Two Boys

Rocco Paperiello


This story is about relationships between and among teenagers. This includes intimate relationships between young males. If you don't approve or are offended, then how come you're reading this? Go to some other Internet Site. (Of course some people actually cultivate being offended; if that's the case, read right on). As far as detailed descriptive sex acts, I think you may find some good ones in other stories right here on Nifty, but as of now I do not envision a lot of explicit detail in this one.

If, for some legal reason, you are not allowed to read this in your area of the world because of illogical laws, again I will not ondone (publicly) anyone breaking the law, so either move or read sentence four. I definitely don't want the thought police after either of our posteriors.

Please, this story is sort of my property, so if you ever want to quote some of it (whatever for I wouldn't know), please e-mail me and also give proper attribution. As of now no one has permission to put this story on another Internet Site.

This story is almost entirely fictional, and autobiographical ONLY in the sense that many of the incidents in the story really happened, but in some cases to different people and under different circumstances. In other words I've simply adapted things that happened in my life to a fictional story. In fact, some aspects of both main characters are in part modeled from my own experiences. Some of my family members are also in this story, and perhaps (definitely) distorted a bit (a lot) at times and sometimes approaching caricature, but since I really don't expect them to sue, I'm taking the chance. All other characters are fictional, except as noted).

I welcome any feedback. Constructive criticism appreciated.

Rocco Paperiello

I would like to thank again all those who have expressed their interest in this story and given their encouragement. There have been a couple of those who have e-mailed to whom I was not able to respond. For some reason their server (or something in the internet highway) would not permit a reply. (I think one of these was my reply to "dougd)."

I suppose that this story is about 15% completed. As I try to complete the "final" drafts of each chapter, I find that although I know how the characters are feeling and thinking, sometimes it had been not too clear in the story itself. So a number of comments by the characters and even some scenes keep adding themselves. So I guess that the story is expanding itself beyond my ability to control it.

One last item. In posting the last chapters I must have been a bit hasty since I realized later that there were at least two places I intended to add something more. So if you were a bit mystified by what were really notes to myself, I hope this will clarify things.


PART I -- Beginnings

Chapter 21 -- I'm Starting to Wonder About a Lot of Things

I am finally getting over the shock of Mama's death. It took me a few weeks to even realize I was in shock. I really miss her so much. It's impossible to put it into words. I miss the talks Mama and I used to have. I miss everything that had to do with my old life. This might be quite a nicer house than the one I was used to, but the atmosphere here is so hostile. My uncle is angry about everything. Even me at times it seems. His talks seem to eventually end up in tirades. We finally did have a reasonable conversation about a week after the funeral and he realized how important it was for me getting help with my hooks, and we worked out how I was to help with the chores and meals. But one of the things he kept griping about was how much I was now costing him. I mentioned about the social security I was getting and the small amount of Mama's life insurance that was still left, but he kept saying that it was just a drop in the bucket. I can't imagine living here for the next few years, yet I can't imagine what I could do if I can't live here. That scares me even worse. And the few times he has seen Rocco here I thought he was going to throw him out. We quickly run up to my room and lock the door. He never did say anything while Rocco was here, but I sure heard about it afterwards. And it usually ended in one of his anti-white diatribes. I am very fortunate that I have Joey back in my life. But even Joey said that he didn't like coming over to my house. One of the goods things is that Uncle Mike is gone much more than he is at home.

A couple weekends ago, Rocco talked both Joey and me into a big bike ride along State Avenue that runs along the Delaware River. About a mile or so before our final destination we came to a big dip in the road that went for about a hundred yards. Rocco said that here was where his family was driving a couple years ago at night when they saw a light in the middle of the road in front of them. It turned out that it was someone in a boat -- right in the middle of the road. They had to turn around. The road was still flooded after Hurricane Hazel. We finally got to our destination -- a big ice cream place that had a million flavors. (Well, at least 20 or more). We had some of our money from delivering circulars and splurged. We even paid for Joey. It felt great being able to do that. Joey's bike we found had a flat tire at the last minute, and Rocco "borrowed" his brother's bike for Joey. I only found out later that Rocco's "borrowing" had been unknown to his brother. I was still pretty quiet during this trip, but Rocco and Joey sure filled in for any inadequacy on my part. Right after we got our ice cream, Rocco broke out a few party hats and noise makers. I mentioned that my birthday wasn't until next week, but Rocco said he wanted to do something special, and this trip was it. Joey had also been part of the conspiracy. So I wasn't too surprised when, after bringing our ice cream over to one of the tables, Rocco brought out a package of three butterscotch Tastycakes. Joey and Rocco then sang (they claimed it was singing) Happy Birthday.

While we were eating the small cakes, I asked an obvious question: "But Rocco, what about the party you claim to have all arranged at your house next Saturday?"

"As I said, I wanted to do something special, just for us. And after planning this bike trip, I realized that Joey maybe should be a part of it too."

I wanted at that very moment to grab my White-boy and give him a big hug. But instead just mumbled something that resembled a thank-you. Joey then mentioned another of Rocco's assaults on their household. Joey looked at me as asked: "Is Rocco like that all the time? Four days ago, he showed up right after our family got done eating and pointed a gun to my head and asked me if I wanted to go on this big bike trip the next Saturday."

Rocco denied the truth of that statement. "He's making that up!"

"Well, you may as well have had a gun. You were so insistent. And my Dad didn't even know who you were. After Mom and I explained my Dad exclaimed `So you're THAT white kid!' Like you were some kind of new species." Joey then described in great detail, even if it were half lies, about their home invasion. This was sure the Joey I remembered. Ever willing to sacrifice the truth to relate a good story. He went on to describe the individual reactions of his parents and then his two sisters. And even Sheba their cat. By the time he was done, both Rocco and I were in stitches. It sure felt good to laugh. I was wondering if Rocco understood just how important that moment meant to me. It felt like I finally had all of my former friend back. I think Joey had similar thoughts the way he was looking at me. Just before we left, Rocco told Joey that he too simply HAD to come to my "official" birthday party at his house next week. Joey said yes but I could tell (if Rocco couldn't) that he was a bit unsure about going. I would have to explain to Rocco later.

I am always amazed how fast Rocco just plain opens up to even people he don't know very well. By the time we got back you would have thought that Joey and Rocco had been long lost pals. I can't understand how come Rocco felt he was so lonely. I thought on that overnight and mentioned this to him the next day. He got this see-into-the-distance look for a moment, and finally said (after a lot of prodding) that although he got along with a lot of kids, he never felt that he was really close to any of them and was also always worried whether they really liked him. He said it was a bit more complicated than that and also that he had never talked to anyone else about this before. I assured my White-boy that he shouldn't have any worries with me. I wondered if I could eventually tell Rocco just how strong my feelings for him really were. He did let me hug him right before he left for his house.

And I'm starting to wonder about all kinds of things lately. Getting Joey back, and also being great friends with my White-boy, has me wondering why I'd been so intent in being by myself all the time. Especially not bothering with all the kids from my own neighborhood. Maybe I should start trying to be friendlier. (Well, of course this don't mean Teague who I never could get along with even when I had been getting along with people). And I was wondering about people at school too. Maybe I could start getting involved with some school activities. Maybe even doing something on the school paper. I like writing (especially when I have Rocco helping me with the actual writing). I will have to give this some thought.

It was my birthday last Saturday. My real one this time. The "party "was at Rocco`s house. Rocco claimed he made the cake himself. He said it was the first time he'd ever baked anything and he had pestered his Mom so much, she said it would have been simpler to just let her do it.

But I could understand why Rocco had been so adamant. He wanted to make my cake himself! It was a vanilla cake with vanilla icing. I came over after dinner and Joey was with me. He kept worrying about going into a white kid`s house and was quite on edge. The cake was on the kitchen with its 16 candles. Dolores and Mariann were there and even Jimmy and Stan came just as we got to the door. At least Joey knew them. But I had to practically drag Joey inside.

Rocco saw his expression. "Don't worry Joey; nobody's wearing their KKK robes right now." Seeing Joey's expression told me maybe he didn't appreciate the joke. I finally told him to just relax. "Hay look, loosen up. We're all friends here." He eventually did -- a little bit.

Rocco said they had pooled their money and got me 4 new records including Ricky Nelson's latest album, More Songs by Ricky. The only song I recognized on it was Ain't Nothin' But Love." Rocco said that the only song by Ricky Nelson that he half-way liked was I Wana Be Loved.

Everything went pretty well. Carl didn't show up. Rocco's Mom was in and out of the kitchen. Rocco finally lit the cake and they sang Happy Birthday. Joey commented about the cake: "I can't believe you don't care for chocolate. That's un-American. That's even un-human."

Rocco then leaned over and whispered in my ear: "I sure like chocolate, even chocolate colored boys."

Everyone wondered what suddenly started my laughing so loud. Rocco turned bright red. I would have to confront him about this later. I suddenly realized that I was having fun. Thoughts of Mama only brought momentary sadness. Rocco was staring right at me and I think he could tell. After the cake and some soda, Rocco brought out a game of Sorry and it was me, Rocco, Joey and Jimmy for the first game. I won and we started a second. This time it was Dolores, Stan, Rocco, and me. But only a few minutes into the game, Dolores looked up at the clock and suddenly zoomed out to the TV set in the living room. She said she couldn't miss 77 Sunset Street. Rocco said it was "Cukie," a character on the show, who she couldn`t miss. Jimmy took her place. I won again. (Well it was my birthday afterall). Both Jimmy and Stan left soon after, and Rocco walked with me and Joey back to our neighborhood. Joey seemed pretty relaxed by then. Joey thanked Rocco for inviting him to my party and turned down toward his house on Cottage Street and Rocco while I continued on to my house.

"Thanks for the party," I said when we stopped at my door, "I wish it could have been with Mama." I had wet eyes. "And thanks for all the records." He knew I meant much more.

The light was on in the living room and I could see my uncle through the drapes. So Rocco didn't come in.

Chapter 22 -- An Offer You Can't Refuse

"No, absolutely not." Jade tried to put on that you'll-never-change-my-mind look.

"That's what you said the last time I asked you. But I think your beginning to budge a little. You didn't say it as forcefully this time." I said this trying mimic his look. The impenetrable force meeting the unmovable object. We were arguing again about his joining my Scout Troop. Jade laughed.

We had just finished going to the bank to get the change for the store again, and were back in Jade's room. (His uncle wasn't home. I told Jade I was real brave around his uncle as long as his uncle was at least a mile away). Although pretty old (I think at least two years), we put on one of Chuck Berry's best, Johnny Be Good, as I took out the rolls of pennies. I wished I could play a guitar like that. And then I thought about Jade's hooks. I promised myself that this time I would not laugh at Jade when he tried to pick up a penny from his desk. Actually he's getting pretty good at it. But it still strikes me funny.

Jade picked up a coin and suddenly exclaimed: "White-boy, it's a VDB!"

I also got excited and took the coin from him. Sure enough. We were doing very well so far. We had found a number of relatively rare pennies over the past few weeks, including a number of Indian Heads, and even a Flying Eagle cent dated 1858. The most valuable so far was a 1914S (S = San Francisco mint).

"Hay, that's not fair, I found it. Let me see it."

"OK, catch." And I flipped it into the air toward him. (OK, so I'm BAD).

"You're dead." He said.

I grabbed the coin out of the air and we looked at it together. It was in pretty good condition for a 1909 coin. The VDB was distinct on the bottom of the reverse side. It was the initials of the designer of the coin. They only appeared on a small percentage of the 1909 coins -- the first year the Lincoln Head pennies were minted. Thus was much more valuable. Then I turned it over and gasped! It was a 1909S. We both shrieked at the same time. We looked at each other and then started yelling. This was one of the rarest of Wheat Pennies -- a 1909S -VDB. We got the magnifying glass. All the lines on the "wheat" shafts were well defined, along with the other features.

"Fine condition, fifty dollars at least!" I yelled.

We went through all the rest of the coins but only found a few more really old coins, but nothing that improved our collection. The last two rolls were actually brand new coins and we groaned. Then Jade suddenly lunged at me. I put up quite a furious battle -- that means it took him 15 seconds to pin me instead of 10. Talk about not fair.

"I said you were dead." And gave he me that look.

"NO! NO! I yield. I . . ." And that's as far as I got. I wondered if anyone has actually been tickled to death. And by metal hooks at that.

"This is for laughing at my handicapped hands. Twice! And this is for flipping the coin at me. And this is for any future infraction."

I could barely hear him. I have got to be the most ticklish person in the world.

He finally let up. It took me a while to recover. "Not fair, you are almost double my weight! But don't worry. I will think of something so diabolical, you'll regret every thing you made me suffer." I looked over at the record player which was making the "ruffa-ruffa" scratching noise when the needle moved back and forth at the center of the record. "Maybe like making you listen to Dvorak or Beethoven or maybe even some decent Jazz."

Jade didn't seem too frightened by my threat. "Wow, that's quite a find. The coin I mean." We looked at it again, and then put it in the coin folder.

I started re-rolling the pennies, as Jade put a new record on. "Come on everybody, . . . Lets do the Twist!" came out of the speaker with the sole purpose of driving me into a terminal psychotic state.

"Please, put me out of my misery. Get rid of Chubby Checker and put on someone who can actually sing! What happened to the records I just got you?"

Jade ignored my question: "Dolores said I could borrow this one for a few days. She said it would be one of his biggest hits."

"Chubby Checker never sang an original song in his life. I can't remember where or by whom, but I heard that song a couple years ago. It was just as offensive then. And even his name isn't original. It's a take off on Fats Domino."

"If you hate this stuff so much, how come you know so much about it?"

"I really don't. But somebody at the dance I was coerced into going to last week told me about his name." I looked over and saw that the record was yellow in color and signed by Chubby Checker. (WOW, that is an event in itself. It was now one of my sister's most prized possessions, and she loaned it out). I was wondering if the record was in the stores yet. And I described to Jade, in excruciating detail, the full extent of my suffering last week.

This was the 45 my sister got at American Bandstand last week. She owed me really big time for making me suffer through one of the most excruciating afternoons of my life. There was a teacher's conference for the city's Catholic Schools last Friday, and my sister told my Mom that she simply HAD to take this ONE opportunity to go to American Bandstand. Of course that meant that I had to chaperone her. (If anything were to happen, I would have been useless. Maybe I could throw myself at the assailant to give her an extra second to run). And of course, to have any chance of actually getting in we had to be there a couple hours early to be near the beginning of the line. Well, it turned out, unknown to anyone beforehand, that Chubby Checker showed up live and introduced his new song -- along with the stupidest new dance in the history of the universe. Including the planet Xenon. He handed out signed 45s of his "new hit" to all the kids there. And the records weren't even black like a sensible record. They were this stupid yellow that you could half see through. I think I left mine on the bus on the way home. Dolores screamed at me when she found out. She was planning on giving that one to her best friend Barbara. I felt a little bad about that. And the absolutely WORST part of the whole thing was that I was actually forced to not only dance this new thing, but had to pretend I was even enjoying myself. I think I must have won an Academy Award by just smiling. (I hoped none of my buddies was watching me on TV). Dolores of course said that it was one of her most thrilling days ever. Mom politely listened to her third time through all the events as I snuck back up to my room. I made a vow that all my kids were going to be boys.

Jade put a clean sock over his hook and sorted through a small stack of records over on his dresser. I was soon listening to Wake Up Little Susie by the Everly Brothers. At least it was something almost listen-to-able. I wondered where he got it. He must have set up the record stacker because right afterwards came Jerry Lee Lewis' Great Balls of Fire. Next was Chuck Berry's Sweet Sixteen. I repent for ever saying that I liked some of his songs -- this one was pretty bad. Jade tackled me when I screamed and tried to stop the record. I was so determined to end the assault on my ears that it took him a full 20 seconds this time for him to overpower me. I eventualy promised I'd be good and we got back to re-wrapping the pennies. I probably remarked for the hundredth time how unfair it was that I wasn't growing. (Jade claimed it was at least the thousandth time). But, unlike me, he likes to exaggerate. (OK so that was a slight fib).

I was thinking about those records while absentmindedly re-rolling the new 1960 pennies. And then I noticed something that didn't look right. "Jade, do you have any change? I need to see a 1960 penny." He pulled his coin purse out of his pocket, and tossed it to me. I finally found one and started comparing the two coins. "Oh my god!" I started looking at all the rest of the coins in the roll. "JADE, LOOK! -- THEY'RE ALL SMALL DATES!"

He looked at the two 1960 pennies and then opened a drawer and pulled out a magnifying glass. You're right, YOU'RE RIGHT! You can tell by the relative distance of the date from the face also. And they're all uncirculated! Don't touch any more!"

I understood. No hand oils. The roll of coins was worth at least 500 dollars! We couldn't contain ourselves. We talked about the coins for quite some time. We replaced the coins with other pennies we had on hand, and finally brought the change over to Formica's Market.

We decided to see if we could sell the coins to a dealer. Five hundred dollars was an amazing amount of money. When we got back home we called a coin dealer we knew. When I hung up, we were both dejected. It turned out that the small date coins HAD been valuable, but when the mint found out about the error, they minted a ka-billion more. Oh well. We were rich for at least an hour.

Then we got back to the argument that was interrupted by our coin search.

Jade was adamant. "Absolutely not. But, I have a counter proposal. There's a Scout Troop that meets at Crispen School. How about both us joining that troop?" Jade tried to put on this I-am-trying-to-seem-innocent look. It failed completely. He knew that I knew that that troop was 100 percent colored.

I countered: "But I already belong to Troop 6 at St. Dominic's. And my father is the Assistant Scout Master. You join my Scout Troop. I need you there! Just think -- going to Summer Camp together! It would be a blast."

"Yeah, all the trouble you could get me into! And you have said all along that your father couldn't care less. And your brother is also in that troop, and you can't stand your brother."

And then with a big smile I said: "I admit your arguments are cogent, but futile for one simple reason. I refuse!"

And Jade was now under a triple challenge. Not only did he have to mount a better argument, but figure out the two words I just used. I was only 8 points behind. And then he started to smirk. (He called it a sly smile; I called it a smirk). "I've come up with not only a puissant new argument, but any rebuttal will be in vain."

"Darn, I lose another point. What the hell does `puissant' mean? It sounds like a dirty word. And what is this new argument that will compel me to acquiesce." And now I smirked.

He defined puissant and continued: "You will not only acquiesce but even bow before my profound command of logic." We were both laughing almost uncontrollably by now. (OK, we were teenagers, what can I say. WE thought we were hilarious).

"You want me to join your troop. I note that it's 100 percent white. I want us both to join the troop here at Crispin School. And I know the REAL reason you demure. It's 100 percent black. But in the first case, I don't know ANYONE in your troop except your brother but that don't count. You, however, know at least two guys in the troop here, Joey and Robin. My argument trumps yours. And if you still refuse, I have an additional proposition. I will join your troop, but at the first major problem because I am black, we both quit and we join the troop here."

He had me. And he could see it in my expression. I essentially had to pick at least one of the options. "OK, get that smirk off your face. Don't gloat. You've obviously won. I see that I have to choose one of the options. Let me think a bit. No, I got a better idea. Let's go find Joey and ask HIM what he thinks would happen if I joined the troop here. And I keep telling you I'm a coward. And I admit joining an all black troop would be a bit intimidating."

"And you want ME to join an all white troop?"


We both laughed.

And then I admitted another small defeat: "And what does `demure' mean?"

Journal of Rocco P

April 15, 1960
I spoke of my being a coward with Jade today. It concerned my possible joining an all black Scout Troop, which I am very hesitant to do. And although I joked about my "cowardice" I don't think I was really being fair. I expected him to join my troop. I don't know what to do. Actually I know what I should do, but don't know if I have the nerve. But I think there is one thing I must do, and that is at least talk to Jade about this more. But wouldn't it be great to go to Summer camp together!

And we found a 1909S-VDB! Too bad about the 1960 small dates. They USED to be valuable.

School is going well as usual. And Jade is also doing well. He is starting to have fun again. I promised to talk to him about my "problem" but haven't "got around to it" yet. And Joey and Jade are getting along great. Jade said that they might not get to be as close as before but their friendship is doing well. Now if we could just stop his uncle from drinking. Fortunately that doesn't happen too often. (And from hating me).

We have the pogo stick thing coming up soon. We've been practicing. I hope the routine isn't too complicated. We set up a group of 5 tables at various heights and have us going in all directions at almost the same time. Nestor said that a couple crashes might actually get more applause than the regular show. We had a couple good crashes last week practicing. We also plan to enter from the back of the auditorium and then mount the steps to the stage.

Chapter 23 -- The World Ain't Fair

"Damn, it's a nigger!" It was said under someone's breath, but loud enough that a few snickers followed.

I looked at the big fat kid who had muttered the remark. A couple of his cohorts were smiling. I looked over to Rocco who was here talking to Jimmy. When I said I knew only one person in his troop, I didn't realize that Jimmy was also a scout there. And Rocco never took me to task about that.

The remark was repeated a bit louder. If I was angry, then Rocco was enraged. I could almost see the steam coming out of his nostrils. I started over to him to make sure that he didn't get into trouble for my sake. I told him these things would happen. I was used to it from school. But he wasn't. I've learned to mostly ignore it. But he couldn't. Before I could reach him he reacted.

"Sean, you're an asshole. You've been an ignorant bully forever. But one more remark like that and I'll have my Dad kick you out of the Troop." It looked like the big kid wasn't sure if the threat could be backed up, but Rocco's Dad WAS the Assistant Scoutmaster. And there was that big talk given to the Troop last meeting by Jimmy's father who was the other Assistant Scoutmaster. It was Jimmy's father who decided to talk to the whole Scout Troop about the scouting ideal and the need to accept everyone. And that a black kid would be joining the troop next week. Rocco told me it went pretty good and the kids he talked to were OK with it.

My decision to join the troop I made a couple weeks ago. We were over Joey's house. It was the day after we had argued about my joining a Scout Troop. We were just about to watch a movie on TV. I realized that Rocco was anxious about something again. He's was so easy to read sometimes. And he says that he is living the BIG LIE. If he's hides his sexual orientation as well as he hides everything else, he's doomed. I have a lot easier time. The fact that I have my hooks sort of isolates me already, and keeping my liking boys secret is not that difficult. However, I hate the fact that I have to do it. It adds complications that I don't need.

When Joey went to the kitchen to get the pitcher of Kool-Aid, I leaned over and asked Rocco what was the matter. But before he could answer Joey came back. And that's when he surprised me by answering with Joey there.

"I've been thinking about what we talked about yesterday. And I'd like Joey to hear about it. Is that OK?" He looked at me and I nodded. He then went on to explain about me joining his Scout Troop, or possibly both of us joining Joey's.

I added that we decided one of two things: "Rocco and I would either join our troop here, or I would join his."

But then Rocco continued. "That's not quite accurate. Jade agreed to join my troop and only if he got hassled too much then we would think about going to yours. But I said I was thinking and I don't think that was fair. I wanted to ask you what you think would happen if Jade and I joined your troop."

Joey looked a bit surprised. "Well you get along pretty good with lots o' guys here. But you know how it is. You still get messed with sometimes, and there's some guys really don't like you much, and simply `cause you're white. The same situation would happen in the troop. It's like everywhere. People are different. Most would be really surprised to see a white guy show up but most wouldn't care. But, you know, I think a couple guys, like JD, and definitely Teague, would give you a hard time. That's jus' how it is." He described a bit about each of these guys.

I looked over at Rocco and he was thinking fast. "That's just not fair. Most of `em don't even know me. What do you think Jade?"

"I don't know, I guess it's up to you. It's you pushing for this. For me, it'd be just one more time that I'd have to work like hell just to be able to do what every one else does easy. It's up to you." I looked at him and could tell he was upset.

"Heck, I'm so small I have to work like hell just to be average good. But I'll do what you want."

But Joey added: "There's also the thing about Jade. Just you being his good friend there you also get him hassled by some guys. Especially since he's so dark too."

I understood. Even among ourselves, we pegged people about how dark they were. A sort of internal prejudice I guess we picked up from white people. I just used to take it for how things were, but lately sort of realize we were just dumb. I tried to explain it to Rocco and at first I had trouble convincing him I wasn't joking.

"But that's just ignorant and illogical!" Rocco was thinking hard. I really felt good about him worrying about being fair to me. I would have to tell him later when Joey wasn't around.

We all talked about this for quite a while and missed most of the movie.

"I just got a great idea" Rocco announced. Just by his tone of voice I knew it would be anything but great. "Let's invent a machine to get to an alternate universe to where there ain't no more prejudice!" He had this lame smile and I think we were all thinking the same thing.

"OK White-boy, let's see if I can get into your troop. I'll see if Uncle Mike will sign me up."

Joey thought I was a "bit addlepated," and I knew he realized I was mostly doing it for Rocco. I wondered how much Joey realized what I really thought of my White-boy. Besides being one of nicer people I know, Joey was pretty smart. Well we batted it about a bit more and then started talking about the new comedian right here from our own city -- Bill Cosby. He was even being advertised on some of the radio stations, and they said he might even do an album soon. I was all excited about him since he was a Negro, though I had to admit I'd never actually heard any of his routines. I really was hoping he would do an album so I could hear some. Maybe if he got famous enough he'd even be on TV. (OK, so I dream a lot).

Things quieted down pretty good when Jimmy and a couple other kids came over and also told Sean to "button-it." Actually I was pleasantly surprised how well things were going. A number a kids came over to welcome me and a couple started talking about all sorts of things. School stuff, what the troop has planned, sports, and so on. I think they were more focused on my hooks than on my color. A young kid came over and wanted to know if I was going to stay. "Cause if you're going to stay my Dad said I'd have to quit, and I don't want to quit."

I didn't know what to think. "How come?"

"I can't say. But my Dad said lots of bad stuff."

"But how do you feel?"

"I don't know." He started to look embarrassed. "How did you lose your hands?" He changed the subject.

Boy this kid had no shame. "I don't talk about it. But I think you should talk to Mr. Alexander about what your Dad said."

"OK. I hope I can stay. And I don't think you're like my Dad said anyway." And he left. Rocco didn't say a thing the whole time. And then he started laughing. I gave him my dirtiest look. He laughed louder. Sometimes I never know if Rocco will see something as funny or will get angry at it.

After the regular meeting there were two groups formed. One was learning Morse Code and the other was with one of the Dads who came in with Stamp and Coin Collections. Several boys were going for Merit Badges in Stamp Collecting. Rocco got interested in the Morse Code and we went over there. His brother Carl was there also. Rocco started sending code which came out of a speaker set up with a battery and the sending key. I was surprised; most of the boys trying to write down what he was sending told him to slow down. I'd have to ask him about it later.

There was a sudden shout from across the room and I turned suddenly. I accidentally hit the boy behind me with one of my hooks, but unfortunately it was one of Sean's buddies.

"Watch out you stupid nigger." I tried to apologize, but was interrupted by Sean who grabbed one of my hooks and pulled down with quite a lot of force and I fell to the floor. I yelled. It hurt quite a lot.

"What's the matter stupid hook boy? You also a wimp? I think . . ." He never got to finish. I heard a loud yell and looked up. Rocco had jumped onto the small table and he launched himself at Sean feet first. He got him about the neck with his legs. They fell to the floor and Rocco started pummeling him. He said that he had a very fierce temper and when he lost it he had trouble controling himself. This was the first time I'd seen him lose it. He kept hitting Sean with all his strength and kept yelling "asshole" at every punch. Finally a few kids pulled him away. Rocco was white with fury. I felt scared about what was going to happen. I always found that the person who was least guilty always got into the most trouble. I think when most people turned into adults they couldn't think right any more. They never really care what's fair, only what some stupid rule says. I worried that my stay in the Troop was going to be short lived, because if Rocco was kicked out, I wouldn't stay.

By this time all the Scout Leaders were over trying to sort things out. Rocco seemed totally unrepentant. He kept yelling that Sean had hurt my arm by pulling on my hook. Sean wasn't saying much except he'd get even. Rocco's Dad looked furious when he found out what happened, but he started yelling at his own son. The Scout Master finally told him to calm down and that things would be settled without yelling. I was really glad that it was Mr. Alexander who was the one that took Sean and Rocco into a side room and closed the door.

Of course by this time there were ten different versions about what happened and nobody had even asked me about it. They weren't in there long when I was sent in. I quickly told Mr. Alexander what I knew. Sean said that of course I'd lie since Rocky was his friend. I left. Then a couple other kids were sent in and then left. After a while the Scout Master went in and both Sean and Rocco left.

Finally Mr. Papariello (Rocco's Dad) was asked for. About 10 minutes later they all came out. His Dad told Rocco they were going home. He was really hot. But I think only at Rocco. I felt really bad and also wanted to leave. Rocco talked his Dad into giving me a ride home. On the way his Dad actually said he was sorry for what happened to me. He seemed genuinely sincere. It made me feel a bit better. I said I was used to things like that. He looked at me and then Rocco and said it still wasn't any reason to fight. Carl was in the front seat with him and I swear he actually smirked at his brother and seemed glad he was in trouble. Unfortunately Rocco didn't miss it either. He suddenly hauled off and hit his brother who was at least 60 pounds bigger. His Dad got really mad again and said he was even in more trouble.

I was dropped off and when I got inside, my uncle was not there. What a night. Now I had no way to get out of my harness. And my lower arm was REALLY hurting. I was hoping to soak it in hot water. I was wondering what to do and decided not to bother Rocco so I phoned Joey. No one answered. Now what?

About two hours later Rocco was on the phone. He seemed to be whispering. I told him my uncle wasn't home and he said: "Don't leave, I'll be right over."

He got over in less than 5 minutes. He used his bike. "I'm grounded and can't watch TV for a month. But after Dad stopped yelling and went downstairs, I talked my Mom into letting you still come over to help get your school work done."

"Gees, Rocco, what all did your Dad say?"

"He was really angry. According to him the entire thing was my fault. I asked him if that was true then how come he told you on the way home he was sorry what happened to you. He then said that that was merely normal kids doing normal kid stuff. Boy did I get so mad. It didn't help that I started yelling at him."

"But what did the scout leaders decide to do?"

"Well I wish my Dad was like Mr. Alexander. Mr. Alexander said that most of the fault was Sean's but that I needed to learn how to control my temper. He said a lot of things to me about how to do that. He was actually pretty nice. Well Sean was suspended from the Scouts for six weeks and I was suspended for two weeks."

"Gees, that's not bad at all. I was afraid that you'd be thrown out."

Rocco then helped me with the harness and I asked him to help me fix up the bucket that I use for my stumps sometimes. We put in hot water and same Epsom Salt. When he saw the arm he got alarmed. "Darn he really hurt you bad!"

"It don't hurt so much now, just swollen a bit." I started soaking it. "OK, what happened at home? And how come you got into so much trouble there?"

"Well my Dad ALWAYS blames me no matter what anybody else did. I was grounded two weeks for the scout thing and another week for hitting Carl."

"But that's only three weeks."

"Well I hit Carl again when he smirked at me when Dad said I had no reason to hit him in the car. That got me a forth week."

I couldn't stop from groning. "But don't your Dad know that your brother keeps egging you on? And you should learn to just ignore him. He does it deliberately knowing you will get yourself into trouble. Every time you do it, it's exactly what your brother planned."

"But sometimes I get so mad I can't stop myself."

"But he knows that. You have to just ignore him."

"I know. And what gets me even more riled up is that Carl is the master of getting me mad but my parents just can't see it. He NEVER gets into trouble. It doesn't seem to matter what he says. Even in front of my parents at times. It's not fair."

"White-boy, you've just homed into the major mystery of the world that all black people are well aware of. The WORLD just plain ain't fair. You just got to make the best of it."

Suddenly Rocco got this horrible look and I saw him looking at my arms. Damn I really didn't mean it that way. He looked up with tears in his eyes and said with such sincerity: "Jade, if I could give you one of my own hands I would."

I started leaking a bit myself and hugged him It was a lot easier without my hooks on. I knew he meant it.

Finally I said he better be getting home; and I was surprised his parents let him come over. All he said that I was smart enough to figure things out since he was whispering when he was on the phone.

Rocco left. My uncle still was not home.

And damn, Rocco and I had planned to take our bikes to Woodside Park this Saturday. It had the Thunderbolt, the largest roller coaster in the country. (OK, largest WOODEN roller coaster. They just built a couple metal framed ones that were bigger). It was really scary. The roar of the cars and the creaking of the wood framework could be heard over half the park. We had saved enough money to take a number of rides. Sigh. Maybe latter this summer.

Chapter 24 - The Plan

"So what are all these?" Jade asked. We were in my room. I had gotten a set of books out of my brother's drawer.

"You are going to help me make coup on my brother and finally make my Dad understand I'm at least at smart as he is."

"I think you'd make a great politician. Nobody can understand you when you get enigmatic."

Darn, he got me again. He was up 12 points. I took a stab.

"Whereas understanding you, is `auto'-matic. You're an open book."

Jade thought for a moment. "OK, you cheated, but I'll let you have that one." He then asked if I could help him with the straps. His arm was still hurting a little.

It was almost a week later. I knew it wasn't very Christian, but I hoped Sean was still hurting too. "I think I should actually get an extra point for `auto-matic'. It was ingenious."

"White-boy, some day we'll need to do something about your low self-esteem." But without allowing him time to make a reply, I asked: "Now what are these books for? They're all about radio and electronics."

Rocco answered with a lot of excitement: "My brother is studying to get his Ham Radio License. That's why he started learning Morse Code. I was learning it to pass the test for First Class in the scouts. So after I learned the code and passed the scout test, my brother asked me to help him so he can pass the test for his Ham Radio License. You have to send and receive at 7 words per minute for the Novice, or the Technician License, and 15 per minute for General. The Technician and General have to pass a much harder written test, and Novice can only use code. Technician can use voice but only on shorter wavelength bands that usually can only reach usually a couple hundred miles or so."

"That sounds a little complicated. So what's your great idea?"

"OK. I plan on getting MY Ham License BEFORE Carl gets his! And I have to learn what's in these books. And you're going to help me."

"White-boy, how come whenever you get a devious and nefarious idea, its ME who has to do the work?"

Darn, he got me again. But nefarious must be something bad. Then I remembered from Latin that nefas meant crime. "OK, I think it means something criminal. But I'm not sure?"

Jade explained. "OK, now give." I knew his wasn't the whole story."

"All right. My Dad, last week, told my brother he would give him 100 dollars toward a receiver and transmitter when he got his license. I asked Dad if I could get the same, and he essentially ignored me. When I persisted, Carl said it didn't matter since I couldn't pass the test anyway."

"But how can he keep expecting you to help with the code after all that?"

"That doesn't matter. When I get that license, everything will have been worth it. I have . . . I mean WE have 2 weeks to learn this stuff, and you will quiz me on it."

Journal of Rocco P

April 28, 1960
How come I keep asking Jade to do things and he keeps doing them? It's almost never the other way round. Except for his straps and maybe washing his butt every now and then. The straps take 5 seconds and the butt is . . . well . . . exciting. How come? Am I always taking advantage of him? He even joined my Scout Troop. He went there without me last week and said he enjoyed it and the other kids treated him pretty nice. He was brave enough to do it for me, but why couldn't I be brave enough for him? I'm not sure I like what I'm becoming. And the cheating. I CAN'T even let Jade know this. Sure I do well in school, but I HAD to get the BEST grade in class. So I actually cheated in my last Latin test. But at least when I was challenged by the last word I suddenly COULD NOT cheat by just guessing and faking it. I COULDN'T do that to Jade. And then I suddenly thought about cheating in school. I've decided to tell Jade about it, I have to find the courage some where. Why is Jade so unselfish and I'm such an asshole sometimes? I pretend to be religious, and keep telling God I will be a good person, but I think I'm lying.

Well we started THE PLAN. With Jade's help I can't fail.

And so Jade and I started with all the books. I knew a lot of the stuff already. The stuff I needed to learn most were all the regulations. Jade is getting as interested in the stuff as I am. The last few weeks in jail went by without bothering me too much after all. I also found out that I didn't need to watch TV after all. (OK so I really missed Maverick, and Perry Mason).

Jade still gets sad now and then and I know he's thinking of his Mama. Sometimes I just hug him. It feels so right. I just had a thought. I think that just studying and working the plan with Jade is even more important than succeeding.

Why can't Carl be nice? I was just thinking that Jade was a better brother than Carl ever was. (Well, if I were honest, he's better than me too). I was so fortunate to have him in my life. I hope we get on well at summer camp this summer. Our family to take our vacation in Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire this summer. They even got this humongous new tent. The pictures of Cape Cod are beautiful. So pristine. I can't wait. But I wish Jade were going with us. But I don't think even I can scheme that good to get him to go.

Two weeks later, I was ready. And I get out of jail tomorrow. My parents finally relented and gave me almost a week off for good behavior. And agreeing to go to the dance with Dolores tomorrow. Actually, I almost suspect my Dad doesn't even know about this week's reprieve. I wouldn't be surprised if Mom did this on her own. But it makes things easier for implementing The Plan. I found out that Carl made an appointment to take his Ham Radio Test on Saturday morning. I called and found out there was a slot available at 3 PM Friday. That's tomorrow. I'm ready. I've been able to send code over 35 words per minute. I haven't actually been receiving code over the past few weeks, but you can usually receive at about half the speed you can send.

When I finished my usual after school snack, I saw some Tastycakes in the cupboard. My favorite was the butterscotch. The same type I used for Jade's impromptu party at the ice cream place. Mom didn't get them often, but when she did, I couldn't resist. As I snuck out one of the three little cakes from one of the waxed packages, Mom caught me. "OK, you just got your share. The rest are for after dinner." I was left off easy.

"Mom, tell Jade I'll be in my room. There's a big test coming up tomorrow and we need to study." Not literally a lie.

"Jimmy called and asked you to call him. He said something about a challenge game. What's that all about?"

"Jade and I actually beat him and Stan yesterday at half-ball, and they want to get even." I smiled remembering the look on Stan's face when I hit that winning homer.

I got to my room and suddenly went white with fear. I just realized I told Mom I was at Jade's house yesterday. SHIT! I was shaking when I went downstairs a few minutes later. I wondered what my Mom would do. But I couldn't stand the suspense.

"Hay Mom, I went over Jade's house yesterday after the Chess Meet just to see how he was and one thing led to another and we called Jimmy and Stan and challenged them to a game. I'm sorry I broke quarantine." I tried to put on my most repentant-I-am-sorry face.

My Mom didn't even reply to that. "Here're some cookies I just baked. I'm sure Jade would like some." Sheeeeew! I'm still alive and out of jail. Also cookies AND Tastycakes? What's going on?

A while later Jade and I were up in my room studying. The radio electronics questions were pretty easy. It was all the regulation stuff that I found harder to memorize.

"OK. One last set of questions. Here goes." And Jade kept picking out the hardest ones. I only missed one.

"I think I'm ready."

"When's your test?"

"Tomorrow right after school. I won't be able to meet you tomorrow. I need to take the bus right to the Hobby Shoppe. That's where it's given."

"I'll meet you there for moral support. Also that way I won't die of curiosity. But I thought you were still grounded."

"My Mom suspended my sentence." And I got to tell you what just happened. I explained what happened about the half-ball game and also the new challenge.

"Well I'm game. I think I'm even starting to hit that darn thing."

"You're definitely getting better. Especially with that new gizmo that Jimmy made."

"I couldn't figure what it was until Jimmy started putting it on my hook. And it grips the bat real well yet allows me a smoother swing. I think he'll make a great engineer someday."

"Actually that's what his Dad is."

We did his assignments and talked about a lot of things.

"Oh, I just remembered. I just got this amazing catalogue from the Carolina Biological Supply Company. You can't believe all the neat things you can order right through the mail."

We started looking through the entire catalogue. A lot of the things were for High School Biology Labs. Prepared microscope slides of all kinds of things. And stuff for dissection. Even frogs. But we finally got to the good stuff. "Holy smoke! Look at this -- an iguana. An actual iguana."

I was REALLY interested myself. I started getting excited. "Wow!"

"White-boy, I know that look very well. How can you keep an iguana alive here during the Winter?"

"I guess your right. But maybe I'll read up about them just in case."

"I know what that means. How come I keep letting you talk me into all these things?"

"Because I'm cute?" Seconds after I said it I went red. I can't believe I actually said it. Darn, he's homosexual and I said that! We haven't actually talked about that stuff for quite a while.

"No, you're ugly. And it's my butt that's cute." I was glad he turned it into a joke. We both couldn't stop laughing. I stifled a disquieting thought.

Journal of Rocco P

May 13, 1960
I was at a Chess Meet yesterday. Too bad I lost. Sometimes I can just see a neat move that is totally unexpected. I just wish I could do it all the time. My biggest problem with chess is that I so focus on my own strategy that I don't pay enough attention to what the other guy is doing.

Well I told Mom about playing half-ball at Jade`s before I realized I`d admitted I`d broke being grounded. Fortunately she didn't seem to mind. I think I got lucky. We played half-ball in the alley behind his house. We even attracted a little crowd. The guys there couldn't believe that we could actually hit that thing. Joey wanted to try and after Jade and I actually beat Stan and Jimmy, Joey and a couple of the other kids were added to the teams. We had a great time. Every once in a while I can get on a streak. I just all of a sudden am able to REALLY concentrate. I had one of my best days ever. I've always been able to do that -- really concentrate I mean -- but I seem to be able to do it more as I get older. It sure helps me study and in school.

And I can't figure how come I was thinking Jade was good looking. That's not exactly what I mean. I know that Nestor really . . . really what? I can't explain in words. I just like him a whole lot. And suddenly I started thinking of Jade that same way. Does this mean I might be like Jade? Well I guess I will just wait until I go through puberty. I'm sure everything will be OK then. But to be honest (and where else should I be honest than in this journal) I'm starting to get scareder and scareder.

Jade better. . . better what? I just lost my train of thought.

Copyright 2006 by Rocco Paperiello