The build up to Michael’s party increases in intensity, with construction apace in his backyard. We decide that since the Out-Crowd performance is to be a dance/sock hop, we have to clear the music room in order to have enough space for dancing. We set up for the band to perform in a corner, to keep the main part of the room free of obstacles. A table is set up by the door for refreshments. There is no place for the kids to sit down. Hopefully they’ll be dancing the entire time. Guido is assigned to keep alcohol out of the punch and limit entrance to just the kids. I ask Mike Sr. if any of his jazz combo friends will be attending, suggesting they can perform a few Sinatra favorites on the Elizabethan stage while the adults mingle after the play’s performance. He calls around and says the singer and keyboard player will attend. His smile tells me my party planning skills are appreciated. At the end of the play’s performance, extra tables and chairs will be set up in the pit area, so the adults will be comfortable and enjoy the jazz ensemble. It will be a cocktail party with a full bar for the adults. We claim the garage for the few actual teens attending where beer and pot consumption can be ignored. Mrs. Antonio’s special spaghetti will be served to the kids. They have really gone all out. Mike Sr. tells me the guest list has expanded to 250. The house will be bursting. It is the band’s job to keep everyone moving.
Mr. Clark is stunned when I bring Intrepid Jimmy to our after-school rehearsal, with an actual drama critic to get a professional opinion. We are in dress rehearsal mode, so they see the full production. Jimmy takes photos. After we finish, the critic has many questions. He says he doesn’t want to give any advice because we have obviously brought a modern interpretation to the classic. He asks about Grant’s role, aware of the efforts we made to have him in our cast. I explain it is crucial for him to be the observer (he has no lines) of the dream sequences, as seen through innocent eyes. In the program we remove the love slave description and call him the Innocent.
“Grant has really interpreted his role himself, as he is always on stage but not participating in the action. We hope the audience sees the play through his eyes.”
He asks if we were using Elizabethan music.
“I actually use parts from ‘The Nutcracker,’ ‘The Mikado,’ and ‘Flight of the Bumble Bees,’ mixed with mandolin scores appropriate to Shakespeare.”
He is taking notes and smiles at me. “You’re more ambitious than John (Jimmy’s real name) told me. Do you think of yourself as a prodigy, like Mozart?”
I laugh, “I play in a cover band. We copy real musician’s hits because everyone loves them. The play is genius; we are having fun with Shakespeare.”
“What about the rumor that you call yourself ‘Teen Jesus?’”
“That’s just an old Beatles legend being recycled. We went to our bass player’s church youth group Friday night, and enjoyed the waving of arms, rolling on the floor, but not so much the speaking in tongues. A girl felt Jesus come into her heart and thought he looked like a teenager. She came to Out & Proud. We told everyone there to open their hearts to Jesus and all the good people in their lives. Since our guitarist was killed by his abusive brother, we’ve been telling kids never to remain silent about abuse. We want them to tell responsible adults if it happens to them or if they see it happening to their friends.”
“Do you see yourself as a teen leader?”
“I’m just a minstrel in a play right now. I’m like the changeling. I have no lines.”
“Tell me about Out & Proud?”
“This interview is about our play, so I’ll just say this and stop. I just came out to my parents, who are very conservative. They love and support me. Out & Proud serves a role model for teens and older that you can be a good person and be gay. It’s the haters who cause problems.”
We don’t want anyone to know we were doing a pre-opening night at Michael’s party. We push to get publicity for the school performances the next weekend. Jimmy gives me the thumbs up, and they leave. Mr. Clark is breathless.
“Do you think we’ll get in the paper?”
“Don’t sell your soul for popularity. It tends to come back to bite you,” I tell him.
“Do you think the kids will like the play?”
“Robby plans to highly amuse them with this play. I keep warning you that he isn’t gay. He’s has all the boys acting like girls which will surely create a stir. Think of it as another authentic Elizabethan norm where the audience throws rotten fruits at the actors. By making fruits of the actors, he’s throwing it back at them. ”
“My goodness, will it be that bad.”
“He’s releasing the dogs of hell on us. His role as Puck is vital to saving us from a riot.”
He rushes over to work with Robby. Jack has been quiet during my interview, but he’s in all the photo shots. I’ll have to start calling him Freddie Mercury.
The next day we are prominently featured in the Miami Herald’s Arts section. The article is titled “Fun with Shakespeare,’ with several photos of Robby and Jack in full costume and makeup. I smile at Puck/Robby’s bushy tail. Jack’s Titania is gorgeous. He gets hoots and whistles at Nutrition, which aren’t exactly compliments. We steel ourselves for the next ten days of attention and derision. Casper floats above the haters and tries to harass them back. They’re impervious since they have no hearts. At band rehearsal I ask Jack what his parents’ reaction will be to seeing him in the paper.
“Crap, I haven’t seen or spoken with them in a week.”
“I haven’t even met them, yet. Now that you’re part of my family, maybe they need to know.”
“Oh, they’re too old to care. Gay means Fred Astaire to them.”
“We could do an Astaire/Rogers dance number for them.” I suggest.
“Well, you must come by and meet them.”
“But now we have to get to Out & Proud. We’ll make big bucks with that article out today.
Felix is prepared. He has rented the store next door and set it up with a massive underwear selection that just arrived. All we have to do is sit and sign the purchases.
“Felix, I’m glad you’re expanding, but I feel we’re exploiting these little girls.”
“They love you.’
“Well, they deserve better than a cash grab. We’ll play for the crowd first.”
“The cops warned me that the crowd’s too big. They’re going to eventually shut me down.”
“Well, from now on keep all the ‘product’ in the back and we’ll play in here. When we finish, you can start selling.”
“Okay, just for today you can be outside.”
We set up. A girl comes up and asks us to sing to her.
“What’s your name, honey?”
“Shaniqua,” she answers.
“Do you have a nickname?”
We start singing ‘Amazing Shaq,’ which sounds sweet as we sing low.
The girls surround Shaniqua, loving her.
Someone yells, “Heresy, Abomination,” at the back of the crowd.
I look up and see a small group of adults. I instantly know they’re haters. I’m not going to allow them to destroy the good feelings. We turn up the amps and play the song through again. When we finish, I ask, “Why don’t you adults come up and tell us why you don’t like us singing a traditional hymn to this girl?”
They push aside the kids, standing in front of us. I hope that the happy faces and nice feelings will calm them down. Hate easily wins out. At least Jack and I are as tall as them as they tower over the pre-teens.
“You’re corrupting these children’s morals,” one of the haters says.
“We sing hymns because they need to feel love in their life.”
“Only Jesus brings love.”
“Maybe that’s your problem. No one has ever loved you.”
“Jesus is enough for everyone.”
“Jesus brought love to this world. He never said his love was the only love in life.”
“You mock Jesus and are an abomination in His sight.”
“You act like Jesus is a hater who only accepts haters into his heart.”
“You’re a damned faggot who’s going to Hell right now.” He swings at Jack, who steps behind me. I swing the Mustang and knock him down. I put my foot on his neck and tell him to stay down. His friends have jumped back. They thought faggots don’t fight back.
“Felix,” I yell. “Call the cops. This guy tried to assault us.”
He runs out, seeing me towering over the hater (with my foot literally on his red neck) and runs back to call. The other haters can’t decide whether to attack me or run. The police sirens make up their minds. They are quickly gone. All the girls are cowering behind Jack and me.
“I’m sorry you had to see that. Haters are the abusers we fight. If you see someone being abused, don’t do what I did just now. Find a responsible adult to help you or the friend who is being abused.”
Casper has a new way to hang out. He puts an arm on each of us. We all feel connected that way, but it leaves a short distance between Jack and me.
There are other screams. Girls begin falling on the ground and shaking. The garbled sound of ‘tongues’ is gurgling up. I sign to Casper to go back inside. It makes him sad.
“I know, but let’s not make the situation worse,” I sign.
The Police arrive and immediately call for backup when they see all the kids writhing on the ground. Felix runs out and grabs the officers, leading them to me.
“This man assaulted Jack,” I tell him. They put the hater in cuffs and lead him to the police car. We all go inside, where I relate what happened. They get a statement from Jack. They warn Felix that he must know this is a bad way to run his business. Felix says he everything is going inside the next afternoon. They tell him to shut down the circus for now.
“Did you hit that man with your guitar?” the officer asks me.
“Yes, but only after he said he was going to kill us and lunged at Jack.”
“Good boy. You don’t seem like a typical musician.”
“I grew up in the military, officer.”
“Well, I’d say you used reasonable force to subdue him. Since you stopped there, you obvious had the situation under control.”
“Not really. There were five of them. They hesitated jumping me. When you arrived, they took off”
“That’s our job. You were wise to call us.”
“You’re the boy in the paper today. You’re Teen Jesus.” I guess even cops read the Arts section with their coffee and donuts.
“That’s not true.”
“I always wondered if Jesus fought back when he was a kid.”
We all laugh. He takes our names and says they’ll lock the redneck up overnight, unless we want to press charges.
“Only losers press charges,” I say.
After they leave, Jack and I go back outside. All the girls rush us, saying we saved them. My Teen Jesus role is expanding beyond soul saver.
“Tim has been my savior before,” Jack tells them.
“Are you his apostle?” one girl asked.
“They’ll have to rewrite the bible,” I tell them and give him a sexy kiss. All the girls scream. Several fall down.
“Stop,” I yell, which amazingly they do. “All this holy rolling is giving me a headache.”
“Ah,” They sympathetically moan.
Felix announces that the new shop is ready for buyers. He pulls up our tees and shows off our matching briefs. The girls grab their credit cards and line up in the new annex. I remember that the real Jesus threw out the money lenders at the temple. Before signing underwear, I find Casper in the backroom. Jack and I give him a blow job and rim job, to make up for banishing his Teen Jesus apparition at the melee.
After earning our hundred bucks, I call Intrepid Jimmy to inform him about the exploits of Teen Jesus. He’s excited to be building his story. I tell him to emphasize that we want nothing to do with religious controversies and that having Jesus in your heart is a good thing.
“Better start going to church,” he suggests.
Then I call Mike Sr. to let him know what happened. I explain that no charges are being filed. He tells me to let him make those decisions. I agree.
Finally, it’s time to go meet the new parents. I call Susan to tell her I’m having dinner with Jack’s parents. She says Dad will be pleased and thanks me for calling. Since she now is on my side, I generally ignore her normal subservience to him. Whatever.
We change clothes to look presentable. Casper asks if he can go. He’s acting strange.
“Of course,” we both say. “I’ll say grace and maybe they’ll see Teen Jesus. Do you like that name better than Casper?”
We ride our bikes to Jack’s house. It’s big, almost as big as Michael’s.
“Jesus, you’re rich,” I tell him. Casper signs that it’s easier to thread a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich boy to get into heaven.
We throw Casper on the ground and are stomping on him, while he giggles. Then Jack feels sorry for him, “Jesus, Tim, did you eat too many Wheaties this morning?” We’ve rolled around, messing up our (sorta) nice clothes. We go straight to his room. He lends me fresh shirt and trousers. He has two closets full of clothes.
“Are you super rich or something,”
“All hand-me-downs from my older brothers.”
I look and see they are mostly 50s style button downs, even Ivy League khakis, with a loop belt on the butt.
“I like these,” as I snap his loop.
“Stop it,” he warns, “I’m not letting you fuck me until you meet my parents.”
Casper pulls out his cock. I hold Jack down for a few seconds while Casper humps him.
We all jump up when we hear his mom call up, “Is that you Johnny? Are you home?”
“Yes. I have friends with me.”
“That’s nice. Do they want to stay for dinner?”
“I’ll tell Isabelle. We’re eating at eight.”
“Are you having cocktails now?”
“Yes, dear. Do you want to introduce your friends.”
We all troop downstairs to their large sitting room. I see a more formal living room beyond. The sitting room has a bar. Jack’s father is preparing drinks. I’m ready to have a high ball, after all our fooling around, but am only offered a Coke.
“This is Tim Castle, Mother and Dad. He’s the one who invited me to be in their band.”
“Is it a jazz combo, Tim?” Mother asks me.
“We play mostly popular music,” I answer, ‘ma’am.”
“We actually were playing hymns today at a store in the Grove,” Jack was more talkative than usual. Casper is sitting back on the opposite couch, enjoying my debut.
“That’s nice, dear. Now, Tim, we did speak with your father this past weekend. He seems very nice, wanting to make sure Jack could stay with you. You are of course welcome here as well.”
“I was looking forward to meeting you, ma’am”
“The pleasure is all ours. We’re just older parents than most. Johnny is our November mistake, you know.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say any later than, say, October, ma’am.”
“What a charmer, you are, Tim. Isn’t he, dear,” she defers to her husband, whose role is being agreeable to everything she says and to make the drinks.
Jack complains, “It’s not fair to be referred to as a ‘mistake,’ you know.”
“What do we know, Johnny?” she titters.
“You know very well,” he responds.
It was definitely repartee from the 1930s. I glance around and see the normal pictures of grandkids. Casper points out Jack’s picture, looking very young, with his older brothers. I jump up so I can see them better. Jack comes over and explains he was just a kid in those pictures. He is so cute, making faces at his serious older siblings. Casper is making the same faces at Jack. Jack shows me formal, more recent photos. He’s really handsome.
“Did you see Jack’s picture in the Herald today” I ask.
“You were in the paper, Johnny?”
“Yes, our play debuts this weekend. They gave us a nice write-up.”
She rings a bell and a Spanish maid comes into the room.
“Isabelle, this is Johnny’s new friend, Tim,” she introduces me. “Would you get today’s Herald, por favor. Johnny’s photo is in it. Gracias.”
She nods to me, and then returns with the paper. Mrs. Stone looks at the Arts section, reading the whole interview.
“Look at this, dear,” showing the photo of Jack to his dad, “I always wanted a daughter and now Johnny has given me one. You are gorgeous, Johnny.” She kisses him. He finally seems embarrassed.
“And Tim, most of the article is about you. They compare you to Mozart. You said you play popular music.”
“Well, for the play, I’m just the minstrel. I play Elizabethan madrigals.”
“It says, Johnny, that you sing in your role. It’s quite avant-garde. And I thought you should have gone to Exeter or Andover, to become more cultured than your dreadful magic games.”
“You’ll send me away soon enough.”
“Oh, Johnny, you’ll never leave my heart.” He bends over and air kisses her. Casper came over and double air kisses her.
“I hope you’re coming to our preview this Sunday at the Antonio’s. They’ve set up an Elizabethan Theater in the back yard.”
“We so admire Mr. Antonio and all his work for the Blacks. I’m afraid we’ve never had the chance to meet them. We go out so little at our age.”
“Well, you have to come and see Jack sing Shakespeare. He’ll be wearing a dress.”
“Well, then, we must. Thank you Tim. We look forward to hearing the next Mozart.”
“That’s just publicity in the newspaper. I just play other people’s songs in a rock band.”
“People are calling him Teen Jesus, Mother.”
“Don’t encourage that, please,” I complain.
“It does sound better than a Teen Mozart.”
“Well, you certainly are becoming more sophisticated, Johnny. I think Tim’s a good influence on you.”
“Oh, he is, Mummy,” Getting up and hugging me. “We’re boyfriends now.”
“Our little Johnny is growing up.”
And Mr. Stone nods his approval. We both air kiss, three times.
Isabelle announces that dinner is served. We all go into the dining room. There are five places set.
“Where’s your other friend, Johnny?” she asks.
“Oh, he’s around, but he’s not eating with us.”
“You should introduce him. You don’t have two boyfriends now, I hope.”
Casper is all ears for this response.
“Well, actually yes. But Casper finds it hard to be seen with us. Not everyone accepts us being gay.”
“Well, tell him we are very supportive, but don’t have too many boyfriends at your age. You’ll find you may be conceited when you grow up.”
“Well, I can be a little conceited. I am the most beautiful girl in the play.”
“He really sings like an angel, Mrs. Stone. I’ll make sure you receive a formal invitation to Michael Antonio’s party.”
“There’s the son, Michael Jr, “she notes. “I’ve heard through the grapevine that he’s called Romeo and is engaged to a Capulet Juliet.”
“Not engaged, but betrothed.”
“We did Romeo and Juliet for Jenna Lombardi’s 14th birthday over the holidays.”
“Oh my goodness. You poor boy. It was your boyfriend that was so viciously murdered. You played on so bravely. So many people came to Viscaya. I am truly sorry. You must miss him so.”
”He sent your son to me. We share our love with him.”
“Are you writing your own Shakespearean tragedy?”
“Sometimes it does seem so. Maybe Julius Caesar.”
“Oh, all that deception. I hope you don’t feel jaded by life at 16.”
“No time for that. As well as the play, Jack and I have been getting ready for our band’s debut in April. We are opening for a famous rock and roll band at the Hydroplane Stadium.”
“Should we see about getting Symphony Hall for you?”
“We’re just the opening band. It’s a rough crowd. They’d smoke and leave a mess at a formal concert hall.”
“Well, someday you’ll play Carnegie Hall.”
“I did perform once in New York when I was 14. I love New York.”
“Maybe you boys should apply to Columbia and live your dreams.” I feel I have entered the world of our Midsummer Night’s Dream.
We look at each other, holding hands, sitting at a grand dining table, smiling at Casper whose arms are around us, and thinking how perfect. The first bite of my chicken Cordon Bleu confirms it.
I insist we spend the night there. His bed has silk sheets and is twice as wide as mine. Who knows what Isabelle will think when she washes those sheets. I feel like a dog marking my territory.
I wake up late and miss Jack. He’s sitting by the window.
“Are we becoming too much alike,” I ask, hugging him from behind. “When did you start sitting at the window contemplating your life.”
“It’s nice. I know why you do it now.”
“It’s better with someone in your arms.”
“Then, come here,” and we snuggle and spoon. Casper lies on his back in bed, naked, and snoring.
“Is it silly that I enjoyed your coming out to your parents, more than to mine.” Jack says.
“Well, I totally enjoyed yours more. I wanted to kill Hippie.”
“He was right, though. You had to grow a pair. Now look at you now, beating up haters in the street.”
“Am I rough trade to you.”
“You are my hero. That asshole attacked me.”
“You didn’t tell your folks that part of your day.”
“Some things are better left unsaid.”
“How about telling them you have two boyfriends.”
“Oh, half their friends are closeted homosexuals.”
“But they are so sophisticated.”
“The rich are more up tight than regular people.”
“Is that what you want, just to be a regular person?”
“No, I kinda like it the way it is now, with you and Casper.”
“I can’t think past our show in April. How can we stay together until we’re really adults?”
“You don’t want to grow up?”
“Of course I do. Look at the people who try to lock-in a certain time of their lives and hold onto it as long as possible. I know this is my best time ever, but I also want to push it further, to see what’s around the next corner. I won’t be a high school kid for life.”
“You are too hot-blooded, Tim Castle.”
“I can barely keep up with you and Casper, Johnny Stone.”
“You want it any other way?”
“How about this way?” and I wiggle my little finger into his butt. He shrieks. Casper wakes up and, as already noted, is good to go. We tease Jack until he became Johnny Come Lately. I’m glad to have Casper ready to fuck me when I’ve just cum myself .
That morning we decide to have a ditch day and have breakfast with Mrs. Stone. Jus d’orange, café et croissants. Frenching each other completes our continental breakfast. Lounging by the pool, Casper complains he can’t get a tan. We put Oil d’Olay on him and he wanders around as a little, naked brown boy until the lotion is absorbed. We investigate Jack’s clothing closet and find many costume possibilities. I put on a tux and Jack, a thirties sporting outfit. We act out ‘The Way you Look Tonight’ from the Astaire & Rogers movie ‘Swing time.’
It’s a duet, with Jack doing the high Rogers role and me as Astaire. We dance throughout the downstairs rooms as we sing. Casper is our stage manager, opening and closing doors and shining the spotlight (a floor lamp) on us. Mrs. Stone tells me to call her Dorothy, but when she sees the look in my eyes, she relents, “No, just call me Mother.” Sounds like a Joan Crawford movie. “Now I have my wish, not just one, but two daughters.”
Casper laughs at my discomfort, signing I’ve become too butch lately, going around beating up people. I promise to seek my feminine side.
“Mummy has already found it,” Jack signs.
We show up for afternoon rehearsal, tanned and feeling beautiful. Mr. Clark breathes a sigh of relief that we haven’t gone AWOL. Robby continues to avoid me. I’m beginning to feel sorry for him. No one treats him like the director anymore. He’s not that into his role as Puck. I tell Casper to check up on him. The report is that he’s just feeling sorry for himself. No sympathy there. I decide to give him a pep talk right before our first performance. A couple of days more to feel superior. I know we need his crazy energy to make it work, for the band and the play.
The day of Michael’s party arrives. We return to Hippie’s youth group the night before, which thrills the kids and leader. We explain that the rumors about Teen Jesus started there. Regardless of what they saw, they must remember that I’m not Teen Jesus. Several kids were at Out & Proud. They recount what had happened.
“When one of those haters attacked us, I had to defend Jack, putting the hater in jail. I feel sorry that it happened. He was angry because people thought I was mocking Jesus by pretending to be Him.”
I warn them not to believe in false idols, but to keep Jesus in their hearts and share the love they find. I also give another anti-bullying pep talk.
We’re all gathered behind the Globe Theater replica, getting high and laughing about our adventures. I tell everyone that Jack’s family accepts us as boyfriends and how we entertained his mother with a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers song and dance. Grant comes up to me and says he hadn’t known I’m gay, but he likes me a lot for my straight parts. I promised to keep my gay parts away from his straight parts.
“You’re still my hero,” he admits.
“Like a gay Superman?”
“More like a gay Shaft.”
“Your command of the Shakespearean double entendre is excellent. Where are your folks?”
“They’re sitting up on the dais with all the famous people. Michael’s dad says they are honored guests because I’m the star of the show.” I see he’s tearing up. “I’ll bet you arranged that.”
“Naw, Mike Sr. arranges his own life. The straight guy always is the star.”
“But I feel like a kid up there. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m doing.”
“You nail it. I switched the program to read ‘Innocent’ instead of “Love Slave.”
“That’s a relief. I knew my Mama was gonna tan my hide if she saw ‘slave.’”
“No slaves around here. You wanna hit the weed?”
“Later. I’m too nervous now.”
I feel his forehead, “But cool as a cucumber.”
“You’re a special dude, Tim. You wanna be set up with a brother?”
“Naw. I got my hands full right now.”
“Jack’s a hot tamale. Somehow I feel jealous.”
“Well, you’re still his sex slave.”
“I need someone to take off some of the heat.”
“Sorry, No can do.”
“You got a main squeeze?”
“Sittin’ right there with my folks.”
“Church girl, huh?”
“You got it.”
“There’s my squeeze over there,” as I point to Flo.
“You got a girlfriend, too?”
“Yup, another church girl. She likes that Jack relieves me of my excess hormones.”
“Sweet deal, man.”
“Check out the garage afterward.”
“Cool. Okay if I bring in a few brothers? They insisted on coming to see me act gay. They don’t wanna crash the party.”
“Well you can be gay at school for ‘em, but for sure bring ‘em to the opium den out back.”
“You got hard drugs?”
“Just pot and beer – have no fear.”
I walk up to Robby. He’s pretty angry with me for ruining his life. I don’t care. Without a great performance from him as Puck, our play is a flop. I’m not about to beg him to turn it up. I just light into him.
“I’m not even going to say anything about what you did. You ruined our friendship. Now you’re trying to ruin all these kids’ performance by being a lame Puck. If you don’t turn it up and play your asshole self, I’ll make sure to always call you ‘Fuck.’ ‘Cause you are a fucked Puck right now. No spirit. No joy. No gay flouncing. Just a stupid high school kid who has taken his ball home when he didn’t get his own way. Grow a pair and do what you do best. Make Puck the star of the play.”
I walk away without looking back. Casper tells me that Robby just sits there watching me walk away. When I don’t look back, he gets really angry and walks out to the garage. He and Guido do massive bong hits. Then he puts on his hat and marches to back stage, slapping a couple of the fairies on the ass. Good start.