Joel Shoemaker

Joel Shoemaker has been a librarian for a decade and a magician for three! He lives in central Illinois with his husband and his dog, Maximus. He consumes an inordinate amount of cheese.

Award Category
Screenplay Award Category
When Timothy moves to town and meets a boy online, he is forced to consider his faith, his adoration for cheese, and his sexuality before ultimately falling in love with all of them.
bacon grief
My Submission

He was a man of God. And he was a man of God.

And they were loved by their family and they loved their family, each of them, although some, as happens,
struggled with understanding and acceptance along the way.

He attempted high school theatre by hobby, and he loved ice cream and sprinkles, and he liked reading and
libraries and quiet but also parties and confetti and the raucous nonsense times.

He loved The Lord of the Rings and computer games and singing and playing piano and pickles and olives
and other gross things that could be forgiven, but he did NOT like sprinkles on ice cream and, in the before
times, this was thought to be an inconceivable and unforgivable flaw; but, now, now that love was to be
involved, clemency was being looked into.

And there they were and that was them and they were also, of course, more complicated than that but they
were also, quite simply, extremely simply, perfectly simply

in love with Jesus and in love with each other.

(And so, this shall be a fairly simple story. Here is a synopsis, for those trying to save some time. Begin.
Love Jesus. Love each other. End. Well, anyway, it’s sort of a little bit almost like that.)


I had a girlfriend once.
I bought her a giant, stuffed Tweety Bird (registered trademark) for Valentine’s Day (registered trademark).
Give Hallmark a dollar and Cut me a break, it was sixth grade.

Anyway, she cried.

The girl actually cried.

And I thought it was a real, complete and total victory and I thought she really, completely, totally loved it like
in some kind of romantic comedy when some fella makes some kind of grand gesture and the girl cries
and they immediately make out and get married and such: but, turns out, it wasn’t so much a victory as
some kind of massive misstep.

Turns out, it’s really embarrassing to receive a giant, stuffed, trademark-registered Tweety Bird. Such a gift would make you cry.

Turns out.

Even in the sixth grade.

Even though I always and still loved and love carnival games and keep playing for larger and larger stuffed
animals only to always, always walk away with nothing or a pre-dead goldfish.

Anyway, I would have been grateful to receive such a giant stuffed animal, as previously described or otherwise.

I would have made out with me.

I would have married me.

Immediately and without haste.

We broke up on February fifteen.

I had a girlfriend once.

This was to be a sordid love affair, albeit, again and obviously brief.

This time I learned. Of course.

This time, there was no stuffed animal of any kind.

Trademark or no.

This was a boring relationship. We did touch, on accident, in the school hallway.

It was gross.

And then, doing math homework over the phone, as power couples do, I said, “Yeah, I don’t think this is working.”

She agreed. She said the math doesn’t add up.

That would be literal except, obviously we were way beyond addition. This was, like, the seventh grade or

“Oh, no. I’m sorry. My homework is fine.”

“Well. What’s the answer?”

“I meant us.” We said simultaneously.

“I just think we’d probably make better friends, or something. I mean, I like you, sort of. I guess.”


“By the way, I think the answer is four hundred seventy-three point twenty-one.”

“Yeah.” Sob. “That’s what I got.”

The other time I had a girlfriend was in the eighth grade when a girl wanted to take me horseback riding.

So, we went horseback riding.

Turns out, when a girl asks you to go horseback riding that’s, like, a date, and if she asks you to go horseback
riding again, then you’re like, dating.

In a relationship.

Boyfriend and girlfriend.

I no longer go horseback riding.

It’s not so much that I don’t want to accidentally find myself in relationships as I don’t like being thrown from

It hurts.

But it’s also nice not to accidentally find myself in relationships.

Later, as a good socialite does, I would go to all of our high school dances.

To which it would basically, more or less, be requisite to take a girl.

So I would.


Statistically, it turns out, three times out of three, that girl thinks you’re super into her.

Basically, three times out of three, if you’re not some kind of careful, you’ve got yourself a girlfriend.

One time I would wear Christmas lights to a high school dance.

It would be amazing.

My sister would pin them upon my JCPenny pin-stripe suit and there would be GIGANTIC battery packs in all
of my pockets.

It would make quite an impression.

Of course, the girl taken to the immediately aforementioned dance would make me promise to
marry her.


So, no, I’ve never really been all that good with girls.


Growing up Catholic is kind of hilarious. I’m sure you agree.

They don’t tell you why you do anything. So, here’s the plan. Dress up, kind of. Save your best clothing – you
know, for me, that’s the fancy shirt, the one with the buttons, and the bowtie, because neckties are stupid
[and, did you know my story would be so quickly, so divisive? Well anyway, I submit necktie lovers can keep
reading even though they’re wrong (and also the bowtie is fake because ZERO human beings have time for real
bowties – robots and other artificial intelligence probably do)] – for Christmas and Easter but, still, this
isn’t casual Friday. In here, it’s not your Sunday best, per se, but leave the cargo shorts at home.

(Actually, let’s get this out of the way. We don’t wear cargo shorts. Go, take those to your nearest donation
bin. For some reason, Goodwill accepts them AND gives your parents a tax deduction letter despite the
utter uselessness and total lack of resale ability.

Go ahead. We’ll wait.

I assure you, this is for the best.)

[So. Divisive.]

And back to Catholicism and not knowing anything about it, but we are good Catholics so we still do
everything, and we always, always sit in the same pew and we genuflect (this is one of the BEST words and is
too rarely used), and we sit and we stand and when the bells ring the bread turns into actual Jesus and, I think,
the miracle is that it still tastes stale and weird.

We’re there. Most of us don’t know why we do what we do, but we do it every week, over and over again and
we are there.

Until we aren’t.

I fell in love with this youth group at a Baptist church down the street because it was funny and meaningful
and also because they had pizza. And while it was probably the pizza, it could have also been that I
actually heard a bunch of adults speaking a language about the Bible (that made sense to me) that kept me
going. But, to be perfectly transparent, it was actually the pizza.

(Also, while cargo shorts are evidently, inexplicably allowed here, we still never, never wear them. When
they say love the sinner, not the sin, it is my belief that this is what they may be referring to).

Now that I have been going to this small group for the past two years, I truly feel a greater understanding of
Jesus and who he is and what his message actually means - much more than I ever got in fourteen years of
Catholicism, which is not necessarily intended to be a knock on Catholicism. After all, it is the root of all of our

It’s the root of who I am.

Indeed, Catholicism is calisthenics, but it’s so much more than that. No matter what this youth group
teaches me or what church I end up belonging to, I’ll always go back to my family church from time to time to
worship with them because it’s important to them - and, frankly, it’s important to me.

I just also like a greater understanding of Jesus.

And pizza. Duh.


1/ Hey. Hi! Hey.
2/ Hey! How are you? I’m just checking this chat feature out. It’s pretty neat.
1/ We don’t say neat. In fact, no one says neat.
2/ Cool! I meant cool! Everyone still says cool, right?
1/ Yep. Cool.
2/ Cool.
1/ Okay, probably too much.
2/ Right. Anyway, have you been on this thingy long?
1/ Thirty-seven years.
2/ Oh. Um, I’m fourteen. So…
1/ Right.
2/ …
1/ I’m totally kidding. I don’t even think the Internet is that old. And certainly not this chatroom. I think it’s
brand-new. Anyway, I’ve been on for forty-two minutes. It just feels like years and years and years. Are you
really a Christian? There’s so few of us on here.
2/ Oh yeah! My faith is pretty important to me. What church do you go to around here? Oh, hey, it looks like
you and I might go to the same school! That’s neat.
2/ I mean, cool. It’s cool.
1/ …
2/ Did you go? Did you leave? Are you gone? Hello…
1/ …
1/ No. I’m just pulling your leg. I’m not like that. You can say neat. You can say anything you want. I mean,
almost anything. Nearly anything. Words are my jam.
2/ Yeah? What’s your favorite word?
1/ Shemomedjamo.
2/ Uh, yeah. Okay, I’ve no idea. Like, my favorite word is probably spike or something. So.
1/ Shemomedjamo, I guess, kind of means I ate it all. Something like that. Anyway, I like weird words.
2/ Shemomedjamo. Cool.
1/ Why is your favorite word probably spike?
2/ Oh. It isn’t. I mean I like to play volleyball. Honestly I just made that up. I don’t know that I have a favorite
1/ But do you like eating? Because I kind of like shemomedjamo because I like eating.
2/ Well, yeah. For sure. What’s your favorite food?
1/ Cheese.
2/ Mmmm.
1/ Yes, I consider myself something of a turophile.
2/ Indeed.
1/ Oh! You know turophile!
2/ No, but I know antecedents and context clues. I’m no dummy. Example: you said your favorite food, ala the
food you most love in this world, is cheese. Which, for the record, is kind of a cop out because I’m nearly
certain there are at least hundreds, if not thousands, of cheeses. This guy put, like, five hundred and fortyseven
kinds of cheese on a pizza and got a world record so, it’s a thing. Anyway, immediately thereafter
you referred to yourself as a turophile. A cheese-lover.
1/ Touché.
2/ Neat word. Er.
1/ Cool.
2/ Cool.


bacon grief cover