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,
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By Nick Archer
Chapter 9: Bizarre Love Triangle: Obtuse
Matt was not going to let this time go to waste. He had taken the next three weeks off under the Family Medical Leave Act. He was entitled to the time due to the fact he had just formally adopted Brian. The boys also had this week off for Spring Break.
Matt had made a list for himself of things he wanted to accomplish around the house. The first thing was to sort through all his old tapes. They were overflowing their storage space. Some tapes were almost twenty years old. It was like a chronicle of Matts changing musical tastes. Some tapes no longer played or had been played so often that the audio quality was poor. Some tapes had been a big disappointment. He had purchased them for one song, and the rest of the tracks sucked. A few, however were worthy of being replaced with a CD. Tim had just bought a CD player and wired it into the receiver.
Tim had also wired the TV into the receiver. Matt wondered if Tims wiring obsession was because he worked construction or if it was simply a guy thing.
Matt picked up another pile of tapes and sorted them on the coffee table. He had various piles.
"Hey, Dad, what are you doing?" Brian plopped on the couch next to him. Brian placed one of his big hands on Matts shoulders. Brian was sprouting like a daffodil in April. Like most adolescent boys, his hands and feet seemed to grow the fastest. Matt was surprised at the size of the kids appendages.
"Sorting through some tapes."
Brian picked up a tape. "Motowns Greatest Hits, Volume 2." He read the names of some of the artists aloud. "The Supremes, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye." He snickered at Marvins last name. "Wheres Volume 1?"
"Please dont mess up the stacks. I have a system going." Then, he answered his sons question. "Volume 1 is lost. I dont know where it is."
Brian replaced the tape where he found it. "Which pile is this?"
"This is the pile that Im going to replace with CDs someday. If you borrow a tape, please make sure you put it back in the stack where you found it."
"Hey, New Order." Brian picked up a white tape with black lettering labeled Substance 1987. "Is this the one with the song...oh, I dont know the name. It goes something like...Every time I see you calling, I get down on my knees and pray.."
Matt smiled without looking at him. Brian was a young man of many talents, but singing was not one of them. He could carry a tune, and he knew when he was off-key, but singing wasnt one of his gifts. Still, his attempt to sing Bizarre Love Triangle was amusing and endearing.
"Yes, thats the one. Bizarre Love Triangle. Its the next-to-last song on the second side."
"Can I borrow it?"
Matt smiled affectionately at the blond. "Yes, son."
"Thanks. Are we going to do something today?
"I really didnt have any plans. Tomorrow, I think were going to the Art Institute."
Matt spoke without looking at his son. "Theres lots of things there besides pictures. Theres medieval armor, and miniature rooms, and architecture."
"Ok, Ill take your word for it. Hey, Dad, can I go to Mikes?"
Matt made a face. He was trying to decide what to do with a tape by The Outfield. "Were going to have dinner soon. Can you wait until after that?"
Brian pouted. "I guess so."
But Brian had a plan. Tim was downstairs in the family room making measurements for a new bedroom. "Hey, kiddo, whats up?"
"Can I go to Mikes?"
"Is Leah there?"
"Her cars here."
"OK, sure. Just be back by dinner time."
Brian rewarded his second father with a quick hug. "Thanks."
And off Brian went.
"Know what your problem is, Nicky? Huh?" Marie asked him in a heavy combination South Side and Italian accent. It was devoid of the "th" sound. Therefore a sentence like Put those things in the car became "Put dose dings in da car.
His mother was addressing him. Inwardly, he sighed. He had two problems with the question. First, she had called him Nicky. Again. He hated to be called Nicky. His real name was Dominic and his middle name was Anthony but he preferred Tony. Secondly, he knew what the answer was going to be.
"No, Ma, I dont know. Tell me what my problem is." It was a game they played, constantly. He knew exactly what she was going to say.
"You need to get married. You need a wife to look after you. I just dont understand it. Fine looking Italian boy like you. Nice manners. Good job. I try to fix you up, and it seems like youre not interested."
"You listen to me." She shook her finger at him. "Your brothers and sisters were all married by now. Whats wrong with you? What are you waiting for?"
"For the right....person."
"What about Angie Caprio? Such a pretty girl. You wouldnt even meet her for coffee."
"She wanted to get together on a Monday night. You know I teach CCD on Mondays."
"Thats another thing. Why you so involved? You teach CCD. Now youre getting into this Big Brother thing. If you ask me, I think youre avoiding something. If you got married, you could have a son of your own."
She was right, in a way, and he knew it. He used his job as a Chicago cop and his outside activities to fill the lonely times and to dodge questions. He also used his mom. He said he needed to take care of her. He was the youngest and he had a responsibility. Never mind the fact she was a tough woman who could take care of herself. She had survived the Great Depression by picking newly sprouted dandelion leaves for salads and hunting mushrooms in the Forest Preserves. She had survived her husbands death seven years ago.
He was in a tough position. Chicagos immigrant families sometimes had the hardest time dealing with their gay children. Tony was only second generation. His grandparents still spoke mostly Italian. His mom often told him that the first time she started to learn English was when she started school. However, instead of teaching their children Italian, Tonys parents used it to talk about topics they didnt want their children to know about.
But whether the nationality was Italian or Mexican or Korean, Polish, Lithuanian, Thai, Vietnamese or Russian, Chicagos new arrivals stayed within their own enclaves. They worshiped at their own churches or temples, shopped at their own stores and rarely ventured to the Loop, let alone get further education. Homosexuality was not tolerated. Perhaps the taboo wasnt as strict as Southern Baptists, but the guilt and shame were just as strong. Their social structures were transplanted from the old country along with their customs and folkways. Many times, these customs didnt include the acceptance of gay children.
It was especially true once they immigrated. They had to stick together. It was Us against Them. Sometimes that lead to suppressing any individuality or differences that might be perceived as weakness or might bring a negative impression on the group as a whole. Any dissent or sign of nonconformity was quickly and quietly eliminated. If the transgressor persisted, he or she was outcast.
He kissed her cheek. "Dont you worry. Ill find someone."
"I just hope its before Im dead. I want to see all my children happy and married before I die. Thats all I want."
"Oh ma..." he moaned as he went upstairs to his room. There were two topics he wasnt ready to deal with; his mothers death and his sexuality.
Tony occupied the entire second floor of the bungalow at 5524 S. Kenneth. The house was immaculately clean. Marie had a lot of time on her hands since she took an early retirement from the Sears distribution center when it closed a few years ago. The comfortable home screamed that an Italian American family owned it. The living room was never used, despite the fact that all the furniture was covered in clear plastic. The second bedroom on the first floor had been transformed into the television room. There was a full kitchen in the basement, where Marie could put up her own vegetables and gravy as they called spaghetti sauce. A crucifix hung in every room including the bathroom.
He sat on the end of the bed. He had once shared the long, narrow room with his brothers, but they of course, were married. His two sisters shared the miniscule room that was now the TV room. He had it pretty good up here. It was a large space bigger than most studio apartments in the city. And if it werent for the lack of a bathroom and a kitchen, he could easily live up here and have minimal contact with his mother.
"Man, if I was single, like you, I would get the hell out of here," his brother Frank had said.
"But mom need someone to drive her
Frank held up his hand. "I know, I know. Shes scared of driving in the rain and the snow. She doesnt like to drive at night."
"Someone has to take care of her."
"And you get free rent, free laundry and free food out of the deal."
"Listen, asshole, I dont need this. All the rest of you moved out."
"And thats what she wants you to do! She even asked me to fix you up."
"God, she must be desperate."
Many young women had thrown themselves shamelessly at the handsome young man. It didnt faze them in the least that he was still living at home. That only proved his devotion to family. Besides Angie Caprio, there was Anna Marie Pisctelli and Rosemary Sanfratello who followed his every move. He was a handsome man, with short brown hair cut in a military fashion and blue eyes and a dimple in the middle of his chin.
Tony had hidden his real feelings deep in the closet of denial. He was playing the role of Loving Son. If the neighborhood thought him an eccentric bachelor, that was just fine with him. He could play that role as well.
He was respected and well liked in his police district. He was a professional that did his job well. He had gone back to the Police Academy for additional training as a juvenile officer. He wanted to work with kids. The Captain was sorry to lose such a good officer, but he knew that keeping an officer happy by allowing him to explore other law enforcement areas was better than losing the officer altogether. He was still working in the 22nd Precinct awaiting his assignment to the Juvenile Division.
He taught CCD at St. Richards. CCD is the Catholic equivalent of Sunday School. Not only had he voluntarily taken the eighth graders, a grade that no one else wanted, but he had taught it for five years. No other teacher had survived more than two.
To further fill the void of his empty closeted life, he became a Big Brother. The screening process had required a background check, fingerprints and a psychological test. There were four evenings of training. Finally, he was matched up with a boy in his own precinct. It would be convenient to his job. He hadnt met the boy, yet, but he was going to in a few days with his mentor from Big Brothers/Big Sisters. His mentor suggested that he not wear his uniform to the first meeting lest he frighten or intimidate his new little brother.
Tony flopped back on the bed and crossed his arms behind his head. Part of the reason he got involved in Big Brothers, he had to admit to himself, was to get a taste of fatherhood. He wanted to be a father. He imagined it, pictured it, dreamed about it, even prayed for it. Almost as hard as he prayed for a lover.
There had been that DUI case a few weeks ago. Tony couldnt get him out of his mind. What was his name? Patrick McGraw. He was so sexy. Tony closed his eyes and pictured himself kissing the man, while grabbing his engorged cock through his jeans.
Tony was hard. It was time to masturbate away his loneliness and frustration. He sat up on his bed, quietly walked over to the door to make sure it was closed. His mother never came up to his room unannounced, but it was a habit. >From the dresser, he selected a pair of underwear to masturbate with.
He let the trousers of his police uniform and his boxer shorts drop to the carpeted floor. He lay back on the bed with the underwear in his right hand, picturing the handsome older man in his brain.
The silky feel of the womens pink panties further excited him. He jacked off furiously for a few moments.
After he climaxed, he wiped himself up with the panties, and returned them to the drawer full of womens panties and lingerie.
Tim had taken the Saturn to work so that Matt could have the Jeep for their outing the next day. Matt had three trips planned this week: Monday to the Art Institute, Wednesday to the Chicago Historical Society and Friday to the Field Museum. His reasoning was to get the least popular museum out of the way first. Matt had to sell the idea of a trip to the Art Institute to the boys. And it was a tough sell. Maybe they were trying to appear cool to each other by resisting, but resist they did. The Historical Society would require some persuasion, but not as much due to its collection of artifacts from the Great Chicago Fire. With its popular mummies and dinosaurs, the Field Museum would require no persuasion at all.
Mike was to accompany them on all their trips. A very grateful Leah tried to press money on Matt.
"Here, take it for admission or lunch."
"No, no. My boys will be thrilled to have him along. And I enjoy his company, too."
Leah had classes to teach that week at Governors State. Spring break for GSU came the following week.
In the boys minds the Art Institute was unpopular because of its reputation. There were no interactive displays like the Museum of Science and Industry. Matt knew that kids expected to be entertained, and increasingly they expected that entertainment to be interactive. Matt also suspected they complained simply because complaining is one of the things teenage boys do best.
Although he was no artist, Matt understood the power and magic of art. He suspected there would be something in the vast collections to stir the imagination of each boy. Perhaps a French Impressionistic painting like Sunday in the Park would inspire Brian. Maybe the dark realism of Nighthawks would stir Jake. Mike might relate to the collection of medieval arms and armor. Tommy might appreciate the humor of Andy Warhol. Matt knew that art speaks to each individual in a unique way and all they needed was exposure.
"I call shotgun!" Tommy exclaimed.
Mike, Brian and Jake smirked at each other. They had already planned on sitting in the back seat together.
Tommy was crestfallen. The allure of the front passenger seat was somehow lessened when it wasnt under dispute.
Matt watched them through the rear view mirror. He was pleased that the tension seemed to have been taken down a few notches. Indeed, they were showing a lot of affection for each other. They obviously felt safe with Matt and Tommy, yet still kept it somewhat discreet. Mike rested a hand on Brians thigh. Brian had an arm draped around Jake. Jake, who was sitting behind Matt, occasionally poked Brian in the ribs.
Matt had the radio tuned to his favorite station, WXRT. They played a huge variety of rock and billed themselves as Chicagos Finest Rock. Their playlist was partially determined by the on-air personality, so one never knew what might come next. At one time XRT was the final word when it came to introducing new and alternative music to Chicago. They brought punk to Chicago, and later New Wave. Within the last year, however, their alternative status was challenged when WKQX changed formats to become alternative.
"Can we change the station, dad?"
"Yuk. No way."
Brian pulled a tape out of his jacket pocket. "Then can you put on New Order?"
Matt smiled. "Yeah, I can do that." He slid the tape in. Immediately, the Jeep pulsed with the technopop sound and unmistakable bass of New Order. The tape was queued in the middle, and Matt recognized the song Shellshock.
"What are those buildings over there?" Tommy asked, pointing to white high-rises on the east side of the expressway.
"Theyre public housing."
"They were built for poor people and elderly."
"They dont look like a very nice place to live."
"Theyre not, trust me."
"They look like dominoes. Like if you pushed the first one over, they would all fall."
"Thats a good idea. Maybe you would be the one to do it, Tommy."
As they approached the junction with the Stevenson Expressway, Matt heard Mike say to Brian, "No way."
Matt looked in the rear view mirror and spotted Brian whispering in Mikes ear.
"No!" Mike insisted in a voice that was both meant to be heard and concealed.
Brian whispered in his ear again. Mike turned his head toward Brian. He saw them kiss, very quickly. Brian grinned from ear to ear.
"I saw that!" Matt said.
"See? I told you, Mike said to Brian.
It was a harmless kiss, Matt told himself. Maybe Im being overprotective. Most parents of kids their age dont even know their kids friends, let alone what they are doing. Sometimes it is best if you let them make their own mistakes and learn from them. All three of them are sure to find out what a broken heart is at some point. That morning as he drove the Jeep downtown, Matt made a major decision toward the three boys; he was going to take a more hands-off approach. He had made his point to Brian about sex and love, and really, that was all he could do. He had outlined the expectations, and now it was up to Brian. Most parents didnt even bother to do that much. It was taxing and impossible to monitor them twenty-four/seven.
What a trio, Matt grinned as he glanced at the three boys again. Bizarre Love Triangle, indeed.
By the second chorus of the song, all three were singing along. Matt joined them as he pulled into the Grant Park underground garage.
"It smells like a city," Mike observed as he inhaled the distinct odor of diesel bus fumes, ozone and pollution.
Up the grand stairs between the pair of huge bronze lions they went.
"I want to remind you all to be on your best behavior."
"What do you mean?"
"Just what I said, no horsing around."
Jake made an accurate and hilarious sound of a horse whinney.
In the cool, genteel silence of the museum, Matt led them upstairs to the French Impressionist area. The top level of the museum was lit by skylights, and even on this overcast day, the galleries were brightly lit.
Map in hand, he quickly located Sunday in the Park by Surat. A nearby museum docent noticed them looking at the painting. She smiled at them and moved closer.
"This technique is called pointillism," she offered. "If you look a little closer, you will see the artist used tiny dots instead of brush strokes."
"Wow!" Brian exclaimed. "This must have taken a lot of work."
She smiled at him. "Yes, it probably did." After a time, they wandered through the gallery. The docent watched the man interact with the boys, and observed how casual their affection was for him and each other. Matt and Tommy were standing at a painting by Monet, with Matt behind Tommy with his arms over the boys shoulders and crossed over his chest. The boy had woven his stubby fingers in between the mans.
Matt sized up the docent as well. She was wearing the conservative uniform of the Art Institute white shirt, navy blue blazer, and khaki pants. She had two variations: she was wearing highly polished black army boots and she had a long, dangling earring in her right ear. There was something familiar about her, he was sure he knew her from somewhere.
"Is they anything else I can show you?" The docent asked.
"Would you? I mean, are you supposed to? I thought that you were supposed to stay in one gallery," Matt said.
"Well, we are, but to tell you the truth, today is my last day here. Im graduating from the School of the Art Institute this week. We were required to do time as docents as part of our service hours."
"That would be excellent!" Matt exclaimed, almost too loudly.
She smiled widely, "Where do you want to go next?"
"To the miniature rooms," Matt said.
"Not another doll house," Tommy groaned.
From the Crown Rooms (which Tommy did like despite his protests) to the Armor Collection she led them, cheerfully chatting the whole time. All four boys loved the armor.
"Imagine what this would be like to wear on a hot day," Jake observed.
From there, they went to the American Artists wing in the south part of the building, for glances at such classics as American Gothic and Nighthawks but also the windswept works of Winslow Homer, the collection of exquisite John Townsend furniture.
Matt wanted to see the Architecture area and the Frank Lloyd Wright pieces and the awesome full-size replica of the Chicago Board of Trade original trading floor. The original Chicago Board of Trade had been designed by Adler and Sullivan who were the same architects that produced the main Carson, Pirie, Scott Store on State Street. The building was demolished in 1972, the docent told them, and this replica was built using the original blueprints in 1976-77. She was perky and tireless. Matt kept looking at her blazer for a nametag, but found none. Her identity evaded him.
"What do you want to see next?"
"Something weird," Tommy spoke up. "Dad said there was some weird stuff here."
"If its weird you want, weird I will give you."
She took them to the Contemporary and Modern art section. There, they viewed works by such diverse artists as David Hockney, Pablo Picasso, Gerhard Richter, and Piet Mondrian.
"Who is this dude, and why is he wearing blue eye shadow?" Brian asked.
"This is a portrait of Chairman Mao, who was the leader of Communist China. Andy Warhol, who is what we call a pop artist, did this. A pop artist is one who explores mass culture and commercial art."
They explored the gallery on their own for a time. Still, Matt struggled with the identity of the young woman who was their guide.
"My feet hurt," Tommy complained.
"Ill take you to the Kraft Center. That way you can sit and relax for a while. The Kraft Center is normally only open to museum members, but today youre with me," she said with a wink.
Matt finally gave in to his curiosity. "Im sorry, I dont know your name. I didnt see a nametag."
"Im Jenny," she said over her shoulder as she led them downstairs.
"Carry me," Tommy demanded.
"No, Tommy, I dont want to. Besides, its not appropriate in the museum," Matt answered.
"Come on, Tommy," Brian said, as he crouched so that Tommy could mount his back.
Tommy grinned triumphantly at Matt as he rode piggyback on his older brothers back.
The Kraft Center was an interactive center geared toward parents and children. There were computer stations, displays, a puppet theater and tables full of all sorts of art supplies that visitors could try.
Mike, Jake and Brian sat at a table with watercolors and thick paper. Matt, Tommy and Jenny sat at one featuring craypas.
"These look like crayons, but theyre soft," Tommy observed.
"Youre right, they are like crayons. These are craypas. Theyre oil-based. Theyre one of my favorite drawing mediums. You can do all sorts of things you cant with crayons. Watch this."
With a few fluid strokes, she had a representation of one of the lions in front of the buildings. Matt was always astounded by the creativity and skill of artists and how they could bring recognition of an object, place or emotion with just a few lines. Jenny then took her index finger and rubbed a green and brown line together.
"That is so cool!" Tommy exclaimed, and immediately plunged into his own project.
"This was so kind of you, Jenny, to show us around today. How can I repay you?"
"You already have, Mr. Rosato."
Matts eyes widened and his jaw dropped.
"Who is she, dad?" Tommy asked. His question went unanswered. Matt still didnt know who she was.
"I was in you classes at Bloomington Junior High. Im Jenny Ropp."
Thunderstruck, he did remember her. She had been a dreamy, diffused child from one of the trashiest trailer parks in the south part of town. She had trouble focusing on the task at hand. Matt often caught her drawing in the back of his room when she should have been working. He had taken her aside and asked her to illustrate chemical reaction as if it were a comic book. The result was so brilliant, he used it all throughout his teaching career. He still had a copy. During parent-teacher conferences, he suggested to her mother that she enroll Jenny in inexpensive art classes through the park district. To his surprise, her mom had followed through. After she went on to high school, she returned several times to chat and show off her latest project.
"I recognized you right away. You showed me it was possible. I would have never made it this far if you hadnt encouraged me." Matt was too speechless to respond. "Youre not disappointed I didnt become a scientist?"
A tear ran down his cheek. "Nope, not at all." When he regained a bit of his composure, he asked, "So what happens after graduation? The life of the starving artist?"
"Well, it wont be all that bad. Ill have an education degree, so I can always fall back on teaching if I dont sell my work." She lowered her voice. "Are all these boys yours?"
"All except for the one with the red moustache," Matt said, referring the fact that they had started to experiment with face painting.
"Theyre very lucky to be your sons. You know, in a way, youre an artist, too. Youre an artist with kids."
It was true. Matt coached and encouraged and watched the children in his care with loving concern. But, he never forced them to change the medium they were working with, nor the colors they used, nor the perspective they brought to their work. He was more like a loving curator, moving from young life to young life, gently straightening their frames and positioning them in the light so that they could display their best work to the world.
"What are you drawing there?" Jenny asked Tommy.
"Im drawing a better place for those people in the domino buildings to live."
"He means the projects," Matt explained to her.
"Already making the world a better place. Just like his father."
They said goodbye to Jenny. Matt gave her a big hug and his e-mail address to keep in touch. Before they left the building, they made some purchases at the Museum store. For Tommy, he bought a box of craypas. Jake chose a watercolor set and Brian a house of cards with famous paintings on one side. Mike chose a tiny book about Homer Winslow.
For the whole family, Matt bought Masterpiece. He hadnt seen the game in stores in a long time, and he thought it wasnt being made anymore.
The artist known as Matt packed his family up for the return trip home
Amid the complaints of hunger, fatigue, and frustration with traffic, he didnt hear one negative comment about their trip.
The master artist had helped them look at the world through art.
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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