Castle Roland

Rock and a Hard Place

by Hans Schreiber


Chapter 19

Posted: N/A

New Elements

I smiled at the shocked look on Mrs. Jones' face when I walked into the debate class. It only spread wider when I explained that the suspension had been lifted. I told her I didn't have a suit to change into for the debate meet later on and asked if I could run home and get one on. She naturally let me and I took off. I ran home and when I reached the front porch, I paused and leaned on my knees panting. I fished my key out of my pocket and pushed open the door. I hustled up the stairs, kicked off my Nike's, pulled off my shorts and t-shirt and rushed to my bathroom. I took a quick piss and then soaked a washcloth in the hot water. I tugged down my boxers and soaped up the washcloth and wiped the sweat off my hard body. I washed under my arms and then last of all my balls and ass crack. I tossed the washcloth in the basin and spun around to head back to my room and freaked out! I yelped in shocked surprise!

When my heart returned to my chest, I clamped both hands over my crotch and asked, "Mom, what the hell are you doing spying on me?"

"The better question is where have you been? Did you think a suspension from school meant you could go have a play day? And why are you naked taking a sponge bath?"

"I'm not having a play day. My suspension was lifted. I have to get my suit on so I can get back for the debate meet this afternoon. So … could I maybe get some privacy here?"

"Watch your tone of voice. I'm still your mother."

"Barely," I thought as I pushed past her and jogged to my room, shutting the door harder than necessary. My mood had gone from happy and excited to annoyed and grumpy in less than six seconds. I pulled on clean boxers and put on my grey suit pants, white shirt, and red paisley tie. I grabbed my blue blazer and headed out my door into the hall. My mother was standing in the hallway with her arms folded.

"What?" I asked.

"I don't think it's right that your suspension was lifted."

"Are you kidding me? Why not?"

"You were fighting and there is a zero tolerance policy for fighting. Mrs. Matthews told me so."

I just shook my head in disbelief. "Look, Dad went and talked to Mrs. Matthews and that didn't really help much, but then William talked to her and she realized that by punishing me and keeping me from debating, she was really punishing William, who is the real victim in all this. So she lifted it. She realized I was doing a good thing by trying to prevent the pictures from being spread around and she pardoned me. Why would you think that's a bad thing?"

"Because, you provoked a fight by stealing that other boy's phone. You should be punished for that. You clearly need some discipline and supervision in your life and you aren't getting it from your father."

"Hey!" I yelled. "I didn't steal it! I confiscated it to show Principal Matthews the immoral and illegal crap on it that he was sending around to try and hurt William."

"Oh, William, William, William! I'm so sick of hearing about your little faggot friend, William! It's not healthy for you to be hanging around with a little freak like that. He's rubbing off on you."

"Oh my God! You are such a piece of work. You don't know anything. William is not a faggot, and that's a horrible, disgusting word. You should be ashamed of yourself. Get out of my way. I have to get back to school." I grabbed her arm to move her out of my way.

"Kyle, sweetie," she started in her pouty voice, "let go of mommy's arm, you're hurting me. I'm sorry I insulted your little friend. Go get in my car and I'll take you back to school." My lower lip was quivering and I could sense the heat in my face. My ears were about to spontaneously combust they were so hot. I let go without speaking and followed her down the stairs, gagging on the bile of venomous words I'd regurgitated into the back of my throat. I swallowed them though and grudgingly accepted the ride. Otherwise, I feared being late and missing the activity bus and therefore the debate meet. I wasn't going to let William down.

I started around the car toward the passenger side and my mother let out a minute, involuntary gasp and frantically opened her door then scrambled inside, collecting something off the passenger seat and stuffing it in a plastic grocery bag. She tied the two handles and stuck it on the driver side floor of her Audi before I reached the door and could see what she had in it.

"What was that?" I asked as nonchalantly as I could.

"Don't worry about that. Buckle up, please."

I always buckle my seatbelt and it annoys the hell out of me that she always, always tells me to buckle up. Half the time, I'm already buckled up when she tells me to buckle up. Suddenly, a flood of childhood memories swept over me. All the "Don't Do's" that my mother imposed on me filled my head, bouncing around like a plutonium atom in a nuclear reactor with nothing to cool it down. "Don't touch that. Don't run. Put that stick down. Get off that log, you'll twist your ankle. Don't drink from that fountain, you don't know who used it last. Don't touch yourself there. Don't, Don't, DON'T!" My dad reluctantly enforced her stupidity leaving me without an ally. It had been that way until I finally stood up for myself and started pushing back as a young teen. I was so proud of my dad when he stood up at the dinner table one night and said he supported me in wrestling. More and more, Dad started standing with me and that's when she started to evaporate into her meaningless charities.

I looked over at her as she pulled the car onto the street and slipped the shift lever into drive. My mother was trying to insert her control back into my life by leaving Dad and me in some sort of twisted mind game. I didn't want her back. I didn't want her controlling my life again. I didn't want to be the meek little cipher she wanted. "You don't have to take me to school. I can walk." I said at the stop sign.

She jerked her head toward me and I couldn't really distinguish if it was hurt or anger in her cold grey eyes. "Nonsense. I'm taking you so I can speak with Mrs. Matthews, woman to woman. You need to serve your suspension and learn a lesson. You need a parent to start taking some interest in your welfare and shaping your character properly." She was shaking her finger at my face and I wanted so bad to grab it and snap it off. Of course, I resisted the urge.

"What? No way! Mom, you can't do that. Please, I'm begging you, just leave this alone. God, why do you have to ruin everything?"

She didn't answer; she just sped off from the stop sign in excess of the speed limit, which was something she never did. She was clearly determined and even angry. I didn't know what to do. I wished William was in the back seat spewing his wisdom or Bible verses or something. I realized just by looking at her, there was no talking her out of it. All I could do was hope and pray Mrs. Matthews would hold her ground. The thought crossed my mind to just open the door and leap out, but I'd ruin my nice suit not to mention, probably die. Dying actually seemed acceptable at the moment but the idea of ruining my favorite slacks and blazer bothered me.

When we got to the school, I jumped out and sprinted off. My mother called after me, instructing me to meet her at the principal's office. "I can't stop you from ruining my life, but I don't have to watch you do it." I called back at her. "I'm not a masochist." I sprinted straight through the open air quad area and into the Humanities building. I chuckled at the irony of going to the Humanities building while my mom was headed to do her inhumane deed. Most of the debate team was assembled in Mrs. Jones' room and William was extremely pleased to see me. He'd begun to fret that I was going to abandon him again. I decided not to scare him with the risk of my mom messing it up for us.

"Hey Mrs. Jones," I said, "how about we get this show on the road? I saw the activity bus out front and the whole team is here, so why don't we go get on the bus already?" Kids were mulling around nervously. The weaker debaters were cramming on their opening statements for the affirmative and negative positions of the resolution.

"Oh, we don't need to leave just yet, we aren't traveling that far today. We're only going to Mill Creek High," said Mrs. Jones. I pulled her aside and explained about my mom meeting with Principal Matthews at that very moment. Her eyes widened as the implication of it dawned on her and she clapped her hands, "Let's go everyone. On the bus. NOW!"

Everyone was startled by her sudden change of demeanor and they started grabbing up their laptops, file boxes and notes. Soon, we were parading down the hall when I saw Gina come through the entryway with a yellow office slip in her hand. "Oh no," I thought.

I'd almost gotten past the guards, through the barbed wire and escaped on the big yellow bus. In a moment of desperation, I glanced about for a place to hide. Fortune smiled on me and I slipped into an open supply room and pulled the door shut. Mrs. Hansen, my English teacher from last year, was on her tippy-toes reaching for a ream of rainbow colored paper.

Surprised, Mrs. Hansen settled back on her heels and looked at me bewildered. "Kyle? Why are you in here, and why did you close the door?"

"Umm," I frantically formulated a plausible lie. "I saw you reaching for the paper, so I came in to help since you are my favorite teacher ever. And I guess I just closed the door out of habit from my mom always telling me it's unsafe to have an open door in the hallway, you know?"

"Well, that's very nice of you to flatter me, but," she smiled knowingly, "first of all, you're shorter than I am and have no chance of reaching the paper. Secondly, you're dressed to the hilt and out in the halls during class time, and thirdly, you're a teenage boy and no amount of nagging would train you to shut a door for the sake of safety." I smiled back at her, acknowledging her wisdom, while she continued, "So, who are you hiding from?"

"Okay, you got me. Truth is, I'm avoiding a girl."

"Ahhhh. Now that's believable. Something to do with the Fall Formal coming up?"

"Yes. Actually, that's exactly right." She'd given me a new escape route and I jumped on it. "Yes. She's supposed to be my date for the Fall Formal and I don't want her to see me in my new clothes I bought for it. I want them to be a surprise. I'm dressed up for the debate meet today."

"I see. And why would this young lady be out wandering the halls at this hour of the day?"

"Oh, all right. Straight up, she works in the office and I think they want me to go there, but if I do, I'll miss the bus to the debate meet and then my partner will be alone and it will just be a big mess."

"Aha, the plot thickens. Well, it so happens that I'm in charge of decorations for the Fall Formal dance. I'll make you a deal. If you'll serve on my decorating committee, I won't turn you in to the administration."

"Mrs. Hansen, that's blackmail. Besides I'm no good at that kind of thing. I'm a wrestler and a debater. I'm not the creative type."

"That's exactly the reason I want you. The last two years, the only people I could get on my committee were prissy girls and a couple of sweet, young, gay boys. Our decorations last year consisted of rainbows and My Little Pony posters with pastel balloons. If I don't get a guy's input into it this year, I swear the boys will probably riot. I'm also really sick of the ribbing I take from the male teachers in the faculty lounge over it."

"I feel your pain and all, and I did hear about the decorations from last year even though I didn't go, but…" I stammered. "Oh, I really don't know. I'm really busy."

"That's my deal. You join the committee or I let your secret 'out of the closet' so to speak." I snickered in spite of myself and she giggled as well. She had no idea just how funny and not so funny that really was.

"Okay, I'll do it. I'm definitely not ready to come out of the closet just yet. But you have to agree to let me bring some other people along."

"The more the merrier, absolutely," she agreed.

"Okay, well I better get going or I'll miss the bus."

"Hold on," she cautioned. "We have to be a little careful about this. I can't be seen coming out of a storage closet with a male student, especially a handsome young hunk like you. You've put me in a precarious situation here."

"Mrs. Hansen! Geez!" I felt myself blushing.

"Well, it's true, you are very handsome. You leave first and if the hall is empty, tap on the door and I'll come out. If not, just leave and I'll wait a bit."

"Okay. Sorry I put you at risk."

"It's fine. Thank you for succumbing to my blackmail." We smiled at each other and I slipped out the door. The hall was empty so I rapped twice on the door and headed out the front double doors at double time. I went the long way around the gym to avoid the office, or Inhumanities building as I decided to call it from now on, and dashed to the bus.

When I climbed aboard, Mrs. Jones gave me a "where have you been" look but thought better of asking. I made my way toward the back and saw William pressed up against the side of the bus staring out the window. I couldn't help but laugh seeing Brenda with her nice new hairstyle, dressed smartly in a blue and white, plaid skirt topped by a navy blue, business woman's jacket and a pleated white blouse underneath. She was staring straight ahead and both of them looked desperately awkward and magnificently miserable. I sat behind them and slid to the middle of the seat. I leaned forward over the back of their seat and said "Hey guys, guess what?

The two of them spun toward me and ended up inches from each other's faces. Immediately, they snapped their heads back forward so fast, I feared they might need neck braces for the whiplash. They peered back at me through one eye. I had the hardest time not to laugh.

"Mrs. Hansen has assigned the three of us from the debate team to help out with the dance decorations for Fall Formal. Cool huh?"

Neither one answered me. They just peered suspiciously through that one eye. At last, Brenda said, "Why did she choose us? I don't even really know her."

"Honestly, she blackmailed me into it, and she said I could get others to help. I immediately thought of you two. I'll try to get a couple of wrestlers to join and maybe you can get some other girls."

"What precisely would this assignment entail?" asked William sounding very nervous about it.

" It's no big deal really. We'll all meet and come up with some ideas and then go buy stuff and set it up on the day of the dance. It could be kind of fun."

William shrugged and said, "Okay. If Brenda consents, I consent."

Brenda allowed a tiny grin and nodded yes. I sat back in my bench seat, pleased. "Great!"

I closed my eyes and thought about Scotty. I wondered if I could convince him to join the decoration committee. I hoped so. I thought about his smile and his shining eyes. It brought a smile to my face and I found myself wishing he was on the debate team and could be with us sitting next to me. He'd have to have a different partner though, because I could never abandon William. Maybe he and Brenda could be partners. I thought about how kind he'd been when Sam died. I relived my first real sexual experience we shared in his bed and the tender, joyful nature of it. That started giving me an erection, pressing slightly against the loose fabric of my grey slacks. I peeked down to see how noticeable it was and could easily tell Little Rock was doing calisthenics just beneath my front left pocket. To keep from embarrassing myself, I forced my thoughts onto my opening arguments for the coming meet.

It was impossible to keep my mind from returning to Scotty, though. I pulled my phone out and sent him a text. I shared the experience in the closet and he replied, "LOL

William and I decided to concentrate on the No Child Left Behind act and on the impact it's had improving standards and testing in all states, but most importantly in the poorer states. It's interesting that President Reagan had intended to eliminate the Department of Education. When we are taking the negative position on the resolution, we use a lot of quotes from President Reagan. Also, during Mondale's campaign, he argued against the Department of Education, claiming that it was unconstitutional for the Federal Government to be involved in it. It really isn't mentioned in the Constitution and as such is reserved to the individual states. George W. Bush, however, actually increased spending on education from $34 billion to $56 billion when he pushed the No Child Left Behind Act. Of course, there's very little President Bush didn't increase spending on. The hell of it is, my generation is the one stuck with the bill.

When we arrived, we made our way through the hallways of Mill Creek High School. We got the customary stares like we usually did being so dressed up and from a different school. Not to mention, we were all dragging laptops, card file boxes and reference books with us - not your ordinary entourage. It could also be that it's just George they're staring at. Good ole' George is a fashion disaster with his blue and white striped dress shirt, brown and maroon checkered sweater vest with a green tie and black dress pants that are too short and show off his white athletic socks. He's like walking modern art.

William and I were ranked as the top team and so we started with the lower ranked teams from Mill Creek. We trounced them with our tongues tied behind our backs. The second round was equally as ridiculous. We argued in favor of Federal funding of education on that one and completely inundated them with William's research.

There was a crowd in the small auditorium for our final debate for first place. The Mill Creek team was comprised of two girls matched up together. One was cute and one was … well, not so cute. Picture Rosanne Barr and Mick Jagger procreating and that would be the result. She was very sharp and kicked the crap out of my arguments on the constitutionality against Federal interference in schools, however. Fortunately, William had my back and pulled a litany of Federal judicial comments, exactly on point I might add, to refute her arguments. I did my "look pretty and act condescending" bit at the end and summarized our (mostly William's) arguments in a brilliant manner, if I have to say so myself. We won. Mrs. Jones was elated.

We collected our blue ribbons and certificates and headed back for the bus sharing our highlights with each other, such as "And then THEY said …" "Oh, I know, we had someone say the same thing. That must be coached." "And then I argued …" "Could you believe how unprepared …" And so the chatter went. I'm sure the same thing goes on during every bus ride back from every school competition. I'd experienced it with wrestling for sure, only it's just a lot more mundane with debate. On the debate team bus, you talk about how you crushed their argument or discredited their evidence instead of how you crushed their balls and dislocated their shoulders.

"Hey Rock, how many dips are you gonna do?" George Armani asked. I'd started calling him that and it stuck. He didn't seem to mind and even seemed to like the attention the nickname got him.

"I'll do one for every blue stripe in your shirt," I answered. That caused a few sniggers from those close. George immediately stripped off his sweater vest and started earnestly counting. It was a tradition that every time my team won first place, I celebrated by doing dips in the aisle. George enlisted Cathy to count the stripes on his back. They came up with forty-seven. That was a lot. I decided that I better make them shallow ones. I shed my blazer and unbuttoned my shirt then tugged it free of my waist and removed it. I placed a hand on the edge of the bench seat on either side of the aisle and bent my knees and dipped down. "Count 'em off William."

"One." "Two." "Skip a few… forty-two." He squealed with delight as the whole team cried out in objection. That was also a tradition for William to cheat for me. Of course, he would start over and count correctly after that. I kicked my shoes off to reduce the weight on my legs bent at the knees.

Normally, I just do enough to show off a bit. It had all started with a dare from someone after the first away meet of the year. I wasn't thinking very clearly when I committed to matching George's stripes. By the time I hit thirty, I was feeling the burn and building a sweat. My firm round pectorals were bulging and my nipples were protruding. The ripples in my abs were tightly defined as I clenched my muscles while I pushed myself back upward between the bus seats. Naturally, everyone was turned in their seats and watching me, most of the girls longingly and a few of the boys displaying obvious jealousy. It had taken a lot of consistent, hard work to build my body and I kind of enjoyed showing it off.

At the real forty-two mark, I was completely spent. I was determined, however, to finish. I do not quit. I squeezed my eyes shut, tensed up every muscle in my body and drew on that inner place of mine to slowly elevate myself back up to a locked elbows position. "Forty-three," William called out. He was joined with a few other voices. I held the locked elbow position for a few counts to rest and then dipped once more. I felt the shaking begin in my biceps that spread into my shoulders. I clenched my teeth and emitted a guttural grunt as I forced myself upward into locked elbows once more. I felt the beads of sweat, trickling down my exposed flesh and also beneath my grey slacks in my crotch and ass crack. This time the entire bus counted out with William, "Forty-four!"

I forced all the air from my lungs and then breathed in deeply as I lowered myself once more between the seats. My muscles screamed at me to stop. Stars were swimming over my closed eyelids and I felt a little dizzy. Again, I clenched my teeth and groaned as I heaved the heavy load of my body upward slowly, painfully, until feeling the relief of the locked elbows. "Forty-five."

I held there panting for several seconds. I feared that if I dropped again, I would go all the way to the floor. The relief of the locked elbows was countered by the screaming pain in my lower back and legs from holding them in a bent position off the floor. Down I went, regretting the stopping point. I knew I couldn't delay initiating the upward motion or I would never be able to. So at the bottom of my dip, I immediately started my returning motion. Oddly, my mind focused on my constricting sphincter and I imagined the rubber penis up there. In some bizarre rush of sexually charged adrenaline, I sprung back into the top position. "FORTY-SIX!"

I held there shaking all over. It was an immense struggle to keep my feet off the floor. I didn't think I could go on. I tried to recall the rubber dick to mind for motivation, but my brain just laughed at me. "Fool me once," it said. In addition to the beads of sweat, small tears eked out from the corner of my eyes. Desperation was overtaking me, I knew I couldn't hold my feet up any longer, but I also knew if I dropped into the dip, I could not stop the motion until I hit the floor. "One more, dammit!" I said in my head. "No more," came the reply. Then I heard the chants.

"Rock, Rock, Rock, Rock," my teammates were slowly chanting, growing louder and louder. I even heard the voice of the lady bus driver chanting along in a raspy, smoker's voice. "Rock, Rock, Rock."

"One more, dammit!" I mouthed through my clenched teeth. "I will not be beat." I broke the elbows and did my best to control the pull of gravity against my spent muscle mass. I travelled lower than I had been going and certainly lower than I had intended to until the stretched tendons reached their limit. My knees were inches from the floor and my toes tapped against the rubber runner in the aisle. That momentary touch and flirt with failure was like the ignition fuse. I screamed out loud and called on every ounce of my strength, focusing my energy and my will on the quivering muscles in my arms. I only realized I had managed the final lift by the raucous eruption of cheers through the bus. I opened my eyes and saw the blurry images of every debater on their feet pumping fists, cheering and clapping. I collapsed in a heap onto the floor.

People were patting me on the back and cheering for me as I pulled myself into the green Naugahyde, bus bench. My sweating back slipped easily against the vinyl as I dropped from a sitting position to lying prone across the bench, completely and utterly spent. I reveled in the almost sexual, endorphin charged experience of pushing myself beyond my limits and finishing. I love finishing. I live for it. Slowly, people returned to their private chatter. William twisted in his seat and beamed down at me. "That was a most impressive display of strength and willpower." I just smiled back at him. He matched my smile then turned back and actually engaged Brenda in conversation. I smiled wider as he made awkward, yet clearly deliberate, attempts to carry on a conversation with her. I'm not sure which of our two amazing feats was more impressive. My forty-seven dips or William's forced conversation with Brenda.

When we arrived back in the school parking lot, it was mostly emptied out. Only a few straggling cars from students with extra-curricular obligations were still there. My mother's Audi stood out in the empty parking lot. While I was glad to have a ride home, given my spent physical state, I couldn't help but worry about why she was there. I didn't put my shirt back on, since I was still overheated. I pulled my shoes on and tied them, grabbed my backpack and slung it over my back. The straps lay across my naked, bulging pectorals and covered my nipples. As I was leaving the bus, Mrs. Jones touched my arm and said, just loud enough for me to hear, "Thanks for being a team leader and example." I shrugged modestly and gave a small grin. I hadn't thought of myself as a team leader before then, but I supposed she was right. People did look up to me for a variety of reasons. I needed to be true to that trust. I couldn't screw it up like I did in wrestling.

When I stepped off the bus, I walked over to where my mother stood. She pulled out her iPhone and took several pictures of me. That seemed odd. She wasn't the scrapbooking type. "Why are you shirtless?" she snapped.

"I was doing dips on the bus." She got a confused look on her face indicating her lack of understanding. "You know," I explained, "dips between the seats in the aisle." I made the arm motion of lowering my body and then pushing it back up with my hands outstretched. Her look of lacking understanding didn't change.

"Why on earth?"

"It's just a silly tradition we started. William and I got first place today. When my team wins the meet, I do dips between the seats. Only today, I got a little carried away and committed to doing forty-seven of them and barely made it. It was awesome. Everyone was like cheering me on at the end."

With no acknowledgement of either accomplishment, she mocked, "You're right, that is a silly tradition. Get in the car, but put your shirt on first." Her tone informed me that the ride home was not going to be pleasant. My elevated mood, dropped to the bottom floor once again. I tossed my backpack in the back seat along with my blazer and put my shirt on without buttoning it. I buckled my seatbelt and prepped myself for her lecture.

Mom climbed in, looked directly at me and said, "Buckle up."

"I am buckled up, for God's sake. You're looking right at me! I always buckle up. You don't have to tell me what to do all the time. I'm not a fucking little child any longer, mom. I'm a big boy now. Stop treating me like a baby." I snapped. I shocked myself by the outburst.

"If you want to be treated like an adult, you need to act like one. I've spoken to Mrs. Matthews and your suspension is back on. You cheated by going to today's debate meet, but you will miss next week's and you won't be going to that barbaric wrestling meet. I am deeply concerned for your welfare. I will be taking a more active role in your life from now on and someday you will thank me for it."

I just stared in furious disbelief. I don't know why I should have been surprised. I sort of knew it was coming. I'd just thought Mrs. Matthews was stronger than my mother and would stand firm on retracting my suspension. I guessed she played the parent card. "I wish you wouldn't." I finally said in a measured tone, barely in control of my inner rage.

"Wouldn't what?"

"Take an active role in my life. You always just fuck it up."

She glared at me. I looked out the passenger window. Then she did something I never, ever remember her doing in my whole life. She struck me, hard, across the face. I jerked in shocked reaction, held my hand to the stinging flesh of my cheek, and burst into tears. Big, uncontrollable, heartache filled tears.

My mother pulled her offending hand to her chest and looked away, intently focused on the road ahead. A strange, cold demeanor overtook her. Apologies were required from both of us, but none were forthcoming. I reached out and directed the air conditioning vent toward my face and forced myself to look away.

When we arrived home, I jumped quickly from the car and retrieved my pack and blazer and headed straight to the door, entering into the hall and rushing past my parents' bedroom then up the stairs. I barely took notice of my father in the family room and didn't respond to his question about how the debate meet had gone. After my door was tightly slammed and I was prone on the bed with my face buried in my pillow, I heard the elevated voices of my parents. The words were unintelligible but the tone was loud and clear. They were arguing and I was the center of the argument. That was also new to me. I had witnessed the cold distance between my parents for years, but if they had argued before, they had done it out of my presence or earshot.

Suddenly, my door burst open and I rolled over to see who it was. It was both of them. "Sit up. We need to talk," my mother said.

I obeyed and pulled my pillow to my chest, hugging it. "What?" I asked.

"I am insisting on some changes around here," she continued. "You need more direction and discipline in your life. I have joined a Christian church and I want you to attend there with me. They have a youth group you can get involved with that will be good for you. You need to change your friendships."

"No. I have a church I'm going to. My first youth group meeting is tonight."

She looked surprised at me and asked where. "It's called the Church of the Rock. It's a Presbyterian church, and it's where William goes. I'm going with him."

"I haven't heard of that church, but I will ask Reverend Rick about it. I don't care for your association with William. He will not help you along in your goals to become a successful lawyer and parent. He is a bad influence on you. Likewise, I won't have you cavorting around with those disgusting wrestler boys."

"You don't know shit!"

"Kyle! Don't use that language with your mom," my father chided. I was crushed that he was taking her side again and glared at him.

"Clovis," he began, "You don't have the right to uproot Kyle's friendships. You left, remember?" Dad went back up a notch.

"I'm still his mother and I have every right to direct his friendships, like it or not." My father just rolled his eyes in exasperation.

"I will come and take you to the church this evening and inspect the situation. If I approve, and if Reverend Rick approves, then you may continue to attend there."

I opened my mouth prepared to tell her to "fuck off," but the look from my father warned me to leave well enough alone and I shut it again. "I need to leave in an hour."

"Fine, I'll run to the store and be back." Turning to my father, she said, "Please transfer the funds into my account as we agreed." He just grimaced and nodded.

When she was gone, I turned to my father and started to cry. He sat next to me and I dropped the pillow and hugged him instead. He stroked the back of my head and shoulders as I cried into the crook of his neck. "She hit me in the car today," I said.

"I know. She told me."

"I hate her."

"Shhhh. Don't say that. She's your mom. She means well, she just isn't very good at it."

"I don't believe it. She doesn't care about me. She just wants to control me. I can't stand it. Make her go away."

"I'll do my best to keep her from interfering too much in your life. I promise that."

"I'm not abandoning William. I'm not going to quit hanging out with Scotty and Kirk either. I don't care what she says. I'm not doing that."

"I know son. I know."

Reluctantly, I pulled away from my father and began to change clothes. I stripped naked in front of him and walked to the bathroom. I showered quickly and returned to find my father still sitting on my bed with his head in his hands staring blankly at the wall. I pulled on my boxers and a pair of jeans and asked, "You okay?"

He looked slowly up and said. "Not really." I sat next to him and this time he broke into tears. I held him against my bare flesh while he fought in vain to stifle his sobs. "She's gone Kyle. Forever. She's not ever coming back to us. She and R…" He cut his sentence short and fell silent. I didn't feel good about pressing him about what he withheld from me.

For the life of me, I couldn't see why he would care, but I didn't understand their history together. I didn't understand the bonding effect of courtship, marriage and sex. I didn't understand the loyal nature of my father. I didn't understand much at all besides the obvious painful display of emotion playing out at the moment.

"I'm sorry, dad."

"I love you, son."

"I love you too, dad. We always got each other, right?"

"Yes. Yes we do." He hugged me back and left, but popped back in and said, "Sorry for that, I'm okay now. Thanks."

"No sweat, dad." He smiled and left. I found an appropriate t-shirt and Nike ankle socks. I'd just wiggled my heel into my Vans when mom walked into my room carrying a large stuffed monkey. It looked similar to the one she had thrown out when I was ten, saying I was too old for such things and that it was full of germs. I remember how hurt and angry I was at the loss of it. This was a poor and long overdue replacement, but I had to appreciate the fact that she was gesturing some sort of peace offering.

"I got this for you. I want to get over our hurt," she said in her sugary voice.

"Okay. Thanks, I guess. But I'm not giving up my friends just because you bought me a stuffed monkey."

"I know. We'll talk about that later. How about if I set Mr. Giggles here on your dresser?"

"Fine. But he's not Mr. Giggles. I'm sorry I was disrespectful," I managed to choke out.

"Thank you for admitting it. Admission is the first step to correcting behavior. So, shall we go?"

"Yeah, we need to. We need to pick William up, but you have to promise to be nice to him. His mom's feeling sick again and she can't take him."

"Don't worry, I'll be civil to William. My feelings about him haven't changed, however."

"Whatever. Just no mean comments."

The look of disgust and utter disdain on my mother's face, as we drove into the mobile home park, was actually amusing. When William came out of the house followed by his drunken father in a stained wife-beater and boxer shorts, I inwardly groaned. My mother's mouth drooped open in appalled stupor.

"Hello, Mrs. Davis," William chirped as he climbed into the back seat of the Audi and bumped knuckles with me. "This is quite enthralling to attend a religious activity with my friend, Kyle, and the other youth. I have always had unconquerable trepidation in attending by myself. Now that Kyle is my friend, I have abandoned my fear."

My mother simply said, "That's nice."

In an effort to be uncharacteristically conversational, he continued, "I'm sure you will be pleased to know, my testicle and penis have healed up nicely."

My mother's jaw tightened and her color flushed a bit as she responded again, "That's nice."

There was a pause and William asked, "Did you know the surgeon extracted my injured testicle?" Before my mom could answer he continued, "Next year, the opportunity will be afforded me to secure an artificial testicle made of silicone. It will be of the same size and weight as my natural testicle. The body doesn't reject silicone. It will reinstate my natural appearance and feel. I'm glad because I enjoy the tactile sensation associated with feeling my testicle."

"That's nice," my mother said for the third time trying to clue him in that she wasn't interested.

"What is, Mrs. Davis?"

"What is what, William?" She said a bit exasperated. I was totally entertained and amused by the exchange.

"Nice. You said, 'that's nice,' but you didn't specify what was nice. Did you mean it's nice that I had my testicle removed, or nice that I may obtain a replacement, or nice that I enjoy touching my testicle?"

I started to shake in stifled laughter as my mom reacted and blurted, "No! I meant it's nice that you can get a replacement. I really don't want to talk about this."

"Okay." William sat back and was quiet for a few minutes, then said, "I have a girlfriend. Her name is Brenda. Kyle asked her to go with me to the Fall Formal. Actually, I called her on the phone and asked her, but Kyle asked her if I could ask her. She said yes. As implied by the title, the Fall Formal is a dance that you dress up for. Kyle and I are not wearing tuxedos, only suits. Brenda is wearing a green dress, so I will give her a white flower with some green mixed in. I'll wear a green tie so that we are coordinated. I'm probably not going to marry her, but if I did, the doctor said my remaining testicle generates sufficient spermatozoa for successful procreation."

I was biting the insides of my cheeks at this point. My mother looked as uncomfortable as a worm in a birdbath.

But he wasn't done. He continued, "To test my sperm count and mobility, I had to ejaculate into a vial."

"William! Please! I don't want to discuss this. Please just be quiet."

"Okay." William leaned back in his seat and rubbed his hand over the cover of his bible.

When we arrived, my mother insisted, against my protests, on coming in and meeting Pastor Morgan. There were a number of youth milling around waiting for things to get started. A few introduced themselves and said hello to William. William started introducing me after I urged him to do so. There was a pretty good group there. There were twelve girls and William and I added to seven other boys for a total of nine, some were cute and some were not. Some of the girls were cute also. Everyone, however, was friendly and inclusive. I immediately felt accepted and comfortable, as did William from what I could tell. He'd gotten engaged in a doctrinal debate with a fairly cute ginger haired guy. I was captivated by his quick smile and smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose. The youth in attendance ranged from fourteen to eighteen years old.

I managed to overhear most of my mom's conversation with Pastor Morgan. She asked him if he'd heard of Reverend Rick Bartholomew and his new church, Revive and Thrive. Pastor Morgan wisely picked up on her infatuated tone as she spoke of Reverend Rick in an almost worshipful manner. Pastor Morgan said he had heard of Reverend Rick and his new church and wished him well in his efforts to build a new fundamentalist congregation. He then praised me for being so kind to William and he even praised my mom for raising such a fine son. She lapped up the flattery. Before she left, she came over and told me that it seemed okay but she needed to talk to Reverend Rick about it before she made her final decision. She also informed us that we would have to find a ride home since she had an important meeting with Reverend Rick that evening. The lack of notice about the ride annoyed me, but I held my tongue.

I watched her depart, relieved that there hadn't been any kind of ugly scene. As she reached the door, to my delight, it sprung open and was held for her by Scotty. He showed no sign of recognizing her but it struck me odd that she glared at him as if he had just tried to mug her. I shook it off and waved him over as he entered, once mom cleared out of the doorway. "Scotty!" We bumped knuckles, slid palms and tapped forearms in our customary greeting. I wanted to grab and kiss him. His eyes sparkled. "I didn't really think you'd come."

"Why not?"

"Just the way you said 'maybe' and didn't commit."

"Well, just goes to show what you know, banana breath."

"You wish," I said with a sly grin. He winked back at me and then I asked, "So do you know my mom? She kind of acted like she knew you when you held the door for her."

"That lady was your mom? No, I never saw her before. She sure gave me a mean look. Is she pissed off at you over something?"

"Yeah, she's always pissed at me for something, it seems like, but she doesn't usually take it out on strangers." We laughed and I drug him over by William and Pastor Morgan. "Look who's here," I said to William.

To my relief, William brightened at seeing Scotty. "Welcome." Pastor Morgan released William from the embrace around the shoulder and reached his hand over to Scotty. Scotty switched his Bible to his left hand and shook Pastor Morgan's hand in fellowship.

"Hello Scotty," Pastor Morgan said, "It's nice to see you here."

"Thanks. I'm glad I finally came." Scotty's tone and demeanor around the Pastor was curious.

Now, with William and Scotty present, it was almost perfect. I felt like I'd found a new home. The warm, happy tingles started just under my scalp and spread through my soul, filling me with joy and light. I found it strange that several people, including the ginger haired hottie, already knew Scotty and greeted him like old friends. Pastor Morgan called everyone to assemble and we went into a small meeting room.

We started with a song led by one of the girls and then a prayer. Tanner, the cute fourteen year old ginger, stood and told us to all turn to 1st Timothy chapter four, and starting with verse 12, he began to read:

"Let no man despise your youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity."

He paused and commented on the scripture. I felt left out since I was the only one without a Bible. I leaned over and looked at William's well worn book. I felt a tap on my shoulder and I turned to find Pastor Morgan handing me a new Bible with a kind, understanding smile. I whispered a thank you and thumbed through it until I found the section.

"Just because we are young," Tanner began, "doesn't mean we can't be effective witnesses of Christ. We need to set an example for our peers and even our parents sometimes. We have to be better than the rest of the world who live without Christ's example. We need to use clean language in our conversations. We need to be kind to others and do acts of charity, even to people who may be unkind to us." That drilled to my core. It was what William had been trying to teach me.

"The apostle Paul continued to teach Timothy in his letter," Tanner said. "Will someone read verses 13 and 15 please?" William's hand shot up and Tanner nodded toward him.

"Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all."

"What does that mean to you, William?"

"It means we need to read the Bible consistently and to converse about it and ponder over the doctrine like we're doing now. And it means that the special gifts God has given us, we need to share with others. Like Pastor Morgan has the gift to preach and shepherd us. Kyle, my friend here, has the gift of friendship and is the best friend ever. Look." William lifted both feet in the air and pulled his pant legs up. "He gave me these shoes. An evil kid stole one and it got lost, but Kyle got it back for me and even got it all clean. He's my best friend."

"That's great. By the way, welcome to our group, Kyle."

"Thanks. I said modestly and blushing a bit." I had to reach over and prod William to put his feet back on the floor.

"Like William said," Tanner began again, "we all need to discover our own God given gifts and bring them out of the closet and start using them to benefit others and ourselves." He looked at me and smiled his quick, beautiful smile. I smiled back a bit nervously for whatever reason. I was strangely drawn to him.

Tanner sat down and another older boy stood and announced that the activity was going to be midnight dodge ball in the parking lot. Pastor Morgan produced two "glow in the dark" playground balls and we all hustled out of the building into the mostly vacant parking lot. Lines had been painted in the back corner indicating they had played this before. Two captains were selected and Pastor Morgan whispered in each of their ears. The first person chosen was William. He beamed, as he took his place next to the captain that had selected him first. The next selection was Scotty. The third selection was for me going over to join the team William was on. Selections continued until everyone was on a team.

Pastor Morgan briefly reviewed the rules and the game was on. It was so much fun. The glowing green balls seemed to be floating in the air until the darkened figures holding them propelled them towards me. William couldn't throw very well, but he was amazing at avoiding getting hit. The ranks dwindled until only William and I were remaining on our team against Tanner and Scotty on the other.

Tanner turned and bent over to grab a ball and I nailed him squarely in the ass. Problem was that I didn't see Scotty had gotten the ball Tanner was after and he hit me in the leg right after I hit Tanner. That left William versus Scotty. Scotty fired shot after shot at William and everyone cheered as William leapt, twisted, and even dropped to the pavement to avoid being hit. Finally, Pastor Morgan declared it a stalemate, naming both teams as winners. We all went inside to the recreation room and had root beer floats. Scotty passed on his and William gladly consumed it for him. People were still patting William on the back and complimenting his dodging skills, much to his delight. I needed to pee and excused myself.

I found the head with the boy picture on it and walked in. I sensed another's presence and discovered Tanner following me in. "Hey. Good game," I said to make some conversation.

"Yeah, that's always fun. We play it often. You have a strong arm. My butt's still red where you hit me, I think."

I laughed with him over it. "Lucky shot."

"Just a big target, hard to miss I guess."

"Your ass isn't big. In fact, it's pretty hot." The words escaped my lips before my brain approved them and I immediately blushed. "I mean, nicely shaped, er… I mean normal. God, you know what I mean, not big." I couldn't believe how flustered I was around this kid. He just smiled his wonderful toothy grin. There were two urinals and one stall. He moved up to one urinal and unsnapped, unzipped and then pulled his pants and boxers down below his finely shaped ass that was white as snow except for a round, red mark on the left cheek.

"Yup, I knew you left your mark on my ass. See."

"Dude, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to throw it that hard."

"Nah, it's fine. My fair complexion shows marks really easy. Part of being a red head, I guess."

I headed into the stall to allow him some privacy but as I entered, I saw the sign and simultaneously Tanner warned me, "That toilet's been broken for months. If you need to take a dump, you have to go all the way over to the other side by the sanctuary."

"No, I just need to whiz; I was just giving you some space while you did your business."

"Oh, I don't care if you stand by me. I'm not a nervous pisser. I can go anywhere in front of anyone if I need to pee. Can't you?"

"No, I can. I was just, you know, being polite." I stepped up and pulled Little Rock out of my fly and my aching bladder quickly took the opportunity for relief. I glanced over out of irresistible curiosity and noticed Tanner checking me out as well. He had hold of a nice, thick fire hose dousing the urinal with a steady stream of yellow liquid. Above his enticing dick was a small patch of flaming red pubic hair. I was fascinated by it but forced my eyes forward to stare at the flushing handle, feeling ridiculous at my obvious curiosity.

Soon the sound of his stream turned to a trickle. Motion caught my eye as he waggled his nice dick to clear the last drops. My own stream slowed and began coming out in spurts and he was still waggling his dick. I peeked back over and he was growing hard. I looked at his face and he looked me in the eye warily. I smiled back and winked and then said, "I'll lock the door on my way out."

"Ah, okay. But I was kind of hoping I could get some help with it."

I looked at him and he let go of his six fully engorged inches and framed it with both hands. My heart skipped a beat and I wondered how he dared be so forward with a relative stranger. I worried that I was being so obvious about my lustful infatuation with him that I was setting off people's gaydar. "Well, I'd like to, honestly, but I wouldn't feel right about it. Sorry."

"Okay. Darn. I was really hoping. You're freaking hot. Is it William or Scotty? Or is it someone else?"

I didn't know how to answer. "I'd rather not say."

"K. I get you. That's cool. I don't think whoever it is would mind though, if you just helped me out here a little. No attachments, just a quick jerk. Please."

I nibbled at my bottom lip and then pushed the knob on the door handle in and walked back to a grinning ginger boy who plastered himself against the smooth, beige metal wall of the toilet stall. "This is whack," I said, "I really shouldn't be doing this."

"Thanks dude. I need it bad. You're the best."

I knelt in front of him and with shaking hands took hold of his nice, thick cock and stroked him. He moaned in appreciation. I quickened the pace and was quickly boned up myself. I had to stop and adjust Little Rock into a comfortable position. When I resumed stroking his fine cock, Tanner began rubbing his hands over the short, buzzed stubble on my head and moaning softly. "Oh dude, that's awesome. Suck my balls, please." I thought about it for a minute and then leaned in and smelled his sweaty musk from the dodge ball game. It was intoxicating. I licked one and then the other of his balls and tasted the saltiness of the sweat. Then I slipped one of his smooth testicles into my mouth engulfing it while I stroked him faster. He immediately started bucking his hips and I felt a warm ooze spread across the side of my face. I held his retreating nut in my mouth and slowed my jacking motion until he had emptied both balls onto my cheek, ear and neck and of course, the floor. Some dribbled into my mouth and it had a uniquely sweet flavor to it.

When he was done, he pulled my hand from his tender, bright red dick and cautiously milked the last few drops out. I retreated to the sink and washed my face then dried off with paper towels. I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered why I had just done that. I felt suddenly embarrassed and a bit ashamed. He pulled his pants up and grabbed a fistful of towels to wipe up the floor with. We stashed the towels in the trash and he reached for the door handle, "Thanks dude. You rock."

That made me chuckle. I wondered if he'd heard me called by my nickname, but I doubted it - just a coincidence. When we returned, everyone was finishing up and leaving. "What took you?" Scotty asked. I fumbled for an answer but Tanner jumped to my rescue.

"He was lost. I found him wandering around looking for the head so I showed him where it was."

Scotty smiled. "I'll bet you showed him more than just that." Tanner didn't react to the comment but I did. Hard as I tried not to, I suddenly felt like we'd been watched on a giant TV screen by everyone in the room. I felt small, exposed and stupid. I was afraid I'd hurt Scotty's feelings somehow, though, he knew I messed around with Kirk and I knew he messed around with Kirk and some other people too. Still, I felt like I'd cheated on him somehow. I didn't like the feeling.

"We need to find a ride," I said to break away from the awkward moment. "Maybe you could give us a ride," I said to Tanner.

"Sorry. Our car is full already."

"My mom's picking me up, so she'll give you and William a ride," Scotty offered.

"Oh, that's cool. I wasn't thinking."

We walked out together and William was still reliving the dodge ball game. When we got to William's trailer, the creepy guy with the greasy hair was on the porch handing over another trash bag to the barnacle. William got all nervous and said, "Please Mrs. Simons, can you keep driving for a little bit, I don't want to go in until that man leaves. He's not a nice man."

"Certainly," Scotty's mom said. She drove past and rounded the corner. When she was out of sight of the trailer, she pulled over and parked. She turned in her seat and asked. "William is everything all right at your home? Are you safe?"

He looked down and said softly, "Yes, ma'am. I'm safe. I just don't like that man who is visiting my father. I don't want him to see me." Mrs. Simons studied William along with Scotty and me. Then she turned around without asking anything more. Silence hung in the car like a dark curtain. "I suspect he has departed. We can go back now." Scotty's mom started the car and we drove back around the large circle. Sure enough, when we rounded the corner, the beat up old car was gone and William's father had disappeared.

William jumped out and thanked us all profusely for going with him to the youth group and for the ride home. He reached in and grabbed his Bible off the seat, shut the door and hurried inside. Mrs. Simons waited, a bit hesitant to drive off, still not comfortable with the situation. None of us were, especially me. Along the way, I begged if Scotty could spend the night at my house again. The answer was predictable since it was a school night, but I pressed on. Finally, Mrs. Simons caved in since we both swore we would go straight to bed and there would be no video games or television. I had clothes he could borrow even though he was a bit taller than me. My shorts and t-shirts would still fit him.

We got my dad's approval and headed upstairs to my room, leaving dad and Scotty's mom to their conversation. I closed the door and Scotty pulled me into a hug and kissed me. I melted into him. After a few minutes of tonsil swabbing, we retreated to my bathroom and took care of the evening business, then went downstairs to say goodnight to my dad. He was reading some papers in his study. He wished us goodnight and asked what time we needed to be to school.

"I don't need to be at school. Mom screwed that all up for me today." I went on to explain the whole mess with her and he just shook his head in annoyance, apologizing over and over for something that wasn't his fault. Scotty agreed that he would go with my dad to work after we went on our morning run. Then, we bounded up the stairs and into my room, shut the door, stripped naked and kept our promise to Scotty's mom by going straight to bed.

I turned from the wall, rolling to my right side and ogled Scotty in the dim light from the window. He rolled his head toward me and smiled warmly. "Scotty," I said. Nervous guilt boiled in me. "I have to tell you something about tonight."

"Let me guess. You sucked Tanner's balls for him in the bathroom. And, he never even offered to do anything for you back."

"Holy shit, how did you know that?"

"That's his favorite thing on the planet to do. He talked me into it before, too."

"He did? How do you know him? He doesn't go to our school, does he?"

"No. He's part of our nudist group. He talked me into doing it out in the woods on a camping trip once."

"Oh. Wow. Do you do a lot of sex stuff with people on the nudist trips?"

"No. It's really frowned on, to be honest. I've done very little there. It's really not about sex, it's about personal freedom and self expression. It's more about breaking down barriers between each other as fellow humans. It eliminates symbols of wealth and poverty, style and fashion, pride and power. It makes it easier to see everyone as equals. Tanner was an exception, not the rule."

"Okay. That sounds pretty cool. I wish I could go with you sometime."

"Yeah, I'd love that. I might have to make an exception on the sex thing though, if you came along." There was a comfortable pause while we lay there smiling at each other. I reached out and rubbed my hand over his firm chest and abs. He rolled to face me and we slipped arms around shoulders and intertwined legs, pressing flesh to flesh. Our foreheads pressed together. "So, why did you feel the need to tell me about Tanner?"

"I don't know. I just felt guilty about it."

"I don't own you. You're free to mess around if you want."

"I know. I guess. I don't think I want." He smiled and we kissed slow and tender until sleep overtook us.

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