Race Point Light is my third novel, and it is about a man finding out that, when his culture wants to destroy him, his first duty is to protect himself, and his next is to change his culture. Here is an excerpt from Race Point Light. The narrator is Fair Shaw is twenty years old, a private in the US Army, the year is 196o. Shaw is about to be discharged.
Just before I got out, a new group of troops arrived in the company and started making remarks about me. “Shaw’s queer.” One of them was this big good-looking guy, a mechanic like most of the men in the company, who had to come to the orderly room occasionally to get some paper signed, who made snide remarks in a loud whisper. “Fucking queer,” he’d say as he took the paper from me. This got to be a big thing, and I began to think I had to do something about it—it had something to do with being a dog, Faulkner would have said—so one day I went down to the barracks of this big guy and told him I had heard what he was saying about me. “So?”
“So I’ve come to tell you to stop.”
He grinned. He shrugged. “Ya gotta make me, it seems to me.”
Suddenly, I found myself fighting this guy. The guys in the barracks gathered round to watch. I jumped him, and the other guy threw me around—against a metal locker—and I got up from the floor and rushed him again. He threw me off him again, up against a bunk bed. I was breathing hard, and it hurt getting thrown against the locker and the bed, but I thought I had to stand and fight, even if I lost. I wanted to hurt him, but that was probably not going to happen. He was hurting me. But that mattered less than my standing up and saying, I’m brave enough, even if I am not strong enough, to call you. He threw me onto a footlocker—he wasn’t trying very hard—and then people pulled me off him. They were people I knew who had come down to the barracks when they heard I was fighting the big mechanic. I was aware, when I had my hands on him, right in the middle of the fight, that what I really wanted to do was to feel his muscles. I wanted to fuck him. But they pulled me off him and separated us—made him go to his bunk and made me get out of the barracks, which was not my barracks—and so it was over. I had wanted to kiss him. Afterward, my first sergeant said to me, “It seems to me, if you’re going to get in a fight, you need to be sure you’re going to win.” But he missed the point. Afterward, I found no one called me queer anymore, even though the big mechanic had clearly won. I had stood up for myself, and that mattered.
Because this is what had happened. The fight had not been over whether I was queer. The big mechanic probably still thought that I was queer. The fight had been over whether I was a coward. Whether it was OK to treat a queer any way one wanted to. I had shown him that I was not a coward and that it wasn’t OK to treat a queer like shit. I won that one.
Dwight Cathcart. Race Point Light. Boston: Adriana Books, 2010. Ebook available from AdrianaBooks.com. This excerpt is drawn from Part 2.