The twins wake me up with guilty, concerned expressions. Welcome home.
“Are you gonna tell?” Angie is her direct self.
When did I become ‘goodie goodie, two shoes’?
“Morning,” I yawn and give them my most goofy smile. “Anything bothering you, girls?”
“Don’t be a jerk. Are you going to tell the moms?”
“About what?” I try to look innocent and clueless.
“You know as well as we do.” Angie isn’t into playing along.
“Don’t you want to know,” Angie is now feisty.
“Well, it’s a secret. Please don’t tell anyone?” Amy is 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 pound me with my pillows.
“Jack and I predicted this months ago. When did y’all figure it out?”
“When you were gone, ‘Gator kept comin’ over anyway. We knew it wasn’t just that he likes you.”
“Well, I just don’t want to know what goes on behind closed doors. I may be jealous until Jack returns.”
They both kiss me on opposite cheeks. I know they will be kissing my ass if I play it right. I’m too sleepy to start that. Not yet.
“Well, get up. so we can get you ready for school.”
The moms play it clueless as we eat breakfast.
“Have a good day,” they send us off for higher learning.
I’m surrounded by Jack’s fag hag posse/French Club as soon as we arrive.
“Is he okay?” they all ask. “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 need to feel at home.
‘Gator comes up, looking sheepish. He expects to make some excuse for abandoning me in the middle of the night.
“Just don’t tell me any details,” I beg. His easy grin returns, relieved of making true confessions.
“Ready for bowling?” he asks. “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 complain. ‘Gator chuckles, free from any drama with me. I like being ‘just friends.’
“Meet us in the band room after last period. I have an idea that includes you.”
“Cool. I just has ta 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 makes 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 josh.
“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 can envision is a huge octopus-like machine sucking the cows dry. It feels cool to be a country boy again.
Final bell is at two. All four of us third-floorers meet 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 get on the drum set and show him my chaos drumming style.
It sounds better, but the tempo is too slow.
“How ‘bout we create our own fusion, but instead of jazz fusion, it be country rock, like the Eagles?” I suggest. I started playing ‘Take It to the Limit.’
The slow start allows ‘Gator to build into the drumming, increasing the tempo, and then dropping into a steady pace. I just play the guitar, while the girls used their high voice on the vocals. ‘Gator and I come in on backup vocals. ‘Gator’s enthusiasm gets him speeding up too much at the ending.
“We need the bass to keep the drumming on the right tempo,” I declare. “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 go and find two old double basses to use for practice.
“Now we really look country,” I decide. “Maybe I should play an old fiddle?”
The practice session is cut short so ‘Gator and I can go do chores. The twins want to come as well, but ‘Gator says he’ll 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 give me a big hug and sneak a quick kiss with ‘Gator. I blush again.
“You’ll be fine, once old Jack-Off gets back.”
I laugh. “That’s what Flo calls him, too.”
“Someday you can explain why you think that poor girl is yer girlfriend a thousand miles away.”
“Ya don’t knows ‘bout the magic dick?”
The three of them pound me into submission until ‘Gator drags me away for farm work.
“Yee haw,” I yell as we drive off in his pickup.
Two hours of chores are enough. No tittie squeezing but plenty of tittie washing before hooking up the suction cups. The cows seem to like me. “Gator’s dad takes me under his wing, to make sure I’m not a half-ass ranch hand. I need to buy real jeans. My Love Jeans came home covered in cow manure.
My Pizza Pit manager is glad I’m back. He hopes Jack will return soon, as without delivery, he was overwhelmed doing walk-in business. I tell him that Jack will return in two weeks. It makes me wonder if he really will return. After work and dinner with the crowd at home, I call him.
“Your boss wants you back at the Pizza Pit,” I start off.
“Oh, the glamour of it all,” he remarks 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 feel like he is 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 knows 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’m listening for him to start. He must be waiting on me. It’s unsettling to be so tentative.
When I finish the call, I go upstairs to join ‘Gator and the twins.
“What’s the matter, Andy. Ya looks perturbed,” ‘Gator seems 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 gots the touch.”
“Oh, Andy. Yer a country boy at heart.”
Maybe I’m being too sensitive about 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 get 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 seems like a natural depiction of how I see New York hustlers on Broadway in Times Square and an expression of why I like living in the country.
“It ain’t really rock, Andy,” Angie complains.
“It ain’t country much neither, talkin’ ‘bout hustlin’ in the City,” ‘Gator observes.
“That’s why I likes it,” I assert. “Ain’t that what we’s a’tryin’ ta do?” I respond.
“Well, let’s try it,” ‘Gator decides for us all.
He has the hardest time laying down an easy-going drum track. He speeds up and thunders with rolls and cymbal crashes. Amy sits with him, showing him how to just keep the beat on the high-hat. They end each line with the snare and a single bass drum thump.
Now we sound pretty good. I envision John Boy in a rhinestone shirt doing the vocals.
“What’s ya smilin’ ‘bout, Andy?” Amy asks.
“Jist seein’ John Boy all dressed up in a cowboy shirt and lovin’ walkin’ ‘round in boots.”
“That old boy comin’ home soon?” ‘Gator asks.
“I hopes,” I worry.
“After all that drama over Christmas, ya think he’ll bail on ya?” Angie worries.
“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 shure he stays here when he comes fer the State bowlin’ tournament,” ‘Gator has a plan.
We play a couple of John Denver songs, including, ‘Thank God I’m a Country Boy.’
I have to call John Boy, after we’re done. ‘Gator insists he institutes the campaign to get him back by saying hello first.
“Howdy, John Boy. How’s the livin’ in New York City?” he puts on his happy country voice.
“Hi, ‘Gator. I hear you got two girlfriends,” he answers, breaking into song:
“Double the pleasure, double the fun, with Doublemint , Doublemint, Doublemint gum.”
“That Doublemint sure enuff sticks afta ya chews it a bit.”
“’Gator,” he laughs. “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 is 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 ol’ Andy.”
“Hey,” I say 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 laughs. “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 laugh.
“John Boy’s comin’ back fer the bowlin’ tournament,” I announce.
They all laugh at how excited I am, 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 suggests.
I finally get to see Dr. Kam on Friday afternoon. “Gator has to do his chores alone until the twins volunteer to learn how to milk. ‘Gator blushes when he realizes he had to introduce them to his folks. Livin’ up to his social obligations.
Dr Kam greets me with a solid hug. I feel he has missed me. We settle into opposing armchairs with smiles on both our faces.
“Tell me about New York,” he starts 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 parents 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 is 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 hugs me so intensely at this hot gossip that he apologize immediately, thinking he stepped over the line with me. I just smile, basking in my reflected glory.
“Sorry,” he mumbles.
“No need,” I mumble back
After a second of mutual admiration, he starts 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 soon as his 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, as I said, 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 have 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 agree.
“Now, tell me more about John and Yoko.” Dr. Kam is a celebrity groupie.
“Later. You told me to fix my love life and pay less attention to Tommy. I need to talk about it.”
“Okay, but you’re not leaving without some celebrity gossip. You were confused about your feelings toward girls,” he prompts me.
“Yeah. I never stopped liking girls. I tell 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 laugh.
“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 loves 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 mean 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 makes me think. Am I going to experience deeper emotions as I became an adult? I revel in being a kid and see 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.”
Pizza delivery is a respite from the complications of my teen life. No angst driving around Ames. I don’t have to act cute to work my tips. I’m just relaxed and happy. Customers sense ‘m a normal kid and reward me for the convenience of dinner being delivered. At the end of my shift, I walk into the Hyland house relaxed and smiling. The moms think it is entirely due to Dr. Kam. The twins are suspicious. ‘Gator just expects everyone to be mindlessly happy – he must pick it up from all the cows he milks.
Following up on Dr. Kam’s session, I call Flo before calling John Boy, to see if she excites my dick just by herself. The second she starts missing me and showing how much she likes me, I go to full attention. I love being loved.
John Boy is more complicated. Mummy insisted he go to school in the City. He refuses to enter the Upper Eastside vs Westside preppy culture wars and has enrolled at parochial Regis High School on East 56th Street. He wants to reform his ‘Baptist’ ways. It worries me that he is 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 taunt 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 whines.
“That’s what Tommy always says.”
That was the clincher. John Boy’s return is assured.
The new band, Triplets plus Gator, is slowly gelling. ‘Gator’s drumming is a work in progress. His energy and enthusiasm are overwhelmed by a lack of technique. Both twins are playing bass as well as singing, resulting in a three-piece rhythm section. We need John Boy on guitar to mesh with my Jace-inspired licks to make it soar. We are more country than rock n roll, more John Denver than the Eagles. Rather than compromise, I suggest we cover full-on country songs, like Willie Nelson, and blues, like Janis Joplin. It’s a mixed bag at rehearsals after dinner on the third floor. We try many songs and find the ones that all of us like. ‘Gator suggests we perform for the first time at the State High School Bowling Finals, which is the following weekend at Ames Lanes. I’m counting on John Boy’s return, at least for the tournament, if not permanently.
‘Gator being in bed with me for our ‘Walton’s good night’ ritual is still unsettling. But he has no compunction about enthusiastically laying there with me, chatting like an old couple until it’s time to join the twins for the main attraction. I studiously avoid finding out what actually goes on in the girls’ bedroom. He remains in thrall and the girls never seem unhappy. The lack of drama is reassuring. I wonder when or if the moms will confront me about these after-hours exploits. Life on the third floor.
Noah approaches me at school. He remains the loyal ‘Gator posse clone but is an object of the gossip mill, since it seems like he is part of two couples.
“I feel like a fifth wheel,” he complains, assuming I know ‘Gator is ‘with’ both twins.
“Don’t despair. ‘Gator might decide to choose one over the other. Could be your lucky day,” I joke.
He shakes 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 explain the no kiss and tell rule.
“Thanks, Andy. Yer a peach.”
“Yeah. Every straight boy needs a gay wing man.”
It’s time to organize the State Bowling Championships. Coach Ball contacted the Iowa High School Athletic Federation and received official sanction for the finals. Every Iowan high school was contacted about the new sport. It is decided that this year’s inaugural championship ill be unofficial. If all goes well, bowling will be officially recognized as a high school sport, with rules and regulations. All this red tape is typical bureaucratic bullshit. The upshot is only schools from the local Ames area have active teams and will compete this year.
I speak with the Ames Lanes’ manager. The championships will run all day Saturday. We discuss how to seed and score the competition. There are ten schools, each with five mixed (male & female) pairs. It is 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 have raised enough money to pay for the awards, as well as the lane fees.
We are set to go. My main concern is getting John Boy to come from New York. Selecting the top five pairs from Ames High has become hotly contested, as we have three separate teams, Varsity, Junior Varsity and Frosh-Soph. ‘Gator, as team captain, decides that there will 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’s already Thursday.
“Still coming here for the bowling championships?” I ask 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 drop 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 become 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 starts 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 hang up.
I storm up to the third, marching right past ‘Gator and the twins into my room, slamming the door. ‘Gator, acts like it’s his bedroom too, sticking in his head to ask what’s 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 stick their heads in, as well.
“What’s wrong?” Angie has to know.
“John Boy broke up with Andy,” ‘Gator explains.
“No way,” the twins exclaim.
They all look 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.”
“Or else what?” Amy hopes to fix everything.
I say nothing. After a while we decide 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 stare at me, expecting tears. I switch to ‘Barefoot Boy’ and everyone does the monkeyshines with me. I feel better. The girls get us doing ‘Country Roads’ and ‘Bobby McGee.’ All that treacle about home and family makes me angry. I rush 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 is ready to settle down. Fuck normal.
I tell John Boy’s French Club fag hags that he may not come. They are devastated and promise to deluge him with phone calls, so I give out the telephone number. Sweet revenge. I avoid calling him, not sure I want to confirm our break-up. All I think about is him. I’m totally distracted. The word is out in the gossip mill. I guess I have more fans than I knew about. Both girls and guys approach me like I’m some sport fish to be snagged. I remain oblivious and disinterested. After being abrupt with a few tentative pick-up lines, I switch to my polite but emphatically disinterest self. For the first time I realize that high school will soon to be history for me. I wonder how I’ll feel in the fall. At least I don’t have to care about acceptance to Harvard. The moms are sympathetic but still insist I complete the arduous application process. My alumni interview is short and sweet. When asked why I want to go to Harvard, I say ‘because my boyfriend is going there.’ That checks all their boxes. Mrs. McCarthy arranges a special SAT session the following Sunday so I can complete that requirement before my application is due.
Saturday’s qualifying round for the bowling tournament is fun. Amy and I bowl our regular games to qualify. It is ‘Gator and Angie who really step it up. Gate’s enthusiasm and competitive mania sweep the poor girl away. They are the most improved with the best combined scores on the team. The cheerleaders outdo themselves, with constant pep rallies and cheers. Only the French club seems dispirited with no M. Jean to lead them. They promise 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 has officially resigned from the team.
“We said he had to qualify today,” I argue to exclude him.
“It ain’t smart to kick him off. He’s always our top scorer. I wants ta win,” ‘Gator has 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 challenges me.
I call from Ames Lanes, but Mummy says he is 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 feel complete relief. Then I realize what she has 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 get off the phone and shout at ‘Gator, “He’s coming. But he’s bringing his whole team from New York.”
‘Gator’s eyes light up, loving the added competition. The twins see it my way and gave me a big hug, warily waiting for my tears. I’m too elated that our breakup may be over. Smiles, no tears.
“What a traitor,” “Gator accuses 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 laugh at his sudden jock transformation. Competition revs his engines. He never had been excited about bowling before. Now it is life or death. Maybe being normal is okay. We announce the top five pairs who ill compete in the next Saturday’s State Championship.
“You little rat. You’re bringing your own team?” I accuse him that night on the phone. I avoid mentioning that I 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 sounds distressed.
“You quit,” I accuse him, assuming he is only coming back for the tournament.
“Mummy only agreed if those Regis Catholic boys come 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 falls into 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 hear 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 declares. “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 hangs up.
Upstairs everyone wants to know what John Boy is going to do.
“He’s coming for the bowling,” I half-shout, to much relief. “But he’s bringing his own high school’s team with him.”
‘Gator is 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 makes 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 has ta 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 gets 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 shake their heads in dismay at how misogynistic we can be.
That night I decide to spend it with the moms while ‘Gator squires both twins to a football team party. I know ‘Gator will protect them.
“Still not comfortable with the football crowd?” Molly wonders.
“Naw. Just wantin’ ta be with my moms tonight.”
Mom looks surprised, while Molly beams. They put my dinner in the oven until after my Pizza Pit deliveries are done. The three of us sit at the table while I enjoyed Kansas City ribs, fries and coleslaw. They laugh as I gobble 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.”
“No way. 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 says.
“Group think has no basis in logic.”
The moms laugh when I tell them about my Harvard interview.
“Only you can make your sex life a positive for getting into Harvard,” Molly observes.
“Do you have to go so far away?” Mom complains. “We just got you back and now you’ll leave once you graduate.”
I’m not used to her being so open about her feelings. I squeeze her hand. “Mom, we’re really a family now. That can’t ever change,” as I smile at both of them.
“It seems like everything’s changed since you showed up at the front door last Fall.”
“Just when everything seems normal, I come back from New York and my best friend is dating my two sisters.”
“Are you okay with that?” Molly seems glad we’re discussing ‘Gator and the girls.
“Sure, but are you okay with it?”
They look 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 will 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 bite my tongue about ‘Gator leaving my bed for nightly visits to the girls’ room. So far everyone seems happy, even the moms. Is it okay to avoid the obvious. At least we’re talking about it.
After a long after-dinner conversation, I decide to go to the party after all. The first thing to happen when I arrive is a drunk Noah rushes up and tries to kiss me. I shrug 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 mumbles.
Gator comes over, puts an arm around his horse’s ass partner and leads him away. Since everyone saw his fumbling coming out and my rebuff, I’m not bothered by any more gay flirting. Greatly encouraged, several girls make themselves available, willing to meet my every need, including running to get me a beer. I’m ashamed to admit I oblige two of the comfort girls, so as to keep up with ‘Gator in the three-way department. Jace instantly appears from his Teen Jesus exploits and makes it an unofficial four-way. Afterwards, the girls both announced how amazing it feels to be pleasured both top and bottom by just a single boy. I’m too smug to tell them the truth. Jace has on his goofy grin the remainder of the night. When I ask him how we had managed to satisfy two girls in multiple places at once, he remarks that Max helped. I hope he was only kidding.
In bed with me before his midnight tryst with the twins, ‘Gator relates all the gossip about my new conversion to hetero-land. My supposed skill at cunnilingus is overshadowed by the thought it was Max that earned that reputation. I decide that future comfort girl experiences would happen only if Max switches bodies with me so I could learn from his expertise without fully participating. I’m reluctant to tell ‘Gator the truth. Maybe Dr. Kam will find it amusing.
It seemed appropriate to drag Mom to Catholic Mass the next morning. I explain that we are hosting four of John Boy’s Catholic teammates the next weekend. We introduce ourselves to the priest on the church steps after mass. He promises that the Regis boys will be welcome to Ames. Mom is pleased that she is welcome. Her worry that having a female partner spells pariah-hood at mass is alleviated. We pick up Molly and the twins plus one at Ames Baptist and have a fun Sunday dinner at our favorite restaurant. Jace’s place at the table is joined as well by a setting for John Boy. Naturally we gossip about both of them. I feel badly from behind-the-back gossiping about John Boy. It doesn’t stop me from venting my anger and fear that he’ll leave again after the bowling tournament. They promise to work on him to remain in Ames. Jace and I start signing back and forth when we turn the topic of the day to him. The moms are asking if they can see Jace, too. I tell them the procedure is to first feel him, as the twins already did when he taught them to play guitar. ‘Gator asks if Jace could help him on the drums, but Jace notes he doesn’t know how to play drums. He doesn’t want ‘Gator turning into another Robby, which makes 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 insists.
“We want to, as well.” Molly pipes up.
“Well, first you has ta feel him. Seeing comes later. You ready for that, being touched by a ghost?”
The moms look at each other and shrug. Jace immediately kisses them on their cheeks. They look at each other and smile.
“He kissed us,” they both explain.
‘Gator looks slightly uncomfortable. “Go ahead,” he grimaces and awaits his kiss. Then he looks startled. “He punched me.”
Everyone breaks up, especially Jace. Old ‘Gator, touched by an angel.