“Where ya been, Trev?” my roommate Bill asked as I returned to our dorm room around noon. “Out catting around with the frat boys?”
What he meant was why hadn’t I slept in my bed for two nights in a row.
“Right,” he knew that was unlikely. We had been living together for four months. I had yet to shock anyone with that kind of behavior.
“Want to eat?” I asked.
“Sure,” he decided.
Bill generally regarded me as the dull son of a preacher man. Not that he was prone to risk taking and adventure seeking. We had attended freshman mixers together. His attempts to set me up with the friends of his own prospects proved I needed to ‘up my game.’ At least he hadn’t asked me to find other accommodations due to a need for overnight ‘privacy.’ His ‘game’ was a work in progress. I was still a non-starter. Otherwise we were well matched and comfortable with each other. I invited him to Astoria for Thanksgiving. He proved a hit with my folks, happy that I had made a friend. My joining the Phi Psi frat was a step in the right direction in Bill’s mind. I offered to sponsor him there. He was thinking it over. Hazing was ‘not his thing.’
“I was out scouting locations with a Hollywood movie crew. They agreed to film at the defunct frat next to Phi Psi. We’re all going to be extras. You need to join. Maybe you’ll get discovered,” I laughed.
“You’re already working for them?”
“Just helping them out. I took them to Dexter Lake in Springfield. They plan to film in that old bar out there.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Being famous and all. Acting like yer somethin’ yer not.”
We laughed. I did feel special, though. And Tim was so sexy. I felt myself getting hard. It felt like junior high all over again.
“You’ll havta share your makeup with me.”
“Now way, Jose.” Bill was from east of Spokane and grew up on a ranch. He never expressed opinionated feelings about anyone but was 100% straight prime western beef.
We had two classes together. He took class notes and had the assignments for me. I sighed and realized I had come back to earth. Just thinking about Tim perked me up.
“Yeah. I really like the Hollywood guys.”
“What’s the movie about?”
“I don’t know the plot, but it’s about a frat where all the guys are goofballs.”
“Just like Phi Psi.”
We laughed. He went off while I tried to catch up on my missed assignments. I finally realized I was not concentrating and closed the books. Time to get hazed.
My fraternity brothers unmercifully razed me about my ‘friendship’ with Tim. They claimed I had gone ‘all Hollywood’ on them. Of course, they were falling all over themselves to snag roles as extras when the movie crew returned. I promised I would put in a good word for them if they would stop teasing me about Tim. I was surprised that no one called me out for my full-on crush. I maintained that I was as anxious as everyone to be hired on, once the movie crew returned. I could not help myself from smiling foolishly anytime we talked about the movie. I was unable to mask my glee every time Tim’s name came up.
“Trevor’s got a crush,” became the standard jibe whenever I could not help myself from grinning like an idiot. They all seemed pleased that I was so happy. It flew into the face of my stereotyping frat boys as dedicated homophobes. I relaxed and didn’t try to hide my feelings, figuring the truth was bound to come out. I was amazed that it didn’t bother me that they would know I was gay. Then I realized I had fully accepted it myself. I knew it would be another matter with my Baptist parents. My brother would be so pleased to be the good son for once. There was little doubt about his sexuality, given his choice of wanton girlfriends.
“You seem especially happy to be hazed today.”
“Just a happy pledge. Do I need to fake hating the crap you guys put us through?”
“Naw, but maybe I need to stop acting mean and get to know you better.”
“We saw a different you this weekend,” he went on. “Now it’s hard to treat you like a kid. Those Hollywood people really like you.”
“My roommate, Bill, said I was goin’ all Hollywood on him.”
“I never knew you played harmonica and sang before. Did you take lessons?”
“Just church choir.”
“No, Mr. Landis is straight and already married. Tim’s the music coordinator.”
“He’s so young.”
“He’s my age, a freshman at Harvard.”
“That why you’re so tight.”
“We really hit it off. But he seems so much more worldly than me.”
“Too much time in the choir?”
“Tim was in church choir last year. His band also played Easter services in New York.”
“Now he’s in Hollywood. Did the serpent tempt him with the fruit of knowledge?”
“His boyfriend was killed by an abusive older brother. He’s so much more mature than me.”
“So, he is gay?”
“He’s super-gay, with boyfriends and girlfriends. He can’t stop loving just one person at a time.”
“That is so Hollywood. Are you being careful?”
“I don’t wanna pry,” Cameron admitted, “but everyone noticed how taken you were with him.”
I blushed, feeling Cameron was really being a good big brother.
“You think Tim will just forget about me?” I asked for his advice.
“I have no idea, but it doesn’t sound like he’s still a choir boy.”
“Calm down and take a breath,” Cameron advised. “He’ll be back next month. I’m no expert on gay boys. Maybe you should try having a girlfriend or go to the Gay Student Group or just pray about it. God, I’m awful at this.”
“No, Cameron. This is great. My real brother is an asshole. I’m glad you care.”
Tim had asked me if I would tell my fraternity brothers. I guess I was taking the go slow approach. I went over to the abandoned frat next door, to reminisce about being there with Tim. I took out my harmonica and blew the ‘Bobby McGee’ blues. Tim had sung his version of it, so I made up my own, rhapsodizing about being on the road with Tim. When I got to the line about needing just one more night with ‘Bobby’s body next to mine,’ the tears flowed.
“He’s a goner,” my brothers had been listening to me. “Admit it.”
“Who’s Bobby?” someone asked.
“I don’t know. Janis Joplin?” Cameron suggested. “She died from an overdose.”
I realized he was covering up for me.
“Naw. I ain’t gonna hide it. I really like Tim,” I outed myself.
“I think it’s cool. They’re both choir boys,” Cameron exposed me.
“Oh, the shame.”
Everyone broke out laughing. They grabbed me and dragged me back inside the House and forced me to get drunk for the first time ever. They were perfect gentlemen, carrying me back to my dorm room. Bill was stunned that I was becoming a reprobate. In the morning, he announced that ‘we have to talk.’ It was too much for me, but luckily, I had a waste basket nearby to barf into. My reputation had taken a total turn for the worse. Bill shook his head and told me to go back to bed. Later he returned with crackers and ginger ale. I already was feeling better. At least getting drunk was nothing new for Cowboy Bill.
On Thursday, I was fine and attended classes. Bill refrained from reminding me what a degenerate I had become. We sat silently together in class. I was given extra hazing chores at Phi Psi for having missed the previous day. My idiot/happy mood had returned. I was whistling while I worked.
Cameron rushed into the kitchen, looking startled and gloomy.
“Sit down, Trevor,” Peter, the President, ordered.
“What? I only missed one day and you guys got me drunk,” I became defensive, remaining on my feet.
Pete stood up and put his hand on my shoulder. Cameron put a hand on the other side. The others just looked away.
I woke up laying on a couch on the first floor, surrounded by everyone in the frat.
“Thank god. You’re awake,” Peter sounded distressed but relieved I was conscious.
“What happened?” I was groggy, unsure why everyone surrounded me.
Slowly I remembered. The tears started but I was able to suppress the sobs. How could this happen? Tim was dead? He couldn’t be. He was so strong. He could do anything. He seemed accident-proof.
“That director, Landis, said to call him,” Peter relayed the message. “He sounded pretty shook up himself. We’re all sorry, Trevor.”
It was just weird to me. All these straight guys treating me like I’d lost my girlfriend. Then I threw up. They scattered.
Mr. Landis was so nice on the phone. He really loved Tim, just not the way I did. He even offered to pay my way to the funeral service which was in two days. I was too embarrassed to accept but promised I’d attend. He gave me the phone number to Tim’s roommates, Tony and Jimmy. I didn’t know he had roommates. I asked for Jake’s number as well. Mr. Landis had met Jake, who was composing the movie soundtrack, but didn’t have his phone number. I told him we had called him from the Rodeway Inn on Sunday night. He promised to let me know when he checked the bill. He was surprised I knew about Jake. I really wanted to connect with Jake. We shared the same love for Tim.
“Jake was with Tim when he died. They had gone to the beach together,” Mr. Landis said.
“The service will be at St. Viktor Catholic Church in Beverly Hills.”
“Wow,” I thought it must be pretty fancy. I would have to get permission from Dad to attend a Catholic church. I wondered if I could get him to lend me the airfare. That brought up the issue of coming out to him. I laughed, then sniffed, thinking how much Tim had affected me. He would have wanted me to be open and proud. Without thinking it through I dialed home.
“Hi, Mom. It’s Trevor. I need to get Dad’s permission for something. Is he there?”
“You sound down. Is everything okay?”
“It’s been a tough day. I have to go to a funeral on Saturday.”
“Oh, honey. Is it one of your fraternity brothers? I’m so sorry.”
“He’s Catholic. I need Dad’s permission to attend their service.”
“I’m sure he’ll agree. It’s not like it used to be when Baptists were not welcome.”
“Is he there?”
“I’ll put him on the line. Are you okay?”
“You are so kind, son. But don’t let your feelings get in the way of your studies.”
Dad came on the line.
“What’s wrong, Trev. Mom looks upset.”
“My very best friend drowned yesterday. I really loved him. I need to go to the funeral.”
“Of course, you do. Is it in Eugene?”
“The service is in LA. It’s a Catholic service.”
“Don’t worry about that. Catholics are more understanding. But it’s so far away. Do you really have to go?”
“I really loved him. I’ve never felt that way before.” I actually said it.
“Well, son, I’m sure you really cared, but to go to LA may be too much.”
“Calm down. What about school?”
“It’s over the weekend. I’ll leave on Friday and be back for classes on Monday. I’ll pay you back for the airfare.” The tears were flowing. I began to gulp.
“Trevor. You know we cannot afford to send you flying around the country. You’ve never been impetuous. Is it really necessary?”
“I wouldn’t ask for anything if it wasn’t important. I really loved him, Dad. I can’t believe he’s dead.”
The folks were silent on their end of the line.
“Please,” I begged.
“I’ll speak with the Church deacons. You been an important part of our youth ministry. I’ll ask them to contribute. But what about other expenses. LA is expensive. Hotels must be a fifty dollars.”
“His roommates are going to let me stay with them. It’s just the airfare I need.”
“I’ll let you know tomorrow. If they approve, I’ll book your flights. But I’m worried about you, son. Have you been attending church?”
“I’ll go to the campus ministry tonight. Thank you for supporting me, Dad. I’m doing well.”
“Of course. How’s Bill? Was he friends with this boy?”
“No. I knew him at the fraternity. Bill’s fine.”
“Give him our best. Call me tomorrow after class.”
“Yes, Dad. I love you both.”
Once I hung up, Cameron came into the phone room. “Everything okay?” he was anxious.
Dad had made my airline reservations on Friday. I called the number Tim had given me.
“What?” a gruff voice answered the phone.
“Are you Tony or Jimmy?” I tentatively asked.
“Who are they?”
“Tim’s roommates?” I nervously answered.
“Tim lives alone here, unless you count those gangbangers from LaMirada. And Tim’s dead, if you didn’t know.”
“I’m coming to the funeral. I live in Oregon.”
“Shit. I suppose you need to stay here.”
“Mr. Landis told me to call.”
“Who’s he?” The guy was all questions.
“Tim’s boss at the movie studio?”
“Oh, yeah. I suppose you need to be picked up at LAX.”
“Can you? I don’t have much money.”
“Join the crowd.” We both laughed. “My name’s Nicky. I live down the hall with my girlfriend.”
“Oh.” It seemed important that I understood that. Hollywood.
I gave him my flight information. He agreed to pick me up outside Western Airlines baggage claim.
“Look for the Wreck. It’s a convertible.”
In a couple of hours, I was standing at the curb, trying to find the Wreck. All the cars in LA were shiny and new. I had no trouble picking out the wreck and waved at the strange-looking couple driving it. They wore brightly colored clothes covered with buttons and other paraphernalia, including chains.
“You Trevor?” Nicky asked. I nodded.
“Hi. I’m Alice. Jump in,” a dark-haired Hispanic girl moved over so I could ride in the front with them. I was glad I had so little money. They looked like gang members themselves.
Welcome to LA.
Nicky drove me to the apartment. He drove like a maniac. His girlfriend squealed and held onto him. I just shut my eyes and held onto the door handle. The Wreck was a pre-1964 gas guzzler – not equipped with seat belts. Once I opened my eyes, the two of them laughed at me.
“Country boy, huh?” Alice, Nicky’s girlfriend observed. “First time in the city?”
“Nah. We drive up to Portland all the time.” Actually I had driven there only once and swore I’d never do it again. Already I was upping my game, just like Bill had said, ‘going all Hollywood.” I laughed.
“Good. You’ve relaxed. Only way to see LA,” Alice commented.
“They’re just kids from the ‘burbs,” Alice argued.
“Well, they’re going back to the ‘burbs so old Country here has a place to say. I just need an excuse to kick ‘em out.” Nicky turned to me. “You are Tim’s new boyfriend, right?”
“Don’t need to be ashamed. We knew Tim was a teenage faggot,” Alice came to my rescue.
“Just look angry that they’re there. I’ll kick ‘em out. Least ya don’t look like a faggot, all girly and such.”
I shook my head. I had hoped to avoid Hollywood melodrama. What did I expect.
There were five of them sprawled on the floor and couch of a small apartment. Nicky rousted them and they just stared at me. I tried to look tough. They finally gave up and left. The place was a mess. One guy with heavy makeup around his eyes, rushed around trying to pick up their garbage. Nicky pushed him out the door.
“Ready to eat?” he asked.
We drove to Top Taco. The counterman looked at me and I didn’t have to pay.
“Now don’t be letting anyone take advantage of you, Country.” Top Jimmy advised. I guess I had a new name.
Nicky decided to give me a tour of the Sunset Strip and Hollywood Boulevard.
“Stay away from Santa Monica, unless ya got backup,” he advised.
“More gangsters like those you rousted from Tim’s room?”
“Oh,” I murmured, unsure if that was worse than gang banging.
“You in a band, Nicky?” I asked.
They both laughed. “What about me?” Alice looked insulted. “No girls in bands up in Or-e-gone?”
“Heck. I love girl singers.” To prove my point, I pulled out my harmonica and blew some Bobby McGee blues.
They laughed. “Just like Tim, ready to perform at the slightest encouragement,” Alice remarked.
“Don’t be getting’ all girly on us, faggot,” Nicky ordered.
“Please stop callin’ me that. It ain’t a nice word,” I demanded.
They looked shocked.
“What do ya wanna be called?”
“Country’s okay.” At least it was not a slur in my mind.
“Okay, Country. But you better learn some rock n roll blues, if ya want us to listen. Folk blues don’t cut it anymore.”
Nicky smiled and started banging a beat on the Wreck’s dashboard. Alice wailed the lyrics. A couple of kids came up and gave us a hand. The store manager came out and took photos. I figured we were in trouble.
“Just keepin’ it real?” Nicky asked. “Real People at Tower?”
The manager gave us a thumbs up and snapped our picture playing for three fans. It felt good to play with Nicky and Alice, much like we felt at the end of choir practice.
“Ya got other songs you play on that harp?” Nicky asked.
“Just gospel. I figure ya don’t much cotton to that.”
We walked around the corner to the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, hanging out in front with an assorted bunch of rock misfits. I had never heard of that night’s headlining band.
“My band used to play here but they pay so little, we boycott the Whiskey,” Nicky claimed.
“What’s your band’s name?” I asked.
“The Weirdos. I’m the drummer, Country.”
“Okay, Weirdo,” I figured that was worse than being Country. Who knew anyone would call themselves weirdos.
“I’m in the Bags,” Alice crowed.
“Okay, Baglady,” I joshed.
She gave me a stern look and punched my arm. I guess that made us bro’s. “I guess we’re the weird country bagladies,” I joshed.
“We’ll perform later at Oki Dog?” Nicky decided.
I realized that Tim’s need to perform wherever and whenever was typical of Hollywood people. I’d just go with the flow.
We walked past the Roxy, where Mott, the Hopple, was playing that night. There were more people hanging out front and beside the club in a small parking lot. They were dressed up in tight flared jeans and bodyshirts, with six-inch heels and bouffant hairstyles. They all wore tons of makeup, guys as well as girls. Most had glitter in their hair.
I pulled out my harmonica and started in on the Mott the Hopple hit, ‘All the Young Dudes.”
“Hey, that’s the song Tim always played for all the tricks at Oki Dog,” Alice noted.
I gulped and a stream of tears ran down my cheeks. Nicky punched me, and then started pounding the beat on the Roxy walls. Alice jumped in singing the chorus. I caught my breath and continued blowing the glitter anthem.
‘All the young dudes
Carry the news
Carry the news
Now Jimmy looking sweet though he dresses like a queen
He can kick like a mule
It’s a real mean team
We can love
We can love’
Songwriters: DAVID BOWIE
© EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC, TINTORETTO MUSIC
Alice went back to the beginning and we did the whole song. The glitter kids surrounded us and cheered when we were done. Nicky looked happy at the adulation but embarrassed that his fans seemed so gay. An English guy with a bushy curly Afro and dark glasses came up to us and complimented our harmonica arrangement.
“That’s ‘cause ol’ Country don’t play guitar,” Nicky explained.
“What’s your name?” Alice asked.
“Denny,” he said. We didn’t believe him. He escorted us into the club, bypassing the front door. We went upstairs where the band was hanging out with business people. I stole matches that said ‘Rainbow Room, Top of the Rox.’ Nicky said we should sneak away, still nervous about being around so many glitter people.
“We’re younger than them,” I complained, not wanting to leave right away.
We were met with boo’s and left quickly. Nicky gave the room the middle finger. I got embarrassed but laughed that I had already performed three times that night. My harmonica was a decent substitute for electric guitar. My roommate Bill had predicted it. I was going ‘all Hollywood.’ I loved it.
“Yeah. I almost forgot to miss Tim.”
“Well, this is what it was like with Tim. Always be ready to perform at the drop of a hat.”
“Not just sex, but every moment was an adventure,” then I sniffed back my tears.
“Ah, Country. Don’t be sad. We’re havin’ too much fun for tears.” She wiped my tears away.
“Where next?” I asked.
“Let’s get the Wreck and drive to the Troubadour. I heard they’re organizing Tim’s wake for tomorrow.” Nicky decided. “We can hit Oki Dog afterward, so ya can satisfy your performance addiction.”
The Troubadour doorman didn’t want to let us in, until a young guy came over and asked how we knew Tim.
“I met him in Oregon last weekend.” It seemed so long ago.
“You Trevor? I thought you were going to call us when you got in. How’dcha end up with these punks?”
“I called Tim’s phone number, looking for his roommates, Tony and Jimmy. Nicky answered and they picked me up at the airport. We’ve been cruising nonstop. We performed outside Tower, the Whiskey-A-Go-Go and the Rainbow Room.”
Another teen was listening. “Oh, no. He’s a Tim clone, come to haunt us.”
“We wanna go to the wake,” Nicky knew what he wanted to know.
“The funeral’s at St Viktor tomorrow at one and we’re all coming back here to celebrate afterward. Tim’s body goes to the Saint Vibiana’s Cathedral downtown, where the Church has other plans for it.”
“Enough with the tears. Tim was crazy and always pulling stunts. He was lucky to live as long as he did. Now he’ll be remembered as a rock star without ever having to go through all the bullshit.”
I guess it made sense. We didn’t go into the Troubadour. I promised Tony and Jimmy to be at the funeral.
“You better. The movie people made us promise to get you there.”
I perked up, knowing I’d see Mr. Landis and everyone there. Since the wake was at a night club, I suspected I’d get more opportunities to blow my harmonica. Maybe I could write my and Tim’s story into ‘Bobby McGee.’ I decided I liked being called ‘Country.’
“Oh, by the way. Ever’one calls me ‘Country’ here,” I told Jimmy and Tony. Everyone laughed. This sure didn’t feel like any funeral I’d ever been to.
Single guys started waving at me. I guess I had been staring. I was too embarrassed to wave back. I remembered I had promised to call Dad when I got in. It was past midnight, too late to wake-up early-to-bed Baptists. Somehow it felt liberating to be violating their rules. My anti-conscience was laughing at me. Everything about Hollywood was a joke. I lay back and fell asleep against Alice’s shoulder.
When I woke up, we were parked at an outdoor hotdog stand. Boys about my age were standing at the curb, shirtless and wearing tight shorts, and waving at the cars slowly cruising by. My real conscience told me I was seeing an inner circle of Hell.
Nicky and Alice walked up, looking disappointed. Maybe normal straights weren’t welcome here. I laughed at the thought that these two punks were normal.
“Whatcha laughin’ about, Country? We just got told we couldn’t perform here tonight.”
“I was thinking that you two are too normal for here.”
They looked at each other.
“He’s right,” Alice concluded. “Let’s go home.”
“Aw. We’re ‘sposed to climb the Hollywood sign next.”
“It’ll be there tomorrow. And look at Country. He’s done tuckered out.”
Soon they left me at Tim’s place. I guess it was mine now. Nicky showed me how to set up the Murphy Bed, just another Hollywood surprise. Once they left, I stripped off and jumped into the ripe sheets. Tim’s smell enveloped me. I cried myself to sleep. I dreamed he was holding me. I was so happy. In the morning, my briefs were filthy. I hadn’t brought a change of clothes. I found some of Tim’s sexy underwear. Slipping them on, I felt so fulfilled. I almost had another accident. Maybe I was learning better control.
I called Dad in the morning. I told him all about my adventures, except for all the prostitutes on Santa Monica Boulevard. He said it didn’t seem like a funeral with everyone having so much fun.
“The funeral’s today at 1 pm.”
I called Landis early on Saturday morning. He was surprised I was at Tim’s and had the keys to his car.
“I might need you to drive some of the out-of-towners. If you don’t mind.”
“If they don’t mind riding in the Wreck.”
“Yeah, that’s what Tim called it. I had some pretty crazy adventures driving around with him.”
“That, too. Tim was one adventure after another.”
“It’s okay, Trevor. I know you only knew him last weekend, but I know it was special.”
“Yeah. You saw the room they gave us at the Rodeway,” I laughed. “The honeymoon suite.”
“We need to talk.”
“Thanks, Mr. Landis. You’ve been wonderful.”
“You’ll meet Tim’s other friends, some have come long ways to be here.”
“I’m a little worried about meeting Jack, his boyfriend.”
“Well, you have him in common.”
“Tim said he’s pretty rich and possessive.”
“No need to be jealous now.”
I gulped. “You’re right.”
“The service is at one. You want to come to my house first?”
“I think I’ll hang out with Tim’s friends in Hollywood. They gave me a new name – ‘Country.’”
“I guess that’s a compliment.”
“Better than what they first were calling me – ‘Faggot’.”
“Okay, Trevor, you don’t have to put up with that.”
“I told ‘em. That’s why they now call me Country.”
“I kinda like them. We played music on the Sunset Strip last night.”
“Welcome to Hollywood.”
“Thanks, Mr. Landis.”
“Call me John.”
“Have you eaten yet, Trevor?”
“It’s okay. I’m on a tight budget.”
Well, meet me at Du-Par’s in the Valley. It was Tim’s favorite place for pancakes.”
My stomach growled. The Oki Dog and Top Tacos were just a memory. My breath was gross.
He gave me directions but it was Greek to me. I wasn’t ready to drive on the freeway. I went to Nicky & Alice’s room and knocked softly.
A sleepy voice yelled, “Go away.” But soon Alice opened the door.
“What do you want?
“I have to meet Tim’s boss at Du-Par’s in the Valley but the directions are too complicated. Can Nicky drive?”
“If we get free pancakes,” she answered. Kicking Nicky out of bed, we hit the road.
I introduced them to John, who introduced his wife, Debbie. They were all the same age.
“Tim had this other life we didn’t know much about,” John stated.
“You mean being a faggot?” Nicky had no subtlety.
“No. We all knew that. It was his music friends we didn’t understand. He hired a classical composer for the movie score, as well a crazy punk band to try out for the cast.”
“That was my band, the Weirdos.”
“Oh, yeah. I thought I recognized you.”
We all laughed at John who was so transparently lying – more Hollywood education for me.
“We wanna go to the funeral,” Alice claimed.
“Well, since Trevor doesn’t know his way around, maybe you can help us get everyone to the church. It’s in Beverly Hills.”
“Beverly Hills, Century City…We know it well. How about Tim’s girlfriend? She should come.”
“Tim has a girlfriend?”
At least I knew that. John and Debbie stared at me.
“I knew. We weren’t exclusive.”
“It’s Joan Jett. The only real rocker to go punk,” Alice explained.
“Oh,” John remarked. “I wondered why we hired her to be on the set.”
The pancakes arrived. They were real good. Nicky finished off what John and Debbie didn’t eat. Debbie was finding it all highly amusing.
“Yeah. The Troubadour is opening up in the afternoon. A band came from Boston, as well as Tim’s old band from Miami.”
“We wanna play,” Nicky demanded. “The Weirdos and the Bags, Alice’s band.”
“That’s a great name,” Debbie smiled at Alice. She was a costume designer.
Nicky jumped up. “We’ve gotta let everyone know. Joan, the bands. Com’n, Country. The Wreck has rounds to make.”
“Call me at noon. I may need extra transport for out-of-town guests,” John grabbed the check. I was relieved with all of ten bucks to my name.
Nicky drove Alice and me around to let people know about Tim’s celebration. First place we stopped was just down the hill from the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. Joan Jett answered the door after we pounded on it without stopping.
“We met you the night Tim dragged you out of here. He died on Wednesday and there’s a concert at the Troubadour this afternoon. Be there.”
“Fuck. I just started to like that slut.”
“Well, maybe you’ll play, too.”
“The Runaways are toast.”
“Good. We’ll back you up as the Runaways 2.”
“Wait. I’ll get my guitar.”
It took her five minutes to do her makeup, dress and load her guitar in the Wreck’s truck. I moved into the back seat. She jumped in beside me.
“Who are you?” she asked me.
“Trevor. I’m Tim’s boyfriend from Oregon. They call me Country.”
“That’s interesting, Country. I’m Tim’s girlfriend. His only girlfriend.”
“You know he has many boyfriends.”
“I knew that. It didn’t matter.”
“You like girls, too?”
“I don’t know. Tim’s the only person I’ve had sex with.”
She smiled and put her hand down my pants. I jumped but she had a firm grip on my dick.
“You like taking it up the butt, Country?”
I got bright red but my dick started getting hard.
We drove around and got the word out. It was close to noon, so I had Nicky stop at a pay phone to call Mr. Landis. He suggested we go to the church in case the Wreck was needed to pick up anyone. When we arrived Tony and Jimmy were outside.
“Hi, Joan. I see you met Country.”
“Yeah. We’re commiserating the loss of our boyfriend together. I plan on finding out what Tim taught him about love-making.”
“Way to go Trevor.” I was happy to have my name back. He dragged me over to a bedraggled group of teens, hanging out on the church steps, looking uncomfortable and unsure about going in. One boy was resplendent in a white suit.
He was Tim’s boyfriend and roommate at Harvard.
Joan ran over and gave him a big kiss. I guess she really was Tim’s girlfriend.
“Come meet Tim’s Oregon boyfriend,” Joan couldn’t help herself from starting drama.
Jack seemed distracted, maybe because of the eulogy.
“How do you know Tim?”
“I work on the movie up in Oregon. We really just met.” I turned red.
“Let’s find Tim’s Hollywood boyfriend. He’s real old.” Joan was on a roll.
“Are you Tim’s boyfriend?” she asked
“Are you the girlfriend I spoke to on the phone?”
“Here he is,” Joan waved us over.
“Hi,” I spoke first. “We talked on the phone last weekend.”
“Yup. This here’s Jack, Tim’s roommate and boyfriend at Harvard.”
“We’ve met,” Jake admitted. Jack looked distressed.
Tony and Jimmy were joined by the Miami band laughing and pointing at us. It was awkward but all four of us smiled at each other. No sense fighting over a dead body. Maybe my country ways were too simple but I felt connected with the other three, all of whom I’d just met.
“This is perfect,” a tall scrawny long-haired blond guy stated. “My name’s Rockets. We need you to help with our own ceremony once the church service is over. Cause y’all fucked Tim I can use your psychic connection with him to bring him back.”
My first encounter with rock n roll devil worship. I just stared. A dark-haired friend of his pulled ‘Rockets’ away,
“Don’t be expecting everyone to follow your satanic practices. Remember where you are, on the steps of a church,” the dark-haired boy said.
He winked at me, perhaps noticing my wild-eyed staring at ‘Rockets.’ The two of them went off to discuss whatever devil worshipers discuss. I felt I should call Dad for spiritual guidance, but I had already called earlier that morning. Jack left to go into the church, so I went with him. At the least we had Tim in common. I sat with him while he went over his notes for his eulogy. Finally, he turned to me.
“We didn’t really talk about Jesus, just that we had both been choir boys in high school.”
“He wasn’t all that innocent.”
“I’m Baptist. He said his sister and second mom are also. He told me you lived with him in Iowa until some crazed Baptists tried to kill you with a snake ritual. Our church is not like that.”
“So you bonded over choir?”
I turned red. “I rode on his lap in Mr. Landis’s sports car. He got excited, you know in that way. I had never felt that way myself. It was a mutual attraction.”
Jack laughed. “I crushed on Tim all through junior year English. I was even his understudy for Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer’s Night Dream.’ He changed roles and paid attention to me for the first time. I couldn’t help myself.”
“I ended up in his bed that night and had a wet dream. In the morning I thought the dream was real. Tim had done nothing. When I said I loved him, he said he’d try to love me back. It was crazy. Everyone in school knew.”
“Yeah. All my frat brothers could tell. They kidded me but said it was nice that I had someone. They were the ones who told me that Tim had died. They were really cool about it.”
“I can’t believe he’s dead. Part of me wants to breakdown and cry. I know Tim would punch and tell me to be a man. It’s like I can’t be gay about it.”
We both laughed at the two meanings of gay. I put my arm around him. We both sobbed just once. Smiling we knew we had each other’s back. We sat back. The choir began their pre-service performance. It was five boys and one girl, all young teens. They were also playing electric guitar, Pink Floyd. The song was ‘Wish You Were Here.”
It hit me in the heart. The tears flowed. Jack looked distressed.
We weren’t the only ones wishing for another miracle. As the kids played, a feeling of suspense grew. At the end, our collective breaths sighed, slightly disappointed. Used to Baptist claims that the slightest sign was a miracle from God, I was not as disappointed as the mostly Catholic audience praying for a real miracle.
The service proceeded and soon it was time for Jack to do his eulogy. He prefaced it with a passage from the St John the Evangelist Gospel. John was my favorite, always more poetic and mystical, although Mark gave him a run for his money. Jack related the story of Jesus as a shepherd. It seemed that he was saying Tim was like a thief or robber who was the shepherd to outsiders like all youth. I was impressed. After the Bible passage, his eulogy made the case for Tim being an innocent who saw the good in everyone. It was okay. After finishing, he came and sat with me again, waving to his family, including two who were old enough to be his grandparents. I liked that his family supported him, as if being gay was normal.
“Your whole family, even grandparents, supported your love for Tim.”
“The old folks are actually my parents. I’m their youngest. The normal couple is Tim’s parents and the two women are Tim’s two mommies.”
At the end of the service a final viewing of the body was allowed. I was one of the first to come up to the casket. When I saw the tear on Tim’s cheek, I gasped. Other young people ran up, causing a scene. The officiating priest attempted to calm everyone down. Jack whispered to him and he wiped the tear away.
“That was Jack’s tear. He placed it on Tim’s cheek,” Father Luke explained. The consternation remained as the viewing continued. I hadn’t meant to cause concern.
With the viewing done, the coffin was shut and wheeled out to the waiting hearse. It pulled away, but I noticed it only went as far as the parish house driveway.
A crowd of mostly teenaged boys was milling in front. Nicky and Alice came over.
Where’d you go, Country?” he asked.
“I sat with Jack, up front. He had to give the eulogy.”
“Did you understand what he said?”
“Something about Tim seeing the best in everyone, sinner or saint.”
“Thanks, College boy. Now you need to help us kidnap Tim’s body. We have plans before they stick it in the ground.”
He laughed. “Nobody believes that stuff. Just that crazy pothead who calls himself Rockets. It’s all part of the celebration that ends up at the Troubador. I need you to drive after we grab the body out of the hearse. Tim ain’t missin’ his own celebration.”
“What have you been smoking?”
I didn’t argue with that logic. If we got caught I’d claim temporary insanity due to my grief over Tim’s untimely death. Nicky threw me the keys to the Wreck and told me to drive it to the parish house. A said a short prayer, for my own sanity’s sake.
All the misfits were waiting beside the hearse. The long-haired bass player from Miami came over to speak with me.
“I hear yer a Baptist like me,” he smiled.
“You must be Hippie. My daddy’s a preacher.”
“What’s he think about you and Tim?”
“Well, he got the deacons to pay my airfare here. When I told him I loved Tim, he warned me against feeling too strongly about anything.”
“Anything but Jesus.”
“So I can count on you to stifle Robby’s need to invoke the devil?”
“You mean Rockets?”
“Yeah. His latest twist. We call it the Robby magic mean show.”
“Oh,” he looked startled. “I’m married with a baby.”
“Congratulations.” I guess my reputation as gay meant I needed to edit my friendliness. Since I’ve had had a boyfriend, maybe I can work on having friends now.
Suddenly Nicky, Alice, Rockets and Michael appeared, carrying Tim’s dead body. They stuffed it into the back seat, sitting him up and buckling him into the seat belt. Everyone jumped in. Nicky and Alice were in front with me. Rockets sat next to Tim’s body. Hippie and Michael next to Rockets.
“Where to?” I asked.
“Just drive,” Nicky ordered. I spun the wheels backing out of the parish driveway and we squealed away, laying rubber as I shifted into drive. I was slightly out of control as we fishtailed down Holloway Drive. Everyone, but Tim, whooped and hollered. Rockets was waving Tim’s arm at everyone standing in front of the Church. Father Luke looked quite distressed. Jack yelled and came running after us. I slammed on the brakes as he dove into the back seat, pushing Tim’s body into the middle. Convertibles rule.
“Do you really know how to drive?” Nicky admonished me.
The first stop was the Troubadour. Jack told me to park in the back where he banged on the stage door and soon all the musicians came running out.
“Tim’s in the Wreck,” someone yelled. Rockets kept waving Tim’s right arm at everyone as they exited the Troubadour. Tommy must have been smoking weed because he swore Tim had been brought back to life.
“That’s for later,” Rockets promised. Tommy gave him a mean look once he realized he had been tricked. I don’t think he liked Rockets much. He came over and introduced himself to me.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“Trevor, but everyone’s bin callin’ me Country. I’m from Oregon.”
“Howdcha git old Huck’s body away from the Church?”
“Ask Nicky. I’s jist the driver.”
“Howdcha know Tim and whycha call ‘im Huck?
“We runs away from juvie tagether and spent four months livin’ large in the Everglades. Stick around tonight fer when I tells my ‘Gatorsaurus story.”
“Yer in the ‘Bobby McGee Song’.” I pulled out my harmonica and blew some blues.
“How y’all know that one.”
“Tim and me made our own version,” as I sang along with the harmonica.
‘Busted flat in Oregon, waitin’ fer a ride
When I’s feelin’ nearly faded as my jeans
Tim he flagged a diesel down
Jist afore a rain
Rode us all the way to Los Angeles.”
“Hey, That there’s Huck and my song.”
“I guess we share ‘im now.”
“Didcha really love ‘im?”
“More than I ever knew.”
“Yeah, Guess we both lost ‘im.”
“Not yet, as I grabbed Tim’s arms and wrapped them around the two of us.”
Tommy had a big grin on as the tears rolled down our cheeks. I had promised not to cry but couldn’t help it. The two of us sat there hugging a dead body with one arm and each other with the other.
She pulled out her makeup kit and promptly rubbed away the rouge and foundation that the mortuary had used to make Tim look normal. She applied heavy black mascara around his eyes. Then she wrote ‘KISS ME’ on his forehead.”
I was shocked when she proceeded to kiss him passionately. I couldn’t believe it made me jealous. When she was done, I kissed him myself. I felt the devil had possessed me. Tommy whooped and tried to push me aside. He was not to be denied until he looked at Tim’s face. Tin’s eyes were open and his smile, so artfully sculpted by the mortician, had reverted to a macabre teeth-clenching, lecherous grin. Tommy screamed. One look and everyone thought Tim had come back to life. It only took another second to realize he had reverted to the expression he wore when he had died in the surf.
Nicky got the keys and he drove off with about ten riders, including dead Tim, who continued to wave at passersby. Tony followed in his Datsun with about six punks jammed inside. I needed a break from this carnival of the macabre and went inside the Troubadour.
Joan had the other girls working on a song for their performance later. Tommy introduced me to a huge football jock whom he called ‘Gator and proceeded to relate the legend of ‘Gatorsaurus he planned to recite at the performance. ‘Gator was a cut-up, reenacting the exploits of the alligator on his hands and knees, biting Tommy on the leg and eventually throwing him up in the air. I took out my harmonica and provided music behind Tommy’s tale spinning.
We all laughed, good ol’ country boys, one from Florida, one from Iowa, and me from Oregon. I was over my squeamishness from kissing Tim’s dead body. Tommy said he’d play guitar while spinning out the ‘Gatorsaurus tale if I played harmonica alongside him. I was really pleased. ‘Gator said he’d play drums, promising not to get too carried away. I could tell he had a big crush on Tommy. Tommy whispered to me that ‘Gator was totally straight but had been confused by his feelings for Tim when they were best friends in high school. He decided he wanted to be gay, too.
“He just don’t understand why his dick don’t act that way.” Tommy giggled.
“So, you’re gay.”
“Jist fer Tim.”
“I ain’t bin with no one but Tim. It’s confusin’.”
“You’ve gotta git out more.” The wisdom of a sixteen-year-old. “When’s I first was with Tim, all he had to do was smile at me and I got off. It took me a year to learn how to control my dick.”
“How old was ya then.”
“Fourteen. Tim rescued me from juvie.”
“Tim was a molester?”
“No way. I chased him. He held me off, which was why my dick was so twitchy. We was alone in the Everglades for four months. After a few really exciting moments, we just settled into beating each other off. We was like brothers.”
“Yeah. We had the night of the Panther. He kept teasing me with the tip of his dick and switching whenever I got close while we rolled around in the dirt. When I finally came, his dick slipped all the way inside me and went off like a roman candle. There was a panther watching us. It started coming at night while we sang together around the fire.”
I was rock hard just imagining it. Tommy noticed and flicked it with a forefinger. It hurt like hell and went down.
“Don’t be getting’ no ideas.” He laughed at my discomfort. “There’s plenty of gay boys around. I toldcha I only switch-hit fer Tim, and he’s dead.”
“Rockets said he’s gonna raise Tim from the dead.”
“Stay away from that boy. He’s real evil. He ain’t even gay but will pretend in order to humiliate you”
My head was spinning. Hollywood was too complicated for me. I asked Tony if I could use the phone to call long distance. I needed Dad’s advice.
“That went fine. Tim’s friend Jack did a reading from the Gospel according to St John. He compared Tim to a shepherd and us to his flock. The Catholics have been really nice.”
“You sound upset, son. Is everything okay?”
“It’s gotten out-of-control. The Catholics plan a beatification ceremony tomorrow, but some of Tim’s friends have stolen his body and are driving it around in the back of Tim’s convertible.”
“Are they devil-worshippers?”
“One boy is. My friends make fun of him and tell me to stay away.”
“You’re a good boy, Trevor, but I think you should come home as soon as possible.”
“I have to be back by tomorrow night. I’ve been asked to play harmonica to ‘Crocodile Rock’ as part of tonight’s celebration. I’ve been playing a lot. It’s fun and mostly everyone is real nice.”
“Is that a song by Pat Boone from the 50’s?”
“No, Dad. That was ‘See You Later Alligator. In a While Crocodile.”
“Oh, yeah. I always liked Pat Boone.”
“Well, I’m playing acoustically while my friend Tommy tells his story of fighting a big alligator with Tim in the Everglades.”
“Your friend seemed to attract trouble.”
“Yeah. It’s why he’s dead. It’s so sad.”
“Why is the Catholic Church planning on making him a saint?”
“He got them to set up youth shelters in New York City after several miracles occurred when he played music.”
“You know that God creates miracles, not humans.”
“You call us as soon as you get back.”
“I’ll call in the morning before I leave.”
“You’re good boy, son. Don’t disappoint us.”
“Have I ever?”
“Keep it that way.”
“Say hi to Mom for me.”