Gender Cues and Christmas
Maybe this seems like an odd inspiration for a story at first. But I become more aware of societal gender cues, some deeply ingrained and some enforced by rabid marketing, at this time of year. When I pick out presents for my nieces and nephews, I’m struck between the eyes continually with notions of what are “appropriate” gifts for girls versus boys. I want to run screaming from certain aisles because they offer only a monsoon of pink and from others because they place too much emphasis on violent, mechanical things.
In television ads, we get to watch young women cooing over diamonds and going starry eyed over the new cars their male protectors have purchased for them. Real women want shoes and makeup. Real men want trucks. Colors must be appropriate. Clothing styles rigidly separated along gender lines. Oh, and girls just want to get married from a very young age I’m reminded in an ad where two kids Skype Santa.
It annoys me at times and frightens me at others, how gender cues are rammed down our throats, so the idea for this story wasn’t such a huge leap. A being comes to this planet, forced to stay here because he has no way back, and none of our gender cues make sense to him. In fact, many of them are so turned upside-down for him that he simply can’t adopt them and remain sane.
And General Teer was born—elegant, effeminate in our eyes, graceful and proud and “A Christmas Cactus for the General” is the story of how he comes to live on this strange, confusing planet of ours.
A Christmas Cactus for the General
From the Chestnuts Roasting Anthology
Mischief Corner Books
Exiled to Earth for perhaps the worst failure in Irasolan history, General Teer must assimilate or die. Earth is too warm, too wet, too foreign, but he does the best he can even though human males are loud, childish louts whom he can't imitate successfully. When a grieving seaplane pilot strikes up a strange and uneasy friendship with him, he finds he may have been too quick to judge human males. They are strange to look at, but perhaps not as unbearable as he thought.
So much water. General Teer checked the boards again, but he had read his instruments correctly. In the entire vast universe, there were bound to be planets such as this one, but his Irasolan brain refused to accept it. So much water.
Granted, much of it was saline, but those huge salt-laden expanses drove weather patterns. There would be rain more than once every few years. Enough rain that plants grew on the surface, huge plants in some cases, the likes of which he could not have imagined in dreams.
Oxygen levels ran a bit high, the average temperature too warm for comfort. I have only two choices remaining, though: acclimate or die. Perhaps it would be better…
No. His Exalted Keeropness had taken that from him. Denied an honorable execution and sent into exile, his last shred of honor would burn in the winds of this alien sun if he took his life now. No one would know, of course. Still, the idea was too repugnant to entertain for more than a moment.
Teer tapped into the record pod to send his final message home. "I, General Teer of the Second Horath, hero of the Violet Day Offensive, acknowledge my arrival in orbit around the planet of exile. I confirm that I have no knowledge of this system's coordinates. My stasis sleep remained uninterrupted throughout transit. I failed you, Karet. For that, I am deeply sorry. For the good of the people and the Keerop, I resign myself to this uncharted gravity well. May the mother of seeds have mercy on me."
With a sharp hiss, the landing pod closed around him, molding to his body so tightly he felt he would suffocate until the inner membrane began to feed him oxygen in little sips, just enough to keep him alive. The edges of his vision darkened. It was better to make these pod flights half-conscious.
The words of an old spacer's prayer whispered in his head as the pod launched. I step out of the great night into the unknown. May the gravity pit's clutching embrace leave me breath and bone.
While Angel Martinez is the erotic fiction pen name of a writer of several genres, she writes both kinds of gay romance—Science Fiction and Fantasy. Currently living part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware, (and full time inside the author's head) Angel has one husband, one son, two cats, a changing variety of other furred and scaled companions, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.
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