15 And Life To Go - Chapter 4
By: Brian Barnes
Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction involving teenagers in adult situations. If this offends you, please do not continue.
Warning: Pieces of this chapter are graphic/violent.
Sleep didn’t come easy my second night at what just became ‘Camp Hell’. I had long forgotten Tony, hidden behind years of resentment and humiliation. Years before I fully understood the meaning of the word ‘queer’ or ‘fag’ my days consisted of me following Tony around like a lost puppy. He was the king of cool growing up. His brother Karl and I would hang on his every word as if it were written in the gospel. Besides getting us in all sorts of trouble, it also led to incurable hero worship and Tony knew it too. Even though he was only a year older than me and Karl, he seemed so much more mature. He’d dress up in tattered jeans and a leather jacket, always with a smoke hanging out of his mouth.
Tony taught us every bad habit we picked up, drinkin’ and druggin’ included. One day after school let out we took off for our little spot behind an old abandoned warehouse to stir up a little mischief. That’s the day that Tony decided to teach us ‘Masterbation 101’. Our high school buddy passed around a Playboy and a joint, and after the effects of the reefer kicked in, he just whipped it out like it was a normal thing for the three of us to be doing together. I remember it like it was yesterday. He was sitting on a tire leaning back with his head up against a scrap metal dumpster. His eyes were closed, and his hair fell over his face. That was the first time I’d ever been attracted to another guy, and by judging Karl’s reaction, it was his as well. Mimicking Tony’s moves, both of us younger boys followed suit until all three of us finished off our little circle jerk. I can’t speak for Karl, but I know that day forever opened my eyes and showed me more about myself than the entire thirteen years prior.
The weeks that followed that fateful day caused me to rethink everything my bigot father had ever taught me. I was so confused. If liking other boys made you a pansy-ass faggot weakling, then how was it that cool and tough Tony could get off with me and Karl, and still be, well, cool and tough?!? Worse than the confusion, I couldn’t get him out of my head. Karl and I shared virtually all our classes together, and every time I would glance over at him, I only seen a younger version of his older brother. It didn’t help that Karl would blush and grin when he’d catch me. I guess we were in the same situation together, although now that I think about it, wanking with his own brother is a little weird I guess. After school we’d still pal around, but something changed. The tension was constantly hanging in the air no matter how hard I tried to hide my feelings. On top of that, Karl was constantly trying to get me away from Tony, and was seemingly more and more pressed to be alone with me. I remember thinking that he must know I was a queer and lusting over Tony, because he just wouldn’t let me near him anymore.
One day after school it was raining cats and dogs outside so I suggested to Karl that we head over to my house because it was closer to the junior high. We planned on meeting up with Tony later at their house when he got home from the high school. No one was home at my place, which was rare, so we parked it on our asses in front of the TV. Before I knew what I was doing, both Karl and I were lip-locked right there on my sofa. It all made sense. He wasn’t protecting Tony, he was keeping me for himself. Making our way up the stairs to my bedroom, we both were shaking from the nervousness and the new found hormones coursing through our veins. By the time I locked the bedroom door and we landed on the mattress all inhibitions were lost and our animal nature took over. Of course, being teens in our first ever sexual encounter, neither of us really knew what we were doing, but we sure faked it well. Again, that afternoon would be another landmark day in my history.
With our pulses finally calming and our breathing returning to normal, Karl made me promise to never tell Tony what happened between us. Karl was scared shitless, and really thought that his brother would kill both of us. I took that time to reassure him that I wouldn’t get my ‘boyfriend’ in trouble. With that, I made it official. I had my first ever boyfriend, even if it meant I had to settle for second best.
We never made it to meet up with Tony that evening. From then on it seemed as if Tony was too busy with high school to bother with us junior high kids. That didn’t faze us though. We were too busy being like bunnies to notice. On the off chance Tony did hang around with us, it wasn’t like it used to be. I was under the impression that Tony didn’t notice any differences in how we acted, and if he did he wasn’t saying anything, but I was wrong. Tony doesn’t like being lied to, and right before his eyes we were hiding something and he was bound and determined to find out what our little secret was.
The final chapter in my leap into adulthood with Karl and Tony still brings me to tears every time I think about it. School went by with nothing special happening. Just your average day with average kids staring at the clock ready to start another average weekend pushing ever so close to summer break. As school let out, Karl and I headed off to kick around a ball with some of the neighborhood kids we knew. Tony decided to join us as we played a game of what was supposed to be soccer. The way we played was closer to rugby and always ended in someone throwing a punch or two. Surprisingly it was a rather calm game considering, and we all survived with minimal blood loss. With dusk approaching, Tony suggested that the couple of kids that were left come over to his house and watch some movies. With about ten of us in tow, we headed over to Karl and Tony’s house for a night that would prove to be anything but average.
So there we were, a large group of rowdy teens invading a tiny neighborhood home for a night filled with horror movies and general ruckus. That was the plan, anyway. Tony had other ideas, and I should have known it too. When Tony gets a truly wicked idea his eyes turn to ice and you could see the evil dripping from his pores. Luckily I’d never been on the bad end of Tony’s wrath. With whatever lame chainsaw movie that happened to be on, Karl and I made an excuse to sneak off for a moment alone. We were only gone long enough for a quick peck on the lips before Karl’s Dad hollered for us to come in to the living room. He sounded drunk and pissed, which isn’t really outside the norm for him, so we quickly obeyed before he goes off on one of his classic tirades. As we entered the small room, all eyes were on us. It wasn’t until Tony moved from in front of the tele that life as I knew it was over. The image on the tube was a blurry movie obviously shot on a cheap camcorder. There we were, Karl and I that is, naked as the day we were born, and me six inches inside of Karl. I took off running like a bat out of hell. As I stumbled off the front stoop of the single level flat I could hear the screams of terror coming from Karl, and the equally frightening strings of four letter words spewing from Karl’s father’s mouth. The last thing I remember from that day is a television flying through the window onto the lawn, followed by a tattered Karl bouncing off the concrete sidewalk. I didn’t stop to help. I ran away and never looked back.
In the days that followed, my father was called but I was able to convince him that I was just ‘putting that pussy in his place’ by making Karl my bitch. That seemed to please my twisted ass father even though it tore my heart in two speaking of Karl like that. School itself was hell. It was like I contracted the plague overnight. Karl wasn’t in any of his classes anymore, and I couldn’t get anyone to talk to me to let me know what happened after I ran away like a coward. I sure as hell wasn’t going to ask Tony. He still was walking around town like his shit didn’t stink. If I had the balls to do it, he’d be pushing daisies, but with all that happened I was reduced to a chicken-shit. I finally heard what happened one night while watching the six o’clock news. Their father was being put on trial for attempted murder for the bashing Karl received that night. Karl’s injuries were severe. His skull was fractured, and numerous bones were broken. A picture of an unrecognizable teen full of bandages, casts, and bruises was shown, causing me to vomit. The worst, though, was hearing that Karl suffered massive brain damage and permanent blindness, presumably from the glass shards from the window he was thrown from.
I finally broke. Seeing Karl like that made me feel like a worthless human being, and allowing my self-pity to get the best of me I marched over to their house and without even knocking marched through the hallway until I came upon a sleeping Tony. Heaving the aluminum baseball bat, I swung three times. Three hollow thuds echoing in my head. Looking for the father, he was nowhere to be found, so I ransacked the house breaking anything and everything before making my getaway into the night. Later on, a bruised and battered Tony claimed that they were robbed, but I’m almost positive he knew it was me that cracked his cranium. He got Karl’s head split, so I etched a nice little crack of my own in his dome. That was the last I’d heard from Anthony until he arrived at the teen institute. With plenty of unfinished business, I knew I’d better watch my back.
I woke to the sounds of tired teens rising from their short slumber. When I peeled my eyes open Jeff was leaning on my bed resting his head on his elbows. The look of obvious concern told me that he was just as worried for the future here as I was. “Babe, I don’t know how you know that guy Tony, but by the way you’re acting I’m getting a little scared. Don’t let him get to you, ‘kay? We’ll talk about it later, but we need to get up for breakfast and school.” Jeff then leaned over and gave me a kiss which temporarily erased all my worries. With a cute little wink, he shuffled out of the cabin to join the rest of the group. Wiping the sleep from my eyes I forced my body to take the leap off the bunk. It is going to take me months to get used to this new schedule.
As I was getting dressed Casey came into the cabin and took a seat on Jeff’s bed. “Um, Nate? With Brandon and Ricky, and now you guys, we’re like family in here. We all seen what happened last night, right? Just so you know, we’ve got your back and all. Tony’s just not right in the head, so be careful. He’s been picking on me and Brandon since we got here, but the way he was looking over here at the cabin this morning before their work detail started... I think he’s got you pegged as his next victim. If he messes with you or Jeff, let me know.”
I couldn’t help it, but I busted up laughing. Getting a cross look from Casey after my outburst, I tried to explain I wasn’t laughing at him, but it didn’t help. The situation was straight out of a ‘precious moments’ collection. Like one of those cute little figurines puffing out their chest ready to do battle. I promised I wouldn’t even go near Tony, and pulled him in for a fist-bump-half-hug. It’s good to see that I’ve got a few allies to go through this bullshit with. It was a little unnerving seeing Casey get that way, though. He seems like a gentle soul, but when he talked about Tony there was an odd finality in his demeanor. Diabolical is the only way I can really describe it.
Trudging out to the campfire, I was met with a plate full of biscuits and gravy. Without waiting for an invitation, I devoured the plate and immediately hopped up in search for seconds. I’d never had this breakfast before, and I immediately fell in love with the simplistic dish. Jeff giggled at the spectacle I was making, as if to prove us city slickers just don’t know what’s good. When all was said and done, I polished off three plates before anyone had even finished their first.
Like clockwork, as soon as breakfast was over, Mark came walking out of his little hut with Mary in tow. He said his greetings and asked us all to gather around. We all made our way in a semi-circle around the fire as Mark handed out our list of things to accomplish today. Brandon informed us that since its Saturday, there isn’t much to do workwise. Looking down at the assignment sheet I noticed that we were split into two groups. Ricky, Casey, and I were to do trash duty along the entrance road, while Brandon and Jeff were on laundry and camp clean up. As much as I’ve come to trust my new camp mates, I felt a pang of jealousy creeping up. I noticed Casey didn’t look all too happy with the arrangement either. Swallowing my misguided jealousy, I pushed it from my mind and prepared for a hot day in the sweltering sun.
As I paced around still trying to wake up a little Mark came up and asked to have a word. “I just wanted to let you know a few things. I’m not blind, I seen the look of teenage jealousy in your eyes when I gave out the assignments, but don’t worry. Not only is Brandon a very responsible guy, Mary will be right there with them. Trust your man, kiddo! Okay, the next thing.... You and Tony; I was unaware there was a situation there until last night. I don’t need the details, but I think it’s best to keep you guys separate for a while. You’re not in trouble or anything, but you just got here and we don’t need any drama. Besides, it’ll probably make you the hero of cabin two. Tony is rather...unpopular around here I guess you could say. Eventually you guys will have to find a common ground though, so start thinking about how you guys could be in the same room together without ripping the other’s head off.” Talking to Mark relaxed me a little, but before we set off down the road to do our trash duty, I dragged Jeff into our cabin and laid a loving kiss on his lips. As we were walking out, Brandon and Casey were walking in presumably to do the same.
With trash bags and big long sticks with nails at the end we set off ahead of Mark to begin the day’s chore. It didn’t take long for me to become bored with the monotonous motion of picking up the crap that people chuck out of their car windows. It didn’t take long for all three of us to fall into conversation as we goofed off about a half a mile away from camp. Mark was somewhere behind us but fell out of sight long ago. Ricky told me not to worry, he knew when to turn back. The freedom I felt right now was immense. As we walked on, a car drove by with its radio blaring, causing Ricky to start rapping to the beat. The lyrics flowed off his tongue like he’d been practicing for weeks, even though I know that couldn’t be true ‘cause the rap he was spitting out was a comedy about me molesting Casey my first night. I doubt I’ll ever live that down.
Of course rapping led Ricky to singing, and Ricky singing led to Casey singing, which I could listen to all day long. Before long, I joined in a little shy at first, but belting it out all the same. I’m not sure when the other two quit singing and left me doing a solo performance. I stopped with my face red from the embarrassment of being unwillingly put on the spot. When I turned around to the two that abandoned me, they just stood there slack jawed. Casey had his eyebrows up, and Ricky let out a “Day’am Dude!” Casey pulled on Ricky’s arm a little bit and whispered in his ear, which seemed like his primary method of communication. Ricky agreed with whatever he had said, and with me left in the dark we continued the cleanup.
After another good hour of walking on this endless road, we started our journey back on the other side of the road. I gave up singing for the time being, but there was no stopping Casey as he hit song after song with one hundred percent accuracy. Hasn’t this boy ever heard of American Idol? He’d be a shoo-in. A little bit further down we finally met back up with Mark. He was sitting off the side of the road in the shade with his feet propped up sweating his ass off. He did look rather comfortable though. All he needed was a margarita and an umbrella and he’d be in paradise. When we got closer we realized he was sawing logs in a deep slumber. I heard Casey emit a giggle as he ran off into the trees and came back with a handful of wet slimy leafs. As quiet as he could, he filled Marks open hand with the globs of nasty leafs, and proceeded to tickle his nose with a blade of grass. As expected, Mark smacked the sludge into his face with a loud GGLLLOOOPPPP! Terror filled me as Mark instantly bolted to his feet chasing down a fleeing Casey. Mark is a pretty big dude, but man can he run fast. In no time he caught up with Casey who was currently zig-zagging through a corn field. I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight. He looked like a jack rabbit getting chased by a lion. When Casey’s luck ran out, Mark had him in a headlock giving him a nuggie that even made my head sore. After giving poor Casey his punishment, Mark bent over and effortlessly picked Casey up by the ankles and walked back over to the side of the road where Ricky and I sat laughing our asses off. The whole scene filled me up with a sense of family that I can’t ever recall having with my folks at home. Mark wasn’t like a father, per say, more like a big brother. Just being in this environment for a day and a half has changed my thinking quite a bit. So far outside of the dirty thoughts I have about Jeff, not a single misguided thought has entered my mind. Even the Tony situation seemed like it would be better to avoid rather than pursue.
Once the sun finally hit high noon we were walking up the trail to the camp. It had to be a sight to see. Right before we arrived, Casey feigned exhaustion and collapsed on the trail with enough acted out drama to entertain a Broadway theater. Once again Mark plucked him up by the ankles and flung him over his shoulder. Both he and Casey were covered head to toe in muck and mud looking like the creature from the black lagoon. Thinking their little show would at least surprise Brandon and Jeff, I was sadly mistaken. Apparently they had their own little fun while we were gone. Hanging from the tree where we normally hang bags of food to keep from the critters was Brandon. How they managed to hoist him up there was beyond me, but it was well worth the entertainment. It was even funnier seeing Casey trying to get him down, as the rope that tied him up was just a couple of inches higher than he could reach. Everyone else acted as if it was business as usual. With a thud, Brandon came crashing out of the tree, with Casey running to play nurse. Those two were perfect together. I still can’t get over how right this place feels.
As we all gathered around to eat lunch, Ricky piped up excitedly “I got an idea!! We should start a band. Casey and Brandon play guitars, I play the drums, and at least three of us have wicked voices. We could be like that one movie with George Clooney. What were they called? Oh, the Soggy Bottom Boys! Whatddya think?” As much as I wanted to protest, it did sound like a good idea. Again the visions of an overseas mega concert flashed in my mind. That is, until reality hit home and I remembered where we were. Our biggest concert would be played here in the woods to a bunch of birds and squirrels. To top it off, outside of a single acoustic guitar, I doubt any of us are skilled enough to handcraft finely tuned musical equipment. “We can’t forget about Jeff!” I offered. “He has an awesome voice himself. In lockup, he serenated me into the best sleep I’ve ever gotten.” Instantly Jeff went beet red with all the sudden attention focused on him. The look he shot me was pure evil, but he didn’t even put up a fight when everybody ganged up on him.
Pulling us out of our little ongoing fantasy, Mary announced that it was time for our lessons. I was a little nervous about “school” because I’ve spent the last couple years avoiding classes. Teachers never seemed to understand me much. Their frustrations stemmed from the fact I could ace any test in front of me with my eyes closed, yet I would never pay any attention in the classes I actually did attend, let alone turn in any homework. Today feels different for some reason though. I can’t exactly tell why. It could be me wanting to impress Jeff or just knowing that we are all in the same boat here at the camp. On the other hand, it could mean I actually give a damn about school..... Hah! Yeah right!
Half expecting to be led to a small school house somewhere with desks and a chalkboard, I was pleasantly surprised when Mary took us up on a trail leading into the bluffs above the lake. There was a clearing about a hundred or so feet overlooking the water and the only sign of human life was a small outhouse looking hut that apparently held the books. Jeff and I stood at the edge overlooking the lake hand and hand in a short serene moment while the other boys got the materials together.
“It’s beautiful!” Jeff exclaimed. Taking in its magnificence myself, I was slow to respond. “Jeff, I know this sounds lame, but this right here...this moment, I know everything is right in the world. I can’t believe I’m here...and with you on top of it. I feel .... I feel complete, you know? Tell me it will always be like this being with you.” Okay, so it was sooooo sappy I know, but it’s true. Just feeling Jeff’s hand in mine makes the attraction unexplainable. As if the bond blocks out everything that is wrong, and amplifies all the good that is out there. I completely forgot where we were and drew Jeff in for the perfect kiss. As our lips met a gentle breeze flowed through the trees, and with the smell of fresh earth and pine in the air, time stood still.
Since we were so wrapped up in the moment, neither one of us heard the click of the camera. It wasn’t until Jeff said something about lightning flashing that both of us realized that Mary decided to capture the moment on film. She looked like she was so happy she could burst at the seams. Mary wasn’t the only one either. The other three boys looked like a pack of girls watching one of those chick flicks. Ricky was the worst, too. At least Brandon and Casey were simply reciprocating their feelings for each other as they watched us. Ricky on the other hand seemed happy, jealous, and depressed all at the same time. I felt really bad for him, ‘cause there is nothing that could be done here at the camp. I’ll have to come up with some brilliant plan to find him at least a chick to write or something. Maybe I could ask my sister Katlyn if she has a friend that might want to write. That is, if she ever forgives me for making her husband look like a pussy and me getting locked up in the first place.
School itself was pretty cool. Mary has a very unique view of how we should be taught. I thought we’d be learning reading, writing, and arithmetic but instead we discussed current events, politics, and business. She had no qualms making parallels between our lives as criminals and the way things work in ‘normal society’. If you were looking from the outside in, you wouldn’t believe your ears when lil’ miss perfect do-gooder taught us about supply and demand based on selling joints, and such. Of course she would prefix it with “Now you know I would never condone this, but...” You would think with all the knowledge she has on the underground market that she was a kingpin on the side. I can say, though, for the first time in years I was actually interested on the subject matter and consequently learned a lot. Who knew taking the books and homework out of the equation was the easiest educational solution?
With our daily class over, we hit the trail to head back to camp. As the sun set on the horizon, a sense of calm took hold causing us to walk in silence. It was hard not to appreciate the atmosphere especially when you had the cutest guy in your arms snuggled close as you walked. As we neared camp, though, we could hear the voices of a group of rowdy boys having fun. Knowing that my great day has just come to an end, I let go of Jeff’s hand and prepared to face the wrath of cabin one. Ever since I saw Tony last night, I’ve been dreading meeting the other four. I’m holding out hope that they could be civil, but knowing Tony and the strange grip he has over people, I’m not going to hold my breath. That prick has a way of making almost anyone his own personal little puppet, and having my luck they all jumped on the bandwagon to be his little lackeys.
As if to prove my point right off, as soon as we approached our cabin Tony bee-lined it over immediately mocking us. “I see the bitches finally decided to join us! Hey Ricky, you better watch your ass, now there are three of them in there with ya.” There went any chance of Tony leaving me be, but I can’t say I really expected him to back off anyway. I had to remind myself that they were only words and not worth getting sent back to the pen over. I was doing a great job of controlling myself until I heard one of the henchmen say something that made me see fire; “Hey Ricky, I think you’re wrong! Look at the blonde. I bet they have a full house over there! Waddaya think, we could bring him over for a little fun in cabin one tonight and make that kid cry for mommy. He sure does have a pretty mou...”
Before the jackass could finish his sentence, he was on the ground. I didn’t even see it happen it was so quick. Everyone just stood there with a ‘what the fuck?!?’ look on their face, well, almost everyone. Ricky was walking around in a circle shaking his hand in pain. He looked Tony square in the eyes daring him to say another word. Lucky for all of us, Mark was nowhere to be seen, and Mary was taking her time getting back. The other three guys that accompanied Tony backed off slowly while Tony himself was helping up his fallen comrade. “Get the fuck up Jack. I can’t believe you let them fags whoop your ass, you fucking pussy!” With that, they headed inside their own hut.
I ushered Jeff inside our cabin, feeling bad I wasn’t the one to knock that punk out, but glad all the same that the idiot was probably missing a tooth or three. Jeff was shaking like a leaf visibly on the verge of tears. That alone got me all pissed off again. It took both Brandon and Ricky to hold me down from marching over there and doing something epically stupid. After I finally calmed down, I went over to Ricky to thank him.
“Hey mate, don’t thank me for doin’ what’s right. They all have it coming, it’s just a matter of when I catch them alone! I just hope I don’t get into trouble, ‘cause that bruise is gonna show and Tony has been trying to get rid of me since I got here.” As if to answer his question, Mark walked into the cabin with a solemn look on his face. It didn’t take long for all four of us to jump to his defense. Mark had to yell at us to be quiet before he asked Ricky what happened. The way Ricky spun his story, he sounded like the hero he was, basically telling Mark that Jack, who I assume is the toothless wonder, accosted us when we got back and attempted to sexually molest Jeff.
“In my own defense, I only hit him once. I didn’t want to, but you were nowhere and I had no other choice. If you have to send me back, so be it. I’ll go quietly.” Ricky groveled. Mark was hearing none of that. He told Ricky to sit tight and proceeded to stomp over to the other cabin where he laid into the other half of the campers. From what I could hear, which was most of it with the way Mark was yelling, their cabin was locked down for a week and the matter was going to be investigated. I didn’t know if that was going to make matters any better or worse once their lockdown is taken away. I have a funny feeling that all it will do is give Tony a full week to devise a scheme to get back at us.
Because of all the drama, plans for a campfire dinner was cancelled. It was probably for the best anyway because no sooner did Mark decide to just order pizza, it began to rain. As we sat around our cabin illuminated only by the soft glow of candles, we spent the time bitching about our counterparts in the other cabin. I decided to take the time to tell my story about how exactly I knew Tony. Without leaving out any of the details, I filled them in on Karl, and the horrible stunt Tony pulled in front of their father. As I spoke, the ambiance from the candles was perfect for my twisted tale. No one could believe that Tony was that much of a monster that he would almost get his brother killed and his father locked up for much of the rest of his life. With this new information, I could see a sense of dread fill the faces of my audience. Ricky didn’t just stand up for us tonight, he also pissed off a bona fide sociopath. Ricky originally warned us about the group, but I doubt he knew how deep the evil truly ran through his veins.
The disposition surrounding us was somber at best as we tore through our Papa John’s pizza. I felt bad that I brought all this bad mojo to the table, but after earlier I couldn’t chance not telling them and have something horrible happening. With the mood essentially ruined for all of us, we quietly said our goodnights, and headed towards the bunks. Casey, instead of climbing into his own, curled up in bed with Brandon. Not letting the opportunity pass me by, I joined Jeff as well. I looked towards Ricky feeling bad that he was alone, and with an understanding smile he said “No worries, Mate! I’ll find me a lady friend to bag before long, no need to lose sleep.”
Jeff whispered his love in my ear, and cuddled closer. As I finally settled in, the rain on the roof was hypnotizing me. With Tony’s bullshit aside, I’m in Heaven with everything I’ve ever actually wanted. So here I lay awake, fighting sleep just so that I can hear Jeff’s heartbeat. As the final thoughts of the day come to an end I couldn’t help but realize that after all these years I’ve been searching, I finally found my place. I silently said my first prayer, at last ironically thanking the man above for sending me to jail and showing me the way.
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