"Open wider, Tommy."
Dr. Brill, who the boys nicknamed Brill the Drill, was preparing Tommy for a filling.
Meanwhile, Marty, Jake and Brian sat in the waiting room. It was Friday afternoon, and Marty had just begun his weekend term as surrogate parent while Tim and Matt attended Andyís funeral in Bloomington.
The dentist had a unique way of administering a Novocain injection. He kept the needle out of the patientís sight by hiding it behind his head until just before the shot. He had already packed the area between his teeth, tongue and cheek with cotton.
Tommy never knew what hit him.
As his lips, tongue and gums began to numb, the dentist left the room momentarily.
"Patricia," the dentist said to one of his assistants just outside the tiny treatment room. "Would you send an email to Dr. Cozza that this should be the last filling for Thomas Rosato? Heíll be ready to begin orthodontic treatment anytime."
The handsome dentist resumed his stool next to the boy. He adjusted the light and it glared in Tommyís eyes.
"Oh. Iím sorry, Thomas." He readjusted the light. Tommy got a good look at his face. His blue eyes had a ring of darker blue around the irises. His hair was a sandy blond. Under his facemask was an immaculately trimmed moustache.
Like the hypodermic needle before it, Dr. Brill snuck the drill behind Tommyís head.
"So, howís school, Tommy?"
Why do dentists ask questions when your mouth is full of junk? "Ah - kay."
"Youíre in junior high now?"
"Good, good." He removed the drill for a moment. "Patricia, could your irrigate and suction the area, please?" He felt the cool water fill his mouth and positioned his tongue against the back of his throat so he couldnít swallow. The vacuum made slurping sounds as Patricia suctioned the water out of his mouth.
All of a sudden, Tommy felt an embarrassing tightening in his crotch. No! Shit, no! I canít get a boner now! As casually as possible, he brought his arms up from his sides and clasped his fingers over the offending member. With his thumbs, he readjusted his stiff dick though his denim shorts. It was uncomfortably bound in his underwear.
Oh shit! Did Dr. Brillís eyes just take a peek down there? I could have sworn I saw his eyes dart down there!
Although Tommy couldnít see the dentistís lips since the mask covered them, his eyes wrinkled at the corners.
He did see! Oh shit, oh shit!
The dentist applied a noxious smelling adhesive that smelled like airplane glue. The glue needed a few moments to set up.
"Weíre going to apply the filling, now, Tommy." The amalgam squeaked as the dentist forced it into the cavity. He scraped and smoothed it until the surfaces matched the tooth. Dr. Brill again noticed that Tommy grabbed his crotch and wriggled his hips from side to side.
To avoid further embarrassing the boy, Brill leaned forward and whispered in the boyís ear, "Do you have to use the restroom, Tommy?"
"OK, weíre almost done. Can you hold it for few more minutes?" He removed the cotton. OK, Tommy, take a sip of water, rinse your mouth and spit."
Tommy did as he was instructed.
"Atta boy." Brill removed his facial mask and smiled at the redhead. "Well, youíre ready for braces, Tommy. Luckily we didnít have to pull any teeth. When youíre done with the braces, youíll have the whole school chasing after you! OK, Tommy, no eating or drinking for at least an hour. If you have any problems or if you feel any pain call my pager immediately, OK?"
"OK." Tommy tried to run his tongue over the new filling, but half his tongue was still numb.
As the dentist made a quick exit from the treatment room, he said to his assistant, "Is the next patient ready?"
"Yes, doctor, in Room 3. Itís Jamie Withers."
The dentist lowered his voice. "Heís the pro bono case, isnít he?"
Jamie! Tommy thought. Heís in some of my classes! Heís so cute! I canít let him see me, especially with a boner! Wonder what pro bono means.
Patricia raised the back of the chair to an upright position and helped him stand up.
"The restroom is the second door on the right," she reminded him.
Just as he started toward the restroom, the door the waiting room opened. A very handsome blond boy - small for his age - was being led to another treatment room. Jamie had an angelic face - almost too pretty for a boy.
"Hi, Tommy," he said shyly.
"Hi, Jamie." Tommy had a difficult time talking. Please, God, donít let him notice my boner.
"See ya Monday," Jamie called after him.
If not sooner, Tommy thought.
When he returned to the waiting room, the office assistant was giving instructions to Marty. "Ö.If thereís any pain, call the pager number on the business card immediately." Tommy spotted Jake and Brian reading magazines in the waiting room. Brian was perusing This Old House while Jake had his nose in a Sports Illustrated. Opposite them was a huge woman wearing clothes that were completely inappropriate for her weight.
"Iíll bill Mr. Rosatoís insurance." Matt had called the dentistís office with billing instructions and permission to speak to Marty about Tommyís procedures.
"Are you OK?" Brian asked with some concern.
"Tin grin," Jake teased. Jake was in a mood that day. Although he wouldnít admit it even if he were aware of it - which he wasnít - he was missing Matt and Tim. The comfortable routines and rituals they had established made him feel safe and secure. Now that they were gone for the weekend, Jake felt it necessary to take his insecurities out on someone. Tommy was his target.
"Shut up!" Tommy slurred at him.
Marty smiled sheepishly at the office assistant. "Weíll be leaving now."
"Shotgun!" Brian called.
"No, itís still my turn!" Jake gave him a shove.
Nothing had prepared Marty for this aspect of his duties as a surrogate parent. The boys were always on their best behavior when he and Vince visited. Marty never got a chance to glimpse the other side - the arguments, the sibling rivalry, the name-calling, the bickering, the competitiveness and the pettiness.
But Marty had been a brother himself, much as he tried to suppress those memories. More often than not, Marty had been on the receiving end of the teasing and harassment. Marty thought that having a gay brother would have changed the fraternal relationship completely.
Marty was bitterly disappointed when he discovered it didnít.
Sure, they did get along better than most brothers. Perhaps they were more affectionate toward each other. Matt and Tim had taught them to express their feelings a little better and provided them a safe place to do it. They loved each other and the two men in their lives not because of any blood bonds but because they chose to do so.
Still, Matt and Tim couldnít completely overcome eons of evolution and male adolescent hormones.
Marty took a deep breath. "And what about you, Tommy? I suppose you want to sit in the front seat, too?"
"I donít care," he grumbled.
"OK, Brian and Jake. Pick a number between one and ten. Iíll whisper it to Tommy since he doesnít care if he sits in the front seat." Marty dramatically whispered a number to the redhead.
"Seven," Jake said.
"Three," Brian countered.
"The number was three. Brian wins. But Jake can ride in front on the way home." Marty felt a flush of excitement as having settled the spat so equitably and quickly.
"Iím hungry," Jake complained once they were in the Jeep. Marty turned south on Governorís Highway and then west on Route 30. It was a short trip from Dr. Brillís office in Olympia Fields to Park Forest; less than three miles. But the numerous traffic lights and the heavy traffic slowed them considerably.
"Well, Tommy canít eat for an hour."
"Well, then, where are we going?" Jake demanded.
"Lincoln Mall. I thought weíd do some shopping. You all need some fall clothes, right?"
Jake and Tommy responded with enthusiasm. Brian wasnít so sure.
"You donít have to do that, Uncle Marty," Brian chimed in.
"Shh-hh!í Jake shushed him.
"Of course I do. I like to buy things for my three favorite nephews. Besides, I know your father and his attitude toward shopping."
"And you love shopping, donít you, Uncle Marty?" Tommy asked. He still lisped slightly because half his mouth was still numbed by Novocain.
"You got that right, sweetie. If there were an Olympic event for shopping, Iíd win the gold!"
Tommy asked, "Uncle Marty, what does pro bono mean?"
"Well, hon, if I remember my Latin from Our Lady of Perpetual Guilt High School, it means for the good. Usually itís a term used by lawyers who take on a case for free because they believe the outcome will change things for the better."
"Where did you hear the term?"
"In the dentistís office."
"He was probably talking about a case that heís treating for free, or at least a very reduced rate."
As they waited for a stoplight to change, Brian ventured, "Iím not so sure my dad will like this."
"Why not, sweetie?"
"Heís always trying to teach us that clothes are not important. Whatís inside is more important."
"BrianÖ." Jakeís voice trailed off. Brian turned around to see Jake scratching his eyebrow vigorously with his middle finger. Shut the fuck up, Brian. Jake was more than willing to take full advantage of Martyís generosity.
It was just before five in the afternoon when they parked the Jeep on the lower level outside Carsonís. They dodged raindrops to the entrance.
As soon as they walked in the door, Marty inhaled through his nostrils. "Smell that?"
"Itís the smell of shopping! When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!"
They rode the escalator to the upper level where the menís department awaited. Attractive displays of Polo, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein beckoned to them. In addition, trendier fashion lines such as Jnco and Aeropostale. The biggest athletic shoe companies - Nike, Addidas and Reebok - were also represented by displays of clothing bearing their logos. Tommy and Jake immediately took to the Tommy Hilfiger section. Brian hesitated and hung back.
"Brian, hon, why arenít you looking for something? Remember to stick to blue - thatís your color."
"But, Uncle Marty, my dad isnít going to like this at all."
"Oh, pish. Heís an old poop. Weíll just tell him itís an early birthday present."
"But my birthday was last month."
"Well, then, itís an early Christmas present. Loosen up, cupcake. Look at this shirt, isnít it fun? " He held up a neon blue shirt printed with a retro pattern of swirls and triangles. "I could picture you in this unbuttoned with a plain wife beater underneath. Youíd look adorable!"
Brian wrinkled his nose. "Itís kinda loud."
"Oh, well then, you select something."
"Uncle Marty, what do you think about this?" Jake held up black knit shirt with a collar.
"No, no, sweetheart. Black is for ganstas. Stick to bright primary colors. Then again, youíre so cute you could wear rags and look good in them. Letís see," he said as he rummaged through a pile of shirts on a display. "Arenít you having a good time? Real male bonding, thatís what this is. Football doesnít even come close. I feel like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman."
"I guess that makes us Julia Roberts," Brian commented.
Just then, a sales associate appeared at Martyís elbow. He wore a red carnation near his nametag. This indicated that he was a supervisor.
"May I help you?" His voice and posture oozed attitude.
"Ah! The Mounties have arrived. Yes, sir, Iím purchasing outfits for these three handsome young men."
"And in the meantime, theyíre messing up all the displays."
Marty narrowed his eyes and suppressed a grin. "Young man, that is what the displays are for - to be messed up. I plan on spending an obscene amount of money here this afternoon. So, you can either help me outfit my three favorite nephews or you can call your direct supervisor who will be more than glad to help me once I explain your poor customer service skills."
The salesman had the decency to look chastened. "Very well, sir. Iíll need their sizes. Iíll be certain to expedite the purchase."
"Thanks, sweetie. May I ask your name?"
Brian had been listening to the exchange between the two men. "Does this mean I can get a pair of baggy jeans?"
Before Marty could answer, John replied, "The fashion trend is toward more tailored jeans."
"Huh?" Brian asked.
John translated. "Super baggy jeans are so not happening right now."
"But theyíre still roomy with lots of room to grow. Look at these Calvin Klein jeans."
"I like these!"
"So do I," Jake added.
Tommy asked, "Do you have any shorts? I like shorts better."
"Iím sorry," John replied. "All the shorts were sent back at the end of the summer season. Long pants and jeans are all we have now."
"Besides Tommy," Marty added, "itís going to get cold soon."
With a pair each of Calvin Klein jeans, the next challenge was to find a shirt. Brian selected a large, cotton, button-up shirt by Ralph Lauren in medium blue with a white checked pattern. Jake selected a bright yellow Tommy Hilfiger rugby shirt with the Hilfiger logo. Tommy selected a dark green Polo shirt.
"What a good choice, Tommy!" Marty exclaimed. "This color is perfect for you. Thereís hope for you yet."
"Theyíre probably need T-shirts and underwear as well."
"And socks," Jake added. He was going to milk Martyís generosity for all it was worth.
Marty smiled. "Socks as well. OK," Marty addressed the boys, "time to try these on."
They dashed to the fitting rooms. All three headed for the fitting room at the end, which was designed as a stall for a handicapped person. It was as large as Brianís bedroom.
As they stripped down to try on their new finery, Jake said to Tommy, "Whatís that bulge?"
Tommy tried to deflect his attention by playing stupid. "What bulge?"
"The bulge in your underwear, little brother." Jake winked at Brian.
"Leave him alone, Jake," Brian said.
"I donít know what youíre talking about," Tommy said as he turned his back.
Jake lowered his voice to a whisper. His raspy voice was both threatening and erotic. "Bet you donít even have hair on it yet."
"Do too!" Tommy shot back defiantly.
Tommy hooked his thumbs under the elastic waistband of his underwear and pulled them down as far as the base of his cock revealing a few wispy, coppery hairs.
Jakeís trademark, lopsided mischievous grin appeared. "Pull them down the rest of the way."
"Tommy, weíre your brothers. Letís see it."
Brian stood by watching in fascination. He knew that they shouldnít be doing this, particularly not in a public place. He knew that Jakeís sex drive was an unstoppable juggernaut. He knew that Jake loved to tease and torment Tommy and it was time for himself to shift into the role of Tommyís protector. He knew Tommy was mortified to be exposing himself like this. Yet, the scene was like a car crash - he couldnít tear his eyes from it.
With a sigh of resignation, Tommy pushed the gray boxer briefs lower to reveal his cock and balls. His balls were still smooth and hairless. But it was his cock that commanded the attention of his brothers. It was average length for a boy in the very early stages of puberty. But its girth was uncommonly large.
Jake turned his head to Brian. "Well, lookee there. Our baby brotherís growing up."
Brian snickered and covered his mouth.
As casually as if he were shaking Tommyís hand, Jake took his dick in his hand. It felt warm and heavy in his palm.
"Stop it!" Tommy whispered, although he knew - they all knew - that he didnít want Jake to stop.
"Itís so thick," Jake murmured as he gave it a gentle tug. It responded with a jerk and began to harden. "Maybe we should call you Stubby."
That was the final insult. Tommy backed away and pulled his underwear up. "Cut it out, Jake. Get off me!" His voice had risen, and it was sure to attract attention.
"Keep it down, Tommy."
Martyís voice sounded in the otherwise-empty dressing area. "Whatís going on in there?"
"Nothing," Jake shouted back as he giggled.
"Well, come out of there, the three of you. I want to see the results."
The trio hurriedly dressed. Brian and Jake snickered and giggled as they did. Tommy fumed as he plotted revenge against Jake for humiliating him.
Marty smirked with satisfaction as he inspected the fit of the jeans. "They fit you all perfectly. Jake, while itís true you do have the torso of a god, I would appreciate it if you didnít parade around the store without a shirt."
Marty turned to Tommy and as flatly as he could make his voice, said, "Tommy, there seems to be a bit of a bulge in your jeans."
Tommy blushed crimson. "Geez. Do ya think you could announce it to the whole store?"
"Iíll do it," Jake volunteered.
"Shut up," Tommy told him.
"Well, Unc, if you saw what heís packing, youíd know why he has a bulge there."
"I said, shut up, asshole!"
"Hey, hey! Thatís enough! These clothes can still go back on the shelves!"
But the clothes didnít go back on the shelves. Marty loved the role of Fairy Godfather too much to relinquish his generosity.
"That will be $276.92," John said as he bagged the last of their purchases.
As Marty handed over his Carsonís Preferred Customer charge card, he commented to John, "Itís so much fun playing Pygmalion." To the boys he said, "Weíll stop at Cherninís for shoes and then get something to eat. Howís your tooth, Tommy?"
"Itís starting to tingle. I think the Novocain is wearing off."
"Any pain, baby?"
"Nope. It feels OK."
Cherninís was a local shoe chain with a unique method of helping customers. To save labor costs, they placed a salesperson with a podium and microphone just inside the main entrance. When a customer looked lost or like they needed assistance, the salesperson used the public address system.
"Sir! With the three boys. Need some help?"
Marty raised his hand and nodded. "What a lousy way of helping customers," he commented to the boys. "I feel like cattle."
To illustrate Martyís comment, Jake mooed. They all laughed.
After Marty dropped another $220 for athletic shoes for the boys, their next stop was McDonaldís. Try as Marty could, he couldnít dissuade them from McDonaldís. He suggested alternatives, but Brian, Jake and Tommy liked the predictability and sameness of the Golden Arches.
Marty picked at his Extra Value Meal as they dined in the plastic atmosphere. I was extravagant with them, Marty mused. But theyíre good kids and they deserve it. As he was lost in his own thoughts, his eyes fell on Brianís. Brian watched a handsome, muscular young man to the counter.
"Really, Brian, you must learn to be more discrete."
Brian blushed slightly but he knew what Marty was talking about. Tommy and Jake watched with interest.
"Allow me to demonstrate." With his eyes and face, he demonstrated how to catch a glimpse of someone without being obvious. But he exaggerated the facial expressions so as to make it extremely obvious. The boys howled with laughter.
"What are we going to do when we get home?" Brian wanted to know.
"Iíve got a video to watch."
"Whatís the name of it?" Jake demanded.
"Are we still having a movie night tomorrow night?" Jake asked.
"If you want."
"And we can invite a friend, right?"
"One friend each," Marty amended. "Thatís the directive from your father - fathers, I mean."
"When can they come over? I mean, when we call, what time should we tell them?"
"Oh, I was thinking sevenish."
"Can we start at six?" Brian asked. "We can order pizza. Iíll chip in. Iíve got some allowance money."
Marty was being railroaded and he knew it. He was torn. He should say Ďnoí but he was enjoying his role as Fairy Godfather - bearer of gifts and late bedtimes. The boys had labeled him "kewl" - the ultimate compliment.
"Tell you what," Marty replied. "If you complete your chores Saturday morning without any hassles, we can start at six."
Jake flashed him his best puppy dog eyes. "How about five?"
"No, cupcake, six is early enough. Itís going to be a challenging enough to supervise six hormone-addled boys. Good, try, though, Jake."
After they arrived back at the townhouse, Marty ordered the boys to put their new clothes away. Jake handed Tommy his bag. "Here you go, Stubby."
In response, Tommy punched Jakeís arm.
"Ow!" Jake whined, although he smiled widely as he did. He was not hurt but wanted to give the impression that he was.
"Thatís enough from you two!" Marty thundered. "Any more bickering and weíre going march these clothes right back to Carsonís. Jake: Quit teasing your brother. Tommy: Just ignore him and heíll stop." Marty inhaled deeply through his nostrils. He had never seen these behaviors from the boys before and wondered whether they were reacting to the absence of their parents, if they were testing him or if they were simply being boys. Perhaps it was all three.
The boys had the decency to at least look admonished.
After he had calmed down, Marty told them, "OK, put your clothes away and Iíll order the pizza. Then Iíll put the video in."
"What is the video?" Brian asked.
"Itís called Times of Harvey Milk. Itís a documentary."
The three boys groaned. "Bo-o-o-r-ing!" Tommy complained.
"Itís really very moving. Trust me. Have I steered you wrong yet?"
After a thundering of feet on the stairs, the boys returned to the living room in moments.
While waiting for the boys, Marty turned to The Weather Channel. The forecast had not changed; rain was predicted for the rest of the weekend with an 80% probability.
The Academy Award winning film begins with an audio taped recoding of Harvey Milk himself outlining what should be done in the event of his death. The boys knew from the beginning that Harvey would be killed. Now, the film began outlining his childhood and explaining how he became the first openly gay elected official in America.
Just after the portion of the videotape where Milk won his first election, the pizzas arrived. Marty stopped the tape so they could assemble their food and drinks.
Indeed, the story very was moving and the boys were riveted to the screen. After Milk was assassinated, a huge candlelight vigil was held in his memory. Marty noticed Brian wiping away tears.
"Itís so sad," Brian mumbled. Ultimately, the film did end on a note of hope for the future.
"That was really good," Tommy admitted.
"See?" Marty said. He flipped to the channel guide as the tape rewound.
"Look! Night of the Living Dead is on Svengoolie!" Svengoolie was a locally produced hosted show featuring horror and sci-fi flicks. Between commercials, Svengoolie did shtick: goofy parodies, bad jokes, and commentary about the movie. It originated from WCIU, Chicagoís only truly independent TV station. All the other commercial stations devoted part of their broadcast days to network broadcasting - including the new UPN and WB weblets.
Marty wrinkled his nose. "Ewww! You really want to watch that?"
"Yes!" All three boys chorused.
Marty sighed. "OK, but if any of you have nightmares, Iím washing my hands of the whole thing."
Before Sven swung into the movie, he couldnít resist a swipe at his favorite suburb - Berwyn. The boys sprawled across the floor in rapt attention. Meanwhile, Marty paged through a book from Mattís vast collection. It was a humor book called the Complete Gay Male. He chuckled at the book from time to time.
During a commercial, Jake grabbed a blanket and snuggled on the couch near Marty. Gradually he moved closer and closer to the man as the movie progressed until he was leaning on Marty. Even though Jake was the main proponent about watching Night of the Living Dead, Marty noted that his eyelids were beginning to droop.
Because of all the commercials, WCIU managed to stretch the movie out over two hours. By the time the movie was over, Jake was sound asleep on Martyís shoulder.
Marty heard his cell phone ring on the kitchen counter.
"Brian, sweetie, would you please hand me my cell phone? You are on your way to bed, arenít you?"
Brian rubbed his palms over his face. "Yeah. But what about him?" He asked, referring to Jake.
When Brian re-entered the living room with the chirping device, Marty told him, "Iíll make sure he gets to bed."
"Hi, VinceÖ.I miss you, too. How was work? Iím having a pretty good time here. Hey, I have to get Jake to bed. Stop that! Itís not what youíre thinking! Let me call you back in a few minutes."
Jake was now positioned on his side with his head on Martyís thigh. His T-shirt had pulled up a bit to reveal a bit of bare skin. His face looked so innocent in slumber. This certainly was not the same boy who had mercilessly teased Tommy all afternoon and evening. Marty draped an arm around his shoulders. His clothing was warm and damp where Jakeís body met his own. As Martyís eyes searched his sleeping face, he reminded himself that Jake was still a boy.
Marty roused Jake. "Time to go to bed, Jake," he said in a gentle voice.
Jake rubbed his eyes with his fists. "Is the movie over?"
Marty chuckled, "Yes, baby."
"I missed the ending," Jake stated the obvious.
Marty patted his muscled back. "Go on, Jake. Youíre way too big to carry."
Slowly, reluctantly, Jake stood. He had red creases across his right cheek and his eyes drooped. Before he started for the basement stairs, he turned to the man. "Iím sorry I was such a shit earlier."
"Oh, you werenít that much of a shit," Marty countered. In fact, he had been. But Marty saw no need to reinforce his negative self-assessment.
"I was just teasing Tommy. I really love him, you know."
His admission caught Marty off guard. He felt a lump in his throat. He had just witnessed a glimpse of the vulnerable, needy boy underneath the macho, happy-go-lucky façade. Matt had always told him that Jake had another side to his personality. Now Marty was witnessing it for himself.
Not trusting his voice, Marty whispered, "I know."
Jakeís face split into a lazy, sleepy grin. "Itís just part of being a big brother."
"True, sweetie, but go easy on him. He idolizes you."
"I will. Iím sorry." He flung his arms around Marty. "Thanks, Uncle Marty."
Martyís voice was raspy with emotion. "For what?"
"For the clothes, for staying with us this weekend, for everything."
"You are most welcome, cupcake." He released Jake.
As Jake slowly shuffled to the basement stairs, trailing the blanket behind him, he muttered, "Love you, Uncle Marty."
Martyís eyes brimmed with tears. "Love you, too." His voice caught in his throat.
After Jake departed, Marty stared uncomprehendingly at the TV for a time. He dabbed at his tears with a napkin. Finally, he stood and crossed to the kitchen where he consolidated the leftover pizza into one box. He still sniffled from time to time.
He snorted once more before dialing his home number.
"Hi, babe. Yes, theyíre all in bed now. Iíd love to, but Iím really too tired for phone sex. Iíll take a rain check. Oh, theyíve been pretty good. Theyíre basically good kids. I really love them. You know, love, Iíve been thinkingÖ."