This story opens quietly, with Ethan coming home from his disappointing job only to find his strongly health-conscious mother deep-frying for dinner–a sure omen that painful discussions will follow the blessing. She’s invited deadpan FBI agent Ron Sweet to convince Ethan that he can’t actually be gay. Uncle Ron has a different plan. A few hours later, Ethan is embroiled in a whirlwind of enduring love and stark violence.
And now, an excerpt from Golden Boys…
My hackles rose as I came in through the garage door, though it took a minute to identify why: the crackle of the deep fryer and the aroma of onion rings. Mom fried grouper yesterday. With her fixation on Black Men’s Heart Disease, my mother does not countenance fried food twice in a week.
Terrific. Another we-still-love-you display to set the backdrop for another discussion of my sexual orientation. As if talking me out of being gay would be like talking me out of joining the navy.
My flunking out of med school had been bad enough. Nobody seemed sure whether to treat it more like my sister-in-law’s miscarriage or Cousin Wendy’s eloping with a known drunk. And—as of Monday—I’d topped that.
Maybe I should have come out when the fatal grade report arrived, killed all the family’s illusions at once, instead of waiting a few weeks to offer that twist to the knife.
“Ethan? Did you wipe your feet?”
I always wipe my feet. “Yes’m, but if I were an ax-murderer, wouldn’t this be a little bit late to ask?”
She smiled up at me. Not with her serene smile, but the careful one she’d worn since Monday. “I have a pot of boiling grease to throw.”
Like you’d ever do that. I kissed her offered cheek.
She’d had her braids redone, meaning she’d taken the day off work. Normally the incense from the braiding parlor clung to her skin. Today, fried onion overrode the scent.
The oven dinged. She waved at it, her eyes on the fryer. “Would you get that, please?”
“That” was garlicky Cuban chicken with rice—yes!—and next to it a cheese-topped casserole with bits of broccoli and scorched triangles of sweet pepper peeking out.
My mood lightened as my mouth watered. Three hot dishes meant company, but no roast meant family only. Conversation would center on some cousin’s engagement or breakup, job or job prospects, or the ever-popular question of how to protect black youth from the invidious street culture. Topics besides my quite personal business, thankyouverymuch. “Who’s coming for supper?”
“Tonight it’s just Honey and Ron. Plus Dido, maybe.”
Aunt Picky, Uncle Persnickety, and their Cousin Dyed-oh, who badly needed a husband to manage. I smothered a sigh. “I’ll give the front bathroom a quick polish.”
“Your dad just finished it. He’s changing now.”
Meaning I needed to wash up and change out of my scrubs quickly. My Student Nurse uniform. I’d bought this to wear as an intern, and wore it now as a symbol of my fall.
Her voice drifted after me. “Ron wants to talk to you after supper.”
Terrific. They’d decided to sic the FBI on me.