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 hind quarters.

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


PART II -- Discoveries

Chapter 62a -- More Trouble in Paradise (part a)

On one level I was pretty excited. Things were going great. With everything. And Kennedy's speech on TV last night was great. I didn't see it but they had some of the stuff he said on the news after dinner. He committed this country to putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade! I had thought we were at least two or three decades away. But this was exciting.

But how come I felt a little uneasy? Besides the obvious. That was a really strange message form Jade I got at school. He obviously missed school today and couldn't meet me as usual. The woman delivering the message said that this was a one time occurrence, and not to expect express delivery of notes in the future. And there was what happened a last week, when Jade missed school. I was pretty sure something more happened than he let on; he can't lie very well. But I thought it best to just let it go. If he thought it needed to be kept from me, well, I'll just wait and see. . . . .

But I still think it was about his uncle again, and this time was more serious. That time I kissed him and he tried not to let me know he was hurting. But I could feel his back muscles tense up. And later at the pool he gives a lame excuse why he kept wearing his undershirt. But I could tell something was going on. And now this. I'm very worried it's his uncle again beating on him. But what could I say? And what could we do? If Jade doesn't live there, where else? It's a big problem. But I wish Jade had enough confidence in me to talk about it. I'm not sure myself what I could even tell him that could help solve the situation. I will have to give it some thought. I'm the guy that claims he can "fix" things ain't I?

"Holy shit! You know you can't hide it this time." That was the second thing I said to Jade after he came over this evening. The first was that I hoped he was feeling better.

"That bad hah?" Jade wouldn't look straight at me. He was hiding something more. "I figured I could just ignore it since I'm OK now."

"No, you're NOT OK now!" I was emphatic. "And if you're not OK, then we're not OK. Please Jade, at least tell me about it." I was getting pretty emotional by this time. And he could see it.

"Not much to say. Uncle Mike just wailed on me again. When he gets drunk it seems it doesn't take a lot to set him off. Hopefully it won't happen again."

"Bullshit! This is at least the third time I know something's happened."

Jade looked at me with a little fear and a lot of worry. And maybe some guilt. I couldn't tell exactly. But now I was getting even more worried. His reaction was quite strong.

I persisted: "Please, let me know what's happened. We are together aren't we? That means for everything. Maybe I can't help, but at least you can talk about it."

I walked over and hugged him. I guessed it wasn't as bad this time since he didn't flinch. But the mark on his face was unmistakable. He even had a cut on his lip. But instead of answering, he started just looking at some of my things. The small radio I put together from parts for next to nothing, and the new harness for Critter. Critter was getting awfully big all of a sudden. And sometimes he was gone for most of the day. We may have to do something about that; he was bothering the neighbors. But more important problems first.

Finally Jade looked up. "OK, I guess I tried to hide it. But he hit me with his belt two weeks ago. And last night right after you went home he came back into the room. We argued and he knocked me down and said some awful things. When he's drunk, he is out of control. I really don't know what to do. Where could I go if I can't live with my uncle?"

He had me there. There weren't a lot of options. There were a few boys' homes, but conditions there, from what I've heard, are worse than even staying with his uncle. My cousin a couple years ago recounted all kinds of horror stories from his short stay in reform school, and then a group home. And the other option that I knew of was even worse -- Girard High School. The kids lived there, but gees, they had to have policemen patrolling its corridors. There were boys there that had committed bad crimes. "Sorry Jade, I don't know what to say. But at least let's talk about it. After all, I don't know what I would do if you weren't here for me. You've become too important to me."

I hugged him again harder, and he still didn't wince. So maybe it wasn't as bad this time.

"I'll try White-boy. It's just that some things are really hard to talk about."

But we did talk about it some more that evening. Among other things. Well, I was excited about a lot of things and I guess I wanted so much to have things all OK, I didn't completely listen to my real doubts that Jade was hiding something else.

"Well we have two more TV jobs, and a couple cars will be going up to Treasure Island on Friday night. The scoutmaster and Mr. Alexander are leaving about five from the hall at St. Dominic's and will take the first six that sign up. I signed us both up." And I gave a small sly smile as I said: "For you I just marked an X." And I ducked out of reflex. But Jade never made any attempt to do anything. "What's up?" I thought. I hoped it was just the lingering affects and worry about the fight with his uncle. But something was definitely wrong with a capital W.

Since one TV customer was right down the block, we got on our bikes, and zoomed down there. A man answered I didn't know. But he seemed a little worried when he saw how young his TV repairmen were. "I'm not sure. Are you two sure you can fix my set? I wouldn't want anything worse to go wrong."

I was all prepared for that. I had made a list up of our customers so far, with the 100% fix rate and what we charged. (I didn't let him see exactly how short that list was). We got a lot of questions like that so I was hoping to put the people at ease.

"Look, we can't claim that we will never meet up with a TV we can't fix, but so far we've had 100% success. And we don't charge if you are not satisfied."

"OK, but the set is fairly new. Of course the warranty just ran out last month, and I want to watch the games this weekend."

We were out of there in 20 minutes flat. I let Jade do this one. He was learning fast. It was one of the main power tubes which we were now stocking. The guy was so happy that he paid the bill plus added 5 dollars! We were getting rich.

"Damn, Rocco. That was great. I don't know why I was so afraid of this stuff. Just follow the problem solving guidelines. It's almost too easy. Wonder why a lot of people aren't doing this?"

Well the next set answered that question. This was one of those situations were a regular repairman would say: "Well we'll need to bring the set to the shop. It's not something simple." And both parties would be imagining dollar bills floating through the air. But only one would be smiling.

But what I did say was: " There is something wrong that isn't very obvious. For us to fix this we will need to get the schematics. . ." She gave us a `what-the-hell-is-that' kind of look. So he added: "They're the diagrams that show everything in your set and give all the values for current, voltage, resistance, and all that stuff. We also don't have the time to do it during the week. We have to go to school. But we could come back over the weekend, but it's the Boy Scout Camporee this weekend, so this weekend, we can't. So it will have to be two weeks from now. Or you could call a regular repairman." I flinched when I said that.

"Well, thanks for being honest young man. I thought I'd give you guys a try. I have to confess that I did have a repairman out the other day and he said he would have to bring the set back to his shop, and I didn't think it worth it. Actually I think we will just get a new set anyway."

So we lost a job, but we all parted on friendly terms.

"Damn. There goes our 100% cure rate." I was so frustrated.

But Jade smiled and said, "Maybe we can still say 100% satisfied customers."

I smiled back. "That's another reason why I like you Jade. Always an optimist!" I saw a sudden look of anguish pass over his face. Or did I really see it? I didn't want to have seen it. I got some of my "worser" worries back.

But the week went well and Jade seemed to get out of his funky blue mood. By the end of the week we seemed to be back to normal. We arranged for someone else to get the store's change that Saturday and were at Mr. Alexander's house at about 4 PM Friday. We arranged to go with him to TI (Treasure Island). Jimmy was going too and we had to pick up one more boy at the hall. My brother was going up with my father the next morning. We were all quite excited.

The boat ride over to the island kept us all wildly looking around and in a high mood of excitement. The dock from where we left had one of those real old fashion gas pumps. You had to pump the gas by hand from the underground tank up into a large calibrated glass tank on the top. When you got how much gas you wanted, then you got the hose and gravity emptied the tank. We were all wondering how the glass tank hadn't been broken by a stray rock or something by this time. So Mr. Alexander had to go into quite a lot of detail about glass thickness, and all kinds of stuff involving how hard and how fast a rock could "come into contact with said glass artifact." We tried not to tune him out too much. He did just drive us all the way here.

We finally got to the island and a truck met us to transport our equipment. We walked. But it wasn't really all that far. Jade had never been there before, so Jimmy and I were showing him around. That was after we were volunteered into sweeping out the small cooking area and the wooden barracks like building where we would be staying.

It was almost dark so we didn't get too far from our camp. We did walk over to a shallow small inlet like spot on the river where the water was pretty quiet. Jimmy and I got into a stone skipping contest. It only lasted for a couple of stones when Jimmy looked over at Jade and made some excuse to do something else.

Jade said: "That's OK Jimmy; don't stop on account of me. I stopped getting annoyed at things I can't do years ago."

I knew that wasn't entirely true, but didn't say anything. I again realized how much Jimmy was like his father. How many boys his age would have even thought about how Jade might be feeling? Jimmy was sports crazy, and getting to be girl crazy, but above all he was just a nice guy. We walked out to the end of the dock. One of the boards was broken and in the waning light Jimmy tripped and fell in. We complained about the big splash getting us wet while laughing at the same time. Jimmy for some reason wasn't laughing with us. Eventually we pulled him out.

"Damn, that water's cold. I hope I can sneak past my father. Otherwise I'm in for a half hour lecture on the proper safety precautions one must take when walking near frigid river water at dusk on a rickety dock when only two friends are with you."

We both started laughing when we realized he was just making fun of how his father usually reacted to this kind of thing. He was able to sneak back without his father knowing he got a dunking. We got out our air mattresses and sleeping bags and got ready for bed. Jimmy and the other boy Alex found Jade's equipment fascinating. They had to watch the whole show of him taking them off for the night. Before we turned in, Jade and I walked outside for a bit. I wanted to talk.

"What's up White-boy?" Jade looked like he was back to normal after what his uncle did to him last Sunday.

"What do you think? I want to say goodnight where we won't be observed. To bad we don't have our own two man tent." And I waited for him to come and hug me like usual. But he didn't! "What the hell was wrong now?" I thought.

"What's the matter, Jade? No one can see us."

"I don't know. I'm just not in the mood. Sorry." Then he did hug me and we kissed but something seemed missing. And I then REALLY started to worry all over again.

The rest of the weekend went pretty well and we had lots of the usual fun. Swimming, boating, hiking, nature lodge, campfire stuff, and working on merit badges. (I wasn't in the water much; it was way too cold). I still couldn't swim but I was still hopeful. I started working on my Cooking and First Aid Merit Badges with Jade. Mr. Alexander unveiled something he had made for Jade. We were both astonished, and the rest of the scouts were really curious. He had made something out of plastic and a metal frame that fit on Jade's lower arms that could help his swim! They were sort of small cup-like things that collapsed when pulling your arm up through the water, and then spread out and cupped the water when pushing the other way. Jade was so anxious to try them on that he started ripping off his clothes on the spot.

When he realized what Jade was doing, Mr. Alexander said: "Maybe you better use the changing and shower room over there?"

"That's OK; I have on my swim trunks." And he did. Ten minutes later, Jade was in the water and was swimming like a fish. He could already swim, but now it was truly amazing. Everyone watched while he swam out about 50 yards to the buoy line, and then came back.

A lot of comments were flying about his swimming and how great the attachments were. Then Mr. Alexander said: "That swim you just made is good enough for your First Class test. Bring your card to me when we get back and I'll sign it off. Jade was beaming. He had real trouble going that distance before.

But there always has to be some asshole trying to spoil it for others. One of the Eagle Scouts from another troop that happened to be watching piped in: "But those fins are not allowed. It says right in the handbook that no swimming aids are allowed."

I never saw Mr. Alexander angry before. But it was truly a sight to behold. He didn't get excited angry. He got cold angry. And typical for him, addressed the issue his way.

"Could I please have your name young man, I don't seem to recall it."

This type of thing went back and forth for a bit then Mr. Alexander, said: "You know you are quite right. But did you also happen to read the supplemental guidelines for Scout Masters addressing issues that came up regarding handicapped individuals?"

The boy hemmed and hawed. "Well, I was not aware of them."

"Well, don't you think it advisable to have ALL the proper information before making a judgment about something that has such far reaching consequences?"

A very embarrassed boy answered: "Well, I suppose so."

"And besides. Let's put that argument aside for a moment. I tell you what. Why don't YOU go up to Jade here and tell him he is not allowed to use those prosthetic devices I made for him in taking the swimming test for First Class."

The boy now just wanted to sneak away. "Maybe that's not necessary in this case. In fact, I can see that you must be right."

But Mr. Alexander wasn't finished yet. "Well then, how about you personally going up to Jade here, shake his hand, and apologize for your uncompassionate, and un-Christian, remark."

The boy was visibly distressed now. "Well, I am sorry. I guess I will let you guys alone."

"NO! No you won't. You will do just as I say, or I will tell your Scout Leader, exactly what has transpired here today."

Finally he did it. He looked at Jades swimming fin in place of a hand and hesitated. It was a clumsy apology, and barely audible, and I thought he was going to die of embarrassment when Mr. Alexander made sure he took Jade's arm and shake. Jade seemed a bit embarrassed himself by now, but I was smiling. The boy only got what he deserved.

Everything went great the rest of the swim. Everybody wanted to see close up just how the attachments worked. Jade was on top of the world. On the way back he couldn't stop thanking Mr. Alexander enough.

Mr. Alexander finally looked at Jade and said: "I've seen you around quite a lot. I've seen you play with Jimmy and the other kids. And I've heard Jimmy talk about all the things you have accomplished, and most of all I have seen how you face everyday life. I would like to shake your hand myself." And he did. Well he griped his hook. "I think you are one of the more courageous young men I have ever had the opportunity to know. I'd be glad to help you whenever I can!"

Jade stopped. And looked wide mouthed at Mr. Alexander. He was stunned, and I was almost in tears thinking about what he had just said. "But I'm nothing special. It's Rocco that helps me do everything."

"Perhaps he helps, but it's your inner courage that has you succeeding. And that I see, and admire. Don't EVER underestimate yourself."

And Mr. Alexander was that kind of person. And I was also just thinking that never once have I seen Mr. Alexander make any reference to Jade being a Negro. When we got back to camp, Jade's swimming was one of the main topics. And it continued at dinner. The story was recounted a zillion times, especially the part about the scout from the other troop. Eventually, Mr. Mauk, the Scout Master, looked up and said: "That's most interesting, but I don't seem to recall any such guidelines for handicapped individuals."

I looked at them stunned. What was going on here? But Mr. Alexander just smiled: "There are none. But perhaps I will be asking the Council that maybe some should be made up and adopted!"

Mr. Mauk laughed. "Well, I guess they do say to use our best judgment in unusual situations. And this would definitely qualify. I think you did well. I just wish I could have been there. Be sure to bring the subject up at our next Council meeting."

Everyone was happy at the outcome. Especially Jade. This was the first time I saw him genuinely happy since the incident with his uncle last week.

The next day we went on a small hike around the island. My brother was in charge and I followed right behind much of the way. That was, except when Jade and I became distracted by something, which was pretty common. Between the two of us, we knew all the trees and many of the shrubs and plants. I was thinking that Nature Merit Badge might come next. It was required for Eagle Scout. On the trip something happened because of my being impulsive. It was the second time that I tried to get myself bit by a copperhead.

During the hike this snake sort of snaked by. Now I always was fascinated by reptiles and grabbed it. It was about two feet long and I was only fast enough to catch it by the tail. I just started picking it up when my brother yelled: "Copperhead!" I then realized that he was right and in the same motion threw the snake behind me into the bushes.

Someone behind asked: "That was a Copperhead? Isn't that poisonous?"

"Sure is. I'm sure glad my brother yelled. Thanks Carl." I could have very easily gotten bitten. I really DID owe him. Maybe this made up for the peanut butter incident.

"White-boy, you are sure weird." We both smiled. And a couple others laughed. I wonder if Jade realized he use the name White-boy in front of everybody else. But I guessed in that context, everyone would just assume it was just a way of referring to me.

I smiled, put my arm around him, and said: "Don't worry. I still got at least six lives left."

We packed up for the boat ride back that afternoon, and played some last minute games. We had a great time. Just before we had to get to the boat dock, Jade grabbed me with one of his hooks and pulled me into the woods. He turned, grabbed me, and kissed me. A really nice romantic kiss, instead of a crushing, I-want-to-get-hard, kiss. Afterwards, I was now really smiling. Perhaps Jade was completely back. I stopped worrying so much.

And a week later Jade did something that utterly stunned me. It was the next weekend. We were in my kitchen eating lunch. It was one of the rare times when everyone was there at the same time. Well rare for a Saturday, especially in the summer. Jade and I had just finished with a couple more TV repairs. In fact we had made almost eighty dollars so far at it. All our equipment was paid for all over again, and it was now all profits. We were both in pretty good moods. The last week had gone well.

Dan and Consuelo came over on a weekday. Consuelo and Jade worked on some newspaper article, while Dan and I walked outside for a bit. Last Monday I had succeeded in catching Critter and got the new harness on him. He didn't seem to mind. I know cats really hate collars or harnesses sometimes, but Critter just seemed to ignore it. So Dan and I walked to the corner store, and we had Critter on the leash. He was quite a sight now since he was almost two feet long and looked like some prehistoric monster. He sure got a lot of attention. Of course that was half the fun in having him.

Dan couldn't stop looking at how Critter just walked along. "Damn, Rocco, how do you get involved in all this stuff. You own the weirdest pet in the whole city, have a TV repair business, have a black neighborhood and a white neighborhood almost talking to each other, run Cross Country, are involved with your school newspaper, have another part time job, and God knows what else."

"You're exaggerating. I'm pretty sure somebody has an actually weirder pet. Maybe a ocelot like Junior in that Cary Grant movie, the TV repair business has grossed only about a hundred dollars so far (OK so I exaggerated), it's only a few people form each neighborhood actually doing anything, the part time job is one night a week delivering circulars, and the school newspaper only takes up a couple hours a week. And oh yeah, so far I've only run in one race when some kids were sick."

Dan persisted: "And, I don't know how I could have forgotten. You're engaged to another boy. That has got to be a first!"

I suddenly got paranoid and looked around. "Darn, Dan, not so loud! And I'm sure there are ka-billions of other boys or men who got together with one another over the centuries. In fact I've been trying to find about that stuff and have been completely stymied. Nothing! You'd think there was something. I'm getting so desperate that I've been thinking of asking some history professor somewhere about how to find that information."

"Yeah. I could just see it now. `Oh professor, while we are talking about great couples in the history of mankind, how about great men couples?' Yeah, that would go over big!" We both laughed.

"Well look," I said, "according to that Kinsey guy there are actually MILLIONS of us out there. And I suddenly got to thinking the other day. I heard Kennedy talking about great achievements of both nations being actually great achievements of individual people. And it just struck me. How about gay people? And then I got to thinking about gay couples in history. There HAS to be some. But how can we find out?"

"Unfortunately it's heterosexuals that write the history books. And it's heterosexuals that won't put up with all that gay stuff. It never gets written down. Maybe just some example of how they burnt someone at the stake or something."

"Well, you'd think there was still something to be found. And I just got a great idea. Maybe someday I'll write a book about famous gay people and famous gay couples!"

When we got back, Jade and I finished up some school work real fast, and we all went down stairs to watch TV. Dan had agreed to drive us to St. Joe's campus that Saturday. That would save lots of time. Traffic on the weekends was so much less.

So as I was saying Jade and I were trying to finish lunch real fast since Dan and Consuelo had just showed up and come into the kitchen. We were just finishing when my father and sister came in. Carl was at the table reading a book. Dolores was telling my Mom that she was going over her girlfriend's house. I was just thinking again. How come Dolores can say "her girlfriend's house" but I dare not even think "my boyfriend's house?" Dad was even talking to my Mom.

That was when Jade blew my mind away. And in front of my parents too. "Hay I was just thinking, Rocco. If you don't mind, maybe I could go to church with you tomorrow."

I looked as if he had just uttered some magical incantation. And the incantation caused everyone else to go completely silent. I finally found my voice. "What brought that on? Go to MY church?"

"Well, you aren't the only one who can get ideas sometimes. I was just thinking since you seem so all powered positive that your Church and your religion are so great, maybe I could try to find out for myself."

I was still trying to digest what was going through his head. What brought this on so suddenly? And in actual fact, I was starting to have some real doubts about a lot of things my church was teaching.

It was my mother that spoke up next. "Well, we think that would be really fine Jade. I'm sure Rocco would be happy to take you to Mass tomorrow and explain everything." Actually I would be. But I was still surprised. Dan and Consuelo were just staring also. They weren't on very good terms with the church either. This became the topic of conversation for the next ten minutes. Dad even said that Jade's wanting to go to our Church was good.

Everyone else was out of the kitchen when Consuelo pulled me aside and asked what in the world was going on. "Is Jade out of his mind? The Catholic Church positively HATES homosexuals!"

I looked aroundin fright making sure no one could have heard that word actually uttered in my house. I turned back and replied: "I don't know what's got into him. But I will certainly be asking him today or tomorrow." I tried to change the subject. "Did you two get your article finished?"

"Don't change the subject. That doesn't work with me! When you find out, you will fill me in as soon as possible. I know Jade better that you do, and this even surprised me!"

I really wanted to say to her that no one could know Jade better than me, but I knew what would be her rejoinder. But she asked it anyway: "Tell me why suddenly, after two years, Jade decides to go to your church, when he hardly goes to any church!?" And I couldn't answer her. What I actually did tell her was: "Yes, I'll call." She kissed me on the cheek, (thank God not the lips this time) and took Dan outside.

Everyone was outside waiting on me. I had gone back in to get the money I forgot on the table. But before I could get back outside, Mom waylaid me. Dolores was also there. "Rocco, we need to talk about you and Consuelo sometime. I'm not sure I like how close you and she are getting. It could pose some problems. Your father in fact said something about it just now."

For some reason my contrariness and maybe some of my peevishness about my parents' bigotry seeped in. Whatever, I answered before I could think through on the possible ramifications of what I was saying, and also how my parents would react. "Mom, can't I decide who my girlfriends are going to be? Besides, you can't always decide who you are going to fall for. It just happens."

Holy Mackerel! Did Mom get a worried look on her face? I started realizing I had gone too far. Why can't I engage my brain all the way before saying something? Too late now. But a tiny part of me was still smiling. But the fact that Consuelo was not a practicing Catholic presented real problems for my parents. But maybe I can change the subject to her race every time they bring it up. And they will definitely bring it up sometime soon. Or I guess maybe I should cool things off a bit. That would probably be more prudent.

But before I could actually answer, Dolores piped in: "I think they make a great couple. She obviously likes him, although I can't figure why. I don't know how many times they kissed, but that is the second time I've seen them myself." Well, that's just great Dolores. Thanks for stoking the flames!

My brain finally engaged. "Look Mom, I was only partly kidding. I really like Consuelo, and I guess she likes me, but I promise! There is nothing serious going on between us."

Then Dolores again had to add fuel to the fire. "But what about that locket I saw you give her a couple months ago, and all the dates you've been on?"

I was genuinely puzzled for a second, until I realized that since Dolores had seen us kiss once before, and there was ONLY one once before, that was the same time I was showing her the locket for Jade. Now I was in REAL trouble. I couldn't let anyone know about the locket. Then I had an inspiration.

"What locket?" Trying to look my most innocent.

"The one I saw you give her on Jade's birthday, right outside that door!"

"You were horning in on a private conversation. It's your own fault if you got things so mixed up!"

My Mom than asked: "What do you mean mixed up? And what about the locket?"

"Well, if you need to know, it was one someone else had given to Consuelo, and she was just showing it to me. And as for the kiss, she was just happy talking about her OTHER boyfriend, she I guess just kissed me. I was as surprised as anyone." I hoped that put some water on the flames.

Mom looked at me a little funny, but didn't comment on what I had just said. I wonder what brought that look on her face? But I finally escaped without any scars.

I'm glad I didn't hear the question my mother asked Dolores just after I left. I would have had a miserable afternoon. I did, however, find out about it later that evening, along with a couple other surprising revelations.

(Library stuff)

Later that night I had just returned from Jade's house and was happy with the way he was doing. Apparently the episode with his uncle was fading into the background. At least it seemed so. Jade was very affectionate. But I was a little surprised when he mentioned some of his motivation about going to my Church. It actually had to do with his wanting advice on some things.

"Well, maybe I can help. How about talking to me?"

Jade looked away and then back. "Actually it concerns stuff about my uncle and other stuff my Mama had said to me. It's pretty personal, and I'd just rather ask someone like a minister or a priest. Maybe even Father Hearn."

"But what does this have to do with going to Church? And why can't you talk to me about it?" I was getting a little worried and also a little scared. What was really going on here? Did Jade not trust me suddenly?

"Look, the Church part is hard to explain. It's just that you seemed to put so much faith into it, and that wasn't meant as a pun, that I wanted to see for myself. And besides, how about your going to Father Hearn on your own and not wanting me there with you? Can't I feel like the same sometimes?"

Well, he had a point. And I wanted to believe there was nothing really bad wrong. And he seemed to be back to his old self. So I let it drop.

Later that day, my sister bagged me just as I was going to my room. "We need to talk!" And Dolores NEVER said to me: "We need to talk!" Until now.

So we went outside for a bit. It was still pretty comfortable outside even this late. Well it was the beginning of June after all. "OK, what's so important?"

"What's really going on between you and Consuelo? You know you got Mom worried. I mean real worried."

Now this didn't make sense. I thought I diffused that situation. Aren't I the "fix-it" person? "How come? Consuelo and I aren't really serious with each other."

"It's not just that. If it isn't Consuelo, just WHO IS IT?"

"What do you mean. `Who is it?' Why does it have to be anybody?" I was really puzzled now.

"Well, just after you left, Mom asked me if I know who you were getting serious with. I told her I didn't know."

"But why would she ask you that?"

"Because we both have noticed a remarkable change in you that started about two months ago. I told Mom you had all the symptoms of being in love with someone. And she agrees. Now who is she if not Consuelo?"

Now I was almost in a sudden panic. DAMN! My big mouth has done it again. But this time it could get REALLY SERIOUS. But I had to maintain THE BIG LIE! I had to divert any possible suspicions away from Jade. In fact, I couldn't even allow the slightest suspicion involve him at all. None whatsoever. Thankfully I thought that any boy having a relationship with another boy, would be one of the very last suspicions that would possibly arise. But still. I had to stop even the SLIGHTEST possible hint. And to maintain THE BIG LIE had to be a primary objective. I wondered if Consuelo would even help out. I bet she wouldn't mind. So I came up with a quick lie. Going with a NON-PRACTICING CATHOLIC BLACK girl, was far better than going with a BOY! I thought maybe I could still pretend to be serious with Consuelo, and if things got too hot, we could then "decide to split up." And that could explain my "sudden change." And that brought another thought.

"What's all this nonsense about me changing, and being in love? That's ridiculous."

"Well, that's what I think. Maybe you don't even know it yourself."

"I don't know it because it ain't true."

"Well SOMETHING's going on. That much is for sure. Both Mom and I have seen it. You're DIFFERENT!"

"I think both of you are nuts. And so romantically deprived your minds are inventing things that simply aren't true."

"Just surrender. Who is it, if not Consuelo?"

Damn. She just can't be convinced. Oh well. I just hope that I can persuade Consuelo that I had no other option. "OK, maybe Consuelo and I are a little close. She's a great girl. And maybe, she likes me a little. It can make you feel really good knowing a girl likes you -- especially a really nice girl. But I don't think we're THAT serious."

"And what about that locket? I think you lied. It sure looked like you gave it to HER."

"Look. Please promise not to tell Mom." I knew she would, but I was hoping if I tried to extract this promise, she would believe me that much more. What a devious mind I had. Jade really won't like this when I tell him about it. "So Consuelo and I may possibly be just a tiny bit more than casual friends. But so what? I just didn't want to get Mom or even Dad so fired up about Consuelo since she's not Catholic, well a non-practicing one that is, and since she's part Negro. But she's still one of the nicest girls around, and unbelievably smart. And kind. And always trying to help people. And best of all she likes me."

I wondered if I piled it on too thick. Would Dolores get suspicious? I hoped not. "I THOUGHT SO. You ARE in love with Consuelo. This just proves it!"

"Look. You know how Mom can get. You CAN'T tell her. And besides, I just like her a lot. And that's the truth." I was thinking how you can tell a big whopper just by telling the literal truth.

"OK. I promise. But you have to keep me up to date about things!" And Dolores finally walked away looking a bit smug. Damn. Did I just get myself into more trouble? I'm starting to understand Jade when he talks about complications.

It was on the third day of my summer vacation when my world tried to end. I got a one-two punch and I was almost knocked out. The first was from Jade, and the second was from my sister. I think if it had happened before final exams I would have flunked them all. Right now I was totally numb. I didn't even know if I would be living here tomorrow. But it didn't matter anyway. Without Jade NOTHING else mattered. And I couldn't think how to get him back. I always prided myself I could always fix things. But this time I couldn't even get my brain started. I didn't WANT to get it started. It hurt too much. After a couple hours I finally stopped crying. I didn't even care if my brother heard me. NOTHING mattered. NOTHING will ever matter again. I can't even believe I told Dolores all the stuff I did, but even keeping up THE BIG LIE didn't matter anymore. I simple had no more energy to do anything. But I couldn't sleep. I just kept thinking about how perfect, well almost perfect, things were this past week.

It turned out that Jade did go to Church with me that day after he made that strange pronouncement. And he insisted on staying around and he even talked to a priest some, but he looked much worse after than before. I wondered what they talked about and even more, what the priest said to make Jade so much worse. I tried to find out what was going on but he kept sidestepping my questions. I was getting worried again. But the remaining days of school went as well as expected. But Jade would seem to get upset for no reason every once in a while. And then just as sudden he'd be OK.

Getting ready for exams we finished his assignments as usual, but he kept saying things like he was going to disappoint his Mama. That he was not able to live up to her expectations. Or worse, a couple times Jade mentioned he "wasn't good enough for me." This started to get me even more worried. It was usually him getting ME out of these moods. I knew something was wrong, but aside from the fear of his uncle beating on him again, I couldn't figure out what.

One day while studying for finals I got up the courage to flat out ask. "Look, Jade, what's this nonsense your spouting. It's always YOU getting ME to DO SOMETHING rather than keep moping about something. What's going on?"<.P>

"Just the same old thing. But I'm so afraid of what could happen if my uncle gets after me again. I don't know what I'll do."

He sounded sincere, but there had to be something else. I said a short prayer in silence: "God, please, help Jade, whatever is happening. Please! He doesn't deserve any more bad things in his life!"

I was now as upset as I had been in quite some time. I was realizing that something happening to Jade was ten times worse than if they happened to me. A hundred times. Especially if I couldn't help.

We finally finished studying for our respective history exams. And I was just realizing just what a good memory Jade had. We were studying American History from the Civil War to date. I was trying to recall stuff we covered at the beginning of the semester.

"Come on White-boy, we covered all that in January, and you knew it then. What were the causes of the Civil War? Think alone lines of how society conducts itself. What are the major things that affect all of us?"

"It's hard to keep all these facts straight."

"See, there's where your thinking wrong. Don't try to memorize facts. Remember ideas, and then just fit facts to them! Get all the facts you read and convert them into your own ideas. For example, let's just look at economics. That's a MAJOR thing which causes all kinds of problems. Economically, what was the major difference between the North and South. I'll give you a hint. Look at my skin as you try to answer." And Jade laughed. I was so happy about his popping out of his bad mood, I laughed easily with him.

"OK, I suppose you mean slavery." And I looked at him intently, and thought an outrageous thought. "I'd like to be his slave; if it were Jade I'd want to do everything he asked me to do." Of course I romanticized it. All the bad slavery things wouldn't happen. And then I thought about all the horrible things they actually went through and shuddered. Well, I think us being boyfriends was enough after all. "OK," I finally said. "The north wanted to do away with slavery while the south depended on slaves for its economy, especially the labor intensive stuff, like cotton farms. While the north was industrializing. Thus a big separation of ways of life, and everything."

Jade said: "Good. Now just try to think of big idea things and then apply them to what you know about the two different societies."

We then hit all the big things, like religion, government, and society type stuff. A lot easier this way. I then just got another idea.

"I just realized, taking about the differences between the North and South and the name Eli Whitney just popped into mind. He might have actually been the single person most responsible for the war!"

"That's crazy. Eli Whitney was just an inventor. He invented the cotton gin. How can he have caused the war?"

"Well, until he invented the cotton gin, the number of slaves in the South was actually decreasing. The cotton gin made using slaves profitable again. And there's one more thing good old Eli invented even more important. That was the idea of interchangeable parts. He started a gun factory with the assembly line with all parts the same. Believe it or not, manufacturing was done one item at a time. And to fix anything, parts had to be made specifically for that one item! Eli changed all that. He invented the assembly line, which helped the North industrialize."

"Damn White-boy, how do you think of things like that? And the dinosaur-bird thing? And even our TV repair thing? See, I'm just a dumb nigger compared to you."

I was instantly furious. My temper gained control. "Don't you EVER think anything like that! EVER! You're just as smart as I am. In fact, I was thinking that you were smarter. Who was just telling me how to remember things? Ideas instead of facts? Who is also getting almost straight A's? There's all kinds of being smart. And you have at least as many as I do." My instant temper was quickly turning into a feeling so caring for Jade, even love, though I was a little afraid to really look at that idea. "And if you ever call yourself a nigger again, I'll get the NAACP after you and have you excommunicated from the Negro race. You won't deserve to be one!"

I think the sheer absurdity of the statement had Jade thinking. After a bit we sort of just naturally gravitated into each other's arms. Damn, it felt so good. But what was causing Jade to pop into and out of these moods so fast?

Jade smiled. "But you wouldn't like that. You keep saying you like me black. And besides, I don't think anything is strong enough to get me white."

As I said already, school went pretty well for both of us. Jade got mostly As. OK, I lied. I didn't actually get all A's after all. I really choked in my English Literature final and wound up with a 93 average. And technically a 94 was an A. But we went by number grades anyway so my average was still over 95. I had a 99+ in Geometry. The final was on Analytic Geometry and with the curve I got a 99+. Jerry Price and I got in the mid 90s while the rest of the class were mostly below 80. Anyway, Jade was pretty happy about his report card, and to help make him feel even better I mentioned that I only got a 93 in English. I was really surprised by his reaction. He said he felt so bad for me, since I wanted a straight A average through High School.

We were at my house and I had just got my final report card. Jade was already out of school a couple days ago but I had one more day.

"Not a big deal Jade. My average is still over 95 and I'm second in my whole Sophomore class. And it was mostly me being proud and also trying to beat Carl. To show Dad I was better than him since HE never didn't finish with all A's. But it just don't seem so important anymore."

Jade smiled. "So finally my White-boy is no longer trying to just beat his brother. Did you show it to your Dad yet?"

"No to both, I'm just now trying to impress my boyfriend." Jade hugged me. We finally decided to celebrate.

I called up Consuelo, and she brought her cousin, who was between boyfriends again. It almost felt like dj vu all over again. Mr. Romano drove us all to the Mayfair Diner and he even paid for everything. We just got deserts and milkshakes. It turned out all four of us did well and he said he'd contribute to our celebration. This was two nights before catastrophe.

Later that night, Mom talked to me again about Consuelo. I told her not to worry; we were not doing anything serious. (Meaning sex, but no one would use that word out loud). But she still said she didn't think I should keep dating her since things COULD GET serious. If she only knew. But I was caught between maintaining THE BIG LIE, and Consuelo not being Catholic (or white). I decided not to worry about it too much right now.

Other things were going so great too. We were averaging about 3 TV repairs a week, and we started delivering our own circulars to even more neighborhoods. These new ones were printed on both sides, and gave some of the names of all our satisfied customers. We actually now had quite a little spending money in our own bank account. We were doing so good we were even thinking of giving up our circular job, if things got a little better.

And Jade and I finally talked it over and we decided we had to do something about Critter. He was starting to get into trouble with the neighbors. My Mom got a nasty phone call the other day complaining about him. We thought about seeing if the zoo could keep him. We'd look into it.

Finally it was the first day of our summer vacation. (OK Jade started two days ago). And we were FREE. For a WHOLE summer. That in itself felt great. We were in our back yard watching Critter as it just propped itself high in out Cherry tree. We talked about all the things we were going to do. Including Summer Camp, and maybe even going to some horse farm in Reston. I was still trying to talk Jade into the latter.

"Come on Jade, I bet you would be great on a horse. Just think, being on top of one of those big thoroughbreds."

"That's exactly what has me worried."

"Come on. We almost certainly really won't get that chance, but just to see them being trained, and jumping all those fences. Just to see them close up. It would be an adventure. I already got a map and a list of the places from the Yellow Pages. I marked them all here. See? There are two of them in easy walking distance from the train station."

"Train station?"

"Yeah, after the end of the el, we have to take the Red Line. It's quite a distance from here. Just the trip out there would be an adventure. How about just we go and look. After all, you even said you liked to WATCH the horses."

Jade finally caved in. We decided on next Wednesday, six days from now, if the weather was good.

We left the house and went out to the alley. Mom was out there, along with a few other neighbors, buying some early vegetables from the huckster. He brought the stuff around in the back of an ancient pick-up truck. Years ago I barely remembered him using a team of horses pulling a horse cart. I remember shoveling up the manure his horses dropped sometimes when he stopped in back of our house. He now had put a big contraption on the back of this pick-up, with shelves, and a roof and everything. It was a miniature grocery store. But Jade and I went to the grocery store down the block. We were going later to Jimmy's house about a half block away, and then on to Stan's. A tournament of half-ball was arranged. The alley behind Stan's house made an almost natural half-ball "field." Joey and Teague were supposed to meet us at the store. Jade had just gotten off the phone with them. They were already on their way.

"Hi Teague." Damn, he was even bigger, if that were possible. "I'm glad you're smiling now. Cause when we beat you won't be."

"You got that wrong, Honky. White boys are no match for us." He started flexing his muscles. He was forever saying stuff like that. But now I know him, I realized that it really didn't have nothing to do with race. That was merely the way he was spouting off how good he was. And he was almost as good as he thought. He was probably even better than Jimmy, and that was doing something. But I wouldn't give in. Today it was me, Jimmy, and Stan, against Teague, Joey, and Jade.

"Well, you'll be begging for mercy soon enough, so enjoy your bravado now." I countered. The clerk in the small store looked back and forth at us and looked a little worried. I started laughing. It just struck me funny.

Jade understood what was happening. He turned to the clerk and said: "Don't worry. They do that all the time. It's just friendly." The clerk relaxed a bit. In spite of being only several blocks from the black neighborhood, Negroes were rarely in his store. "I was just thinking. Do you have that new soda that Coca-Cola just put out?"

I asked: "What's this new soda? Hadn't seen it yet."

But the guy behind the counter cut in. "Sure, just got some in for the start of the summer. Some are in the cooler." We went back to the cooler and sure enough there they were. In the bigger 12 ounce bottles too.

I hadn't seen it before. It was called Sprite. I bought one just to see what it tasted like. After a few sips, I said: "It's sort of like Seven-Up." I tasted some more. "Actually a bit different. It has lime in it too I think." It was OK, but I'd probably stick with my favorites, Ginger Ale, and Cream Soda. Booth's made the best Cream Soda. But just in quart bottles.

Jade was getting better at half-ball, and we lost the first game 12 to 10. I even got a homer, but it wasn't enough. I was the worst batter of all of us. But I did great pitching and stopping the grounders.

We just started the second game and I just struck out to end our first half of the inning. "Come on Pebbles, you can hit better than that." Stan was berating me. And he new I hated that name.

But Teague heard him. "What's that? . . . Pebbles?"

Stan just HAD to tell him about the name. And Teague teased me with it for a while. Then he smashed a liner to my right. I dove in spite of the concrete driveway. I speared a sure double out of the air. "That will teach you to tease me." We finally won the second game with the exact same score. I didn't hit any better, but I saved a number of runs by sheer determination and willingness to sacrifice my body. I was determined to play as hard as I could. We finished several more games and we were actually all even by the end of the day. Everyone was pretty happy with the outcome and it felt great to just have fun. A couple neighbors stared at Teague and Joey and Jade a couple times but made no comment. It was more something not common they being there, than them actually being Negroes.

And then Teague surprised me: "You made a few great catches Rocco. Good going. You robbed me a few times. You sure play with heart, and that's what counts. You can be on my team anytime."

I was feeling really good about that. Damn. That was more then any white kid ever told me, and I was soaking it up. I looked at him and said: "Even if I'm just a Honky?"

He smiled, and with Teague it was almost frightening. He said: "Joey and I decided you must have some Negro blood in you somewhere."

Such a corny thing to say but I almost got tears in my eyes. I almost felt more accepted by these guys than almost anyone else I knew. Except maybe for Jimmy. "Thanks. But I'm still gonna kill you the next time we play."

Everybody joked around a bit more. We were lying on the grass of the big field behind the houses. The back of the field was fenced and bordered the small truck farm that grew mostly vegetables, but some melons too. The farmer huckstered them all through the neighborhood. We moseyed over to the fence. There were tomatoes, and beans, and even corn just starting. We had fresh vegetables all summer. And I couldn't wait for the corn. Just picked, it was the best thing around.

I said to no one in particular: "You never REALLY ate corn unless you had it the same day it was picked!"

Teague looked at me and looked a little sad: " Yeah, he goes up and down our alleys almost every day during the summer, but my Mom won't ever buy from a white guy. I think it's stupid. Where does she think the stuff in the store comes from?" I had a hard time believing that came from Teague.

Joey then jumped in. "Tell you what. When we get some corn later this summer, I'll invite you over."

We talked about a lot of other stuff and finally Teague and Joey left. Stan decided to go in and that just left Jimmy and us. I finally mentioned to Jimmy that we got the schematics for his old TV set. We wound up in our garage, where the old set wound up. I got out the schematics and Jade got the Multimeter, and we started with all the components near the shorted capacitor. And we followed all the lines outward. It took us over an hour but we found a number of things shorted out also by the high current. But everything it needed was pretty cheap.

"On our bikes, we have just enough time to get the parts before dinner," I said.

So we went. Almost two dollars and a frazzled clerk later, and we were on our way home again. The scene in the store was almost too comical. And Jimmy didn't know what was going on right away. It turned out that it was the same guy that ignored Jade that time a while ago. We finally filled Jimmy in. He thought we were nuts and said so.

"OK, now what are you two going to do? Keep up the charade?"

I said: "No. It takes too much effort and we will be coming in here all the time. We simple tell him the truth."

That seemed like too novel a concept. "You mean after pulling that stunt? What if he gets real mad?"

"So let him get mad. He deserves it, the way he treated Jade."

Finally the clerk finished with the two ladies he was talking to and came over to us. He easily recognized me and Jade. "It's you two again. I see you brought a friend. What do you guys need this time? It looks like you're getting to be one of our better customers."

That led right into what I wanted to say. "So good. Does that mean that you will treat Jade better? He's human too you know."

The clerk dropped his mouth. I guess he still thought I was a dummy. He looked back and forth at us as we started to smile. Finally he said: "I should have known. Sorry. Now what can I do for you?"

But he was still talking to me and Jimmy and not Jade. So I got an idea. I looked at Jade. "Jimmy and I need to get to Bredenbecks. How about you get the stuff and meet us there?"

Jade smiled, understanding what I was doing. Jimmy, however, I had to practically push out of the store.

"What was that all about?" he asked once outside. "We didn't plan on buying anything there, although now you mention it, I wish I had some money."

I believed that Bredenbecks was the BEST bakery in the whole city. Maybe even the country. I looked down the block toward the bakery. There was no one outside waiting to get into the store. On Friday evenings, the line, just to get into the store, was sometimes half a block long! Even my father stopped there sometimes on the way from work on paydays to get some things. I know I mentioned this before but it's worth repeating. Their butter cake and cheese cake were out of this world.

"I wanted to force the clerk to wait on Jade. Last time he wouldn't even look at him. That's what started us putting on that act to begin with.

In a few minutes Jade came out of the store. "He was pretty nice once he decided that a sale was more important than his attitude. I got all the stuff, but we won't have time `til after dinner to replace then bad ones."

But Jimmy was curious enough he came back later. Jade was just finishing soldering in the last tiny capacitor. We just used an old pair of vise grips for a heat sink just in case. It took us another half hour to put the chassis back in and the all the tubes back in. Finally. The big moment.

And damn, it still didn't work. Well not completely. Jimmy said, "At least you get a picture and sound now. It's just all squiggly."

Jade got a simple screw driver and said, "Maybe it only needs a few adjustments." We reopened the back and he went to work. Jimmy and I stood on the other side watching the screen. "Stop!" We both yelled at the same time. Jimmy said: "Whatever you did Jade, stopped most the squiggling. We can see a picture now, but it keeps rolling. Jade went to another adjustment. "STOP! There it is! You did it"

Jade was especially happy. Most of the fixing he had done. We now had a good TV set. It took about 5 dollars in parts, a ka-billion hours of work, and a gallon of sweat.

"Jade, just think. We now own a working TV set!" I looked up at Jimmy. "Unless Jimmy's Dad wants it back." But I wasn't really worried.

Jimmy smiled. "He said it was yours. And you know my Dad. Although just the idea of having my own TV in my own room. That's unbelievable. Nobody has that! Wait `til I tell my dad that you two actually fixed it. He said you would probably just use it for parts."

I couldn't believe it either. And I said so. "Just think! TWO TV's in the SAME house! Only really rich people have that. Like Twain and his Mom." I looked over at Jade. "Let's got out the old wagon. If Jimmy helps, we can bring it to your house and Jimmy and I can carry it up to your room! Just think Jade. Your own TV! No more worrying about your uncle yelling about what you're watching."

Jade looked a little stunned. "But how about you? It's yours too you know."

But I was not about to change my plans. I looked at Jade and gave him a silent ESP message. And he caught on and didn't say anything else as we got the back put on and then into the wagon. We got on our way after telling Mom where we were going.

On our way, Jimmy asked: "Is Twain the kid you eat with a lot of the time? The big guy with the short curly black hair?"

"Yeah, that's him. His Mom's a lawyer and they're so rich that they even have a swimming pool in their back yard. And I meant to mention it to everyone but forgot. At the last day of school Twain said we could come over this summer and use the pool anytime he was there. Just to call first."

Jimmy was suddenly interested. "Wow, no more freezing reservoir! And the pools up on Roosevelt cost money, even if they have a couple good sliding boards. And it was also two busses to get there. And 50 cents to just get in. And the public pool across from Northwest High is too crowded and had way too much chlorine."

We talked about it for a while. The prospects for the summer seemed limitless. I was so happy. If only the little nagging worry about Jade's and his uncle weren't there, it'd be perfect. We got the set into his room and a just used dome wire as a small dipole antenna which we tacked to his wall. It worked great. Sea Hunt was just starting. Jimmy left and Jade and I sat on his bed watching the show. OK, we sat mostly watching each other. I finally left, thinking all was right with the world after all.

I was thinking that I was the happiest boy in the world. If I didn't have there small nagging worries about Jade.

And then Saturday came. We went to the bank as usual, and then fixed another TV. Another 5 bucks. We wound up watching the baseball game during the afternoon. We were sitting on Jade's bed just sort of leaning into each other. The Phillies were actually winning for once. Then we heard a noise; his uncle was home. I wasn't too concerned, but then Jade got all scared.

"Sorry Rocco, but my uncle hates you being here. And he's gotten much worse lately. We need to sneak you out of here." I just finished putting my shoes on when the door flew open with a bang. His uncle was not really drunk. But he sure was angry.

"Just what the fuck is this pansy-ased faggot doing here? I told you he was never allowed here anymore." And he turned to me. I was pretty damned scared. Especially since I knew he even hit Jade a few times. "Get you scrawny fucking white ass outta here!" He said a lot of worse things but that is enough to give you the gist. (Some of the words were so bad I was sure you committed a sin just hearing them).

I was shaking as I got home. The more I thought about things, the more I got worried. What the hell was happening at Jade's house? I tried to call a couple times. It kept ringing. The third time it was a busy signal. Probably just took it off the hook.

At dinner Mom asked me what was the matter. I mumbled something about Jade having lots of problems with his uncle but didn't give any details. At the rate I was eating, I'd be getting even skinnier. I finally went into the living room and flopped in front of the TV. I could barely follow what the shows were about. Perry Mason got his client off again and I couldn't care less. My Mom asked if I were sick and I said no, just worried about Jade. She got this funny look again but I couldn't seem to worry about it. There was only one major thought in my mind and I wasn't capable of giving any real thought to anything else.

It was about an hour after I went to bed that the phone rang. I was still awake and my heart started racing. I just knew. Something was really wrong with Jade. I raced down the stairs almost falling all the way down, hoping to get the phone before it woke anyone up. Everyone was still upstairs in bed. I answered the phone. "Jade, what's wrong?"

"White-boy, please help me." It was barely a whisper. "Please help!" And that was all. If he was hurt where the hell was his uncle? Then I got even more scared. I was suddenly certain he was hurt BECAUSE of his uncle. I immediately called a cab. I never do that. Only from school that one time. But then I got another idea. I called the cab people back, and arranged to meet it at Jade's house. I could bike over there much faster. I raced upstairs, turned on the light waking my brother. I didn't care. He started complaining. I ignored him, getting dressed. I pulled my shirt and pants right over my pajamas. My PF's went on without socks. I ran to my parent's bedroom. And I NEVER bother my parents at night. But now I did.

"Mom, Dad, I need to get to Jade's house now. Something's really wrong. He just called and I got to get over there."

After all the arguing, they finally decided that I was indeed NOT going over there at night and if I still thought something was wrong just to call the police. I didn't even think of the consequences. I simply left, got on my bike, and peddled as fast as possible. Good thing there were no cars. I didn't stop for anything. I ran into Jade's house and I found him at the bottom of the stairs. The phone receiver was next to him off the hook. But he was not conscious. I was so scared I almost collapsed. I started bawling and then suddenly stopped. I had to help Jade. He was still breathing. I was so relieved, and then saw what was wrong. His lower right arm was broken. At least it had to be. It was so swollen. I don't know how it happened, but he was always so afraid of getting his arms hurt.

I heard him moaning. He opened his eyes as I was shaking him. "Stop that. You're just making it hurt worse. I accidentally caught my arm between the rungs of the banister as I slipped down the stairs. I think it's broken. It sure hurts enough. I passed out a while on the floor. I pulled the phone down by its cord. All I could think about was you. So I called. I guess I just should have called a doctor or something." He only got all that out in gasps.

"Where's your uncle?"

"I don't know. Probably at some bar. I need to get to a doctor."

"Don't worry, I got a cab coming. I'll get you to Nazareth Hospital. I'll leave a note for your uncle." He started to object, but I said his uncle had to know. He started to say something else but suddenly just shut up. I thought it was just a spasm of pain. But when I tried to get him to say what he had in mind, he just said nothing. My worrying came back full force. But at least I couldn't see any problem except his forearm.

The cab finally came and the driver helped me get Jade into the back seat. He was really wobbly. We made the hospital as fast as if we were an ambulance. Twenty minutes later Jade was being taken care of. A pain shot just about knocked him out. The doctor said he couldn't do anything more until he got permission from his parents. I explained about his uncle and all.

"But what will you do if his uncle NEVER calls? Just leave him laying here?" I was shouting. A big guy practically pulled me out of the room. I couldn't stop crying. How can people be so cruel? I finally realized I needed to call home. My Mom eventually answered. I explained about Jade being in the hospital and me staying for a while. She asked if I had enough money for a cab home. I did. As I said. Sometimes Mom is at her best when she DOESN'T say something. I guess she knew whatever she said to me now was useless.

About an hour later I finally found out from a nurse that the doctor decided to admit Jade overnight. But wasn't going to put on a cast until the swelling went down some. I wondered why they just didn't just put on a splint. But grownups just don't think right some times. I hoped that when I got to be a grown up, I wouldn't get my thinking and priorities all screwed up.

They brought him up in a wheel chair. He was mostly out of it with another pain shot. This time it was put in the IV tube. Jade looked at me and tried to say something. We were just out the door of the emergency room, when I heard a big shout from the end of the hallway. Shit. There was his uncle, and he acted drunk. He came up to us shouting all the way. Pointing to me he said: "That boy is to have nothing to do with my nephew ever again. Nothing. Ever. If anyone let's that fucking boy even close to him I'll sue. You hear me?"

There was more in that vein, and I left out some of the more colorful words, but it looked like me and Jade would have to part for now. They called me a cab and I waited in miserable solitude. Just when Jade needed me so much. I was crying on and off `til the cab got there. I got home passed two in the morning, went to bed but couldn't sleep.

My Mom had waited up for me. She just asked how Jade was and I told what I knew. He then asked how I was. I lied.

"OK, I guess. I just hope Jade will be all right." I never told her about the uncle beating on him now and then. I wondered if that was what really happened this time.

Jade was in the hospital the next couple days but every time I called, I was told that Jade was not allowed to talk to me. His Uncle Mike was his legal guardian, and the next morning he signed some papers saying that I couldn't ever see his nephew again. I was so shocked I could barely function. Never be with Jade again? I couldn't believe it. I had to talk to him but I wouldn't be able to until he got out of the hospital. I once even tried to sneak into his room but was caught. I tried a couple times to trick my way into his room and I couldn't believe that for once in my life I failed at finagling something. The last time I was "escorted out" with dire warnings about what would happen if I tried it again.

I must have run the entire trail through Pennypack Park those few days at least a dozen times. A couple people called about TV's and I could barely make myself go over and fix them. It was lucky that all of them were easy. Even one of the new solid state sets turned out to be easy. They were the one's that take the most time. But I did nothing else. My mother had to practically force me to get to Church on Sunday.

Three days later I found that Jade was home from the hospital. Now I would finally talk to him. I ran all the way to his house. I forgot all about my bike. I banged on the door and his uncle answered. He uttered some obscenities and ordered me never to come there again. He kept calling me a faggot, and I wondered if he actually knew about Jade and me. And maybe that was why the sudden change about letting us see each other. I was getting REALLY scared.

Finally, three nights later, I waited until his uncle left. I managed sneaking into the house by using the key Jade had given me a while ago. I got to Jade's room. The lights were on and he was propped up in bed with the TV on. But he wasn't watching. He had the arm with the cast up above his head. He was sort of just lying there with this blank stare at the ceiling. He looked over.

"Jade, what's wrong?!" I was almost shouting. I repeated my self as I went to his bed. He wouldn't even look at me again. Just that staring. My God, what happened? What was wrong? "Please Jade, I can't take this. What's the matter?"

He finally looked over and started crying. "I'm sorry Rocco. Maybe we shouldn't be together anymore."

My heart broke into pieces at that instant. I almost fainted. Jade COULDN'T have said that. "What the hell do you mean? What's wrong?"

But he cried even harder. "Sorry White-boy, but maybe you can't be my White-boy any more. Please just go away." He then just turned over and faced the wall. I could see a cast on his right arm. His hooks were on the dresser.

After about 20 minutes of futile pleading I even started to get angry. I finally stormed out of the room. After walking for a hundred years I wound up at our rock. I couldn't understand what was happening. What had happened to Jade to make him like this? What could be wrong? After about a half hour I even started pleading with God to help. That didn't work either.

Later that night I tried writing in my Journal, but couldn't get past the first couple lines. I fell to sleep crying.

Journal of Rocco P

June 24, 1961
I didn't know pain could ever hurt this much. God please, what can I do? Please help Jade. I don't know what is wrong with him but he needs help so bad.

Chapter 62b -- More Trouble in Paradise (part b)

It's been a couple weeks since I've even seen Rocco. I can't face him. He finally stopped calling a few days ago. When he came over last week I was so afraid what my uncle would do if he found out he was there. And I was so afraid of what my uncle would do to me. I kept dying inside as Rocco kept pleading with me to tell him what was wrong. I couldn't tell him; it would have hurt too much. And I was so scared.

I should have realized that a black kid, especially a black homo kid with no hands, can't have real dreams. I got faked out there for a while but reality has finally reestablished itself. My greatest grief, however, is for my White-boy. I guess he can't be mine any more. I'm so sorry White-boy for betraying you.

I don't even have enough emotional energy left to hate my uncle that much anymore. And the tears stopped days ago. Now there's just been a mind numbing despair. And fear. Sorry Mama.

Copyright 2006 by Rocco Paperiello