Downstairs in his room, Jake flopped on his bed and placed his hands behind his head. He decided he needed a break from cleaning his room. It was a daunting project. He had gotten as far as sorting the mess into piles: school books and papers, dirty clothes and garbage. He was desperate to make a good impression on Logan who was coming over that night. Jake wore an old pair of sweatpants but despite the damp chilliness of the basement, he was shirtless.
Iíll never get this done, he thought. I wish it werenít raining. He turned his head to inspect the tuft of light brown hair that had sprouted in his armpit. Thereís nothing on TV. Iím bored with SimCity 2000 already.
The gray sky outside darkened the already gloomy basement bedroom. Maybe Iíll take a nap. What if Uncle Marty shows one of his queer videos tonight? I canít wait to see Logan. LoganÖ
His cock twitched in his briefs in response to the mental image of the cute brown-haired boy. Jake responded by massaging it through the sweatpants. Maybe I should jack off. Thatíll give me something to do. His fingertips found their way underneath his clothes.
The phone rang and Marty picked it up. Matt was calling from Bloomington.
"Are they behaving?" Matt asked.
"Of course, darling," Marty lied.
"Your tone of voice is not convincing."
"We have come to an understanding."
Mattís reply was somewhat sarcastic. "If you say so. Youíre still having movie night tonight?"
"May I ask what youíre showing?"
"Rocky Horror Picture Show andÖÖ"
Just then, the sound of thundering feet on the stairs interrupted his conversation.
"Gracious!" Marty scolded. "One would think a herd of elephants were tap-dancing." The sound of the footsteps started at the top of the second floor and continued down the basement stairs.
Jake quickly pulled his hand out of his pants when Tommy burst through the door of his bedroom. The door hit the wall behind it with a thump. Brian stood closely behind the redhead.
"Jesus, donít you know how to knock?" Jake yelled.
Tommy entered Jakeís room first, followed by Brian who gave him a gentle shove. "Tell him who youíre going to invite tonight. Go on, tell him!"
Tommy tried to deflect the question. He wrinkled his nose in disgust. "God, Jake! Smells like a flock of buzzards shit in here!"
"Iím working on it. Who are you inviting, Tommy?" Jake asked.
Tommy shrugged nonchalantly. "I had a couple people in mind." One of Tommyís favorite techniques to avoid answering a question was to turn the question back on the person asking it. "Who are you inviting?
"You know Iím inviting Logan. Brian, youíre inviting Robb, arenít you?"
"Yeah, but thatís not what Iím worried about." Brian gritted his teeth. He was losing his patience. "Tell Jake who youíre inviting."
Tommy smirked. Jake had teased him mercilessly yesterday afternoon and evening. Tommy had discovered the perfect way to exact his revenge.
His face split into a huge grin. "Mike," Tommy stated.
Jake sprung off his bed with the agility of a cat. "No! You canít invite him!"
"I can invite whoever I want. Dad said so!"
"You canít invite Mike," Brian repeated behind him.
"Fuck you!" Tommy shouted.
"Keep your voice down. Martyís still on the phone with Dad. Do you want him to hear?"
Jake thrust his face within inches of Tommyís. "YouÖcannotÖinviteÖMike."
Tommy lowered his voice to a reasonable level. "What are you afraid of, Jake? That Mikeíll find out you have a new boyfriend? Or that Marty will tell Dad? Two boyfriends at once. Wonder what Dad will think about that?" Tommy smirked in triumph. His little gambit had accomplished exactly what he had set out to do - aggravate his older brother.
Jakeís lips pressed together in rage and his eyes narrowed to angry slits. "You little shithead," he growled.
Brian always made the best peace. "Well, what did you expect, Jake? Especially after you fucked with him all day yesterday?"
Brian turned to Tommy and spoke in a more reasonable tone. "Tommy, think about Mikeís feelings. Itíll really hurt his feelings to see Logan here with Jake. Besides, youíd just be using him to get back at Jake."
Tommy hadnít thought of that. His plan was coming apart. He really didnít want to hurt Mike; he just wanted to get back at Jake. "Yeah, youíre right," he admitted with a sigh. He had to think fast.
"What aboutÖ" Tommy said slowly. "How about if I invited Pam?"
A vein popped out in Jakeís neck. "Pam? No fucking way!"
Tommy smirked again. It was as if he had a remote control for Jakeís emotions and he had discovered all the right buttons to push.
Once again Brian intervened, acting as the voice of reason. "You hardly know Pam. Besides, you really think a freshman is going to come over to watch a movie with a sixth-grader?"
And once again, Brian was right.
Defeated, Tommy wailed, "Well, who can I invite?"
"What about Lucas?" Jake suggested.
"No," Brian answered for him. "Robb said he didnít want Lucas here."
"You guys are so mean to me," Tommy complained. "Iím telling Dad when they get home."
"Weíre not trying to be mean," Brian explained, ignoring his comment about telling Matt. "We just want things to go well tonight. We want everyone to have fun and it wonít be much fun if everyone doesnít get along."
Jake flashed Brian a grateful look. Brian always handled Tommy so well. Jake calmed down and presented another suggestion. "What about that cute kid you saw in the dentistís office?"
"Jamie?" A glimmer of hope flashed across Tommyís face. "YeahÖ..he lives close by. He could even walk here." Then, his countenance fell. "But I hardly know him. He might not like the movies Uncle Martyís showing."
Brian nodded in agreement. "Yeah, that could be a problem. He told me that the first movie is Rocky Horror Picture Show."
"Thatís not so bad. A little kinky maybeÖ" Jake said encouragingly.
"But he wonít tell me what the second movie is. Who knows what he might show?" Brian put a big brotherly arm around Tommy. "Sorry, kiddo, looks like youíll be single tonight."
"Shit, man." Tommy glanced down at his feet so his two older brothers couldnít see the tears of frustration in his eyes.
"Tell you what," Brian said, giving his shoulders a friendly shake. "You can sleep in the top bunk in my room tonight."
"OK," Tommy muttered. But he was not appeased, and his older brothers knew it. Tommy pushed past Brian and headed upstairs.
"Thanks, Brian. You saved my ass!"
"You owe me big time." His eyes scanned the mess in Jakeís room. "Youíd better get busy. Weíve got guests coming."
When Jake heard Brianís footsteps on the stairs again, he closed his bedroom door. Crossing the room to the window, he opened it. When the townhomes were built in the late forties and early fifties, they fitted the basements with large windows. The builders excavated a window well, placed a half-circle of galvanized steel against the concrete foundation and backfilled around it. The steel required periodic painting. Some residents had placed wire mesh or chain link fence over the top to prevent small kids and animals from falling in.
After he opened the window, Jake removed his hitter box from underneath the dresser. It was held to the underside of the dresser with Velcro and it gave a satisfying rip as he pulled it away. Thank God for Velcro.
As he packed some weed into the end of the hitter, he glanced at his clock. It was just after two. He wanted to time his high. He wanted to be buzzed, not high as a kite, just pleasantly mellow, when Logan arrived. On the other hand he didnít want a lingering odor in his room. He planned on taking a shower before Logan came over and knew that would rid his body of the pot smell. But the room itself was another question.
Iíll just have to spray with Glade, he thought to himself as he lit the business end of the brass rod. Besides, Tommy said it stunk down here.
He inhaled a heroic amount of smoke in his lungs and exhaled out the open window.
As Leah drove home from Beth Shalom that rainy Saturday, she reminded Mike, "Sweetie, remember to do your chores when we get home." Although they were Jewish and Saturday was the Sabbath, Beth Shalom was a Reform congregation, the most liberal branch of American Judaism. They didnít adhere to the strict guidelines of refraining from work on the Sabbath.
"That was our agreement. Maybe you could invite Brian or Tommy over when youíre done."
"Yeah, maybe," he answered without conviction. Iíd really like to invite Jake over, he thought. Thatís the problem with your mom knowing youíre gay. Sheíd watch us like a hawk.
They dodged the raindrops to the back door of their townhouse. The warm air welcomed them. It was scented with apple-cinnamon potpourri, Leahís Halston perfume and, less distinctly, Mikeís Polo cologne.
They both hung their jackets on pegs behind the kitchen door. "Arenít they having a movie night next door?"
"I..ah..Iím not sure. I think so. Brian told me they could only invite one guest."
"And are you invited?"
Mike averted his eyes to the kitchen floor. "No oneís called," he said softly.
"Iím so sorry, mauseleh," she replied sincerely. He looked so downcast it broke her heart. Such a little love of a man, she thought. She would have done anything including walking on hot coals to prevent his heart from breaking again. She had spoken to Jake about Mike at St. Irenaeus during intermission of Godspell. She felt it was all she should do; anything more would be interfering in his life. There were some things he had to learn for himself.
Still, her heart ached to see him excluded. She forced a smile and lifted his chin. "Howís about we go to The Movie Fan and have ourselves a film festival? Anything you want to rent."
He shrugged. "OK," he answered listlessly.
"Good. Now, go upstairs and put all your dirty clothes in the hamper. Iím going to start the laundry. Make your bed and vacuum your room and weíll go."
"OK." He started up the steps to his bedroom.
It was then Leah noticed Mikeís skateboard propped up against the wall at the bottom of the steps. "Honey, donít forget to put your skateboard away."
"OK, mama," he called down the steps.
Mike was feeling a bit better when he changed out of nice clothes into jeans and a T-shirt. He switched on the radio that was always tuned to WXRT. Mike already eschewed Top 40 radio. He detested the repetition and the constant commercials. Melissa Etheridge rasped:
Come to my window
Crawl inside, wait by the light of the moon
Come to my window
Iíll be home soon
Mike found himself signing along quietly. When he didnít know or couldnít understand the lyrics, he hummed.
Wonder if sheís really a dyke? He thought to himself as he worked. He pulled the pillows off his bed and shook out the comforter. Mike tugged at the corners and replaced the pillows. He gathered his dirty clothes and dumped them unceremoniously in the hamper.
"WXRT, Radio Chicago. From the album Yes, I Am, that was Melissa Etheridge. Iím Johnny Mars and tonight on the King Biscuit Flower HourÖ"
I guess that answers my question, Mike thought.
Leah appeared at the top of the stairs. "How ya doing, sweetie?"
"I put all my dirty clothes in the hamper."
"Good boy." She disappeared into her room and closed the door behind her to change clothes.
The front doorbell rang and Mike shouted, "Iíll get it!" He inhaled a deep breath of anticipation. He prayed Jake would be on the other side of the door with an invitation to their movie night.
He exhaled in disappointment when he saw the blue hair of one of his momís friends, Helen Silverman, on the other side of the door.
"Hi, sweetie," she said through the storm door. She held up a white Avon bag.
He opened the door to let her in. "Mom!" he shouted.
Helen and Mike heard Leahís voice from behind her bedroom door. "Who is it?"
"Iím just here to drop off your Avon order, Leah," Helen called up the stairs. She handed the bag to Mike. "Sheís already paid."
Mike smiled charmingly. "Thank you, Mrs. Silverman. Iíll make sure she gets it."
Helen pinched his cheek. "Thereís a good boy. So cute, too. Do you know my granddaughter, Laura Essington?"
"Well, Iíll have to introduce you sometime." She glanced at her watch. "Gotta run! I have a million stops to make! Bye, Leah!"
Mike shut the door behind her. Why were his momís friends always trying to fix him up with their daughters, granddaughters, nieces and cousins?
Might as well get the vacuum while Iím down here, he thought to himself. From the front closet, he pulled out their Eureka. He started up the stairs with the Avon bag in one hand and the vacuum in the other.
Mike didnít notice it when he accidentally swung the vacuum into the skateboard. It landed on all four wheels precisely at the bottom of the stairs. Mike was oblivious because the carpeting muffled the sound.
He rapped twice on Leahís door. Now dressed in a maroon GSU sweatshirt and jeans, she smiled as she took the bag from her son.
Mike plugged the vacuum in and began.
Leah upended the hamper in the bathroom into a clothesbasket. She then added her own clothes to the pile.
She began down the stairs; unable to see her feet because of the overflowing clothesbasket she carried.
She never saw the skateboard until after she was sprawled on the floor.
Even over the noisy vacuum, Mike heard some sort of commotion. He heard his motherís voice call him after he switched off the vacuum.
"Mike!" she called urgently.
From the top of the stairs, Mike saw his mother on her stomach. Her right arm was at a strange angle to the rest of her body.
"Mama!" He rushed to her side and helped her to sit on the bottom stair. "Are you OK?"
"My arm," she moaned, in obvious pain. She held her right forearm gingerly. Even Mike knew it was broken. He winced at it. An area halfway between her wrist and elbow was rapidly discoloring.
"Iíll get Marty."
Mike continued to sob in the waiting area of the emergency room at St. James. The harsh glare of the fluorescent lights seemed to accentuate Mikeís bloodshot eyes. The waiting room was suffused with that hospital smell; antiseptic, chloroform, Betadine, and body odor.
"Michael, cupcake," Marty said gently to him. "Itís going to be OK." He squeezed Mikeís hand. "Youíll dehydrate if you donít stop crying." It was an attempt at humor, albeit a lame one.
Mike would not be appeased. "Itís all my fault," he blubbered. "Mama asked me to put the skateboard away and I didnít.
"Sweetheart," he said as he pulled the boy closer. "Accidents happen. Donít blame yourself."
His crying subsided a bit, but he still sniveled.
Finally, the ER doctor appeared at the desk. "Mike?" she called.
Mike eagerly ran up to the young doctor, followed by Marty. "Your mom is going to be fine. And here she is now."
A nurse pushed Leah in a wheelchair. Her right forearm was encased in a pristine white plaster cast from her thumb to her elbow. The sight of the wheelchair frightened the boy. He looked up at the doctor with worried eyes.
The doctor seemed to understand as if by telepathy. "Itís hospital regulations. We have to see her to the door in a wheelchair. She broke both her ulna and radius, but the breaks were clean and easy to set. She should heal well." He turned to Marty. "Are you her neighbor?"
"Yes. In a wayÖ.yes."
"Mrs. Levin, Iím going to prescribe Tylenol 3 for pain. Where should I call in the prescription?"
Leah answered in an uncharacteristically weak voice. "The Osco at Western and Lincoln Highway."
Mike leaned forward as far as he could between the two front seats in the Jeep.
"Iím going to drop you off, Leah, then Iíll pick up your prescription."
"You donít need to do that. I can wait in the car."
"Not a chance. You need some rest."
"What about the boys?"
"Theyíll be fine on their own," Marty answered with certainty.
Leah was safely installed in bed with her injured arm propped up on a pillow. Mike brought her a cup of water and her pills. When he returned downstairs, the three neighbor boys surrounded him. They formed a human lifesaver around Mike, holding, caressing and comforting him. A tiny bit of Mikeís distress drained away.
"Hey!" Tommy piped up. "Why donít you come over for movies?" It was Tommyís last chance to take a shot at Jake.
Jake flashed his redheaded brother a deadly look.
"No, IÖ." Mike stumbled.
"Come on over, Mike," Brian encouraged tenderly. Of the three Rosato-Dugan boys, Brian had the most history with Mike. He knew Mike at St. Lukeís. Mike had fallen like the proverbial tree in the forest for Brian but his feelings were unrequited. Mikeís tree fell to the ground without anyone to hear it.
It might be good for you, cupcake." Marty agreed. "It might take your mind off things."
This time, Marty was the recipient of a hateful look from Jake.
"No, I think Iíd better stay home with my mom, in case she needs anything. Thanks, though."
"Weíll bring you some pizza," Tommy volunteered.
Jake breathed a sigh of relief.
"So, just call me Marcus Welby, M.D.," Marty said to Vince on his cell phone later that afternoon. "After a grueling three hours at the emergency room, we finally got her home and in bed. Luckily it was a slow day at St. James. Mike? Heís doing OK, heís feeling a little guilty. She slipped on his skateboardÖ.Whatís up, Brian?"
"Can we order the pizzas now?" Jake asked. "Aurelioís usually takes a half hour to forty-five minutes to deliver."
"Sure, and in the meantime, we can go pick up Robb and Logan."
Brian grinned. Marty saw the two older boys disappear into the kitchen with an Aurelioís menu in hand. They placed the order, and then, giggling, they separated to their own rooms.
"So anyway, hon, it seems that it was a clean break and a fairly easy one to set. God, I hate hospitals! So really, besides that little incident, itís been pretty good so far. My nephews are really angels. Truly, I think Matt was just being an alarmist when he asked if I could handle them for a whole weekend. Honest! Thereís nothing to this parenting thing. I really should beÖ.."
"Brian!" Jake bellowed from the basement. "Whereís my blue Tommy Hilfiger shirt?"
Brian hustled downstairs, stood at the top of the staircase to the basement and yelled his reply. "I gave it back to you."
"No, you didnít."
"Yes, I did."
"Then where is it?"
"Sorry to disappoint you, Jake, but Iím not a member of the Psychic Friends Network."
"I donít have it! What part of that statement didnít you understand?"
Jake thundered up the stairs and lunged for Brian. Brian squealed and dodged his initial grasp. Jake landed on the carpet with a thud. He rebounded quickly and managed to grab onto Brianís shirt collar.
"Let go! This is my brand new shirt!" They heard an ominous ripping sound. It was enough to enrage Brian, who was usually a pacifist. His right hand balled into a fist and he took a swing at Jake.
His punch caught Jake off balance and he fell on top of the lamp on the end table next to the couch. With a lurid flash of light, the lamp hit the floor the glass base shattered.
"Awww! Look what you did!" Jake said.
"Me? Youíre the one who fell into the lamp!"
"You pushed me."
Youíd better go find that shirt!" Jake roared at Brian.
"Enough!" Marty thundered. To Martyís surprise they did stop squabbling. "Both of you put some shoes on before you clean up this mess. I donít want you stepping on any glass."
With some residual mutterings to each other, Brian and Jake did manage to get the biggest pieces of glass by hand. Once that was done, Brian vacuumed the area while Jake took the remnants of the lamp to Timís basement workbench.
"Stupid fucker," Marty heard Brian mutter to Jake.
"I said thatís enough! Any more and weíll cancel movie night!" By now, Tommy had wandered downstairs to see what was going on and to look for further opportunities to irritate Jake.
"And itíll be your fault," Jake hissed at Brian. "Faggot!"
"OOOO!" Tommy covered his mouth. "You used the F-Word! Just wait Ďtil I tell dad!"
All Marty needed to do was raise his eyebrows and grit his teeth. In truth, he wished he didnít even have to do that.
It took less than fifteen minutes to pick up both Robb and Logan at their respective houses.
"I tried to call you all day," Logan said in a near-whisper to Jake. They were both in the back seat. Brian and Robb had folded up the very rear seat in the cargo area. Tommy got shotgun without an argument, which disappointed him.
"Nobody was on the phone very long."
"I tried to call Brianís cell."
"My cell is in Bloomington with my dad," Brian offered from the back seat.
Logan giggled. "So thatís who my grandpa was talking to."
"I guess your dad saw our number come up on Caller ID and he called back. Grandpa called him a deviant." Logan snickered.
On the way back to Ash Street, Marty announced, "We may not have time for two videos. We have to take Logan and Robb home by ten."
Although he didnít say so, Jake was thrilled. It would give him time to show off his room to Logan. He had worked so hard to clean it.
"So what are we going to watch?" Brian asked as they passed The Centre.
"Iíll leave it up to you. Itís Rocky Horror Picture Show or the other video I selected especially."
"What is the other video?" Tommy asked with a touch of irritation in his voice. "Címon, tell us now."
"Itís Torch Song Trilogy." When the announcement of the title didnít elicit a response from the boys, Marty asked, "You mean to tell me Matt has never shown it to you?"
"No," Brian answered for them.
"Tsk! That man! Iím going to see that his card gets revoked," Marty mumbled.
Jakeís eyes shone like headlights as he led Logan to his basement bedroom. It was vast improvement over the last time Logan was in his room.
Logan could detect the heavy smell of Glade and knew immediately that Jake used the spray to mask something. Logan could still detect the perspiration odor, but there was something else, too. What could it be?
"Have a seat," Jake invited. Since there was no chair in the room, Logan sat gingerly on the edge of the bed. He felt uneasy sitting on the bed. It represented both a threat and a promise.
Jake put his Melissa Etheridge CD in his portable stereo. The term Ďportable stereoí was perhaps a misnomer. When Jake purchased it with his allowance money, Matt quipped that if it had four wheels the State of Illinois would have required annual emissions testing.
Once the CD was playing at a low volume, Jake sat next to Logan. Timidly, he took Loganís hand.
"Your hand is cold," Jake said with a smile. Jake knew it was because Logan was nervous. Jake enjoyed making people nervous.
"Your room looks good," Logan complimented as he attempted to change the subject. He smiled nervously at Jake.
"Thanks. I cleaned all day." That wasnít all he did, but he wasnít going to admit that to Logan. This was the moment. This is what Iíve been waiting for all day, Jake thought. Very slowly, Jake leaned closer to the handsome brown-haired boy and puckered his lips.
Logan leaned away. "No. Donít."
"Why not?" Jake whispered. "I like you, Logan."
"I like you, too."
"Thereís a Ďbutí there somewhere. I can tell."
Logan looked at his knees. "I canít. I donít want to end up the same way again."
Jakeís forehead wrinkled with concern. "What do you mean?"
The doorbell interrupted Loganís reply. The pizzas had arrived. Jake was hungry but he was much more interested in the boy in his room.
Logan tried another approach. "Youíre Mr. Smooth! I donít want to get played, Jake. I donít want a repeat of what happened in San Diego."
"What happened in San Diego?" Jake asked gently.
Loganís answer was interrupted by Martyís hysterical scream: "Nine pizzas!"
Jake and Logan looked at each other with wide eyes before scurrying up the stairs to the kitchen.
Marty was almost apoplectic. "You....you two order nine pizzas?"
"Theyíre small ones, Uncle Marty," Brian said as he tried to stifle a grin.
"But nine? It cost $84.95. Thatís without a tip for the delivery. Why did you do it? Why?" Marty demanded.
Trying to hold back laughter that escaped through his nostrils, Jake answered, "We wanted to demonstrate the memory device about the planets."
"What memory device?"
"My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas."
"Even with my bachelorís degree from Marquette University, Iím still not following you."
"The first letter of each word represents a planet." Brian explained. "ĎMyí represents Mercury. ĎVeryí stands for Venus. My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto."
"Ah, I see." Marty said in a very flat tone. "How clever."
"Why are your nostrils flaring like that, Uncle Marty?" Tommy asked innocently.
"Iím going to the porch for a cigarette," Marty announced through gritted teeth. "Donít any of you move until I get back in the house."
On his way to the back porch, he grabbed his Abercrombie jacket and his cell phone. He parked his narrow frame on the rattan loveseat. It creaked under his slim body.
In the pocket of his jacket, he fished out a pack of Newports and his lighter. The cherry glowed brightly in the night as he inhaled the smoke deeply into his lungs.
He toyed with the cell phone, tempted to call Matt. No, what could Matt do anyway? He was a hundred miles away. Anyway, relying on Mattís authority would surely dilute his own. The boys would never respect him again.
What little shits! After everything Iíve done for them! This is how they repay me? They would never have tested Matt or Tim like they did me.
And they still continued to bicker and play pranks even after I warned themÖ..
Wait a minute. Theyíre testing me. Thatís it. Theyíre trying to get me upset. And I fell for it. Hook, line and sinker.
Well, Iím not going to let them get to me because thatís exactly what they want. Rest assured Matt and Tim will get a full report. Then, itís their problem. Theyíre Mattís kids, not mine.
He flicked the cigarette into the rainy night. Iím just going to play it off. Iím going to go back in and smile and have a fun evening. Because if I show any anger theyíve won the game.
"Feel better, Uncle Marty?" Tommy asked.
"Yes, thank you," he answered the boy rather formally.
"Are you still mad?"
"Why, no. Iím furthering the education of five fine young men. My Very Educated Marty Just Served Us Nine Pizzas. Before you demolish all of them, choose two to take next door. Iím certain Leah wonít feel like cooking in the near future."
Torch Song Trilogy tells the story of Arnold, a female impersonator. It was first presented on Broadway and earned Tony Awards for its creator, Harvey Fierstein. The plot follows Arnoldís life through eight years as he struggles with his gayness, relationships, his career and his family, especially his mother. Full of both humor and drama, the boys were immediately caught up in the unfolding story.
Marty stopped the videotape after the first segment. Brian and Robb stood and stretched.
"Well, what do you think?"
"Are there bars like that? You know - with back rooms?" Brian asked from the kitchen as he pulled cans of pop for everyone from the refrigerator.
"Diet for me, sweetheart. And no, most of those bars are gone. They closed their back rooms when AIDS appeared."
"Did you ever do drag?" Jake asked.
Marty laughed. "You may find this difficult to believe, but no, I never did." Marty turned the question back on them. "Would you ever do drag?"
There was an instant chorus of "No way!"
Then Tommy piped up, "I might." All eyes turned to him. "Well, just to see what itís like."
Marty chuckled at the mental image of Tommy in drag as he started the tape again.
The second part of the movie deals with Arnoldís relationship with Allen, a handsome young model. Although it contained some of the funniest moments in the movie, it ends tragically with the death of Allen. He was beaten to death by thugs with baseball bats. Marty noticed tears streaming down Brianís cheeks as Arnold stands trembling in the middle of the street watching an ambulance take Allenís body away.
Marty stopped the tape again before the third segment and the boys groaned.
"Is he dead, Uncle Marty?"
Brian flashed his youngest brother a youíre-so-stupid look. "He canít be dead. He has a big musical number in the third part."
Marty ignored Brianís rude comment. "Yes, Tommy, heís dead."
When Jake returned from the bathroom, he asked, "Didnít you and dad live together for a time?"
"Yes, but we were just friends."
"Werenít you lovers at one time?" Brian persisted.
"Yes, for a while. Many years ago, when we were in college. We were young and foolish and we let our hormones do the thinking." He smiled gently.
"Does he still adopt the kid?" Logan asked.
"Youíll just have to watch," Marty said as he pressed the Ďplayí button.
In the third part of the movie, Arnold does indeed adopt a gay teenager. This segment also deals with Arnoldís relationship to his mother. The boys watched with rapt attention. Marty noticed that Jake and Logan were holding hands. Brian laid his head on Robbís shoulder. Tommy had snuggled next to Marty on the couch.
In the final scene of the movie, Arnold gathers objects that represent each of the important people in his life. He holds Edís glasses, a picture of Allen, his sonís baseball cap and a bag of oranges from his mother and hugs them to his chest.
Sniffling, Jake stood and left the room. "Iíll get a box of Kleenex."
Marty stood and stretched and began to put the leftover pizza away. The boys still continued to pepper him with questions. When Jake didnít return after a few long moments, Marty followed him upstairs.
Jake stood in the bathroom with the door open. He was sobbing.
He looked up long enough to see Marty standing in the hall. Jake approached the slim man and wrapped his arms around him.
"Iím so sorry, Marty."
Marty felt tears sting his eyes. He wasnít sure whether Jake was truly remorseful or whether he was just afraid of the report he was going to make to his parents.
"Itís OK, cupcake."
"I was such a shit."
"Yes, you were," Marty agreed. "But itís all water under the bridge."
"Thanks for putting up with me."
He rubbed the teenagerís back. "Youíre a good kid, Jake. Deep down inside youíre really a teddy bear. Youíd better get that box of Kleenex downstairs before we have a flood."
Jake started down the stairs. "Jake?"
He turned on the third step. "Yeah?"
"Be good to Logan. I can tell he likes you. But I can also sense heís very vulnerable."
The rain turned into an unusual late September thunderstorm that night.
Tommy was a ghost in the doorway to Brianís bedroom in his white boxer shorts and white T-shirt. "You said I could sleep with you tonight," he reminded Brian.
Brian sighed. Would he never have any privacy? He had planned on masturbating with visions of Robb wafting through his brain. Robb had kissed him in the darkened Jeep just before he ran to his front door. Brian could still taste that kiss on his lips.
"You can sleep on the top bunk." Mattís cousin had given him the bunk bed set when he initially moved to Park Forest. Since then, it had resided in almost every bedroom except the master bedroom. Brian slept on the bottom bunk and used the top mainly as an auxiliary closet. He had put all his clothes away earlier in the day because he knew Robb was coming over and he wanted to make a good impression when he showed off his room.
Tommy moved into his brotherís bedroom. "I wanna sleep with you. Like I did at camp."
"Please!" As if timed by a seasoned DJ, a flash of lightning lit the room followed by a clap of thunder.
Brian sighed again. "OK," he groaned. Maybe I can still jerk off once the kid falls asleep. Knowing Tommy, heíll be snoring before his head hits the pillow.
He held up the blanket so Tommy could get in.
"Quit squirming," Brian commanded.
Tommy giggled and squirmed for a time, but finally settled down.
Another flash of lightning revealed another ghostly apparition wearing boxer briefs and a plain white tank top.
"There you guys are!"
"What do you want, Jake?" Brian asked irritably.
"I just came up to say Ďhi.í"
"Awww! Is little Jakey-Wakey scared?" Brian taunted.
"Well, then what do you want?"
"Can I sleep in your room?" he asked timidly.
"I guess so."
Jake moved toward the bottom bunk. "Get the hell out of here, Jake!" Tommy said. "I was here first."
"Thereís not enough room for three," Brian seconded.
"How about we put the mattresses on the floor?"
"NO!" Brian almost shouted.
"Keep it down! Weíre in enough trouble already." Jake scratched his balls. The past few weeks, they had been itching.
"It might be fun, Brian. Sorta like a campout," Tommy agreed.
"You two are a pain in the ass!" Despite his complaint, Brian rose from the bunk and pulled the mattress to the floor. Side-by-side, the mattresses fit perfectly between the bunk bed frame and Brianís dresser. Brian shook out the top sheet over the two mattresses. Another flash of lightning was like a strobe light freezing the motion of the sheet in mid-air.
"One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand," Brian counted. The clap of thunder rumbled at the count of three.
"Whatís that supposed to do?" Tommy asked as he settled between Jake and Brian.
"If you count the seconds between the lightning and the thunder itíll tell you how many miles away the thunderstorm is. Each second represents a mile."
"Cool!" Tommy said.
"Thatís just an old wives tale," Jake dismissed him.
"No, itís not. I learned it at camp."
"You forgot to close the door," Tommy reminded Brian.
"Too late," Brian answered. "We canít get it closed without moving the mattresses and Iím not re-making the bed. So forget about it and go to sleep."
They were silent for a time as they listened to the rain tap on the window. They were a tangle of arms and legs, trying to offer each other comfort and shelter from the storm they knew was coming.
"What are we going to tell the dads when they get home?" Tommy asked.
Jake spoke up. "Iíll say this: ĎWe must indeed hang together, or, most assuredly, we will all hang separately.í"
"Where did you get that from?" Brian asked. He was always the fact-checker.
"I learned it in history class. Benjamin Franklin said it."
"What does it mean?" Tommy asked.
"It means that weíre got to stick together or weíre going to be in deep shit."
"Got that right!" Brian agreed.
Another clap of thunder sounded and Tommy snuggled closer to Brian.
Jake propped his head up. "Tommy, Iím sorry for teasing you."
"íSí OK," although from the sound of Tommyís voice, it really wasnít.
"I love you, ya know." Jake was expert at the Emotional Ambush. He controlled his feelings tightly but let some feelings out in short bursts designed to catch people off guard. It was a habit that Jake was only partially aware of.
"I love you, too, Jake."
Jake kissed the redhead on the cheek. He reached across and ruffled Brianís hair. "And you, you little prickÖ."
"Goodnight, Jake. Go to sleep." Brian turned his back to his brothers.
"That was cold!" Jake gave Brianís shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Címon, man. No hard feelings?"
"No hard feelings," Brian said softly.
Jake leaned over and kissed the back of Brianís neck. "I love you, bro."
Brian rolled over again. Tommy and Jake could see his wan smile in the dim light. "I love you, too."
Jake leaned over again and their lips met for just a microsecond.
"Night, John Boy."
Later that night, Marty awoke and rose to use the bathroom. On the way back to the master bedroom he decided to look in on Brian and Tommy.
On the floor of Brianís bedroom, the three boys were intertwined like a litter of puppies. They looked so young and innocent and vulnerable in sleep.
Earlier in the day, these same boys had made his life a living hell. They tried his patience and they pulled a pizza prank on him. They had fought with each other and yet, here they were, sleeping together. They were offering each other comfort and security and support. Their affection for one another was obvious.
Maybe that was their message, Marty thought. For all that Iím Mattís best friend, Iím still an outsider.
And all my money couldnít buy what I really wanted from them. Love and admiration and respect.
Marty wiped a stray tear from his cheek as he sadly returned the to the master bedroom.