STANDARD WARNING: This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to individuals, living or dead, is pure coincidence. Do not read this story if you are offended by man-to-man romance or sex. Do not read if you are underage according to the laws in the country, state/province, county, city/town/village or township where you live. There is sex between males. You have been warned!
Copyright 2001 by Nick Archer.
Permission is granted to Nifty Archives, ASSGM, and gaywritings,
to post one copy. No part may be copied, reproduced, republished,
or reposted on another website without written permission from
By Nick Archer
The Cardinal shook Als hand when he presented himself as Jakes father.
"Father?" Marty mumbled. "Barely more than a sperm donor."
Matts lips twitched as he tried to suppress a smile. Tim let a chuckle escape before he covered his mouth.
Al held out his arms, expecting a hug from Jake.
Matt saw the veins in Jakes neck start to bulge. He knew Jake was near a meltdown, and he had to get Jake away from the situation, fast. He grasped his bicep firmly and tried to lead Jake away. Jake jerked away from Matts grasp.
"You arent my dad, Matt is my dad," Jake screamed. The capacity crowd in the gym suddenly silenced. All heads pivoted to the scene in front of the Cardinal. "Where were you when I needed you? Where were you when mom beat me? Who was there when I needed help? Matt was, not you."
"Cant we talk about this?" Als voice trailed off.
"Stay away from me!" He approached Al, then suddenly kneed him in the groin.
"Ohh! Al doubled over, holding his crotch.
Jake spun on his heels, fell into Matts arms and dissolved into tears.
"I wonder if that boy was ready to be Confirmed," the Cardinal wondered aloud.
For many eighth graders in Illinois, a trip to Springfield is obligatory. Besides being the state capitol, Springfield is home to Abraham Lincolns Home, Tomb, and the Old State Capitol. Nearby is Lincolns New Salem, which is a recreation of his hometown in the 1840s.
Mr. Groves asked Matt to chaperone the event and Matt accepted.
The early Friday morning was cloudy and overcast when Matt roused Jake and Brian at 5:30. They all took showers and the boys wordlessly ate cereal. Matt re-read the sheet Jake had typed up on the computer a few days ago and distributed to the other kids.
Group 3 Bus 1 Mr. Rosatos Group
The Coolest Group
Allegra Thigpen John Miles
Diane Castor Valerie Mazzuca
Brent Van Den Horst Mike Rosen
Dave Dabagles Carl Lawson
Tammy Vansickle Pam Lister
Brian Rosato Jake Wagner
So thats why Jake insisted I wear the baseball cap today, Matt thought. He looked over the list again. He knew most of the kids on the list. Matt was rather proud of Jake for making the little sheet it showed leadership. Matt doubted he would have any problems with this group of kids. They were the cream of Forest Trails Junior High.
While Brian and Jake crunched their Frosted Mini Wheats and read the cereal box, Matt mused about the trip. He knew this group of kids was carefully handpicked. He also knew that Mike didnt really fit in with their crowd the poor child really had more in common with the chess club and debate team -- but somewhere along the line, Jake or Brian or both must have insisted on his inclusion. And Matt doubted that anyone would try to debate them.
A bit later, Tim woke and prepared himself for work. He woke Tommy and made sure the boy took a shower. The previous night, Tim supervised as Tommy packed his school clothes in his backpack. He was going to take Tommy over to Leahs where he could sleep another couple hours before leaving for school.
Tommy, however, had other ideas.
He lay on top of his bed and pretended to be asleep.
"Come on, Tommy, lets go to Leahs. You can sleep there."
Tommy didnt respond.
Tim began to lose patience as he approached the bed. "Lets go."
His eyes flew open. "Carry me."
Tim sighed, but did so with a smile on his face as he slid an arm under his neck, and another under his knees. "Come on, Tommy Twotone."
Tims biceps bulged as he carried the preadolescent boy, but he was not a burden. Matt intercepted them in the kitchen.
"Isnt he heavy?" Matt asked.
"He aint heavy. Hes my smother."
Matt groaned. "Bad pun." He kissed Tim. "Thanks so much for taking charge of him; making sure he was ready for the day, getting his shower. Just getting him out of bed is a chore." Matts eyes darted to Tommys face. He was still pretending to be asleep. Matt kissed Tim again, this time letting his tongue probe Tims mouth.
Tommys eyes flew open. "Ewww! Swapping spit again."
"Ill give you swapping spit!" Matt said, and kissed Tommy lightly on the lips.
Tommy laughed and wiped his lips with the back of his hand. "I dont know where that mouth has been."
"Thanks, Tim," Matt kissed him again. "I love you." Matt addressed himself to Tommy. "I love you, too. Be good for Leah!"
He turned his attention to Jake and Brian. "Ok, lets go looking for Lincoln."
The rain had stopped for the time being, but the sky was still leaden as drowsy adolescents and chaperones gathered in front of the Junior High. Three yellow busses awaited the onslaught of kids. Matt tried to remember the last time he had ridden in an honest-to-God school bus. The kids themselves were unusually quiet and docile this morning. Their attitude was: Just get us on the busses so we can go back to sleep.
Jake stationed himself in front of the still-closed bus door. Meanwhile, Brian introduced Matt to some of the kids he hadnt met. Tammy was a very petite and pretty blond who had moved from California.
"Dad, this is Dave Dabagles."
"Bagel Boy," Allegra interrupted. "Thats what everyone calls him."
"And this is Carl Lawson." Matt shook hands with an incredibly tall, thin boy with glasses.
"I like your cap," Carl commented.
"You a Sox fan?"
Brent Van Den Horst was a handsome dark-haired boy with hazel eyes, and a dimple in the middle of his chin the size of a peanut M & M. Matt thought that he needed to shave the thick fuzz on his upper lip.
When the bus driver opened the door, Jake was the first onto the bus. He claimed the most prized seats for himself and his friends: The very rear seats. Matt smiled to himself. Some things never, ever change.
Matt thought; There probably hasnt been so much fuss about a seating arrangement since the Last Supper. Yet, there were no arguments and not once did Matt hear "Youre in my seat." The kids simply arranged themselves as if the seats were prearranged. Pam and Tammy sat together in the other rear seat. Matt had heard that Jake and Pam had had yet another argument, which explained the fact they werent sitting together. Mike sat alone in a seat directly in front of Brian and Jake, and was clearly distressed about the two boys sitting together. John and Brent were seated in front of Pam and Tammy. Matt observed them. Their interest in the girls in the rear seat was obvious, but the girls treated them as second-class citizens.
Dave and Carl sat in front of Mike. Poor Mike alternated between talking to them and glaring at Jake. Allegra, Diane and Valerie formed another trio.
Matt debated his own position in the bus. He didnt want to sit too far back and ruin the fun. He also wanted to give Brian and Jake some space and not appear to be hovering over them. Yet, he didnt want to appear unfriendly by sitting in the front. Besides, he had been asked along to help supervise and for doing so, his fees and admissions were all being paid by the school. He chose a seat in the middle of the bus.
The kids quieted quickly as the bus left Park Forest, and headed toward I-80 west. Once they passed Joliet, the bus pointed its nose south on I-55 to Springfield. It would be a three-hour journey. They would stop in Bloomington for breakfast and eat lunch in Springfield. Most decided they were going to snooze until they stopped for breakfast in Bloomington, more than two hours and a hundred miles away.
Rain drummed on the windows of the bus. The kids were constantly lowering and raising the window because when the windows were up, the bus became stuffy and uncomfortable, and with the windows open, the rain streamed in.
Mr. Groves sat in a seat across the aisle from Matt.
"How is Jake doing?" Matt asked him in an attempt to strike up a conversation.
"His grades are fine, but his behavior has been slipping the last week or so."
Matt pressed his lips together and nodded. "I think I know why." He explained to Groves what had happened at Confirmation.
"When its all said and done, I think its pretty amazing that Jake is functioning at all. He still is probably one of the most popular boys in the school. If Jake says something, its gospel. If he told a kid to walk around school naked, theyd probably do it. Thats what Im concerned about. If the other kids see Jake acting out and getting away with it, they might follow suit."
Matt understood his point.
They pulled into the lone rest area just south of Pontiac. Some kids made a beeline for the restrooms. Others stretched or played on the playground equipment. The rain had stopped again.
They stopped for breakfast at a McDonalds in Bloomington. Groves had wisely called ahead, and the restaurant was ready for the huge tribe with extra employees.
"You kids are too big for the play area!" Mrs. Murphy shooed them out.
Matt sat at a table with Groves and Mrs. Murphy. Matt had nothing but his customary coffee. He watched Brian and Jake across the restaurant. Brian broke off half his hash browns and gave them to Dave. Jake requested an empty cup from the counter and poured half his orange juice into the cup for Dave. The scenario became obvious to Matt: Dave had no money for food.
"I think Im going to check on the Dynamic Duo," Matt told Groves and Mrs. Murphy.
"Hey, dad," Brian greeted him warily when Matt approached the table.
"Whats up? Hey, Dave, I could use your help with something."
"Sure, whats up?"
Matt motioned the counter with his head and eyes. Dave stood and followed him.
Matt placed a hand on his shoulder and whispered, "Ive never eaten breakfast at McDonalds. I was hoping youd help me order."
Dave regarded him as if his hair had turned purple. "What planet are you from?"
Matt smirked and shrugged. "I almost never eat breakfast."
"Oh, well in that case....the Egg McMuffins are good."
"Well have two of those, please. How are the hash browns?"
"Three of those, please," he told the girl at the counter. Brian will help him polish off the extra one. "How about the sausage biscuits?" Matt asked, trying to add something without eggs to the order that he could eat.
"Theyre pretty good."
"Two of those, please. And two orange juices and two cinnamon danish."
When the girl assembled the order, Matt paid her and Dave took the tray. On the way back to the table, he removed one sausage biscuit and a container of orange juice. "I guess Im not as hungry as I thought. You can have the rest."
It didnt occur to Dave until much later what Matt had just done.
"Look what your dad bought. He only took one sausage biscuit. He said he doesnt eat breakfast, so he gave the rest to me. Is that true that he doesnt eat breakfast?"
"Its true," Brian confirmed. His eyes sought Matts across the room. He smiled at Matt. Im surprised he even took the biscuit, Brian thought.
As Matt brought the hot coffee to his lips, he grinned back at his son.
Fortified by the food and the sleep, the kids now were fully awake.
Matt attempted to get comfortable in the hard bus seat. He closed his eyes and tried to doze, but his ears still recorded the voices in the bus.
Carl: "Pam, put your shoes back on!"
Mike: "Who wants to sing something?"
Valerie: "What do you want to
Mike: "A Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall?"
There was a chorus of groans.
John: "Cease fire!"
Mrs. Murphy: "I think its BO back there!"
Dave: (To Jake) "Why are you sitting with Brian?"
Pam: "Because he wants to sit with his boyfriend."
Brian: "Hes my brother, not my boyfriend."
Jake: "Shut up, Pam."
Mr. Groves: "Whats that smell?"
Valerie: "When we get to Springfield, well yell Merry Christmas."
Pam: "There goes Jake." (Referring to a passing cattle truck.)
Allegra: "Mr. Groves, keep your arms down."
Mr. Groves: "Hand check!"
Pam: "Id spit on you, but I dont want to waste the saliva."
Someone on the bus: "Oh, my God! Im so sure!"
Diane: "Dont touch me!"
Brent: "Diane, what are you doing on the floor?"
Mr. Groves: "They (Pams shoes) smell worse than the cattle truck."
Dave: "Allegra, youre supposed to kiss him."
Allegra: "Im too young to die!"
Mrs. Murphy: "Sit up back there!"
Brent: "I cant, I have backitis!"
Valerie: "(to John) Are you taking French in high school?"
John: "French is a fag language."
Brian: "The men in France must not think so."
Diane: "The sky is green!"
Carl: "Watch for funnels."
Mike: (hands at throat) "Auntie Em! Auntie Em!"
Tammy: "Who wants to play Truth or Dare?"
Brent: "Shhh! Well play it tonight on the way home."
Jake: "I have to take a piss."
Carl: "I think Mr. Groves has a coffee can."
Valerie: (To Allegra) "What are you listening to?"
Allegra: "Elton John."
John: "Hes a fag."
Brian: "Shut up, John."
Mr. Groves: "Thats enough back there. I dont want to hear any more anti-gay remarks."
Someone: "How about Auntie Brian?"
Brian: "Fuck you."
Pam: (to Tammy): "I could deal with it if it were another girl. But I lost him to a boy!"
Carl: "Sounds like a country song."
Jake: "Put your shoes on, Pam. Itll help you think."
Once in Springfield, the first stop was Lincolns Home National Historic Site. It was a tidy, white two-story cottage near downtown Springfield. It was the only home Lincoln ever owned. Here the guides led the kids through the rooms, many of which contained original furniture and other artifacts the Lincoln family owned and used. Upstairs, they viewed the separate bedrooms for The President and Mrs. Lincoln. Many kids giggled.
As they boarded the busses again, Matt spotted Jake trying to talk to Pam. She was having no part of it, and simply walked away and ignored him. Mike kept trying to get Brians attention. While Brian was not ignoring Mike, neither was he paying much attention to him. A group of boys stood in a circle talking and gossiping and Mike placed a hand on Brians shoulder and listened. Brian still ignored him. Matt felt sympathy for all of them, and just a bit frustrated at Brian and Jake. I thought I had taught them better manners. He knew the road to adulthood was full of potholes and detours, but he also knew they would eventually work it out for themselves.
The next stop was the Illinois State Museum and the Old State Capitol. The Museum was rather dull especially since Matt and his sons had just spent several days in some of Chicagos museums. From there, they walked a few short blocks to the Old State Capitol, a handsome limestone building with a burgundy tiled dome. Here, Abraham Lincoln served as legislator and gave his House Divided speech.
As they exited the building, Jake playfully bumped into Matt. "McDonalds for lunch! Mmmmm! I know how much you love McDonalds, Matt," he teased.
Matt crooked an arm around his neck and gently rubbed his knuckles over Jakes hair. "About as much as I like passing a bowling ball."
This time, however, they were going to pick up the food and take it to New Salem. Groves had compiled all the orders and faxed them to a Springfield McDonalds. He gathered their money and took it into the store. The food was bagged by order, then the bags stacked into cardboard french fry boxes. The intention was to sort through them and distribute them once they reached the park, which was about 20 miles northeast of Springfield.
But, the kids had other ideas. The scent of the fries and burgers whetted everyones appetites, and Mr. Groves needed little convincing to pass the lunches out as they traveled to New Salem. Matt helped Groves and Mrs. Murphy pass out the lunches. Again, Matt discovered Dave hadnt purchased a lunch, so he shared his with the boy. He was very grateful.
The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration had painstakingly reconstructed New Salem in the 1930s. First archeologists revealed and documented the original building foundations. Of course there were no photographs of New Salem to work from, so the builders had only written records and recollections to rebuild the structures. The result was a village of twenty or so buildings and a new stone building for administration.
Since Matts last visit, when he himself was in eighth grade, they had added a new reception center complete with its own McDonalds. Some Lincoln artifacts were housed inside the reception center. They watched a short multimedia presentation about New Salem, Lincolns life when he lived there in the 1830s and 40s, and how the park was reconstructed.
For this portion of the trip, the kids were basically on their own to explore. They were to meet back at the busses at 4:30, a half-hour before the park closed. Allegra, Diane and Valerie stuck to Matts side as they toured the buildings. The distinct odor of the buildings wood preservative, wood smoke, mildew and rot brought Matt back to age fourteen. Matt held a map and tour guide as they walked from building to building. He caught a glimpse of Brian and Jake running, with Mike following them.
There were also interpreters making candles, weaving cloth and blacksmithing.
"Imagine going to school here!" Diane observed. "Ill bet its colder than a witchs titty in the winter. Oops!" She covered her mouth and looked embarrassed.
Matt smiled at her. "Its OK, sweetie."
"So, whats Jake like at home?" She asked, partially to deflect attention away from her inappropriate phrase.
"What do you mean?" Matt asked, although he had a pretty good idea. She wanted celebrity gossip. Matt felt like a reporter on Entertainment Tonight. He could picture it in his mind: The Secret Life of Jake Wagner! What he eats, what he watches on TV, how he feels, what he thinks! Its an ET exclusive!
"Well, hes pretty typical for his age," he said as they walked out of the school building. "I guess...."
Shouting interrupted him. Jake and a girl -- Matt thought the voice belonged to Pam -- were screaming at each other nearby.
"All I want is the truth! Thats all Im asking."
"Pam, will you leave me alone!"
The screaming was nearby. Matt glanced around the corner of the building. At the next log cabin, Pam stood in the doorway with Tammy behind her. Jake and Brian were walking away from them. They desperately searched for an exit from the yard, which was surrounded by a rustic fence.
He turned to Diane, Allegra and Valerie. "Would you excuse me? I need to talk to Jake and Brian...and maybe Pam."
"Sure, Mr. Rosato," Allegra smiled.
Jake and Brian were making a hasty retreat down the dusty road that had once served as the main street of the settlement. He called after them, but they either didnt hear him or ignored him.
Matt turned to Pam. "Are you OK?"
"Never better," she said with a sarcastic edge.
"Do you want to talk?"
"I see Allegra over there," Tammy said. "I think Im going to catch up with her." Tammy left as well, leaving Matt and Pam in the musty building.
Pam turned to leave.
"Pam," he said quietly, "Im sorry."
She laughed her throaty laugh, but instead of sounding bell-like, it sounded wooden. "Sorry for what?"
"For Jake. Hes being such a jerk."
She stopped in the yard, turned around, and looked at him.
Matt tried a southern accent. "Y'all trah ta bring up them younguns raht, but they jist don' listen. They's followin' the devil, they awe. I'll take me a willah switch to that boy soon's we git home."
She laughed again and approached slowly. Matt sat in the door stoop. Someone had planted a small herb garden next to the building. Matt identified rosemary, basil, parsley and mint. The mint scent was the strongest. He looked into her dark blue eyes and could see her confusion and pain. He picked off a leaf of mint and started to chew on it. He offered her a leaf.
She laughed again and shook her head.
"Im really sorry, Pam. He had no right to hurt your feelings."
Matts informality and his sense of humor had allowed Pam to lower her barriers. She sat on a lower step near Matts feet. Matt squinted at the yard. At last the sun was breaking through the clouds.
"Hes hurting, Pam. Hes really hurting about his father."
"Does he have to take it out on me?"
"He doesnt realize hes doing it. Im not making excuses for him, honey. Hes just going through a tough time."
"I want to help him. I offered to help him."
"I know, Pam. I have tried, too. In the end, though, only Jake can make the decision. He has to decide when hes had enough of feeling lousy. Then, he will reach out for help, and thats when we need to be there."
In her direct, almost tactless manner, Pam asked the question that was foremost on her mind. "Is he gay, Mr. Rosato?"
"Pam, we have this little rule in our house that we cant talk about each others sexuality."
"Well, he talks about you."
She was fishing for information and playing her cards very well, Matt thought. Matt chose not to take the bait.
She knew Matt wasnt going to answer her question. Pam was a smart girl, and she knew the answer to her own question. She had simply wanted confirmation. She lowered her voice. "I could handle it better, I guess, if my competition was another girl. But its a boy. I dont know how to deal with that."
"I wish I had some words of wisdom for you. I tried to help Jake talk about his feelings. I thought it would prevent him from hurting other people, like you. But hes only lived with me less than six months. I cant fix all his problems in six months. Still, Im sorry he hurt you. You seem like a very nice girl."
"Thanks, Mr. Rosato."
"You have a choice to make, too. You could stand by him or you could move on with your life. You need to know that if you stand by him and wait for him, he may never be the boyfriend you want. But you may gain something even better."
"A good friend. One thing I know about Jake, Pam, he is loyal to his friends. He stands by them through thick and thin." Matt noticed the sun glinting off the highlights in her brown hair. He heard her sniffling.
Matt stood up and offered a hand to Pam. "Can I have a hug?" Matt knew he had to ask, especially to hug an unrelated girl. You never can be too careful these days.
She stood up and hugged the man. "I wish my parents were like you, Mr. Rosato."
"They are, Pam."
"How do you know? Youve never met them."
"Because of what you are. You care about people, Pam."
She was about to contradict him; instead she threw her head back and laughed. "Your breath smells so good. I think I will have a bit of that mint."
Matt chuckled and pulled a leaf off for her. He glanced at his watch. "Oh, my God! Were late! Its almost a quarter to five!"
They trotted toward the main entrance at a rapid pace. A male cardinal flitted in a tree nearby.
"Thats the state bird," Pam commented. When the busses were in sight, but they were still out of earshot, she said, "Thanks, Mr. Rosato."
"You can call me Matt. And youre welcome. Come by the house anytime. You are always welcome."
They were the last ones to board the busses and the kids were impatient to get going. The windows of all three busses were filled with kids hooting and hollering at them.
"Whoa! Mr. Rosato!" "Older man, Pam?" Wolf whistles accompanied the comments, some of which were lewd.
The commotion only got louder once they boarded the bus. The only available seats were about three-quarters of the way back on the same side that Brian and Jake had claimed. Carl and Dave were now in the other rear seat.
Matt found he was tired as they started their journey home. They stopped again in Bloomington at a smorgasbord restaurant for dinner. This time, Matt openly paid for Daves dinner.
"Thanks, Mr. Rosato. Ill pay you back."
"You dont have to. Dont worry about it. Just return the favor to someone else sometime."
The kids stuffed themselves. The harried employees could hardly keep the food filled.
Darkness enveloped the busses soon after they started on their way home again. The flash from Brents camera blinded them at intervals. A game of Truth or Dare began.
Matt marveled that they would play with an adult in such close proximity. He debated whether he should stop the game, but decided it was a rite of passage for fourteen-year olds everywhere. He could simply claim he had dozed off and had no knowledge of it.
Most of the dares involved kissing.
"Carl, truth or dare?"
They both giggled as they puckered up. The kiss was so fast, Brent didnt have time to get a picture.
Pam turned around in her seat. "Jake, truth or dare?"
"Dare." Matt was sitting directly ahead of her. He slumped in his seat, closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep. He was afraid of what was going to come next.
"I dare you to kiss Brian."
A dead silence engulfed the back of the bus.
Matt couldnt resist. He opened his eyes and turned his head as casually as he could to the back of the bus. Brian and Jake were standing. Standing on the bus was forbidden.
"Boys, sit down," Matt ordered.
They sat, but Mike, who was sitting in the seat directly in front of them, screamed, "They did it! They did it!"
Matt shook his head. Had Brian and Jake just committed social immolation, or would they be the toast of the school?
The four arrived home at 7:30 that night. They were all exhausted. Mike went right home. Jake and Brian went to take showers.
Tim kissed Matt. "Did you survive your day with a hundred eighth graders?"
Matt laughed. "Barely."
"Ill warm up some sloppy joes for you."
"Yes, I did, sir, and so far Tommy has not complained of stomach pain. Oh, theres a message on the machine from Bill. He said it was urgent. He said to call him at home if you got back after hours."
This cant be good news, Matt thought.
Matt retrieved his Dayrunner. He anxiously dialed Bills home number.
"Matt, I have some bad news. Als dad had petitioned the court for immediate custody of Jake."
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. I read and respond to all email (even if it takes a few days) Just click on one of the links below. And don't forget to check out my website (Chapters are always posted there earlier than here) and my other story here on Nifty, Pocketful of Stars, in the Young Friends section.
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