The Ballad of Sawyer Dupree

The Ballad of Sawyer Dupree

A Story by Naomi Bloom

This is the story of Sawyer Dupree, a teenager from Texas, who dreams of nothing but taking his crush Joanna to the prom.


Sawyer Dupree strutted home from school, happy and confident.  He had just invited Johanna to the prom and she had said yes!  He would never forget the moment when he had asked her.

Before class he looked in the mirror in the bathroom, making sure he looked okay.  He considered himself of average appearance, but today he looked very handsome.  His thick short brown hair was perfectly combed.  Sawyer’s blue eyes glistened in the artificial light of the bathroom.  His formidable muscles rippled, revealed by his wife-beater tank.  He wore baggy black jeans and his red Nikes looked almost brand new.  He grinned in the mirror, making sure there was nothing in his teeth and that his smile didn’t look creepy.  

Good to go.  You’ll nail this, Sawyer thought to himself.

However, once he got into science class, his heart was shaking violently, almost as if it might jump out of his chest onto his wooden school desk.  He sat through the lesson on creationism, barely paying attention to his teacher.  Beads of sweat trickled down his neck and journeyed over to his back.  It was always scorching hot in the spring, but today he sweated even more.  Even the slightest noise that wasn't the voice of his teacher made him jump out of his chair.

"Mmoooooo!" a herd of cattle murmured off in the field beside the school.  The sound through the slightly open window of the classroom made Dupree emit a loud nervous shriek and wave his hands in fright.

"What is it, Sawyer?" the man teaching them inquired, annoyed that his lesson had been interrupted.

"Erm, sorry, teach.  I just had too much coffee.  I'm really jumpy today," the teenager laughed nervously.

"Alright, well, try to calm down and listen to what I'm saying.  It's very important."

"Sorry," Sawyer shrunk back into his seat, extremely embarrassed.  

He looked across the classroom at Johanna, who hadn’t noticed.  Her light green eyes were focused on the blackboard as her thin white fingers scribbled down notes.  She had wavy, platinum blond hair, so light that it almost looked white as snow.  Her features were soft and delicate, save for her breasts which were large and perky, but probably quite soft.  Her large lips were like the amaranth pink petals of a fleshy flower, and their bold color stood out against her pale skin.

How am I ever going to ask her?  I don't think I'll be able to work up the nerve, Sawyer thought to himself.  He played with words in his mind, trying to wrestle the words into an acceptable question to ask Johanna.

Wanna go have some fun?  No, too weird.  

Wanna go out some time?  That's too bold.

Would you like to have dinner with me?  We're just teens, that sounds too formal.

"Dupree!" the teacher barked.  

Sawyer shot up in his seat, petrified.

"Do you have any idea what I just said?"

"Uh... You said... You said..." Sawyer scrambled for words.

"How did God create this earth that we live on?"

"By creating... parts of the world every day for a week," Sawyer prayed this was the right answer.

The teacher probed further, "And which day did he rest on?"


"Correct.  But you should still pay better attention.  Get your head out of the clouds!  If I have to wake you up with questions one more time you’re going to the principal's office."

This frightened Sawyer and he tried to pay better attention.  But then the phone in the room rang. ARRRING!  ARRING!  DING-A-DING!  ARRRING!  This made Sawyer jump out of his chair and cover his face with his hands.  The class looked at him with hateful curiosity.  

This was the last straw for Sawyer, "I can't take it anymore!" Sawyer turned to Johanna and looked her in the eye, "Johanna, would you go to the spring dance with me?"

"Ewwwww!!" most of the class exclaimed.

"You can't be serious," the teacher muttered.  Sawyer might have wondered why everyone was reacting so strangely to this but he was too busy waiting for Johanna’s answer.

Johanna looked up at Sawyer with wide, joyful eyes, "Y-yes!  Yes, Sawyer, I will go with you."

"Oh, that's great.  So great, Johanna!" Sawyer beamed.

Then Sawyer sat down, content but shaking with exhilaration and adrenaline.  It was just like that feeling one gets after speaking in front of a large group of people only instead of regret, Sawyer felt immense satisfaction.  He found it hard to focus during the rest of the class because he kept exchanging sly smiles with Johanna and thinking about the dance.

Sawyer could hardly wait to get home and tell his parents the big news.  He sprinted most of the way there but decided to strut as he approached his family’s humble ranch.  

The house was well-worn with the activity of a nine-unit family.  The sink was full of dishes and the house seemed ruffled about like his father used to ruffle his hair when he was a kid.  Clothes and toys were strewn everywhere as the inhabitants seemed to always be in a rush to do fun things with their family and friends.  There was never any time for cleaning.  

Sawyer said hello to his little sisters Ruthie and Berry who were playing with their barbies and dollhouse.  He passed Jessica, reading Teen People and listening to Taylor Swift.  As he approached the door to the backyard he saw his three brothers Billy, Bob and Kenny glued to a wrestling match on TV.  Seeing as his siblings were all in the expected places, he knew dad would be out in the backyard with his beloved barbecue.  Opening the screen door, the smell of mesquite and delicious spices filled the air and Sawyer desperately soaked up the smell with his nostrils.  He loved dad’s barbecuing.  

“Hey, sport!” his dad beamed at him, “Tonight we’re having bacon burgers and chicken tarragon burgers with asian garden salad, corn on the cob and scalloped potatoes.  And Berry made pink lemonade for us, too.  It’s gonna be a feast!”

His dad Doug was an amazing cook.  He was an artist with his barbecue and no burger ever tasted the same.  Doug was a construction worker but cooking was his favorite hobby.

“That sounds awesome, dad!  Now my big news won’t sound half as impressive.”

“You’ve got big news, boy?” Barney emerged from the field of corn outside smiling as wide as their two-acre ranch.

“Hey, pops!  Have I ever!”

They both stopped their cooking and looked at Sawyer expectantly.  

“OK.  Here goes.  I have a date for the Spring Dance at school!”

“Oh, that’s wonderful!” said Barney, “who is he?”

Sawyer swallowed and looked at his dad to see if he had heard right, “Um, what?”

“Who’s the lucky guy?” Doug echoed Barney.

“It’s a girl, guys!  Her name is Johanna.  Geez, I’m not gay!”

There was a long silence as Sawyer waited for his parents to say something, anything.  

“Please say something, dad, pops...”

“I don’t know what to say,” Doug was almost crying, “how could you do this to us?”

“Pops, do you feel the same way?” Sawyer felt completely lost and confused.  Why would they be mad?

“What do you think, Sawyer?” Barney yelled, “My son is doing something disgusting with girls, obviously because he hates us!  We did everything for you.  We clothed you, fed you, raised you, took you to school so you could learn about the world...”

“But one of the things I learned was that you have to accept everyone, no matter what!” Sawyer argued.

“Would you accept criminals or rapists?” Barney asked rhetorically.

“But I’m not...”

Doug was almost losing it, as he kept repeating the words, “Oh God.”

Barney’s voice was suddenly much gentler, trying hard to explain things, “Sawyer, being straight is just wrong.”

“Why?  What is so bad about it?” Sawyer became more angry and upset by the second.

“Men and women are not supposed to be together,” Barney said, “They are too different.  Men don’t understand women.  They’re too complex.”

Doug simply slouched into a lawn chair, exhausted from the ordeal, “Oh God!  My son is butch.”

Barney continued, “And women don’t understand men.  They aren’t complex enough.”

Sawyer thought Barney’s arguments were stupid and hateful.  They were his parents and they were supposed to love him.

“Well, I’m sorry, pops and dad, but I don’t like men, I like women.  You’re just going to have to accept it!”

“No, we won’t,” Barney responded quickly, “You have to become gay for us to accept you as part of this family.”

“Pops, you don’t choose your sexual orientation.”

“You could go to a straight-to-gay converter,” Doug suggested weakly.

“Never!” Sawyer was getting pissed, “That’s idiotic.”

“So you won’t change for us?” Barney asked, indignant.

“F**k no!”

“Hey, watch your language,” Doug said.

“Hell, it doesn’t matter,” Barney said softly, “he can swear until he’s red in the face now.  He’s not our son anymore.”

“What?” Sawyer and Doug exclaimed.

Barney continued, “We have to let him go, Doug.  You heard the boy.  He won’t change.”

Doug sighed, “I guess it’s for the best.  I couldn’t live with a straight son.”

“Are you shitting me?  You’re disowning me?” Sawyer yelled in disbelief.

“You’re dead to us,” Doug whispered, “You have 24 hours to get the hell out.”

Sawyer pleaded with his parents but they wouldn’t budge.  He’d never seen them so cold and distant.  Standing in his room, he slowly packed his suitcase, his heart heavy in his chest.  Usually the people who would comfort him during hard times were his dad and pops.  And now, he was dead to them.

Packing his suitcase, he began to realize he wouldn’t be able to bring that much stuff, otherwise it would be hard to travel around.  He would have to make some tough decisions.  There would be some casualties.  The thought of never seeing his home again brought tears to his eyes.  He would miss his brothers and sisters.  They loved him no matter what, but they needed their parents to survive.  He couldn’t take any of them with him.  No, he would be alone.  

He made sure he wouldn’t forget his most valuable possessions; a portrait of his family in a wooden frame, his walkman, his favourite CD (“How to Save a Life” by The Fray), his grandfather’s golden snuff box, the pictures his little sisters drew for him, Kenny’s short story about his family, the Mickey Mouse watch his brothers bought for him and finally his great grandmother’s book of poems from 1901.  The items would help him to remember his family, but they could never replace their presences, being able to talk to them, the moments they had together.  He would miss everyone so much.

He lay on his back in his bed, arms crossed, deciding to get some sleep before leaving for good.  He made plans in his head; to gather up some food from the house and take the Greyhound to Mississippi if he had to.  He had heard from his classmates that most guys were straight there.  Sawyer would ask all his friends around town whether they would let him stay with them a few weeks to help him raise some money, but if he was unsuccessful he would surrender to the coach bus and leave Texas.  It was a mostly sleepless night as he agonized about how he would survive on his own at sixteen.

He left home at seven am and tried not to look back but he couldn’t resist.  Sawyer saw his sister Ruthie banging on the window, screaming his name as loud as she could.  And then he saw Barney grabbing her as she struggled to escape, pulling her away from the window.

Next, he walked to his friend’s house.  Jesse Lowe had been his best friend since kindergarden.  They had been through so much together and despite the occasional falling out, they were still best friends.  

“Jesse, there’s no easy way to say this,” he paused.

“What is it, dude?” Jesse probed.

“I’m straight.  My parents kicked me out.”

“I’m so sorry,” Jesse said.

Sawyer smiled, happy that he still had a friend in his town.

“But I can’t talk to you anymore.  My parents would disown me.  Besides, being straight is just wrong.”

Jesse slammed the door and that was the last time Sawyer saw his best friend.

“But Jesse!” Sawyer wept.

Still hopeful, Sawyer headed to Johanna’s house.  If anyone would understand his problem, it would be another straight person.

However, when Johanna’s door opened, he was face to face with Johanna’s mother.

“Um, can I talk to Johanna?”

“I’ll let you talk to her one more time, so you can say your goodbyes, but then you can’t see each other no more, you hear?”

“Okay,” he responded.  This didn’t sound good.

Johanna came to the door solemnly, her face a pale mask lacking any emotion.  

“Mom, why do I have to talk to this breeder?”

Sawyer was confused, “Aren’t you a breeder too?  I asked you out to the Spring Dance and you said yes.”

Suddenly her emotion and vulnerability poured out.  Her forced facade barely lasted seconds.  The girl’s eyes welled up with tears and her voice shook as she whispered gingerly, “Sawyer, I’m still... like you, but my family forced me to say that I am a lesbian and they are sending me to a gay camp in a few weeks.  My mama is an alcoholic and she threatened to kill me if I date anyone who isn’t female.  I’m so sorry,” the tears streamed down her cheeks like waterfalls of sorrow, “I... heard you were kicked out.”

“Yeah,” Sawyer tried to speak gently.

“Go to Mississippi or Kansas,” she started to compose herself, “those are the best places for straight people.  I’ll really miss you,” a single tear appeared in her right eye, “Try to be happy for me.  For the both of us.”

Sawyer was angry that she was so resigned to her fate, “But it doesn’t have to be this way!”

Johanna’s loosened mask snapped back into place, “What are you talking about?  Get away from me, you butch jerk!  Mom, I think he’s trying to come onto me!” she shrieked mercilessly, “get this freak away from me!”

As Sawyer reluctantly left her property, he could see her looking down at him from her bedroom window and he swore he saw her wink at him.

Dupree rang the doorbell of every friend in town to no avail.  Some of his friends even spat on him and called him “butch.”  It was nearly four o’clock when he had finished his hopeless search.  Defeated, he tried his last resort.  His teacher’s house.

Trembling with worry, Sawyer knocked on Mr. Hatch’s door.  His teacher emerged, wearing his pajamas, Budweiser in hand.  

“Dupree?  What are you doing here?”

“I was wondering if you would be able to take me in for a week or two, help me figure everything out...” Sawyer was on the verge of tears.  There was so much riding on his teacher’s answer.

“Why would I do that?” Mr. Hatch was suspicious.  

“Because I have no where else to go except out of state.  You’re my last hope in this town.  My parents kicked me out when they found out I was straight.”

“Wait, you’re a breeder?  I thought that was a joke when you asked Johanna to the dance!”

“No, that was real, Mr. Hatch.”

“It was?  Then get the hell off my property!” he stooped down to his left and picked up his rifle, confidently aiming it directly at Sawyer.

Sawyer screamed and sprinted away as fast as possible, hearing gunshots firing in the distance.

Crushed, Sawyer walked half an hour to the convenience store and then the Greyhound bus stop.  He felt the stares of the people in town as he walked.  Dupree took the coach bus to Baton Rouge, Louisiana which took ten hours.  He stopped there for a meal and to use the computer at the public library.  He had never walked around this much in his life.  It was exhausting and frustrating.  

I’ll invest in a car when I’m older, Sawyer thought to himself, or even a bike.

On the computer he checked his email and sent an email to Johanna.  Maybe this way they could have a proper goodbye.

Dear Johanna,

I know your ma said you couldn’t ever see me again, but I had to write to you one more time, just to say goodbye to you.  Maybe your ma reads your emails and she will delete this before you see it, but I had to give it a shot.  I am in Louisiana right now, at the public library and I am headed to Jackson, Mississippi, hoping people will be more accepting there.

I never wanted to leave you.  I searched everywhere in town but no one would take me in, so I was forced to leave.

You must know that I have a crush on you, since I asked you to the dance, but I’ve been crushing on you probably since grade nine, when I first met you.  You have such beautiful bright green eyes and luscious lips.  I never got to know you very well but you seemed like a very nice person.  It’s such a shame we were never able to go on a date.

I know this is crazy, but if you’re still around in three years, I’ll come back to Abilene and try to find you.  Once you’re eighteen you can move out and do whatever you want.  Maybe things will be better then.

I hope you will write back, but if you don’t, I don’t blame you.  If I never see you again, I wish you all the best and I hope you find someone who will love you and a good career; something you love to do.

Your friend and former Spring Dance date,

Sawyer Dupree

He took another expensive Greyhound trip to Jackson, Mississippi, which took two hours, thinking he would be safe and happy there.  But everyone in town carried picket signs full of slurs against straight people.  Every building was branded with the same sign, “No straights allowed.”

He was more than five hundred miles from home.  Such a long journey, and for what?  To be hated all over again.  

He even saw a man trapped in a filthy cage, wearing a white sign that read, “Butch Gorilla.”  The people in town threw tomatoes and rotted fruit at him.  During a lull in the fruit-throwing frenzy, Sawyer approached the man and asked him if there was anywhere in the United States where straight people were accepted.

“S**t, son.  I’ve looked everywhere,” the man sighed, “I don’t think there is a single place.  They hate us more than first cousin couples!”


“Nowhere in the world.”

Sawyer fell to his knees and began to sob uncontrollably.  He would have done anything for some love, acceptance, even understanding, a place to live.  He was prepared to do something extreme for tolerance, acceptance.  But there was absolutely nothing he could do.  He certainly would have tried to kill himself if a flyer had not flown into his mouth at that exact moment.

Pulling the piece of paper out of his mouth, he eyed the yellow, red and green rainbow design and the bold, black all-caps letters.  

“What the hell is this?”

The flyer read:










Sawyer chuckled to himself, “Who doesn’t God hate?”


Sawyer wiped his tears away self-consciously.











Two days ago Sawyer would never have expected to find so much joy and hope in a pamphlet full of such hate, but this church sounded somehow wonderful.  A place of hope.  A sanctuary.

The Greyhound bus pulled up across the street from him and the man in the cage.  He dashed to the other side and ran up the stairs of the bus, handing the driver several bills.

“Topeka, Kansas, please.”

© 2013 Naomi Bloom

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Very inventive! At first, I assumed it was a town belief, like a cult or something.
Great job!

Posted 7 Years Ago

Naomi Bloom

7 Years Ago

Thank you!

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Added on February 7, 2013
Last Updated on February 7, 2013
Tags: the ballad of sawyer dupree, naomi bloom, ballad, sawyer dupree, story, short story, prose, fiction, teenager, texas, united states, america, tolerance, prom, love, longing, infatuation, acceptance


Naomi Bloom
Naomi Bloom

Ontario, Canada

An amateur writer of poems, short stories and other types of writing. I recently graduated from university and I am trying to figure out what to do with my life. Victorian England, name meanings, be.. more..

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