Legal Notice:

The following contains descriptions of graphic sexual acts between consenting underage boys. It is an original work of fiction and has no basis in reality.

Do not read this story if:

1) You're not 18 or over.
2) If it is illegal to read this type of material where you live.
3) If you don't want to read about gay/bisexual people in love or having sex.

The author retains copyright (2003) to this story.  Reproducing this story for distribution without the author's permission is a violation of that copyright.

Perry and Jesse:  The Incredibly Romantic (and slightly kinky) Adventures of Two Boys In Love

Part V  Truths and Lies

Chapter 4  Perry Thompson And The Haircut Of Doom

 I woke up the next morning thinking it had all been another crazy dream.  There had been no Fed-Ex package.  There had been no big emotional scene.  As I showered and dressed, I smiled thinking about all the things Jesse and I had done yesterday.  Somehow, every minute I spent alone with him seemed, in retrospect, magical.  I even loved it when we cried together!  I wished that I had taken some pictures of him, and decided that was what I was going to do the next time we had a chance to be alone.  Naked pictures of Jesse--I could hardly wait!

I thought about stuffing Jesse's socks in my backpack and presenting them to him at some humorously inopportune moment, but then I recalled those first few weeks after meeting him, when I was so dying to see his feet.   Now I had a pair of  socks that he had actually worn, and they seemed to me worth more than all the video game tokens in the world.  I decided that I would keep them for now and doubted he  would miss them.  I smiled, thinking that Tom would probably go ape shit if he knew I had a pair of Jesse's used socks! 

When I stepped out into the hall to head downstairs for breakfast, I realized that the shower was running in my mom's room.  It was already seven fifteen.  She was usually dressed and made up and cooking breakfast by seven.  Suddenly I heard something else--a sporadic, muffled sound--and I moved closer to her bedroom door.  That's when I realized she was crying...sobbing and whimpering in the shower.  My heart ached for her and I wished I could just go in and comfort her.  The emotions of last night came flooding back in a potent torrent.  But sympathy for my mom quickly turned into anger directed towards my dad.  What a horrible thing he was doing to her.  What a bastard!  How could he have done all this shit to my mom?  She didn't deserve this!  And he didn't deserve to be a partner in some fancy Manhattan law firm.  And that bimbo Staci....She was the root cause of all this!  She was responsible for destroying our family.  She was the reason I didn't have a little brother or sister.  I hated her!  I just hated her!

Seething with anger, I plodded heavily downstairs and put a bagel in the toaster and started the coffee for my mom before pouring myself a bowl of cereal.  When she came down, it was almost seven thirty, and I was surprised to see that she was dressed casually in jeans and a sweatshirt, her hair still wrapped in a towel.

"Are you okay?" I asked nervously.  It was hard to see someone you always depended on to be strong and to have all the answers, suddenly appearing so weak and vulnerable.

"Of course, Perry....I will be.  You just need to be a little patient."

"It's not about me being patient.  It's about you being okay," I insisted.  I noted the redness in my mom's eyes and I felt another wave of anger and resentment course through me.  "I hate that Staci bitch!" I blurted out.  "Why'd she have to steal dad away from you--from us?  She ruined everything!"

My mom looked at me with shock.  I'm sure I had never used that kind of language in front of her before.

"Perry, we...we're Christians.  We never speak that way about...about anybody!" she scolded me in no uncertain terms.   Then her expression melted a little.  "It's wrong to hate," she said more quietly, and I think she was saying it as much for her benefit as mine.

Her reprimand didn't mean much to me at the moment, and I just held my tongue as my anger continued to boil.  I got her bagel and coffee and set them down on the counter for her.

After a long silence, while I watched her mechanically eat her breakfast, I apologized as best I could.  "I'm  sorry.  I just don't understand how people can be so cruel!"

"No one's being cruel."

"But Staci and dad..."

"They fell in love," she explained.

"But dad was already in love with you!"

"Was he?" she asked sardonically.  "Who can really say?  It's not like there's some test you can take to see if you're really in love with a person or not."

"But he married you, promised to be with you forever.  You had a kid together!"

"For that reason alone, I'll never regret the time we shared together," my mom said, brushing my cheek adoringly.    "My sweet, handsome boy..."

"I hate him!" I grumbled petulantly.  "And I hate it that I look like him!"

My mom only looked at me with  sad, reddened eyes.

Even though I felt bad about what I had said, I didn't feel like apologizing.  Whatever my dad's motivations had been for leaving us, for running off to New York with Staci, he had hurt my mom terribly and I'd never forgive him for that--never!

My mom took the day off of work and came by after school to take me for my hair cut.  Normally, I had basketball practice, but the coach had moved the practice to Thursday because of some  scheduling conflict.  Besides, there was no game scheduled until next week, and that would be at St. Mary's in San Juanito.  It would be strange to have Morgan sitting on the bench, unable to participate, reminding us all of his frightening outburst at the last game.  Of course, I would remember a lot more than that!

The little salon was called The Hair Place and it was in what passed for downtown Santa Corina, basically one main street lined with quaint shops, boutiques, and trendy little restaurants and cafes.  In fact, it was right across from my mom's law office.  We hadn't talked at all during the short drive, but at least my mom had fixed herself up a little, and put on enough make up that you couldn't tell she had been crying--well, not unless you looked real closely.

The woman who was going to cut my hair was a short and plump Armenian lady named Kouda.  She had a kind, round face and thin undulating eyebrows that looked like they had been plucked to within a millimeter of their life.  Besides the long eyebrows, she wore enough make up to cover all of Santa Corina in a fine coating of powder, eye liner, shadow, lipstick, and rouge.   She also did my mom's hair and always made a big fuss over me--even though, wanting to keep my hair on the longish side,  I wasn't much work for her. 

"How do you want me to cut your beautiful hair today, Perry, darling?" she asked as she draped the cloth over me.  "Just a nice little trim?"

I looked in the large mirror and all I could think of was how much I looked like my dad.  Before he left, he had long, wavy brown hair too.   Even though when I saw him last summer, he had shortened his hair and given it a stylishly tousled, spiky appearance, I would forever picture him the way he looked that day when he threw his suitcases in the back of the Beamer and took off for the airport and and his lover...

"I don't care..." I muttered.

"What?!" Kouda asked aghast.  Normally, I was quite detailed in my instructions.  I was pretty fussy about my hair, even though it was boring and stupid and never did what I wanted it to do anyway.  "Tricia?" she pleaded with a thick eastern European accent.

My mom slowly came over.  "What's the problem?" she asked quietly.

"I don't care how she cuts it," I explained childishly.  "She can just buzz it right off for all I care."

"Oh, Perry..."  My mom reached out and touched my hand sympathetically. 

"I don't want to look him..." I pleaded quietly, my throat tightening with a wave of powerful and unpleasent emotions.

I realized then that I was making my mom upset and immediately regretted my words.  I turned to Kouda.

"You can cut it pretty short.  It just gets in my way when I'm playing basketball," I explained drily.

"Oh, but such beautiful hair..." Kouda protested.

"Are you sure, Perry?" my mom asked.

I just nodded curtly.

I didn't even look in the mirror as I watched big clumps of my stupid brown hair cascade down to the floor from every direction.  Kouda only used a scissors when she cut, never an electric trimmer.  But she was good and she was fast.  Finally, I heard her sigh.  She used a blow dryer to get rid of all the little snippets of loose hair, and then turned me towards the mirror.

My eyes must have opened to six times their normal size.  Who was that fucking twelve year old staring back at me...with  his mouth hanging open like a human fly trap?   Shit!  What had I done?  I looked like a little kid!  I couldn't believe it!

"There you go...nice and...short," Kouda said uneasily.

Well, actually, it wasn't that short.  I still had some bangs and it did brush the tops of my ears, but  compared to the way it looked when I came in...

My mom came over and Kouda turned to her apologetically.  "I know he said 'short,'"  she explained in a loud whisper, "but I just couldn't...Such beautiful hair..."

"This will be fine, Kouda.  Thank you so much," my mom said in a emptily polite voice.

"What am I going to do?" I moaned when we got back in the car.

"What do you mean, hon?  It looks fine.  I'm sure you'll feel more comfortable during your sports activities and besides...I like seeing more of your face."

"I look like a little kid!  I can't believe it!" I groaned.

"Well, you do look a bit younger somehow.  Maybe it's because of your cute little ears.  They're so round and smooth..."

"Oh geez!" I whined.  "Everyone's gonna make fun of me..."  I almost added again, but stopped myself at the last second.  I still hadn't told my mom about the unfortunate incident with Jessica on Monday.

"Why, Perry!  Since when did you become so interested in what other people think of your appearance?" my mom asked with genuine surprise.

The next morning, I looked aghast in the bathroom mirror.  I could have gotten away with a nice little trim, but instead, had freely allowed Kouda to practically shave my head.  I didn't know if it was my stupid little ears, or the fact that my stupid eyes looked even bigger with less hair on my stupid head.  I just knew that I looked like a dweeby sixth grader and would've probably blended right in with my cousin Derrin's class.  I used every trick I could think of with the blow dryer and  a half dozen different hair brushes and volumizers, trying to get some body into my lean brown locks, but it wasn't much use.  Lucky I didn't own any hair gel, because it would've been mighty tempting.  I looked at my pathetic self in the mirror and sighed.  It was blatantly obvious that I had major hair surgery and I just knew I'd be in for it when I got to school.  I thought about the old baseball cap gag, but I knew Sister Mary Margaret would make me take it off the minute I walked into class, so what was the point?

 Jesse was no where to be seen when my mom let me off, and Tom was the first one to spot me.  I saw his eyes widen with surprised dismay and I thought of just lowering my head and walking right by him...

"Wow, Perry..." he said, quickly catching up to me.

"Wow what?" I asked testily.

" really did it huh?" he asked.

I stopped and managed to look him briefly in the eye.   "So I guess this  should take care of any of those crazy feelings you were having for me," I said somewhat bitterly.  I didn't know why I was lashing out at Tom when the person I was really angry at was me!

Tom shook his head.  "What're you talking about, man?" he asked confusedly.

" said you thought I know...good looking and stuff," I said, hating to here those words come out of my own mouth.  "But now look at me.  With this stupid hair cut, I look younger than Derek!"

"You do look a little younger.  But then, it's really nice to see more of your face."  Tom came as close to me as he dared in public.   "You're still the most beautiful boy I ever saw and I'm getting hard just standing here next you."

Now it was my turn to look surprised.   Tom was so unabashedly open and passionate that it just shocked me sometimes.  Once again, I felt that I was fooling someone, somehow tricking them into thinking there was more to me than there really was.  I just wasn't this sexy, confidant teen stud that Tom saw when he looked my way.  I wondered if my dad had that same talent or skill or whatever it was, to make himself look good to other people.  Was that why he always had so many friends, was so successful in his work, was able to get beautiful women to fall in love with him...?

"Don't say that, Tom," I reprimanded him cautiously, still feeling angry and frustrated with myself and my dad, but not wanting to hurt Tom's feelings again.  "It's gonna be bad enough taking all the crap Manny and Artim and those morons are going to spew at me without..."  I felt myself getting a little emotional, feeling sorry for myself I guess, "...without my friends making fun of me too!"  I finished petulantly.

Tom actually grasped me by the shoulders, right there at the edge of the parking lot while other kids were getting out of their parent's cars and heading for their lockers.

"Perry--do you hear what you're saying?"  He quickly glanced around to make sure we were out of ear shot of the other kids.  "I love you man--seriously love you.  You're in the deepest place in my heart that anyone could ever be.  I mean, it's so hard just knowing that you can't return those feelings to me the way I want--the way I wish it could be, but how could you ever think that I would ever hurt you in any way?"  I saw the pained expression in his face that just made me go weak.

I slung my backpack over my shoulder, plodded over to one of the lunch tables and sat heavily.  I really felt like crying...for so many reasons.  But that's not what fourteen (almost) year olds did--even if they did look like eleven year olds!  Tom came and sat discreetly across from me, his eyes filled with concern.

"I'm sorry Tom--really sorry.  It's just been a rough couple of days.  You see my mom...she found out that my dad's getting married again and..."

Tom leaned over the table.  "Oh, Perry.  You don't have to say anything, man.  That must be rough for both of you, getting news like that.  Please don't let it get to you.  You guys know you both have friends here in Santa Corina...people who care for you...alot."

I nodded, swallowing a big lump in my throat but having no words to respond.

"Everything okay here?"  It was Jesse, his backpack slung sexily over his shoulder as he came up to us, his footsteps barely audible in the dusty soil and pine needles.

I thought I detected a look of momentary resentment in Tom's moist eyes, but it was quickly replaced by concern.

"Perry's dad is getting remarried," Tom explained, apparently not considering if that was something I wanted announced to everyone in the school.  Of course, it happened to be Jesse and maybe he assumed I would have told him anyway.  Still...

"Oh..." Jesse said, and came and sat with us.  I could see he was concerned for me but didn't seem to know what to say, maybe because Tom was there.  "That's rough..."

I shrugged as if it wasn't a big deal, but I knew Jesse could see right through that.  "It's more the way it affected my mom than it is about my feelings."

"She was upset?" Jesse asked.

I nodded.

"I'm, not sure you can ever stop completely being love--no matter how things end up going," Jesse observed.  "I know my mom still has...something for my dad, even though she'd never admit it."

That was an interesting observation considering that Mrs. Taylor certainly had a much harder time than my mom did, and that Mr. Taylor was serving time at the Jolliet Correctional Institute.

"Where is your dad?" Tom asked curiously.

"Back in Illinois," Jesse answered simply.

"Oh... Are you gonna see him at Christmas?"

Jesse shrugged.  "I don't think so.  That would be an expensive trip, and money's really, really tight right now."

There was an awkward silence as Jesse and I both brooded over our own family problems. 

"Hey, what are guys wearing at the hotel on Sunday night?" Tom asked in an abrupt change of subject

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I mean, like to sleep, are you guys like, gonna wear pj's or what?"

Jesse looked at Tom with a completely dead pan expression.  "I usually sleep in the buff."

Tom's mouth just fell open as Jesse trudged on towards his locker.  I stifled a laugh as I enjoyed the look of shock on Tom's face.  It was definitely time for homeroom...

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful.  Jessica told me that I looked cute with my haircut, but otherwise kept her distance as we had agreed.  Still, every time I happened to glance her way, she was staring at me, to the point where it seemed like her eyes were on me all the time.  I felt like I had one of those red dots from some sniper's laser-targeting, high powered rifle pointed right at the middle of my forehead all day.

Basketball practice started out fine, and no one spoke openly about Morgan's blow-up a couple of weeks ago, although the coach did give us a set of revised plays and strategies based on the unfortunate fact that his star player would be benched during our next game.  But Morgan seemed even more focused and driven then usual, drilling us over and over on basics like dribbling, shooting, and rebounding (my best thing!).  At one point, when we were practicing turnaround plays, he went in for a shot and I was covering him.  He raced up to the basket and I tried blocking him as best I could and he roughly shoved me out of the way.   Besides the fact that it was a clearly illegal move, it took me completely by surprise as I landed roughly on the unyielding asphalt court, sprawled on my back.   Everything went blurry for a few seconds, and when my vision cleared, it was to see Reggie Colbert standing over me with worry in his big blue eyes, his long, bushy brown hair with those striking blond highlights, spilling haphazardly over his headband.

"Gees, Perry, are you okay?"  he asked with genuine concern.

I nodded groggily.  The truth was, I had scrapped my hands and elbows trying to break my fall, my back ached, and my butt was throbbing.  I slowly started to pick myself up.

"Here!"  Reggie said, offering me a hand.  He pulled me up with surprising strength and I stumbled a little, as my head started to clear.

"Take a breather, Thompson," Coach Riegert called out, and Reggie actually walked with me over to the bench.

I glanced around and saw Morgan standing a ways off, just staring at me with an unreadable expression.  I was sure he hadn't intended to shove me and seemed so deliberate, so forceful.

"Want me to get you some water?"  Reggie asked as I slowly sat my aching butt down on the hard bench.

"Um...not right now...but thanks, Reg."

"Anytime, Perry.  You're the best player we have!  Morgan's really gone insane or something.  I mean, first that crazy business at the game, and was like he did that on purpose."

"No..."  I said, automatically coming to my friend's defense.  "It was just an accident.  I was getting in too close, getting overconfident I guess."

"That's not the way--"

"Colbert--you a nurse or a basketball player?" Riegert called, and the rest of the guys chuckled.

"Shit...I gotta get back.  You sure you're okay?"  he asked again. 

Actually, the intensity of the seventh grader's concern was beginning to freak me out.

"It was no big deal, Reg.  I'm fine.  Get going!"  I shooed him off.

Morgan seemed to lose some of his drive after that, and I was also overly cautious during the rest of the practice.  Coach called Morgan and me over after the practice was over.  Reggie came running up to ask once again if I was okay.

"Totally...thanks for helping me out!"  I said.

"No problem!"  he said with a self-pleased smile.  Then he scowled at Morgan before running off to get his things.

"Why'd you foul Thompson like that?"  Coach asked bluntly.

Morgan didn't look at me at all and just barely made eye contact with the coach.  "Just an accident.  Perry was getting in too close..." he mumbled.

"Looked like he was doing his job to me,"  Riegert noted.

"Whatever...It's no big deal--right, Perry?"  he asked, finally turning to me for support.

"Hey, I'm talkin' here, Kipner!"  Coach blared.  "I don't know what's gotten in to you.  You're damn lucky the parents of that kid you knocked down didn't decide to sue the school.  You're damned lucky Principal Cordoza didn't decide to suspend you.  You're too young to be going off half-cocked like that!  And now, if I didn't know better, I'd swear that you shoved Thompson on purpose.  No question a ref would've fouled you big time!"  He shook his big head disdainfully.  "You're still my star player, and no one wants to see you sitting out the next game, but I really need you in top form when we get to those playoffs.  Whatever bug it is you got up your butt, you better just deal with it--with your parents, your counselor, your girlfriend or who ever!  But I'm warning you, son, you've taken all the rope I'm gonna give you.  Next time you mess up--even a little--you're gonna hang yourself--got it, Kipner?"

"Yes sir,"  Morgan answered sullenly.

"You okay, Thompson?"  Riegert asked with only the modicum of concern a tumble like mine warranted.

I nodded.  I was still aching, and there were till little bits of grit lodged in my elbows and palms, but no blood had been shed.  "It was nothing,"  I assured him.

"Apologize, Kipner, and let's be done with this!"  Coach insisted.

"That's not..."  I began.

Coach held up a hand and I clamped my mouth shut.

Morgan turned to me and there was at last some serious emotion showing on that long, expressive face of his.  "I'm really, really sorry, Perry.  I honestly don't know why I did that.  You're my best bud--you know that--"

"Yeah, yeah,"  Riegert said dismissively, showing a sudden lack of interest in the proceedings.  "Enough's enough.  Go home.  Eat your vegetables.  Get a good night's sleep!"  he muttered, turning to grab the equipment bag and stash it back in it's locker.

Morgan and I just stood there for a minute, and there was definitely some sort of weirdness in the air.

"I may not be able to go with you on Sunday,"  Morgan said quietly.

"What do you mean?"  I asked with surprise.  "Eveything's set!  We're gonna have a great time.  The four of us are gonna have our own suite at the hotel; we're gonna have dinner Sunday night at the ESPN Zone...You can't do this to me, Morgan.  Please..."  I begged him.

"Shit, Per.  I've been nothing but trouble for you ever since...since that time.  You know I feel horrible about...about that whole business.  It's so fuckin' humiliating!" We both turned to make sure the coach was out of ear shot.

"I thought we all decided that we had to just get passed that,"  I reminded him.

"It's easy to say, but not so easy to do,"  he noted.

"Well, what can I say?  I really, really want you to come to Disneyland with us.  It just wouldn't seem right without you there.  We'll have a blast--I promise!"

Morgan's expression lightened a bit.  "I do want to come..."  he admitted.

"Then that's the end of the discussion!"  I declared, heading back toward the lockers.

Morgan followed and we walked quietly for a few minutes.

"Perry?"  he asked as we got our books for homework out and stuffed them in our backpacks.


"Can I tell you something?"

The way he said it, with such intense sincerity, made me want to say 'no.'  I just nodded.

"It's just that I think...I think the world of you, okay?  No matter how fucked up I might get, no matter how crazy I act sometimes, I need you to remember that, because it's totally, absolutely true."

I felt my chest tighten up with emotion.  "You know I feel the same way about you,"  I told him.  "And if you have like...heavy stuff to deal with, that's cool 'cuz we all do."

"Even you?"  he asked skeptically.

"Oh yeah..."  There was a pause and I tried my best not to go through the litany of people I was worried about...

"That Reggie, he's really got a crush on you, huh?" he said, changing the subject with a knowing smile.

"What?!"  My eyes widened with shock. 

"You know...the way he looks at you.  It's total hero worship!"

"Hero worship?"  I asked, not sure I had even heard Morgan right.

"Didn't you see the way he was like all over you today, so protective and shit?"

"He did say I was the best player, and that was definitely weird!"

"That depends on how you look at it,"  Morgan noted, slipping easily back into his role as team captain.  "You're probably the most consistent player.  Eric tends to score more, but he also misses a lot of shots.  And my problem is trying to be in too many places at he's not exactly wrong to say that--even though I don't think that's why he said it."

"What d'ya mean?" 

"One time, I guess you said 'hi' to him or something,  and Derek said Reg was bragging to every kid he could get to listen that you had actually talked to him."

I remembered the time I had almost bumped into him after changing into my uniform in the boy's bathroom.  He had been wearing nothing but his briefs and socks...The idea that Reggie looked up to me for some reason, made me very uncomfortable.

"I...I don't think so..."  I said dismissively.

"If you told him to lick the sidewalk, I'd bet you anything he'd get down on his knees and start slurping away like a maniac!"

I found that image distasteful and disturbing.  I didn't want anyone doing anything for me because they thought I was something that I wasn't.  "He doesn't even know me,"  I protested.  "There's nothing special about me..."

"You're so wrong about that, it's not even funny,"  Morgan interrupted quickly. "I'm not saying I blame Reggie for looking up to you, I'm just pointing it out since you always seem to have your head in the clouds about that sort of stuff."


"I'm seriously thinking of grooming him for team captain next year,"  Morgan noted thoughtfully.  "He eats, sleeps, and farts sports.  He's a pretty good player and growing like a beanstalk.  I bet he'll be six feet by next fall."

"That's great.  Have you told him?"

"Nah, don't want him getting a big head or anything.  I'm just keeping an eye on him for now, pointing a few things out, seeing how he gets along with the other guys.  That's how I noticed he's got it bad for you."

"Don't say it like that,"  I said uneasily.

"Oh...yeah...I didn't mean anything by that,"  Morgan laughed uncertainly.


At last it was Friday, and despite...well--everything--Tom, Jesse, Morgan, and I were getting stoked about our upcoming trip.  It was going to be a busy three day weekend indeed, but it was hopefully going to start off quietly enough with my mom and I going out to dinner at the Macaroni Grill in Escondido.  We had flirted briefly with the idea of driving over to the Villa D'Pasta in Oceanside, where Mrs. Taylor worked, but we both thought that would be a little tacky.   Neither one of us relished the idea of being waited on by Jesse's mom.  Then on Saturday I had my little bike ride scheduled with Jessica, which she kindly reminded me about in front of all my friends at lunch.  Still, I didn't think it would be a big deal, just a harmless ride through the park that would give me some exercise and make Jessica feel like we really did have some sort of relationship going.  I knew that the time was coming when I'd have to put the brakes on this thing before it got out of hand, but to tell you the truth, I dreaded it.  Not only did I not want to hurt Jessica's feelings--she was a sweet, thoughtful person despite the airs she sometimes put on--but I actually did find myself attracted to her in some way.  She was undeniably pretty--for a girl--and I liked the softness of her skin and the way she smelled.  I liked kissing her and I even kind of liked the way she talked. 

Saturday night, we were all going to meet at St. Agnus for the contemporary service.  You could even wear jeans and sneakers if you wanted to, and the music would be played on guitars and keyboards instead of blasted out on the creaky old pipe organ.  Then bright and early Sunday morning, my friends would gather at my house and we'd blast  up to Anaheim for two days of Disney madness!  I was already getting a little depressed, thinking of having to show up at school again on Tuesday after all that fun and excitement.  Thank goodness Jesse would be there as well.  Nothing could get me down as long as I got to stare at the back of his beautiful head all day long!

I really wanted to arrange one of our secret bathroom meetings during art class, but Tom seemed to be looking at me all the time.  He actually made me feel guilty for wanting to be with Jesse.  But maybe I deserved that.  He had, after all entrusted all his deepest most personal secrets to me, and I had reciprocated by showing him my feet! 

Before Sister Mary Luellen announced our project for th day, she calmly taped up Tom's drawing of me.  I couldn't believe it--there it was in front of--everybody!

"I want everyone to see what an outstanding piece of work this is, with incredible texture, proportion, and detail," she announced to the class.  "Not only is this piece technically flawless, but the artist's ability to capture the personality of the subject is truly inspired.  I intend to submit this to the junior art competition put on annually by the Archdiocese.  Brilliantly done, Thomas!"

Some girls giggled and whispered among themselves and one even gave a pretty strong wolf whistle.  It seemed like it was coming from the direction of Dana and Deanna's table, but I wasn't sure.  This caused some raucous laughter which made me feel even more embarrassed and self-conscious.

"Awesome drawing!"  Morgan exclaimed, reaching back to get a high five from Tom, who was blushing, but couldn't have been any redder than me.  Jesse was just staring at it intensely and I finally had to give him a little nudge back to reality.

"Oh...uh...Who is that supposed to be again?"  he asked loudly, and everyone laughed except Jessica--she just scowled at him.

After that, everyone took turns going up in little groups to admire Tom's work.

"Tom has it real bad!"  Jesse whispered seriously.

"It does look a little like me, huh?"  I asked cautiously, recalling all the weird and wacky things that had gone on in Tom's studio on Sunday afternoon.

"Yeah...a little!"  Jesse replied sarcastically.

Near the end of the day, Sister Mary Luellen stuck a candle in a chocolate cup cake and much to my eternal embarrassment, everyone sang a joyful chorus of Happy Birthday!  I was so glad when the dismissal bell finally rang!

My mom pulled into the driveway to drop me off  intending to head back to the office for a couple hours when Mr. Chandigar came scurrying over.  Once again he clutched a Fed-Ex package in his small hands and my chest filled with dread.  This time, it was shaped more like a shoe box.  The way my mom looked at me, I knew she was having the same apprehensive feeling.  Mr. Chandigar waited until we both got out of the car. 

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Thompson!" he said, a perpetual smile with oddly shaped teeth beaming from under his bushy white mustache.  "Here is yet again another package left with me by the kindly gentleman from the Fed-ex  delivery company.  But see here, this one is addressed to Perry J. Thompson--you're most handsome son if I'm not mistaken!" he giggled.

I saw the tense expression on my mom's face relax slightly as she read the shipping label, as if she now had some idea what this might be about.

"Why, thank you so much, Mr. Chandigar.  I hope it wasn't a bother for you..."

"No, no, not at all, not at all!  Mrs. Chandigar and I, we are both glad to be neighbors to such fine people, you and your fine, upstanding son.  Surely he has mentioned to you our conversation of the other day?"

"Oh, yes...yes he did.  Something about doing some yard work?  It's just that I've been so busy..."  My mom apologized distractedly.

"Say no more, say no more," the little man crooned, bobbing his balding head up and down.  "Being both a mother and a father is a most difficult job, with much stress no doubt."

"Well, it can be trying sometimes..." my mom admitted.

Mr. Chandigar held up a hand.  "Say no more, say no more!  I understand perfectly and completely.  I will go back in now.  There is something of a chill in the air come this time of day, is there is not?  No doubt, winter approaches, such as it is," he chuckled in a sing songy way.

I went and got the rest of the mail while my mom chatted idly with our neighbor.  There were a couple of cards addressed to me, one from my Aunt Rosemary, and one from my grandparents--postmarked Iceland!

"Yes, the time certainly does fly," my mom agreed with a pleasant smile.  "Say hello to Mrs. Chandigar for me," she said, and Mr. Chandigar waved to me and scurried back to his house.

My mom handed me the package and started to get back in the car.

"Don't you want to see what it is?" I asked.

My mom seemed to hesitate, and then gave me a weak smile.  We entered the kitchen together.  I saw that it was from my dad, and the address was his Manhattan condo, not the law office.  I realized it must be my birthday present.  While I loved getting gifts as much as the next kid, I also wondered what the significance of this was.  My dad had left us, hurting me and my mother to such an extent that even two years later, it still affected us deeply.  And yet, he was my dad, the one who had taught me to ride a bike and swim, and shoot hoops,  and even let me stay up late to watch Saturday Night Live a few times against my mom's protests.  I knew that he cared for me in some way, and yet I couldn't reconcile that with the fact that he had left us to run off with someone else.  Sure, I understood that you could have feelings for more than one person--maybe even strong feelings, but to simply abandon the life you had built, drop the responsibilities you had pledged your life to, didn't make any sense to me.  I wondered, if my dad could have seen his ex-wife sitting in the kitchen the other night, staring at those stupid documents and crying her eyes out, would he have felt sorry for her?  Would he have felt bad for what he had done, for the choices he had made?   I wondered if he thought about me every day, or if it was something that just popped into his head when he had to write us checks or send me gifts.  'Oh, that's right--I have a son somewhere out in California--and damn, I could'a had a V-8!'

"Perry, what are you waiting for, dear?"

"It's just that...I don't know.  I feel weird...I mean, why does he even send me gifts?  It's not like he's part of my life or anything..."

My mom took a deep breath.  She always looked so nice in her blazer and white blouse, her long, shiny brunette hair flowing so smoothly over her shoulders.  "Your father loves you deeply," she said.

I looked at her skeptically.  "He left us, mom--just packed his bags and left.  I bet it's a....a big hassle (I almost said 'pain in the ass!') for him when I come out there."

"No, that's not true.  He loves spending time with you...but he's always had...mixed priorities I guess.  He tends to spread himself a little thin.  And yes, he made some choices--difficult choices...But he didn't leave because he doesn't care for you.  I know that for a fact."

I sensed that she was telling me the truth as she saw it, but it didn't make me feel any better about this man who lived on the other side of the country with the woman he had been having an affair with while he was still married to my mother.

"If I loved somebody, I'd want to be around them all the time," I pointed out, obviously thinking about a certain blond and blue eyed thirteen year old.

My mom gave me a tight lipped smile.  "You might want to be around them all the time, but things just might not work out that way.  Besides," she smiled gently, "what does a fourteen year old know about love?"  I understood that she wasn't saying it in a mean way, but just to point out that I hadn't had much experience with life yet.  She came and put a hand on my shoulder.  "Please don't hate your father, Perry.  If for no other reason, than for my sake...please?"

How could I argue with that?

I opened the Fed-ex box and there was a slightly smaller box inside, wrapped in shiny blue wrapping paper.  Well, at least he remembered my favorite color!  I tore the paper away, revealing a video camera!  Cool!  I had loved playing with my dad's fancy camcorder when I was in New York last summer.  It had been one of the only things that kept me from getting bored out of my mind.  And this was an excellent one for sure, because I had drooled over it at the Best Buy in Time Square.  I guessed my dad really did think about me sometimes.

"Oh, that looks like a wonderful camera," my mom said.

"Yeah, it uses a mini-DV with 1000 pixels and a 20x optical zoom and..."

"Yes, you can tell me all about it on the way to dinner," she told me with a smile.  "I really need to get back to work."  She gave me a kiss and a hug.  "Happy birthday, hon.  I'll see you soon!"  And with that, she was out the door. 

Even though I was pretty hungry, I decided to forego my usual after school snack so that I'd be extra ravenous when we went to the Macaroni Grill later.  I just had some lemonade and opened my cards.  There was a check for a two hundred dollars from my aunt, and a check for three hundred dollars from my grandparents!  And the card was printed in a totally bizarre language--Icelandic I guessed.  But there was a photo of what looked like a giant, multi-layered birthday cake with blazing candles that looked like torches, half buried in the snow.  Maybe it was meant as a warning not to set your birthday cake down just anywhere in Iceland--otherwise it might get buried!  I left the checks for my mom to see, and took my shiny, silver Sony Mini DV camcorder--still in it's box--up to my room.  I was already thinking about the hi-resolution digital video I was going to take of Jesse doing a nice slow strip tease for me...

I noticed there was an email from Gary.  I actually contemplated for a moment inviting him on our Disneyland trip.  But then I realized he was seventeen and he probably wouldn't enjoy hanging out with a group of eighth graders.  Also, I didn't think Jesse was quite ready to forgive Gary for what he had been planning to do to me.  I wondered for the hundredth time if the high schooler had really wanted me to suck him off.  Probably not.  It was a pretty disgusting thing when you really came down to it--having some stranger take your dick in his mouth and...I shuddered at the thought.  After having plenty of time to go over the whole situation,  I had decided that Gary's act had been influenced more by peer pressure than anything else.  He had so desperately wanted to belong to that elite group that got to hang out with Fred Goreski that he was even willing to follow the brutish wrestler on one of his disgusting 'adventures.'  Why anyone would want to go anywhere near that hulking, red faced clod was beyond me, but then again, I wasn't in high school so I didn't really understand all the social dynamics that went on at that level.  I had enough trouble just keeping up with the few friends I had at St. Boniface!

Dear Perry,

How are you doing?  Thanks for your email.  I'm glad that my crazy dream didn't freak you out--but I'll admit it sure did a number on me at the time!  Man Oh Man! But I heard something today at school and I just wanted to tell you about it. This will probably sound like a total load of crap to you so if it does, just ignore it--lol!  It's kinda weird, but just bear with me.  I don't know if you've ever heard about cage fights  before.   They can be pretty brutal and they're totally illegal.  I've never been to one but I guess there's some kinda big event going on tonight, out around Escondido.  I overheard some guys talking about it, and some of Theresa's friends had also been invited.  I told T. I didn't want to have nothing to do with shit like that and I think she was a little disappointed.  But I told her I had to work tonight anyway, so there was no way I could go.  She said she might tag along with her bro-- Mario--and I said suit yourself.  I think she was a little pissed.  But all that's neither here nor there.  The thing that really caught my attention was when someone mentioned that the top attraction there was going to be this really young fighter--the Karate Kid, they call him.  T. wasn't sure if he was like twelve or thirteen or fourteen or what, but I guess everyone in this particular competition is supposedly sixteen or under anyway.  For some reason, I just flashed on Jesse.  In fact, I even called his home phone number (for the first time) a few minutes ago, but I got the machine and I didn't feel right about leaving a message.  So anyway dude, I don't know if my imagination's gone totally berserk or what, but I guess I'm just wondering if it's possible that Jesse would get involved in something like this.  I mean, does he need the money?  I hear that the top contender can walk away with a shitload of greenbacks after a big event like this.  Well, I don't know if this means anything to you or not, but I just thought I'd pass this along.  You must think I'm totally whacked or something.  Jesse is too smart to get involved in anything like that, I'm sure.  Well, say hey to him anyway.  I'd sure like to sit and have a real heart to heart with you guys one of these days. Have a great weekend.

Love and Peace,


My first thought was that Gary was absolutely right--he was totally whacked!  But I vividly remembered  that whole business on the basketball court at Kennedy High.  I clearly recalled Jesse's words after our encounter with Julio and Gus: "They actually have a  twelve to sixteen age group--can you believe that?  They said I could probably defeat anyone there..."  Even he had thought it was some kind of set up, some kind of enticement to get him to fight in this tournament where Gus and Julio probably got a cut from the House.  I just couldn't dismiss the idea as easily as I wanted to, despite the fact that I agreed with Gary that Jesse was  way too smart to get involved in something so blatantly illegal and so obviously dangerous.  Still...

I called Jesse's apartment and got the machine. 

"Hey, Jesse.  It's me.  I...ah...just wanted to say hi...It's my birthday you know!"  I laughed drily, realizing that I sounded both stupid and nervous at the same time.  "Anyway, just give me a call when you get in, 'kay?  Bye!" 

Shit!  Where could Jesse be?  He hadn't indicated to me that he had any plans.  On the other hand, he wasn't required to fill me in on his after school plans on a regular basis (just when he wanted to have sex--hehehe!)  I desperately tried to think of some way that I could get in touch with him.  One thing was for certain--I knew exactly what I was getting him for Christmas--a freakin' cellphone!

I decided that I needed to call Gary.  It was almost four o'clock.

"Gar here," came the reply, and from the background noise it sounded like he was driving someplace.

It was weird to hear Gary's actual voice again for the first time since the rummage sale and all the crazy things that had gone on that day flashed through my mind.  It took me a few seconds to find my own voice.

"Hello...?" Gary asked with obvious impatience, probably thinking it was a wrong number.

"G...Gary?" I asked timidly.

There was a rather long pause while I heard traffic noises in the background.

"Perry?  Is that you, dude?"


"All right, man!  Great to hear your voice!" he said cheerfully.

"Well, yeah, it's good to hear yours to...I guess..."

"Hey, dude, I've been so wanting to talk to you since that shit went down at St. Agnus but...dude...I'm just about to go to work."

"Oh...I see..."  I said, thinking that I should leave him go.  Now that I was actually speaking to him, the whole cage fight scenario just seemed to become an absurdity, a ridiculous thing to be getting all excited about.

"Hey, is this about Jesse?" Gary asked perceptively.  "About that cage fight business?"


"So you weren't able to get a hold of him either?" he asked, a hint of concern starting to creep into his voice.

"Yeah, I don't know where he is...or how to get a hold of him."

"I think the whole thing is totally whacked," Gary said.  "It's just a stupid coincidence--the Karate Kid!  That could be anyone.  I mean, how would Jesse even find out about something like that? "

For some reason, the more Gary dismissed the idea, the more real it became to me.  "The thing is, about a month ago, we met these big high school guys at Kennedy High and one of them even had one of those kumite thingies with Jesse--like a one on one combat.  And Jesse totally kicked his ass even though the guy was a senior and a second degree blackbelt!  But the weird thing is, all the neighborhood kids called Jesse the Karate Kid and Gus andJulio--that was these guys, ya know?--told him about this junior cage fight thing.  Do you know where this...thing is going to be held?"  I asked nervously.

"Shit, you sound scared, dude," Gary noted.  "Well, I don't know exactly, mainly 'cause I didn't ask.  I just know it's at some old ranch out around Escondido somewhere."

"Well, could you find out?" I pressed him.

"I suppose I could give T. a ring.  She's probably going with her brother."

"Could you?" I asked sheepishly.

"Sure dude.  No problem.  Give me a sec and I'll call you right back, okay?"

"O...okay..." I replied unsuredly.

"Hey dude, don't get freaked out.  This is going to turn out to be a big ol' zero!  Jesse'll show up and everything will be cool!"

"Uh...maybe...I hope so..."

Gary disconnected and I sat nervously at my desk staring blankly at the email still displayed on my monitor.  It seemed to be taking forever and I watched the seconds slowly tick by in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

It was just a minute and thirty three seconds after four o'clock when my cellphone rang and I almost jumped out of my seat.  For some reason, I was scared to answer it, and I let it ring several times, knowing that it would go to voice mail after the fourth ring.  I abruptly picked it up.

"Hello?" I asked from a tight throat.

"Hey, yeah, it's me, Gary," came a somewhat uneasy reply.  There was less background noise so I guessed that he had parked at his work by now, wherever that was.  "And uh...yeah...I found out where this place is....Maybe an hour drive by the time you wind around all these dusty little canyon roads.  It's definitely off the beaten path, if you know what I mean."

"Okay, why don't you give me the directions?"  I asked, pulling out a scrap of paper and a pencil.

"Well, dude.  I mean, what're you thinking of doing?  It's not like you can just drive out there."

"I guess I'll have to ask my mom," I replied uncertainly.  I hadn't really thought about how I was going to get there.

"Is she there with you?"

"  She dropped me off and went back to work...But I guess she'd come if I really needed her to."

"Does she know about Jesse being in that fight at Kennedy?" he asked perceptively.

"Not exactly..."

"And I'm betting she don't know nothin' 'bout the rummage sale..."


How would I explain all this to my mom?  She had some idea of Jesse's martial arts skills, but didn't know anything about the mall fight, or our encounter with Julio and Gus at Kennedy High.  And besides, what if we drove all the way out there and it turned out he wasn't there?  I thought about who else I knew that could drive.  Gene's brother George would have been perfect.  I was sure he'd be willing to help me out, but he was back in Miami.  There was Tom's sister, Lili.  I'd have to get her number from Tom, and how would I explain my concerns to him?  Besides, she was probably working too, and how would I ever begin to explain all this to her?

"I...I don't know what else to do--I'm really worried," I admitted fearfully.

"Hey, Perry, dude...Calm down a little.  No need to panic..."  There was a rather long pause as I guessed Gary was considering something in his own mind.  "How about this dude?  You and I take a quick drive out there and scope this out for ourselves.  Hopefully, you'll get a hold of Jesse before we even get out there, and get this whole mess straightened out."

"'d do that?" I asked incredulously.  " I thought you had to work..."

Gary laughed uneasily.  "Yeah, well I'm sitting out in the parking lot of ye ol' Home Depot  (he said 'Dee-pot') right now, dude.  I'm already late.  I could just call in, say there was some family emergency or something.  I've been a pretty good employee for like a year and half now.  I've never given them any hassle or showed up late once.  So I could probably get away with it this one time."

It really blew my mind as I realized that Gary was willing to risk his job for my crazy hunch.  But what if I was wrong?  What if Jesse was just at the grocery store, or even shooting hoops over at Kennedy High?  That would be ironic!  Miranda might be at Mrs. Lopez's apartment, and his mom was probably still at work.  This could all be a great big zero just like Gary said.

"I can't ask you to skip work because of this," I finally decided.

"So what're gonna make your mom leave work and drive you out to the middle of nowhere for something you're not even sure about? "


"C'mon, dude.  Just tell me where you are and I'll be there in like ten minutes.  We'll get this whole business over with."  There was a pause as I tried to calm myself down, telling myself that this was all a huge mistake, that I couldn't drag Gary into this wild goose chase.

"To tell you the truth, dude," Gary added quietly,  "I'm a little concerned myself.  Something T. said when I was getting directions...She said everyone was buzzing about this Karate Kid.  He's like this new sensation or something--just came out of nowhere.  'A fuckin' little blond haired cutie!' were the words she used to describe him."

My heart sank into my knees.  "Has she...seen him?" I asked.

"I don't think so.  Just heard her friends yappin' about it the last couple of days I guess."

I tried mightily to convince myself one last time that this was all completely bogus.  Jesse would not get involved in a cage fight.  He had told me so point blank.  And I knew he was smarter than that.  Besides, he already had a job, tutoring students at St. Boniface, so he shouldn't be that desperate for a little extra cash.  Still, Jesse had just mentioned that money was really, really tight.  I remembered my mom saying that it was only because of Jesse's Aunt Ruth that he had been able to afford to go to St. Boniface in the first place.  What if they were short on tuition for next semester?  Mrs. Taylor might be content to send Jesse to Robertson.  He had gone to public schools all his life before this, so it wouldn't be such a big deal to her.  But Jesse...I knew how much he wanted to be with me.  I couldn't explain it any better than he could.  I didn't really understand why he was attracted to me anymore than he understood why I was so infatuated with him.  But we both knew it was real.  It was a bond stronger than the strongest steel and deeper than the deepest ocean trench.  If he really thought that he might not be able to go to St. Boniface next semester, and his mom was content with sending him to Robertson, mightn't he be tempted to find some other source of cash?  Hadn't Julio and Gus made a clear offer?  Hadn't Gary said that a fighter who did well at one of these events could walk away with a lot of money?  Maybe it was like hundreds, or even thousands of dollars.  I had no idea.  But any substantial amount of money would certainly go a long way to paying for a semester's worth of tuition.

I had tears of worry and gratitude in my eyes as I gave Gary the directions to my house.  "Thank you so much, Gary.  This means so much to me..." I sniffled.

"Hey, don't sweat it, dude," he assured me even as I heard him starting his engine.  "We'll get this whole thing behind us and kick back with a few cold ones--cold Cokes I mean!" he laughed nervously.

Now I realized I had to call my mom.  What could I tell her that would sound plausible enough to explain my sudden excursion to Escondido and yet not cause her to panic?  It was already after four and she would be back around six so we could go out to eat.  It was my birthday for crying out loud!

"Hey mom..." I said, trying to keep the fear and concern out of my voice but doing a shabby job of it.  "Yeah...uh...I forgot to tell you...Gene came up to me this afternoon and said he'd really like to take me out for my birthday since he couldn't make the trip on Sunday," I explained quickly.  Before she could say anything, I went on.  "Yeah, and I know we had plans and stuff, but I've hardly had time to hang out with Gene this semester and he wants to go to one of those sports grills in Escondido..."

"Oh, you mean Yankee Doodle's?" she asked.

"Yeah, that's the one!" I said with relief that she had remembered the name.

"I guess we could go there if you'd like..." she offered uncertainly.

"Well, actually, you see, mom...Gene thought it would be cool if it was just me and him...and...and his brother George.  Yeah, his brother George would be driving."

"Gene's brother...?" my mom asked, starting to sound like she was being bombarded with too much information too quickly.

"Yeah, he's totally cool.  We met at the mall the other day and we really hit it off.  He's a great guy, mom!  And it's like he's back from college for...for just a couple more days , so they--Gene and George that is--really want to take me out for my birthday.  Is that okay with you?"

All the while my mind was racing to make up a feasible story, my heart was pounding furiously in my chest.   But there was quite a long pause while my mom took in everything I had said.  I was about to make one more desperate plea when she finally responded in a hesitant voice.

"All right, hon...If that's what you want.  We can go out tomorrow, if you'd like.  What time are they picking you up?"

"Well...ah...pretty soon I guess.  You know, George goes to Miami U so he's used to eating like three hours earlier and Gene said he's really starving already!"

"I see.  It's just that I would very much like to meet George.  I'm sure he's a trustworthy young man but..."

"He's totally cool, mom," I repeated emphatically.  "He's like six and a half feet tall!  But he's just like Gene, really easy going and nice and..."

"All right dear, you've convinced me.  You're fourteen years old now.  I should be able to trust you not to make reckless decisions.  Have a good time, but please call me when you get to the restaurant to let me know...well, just to let me know that you got there okay," she finished.

"I will mom--love you!"  and I hung up, stuffed the phone in the front pocket of my Dockers and raced down the stairs.  I grabbed my jacket off it's hook in the kitchen and had just finished setting the alarm when a small and noisy car pulled into the driveway.

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