Falling Off a Log
The next day I got to school late. Halfway there I remembered I was supposed to bring a tape for Brian and went back to get one. When I finally got to school, Scott's bus was just unloading, so I met up with him and we went inside. We made plans to meet up afterwards. Davey would take me home to get my things, then to Scott's house. I didn't run into Nick or Keith all day.
After school we met at Davey's car. He said he wanted an ice cream and that he'd buy. Not hearing any arguements, we headed to a drugstore near town that had great shakes and a pretty good jukebox. We sat in one of the booths and ordered.
Davey started, "Scotty, Joey ... I wanted to say how sorry I am for bad-mouthing Nick. I know he's your friend and I had no right to do that. I was really stupid to feel the way I did, anyway. Dad set me straight about that last night ... for about two hours."
"I'm glad, Davey. We like Nick ... whatever he is. He's a real good musician and he can be pretty funny, too," I replied.
"So, what did Dad say, anyhow? He was real mad when I told him what you said about Nick," Scott said.
"He started out naming names - a long list of famous people. Historic people like poets and artists, modern people like sports stars, musicians, actors. Writers, politicians - every thing you can think of. All names you'd probably know. Then he asked what they all had in common. All I could think of was that they were famous. Brrp! Wrong Answer! They were all homosexuals. Men and women. I couldn't believe it. Then he went on to say that nobody knows for sure, but they're probably just born that way, that they aren't turned into it and can't turn anybody else that way. That they can be good or bad people just like anybody else, but the only thing that made them different from me was who they loved. Then he said it's a bad world for people like that because not enough people have tolerance for them. People think they're different, and different means bad. That he thought I'd been brought up better than that, and he was real disappointed in me. That I had all kinds of friends - boys, girls, blacks, Puerto Ricans, younger kids like you guys, older kids like Joey's brothers. Why didn't that worry me and queers do? Then you know what he said? That I was afraid. Afraid if I liked a queer it would mean I'm queer to. He asked was I going to turn black because I had black friends Then he said he's known tons of queer men over the years and, yeah, a few have tried to hit on him. He just tells them he's not into that, and they leave him alone. Forever. They can still be friends. I really feel stupid, And I'm real glad you guys made me shut up the other day. At least I didn't call Nick a name to his face."
"So are you gonna try to like Nick?"
"If you guys like him, then I already do. You've got good taste. After all, look at who you picked for a big brother! So, am I forgiven?"
"Um, gee. Let's see ... one small ice cream equals forgiveness? I'm not so sure about that .... Joey?"
"I see where you're going with this. Big brother picks on little brother's helpless young friend. Farmer John learns of this and drills Big Brother a brand new asshole. Now he has two ... ."
"Yeah, I got two assholes, and I'm sittin across the table from both of 'em. Finish up and let's go!"
"Oooooh. Big Brother's temper flares for the second time in two days! What will Farmer John think now?"
"You guys ever heard of wedgies?"
We shut up and finished up. Dave was the wedgie master of all time. We left the store laughing, but Scott and I walked behind Dave in self defense.
When we got to Scott's house his parents were on the porch. Scott put on his best pout and asked them "What's an asshole?"
"What?" they asked in surprised unison.
"What's an asshole? Davey called us assholes and I want to know what it means."
His parents turned their stunned faces to Dave, who protested, "I was just doin' the crossword and talkin' out loud. Scott, I still need a six-letter word that starts with 'w' and means extreme pain!"
We left Scott's baffled parents on the porch. We went up to his room to drop my stuff off and change out of our school clothes. It was really getting towards winter, so we put on jeans and sweatshirts. It wasn't really cold during the day yet, but as soon as the sun went down the temp dropped pretty fast. We were gonna head out to the loft, but as soon as we hit the porch Scott's Dad said, "Guys. We need to talk.."
Oh, shit. "About what?"
"Let's go up to your loft. This is between us.."
We climbed up to the loft. Scott and I laid down in a pile of hay. He laid his head on my shoulder. So he could hear what I was thinking. His Dad sat down on a bale.
"Guys, there's two big things, then we can talk about whatever." We both nodded. "The first thing is Nick. Joey, your Dad called last night and told me what you said. I asked around today about Nick's stepfather. He didn't sound like a bad guy. He's got a lot of friends, anyhow. He runs an auto parts place downtown. I went to see him and he really did seem pretty nice. I just told him that Nick was in a band with you guys and I thought we should at least get to know who each other was. As soon as i mentioned Nick's name he changed. He went ballistic, actually. Called Nick a lot of names that I don't care to repeat. I tried to calm him down, but he went on and on. Asked me if I was one of 'them' too. I knew what he meant because of the words he'd just used, and told him no, that I had seven kids of my own. I also said that, given the percentages, there was a fair chance that one of my own might be 'like that'. Anyhow, he couldn't be talked to. He really does hate the way Nick is, even though he had liked him until he found out how he was. And he told me - very loudly - how he found out. He said he'd do the right thing and provide for him until he's out of high school, but then it's goodbye. I told him how hurtful it was to hear all this, and how if he'd liked the kid once then how did this change things. But he couldn't be talked to. I finally gave up and left. Do you guys know anything about his real father?"
I said, "He talked about him a lot, but he lives far from here. He really loves his Dad. He got mad when I called him Nicky - said only his Dad could call him that. I guess there's not much money and he doesn't see him very much. He said it's been a year."
"That poor kid. Scotty, do you know anything more?"
"Joey knows him better than me."
"And I'm just getting to know him. He's really a nice kid, but I can tell he's all messed up. Davey told us what you talked about last night, and I talked to my Dad, too. All I can do is try to be his friend, and Scott's gonna too. And Davey. I really like Nick, but I'm just a kid like him. What can I do?"
"Just be good friends for now, guys. Scott, can you maybe ask him to come over soon? I think I want to talk to him."
"He said he'd come over tomorrow, Dad. I hope he does, but I didn't really even tell him where we live."
"Okay. If he doesn't show up, you can call him. I've got the number."
"Thanks, Dad. For trying to help."
"No problem. The next thing is, I want you guys to be able to use the studio. I know it's more than you need, but what the hey? It's there. And I don't have anything planned until Spring. I spend a couple of hours there every day - more if something pops in my head, but it's basically wasted most of the time. You guys should use it. And the other part is, you're getting really good. We need to plan a little concert. A private one, but you've got to play in front of a few people. We can do it right here. Mostly family - people you've already played in front of. But a few others - maybe have everybody ask a friend or two. I don't know, we can decide that later. But Thanksgiving's in about a month. Joey's family will be home from school and they should hear you. We just need to come up with a good reason that the studio's here to begin with."
"Joey thought we could say you rent it out to rock stars - to make extra money - so they have some place private to practice. I can't think of anything better."
His father thought that over for a moment.
"That's good! That's what we'll say. That way your friends will know why you never told them about it. It has to be private because famous people come here. Can't have a bunch of local kids hanging around looking for autographs. It'll work! Good one, Joey!"
"When can we tell Nick and Keith?"
"Soon. Very soon. Let me just think about it for awhile. You guys got any questions for me?"
"Come on, Joey."
"Well. Um ... what do homosexuals do? To each other ... I mean ... with each other?"
Scott's father spent the next ten minutes giving us the rather startling details. And the terms, both proper and vernacular. When he was satisfied that we knew what we needed to he got up to leave.
"Oh, one more thing, guys. You have breakfast." He disappeared down the ladder.
A double groan. The term 'You Have Breakfast' meant we had to COOK breakfast. For at least ten people, more if anybody else was staying over with Scott's brothers and sisters. And we had to do it early. The first shift had to be fed at five AM so they could take care of the animals, and we'd have to stay with it until at least seven. If anyone got up later than that, they were on their own.
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