We are happy to bring you Part Two of Gomorrahs of the Deep, a Musical Coming Some Day to Off-Broadway by Steve Berman, a gay musical short story from his upcoming anthology. Missed Part 1? Catch up here.

The next day, during lunch, my best friend Casey lowered her vintage cats eye glasses further down her nose before poking me with a french fry. “You look like someone took away your pixie sticks and your parents blocked Bravo.”

“I had a fight with Hugh.”

She dipped the offending fry into a puddle of mayonnaise kept by a napkin on her lunch tray. “Not ‘we had a fight.’ So you admit this was all your fault?”

“Did not!”

“Well what weren’t you solely guilty of offending him with?”

“He wants to give a presentation in Shimel’s class. On how gay Melville is.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“It’s crazy. Capital ‘C’ crazy. The kids will tear him apart.”

Casey rolled her eyes. “Please. You know how much of the assigned reading has gay sub-text staring between the lines? We’re all used to it by now.” She nudged Sharon sitting beside her, causing her to spill some of her milk down her chin. “Right? Some of us like reading about all that boy-smooching.”

She stood up on the bench.

If you squint real hard you’ll actually see

great works of literature don’t shy from sodomy.

My eyebrows rose. I glanced around but the rest of the cafeteria seemed ignorant that a senior wearing thrift store chic was singing in their midst. They only cared about their greasy carbs or wilted salads.

It’s all subtext I’ll have you know,

of boys wanting to find some beau.

Read ‘tween the lines if you don’t believe me.

Then Sharon and the other girls sitting at our table lifted their lunch trays over their heads, swiveled around and swayed.

And we girls, how we love to think of those guys

stranded on the beach in Lord of the Flies,

waiting for fair-haired Ralph to conquer his Jack,

while the choir boys ‘round them didn’t hold back.

Casey kicked away a foil-wrapped burger.

Think fan-fic is only recently?

I’d wager folk in 16th century

wanted that hunk Romeo

to dump Juliet for Mercutio.

Read ‘tween the lines if you don’t believe me.

And we girls, how we love our gamecock.

That Watson adored his roomie Sherlock.

Sure Doyle gave the good doctor a wife.

But we all know Holmes was his fantasy life.

Casey leaned down and offered me a hand to step up onto the table. I shook my head no, so she grabbed my arm and pulled me up with surprising verve.

Mark Twain’s books aren’t immune to such gaiety.

Or did you miss the crossdressin’ Huckleberry?

Running off with his Jim

for reasons not so prim.

Read ‘tween the lines if you don’t believe me.

“You’re crazy,” I said. And looked down to see I had stepped in mac n’ cheese. My poor Converses. Dairy and canvas don’t match.

After cleaning off in the bathroom, I was a bit late to Algebra. Ms. Benress turned from the blackboard, already marked up with problems galore, to give me the stink-eye as I took my seat.

I began copying xs and ys in my notebook. Why anyone would ever want to add such two different numbers was beyond me. Xs were… well, like me. A bit naughty by nature (you never see moonshine jugs with YYY on them or hope to see a Y-rated movie). Xs were complicated. Like an intersection or a crossroads. But passionate, especially with Os. But Hugh was totally a Y. Always wondering about things. Y this? Y that? And yet… you couldn’t spell so many wonderful words without Y. Dearly. Sweetly. Smartly. Yummy needed two.

Ms. Benress asked the class who would like to solve the latest equation she chalked on to the board. Hands went up. Not mine. Yes still she called on me. I groaned and slid out from behind my desk.

But my mind wasn’t even attempting to do the algebra. Instead, it put words to the patter of my feet, the tapping of someone’s pencil, even the ticking of the old clock on the wall.

Answers aren’t ever easy,

not when you’re unsure your right.

Not when you love him dearly,

perhaps I’m just too uptight?

The Xs and Ys please,” Ms. Benress said.

X marks the spot of my heart.

Only one boy has the map.

If singing keeps us apart,

I’ll end up feeling like crap.

How does he ever love me

when I only question Y?

What I’ve done, what misery.

Who wants to say goodbye?


I drop the chalk, I turned from the board and headed out the door. I knew that Hugh would be eating lunch and headed back towards the cafeteria.

A hall monitor looked up from the paperback book he read. He held up a hand to bar me from going further.

Please let me make amends now.

I’ll risk two days detention,

to tell him my solemn vow.

Please I need his attention.


The monitor sniffed at a coming tea and nodded his assent.

I ran down to the cafeteria doors, pushed them open and…

…everyone but Hugh in fifth period lunch stared at me. Not Hugh because he wasn’t there.

“Sorry,” I muttered.

I waited for him by his locker as the bell rang.

He offered me a weak smile, the sort that is a bit of armor for your feelings. I had never hugged him at school before. I wanted to so, right then and there, but hesitated too long. He opened the locker door between us. More armor.

“You didn’t eat lunch?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No, I went to the library to work on my report.”

“Maybe I can help?” I rubbed at his shoulder.

“You haven’t even read the book.”

I winced. “True. Well then, can I borrow your Dick?


“The Melville. I want to know what all the fuss is about.”

He lightly rapped the back of his head against his locker door. “What happened to your copy? We were assigned the book a month ago—”

“That reminds me to ask Amazon for a refund. Super Save Shipping my ass.”

“—and my presentation is today.”

“Yes, but it’s 8th period, last period of the day. I’ll give it back before 7th. Promise.”

“Fine.” He handed it over.

I made sure to brush his fingers when I took it from him. He sighed, a sign—I hoped—he was shedding some armor.


I brought the book with me to gym class. Yeah, Mr. Meno yelled at me, demanding I drop it, but I just told him that the school board was far more concerned with me exercising my mind than my body. He growled a bit but then ignored me for the rest of the class.

I could see that Melville liked his words, but I wasn’t so much interested in what he wrote as I was following the thread of notes that Hugh had made. They led me to this one ongoing passage about Ishmael squeezing lumps of whale spermaceti—which I hoped wasn’t what I thought it—ugh—with other crewhands. Hugh had written in tiny scrawl around the margins. I thought of secret codes and a thrill went through me:

Clearly this is Melville’s attempt to show not only the joys of masturbation but how such an affectionate act can bring men closer.

I grinned and fought down a massive giggle. Hugh had written “masturbation.” Serious Hugh. I wonder if he got turned on while reading the passage which seemed more gross than erotic to me.

Once thirty minutes of chin-ups, push-ups, near throw-ups surrounding me were finished, I followed after the other boys back to the locker room. I sat down on the scarred wooden bench down one tunnel of lockers and read more.

Before I turned another page, though, I noticed that the usual accompanying din of guys changing and showering had…a rhythm?

I looked up from Melville to watch a line of seniors, bare except for the towel wrapped around their waists, heading off to the showers. As they passed each locker, they slapped the metal door with their palms in a steady staccato, which they matched with a shanty:

Yo, all young fellows that just might be queer

for me, way hey, blow the man down

best pay some attention and listen here

Give me some time to blow the man down.

I set the book down on the bench and cautiously stepped to the end of the hall, watching as the line of boy as each stripped off their towel and threw it on to a hook–every one landing with perfect precision, as if a ball in a net—before they stepped inside the hissing, shower.

I’m a high school senior fresh from Jersey.

Breaking hearts because I have no mercy.

So I took a few tentative steps closer. The testosterone in my blood reacting like iron fillings to a magnet. As the guys sang, they soaped themselves. The steam from the hot spray obscured… well, all the good parts, like a cartoon censor.

When a cute guy is wanting a date

for me, way hey, blow the man down
when our bodies touch that just might be fate.

Give me some time to blow the man down.

Each slick boy squeezed the soap in their hands—like the sailors of the Pequod had worked the spermaceti—causing the bars to leap into the air, only to be caught by the boy next in line. Not since I was seven had my jaw hung so low.

Then tomorrow there’ll be another boy

all while yesterday’s one sheds tears ahoy.

You want me? Dare you take me home tonight?

For me, way hey, blow the man down

I’ll leave your bedside, my exit stage right.

Give me some time to blow the man down

I turned away from temptation…after a second look. I grabbed Moby Dick and was thankful for the book’s size in hiding the obvious effect the shanty performance had on my mainsail.

I ran into Hugh just before he walked inside his 7th period class.

“Hey,” he said.

But my answer was to tug him hard in the direction of the nearest boy’s bathroom—he started to complain, but I told him French class could wait.

Once inside the bathroom, I shoved him into a stall. I had a lot of enthusiasm I needed to work out of my system.

He met my kisses with guarded measure. “But…I’ll be… late.”

My lips ate his words up. I slid one hand around to the back of his polo shirt, another hand to the front of his chinos.

He pressed his face into the crook of my neck and gasped. He managed to say, “Not here. Come over tonight. We’ll watch Les Chansons d’amour again.


This story is © 2011 by Steve Berman (http://www.steveberman.com). This is a work of fiction, as are all characters portrayed in this story. Please do not copy without permission of the author.

My favorite film. “Promise?” We lost our virginity to Honoré’s visuals and Beaupain’s lyrics. I squeezed him tight as the echoes of the experience filled my head and chest.

“Tu doives entendre je t’aime,” he said softly into my ear.

I took a step back. We smiled and chuckled at our obvious erections. His hand cupped my face for several seconds. Then we left the stall and sought to look a bit more presentable.

“This is the greatest book ever,” I said.


“No. But this may be the greatest day ever for me.”

He kissed me again, on the cheek. “Don’t be late for English. I’ll need you there to cheer me on.”

I decided then to skip Study Hall. I knew I had to do more than just applaud my boyfriend’s efforts.

Stay tuned for Part Three!