‘Gator, the twins and I are alone in the band section, in a group hug, as everyone leaves the stadium.
“That’s why I love football,” ‘Gator declares. “It can break yer heart but ya jist keep comin’ back.”
I’m stunned to realize that he has won me over. I hated sports last year, especially football. But cheering, crying and hugging with ‘Gator has affected my heart. Is there enough room in there for the big lug? Jace looks worried but nods there is.
The high school posse is waiting for us at ‘Gator’s pickup in the parking lot. They nervously watch him as we walk up, unsure how he is reacting to the loss.
“That was the greatest game ever,” he declares. “We’ll git ‘em next year, ‘cause I’ll be out there on the field.”
The guys surround him, slapping him on the back, and congratulating him on being the most amazing cheerleader. A couple of them even high-five the twins and me.
“Y’all was so much better than the marching band. You rock,” Noah says.
We gather at the Pizza Pit. I barely have time for a slice before my shift starts. I come and go with multiple deliveries until seven o’clock. The gang has stayed, laughing at me because I have to work. The other girls from the bowling team are there. The twins are only partially suppressed by all the testosterone. My coming to Ames has changed their lives. I wonder if they want boyfriends. ‘Gator is acting like a big brother to them and me. It is just the way he rolls. Anyway, he has the cheerleader/comfort girl to take the edge off his hormones. Best not to think too much about it.
After my shift is over, we all go to the Hyland house and regale the moms with the day’s exploits. The moms don’t seem fazed by the damage a dozen teenagers inflicts on the house. ‘Gator names it the Aims High Bowling Clubhouse. He takes the moms around the downstairs to pick out where all the future trophies will go. He is all about trophies, deciding that the basement needs a makeover as a playroom for the clubhouse. He knows where to get a Foosball game. I suggest Pong but no one has heard of video games yet. It is still 1975.
At nine we all leave for the weekly unchaperoned football party. We tell the moms we will only make an appearance and come right home. We don’t want to seem stand-offish. The Moms understand. We’re home by ten and in bed not much later. I blame my exhaustion on the bowling. The last thing I head before putting my head to the pillow is, “Good night, Jim Bob.” I mumbled something back. I’m out like a light.
A good night’s sleep and the three of us come down for breakfast with big smiles dressed all in white for church. I’m ready to holy roll and make up my own tongues language. The girls say they will jump on me and embarrass the devil out of me if I try. The devil being invoked prompts an ensuing conversation about whether I’m really possessed, unable to stop trouble following in my wake. I switch that thought to wake-boarding and the hope that summer is on its way with glorious days wake boarding on the lake. It’s November 2nd.
Molly takes 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 show us the headline, ‘Raucous Rock Invades State Stadium,’ and proceeds 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 Cummings 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 sit 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 takes my side.
“Unintended consequences, dear,” Molly answers. “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 tells me.
“Maybe we shouldn’t sing in church today. Some old person may sink to the sixth ring of Hell and blame us,” Angie applies 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 reveal what I had observed.
“Those were tears of joy, not sorrow.”
“It was so sweet,” I conclude “When I got the girls and ‘Gator to cry at the end of the game, we were devastated.”
“You’re crying again?” Molly looks concerned.
“We had put everything into the performance, yet the team still lost. The tears were bleeding from our souls.”
The moms stare at me. I’m being too spiritual. Jace mocks me. Mom serves the breakfast she has prepared. No pancakes this week. It is endless eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. We need the nourishment that excessive pizza fails to deliver. Everyone has seconds. When I ask for thirds, Molly takes out from the oven glazed cinnamon rolls. It’s so tempting we feel we might be banned from church.
Regardless, in short order, the twins and I are seated with the choir and the moms beaming at us from the pews. Our voices are a little raw from all the signing that weekend. The choir master asks if we’re okay.
“We were supposedly invoking Dante’s ring of Hell yesterday,” Angie tells 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 suggest.
“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 promise.
“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 is inspired.
When it comes time for our solo, we do our best not to cry. Our voices never break as the tears roll down our pink cheeks. It isn’t just the moms who match our tears. The choir behind us adds tempo and bass to our rising alto/soprano lilt. Cheers of ‘Halleluiah’ break out as we end and sit down. The choir master is beaming.
Pastor Blake opens 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 continues into his regular fire and brimstone sermon, which he delivers in less than his thundering manner. Having emptied our tear ducts, we remain dry-eyed, looking out from the choir to the congregation. The moms look straight ahead, barely able to keep their composure in light of their acceptance by Pastor Blake. Some of the people who emphasized how they were praying for us look shocked. Many heads turn to see the moms’ reaction. More than a few tears are shed.
The service over, we stay with the choir on the front steps, joined by the moms. Choir Master Key is shyly beaming,as many people stop to congratulate him following the Pastor’s compliment. I realize 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 are taken truly to heart. Apparently, no one is praying for us this week.
Sunday dinner at the restaurant has us silently contemplating our acceptance at church. No one is gloating. I realize how important this acceptance is for the moms. My old Miami self would be thinking only on how it affects me personally, regardless of the others. Will 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 lift when ‘Gator shows up. He isn’t going to wait on the porch this Sunday for us to return.
“Where’s the posse?” I quiz 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 ask.
“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 laugh. Desserts arrive, which he finishes off for us. We are still full from breakfast.
We spend the afternoon playing music and singing. When the musical spirit leaves us, we do 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 appeal to our shared need to perform.
“I love that show,” he quickly agrees. Why arn’t I surprised?
“It’s the ‘Plum Creek Christmas’ episode from last year.”
“When Ma gits the stove,” he confirms 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 are 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 quips.
“’Gator?” both girls complain.
“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 improvises.
‘Gator leaves when it was time for my Pizza Pit shift. When I get back, Mom’s pot roast dinner is kept warm for me in the oven. My appetite has returned. Looking in the mirror with my shirt off, I’m glad to see I was filling out again, not so scrawny, just skinny. Maybe I’ll work out for bowling.
I call Tommy. Even though I still think about him a lot, I didn’t want him to know it. It makes me feel like a perv. Still ‘m never horny, so I figure 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’s out of breath when he gets on the line.
“Oh, Huck,” he sighs.
“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 sounds 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 has responded for the first time since for ever. I’m glad but the perv thing worries me.
“Jist say ya wants me too. I’ll even let’s ya fuck me like that one time it happened by mistake.”
I’m leaking already. If he keeps talking about it, I’ll mess myself, like he used to do and I teased him when he was fourteen. Maybe I’m experiencing second puberty. He notices that my breathing had quickened.
“Yer getting’ hard, too?” he asks. “I’s rock hard jist thinkin’ ‘bout it.”
That does it. I’d mess myself. My panting tells him everything.
“oh my god, my god, oh my god. Ah,ah ,yeah….” He isn’t quite as quick as me but it makes my dick stay hard thinking about him. I’m a definite pervert, picturing his 14 year-old-self.
“This is so wrong,” I tell 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 cummed. I can 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 feels so weird, getting off without touching myself – probably due to the buildup from a month of asexuality after the rape. Now I have to sneak up to my room without having to explain the huge wet spot on the front of my jeans. Thinking ahead, I dial Flo, my go-to gal. She is pleased. I promised to call every Sunday night. I tell her that Hippie and Anna plan to drive to Iowa for Christmas. Maybe she and Edi can come. She sighs and reminds me that her parents still had her on virginity watch.
“You hear from Jack-off?”
I laugh. “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 are 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 suggests hopefully. My weird dick perks 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 have to get off too. Again.
“Bye, Andy. I love ya.”
“Me, too, Florinda.” We both laugh.
I quickly go up to the third floor, but the girls are 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 isn’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 continue to giggle. Sisters!
In English class on Monday, I stay after to discuss plans for the Christmas performance with Mrs. McCarthy.
“I asked Brock from the football team if he’ll 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 gives 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 laugh.
“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 made me an appointment with the zen shrink, Dr Kamikaze. Memories of the faux counseling I received at The Program make me wary.
“Is your name really Dr. Kamikaze?” I ask 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 laughs. “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’m impressed. He has 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 have his attention.
“How do you do that?” he seems 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 all this.”
“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’m telling you everything. Do you want him to touch you?”
Jace is smiling gleefully at the first time we have done this openly with an adult.
“Of course,” he answers.
Jace puts both hands on his shoulders, emanating a glow that surrounds us.
“That’s amazing,” the doctor admits. The glow intensifies.
We smile 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 reaches over and touched my cheek, smiling and holding my attention.
“Well, now that we’ve established that we love each other,” he remarks 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’m the first person who loved him. All his love had been locked away by abuse. When it got 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 comes rushing out.
He doesn’t say anything, just holds my hand. The glow intensifies. I feel better.
Finally he lets 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 stand up and hug, smiling deeply at each other. He knows I’m gay. I know instantly he isn’t. We have a strong sense of balance between us. I dance out of the session with an unburdened heart.
I go immediately to work. The two hours fly by without my good feelings diminishing. I walk in the house, giving Mom a big hug. I swing her around as if we’re dancing. I do the same with Molly.
“Thank you for sending me to Dr. Kam,” I tell 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 are more skeptical.
“What happened to you?” Angie asks.
“Psychotherapy, Psychotherapy,” I sing.
“Ya must’ve needed it, if it’s changed you to be this whacked out.”
“Whack-a-Mole,” I yell. They oblige by repeatedly whacking me on the head with pillows. I keep bouncing back. Life in the zoo.
Time starts to fly by as I settle into the daily grind of school, job, choir, therapy, and life at Hyland House. We’re asked not to participate with the marching band at State football games. All I can say is they are a dispirited team, losing all their remaining games, six in a row. ‘Gator remains a steadfast cheerleader on the sidelines, telling everyone to wait until next year when he will be a freshman. We do play with the high school band at his games. They’re already spirited and win all their scheduled games to remain undefeated. ‘Gator is next year’s great white hope for State.
The ban on rock n roll at State Stadium riles several groups of college students. They organize a rally for free speech at which we play our fight songs. Afterwards several fraternities ask if we will play Christmas parties before everyone leaves for the holidays. We agree to play at Kappa Sig on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Naturally we tell all our high school friends who insist they’re ‘with the band’ to gain entrance. There is a big uproar about under-age drinking which shuts down the show before we finish. ‘Gator has been at the door and knows how much is taken in as cover for the open bar. After the police leave, the social direct tries to stiff us on our 25% of the door. Once ‘Gator intervenes with his own headcount, they grudgingly pay us. I call the other frats and cancel the Christmas shows due to the police problem at Kappa Sig. High school invading the college crowd’s domain is not going to work in Iowa. The moms are relieved and the twins doubly so.
Thanksgiving day is more fun. The whole bowling team, including girls, come over after everyone has celebrated at home. A massive jam of pop, folk and country music ensues, everyone singing along to the twins’ record collection We also teach them to sing, with mixed results, to the cover songs we already know. Donovan’s ‘Atlantis’ rules.
I try to get all the girls dancing to ‘Spirit in the Sky.’ They say my arm waving makes me look like a holy roller, expecting me to fall to the floor. I instantly fall down and continue to sing the vocals in what everyone thinks are tongues.
The moms cook a 25 pound turkey. What we eat in the afternoon was nothing compared to what the team consumes as turkey sandwiches after dark. The Pizza Pit is closed for the holiday. The thought of turkey pizza turns my stomach but makes me crave just a slice from Sorrento’s. I wish. I call Flo who bemoans not being able to come for Christmas. I tell her to go to Sorento’s to remember our bathroom escapades. Then she can send me a slice. The slice tastes more than slightly ripe. It’s a long way from Miami to Aims by mail. I tell ‘Gator all the places where the slice may have been.
Dr. Kam is keeping me calm, thankfully without medication. Choir allows me to work out my performance addiction. Having to use the twins’ car every evening works to their advantage. Whenever they needed a ride, they get boys to drive them. I enjoy watching how well they manipulate the boys. The bowling team is tight, but we lack competitiveness. It seems that all the little towns we play do nothing other than bowl during the long winters. They actually can bowl. ‘Gator refuses to allow us to put participation trophies up at the Clubhouse. Saturday mornings at the bowling alley changes from team practices to team tournaments of three or more local high schools. We are slowly improving but care less about winning – maybe by the time of the State Championship, which is scheduled for late March. We introduced the visitors to the Pizza Pit, making it the highlight of the Saturday competitions. ‘Gator declares himself team president. Football Coach ‘Red’ Ball had contacted his coaching friends at other schools to organize their own bowling teams. It is a natural winter sport for football players. The main difference is every team pair has a girl. The social possibilities help recruitment of players. Most schools quickly join the league. The coaches reserve judgment about co-ed teams, worrying about teen pregnancy. Actual coaching proves impossible as every player is always giving advice and pointers. It is Saturday; no one listens to teachers on Saturday, except math-letes. I get a 25 cent raise from my Pizza Pit manager for bringing in all the extra business. I can care less; it’s the tips that I earn that is putting money in my pocket. I turn over my paychecks to the moms who are beginning to complain about the excessive calls to Miami. I’m so tempted to call Jack in Switzerland. The toll rate is over $1 a minute. Instead I call Mummy in Miami. She passes along messages about my new life. She tells me Jack is singing French hymns in the school choir. I tell her I was singing in tongues, which makes her laugh. She threatens to tell Father Frank that I’m continuing to turn into a Baptist. I ask her to omit telling him that the choir I’m in is Baptist.
Our English class presentation of the Little House on the Prairie Christmas episode is moving along. Two girls both wanted to play Laura; Tish is a pretty blonde and Tammy, a plainer brown-hair girl.
“What is a memorable scene for Laura?” I ask in my role as Assistant Director.
“Oh, when she sticks out her tongue at Nellie Oleson,” they both exclaim.
“Let’s see how you would do that,” I direct them.
Both girls stuck their tongues out at each other, making weird faces. I chose Tish to be Nellie and Tammy as Laura. They continue to stick their tongues out at each other.
Tish complains to Mrs. McCarthy, “Why can’t I be Laura?’ She’s used to getting her way.
“It takes more acting skill to play a villain,” Mrs. McCarthy backs me up. “And the Laura character has many more lines to memorize.
Tish continues her pout with several boys whispering their support. She beams at them and continues to scowl at me.
Mrs. McCarthy directs me to a costume supply company in Chicago. We order the two-man horse outfit. ‘Gator is anxious to start rehearsing. I tell him that the outfit will require getting used to. He agrees to start once it arrives. Noah is less excited about being the horse’s ass. All of us including the posse start telling him ‘don’t be such an ass.’ I work with him on ideas on how to get laughs, like kicking Pa in the butt when he isn’t looking.
“Is that in the script?” he asks, unsure on exactly what improvising is.
“Just watch what ‘Gator does and follow his lead. It has to be spontaneous.”
As the Christmas Break approaches, I bring my guitar and practice amp to play carols and seasonal songs. The horse outfit arrives. We add sleigh bells. Every time “Gator and Noah prance on stage, I play ‘Jingle Bell Rock,’
When Bunny is going offstage, I play ‘Winter Wonderland.’
Mrs. McCarthy likes this musical addition so much that she asks for volunteers from the non-role-playing students to be the chorus. She works with those who pass her ’can you carry a tune’ standard. We also plan 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 complains. “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 are upon us. Hippie and Anna plus 1 are relaxed and looking forward to the grandparent visit. Tommy is total anxiety, still waiting for Foster Care’s approval of a visit outside Florida. That Hippie and Anna are married and can chaperon Tommy is in his favor, since no one lets on that the married couple are both only 17. That he has a history of running away was a black mark. Just days before they have to leave, approval is granted. We speak often on the phone; he is so needy; somehow that tweaks my boner every time. I’m a total rescuer. Luckily his foster parents have already rescued him. Last minute drama ensues when his bullying older brother and several friends come over just to harass the boy. He stands up to them, is beaten down, and the brother is arrested and sent to juvie. Tommy has minor injuries plus another black eye. He is terrified that his visit will be cancelled. The police report exonerates him, determining that he was only defending himself in an unprovoked attack. He laughs when we discussed how badly his brother will be treated at The Program.
The night after the drama is resolved, I had another of my strange dreams. The Little House performance is the setting, the Christmas morning distribution of gifts at the tree. The manger under the tree has a mini-Tommy as baby Jesus. When Bunny is led in to be given to Nellie, the mini-Tommy rushes out and jumped on the horse’s back. ‘Gator rears up and trots off stage. Tommy slides down the horse’s back, grabbing onto the tail for support. From there, he proceeds to fuck Noah, the horse’s ass, doggy-style. I wake up in a sweat, relieved it isn’t a wet-dream. I lay back worrying that I’m a big drama queen. I wonder if Noah might be gay. In my dreams.
My weekly sessions with Dr. Kamikaze allow me to openly discuss my sexuality. He wasn’t phased when I said I was gay. I go another step and discuss my attraction to girls as well as my misgivings about pursuing 15 year-old Tommy. It all centers on the Teen Jesus proscription that youths only explore their sexuality with those their same age. Dr. Kam notes that I haven’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 appreciate his relative objectivity about moral issues. He asks if Teen Jesus is an attempt to apply hippie free love to the uptight straight world. It is food for thought and leads us to a discussion on how well I’m 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 likes 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 effects 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’s ass was to my dick.
“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 need 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 gives me a hug.
I always feel great after our sessions.
But I still have to deal with Tommy. I call as soon as I get 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 laugh. “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 is 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 complains.
“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 starts crying.
“Don’t cry,” I order in my mean brother voice.
He gulps and stops. “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 realize how messed up that could be. I love him too much to make him be what he isn’t. I just want him to tone it down. I’m 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 laugh.
“Jist like it was when we built the camp. Ya hold me back, then I cain’t helps myself. I cum too soon when we finally gots to it.”
“Lookin’ forward to Iowa?”
“Yeah, but clean briefs will do fer right now,” we both laugh.
“Brothers and lovers?” I ask to see if he understands.
“Tryin’ ta make babies with each other,” he responds.
Direction by misdirection. How was that going to work? I’ll 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 march into the living room where they’re 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 correct 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 corrects 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 flash on the thought that Dr. Kam has been talking about me and my sexuality.
“Dad has told us you had both girlfriends and boyfriends in Miami,” Mom informs me that they are not clueless. “We certainly are not anything but supportive of that.”
“I would hope so,” as I wink at them and their choices. “I call him my little brother. He definitely crushes on me which is crazy. But our friends just accept 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 embellishes the ‘Gatorsaurus legend. Once he gets talking ya cain’t stop him.”
“Cannot stop him, Andy.
“Okay. So he can come visit?”
“Of course. Just next time, ask us first, not last for permission.”
I hug them and get all red in the face. The moms shake their heads. They suspect it’s more than brotherly love we’re dealing with.
The two-man horse costume arrives about a week before the Christmas assembly. ‘Gator and Noah quickly coordinate the movements of the horse, now named Bunny. They have no problem with the close quarters of the outfit. They treat it like a football drill. We have been rehearsing the episode for more than a week. Adding horse antics and pranks will enhance the liveliness of the performance. We keep to the script, which all the actors have memorized well and had practiced without the added humor. We have a week to make it come alive. The non-actors are split into the chorus and the stage crew. The chorus already knows the Christmas carols as they are standards. I spend time playing the music for them and rehearsing their singing. Everyone sings very well.
The first day with the live Bunny character turns into utter chaos. “Gator is learning his marks but quickly decides there are many chances to improvise. ‘Gator choreographes his entrance at the beginning of the play, trotting onstage with the Laura character on his back, rearing up and kicking as if he is a bucking bronco. He starts biting the boys on the butt and nuzzling the girls. Noah starts kicking Mr. Oleson and even Charles Ingalls whenever they aren’t looking. Their nervous anticipation of these attacks creates a great humorous tension. I suggest 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 drops 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 has no lines but he’s a natural ham, adding to the comic chaos as he cleans up the ‘stinky’ droppings.
My choice of Tammy as Laura proves prophetic; she is a ranch girl and expert horsewoman. Tish as Nellie Oleson is less proficient, taking a few spills when she tries to ride Bunny. ‘Gator learns to be less vigorous, but Tish remains cautious, which plays into the plot as well. Mrs. McCarthy becomes adept at fielding complaints from the actors and crew. My idea to recreate horse manure for Noah to ‘drop’ is enhanced with synchronized ‘plop’ sound effects and energized clean-ups by Neil.
“How about we do the dress rehearsal in front of an elementary school audience?” I ask Mrs. McCarthy. “It’ll be a good gauge of how well the pranks and antics will go over.”
She just smiles and nods her approval. Her goal of familiarizing the class with 19th Century life on the Prairie is greatly exceeded by the live performance. The stage crew has done an great job of painting backdrops of the changing settings – Oleson’s store, the Ingalls’ house, barn and outdoor farm scenes. The many props needed are readily available. Farm life in Iowa has not changed much in the last 100 years. We take liberties to make the production less complicated. The wagon wheel that Pa has to fix is changed to a baby carriage wheel. Mrs. Whipple’s seamstress shop is relocated to a corner of the general store. My event planning skills are in over-drive. Mrs. McCarthy lets me run on my own. I keep her appraised of new developments. We schedule 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 will give us the weekend to make corrections from what we learn at dress rehearsal. Hippie and friends/family are due to arrive on the weekend after a long overnight drive. Hopefully the weather will cooperate, although a White Christmas will just be frosting on the cake.
When we invite one elementary school to attend our dress rehearsal for ‘A Plum Creek Christmas’, all the other elementary schools plead to be invited. As the students file into the Aims High auditorium, I overhear many kids saying they think the actual TV cast has come to Ames. I gather the cast and crew on stage behind the curtain. The audience of 6-11 year-olds is already creating a dull roar in the auditorium.
“Y’all hear all that noise?” I ask 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 sends us out on stage.
I step out in front of the closed curtain, followed by the ten singers of the chorus. Picking up my Gibson SG, I look up and wink at Jace. I open with the notes to ‘Jingle Bells’
The curtain opens to the front of the Plum Creek General store with Nellie Oleson standing outside. As the chorus finishes singing, out prances Bunny with Laura clinging to his mane. The kids all go ‘ah,’ and start giggling as Laura and Nellie trade sticking-out tongues at each other. Laura dismount to allow Nellie to ride. Noah kicks, knocking over a milk can, while ‘Gator is hopping up and down, so Nellie can’t get on. The kids are really laughing now. Nellie finally mounts 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: (to Nellie) “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 neighs and prances 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 runs forward and sits 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 play ‘Jingle Bell Rock,’
with Bunny reappearing, shaking the bells on his back. The noise is deafening. I turn up my amp to maximum as the chorus sing as loud as they can. I make a note to have mics for the assembly.
The play proceeds, with great cheers and hilarity every time Bunny appears. He also comes out between scenes. One time he neighs the chorus to Jingle Bells. I jumped in on guitar, once I recognize the tune.
The highlight of the play is the star on the tree, at which we played ‘We Three Kings.’
The audience of kids quiets as the Christmas mood settles them down. Bunny comes down from the stage, sitting with the kids, who pile 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 end with ‘Silent Night’ as Charles holds Carrie up to place the star on the tree.
All the players and crew join the chorus in singing the carol. Kids are clapping and crying at the same time. The curtain comes down. The clapping gives us a curtain call. We send ‘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 is just the dress rehearsal.
Mrs. McCarthy is besieged by the elementary school teachers, congratulating her on getting teenagers to do a real Christmas play and make it so much fun.
“It’s your kids that make it fun. They are part of the performance, too,” she reminds 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 is beaming.
I’m smiling at her, until she comes over to hug me. I feel like I’m back in grammar school.
“They’re ready to make me teacher of the year, when you deserve all the credit,” she compliments me.
“Thank you for feeding my addiction. I need that rush from performing.”
“It’s a gift, Andy. Never disparage it.”
She gives me a better outlook. Never one to miss an accolade. No false humility here.
I wonder how we’ll going to top the dress rehearsal with the actual assembly performance on Tuesday. I doubt that high schoolers will be as entranced by the antics added to the script. I decide to rely on ‘Gator to entertain our peers. Fart jokes work on kids of all ages. Mrs. McCarthy and I agree that there is no need to rehearse or make changes. Better not to overdo rehearsing. We do need 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’s if we got the same raucous reception with the older kids.
I spend Friday night writing out Christmas cards to all my friends and second families in Miami. 1975 was a tumultuous year for me, affecting everyone I know. I have so much to say to the Watt family that I wrote a complete letter to enclose with my card. Cards are 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 have all been influential. I fill each card with thanks and reminiscences. The twins get home about midnight and sit with me reading the cards.
“You have so many people in your life,” Amy is 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 spots 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 can be tough.
“You two don’t need a brother? Being twins makes you so close, you don’t let others in?” I shoot back.
“You know we love you, Andy. You shook up our world when you arrived two months ago,” Amy disarms 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 is beating hard, just by mentioning him.
“Why are you blushing?” Angie has 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 tell 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 taunt 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 give them a sharp look. Then we break 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 agree.
“We used ta sing fer this black panther that come 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 is 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 comes by for breakfast, as we have a bowling tournament that Saturday. I know it takes 24 hours to drive from Miami. I hope Hippie and everyone will arrive that evening. The girls notice that I’m worked up. Their kidding throws off my bowling, but the team does better, not coming in last for once. All the teams go for pizza at the Pit after the tournament. The twins corner ‘Gator telling him about my groupie.
“He’s my little brother,” I correct them.
“Then he’s my little brother, too,” ‘Gator adopts him like he does everyone.
“We’re all little brothers and sisters to you, big boy,” Amy kids him.
“I needs sum o’ that brotherly love,” as he grabs her in a hug.
“We alls need that phillydellfia love,” as I break into Harold Melvin’s ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now:’
The girls back me up a Capella, as we sing to ‘Gator and the boys. The other bowling teams are well entertained.
It’s time for my pizza delivery shift. I come and go until 7pm. ‘Gator and the rest of the team are still enjoying the Pizza Pit. ‘Gator has struck a deal with the manager for free pizza since he was bringing in so much new business. The Pit became a legend.
I rush home hoping to see the familiar beat-up station wagon in the drive. No such luck. We all go up to the third floor and sing along to the twins’ record collection, me playing guitar, Amy on the piano, and Angela acting as DJ
“Tim, your friends are here,” Mom calls up the stairs.
We all rush outside to greet them. The three of us, ‘Gator and his posse and the rest of the bowling team, surround the station wagon. Tommy jumps out and had both arms around me (at least he doesn’t kiss me)
Hippie was patting me on the back. Anna stands there big as a house as I hug her.
“Hi, mama,” I greet her. They are stunned by the crowd after the long drive.
Tommy is never at a loss for words, “Y’all here jist to greet us’ns?”
‘Gator grabbed him, “Sure, little bro,” as he tosses him up into the air. That shuts him up.
I grab him back, “He’s my little brother. Y’all gots to earn it.”
I hold him at arm’s length. “Y’all got big,” as I admire him then pull him into a big hug. He won’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 are introduced, taking Anna into their arms. They lead her inside as she needs the bathroom urgently.
“Yeah, she hadda stop like every ten miles. Took us forever to git here,” Hippie complains.
The twins take 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 is 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 drag him to meet the moms. Hippie is still the groupie king.
“How ya likes my friends,” I ask ‘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 asks.
‘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 detaches himself from me and is in his element. He describes the alligator in lurid, colorful and gruesome terms. ‘Gator is entranced and starts acting out the scenario, as Tommy describes it, lunging at the girls when Tommy relates 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 prepared a meal for the travelers. ‘Gator decides that most of it was for him. Anna gives him a run for his money. He claps Hippie on the back, “Ya gots yerself one fine woman, Hippie. I loves a woman who ain’t afraid to tuck in food .”
“She’s eating for two now,” Hippie explains.
“You little devil,” “Gator slaps 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 promotes himself.
“Maybe. But now I’s hopin’ for a girl.”
The moms have Hippie call the grandparents, insisting they stay the night in Ames as it is too late for the old folk to wait up. We all end up on the third floor, continuing our sing-along. The twins love pinching Tommy when he goes off-key. His choir attendance has helped his singing, but he still is afraid to reach for high notes. A little pinch jumps him right up there, almost squeaking the words.
As it was so late, ‘Gator decides everyone will spend the night as a sleepover. Most of the bowling girls can’t stay but the boy posse soon claims beds or the floor in the spare second floor bedrooms. Tommy marches right in with me up on the third. When the girls call out ‘Goodnite, Jim Bob,’ they follow it with ‘Goodnight, Tom Boy.” We giggle and called back ‘Goodnight, Mary Ellen.”
Tommy snuggles into my arms. Reaching down, he goes to grab my dick.
“We ain’t goin’ there, ‘less we’s alone,” I whisper.
He doesn’t complain, reaching both arms around me. He is asleep in no time. I’m laying on my back, looking at the ceiling with a raging hard-on, not daring to move and wake him up. I must’ve fallen asleep because it is morning. We both are stiff from not moving all night.
Coming down to breakfast, nine teenagers for Mom’s blueberry pancakes. We all have seconds. We would have had more except Tommy is antsy to get out and drive around Ames.
“Sorry, bud. Sunday morning means Church.”
“I gots ta go ta Church here?” he complains.
Molly comes over and hugs him. “We are proud to show you off to everyone. Seems like we have a new son, at least for Christmas.”
Tommy’s gets real wide-eyed, looking around the table, checking to see if the twins agree.
“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 goes around and hugs everyone. The girls never flinched. He just sits 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 starts laughing halfway through the telling. When he finishes with me stinking so bad, Amy shouts, “An’ he’s still stinky.”
I must love abuse, ‘cause everyone is piling on. Even in church, we keep breaking out in giggles. They make 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 keep laughing during the service as he keeps jumping because of his lame singing. I have Hippie sing his trademark ‘Amazing Grace.’ He amazes the church goers. After he finishes we all went over to sit with the moms. There are thirteen of us taking up an entire pew. We wae slowly taking over the church.
Time for Hippie and Anna to leave. They promise to attend the Christmas assembly performance on Tuesday, as well as coming over from the grandparents when they could get away. Tommy is jealous when he sees how much I loved that boy, making him more determined to get me alone. His possessiveness reminds me of Jack, but instead of buying his way into my heart, he plans to fuck his way in. I laugh, knowing he’s already there. How can I let him know how much I love and want him without ruining it all?