One False Move
One False Move is a story written by shukyou and illustrated by neomeruru. It ran in Issue 32 and can be found at http://s2b2.livejournal.com/183980.html and http://www.shousetsubangbang.com/mirror/one-false-move/.
A budding relationship between a teacher and a lawyer for the school district is put on hold when the teacher is accused of molesting a student.
"I want everyone to understand before we start that this is a friendly conversation," said Clint, settling a yellow legal pad on his lap and pulling a pen from his shirt pocket. "Not an investigation, not an inquest, and definitely not on the record. Just a chance to get some things straight before any real shit-fan connection. We good with that?"
From pinboard.in: "In which a teacher is accused of sexual misconduct with a cheating student of his. A story of closeted queerness in the deep south."
Now I'm going to talk about how amazing neomeruru is.
When I first started on this story with her, I had no idea how this collaboration was going to work out, because she does such vibrant, dynamic art, and here I was asking her to draw pictures for about the lowest-key SSBB story I've ever written. But she turned out something truly excellent -- a pair of amazing images that wound up being vibrant and dynamic beyond my wildest imaginings. Both Eliot and Dom look eerily perfect and like what I imagined them to be, and WAS THAT NOT THE BEST KITTY EVER yes I knew you thought so too
The classroom is not only a work of art, it is a glorious work of mathematics, and the first time I saw it, I couldn't stop staring for embarrassingly long -- and I already knew everything that was in there! Here, for reference, is a complete list of everything I gave neomeruru to put in Eliot's classroom, and she picked the ones she liked of these, arranged them, and added some of her own.
Even if a poster didn't make it into the final image, well, Eliot's got a bunch of walls, so you can just imagine what the rest of the room looks like. He's a very eclectic guy with very eclectic tastes, and he picks up things he likes from just about anywhere.
Anyway, even though I know I stacked the deck by picking intentionally homoerotic images (like the Kiss of the Spider Woman poster and the image of St. Sebastian, to say nothing of all the Hockney), I love the way she managed to make it look like a very gay room. It's hard to quite put a finger on it, but that's exactly my reaction: that room is a queer space. I've known professors who've done that sort of thing before, the wall-collage, and had it come out totally straight, and I know some who've done the same and had it be incredibly gay. This room: way gay. And it's even better because it's a closeted queer space -- this room is nudging up to the very edges of what would be recognizable as gay by the general straight public (especially in South Texas c.1998) without going over, but goes off like sirens if you know what you're looking for. I would love to teach in that room.
Speaking of gay teaching, a lot of the undercurrent of this story is about how much it sucks to be a gay teacher, and half the reason I made it not from Eliot's perspective is that I knew Eliot would just become my mouthpiece for how much it sucks to be a gay teacher, and that would just have gotten preachy and tiresome very quickly. (The other half, obviously, is that Dom has to find out everything Eliot knows already, or it wouldn't have been much of a story.) Instead, what happened is a story where all the high drama and emotion is happening just beyond the grasp of the low-key narrator, who is himself just figuring out how much it sucks to be a gay teacher.
None of the people in this story are real, but all of the places are.
And as usual, I've had the devil's own time trying to think of a title for this thing. For a while I was thinking of naming it after Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, but that seemed both pretentious and ill-fitting. My wife suggested I call it DICKS DICKS DICKS DICKS, which was unhelpful. So instead I went searching through my books of poetry, like I do when I get stumped, and I came across something I couldn't pass up:I Think the New Teacher's a Queer
'I think the new teacher’s a queer,'
I turned around
and saw that
they were talking about me,
one false move
and it would all be over,
I could not drop my wrists
or raise my voice.
So I stood there up against the board
pressed against my chest
and looked without seeing
or hearing until
the children became a noiseless pattern
and all those years
from when I sat among them
stopped dead and I feared
that they'd beat me up
in the boys' room.