Alphabet Song

“Now I want you to keep taking these antibiotics, even if you start feeling better, all right?” His patient nodded, but Olly could tell she was still too high to be held to any promise. “Ms. Marvin, if you don't take one of these every twelve hours, the infection will get worse. Trust me, you don't want the infection to get worse.” He glanced down at her chart and saw that she'd given her cell phone. Well, there was something in her favor at least. “Listen, I am going to call you and remind you to take them.”

She smiled dreamily up at him. “Call me...” she said, trailing away as she scratched at her arm, even though he'd already wrapped it in fresh bandages. They covered the track marks, too.

He put a hand on hers to stop it, calm it. “Ms. Marvin, if you won’t go to the hospital, I know a place where—”

She shook her head adamantly, batting him away. Olly hated releasing someone in this state, but they didn't have a full-time care facility. The only other option was admitting her to a nearby hospital, and most people came to the Free Clinic because they didn't want or couldn't afford the hospital. So he had to do all he could and hope for the best in some cases.

He helped Ms. Marvin down off the table before leaving her to change from paper gown to the grungy clothes she had arrived in. She didn’t need another lecture, but he stuffed a brochure to a local rehab center into the brown paper bag that held her medicine. When she emerged from the examination room, he pointed her toward the exit, reminding her one last time to take one pill from the bottle every twelve hours.

Then he headed over to the check-in desk to consult the computer system. Sweetie had recently donated a few old but upgraded machines to the clinic, and he had updated their scheduling software at the same time. Now he could just check a monitor and see a list of all the patients waiting, as well as the ones that had been specifically assigned to him.

Except that, now, no one was assigned to him. He tried again, double-clicking on his name, but not a single name appeared in his patient list. His shift wasn’t supposed to over for another three hours.

“Oh, Dr. Walsh!” Carol, the office manager, exclaimed, turning as she hung up the phone. “I took the liberty of reassigning all of your patients. The principal of your niece's school just called, and he said you're needed down there immediately. Your sister called, too, and made a threat... I don't really remember it, but something about using your DVDs as Frisbees if you didn’t get to the school?”

Olly wasn't sure if he should be worried about Maylyn or worried for himself. The school was only supposed to call him in an emergency if they couldn't get a hold of one of her parents. But if Swan was also calling him, it meant the school had called her too and she was pissed at him about something. He hadn't seen Maylyn since December, during her Christmas break, and he was sure he hadn't been asked to pick her up from school and look after her since then. So what could possibly be wrong enough to warrant a call?

It wasn't until he was behind the wheel, halfway to the elementary school, that he realized what must have happened. The only reason he'd be called in addition to her parents was if his services as a doctor were required. She must have had an accident or fallen ill, and it must have been worse than the school nurse could handle... but maybe not bad enough to immediately send her to the hospital in an ambulance? Best to call the uncle who happens to be a doctor to come in for his expert opinion. Filled with worry now, Olly unconsciously pressed down on the gas pedal just a little more.

He made it to the school in record time, having only hit one red light along the way. But by then he was nearly frantic. He made straight for the main office, heart pounding so that he could feel it in his throat. The woman working at the front desk was gray-haired and wore an expression that said she did not let kids mess with her. Almost out of breath, Olly blurted. “Maylyn Walsh—I mean Lawrence Walsh. I mean, that's me. I'm Lawrence Walsh. Someone called me about my niece, Maylin Napier?”

The secretary took one look at him, frantic and still dressed in his white coat from work, stethoscope hanging from his neck, shiny red ribbon pinned to his lapel. She raised a hand, index finger straight up in the air. For a moment, Olly thought she was going to tell him to wait or to calm down or something like that. Instead, she bent her wrist back so that her hand pointed over her shoulder at the room beyond the front office. “They're in Principal Stevens' office.”

Olly barely had time to wonder why they would be there instead of the school clinic when the door flew open. Kurt stood in the doorway, looking cross the way only a father could. His hand gripped the doorknob, turning even as he stood there with the door open. “This way, Lawrence.”

Lawrence. Kurt never called him by his real name. This wasn't a good sign. Olly headed into the office, feeling like he had done something wrong.

And, a few minutes later, he realized he had. “Nice of you to join us, big brother,” Swan said as soon as he entered the office. He'd known her long enough to immediately identify her 'I'm really effing pissed off at you' voice. She slapped the seat of a chair beside her, and he understood that was where he was to sit, right between his fuming sister and his cross brother-in-law.

Maylyn was nowhere in sight. They sat in front of a large, mahogany desk, behind which sat a man with an almost comically unruly black mustache. The placard on the desk proclaimed him to be Principal L. Garcia-Ortiz. Olly wondered what the L stood for; he guessed it wasn't Lawrence. And, even if it were, the man looked in no mood to bond with Olly over that coincidence. The man leaned forward, hands folded on the calendar blotter on his desk. His body was still apart from thumbs that were rubbed against each other repeatedly. Olly found his eyes drawn to them, which fortunately kept him from staring at that mustache. Did he know how silly that thing looked? He couldn't possibly. “Lawrence Walsh, is it?” he had a bit of an accent, and he spoke slowly, clearly, which must serve him well as a principal. Olly nodded. “Thank you for coming in. There's been an incident with Maylyn.”

Incident? What kind of incident? “Is she all right? Where is she? Is she hurt?”

“She's fine,” the principal assured him. “It was a behavioral incident.”

“Maylyn isn't a trouble-maker. She's kind and friendly. Sometimes she has security issues, but she's well-adjusted. You're sure she's all right?”

“She's all right,” Swan said, sounding frustrated with him, like she might lose it all of a sudden and start yelling. Kurt looked like if he said one more word he might explode. What had happened with Maylyn to cause this? And why were they acting like they expected him to know already?

Principal Garcia-Ortiz was the one to explain. “She was caught singing an inappropriate song during music class. It was a song Mr. and Mrs. Napier here say that she learned from you.”

“From me?” Olly knew movie soundtracks. Olly knew academy award winning songs. Olly knew the tune to Happy Birthday. And he knew the thumpa-thumpa baseline of nearly every techno song Turbo played at Strokes. But he didn't know many inappropriate songs, let alone knowing one well enough to teach it to his five-year-old niece. “Are you sure? I'm not much of a singer.”

“Oh, we're sure,” Swan said, seething now, especially mad now that he seemed to have no idea what she was talking about. “Think hard.

Olly thought. Olly shrugged.

The principal continued. “The music teacher was doing a lesson about how three songs have the same tune: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star; Baa, Baa Black Sheep; and the Alphabet Song. Maylyn decided to sing the latter using... a different set of lyrics.”

Olly froze. Olly paled. “Oh no...”

“Oh yes!” Swan snapped back. “She made it as far as the bit about transexuals before the music teacher managed to get her to stop.”

“So she didn't make it to the part about polyamory?”


He held his hands up. “All right, I know it's not a joke. But it's not so terrible. I drove over here thinking she might be concussed or have broken her arm or come down with a horrible fever. Frankly, I'm a little relieved to find out she was just singing.”

Then Kurt finally spoke, through clenched teeth. “She sang a song about sexual preferences to a room full of five and six-year-olds who shouldn't have the word 'bisexual' in their vocabularies for another ten years. That is not okay.”

Olly turned to Kurt. “I didn't say it was. I'm just saying I'm glad it wasn't something worse.”

“Why did you even teach that song to her?” Swan asked, rubbing her temples in small circles with her index and middle fingers. “What was going through your mind?”

“I didn't teach it to her,” Olly tried to explain, but he knew he was sounding too defensive. “Coyote wrote the song for this Seattle Pride Festival gig his band is playing. So he played it for us a couple times to work out the kinks. But we didn't teach it to Maylyn.”

Swan shook her head. “She's at an impressionable age. She parrots everything she hears. She picked it up like that.” She snapped her fingers like some overly dramatic soap opera star. “Who writes a song like that for kids?”

“It's not really for kids.” Again, defensive. Olly tried to explain. “It's to teach people the meanings of the letters LGBTQ-etc.”

Kurt spoke again, teeth still clenched hard. “Sung to the ABC song? Of course she's going to think it's for kids.”

Poor Maylyn. She already knew her ABCs backwards and forwards. So it hadn't been a mistake that she sung it. She must have thought she was showing off some fun, adult knowledge. She must have been trying to impress her teacher or her classmates. And instead she was stopped and reprimanded. And, really, all of this really was Olly's fault. “I'm so sorry. I had no idea this would happen. If I'd known she was paying attention, I would have talked to her about what the song means. But she isn't hurt and she hasn't hurt any of her classmates. No real harm was done.”

“No real harm?” asked the principal. “Letters will have to be sent home to parents about this. The children are going to want to know what words like 'lesbian' and 'gay' mean.”

“Then maybe they should be told. They're going to find out sooner or later, and it's not like they're curse words.”

“Some of our parents might disagree with you, Mr. Walsh.”


“Excuse me?”

“Dr. Walsh. I'm a medical doctor. I work all day with people who society tries to ignore—people who can't afford health care, people who would otherwise die from easily treatable infections or illnesses, people who are dying of complications due to AIDS and don't have any family who'll take them in during their last months, people who weren't allowed to be who they are out in the open or who were arrested just because of who they happened to love.” Swan, Kurt, and Principal Garcia-Ortiz began to interrupt, but he held up a hand, politely gesturing that he intended to continue. “You're saying that the worst that comes of this are a few questions from children as they learn about the world around them that might be a little uncomfortable to answer. That's something I can live with. But I'll take the blame for that, not Maylyn. And if you want me to speak with the parents or their children—”

The principal did interrupt me this time. “Ah, I don't think that will be necessary, M-Dr. Walsh. This is a public school, but we're still accountable to the country, the PTA, and the school board. We can't suddenly teach a lesson about equality and tolerance—”

At this, Swan sat straight up in her chair. “Excuse me, but that is exactly the sort of lesson you should be teaching.” Relief washed over Olly as he watched his sister’s anger shift, transfer.

“Mrs. Napier, it's not our place—”

Swan's eyes had fire in them now, which she directed right at the principal. “Do you really think Maylyn is the only student in her grade with a gay family member? There may be students in her class who have two mommies or two daddies or a mommy who used to be a daddy. They might already know some of these terms, and they need to know the correct way to use them.”

Olly was beaming. He couldn't help it. There was the sister he loved, at last.

She turned back to Olly, though, the fire definitely not diminished any. His grin faded fast. “But five years old is too young to learn specific terms like bisexual and pansexual and transexual and intersex and demisexual—”

“That one isn't in the song.”


“Okay, sorry. I understand. I'll be sure the boys and I watch what we say when Maylyn is in the house. And the next time Coyote visits, I'll make sure he doesn't sing the 69 Bottles of Lube by the Bed song.”


“Kidding! Completely kidding.” Though he might actually drop Coyote an email tonight with that suggestion.

Swan turned back to the principal. “Is my daughter being punished for what happened?”

The principal shifted a bit. “She has been told she must obey her teachers and that the song she sang was not what was being taught. I'm considering this a warning. Another outburst like that, though, and she might be looking at missing lunchroom or recess privileges.”

“I can guarantee that won't happen,” said Kurt, who had finally relaxed a little in his seat and figured out how to speak without sounding as though he were about to fly off the handle. He stood up and shook the principal's hand.

Olly and Swan did likewise with general, muttered “nice to meet you”s and “thank you for bringing this to our attention”s. It was nearly time for school to let out, so they waited in the office until the bell rang before going to Maylyn's classroom to pick her up. Little kids filed past them on their way to buses or to walk home with older siblings or parents. Maylyn saw them and ran over.

For about a second, she looked thrilled to see all three of them there. Then she must have remembered doing something wrong and her smile vanished. “Am I in trouble?” she asked, sounding timid and not at all like Swan had asking nearly that same question of the principal.

“No,” Kurt replied, getting down on one knee and taking her little hands in his. “But we are going to have a talk about following your teacher's rules and about when to and when not to speak out at school.”

Olly's heart came close to breaking as he saw his niece's eyes filling with tears then looking down at the ground. “This is about me singing that song, right? Mrs. Phillips told me I wasn't allowed to sing it.” She sniffled and then looked up again. “But I wanted to sing it, because it's about me!”

A hint of concern was in her voice when Swan replied, “What do you mean, honey?”

“I'm the A! I'm the A in the song!” she insisted. Swan hadn't heard the whole song; she didn't understand. Olly flushed; he’d never told Maylyn his sexuality either, and she couldn’t know that the A stood for him. “A is for Ally, and that's me!” Maylyn said, bouncing excitedly. “Because I want equal things for my Unkey Olly. I love my Unkey Olly so much. And I love my Unkey Nik and Unkey Pit and Auntie Al and Unkey Sweetie and Unkey Jamie and Unkey Yo—” That was as far as Maylyn got before Olly dropped to his knees and pulled her into a deep, strong hug.

He cuddled her close and stroked the back of her head with a hand. “Oh, sweetheart.” He pulled back but kept his hands on her upper arms. “I love you so much. We all love you. But there's a lot of important things about being an ally. One of them is knowing when to talk about your silly uncles with their silly songs and when to just sing the song the teacher is telling you to sing. Do you understand?”

She nodded. “I think so.”

Olly gave her another hug. “Good girl.”

Then they walked out of the school toward the parking lot. The visitors' spots were all bunched together near the front, so they walked in the same direction. But as Olly made to pull away and head to his car, he found himself pulled into a hug, not by Maylyn this time but by his sister. “Sometimes being an ally is also about knowing when to be pissed off at my big brother and when to be proud of him,” she whispered into his ear so that her daughter couldn't hear.

He hugged her back. “I think you were pretty justified to be both today. I don’t want to be the reason she gets in trouble. And I really will make sure the boys watch what they say. I keep forgetting how fast she's growing up. Seems like just last week you were flying to China to pick her up and now she's in kindergarten. How did that even happen?”

Swan laughed. “Kurt and I ask ourselves that question all the time.”

Kurt lifted Maylyn into her car seat and buckled her in. Then he turned back to his wife and brother-in-law “Do you know what else I've been asking myself?” Olly looked at him blankly. “I've been wondering how that alphabet song goes.”

From the car, Maylyn called out, “Don't worry! I'll teach it to you on the way home, Daddy!”


The LGBT Alphabet Song
by Coyote
(Music with no words, so you can sing along; song repeats twice)

L is for Lesbian, G for Gay
B are Bisexuals who like both the same
T is Trans either gender or sexual
And Q is also two: Questioning or a Queer catch-all
You might find other letters present
So lets talk about what those represent

P's Pansexual or Polyamorous
2-S means Two-Sprit, among the indigenous
Intersex is the meaning behind I
A can be Asexual but also Ally
Now you know what the letters stand for
In the rainbow forever more