"So, Richie. Ya glad ya brought Eddie here?"
He started to lean against the woodpile, which was only a rick. As soon as he did, it looked like it was going to topple and I grabbed his arm to keep him from making a mess and getting hurt. He looked back at it before turning to me. "Whoa! That looked more solid. Yeah, I'm glad I brought him. I was trying to like him before we came, but he was kinda morbid. When he's in a good mood he's really pretty neat. Do you like him?"
"Yeah, I like Eddie." I looked a question at Rich. "You'll stick with him, right? I mean, I don't want today to be just a flash in the pan. It'd probably wreck him to have a day like today and go back to the same old shit on Tuesday."
"Wednesday. School doesn't start 'til Wednesday for us."
"Lucky bastard. So, will ya? Stick with him, I mean?"
Richie looked at me and smiled. "Hey, Eddie's my friend. Anybody that messes with him is gonna get his ass kicked into the middle of next week!"
"Yay, Richie! " I grinned at him. "You're somethin' else, ya know that?" I was going to say something else, but Adam ran over.
"I need an adult to talk to my Dad. Eddie does too. We can stay, but only if our parents are sure that somebody's here."
I looked around. There were plenty of adults, but I didn't know which one would be the best one. I spotted Rennie and pointed him out to Adam. "Ask Timmy's father. At least he really lives here."
Richie watched Adam trot away, then turned to me. "Adam's a nice kid, too. I like all your friends. You think him and Eddie are, uh ...?"
"I think they're gonna be friends, Rich. They both need a friend right now, so you bringin' Eddie here is doin' double duty."
Richie smiled and almost leaned against the woodpile again. He caught himself this time. "Cool. So I'm like Dear Abby or something?"
"Something, anyhow. What the fu... heck's takin' Timmy so long?"
"He's probably talking to somebody. Let's go get some paper ourselves."
We hadn't taken two steps when Tim came out of the house with an armload of newspaper. When he got close, we could see that he was grinning like a pig in shit.
"What took so long?" I asked.
"Donny's in there telling jokes. He cracks me up!"
"Not him. Don! It's so funny. He doesn't just tell 'em, he acts them out. I'll tell ya some later. Let's get this fire started before the sun comes up."
"Is it late?" I asked.
"It's around ten."
We set about crumpling up paper, then covering it with sticks and small logs. When it was ready we discovered that we didn't have anything to light it with. Tim offered to go into the house for matches but, remembering how long it took him to get the paper, I suggested that he just look for the nearest person who was smoking and borrow a lighter. He did, and with the gentle breeze that was blowing we had a nice fire going in just a few minutes.
Tim went to his car to get a blanket. The fire drew a lot of people while he was gone. Brian and Rafe showed up, followed by Adam and Eddie. Barry, Jimbo and Sherry came over, then Artie and Pam. Adam and Eddie said they had permission to stay and that Adam's father was bringing them some sleeping bags.
Before long, most of the people still there had congregated around the fire. Ken came over with Mary, holding his guitar. Tim and I were sitting on the folded blanket, and he handed the guitar to me. I hadn't been practicing, so I gave it to Adam and he started strumming and adjusting the tune.
Ken and Mary sat down opposite where Tim and I were. They were soon flanked by Jimbo, Barry, Sherry, and Don and his wife. Artie and Pam sat beside me, Rafe and Brian beside Tim. Adam and Eddie were behind them. I thought my mother had left, but she and my sisters were sitting with Rennie and Tim's brother Don. Jerry and Deanna came up behind me and Tim and sat down.
People were talking quietly among themselves, but most of us were just staring at the flames. I personally thought campfires offered a great opportunity to think about nothing in particular, and that's what I was doing. Just watching the flames doing their dance, surrounded by people who had shared the same great day with me.
I heard Don call my name and looked across the fire at him. "Why aren't you and Tim on this side? You don't want to sit with the old dogs?"
I felt proud ... honored really, to feel included with those guys. I looked at Tim, who didn't give me any help - just a blank stare. My eyes darted around, reminding me who I was sitting with. I smiled across the fire at Don. "I'm happy sittin' here with my ... with the puppies!"
I giggled at my own remark, but Ken, Barry, Jim and Don were looking at me with very satisfied smiles, as if their job with me was finished and they had done it well.
The meaning of their smiles sank in right away, and I leaned a little closer to Timmy. We were welcome to join them, even considered equals. It made my eyes water, but I realized that Tim and I had just what they had. We had our own circle of friends ... kids our age. We'd hold dear forever what those guys had given us, but that's exactly what they'd done ... given it to us. Taught us how to love and care all by ourselves. They were smiling because Tim and I wanted to sit on our own side of the fire with our own friends. It was an equal place.
Ken looked at Adam, who still had the guitar. "You gonna play something?" He looked around. "There's a lotta ladies here, so keep it clean."
Adam looked nervous, but he started strumming, then singing in a pretty weak voice, "Michael row the boat ashore ..."
One by one, people joined in. There were a few good voices, but mostly not. It sounded nice collectively though, and when the song ended we all cheered each other.
I heard Eddie saying to Adam, "Play ..." He whispered the rest into his ear. Adam started playing some chords, then Eddie began to sing. His had been one of the good voices from before. This boy could sing, and his choice of songs seemed pretty profound. It was 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away' by the Beatles. I'd heard the song many times and always liked the tune, but I'd never paid much attention to the words.
Tim pulled me tighter to him. I looked to my right and saw tears flowing freely down Rafe's face.
Eddie did okay for a while, but he started to lose the tune, then almost choked on the chorus. I looked back at him, feeling terrible. He soon recovered and finished the song, then smiled shyly when we all applauded him. He said, "That one always gets to me. Sorry."
Everyone murmured words of encouragement, then Eddie launched into "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay", by Otis Redding. Eddie was a red-haired white boy, but he had a remarkably soulful voice and did the song justice. Adam was less fortunate. He didn't know the chord progression, so I whispered the changes in his ear while Eddie sang. When he finished the song the cheering and applause was loud and robust, putting a surprised smile on Eddie's face.
I turned around to talk to him, almost knocking Tim over. "Man, you are good! Where'd ya learn to sing like that?"
"I dunno, I just like to sing. I haven't felt like it in a while 'n I'm surprised it came out okay. Uh, sorry about the first one. Bad choice, huh?"
I thought about it for a second. "It wasn't a bad choice just as long as ya don't believe it."
Adam was holding the guitar out to me. I took it and laid it on the grass. Adam and Eddie started complimenting each other on their musical abilities, so I turned around and picked up the guitar. I didn't play, just held onto it. There were suddenly a lot of quiet conversations taking place among different people. I asked Tim if he was going to work the next day. He said he was, but we still had Monday and he wanted to spend the day with just the two of us.
People started to leave after a while, but somebody came up behind us. "Adam?"
I looked around to see a man standing there with a sleeping bag under each arm. Adam jumped up. "Dad!" He went over to him and took a sleeping bag, then looked back at the group around the fire. "Everybody, this is my father. Dad, this is ...." He pointed around, introducing everybody by name.
Adam's father smiled at each person as he was introduced, then when Adam finished, Ken asked him to join us. He smiled again. "I'd like to ... I love campfires, but I have to get up early tomorrow. I appreciate the invite." He looked at Adam. "Can I talk to you for a sec?"
They headed out to another part of the yard. Eddie's eyes followed them for a minute, then he turned back with a stricken look on his face. "Oh, God! He musta seen us!"
Everyone who heard him, which seemed to be me, Tim, Rafe and Brian, came closer to Eddie. Rafe asked, "Seen what?"
"Oh, man. We were holdin' hands. Jesus, I fuck up everythin' I get near. I am such a fuckin' idiot. I knew his father was coming over."
Rafe leaned in a little closer, a little smile on his face. "Eddie?"
"Adam knew his father was coming, too. It takes two people to hold hands, Eddie, so quit knockin' yourself. Adam's been talking about telling his parents anyhow. Stop worrying. You don't even know if he saw you."
Eddie didn't look any less worried, but he seemed calmer. He looked at the ground. "At least he gets to tell his parents himself. The whole fuckin' town told mine."
Tim looked at him. "How'd they take it?"
"It was hard to tell at first. People were making crank calls all the time, knockin' over the trash, throwing rocks at the house. They were pissed and scared at the same time. Pissed at what was happening, not at me. It was my fault, though. I was surprised that my father took the news about me being gay better than my mother. She was all upset thinking it was something she did wrong. My Dad just seemed to understand, and he got her to settle down after a few weeks."
Brian asked, "What about all the shit you get? Do you tell them about that?"
"Only when I have to ... you know, if I have ripped clothes or a black eye or something. I try not to tell them who. Early on I got beat up by two seniors and told my parents who they were. They got them arrested and kicked outta school, but it made things worse for me. It ain't a lot better for my folks. They lost friends and stuff. Having me was a bad move on their part."
I was about to say something, but Adam suddenly appeared, gesturing anxiously for Eddie to come with him. Eddie gave us each a fearful look, then stood and followed Adam.
We all watched them walk into the darkness. Timmy looked around. "Uh, oh. You think we should follow them?"
I considered the question. "Nah! It's his father, Tim. He probably just wants to know who he's hangin' out with."
Tim gave a worried glance in the direction they'd headed. "I guess it's okay. I just hope Adam's father isn't freaked out."
I didn't understand his worry. "Nothin's gonna happen, Tim." I looked at Rafe. "Hey, guy, you were cryin' when Eddie sang that first song. Hit close to home or what?"
His smile was sad. "Too close." He looked at Brian. "You still think we need to hide? I mean we gotta do something someday, Bri. I hate this, man. I love you, but all we ever do is make believe for other people. Aren't ya sick of it, Brian? Don't you hate it as much as I do? I mean, we're here ... nobody's gonna care what we do. They'll be happy for us. I'm not happy making believe you're some little brother with a wart on his nose or something." His voice got thick. "I hate this, Bri, I really hate it."
I felt like an intruder. This was way too personal to watch and listen to, so I looked back into the fire. I was just beginning to lose myself in my thoughts when a little cheer went up from the other side. I looked up to find them all looking to my right. I turned my head to see Rafe and Brian kissing each other all over their faces. They both had tears pouring out of their eyes, but they were tears of happiness, tears of realization.
I didn't stare at them. I leaned against Tim and looked back into the fire. Somebody had just tossed some wood on, and sparks were leaping up into the air. I wondered idly if Ken had gotten the idea for his ladyfinger display from watching sparks. I glanced at Tim and he was doing the same thing I was, so I just looked back into the fire. After about fifteen minutes I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see Adam.
"Dave? My Dad wants to talk to you, okay?"
I looked at Tim. He looked as confused as I felt. I looked up at Adam. "Why? Can Timmy come with me?"
He shrugged. "If he wants. It's no big deal, Dave, just come say hello."
I looked back at Tim. "You comin'?"
"You want me to?"
"Up to you."
"I'll stay here then. Wait! I'll go with ya."
We stood up and followed Adam into the darkness, heading towards the driveway. There was a little light from the house there, and I saw Adam's father and Eddie leaning against a car. Adam's Dad had his hand on the back of Eddie's head, and they were looking at each other and talking.
When we were close enough, Adam said, "Dad. Here's Dave and Timmy."
He and Eddie both looked at us and straightened up. Adam's father held out his hand and walked up to Tim. "Hi, Dave. I'm Dave, too."
Timmy shook his hand. "Um, this here's Dave." He nodded towards me. "I'm Tim, but it's still nice to meet ya."
It gave me a chance to look at Adam's father. He was not as ugly as sin, though he didn't look anything at all like Adam. I didn't have time to dwell on it. He put on an embarrassed smile and held his hand out to me. "Sorry, Tim. I wasn't really sure who I was getting introduced to before. Hi, Dave! Adam just told me a whole lot about you, and I wanted to see for myself."
That got me confused. "See? See what?"
"Uh..." He looked at the other guys. "Leave us alone for a minute? Go on back to the campfire, I just want to talk to Dave."
Tim gave me a questioning look. I shrugged a little and told him I'd be back in a minute. They walked away and I turned back to Adam's father. He was looking at me as if he could learn something just by looking.
Finally, "Dave ...I guess I just want to say thanks. Adam just told me that he's gay..."
He didn't continue. After about a half minute I said, "......yeah?"
He shook his head a little. "I'm sorry, I lost my train of thought. I just wanted to thank you for giving him the nerve to do that. My wife and I had thought he might be gay for a while now, but what'm I supposed to do? I thought about a million ways to ask him, but they all sounded pathetic. Nothing worked. It all seemed ... unnatural. I just couldn't bring myself to ask him that. What if I was wrong to begin with? What would he think of dear old Dad if I just walked up and asked, 'So, Adam, are you a homosexual?' It's the kind of thing a father just can't ask his son, Dave. At least not this father."
That sounded reasonable. I looked at him and noticed that he didn't seem upset at all, a little nervous maybe, but not upset. "You don't hate him for it? It doesn't bother you that Adam's probably gay?"
He didn't answer for a moment, just leaned back against the car and looked at the sky. "Dave, I don't think you'll ever know. Adam was a gift ... a gift from God. My wife and I tried and tried to have children, but nothing ever happened. We saw doctor after doctor, but nobody could figure it out. We finally met with a team at the State University and they put us into an experimental fertility program. A year later we had our Adam. That's how he got his name. We named him Adam because he was the first child conceived using their new techniques."
His eyes looked wet. "Yeah, it was awesome alright. We had our baby ... our son ... the one thing we wanted most in life, the person we both love most in the world. We've tried our best to do right by him. We're not just his parents ... we're his friends, and that's not always easy."
"Yeah, Adam said something like that the other day."
"To answer your question ... yeah, I'm okay with it. I won't say that it doesn't bother me, but only in a fearful way. I wouldn't have chosen this for Adam, but I know it happens." He grabbed both of my shoulders and squared off with me, looking right in my eyes. "Dave, I love Adam. His mother loves him. He's been the delight of our lives since he was born. He just said that you gave him the confidence to tell me, then he said you're the tough guy at school."
"That's somethin' I wanna live down."
He still had my shoulders in his hands. "Dave, I have no right to ask but ... protect my son, okay? He's all we have. If he's gay then that's what he is, but I don't want him getting hurt because of it. I just talked to Eddie and I know what it can be like. That poor kid ... it makes me wish I could be everywhere at once."
I didn't really feel it, but I gave Adam's Dad my sunniest smile. "Don't worry about school. Adam's with the in-crowd. If anybody messes with him they'll be in the dumpster in about two seconds. My personal guarantee!"
He looked at me solemnly for a second, then smiled. "I can't ask for more than that. I know most of Adam's friends, but you're new and you're something else. Where'd you find your confidence?"
I thought for a second, then smiled at him. "Oh, some old dogs taught me when to lick, when to bark and when to bite."
He laughed. "You ever wag your tail?"
I tried to keep a straight face, but failed miserably. Giggling, "Yeah, whenever Timmy's around!"
He laughed. "Go back to your party, Dave. Thanks for Adam."
"Bye! Nice to meet you!"
He turned to leave and I headed back to the campfire. Most of the people had left, and the guys were singing their most obscene songs. As I approached, I heard the words.
Oh, he's got fuckin' cancer
He's got cancer of the bumhole
'Cause he's a fuckin' queer!
I was laughing at the words. Everybody was engrossed in the song, so I snuck up behind Tim, then pounded my hand on his shoulder , making him jump about a foot. Before he could turn around I put my mouth to his ear and whispered, "Woof!" I sat beside him, looking at his face. I was feeling silly. "You want a lick, or ya want a bite? How 'bout just a grrrr?"
Tim ginned at me. "I love it when you growl. How 'bout another grrr? The lick sounds pretty good, but forget the bite." He grinned. "If that's what you're into then I'll do it to you! If you try it, your face's gonna land up somewhere near Pluto."
That made me laugh. "Who's gonna send it there?"
Tim grinned. "I'm still bigger than you. Ya really think I could hang around all this time and learn nothing? I could knock you out just thinkin' about it. Wanna lay on top of me?"
I sat in front of him instead, and he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me to him. I looked over at Adam. "So, you did it, huh? Your father seems like a great guy."
He smiled over at me. "What a relief! I really didn't expect to get any grief, but I wasn't sure how he'd take it. He was way cool, though. We're gonna talk to my Mom tomorrow."
Actually, I could see the relief on Adam's face. I looked at Eddie, who was resting his right hand on Adam's left shoulder. He looked pretty happy, too. "What's up, Ed? You're not sayin' much here."
His eyes opened wide. "I'm just afraid that if I talk this bubble's gonna burst. Adam's father is too good to be true. He already talked to my father before he came over here. They traded numbers when we Totalphoned them. They're both gonna make sure that rides and stuff won't be a problem so we can see each other." He grinned at Adam, then turned it to me. "We already got a lecture about sex. They don't want us tryin' anything until we're sure we like each other as much as we think we do."
His eagerness was contagious. I wondered for a second if Tim and I were the only ones who were getting any, if it made a difference that we decided we were in love first. I already knew Timmy's feelings about that, but my own brain came up with a resounding 'HELL, YES!' I'd done a lot of sexual things during my little odyssey to the other side, but it hadn't meant a thing ... nothing at all. It was mechanical sex at its very worst, nothing at all like the ecstasy Tim and I shared.
I smiled at Eddie and Adam, but I wasn't sure I should say anything. Nuts, I always say something. "Hey, if you guys ever decide you're in love you can show each other in lots of ways. Don't go fuckin' it up by tryin' stuff until you're sure. At least nothin' serious."
Eddie's expression got a little funny. "You know, I'm not even gettin' horny here. Adam's the kinda kid I always dreamed about, but all I want is to know him. He's so ... so ... deep, I guess ... so interesting." His eyes were alight with the reflection from the fire, but they were lit up from inside too. "Adam's a real person, and I know we're gonna be friends. That's all we both want right now. It's all we need. Someone ..." He looked at Adam. "Someone special"
I saw the looks on both of their faces and figured they were full of shit, but supposed it was smart to wait long enough to be sure it wasn't just an infatuation. It didn't really matter to me, anyhow. They both seemed like smart kids and they could figure their own thing out. The ones I was curious about were Rafe and Brian, and I chanced a look in their direction.
They were just looking into the fire, but from my vantage point it looked like they were cheek to cheek. I felt good that they'd let their inhibitions down at least a little. It called for a bit of teasing.
"Urrmh! Rafe! Brian! Have you no shame? I mean, we're in polite company here. You don't think its rude to make out in public?"
They both looked at me in surprise, then said (in unison), "Fuck you, David!" Then Rafe looked at me and smiled. "What the hell do you know about polite, Dave? Rude's your middle name, isn't it?"
I laughed, and thought that I'd start going by David R. Devino instead of David G. (Don't ask.)
I grinned. "You guys look great when you're happy. Let me think a second - there's a phrase. I think it's 'illegitimus non carborundum', but I might be wrong."
I was looking at baffled stares. I turned to Tim for reinforcement, but he looked just as perplexed. I checked Adam and Eddie, but they hadn't even heard me. "Jeez, guys, it's Latin. It just means don't let the bastards wear you down." They were just staring at me. "It's supposed to be funny!"
At least somebody got it. There was laughter from across the fire, and I saw Barry and Jack chuckling. I looked back at the other guys. "Well, see! There's intelligent life on earth after all. Anybody else tired? You all sleeping out here?" I looked at Tim. "You wanna sleep by the fire, don't ya?"
Tim yawned and looked at his watch., then gave me a lazy smile. "Wherever you're sleepin'. Go find another blanket. It's gettin' cold out here."
It was cold. I went to the woodpile first, and put five more logs on the fire. I ran to the house and raided Ken's supply of army blankets, grabbing all of them. When I got back to the fire, Brian and Rafe were on their feet shaking hands with Eddie. Adam was on his knees spreading out sleeping bags. Richie, who I'd managed to lose track of all night, was talking with Jimbo and Sherry and Rennie. Everyone else had gone home or gone to bed.
I overheard Rafe thanking Eddie for singing that song. Fear had made Brian and him lose a lot of time ... time they could never get back. The fear ... Brian's, really ( Rafe had long ago acknowledged it) was about being known as gay. Eddie's song and Rafe's reaction to it had finally made Brian give in to what he was ... to what he had to be. He was gay and in love with a wonderful person. The forces at work were too powerful to resist. He couldn't hide his love away anymore, and it was Eddie's song that made him realize it.
Rafe and Brian weren't staying. They thanked Eddie again and said good night to everyone, then Tim and I walked with them to their car. Brian gave us a bright smile, then his face suddenly clouded with tears. "Th ... thanks guys. I ... I wanted this day to come for like a million years, but I was always afraid of it. Now that it's here, well ... I'm not afraid anymore. It's, um ... it's the way things're supposed to be." He smiled, then grinned. "I'm in love! The neatest guy on Earth loves me back. I ... I just can't argue with it anymore. I'm so happy right now I could just ..."
Tim grinned. "Just shit?"
Brian looked horrified. "I just said I've come to terms with everything and you think it's shit? I ... I ..." He burst out with a happy laugh, then looked at us in turn, leaving his gaze on Rafe. "I am a shit, aren't I?" He laughed again. "God, I'm so selfish. I just never wanted anybody to know, but I hurt you with that, didn't I?" He looked Rafe in the eye. "Raphael Anziano? I love the hell out of you, and I want everybody to know it! I've been a real dick, huh?" He hugged Rafe so suddenly that they both almost fell down, then pulled back and looked at Rafe with a big grin on his face.
"No more dick!"
Rafe's surprised look said it all. When Brian thought about his choice of words his eyes opened like saucers. "I mean I ain't gonna be a dick anymore. What'd you think I meant?" Then his face lit up with the best grin I'd ever seen on him. "You can have all the dick you want, Rafe." His grin got better. "I take that back! You can have all of my dick that you want. I catch you with somebody else's and you're gonna hear it from the heavens!"
Rafe smiled at Brian for a long time, then looked at me. "That's what I meant by a Beeg str-r-r-r-ong Man, Dave.
After Brian and Rafe drove off, Tim and I went indoors and took turns in the bathroom. It had been a long time since we'd eaten, so we went into the kitchen where I whipped up two cheese omelets. I felt a little guilty about eating when other people might be hungry, so Tim went out to the fire to ask if anybody was. He returned with Adam, Eddie, Richie and Jimbo, so it was time for me to get to work. We ate quietly at the kitchen table, then quickly cleaned up before heading back outdoors.
Rich and Tim took care of putting logs on the fire while Adam helped me spread blankets for me, Tim and Rich. Eddie stood there and watched, but when Rich was done Eddie went up to him and hugged him. "Thanks, Richie. Thanks for everything. I'm gonna pay you back someday ... I don't know how, but I'm gonna."
To my mild surprise, Richie returned the hug. "You don't owe me a thing, Ed. Don't worry about any bullshit at school, either. We'll get things straightened out. If anybody gives you any kind of grief at all you come to me. You should ask Dave for a little boxing lesson in the morning. If you surprise a couple of those assholes maybe they'll give it up. I'm really sorry I was one of 'em. Am I forgiven?"
"Don't even ask. Of course you're forgiven. If you didn't talk to me the other day ... if you didn't keep pushing me ... I don't know what would'a happened. I really thought you were trying to trick me or set me up. I know for damn sure I wasn't goin' back to school ... there was no way in hell, but now I'm not afraid of it." He leaned his face against Richie's shoulder and they held their hug for a good minute.
Tim had already crawled between the blankets and I climbed in beside him. We smiled and kissed, then closed our eyes to go to sleep. After another minute or two Richie climbed in behind me, stretching his arm across the both of us. We fell asleep hearing Adam and Eddie whispering to each other.
We woke up to a humongous bang. Startled, my eyes opened. Ken was standing there holding a smoking blunderbuss and looking at us.
"That's for last week, Dave. Payback! What happened to all the eggs? Never mind. I'll go get more. You get your butt inside and start breakfast. Figure on at least twenty people, okay?"
I gave him a little salute. "Yes, sir."
He gave me a satisfied look, then turned to go to the store.
Tim started to climb out from under the covers. "Damn! It's cold!" He grabbed the top blanket and wrapped it around himself
It had gotten cold. As soon as I got up I started shivering. Richie looked like he'd gone back to sleep, but I grabbed the blanket that was covering him and put it around my body, covering my head with it. His eyes opened and he glared at me, then just rolled himself up in the blanket that he was laying on and went back to sleep. Adam and Eddie looked like they'd fallen asleep again, so Tim and I headed to the house. When we got inside we met Sherry heading to the kitchen.
She looked at us all wrapped up in brown army blankets. Amusement spread across her face. "I get it! Hobbits, right?"
Tim laughed, but I didn't have a clue. He filled me in on our way to the bathroom. Tim looked like he was going to wait outside, but I pulled him in and locked the door. "Let's take a shower together, Timmy. You gotta work all day an' I wanna make sure you don't forget me when you're gone."
He wasn't wide awake. "I'll never forget you."
I grinned at him. "I just wanna make sure."
"Oh. OH!" Tim started taking his clothes off while I turned the water on and got the temperature right. He climbed into the tub and I got myself undressed, then got in behind him. I tapped him on the shoulder, and when he turned to look I got on my knees. I looked up to see his face looking down at me. If eyes can be full of love, ours were right then. I took Tim into my mouth knowing that I was the only person he'd ever been with, and I was determined to keep it that way until the end of time.
Tim wanted to return the favor, but we were running out of hot water. We soaped up and rinsed off quickly, then climbed out of the tub. Tim looked at me with a question in his eyes. "Later, Timmy. After work maybe we can go to Barry's for a while."
He hugged me, then pulled back and looked at my hardon. It made him smile. "You gonna keep that up all day? For me?"
I grinned. "We talkin' dirty here? Yeah, I'll save it. I gotta give some boxin' lessons anyhow. It always helps to have a hardon."
Timmy looked puzzled. "Pardon?"
Dummy. "No ... HARD on!" Tim was usually more awake than me in the morning. "Just forget it. You have a good day at work. I'll be around when you get out, then you can tell me you love me."
We busied ourselves getting ready. Tim hadn't brought his razor, so he used Ken's. Neither of us had toothbrushes, so we just grabbed two and used them. I noticed some fuzz under my nose, so I grabbed the razor and proceeded to give myself three cuts on the lip. I kept blotting them, but they kept bleeding. Tim tore off little pieces of toilet paper and stuck a bit to each cut.
We had left the bag with our clean clothes in the car. I put my sneakers on and ran down to get it with just a towel wrapped around my waist. I was bent down trying to figure out which key opened the trunk when I felt a sharp sting on my butt. I jumped up and looked around. Jerry was standing there with a stupid grin on his face.
He just laughed. "Kinda cold to be running around naked, ain't it? You ... ah ... forget something? Why do you have little bull's eyes stuck to your face?"
I'd forgotten about that. Embarrassed, I bent back down to open the trunk. Jerry said, "It's a Chevy. Oval key, flat part on top."
He was right. I fished the bag out, then handed it to him so I could hold my towel up. "You didn't say you were leaving last night."
"Deanna had to go and I couldn't find you. That's why I'm here so early. I didn't want to miss you guys again like last week. Did Richie end up staying here? I didn't get much chance to talk to him yesterday."
We were at the top of the hill. I looked at Jerry and said, "Richie's sleepin' by the fire pit. You go over and get those guys up. I'm making breakfast as soon as I get dressed."
Jerry took a closer look at me. "Oh, I get it. You tried to shave!" He smirked, "Better luck next time."
"I appreciate that, Jer. How do you want your burnt eggs? Scrambled? Fried? I'm freezin' here, man! Go wake up those guys. I gotta get inside."
I ran in as Jerry headed over to wake up the campers. The thought of cooking for twenty suddenly struck me and I hurried back to the bathroom. There were people waiting at the door, so I just called to Timmy to grab our stuff and we'd get dressed upstairs. In a minute he emerged wearing an embarrassed grin and wrapped in a towel, and we went up to get dressed.
When I got to the kitchen it was crowded with people. I announced that they'd have to leave if I was going to be able to cook breakfast. Tim was looking at the clock, so I decided to make something quick for him. He went outside and asked if anybody else had to eat early, but it was just him. I made Tim some ham, egg and cheese sandwiches, then started cooking the sausages and bacon. When he had to leave I asked him to find me a volunteer to help in the kitchen.
I was surprised when Mary walked in and asked what she should do. We had a nice conversation while I fried the meats and she cracked eggs and scrambled them in the blender. It took the best part of an hour to get everything ready, then about five minutes for it to disappear onto peoples' plates. It had warmed up outside, so I ate on the patio. I sat with the other kids, telling them what I had to do to get through high school and graduate with my class. Nobody was envious, but they all offered to help with their strong subjects if I needed it. I thought I probably would, so I made a mental note of what each of them said they were best in.
When we finished eating, Ken asked us to scout around the yard and pick up any trash that was lying on the ground. For all the people who had been there the day before, there was very little to pick up. There were a few cans by the fire pit and a few paper napkins that had probably been blown away. Even most of the 'snow' had been blown into the woods, but Ken said not to bother with the rest. When Barry came over we helped him move his smokers down behind the garage, then covered them with a tarp.
Eddie and Adam wanted to learn how to defend themselves, then Jerry decided he should learn too. He ran down to Whit's and came back with a big duffle bag. We put Ken's bowling ball in the bottom, then crammed it full of army blankets and hung it from a tree. Jerry drew a face on it with chalk. It was our own punching bag, though the canvas was pretty rough on the knuckles.
I spent about an hour teaching them how to throw knockout punches and elbows and letting them practice, then another hour showing them how to survive them. After that I spent a little time describing the strategy of a street fight (win, and win fast), then let them practice on each other with the admonition that they should pull their punches, not hit each other. There was one casualty - Eddie caught Adam pretty solidly on the jaw when Adam turned his head the wrong way. It was nothing serious, but Adam was shaken enough that we decided to quit.
A few of the adults had watched us, and they started taking turns with the punching bag. Ken came up with a name for us; The Killer Squadron.
We spent the remainder of the day taking turns on the dirt bikes, talking, and walking in the woods. When Bud came to pick up Richie and Eddie he had Eddie's parents with him, so we all got to meet them. They spent over an hour there, mostly listening to Eddie bragging about his weekend.
I sensed that they were also sizing up Adam, but they seemed to like what they saw. I knew for sure that they were delighted at the difference a single day had made for their son. Eddie was happy and he was hopeful. He had new friends, and he was confident that he could put an end to the torment in his life
Adam's father came to pick him up while they were still there, so they all got to meet. Adam happily told his father that he was a killer now, then he and Eddie brought them all over to the punching bag to demonstrate. I could tell that the two fathers were pretty impressed, but Eddie's mother looked a little ill when he was describing what you had to do to just make somebody bleed a little as opposed to 'really bringing them down'. They both got fatherly warnings about never starting fights themselves, but I could see that they were pleased that the two boys thought they could end one.
I was just standing there watching. Adam's father looked at me with a slight smile, nodding his head very slightly. He didn't say anything so I'm not positive, but I got the feeling he was thinking that he was glad I was on their side.
Before they left, Eddie and Adam made plans to spend the next day together at Eddie's. Adam's father would bring him there and Eddie's father would bring him home.
We all said our goodbyes. I got hugs from Richie, Adam and Eddie. I caught Jimbo out of the corner of my eye, and he had a very knowing smile on his face.
They had no sooner left than Timmy showed up, sad that he had missed them but apparently very happy to see me. He didn't often have a lot of energy left at the end of the day, but he was practically bouncing right then. Ken offered to cook up some hamburgers, but we begged off, collected up our stuff, said our goodbyes, and headed for Barry's house at speeds that probably weren't legal on racetracks. When we got there we were surprised and disappointed to see Brian's car parked out front. We sat there impatiently for a few minutes, trying to decide what to do. We ended up going inside and calling quietly to them from the bottom of the stairs.
They just called us in, saying they were leaving anyhow and had just been checking to be sure they weren't leaving a mess. When we saw them it was pretty clear what they'd been doing. They were both so radiant they practically had halos. Tim and I tried to tease them a little, but we couldn't even raise a blush. It made me feel good, though. They were obviously deliriously happy, and if any two guys deserved that it was Brian and Rafe.
They left, and it soon became clear that Tim was just delirious. He was still bouncing, and we bounced together for a solid three hours before exhaustion and simple prudence told us it was time to go home and get some sleep.
We cleaned up after ourselves and headed home at a more sedate pace. Tim was merely driving fast, but I was wondering what had gotten into him. I watched him driving.
"What's with you tonight? You were never like that before."
He gave me a quick glance, smiling. "You complainin'?"
"Not hardly. Is it what I did this morning?"
He grinned. "That's part of it."
"What's the rest?"
"The gas station."
"The GAS station?"
"Yeah. I never noticed before, but all them hoses ... man!"
I laughed the rest of the way home, trying to picture it in my mind. The picture wasn't really funny, but the thought was.
We kissed goodnight in the car. Tim promised to come for breakfast, and we'd decide what to do with our last day of freedom when he got there. I gathered up my things and walked upstairs.
Everybody was in the living room. My sisters were watching television, my mother was sewing, and Artie was reading. We talked for a while, mostly about what a good time we all had at the picnic. Artie said he was going to see Pam the next day, which I viewed as a good sign that he was on his way to the normal life he wanted.
I was tired and went to my room. I needed a shower, but I didn't even have the energy for that. I kicked off my shoes and climbed into bed with my clothes on, falling asleep immediately
The alarm went off at six. I considered shutting it off and going back to sleep, but figured it would be smarter to get up now and get to bed early. School was starting the next morning.
I climbed out of bed, realizing I hadn't even taken my clothes off the night before. I chastised myself while I stripped off and grabbed my bathrobe. The shower made me feel better. When I was brushing my teeth and looking in the mirror I realized that I'd better get a razor and start shaving pretty soon. The fuzzy little moustache I'd shaved off the day before was showing signs of returning, and my cheeks looked a little hairy. I noticed Artie's shaving stuff beside the sink and decided to give it a try, more carefully this time.
I used about half a can of his shaving cream, but when I wiped my face off I saw spots that I'd missed. It took me three tries to get everything and I only got one little cut on the bottom of my ear. While I was inspecting myself for the last time I thought that shaving was a pretty grown up thing to do, and it made me smile. I probably wouldn't have to shave again for another month, but I'd done it. It was stupid, I guess, but I felt a kid's glee from doing a grown up thing. I did a little dance with my towel, then cleaned up and went to get dressed.
Timmy was sitting on my bed wearing his usual morning good cheer. I was already in a good mood, but it brightened considerably seeing his happy face. He grinned at me. "Hi! Uh, sorry about last night."
I sat beside him and put my arm across his shoulder. "Sorry? Don't be sorry, man. A little exercise never hurt anybody!" I kissed his cheek.
"I don't know what happened. I guess it's just the way the day started ... the way you started it. Anyhow, all day at work all I could think of was you. It wasn't the pump hoses." He looked at me and snickered, "Well, maybe they kept remindin' me. It's just ... I love you, Dave, and I know you love me. Yesterday it just made me so ... so fuckin' happy! I drove over to Ken's at about a hunnert miles an hour, just to see if you looked the same. I just wanted to have you." He was grinning again. "Sorry. You were right, and I can't live it down, but I'm gonna pay you back right now ... show you what it's like when your day starts exactly right!"
He jumped up and locked the door, then dove on me, first showering me with kisses, then showing me how a day could start out exactly right. He made an excellent point. So excellent that I decided to test his theory, wondering what kind of day we'd have if we both started it off so right.
Theory is great stuff, but we curled up kissing and both fell asleep. We were awakened by a tapping on the door. "David?"
"You'll never sleep tonight if you stay in bed all day. Now, get up and have some breakfast!"
I remembered Richie's newest phrase. "No worries, Ma! I got up at six, just fell back asleep."
I looked at Tim. We both smiled and rubbed noses, then I gave him a quick kiss. "You hungry?"
Tim smiled, then yawned. "Is it morning already? I'm fuckin' starved! Wanna do anything or just hang around?"
Some ideas went through my mind, then I settled on one of them. "How about a hike? I don't mean at Ken's ... somewhere new. My sister goes all the time. She could tell us a good place."
"Sounds like fun. Just us, though. Right?"
I smiled. "Just us, Tim. We can bring some sandwiches and spend all day." I grinned. "Just us puppies!"
That's what we did with our last day of freedom. We ate breakfast and packed a lunch, then drove to a state forest that my sister suggested. It was mostly piney woods with the occasional crop of white birches. The trail started out wide and flat, following the side of a lake. At the far end it narrowed and split several times. My sister had told us to always look for a little stream and to keep it on our right side, that way we'd get to a point where we could double back, this time on a cliff high above the other side of the lake.
Timmy and I had both grown up within five miles of this area, but neither of us knew it existed. I'd always thought calendar pictures of beautiful places were what I was supposed to think of as 'nature'. Where we were didn't offer any vistas of snow capped mountains, but it was stunningly beautiful in its own close-up way, in the way it offered up little glimpses of plants unknown to us, little views back down to the glimmering lake.
We barely spoke all morning, just sharing our wonder that something this special and this close had evaded our grasp all these years. When we got to the cliff, we sat on the edge and enjoyed our sandwiches. There was a vista from there, though still no snow capped mountains.
It was a clear day. We could see part of the town, then rolling hills stretching off into the distance, the lake right beneath us. We joked a little about jumping off this cliff into that water, but it was clearly impossible. The cliff didn't go straight down, and there was probably fifty feet of broken rocks between it and the water, not to mention that we were about three hundred feet up.
We sat there for about an hour. Our bodies were in contact from about shoulder to knee, but we weren't clinging to each other. We were both looking off into the distance, occasionally pointing out something that we recognized down below. It occurred to me that Timmy and I loved the same things ... the same places. The flat rock by Kenny's pond, the pine needle comfort by Wes's brook, the morning dew, snow and frost in the winter.
It just wasn't that those things existed, we could experience them together and get the same feeling from them without need for conversation. Our quiet times were special for me because that's when we just let the world happen around us, and we shared our awe at what God and nature could create.
I suspect that Tim enjoyed those quiet times simply because I shut up for a while and didn't force him to answer my endless questions. I was pretty sure that if he ever got really rich he'd buy a mountain with such an astounding view that it'd shut me up forever.
We finally decided that we had to head back. The trail along the cliff wasn't hard walking, but we found that we had to go down an extremely steep hill to get back to where we'd started. It wasn't exactly a cliff, but it didn't allow for any mistakes. It was way harder going down than it had been getting up there, but it didn't take long.
We got back to my house just in time for dinner. Everybody seemed to have had a good day, so it was a cheerful meal. When we finished, Tim had to leave. School started the next day and his mother wasn't allowing him any slack. We sat on the front steps for a while.
Tim sighed. "It starts again, huh? You gonna be okay?"
I didn't answer right away. At first I was afraid of what the answer would be, but I had mostly good thoughts in my head. I leaned into Tim. "I'm gonna be fine, Timmy. I never felt so in control of myself in my life. It's the new Dave that's startin' school tomorrow. I know I got a lot with the extra classes, but I don't care." A bizarre thought went through my head. "I wanna learn, Tim I wanna know everything!"
Tim smirked at me. "I thought you already did."
"Wise ass! You're right. I thought I did, but I don't know anything ... there's so much I don't know. You know what, though?"
"I mostly wanna know people. I'm gonna try to be just like Kenny ... I want every kid in that school to be my friend. Not by bein' Mr. Wiseass or Mr. Funny, either. I want people to like me for who I am. I want them to like me because I like them ... because I care about them."
"There's no need, Davy. You can't hide from yourself anymore."
"You're already there."
"You've always been there, Dave. You just didn't know it.
... to be continued
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