Pumpkin Shell

Marshmallow crawled on the wide-open floor of the entertainment room, trailing a fluffy, bright orange, battery-powered pig which walked on its stubby little legs, then stopped every few seconds to wrinkle its nose and snort. When the pig paused, Marshmallow paused.

She wasn't getting very far, but her mind was on following that pig. Like her two daddies, it was teaching her about how things worked.

Derian and Jamie sat on the couch, watching their girl chase -- if that was the right word -- the pig. They left the patio door open to let a gentle breeze in, but the screen door was shut and locked, so Marshmallow wouldn't crawl out into the wooded back lot.

"Isn't life perfect?" asked Jamie, who was pretty confident of the answer. "Perfect home, perfect jobs, perfect Marshmallow..." He took Derian's large, workingman's hand in his. "Perfect love."

"Perfect." Derian spoke the word as if it were in a foreign language. "Some people don't think so."

"Who? No one that matters, that's for sure."

"Be right back."

Derian left the entertainment room, returning in only moments with a sheaf of envelopes.

"What are those?" asked Jamie.

"Letters from...let's say non-fans."

Derian handed the envelope to Jamie. Some were grubby. Some had thirty-seven one-cent stamps on them. Some were addressed with typewriters that needed servicing. All were addressed to the Stars' office. None of them looked like they came from people of great, or even moderate intelligence.

Jamie pulled the letter from the envelope on top.

"Dear faggots," he read out loud. "You and your faggotspawn are all going straight to hell...holy fuck."

The last two words were not part of the letter. Jamie shoved the letter back in its envelope and took out the next one.

"You queers make a mockery of Texas manhood. Acting as if you were every bit as decent as a man and woman united in holy wedlock. Not even a baby can make you respectable. Go back to your wives where you belong."

"That's a mild one," noted Derian.

Jamie read a third letter, written on lined notebook paper. The writer had gone though the trouble of writing this equation with a silver marker and outlining the text with a red pen: "Derian's Sperm + Jamie's Shit = Marshmallow Fluff". That was all he needed to read.

One letter had "fucken" as every other word. One letter quoted the verse from the Bible, Leviticus 18:22, which called homosexuality an "abomination". One letter asserted that "homosexuals cause more damage to America than any terrorist ever could."

"I can't believe it..." Jamie had lost his illusions of perfection. "All this hatred."

"Believe it, Jamie."

Jamie slowly pulled out the letter at the bottom of the stack.

"If I ever get you Star-fags in my sight, I'm gonna blow your heads off with my trusty .22. I don't care if your fucking Marshmallow is with you. Then I'm gonna chop that little bitch to pieces, 'cause she's gonna grow up to be a homo just like her daddies. EVERY HOMO MUST DIE!!!"

Jamie dropped that letter, his mouth letting out a strangled sob. Derian quietly picked up the paper, put it back in its envelope, then took the letters back to where he kept them.

He hated to have to do that. But Jamie had the right and the responsibility to know what -- the creatures who wrote the letters were not human enough to be called "who" -- was out there.

When he came back to the entertainment room, Derian found Jamie curled up on the couch, quietly crying. He sat down beside his mate, wrapped an arm around his shoulder and kissed him gently.

At the sound of the kiss, Marshmallow turned to face her fathers. She giggled and waved her arms at them.

"Oh, Marshmallow." Jamie reached down to pick her small, fluffy body up. "I'm gonna hide you in a pumpkin shell, and there I'll keep you very well..." He held her close to him, breathing in her baby-powder scent, his soul clogged with horror that anyone would wish to do her harm.

"I wish we could do that, Jamie." Derian wrapped his arms around both of them. "But we can't hide in a pumpkin shell, or anywhere else. We must face things as they are. And when she's old enough, we must teach Marshmallow to face them, too...because we can't prove they're wrong by hiding."

He glanced at the ebbing sunlight outside.

"Hey...it's going to be a pretty sunset tonight. Why don't we all drive to the outskirts of town to watch it?"

"Will it be safe, Derian?"

"It will be as safe as it can be."

Derian would take his camera, his flashlight...and his silver-plated .38, which he had only recently acquired the license to carry concealed, a license he had applied for after he read the letter from the guy with the .22.

Jamie didn't know. Not yet. Showing the letters was traumatic enough.

But he would tell. When, he could not say.