The next few days we enjoyed life at our camp. I made Tom help me dig a latrine, away from the shelter and cooking area. We ate so little that it really wasn’t needed. Boiling water appeared unnecessary as we did not suffer ill effects from drinking the water in the swamp. We threw the fish remains into the water, so there was no garbage. I taught Tom how to catch catfish. He whooped and hollered when his first fish was scooped out. We washed our clothes daily, leaving them to dry on tree branches while we fished and swam in the nude. Tom was ever vigilant to the return of ‘Gatorsaurus. The hatchet was good at cracking open the coconuts. The knife made it easy to scoop out the coconut meat. Our sex life calmed down after the night of the Panther orgy (as we called it). I pursued a ‘we’s brothers’ attitude, showing him affection but not heeding his emotional ups and downs. When I penetrated him at the end of the orgy may have left him ambivalent about going any further. I was inside him less than a minute. It made me uncomfortable I screwed someone so young. We generally jacked off together and sometimes did each other. Besides being two years younger, I wasn’t sure he was really gay, just acting out his hero-worship of me, as Scott had done. I smiled when I remembered what I was like at 14 with Joey and Scott. Tom reminded me that his 15th birthday was coming up. I told him he’d still have another year to go until the traditional 16th birthday orgy. That tradition really interested him. He was pleased that I believed we’d still be together in another year
“On yer 15th, we’ll visit the hippies and get ta eat their rice and beans. They’ll shure wanna celebrate wid y’all.”
“We cain’t go no sooner?” he whined.
“Truth be told, we gots to close up this here camp and move further into the Everglades.”
“That’s fucked up. We jist got everythin’ set here. Why’s we gots to move?”
“May be quite sometime ‘fore we gets it all settled with the courts. Them Program goons ain’t gonna stop tryin’ to caitch us’n.”
“We just gonna keep a’movin?” he whined.
“I gots me a plan. We set up 3 to 4 camps, all separated from each other, so’n we kin move from one t’other if theys gets close.”
“Man, that sucks,” he kept whining
“Ya don’t havta stay wid me. I’m shure Vic’d let ya stay wid him. When ya gets caught, jist tell ‘em I mades ya come with.”
He looked bereft. “I ain’t leavin’. Yer my brother,” and he hugged me.
“I’m glad,” I hugged back.
“Tom & Huck fer ever.”
“In like Flynn.”
“I ain’t lettin’ ya in ta me ever agin,” he winked at me.
I tackled him, pulled down his jeans and sucked hard on his stiff dick. He did the same to me, a classic 69.
Afterward, we washed off in the swamp.
“Ain’t the same, ’tis it,” Tom observed. “We’s jist brothers now.”
“Hillbilly brothers tryin’ ta make babies wid each other.”
“Sounds like a song.”
“Real country music.”
“Cain’t we just visit the campground one las’ time?”
“S’kay. I gots ta call Jay anyways. I’s hopin’ there some news.
We took down the shelter, storing all the material for the next time. We covered the fire-pit with dirt, scattering the circle of stones.
“It’s called the campfire rule; always leave where y’alls camped out better for the next ones that comes along.”
“Whatever. Y’all jist has ta make me work my ass off.
I slapped his naked butt. “There’s still a bit left there.”
We said goodbye to Camp #1 and walked out to the highway and toward the Sawgrass Campground.
Vic was not back from work, so I sat on his trailer’s doorstep. Tom went to find the young residents he had made friends with. When Vic returned, he smiled and made me welcome. I had turned down sleeping with him and worrried he might not be happy to see me. The good thing about hippies is they don’t get too excited about anything. The bad thing about hippies is that don’t ever get too excited about anything.
“Far out, man. Returned from Alligator Alley. Where’s yer brother?”
“Hangin’ out with the other kids here.”
“Not so muchattached to yer hip?”
“Naw. We worked that out. Anyones been nosin’ around.”
“Yeah. Some geeks in weird uniforms. They left flyers with a reward fer turnin’ ya in.”
“I gots ta see that. We’s wanted desperados.”
“I told ‘em we’d seen ya. Ya said not ta lie.”
“That’s part o’ the plan. Jist be honest. Lies never work with cops.”
“Ya need a ride to 7-11.”
“Yeah. Gots ta call the lawyer. Hopin’ it all gits cleared up soon.”
We drove to town. Jay answered quickly, seeming concerned.
“The County says you’ve been spotted. They expect to capture you soon.”
“Yeah. Our friends said the Program people had come by and posted a wanted flyer for us. But we gots it covered.”
“Y’all don’t needs to play country wid me.”
“Gettin’ ta be second nature. We gots a band, ‘Hillbilly Brothers.’”
“You never cease to amaze.” He said, dropping the twang.
“Any good news?”
“Mike’s gettin’ stonewalled by the Court. They insist you were really getting drug rehab. We’re tryin’ ta prove the County gets kickbacks from the Program, going to some high level County official.”
“There’s no rehab there. All the inmates are from the Courts. Those papers we had to sign saying we received counseling are a lie.”
“I wish I had better news.”
“Since they’re hot on my trail, I’ll be lyin’ low. Best not to call again.”
“I feel we failed you, Tim.”
“Naw, I can take their medicine. If anything I’m having a great time, living on catfish and coconuts. Tell Mike I appreciate all he’s done.”
“We won’t give up.”
“S’all right. I kin take cares o’ma’self.”
“A good ol’ boy to the core.”
“What a ride it’s bin.”
I hung up and went back to Vic’s pickup.
“No help there,” I let him know.
“Back ta Adventure Alley.”
“Ha. Yer a trip.”
“Best we not spend the night. Probably they’s got an eye on the campground. I gots ta see that wanted poster tho.”
We sped back to the campground. Tom was pumped we were on a wanted poster. He’d never been a celebrity before. Vic gave us a beat-up pot to boil water, telling us swamp water will get you eventually if you don’t boil it.
“Ya wants a ride down the Alley so’n ya don’ts havta walk?”
“S’cool. Don’t wantcha bein’ a accomplice or nothin’.”
He fed us rice and beans until our stomachs could take no more. Vic hugged us goodbye.
I put the pot on Tom’s head and we walked out of the campground. Our misdirection had the Program cops looking for us on Alligator Alley going west. We headed north up Route 27. There wasn’t much traffic. Every time we heard a car or truck, we hid off the side of the road. After nightfall there were no cars. We made good time. I figured we would find another hummock leading into the Everglades where we could set up camp #2. After keeping up pretty well, Tom suddenly was exhausted. We had walked ten miles already. We nestled in a hollow off the road and were quickly asleep. The rain held off that night, which I appreciated. It did make me worry that Fall was coming sooner than later.
Tom woke first. When I opened my eyes. he was sitting next to me, watching me sleep.
“Ready fer our next a’venture?” he asked. “Jist down the road.”
I smiled and nodded.
“I loves bein’ ur brother, Huck. First time anyones ever loved me, ya knows that, don’tcha?”
I kept nodding..
“Never tolds ya why I’s in juvie. My older brother always been bullying me, so I runs away. Got caught and declared a delinquent. Never said why I’s runnin’ an’ they’d never asked.”
“I’m sorry,” as I pulled him into a hug. “I never hads a younger brother, so I didn’t knows I’s ‘sposed ta bully ya.”
“S’okay. Ya kin be as mean as ya wants ‘cause I knows ya love me,” and he kissed me.
“We’s good brothers, ain’t we,” as I kissed him back.
“Shur ‘em, Huck.”
“Shur ‘em. Tom.”
That morning we followed several hummocks that ended in the swamp without there being a good camp site. We’d backtrack to the road and walk further north. Places where there was swamp on both sides of the road were a quandary. If a car or truck came along, we’d have nowhere to hide. I looked out into the swamp and saw a hummock rising from the swamp about 100 yards away from the road.
“We’ll head out there ‘bouts,” I indicated the hammock. “We gots to slog through the swamp a ways, but them cops won’t even think we’s done it.”
Tom looked grim and doubtful.
“I knows ya don’t wants to go in there but we gots ta do it.”
He just nodded and took a deep breath.
“We’ll be safe out there. Hold my hand,” I reached out to him.
“No, Huck. I gots this,” as he stepped into the water.
Nothing spooky or scary happened. Soon we reached the hummock.
“Gettin’ purdy brave there, boy,” I congratulated him once we were back on dry land. “Jist so’s ya knows, we ain’t ever goin’ back,” I told him.
He nodded and looked determined. At least we weren’t sissy boys.
The hummock was more like an island, going off in several directions. We found a tall tree at least a half mile from the road. No one would know we were camping there. It took a couple of days to set up the total campsite. Vic had given us a good supply of matches inside a baggie to keep them from getting wet. We set up a spit to hold the pot and boiled our water over a small fire. We didn’t want anyone noticing our smoke. After finishing the camp, we set out to explore our island. I wanted to be sure it was in no way connected to the road. That’s when we discovered a whole colony of chickens. A big old rooster came charging out at us, I guess to defend his hen harem. Tom hid behind me as I kicked it before it pecked at me. The rooster retreated while we investigated the hens. ‘”Look,” Tom exclaimed. “They’s all gots eggs.”
We shooed the hens off their nests and picked up about a half-dozen eggs, causing a big commotion, with the rooster appearing again. Tom chased him away this time.
“I wonder how these eggs’ll taste,” as I eyed the feral birds. “Who knows what kinda diet theys had out here.”
I cracked an egg open and found a half-grown chick in soup juice. It looked vile.
“I ain’t eating that,” Tom whined.
I took the knife and cut the top off the next egg. Only yolk and egg white was inside. I slurped down the raw egg. It tasted great after nothing but catfish, rice and beans since we’d been free.
“Yuck,” Tom sneered. “That’s disgustin’.”
“Naw, trust me. Just slurp it down like an oyster. Good fer ya, too.”
“I hates oysters.”
I handed him the knife. He tentatively chipped at the egg until it broke into a dozen pieces. There was another half-grown chick inside. He flung it away. The next one, he more confidently cracked, saw it was fetus-free and slurped the contents down.
“Ah, tastes great,” then he barfed it all up. His mind didn’t control his stomach.
“Don’t worry, Tom. We’ll cook ‘em up in a stew. I’s surprised them chickens gits eny thing to et out here.”
“Lookie over there, Huck. Ain’t that rice growing by the swamp?”
“How’dcha know that’s rice?”
“Ah, my gramps has a farm upstate. I has to help wid the harvest.”
He showed me how to cut the stalks which we brought back to the new camp. We husked the rice grains into the pot and boiled them over the fire. At the end we added leftover catfish and cracked fresh (as opposed to fetus) eggs into the mix. We had fish chowder for dinner.
Life at Camp #2 was fun. We fished, sowed rice, and stole the hens’ eggs. Neither ‘Gatorsaurus nor the Everglades Panther revisited us. I put off setting up camp #3, feeling totally safe on our hummock island. One day we heard the engine of a small airplane approaching. We doused the fire and hid in the shelter which was well covered by palm fronds. The plane was searching the area near the road. We felt perfectly safe.
That night, Tom asked me to sing to him. We were lying by the fire, the autumn night still warm and dry. I explained how much Pink Floyd had meant to Jace and me – the whole lunatics on the grass thing, falling asleep holding hands.
“How olds was ya then?”
“I’s 16. Jace 15.”
“Jist like me,” he beamed.
“Well, almost. Ya ain’t 15 yet.”
“Was y’alls in love then?”
“Naw. Jist was the first time Jace’s feelin’ loved. We didn’t do nothin’. Here’s the song we said was ‘our’ song.”
I started singing ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond,’ plunking the intro on Tom’s skinny stomach.
I finally started singing:
‘Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught in the crossfire of childhood and stardom, blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter, come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!
You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision, rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions, come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!’
Writer(s): Roger Waters, Richard William Wright, David Jon Gilmour
Copyright: Roger Waters Music Overseas Ltd., Pink Floyd Music Publr. Inc., Artemis Muziekuitgeverij B.V.
Tom giggled and hung onto me for the first verse, seeing himself in the words and giving him hope that he shined like a diamond. After the second verse, his mood darkened. He felt the threat of wearing out his welcome.
“Com’n, we kin sing it like a duo. I sing a line and you repeat it. If’n ur voice goes off-key, I’ll harmonize with you. That’s the way Jace taught me ta play guitar.”
He sat up and we sang to each other,
“Remember when you were young
Remember when you were young
you shone like the sun
you shone like the sun
Shine on you crazy diamond
Shine on you cra…’
Tom missed the note. I prompted him:
“Ya gots it. Now do it bys urself.”
We practiced the song for at least an hour. After he knew the words and how to hit all the notes, we sang it together. His ear wasn’t deaf to the notes. He was a high alto and was nervous about going up too high. I think he felt he sounded like a girl.
“Ya gots a pure, high voice. Let it out.”
That instruction made him over-confident. He went back to missing notes. This time he went above the note he stretched to sing.
With more confidence and me harmonizing him back to the notes when he went off, we sounded pretty good.
“Kin we have a band, Huck? I wants ta be in a band wid you’s.”
“Well, ain’t many fans to perform for out here. We kin practice, then go back to the campground and play for ‘em all.”
Night had fallen and the camp was dark, a fire barely burning. I looked our across the swamp.
“Look, Tom. We gots our first fan.”
Two eyes glowed in the dark. I could barely make out a panther’s tail swishing back and forth.
Tom huddled behind me.
“Think he wants ta et us?”
“Not unless you start singing off key again.
I started singing the Beatles’ classic, ‘A Little Help from Our Friends,’
“What would you do if I sang out of key?
“Would you come here and try to et me…’
Writer(s): Trey Parker, Paul Mccartney, David Loeffler, John Lennon, Damon Butler
Copyright: Sony/ATV Tunes LLC, Music Corp. Of America Inc., Gasoline Alley Music
‘Do you need anybody?’ I sang
‘I just want somebody to love,’ Tom sang
“I loves ya, Tom,” I impulsively shouted
“Whats ‘bout the panther?”
“I loves him, too.”
“Ur crayzy,” Tom sang. “Bets ya git et.”
“No way. That cat loves us both.”
The panther’s tail keep swishing back and forth.
The autumn days rolled by with cooler weather, no rain, and mild nights. We swam, washed our clothes, caught fish, cooked chowder and sang to each other as the sun went down. The panther showed up most nights after dark. It wasn’t as exciting as the band. We had only nature for socializing, but it was as much fun as anything. The torture of the Program faded from our memories. The sex tailed off as the passion wasn’t really there. Tom knew we were brother. Not in the way of his bullying older brother, but because we looked out for each other and always backed each other up. We’d get horny and jerk off together, but it stopped going further. Tom matured a lot, growing and being so much more self-confident. I worried I would start falling for him as he matured, but it didn’t happen. He asked me about girls, knowing I had girlfriends. I told him about the escapades and the breakups. He wasn’t sure what his feelings were about girls. I knew he’d find out when we returned to civilization. It made me think about being gay – if it was permanent once you were an adult. I knew it was easy to go both ways at our age. Most people figured I was exclusively gay once they knew I had boyfriends. Girls seemed to like gay boys but punished you for being attracted to girls as well. No sense in being stressed out about it in the Everglades. I was lucky I had a boy to love me without all the drama of high school. I thought how I was missing my senior year. Junior year had been so incredible I didn’t think I needed any more high school – easy rationalizations.
‘Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.’ And ain’t I free?
About a month after we set up camp #2, Tom came hopping into the camp. He had been out exploring.
“I cuts my foot,” he explained, holding up his leg to show me a gash in the sole of his right foot.
“Let me wash it out,” as I took the water pot off the fire and poured it into a coconut shell we used as a cup. After it cooled to a tolerable temperature, I cleaned out the wound. It was pretty deep. After two days, his foot looked worse, with inflamed tissue around the cut. I was wrong not to take him to the campground, so it could be examined by a doctor. I felt his head.
“Ya gots a fever, Tom. I’m takin’ ya to the campground. Ya needs medicine fer it ta heal.
“We gots to?” he complained. “Give me a few days more ta heal.”
“No way. Ya might lose ur foot if’n its infected.”
That got his attention.
I doused the fire and hide the shelter. I put him on my back so he wouldn’t step on the wound.
“Yer actin’ silly, Huck. I ain’t no invalid.”
“Shut up and look out fer ‘gators,” I told him as we slogged through the swamp to the road. That got his attention.
Once out on the road, I flagged down the first car.
“Hey, mister, kin ya take us ta the campground. My brother’s cut his foot.”
“Stick ‘im in the back,” the man told me. “And jump in front.”
I saw that Tom was sweating and partly delirious.
“I gots ta stay in the back with ‘im. He’s gots a fever.”
“Best, ya goes to the hospital in Lauderdale then. He don’t look so good.”
Tom was barely moaning, rocking back and forth. He understood what was said, sitting straight up in protest. He mumbled something. Then he collapsed back against the truck’s bed..
I held his head.
“Best we git our dad so he kin take us in.”
“Whatever ya says but don’t wait too long. Looks like he gots swamp fever.”
My heart sank, knowing the man was probably right. He dropped us at Vic’s Airstream. Luckily Vic was home from work.
“Howdy, boys. Where y’all bin?”
The man spoke up for us, “I picked ‘em up on the Orlando road. Looks like the young’un gots swamp fever.”
“Holy Shit. Git ‘im in my pickup. We’s goin’ t’ Emergency.”
Vic grabbed some blankets. I stretched Tom out in the truck’s bed, getting in and holding his head.
“Thanks, mister,” I told the man. “He gots real bad so fast.”
“Don’t ya think ‘bout it. Ur dad’ll take it from here. With medicine he’ll be fine.”
He tossled my hair and drove away. I felt like a little kid again.
Vic had us quickly to the Ft Lauderdale Hospital Emergency Room.
“Let me handle this,” he said, when the nurse asked about insurance. He told them Tom was his son and gave them his insurance card. Tom’s wounded foot was properly bandaged and shots of antibiotics were administered.
“His fever’s pretty high. We’re gonna admit him to make sure it comes down and observe him overnight,” the nurse told us after a doctor had examined him.
They wheeled him into a private room and settled him into bed. He was still delirious. When I hugged him, he opened his eyes, looked around, and refused to let me go.
“Yer in the hospital, Tom. Yer gonna be fine.”
He seemed to understand, but sobs started. We both hung on to each other, sniffing back the tears until he fell asleep.
“Com’n, Huck. I’ll buy ya a steak. Ya looks like a scarecrow.” Vic offered.
After my first real meal in months, we looked back in on Tom. He was asleep. The temperature monitor said 100 degrees, which was three degrees lower than when he came in.
“Wanna come back to the campground. We kin check on Tom in the mornin’.”
Maybe the steak had revved me up. I asked a favor.
“Y’all don’ts feel like goin’ ta Miami, does ya?”
“Shur. Why not. Ya gonna show me yer rock star life?”
An hour later we pulled up the Stones’ driveway.
“Ya ain’t shittin’, ay. Who lives here.
“My guitarist’s folks. What’s with the Canadian accent. You ain’t a Canuck, are ya.”
“No more’n yer a farmboy bringing in the crops.”
“We both gots our secrets, don’ts we.”
“Still gonna ‘vite me in?”
“Only if’n ya don’ts laughs at Jack father. We call ‘m Daddy.”
“An’ wot kinda Daddy’s that?”
“Maybe ya best sits in the truck after all.”
“No way. Ya promised me one of yer adventures, like ‘Gatorsaurus. I’s yer ride. I will not be denied.”
“No denyin’ it, but if’n ya wants a real adventure today, jist keep yer mouth shut. It’ll be worth it, ‘less ‘course ya really gots sumtin’ ta say.”
“Got it, Captain, oh my Captain,” he even saluted.
While this palaver was going on, Isabelle had come out to see who had arrived.
“Senor Tim,” she exclaimed.
“Best call me Huck, Isabelle,” as I stuffed my hand over Vic’s mouth. “Is Senor Stone en casa?”
“Si. Come. Good to see you. Your friend’s name?”
“Este Victor, gracias.”
“She’s just the maid,” I whispered to him as we followed her in. Mummy and Daddy were by the pool, having their afternoon libation.
“Tim,” they both cried.
“Sorry to bother you, Mr. and Mrs. Stone, but can you help me call Johnny?”
“Oh, Tim. When did we get so formal around you,” as she opened his arms to me.
When I reached out and was pulled into a hug, I sobbed just once. “Oh, Mommy. I’m so sorry.”
“We’re sorry, too, Tim. We sent him away to protect him from evil people, not from you,” Mr. Stone answered. “And, please just call me Dad. Daddy’s okay but Johnny has stopped doing that as well.”
He reached out and shook my hand. I couldn’t help it and pulled him into a tentative hug, for about two seconds. They both smiled at me.
“And your older friend?” Mommy queried.
“This is Vic, he rescued us yesterday. I promised to show him Miami.”
“Have you had anything to eat, Vic,” she asked.
“No. ma’am. Nots yet,” he answered.
“Isabelle, can you take Vic into the kitchen and fix him and Tim some food.”
Vic followed her obediently.
“You’re such a wonderful hostess, Mummy.”
“Of course, my dear. Now why don’t you follow Edgar into the study. Find out what my youngest son has done to terrify those Swiss monks. If I remember properly, he should be at evening prayers right now. I know your call will be an answer to those prayers tonight.”
‘Ha ha’ we all laughed. Huck was laughing at me. I could strangle him. I was too excited to care about Huck right then.
“Tim, not to dampen your enthusiasm, but after calling Johnny, I have to insist that you call your dad,” Mr. Stone told me.
“’Course.” I was about to say that Dad would only tell me to turn myself in. I realized that the Stones didn’t know they were harboring a fugitive. I just had to speak with Jack. I could only stay here long enough for a call.
I sat there trying to think what I would say, but nothing was right. Mr. Stone was speaking French into the phone. He handed it to me. I almost dropped it.
“It’s okay, Tim. They went to get him. He’ll be as happy as you are to talk.” He left me by myself.
Finally, Jack came on the line.
“I told you I cannot have calls at night,” he sounded snotty.
“Always whinin’, ain’t cha?” Huck took over.
“Tim! Oh my god. Oh my god.”
“Yes, My son.”
“I miss you so much,” now he was more sincere than whiny
“Me. Too. I knows ya don’ts wants ta be over there. Wish you’d come back.”
“Your accent – You been hiding up in Carolina with Floyd and the boys.”
“Sorta, more on my own in the sticks. I missed you so much. I think ‘bouts ya every day.” I was suddenly overwhelmed about all we had lost. I started crying.
“Don’t cry. I can’t stand it,” and he was crying too.
“How ‘cha git ta Switzerland? Is it all nice with cows and chocolate. Didcha meet Heidi and the von Trapp Family?”
“I hates it here,” he was picking up on my accent. “Martin took me to Cannes. Andy had me stay with him on Jackie O’s yacht. The Press had a field day with photos of us flirting.”
“Didcha do it with Andy, ya little pervert. Did he feed ya pot and you go crazy?
“No way. He’s got a condition from when he got shot. He hasta wear this shit bag all the time.”
“He’s really sweet, Tim. Father Frank said the Miami Police will charge me with indecent behavior if I come back. He arranged for me to attend school in Geneva. It really sucks.”
“Me, too. Everything fell apart when Max was shot.”
“Oh, Max. The bands done, Tim.”
“Yeah, Jay told me. Washed up at 16.”
“I heard they sent ya ta drug rehab. Are you finished?”
“It was a scam. No rehab, just juvenile jail out by the Everglades. Total indoctrination. I’s escaped with this boy. We’s bin livin’ out in the Everglades for four months. Gots us a cool camp. We caitch fish and have a panther who comes every night to listen to us singin’. We call us The Hillbilly Brothers, tryin’ ta make babies wid each other. We go by Tom & Huck. The local hippies sometime feeds us. We sit around singing hippie songs.”
He laughed. Then seriously he asked, “He’s yer boyfriend now, huh?”
“Naw, we’s jist brothers. He’s only 14. He gots a fever taday. I has to bring ‘im to the hospital. They’s keepin’ him overnight, so we snuck on down to yer folks so’s I kin call y’all.”
“Ya always havin’ adventures. My life totally sucks now.”
“Ya went ta Cannes. How’d that go?”
“Great. Ya gots ta see Martin’s movie. It’s all ‘bout you and how much you loved Jace. They mixed the concert footage in with our recording session. It got some award. Then I gots ta play with Pink Floyd in a bull ring in Nice. They’s crazy. T’was cool.”
“Whens the movie comin’ out.”
“It hasn’t been picked up by the movie industry distributors. They says it’s too gay.”
“Aw, man. I’ll never sees it.”
Suddenly a man came on the line, speaking French.
“I gots to go, Tim. Please call me agin.”
“I gots ta tell ya. I cain’t feel Jace in my heart no more. You neither. They cursed me at The Program.”
“He’s there, jist like I is. I’ll never leaves ya.”
The line went dead.
I was drained. As promised, I dialed my house. Luckily Susan picked up.
“Hi, Mom. I miss ya sumthin’ terrible.”
“Tim. Is that really you. You sound strange. You okay.”
“Yeah. Fine. I’s livin’ out in the country. This’ns how we alls talk. Sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry about, son. We’ve been so worried. Are you okay?”
“Yes’m. I’s doin’ fine. I guess I best talk with Dad.”
“He loves you, Tim. He just finds it hard that you are defying the Court.”
“Yes’m. I cain’t come in yet, that’s all.”
She yelled for Dad, “Tim’s on the phone, dear.”
To me she said, “You come home soon, you hear me.”
Dad was quickly on the line.
“Where are you, son?”
“Out in the country, Dad. I had ta bring a boy in ta the hospital. First chance ta call ya.”
“You listen to me, Tim. You must turn yourself in. The longer this goes on, the more trouble you’re in. You’ve always accepted the consequences of your actions. You’ll be an adult soon. You need to finish drug rehab and clear your juvenile record.”
“Don’t ask me to do the wrong thing. You will not get out of this situation without standing up and being a man. Stop taking the easy way out.”
“Do you think this has been easy for me? I’ve lived on my own for four mouths.”
“You have a long way to go before you’re a responsible adult.”
I hung up without saying goodbye. I knew he still loved me. He sure had a strange way of showing it.
Walking back into the living room, I saw Mr. Stone give me an inquiring look. I just shook my head, “Dad isn’t about to forgive me.”
“How’s my favorite son?” Mommy asked.
I smiled, “He’s as feisty as ever. Thank you so much. I needed that call.”
“Well, join your friend and get some food. You look starved,” she instructed me. Their good manners kept ‘em from asking embarrassing questions.
“Where’s ya bin at?” Vic asked. “I’s ‘bout to eat your plate. That Isabel’s a mighty fine cook. This here’s called a BLT.”
“Black lives tale?”
“No, stupid, bacon lettuce ‘n tamata.”
“If’n you’s wants mo,’ jist say so.”
“Naw. Only spoil myself fer rice ‘n beans.”
“Ya wanna git high?” I whispered.
“Does the Pope shit in the woods?”
“Hush. They’s all Catholics here.”
Once we were finished, I thanked the Stones.Vic and I drove me Robby’s. I hoped that Mary would get Flo to come over. I needed someone to love me. We knocked on Robby’s window. Vic didn’t think it odd we didn’t use the front door.
“He yer dealer?”
“An’ the drummer. Check it out,” I told him how to hold the joint where there was a hole poked through.
“Just pile in. Everybody else does,” Robby called from inside his room..
I pushed myself up and in. Then I helped pull Vic in. It was as if nothing had changed since I first started getting high. Dave, Jazz, Dawn and Mary were either on the bed or floor while Robby lorded over the gang in his arm-chair.
“Tim. You’re back. Come to get high and undo all the drug rehab?” Robby needled me. “Who’s the stranger”
“Howdy. Is y’alls in False Gods?”
“That band’s history,” Robby pronounced. “We’ve moved on.”
“Vic’s in my new band, the Hillbilly Brothers. We’s doin’ Country now.”
“Shur thing,” Vic confirmed.
They looked at me in shock. Then they all were laughing and came over to hug me and slap me on the back.
“Well, y’all gonna welcome us with a smoke?” I asked.
Robby reached behind his ear and brought out the perfunctory joint. He lit it and handed it to Vic. Everyone watched intensely, ready to laugh about the Robby Special. Vic looked at it, found the hole, covered it and inhaled deeply. He coughed and sputtered from the hit.
“This is some fine shit,” he pronounced after getting his breath back, passing me the joint.
“Primo Jamaican Ganja,” Robby beamed.
Vic and I looked at each other, high as kites on one hit. We smiled and broke into ‘One Toke Over the Line.”
Dave did the high chorus of ‘sail aways.’ I missed Tom’s cracked voice, making me realize how much I did love him.
“We gots a new band, The Hillbilly Brothers, tryin’ ta make babies wid each other.” I announced.
Everyone wanted to know what had happened, so I told the Tale of ‘Gatorsaurus at Alligator Alley. After Robby brought out the bong, I asked Mary if she could get Flo to come over. She suggested we all meet at Michael’s.
“Where’s Hippie?” I asked. “Heard he’s married and all.”
“Yeah, that bitch of his won’t let him out until he gits her pregnant,” Dave said.
“Sounds like a true Hillbilly Brother, too,” I decided. “Get ‘im ta meets us’n at Michael’s. We gonna be a’jammin’.”
“No way I’m goin’ over there,” Robby stated.
“Ferget yer beefs with Michael. He’s yer best friend.”
Robby looked at his feet. Then he jumped up. “We’ll invade his ass.”
“That’s doubtful,” Dave remarked. “But I know he’s ready to play again.”
We jumped into the back of Vic’s pickup, with Mary and Robby in the front. I was in the back where everyone was hugging me. Dawn grabbed me and told them to’ stop being so gay.” Everyone laughed. Flo was waiting outside Michael’s, grabbing me the second we arrived. Dawn relented but looked regretful. I still had my charms. Vic looked pleased for me, knowing I had a woman. He went up to Edi and introduced himself.
“How old are you?” she demanded to know.
“Twenty three, honey. Old enough to know better but still young enough to try.”
Edi and Flo both giggled.
Michael came to the door, telling us not to bother him, when he saw Robby and his whole gang. Then he saw me. He lit up like the Roman candle he was.
“Tim. You’ve returned. Wanna jam?” as he led us into the music room. This was one of my happy places. I picked up an electric guitar for the first time in months. It was badly out of tune, which I set about fixing.
Vic came over, “Ur gonna play wid ur ol’ band?”
“Hell, no,” I was starting to feel like my old self. “We’s gonna play ‘em sum country music. Ya ready?”
“I ain’t never play me no ‘lectric guitar.”
“Here.” I handed the guitar I had tuned. “Jist think it’s that beat-up acoustic you like. Be amazed at wot sound ya kin git with an amp.”
I stood up and addressed everyone. I saw new people coming in, including Jimmy Olsen.
“I’s so happy ta see y’all again. There bein’ times I thought this ain’t never gonna happen agin.”
“Tell us where ya been, Tim,” Dave shouted.
“Hell. Me and my buddy Vic here will tell ya that story in a song. We’s part o’ my new band, The Hillbilly Brothers. See if’n ya kin keeps up.” I picked up a second guitar, tuning it quickly.
I whispered to Vic, “Truckin’. He looked a little lost until I strummed the opening blues chords.
‘Truckin’ got my chips cashed in. Kept truckin’, like the do-dah man
Together, more or less in line, just kept truckin’ on…
Out of the door and down on the streets all alone….
Truckin’, I’m a goin’ home. Whoa whoa baby, back where I belong…
Hey now get back truckin’ home.’
Writer(s): Bob Weir, Philip Lesh, Robert Hunter, Jerry Garcia
Copyright: Ice Nine Publishing Co. Inc.
“Ya back for good, Tim?”
“Naw. Still gots John Law on my ass. Jist popped in ta say hello and show I ain’t done yet.”
I told Vic ‘Me & Bobby McGee.’
“These were the songs we had been playing at the campground.” Vic liked the sound he was getting from the amp. He had a big grin on. More people had come in. I told Michael to get a tape recorder, so we’d have it for posterity.
‘Busted flat in Lauderdale, waitin’ for a ride
And I’s feelin’ near as faded as my jeans
Tommy thumbed a pickup down, just a’fore it rained
He rode us all the way to Sawgrass Dreams
I pulled my harpoon out of my dirty red bandanna
I was playin’ soft while Tommy sang the blues, yeah
Windshield wipers slappin’ time, I was holdin’ Tommy’s hand in mine
We sang most every song that driver knew (I pointed at Vic)
Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
Nothin’, don’t mean nothin’ man if it ain’t free, no no’
FOSTER, FRED L / KRISTOFFERSON, KRIS
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Everybody was just watching us. That was no fun.
“Y’all gonna jist sit on yer asses. Robby, spark one up.”
As he pulled the joint I knew he had behind his ear, I saw that Hippie had arrived. My heart jumped in joy.
“Finally, a real country boy. Git up here up Greg Boy.”
It took him a second to realize I meant him and several more to get his bass. Vic and I started in on ‘One Toke..’
“Now, we know, Hippie, ya ain’t givin’ in ta Satan’s temptations, ‘less there’s groupies around.” I looked out to about 30 people jammed into the music room, smiling directly at Flo and Edi, who jumped and started a slow deadhead dance for Hippie. Soon there were at least ten girls dancing. It was too much for Robby and Michael, who jumped on their drum kits and joined in the country jam.
“All the goodness inside this here boy helped me through all the bad times I’s had, alone and lost in a world that only had hate fer me.” I had an arm around Hippie. “He has the faith and shared it with us all. This song’s fer you, Hippie Boy,” as we played ‘Shine a Light on me.
Everyone looked at us in amazement. Was the band back? Who was this adult playing guitar? What happened to rock n roll? Was Country the next thing?
“I gots ta take a break. I’s jist plum’ wore out.” I looked at Flo, who jumped up and held me as I tried to get steady on my feet. She led me to the secret make out spot. She knew what was good for me.
We had made out for a good while, when I heard Mike Sr.’s voice.
“What’s going on? I thought you boys weren’t playing any more. And who’s this?”
“I’s Vic, sir, Pleased ta meetcha.”
“You have the boys playing again? I’m Mike, Vic. Michael’s dad.
“Huck and I’s been showin’ the boys what we’s playin’ at the campground, sir.”
“Huck? Not many boys use that name anymore.
“Well, that explains that.”
“Git over here, Huck. Explain ourselves, won’tcha.”
I looked around the corner. Mike Sr.’s mouth dropped a mile. I knew I was in trouble.
“Sorry, Mike. I knowed I ain’t ‘sposed ta be here.”
“You’re damn right you’re not. What am I supposed to do? I have to turn you in.”
“Cain’t ya jist say you knows where we’s at. Let us ‘scape ta where we’s come from.”
“I should have known you were behind getting the boys to play again. Did you even think what a spot you put me in. I’m an officer of the court. I cannot hide you from the authorities.”
“I know. We jist gots carried away. I ain’t bin so happy since I was sent away.”
“Your tears won’t work on me, Tim. Now get out of here before I change my mind.”
Vic and I started for the door, with everyone following after us. Jimmy Olsen grabbed my arm. “I’m going with you. You need the Press on your side. This story is bigger than you.”
“Ya gots no idea where I’s goin’.”
“Just humor me. Hi, I’m Jimmy Olsen,” he said to Vic.
“Vic said, “I got no clue what’s jist gone down, but jump in. We’s goin’ back to Lauderdale to check on Tom.”
We all jumped in the pickup, me riding pussy, of course. The fans crowded around as Michael tried to apologize for his dad.
“Don’t sweat the small things, Michael. I knew he couldn’t see me without a fuss.”
“He really feels badly that he hasn’t been able to help you.”
“’S’cool. We’s jist wanna sees y’all. Don’t give up on the band yet. I’s talked with Jack today. He’s as sad a sack as ya kin imagine. Git his dad ta lets ya call him. The boy’s hurtin’ too.”
Off we went. I could see Robby shaking his head at me. It felt sad and good that they missed me. Flo waved with a big smile on her face.
“So how did you meet Tim?” Jimmy started interviewing Vic.”
“Well, it was jist like we sang. They was busted flat in Lauderdale, lookin’ fer a ride as I drove by. I pulled out a joint and they started singin’ ‘One Toke over the Line.” So ya say his real name’s Tim?”
“What did he tell ya?”
“They always says they’s Tom & Huck, but I went along ‘cause they was jist kids lookin’ for adventure.”
I whispered to Jimmy, “Ya cain’t be interviewin’ Vic. He don’t know we’s escapees. He’d be arrested for knowingly harboring criminals.”
“You’re hardly criminals,” Jimmy whispered back.
“Ya don’ts knows all the charges against us since I had that sip o’ beer.”
“Will you talk to me later so I can get the correct story out. Dade County says you’re in drug rehab.”
“That’s a crock. But I’s gonna tell ya later. Okay?”
“What’s yer all whisperin’ ‘bout?” Vic demanded.
“Jist not ta ruin yer life by gittin’ it in the papers.”
“Whoo eee. The legend of Vic and False Gods. Ya really a reporter? I thinks I’s in Wonderland with Huckleberry Finn and Superman’s sidekick Jimmy Olsen.”
“Yeah. We’s all down the rabbit hole.”
“Yer boys looked mighty shocked now that’s Huck’s a’gone country.”
“They cain’t do nothin’ ‘bouts that.”
“Yer band’s all rich boys, huh?”
“Jist Jack an’ Michael. I’s like livin’ wid the Widow Douglas, jist like Huck Finn.”
“I gits it. Yer in like Flynn with them rich kids. Yer famous, man.”
“Cain’t say that anymore. Jist gittin’ by wid the help’ o’ my friend, Vic.”
He punched me in the arm to show he was pleased. The joys of riding pussy.
“Ya knows the legend o’ Alligator Alley, Jimmy?” Vic prompted our intrepid cub reporter.
“Meaning people go out the Tampa turnpike, never to be seen again?
“Tell ‘im, ‘bouts ‘Gatorsaurus, Huck.”
“More legends?” Jimmy asked.
“Tom and me was a’swimmin’ in the Everglades, when I sees these 4 green knobs comin’ right towards our asses. I yelled ‘gator and Tom jumped on me squealin’ like a stuck pig. We scrambled up the bank and were laffing at the ‘gator ‘cause we’d ‘scaped. He came outta the water with his jaws wide open and legs goin’ 50 mile a’ hour. I pushed Tom up a tree and clamber’d right up his ass. We sats there on a branch, naked as jay birds while the ‘gator kept snappin’ his jaws and showin’ his big ol’ teeth at us’n. He finally gave up. Tom refused ta sleep in the shelter, ‘fraid the ‘gator’d be back. We walked back to Vic’s. ’Course Tom was soon tellin’ everyone how he was the big hero in defeatin’ ‘Gatorsaurus.”
Jimmy was busy scribbling notes.
“Ya gonna put us in the paper?” Vic asked.
“’Course, long as ya says its okay.” Jimmy was falling into his own good ol’ boy act. “Why not tell me about the new band, The Hillbillies.”
“It’s The Hillybilly Brothers,” Vic corrected.
“Tryin ta make babies wid each other,” I added.
We all laughed.
“So, Huck, when’s I git ta meet ol’ Tom?”
“’Bout five minutes,” Vic noted, as we turned off I-95 into Fort Lauderdale.
I barely remembered how we got to the hospital when we brought Tommy in. It started to look familiar when we got to the right floor. It was late but the nurses said it was okay to visit for a short while. I started to get the tingly feeling in my bare feet, thinking it was the air conditioning. Tommy was awake when we walked into his room.
I ran over and gave him a big hug, while Vic was patting him on the back. His eyes went extra wide open when I told him Jimmy was a reporter for the Miami Herald.
“Ya means I gits to be in the paper?”
“Well, our new band. Vic and I played with the guys tonight and it was recorded. So, probably.”
“Y’all’s got the band together again?”
“Just ta jam and show ‘em how country we is.”
“The Hillbilly Brothers? No shit?”
“We played all the camp songs, plus ‘Shine a Light..’”
“Man, I missed it.” Then he looked suddenly sad. “Was Jack there?”
“Naw, he’s locked up in Europe in a Catholic seminary. I did talk wid ‘im by phone.”
“He misses ya, don’ts he?”
“Yeah, he’s pretty sad.”
“Y’all is okay?”
“Yeah, we got so smoked out, Vic tripped on an electric guitar. Clean fergot he’d never played one.’
“We’s really gots a band?”
“Well, once ya gits better, we kin make a plan. How’s the foot?”
“’S fine. My head’s woozy like a bee without honey.”
Suddenly a chunky football type came marching in.
“Tommy, ya little shit. Git yer skinny ass outs that bed. Yer comin’ home.”
Tommy shrunk back against the head of the bed, shaking harder than he did when we faced ‘Gatersaurus.”
“Yer Tommy’s brother, ain’t cha.” I stepped between them.
“Who the fuck is you?”
“I’s his new brother. The one who stands up fer ‘im to you.”
He didn’t hestitate one second, throwing a punch at my head. Still quick enough, I ducked and threw a hard right to his balls, straightenin’ him out. I came up with an uppercut. He went down fast.
“Stay down, asshole, if’n ya knows wots good fer ya,” I warned him, with my right foot on his neck.
“Whoo eee. Git him Huck. I never seen ‘im down afore,” Tommy was beside himself.
Vic reverted to hippie status and just watched. Jimmy had his camera out, recording the fight. The nurses came running and shortly thereafter Hospital Security arrived.
“Wot’s goin’ on here?” a large security officer asked.
“The boy on the ground threatened Tom. When Huck stepped in, he threw a punch which missed. Huck took him down and has him under arrest,” Jimmy had all the facts, intrepid as ever.
The guard put cuffs on Tommy’s bully brother, leading him out of the room.
The bully yelled, “He’s my brother. He’s a runaway.”
I saw an angry white trash adult storming down the ward corridor.
“Stay with Tom,” I told Vic. Then I grabbed Jimmy, “We gots to leave. Now!”
In the confusion we made our getaway. I led Jimmy to a seawall beside the Inland Waterway. We sat on the wall to catch our breath.
“I kept hearing you liked to fight, but that’s the first time I seen it.”
“Hell, first night in juvie I’s in three fights. Won ‘em all widout throwin’ a punch. That guy right now, he was big.”
“The harder they fall,” Jimmy giggled, getting me to smile.
“Ya gots money?” I asked.
He showed me a credit card.
“Let’s go to the Beach and gets us a room.”
“I ain’t that way, Tim,” he protested.
“Naw. I promised ya the full story, if’n yer still interest’d.”
We walked over to a bridge across the Waterway and settled into a booth at an all night Sambo’s. The food made me drowsy, so Jimmy helped me to the nearest motel. The clerk looked at Jimmy suspiciously, asking how old I was. I just shook my head, while Jimmy looked embarrassed. I could have cared less.
I slept late after my big day. I was out of partying practice from living in the wild. Jimmy got me up in time for breakfast at Sambo’s again.
“Gimme those pancakes. I’ll make them tigers run round ‘til they’s turned to butter,” I told the waitress, who just smiled at a joke she’d heard a thousand times before.
“Ya ain’t lost yer sense of humor,” Jimmy smiled.
“An’ you’s caught an accent,” I mocked him.
“The Hillbilly Brothers tryin’ ta make babies wid each other?”
“Ya like that one?”
“I’m down the rabbit hole again.”
“Ain’t that the truth?”
“How ‘bouts we go back up the room an’ y’all tells me yer story. That way, I’ll git my expenses.
“Yer gittin’ purdy good there, wid the accent.”
“Yer infectious, Huck.”
“Shur thing, Jim Bob.”
We sat in the room for the rest of the day. First I told him the day by day sequence of the last six months since Skynyrd. Then I went back over the whys of the important incidents; why I was to blame for Max’s death; why the canine unit was trying to cover up their actions; how Robby, Tom Petty and Ronnie Van Zandt incited the fans to break down the fences; why Dad wouldn’t back me up with the police and I ended up in juvie; why I got into all those fights at first; why Tommy saw me as his hero and latched onto me; why The Program was so screwed; why we had to escape and how we made it through the swampy Everglades; how Mike Sr. and Jay didn’t help me with my legal troubles; Why we stayed out in the ‘Glades for so long; why we told everyone we were country boys from Central Florida on a summer escape from the farm; why no one could know the truth without being accessories; and finally, how he as a reporter could be told it all. I left out all the sex parts because it was a story, not a porno.
Jimmy promised to clear everything with Mike Sr. before giving it to the Herald. I called Jay, still using the Max deBowser alias.
“Max. Mike says your master, Tim, showed up last night. He’s mighty perturbed.”
“I tried to keep out of his way, but he wasn’t to be denied.”
“Mike had to notify the Court. He wants you to come in. We need your direct testimony about conditions at the Program.”
“I’m here with our friend Jimmy from the Herald. He’s gonna interview the boy I escaped with. The boy knows exactly how they operate.”
“I better be there fer that interview, too.”
“Ya best git there soon. His asshole family found out where he is. They shure ain’t gonna let ‘im testify if’n they can stop it.”
“Let me talk to Jimmy so’s we kin arrange it.”
“I’m gonna leave today again. I’ll stay in touch. Ya gots ta get Mike to clear me ‘fore I’s comin’ back.”
We went to an instant photo kiosk to have his film developed. They were dynamite, from the jam at Michael’s, my farewell, our ride up I-95, and the fight at the hospital. He took some posed pix at the motel pool. The clerk kept giving me the evil eye. My feet started tingling again. They were saying to hit the road.
“I cain’t ask where you’ll go next and don’t tell me. I know you’ll land on yer feet.”
“Ya ain’t heard the last o’ me yet, Jim Bob.”
He reached into his wallet and handed me all the cash he had. I looked into his eyes, pocketed the cash, and it was time to go. The clerk had seen the transaction and was reaching for the phone. I couldn’t help myself from giving Jimmy a total lip-lock kiss – no tongue, though.
“Ya don’ts havta put that in the story.”
“Only if’n I sell it to the Rolling Stone.”
I was out onto the street, putting out my thumb after turning left on A-1-A. I was a Parrothead, whistling ‘Wasted Away Again in Margaritaville.’