Why’s ya always gots ta be so mean,” Tommy whines at me. The twins have calmed him down after I ‘rejected’ him.
“It’s jist what big brothers do. It don’t means I don’t loves ya.”
He rushes into my arms, hugging me as if he’ll never let go. Finally he relaxes.
‘Gator walks into the third floor music room pity party.
“Why’s ya cryin’, homo #2?” he asks.
“Huck don’t loves me as much as he loves homo #1.”
“Git over here,” he orders Tommy. “I don’t loves ya but I shure likes ya, Little Buddy.”
Tommy runs over and ‘Gator throws him into the air several times.
“Jack’s staying and is goin’ ta school with us.” I tell ‘Gator
“Whatever floats yer boat,” he kids me, winking at the girls. The twins both turn bright red. He has his charms, too.
I decide to stay home from church to be with Michael and Robby before they leave. Jack goes with the twins, happy to take my place in the choir. ‘Gator decides to go to church with the moms. Tommy joins us on the porch for a traditional wake and bake. He sits as close to me as possible. Michael and Robby move away.
“Hey, being gay ain’t infectious.”
“Ya think? Then whys everyone turn gay ‘round you?”
“Bein’ a teen means yer always horny. It ain’t gender specific?”
“So that explains lonely farmer boys and their favorite sheep.”
We all laugh. Tommy keeps his mouth shut, sliding an arm around my waist, and snuggling into me.
“Since ya’s rejectin’ ‘im, I’ll take ‘im up.” Robby is acting pervy.
Tommy tightens his grip on me.
“No way,” I defend Tommy. “I’s jist sendin’ ‘im home to be fattened up fer his 16th birthday orgy.”
“Jack ain’t ever allowin’ that.”
“He’ll be off to sum fancy college by then.”
“No long term plans.”
“Shit, I gots ta survive high school hell with a boyfriend to inspire homo fears.”
“Ya think the whole school’s gonna turn queer?”
“Fuck no. Startin’ Monday, I’ll be fightin’ rednecks jist to keep walkin’ in the halls.”
“They gots rednecks in Iowa?”
“Does the pope shit in the trees?”
“Does the lone wolf run scared on the prairie?”
”Ya ain’t gonna be ‘lone with Jack at yer side.”
“Fat lotta good that does me. He throws a punch and runs ‘round behind me fer protection”
“Maybe yer football friends will protect ya.”
“They’s gotta a strict survival of the fittest code. If’n I cain’t protect m’self, I’s jist roadkill ta ’em.”
“Andy Armadildo, laying flat on his back a’side the highway.”
We kept hittin’ the joint, making these images more and more vivid. Good preparation for my upcoming battles.
Tommy is asleep, like he always did at Sawgrass Camp singalongs. I pick him up and deposit him on a living room couch. We have the munchies and raid the kitchen, as everyone else has gone to church. There’s plenty of pumpkin pie to gorge on.
“Why’s y’all so mean ta Hippie’s bride at their wedding?” I challenge them.
“That bitch? We gots tired o’ her always sayin’ she was prayin’ fer us. We blew up her weddin’ cake with cherry bombs. It splattered half her church-goin’ guests.”
“Ya cain’t accept she makes Hippie happy?”
“Wait ‘til the baby comes and see hows happy Hippie is.”
“Hippie ain’t fazed by nothin’.”
The church crowd comes in the door. ‘Gator sees the decimated pie on the counter and makes a bee-line for it.
“Y’all best not’a et the whole pie.”
“Munchies, man,” Robby counters.
“Y’all’s a bunch a potheads,” ‘Gator claims the remains of the pie. “Looks like ya drugged my little buddy,” as he pointed at the sleeping Tommy.
“Well, why don’ts ya take ‘im upstairs and satisfy his homo needs,” Robby challenges him.
Gator gives Robby a mean look, grabs him and tosses him up in the air like he always does with Tommy. Robby is quick enough to grab one of the old gaslight pipes that still run across the ceiling. ‘Gator expects to catch him on the descent. He roars when it doesn’t happen and starts chasing Robby around the living and dining rooms, trying to grab his feet. Robby is too nimble. Michael, Jack and I start doing the monkeyshines dance, squawking like apes. The girls walk in and instantly join us. Mom and Molly are the last to enter.
“Stop destroying our home,” Molly commands. Robby falls into ‘Gator’s arms. Tommy wakes up and runs to ‘Gator who tosses him up several times without destroying anything else. Between Christmas partying and the jungle dancing, the downstairs is a shambles. The twins order all the guys to start cleaning up. The moms stand at the doorway with their hands on their hips, glaring at us. Christmas spirit is not in the air.
After the downstairs is back to normal, the moms go into the kitchen to prepare Christmas dinner. They count the ten current guests, adding enough food to accommodate an even dozen They assume more uninvited guests are sure to show up.
I feel guilty for not taking advantage of church time to molest Tommy. I lure him out to the car, with Robby in tow. The usual joint appears, with Robby giving Tommy a shotgun hit. At the finish, he kisses Tommy. Tommy instinctively slaps his face. I kick Robby out of the car. Some things never change.
Rather than discuss our ‘breakup,’ I just attack him. That’s all it takes for him to instantly cum. At least I get his dick out of his pants in time to avoid creaming his shorts. Unfortunately, he sprays all over the back seat; boy sex stank is sure to linger and upset Angie.
We use an old towel to wipe up what we can. Clear evidence of our debauchery is smeared across my shirt. We run into the house and upstairs to the bathroom for clean-up and a shower together. The warm water has us going at it again. I hurry our climaxes, worrying the Twins will be unhappy at the desecration of their bathroom. The sheepish looks on our faces are clear evidence of our evil-doing. The twins look resigned instead of upset. I have no excuse, except that you can’t make all the people happy all the time.
The feast the moms prepare erases any thoughts of our misbehavior. Wine is served to everyone. We toast the moms, the guests, and Christmas in general. I notice that the cheerleader girlfriends arrived in our absence. More witnesses to my crimes. At least school is on holiday for another ten days.
It’s time for the boys to go back to Miami. The fancy red Alfa Romero looks bedraggled, with snow and salt stains. I feel badly that I considered asking them to take Tommy along. Hippie will take him home in just a few more days. He probably is safer with the church people. At least someone would be praying for him. After protracted good-byes, the Alfa tears away from the curb , wheels spraying the packed snow and fish-tailing up South Hyland. Michael must have let Robby drive, license or not.
It isn’t until Christmas night that we finally have our gift exchange. With my tips from pizza delivery, I had the funds to get gifts for everyone, even ‘Gator. I give the moms a single gift, a framed self-portrait of the Mexican artist, Frieda. It cost over $100, but I want them to know that I support their lesbian lifestyle. I ordered the twins customized bowling shirts, with Ames High Bowling embroidered on the back of the pastel blue polyester shirts. They got me a dog collar and leash, as well as one for Jack. They are confirming our roles in the family. Everyone got gifts for Tommy, mostly hair product and makeup since they had been dressing him every morning. There has not been time for me to get something for Jack as he had just arrived on Christmas Eve. Instead, I sing him our love song,
“I never feel this way.
Just happy full of play.
I wake up every day,
You’re by my side,
You reach and touch,
I say goodbye.
There’s no future,
But we have now.
“We’re perfect for each other,
I never think of another.
Can’t be love, but who can say
I know you’re here to stay?”
There’s no future,
But we have now.
We can’t live by ourselves.
We need people that we love
We hate those who hate themselves
We know what they’re made of.
Love, love, love
I need your love
I need your love
I need your love
I need you”
The moms and twins clap and shed a few tears. Jack just beams. Tommy is grief-stricken at the line ‘I never think of another.’ Again I’m his mean big brother. All of us surround him.
“I love you, too, Tommy. I wrote this song before I met you.”
“It’s not fair,” he sobs.
The twins hold him, until he calms down.
“Here, Jack, have this mascara. Since I’m going to be crying all the time, I cain’t use it. Merry Christmas,” he sniffs.
He is so cute.
The next few days of vacation, we concentrate on making his visit a happy one. ‘Gator is the ringleader. We go sledding on the one hill in town now covered with a foot of snow. The skating pond is cleared and now snow-free. Tommy on skates is an instant disaster. He likes taking pratfalls, wildly waving his arms until he topples over. There’s a hot chocolate stand at the pond to keep us warm. We have to leave after we play ‘snap the whip’ and send Tommy crashing into the hot chocolate drinkers. He is covered in cocoa. ‘Gator has us out to the family farm. Instead of riding the cows home or a hayride, he gets us on his dirt bikes. The snow on the ground creates rooster-tails as we spin out crisscrossing the frozen fields. ‘Gator’s folks are soft-spoken farmers. He has no brothers or sisters. It makes me realize why he latched onto our ever-growing family. We end up in the barn, climbing to the roof on the stacked hay bales. ‘Gator throws Tommy up, then tosses him over the edge, where he falls into a huge pile of loose hay. He screams all the way down. We all jump after him, making him scream louder as each of us lands next to him. “Gator does a double flip before landing. We repeat the stunt several more times; everyone tries to replicate the Tommy scream, to no avail.
Then it’s time for Hippie and Anna to pick up Tommy for the ride back to Florida. He goes into a total funk, refusing even the twins’ solicitous attention. Everyone thinks I’m a jerk for ignoring his emotional meltdown.
After placing his suitcase in Hippie’s station wagon, he turns to face me, offering a final chance to choose him over Jack.
I pull him into a stiff hug.
“Ya knows I’m just being yer big brother when I’s mean like this?”
“Yer always bein’ mean ta me.”
“And ya knows I love ya, not jist as a brother?”
“Then why’s ya sendin’ me away?” He starts crying.
I pull him into a tight embrace and kiss him on the lips in front of everyone.
“It’s time ya havta grow up. Yer goin’ back to foster parents that really loves ya. Ya got tons of friends in Florida. Ya hadda wonderful time here. Look at ‘Gator. He loves ya, too. Ya wants ta have adventures, ya say. Well, this is yer great adventure, becoming more than a boy. Learn to be loved. Ya do that, we’ll be brothers and lovers fer shure.”
He sobs in my arms. I just hold him. When he shakes me to release the hug, I let him go. Anger surges to his face. He walks away from me without looking back, slamming the car door. I hug both Anna and Hippie, telling them to come back soon.
We wave good-bye as Hippie drives away. Suddenly Tommy jumps into the back of the station wagon, waving like mad. ‘Gator and I jump up and down, waving back. I see the tears streaming down Tommy’s face. We keep waving and jumping until we can no longer see him. I burst into tears. It’s ‘Gator who holds me, until Jack rushes over. He stayed back, feeling like the villain in this drama. No one blames him. He’s still my boyfriend.
I lost track of Jace. In my heart I know he is staying with Tommy for the meanwhile. I call the foster parents and speak to Auntie Em.
“Tommy’s on his way home. He’ll be there tomorrow.”
“Oh, we be missin’ him sumthin’ terribl’. But we’s holding off Christmas fer when he gets here.”
“He’ll need sumthin’ to cheer him up. He’s pretty mad at me, but I’m sure he perk up once he’s home.”
“That’s right. This is his home now “
“He really had a great time, jist hard fer ‘im, to leave. Ask ‘im ‘bouts his friend, ‘Gator.”
“Oh, was he tellin’ that ‘Gatorsurus story? We must’ve heard it a dozen times.”
“The captain of the football time took a shine to him. Now ever’body calls’ ‘im ‘Gator.”
“Very nice of y’all ta call, Huck. We can’t wait ta see that boy tomorrow. Thank yer mom fer putting ‘im up.”
“I was so happy we was tagether agin.”
More bowling team members show up, both guys and girls (some now the boys’ girlfriends). The tension of my dueling boyfriends has evaporated. All the teens are upstairs on the third floor. We play and everyone sings to the popular songs we all know. There’s no heavy metal, glitter, drug or what is called FM rock in Iowa. We even do the Archies’ ‘Sugar, Sugar.’
No one seems to notice that Jack and I are happily ensnared with each other. We both relax and are ourselves.
Jack asks if I want to speak with Mummy, as he needs to call and wish them Merry Christmas.
“Good time to ask their permission to stay here,” I note.
“No to Deerfield,” he jokes.
After I wish them holiday greetings, I get the moms to discuss plans with the Stones for Jack to move here. It goes well. They really trust me, after all the times I defended Jack from haters.
“If Jack and Tim both have to be in exile until they are eighteen, why not let them be together?” Mr. Stone concludes. “We will of course send the same monthly support allowance as Tim’s father has been sending.”
Mummy promises to send important literature, so we wouldn’t stay uncultured in the wasteland.
“It’s called the heartland, Mummy.”
They insist on coming to visit. The moms invite them to stay at the Hyland House. The Stones demur, “We wouldn’t want to impose. You already are raising our baby boy. And to be honest, at our age, it’s so much easier to stay at a hotel.”
Jack and I run upstairs, hand-in-hand.
“I get to stay and go to Ames High,” he announces proudly. “I’ll be a Cyclone.”
Although that was our school nickname, no one ever calls themselves that.
As everyone laughs, Angie asks, “So Mummy approves?”
Jack turns red. “Mother and Father are coming to visit. They will be so pleased if we perform for them. What should we choose to do.”
“Something from the thirties or fifties?” I suggest. “We usually do show tunes before dinner in Miami,” I explain.
“How about something from ‘The Music Man,’ to welcome them, right here in River City,” Amy suggests.
Angie runs down and gets the show’s album from the moms. After listening to all the tunes, we chose ’76 Trombones,’ ‘Ya Got Trouble, (Right Here in River City),’ ‘Gary, Indiana’, ‘Iowa Stubborn’, and ending with ‘Til There was You.’
‘Gator and Noah promise to revive Bunny as local lore. I call the chorus people from Little Prairie and ask them to come over to work on the songs. Jack and I will double up as the Music Man. The twins will be the romantic heroines. We practice by singing to the record sound track, until the moms kick everyone out at ten o’clock.
When it’s just the six of us, the moms sit us down to lay out ground rules.
“First,” Molly asked, “Do you girls want the boys to move down to the second floor.”
“If they are going to be doing it all the time.”
“Well, you’re all teenagers. We don’t condone any of you having sex. But you are seventeen. We don’t want to know about your sex lives.”
“As long as they’re not sexist pigs, they can stay up on the third with us.” Angie decides.
“Y’all already come in unannounced in the mornin’ and pull our covers off to check. I doubt you can embarrass us anymore than that.”
“As I said, we don’t wanna know. Sounds fine, though.”
Both Jack and I make faces at the girls, our sex police.
After we get into bed that night, both girls come and sit at the end of our bed.
“Jist so’s ya knows, we’s always slept tagether,” Angie announces.
“Ya mean ya wants all four o’us sleepin’ tagether?” Jack looks concerned.
“Don’tcha worry, sweet pea, ya kin have Andy all ta yerself. We jist wants ya ta know we don’ts thinks its weird.”
“Should we be comin’ in the mornin’ and checkin on ya’s?” I joke.
They throw our pillows at us and flounce out of the bedroom.
Turning out the light, we lay there whispering about everything until we fall asleep. In the morning we wake up early. Jack insists on knowing what Tommy and I did in the car before he left. It makes him so horny, we run to the bathroom, lock the door and fuck in the shower.
Later the girls complain that the hot water ran out before they finished showering. The moms agree to purchase a new water heater, accepting that it’s needed for four showers each morning. We don’t correct them that it will only be three showers. The extra support money means the budget won’t be so tight. I’m remiss in not telling the moms that Jack is much more high maintenance than me. They seem to already understand that.
The remainder of Christmas vacation goes by quickly. The upcoming Music Man performance has our full posse of bowling team and chorus often at the house. Nightly dinners for 15 to 20 teenagers is eating into the added support money. Mom is in her element, which pleases Molly. I start calling her Moms Mabley, to which she replies I have discovered her secret ambition to appear on the ‘chitlin’ circuit.’ It shocks me to find out Mom has a sense of humor. It isn’t that Dad oppressed her, more that she suppressed herself.
The Stones breeze into Ames just before New Year’s Eve. They take the six of us out to dinner. They are staying at the Ames Hotel with a two bedroom suite. Jack and I promise we’ll spend the night with them. The thought of sharing a bathroom with sixty-year-olds grosses us out. The ‘Music Man’ skit is on for New Year’s Eve. We are excited to again be performing for them. I remember the ‘Oklahoma’ skit we did in their living room, with the D&D nerds and Dave as dancers. This year’s skit promises to be much more polished, although I love doing impromptu performances.
The next day, the moms host a luncheon for the Stones, after which all the kids who are performing that night come by to meet the honored guests.
“Johnny, you have so many new friends here. They all seem so nice and clean, and polite.”
“And all white,” Jack adds.
“Well, it is the heartland.” Mummy concedes. “Have you been going to Church?”
Jack gets all red and admits, “Yes, I’m in the choir.”
“Oh, Father Frank will be pleased.”
“I doubt it,” I interjects.
“It’s a Baptist church.” Jack confesses.
“Oh, dear,” Mummy is aghast. “Did those monks ruin you for Catholic services?”
“They didn’t help. And Father Frank made me leave Miami thinking I’m a criminal.”
“We saw what happened to Tim. We had to protect you.”
“His name is now Andy, and he protects me much better that anyone.”
“We love Tim like our own.”
“Oh, Mummy. I’m so happy here. I hated Switzerland. I had to escape, just as Andy had to escape the juvenile justice system. I had a BankAmericard. He had to hide in the Everglades for four months.”
“Oh, dear. All by himself?”
Jack can’t help himself. “He got a new boyfriend to replace me.”
“That’s not true, Jack,” I interrupt. “The juvenile prison messed me up. I no longer could feel you in my heart.”
“It’s fine now,” Jack’s sense of ownership rears its ugly head.
“How about a tour of the local ‘sights?” I offer as penance for cheating on Jack.
“No farms, please,” Mr. Stone requests.
“Your father, Johnny, is allergic to cows. He spent many summers at the family farm, riding cows in to be milked,” Mummy explains.
“Sounds fun,” Jack kids his father.
“Not when you have to muck out the barn every morning.”
“Ew,” we both exclaim.
“Iowa State University is just around the corner, where my moms teach and take classes. I also want to show Jack our high school where he will start next week. It’s on the other side of the University.”
The twins look antsy. “Why don’t you both come and give us a tour? I’ve only been here a few months. You grew up here,” I suggest.
The highlight of the tour is the limo that the Stones arranged for their visit. The twins had only seen limos in the movies. Every time they see one of their friends, we open the sun roof so they could stand up and wave. It’s a nice sunny day for Iowa but really too cold for sunroofs. Mummy declares that the twins are the cutest young ladies. Her definition of ladies doesn’t jibe with my knowledge of the twins.
We walk into the Iowa State football stadium and narrate our experience as the marching band’s fight squad. The Stones nod when we explain how we were banned for playing rock n roll. The twins like being cast as ‘bad girls.”
Next we park at Ames High (shoots low). It is pretty generic. I show off the football field, explaining that our friend ‘Gator is the team captain.
“Not many alligators in Iowa,” Mr. Stone notes.
“His name is Brock. My first day we got in an argument and arm wrestled to see who is toughest. He won. I started calling him ‘Gator because he reminded me of the story Tommy tells about a huge alligator that chased us in the Everglades. We called it ‘Gatorsaurus.”
Thinking of Tommy makes me gulp. I have to blink away tears. Jack is right on it, giving me a hug right on the football field.
“Was Tommy your new boyfriend?” Mummy always spots teen drama.
“He’s just a kid. Jack exaggerates. I never stopped being his boyfriend. Tommy and I just had adventures. We call each other Tom & Huck. He’s really fun for a fifteen-year old.”
I miss him already. That turns on the tear faucet. I promise myself I’ll call him that night.
“Oh, Tim. Was it really hard for you?”
“He had a nervous breakdown when he got here.” Jack defends me.
“Well, I’m sure it’s nice to be with your mother again.” Mummy’s manners are impeccable.
“Wanna see where we all hang out?” I change the attention away from my fragile soul.
We drive to the Pizza Pit. My boss Tom is impressed that a limo has come to the Pit. He provides curb service, with sample slices. We order several larges to bring to the house. While awaiting our order, I ask the Stones about Dad and Susan’s wedding. Apparently, it was perfect, no cherry bombs in the wedding cake. It was on a dazzling day in June, with the service conducted in the Stone’s garden by Father Joseph, assisted by Father Frank. Over two hundred guests attended the reception. People asked about me and were told I was still recuperating from the band’s fiasco. The Antonio’s and Lombardi’s attended, just not Michael or Jenna.
“Thank you for being so nice to my parents.’
“Not at all, Tim. We consider you family,” Mr. Stone remarks.
Although I was sad that I missed it, having Jack more than makes up for all my travails.
We arrive home with enough pizza to satisfy all the teenagers who are part of ‘The Music Man’ revue.
The adults sit drinking while we prepare everyone upstairs. Our English teacher, Mrs. McCarthy, has been invited to attend, pleased that we’re still interested in prairie culture, even if school is on holiday. Everyone dresses ‘country’ with the boys in colorful cowboy shirts and the girls in gingham, as worn at the Christmas Assembly.
I ask Mom if she would oversee the recorded music. She’s pleased to be part of the show, manning the phonograph. She keys up the Overture as we troop down the stairs to take our places. The chorus remains standing on the stairs as we sing to the recorded music.
We start with ‘Iowa Stubborn’
“Oh, there’s nothing halfway
About the Iowa way to treat you,
When we treat you
Which we may not do at all.
There’s an Iowa kind of special
We’ve never been without.
That we recall.
We can be cold
As our falling thermometers in December
If you ask about our weather in July.
And we’re so by God stubborn
We could stand touchin’ noses
For a week at a time
And never see eye-to-eye.
But what the heck, you’re welcome,
Music: Meredith Willson
Lyrics: Meredith Willson
That segue lead us into ‘Trouble’
“Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in River City.
Trouble, oh we got trouble,
Right here in River City!
With a capital “T”
That rhymes with “P”
And that stands for Pool,
We’ve surely got trouble!
Right here in River City,
Gotta figger out a way
To keep the young ones moral after school!
Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble…”
Meredith Wilson lyrics
Bunny continues his antics, running around looking distressed and lifting his front hoof to his head. We set up for the romantic double duet between us and the twins, ‘Til There Was You’
“There were bells on the hill
But I never heard them ringing,
No, I never heard them at all
Till there was you.
There were birds in the sky
But I never saw them winging
No, I never saw them at all
Till there was you.
And there was music,
And there were wonderful roses,
They tell me,
In sweet fragrant meadows of dawn, and dew.
There was love all around
But I never heard it singing
No, I never heard it at all
Till there was you!
Music: Meredith Willson
Lyrics: Meredith Willson
All four of us end the song holding hands.
Bunny next leads the chorus down the stairs, as we break into ’76 Trombones.’
“Seventy six trombones led the big parade,
With a hundred & ten cornets close at hand.
They were followed by rows and rows,
Of the finest virtuosos,
The cream of every famous band.”
Music: Meredith Willson
Lyrics: Meredith Willson
With a cymbals crash, we all bow to the audience of five adults. They jump up, applauding and hugging the four leads. Mrs. McCarthy, relieved we hadn’t played any heavy metal, insists we perform for a school assembly. The Stones praise the improvement in our production aesthetics.
Mom announces that pizza is served. Hungry teenagers devour every slice. A second order is phoned in, My manager is so bedazzled by the limo that he gives me the rest of vacation off, so I could be with who he calls my rich in-laws.
When we get back, ‘Gator is still basking in his virtuoso horse performance’s glory.
“There’s a New Year’s team party tonight. Everyone’s invited.”
He gives me the address after we say we had to go out with Jack’s parents and the other adults. The chorus is very skittish about going to what they assume must be an orgy. I tell them we’ll call once we get there later, if it’s fun.