Wayne looked around at the group. Only five strong, but we’re five who are strong!
“Okay, so, everyone knows why we’re here. Anyone know where that Glicksman kid livs?”
“Sounds like a Jew. You trying to tell me he’s a Jew and a queer? Christ, the only thing worse than that would be if’n he was a colored too. Damn Virge, how’d you ever let a guy like that in yer school in the first place?”
“Shut up Ben, like I have the pick of who goes to my school.”
“I’m thinkin’ he lives over in the Shady Palms trailer court. I got a cousin who lives over there. You remember him Virge, Jeffrey. Jeffrey Doyle. I think he even said he had a math class with him or sompin’. I don’t rightly recollect.”
“That’s real good, Stan. Can you find out fer sure? Trailers are easy. They all got them gas tanks on the front.”
“What about that queen wannabe, Jeremy Steiner?”
“Christ Virgel, another fuckin’ Jew boy? One more and you’ll have more pawn shops than gas stations.” Ben snorted as he laughed, still chewing his gum with his mouth open.
Wayne turned to Brian, “Ain’t you got nuthin’ to say there, Brian? I mean, it was you they disgraced on national TV.”
“Yeah, I got something to say. What are you guys fixing to do? I ain’t into hurtin’ no one.”
“Brian, you get teched by that homo virus? Christ, yer talkin’ like some homo-sissy boy.” His voice went falsetto, “I ain’t in ta hurtin’ no one. It might be my boyfriend.”
Brian was on his feet and he grabbed Wayne and slammed him up against the wall. “I ain’t no faggot.” He threw Wayne’s scraggly ass over in the corner. “But I’m not ignorant either. This ain’t no virus. Christ, you guys are dumber than a box of rocks.”
“That’s all you know. They got that Aids shit, everybody knows that, Virge.”
“What, you think they’s born with it or somethin’? Aids is a regular STD. You got ta fuck somebody or get their blood ta get that shit. Damn Wayne, you could be a poster-child for usin’ condoms.”
“Yeah, well, what about Hal Jensen? He went to that city college and came home with the sickness! He never did none of that queer shit. He got it from that homo they put in his room as a roommate.”
“Wayne! How did you get so fuckin’ stupid? Hal Jensen was a spooge monger as far back as I kin remember, he’z as queer as Elton John. He had a permanent vacuum formed on his lips from the first day he went ta school. Shit, from third grade on, everyone knew to hit the third stall from the right in the boy’s room before goin’ to class after eatin’ your lunch. Everyone went in, took a leak, got a shiver and then went to class. Christ, he had permanent chapped lips.”
“I thought he just had some kinda lip condition. How’z I supposed to know?”
“Shit Wayne, he could suck a soccer ball through a garden hose.” Virgil adjusted himself with a faraway look.
“Well damn, then who’d he get it from?”
“Wayne! Try and follow along. I know yer dumber than dirt, but try and stay with me. They is born that way. You can’t get it. You can’t be made that. You either are or ya ain’t.”
“Still think you’re foolin’ yerself, Virge. There is football players what caught it and all. You can’t tell me they was that way a-forin’ they get it from somebody. Why didn’t it show up early on, like playin’ with dolls and stuff?”
“Maybe cuz they was scared of idiots like you!”
“Okay, so say you’re right and they is born that way. How we gonna get rid of em? They still gonna infect the whole school.”
“You know Wayne, sometimes I think shooting you would be a waste of a good bullet. Other times . . .”
“Hi Jess, um, Jeremy. Look, I have a little bit of a problem. Think I could, like, crash at your place tonight?”
“Sure bro, anytime. What’s going on?” There was a long silence. “Bud, why don’t you come on over and we’ll talk. Sounds like you’ve got some grief on your plate.”
Jeremy tried to speak but all he managed to squeak out was, “Thanks, I’ll be right there.”
“Jer, you need me to come get ya? You sound like you shouldn’t be alone right now.”
“No!” he said a bit too quickly, “No, I’m alright. The walk will do me good. Need to clear my head, you know?” He was regaining his composure. “Thanks, I’ll be there in just a bit.”
“Look, whatever it is, it’ll be alright. I’ll be here for ya.”
The phone was silent for a long time again. “Not this time Jess. I don’t think it’s going to ever be alright again.”
“Jer, trust me. We’ll make it alright.” Quiet again. “See you in a few then, Jer?”
“Yeah. Sure. Thanks Jess.”
Jeremy hung up the phone, his head racing through a never ending list of random what if’s. He turned towards Jess’s house and started walking.
He paused, thinking. ‘What if I get there and my dad calls? He’ll tell them and then they’ll know. I’ll lose my best friend. I know he’s straight but . . . shit, he’s going to find out anyways. What will I do then? Will he still be my best friend? Will he throw me out? Tell everybody at school? Shit, school, they’ll all know soon too. Shit, I’m so screwed. And Grandma she won’t understand. Nobody will.’
He looked up to find that he was there. He just stared at the house for a moment and then kept walking. He wasn’t sure where he was going but he wasn’t ready to out himself to Jess.
“Look, Dr. Peticone, I did not send my kid to school to get classes on how to be gay. I understand that there was an assembly and my son Jeremy was made to watch what was described to me as an orgy on stage.”
“Mr Steiner, I know how that must sound to you, but I assure you, it could not be further from the truth. But you must also understand that we live in an age of intolerance and that is an issue we intend to meet head on with education. There are a lot of misconceptions about gay men and women. Those misconceptions make it very difficult, if not dangerous, for the many students who are afraid to be themselves.”
“But what about urges and things that those kind of people have. You want that to be alright around your kid, then that is one thing, but you are making that decision for my kid as well. You have no right to do that.”
“Mr Steiner, that is one of the misconceptions I’m talking about. Gay people are in control of themselves like anyone else. And they don’t prey on children either. They are as responsible as any heterosexual person. The only difference is that they prefer to be with their own sex.”
“Yeah, but what about diseases and stuff? You know they all have Aids. And the ones that don’t will before long.”
“Mr Steiner, nothing could be further from the truth. Gay people are more conscious of it and are more intent on stopping the spread and protecting themselves. And using the proper precautions and getting the education out to them is of paramount importance. Mr Steiner, did Jeremy say he was made to watch an orgy? Did he complain about seeing something that he thought was inappropriate?”
“No, he didn’t say anything to me.”
“Then if I may ask, how did you hear about this and in what context?”
“Well, that’s not important. The person spoke in confidence. She didn’t want her name associated with it.”
“She? I think I understand now. Mr Steiner, Mrs McAllister has been up in arms about the assembly. She told me she was going to call a few parents. Did she tell you that Ellie Petrie was there on stage the entire time and was actually the person who invited them?”
“No, she didn’t mention that. She said that she must have you in her power because as soon as you saw her you backed down too. So, is it true? Do you have a thing going with Ellie Petrie?”
“No, Mr Steiner, it is not true. Ellie is a fresh, new, young, accepting mind and I am counting on her to bring us all into the latest century. Seems there are a lot of old ideas that need to be washed away. Mr Steiner, I think I am going to call a meeting and invite everyone in to have a say and to voice their concerns. Expect a letter to be sent home with Jeremy in the next day or so.”
“Uh, perhaps you could mail it to me. . . . Jeremy and I have had an argument and . . . well, I’m not so sure he will be staying here anymore.”
“Oh Mr Steiner, would you like to talk about it? Perhaps I can help.”
“No, I think I’ve had enough of your kind of help, thank you. Just tell me when the meeting is.”
“I’ll see that you are called as soon as I have it set up, Mr Steiner. If you change your mind, please call back. I’m sure I can help you both come to an understanding. Good day Mr Steiner.” He hung up the phone and thought for a moment before pushing the button on his intercom. “Robin, bring me Mrs. McAllister’s file please and then get me the Legal Department.”
“Right away, sir.”
It was just moments before the door opened and a very pretty young woman walked in proffering a cup of coffee in one hand and the requested file in the other. “Here you are Jim. Oh, and Rob called. He wanted me to remind you that his mother was supposed to come over for dinner tonight and I’m supposed to tell you to remember to be civil.”
“Oh, thank you Robin. You have made my day. I get to listen to biggots at work AND at home today. Wonderful. Thanks so very much.”
“Well, it sounds like you are going to get rid of one today, for good, anyways.”
“If it was just that easy to get rid of Rob’s mother, I’d be a happy camper.”
“Relax, she’ll come around.”
“Thanks Robin, but we’ve been together as partners for almost eight years already, if it hasn’t happened yet, I don’t think it is going to. The best I can hope for, I think, is food poisoning and a quick evening.”
“Food poisoning, for you, or for her?”
“Please! Don’t give me any ideas.” he smiled at her.
“That’s better, good to see you smile. Still want me to get the Legal Department?”
“Yes, please, and then could you get me Coach Russel from McKenzie High?”
“Right away, sir.
“Dude! What is this?” Elliot showed the check he received in the mail.
“That would be your first paycheck.”
“Get out of here!”
“Yeah, look, ‘Pay To The Order Of’, and that’s you. Look at the stub. See, two weeks at 24 hours a week. He said that we can’t work you more than that in a week because of some law or something, but that’s why he’s getting us the phones and stuff to make up for the rest.”
“Jan, this is four hundred and eighty bucks just for carrying your books around?”
“Elliot, you do a whole lot more for me than that.”
Elliot stared at the paper in his hand. “Dude, we got to celebrate. This is more money than I have ever had in my hands in my life. We have to do something. Wait, how do we change this into cash?”
“We take it to a bank, I guess. You got any ID?”
“Just my school ID, will that do?”
“I don’t know, let’s call the moms and ask.”
“Right!” He grabbed the phone and dialed his mom.
“Hi sweetie!” Karen said, in a whisper.
“Hi Mom, can you talk?”
“Yeah, real quick. Go ahead.”
“I got my first paycheck. How do I turn it into money?”
“We’ll have to go down and open a checking account, I suppose. We can do it tomorrow. I’m off.”
“Oh man! There’s no way to do it today? We want to celebrate.”
“You can still celebrate, just have Jan put it on his card.”
“No, mom, you don’t understand. It’s the first time that “I” can pay for stuff.”
“Oh, right. Well, there isn’t anything we can do until tomorrow, so just plan on celebrating tomorrow.”
“Ah Mom! Alright. It just sucks.”
“I know honey. But this way you can plan it. Besides, any entertainment is supposed to go on Jan’s card. That money is just for you. Remember the three S’s? Spend some, share some, . . . ”
” . . .some, save some,” he finished with her.
Remember to save some for your education. And you’ll want a car pretty soon too. You start saving now and you can have a hot car when you get your license.”
“Hey, couldn’t I get my license now, since I have this job caring for the cripple?” Elliot winced as Jan punched him in the ribs.
“Hmm, maybe. We can try. We’ll see. We need to go down and get you a state ID anyways. We’ll get a book and see what it all entails. Then we need to get you into a driver’s training class.”
“Sweet! Oh Mom, I love you so much.”
“Alright honey, I have to get back to work. Why don’t you guys go down and pick out phones and then we can get everything signed tomorrow.”
“Ok, I’ll talk to Jan about it. Love you.”
“Love you too sweetie. Bye bye.” Elliot hung up the phone and looked at Jan.
He glared at him, “Cripple?”
“Hey, just for the paperwork. She knew what I was sayin'”
“Yeah?” Jan said, getting up out of his chair and leaning in, pinned him against the counter. “Well, I think we are overdue for a systems check!” as he grabbed Elliot by the hips and held him against him. He kissed his neck as Elliot squirmed and squealed. Just then the door bell rang.
“You expecting anybody?” Elliot asked as the telephone started to ring.
“No, I’ll get the phone. Make sure you look first, it might be one of those reporters.” Jan answered the phone. “Hey Jess, what’s up?”
“Hey Jan, have you seen Jeremy? He called and said he was coming over here and that was a long time ago. He sounded pretty broken up. I think maybe he and his dad had it out.” Jan looked up to see a very red-eyed Jeremy standing next to Elliot.
“Wow, Jess.” Jan said, looking up to see a panicked look on Jeremy’s face. “Uh, no, I haven’t seen him,” he looked at his watch, “err, this morning. I’ll keep an eye out though.”
“He’s there isn’t he? Look, just don’t let him go anywhere.”
“Uh yeah, I sure will. Talk to you soon,” and he hung up the phone.
“Come on in. You look like shit.”
“Thanks, I feel that way too.” He looked at Elliot and Jan and then down at his feet. “Uh, I don’t know what to do here.”
Elliot pulled him towards the couch. “Come on, sit down. I don’t know what it is but we can help you sort it out.” He looked at Jan. “I know we can.”
“You look thirsty. Can I get you some juice, water, cola? What would you like?”
“Water would be fine. Thanks.” His eyes returned to his feet.
“So what happened?” Elliot just blurted it out, unable to wait any further.
Jeremy took a breath. “Dad and I had a fight. And well . . . um . . . I . . . um . . . sorta told him I’m uh, you know . . . like you guys. He got mad and started saying stupid stuff like I shouldn’t label myself or hang around with you because it would make me gay. I told him it was stupid and he told me that as long as I lived under his roof I would have to live by his stupid rules. So I stuffed my clothes in a bag and split.” There was silence as what he said soaked in.
Elliot broke the silence by leaning in and kissing him on the cheek.”Wow, that really sucks. But look, it’s probably not as bad as you think.”
Jeremy grinned bashfully as he touched the place where Elliot just kissed him. His look returned to serious as he began to speak again. “No, you don’t know my dad. He’s always been this over macho kinda guy. He isn’t going to want a son who is less than all man.”
Elliot grinned, “Um, unless he cut something off in your fight, I can attest to the fact that you are definitely all guy. We have the same gym class, you know?”
Jeremy blushed crimson, “No, you don’t understand.”
“Yeah, I do. Your dad needs education. He grew up with a lot of old ideas about gay people. I know he loves you. He wouldn’t have talked to my mom and even got some literature from her about it. Maybe tonight he’ll read it. Look, I don’t know what started this off, but I think it is something we can fix. Until then, we have a spare room. I’m sure Jan’s mom will say it’s okay. So, tell me,” Elliot said, pausing. “Did he like, catch you with someone? Is there a someone we should know about?”
“No. I mean, there is, but he’s straight,” Jeremy said, looking down again.
“Alright, first things first. We’ll get hold of the mom’s and see what they have to say. But, I can tell you that one of the things mom will insist on is that you call your dad and let him know you are alright. She may not insist that you tell him where you are, but I know she will want to let him know you are okay. She’s just that way.” They were interrupted by the doorbell.
“I’ll get it,” Jan said, rolling back and rounding on the door. He stood up and looked through the peep hole before sitting back down and opening the door.
“Hi Jess, come on in.” Jan rolled back, “Catch the door would ya? We’re in here.” He rolled back into the living room.
Jeremy’s eyes got big just before he closed them and started to sob silently. Jess was at his side in moments. “Hey, you’re okay. No need for that. You’re going to be alright.” He wrapped his arms around him and pulled him into a hug. Jeremy melted into his arms and wept.
The boys just watched as Jess took control and comforted him. There wasn’t any question who that straight guy was in Jeremy’s heart. What took them by surprise was how caring Jess was in front of them. He obviously knew.
“Mom?” Mark said quietly to his mother as she sat sipping her tea and leafing through her magazine.
“Yes dear,” She said, taking a hand and gently stroked the back of his head, coming to rest at the base of his neck. “What is it dear?”
“Well, I have a few friends coming over so I can help them with their homework. Is that alright?”
“Certainly, dear. Would you like me to make some sandwiches for you and your friends? Studying is better when your stomach isn’t growling.”
“That would be nice mom, thanks. Uh mom, I think I should tell you that they are a little . . . um . . . different.”
“Oh? What do you mean by different?”
“Um, well two of them are, um, boyfriends.”
“Yes, well dear, it is natural for boys your age to start dating young ladies.”
“Um, no, I mean they are like . . . each other’s boyfriend.” He paused, looking at his mom as this news sunk in.
“That’s alright dear. God teaches us to hate the sin, not the sinners. I think that God may work through you to set a righteous example for them. And I’m sure they will behave themselves as proper guests while they are here, won’t they?”
“Yes, I am sure they won’t misbehave. I’ll go wait for them. They should be here any moment.”
“Just set up in the dining room. There are lots of chairs and room to spread out. I’ll make up some sandwiches.”
“Thanks mom, you’re the best,” he said as he stepped through the door to the garage.
“Oh, your father should be home any minute. They are installing some new equipment in the office and he said it was just too noisy to work, so make sure your friends leave room for your father to park.” But her words fell on absent ears.
She poked her head around the corner only to see that he was gone.
“Hello, Coach Russell? Jim Peticone. How are you today?”
“I’m fine Jim, what can I do for you?”
“Well, some things have come up and I think we need to stay alert. First off, you should be aware that it appears that Mrs. McAllister is really trying her best to stir up trouble. I have the Legal Department working on it as we speak. But she is stirring up parents with talk of orgies on stage and classes on being gay and such. I just wanted to make you aware so that if you are contacted by any parents, then just direct them to this office. I’m going to schedule a meeting to let everyone have a voice. I hope I can count on you to be there.”
“Of course. Do you have a date yet for the meeting?”
“I’m thinking about three days from now, that way everyone has a chance to hear about it. There’s one more thing I think you need to know about.”
“I spoke with a Mr Steiner this morning and he indicated that he and his son Jeremy had a falling out and that he may not be staying at home. I’m sure you know the score on these things and I think you may want to keep an eye on Jeremy in case he needs some help. Let me know if there is anything I can do.”
“I figured he might be trouble. Thanks. I’ll see if I can find out where he is and what is happening with him. His dad is a hard one, that’s for sure. The poor kid, I feel sorry for him. I’m pretty sure his mom is long gone too. Anyways, I’ll look into it. Anything else?”
“Nope, just watch for more mischief from Ellen McAllister and let me know if anything else crops up.”
“Hey guys. You made it. I was beginning to wonder.”
“Yeah well, we didn’t realize you lived in a freaking mansion. We drove around for twenty minutes looking for the addresses before we realized that they were painted on the curbs,” Jan said, bumping knuckles with Mark. Gilbert looked around making sure there was no one around before leaning in for a kiss. His lips met Marks as the door opened and Mark’s mom leaned out and Mark’s dad pulled in the drive way.
“Make way for your dad . . .” She froze, looking at her son in the arms of another boy. Mark’s dad tapped the horn at the same moment for the boys to move out of the way so he could park in the garage. He also saw the two engaged.
Gilbert looked up thinking they appeared like a SWAT team on a drug bust. One second there was no one, the next second they were swarmed. He still had his arms around Mark but slowly dropped his hands to his sides. “Oh shit,” he whispered. Mark took a breath and let a couple of his fingers interlace with Gilbert’s.
“Uh, hi dad. Um, you’re home early.”
“So I am,” he said, looking Gilbert over and glancing at the other two boys, he proffered his hand. “Hi, I’m Mark’s dad, Forrest Waverly. You can call me Forrest if you’re comfortable with that,” he said, shaking Jan and Elliot’s hand. He was leaning against the car now and just looked at Mark and at Gilbert. The pause became pregnant. “Mark, do you want to introduce me to your significant other? That is the term isn’t it?”
Mark answered in a wispy, timid, voice, “Uh, yeah, I guess. I don’t know. I think right now it is just boyfriends. Dad, this is Gilbert. Gilbert, this is my dad.” Gilbert extended his hand to Forrest who took it and shook it firmly.
“Let’s go inside, I guess we have some things to discuss.” They all turned and walked silently into the house. Mark led them into the dining room and motioned for everyone to sit. His mother showed up with a pitcher of lemonade and glasses and set them on the table. Mark watched her and her expression was void of emotion. Forrest sat down and that set the room into action following his example. His mother appeared again with the tray of sandwiches and set the tray and some plates in front of Mark, indicating that he should serve his guest. Mrs. Waverly poured drinks silently for each of them and finally took the seat behind her husband as she sipped her glass of lemonade. The silence was overwhelming. Finally Mr. Waverly spoke.
“So, boyfriends. Well, I would be lying just a bit if I said that I wasn’t surprised by what I saw when I pulled in.” He paused nervously as he took a small bite of the sandwich and chewed thoughtfully before going on. “When did you decide that you liked . . . or didn’t like . . . I mean, when did you decide you were gay?”
“I don’t know. I think I always knew. But last year I knew for sure. My friends were all starting to like girls and they just didn’t do anything for me. I was really scared. I didn’t want to be . . . you know. So I was gonna try and make myself be normal so you wouldn’t be ashamed of me. Then I met Gil and everything changed.” His mother whimpered as she broke into sobs.
“Dad, I’m sorry. I know I must be a disappointment to you.”
Mr. Waverly turned his chair out and pulled Mark into his arms. “Son, I won’t lie. I wish you weren’t this way. It means a lot harder life. I think any father would feel the same way. It also means that we will have an end to the family name. You were the last in this line. And it means I won’t have any grandbabies to spoil. It means a lot of things, but one thing it does not mean is that I am disappointed in you, or that I love you any less. It’s getting better for gays in society, but it still has a long ways to go. But Mark . . .” He lifted his son’s eyes to meet his and emphasized each of his words, “You are my son and nothing will ever change that. You are who you are and we will stand by you, regardless.” He pulled him back in for a firm hug. “But one thing that this means is that you are in for a lot of ribbing. You’re free to be gay, but I’m claiming the right to poke fun of ya now and then, alright?”
A small smile broke through the teary eyes of one Mark Waverly who could not feel more loved. Mr. Waverly turned to Gilbert. “So, you are the one who has captured my son’s heart.” He smiled and put his arm out, indicating that he wanted him to come to him. Gilbert got up and Mr. Waverly took his hand and held it for a moment sizing him up.
“Actually, it was your son doing the stealing, sir.”
“I think we can call this a mutual theft then.” Mr. Waverly paused for a moment, then looked at Mark and his eyes glanced down as a realization came to him. Not letting go of either of them he asked Mark, “Are you . . . still . . . you know, like large?”
Mark’s eyes got as big as saucers as he turned away in a mad blush.
Gilbert answered for him, “Yeah, he’s like, huge!” Mr. Waverly raised an eyebrow at Gilbert who was blushing wildly also, as the group in unison said, “He likes a challenge,” which put the whole room into laughter.
They recovered and Gilbert explained to Mr. Waverly that his parents would like to invite them to a Bar-B-Q the following weekend. He accepted graciously and listened to the story of how Gilbert came out to his parents. Mark slipped away and found his mother weeping silently in her sitting room. Without words, he wrapped his arms around his mother and quietly hugged her. She wrapped her arms around him and sobbed. “I’ll pray for you,” she sobbed.
“Momma, this is how God made me. You can pray your knees away and it won’t change who I am, so I’m gonna pray for you too momma. I’m gonna pray that God opens your heart and helps you to understand. But I am not going to pray that he makes me any different. I like who I am and I’m a really good person. Momma, you, dad and God made me who I am right this moment. I haven’t changed from the time I was conceived. This is me and this is what you get. I hope you can be happy for me again because I love you. You’re my mom,” and he hugged her for a few more minutes. “I have to get back to my guests before they think I was raised without any manners.”
Before he left the room, she spoke, “Mark, I’m sorry, this is just such a shock. Give me a little time to get used to things.”
“Sure momma, I understand. Just don’t stop loving me. I don’t think I could take that.” He turned and walked back to his guests.
Gilbert saw him and went to his side, “Is she alright?” he asked, pulling Mark into a hug.
“Yeah, she’s going to be alright. She just needs some time to adjust.”
Jan piped up. “Hey, gay boy. What’s it feel like to be out at home?”
He thought for a moment and a huge smile appeared on his face. He turned and kissed Gilbert long, slow and deep.
“Wow, take a breath already,” Jan laughed.
Mark looked at Jan. “It feels really cool to not be afraid any more. It’s hard to describe.”
Gilbert smiled. “I know, it’s like, why didn’t I do this a long time ago.”
Elliot looked at them, “I feel like I’ve missed something.”
“Yeah, you have, croaking from a heart attack at fourteen,” Jan said, smiling. “You have no clues what it is like to be afraid that your parents won’t love you anymore. That reminds me, what are we going to do about Jeremy?”
“The mom’s are working on it as we speak. The coach called too, looking for him, I wonder how they found out about it.”
“I don’t know, but I trust Coach Russell. If he is in on it, then I think it will be alright.”
“I hope you are right.”
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