The build up to Michael’s party increased in intensity, with construction apace in the backyard. We had decided that since the Out-Crowd performance was to be a dance/sock hop, we had to clear the music room in order to have enough space for dancing. We set up for the band to perform in a corner, to keep the main part of the room free of obstacles. A table was set up by the door for refreshments. There was no place for the kids to sit down. Hopefully they’d be dancing the entire time. Guido was assigned to keep alcohol out of the punch and limit entrance to just the kids. I asked Mike Sr. if any of his jazz combo friends would be attending, suggesting they could perform a few Sinatra favorites on the Elizabethan stage while the adults mingled after the play’s performance. He called around and said the singer and keyboard player would attend. His smile told me my party planning skills were appreciated. At the end of the play’s performance, extra tables and chairs would be set up in the pit area, so the adults would be comfortable to enjoy the jazz ensemble. It would be a cocktail party with a full bar for the adults. We claimed the garage for the few actual teens attending where beer and pot consumption could be ignored. Mrs. Antonio’s special spaghetti would be served to the kids. They had really gone all out. Mike Sr. told me the guest list had expanded to 250. The house would be bursting. It was the bands’ job to keep everyone moving.
Mr. Clark was stunned when I brought Intrepid Jimmy to our after-school rehearsal, with an actual drama critic to give a professional opinion. We were in dress rehearsal mode, so they saw the full production. Jimmy took photos. After we had finished, the critic had many questions. He said he didn’t want to give any advice because we had obviously brought a modern interpretation to the classic. He asked about Grant’s role, aware of the efforts we had made to have him in our cast. I explained it was crucial for him to be the observer (he had no lines) of the dream sequences, as seen through innocent eyes. In the program we removed the love slave description and called him the Innocent.
“Grant has really interpreted his role himself, as he is on stage but not participating in the action. We hope the audience sees the play through his eyes.”
He asked if we were using Elizabethan music.
“I actually used parts from ‘The Nutcracker,’ ‘The Mikado,’ and ‘Flight of the Bumble Bees,’ mixed with mandolin scores appropriate to Shakespeare.”
He was taking notes and smiled at me. “You’re more ambitious than John (Jimmy’s real name) had told me. Do you think of yourself as a prodigy, like Mozart?”
I laughed, “I play in a cover band. We copy real musician’s hits because everyone loves them. The play is genius; we are having fun with Shakespeare.”
“What about the rumor that you call yourself ‘Teen Jesus?’”
“That’s just an old Beatles legend being recycled. We went to our bass player’s church youth group Friday night, and enjoyed the waving of arms, rolling on the floor, but not so much the speaking in tongues. A girl felt Jesus come into her heart and thought he looked like a teenager. She came to Out & Proud. We told everyone there to open their hearts to Jesus and all the good people in their lives. Since our guitarist was killed by his abusive brother, we’ve been telling kids never to remain silent about abuse. We want them to tell responsible adults if it happens to them or if they see it happening to their friends.”
“Do you see yourself as a teen leader?”
“I’m just a minstrel in a play right now. I’m like the changeling. I have no lines.”
“Tell me about Out & Proud?”
“This interview is about our play, so I’ll just say this and stop. I just came out to my parents, who are very conservative. They love and support me. Out & Proud serves a role model for teens and older that you can be a good person and be gay. It’s the haters who cause problems.”
We didn’t want anyone to know we were doing a pre-opening night at Michael’s party. We pushed to get publicity for the school performances the next weekend. Jimmy gave me the thumbs up, and they left. Mr. Clark was breathless.
“Do you think we’ll get in the paper?”
“Don’t sell your soul for popularity. It tends to come back to bite you,” I tell him.
“Do you think the kids will like the play?”
“Robby plans to highly amuse them with this play. I keep warning you that he isn’t gay. He’s has all the boys acting like girls which will surely create a stir. Think of it as another authentic Elizabethan norm where the audience throws rotten fruits at the actors. By making fruits of the actors, he’s throwing it back at them. ”
“My goodness, will it be that bad.”
“He’s releasing the dogs of hell on us. His role as Puck is vital to saving us from a riot.”
He rushes over to work with Robby. Jack has been quiet during my interview, but he’s in all the photo shots. I’ll have to start calling him Freddie Mercury.
The next day we are prominently featured in the Miami Herald’s Arts section. The article is titled “Fun with Shakespeare,’ with several photos of Robby and Jack in full costume and makeup. I smiled at Puck/Robby’s bushy tail. Jack’s Titania is gorgeous. He gets hoots and whistles at Nutrition, which aren’t exactly compliments. We steel ourselves for the next ten days of attention and derision. Casper floats above the haters and tries to harass them back. They’re impervious since they have no hearts. At band rehearsal I ask Jack what his parents’ reaction will be to seeing him in the paper.
“Crap, I haven’t seen or spoken with them in a week.”
“I haven’t even met them, yet. Now that you’re part of my family, maybe they need to know.”
“Oh, they’re too old to care. Gay means Fred Astaire to them.”
“We could do an Astaire/Rogers dance number for them.” I suggest.
“Well, you must come by and meet them.”
“But now we have to get to Out & Proud. We’ll make big bucks with that article out today.
Felix is prepared. He has rented the store next door and set it up with a massive underwear selection that just arrived. All we have to do is sit and sign the purchases.
“Felix, I’m glad you’re expanding, but it makes me feel exploitative of these little girls.”
“They love you.’
“Well, they deserve better than a cash grab. We’ll play for the crowd first.”
“The cops warned me that the crowd’s too big. They’re going to eventually shut me down.”
“Well, from now on keep all the ‘product’ in the back and we’ll play in here. When we finish, you can start selling.”
“Okay, just for today you can be outside.”
We set up. A girl comes up and asks us to sing to her.
“What’s your name, honey?”
“Shaniqua,” she answers.
“Do you have a nickname?”
We start singing ‘Amazing Shaq,’ which sounds sweet as we sang low.
The girls surround Shaniqua, loving her.
Someone yells, “Heresy, Abomination,” at the back of the crowd.
I looked up and see a small group of adults. I instantly know they’re haters. I’m not going to allow them to destroy the good feelings. We turn up the amps and play the song through again. When we finish, I ask, “Why don’t you adults come up and tell us why you don’t like us singing a traditional hymn to this girl?”
They push aside the kids, standing in front of us. I’d hoped that the happy faces and nice feelings would calm them down. Hate easily wins out. At least Jack and I are as tall as them as they tower over the pre-teens.
“You’re corrupting these children’s morals,” one of the haters says.
“We sing hymns because they need to feel love in their life.”
“Only Jesus brings love.”
“Maybe that’s your problem. No one has ever loved you.”
“Jesus is enough for everyone.”
“Jesus brought love to this world. He never said his love was the only love in life.”
“You mock Jesus and are an abomination in his sight.”
“You act like Jesus is a hater who only accepts haters into his heart.”
“You’re a damned faggot who’s going to Hell right now.” He swings at Jack, who steps behind me. I swing the Mustang and knock him down. I put my foot on his neck and tell him to stay down. His friends have jumped back. They thought faggots don’t fight back.
“Felix,” I yell. “Call the cops. This guy tried to assault us.”
He runs out, seeing me towering over the hater(with my foot literally on his red neck) and runs back to call. The other haters can’t decide whether to attack me or run. The police sirens make up their minds. They are quickly gone. All the girls are cowering behind Jack and me.
“I’m sorry you had to see that. Haters are the abusers we fight. If you see someone being abused, don’t do what I did just now. Find a responsible adult to help you or the friend who is being abused.”
Casper has a new way to hang out. He puts an arm on each of us. We all feel connected that way, but it leaves a short distance between Jack and me.
There are other screams. Girls began falling on the ground and shaking. The garbled sound of ‘tongues’ was gurgling up. I sign to Casper to go back inside. It makes him sad.
“I know, but let’s not make the situation worse,” I sign.
The Police arrive and immediately call for backup when they see all the kids writhing on the ground. Felix runs out and grabs the officers, leading them to me.
“This man assaulted Jack,” I tell him. They put the hater in cuffs and led him to the police car. We all go inside, where I relate what happened. They get a statement from Jack. They warn Felix that he must know this was a bad way to run his business. Felix says he everything is going inside the next afternoon. They tell him to shut down the circus for now.
“Did you hit that man with your guitar?” the officer asks me.
“Yes, but only after he said he was going to kill us and lunged at Jack.”
“Good boy. You don’t seem like a typical musician.”
“I grew up in the military, officer.”
“Well, I’d say you used reasonable force to subdue him. Since you stopped there, you obvious had the situation under control.”
“Not really. There were five of them. They hesitated jumping me. When you arrived, they took off”
“That’s our job. You were wise to call us.”
“You’re the boy in the paper today. You’re Teen Jesus.” I guess even cops read the Arts section with their coffee and donuts.
“That’s not true.”
“I always wondered if Jesus fought back when he was a kid.”
We all laugh. He took our names and said they would lock the redneck up overnight, unless we want to press charges.
“Only losers press charges,” I say.
After they leave, Jack and I go back outside. All the girls rush us, saying we saved them. My Teen Jesus role is expanding beyond soul saver.
“Tim has been my savior before,” Jack tells them.
“Are you his apostle?” one girl asked.
“They’d have to rewrite the bible,” I tell them and give him a sexy kiss. All the girls scream. Several fall down.
“Stop,” I yell, which amazingly they do. “All this holy rolling is giving me a headache.”
“Ah,” They sympathetically moan.
Felix announces that the new shop was ready for buyers. He pulls up our tees and shows off our matching briefs. The girls grab their credit cards and line up in the new annex. I remember the real Jesus at the temple throwing out the money lenders. Before signing underwear, I find Casper in the backroom. Jack and I give him a blow job and rim job, to make up for banishing his Teen Jesus apparition at the melee.
After earning our hundred bucks, I call Intrepid Jimmy to inform him about the exploits of Teen Jesus. He’s excited to be building his story. I tell him to emphasize that we want nothing to do with religious controversies and that having Jesus in your heart is a good thing.
“Better start going to church,” he suggests.
Then I call Mike Sr. to let him know what happened. I explain that no charges are being filed. He tells me to let him make those decisions. I agree.
Finally it’s time to go meet the new parents. I call Susan to tell her I’m having dinner with Jack’s parents. She says Dad will be pleased and thanks me for calling. Since she now is on my side, I generally ignore her normal subservience to him. Whatever.
We change clothes to look presentable. Casper ask if he can go. He’s acting strange.
“Of course,” we both say. “I’ll say grace and maybe they’ll see Teen Jesus. Do you like that name better than Casper?”
We ride our bikes to Jack’s house. It’s big, almost as big as Michael’s.
“Jesus, you’re rich,” I tell him. Casper signs that it’s easier to thread a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich boy to get into heaven.
We throw Casper on the ground and are stomping on him, while he giggles. Then Jack feels sorry for him, “Jesus, Tim, did you eat too many Wheaties this morning?” We all roll around, messing up our (sorta) nice clothes. We go straight to his room. He lends me a fresh shirt and trousers. He has two closets full of clothes.
“Are you super rich or something,”
“All hand-me-downs from my older brothers.”
I look and saw they were mostly 50s style button downs, even Ivy League khakis, with the loop belt on the butt.
“I like these,” as I snap his loop.
“Stop it,” he warns, “I’m not letting you fuck me until you meet my parents.”
Casper pulls out his cock. I hold Jack down for a few seconds while Casper humps him.
We all jump up when we heard his mom call up, “Is that you Johnny? Are you home?”
“Yes. I have friends with me.”
“That’s nice. Do they want to stay for dinner?”
“I’ll tell Isabelle. We’re eating at eight.”
“Are you having cocktails now?”
“Yes, dear. Do you want to introduce your friends.”
We all troop downstairs to their large sitting room. I see a more formal living room beyond. The sitting room has a bar. Jack’s father is preparing drinks. I’m ready to have a high ball, after all our fooling around, but am only offered a Coke.
“This is Tim Castle, Mother and Dad. He’s the one who invited me to be in their band.”
“Is it a jazz combo, Tim?” Mother asks me.
“We play mostly popular music,” I answer, ‘ma’am.”
“We actually were playing hymns today at a store in the Grove,” Jack was more talkative than usual. Casper is sitting back on the opposite couch, enjoying my debut.
“That’s nice, dear. Now, Tim, we did speak with your father this past weekend. He seems very nice, wanting to make sure Jack could stay with you. You are of course welcome here as well.”
“I was looking forward to meeting you, ma’am”
“The pleasure is all ours. We’re just older parents than most. Johnny is our November mistake, you know.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say any later than, say, October, ma’am.”
“What a charmer, you are, Tim. Isn’t he, dear,” she defers to her husband, whose role is being agreeable to everything she says and to make the drinks.
Jack complains, “It’s not fair to be referred to as a ‘mistake,’ you know.”
“What do we know, Johnny?” she titters.
“You very well know,” he responds.
It was definitely repartee from the 1930s. I glance around and see the normal pictures of grandkids. Casper point out Jack’s picture, looking very young, with his older brothers. I jump up so I can see them better. Jack comes over and explains he was just a kid in those pictures. He is so cute, making faces at his serious older siblings. Casper was making the same faces at Jack. Jack shows me formal, more recent photos. He’s really handsome.
“Did you see Jack’s picture in the Herald today” I ask.
“You were in the paper, Johnny?”
“Yes, our play debuts this weekend. They gave us a nice write-up.”
She rings a bell and a Spanish maid comes into the room.
“Isabelle, this is Johnny’s new friend, Tim,” she introduces me. “Would you get today’s Herald, por favor. Johnny’s photo is in it. Gracias.”
She nods to me, and then returns with the paper. Mrs. Stone looks at the Arts section, reading the whole interview.
“Look at this, dear,” showing the photo of Jack to his dad, “I always wanted a daughter and now Johnny has given me one. You are gorgeous, Johnny.” She kisses him. He finally seems embarrassed.
“And Tim, most of the article is about you. They compare you to Mozart. You said you play popular music.”
“Well, for the play, I’m just the minstrel. I play Elizabethan madrigals.”
“It says, Johnny, that you sing in your role. It’s quite avant-garde. And I thought you should have gone to Exeter or Andover, to become more cultured than your dreadful magic games.”
“You’ll send me away soon enough.”
“Oh, Johnny, you’ll never leave my heart.” He bends over and air kisses her. Casper came over and double air kisses her.
“I hope you’re coming to our preview this Sunday at the Antonio’s. They’ve set up an Elizabethan Theater in the back yard.”
“We so admire Mr. Antonio and all his work for the blacks. I’m afraid we’ve never had the chance to meet them. We go out so little at our age.”
“Well, you have to come and see Jack sing Shakespeare. He’ll be wearing a dress.”
“Well, then, we must. Thank you Tim. We look forward to hearing the next Mozart.”
“That’s all publicity for the newspaper. I just play other people’s songs in a rock band.”
“People are calling him Teen Jesus, Mother.”
“Don’t encourage that, please,” I complain.
“It does sound better than a Teen Mozart.”
“Well, you certainly are becoming more sophisticated, Johnny. I think Tim’s a good influence on you.”
“Oh, he is, Mummy,” Getting up and hugging me. “We’re boyfriends now.”
“Our little Johnny is growing up.”
And Mr. Stone nods his approval. We both air kiss, three times.
Isabelle announces that dinner is served. We all go into the dining room. There are five places set.
“Where’s your other friend, Johnny?” she asks.
“Oh, he’s around, but he’s not eating with us.”
“You should introduce him. You don’t have two boyfriends now, I hope.”
Casper is all ears for this response.
“Well, actually yes. But Casper finds it hard to be seen with us. Not everyone accepts us being gay.”
“Well, tell him we are very supportive, but don’t have too many boyfriends at your age. You’ll find you may be conceited when you grow up.”
“Well, I can be a little conceited. I am the most beautiful girl in the play.”
“He really sings like an angel, Mrs. Stone. I’ll make sure you receive a formal invitation to Michael Antonio’s party.”
“There’s the son, Michael Jr, “she notes. “I’ve heard through the grapevine that he’s called Romeo and is engaged to a Capulet Juliet.”
“Not engaged, but betrothed.”
“We did Romeo and Juliet for Jenna Lombardi’s 14th birthday over the holidays.”
“Oh my goodness. You poor boy. It was your boyfriend that was so viciously murdered. You played on so bravely. So many people came to Viscaya. I am truly sorry. You must miss him so.”
”He sent your son to me. We share our love with him.”
“Are you writing your own Shakespearean tragedy?”
“Sometimes it does seem so . Maybe Julius Caesar.”
“Oh, all that deception. I hope you don’t feel jaded by life at 16.”
“No time for that. As well as the play, Jack and I have been getting ready for our band’s debut in April. We are opening for a famous rock and roll band at the hydroplane course.”
“Should we see about getting Symphony Hall for you?”
“We’re just the opening band. It’s a rough crowd. They’d smoke and leave a mess at a formal concert hall.”
“Well, someday you’ll play Carnegie Hall.”
“I did perform once in New York when I was 14. I love New York.”
“Maybe you boys should apply to Columbia and live your dreams.” I feel I have entered into the world of our Midsummer Night’s Dream.
We look at each other, holding hands, sitting at a grand dining table, smiling at Casper whose arms are around us, and thinking how perfect. The first bite of my chicken cordon bleu confirms it.
I insist we spend the night there. His bed has silk sheets and is twice as wide as mine. Who knows what Isabelle will think when she washes those sheets. I feel like a dog marking my territory.
I woke up late and miss Jack. He’s sitting by the window.
“Are we becoming too much alike,” I ask, hugging him from behind. “When did you start sitting at the window contemplating your life.”
“It’s nice. I know why you do it now.”
“It’s better with someone in your arms.” Casper lies on his back in bed, naked, and snoring with a big hard-on.
“Then, come here,” and we snuggle and spoon.
“Is it silly that I enjoyed your coming out to your parents, more than to mine.” Jack says.
“Well, I totally enjoyed yours more. I wanted to kill Hippie.”
“He was right, though. You had to grow a pair. Now look at you, beating up haters in the street.”
“Am I rough trade to you.”
“You are my hero. That asshole attacked me.”
“You didn’t tell your folks that part of your day.”
“Some things are better left unsaid.”
“How about telling them you have two boyfriends.”
“Oh, half their friends are closeted homosexuals.”
“But they are so sophisticated.”
“The rich are more up tight than regular people.”
“Is that what you want, just to be a regular person?”
“No, I kinda like it the way it is now, with you and Casper.”
“I can’t think past our show in April. How can we stay together until we’re really adults?”
“You don’t want to grow up?”
“Of course I do. Look at the people who try to lock-in a certain time of their lives and hold onto it as long as possible. I know this is my best time ever, but I also want to push it further, to see what’s around the next corner.”
“You are too hot-blooded, Tim Castle.”
“I can barely keep up with you and Casper, Johnny Stone.”
“You want it any other way?”
“How about this way?” and I wiggle my little finger into his butt. He shrieks. Casper wakes up and, as already noted, is good to go. We tease Jack until he became Johnny Come Lately. I’m glad to have Casper ready to fuck me when I had just cum myself .
In the morning we decide to have a ditch day and have breakfast with Mrs. Stone. Jus d’orange, café et croissants. Frenching each other completes our continental breakfast. Lounging by the pool, Casper complains he can’t get a tan. We put Oil d’Olay on him and he wanders around as a little, naked brown boy until the lotion is absorbed. We investigate Jack’s clothing closet and find many costume possibilities. I put on a tux and Jack, a thirties sporting outfit. We act out ‘The Way you Look Tonight’ from the Astaire & Rogers movie ‘Swing time.’
It’s a duet, with Jack doing the high Rogers role and me as Astaire. We danced throughout the downstairs rooms as we sing. Casper is our stage manager, opening and closing doors and shining the spotlight (a floor lamp) on us. Mrs. Stone tells me to call her Dorothy, but when she sees the look in my eyes, she relents, “No, just call me Mother.” Sounds like a Joan Crawford movie. “Now I have my wish, not just one, but two daughters.”
Casper laughs at my discomfort, signing I’ve become too butch lately, going around beating up people. I promise to seek my feminine side.
“Mummy has already found it,” Jack signs.
We show up for afternoon rehearsal, tanned and feeling beautiful. Mr. Clark breathes a sigh of relief that we haven’t gone AWOL. Robby continues to avoid me. I’m beginning to feel sorry for him. No one treats him like the director anymore. He isn’t that into his role as Puck. I tell Casper to check up on him. The report is that he’s just feeling sorry for himself. No sympathy there. I decide to give him a pep talk right before our first performance. A couple of days more to feel superior. I know we needed his crazy energy to make it work, for the band and the play.
The day of Michael’s party arrives. We had return to Hippie’s youth group the night before, which thrills the kids and leader. We explain that the rumors about Teen Jesus started there. Regardless of what they saw, they must remember that ‘m not Teen Jesus. Several kids were at Out & Proud. They recount what had happened.
“I had to defend Jack when one of those haters attacked us, putting him in jail. I feel sorry that it happened. He was angry because people thought I was mocking Jesus by pretending to be him.”
I warn them not to believe in false idols, but to keep Jesus in their hearts and share the love they find. I also give another anti-bullying pep talk.
We’re all gathered behind the Globe Theater replica, getting high and laughing about our adventures. I tell everyone that Jack’s family accepts us as boyfriends and how we entertained his mother with the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers song and dance. Grant comes up to me and says he hadn’t known I’m gay, but he likes me a lot for my straight parts. I promised to keep my gay parts away from his straight parts.
“You’re still my hero,” he admits.
“Like a gay Superman?”
“More like a gay Shaft.”
“Your command of the Shakespearean double entendre is excellent. Where are your folks?”
“They’re sitting up on the dais with all the famous people. Michael’s dad says they were honored guests because I’m the star of the show.” I see he’s tearing up. “I’ll bet you arranged that.”
“Naw, Mike Sr. arranges his own life. The straight guy always is the star.”
“But I feel like a kid up there. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m doing.”
“You nail it. I switched the program to read ‘Innocent’ instead of “Love Slave.”
“That’s a relief. I knew my Mama was gonna tan my hide if she saw ‘slave.’”
“No slaves around here. You wanna hit the weed?”
“Later. I’m too nervous now.”
I feel his forehead, “But cool as a cucumber.”
“You’re a special dude, Tim. You wanna be set up with a brother?”
“Naw. I got my hands full right now.”
“Jack’s a hot tamale. Somehow I feel jealous.”
“Well, you’re still his sex slave.”
“I need someone to take off some of the pressure.”
“Sorry, No can do.”
“You got a main squeeze?”
“Sittin’ right there with my folks.”
“Church girl, huh?”
“You got it.”
“There’s my squeeze over there,” as I point to Flo.
“You got a girlfriend, too?”
“Yup, another church girl. She likes that Jack relieves me of my excess hormones.”
“Sweet deal, man.”
“Check out the garage afterward.”
“Cool. Okay if I bring in a few brothers? They insisted on coming to see me act gay. They don’t wanna crash the party.”
“Well you can be gay at school for ‘em, but for sure bring ‘em to the opium den out back.”
“You got hard drugs?”
“Just pot and beer – have no fear.”
I walk up to Robby. He’s pretty angry with me for ruining his life. I don’t care. Without a great performance from him as Puck, our play is a flop. I’m not about to beg him to turn it up. I just lite into him.
“I’m not even going to say anything about what you did. You ruined our friendship. Now you’re trying to ruin all these kids’ performance by being a lame Puck. If you don’t turn it up and play your asshole self, I’ll make sure to always call you ‘Fuck.’ ‘Cause you are a fucked Puck right now. No spirit. No joy. No gay flouncing. Just a stupid high school kid who has taken his ball away when he didn’t get his own way. Grow a pair and do what you do best. Make Puck the star of the play.”
I walk away without looking back. Casper tells me that Robby just sits there watching me walk away. When I don’t look back, he gets really angry and walks out to the garage. He and Guido do massive bong hits. Then he puts on his hat and marches to back stage, slapping a couple of the fairies on the ass. Good start.
It’s time to put on the 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, and sit 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, just no tutu or tights. He begins my Prologue,
“Good eve, gentles 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 was 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 look on the parents faces that soon turns 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 were 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 play would play out to an audience not jaded by mass entertainment.
He 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 explode 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 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 had 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 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 whispered, “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 ha 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 we’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 got back, Mom is doing the shimmy. I swear, with her hair was 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 did 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 could 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 broke 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 whipped around and tried to ask, “You was a slave?”
“I was 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’ played jazz for people seated and standing in the pit.
The cocktail party is on. No way we were 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 lite 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 went to our school, they’re fully welcome, but 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 almost 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 would 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 in his heart is still 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’s 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 collapsed 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 abused her the most, but she never complains. He reaches out to her. She pulls him away from us. They walk off together. Maybe she can heal him. No, only he could 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 asked 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 told 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 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.