The next few days were pretty much repeats of the first day at school, except now we were getting homework. Rafe took that pretty seriously, so we quit the dope after school and met up after dinner to get stoned. I started meeting him at lunch in case anybody started anything. A couple of losers made wisecracks, but nothing we considered to be fighting words. The third night in the alley, Eddie and Ron said they couldn't keep me in smoke forever, that I had to start getting my own. I gave them twenty bucks to get some grass for me, and they brought it the next day. Rafe gave me some rolling paper and one of his pipes. I bought a lighter in the drugstore, and started wearing my denim jacket everywhere so I'd have pockets for everything.
I told Ken about Rafe, and he said he could come over on the weekend, just not to stay overnight. I told Rafe where it was and drew him a map. He thought he could get a ride. I put Ken's number on the map so he could call if he got lost.
When my mother was bringing me on Friday, we stopped across from our old house. Whoever bought it had been making some improvements all summer, including an in-ground pool, but now there was a big addition going on. My mother thought it was dumb to put a lot of money into that house. It was one of only two on the street. Everything else was factory buildings and commercial places like welding shops. One of my uncles had won the land in a poker game, and he sold it to my father real cheap.
When we got to Ken's, Tim and Jerry were playing cards on the umbrella table. Nobody else was around, and I showed them my pot. Jerry was excited, but Tim got all pissed off.
"What the fuck are you thinkin', man? Ken'll blow a fuse if he sees that shit! You'll never be able to come back."
"What's the big deal? Jimbo smokes it."
Tim glared at me, "Jimbo's thirty-five. And Ken hates him doin' it, too. It's the only thing they argue about. He doesn't like to be near that crap. Oh, please, man. Just ditch it!"
Jerry was suddenly nervous, "Timmy's right, Dave. Gimme it, and I'll hide it at Whit's house. Ken'll kill ya if he finds it. He hates drugs."
I said, "That's bullshit. He drinks beer all the time. What's the difference?"
Tim was exasperated, "Beer's legal, that shit's not. It's more than that. A lot of his old friends got fucked up on drugs and messed up their lives. I'm tellin' ya, if he finds it he'll probably kick us all out." Tim had a pleading look on his face. "Please, Dave? I don't want to see ya gettin' fucked up either. Why'd ya get it to begin with?"
I said, obstinately, "I like it. It's fun. You get high real fast, and you don't have to piss every two minutes. I'm keepin' it."
Tim just looked at me. He really looked sad. He got up and started walking down the driveway. He had his hands in his pockets and was hanging his head. I called after him, but he didn't even turn around. I was getting really mad, then suddenly I was afraid. He was my best friend. I ran after him, and I was crying. I caught up with him and grabbed his arm. He was crying, too.
"Okay, Tim! I'll get rid of it. Right now! Just please don't leave." I started pulling him and we walked down to the fish pond. I shook the whole bag of grass out into the water, then tossed the pipe and lighter in. I scooped a hole in the ground and buried the cigarette papers and the plastic bag. When I stood up, Tim came behind me and wrapped his arms around me and put his chin on my head.
"Thanks, Dave. Thanks. I don't wanna be an asshole about things, but you were really gettin' me scared. I don't ever want anythin' bad to happen to you."
"You're not an asshole, Tim. You're the best person I know," I said softly.
"I don't wanna screw things up with Kenny, either. I don't know what I'd do if I had to stay home all the time. I really love coming over here. I got other reasons. My real father is all messed up on drugs. That's why my mother left him. He turned into such a loser. I don't wanna get like that. Nobody deserves it, especially you." He moved to my side and, with one arm draped over my shoulder, we headed up the trail through the woods towards the house.
"I got a new friend comin' here tomorrow," I said. "His names Rafe. I think you guys'll hit it off ok."
"Did you ask Ken?"
"Yeah. He said it's ok."
"Rafe?" Timmy smiled at the name.
"It's Raphael. He rides the bus with me."
Tim smiled, "What's his problem?"
"Why's he want to be a refugee?"
"What's that mean, anyhow ... refugee?"
"Refuge means a safe place. A refugee is somebody that needs a safe place."
"Cool. I never put it together. I think Rafe just needs some friends."
"He doesn't have any?"
"A couple, but they're big druggies and he doesn't want to be like that."
Tim nodded, "Smart. What got you started with that crap anyhow?"
"Um, Rafe did."
"And you're bringin' him here? What's with you?"
"Timmy, I didn't know before just now. If Rafe brings anything with him I'll make him dump it, OK?"
Tim looked stern, "You better! What's he like?"
I smiled, thinking about Rafe, "Big, like you. Kinda sad and lonely, but real nice."
Tim snickered, "You like to gamble. How long will sad and lonely last out here? Two hours?"
I laughed. "Ten minutes, tops. Why's Kenny do this for everybody, anyhow?"
"Because he can, I think. Friends are everything to Ken. It's all that's important. He told me that his wife left him because he was never home, always travelin' for work, way worse than now. He'd be gone for months at a time. He was even on the road when Denny was born. The doctor had to call him at a motel to tell him he had a son. I guess he was all wrapped up in it, work and stuff.
"Ken was becomin' a big hero at work, makin' the company a lot of money. But he was losing his family and didn't even know it. By the time she left, it was too late. Jimbo and Barry told me he was a mess, started drinking big time, crying all the time. He knew he messed up all by himself. His friends helped him, and he finally got back in one piece. Then he bought this place. The house used to be the office for the mining company. I guess it was just a shack. Him and Barry built what's there now. Then he started helpin' people in trouble.
"I guess at first it was guys that were gettin' divorced, then they started bringin' their kids over. The kids were messed up, too, but there was always a lot of fun here. The first refugees were divorced guys, even Doctor Forrester. I don't think he planned anything ... it just happened. And when Ken figured out he could help, he just kept doin' it. He doesn't think it's hard anyhow, just lettin' people in on his fun."
All that time, Tim had his arm on my shoulder, and it felt good to me. "Cool! Um, do you know you were my project that first summer?"
Tim eyed me, "Your project?"
"Well, it could'a been anybody. Kenny wanted me to have a friend before school started. Told me to just stop bein' an asshole and somebody'd find me. You won!"
Timmy grinned, "Lucky me."
"No, Tim. Lucky me. I think I'm pretty good friends with all the guys, but I never knew about best friends. I got real lucky. Really, really lucky. You're the best."
We were getting towards the house. Tim pulled me a little closer. Barry was sitting out with Jerry now. Jerry saw us coming. "You guys kiss and make up?"
I couldn't resist. I stood on my toes and gave Timmy a big loud smooch on the cheek. He went "Ewwww", then wiped his face on his sleeve. He gave me the most amazing look, though. Right into my eyes, just right through me like Ken could.
"Yeah, we're fine. Where's Ken tonight?" I asked.
Barry looked at Tim and me. Tim still had his arm across my shoulder and I had mine around his back. "He's tryin' to finish somethin' at work so he can spend the weekend with you dildos. You get rid of the weed?"
"Dave dumped it in the pond. How'd you know?" Tim said.
"I got ears, I was just inside with the window open. Dave, what the hell possessed you to come here with that shit?"
I was looking at my feet. "I don't know. I tried it the other day and liked it. I didn't know there was any fuckin' taboo about the stuff. I mean, Jimbo smokes it all the time. Can I talk to you, Barry? Alone, I mean?"
Tim and Jerry looked at me, but Barry just motioned for me to come inside. We went up to the kids' bedroom.
"I got a friend comin' tomorrow. Ken said it's okay. I didn't tell Ken what it's about, just that he has problems."
"Why tell me?"
"He's gay. He says he is, anyhow."
"So, why tell me?"
"Barry, when I told him I knew somebody that was gay, he got real interested. I mean, he doesn't have hardly any friends. I think he just wants to know what his life's gonna be like. What it can be like. Everybody knows at school, and he gets hassled a lot. He's a big kid and I try to help him, but I can't be with him much at school. He's like a junior."
"You try to help?"
"I haven't had to yet, but if he gets ganged up on I can help."
"How's everybody know?"
"He told them."
Barry suddenly smiled, "Why'd he do that?"
"He thought his father told him to. He got it wrong. His father only told him not to lie. Like if somebody asked, not to lie about it. I guess he announced it or something."
"His family's on his side, then. That's the biggest thing." Barry was really studying my face. "Dave, you've really changed. Do you care about this kid somehow?"
I thought for just a second, and said, "Yeah, I do. And I just met him. He does dope and crap, but you can tell he's really smart and just wants a regular life. He won't even let me smoke 'less I do my homework."
Barry busted out laughing at that. "He your new Dad or something?"
He was still laughing, really bouncing the bed. "Sorry, Dave." Laugh, laugh, laugh. "It just strikes me funny. This kid gets you doin' dope, then makes you do your homework? That don't sound strange?" Laugh, laugh, laugh.
"He didn't get me doin' nothin'. He had some and I wanted to try it. I got wasted the first time, but after that he said not until the homework's done. Why's it funny?"
Barry deflated a little, but held his smirk. "I guess it's really not. Whattya want me to do?"
"Just talk to him, I guess. I think he's too sensitive, you know, to the way he is. I tried to fool around with it a little, and he got all upset. Like I was tryin' to make fun of him and I wasn't, I just didn't want him to think it mattered, and I guess I went too far. Barry, just talk to him if he wants to, ok?"
Barry moved over next to me. We looked at each other. He put his arm around my shoulder and smiled. "Davy, I'm impressed. I really am." He kissed the top of my head. "You're turnin' into a real person now. I honestly didn't think I'd see it. You were such a dork when you started comin' here, I was sure you'd end up gettin' murdered. Then you started makin' friends. Now I see what you and Timmy got. And you're tryin' to help somebody new. I don't know what I can do, but I'll be glad to meet your friend. What's his name?"
"Rafe. It's short for Raphael."
"Neat name. What do you think he needs, I mean how would I help?"
"I don't know. I just think you can. I mean, you're gay and so is Rafe. I just thought maybe seein' somebody regular and happy would help. I didn't tell the other guys ... that he's queer, I mean. I think he just needs some friends and he'll be ok. It sucks goin' to a different school, and I gotta make all new friends, too. I didn't meet many kids yet. If Rafe felt better I'd feel better. It'd be more fun."
Barry nodded, "Just introduce me to him. I'll take it from there. Is he involved with anybody?"
"Um, yeah. Like a boyfriend?"
"Boyfriend? That sounds so weird! I don't think so, I mean he said there was no sex or anything."
"Never mind. We'll figure it out tomorrow. How's school?"
I gave Barry my impressions of high school on the way downstairs. We started the charcoal grill, and all hung around drinking beer and doing not much while we waited for Ken. I was feeling pretty good. I felt closer to both Tim and Barry. Raphael was coming the next day, if he could get there.
I could get more pot on Monday.
... to be continued
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