Chapter 10 A Week In the Life
"Dad?" Tommy shook Mattís shoulder as he slept. When he didnít get a response, he shook his shoulder a little harder. "Dad?"
"What?" Matt grumbled without opening his eyes.
"IÖI had an accident."
"Oh, Tommy," Matt groaned. Like a sleepy operator at a manual switchboard, his brain was having trouble making the correct connections.
"What time is it?" Matt mumbled.
Matt opened his eyes just a crack. The morning looked overcast. Wait, he thought to himself. This is Tommy. Itís 6:45 on a Sunday morning. Tommy usually sleeps in until at least nine, and even then he has to be pulled out of bed.
He raised his eyelids a bit more and lifted his head off the pillow.
"Are you OK, son?" Tommy was wearing only his boxer shorts. On the front of his shorts was a large wet spot.
"No," Tommyís voice trembled. "I think Iím sick."
Matt sat up slowly and swung his feet to the floor. He rubbed his eyes and then took a closer look at the stain.
"Come here," he reached his left arm around Tommyís waist and pulled him closer.
A slow smile spread across Mattís face. "Thatís not pee, Tommy."
"What is it then?" his voice still quavered.
"Itís cum. Itís sperm." Matt looked into his frightened green eyes. "I think youíve just had your first wet dream, son," he explained gently.
A tear trickled down Tommyís cheek.
Matt took his hand and gave it a squeeze. "Hey, itís OK. Are you feeling OK?"
"Itís going to be OK, Tommy." Matt wrinkled his forehead. "Are you starting to grow hair?"
"Yeah. Look." Before Matt could protest, he slid his thumb underneath the elastic of his boxer shorts.
To Mattís relief, he only pulled them as far as his pubic hair. There he saw fine, very pale red hairs.
"Go take a quick shower, son, and put on some clean underwear. Pull the sheet off your bed and put all this stuff in the dirty clothesbasket. Weíll have to wash them today. This stuff stains like crazy."
"Can I sleep with you?"
Matt hesitated. They had a strict rule about the boys not sleeping with them. They had, on occasion, made exceptions. Tommy seemed particularly frightened and unhappy.
"OK," Matt agreed in a low voice. "Hurry up and take your shower. And try not to wake Tim up when you get back."
Matt dozed again as he heard the shower running. Within ten minutes, Tommy returned wearing a pair of green plaid boxers. Matt scooted closer to Tim and lifted his side of the sheet to allow Tommy in.
"Oh, no. I want to sleep between you two," Tommy said as he scrambled over Matt and wormed his way between the two men.
Matt sighed in aggravation. "Donít wake Tim up," he repeated.
After much squirming, the redhead finally settled on his left side, facing Matt. Matt rolled over to face his youngest son, and wrapped his arms around the boy.
Matt ran his fingers through the boyís hair. He was letting it grow out a bit; previously Tommy usually wore a buzz cut. Matt decided he looked good with longer hair.
"Mmmm," Tommy grinned as he pressed his young hairless chest against Mattís hairy one. Matt knew that Tommy was only playing and there was no sexual innuendo. Or was there?
"Want to tell me about it?"
Tommy opened his mouth as if to speak, hesitated, and obviously decided against it.
Matt pulled him closer. "Donít you remember waking up when you had your dream?"
"I think I woke up, but I was tired and it was still dark outside, so I rolled over and went back to sleep."
Matt smiled wryly. "And you can sleep through a nuclear holocaust." He made his voice very gentle. "Tommy, you know youíre safe here. Can you remember your dream?"
He lowered his eyes and bit his lower lip.
"Who was it about?"
"Lucas," Tommy whimpered. He took a deep breath and added a torrent of words. "I didnít mean to dream about him. I just want to be his friend."
"I know you didnít. Dreams are just our brainís way of keeping itself occupied when we sleep. It gets bored because thereís no input from our senses, so it tells stories to itself to keep itself amused until we wake up." Matt grinned at him reassuringly. "What happened at the game yesterday?"
Tommy explained what had happened when he grabbed Lucas around his waist. His voice pleaded for understanding. "I was just trying to be friendly, dad. Really."
"I know, son. But sometimes you can be a little overbearing."
"What does that mean?"
"A little rambunctious. Some people arenít sure how to take it."
"He really hurt my feelings," Tommy mumbled. Tommy whimpered, just on the verge of crying, but not really allowing the tears to flow.
"I could tell, even across the field."
"I donít think I want to be gay, Dad." Tommyís voice quavered audibly as he whispered it. So thatís what his issue is, Matt thought. No wonder why he snapped at me yesterday.
"Oh, Tommy." He pulled his son close. "Weíll love you no matter what. When I adopted you, it was forever. Iím not going to send you back to St. Lukeís." Matt paused to kiss his forehead. "Iím sorry, but I really donít think you have much choice in the matter. You are what you are. Thereís always going to be narrow-minded people like Lucas. Part of my job as a parent is to teach you how to deal with them."
"Hon, your sexuality is mostly determined by genetics. Youíve learned about that in science, right?"
"You mean like genes and chromosomes and stuff like that?"
"Right. And being gay is inherited, just as if you were left-handed. Thereís not a whole lot you can do to change it."
Tommy looked sad and upset as he pondered this information. "I dreamed I wasÖumÖtouching Lucas."
"I understand your feelings, kiddo. I felt the same way about some of my classmates when I was your age. I know you may find that hard to believe."
"I still want to be friends with him."
"I donít know Lucas all that well, but I suspect part of his reaction was because there was an audience around and he had to play up to them. He has an image to maintain." Matt thought for a moment. "Tell you what. Why donít you invite him over? Weíll put something on the grill and rent a movie. And I promise we wonít drop too many hairpins."
Tommy chuckled. "Thatís a good idea." He nuzzled his head under Mattís chin. "Dad?"
"What if Iím not gay?"
"Like I said, I donít think you have much choice. But youíre still young yet, and itís not like you have to decide right this moment. Just concentrate on being a kid." Matt rubbed his back. "Youíre doing a pretty good job at that right now." They shifted positions a bit. "Give it time. You may discover that you like girls, too."
Matt nodded. "Like Jake. Or you may find out that this is just a phase youíre going through. Although," Matt cleared his throat nervously, "given certainÖummmÖincidents in your past, itís unlikely."
"You mean like the football team?" Tommy asked the question without a trace of hesitation.
"That, and the boy in Downerís Grove."
"You know, Tommy, weíve never really talked about that."
"Well," he hesitated. "What do you want to know?"
Matt pressed his lips together and planned how he was going to phrase the question. "I guess I was wondering - why you havenít done anything like that here. At least not that I know of."
"I wanted to be good. And I wanted you to like me."
"OK. Anything else?"
He shrugged. "I just wanted to be a kid." That was it, Matt thought. That was the core issue. When he lived in Evergreen Park with his biological mother, survival instincts had kicked in. Sex was part of his survival scheme.
"Iím glad you wanted that," Matt whispered to him.
But his words went unheard. Tommy had joined Tim in sleep.
The boyís locker room at Rich East greeted Jake with that magic scent: steam, soap, disinfectant, and the sweat of adolescent males. There were days Jake struggled to keep from getting erect.
Jake was a watcher. He had learned to watch without being detected. He wasnít interested in the African American boys; not that he was racist in any way. Even with their large cocks, black boys didnít strike his fancy.
But, the upperclassmen did.
Students were not sorted by grade for physical education, instead, their individual class schedule determined what period in the day they would take PE. The computer sorted it out very efficiently. Included in the mix were some special education students who could reasonably participate in the activities.
Rich East had implemented a new physical education program that stressed fitness for life. Students were offered a variety of courses that rotated every three weeks. There were traditional sports that varied with the seasons; touch football, soccer, basketball, track, baseball or softball. In addition, there quite a few non-traditional activities students could select. These included weight training, field hockey, social dance, roller-skating. They could play handball, tennis and racquetball in the village-owned racquet club across the street from the school. Rich East was one of the first high schools in the Chicago area to build a rock-climbing wall.
Since the upperclassmen got the first choices for courses, freshmen like Jake were often left with the more mundane courses. This cycle, Jake was stuck with wrestling.
But Jake had one consolation. Jennings wasnít teaching the wrestling course.
As Jake dressed for gym, he spotted a new boy just a few lockers away from his. He stood in front of the open locker with a thoughtful look on his face as if he expected the answers to life itself to leap out at him. To his horror, Jakeís own cock began responding to his inner thoughts. Quick! Better get your jockstrap on before you get hard, he thought to himself.
By the time he was fully dressed, most of the other boys had exited the locker room to the gym for attendance. Jake hurriedly pulled on his green shorts and his yellow T-shirt and sprinted for the door.
"Late again, Wagner," Jennings sneered as Jake hustled to his spot in the attendance line. "That will cost you two points. One more point and youíll have a detention," the teacher said with a malicious gleam in his eye.
"Eat my shorts," Jake mumbled under his breath.
"What did you say, Wagner?" Jennings asked sharply.
"I said, ĎNot another report.í" Jake hoped the teacher would buy it.
He didnít. "Drop and give me twenty, Wagner."
Jake sighed and rolled his eyes, but complied.
Across the gym, a new student was viewed the scene with interest. Why are all PE teachers assholes? He thought to himself.
As he watched Jake complete the punishment with ease the new kid thought to himself, God, heís good looking.
"Do you need to go for a walk, Buddy?" Jake spoke to the dog.
Prints sat on a dining room chair with his tail neatly wrapped around his forepaws and watched them prepare for Buddyís afternoon walk. He had a condescending look on his face that said, Stupid dog! Why canít you learn to use the litter box?
The golden retriever yipped and jumped up.
"Down boy!" Buddyís soulful brown eyes looked contrite for just a moment, then his tail increased tempo as Jake removed the leash from its hook. His tail thumped cabinet doors as he impatiently waited for his master.
Usually, they took Buddy to the Forest Preserves to relieve himself. Buddy reveled in the scents and occasional squirrel or chipmunk he discovered. Today, however, he planned to take Buddy to Algonquin Park, which bordered the EJ&E tracks. Along the tracks was a ravine the family dubbed Poo Valley.
As Jake exited the kitchen door, Mike was helping Leah by watering some of the plants that she had placed there.
"Hey, Jake!" Mike called to him almost a little too enthusiastically.
"Mike," Jake mumbled.
"Taking Buddy for a walk?"
"No, Iím working on my masterís thesis: Walking The Dog as a Metaphor."
The hurt look on Mikeís face showed he was not amused. Jake sighed softly. "Come on."
Mike grinned as Buddy acknowledged him with several wags.
Jake was reluctant to take Mike along with him. He liked walking his dog, and it was a time he could be alone to think. Plus, lately Mike had been aggravating him by hovering. Mike was needy and seemingly was unable to function on his own. He needed to be in a relationship with a boy at all times. He measured his self-worth by his relationships. He couldnít stand to be single. Landing Jake had been a major accomplishment. But the independent Jake smarted under his constant surveillance and was feeling smothered.
Houston, we have a problem, Jake thought to himself. I feel trapped and Iíve only been seeing Mike for less than a week. Wonder how Brian dealt with him? Maybe I should ask him.
"What are you thinking about?" Mike interrupted his thoughts.
"Nothing," Jake lied.
They walked in silence between the rows of townhouses to Algonquin Park. There, Buddy did his business, although he continued to sniff the ground and lift his leg periodically to mark his territory. From there they walked west along the EJ&E tracks and crossed Western Avenue.
"How was your day?"
"I got more points taken off by Jennings. Heís such a prick." Jake made a sour face to emphasize his point.
"I donít have him. I think his planning period is third hour."
"Thatís when Brian has PE," Jake mumbled. It seemed the only possible response. Jake had a quandary. Mike was cute, and went out of his way to please Jake. Since their initial tryst in a classroom at St. Irenaeus they had managed to have sex twice more. Jake suspected Mike was using sex to keep him in line. Considering how good Mike was at sex, he was succeeding in keeping Jake under his thumb. For now.
They strolled down South Street for a bit. This area was Park Forestís industrial area, small as it was. Developed mainly in the seventies, it was more office park than heavy industrial area. There were warehouses, distributors and mini-storage facilities.
The dog seemed to be leading their stroll. They turned north again and entered a residential neighborhood of single-family homes that were built in the mid- to late-sixties. These houses were a bit larger than the original houses built in the early fifties. Most had attached garages. Mature trees shaded the street.
At a brick-and-white siding covered tri-level house on Hay Street, Buddy spotted a boy unlocking the passenger side of a Buick Park Avenue. Buddy, the dog that never met a stranger, pulled hard on his leash. His collar was so tight he was panting; har, har, har. Finally after a powerful tug, Jake lost his grip on the leash and Buddy made a beeline for the kid, wagging his tail furiously. Jake chuckled. If Buddy had been in water, his tail would be a propeller.
"Hi, there!" Buddy had his own method of greeting strangers. He reared up and placed his forepaws on the kidís chest.
"Buddy!" Jake scolded. "Get down, doofus!" He grabbed the dogís collar and pulled him off the boy. Jake now had a close-up of the object of Buddyís affection. "He seems to like you."
"Either that or he wants the next dance," the kid quipped.
Jake chuckled as he extended his hand. "Iím Jake. I think youíre in my PE class." Jake noticed his eyes do a visual scan from top to bottom. He could almost see him complete his mental checklist.
"Iím Logan. Yeah, I think I saw you. Seventh period, right?"
Jake nodded confirmation while the tall, slim boy bent and patted Buddyís head and scratched behind his ears.
Mike shook Loganís hand and introduced himself although Jake could sense he was not at all happy about it.
"What a pretty dog!" Logan commented.
"He is a nice dog," an elderly woman agreed as she exited the house.
"Iím sorry maíam, he just seemed to get away from me," Jake apologized.
She smiled. "No harm done." She turned to Logan. "See? I told you youíd make friends here."
Despite the fact that she had violated one of the cardinal laws of raising teenagers - she embarrassed Logan in front of friends - Jake liked her immediately. She was trim and pretty for her age. She wore jeans into which was tucked dress shirt that had once belonged to a man. Behind her fashionable glasses were kindly eyes. "Maybe you should write down their phone numbers."
Jakeís lopsided grin appeared when he spotted Logan rolling his eyes.
From her voluminous purse, she produced a small pad of paper and a pen. She wrote their phone number down and handed the pad to Jake. Jake neatly tore off the page containing their phone number. He noticed the flowing script of her handwriting before he tucked it into his wallet. He wrote down their phone number and handed the pad to Mike. Mike looked as if he were signing his life away. Mike handed the pad back to Logan.
"Well, guys, weíre off to the store. If youíll excuse us, please?" She chirped as she unlocked the driverís door.
"Bye, Logan. See you in PE tomorrow."
Mikeís face darkened.
At Mattís insistence, they ate meals together whenever they could. This could be quite a challenge.
Like any suburban parents, they had conflicting schedules. Mattís company required him to work at least two evenings a week. He also was required to work Fridays and Saturdays. Tim arrived home about 4:30 and he was usually hungry. He ate when he got home, and then again at dinner. This had contributed to his weight gain last fall and winter. Since then he was more careful about what he ate when he got home and more diligent about regular exercise.
The boys, too, had busy schedules. Brian had speech team practice and meetings, Tommy had soccer and Jake was always involved in one sport or another.
Matt worked Wednesday nights, and one of the meals they sat for, even if it was in shifts, was Wednesday morning breakfast. Matt understood the importance of breakfast and insisted that the boys get up early enough to eat. Matt didnít have to be at work until noon, so he was in charge. Unfortunately, he disliked cooking breakfast. He considered it too much trouble and mess. So their Wednesday morning breakfast usually consisted of cold cereal, although he would make pancakes for a special occasion and he sometimes whipped up a delicious batch of buttermilk bran muffins from a recipe Gloria had given him.
Jake had been reading articles about carbo-loading in Muscle and Fitness, and decided that cereal just wasnít enough. His unorthodox breakfast consisted of a can of Spaghetti-Oís or canned ravioli. He zapped it in the microwave until it was just warm and shoveled it down with a spoon. Matt would buy it by the case when it was on sale.
Brian slathered butter on a warm bran muffin with a frown on his face. Matt had felt ambitious and assembled the muffin batter the night before.
"Whatís wrong?" Matt asked as he sipped his coffee.
"Nothing," Brian mumbled.
"Heís tired of eating lunch alone," Jake volunteered. Jake was also buttering a muffin as his Spaghetti-Oís heated.
Matt shook his head. "I donít know how you can eat Spaghetti-Oís and bran muffins at the same time."
Jake shrugged. "It all goes to the same place. Besides, theyíre both carbohydrates. Theyíll give me lots of energy." He grinned at Matt. "Your bran muffins are so good and you almost never make them. I canít pass them up."
Matt chuckled. "Flattery will get you everywhere." He turned his attention back to Brian. "So, what are you going to do about it?"
"Nothing," Brian mumbled.
Tommy appeared with damp hair. He sat at the table and grabbed a warm muffin.
"Thereís the Little Squirt!" Jake squealed.
Tommy slugged his bicep. "Shut up!"
"All right you two! Chill!"
While Jake threw back his head and laughed, Tommy protested, "Heís teasing me aboutÖ."
"I know what heís teasing you about. Jake, no one teased you when you were staining your sheets on a regular basis."
Jake smirked but made no further comments.
"Brian, maybe you can make new friends to sit with at lunch," Matt suggested.
"You donít know what itís like," Brian whined.
"Thereís a lot of cliques," Jake confirmed. "The brothas sit at their own tables, the jocks at another table, the socialites at anotherÖ"
"What about changing your lunch?" Matt asked Brian.
Brian swallowed a mouthful before speaking. "Theyíd never changed my lunch time just because I have no one to sit with."
"Well, weíve got to do something. Because to tell you the truth, Iím tired of seeing you mope around."
"I donít know what else to do."
"What if I went to talk to the school?"
"What are you going to do Dad? Tell them to force the varsity football team to sit with me?"
"Iím sure theyíll change your lunchtime if I asked them to."
"Donít dad! Iíd be so embarrassed."
"OK, I wonít. But youíre gonna stop dragging your ass around like itís the end of the world. Donít sweat the small shit."
Brian sighed again, picked up his plate and cup and carried them to the kitchen. Jake followed suit soon thereafter, and so did Tommy.
Matt topped off his coffee cup and lingered at the table. That was not the outcome I expected, he thought. I would have been more than willing to go down to school and meet with a dean or guidance counselor to get his schedule changed. Anything to keep him from moping.
But, an inner voice reminded him, you canít solve all their problems. They have to learn to solve problems on their own. You canít always go running to their rescue.
"Later, Dad," Jake said as he breezed out with his backpack.
"See ya. Have a good day."
Tommy left next. He had to catch a bus to the junior high. "Have a good day, son."
There were a few more moments of silence. Matt listened for sounds that Brian was getting ready to leave. Then again, theyíre my sons. Theyíre basically good kids. I would do anything to make them happy. Matt was absorbed in thought when Brian came behind him and placed an unexpected hand on his shoulder. Matt almost jumped though the ceiling.
Matt twisted his head. "Would I what?"
"Get my schedule changed?"
"Yes, but this is the last time. I would rather you found some other people to sit with at lunch. Youíre outgoing and you know how to make friends."
Brian smiled at him. "Thanks, dad."
His nostrils were assaulted with the odor he always associated with schools as soon as he walked into the doors of Rich East. It was the smells of chalkdust, adolescents and industrial cleaners.
He strode across the gleaming floors to the main office. There, he perched on a chair beside another boy who was obviously in trouble. His right eye was rapidly darkening. He would have quite a shiner.
The kid grinned sheepishly at Matt. Wonder where the other kid is? Wonder what the fight was about?
"Mr. Rosato?" A rich, husky female voice called. Her big voice was matched by her size. "Iím Janet Atwater, Brianís guidance counselor."
He shook her hand. Her handshake was the equal of any manís. She was wearing a blue-and-white striped oxford shirt above navy blue khakis. Matt noticed his gaydar was picking up some signals. She was a very big girl, but none of it appeared to be fat. Her brown hair was cut short in a masculine style and she wore small rimless glasses.
As he followed her down a short hall to her tiny, windowless office, he noticed that she walked like a man, too. Various college posters covered the walls. She sat behind her desk, and Matt took a seat in one of the two chairs on the other side of her desk. On her desk was a manila folder with Brianís name typed on the tab.
"I understand youíd like to discuss Brianís schedule." She opened the folder.
"Yes. Iíd like to see about changing his lunch period. Heís got quite a few dental appointments and the best time for me to take him is the morning." It was a fabrication, but the best he could come up with on short notice.
If she noticed he was lying, she didnít challenge it. "Not a problem, Mr. Rosato." She pulled out a copy of his schedule from the folder and looked at information on it. She typed in his Social Security number into her computer and handed the paper to him. "What did you have in mind?"
"Well, perhaps a different lunch period. He often canít eat right after an appointment and our dentist prefers he not eat breakfast the day of an appointment." It was all true, it just didnít apply to Brian. "With the lunchtime he has now, heíll miss lunch and I donít have time to stop and get some food."
She smiled at him. He wasnít sure how to read the smile. "Letís see - his lunch period is 3B now. We canít switch it to fourth period. He has Advanced English then, and all the sections are full. But we could switch him to a fifth period lunch. That would mean weíd have to change his period for PE to seventh. Itís an easy switch. What do you think?"
"I think it will work."
"Good, then itís done. Heíll start the new schedule on Monday." She glanced through his folder. "He was an excellent student at Forest Trails. He should have lots of leadership opportunities here at Rich East. Of course, he is a freshman and itís still early in the school year."
"Iím sure Brian will be very involved - if not over involved."
"I see he lived at St. Lukeís for a while."
"Yes, I adopted Brian last year."
"How cool is that? WaitÖ. I think I remember reading something about you." She didnít forget where she read the article, Matt thought. Sheís way too bright to forget. Sheís just hesitant about bringing the name of the newspaper up in school.
"UmmÖ. Perhaps you read it in an alternative newspaper?"
"Yes, that was it." They smiled at one another. No more words needed to be spoken. They understood each other completely.
She stood and held out her hand again. "Thanks, Mr. Rosato. Thanks for coming today. Iím glad we got a chance to meet. Brian is one very lucky young man."
"Thanks for your time, Miss Atwater."
"Will you be able to make it to Parentís Night? Itís two weeks from tonight."
"I wouldnít miss it."
It had been a challenging day at work for Matt. Anna called in sick, but he was able to get Tracy, his new third keyholder to come in that night and close the store. One of the computer terminals simply went blank and he was on the phone for an hour with tech support to get it running again. While changing a fluorescent light bulb in the back room, he lost his grip on it and it shattered with a loud report. He spent another half hour sweeping up the tiny glass shards. Brian had called for permission for a new friend of Jakeís to come over after school. He correctly guessed that the new kid was already there. It further annoyed Matt.
When he arrived home after a slow commute in the rain, he was tense, tired and hungry. Tim was cooking dinner, and the first person he saw.
Tim engulfed him in a hug. Matt buried his face in his shoulder. "Tough day, honey?" Tim kissed his neck.
"Very. Where are the boys?"
"Brian is on the computer, Tommy is watching TV in our room and Jake, Mike and Logan are watching a video."
"I assume Logan is the new crush Brian mentioned on the phone?"
Timís dimples appeared. "I think thatís a safe assumption. Oh, there was a strange message on the machine."
"What was it?"
"Just a manís voice. He said he was trying to locate you. He asked if you were the same Matt Rosato that graduated from ISU."
"Who was it?"
"Donít know, babe. I donít recognize the voice. He said he would try to call back. I saved the message."
Matt kissed him. "Iím going to go change."
As he passed through the living room, he took a moment to greet the adolescent boys who were festooned on the furniture.
"Hi, Mike," Matt ruffled his hair affectionately. Overall, Mike did not look like a happy camper, but he managed a smile for Matt.
"Dad, this is Logan." Matt smiled and shook Loganís hand. Very cute. Pretty brown eyes and a nice smile. Nice, firm handshake - I like that. Very good eye contact - another good sign. Definitely a blip on the gaydar. Iím going to have to have a talk with Jake before Logan ends up as the next notch on his bedpost.
"Hey, Dad!" Tommy greeted him as Matt shuffled into the master bedroom. He seems more like his old self, Matt thought.
Matt smiled a greeting.
"How was your day?" Tommy asked.
"Tough." He sat on the edge of the bed nearest the answering machine.
"One message," the female computerized voice intoned. "Recorded Friday at 1:16 PM." A male voice continued. "Iím looking for Matt Rosato. Could you be the same Matt Rosato who graduated from ISU in the eighties? Iíll try back again later."
That was the extent of the message. Very strange, Matt thought. Heís not a telemarketer because they never leave messages. I donít think heís a bill collector - everythingís paid up. What could it be?
Matt pulled off his shirt and tie and slipped on a T-shirt. The phone rang as he pulled on a pair of jeans. Tommy scrambled to answer it.
"Hello? Hold on, heís right here." He handed the phone to Matt.
Who is it? Matt mouthed to Tommy. Tommy shrugged.
It was the same voice on the machine. "Matt Rosato?" It was a very effeminate voice. Matt guessed he was probably gay.
"Are you same Matt who graduated from ISU?"
"Yes. Who is this, please?"
"My name is unimportant. Iím calling for Andy Cooper."
"Heís very sick, Mr. Rosato. Heís in the final stages of AIDS. Heís not expected to live more than a few more days."
A million emotions washed over Matt at once. Pity, curiosity, anger.
"What does this have to do with me?"
"Heíd like to see you before he passes. He would like to make peace with you."
The man cut him off. "Mr. Rosato, this is as difficult for me as it is for you. Iím only doing this because he asked me to get in touch with you. I didnít call to argue. Iím only calling to pass on information. The ultimate choice is up to you."
Matt sat on the edge of the bed again. From the nightstand, he retrieved a scrap of paper and a pen. "OK."
"Heís in Bromenn Hospital in Normal. Room 436. Like I said, heís not expected to live but a few more days."
The next thing Matt heard was a dial tone.
Martha smiled widely as she put the caller on hold at the bookstore. "Itís your other half, Matt," she informed him. "Line two." Tim and the boys were the only ones to call on the storeís second phone line, unless it was a wrong number.
"Hi, sweetie," Matt said when he made his way to the back room after being stopped by a customer looking for Spanish-English dictionaries.
"Are you going to go see Andy?"
Matt hesitated. "I feel obligated. He did ask to see me and whoever called did make some effort to find me. But Annaís still sick and it looks like Iíll have to cover for her tomorrow."
"And I know how much you like working Sundays."
"Well, itís not only that. I would like to spend some time with my sons. And with a certain hunky guy."
Tim responded with mock dismay. "I knew you were seeing someone on the side."
Matt played along with him. "Mmmm, yeah. And heís got muscles for days. Heís cute and heís good in bed."
"Oh! I almost forgot the other reason I was calling. My dad wants to come over tonight."
"He said he had a problem and he wanted to talk to you and me about it."
"Probably has something to do with that fuckhead Tony. Is your dad bringing him?
"No, heís coming alone."
"I say invite him over for dinner. We can order pizza and then tell the boys to make themselves scarce for a bit."
"Sounds like a plan. Love you."
"I love you, too, Tim."
Martha was standing next to him holding an error correct for him to initial. "Awwww!" She said.
Matt just smiled and shook his head as he initialed the register paper.
Matt had mixed feelings about his father-in-law. Tim was very close to his father and Matt knew this. The boys all loved him; especially Tommy and Matt grudgingly had to admit Patrick was good with them. However, he had made two passes at Matt in the past, and his current lover, Tony, was a cockhound. Tony had made a pass at Tim as recently as Labor Day. Matt faulted Patrick for not getting Tony some help, or at least setting some boundaries so he wouldnít attempt to bed every man in sight.
"Jake," Matt admonished, "You think you could at least chew the pizza before you swallow?"
"Sorry, dad. Iím hungry," he said with a mouthful of pepperoni pizza.
"Aww, leave the kid alone, Matt," Patrick said, placing his hand on the back of Jakeís neck and giving it an affectionate squeeze. "Heís a growing boy." Patrick shook his head. "I canít get over how big these guys are getting."
"I canít get over the grocery bills," Matt retorted.
"Whatís in the bag, Grandpa?" Tommy referred to a brown paper Dominickís bag.
"Nunya," Jake replied with a mouthful of pizza.
Patrick looked confused.
"It means none of your business," Brian explained. "Nunya for short."
"Well, I didnít know," Tommy whined.
"Itís OK, Little Squirt." Jake smirked, knowing he was going to get a rise out of Tommy.
"Shut your hole!" Tommyís voice cracked.
"Enough!" Matt put a hasty end to the teasing. "Remember our deal, guys? This is your time to go find something to do for a while. Go on. You can take some pizza with you."
"Bye, Grandpa." "See ya, Grandpa." Jake and Brian took their plates piled with pizza to the basement family room.
"íNight Grandpa," Tommy hugged Patrick.
"Oh!" He patted Tommyís back. "Thereís a good boy. Iíll see you soon, son."
"Why donít we move to the living room? Patrick, do you want another beer?" Matt asked.
"Sure, thanks." Patrick seated himself in the recliner with the mysterious paper bag in his lap. Matt handed him a cold Miller Genuine Draft.
Matt and Tim cleared the dining room table and consolidated the leftover pizza - what little there was - into one box. Matt sat first on the couch. When Tim joined him after starting the dishwasher, he sat between Mattís legs, pressed his back against Mattís chest and rested his head on Mattís left shoulder. Matt allowed his hands to explore his loverís chest, but resisted the temptation to slide his hands under his shirt.
"So, how can we help you, Patrick?" Matt asked.
He hesitated. "Well, I was cleaning the other day, and I found these." He reached into the bag and pulled out a handful of pastel colored womenís underwear.
Two pairs of eyebrows shot up.
"Those are Tonyís?" Tim asked.
"Theyíre sure as hell not mine."
Matt and Tim started to laugh. "Iím having a little trouble picturing Tony in those."
"Wonder if he wears them under his cop uniform," Tim laughed.
"Guys, this isnít funny."
Unfortunately, Patrickís reply sent them into gales of laughter. Before long, Tim and Matt were choking and spluttering.
A blond head appeared at the top of the basement stairs. Patrick comically shoved the handful of underwear he was holding between his thigh and the seat cushion.
Brian ventured into the living room cautiously followed by Jake.
"Whatís under there?" Brian pointed to Patrickís thigh.
"Underwear," Matt laughed. "Now, please excuse us."
"But, whatís so funny?" Jake insisted.
"Shoo!" Tim commanded.
The boys reluctantly left.
"What am I going to do?" Patrick moaned.
"You could open a store," Matt suggested. "Anthonyís Underthings. You could give Victoriaís Secret a run for their money."
"Tim wiped tears from his eyes. "Dad, does he know you found them?"
"Thatís the first thing you have to do," Matt, who was still chuckling, explained. "We could talk to him, but if he finds out that we know, heís not going to be very happy." Privately, Matt was thrilled to discover this little tidbit about Tony. Now he had ammunition against him if he ever tried to seduce Tim again.
Patrick considered this and sighed.
Tim finally sobered. "Dad, weíre not making fun of Tony, really. Everyone has their own fetishes and hang-ups. Itís just that ours donít involve going to the lingerie section of Marshall Fieldís." He started chuckling again and covered his mouth. "Iím sorry."
"I think we can pretty well rule out the possibility of Tony being a body double for Madonna in her next video," Matt started to chuckle again.
Patrick finally smiled. "I guess it is kinda funny. I just hope he doesnít expect me to wear them."
Tim grimaced. "The only thing scarier than Tony in ladies underwear is the mental image of you in it."
Matt rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I donít know, Patrick. You might look good in a black teddy."