‘Gator, the twins and I were alone in the band section, in a group hug, as everyone left the stadium.
“That’s why I love football,” ‘Gator declared. “It can break yer heart but ya jist keep comin’ back.”
I was amazed to realize that he had won me over. I hated sports last year, especially football. But cheering, crying and hugging with ‘Gator had affected my heart. Was there enough room in there for the big lug? Jace looked worried but nodded there was.
The high school posse was waiting for us at ‘Gator’s pickup in the parking lot. They nervously watched him as we walked up, unsure how he was reacting to the loss.
“That was the greatest game ever,” he declared. “We’ll git ‘em next year, ‘cause I’ll be out there on the field.”
The guys surrounded him, slapping him on the back, and congratulating him on being the most amazing cheerleader. A couple even high-fived the twins and me.
“Y’all was so much better than the marching band. You rock,” Noah said.
We gathered at the Pizza Pit. I barely had time for a slice before my shift started. I came and went with multiple deliveries until seven o’clock. The gang had stayed, laughing at me because I had to work. The other girls from the bowling team were there. The twins were only partially suppressed by all the testosterone. My coming to Ames had changed their lives. I wondered if they wanted boyfriends. ‘Gator was acting like a big brother to them and me. It was just the way he rolled. Anyway, he had the cheerleader/comfort girl to take the edge off his hormones. Best not to think too much about it.
After my shift was over, we all went to the Hyland house and regaled the moms with the day’s exploits. The moms didn’t seem fazed by the damage a dozen teenagers inflicted on the house. ‘Gator named it the Aims High Bowling Clubhouse. He took the moms around the downstairs to pick out where all the future trophies should go. He was all about trophies. He decided that the basement needed a makeover as a playroom for the clubhouse. He knew where to get a Foosball game. I suggested Pong but no one had heard of video games yet. It was still 1975.
At nine we all left for the weekly unchaperoned football party. We told the moms we would only make an appearance and come right home. We didn’t want to seem stand-offish. The Moms understood. We were home by ten and in bed not much later. I blamed my exhaustion on the bowling. The last thing I heard before putting my head to the pillow was, “Good night, Jim Bob.” I mumbled something back and was out like a light.
A good night’s sleep and the three of us came down for breakfast with big smiles dressed all in white for church. I was ready to holy roll and make up my own tongues language. The girls said they would jump on me and embarrass the devil out of me if I tried. The devil being invoked prompted an ensuing conversation about whether I was really possessed, unable to stop trouble following in my wake. I switched that thought to wake-boarding and the hope that summer was on its way with glorious days wake boarding on the lake. It was November 2nd.
Molly brought out the Sunday newspaper.
“I’m glad you gave us your side of the events at the football game yesterday. The fact that you are again in the newspaper is beginning to make me nervous.”
She showed us the headline, ‘Raucous Rock Invades State Stadium,’ and proceeded to read a review of our performance.
‘Football games may never be the same, as a teen rock band, calling themselves The Triplets, invaded the hallowed grounds of Iowa State Cyclone Stadium in order to whip up frenzy among State fans by playing rowdy rock ‘n roll as the State football team faced Big Eight rival Colorado. The local team responded with one of their better games of the year, finally falling to the visitors 28-27. A last second two point conversion failed after Coach Bruce went for the win, rather than settle for a tie. (see accompanying article on the Sports page).
My question is whether rock n roll should supplant the traditional marching band entertainment we love. The roar of the crowd never lessened during the whole game, prompting this spectator to experience a throbbing headache that ruined the team’s performance on the field. Being forced to listen to the devil’s music seems unfair to the many older fans who remember the spirited band music of the past. Songs, such as the reported ‘I want to be a Dog,’ caused students to howl and roll around on the ground. I have now visited Dante’s first circle of Hell and want to hear no more. Please, Iowa State, ban amplified rock and roll at your football games.’
We sat there with our mouths open, listening to the diatribe. I hadn’t thought about all the old people who still enjoy attending the game but despise rock music.
“We weren’t just entertainment. We injected spirit into the players. They almost won against a highly ranked opponent. How can anyone complain about getting the crowd to cheer for the home team?”
“Obviously, not everyone agrees with you, Andy. Maybe you should consider cutting back on your performing.”
“We’re just having fun, Mom,” Amy took my side.
“Unintended consequences, dear,” Molly answered. “Best to learn these lessons while you’re young. Giving a sourpuss a headache is a lot better than someone actually getting hurt.”
“Better to perform to kids your own age,” Mom told me.
“Maybe we shouldn’t sing in church today. Some old person may sink to the sixth ring of Hell and blame us,” Angie applied her whacked out pessimism.
“You sing like angels, dear. No one questions what you do in church.”
“Well, it made you both cry last week,” I revealed what I had observed.
“Those were tears of joy, not sorrow.”
“It was so sweet,” I concluded “When I got the girls and ‘Gator to cry at the end of the game, we were devastated.”
“You were crying again?” Molly looked concerned.
“We had put everything into the performance, yet the team still lost. The tears were bleeding from our souls.”
The moms stared at me. I was being too spiritual. Jace mocked me. Mom brought out the breakfast she had prepared. No pancakes this week. It was endless eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. We needed the nourishment that excessive pizza failed to deliver. Everyone had seconds. When I asked for thirds, Molly brought out glazed cinnamon rolls. It was so tempting we felt we should be banned from church.
Regardless, in short order, the twins and I were seated with the choir with the moms beaming at us from the pews. Our voices were a little raw from all the signing that weekend. The choir master asked if we were okay.
“We were supposedly invoking Dante’s ring of Hell yesterday,” Angie told him.
“I thought that newspaper article might be about you guys. Do you want to skip your solo?”
“Oh, no. Andy needs his attention fix to get through the day.”
“It is All Souls day. Maybe being a little raw will make us soulful,” I suggested.
“Well, this is not a Catholic Church, Andy. But finding the notes to match your soul’s needs will make the hymn come from the heart.”
“We’ll try,” we promised.
“Instead of Amazing Grace, why don’t you do ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot?’ The rest of choir can back you up if you feel too raw.”
We knew he was inspired.
When it came time for our solo, we did our best not to cry. Our voices never broke as the tears rolled down our pink cheeks. It wasn’t just the moms who matched our tears. The choir behind us added tempo and bass to our rising alto/soprano lilt. Cheers of ‘Halleluiah’ broke out as we ended and sat down. The choir master was beaming.
Pastor Blake opened his sermon with remarks about us.
“I can’t help but comment on the beautiful singing we have experienced these past weeks. Choir Master Key has been blessed. With the Muller twins’ high voices that have joined with their step-brother Andy’s forceful tenor/alto, it creates a pitch perfect performance. We all feel blessed to have them with us. Many of us have prayed for this family. Perhaps God has answered those prayers with these wondrous hymns. Thank you, Lord.”
He continued into his regular fire and brimstone sermon, which he delivered in less than his thundering manner. Having emptied our tear ducts, we remained dry-eyed, looking out from the choir to the congregation. The moms looked straight ahead, barely able to keep their composure in light of their acceptance by Pastor Blake. Some of the people who had emphasized how they were praying for us looked shocked. Many heads turned to see the moms’ reaction. More than a few tears were shed.
The service over, we stayed with the choir on the front steps, joined by the moms. Choir Master Key was shyly beaming,as many people stopped to congratulate him following the Pastor’s compliment. I realized how important the Pastor’s words and opinions were for the members of the Church. Catholic priests are notoriously opinionated which diminishes their influence. Here in the heartland, one pastor’s words were taken truly to heart. Apparently, no one was praying for us that week.
Sunday dinner at the restaurant had us silently contemplating our acceptance at church. No one was gloating. I thought how important this acceptance was for the moms. My old Miami self would be thinking only on how it affected me personally, regardless of the others. Would I shut down my pranks and antics in public from now on to avoid causing difficulty for the moms in their community? Maybe.
Our spirits lifted when ‘Gator showed up. He wasn’t waiting on the porch this Sunday for us to return.
“Where’s the posse?” I quizzed him.
“They’s still passed out from last night’s party. The bowling team may have some female changes.”
“I thought we agreed that girlfriends had to be cheerleaders, not bowling partners, to avoid this kinda problem.”
“Well, you know girls. They kin gets funny ideas when ya ask ‘em to be yer pardner.”
“Brokens hearts or just hurt feelings last night?” I asked.
“Jist gots ta see how it all plays out.”
“So what’s the plan, Stan?”
“Well, I gots a favor ta ask of y’all. Kin we keep it on the down low ‘bout my tears yesterday. I gots a reputation ta protect. I ain’t never cried since Mrs. East won’t let me go to the bathroom in kindergarten.”
“We was all cryin,’ ‘Gator. Y’all gots caught up in the moment with us.”
“Cain’t be lookin’ weak out on the field.”
“Best not ta care. Ya feel bad runnin’ over some opposing quarterback?”
“Yer right, Andy. I don’t cares what anyone thinks. I’m ‘Gator, hear me roar.”
We all laughed. Desserts arrived, which he finished off for us. We were still full from breakfast.
We spent the afternoon playing music and singing. When the musical spirit left us, we worked on our homework.
“Gator, I gots an idea for our English class play. We’s doin’ ‘Little House on the Prairie’ for Christmas assembly. You wanna be in the play,” I appealed to our shared need to perform.
“I love that show,” he quickly agreed. Why wasn’t I surprised?
“It’s the ‘Plum Creek Christmas’ episode from last year.”
“When Ma gits the stove,” he confirmed he was a fan.
“We needs ya to play Bunny.”
“The pony? How’s that gonna work?”
“We’ll spice up the action. Bunny will show off on stage. It’ll be real funny. Ya kin bite that nasty Nellie Oleson.”
The twins were staring at me with their mouths wide open
“I gots ta be on my hands an’ knees.”
“Naw, we’ll get one of them two-man horse outfits. Noah can be the rear end.’
“A horse’s ass,” he quipped.
“’Gator?” both girls complained.
“Ya wanna do it? I gots ta git Mrs. McCarthy to approve.”
“Sure. S’long as I don’t havta cry. Guess there’s no lines to learn?”
“Maybe a neigh or two. You kin improvise.”
“Naaaay,” he improvised.
‘Gator left when it was time for my Pizza Pit shift. When I got back, Mom’s pot roast dinner was kept warm for me in the oven. My appetite had returned. Looking in the mirror with my shirt off, I was glad to see I was filling out again, not so scrawny, just skinny. Maybe I’d work out for bowling.
I called Tommy. Even though I was still thinking about him a lot, I didn’t want him to know it. It made me feel like a perv. Still I wasn’t ever horny, so I figured I just missed my little brother.
“Hi, Auntie Em. Tommy being good?’
“That you, Huck? Ever since you called him, he’s been an angel. Sometin’ ‘bout wantin’ to visit Iowa over Christmas. That yer doin?’”
“Only if’n y’all don’t mind him being gone fer the holidays.”
“He’s a real joy in our lives. We kin celebrate later. We jist like seeing him happy. Ya wanna speak with ‘im?”
“You is so polite. I’ll git ‘im.”
He was out of breath when he got on the line.
“Oh, Huck,” he sighed.
“I hears ya bin good.”
“I gots ta git permission to come visit.”
“Sounds like it’s gonna happen.”
“Sure. My friend Hippie and his pregnant wife are driving to his gran and gramp’s near here. They’s said ya can git a ride with ‘em.”
“Are they’s real old, havin’ a baby.”
“Naw, they’s our age. Got hitched at sixteen.”
“We’s the same age now?” he sounded real hopeful.
“Now don’t be makin’ plans. I thought you had a girlfriend.”
“Yeah, but I still wants ya real bad. I don’ts think o’ her in bed, jist you.”
My dick had responded for the first time since for ever. I was glad but the perv thing worried me.
“Jist say ya wants me too. I’ll even let’s ya fuck me like that one time it happened by mistake.”
I was leaking already. If he kept talking about it, I’d mess myself, like he used to do and I teased him when he was fourteen. Maybe I was experiencing second puberty. He noticed that my breathing had quickened.
“Yer getting’ hard, too?” he asked. “I’s rock hard jist thinkin’ ‘bout it.”
That did it. I’d messed myself. My panting told him everything.
“oh my god, my god, oh my god. Ah,ah ,yeah….” He wasn’t quite as quick as me but it made my dick stay hard thinking about him. I was a definite pervert, picturing his 14 year-old-self.
“This is so wrong,” I told him.
“I knew you’d want me. I jist hadta wait. I’ll be sixteen soon and I growed a lot this fall. And it growed, too.”
“You are so gullible. I was jist fakin’ it.’”
“No way. Now I’s all covered in cum.”
“Sorry, Tom. It was too easy ta fool ya.”
“You liar. I know ya cum. I could feel it.”
“Well, ya enjoyed it, so don’t complain, jist ‘cause its all in yer head. I love ya, Tom.”
“Ya do? I loves ya too, even if yer always mean ta me.”
“Still comin’ ta visit.”
“Sure. But don’ts ya be so mean.”
“Okay, but don’t be so gay.”
It felt so weird, getting off without touching myself – probably due to the buildup from a month of asexuality after the rape. Now I had to sneak up to my room without having to explain the huge wet spot on the front of my jeans. Thinking ahead, I dialed Flo, my go-to gal. She was pleased. I promised to call every Sunday night. I told her that Hippie and Anna planned to drive to Iowa for Christmas. Maybe she and Edi could come. She sighed and reminded me that her parents still had her on virginity watch.
“You heard from Jack-off?”
I laughed. “Just when I called him from his folks last month.
“How’s he doing?”
“They have him locked away in a Swiss seminary. The monks watch him day and night.”
“It was such fun when we were all together.”
“Yeah. Maybe a reunion this summer?”
“Great. Everyone misses you, Tim.”
“Wanna know what? Everyone calls me Andy now.”
“You’re crazy. Why’d you change it? Trying to forget who you were and your old friends?”
“Naw. It’s the new band with my twin step-sisters – The Triplets. We’re Amy, Angie and Andy –it just fit right.”
“No hitting on your sisters, now.”
“That would be sick. We all live together. I’m off sex now, anyway.”
“Sounds like ya miss me,” she suggested hopefully. My weird dick perked up again.
“I do, Flo. Seems like you and Hippie are all the friends I have left in Miami.”
“Well, call next Sunday. My dad’s got that look. I gotta get off.”
“I promise,” avoiding having to say I had to get off too. Again.
“Bye, Andy. I love ya.”
“Me, too, Florinda.” We both laughed.
I quickly went up to the third floor, but the girls were waiting for me. I tried to finesse the wet spot situation by casually ignoring it. Nothing gets by teen sisters.
“Looks like someone got a bit too excited,” Angie wasn’t shy. They both giggled.
“Yeah. I asked Flo if she could come visit for Christmas. Her pops won’t let her out of his sight.”
“Well, take a shower and change. You smell funny,” as they continued to giggle. Sisters!
In English class on Monday, I stayed after to discuss plans for the Christmas performance with Mrs. McCarthy.
“I asked Brock from the football team if he’d play the role of Bunny, the pony, using it as a comic foil on stage.”
“You’d change the script. Laura Ingalls Wilder may not approve”
“Since she died in 1957, we may find it difficult to get her approval.”
“Or, disapproval,” Mrs. McCarthy gave me a wry smile. “What role will you play?”
“If you allow me to adapt the script to our purposes, I could work with you as the director’s assistant. I still could do the Christmas music. I’m a better musician than actor.”
“And, Brock as a pony, can he act?”
“Well, he’d have to be a full horse, due to his size. Ya shoulda saw ‘im at the State football game on Saturday. He had all 15,000 fans a’goin’ crazy with his antics.”
“Please use proper English in class; it’s ‘you should have seen..’ Were you the band they wrote about in Sunday’s paper?”
“Yes, ma’am. But that writer was in the minority. All the students loved our music. It really inspired the team. They almost won.”
“Well, you know it is the adults who make these decisions in this world.”
“Yes’m. We probably won’t be asked back. It sure was fun playing to that many people.”
“Andy, you’re a wonderful boy. If even half the class has half your enthusiasm, it’ll make my year. What gave you the idea to make Bunny the comic element in this sentimental play?”
“Last year, we put on ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream,’ and Thisbee is a jackass in a play within the play.”
“You mean a donkey?” she corrected me.
“Yes, ma’am. But the kids who saw it really loved him as an ass.”
We both laughed.
“Well, consider yourself as my assistant director. Let me know what else you come up with before springing it on the players.”
“Well, sometimes spontaneous ideas just pop up.”
“I’m keeping my eye on you, then. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Me, too, Mrs. McCarthy.”
On Tuesday, Molly had made an appointment with the zen shrink, Dr Kamikaze. Memories of the faux counseling I received at The Program made me wary.
“Is your name really Dr. Kamikaze?” I asked to start the session.
“I have a doctorate in adolescent psychology and a medical degree in psychiatry. Or, are you asking about my surname?”
“Well, isn’t kamikaze a Japanese suicide bomber crashing into American battleships?”
He laughed. “Do you know who Genghis Khan was?”
“Sure, the hordes from the steppes of Mongolia.”
“Right. When his grandson, Kublai Khan attempted to invade Japan in the 13th Century, two great typhoons destroyed the Mongol fleet. We Japanese believe we were saved by the gods of the elements who sent the typhoon winds, kamikaze in Japanese, to protect them.”
I was impressed. He had my attention.
“Your mom says you believe in spirits,” he segued from history to me.
“I see spirits and have learned to communicate with them.”
Now I had his attention.
“How do you do that?” he seemed genuinely interested. “Is it always the same spirits?”
“Yes, my boyfriend who was killed by his step-brother and also, his dog.”
“Yes, but not exclusively. I have a spirit friend I call Guardian, like Charon from Roman mythology.
When I was holding Jace’s dead hand at the ER, the Guardian brought his spirit back to me. He lives in my heart. His dog Max was killed by the police.”
“You seem to have experienced a lot of violence. Can you see Jace now?”
“Yeah, he’s questioning if we should be telling you everything.”
“How do you communicate with him?”
“At first we learned to use sign language. Now we can use telepathy. I also ask my heart what he would think about difficult problems.”
“Can he talk with me?”
“He knows if you have an open heart. Then you can feel him touch you. I feel you are open-hearted. That is why I am telling you everything. Do you want him to touch you?”
Jace was smiling gleefully at the first time we had done this openly with an adult.
“Of course,” he answered.
Jace put both hands on his shoulders, emanating a glow that surrounded us.
“That’s amazing,” the doctor admitted. The glow intensified.
We smiled at each other.
“I’m not sure I should feel so strongly about you. I may not be able to help you if I lose my impartiality.”
“One of my problems is I love too many people at the same time. I tell them they are in my heart, with Jace and Jesus. The heart is just a muscle that expands with exercise. Love is a workout.”
“Speaking of Jesus, I read reports this past year about a phenomenon called ‘Teen Jesus.’ The Franciscans and Baptists are running homeless shelters for teens because a teenager died and was resurrected at Easter.”
“They’re called ‘Jace’s Place.’ Are you Catholic?”
“More Shinto, but I was raised Catholic.”
“That’s why it’s so easy to love you. You have Jesus in your heart already. He’s lonely when you don’t love others.”
He reached over and touched my cheek, smiling and holding my attention.
“Well, now that we’ve established that we love each other,” he remarked so easily, “what can I do to help you? Why are you in therapy. Do you think you are Teen Jesus?”
“I always deny that, but maybe it does get me into trouble. Jace is a parable of Jesus, but as a teenager. He suffered, died and was resurrected, but he also was a rowdy teen, drinking, smoking pot, playing rock n roll, chasing girls, and being my boyfriend. I was the first person who loved him. All his love had been locked away by abuse. When it was released, it was overwhelming. Ten thousand people came to his memorial concert. Our band played for six hours straight.”
“Slow down. Let’s try to understand why you’re troubled by all this.”
“I’m not. I feel incredibly lucky. It’s the acting out that causes me trouble.”
“You were hospitalized right after you got to Ames.”
“Yeah. I had a bad trip. Too many sick rides hitch hiking,” it came rushing out.
He didn’t say anything, just held my hand. The glow intensified. I felt better.
Finally he let go of my hand.
“I think we’ve made a good start, Andy. Sometimes it takes months for a patient to open up.”
“I’m not very patient. I’m only young once.”
“You’re also very wise. I think you will feel better for having told someone. Am I’m the first one you told about the abuse? You’ve made progress but it’s not unusual to regress after exposing deep hurt. Let’s keep meeting once a week, but if you feel anxious or any other negative emotions, you can call me anytime.” He gave me his card, writing his home telephone number on the back.
We stood up and hugged, smiling deeply at each other. He knew I was gay. I knew instantly he wasn’t. We had a strong sense of balance between us. I danced out of the session with an unburdened heart.
I had to go immediately to work. The two hours flew by without my good feelings diminishing. I walked in the house, giving Mom a big hug. I swung her around as if we were dancing. I did the same with Molly.
“Thank you for sending me to Dr. Kam,” I told her.
“He worked his magic, I see.”
“We both worked magic. I really love him. He wants me to come back each week.”
The girls were more skeptical.
“What happened to you?” Angie asked.
“Psychotherapy, Psychotherapy,” I sang.
“Ya must’ve needed it, if it’s changed you to be this whacked out.”
“Whack-a-Mole,” I yelled. They obliged by repeatedly whacking me on the head. I kept bouncing back. Life in the zoo.
Time started to fly by as I settled into the daily grind of school, job, choir, therapy, and life at Hyland House. We were asked not to participate with the marching band at State football games. All I can say is they were a dispirited team, losing all their remaining games, six in a row. ‘Gator remained a steadfast cheerleader on the sidelines, telling everyone to wait until next year when he would be a freshman. We did play with the high school band at his games. They were already spirited and won all their scheduled games to remain undefeated. ‘Gator was next year’s great white hope for State.
The ban on rock n roll at State Stadium riled several groups of students. They organized a rally for free speech at which we played our fight songs. Afterward several fraternities asked if we would play Christmas parties before everyone left for the holidays. We agreed to play at Kappa Sig on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Naturally we told all our high school friends who insisted they were ‘with the band’ to gain entrance. There was a big uproar about under-age drinking which shut down the show before we finished. ‘Gator had been at the door and knew how much was taken in as cover for the open bar. After the police had left, the social direct tried to stiff us on our 25% of the door. Once ‘Gator intervened with his own headcount, they grudgingly paid us. I called the other frats and cancelled the Christmas shows due to the police problem at Kappa Sig. High school invading the college crowd’s domain was not going to work in Iowa. The moms were relieved and the twins doubly so.
Thanksgiving day was more fun. The whole bowling team, including girls, came over after everyone had celebrated at home. A massive jam of pop, folk and country music ensued, everyone singing along to the twins’ record collection We also taught them to sing, with mixed results, to the cover songs we already knew. Donovan’s ‘Atlantis’ ruled.
I tried to get all the girls dancing to ‘Spirit in the Sky.’ They said my arm waving made me look like a holy roller, expecting me to fall to the floor. I instantly fell down and continued to sing the vocals in what everyone thought were tongues.
The moms had cooked a 25 pound turkey. What we ate in the afternoon was nothing compared to what the team consumed as turkey sandwiches after dark. The Pizza Pit was closed for the holiday. The thought of turkey pizza turned my stomach and made me crave just a slice from Sorrento’s. I wished. Flo bemoaned not being able to come for Christmas. I told her to go to Sorento’s and remember our bathroom escapades. Then she could send me a slice. I told ‘Gator (when the greasy, stale slice arrived) all the places where the slice could have been. The slice tasted more than slightly ripe. I’s a long way from Miami to Aims by mail.
Dr. Kam was keeping me calm, thankfully without medication. Choir allowed me to work out my performance addiction. My having to use the twins’ car every evening worked to their advantage by getting boys to drive them whenever they needed a ride. I enjoyed watching how well they manipulated the boys. The bowling team was tight, but we lacked competitiveness. It seems that all the little towns we played had nothing to do other than bowl during the long winters. They actually could bowl. ‘Gator refused to allow us to put participation trophies up at the Clubhouse. Saturday mornings at the bowling alley went from team practices to team tournaments of three or more local high schools. We were slowly improving but could care less about winning – maybe by the time of the State Championship, which we scheduled for late March. We introduced the visitors to the Pizza Pit, making it the highlight of the Saturday competitions. ‘Gator declared himself team president. Football Coach ‘Red’ Ball had contacted his coaching friends at other schools to organize their own bowling teams. It was a natural winter sport for football players. The main difference was half of every team pair were girls. The social possibilities helped recruitment of players. Most schools quickly joined the league. The coaches reserved judgment about co-ed teams, worrying about teen pregnancy. Actual coaching proved impossible as every player was always giving advice and pointers. It was Saturday; no one listened to teachers on Saturday, except math-letes. I got a 25 cent raise from my Pizza Pit manager for bringing in all the extra business. I could care less; it was the tips that I earned that was putting money in my pocket. I turned over my paychecks to the moms who were beginning to complain about the excessive calls to Miami. I was so tempted to call Jack in Switzerland. The toll rate was over $1 a minute. Instead I called Mummy in Miami. She passed along messages about my new life. She told me Jack was singing French hymns in the school choir. I told her I was singing in tongues, which made her laugh and threaten to tell Father Frank I was continuing to turn into a Baptist. I asked her to omit telling him that the choir I was in was Baptist.
Our English class presentation of the Little House on the Prairie Christmas episode was moving along. Two girls both wanted to play Laura; Tish was a pretty blonde and Tammy was a plainer brown-hair girl.
“What is a memorable scene for Laura?” I asked in my role as Assistant Director.
“Oh, when she sticks out her tongue at Nellie Oleson,” they both exclaimed.
“Let’s see how you would do that,” I directed them.
Both girls stuck their tongues out at each other, making weird faces. I chose Tish to be Nellie and Tammy as Laura. They continued to stick their tongues out at each other.
Tish complained to Mrs. McCarthy, “Why can’t I be Laura?’ She was used to getting her way.
“It takes more acting skill to play a villain,” Mrs. McCarthy backed me up. “And the Laura character has many more lines to memorize.
Tish continued her pout as several boys whispered their support. She beamed at them and continued to scowl at me.
Mrs. McCarthy directed me to a costume supply company in Chicago. We ordered the two-man horse outfit. ‘Gator was anxious to start rehearsing. I told him that the outfit would require getting used to. He agreed to start once it had arrived. Noah was less excited about being the horse’s ass. All of us including the posse started telling him ‘don’t be such an ass.’ I worked with him on ideas on how to get laughs, like kicking Pa in the butt when he wasn’t looking.
“Is that in the script?” he asked, unsure on exactly what improvising was.
“Just watch what ‘Gator does and follow his lead. It has to be spontaneous.”
As the Christmas Break approached, I brought my guitar and practice amp to play carols and seasonal songs. The horse outfit had arrived, We added sleigh bells. Every time “Gator and Noah pranced on stage, I played ‘Jingle Bell Rock,’
When Bunny was going offstage, I played ‘Winter Wonderland.’
Mrs. McCarthy liked this musical addition so much that she asked for volunteers from the non-role-playing students to be the chorus. She worked with those who passed her ’can you carry a tune’ standard. We also planned to do ‘Silent Night’ for the Santa and chimney scene as they all go to bed. We chose ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’ for the finale when the star is placed on the top of the tree.
“I hope you’re happy,” Mrs. McCarthy complained. “You turned a simple TV episode into a Broadway Christmas musical.”
“What better way to study Laura Ingalls Wilder. I did get a message from her on our adaptation.”
“She speak to you from beyond the grave?”
“Sort of. I found it in Bartlett’s Quotations;
‘Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you all. If you can only remember me with tears, then don’t remember me at all.’
The holidays were upon us. Hippie and Anna plus 1 were relaxed and looking forward to the grandparent visit. Tommy was total anxiety, still waiting for Foster Care’s approval of his visit outside Florida. That Hippie and Anna were married and could chaperon Tommy was in his favor, since no one let on that the married couple were both only 17. That he had a history of running away was a black mark. Just days before they had to leave, approval was granted. We spoke often on the phone; he was so needy; somehow that tweaked my boner every time. I was a total rescuer. Luckily his foster parents had already rescued him. Last minute drama ensued when his bullying older brother and several friends came over just to harass the boy. He stood up to them, was beaten down, but the brother was arrested and sent to juvie. Tommy had minor injuries plus another black eye. He was terrified that his visit would be cancelled. The police report exonerated him, determining that he was only defending himself in an unprovoked attack. He laughed when we discussed how badly his brother would be treated at The Program.
The night after the drama was resolved, I had another of my strange dreams. The Little House performance was the setting, the Christmas morning distribution of gifts at the tree. The manger under the tree had a mini-Tommy as baby Jesus. When Bunny was led in to be given to Nellie, the mini-Tommy rushed out and jumped on the horse’s back. ‘Gator reared up and trotted off stage. Tommy had slid down the horse’s back, grabbing onto the tail for support. From there, he proceeded to fuck Noah, the horse’s ass, doggy-style. I woke up in a sweat. I was relieved it wasn’t a wet-dream. I lay back worrying that I was a big drama queen. I wondered if Noah might be gay. In my dreams.
My weekly sessions with Dr. Kamikaze allowed me to openly discuss my sexuality. He hadn’t been phased when I said I was gay. I went another step and discussed my attraction to girls as well as my misgivings about pursuing 15 year-old Tommy. It all centered on the Teen Jesus proscription that youths only explore their sexuality with those their same age. Dr. Kam noted that I hadn’t been sexual since the abuse, suggesting that I should allow my normal horniness to return before trying to figure out the intricacies of my own sexuality. I appreciated his relative objectivity about moral issues. He asked if Teen Jesus was an attempt to apply hippie free love to the uptight straight world. It was food for thought and led us to discuss how well I was adapting to the conservative Mid-West compared to the hedonistic attitudes I embraced in Miami.
“I guess I’m a different person here. No pot, alcohol or other illegal activity since the barn party, no sex drive propelling me into high school dramas.”
“These are admirable conscious efforts to help you fit in. But what about the unconscious, anything bubbling up that conflicts with the ‘new’ you?”
“Well, I do lie to Tommy when he notices that I’m getting turned on by our phone conversations.”
“Sounds like a hard-on is a wake-up call from the subconscious. Do you feel guilty.”
“Freudians would say it’s a classic id-ego conflict.”
“More like as super-id/super-ego problem. I actually get off on the phone sex but lie to Tommy rather than admit it.”
“What happens when he comes for Christmas? Do the moms know he’s coming?”
“Uhm, that’s a problem I need to resolve.”
“You bet. Not just telling the moms, but how are you planning to hide your obvious sexual excitement?”
“You know me too well.”
“How did you deal with it when you lived together in the wild?”
“It was pretty wild. We even had a panther watching us every night, while we sang and acted like a couple in love.”
Dr. Kam obviously liked the animism of that image and its relation to Shintoism.
“So it’s more than attraction. You’ve already been having sex.”
“Yeah, and he’s only 15. I feel like a pervert.”
“Well, you were only 16 then.”
“Yeah, but he was only 14. I always saw him as a kid. He crushed on my so badly, it became a turn-on.”
“You are messing yourself up sexually. You were alone together for months. Its called propinquity, the effect of nearness and of frequency in forming romantic bonds.”
“There’s a name for my condition.”
“It’s not pathological, it’s normal.”
“I’m not sure it’s right. I feel like a pervert.”
“So how did it work out in the wild? Were you able to accommodate each other?”
I didn’t tell him how accommodating Tommy was to my dick in his ass.
“Yeah. I kept saying we were like brothers, not lovers. The sex tapered off to just mutual masturbation, but he knew I loved him, just not as an equal. I even was mean to him, like an older brother would be.”
“What was it like when you were around others at the hippie campground?”
“I said that he was crushing on me like hero-worship, hugging me a lot and always being together.”
Then I told Dr. Kam the ‘Gatorsaurus legend as my effort to get Tommy to see I was as chicken-shit as anyone.”
“How did that work?”
“I had to get weapons to attack the ‘gator the next time.”
“Sounds like you needed the hero-worship, similar to your need to always be the center of attention, your performance addiction.”
“I’m pretty messed up, huh?”
“I think you’re pretty great. The trouble is you draw the line on right and wrong a lot further from where everyone else does. Teen Jesus gives you that privilege. I called the church in NYC and asked about the Jace’s Place project. They’ve helped hundreds of kids escape the streets. You get a lot of credit for that.”
“Why am I so hard on myself?”
“Sound like anyone else in your upbringing?”
“Not atypical in growing up.”
“So, I should just let my dick tell me what’s right.”
“No, you should let your heart tell your dick how to act.”
“Sounds like Teen Jesus.”
“Jesus wasn’t always a teenager. He grew up into something, something else.”
“You like Teen Jesus, huh?”
“I love Teen Jesus,” and he gave me a hug.
I always felt great after our sessions.
But I still had to deal with Tommy. I called as soon as I got home.
“Hey, Huck. I didn’t ‘spect ya ta call so soon.”
“Ya gots official permission ta come?”
“Sure. I’s already packed. The fosters are celebrating later, so I bets I gits lots o’ underwear and socks. I even boughts ‘em presents.”
“That’s pretty funny, Bets ya gits shirts and pants, too.”
“Yeah. They’s purdy cool.”
“I called ‘cause we needs to fix the butt lust fever ‘fore ya gits here.”
He laughed. “That’s what ya calls it, butt lust. I’s gots it fer shure.”
“Well, I bin lyin’ ta ya. I gots it too whenever you git all steamed up on the phone.”
“Is I old ‘nuff, now,” he was trembling with excitement and anticipation.”
“That ain’t it, Tommy. We’s still a’growin’ up. Question is, am I’s yer brother or lover? Cain’t be both.”
“Why not?” he complained.
“Cause lovers burn out. It never lasts. Brothers is fer life.”
“I wants ya in my life fer ever, Huck. I loves ya so much,” he started crying.
“Don’t cry,” I ordered in my mean brother voice.
He gulped and stopped. “What’s I gotta do?”
“Yer doin’ so good with the fosters. You’re doin’ it. I’s doin’ good here. It’s the fever from the butt lust that scares me. If we start screwin’ agin, we’ll mess up.”
“I promise I won’ts mess up, Huck. I’ll be anythin’ ya wants, jist ta be with ya’s.”
I realized how messed up that could be. I loved him too much to make him be what he wasn’t. I just wanted him to tone it down. I was being such a closet case.
“I don’t wants that, Tommy. I loves ya fer who ya really are. All them adventures and troubles, we’s a team. The sex drove ya to me, don’t let it drive me away.”
“We cain’t have sex?” Oh, the mind of 15-year-olds.
“Ain’t no way we ain’t havin’ sex the first time we’s alone.”
“Oh, no, no. Shit I jist messed myself.”
“You are so cute,” I laughed.
“Jist like it was when we built the camp. Ya hold me back, then I cain’t helps myself. I cums too soon when we finally git to it.”
“Lookin’ forward to Iowa?”
“Yeah, but clean briefs will do fer right now,” we both laughed.
“Brothers and lovers?” I asked to see if he understood.
“Tryin’ ta make babies with each other,” he responded.
Direction by misdirection. How was that going to work? I’ll just tell the bowling team it’s all just affection. ‘Gator will stick up for me.
Time to get permission from the moms for Tommy to stay with us. I marched into the living room where they were reading and finishing projects from work.
“I think we should speak about the phone bill. You haven’t said anything, but I got the job so as to pay for my long distance calls.”
“We haven’t said anything but do know you call your friends a lot. It’s not the expenses. We worry they might be a bad influence on you.”
“You think my friends are bad?”
“All parents have that concern. You’ve been an angel since you got here. The twins totally trust you. Our job is to watch for warning flags.”
“I know you trust me.”
“Sure, and coming to us on your own about the phone bill is just an example of what a fine boy you are. But moms never stop worrying.”
“Well, I have a request. Maybe if’n ya says yes, it might help you to see that all my Florida friends ain’t so bad.”
“’If you say ‘yes, they are not so bad,’” Mom corrected me.
“Sorry. I jist git/just get so excited I slip up.”
“That’s what moms do, catch you when you fall.”
“Well, I’m hoping my friend from the Everglades can come to visit for Christmas.”
“We already plan to welcome your friend from the band and his teen bride.”
“Tommy got permission to ride with them here. Hippie and Anna will stay with his Mima and Pipa in Harlan County. Can Tommy stay here, please?”
“He’s not from the band?”
“No, we called ourselves Tom and Huck, livin’ it up in the Everglades.”
“So can he stay?”
“May he..” Mom corrected me.
“May he, Moms? We’ll move down to the second floor so as not to annoy the twins.”
“Do his parents know about these plans?”
“He’s in placement with a foster family. He had to get permission from the County to leave the State. His foster parents love me. They think I’m a good influence on him. He’s only fifteen.”
“It seems a little unusual to be so excited about someone younger than you.”
I flashed on the thought that Dr. Kam had been talking about me and my sexuality.
“Dad has told us you had both girlfriends and boyfriends in Miami,” Mom informed me that they were not clueless. “We certainly are not anything but supportive of that.”
“I would hope so,” as I winked at them and their choices. “I call him my little brother. He definitely crushes on me which is crazy. But our friends just accepted us as typical brothers. We even had a band, called the Hillbilly Brothers.”
“Sometime you need to tell us all about your adventures as a fugitive.”
“That’s something we can do when Tommy’s here. He’s the one who embellished the ‘Gatorsaurus legend. Once he gets talking ya cain’t stop him.”
“Can’t stop him, Andy.
“Okay. So he can come visit?”
“Of course. Just next time, ask us first, not last for permission.”
I hugged them and got all red in the face. The moms shook their heads. They suspected it was more than brotherly love I was dealing with.
The two-man horse costume arrived about a week before the Christmas assembly. ‘Gator and Noah quickly coordinated the movements of the horse, now named Bunny. They had no problem with the close quarters of the outfit. They treated it like a football drill. We had been rehearsing the episode for more than a week. Adding horse antics and pranks would enhance the liveliness of the performance. We kept to the script, which all the actors had memorized well and had practiced without the added humor. We had a week to make it come alive. The non-actors were split into the chorus and the stage crew. The chorus already knew the Christmas carols as they were standards. I spent time playing the music for them and rehearsing their singing. Everyone sang very well.
The first day with the live Bunny character turned into utter chaos. “Gator was learning his marks but quickly decided there were many chances to improvise. ‘Gator choreographed his entrance at the beginning of the play, trotting onstage with the Laura character on his back, rearing up and kicking as if he was a bucking bronco. He started biting the boys on the butt and nuzzling the girls. Noah starting kicking Mr. Oleson and even Charles Ingalls whenever they weren’t looking. Their nervous anticipation of these attacks created a great humorous tension. I suggested the girls carry apples to fend off Bunny; ‘Gator made a great show of chomping the apples, even passing one to Noah who masticated the fruit and dropped it out the back of the horse costume. I assigned Neil, a non-actor, to run on stage and sweep up the horse manure. The new character had no lines but he was a natural ham, adding to the comic chaos as he cleaned up the ‘stinky’ droppings.
My choice of Tammy as Laura proved prophetic; she was a ranch girl and expert horsewoman. Tish as Nellie Oleson was less proficient, taking a few spills when she tried to mount Bunny. ‘Gator learned to be less vigorous, but Tish remained cautious, which played into the plot as well. Mrs. McCarthy became adept at fielding complaints from the actors and crew. My idea to recreate horse manure for Noah to ‘drop’ was enhanced with symbolic plop sound effects and energized clean-ups by Neil.
“How about we do the dress rehearsal in front of an elementary school audience?” I asked Mrs. McCarthy. “It’ll be a good gauge of how well the pranks and antics will go over.”
She just smiled and nodded approval. Her goal of familiarizing the class with 19th Century life on the Prairie was greatly exceeded by the live performance. The stage crew had done an excellent job of painting backdrops of the changing settings – Oleson’s store, the Ingalls’ house, barn and outdoor farm scenes. The many props needed were readily available. Farm life in Iowa had not changed much in the last 100 years. We took liberties to make the production less complicated. The wagon wheel that Pa had to fix was changed to a baby carriage wheel. Mrs. Whipple’s seamstress shop was relocated to a corner of the store. My event planning skills were in over-drive. Mrs. McCarthy let me run on my own. I kept her appraised of new developments. We scheduled for a grade school class to attend the dress rehearsal on Friday the 19th with the actual Christmas assembly on the last day before the holiday break, Tuesday, December 23rd. It would give us the weekend to make corrections from what we learned at dress rehearsal. Hippie and friends/family were due to arrive on the weekend after a long overnight drive. Hopefully the weather would cooperate, although a White Christmas would just be frosting on the cake.
When we invited one elementary school to attend our dress rehearsal for ‘A Plum Creek Christmas’, all the other elementary schools pleaded to be invited. As the students filed into the Aims High auditorium, I overheard many kids saying they thought the actual TV cast had come to Ames. I gathered the cast and crew on stage behind the curtain. The audience of 6-11 year-olds were already creating a dull roar in the auditorium.
“Y’all hear that noise?” I asked them. “That’s 1200 kids expecting to see the actual characters from their favorite TV show. We ain’t gonna disappoint them ‘cause yer better than those TV actors. What we’ve done with the script will be real Prairie, not just Hollywood’s idea of what it’s like to live here. Just think of yer granddaddys and grammas living on the edge of civilization.
“Just a word about speaking up. There’s 1200 noisy kids out there. Make sure that the last kid in the back row hears ya as good as the front row seats. Let’s not lose the sound battle. The same goes for the chorus. Sing yer hearts out. It will sound too loud on stage. It will help the actors really project. Oh, and let’s have fun. We’ve done the work to be ready. All we need now is real Christmas spirit.”
“Andy said everything I would say. Let’s just do it.” Mrs. McCarthy sent us on stage.
I stepped out in front of the closed curtain, followed by the ten singers of the chorus. Picking up my Gibson SG, I looked up and winked at Jace. I opened with the notes to ‘Jingle Bells’
The curtain opened to the front of the Plum Creek General store with Nellie Oleson standing outside. As the chorus finished singing, out pranced Bunny with Laura clinging to his mane. The kids all went ‘ah,’ and started giggling as Laura and Nellie traded stuck-out tongues at each other. Laura dismounted to allow Nellie to ride. Noah kicked, knocking over a milk can, while ‘Gator was hopping up and down, so Nellie couldn’t get on. The kids were really laughing. Nellie finally mounted Bunny.
Nellie: (on Laura’s horse, Bunny) Can I gallop him?
Laura: No. You be careful, Nellie Oleson. I don’t want him to get all winded.
(the Ingalls family comes out of Oleson’s Mercantile)
Charles: Laura, come on. Time to go!
Laura: That’s enough. Pa’s ready to go.
Nellie: Just one more time?
Laura: No, now get off.
‘Gator reached around trying to bite Nellie.
Nellie: You ought to get a saddle for him.
Laura: I don’t need one. (Sticking out her tongue at Nellie)
Nellie: If he was mine, I’d get him a saddle.
Laura: Well, he isn’t yours.
(‘Gator neighed and pranced around Laura.)
(Nellie runs to her father)
Nellie: You’d buy him for me, wouldn’t you? The pony? If I told you how much I wanted him?
(Bunny runs over to listen to her plea.)
Noah shouts out: ‘Stop farting ‘Gator.’
Kids love fart jokes. The kids are now roaring with laughter
Nellie: Please? I promise I won’t ask for another single solitary thing for Christmas if you buy me Bunny.
(Bunny shaking his rear end, deposits a fake pile of manure.)
Now the kids are screaming with laughter.
(The smallest kid in the class, Neil, runs out with a shovel and removes the manure to continued hilarity. A large number of kids from the back rows run forward and sit on the floor below the stage.
(Bunny trots over, looking at the seated kids, sniffs like he’s smelling them, turns around and deposits more manure.) The little kid runs out and cleans it up again.
Mr. Oleson: Uh, Laura? Would.. would you take $5 for him?
Laura: He’s not for sale.
(Bunny runs over and nuzzles Laura. The kids cheer.)
Nellie: You can’t say that. Only your Pa can say that. He’s for sale, isn’t he, Mr. Ingalls?
Charles: I’m afraid not, Nellie. That’s Laura’s horse. If she doesn’t want to sell him, she doesn’t have to sell him.
(Laura grins at Nellie, who glares back)
Nellie: He don’t even have a saddle.
Laura: I hate that Nellie Oleson!
Caroline: Laura! Don’t say hate–don’t even think hate! Now, you may be angry, but try to understand. I’m sure Nellie must have some fine qualities in her.
Charles: Your Ma’s right. On the way home, we’ll try and think of one.
(Laura laughs as Caroline hides a smile)
The audience is clapping and stomping their feet. The elementary teachers attempt to get the kids back in their seats. Mrs. McCarthy intercedes, telling them the kids are part of the show, as if we had planned it.
The chorus and I played ‘Jingle Bell Rock,’
with Bunny reappearing, to shake the bells on his back. The noise was deafening. I turned up my amp to maximum as the chorus sung as loud as they could. I made a note to have mics for the assembly.
The play proceeded, with great cheers and hilarity every time Bunny appeared. He also came out between scenes. One time he neighed the chorus to Jingle Bells. I jumped in on guitar, once I recognized the tune.
The highlight of the play was the star on the tree, at which we played ‘We Three Kings.’
The kids quieted as the Christmas mood settled them down. Bunny came down from the stage, sitting with the kids, who piled on top of ‘Gator and Noah.
It was time to give Bunny to Nellie.
(Laura goes to the barn to get Bunny)
Nellie: I’ll be good to him. I promise.
Laura: You better be. (to Bunny) Come on.
(Bunny refuses to go to Nellie, hiding behind Laura.)
Mr. Oleson: Thank you, Laura. Now, steady, Bunny. That’s a girl. There you go. You got a new home. Yes, sir. Steady, Bunny.
(Bunny slinks away, climbing down with the kids on the floor. They hold onto to him, to keep him safe)
(Laura comes inside crying)
Caroline: Oh, Laura. Oh. I just love my stove. Don’t cry.
Carrie: Papa, open mine. Open mine, Papa.
Charles: Carrie, we almost forgot about you. Well, that’s quite a present. Who’s it for?
Carrie: Baby Jesus.
Charles: Oh. Well, let’s see. (unwraps the star) That is very pretty, Carrie. Want to put it on the tree? Come on. Up we go. There.
Charles: (to Caroline) Merry Christmas.
Caroline: Merry Christmas.
Carrie: Happy birthday, Baby Jesus
We ended with ‘Silent Night’ as Charles holds Carrie up to place the star on the tree.
All the players and crew joined the chorus in singing the carol. Kids were clapping and crying at the same time. The curtain came down. The clapping gave us a curtain call. We sent ‘Gator and Noah out. They bowed as Bunny, and then pulled off their costume. They took real bows, with big grins at the resounding cheers. We all joined them on stage.
Heck, this was just the dress rehearsal.
Mrs. McCarthy was besieged by the elementary school teachers, congratulating her on getting teenagers to do a real Christmas play and make it so much fun.
“It was your kids that made it fun. They were part of the performance, too,” she reminded them. “Good luck getting them to settle down back in class.”
“We told their parents and the buses to pick them up here. It’s a surprise half-day.”
“It is a Merry Christmas,” Mrs. McCarthy was beaming.
I was smiling at her, until she came over to hug me. I felt I was back in grammar school.
“They’re ready to make me teacher of the year, when you deserve all the credit,” she complimented me.
“Thank you for feeding my addiction. I need that rush from performing.”
“It’s a gift, Andy. Never disparage it.”
She gave me a better outlook. Never one to miss an accolade. No false humility here.
I wondered how we were going to top the dress rehearsal with the actual assembly performance on Tuesday. I doubted that high schoolers would be so entranced by the antics added to the script. I decided to rely on ‘Gator to entertain our peers. Fart jokes work on kids of all ages. Mrs. McCarthy and I agreed that there was no need to rehearse or make changes. Better not to overdo rehearsing. We did plan to instruct the players to play to the audience by waiting for the laughs and cheers to die down before going on with their lines. That was if we got the same raucous reception with the older kids.
I spent Friday night writing out Christmas cards to all my friends and second families in Miami. 1975 had been a tumultuous year for me, affecting everyone I knew. I had so much to say to the Watt family that I wrote a complete letter to enclose with my card. Cards were sufficient for most of my friends – the Stones, Uncles Tam and Steve, Father Frank, Hippie’s moms, Susan and Dad, Coach Earl, Mike Sr, Jay, and even Doug Weston. They had all been influential. I filled each card with thanks and reminiscences. The twins got home about midnight and sat with me reading the cards.
“You have so many people in your life,” Amy was amazed. “You treat them all like family.”
“That’s what happens for an only child, you adopt second families. I always wanted brothers and sisters. Most of my military friends had 5 or 6 siblings.”
“Did you write to any of them?” Angela always spotted weak links in my stories.
“Naw. We always expected to just move on to new assignments.”
“Like you’ve just moved on to us,” she could be tough.
“You two don’t need a brother? Being twins makes you so close, you don’t let others in?” I shot back.
“You know we love you, Andy. You shook up our world since you arrived two months ago,” Amy disarmed the conflict.
“You’re lucky I’m your age. Wait ‘til ya meet Tommy to find out what a little brother can be like.”
“Are you warning us?”
“Be on notice. He’s so sweet he’ll win your heart and such a pest you’ll want to kick his ass.”
“No ass kicking going on here.”
“Well, you can kiss his ass then.”
My heart was beating hard, just by mentioning him.
“Why are you blushing?” Angie had to know.
“Just excited that he’s coming to visit.”
“That’s cute. Ya sure it ain’t more than anticipation?”
“He’s my little brother. We had such fun living out in the Everglades by ourselves.”
“We’ll make him feel at home. Don’t worry.”
I told them the back story of the ‘Gatorsaurus legend, how it was to get Tommy to stop hero-worshiping me.
“Andy’s got a groupie,” they taunted me.
“Jist warnin’ ya. He’ll be all over me. He’s real possessive.”
“Ew, sounds like a girlfriend. We’s bin wonderin’ when you’d git one.”
I gave them a sharp look. Then we broke up into giggles. Sisters.
“One thing ya gots ta prepare for is he wants to sing with us. And, he cain’t carry a tune worth beans. I needs ya ta pinch him when he’s off key to nudge him up.”
“That’ll be fun,” they agreed.
“We used ta sing fer this black panther that came by camp at night.”
“A Black militant?”
“Naw, a real panther cat. It would sit in a tree and watch us when it got dark.”
“Did he wanna eat ya?” Amy was wide-eyed.
“That idea got Tommy all wound up. I thought the cat was protectin’ us. We’s got tons o’ stories ‘bout campin’ in the ‘Glades. Tommy kin rilly spin a tale. Just ax him when he’s here.”
‘Gator came by for breakfast, as we had a bowling tournament that Saturday. I knew it took 24 hours to drive from Miami. I hoped Hippie and everyone would arrive that evening. The girls noticed I was worked up. Their kidding threw off my bowling, but the team did well, not coming in last for once. All the teams went for pizza at the Pit after the tournament. The twins cornered ‘Gator telling him about my groupie.
“He’s my little brother,” I corrected them.
“Then he’s my little brother, too,” ‘Gator adopted him like he did everyone.
“We’re all little brothers and sisters to you, big boy,” Amy kidded him.
“I needs sum o’ that brotherly love,” as he grabbed her in a hug.
“We alls need that phillydellfia love,” as I broke into Harold Melvin’s ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now:’
The girls backed me up a Capella, as we sang to ‘Gator and the boys. The other bowling teams were well entertained.
It was time for my pizza delivery shift. I came and went until 7pm. ‘Gator and the rest of the team were still enjoying the Pizza Pit. ‘Gator had struck a deal with the manager for free pizza since he was bringing in so much new business. The Pit became a legend.
I rushed home hoping to see the familiar beat-up station wagon in the drive. No such luck. We all went up to the third floor and sang along to the twins’ record collection, me playing guitar, Amy on the piano, and Angela acting as DJ
“Tim, your friends are here,” Mom called up the stairs.
We all rushed outside to greet them. The three of us, ‘Gator and his posse and the rest of the bowling team, surrounded the station wagon. Tommy jumped out and had both arms around me (at least he didn’t kiss me)
Hippie was patting me on the back. Anna stood there big as a house as I hugged her.
“Hi, mama,” I greeted her. They were stunned by the crowd after the long drive.
Tommy was never at a loss for words, “Y’all here jist to greet us’ns?”
‘Gator grabbed him, “Sure, little bro,” as he tossed him up into the air. That shut him up.
I grabbed him back, “He’s my little brother. Y’all gots to earn it.”
I held him at arm’s length. “Y’all got big,” as I admired him and pulled him into a big hug. He wouldn’t let go. They all went ‘aw.’
Turning to everyone, “Tim’s my big brother.” Then looking at ‘Gator, “Y’all’s my bigger brother.”
The moms were introduced, taking Anna into their arms. They led her inside as she needed the bathroom urgently.
“Yeah, she hadda stop like every ten miles. Took us forever to git here,” Hippie complained.
The twins took an instantly liking to his country ways.
“Yer Andy’s best friend, or so he says.”
“I guess. I never had friends ‘til Jace and he decided ta adopt me.”
“Ya lived in Iowa ‘afore?” Amy was all sweetness.
“Jist last Fall . My Mima and Pipa live here ’bouts.”
“We don’ts call grandparents that here in Iowa.”
“Well, they’s from Texas, hadta move here ‘cause o’ my moms.”
“We gots two moms, too. Come meet ‘em.”
The twins dragged him to meet the moms. Hippie was still the groupie king.
“How ya likes my friends,” I asked ‘Gator, with Tommy still attached to my hip.
“Well, they ain’t stand-offish. I thoughts y’all friends was real rich and snooty.”
“Some, but they’s too busy gitting their presents to come visit me.”
“How come yer called ‘Gator. I’s got me a fear of ‘gators since last summer,” Tommy asked.
‘Andy gave me the name ‘cause I reminded him of that ‘Gatorsaurus story y’all tells. I gits ta hear if from you now.”
Tommy finally detached himself and was in his element. He described the alligator in lurid, colorful and gruesome terms. ‘Gator was entranced and started acting out the scenario, as Tommy described it, lunging at the girls when Tommy related how the ‘gator came out of the swamp, jaws snapping and tail whipping back and forth. Noah couldn’t help himself from swishing his butt back and forth, like he was still playing Bunny the horse.
The moms had prepared a meal for the travelers. ‘Gator decided that most of it was for him. Anna gave him a run for his money. He clapped Hippie on the back, “Ya gots yerself a fine woman, Hippie. I loves a woman who ain’t afraid to tuck in food .”
“She’s eating for two now,” Hippie explained.
“You little devil,” “Gator slapped Hippie again, “What’s ya gonna name ‘im?”
“We’s gots ta decide that?”
“How ‘bout ‘Gator, if’n it’s a boy?” he innocently promoted himself.
“Maybe. But now I’s hopin’ it’s a girl.”
The moms had Hippie call the grandparents, insisting they stay the night in Ames as it was too late for the old folk to wait up. We all ended up on the third floor, continuing our sing-along. The twins loved pinching Tommy when he went off-key. His choir attendance had helped his singing, but he still was afraid to reach for high notes. A little pinch jumped him right up there, almost squeaking the words.
As it was so late, ‘Gator decided everyone would spend the night as a sleepover. Most of the bowling girls couldn’t stay but the boy posse soon had claimed beds or the floor in the spare second floor bedrooms. Tommy marched right in with me up on the third. When the girls called out ‘Goodnite, Jim Bob,’ they followed it with ‘Goodnight, Tom Boy.” We giggled and called back ‘Goodnight, Mary Ellen.”
Tommy snuggled into my arms. Reaching down, he went to grab my dick.
“We ain’t goin’ there, ‘less we’s alone,” I whispered.
He didn’t complain, reaching both arms around me. He was asleep in no time. I was laying on my back, looking at the ceiling with a raging hard-on, not daring to move and wake him up. I must have fallen asleep because it was morning. We both were stiff from not moving all night.
Coming down to breakfast, nine teenagers for Mom’s blueberry pancakes. We all had seconds. We would have had more except Tommy was antsy to get out and drive around Ames.
“Sorry, bud. Sunday morning means Church.”
“I gots ta go ta Church here?” he complained.
Molly came over and hugged him. “We are proud to show you off to everyone. Seems like we have a new son, at least for Christmas.”
Tommy’s got real wide-eyed, looking around the table, checking to see if the twins agreed.
“It makes me proud ya feels that way. I’s happy ta be in church wid y’all. Ya knows I love Huck as my true brother. I think he’s got the bestest family ever. I cain’t believe I gots me two new families now.”
He went around and hugged everyone. The girls never flinched. He just sat beside me on my chair with our arms wrapped around each other.
“Now tell us the ‘Gatorsaurus story. Andy says y’all tells it best.”
“Ya all knows Huck saved me from that there abusive juvenile work camp. But even he was no match fer ‘Gatorsaurus. I told Huck I’s never goin’ into the heart of the Everglades, but it was the only way out of that prison camp. No one had ever lived trying to escape through the snake and alligator infested swamp. We was desperate. Our fellow inmates were being classified retards and insane maniacs for life, jist fer not following they’s rules. We jumped the fence and immediately had to git through the endless swamp. I was so scared, Huck had to hold my hand as we made it away from the camp in the dead of night. Huck, he knows a ton o’ stuff about campin’ and livin’ off the land. We found chickens laying eggs and rice patches fer grain, and best was when he taught me to caitch stupid catfish by scooping them with my whole arm. Once we got the lean-to built, we decided to take a swim where the swamp was clear. We were havin’ a good ol’ time splashin’ and dunkin’ each other. I’d plum fergot ‘bouts my fears of alligators and such. I was not paying no attention. Suddenly Huck’s eyes got real big. He grabbed me and pulled my away from the biggest ‘gator ya ever seen. He yelled ‘Gator.’ I jumped on his back. We high-tailed it to the island where we was camped. After we was safe on land, I went over the water’s edge and made fun o’ that ol’ humongous ‘gator. Bang. He was coming right out o’ that water. His feet going a hundred miles an hour, right for me. His jaws was snapping. There must’ve been a hundred teeth, just ready ta snap me in two and et me whole. He was that big. His breath was foul and stinky. His green scales were all rotted. Green slime oozed off its back. His tail was whippin’ back ‘n forth. The worst was his eyes, never stopped starin’ right at me. When he sprayed water out his long nose, I swore it was smoke. Huck ran under a tree and pushed me up into the branches. He couldn’t climb over me and I was too scared to move. ‘Gatorsaurous was charging right fer Huck. Jist at the last-minute, Huck jumped on the ‘gator’s head and bounced into the tree, right over me. ‘Gatorsaurous looked ‘round, seeing me stuck halfway safe up the tree and charged ta git me. ‘Course Huck was ready. He hit ol’ ‘Gatorsaurus on the nose with a stick. He knows ‘gators hate that. Huck reached down and pulled me ta safety. It took more’n four hours fer that dumb ol’ ‘gator to ferget etin’ us. He finally wandered off. He never came back. I thought at first he was scared o’ ol’ Huck. But then I found out ‘gators got big noses fer smellin.’ An’ ol Huck he be smellin’ so bad, that ol ‘gator ’bout lost his lunch.”
I’d forgotten how funny Tommy made the story. Everyone started laughing halfway through the telling. When he finished with me stinking so bad, Amy shouted, “An’ he’s still stinky.”
I must love abuse, ‘cause everyone was piling on. Even in church, we kept breaking out in giggles. They made the twins and me stand in the back of the choir.
I had told Molly to pinch Tommy when he went off-key singing hymns. I kept laughing during the service as he kept jumping because of his lame singing. I had gotten Hippie to sing his trademark ‘Amazing Grace.’ He amazed the church goers. After he finished we all went over to sit with the moms. There were thirteen of us taking up an entire pew. We were slowly taking over the church.
Time for Hippie and Anna to leave. They promised to attend the Christmas assembly performance on Tuesday, as well as coming over from the grandparents when they could get away. Tommy was jealous when he saw how much I loved that boy, making him more determined to get me alone. His possessiveness reminded me of Jack, but instead of buying his way into my heart, he planned to fuck his way in. I laughed, knowing he was already there. How could I let him know how much I loved and wanted him without ruining it all?