The twins woke me up with guilty, concerned expressions. Welcome home.
“Are you going to tell?” Angie was her direct self.
When did I become ‘goodie goodie, two shoes’?
“Morning,” I yawned and gave them my most goofy smile. “Anything bothering you, girls?”
“Don’t be a jerk. Are you going to tell the moms?”
“About what?” I tried to look innocent and clueless.
“You know as well as we do.” Angie wasn’t into playing along.
I looked around, pretending to be confused. “What happened to ‘Gator?”
“Don’t you want to know,” Angie now feisty.
“Well, it’s a secret. Please don’t tell anyone?” Amy was more conciliatory.
“Not even my best friend, ‘Gator?”
“Shut up, Andy. Just promise not to tell.”
“Maybe you girls should move down to the second floor. All these estrogen hormones in the air.”
They pounded me with my pillows.
“Jack and I predicted this months ago. When did y’all figure it out?”
“When you were gone, ‘Gator kept coming over anyway. We knew it wasn’t just that he liked you.”
“Well, I just don’t want to know what goes on behind closed doors. I may be jealous until Jack returns.”
They both kissed me on opposite cheeks. I knew they would be kissing my ass if I played it up. I was too sleepy to start that. Not yet.
“Well, get up. so we can get you ready for school.”
The moms played it clueless as we ate breakfast.
“Have a good day,” they sent us off for higher learning.
I was surrounded by Jack’s fag hag posse/French Club as soon as we arrived.
“Is he okay?” they all asked. “Will he come back soon?”
“He’s better. I miss him so much.”
“Oh. You’re so lucky. We love you, too, Andy.”
Just what I needed to feel at home.
‘Gator came up, looking sheepish. He expected to make some excuse for abandoning me in the middle of the night.
“Just don’t tell me any details,” I begged. His easy grin returned, relieved of making true confessions.
“Ready for bowling?” he asked. “Will Jack be back in time for the State Tournament?”
“That’s the goal. We spoke last night.”
“The twins miss me this morning?”
“I’m staying out of that one,” I complained. ‘Gator chuckled, free from any drama with me. I liked being ‘just friends.’
“Meet us in the band room after last period. I have a new idea that includes you.”
“Cool. I just havta be home for chores as soon as possible.”
“Carrying a heavy load there, Gate?”
“Just don’t wanna miss dinner with y’all.”
“Want me to come with and help out?”
The look of surprise on his face made me blush. I guess I missed him too.
“What about yer pizza deliveries?”
“I can get back by five if we work quickly through the chores.”
“Ya ever milked a cow, Andy?”
“Cain’t be much harder than squeezing titties,” I joshed.
“There’s hope fer ya yet. But don’t be all disappointed ‘cause we use a milking machine. No tittie-squeezing at ‘Gator Ranch.”
All I could envision was a huge octopus-like machine sucking the cows dry. It felt cool to be Andy again.
Final bell was at two. All four of us third-floorers met in the band room.
“Without making a fuss, there’s four of us now. We cain’t keep being the Triplets. And when Jack’s back, it’ll be five. We needs to make a new band. I wanna play rock instead of folk. Gate, we need a drummer. How about it?”
“Kin ya teach me in five minutes like ya did the twins on gui-tar?”
“Ain’t nothin’ ta teach. Jist bang away until ya feel the rhythm of the beat.”
I got on the drum set and showed him my chaos drumming style.
It sounded better, but the tempo was too slow.
“How ‘bout we create our own fusion, but instead of jazz fusion, it be country rock, like the Eagles?” I suggested. I started playing ‘Take It to the Limit.’
The slow start allowed ‘Gator to build into the drumming, increasing the tempo, and then dropping into a steady pace. I just played the guitar, while the girls used their high voice on the vocals. ‘Gator and I came in on backup vocals. ‘Gator’s enthusiasm got him speeding up too much at the ending.
“We need the bass to keep the drumming on the right tempo,” I declared. “You girls wanna both play bass, so you kin alternate the vocals.”
“Oh, Andy, we can do two things at once. We ain’t retarded.”
They went and found two old double basses to use for practice.
“Now we really look country,” I decided. “Maybe I should play an old fiddle?”
The practice session was cut short so ‘Gator and I could go do chores. The twins wanted to come as well, but ‘Gator said he’d teach them next time. They looked funny at me.
“I ain’t stealing your boyfriend, girls. Jist helpin’ him so he’s back with y’all’s sooner.”
They gave me a big hug and snuck a quick kiss with ‘Gator. I blushed again.
“You’ll be fine, once old Jack-Off gets back.”
I laughed. “That’s what Flo calls him, too.”
“Someday you can explain why you think the poor girl is yer girlfriend a thousand miles away.”
“Ya don’t knows ‘bout the magic dick?”
The three of them pounded me into submission until ‘Gator dragged me away for farm work.
“Yee haw,” I yelled as we drove off in his pickup.
Two hours of chores were enough. No tittie squeezing but plenty of tittie washing before hooking up the sucking cups. The cows seemed to like me. “Gator’s dad took me under his wing, to make sure I wasn’t a half-ass ranch hand. I needed to buy real jeans. My Love Jeans came home covered in cow manure.
My Pizza Pit manager was glad I was back. He hoped Jack would return soon, as without delivery, he had been overwhelmed doing walk-in business. I said that Jack would return in two weeks. It made me wonder if he really would return. After work and dinner with the crowd at home, I called him.
“Your boss wants you back at the Pizza Pit,” I started off.
“Oh, the glamour of it all,” he remarked flippantly.
“Not up to your cosmopolitan standards?”
“In comparison to overseeing three youth shelters and coordinating with the respective churches, I wonder if I can handle making change at a cash register.”
It felt like he was mocking my life.
“Guess who milked the cows tonight?”
“What? Did you have to muck out the barn, too?”
“No. But I came home covered in cow shit.”
“Not a pretty picture.”
“Just helpin’ ‘Gator so’s he kin be with the twins.”
“I loves yer fake accent.”
“Them cows loves my soft hands on their titties.”
“We started a new band today, with ‘Gator on drums and the twins on double bass. We play country rock.”
“I think I’m losing my speech again.”
“Better get out here soon. I know just what you need.”
“I bet you do. But my butt needs a few more days to recover from Saturday night.”
“I’ll send Jace to stimulate its recovery.”
Normally we would be giggling at this repartee. I was listening for him to start. He must be waiting on me. It was unsettling to be so tentative.
When I finished the call, I went upstairs to join ‘Gator and the twins.
“What’s the matter, Andy. Ya looks perturbed,” ‘Gator seemed to be reading my thoughts.
“Just Jack. I ain’t sure he wants ta come back here. I kin see how la dee dah he is, livin’ in the city.”
“Y’all took to the milkin’ taday, didn’tcha. Yer a natural.”
“He got a favorite cow yet, Gator?”
“Oh yeah. They’s all lovin’ ‘im. He got the touch.”
“Oh, Andy. Yer a country boy at heart.”
Maybe I was being too sensitive with Jack. It’s one’s family responsibility to bring you back down to earth.
“Enuff ‘bout me. Let’s do a country song and make it rock,” as I got out my SG guitar. “How ‘bout this one: ‘Rhinestone Cowboy?”
‘I’ve been walkin’ these streets so long
Singin’ the same old song
I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway
Where hustle’s the name of the game
And nice guys get washed away like the snow and the rain
There’s been a load of compromisin’
On the road to my horizon
But I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me’
Songwriters LARRY WEISS
Published by Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music
It seemed like a natural depiction of how I saw New York’s hustlers on Broadway in Times Square and an expression of why I liked living in the country.
“It ain’t really rock, Andy,” Angie complained.
“It ain’t country much neither, talkin’ ‘bout hustlin’ in the City,” ‘Gator observed.
“That’s why I likes it,” I asserted. “Ain’t that what we’s a’tryin’ ta do?” I responded.
“Well, let’s try it,” ‘Gator decided for us all.
He had the hardest time laying down an easy-going drum track. He would speed up and thunder with rolls and cymbal crashes. Amy sat with him, showing him how to just keep the beat on the high-hat, then ending each line with the snare and a single bass drum thump.
Now we sounded pretty good. I envisioned John Boy in a rhinestone shirt doing the vocals.
“What’s ya smilin’ ‘bout, Andy?” Amy asked.
“Jist seein’ John Boy all dressed up in a cowboy shirt and lovin’ walkin’ ‘round in boots.”
“That old boy comin’ home soon?” ‘Gator asked.
“I hopes,” I worried.
“After all that drama over Christmas, ya think he’ll bail on ya?” Angie worried.
“Not worried. Jist knows he’s subject to whims and New York City’s where there’s whims ‘round ever’ee corner.”
“No frettin’, boy. We all’s gonna make shur he stays here when he comes fer the State bowlin’ tournament,” ‘Gator had a plan.
We played a couple of John Denver songs, including, ‘Thank God I’m a Country Boy.’
I had to call John Boy, after we were done. ‘Gator insisted he institute the campaign to get him back by saying hello first.
“Howdy, John Boy. How’s the livin’ in New York City?” he put on his happy country voice.
“Hey, ‘Gator. I hear you got two girlfriends,” he answered, breaking into song:
“Double the pleasure, double the fun, with Doublemint, Doublemint gum.”
“That Doublemint sure enuff sticks afta ya chews it a bit.”
“’Gator,” he laughed. “That’s downright disrespectful.”
“Boy, ya’s bin stayin’ in the City and gots too polite. Gots ta make the girls sticky if’n ya wants it ta last.”
John Boy was silent for once, finally responding, “I’s shocked, ‘Gator. Yer talkin’ ‘bout Andy’s sisters.”
“Git over yerself, John Boy. Ya knows I loves them and respects ‘em, too. Don’t means I cain’t joke ‘bout ‘em. Here, I’ll give the phone ta Andy.”
“Hey,” I said hello. “You and Gate disputing the honor of my sisters?”
“He’s pretty misogynistic.”
“Well, it ain’t New York City. It’s okay to say those things as long as everyone knows ya don’t means it.”
“I spend the day getting runaways to start respecting themselves. It’s discouraging when my friends don’t respect their girlfriends.”
“Don’t be so high and mighty. And don’t start a’tellin’ me that y’all is a’prayin’ for us.”
He laughed. “I ain’t that bad. What’s happenin’ with the new band?”
“Amy has taught ‘Gator how to calm down his drumming. We’re doin’ country with a twist o’ rock. We did ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ tonight. I could see ya singin’ and movin’ on stage in cowboy boots and a rhinestone shirt. Had ta call ya.”
“That’s cute, Andy.”
“Ya gots ta be here for the State Bowlin’ Championship. Everyone’s countin’ on ya, especially the French Club.”
“Ew, la la. The parent units aren’t ready to send me back permanently but I’ll fly out for the weekend.”
“Kin ya come a day early. The kids at school keep buggin’ me ‘bout seein’ ya.”
“Sure. More bedroom time fer us.”
That made my dick perk up. “That’s my boyfriend. Oh, ‘Gator stayin’ with us now.”
“What. Tell me you’re not sleeping with him.”
“Well, sorta. He stays with me until the moms go ta bed. Then he’s with the girls, leavin’ at 4am ta do his chores on the farm.”
“I don’t approve.”
“Well, don’t say nothin’ to the moms. Ya better git yerself out here a’fore I fergets it’s ‘Gator layin’ next ta me.”
We both laughed.
“John Boy’s comin’ back fer the bowlin’ tournament,” I announced.
They all laughed at how excited I was, especially in my pants.
“The French Club will be out in force.”
“They kin try out their French pastries on the farm kids comin’ to Ames,” Amy suggested.
I finally got to see Dr. Kam on Friday afternoon. “Gator had to do his chores alone until the twins volunteered to learn how to milk. ‘Gator blushed when he realized he had to introduce them to his folks. Livin’ up to his social obligations.
Dr Kam greeted me with a solid hug. I felt he had missed me. We settled into opposing armchairs with smiles on both our faces.
“Tell me about New York,” he started off.
“I met Yoko One and greeted her in Japanese.”
“I hope you bowed.”
“Of course, we even kowtowed the entire time we talked.”
“Sounds like you offended her.”
“Her step-son was on the gossip page with us. She was mad about it.”
“John Lennon’s son?”
“Yeah. They all live in the same building where Jack’s parent stay in the City. We refer to her as the Dragon Lady.”
“That didn’t make her very happy.”
“Well, Julian liked it. After we got her together with Andy Warhol, they both agreed to do a photography show for the Jace’s Place charity.”
“What did John Lennon think about you romancing his ‘Dragon Lady’?” Dr Kam was into all the gossip.
“We have a band with Julian, called Dakota. We played at the Cathedral. We finished with ‘A Little Help from my Friends.’ John came running up, grabbed a guitar, and we all played ‘All You Need is love.”
Dr. Kam hugged me so intensely at this hot gossip that he apologized immediately, thinking he had stepped over the line with me. I just smiled, basking in my reflected glory.
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
“No need,” I mumbled back
After a second of mutual admiration, he started the session.
“Have you had any more blackouts?”
“None. It was John Boy who was experiencing psycho-hysteria in the City.”
“Well, he can start with me when he returns. It’s odd that your symptoms left as his first appeared.”
“Yeah. He finally realized he was trying to manipulate me so I’d stay in New York.”
“Typical teenage reaction. But let’s not talk about John Boy. It’s called transference when you experience your own feelings and issues in others.”
“I thought it meant I transferred my problems to you?”
“That’s when you have issues with, say, your mother and treat me as if I’m her. We then work on resolving the issue without involving her.”
“So John Boy was unable to speak because I keep passing out from memories of my trauma?”
“Well, let’s not deal with John Boy here. He could merely be manipulating you. You may be helped by seeing him deal with his hysterical reaction as you are dealing with your own involuntary reactions.”
I had to think about that.
“Maybe in our next session you will be able to work with me on the trauma you suffered. But only if you really feel able to bring it up without regressing.”
“It’ll give me something to think about until next week’s session,” I agreed.
“Now, tell me more about John and Yoko.” Dr. Kam was a celebrity groupie.
“Later. You told me to fix my love life and pay less attention to Tommy. I need you to talk about it.”
“Okay, but you’re not leaving without some celebrity gossip. You were confused about your feelings toward girls,” he prompted me.
“Yeah. I never stopped liking girls. I told Flo all about my times with Jack. She calls him ‘Jack-Off.”
“You call him John Boy.”
“Only when he’s here.”
“Can’t be a cowboy in New York City?”
We both laughed.
“She knows she has to share me. It’s better we don’t have sex for her parents sake.”
“You’ve never had sex with her?”
“No. Everything but vaginal. Jace and I dated Flo and her best friend Edi. After he died we had an orgy on what was to be his 16th birthday. Jack lost his virginity and Jace found out that Edi still loved him.”
“All five of you getting it on?”
“More like different couplings going on at once.”
“You are bad. So what do you feel for Flo now.”
“She’s my only girlfriend but it won’t work if we’re apart. We’ve only seen each other just once since the Skynyrd concert.”
“Sounds like what happened with your New York girlfriend.”
“We still talk a lot by phone. Her parents won’t allow her to date, so I’m perfect in their minds, 1500 miles away.”
“Well, you’re talking about relationships. What about the raw sexual attraction.”
“I always get turned on when I speak with Flo. When she says she misses me and says she needs me, I perk right up.”
“The old attention addiction. That doesn’t clarify whether you’re turned on by the physical or the emotional.”
“I don’t think about it. My dick tells me when I’m turned on.”
“That’s a definitive marker. Do you think you have to be either gay or straight?”
“Can I be both?”
“That’s not for me to say. The Kinsey Report says everyone is on a 6-point continuum from Gay to Straight. It can vary over time but most everyone is in between totally gay or totally straight.”
“So most people are bisexual?”
“Society represses that as deviant.”
“That means I’m a pervert?”
“Kinsey’s survey reported that over half of adult males have had at least one gay experience, usually in their teens.”
“The hotbed of hormonal horniness.”
“Most people will think you’re gay.”
“I don’t care what others think. My friends tell me to not be so gay.”
“That’s what they’ve been told is best.”
“What about loving more than one person at a time.”
“How’s that working for you?”
“Jealousy and possessiveness rear their ugly heads.”
”You’ve been lucky to find people willing to share. You seem to have a big heart. When you’re older, you may want to be exclusive.”
“I feel so old at 17.”
“You worry that life gets boring as you age?”
“I live entirely for now. I don’t worry about the future.”
“That’s the trap of sexual experience at too young an age. You’re jaded before you’re mature enough to fully appreciate emotional things.”
“Is that why I’m always crying?”
“Could be symptom of that. You become frustrated and cry when you can’t deal with all the drama.”
Dr. Kam always made me think. Was I going to experience deeper emotions as I became an adult? I reveled in being a kid and saw most adults as lame.
“I’ve got to think about it,” I put off responding.
“Well, tell me all about John and Yoko. We’ll pick up on this discussion next time.”
I gave him the story of my encounter with the Dragon Lady and her Pop God, telling it from Jules’ point of view. He was enthralled. We hugged again before I left.
Pizza delivery was a respite from the complications of my teen life. No angst driving around Ames. I didn’t have to act cute to work my tips. I was just relaxed and happy. Customers sensed I was a normal kid and rewarded me for the convenience of dinner being delivered. At the end of my shift, I walked into the Hyland house relaxed and smiling. The moms thought it was entirely due to Dr. Kam. The twins were suspicious. ‘Gator just expected everyone to be mindlessly happy – he must pick it up from all the cows he milked.
Following up on Dr. Kam’s session, I called Flo before calling John Boy, to see if she excited my dick just by herself. The second she started missing me and showing how much she liked me, I went to full attention. I loved being loved.
John Boy was more complicated. Mummy had insisted he go to school in the City. He refused to enter the Upper Eastside vs Westside preppy culture wars and had enrolled at parochial Regis High School on East 56th Street. He wanted to reform from his ‘Baptist’ ways. It worried me that he was having to ask permission to attend the bowling finals.
“Do I havta com’n back there to fuck you to death so ya wants to come here?” I taunted him.
“Oh, yeah, that’d be fine.”
“Well, ya best git yer ass out here if’n ya ever wants that ta happen agin.”
“Yer so mean,” he whined.
“That’s what Tommy always says.”
That was the clincher. John Boy’s return was assured.
The new band, Triplets plus Gator, was slowly gelling. ‘Gator’s drumming was a work in progress. His energy and enthusiasm was overwhelmed by a lack of technique. Both twins were playing bass as well as singing, resulting in a three-piece rhythm section. We needed John Boy on guitar to mesh with my Jace-inspired licks to make it soar. We were more country than rock n roll, and more John Denver than the Eagles. Rather than compromise, I had suggested we cover full-on country songs, like Willie Nelson, and blues, like Janis Joplin. It was a mixed bag at rehearsals after dinner on the third floor. We tried many songs and found the ones that all of us liked. ‘Gator suggested we perform for the first time at the State High School Bowling Finals, which was the following weekend at Ames Lanes. I was counting on John Boy returning at least for the tournament, if not permanently.
‘Gator being in bed with me for our ‘Walton’s good night’ ritual was still unsettling. But he had no compunction about enthusiastically laying there with me, chatting like an old couple until it was time to join the twins for the main attraction. I studiously avoided finding out what actually went on in the girls’ bedroom. He remained in thrall and the girls never seemed unhappy. The lack of drama was reassuring. I wondered when or if the moms would confront me about these after-hours exploits. Life on the third floor.
Noah approached me at school. He remained the loyal ‘Gator posse clone but was an object of the gossip mill, since it seemed like he was part of two couples.
“I feel like a fifth wheel,” he complained, assuming I knew ‘Gator was ‘with’ both twins.
“Don’t despair. ‘Gator might decide to choose one over the other. Could be your lucky day,” I joked.
He shook his head. “Those girls don’t pay no attention to me. And, I ain’t ‘bout ta make eny moves on ‘em.”
“Good strategy. Ya don’t has a girl ya likes.”
“My cheerleader girl’d kill me if’n I cheat on her.”
“So, what’s the problem?”
“Well, ‘Gator’s my best friend but it seems like you’re his best friend.”
“Sounds like grade school. ‘Gator’s my best friend, too. He’s gots a big heart, but he definitely has moved on ta my sisters. Are ya jealous?”
“Naw. He’s so happy, he’s actually nice ta me sometimes.”
“It’s all good.”
“Yeah. I jist feels uncomfortable when I’m asked if I’m going out with one of the twins.”
“None o’ their bizness, that’s all,” and I explained the no kiss and tell rule.
“Thanks, Andy. Yer a peach.”
“Yeah. Every straight boy needs a gay wing man.”
It was time to organize the State Bowling Championships. Coach Ball had contacted the Iowa High School Athletic Federation and received official sanction for the finals. Every Iowan high school had been contacted about the new sport. It was decided that this year’s inaugural championship would be unofficial. If all went well, bowling would be officially recognized as a high school sport, with rules and regulations. All this red tape was typical bureaucratic bullshit. The upshot was only schools from the local Ames area had active teams and would compete this year.
I spoke with the Ames Lanes’ manager. The championships would run all Saturday. We discussed how to seed and score the competition. There were ten schools with five mixed (male & female) pairs. It was decided to have first through third place medals for the highest scoring bowling pairs, plus a trophy for the school with the highest combined score for all five pairs. The cheerleaders had raised enough money to pay for the awards, as well as the lane fees.
We were set to go. My main concern was getting John Boy to come from New York. Selecting the top five pairs from Ames High had become hotly contested, as we had three separate teams, Varsity, Junior Varsity and Frosh-Soph. ‘Gator, as team captain, decided that there would be a run-off the prior Saturday to choose the top five scoring pairs for the State Finals.
“But Gate, what about John Boy? His team’s score was always the best while he was here. We need him to do our best.”
“Tain’t fair ta the others if he ain’t here to qualify.”
“I’ll see if he can get here this weekend.” It was already Thursday.
“Still coming here for the bowling championships?” I asked him that night on the phone.
“I’m working on Mummy. She’s worried I’ll relapse there.
“Why’d you relapse if yer the one who’s leavin’?”
“She’s ambivalent about Iowa. Dad will actually decide.”
“Well, ya havta to be here day afta tamorra, ‘cause we’re havin’ qualifyin’ for the five teams at the Finals.”
“Tim, how can I possibly do that.”
“’Gator’s tryin’ ta be fair ta all the team. There’s only five spots.”
“I cannot just leave for ten days. Hey, I even started a bowling team here.”
“I want you to come back and stay. You really want to remain in Manhattan with your creepy cousins.”
“Well, I’m happy here. I have nothing to do with them. I’m at Regis.”
“Y’all ain’t gonna walk straight fer a week afta the mad fucking I lay on you if that’s what it takes ta git ya out here.”
“Ew, I like that.”
“You won’t like it if’n y’all don’t show up. I thought ya’d want to come back fer good.”
“It’s complicated. I’ll let you know.”
“What? Whether you want to be with me?” I dropped the country drawl.
“I do, desperately. I’s so confused. No one here understands how much I need you.”
“That’s no good reason for staying there. They don’t knows you like I do. They treat you like a little nerd who’s going to Harvard to be cultured.”
“Oh Tim. It’s so hard without you. We had so much fun when you were here.”
“Stop calling me Tim. I’m Andy now.”
He started to whimper.
“Stop yer whinin’. Ya ain’t no little kid no more. If’n ya don’ts wanna come fer me, do it fer the team. We needs ya fer yer bowling scores.” That was the lamest reason of all time to be together.
I’ll talk with Dad. Mummy’s adamant.”
“Goodbye, asshole,” and I hung up.
I stormed up to the third, marching right past ‘Gator and the twins into my room and slamming the door. ‘Gator, acting like it was his bedroom as well, stuck in his head to ask what was wrong.
“Jack. He ain’t comin’ this weekend. We broke up.”
“What? Over bowlin’?”
“Not that. He wants ta stay in New York. He even started a bowlin’ team at his new school.”
“Ya ain’t leavin’ us, are ya Andy?”
The twins stuck their heads in, as well.
“What’s wrong?” Angie had to know.
“John Boy broke up with Andy,” ‘Gator explained.
“No way,” the twins exclaimed.
They all looked expectantly at me for an explanation and for me to burst into tears.
“Actually, I broke up with him. I told him to come or else.”
“Else what?” Amy hoped to fix everything.
I said nothing. After a while we decided to play music. I started strumming C-minor/F major chords.
‘Have ya heard the news?
I got the breakup blues
It’s definite we’re through
I ain’t never seeing you
I love you
You love me
What to do?
Set you free
What’s to lose
If you chose
Ain’t no fun
Come back to me
If you please
Just don’t say
There ain’t no way’
They all stared at me, expecting tears. I switched to ‘Barefoot Boy’ and everyone did the monkeyshines with me. I felt better. The girls got us doing ‘Country Roads’ and ‘Bobby McGee.’ All that treacle about home and family made me angry. I rushed through ‘Raw Power,’ channeling Iggy’s fury into energy.
Hoping John Boy would spend his final high school days with me may have been a pipe dream. Neither of us was ready to settle down. Fuck normal.
I told John Boy’s French Club fag hags that he may not come. They were devastated and promised to deluge him with phone calls, so I gave out the telephone number. Sweet revenge. I avoided calling him, not sure I wanted to confirm our break-up. All I thought about was him. I was totally distracted. The word was out in the gossip mill. I guess I had more fans than I knew about. Both girls and guys were approaching me like I was some sport fish to be snagged. I remained oblivious and disinterested. After being abrupt with a few tentative pick-up lines, I switched to my polite but emphatically disinterested self. For the first time I realized that high school was soon to be history for me. I wondered how I’d feel in the fall. At least I didn’t have to care about acceptance to Harvard. The moms were sympathetic but still insisted I complete the arduous application process. My alumni interview was short and sweet. When asked why I wanted to go to Harvard, I said ‘because my boyfriend is going there.’ That checked all their boxes. Mrs. McCarthy arranged a special SAT session the following Sunday so I could complete that requirement before my application was due.
Saturday’s qualifying round for the bowling tournament was fun. Amy and I bowled our regular games to qualify. It was ‘Gator and Angie who really stepped it up. Gate’s enthusiasm and competitive mania swept the poor girl away. They were the most improved with the best combined scores on the team. The cheerleaders outdid themselves, with constant pep rallies and cheers. Only the French club seemed dispirited with no M. Jean to lead them. They promised eclairs and chocolate croissants for the State Finals to complement the Cheer squad’s bake sale. ‘Gator and I had a big argument about the selection of the top five pairs for next Saturday’s State Championships. He insisted we wait until John Boy had officially resigned from the team.
“We said he had to qualify today,” I argued to exclude him.
“It ain’t smart to kick him off. He’s always our top scorer. I wants ta win,” ‘Gator had his competitive hat on.
“He ain’t comin’.”
“How’d ya know that. When did you last speak with ‘im?’
“When we broke up.”
“Calls ‘im now,” he challenged me.
I called from Ames Lanes, but Mummy said he was out.
“I just need to confirm that Johnny’s not coming to the bowling finals next week.”
“Not to worry, dear, they’re coming. We had to pay for all the tickets.”
“He’s going to come?” I felt complete relief. Then I realized what she had said, “But who is ‘they?’”
“The high school bowling team. Regis High. You don’t think we’re about to send him alone into the heart of Baptist darkness, do you?”
“Oh, Mummy, that is so nice.”
“Of course, dear. You need to call later and talk with him.”
“Thank you, thank you.”
I got off the phone and shouted at ‘Gator, “He’s coming. But he’s bringing his whole team from New York.”
‘Gator’s eyes lit up, loving the added competition. The twins saw it my way and gave me a big hug, and then warily waited for my tears. I was too elated that our breakup may be over. Smiles, no tears.
“What a traitor,” “Gator accused John Boy. “He’ll bring in ringers to make us look bad. I’m gonna practice all week and kick his ass on the lanes.”
We all laughed at his sudden jock transformation. Competition revved his engines. He never had been excited about bowling before. Now it was life or death. Maybe being normal was okay. We announced the top five pairs who were competing in the next Saturday’s State Championship.
“You little rat. You’re bringing your own team?” I accused him that night on the phone. I avoided mentioning that I had assumed we had broken up the last time we talked. Who knew that bowling could cause so much emotional turmoil?
“I’m not on your team anymore?” he sounded distressed.
“You quit,” I accused him, assuming he was only coming back for the tournament.
“Mummy only agreed if those Regis Catholic boys came to protect me from the Baptists.”
“Well, ‘Gator plans to kill you, on the lanes that is.”
“Why can’t I bowl for Ames?”
“’Cause yer a traitor. An’ ya don’ts go ta school here no more.”
“I wants ta,” he fell into my drawl.
“Well, that’s yer lookout.”
“Yer mad at me?”
“Jist thoughts we’d broke up.”
“Never. I loves yer fer ever.”
“Jist so’s ya lives in New York and gits fucked ever month or so.”
That shut him up.
“Listen, Jack. We’s doomed. Yer off ta college soon. I ain’t getting’ in ta Harvard from Podunk I-o-way. I jist wanna be with you’s the next few months ‘fore we graduate and gits old.”
I heard him gulp and start to sob.
“Stop yer whinin’. It’s life. We had our chance and now we’s jist older.”
“I ain’t givin’ ya up,” he declared. “We’ll settle this next weekend. I may not be on yer team but I still loves ya.”
“Good luck with that in New York City.”
“Yer so mean,” and he hung up.
Upstairs everyone wanted to know what John Boy was going to do.
“He’s coming for the bowling,” I half-shouted, to much relief. “But he’s bringing his own high school’s team with him.”
‘Gator was beside himself. “That ain’t fair. They’s not from I-o-way.”
“Since the tournament’s unofficial, we kin make up our own rules.”
“What if they win?”
“Ya ‘fraid ya cain’t compete, ‘Gate?”
It made him think. “Yer right. Bring ‘em on. No boy from New York City’s gonna come out here an’ show us up.”
“That’s the spirit. Anyway, John Boy’s French Club girls havta pair up with them New Yorkers. Ain’t no girls at Catholic high school.”
“That’s retarded. They all fags like John Boy?”
“Jist socially inept.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Clueless when havin’ to talk with girls.”
‘Gator got a crafty look in his eyes, “Our comfort girls on the cheer squad will make ‘em so confused they’ll fergit ‘bout bowlin’.”
“Between the French girls and the comfort ladies they might decide to move here. Won’t be bowlin’ they’s tryin’ to score big next weekend.”
The twins just shook their heads in dismay at how misogynistic we could be.
That night I decided to spend it with the moms while ‘Gator squired both twins to a football team party. I knew ‘Gator would protect them.
“Still not comfortable with the football crowd?” Molly wondered.
“Naw. Just wantin’ ta be with my moms tonight.”
Mom looked surprised, while Molly beamed. They had put my dinner in the oven until after my Pizza Pit deliveries were done. The three of us sat at the table while I enjoyed Kansas City ribs, fries and coleslaw. They laughed as I gobbled up the special meal, with BBQ sauce covering my face and hands.
“Now, we know there’s some reason you’re staying in tonight. I can’t believe you’re afraid of being hazed by the football players.”
“Naw. They’s all bein’ cool to me now. The New Year’s Eve fight made them like me, not hate me.”
“Boys are so strange,” Mom said.
“Group think has no basis in logic.”
The moms laughed when I told them about my Harvard interview.
“Only you can make your sex life a positive for getting into Harvard,” Molly observed.
“Do you have to go so far away?” Mom complained. “We just got you back and now you’ll leave once you graduate.”
I wasn’t used to her being so open about her feelings. I squeezed her hand. “Mom, we’re really a family now. That can’t ever change,” as I smiled at both of them.
“It seems like everything’s changed since you showed up at the front door last Fall.”
“Just when everything seemed normal, I come back from New York and my best friend is dating my two sisters.”
“Are you okay with that?” Molly seemed glad we were discussing ‘Gator and the girls.
“Sure, but are you okay with it?”
They looked at me, then at each other.
“We love ‘Gator as if he were your brother. We trust the twins to make their own decisions. We also know you would tell us if something was not going well.”
“John Boy and I had been predicting that ‘Gator would finally see the light. He’s too big a personality to love only one girl. The twins are so tight with each other; it may be the best way for them to really love a boy. Who knows what the future holds, though.”
I bit my tongue about ‘Gator leaving my bed for nightly visits to the girls’ room. So far everyone seemed happy, even the moms. Was it okay to avoid the obvious. At least we were talking about it.
After a long after-dinner conversation, I decided to go to the party after all. The first thing to happen when I arrived was a drunk Noah rushing up and trying to kiss me. I shrugged him off.
“I ain’t gay ‘less John Boy’s ‘round.” I let him down.
“That’s how I’s feelin’ about you, Andy,” he mumbled.
Gator came over, put his arm around his horse’s ass partner and led him away. Since everyone had seen his fumbling coming out and my rebuff, I wasn’t bothered by any more gay flirting. Greatly encouraged, several girls made themselves available, willing to meet my every need, including running to get me a beer. I’m ashamed to admit I obliged two of the comfort girls, so as to keep up with ‘Gator in the three-way department. Jace instantly appeared from his Teen Jesus exploits and made it an unofficial four-way. Afterwards, the girls both announced how amazing it felt to be pleasured both top and bottom by just a single boy. I was too smug to tell them the truth. Jace had on his goofy grin the remainder of the night. When I asked him how we had managed to satisfy two girls in multiple places at once, he remarked that Max had helped. I hope he was only kidding.
In bed with me before his midnight tryst with the twins, ‘Gator related all the gossip about my new conversion to hetero-land. My supposed skill at cunnilingus was overshadowed by the thought it had been Max that earned that reputation. I decided that future comfort girl experiences would happen only if Max switched bodies with me so I could learn from his expertise without fully participating. I was reluctant to tell ‘Gator the truth. Maybe Dr. Kam would find it amusing.
It seemed appropriate to drag Mom to Catholic Mass the next morning. I explained that we were hosting four of John Boy’s Catholic teammates the next weekend. We introduced ourselves to the priest on the church steps after mass. He promised that the Regis boys would be welcomed to Ames. Mom was pleased that she had been welcome. Her worry that having a female partner would spell pariah-hood at mass was alleviated. We picked up Molly and the twins plus one at Ames Baptist and had a fun Sunday dinner at our favorite restaurant. Jace’s place at the table was joined as well by a setting for John Boy. Naturally we gossiped about both of them. I felt badly from behind-the-back gossiping about John Boy. It didn’t stop me from venting my anger and fear that he would leave again after the bowling tournament. They promised to work on him to remain in Ames. Jace and I started signing back and forth when we turned to him as the topic of the day. The moms were asking if they could see Jace, too. I told them the procedure was to first feel him, as the twins already did when they learned to play guitar. ‘Gator asked if Jace could help him on the drums, but Jace noted he didn’t know how to play drums. He didn’t want ‘Gator turning into another Robby, which made me laugh.
“What did he say?”
“He didn’t like our old drummer and won’t teach you how to drum that way.”
“I wanna see ‘em,” he insisted.
“We want to, as well.” Molly piped up.
“Well, first you havta feel him. Seeing comes later. You ready for that, being touched by a ghost?”
The moms looked at each other and shrugged. Jace immediately kissed them on their cheeks. They looked at each other and smiled.
“He kissed us,” they both explained.
‘Gator looked slightly uncomfortable. “Go ahead,” he grimaced and awaited his kiss. Then he looked startled. “He punched me.”
Everyone broke up, especially Jace. Old ‘Gator, touched by an angel.