SEARCH AND DESTROY
After getting out of the hospital, Friday night started out to be pretty boring. I sat downstairs on the couch watching TV. It was too uncomfortable, feeling I was invading Dad and Susan’s space. I dragged myself up to my room. I wished I could ride my bike to Lydia’s or Scott’s but knew I wouldn’t be able to bend over the handle bars. I called Lydia once I knew she’d be back from practice. I now appreciated how hard it had been on her being stuck at home on restriction. It was good talking with her. She had no idea she was taking my boyfriend away from me. We were friends who could discuss anything, except Scott. She had no plans, but hoped Scott would come by later.
“How come Scott didn’t come see me in the hospital?” I asked her. “Do you think he’s mad at me?”
“Why would he be mad at you?”
“Maybe because I left him at home when I went riding with Stu and injured myself.”
“He hasn’t said anything about it. We wanted to see you, but you got out pretty quick.”
“So, what are you guys doing tonight?”
“Shut up, Tim. You know.”
We talked about the team. It didn’t seem like I was missed very much. She told me her girlfriends were freezing her out because of Scott. Her folks were getting over the hurt and mistrust from what happened. She was ‘grounded,’ but they let her do more things. We reminisced about last Halloween, and planned what we’d all wear to the party. I felt more included. I told her about the hospital.
“The nuns had to hold me up when I went to the bathroom.”
“Nuns? While you were doing that?”
“Yeah. They got all embarrassed which made me embarrassed.”
“Right. Like you didn’t enjoy that.”
“It couldn’t be that bad for them, a different one took me every night.”
“They probably hated it so much, they had to rotate to keep from throwing up.”
“More likely to keep from breaking their vows.”
“Tim. You’re Catholic.”
“Maybe the nuns perverted me.”
“You’ve no respect.”
“But I get respect.”
I felt a lot better after hanging up. I even went and sat in my window. I saw the light on in Robby’s window. I figured what the hell. I walked over and got his mom to let me in – no window for the cripple. The whole gang was there and let out a yell of appreciation when Robby let me into his room. I was walking funny which they said must be from too many enemas. Robby gave me his chair and insisted on giving me a shotgun hit. He took a lit joint and put the cherry in his mouth. Then he leaned so the unlit end was next to my lips. He exhaled, blowing a steady stream of smoke into my inhaling lungs. It was a massive, bong-like hit. He clamped his hands over my mouth and nose until I was choking. It exploded once he let me loose. I was in a haze of scattered thoughts and warm feelings while the pain in my back seemed to disappear. I told my nuns story, which made Dave obviously embarrassed. Robby noticed his discomfort, which gave him an evil idea.
“Remember that holy water I got?” he asked me
“You mean last summer?”
“Holy water?” Dave stammered. “You went back into the church?”
Ricky got up and found the container of water.
“That’s it,” I affirmed.
“Yeah, Dave. I went there at midnight, Friday the thirteenth. I’m now going to prove to you how evil I really am and that your soul has been lost to Satan.”
“Stop it, Robby. That’s not funny,” Dave looked agitated.
“Smell it. It has the smell of holy water, right?” as he handed the plastic bottle to Dave.
He smelled it and nodded.
“To prove I’m really evil, I’m going to splash water on all of you, which won’t affect you. When I splash it on myself, I should burn and go to Hell. Right, Dave?”
His eyes were so wide open you’d never know he was stoned.
Robby splashed a few drops of holy water on all of us, which made Jazz, jump, but there were no adverse results. He turned to me, giving me the bottle.
“Now spray me with the whole bottle. I’m going to Hell. Satan save me,” he cried.
Just as he handed me the bottle, he winked at me and put a large white pill into the bottle. It was an Alka-Selzer. As the ‘plop plop fizz fizz oh what a relief it is’ started to bubble the water, I splashed him with the foaming mixture. He began screaming and writhing, falling to the floor. He pulled his shirt off, as if to get the burning off of him. I continued to splash him until there was no more. The others jumped up, pulling me away to save him. Robby continued to scream, then began moaning, while the water bubbled away on his skin.
“Satan Satan, why have you forsaken me? My father in evil, I ask that you open the earth beneath me and pull me into Hell.”
The others began to shrink away from him, pressing against the walls. Dave was on his knees, reciting ‘Hail Marys.’ I began to giggle, then getting into the hilarity, I burst into hysterics, rolling around the floor with Robby. My back was oblivious to pain. Then Robby regained his composure, rising to his feet and standing over the praying Dave.
“Satan, thank you for your comfort and protection,” he intoned. His arms raised, he towered over the cowering Dave. “Why is this Jesus worshiper defaming you, Satan? Does he not trust in evil? I know his heart is impure.”
Dave sunk into the carpet, trying to escape Robby’s malevolent stare. Robby grabbed him, lifting him to his feet.
“Get thee out, Jesus. You don’t belong here. Get thee out of this impure heart.”
He hit his palm against Dave’s forehead, knocking him off his feet and against the wall. He grabbed Dave by the shoulders and jerked him back to his feet.
“Do you accept Satan into your heart? Do you accept evil and impure thoughts and acts? Pray to Satan to protect you from the fires of Hell.”
Dave was hysterical, drooling, and unable to remember the words to his Hail Mary prayer. Shaking and almost passing out, his head rolled back and forth.
I stepped up to Robby and broke his grip on Dave.
“Move away, Satan,” I ordered. “Take your evil elsewhere.”
Robby was momentarily stunned. I pushed Dave toward the window, and shoved him head-first into the backyard. Jazz jumped up and dove out the window also.
“Get away, unbelievers,” Robby yelled after them. “You won’t escape Satan when you die.”
He turned back from the window. The two of us fell into spasms of laughter, hugging each other and falling to the floor. Finally getting a grip on ourselves, we looked over at the others. Jace, John, and Dawn were cowering in the corner together, expecting us to attack them next. Michael was lying on the bed, his hands behind his head, with a big grin on his face. Robby leered at the group in the corner. When they shrieked, the three of us couldn’t stop laughing. Finally they realized they had been tricked. Their anger and embarrassment took a while to dissipate. The three of us ran out of the house, in time to see Dave and Jazz run and stumble down the street, screaming at the top of their lungs. We couldn’t tell whether they were going to Dave’s house or the Church. Smart money was on the Church. We went back to Robby’s room where he took out several flashlights. Putting out the overhead light, he turned a flashlight on under his chin, making himself a ghost. He told us to hurry so we could go scare Dave and Jazz some more. We convinced him that it was enough. My back going into spasm from everything decided the argument. More pot helped, but I had overdone. The remaining group helped me home.
I spent the rest of the weekend in bed. I spoke with Scott and Lydia about nothing much. I didn’t tell them why I had relapsed. They just accepted that I was further laid up. Most of the time I had to lay on my stomach to keep my back muscles relaxed. I wanted someone with whom I could talk about the Friday night drama I had played a part of. I called Tina in New York. Her Catholic upbringing was too shocked over the blasphemy of the incident. I made my role more heroic, rescuing Dave and Jazz from the clutches of evil. It kept Tina on my side, but I knew I had played an active role in deceiving them. I was again frustrated trying to share my real feelings with her. We were growing apart by not growing together. Finally I fell asleep in mid-afternoon. I was awakened by a knock on my door.
“Hi Tim. Are you awake?”
It was Jace, from Robby’s gang. It was his garage that was the ditch hangout near school. He was the first to come by my room, except for Robby’s Peter Pan appearances.
“Com’n in, man.” I tried to get up but was too stiff. Jace sat down on the edge of my bed.
“How you feelin’? You went into a pretty bad convulsion last night.”
“It was just a spasm. Dave was the one in convulsions.”
“Yeah, Robby was into it, huh? I was sure it was real.”
“I only knew ‘cause I saw him put an Alka-Selzer in the holy water.”
“Is that how he did it? I was convinced that he was on fire.”
“Any word about Dave and Jazz?”
“Oh, they’ll be okay. Dave’ll go to church a lot. Then once he needs to get stoned, he’ll be back. Dawn’ll tell Jazz ‘cause she’s his older sister. He’ll tell Dave.”
It was good to have someone to talk with. Jace leaned against the head of the bed, as we sat there talking.
“When did you realize it was all a trick?” I asked.
“When I saw Michael laughin’ at us. He’s been Robby’s best friend for years and knows what’s up.”
“Aren’t you mad at Robby?”
“I guess a little. It seems pretty funny now. Did you see Dave and Jazz runnin’ up the street?”
“Yeah, they were falling all over each other and screaming.”
“Wow; they were freaked.”
“You were too. I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw the three of you crouched in the corner. Your eyes were popping out. What did you think was going to happen?”
“The last thing I remember is Robby praying to Satan. I was sure the floor was gonna open up and swallow us straight to Hell.”
“Maybe we were too stoned.”
“Yeah, it makes anything possible.”
“Robby sure has an imagination.”
“He likes us to bow down to him, just like Satan.”
“Do you really believe in Satan?” I asked him.
“I just seen how Robby can call Him forth. That was real.”
“So you believe Robby’s evil.”
“Why do you still hang out with him.”
“We’re all evil. He’s still my friend.”
I had been laying on my stomach. When he said he was evil, I rolled over to look him in the face. My back went into spasm, and I winced. Jace moved over and started to massage my back. It felt a lot better. After a minute or so, I was completely relaxed.
“Thanks, man, you can’t be all evil.”
“Oh, I’m not bad. At least I don’t think so. Just…”, he didn’t finish his thought.
“Why? No one thinks you’re bad, Jace.”
“My folks do. John’s the little angel. Anything he does is always my fault.”
“What about your older brother? Doesn’t he take your side?”
“They’re both my step-brothers. My step-mom don’t ever take my side.”
We sat quietly until I got up, and we moved to the window.
“Your back’s okay now?”
“Yeah. That massage made it feel great. Thanks.”
“I can come over and do it every day”
“I’ll be better soon, but you can always come over. Last night I was way stoned and over-did it.”
“You mean I can just come over?”
“Sure. Hey, what’s up with you? We’re friends. You’re always welcome.”
He leaned back against the window. He closed his eyes. I felt I should give him a hug, but thought better of it.
“Okay. Look, Tim. I got a big problem. My folks are going to put me in drug rehab.”
“You mean to see a counselor?”
“No. They want to lock me up at The Program in Fort Lauderdale.
“Are you screwing up or something?”
“Yeah, but no more’n anybody else. John gets away with it ‘cause he’s still in Jr High. What can I do? I can’t make it in those kinda places. I’m scared enough of things here. Look at last night.”
“That was a joke, Jace.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t know. Everyone’s so much smarter than me. It’s always that way.”
“You just don’t believe in yourself. Just stand up to your folks.”
“They got their minds made up. Anyway, they’ll be glad I’m gone.”
“You can’t be sure.”
He just sat there with his eyes shut. He was so handsome, with a long smooth face, framed by shoulder length blond hair. He was as tall as me, but slender and graceful. His face had a toughness that came from rough features. His long fingers clasped his knee, pulled up underneath him, as we sat opposite each other in the window. He opened his eyes, steel-blue, which pierced me with the desperation in his face.
“Will you help me, Tim. They’re ‘sposed to take me away today. Can I just hang out until they’re gone?”
“Of course. Stay as long as you want.”
“It’s just a couple of days. Until they give up trying to send me away.”
He was so grateful, a puppy dog grin on his face.
“Okay, but we’ve got to be cool. My dad can’t find out. I got into a lot of trouble about my swim team friend who stayed here this summer.”
“I’ll do whatever you want. You’re savin’ my life, man.”
I explained about the back stairs. How to get in and out without attracting attention. Jace became more animated and relaxed, exploring my room.
“No stereo, man. Don’t jockheads like music?”
“I just listen to the radio,” indicating a small am/fm model on my bureau.
He turned it on, instantly changing the station from my oldie’s favorites to his heavy metal one. He adjusted the knobs, turning the bass completely down, the treble completely up, and the volume to maximum. His hair was swinging round and round to Kiss’s ‘I wanna Rock n Roll all day and party every night.’
There were no complaints from the adult part of the house, but the noise had gotten Robby’s attention. He soon appeared in my window.
“You’re partying without me.”
“Tim’s letting me move in,” Jace spilled the beans. “So I won’t hafta go to The Program.”
“What?” he turned to me, “without asking me?”
“He just asked, so I said sure.”
“Well, you know what that means?” and he took out a joint.
We got stoned, listening to hard rock and feeling totally connected. Once the high wore off a bit, my back became uncomfortable. I got up to stretch and when I sat down, Jace started giving me another back massage. Robby quickly sized it up.
“Hey, he’s my boyfriend,” Robby announced.
Jace and I were both stunned. Jace stopped the massage. We both spoke at once.
-“Sorry, Robby, I just wanna get his back to relax.”
-“Jace is not my boyfriend, Robby.”
“So, what’s this, and since he’s staying here, what do you think’s going to happen?”
I hadn’t expected jealousy.
“Nothing’s going to happen. He needs a safe place to hide out from being put in a drug program.”
”You could’ve stayed with me, Jace.”
“That’s the first place they’d of looked for me. And don’t tell ‘em, please, Robby.”
“No way. But it looks like you thought this out pretty well.”
“Give him a break, Robby. You act like he can’t make his own decisions. It’s what got him in dutch with his folks in the first place.”
“His folks don’t give a shit.”
“Well, you’re all Mr. Counselor today?”
“You never said you wanted to be boyfriends. All you guys just tell me not to be so gay.”
“That was a joke. Maybe I’m not gay. I just don’t want my friends to be.”
“You’re confused, Robby. Let’s just say we’re all friends. I’m pretty done with boyfriends. He’s the one who’s got a girlfriend now.”
Jace looked pretty sheepish. I realized he had thought it all out before coming over, but it was just until his problems were solved. I didn’t mind having someone stay while I was sick. I was out of school, so it was a perfect cover for Jace. Robby continued to glare at the two of us.
“Cool it, Robby. I think we need another joint.”
He took one from behind his ear, another good reason to have long hair, I thought. We calmed down, passing the joint around.
“You need a TV,” Robby announced.
“It’s in the living room.”
“With your folks?
“I got an extra one, now that my sisters moved out. Let’s go get it.”
We walked to his house and the two of them carried a large set up to my room. Then they went and got several arm chairs. Robby was in decorator mode. I realized he was moving the club house from his room to mine. I told them to get an ashtray, also. Soon there was a stereo and records set up. I drew the line at his drums.
By that night, the word was out. I had six stoners hanging out in my room. Jace passed out in an arm-chair and didn’t remember me moving him to the bed. When I woke up, he was lying there staring at me.
“How long you been awake,” I asked.
“Awhile. Did we do anything last night?”
“Got stoned, then you passed out.”
“No, I mean once we were in bed together?”
“No, man. Haven’t you ever slept with your brothers or friends? You think I’m a sex maniac?”
He lightened up, which made me realize how afraid he was of being gay. My back was too sore for anything anyway. I went downstairs and got an extra-large breakfast we could share. Susan seemed relieved I was waiting on myself. Jace had gone over to Robby’s to get a joint. He said Robby was still in bed but would be over later. We got high and watched cartoons. I discovered that being stoned was hard on my back. Laying in the same position too long, it stiffened up. Jace was only too happy to massage out the stiffness. I liked the attention. He told the story about when his parents got divorced. He suddenly had two step-brothers when his dad remarried. His real mom was a drinker; everyone said he took after her. He gave excellent massages, thanks to the large size of his hands. We played records, to which he played the rhythm tracks on my back. He said he wanted to be a musician and was learning guitar. He hated school, his family, and felt he was a loser. Music was the only thing which really got him excited. He’d never had a girlfriend but had been laid a couple of times, which I doubted. After massaging me, he let me work out the kinks in his hands. They were much larger than mine, with long fingers that were completely double-jointed. He showed me a finger exercise for guitar, rubbing the lip of a half-full glass of water, getting it to hum from the vibration. Then he could vary the pitch of the hum. He could literally make the glass sing. He showed me how to do it, by keeping the circular motion of my finger at a constant speed and pressure. He laughed at my awkwardness. Playing the Led Zeppelin II album,
he beat the rhythm on his legs. We sang along to the lyrics. It was a completely different style of music from the pop oldies Scott and I used to sing a Cappella. Soon I adjusted to Robert Plant’s pacing and was able to match his high-pitched screams as well as the slower, lower lines of the ballads. Jace sang the backups, so we had to pay attention to each other. I had much better control over my voice than over the glass. Until my back started twitching, we were running around the room, playing air guitar and screaming out the lyrics. He gave me another back massage as we lay there panting. I didn’t dare tell him how goofy he looked with a big grin on his face, in comparison to his usual frown. With no school for at least a week, I realized I was going to enjoy my unexpected vacation. Jace called Joh. After swearing him to secrecy, he asked him to bring his guitar over. John said his parents went bananas over Jace’s disappearance, but today were adjusting to his being gone. He said the police were notified that Jace was a runaway. Well, it wasn’t my first time helping a fugitive from the law. By Sunday night, there were so many people in my room, it was declared a party zone. Jace worried the cops might come to quiet it down and take him away. Robby, Mary, Jace and I escaped to Robby’s room, watching the action from his backyard. Suddenly it got unnaturally quiet. I saw my dad chasing everyone out of my room. All I could do was laugh at the sight. I hurried home and was yelled at for letting things get out of control. I explained it was a few friends who came to cheer me up that got out of hand. We both agreed that people who smoke cigarettes are not good friends. I attempted to clean-up until he left. I went back to Robby’s and hung out until it was time for Jace and me to go home. Getting stoned all day made me as tired as working out. Just before falling asleep, I saw Jace looking at me.
“Go to sleep,” I told him.
“Don’t worry. Why don’t you give me another back massage. That’s sure to put me to sleep.”
He moved over and his hands felt warm and strong. It was the last thing I remember. When I woke up, he had his arm around me. He was still wearing all his clothes. Step by step I thought. I went back to sleep, not waking until ten, when Robby announced himself from the window. Jace was all flustered about being all wrapped up with me. I calmed him down, so he didn’t jump out of bed like he had something to be ashamed of.
“Looks like I missed it,’ Robby jibed at us. Obviously he wanted to push the jealousy case.
“If you call sleeping in ‘til ten missing something, why don’t you jump in with us?”
“No way, man.”
“See, you didn’t miss what you were hoping to do.”
In no time the regulars were at the back door, which I left unlocked from then on. No one else was at home. Soon we were all stoned. Ten was ditching hour at Gables High. Everyone stayed until the regular release bell rang. John said the people from The Program had come by the house, trying to find Jace. Dave said they were also at school, asking questions. It seemed they had special police powers to do as they pleased. I told Jace to call his folks and get them to call the dogs off. He wasn’t ready to confront them. The music was loud and Robby kept the joints going around. A couple of guys showed up I hadn’t seen before. Robby went off and came back with fifty bucks.
“The price of Colombian Gold just went up,” he announced.
Everyone groaned, but we knew we had the perfect connection in Robby, regardless of the price. It only bothered me slightly that strangers knew to come to my house to score drugs.
The scene repeated itself all week, and my vacation was into its final weekend. The doctor approved my return to school on Monday. I almost welcomed it, being a little sick of the constant party. Jace was more comfortable staying with me. I saw his self-confidence increase to the point that he actually called his parents. He promised to stop drugs (right), if they wouldn’t put him in The Program. He said he’d grown up being on his own. Another successful family reunion based completely on lies. He agreed to go home that evening. I agreed to spend more dues money on pizza and beer at Sorrento’s to celebrate. Dawn, Mary, Iggy, Dave, Jazz, John, Jace, Robby, and I crowded into the biggest booth. It cost me thirty dollars, but we were united in our victory over The Program and parents in general. At the end, Jace tried to say what he felt about everyone. We shouted him down and got up to leave. He hugged me, as well as the girls, John, and Robby. The only part of the speech we understood was how much he had missed his dog, Max, the stoned black lab.
With the party over, I woke up on Sunday and wanted to go on a bike ride. I called Scott and Stu and suggested they ride to Lydia’s, where I‘d meet them. We could plead with her parents to let her go with us in a group. I got there first. Through the window, I told her our plan. She was skeptical but said we all should go to the front door and make our case.
Scott and Stu showed up with Mike in tow as he’d been at the Watt’s all weekend. We went to the front and rang the bell. Lydia’s mom came to the door. We made our strongest case, saying that we all missed Lydia and had wanted to have a bike ride to Coach Earl’s. We came to ask if she could go with us. When Lydia’s mom saw Scott, I thought it was over, but he put on his most respectful, parent-pleasing expression. She softened and discussed it with Lydia and her husband. Lydia bounced out the door. We knew she was out of the doghouse. We all biked to Coach Earl’s; he had restocked his soda supply, so it was a perfect break. He looked at me quizzically. We had one of his ‘little’ talks. I hadn’t started swimming again, so he asked about my medical progress.
“I wanted to bike today to test how my back is. Seems good.”
“What really happened at Coach Tom’s. You know he had to take out the trampoline after your accident.”
“That’s not right. I caused the accident by not paying attention.”
“But that’s not like you. You always have pinpoint focus. What was going on?”
“Just personal stuff, Coach.”
“About you and Scott?”
I looked up at him and saw the kindness in his eyes. I wanted to unburden myself, but feared it would make things worse.
“We’ve worked out our problems, Coach. “
“You mean you accept that Scott’s got a girlfriend now?”
“I had a girlfriend, too. It’s just that I can’t see her often. Scott’s with Lydia all the time. I’m not jealous, I just miss our closeness.”
“Well, he’s a jerk for not seeing that you’re hurting.”
“I don’t blame him. He only got a girlfriend ‘cause he saw how great mine was for me.”
“So he was jealous?”
“No. I don’t think so. It was just natural to connect. Lydia had been a girlfriend for both of us, just not in love. Once they ‘did it,’ everything changed.”
“You’re not supposed to tell me that,” he laughed.
“You’re the only adult we can really talk to about our feelings. We tried to give Stu some advice. All we could think was that you would be so much better to do it.”
“Stu’s not interested in girls yet. Are you talking about him and Mike?”
“You always know what’s up. We were glad Stu had a real friend, besides us, but he has some weird habits that he had to see would get in the way of friendship.”
“Why is this sex ed?”
Why do I always open my big mouth?
“Because I stayed with the Watts so much I knew he did things which were sweet but might freak out someone else.”
“You’re saying he’s a sweet kid, but it might seem gay?”
“Coach, you do this so much better than we do.”
“Well, did he take your advice?”
“We don’t know, but they seem like best friends now, so we don’t want to know any more.”
“Well, I can tell they’re fine and I wouldn’t worry.”
“So, all these personal crises over? Ready to really be back in the pool?”
Stu and Mike ran up, asking for more sodas, which Coach went to get. They were all energy, ready to burst. These bike rides were their happiest times every week. I saw how Coach viewed the two of them.. Only a repressed anti-sex homophobe would think that they were doing anything wrong. It was all good between them. Just let them grow up and get girlfriends to test their friendship. I decided to stop thinking of Scott as my boyfriend but as my best friend. Also, I had other fish to fry.