Carl Jr. and Bubba Gene were kissing cousins at age 10—which got them into serious trouble with their fundamentalist parents. So much so that Bubba Gene’s family uprooted from Austin, Texas, to the Arkansas Ozarks to keep the boys apart. But their wise old grannies saw through the hoopla, and in their wills they left the grandsons valuable property and a prized pie recipe, much to the dismay of sibling rivals.
Fast-forward to 2015, and the cousins are now living together. After local churchgoers decide that these boyfriends must marry women and raise Bible-toting children, Carl Jr. flees the country to pursue an Internet marriage proposal in Ireland.
When the online connection turns out to be a leprechaun, Carl Jr. returns to Texas and our heroes rile the redneck kinfolk and stumble upon a mystery surrounding the blue-ribbon pie recipe that only Carl Jr. possesses. Seeking to recreate Granny’s award-winning pie and make a fortune, they place everything on hold and embark on a journey of discovery into the hillbilly hollows to solve the recipe’s baking riddle.
There they rely on Bubba Gene’s sis, who is at her wits’ end with distress because her 14-year-old son Randi says he is “transgender” and she does not know what the term means. She does understand her son is constantly bullied and harassed by the rednecks and has no positive future in the backwoods of Arkansas, so Carl Jr. and Bubba Gene offer her the pie business. Remembering all the crap they went through growing up, and knowing there are now protective programs and resources for LGBTQ students in Austin schools, our champions hatch a plan to move their kin to civilization before gossip spreads about the rescue mission. Once Randi and his supportive mother make the move to Austin, he hooks up with a friend, and they are set to enter high school together in the fall while the new business prepares to launch. At the “Independence Day Showdown at the Hoedown,” with fundie hillbilly clans and the preacher-man’s congregation all present and accounted for, the blue-ribbon award-winning pecan pie has been prepared properly for the first time since Granny’s passing. The crowd is bewildered that the sinful queers could have unraveled the cryptic recipe and turned it into a huge moneymaking venture. The young transgender couple makes a splash in the pool and everything is revealed, letting the chips fall where they may.
Carl Jr. and Bubba Gene make sure nobody leaves the hoedown without a piece of pie. At the end of the day, our heroes agree they will never refuse service to any paying customers at their Gravy in the Pie Company, and they graciously offer that advice as their own recipe for civility.
From Club Lighthouse Publishing. Available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Details: jhhayes.com.
J.H. Hayes is a native Texan raised in a Houston suburb. He now lives near Houston with his husband. —Troy Carrington