Somehow I got to bed around 5 am. I later learned that my dad and Susan carried me from the car and deposited me into my bed, with Max jumping in to join me. I woke up to slobber all over, smelling like stale pizza. I instantly thought I’d had that wet dream Jace had suggested. No, it just was slobber. Max jumped up and barked to let me know it was time to hit Robby’s joint den. He paused on our lawn, sniffing the grass near where Jace had died, looking at me to explain. My new-found callousness kept me from tearing up while Max trotted over to his favorite dump site. That done, we went to Robby’s where we now had front door privileges. He and Mary had the TV on.
“All the stations are covering our show last night, with video plus reruns of our interviews in the Grove.”
“You’re a rock star now.” I somewhat bitterly remarked.
“They even showed the part they had cut about you being naked and cum-stained.”
“Thanks Robby. That’s exactly how I want everyone to remember Jace.”
“A little testy this morning. Missing your bed buddy?”
“Shut up, Robby,” Mary defended me.
“I spent the night in his arms and was covered by dog slobber in the morning.”
They both broke up. I still had some sense of humor.
“Let’s go to Out & Proud around noon.”
“Let’s get stoned first,” as he pulled out his proverbial joint.
For the first time in days, I felt normal.
On the TV, some old hag was ranting about Jace and me.
“How can so many people worship those perverted boys who flaunt their witchcraft in the name of love. Only Jesus is the way to love and salvation,” she preached. “Too many people have already condemned that nice Rollins College boy who was overwhelmed by his brother’s perversity.”
“What the fuck?” I screamed.
“That’s that bitch Anita Bryant. She’s been on this channel all morning. She said it was God’s punishment that Jace died,” Mary explained.
My stomach flipped over. That’s why they played the clip of Robby’s description of me as a sex fiend.
“I was just telling the truth.”
“Yeah, why don’t you tell everybody that Jeff was innocent of killing Jace.”
“Everybody knows he was an asshole.”
“And what did you do to protect Jace and John? We got to find John. His bitch mother will be turning him against us.”
Jace signed for me to sit. Then he came into me from the nape of my neck. From a floating position near the ceiling I saw myself sit up. Jace spoke through me. “Get me pen and paper, Robby.’
Robby looked at me strangely, but complied. I was writing something on the pad. It was a list of five things.
1. The first time Jeff raped me, I was home alone sick. He sneaked out of High School and made me suck his dick. 2. The next time he fucked me up the butt and said he’d do it to you, if I told. 3. Then he came into our room all school year and raped either one of us. I was in 5th and you were in 3rd grade. 4. When your butt bled, he made you tell Dad I had done it. 5. He told us both if we ever told, he’d make sure all our friends knew. Then he made me fuck you and you had to swear I was not your real brother. You were eight and I was ten. Tim knows. He swears he will not tell. Tim and me are brothers and you are his brother, too. Go to him. He will protect you.’ signed ‘Jace’
Robby got an envelope and Jace sealed the list inside. He wrote ‘give this to John.’ and gave the envelope back to Robby.
I fell back into myself. I was looking at Robby, who was very suspicious but wasn’t sure about what.
“This is from Jace,” I told him. “Look at the handwriting. Now give it back to me.”
“What did he write?”
“I can’t say. I’m sworn to secrecy. I have to give it to John. You have to bring him to me.”
“Why did you give it to me?”
“So you can say you saw the letter from Jace. And, you do know why.”
I was giving him clues. Robby naturally liked a mystery.
I told them to meet me at Michael’s. Robby and Mary went to the garage to get John.
Michael’s dad found me in the music room, waiting for John.
“You don’t seem worse for wear. How do you do it? I slept until eleven.”
“No Jace to abuse me.”
He laughed. “I guess you saw the TV coverage. Just ignore that. It dies quickly.
“I still have to do something for Jace.”
“What? He told you he knew he was about to be murdered?”
“No. I just know what he wants. His brother John is not safe.”
“Oh. no. Where is he now?”
“I waiting to meet him here.”
“I’m calling Family Services.”
“We have to know he’s safe first. This is the safest place. I’m sorry not to ask you first.”
“How do you know he’s coming here?”
“Robby and Mary went to get him. He will be here soon.”
Michael walked in.
“All hail Fair Romeo. Where forth art thou?” I pronounced.
I turned to his dad, “Since you’ve worked for us for over a month, should I give you a performance evaluation?”
He gave in and dropped out of concerned dad mode. “How am I doing?”
“Cash flow’s up. Brand recognition has skyrocketed. Employee count has almost tripled. But I’m afraid I can’t approve of how human resources terminated our guitarist. I’d say you deserve a promotion. Your contract’s renewed. I’m calling you Mike from now on.”
He shook my hand and shook his head as he exited the music room.
“What was that all about?”
“I just promoted your dad to main dude. So I renewed his contract and now I call him Mike Sr., as opposed to Mike Jr., whose Stu’s friend.”
“Welcome to my house, Mr. Ding-a-ling.”
Robby and Mary walked in with John.
“’Sup?” John said.
“What time did you get home,” I asked.
“I slept over at Jazz’s. We tried to see Dawn in her panties.”
“It’s normal junior high folly.”
I took him to the back of the room.
He looked at me, like I was questioning him.
“Jace wrote this for you.”
He grabbed the note, recognizing Jace’s handwriting.
“When did he write this?” he asked.
“I can’t say. I swore not to say anything. I also promised to tell you that you are my brother as much as Jace was. You don’t get to choose who your brothers are.
“You got that right.”
“Are we bro’s?”
“We said that before the show. Why are you being weird?”
I wanted to hug him and show my feelings, but he was in for a shock.
“Just read Jace’s note. I swore never to tell anyone what he wrote, but I can talk about it with you. Just read.”
After the second line, his face fell. “Oh, Jace,” he said, dropping the note and putting his hands to his face and rocking back and forth. I put an arm on his shoulder and picked up the note. “I will protect you.”
Everyone else was watching. When John started to cry, they all came over and hugged him. He couldn’t deal with all the touching and ran out. I told Jazz, “Stay with him and bring him back when he’s ready. Don’t let him go home.”
Jazz nodded and ran off.
What was that all about?” Robby wondered.
“Just something between Jace and John I had to pass along.”
“Is he safe by himself?” Robby actually seemed concerned.
“What if his parents find him?” Mary worried.
“You’re right, you go and bring him back. Stay off the street.”
I picked up Jace’s SG. I felt his hands take over and a string of angry notes ripped forth. I turned up the amp and played the intro to Alice Cooper’s ‘School’s Out.’
I changed all the lines from ‘summer’ to ‘ever.’
Flo and Edi walked in, so I switched to the MFQ’s, ‘This could be the Night.’
They laughed and shook their fingers, “Never.”
John ran in, freaking out and ran up to me.
“ It’s not your night either, John” I mocked. He whispered in my ear, “I can’t find Jace’s note.”
I pulled the note out, “Got you covered, dude.”
His shoulders dropped from relief.
“Wanna go talk?” I said.
All this pretext was to make him feel comfortable and know that we all were on his side.
We went back to the corner.
“Did you read it all?” I asked.
He looked at it and finished reading. His face was white. He looked like he’d be sick.
“He tried to protect me, even when we had sex. It was disgusting.”
“You don’t have to tell anyone, if you don’t want. I need you to stay away from home. Michael’s dad said he will call child services. Maybe we can get you to stay with Michael.”
“He’d do that? They know?”
“No one knows but you and me. I told them you’re in danger.”
“But Jeff’s locked up. I’m not worried.”
“Well, they’re not going to charge him with murder, and he will get out sometime. I will always protect you, like everyone else here. I swear it.”
“He looked at me. The tears started but he kept it under control, just like he kept these secrets under wraps. He was a brave 14-year-old. Then I realized the best place for him was with Stu and the Watts. I took John to Mike Sr and suggested it. He got on the phone. In an hour a court order was delivered assigning custody to Michael Antonio and placement at the Watt’s. Mom Watts was surprised that Jace had a younger brother. She was happy to add to her brood. They recognized that he was in danger with his parents. She would bring the court papers to school for John, so they knew not to let him go with his real parents. He could still be at his regular school. I spoke to Stu, who was his usual bubbly, enthusiastic self. I told him to take John to swim team so they were always around him. He wanted to call Mike Jr to tell him, since John was his age. I felt the final burden drop from my shoulder.
Mrs. Watt drove to Michael’s. Stu and Mike came with her into the music room. Stu ran around, looking at all the equipment, only pausing to say hi to everyone. He was a big time performer now.
“Your studio is cool,“ he said to me.
“Com’n and meet John. He’s Jace’s little brother, so that sort of makes him your big brother.
“Wow. Mom says he’s going to stay with us?”
“Yeah,” then I whispered. “Don’t try to jump in bed with him like with Scott and me.”
“Jeez. I’m not a little kid anymore.”
Stu and Mike Jr went over to John, who was sitting with the girls.
“You know Stu and Mike,” I told him. ‘You’re going to stay at Stu’s. Mike’s there a lot, too.”
John looked relieved he was going to be with kids his own age. “What ‘sup?” he asked them.
Stu took charge and told him he was going to join swim team, too.
“I ain’t no jockhead and I ain’t wearin’ no Speedo.”
Stu paused, then said, “Jace was my brother, too, So that kinda makes you my big brother. I guess you don’t have to do anything I say, but we want you to do what we do.”
“It’s okay. You’ll get used to Stu,” Mike Jr added and smiled at John. They were the same age.
“Are you some sort of brother, too?”
“Naw, Stu’s my best friend, so you and I are friends now.”
Stu ran over and started banging on Robby’s drum set, which Robby quickly put a stop to.
“Hey, man. It was fun being in the band with you last night.”
Robby just ignored him. Not the best anti-pest move.
“Well, you were okay but a little off the beat sometimes.”
Robby changed expressions, “Well, you’re off my drum set, right now,” knocking him off the stool.
Mary ran over and picked him up. “Why are you such a jerk?” she asked Robby.
Stu was sitting on the floor, with a big grin on his face.
Mrs. Watt came in with Mike Sr. “Okay, boys. We have to leave now.”
“Aw, Mom. We just started having fun.”
Robby chased him out the door.
Mike Sr explained, “I’m going to John’s house to deliver the court order and explain what is happening. Don’t say anything to anyone. I don’t want John’s placement getting out. You can see him at school. If there’s any trouble, we may have to put him in private school.”
“Oh, he’ll love that.”
“So, let’s not rock the boat,” Mike Sr said.
We all sang
“ Rock the boat, don’t tip the boat over
Rock the boat, don’t rock the boat baby
Rock the boat.”
Songwriters: GARRETT, STEPHEN ELLIS/STEWART, RAPTURE/SEATS, ERIC
© EMI Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
I signed to Jace, ‘why play School’s Out (forever)?’
He gave me a thumb’s up and smiled. I thought, “Maybe I should stop ditching.”
He looked horrified. I realized if I went to all my classes, he would have no choice but to go.
He signed, “You asshole.”
I laughed. “You might learn something.”
“Why? To get a good job?”
“You don’t want me to be smarter than you?” I asked.
“You always have been.”
“So you want me to be a dropout, too?”
Flo came over and asked what I was doing.
“Practicing my signing for the deaf.”
“Planning on losing your hearing from loud music?”
“I pretend I’m signing to Jace because he may be looking over me.”
“That’s so sweet.” Then she looked seriously at me, “I know I can never replace him,”
I took her hand, “No one can, but I still want us to be boyfriend/girlfriend. Jace and I agreed that we wanted girlfriends, too. It was never either/or.”
“It’s hard for me to compete with a dead boy.”
“Don’t try. He’s always in my heart. But my heart has room for you,” and I kissed her.
She put her hands down the back of my jeans.
“How come you started wearing underwear?” she laughed.
I turned red, but said, “Oh, Felix makes us wear them. He sells them to all the girls who come into the shop. They get us to autograph them. I even wrote a bogus phone number and a message for their 12-year-old boyfriends to call me.”
“You are so funny.”
“Jace liked them ‘cause he’d snap the waistband on mine to annoy me.”
“Like this,” she said and pulled the elastic back and let it good. It felt good to feel it again. Jace was breaking up.
“You want to be annoying like he was?” I said.
“I want you to remember him and smile like you’re doing right now.”
I started making out with her. She put her hand further inside my briefs. I jumped when she tickled my butt hole.”
“That’s too much like Jace,” I complained.
“Naughty boys,” she said.
I slid my hand up her leg and pulled on the hem of her shorts.
“Naughty boy,” she reiterated.
“We’re bad boys,” I asserted, and Jace nodded.
“What were you signing to Jace before I came over?”
“Oh, I said I was thinking about not ditching anymore.”
“That’s an improvement.”
“Well, the garage is done. I don’t want the usual hangout to be my room. Maybe I can get Robby to go too. He won’t graduate before he’s 18 if he keeps ditching.”
“I’ll get Mary to work on him.”
“He probably doesn’t care.”
“Mary has her ways and wiles.
Hippie came over since we weren’t making out any more.
“My moms want you to come to dinner on Friday. They say you still havta even if Jace can’t.”
“Of course, I like the old battle axes.”
“Whatcha think of my singin’ last night.”
“Amazing, literally. ‘Amazing Grace, dude? That was so perfect. People are saying you’re a rock star.’
“Naw, I just always sung that in church choir.”
“You’re a choir boy?”
“Not no more.”
“And Flo, Edi and Mary are church singers. We gots to do a gospel album.” I told him.
Hippie got a bit red in the face, “I don’t thinks Robby wants us ta be religious, unless its his devil worship.”
“Jace always said it was Robby’s act, but then he was scared by it.”
“I’m glad I weren’t there the night he went to hell.”
“Yeah, Jace expected the floor in Robby’s room to open up and pull us all into hell.”
“So, when’s Jace’s funeral?”
“Oh my god, I forgot. Mike Sr is over at his parent’s house now. Maybe he’ll find out.”
“Do you think Jace’s parents are religious? They seem pretty evil,” Flo asked.
Hippie said, “They must be talking with that Anita Bryant bitch. She’s been on TV cursing our band and saying how Jace deserved to die,”
Flo said, “Maybe our church can have the service.”
“I don’t want to fight over his body. I saw it at the hospital. It was just flesh and bone. Jace had left his body.”
Mary was listening. “Don’t suggest this to Robby. He’ll want to have some crazy ceremony in that abandoned cemetery. I never want to go there again.”
“I’ll talk to Preacher Santo about needing to do it at our church,” Edi promised.
I knew she was hurting, so it was good she could do something for Jace. Jace kissed her on the top of her head. She moaned and shivered.
Mike Sr came back. We all met in the music room.
“That was not pleasant. John’s parents are furious that Child Services took him away. They seem to have forgotten what happened to Jace. All they think about is how terrible Jeff must feel in jail.”
“Did they say anything about Jace’s funeral?” I asked.
“Oh, Tim, do you really want to be in a church with them?”
“I’ve already said goodbye to Jace. His body is an empty shell. I just don’t want people to say we stayed away because we practice witchcraft.”
“I’ll call the funeral home and find out what the plans are.”
Robby walked over, glaring at me.
“The girls want me to stop ditching.” I told him. “I said I would if you went back too.”
“Thanks a lot. What’s the point of promising what’s not gonna happen.”
“Com’n, dude. The garage is toast. I ain’t giving up my room so you can deal dope. We can’t come here. You really like all those tourists in your room?”
“Fuck, man. They’ll put me in your class ‘cause there’s no way I can graduate this year.”
“It’s cool. I’ll get my English teacher to let you in our class. We read Shakespeare and shit. He loves me and he’ll get double the pleasure chasing both of us. You just have to have a snappy comeback to all his sick jokes. He’s a masochist.”
“A masochist, like sadomasochism, S&M.’
“Shit, I’ll have to dress up.”
Everyone was happy to see me manipulate Robby, after their years of his mild S&M abuse. I told him I’d get him into all my classes once he agreed to go back to Junior status.
It was finally time to rehearse.
Robby announced he’d shoot Stu if he acts liked he just did. No one thought it was funny to talk about shooting. I grabbed the SG and let the Alice Cooper rip
“• School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces
• No more pencils no more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks yeah
Well we got no class
And we got no principals
And we got no innocence
Songwriters: LAWRENCE, DAVID N.
© Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC
Robby was going crazy on the drums, acting like if he didn’t stop, we wouldn’t have to go to school tomorrow. Michael kept up. I played the song non-stop, over and over.
Finally I screamed, “Your life’s over… for ever.”
We stopped. The girls walked over and sang,
“School’s out forever
School’s out for summer
School’s out with fever
School’s out completely”
We were all fake crying and hugging each other.
Robby stood up, bowed, and screamed, “I ain’t goin’ back.”
We all shouted, “Too late, you promised.”
Mary ran over and kissed him.
I was walking Max home, when a carload of dudes started yelling, “Max, Max.” Max barked each time, when he heard his name. I hoped they wouldn’t want to smoke out. I was pretty burned. But they turned around and leaned out the window, slapping me five and saying I was a lucky dude to have Max. They had no idea who I was. A new low for my popularity.
“Come see our next show,” I told them. “Max is the new singer.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m the guitarist.”
“Sorry, dude. I heard your singer died.”
“We’ll be there.”
“Your next show.”
“Oh, yeah. Thanks.”
By the time I got home, I had done two more Max interviews. I got my Ray Bans and walked down to face my dad. It was time. Max came with and sat next to me.”
“Dad, I know I never asked you but I want Max as a member of our family.” Susan smiled at my dad.
“We’ll talk about that later. Take those sunglasses off in the house.”
Max was on one side of me in his Our Gang pose and Jace was sitting cross-legged on the other side.
“I have a new job. They made me VP of Public Relations.”
“Wow, Dad. Gee, that’s great.”
“Don’t try so hard, Timmy.” I hadn’t been called that in a while. Kinda hurt.
Susan piped up, “Now, dear, tell Tim why you got the promotion.
“They think I’m some kind of a military hero for defending you boys and Max. They want me to speak to gun groups. I guess I’m a spokesperson for the need to protect your family.”
I jumped up to hug him, but he stopped me short with a look.
“There comes a responsibility with this position that we be a family that’s worth saving.”
I knew he wanted to rain on his parade, so I cut him off.
“I think having a dog will make us the All-American family you need.”
“I’m not joking, Tim. This is my job we’re talking about. The reason you can live in your own little tower and enjoy all we share.”
I suspected one of my dad’s new lackeys in Public Relations had written this speech, but I was ready to go along to get along.”
“I’m 100% behind our new life. If you need me to tell everyone how you saved my life and are my hero, I’ll make sure you feel it’s a life worth saving.”
Susan and Dad burst out laughing.
“And you thought he was going to argue with us,” Susan remarked.
“You can play the hero card as much as you want because I’m living proof that you earned it. I love you always, and you too Susan. I saw you go to call the police. Without both of you, I’d be lying on a cold slab with Jace.”
They looked at me, expecting me to break down. I wanted to kiss them both. I stood up and told Max to follow me to the kitchen to get dinner. When I glanced back, they were holding hands. I put the Ray Bans back on.