was always the chance, however slim, that some nutcase in
the crowd would pull out a gun and blast somebody away.
Marty and Chloe knew it, so they kept their eyes peeled.
They might have felt a little silly about being so
cautious; after all, nobody’d ever shot a Pride Day
speaker, but they weren’t taking any chances. Marty stayed
on his feet, keeping one eye on Selena and one eye on the
crowd. Chloe did the same. The crowd was happy and
boisterous. Most of the people were seated in the grass, a
lot of them with heads resting in lovers’ laps, some in
outrageous costumes and more than a few practically naked.
So much exposed skin was distracting to Marty, but not to
Chloe. A top Secret Service agent couldn’t have been more
single-minded. Both Chloe and Marty would later say that
alarms went off at the sight of a man wearing a red
baseball cap and a camouflage T-shirt.
Marty’s wife, Selena, was slated
to speak to the crowd in Volunteer Park. She was a
fifty-year old mother of two grown children and
grandmother to a set of twin boys. A small woman, proud of
her still-girlish figure and resplendent in her simple red
cocktail dress, Selena was Grand Marshall of the Pride
The crowd shouted hurrahs,
applauded and whistled as a punk band called Muthuh Effer
finished its set. A minute passed as band members and
their fans who had been crowding the stage left the
performance area. The Mistress of Ceremonies, a well known
Seattle drag performer named Mother May Belle, took
microphone in hand and said, “Thank you, Muthuhs. Now,
let’s hear from a real mother, our Grand Marshal Selena
Mother May Belle’s introductory
spiel was filled with glowing references to Selena’s work
as a civil rights activist. She finished with, “Let’s give
this little lady a great big welcome.” Marty applauded
along with the rest of the crowd. He watched the big drag
queen step to the edge of the stage to take Selena’s arm
and help her up the three rickety steps onto the stage.
He was proud of his wife. He
thought she looked as beautiful as ever she had, more
beautiful even than she had been at seventeen. Of course
he was seeing her through a veil of memory. He knew that.
He wasn’t blind. Objectively, he knew that age was
catching up with her. Just in the past few months she had
begun to look like a worn and fragile version of the lost
little girl he had first met thirty-four years earlier in
a Nashville bus station. He couldn’t help but notice how
frail she seemed as she leaned into Mother May Belle while
walking to the microphone. Still, there was an inner
beauty, a strength of character, that shone through; and
he had no doubt it was just as clear to everyone else in
the crowd as it was to him. Besides, fifty wasn’t very old
at all. It was just that in his mind’s eye she was still
nineteen years old, and he was always somewhat shocked in
those moments in which she clearly looked fifty.
Marty kept moving, aware that he
might be blocking someone’s view, but unwilling to sit
down. He thought: If I was sitting in the grass trying to
watch and some asshole kept walking around in front, I’d
be pissed. Too bad.
Chloe also kept moving, her brilliant cape and
rainbow wig like flags flying over the hundreds of people
seated on the grass in the park. The two of them were
Selena’s self-appointed guardians, even though only one of
them — and not the one you might think — was in any way
capable of reacting decisively in an emergency.
Marty could tell that Selena was
nervous. Despite years of public speaking, she never got
over the terror that gripped her every time she had to
speak in front of a crowd. He could see that the smile on
her lips was forced. Scanning the crowd in the area right
in front of the stage, he caught a glimpse of their son,
William. Then, focusing back on the stage, he tried to
catch Selena’s eye and flash her a reassuring glance. That
was when he saw a blur of motion in front of the stage.
Whatever it was that moved so
suddenly was unclear to Marty, distracted as he was by
other bits of motion: small clouds moving quickly overhead
in a mostly blue sky, bits of paper flying in the wind,
people moving about, semaphore flashes of bright sunlight
across the assembled crowd. For just a moment Marty had
begun to let the flashing light lull him into a reverie,
remembering a sparkling disco ball and a beautiful young
girl at a high school dance — not Selena, but Maria, his
first wife. All day he had been haunted by memories from
long ago. Where they had come from, he had no idea. This
one came and went as quickly as the flash of a strobe.
Then he saw that other more
immediate and dangerous flash of light. For a glimmer of
time less than a full second it was a meaningless flash of
light, and then he realized that it was light reflected
off the barrel a gun. He shouted “Gun!” and rushed toward
the stage. At the same instant, he saw Chloe go flying
like some kind of circus performer, her ridiculous but
beautiful rainbow wig and fiery cape streaming behind her,
trying with all her might to put her own body between
Selena and the gunman, willing, if she only could, to take
the bullet for her friend.
But she was too late.
Selena clutched at her head and
crumbled to the boards. It was almost as if she melted
there. Rivulets of red between her fingers. Marty reached
the stage in seconds. He clambered up the steps and fell
to his knees in front of Selena. He lifted her head and
cradled it in his lap. Their son, William, also rushed to
the stage. He leaned over his mother’s body and wailed in
a loud keening voice like the call of some huge bird.
Blood gushed from Selena’s head wound, soaked into Marty’s
shirt and dribbled down her limp arm where it drooped to
the hardwood stage.
In the crowd, Chloe’s dive
through the air had landed her in the middle of a group of
people. Frantically she tried to extricate herself from a
tangle of arms and legs. People scrambling out of her way.
She pushed to her feet and scanned the crowd for the
gunman, but there was so much chaotic movement it was
impossible to spot him. She then turned toward the stage
and attempted to push herself to where Marty and William
hovered over Selena. By then policemen had taken up
position in front of the stage and would not let anyone
approach. “But I’m family,” Chloe said. “Marty, tell them.
Tell them I’m family.”
There was an ambulance nearby. At
major events such as the Pride celebration, there was
always an emergency vehicle posted in the parking lot in
front of the art museum, that hulking old art deco
building that sat just across the open field from the
outdoor stage. The ambulance made its way across the grass
and through the parting crowd. Uniformed medics hopped
out, leapt to the stage, lifted Selena to a gurney, hooked
oxygen to her nose, and carried her into the ambulance.
They were swift and efficient, not a word or a motion
Marty stood up, his hands hanging
helplessly by his side. William put his arm around his
“I’ll go with them,” William said.
“Are you a relative?” a medic
“Yes. Her son.”
Marty asked, “What hospital are
you taking her to?”
He told William he’d get Chloe
and meet them at the hospital. Quickly he scanned the
crowd for Chloe. “Chloe, where are you,” he shouted.
“I’m right here. Let’s go.”
She was standing at the edge of
the crowd. They ran out of the park. At the sidewalk they
panicked momentarily, unable to remember where they had
“This way,” Chloe said, and they
ran the four blocks to Marty’s car.
Harborview was no more than ten
minutes away, depending on traffic. On the way, Marty
said, “Why were you standing back in the crowd?”
“The cops wouldn’t let me near.
Didn’t you hear me? I was yelling, ‘Tell them I’m family,
“I’m sorry. No, I didn’t hear
you. I don’t know. It’s hard to think straight right after
seeing the love of your life get shot.” (Much later Marty
would recall that a strange memory had come to mind right
in the middle of the most chaotic moments following the
shooting. He suddenly recalled a scene from Alan Rudolph’s
great cult film
Trouble in Mind. In the film, there was a shooting
melee in the gangster’s mansion, guns going off all around
while the hero walked calmly away, completely unnoticed.
The hero in the film was Kris
The gangster, played by the great transvestite Devine, was
named Hilly Blue. Marty remembered that scene and thought
Selena getting shot was like a parody of the scene. Her
assailant must have escaped by walking through the milling
crowd in the same calm manner. And here comes the irony:
that scene in the movie was shot in the same location. The
art museum in the park served as Hilly Blue’s mansion in