Today I am so pleased to welcome David Pratt to Joyfully Jay. David has come to talk to us about his latest release, Wallaçonia. Please join me in giving him a big welcome!
Our kitchen was dim and cold. Mom’s keys and gloves lay on the table. She and Dad were going out! I could invite my girlfriend, Liz, over. We had been talking about sex. Well, I had. She said she wanted to, though. Maybe tonight. Then everything would finally be normal.
I was hopeful because I’d seen a raccoon out on the marsh. Raccoons are my “spirit animal.” They don’t hibernate in winter; they sleep all day but come out at dusk. If I were an animal, that’s what I’d do—come out of my den only when I wanted.
I thought of Liz’s sweet-smelling hair and the warm wetness of her mouth, and I started to get aroused. We were totally great together. We hadn’t done it yet, though. I first mentioned it at Halloween; she said she wanted to, “sometime soon.” Every few weeks I said, “Have you thought about The Halloween Question?” And she’d say, “Boo!” or go all wide-eyed and say, “It’s . . . the Halloween Question!!!” like it was a slasher pic. She’d say that she seriously wanted to; it just wasn’t time yet.
I heard footsteps upstairs and my mom fretting: “. . .never get there . . .”
I wanted to respect Liz. I was just so afraid it would never happen to me. Other kids I knew had sex all the time, no big deal. Why did I have to do so much thinking, doubting, trying to respect, and trying to be normal? Maybe I didn’t “do it” for her. Maybe I didn’t give off what a real guy was supposed to give off. I had a missing piece, and it was too late, and I just couldn’t.
Mom marched downstairs. A gust rose outside; the kitchen window shuddered.
Lately, Liz and I were on a plateau, like this cute couple that couldn’t quite grow up. I loved her, she said she loved me, and she never lied. Realizing that made me feel bad, because there was stuff I sort of left out when we talked. Maybe that’s why we were on a plateau, not climbing the mountain, like other couples. I heard Dad following Mom down, slower.
I was afraid to ask the Halloween Question again. What if she felt the plateau, too? I’d never find another girlfriend. It was amazing that I’d found her. I felt powerful with her. Having her helped me settle my insecurities. I was afraid I was the one stopping us from climbing. But having sex would be like getting a diploma, or when they stamp your passport (I guess; I’ve never been to another country except Wallaçonia, which I’ll tell you about in a bit). My worries would be over. But what if, when I said, “Let’s make love,” she stopped and gave me this sad smile, and said, “We’re on a plateau, Jim, and I think I know why”? Then I’d have nothing at all.
Wallaçonia is a young adult novel with an appeal for all ages. It’s about an older man who mentors a younger friend, helping him grow—and grow up. At first our young hero swears he can do it all himself. But the mentor appears and brings out things the boy never could have realized or done on his own. And then there are parents, a girlfriend, and even an erstwhile victim of the hero’s bullying all entering into the picture. In the end, Wallaçonia is the story of everyone’s journey to understanding.
DAVID PRATT is the author of three published novels: Bob the Book (Chelsea Station Editions), which won a 2011 Lambda Literary Award; Looking After Joey, now re-released by Lethe Press; and Wallaçonia, a young adult novel just released by Beautiful Dreamer Press. Several of his short stories are collected in the volume My Movie (Chelsea Station); three of these stories are being adapted as a film by San Francisco-based director Joseph Graham. [Photos by Dot; cover design by Ann McMan]