3. Convert This

Convert This 2PUBLISHED: 2015.

AUTHOR: D.W. Finton.

PUBLISHER: Tate Publishing.

SUMMARY: Would you prefer a dead child or a gay child? This is the question raised in this fictional tale of a famous actor who is traumatized by his experience in sexual reorientation camp as a teenager. He goes on in life to experience career success but suffers with his sexual identity thus impairing his relationships.

TITLE: The subtitle of the book is the quote above: “Would you prefer a dead child or a gay child?” I chose this title: For everyone who would never read the book, I wanted to leave passers- by, with a sample of the content, give people a nugget to think about.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ THIS? “This book is about a normal family faced with an issue that they are struggling to understand, trying to accept a lifestyle that doesn’t fit into their world and their values. It is an inspirational tale of the strength of the bonds of love, even when love is being challenged.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Based in New Orleans, D.W. Finton is the previous author of “Don’t Put Her Down: You Put Her There.” She frequently speaks to groups about the issues she examines.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Through a Mother ’s Eyes

The Northridge earthquake happened in January, and since then, it seemed as though the mood here in the San Fernando Valley was as low as the water and gas supply.

This party was a highly debated big deal. Everyone in our close group of associates decided that enough time of grieving had gone by. We needed a break from thinking about the destruction caused by that 6.7 tremor.

So maybe it was my female instinct that somehow sensed that this April night would change my life.

And as I’d thought, everything that we knew came to an end. Not due to some bad joke or tasteless comment, like I assumed would inevitably happen based on uncomfortable discussions that had broken out during previous parties thrown by our hosts, Gracie and Thornton Lane.. But because their son, Sean, apparently was experiencing an identity crisis.

The whispers about his bedroom antics had every parent leaning in a little bit closer at the dinner table trying to find out what their teenagers were up to. My husband and I weren’t in a position to judge. The Lanes’ troubles served as a juicy distraction from the nasty business we were tied up in concerning our famous daughter, Sylvia, and her much-publicized rape trial—the source of my husband Phillip’s drinking habit.

Gracie tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “I have something important to talk to you about. Let’s go upstairs in private.”

Nearing the top of the stairway, we heard music blaring out from a doorway down the hall.

“I’m just going to tell Sean to turn that down,” she said, motioning me to follow her. When Gracie opened the door, I screamed, covering my mouth midway to muffle the tone.. Our boys hadn’t noticed that she and I just walked in on them giving each other oral sex.

Gracie gripped my arm and pulled me to back away from the door.

“This is what I suspected and wanted to talk to you about,” she said shakily and near tears. “Let’s let their fathers handle this.”

She shut the door quietly and rushed back down the hallway.

I’d seen enough in that doorway to know this hadn’t been their first time. Their pants were tangled around their ankles and hanging off of them. Her son’s genitals were exposed and half-cupped by my son’s hand protecting his testicles from bouncing while he gulped his penis in his mouth. I recognized my son’s, Daniel’s, fingers immediately: so short, thin and fair as snow. He swore to me before I left the house that he was too busy with homework to join us, not even to stop in to say hello. I fall for his cute deceptive smile every time.  I rushed down the hall and caught up to Gracie. The last thing I wanted was to allow her to go downstairs and make a scene.

“Remain as demure as possible,” I said behind her going down the stairway.

Trying not to stoke anyone’s interest, we discreetly returned to the party and rounded up our husbands. They followed us quickly as we traveled back up the steps, asking questions while we shushed them to remain quiet.
When we arrived at Sean’s door, Thornton sighed.

“What the hell is going on now?” he asked, exhausted at the constant chaos brewing around his only son.

“Open the door,” he commanded Gracie.

We all inhaled with a deep simultaneous breath in solidarity over our weariness for the conundrums that our children seem to get themselves into. Gracie slapped her hair out of her face and grabbed the door knob, forcefully flinging it open. The light from the hallway hit their eyes, and the two now naked
boys jumped up and scattered; one behind a table filled with computer parts, the other through the opened bathroom door. Daniel and I instantly stared into each other’s eyes. He began to sob, rendering me speechless, but not his father, who fumed.

“What on earth!” Phillip screamed. “Sean, what are you doing to my son, you filthy bastard? Come out of that bathroom and explain what you’re doing to my child!”

His father’s response caused Daniel to crouch down in shame and sob louder. I ran to him, grabbing his clothes off the floor first. I wanted to embrace him in my arms tight to soothe him after he hastily put his clothes back on. The Lanes stood silent.

I’m sure they were worried we would call the police, given that our son is a minor.

Seeing his father’s weeping eyes seeking clarity from someone in the room, Daniel ran arms stretched out to hug him saying, “I love you, Dad. I’m so ashamed, please forgive me, I can’t help this. I couldn’t control myself…”

With a heavy heart, I felt the need to break our silence. “You boys are so young. You don’t even know yourselves. Now get dressed, and know that we love you both.”

With that, Sean finally tiptoed out of the bathroom in his robe, swearing to us the whole time that, “It was consensual,” while his father told him to hush up.

The Lanes stood silent with disgusted scowls on their faces.

They kept their hands crossed and refused to show any inkling of empathy, too consumed in their own embarrassment over Sean’s behavior to acknowledge the boys’ humiliation. Once Daniel joined us, he and Sean hung their heads and
sobbed uncontrollably, seemingly destroyed about their feelings for each other. Phillip hugged them both. “You will get past this moment,” he promised, giving them the reassurance they seemed
to need.

The Lanes continued to stand there, breathless, yet cold, which was out of character for them. As former actors known to overact, they usually dramatically got hysterical and loud over the most mundane of things.

“Look, it’s getting late,” Phillip said glumly. “Your guests are probably wondering what’s going on, so let’s meet up at church tomorrow, all of us, and speak to the elders and talk about this. I don’t know how to handle this one.”

Daniel tearfully mumbled an apology to the Lanes, and they quietly led us out the back door of the kitchen to avoid attention. Heaven knows too many of these folks had nothing better to do with their time but gossip.

Sitting in the car on the ride home felt like being in a time vacuum going unbearably slow. Between Daniel’s inconsolable wailing and Phillip repeating, “I just don’t know what to say,” I wished I could catapult myself to another dimension. Truth be told, I was thinking the same thing as Phillip. I couldn’t find the words to make it all better, unlike so many times before. My only idea was to call my father when we got home. He always came through for us when we were stuck.

No sooner had Phillip pulled up into the driveway than Daniel shot out of the car like a flash of lightning. I couldn’t
help but wonder to myself why God picked the two of us to go through this experience.

“Neither of us deals well with high drama,” I whispered, still sitting in the car trying to make sense of what just happened.

Nor raw emotion,” Phillip added, completing and confirming my statement.

“By the way, Audrey,” he continued, leaning close to me, “you looked regal tonight. I love the soft, salt-and-pepper
natural look on you. Looks like a million bucks. I meant to tell you that before all hell broke loose,” he confessed.

I elbowed him. “May I remind you that the source of all the hell that broke loose is waiting for us beyond the front door,” I said somberly.

No doubt Daniel was in his room having a total nervous breakdown. Poor Daniel, the child born with bad nerves, so
emotional, always crying and throwing up whenever the pressure was on. It’s just our nature to distract ourselves with superficial nonsense about my one-of-a-kind, hand-stitched ball gown and my decision to not dye my gray.

“The silver is really becoming,” I said, trying to convince myself. “Gives me an air of knowing who I am and being comfortable with my age, don’t you think?”

“We know that’s a lie,” Phillip mocked, then straightened his shoulders. “We’d better address this before it gets too late, hon.”

As soon as we walked inside, I picked up the phone and dialed my father—a lawyer and soon-to-be head of the Hollywood Bar Association. I paced back and forth, waiting to hear his voice, yet fearing how to explain this latest bit of bad news. I hated to pile more kindling on the fire of gossip smoldering about our family—especially considering that he’s already in the middle of arguing for the ongoing child molestation case involving Sylvia.

My naive little angel was lured to some sleazy casting director’s house in Universal City, where he did God knows what to her. The poor thing came home with her clothes mostly torn off. We still haven’t put all the pieces of that puzzle together. She’s too ashamed or traumatized to give us all the details. We went on a retreat in the Verdugo Mountains, like her doctor suggested, but she still wouldn’t talk. Now this mess with Daniel and that perverted Lane boy. I hoped this didn’t push me over the edge and cause me to drink like Phillip.

When our baby girl came home dazed and confused, Phillip took to hiding whiskey bottles in the toilet tank, behind the china cabinet and any other place he could think to stash them. I don’t know why he thinks I’m not on to him, and I play along.

“Did he answer yet?” Phillip asked me as I mouthed “No” to him.

“This just had to happen at the Lanes’ house,” he said to himself, pacing back and forth in his home office. “I don’t know why we get pressured into going to these elitist, invitation-only snore fests. All they do is talk about life in their heyday when they were movie stars. Hell, they haven’t seen hide nor hair of their newly court-emancipated daughter and don’t have a clue where she is.”

Finally I heard my father’s distinguished voice. “Hi, darling, what’s happening now? Did you get Sylvia to talk?”

“Hi, Daddy,” I said, happy to hear his voice instead of listening to Phillip mumbling in the background. I hit the button to turn the speakerphone on. “No, but Phillip wants to say hi.”

“Hey, Willford,” Phillip boomed out. “I don’t know how these muckrakers sleep at night or justify the merciless way they keep throwing rocks at us through the pages of trash rags that print vile articles about how it’s our fault what happened to Sylvia.”

Knowing we were talking to his grandfather, Daniel ran into Sylvia’s room, as always, looking for comfort. It had been this way forever with him running straight into her arms instead of mine.

I walked behind him to my daughter’s room and plopped down on her bed with the phone in my hand.

“I agree with you there,” Dad said to Phillip. “Vultures, they are,”

Generations of audiences have grown up watching my father play the unconditional loving father that you bring all your problems to, which is true to who he is. Guess that’s why those roles came so natural to him and maybe the reason that he never got any credit for all the iconic parts he has played over the years.

In his day, my father, Willford Gaylord, was an established  character actor. Now he is the recognizable voice and face you’ve come to trust in commercials; the wise old man whose name you can’t quite remember.
Today, he is just my father and the family lawyer whose hearing is so bad that having a normal conversation with him is
exhausting.

I had to take deep gulps of breath to maintain the energy I needed to constantly repeat myself and yell out entire
sentences. Plus, I suffered through his constant interruptions as I painfully tried to explain what’s going on.

“Daniel did what? With who?” he asked, unsure.

“With the couple’s son whose daughter you helped emancipate,”

I clarified. “Their son, Sean, you know, he was kicked out of high school for eliciting sex in the bathroom. The Lanes’ son.”

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, anywhere books are sold.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: debwesfin@yahoo.com.

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writersbridgebridgebuilder

Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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