When we walk into the living room, only Mom/Susan is there. She calls Dad, “Come meet Tim’s friend, dear. He just joined the band.”
How does she know. Moms are so intuitive.
“Mom, this is Jack. He’s also in my English class. He was my understudy until I had to play guitar as a minstrel in the play.
“What play is it?”
“A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” Jack promptly responds.
“Yes. We’re going to have our first performance at Michael’s birthday party. You and Mr. Castle have been invited.”
“Of course, We’re looking forward to it.”
“Jack’s a much better actor than I,” I elaborate.
“That’s hard to believe,” Dad says walking in. “We sure have trouble telling when you’re just acting.”
“I’ve been acting good lately, but Jack acts really well.”
“The way you twist words is what I’m talking about.”
“Dad doesn’t always trust me yet,” I tell Jack.
“Well, after fifteen years of hiding the truth, one year of being honest means you have fourteen years to go.”
“Great. I’ll come back when I’m thirty.”
“What’s all this formal introduction about?”
“I want you to meet Jack and get your approval for him to stay over. His parents know he’s here but you should speak with them. They are older and treat him like an adult.”
“Maybe Jack will be a good influence on you, for when you turn thirty,” Susan notes.
Everyone laughs, except Dad, who knows when he’s being patronized.
“Is it okay with you, Susan?”
“Yes, dear, but best to speak with his parents.”
Jack gets up and takes Dad to the phone. I hear them talking with Jack’s parents.
Susan smiles, “You really have changed, Tim. I feel proud of you, like you’re my real son.”
I go over and hug her. She hugs me back tightly.
“What’s this,” Dad asks as he and Jack return from the phone. “Are you all plotting against me?”
“No, dear. I only found out Jack was here a few minutes ago. Tim said he’d come down, so we could meet him.”
“Well, his parents seemed very nice and trusting. I hope Timmy will avoid his usual pranks that make it hard to give him privileges.”
I wince at my old name and the warning. Dad always has to be in charge.
“Did you hear about us at school and getting the black students to be welcome.
“That’s nice, dear,“ Susan concedes.
“Why am I always seeing you in the paper? My boss isn’t so keen on equal rights and protest marches, as well as all the other uproar in your life. He knows all about you and asked me if you’re some kind of radical.”
Instead of arguing that it wasn’t a protest march, I try a new tact. “Well, I thought with your promotion you could have your own opinions at least.”
He scowls. “You have a lot to learn about business, son.”
“The higher you go, the deeper you kowtow?”
“Don’t mock me. You promised not to embarrass me after I shot that friend of yours.”
“You shot my friend’s killer. You saved my life,” I start tear up. “I’ll do and be anything you ask.”
Susan comes to my rescue. “He’s been an angel, lately, honey. Look at this nice friend he has from school. They’re doing Shakespeare, for god’s sake.”
He calms down. “Okay, I apologize. I know you did the right thing about the black students. I am proud of you. You’re sixteen. It’s normal to test the rules your parents set. I wasn’t always the ideal son at your age.”
At this moment, Max comes bounding into the room, running around sniffing Jack and me, then settling at Dad’s feet. Dad absent-mindedly scratches him behind his ears.
“Did you have a dog when you were my age?” I change the subject away from me and Jack.
“Yes I did. His name was Bowser. I called him Bow Wow Wow, or just Bow.”
“Did you make him bow down to you, like we do?”
He looks at me quickly, then laughs. “Okay, you’ve made your point. And yes, I love Max as part of our family.”
“Is it okay to take him to the Watt’s, where John now lives. Max was his dog, too.”
“Not to stay.”
“Just to visit. John may stay over here sometimes when he feels more normal.”
“How many strays do you plan to adopt?” Dad is his impolite and impolitic self again.
“Honey, Jack is not a stray. It’s normal for boys to want to stay up late and sleep over.”
“I’m sorry, Jack. It’s been too exciting here lately. You’re a welcome guest here.”
“We’re going back upstairs before Jack has to hear about the need to have a gun.”
“Don’t knock the industry that feeds you.”
“Oh, I thought you were working for the war industries that kill us.”
“I don’t know why I’m glad to know you still have a smart mouth.”
“I love you too, Dad,” and I give both of them hugs. Jack is about to do the same, but I pull him and Max back to my room.
“I almost kissed your folks, they’re so nice,” Jack gushes.
“Don’t get carried away. I might get jealous.
Max is sniffing Jack and poking his pockets. Very little trace of THC on him.
“You’re going cold turkey, Max. The pot connection is closed.”
He whines and makes us take him outside. After doing his business/dump, he tries to drag us to Robby’s. We take him upstairs to my room. He lays in the corner and pouts.
“He really acts addicted,” Jack notes.
“You can’t be addicted to pot,” I assert, knowing that in Max’s case, he’s the exception that proves the rule.
Jack lays with him and gives him his full attention. I strip to my briefs and lay on my bed watching them cuddle. I think of all sorts of lyrics for ‘Don’t Leap.’ Jace starts signing that we haven’t come up with any chords and melodies for the verses and chorus. He starts humming, which I think I can just barely hear. I get the SG and repeat the notes. He smiles at me when he sees I don’t need him to show me the notes. Jack starts humming to the music. It’s a joyous feeling that he is really going to sing with me in the band. “Don’t Leap’ is coming together. He looks up from Max with a big grin on his face. He comes over and snaps the waistband on my briefs.
“You look so yummy running around half-naked,” he compliments me.
What is it with this underwear fetish? But I play along, stripping him down to what are an identical but saggy pair, the soaked ones from our first night. I pull out a fresh pair for him, so we can run around together like five-year olds in our Underoos. But his dick was already hard, so we save that pair until after our shower.
“I’ll get Felix to give me more. You’ll have to autograph a bunch for him to sell.”
“Not me. You’re the rock star they want autographs from.”
“Wait until you start singing with the band. You’re fresh meat to those 12-year-old girls.”
“Girls want to wear these?”
“They make their 12-year-old boyfriends wear them.”
“Don’t start stripping 12-year-olds to see.”
“No need; I can just imagine.”
“Jeez, my best friend’s a rapist and now my boyfriend tells me he’s a pedophile.”
“Just a voyeur. No 12-year-old can do what you do for me.” After we finish, he wipes it on his tee-shirt and pulls on the fresh briefs. I give him the lyric sheet to the “Leap’ song. Jace strips down and dances around, singing soundlessly with us.
Finally Susan knocks on the door, giving Jack a fright. I tell him the door is locked.
“It’s getting late, boys. The music may bother the neighbors.”
“We got carried away with a new song we just wrote. We’ll calm down.”
“Sounds great. Good night.”
We collapse in each other’s arms, laughing and giggling, five-year old perverts, caught in only our underwear, jumping up and down on the bed. Soon the bed is going up and down. Susan reminded us what we need to do..
The next morning Robby is again missing from English class. I sign to Jace to go over and report on how he looks. He returns by Nutrition. He says Robby is lying in bed, smoking a lot of pot, with black eyes and unable to get up. At least he isn’t hospitalized. I’m not over being mad. It’s weird not having him tell everyone what to do. Mr. Clark asks me to fill in for him as director of the play. I use the time to work on the cast’s movements to my music. By including ballet and musical theater elements, the boys improve some. After awhile, I get the stage crew girls to work with them. The boys respond better. I finish by telling them to think of the different parts they play as fairies. No one snickers anymore when I called them that.
The marching entrances come easier than the butterfly floating, and the vigor and fast tempo of the bees is harder still. I try not to be too critical. Jack helps by working with Grant, his changeling slave. Grant naturally has rhythm and Jack picks up on it easily. The other boys slowly get a feel for the beat. Soon it looks like they’re all in sync. The sense of flow helps me push the music with higher leads. It’s becoming cohesive. We’re only doing one-third of the play. I can’t imagine how a director can make the complete play a cohesive whole. Then I realize we’re totally remaking Shakespeare and interpreting it to our own artistic sensibilities. What part of high school do I not understand? Waiting for Jace to return, Jack tries consoling me that it isn’t a foolish project.
“Look at all we’ve accomplished. We are fluent with an English that’s 350 years old. We’ve made a whole performance out of part of the original play. All the boys are fine with being girls. Even the girls love being the crew. You just wrote the music to a classic play. It just needs to be tweaked so you’re happy with it and the players can feel its rhythm. How about if I sing my lines to your music?”
“What?” I had been signing with Jace about Robby. “You want to sing your lines?”
“Why not? It’s all iambic pentameter. My high alto/ tenor voice is perfect for a Queen. We can try it this afternoon.”
“You take charge.”
“No, I’ll support you. We’ll win over Clark and the fairy boys.”
“Sounds like an English invasion band.”
He laughs. “What were you signing with Jace?” he asked.
“He went to see how Robby is. It’s pretty bad.”
“Will he live?”
“Yeah, barely. He’s lying there taking bong hits and feeling sorry for himself.”
“Think I should go see him?” I ask.
“No. You said you’d kill him. You want me to go there again?”
“No way Jose.”
Then Jace starts jumping up and down and signing, “He needs Max lovin’ and Max needs to feed his addiction.”
“Jace thinks we should send Max over. Max doesn’t care what he did. He just wants to get high.”
We agree to the plan.
After final bell, we usually go to Michael’s to help with the Out-Crowd. Instead, we get Max from my house and put him in Robby’s backyard. Max is totally insane, recognizing his turf. He runs to Robby’s window, jumps up and scratches the side of the house. He sits and barks once, commanding to be let in. No reaction. He barks again. Robby isn’t moving. Then Robby’s mom opens the back door, sees Max, and lets him in. We peek in the window and see Max jump up on Robby’s bed, slobbering all over the invalid. Robby pushes him away. Max barks. Robby rolls over and buries his head under a pillow. Max grabs the pillow and they fight over it. Max lets go and barks again. Robby gets up and takes out the bong. Max jumps on the bed, standing at Robby’s head waiting for his hit. Three hits later, Max bounds out the window. We take him home.
“Makes me want to get high,” Jack complains, as he lies on the floor rubbing Max’s belly. Jace is doing the same, on Max’s other side. Max jumps up and barks at Jace.
“What’s he barking at?” Jack asks.
“He knows Jace is here.”
“In front of Max, dummy.
He rolls over and looks where Jace is and says, “I love you, Jace, for making the most wonderful person in my life know how to love me and fuck me real good.”
Jace leans over and kisses him.
“He kissed me!” Jack exclaims.
I hug Jack, “He loves you, too.”
“We’ll both take care of you. Maybe you’ll love me like you still love Jace.”
“Every love is different, Jack. You have yet to find out how much I love you right now.”
He tackles me, Max starts barking, Jace pulls down my pants and we’re off. Max thinks it’s time for hot ice cream and licks all the cum off my chest and the floor. It’s totally gross. I love being loved.
We show up at Michael’s after all the kids have left. Stu, Mike Jr. and John still have swim team. John remains at the bottom of the B team. He tells me it’s the only time of the day he’s in his own world, not bugged by everyone around him. ‘Two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl.’ Jenna and Michael are somewhere we don’t want to know where. Guido is passed out. Hippie is sitting with a girl I haven’t met before, nothing new for the groupie king. Actually, she’s from his church. They’re working on hymns for next Sunday. Our standards are slipping.
“This is Anna, from church choir,” he introduces her. “This is Jack and Tim. They’re boyfriends.”
She looks properly shocked. “Gregory says you’re coming to dinner on Friday.”
“Yeah, both of us.”
“Will you come to Friday night youth group. A lot of the girls have been asking us.”
“’Us’? You’re together?”
“Yeah. We took a chastity vow together last year.”
“Yeah, Gregory has told us so much about you.”
She smiles demurely, very demurely.
“How long do you have to wait?” Jack asks.
“Until we get married.”
“Hippie, you sly dog. You didn’t say you were engaged.”
Instead of seeming embarrassed, he acts like it’s no big announcement.
“We’ll be glad to come to youth group. Do you want us to sing and play?”
“Do you know any gospel hymns?”
“Well, we do Elvis and Pat Boone songs. I wouldn’t call ‘Footsteps in the Sand,’ a hymn but we do Elvis’s ‘Mama.’
“Those are sweet. We’re already praying for Gregory’s two moms. We’ll pray for you two. Maybe you can take a chastity pledge, too.”
“Yeah, but since we can’t really get married, it seems kinda tragic.”
“Lots of church boys are gay. They take the pledge hoping they’ll turn straight.”
“Good luck on that one.”
“Thank you. I’ll see you Friday night.”
After she leaves, Jack gets all excited. “We’re going to church youth group and help all those gay boys turn straight.”
“I’ll get Felix to give us a bunch of gay underwear that we can sign and give to all those girls who’ve been asking for us.”
“Don’t be making fun of my church friends,” Hippie complains.
“We’ll be perfect gentlemen. But do you really support friends that pray that your moms will break up.”
“That won’t happen no matter how much I pray for it.”
“Who’s Felix?” Jack asks, “and why does he give you underwear?”
“Stop fixating on the cloth that covers up what you really want,” I tell him.
Hippie turns red and goes back to practicing church hymns.
“Felix owns Out & Proud in the Grove.”
“Is that a gay shop?”
“Bingo. Jace and I worked there over Christmas when the band thing blew up. All those pre-teeny-boppers started chasing us. Felix made us wear these crazy briefs and sold all the girls the same ones. They make their boyfriends wear them. I sign mine and write down a fake phone number to call if the 12-year-old boys want to talk with me. I’ll tell Felix you’re our new singer. You can have your own line of sexy underwear.”
“Oh, I prefer what you wear.”
“Fine, we’ll just share. We both can autograph them. He’ll sell them for twice the price.”
“Let’s go now.”
“You don’t want to rehearse?”
“We rehearsed in class.”
“That was for the play. False Gods is opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd in April, in case you forgot.”
“What? I’m going to sing at a real rock concert?”
“Rockin’ the Bay at the Hydroplane Stadium.”
“Jesus, I’ve never sung for anyone in public.”
“How about we start by seeing if you can sing just for us?”
Hippie says, “Let’s do Amazing Grace. We don’t need the drums. Where’s Robby, anyway. Michael’s probably screwing Jenna somewhere else.”
Guido jumps up, now noticing that his charges are nowhere to be seen. He exits to the main part of the house. We all laugh.
“Now you got Michael in trouble.”
“Only if Guido finds them. He’s not that swift,” Hippie notes.
“Says the kettle to the pot.”
“I may seem dumb but it works well with church girls.”
“You really took a chastity vow?”
“Why not? It doesn’t count with groupies.”
“Oh, what evil lurks in the hearts of men.”
“Only real men,” he counters.
Hippie starts the bass line for ‘Amazing Grace.’
Jack sings it with soaring counter-tenor, making every end note fly higher and higher, from tenor past counter-tenor. It’s better than ‘the Star-Spangled Banner.’
Michael and Jenna come running in. “What are you singing?”
“It’s a hymn for Hippie’s fiancée,” Jack proudly states.
“Fiancée? Hippie you can’t get married until at least we do.” Jenna gets all red.
“Don’t worry. We took a chastity vow. It’ll be years.”
“Better to be safe than sure.”
“Someone told me to say that .”
“What about groupies? We worked so hard to get you laid.”
Hippie is not aware of that fact, so he looks bewildered.
“Don’t worry. He’s got both ends of chastity covered.” I support him. “We’re going to his church’s youth group on Friday. They have lots of gays who are struggling with chastity together.”
“Can we come, too,” Jenna asks, with Michael hiding his unhappy face.
“Sure,” says Hippie, “But it isn’t a Catholic Church.”
“We can get a dispensation if it’s about chastity.”
“Let’s write a chastity song,” I suggest, trying to steer the band back to business.
We spend ten minutes coming up with lines around the idea that chastity only works for the unfuckable. I come up with licks that are a real downer, perfect for chastity.
Jack is hyper about going to see Felix to get his underwear fix. We walk into Out & Proud for the first time in a month. It’s hard for me to not think about Jace and us working and performing here. Jace runs up to Felix and hugs him, but there’s little reaction on his part. Jace looks forlorn, feeling Felix no longer cares about him. I introduce Jack as our new singer. All the young girls window shopping hear me. We have a handful of new fans. I doubt they hang out just to see us when we haven’t been back since the holidays. Felix has Jack try on several garish brief designs. He models for all the girls, who are taking pictures with him posing in the almost buff. Then he changes to another pattern. Felix gets him to sign the used pair which he sells instantly to one of the girls. He tells Jack to come back every day after practice. He’ll pay him the difference in price between retail and the autographed specials. Then he hands him fifty bucks for the ones he’s just done and tells him to take whatever ones he likes. He agonizes over his selection. Finally, he chooses the same style as Jace and I share, just a smaller waist size. The girls have been watching him and beg him to wear and autograph the ones we use. He says he won’t wear them until they invite him over for a private modelling. What a celebrity slut. He has half a dozen phone numbers from pre-teens. I call him a pedophile. He calls me ‘Daddy.’
Felix has a handful of briefs which he hands to me, “You’re next. And no bogus phone numbers. I had complaints of false advertising last time.”
I shrug and repeat Jack’s modelling and autograph act. The girls beg us to sing for them. I ask the chubbiest girl for her first name. It’s Kate. We sing her ‘Amazing Kate,” sort of an original. Felix thanks us and makes us promise to come back tomorrow. Word of mouth will have the shop swamped. We promise. He gives me my fifty bucks. Jack is as high as a kite. He grabs me by the arm, “Let’s go spend money.”
“First, I want you to meet my friends. Jace and I were their gay godparents.” He looks puzzled but soon is skipping with me to Jill and David’s apartment.
Jill opens the door where I see David studying inside. “It water wonder boy, Tim,” She yells at him. He comes to the door.
“I just want to introduce my new boyfriend to you. He’s also our new singer. This is Jack.” She hugs us both. “We were here selling underwear and thought we could take you out to eat.”
“No can do, Master Castle. Too much studying, not enough time. Jill can go, though.”
“Well, I’m sticking by my man, regardless of how cute the boys at my door are.”
“Well, I wanted to say hi and introduce Jack. Come to our first all originals show in April. We’re opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd.”
“What, that old high school phys-ed teacher? That’s tops,” David notes in his understated way.
“That’s really exciting.” Jill is practically jumping up and down. “At least come in for a glass of wine. David, you can spare five minutes.”
He relents and gives us exactly five minutes. When he hits the books again, we push off. Jill gives me a huge hug and kisses Jack politely.
“They’re nice,” Jack says. “How did you meet them?”
“David was my second friend after Stu on the swim team. They were my only friends for quite a while.”
“So, your only friends were ten and twenty when you were fourteen. How’d they get along together.”
“Stu was terrified of David, who’s a champion swimmer. David laughed at me when I started running around with Stu’s friends on bikes, playing in construction projects and getting covered in dirt.”
“How’d David become your friend?”
“Coach put me in his lane. David asked me why was I so worried the weekend my cousin Joey came to visit. He and David are the same age. We partied with Jill and him in between having sex all weekend long. I told you about that.”
“Yeah, you fucked yourselves to death and disinterest.”
“When they realized we were fucking and that I was gay, they were my only real support. I showed up on their doorsteps crying on several occasions.”
“So you were showing me off, now that you have a real boyfriend.”
“Exactly, and you make a good point. You are totally gay and easier to show off. I don’t have to worry that you’re going to find a girl more attractive. Joey, Scott, and Jace all liked girls as much as they liked me.”
Jace signs, “Not true.”
“Well, Jace found girls fun, but he was totally into me.”
“You are my first. I’ll never forget that, no matter what happens. You never have to worry,” Jack assures me.
I’ll worry about guys like Robby. Technically Jace was Jack’s first. Details.