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 condone (publicly) anyone breaking the law, so either move or read sentence four. I definitely don't want the thought police after either of our fundaments.

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

Sorry about the slow appearance of chapters. Of all four parts, the next ten chapters are probably the ones needing the most work. I wasn't really happy with them and have made extensive re-writes.


PART II -- Discoveries

Chapter 37 -- Disagreements

Two days later I was again struggling my way to the bus stop. Then I heard a honk. (Actually more like a waannk sound). There was this big fancy Cadillac coming to a stop and the driver's window coming down. Never saw an electric window before. Probably someone needing directions. I wondered what a Cadillac was doing in this neighborhood.

"Need a ride?" Was that English he was speaking? Giving me a ride!?

"Wow. Thanks a lot." I wasn't sure who this was but he seemed to know me and where I was going. I struggled into the car, putting my crutches in the back. "How did you suspect I could use a ride?" We both smiled.

As we took off I was impressed by the leather interior and the fast acceleration. What a car! Someone was rich. But who? I racked my memory and nothing.

"You don't recognize me do you, Rocco?" He knew me for sure, but who? He looked like a Senior so maybe a friend of my brother. Before I could reply he added: "We were in eighth grade together. I caused the class scandal."

Now all the gears started meshing. I even now recognized the car. Cindy's family was pretty rich. I decided not to relate to him what my mother's comments were concerning that scandal. I always had some vague bad opinion of Frank Moore, but really didn't know him enough to think on it too much. "Oh, Frank! Boy you've gotten bigger!" But then my "tactfulness" struck. "You got Cindy pregnant!" At least I had the courtesy to turn red. "Sorry, didn't mean it that way."

Frank just laughed. "Well, her father almost killed us. Not too many kids get their girlfriends pregnant in the eighth grade. She had our baby around Christmas last year. St. Hubert's wouldn't let her go to school pregnant. What stupid hypocrites." He sounded pretty vehement.

I chanced it. "How's things going now?"

"Pretty well. Cindy's back in school. I'm doing well. Working my tail off though. We are living at her parents' place and they help a lot with Elizabeth -- that's what we named our kid. It was really hard at first, damn I was barely 15 and a father. I barely knew how to be a teenager. But we really love each other and our baby, so we make it work. And fortunately, after her father killed me, Cindy's parents were genuinely very kind."

"I always wondered how things turned out. Looks like you're doing well."

"I'm really grateful for Cindy and her parents. In fact her Mom adores her granddaughter, and she's been great! I work like mad both at school and at their pizza shop. I assume you know that they own Shef's Pizza. Pop's been a real help -- that's Cindy's dad, but I have to work to help pay expenses. But things are turning out better than I deserved. I sure don't recommend anyone else having a kid in High School!"

I was curious. This story and ending were so different than the rumors I'd heard. My mother talked like he and Cindy were the scourge of the neighborhood. "I guess you know the rumors afterwards have really zinged around."

"I was mad at first, but now I'm too busy to worry. Besides, we really love each other and are determined to make our marriage work."

I don't know why I should have been surprised, when he said marriage; it was logical but I simple didn't think of it. And my face must have shown it. "Wow." What a comment. Then I started thinking. "How could you guys get married? Aren't you too young for a marriage license?"

"We got married in the Rectory. There was no license. But we'll eventually get legally married." There was a long pause in the conversation as we got near the school. "How'd you break your foot?"

I smiled as I told him what happened. He laughed. And then offered me a ride every morning. "Just wait outside your house, I'll pick you up. You barely live more than a block away. Glad to help."

"Gee thanks. You're a nice guy." Implying I'm surprised?

"No prob." (A pause). "Haven't I seen you with that colored kid at times?"

"Yeah. Jade. He's my best friend."

Frank laughed. "You always had the reputation of having to be different. That's great. My motto -- shake `um up!"

"You can't believe how much!" I laughed. I suddenly felt some good connections with him. And I had really barely known him before in spite of having been in grade school with him.

He continued: "I guess my attitude's gotten a bit defiant. I really hated being judged by everyone. I think I'm a good guy. At least I try to be." We were parking about a block from the school. "Here we are. I hope this is OK. I don't like to park Pop's car too close. We walked (I crutched) the block to school. "Thanks a lot Frank. See you tomorrow."

As I got my books from my locker I was thinking: "So much for preconceived ideas. Maybe there were a lot other kinds of prejudice." I then wondered what Mom would think when I told her who offered to give me a ride. Maybe it would be better not even to say anything.

After school Jade and I were on our way to the trolley stop again on Frankford Avenue. It was a lot easier going down hill. I was also getting better at it.

We talked about all the usual school stuff and eventually got to the topic of our "dates." Jade ended with: "It's all set up. We will be meeting the girls at Roosevelt Miniature Golf Course Saturday at 1 PM."

"Great. That's the best one in the city. It's going to be interesting with crutches. We better get an early start. That's two transfers. And we better get the schedule for Roosevelt bus."

"Already done! Consuelo had one. Smart girl. I'm getting to like her. Too bad she's a girl. But I guess she can't help it." Jade chuckled. "How you doing with the crutches?"

I filled him in. "And I need to get some more rubber ends for the crutches. These are almost worn through." And then said: "I got a regular ride to school." I told him all about Frank Moore. We talked about this and lots of stuff on the way home. We came in through the back yard. Critter greeted us.

Mom did too. "Hi Jade. Taking good care of Rocco?" She hugged me right out in the open!

"You're embarrassing me MOM!" I sort of said barely audible.

"The best care possible." Jade replied.

We went to my room where we started Jade's assignments. He said: "Oh I forgot. Joey said he'd help do the circulars this Thursday."

"Great. I really wasn't looking forward to that on crutches."

We finished Jade's assignments. It took quite a while today. Even if my two finger method on the typewriter was getting much faster. I could hear Mariann down stairs with The Mickey Mouse Club already on TV. "Dinner'll be ready soon. I can't wait to see everyone's reaction when I tell them about our dates."

"Hay Rocco, I was wondering. What if I need you to help with the straps some night or morning?"

"Don't worry. It's only 5 blocks. And no hills. And no school books. And I'm getting pretty good with them."

"Thanks. It really worries me. Uncle Mike can be good for weeks at a time, then suddenly. . ." Jade never finished. He didn't need to. He left for home.

We had one of my favorites at dinner that night. Spanish rice. And butterscotch Tastycakes for dessert. Mom sometimes had them delivered with the bread in the morning. I finally brought up the topic of my upcoming date. Carl had to make some snide remark.

"Stop teasing your brother." Did Mom actually defend me against Carl? Hell is freezing over.

"Who would consider dating the midget? She's probably got buck teeth and bowled hairy legs." He knew I hated that word midget.

I fought back. "Watch out Carl. Maybe someone will realize how mean spirited you really are."

"Watch your mouth. Don't talk to your brother that way. Now apologize." That was Dad of course.

"How about him? I was just telling the truth."

"Enough. If you can't act civilly, you won't go on any date. And how come we don't know this girl? We don't like the idea of you just meeting her there. We'd like to talk to her." (Read, subject her to the Papariello Inquisition).

"But she lives way past St. Hubert's. It's just easier this way. And it's just Miniature Golfing." And I mentioned where we were going.

My sister joined in: "That's a great course. Some of the holes are more than 50 feet long. And what's she look like?" Dolores was always interested in how people looked. I didn't usually care. (Well except for Jade, or maybe Nestor).

My brother was smirking. So I lied. "She's about the prettiest girl in her class. I mean her whole Junior class. In fact the whole school!" Ooops. Maybe I laid it on too thick. How come I keep digging myself these holes? STOP LYING ROCCO!

"Bullroar." Blast, I wished Carl had slipped and said `bullshit' right in front of Mom and Dad.

Mom looked up. "And how are you going to manage with your cast and crutches?"

"No problem. I'm getting pretty good with them. By the way I need new rubber ends. They wear out pretty fast."

"You said her name was Carlotta Romero. Is she Hispanic?" Dad asked.

I was almost positive she was Puerto Rican. Since she was Consuelo's cousin, so probably. Especially with the name Romero. "Yeah. She's Consuelo's cousin."

"And I don't like you dating a girl from Lincoln. Why can't you find a good Catholic girl?"

"She IS Catholic." Jade said she was. Most Puerto Ricans were. I changed the subject. "I also have a steady ride to school now in the morning."

"That's good, but we don't know any student who has their own car."

"Actually we do. Buddy Bettis has a car. Well, you can ALMOST call it a car." It was pretty old. But I was afraid how Mom would react if I said it was Frank Moore. Maybe I can just let everyone assume it was Bettis who was giving me a ride.

"I'm not sure I like that." Now what? My Mom didn't approve of many people. "He's wild, and hangs out with that rowdy crowd all the time. The one in and out of that gang hangout. I just don't like it."

"MOM! They just have fun. No one gets into trouble. And what hangout?"

"That disgusting pizza place. The kids are hanging around the place all hours of the night."

"MOM! It's because they sell pizzas. And kids like pizza. And the place closes at 9 PM."

"Don't argue. I know what I'm talking about. I don't want you mixing with that crowd. I don't want you accepting rides from Buddy Bettis. Besides, he's two years older than you."

Now what? I felt trapped. "OK Mom, I won't." (Not an actual lie). I thought: "Jade, I'm sorry. I'll stop lying. I promise." I guess getting a bit of courage was habit forming. I found myself saying: "Actually it's not Buddy Bettis. I'm getting a ride every morning in a Cadillac."

"Wow. Can I sit inside?" Mariann was impressed.

But Mom wasn't. "Who do we know has a Cadillac? I'm not sure I like this."

"The guy who owns Shef's Pizza owns the car. He's Frank Moore's father-in-law. It's Frank who's giving me the rides. He's a really nice guy!"

Mom came unglued. "Absolutely not. You are NOT associating with that . . . that . . . Well, you're just NOT. And that's final."

"That what? He has a nice wife, and a beautiful baby girl. Both of whom he obviously loves by the way he talks about them. And he works a hundred times as hard as I do, providing for them."

Dad joined in the fray: "You heard your mother. Don't back talk."

I was so pissed I almost got myself in REAL trouble. Fortunately only almost. I finally realized I would have a better shot with my Mom later on. But I couldn't resist a tiny bit of sarcasm. "Look, Father Hearn, my Religion teacher at school, always advises us to ask what is the Christian way of acting toward people." It's me who now felt like a hypocrite. It went completely over my father's head. But Mom looked at me with a VERY weird expression.

"Let's just finish eating. We shouldn't be bickering around the dinner table." Mom was trying to be peace maker.

I hope this don't cause another big fight with her and Dad. Those fights REALLY get to me. When am I ever going to learn to keep my mouth shut? I needed to change the subject again. I looked up at Dolores and asked. "How's Charlie these days?"

That got us in a better direction. Everyone really liked Charlie. He was two years older than my sister but everyone liked him so much, my Mom didn't say too much about the age difference. Besides we just recently found out he was RICH! It turns out that all our jokes about Charlie Antell owning the Charles Antell hair product company was not too far off. His father owned it. We were pretty stunned when we found out. Even if just a local company, he still was rich. I wondered if he owned a Cadillac.

So we teased my sister a bit but only in fun.

As I've said before, sometimes my Mom is at her best by simply saying nothing. I just waited for the ride the next morning, and she said nothing. I wondered if she knew I was waiting for the ride from Frank. I decided it would be safest if I simply never asked.

I was pretty exhausted from the night before. Jade called really late last night. I was getting ready for bed. His uncle hadn't come home yet. If he got drunk it could be hours. I talked a good line about it getting easier, but it was quite a trip on crutches. But what happened when there bothered me enough later, that I had trouble sleeping.

"Thanks White-boy. Really appreciate it. Spending all night in these doesn't help you sleep well."

But I got so self conscious when he started peeling off his clothes. I suddenly got as hard as a rock and walked out into the hall. I kept thinking about sex being wrong. This way anyway. Come on Rocco (I tried to encourage myself) just put it out of your mind. I went back in and undid the straps. I thought to myself: "How come they can't invent a better system? This new harness and straps are even worse than the old ones. But at least they were more comfortable. How did Jade put up with them and never complain. (Well not too much)."

Jade looked at me funny. "Thanks. See you tomorrow."

How come I felt so embarrassed? I've seen Jade naked plenty of times. But my boners these days have been so insistent.

Journal of Rocco P

September14, 1960
What's happening God? I can't stop thinking about sex and naked boys. I suppose I'm starting to go through puberty. About time. But the complications. I keep feeling guilty when I bone up and start thinking of sex stuff. How the hell heck can I live like this? And if it turns out I'm homosexual, what the heck can I do? Why is everything a sin? I'm starting to feel perpetually guilty.

And what would Mom think? If she feels that way about Frank Moore, who is apparently a real nice guy and a good person, how would she feel about me when she finds out about me? I just have to fix myself. But for the first time in my life I don't feel completely confident that I can "fix things."

Chapter 38a -- How Come?

Rocco's birthday came during the middle of the week so it was celebrated the next Saturday instead. I wanted to get him something special but wanted it to be more than just something I bought. I was thinking about making something, but every thing I thought of I realized that because of my damn hooks I couldn't do! Rocco thinks that I've won the battle with learning to live without my hands but the truth was it is never over. Especially at times like this -- I get so frustrated. When I was in bed last night I was thinking about this and I got so mad I got up and swiped the hooks off the dresser and broke my clock. Now I had to buy a new clock before my uncle found out. And Rocco thinks I never lose my temper. He never sees me at these times. I keep telling him to change his dreams when his old ones can't be dreamed anymore; my Mama taught me that. But I feel like a hypocrite. Right now I couldn't seem to take my own advice.

Fortunately I woke up the next morning in a better mood. First of all I picked the clock off the floor and discovered it was only the plastic front that had broken. And the next thing I realized that somehow during the night I got this amazing idea. I only hoped that I had time to do it. And damn it for once I intended to milk my handicap for all it was worth! Before I met Rocco I would never have dreamed of doing something like this. In fact I still would never have dreamed it; but for my White-boy it was an easy decision. I was determined. If I couldn't do something because of my hooks, then just as I told Rocco -- "change the dream!" I first had to make sure the idea was even possible. I called Joey up and asked when the Phillies were playing next. Fortunately I found out that they were back in the city this Sunday. Right after school, I went to the Hobby Shop down across from the old hardware store and bought a brand new baseball. Then I talked Joey into going to the Phillies game this coming Sunday with me. Things were working out perfect. Rocco said that his family was planning on going over to his grandmother's house that day, so I didn't even have to come up with some kind of excuse.

Everything worked out better than I could have wished for. Joey couldn't believe I did what I did. He knew how I hated bringing attention to my hooks in ANY situation, let alone deliberately using them to make people feel sorry for me. But I had no shame this day. It was for my White-boy after all. The game was to start at 1 PM, and I was there with Joey a good hour early. And I made a beeline to the fence just above where the players came out of their club house just next to the dug out. Nobody told me to move out of the box seat section since almost nobody was there yet. There were some players out on the field already warming up and some people were taking batting practice. Then soon the visiting team went to the cage to take their practice while a whole bunch of the Phillies team started back to the dugout. I screwed up all the courage I could get and started waving my arms while holding a program in one of my hooks. It worked. One of the players came over when I started yelling about wanting someone to sign my baseball. I had that ready too. Joey looked up his number on his program just as he came over to me and told me it was Robin Roberts, one of their pitchers. He had been throwing batting practice. I unashamedly made sure he saw both my hooks. He looked at me and I asked him if I could get his signature. Joey handed him the ball and a pen. He started handing it back and suddenly said: "Hay, how about I get the team to sign also."

He came back about five minutes later, and gave me the ball. I was so excited I couldn't even remember what all he said to me. Something about he couldn't get everybody since some guys went back into the clubhouse. And good luck. And stuff. Joey and I were almost screaming as we went over to the seats we had staked out. When we got there I took a good look at the ball and there was hardly a white area left. As we discovered new names, we checked them off on our programs. There were 14 names! Bobby Wine, Chris Short, Johnny Callison, Poncho Herrera, Tony Taylor, Alvin Dark, Ruben Amaro, Tony Gozalez, Ed Bouchee, Clay Dalrymple, Robin Roberts, Gene Conley, Art Mahaffey, and even the new manager Gene Mauch. (There was one name we never could decipher) I was sure I got a lot of Rocco's favorite players. I was ecstatic. This would be the greatest birthday present ever! I kept looking at the ball during the game; I even missed a home run by Pancho Herrera. And the icing on the cake -- the Phillies even won.

I had eventually told Rocco I was going to the game with Joey today and I could see he was a bit put out that I went on a day he couldn't go with. But I could see he eventually talked himself into being happy that at least I was able to go. And he was glad Joey and I were getting along so well. He said to make sure I had a good time and not to bad mouth the Phillies in front of any fans. I pretended I didn't know what he was talking about.

Six days later at his "not quite party," Rocco showed me a couple of his presents and cards. I gave him my card and then a small box with the ball. I couldn't believe it. He looked at the ball, and went wild. He kept turning the ball around and calling off different names. Then without warning he just ran out the back door. I stood there a second before I realized what must have happened. I ran out after him and sure enough he was leaning up against the garage crying. He did that a lot when he got emotional. But he would be so embarrassed he'd always try to hide it. I grabbed him and pulled him into his garage and closed the door. And then I hugged him.

He looked up and said thanks. At least that's what it sort of sounded like.

"Look Rocco, I'll take the ball back if it gets you this upset." I snickered. I was trying to stop him from being embarrassed.

He pretty much got his control back and smiled. "So that's why you went to the game last Sunday without giving me any warning you were going. I made sure I didn't let you see how disappointed I was that I wasn't going with."

"White-boy, you were broadcasting at a thousand watts how you were feeling. I felt bad that I couldn't tell you why I suddenly decided to go to a game when I knew you couldn't go."

"I forgive you just this once." He used what he claimed was his coy smile. (I thought of it as his semi-smirk). He looked at the ball again. "I just can't believe all these names." And he gave me a big hug back. He started calling off all the names again. Then he said he better not let his Dad see one of them. His Dad said the guy had just got out of jail but wouldn't tell him why when he asked. "Well, I went to the library and tried to find the old papers when he came back to the team. In the sport's section it just said he had been in jail. But an editorial the next day spelled it all out. He'd been in jail for statutory rape. My parents won`t even use the word `sex` in front of us kids, let alone the word rape."

We went back into the house. The rest of the affair was anticlimactic. I also realized he had white cake instead of chocolate, because he knew I much preferred it. I was so happy about everything. Jimmy Alexander was the only other one of his friends there and he left right after the presents were shown. He got Rocco a small balsa wood glider that had to be carved out.

I eventually went home for dinner and told him that I'd call later if my uncle wasn't home. My uncle was getting so bad lately that we decided Rocco couldn't be there when my uncle was. I felt so happy as I was walking home. (My tire on my bike was flat again). The only thing bad that intruded on my thoughts was the realization that this was the first time in a couple weeks that Rocco hugged me. I wondered what exactly was going on.

Actually I knew what was going on. I was remembering that Rocco had turned away when I was undressing last week. And we used to joke all the time about sex stuff. But not now. I wondered if he was suddenly getting very self conscious. Again I was pretty sure that was right. And I was also pretty sure I knew what that meant, at least in part. He said that he was getting boners all the time and I knew what that sure meant. Probably there was more though. Maybe his religion was making him feel guilty. He used to talk about sex stuff a lot but not lately. Why do things have to get so complicated?

Rocco wound up not coming over after all. My uncle was home and when I called he said his Uncle Joe suddenly showed up out of the blue and he was stuck there for the evening anyway. And my uncle. Damn. He went out and got drunk again. My harness was on all night. I just couldn't call Rocco again. Three times in two weeks! Boy was Rocco pissed when he found out I didn't call him!

We were talking about it the next day.

"My uncle left right after I came home and came back drunk again -- but it was way after midnight. He woke me up. He wouldn't stop yelling at me. Shit, he must have woken up the whole neighborhood!"

When Rocco finally simmered down about me not calling, he then got suddenly concerned. "Nothing physical I hope? The usual?"

I knew what Rocco meant. I strangely almost felt guilty. Why? It was my uncle, not me. "Nothing physical but yeah, the usual. And he just wouldn't quit! I learned a few new words last night. I can't understand it. Usually, he either just ignores me, and sometimes he's even nice. But when he gets drunk. Wow. He suddenly looks at me as if I was a piece of garbage. And smell even worse. And I HATE that word. The first time he used it I got real scared. I wondered at first how he could have found out. But I realized it was just one more hateful thing to yell at me."

"What word? You've never talked about this before."

"He called me a faggot. I hate that word ten times more than nigger. And it's more. It's the way he actually looks at me."

Rocco looked puzzled. "What does faggot mean? I mean how come it means homosexual? I never could figure that out."

"Well, I tried looking it up myself but only some dictionaries explain it. Originally a faggot was a bundle of sticks used for firewood. Then somehow the word faggot was used as an offensive term for a woman, and sometimes because the woman was thought to be a shrew, or ill-tempered. Then, since many people assume that homosexuals are effeminate, it was possibly transferred to homosexuals. But I never could find out how come it was used as an offensive term for a woman."

"Wow. Never really thought too much about it till now. Not enough to look it up anyway. Gees, in my school you hardly even hear the word `sex', let alone those other words you just said. At least not from the guys I hang around with."

"Well, faggot is about the worst thing you can call another guy. It's a word for homosexual usually said with loathing and disgust. It's about the worst thing you can call someone."

"You think your uncle knows something?" Rocco looked worried.

"I can't believe he even knows enough about me to really suspect. I think it may have something to do with my Dad. He hated Dad, and when Mama found out Dad's problem about not being able to accept he was homosexual, she guessed that his brother knew and hated him for it. I think he's just transferring it to me."

"I guess so. I hope so. It's ONLY when he's drunk?"

"Yeah. He really isn't too bad most the time, when he's sober."

"Let's change the subject. This is too depressing."

I was surprised and maybe even a little hurt. Rocco ALWAYS let me talk to him about this stuff. He seemed to really empathize with me about my problems. I wondered what was up.

"Hay, White-boy. Something bothering you?"

"Not really." Obvious lie. He changed the subject, and I let him.

We talked about sports for a while. More great raves about Van Brocklin. Another game where the Eagles came from behind in the fourth quarter. Rocco was so excited. We arranged to watch the game next Sunday.

We rehashed the stuff we heard during the Kennedy - Nixon debate. I was a little impressed with Kennedy. I told Rocco even if it looked liked he won the debate though, it didn't matter. He still couldn't beat Nixon where it really counted -- in the ballot box. There was supposed to be two or three more debates as well. I moaned (silently) when Rocco insisted that we had to listen to those as well. Why did they all of a sudden have to put that stuff on TV?

I then mentioned our last dates with "the girls." Rocco was so determined when we went golfing at the Miniature Golf Course, you'd `a thought he was playing Arnold Palmer. (Well he did get the lowest score). Rocco went the whole course without his crutches. He had a sneaker cut out so it could fit on his cast even though the doctor told him not to do it. And I did pretty well considering. We all had a good time. I tried to get Consuelo and Rocco in an argument about Kennedy being Catholic but it was weird. Rocco actually agreed that his Church tried to sway voters. But he claimed he didn't think it mattered all that much. Consuelo and he actually mostly agreed on stuff. Where was the fun in that?

Rocco thought dating them was a good idea at first, but lately I could sense he was worried about it. Then I mentioned our upcoming dates.

He seemed to think a moment. "I can't believe either you, or myself. I mean we actually subjected ourselves voluntarily to a dance. I HATE dances. But at least we have dates so won`t just be standing around all night. I hope tomorrow goes OK."

While walking through the park, Rocco mentioned about the UN finally trying to help the people in the Congo. Since Lumumbo (or Lamamba, or whatever his name was) took over and all the Belgians fled, things have gotten pretty bad. And people were predicting civil war soon. That's all we needed was one more war.

Rocco remarked: "How come everybody keeps talking about how Africa needs so much help, yet we can't seem to reopen those hospitals in the Congo? My gosh, on the news last night was about this whole village of leprosy victims! We can figure out how to send all kinds of weapons somewhere but not medicine." Rocco was finding something to lament about. He picked something new every week. I told him maybe he should stop listening to the news. I was more concerned about my History test coming up. It always took so much writing and I had a hard time finishing. I couldn't do anything about Africa anyway.

And speaking of war. It seems there was some problem with some of the colored kids at school last week with some of the white kids. Usually they just stay in their own groups but I guess some colored kid actually had his arm around a white girl in school and wow! You'd `a thought it was the Congo and the Belgians all over again. Now this was the possible war that I was worried about!

Chapter 38b -- How Come? (part b)

How come nobody seems to be able to help people? There was another thing about the Congo on TV the other night that had me really upset. It's been in the news a lot lately starting with a couple weeks ago. I can't understand why it took all this time for the UN to send in some help, and even then it was pretty pathetic.

And Jade kept talking about the dance we just went to. What's all that about? Is he all of a sudden going for a girl? I really didn't think so, but. . .? I have to admit I enjoyed it pretty much myself. I was somewhat surprised how everything went -- I mean ME, go to a dance with a really good looking girl, and have a good time? We all met at Carlotta's house. Her Dad drove us to the dance, the first time I'd ever been to some function at Lincoln High. (Except for a football game once).

Early that evening Jade and I were in Carlotta's living room and what was going through my brain was that everything about her family and home included somewhere in the description, all kinds of superlatives. Like you get out a Thesaurus and look up some word like "perfect" or "wonderful" and then as you describe it all you use the words in those lists. First Carlotta was the type of girl that made boys drool. (And I was somewhat frustrated with myself that for me not even a drop of spit was in evidence). Then her parents could have been models or something, and they seemed as nice as they were good looking. The house was old but everything about it was really nice too. They even had a big color TV. And it was the first time I'd ever seen a regular house with an air conditioner. I also found out that Mr. Romero was retired from the Air Force and now worked for the new rocketry division of General Electric. Must be pretty rich.

Then to top it off, right before we left, Carlotta's younger brother came home from somewhere and I got suddenly overwhelmed by a horrible contrast of feelings. He was a year younger than me, and had the most amazing smile on a face that NOW had me drooling. He obviously had a lot more of his father's genes in him than his sister. His skin was a smooth olive brown, his face was oval but with almost classically handsome features, but more obviously a boy than a man. His slightly wavy black hair was cut pretty long and covered a bit of his ears and was even down past his collar in back. (I decided right then and there that I liked long hair on boys after all). If he went to my school he'd be made to get a haircut. But I thought it suited him perfectly. He was slender, but had a lot more to him than I did. He was also a couple inches taller. The thought that came to me was that he was even better looking than Corolotta, as near impossible as that would seem. And then my brain crashed with the thought that well, maybe I'd have to up the possibility that I was totally into boys from 99.2% to maybe 99.8%. I was also starting to realize that most of the boys that captured my interest, starting with Noel Stork in 8th grade, were darker looking, or sometimes not even white. I was wondering if that said something weird about me. I knew I had better get my thoughts away from Carlotta's brother; and I was glad I had a sport's coat on since it helped hide my almost instant erection. With effort I dragged my thoughts elsewhere.

"So when's the funeral?" I asked Jade when we couldn't be overheard.

"What the heck you talking about?"

"Well you said I'd get you to a dance only over you're dead body." I chuckled.

"Well let's just say that Consuelo can be very persuasive. And how about you? I seem to remember you HATED dances."

"Well let's just say that my friend Jade can be very persuasive too." We were busy laughing when Carlotta`s parents came back into the room. Consuelo had gone upstairs to "help her cousin get dressed."

That's when Mr. Romero started 20 questions. And for some reason he seemed so genuinely nice, I somehow didn't even mind.

"So, you go to Father Judge? A Sophomore Carlotta says."

"Yes." Gees, what else can you add?

"She says that you go to St. Bernard's Church. Your family all go every Sunday?" I finally caught on. He was as concerned about my being a good Catholic as was my own parents were about her. I almost laughed.

I decided to lay it on. "Yes. I'm in the Honor Society, on the Chess Team, and work on the school newspaper. I just started editing the Religion Column in the school newspaper. Father Hearn, one of the editors, twisted my arm to do it." I just made a big hit. And I didn't literally lie. But Jade gave me his no-expression type dirty look. He knew I was misleading Mr. Romero. (Well only a little bit). But I would get it later.

Mrs. Romero jumped in. "Just remember, you'll all be picked up at 11 PM. Out near the statue. Make sure you're there on time. And my husband will drop you boys off first." We all heard the girls tromp down the stairs. "Oh here they come." Thus stopping the good cop routine -- there was no bad cop. The two girls got on their coats and we left. I was worried -- I really couldn't dance. And I had never gone to a dance there before.

Even I could appreciate how good looking Carlotta was. Wow! The little bit of Hispanic blood in her features had an amazing effect. She was the type to turn heads. How in the world did I get to date a girl so pretty? I was tiny, skinny, and definitely less than average in looks. Not to mention lots of other shortcomings, like being way immature. And how ironic. I really wasn't interested in her, and I started automatically comparing her to Nestor. I bet half the other boys there will also wonder how I got so lucky. Heck, ALL the other boys. And one more plus. She was only maybe an inch taller then me. I had been a bit worried about that.

Boy, did my own parents really rake me over the coals, when the subject of this date came up at dinner several evenings ago. And Carl was using the bellows now and then.

"But she goes to Lincoln? Are you sure she's Catholic? And she's a JUNIOR?" That is just a sample.

And then my brother added. "There must be something wrong somewhere, why else would she settle for Rocco." I had had a similar thought, but I sure didn't like HIM saying it. I wish Jade had been there so people would have thought first before they made some of their remarks. It stayed barely civil.

Other questions were slung at me. "When are we going to meet her? Do her own parents know where you're going? Are her parents responsible?"

"Mom and Dad PLEASE!" And I thought with a bit of melancholy: "This is the only time my father seems to talk to me -- when he's criticizing me or chewing me out."

"Carlotta's father, Mr. Romero, is driving us to and from. In fact, when he drops me off, I've invited them all in to meet you." (Well, I intended to).

"Good." That was my father.

"But how come she goes to Lincoln, and not St. Hubert's, if she's Catholic?" That was my Mom.

"How should I know? Maybe they don't like nuns." Oops! I shouldn't have said that. And I paid for that bit of exasperation. I was chewed out for five more minutes. (OK only two).

I was quite nervous when Mr. Romero dropped us all off at the dance. We also got quite a few stares -- a black couple (Consuelo looked more black than Hispanic), and a white couple were rarely seen together, especially on dates! But eventually we started dancing. After the refreshment table, and conversations with people the girls knew, we made it to the dance floor. Actually Carlotta danced; I received dancing lessons. She was great about it. (See what I said about her whole family)! And I certainly basked in the stares we got. Yes, she's MY date! Is it hypocritical to be proud of how beautiful your date was if you thought you'd rather be dancing with Nestor Carabahal? I decided to worry about that at some vague "later time." We just had fun. And it was nice because there were the four of us. And wow was Consuelo something. Not only just smart, but she really thought out things and even made you think. And what was also so great, I wasn't used to someone paying so much attention to what I thought about things -- except Jade of course. This evening was the first time that I ever enjoyed going to a dance. I even learned how to dance a little.

Afterwards, we met at the statue. Mr. Romero was waiting.

I drew up all the courage I could muster and asked him: "Mr. Romero, I was thinking. Could you and everyone stop in at my house for a few moments? My parents were wanting to meet Carlotta."

"Of course. I'd be happy to meet your parents." He was so obvious I almost laughed. Yes, the boy dating your daughter is a respectable Catholic boy, and his parents make sure he is growing up right. There's only this tiny problem -- he'd rather have been dancing with your son.

My parents were very polite. They and Mr. Romero later talked a bit in the kitchen, while Dolores met with the two girls (and I) in the living room. Jade was there also, saying he could just walk home.

"Mom, Dad, Dolores, this is Carlotta, and Jade's date Consuelo, and Dad, Mr. Romero. Etc etc." My parents invited Mr. Romero to some coffee in the kitchen.

Dolores said: "I'm Rocco's twin sister. Have a good time?" And then they quickly got into their favorite singers and recordings, and a bunch of girl stuff.

Later, my parents commented on how "nice" everyone was. But my sister pulled me aside after I just got upstairs. "My god, she's gorgeous! How come you never told anyone how good looking she was? She's all the way to beautiful."

"Yeah, she is."

"That's it? That's all you can say? Any normal boy would have gotten a picture somehow and been shoving it into everyone's face."

"Well, your new boyfriend, Charlie, is also very good looking. You didn't do that."

That made her pause for only a second. "Stop changing the subject."

"Well, I DID say she was the most beautiful girl in her class at dinner that time. Remember?"

"Sure. You had never met her yet and everyone knew you were just reacting to Carl baiting you. I can't believe you keep letting him do that to you. Now answer my question. You didn't react like an actual live boy."

How come I let myself get into these situations? I resorted to a lie. To my normal paranoiac self, this subject was getting way too close to my SECRET. "Well she's part Puerto Rican, and I didn't know how Mom and especially Dad would react."

"Well, I think that's a dumb reason. Wait until I tell Barbara and Melva! You know, Jade's date was pretty good looking too. Even if Carl made a couple snide remarks. You know how he is."

And then we heard from behind. "Which one is your girlfriend? I liked the girl in the red dress." Mariann was getting into the conversation and all I wanted to do was get to bed. So I made my escape. Jade didn't call so I guess his uncle was home and up, (and not drunk).

Several days later I was on my way to school and was thinking about how my sister and her girlfriends were carrying on about everything. I couldn't believe how they were making so much of Carlotta and me. We just had a couple dates. As I walked to school, I was thinking about how her girlfriends kept asking all kinds of scary questions.

"Have you kissed yet?" That was Melva.

This was getting out of hand. "We've only gone out twice!"

Her other girlfriend Barbara asked: "Is she as gorgeous as Dolores is claiming?" This was a typical Barbara question. She was always worried how she looked. She really was pretty nice looking herself, but I had to admit, not even close to Carlotta.

I escaped as soon as possible. (I seemed to be doing a lot of escaping lately).

And at school today, there was this big deal at the student council meeting about how come the students didn't have any more say in some of the courses being taught. One of the few Hispanic kids in the whole school (I guess Puerto Rican -- I wouldn't have made that distinction just a couple weeks ago) asked how come the big emphasis on German and French when the fastest growing second language in our country was Hispanic? (I never thought about that until he brought it up. But it makes sense). I thought there was going to be a fight it got so heated. How could you get that worked up? Just ask for Spanish class if you wanted. But someone said that you didn't all get to make the choice on your own. But I was thinking that with all the really bad things going on in the rest of the world, how can you get so worked up about something so minor?

I escaped from the meeting as soon as I could. I hurried to meet Jade.

Copyright 2006 by Rocco Paperiello