The twins wake me up with guilty, concerned expressions. Welcome home.
“Are you gonna tell?” Angie is her direct self.
When did I become ‘goodie goodie, two shoes’?
‘Goody two, goody two, goody goody two shoes
Goody two, goody two, goody goody two shoes
Don’t drink don’t smoke – what do you do?
You don’t drink don’t smoke – what do you do?’
Songwriters: MARCO PIRRONI, ADAM ANT
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC,Universal Music Publishing Group,BMG Rights Management
“Don’t be a jerk. Are you going to tell the moms?”
“About what?” I try to look innocent and clueless.
“You know as well as we do.” Angie isn’t into playing along.
“Don’t you want to know,” Angie is now feisty.
“Well, it’s a secret. Please don’t tell anyone, Andy?” Amy is more conciliatory.
“Not even my best friend, ‘Gator?”
“Maybe you girls should move down to the second floor. All these estrogen hormones in the air.”
They pound me with my pillows.
“Jack and I predicted this months ago. When did y’all figure it out?”
“When you were gone, ‘Gator kept comin’ over anyway. We knew it wasn’t just ’cause he likes you.”
“Well, I just don’t want to know what goes on behind closed doors. I may be jealous until Jack returns.”
They both kiss me on opposite cheeks. I know they will be kissing my ass if I play it right. I’m too sleepy to start that. Not yet.
“Well, get up, so we can get you ready for school.”
The moms play it clueless as we eat breakfast.
“Have a good day,” they send us off for higher learning.
“Is he okay?” they all ask. “Will he come back soon?”
“He’s better. I miss him so much.”
“Oh. You’re so lucky. We love you, too, Andy.”
Just what I need to feel at home.
‘Gator comes up, looking sheepish. He hopes to make some lame excuse for abandoning me in the middle of the night.
“Ready for bowling?” he asks. “Will Jack be back in time for the State Tournament?”
“That’s the goal. We spoke last night.”
“The twins miss me this morning?”
“I’m staying out of that one,” I complain. ‘Gator chuckles, free from any drama with me. I like being ‘just friends.’
“Meet us in the band room after last period. I have an idea that includes you.”
“Cool. I just has ta be home for chores as soon as possible.”
“Carrying a heavy load there, Gate?”
“Just don’t wanna miss dinner with y’all.”
“Want me to come with and help out?”
“What about yer pizza deliveries?”
“I can get back by five if we work quickly through the chores.”
“Ya ever milked a cow, Andy?”
“Cain’t be much harder than squeezing titties,” I josh.
All I can envision is a huge octopus-like machine sucking the cows dry. It feels cool to be a country boy again.
Final bell is at two. All four of us third-floorers meet in the band room.
“Without making a fuss, there’s four of us now. We cain’t jist keep being the Triplets. And when Jack’s back, it’ll be five. We needs to make a new band. I wanna play rock instead of folk. Gate, we need a drummer. How’s ’bout it?”
“Kin ya teach me in five minutes like ya did the twins on gui-tar?”
“Ain’t nothin’ ta teach. Jist bang away until ya feel the rhythm of the beat.”
It sounds better, but the tempo is too slow.
“How ‘bout we create our own fusion, but instead of jazz fusion, it be country rock, like the Eagles?” I suggest. I started playing ‘Take It to the Limit.’
The slow beginning allows ‘Gator to build into the drumming, increasing the tempo, and then dropping into a steady pace. I just play the guitar, while the girls use their high voice on the vocals. ‘Gator and I come in on backup vocals. ‘Gator’s enthusiasm gets him speeding up too much at the ending.
“We need a bass to keep the drumming on the right tempo,” I declare. “You girls wanna both play bass, so you kin alternate the vocals.”
“Oh, Andy, we can do two things at once. We ain’t retarded.”
They go and find two old double basses to use for practice.
“Now we really look country,” I decide. “Maybe I should play an old fiddle?”
The practice session is cut short so ‘Gator and I can go do chores. The twins want to come too, but ‘Gator says he’ll teach them next time. They look funny at me.
“I ain’t stealing your boyfriend, girls. Jist helpin’ him so he’s back with y’all’s sooner.”
They give me a big hug and sneak a quick kiss with ‘Gator. I blush again.
I laugh. “That’s what Flo calls him, too.”
“Someday you can explain why you think that poor girl is yer girlfriend a thousand miles away.”
“Ya don’t knows ‘bout the magic dick?”
The three of them pound me into submission until ‘Gator drags me away for farm work.
“Yee haw,” I yell as we drive off in his pickup.
Two hours of chores are enough. No tittie squeezing but plenty of tittie washing before hooking up the suction cups. The cows seem to like me. ‘Gator’s dad takes me under his wing, to make sure I’m not a half-ass ranch hand. I need to buy real jeans. My Love Jeans came home covered in cow manure.
My Pizza Pit manager is glad I’m back. He hopes Jack will return soon, as without delivery, he is overwhelmed doing walk-in business. I tell him that Jack will return in two weeks. It makes me wonder if he really will return. After work and dinner with the crowd at home, I call him.
“Your boss wants you back at the Pizza Pit,” I start off.
“Not up to your cosmopolitan standards?”
“In comparison to overseeing three youth shelters and coordinating with the respective churches, I wonder if I can handle making change at a cash register.”
It feels like he is mocking my life.
“Guess who milked the cows tonight?”
“What? Did you have to muck out the barn, too?”
“No. But I came home covered in cow shit.”
“Not a pretty picture.”
“Just helpin’ ‘Gator so’s he kin be with the twins.”
“I loves yer fake accent.”
“Them cows loves my soft hands on their titties.”
“We started a new band today, with ‘Gator on drums and the twins on double bass. We play country rock.”
“I think I’m losing my speech again.”
“Better get out here soon. I knows jist what you needs.”
“I’ll send Jace to stimulate its recovery.”
Normally we would be giggling at this repartee. I’m listening for him to start. He must be waiting for me. It’s unsettling to be so tentative.
When I finish the call, I go upstairs to join ‘Gator and the twins.
“What’s the matter, Andy. Ya looks perturbed,” ‘Gator seems to be reading my thoughts.
“Just Jack. I ain’t sure he wants ta come back here. I kin see how la dee dah he is, livin’ in the City.”
“Y’all took to the milkin’ taday, didn’tcha. Yer a natural.”
“He got a favorite cow yet, Gator?”
“Oh yeah. They’s all lovin’ ‘im. He gots the touch.”
Maybe I’m being too sensitive about Jack. It’s one’s family responsibility to bring you back down to earth.
“Enuff ‘bout me. Let’s do a country song and make it rock,” as I get out my SG guitar. “How ‘bout this one: ‘Rhinestone Cowboy?”
‘I’ve been walkin’ these streets so long
Singin’ the same old song
I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway
Where hustle’s the name of the game
And nice guys get washed away like the snow and the rain
There’s been a load of compromisin’
On the road to my horizon
But I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me’
Songwriters LARRY WEISS
Published by Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music
It seems like a natural depiction of how I see New York hustlers on Broadway in Times Square and an expression of why I like living in the country.
“It ain’t really rock, Andy,” Angie complains.
“It ain’t country much neither, talkin’ ‘bout hustlin’ in the City,” ‘Gator observes.
“That’s why I likes it,” I assert. “Ain’t that what we’s a’tryin’ ta do?” I respond.
“Well, let’s try it,” ‘Gator decides for us all.
He has the hardest time laying down an easy-going drum track. He speeds up and thunders with rolls and cymbal crashes. Amy sits with him, showing him how to just keep the beat on the high-hat. They end each line with the snare and a single bass drum thump.
Now we sound pretty good. I envision John Boy in a rhinestone shirt doing the vocals.
“What’s ya smilin’ ‘bout, Andy?” Amy asks.
“Jist seein’ John Boy all dressed up in a cowboy shirt and walkin’ ‘round in boots.”
“That old boy comin’ home soon?” ‘Gator asks.
“I hopes,” I worry.
“After all that drama over Christmas, ya think he’ll bail on ya now?” Angie worries.
“Not worried. Jist knows he’s subject to whims and New York City’s where there’s whims ‘round ever’ee corner.”
“No frettin’, boy. We all’s gonna make shure he stays here when he comes fer the State bowlin’ tournament,” ‘Gator has a plan.
We play a couple of John Denver songs, including, ‘Thank God I’m a Country Boy.’
I have to call John Boy, after we’re done. ‘Gator insists he institutes the campaign to get him back by saying hello first.
“Howdy, John Boy. How’s the livin’ in New York City?” he puts on his happy country voice.
“Hi, ‘Gator. I hear you got two girlfriends,” he answers, breaking into song:
“That Doublemint sure enuff sticks to ya afta ya chews it a bit.”
“’Gator,” he laughs. “That’s downright disrespectful.”
“Boy, ya’s bin stayin’ in the City and gots too polite. Gots ta make them girls sticky if’n ya wants it ta last.”
John Boy is silent for once, finally responding, “I’s shocked, ‘Gator. Yer talkin’ ‘bout Andy’s sisters.”
“Git over yerself, John Boy. Ya knows I loves them and respects ‘em, too. Don’t means I cain’t joke ‘bout ‘em. Here, I’ll give the phone ta ol’ Andy.”
“Hey,” I say hello. “You and Gate disputing the honor of my sisters?”
“He’s pretty misogynistic.”
“Well, it ain’t New York City. It’s okay to say those things as long as everyone knows ya don’t means it.”
“I spend the day getting runaways to start respecting themselves. It’s discouraging when my friends don’t respect their girlfriends.”
“Don’t be so high and mighty. And don’t start a’tellin’ me that y’all is a’prayin’ for us.”
He laughs. “It ain’t that bad. What’s happenin’ with the new band?”
“Amy taught ‘Gator how to calm down his drumming. We’s doin’ country with a twist o’ rock. We did ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ tonight. I could see ya singin’ and movin’ on stage in cowboy boots and a rhinestone shirt. Had ta call ya.”
“That’s cute, Andy.”
“Ya gots ta be here for the State Bowlin’ Championship. Everyone’s countin’ on ya, especially the French Club.”
“Ew, la la. The parental units aren’t ready to send me back permanently but I’ll fly out for the weekend.”
“Kin ya come a day early. The kids at school keep buggin’ me ‘bout seein’ ya.”
“Sure. More bedroom time fer us.”
That makes my dick perk up. “That’s my boyfriend. Oh, ‘Gator stayin’ with us now.”
“Well, sorta. He stays with me until the moms go ta bed. Then he’s with the girls, leavin’ at 4am ta do his chores on the farm.”
“I don’t approve.”
“Well, don’t say nothin’ to the moms. Ya better git yerself out here a’fore I fergets it’s ‘Gator layin’ next ta me.”
We both laugh.
“John Boy’s comin’ back fer the bowlin’ tournament,” I announce.
They all laugh at how excited I am, especially in my pants.
“They kin try out their French pastries on the farm kids comin’ to Ames,” Amy suggests.
I finally get to see Dr. Kam on Friday afternoon. “Gator has to do his chores alone until the twins volunteer to learn how to milk. ‘Gator blushes when he realizes he has to introduce them to his folks. Livin’ up to his social obligations.
“Tell me about New York,” he starts off.
“I hope you bowed.”
“Sounds like you offended her.”
“Her step-son was on the gossip page with us. She was mad about that.”
“John Lennon’s son?”
“That didn’t make her very happy.”
“Well, Julian liked it. After we got her together with Andy Warhol, they both agreed to do a photography show for the Jace’s Place charity.”
“What did John Lennon think about you romancing his ‘Dragon Lady’?” Dr Kam is into all the gossip.
“We have a band with Julian, called Dakota. We played at the Cathedral. We finished with ‘A Little Help from my Friends.’ John came running up, grabbed a guitar, and we all played ‘All You Need is love.”
Dr. Kam hugs me so intensely at this hot gossip that he has to apologize immediately, thinking he stepped over the line with me. I just smile, basking in my reflected glory.
“Sorry,” he mumbles.
“No need,” I mumble back
After a second of mutual admiration, he starts the session.
“Have you had any more blackouts?”
“None. It was John Boy who was experiencing psycho-hysteria in the City.”
“Well, he can start with me when he returns. It’s odd that your symptoms left as soon as his appeared.”
“Yeah. He finally realized he was trying to manipulate me so I’d stay in New York.”
“Typical teenage reaction. But let’s not talk about John Boy. It’s called transference when you experience your own feelings and issues in others.”
“I thought it meant I transferred my problems to you?”
“That’s when you have issues with, say, your mother and treat me as if I’m her. We then work on resolving the issue without involving her.”
“So John Boy was unable to speak because I keep passing out from memories of my trauma?”
“Well, as I said, let’s not deal with John Boy here. He could merely be manipulating you. You may be helped by seeing him deal with his hysterical reaction as you are dealing with your own involuntary reactions.”
I have to think about that.
“It’ll give me something to think about until next week’s session,” I agree.
“Now, tell me more about John and Yoko.” Dr. Kam is a celebrity groupie.
“Later. You told me to fix my love life and pay less attention to Tommy. I need to talk about it.”
“Okay, but you’re not leaving without some celebrity gossip. You were confused about your feelings toward girls,” he prompts me.
“You call him John Boy.”
“Only when he’s here.”
“Can’t be a cowboy in New York City?”
We both laugh.
“She knows she has to share me. It’s better we don’t have sex for her parents sake.”
“You’ve never had sex with her?”
“No. Everything but vaginal. Jace and I dated Flo and her best friend Edi. After he died we had an orgy on what was to be his 16th birthday. Jack lost his virginity and Jace found out that Edi still loves him.”
“All five of you getting it on?”
“More like different couplings going on at once.”
“You are bad. So what do you feel for Flo now.”
“She’s my only girlfriend but it won’t work if we’re apart. We’ve only seen each other just once since the Skynyrd concert.”
“We still talk a lot by phone. Her parents won’t allow her to date, so I’m perfect in their minds, 1500 miles away.”
“Well, you’re talking about relationships. What about the raw sexual attraction.”
“The old attention addiction. That doesn’t clarify whether you’re turned on by the physical or the emotional.”
“I don’t think about it. My dick tells me when I’m turned on.”
“That’s a definitive marker. Do you think you have to be either gay or straight?”
“Can I be both?”
“That’s not for me to say. The Kinsey Report says everyone is on a 6-point continuum from Gay to Straight. It can vary over time but most everyone is in between totally gay or totally straight.”
“So most people are bisexual?”
“Society represses that as deviant.”
“That mean I’m a pervert?”
“Kinsey’s survey reported that over half of adult males have at least one gay experience, usually in their teens.”
“The hotbed of hormonal horniness.”
“Most people will think you’re gay.”
“I don’t care what others think. My friends tell me not to be so gay.”
“That’s what they’ve been told is best.”
“How’s that working for you?”
“Jealousy and possessiveness rear their ugly heads.”
”You’ve been lucky to find people willing to share. You seem to have a big heart. When you’re older, you may want to be exclusive.”
“I feel so old at 17.”
“You worry that life gets boring as you age?”
“I live entirely for now. I don’t worry about the future.”
“That’s the trap of sexual experience at too young an age. You’re jaded before you’re mature enough to fully appreciate emotional things.”
“Is that why I’m always crying?”
“Could be symptomatic of that. You become frustrated and cry when you can’t deal with all the drama.”
Dr. Kam always makes me think. Am I going to experience deeper emotions as I became an adult? I revel in being a kid and see most adults as lame.
“I’ve got to think about it,” I put off responding.
“Well, tell me all about John and Yoko. We’ll pick up on this discussion next time.”
Pizza delivery is a respite from the complications of my teen life. No angst driving around Ames. I don’t have to act cute to work my tips. I’m just relaxed and happy. Customers sense I’m a normal kid and reward me for the convenience of dinner being delivered. At the end of my shift, I walk into the Hyland house relaxed and smiling. The moms think it is entirely due to Dr. Kam. The twins are suspicious. ‘Gator just expects everyone to be mindlessly happy – he must pick it up from all the cows he milks.
Following up on Dr. Kam’s session, I call Flo before calling John Boy, to see if she excites my dick just by herself. The second she starts missing me and showing how much she likes me, I go to full attention. I love being loved.
John Boy is more complicated. Mummy has insisted he go to school in the City. He refuses to enter the Upper Eastside vs Westside preppy culture wars and is enrolled at parochial Regis High School on East 56th Street. He wants to reform his ‘Baptist ways.’ It worries me that he is having to ask permission to attend the bowling finals.
“Do I havta com’n back there to fuck you to death so ya wants to come out here?” I taunt him.
“Well, ya best git yer ass out here if’n ya ever wants that ta happen agin.”
“Yer so mean,” he whines.
“That’s what Tommy always says.”
That’s the clincher. John Boy’s return is assured.
The new band, Triplets plus Gator, is slowly gelling. ‘Gator’s drumming is a work in progress. His energy and enthusiasm are overwhelmed by a lack of technique. Both twins are playing bass as well as singing, resulting in a three-piece rhythm section. We need John Boy on guitar to mesh with my Jace-inspired licks to make it soar. We are more country than rock n roll, more John Denver than the Eagles. Rather than compromise, I suggest we cover full-on country songs, like Willie Nelson, and blues, like Janis Joplin. It’s a mixed bag at rehearsals after dinner on the third floor. We try many songs and find the ones we all like. ‘Gator suggests we perform for the first time at the State High School Bowling Finals, which on the following weekend at Ames Lanes. I’m counting on John Boy’s return, at least for the tournament, if not permanently.
‘Gator being in bed with me for our ‘Walton’s good night’ ritual is still unsettling. But he has no compunction about enthusiastically laying there with me, chatting like an old couple until it’s time to join the twins for the main event. I studiously avoid finding out what actually goes on in the girls’ bedroom. He remains in thrall and the girls never seem unhappy. The lack of drama is reassuring. I wonder when or if the moms will confront me about these after-hours exploits. Life on the third floor.
Noah approaches me at school. He remains the loyal ‘Gator posse clone but is an object of the gossip mill, since it seems like he is part of two couples.
“I feel like a fifth wheel,” he complains, assuming I know ‘Gator is ‘with’ both twins.
“Don’t despair. ‘Gator might decide to choose one over the other. Could be your lucky day,” I joke.
“Good strategy. Ya don’t has a girl ya likes.”
“My cheerleader girl’ll kill me if’n I cheat on her.”
“So, what’s the problem?”
“Well, ‘Gator’s my best friend but it seems like you’re his best friend.”
“Sounds like grade school. ‘Gator’s my best friend, too. He’s gots a big heart, but he definitely has moved on ta my sisters. Are ya jealous?”
“Naw. He’s so happy, he’s actually nice ta me sometimes.”
“It’s all good.”
“Yeah. I jist feels uncomfortable when I’m asked if I’m going out with one of the twins.”
“None o’ their bizness, that’s all,” and I explain the no kiss and tell rule.
“Thanks, Andy. Yer a peach.”
It’s time to organize the State Bowling Championships. Coach Ball contacts the Iowa High School Athletic Federation and receives official sanction for the finals. Every Iowa high school is contacted about the new sport. It’s decided that this year’s inaugural championship will be unofficial. If all goes well, bowling will be officially recognized as a high school sport, with rules and regulations. All this red tape is typical bureaucratic bullshit. The upshot is only schools from the local Ames area have active teams and will compete this year.
I speak with the Ames Lanes’ manager. The championships will run all day Saturday. We discuss how to seed and score the competition. There are ten schools, each with five mixed (male & female) pairs. We decide to have first through third place medals for the highest scoring bowling pairs, plus a trophy for the school with the highest combined score for all five pairs. The cheerleaders have raised enough money to pay for the awards, as well as the lane fees.
We are set to go. My main concern is getting John Boy to come from New York. Selecting the top five pairs from Ames High has become hotly contested, as we have three separate teams, Varsity, Junior Varsity and Frosh-Soph. ‘Gator, as team captain, decides that there will be a run-off the prior Saturday to choose the top five scoring pairs for the State Finals.
“But Gate, what about John Boy? His score was always the best while he was here. We need him to do our best.”
“T’ain’t fair ta the others if he ain’t here to qualify.”
“I’ll see if he can get here this weekend.” It’s already Thursday.
“Still coming here for the bowling championships?” I ask him that night on the phone.
“I’m working on Mummy. She’s worried I’ll relapse there.
“Why’d you relapse if yer the one who’s leavin’?”
“She’s ambivalent about Iowa. Dad will actually decide.”
“Well, ya havta to be here day afta tamorra, ‘cause we’re havin’ qualifyin’ for the five teams at the Finals.”
“Tim, how can I possibly do that?”
“’Gator’s tryin’ ta be fair ta all the team. There’s only five spots.”
“I cannot just leave for ten days. Hey, I even started a bowling team here.”
“I want you to come back and stay. You really want to remain in Manhattan with your creepy cousins.”
“Y’all ain’t gonna walk straight fer a week afta the mad fucking I lay on you if that’s what it takes ta git ya out here.”
“Ew, I like that.”
“You won’t like it if’n y’all don’t show up. I thought ya’d want to come back fer good.”
“It’s complicated. I’ll let you know.”
“What? Whether you want to be with me?” I drop the country drawl.
“I do, desperately. I’s so confused. No one here understands how much I need you.”
“That’s no reason for staying there. They don’t knows you like I do. They treat you like a little nerd who’s going to Harvard to become cultivated.”
“Stop calling me Tim. I’s Andy now.”
He starts to whimper.
“Stop yer whinin’. Ya ain’t no little kid no more. If’n ya don’ts wanna come fer me, do it fer the team. We needs ya fer yer bowling scores.” That is the lamest reason of all time to be together.
“I’ll talk with Dad. Mummy’s adamant.”
“Goodbye, asshole,” and I hang up.
“Jack. He ain’t comin’ this weekend. We broke up.”
“What? Over bowlin’?”
“Not that. He wants ta stay in New York. He even started a bowlin’ team at his new school.”
“Ya ain’t leavin’ us, are ya Andy?”
The twins stick their heads in, as well.
“What’s wrong?” Angie has to know.
“John Boy broke up with Andy,” ‘Gator explains.
“No way,” the twins exclaim.
They all look expectantly at me for an explanation and for me to burst into tears.
“Actually, I broke up with him. I told him to come or else.”
“Or else what?” Amy hopes to fix everything.
I say nothing. After a while we decide to play music. I started strumming C-minor/F major chords.
‘Have ya heard the news?
I got the breakup blues
It’s definite we’re through
I ain’t never seeing you
I love you
You love me
Whats to do?
Set you free
What’s to lose
If you chose
Ain’t no fun
Come back to me
If you please
Just don’t say
There ain’t no way’
They all stare at me, expecting tears. I switch to ‘Barefoot Boy’ and everyone does the monkeyshines with me. I feel better. The girls get us doing ‘Country Roads’ and ‘Bobby McGee.’ All that treacle about home and family makes me angry. I rush through ‘Raw Power,’ channeling Iggy’s fury into energy.
Hoping John Boy would spend his final high school days with me may have been a pipe dream. Neither of us is ready to settle down. Fuck normal.
I tell John Boy’s French Club fag hags that he may not come. They are devastated and promise to deluge him with phone calls, so I give out the telephone number. Sweet revenge. I avoid calling him, not sure I want to confirm our break-up. All I think about is him. I’m totally distracted. The word is out in the gossip mill. I guess I have more fans than I realize. Both girls and guys approach me like I’m some sport fish to be snagged. I remain oblivious. After being abrupt with a few tentative pick-up lines, I switch to my polite but emphatically disinterested self. For the first time I realize that high school will soon to be history for me. I wonder how I’ll feel in the fall. At least I don’t have to care about acceptance to Harvard. The moms are sympathetic but still insist I complete the arduous application process. My alumni interview is short and sweet. When asked why I want to go to Harvard, I say ‘because my boyfriend is going there.’ That checks all their boxes. Mrs. McCarthy arranges a special SAT session the following Sunday so I can complete that requirement before my application is due.