Falling Off a Log
Copyright © 2003, 2015
When I got home, nobody was there. It wasn't a surprise, since it was pretty early. My Mom sold real estate and her hours were unpredictable. I figured my Dad was at the bar with his friends shooting pool or something. I went up to my room and pulled out the dictionary. I looked up 'queer' and it pretty much said what I thought the word meant, like odd or unusual. Then I looked up faggot and it said it was a fire starting stick or colloquial English for cigarette. I couldn't figure it out. Why would somebody not like Nick because he was odd or unusual? Why would he call himself a cigarette? A fire starer? I looked for other spellings and things that sounded the same, but there weren't any. I checked arsonist, thinking there might be something there. Still nothing.
I heard the phone ringing, and ran downstairs to get it. It was Scott.
"You learned the facts of life?"
"No, this is important"
"Oh, important. Let's see ... you learned how to walk across a nice smooth floor without doing a face-plant."
"Earth to Joey! My Dad said we could use the room!"
"Did you hear me?"
"Say it again."
"Our band can use the room! His studio! I asked if we could use the barn to practice. At first he didn't want us to, but then he just said oh what the hell. Joey, we can use all his stuff and record ourselves and everything! He'll help us! We just have to work around when he needs it!"
"I don't get it. Why all of a sudden?"
"I'm not sure. He wants to talk to your Dad, and Keith's. He needs to know more about Nick, so we can't tell anybody yet. He's going to talk to you and me tomorrow. But, Joey - we can use the room!"
"Ouch! Can you put the phone like in another room the next time you scream? I can't believe this! It is so cool! How are we gonna tell the guys?"
"I don't know yet. We gotta figure out a reason why we'd have all this stuff without giving everything away. Start thinking."
"Yeah, Scott. Like there's a good reason Farmer John has a recording studio under his barn. Um, let's see ... musta been there when we bought the place. …that's good. Or, ... it was aliens that did it! No! I got it! Well, sonny, we had to fill that big hole with somethin'. Didn't want the pigs falling in there."
Scott was laughing. "Why can't we say it was there when we bought the place, but we just discovered it?"
"Why not say your Dad makes part of his living renting it out to famous rock stars?"
"That's not bad. Like who ... @@@@@?"
"Good one! That's perfect! I mean, what if anybody notices something of his there anyhow? It's a great excuse. I been seeing your Dad for four years, and I would'a never guessed. And he's my idol. Nobody else will get it!"
"I'll talk to him."
"Do you know what a queer is? I mean, I never saw Davey not like somebody before."
"I told Dad what Dave said, and he's talkin' to him now. He got pretty mad."
"For saying that?"
"I think for thinking it, or something."
"Do you know what a faggot is?"
"I was talkin' to Nick and that's what he called himself."
"Yeah. I looked up both words, but it don't make sense. I'm gonna ask my Dad when he gets home. I gotta go get something to eat. I'm starved."
"Ok, see ya tomorrow."
I went down to the kitchen and made a couple of PB and J sandwiches. My Dad came in while I was eating.
"Couldn't wait, huh?"
"I was hungry. Dad ... can we talk?"
"Sure. What's up?"
"I'm starting to think there's a lot I don't know. I mean, I know about sex and stuff. Babies, and all that. But there's more, isn't there?"
"Um, Joey. Let me get something to eat, then I'll come up and we'll talk. You go get your questions together. I'll just be a couple of minutes."
I went back upstairs. I was sitting there trying to form some coherent questions when he tapped on my door and came in. He sat next to me on the bed and said "Fire away!"
"Well ... um ... I don't know what's good and bad. I mean ... what's allowed. You know, Dad."
"Joey ... first, you don't have to be so bashful about this. All people are sexual beings, and I don't know if there really is a good and bad as long as both people like what they're doing."
He put his hand on his chin and thought for a moment, "I would think that the only bad sex is where one person forces it on the other. Or uses bribes, or threats, or something like that. Or lies. I guess those are all kinds of force or coercion, anyhow."
"What if it's only one person?"
"Oh, Jeez, Joey. I'm sorry," he chuckled. What do you guys call it these days? Jerkin' off?"
"Ever heard Bop the Baloney?"
I laughed. "How about wanking?"
"Veddy British. Slam the salami? Scud buffing? There's a million terms, Joe. It all means the same thing. Masturbation's the proper word. It applies to males and females, and it's a normal thing, especially at your age. There's a lot of old wive's tales about it, but it's not going to hurt anything. And it saves your Mom a lot of laundry."
"If you didn't masturbate, you'd have a lot more wet dreams. At least you have some control when you do it yourself. I don't want to embarrass you, but you seem to be pretty tidy with it."
"I mean, you don't leave any evidence. I used to use my socks, until my Dad mentioned it. Said my mother was so tired of it she was going to turn me into Huck Finn and make me go barefoot."
The fact is, I was embarassed. My Dad used to jerk off? And talked about it like it was nothing? It was humiliating. But I needed to know more.
"Um ... what if you don't do it by yourself all the time? I mean ... what if someone else is there?"
"You mean you and Scotty? You should put pillows behind your heads! You guys rattle the whole house! Are you asking about with somebody else, or to somebody else?"
"Both, I guess."
"I think most everybody does it with their friends sometimes, and I guess it's not unusual to do it to them other times. I mean, horny is horny, and you gotta take care of that. If curiosity takes over, well I guess it's normal enough to experiment with each other sometimes. What's bothering you, Joey?"
"Dad, I guess you figured out that Scott's been doin' it with me. The other night Nick did it to me, and I liked it. Every time me and Scott almost did, I got embarrassed and stopped. And he's my best friend. I didn't even try to stop Nick, and I hardly know him. It felt so good. Oh, God ... I can't believe I'm tellin' you this. Anyhow, I was tryin' to make Nick feel better. About himself ... his life. I wanted him to be my friend - I wanted to be his friend. And I thought I was doin' good. He was laughing, holding my hand. Just like Scott. Then we laid in a pile of leaves and ... this is hard to talk about. We started messing around and the next thing I know I shot off in my pants. Sorry, Dad."
"What's a queer?"
"Queer is a term ... sort of a street term ... for a homosexual. A homosexual is a person who likes people of their own sex - not just as friends - but as someone to love and have sex with. Women can be queers as well as men. Most people will be attracted to the opposite sex. With homosexuals that doesn't happen. Men like men, and women like women. Sexuality is a funny thing, Joey".
He smiled, "I mean, I can't stand hanging around with your mother's friends - like at a wedding shower or something. She'd go bonkers if I ever made her come and shoot pool with my pals. All men like to be with other men, and women like to be with women. Except when it comes to actual sex itself. Then, men like their women and vice versa. The only thing different with homosexuals is that they like their own sex all the time, if you get what I'm saying."
"I think I do. If a queer is a homosexual, then what's a faggot?"
"It's just another term for queer. You can call male and female homosexuals queer, but faggot is just for men. It's a derogatory term. Female homosexuals are called lesbians. Don't ask, because I have no idea where the word came from. Actually, these days the homosexual community is using the word 'gay' for themselves. It might be a better term for you to use if you're going to be talking about this. Where are you hearing all these words, anyhow?"
"Davey called Nick a queer today. Not to his face, to me and Scott. Then Nick called himself a faggot. I never saw Dave not like somebody before. But he sure didn't like Nick ... and he said he doesn't even know him. And I don't think Nick even likes himself."
"Joe, I don't know if I can help you with this. A lot of people, through ignorance or fear, hate gays. They're afraid if they like them as people, other people will think they're the same way. I work with some people who happen to be gay and it doesn't bother me. They do their jobs and I do mine. The bartender where I shoot pool is that way. He doesn't bother anybody. He's a nice guy, and nobody really cares. But every once in a while some asshole comes in and wants to make something out of it. The regulars take care of it there, but there have been times when somebody with a real wild hair across his ass comes back and makes real trouble for him. He's actually been beaten up just for who he likes. More than once."
"So I should look out for Nick?"
"You should all look after Nick. He seems like a nice kid."
"Dad - he's got problems. His stepfather hates him. I guess he must know. He doesn't beat him up or anything, but he still hurts him. He's afraid all the time, and he doesn't get along with anybody because it makes him so mad."
"Joey, this is tricky, for you, anyhow. Nick might be falling for you ... in a sexual way. I can see you just want him to love you like Scotty does. You've got to talk to him. Let him know you care for him, but don't feel the same way he does. It's not going to be easy. And for God's sake, if he gets upset bring him here to talk to me. Don't let him out of your sight if he's feeling real bad. Do you know who his stepfather is?"
"No, but his daughter's name is Mandy Fleming. That must be his name, too."
"Ok. His father's name is Mandy."
"Dad … Fleming!"
"Just kidding. Got more questions?"
"D-do you think I'm queer?"
"From what you've said, no. Actually, I don't think you're anything yet. A random act with someone of the same sex doesn't mean a damn thing. Especially at your age. If you can find somebody that says he hasn't done something like that, unless they're a hermit, you can look him in the eye and call him a liar. You have my permission. More?"
"Oh, yeah. Scott called. His Dad's gonna let us use his music room! He wants to talk to you and Mr. Hensley about it. I'm staying there tomorrow. I'll let you know what's going on."
My Dad gave me the biggest hug ever. "Finally! The old bastard's gonna let loose a little! Joey, do you know what this means?"
"Joey, Paul's probably the best friend I ever had. When we were kids we were as tight as you and Scott. When he came back to town, we got together again. For a while. Then his damnable secret came between him and everybody."
He put his hand on my shoulder, "I mean, we all honored it, but we started to get scared of saying anything. I mean, new people came to town and usually people who have lived somewhere for a while would try to help out. You know - just be nice. Be neighborly. It's a small town. But not here! No! We had his fuckin' secret! Sorry 'bout the language. It got easier and easier to keep because all us old friends stopped talking. Stopped talking to each other. Because nobody wanted to let out the damned secret! Scotty was exactly right when he got mad at him for it that day. Who cares? Who the fuck cares anymore? You and Scotty done good. Real good. You got him to think about things. The guy's got an ocean of money, and he's trying to live like a truck farmer. And for what? The world's changed. He's your idol, Joey. Do you really deep down give a flying shit if he's got seven kids and grows tomatoes? I mean, do you?"
"I don't care how he lives."
"Joey. There's one more thing. You're fourteen. It's really normal for you to be feeling sexual urges. But it's way too young for you to be acting on them - I mean getting into sexual relationships … with anybody. I think you're being smart and trying to let friendship come first. In the end, it's friendship that counts. The same's gonna be true when you start dating. It's way more important to have a friend than to have a fast fuck. Sex can become the be-all and end-all of a relationship. I guess that's ok if it's all you're looking for, but it's not enough to base anything on for the long term. Sex should be the icing on the cake of a loving relationship. And it's really an adult type decision. I can't tell you when you'll be ready to make it, but for the time being, um, try to keep it in hand." He winced at his bad joke, then smiled at me.
I hugged my Dad. I tried to make it the best hug I ever gave him. I really loved my Dad. Really!
"Why are you talking dirty to me? I'm gonna have to tell Mom."
"You little shit!"
He left the room laughing.
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