Copyright © by Driver
The next morning Rafe showed up at around nine, and it turned out that Ken knew his father pretty well from work. As soon as Rafe got out of the car I pulled him aside and asked if he had any pot or anything with him. He thought I had some so he didn't bring anything. I told him why I didn't, and it didn't matter to him. Rafe was kind of quiet at first, but a ride in the dune buggy and learning to drive it got him happy fast. He really hit it off with Tim. I kind of figured they would since they were both quiet guys. Everybody seemed to like him, anyhow.
Barry came by around noon and after lunch he took Rafe out in the dune buggy again. I guess they had either a long talk or a heck of a ride since they didn't come back for about two hours. I played the guitar with Ken for a while, then when Barry and Rafe got back we spent the rest of the afternoon taking turns with the duner and the dirt bikes. Rafe was fascinated by the cannon, so Ken packed it with M-80's and fired it off a couple of times. It was pretty much what passed as a quiet day at Ken's house. Ken had asked Rafe's parents to come back for dinner, so we all got to meet them. His father was kind of fat and bald, but I liked him. Ken said he was one of the best welders on the planet. He called him an artiste. Rafe asked Ken if he could come back the next day, which was fine with everyone. Sunday was pretty much a repeat of Saturday, except I cooked a colossal breakfast for everybody. Timmy kept holding on to me and thanking me for dumping the pot. Rafe got a ride home from my mother and I found out where he lived, which was in a pretty new apartment building.
The next morning when Rafe got on the bus he had an ear-to-ear grin.
"How'd you like it?"
"Oh, man! Thanks. I mean it. I never had so much fun. I wanna go back. I wanna keep goin' back!"
"I was surprised that Ken knows your father."
"Man, when Dad saw him there he got all excited. Ken's like his favorite person. He didn't know where he was bringin' me, really. When he found out it was Ken's house everything was fine. Everybody was really nice. You got great friends and I'm jealous."
"Kenny's not real happy with jealousy, 'specially about other people. Anyhow, they're your friends now. I think everybody likes you."
"Really? Man, if I could just be friends like you are I'd be in heaven. What you got goin' with Timmy, I mean, that must be great."
"It is. Friday he got all mad because of the pot I brought. I got mad because he was mad, but when he started to go home I got scared and chased after him. I dumped the whole bag in the pond and threw everything else away."
"I flushed mine Saturday night. I'm done with that shit."
We were pulling up to the school. I followed Rafe off the bus. Two guys started hassling him right away.
"Hey, fag boy. Want your ass kicked?"
Rafe kept walking. I was right behind him. One of the guys went around me and started yanking at Rafe's arm. I caught him so hard on the ear with a right that I knocked him out cold. The other kid knelt down beside him and I kicked him in the ass as hard as I could. He went flying on his face, then rolled over and looked at me.
"What? I thought you wanted your ass kicked. If you don't want somethin' don't ask for it."
Rafe and I turned and started walking towards the building. It had happened so fast we never even drew a crowd. "You okay?"
"I'm ok. I'm impressed, too. One punch, one kick and you got two down for the count."
"Yeah ... well ... you know."
"It ain't gonna work, Dave."
"Next time they'll have friends."
"So? I haven't been in a fight for almost three years. I need the practice."
Rafe shook his head, "You're a piece of work, man. Something else."
"See ya at lunch."
We got some stares at lunch, but nobody bothered us. After school we went and sat in the alley, this time with nothing to do but talk. Rafe looked at me. "Aren't you gonna ask about Barry? I mean, we talked for hours."
"I just figured it was private. It ain't my business."
"Well, a little of it is. He said how you said you cared about me and how happy he is that you care about anything. I guess you musta been a little ... um … difficult when your father died."
"I was difficult alright, but not exactly a little. I was being a major league prick."
Rafe laughed, "Will you stop with the big dick talk already? I am queer, ya know. Damn, boy!"
"Like hell you did."
"I did, Rafe. I mean I know you're gay an' I know Barry's gay. But I never seen either one of you doin' anythin' queer, or actin' like sissies. I mean, there ain't anythin' gay about ridin' a dirt bike or studyin' algebra'. It's just things we do, everybody does."
"That's why I'm so glad I talked to Barry. You're right. I guess you could forget. He said that love and sex are important, but time-wise it's not a big part of life. He's still waitin' for the right guy to come along. That's what I want to do. I just want to love somebody. I want to be just like you and Timmy."
Did I hear that right? "What? You think we're queer?"
"I didn't say that. I said you love each other. You care about each other. You guys are connected on a different level. I could see it right away. Even when I was alone with Tim he kept lookin' at you every time you were in sight and you were doin' the same thing. Just makin' sure everythin's all right. Everybody knows it. Everybody can see it."
"Everybody except me! You think we're in love?"
"I don't mean it that way. I mean the way Ken loves Barry. Not in love, like married people, but they still love each other, and so do you and Tim.":.
It doesn't happen very often, but I was stunned into silence while I thought about this. Everyone thought I loved Tim and he loved me? Why would they think that? Just because we know each other so well and watch out for each other? Because we worry about each other? Because we want good things for each other? I really admired Tim; I was proud of him, but I never told him that. Not out loud, anyhow. Then I thought about dumping my pot on Friday. How he hugged me for it. Like he was proud of me, glad for me. I was getting tears in my eyes.
"I guess I do kinda love the guy. I just never thought of it like that. But he's my best friend."
"Dave, he wouldn't be ... couldn't be if you guys didn't have love. That's what I gotta find. Maybe a little different than you, but somebody that I can love and can love me back."
"You can't be the only gay kid in school."
"That's what Barry said. And he said that everybody knowing about me can't hurt that part. I just gotta be more friendly and less afraid of people."
"You should talk to Ken, too. He taught me how to make friends, and it worked."
"What's the secret?"
"It ain't a secret. Just be a good person and other good people will come to you. It worked for me."
"Am I a bad person?"
"No way. You just gotta let your goodness show. Talk to Ken. I don't know how to say it."
"Ya know what?"
"When Barry said you cared about me, that was about the best thing I ever heard. I only just met you and you did something that nice. You're a real good kid, Dave. Does everybody out there know I'm gay?"
"Only if you told 'em. I only told Barry."
It was time to go and do homework. Rafe said he had a lot of homework and wouldn't be going out at night. I went home and knocked off mine, ate dinner and went back to the alley. I brought a hundred bucks with me. Eddie and Ron were already at the loading dock. They shared some pot with me and said they'd get me more. I asked where they got it but they wouldn't say. They did tell me I could go with them, then I'd know. We arranged it for the next night around five.
Rafe had been right. The next morning when the bus pulled up at school the two jerks from yesterday were there with three more guys. I told Rafe to stay on the bus for a minute, then I got off. I went up to the guy I'd kicked in the ass.
"You back for more?"
"You a fag, too?"
"No, and I don't like that word."
"Then why you protectin' that pretty boy?"
"You think he's cute?"
"No! He's a fuckin' queer!"
"He's my friend. Did you ever meet him?"
"Then you're a fag too."
"Look, asshole. If I was queer I'd stick somethin' besides my foot up your ass! What the fuck are you afraid of?"
"I ain't afraid of shit."
"Then why the fuck you need an army? How 'bout just you and me? Think you could do that, pussy? Need five guys to take on one freshman?"
"My fight's with the queer."
"I'm the one that kicked your ass. What'd he ever do?"
"He don't gotta do anythin'. He's a goddam queer!"
"Tell ya what. Pick your favorite goon and I'll take on both of ya. You win, you can have Rafe. I win you buy lunch and talk to him. All of you."
"Look. I'm five foot seven and a hundred thirty pounds. Any two of ya gotta be triple that. Odds are all in your favor, plus I got a sore hand from yesterday. Ya gotta go through me anyhow, so what's the big deal?"
"You're on! Where? When?"
"Here. Right now. Just two of you, right?"
"You got it! Lou, you sit on this little shit while I rip his balls off. The rest of you disappear."
"What's your name?"
"Me, too." I think I loosened some teeth when I hit him in the mouth. He went down. I took Lou out with a kick in the groin and a knee to the chin on his way down. There was a crowd this time. I looked around but didn't see anybody threatening. Lou looked pretty distressed, rolled up in a ball and crying. I knelt down to Dave. "You okay, man? You gotta learn not to turn your head into a punch."
"I didn't see it. Shit. You're good."
"So's Rafe. He'll make a great friend." I got up and started walking to the bus. Rafe was just climbing off. I turned to Dave. "See ya at lunch."
Rafe looked stunned. "I can't believe you did that! I saw the big guy coming at you and got up to help. When I got to the door they were both down. Where'd you learn how to do that?"
"My father. He was short, too, but he ran with a tough crowd."
"How'd it happen so fast, though? I mean it was like two seconds."
"It ain't a prize fight. If it lasted longer I might get hit too."
Rafe turned his puzzled face to me, and it turned into a little grin. "No tolerance for pain?"
"We really gonna have lunch with them?"
"If they show. I hope it's somethin' really chewy."
"Remind me not to get you mad."
They did show. They didn't have money to pay for us, so I let that ride as long as they sat with us. I'd love to say that everyone got friendly and cozy, but it didn't happen. Those guys might as well have been statues, but at least they had to listen to me and Rafe talking about dirt biking and homework. I apologized to Dave, Lou and Mike, who was the guy with two right ears. That surprised them, and they agreed to leave Rafe alone. It was better than nothing.
I got off at my own stop after school claiming homework, which I finished in about an hour. I left to meet Eddie and Ron at the bus stop they had mentioned. It's a little funny. I'd never once ridden on one of the city buses in fourteen years. I knew they were there, but had no idea where they went or how you told one from another. Eddie and Ron were already there, and we had about a ten minute wait for the bus we wanted, which was labeled Cambridge St. I'd never heard of it, but we got off pretty close to my old neighborhood and started walking towards the street I used to live on.
The guy we were going to meet was named Artie Loomis. He was living in my old house! I couldn't believe it as we turned in to the front walk. The new addition was just being framed out, but it was going to about double the size of the place.
"I used to live here!"
"No way! Artie just moved here a while ago."
Eddie rang the bell and in about a second a voice came from a speaker next to the door. "Around back. I'm at the pool."
We walked right through the addition. The pool area was beautiful. There were all nice flowers and plantings around it, several umbrella tables, a cabana and a bar. Artie wasn't a big man at all. He had shades on, so it was a little hard to tell how old he was, but he had long black hair and dark skin. He was pretty skinny and wore cutoff jeans and a t-shirt. We walked up to him and he held out his hand. "Hi. Artie Loomis."
I shook his hand. "Dave Devino. I used to live here."
"Devino. Sure. I knew your father. Lotta changes, huh?"
"I'll say. This is beautiful."
"So. What can I do for ya?"
"Um. I never did this. I'm not sure what to say."
"Just say what you want. Pot? Hash? Mesc? Coke? Smack? I got it all."
"Um, just some pot I guess."
"How much? Nickel, Dime?"
"Nickel's five bucks. Dime's ten bucks. So on."
"Uh, twenty, I guess. And papers if you got that."
"I don't do supplies, but I got some paper you can have. You can get that shit at a tobacco shop. Slap me the cash and I'll fix you up."
I handed him twenty bucks. "I'll be right back. Swim if you want."
"I don't have a bathing suit."
"Bring one next time. You can come and swim anytime you want." He disappeared into the house and came back with a plastic bag just like I'd had last week. "Want a drink or something?"
The doorbell rang again and he went to the intercom and said the same thing he'd said to us. Four older kids, around eighteen or nineteen, walked around and joined us. They were there to buy, too.
Artie brought out some joints and handed a couple out. We started smoking and passing them around. More people came. Artie pointed out a beer tap and told us to help ourselves. It was like a party in no time. Some guys changed and went swimming. We were getting really smashed. I ended up at a table with kids I didn't know, but everyone was friendly and having a good time. I was totally butchering some of my favorite jokes from Ken and Don. We laughed ourselves foolish anyhow. After a while, Eddie came and said we'd have to go if we wanted to get the last bus. Artie walked out to the street with us and told me I could come over anytime, I didn't have to be buying something. We started walking down the street. I was staggering a little but feeling happy.
"Artie's cool, man. That was really fun."
"Yeah. Everybody likes the guy. He treats ya right."
"Where do you guys get papers and shit?"
"There's a place right near the bus stop. I'll show ya."
When we got back we went to the shop for rolling papers and I bought a new lighter. I went home and grabbed some sandwich bags from the kitchen, then went to my room to divide the pot into smaller batches. I stashed most of it in my dresser next to my money. I counted my money while I was there. With what was in my pocket I had close to six hundred bucks, mostly from working with Barry. I wanted to try rolling my own joint and smoking it but I didn't know what to do about the smell. I was tired anyhow, so I just went to bed.
I was up early. I got ready for school, then went and sat on the back steps downstairs and rolled a joint just for myself. I hadn't done one by myself before and dropped a lot of stuff, but it was finally smokable. I lit it up and started sucking on it. I was used to passing one around, so smoking the whole thing made my throat burn. I was totally stoned, though. Being alone, things didn't seem funny, just kind of important. There was some pretty elegant looking gravel near my feet and some gorgeous weeds were growing through the cracks in the walk. I was starving. I went upstairs and ate two bowls of cheerios with bananas while my mother made eggs and toast.
It seemed like the perfect way to start the day.
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