Why is today of all days, turning into the day from hell? I was so happy when I woke up—I was going to spend the evening with Mikey—we'd eat pizza, goof around some...then maybe, I'd get to kiss him! I couldn't help thinking back to Wednesday when I dr0ve him home: I had been angry when he didn't show up by the bridge the night before...when I tried to ask at lunch, he just looked down at his tray and said he'd tell me later. In Miss Jones' art class, he said he had homework to finish—but he didn't look me in the face like he normally would have. Finally, in the school parking lot, he admitted he thought it was a trick or joke.
At some point, I thought, someone must have hurt him really bad....but whether it was a friend, or family member I had no idea. All I knew was that he had looked so sad I wanted to hug him—but I didn't know if that would be good or not—he hadn't shown up, so for all I knew he was straight. When he finally admitted to being scared, I relaxed a bit—one of us had to make the first move, so I decided it would be me. When I reached out to brush back his hair, I was so very tempted to kiss him then. Maybe it would have made him trust me more. Maybe it would have driven him away.
All I knew as I pounded down the stairs into the kitchen was that I'd see Miles at lunch after fifth period, and then spend the evening at his house—so I was good to go. I kissed my mom on the cheek and snagged a couple eggs and bacon slices as I sat at the formica table. She poured my juice and informed me that my sister had gotten a ride with her new boyfriend—Yes! There is a god, and my day just got a thousand percent brighter! Mom saw the smile break out on my face, and shook her head. "She's not that bad, Jay!"
I pretended not to hear that as I continued to munch on a piece of toast and jelly. "I won't be home for dinner, mom. I'm gonna be at a friend's house and eat pizza!"
"Do we know this friend? What's his name?" She wanted more than the name, but she wasn't going to push—yet. "You have some chores to do after school...don't forget those!" Pure `mom', a reminder rather than an order; we knew the rules, and that they were fairly applied: if we got our work done, we had pretty broad limits on our other activities. Dad came in the screen door from the back porch, bending down to give her a peck on the cheek. Both were blonds, but I got my measly 5'7 height from Mom...Linda—the lucky cow—got her 5'11 from Dad. Jerry, two years older than our sister, was as big as Dad, but not as muscular—he was off in the Coast Guard somewhere, having no interest in farming. One day, I hoped to follow him.
"So, what's this about dinner?" he ruffled my hair as he sat at the end of the table nearest the sink. "Just some coffee for me, mother—gotta run into Walker's for some new hinges—damn broken door on the north side of the barn!"
Mom handed him a mug with cream and three sugars. "Jay's going to eat at a friend's tonight. I was just about to find out who when you barged in." Dad turned to me and raised one eyebrow.
It always amazed me how mom and dad kidded each other—not like a couple who'd been married twenty-two years. "Well?"
I didn't know how this would go—had Linda said anything about him or not—I knew she didn't like him and that worried me! "His name's Mikey—well, Miles, really—but he doesn't like that! He's in Art with me this semester."
Dad grinned. "Don't blame him...what's the plan of action?" Dad was in the Korean War and liked to organize things as he did in the supply depots. Mom just smiled at the name comment, and went back to doing some prep for dinner, but she was listening.
"After chores, I'll head over and do pizza with him, not sure if it'll be at his place or what—just me and him—he's kinda shy around large groups..." Please—don't ask me what we're going to do! Of course, that was the next question.
"I'm not sure...we're kinda playing by ear—maybe a movie, maybe cards or a game—depends on what he wants to do." They looked at each other for a few minutes, Dad raised an eyebrow, Mom gave a small nod, and it was set! "I'll feed Gulliver before I leave—maybe exercise him a bit if it don't rain..."
Mom handed me an envelope as I stood up to leave. "What's this?"
"You forgot already? Dentist in town—9:45 sharp! Make sure you give that to the secretary in school so it'll be an `excused' absence. You need gas money?" She reached for her purse on a hook by the back door, but Dad pulled a ten out of his pocket first.
"Get yourself some lunch too—if the damn O-PECkers haven't made it go over 60 cents a gallon yet, you should be okay." Dad was still pissed off about the oil embargo two years ago when we helped Israel out during the Yom Kippur War. At least now, there was gas—that wasn't always so then with the long lines and alternate-day rationing.
I practically flew out the door and into the barn to get my truck—my two-year-old pinto nickered as I rubbed his nose and gave him a big hug. Dad had fed him while he was outside, so I told him we'd ride later and backed slowly out the wide door opening. Miles liked that I'd named him Gulliver after Swift's book. Of course he got the reference between my horse and the Houyhnhnms—the race of intelligent horses Swift wrote about!
The skies were overcast once the sun was coming up to see, and the rumblings of thunder could be heard once I got out of my truck at school. It was five minutes before the warning bell, and I ran to the Office to hand in my note. I told the grey-haired secretary that I'd have to leave by 8:15 to make it, since I had to get gas, so she gave me a pass to leave after first period. When she asked if I'd be back, I said it depended on what he found—which was true—but I was planning on milking this for all I could.
I made it to the dentist's office by 9:30, but had to wait until almost 10:00 before he got to me. His assistant began my routine cleaning, and then saw me wince when she got to one of my molars. She finished the job and went to get our doctor. He took one of those mirror things and a pointy metal probe and examined the tooth. "Bad news, Jay...you've got a cavity! We'll have to fill it—Stephanie will give you a shot and an x-ray, and I'll be back in a few minutes with the jackhammer!"
I snorted and put a hand on his white-jacketed arm. "Time to repaint the office again, doc?" He was a family friend now—we'd all gone to him since we were little kids—he'd given us toys when we were younger—now it was new toothbrushes. I hated shots, but it would be better than a sore tooth; the drilling was not exactly painful, but the pressure was unnerving, and the alternating whine and dull throb as it shifted gears fuelled my vivid imagination. After what seemed like an eternity, he sat the chair upright again.
"Those wisdom teeth are going to start coming in soon...ask your parents if they want them to come out before they cause problems, okay?" I knew he was only doing what would be best for me, but I had to give him one more shot as I left.
"Angling for a new car too? I'll have mom call you later on!" Great—a filling on my big day...and the prospect of pulling teeth had me getting paranoid. Mom would get all the details from him, and talk it over with dad—if doc said it needed doing, it was a done deal.
I figured lunch would be next—something soft for a while before the Novocain wore off—since I was close to Eastland Mall, I drove over there to browse their food court. While walking down the wide aisles between stores, I got an idea, and ducked into one of the smaller places. Right away, I was enveloped in the smells of chocolate and other assorted candies. Who knew there were so many different kinds of chocolates? I liked it myself—what teenager didn't?—but Mikey never seemed to reach his limit. There were plain chocolates, ones filled with flavored creams, and still others with things like nuts, caramel or even fruit! I saw something unusual—dried honeycomb coated in chocolate, and picked some up for Mom—she loved honey.
As I walked down the narrow aisle, I got a wicked gleam in my eye when I saw a glass jar filled with silver-foil-covered teardrops! Perfect! And I can rag on him at the same time! "I'd like half a pound of Kisses, please—and a half-pound of chocolate-covered peanuts!"
Should I get him something else, too? That thought went through my head as I ate my meager lunch of salad and water. I'd forgotten that my mouth didn't work right, and dribbled water down my chin as I drank. I felt like an idiot going back to ask for a straw and extra napkins, but the guy behind the counter only smiled from under his brown-striped hat. I felt my face heat up a bit and went back to my table—if things went as I hoped tonight, I'd have a boyfriend tomorrow!
I walked past the theater on the way out, hoping to find a film we could see either tonight or tomorrow...a poster caught my eye. and I stopped to stare. Oh god—Michael York! And he's in a ragged uniform...my eyes were only on him, and the silhouette of a dark-haired man in the background. I paid no attention to the scantily clad bimbo with him. Mikey had to like Michael York! According to rumor, Logan's Run had a lot of guys in revealing costumes...Perfect—I knew what else Mikey and I were gonna do this weekend!
In the parking lot, I put my key in the door lock and looked at my watch—1:30! Where'd the time go? Something's not right...it took a minute for me to figure it out—Damn it—a flat tire! I used the cross-shaped tire iron to unbolt the spare from the running board, and then put the jack under the front bumper, making sure the parking brake was pulled out all the way. As Dad always taught us, I put a cement block behind each rear wheel for added security, and then went to work on the lug nuts. I had checked them all last fall when I rotated the tires, so they weren't too hard to loosen...but even so, I was dirty and sweating by the time I got the tire off despite the mist-filled air.
It was 2:15 by the time I was back on Route 40 heading east. Just before leaving town, I stopped at Dan's Clark station to have him patch my tire—counting my money, I couldn't afford another one yet. I watched as he set the tire on a balancing machine and pried the outer rubber off—not too bad a hole, but I'd need a new tire before summer was over...I watched him work with his grease-stained hands fitting the patch and letting it dry before inflating the tire from the red rubber hose next to the garage bay's entrance.
3:00—it would be 3:30 before I got home—a half hour to do chores, which left only about fifteen minutes to get to Miles' house by 4:30! And I still had to shower! I was gonna be late! I pulled into the drive and stopped by the barn, jumping out to grab the chicken feed and egg-basket before entering the small coop at the side of the barn. Lazy bastards—only six? Mom's gonna be mad! I filled Gulliver's water, added some fresh hay and then saw that Dad had already changed out the stall's bedding. I was about to lead him out for a quick lap around the track behind the corral, but jumped when a big hand dropped onto my shoulder. "Already had him out earlier...just curry him, son."
I was in the house by 4:05, smelling like horse and dirty, but kissed mom on the cheek. I told her about the wisdom teeth as I kicked off my sneakers and rummaged through the stack of clean laundry when she slapped the back of my head. "That goes upstairs—once it's in your room, you can root around to your heart's content!"
I tossed the clothes on my bed, and drew out a pair of newer black jeans, then stopped. Tee or dress? I bit my lip dithering, he saw me everyday in tees...and the dress shirts were in my closet. I looked and looked until my brain screamed Pick one! I pulled out the grey western-style one with embroidered flowers on the yoke I'd worn in last year's 4th of July Parade—he hadn't seen me in that one—then I jumped into the shower. The hot water felt great—but I couldn't take time like I normally would to enjoy it—the mission was to get clean, and get out!
"Mom! Can you call Mikey and tell him I'm late?" I hollered down the stairs from my bedroom as I pulled out a fresh pair of grey boot socks. My hair was damp, but I ran a comb through it anyway straightening the part on the left side. Back in the bath, I winced as I brushed my teeth lightly—the Novocain had worn off, and I felt a little ache in my lower right jaw. Great—it's gonna hurt if I kiss him too hard! I rolled deodorant on my underarms and put my damp towel on the hook behind the door. Plain white shorts and socks were all I had on as I went back to my room to finish dressing.
"What's the number, Jay?" I stopped with one arm in my shirt as I thought. Shit, what's Mikey's number? I couldn't think of it...four months and I'd never called him? How could that be?
"I don't know, ma—last name's Stevenson—on West Mill!" I put my wallet in my back pocket after checking my stash—Six bucks? Not enough for pizza—and I can't ask him to pay half! Not on our first date!
When I got back downstairs, Dad was sitting at the table reading the Standard, and mom was starting the potatoes. I looked sheepishly at my father, and then coughed softly. "How much?" I babbled about the flat tire, getting it fixed at the gas station, and lunch at the mall. I started to explain about that too—leaving out the candy for Mikey, when he held up his hand. "Will ten shut you up...or fifteen?"
I grinned mischievously, "Twenty would get me to the movies and out of your hair longer!" I put the two ten-dollar-bills into my wallet, and heard the clock in the hall strike 5P.M. "Did you get hold of Mikey?"
Mom shook her head. "It was busy. The number's 4081." I picked the black receiver off the top of the wall-phone and heard a giggly female voice gushing mindless drivel. "Mom—she's on the phone—I gotta call! She can have it back in a minute!" I could hardly stand still enough to get my feet into my black cowboy boots; Mikey was gonna go ape-shit! No matter what I said, he seemed to think he wasn't worth knowing...he was so wrong, at least in my book.
Linda hollered from her room upstairs, her voice taunting and snide. "You can call your boyfriend now, jerk!" I barely waited for her to finish before I grabbed the receiver and dialed. I let it ring six times before pushing the button down and repeating the number again. Ten rings this time, and still nothing. "What time was it busy, mom?" I tried to keep my voice level...but something didn't feel right.
"About ten `til...maybe he's in the washroom?" She exchanged glances with my dad, but I was too hyper to notice. The clock above the sink said 5:25.
I slammed the receiver down and bolted for the door. "Something's wrong, ma—I can feel it! He's gonna think I ain't comin'—keep tryin' to call him, ma!"
I heard Dad's voice as I hit the back door and went through it onto the porch and the screen door opposite: "Is he worth it, Jay?" I couldn't spare any thought right now for anything but Mikey, so my answer echoed back as I sprinted to my truck.
"Oh god, yes!"
I must have worn a half inch of rubber off my tires, and used a gallon of gas as I gunned the motor along the narrow one-lane country road. It wound along the creek as I approached town, breezing past the cast-iron cemetery gates where I'd asked to meet Miles last Tuesday. I zoomed up the hill into the south edge of town, and stopped at the huge curve of the main road going toward Route 40 just long enough to see if there was traffic, before shooting across with a squeal of tires. On this western part of Mill were houses to the right, and a ravine to the left where a large creek ran. I followed its twists west, coming down the slope to a narrow iron bridge across that same creek, then it arrowed straight for three miles past the town limits. Just before the rusty bridge, I passed a trucking company on the right and a Scout cabin on the left.
Now past the corporation limit sign and any wrath from Officer Ball, I floored it and bounced over the pair of hills before skidding into a sliding swerve at Mikey's driveway. Through the drizzle, which I hadn't even noticed begin again, I could see no lights in the low house. That's not right—he knew I'd be here!
My truck stalled and died as I slammed on the brakes, plowing up gravel from the muddy drive. I was mindless with worry as I started at a run toward the front door, then I heard a faint purring from the closed garage, and the faint horrible smell of burning fuel. I ran up to the heavy wooden door and looked into the row of glass windows about shoulder height—and saw a hazy image of a huge car. It seemed like forever as each detail became clear: the throb of the engine, the grey-blue haze of exhaust, the cream and turquoise of the car's paint...the open driver's door...and the slumped-over form of a dark-haired boy!
A thousand voices in my head were screaming at once: Mikey!...He's dead!...Fuck no!...Not him—anything but him! One single voice came clearer, forcing the others to back down for a moment.
He will be dead unless you get him out...My hands stopped shaking enough to grab at the metal handle at the door's base, and I could feel my shoulders bunch and strain as I yanked with all my strength! Again, and still it didn't move! I was about to grab a rock to break a window when the voice came back: Pull Up—not out. Mikey needs you right now!
I gave another huge tug, and my arms almost dislocated themselves as the door flew up along its track. My lungs heaved and took in a big gulp of fumes which set me coughing and my eyes streaming tears. I ran into the dim interior, and jammed myself into the opened car door, grabbing at the closest part of Mikey I could reach. As I yanked at his red-shirted arm, he slumped toward me, and my other arm came up to catch him. I was hacking and sniffling snot as my eyes streamed with tears—but these were for Mikey, not from the fumes now. I don't remember how, but despite his being more than half a foot taller than me and heavier, I pulled him off the car's seat and toward the open door into the fresh air beyond!
I stretched him out on his back on the wet concrete of the garage apron/sidewalk and ran my hands over his limbs to straighten them and check for breathing. I pressed my ear to his chest and heard a faint beat, but couldn't tell if he was breathing. On a deep level, my mind was gibbering and wailing in grief, but that other voice, the detached one, told me what to do. It had been trained from the life-guard course I'd taken at the lake two years ago.
You have to breathe for him...he needs to remember how to do it—compress his chest three times, then blow into his mouth! Do that until he comes around! You can panic later—seconds count!
Remembering my training, I tore off my shirt and bundled it up under his neck to elevate it—thank God for snaps—and I cupped my hands over his sternum and pushed hard three times before pressing my lips to his and exhaling into his slightly open mouth, recalling just in time to pinch his nostrils closed. Twice more, and there was nothing. He was very pale, but not cyanotically blue, so I redoubled my efforts, heedless of the tears streaming down my cheeks and the light rain, which was falling on my over-stressed shoulders.
I couldn't stop to curse at him for being so stupid, but my brain was giving him hell for this stunt. You dumb shit—why did you do this to me! Why wouldn't you listen when I said to trust me? How many times am I gonna have to say `I love you' before you believe me! The voices screeched to a halt, but my hands and mouth continued their ministrations unabated.
Love? Which one of us said `love'? The assertive, in-charge voice came forth again: Keep counting! One, two, three...breathe! One, two, three...breathe! Again! Again!
With a shuddering gasp, Miles' mouth gaped open, sucking in huge lungfuls of damp evening air! Taken by surprise at the suddenness of his waking, my lips slipped along his cheek, and my nose rammed into his. Fuck, that hurt! But my heart was beating a mile a minute when his eyes fluttered open, taking a few moments to register his surroundings and the half-naked boy leaning over him with parted pursed lips. Had those lips been pressed to his? Cold concrete registered under him, chilling and dampening his clothes, Jay's face, streaked with tears and nose dripping, hovered inches above his own. Those blue eyes were red-rimmed and blood-shot, but he could see the expression of fear and worry which filled every bit of Jay's being.
He lifted his left arm to brush his hand against Jay's chest, and the blond grasped it firmly before kissing it gently. Miles felt stupid beyond belief for what he'd tried to do, but he couldn't tear his gaze from his best friend's. Then, his head began to hurt, badly. He licked his lips, tasting the salt of Jay's tears and a faint minty remnant of mouthwash.
"I guess it's traditional to ask: `Where am I?' ...but I know." He began to cry himself, a mix of relief, happiness and regret for what he'd nearly succeeded in doing—to Jay. "I-I'm sorry, Jay..."
Jay leaned in and kissed him for the first time...it was anxious and gentle at the same time. And it made both their hearts soar. He pulled back and his eyes sparkled with teary relief.
"To quote Ryan O'Neal: `Love means never having to say you're sorry.'—But you just blew getting the chocolates I bought for you in town today!"
Miles felt fresh tears running down his face, mixing with the rain—but they were tears of joy. Did Jay just say he loved me? God—let it be so! He put his other hand over Jay's bare shoulder and gave a slight shove.
"You are so full of shit—you gonna help me up? It's kinda wet down here on the sidewalk." He leaned against Jay, who at this moment seemed ten feet tall to him, and let their bodies melt together as he steadied himself. Jay reached down with one hand to pick up his soaked and dirty shirt, the other keeping a tight grip around Miles' shoulders.
"You bought me chocolates?"
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Original story with pictures at GayAuthors.org/Jay & Miles
If there are formatting errors, I don't know what to say—they looked right in my browser before I sent it off-I'm still sorting out what Nifty needs. Chapter 6 seemed to lose half my indents for some reason.