The Slipper You Still Have
Copyright © 2011 MultiMapper.
All Rights Reserved.
All Rights Reserved.
As soon as Brian walked in the door, his mother asked him, "And just what do you think you were doing at the old folk's home?"
"I was visiting with Grandpa Andy." Brian said simply and didn't appreciate his mother's prying.
"You know, I worry about you when you don't get home on time. Anything could have happened to you." His mother said as she started to get teary eyed.
Brian stared at his mother with surprise for a moment, then calmly said, "First of all, I've never been late before. Not even once. So I don't know why you're making it sound like I'm intentionally hurting you by being late all the time. Second, I've got my phone. If you ever want to know where I am and if I'm okay, you can call me, just like you did today. Third, I don't know why it matters to you that I visited Grandpa Andy, but you don't need to try to make me feel guilty about it. I didn't do anything wrong, and I'm not going to say I'm sorry."
Mrs. Weston's lower lip began to quiver, then she quickly dashed away.
A part of Brian wanted to run to his mother and apologise. But a bigger part was disgusted by his mother's use of guilt and histrionics to try and manipulate him.
Finally, Brian just shook his head and walked to his bedroom to start on his homework.
Although there wasn't a lot of work for Brian to catch up on, after missing three days of school, he did have a bit more than usual. It was such that if he worked diligently, he might be able to get it all finished before dinner.
The math problems he was working on were 'busy work', as usual, given by Mr. Hyde to make it appear that he was accomplishing something. He seemed to have a set-in-stone lesson plan, and a little thing like the fact that the students already knew the lessons wouldn't divert him from it in the least. So all of them trudged on, day after day, week after week, hoping beyond hope that someday he might happen on to something that the whole class hadn't learned the previous school year.
The sound of the front door slamming alerted Brian to the fact that his father was home. He closed his math book and put it back into his backpack.
Brian took in a deep, calming breath and braced himself before getting up from his desk and walking out of the room to face 'the family'.
Brian walked into the kitchen to find exactly what he would expect to find on any other day at this time. His mother was just starting to put dinner on the table.
"Do you need any help?" Brian asked from just inside the doorway.
His mother flashed him a quick, petulant look that informed him that she was still upset that he had stood up to her.
With a shrug, he walked to his place at the table and took a seat.
After a few minutes of sitting and watching her ferry items, from around the kitchen to the table, he turned at the sound of movement and saw his father walk into the room.
As was customary, Brian's father had gone directly to his room and taken off his button up shirt and was now wearing his untucked undershirt as he took his place at the table.
"Brian went to visit your father today." Brian's mother said coldly as she put a bowl of salad in the middle of the table.
Mr. Weston looked at his wife, then at Brian curiously.
At first, Brian felt the need to explain his actions, but was able to hold his tongue and at least wait until he was asked a question before defending himself.
After a moment of silence, Mr. Weston finally said, "I should do that, too. I'm overdue for a visit."
Brian was a little bit surprised that his father hadn't found a reason to be upset by his action.
"He didn't call to let me know that he was going to be late." Brian's mother said with a tinge of venom, then gave Brian a dark look as she took her seat at the table.
Mr. Weston considered for a moment as he started to put some salad on his plate. Finally he said, "Annie, you need to cut the cord, already. The boy's growing up. There's nothing wrong with it if he wants to have a little time to himself after school. He doesn't need to explain his every move to you."
Both Brian and his mother were surprised by the declaration.
Mr. Weston then turned to Brian and said, "But, if you're going to be late for dinner. You call and let your mom know."
"Yeah. I will." Brian stammered.
Mr. Weston nodded, then looked away from Brian toward something past him on the table.
Brian followed his gaze and automatically picked up the casserole dish and passed it to his father.
"How was work today?" Brian asked cautiously. Their family had never been much for dinner conversation, but Brian thought that it was important to at least give it a try. His time with Cam and Jack had shown him how nice it was to engage in conversation while enjoying a meal.
"It amazes me how people think that just because they show up at the job site that they've fulfilled their duties for the day. More and more often, it seems like the new hires think that if someone isn't standing over them, telling them exactly what to do, every minute of the day, that they're just supposed to stand around doing nothing." Mr. Weston said absently, then handed the casserole dish back to Brian.
As he scooped a portion of the creamy noodley casserole onto his plate, Brian said, "It's probably from twelve years of being in school. All day, every day, we're told what to do and when to do it. If we try to do anything but exactly what we're told, we get into trouble."
Mr. Weston chewed his bite of food for a moment, then finally said, "You know, you may be right about that."
"I made apple flips for dessert!" Brian's mother said quickly.
Brian and his father gave her matching uncertain looks at the abrupt change in topic before Mr. Weston slowly said, "That sounds nice."
She smiled at the insincere praise, then went back to eating her meal.
There were a few minutes of silence, then Mr. Weston asked, "How was your first day back at school?"
Brian considered for a moment, then said, "On a scale of one to ten, I'd have to give it about a nine. And that's only because I'm saving a 'ten' for when I score a winning goal in soccer, or something like that."
Mr. Weston gave his son a brief smile and a slight nod before going back to his dinner.
The conversation faltered after that, but Brian was still willing to call it a success. They had had, at least a small amount of dinner conversation and no one seemed worse off for having had the experience.
"Would you like some help?" Brian asked his mother when the meal was finished.
She flashed him another dirty look, then started carrying the dishes to the sink.
Brian puzzled over that, wondering why she was holding onto her anger over such a simple little thing, but finally he walked into the living room to find his father settling into his chair in front of the television.
He debated within himself whether he should just continue on to his room, when he recalled Cam's words, 'Be honest about what you want and be brave enough to ask for it'.
"Can we talk?" Brian hesitantly asked his father.
Mr. Weston turned the volume down on the television, then looked at Brian expectantly.
"Is there any way that we could go and do something together?" Brian asked quietly and felt unaccountably nervous.
"What did you have in mind?" Mr. Weston asked cautiously.
"I don't know. Like fishing or camping or something." Brian mumbled, feeling like a five year old child.
"Brian, I work really hard. I have to be on the go and aware of every detail of what's going on every minute of every day. When I get home, all I want is a little peace." Mr. Weston said frankly.
Brian slowly nodded.
There was a long moment that would have been silence except for the quiet chatter of the television in the background. Finally, Mr. Weston asked, "Are you gay?"
Brian was floored by the question. There was no build up, no hint that it was coming.
"The other boys are calling you princess, I just wondered if that was the problem." Mr. Weston asked slowly.
"I... um... I don't know." Brian said as he wasn't quite able to meet his father's eyes.
After a long, quiet moment, Brian finally looked at his father, finding him waiting expectantly for more of an answer.
"The reason the guys called me princess was because I wouldn't get undressed after gym class." Brian said quietly.
The television noise sounded in the background for a long moment until Mr. Weston finally prompted, "Why not?"
"This summer, I started, um... growing up... I mean.. um... down there." Brian mumbled.
At Mr. Weston's uncomprehending stare, Brian got flustered and blurted out, "After being normal all my life, all of a sudden, I've got a cock like a mule!"
Mr. Weston's eyes went wide, then his eyes involuntarily drifted down Brian's body.
"I didn't know anything about puberty or what's normal when you grow up, so I was embarrassed to get naked with the other guys in my class because I figured they'd think I was weird or something." Brian rushed to explain.
"And now?" Mr. Weston asked cautiously.
"Today, I did it. I got naked and took a shower at school. I think about half the guys in the locker room just about fell over when they saw it." Brian smiled at the memory.
"But it's okay? They stopped teasing you?" Mr. Weston asked firmly.
"Yeah, mostly. But because of the stuff that I learned while I was gone, even when they did tease me a little, it didn't bother me. It's like, now that I know that I'm not a freak, they can say whatever they want and it's fine." Brian finished happily.
"Well, I'm glad that worked out for you." Mr. Weston said quietly.
"Yeah. But that's not all that I learned about, while I was gone. There's a bunch of other stuff, and some of it I'm going to need your help with." Brian said seriously.
"Like what?" Mr. Weston asked cautiously.
"Dad. All these problems that I've been having lately are because I'm growing up." Brian said frankly, then quietly added, "I'm not done yet."
There was a long quiet moment, then Mr. Weston reluctantly admitted, "I don't know what to do."
"Me either. But I figure that if we can do stuff together, sometimes, that maybe we can figure it out." Brian said hopefully.
Brian's father slowly nodded as he considered what Brian was saying.
"There was one other thing that I'd kinda like to talk to you about." Brian said nervously.
"What's that?" Mr. Weston prompted.
"I... um... you see, it's like... I never know what you expect of me. When I'm quiet, you get mad because I don't speak up for myself, but when I say something, you tell me to shut up. It's like that with everything. No matter what I do, it seems like it's the wrong thing. Do you think, maybe, sometimes, you could let me know what you want?" Brian finished in a quiet, hopeful voice.
After a long introspective moment, Brian's dad finally said, "My dad, your grandpa, enrolled me in every sport that was offered at my school, and he wanted me to be the first and the best at all of them. I gave it all that I had, but I was never good enough in his eyes. When you were born, I promised myself that I'd never do that to you."
"Yeah. I can see why that would suck. But you felt bad that you couldn't achieve the goals that Grandpa set out for you. I think I feel just as bad, because I can't achieve anything for you, because you never set any goals for me." Brian said imploringly.
"All day, every day, I'm chasing after a dozen people at work, setting goals for them and doing my damnedest to keep them on task. I don't think I can do it here, too. I just don't have anything left to give." Mr. Weston said regretfully.
Brian stopped and thought about his father's words. After all the anxiety that he had built up in preparation for 'the talk', it ended up not being nearly as explosive as he had imagined.
Finally, Brian took in a deep breath to brace himself, then said, "I don't think this is going to work."
"What's that?" Mr. Weston asked curiously.
"If you can't meet me halfway, if you can't make an effort, then I think that maybe I need to go somewhere else." Brian said thoughtfully.
"Are you threatening to run away from home?" Mr. Weston asked slowly and seemed slightly amused at the idea.
"No. Not like that. I'm just talking about moving somewhere else where I can have someone to help me." Brian said as he looked his father in the eyes.
"Where do you think you're going to go?" Mr. Weston asked challengingly, and his voice was starting to rise.
"I don't know. But there are people who would be willing to help me find a good place. My counselor at school probably has the connections to work something out, maybe he could even get me into that camp out by the Southcrest Ranch, I hear that that place is almost like a resort." Brian said thoughtfully.
"You really want to leave?" Mr. Weston asked cautiously, seeming to be somewhat deflated when Brian didn't react to his change in mood.
"No. That's not my first choice. But, like I said, I can't do this alone. I know that Coach Reed and Jack would be willing to help me learn the stuff that I need to know, but I wouldn't ask them to do that. They've already helped me so much that I can never repay them." Brian said distantly.
"What did they do?" Mr. Weston asked quietly.
Brian looked at his father curiously, not quite understanding what he was asking.
After a moment, Mr. Weston finally clarified, "What did they do for you that I didn't?"
"Lots of things. They spent time talking to me. They listened. They asked questions. They explained things to me when I didn't understand. They let me know that what's been happening to me is normal and about what to expect next. We laughed, we cried, we hugged... we even got naked." Brian finished with a giggle.
Brian's father looked up with shock and seemed to be about to go off on a tirade.
"Dad! I was shy about my body and how it was changing. They just made sure that I could manage around other guys, you know, like, in the locker room and stuff. Nothing weird happened!" Brian said forcefully.
After a moment, Brian's father hesitantly said, "So, because of that, you were able to go to school today and shower. And, in doing so, you removed the reason for the other boys to torment you."
"Yeah. Exactly." Brian said with relief.
After a long, thoughtful moment, Brian's father said, "I don't think I could have done that for you."
"Probably not, but you could've explained things so that when the time came, I would've known what to expect. I freaked out! I thought I was, like, a mutant or something!" Brian finished in a squeak.
Brian's father gave a slight smile of sympathy, then quietly said, "I guess, I mean, you're still so young. I suppose it never occurred to me that you might need... me... like that."
"You're my dad! Of course I need you!" Brian said in a petulant, teenage tone.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there for you." Mr. Weston said as he looked Brian in the eyes to convey his sincerity.
"You know what? I don't even care about that, now. Coach Reed and Jack took care of all that for me, so you don't even have to worry about it. All I want is for you to help me from here on out." Brian said frankly.
"What do you want me to do?" Mr. Weston asked cautiously.
"Mostly, what you're doing right now. Talk with me. Listen to me. Give me advice. Let me know what to expect." Brian said thoughtfully, then quickly added, "And let me know what you expect of me. I'm serious, it drives me crazy when you tell me to do two opposite things, almost in the same breath."
"I'll see what I can do." Mr. Weston said with the beginning of a smile.
"That's all I'm asking." Brian said frankly.
Mr. Weston nodded, then cautiously asked, "How are you now? Is there anything you need to talk about?"
Brian could see the hope in his father's eyes, but could only think of one question that he hadn't already found the answer to. Finally, he decided that he'd give it a try.
Although Brian didn't have much faith or hope when it came to his father, if he gave him this one chance, it might just be enough to form some sort of a bond.
"Okay. I'll understand if you don't know, or if you don't want to talk about it. I can just ask Coach Reed tomorrow." Brian said in prelude and could feel a fine sheen of nervous sweat covering his face.
Mr. Weston nodded as he waited for Brian's question.
"Let's see. Well, when I was in my last period class today, I was just sitting there and all of a sudden, I got, like, this total raging hardon boner." Brian said as he could feel a scarlet blush wash over his face.
"It was really uncomfortable for a minute, but I don't think anyone noticed when I reached down there and adjusted it. Anyway, it just happened. I wasn't thinking anything or doing anything to cause it. And I was just wondering, what if that happened in gym class? I mean, if the guys ragged on me that bad for not showering with them, what're they gonna say if I go in there and bone up in front of everyone?" Brian finished desperately.
Brian's father considered for a moment, then quietly said, "First of all, that's normal."
After a moment to see that Brian accepted it, Mr. Weston said, "Second, if you're in a situation, like sitting in class or something like that, if you just ignore it for a few minutes, it should go away on it's own."
Brian nodded that he understood and accepted that.
"As far as gym class... well, I can only tell you what I used to do." Mr. Weston said, and Brian could see a slight, nervous sweat on his upper lip.
"Before I would go to gym class or football practice, I'd go to the bathroom and whack off." Mr. Weston said in a voice that ended in a whisper.
"You did?" Brian asked in wonder.
Mr. Weston nodded, then quietly said, "I'd go into the bathroom stall, whip it out, and whack off into the toilet. Once I had that out of the way, I knew that it'd be fine for at least a few hours."
"Wow. I mean, um... yeah. That sounds like it could work." Brian said thoughtfully.
"Maybe your coach has another way to deal with it. If you feel comfortable talking to him about it, you could ask him." Mr. Weston said as he looked Brian in the eyes.
"No. I... um... no. I think you answered my question. I'll give it a few days and then if I'm having a problem, I might ask him." Brian said a little bit nervously.
Mr. Weston nodded, then quietly asked, "When you said that you wanted to go and do things, you said camping and fishing. Those things take a lot of time, is there something that you'd like to do that's a little bit closer to home?"
"Sure. There's lots of things we can do. Maybe we could go to a game sometime or even just play catch in the back yard." Brian said cautiously, watching closely for his father's reaction.
"We could do that!" Mr. Weston said suddenly, then glanced at the window before saying, "It's still light out. We could do it right now."
"I don't have a baseball or anything like that." Brian said regretfully.
"Well, that's why they have stores. Let me go put on a decent shirt and we can go get one now." Mr. Weston said with a smile, then watched for Brian's reaction.
"Sure. Let's do it." Brian said happily.
Once they were in the car, Mr. Weston quietly asked, "How did you become interested in sports all of a sudden?"
"I think the only reason I wasn't interested before is because I felt like I was watching something I could never be a part of. Since I couldn't catch or throw, I didn't want to watch other people out there having fun doing stuff that I couldn't." Brian said honestly.
"I remember when I tried to teach you to catch. I got you a baseball and glove for your fifth birthday. But no matter what I tried, you just couldn't seem to get the hang of it." Mr. Weston said distantly.
"I know." Brian said regretfully, then quietly added, "You got so mad at me that you threw the baseball and glove away."
"I'm sorry, Brian. I acted like an overgrown child. I guess I had built up some unrealistic expectations. Ever since you were born, I had been imagining doing things like playing catch with my son. Then when the day finally came that I thought you were old enough... I'd never seen anyone so clumsy."
"Yeah. Jack figured out that there's something wrong with my eyes. I don't know what it is, but I have trouble following anything moving toward me or away from me or figuring out where it's going. Jack says it's something to do with my depth perception." Brian said seriously.
"We'd better get that looked at." Mr. Weston said with concern.
"Yeah. I asked mom to make an appointment with an eye doctor. Coach Reed and Jack didn't seem to think it was anything to be worried about. I might have to wear glasses or something, but it shouldn't be any worse than that." Brian said honestly.
"Well, that's good." Mr. Weston said thoughtfully.
"And we figured out that if I close my right eye that I can throw and catch pretty well. I'm still not good with the whole 'depth' thing, but I can manage pitching and catching." Brian said as he glanced at his father.
"I'm glad to hear that." Mr. Weston said quietly, then added, "And since I know that you have a problem with depth perception, I'll understand if you don't 'master' it right away."
"Thanks, Dad." Brian said with a smile at his father.
When they arrived at the department store, Brian walked with his father to the sporting goods department.
"So, which sports are you interested in?" Mr. Weston asked as they looked around.
"I don't know. Until last week, I never wanted to have anything to do with any sports. I was kind of bitter because I knew that I'd never be able to play any of them." Brian said seriously, then thoughtfully added, "I guess if I had to pick one, that I'm kinda interested in it would be soccer, because we're learning that in gym class. It seems fun."
Mr. Weston immediately walked to the soccer balls and picked one out.
Brian smiled at the action, then said, "What about you? If we're going to be doing this together, we should do what you enjoy, too."
"Well, I actually always liked playing catch. I'm not very interested in baseball, but throwing the ball back and forth is fun." Mr. Weston said distantly.
"Yeah. I think I might enjoy that, too." Brian said with a smile.
Mr. Weston handed the soccer ball to Brian, then walked to the next aisle where the baseballs were, and picked one out.
After getting gloves for them both, he led the way to the checkout at the front of the store.
As they were driving home, Mr. Weston quietly asked, "Do you have a lot of work to make up from missing school?"
"No. I did most of it before dinner. All that's left is some assigned reading for Mr. Young's class, but I don't have to worry about it. He's just going to stand in front of the class, tomorrow, and read it to us, anyway. So if I don't get the reading done, I'll just have to force myself to stay awake."
"Mr. Young? Do you mean that frail old man with the permanent scowl?" Mr. Weston asked curiously.
Brian chuckled, then said, "That's him. He's my social studies teacher. He's horrible."
"I know. I had him when I was in school. That man was an ancient relic back then. He's got to be close to a hundred years old by now!" Mr. Weston said with a glance at his son.
"Personally, I think he spends each day feeding off the life force of the students. That's why we all feel so drained when his class is over." Brian said with a grin.
Mr. Weston chuckled, then said, "Yeah. That would explain a lot."
Brian smiled, then realized that, somehow, without even really trying, that he and his father were talking and enjoying each other's company.
As he reflected on the unbelievable development, Jack's words came back to him, ' There's no way that things will be the same when you go back because you're not the same.'.
"Where have you been?!" Mrs. Weston shrieked as soon as Brian and his father walked in the front door.
"We had to go to the store for a few things." Mr. Weston said to his wife with a curious look.
"When I finished cleaning the kitchen, I came out to the living room and everyone was gone!" She said as her eyes filled with tears, then she whispered, "You left without me."
Brian watched with astonishment as his father walked to his mother and pulled her into a hug.
He couldn't believe that any adult would react so dramatically over such a simple thing.
"Annie, Brian and I are going out to the back yard for a little while before we lose the light. You can grab a folding chair and join us out there if you'd like." Mr. Weston said gently to his wife.
"Do you want me to?" Mrs. Weston asked into her husband's chest.
"Of course." Mr. Weston said with a slight smile, then leaned in to give his wife a kiss on the cheek.
Brian's mother slowly nodded as she continued to hold her husband desperately.
"Let's go, Brian. Daylight's a wastin'." Mr. Weston said as he guided his wife to walk with him toward the back door.
As Brian walked out the back door, he pulled his rolled up bandanna out of his back pocket.
As he was putting it on his head and covering his right eye, his father asked, "What are you doing?"
"If I don't do this, I won't be able to catch anything and my pitches probably wouldn't go anywhere near you." Brian said honestly.
"I made an appointment for you with the eye doctor. The first opening they had is Friday of next week. I hope that's okay." Brian's mother said as she unfolded a lawn chair at the side of the yard.
"Yeah. That's fine." Brian said as he put on the baseball glove and flexed it a few times to try and get it flexible enough to use.
"Will you be able to get by alright until then?" Mr. Weston asked with concern.
"Yeah. I don't have any trouble seeing things like the board at the front of the room or reading, so the only time it's a problem is when I'm having to do something that requires depth perception. And I can just close my right eye if I need to." Brian said without concern.
"Are you ready?" Mr. Weston asked as he pounded the baseball into his glove a few times to get it flexible.
"Yeah. Just take it easy on me until I get warmed up." Brian said as he leaned slightly forward and readied himself to catch the ball.
Even though Brian had no depth perception and had only a scant few days of practice at pitching and catching, he turned out to be just about on par with his father's ability.
They pitched the ball back and forth between them until the sun finally completely sank below the horizon.
"That was fun." Brian said as they walked toward the back of the house.
"You're not bad. I can't wait to see how you do when you have both eyes working." Mr. Weston said seriously.
"Yeah. And you're pretty good for being out of practice." Brian said in a mildly impressed voice.
Mr. Weston smiled at the words and pulled his son into a casual, one armed hug as they walked inside.
Brian marveled at the action. He honestly couldn't remember his father ever hugging him before.
Brian walked into his bedroom and once again noticed the spartan appearance with the walls now devoid of any posters or decorations. He pondered over what kinds of things he might want to get to decorate his room as he gathered the things he would need for his shower.
While showering, he reflected on how drastically his life had changed in just one week. The despair that he had been carrying since the beginning of the school year, was notably absent.
As he soaped his body and felt the relaxing effects of the warm water sluicing down his back, he realized that the despair had been with him longer than that. Although it hadn't been as pronounced as it was recently, he had been carrying a weight of regrets about not being the son that his father had always wanted. And to a lesser degree, the disappointment that he had felt in himself for never being 'as good as' the other kids in school.
Brian turned to rinse the soap off his front as he smiled, astounded that, somehow, he seemed to be getting everything he had always wanted.
After getting out of the shower, Brian toweled himself dry, then looked at the pile of clothes that he had brought with him to change into.
He smiled to himself, then gathered the clothes and walked out of the bathroom and across the hall to his bedroom, wearing only the towel.
After putting things away, he climbed into his bed, feeling the exquisite sensation of clean sheets against his naked skin.
A moment after his head hit the pillow, he had already fallen into a glorious and contented sleep.
"Brian. You need to get up. Breakfast will be ready in just a few minutes." His mother said from his bedroom doorway.
As he reluctantly opened his eyes, he saw his mother staring at the tent further down in the covers.
His first reaction was to try to hide himself but he was able to restrain that urge and looked his mother in the eyes as he said, "Give me a couple minutes. I'll be there as soon as I'm ready."
Brian's mother hesitantly nodded, then dashed out of the room.
As Brian got out of bed, he smiled to himself, then walked casually across the room to close the door.
He looked down at the rampant erection demanding his attention and muttered, "And you had better behave yourself, today."
After a moment, Brian sighed, then walked to the backpack that Jack had given him and retrieved the petroleum jelly.
"It's probably cold by now." Brian's mother said as he walked into the kitchen, now dressed for school.
"I needed a few extra minutes to get ready. If it's going to be a problem, I can start making breakfast for myself." Brian said as he took his place at the table and was surprised to see that his mother had put a cup of coffee by his plate.
"No. I'll just start giving you a little more time to get ready in the morning." Mrs. Weston mumbled as she busied herself at the stove.
Brian shrugged, then thought to ask, "Do we have any butter?"
"It's right there on the table." Mrs. Weston said as she stopped her frenetic activity for a brief moment.
"This is margarine. Do we have any real butter?" Brian asked hopefully.
"It's all the same, and this is a lot cheaper." Mrs. Weston said as she went back to work.
"No. It's not the same at all. Real butter tastes a lot better. Is there any way you could pick some up for me the next time you go shopping?" Brian asked hopefully as he spread the margarine on his toast.
"You know, butter is all fat. The margarine is a lot better for your cholesterol." Mrs. Weston said as she quickly carried a plate of food to the table.
"Mom. Please? I just want to enjoy my food. This stuff may taste right to you, but to me, it tastes artificial and plastic." Brian implored.
"I'll pick up some real butter for you the next time I go shopping." Mrs. Weston said in a resigned tone.
"That sounds good." Mr. Weston said as he walked into the kitchen, still buttoning up his shirt.
Mrs. Weston stopped what she was doing and looked at her husband with question.
"That margarine stuff we've been eating tastes like plastic." Mr. Weston said as he started to eat.
Mrs. Weston huffed as she dropped something in the sink, causing it to clatter, then walked to the table carrying her plate.
"Is something wrong, Annette?" Mr. Weston asked curiously.
"Everything's changing." Brian's mother said with frustration.
"Yes. But as far as I can tell, that's a good thing." Brian's father said frankly.
"No. I don't want things to change. I know what I'm supposed to do and what I'm supposed to say. If things change... I'll be lost." She said as tears filled her eyes.
"We'll figure it out together." Mr. Weston said gently to his wife.
"If it means this much to you, I'll eat the margarine." Brian quietly offered.
Mrs. Weston chuckled past her tears, then said, "No. I'll be fine. I'm just a little bit frightened by so much change in such a short time."
"You're not going through this alone, honey. We'll get through it just fine." Mr. Weston said assuringly.
Brian glanced at the clock, then quickly said, "I'd better hurry and go."
"Hold on a minute, and I'll drop you off on my way to work." Mr. Weston said casually.
"Won't that make you really early?" Brian asked as he stopped in the kitchen doorway.
"Yes. But I don't feel like waiting until the last minute today. When you're finished, go and get your stuff." Mr. Weston said, then went back to enjoying his breakfast.
Brian rushed into his bedroom and grabbed his school backpack. After taking his cell phone off the charger, he was about to walk out the door when a sudden thought came to him.
He dashed to the camping backpack and relocated the petroleum jelly to his school backpack before hurrying out of the room.
"Do you have any plans for tonight?" Mr. Weston asked his son as he drove the scant few blocks to Brian's school.
"No. Not so far. Did you have something in mind?" Brian asked curiously.
"Well, if you wanted to, you could check on the Internet when you get home and see if there are any games being played tonight." Mr. Weston said as he pulled the car to a stop about half a block from the school.
"What kind of game?" Brian asked as he picked up his backpack.
"It doesn't matter. You pick whatever you'd like and we'll go after dinner." Mr. Weston said with a smile.
"Yeah. Okay." Brian said happily as he opened his car door.
"Have a good day, Brian." Mr. Weston said warmly.
On impulse, Brian leaned over and gave his father a quick, firm hug as he said, "You, too."
Brian got out of the car and waved at his dad as he pulled away from the curb.
"Was that your dad?" A voice asked from behind Brian.
"Hey, Toby. Yeah, he decided to go into work early and dropped me off." Brian said casually as he fell into step at Toby's side.
"I was wanting to ask you..." Toby started to say, then seemed to reconsider.
"Go ahead. Ask me anything." Brian said simply.
"How can you not be freaked out a little bit about being around a gay guy?" Toby asked a little bit nervously.
"Myron's just like us, except that, someday, when he falls in love, it's going to be with a guy. So, unless Myron tells me that he's in love with me, then how he feels about guys and girls really doesn't have anything to do with me at all." Brian said thoughtfully.
"But wasn't it creepy when he saw you naked... I mean, knowing that he might be thinking about... you know, doing stuff to you." Toby asked hesitantly.
Brian thought about it for a moment, then admitted, "Yeah. Maybe it was a little bit creepy, at first. But it's kinda like what Coach Reed was saying to us yesterday, all of us are free to think and feel whatever we want. It's only the things we do that matter to anyone else. Unless he does something, it's not a problem."
Toby slowly nodded as they approached the front door of the school.
"Hey, Princess!" A voice called out from behind them.
"Hey, Gerry. How are you doing today?" Brian asked with a smirk at the silliness of the nickname he had been saddled with.
"Do you guys want to come with me to the busses? I want to make sure that Myron doesn't have any trouble with those guys from yesterday." Gerry said seriously.
"Sure. But why are you worried about Myron all of a sudden?" Brian asked curiously as he changed direction to walk toward the back of the school.
"Well, yesterday when we were all out by the busses, I could see all you guys standing there, ready to get beat up just to protect a fag. And that's when I got it. You guys were out there because Myron is one of us... our class, I mean. That's when I figured out that it wouldn't matter if it was Myron or you or me who was getting picked on. All you guys would be doing exactly the same thing, because that's just what you do. You protect your own." Gerry said seriously.
Brian grinned at Toby, then said, "That's right, Gerry. We protect our own. It doesn't matter if they're gay or have down's syndrome or even if it's a girl. We belong to each other, and when things get tough, we may be all that we've got to depend on."
"Yeah. It's good to know that someone's got your back. But the only way that works is if you're willing to cover everyone else's back when they need you to." Toby said frankly.
Gerry smiled with accomplishment, obviously feeling proud of himself for figuring it out.
"Do you know which one is his bus?" Brian asked as he looked at the line of busses parked beside the school.
"No. But it looks like almost all of them are here." Gerry said as he looked around.
In less than half a minute, Toby said, "There he is!"
Brian followed Toby's pointing finger and saw Myron walking away from one of the busses with his gaze mostly directed toward the ground, walking alone toward the school.
"Hey, Myron. How are you doing?" Gerry called out as he ran up to the boy.
Myron looked up at the sound of his name, then he looked around curiously at the familiar faces.
"Are you doing alright?" Gerry asked as he fell into step at Myron's side.
"Yeah. I think so." Myron said cautiously.
"Don't worry. No one's going to mess with you." Gerry said seriously, then looked at Brian and Toby before continuing, "We've got your back."
Myron looked curiously at his three escorts, then whispered, "Thanks."
"There's Danny." Gerry said happily, then called out, "Hey, Danny! Over here."
Danny looked up at the sound of his name and broke into a smile at the sight of Gerry, Toby and Brian escorting Myron from the busses.
"Hey, guys. How is everything today?" Danny asked as he altered his course to join his friends.
"Everything's fine so far. We just came back here to make sure no one would give Myron any trouble before he could make it to class." Gerry said with a note of accomplishment in his voice.
"Good thinking, Gerry. We probably need to give the other classes a few days to get used to things before we can be sure that Myron's going to be safe on his own." Danny said seriously.
Myron looked like he wanted to shrink into nothingness, but he continued on with the group as they entered the building.
"I'm supposed to meet someone out front. If you guys want to go on to class, I'll meet you there in a few minutes." Danny said casually.
"Who are you going to meet? Have you got a girlfriend?" Gerry asked in a slightly mocking tone.
"No, Ger. Jarritt's mom called my house last night, trying to figure out what all had happened yesterday that got Jarritt so excited. After we talked for awhile, she said that she wanted to meet me, so I said that I'd meet her out front when she drops Jarritt off." Danny said frankly.
"Is it okay if we all go along? We're all gonna protect Jarritt if he needs it, so his folks need to see that you're not the only one watching out for him." Gerry said seriously.
"Yeah. Okay, Ger. Just... don't be too energetic around her. I get the feeling that she's really protective of Jarritt and I don't want to give her a reason to think that we're going to get him into trouble." Danny said honestly.
Gerry looked at Danny uncertainly, apparently not quite getting what he was saying.
"What he means is, shut up in front of Jarritt's mom." Brian said without any harshness behind the words.
"Oh. Okay." Gerry said happily, not giving it a second thought.
As the increasing group of boys walked out to the curb in front of the school, they noticed Jarritt slightly bouncing in the passenger seat of an older model station wagon.
By the time they reached the car, Jarritt was out of the vehicle and joyfully bouncing his way to greet his friends.
"Is one of you Danny MacAlistair?" An older woman asked as she got out of the driver's side of the car.
"I am. These are my friends Gerry, Brian, Toby and Myron." Danny said as he indicated each boy in turn.
"It's nice to meet all of you. After hearing Jarritt talk about all of you last night, I just felt like I needed to come here and meet you in person." She said timidly.
"You don't need to worry. Jarritt is one of us. We'll make sure that no one messes with him." Gerry said firmly.
Danny glanced at him and Gerry suddenly seemed to remember that he wasn't supposed to say anything and quickly clamped his mouth shut.
"Thank you. I'm very glad to hear that. I was originally against this 'mainstreaming' idea, but I never imagined that it would be possible for Jarritt to be accepted by a peer group." Mrs. Bender said with the beginnings of tears glistening in her eyes.
"The first bell is about to ring. We need to get going." Danny said carefully.
"Oh. Yes. Of course." She said quickly, then added, "Thank you, again. All of you."
"Bye, Mom! I love you!" Jarritt called out from his place at Danny's right side.
"Bye. I love you, too." Mrs. Bender responded gently and waved, before getting back into her car and slowly driving away.
The first class of the day was, once again, Mr. Young's social studies class. It took every bit of Brian's focus and energy to stay awake, when faced with the monotone droning sound of Mr. Young's voice as he read aloud from the textbook.
After what seemed like nine hours, but was in reality just shy of forty- five minutes, the bell rang to signal the end of class. Brian glanced around and broke into a smile before gently shaking Adam's shoulder to wake him up.
"Five more minutes." Adam mumbled into his open textbook.
"It's time for gym class. You need to wake up." Brian chuckled as he shook Adam's shoulder again.
Adam made a sound that sounded halfway between a snort and a snore before he slowly raised his head and looked blearily around the room.
"Time for gym." Brian said with a grin.
"Ungh!" Adam grunted, then closed his textbook and got up, catching his backpack with one finger as he stood.
"Seriously, Adam. You really need to start getting more sleep." Brian said as he walked out of the room at Adam's side.
"I would, except that when it's bedtime, I'm wide awake. It seems like no matter what I do, I can't get to sleep before one o'clock in the morning." Adam said in an exhausted voice.
"Have you been to a doctor about it?" Brian asked curiously.
"No. My Aunt can't afford to take me to the doctor unless it's something serious, you know, like gushing blood or if something's about to shrivel up and drop off." Adam said frankly.
"Well, you really need to find a way to deal with it before you get into trouble." Brian said with honest concern.
"Yeah. From what my Aunt said, if I'm late one more time, they're going to expel me." Adam said in a grave tone.
"Well, just let me know if there's anything I can do to help you. You're one of the guys, and we wouldn't want you to leave." Brian said seriously.
"I know. But... it's just a matter of time." Adam said, then went silent as they walked into the field house to change.
Brian had to admit that as they played soccer, not only was his class improving at the game, but he was actually having fun. He was riding a slight adrenaline buzz as he walked into the locker room with everyone else.
"Hey, do we want to shower in shifts, like yesterday?" Toby asked as he looked around.
"Myron, if you don't mind, why don't you go on in and start your shower? Then, anyone who doesn't have a problem showering while he does can get theirs out of the way at the same time. Anyone who has a problem with it can just wait a few minutes until he's finished." Danny suggested reasonably.
A few shrugs and nods went around the room and it was agreed.
Brian was about to get ready to shower when he glanced down at his crotch and noticed a thickening down there.
With a sigh, he dug into his backpack and palmed the small container of petroleum jelly and started toward the bathroom stalls.
Before he could make it out of the room, Adam asked him, "Brian, are you going to wait to shower?"
"No. But I need to make a pit stop first." Brian said frankly, then continued on his way.
Brian wasn't sure if it was a leftover effect from the adrenaline of playing soccer, or just the fact that he could hear the other guys, only a scant few yards away from him that made what he was doing seem forbidden and dangerous. But for whatever reason, it didn't take him more than about thirty strokes to bring him to the most intense, mind boggling orgasm to date. This one actually curled his toes.
As Brian walked into the shower room, feeling sluggish and sated, Gerry called out, "Hey, Princess! We saved you the spot next to Myron!"
"Thanks, Gerry." Brian said in an obligatory tone as he hung his towel on a hook, then walked to the shower beside Myron's and quietly asked, "Are you doing okay?"
"Yeah. Believe it or not, I'm starting to feel like I can be myself here. No one has said anything mean to me all day... well, except Gerry, but I know that he's teasing, just trying to be funny, so that's okay." Myron said seriously.
Brian smiled, then said, "I'm glad that you get that about Gerry. I can see how it would be really easy to be offended by him since he's kinda loud and pushy."
Myron chuckled, then said, "Believe it or not, I used to be a lot like that."
"Really?" Brian asked with surprise.
"Yeah. That's why it's easy for me not to get mad at Gerry for being a jerk. I already know not to listen to what he's saying and to pay close attention to what he isn't." Myron said thoughtfully.
Before Brian could ask what he meant, Myron turned off his shower and walked to the hooks to get his towel.
As Brian was starting to lather himself, he heard Myron call out, "The fag's out of the shower! It's safe!"
A chuckle spread through the shower room and Brian finally felt certain that Myron was going to be alright.
"How are you doing, Brian?" Cameron asked as Brian walked out of the field house.
"I don't even have words to tell you how good things are." Brian said with a smile.
"I'm glad to hear that. But if at any point, things start turning badly, remember that I'm as close as the nearest phone. Jack and I are still available if you need us." Cameron said frankly.
"I know. I never doubted that, even for a minute." Brian said with a smile, then suddenly remembered something and quickly said, "I visited my Grandpa Andy after school yesterday and while we were talking, I mentioned you and he said that he knew you."
"Andy? Weston?" Cameron asked cautiously.
Brian nodded quickly.
"'Old Man Weston' is your grandfather?" Cameron asked suddenly.
"I guess so. I've always called him Grandpa Andy." Brian said frankly.
"Of course! I haven't thought of him in... years. How's he doing?" Cameron asked with a big smile.
"Well, he's in a nursing home. But he's not really bad sick or anything. I don't know much about it, but I guess he fell down and broke his hip and it didn't heal right or something like that, so he went into the nursing home because he couldn't do everything that he needed to do to take care of himself. You'll have to ask him about it, that's all I know." Brian said honestly.
"I'd really like to see him again." Cameron said with a distant smile.
"That's good, because he asked me to ask you to visit him." Brian said frankly.
"He did?" Cameron asked with surprise.
"Yeah. I think his exact words were, 'Tell Little Cammy that I'd like to visit with him so we can catch up'." Brian said with a grin.
"That man..." Cameron said with a chuckle, then continued, "No one else ever thought to call me 'Little Cammy', not even my own father. I need to tell my father that Old Man Weston is still around. I know that he'll want to visit with him, too."
Brian smiled at Cameron, then noticed that the rest of his classmates were starting to make their way toward the school.
"I've got to get to my next class. Tell Jack that I'm probably going to call him after school today." Brian said quickly.
"I'll let him know. Have a good day." Cameron said as he watched Brian hurry away.
When they arrived in English class, Brian was surprised to see that the desks had been organized into groups of four.
With the way the desks were arranged, he couldn't tell where he was supposed to sit.
"Brian, you're going to be teamed with Danny, Jarritt and Adam, today. Just pick a block of desks, then catch your teammates when they walk into the room." Ms. Schnaubel said seriously.
After dropping off his books at a nearby desk, Brian waited for his team to arrive as he listened to Ms. Schnaubel repeat the instructions to the other teams.
Once the final class bell rang, Ms. Schnaubel called out, "We're going to be doing some group writing projects today. Remember that the most basic form of creative writing calls for an introduction, a body and a conclusion. I'll be grading on form, grammar, spelling and punctuation, so leave yourselves plenty of time for proofreading."
After a moment to see that everyone had gotten the message, she continued, "I've selected the subjects, but to make it fair, I've put them all into this bowl. Each team send someone forward to select your topic, then you can get started."
Danny immediately leaned over and quietly asked Jarritt to go get their topic. Brian smiled at him, genuinely appreciating the gentle way he treated Jarritt.
At the end of English class, Brian felt good about their assignment.
He had contributed some ideas about what direction they should take their story. It turned out that Adam was surprisingly good at expressing himself in writing. And, of course, Danny was a proficient proofreader. As he was proofreading, Danny would make a point of asking Jarritt's opinion about certain things, so that he would feel included.
As Brian was eating his lunch and listening to the general chatter around the table, it suddenly occurred to him that he and Myron weren't invited to sit at the table with the other boys. Things had progressed to the point where it was automatically assumed by him and by everyone else, apparently, that he and Myron would naturally be included in anything that the rest of the boys were doing.
The rest of the day flowed past without incident.
Brian did have to fight the urge in Mr. Hyde's math class to stand up and demand to be given an assignment that he hadn't already completed in the middle of the previous year. But, other than that, it was a very uneventful afternoon.
Finally, classes were over and Brian happily walked the two blocks to visit his grandpa.
"I'm here to visit with my grandpa, Andy Weston." Brian said at the front desk.
"I think everyone in this building knows who you are by now, Brian. Your grandfather has been telling everyone about you since you left yesterday."
Brian smiled at the words as he signed his name on the clipboard, then said a brief, "Thanks," before hurrying back to his grandfather's room.
"Hi Grandpa! How are you doing today?" Brian asked as he walked into the room.
"The best I've been in ages." Grandpa Andy said with a warm smile.
"Before I forget, I talked to Coach Reed today and gave him your message. He said that his father would also probably like to visit with you, so don't be surprised if both of them show up before very long." Brian said with a smile.
"That's good. It would be nice to see David again, it's been too many years." Grandpa Andy said with a distant smile.
"Yeah. That's what Coach Reed said, too." Brian said happily.
"So, how was your day?" Grandpa Andy asked warmly.
"Really good. But I want to tell you about last night, first. It was AWESOME!" Brian said joyfully.
"Really? What is it that happened that was so... awesome?" Grandpa Andy asked with an indulgent smile.
"Well, first of all, I talked to my dad. I figured he was going to be a big jerk and not listen and maybe even yell at me or ground me or something. But he was really great! We talked and he listened and... well, it's like, for the first time, ever, we're really acting like a father and son." Brian said happily.
"I'll have to take your word for it. I can't even imagine your father being that way." Grandpa Andy said frankly.
"Honestly, I couldn't have imagined it either. But he's been TOTALLY cool about stuff. Anyway, after that, we wanted to play catch, but we didn't have a baseball or anything, so he took me to the store so we could buy one. I didn't even know it was possible for him to get out of his recliner between the hours of six and ten o'clock." Brian finished with a grin.
"Well, I hate to admit it, but he got that from me. After a day of work, all I wanted to do was get off my feet and enjoy a little peace and quiet."
"Yeah. Dad's like that, too. But last night, after we got back from the store, we went to the back yard and played catch until it got dark. It was SO awesome. We've never done anything like that before." Brian finished with a chuckle.
"I remember your dad mentioning that you didn't seem to have any skill when it came to athletics. I just figured you inherited that from him." Grandpa Andy said frankly.
"Yeah. Dad said that when he was growing up, you signed him up for every sport that was offered, but then you never encouraged him or anything." Brian said slowly.
"I did encourage him. I went to every single one of his games." Grandpa Andy said simply.
"But did you ever tell him that he did a good job?" Brian asked curiously.
"No. But that's because he never did. I could see that he was out there, really trying and giving it his all. But in the end, he was average on his best day."
"You could have told him that you were proud of him for trying." Brian said quietly.
"We didn't do it that way in my day. Back then, not everyone got a trophy just for participating. Winning meant something. Losing was a bitter, hard pill to swallow, but winning was sooo sweet..."
"I guess I can see that." Brian said thoughtfully.
"Your dad was NOT a good athlete. I kept signing him up for sports because I thought that he might improve with practice, but he never really did. In the end, it was his schooling that he did best at. That boy always had a head for numbers. After he got out of high school, I took on a second job for a while so we could help him pay for college. I'm proud to say that he went in there and took full advantage of the opportunities he was given. He graduated near the top of his class." Grandpa Andy finished seriously.
"Did you ever tell him that you were proud of him?" Brian asked curiously.
"Yes! I most certainly did!" Grandpa Andy said firmly, then quietly added, "I'm not sure if he heard me though. He seemed always to focus on his failures and disregard his achievements."
"I guess that's easy to do when you see yourself as a failure to begin with." Brian said introspectively.
"You don't feel that way about yourself, do you, Brian?" Grandpa Andy asked hesitantly.
"No. But I have felt that way before, so I can understand what it's like." Brian said frankly.
"I'm glad to know that you and your father are getting closer. I wouldn't have bet on that happening, but I'm glad that it is." Grandpa Andy said warmly.
"Yeah. And it's weird, but we're not as different as I always thought we were. We've actually got things in common." Brian said consideringly, then broke into a smile and added, "We even had the same boring teacher."
"Who was that?" Grandpa Andy asked with interest.
"My social studies teacher, Mr. Young. Dad said that he was old and boring back when he was a kid in school." Brian finished with a chuckle.
"Mortimer Young?" Grandpa Andy asked cautiously.
"Yeah. I think so." Brian said uncertainly.
Grandpa Andy snorted with laughter, then said, "If he's the same one I'm thinking of, I had him as a teacher when I was in school."
"NO WAY!" Brian said in amazement.
"I think our class might have been the first class that he ever taught. My Lord in heaven! What a boring man! I can still recall after all these decades how that man would stand up in front of the room and read straight from the book for the entire class period." Grandpa Andy said emphatically.
"That's him! That's exactly what he does, every single day!" Brian laughed.
"That man's got to be close to a hundred years old by now." Grandpa Andy said with a shake of his head.
"He looks it." Brian said frankly, then checked the time on his cell phone.
"Do you have to go already?" Grandpa Andy asked with disappointment.
"Yeah. In a few minutes. There's some stuff I need to do before dinner..." Brian trailed off, then broke into an ebullient smile.
Grandpa Andy watched and waited expectantly for what wonderful thing Brian had just remembered.
"What are you doing tonight?" Brian asked cautiously.
"Having dinner and watching TV out in the commons, I suppose." Grandpa Andy responded hesitantly.
"What would you think about going to a game with us tonight?" Brian asked with a smile.
"What kind of a game?" Grandpa Andy asked slowly.
"I don't know yet. I still have to find out who's playing tonight. But even if it's just little league, it'll still be fun to watch. What do you say? Do you want to go?" Brian asked hopefully.
"The wheelchair is so much bother..." Grandpa Andy began to say.
"Oh yeah. It takes, like, an extra minute and a half to set that thing up or fold it down. Big deal!" Brian said with a roll of his eyes.
"Your father might not want me to go along." Grandpa Andy said frankly.
"I'm sure the only reason he didn't include you in the plan is because he just didn't think of it. I mean, he asked me this morning while he was driving me to school, so I'm pretty sure it was just off the top of his head." Brian said seriously.
Grandpa Andy looked at Brian uncertainly.
"Okay. Yeah. I admit it. Dad's kind of a peckerhead. But since we talked, I realized that he's not as bad as I thought he was. I think that if you can get him past that 'poor little me, my daddy isn't proud of me, wah, wah, wah' thing he's got going on, that you'll see that he's not so bad." Brian said frankly.
Grandpa Andy burst into full laughter at Brian's words.
Brian smiled and waited for his grandfather's answer.
"If you can get the peckerhead to agree to it, then yes, I'd like to go." Grandpa Andy said with a smile.
"Leave it to me." Brian said confidently.
"Are we still on for this weekend?"
"Yes. I've got the price list and my dad's already said it's okay."
"Dad told me that things are working out for you at school, but how's everything else?"
"Jack, it's like night and day. I can't believe this is the same house, that these people are the same family. It's like I've come back to a completely different WORLD!"
"I'm relieved to hear that. Even though I did what I believed was the right thing for you, there was no way of knowing how it would work out when you applied what I taught you in a real life situation. I would have felt responsible if things had gone wrong."
"Well, I hope you'll feel just as responsible for things going right. I can't say that everything is exactly perfect right now, but it's so much better than it used to be that I can't even tell you all of it."
"Are you happy?"
"Yes. Happier than I've ever been."
"That's what all of this was about. That's all I really wanted."
"You know what?"
"I think I just had another one of those profound moments."
"Really? Tell me."
"I just figured out how one person not only changed my life, but also the lives of just about everyone I care about. I don't even want to imagine what my life would be like right now if it wasn't for Dillon."