“But why Jess? You looked so cute with your butt out there.” Elliot was clearly having fun with him now.
“Ya, uh no, I’m not so good with that.” He said, ineffectively trying to scowl.
“Hey Jess, mind if I ask you a question?”
“What? Uh no, I’m not gay or looking for a boyfriend.”
“Well, cute as you are and sporting such a nice package under that cup, I can see where you might think I was going to ask you something like that. And I really hope it doesn’t hurt your feelings too badly, but that’s really not what I wanted to ask you. Why did you help me? I mean, you broke the ice, it could have gone bad for me.”
Jess grinned and tried to hide the fact that someone talking about what he had under his cup was enough to fill it. “A couple of reasons, really. First, I’m on the soccer team and so are you, so helping you helps the team not look like they have a spazz on the roster.” He dodged a very sissy type slap on his arm from Elliot as he faked a flinch and went on. “And me and some other guys were discussing having a gay guy on the soccer team. And, well, we decided that you should have the right to be who you want to be without worrying about shit from anybody.”
Elliot was stunned. “Some of you had a meeting about me? Who all was there?” He looked around nervously.
“Mostly guys who, a week ago, would have given you a swirley daily until you quit.”
“A swirley? What’s that?”
“You know, head first in the toilet while they flush?”
“Oh, that swirley. So what changed their minds?”
“Did I say they changed their minds?” He grinned, thinking he may have suddenly gained the upper hand.
“Yeah, you said a week ago I would have had to worry about it. That sorta implies that now I don’t. What changed everyone’s mind?”
“What did he say?”
“Sorry, that’s sorta personal. You’ll need to get that from him. I just don’t think it would be right for me to tell it. Suffice it to say that he said anybody crossing him on this would have to deal with him. And even without the threat, the rest of us agreed with his reasoning. So we all decided to support you.”
“Thanks Jess. That means more than you’ll ever know.”
Elliot’s eyes began to well up. The moment was becoming an emotional one when, as if on cue, “Laps everybody and sprint the last half of the last one. Anyone not sprinting their fastest get’s two extra laps in the next class,” Coach Russell bellowed.
“God, you’re a tyrant!” Elliot said as he passed by the coach.
“Yeah, it’s great to be king! Elliot! Stop by my office for a moment before you leave today.” The coach smiled and watched as the group made its way around the pitch. He wanted to make sure they didn’t take out the extra laps on Elliot and knew they would catch up to him quick as running wasn’t his favorite thing to do. Walking back to his office, he watched as they caught up and passed him. He exhaled a sigh of relief and went in the building heading for his office.
“Yeah coach? You wanted to see me?” Elliot stuck his head in the coach’s office as soon as he came off the field. The look on his face showed he was a little concerned with what he wanted. The coach saw his concern and smiled.
“Don’t worry, you’re not in any trouble, I just want a few words with ya. Why don’t you go ahead and shower. By the time you get dressed, I’ll be done with what I’m doing.”
“Sure coach.” Elliot made his way towards his locker when he spotted Gilbert sitting on a bench, waiting. “No showers open?”
“No, there’s plenty. Mark’s in there right now.”
“You guys have a fight or something?”
“No, but if I go in there right now, he may have a really huge problem.”
“Oh, I get it.” Elliot leaned in and whispered, “Dude, after last night, I’m surprised you can walk let alone run laps. I mean, damn!”
“What? You saw us?”
“Saw you? Wait for the pictures!”
“Oh dude, way! You didn’t see us open the door and snap two quick ones?”
“Dude, you didn’t!”
“I did, but dude, you took that whole thing!”
Gilbert grinned, thinking back to the night before and immediately boned up. “Oh, thanks for that!” he said, moving his towel to reveal his own, big problem.
“Oops, sorry. But . . . damn!” Elliot had to adjust himself as he made his way to his locker where he stripped down and grabbed his towel and toiletries. He walked around the corner to the first open shower head and hung his toiletries on it. He tossed his towel up on the rack above the shower and stepped in, soaking himself well. He turned around so the warm water hit his back, glancing around to see who was there and to see what condition their conditions were in.
Mark was in the corner finishing up. Jess was next to him and stealing glances at Mark’s huge trout. Elliot grinned and turned and grabbed his shampoo and poured some in his hand and began to lather up after returning the bottle to his toiletries net. He had a good lather when he turned back to see Jess looking at him, and he knew he was caught. He blushed and started to rise when he turned back to face the wall and turn his shower off. When he turned back around, Elliot was bent over rinsing his hair and Jess caught sight of the redness around his pucker. Jess gasped and grabbed his towel, letting it dangle in front of him to hide the rise while he dried his hair and arms. Most everyone was gone and just the few were left when Mark came out and Elliot was then joined by Gilbert. He jumped in the bay next to Elliot.
“Can I use some of your shampoo? I forgot mine.”
“Yeah, sure.” He handed it to him, but when he leaned over his nostrils caught a whiff of something delicious.
“Dude, what kind of body wash is that?” Elliot asked, taking the bottle and holding it up to his nose. “Umm, Sauve brown sugar and cinnamon. No wonder.” He looked around cautiously to make sure they were now alone.
“No wonder what?”
Elliot looked down and he was hard as a rock, “Dude, that is so sexy smelling, I want to throw you down on the floor and lick it all off of you.”
Gilbert froze, looking down first at Elliot’s then at his own. Grinning, he grabbed the bottle and put a little more in his hand and lathered up his crotch, looking at Elliot. Elliot stopped and looked at him smirking and the fact that he now only had a lather on his crotch and raised an eyebrow.
Gilbert blushed, “Just covering down in case you couldn’t help yourself. Damn, such will power, you sure you don’t want to give in?”
Elliot grinned, “I’m telling Mark! He’ll give you a real tongue lashing.”
“Oh good!” He leaned in, “His tongue is longer than his dick!”
Elliot’s jaw dropped as boy giggles erupted from the shower bay. “Hey, you boys better get a move on or you’re gonna be late!” It was Coach Russell. Elliot and Gilbert rinsed off and shut down the shower heads. Grabbing their towels and toiletries, they made way to their lockers.
Mark was sitting, waiting for them. Looking around as he spoke, “Damn, sounded like you guys were having a boygie in there.”
“And you waited out here?” Elliot scolded him.
“It was hard . . .” Mark started to say.
“And you didn’t cum in?” Gilbert cut him off, staring at him as he finished drying himself.
Mark paused, his mouth open, looking down. “Oh thanks, I needed that.” He stood and moved his almost permanent baseball bat to the side.
Gilbert licked his lips, “Is it lunch time already?”
“Gilbert, you have to stop or you are going to out us. This may be funny to you, but I have two classes yet and now I am going to be late waiting for little Mark to settle down. I’m even thinking about changing gym classes. What you do to me without trying is bad enough. But this is selfish and uncaring. You’re going to get me in a lot of trouble just because you want to be amused.”
Gilbert saw the hurt in his eyes and suddenly felt bad for his folly. “Mark, you’re right. I’m really sorry. I don’t want to see you change classes, but I understand it if you do. But if you choose to stay, I won’t tease you anymore, I promise . . . forgive me?”
Mark stood up glancing around and stole a quick kiss. “I’ll wait outside.” He smiled his shy smile. Seeing his point was made, he grinned, turning to leave, “Hey, can you ugly up a bit too? You’re still hot.”
Elliot laughed. Shoving Mark towards the door, he turned back to the half dressed Gilbert. “I gotta stop and see the coach. I’ll see ya later, too.”
“Hey coach, you wanted to see me?”
“Yeah Elliot, come on in. First, I wanted to check and see if everything was okay. I mean, I saw Jessie over there and well, he’s not normally one I would put you with, if you know what I mean.”
“I’m fine. He’s the one that showed me what I was doing wrong. Coach, do you know about a meeting a bunch of them had about me?”
“What kind of meeting?”
“I asked Jess why he helped me. He said a bunch of them had a meeting about me. And they were like, planning to give me swirleys or something until I quit. But then Conrad said something to them all and said if they did anything, then they would have to deal with him on it. I asked what he said, but Jess said it was too personal and I would have to get it from Conrad. The part I don’t get coach, is that it’s one thing to tell them not to hurt me, but Conrad’s not even here today and Jess still offered to help me. So whatever he said must have changed their minds about wanting me gone. I can’t figure out for the life of me what he could have said to make them change how they feel about gays.”
“I’m glad you told me. I have no idea what was said, or who was there, but I could probably guess. Keep me informed if anything changes.”
“Thanks coach. Was there anything else?”
“Yeah, I wanted to make sure you were alright with us kidding around with you. I mean, you sorta set the level. I just wanted to make sure none of us went too far. I think it’s great that you are in the open. I think everyone kidding around really helps desensitize people to it. I’m hoping more will open up to it.”
“Well, I think that more would if they weren’t so afraid of coming out at home. I swear it’s almost as if they are less afraid of the kids at school finding out than their own families.”
“In a lot of cases that is just it Elliot. They can live with the rejection of classmates, but they can’t live without the love of their parents.”
“Yeah, but if they have loving parents, then they should know that won’t change things for them. They’ll just love them the same. I mean, it’s not like I could change. What choice do they have?”
“Elliot I know for you that works. You and your mom are really tight. But for a lot of kids, their relationships are different. They don’t have that, and in fact, are at risk telling their parents. A lot have to leave home and live with relatives or foster families because one or both of the parents blame themselves for contributing the ‘bad gene’ that made them gay. I know it sounds stupid, but that’s because you are intelligent. But societies are just now discovering that it’s not a choice and it’s not a defect. It’s just different. That’s why this change I’m trying to implement is so important. These kids are going to be parents someday and what they learn now, they will teach their kids. I’m not shooting for tolerance, I want acceptance.” The coach came around to the front of his desk and leaned back on it, looking carefully at Elliot.
“Elliot, I knew that this was not going to be a smooth transition and it would take someone with a special attitude to weather the storm. You were . . . are, that special kid. It’s you that have made these changes. I can change the way things work, the rules, the procedures. But I can’t make them accept you for being you, that all comes from you. And I’m really proud of you for having the courage and the sense of humor that you do. You have brought a new humor to this class and it is turning out to be a lot of fun. You let me know if any of that changes for you. Okay?”
“Sure coach. I like this way better than getting beat up.”
“Uh, yeah, me too,” he said, grinning and handing a blue hall pass to him for his next class.
Elliot paused at the door, “You know Coach, you are pretty hot!”
The coach grinned and threw his hall pass pad at him as he ducked out the door. “The little shit,” he mumbled as he went over and picked up the pad.
“So, you ready?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“You want to ride in and like, park a couple aisles over so you don’t have to walk so far?”
“No, I can make it.”
“It’s a long ways to the back of the store.”
“I can do this!” Jan snapped back at him.
“Let’s go.” He opened the door to get out of the van. Something he had never done before. He paused for a moment, unsure of which foot first. He tried to remember the rhyme that his physical therapist taught him. ‘Was it bad foot to heaven and good foot to hell’ or ‘Good foot to heaven, bad foot to hell’?
Elliot saw his hesitation and realized his dilemma. “Jan, wait for a minute until I get around there.” He walked around. “Why don’t you put your good foot down first, that way you aren’t slamming your body weight on your stump. You can put it down gently. I’ll steady you as you come down.”
Jan smiled, “Good idea. I never thought about this part.”
“Get your keys then and let’s go.”
Jan slid sideways and gently to the ground.
“Shouldn’t you have like, a cane or crutch, or one of them old people things?”
“You mean a walker brace? It would take away from it. I’m fine.”
“Vanity, vanity, thy name is vanity,” Elliot mumbled.
“What? Are you saying I’m vain?”
“No, it’s just something my grandmother used to tell mom when she primped too long.”
“Uh! Now I’m taking too long? Or are you saying I’m primping? I’m crushed!” Jan slowly made his way to the back of the van and the two bantered until they came to the door. Jan paused, putting his hand on Elliot’s shoulder as he stepped over the piece of metal threshold, although it was not raised, he perceived the possibility of catching his foot on it.
“Why don’t I get a cart for you so you have something to steady yourself on and to lean on if you get tired?”
“Yeah, cool. I can do that and it won’t draw attention.” Elliot went over and grabbed a cart, rolling it a little and deciding that one wobbled too much, grabbed another. Again going through the ritual, he satisfied himself that it was a good one. Jan meanwhile sat on the bench looking annoyed but secretly grateful for the break.
“You sure you don’t want to jack it up? Maybe lube the bearings?”
“What are you saying?”
“I almost grew a new foot waiting for you to pick a cart.”
“You’re welcome. I supposed you would have been happy with the first one. If I had picked that one, you’d look like a dog chasing his tail in circles. We’d never make it to the back.”
“Alright, alright, sheesh! Why are you so touchy?”
Elliot froze, slack jawed. Jan was pushing the cart into the store when he turned his head around grinning and winked at him.
“Dude, that is so wrong. You wait. Paybacks are a bitch.”
Jan remembered the last payback and knew Elliot was a master at it, he was in trouble.
“Look there’s no need to get upset. It was just a little fun. I’m sorry.” He tried the sad puppy look again.
“Oh please! Grow a set of balls. You screwed up and now you’re going to have to pay.”
“I guess I need to go to sad puppy eyes school. I just can’t win.” They had made it all the way down the midway to the intersecting aisle. “How about I wait here and you see if you can find her. Then come back here and get me.”
Elliot noticed he was leaning on the cart heavily. “Sure you’re alright?”
“Yeah, I think I’m just going to road test one of these hassocks for a moment.” He picked one of the larger green foot rests to plop his butt onto. He placed one hand on the cart to keep anyone from rolling away with it.
Elliot wandered up and down the aisles until he spotted his mom working on an end cap.
“Hi mom!” He placed his hand on her back and gave her a little smooch. “How’s your day?”
“Okay. What brings you down here?”
A grin appeared on his face. “Jan’s here to surprise Renae. Where’s she at?”
“I think she’s over in automotive. Want me to get her?”
“Do you think you can get her to come over here and keep her busy for a moment?”
“Yeah sure, what’s going on?”
“It’s a surprise mom. Just keep her attention and looking at you until you see us coming down the aisle. Okay?”
“Is this a good surprise, or a not-so-good surprise?”
“Mom, would I be smiling like this if it was bad? Trust me, will ya?”
“Alright.” She walked over to a phone and punched in a couple numbers and a tone came over the speakers. “Fourteen to shoes please, fourteen to shoes.” She hung up the phone. “Better get or she’ll see you.”
Elliot retreated to the midway where he had left Jan. “I found mom. She called your mom and will keep her busy until she sees us.”
“Cool! Did you have to tell her what it was?”
“Nope, told her to just trust me. I’ll push the cart and you walk beside it with a hand on it like you’re shopping.”
Jan peeked around the corner and saw Renae’s back. “Come on, she’s there.” They rounded the corner and slowly made their way down towards the moms. It was a good distance to go and they walked slowly. Renae shifted to the left, setting her notebook down on the endcap when Karen saw over Renae’s shoulder. Her mouth opened and a smile grew on her face.
“Oh my God! Renae, look at that!” Renae snapped around, not sure what to expect, and saw Jan walking down the aisle, grinning.”
“Oh my God, look at you! Oh honey, I am so proud of you! When did you . . .? You guys must have been practicing when I wasn’t home for this. Oh honey, this is fantastic. And you walked all the way in from the lot?”
“Yeah, I had to take a break in the midway for a bit, but I’ve made it all the way. Hey Elliot, can I have that cart back now?”
Elliot pushed the cart forward and gave his mom another little kiss as Renae walked around him just looking.
“So what brought this on?” Renae asked. “You were so dead against it before.”
“You can thank Elliot. He beat me up over it one day and I decided to give it another go. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be standing here right now. But mom, I have an appointment for a fitting tomorrow and you need to be with me for it.”
“Sure honey, what time?”
“Nine in the morning. I made it early so you wouldn’t miss too much work.”
“Honey, I love you so very much. Look, since I have you here, I talked to Jim Clayburn. We have an appointment tomorrow with him at noon. I told him we want to talk to him about Karen and Elliot moving in with us. He said there had to be a reason, like one of them working for the trust. So I’m thinking that we could hire Elliot to be your companion and help do things, like he is right now. And we can get Karen to help me with the domestic stuff. You know, organize my toy box or something. And I figured that we could talk to him about the pool enclosure. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. If we covered the pool and the area off to the right, we would have outdoor stuff all year round.”
“Sweet! You’re brilliant mom.”
“Yeah well, that remains to be seen. He hasn’t approved it yet.”
“We’ll just have to convince him then.”
“Alright, look, we have to get back to work, so you better get out of here. I’ll see you at home.”
“Hey Renae?” Elliot cut in.
“Do you know how to cook Thai?”
Three voices echoed simultaneously, “No!” as they all broke into laughter.
Elliot had a hurt look, “I’m crushed!”
Jan laughed, “But we’re safe! No Thai for you, ever again, stink boy!” They continued to joust as they slowly walked away, the moms smiling at their relationship.
Elliot noticed Jan standing taller and grinning as he made his way out to the van. No thoughts towards the pain in his leg. Elliot smiled.
“Mrs. McAllister, when you sent Mr. Granger to get the boys, knowing he had a predisposition against gays, you entered into a conspiracy pact whether you intended to or not.”
“But Mr. Roberts, as the prosecuting attorney, surely you can see there was no kidnapping here. I mean, he walked the boys from their classroom to the office.”
“Mrs. McAllister, when he placed his hands upon him and forced him to the office, he moved him from his intended destination to one controlled by him.”
“Yes, he brought him to the office. That was his destination.”
“Was it? Perhaps he chose to ignore the request, not feeling safe in the clutches of Mr. Granger. Perhaps he was going to ask the teacher of his class to escort him. Perhaps he feared for his life and was going to bolt and run from the building. The point is this. He had no right or authority to lay hands upon this child. You not only sent him, but then you watched as he, a well trained Marine, trained to kill people, manhandled Elliot Glicksman. Now here is what I am offering. If you testify for the state against Mr. Granger, I’m prepared to lower this to a simple assault on a minor. Provided, of course, that you plead guilty to it, and that you attend some classes on sexual awareness and sensitivity. You could get off with two years probation.”
Her mouth gaped open. “I’ll not plead anything! I did nothing wrong.”
“If not, then we will prosecute you fully, as complicit and possibly conspiratorially, in the assault, battery and kidnapping on one Elliot Glicksman, a minor, as well as assault on one Jandus Winston Teagle. These charges will move your case into federal court and the charges will be exacerbated by the fact that they were done with the belief and conviction that they are gay. That moves it into the hate crime arena. ”
“Where did Jan Teagle come into this?”
“Young Jandus Winston Teagle? The poor little crippled boy in the wheelchair? He was brought to the office as well. He was so frightened that he felt he had to ram his wheelchair into Mr. Granger in order to protect himself, his boyfriend and his boyfriend’s mother. I am approaching this from the standpoint that although he is a young, slimly built, little, crippled boy, that had he been able to stand, he too would have been in Mr. Grangers grasp. But since his mobility is hampered, it was as if he was indeed already in his grasp, mentally, if not physically. I’m sure he will testify, through his tears, he was convinced that after Mr. Granger was done with Elliot, that the same fate awaited him. In many ways, his terror was worse than Elliot’s.” Mr. Roberts leaned in grinning, “And, let me tell you when I have him roll into the courtroom, the jury is going to have a field day. You’ll be lucky if they don’t throw a rope over the lamp post. At the very least, you are looking at forty years. But don’t worry, you can parole out at twenty. Of course, you’ll certainly be ruined and unable to work with kids again, anywhere in this country. But hey! There’s always Nigeria, right?”
Mrs. McAlister’s attorney whispered frantically to her behind the back of his hand. Her eyes got big as she looked at him. Mr. Roberts had done a good sell and he knew it. He sat back now, trying not to smile too broadly as he tapped his pen top gently against his lower lip and watched her squirm. She looked at her attorney, aghast. “You ‘think’ you can beat him? You ‘think’?!” She took a breath, studying the table in front of her. Her attorney leaned forward and started to whisper to her again behind his yellow legal pad, when she snapped.
“Can you shut up for one moment and let me think? This is not your life we are dealing with! Either way, you go home to a soft bed. You should try it where I was for the weekend. I can bathe for a week and not feel clean again.”
She stood and paced a moment. “Probation, you say? Two years? That won’t keep me from working, will it?”
“There is no law that would preclude you from working for the school system under these charges. Like I say, this being your first offense, and as long as you enroll in, and take the appropriate classes, I am sure you will maintain your eligibility to work for the school system.”
“I’ll take the deal,” she said, sitting quickly and smiled. “I had no idea he would hurt those sweet little boys. Don’t they make a cute couple?” She said it with a sweet, prune looking smile. Mr. Roberts smiled, took a pen from his pocket and placed it on top of the papers, carefully sliding it across the table to her waiting hands.
Her school board appointed attorney looked like his lunch was revisiting his mouth as he watched her sign the agreement. He stood up and walked out.
“Now let me get this straight coach Russell, you want permission for your son and his partner to come and speak to your gym classes to tell them what it’s like to be a gay couple as an adult?”
“Yes ma’am. I would have asked Mrs. McAllister, but she hasn’t returned yet from her . . . um, personal time off? So being the second-in-command so to speak, I think it is left up to you.”
“Yes, well, I’m not sure I want to be handed this hot potato.”
“Mrs. Petrie, my job is to help prepare these kids for life. There are a lot of them that are gay, a lot of them fighting within themselves not to be, and a greater number that are straight and afraid of something they know nothing about. All I want to do is educate them. Let the ones who suffer through each day, trying to figure out if life is worth living, to know it is. And to let the uneducated ones see that gay people do not wear raincoats and hang out at elementary school yards on Saturdays. Are you aware of the statistics regarding teenage suicide? Please, consider it.”
“Coach, I’m prepared to go out on a limb here because I think you’re right. But if we are going to do this, then I think it needs to be universal. Do you think these gentlemen can find a couple ladies to join them?”
“Yes ma’am, but all of my classes are boys.”
“Coach, if I said yes and we caught flack, the first question is going to be, ‘Why just them?’ So what I am thinking is an assembly. Think they can do it in an hour?”
“Yes ma’am, I’m pretty sure they can.”
“They were coming tomorrow, right? Think they can get the two ladies together by then too?”
“I can call them and ask them.”
“Here, use my phone. I’m not sure when Mrs. McAllister will be back and if we wait, we might lose the opportunity altogether. Now, this isn’t going to be a ‘how to’ you know, ‘do it’ thing, right?”
“No ma’am, they will get some information and some links to safe sex sites and sites with more information. Don’t worry, no porn sites. I’m sure if they are gay, they already have those. No, this is more a ‘There is real life after high school’ kind of thing. Mrs. Petrie, you can live through anything if you can see an end to it. Some of these kids don’t see any hope of happiness. It’s them that I want to reach.”
“Alright then, you want to give them a call?”
The coach looked at his watch, “They both have classes until three-thirty. I’ll call them tonight. I’m sure they can come through.”
“Tomorrow at two o’clock then. In the auditorium. And Coach Russell, I just hope there isn’t anyone sawing on the limb because it is a long way down.”
“Mrs. Petrie, I really think this is the right thing to do. I think we may be saving lives here.”
“You’re singing to the choir now coach. I just hope that Ellen McAllister doesn’t take my head off over it.”
“You and me both!”
“Well, if it’s a hanging that we’re in for, I don’t mind, as long as I don’t swing alone.”
“Something has come up.”
“Somebody already screaming?”
“No, not quite. Uh, two questions. First, can you two get dates and second, do you mind speaking to around four hundred? Tomorrow at two?”
“Holy shit dad. Now what exactly are you talking about, dates?”
“Well, I mean two women, you know, sorta like you and Ken.”
“Ah! Lesbians,” Paul said, knowing his father was wincing at the term.
“Yes, exactly. I didn’t know the term. I thought that might be the not so nice way of saying it. You know, like queer or something. So they call themselves lesb . . . that, huh?”
“Yeah dad, lesbians,” he said, slowly playing with him now.”
“Uh yeah, so can you get a couple of those?”
“Those what, dad?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can find a couple of queer girls to tag along.”
“Paul!” The coach could hear the laughter in his voice.
“Hang on a second pop, let me make sure Ken is okay with this. I don’t have a problem with it, but he might.” Covering the phone loosely so it wouldn’t cut out the conversation, he spoke to Ken. “It’s my dad. He wants to know if we can hook him up with a couple of lesbians to do it in front of four hundred teenagers. Are you good with it?”
“Yeah! Go dad!” Ken said in the background. Paul, grinning widely, uncovered the phone and spoke through his laughter.
“Yeah, Ken says he’s good with it, but he doesn’t want to watch.”
“You guys are going to kill me yet. See you tomorrow then, about one-thirty in the auditorium.”
“Sure pop and hey, I love you.”
“I love you too son, thanks.”
“Hello, Diaz residence, this is Conrad speaking.”
“Hey Conrad, missed you at school today.”
“Hey Steve, I had a dentist appointment. I’ll be back tomorrow. Did I miss anything?”
“No, the place has been so quiet, it’s almost spooky. The teachers are all weirded out over the Granger-McAllister thing. The rumor is, they’re going to get life. I hope so. That old biddy is ready for the rest home anyways and nobody will miss Granger at all. Maybe now they will get somebody in there that can teach!”
“So what can I do for you, I got to set the table for dinner?”
“Oh, sorry. I just wanted to tell you that we got Marsha and two of her friends together and a couple of the guys pitched in and we will be ready with “Operation Tutu” for Thursday’s game.”
“‘Operation Tutu’? That’s what you guys named it?”
“Yeah, cool, huh? I can’t wait. This will throw them so off, it isn’t even funny.”
“Sweet! Hey Steve?”
“This would really make my brother happy.”
“Cool. See you in school tomorrow?”
“Yeah, talk to ya then.”
“Yeah, see ya.”
Conrad hung up the phone grinning. “What would make your brother happy?” Mr. Diaz asked.
Conrad looked up at his dad, “Operation Tutu”.
“Sit down son, let’s talk over dinner. I’m sure your mom will want to hear this too.”
Conrad smiled thinking about Elliot’s wiggle as he started to explain. “There’s this kid at school, and well, he can’t help it, he just has this wiggle like a girl when he walks and he is definitely gay. Some of the guys were going to give him a hard time because they wanted him off the soccer team. So I stepped up and told them about Philip and how he was gay and afraid to tell anyone and how I . . .” His eyes filled with tears that he tried to hold back, “I would love to tell him it’s alright. But since I can’t, that I was going to make sure this kid wasn’t afraid to be who he was. So the guys said they never looked at it like that. So they made up this ‘Operation Tutu’ for when the other team sees we have a gay kid on the soccer team.”
“So what is ‘Operation Tutu’ Conrad?”
“Sorry pop, sworn to secrecy. You’ll have to come to the game Thursday to find out,” the corners of his lips curling up as he thought about it.
Mr. Diaz looked at his wife, then back to Conrad, “Conrad, uh . . . are you gay?”
A look of shock appeared on Conrad’s face. Then he realized why they were asking. “No pop, mom. I like girls. Honest. It’s just that. . . I knew.” He looked down as his tears flowed freely down his face. “I knew and never said anything to him. I can’t help but think that if I had just said something to him, anything, you know, maybe . . . he wouldn’t have . . .” Mr. Diaz hugged his son and Conrad melted into his arms, sobbing.
His tears subsided and Mr. Diaz pulled him back to look him in the eyes. “Conrad, I think what you are doing, this ‘Operation Tutu’ thing, if it makes this boy’s life easier, I think Phillip would be very proud of you. And Conrad,” he brought his chin up to make his eyes meet his again. “We can all look back and wonder what we could have done. But there is nothing we can do to change the past, except change how we live the future. And right now, I am very proud of you and I think Philip would be too. We’ll be there Thursday.”
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