The next few weeks were the most blissful Dylan had ever known. He and Corey had become inseparable.
His parents were oblivious to his new-found happiness, as they busied themselves with the move to LA.
"Dylan!" called his mother. "Don't forget! The movers will be here on Friday. I want you to pack all your boxes in your room by tonight."
Dylan shook his head. This whole thing is totally fucked, he mused. I finally have a best friend, in the hell-hole of Arizona, and now I gotta move.
He glared angrily at his mother, not saying a word.
She sighed and sat down on a stool in the kitchen. She hated confrontations like this.
"Dylan... please, honey. We've talked about this. You've seen the video! It's a wonderful house! It's in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley. The schools are terrific... you're bound to like the kids there. I promise!"
"Where's it at again?" he asked quietly.
"Chatsworth. It's ten miles north of LA. It's really nice."
Dylan winced. "You mean Chatsworthless. It sucks."
She sighed. She remembered all too well what it was like to be a rebellious teenager. She had the same temperament when she grew up in Westport, back in the early 1970s. She remembered one particularly vicious fight with her now-dead mother in 1979, just after she got married, and immediately felt a pang of regret. She turned to her son and smiled, then mussed his hair.
"Sweetie, listen to me. We've got this incredible pool -- wait `til you see it! It goes from inside the house, right out to the backyard! Once your new friends see it, you'll never be able to get rid of them. You'll be the king of the world."
For a moment, Dylan imagined himself as Leonardo DeCaprio on the front of the Titanic. Some king he'd be.
"Dylan! Dude!" yelled a voice from the living room. "Shit, man, it looks like a bomb went off in here!" said Corey, as he trotted into the kitchen. His face fell when he saw Dylan's mother.
"Uh, sorry, Mrs. Callahan," he said, meekly.
She laughed. "That's alright, Corey. Listen, can you help Dylan pack his things? We've only got two more days, and then we've got to catch our flight at noon on Friday."
"No prob, Mrs. C. C'mon, Dylan."
The two boys trudged down the hall and flopped down on Dylan's bed.
"This sucks, man," moaned Dylan.
"What?" Corey asked, surprised. "The videos of your new house look fuckin' cool, man! I mean, it's like Beverly Hills 90210 or somethin'."
Dylan rolled his eyes. "We're not in Beverly Hills, douche. We're in some stupid place called Chatsworthless."
Corey put his hand on his friend's shoulder. "C'mon, man," he said, quietly. "You know what I mean."
He nodded. Dylan felt like his heart was breaking. He and Corey had shared a lot since their bicycle collision the month before. They'd gone skinny-dipping in Corey's pool, spent afternoons at the mall, gone to a couple of movies. Even better, they'd shared confidences, spilled their guts over the things that worried them most. Corey admitted he hated his stepfather, since his mother had remarried six years earlier. Dylan had confessed how he felt his father always expected too much from him, like he'd never measure up. It was a relief to get that off his chest, and finally have somebody to talk to, somebody he knew would never laugh at him. It'd been the best summer Dylan could remember. And now it was gonna all be over.
His eyes filled with tears. Corey reached over and gave him a hug. "Dude. Don't let it get to ya. Look, we got two more days. Let's make the most of it, `kay?"
They spent the rest of the afternoon boxing up Dylan's belongings. CDs in one box, videotapes in another. It took them an hour just to unwire and box up his audio/video system, then half an hour to figure out how to get all the styrofoam pieces together. Fuck, thought Dylan. This is the kinda shit my dad knows how to do better than anybody.
By 6:00, both boys were exhausted. The room was nearly empty, except for the bed, an empty chest of drawers, and 9 large moving boxes on the floor.
"I'm fuckin' beat," moaned Corey, as he fell back on the bed.
Dylan nodded and fell back beside him. "Totally."
Corey rolled on his side. "You wanna come over to my place tonight? You know, sleep over, like last Saturday?"
Dylan's heart began to race. They'd fooled around with each other almost a dozen times over the past three weeks. Each time, they'd gone a little further. Saturday, Dylan had almost kissed him, but he held back. He still wasn't sure what the limits were. The one thing he hadn't been able to admit to his friend was how he was beginning to feel about... about guys, about sex, and most importantly, about Corey. Dylan was scared, but it was an electric kind of feeling, one that made him feel really alive for the first time in his young life.
Corey grinned. "Cool. Lemme clear it with the `rents. Be right back." He ran out of the room at top speed, almost colliding with Dylan's father, who had just entered the hallway.
"Whoa! Slow down, young man, before you knock somebody down!" he said, laughing.
Corey put on the brakes. "Sorry, Mr. Callahan!"
Dylan stuck his head out the door. "He has a bad habit of running into people when he's not lookin', Dad."
Corey shot him a glance and laughed, then continued down to the kitchen.
His father chuckled and shook his head. "He's a good friend, son."
Dylan grinned. "Yeah. I know."
"Let's sit down."
They walked over and sat on the bed.
"Look, I was going to save this surprise for your 14th birthday next week, but your mother thought I should tell you now."
Dylan rolled his eyes. Now what?
His father smiled. "You were getting -- what, $20 a week for your allowance?"
He nodded, then turned down and looked at the floor.
"Starting now, you're getting what we call a bump-up."
Dylan looked up at his father curiously.
"Fifty bucks. Take it or leave it."
Dylan's jaw dropped.
"Aren't you going to ask about percs?" he said, grinning.
His father stood up. "Dylan, you've got to start learning how to negotiate, son. Ask for some percs. You know, some benefits. Extra stuff."
Dylan thought for a moment. Take my friend with me to live with us. Forever.
"I... I dunno, Dad."
He chortled. "For starters, we've got two horses. They come with the property. We've got almost three acres, a barn, plus access to a neighborhood horse-riding trail that stretches for miles, right by the 118 freeway."
Dylan furrowed his brow. He'd never ridden horses before, but he guessed he could learn.
"What... You don't seem happy about it!"
His son shrugged his shoulders. "I guess... I guess that'd be cool."
"I also think you need a new bike. Pick out whatever you want. Top of the line."
Dylan thought about his Trek 9000, which was pretty decent. He'd like to get something with better suspension, though.
"Yeah. Thanks, Dad."
His father beamed. And now for the piece de resistance...
"Rosa! Bring her in!"
Dylan turned to see their maid bring in a little brown ball of fur, who was squirming furiously in her arms.
"Meester Callahan! I theenk he wants to bite, yes?"
He laughed heartily. "Son, help Rosa with your new pet."
"A dog?" Dylan asked, bewildered. He'd always thought his mother was allergic to dogs.
"Not just a dog. This is a purebred Afghan Hound! She's worth a fortune. One of the most beautiful dogs in the world. One of the girls in the LA office knew a breeder here in town, so we thought we'd surprise you in advance."
The little pup struggled in his lap for several seconds, then eagerly licked the boy's face.
Rosa beamed. "You see, Deelin! I theenk he likes you, no?"
"Jesus," the boy sputtered. "I'm being french-kissed by a dog!"
"An Afghan Hound," corrected his father.
"Whatever!" said Dylan, wearily. The dog looked up at him, then snuggled in his lap. Good or bad, it looked like he had a new friend to take with him to LA.
"Dude, we're all set!" yelled a voice from the hallway. Corey ran in and stopped in his tracks. "Whoa! What a cool-lookin' dog!"
"It's an Afghan Hound," said Dylan, as he scritched the pup behind his ears. The dog closed her eyes in gratitude.
"Too cool. You wanna bring it with ya to my place tonight?"
His father shook his head. "No, son. Let's not confuse the poor thing. It's gonna go nuts as it is, once we let it run around four acres of property."
Dylan turned to his father. "How'd you get Mom to let you get one?" She'd never allowed him to have a pet before.
The man laughed. "That took some doing. Like I told you: I'm a master of negotiation."
Corey giggled. "I know, Mr. C -- you made her an offer she couldn't refuse!"
"Naaaa. Nothing that drastic. She gets a new car and a diamond ring, plus she gets to redecorate the house. And, uh... the dog stays outside. Period. That rule is etched in stone."
Dylan chortled. "Sounds like Mom's not a bad negotiator, herself."
His father nodded. "You boys get going. Your mother is still finishing up the packing out in the living room, and we've got the final papers to sign with the real estate agent tomorrow afternoon. Then Friday..."
"I know, I know," interrupted Dylan. "Friday noon, we're off to Chatsworthless."
"Chatsworthle... uh, yeah -- Chatsworth."
Dylan nodded, then handed the puppy back to Rosa. The dog yipped with fear.
"I take the leetle one to the keetchen. Geev him some scraps. He be happy."
"It's a she, Rosa," corrected Dylan's father.
The boys trotted out the door, leaving Callahan alone sitting on the bed. He looked around the room. It looked huge, once all of his son's posters and shelves were down. The man thought about the little cluttered room he'd grown up in, back in Jersey. He'd had a very different life from his son. But he was certain that eventually, the boy would realize just how good he had it compared to most people in the world.
"So what'd he think?"
He looked up to see his wife leaning in the doorway. She smiled at him.
"That was a great idea, honey. How's your allergy?"
She reached in her pocket and blew her nose. "I just took another Sudafed. Look, if it makes Dylan happy, I can live with the sniffles until Friday. But remember, once we get to the new house..."
"I know, I know..." he said, waving his hands helplessly as he stood up. "She's strictly an outdoor dog." He walked over to his wife and embraced her. "Thanks, honey."
She nodded and they kissed. She turned back to the bed and frowned. "Did you... did you have that little talk with Dylan?"
He sighed, then shook his head. He'd been awakened several nights ago by some strange noises coming from Dylan's bedroom. When he got up to investigate, he was shocked to peak through the door and find the two boys... well, the mental image still made him wince.
"Honey," he explained, "a lot of boys fool around with each other at some stage of adolescence. You know it's normal. Ask your psychiatrist friend Mrs. Freud, or whatever her name is."
She nodded. "I know. But I'm worried about Dylan. I've never heard him talk about any of his friends so much before. He seems to think this Corey walks on water! What if it's not just a phase?"
He thought back to when he was 13. Flashes of memory of a summer camp in Maryland, where he knew a boy... what was his name? Gene? Bill? No... Perry. Yeah, Perry Mathers. Christ, he hadn't thought about him in thirty years. He'd been with many women over the years, before meeting Polly. But there was that one drunken frat party back at NYU, where he and two other guys... The memory was distorted, hazy, like a funhouse mirror reflection of a dream. But that was a long time ago.
"Don't worry about it. Dylan's straight as an arrow. I know he is. I was there when he was born, remember?"
They both laughed, then kissed again. "You wanna try again for a baby brother?" she coohed, softly.
Mike grinned and put his arm around her. "You got a date. Tonight, in the living room by the fire. We've got the place all to ourselves."
They smiled and walked out of the room, as an anguished puppy yapped in the distance.
* * * * *
"HA! Dude, gotcha again!"
For the third game in a row, Corey had caused Dylan's Mustang to careen off the NASCAR track and spin out in the dirt. The victory flag flew by on the screen, and GAME OVER flashed on the screen, just as a triumphant fanfare blared out of the speaker.
"Nintendo sucks!" yelled Dylan, who slammed the controller across the floor and stood up.
"Hey, man!" cried Corey, as he crawled over to retrieve the broken pieces of the device on the carpet. "Some of us aren't made outta money!"
He held out the wretched body of the handheld controller, whose plastic guts were hanging out like those from a wounded animal. A wire sparked and flared momentarily, and static suddenly filled the TV screen.
Dylan walked over and examined the ruined device. "Shit, Corey," he said, apologetically. "I'm really sorry, dude. Look, I'll give you one of mine, OK? In fact, I'll give you the four deluxe controllers. I'm not really into Nintendo, anyway. I think Playstation's more happening, y' know?"
Corey frowned. "I guess that'd be okay. But, Jesus... try to control your temper, man! My folks really get after me if I don't take care of my stuff."
He nodded. "You wanna... y' know, watch some TV or somethin'?" He put the emphasis on the word somethin', and wiggled his eyebrows.
Corey chuckled. "Yeah. I got a really hot new porno from Dewey, my friend from down the street."
The two boys laughed conspiratorially as Corey reached in his desk drawer and pulled out an unlabeled VHS cassette.
"Is it blank?" asked Dylan, curiously.
"Naw," he replied. "I knocked out the tab and marked it here in the corner with a little S."
He flicked off the overhead light and shoved the cassette into the VCR and his TV set, a small GE color portable, flickered into life. The title burst onto the screen.
"Suck Me Baby," read Dylan out loud.
"Is that a request, or just a description?" giggled Corey as he pulled his T-shirt off over his head.
Dylan grinned and began undressing.
"You're gonna love this one, dude," said Corey, as he grabbed the remote and slid across his bed. "This chick sucks off two guys at once! It's fuckin' incredible."
Dylan almost tripped over his feet in his underwear as tried to walk over to the bed, not taking his eyes of the TV set. Holy shit, he thought. Those are the hottest-looking guys I've ever seen! Both men were built like bodybuilders, and had model-handsome good looks and enormous endowments.
Just as the action began, he slid across the bed next to his friend.
"Do it like we did it the other day," whispered Corey.
They moved their bodies so they laid parallel to each other, head to toe, toe to head, so they could get easy access to each other's groins with their right hands.
"Move over a little so I can see the set," whispered Dylan.
Corey nodded and shifted slightly. They began stroking in earnest.
Despite the coolness of the air-conditioned bedroom, Dylan felt like he was on fire, almost woozy with desire. His heart raced as his eyes darted, first to the TV screen, then over to the handsome body that lay beside him.
There was no question about it, the "actress" in the video was very talented. Dylan paused for a moment. It almost seemed impossible that her mouth could accommodate both men at once. He tried to imagine what that would be like, and he salivated slightly at the concept.
"Oh, dude," Corey moaned. "I wish she could suck me now like that."
Dylan turned and looked at his friend's erection, which was engorged with blood. He let his hand pause momentarily.
"Hey, man!" snapped Corey. "Don't stop! I'm gettin' close, dude."
Dylan closed his eyes and tried to gather his courage, then stared at the screen as the actress' mouth hungrily took another inch. He made his decision. "Corey..." he whispered hoarsely. "Lemme finish you off now."
Corey was almost frantic. "Please! Just do it, man."
Dylan took a breath, then sat up, leaned forward, and plunged his mouth around his best friend's erection.
"Oh, God!" Corey moaned. "Dude, that is so..."
He opened his eyes and stopped.
He angrily shoved Dylan's face away and rolled away. "What is this shit?"
Dylan was immediately apologetic. "I'm sorry man, I'm sorry! I just got carried away! Let's just finish."
Corey slid off the bed, then walked over to the VCR and shut it off. The screen immediately went to snow, and he flicked off the set's power switch. He pointed towards the door.
"Get the fuck out."
Dylan stared at his friend,
unable to comprehend.
"You heard me."
"Corey, I swear, man, I-I don't know what happened..." he stammered.
"You faggot!" Corey hissed.
"N-no, I swear, I'm not," Dylan began. "C'mon... put the tape back in, and let's get this over with. Please."
Corey hopped back into the bed and pulled the covers up to his chin. "Shut up," he snarled. "Just go to sleep."
Before he could respond, a pillow landed at his feet.
"No. If you're gonna stay, sleep on the floor. And leave me alone."
Dylan started to shake, and tears welled up in his eyes. What had just happened in the last 30 seconds?
He sank to his knees, then reluctantly stretched out on the floor and lay his head back on the pillow. Tears trickled down his cheek, but he stifled his sobs. He lay there for more than an hour before finally getting the courage to stand up and glance over at his friend. His ex-friend.
Corey looked asleep. Should he try to ease back into the bed? He couldn't chance it. Reluctantly, Dylan pulled his shorts back on, pulled his shirt back over his head, then gingerly crept across the room and opened the door. He looked back at the sleeping Corey, who was turned on his side, with only his back visible.
I can negotiate this, Dylan thought to himself. I'll get Corey to accept my apology tomorrow. I'll give him the whole goddamned game system if that's what he wants. I can make him forget this ever happened.
He wiped the remaining tears off his face and stepped out into the door, closing the door softly behind him.
Corey heard the door close behind him, then rolled over. "Fuckin' faggot," he muttered.
* * * * *
The puppy yipped happily when Dylan entered the kitchen, wagging her tail frantically. His parents had closed the kitchen doors to prevent the dog from escaping, and left it with plenty of food and a blanket. Rosa had thoughtfully added a hot water bottle and an alarm clock, which ticked softly beside the makeshift doggy bed. "The dog... she think the clock ees her mommy's heart," she'd explained.
A dim light shone from inside one of the cabinets. He sat down wearily in one of the kitchen chairs, and the pup happily stood up in his lap and licked his face. She seemed to like tasting the salt of his tears.
Dylan cried. He hadn't cried once since they'd moved to Phoenix. He remembered back to his old friends in Connecticut. Keith, Doug, and Steve - they were like the Four Musketeers back at Roosevelt Elementary in Westport. But he'd had to leave them in sixth grade to move out here, to the fucking desert. Out here in hell.
The puppy snuggled closer to him. He hugged the dog tight. Suddenly, the kitchen was flooded with an explosion of light.
"Dylan!" said his mother, who pulled her bathrobe around her. "It's two o'clock in the morning! What are you doing home? Where's Corey?"
He wiped his eyes. "He's at his place. We... we kinda had a fight. I just wanna go to sleep, Mom. I'm sorry."
She sighed. She was afraid this would be a problem. Maybe it was the bed-wetting again. She walked over and knelt by his chair. "Honey, do you want to talk about it?"
He shook his head. "No."
"Then try to sleep for now," she said, soothingly. "You can help us finish packing tomorrow. You can say goodbye to Corey in the morning."
I think I already did that, he thought.
He nodded and placed the dog firmly but affectionately in her bed, then petted her on her head. The dog yawned and put her head down on the blanket and closed her eyes.
* * * * *
That afternoon, Dylan brooded. The more he thought about it, Corey owed him an apology, not vice-versa. He stared at the phone. Fuck you, Green, he thought, mentally willing his words into the phone line.
"Still nothing from Corey, hon'?" asked his mother.
He shook his head.
She sighed. "C'mon, sport," she said, "we're almost finished in the garage."
As they wound down the hallway, his Dad called out from the living room. "Dylan! I think it's your friend outside!"
Dylan's heart stopped. Corey was back! It was gonna be okay! His face lit up and he bounded down the hall and out the front door to the walkway. Then he stopped dead in his tracks.
Corey was on his bike --
the one he'd helped fix three weeks ago -- only now he was accompanied
by two friends. One he recognized as Dewey something-or-other from school;
the other face was unfamiliar.
"Hey, Corey," Dylan called out. "I got your Nintendo controller, if you want it."
"Shut up, FAGGOT!" sneered the young teen. "Shove it up your faggot ass!" The other two laughed.
Dylan began to tremble. He felt like he'd been stabbed in the heart.
"Get the fuck outta Phoenix, homo!" said the one on the right.
He stared at the three boys. This couldn't be happening. He tried to speak, but suddenly his mouth stopped working. Shit, he thought. It was working fine last night. Maybe too fine.
"Asshole!" yelled Dewey as he threw a rock, which missed Dylan's head by inches and bounced harmlessly off the mailbox. Dylan staggered backwards, as if he was hit by a bullet. The three boys laughed and tore off down the street.
As if in a coma, he half-stumbled, half-walked back into the living room, and dizzily sat down on a shipping crate.
"Son!" called his father. "You gonna help us with this stuff?" He turned and saw his son staring forlornly at the fireplace.
Dylan didn't answer.
"Son? Dylan? You okay?"
Dylan turned and nodded. "Yeah. What do you need?" he asked dully.
His father walked over and sat next to him on the crate. "I heard you had a fight with your friend... what's his name? Corey?"
Dylan shook his head sadly. "He's not my friend any more, Dad."
His father sighed. "I think I know how you feel. I had the same thing happen to me, back in Jersey. Lost a good friend over something stupid -- Mitch Checkver, my best friend in 7th grade. He had a bar mitzvah and invited me, and... I guess I sorta forgot to show up." He looked down. "I didn't realize how important this was to... members of the Jewish faith. When I saw him at school the next week, he acted like I betrayed him." He sighed. "We never really spoke much after that."
Dylan stared at him. It was nothing like that, Dad, he thought.
He turned away. His father put his hand on his shoulder.
"These things happen sometimes," the man explained with a shrug. "I know it seems bad now, son, but remember the old saying: `what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.' In business, when you have a bad experience, you should do two things: first, you learn from it, and then, you put it behind you, like it never happened. That way, you won't ever make the same mistake twice."
Dylan looked up at him, tears brimming in his eyes. He'd never understand, he thought.
His father stood and nodded. "LA will be a great new experience for you, son. You and me and your mother... we'll be starting over, like a clean slate. New friends, new people. It'll be great! Just you wait and see."
Dylan sniffled and wiped his eyes. "Clean slate. Got it."
"C'mon. Help your mother with the crap in the garage. I have to fly out tonight for an emergency meeting tomorrow morning at the LA office. I need you to be with her, and take charge of the dog. That's your assignment. Can you handle that, Dylan?"
The boy looked over at the dog, which was sitting in a large blue plastic container stenciled with the words "Southwest Airlines" on one side, and "Cargo Pooch" on the other. The dog looked miserable, and pawed tentatively at the door.
"Yeah," he said in a small voice. "I can do that, Dad."
His father grinned. "Thanks, kiddo." He glanced at his watch. "Shit -- I gotta get to the airport. I'll pick you guys up tomorrow afternoon at 5:00PM at LAX. Hang in there until then, Dylan. I'm counting on you, son."
He walked briskly out the front door and closed it behind him. Dylan reached across through the blue holes in the shipping box, and the dog gratefully licked his fingers.
* * * * *
Friday morning, Dylan awoke at 7:25. All his furniture was gone; he was wrapped in a sleeping bag he had left over from his disastrous week with the Cub Scouts two years before. It was too small for him, and barely came up to his chest now. His dog sat beside him on top of the cage. The pup had whined all night in the living room, and the only way he could get her to shut up was to bring her into the room with him.
Suddenly, there was a soft knock on his bedroom door. Both he and the dog cocked one sleepy eye at the door.
"Come in," he mumbled, trying to sit up.
Rosa stuck her head in. "Deelin," she said. "I sorry to bother you. I... Leesen -- you come with Rosa." There was an uncharacteristically worried expression on her face.
What was all this about?, he thought. He stood up and pulled on a T-shirt, then quickly pushed the dog back into the room when she tried to slip out the door with him. The maid led him out to the living room, then pointed to the front door, which was slightly ajar. There was something written on it in spray paint, in giant red letters.
"A-G-G-O" he read. Oh, shit. He ran out the front door, turned around and stared at the doorway.
Written across the entire door frame, in smeary red letters. Almost pink, actually.
He trembled and clenched his fists. Fuck.
Rosa looked at him, expectantly. "I theenk bad boys do this, just before I get here. I try to wash off... eet no come off the wood, but I got it off the leetle glass window hokay."
He continued to stare at the door, transfixed. "I'll fix it, Rosa," he said, dully. "Thanks for tellin' me."
She nodded. "I let your mother sleep another half-hour, hokay?"
Dylan rushed to the garage. Everything was gone, except for a pile of newspapers and some old cans in the corner. He pushed the paper aside. Shit. One can was empty. A wave of panic hit him. He tried the next one. That was lavender, for the hallway. Here it is, he said to himself. Pale Eggshell, from the fine Sherwin-Williams Family of Quality House Paints.
He frantically looked around for a brush, but they were all gone. "Fuck it. I'll just have to improvise," he said out loud. He walked back out of the garage and up the steps, then took the can of paint over to the doorway, shook it up, then pried off the lid with a quarter from his pocket. He peered inside the can. Just enough to do the job, he thought.
He looked up at the door again. His hands shook with rage. He gritted his teeth and dipped his trembling finger into the gooey mixture, then carefully traced over the 2-foot tall words on the doors. He desperately fought the urge to hyperventilate as he tried to rid his mind of the image of Corey, his best... no, he thought. He was never really my friend. Just somebody I knew once.
The boy worked quickly but precisely, glancing over his shoulder every few seconds to make sure no curious bystanders had come by to observe his handiwork. In less than ten minutes, he was done. He carefully smoothed and blended the edges of the paint as best he could, and prayed that it'd dry by the time his mom woke up.
At last, it was finished. He stood back and took a good look. He thought it was a near-perfect job, but he'd have to wait at least an hour for the paint to dry before he knew for sure.
"Eeet looks very good, Deelin," said Rosa beside him, making him jump.
"Yeah," he said. He stared blankly at the elderly Mexican woman. He'd hardly talked to her at all over the last two years since they'd moved to Phoenix. When they did, she was usually complaining about mud he tracked in, or if he left the milk out on the kitchen table again.
She smiled at him. "Those are very bad boys," she said, quietly. "Pinche cabrons! Muy malo. You good boy, Deelin. Don' pay dem no `tention."
He nodded and absent-mindedly wiped the tears streaming down his face. He was mortified; he hadn't even realized he'd been crying the entire time.
"Oh, now you get paint on you face. Come to keetchen! Rosa clean you up."
"Thanks again for tellin' me, Rosa," he said, his voice cracking.
She held out her arms and he hugged her and began sobbing on her shoulder.
* * * * *
As luck would have it, no one even noticed the front door at all. Rosa deliberately left it open for the rest of the morning, and carefully placed a large pile of trashcans and newspapers right in front of the door, partially obscuring the surface. No one would ever see the graffiti, unless you were half a foot away and looked carefully for them, and even then, they were very, very faint.
Promptly at noon, Dylan sat nervously in the cab with the driver, waiting for his mother to finish signing the last of the papers. He stared at the front door and prayed that she'd overlook it on her way out. His parents had left a very large severance check for Rosa -- three months' pay, far more than she had expected -- and she'd wept with gratitude at their generosity. Rosa walked with Dylan's mother to the cab, which had been waiting for twenty minutes in the driveway.
"God bless you, meesus Callahan!" cried Rosa. "You so lucky... both you and Meester Callahan and Deelin. He good boy."
"Thank you, Rosa," she said, sitting next to her son in the back seat. She turned to the boy. "You've taken care of everything, right honey?"
Dylan nodded. Yeah, he thought, still staring at the door. What doesn't kill me will make me stronger.
"Are you alright, Dylan?" she asked. She didn't like the look on her son's face. He seemed angry, filled with rage... no, like he was concentrating on something with all of his strength.
Dylan turned towards her and forced a smile on his face. "I'm fine, Mom," he said, evenly. "The dog's fine, too, aren't ya, girl?" He held his fingers out and scratched the dog's head through the bars. The pup whimpered softly, terrified of the noises of the cab and the strange smells outside.
The mother sighed. "I hope you were able to say goodbye to Corey," she said.
He's behind me now, thought Dylan, shutting his eyes. It's like he never existed.
He ignored her question and opened his eyes again. "Let's go, Mom. Let's see the pool and the horses and all that cool crap in LA." He forced himself to sound as enthusiastic as possible.
She laughed. "You mean in Chatsworthless, don't you?"
He turned and grinned. "Yeah. Chatsworthless. Let's go." New city, new house, new life. A clean slate, he thought.
Rosa leaned in through the door on Dylan's side and gave him a hug. "I pray for you, Deelin. God loves you. He send Angels to look over you. You watch. I pray to Jesus."
Dylan hugged her back. She brushed the hair out of his eyes, then kissed him on his forehead.
"Adios!" she said, softly, as she closed the car door. She stood back as the cab pulled out and into the street, then sped down the block.
After a few minutes, Dylan finally relaxed. Well, he thought, that's over with. Let's hope they repaint the house and nobody ever sees the...
"HEY, FAGGOT!" yelled a voice off to the left.
Dylan froze. It was Corey and his two cronies on their bikes. One of them had a backpack, and he could see a can of spray paint sticking out of a pocket to the side.
His face flushed. He leaned out the window. "Eat me, Green, you asshole!" he snarled, then quickly rolled the window shut.
"Driver, can you go a little faster?" asked his mother, concern in her voice.
The man nodded and sped down the street, leaving the three boys behind on the street corner, laughing and jeering, as their insults faded into the distance.
His mother sighed. "Dylan, I'm sorry that..."
"It's okay, Mom," he interrupted. "Clean slate. New deal. Don't worry about it."
She stared him. Her son looked different, somehow. He had an angry expression of steel determinism on his face, and was clenching his jaw furiously, just like...
My god, she thought. Like her husband Mike.
The cab made the turn that
would take them across Phoenix to Sky Harbor Boulevard, directly to the
Southwest Airlines terminal, and on to a new life for Dylan and his family.
The puppy whined quietly to herself for a moment, then curled into a tight
ball and desperately tried to sleep.
The latest installments of Jagged Angel can be found on Archerland.net, and submitted sometime thereafter to Nifty.org, ASSGM.com, and GayWritersGuild.org, along with the alt.sex.stories.gay.moderated newsgroup. Feedback can be sent to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.