A middle-aged gay couple’s misadventure in parenting is the subject of this wisecrack-laden fourth novel by the author of Mother of God (1990), etc. Life is moving along in an agreeable rut in Cambridge, Mass., for Sam, a busy chiropractor, and his partner Ed, who works for a tony art magazine (Figura) owned by a jet-setting cheapskate. But then unmarried Julie, Sam’s brother Billy’s former girlfriend, dies, and—thanks to a solemn promise made during a convivial drunken evening out—Sam and Ed inherit, if you will, guardianship of Julie’s 11-year-old son Scot. This kid isn’t your typical troublesome preadolescent. Scot owns a musical hairbrush and two make-up kits, uses Pink Gardenia hand lotion and won’t go anywhere without his Chapstick, plus his interest in school sports is limited to baton twirling and an ambition to become a cheerleader. Downing tries to work up a perfunctory plot from Sam’s vow to put “more strut and less swish” into their charge and from the complications that ensue when it’s discovered that Scot isn’t the only issue Julie and Billy created. But Downing doesn’t seem to have decided whether to write a serious comic study of how Sam’s and Ed’s relationship is both tested and clarified by the changes Scot brings or a TV movie script festooned with one-liners. Some of the latter are pretty good (gay-couple friends own a “feral poodle—; Ed repeatedly asks himself “What do you say to a boy in a neckerchief?—). The best moments here depict Scot’s effect on his guardians’ extended family of varyingly deranged friends and on his “normal” schoolmates (who hassle him mercilessly and would doubtless prefer to burn him at the stake). The TV movie ought to be fun. And with the (really rather endearing) figure of Scot, some lucky young actor will have the flamboyant role of a lifetime.