SHIT FOR BRAINS
My new name. That’s all Dad says when he sees me. I’m on restriction for life. I played the military card but don’t get out of detention. Better, I guess, than juvie. Jack says to remember my dreams by writing them down. At least we still talk. But I only remember this one dream. It starts with me in juvie. Here goes:
I’m in an open cell of about ten kids, ages 12 – 16. The oldest one is also the fattest. He comes at me right away to knock me down. I jump back and fatty falls on his face. I put my foot on his neck and grind him into the floor.
“Don’t fuck with me,” I tell him.
He squirms a little before giving in. I look around and throw my stuff on the nearest bunk. A few, then all the little kids, grab their stuff and move to my side of the cell.
“You owe me a future beat down,” I tell fatty after I take my foot off his neck. He hunkers back to his corner, where the last few boys spit on him before running across to my side. All the kids rearrange their bunks so I can protect them. They sit on or near my bunk while I set it up.
“Y’all look abused,” I challenge them, staring at two boys cowering in the back.
“Whatcha in fer?” the nearest boy changes the subject.
“Murder…of my dog,” and they all break up.
We chat. The tension in the cell disappears. My only worry is that some football jock will get thrown in with us. Will I have to fight him? It is a dream. Instantly the jock shows up. He gives me the stare, which I quickly avert. We leave each other alone. Half the kids move back to his side. Balance of power established. Fatty remains out in the corner.
That is all I remember but I do know I repeatedly go back to that nightmare. Boys fear juvie, it is imprinted in our DNA or by fascist teachers. My greatest fear is facing Jace’s killer brother Jeff behind bars. No chance I will not kill him. Maybe I better stay out of trouble. I am just shit for brains, right?
‘Sonnets’ comes out of this period. It takes me days to slog through the first ones where Shakespeare is trying to convince a secret boyfriend to stay straight and raise a family.
It is in Sonnet #27, I finally feel a spark of honest love and life.
“ Let me in bed lie dreaming in mischance; “
So Will runs away from his wife to be with his posh London lover. Unschooled though he is, his mastery of rhyme and wit makes Will popular in the London Scene as the singer of his own verses. Will is spurned by his royal lover who chooses the wife and mother to his children. Will deceitfully writes encouragement of his lover’s monogamy to the wife in his unrequited quest. When the marriage ultimately fails, Will is there to catch the spurned lover on the rebound. It only takes a few verses accompanied by Will’s mandolin to capture the wounded noble’s love.
By Sonnet #29, Will is in complete despair:
“And I my self, my self always to hate
Till dreadful death do ease my doleful state.”
I can relate.
By Sonnet #30, Will has been rejected in the long wooing of his lover:
“this song thy fault to thee it sings;
Displease thee not, for saying thus me thought,
Nor hate thou him from whom no hate forth springs;
For furies that in hell be execrable,
For that they hate are made most miserable.”
I like the alliteration, ‘that they hate are made most miserable,’ if not the thought. Back to being sorry for myself. Shit for brains.
I have to get Will introduced to his lover’s inner circle. That is why he ends up composing verses to sing for Princesses Mary and Elizabeth. Each princess entertains King Henry VIII by sponsoring Will to perform his verses at court, ostensibly to the ladies but actually to the King Henry, who has a powerful crush on Will. Neither princess knows the other is employing Will to forward their cause to become the next monarch. Nor, do they realize that the success of these verses will only promote Will to the King’s favor .
In #31, it all boils over and lust conquers fear:
“The flaming sighs that boil within my breast
Sometime break forth; and they can well declare
The hearts unrest, and how that it doth fare,
The pain thereof, the grief, and all the rest.
The watered eye, from whence the tears do fall,
Do feel some force or else they would be dry;
The wasted flesh of colour dead can try,
And something tell what sweetness is in gall.
And he that lust to see, and do discern,
How care can force within a wearied mind,
Come he to me”
It’s better than porno – gay soap opera. Each line is its own flirty pick-up. I start thinking who is to play these roles. Robby wants to be the fat, old King Henry, the Eighth. Mary has to be Mary, Queen of Scots. Grant wants to revive Falstaff, and Jack is a divine and royal Elizabeth. Maybe I can be Will and play mandolin by telephone. Hippie says he will wire something up. He is to be a guard, with no lines, but pantomime instructions.
Sonnet #31 continues,
“my friend so dear,
I thought it good my state should now appear
To you, and that there is no great desert.
And where as you, in weighty matters great
Of fortune saw the shadow that you know:
For trifling things, I now am stricken so;
That though I feel my heart doth wound and beat,”
How typical, a confession of the heart. Only to be followed by Sonnet #32’s suicide like despair.
“O! then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
‘Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
To march in ranks of better equipage:
But since he died and poets better prove,
Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love’.”
That would be the final passage before dropping the curtain. What kind of applause do I expect? Not much if we show Mary’s beheading. Well, it is a start.
“Jack,” I call him to the phone. “I have a way to practice Sonnets without deceiving Dad. I’ll give you the plot and some lines that you can fit into the story’s dialogue.”
He thinks, then anxiously answered, “You mean I get to write with you as we fill in between the quotes?”
“Yeah, duffus. We’ll write it together, that’s best and easiest.”
“Over the phone?”
“You could come and serenade me at night.
“Jeez, let Dad cool off. Do you trust Dave and Jazz?
“Have them teach you how to get from the library to my backyard through the trees.”
“Whoa. I only went up that tree because the whole football team was going to pounce on me.”
“Yeah. Well, that was a good start. You can serenade me from the trees.”
“Will you sneak out if I come.”
“I’m sure to cum,” I state.
“I quit pot,” he laments.
“It won’t matter,” I know he only needs me. Ah, such sweet sorrow.
I tell Dad I’m talking with Jack about our school project. He insists I tell him what the project entails. He did not know that Shakespeare wrote sonnets. When he learns we have to present the show next month, he agrees I can be off restriction by then. I also warn him that Jack is going to serenade me at night, just like Romeo and Juliette.
“More like Romeo and Mercutio,” he shows some Shakespearean knowledge. “I’m sure Susan will find it cute. No visitors in your room during restriction.”
I (fake) groan, but agree.
The first nightly serenade is the best. He is in the trees, where he cries out, “Tim.”
When I join him on a limb, he proceeds to sing Michael Jackson’s ‘Ben,”
substituting my name for the rat. I’m laughing my ass off until he slips from the branch. I catch him just in time. I lead him up into the highest trees. He is still shaking from almost falling and petrified of the heights to which I have taken him. We cuddle for the longest time. We have been apart for days. His shuddering makes me extremely protective, getting me hard. I pull it out just as I get off, spurting all over the surrounding trees. A 60 second man.
“You really miss me,” Jack gushes, totally ignoring his own stiffy. I’m pleased to see it wagging back and forth. I know it well. I place both soles of my dirty feet over the straining denim of his jeans. My double massage gets him over the edge almost as quickly as I went off. We sheepishly look at each other, silently acknowledging that it has been too long since our last session of sticky love.
I lay back in the tree, while Jack carefully crawls into my solid embrace. He is looking at me with those star-struck eyes. It’s the best feeling, holding him secure and confident.
“We’ve gotta discuss ‘Sonnets,’” I insist.
“Like, who plays Will?”
“Well, you have to be my understudy again, until I get off restriction.”
He slides his hands under my butt, messaging my cheeks. I want him to take me right there in the tree – a perfect simian I am, fucking on a branch. That is not going to happen. Jack thinks he will get my attention by snapping the waistband of my briefs, but I have returned to going commando.
“Disappointed? It’s just more comfortable.”
“Yeah, but it does say you’re easy action,” he jokes. We break up laughing.
“Still a New Romantic?” I ask
“We’re lying here talking and cuddling.”
I snap his briefs’ waistband. The whole tree is shaking as we get each other off a second time. We cum simultaneously. After which our whistles ring out in the neighborhood, followed by the howling of local dogs. Instead of settling back into a cuddle, I jump up, holding Jack. We move to a more hidden tree branch. We are all monkeys.
Back in my room, Jack remains in the window, the newest lost boy. We talk through the plot for the next day’s English class. Having the quotes to work with will be the guide about which way Will’s romances are going. Jack will sing and play the actual sonnets while the other characters can ad lib lines on their own. Mr. Clark will be shaking his head. Maybe I will be missed.
This goes on for several weeks, until it is time for a full rehearsal. I beg Dad to let me off restriction so I can direct and figure out my lines. He just yells at me, ending with “…shit for brains.” Finally after Mom bakes him his special peach pie, he allows that the rehearsal can be in our back yard. I still have to remain in my room.
Trying to direct the chaos from my window, I fail to notice an adult visitor who enters my room.
“I hear you’re under house arrest,” I recognize a Queens accent, Martin Scorsese.
I leave the chaos and sit on the music seat by my guitar. Martin is on Jack’s seat.
“My apologies for coming into your bedroom. It’s the only way to see you, according to our favorite local lawyer.”
“Must be important,” I deduce.
“Well, the movie’s done. We need to promote it. I’m thinking Cannes.”
“Wow, and me on restriction.”
“Some little bird told me they might want the band to play at the premiere. Can you wrap up this silliness, or do I have to wait in line.”
“Cannes is at the end May. We can do our play here and be there on time. Do we get to play the Pink Floyd songs?”
“They want to play with you. They heard about the jam with Skynyrd.”
“Can we book an arena?”
“I booked the bull ring at Nice. So be good. I’m having dinner with Mike after we complete our business. Why don’t you and your dad meet us at 9pm at Joe’s Stone Crab on the Beach? We’ll make sure everyone’s on board.”
“For sure. He’ll be home in plenty of time.” I know not to ask to bring Mom, guys only, old school, for business.
“By the way, Andy called that writer into his office right after I delivered your letter. I watched him burn his review and flick the ashes in his face. The hack left to work on the Coast.”
A laugh disguises my dismay that my carefree life is over, no more jokes with Andy. Martin is there to remind me that life does go on.
I need to twist Dad’s arm to go to Joe’s Stone Crab. I tell him it is business, like school. And, I am not breaking restriction if I am with him. I prep him on what Martin plans to ask him – travel to France at the end of May. He looks like he is about to say ‘shit for brains.’ Instead, he will listen to what the other men say before making a decision. Agreed.
The restaurant is open air with lots of cigar smoking and shots of espresso as patrons finish their meals. We are early. They lead us to a secluded corner to wait for the others. Dad has a beer. I order the Cuban coffee. It is vile until I load it up with sugar and cream. Martin and Mike Sr. sit down and are served coffees as well. Martin does not really know Dad but Mike Sr. has him up to speed.
He opens with a compliment. “Congratulations on your retirement, Colonel,” Dad retired as a Lt Colonel.
“Not quite the achievement of a big time Hollywood director.”
“Thanks, but I mostly stay in New York. Tim visited and entertained my mother while he was there. Sang for her old ‘Our Gang’ songs as Alfalfa. He has the NYC fever I’m afraid.”
“Ever since he spent a weekend there with his cousin, years ago.”
“What is the story of Little Joe.”
“If anyone has NYC fever, it’s Joey. Tim was 14 and fell under his spell. We were stunned how quickly he became a surly teenager. He no longer allowed us to call him Timmy.”
“Hey, this isn’t an interview,” I object, mostly in defense of Joey.
Mike Sr. interjects, “Tim has no problem standing up for himself. My son, Michael, tends to go along too easily with whomever he’s friends with. I know Tim’s a positive influence on him.”
“Can we stop talking about me?” I ask.
The three men laugh.
“If you insist, Tim. We’ll just interrogate you about what happened at the concert,” Mike Sr. takes the lead in attacking me. “Tell us how it got so out of control.”
“Dad already knows this. After agreeing with him that the riot was our fault, he had me tell everything to the police and put me on complete restriction. Instead of throwing me into juvie, they agreed to let Dad punish me.”
“That’s how you got out of trouble, Tim,” Dad interjects. “They want to know how the trouble started.”
“All our shows in the road houses and in New York were about getting the crowd riled up and kicking in the rock n roll to let out all their angry energy. We never played for more than a few hundred people. You saw out show at CBGB’s. The Miami concert had thousands. What worked in clubs was explosive with so many people. We lost control. The police couldn’t contain the people who rushed in after the fence was knocked down. Only by getting the headliners to come out and play their hits with us did the crowd get back into the stands so the show could go on.”
“Michael says you told everyone to keep playing after the shot rang out,” Mike Sr. added.
“After losing it, when I had Max dead in my arms. We always wanted to play with Skynyrd but never thought it would happen like that. We just hoped the crowd would like the songs we wrote ourselves.”
“Do you write all the songs?” Martin asks.
“At first, all we did were covers. Jace and I wrote the first songs together, including ‘False Gods.’ When Jack replaced Jace, he brought in his D&D band songs which we rewrote to fit our point of view. Then we wrote some new ones.”
“Are you ready to record an album? We could release it at the show in Nice with Pink Floyd to go along with the movie.”
Wow, I think. Then I remember how worked up I got about our songs before Skynyrd. Are these songs good enough to sell records?
I look at Mike Sr. and then Dad. Am I hoping that they will tell me what to do? When did I become such a wimp?
“Are you screwing with me? I don’t have time enough as it is now with the student musical comedy. You want me to spend weeks in France doing movie promo at the same time we’re doing a concert with Pink Floyd, let alone record a studio album?”
They all laugh.
Scorsese explain, “I knew he’s too sharp to be fooled. You’re dead right, son, you can’t do all that.”
He turns to Dad, “I wanted to test his judgment. He passes with flying colors. So, let him go to the film’s opening. Everyone will want to see him.”
“I don’t know that I trust him yet. He’s still on restriction.”
“What type of restriction allows all his friends to be playacting in the backyard while he directs them from his bedroom window?”
“What if I have a chaperon?” I suggest.
“Susan and I can’t just go to France for two weeks.”
“I’ll get Andy to go. If my musical comedy is a hit, he’ll be sure to do it.”
“I’m not going to have my son traveling around Europe with some faggy twit.”
“He’s gay, Dad. We don’t say fag anymore.”
“Well, you know what I think about that?”
“Yeah, ‘shit for brains.’”
But Dad relents. Jack and I get to spend two weeks with Andy on Jackie Onassis’s yacht off the coast of the French Riviera. ‘Sonnets’ is a hit, but the Herald’s reviewer calls it sophomoric in that it showed a disturbing dislike of Shakespeare by perverting the perfection of the full verses. Andy loved it, as well as his weekend in the Grove. Robby never loses the weight he gained to be Henry the 8th, claiming it is just the munchies. It slows him down so much that he no longer can swing from the fire sprinklers on club ceilings for ‘Swinging.” (We change the name from ‘Barefoot Boy,’ after it is banned due to the Skynyrd debacle). Michael spends most of the time visiting relatives in Sicily. The premiere of our film is in the early evening, after which we go straight to the bull ring and rock out with Pink Floyd, including a laser show. Somehow Martin gets enough film footage to put out a concert album of the two bands jamming. That is the only film of us that makes it into theaters. The Jace Tribute is not picked up for distribution. The studios reject it for the overtly gay content. Martin personally distributes it to his Hollywood buddies who enjoy shocking their friends with private viewings. It never makes it to the underground.