The next few days we enjoy camp life. I make Tom help me dig a latrine, away from the shelter and cooking area. We eat so little that it really isn’t needed. Boiling water appear unnecessary as we don’t suffer ill effects from drinking the water in the swamp. We throw the fish remains into the swamp, so there’s no garbage. I teach Tom how to catch catfish. He whoops and hollers when his first fish is scooped out. We wash our clothes daily, leaving them to dry on tree branches while we fish and swim in the nude. Tom is ever vigilant to the return of ‘Gatorsaurus. The hatchet is good at cracking open the coconuts. The knife makes it easy to scoop out the coconut meat. Our sex life calms down after the night of the Panther orgy (as we call it). I pursue a ‘we’s brothers’ attitude, showing him affection but not heeding his emotional ups and downs. Penetrating him at the end of the Panther orgy may have left him ambivalent about going any further. I was inside him less than a minute. It makes me uncomfortable that I screwed someone so young. We generally jack off together and sometimes do each other. Besides being two years younger, I’m not sure he is really gay, just acting out his hero-worship of me, as Scott did. I smile when I remembered what I was like at 14 with Joey and Scott. Tom reminds me that his 15th birthday is coming up. I tell him he’ll still have another year to go until the traditional 16th birthday orgy. That tradition really interests him. He’s pleased that I believe we’ll 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 whines.
“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 whines.
“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 too 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 looks bereft. “I ain’t leavin’. Yer my brother,” and he hugs me.
“I’m glad,” I hug him back.
“Tom & Huck fer ever.”
“In like Flynn.”
“I ain’t lettin’ ya in ta me ever agin,” he winks at me.
I tackled him, pulled down his jeans and suck hard on his stiff dick. He does the same to me, a classic 69.
Afterward, we wash off in the swamp.
“Ain’t the same, ’tis it,” Tom observes. “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 take down the shelter, storing all the material for the next time. We cover 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 come along.”
“Whatever. Y’all jist has ta make me work my ass off.
I slap his naked butt. “There’s still a bit left there.”
We say goodbye to Camp #1 and walked out to the highway and toward the Sawgrass Campground. Vic isn’t back from work, so I sit on his trailer’s doorstep. Tom goes to find the young residents he has made friends with. When Vic returns, he smiles and makes me feel welcome. I had turned down sleeping with him and worry 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 much attached 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 drive to town. Jay answers 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 says, 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 hang up and go 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 speed back to the campground. Tom is pumped we’re on a wanted poster. He’s never been a celebrity before. Vic gives 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 feeds us rice and beans until our stomachs can take no more. Vic hugs us goodbye.
I put the pot on Tom’s head and we walk out of the campground. Our misdirection has the Program cops looking for us on Alligator Alley going west. We head north up Route 27. There isn’t much traffic. Every time we hear a car or truck, we hide off the side of the road. After nightfall there are no cars. We make good time. I figure we will find another hummock leading into the Everglades where we can set up camp #2. After keeping up pretty well, Tom suddenly is exhausted. We had walked ten miles already. We nestle in a hollow off the road and are quickly asleep. The rain holds off that night, which I appreciate. It does make me worry that Fall is coming sooner than later.
Tom wakes up first. When I open my eyes. he’s sitting next to me, watching me sleep.
“Ready fer our next a’venture?” he asks. “Jist down the road.”
I smile and nod.
“I loves bein’ ur brother, Huck. First time anyones ever loved me, ya knows that, don’tcha?”
I keep 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 pull him into a hug. “I never had 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 kisses me.
“We’s good brothers, ain’t we,” as I kiss him back.
“Shur ‘em, Huck.”
“Shur ‘em. Tom.”
That morning we follow several hummocks that end in the swamp without being a good camp site there. We backtrack to the road and walk further north. Places where there is swamp on both sides of the road are a quandary. If a car or truck comes along, we’d have nowhere to hide. I look out into the swamp and see a hummock rising from the swamp about 100 yards away from the road.
“We’ll head out there ‘bouts,” I indicate 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 nods and takes a deep breath.
“We’ll be safe out there. Hold my hand,” I reach out to him.
“No, Huck. I gots this,” as he steps into the water.
Nothing spooky or scary happens. Soon we reach the hummock.
“Gettin’ purdy brave there, boy,” I congratulate him once we’re back on dry land. “Jist so’s ya knows, we ain’t ever goin’ back,” I tell him.
He nods and looks determined. At least we’re not sissy boys.
The hummock is more like an island, going off in several directions. We find a tall tree at least a half mile from the road. No one will know we’re camping there. It takes a couple of days to set up a total campsite. Vic gave 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 boil our water over a small fire. We don’t want anyone noticing our smoke. After finishing the camp, we set out to explore our island. I want to be sure it’s in no way connected to the road. That’s when we discover a whole colony of chickens. A big old rooster comes charging out at us, I guess to defend his hen harem. Tom hides behind me as I kick it before it can peck at me. The rooster retreats while we investigate the hens. ‘”Look,” Tom exclaims. “They’s all got eggs.”
We shoo the hens off their nests and pick up about a half-dozen eggs, causing a big commotion, with the rooster appearing again. Tom chases him away this time.
“I wonder how these eggs’ll taste,” as I eye the feral birds. “Who knows what kinda diet theys had out here.”
I cracked an egg open and find a half-grown chick in soup juice. It looks vile.
“I ain’t eating that,” Tom whines.
I take the knife and cut the top off the next egg. Only yolk and egg white is inside. I slurped down the raw egg. It tasted great after nothing but catfish, rice and beans since we’ve been free.
“Yuck,” Tom sneer. “That’s disgustin’.”
“Naw, trust me. Just slurp it down like an oyster. Good fer ya, too.”
“I hates oysters.”
I hand him the knife. He tentatively chips at the egg until it breaks into a dozen pieces. There was another half-grown chick inside. He flings it away. The next one, he more confidently cracks, sees it’s fetus-free and slurps the contents down.
“Ah, tastes great,” then he barfs it all up. His mind doesn’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 shows me how to cut the stalks which we bring back to the new camp. We husk the rice grains into the pot and boiled them over the fire. At the end we add leftover catfish and cracked fresh (as opposed to fetus) eggs into the mix. We have fish chowder for dinner.
Life at Camp #2 is fun. We fish, sew rice, and steal the hens’ eggs. Neither ‘Gatorsaurus nor the Everglades Panther revisits us. I put off setting up camp #3, feeling totally safe on our hummock island. One day we hear the engine of a small airplane approaching. We douse the fire and hide in the shelter which is well covered by palm fronds. The plane is searching the area near the road. We feel perfectly safe.
That night, Tom asks me to sing to him. We’re lying by the fire, the autumn night still warm and dry. I explain how much Pink Floyd 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 beams.
“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 start singing ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond,’ plunking the intro on Tom’s skinny stomach.
I finally start 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 giggles and hangs onto me for the first verse, seeing himself in the words and giving him hope that he shines like a diamond. After the second verse, his mood darkens. He feels the threat of wearing out his welcome.
“Com’n, we kin sing it like a duo. I’ll 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 sits up and we sing 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 practice the song for at least an hour. After he knows the words and how to hit all the notes, we sing it together. His ear isn’t deaf to the notes. He has a high alto and is nervous about going up too high. I think he feels he sounds like a girl.
“Ya gots a pure, high voice. Let it out.”
That instruction make shim over-confident. He goes back to missing notes. This time he goes above the note he stretches to sing.
With more confidence and me harmonizing him back to the notes when he goes off, we sound 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 ha fallen and the camp s dark, the fire barely burning. I look our across the swamp.
“Look, Tom. We gots our first fan.”
Two eyes glowed in the dark. I can 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 sing
‘I just want somebody to love,’ Tom sings
“I loves ya, Tom,” I impulsively shout
“Whats ‘bout the panther?”
“I loves him, too.”
“Ur crayzy,” Tom sings. “Bets ya git et.”
“No way. That cat loves us both.”
The panther’s tail keep swishing back and forth.
The autumn days roll by with cooler weather, no rain, and mild nights. We swim, wash our clothes, catch fish, cook chowder and sing to each other as the sun goes down. The panther shows up most nights after dark. It isn’t as exciting as the band. We have only nature for socializing, but it’s as much fun as anything. The torture of the Program fades from our memories. The sex tails off as the passion isn’t really there. Tom knows we’re brothers. Not in the way of his bullying older brother, but because we look out for each other and always back each other up. We’d get horny and jerk off together, but it stops going further. Tom matured a lot, growing and being so much more self-confident. I worry I’ll start falling for him as he matures, but it didn’t happen. He asks me about girls, knowing I had girlfriends. I tell him about the escapades and the breakups. He isn’t sure what his feelings are about girls. I know he’ll find out when we return to civilization. It makes me think about being gay – if it’s permanent once you’re an adult. I know it’s easy to go both ways at our age. Most people figure I’m exclusively gay once they know I had boyfriends. Girls seem 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’m lucky I have a boy to love me without all the drama of high school. I think how I’m missing my senior year. Junior year had been so incredible I don’t think I need 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 comes hopping into the camp. He has been out exploring.
“I cuts my foot,” he explains, holding up his leg to show me a gash in the sole of his right foot.
“Let me wash it out,” as I take the water pot off the fire and pour it into a coconut shell we use as a cup. After it cools to a tolerable temperature, I clean out the wound. It’s pretty deep. After two days, his foot looks 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 feel 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 complains. “Give me a few days more ta heal.”
“No way. Ya might lose ur foot if’n its infected.”
That gets his attention.
I douse the fire and hide the shelter. I put him on my back so he won’t step on the wound.
“Yer actin’ silly, Huck. I ain’t no invalid.”
“Shut up and look out fer ‘gators,” I tell him as we slog through the swamp to the road. That gets his attention.
Once out on the road, I flag 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 tells me. “And jump in front.”
I see that Tom is 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 is barely moaning, rocking back and forth. He understands what was said, sitting straight up in protest. He mumbles something. Then he collapses back against the truck’s bed..
I hold his head.
“Best we git our dad so he kin take us in.”
“Whatever ya say but don’t wait too long. Looks like he gots swamp fever.”
My heart sinks, knowing the man is probably right. He drops us at Vic’s Airstream. Luckily Vic is home from work.
“Howdy, boys. Where y’all bin?”
The man speaks 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 grabs some blankets. I stretch Tom out in the truck’s bed, getting in and holding his head.
“Thanks, mister,” I tell 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 tossles my hair and drives away. I feel like a little kid again.
Vic has us quickly to the Ft Lauderdale Hospital Emergency Room.
“Let me handle this,” he says, when the nurse asks about insurance. He tells them Tom is his son and gives them his insurance card. Tom’s wounded foot is properly bandaged and shots of antibiotics administered.
“His fever’s pretty high. We’re gonna admit him to make sure it comes down and observe him overnight,” the nurse tells us after a doctor examined him.
They wheel him into a private room and settle him into bed. He’s still delirious. When I hug him, he opened his eyes, looks around, and refuses to let me go.
“Yer in the hospital, Tom. Yer gonna be fine.”
He seems to understand, but sobs start. We both hang on to each other, sniff back the tears until he falls asleep.
“Com’n, Huck. I’ll buy ya a steak. Ya looks like a scarecrow.” Vic offers.
After my first real meal in months, we look back in on Tom. He’s asleep. The temperature monitor says 100 degrees, which is 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 ask a favor.
“Y’all don’ts feel like goin’ ta Miami, does ya?”
“Shure. Why not. Ya gonna show me yer rock star life?”
An hour later we pull 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 salutes.
While this palaver is going on, Isabelle comes out to see who has arrived.
“Senor Tim,” she exclaims.
“Best call me Huck, Isabelle,” as I stuff 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 follow her in. Mummy and Daddy are by the pool, having their afternoon libation.
“Tim,” they both cry.
“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 opens her arms to me.
When I reach out and am pulled into a hug, I sob 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 answers. “And, please just call me Dad. Daddy’s okay but Johnny has stopped doing that as well.”
He reaches out and shakes my hand. I can’t help it and pull him into a tentative hug, for about two seconds. They both smile at me.
“And your older friend?” Mommy queries.
“This is Vic, he rescued us yesterday. I promised to show him Miami.”
“Have you had anything to eat, Vic,” she asks.
“No. ma’am. Nots yet,” he answers.
“Isabelle, can you take Vic into the kitchen and fix him and Tim some food.”
Vic follows 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 laugh. Huck is laughing at me. I could strangle him. I’m too excited to care about Huck right now.
“Tim, not to dampen your enthusiasm, but after calling Johnny, I have to insist that you call your dad,” Mr. Stone tells me.
“’Course.” I’m tempted to say that Dad will only tell me to turn myself in. I realize that the Stones don’t know they’re harboring a fugitive. I just have to speak with Jack. I can only stay here long enough for a call.
I sit there trying to think what I’ll say, but nothing feels right. Mr. Stone is speaking French into the phone. He hands it to me. I almost drop it.
“It’s okay, Tim. They went to get him. He’ll be as happy as you are to talk.” He leave me by myself.
Finally, Jack comes on the line.
“I told you I cannot have calls at night,” he sounds so snotty.
“Always whinin’, ain’t cha?” Huck takes over.
“Tim! Oh my god. Oh my god.”
“Yes, My son.”
“I miss you so much,” now he’s 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 miss you so much. I thinks ‘bouts ya every day.” I’m suddenly overwhelmed about all we lost. I start crying.
“Don’t cry. I can’t stand it,” and he’s 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’s 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 feed us. We sit around singing hippie songs.”
He laughs. Then seriously he asks, “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’s 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 mix 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 say it’s too gay.”
“Aw, man. I’ll never see it.”
Suddenly a man comes 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 leave ya.”
The line goes dead.
I ‘m drained. As promised, I dial my house. Luckily Susan picks 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 all 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 yells for Dad, “Tim’s on the phone, dear.”
To me she said, “You come home soon, you hear me.”
Dad is 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 hang up without saying goodbye. I know he still loves me. He sure has a strange way of showing it.
Walking back into the living room, I see Mr. Stone give me an inquiring look. I just shake my head, “Dad isn’t about to forgive me.”
“How’s my favorite son?” Mommy asks.
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 instructs me. Their good manners keep them from asking embarrassing questions.
“Where’s ya bin at?” Vic asks. “I’s ‘bout to eat your plate. That Isabel’s a mighty fine cook. This here’s called a BLT.”
“Blacks live too?”
“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 whisper.
“Does the Pope shit in the trees?”
“Hush. They’s all Catholics here.”
Once we’re finished, I thank the Stones. Vic and I drive me Robby’s. I hope that Mary will get Flo to come over. I need someone to love me. We knock on Robby’s window. Vic doesn’t think it odd we don’t use the front door.
“He yer dealer?”
“An’ the drummer. Check it out,” I tell him how to hold the joint where there is a hole poked through it.
“Just pile in. Everybody else does,” Robby calls from inside his room..
I push myself up and in. Then I help pull Vic in. It’s as if nothing has changed since I first started getting high. Dave, Jazz, Dawn and Mary were either on the bed or floor while Robby lords over his gang in his arm-chair.
“Tim. You’re back. Come to get high and undo all the drug rehab?” Robby needles me. “Who’s the stranger”
“Howdy. Is y’alls in False Gods?”
“That band’s history,” Robby pronounces. “We’ve moved on.”
“Vic’s in my new band, the Hillbilly Brothers. We’s doin’ Country now.”
“Shure thing,” Vic confirms.
They look at me in shock. Then they all are laughing and come over to hug me and slap me on the back.
“Well, y’all gonna welcome us with a smoke?” I ask.
Robby reaches behind his ear and brings out the perfunctory joint. He lights it and hands it to Vic. Everyone watches intensely, ready to laugh about the Robby Special. Vic looks at it, finds the hole, covers it and inhales deeply. He coughs and sputters from the hit.
“This is some fine shit,” he pronounces after getting his breath back, passing me the joint.
“Primo Jamaican Ganja,” Robby beams.
Vic and I look at each other, high as kites on one hit. We smile and broke into ‘One Toke Over the Line.”
Dave does the high chorus of ‘sail aways.’ I miss Tom’s cracked voice, making me realize how much I do love him.
“We gots a new band, The Hillbilly Brothers, tryin’ ta make babies wid each other.” I announce.
Everyone wants to know what has happened, so I tell the Tale of ‘Gatorsaurus at Alligator Alley. After Robby brings out the bong, I ask Mary if she can get Flo to come over. She suggests we all meet at Michael’s.
“Where’s Hippie?” I ask. “Heard he’s married and all.”
“Yeah, that bitch of his won’t let him out until he gits her pregnant,” Dave says.
“Sounds like a true Hillbilly Brother, too,” I decide. “Get ‘im ta meets us’n at Michael’s. We gonna be a’jammin’.”
“No way I’m goin’ over there,” Robby state.
“Ferget yer beefs with Michael. He’s yer best friend.”
Robby looks at his feet. Then he jumps up. “We’ll invade his ass.”
“That’s doubtful,” Dave remarks. “But I know he’s ready to play again.”
We jump into the back of Vic’s pickup, with Mary and Robby in the front. I’m in the back where everyone is hugging me. Dawn grabs me and tells them to’ stop being so gay.” Everyone laughs. Flo is waiting outside Michael’s, grabbing me the second we arrive. Dawn relents but looks regretful. I still have my charms. Vic looks pleased for me, knowing I have a woman. He goes up to Edi and introduces himself.
“How old are you?” she demands to know.
“Twenty three, honey. Old enough to know better but still young enough to try.”
Edi and Flo both giggle.
Michael comes to the door, telling us not to bother him, after he sees Robby and his whole gang. Then he sees me. He lights up like the Roman candle he is.
“Tim. You’ve returned. Wanna jam?” as he leads us into the music room. This is one of my happy places. I pick up an electric guitar for the first time in months. It’s badly out of tune, which I set about fixing.
Vic comes 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 hand him the guitar I just tuned. “Jist think it’s that beat-up acoustic you like. Be amazed at wot sound ya kin git with an amp.”
I stand up and addresses everyone. I see new people coming in, including Jimmy Olsen.
“I’s so happy ta see y’all. There bein’ times I thought this ain’t never gonna happen agin.”
“Tell us where ya been, Tim,” Dave shouts.
“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 pick up a second guitar, tuning it quickly.
I whispered to Vic, “Truckin’. He looks 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 poppin’ in ta say hello and show I ain’t done yet.”
I told Vic ‘Me & Bobby McGee.’
“These are the songs we’ve been playing at the campground.” Vic likes the sound he’s getting from the amp. He has a big grin on. More people have come in. I tell Michael to set up the tape recorder, so we have the jam 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 is just watching us. That’s no fun.
“Y’all gonna jist sit on yer asses. Robby, spark one up.”
As he pulls out the joint I know he has behind his ear, I see that Hippie has arrived. My heart jumps in joy.
“Finally, a real country boy. Git up here up Greg Boy.”
It takes him a second to realize I mean him and several more to get his bass. Vic and I start in on ‘One Toke..’
“Now, we know, Hippie, ya ain’t givin’ in ta Satan’s temptations, ‘less there’s groupies around.” I look out at about 30 people jammed into the music room, smiling directly at Flo and Edi, who jump and start a slow deadhead dance for Hippie. Soon there were at least ten girls dancing. It’s too much for Robby and Michael, who jump on their drum kits and join 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 have an arm around Hippie. “He has the faith and shared it with us all. This song’s fer you, Hippie Boy,” as we play ‘Shine a Light on me.
Everyone looks at us in amazement. Was the band back? Who’s this adult playing guitar? What happened to rock n roll? Is Country the next thing?
“I gots ta take a break. I’s jist plum’ wore out.” I look at Flo, who jumps up and holds me as I try to get steady on my feet. She leads me to the secret make out spot. She knows what’s good for me.
We make 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 look around the corner. Mike Sr.’s mouth drops a mile. I know I’m in real 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 start for the door, with everyone following after us. Jimmy Olsen grabs 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 says to Vic.
“Vic says, “I got no clue what’s jist gone down, but jump in. We’s goin’ back to Lauderdale to check on Tom.”
We all jump in the pickup, me riding pussy, of course. The fans crowd around as Michael tries 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 go. I can see Robby shaking his head at me. It feels sad and good that they miss me. Flo waves with a big smile on her face.
“So how did you meet Tim?” Jimmy starts 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 adventures.”
I whisper to Jimmy, “Ya cain’t be interviewin’ Vic. He don’t know we’s escapees. He’ll be arrested for knowingly harboring criminals.”
“You’re hardly a criminal,” Jimmy whispers back.
“Ya don’t 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 demands.
“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 punches me on the arm to show he’s pleased. The joys of riding pussy.
“Ya knows the legend o’ Alligator Alley, Jimmy?” Vic prompts our intrepid cub reporter.
“Meaning people go out the Tampa turnpike, never to be seen again?
“Tell ‘im, ‘bouts ‘Gatorsaurus, Huck.”
“More legends?” Jimmy asks.
“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 sat 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 gives up. Tom refuses 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 s busy scribbling notes.
“Ya gonna put us in the paper?” Vic asks.
“’Course, long as ya says its okay.” Jimmy is falling into his own good ol’ boy act. “Why not tell me about the new band, The Hillbillies.”
“It’s The Hillybilly Brothers,” Vic corrects.
“Tryin ta make babies wid each other,” I add.
We all laugh.
“So, Huck, when’s I git ta meet ol’ Tom?”
“’Bout five minutes,” Vic notes, as we turned off I-95 into Fort Lauderdale.
I barely remember how we got to the hospital when we brought Tommy in. It starts to look familiar when we get to the right hospital floor. It’s late but the nurses say it’s okay to visit for a short while. I start to get the tingly feeling in my bare feet, thinking it’s just the air conditioning. Tommy is awake when we walk into his room.
I run over and give him a big hug, while Vic is patting him on the back. His eyes go extra wide open when I tell him Jimmy is 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 looks 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’t 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 comes marching in.
“Tommy, ya little shit. Git yer skinny ass outs that bed. Yer comin’ home.”
Tommy shrinks back against the head of the bed, shaking harder than he did when we faced ‘Gatersaurus.”
“Yer Tommy’s brother, ain’t cha.” I step between them.
“Who the fuck is you?”
“I’s his new brother. The one who stands up fer ‘im to you.”
He doesn’t hestitate one second, throwing a punch at my head. Still quick enough, I duck and throw a hard right to his balls, straightenin’ him up. I come back with an uppercut. He goes down fast.
“Stay down, asshole, if’n ya knows wots good fer ya,” I warn him, with my right foot on his neck.
“Whooeee. Git him Huck. I never seen ‘im down afore,” Tommy is beside himself.
Vic reverts to hippie status and just watches. Jimmy had his camera out and recorded the fight. The nurses come running and shortly thereafter Hospital Security arrive.
“Wot’s goin’ on here?” a large security officer asks.
“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 has all the facts, intrepid as ever.
The guard put cuffs on Tommy’s bully brother, leading him out of the room.
The bully yells, “He’s my brother. He’s a runaway.”
I see an angry white trash adult storming down the ward corridor.
“Stay with Tom,” I tell Vic. Then I grab Jimmy, “We gots to leave. Now!”
In the confusion we make our getaway. I lead Jimmy to a seawall beside the Inland Waterway. We sit 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 kid right now, he was big.”
“The harder they fall,” Jimmy giggles, getting me to smile.
“Ya gots money?” I ask.
He showed me a credit card.
“Let’s go to the Beach and gets us a room.”
“I ain’t that way, Tim,” he protests.
“Naw. I promised ya the full story, if’n yer still interest’d.”
We walk over a bridge across the Waterway and settle into a booth at an all night Sambo’s. The food makes me drowsy, so Jimmy helps me to the nearest motel. The clerk looks at Jimmy suspiciously, asking how old I am. I just shake my head, while Jimmy looks embarrassed. I can care less.
I sleep late after my big day. I’m out of partying practice from living in the wild. Jimmy gets me up in time for breakfast at Sambo’s again.
“Gimme those pancakes. I’ll make them tigers run round ‘n round ‘til they’s turned to butter,” I tell the waitress, who just smiles at a joke she’s heard a thousand times before.
“Ya ain’t lost yer sense of humor,” Jimmy smile.
“An’ you’s caught an accent,” I mock 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?”
“Hows ‘bout we go back up the room an’ y’alls tell 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 sit in the room for the rest of the day. First I tell him the day by day sequence of the last six months since Skynyrd. Then I go back over the whys of the important incidents; why ‘m to blame for Max’s death; why the canine unit is trying to cover up their actions; how Robby, Tom Petty and Ronnie Van Zandt incited the fans to break down the fences; why Dad won’t back me up with the police which is how I ended up in juvie; why I got into all those fights at first; why Tommy sees me as his hero and latched onto me; why The Program is 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 leave out all the sex parts because it’s a news story, not a porno.
Jimmy promises to clear everything with Mike Sr. before giving it to the Herald. I call 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 go to an instant photo kiosk to have the film developed. The photos are dynamite, from the jam at Michael’s, my farewell, our ride up I-95, and the fight at the hospital. He takes some posed pix at the motel pool. The clerk keeps giving me the evil eye. My feet start tingling again. They’re 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 reaches into his wallet and hands me all the cash he has. I look into his eyes, pocket the cash, and it’s time to go. The clerk has seen the transaction and is reaching for the phone. I can’t help myself from giving Jimmy a total lip-lock kiss – no tongue, though.
“Ya don’t havta put that in the story.”
“Only if’n I sell it to the Rolling Stone.”
I ‘m out onto the street, putting out my thumb after turning left, heading north on A-1-A. I’m a Parrothead, whistling ‘Wasted Away Again in Margaritaville.’