Somehow, I get to bed around 5 am. I later learn that Dad and Susan carried me from the car and deposited me into my bed, with Max jumping in to join me. I wake up to slobber all over, smelling like stale pizza. I instantly think I had that wet dream Jace suggested. No, it is just slobber. Max jumps up and barks to let me know it is time to hit Robby’s joint den. He pauses on our lawn, sniffing the grass near where Jace died, looking at me to explain. My new-found callousness keeps me from tearing up while Max trots over to his favorite dump site. Business done, we go to Robby’s where we now have front door privileges. He and Mary have the TV on.
All the stations are covering our show last night, with video plus reruns of our interviews in the Grove.
“You’re a rock star now.” I somewhat bitterly remark.
“They even show the part they had cut about you being naked and cum-stained.”
“Thanks Robby. That’s exactly how we want everyone to remember Jace.”
“A little testy this morning. Missing your bed buddy?”
“Shut up, Robby,” Mary defends me.
“I spent my dreams in his arms and was covered by dog slobber in the morning.”
They both break up. I still have some sense of humor.
“Let’s go to Out & Proud around noon.”
“Let’s get stoned first,” as he pulls out the proverbial joint.
For the first time in days, I feel normal.
On the TV, some old hag is ranting about Jace and me.
“How can so many people worship those perverted boys who flaunt their witchcraft in the name of love. Only Jesus is the way to love and salvation,” she preaches. “Too many people have already condemned that nice Rollins College boy who was overwhelmed by his brother’s perversity.”
“What the fuck?” I shout.
“That’s that bitch Anita Bryant. She’s been on this channel all morning. She says it’s God’s punishment that Jace died,” Mary explains.
My stomach flips over. That’s why they’re playing the clip of Robby describing me as a sex fiend. “Thanks, Robby.”
“I was just telling the truth.”
“Yeah, why don’t you tell everybody that Jeff was innocent of killing Jace.”
“Everybody knows he’s an asshole.”
“And what did you do to protect Jace and John? We’ve got to find John. His bitch mother will be turning him against us.”
Jace signs for me to sit. Then he enters me from the nape of my neck. From a floating position near the ceiling I see myself sit up. Jace speaks through me. “Get me pen and paper, Robby.’
Robby looks at me strangely, but complies. I’m writing something on the pad. It’s a list of five things.
1. The first time Jeff raped me, I was home alone sick. He sneaked out of High School and made me suck his dick. 2. The next time he fucked me up the butt and said he’d do it to you, if I told. 3. Then he came into our room all school year and raped either one of us. I was in 5th and you were in 3rd grade. 4. When your butt bled, he made you tell Dad I had done it. 5. He told us both if we ever told, he’d make sure all our friends knew. Then he made me fuck you and you had to swear I was not your real brother. You were eight and I was ten. Tim knows. He swears he will not tell. Tim and me are brothers and you are his brother, too. Go to him. He will protect you.’ signed ‘Jace’
Robby gets an envelope and Jace seals the list inside. He writes ‘give this to John.’ and hands the envelope back to Robby.
I fall back into myself. I’m looking at Robby, who’s very suspicious but not sure about what.
“This is from Jace,” I tell him. “Look at the handwriting. Now give it back to me.”
“What did he write?”
“I can’t say. I’m sworn to secrecy. I have to give it to John. You need to bring him here.”
“Why did you give it to me?”
“So you can say you saw the letter from Jace. And, you do know why.”
I am giving him clues. Robby naturally likes a mystery.
I tell them to meet me at Michael’s. Robby and Mary go to the garage to get John.
Michael’s dad finds me in the music room, waiting for John.
“You don’t seem worse for wear. How do you do it? I slept until eleven.”
“No Jace to abuse me.”
He laughs. “I guess you saw the TV coverage. Just ignore that. It dies quickly.
“I still have to do something for Jace.”
“What? He told you he knew he was about to be murdered?”
“No. I just know what he wants. His brother John is not safe.”
“Oh. no. Where is he now?”
“I waiting to meet him here.”
“I’m calling Family Services.”
“We have to know he’s safe first. This is the safest place I know. I’m sorry not to ask you first.”
“How do you know he’s coming here?”
“Robby and Mary went to get him. He’ll be here soon.”
Michael walks in.
“All hail Fair Romeo. Where forth art thou?” I quote Shakespeare.
I turn to his dad, “Since you’ve worked for us for over a month, can I give you a job performance review?”
He relaxes and drops out of concerned parental mode. “How am I doing?”
“Cash flow’s up. Brand recognition has skyrocketed. Employee count has almost tripled. But I’m afraid I can’t approve of how human resources terminated our guitarist. I’d say you deserve a promotion. Your contract’s renewed. I’m calling you Mike from now on.”
He shakes my hand and shakes his head, exiting the music room.
“What was that all about?”
“I just promoted your dad to main dude. I renewed his contract. Now I call him Mike Sr., as opposed to Mike Jr., whose Stu’s friend.”
“Welcome to my house, Mr. Ding-a-ling.”
Robby and Mary walk in with John.
“’Sup?” John says.
“What time did you get home,” I ask.
“I slept over at Jazz’s. We tried to see Dawn in her panties.”
“It’s normal junior high folly.”
I take him to the back of the room.
He looks at me, like I’m questioning him.
“Jace wrote this for you.” I I I
I pass him the letter.
He recognizes Jace’s handwriting.
“When did he write this?” he asks.
“I can’t say. I swore not to say anything. I also promised to tell you that you are my brother as much as Jace was. You don’t get to choose who your brothers are.
“You got that right.”
“Are we bro’s?”
“We said that before the show. Why are you being so weird?”
I want to hug him and show my feelings, but he is in for a shock.
“Just read Jace’s note. I swore never to tell anyone what it says, but I can talk about it with you. Just read.”
After the second line, his face falls. “Oh, Jace,” he says, dropping the note and putting his hands to his face and rocking back and forth. I put an arm on his shoulder and pick up the note. “I will protect you.”
Everyone else is watching. When John starts to cry, they all rush over and hug him. He can’t deal with all the touching and runs out.
I tell Jazz, “Stay with him and bring him back when he’s ready. Don’t let him go home.”
Jazz nods and runs after John.
What was that all about?” Robby wonders.
“Just something between Jace and John I had to pass along.”
“Is he safe by himself?” Robby actually seems concerned.
“What if his parents find him?” Mary worries.
“You’re right, you two go and bring him back. Stay off the street.”
I pick up Jace’s SG. I feel his hands take over and a string of angry notes rip forth. I turn up the amp and play the intro to Alice Cooper’s ‘School’s Out.’
I change all the lines from ‘summer’ to ‘for ever.’
Flo and Edi walk in, so I switch to the MFQ’s, ‘This could be the Night.’ (kudos to Rodney on the ‘ROQ)
They laugh and shake their fingers at me, “Never.”
John runs in, freaking out and runs up to me.
“It’s not your night either, John” I mock.
He whispers in my ear, “I can’t find Jace’s note.”
I pull the note out, “Got you covered, dude.”
His shoulders relax from relief.
“Wanna go talk?” I say.
All this pretext is to make him feel comfortable and know that we are all on his side.
We go back to the corner.
“Did you read it all?” I ask.
He looks at it and finishes reading. His face is white. He looks like he is going to be sick.
“He tried to protect me, even when Jeff made us have sex. It was disgusting.”
“You don’t have to tell anyone, if you don’t want. I need you to stay away from home. Michael’s dad said he’ll call child services. Maybe we can get you to stay with Michael.”
“He’d do that? They know?”
“No one knows but you and me. I told them you’re in danger.”
“Jeff’s locked up. I’m not worried.”
“Well, they’re not going to charge him with murder, and he’ll get out sometime. I will always protect you, like everyone else here will. I swear it.”
He looks at me. The tears start but he keeps it under control, just like he kept these secrets under wraps. He is a brave 14-year-old. Then I realize the best place for him is with Stu and the Watts. I take John to Mike Sr and suggest it. He gets on the phone. In an hour a court order is delivered assigning custody to Michael Antonio and placement at the Watt’s. Mom Watt is surprised that Jace had a younger brother. She’s happy to add to her brood. They recognize that he’s in danger from his parents. She will bring the court papers to school for John, so they know not to let his real parents contact him. He can still be at his regular school. I speak with Stu, who is his usual bubbly, enthusiastic self. I tell him to take John to swim team so they are always around him. He wants to call Mike Jr to tell him, since John is his age. I feel the final burden drop from my shoulders.
Mrs. Watt drives to Michael’s. Stu and Mike come with her into the music room. Stu runs around, looking at all the equipment, only pausing to say hi to everyone. He’s a big time performer now.
“Your studio is cool,” he says to me.
“Com’n and meet John. He’s Jace’s little brother, so that sort of makes him your big brother.
“Wow. Mom says he’s going to stay with us.”
“Yeah,” then I whisper. “Don’t try to jump in bed with him like with Scott and me.”
“Jeez. I’m not a little kid anymore.”
Stu and Mike Jr go over to John, who’s sitting with the girls.
“You know Stu and Mike,” I told him. ‘You’re going to stay at Stu’s. Mike’s there a lot.”
John looks relieved he’s going to be with kids his own age. “What’s ‘sup?” he asks them.
Stu takes charge and tells him he is going to join swim team, too.
“I ain’t no jockhead and I ain’t wearin’ no Speedo.”
Stu pauses, then says, “Jace was my brother, too, So that kinda makes you my big brother. I guess you don’t have to do anything I say, but we want you to do what we do.”
“It’s okay. You’ll get used to Stu,” Mike Jr adds and smiles at John. They’re the same age.
“Are you some sort of brother, too?” John asks.
“Naw, Stu’s my best friend, so you and I are friends now.”
Stu runs over and starts banging on Robby’s drum set, which Robby quickly puts a stop to.
“Hey, man. It was fun being in the band with you last night.”
Robby just ignores him. Not the best anti-pest move.
“Well, you were okay but sometimes a little off beat.”
Robby changes expressions, “Well, you’re off my drum set, right now,” knocking him off the stool.
Mary runs over and picks him up. “Why are you such a jerk?” she asks Robby.
Stu is sitting on the floor, with a big grin on his face.
Mrs. Watt comes in with Mike Sr. “Okay, boys. We have to leave now.”
“Aw, Mom. We just started having fun.”
Robby chases him out the door.
Mike Sr explains, “I’m going to John’s house to deliver the court order and explain what is happening. Don’t say anything to anyone. I don’t want John’s placement getting out. You can see him at school. If there’s any trouble, we may have to put him in private school.”
“Oh, he’ll love that.”
“So, let’s not rock the boat,” Mike Sr says.
We all sing
“ Rock the boat, don’t tip the boat over
Rock the boat, don’t rock the boat baby
Rock the boat.”
Songwriters: GARRETT, STEPHEN ELLIS/STEWART, RAPTURE/SEATS, ERIC
© EMI Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
I sign to Jace, ‘why play School’s Out (forever)?’
He gives me a thumb’s up and smiles. I think, “Maybe I should stop ditching.”
He looks horrified. I realize if I go to all my classes, he has no choice but to go.
He signs, “You asshole.”
I laugh. “You might learn something.”
“Why? To get a good job?”
“You don’t want me to be smarter than you?” I ask.
“You always have been.”
“So you want me to be a dropout, too?”
Flo comes over and asks what I’m doing.
“Practicing my signing for the deaf.”
“Planning on losing your hearing from the loud music?”
“I pretend I’m signing to Jace because he may be looking over me.”
“That’s so sweet.” Then she looks seriously at me, “I know I can never replace him,”
I take her hand, “No one can, but I still want us to be boyfriend/girlfriend. Jace and I agreed that we wanted girlfriends, too. It was never either/or.”
“It’s hard to compete with a dead boy.”
“Don’t try. He is always in my heart. But my heart has room for you, too,” and I kiss her.
She puts her hands down the back of my jeans.
“How come you started wearing underwear?” she laughs.
I turn red, but say, “Oh, Felix makes us wear them. He sells them to all the girls who come into the shop. They get us to autograph them. I even write a bogus phone number and a message for their 12-year-old boyfriends to call me.”
“You are so funny.”
“Jace liked them ‘cause he’d snap my waistband to annoy me.”
“Like this,” she says and pulls the elastic back and lets it go. It is good to feel it again. Jace is breaking up.
“You want to be annoying like he was?” I say.
“I want you to remember him and smile like you’re doing right now.”
I start making out with her. She puts her hand further inside my briefs. I jump when she tickled my butt hole.”
“That’s too much like Jace,” I complain.
“Naughty boys,” she says.
I slide my hand up her leg and pull on the hem of her shorts.
“Naughty boy,” she reiterates.
“We’re bad boys,” I assert, and Jace nods.
“What were you signing to Jace before I came over?”
“Oh, I said I was thinking about not ditching anymore.”
“That’s an improvement.”
“Well, the garage is done. I don’t want the usual hangout to be my room. Maybe I can get Robby to go too. He won’t graduate before he’s 18 if he keeps ditching.”
“I’ll get Mary to work on him.”
“He probably doesn’t care.”
“Mary has her wiles and ways .
Hippie comes over since we are not making out any more.
“My moms want you to come to dinner on Friday. They say you still havta even if Jace can’t.”
“Of course, I like the old battle axes.”
“Whatcha think of my singin’ last night.”
“Amazing, literally. ‘Amazing Grace,’ dude? That is so perfect. People are saying you’re a rock star.”
“Naw, I just always sing that in church choir.”
“You’re a choir boy?”
“Not no more.”
“And Flo, Edi and Mary are church singers. We must do a gospel album.” I tell him.
Hippie gets a bit red in the face, “I don’t think Robby wants us ta be religious, unless its his devil worship.”
“Jace always said it was Robby’s act, but then he was scared by it.”
“I’m glad I weren’t there the night he went to hell.”
“Yeah, Jace expected the floor in Robby’s room to open up and pull us all into hell.”
“So, when’s Jace’s funeral?”
“Oh my god, I forgot. Mike Sr is over at his parent’s house now. Maybe he’ll find out.”
“Do you think Jace’s parents are religious? They seem pretty evil,” Flo notes.
Hippie says, “They must be talking with that Anita Bryant bitch. She’s been on TV cursing our band and saying how Jace deserved to die,”
Flo says, “Maybe our church can have the service.”
“I don’t want to fight over his body. I saw it at the hospital. It’s just flesh and bone. Jace has left his body.”
Mary is listening. “Don’t suggest this to Robby. He’ll want to have some crazy ceremony in that abandoned cemetery. I never want to go there again.”
“I’ll talk to Preacher Santo about needing to do the service at our church,” Edi promises.
I know she is hurting, so it is good she can do something for Jace. Jace kisses her on the top of her head. She moans and shivers.
Mike Sr comes back. We all meet in the music room.
“That was not pleasant. John’s parents are furious that Child Services took him away. They seem to have forgotten what happened to Jace. All they think about is how terrible Jeff must feel in jail.”
“Did they say anything about Jace’s funeral?” I ask.
“Do you really want to be in a church with them, Tim?”
“I’ve already said goodbye to Jace. His body is an empty shell. I just don’t want people to say we’re staying away because we practice witchcraft.”
“I’ll call the funeral home and find out what the plans are.”
Robby walks over, glaring at me.
“The girls want me to stop ditching.”
“I said I would if you went back too.”
“Thanks a lot. What’s the point of promising what’s not gonna happen.”
“Com’n, dude. The garage is toast. I ain’t giving up my room so you can deal dope. We can’t come here. You really like all those tourists in your room?”
“Fuck, man. They’ll put me in your class ‘cause there’s no way I can graduate this year.”
“That’s cool. I’ll get my English teacher to let you in our class. We read Shakespeare and shit. He loves me and he’ll get double the pleasure chasing both of us. You just have to have a snappy comeback to all his sick jokes. He’s a masochist.”
“A masochist, like sadomasochism, S&M.’
“Shit, I’ll have to dress up.”
Everyone is pleased to see me manipulate Robby, after the years of his mild S&M abuse. I tell him I will get him into all my classes once he agrees to go back to Junior status.
It is finally time to rehearse.
Robby announces he will shoot Stu if he acts like he just did. No one thinks it is funny to talk about shooting anyone. I grab the SG and let the Alice Cooper rip
“• School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces
• No more pencils no more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks yeah
Well we got no class
And we got no principals
And we got no innocence
Songwriters: LAWRENCE, DAVID N.
© Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC
Robby is going crazy on the drums, acting like if he does not stop, we do not have to go to school tomorrow. Michael keeps up. I play the song non-stop, over and over.
Finally I scream, “Your life’s over… for ever.”
We stop. The girls walk to the mic and sing,
“School’s out forever
School’s out for summer
School’s out with fever
School’s out completely”
We are all fake crying and hugging each other.
Robby stands up, bows, and screams, “I ain’t goin’ back.”
We all shout, “Too late, you promised.”
Mary runs over and kisses him.
I am walking Max home, when a carload of dudes start yelling, “Max, Max.” Max barks each time, when he hears his name. I hope they do not want to smoke out. I am pretty burned. They turn around and lean out the window, slapping me five, saying I am a lucky dude to have Max. They have no idea who I am. A new low for my celebrity.
“Come see our next show,” I tell them. “Max is the new singer.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m the guitarist.”
“Sorry, dude. I heard your singer died.”
“We’ll be there.”
“Your next show.”
“Oh, yeah. Thanks.”
By the time I get home, I have done two more Max interviews. I get my Ray Bans and walk downstairs to face my dad. It is time. Max comes with, sitting next to me.”
“Dad, I know I never asked you but I want Max as a member of our family.”
Susan smiles at my dad.
“We’ll talk about that later. Take those sunglasses off in the house.”
Max is on one side of me in his Our Gang pose and Jace is sitting cross-legged on the other side.
“I have a new job. They made me VP of Public Relations.”
“Wow, Dad. Gee, that’s great.”
“Don’t try so hard, Timmy.” I have not been called that in a while. Kinda hurts.
Susan pipes up, “Now, dear, tell Tim why you got the promotion.
“They think I’m some kind of a military hero for defending you boys and Max. They want me to speak to gun groups. I guess I’m a spokesperson for the need to protect your family.”
I jump up to hug him, but he stops me short with a look.
“There comes a responsibility with this position that we be a family that’s worth saving.”
I know he wants to rain on his own parade, so I cut him off.
“I think having a dog will make us the All-American family you need.”
“I’m not joking, Tim. This is my job we’re talking about. The reason you can live in your own little tower and enjoy all we share.”
I suspect one of my dad’s new lackeys in Public Relations has written this speech, but I’m ready to go along to get along.”
“I’m 100% behind our new life. If you need me to tell everyone how you saved my life and you’re my hero, I’ll make sure you feel it’s a life worth saving.”
Susan and Dad burst out laughing.
“And you thought he was going to argue with us,” Susan remarks.
“You can play the hero card as much as you want because I’m living proof that you earned it. I love you always, and you too Susan. I saw you go call the police. Without both of you, I’d be lying on a cold slab with Jace.”
They look at me, half-expecting me to break down. I want to kiss them both. I stand up and tell Max to follow me to the kitchen to get dinner. When I glance back, they’re holding hands. I put the Ray Bans back on.