A Prairie Christmas Chapter 7

The moms had backed us into a corner, insisting they had the final say on what our band, The Triplets, was allowed to play. Our first performance at the Downtown (Ames) Coffee Shop set off a near riot. Luckily our new fans, the Ames High football team, led by my new best friend ‘Gator, arrived at the last-minute and saved us from mom control, by taking us bowling. The moms entertained the boys, while we changed into our bowling attire, recently purchased from Goodwill.
‘Wow, y’all have uniforms already,” ‘Gator gushed. “Where can we get our team gear?” Tim 356
“I know just the place,” I assured him.
“We’s bin tellin’ yer moms ‘bout the write-up in the mornin’ newspaper,” as he held up a copy of the Iowa State Daily. “They even mentions us, yer fans.” Iowa_State_Daily_Logo
The girls ran over and started reading aloud our first review.
“Patrons of Friday Open Mic night at the Downtown Coffee Shop were surprised when new trio, The Triplets, ended their performance of folk songs with an electric version of the Stooges rocker, ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog.’ Instant mayhem resulted, as the Ames High football team celebrated that night’s win over Iowa City, by acting out the song’s nonsense call to be dogs. Howling and barking drove the more sedate college folkies out the door, except for a few frat boys who weren’t about to be shown up by the high school crowd. The show ended with at least twenty males writhing on the floor, devoted fans to the new trio. Management was none too pleased watching their regular clientele flee. It is unlikely to see The Triplets back at the Coffee Shop. Hopefully they can be booked as the fight band at next week’s Ames High football game.
The Triplets are Amy, Angie and Andy Muller-Castle, all seniors at Ames High. It was good to see youthful energy kick out the jams.”

“What a great idea. Kin y’all play at the Friday fight rally?”
I was sure ‘Gator could arrange it. “What’s ya think, moms?” we all asked.
“We’ll discuss it later,” was their final decision.

It was off to Goodwill, to outfit the Aims High, Bowls Straight, Ten Pin team. The twins and I were seated in ‘Gator’s Ford F-150.
“What’s the story with your moms,” no beating around the bush for ‘Gator.
The girls looked at each other and shrugged. It was up to me to spill the beans.
“They’ve been together since my mom split from my dad a year ago last summer,” I didn’t make excuses.
“Did ya know yer mom was a lez before she split?”
“She just seemed lost after my dad got a girlfriend. Now I got two moms here and a mom in Miami.”
“That’s cool. ‘Least ya don’t seem like no mama’s boy.”
“Hell. Afta Mom split, all my friends’ moms adopted me. I counted there was seven of them that I was callin’ Mom.”
“That ‘cause everone like’n ya, Andy. Y’all’s just like honey. Maybe’s I be callin’ ya that,” he laughed.
“Maybe I be kickin’ yer ass off’n the bowlin’ team.”
He looked real hurt before punching me in the arm. Tim 442Sweet like honey, that boy.

Goodwill on Saturday morning was buzzing like bees. ‘Gator and the boys (Clarence, Noah, Henry and Buzz) found plenty of polyester for bowling uniforms. None of us matched, but together, there was little doubt we were off to the bowling alley. Nice to be setting a new fashion trend. I explained that bowling was a team sport with each boy teamed with a girl. ‘Gator chose Amy for his partner, so I had Angela. The boys were stuck with each other until they could recruit girls for themselves. Girl friends were excluded, as they had to be cheerleaders. The eight of us took adjoining alleys and the competition was on. The lanes were not busy, as leagues met on weeknights. There were a few younger kids rolling, who thought of the high school jocks as their heroes. Soon they were our cheering section. Once they realized how terrible we were, they became our ten-year-old coaches, yelling tips and encouragement. Tim 151 ‘Gator was the only one to break 100 on any game. We promised we’d keep practicing and become competitive. We ate bad pizza once we finished. ‘Gator and I spoke with the manager about sponsoring us as a high school sport. He promised to reserve lanes on Saturday mornings for practice and eventual competition with other high schools. School bowling had come to Iowa. ‘Gator promised to call his friends on other football teams to let them know about the new winter sport.

It was Saturday afternoon, which meant Iowa State football. ISU football stadium The demands of my new lifestyle were outrunning my initial enthusiasm. I remembered how Coach Isaac and the other University of Miami swimmers hated the football team. As jocks on scholarship, not only were they required to coach the Hurricane youth club, but also they had to live in the sports dorm, dubbed the pit. Swimmers were fair game for boorish football players in the dorm. I also remembered how I grew to hate the Gables High jocks for their entitled social status, pushing lesser students aside in the school halls. I had to smile at the irony of becoming an instant jock because ‘Gator liked me. Adding girls to the bowling team seemed like a way to reduce the arrogance.

As soon as we entered the football stadium, ‘Gator decided to concentrate his attention on the band and its entertainment values. They had never played fight cheers. The opponent was Oklahoma, ranked number two in the nation. After going 4 wins and a single loss to open their season, Iowa State had lost a close game to Kansas the previous week. The stands seemed somewhat subdued and dispirited, intimidated by Mighty Oklahoma. The college band marched out for the national anthem, reminding me of my performance at the State Swim finals in May. The lack of spirit hurt the Cyclones, as Oklahoma was leading 21-0 by half-time. “Gator was pacing on the sidelines, as we watched from our seats. He knew many of the Iowa State players, exhorting them to up their game. He came and sat with us while the marching band went through their halftime routine.

He remained upset, saying the band was lame.
“You should be out there,” he said turning to the three of us. “Y’all knows how to git everyone riled up.” He reminded me of Robby, all worked up and expecting everyone to do as he said. It had worked great at our gigs. We’d play Neil Young to rednecks and watch the riot get going. I knew just how to rile up these lame Iowa State boys.
“Okay,” I told ‘Gator. “You stay on the sidelines. We’ll get the band to play ‘Oklahoma’,oklahoma_musical_logo1 then you git all worked up.  Pace up and down, waving your arms, and screaming at us”
He instantly recognized the strategy. “Do it when Oklahoma has the ball. Only the defense’s can score. State’s quarterback sucks.”
“You get the crowd screaming at us. We’ll make the defense thinks it’s for them. They’ll git off their asses and cause a turnover.”
Gator ran down and grabbed a cheerleader, pointing at us. She came over and took us to the marching band director.
“Do what this boy here tells ya,” she commanded.
He looked skeptically at the three of us.
“Y’all know ‘Oklahoma’?” I asked.
“Gimme a mic, We’ll do the vocals. I’ll tell ya when to start.”
He looked at the cheerleader. She nodded. He shrugged. We were about to sing for 15,000 people.
“You know this song,” I assured the girls. “Just back me up. And come in for the chorus, when I tells y’all.”
I signed to Jace. I prepared to channel Jack at Mommy’s dinner parties. I gave the band director his marching orders.
“You can play the Oklahoma song from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical?”
“Of course.”
“We’re going to sing the chorus part all the way through to the spelling O_K_L_A_H_O_M_A, then repeat it again until the team responds on the field. I’ll tell you when to stop. Just follow our singing.”
He looked quizzically at me but nodded he understood. He told the band members to pull the old standby out of their sheet music folders.
I waited until the defense came on after another three and out offensive set. They looked worn down. I waved to ‘Gator that we were ready, so he could start his antics on the sideline. The girls and I started singing as the band went right into the chorus:

“Ooook-lahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain
And the wavin’ wheat can sure smell sweet
When the wind comes right behind the rain.
Oklahoma, Ev’ry night my honey lamb and I
Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk
Makin’ lazy circles in the sky.

We know we belong to the land
And the land we belong to is grand!
And when we say
Yeeow! Ayipioeeay!
We’re only sayin’
You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma!
Oklahoma O.K.


We know we belong to the land
And the land we belong to is grand!
And when we say
Yeeow! Aye-yip-aye-yo-ee-ay!
We’re only sayin’
You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma!
O.K. L – A – H – O – M – A

“Gator was his irrepressible self. Running to the stands in front of the band and raising his arms in disgust and incredulity at why Iowa State was playing their rivals state song. Tim 290The crowd got into it, yelling and stomping their feet. As the song built, the crowd noise reached a crescendo. The game was proceeding, but the noise from the stands perked up the defense. Oklahoma twice tried a run and the line held. On third down, they went to the air, but it was batted down. Having to punt, the visitors seemed confused and disorganized. Before getting the punt off, the officials whistled for too many players on the field, pushing them further back. We kept repeating “Okla-homa, Okla-homa, Okla-homa,” in a soto whispering voice, that eerily echoed in the stadium. The crowd started to get into the song, as the defense had rallied from down-trodden to energized. The punt was almost blocked and the squiggled kick allowed time for the run-back receiver to get up a head of steam. As he raced down the sidelines, we sang the finale, “You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma! Oklahoma O-K- L – A – H – O – M – A
OKLAHOMA! Yeeow!” as the runner was finally pushed out-of-bounds at the visitors’ 35 yard line.
We rested when the offense came out, feeling exhilarated that we had inspired 15,00o fans to sing along with us. As was unfortunate that year, the offense was unable to gain a first down. An attempted field goal was wide right. Once the Iowa State defense came back on the field, we got up and started our ironic fight song. The crowd responded by singing right along from the start of the chorus. Who knew football fans loved Broadway show tunes? The defense rallied again, holding the visitors to no ground gains. On third and long, we were doing the soto voiced “Okla-homa, Okla-homa” as the long pass floated down field. A defender leaped higher and pulled in an interception. We switched to the finale, “You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma!
O – K – L – A – H – O – M – A
as he raced untouched for the Iowa State’s first score. The stands were rocking with cheers, including “Oklahoma’s okay.” The score was 21-7. It was a game, not a rollover.

Unfortunately, the momentum shifted back. The opposing stands started joining us in the song, confusing everyone, especially the players. Without an offense, the defense couldn’t keep up their adrenaline-pumped performance. The final score was 38-7.

The girls and I remained pumped up. Many of the band members told us how great we sang, especially the girls’ high sopranos behind my Broadway dramatic tenor. We knew how to project. We promised to work with them for the next week’s game against Colorado. ‘Gator and his boys met us outside the stadium.
“How’s ‘bout them apples? We rilly got them boys playin’ defense,” as he hugged each of us.Tim 358 He reminded me of Stu, jumping up and down and telling everyone how great he had done.  The image of a 220 pound Stu was scary, especially with his half-ton posse backing him up.
“We needs pizza,” I declared. “There gots ta be better pizza in town than that frozen tasteless crap at the bowlin’ alley.”
“Y’all needs the Pizza Pit,” ‘Gator pronounced, pizza pit.jpg with the approval of his posse.

It was about four blocks from the Hyland house. We stuffed ourselves with what I admitted was decent pizza, reserving my gold standard for Miami’s Sorrento’s All the guys ended up on the third floor with the twins. The moms were nervous at the odds, seven pimpled-faced boys with just their two cherubic choir girls. I assured the moms that there was safety in numbers. So far, there had been little misogynistic banter from the boys. Maybe the comfort/cheerleader girls satisfied their hormones.
We pulled out the guitars and Amy was on the piano. Soon we were all singing pop songs. The boys knew they should stick to football. It was fun. No one was mocked for being off-key. We did the Beatles’ ‘A little help from my friends,’


The moms came up the stairs.
“Pizza?” they asked.
“Pizza Pit,” we all yelled.
In twenty minutes we were scarfing slices for the third time that day.
“So how was your day?” Molly asked everyone. The exploits of the bowling team, singing with the Iowa State Marching Band, unlimited pizza, and the upstairs sing-along indicated we still were infused with teen spirit. ‘Gator mentioned that next was a football party, about which he let slip that the home was without parental supervision. His enthusiasm and inability to finesse the truth meant we were grounded. “Gator and the boys finished the last of the slices and were out the door, ready to expend their built-up hormones.
Sitting at the table, I asked the four women, “You like our new friends?”
“They sure put away the pizza,” Mom observed.
“We were a little shy when we sat with them at lunch. The boys didn’t know what to say with us there. But after ‘Gator took us under his wing, we felt right at home. He’s a force of nature.”
“Ya shoulda seen ‘im whip up the crowd at the football game, Ma,” Amy enthused.
“Please save the cowboy talk fer outside the house,” Molly slipped into country speak herself, at which we all broke up. “And please, please don’t be calling me ‘Ma.”
It was all sunshine and light after a special day. None of us missed going to the party. Next, we discussed going to church in the morning. Mom felt conflicted about Catholic Mass, believing she would betray her relationship with Molly by not taking communion. The Church believed she was living in sin and refusing to accept she was living in sin. Molly and the girls said we’d be welcome at their Baptist Church. I swore I could hear Father Frank groan, but that seemed acceptable. I was already familiar with the Baptists.
“Is there much holy rolling and speaking in tongues?” I asked. Tim 426
“We don’t cotton to those practices here in Iowa,” she answered.
I was slightly disappointed.
“You’ve got mail,” Mom said, “and your dad sent a package with your clothes. I put them away for you.”
I blushed at the thought of all the gay underwear that must have shocked her.
Mom noticed my red face. “What’s the matter. Most of those ratty jeans and shirts without buttons won’t fly here in Iowa during the winter.”
I recovered my poise. “I know I need heavy clothes. I should get a job.”
“Your dad is sending more than adequate support. Don’t you worry about clothes.”
“That support won’t go very far if’n we keep havin’ friends over for pizza. I’ll jist feel better carryin’ my own weight.”
“I’ll be happy if you stick to speaking the Queen’s English,” Molly interjected.
“Jist the result of all day with heathens.”
The three of us went upstairs. I opened the big window in the spare room and sat in one corner with a leg outside the sill. Tim 418 The girls sat in the other corner, Amy leaning back into Angela’s arms. A big smile came to my lips, as I remembered doing the same with Jace, Robby and Jack – bittersweet.
“Don’t be thinkin’ nothin’.” Angela asserted. “We ain’t lesbians.”
“It don’t run in the family?” I joshed.
“We’s always bin this close.”
“All I’s thinkin’ is how nice it’ll be when I’s all that close with y’all. This is fine for right now.”
I looked out over the other houses and tree tops. “Hey, I can see Pizza Pit from here.”
“You still hungry?” Amy was amazed.
“Naw. It’s part of my life, the pizza connection. I feel I belong here now.”
We sat there without talking for a while.
“What’s ya gonna wear to church tomorrow,” Amy asked.
“Let’s go see what old Dad sent. I ain’t wearing bowling gear to church.
On the second floor, we went through my drawers and closet. The white suit from Easter stood out.
“You really know how to make an impression.”
“Mom got that for Easter. We sang “Amazing Grace” in New York City. Even sang it at Abyssinian Baptist in Harlem.”
“Ya wants ta sing that tomorrow. You can join us in the choir. I’ll get the choir master to have us do it special.”
I looked sad, missing Hippie, as it was his signature song.
“What’s the matter?” Angela noticed my mood.
“I’s jist missin’ my best friend, Hippie, from the band. He always sang ‘Amazing Grace.’”
“His name is Hippie?” Amy laughed.
“He was a Southern hayseed, but he could really sing. He was a Baptist choir boy, too. He’s married now. Do y’all have the pledge here?”
“You mean pledging abstinence until marriage.”
“Yeah. That’s how he’s married at sixteen. They couldn’t wait.”
“Wasn’t ‘cause she got pregnant?” Angela asked.
“Naw. The pledge prevents that. She was jist ready. He never thought anyone would want him. Once he got in the band, he was natural on the bass. He came out of his shell.”
“Everyone sure likes ya, Andy. I bet you gots lots of friends.”
“Growin’ up in the military makes it easy ta make friends. Sometimes I find those friends don’t know me very well. Since I fit in, they just assume I’s jist like them.”
“You don’t mean us.”
“No way. You’re takin’ a crash course on getting’ ta know the real me. And music is a deeper means to know each other’s soul.”
“That mean we’re movin’ to Oklahoma?”
“Not that song, but like ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” It’s real emotions, not platitudes.”
“You’re a deep one, Andy Muller-Castle. But does this underwear explain somethin’ we’re missin?’” Tim 47  as she held up all the briefs from Out & Proud. Susan’s unpacking didn’t leave anything out .
“Maybe it just says I ain’t borin’,” I wasn’t embarrassed by underwear but I didn’t need to explain it neither.
“You are so cute when you blush,” Amy laughed. They both hugged me. “I guess you wanna move up to the third floor. You seem mighty attached to that big window.”
“I do. I had a window like that in Florida where I spent many hours figuring out teenage mysteries while the storms came off the Bay with thunder and lightning.”Tim 131
“And the winter wheat can sure smell sweet when the winds comes right behind the rain,” they both sang.

We moved my clothes and the bed to the third floor. I noticed that several garish briefs were missing. Girls can’t help themselves from fetishing. I worried that this was more than sisterly interest. Then I realized that it was innately sisterly harassment.
We were done in and quickly went to bed. I left my door open, yelling out, “Good night, Mary Ellen.” Tim 290
They both answered, “Good night, Jim Bob.”

Sunday was bright and sunny, with the autumn colors in full season. The three of us came down for breakfast, all in white. Tim 305 Mom looked chagrined that she had not dressed up for church.
“It’s not like Catholic Church, Mom. Baptists go all out for services.”
“When did you get so knowledgeable about religion?” she asked.
“I guess you didn’t hear about Teen Jesus,” I laughed.
“What?” they all exclaimed.
“Jesus was a teenager once, Himself.”
“And what part of being perfect and without sin does being a teenager play in that story?” she asked.
“Most people don’t think it’s a story,” I challenged her.
Molly laughed. “Never a dull moment with Andy Muller-Castle.”
I guess I had a completely new name.
Mom made my favorite blueberry pancakes. We all pigged out, memories of yesterday’s pizza long faded away. Baptists didn’t have to worry about getting the Eucharist on an empty stomach. I was interested enough to wonder what type of human craziness would express itself at this church.

We walked into services as a group. Three teenagers all in white, drew admiring glances. The girls took me to the choir leader, introducing me as their new step-brother. They said I was a gifted singer.
“That’s quite a compliment, coming from you two. Come to our rehearsal on Wednesday night to try out.”
“We hoped all three of us could do ‘Amazing Grace’ this morning,” Angela surprised me as she was generally the reticent one.

“Well, let’s try a verse right here, just to make sure you don’t embarrass yourselves.”
We looked at each other and nodded. I hummed a D. We sang the first verse. Having never practiced it, I was stunned that it sounded so pure.

‘Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.’

“Goodness,” he exclaimed. “I see we’re in for a treat today. Go sit with your parents, Andy. I’ll call you up with a nod after the morning prayer.”
I walked back to the pew and sat with the moms. I had a big grin on. I love to perform. What a geek.
Mom asked why I was so happy.
“The girls and I get to sing together.” Only then did I notice Jace sitting next to me. He signed ‘what a good little Baptist you’ve become.’
I signed back, ‘Hippie will be so proud.’
‘Your new best friend?’ he asked.
“You’re my best friend.’
‘Your best dead friend.’
A tear rolled down my cheek. Mom noticed and grabbed my hand. “You okay?”
“Just Teen Jesus,” I whispered back. I instantly regretted my habit of keeping her off-kilter and clueless.

The service began with announcements. The pastor mentioned my name as Andy Muller-Castle, a new member who would be singing with my sisters later. The Baptists do go on. The hymns were refreshing with lots of arm and hand waving. Tim 373 They believed God could see them. They expected Him to take note. Jace accompanied me when I went to meet the twins standing by the mic in front of the choir. The golden glow that Jace imbued any group of believers spread over the entire choir. When the three of us sang, there was pleasant stillness in the church. Our voices blended perfectly. My lower key allowed the girls a base from which to ascend higher octaves, which they did separately, then together. We were quite good, smug-me believed. When I got back to the pew, I saw that both moms had been crying. I bent over and kissed each on the cheek.  There was a sigh heard throughout the church. We were a shameless hit.Tim 448After the service was over, we stood outside on the steps.  Kids and teens were not shy, coming over to welcome meTim 219, while the older ones smiled a bit too much at the girls. Many adults complimented the moms. Only a few said the coded words, “we are praying for you.” I knew from Hippie’s moms Marge and Meg what that meant. How condescending. My performance junkie gene made me remark, “We’re praying for understanding.” The haters looked shocked, as if I were talking back to them. They quickly left. The choir director, Mr. Key, reminded me that choir rehearsal was on Wednesday night.
“I wouldn’t miss it for this world or the next.” Even I was shocked at myself. Mom grabbed my arm. We all left for Sunday dinner. At least I didn’t have to eat my words. Yet.

At the restaurant, we were seated at a table for six. As the hostess started to take away the extra setting, I asked her to leave it, “for my friend, Jace.”
“Is he coming later?” she asked.
“He’ll be here.”
“I’ll be sure to look for him.”
“Good luck with that.”
Jace was in hysterics. It had been building since our antics on the church steps. Tim 95
“You said your friend is coming?” Molly asked.
“I thought having a place set for him would make him feel welcome.”
“That’s very zen,” Molly noted.
She seemed to get it.

“Excuse me, Molly, could you tell me what you do for work, if that’s not too nosy of me?”
“Right. I teach psychology at State. My zen comment was meant to reflect Buddhism’s reverence towards the old and deceased.”
“Jace is definitely deceased,” I admitted. “I just want his place recognized in my life.”
“That means he’s in our lives, too, Andy. What affects you, affects all of us.”
I bit my lips to hold back the crying jag I felt bubbling up. Tim 501 Amy and Angela instantly felt my distress and moved to hug me. The tears burst, though it felt okay. I was quickly over the crying . The girls remained distressed from their own empathy.
Mom gave her own spin on my outburst. “Oh, Timmy, don’t you think you may have bitten off more than you can handle. A new school and friends, a fight band for the football team, now joining the choir, and looking for a job, as well as playing music with the girls. And. also, this bowling team? You’ve only been home for a week.”
“We’re teenagers, Mom. If I’m not busy, I get into trouble. And, please call me Andy.” Again I saw how I pushed her away. I gave her a big hug for trying to protect me from myself.

Our meals arrived and conversation tapered off as we dug in. Midwest meals were super-sized. While we waited for dessert, Molly resumed the topic of conversation, my weird personality.
“The doctor at the hospital recommended counseling when you were discharged. I know a colleague who may be perfect for your split personalities. Want me to make an appointment?”
“Is she as zen-like as you?”
“Actually, he’s Japanese. I’m guessing he’ll ‘get’ you.”
“Make an appointment. The truth is, this family is helping me stay grounded. It may be all I need.”
“It makes sense to get you all the help you can.”
“Having a shrink for a mom sure helps,” as I smiled at Molly.
“Tell us about Jace,” Amy asked.
I turned to the moms, “Did you notice a special glow coming from the choir when we sang?”
“I thought that the sun had come out and was shining through the stained glass,” Mom remarked.
“Whenever Jace feels people are open-hearted and accept him, they feel his love, like the glow people notice when a mother is pregnant. Today the whole choir accepted us and loved the hymn we sang. We all glowed, like at first communion or being born again.”
“You feel Jace is Jesus?” Molly asked.
“No. Jace was a rowdy teenager, breaking rules and having fun. He’d been badly abused all his life. There was so much love in his heart. When he broke free of the abuse, he loved everyone. He loved all of us in the band. He loved his girlfriend. I loved him back. When he was killed by his abuser, I couldn’t let him go. He’s been in my heart ever since, except when I’ve had to lock away my heart at the juvenile work camp. That’s why I broke down when I arrived. I had shut off my heart, lying in a ditch in Alabama. Jace came to me in a dream, telling me to come here. I met Amy and Angela in that dream. The four of us hugged and they drove me home.”
No tears on my part, just smiles for the twins. Tim 420
“Teen Jesus,” Amy said.
“That’s another story,” I demurred
Desserts came. We all ate. I was too full of it to say more.

Arriving home, we discovered ‘Gator and his boys sitting on the porch. They looked worse for wear after a night of football team partying. Tim 276 One look at the three of us, dressed entirely in white, perked them up.
“Y’all go to church?” ‘Gator observed.
“Fresh as a spring breeze and free of sin, unlike you reprobates,” I crowed. Tim 399
“We ain’t no reprobators, whatever that is. It sounds sinful.”
“The cheerleaders kick y’all out this morning?” I mocked them. The moms quickly went into the house. The twins just looked embarrassed.
“Naw. We never spends the night with ’em, too intimate.”
The twins started to leave us alone.
“Wait. We’s here ta work on the fight band. Y’all gots ta help.”
We followed the twins up to the third floor and got out the guitars.
“The one sure song is Queen’s ‘We are the Champions.’” I asserted. “It’s not a fight song but a statement. Best played at the end of a game or when it’s all over but the shouting.

I played a few riffs and sang the title lines. The boys hadn’t even heard of Queen.
How about this song by AC/DC?” as I played ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.’

‘If you’re havin’ trouble with the high school head
He’s givin’ you the blues
You want to graduate but not in ‘is bed
Here’s what you gotta do
Pick up the phone
I’m always home
Call me any time
Just ring
36 24 36 hey
I lead a life of crime
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds and they’re done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds and they’re done dirt cheap
You got problems in your life of love
You got a broken heart
He’s double dealin’ with your best friend
That’s when the teardrops start, fella
Pick up the phone
I’m here alone
Or make a social call
Come right in
Forget about him
We’ll have ourselves a ball
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds and they’re done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds and they’re done dirt cheap
If you got a lady and you want her gone
But you ain’t got the guts
She keeps naggin’ at you night and day
Enough to drive ya nuts
Pick up the phone
Leave her alone
It’s time you made a stand
For a fee
I’m happy to be
Your back door man
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds and they’re done dirt cheap yeah
Dirty deeds and they’re done dirt cheap
Concrete shoes, cyanide, TNT
Done dirt cheap
Neckties, contracts, high voltage
Done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds
Do anything you wanna do
Done dirty cheap
Dirty deeds
Dirty deeds
Dirty deeds
Done dirt cheap’

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“Don’t ac/dc mean ya swings both ways?” Clarence spoke up.
We all looked at him strangely, which made him turn bright red.
“I just heard my uncles talkin,’ that’s all,” was his excuse.
“AC and DC means electricity, alternating current or direct current,” Noah clarified, his dad was an electrician.
“That’s what we want – we’s electric,” ‘Gator confirmed. “That’s a song for the defense. We get down in the dirt and gets dirty.”
“You kin rip on guitar, Andy, while we sing real high. Makes that guitar respond like a chainsaw,” Angie was inspired.
“How ‘bouts a song fer offense?” I asked.
“That there dog song got us all a’howlin?’” “Gator suggested.
“The Stooges have a great metal song – ‘Search and Destroy.’” I remembered.

I’m a street walking cheetah
with a heart full of napalm
I’m a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb
I am a world’s forgotten boy
The one who searches and destroys

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Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

We decided that three rock songs were plenty to get the stands stomping and screaming. We practiced each one. It was amazing that the girls picked up the songs so easily. Jace was still working with them, knowing when either one was unsure of the chord changes. It didn’t take much for them to have the whole song, singing backups as well. I would take the lead riffs while they played rhythm. They had confidence that the notes were flying off the guitars perfectly. Choir girls in the morning; demon rockers at night. Tim179

I suggested we have a song for the opposing team. I recommended Elvis’s ‘Hound Dog,’ as the team could sing along to taunt their opponents, especially after a penalty flag was thrown.

The boys all got into making Elvis moves and taunting each other. Tim 374 I let the girls do the singing while I played as loud as possible on the acoustic guitar.

All the stomping and yelling brought the moms up the stairs.
“You kids have been at it for hours. How about a break for supper?”
“Pizza Pit,” we all yelled.
Mom gave me twenty dollars. All of us walked the four blocks to the Pit, ordering four larges with varying toppings. The girls wanted veggies. We kidded them that the moms would be so proud. While waiting for our order, I noticed a sign saying ‘help wanted.’ I asked the counter man if I could apply.
“Ya gots yer license, boy.”
I pulled out my Florida permit.
“Once ya git a real license, com’n back. The opening’s fer delivery. Ya needs yer own car.”
“I’ll be back. I lives jist ‘round the corner.”
“See ya then, boy.”

The pizzas came. ‘Gator tried to grab a slice immediately. I slammed the cardboard lid on his hand, “Have sum manners. The moms come first.”
He looked chagrined, not used to being denied. We both laughed, while his boys warily kept an eye on us.
At the house, ‘Gator made sure the moms had first choice. Naturally they choose the veggie pizza. Everyone laughed.
“What?” Molly asked.
“Don’t ask, Mom,” Angie warned her. “It’ll only give the boys a chance to put us down.”
“Over pizza?”
“Over veggies.”

Three pizzas disappeared quickly. The final veggie slices were attacked by the boys after the women only had a single slice a piece. Female anorexia ruled. ‘Gator and his crew were hustled out the door after supper, Molly announcing we had homework to do. ‘Gator made every one thank the moms for the weekend of hospitality. I groaned thinking they had plans to become semi-permanent fixtures in our ever-expanding household. Molly seemed able to maintain control. I was still getting used to having parents  so involved in my activities. I decided to call Flo and check in on her life.
“Tim. I miss you,” she cried when she came to the phone. “Where are you?”
“Iowa,” I laughed. “I’m living with my mom.”
“Which one,” she quipped.
“The first one. How are Mary and Edi?”
“We all miss you, Tim.”
“Oh, I have a new name, it’s now Andy. And I have twin sisters.”
“I know where that’s going.”
“Naw. They’re choir girls like you. I even joined the choir.”
“Turning over a new leaf?”
“Maybe. We started a new band, called the Triplets, cause we’re all the same age. We played at a college football game yesterday. We caused a riot Friday night, when we played at an open mic in a coffee shop.”
“New name, same crazy life.”
“Not so crazy. The big excitement is starting a high school bowling team for winter term.”
“Is it cold there?”
“Not as cold as Alaska.”
“When are you coming back to Florida?”
“Not ‘til I’s 18, next summer.”
“Will you come to see me?” She sounded sad.
“Of course. You’re my number one.”
“Who else can put up with me?”
“You are so lovable, even though you’re crazy.”
“Well, don’t be lonely. Waiting for me just means we’re on hold. Have as much fun as possible. Drive AP Spenser mad, that dick.”
She laughed. “Edi and Mary keep things interesting. Nothing like you and your unending supply of boyfriends.”
“Yeah. I already have been ‘adopted’ by the captain of the football team. He’s playing me for tight end, but I may end up a wide receiver.”
“You are too much,” she couldn’t stop laughing. I heard her pop telling her to get off the phone. “Gotta go, Andy (hah). I’ll say hi to everyone. Stay in touch. Love you.”
“I love you, too.”

I hung up and turned around to find the twins listening in to my end of the conversation.
“That was my girlfriend, Flo, in Miami. Just catching up. She’s a choir girl, too.”
“Are you two real serious?” Amy wanted to know.
“High school sweethearts. I told her not to wait for me.”
“What did you mean about ‘Gator? You think he’s too sweet on you?”
“Naw, not that he knows it. He recognizes that we have the same spirit of adventure. I’m trying to keep the risk taking under control. We both like to perform – him in football, me in music. The reason I came here was because I let things get out of control. I can’t go back to Florida ’til I’s an adult.”
“Trouble with the police?” Angela was shocked.
“They put me in juvie. I escaped and hid out in the Everglades for four months. My friend got an infected foot. When I took him to the hospital, I went to see Flo and the boys in the band. After that, I hitch-hiked out of there but got stuck in Alabama. I was roughed up and thrown in a ditch. That’s when y’alls came to me in a dream. You were a vision.” Cathy Christina
They got all flustered when I mentioned them.
“We weren’t trying to spy on your phone call. We want to know all about you. What’s a split personality like?”
“My best friend Jace and our dog, Max, died. I see them and talk with them like they’re ghosts. Anyone that opens their heart to me seems able to feel them, too.”
“We do,” they agreed.
“The shrinks call it projection, like I’ve created a fantasy to fool myself that they’re still alive. I think it’s inspiration, allowing me to channel musical ability from Jace and love from Max.”
“You like having sisters, Andy? Most boys don’t.”
“That’s their lookout. I always complained to Mom that I wanted brothers and sisters. When they got divorced, I realized why it was just me.”
“How you like Ames so far? Is it too boring for you?”
“Life is never boring. You’re only young once.” Zorik

They went upstairs to do homework. Telling them about the Everglades made me want to call Tommy. I had his number from Jay but hadn’t called. I was afraid he’d keep begging me to be his boyfriend. My lack of sex drive (rape does that) had made it easy for me to ignore him. There was no doubt I loved him. We’d had so much fun that summer. But I had to keep him in the little brother mold. Tim 492
An older woman answered the number Jay had given me.
“Evening, ma’am. My name’s Tim. I’m Tommy’s friend from last summer. Can he come to the phone,” I used my adult-pleasing voice. “He calls me Huck sometimes.”
“Oh, my goodness. Y’all is all that boy talks about.”
“How’s he doing, ma’am? Last time I saw ‘im, he’s laid up in hospital.”
“Please call me Auntie Em, Tim. The boy’s doing real well, getting good grades and making friends. Half the neighborhood’s always over to the house. He’ll talk yer ears off.”
“That’s why I called, ma’am, er, Auntie Em.”
“I’ll git ‘im. He’s upstairs practicing singing. I’s afraid its hopeless, jist cain’t carry a tune.”
“Yeah, we’d pinch ‘im when he went off-key. He’d squeak and somehow find the right note.”
She laughed. “Well, that’s not an option fer foster parenting.”
“Y’all is church-going people?”
“’Course. It’s not his favorite time of the week.”
“I’ll tell him to become a choirboy so he can learn to sing proper.” Tim 123
“That sounds more better than pinchin.’”
“Nice talkin’ with ya, ma’am.”
“You sound older than Tommy.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’m seventeen. Tommy’s like my little brother.”
“A sight better than his other brother. We had to call the police to keep that mean boy from coming here ta harass our boy. He gave Tommy a black eye for fightin’ back.” yaoi 06
“Y’all don’ts need that kinda trouble. Sounds like yer the parents Tommy needs.”
“Sight better than his real parents.”
“Thank you, Auntie Em.”
“I’ll git the boy now.”
I was so proud of Tommy for fighting back.

“Huck! Is that really you?” Tim 210
“Sure thing. Y’all think I’d forgot ya?”
“I miss ya so much. Where are you?” He seemed to have lost the country accent.
“Iowa. I live with my mom, her girlfriend and two twin step-sisters.”
“Wow, you hit the jackpot – four women, Kin ya stand it?”
“’S cool.”
“Yer mom’s a lez. Is that why yer gay?” Tim 489
“Not gay so much no more, though the football captain is sweet on me. Jist don’t feel it no more.”
“Well, my new folks is cool. They’s real old, so I kin pretty much do as I pleases, jist as long as my grades is good. I got my own gang. My asshole brother come lookin’ fer me. I popped him good, jist not enough ta put him down like y’all did.”
“Auntie Em told me he give ya a black eye.”
“Yeah, but it was worth it. Haven’t seen the asshole since.”
We laughed.Dario 03
“Been singin?’”
“Everday. We’s still gots the band tagether?”
“If’n when we do git tagether. Auntie Em says yer still singin’ off-key.”
“Aw, nobody here ta pinch me.”
“She says yer going to church. Why not join the choir. I did here in Iowa.”
“You’s a choirboy?”
“’S’cool. The girls are in it. We got to sing at the college football game on Saturday. The three of us sang fer 15,000 people. We calls ourselves The Triplets.”
“No more Hillbilly Brothers?”
“Not makin’ babies with one another.”
“You’s so much fun, Huck. Ya comin’ back to Florida?”
“Cain’t ‘til I’s 18. Kin ya come visit here?”
“Havta ta git special permission from foster care ta go anywhere.”
“Ask the fosters to check. My band friend Hippie is comin’ ta visit his mima and pipa in Iowa. Ya could git a ride with ‘em.”
“Oh, Huck,” he started to cry. “I misses ya so much.” Tim 490
“We had so much fun this summer.”
“I’ll never forget it. I loves ya, Huck. We don’t havta be gay. I got me a girlfriend,” he had stopped the tears.
“Ya do? Does she order ya around.”
“Yup. I’m a real pussy.”
“S’cool. I’m so proud of you. We both just normal teenagers now. Guess my job as big brother is done.”
“Kin we be boyfriends for real when I’s 16. You’ll be 18.”
“What ‘bouts yer girlfriend.”
“I ain’t that much of a pussy.”
“Remember that big cat that watched us at camp – that was a pussy.” jaguarMayan
“That was black pussy.”
“Once ya go black..”
“Ya never go back.”
“I loves ya, Tommy”
“Don’t hang up! You have to get me a ride to Iowa for Christmas.” His country twang fell away when he wanted something badly enough.
“You get your new parents to get permission.  I’ll see if Hippie can give you a ride.”
“I love you forever, Huck, even if’n yer country accent ain’t fer real.”
“Jist whens we’s the Hillbilly Brothers. Don’t fergit ta join the church choir.”
We laughed and hung up

Next I called Hippie. Anna picked up.
“Hi, Anna. It’s Tim. Congrats on yer wedding. Y’all still prayin’ fer me.”
“Oh, Tim. Not so much now that Gregory is settled down.”
“You slowin’ that boy down?”
“No. It was you that sped ‘im up by joining the band. He’s slowly comin’ back ta normal. I kinda miss his rock n roll self.”
“What’s ya think ‘bout coming ta Iowa to visit his Mima and Pipa fer Christmas? That’s where I lives now.”
“I’ll pray on that one. Maybe, if’n I gits ta come.”
“’Course, ya gots ta come. Ya think I’d wanna see ya miss yer first Christmas tagether?”
“Well, I’ll see if the doctor says I kin travel then.”
“You’s pregnant? Oh, my god, er, my gosh.”
“That’s better. Prayin’ seems ta done yer sum good.”
“That’s wonderful news. If the doctor says it’s okay, ya gots to come visit his grandparents.”
“Well, you boys work it out. I’m a’goin’ ta put my feets up.”
Hippie got on the line. “Ya heard the news.”
“You sly dog. Guess all our sex lessons worked, ‘cept the one about condoms.”
“Typical. The gays take all the credit when it was me that had ta do the dirty deed.” Tim 427
“Dirty deeds done dirt cheap,” I sang, channeling AC/DC from our fight band practice.
“Same old Tim,” Hippie laughed.
“So hows ’bout y’all come ta Iowa fer Christmas. Your Mima and Pipa can meet their new granddaughter and future great grandwhatever. I wanna see ya.”
“I asked the moms. They’re a bit worked up about the baby, thinkin’ they’s the ones who’s gonna do all the work. They’s back to cursin’ all men as slave masters, makin’ women pregnant.”
“Our sex ed. lessons may have been lacking. But babies are a blessing, especially when there’s two moms to pick up their teenager’s slack.”

“Ya got that.”
“Sounds like they can use a break. If they say okay, kin ya bring my little brother from up in Lauderdale. He’s about ta burst from missin’ me.”
“Why not. We’ll call it the faggot express.” Tim 385
“Jist teasin.’”
“So, how come ya didn’t use condoms.”
“We did. Must’ve bin all that prayin’ that caused the condom ta explode.”
“Sounds like ya needs bigger condoms.”
“They come in sizes?”
“Well, don’t you cum in sizes, too.”