11:45 AM, Sunday, January 22nd, 2023
Patty Newman sat in her grandfather’s attic, sorting through all the items he had left with the help of her wife, Tess.
“Grandpa lived a full life,” Patty remarked. “I just know he’s up in the sky with grandma now.”
“Murray was a good man,” said Tess. “This town won’t be the same without him.”
Patty pulled a boxed of unsorted photographs off the bottom shelf of the bookcase.
“Photos,” she read. “March 1957-October 1958.”
“Yeesh. Didn’t your grandparents have photo albums?”
“Yes, but the Newmans take so many pictures, there’s not enough photo albums in the world.”
Patty opened the box and saw a big pile of photos of her grandpa’s family. He looked so young in the pictures.
“Just take that home, Patty,” said Tess. “We need to finish the house by Friday.”
But Patty saw a curious-looking photo resting on top of the pile. It was a photo of Murray and a boy she recognized from other photos as his childhood best friend, Fred. However, in this photo, Fred held Murray how one would carry a newlywed over the threshold. It looked like they were at a party.
“Whatcha’ got there?” asked Tess.
Patty flipped over the photo and found some writing on the back.
South Clatsop Homophile Association, February ‘58 Meeting.
Patty then read the inscription below that, written in different ink.
Patty, I knew this photo would get your attention. You see, I am bisexual. This isn’t something I shared with many people. People in my generation rarely discussed sexuality in public or with family, outside of activists. There’s more information in the diary under the baseboard behind the parlor TV.
Patty found the diary and brought it into the kitchen, where she and Tess were taking a lunch break.
“This is surprising,” said Tess. “I knew he was accepting, but I didn’t know he was bi.”
“Neither did he, apparently,” said Patty, “But Fred helped open his eyes.”
Patty read the diary out loud to Tess over their lunch.
The forest outside France, Oregon
3:18 PM, Monday, July 15th, 1946
Ten-year-old Murray Newman sat on the bank of the France River, near the base of Berberry Falls. He watched as the wooden sailboat his uncle gifted to him during his Fourth-of-July visit. It was peaceful to watch as the boat floated gracefully down the river.
Suddenly, the boat started going faster. And then over a tiny drop.
“Uh oh,” he said to himself. He needed to catch the boat before it got too far away.
He ran towards the bend, hoping he’d get to the boat before it got to the fast part of the river.
But someone pulled the boat out. Murray ran up to the boy who had rescued the tiny vessel.
“Looks like your Navy went AWOL,” the boy said.
“Thank you so much,” said Murray.
“Name’s Fred Stavridis. I’m new in town. I’m starting sixth grade at the Public School next month.”
He held out his hand, which Murray shook.
“Murray Newman. I’m starting fifth grade there, but I turn eleven on September 2nd.
“What do you know?” Fred remarked. “That’s when I turn twelve.”
“Well ain’t that on the beam?”
“Listen, if you want, maybe we could race boats sometime. I have a great one my grandpa got for me a while back.”
The boys walked back towards town, chatting away with each other.
3:23 PM, Friday, April 14th, 1950
Fred and Murray became fast friends and were almost inseparable over the next few years. But still, Murray was a year younger than Fred, so he wasn’t part of the same social circles at school.
Meanwhile, the France High School Varsity Baseball Team did not have a great track record, so they searched hard for a hitter who could get them ahead. But the team had some… “concerns” when their pitcher, Fred, suggested his eggheaded younger friend, Murray.
“The hell are thinking, trying to bring that twig onto the team?” said Coach Dilbert. “He’ll put us further back! Worse than last place!”
“Yeah, Fred,” said Jimmy, the catcher. “He’s an egghead. The other teams will eat him up.”
But Fred was adamant.
“Murray and I played baseball all the time with my family. He’s plenty capable. You jerks have just never seen him play.”
“Guys?” said Murray.
Everyone looked over at Murray.
“As much as I’m enjoying this conversation,” he continued, “just let me show you what I’ve got.”
The team begrudgingly walked out onto Beach Street Field. Fred was about to walk onto the pitching mound, but coach Dilbert stopped him.
“Absolutely not,” he told Fred. “You’ll pitch to his advantage. I’ll do it.”
“Fine,” Fred replied. “If that’s the only way you’ll give him a chance.”
Coach Dilbert took the mound. Murray stepped up to the plate. As the coach wound up to throw a whopper at Murray, the other teammates looked at Fred, who firmly held a confident glare at the diamond.
Coach Dilbert threw a curveball at the young, skinny, left-handed batter. He then watched in awe as the ball flew high over the fence, landing far into the beach.
Coach Dilbert turned back to Murray, smugly smiling at the coach.
“Beginner’s luck,” the coach dismissed.
Except it wasn’t. After the coach and three different pitchers, Murray’s tryout ended with him batting .325.
Needless to say, he made the team.
6:39 PM, Friday, June 2nd, 1950
The France High Swordfish were finally free of their dismal record. They finished the 1950 season with a final score of 75-70, third in the league. The team decided to throw a party after their last game of the season at Fred’s family’s restaurant.
Fred smiled at Murray, who sat across from him, eating spanakopita.
“What?!” asked Murray, blushing.
“I’m just so proud of you,” said Fred.
“Oh, this little thing?” Murray humbly bragged as he caressed the Team MVP award given to him by Coach Dilbert.
“Knock it off,” said Kevin, the right-fielder. “Don’t let this get to your head, but you are the best damn player this team has ever had on its roster.”
“Three cheers for Murray!” someone shouted.
Three hours later, Murray was in Fred’s bathroom, getting his pajamas on for the sleepover he was having with Fred.
“Hey Fred?” he called to his friend through the door.
“Yeah?” Fred asked while looking through his baseball cards.
“What do you think of Hannah Graber?”
“That girl from your English class? She’s alright, I guess. I don’t know her that well. Why?”
“I think she’s sweet on me.”
Fred froze in the middle of turning the page. He couldn’t figure out why, but he was somewhat bothered by this revelation. Was he jealous because he liked Hannah, too? Nah, that couldn’t be it. He barely knew her. He maybe talked to her all of two times.
Murray came out of the bathroom.
“What do you think?” Murray continued.
“Fred! Do you think she likes me?”
Fred thought for a moment. He knew he didn’t like Hannah, but he still felt jealous. Was it because he wanted a girl to like him?
“No,’ Fred answered. “I wouldn’t go for it unless you know for certain. Plus, I may not know her that well, but my sister does, and I overheard her tell one of her friends that she likes Jimmy Elkins.”
“Damn!” Murray exclaimed. “Of course she likes him. All the girls like him! It’s so unfair.”
Murray sighed. He was definitely disappointed.
Except Fred lied. He couldn’t figure out why, but this was making him incredibly jealous.
Another three hours passed, and Murray was dead asleep on the bottom bunk of Fred’s bed.
Fred, however, was wide awake. He couldn’t fall asleep. He kept trying to figure out why he was jealous that Murray was interested in Hannah.
Fred climbed off the top bunk and headed into the bathroom.
While washing his hands, Fred’s mind started to wander.
So what if Murray likes Hannah? Fred thought. That shouldn’t make me jealous. I don’t like her that way. And so what if she likes Murray? I don’t know if she does. My sister might.
What’s wrong with me?! Fred wondered as he turned off the sink. Do I wish someone would like me? Do I want to feel this way about someone? Of course, I do? But who? I tried dating that girl Lisa last year, but it just didn’t feel right. Who the hell do I want to have feelings for me? Who do I like?
Fred exited the bathroom and saw Murray’s face illuminated in the moonlight shining through the window. He snuggled his pillow against his face and laid with his right knee pulled up to his chest. Fred smiled when he saw this.
Maybe Hannah does like Murray, Fred thought to himself. Why wouldn’t she? Look at him. He’s probably the cutest kid at sch-
That’s when it hit him. Fred had finally realized why he was jealous. He didn’t want Murray to date Hannah…
…because he wanted to date Murray.