
Lindsay approached the small group. "Justin, I have the number of a lawyer you can call. She specializes in social issue cases. Freedom of speech, civil rights, things like that. I'm sure she would be very eager to help you."
Justin took the card. "M. Marcus? Can I call her right now?"
"You can try. This is her home number." Lindsay took out her pen and wrote a number on the back of the card. "But there probably isn't anything that you can do until morning. You might have to get money for Brian's bail. I don't know how much that would be in a case like this." Lindsay sighed. "I'm so sorry this happened here at my gallery, but I warned Brian! I really did. You know that he was almost arrested last spring at an outdoor poetry festival? He read a political poem about President Eisenhower that... well, he suggested that the president do a few... difficult things to himself. That same policeman, Sergeant Stockwell, was there that day, too, but he only warned Brian then. I got the impression that Stockwell knew Brian from other run-ins they may have had."
"What sort of run-ins?" asked Jennifer in alarm.
Lindsay hesitated. "I believe that he busted Brian for possession of marijuana last year, but the charges ended up being dismissed. And there were a few other incidents. I don't know the details."
"Marijuana!" cried Jennifer. "Justin! Is Brian... on drugs? Tell me the truth!"
Justin's face was grim. "It's only reefer, Mom. It's nothing. So forget it! That's not important now! That's not the issue here! It's about Brian's right to freedom of speech! It's about art!"
Emmett stepped between mother and son. "I think we should call this attorney and see what she says." Emmett squeezed Justin's arm. "Here, baby. I picked this up off the stage." He handed Justin some crumpled sheets of paper -- Brian's poem, written out in his looping hand.
Justin nodded and took the poem. He folded it carefully and held it against his heart. He knew he wouldn't rest until Brian was once again free and by his side.
Continue on to "Beatitudes -- Part 3".
©Gaedhal, December 2003.
Posted December 15, 2003.