Castle Roland

A Christmas Wish

by Hans Schreiber


Chapter 4

Posted: N/A

Joey's hands were as cold as the tits of a sixty year old Siberian Nun at Christmas. The temperature had dipped quickly along with the setting sun as it tends to do in the high desert in the wintertime. Joey had just finished washing the desert dust off his beat-up, faded, white Corolla and rolled up the garden hose. He put the sponge and bucket away in the garage. He climbed in the car and started the motor while he listened to some tunes on his system. It was a way nice system for such an old car. The speakers he'd gotten from Pete's family last Christmas were amazing in the small car. He'd upgraded his head unit in the dash and added a small amp, and it all added up to a nice, clear sound even at high decibels.

Joey listened to the top hits station for a while but then switched it over to the station playing Christmas songs all day, every day. He listened and even sang along to a few until "All I Want for Christmas" came on. That one was just too painful to listen to and he punched it off. The lightened mood he was beginning to feel was immediately killed. His thoughts turned again to the anniversary of Pete's death. Tomorrow marked one full year since his best friend and one night lover passed from this life.

Joey held his fingers up to the warm air vents for a while longer, sitting in silence just thinking about Pete. He remembered how hard it was being at the funeral. Pete had been so worried about dying and everyone seeing him in the casket with no hair. For some reason, the idea of that had really bothered him, and Joey was pleased to see that his family buried him wearing the purple and gold Lakers cap that Joey gave him for his last birthday present. He'd loved it and wore it practically all the time even lying in bed sometimes. The year before Pete's death had been hard. There were times that Pete was so sick, he would be angry at the world and lash out at Joey for no reason. Joey always understood it was the cancer talking and never took offense. He'd been the only friend to hang in there for Pete. Over time, all the other kids from school drifted off. Joey was happy he never quit on him. But, how could he? He was his best friend. In fact, after their last night together, he realized he loved him.

Life seemed unbearable since Pete's death, almost meaningless. Lately, Joey was just going through the motions more or less without any real joy. Even Christmas, a time Joey used to love, had been spoiled by Pete's death. He was so thankful that he had agreed to Pete's plan for a last Christmas wish. Pete knew his time was short, especially after he was visited by his Grandpa Eddie one night. Joey half wondered if it had only been a dream or delirium from the illness and maybe Pete let it take the fight out of him. But there was no question that Pete believed it had been real and that his wonderful grandpa had actually visited him in his room. Joey remembered Grandpa Eddie. He'd gone with Pete to his grandpa's horse ranch a few times to visit and the old man was so kind and seemed to be able to read thoughts. He just made you feel good to be around him.

A random memory was triggered back when he and Pete were like twelve years old, of watching one of the studs mount a mare and start humping her. It was crazy to watch but sort of uncomfortable to see it happening, and he popped a boner in his shorts with Pete and his grandpa right there. Sensing his and Pete's embarrassment, Grandpa Eddie put his arms around their shoulders and said, "Isn't the power to create life a magnificent thing? You boys have that power too, and it's a natural and special gift. It's a lot of fun, too. Don't abuse the power and be careful about how you share it. But don't ever be embarrassed of it; God gave it to us to enjoy and make our lives more joyful and happy, especially when it's shared with someone you truly love. When you share it with someone you love, it creates an unbreakable bond."

Joey had only shared it with one person in his young life and Grandpa Eddie was so right about it creating an unbreakable bond. The problem was that Joey had shared it with Pete on the last night of his life and now Pete was gone and Joey was left behind. It was so unfair. The anger welled up inside him and Joey punched the roof of his little Corolla screaming out, "WHY?" He laid his head back against the headrest and rubbed his knuckles. He shut the car off and walked inside, shutting the door unnecessarily hard behind him. Sadness overwhelmed him and tears stung at the corners of his eyes. He wouldn't actually cry. He just got to the verge and then stayed on the edge of doing so for hours at a time. If he could cry, maybe he could cry it out, but he just stayed on the edge almost as if he was perpetually masturbating but never reaching the satisfaction of a good cum. Right now, he could use both a good cum and a good cry, but both would have to wait.

"Dinner is in ten minutes, Joey. Go wash up," his mother said. Joey grunted an acknowledgment and walked to the bathroom. He kicked the door closed with the back of his foot as he walked in and lifted the toilet seat. Joey fished his dick out of his fly and held it as the dark yellow stream of urine found its way out. Holding his penis reminded him of being held by Pete on that special night. He could almost feel his best friend's hand gripping it again. He would never ever forget how it felt for the first time another human held his most private body part.

He remembered the moment of climax as he experienced a mind numbing orgasm and blew his load into Pete's suckling mouth as his penetrated anus clenched tightly on the vibrator. Joey was halfway hard by the end of the piss, and he was glad when he finished, so he could take the pressure off it and let it spring fully upward. He left it hanging out while he washed his hands for dinner. He splashed some water on his face and maneuvered his erection back into the confines of his boxers and jeans. "So damn unfair," he muttered.

Joey plopped down hard in the kitchen chair and pulled his cap off, setting it next to his plate. No hats at the dinner table were allowed. His mom was a stickler for manners and Joey had learned plenty. He was genuinely kind and caring and very polite. Basically, he was a parent's dream. He rarely made trouble and got good grades. He was reasonably athletic and a hard worker. In spite of all that, he had his parents very worried. The obvious depression he'd been experiencing for a year now was getting worse instead of better. Whenever they tried to discuss it, Joey would either ignore them or actually lash out. There had been several tense exchanges that ended in Joey heaping self loathing, over how he treated his parents, onto his already steaming shit pile of sadness and anger.

He wasn't hungry and even the temptation of his mom's famous spaghetti with sausage meatballs didn't snap his mood. He pushed a meatball around his plate for a while until his mother said, "Scott's coming home tomorrow. Isn't that exciting?"

"Yeah, sure."

"Well, I'm excited even if you're not," she whined.

"Joey," his father began, "you could stand to show a little excitement over your brother's homecoming. He's been gone to school nearly five months. You should be excited to see your own brother."

"I said yeah."

"Well you could stand to put a little enthusiasm into it," his dad said.

"Yay, Great, Woo-hoo!"

Joey's father's shoulders drooped, and he shook his head in disappointment at Joey's sarcasm. "Enough is enough. You've been moping around for a whole year over Pete's death. It's time you got over it and started living your own life again. You're more wrapped up in a dead friend than you are about seeing your own brother. It's not right."

"Do we have to talk about this now?"

"You never want to talk about it. I'm not putting it off any longer. You need to go see that shrink, the one that Bob at work told me about. You have to sort this thing out," his dad firmly stated.



"No!" Joey emphasized. "Look, just let me get past the anniversary of Pete's death and past Christmas. I promise I'll try harder to get over it next year."

"That's another thing," his dad complained, "You've practically ruined Christmas for us. It's impossible to have any Christmas spirit when you're moping around half the time and won't even give us any idea of what you want for Christmas."

"What I want for Christmas you can't give me. Nobody can, all right?"

"Joey, no one can bring Pete back," Joey's mom said sweetly, "He's gone. He's gone forever and I understand you were close to him and it was hard for you, but you have your own life to live. You have to get over it and move on. So c'mon, think of a Christmas wish, one little thing you want that could make you happy."

"I wish … I wish I was dead. I wish I could just die and be with Pete again. Wrap that up and stick it under the damn Christmas tree." Joey pushed away from the table as his mother burst into tears. Joey grabbed his hat and rushed out the door. He wiped the tears from his eyes and fumbled with the key to his Corolla. He pulled out and then burned off down the street, leaving his frustrated and angry father behind, standing in the middle of the street waving his arms angrily.

For a while, he just drove around aimlessly, having no clear destination in mind. He was fuming inside. He wasn't really angry at his mom or dad, he was angrier at himself for how he'd just behaved. It was like he couldn't control his recurring rage over Pete's death and it just boiled out of him sometimes. Suddenly, he found himself at the funeral parlor on the other side of town. He pulled into the empty parking lot and shut off his engine and lights. He could hear the music from Pete's funeral in his head, hymns of praise to God. That made him angrier still. How could anyone praise a God who let someone as kind and wonderful and caring as Pete suffer so much and then die so young? He remembered the pastor's sermon and talk about life after death - how spirits live on. Of course, everyone tried to take comfort in the idea that Pete was such a wonderful kid, that he was surely in heaven.

Over the past year when things had gotten really bad, Joey had toyed with the idea of suicide. One thing that kept Joey from committing the act was hearing someone say that if you killed yourself, you automatically went to hell. That would mean he'd never see Pete ever again if the whole heaven and hell thing was true. Joey really didn't have a religious background and didn't know what to make of heaven or hell. He wasn't sure about the whole spiritual thing and life after death. He hoped Pete was in heaven, he deserved to be there if one existed. He feared that more likely, Pete was just rotting away in the cemetery. Joey remembered loading the cherry wood casket into the back of the shiny, black hearse. One just like it was parked behind the mortuary and the sight of it bothered Joey. He wondered to himself what kind of person becomes a mortician. He wondered if they grow up fascinated with dead things. He thought about how there were probably a bunch of dead bodies in the building waiting to be buried and that sent a creepy chill through him.

He traveled from the mortuary to the cemetery. He'd visited there many times in the past year. He parked outside the gate since it was closed for the evening. He climbed the rock wall and took the familiar path to where Pete's body lay decaying beneath a large oak tree. When he got to the spot, he took his shoes and socks off and then sat on the Morales' grey headstone. Julio and Maria Morales had lived into their eighties and raised five children, all of whose names were memorialized in the granite monument. They were buried at the foot of Pete's grave and their headstone now served as a comfortable spot to sit while he talked to Pete. Pete's stone, facing Joey, was a polished brown marble with the dates of his birth and premature death carved into it. A picture of a basketball and a hoop were on it, Pete's favorite sport and second greatest passion.

Joey thought Pete's parents had chosen the best spot in the whole cemetery for Pete's grave. It was next to a row of large oak trees. A perfect sitting branch hung over the polished headstone. Pete loved to climb trees. They had spent many hours sitting on the branch of a tree talking about their dreams and plans. They discussed everything together such as what they wanted for Christmas or which girls had the most cooties. Later, as they got older, they discussed which NBA team they wanted to play for and which girls they wanted to try and get cooties from. As was his custom, when he visited Pete's grave, Joey wiggled his toes in the cool grass covering Pete's resting place. "I took my shoes off for you. I can almost feel the coffin lid lifting up from your boner. I miss you, Pete."

It took a while for Joey to compose himself before he could go on. "Pete, I don't know what to do. I just miss you and I can't get over it. I'm not sure I really want to. I try not to act way sad all the time so my parents won't worry about me, but I just can't help it. I wish Grandpa Eddie could put his arm around me and explain it all. I hope you're in heaven if there is one. I wish I could be there with you. My mom asked me what I wished for this Christmas. I told her I just wanted to be with you. It really is my Christmas wish. I just want to be with you and hear your voice again, to feel your touch again. I want to tell you in person how much I love you. I love you Pete, with all my heart. I can never love anyone ever again like I loved you. I didn't even realize how much I loved you until we shared that night together and then after I lost you, I just …" Joey sighed and put his face in his hands and tried to cry. But the tears wouldn't flow, just the ache of a broken heart and the burning anger raged inside.

Joey was bathed in moonlight by the time he put his shoes back on and climbed the wall. He drove home with the radio tuned to a classical music station. It was about the only thing that soothed him. When he got home, he was met at the door by his mom and dad, who had been frantically worried about him. His mom hugged him and burst into tears. His father was angry for what he'd put his mom through and started yelling at him for his inconsiderate words and actions. Joey took it for a while then brushed his mother aside and stormed off to his room. His father followed and banged on the locked door. Joey lay on his bed staring at the ceiling wishing he could die. He groaned as his father forced his way into the room with a screw driver.

Joey only half listened to his father's tirade and refused to get drawn into the argument. After asking for the fourth time what Joey had to say for himself, while his mother cried in the background begging for his father to stop and just leave it be, his father erupted, "Dammit! I mean it. Next week you're going to the shrink, like it or not." He stormed out. Joey's mom looked on for a minute longer and then retreated along with her husband.

Joey just sat there for the longest time staring at the wall. Finally, he got up, closed and locked his door. He stuck a chair back under the doorknob for additional security and went to his closet. He opened the footlocker in the corner of the closet and dug down past his scrapbooks, past his old baseball mitt and past the plaques and awards from school. In the bottom was the box. He'd kept it there for just such a time. He was in need, and he was ready to use it. He hoped his mother wouldn't discover him, he didn't care if his dad did or not.

He set the box on his dresser and stripped naked. He pulled out the manila envelopes and the white negligee. He slipped it on and took the bottle of lube and the vibrator out. He lay on his bed and poured some lube onto the vibrator and then twisted the end cap to start the soft buzzing sound. He slowly slid it into himself and drew it back and forth over the spot. With his other hand, he wrapped it around his pillow, pulling it against his body while he jacked himself slow and gentle. With his eyes closed, he imagined it was Pete's body pressed up against his as he relived that miraculous moment they shared together when Pete used the vibrator to drive him into wild euphoria while sucking him off.

Joey murmured Pete's name as the erotic feelings built to a crescendo. Soon the vibrations within his rectum had it pulsating and twisting in knots. "Fuck me, fuck me Pete. Fuck me again like you fucked me before. All I ever want is you, Pete. Cum for me Pete, cum for me now."

Joey quivered and shook in the power of his fantasy driven orgasm. Thick sprays of hot sperm spread over his naked chest. In anticipation of the explosion, he had lifted the negligee up to his neck and the fur lining was tickling him under the chin. Joey pulled the vibrator from his ass and sniffed it. Setting it aside, he took the washcloth he'd left at the ready by the headboard and wiped up with it. He pulled the pillow to his face and kissed it. "Happy anniversary, Pete. All I'll ever want for Christmas is you." The afterglow was replaced with the impending dreaded realization that he could never have the only thing he wanted for Christmas. No one, not Santa, not his parents and not even the Christ Child could bring him what he wanted.

Joey had just returned all the items back to the box when his father knocked on the door again. Joey ignored it. He hid the box in the large chest just as his father was trying to push his way in. "Move whatever's blocking the door and let me in," he demanded.

"Go away. I don't want to talk."

"No. Let me in, now."

Joey sighed and walked over and pulled the chair away as his father pushed his way into the room. It always felt like a violation of his only sanctuary in the house when his father insisted on coming into his room. It stole what precious little ownership of some space on earth that he had for his own. "What now?"

"Why are you naked?"

"Because, I want to be. I was alone in my room until you barged in, so if you don't want to see me naked, don't invade my privacy."

Joey could see the forced restraint in his father's face. "I just came in to apologize. I'm not backing off the shrink thing, but your mom thought I was too harsh and I should understand how hard it is for you right now being … well, you know, being that time of year when it all happened. I'll hold off until the New Year, but then you're going. Is that all right?"

"Dad, I'm sorry too. I don't want to feel and act like this. I can't help it. A shrink's not going to help. I … I just need to …" Joey stopped short of telling him what he really felt, what he feared, what he desperately wanted. "I'll go see the shrink next year if it'll make you and mom happy, okay?"

"Okay son. That's all I'm asking."

"But you'll lay off me until then?"

"Yes. I won't say another word. I promise."

"Thanks." A hug would have been appropriate, but given Joey's state of dress, neither of them wanted to attempt it. Finally, his dad thrust an awkward hand out and Joey shook it. His father turned and left. Joey put a pair of boxers on and crawled in bed. Somehow, Joey sensed he'd never make it to visit the shrink.

It was already light outside when Joey woke up. He just lay in bed for a while wishing he could drift back into the peaceful bliss of sleep. It wasn't going to happen though and he knew he had to get up and face the day. Of all the days he'd wished he could just sleep through, this was it. Finally, his full bladder forced him to slide out and sit up. He brushed his long hair out of his eyes and looked at the picture on his dresser of him and Pete. Pete's broad, cheerful smile mocked him. Joey stood up and lifted the framed picture to eye level and stared into Pete's sparkling eyes. They were so full of life and hope. He missed him so much. Joey's bladder demanded relief, so he set the picture back down and trotted to the bathroom.

After his lengthy piss, Joey returned to his bedroom and lay back on the bed with his hands tucked under his neck, staring at the ceiling. The first day of Christmas break should have been exciting, but it just meant that he wouldn't have the diversion of school to keep his mind off Pete. He still had his part time job at the Pizza Man restaurant to keep him busy. Memories flooded his mind. He tried to dwell on the good ones. He got an idea and jumped out of bed, pulled on some pants and a shirt, and slipped into rainbow sandals. He loved the feel of the soft tan leather on his feet. His mom greeted him and offered to make him breakfast. "No, thanks, I'll just have cereal. I got some things I want to do this morning. He poured a heaping bowl of Cap'n Crunch Peanut Butter cereal into a bowl and inhaled it.

"Remember, your brother should be home around noon. You'll be home for that won't you?" Mom asked. She had a way of asking questions that weren't really questions. They were more of expectations stated in the form of a question like "You weren't planning on leaving those clothes on the floor, right?"

"I should be back by then."

"Should be?"

"I will be back by then. That better?" That made her smile.

"Much better. Bye."

Joey drove the short distance to the grade school where he and Pete had attended. The gate was open and a few cars were in the lot. He assumed some teachers were there finishing up things for the Christmas break. He wandered onto the playground and remembered playing tag and tetherball. Pete was tetherball champion and if you ever beat him it was good for some major bragging rights back in class. He had a knack for timing his hits on the ball just right as it swung through his space. He'd moved in during the first week of fourth grade and joined Mrs. Mackay's class. They'd become instant friends and almost inseparable.

Joey sat on a swing and stared up at the top rail where the chains to the swings were attached. It looked so much lower than he remembered it as a young boy. A phantom pain shot through his nuts. He remembered walking across the bar on a dare and slipping. The sudden, shocking pain of cracking his tiny peanuts on the silver metal bar had left him stunned and the other kids said he did a sort of slow motion roll to the side and dropped to the ground. He'd landed on his left arm and snapped the bone between the wrist and elbow. It had been a compound fracture and just before slipping into shock, his mind logged an image of the bloody bone poking out of the skin and the sounds of girls screaming. He didn't remember the ambulance ride or anything else until he woke up in the hospital looking into the worried face of his mother.

Pete had warned him against it. He told him it was stupid to do things just because someone dared you to. As usual, he was right. It had taken a long time for the break to heal and there was still a lump and a scar where the bone had ripped through the skin. Joey remembered how he wanted to try and cross the bar again but never got up the courage. He looked around and found himself alone. He leaned back and tugged on the chains, then kicked his feet backward and swung. He hadn't been on a swing for a long time. He enjoyed the small thrill of reaching the pinnacle of the arc and experiencing the momentary weightlessness before descending. He swung freely for a bit then launched himself forward landing on his feet and running a few steps to get his balance. How he loved jumping from a swing and how often he and Pete had tried to best each other on how far they could jump.

Joey walked to the A-frame support and shimmied up the metal pole. He straddled the cross bar and then got first to his knees and then to his feet. He began walking like on a tightrope across the bar. Two steps into it, he reached the fateful spot where he had fallen. He wavered a bit then pressed on. At three quarters of the way, he nearly lost balance, but he regained it and quick stepped to the end where he jumped down and did an impact roll onto his back. He laid there in the rubber mulch and smiled pleasantly up at the bar he'd just conquered. "Did you see that Pete?" He asked out loud. "I made it."

He got up and brushed himself off and heard a noise behind him. It was Mrs. Mackay clucking her tongue "Tsk, tsk tsk. Joey are you trying to break your arm again?"

Joey wheeled around and smiled. "Hi, Mrs. Mackay. So you remember me?"

"You are one student I'll never forget. You scared the life out of me that day you broke your arm and then went into shock. It was the scariest day of my entire teaching career. What brings you here today? I hope you didn't come just to conquer that little stunt you just pulled."

"No, actually I just kind of did that on the spur of the moment. The real reason I came over was to reminisce about times I spent with my best friend, Pete. It's the first anniversary of his death." Even as Joey said it, the sadness overtook him again, and he had to look away to wipe his eyes.

"Oh, I'm so sorry. I heard about Pete's death. That is so unfortunate. He was such a wonderful, sweet boy. I remember you two were very close. We never know when our time will come. We need to appreciate each day we have."

"I guess."

"Well, I'm afraid I need to lock the gate."

"Oh, all right. I'm ready to go now anyway."

Mrs. Mackay laid a gentle hand on Joey's shoulder and said, "I'm sorry for the loss of your friend."

Joey just nodded, fighting back tears and gave the kind teacher the best smile of appreciation he could muster up. "Thanks," he mumbled and headed toward the gate. He'd only driven around the corner when he made another stop. This time it was at the neighborhood market. He went in and straight back to the bakery department. Joey walked slowly past the glass case and then pointed to the two cookies he wanted. Both were sugar cookies. One was shaped like a candy cane and had red and white colored sugary sparkles on it and the other was in the shape of a bell adorned with green and red crystals. He took the white sack from the clerk and bought a chocolate milk to go with them. He went out and sat on the bench in front of the store like he and Pete had done so many times.

When Pete was visiting his house, they would often walk home together and stop at this store for a treat. Joey savored the subtle sweetness and rough texture of the cookies on his tongue. He loved the feeling of the cold, wet smoothness of the chocolate milk washing over his taste buds and chasing the cookie crumbs down his throat. Two things Pete loved were chocolate milk and ketchup. Joey swore that Pete would happily put ketchup on ice cream if it was available.

Joey drove over to the junior high and walked around the fenced perimeter. He stopped and stared at the gym. He recalled dressing out in his gym clothes next to Pete and wondering to himself what his buddy's penis looked like. He remembered the day Pete had pulled him aside by the gym and told him, almost breathlessly, that he'd started growing some hairs above his dick. Joey felt a little bad how he'd stolen the moment by bragging about having a small bush of hair down there. Joey remembered purposely standing next to Pete at the urinals in the gym where there weren't any partitions in between and sneaking glances at Pete's dick while he peed. All he could really tell was that it was pretty much the same size as his and they were both circumcised.

Joey and Pete didn't talk much about their personal sexual discoveries after that, not even the magical time as they progressed from dry orgasms to spurting out watery cum. It would have been so easy back then as their hormones directed their thoughts and conversations more and more toward sexual stuff to suggest becoming jack off buds as Joey's brother, Scott, assumed they were. That was just lost opportunity now, watery cum under the bridge so to speak. It seemed odd now to Joey that they hadn't found the courage to bring it up since they'd shared pretty much every other intimate detail of their lives and feelings with each other.

The final stop was the high school. Joey parked outside the gym and thought about how excited they had been to make the JV basketball team instead of just the freshman team in their first year. It was even more exciting to play on the Varsity team as Juniors until Pete got too sick and had to quit. Pete seemed to miss more school than he attended that year. Joey remembered slogging from class to class to pick up Pete's make up work. Joey marveled at Pete's bravery to try and attend school between chemo treatments with no hair and little strength. People looked at him weird and avoided him from personal embarrassment. Some assholes were even openly cruel to him.

Joey didn't hang around the high school very long. There were too few good memories there and way too many sad ones. Looking at his phone, he realized he needed to get home before his brother arrived, so he wouldn't disappoint his mom. Joey and Scott had never been very close even though they were only a little over two years and one grade apart. Scott had repeated seventh grade, where he discovered girls, booze and pot. The two of them were courteous to each other and didn't fight all that much, but they weren't the friends they could have been. Scott was just so much different from Joey. Scott is the kind of person who does just enough to get by. He never put any effort into school or sports or anything else for that matter. He'd gotten into a junior college that took almost anyone and still had no clear direction about what he intended to do with his life.

Joey, on the other hand, always threw himself wholeheartedly into everything he undertook. He had no interest in the party lifestyle that Scott loved and basically lived for. Scott invited Joey to come along to some of the parties, but soon quit trying when Joey turned him down over and over again. The few Joey had attended just annoyed him at the stupid behavior of his brother and his friends. Joey only got drunk twice and it made him hopelessly sick. The loose, slutty girls that attended the parties disgusted Joey.

Joey got back home before Scott. He lay on his bed and stared at the clock wishing it would be time to go to work, so he could have a diversion for his thoughts. He worried that Christmas break was going to be hell. An hour later, Scott pulled in to shouts of joy from his mother.

Joey sighed and got up to go meet him. He arrived at the front door to find Scott pressed in his mom's embrace. Two large plastic trash bags flanked Scott on the floor. "Geez, mom, don't squeeze my guts out," Scott said.

Their mom let go of Scott and clasped her breast, "It's just so good to have my boy home again. I've missed you so much."

"Yeah, I missed you too. It's nice to be home for a while."

Their dad pulled Scott into a short embrace and asked, "So how you doing in school?"

"You know, okay, I guess," Scott answered noncommittally.

It being Joey's turn to greet his brother, he stepped forward and stuck his fist out. "Welcome home, dude."

"Thanks," Scott said bumping knuckles. "Mind helping me unload?"

"Umm, sure." Joey headed out the door thankful to avoid any more uncomfortable expectations of enthusiasm over Scott's return. There were five trash bags full of dirty clothes. When Joey dropped the last one on Scott's bedroom floor, he asked, "If all your clothes are in these bags, what's in the suitcases?"

"Hah, nothing. That's just to take it all back in after mom washes it for me. I haven't done laundry in over a month."

"Not even underwear?"

"Nah. I just rinse them out or go commando." Scott smirked. "I did break down and buy a couple packages of boxers, though."

"Glad you're home."


"So I'll catch you later then, I guess," Joey said.

"Yeah, okay."

"Yeah." Joey backed awkwardly out the bedroom door and went back to his room. He lay back down on his bed and closed his eyes. He tried to draw out some happy brotherhood memories, but there were precious few he could muster up. There were the noogies and wedgies he'd gotten from Scott when they were younger and the times he'd tagged along as the younger brother. But as hard as he tried, except for supplying him with porn mags and helping him out with a ride now and then, there were no wonderful memories to conjure up. So when Scott walked into his room, Joey was genuinely shocked.

"Hey bro, you want to go over to the park and shoot some hoops or something?" Scott asked.

Joey looked up and said, "I don't know. Maybe later."

"Aww, c'mon let's go. I'm bored. What else you got to do?"

Joey shrugged, "All right. I guess." He got up and changed into some shorts and laced on his basketball shoes. He hadn't worn them for quite a while and they cramped his toes a bit. They rode over in Scott's Tundra in silence. They played one on one and as used to be the case, Joey cleaned up on Scott who was only mildly athletic. After two games where Joey won by double digits, they switched to playing HORSE. That game made the lack of conversation too obvious and they forced some chit chat.

"So how's college?"

"F'n awesome. It's party central, dude and no curfews or parents ragging on you about it."

"Wow. Sounds great." Joey lied. It sounded pathetic.

"So how you doing? You been scoring a lot?" Scott asked.

"I thought mom or dad would have told you. I didn't go out for the team this year."

Scott laughed. "Yeah, they told me that. I meant are you scoring with the chicks. I figured since you weren't playing ball, you must be spending your time balling. What happened with that chick you fucked for the first time last Christmas? You never told me about it. You still boinking her?"

Joey sunk a shot from the foul line and tossed the ball to Scott to match the shot. "No, I'm not. I'm not having sex."

"What about that hottie who invited you to backwards dance last spring. Surely, you fucked her."

Joey hadn't thought about that for a long time. Audrey, one of the cheerleaders, had been flirting with him relentlessly. He avoided her as much as possible. She'd been the one who had peeked in his bags at the mall the day he bought the surprise for Pete.

For backwards dance, where girls ask the guys, she'd arranged to get into his room. When Joey got home from work there were yellow posters with bricks drawn on them and petite footprints on them leading to his room. When he walked into his room, there was a cutout of Dorothy holding Toto with a note on it that said, "Don't be a cowardly lion. Have a heart, Tin Man, and come to the Emerald City dance with me?"

He remembered his mom following him into his room looking all silly like a young girl. His mom scolded him when he said he didn't want to go. She forced him to accept and go. It was a miserable experience and after he didn't even give her a kiss at the doorstep, she stopped bugging him, so it served one good purpose. "No," Joey answered, "I didn't fuck her. I haven't fucked any girls. I didn't even fuck one at Christmas. You just assumed I was going to."

"Shit. No wonder you're all depressed. You need some tail. Big brother will hook you up while I'm home. I promised mom I'd try and help you out. A good fuck will cheer you up."

Joey chuckled. "So that's what this is all about. I wondered what got into you with inviting me to come over here. I don't need your help, dude. I'm not interested in boinking the sluts you hang out with."

Scott missed the foul shot and earned his E, spelling Horse, so they walked over to the bench and sat down beside the court. "So mom says you're still all depressed about your dead friend."

"Yeah, sort of."

"That's kind of weird. I mean it's not like losing someone you love or part of your family. He was just a buddy."

"You don't know shit. He was more than just any friend." Joey thought how much worse it was than losing family. Losing someone you loved as a lover was way worse than losing regular family. "We were closer friends than you think. I guess that's hard for you to understand since you only have shallow friendships based on getting high together. Don't take this wrong, but he was more like a brother to me than you are."


"Let's face it, we're not all that close. We're pretty different. If we weren't brothers, we wouldn't choose to hang out together."

"True. Still, it's been a fucking year. How long can you stay bummed out over it? Why can't you just get over it?"

"If I tell you something, will you keep it between us?"


"I really need to tell someone and I don't have anyone else to talk to with Pete gone."

"It's cool. I'll listen."

"Well, that stuff you got for me last Christmas really was for Pete and not me like I let you believe. Pete knew he was dying and he wanted to experience sex once before he died."

"I get that, sure. So?"

"So he didn't have anyone to do it with besides me. So I pretended to be the girl and we had sex together on the night he died. I said we had sex, but it was more than just that. We made love. We shared something really special together and I can't get over it. It's like part of me died with him."

"Wait. Are you saying you did gay shit together?"

"I guess. Yeah."

"Holy shit. Do mom and dad know?"

"Of course not. No one knows besides you."

"Fuck. That's messed up. So that's what's screwing with your head? Okay look, you messed up one time trying to do some kind of good deed to your dying friend. It doesn't mean you're gay if that's what's eating you up. Seriously, dude let me hook you up with an easy fuck and once you slide it in the magic cave you'll forget all about your messed up gay friend and what you did with him."

"You don't get it. I shouldn't have told you. I don't want to forget about him or about what I did with him. I love him. If he were still alive, I'd be having more sex with him. I think about doing it all the time. I'm not interested in fucking girls. I'm not even interested in messing with other guys either, but I wish every minute of every day that I could be with Pete again."

"That sounds so fucking gay. You got your head all messed up."

"If loving Pete makes me gay, then I guess I'm gay."

"That's messed up. Don't ever tell mom and dad this shit. It would kill them. So look, your gay boy's dead so there's nothing you can do about it. Why not get a girlfriend and move on from it. You can't relive your one gay fantasy forever. Look, I get it kind of. When I jacked off with Devon the first time and we touched each other's dicks, I was all freaked out afterwards that I might be turning gay. But hell, I realized it was just for the thrill of the gasm. You're just going through the same shit, but since the guy you messed with went and died, you must be like super dramatized over it."


"Yeah, that."

"That's not it, Scott. I love him. He loved me. That makes us gay and I admit it. He's dead and I wish I were too."

"You'd be better off dead if that's true. It'd be better for mom and dad if you did die rather than tell them you're depressed because your creepy, gay lover died. That's just sick. It'd kill dad."

"Let's go." Joey was staring at his shoes, clenching his fists and thinking about his sore, cramped toes to avoid busting his brother in the face.

"Yeah. Good idea." There was no more conversation between them. When they got home, Joey jumped out of the truck and rushed inside.

"Hi, sweetie. How was your time at the park?" mom asked as Joey stalked past her. Her hopeful countenance fell as she witnessed his depressed scowl.

As Joey went into the bathroom to shower for work, he heard a muffled question from his mom and Scott's irritated reply, "Don't ask!"

Joey dressed in his uniform for work and realized he'd left his keys on the bathroom counter. He could hear Scott was in the shower but the door was left unlocked, so he walked in to retrieve them. Scott was leaning against the tile and masturbating. He quickly spun away and cried out, "What the fuck's the big idea walking in on me?"

"I needed my keys. I'm leaving for work."

"You left them in here on purpose, didn't you? I bet you wanted an excuse to look at my junk. You really are a freaking faggot."

"Go fuck yourself. Oh, that's what you're in the middle of, isn't it?"

"Fuck you. Oh wait. You'd like that wouldn't you, freak? Get the fuck out of here."

"Gladly." Joey slammed the door and stormed out.

Saturday nights were really busy and Joey got stuck making deliveries. He made some good tips on his first four pizza deliveries and he cranked the tunes up in his car and sang along to keep his mind of his asshole brother. He regretted telling Scott about Pete and him. He couldn't imagine, in retrospect, what the hell he had been thinking.

The fifth delivery address was familiar. As he got close, he knew why. It was Dom's address. Dom was this bizarre emo kid from school that he got paired up with on a science project. Dom wore all the black clothes and eyeliner and black lipstick. He was very odd but intriguing at the same time. Joey had questioned Dom what the whole emo thing was about, but after several attempted explanations, still didn't quite get it. They worked on the project at Dom's house and on the third and final visit, something very interesting and strange happened. After wrapping up the project, Dom asked if Joey needed to leave right away. Joey told him he had nowhere to be and Dom smiled and shut his bedroom door and leaned against it.

Joey remembered watching in amazement as Dom unzipped his baggy, black pants with the silver buckles down the sides and let them fall off. He was wearing X-men briefs that looked too small for him. They were certainly too small for his good sized dick bulging from them. He grabbed himself and asked if Joey wanted to participate in another biology project and jack off together. Joey remembered still the confused emotions he was feeling. He wanted to see Dom's dick. He wanted to touch another dick and he wanted to have his touched. He knew if he did it, though, he would have to admit that he was for sure gay, and he would also feel like he was cheating on Pete's memory. Joey boned back up in the car thinking about it. He regretted slightly having turned down Dom's offer and especially regretted calling him a few unkind names. He still couldn't forget Dom's indifferent attitude toward Joey's reaction and how he had caught him off guard as Joey was leaving by kissing his lips. Once back in the car, Joey had to wipe off the smeared black lipstick.

Joey arrived at Dom's house still boned from the memory. It was in a nice neighborhood and Dom's rich parents paid little attention to their only child. Joey wondered if that was why Dom did the emo thing, for attention. Dom answered the door and smiled when he saw it was Joey. "Hey pizza boy. Come on in." He held the door open and Joey stepped inside. There was a party going on with mostly emo types and a few regular people from school. Joey wondered if it was a recruiting party or something.

"It'll be $32.73, please."

"Set the pizzas on the table and follow me to my room. I'll pay you and give you a nice big tip." Dom smiled seductively.

As Joey set the pizzas on the table, his eye caught David's. David, one of his basketball teammates, was on the couch with a mostly empty Corona in his hand flanked by a couple of guys making out on either side of him. "Hey." Joey nodded to him.

"Hey," David answered back.

Joey followed Dom into the familiar bedroom where Dom had sexually enticed him before and Joey got nervous as Dom closed the door. Dom pulled out two twenties and handed them over.

"Thanks," Joey said reaching for them. Dom pulled them away and stuffed them in the crotch of his pants laughing. "If you want your tip, you have to find it. You might get lucky and find another tip in there too."

"Dude, just give me my money. I'm not fishing around in your underwear for it. That's sick."

"Aw, c'mon have some fun, loosen up. You know you really want to. I can tell." Dom stepped in close to Joey and reached out for a grab of Joey's dick tenting his blue, pizza uniform pants. "That isn't poking out for no reason."

"Look, I'm not interested, okay. Just pay me so I can go. I have to make other deliveries." Joey pushed away.

"You're no fun at all," Dom said pulling the bills from his crotch and handing them over. "You know you really want it, deep down. If you change your mind, we'll be here all night." Joey started making change from his pouch but Dom stopped him, "No dude, that's your tip. If you want the rest of your tip, come back later." He grabbed his crotch showing the sizable girth of his dick.

"Thanks." Joey opened the door and left but on the way out, David grabbed his arm.

"Joey, buddy, can you gib me a ride?"

"Why? I saw your car out front."

"Yeah, but I'be had just a little too much to drink, and I need to get outta here. It's not my kinda crowd … you know whud I mean, buddy?"

"Yeah, I get that. I still have to make some more deliveries before taking you home."

"I can't go home," He snorted, "I need a … place to hang out until I'm … sober. Can I stay ober at your place tonight?" Joey was a bit annoyed but did like David and they were somewhat friends back when Joey was on the team.

"Okay, I guess. What will you do until I get off at eleven?"

"Could you drop me off at your house and I'll just … hang out there until you get home?"

"I guess so. My next delivery is sort of that direction. Let's go."

"Thanks man. I really a … a … appreshiate it. I'm way buzzed and if I stay here I'm gonna do something I'll regret later. I almost did already."

When they got in the car and Joey helped David get buckled in since he was having a little trouble with it, Joey asked, "So what did you almost do that you would regret?"

"Uhhh, just between us girls?"


He snorted and said, "I was about to 69 with one of them emo dudes. Not that I got anything against emo dudes, I mean to each their own right? But, who the fuck knows what kind of shit they got going on down there, you know?"

"Yeah, Dom was coming on to me in his bedroom."

"Yeah, he's a total flamer and not too shy about it."

"So, why were you there? You didn't exactly fit in the crowd?"

"I don't know. Stupidity, or boredom maybe. I was at the mall and saw this R .. Rick guy I kind of know, and he invited me. I thought it might be cool, but it was really pretty stupid you know. I mean, I hope you don't think bad of me for going, dude. You're a good friend, Joey. You treated me all cool last year on the team even though I was a just like end of the bench man."

"No, I don't think bad of you. So did you just want to get drunk or were you looking for some sex action too?"

"Maybe some sex akshun too. I mean a guy gets horny you know."

"So … are you into guys?"

David looked over at Joey and his head bobbed slowly in random directions. After a few minutes, he said, "Just between us girls, yeah I'm into guys. I'm gay." David held his finger to his lips and made an exaggerated "Shhhhhh" sound. "Don't tell anybody, okay. I don't need the publishity."

"Secret's safe with me, man. When we get to my house I'm going to tell my parents that you're drunk and that's why you're staying over. They'll know anyway, so we might as well be honest about it."

"Okay buddy. But don't tell about the gay part okay?"

"I won't."

"Thanks man. I could just kiss you." Luckily, David leaned his head against Joey's passenger window and closed his eyes while Joey made his next delivery and drove him home. He led him into the house and explained to his parents about the rescue mission and then took David into his room, helped strip him down to his boxers and put him into his bed.

"Sleep it off, dude. You'll feel better in the morning." Joey hadn't drank much, but what little he had was enough that he knew it wasn't true what he said. David would feel like shit in the morning ,which was another reason Joey didn't drink.

The rest of Joey's shift was uneventful and he got home at a quarter after eleven. His mom was waiting up as she usually did when he worked the late shift. "Hello Joey. Come sit by me for a minute."

"Okay." Joey sat on the couch. "What's up."

"I tried to talk to Scott about your time together at the park, but he didn't want to talk much about it. He seemed … angry about it. Did you two have a fight?"

"Not really a fight. I know you put him up to trying to get me out of the sadness over Pete. Mom, Scott and I aren't that close and it just didn't work out like you schemed." She blushed at being called out so directly.

"Sorry. I just was hoping it could help you. I hurt when you hurt, son. I just want you to be happy again."

"I get that. But, I don't know how. Life is just not interesting any more without Pete in it. I don't expect you to understand that and I definitely don't expect dad to get it. I just … I can't explain it."

"That was a nice thing you did bringing David here to sober up. You're a good person, Joey. I love you."

"I love you too, mom. I don't want to hurt you. I really don't. I'll try and figure out a way to make it all go away. Just give me time."

"Okay. I'm going to bed. Let the dog out please."

"Sure." Joey let the dog out, ate some cookies and chocolate milk and then let the dog back in and went to bed. He could smell the alcohol. David was sprawled across the bed and the covers were kicked off to his thighs. His fly was partially open and Joey grew curious. Before turning off the light, Joey sat next to David. He carefully lifted the fly of David's boxers and peeked in. His flaccid dick was lying flat against his soft balls. Tufts of blond pubic hair poked out the fly. Slowly, Joey reached in and touched the soft skin of David's dick. It was smooth and soft and enticing. He thought about how much it felt like Pete's.

Watching to make sure David didn't wake up, he took the soft dick in hand and pulled it through the fly. Slowly, he stroked it up and down, pulling the skin carefully over the head and back down. Joey immediately boned up and he imagined he was back with Pete. David's dick gradually expanded until it was stiff. He stirred a bit and Joey immediately let go and waited and watched, with his heart thumping in his chest. Then, he resumed the slow jacking action.

Joey got up and stripped down to his boxers and pulled his own dick out. He slid up and put his dick in David's palm and molded the fingers around his shaft. David just relaxed and dropped off of it each time, though. Joey slid down and took a deep breath. He licked the tip of David's cock and it twitched. Then he pressed his lips to it and sucked it in. Joey shuddered. He pulled off and then slid it back in and remembered getting sucked by Pete. He wished so bad that it was Pete there in bed with him sucking him also. He wished Pete could fuck him again and they could hold each other one more time. The desperate need for human touch and sexual gratification with his friend was overwhelming and Joey sucked David all the way in and that caused David to finally react in his drunken slumber. Joey pulled off quickly and David rolled to his side.

Joey stared at David's back and his red boxers with yellow yield signs on them. He looked at the curvature of his ass cheeks and his white thighs emerging from the leg of the boxers. He wanted to roll him back over and play more with his toy. He put a hand on David's hip and tried to roll him back towards him but David resisted without waking and Joey came to his senses.

"What the fuck am I doing?" he asked himself out loud. "I'm messing with a drunk person who has no idea I'm doing it. What's wrong with me?" Self-loathing guilt washed over him and he put his hand over his mouth staring at his erection. He tucked it back into his boxers as best he could and then turned off the light, crawled into bed with David, and pulled the covers over them both. Tears dampened his pillow until he fell asleep.

The next morning, Joey woke before David and got up to pee. On his way to the bathroom he passed Scott in the hallway. "Hey Joey, I'm gonna go riding quads with Michael and I left my helmet at school. Can I borrow yours?"

"Sure. It's in my closet."

Joey had just started pissing when he heard Scott from his bedroom say, "What the fuck?"

Joey was just shaking off when Scott burst into the bathroom with the helmet in his hand and an ugly expression on his face. "What the hell is that guy doing in your bed? I can't believe you'd do that. You bring one of your faggot friends over and sleep with him right under mom and dad's nose. That's totally fucked up."

"Scott, keep your voice down. Shit. He's not a faggot friend, I just gave him a place to stay to sleep off being drunk. He couldn't go home. If you weren't home, I'd have put him in your room, but since you are home, there wasn't any place for him to sleep besides my bed."

"So why are you both in your boxers and why's his dick hanging out of his? You're honestly telling me that you're gay and you brought a drunk guy home and didn't do anything with him while he shared your bed? Bullshit. I'm calling you on that one."

Joey felt his ears burning. He wasn't a good liar. "He just came to sleep it off. Like you haven't done that before? More than once you never came home."

"I never slept with a guy though. I say its bullshit and I can't believe mom and dad don't get it. You better knock this shit off, dude. You can't be gay in this family. It's not cool. If you really are gay and you're gonna do shit like this, you should just disappear. Don't ruin mom and dad's life, or mine for that matter."

"Just shut the fuck up. You're a royal asshole, you know that, Scott. A royal asshole."

"Maybe, but at least my royal ass is exit only. You're sick dude. I hope that shrink can fix you."

Scott stormed off to go riding quads with his buddies. They'd all get drunk at some time and do stupid stuff. Joey regretted outing himself to Scott. He half wished in the back of his mind that Scott would hurt himself or even kill himself. But he knew if either of them should die, it should be him and not Scott. He was the better choice. He wouldn't have to tell his parents and he could maybe be with Pete again if things worked like that when you were dead. He just didn't have the courage to do it.

As Joey predicted, David woke up with a splitting headache and sick to his stomach. After some toast and coffee and some fresh air during a walk with Joey to the park, David felt a little better. Joey took a basketball and they just shot some hoops. David wasn't up to a game, so they just took turns tossing the ball at the basket.

"Hey, thanks for helping me out last night. I appreciate it, man." David said.

"No problem. So how much about last night do you remember?" Joey asked.

"I wasn't that drunk. I think I remember pretty much everything."

"Really? Everything?"

"Why? I didn't like moon your parents or something, did I?"

Joey laughed out loud. It was a good hearted belly laugh that he hadn't had for a long time. "No, nothing like that. It was just some stuff that you said."

"Oh. You mean about being gay."

"Yeah. So you remember that?"

"Um-hmm. I was drunk enough to spill my guts but not so drunk I don't remember saying it. If you don't want me to hang around anymore, I get it. Please don't out me to anyone else though, okay? It's hard enough without everyone knowing."

"Your secret's safe with me. I was actually wondering if I could trust you with a little secret of my own that I don't want anyone else to know."

"Definitely, dude. You know you can. It would be kind of like Russia and the US in the cold war like we studied in world history. If we both have equal nuclear weaponry and are capable of mass destruction of each other, then neither of us can shoot the first missile."

"Kind of, I guess."

"So what's your big secret?"

"Remember Pete from the basketball team?"

"Sure. The kid with cancer that you were best friends with."

"Well, the night before he died last Christmas, he wanted me to grant him a special Christmas wish. He wanted to experience sex before he died. So, I was his partner. It was really special and romantic even. I didn't realize I was truly in love with him, and not just as a best friend, I mean really in love until we shared that and then he died the next day. I can't get over it. I'm depressed all the time and I keep thinking about dying too, so I can be with him."

"Wow. That's some deep shit, man. It sucks having to hide that I'm gay, but I'd never think about offing myself over it. Are you really thinking about that? If you are, don't do it. I read this book about people who died and then came back to life, and like how they saw the light and all that. There were some who committed suicide and every single one of them was so freaked out about what they'd done. They realized they'd made a huge mistake and they were somehow in trouble with God for doing it."

"I don't think I could ever really do it. I don't think I have the courage, but when the depression gets too bad, I really think about it."

"Maybe you should go see a shrink."

"That's what my parents say, but what is he gonna do? Talk me out of feeling bad. Tell me I don't really love Pete? Maybe tell me I'm just making up the love thing because I feel guilty that I'm alive and he's dead even though he was the better person? That psycho shit is all a load of crap as far as I'm concerned."

"So are you saying you're gay too?"

"I guess I am. I'm in love with Pete and girls don't interest me anymore. I only fantasize about doing stuff with Pete when I jack off, so I guess I must be gay."

"Maybe. Maybe you're bi."

"How did you know you were gay?"

"I don't know. I just always was interested in boys and not in girls. Once I started puberty, it was totally obvious. I'd get boners just looking at cute guys in the halls and stuff. I'd rank them from like a five to a ten. I'd catch myself staring at them sometimes and get embarrassed when they'd look at me funny for it. I'm always imagining them naked. I like some girls as friends and I can talk with girls, but there's no sexual interest at all."

"It wasn't like that for me. Until I realized I was in love with Pete, I didn't think about guys like that. I used to think about and talk about girls like that though, but not a lot. Not like my sleazy brother who tries to sleep with anything that has boobs."

"Yeah, he's got quite the rep."

"So what am I?"

"I don't know. You have to answer that question."

"No. I meant what am I on your scale, a five or a ten?"

David laughed and said, "Dude, you're an eleven. You're cute, athletic, way nice, non-judgmental, smart and easy to talk to."

"Cool." Joey stared at his feet for a minute and then said, "I have another confession sort of to make. I hope you won't be mad."

"What? You didn't paint my toenails pink while I was passed out, I hope. I hate it when people do that to me when I'm drunk."

Joey laughed again. "No, worse. Last night when I came to bed, the fly to your boxers was sort of open and … well, I got curious and I played with your dick some. I even … I even sucked on it a bit."

"I am mad. I'm totally mad I was passed out for it. Damn, a fantasy come true and I slept through it!" He smiled at Joey and Joey was relieved.

"I felt like a complete ass, using you like that. I can't lie, I pretended you were Pete."

"Your dead friend? That's a little creepy."

"I know. I'm so sorry. I had no right to do that."

"Chill. I'm not pissed about it. But I think you need to be punished for it just the same."

"Huh? Punished how?"

"I think you have to be sentenced to a night of mutual sex play with me while I'm awake, to make restitution to me." David gave Joey a sly smile.

"I guess that's fair to ask. I can't promise not to think about Pete if we do it though."

"Fine, as long as I get to do stuff with you. You can call me Pete or you can call me Polly for all I care."

"Oh My God! Did you just say I could call you Polly?"

"Yeah, why?"

"That was like the made up girl name Pete used for himself when we made love together that night. That's freaky."

"Yeah, kind of is, huh?"

"David, thanks for listening and not making fun of me over it. I made the mistake of telling my brother and he freaked out on me and told me I'd be better off dead than gay. I can't believe how much better I feel just having someone understand me."

"Yeah, that's not all that uncommon, I'm afraid. Gay bashing is still pretty popular, especially with the macho sex freaks like your bro. If you ever need to talk, I'm here for you man. I'll call your cell so you'll have my number. What's yours?" They exchanged phone numbers and added each other to their respective contact lists. "Great, I got it. This stupid phone keeps messing up, I hate it. If you call and I don't answer it's just my phone messing up, okay? I gotta get going. I'm supposed to be home for church."

"What church do you go to?"

"The Church of the Good Shepherd across from the Middleton Cemetery."

"I've seen it when I've gone to visit Pete's grave."

"How often do you do that?"

"Depends. Not as much as I used to. Once a week, maybe."

"Holy shit. Still? You really are messed up over his death, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"So can you take me to get my car at Dom's?"

"Yeah, let's go. Thanks again for listening and not judging me. And thanks for not getting pissed off about what I did to you last night."

"No problem. Thanks for helping me out, dude. But I'm holding you to the community service for the crime of passion you committed on me."

"Okay. I'll pay up. I promise."


They chatted about all sorts of things on the way home and on the drive to Dom's house. They found they had a common love for history and an interest in geology. They both lamented about quitting basketball and agreed that quitting may have been a mistake. When they reached Dom's house, David thanked Joey again and Joey reached out his hand to shake. David took and held it. "I'd like to kiss you. Would it be all right if I did?"

Joey looked all around and saw no one. He shrugged and nodded. David leaned over the console and they pressed their lips together. It wasn't long, but it was long enough. It was pleasant. It was nice. It made Joey smile and David winked. "Thanks," David said as he jumped out and headed to his car.

Joey watched until he got it started and pulled away. Joey felt something he hadn't felt since Pete died. It was peace, just a little, but it brought light into his soul for a fleeting moment. Joey realized he hadn't projected Pete into the kiss. It had just been him and David, kissing, and enjoying it. Joey headed home and offered to help his mom in the house and his dad in the yard. They were both surprised, but pleased. He almost seemed cheerful.

The following week was spent avoiding Scott as much as possible, doing some Christmas shopping, working as many shifts as he could get, helping around the house and twice visiting Pete's grave. The depression over Pete's death would come and go. The closer it got to Christmas the deeper the pain took hold of him. He remembered spending most of the day last Christmas in bed crying and cursing God and the heavens, and even Grandpa Eddie for taking Pete. Thoughts of David crept in from time to time and cheered him up.

Soon it was Christmas Eve. Their mom fixed a nice ham dinner and everyone got dressed up for it, as was their tradition. Joey tried hard not to spoil dinner for the family. He ate and smiled at the jokes but didn't crack any of his own. He enjoyed some of his mom's reminiscing memories of Christmases past. It was fun to remember when times were simple and happy. After dinner, they went in to watch "A Christmas Story" while they drank apple cider, which was a tradition. "Oh, Joey, I almost forgot to mention, Pete's mom came by to visit me today. She said to tell you hello and they'd love to see you sometime if you ever want to go by. They seem to be doing well even though it's hard for them with the holidays and all. Their younger children made a Christmas card for their brother and they took them to his grave earlier today. That's kind of sweet isn't it?"

Joey knew she meant well, but all that did was remind him of his sorrow. He smiled and said something like "Yeah, nice."

Before the video started, the newscaster was talking about the effects of the new policy on gays in the military. "That's awful," his dad remarked. "There weren't any gays in the army when I served, I'll tell you that, and if there had been they wouldn't have lasted long in Nam. Some friendly fire would've put them out of their misery." Scott looked at Joey and smirked. Joey's insides went to mush and his throat tightened up. Tears stung at his eyes. When the movie started, they turned the light off and Joey was glad no one could see his tears. Scott had been right. He could never tell his dad he was gay. He would be better off dead. When the movie was over, they all headed off to bed. They would open their presents in the morning.

Before going to bed, Joey's mom said, "I hope you'll like what we got you, Joey. Since you wouldn't give us any ideas, we had to just do something we thought you might like."

Joey had gotten sufficient control of his emotions to avoid a meltdown, but he was sad inside to the core. He gave the required hugs and went straight to bed. He closed his door and pulled his clothes off. He got in the chest and pulled out the special box. He put the negligee on and oiled up the vibrator. Then he went over to his bed and pulled down the covers and found a manila envelope on his pillow. "To Joey, From Scott." The tag had a picture of Santa climbing into a chimney on it. The only indication that it was a Christmas present.

Joey opened it and pulled out a new porn magazine. It was a gay porno and it shocked Joey completely that Scott would do that. It was actually thoughtful in a weird way. It was kind of like an olive branch. Joey opened the glossy cover and found a large breasted woman with her legs spread open and a juicy pussy staring him in the face. In black marker, Scott's writing said, "Get your fucking head STRAIGHT bro." He signed it, "Love Scott." Joey snapped. The bait and switch of sticking a gay porno cover on a straight porn mag was just rude and spiteful. He tore the magazine into shreds. He was gritting his teeth and ripping with all his might until there were pieces everywhere. He gathered them up and stuffed them back in the envelope. He'd lost his mood for the little fantasy he had planned. Instead, he found his phone and called David.

"Hey." David sounded surprised by the call. "What up?"

"David? I need to talk."

"Okay. Umm, It's Christmas Eve and we're headed to church in a bit."

"Oh. Well, I was just thinking, I'd like to see you. I'd like to pay up what I owe you. I was thinking about tomorrow afternoon sometime. What would you think?"

"Oh, umm, Joey about that. I'd love to, you know, I really like you but Dom saw us kissing at his house when you dropped me off and well … he sort of told Rick about it. Rick and I have been sort of going out for a while and Rick got all pissy over it so, I'll just give you a pass on that whole community service thing, okay?"

"Oh. Yeah. Sure. I understand. I just had a bad experience with Scott. Can I tell you about it?"

"Love to hear it, but we're leaving in a minute for church, so maybe later okay? I'd really like to hear it, though. I'm not trying to blow you off. Even though I'd love to blow you off, if you know what I mean." David laughed at his joke, but Joey didn't.

"Sure. No problem. I understand. Thanks anyway huh?"


"Yeah, later." Joey stared at the phone

Joey turned his phone off and tossed it onto the dresser. He pulled out a notebook from his school bag and wrote a lengthy note. He dressed and boxed up his treasures but didn't put them in the chest. Instead, he put them in the trunk of his Corolla. He went out to the shed and looked for what he needed with a flashlight. He finally found it under a tarp. He carried it to his car and put it in the trunk. He drove straight to the cemetery. He played Christmas tunes on the way. The last one to play as he reached the cemetery was "All I Want for Christmas is You." It made him tear up, but he didn't shut it off.

Instead of going straight to the grave, he saw a light in a small building and it intrigued him. It was a small chapel and the door was open. He walked in but no one was there. He was alone. It was sort of a non-denominational chapel for the cemetery. There was a Jewish alcove and a Christian one. There was a third one with a Buddha in it. The light inside was dim and foreboding. What caught Joey's attention was a crucifix on the wall with a manger scene that had been put up for Christmas below the crucifix. Joey looked at the baby in the makeshift cradle and then at the suffering Christ on the cross. "That's fitting," he said out loud. You're born and then life goes badly. You end up suffering through no fault of your own. The contorted image of Christ on the cross was gruesome and filled Joey with dread and gloom. He retreated and went directly back to his car, more resolute than ever.

When he reached his car, Joey opened the trunk and pulled out the items he had stashed in there, and then he climbed the wall into the cemetery. He made the familiar walk toward the big oak trees where Pete was buried. He wasted no time. He took his shoes off and then stripped completely naked in spite of the cold air. He opened the box and pulled out the negligee and put it on. He took the rope he'd gotten from his shed and tossed one end over the oak branch. He tossed it over a couple more times and then secured it around the base of the tree. He greased up his erection and then he stood on Pete's gravestone, teetering like he had when he crossed the bar on the school swingset. He tested the rope and made a loop with a slip knot in the end.

Joey was as low as he had ever been. "I'm coming to you, Pete. I don't want to live this way anymore." He brought the loop over his thick, long hair.

Suddenly, a dense fog rolled into the cemetery and engulfed him. It was cold and made him shiver. He lost his balance and he fell from his perch. He grasped at the rope, but it slipped from his fingers, and he cracked the back of his head hard against Pete's headstone. He rolled slowly to his back and lay motionless in the grass. Although he was unable to move his body, he found himself still capable of conscious thought. He wondered if he was dead or alive. This was not how he imagined death would be, surrounded in a fog. He worried that dying while failing at suicide may still count and this was hell. "Help me, please. Anyone please. A horrible, dreadful thought occurred to him that his personal version of hell could be stuck in this fog with no one else - alone for eternity with just his memories of Pete. It was a terrifying concept.

Slowly, his awareness grew of the grass, damp and cold, on his bare ass and backside. His head throbbed in pain. Then, he heard a voice. "Joey. Stop this. What are you doing? This is wrong."

"Pete?" Joey cried out, finding his voice "Is that you?"

"Yes, Joey, it's me, Pete. Joey you can't do this. This is not the answer. I love you Joey, I can't let you ruin your eternity."

"But how? You're …"

"Dead. Yes."

"Am I dead, too? Where are you? I want to see you. I want to hold you again. I love you! Why can't I see you?"

"I love you too, Joey. I always will, forever and ever. Our time to be together will come again, but it's not now. You can't see me. It's not allowed."

"But you got to see Grandpa Eddie."

"That was different. Trust me. I have to go now. You got your Christmas wish, by the way. It's under your tree."

"PETE! DON'T GO! Please. Don't go." The fog thinned and then was gone. Joey sat up on the grass holding his pounding head, weeping softly, naked and chilled. He became aware of Christmas music on the air, as though sung my angels. He stood but had to immediately sit back down on Pete's headstone until the vertigo passed. The music and singing continued. Joey dressed and undid the rope from the tree. He carried it all back to his car and followed the music across the street to the Church of the Good Shepherd. He walked in and found the chapel full to overflowing with people of all ages standing and singing joyfully. They were singing Christmas carols and it was very light and festive inside. Joey noticed that there was a cross at the front of the chapel, behind the choir in their red robes, but the cross was empty. That seemed odd to him. He wondered if someone had stolen their Christ. Then he wondered if they only put it up at Easter and took it down at Christmastime since there was a manger scene on the side of the choir loft. He stood in the aisle feeling a bit awkward and was about to leave when a girl his age touched his arm. She smiled kindly at him, as if she were an angel and she looked somehow familiar, though he couldn't quite place it.

"Over here." She directed Joey into a pew that had room for both of them to squeeze into. They stood with the others and she opened up a hymnal and they both began singing, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." The words of the second verse sunk deeply into Joey's heart.

Mild he lays his glory byBorn that man no more may dieBorn to raise the sons of earthBorn to give them second birthRisen with healing in his wingsLight and life to all he bringsHail, the Son of RighteousnessHail, the Heaven born Prince of PeaceHail the Heaven born Prince of PeaceHail the Son of RighteousnessLight and life to all He bringsRisen with healing in His wingsMild He lay His glory byBorn that man no more may die

At the conclusion of the song, Joey was crying. He turned to the girl next to him and asked, "Is that true? Could it be true?"

She smiled the kindest smile he had ever seen and said, "It is true. Because of Christ, we shall all live on even after we die. Someday, we will be resurrected and live together in love as one, if we accept Him and live good lives." Hope and light filled Joey's soul as she spoke. Through his tear filled eyes, the light behind the girl's soft, golden locks shone brightly, giving her the appearance of an angel.

"Why is there no Jesus on your cross?"

"We don't celebrate His agony and death. We celebrate His resurrection and the taking of His body back up to join his Spirit." Joey smiled as happiness filled him. The girl hugged him and kissed his cheek tenderly. "Merry Christmas," she said. She stood to leave him.

"Wait. I'm Joey, what's your name?"

"I'm Pauline, but everyone just calls me Polly."

"Polly, you have no idea what you have just done for me. You've saved my life. I need to repay you somehow."

"I like peppermint ice cream."

"Me too. You can only get it at Baskin Robbins this time of year. Could I buy you some?"

"Maybe." She smiled and walked briskly away.

"But, how …" Joey's question was drowned out by a powerful rendition of Joy to the World. He couldn't tell where she had gone in the crowd. It was as though she disappeared. The final number was Silent Night and Joey slipped out during it and waited outside. As the good people left the church, he searched for Pauline, his angel. Suddenly, he heard his name called from behind him.

"Joey, what are you doing here? Did you come to see me?"

Joey spun around and found himself face to face with David. Joey blinked twice in astonishment and shook his head. He realized that David was the person he was reminded of when he saw the girl inside the church. They looked amazingly similar.

"Well, uhh, no but I'm happy to see you."

"Oh, did you come from the cemetery?"

"Yeah. You wouldn't believe what happened to me there. And then I heard the music and there was this girl, or angel maybe, who looked a lot like you. And Christ isn't on the cross. He isn't in pain or agony, he came back from the dead and lives still. Pete lives still, too. He came to me. He isn't dead, he's just separated from his body right now. You know what I'm saying?"

"Yeah, that's the whole Christmas and Easter thing."

"Isn't it great?"

"Yeah, sure. It's what Christmas is really about. So Joey, about earlier on the phone, I'm really sorry. I was kind of an ass to you and I shouldn't have been. Rick doesn't own me. If I want to hang with you and if we want to have some sexy fun together even, there's no reason I shouldn't be able to. When you called me, it made me start thinking about what I was doing. I'm sorry how I acted. You're a really great guy and I really want to get to know you better, if you still want me to. Here's my house phone number in case my phone dies again. It sucks. It dies all the time. I hope I get a new one tomorrow for Christmas. Well, I gotta go now, but I really am sorry, okay?"

"That's okay. I'm glad you found me. I felt really bad about losing the first friend I'd found since I lost Pete. I was actually happy every time I thought about you during this past week. I'd love to get to know each other better. And, I do still owe you."

"That's awesome. Well, see ya later."

"Hey," Joey called as he started to leave, "Do you by chance have a sister close to our age?"

"Yeah, like ten minutes older, she's my twin, but she lives with my mom and I live with my dad. She's coming over to our house tomorrow for Christmas, though. I really gotta go. Later, dude."

"Later Polly," Joey teased. David turned and smiled, shaking his head in amusement at being called Polly.

The drive home was filled with joy and peace. The Christmas tunes were joyous and filled Joey with the Christmas spirit. He stopped at the giant Walmart and bought a huge red bow just before they closed. He went in and slipped into bed undetected. He reached over to the nightstand and tore the note he had left into small pieces and dropped them in the small drawer. The smile never left his face until he drifted off into a peaceful slumber.

"Get up, sleepyhead. It's Christmas morning. I remember when you'd come knocking on our door at five a.m. as a little boy." His mom was cheery and she was wearing her Mrs. Claus bathrobe.

Joey blinked the sleep from his eyes and sat up. "Okay, mom. Merry Christmas."

His mom stared at him startled and said, "Merry Christmas to you too." Then she made her way to Scott's room to wake him. When they were all assembled in the living room around the tree, their dad started to distribute presents. Scott opened the desk lamp Joey had bought for him and seemed genuinely happy for it. Scott had given Joey what was obviously a group of CD's. Joey thought that was a thoughtful gift, since he loved music. When he opened it, though, he was confused by his choices. There were three CD's, Barry Manilow, Prince, and Elton John. The plastic wrapping had been removed and Joey snapped the top one open. The music CD had been replaced with one titled "Healing Homosexuality, a three disc set of a twelve step program." Joey just smiled, snapped it closed and tossed it aside.

"Good one, Scott. Very funny. Thanks bro, for thinking of me."

Scott was surprised that Joey wasn't mad at him over it.

Joey's parents gave him a certificate for having the body work and a paint job done on his Corolla. "Cool. What a great gift. It's like it will be resurrected and brought back to life in a way."

His mom smiled and said, "It was your father's idea."

Everyone was pleased with the gifts they'd gotten. Joey stood and said, "I have one more gift for all of you." He went to his room and tied the giant bow around himself. He walked back in and said, "Ta-da!"

"What?" Scott said bewildered.

"My gift is myself. I'm back. I'm over being all screwed up about Pete's death. He sort of came to me last night and spoke peace to me, and I know it's okay now. He's happy in heaven and someday he'll get resurrected and get a body back. Someday, when it's my time, I'll get to see him again. Until then, I need to be happy and live a good life. It's what Christmas is really all about. I love you guys and I'm sorry I worried you so much."

His mom burst into tears and rushed to hug him. Even his father joined in the hug and he waved Scott in, who did so a bit reluctantly. "Oh, Joey," his father said, "I missed a present, I'm not sure how, but here it is."

Joey held the box and read the tag with trembling hands. He excused himself and carried it out to his car and then drove to the elementary school. He climbed the fence and went to sit in the swing. He read the tag and traced his hand over it. "To: Joey, From: Pete, Merry Christmas." Joey wiped the tears from his eyes and carefully unwrapped it. He pulled off the lid and found a letter in Pete's handwriting.

"Dear Joey, I was alone in my room after a wonderful, but tiring day. I was thinking about our time together and about what a great friend you are to me. I just felt like I needed to write you a Christmas letter. For some reason, I decided it should wait for the following Christmas and I left my mom instructions what to do. I hope this won't piss you off or anything, but I just have to tell you that I love you. I mean, I really love you with all my heart. You don't need to tell anyone else this, but I have loved you for a long time, ever since we met practically. I will never forget what we shared together, I will cherish that experience for eternity. It was probably just doing something nice for a friend for you, but it meant way more than that to me. Thank you so much. Thank you for always being there for me when I needed you. I wish I could return the favor. Don't forget what I told you. I want you to live for both of us. Be happy and follow your heart wherever it takes you. Find someone to love with all your heart. Well, maybe not all your heart, save a little bit of room for me. Don't ever forget me but don't be sad for me either. I'll be happy where I'm going. Life is a special gift from God. Sometimes it's short and sometimes it's long. I was mad at God at first because of the cancer and because I was afraid to die, but then I realized I had a wonderful life. I had a good family and the best friend in the whole world and dying was just part of living again in the next world. We all go there sometime. Don't cry for me and be the best person you can. Love, Pete."

Joey held the letter to his breast and cried in joy and happiness. He sobbed like a baby and really cried, letting all the hurt and anger of the past year pour out of his soul. When he had let it all out, he wiped his eyes, looked heavenward and said, "I love you, Pete! I'll see you again someday."

Finally, he set the letter in the lid of the box and pulled out the photo album. There were all the pictures of their lives together from grade school to high school. Joey laughed and cried and laughed some more as he looked at every picture. When he was done, he gathered the letter and put it in the box and headed home.

"Where did you go?" his mom asked as he walked in.

"To my old school. Look what Pete gave me. It's a scrapbook of our times together. Isn't it wonderful? And he wrote me a great letter, but that's personal. I know he's happy where he is and I need to be happy too. He wants me to be."

"Oh, dear this is so wonderful." His mom turned the pages, looking at the pictures and wiping tears from her eyes.

"Guess we won't need that shrink after all," his dad teased. He grabbed Joey around the neck and gave him a squeeze.

"Nope. I guess not." Joey smiled at Scott and went to his room to hide his letter in the closet chest. Joey remembered the box in his car trunk. He went out and pulled it from the trunk and walked over to the trash can. He opened the lid and started to toss it in. Then, he stopped. "No," he said. "I'll save it for my honeymoon with whoever that turns out to be with. Only problem will be which one will I wear - the Rudolph boxers or the negligee?" He chuckled at his little joke and headed in to stash the box away.

Scott followed him into his bedroom and shut the door. "So you're all better, huh? What about the gay thing?"

"Scott, I honestly don't know. But I'm going to do some dating and figure it out. I promise I won't embarrass you or disappoint mom and dad right now, okay?"

"Yeah, sure you're gonna date."

"No serious. Look I'll try and make one right now." Joey called the number he'd gotten at the church. "Hello, Polly? Hey, this is Joey. I'm so glad we met at the church last night. It was really great. So, Polly, I was, umm, wondering, how about if we go see a movie this afternoon and then afterward, if you want to, I could make good on what I promised you? Yeah, you want to? Awesome. I'll pick you up at three."

Scott shrugged. "Cool. Welcome back, bro." They high fived and Joey smiled in satisfaction as his brother walked out the door.

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