I twisted the phone cord around my finger. "Hi, mom." It was Thursday night, and time for our weekly call.
"Hi, sweetie. Are you being good?"
"UhÖyeah." Unless you count the fact Iíve been sucking Dennisí dick at every opportunity.
"So what have you been doing?"
"Well, weíve been doing a lot of swimming and riding bikes." And kissing, playing around.. "We rented a lot of movies and we went to a movie in Lake Geneva. You should see the old theater. They renovated it."
"Thatís nice. Are you eating vegetables? Are you wearing sunblock?"
I think thereís a Mom School where they learn all these questions. I rolled my eyes even though she couldnít see it. "Yes, Mom."
"Good. Thereís someone here who wants to talk to you."
I could hear her hand the phone to someone. I fully expected to hear Carrie or Cindyís voice next.
But it wasnít. I heard a male voice with a slight Southern twang.
"Hi, there buddy!"
Paul! The very sound of Paulís voice made my dick twitch. But donít tell him that! I wanted to sound cool and confident, even if my antiperspirant was failing.
"Hi, Paul!" I could picture him shirtless standing in my kitchen in Bloomington. He probably wasnít shirtless, but it was fun to imagine.
"How you doing, buddy?"
"I miss youÖat the pool," he added the last three word hastily. Iím sure my mom was in the room. The funny thing was, I didnít miss him. I hardly thought about him at all since Iíve been here. I felt a little guilty about that.
Then, Paul said, "But Josh and I have been having fun at the pool. He misses you, too." Josh? That bastard! Paul was mine!
"Is something wrong?" Paul asked. I realized I had not said anything for too long.
"NoÖno." In my head, I could see Josh riding on Paulís shoulders at the pool, and then jumping off into the water. I pictured them playing Marco Polo with other kids joining in. It was then I realized I was jealous.
"Thatís good. I just wanted to say hi. Iíll talk to you later, buddy," his southern accent seemed to become a little more pronounced as the Foghorn Leghorn voice returned.
Momís voice again. "Did you forget anything? Is there anything you need, honey?"
"No, I didnít forget anything. Neither did you."
Mom tried to pretend she didnít know what I was talking about. "Oh, whatever could you be referring to?"
"Oh, poor German. He was going to be lonely for you. He looked at me with sad eyes and said ĎPack Me.í"
"Thanks, mom," I said sarcastically.
She tried to laugh. "Donít be like that. I was just teasing you. I thought you would have a laugh over it."
"Think again, mom. It was embarrassing. I almost died when Dennis found it. Iím not a kid anymore, mom. Iím a teenager. Iím growing up."
Her voice changed. Instead of cheerful and laughing it was serious. "I know."
That was all she said. That was all she needed to say. Somehow, in those two little words she said it all.
I gotta tell you about this dream I had that night. It was so realistic; I was sweating when I woke up!
I was in the vestibule of a church. I didnít recognize the church. The church itself was built out of stone. It was kind of cold. There were huge wooden double doors behind me and ahead of me, leading into the church itself. There was an office on the right and stairs on the left. I guessed the stairs led to the choir loft.
I was dressed in a tuxedo. I couldnít figure out what was going on. I heard organ music begin inside the church. Then, the doors leading to the church slowly opened by themselves! This was really getting spooky!
There was a strip of white cloth down the center aisle. White flowers surrounded the altar. The church was full of people including a minister and the bride. She was standing there in some kind of frilly white material. Her face was covered and I couldnít see who it was.
The minister droned on and on. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered today...." But I wanted to see who the hell I was marrying! I had a right to know! My heart started to beat faster and my palms were sweaty. If there werenít a whole church full of people, I would have surely lifted her veil to see who it was!
When the minister finally got to the place where he said "You may now kiss the bride," the bitch didnít lift her veil! Someone in the church chuckled. I glared out in the congregation. Everyone, including my mom and dad were smiling as if they knew something that I didnít.
We strode down the aisle and out of the church. This part of the dream ended as we ran through a shower of rice toward a black limo.
The next part of the dream we were seated at a table in a banquet hall. We were sitting at the head table. Just as we sat down to eat, everyone started hitting their glasses with silverware. It was a signal that they wanted us to kiss!
I looked over at my mystery bride. Then I saw it! I saw the tattoo on his/her bicep! Why didnít I notice it before?
It was the crescent moon and stars.
The bride was Dennis! Dennis was the bride!
Thatís when I woke up.
Even though I spooned with Dennis, it took me a long time to fall back to sleep.
When I opened my eyes, sunlight was beaming through a gap in the curtains over the sliding glass doors. I heard the air conditioner forcing air through the vents. I couldnít hear my dad or Tad - or smell any coffee brewing -- and I assumed they were still asleep. Dennis was already awake. I scooted closer to him and ran my hands over his chest and abdomen.
"I had the weirdest dream," I said to Dennis as I tried to kiss him.
Dennis held his hand over his mouth.
"Oh, sorry." I guess those mouthwash commercials are right. "Iíll go brush my teeth." My hand was on the doorknob when I got the idea to take a shower, too. I grabbed a clean pair of underwear on my way to the bathroom. Dad was in the kitchen pouring water in the Mr. Coffee.
"Morning," he said to me. His voice sounded friendly, for a change.
"I donít have to lead a tour this morning, so I thought we could go to Lake Geneva - you, me and Dennis."
"And do what?" I asked suspiciously. Probably some heinous chore like grocery shopping. Then he can use me and Dennis as pack mules to haul the groceries around.
"Just..ummÖ whatís the expression? Kick out?"
I laughed. "Kick it, dad. The expression is kick it."
"Yeah, that, too."
I smiled at him. I love it when my dadís like this - relaxed and funny in his own dorky way. "Sounds like a plan."
He gestured toward the bathroom with his head. "Go take your shower. Then get Dennis out of bed."
It was almost an invitation! I took the fastest shower on record and I was semi hard the whole time.
I scooted back to the bedroom wearing only my underwear. Dennis looked like he was still asleep. I closed the door behind me and took a running start toward the bed.
FWOMP! I plopped on the bed.
"Hey! Asshole!" Dennis said irritably.
"Time to get out of bed!"
Dennis put his hand on the back of my neck and pushed my face down toward his crotch.
I resisted. "Stop, man! Weíve got to get ready. You need to take a shower." Something bothered me about his gesture, but I couldnít put my finger on it right away. Not that I didnít want to give him a blowjob - I did. But it was kind of like he expected it, you know?
He frowned, crawled out of bed, flashed his semi-hard dick at me as if to say This is what youíre missing, gathered up some clothes and went to take his shower.
Something bothered me about that whole thing, but I decided I would think about it later.
"Shotgun!" I called as we approached dadís car.
I guess Dennis wasnít used to riding in cars with his brothers and sisters. He gave me a dirty look.
"We have to stop at Ruthís first," dad announced.
"Oh, man! Why?" I whined.
"I have to pay her. It will only take a second." He reached over and opened the glove compartment. "Find a tape to put in, Joe."
I love to tease dad about his music sometimes. I smiled at him. "New Order? I didnít know they were around in the stone ages."
Dad smirked. "Sure, only they used bones and turtle shells for instruments."
I liked dad when he was like this. He was only like this when Tad wasnít around. When Tad was around he was tense and snippy and so tight that if you put a piece of coal in his ass it would turn into a diamond.
Wait a second. Wait just a fucking second, I thought. When Tad isnít around. The bells went off, the lights came on and the trumpets sounded. Joe Ryan, pick up the pink courtesy phone! So it has something to do with Tad. I wonder what it is?
I swore to myself that I would find out.
I slipped in New Orderís Substance, which is their greatest hits album. The tape was queued right in the middle of Blue Monday. The remix on the tape must have been like eleven minutes long.
A stray thought ran though my head just as we pulled into the parking lot at Ruthís office. Somehow the lyrics have some meaning for me. Does that sound weird? Iím finding some sort of meaning in a dance song?
Ruthís office was in a converted church. The clapboards were still painted white, but the stained glass windows had been removed. The churchyard was no longer a neatly clipped lawn, but was overgrown with wildflowers. The flowers nodded contentedly in the breeze. There was an announcement sign built of brick near the sidewalk. It was the type that had a glass door that opened so that the church could change the message inside using little white plastic letters.
Now the sign said:
I walked in and was stunned. "Whoa! This is awesome!" was all I could say. There was stuff everywhere. Hanging from the ceiling and in every possible inch. It was so cool how they had it set up. When you walked in, there was a counter just to the left of the door. There was a center aisle that went all the way to the back of the building and another door that, I assumed, led outside. There were also two offices on either side of the back door.
In between were booths that were divided by walls made of pegboard. Each little booth seemed to be a different theme. There was on that was set up like a kitchen. It had an old stove and a kitchen table and all sorts of dishes, silverware, cups and glasses. Another booth was covered with Coca Cola collectables. Still another one was like a mini library. Dusty old books covered shelves on the three walls.
Dennis went right back to the last booth on the right. I peered into the booth. It didnít seem to be another display area. Instead, there was a beat-up couch, two chairs and a small table with old magazines on it.
"Whatís this?" I asked him.
:"Itís the waiting area for Ruth."
"Oh." Dennis was sprawled across the couch and he looked bored.
"Letís go look at some of the stuff."
"No thanks. Not interested."
What a little shit, I thought. Just then, Dad called to me.
He was standing at the counter with another man. He was a big man with a short buzzcut. He had a full beard and a diamond earring gleamed from his right ear.
"This is Frank Rowan, he owns the place." I shook hands with him. He held my hand a little longer than he should have. It was a firm handshake, though. I hate when you shake hands with people and they put a dead fish in your hand - cold, limp and clammy.
"Youíre a very handsome young man," he said to me in a very swishy voice.
"Thanks," I blushed. There was something about Frank - I couldnít put my finger on it. He was looking at me in a way that made me uncomfortable. Just then, a very heavy lady appeared from one of the offices.
"Ruth, Iíd like you to meet my son, Joe."
"Hi, Joe," she shook my hand. She had a very gentle voice. He hair was curly and all gray. She had a pretty smile and the bluest eyes I had ever seen.
"I love this place. Itís so cool," I blurted.
Frank laughed. "Thanks. Iím glad you like it."
"Joe will be back, Iím sure. Heíll probably spend all his money on books."
"Well, weíd better get going," Dad said. "Weíve got a lot more stops to make."
"Nice to meet you, Joe. Stop by anytime," Ruth invited. To Dennis she said, "See you Monday."
"Thanks, I will."
The next stop was the grocery store. Williams Bay has no grocery story of itís own. Instead of heading toward Lake Geneva, Dad was heading west.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"I want to go to the Pick N Save in Walworth."
Dennis pretended like he was digging a booger out of his nose. "Pick and save? Get it?"
I made a face at him. "Donít make me ill."
Pick N Save looked like just about any other grocery store Iíve ever been in. There were piles of produce and towers of canned goods. Why is it that kids scream in grocery stores? I hate that. When Iím elected God, itís going to be a law that screaming kids have to be removed from stores immediately.
"There she is," Dennis whispered in my ear.
Dennis gestured toward the checkout lanes. There was a checkout lady with a huge beehive hairdo.
"Sheís a big girl," I whispered to Dennis.
"Big enough to have her own zip code."
"Donít you love her hair?"
"She has to put a flashing red light on top so planes wonít run into it." We both started giggling and Dad flashed us a dirty look. But it was so much fun dissing people. Especially when we knew we werenít supposed to do it.
The next insult came from me. "She has a bumper sticker that says ĎMy Other Car Is A Refrigerator.í"
Dad, who was pushing the cart, turned around. "Will you two stop? Try to act human in public at least. When dad turned around to inspect some cucumbers, Dennis saluted him.
I snickered again.
"Whatís so funny, anyway?" Dad demanded.
Dennis stopped, put his hands on his hips and wriggled them slightly. "Never you mind, Mary."
Dadís face went red. I thought he was going to blow a gasket. He got right in Dennisí face and hissed, "You behave yourself or youíll find yourself waiting in the car."
That settled it, but Dennis was pissed off. I could see it in his face. I guess Dennis didnít understand Dadís limits as well as I did. He had pushed Dad too far.
"Joe, get us a gallon of milk, please? And Dennis, I forgot a head of lettuce. Can you run back to produce and get it?"
"Head?" Dennis repeated.
I cracked up, but Dad just looked at him with one raised eyebrow.
"OK, Iím going," Dennis retreated.
When we converged on the cart again, Dad had added a 12-pack of Leinenkugelís beer. Dennis and I looked at each other, but we didnít say anything. I was a little surprised and concerned. Dad never drank - or at least I never saw him drink.
We got into checkout lane. Fortunately, it wasnít the one worked by the woman with the beehive hairdo. We would have gotten in trouble again.
I spotted two things as we pulled into the driveway. The first thing was that Tadís car was parked. He was back! That meant Dad was going back to being a grouch again.
The second thing I saw was Troy riding away from our house on his bike. He was only about four or five houses away. He spotted our car and did a wide U-turn back.
Just as we were pulling bags of groceries out of the trunk, he pulled into the driveway.
He hopped off his bike and ran over to us. "Let me help bring the groceries in," he offered.
"Thatís very kind of you, Troy, but the boys and I can handle it."
Dennis and I exchanged looks. What a suck-up.
"Mr. Ryan, I came back to invite Joe and Dennis to my house tomorrow night. Iím having a pool party."
"Can we go, Dad?" I begged.
"Please?" Dennis added.
"I donít know, Troy," Dad said to him. He was ignoring us. "Their behavior today left a lot to be desired."
Just then something happened to Dad. I donít know if it was Fate, or my fairy godfather or what, but he changed his mind.
"Tell you what, Troy. For now, they can go to your party. Unless they do something in the next 24 hours to get themselves in trouble. In that case, Troy, theyíll call you with their regrets."
"Thanks, Mr. Ryan. Joe told me you were the coolest dad. Now I believe him." Jesus H Christ! This kid really knows how to pile the bullshit on thick, doesnít he? Kids like that always make me suspicious.
"See you tomorrow at 7."
"Should we bring anything?" I asked.
"Just your swimsuit. And maybe a towel. Weíre going to order pizza." He winked at me. I thought I saw something in his blue eyes. But I wasnít sure.
This was going to be an interesting party!
New Order: Blue Monday/The Beach, Substance, Qwest/Warner Records, 1985.