“Oprah? They want us on Oprah!? Dude, that is fantastic!” Elliot said to Conrad.
“Well, they want the other team too, and of course, they want Brian Fenster.”
“Who’s Brian Fenster?”
“The idiot that knocked you and Jeremy out.”
Elliot lost his smile and stared out into nothing for a moment. “Have you asked Jeremy yet?”
“No, you were the one we did this for. Jeremy is a soft target. He hasn’t officially come out to anyone.”
“Right. What about the other team?”
“They want all of them too. Remember that they asked for our garters.”
“Yeah, did they answer yet?”
“Elliot, without you, there is no story. It all hinges on you first.”
He thought for a moment, “Oprah! Hell yes, I’ll do it.”
“Alright, well, it has to go through a lot yet before it happens. All the parties have to sign and if anyone pulls back, they will have to see how it affects the story.”
“I’ll have to check and see if Jan can or will come.”
“Well, they didn’t ask for him. He wasn’t part of this.”
“They may not realize it, but he was a huge part of this.”
“Here’s a number they gave for questions.”
“Cool, I’ll have mom give them a call.”
“Let me know how it plays out.”
“Look, Elliot, don’t get too excited, a lot has to happen in a short amount of time for this to go all the way, so don’t get your hopes up. There is still a long ways to go and a short time to make it happen in or it doesn’t happen. Not the least of which is Brian Fenster. If he doesn’t go, then there is no bad guy, so it may not happen at all.”
“Hello, Mr. Steiner? This is Ellen McAllister, from the school.”
“Yes Ms. McAllister, what can I do for you?”
“Please call me Ellen. I um, saw the soccer game. I just wanted to call and tell you how sorry I am, it’s such a shame that they are ruining the chances for your son.”
“Um, what do you mean?”
“Mr. Steiner, it’s obvious that their kind have, you know, run amuck and that blatant display of their, un-natural behavior shall we say, has ruined the reputation of this school. We were once known for producing quality athletes and young men and women of virtue. Just a few have tried to muddy the water. Don’t you agree?”
“Well, I must say that I am a little dismayed at recent developments, you might say.”
“Yes, I saw how they pressured your son into wearing that ridiculous thing. The coach will definitely have to go. Unfortunately, they have tied my hands. They set me up very nicely I might add, but it is not too late to fix this. With a little pressure from the right direction and this could be turned around before next term. Wouldn’t you like for your son to be seen in a more ‘normal’ light?”
“I think that goes without saying. Suppose we cut to the chase here . . . Ellen. What would you have me do?”
“Why Mr. Steiner, I’m not suggesting that you ‘do’ anything. In my position, suggesting things like filing grievances or asking for an investigation into recent assemblies and gym class procedures regarding gay and natural kids would not be appropriate for a person in my position, regardless of whether or not it was in the best interest of the normal students and may keep our kids from being infected with this queer behavior. I’m afraid the climate of protectionism is failing. I think perhaps even our principal and the coach may be working in tandem to corrupt the entire student body.”
“Really Mrs. McAllister, don’t you think you may be overstating the problem?”
“Am I? Perhaps. I mean, you would certainly know better than me. I mean, Jeremy always seemed like a fine, normal, young man before they had this gay assembly in the school in my absence. I returned to find grown men and lesbians in extensive acts of sexual arousal on the stage before the entire school. He did mention it to you, didn’t he, Mr. Steiner?”
“Uh, no. No one mentioned anything about that.”
“Yes, well, they were probably told not to say anything. Of course, I called the whole thing to a close at once. Even the superintendant was surprised at it. They must have infected him too, because at the last minute, he turned his head to it all. I’m telling you, they were making out, teaching the kids how to do it, right there in front of God and country. And there were no assemblies scheduled before I was securely removed from the picture. That’s why they had to get me out of the way, I suspect. And they did that very effectively I might add, too. Tell me Mr. Steiner, did you consent to homosexual classes for your son?”
“Uh no, I most certainly did not.”
“Well, he certainly had an education, I can tell you that. Hopefully, it didn’t affect him too badly. Tell me, he isn’t showing any other signs, you know, of being un-natural, has he?”
“I really haven’t, um, noticed anything specific,” he said, side stepping the question. “Tell me, where was Ms Petrie when all this was happening?” he asked, hoping to re-direct the conversation.
“Why, she was on stage! She came out and defended it to the superintendant. I think perhaps she has a hold on him because as soon as he saw her and heard her say that she had invited them, then all his objections melted away.”
“Well, you have certainly given me a lot to think about.”
“Yes, well, I am concerned about the moral fabric of society and I’m just afraid that the Parent Teacher Association hot line may have been called. It could cause significant strife to the school officials. Of course, if I were to be mentioned, well, I’d fear for my safety as well as my job. They have already attempted to destroy me and my career. I even had to plead guilty to something I had no part in or they would have railroaded me right into jail. These people can be very dangerous.”
“I understand now completely . . . Ellen. I might just have to make a few phone calls. You have certainly shed a lot of light on this situation.”
“I am only doing my job, Mr. Steiner. My goal is just to right the system. To put things back to what is moral and safe for our young and impressionable children. I am only doing what any concerned parent would do.”
“Of course. I’m grateful to you for this call.”
“One more thing before I go, Mr. Steiner.”
“Please, call me Jared, Ellen. What is it?”
“Well, this all started when a young boy came here from another school. He obviously has un-natural tendencies. You may want to keep your son away from Elliot Glicksman. You know. He could be trying to do most anything with your son. I understand he is on the same team and in the same gym class. I mean, I wouldn’t want my son disrobing in front of a boy like that. Who knows what he is just waiting for the chance to do. Or perhaps he has done already! Who can really say? The coach certainly isn’t saying. I understand his son was one of the men on the stage teaching your son.”
“I’ll see to it Ellen. Thanks so very much.”
“Just remember that I didn’t say anything. If they find out, I won’t be in a position to do anything. As it stands, I can at least keep an eye on things and step back in when the time is right.”
“Of course. I understand completely. I’ll keep your name out of it Ellen. You just keep your eyes open. Feel free to call me anytime.”
“Hey Virgil, look at this shit. Isn’t that the soccer team from your school on TV? Sure looks like your school there. Son of a bitch! Virgil! Come see this, your entire soccer team is a bunch of fuckin’ queers! Dude, they’re on national TV. Look at this shit.”
“What the fuck are you runnin’ your mouth about? Holy shit!” Virgil stood dumbfounded, staring at the TV.
“Dude,” Wayne said, sitting back, sipping on his beer. “Looks to me like your whole fuckin’ school is a bunch of fags. You know what people’s gonna think ’bout you now, don’t ya?”
“Fuck you Wayne! Soccer’s a fuckin’ sissy ass sport anyways.”
“See, now that’s what I mean! I could take that a number of ways, my man.”
“That’s good, because that’s how I’m gonna give it to you if’en you keep on. This is serious shit, no jokin’ around now. We’re gonna have to do something to show the good folks we ain’t all that way. Christ, we have a nest of filth right under our noses. This is shit even the damn Mormons wouldn’t put up with, an’ we all know they’s heathens.”
“Oh shit, look at that would you, Virg? They must be spreadin’ the most virulent kind. Did you see that? He took that fag ballet thing from the coach and put it on, right in front of national TV! And the coach! He’s a freakin’ Mason, Virg! I know, I seen his ring. If they can corrupt a Mason then shit, ain’t nobody safe. I’ll bet you can get that queer disease off the damn drinkin’ fountain for Christ’s sake. Look, ain’t that Brian Fenster? His daddy makes the best home brew in six counties. Looks like he is fighting the battle himself. He must be immune too. Shit, he ain’t havin’ no part of it. Reckon that moonshine his daddy makes disinfects most anything. I reckon we need to get us another jug for they recognize it as a purification elixir. He already wants more than beer for it. A lot of guys I know is drinkin’ beer cause it so much cheaper.”
“And holy shit, Wayne, look! The entire other team is even infected. Look at them asking for them little queer things for their legs. This shit is spreadin’ like wildfire. Maybe they gave it to our team Wayne! I know some of them dudes and they’re no damn sissies.”
“You mean they wuddin’t aforen. Now they’re touched in the head a might. An’ I don’t think the other team brought it.”
“Simple Virg. The one wearin the big queer thing was on your team. He must be like the queen queer of the hive or something.”
“No shit? You think?”
“I don’t think Virg, I know. When you lived as long as I have, ya know I was in the damn army. I been to Thailand and Bangkok and even Germany. And I gots to tell you that is a queen queer if’n ever I seen one. I’ll tell you something else too. We don’t nip this in the bud and you better start thinkin’ of Bibs in pink!”
“We? You mean you’d help me get rid of this sickness?”
“Course Virg, we is brothers man, don’t you worry. I’ll make a few phone calls and we’ll see if we can wake a few brothers up and maybe go down in history as the ones who saved McKenzie High School from becoming a fag heaven.
“Did ya hear Jan? They want us on Oprah. Can you believe it?”
“Yeah, I heard. I just wonder why.”
“Why? I would think even you could figure that out.”
“Okay, so suppose you tell me why then.”
“Well, it isn’t every day that a whole team, no, make that two whole teams, come out in support of a gay kid.”
“You’re right about that, but what does the network stand to gain from it?”
“I think it’s a good story. Lots of people will want to know why. Jan, we could start a movement. I mean Oprah has an audience of millions.”
“Yeah, but I heard they want Brian Fenster, too. It is sounding more like a screaming session from Jerry Springer to me. They only want shit that is controversial and if they can make it even hotter, their ratings will go up.”
“You’re over reacting a bit, aren’t you? I mean, I’ve watched it before and they have had like kids who play instruments or have a real talent at an early age. There isn’t any controversy there!”
“I hope you’re right, that’s all.”
“That’s alright then, you don’t have to be on National TV with me, you can just stay at home.”
Elliot looked at Jan to see if he was kidding, “You don’t want to be on TV?”
“No, not at all.”
“To be famous.”
“Thanks, no. Famous people have a lot of enemies. I’ve got enough already and I haven’t even done anything to make them hate me. They hate me for being different. I’m in a wheel chair. That’s all it takes.”
“Nobody hates you, that’s all in your head,” Elliot said as a kid came by and pushed Elliot over top of Jan and the wheel chair. Jan hollered at the kid who disappeared into the throng of students before turning his attention to Elliot on the floor. Giving him a ‘see I told you so’ look, he put out his hand.
“Don’t say it. That’s different. That’s what we are trying to combat.”
“Right, look, I really don’t want to be in the middle of it, but I’m with you. I love you.” He whispered the last bit, looking sheepishly around.
“I love you too, but we better watch ourselves. We don’t know all the people who saw the broadcast. There are a lot of fanatics out there, too. Meanwhile, why don’t you grab your books and let’s go find that piece of shit that just pushed you and let me knock his block off.”
Elliot smiled, “I love it when you’re my knight in shining armor.”
“Yeah right, say what you want, I’m tired of it. I want to knock him out.”
“Jan, screw that. Did you see the size of that guy?”
“Screw him. If I can’t kick his ass then I’ll call my cousin Tanner, He’ll kick his ass eight ways to Sunday.”
“I didn’t know you had a cousin.”
“Of course not. He’s a hot surfer dude and I don’t want to chance losing you to him.”
“Like that would ever happen. Besides, if he’s a hot surfer dude he probably has a hot surfer babe too.”
“Yeah, he does. His name is Ryan.” Elliot snapped around with a grin on his face.
“Wait, this is too much. He’s hot and he’s a surfer and he’s gay?”
“And he’s got a boyfriend. Don’t forget that part, it’s very important.”
“Of course. I mean, I have a boyfriend too!” Elliot smiled back at Jan. “Come on, let’s skip out for lunch.”
“What did you have in mind? McDonalds, Burger King? What.”
Elliot smiled and cupped his ear as he whispered. Jan’s face turned red as he turned and sped, grinning, towards the doors with Elliot right behind.
“Oh my God Karen, the whole store is talking about it. Mr. Barens, the store manager, even wants to donate fabric to the school to make more armbands and garters. He wants to get a team photo with the garters on and put it across the entrance to the store. He says it is another way Walmart can give back to the community. Go figure.”
“Well, I think that’s cool. I mean, it’s sorta like making a stand for what is right, even if it isn’t popular. Oh Renae, I almost forgot, you won’t believe this. I got a call from Elliot. He said they want the team on Oprah. He sounds so excited, I thought he was going to wet his pants. I can’t believe this has become this big of an issue. I mean, it’s a freshman soccer team for crying out loud.”
“Remember, the other team was mostly sophomores.”
“True enough, but really, what difference does that make?”
Renae looked up dreamily for a moment, “Well, if I remember correctly, about an inch and a half and a patch of pubic hair.”
Karen grinned, “Sounds like you need a visit to the toy box.”
“Hmmm, I think you’re right. Let’s call in pizza and make an early night of it.
“Remind me to get some more batteries.”
“You know, I’m thinking rechargeables. I mean, we do seem to be going through a few.”
“On it, aisle six!”
“Gilbert, want to get together this weekend?”
“Sure Mark, love too. My place, Saturday morning. Wear old clothes. I have a garage to clean out, remember? Pass that along to Elliot and Jan too, would ya?” Gilbert was off to his next class.
“Dad, you are just being stupid.”
“Jeremy, listen. I just don’t think you should label yourself, that’s all. I mean, you might change your mind later. This could just be a phase you’re going through. And look, I don’t think it is a good idea being friends with that Glicksman kid, what’s his name? Elliot?”
“Dad, Elliot’s alright. There isn’t anything wrong with him. He’s just gay.”
“Right, of course. Look, do you really think you should be naked in front of a kid like that? I mean, he may have urges too strong to stop himself. . . ‘
“. . .Dad do you realize how stupid that is? He has a boyfriend. He isn’t any different than anyone else, except that his preference is male.
“Look, I’m not going to sit here and have you call me stupid in my own home . . .”
” . . . Fine dad, whose home would you rather I call you stupid in?”
“Don’t get smart with me. I don’t have to take that kind of shit. As long as you live under my roof you’ll live by my rules.”
“Here pop’s, let me fix that for you.” Jeremy ran upstairs and grabbed his backpack from school and opened a drawer and pulled clothes out, stuffing them randomly into a small sports duffle and ran down the stairs.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“What the fuck do you care. You can have your house and your stupid rules.” He opened the door and started through.
“Jeremy, get back up to your room. If you leave, don’t plan on coming back! Ever!”
“Fuck that and fuck you. I’m better off living on the streets.”
“Hi Gil, glad to see you’re finally getting to this garage.”
“Sorry it took so long. Thanks for letting me put it off last weekend and thanks for letting me spend the night over at Jan’s, too.”
“Who’s your friend?”
“Oh, sorry. Dad, this is Mark Waverly. Mark, this is my dad.” Mark extended his hand nervously to Gilbert’s dad.
“Hi Mr. Holland. Glad to meet you.”
“The pleasure is mine, please call me Bill. So what did he have to promise you to get you to volunteer for this, ‘oh my God, it’s just too much fun,’ task?” Bill asked, smiling. Mark looked at Bill and found his smile genuine and disarming.
“Well, we’re still negotiating. I was thinking he could do my history homework for a week,” Mark said, trying to hold back a boy giggle.
Bill got a serious look on his face and moved his pursed lips off to one side of his mouth as he looked up at the roof of the garage trying to figure out how to say what he was thinking. Then he spoke, “Uh, are you getting less than a “C” in history, Mark? Maybe you should think about having him do your English.” He broke into a laugh as Gilbert gave him a playful punch in the gut.
“Dad! I almost had him talked into it too! That’s it, your negotiating skills suck dad! When we go out to get my first car, I’m leaving you at home.”
“Ha! I’m not letting you drive ‘til your thirty!” They laughed as Bill turned around and headed back into the house. “Nice meeting you Mark. Now that we know you, don’t be a stranger.” He turned to Gilbert. “I’ll let your mom know that Mark will be here for lunch, too.”
“Hey dad? Jan and Elliot are supposed to be showing up shortly to help. Can they stay for lunch too?”
“Yeah sure, I’ll let Mom know. What did you do? Promise free beer?
“Hey pop, when you’re as popular as I am, people just flock to your side.”
Mr. Holland looked at Mark in silence for a moment before they both broke into a hard belly laugh simultaneously.
Gilbert glared at Mark who sobered quickly, until Gilbert turned his glare to his dad. Mark busted up again.
“Well, four people will make short work of this I suspect.” Mr. Holland said, his laugh subsiding.
“Well, three and a half. Jan is here more for company than anything.”
“Jan, that’s the boy in the wheelchair right?”
“Great, I’ll look forward to meeting them.”
“Sure pop. Thanks!”
With that, Bill turned and stepped through the door into the house.
Gilbert turned and looked at Mark. He opened his eyes wide and stuck out his lower lip and exhaled blowing the bangs momentarily out of his eyes. “So far, so good.”
Mark smiled, “Your dad seems like a nice guy, but I don’t think I’d want to have him mad at me.”
“He can yell, that’s for sure. But he’s never done more to me than a swat on the butt and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him angry enough to hurt someone.”
“I’m glad to hear it. I hope I’m not the first.”
“Oh, stop it. Nothing like that. The worst case would be like, grounding me until you can ice skate in hell. Here, take this box and set it out in the driveway, over there,” he said, pointing. “We’ll put all the Christmas stuff over there in one pile. Be careful with the green tubs, those are all the ornaments and fragile decorations.”
The boys started moving boxes out as Jan’s van pulled up.
“Right on time.” Gilbert looked at Mark. “Well, here we go.” They walked out to meet the boys as the side door opened and the platform deployed. Elliot opened the door and stepped out, waiting for Jan to maneuver his chair onto the platform and for it to lower itself to the deck. “Hey Elliot,” Gilbert said, proffering a fist forward to bump knuckles.
“Hey, where did that bumping knuckles thing start anyways?”
“Less germs! The NFL set it as policy to try and keep their guys from getting sick as often. It just caught on I guess.”
“Well, it solved a lot of problems. I never know how long to shake or how many times. It just feels weird sometimes.”
“Why sometimes and not others?” Mark asked, his analytical mind kicking in.
Elliot grinned, “Well, if he’s cute . . .” Jan cut him off.
“Then you got no business shaking anything of his. Hey guys,” Jan said, bumping knuckles with both of them.
“My dad was just out here. Come on, let’s get this done. Mom’s gonna make lunch for us.”
“So he hasn’t seen the news then, eh?” Elliot said, smiling.
“No, not yet,” Gilbert said, a worried look on his face. “You don’t think it’s still being shown on the news do you? I mean, it was like two days ago.”
“Yeah, and they want us on Oprah!” Jan said, grinning.
“Dude, let’s just get through today. We don’t have to mention that to them yet, okay? Let’s just see what he thinks about you two.”
“Right, got it!” Elliot said, toning his excitement down a notch. He slipped both hands into the back pockets of his skin tight blue jean shorts.
Mark noticed how tight and short they were, “Jan help paint those on ya?” he asked with a grin.
“Hey, these are my favorite ones! I’ve had them a couple years now.”
“Yeah, I like ’em too,” Jan added, smiling, looking at the tightly wrapped blue jean butt in front of him.
“No doubt!” Gilbert said, grinning. “Come on, let’s get on this so we aren’t on it all day.”
Jan drove his chair up into the garage and put it in the center. He flipped the foot supports up and stood up. “I’ll have to take lots of breaks, but I’m suppose to walk on it as much as I’m comfortable doing so. When it hurts, I’ll give it a break.”
“Cool, how does it stay on?” Mark looked quizzically.
Jan showed him the molded plastic piece that was shaped to fit his lower leg. “This is the learner model, so it has straps above the knee in two places and hinges here at the knee. Then, there is a waist cinch strap that goes over the hip bones so it doesn’t fall off. My new one will have a cinch strap above the calf, just below the knee and another on the hinge, just above the knee. So it will be a lot lighter and easier. It’s really cool, too. It has attachments! Like, for skiing and snowboarding. I can’t wait. It will be ready in about another week.”
“Too cool. Thanks for showing me,” Mark said. “Does it feel weird not having it there? You know, your foot?”
“Eh, you know. I can’t kick about it.” Jan said, making Elliot wince at the pun.
“Oh boo! How can you tell a bad joke like that! You have no sole!”
“Oh boo yourself!” Gilbert laughed.
Jan waited till the laughing subsided. “Occasionally, yeah. Sometimes it itches like it’s still there. That’s the toughest. They call them ghost pains and it can make you crazy because there isn’t anything to scratch. They don’t happen much anymore, though. The nerves that used to talk to the foot register weird stuff in your brain because it’s gone. So the brain makes shit up. That’s how it was explained to me anyways and it sorta makes sense. After it first happened, they gave me meds that just made me scattered mentally. It kept my mind from focusing on it, but they made me crazier than the ghost pains, so I stopped taking them, except when it really bugged me.
“Anyways, let’s move boxes!” Jan said, signaling that it was the end of the explanation.
The sorting and repacking continued until Gilbert’s mom stuck her head out in the garage.
“Gilbert, lunch is ready. Why don’t you show your friends where to wash their hands. I’ve got sandwich stuff on the buffet in the dining room.”
“Thanks mom, we’ll be right there.” He turned to Jan. “You need help with your chair? I’m not sure it will make it to the bathroom. Our house isn’t exactly laid out for it.”
“Actually, I think I’m doing alright. I’m just a little sore. I think I’ll just leave it. I just have to pay attention on steps and stuff when I go from one kind of walking surface to another. It’s hard to gauge when you pick it up high enough, so I catch the front of it and munch pavement. I’ve been lucky so far and have only tripped and landed on soft stuff.”
“Then let’s go. I’m starving,” Gilbert said. “The bathroom is down the hall, on the right. You two use that one and Mark and I will use the upstairs one.” He tugged on Mark’s shirt sleeve, “Come on!” And he sprinted up the stairs, two at a time, with Mark on his heels.
Jan and Elliot walked down the hall to the bathroom and closed the door. Washing up, Elliot turned to Jan. “Okay, so you ready?”
“Not really. Can’t we wait until after we eat? I’m starving and I hate getting bounced out on an empty stomach.” Elliot giggled.
“God, you’re such a pansy.” Elliot said in that patented grin.
“Oiy Girly boy, commence wiggling cutely.” Jan opened the door, extending his hand as if to say, ‘go ahead!‘ Elliot led the way back to the dining room.
Gilbert and Mark came down the stairs at just the right moment. Mrs. Holland appeared from the kitchen. “Gil, you want to introduce your friends?”
“Sure, Mom, this is Jan Teagle and that is Elliot Glicksman. He’s . . . he’s . . .”
“I’m Jan’s keeper,” Elliot cut in, rescuing Gilbert, who was blushing so bad he had to turn away for a moment. “I have to have him back in the asylum by five for the baboon feeding.”
Jan, blushing wildly, now gave Elliot a playful push. Turning to Mrs. Holland, he extended his hand to her. “I think what Gilbert was almost trying to say . . . almost . . . kind of, is that Elliot is my boyfriend.”
Not missing a beat, Mrs. Holland smiled and said, “Welcome! That’s wonderful.”
She turned to Gilbert, smiling, and just stared for a moment. Gilbert finally got nervous and blurted out, “What?”
“Do you want to finish the introductions, or should I pretend that the boy you were kissing upstairs is invisible?”
Gilbert’s jaw dropped open, “How did you know we were kissing? The door was closed.”
Her smile grew teeth, “I didn’t until just now.” Gilbert’s jaw dropped as she extended her hand to Mark, “Hi, I’m Dorothy and you are . . .?”
“Mortified” Mark whispered.
She winked at him. “Shall we call you Mort, or Morty, or Mortimer?”
Elliot and Jan busted up laughing as Gilbert managed to get out, “Mark. His name is Mark.”
Laughing, she said, “Grab a plate boys and make a sandwich.” She looked at Elliot, “What would you and your charge like to drink? I have fruit juices, apple, orange juice or grape, or we have soft drinks, cola or ginger ale or root beer.”
Jan and Elliot giggled out, “Apple juice, please.”
From the kitchen she said, “Morty, how about you?” The boys laughed again, almost in tears.
“Root beer please, Mrs. Holland.”
“Gil, you want your usual?”
A meek, timid, voice returned, “Yes, please.” She returned bearing drinks.
Looking at Gilbert, she took a finger and lifted his chin, “Hey, you’re alright. Sit down next to your boy.” He smiled at her.
“No problem. Your dad doesn’t know yet,” she grinned, “Bill! Come make a sandwich, hon!” And she turned and walked back into the kitchen.
Bill wandered in and grabbed a plate amidst the silence. He loaded up a Dagwood and sat down. A voice from the kitchen, “Coffee, Bill?”
“Yes, please, hon.” She brought two cups in, setting one in front of Bill and the other at her end of the table. Just as she sat down, Gilbert stopped chewing and stared for a moment before shifting his eyes left and then right. He leaned slightly to the left, and farted.
“Oh Gilbert!” his mother snapped.
“Couldn’t you . . . Oh, Gilbert!” She set her sandwich down as the fumes began to overwhelm.
Bill and the rest waved their hands as they rose from the table to escape. Gilbert just grinned and leaned right before releasing the sister to the first. He looked at Mark, leaving with the rest. “Where is your loyalty?” he bellowed.
“Even love has its limits!” Mark bellowed back. “Dude, what did you eat? That smells like rancid, fermenting, possum or something? That is just wrong on so many levels,” Mark spoke with his nose pinched. “Oh, dude, I can taste it!”
“I can’t help it. I get gas when I get nervous. And I recognize this one. It’s a KFC fart, extra crispy!”
“Extra crappy you mean. Never again.”
“But Mark, it’s my favorite.”
“Gilbert! It’s me or your fart producing chicken!”
“Did you know chickens can’t fart?”
“Stop trying to change the subject.”
“I’m gonna miss you Mark.” Gilbert couldn’t keep from laughing.
Dorothy returned with a candle, lighting it and setting it in front of Gilbert. They all started to return as the toxic fumes were consumed by the flame of truth.
Bill returned to his seat, “So . . . Gil is there something you’ve been meaning to mention to me?”
“Uh no . . . no, I don’t think so,” he said, trying to keep a straight face.
Mark placed his hand on Bill’s arm. “Please, don’t make him nervous. I’ll tell you anything you want to know. We’re boyfriends, you know? Mad lovers in training. Well, almost. But we hold hands and kiss a lot. Tell him it’s okay, quick, before he lets loose again. Please!”
Bill burst into laughter.
“What’s so funny about it?” Gilbert was almost insulted at the laugh. “He’s serious, dad.”
Bill laughed harder. Catching his breath again, he put his hand on Marks arm, “Son, if you’re brave enough to put your dick where that smell came from, have at it. Cause nothin’ but true love could foster that kind of dedication. Hand me the yellow mustard, would you, Mark?”
“So, Mark,” Mrs. Holland began. “I guess you better tell us about yourself if you’re going to be swapping spit with our Gilbert.”
Finishing the bite he was chewing, he took a sip of his juice. “Well, I used to like KFC chicken,” he began as laughter erupted. He paused to let it die down before adding, “Extra crispy.” And it put the table in tears. Again he waited until the laughter died down before continuing.
“I’m pretty much just normal. I like video games, good books. Oh, and I’m a Siderodromophilic Philatelist.” He finished taking a bite out of his sandwich, looking up to see five people staring unchewingly at him.
“What?” he asked, looking to see if someone suddenly wanted to hurt him.
“You’re a sodoma what?” Mr. Holland asked, his eyebrows raised.
“Oh, you mean a siderodromophillic philatelist?” He asked, looking around for a general consensus. “I collect postage stamps with trains on them.”
Gilbert blurted out, “Why didn’t you just say so? I thought I was going to have to go get tested or something.” Mark’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened as they shifted casually around the table trying to judge the reaction.
Gilbert grinned as he looked up to see that his mother and father both reacted to this revelation with raised eyebrows. Jan broke the silence, “Oh, look at the time, we better get back to that garage . . .”
“Uh Gilbert, how long have you two, uhm, been intimate? Are you using protection?” his father asked.
Mark took Gilbert’s hand under the table. “Not long dad. I mean, we just sort of fell in love last weekend at Jan and Elliot’s house.”
Mrs. Holland looked at Jan and Elliot, “You live together?”
Elliot spoke up, “Yes. Jan and I fell in love when I first went to the school. We became great friends. Being in high school, they decided they needed to hire someone to help Jan carry books and basically be his assistant. And I pushed him to try walking again, so they said we are really good for each other and they hired me to be his assistant and my mom to do the books for their trust and to help around the house. So, I’m a paid employee of the trust and his lover but, I’m not ‘paid’ to be his lover.
Mr. Holland took the conversation back. “So, are you using protection?”
“No dad. I mean, Mark was a virgin before we got together.” Mark found a lovely shade of red to maintain as he studied his potato chips on his plate.
“Do you think that’s wise?” Mr. Holland asked. “You’re smarter than that, aren’t you Gil?” He glanced at Mark.
“Well, the coach tried to give Mark a box.” Elliot piped up, “It’s just that . . .” Everyone blushed and started laughing. Everyone except Mr. and Mrs. Holland, who just looked confused.
Finally Mr. Holland asked, “Except . . .?”
Elliot smiled and spoke through a stifled laugh, “He didn’t have any that large! He said he would try and locate some oversized ones for him though.” Elliot was still grinning, Mark was nervously nibbling the final chip on his plate, trying to make it last as long as he can so he didn’t have to look up and see their reaction.
Mr. and Mrs. Holland looked to each other with wide eyes and then to Gilbert and Mark. Gilbert finally finished his chip and looked up to the wide-eyed stares. Smiling, he blushed and spoke, “I like a challenge.”
“So Mark, when do we get to meet your mom and dad?” Dorothy Holland asked, smiling.
Mark cleared his throat and swallowed, “They don’t know I am gay yet. They are quite a bit more conservative than you folks are. I’m not sure how they will take it.
“Are you planning to tell them, Mark?”
“Yeah. The plan was to bring Elliot and Jan here and see how you reacted to their relationship before we told you. We are planning the same thing at my house, with me helping them with homework. My mom isn’t quite as clever as you are Mrs. Holland.”
“Call me Dorothy Mark and Mr. Holland is Bill. When is this supposed to happen?”
“Well, we haven’t set a date yet. I’m really not in a hurry. I don’t think they will take it very well and I really do love my parents. I just don’t know what this will do to them.”
“Well, we would be glad to help you any way we can Mark, but right now, we are really in an odd predicament. We, as parents, like to be involved in Gil’s life and right now, we are in a position where we are sorta helping you hide your behavior from your parents.”
“Yes ma’am. We didn’t plan that, but I see your point. Look, you gotta give me a little time to ease them into it.”
“Okay, that’s fair. How long are we talking though?” Dorothy asked.
“Well, I was thinking about the second week of neverwary.”
“Yeah, well Mark, I’m not so good with that. How about next Saturday? We can even invite them here if you want. We’ll help you explain it to them.”
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