Title: Atonement Camp for Unrepentant Homophobes
Author: Evan J. Corbin
Genre: LGBTQ Fiction; Speculative Fiction; LGBTQ Humor
Publisher: Atonement Book, LLC
The oldest translation of a Gospel is returned to the world by a secret society long dedicated to its preservation. In it, Jesus explicitly condemns bigotry and homophobia. In a new world in which LGBTQ passengers receive preferential boarding for flights and the United States has elected its first lesbian President, Pastor Rick Harris is stalwart, closeted preacher who doggedly holds onto his increasingly unpopular convictions.
When an incendiary sermon goes too far and offends an influential family, Rick makes a painful choice to keep his job: He attends an atonement camp run by drag queens for society’s most unrepentant and terminally incurable homophobes.
Atonement Camp is immersion therapy for Pastor Harris, and it might be working. An open bar with pedicures, a devastatingly attractive roommate and an endless supply of glitter help him manage to make new friends. Soon, Rick and his cohorts learn the camp may hold its own secrets. Amid the smiling faces and scantily clad pool boys who staff the camp, a clandestine group plots to discredit the New Revelation and everything it stands for.
If Rick has the conviction to confront his own hypocrisy, he might be able to uncover the conspirators with help from his adopted flock—and find new truths within himself.
CONTENT WARNING: This novel addresses issues related to the infliction of emotional abuse by a homophobic parent who suspects his son to be a homosexual. Separately, while not the author's intent, some readers may interpret the story's attempt to confront issues of religious hypocrisy as an assault on religion itself. No such conclusion is intended. Lastly, the novel follows a protagonist who, at times, uses hateful slurs to refer to members of the LGBTQ community. Such language is intended to give authenticity to a self-hating, closed member of that same community. Readers may appreciate the protagonist's growth as he embraces his sexuality and reconciles himself with his faith.
The Pride flags of the honor guard flapped tauntingly, or so it seemed to Rick as he made his way into the entrance pavilion. They were, however, well organized, he grudgingly admitted. Rick glumly accepted the laminated itinerary he was given at the reception.
“Name?” a drag queen with green hair and leopard-print fingernails asked him as he took his turn at the next table.
“I’m the Reverend Rick Harris of the First Freedom Bap—”
“Pronouns?” she interrupted.
The woman looked up from the registration roster. “Your preferred pronouns,” she repeated in her nasally New York accent. “He, she, they, them. You know?”
“No, it’s only just me.”
She sighed loudly enough to make a statement and jotted it down. “Now, take this paper down to get your photo for the ID.”
Rick looked around. “Wait, where?”
She abruptly turned her attention to the next person in line. A man waved at him from the next table. The camera booth was another giveaway, Rick thought, feeling disheveled and somewhat bewildered.
“Okay, my friend. Let’s see what you have here,” the bald man with a slight frame said, taking Rick’s paperwork. “Oh, good—you’re from North Carolina. I went to school in Chapel Hill. Always nice to see a neighbor!”
Rick puffed up his chest. “I’ve never set foot in Chapel Hill.”
“Here, look at the camera. In three, two, one…”
The camera flashed, and a machine instantly started printing his ID. The photographer handed the card to Rick. It was still hot to the touch. On inspection, Rick saw his grimace reflected back at him in the photo. Looks just fine, he thought.
He hung the ID card limply around his neck with a lanyard. Rick was told it would open all the doors he had access to, including his room. Rick immediately felt suspicious of the rooms he wouldn’t have access to and why. The resort now felt more like a minimum-security prison. Were not the best prisons those who lulled the captives into the belief they were free? he thought.
“Last thing,” the camera man said, “just need you to sign this release.”
Rick numbly took the document. An inked X marked where he was supposed to sign. His eyes glanced over the small font, and only a few passages caught his attention.
Campers hereby consent to and assume risks appurtenant to the use of glitter, hot glue, brunch, fashion crimes, humiliation, binge drinking, light bondage, playful sadism and/or masochism, and role play (collectively, the “Assumed Risks”). Campers hereby release the Camp and its instructors, officers, employees, and shareholders of any liability related to the Assumed Risks.
Jesus, Rick thought as he scribbled his name.
“I’ll let you boys settle in. Your luggage will arrive in a few moments. You’ve got an hour before we all meet in the auditorium, so feel free to freshen up. Each room is appointed with an en-suite bathroom, naturally. The bunk beds may be a bit Boy-Scout chic, but don’t let it fool you. There’s a seven-hundred-thread-count sheet set on each of them,” Eileen promised.
With that she retreated, closing the door behind her. It clicked and automatically locked. Jimmy and Rick stood in silence for a moment, taking in the room. It reminded Rick of a college dorm, except much nicer. Next to the beds were two adjacent desks. Amber-colored hardwood floors. Real wood by the feel of it, Rick reasoned as he stepped further into the room. The smell of fresh-cut lumber still lingered in the air—a telltale sign that the whole facility was as new as it looked. A giant TV hung on the wall. The room reminded Rick of pictures of nice hotels he’d seen in magazines. Aside from the occasional motel on the side of a numbered highway he’d stay at on his way back and forth from a regional church convention, he’d never had the occasion to sleep in one before. He just knew this was better than most would expect. How much did it cost to send me here? he wondered.
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Evan is a member of the LGBTQ community who fancies himself as a playboy socialite, living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Between work and lucid moments of sobriety, he writes a little. His debut novel is a light-hearted work that still manages to confront religious hypocrisy and contemporary LGBTQ struggles to balance their loss of culture with new-found civil rights. His friends say the book is great! Hopefully, you will as well.
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