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Set as Cold War sneaks to its end, “Snuck Past Death And Sleep” tells the story of four loners who meet at an insular Midwestern college that they will waken and terrorize. Lynn and Craig are non-traditional students. She enters college later in life to break through lifelong isolation; while he entered as a year-early whiz-kid and has bogged down ever since. Paul and Edward are dorm mates, brought together as the only two applicants to request a gay room-mate: Paul as an impulsive first step to coming out; Edward because he has nothing to hide. They meet at the cozy philosophy club; uncomfortably welded together when Edward proposes a club-sponsored, multi-viewpoint debate on homosexuality and the Bible. Only these four emerge as courageous enough, or with little enough to lose, to spear-head the project. They defy organized conservative resistance, waken a deadly, forgotten campus scandal,--and their own ghosts-when a visit from Paul’s homophobic hometown best friend drives them to shocking vandalism on the eve of the debate. Pressures reach the bursting-point as they meet their worst enemy and their best friend alike, and the worst consequences of all their actions come home to roost.

"Excuse me. Ms. Lynn Ritchie? "A well-dressed and crewcut slim black man, emerging from the basement steps, already approached with a pair of clipboards. She tried to size him up 'till she felt herself being caught at something; then she asked herself who she was really seeing .The white shirt and perfect red and black tie told her already that a new phase of the battle had started. Oh, hell, he’s just a kid like Paul she thought with some resentment, already trying to find some realism in anything she thought this morning. Why should organizing the debate be a battle; why should the way he dresses divide the lines? She wondered, realizing nonetheless it would all be so and high school was back in session. Well, what the hell stops me from wearing a nice shirt and tie? she pondered, stopping herself, barely from laughing at the now approached stranger. "Yes. My name is Dave Garvey, and I thought our petitions might be of interest to you. "Dave Garvey did not offer his free hand; either he was very rude or actually saw that Lynn wanted it to stay that way between them. The name rang a bell and she wondered if this was, after all, a battle. "This is a petition objecting to your homosexuality debate, and here is another petition blocking such an event from the Memorial Theater. "We thought in the spirit of fairness and debate that you might like to sign one or both. "She tried to find an emotion in his voice; hearing only declaration there. She gave him a special look: No Comprende. She couldn't believe how long she'd let that little gem sleep. Garvey said nothing yet, and she restrained herself from saying, 'you're serious. 'Dave Garvey yet said nothing, and turned to go. Lynn couldn't let him go yet; he'd be with her all day no matter what as it was, and this wasn't the way she wanted that to be. He acted like he knew me--how did he know I was in on the debate anyway? Had she talked to Dave Garvey and forgotten? No. "Just a second." she called, running after him, acting on three or for inspiration, not sure yet which one was the especially bad idea. Dave Garvey turned and looked at her, surprised and then hard with only the blink of an eye intervening. "Uhm, yes?" "In the spirit of fairness, and debate." She made herself sound as earnest as possible, as though weighing something new and now unavoidable; and what she was really up to was just starting to sink in for her. "Well, yes." he said, spending a second trying to remember "Every debate had two sides, you know." "Actually, we're trying for four. Three of them are Christian." she added on a guess. "They might be." said Garvey. "But the two sides I am thinking of is one side that wants to bring the issue up, and one side that might see it more fitting that the whole thing didn't happen. Every debate has to have those two sides or you're already putting one of the conclusions across. That is our considered opinion. "He spoke with a clarity wholly empty of any emotion she could recognize as motivating this kind of attack on their efforts. Goddamned, he can talk good, thought Lynn, amazed at the wetness and embarrassed heat of that very thought as she tried to swallow it down; and something indeed did land in her gut, for a good long stay it felt. Well, I'm no hero this time. She thought. But I do have to see this thing through. "Well, I guess some side always has more to gain out of having a discussion at all, than if.." "Damned right." said Dave Garvey with bland, sharp force. "That's the only reason it ever happens." "Haven't you put on debates? Any group you're with? Knowing about the other side?" "Generally not. That's what speakers are for. Speakers you can take or leave. And if we do do a debate, you can bet if anyone's forgotten what I've just said, I'm in line to remind 'em." "Well, at least you're honest." she said, not really acting at all somehow that she was saddened and a little taken aback. Pause. "I guess the others will at least understand." she said, putting out her hand. After a pause, reading her whole stance, Dave Garvey handed over the clipboard, and musing over what she was doing, she caught Ron Smith and a couple of other names before she finished scrawling John Cutter in print. "I promise you won't regret this." said Dave Garvey just as his shoulders started when he really checked the form. "Oh, well." he said. "I'll have to spend five minutes tonight getting those signatures again. Wonder how you'll do a debate without a room, though." So he really does expect those names to meet together tonight. She hoped she would remember them, she was sure that she would. She made a halfstep to the side and then forward, impelled for some reason to take the steps that had emitted Garvey, as if she now reclaimed them. Anyway, she had nothing more to say to Dave Garvey; and at least he seemed just gentleman enough not to take the last word to a turned shoulder.

Benjamin Norman Pierce was born in Denver, Colorado at 4 degrees of Virgo, Scorpio Ascending, in 1962, moving to Wausau, Wisconsin on his 2nd birthday and leaving on his 23rd. He has been a professional dish-washer for 15 years, a trade he entered in the process of earning BA’s in philosophy, history, and creative writing from the University of Minnesota, Saint Cloud, in 1989. He lived in Sophia, Bulgaria for two and a half years, teaching history at First English Language Gymnasium of Sophia, participating in the expatriate writing circles there, and taking time to learn painting. He currently resides in Nottingham, a co-operatively owned house in Madison, Wisconsin, and is a frequent participant at open-mike readings.


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