Monday morning, January 5, 1976, the four of us walk early into Ames High. The twins decide to hold hands in support of Jack and me. At first, there are whispered remarks about lesbos, which has nothing to do with travel plans to the Greek Isles. Angie glares at anyone looking critical.
“We’re sisters. Stop listening to your dirty minds.”
Apparently, Jack and I are old news. It does not take long for the twins’ choir girl reputations to overrule any thoughts of gay incest. The three of us take Jack to the office to enroll him in classes. His Gables High transcript was sent by the Stones. The Swiss seminary refused to send the fall grades out of pique for his leaving without permission. The counselor agrees to place Jack in12th grade classes, dependent upon his passing the winter term finals. After we finish, the school principal, Mr. Young, asks to speak with us in his office.
“I want us to stay on track, Andy and Jack. I have been at Ames High for over thirty years. I cannot remember a better Christmas assembly than what Mrs. McCarthy’s English class presented. Obviously, Andy, you are talented. We respect artists and understand talent comes from being different from the average student. You made your sexual preference difference explicit at the end of the play. I don’t believe it was intentional, but everyone saw and heard you welcome Jack as your boyfriend. I want to make sure you two do not suffer from any intolerance or plain ignorance now that Jack is a student.”
“We decided to be as low-key as possible, with no PDA to aggravate those who dislike gay people. We do plan to hold hands as regular couples do. We want to be liked, not hated.”
“I’ve already heard about the hand holding. I told those complainers that it is the school’s responsibility to protect all students, as long as their behavior is not disruptive. If anyone causes problems for you two, please let staff know. I won’t allow fighting at school, regardless of who starts it.”
“My football friends have resolved their differences with me. They promised to be supportive.”
“Don’t think I don’t know about the fight on New Year’s Eve. I understand you ended up in the hospital.”
“I was upset by the fight, causing me to get dizzy and throw up. That was after the fight was over. I was not injured, just shook up.”
“What I heard was the other students involved were more than just shook up. Do you want the football team to be suspended?”
“No. They’re my friends. The twins and I formed a spirit band to play at their games. They all promised to defend us. It was a New Year’s Eve party where a few people were acting stupid. ‘Gator and I plan to meet with Coach Ball and make sure it never happens again. They thought they could pick on Jack and me. They’re the victims here. It was hazing except they learned they were in the wrong.”
“Well, I’m glad we had this talk. My advice is to not push the gay thing. I’d hate to see you in my office because of fighting.”
Whew. We walk out of the office and instantly notice many people holding hands, the majority being girls. The twins are style setters. Jack quickly grabs my hand. In each class students move so we can sit together. After lunch, we notice that straight couples are holding hands as well as the girls. ‘Gator comes up with his arm around Noah.
“We ain’t holdin’ hands, like girls,” he announces. The rest of his posse looks relieved, having expected to be ordered to do so. ‘Gator can care less about his posse’s feelings.
At the end of classes, we go to see Football Coach Red Ball.
“I was hopin’ to see you but expected someone a bit bigger to be the terroriser of my offensive line.”
“Naw, Coach, I jist made ‘em eat their own lunch for harassing me and Jack.”
‘Gator jumps in, “Andy and me gots in a dispute the first day he’s here. He insisted we settle it by arm wrestlin’. It was pretty much a tie until he started laughin’ at me. He says I remind him of an ugly old alligator he knew in Florida. We bin best friends ever since and everybody calls me ‘Gator now.”
“Who won the arm wrestlin’?”
“Oh, I did, but I knew he got grit from then on.”
“So, what do you boys want today?”
“We gots ta tone down the freshman virginity hazing. It’s jist wrong,” ‘Gator asserts.
“I turn a blind eye to that activity.”
“It ain’t right, Coach. Teaches us that girls ain’t worth nothin’.”
“The girls getting’ to ya, ‘Gator. Becomin’ a women’s libber?”
“I ain’t goin’ out with a girl ‘less I’s respectin’ her.”
“Well, I’ll call a team meetin’ tomorrow and work this all out. Ya ain’t happy with yer cheerleader?”
“I never thinks much ‘bout her. I wants a real girlfriend that I likes as well as wants.”
Jack and I look at each other and smile.
Coach lets us leave. In the hall, ‘Gator asks, “What’s y’all smilin’ ‘bout in there?”
“Oh, we know what kinda girlfriend ya needs, ‘Gator.”
“We ain’t tellin’ ‘til y’all figures it out yerself.”
He puts both of us in head locks. “I could beat it out o’ you’s.”
“Naw, ‘Gator. We’d jist tell ever’one you’s jealous of Jack for replacing you as my boyfriend,” I josh him.
“Grrr,” and then he laughs. “Y’all is too much fun.”
Our busy day ends up with the nightly ‘Waltons’ calling back and forth, the reason we all leave our bedroom doors open.
“Good night, Jim Bob,” they call out.
“Good night, Mary Ellen,” we both respond.
“Good night, John Boy,” they add to the routine.
We both giggle and poke each other at the change.
“Whatcha y’all laughing ‘bout?” Angie calls out.
“Jack’s gots hisself a new name ta go with his new Iowa life.”
Everyone is laughing.
At school the next day, more people are holding hands. John Boy and I are the only boys doing so until ‘Gator orders his posse to start as well.
“It don’t mean nothin’; jist we’s all teammates,” reminding them that college players and even the Pittsburgh Steelers linemen hold hands between plays. The linemen roam the halls, pushing other students aside as they march four-abreast hand-in-hand. We get called into the office for starting a trend that is getting out of control. ‘Gator promises to straighten it out at the football meeting that afternoon.
I make sure the office knows that Jack is now John Boy. Most authorities find it amusing and are happy to oblige. The twins go around and introduce him as their brother’s new live-in boyfriend. We all go to the gym to observe the football team meeting.
Once everyone is seated in the gym stands, Coach Ball lets ‘Gator, as team captain, speak first. For a country boy, he gives a real stem-winder.
“This year’s team was undefeated and many of us will go on to play in college. I hopes y’all consider goin’ to State as I’s gonna be there and be proud if other Ames players joins me. All year I’ve been so proud of being on this team. Ya rilly lets me down at the party. It’s my friends y’all attacked. It don’t surprise me none that ol’ Andy beat the crap outta several of you’s. He ain’t big but he gots grit. He’s my friend. He organized a fight band to cheer us on this fall. It don’t bother me none if’n he wants a boyfriend. If’n it bothers you’s, ya better come to me with it. He don’t need no protection, but if’n anyone bothers him or his boyfriend ever’one of us will defend ‘em.”
Coach takes over. “’Gator asked me to consider ending the freshmen hazing rite on New Year’s. What you do when not at school affects this team. We represent all of Ames. I understand that the incident on Wednesday night started when a freshman refused to ‘service’ one of the girls. To me, as an adult, the whole idea is disgusting and degrading. Unable to control yourselves, you turned on two non-team members, who are boyfriends, and attempted to force them to perform a sex act for your perverted curiosity. One boy, Andy, subdued five team members, to protect his boyfriend until ‘Gator stopped the whole riot. At his request, this team ‘tradition’ is banned in the future. The five boys who were subdued will join the bowling team. They will partner with girls and learn to act as teammates with the fairer sex. When all of you graduate at 18, you will have learned how to treat women proper and be able to lead responsible and fulfilling lives, respectin’ women and those different from you.”
“Y’all will like the bowlin’ team. It’s great fun an’ we always gits pizza with the other teams afterwards,” ‘Gator explains. “Them little towns ain’t gots nothin’ but bowlin’ ta do all winter, so’s they bin kickin’ our asses. The Pizza Pit rewards ‘em with free pizza.”
“Principal Young asked me to tone down the hand-holding that’s sprung up after this incident. Y’all wantta hold hands, I ain’t gonna stop ya. But the halls ain’t a playin’ field. Four or five of y’all pushing students aside as you charge wedge-like through the halls will stop.”
“The bowlin’ team meets tomorrow, right here in the gym. The five new members will find girls to partner with. She cain’t be yer girlfriend (they hasta be cheerleaders), so find a friend. If’n ya ain’t knowin’ no one, I’ll assign a girl to ya myself. Let me know beforehand tomorrow.”
The twins, John Boy and I watch from the sidelines. I could object to Coach’s attitude that we do is perverted, but progress comes slower than you wish for. After dismissing the team, he comes over to find if we approve. I suppress any desire to be critical.
“Ya changed my thinking, Andy. ‘Gator says ya gots grit. Wish ya’d shown up earlier and played fer us.’
“Yeah, I see myself as ‘Gator’s tight end but he keeps tryin’ ta make me a wide receiver,” I joke.
“Don’t be changing my star player.”
“Don’ts ya worry none, Coach. ‘Gator’s a force o’ nature.”
We make sure all our teachers know to call Jack ‘John Boy.’ In English class, Mrs. McCarthy takes to John Boy right away. He tells her all about our performance of Shakespeare last year. She is speechless when we tell her he played Titania after taking over the role from me, so I could the play music.
“Andy hardly talked to me all year, while I was so crushing on him, I was even his understudy for the role. When he became the minstrel in order to make the play a musical comedy, I got to take over. It was a big hit.”
“Why did you both play a girl’s role?” she asks.
“Mr. Clark wanted an authentic Elizabethan performance. In the 16th Century females were not allowed on stage. Michael’s dad even built an authentic Globe Theatre for the performance.”
“You must have felt let down that we used a TV show for our Christmas Assembly performance?”
“I wish I’d arrived in time to see it. Andy sure knows how to put on a show. We both love to perform.”
John Boy’s perfect manners wins over another convert.
The Music Man performance we did for his parents is to be repeated at Friday’s Assembly. John Boy can hardly wait for his Ames debut. We decide to added “Surrey with a Fringe on Top,” so ‘Gator and Noah can revive Bunny for the Assembly. The song about Iowans being stand-offish and stubborn is dropped. Everyone already knows that.
The bowling team meeting goes too well. With the five added mixed pairs from the football team we now have twelve pairs. The added uproar over the football team’s misbehavior brings out interested students. We tell them to pair up with an opposite sex partner, resulting in six additional mixed pairs. We decide to create a Junior Varsity and a Frosh-Soph team. Team practice on Friday nights determines who plays for each team on the Saturday morning competitions with other schools. Ames Lanes is happy to accommodate all the teams, but the rapid growth of high school bowling means we have to pay for bowling fees ourselves – no more free games. It is not too expensive for most students, but many of the farm kids do not have part-time jobs and receive no allowances even though they have a heavy load of chores. The cheerleaders volunteer to run bake sales at every Saturday competition, creating enough revenue to pay the lane fees.
Wednesday afternoon is my first appointment with Dr. Kamikaze since the fight and my subsequent breakdown. I give him a synopsis of the events leading to my hospitalization.
“Sounds like your ‘flashback’ is similar to the Vietnam Vets’ experience when an event in the present causes an ex-soldier to remember a traumatic event suffered during his wartime duty.”
“Yeah. When I got outside I remembered the abuse I told you about when I was coming here last fall.”
“You probably aren’t ready to deal with what happened, causing you to shut down.”
“I passed out, Dr. Kam.”
“You’re not ready to deal with those memories.”
“Beside telling you, I told my sister that something had happened before coming here. Then, I told the whole story to my boyfriend, who has come to live with us.”
“That’s a new development. You have to be careful when revealing difficult memories. Every step forward in getting healthy may result in some regression if a memory is too painful to talk about.”
“I thought telling John Boy would help me better able to deal with it.”
“Your boyfriend’s name is John Boy?”
“Actually it’s Jack. The twins and I have this routine of yelling out goodnight to each other like the characters on ‘The Waltons.’ When Jack arrived, the girls called out for the character John Boy, so he told everyone to call him that ever since.”
“It was a hectic Christmas. My other boyfriend, Tommy, was visiting when John Boy showed up. It was tense already. Then John Boy got permission to stay here permanently. Tommy was quite upset when he had to go back to Florida. He felt rejected.”
“The holidays are often difficult, too much drama.”
“I miss Tommy a lot. Do you think it’s possible to love two people at the same time?”
“If the main issue is sex, usually you can decide with whom you are best. Sounds like you are conflicted on a deeper level.”
“I know John Boy and I are totally in love and are perfect together, but it’s Tommy who makes me horny. My sex drive got crushed by the abuse until he came here.”
“So you love them both, but for different reasons. Are you honest with each of them about what is going on for you?”
“I’ve always been mean to Tommy like a brother would be. Now he’s older. He can tell how much I want him now. He had to leave. We left it until next year when he’ll be sixteen. John Boy will probably be off to college by then. I finally told him about the abuse because he could tell I wasn’t as horny as in the past.”
“All this drama is normal high school stuff. The trauma from the abuse is more serious. I know you’re ready to share the details. We can work on getting you to accept what happened and move on. You regressed so much after the fight that today I will wait for you to tell me about the abuse. I’d take a break from the sexuality with your boyfriend, letting him know why you need the break. If he loves you enough to work through this problem, you will love him even more. Keep talking with him. With the other boyfriend gone, some of this drama may recede. I’d recommend you not stay in touch with him until you and John Boy are on surer footing.”
Whew. When did life get so complicated? Always, I realize.
I am fairly subdued after the session. So much so, that the twins remark I must have had a difficult time with Dr. Kam
“What’s wrong?” John Boy asks.
“Dr. Kam thinks I shouldn’t stay in touch with Tommy so much.”
“Good,” my always possessive boyfriend remarks.
“It’s not what you think. It’s about what happened before I got here.”
Molly jumps in, as shrink instead of mom. “Sounds like he has you working pretty hard on your own issues. Don’t expect to feel great after every session. It’s a workout. You’re building emotional muscles.”
“Maybe now you won’t cry so much,” Angie offers her Peanuts advice.
“I think crying is cute,” Amy comes to my rescue, giving me a hug, joined by John Boy.
No tears today, I think. Maybe that is a sign of progress.
After pizza deliveries, we have choir practice. The choir master, Mr. Key, heard John Boy’s voice the previous service. He suggests all four of us act as a quartet, not like a barbershop one, but as stepping-stones. We practice singing in rounds. He has me lower my range while John Boy sets an alto platform from which the twins soar as alternating sopranos. The rest of the choir does the chorus parts, while the quartet does the verses in a round. Once we start getting it right, it sounds great. Everyone leaves practice feeling a spiritual high. I wonder how Grant would add another rhythmic dimension if he joined us. I decide to try doing so next week as I lead off the rounds singing low.
Once upstairs at home, I explained what I am thinking. Amy gets on the piano. We do ‘Rock of Ages’ in rounds.
I try to add boogie-woogie to my bass part, forcing the others to adapt. The moms come up, concerned we are avoiding our homework. My arrangement of the hymn catches them off-guard.
“This is choir homework,” I explain.
“Oh. Well, carry on.” Molly mumbles.
“Y’all wanna join in?” I invite them.
They hurry back to their part of the house. We stop singing and finish our homework. I collapse into bed, much to John Boy’s disappointment. I am exhausted and go to sleep instantly.
I wake up early, opening my eyes to John Boy watching me sleep.
“Hi. How long ya bin awake?”
“A while. You’re so calm and sweet when you sleep.”
“Sleep knits up the unraveled sleeve of care,” I misquote Shakespeare.
“When will you tell me what shook you up yesterday at therapy?” Jack is perplexed.
“I told you about being raped.”
“You mean in juvie?”
“No. I instigated that to stop the molester. The truckers in Alabama.”
Jace appears, wanting to hear about what he missed before rescuing me in the ditch.
“I thought you just gave blow jobs for rides.”
“One driver sold me off to four other drivers, who tied me down and went at me for twelve hours.”
“Jesus. Ya didn’t say it was that bad.”
“It’s all I could see after the fight. I promised I’d never ever let anyone take advantage of me again. It’s why I puked and passed out t’other night. I woke up and thought ‘Gator were a trucker.”
“Shit.” He moves over and hugs me.
I want to cry but cannot. Maybe that is a good sign. At least he does not seem to despise me for letting it happen.
“Yer the only one who knows. Dr. Kam says I needs ya to help me git over it.”
“Of course,” Jack’s good manners kick in. “What can I do?”
“Ya don’t hates me?”
“Never. Yer always my hero. I don’t expect ya ta win every fight.”
“They was big and burly and tied my arms and legs to the bed. I jist tried to tune it all out.”
“How’d cha git away?”
“The pimp driver dumped me and my clothes in a ditch outside Dothan.”
“That’s where I found him,” Jace signs.
“Jace rescued me and told me to come here. I even dreamed that the twins drove me to the house.”
“I should have felt that you were in trouble.”
“That evil drug program had shut my heart to everyone.”
“No wonder ya hates sex.”
“I don’t hates it. I jist don’t feels it so much. It’s much better than when I gots here.”
“And here I’s bin runnin’ off with Jace to get off.”
“That’s not right. It ain’t yer fault. We should try to understand, not jist satisfy our ever’y need.”
“Ya sound right country,” I hug him. Jace comes into the cuddle.
Angie sticks her head into the room. “I’m smelling teen spirit.”
“Andy got raped on the trip here. That’s why he was so sad yesterday,” Jack spills the beans.
Amy sticks her head in as well. “That’s why he went crazy when those idiots tried to force him to have sex. What assholes they are.”
All I can think is that too many people know my secret. My head starts spinning. Jace notices first, whispering in my ear to stay calm and ride out the spins. John Boy sees him whispering and notices that my eyes are spinning.
“He’s gonna pass out,” he yells, grabbing hold of me.
The twins rush over and get into the group hug. It’s way too much. I pass out.
Max is laying on my chest, licking my face. It’s true Max-lovin’. I come to.
John Boy is sobbing on me, not Max. Jace moves away and is rubbing Max’s belly. The girls look terrified.
“He’s back,” John Boy announces.
“It was Max-lovin’ that saved me,” I tell him.
The girls rush back to hug me with John Boy. Jace shakes his head, but it’s too late. I pass out cold.
I wake up in the hospital, again. Thursday seems to be my day to be hospitalized. The moms are sitting on my bed.
“Where is everyone?” I ask.
“We made them go to school after the doctor said there’s no injury. Dr. Kamikaze’s on his way over. What happened?”
“The girls didn’t tell you?”
“Something about last week’s fight bringing back bad memories.”
Whew. I do not want anyone else to know, not even ‘Gator. I plan to tell Dr. Kam first.
“I can’t keep coming here. It’s all psychodrama. There’s nothing wrong with me. Dr. Kam told me to tell John Boy what happened to me. The girls came in. He told them. I wasn’t ready to let everyone know. I was supposed to tell Dr. Kam next, so we could work on getting past it.”
“Oh, Tim. Did you commit a crime?”
“Hush, Wendy. He’s not able to talk about it. Dr. Kamikaze will work with him. I’m sure it’s something that was done to him, not something he did.”
I am spinning again.
“Andy, look at me. We won’t talk about this until you’re ready.” Molly assertively holds my attention. The spins stop. That’s max-loving too. I hug her.
When Dr. Kam arrives, the moms leave us alone.
“Well, that didn’t go well.”
“Yeah. I told John Boy. He told everyone.”
“I thought I was next.”
“At least we know what causes you to pass out. Let’s wait until our regular session to explore how much you want to tell me.”
“Thank you.” I am not ready for more drama. Just thinking about it has me on edge.
“Why don’t you tell me about John Boy and how you met.”
Dr. Kam practices good therapy.
After the first few days of classes, John Boy decides to switch from Spanish with me to French. He wants to keep up the language skills he learned in Switzerland. With his charm and conversational French skills, he is a hit in the new class. The other students want to start a French Club, doing cultural things like Provençal cuisine, New Wave cinema, and Parisian fashion. It’s right up his line. His new friends are snooty and arrogant compared to my jock friends. Having lived in the French-speaking part of Switzerland makes him the star of their little social circle. Frankly I am relieved that he is making his own friends and is over the need to be with me all the time.
“What did the French club prepare for dinner tonight?” Amy asks when he returns from the weekly meeting.
“Lapin au vin,” John Boy answers.
“What’s that?” Amy innocently responds.
I pull a lucky rabbit foot out of my pocket. “Does this give you a clue?” I hint.
“You ate a little bunny?” Amy is shocked.
“Hope it wasn’t the Easter Bunny,” I mock her.
The twins run upstairs in a huff. The rabbit is not half-bad, kind of like chicken. Having to use canned vegetables and processed ingredients for the sauces seems to defeat the concept of fresh, locally sourced meals. I keep my mouth shut. John Boy has his own posse of infatuated girls. One even asked if he is really ‘a gay.’ Laying in bed I complain he smells like a French whore. Provoked we have one of our better sexual escapades, starting with him doing the Can Can for me, ‘sans slip’, as Michael and Robby did in the Savannah drag show. The twins come rushing in and demand to know what we are doing. We both perform after a costume upgrade with tee shirts and the garish gay briefs we normally wear. They are shocked and rush back to their room. After we stop giggling, we get down to business with the door locked. Laying there panting from the excess of testosterone, we almost are asleep in each other’s arms.
“Goodnight, Jim Bob,” the twins call out.
“Goodnight, Mary Ellen,” we call back.
“Goodnight, Bad Boy,” they mock us.
“Goodnight, Momma,” we mock them back.
On Saturday morning, John Boy has his tryout for the bowling team. He asks one of his French Club friends to be his partner. We have to put up with their ‘Ew, la la’, ‘c’est magnifique’ or ‘merdre’ remarks whenever they roll a good or bad shot. It is a detriment to team spirit that they have their own language. They do have the highest scores this week. Soon all the football players are exclaiming in French. The cheerleaders start doing their own Moulin Rouge version of the Can Can, much to the glee of the football players. Team spirit recovers. The following week will be the first head-to-head match with another school. Pre-season tournaments are over. We have to face the small town teams that kicked our butts all fall. After practice we all chip in for pizza from the Pit. The whole team and hangers-on ensconce ourselves on the third floor of Hyland Street – the bowling team clubhouse. The moms go shopping, unable to bear more disruption to their peace-of-mind. Amy is on the piano and plays a series of College fight songs – Notre Dame, USC, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
Then we make all the girls do the Can Can again. They make the boys do the same with such a pitiful result that it causes many insults directed at us. John Boy holds himself back, saving it for my personal pleasure. Everyone leaves when it’s time for my delivery shift at the Pizza Pit. I notice the moms, sitting outside in their car, laughing it up at all the teenagers. John Boy comes with me.
“What happened to yer little brother?” my manager Tom asks.
“Tommy had to go back to his foster parents in Florida.”
I notice he put up the help wanted sign again.
“Ya tryin’ ta replace me?” I ask.
“Naw. Yer the only kid I knows who only wants ta work two hours a night. We bin so busy lately, I needs sum‘one to man the counter.”
“I’m yer man,” John Boy steps up.
“I was hopin’ yer pretty sister might apply.”
“Ya ruined that by leerin’ at her so much when she was helpin’ me learn the addresses.”
Of course, John Boy’s charm and good manners get the job. He starts that night. I go into the back and make a tip jar to place at the cash register. I have a mild flashback of the sign I thought of while hitch-hiking – ‘Blow jobs for McDonalds’
It is completely satisfactory for both of us to work the same hours. I love coming back to pick up more deliveries, seeing him work the counter customers. We compete to see who earns the most tips each night. John Boy’s manners make him the perennial winner.
Time is slipping by at an increasingly rapid pace. The prairie storms dump copious amounts of snow. The constant prairie wind blows most of it away. ‘Gator often stays at the house after school. He leaves to do his chores when we have to go to work. He pesters us to tell him our solution to his need to have a girlfriend he really respects.
“The only girls I respect is the twins but they’s each just as nice as t’other. I cain’t chose one over t’other,” he complains. He can figure it out. John Boy has a harem of fag hags who believe it is très chic to have a gay French boyfriend. They even organize a Gay Paree Night. We are the only boys to show up. It does not bother them at all. They preened us with mascara mustaches and berets. We perform our ‘American in Paris’ act with a Cappella versions of ‘Singing in the Rain’
and ‘April in Paris.’ John Boy convinces them to concentrate on raising money for a spring trip to Paris in 1977. They hold a bake sale at the basketball game, but their croissants, eclairs, crepes and patisseries are not a big hit with the country kids. John Boy, ‘Gator and I eat the leftovers.
My ability to enjoy these normal activities is due to Dr. Kam’s zen-like therapy. Instead of putting me on a couch where I can wallow in my problems, he treats me like his gay pet. He showers me with love and approval, without going over the line. We hug. He often massages me during the sessions, much like Jace always did. He is not very tall with a roly-poly body and almost bald head. I love him and he knows it. There is no sexual tension. He uses affection to get me to deal with my issues. He wants to know everything about my boyfriends. My stories about Robby and the pot gang have him laughing uproariously. He listens seriously when I describe the Samhein/Belladonna experience. He says that drugs can be an effective gateway to the imagination and unconscious. He acknowledges that his own Shinto animism conflicts with my spirit world of pure energy. My descriptions of the visions I had with the Guardian captivate him. My Devil vision scares him. His Catholicism comes out at times. We bond on our shared belief of a spirit world. The band’s exploits inspire him to take out his shamisen, a three-stringed lute that sounds eerie. He plays as I make up lyrics to sing. He brings hiragana lyric sheets which he has translated. He teaches me the rhythm, pronunciation and emphasis of these Japanese songs. When I can adequately accompany him on the lute, it pleases him to no end. He makes up stories about how we are going to Japan together to follow the annual Island of Shikoku pilgrimage to Buddhist shrines. I am totally seduced. I respond with my experiences, finally able to relate all the travails of my hitch-hiking with truckers. He calls it the McDonald’s Tour of the Confederacy. John Boy is suspicious of our relationship until he comes to several sessions. Dr. Kam welcomes his involvement, using his superior Japanese manners to enchant the boy. John Boy is devastated when he learns how his blurting out my worst nightmare to everyone relapsed me to the hospital. Dr. Kam tells him that being young means making mistakes and learning from them. John Boy wants to do the Shikoku pilgrimage with us. After his less than pleasant European experience learning French in Geneva, he switches his travel bug to Asia. He especially likes the idea of communal hot springs. He has Uncle Tam send us matching kimonos. Life cannot be any more normal.
The bowling team now has over thirty members. Ames Lanes adds us to their Tuesday night Mixed league. The adult bowlers take an interest in the team once they find out how much help we need to improve our scores. They offer to run the tournaments and individual competitions with near-by schools. A state-wide Iowa High School Championship Tournament is scheduled for late March. We write-up rules for competitions and guidelines for proper etiquette. Ames is the center of Iowa high school bowling. As a non-contact sport, it’s the perfect opportunity for real co-ed teams where the guys and girls count on each other to determine the outcomes of competitions. John Boy’s posse of fag hags fills in with the boys who are unable to find their own female partners. A stickler for good manners, he trains the farm boys on how to act when first meeting their opponents. He insists the boys make a formal introduction of their partners to the other team, including shaking hands before and after the competition. Proper decorum includes complimenting the opponents on strikes and spares as well as consoling them when there were splits or other difficult pick-ups. The best part is after the match, socializing at the Pizza Pit. We all learn to be proper hosts. Mummy has trained him well.