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 III -- Confrontation and Resolve

Chapter 71 -- Trains and Horses and Other Trips

I really wonder about Rocco sometimes. I mean here we are doing so well and everything is going so great and while we are out with friends, with every reason to be happy, he finds a way to be sad. Why does he keep beating himself up about things we can't change? I can't change my skin color, so why beat myself up about it? The same about my sexual orientation. I can only be the person I am. So we just do the best with what we have. And we have a lot. So why does he keep sobbing about what we can never have?

Fortunately he's only like that on occasion. But maybe his being like that gets him to keep wanting to help wherever he can. Maybe that type of thinking motivates him to keep helping others like he does. He sure keeps coming up with all kinds of ideas. And for him to think of something is almost the same as doing it. He sure hasn't learned to think before he leaps into the unknown. But that again I guess is why I love him so much. He don't seem to care very much what something does for him, he only sees what it will do for someone else. I don't mean that lots of his plans are for his own ends, but he's just as liable to think of someone else. And this latest scheme. It's quite a doozy. And he spent all his money to do it. I love him for it, but wish he wasn't so reckless. I still don't know what I will tell him. I really don't like being displayed like that, but heck. It might even work. I'm starting to lean toward doing it. And not because it might work, but because it will make my White-boy happy.

Well, here I am again, having been talked into just one more of Rocco's schemes. But this one might even be fun. And even if we don't do more than just watch some horses, the outing itself will be an excursion. I have only been outside the city on a few occasions, so for me this is an adventure. And it had to be done real soon if at all since Summer Camp was coming up and then Rocco's family goes on their vacation for a couple weeks. Rocco would get all excited telling me about where they planned to go and start describing some of the places he hoped to see and then all of a sudden he'd look at me and stop. When I tried to prompt him to go on he'd mention something about how he wished he could share it all with me.

Well anyway, for the next couple weeks we would be enjoying things together including Summer Camp. And I was pretty excited about this day's outing. I got up with the doctor this morning. Wow, he gets up this time most mornings. I wonder when he sleeps. I was making a few sandwiches at the big counter in the kitchen when the doctor came in for breakfast. When his wife doesn't get up with him he just has cereal. I had my favorite, Wheat Chex and some milk. No sugar. I can't stand sugar on cereal. Mama used to boil me up some grits at times. Boy was that good stuff the way she made it -- usually just with butter and cheese, but sometimes with fresh sausage. Sometimes I snuck in a bit of garlic. I guess a tiny part of our southern roots were still showing.

So there I was making some sandwiches. Mustard, mayonnaise, and pickles. Then the lunch meat. I never knew how good some of that stuff was. The doctor and his family always had plenty of boiled ham, lunch roll, hard salami, pimiento loaf, and a few others I never heard of before. Also a number of different cheeses. My favorites now were Swiss and Muenster. We never had much more than baloney or liverwurst at home. Or maybe a can of Spam. But I was peeling away slices of hard salami and boiled ham. I built up four good sandwiches and was trying to get the plastic wrap on them to keep them fresh. Damn, this stuff is impossible to work with. How come they can't use sensible waxed paper? I just threw away an all messed up piece of plastic wrap when the doctor came up behind me.

"Here, let me help you."

I stopped a long time ago being bothered by those words. (Well, maybe I still am a little bit bothered). I know if I practiced enough, I'd get the hang of using that stuff. But not today. "Thanks." It's all these minor everyday things that get me so frustrated at times. Well, I packed my lunch, along with several cans of juice and my big handled punch top opener. And a few straws. I also threw in a small box of pretzels.

The doctor came up to me: "Here, just in case. And call when you guys start home. I don't want Mrs. Krazenski worrying." He just handed me a twenty dollar bill. That's more than most people make in a day. I wondered what type of "in case" would make me need twenty dollars. I'm almost afraid thinking about it. Of course, realizing what Rocco can get us into, maybe I should just put it into my pocket and be glad.

"Thanks. I didn't tell you last night, since you were so busy in the office, but Rocco and I went to talk to the pastor at the Unitarian Church, the one in Holmesburg near Frankford Ave. I hope you don't mind. Mama had given me his name before she died. In case I needed to talk to someone about being how I am."

And then I quickly outlined what we talked about.

The doctor exclaimed: "Rocco made up a circular that he was going to hand out with your picture?"

"Crazy isn't he?"

The doctor thought for a moment and said: "Now that I think about it, it's exactly the type of thing I would expect him to do. What have you decided to do?"

"You mean you don't think it's too crazy of an idea?"

"I didn't say that. But you know it can't hurt. Only perhaps it might be embarrassing for you."

"That's for sure. But I've been thinking. It would sure make Rocco happy if I agreed."

"Only one thing, how did he decide on whom to give these things out to?"

I told him.

He got this thoughtful look. "You know, as much as I hate to admit it, he might have a point there. It's sad to say, but most people from my church would probably never accept you as you are. Hopefully these attitudes will change in the future."

Rocco was flying high even if he was just on ground transportation. He mentioned that our final stop was in a small town just before you got to Villanova College. It was quite a long trip and we talked about a lot of things and plans including the circular. I finally decided to give in. After all the work and money that went into it, and especially the thoughts behind it, I couldn't disappoint him. And I suppose that I also had a suspicion that it might be just crazy enough to actually work. Mrs. Winston, from Juvenile, had just talked to Dr. Krazenski a couple days ago and mentioned that no foster parents had yet been found who would take me in on a permanent basis. I was only a bit disappointed, however. I was still too happy about just being where I was at this time, that I couldn't stay disappointed for long.

"OK, Rocco, let's see if we can start handing them out next Sunday."

"Woah, simmer down. You mean that I will hand them out. Don't you think it would look a little funny if you handed out a circular about yourself? Besides, it only really needs one person."

I thought about it for a bit, and realized he was probably right. It's just that I was having a hard time thinking about Rocco doing something important without me.

We got off at 32nd Street and promptly got lost in Penn-Central Station. We finally found the line for commuter tickets and then got lost again trying to find the correct train. It was tacitly agreed between us that to actually have asked directions would have entailed acting against the very laws of physics. We finally found the correct track and once ensconced on the train car we were quite excited as we embarked on our new big adventure. We had our eyes glued to the countryside as we passed from city into country. Finally we reached Rosemont a few miles before Villanova College -- our exit. When we got off we quickly realized we were in "college" country as there were directions on how to get to at least three different colleges not even counting Villanova. Rocco said that one of his sister's girlfriends intended to go to one of them called Bryn Mawr; he said it was an all girls' college. There was also quite a lot of country out here and I was in an element that I loved. Rocco pulled out the map. We had decided to go to the Rosemont Equestrian Farms about a mile away since they had their own track and jumping area.

We finally reached the farm and were very fortunate to find several horses being brought around a training course. We climbed up on the rail fence and I was instantly captivated by the huge horses. Quite a sight close up. We watched for almost an hour as one horse after another were taken through the course. I noticed, however, that there was quite a definite division of labor. There seemed to be three groups of people involved in the training. There were several trainers that seemed to stay on the side line and would talk to the individual riders from time to time. All the riders seemed to be the best dressed people there. And there were also a group of people that were involved in bringing out the horses into the training area. These were quite a wide group from very young to pretty old, and about half of them were Negro. I mentioned this to Rocco.

"You have noticed that the boys and men bring the horses out to the training area are in large part black, while all the riders and everyone else are white."

"I noticed. And I just got an idea. Why don't we try to follow one of the guys back to the barn area and see if we can get a closer look at the horses?"

"And how if we're run off? We don't exactly belong there."

Of course Rocco has probably never entertained the thought that he might be excluded from anywhere. "What's the worst that can happen? They just tell us to leave."

As I said, Rocco rarely let a small matter of not belonging somewhere deter him when he gets an idea. So after a few minutes we saw a colored kid take the reins of two of the horses and lead them out of the fenced-in training area; Rocco took off after him. I followed. We hurried to catch up. He couldn't have been much older than myself and wore pretty scruffy clothes. I was a little embarrassed to just barge right up to him but Rocco ran up to the guy and started talking. The guy stopped and I could hear him saying something about not approaching the horses from the rear. So I headed to the door of a large barn where he seemed to be headed. Rocco circled around and met me there just as the guy brought the two horses inside. He put them into separate stalls and as he started taking off the bridles and saddles Rocco started talking. I couldn't believe how forward he could be at times.

Fortunately the guy was pretty friendly himself and seemed quite happy to talk to us. Rocco introduced me. His name was Bran, and he was really surprised when he tried to shake my hand.

"Holy shit man, what happened to you?"

I gave the most abridged version possible; I just said I had an accident. He seemed as interested in my lack of hands as I was in the horses. It turns out that he was only three years older than me and been working as a groom here for four years. After taking the saddles and bridles off and laying them on a nearby table he brought one of the horses through the barn and out the door to an area that had lots of straw all over the ground. He tied the lead to a rail and proceeded to use a short hose to wash all the mud from the horse's legs. Rocco walked with him talking all the way. After both horses were washed and taken back, he started brushing down the horses while Rocco asked one question after another. Finally Rocco asked if he could help. I wasn't sure I wanted to get that close myself. Those horses were BIG! Rocco couldn't even see over their withers. That`s that center bump on the horse right above the front legs. (What a strange word).

Just then an elderly black man came into the barn and came over to us. A brief explanation ensued about why we were there. I thought he was going to send us out of the barn, but he turned out to be just as friendly as Bran. I had supposed that Bran's boss would be middle aged and white. It turned out this guy was Bran's boss and in charge of the horses in the entire barn. He called the place a stable, and seemed offended when I first called it a barn. After a short time the older man left.

Two more horses were brought into the barn, . . . I mean stable, by the older man a short time later and the same procedure ensued. By this time Rocco seemed to be doing as much of the work as the young groom. I wish I had the ability to just walk into some strange situation like that and in 15 minutes be right at home. But my being a Negro I think made Bran feel more at ease with us, and he seemed interested in showing us all about his job. Next we started wiping down the saddles and tack as he called it. I couldn't believe how small the saddles were. Nothing like in the Westerns on TV. I couldn't imagine the Lone Ranger using one of these saddles for Silver. We then joined Bran and a friend of his named Lame for lunch. (I never did find out if it was a nickname or not). Lame was a tall lanky Irish kid with red hair that seemed more like a mop than a real head of hair. He talked almost as much as Rocco. It seemed both these guys had dropped out of High School and found there way here from the city. The one thing they had in common was their love for horses.

There were four barns -- I mean stables, three training areas for jumping and two other buildings for equipment. And that was just for the jumping horses. We also found out that although most the jumpers were older Thoroughbreds, some were also Arabians and even a few Tennessee Walker Thoroughbred mixes. But they were all big.

Bran was finishing up as Rocco and I were putting our sandwich stuff back into our small pack. He asked: "How about coming over to the racing stable with me. We also train about 20 racing horses here. And it's quite an operation. I'm supposed to clean a lot of their tack this afternoon and help brush down the horses. You better not get too close to the horses yourselves since they are mostly two and three year old Thoroughbreds and pretty skittish. Besides, the owners probably wouldn't like it either. But there's one there that's so beautiful I'm almost in love with her. An almost pure black two year old."

It seemed they were in the middle of flat racing season and all of these horses were racing somewhere nearby in the next few weeks. And Midnight Shadow was quite a horse. Bran showed us all around and introduced us to a few jockeys. Damn, they were all almost as small as Rocco! And one of them named Jacko asked Rocco how old he was.

"I'll be 16 in September! And it sure feels good to see I'm not the only small person in the world."

I cringed as he said that bit I guess Jacko didn't mind. In fact he chuckled a bit.

"Well, I came out here from Newark about ten years ago and started as a groom. But I seemed to have a good way with the horses and they put me up on a few of the easier rides for morning exercises. And then in just two years I was a jockey. You have to have no fear. Going around that track, sometimes with mud flying in your face, can be a bit scary but amazingly exhilarating."

He then started talking about some of the races he'd been in and about all the bones he'd broken. Definitely not my kind of job. But I couldn't believe Rocco's eyes as he was talking. Rocco was so excited I thought he was going to ask how to get a job on the spot. Finally a couple of very important looking people came into the barn and called him over. We went back over to where Bran was working.

"I see Jocko's been telling tall tales again." Bran said. "He's a pretty good jockey and the people who just came in own two of the fillies we have here. One Jacko is racing next week and they'll be looking at his time splits tomorrow."

What the heck was a split? That led into another long explanation. I never could have realized how complicated it all was. Rocco finally asked Bran if he were going to get a chance at becoming a jockey.

"No thank you. I'd like to keep healthy at least into my thirties. You may not believe it but you have to be quite athletic and also be pretty smart to make a good jockey. And also one more thing. It helps if you have absolutely NO fear of death!" Then he looked at Rocco, and seemed to inspect him a bit.

"How about you? If you're already 16 maybe you'd have the right size. Good athlete?"

He made a friend of Rocco for life just hinting that he might make a jockey. About a half hour later, Bran said he had to work around some of the race horses we'd probably better spend our time watching from the small stands next to the race track. A couple horses were to be run at good speed today. We were shown outside by another groom whose name I couldn't quite get. He was not as friendly and just left us there.

"Holy smoke Jade, isn't this all too exciting! And everyone so friendly." And he sort of got this half smile and said: "And some of the younger guys around here are pretty cute."

I hit him with a hook. Rocco started complaining about hook marks but was interrupted by a shout from one of the jockeys down on the track. It was Jocko and he waved up to us. There were two other grooms holding the reins of a horse as he got up on its back. After pacing, or more like prancing up and down a while, about five other people came out into the stands. Three sat while two went down to the rail. They shouted something to Jacko. Eventually Jocko suddenly took off around the track. We were close enough to get a better idea of just how fast that horse was going. Rocco seemed mesmerized by the entire thing.

On our way home, Rocco was so excited, he kept getting up from his seat and walking up and down the nearly empty double car. We were just ahead of the back-from-work crowds. He couldn't stop talking about all we had seen during the day, even by the time we were on the 66 trackless trolley, and on our last leg of the journey. And we were now commenting about the people we had seen and met.

I mentioned to Rocco: "You did notice that there was hardly a female in sight."

Rocco was a bit wound down by then. He answered: "Well, one of the people watching that racehorse was a woman, and a couple of the jump riders were woman. But no one else. And it started me having another idea. I was wondering if this all male world would have attracted boys like us. Do you think it possible? Of course, they only hire boys or men since the younger ones all live in dormitories. That's what Bran said. And this also looks like one place where black and white don't make too much difference."

I wasn't entirely convinced and that brought up something else I was wondering about myself. "First of all I didn't see any black jockeys, and also how come I'm the Negro here and it was you Bran got real friendly with?"

"First of all we only saw two jockeys to begin with." Then Rocco smiled: "And maybe he realized that I was an honorary Negro."

"Funny. I think that since he realized I was your good friend you would be open to his friendship too."

Rocco seemed to think for a bit and finally answered: "Actually, I think it was simpler than that. He was just a naturally friendly guy and ANYONE who took interest in what he was doing would have engaged his camaraderie. And the fact I was white was of little consequence."

"Believe me White-boy, to a Negro, someone being white never has little consequence. And where did you pick up that word?"

"History class." (I assumed that was in answer to my last question). "And I think you're being too paranoid about being a Negro. I just think that he already worked closely with a whole mixture of white and black guys that he gave it less attention."

I thought about it some and couldn't decide. It was difficult to think that race doesn't enter into a black person's decisions. "I guess it doesn't matter really. I think it great that he invited us to come back anytime."

Rocco said: "I just hope that our being there doesn't cause him any trouble with the people he works with." And then he suddenly got this funny expression on his face and suddenly grabbed me and hugged me close.

I was taken a bit by surprise, and looked about to make sure no one was paying us any attention. The woman across from us seemed to have this sour look on her face but no body else gave us any attention. "What was that all about?" But I thought I really knew. My White-boy was like that. It was one of the reasons I loved him so much. In the middle of thinking about everything else and being so excited about things, he will think about how I'm feeling.

Rocco smiled. "I think you know. Here I keep thinking like a white boy and forget how you might see things. That was to let you know that without you, nothing would be near as great. With you being there everything was so much better since we can share our enthusiasm. And I guess that being around you has made me so unselfconscious about relating to anyone else that's a Negro. But what I said I really think was true in this case. I really think that I could have been green and Bran wouldn't have hardly cared."

I tried to think back on our day and how Bran reacted to both of us and I was beginning to think that Rocco might be right. "Well maybe you're right. Perhaps this is one of those rare situations where both white and black people have associated and worked with each other so much, issues of race don't seem so important. Wouldn't it be nice if it could be that way all over?"

Rocco got this sly look like he does when he is trying to manipulate things. "Is this the same Negro who less than a couple years ago said he hated all white boys?"

I smiled: "All but one anyway." I so much wanted to hug my White-boy back but I was too self conscious where we were. We both were smiling at each other now. A rapid ESP communication was taking place. It felt so good just sitting together.

Then we got back to what we were going to do for the next few days and even further into the future. This included watching the Mercury Rocket shot on Friday. We also planned to go back to the Rosemont Farms when Rocco was back from his family's vacation. He was all excited about that too. (Of course Rocco got excited about everything). I guess I was too. Actually, thinking about it, I guess half the reason I was looking forward to the return visit, was because it made Rocco so happy.

Right before I got off the trolley Rocco mentioned that he was having so much trouble with Critter that he was thinking about seeing if he could pawn it off on the city zoo. I detected another scheme percolating in his brain. Rocco wound up getting off at my stop to keep talking, even though it would add several blocks to his walk home.

"We really have to figure out what to do with Critter pretty soon," he said. "He's getting so big he is actually scaring some people. But what's worse, my Mom said we are getting a couple complaints from some neighbors. He keeps up his daily run through the neighbor's yards and we have to do something."

"But how can we do anything?" I knew he had an idea but I was suspecting I would not like it especially. "OK, what's running around in that brain of yours?"

And he told me. I just looked at him and couldn't help smiling. The plan seemed too simple. I asked: "But how can we get him there?"

"That's actually the easy part. The hard part will be simply catching him to begin with. We'll have to do it early in the morning when he's a lot less frisky."

"You know White-boy, I'm starting to suspect that there's a small segment of your brain totally unconnected with the part that looks at consequences. And that's how you keep coming up with your nefarious ideas." I couldn't help using that word. Cher had used it the other day. I can't believe that she is just 12 years old sometimes. (As for our word wars, we had actually stopped keeping score a good while back. Other things seemed more important).

We talked about the plan some more and decided to do it the first chance we could get. We also had another TV to fix tomorrow. It seemed life kept getting more and more complicated. But as long as I had my White-boy, it didn't seem to matter too much any more. We were still delivering the store's circulars also. And in spite of our not being to a Scout Meeting forever almost, we were really looking forward to Summer Camp coming up in just over a week.

Rocco finally realized that he had to get home. By this time we were getting a snack back at my house. (I was finally able to think of the place that way. It felt good). Nobody else was home, and we figuratively raided the cookie jar. But Rocco looked at the clock, yelled he'd call me later, and literally tore out of there. I found out later that he ran all the way home.

Dinner was pretty late since Dr. Krazenski had late office hours that day. Cher was at her girlfriend's house all day, and Mrs. Krazenski was out with some of the other doctor's wives plotting how they could interfere with their husband's lives. (At least that how Dr. Krazenski put it). During the whole meal, Cher kept giving me this funny look. Sometimes she scared me even more than Rocco. You felt there were all kinds of nefarious thoughts circulating in her brain. (I seemed to have that word caught in my own brain. But in this case it fit). After the meal, it was Cher that volunteered me to help clean up the dishes. They had an automatic dish washer and like everything else in the kitchen it was an Amana. It was all quite expensive. So the clean up went pretty fast. Cher kept talking about how she and Debbie (that was her girlfriend) had been spying on Debbie's older brother. The brother was about my age and had a close girlfriend. A REALLY close girlfriend. And then Cher dropped a bombshell. (More like an A bomb).

"Jade, I keep trying to think of Rocco as your girlfriend but he just doesn't seem to fit. When Debbie and I (Cher would never have said `Debbie and me') were spying on her brother and his girlfriend, I kept thinking about you and Rocco. I know he's your boyfriend, but why can't you just have a girlfriend like other people?"

I was really startled she just came out with it like that. And just as I started to answer, I realized I had once wondered about that same very thing myself. How come me and Rocco were like this? How come I like boys instead of girls? And a whole lot of other people. I know what everyone says. That something bad happened while I was growing up and it made me this way. Like me not having a father or something. But Dr. Krazenski told both me and Rocco that it couldn't be that simple. Since the condition was so relatively common, and in all kinds of societies, and throughout history, that there had to be something more. Like genetics or maybe something chemical happening before we were born. That's what this Evelyn Hooker had suggested. Dr. Krazenski mentioned some things she`d written a couple times.

I finally answered with something my Mama had kept telling me. "I'm not really sure Cher, but my Mama always said that that was the way God made me and others like me including Rocco. We are attracted to guys instead of girls. Your Dad seems to think that it could even be something that happens before we are even born, or maybe even genetic. You know about genes?"

"Yes silly, everyone knows about genes. But it still doesn't make sense to me."

Now I was a little surprised. I was wondering how much she had thought about these things. "What don't make sense to you?"

"Well you and Rocco can't have babies and get married and stuff. Mom and I talked all about those things and she never once mentioned two boys being together. And I was too embarrassed to ask. So I'm asking you. How come you want to be with Rocco and not a girl like Mike does. They were kissing and everything. That's Debbie's big brother. Debbie and I were spying on them." And a big smile lit her face.

Now what can I say. I wasn't exactly sure myself. I just knew Rocco and I were just built that way and there was nothing we could do about it. All the stuff we read about doctors and psychiatrists trying to change people like us scared the heck out of Rocco and me. And besides, I didn't really want to have a girlfriend. I wanted Rocco! I wanted my White-boy! But how could I say that so Cher could understand when I didn't even really understand it?

"I don't understand it all myself Cher. I just know that that's the way I am. I'm just attracted both emotional and sexually to boys instead of girls. And I don't think I could be changed. And by now I can't even think of wanting to change. Somehow it's even more than just boy and girl stuff. It's Rocco I fell in love with. It's Rocco I love and want to be with all the time. I guess maybe you're too young yet to really understand."

"I happen to be almost 13 years old and I do understand that stuff. And Nestor was like that too and he told me all about his boyfriend back in Argentina. It's just how come God wants us to get married and have babies and yet you say He made you and Rocco and Nestor so you like boys instead? And when I asked Sister in school last month about it she got all upset and said I wasn't even supposed to talk about things like that."

Now I was flabbergasted. Cher actually had the guts to talk to her teacher in school about boys liking other boys instead of girls!? I looked at Cher and she seemed actually delighted that she surprised me like this. She had that same look that Rocco got at times.

"Look Cher, I think that you should talk to your Mom and Dad about these things. I bet you they don't even know that you know about these things about boys liking other boys. In fact your Dad told me to make sure me and Rocco didn't do anything around you. I bet if he knew that we were talking about it like this he would kill me. And I like it here too much. So please, I'm not even too sure we should be talking about this stuff. You are so lucky having such nice parents, and I think you need to talk to them."

So I was taking the easy way out. But I REALLY didn't want to do anything that got Dr. Krazenski mad at me. And that was why I almost died of heart failure when I heard from behind me: "I guess I should have known." It was Dr. Krazenski. I was caught, in the worst possible way. Now what was going to happen to me?

But instead of coming over to me, Dr. Krazenski went up to his daughter and hugged her, and then said: "Cher, I should have known that you already knew about these things. But I'm just a bit disappointed that you didn't feel you could come to your Dad or Mom with your questions. You're my special girl you know." The doctor seemed at the time to be almost ignoring me, which was fine with me.

Cher, for once, didn't seem willing to say very much. I guess like a lot of kids, they are just embarrassed to actually talk to their parents about certain things. However, Cher was not your average 12 year old girl. After some urging from her father she finally came out with a barrage: "But Mom says that boys being together is wrong, just like Sister at school said. And Mom didn't seem to want to say anymore about it. Just that when I got older I would understand just why it was so wrong. So I was just wondering why Jade wants to be with boys instead of girls since everyone knows it's so bad." She finally wound down.

Her father looked at her a moment and hugged her again. "I guess we really need to talk about this some. I only came in at the tail end. What did you and Jade talk about?" He finally looked toward me, and fortunately I could read no anger there, not even any I'll-talk-to-you-later-about-this look. "Why don't we just all sit down and be comfortable."

And so for a number of minutes Cher talked about the few things we had just discussed. She finally said: "So I still don't understand; how come Jade wants to be with Rocco instead of a girl?" She then looked at me as if in a challenge.

Dr. Krazenski said that this whole thing was a very difficult question and that doctors still didn't quite understand why, but that there were a small percentage of people that instead of being attracted to the opposite sex like most people, instead only felt this close attraction to people of their same sex. "And I am only just starting to realize just how much two people like this can really love each other, just like your Mom and I love each other."

Cher did not seem satisfied with that answer. She looked at me and asked: "You mean you can't even make yourself like girls instead?"

I was embarrassed talking about this in front of both of them. But I made an attempt. "That's a simple way of saying it. I can only fall in love with a boy, and that boy is Rocco. We want to be with each other for the rest of our lives. Just like your parents."

Now she got this squinty look on her face, like she was trying to figure something out: "But you can't be like Mom and Dad. You and Rocco can't have babies!" As if that also explained why we couldn't be together either.

I looked at the doctor for some help but he just let me continue. He just said: "You are doing pretty well so far. Can you answer her?"

I turned toward Cher; I was pretty embarrassed to actually talk to her about sex related topics. "Well, it's hard to explain. But, no, we can't have babies. But we can be in love with each other just as much as any boy and girl can."

Cher seemed to digest this a while, and then finally asked: "But everybody says it's really wrong. For two boys to be together like that."

"You're right, almost everybody does say that. But both Rocco and I disagree with that view. We love each other and believe that God is OK with it too."

Her father then joined in. "Cher, I am not too sure myself that it is the right thing for two boys to be together, but I am willing to respect that Jade and Rocco believe it is right for them. Your mother, on the other hand, is not so comfortable with the idea of Jade and Rocco, but since she is just about the kindest person on the earth, she is still willing to help Jade as much as she can."

We talked a bit more, and then Cher's Mom walked in. "So there you all are." She could tell that this was more than just a normal conversation. The dishes weren't even all cleared away. The doctor told his wife that he would fill her in later, and I think all of us were just a bit relieved to let go some of the tension.

The next day Rocco showed up with a wriggling monster mostly wrapped up in an old towel. Critter was clearly not liking it. He even tried to bite me. "So you finally caught him."

"He was asleep below his pile of rocks. I can't believe how big he's gotten. No wonder the neighbors were starting to complain. We need to get him into his new home. I got it all worked out."

Now that's what got me really worried. "Will this involve one of us going to jail?" I did my best to keep a stern expression.

Rocco just smiled and instead of answering asked: "Where's the old pack? I'm hoping he'll fit. Just as we were getting to my room, Cher came down the corridor. She had never seen Critter before. She screamed. But not in fright. I was more like a "Wow, that's quite an animal there" kind of scream. She rushed over and Rocco had to warn her that Critter was pretty agitated right then and not to get herself bitten.

"Can I see him? Can you let him all the way out of the towel?"

Rocco answered again: "Actually, I was hoping to take off his harness. But every time I tried so far, he kept trying to bite me. He's really riled up. If I let him go now, he'll never let us catch him again." Then he saw the disappointment in Cher's eyes. "Hey Jade. Do you have any heavy twine anywhere? Maybe we could put him on a sort of leash and let him out of the towel. Maybe he'll even calm down. Perhaps if we got some pieces of pears also."

In a flash, Cher scrambled toward her room yelling over shoulder: "I have twine in my room."

About five minutes later, Critter was free on a twine leash and woofing down piece after piece of pear from Cher. He was contentedly lying in her lap. Cher was talking up a storm and asking one question after another. Finally Mrs. Krazenski came into Jade's room to see what all the commotion was about. She was quite startled to see Critter but seemed to curb her alarm as she realized that Critter was pretty calmly eating. Instead, she just watched a bit and finally said: "Cher, make sure he knows where your fingers start. And where the devil did that thing come from?"

Rocco and I looked up when she came to the door of the room and we both started to answer Mrs. Krazenski. We took a while to explain Critter's short history and that we were hoping to take him to the zoo that day since we couldn't keep him anymore. He was just getting too big and roamed at will.

Then Cher started to ask her mother if maybe Critter could stay there. That led to another whole round of "no's", "how comes's", "why not's" and so on. Finally reason prevailed.

Eventually, I found a good pair of sheers and we snipped off the harness. The buckle had rusted and this was the easiest way. We got Critter wrapped back in the towel and we stuffed him into the pack. And prayed. A lot.

Two nerve-wracking hours later, we were strolling through the city zoo headed toward the reptile area. There was a very large building there, called a herpetarium, that had one of the most amazing collections of snakes and reptiles in the country. If fact they had the largest Anaconda in captivity -- so they claimed. It was supposed to be 28 feet long. But before anything else we had business to attend to.

"Now, I've been afraid to ask before now, but just what is your plan?"

"Simple, remember when we were here before, and we saw that monster concrete enclosure filled with reptiles from this continent? Well, when nobody is looking we simply let Critter go into the enclosure."

"But how do we get the door unlocked?"

"Again simple. We just hand Critter to the attendant and he puts him in."

I just looked at Rocco for a moment. He was deliberately leaving out steps 2 through 9 of his plan. "OK, what parts of your plan have you simply failed to tell me?"

Rocco smiled and answered as we were walking through all kinds of hoots and howls of the nearby animals. "Well a couple days ago, I decided to try the honest direct approach. And three phone calls later, I arranged to meet an attendant at the Reptile enclosure at 11 AM today. They will gladly take Critter off our hands."

I looked at Rocco a bit dumbfounded. And finally asked: "Are you feeling all right? What happened to the White-boy I've known these past years? The one who would have tried to figure out some sneaky scheme that would have us both thrown into jail?"

So eventually we found ourselves talking to the attendant. He met us as arranged and when he grabbed Critter from the pack he simply opened a small door and let him lose. Both Rocco and I said our goodbyes. The attendant turned around and we talked about Critter and other reptiles they had.

"You know that iguana is a Mexican variety and can get quite large. I'm glad you boys decided to bring him here. I still can't believe that you had just been letting him roam free all over your neighborhood."

Rocco answered: "Well, he sure became well known. And liked to eat the neighbor's fruit. But he's gotten so big we were getting complaints. So, though sad to see him go, I realized we just couldn't keep him anymore. I was happy to find out that bringing him here would work out so easy."

We talked a bit more and he gave us a short tour of the herpetarium. The inside area sure smelled. When we saw the monster Anaconda, Rocco asked: "The sign here says it's 28 feet long. I was just wondering who volunteered to measure him. And if that person's still alive."

We had a good laugh. The entire place was amazing. All kinds of snakes and lizards, and a number in smaller cages. Rocco got especially interested in the Gila Monster. It was supposed to be one of the rare poisonous lizards in the country. But we eventually left and before we could go too much further into the zoo, Rocco started having a lot of trouble with his allergies.

"Sorry Jade, I guess the confines of the building or something, whatever was in there, I'm allergic to. I'm starting to get an asthma attack. We need to leave."

I was a bit disappointed, but was sure not going to stay under the circumstances. "I remember the last time we were here, you were all right but we stayed outside most the time."

So we eventually wended our way to the bus stop and decided to surprise Dan at the White Castle on Broad Street. We would then take the bus to Roosevelt to get home.

We walked into the fast food place and saw almost no one. We supposed it was well after the lunch rush. There were less than a dozen customers there at the time scattered far and wide.

I looked at Rocco and said: "You sure Dan's working today?"

"Dan said he was working all week on the late day shift. Which should have started about an hour ago."

We went to the order counter and asked for Dan. He was in the back and soon came out, but there was another fellow with him who looked about maybe two or three years older. Suddenly Rocco stopped dead in his tracks and said: "Oh my gosh. That guy looks like Twain!"

And when I took a good look I was astonished myself. It could easily be Twain's older brother. Same build, same hair, same face.

Dan greeted us and introduced the fellow with him. "Well, this is sure a surprise. I'd like you to meet my friend Allen, the guy I talked about several days ago. And Allen, this is Jade and Rocco." Allen didn't have any untoward moment when he shook Jade's hook. Dan must have clued him in. We sat at one of the nearby tables. Dan explained that he had swapped shifts and had just clocked out. Quite lucky that we even caught him.

More introduction type stuff was done and we had to explain how come we were there. All the while Rocco kept staring at Allen like he was some lost relative or something. And I could fully understand why. What an uncanny resemblance.

I was about to say something when Rocco asked Allen the obvious question. "Allen, I'm sure glad to meet you. Dan has been truly smitten." Dan blushed at that -- quite a deep shade. (And I thought the last time the word smitten had ever been used was some time during the Civil War). Rocco continued: "But I need to ask you a question. Do you happen to know someone by the name of Abraham Goldstein? His Mom's name is Hillary."

It was now Allen's turn to look startled. "Of course. If you got the right Goldstein's, Hillary is my older sister, and I'm Abraham's uncle, even if I'm only a few years older. Everyone says we look a bit alike."

Now it was me who was a bit surprised. "Holly smoke, I can't believe it. Your sister was my Mama's lawyer! We were just at their place several weeks ago swimming in their pool! Rocco goes to school with Twain. I mean Abraham."

I was about to explain the "Twain" nickname, but Rocco had to jump in. "Well, quite a bit more than a bit! The resemblance is amazing. You could be his older twin brother!" Rocco's logic was not always logical, but the meaning got across. And the nickname was eventually explained.

Now we were all starting to talk at once. Finally Dan got the upper hand. "Wait a minute here. Now I'm the one in the dark." He looked at Allen. And I would have to say that this was about the happiest I had ever seen Dan since we had met. "You mean to say, that in a city of 4 million people, I happen to connect up with someone who is related to a schoolmate and also the lawyer of the first gay boys I ever got really acquainted with?"

Rocco and I suddenly looked at each other in a bit of apprehension. Did he actually say that out loud? Rocco looked around, his ever present paranoia still in heavy control. No one had overheard fortunately. But Dan saw both our looks. He then quickly followed with: "Oh sorry. But Allen and I have been pretty open about ourselves. I wasn't thinking."

Rocco finally stopped looking around in mild alarm and said: "I guess it don't matter too much here, but you told Allen about Jade and me?"

Allen was just looking on as Dan replied: "Of course. Your story is one of the most amazing ones I know. Allen was really surprised that two high school kids could hook up like you two have done. And all the things you've just been through."

Rocco groaned a bit as I just looked on blankly. I asked: "You mean you also told Allen all about what just happened to us?"

Dan started to stammer a bit and it was Allen who attempted the rescue. "Hey look guys, Dan told me a few things which I had a hard time believing, but I sort of squeezed it out of him when the story hit the news and he accidentally made some remark about knowing you two. I was astonished when I found out that the two gay high school boys he had talked about so much were also the ones in the news! Maybe you should blame me for forcing him to tell all so to speak." Allen then looked at Dan and there seemed to be some silent communication going on. I wondered if Rocco and I were as obvious when we did that in front of others.

Rocco was strangely silent again, just letting me carry on our side of the conversation. This was getting a bit weird. He's done this several times now. And this was sure different. Not that I was worried or anything. It just seemed strange. And I hadn't asked him about this yet.

Well, anyway, the whole thing got smoothed over. Rocco finally said that it really didn't matter. As long as our relationship really didn't get known by the wrong people. He finally asked: "I was only worried that nobody else actually finds out about Jade and me. My parents don't know and I can't let them find out yet. I would ask that you don't let anyone else know especially your aunt or your nephew. That could be disaster for Jade and me."

I was looking on when Rocco suddenly got this funny look. I knew him enough to realize that his brain was suddenly put into overdrive. So soon after both Dan and Allen assured us that they talked about us only to Consuelo, Rocco asked Allen as soon as the conversation allowed: "And it just occurred to me. And I hope you don't think I'm unnecessarily prying, but does either your sister or Twain know about you?"

Dan and Allen looked at each other a second or two, and then Allen answered: "Actually I really don't know about my nephew. He may suspect. But my sister and I have talked about it a number of times. And we get along pretty well. In fact she was the first person I ever confided with about my being gay. It took a while but she eventually got comfortable with the idea, if not exactly ecstatic. But she is a really a liberally freed individual."

And Rocco continued: "And I was wondering if perhaps your sister already knew about Jade. Or even myself. It's conceivable that Jade's Mama actually told her about her suspicions since your aunt set up Jade's trust fund."

Now it was my turn to stare. I now remembered us even talking about this possibility. But I had completely forgotten.

But it was Allen who replied: "But why should it have even come up?"

Rocco smiled. "Well Jade's Mama had your aunt write my name as co-trustee on her son's trust fund!"

Allen looked surprised: "You, and not some close relative?"

Rocco answered: "Now you see the possible implications? And Jade's Mama certainly knew Jade and I think she suspected about me. Do you think your sister would have asked Jade's Mama how come MY name? And why?"

We batted this around a bit more and we decided that first of all, it was barely possible his aunt already knew about Jade and me, and also nobody would say anything to Twain for the time being. Rocco was especially worried about anyone at school finding out about us.

Eventually one topic led to another when Allen finally asked: "You mean you guys intend to get married? Is that even possible? I have to admit that before Dan actually mentioned about you two, it never occurred to me for two guys like us would actually get married. I find the idea intriguing. Sure I've hoped that some day I could find someone to live with as a partner but . . ."

He just left it hanging. Again Rocco was strangely silent. Just smiling and looking at me. So I answered: "It was actually Rocco who suddenly wondered why we couldn't get married when I made a joke about it one day. He gets ideas like that sometimes. It's one of the reasons I love him so much. And then I though about it myself and realized that I too wanted us to be married. So someday we will be."

Finally Rocco did join in: "Actually we are so committed to each other right now I almost feel married. I guess you could say we are engaged. We even found a pastor who said he would consider marrying us when we got a bit older."

And that remark sure struck home. "What?!" Allen seemed a bit startled. "You two actually talked to some minister about getting married?"

And then that took another long explanation. And the way Dan and Allen were looking at each other, I was wondering about how serious they were with one another already.

Eventually it was Rocco who mentioned Consuelo. "If I know Consuelo, she's going to want to know all about our meeting here today. I guess we don't mind you telling about any of this."

On our way home on the el Rocco seemed deep in thought again. I wondered about what. Especially since he stood, OK, I mean sat that way without even looking at anything in particular for almost 20 minutes. It was really eerie. I knew he could concentrate like that, but usually only when we were studying. I decided to just wait until he came up for air. Eventually he did.

"Jade I was just thinking. We need to make some contingency plans."

I kept waiting for the punch line but he stopped and said no more. He was being mysterious again. "Plans about what?" But he never even heard me. He was thinking again. Weirder and weirder. I was almost starting to worry a bit.

Finally he looked at me again and said: "As time goes on, more and more people will necessarily find out about us. We can't stop it. Unless we almost stop being with each other. And even then it will still be problematical. Eventually my parents WILL find out. So many people know already. We can't control everything and not even our own selves." He sort of gave a half smile and continued: "By the way, what did you think about Dan and Allen today?"

"Well, I think they are great together and I'm really happy for Dan. He seems to be really happy. Why?"

"Let's pretend you were say, Dan's brother. I mean you knew him as well as a brother would know him. And you saw him together with Allen today. What would you think?"

"I'm not sure just what you're getting at. But they seemed really close. And they only knew each other for a couple a couple months at best."

"And let's suppose that you didn't know about Dan being gay, but then saw him and Allen like they were today with each other. What would you think?"

I stared at Rocco a bit and suddenly saw just what he was getting at. "Oh my gosh. I see. Holy smoke! They certainly seemed awfully close. And the way they acted with each other! Yeah, you might start wondering."

"Exactly. Now how about us? If people see us together enough, or see us at the wrong moment, would we start making someone start to wonder? Remember what you told me that Dr. Krazenski said about his wife? And even Cher? And what you said about the doctor asking about if my Mom was blind? I am suddenly getting VERY paranoid."

"Holy smoke! I see what you are getting at. But what can we do? I sure don't want to stop being with you!"

Rocco sat there a moment and finally gave out a big sigh: "I have come to the following conclusions. My Mom HAS to at least wonder about just how close we really are. And I think it is conceivable that she would keep her worries to herself until she is sure that there really is something between us. She's like that. Also, I doubt that anyone else at home, except Dolores of course, would even suspect. So it's just my Mom. And when we start school this coming year we will have to be pretty careful."

"But Rocco, how about your Mom? What should we do?"

Rocco sighed again. "I don't know. I will have to think about it. But we need to plan just what we will do assuming my Mom eventually finds out about us. She will definitely make every attempt to keep us apart. And she will also even think about trying to cure me. That has me even more scared. So we need to figure out some contingency plans."

Now my White-boy had me worried. "Look, whatever happens, we have to remember always one thing. We're together. OK?"

Rocco smiled. "That's what helps me not be so frightened about the seriousness of the problem. I realize that no matter what, we have each other. And maybe I'm being a bit too paranoid. But seeing Allen and Dan together today really got me wondering."

So we talked about this all the rest of the way home. But we didn't get very far with any contingency plans. The only things we did agree on was that maybe Dr. Krazenski could somehow be our ally.

Finally, just before we got to my place Rocco said something that seemed to cheer him up. "Of course there's one more thing. I could be underestimating my own mother. And there's one more really scary thing. And this is hard to actually put in words."

I looked at him and could even see a real smile on his face for the first time in an hour or more. "OK White-boy. Are you just going to be mysterious again? Do I have to drag it out of you?"

Rocco smiled again and this time even bigger. "Actually two things. Maybe even three. One, I'm happy! And I was wondering exactly just why considering how worried I am about my Mom finding about us. And you know what? It doesn't seem to matter quite as much any more. I mean we have each other. And that alone is enough. I mean the big lie as I always thought of it just don't seem quite so important. And two, I think I'm starting to think about things differently. I mean instead of just giving all thought into just keeping our secret, maybe there's another way. Just maybe I can talk to my Mom as if I were an adult. Or at least more mature. I mean, eventually I will have to do just that. I know I'm not making a lot of sense, but it's like I feel like I've grown up a bit all of a sudden. That was number three. What do you think?"

And now it was my turn to be a bit surprised. This is a type of conversation we never really had before. And I wondered just why not. "You know White-boy, I think you have something there. I mean, how come we keep acting about things like we're so scared of everything?"

We sat on the steps to my place talking about things we never talked about before. I felt almost like we were suddenly really together. A real couple. It felt great. Our conversation eventually got around about my own fears. And I had a couple big ones. But at least we were starting to talk about these things.

"You know White-boy, I just had a thought. I suddenly wondered what your Mom would be thinking if she could see us talking like this. I was wondering if we would be giving ourselves away big time."

Instead of reacting as usual about such a thought, Rocco smiled. "Well, I guess we just can't worry so much about it. We have two more years of high school ahead of us so we have time to think things out. Why not let's us just enjoy being together and have fun."

I though about that a bit and finally remembered what Dr. Krazenski said earlier. "You know, maybe we should really talk to Dr. Krazenski about these things. He said that he would help as much as he could. And while we're at it, I need to ask you a question. Lately there have been times when we have been talking with people and instead of jumping in as you usually do, you just kept quiet and I had to answer instead. Like when we were talking to Dan and Allen earlier and you just let me answer a lot and just sat back. I was wondering that's not usually like you."

Rocco got this funny look like he hadn't really understood me for a second and then finally answered: "I guess I didn't realize it myself until you pointed it out. But now you mention it, I think it just didn't matter all that much to me if I answered or you. It's like almost that you are a part of me and it didn't matter who answered. You answering was the same as me answering. Does that make sense?"

"I guess it does. And you just made me feel great."

We finally went inside and up to my room. Rocco had already arranged to eat here this evening and just phoned his Mom to let her know that he got here in one piece. When he got off the phone I looked at him with my best guileless smile. Since I moved in I had set up my record player again and Cher had invited me to look through all her records. I knew he was going to explode but I did it anyway.

"Hey White-boy. You keep telling me that some white guys can actually sing and that my almost 100% black record collection needed some whitening up. So I just got this record buy one of you white folk."

"What is it?"

"Just listen." And I put it on. And soon we were listening to a song that Rocco had fits about last Summer: "Alley Oop, Oop , . . .Oop, Oop, Oop. . . . Alley Oop, Oop, . . . Oop, Oop, Oop, . . . Alley Oop was a cave man. . . ."

The record never got to the next groove. Rocco started screaming. And I started laughing. I knew he would react like this. He hated most of the newer Rock and Roll. I finally hollered for him not to scratch the record as he grabbed it and pretended to throw it in the trash.

"How could you assault my ears like that? And you just got done saying that you loved me. This proves you were lying."

I was laughing so hard, I could barely answer. "It's Cher's; she got it last Summer. She said it was number one half the summer. It replaced your other favorite. "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny, Yellow Polka-dot Bikini."

Rocco moaned in terrible anguish again. "Noooo! Stop torturing me! That one was even worse. Don't you have anything that sounds like actual music? Or at least has words that really have something important to say?"

I leafed through the small collection and pulled out an oldie. It was recorded years ago. "OK, how about this. It came out way back in 1956. I think you were in diapers yet. And this guy is even white!" And I put on Johnny Cash's I Walk The Line.

After a few minutes, Rocco was still listening. He then was finally able to read the record label. "Where'd you get that, and who's Johnny Cash? He can even sing."

We listened to a few more. I got most of these from Cher. "How about this one? It just came out. You said you liked his previous hit."

Rocco listened a while. "Well, not too bad. At least he can sing a bit. But I liked his other one better."

"You mean you recognize who this is?" I was astonished. Rocco barely cared enough for this type of music to remember different singers.

"Well, I can't remember the song or even the person's name, but I remember the voice. His other one was something about the lonely or something feels this way or something."

"You really bollixed that up but yeah, it's Ray Orbison. This one is called Crying.

Then I saw one that I couldn't remember Cher giving me. I put it on anyway since I was curious. I had never heard of The Tokens. Must be some white guys again. "Hey Rocco, here's one called The Lion Sleeps Tonight. It has to be one of Cher's new ones. I didn't know I even had it. I haven't heard it myself."

Rocco started to say something as the record started, and then suddenly stopped. And he just listened for a while. "That's a weird song. It don't even sound like Rock and Roll. Sure you didn't steal some record from Mrs. Krazenski or something? And he can even sing, even if many of the words can't be real English. What did you say it was called?"

For Rocco, that was high praise. "OK, it's called The Lion Sleeps Tonight, by The Tokens. And don't ask. Never heard of them before. But they sound white. And for actually saying something nice about a song, I will put on one that you said you liked."

I put on Dion DiMucci's Teenager in Love. "This guy's Italian like you, Dion DiMucci. And even I will admit he can sing."

Rocco listened and he didn't say anything. He moved over to me and hugged me tight. We sort of gravitated to the bed and we wound up embracing each other with our bodies entwined. Finally Rocco kissed me lightly. A bit later he said: "I'm also a teenager in love. That song makes me think of us. That's one reason I like it so much. And that Dion guy can really sing pretty good too."

The song ended but we didn't. I got up and took off my hooks. Rocco knew I was serious then. I got back down on top of him and we just lay there together. Somehow, after all we talked about today, we sort of both seemed to just want to feel together. After a while I was shocked to hear my White-boy crying. Now what?

He seemed to realize that I wanted him to say something. "Sorry Jade. Just got a bit sad again. Actually a mixture of happy and sad if that makes sense."

For my White-boy it did. He was like that. He thought too much sometimes. He'd start out happy and then would start thinking and sure enough, he'd latch onto something sad. "OK, White-boy. Tell me."

"Well I was so happy with us just being together, and then started thinking about why can't the world just be happy for us?" We just lay there for a few more minutes. And I thought I'd like an answer to that one too.

Suddenly we were interrupted by loud knocking on the door. It was Cher. "Dinner's ready. Mom said to come down." I looked over at the door and realized it was now open a crack. I wondered just what Cher might have seen.

Copyright 2006 by Rocco Paperiello