It’s time to put on a play. Robby has convinced Mr. Scott I have to wear tights and a flouncy tutu. I put on a huge hat to cover my face so no one will recognize me, or at least not take an indecent photo. I walk out, bow, sitting on the front of the stage with my mandolin. The stands are filled with parents. I tear up a little seeing how proudly Grant’s parents sit next to Michael’s parents. I gave them a small nod. The pit is filled with all the crew and players’ siblings, including the Jacettes’ brothers and sisters. I notice they all were holding objects, I hope it isn’t rotten fruit. I start to play the overture.
Mr. Clark walks out on stage, wearing a similar hat to mine, just no tutu or tights. He begins my Prologue,
“Good eve, gents and dames.
Welcome to medieval England
Where fairies and royalty cavort
And love is treated as sport
“Tis the summer solstice
And King Oberon wants justice
From his wanton Queen
Who’s not all she seems
A changeling has been found
An Indian lad for the crown
To be slave for love
Or King’s page or none.
We are in the bard Bill’s house
The speeches may sound rough
To modern ear to hear
Listen as gay youth appear.
Thank ye, one and all,
Enjoy our play ‘til curtain’s fall.
Puck rushes out so fast that his accompanying fairy can’t keep up, which is okay because Robby trips, causing the fairy to fall on him. All the kids roar. They start throwing the white balls they have in their hands and pockets. When the kids realize the fairy is a boy in a dress, they yell ‘she’s a boy’, with more yelling and throwing. I’m fairly safe in front of the stage, until Puck runs forward and starts kicking the white balls back at the pit. I’m getting pelted, too. When Queen Titania marches in followed by her fairies, the kids all roar at all the boys in tutu’s and yell, ‘she’s a boy, too.’ Puck is racing around clearing the stage. I see the bewildered looks on the parents faces that soon turn to laughter as Puck incites the kids to more mayhem. Oberon comes in with his fairies to equal ridicule and excitement. Someone even yells, ‘they’re all boys.’
It all makes sense. Puck starts teasing Oberon, kissing his ear, which brings the roars of laughter back. The king fakes his dismay, as if he isn’t used to being fagged on after all our rehearsals. After all the lines are said, everyone troops off stage and the stage crew of butched-up girls rushes out. Another roar, and then mayhem, as they sweep up the white balls and start yelling ad-lib insults at the pit. The parents really enjoy that.
The balls are back in the pit. No one likes King Thisby until he starts acting like a donkey. The kids now love him and sit down, listening to every word. Grant comes down off the stage and sits with the kids. He has been sparring with Puck throughout the play, then sitting with Lysander and Demetrius when the prospective brides were fighting over them. The kids don’t like Theseus and Hippolyta and continually throw balls at them. Puck flirts with Theseus which they love and attack Hippoyta which drives everyone to hysterics. Grant and Robby are vying for the kids approval, cavorting and cajoling them. Then Grant sits quietly with the cast watching the workmen’s play, egging the kids to laugh at all the antics. Puck abuses them, standing on the stage above me. I get pelted more than he does. At the final curtain, Puck stands alone and bades all farewell:
“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.’
It’s not the silly plot that drives the action, it’s the hilarity between actors and audience. One can only wonder how much more hilarious this drama would play out to an audience not jaded by mass entertainment.
Puck joins hands with Grant and they skip off stage to thunderous applause. All the players come out for a curtain call. Mr. Clark is cheered. He even motions to me. I receive a modest hand. Jack receives his own call, with his parents standing and cheering his performance. Grant’s parents hug the Antonio’s and the Lombardi’s toast the High School and hug the Grants. The Pit does a group hug that’s ready to turn hostile at any moment, when Robby still in makeup bounds on stage and kisses Mr. Clark. ‘Bang’ There’s an explosion and the stage curtain tumbles down on the crew and players. Bare boys legs and dresses stick out of the collapsed curtain. Honored guests are escorted to the bar, while all the kids in the pit are hustled into the music room.
John is playing ‘Free Bird,”
Michael: “If I leave here tomorrow”
Jenna: “Would you still remember me?”
Michael: For I must be travelin’ on now
Jenna: There’s too many places I got to see
Michael: If I stay here with you girl
Jenna: “Things just couldn’t be the same
Michael: ‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now
Jenna: And this bird you cannot change
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
And the bird you cannot change
And this bird you cannot change”
VAN ZANT, RONNIE / COLLINS, ALLEN
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
The Out-Crowd mixes the two youth groups, the pit and the invited kids, meeting for the first time. The Pit kids are already two opposing gangs, the siblings of the crew and the siblings of the players. They all have the white balls and start pelting each other again. The rich kids back away. The band jumps into ‘ABC.’
Stu and Mike jump on the mic, dancing like Michael and Tito Jackson. The pit crew adversaries look like they are dancing with each other, which gets the trendies dancing instead of leaving. They have been standing around talking with the band and being bored since there was nothing to do. There are kids sitting on the floor. They immediately grab the loose balls. Puck sneaks in and is chasing boys around with a water balloon. The boys start screaming. Hippie’s church kids hear the high screeching and go into seizure mode. Max comes out and Stu sings ‘Ben’ (Max) to him.
The fighting stops for Max. While Stu sings lead, Mike Jr finds a group of blonde girls and sings backup with them. Stu immediately switches to the Beach Boys’ ‘Wendy,” and Mike gets down on his knees to the girls, singing the high parts.
All the girls rush to Mike, with Stu left standing alone and not singing. He yells, “Hey,” and launches Freddy Cannon’s ‘Palisades Park, moving around and picking girls to dance with.
‘Last night I took a walk after dark
A swingin’ place called Palisades Park
To have some fun and see what I could see
…That’s where the girls are
I took a ride on a shoot-the-chute
That girl I sat beside was awful cute
After we stopped she was holdin’ hands with me
…My heart was flyin’
Up like a rocket ship
Down like a roller coaster
Back like a loop-the-loop
And around like a merry-go-round
We ate and ate at a hot dog stand
We danced around to a rockin’ band
And when I could, I gave that girl a hug
…In the tunnel of love
You’ll never know how great a kiss can feel
When you stop at the top of a ferris wheel
When I fell in love, down at Palisades Park
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Down at Palisades Park
Yeah, yeah, yeah
When at Palisades Park
Down at Palisades Park
I’m at the Palisades Park
CLARIDGE MUSIC CO.
The Out-Crowd is out the gate and running. No stopping them now. Mom Watt comes up and hugs me.
“He’s pretty good, isn’t he?” She asks as only a mom can do.”
“I prefer the old spazz model. It’s was more electric.”
“You like the little suit he’s wearing? He bought it with his band money.”
I look at her, wink, and whisper, “I make a hundred dollars a day selling underwear.”
She laughs, then looks embarrassed. “Is that all you do for $100?”
“No, I have to autograph and sign ‘Praise the gays.”
She automatically says, “Praise the Lord.”
“And praise old Ben Franklin.”
She hugs me and whispers, “This is all your doing. It has your finger prints all over it.”
“How do you like the Globe Theater? I’m thinking of giving it to the high school.”
I notice she has a wine glass in her hand, “A little too many trips to the bar?”
She giggles, “Only way to watch your boy grow up in front of your eyes. He is so cute.”
We stand there, hugging and swaying to the music.
“I told my folks, you know,” I tell her.
“They already knew. Right?”
“Yeah, but they really came through for me this year. And I don’t mean buying me a car.”
“Scott got the station wagon.”
“Better keep an eye on that boy or I’ll be calling you Gramma?”
“Shut up. I’m not forty yet.”
“Want to take a spin,” I ask her to dance by reaching out my hand.
“Oh, Tim. I can’t.”
“What song?” I ask.
I run up to Stu and tell him his mom has a request. He knows instantly, and by the time I get back, Mom is doing the shimmy. I swear, with her hair up in a ponytail and wearing a top with fringe, she has them bouncing.
Stu stops singing, but Mike is there to pick up and ogle Stu’s mom. My Mom! We’re all perverts.
Taking a break means hanging with the homies in the garage. Everyone is back in the corner where there are chairs. Guido is entertaining Grant’s real homies with tales from his crip. They’re enjoying a relaxed beer and spliff. Someone has broken out the Jamaican.
“Where’d you score the ganja, mon?” I ask.
Up pops Grant.
“Oh, my little Indian orphan.”
All the guys circle me, “How many gay things does Grant do?”
They haven’t seen it. Grant wants them to come to school and put on a fake rumble, gangster style.
“Don’tcha wanna wait and see it at school?”
“We’re definitely there.”
“Why ruin the excitement of seeing him hold hands with a fairy in front of all his friends.
“That’ll be trippin’, man.”
“Shut up Clyde, you don’t havta act all gangster in fronna him. He’s in the band.”
“What’s your name?”
“I heard of you. You be beatin’ down a redneck and havin’ him arrested.”
“No, man. That was Teen Jesus. My Jesus, Your Jesus, Yesterday’s Jesus, Ping pong Jesus. Hit the bong Jesus, Ay men.”
“Another example of the advantages of the white man,” Clyde says.
“Shit, man,” Grant defends me, “he got the whole school to stop the number 3 from leaving so I can be in the play.”
“You can call me, Mr. Jesus.”
“You is my brother,” Clyde says.’
“Y’all’s my brother, too”
“You ain’t from here, right? Maybe North Carolina or up north?
“I spent last summer there. Street draggin’ at Charlotte, did a run, chased pussy boys, and fucked the sheriff’s wife.”
“Fuck that sheriff.”
They break up.
Security sticks their head in the door, “Everything okay here?”
I pop up. “Just tokin’ up, man.”
They break up again.
“Another advantage of the white man.”
“This our welcome to Gables – stuck out in the garage?”
“Well, we needed some runaway slaves for the show, but Grant wanted to get all the glory, so y’all were cut.”
“Runaway slaves?” they looked at me with bad intent.
“Better then love slave to a queen.” And I wink at Grant.
They all whip around and try to ask Grant, “You was a slave?”
“I’m a child, ‘cause we all are new here and I’m innocent.”
“That’s the biggest lie of the day.”
“The play ends with me walking off stage with the fairy. It’s symbolic.”
“Ready to sneak in?”
Grant & I both look at each other, asking ourselves “who said that?”
“Com’n,” I order. We sneak backstage while the ‘hot three’ play jazz for people seated and standing in the pit.
The cocktail party is on at full-bore. No way we’re seen. Clyde pulls my sleeve, and we all follow him. Soon we tip-toe past the bar, at which we all look enviously.
“No drinking in here. I got a joint, but let’s go into the bathroom,” where Flo gave me head. We lock the door and light it up. Soon the smoke is so heavy the fire alarm goes off. We run out and people are trying to fan the smoke away. White man’s advantage. Because they go to our school, they’re fully welcome at the kids’ dance. It’s more fun to sneak them in. We get by Guido into the music room, where the Out-Crowd has everyone warmed up and moving like a seething holler of snakes.
Not shy, Grant’s boys grab the 14-year-olds with the biggest titties and start jungle dancing around them It’s disco invading a 50s time warp.
“Like my friends?” Grant asks.
“Yeah, ‘cause they like me, their favorite honky.”
“Don’t really like ‘em, then?”
“I really like them, like ‘like’ them.”
“I can set you up with Clyde?”
“I don’t need a pimp.”
“You white boys think all we do is be pimps.”
“That’s your fault for having big dicks.”
“Yer great granddaddy plantation mastah bred us that way so when we fucked his daughters they’d never leave home on him, the old pervert.”
“Don’t be talkin’ ’bout my Gramma.”
“You are sompin’. I’m taking you up home to Mississippi. You’ll have all them white crackers crackin’ up.”
“They’ll kill me for being a pussy boy.”
“You got that right.”
“I’ll go. We’ll call it a run. If anyone survives, they’ll write about it for years.”
I start missing Casper and Jack. I’m hoping they’re wearing each other out in the bathroom. I find them with Jack’s folks who were with my folks. Dad is standing at attention, which means good news. I try to get them to come over, but they’re engrossed with the adult world.
I watch the Out-Crowd. John makes all the old Jace moves, fingering the frets and how he moves his body. Maybe there is a part of Jace in his heart. I’m pretty wiped, so I get teary thinking about their lives as 8 & 10 year-olds. It makes me so mad, but I’m watching a smiling John as he plays from his heart. That heart always loved Jace, a Jace I didn’t know. Casper is set free from that nightmare. Maybe John will be free too. Just not yet, but definitely for tonight. Casper and Jack come over finally.
“Lusting for my little brother?”
“He has your ass.”
“I’ll have your ass.”
“I’m thinking that the part of you that’s still in his heart is Jace, the old Jace. Like now there’s two, Jace Jace and Casper Jace .”
“Will time stand still if we both meet?”
“Good reason not to come out to too many people.”
“Unfair,” Jack complains, “You and I both came out to our parents this week. Poor Casper. He’s an orphan.”
“Let’s find Casper’s real mom and tell her what an asshole he is.”
“I love that asshole.”
“His mom knows it real well from wiping it when he was a baby.”
“I’m right here, you know.”
“How about we find your moms?”
Pretty soon all three of us are crying.
“Trouble in paradise, boys?” It’s Robby.
Jack glares at him. Casper gives him a kiss which he ignores.
“We‘re talking about finding Jace’s mom and telling her how great he was.”
“I’m in,” he claims.
“No. You’re still on probation.”
“Com’n. I know where to find her, just go down on skid row.”
I pop him on the chin. He collapses like a house of cards.
“Fuck, man. I was just kidding,” he complains, rubbing his jaw.
“No, you’re just mean and you’re making me play your mean game.”
“Why did you try to rape me?” Jack intervenes by changing the subject.
“You’re just too damn cute,” he flippantly replies.
“You’re pitiful, under all that talent and imagination, you’re a sorry boy who has to steal love instead of earn it.” Jack is spot on. “You’re not even gay.”
I pick Robby up, shaking him by the arms. He looks fearful, then angry, and finally breaks down and cries. He doesn’t have to say anything. A great ball of pity wells in my heart. All the fun times versus all the spiteful mean things. He’s a mess. I just hold him. Casper and Jack come over. We surround him. Robby is a blubbering sack of shit. Mary has been watching. I remember how he raped her at Halloween, making me mad again. Casper has never been abused by Robby; he’s had more abuse than anyone, but forgiving Robby was a way to release some of those tangled emotions. When he kissed Robby on the cheek, Robby didn’t even notice. I see that his heart is hardened against wanting someone. Mary comes over. He abuses her the most, but she never complains. He reaches out. She pulls him away from us. They walk off together. Maybe she can heal him. No, only he can do that.
“That was intense,” Jack notes.
“How can you forgive him?” I ask.
“He never really raped me. He just scared me shitless. Then you came to save me. I felt so much love for you. After you beat the crap out of him, I figured I better hate him or you’d feel guilty for almost killing him. Now I want to forget what he wanted to do .”
“So we go back to the way it was?”
“No way. If he hasn’t learned how to be a better friend, forget him.”
I kiss Jack, as Casper hugs us.
Michael and Jenna came over and ask if we’ve had a fight. “It looks like you’re making up.”
“Not us, we never fight,” and we both laugh.
“You still fighting with Robby?” Michael asks.
“Yeah, I punched him out for making a crack about Jace’s mom.”
“That’s him, the crackster.”
“He broke down a little. Maybe he’ll come around and start acting like a friend, instead of being Puck the Tormentor.”
“He’s a great Puck.”
“It’s the perfect role for him.”
“If you make him be nice, it may get boring around here.”
“You on his side?”
“I’m the one who told you to grow a pair.”
“Now I go around beating down rednecks on the street.”
I tell him about Teen Jesus, the one hit wonder.
“Jesus, that’s great.
“That’s Mr. Jesus, to you.”
We laugh and Michael brings out a small hash pipe. We get so wasted, the rest of the party is a blur. I remember Mike Sr.’s combo playing Sinatra classics and wildly cheering. He gets us up and we play Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Boots,’
dedicating it to Robby. Mary and Robby get up and sing ‘My Boyfriends Back.’
Then everyone including the Jazz combo is on stage singing Elvis’ ‘Love Me Tender,’
and I rub Robby’s chin to make it better. I guess it is.
After the music, Mike Sr. has Michael and Jenna come over to him at the mic. He looks at his son. I see the love and pride he feels for Michael, as he tells him all those things. I glance at my parents, whom I’ve avoided, being so high. Dad gives me the biggest grin I’ve ever seen from him. He knows how badly I want to please him and lets me know it’s possible. Susan glows.
Mike Sr. looks at me and then at my dad. “Just a short note of appreciation to Tim for being the brains behind everything. And an announcement, Tim’s dad and Susan are getting married so Tim doesn’t have to mooch off of everyone. Buona fortuna.”
Everyone claps and I rush over to hug them, stoned or not.
Mike Sr. thanks everyone for coming. Tipping his hand toward the Lombardi’s on the dais. “Oh, one last thing…” Guido comes roaring into the pit area in a brand new red Alpha Romero convertible, scattering guests as he parks it in front of the stage,
“Happy Birthday, Michael… Now go pass drivers education.”
They hug. Michael hugs Jenna. I realize a two-seater is Mike Sr.’s way of making sure Michael doesn’t drive our crazy band around stoned and drunk.
As the party winds down, Jack and I argue about which bed we’ll sleep in that night, as we both want to be in the other’s. My addled brain says, “Let’s go to the Watt’s and molest Stu. He’s too much all about himself after the Out-Crowd show.”
We ride our bikes to Kendall. Knowing the layout of their house, we sneak in Stu’s window, pulling him and Mike Jr. out of their bed and tumbling them on top of John who’s sleeping on the floor. Soon all six of us are whooping and yelling, waking the rest of the house. When Mr. Watt bursts in and sees a pile of 5 boys, he laughs instead of yelling.
Pulling me out of the pile, “You? How many times do I have to kick you out of my house.”
“Every time,” I reply.
Mom Watt protects me, confessing she lured me there by doing the Shimmy Shimmy at the party.
“Well, just this one time,” he concedes, “But no molesting Stu. He’s a star now.”
“But that’s why we’re here,” Jack says, “he needs to be taken down a peg or two.”
“And who are you?” Mr. Watt asks, feeling boy overload for not the first time.
“Good evening, sir, I’m Jack Stone, Tim’s boyfriend. You must not have recognized me, as I was wearing a dress in the play. I’m Queen Titania, thank you.”
“Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle,” he answers, “Welcome to the zoo.”
We settle down. Stu insists we stay the night. He and Mike give up the bed, since we’re ‘lovers,’ and he and Mike Jr. join John on the floor. Once it’s quiet, Jack reaches over to feel my dick. Finding it soft, he realizes I’m in boy mode, not teen mode. I look over and see Casper wrapped up with John, who has that same smile I’d seen when he was playing earlier. Stu and Mike Jr. are sprawled half over each other and drooling. I give Jack a little wank but he too can’t get hard – too much acne cream and not enough testosterone in the room.
In the morning, Mom Watt cooks her traditional Sunday breakfast of blueberry pancakes and bacon. She’s at the stove for an hour before everyone is bursting with burps. Scott comes down and looks at us, turning around to leave.
“I’m going back to sleep,” he remarks grumpily.
“You sit down right here,” Mom has his attention. “These are your friends, also. Have you met Tim’s new boyfriend, Jack,” as she put her hand on his shoulder.
Scott turns purple with apoplexy. “Not now, Mom.”
“If not now, then when are you going to get over your pout. It’s been six months. This boy,” she puts her other hand on me, “still loves you and has gotten over what you fought about. At least recognize that he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to your brother. It’s time you two make up.”
Scott is thoroughly crushed. I stand up and shake his hand, “This is Jack, Scott. He’s our new singer and my boyfriend now.” I look at Jack, “This is Scott, He’s Stu’s brother and last year he made me a member of their family.”
Jack stands up, confused by a history he wasn’t aware of, “Nice meeting you, Scott. Sorry we disturbed you last night. We were just having fun with the boys.”
Scott looks in shock. Mom makes him sit down. Five boys and a ghost sit there watching him eat as if he were in the zoo.
Finally, he looks up at me, “Sorry, Tim. I don’t know why I’m such an asshole.”
“At least you’re no longer a CB.”
Stu, Mike Jr., Scott and I all laugh. Everyone else wanted to know what a CB is. (Cry Baby) We’ll never tell. Brothers forever.