W.A.R. Part One - Black Summer

(2nd edition)

Chapter Eleven - Move Along

by Jeff Wilson

I woke up earlier than usual. My arms and legs were tangled together with my little cousin like we'd been wrestling all night. No wonder I had so much trouble sleeping. I gave him another push, and that's when I felt the wetness.

I jumped out of bed and looked at myself. My shorts were soaked through in the front. The bed was flooded, and my cousin had rolled into it and he was just as wet as I was. I was furious with myself. I couldn't believe I'd done it again! Suddenly the memory of making it to the bathroom in my dream came back to me. It had been several months, before summer at least, since I'd pissed the bed. But there it was. The evidence was all over me and the memory of the dream was fresh in my mind. It looked like I'd just stood up and peed all over Brian. My anger with myself quickly turned to humiliation. I was five years older than Brian. I was never going to live this down. He wasn't going to keep it a secret like Dustin had.

Suddenly, an idea sprung into my head. I shook Brian out of his sleep, quietly so that Jesse wouldn't hear.

"Brian! Brian wake up, you stupid little jerk!" I whispered in his ear.

Brian stirred and rubbed his sleepy eyes. "It's too early!" he grumbled.

"Wake up you little shit head!" I whispered sharply. "You pissed in my bed!"

He sat up with a start, and put his hand right in the wet spot. "Ewwww!!!" he cried.

"Shut up!" I scolded. "You don't want to wake up Jesse! You stupid little twerp, you got it all over me."

Brian sat silently watching me. His bottom lip began quivering and I knew he really believed me. I didn't want him to start bawling though.

"Hey, it's okay, buddy," I soothed. "I'm not mad at you. This stuff happens. Right?"

He nodded.

"Let's just get everything cleaned up, but we have to be quiet so Jesse doesn't find out. I don't want him to pick on you. It'll be our little secret, okay?"

He smiled and nodded again. He relaxed, knowing that I was going to be on his side and not rat on him or make fun of him. I couldn't believe my plan had actually worked. Brett would have been proud of me! I led Brian to the bathroom and turned on the shower for him. I showed him how to turn it off, and left him to clean up while I took care of the bed. Jesse was still snoring as I carefully removed the wet blankets and sheets from the bed. I balled them up along with my soaked shorts and underwear. I wrapped a towel around myself and then scrubbed the wet spot on the mattress with a little soapy water. I pulled new sheets on and a new blanket.

Brian returned from his shower with a towel wrapped around him.

"Okay. I'll put your wet clothes with mine and hide them. When things settle down I'll wash everything and you can pick up your stuff next time you're here. Now put on some clothes while I shower."

Brian didn't waste any time. He dropped his towel and stood there naked. He walked quietly to his travel bag and bent over to search it for something to wear. I stood there watching his bare butt wriggling back and forth as he searched. I was frozen in place by it, really. I didn't want to stare at yet another boy's butt, but he wasn't very modest about it. When he'd found his shorts, he slipped them on and the trance I'd been in was broken. I blinked a few times then walked quietly to the shower. Once I was clean, I jerked off and tried to drive the image of my cousin's cute little rear end out of my mind. My load blasted across the shower and hit the wall on the other side and I shuddered.

What the hell was wrong with me? It was only a butt. But he was my cousin! And he was eight! There wasn't anything sexual about him at all. I didn't even like the kid. I stood there in the shower and let the water pour over me. I knew my thoughts were wrong. I knew if anyone knew what I was thinking about they'd hate me. I hated myself for even thinking it.

"Don't be stupid, Billy," I told myself. "It's not a big deal. How often do you see a bare butt? It's nothing to get worried about."

When I returned to my bed Brian was still awake. He smiled at me when I slipped in quietly beside him.

"Our little secret, right?" I asked.

He smiled and nodded and we shook hands. I lay there until morning thinking. I felt sort of bad about lying. Not as bad as I felt about the way I'd been thinking about Brian's butt though. Odd really. Which was worse, lying to a kid and blaming him for something you did, or thinking his butt was kind of cute? I was pretty screwed up!

The morning seemed to drag on forever. I wasn't looking forward to the day. We would have to go through one evening viewing and then the funeral would be in the morning the next day. I was left watching the house and my cousins while my parents and my aunt and uncle went over to grandma's house to sort through her belongings. Apparently, when my grandpap had died, grandma had sat down with her daughters and worked out who would get what when this day inevitably came. She was always thinking ahead like that! There would be no arguing over who got what. Grandma had everything planned and signed by a lawyer to make it official. Not that my mom and aunt wouldn't have taken care of everything anyway. The Cunningham side of my family is particularly nit-picky and detail oriented. That's where I get it from, I guess. Grandma was so prepared for this day that she already had her obituary written, the songs picked out for the funeral service, and everything was paid for years before the stroke.

People stopped by from the church and community to drop off food and such. They all commented how much they loved grandma and how they thought I was so brave to have taken care of her. I didn't get it, really. I hadn't done anything special. Grandma needed somebody to be with her and I was around. There wasn't anything brave about doing what needed to be done.

When it was time to go to the viewing, we had to go early so the family could pay its respects and mourn without an audience. I asked to be excused and avoided having to go into the room where her body was. I did my best to hide while people started showing up. The sound I heard most was not crying, nor of people being upset, like I was. No. I heard laughter and cheer. I became more and more offended and hurt by the sounds. Didn't they know that a proud and wonderful woman had left us? Why should they be happy? Why should there be laughter at a time like this? Why wasn't anybody as upset and hurt as I was?

My dad found me hiding on a staircase as far away from everybody as I could get in that place. He walked up the stairs and sat down beside me. For a while, we just sat there. The noise of cheerful mourners followed us.

"You just going to hide all evening, boy?" dad asked.

"I guess," I replied.

"Your friends are here."

"I don't want to see anybody, dad. I just want to be left alone. Why can't everybody just understand that?"

"I understand, boy," dad said.

"Then why are you here?" I snapped. "Go laugh and be happy like everybody else. Just leave me alone."

"It's alright to be upset, son. I know how much you loved your grandmother. And she loved you too. She wouldn't want to see you so angry and hurt and all alone at a time like this."

"What makes you think I'm upset?" I asked. "I'm not. I haven't even cried. Not even once. Isn't that stupid? Grandma died and I haven't even cried. And now people are laughing and cheerful. Mom and Aunt Patty were ready to go to war before yesterday. Now they're all chummy and pretending that they love each other so much. I don't want to deal with any of them. Everybody's a bunch of stupid hypocrites. Nobody even... Oh, forget it!"

"People deal with death in different ways. Nobody expects you to be bawling and wailing and ripping your clothes. But if you were no one would think any less of you. They're your feelings, boy. Just because everybody thinks that you should feel a certain way doesn't mean you should. Nothing's had time to sink in yet and it's been crazy."

"How should I feel?" I asked. "Seems like nobody else even cares but me."

"They care, son. They really do. But everyone knew that this was coming. They're not happy she's gone, but they're happy that she's not suffering anymore. They're happy that she's with your grandfather again. That's why everybody's not crying and upset. More people than you loved your grandma."

"Dad, I can't go in there with all those people," I admitted. "Can I just hang out here and wait until everybody's gone, and then go see her alone?"

"Of course," dad replied. He walked down the stairs and paused. He turned and looked back up at me. "You asked me how should you feel. You should feel whatever it is that's in your heart, boy. Don't ever let anyone, not even your old man, ever tell you how you're supposed to feel. You have a good heart, Billy. I know you're going to make me proud, whatever it is your heart leads you to do. And even if it seems like the whole world is against you, I'm always going to love you because you're my boy."

"Sure..." I replied. "Whatever."

While I didn't join the others, I did move from the top of the staircase to the bottom. And people found me, I didn't have to join them. Dustin hung out with me for a while. Dad's boss, Ed, found me and we talked about me helping dad and he was even going to pay me a little bit on jobs that I helped with. Of course my friend Emily hung out with me while our dads smoked outside. The evening went much faster once I had my friends to talk to.

Soon, everybody had cleared out and it was almost time for us to leave. Dad, true to his word, had arranged with the funeral director for me to have a little time with grandma once everybody had gone. Mom and dad were the last ones to leave. Mom hugged me and told me she loved me. Dad patted me on the shoulder and said that they would be waiting for me outside. With everyone gone, I walked to the front of the room where grandma's body lay. She did not look like I thought she would. She just looked asleep. I just stood there for a while. I didn't have a plan as to what I had wanted to do when I asked to have my moment. I just wanted to spend one last moment with her. We'd had so much time together over the last few months. I felt like even though our conversations had all been one sided that we had grown closer together than we'd ever been in the last few months. There, in the quiet of the funeral home, I had one last one-sided conversation.

"Well here we are..." I said quietly. "I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing here. This is pretty stupid. I guess that's the story of my life, huh? I could always talk to you. Who am I going to talk to now? I feel so alone. I just want somebody to love me and care for me like you did. And I want to be that person for somebody else. I just want to be happy again."

I pulled out a deck of cards. It was the same deck that we'd played so many games together. I'd snatched it before we'd left for the funeral home. I slipped the cards into the casket under the bible that was laying in there. I don't know why I did that. I guess I didn't want her to be bored. I know that's stupid but I just wanted to give her something one last time.

"So, I guess this is goodbye. I'm really gonna miss you."

"Me too."

I jumped about six feet off the floor when I heard a voice right behind me. I turned around to find Brett had somehow appeared as if from nowhere.

"Sorry we're late, dude. We came back as soon as..."

Brett didn't get to finish what he was saying because I grabbed him and hugged him as hard as I could. And then, as if someone had flipped a switch I bawled my eyes out. Brett let me bawl. He just stood there hugging me and gently patting my back while I cried and cried.

"It's okay. I'm here now," he soothed.

I don't know why I cried like I did, or why I hadn't cried until that moment. All I knew was that I knew that I was safe now that Brett was there. And true to his word, he didn't let me go until I'd finally stopped sobbing.

"It's okay. Everything's going to be alright, Billy. I love you."

When he said that, I thought I'd heard him wrong. Had he just said he loved me?

"You do?" I asked.

Brett looked me in the eyes. "Sure I do. You're my brother, dude," he replied.

Before we could say anything further, I noticed that my dad was waiting at the door. We awkwardly separated ourselves from our embrace and I wiped my eyes. We walked to dad and he put his arms over each of our shoulders and led us toward the door. Together, we left the funeral home. I insisted on having Brett ride home with us. Now that he was back I wasn't going to let him go. He told us all about his trip, and how it had been my dad who had called to let him and his mom know what had happened. So they'd cut short their vacation to be here with us. I couldn't imagine a better friend than Brett.

The day of the funeral went quickly. There was so much going on. I had to meet a bunch of people I didn't know and get told how tall and handsome I was becoming. People my parents' age would tell me I looked like my mom while my grandma's friends would remark how I looked like my grandpap, and a few folks remarked that I had my grandma's eyes. I don't know how I would have been able to stand it all if Brett hadn't been there to pick on me and tell me that my eyes were so `boy pretty.' During the service, I had to sit in the front row with my parents. Brett sat behind us with his mom. I wished he could sit with me. I managed to make it through most of the service without crying until my mom started. Then it was waterworks city!

After it was all over, grandma's church had a funeral dinner for the family and friends who had come. It was more cheek pinching and commenting on how tall I was getting. I couldn't stand being around all those people anymore and quietly slipped outside. Soon, Brett found me.

"Hey, you want a soda?" he asked.

"It's pop," I replied, "and no thanks, I'm fine."

"Wanna get out of here?" he asked.

"Yeah," I replied.

So we walked. We didn't say much of anything, we just walked around town. Eventually, we decided to walk to the park. We must have looked rather out of place. I was dressed in a suit and tie. Brett had tied his suit coat around his waist. His tie was loosely draped around his neck, and from somewhere he'd brought out his old Yankees ball cap and placed it on his head. We sat down on the bench by the pond and just watched the water for a while.

"Hey, I finally came," Brett reported.

"Yeah. I'm glad you did. I really missed you," I replied.

Brett laughed, "No, dummy! I came. You know... I finally splooged."

"Oh!" I laughed. "Well that's pretty cool. I guess you're a man now."

"Yeah. It happened right before the trip," Brett said. "Actually... The trip didn't go too well. Mom and I really got into it. She was so mad that she said she's never taking me back."

"What did you do this time?"

"I didn't do anything. She was being a bitch," Brett replied. "I really hate her, you know."

"Why?" I asked.

"She didn't even want me," Brett sniffed. "She hates me."

"That's not true!" I replied. "She loves you to death!"

"I don't care," Brett scoffed. "Fuck her!"

We sat in silence for a while. I was at a loss for what to say. I'd never seen Brett so hurt and angry. Something really bad must have happened between him and his mom. I tried to think of some way to make him feel better. It was usually the other way around.

"So, you love me, huh?"

"What?" he asked.

"It's okay. I'm cool with it. I'm very lovable."

Brett smiled, "Oh... What I said yesterday... Yeah, you're like a brother to me, dude. I couldn't have been luckier in the best friend department."

"So how much do you love me?" I teased.

Brett laughed nervously, "I don't know..."

"Do you love me this much?" I asked, holding my arms at length.

"Shut up!" he laughed. I was enjoying turning the tables on him.

"What do you love the most about me?" I asked. "It's my eyes, isn't it? I've got my grandma's eyes. I've heard they're `boy pretty,' you know!"

"I only said it to make you feel better. If I'd known you were going to make a big deal about it..."

"It's okay." I said, "I feel the same way about you that you feel about me."

"Really?" Brett asked.

"Sure. You're like the brother I never wanted." I replied.

We both laughed and went back to watching the world go by. Brett put his arm around me and I leaned closer to him and rested my head on his shoulder. It felt good to be there with him.

"Hey, Brett..." I said.

"Yeah?" he replied.

"I... I really..."

"You really what?" he asked.

"I really miss my grandma." I said quickly. It wasn't what I'd wanted to say, but it worked.

"I know. So do I." He replied.

I knew things were going to be different from that day on. Things had changed so much since the last time Brett and I had sat on that bench. Grandma was gone, and I missed her terribly. Yet I felt somehow closer to her as I sat on that bench looking out over the pond and the ducks with Brett. My friendship with Brett had grown so much over that summer. It had been an interesting summer, to say the least. Soon, school would start and we would be in eighth grade and things would change again. There was so much I wanted to say to him, but I just couldn't. I wanted to tell him, show him, just how much he really meant to me, but I knew I just couldn't do it. It would be too weird. I just rested my head on his shoulder, and he put his arm around me as we sat there for a while. It felt good. I never wanted to leave that bench, but eventually we'd have to. We were going to have to go back to reality, and get yelled at by our parents for running off without telling them. We'd have to go back to school. Summer was over. Before long everything would change.

But for now, I had Brett and I had that bench. That was enough for me.

Hi! Well, congratulations! You made it to the end of Part One! It's my hope that if you stuck with the story this long that you enjoyed it! If you did, I'd sure like to hear from you! What'd you like? What did you dislike? If you were along for this story the first time you might be interested to know that the first edition had about 20,000 words in this part, while this edition had about 40,000. About twice as much! Anyway, we'll be back at it here in a couple of weeks with the next part, The Cold Winter. Until then, thanks a lot for reading!

You can reach me at: jkwsquirrel@yahoo.com See you next time!