The California Zephyr

by Joe Butterman

 

Chapter 7
The Fight

Christmas vacation was a pleasant memory. I could recall every second, every phrase, every nuance and expression from the rest of our talk in the parlor. I would probably remember this scene for the rest of my life. After her question, Roberto had looked at her calmly and respectfully.

     “From the first moment that I saw him, Dona MacKenzie-Scott.  Before even I knew his name.  I knew that I loved him.”  He bowed ever so slightly and held her gaze. 

     “I love him too, Dona, though he does not know it and we’ve never spoken of it,” Tomas took a small step forward and looked down with deference. 

     But again, we were in a different time and place.  Roberto had seemed to speak to Gramercy as a Prince to a Queen.  Tomas seemed to be a faithful champion, a loyal Caballero.  And then it was my turn. 

     “Mi querida abuelita.” I stepped up to her chair and then knelt before her, I looked into her loving eyes, “I have always known too.  When first I shook Roberto’s hand across a rickety fence, I knew; I knew when first we smiled with our eyes.  It was right.  It was right.  I’ve always known.” 

     Then we were a tableau from somewhere ago as we regarded one another.  Gramercy looked at each of us in turn, with grave dignity, but with twinkling eyes.  She stood, gently pulling me up to stand beside her. 

     “You must know, Charles, that I love you and will always love you.  Completely and totally.  And you, Roberto, and you, Tomas, because of your love for my grandson; the grandson that can do no wrong in my opinion, well, you have earned a spot in my affections, one that is perilously close to love.  Time will decide that. 

“In any event, later, we will talk about this more.  You must continue to be discrete and gentlemanly in all respects.  No one will hear about your love from me.  Your love is going to be difficult in this world of ours.  But then, love almost always is.”  She embraced and kissed me, gave her hand to Roberto, and then to Tomas, and swept from the room.  We sighed and relaxed. 

     Roberto had joined Tomas and I a little later in the bunkhouse.  Tomas and I had immediately undressed and pleasured him and we’d been a passionate threesome thereafter. 

     The rest of Roberto’s visit had been a kind of paradise.  Isn’t it strange?  You know, we always think of paradise as being somewhere else.  Maybe it’s tropical, or maybe it’s just that the weather is always perfect or something like that.  But wherever it is, it’s always somewhere else.  I’d been in paradise right at home.  I woke up every morning warmed by the presence of the love of my life. We’d breakfast with Tomas and my family in a loving family atmosphere that seemed even more loving than normal because Gramercy knew our secret.  Knew it and kept it and made it clear that she loved us beyond our secret. 

     Then we’d usually go riding through the morning in the cold, crisp air of winter – not what you’d usually think of as paradise.  There was still a lot of snow around, but it had generally melted off where the sun hit it, so it was easy to keep the horses on a firm footing.  We looked like characters from the old days of the West.  I rode my McClellan with a cavalry carbine scabbarded on the saddle.  Roberto and Tomas were booted and saddled in the best Western tradition.  And of course, we all wore Stetsons because the horses expect it and are just never quite happy with you if you don’t.  

     When we got back to the ranch, we’d take care of the horses, then we’d start a fire in the stove in Tomas’ room, and then we’d go in to lunch in the kitchen.  We’d usually keep our spurs on so we could jingle a little and look and sound really good. We had to enter through the kitchen door, though, because to wear spurs in the hall, or any of the main rooms, would be to bring down the wrath of all the women of the house.  Never a good plan. 

     Then we’d go back to Tomas’ room, now pleasantly warm with a cheery fire, and we’d start to take our clothes off.  The first few times that the three of us had done the wild thing, were kinda experimental but we soon developed a routine that pleased us all.  Without any big discussion or anything, two of us would start to undress the third.  Whoever was undressed first, then got to sit on the edge of Tomas’ bed, while the other two stripped in front of him.  There was an interesting thing about this bed, which had been made right there at the ranch.  When you were sitting on it, it was at precisely the right height so that you could spread your legs and be at the perfect height to get sucked by the second one of us in position between the legs, and the third one of us would be at precisely the right height to stand before the sitter and get sucked.  So whoever got to sit, got to suck and get sucked at the same time.  It was really great.  Of course, after the sitter and the stander got off, they had to the throw the kneeler onto the bed and suck him off together.  We always took turns being the sitter.  It was fun; it was great sex; it was very loving sex. 

     Then we’d get dressed.  Tomas had to go back to work.  Siesta was over.  Roberto and I had to investigate other things.  We went shooting once, but Roberto really wasn’t too interested in that.  He was doing it to please me and it really wasn’t all that important to me.  Frequently, we’d go off with Daddy on ranch business, or to town, so Roberto got to see a good share of our corner of Nevada.  All too soon, we all climbed into the Buick, and took Roberto back to the train station.  We all stood there on the platform, Daddy and Gramercy and I, and waited for the train.  Daddy had told Roberto that he was welcome to spend time with us at anytime that was agreeable to him and his family, so we’d already discussed several possible visits.  We were liking the idea of a camping trip using the horses and going up into the mountains.  That way we could run around our campsite naked and Tomas would be sure to be included because of his expertise.  We’d smuggled Tomas into our bedroom last night, so that part of the good bye’s had been really hot.  The train was on time.  I said goodbye in the normal way, though I still thought I should have been able to kiss him in public. 

     Christmas vacation was a very pleasant memory.  Winter was in charge.  It was back to school and to a new semester.  The fact that it was a new semester meant very little, the classes were all the same, we had just moved forward in history (still reading or being read too); English was now literature and much more fun; Spanish was great and I was ahead of the class because of Roberto and Tomas; I had become much more interested in Social Studies: particularly Civics and Economics, I was, after all, an investor now. 

     Classes were over for the day and I was on my way to my locker to get the books that I would need for my homework tonight.  Our lockers were arranged down the halls, but there were also a number of alcoves, here and there, in which rows of lockers had been built-in.  My locker was in such an alcove.  There had been nothing of interest today in school.  I was okay with all of my subjects.  Best of all was Physical Education.  I had yet to find anything that we did in gym at all arduous, and seldom broke a sweat as we were put through our paces.  What I liked was changing into our gym clothes before our exercises or games, and then showering afterward.  We were supposed to wear jock straps, and just about everyone did, so there were two episodes of nudity with a lot of boys every day.  The shower was great.  It was a large, rectangular expanse of tile with showerheads on the long walls, an entrance at one end, while the other end was of opaque glass blocks that permitted light to enter, but of course you couldn’t see through them.  There was a bench at the entrance to the shower, with a lot of hooks on the wall for towels.  For some reason, the proper form was to throw the towels on the bench, and ignore the hooks.  No one ever sat on the bench.  But the showering, and the toweling, and the dressing was fun and I was provided a great deal of scenery that I could review and consider, rearrange and edit, later on, if Two Shoes left me alone, which wasn’t all that often.   

     There was one boy, that I was really enamored of, and I always tried to be in the shower when he was, and hopefully using a showerhead across from him, so that I could admire him.  His name was Mike Tsakavich.  I’d had to pay close attention when roll was called the first few times, so that I could get his name right.  In my experience, his name was an unusual assemblage of too many consonants, many of them in unlikely places.  He was not particularly handsome; his nose was a trifle large, and his chin was a trifle small; but he had beautiful brown eyes, and coal black hair; he had only a few more pubic hairs than I, and they were arranged in a perfectly drawn triangle above his sex – which was elegant; his build was graceful and willowy but with well defined muscles.  But what was particularly beautiful about him was the way he took a shower.  It seemed that he approached this as a sensual experience; he relaxed into the stream of water, bending back and into it, somehow managing to display his sex while accenting the line of his butt; his eyes are closed, there’s a wisp of a smile, and the water streams caressingly over him for the longest time, then he would quickly wash with soap while the water continued to smooth him.  He was usually the last out of the shower, and I usually emerged one or two before him.  I was afraid to appear too interested.  I knew enough, now, of Michelangelo, to know that if I had been Michelangelo, I would have sculpted Mike taking a shower.  He was also in my Spanish class, and we had achieved a level of familiarity where we would nod, or say “hi”, if we made eye contact.  But he was frequently with his girlfriend, and I knew nothing of his world away from school. 

     There were these two weirdo’s in our class that showered in their jockey shorts; they also put this really horrible lotion in their hair.  It was greasy and it stunk.  I declined to know them. 

     Thinking of Mike, I got what I needed from my locker, and as I emerged from the alcove, I was slammed into the end of a row of lockers.  I bounced off, into the hall, and my schoolbooks and notebook went flying.  I admit to having been distracted by visions of Mike, but there was nothing accidental about this.  I stepped back a pace, I wasn’t hurt or anything; I looked at my opponent.  I did not know his name; he was a senior and was three or four inches taller than me and outweighed me by twenty pounds or so; he had beautiful, wavy, long black hair, and long, neatly trimmed sideburns; I’d seen him around a few times, he liked to smoke cigarettes in the parking lot, but I’d never said a word to him.   

     “Watch where yer goin, fuckhead,” he admonished me.  I looked up and down the hall.  There were perhaps twenty students close to us in the hall and of those; perhaps five were aware of the confrontation. Didn’t look like there was any help likely from them.   “Yuh should say yer sorry when yuh run inta somebody, shithead,” he commented and moved to shove me again.  I sidestepped into and around him and he missed me completely.  He’d worn a small smile when first I faced him, that was gone now, “Yuh chickenshit er what, punk,” he inquired.  A small part of me thought that “punk” was a marked improvement over “fuckhead” and “shithead”, but the rest of me was, frankly, scared. 

     A year or so ago, my Father had created a small domestic flurry when he insisted that I learn to box.  I did not want to learn to box.  My Mother and Grand Belle opposed the notion on the grounds that it was a blood sport, redolent of the Roman Amphitheater, Christians being fed to lions, and Godlessness in general.  Gramercy and Bobbin, in odd alliance, said nothing.  I learned the rudiments of boxing. Then, after two weeks in school, I’d shyly asked my Father to start teaching me again.  He asked me why, and I told him about the confrontation in the hall with Val.  He smiled with approval and the lessons recommenced.  Now I knew enough to know that I needed to keep my guard up, not to hit him in the face or head with my bare knuckles, and that I must not let him grapple with me or I was done for. 

     I had still said nothing.  Now he came in swinging.  I was much faster than he was, so one of his swings glanced off my guard, as I again ducked into and around him, I looked at his back for a long instant before he turned to face me again.  He was not happy.  We had gathered quite a crowd now.  “You motherfucker,” he snarled, and charged.  Again, I stepped aside, but this time I grabbed one of his arms, and using his own momentum, helped him into the crowd where he went down, off balance, and tangled with several spectators who were trying to get out of his way.  If I could have got to my books and notebook, I would now have run. 

     “AT EASE,” authority thundered.  I was clamped by the back of my neck, and my tormentor was jerked to his feet by Mr. Grefion, another veteran, a Master Sergeant of Army Infantry, who now, though he taught Algebra, Math, and Physical Education, remained every inch a soldier and had, I now knew, a very powerful grip.  “What’s going on here,” Mr. Grefion inquired pleasantly, “It’s the two of you to the principal’s office, that’s what’s going on here,” he told us, saving any need to reply.  He started us in that direction, down the hall, firmly in hand.  

     “My books, Sir, can I get my books,” I asked him happy to have been saved, not happy about our destination.   

     Mr. Grefion looked at me calmly for an instant, “Go and get your books,” he told me releasing me.  “And what about you, Dino, where are your books?  At the bottom of your locker I’d bet; or maybe under your bed,” it seemed that Mr. Grefion asked questions more as a kind of courteous ritual, than for the purpose of obtaining information, he seemed perfectly able to answer them without any help.  He did not release his grip on my co-defendant, whose name I now knew was Dino.  I returned to the two of them, books under my arm.  Mr. Grefion did not feel it necessary to grab me again, but he did not relinquish his grip on Dino.  We marched down the hall, to the offices, I was directed to sit on a wooden bench, Dino was placed on an opposite bench, outside the office of the Vice-Principal, whose duties included discipline.  We waited for what seemed an eternity as Mr. Grefion, in the office, detailed the incident to the Vice-Principal.  

      My Spanish teacher came through the anteroom.  I, of course, stood-up, “buenas Dias, Senora Perlman.”   

     She looked startled, “Why Carlos.   Buenas dias.”  There was a long pause as she wondered what I was doing in the Vice Principal’s office; she looked long at Dino, smiled, and said, “manana”, going on about her business. 

     “Buenas dias, Senora Perlman,” Dino mimicked venomously from across the room.  I ignored him and looked off into space.  The door opened, Mr. Grefion ordered, “in” to the two of us, then “sit” to me, pointing to a chair, and “sit” to Dino, pointing to another.  When we were seated, he observed, “I’ll leave you to it, then” and he left, closing the door behind him.   

     I looked at the Vice-Principal.  He looked at me for a few moments and then focused his attention on Dino.  He was an impressive man, with an impressive name, whose very presence, commanded respect.  His hair was very short in a military flat top; his bronze face was calm and unlined.  Vice-Principal Thomas Comeskilling was a full-blooded member of the Washo Tribe; he was not unused to struggle.  “Fighting in the halls again, Dino,” he remarked calmly.  Dino looked at the floor and said nothing.  “First time, this year, but not the first time,” he continued in the same tone of voice, “No, not the first time.  Have you anything to say?”   

     Dino continued to contemplate the floor, “No” he mumbled.   

     “I beg your pardon,” Mr. Comeskilling remarked in that same somber voice.   

     “No sir,” Dino amended.   

     The silence stretched on and there was not the slightest flicker of emotion on Mr. Comeskilling’s face.   

     Mr. Comeskilling pivoted slowly in his chair to face me and fixed me with his expressionless regard.  “Who,” he inquired, “are you?”  I stood-up as was proper when addressing a person of authority under such circumstances, and answered, “Charles Christopher Scott, sir”. 

     “Please be seated,” lengthy pause under steady regard, “Charles”.   

     Dino tried to glower at me.  “You should continue, Dino, to look at the floor,” Mr. Comeskilling observed, without taking his eyes off of me.  Dino did so.  “I’ve not had you in this office before, have I Charles?” 

     “No sir.” 

     “You are a freshman,” it wasn’t a question, but I thought it best to take it as one. 

     “Yes sir.” 

     “You are how old?” 

     “Fifteen, sir.” 

     “And you, Dino, are nineteen, because you’ve already been held back one year?” 

     “Yeah,” Dino responded. 

     “I beg your pardon.” 

     “Yes sir.” 

     “Tell me, Charles, what happened.” 

     Years ago, I’d read a boys book about Custer’s Last Stand.  My Father had seen it and dismissed Custer as a “bungling incompetent”.  That wasn’t quite the story the book had told: long blond hair flowing in the wind, smoking pistol, flashing saber; but that was really neither here nor there.  I knew that the Washo tribe had not been involved in Custer’s defeat, but I knew exactly the sort of face that had been one of the last things Custer saw on this earth.  It was calmly regarding me, perfectly willing to arrange for Charlie’s Last Stand.  “I was in a hurry, sir, to get home.  I got the books I needed from my locker and rushed into the hall.  I must have ran into him.  I wasn’t paying attention.  I must have run into him,” I corrected myself.  The silence was long and oppressive, the expression calm and unyielding.  “Sir, I didn’t even know his name until Mr. Grefion called him ‘Dino’.  I’ve only seen him around the campus a few times.  I don’t even know his last name.  It was a accident.  I mean: an accident.”  This was, without question, the lamest recitation I had ever delivered.  I couldn’t even say, in honesty, that we hadn’t been fighting for we surely had. Mr. Comeskilling knew this as well as I.   

     Without turning from me, he said, “Dino, I am going to accept Charles’ version of this episode.  But you must know, that if you come before me again, you will have three choices.  Do you know what they are?” 

     “Yes sir.”  We waited in silence.  “Army, Navy, reform school,” Dino at last appended. 

     “Correct,” Mr. Comeskilling said, “now get out”.  Dino left.  Mr. Comeskilling had never taken his eyes from me throughout. 

     “Are you Colonel Scott’s son?”  Mr. Comeskilling actually made it a question.  

     “Yes, sir.” 

     “Please give him my very best regards when next you see him.   

     “It is a good thing, to always hope.  For myself, I hope that your mildly edited version of this incident was the right thing.  We shall see.  You may go.” 

     “Thank you sir, good night.”  I was escaping, but I tried to make it look like a casual stroll. 

     I began to think of a genuine escape as I went down the walk toward the sidewalk.  There was Dino, waiting for me beside one of the tall pine trees on the grounds.  I stopped, at least six feet away and tried to regard him calmly, while I considered how to toss my books so as to do them the least damage, and what direction might be my best escape route.  Then I decided that I would hold onto the books, because I could almost certainly run faster and further than he.  But Dino gave me a little smile, and held up both his hands with his palms open towards me.   

     “It’s okay, man,” he said, “yer cool.”  I studied him.  He was wearing a black leather jacket over a plaid sport shirt with a button down collar, 501’s, and black Wellington boots.  He wore his 501’s in an odd fashion that I’d seen some of the others wear also.  Rather than buy their Levi’s oversized, so that they would shrink to fit like they’re supposed to, they bought them the right size, and wore them without washing them first.  They also cut-off all the belt loops and then folded the waistband down on itself; if they had to, they would roll any excess length in the leg up on the inside.  I thought it was a stupid and wasteful fashion.  Everyone knows that Levi’s are at their best and most comfortable after they’ve been washed a couple dozen times.  Although I believed that Dino’s smile was genuine, I wasn’t going to point out his lack of style just now.  “It’s okay, man, yer cool.”  He reached into an outer pocket of his jacket and withdrew a pack of Camel’s, flipped one out and into his mouth in a practiced sort of way, and then started searching his pockets, presumably for matches or a lighter.   

     The first words I ever spoke to Dino were, “Don’t smoke that, put it away.”   

     He looked at me truculently, “Whaddaya think now, yer my Ma er sumthin?”  

     “No, I don’t think that, you just tried to beat the crap outta me for some reason, we just got outta the VP’s office, and now you’re gonna light a cigarette right under Mr. Comeskilling’s nose.  Ya crazy?  Ya like the Army, or the Navy?”  He looked surprised.  

     “You smoke,” he asked. 

     “Nope, and neither should you.”  His little grin came back, and he put the cigarette away.  

     “Okay, fer crissake.  Lookit, I just wanna say that yer okay, that’s all.  I thought you were some rich goodie-goodie fuckhead.  I was wrong, okay?”   

     I shrugged, “Okay” and waited for him to move away so that I would have a clear path for home.   

     He didn’t move, “Come on, lemme give ya ride home.”  Now I looked at him like he really was crazy and it must have shown on my face.  His smile grew very broad; he was really quite attractive when he let himself be.  “Lookit!  Yer okay!  I said that already.  Come on, we’ll stop at the A&W and have a coke.” 

     “It’s over,” I asked.  

     “What’s over,” he demanded nonplussed.   

     “Our fight…” I snapped, omitting several appropriate snubs.   

     “Oh, yeah, that, It’s over.”  

     “Promise?” 

     “Yup.  Lookit, if ya hadn’t told Comeskilling what ya did, he’d a crucified me.  Yer cool, it’s okay.” 

     “And no smoking with me in the car?” 

     “Jesus H. Christ Almighty, why me?  Okay.  Okay.” 

     We got into his pre-war Ford roadster that was painted primer gray, but rumbled smoothly to life when he started it, and we went to the A&W where he had a coke and fries and I had a root beer float.  I let him buy.  There were a lot of kids from school there and you could tell that they were surprised to see us together.  He talked about his car; I talked about school.  Then he took me home and I had a new friend. 

     That night I was alone in bed.  I began by visualizing Mike, but ended-up in Dino’s arms.