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 duffs.
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.
Well, we're almost finished with Part I, Beginnings, which ends with Chapter 32b.   Part II, Discoveries, will pick up the story at the start of the next school year.   It will also have about 32 Chapters.  There will also be Part III -- Confrontation and Resolve,  Part IV -- Graduation and College, and then a short  Epilogue.
I thank those who have e-mailed. As I mentioned before, a few of these people I have not been able to answer -- for some reason my replies can not reach them. They get bounced back as undeliverable mail. Also I thank the person who has pointed out that it was Robert Frost who recited a poem of his at Kennedy's Inaugural. Of course Walt Whitman had been long dead. (I "fix" this mistake in the current chapter).
Chapter 27 -- A Good Start to a Good Summer
"Rocco, how are things with your father?" I was anxious to find out if things were getting better. We were on our way to one of our favorite places, Pennypack Park, but this time the section behind my school. There was a swampy pond there where we were hoping to find some tapoles, (and who knows what else). We tried to be as quiet as possible when I was getting ready this morning since Uncle Mike was REALLY grumpy last night. We didn't want to wake him. (He always sleeps late on Saturdays). I get so upset sometimes; I never know which Uncle Mike I am going to see. It's almost like he's two diferent people sometimes. Sometimes he pretty nice and helps me out; you'd never think there was anything wrong. Other times, like last night, he kept complaining about everything, and getting angrier as he went on. This time it was about his "faggot-white-assed-boss" who kept promoting the wong people -- all white people of course. (That description of his boss is just about one word by now). I think the real problem was that he had been hoping for the promotion himself. Of course that's only what it started with. It ended with something being wrong with just about everything in the world, from the "white-government" sending all the colored kids to Vietnam to be killed, to the local repair shop that charged too much money to replace the clutch in his car. And to hear him talk you would think the entire society is starting to be "over-run" by those "fucking white-souled, pansey-assed, faggoty fairies." (I was sure certain he would never know about me). Then he went out drinking again. Rocco came over at about 8 PM, right at the start of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. That guy talks funny even for a white guy. He already knew I was upset about something really bad (Rocco, not Alfred Hitchcock) just hearing me on the phone when I called. But I didn't want to talk about it too much. I didn't mention anything about "faggots," that's for sure. (What could we do about it anyway)? I talked him into staying to watch the show with me even though he said it "wasn't even close to one of his favorites."
So anyway, it's been almost a week since the big blow-up, so I asked Rocco about him and his dad.
Rocco waited for a moment. He tended to do that when I asked a question he did not want to answer. But he usually did with a little prodding. This time I prodded him with my stare. (Sometimes it takes a hook). He finally answered: "The same. He continues to ignore me. He's never apologized or even admitted he was wrong. I asked Carl if we would be sharing the ham radio equipment since we both had a license. He answered: `Dad gave me the money.' I was trying not to get angry, but he made it seriously difficult. He acted as though he had even condescended to answer at all. But he would not really answer my question. When I asked him again all he would say was that he already answered."
I couldn't understand why Rocco's brother couldn't just share. "Sorry about that."
Rocco seemed half angry and half miserable. He continued. "Carl then turned away and went downstairs. He knew I didn't have the nerve to face our father. I wish I could. I'm still seething. The only good outcome is that I bet I could come home at midnight and my father wouldn't say a thing. He doesn't seem to even want to face me. He can't admit to me he made a bad mistake. And Mom keeps saying to be patient. She doesn't want to get into another fight."
"I'm really sorry Rocco." (Gesh, couldn't I say something better than that)? We talked about this a while but I knew he was just needing to let off some steam. I then remembered something from last night. "Now what were you asking about last night before you left? You started a couple times saying that you needed to ask me something and by the time you left I realized you never did ask."
We were walking across the big fields behind my school, heading for the gate that lets you into the park. We must have gone more than a hundred yards before Rocco finally replied. (And Rocco actually kept quiet for the entire hundred yards -- probably a new record). "I was thinking about what you were saying the other day. Every time I think about if I really am a homosexual, I can't even got close to accepting it. How can you say it's OK with you?"
"You don't understand. I certainly don't like the idea of being a homosexual in a heterosexual world. I'm already black in a white world. I surely don't need both. But I can't change either. So I'm determined to make the best of it. And the first step I HAVE TO TAKE is to accept myself for what I am. And that's BOTH black AND homosexual. I KNOW that being black is God's plan for me. And I have to believe that being homosexual is also God's plan for me. For me it's the only thing that makes sense. Therefore I will BE both black and homosexual. And I really don't care what anyone else thinks. . . . Well, maybe I do care what other's think, but I mean that I can't let it stop me from living how I want to." That still wasn't exactly what I was trying to say but it was the closest I could come. Why does the world have to be so complicated?
"Damn. I mean darn. You've given this a lot of thought. I wish I could be that sure about it. But I still can't get passed what my Church teaches."
"One last thing, and I'll stop preaching. I eventually hope to find someone I can fall in love with. And as my Mama told me. A relationship can't work if either person feels guilty about what they are and what they're doing. And also, why should we be condemned to never have someone special, never be able to love someone? I can't believe that's what God wants."
"Just 'OK' I thought." I waited for Rocco to say more. But when he finally did it was half changing the subject.
"And I just remembered. I asked my English teacher about Walt Whitman the other day and now I was wondering how Kennedy raised him from the dead?"
"Raised from the dead? What're you talking about?"
"Well, it seems that he died more than 60 years ago! I asked around and finally found out that it was Robert Frost who read some poem of his at Kennedy's Inaugural." Rocco started laughing.
I'm glad for once I was so black. Rocco couldn't see me blush. "OK already. So I got the two guys mixed up. I wonder if that Frost guy is also homosexual?"
Rocco kept chuckling as he saw my reaction. I had to show him that it wasn't nice to make fun of his best friend. I tackled him and pinned him to the ground. Like often happens, after a fierce struggle, when I finally get on top of him, Rocco just stops and surrenders. For someone so competitive and who was so fiercely struggling just moments before, it is quite a change. I had my forearms on top of his and he was just sort of spread-eagled. Our faces were only several inches apart and as I looked down I suddenly stoped laughing as I realized I wanted to kiss my White-boy. I wondered if I could eventually tell him that? I let go and got up. I reached down and Rocco grabbed my hook and I pulled him up too. I was trying to cover my momentary confusion and wondering. I made some remark about wondering how many famous people were homosexuals that most people didn't know about.
But Rocco seemed inclined to not answer. He made some vague reply about us probably never knowing and then changed the subject. He asked: "What should we do this Summer? There's only a couple weeks of school left. Are you going to summer camp? Will your uncle sign for you?"
"OK, I can take the hint," I said. Rocco wanted to not talk about it any more. He wanted my thoughts, but didn't want to give me his. Which was sort of strange because he sure was never shy about expressing his opinions about everything else. But he must have read my expression.
"Jade, I just can't get that far into it. I definitely want to talk about these things, but I just need time to really think things through. I guess it doesn't seem real to me yet. I mean, look at me. I know I keep saying this, but I'm not even sexually mature yet. I really plan to investigate, but I just can't feel any urgency. I just can't get as serious as you do. No, serious isn't the right word -- I'm not sure what is. It's, . . . I just don't need to figure out everything right now."
I really thought there was more to it than that but I let it go. "OK, I just thought you wanted to know how I felt."
"Yes, I do, but before I can decide what I think about things myself, I need to work on it a lot more. I still can't get past what our Church tells us about this kind of thing. I'm sorry. I really wanted to hear your ideas, because I'm still trying to figure things out." Rocco then seemed to stop and think a while. He suddenly looked up like he had an inspiration. "It's like I'm caught between opposite ideas and I can't fit them together. If I really am that way, and you too, and who knows how many others out there, then how can our religion keep teaching it's wrong? It's like if God made people to love each other in a special way and have children, then what about us? What's his idea for us? But I can't really feel right about myself until I can resolve this. Does that make sense?"
"OK," was all I said. And I looked over at Rocco and tried to really figure out my feelings for him. He IS young. But damn. I think in some ways he's older than me. I know that don't make sense, but it's how all of a sudden he starts to think about things. But other times, he insists on NOT thinking through on things. I really don't know how else to put it. And sometimes he's a little kid soaking up all the attention he can get. And I'm sure happy to help give him that attention. I just feel so content just having him with me. But then I thought "Damn it Jade, just enjoy yourself. White-boy's helped you come alive again."
Then I had my own kind of thought and put on a sly smile. (It's NOT a smirk). I answered: "Have fun. Yes. Yes. And it sure does."
"I just answered your last four questions. I want to have fun this summer. Yes I'm going to Summer Camp. Yes my uncle said he would sign for me. And what you just said does make sense."
"Your smirking again. You should stop trying to be tricky. I got you beat hands down. And I'm really excited about summer camp. Oh yeah, I just remembered. I actually sent for it." Rocco's thinking just did a back-flip.
"You're being enigmatic again," I said. "Elucidate please."
"Elucidate? Damn. I mean darn. You're up to 13. Give."
"Explain. Make clear. Shine light on."
"OK. But can't you read my mind?"
I thought for a second and then SLY-SMILED again. It was easy this time; he sent for our iguana. "You really did?! Great. But how can we keep the critter alive during the winter?"
"Hay, that might be a good name -- Critter. As far as I've read, they get pretty lethargic in the winter and we can keep it in the basement. And it's easy to feed. It eats almost anything, especially vegetables and fruit. The book said that they respond well to captivity. I thought we could close up the spaces under the gates in our fence and keep it in the yard during the warmer months."
"I've only seen them in pictures, but they can get pretty big, can't they?"
"Yes, however, the one I sent for is a young one, only a foot or maybe a bit more, according to the catalogue. It was inexpensive, only eight dollars."
"Inexpensive? You need to find a dictionary and look that word up again. It takes a whole week to make that much."
"Yeah, but I think it's worth it."
"When do you expect it?"
"In a couple weeks, right before the end of school."
"How about . . ."
"No, but Mom won't make us get rid of it after it actually gets here." Rocco paused a second. "And Dad won't even look straight at me, since the other day."
"I'm glad to see your ESP isn't laying fallow. And the absolute second it arrives, I must see it."
"Of course, and as soon as we got back to your place I need to show you something."
I asked Rocco what but no amount of prodding on my part could get it out of him. We eventually did find a whole mess of tadpoles but without a net or something they were pretty hard to catch. We also found a small area of lilies, a big patch of skunk cabbage, and all kinds of muck. Some of which we were wearing on our pants as we made our way back to his house a couple hours later. We were both of us famished. His Mom and sisters were just finishing up their lunch when we got there. Rocco and I put together a couple sandwiches and Rocco pulled out a half gallon bottle of milk from the refrigerator. It was one of those new shaped bottles that had a gripping place to make it easier to pour. (I wished they could make something to put liquids in that was easier to handle than glass. I also had a dislike for the word "handle" for obvios reasons). After Rocco promised to be home for dinner on time this time, we went back to my place. Rocco said he was going to show me what he was talking about earlier. He said it had to do with the iguana we had coming. I was trying to puzzle it out. My guesses got pretty farfetched.
My uncle wasn't home when we got there. So Rocco practically pulled me up to my room and said: "I bought this for the iguana." And Rocco then pulled opened a drawer in MY room, and held up a really small chest harness, attached to a leash. And then got this big smile. "Look what I just found in your drawer. We can take Critter for walks. Can you imaging when someone sees an iguana on a leash! I can't wait!" (So I guessed Critter was going to be its name).
This time he really surprised me. "Thanks for confirming the fact that you are indeed weird. How did that get into my drawer without me knowing."
"You're kidding? Look around; you have more clothes and stuff on the floor and on chairs and things, than in your closet and drawers. You probably wouldn't have discovered that `till packing for camp in two months."
"I just got a great idea; how about helping me with my laundry? My uncle keeps complaining about it." I wasn't really serious. But Rocco immediately started rounding up the dirty clothes scattered about. That's another thing I like about White-boy. He keeps doing stuff for me all the time and he don't even think it's anything special. And he never hesitates.
As he was picking up the clothes, Rocco remarked: "By the way, that new movie we'd been talking about, Time Machine, is finally playing at the Mayfair, starting next Wednesday. I think we have enough money, even if they keep raising the price for tickets. It's up to 65 cents now for adults. Of course I can still get in for the under 12 price. And we can make the popcorn at home and sneak it in."
I realized there were possible problems. "I've really wanted to see that movie. But when? Next weekend is the Camporee."
"Yeah, and what a joke. How can they call camping in Pennypack Park, even camping out? I'm getting so frustrated with our Scout Troop. They NEVER go to the mountains. The best they've ever done was go to T. I. last year. I'm glad the river didn't flood."
Rocco's thought process jumped to yet another topic. A common enough occurrance. But I asked: "What's T.I.?"
"It's Treasure Island. It's a fairly large island in the middle of the Delaware River about 50 north east of the city." It's owned by the scouts and there's a big Scout camp on it. In fact the Camporee was held there last year."
"That would be great. I wish it were there again this time. How big is the island?"
"Actually pretty big. I remember a hike we took to the other end of the island and it took an hour or so. Of course we had to stop and look at stuff all the time."
I remarked: "That would be great camping on an island."
"Yeah, except when it floods. That happened several years ago."
"You mean the island flooded? That would be exciting."
"Unless you get drowned! That almost happened during that flood. Remember Hurricane Hazel? Well it flooded all the low areas along the Delaware River and a bunch of other places, and during a Camporee on T.I., everybody had to evacuate suddenly in the middle of the night. And there were LOTS of kids there. They kept running boats back and forth. My father was one of those in charge. The last people gotten off was by helicopter. The water was raging too much by then for boats, and most the island was under water by then."
"Wow, they actually got to ride in a helicopter! That would be exciting."
"I'm not sure they enjoyed it too much. It was the middle of the night, and they lost all their equipment and stuff. By the time my father got taken off they had to tie themselves to the trees. The whole island was then under water."
"Damn. That's quite a story. How come I never heard about it in the news?"
"Well Hazel caused so much destruction, it may have been lost in all the other stories. I already told you about the row boat in the middle of State Road a few days later."
"What I most remember, my Mama couldn't get to work that night. Our road was under a foot of water in places." We talked more about floods and weather and stuff, when Rocco suddenly changed gears so fast I think he must have stripped some brain cells: "I just got a colossal idea!" (Rocco's excitement level can go from zero to sixty in one second).
"NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT!" This time I was determined to resist.
"I haven't even told you what it is."
"Don't matter. The better you think your ideas are, the more you try to get me into trouble. And if it's `colossal' it means we probably wind up in jail."
"As I was saying. . . I just got this colossal idea. How about next Saturday during the Camporee, we sneak out about 7 PM and go see the movie?"
"We will just have to go later."
"But it might not stay at the Mayfair Theater that long and it starts there next Wednesday."
"You know you always talk me into these things, but this time I'm exercising my right of veto. It will be there at least two weeks, and we can go later."
"OK, but for the next weekend I had an even better idea."
"A ballgame at Connie Mack Stadium. I haven't been there for years."
"What day is the game?"
"Perfect. We go to the movie Friday night and the game Saturday."
"OK, but they charge more in the evening."
"It can't be that bad." I started thinking about when Mama had taken me to that huge theater quite a number of years ago. I found that I could now think about these things without getting overly sad. "You know I've only been to the Mayfair Theater once. Mama took me to see Pinocchio when I was a little kid."
"I saw that movie too. It's the first time I was in a theater without my parents. Dolores and I were dropped off and then picked up by our father. It was about the third movie I ever saw. The very first one I remember seeing was Quo Vadis. That's Latin for `Where are you Going'. I think. I slept through most of it. The one thing I do remember was some Roman soldier taking a bath and actually using a big knife to help scrape off the dirt off."
"OK, you just weirded me out."
"Good, and now the ball game. Actually it's a twilight double header. You get twice as much for your money. Can we spare $1.25 each plus carfare? We can always bring our own food and drink."
"You know, I've never been to a Phillies' ball game. When I was really small, Mama took me to see the A's play a couple times, but I think that was a different stadium."
"Actually, I think that Connie Mack Stadium was where the A's played until they left. Then the Phillies started playing there after that. And you said your Mama was a baseball fan?" Rocco seemed a bit incredulous.
"Well, she was an A's fan until they moved to Kansas City after the 1954 season. She said she felt betrayed. She was an American League fan and never paid much attention to the Phillies."
"I really would have liked going to some games again, but until we started delivering circulars I didn't have much money to go. And my Dad stopped taking me centuries ago." Rocco looked really sad suddenly. I know that he was still really hurting about what recently happened with his Dad. I keep trying to tell him that whatever he does he CAN'T start to hate him. I went that route and it's no good.
"Well, White-boy, exactly when . . ." I didn't get to finish. His ESP kicked in again.
"Don't worry. I really DISLIKE him, but I don't hate him."
"Well as I was trying to say before you so rudely interrupted, (I wanted to get back to happier things) when exactly is this game?"
And we hashed out our plans.
"When were you at a game last?" I asked Rocco.
"My Dad actually brought me only twice. The last time was several years ago. And the Phillies lost. Adcock, of the Milwaukee Braves, hit the longest homer I'd ever seen. He actually hit the lights on the top of the roof over the stands near the 400 foot mark."
"You'll have to point it out to me when we get there. And what about the other time?"
"Well the first time was when I was really small and I don't remember much. My Dad wanted to go because the "King and His Court" were playing a few exhibition innings with the Phillies before the regular game."
"What the hell was this King and Court thing?"
"I think the guy's name was Eddie Farner; he put together this small group that was called "The King and His Court." He was the king, and his court consisted of 4 other players. They actually went around and challenged other teams."
"Damn. Only four players? How could they ever win?"
"Well, there were four besides Farner. At least that's how I remember it. A guy was behind the plate, one at first, another infielder, and one in the outfield. They changed positions in the infield and the outfield depending on whether a right or left hander was up. And they did amazingly well. They played three innings and the Phillies lost. I think the Phillies played a lot of their back-up players, but it was still something."
"I don't think they do anything like that these days."
"And I think he must have been a hundred years old, but I even saw Satchel Paige pitch once, and he was still amazing. And before you start arguing, Babe Ruth was still the greatest baseball player that ever lived."
Rocco liked to brag sometimes about things he either did or saw. "You mean you actually SAW Satchel Page PITCH?!" I got really excited. "And Satchel Page was at least the greatest pitcher that ever lived!"
"Well, I better confess that it was only on TV. It was batting practice before a regular game. But I think since it was Paige, they put it on TV."
"Shit, I wish I could have seen him, even once."
"And Jade, you have to stop using hell and shit and damn. I really don't mind, but my Mom hit the roof when I accidentally used `damn' in front of her yesterday. Maybe my Mom was right. You're being a bad influence on me." Rocco couldn't keep a serious face.
I laughed. "Actually, it's you who are a GOOD influence on me." (Well, it was sometimes true).
So we planed to go to the games the weekend after the Camporee. Rocco said he was hoping that either Robin Roberts or Gene Connelly would be pitching.
The next afternoon we were standing with our bikes in the middle of the Tacoma-Palmyra Bridge. (OK, not in the actual middle middle; we were on the sidewalk, but the cars were sure whizzing by like mad). I let Rocco talk me into another one of his "Adventures." (I wondered if Rocco's Mom knew we were coming here). The bridge has to be two miles long, maybe three, and we must be a kazillion feet above the Delaware River. The water was a sickening brown. And made you a bit dizzy if you looked straight down too long.
Rocco seemed not the least perturbed. "Wow. This is neat. Look down and just concentrate on the water. After a while you feel like you're moving instead of the water!"
Geesh! "Hay White-boy, I just learned in science class you can toss something from some height, say like a little obstreperous white boy, and find out far down it is by timing the fall. I wonder how big a splash he'd make?" I just got in a double whammy!
Just looking at Rocco, seeing him concentrating, I knew I got him again. But then he looked up and smiled. "Distance equals minus 16 times time squared plus original velocity times time plus original height. I've got a second hand on my watch, and I suggest using a rock instead. Otherwise you'd get distracted by all the screaming. . . . And lets find a rock that isn't pregnant."
I looked at him trying to puzzle out what he just said and then started laughing. When I could reply I said: "I got another point. Wrong word. A baby doctor is an obstetrician. However, the little white boy in question is self-willed, rowdy, and rambunctious. And I'm up to 14."
"Huh! I should get two points just for the equation! You know we really could find out how high we are above the river."
Ten minutes later we were finally back with a large piece of tail pipe. And a couple other metalic objects. I remarked: "I guess there aren't too many rocks in the middle of a two mile long bridge. You use your watch and say when."
The tailpipe went first. We finally saw a tiny splash below. We then threw out a large peice of chain, and then a twisted something that we couldn't identify.
Rocco looked up from his watch. "Three seconds. Again. That's the closest we will get with the time."
"I guess we'll have to figure it out when we get home. I don't have a pen or paper."
"No need. Let's see."
There was a pause -- a damned awfully SHORT pause.
"This is only approximate, but it's about 144 feet, give or take. But if we were even a fraction of a second off it could mean the difference of well more than even a couple feet. Let's just say 150 feet."
"You figured that out in you head just now?" I asked. No wonder he got straight A's without hardly trying. Definitely -- the world ain't fair.
"It's really simple. Three squared is nine; nine times 16 is 160 minus 16."
"By the way, you just reminded me. I got an A in that big paper for English! Thanks for helping type it up. But I'm glad you made sure I looked it over. I had to fix almost a dozen words that were misspelled. How can you be so smart and be so bad at spelling?"
We had a good system down by now. I'd just keep basic notes for my papers and then would dictate the final draft as I made it up. White-boy was awfully fast typing considering he used the two finger method. Thank goodness though we used type-erase paper. It's a shame no one can invent a typewriter that can correct itself. Or better yet, a typewriter that types out what you say to it. That only happens in a science fiction stories.
"I was really surprised at what Doom said when she handed the paper back." I tried to mimic her supercilious tone: "`Mr. Brown, good work. That was a great idea you had about the safari to a land of dinosaurs. And you made it believable and with good descriptions.' She even smiled! Thanks White-boy. Both for the typing and the idea."
"Ah Jade, I have a confession to make. I stole the idea from Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land That Time Forgot. I just got done reading it. I sort of linked that up with that safari show we had at our school a couple months ago, and the movie Time Machine. I was trying to imagine how humongous the gun had to be to take down a Tyrannosaurus."
"I still think it was a super idea, and I bet you can't spell Tyrannosaurus," I said. Rocco couldn't. We had to hurry back for dinner. We didn't want to be late. We'd been challenged by Joey and Teague to a half-ball game right afterwards. It's amazing how that game has caught on in my own neighborhood. I feel awfully good about how most of the kids there are getting along with Jimmy and Stan and Rocco. And to think that Teague had been really hostile to Rocco last Fall. And I can't believe what Rocco said to him when he was watching one of the games we had here with Jimmy and Stan. He wouldn't stop yelling slurs at the white kids. And Rocco went up to him and said: "I've been over here so much I'm an honorary Negro. Maybe you can just show how good YOU are?" I thought Teague was going to pound him into the ground. He seemed angry at first but then started laughing. "Well, the (bleep, bleep) little white (bleep) has guts anyway." Now Teague is one of the most competitive boys there is. He felt challenged and started to play the game with us. Damn, Teague had never even seemed to like me too much either. And to tell the truth, I was always a little afraid of him. But he was now playing ball with white kids. Maybe there's hope for the world yet.
Later Rocco admitted that he was shaking in his sneakers when he confronted Teague. He also made the suggestion that we get a whole bunch of kids from both neighborhoods and play a choose up game of regular baseball at the park. Maybe some day. The only time I've ever seen us mix with the white kids before this was at the Holmesburg Park that just happened to be at the boundary of both our neighborhoods, and usually only in choose-up basketball games.
Later that night we were figuratively licking our wounds. Damn, Teague was gloating so much I was wishing a bug would fly right in his mouth. We were destroyed 12 to 3. Rocco couldn't hit to save his life.
"It was that bat," he said. "I never used one that heavy. Jimmy must have sawed it off from a garden hoe or something. It just kept my timing off. At least you were getting some good hits."
"Well, I didn't do much better. And those catches you made! Their score could have been double."
We both smiled realizing we were trying to console each other.
"Just once I'd like to shut Teague's big mouth. Although you have to admit he's good at everything -- at least every sport thing that is. Well, it's not life or death."
Rocco objected. "You're wrong. EVERYTHING is life and death. You just have to know how to have fun even with life and death struggles." He gave me one of his big smiles. And I suspected he half believed what he said.
We went inside to my room and I wanted to get more comfortable. I had taken off my harness and felt pretty mellow, with White-boy on the floor just leaning back between my legs. I was glad he didn't see my boner. I just keep thinking about him more and more that way. I'm too afraid to tell him. After all the personal stuff we've talked about you'd a thought I could.
Chapter 28 -- Camporee and Other Stuff
I was in my room, laying in bed and listening to the small transistor radio I got out of the trash and was able to fix. I was listening to my favorite radio show True Story. It came on at 10 o'clock every night and helped me wind down before going to sleep. And the stories were really interesting. The one now was about a couple that built their new house on top of what turned out to be a hugh rattlesnake den. And what was also interresting for me was that one of the sponsors right now was a big housing development that was going in just north of the city. And it was my uncle's new company that was putting in the hardwood floors. Afterwards I started thinking about all the exciting things I wanted to do this Summer. I'm starting to feel a lot better. And I was really looking forward to the ball games and the movie -- especially with Jade. And the Camporee was just a few days away. It seems as long as I have Jade, I can easily put up with everything else. (Well, maybe not too easily).
Then I started thinking about other things going on in my life. I wonder if Dad will EVER come up to me and say he was wrong? I won't hold my breath. When we went to the last scout meeting, he didn't even grumble when I asked him to pick up Jade. But he didn't even say anything to me either. Carl kept up his snide remarks though: "He doesn't even have a uniform yet." "He doesn't even try to get along with the other scouts." "How can Jade be a scout when he can't even strike a match?"
That wasn't even true. And there was only a couple of boys that still made nasty remarks sometimes. And how come my Dad don't even try to stop that? But I just suffered in silence. I'm finally learning.
And I started thinking about what Jade was saying about homosexuality. I decided to get out my Journal as long as Carl was still downstairs watching TV.
May 21, 1960
God, am I really homosexual? And if so why? I always tried to be good. And if Jade is right and we are made this way from birth, or at least because of nothing we've done, then why do You do THAT? And I've actually stopped cheating at school. So God, I really AM trying to be good. I haven't even gotten back at my brother when he's been mean to me -- for weeks! And that's REALLY hard. And I was even nice to my little sister yesterday when she was acting so spoiled about the cut-outs for her doll getting messed up. I bought her a new cut-out book. And she didn't even say thank-you.
Carl bought his receiver the other day, and also a Heathkit for his transmitter. It operates at a hundred fifty watts. He even splurged for a VFO. And he had the gall to ask if I wanted to help him put it together! When I asked if I could then use it, he just said he'd see. What a creep. I wish I had to guts to ask him if Dad said anything about letting me use the quipment.
And God, while we're at it, how come the Phillies can't ever win a pennant? Or the Warriors ever beat Boston? Or the Eagles ever beat New York? (I hoped God had a sense of humor).
The Camporee started out mostly boring. How come our troop can't do something INTERESTING? Like go the Poconos, or even French Creek State Park. That's only 30 miles or so outside the city. But nooooooo. I guess I have to admit there were some good parts. I mean with this year's Camporee. One interesting thing, there were troops here from all over the city. Including the one from Jade's neighborhood. And Joey was there. There were competitions all Saturday. They tried to make the troop competition a little more fair by teaming up two Scout Troops for the day. Since Jade knew most of Joey's troop and I knew quite a few, we went to them and asked if they wanted to team up with us. It took a little selling but above all they wanted to win and their troop was relatively small. We mentioned that our troop came in either second or third place for its last three competitions and we sold them the idea. Now to convince our own troop. This time we went first to Mr. Alexander and appealed to the ideal of better race relations since our troops were actually next to each other neighborhood wise. He liked the idea and sold it to Mr. Mauk, our Scoutmaster. Mr. Mauk talked to their Scoutmaster. We were officially teamed.
Actually this is the kind of thing I really liked. And it was finally agreed that Teague and I and two others were teamed up for a sort of relay obstacle course.
"Your kidding Rocco, YOU'RE part of the team?" Teague asked me.
"I tell you what, I'll challenge you to a run to that tulip tree way out there and back and then see what you say." Actually I was pretty fast and was hoping to make our school's cross country team next year. I almost made it this year.
"That's not very far."
"Not that one, the one past the mess tent." And pointed.
"Damn, that has to be 300 yards away." And then he smirked (not smiled) and said sure. "I'll beat your white ass."
Earl Wolfe was the other member from out troop and got very annoyed when Teague made that remark. I turned to him and said: "Hay, don't mind Teague. We know each other and actually get along pretty well. It's just the way he talks. Besides, Teague is REALLY good at all sports. We WANT him in this race.
Earl wasn't entirely mollified, but was willing to get along. (I used that word on Jade last week and got a point).
Damn was Teague fast. I barely lost to him, but the operative word was lost.
"Damn, your little white ass is fast. I almost didn't believe it when you passed me. But I wasn't trying my hardest. I had to turn on the afterburners when you passed me." Actually I believed him. And even Earl smiled.
Believe it or not I had an advantage over a lot of people because of my size with much of the course. I could easily fit through things, and had a lot less problem with any part where space was restrictive. And I was actually pretty athletic. I just didn't have raw strength.
Teague went first and had a 15 yard lead when Earl took over. But I was to go last. DJ, the third of our relay fell going over the barrier and lost a lot of ground. So it was almost a dead heat with one other team when I started. But I gained a lot of ground in the twisting run and more in the high bars where you had to move down course with hands bar to bar. I took a gamble and skipped every other bar.
We won by a hundredth of an inch. Well maybe actually an entire inch. I felt better than if I'd just gotten all A's on my report card.
Teague grabbed me after I crossed the finish line and was practically holding me up. "Damn Rocks, you're almost as competitive as me. When you skipped those bars I knew you would do anything to win."
I couldn't believe what Teague just said. And that he was even holding me. He let go and we were all celebrating the win. It put our two troops into first place.
Our two troops were doing very well. There were some really good athletes in both troops. Everyone was astounded when a boy, Fran Simpson from our troop, won the broad jump by a good two feet over everybody else. He was just as astounded as everyone else.
And then came a number of scout oriented things. One was to take two logs, build a fire, and then get a can of soapy water to boil over. When I looked at the wood pile from where we could choose our two logs, I went to our Scoutmaster and assured him I could win the contest.
"I'm certain. Let Jade and me team up and I guarantee we'll win."
"All right, but just give me one reason why you're so sure."
"A few of the log sections are birch."
Mr. Mauk must have understood. He smiled. "OK, but why Jade? Can he help?"
"Jimmy made a gizmo that lets him hold a stick bat. It will also work with a hand ax. And he's my best friend and I want US to win."
I teamed up with Jade and explained: "When the competition begins we HAVE to get to the pile in time to get the two birch logs." And I pointed. He smiled, realizing the advantage of using birch. "I will be busy stripping all the bark, so you have to do the cutting. Find a hand ax that you can use."
Jade was as excited as me. "Hay, White-boy, no way can we lose. And this will put our troops into the lead again."
I shaved off the bark. By that time Jade had split the first log into small pieces. He didn't have to make them as small as usual with the birch bark being used as kindling. I started building the fire. Jade split the second log into larger peices. He asked: "I think we need to cut it into only about eight lengths."
I agreed. "Sure thing."
I had the fire built and Jade lit it. The fire blazed. Birch bark burns like it's been soaked in gasoline! We shattered the old record. Jade and I were we're ecstatic. We hugged each other when we won. It never occurred to us that so many of the kids and even adults there would be surprised at seeing a white and black boy hug. I forgot we were an unusual pair. Both troops cheered.
After the last event our troops were in first place. One of our rewards was that we were exempted from policing the grounds when we broke camp on Monday. We also got a trophy banner to hang in both our scout halls. One other great result was that both our troops agreed to team up for the competition at Summer Camp.
We were just starting back to camp when someone behind us got our attention.
"You know for a shrimp of a white boy Honky, you're not too bad!" We turned to see Teague and a friend of his that I didn't know.
It was out of my mouth before I my brain was ever consulted: "Your not half bad for a nigger either." I thought his friend was going to explode. But I started laughing when I saw Teague's expression. (I never said I had any common sense. That's just how I reacted).
"I'm the best and don't you forget it. Brim and I intend to humiliate you guys when we play half ball next time. Consider your asses challenged!" A few of the guys overhearing us didn't quite know what to make of our greetings, but assumed that since we seemed to be friends it was only meant as a taunt. We stopped attracting attention when it looked like there would be no fight. We worked out the details. (I didn't even know what Honky meant but I guessed it was akin to nigger. I'll have to ask Jade later).
As we got near our camp we caught up with my brother. I couldn't resist. I went up to him with Jade tagging with. "Hay Carl, let me introduce the boy you said shouldn't be a scout since he couldn't even strike a match." He didn't even have the courtesy to act embarrassed. He tried to turn away, but I wouldn't let him. "Hay Carl, don't you have the guts to say it to his face?!"
But Jade said: "Come on Rocco, you can only making matters worse." So we left with my brother just staring at us. He never said a word.
"Damn, White-boy, can't I ever teach you nothin'? How many times do I got to say that kind of thing CAN'T NEVER do you any good?"
"I'm sorry Jade, but I get so angry sometimes."
"OK, but please try to ignore it. Before you do stuff like that ask yourself one question: `Will I actually feel better after I do this?'"
"I know, your right. I promise to try."
When we got back to camp, everyone was still celebrating out troop's victory. We even had people congratulating Jade and me. I felt like floating.
"Rocco and Jade, if we have time I'd like to talk to you two after dinner?" Mr. Alexander had walked over to us. "And congratulations." His big smile (Mr. Alexander with a big smile?!) said it was something good. We then quickly made our way to Rowland Ave. and caught the bus. Amazingly it was on schedule. We had to make good time. We hurried onto the bus and took an open seat near the back. It was Saturday so it wasn't very crowded.
"I can't believe you talked me into this. We will be in a lot of trouble if we get caught." In spite of his words, Jade's smile and demeaner said it wasn't really worried. About as much as I was contrite.
I answered: "Only VERY bad luck can get us caught. Jimmy will tell anyone who might notice us missing that we were eating with the guys from Troop 246. They won't even be suspicious since they will think it natural that you'd be invited by the troop who won with us and also your friends."
Jade smiled: "You has one convoluted mind. One of these days you are going to get really caught with one of your complicated plots and don't expect any sympathy from me."
"I suspect if I get caught, you'll be right there in trouble with me." And laughed.
"Unfortunately that's probably true. Of course, it will be my task to talk you out of your more hair brained schemes."
"By the way Jade, Teague called me a honky. What's it mean?" An older black guy a few seats away turned toward us and chuckled when he saw us.
"Well you prompted that when you called him a nigger. I couldn't believe you did that." Jade tried to keep his voice low but the old guy now made no attempt to be circumspect. He was looking right at us. It looked like he wanted to say something but stopped. Jade explained: "It's a very derogatory term for a white person. Althought I really don't know where the word comes from. And you really better be more careful with the word nigger. Not too many people would take it as a joke."
The old black guy finally spoke. "You better believe that boy!"
I looked at the guy and was embarrassed. I forced a weak smile and practiced looking innocent and naive. I finally said to Jade, loud enough for the guy to overhear: "I guess I better stop using it. But I only meant it as a jest to taunt him. . . . And by the way, what does the word 'derogatory' mean?"
"The English language has a billion words. I suggest you find a better one." Jade was smirking. He explained the meanig of 'derogatory,' and then changing the topic, he asked: "I've never been to this place before. What do they have there?"
"I've never been there either, but a friend at school said it wasn't half bad and the most important thing for us, the service is fast. I think just burgers and fries."
Sure enough that was almost the entire menu. (Which weren't written on actual menus). We were finishing our burgers and drinks on the way back to the bus stop. We used school tokens so the ride only cost us seven cents a piece each way. I remarked: "Hay, these burgers ain't so bad for just a quarter."
"The fries are pretty damn good too," Jade said as he was stuffing a few of them into his mouth. We polished off the fries as we waited for the returning bus. We didn't want to have to carry everything onto the bus. I was carrying Jade's drink too. And I was always amazed how Jade could eat the fries without squishing them. I had talked Jade into sneaking out to eat, thus eliminating the problem of cleaning up later. And also just for the lark itself.
We were talking about the the place we just came from when Jade remarked: "That's a funny name though for a bugger joint. I didn't see anything Scottish about the place either."
I had to wait for my next swallow before I could answer. "I don't know how it got that name, but there are actually a couple in the city."
Jade said: "I still say they could have thought up a better name than McDonald's."
I agreed. We talked about a lot of inconsequential stuff on the bus ride back.
"By the way, how does your uniform fit?" I eventually asked.
"Great. And thanks for sewing on all the patches and things."
I had gone to Sears with Jade a couple days ago to get him a uniform. We biked all the way there after school. We had hidden our bikes in the park near Lincoln High and locked them to a tree. It was quite a trip to Sears. But that's where the official scout clothing place was.
We took the elevator up to the sixth floor and found the department without any trouble. The guy who took care of us was pretty friendly. After Jade tried on the uniform to make sure the size was correct we then asked about all the stuff we needed to put onto the shirts. The clerk asked: "And what Troop number do you need?" He hadn't believed us at first when we said we were there without any parents, and that were really going to buy a uniform for Jade, especially when he looked at his hooks. I could tell that Jade was pretty happy when the guy didn't even mention them.
"And what class badge?"
Jade replied: "Don't need one. I just joined."
I butted in: "But I do need merit badge patches for myself while we're here. I need Coin Collecting, First Aid, Cooking, and Hiking. I want to get them on my uniform sash before the Camporee this weekend."
"Hay that's pretty good kid. And you finished up Hiking in the Winter?"
"Jade and I hiked almost the entire length of Pennypack, and Fairmont Parks."
"And how many merit badges do you already have?"
"This makes 16." I was pretty proud. That was more than almost anyone in the troop. There were only two Eagle Scouts at present. The Scoutmaster's son and that weird kid, Earl Wolfe. And I momentarily got a bit envious. Earl not only could swim, he swam a mile in the ocean last summer to be a Junior Life Guard.
"Then you must be a Life Scout," the clerk stated.
I almost lied and agreed. But at the last second I was thinking about promising God I'd be a better person. (And also since Jade was looking right at me). I said: "Well actually no. I'm only Second Class. I have all my First Class test passed except swimming. I can't seem to learn how to swim. If I could pass that, I'd be only several merit badges away from Eagle Scout."
"That's really good. You'd then probably be one of the youngest Eagle Scouts in the whole area. You can't be over 13."
Jade snickered and I had to hit him to save my self respect. And it was Jade that butted back in this time: "Actually he's only 11. He lied to get into the Scouts early." And Jade couldn't stop laughing. I had to hit him two more times.
"He's just joking, I'll be 15 in a couple months." Seeing the expression on the clerks face, I'm not sure he believed me. "And I'm hoping to pass swimming at Summer Camp and make Eagle Scout before the end of the summer." I would be pretty proud of that. I desperately wanted to make Eagle before Carl. He also had only several badges left.
Jade leaned over and whispered: "Stop thinking about besting your brother. It really won't make you the right type of happy."
"And turn off your ESP if it's going to invade my private thoughts." I smiled. The clerk thought we were a bit weird. I think he might be right.
We snuck back into camp. Actually we boldly strolled in while talking loudly. I was always of the opinion that that was usually the best way not to be noticed. And we weren't. A couple hours later we were in our tent getting ready for the night. We had just turned in and were talking about our plans for the rest of the summer. Possibilities looked endless. Mr. Alexander had caught up with us just after we got back and wanted to say how proud he was for getting our two troops together for the competition. I felt pretty embarrassed. As I undressed, I was pretty self conscious as I changed into my pajamas. I didn't even take off my Fruit of the Looms. Jade took off his pants and I snickered pretty loudly when I saw his underpants were pink.
He remarked: "If you continue demonstrating your suicidal tendenies, don't complain when you find yourself dead."
I almost broke out laughing as Jade started quickly zipping up his sleeping bag. He explained that some of his underware had an unfortunately close association to a red flannel shirt while being washed.
Jade then asked: "OK White-boy, how comfortable is your old sleeping bag? Any bed bugs I should be worried about?"
I had to reposte: "You know you can just sleep right on the bare ground. You don't have to use it."
"Thanks for the loan. I hope it's comfortable. The ground looks lumpy."
"Well, that's what the air mattress is for. And it won't be cold enough tonight to worry about a better insulation from the ground."
"And how come we turned down the cots?"
We were sleeping in a two man tent. The troop had a whole bunch of them. They also had cots for everyone.
"You could have used one. But I think it way more comfortable and actually warmer sleeping on the ground. The thing that will keep you warm is the thin insulating pad between the bag and air mattress."
Then Jade got this funny look, "Hay White-boy. Thanks."
"No sweat. It's just an old sleeping bag and air mattress."
Jade was quiet for a moment and then said: "No, I mean for everything."
"How do you mean?"
"Hay look, a year ago I was starting to hate the world, and then my Mama died. Today I had a great time and I had it with a great friend. I would never have dreamed I'd win a ribbon for starting a fire while being a member of an all white Scout Troop. And enjoy it so much. So I guess it's all right if you keep trying to get me into trouble."
I almost laughed, but stopped when I saw his expression. It wasn't a laughing moment. It was a soft-earnest-emotional moment. I also felt real good. I totally put aside in my mind the problems I had at home. I felt so . . . I couldn't really put it into words even in my own head. I felt so content, but not just a passive content. I felt I had a really active content.
I finally said: "I wish you were my brother." I really wondered what Jade was thinking right now. He never directly replied. We finally dozed off while discussing all our plans for the rest of the summer.
May 27, 1960
A pretty good weekend. At times really good. I really liked meeting such different people from all over. I can't figure out how I can meet people I never saw before and get along so great and then have so much trouble with those I've known forever. I mean sure, Jabloski, and Twain at school, we all got along pretty well, but we really only do surface things. I know that don't make sense but I can't say it any better. We actually REALLY don't get CLOSE to each other. As for Jimmy, sometimes he seems even older than me, and he's actually a year younger. And then other times he can't seem to do anything without someone else deciding what we should do. And most of the time he's interested mostly in just sports stuff. And Nestor I could want to get real closer to but he just seems so the not-care-to-get-closer type. Sure he's a lot of fun, but that's all. And I've been over to his current home (Dr. Krazenski's) only twice. I can't believe Jade came along that one time. Thank you God! He's almost saving my life. I have always had this feeling that most people don't even like me. Dad and Carl sure don't. How can a father so dislike his own son? I told Jade I wished he were my brother; he never answered. I wonder how he REALLY feels about me. I wish he'd actually tell me. Sometimes when he looks at me though, I tend to get scared. I wonder if he likes me more than just a good friend? Would that be good or bad?
I'm really trying to get Eagle Scout before Carl. But then again my father would probably still ignore me. And I can never do better than my brother even when I do. And Jade says I shouldn't do it for that reason. He says I should do it simply because I enjoy it, or for myself or even for him or anyone, but not for them to like me better but because I want to be a beter person. That doesn't even make too much sense. Well it would be neat to do it for Jade. Oh well, I guess I'll try not to be so obsessed with the idea.
God, why can't Dad love me like Mom does? For him I can't do anything right. Or good. Carl is always better even when he clearly isn't. Maybe part of my trouble with Carl is that I resent his closeness with Dad. (I have never admitted this to myself before, but I should try to be honest in my Journal). But I definitely won't admit it's not a lot his fault. And no matter how Carl acts, how come Dad can't like me?
Damn Darn! (I'm trying to get out of the habit of using those words. I used damn in front of my sister the other day and she told Mom. And I sure got into trouble).
I remember when I found all Carl's grade school report cards one day. I got all mine and figured out both our averages for all eight years. And my average was more than a full point higher! I told my parents. My Mom merely said "That's nice." And Dad said I must have figured it out wrong. Carl complained that I must have gone into his drawer to get his report cards. I had to admit it, and when I did my father castigated (I just found that word and intend to use it on Jade when opportunity strikes) me and I was grounded for two days. Carl gloated all weekend. When I couldn't take it any more, I got grounded another week for beating him up. The worst part was that no one cared and I couldn't make Dad believe me. Life isn't fair.
School's almost over. I asked Mr. Cutter if I could skip the final especially since I'd just mess up the curve. He actually laughed. Well I was only half serious. But he called me to the front of the class the next day and asked me if I would just spend the rest of the year helping to tutor some of the kids after school. I told him that I would except on Fridays and any Chess Meet days. He then said: "And no, you don't have to take the final." I was quite surprised.
By the way, I actually won a Chess Meet game the other day, and at fourth board! Jade said we needed to celebrate, so I made a pizza in his kitchen. I'm glad we got the mess cleaned up before his uncle got home. And his uncle was drunk only twice this month. He's even been pretty good with helping Jade with his harness. It sure helps with keeping down those late phone calls that Dad really started complaining about. Well, maybe Jade's uncle is getting better, of course I don't know better from what.