Two Boys

Rocco Paperiello


This is the final Part IV of a four part story. (See Part I for Index). It is a story 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? Find a different story. Or perhaps read on; you may be persuaded to think differently.

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 six. I definitely don't want the thought police after either of our butts.

Please, this story is sort of my property, so if you ever want to quote some of it, please e-mail me and also give proper attribution.

Note that an author welcomes any feedback. Constructive criticism is appreciated, and all e-mails will be answered.

Rocco Paperiello

PART IV -- Graduation and College

Chapter 87a -- Crises (Worldwide and Otherwise)

Rocco sometimes complains that I never listen to the news. I remember one morning at work last Summer while I was updating our Cardex, Rocco came into the office and kept trying to make me make a mistake. At least that's what it seemed like. It wasn't even break time but he was brave when his Aunt Valley wasn't around. Every time I tried to concentrate he just found another portion of the Daily News, to "make sure I knew what was happening in the world."

"Listen to this Jade, yesterday the U.S. blew up Johnston Island with an H-bomb."

"I sure hope they got all the people off first." I replied.

A few moments later: "And listen to this. The National League finally won an All-Star game yesterday."

"Any of your Phillies in the game?"

Without even answering Rocco went on: "Telstar, our first geosynchronous communications satellite was launched yesterday."

"What's `geosynchronous' mean?"

"It's an orbit above the equator where its speed exactly matches the rotation of the earth so it stays over just one spot. I think it must be at an altitude of around 22,000 miles. . . . And wow, listen to THIS! Your Martin Luther King was arrested in Georgia yesterday."

I was about to ask exactly why he was MY Martin Luther King, when we heard from behind us: "And OUR Rocco Papariello was kicked out of the office for the hundredth time this Summer. . ."

Rocco turned to see Valley in the doorway from the warehouse side of the office. "Hi Aunt Valley. Jade never reads the news so I have to keep filling him in."

Fortunately Rocco always got his work done even ahead of time so nobody really gave him a hard time when he was caught in the office like that. He sped around that warehouse with both forklifts, missing everything by just inches all the time, and faster than JB's truck goes uphill. A week ago I put up a 45 mph speed sign that even his uncle got a laugh at.

But getting back to reading up on the news, my excuse is that lately, it's usually been pretty depressing. And recently there have been two major things dominating it.

First of all there were all the wars breaking out all over the place. I think just a couple of days ago there was a story about a new war in the Congo. It sometimes feels like the whole world is either at war, or trying to be at war. The other big thing was all the big ruckus about desegregation of the south especially the schools. Desegregation was ordered years ago but it's finally taken all this time for something to be done about it in many places. There's a thing right now about a black guy going to the University of Mississippi that has blown up into a big deal involving federal troops and everything. And then there is all the bussing of students to different schools.

One time when we were discussing this very issue I looked at Rocco and exclaimed: "And this bussing thing is terrible."

Rocco looked at me in genuine surprise. "You gotta be kidding? Bussing is to help integration and to help black kids get a better education." Rocco is a bit naive sometimes.

"Well, how would you like spending so much of your day on a school bus, and going to some school out of your neighborhood, away from a lot of your friends, and where everyone hates you? I doubt you'd learn very much in that atmosphere."

I keep saying to Rocco that it don't matter what gets forced onto people, it's what's in their hearts that means anything. And we need a whole lot of changing people's hearts before there is real equality.

Rocco said that it's not fair to lump everybody together. Many people really want to treat black people just like everybody else. And I know he's right.

Then I smiled a bit and continued: "What REALLY isn't fair is for God not only to make a boy colored, but to make him a homosexual to boot." We both smiled and kissed.

Our discussion started out being half serious, and then degenerated. We started joking around about not-fair things.

Rocco eventually mentioned that it wasn't fair for the Yankees to keep winning the World Series, like they did again this year. And for the Phillies to keep losing all the time. I said but that was why God made the New York Mets, so the Phillies had a team they could actually beat. He didn't see the humor in that remark at all. That was a real sore point for Rocco. His precious ball team was always in the cellar.

I then got serious again and said it's not fair to be sending all our boys to Vietnam to be killed. Rocco and I had a real disagreement on this.

"But we got to stop the spread of Communism; besides they're only advisors." Rocco was dead serious. As I said, he`s awful naive at times. "The same thing now in Cuba since Castro turned out to be a communist after all. Too bad the Bay of Pigs was such a disaster."

Now this was something else we totally disagreed on. I rejoined: "What we got to stop is stupidity. And it's stupid to go over to Vietnam and get killed for no reason. Just like Korea, we can never really win. So what's the point of getting killed for nothing? And furthermore, what's the percentage of black boys being sent over?" I didn't convince him, but he said he'd think about what I said.

"And one more thing. Please explain to me just how will Kennedy's putting an embargo on Cuba actually help the people living there?"

Rocco thought a bit and said: "Well, I don't know. But we got to do something."

"I tell you what. You think of something that doesn't hurt the people that live there and I'll listen. How come nobody seems to realize that real people are getting killed and hurt?" Now I was on a tear. And that was usually Rocco's prerogative.

"OK, maybe you're right. I just wish I COULD think of something. But what happens if we don't stop Communism?"

"You're thinking too simplistically. If what everyone says is true, Communism will collapse all by itself. Economically it can't succeed." At least that's what Allen was saying and he made sense.

I don't think I really convinced him. Rocco did say: "OK, what crystal ball you been looking into? I think you're much too optimistic."

I decided to get off the subject of Vietnam or Cuba. It was too depressing. I decided to get less serious. I said: "What's really not fair is that the first broadcast by Telstar being a sporting event." They just put the new communication satellite up this past summer, and what they use it for? Sports!

Rocco smiled. He was a lot more into sports than I was. "What's REALLY not fair is having to play Rod Laver in tennis."

"Oh, you mean that white man's sport? I guess next you're gonna talk about yacht racing." I said that with a smile, deliberately goading him on. And that got us arguing about who were better athletes.

And that got us talking about how come we stopped playing half-ball. I hadn't seen Jimmy for forever and I don't think Rocco has seen Teague or Joey for a few months. Well, I guess we've been so caught up in everything else, and we were working so much of the time all summer. His uncle had me working six days a week, but Rocco had to stay at 40 hours because of his age. Well at first. Aunt Valley soon found a loop hole and he was put to work as contract labor and he then could 'decide his own hours' since the number of hours never showed up in any paperwork. And so with working all summer we did little else. There was a big fuss made by his parents when vacation time came. And I also knew how much Rocco always looked forward for those three weeks 'exploring.' But finally his Uncle Bill was able to arrange for Rocco to live right there with his aunt and uncle for those weeks. Unfortunately that meant that Rocco and I spent even less time together. But by the end of the summer we had quite a lot of money saved.

As September approached we both kept getting more and more excited about getting married. We talked about that quite a lot and even about our expectations from each other. And of course that led to another topic -- sex. And of course much of that needed very few words at all. After one of the 'sermons' by Dr. Krazenski we decided to be pretty careful, but not celibate. And although we had talked about anal sex I was worried more about hurting my White-boy than getting caught. He was so small and a certain part of me was so big. I think I was now even bigger than my uncle. Well, it was easy enough to put that off for the time being.

And so our conversation was momentarily interrupted this time much the same way. And more importantly no one was around to interrupt. So for the next hour or so not a single thought of Cuba or Viet Nam or sports intruded. Of course in a way race did; Rocco was intent on examining all the really coal black skin he found in the area of my genitals. And I said as much. I directed the examination; Rocco's good at taking directions.

The Fall months were personally uneventful. I mean nothing dramatic happened in our lives. Of course we got married on September 22, and had our one-day `honeymoon' the next day, but technically that was still Summer. And Rocco was quite ecstatic when he learned that he was indeed a semifinalist for a Merit Scholarship award. But again that was also technically still Summer. Of course in the world arena Fall was quite the opposite. And that brings us to that really bad week in October. There were a number of bad things which occurred that week. I guess the worst was how close we got to World War III. I mean seriously! It was scary! There had been hints of it in the news for a while but it was on the same Monday during which Rocco and I had spent a couple hours after school celebrating our one month anniversary, when President Kennedy appeared on TV and announced that the Russians were putting missiles into Cuba. He was on for a while and presented actual photos from U-2 flights showing missile silos and everything. What was really scary, something I didn't realize until the next day when I read it in the newspaper, was that there was going to be a blockade. But I'll get back to the missiles and stuff in a moment.

I have to tell you what the (censored, censored) little scamp, Tim, did to us on Monday afternoon. Well, let's backup to Saturday. That was the real start of the `bad week.' It was on Saturday when Rocco and I had our own minor skirmish. I admit I made more of it than I probably should, and I suppose that it was the idea that it had to happen at all that got me more frustrated at circumstances than mad at my White-boy. Although it had to have been planned a lot earlier, it wasn't until that Saturday when Rocco finally admitted the REAL reason why we weren't spending Sunday evening with the Joey and his girlfriend at Joey's house. When he told me of his plans for Sunday, and that they didn't include US, I was not happy at all.

I admit I got a bit huffy: "How can you suddenly decide to go on a date? And NOT with me? We're married remember!"

Rocco, I could tell, was feeling guilty in spite of his words. "You're deliberately refusing to understand. And you're deliberately overreacting trying to make me feel guilty. But when my parents started asking how come I don't go to dances anymore with my sister, and even started asking questions about girlfriends, well, I HAD to do something. Besides, I was getting certain hints from Joey that he`d rather be alone Sunday with his girlfriend -- quite a rare chance at his house."

Rocco realized that I was more exasperated than anything else. So I changed my argument. "Look, Rocco, how about the girl? You ever think it's not fair to her?"

"Well, it's not like we're going steady or anything. Just a movie and she gets a free dinner out of it too. And at that new fancy restaurant even."

Now THAT was what I was really miffed about. I rejoined: "And I thought we'd see that movie together. And go to that restaurant."

The movie was Hatari! with John Wayne, all about capturing animals in Africa. I wasn't really all that interested but it was the idea that we had talked about going to it ourselves. And that's what I finally said.

Rocco exclaimed: "So that's the real reason you don't like what I'm doing. Well when I mentioned a movie, it was Janet who was all excited about a John Wayne movie. We can find some other movie. How about that one they've been advertising, To Kill a Mockingbird? It's supposed to be good and besides it has Gregory Peck."

"First of all, it's you who likes Gregory Peck, and besides that's not out `til Christmas. And it's not even the movie. It's the idea of you doing with someone else what we had planned to do together."

Rocco saw my point but I also had to admit that we still could see another movie ourselves.

Rocco then said: "OK then. How about Charade? That's come back again and supposed to be really good."

We agreed on Charade. (And Rocco still got a Cary Grant movie -- someone he liked almost as much as Gregory Peck). Actually, I thought it probably would be better than Hatari! but I had to give my White-boy some grief for forsaking me for a girl.

On Monday Rocco confirmed that Hatari! wasn't all that good. He remarked: "The only redeeming quality was the half-naked natives running around."

It was on Monday after school when Tim did his thing. He and Billy I noticed were all excited about something when we saw them in Tim's room but I didn't connect it with anything until later. Rocco was still trying to `make up' for abandoning me on Sunday so he was the one that day who started taking off my clothes. The Webster's were out somewhere and the boys were playing their music so loud they'd never hear a thing. We were both naked and I picked my White-boy up, pulled back the covers, and threw him into the bad.

And then Rocco shrieked. (He claims it was just a moderate yell). I couldn't figure out for a moment what was happening; Rocco was usually pretty quiet and passive at this stage. But then I saw all this white goo all over Rocco's legs and butt. Someone (or rather `some two`) had emptied a can of Burma Shave all over inside my bed. I then heard at loud squeal just outside my door and then a thunder of age 11 feet running down the stairs.

Rocco had yelled from the surprise and when I attacked him anyway we still enjoyed the next half hour. It sure felt different. Later, after we cleaned ourselves up and put the sheets into the washer, we talked about getting even with the two kids.

Rocco eventually remarked: "I'm a bit surprised that Billy was a part of this. I was hoping that Billy would be a good influence on Tim, but it seems Tim has corrupted Billy instead." Rocco was more amused than mad.

But Rocco didn't see the real implication. "Why do you suppose that Tim and Billy were listening outside our door anticipating that we would be using my bed?"

"Holy smoke! They figured we'd be . . ." He never finished.

"Now you see? I think we need to have a talk with those two. AND we need to be more careful about where and when we have sex."

But we never did get to talk with Tim or Billy that day or even that week. Rocco was just ready to leave when Tim and Billy rushed from outside into the living room to turn on the TV.

Tim remarked: "Damn! We've missed part of it already." (It was a good thing Mrs. Webster didn't hear him use that word).

After the set warmed up we saw the showing of some old slap-stick comedy. I guess Billy and Tim couldn't see enough of it. And after he stood watching it a while I could tell that maybe Rocco couldn't either. I kept trying to tell myself that it was too stupid to be funny but couldn't quite stop watching it myself. It sort of almost compelled you to watch. But I'd be too embarrassed to let anyone know that I watched it willingly. I'm glad I had the excuse that Tim wanted to see it. I remember Rocco and I talked about it several weeks later.

Rocco commented: "Normally I can't stand comedy where the so-called funny situation occurs when some one is just being plain stupid. That's why I can't stand the I love Lucy Show, or Jerry Lewis movies, but somehow I still like The Three Stooges."

I finally admitted that I liked to watch the show too. But again we couldn't say exactly why we both couldn't stop laughing at all their dumb antics.

Well, that was almost two weeks later when the tensions of that week in October were merely memories. But during that week, we were all anxious and even frightened. As I said on Monday we learned a lot more. It had been in the news all weekend about the possibility of there being Russian missiles in Cuba.

Cuban Missle Base Photo, Oct 1962

We weren't quite sure what to think. But Kennedy went on TV Monday night and we got a whole lot more information about the missile bases in Cuba. He even showed a bunch of the spy planes' photos. And that didn't look good. Kennedy talked about the discovery that Russia was putting in missile silos there. Thank goodness no evidence of any missiles yet. But he said that we had to do something to contain the threat. As I said one of the scary things was his setting a blockade for Soviet ships on their way to Cuba.

That Tuesday was one of those rare times that I remember sitting down at lunch and nobody paid too much attention with whom they were associating. The worry about a possible war seemed to break down barriers. In fact I found myself even talking with a couple of white kids in my class about it and we just sort of continued the conversation as we drifted into the cafeteria. Most of the talk was about how we would just "kick their butts," but it was more bravado than conviction. At the school paper, it was a topic we all returned to eventually no matter what else we had been concentrating on. Rocco and I talked a lot about how this crisis was affecting everyone. During those few days when everyone was waiting for the Russian ships to meet up with our "quarantine" line, he was especially worried.

On more than one occasion Rocco expressed his enormous worry: "I just wonder if the Russians will back down. That's what's really scary."

Well, during the next couple days tensions grew even worse. You could really tell in school. People were on edge and it was almost always brought up in conversation no matter what you started talking about. At lunch Wednesday, as I sat down with my tray I knocked everything over. Damn! And I had the habit with my hooks of always being so careful. Rocco got me a new tray, while Twain mopped everything up.

When Rocco got back Twain said to him that we had been talking about the coming confrontation with the Russian ships taking the missiles to Cuba. They were already in the Atlantic and the US naval ships were stationing themselves about several hundred miles off Cuba to stop them.

"This is real scary." Rocco said. "The Russians might consider that an act of war."

Twain added. "A blockade IS considered an act of war. My Mom said that most nations agreed, and international law forbids it. And both USA and Russia are signatories to the last International Treaty."

I was ready to reply when Rocco jumped in. "That's why Kennedy called it a `quarantine.' He said all other ships aren't being stopped, just the ones carrying missiles. Therefore it's not a blockade."

John Edell spoke up: "That's just semantics. What's important is this. Will the Russians turn their ships around or will there be a fight? And if a fight, will we get into a nuclear war?"

That was what had everyone worried. Twain added: "I just hope that Khrushchev isn't as crass and volatile as he acts."

I finally added my two cents (OK 10 cents). "Look, you don't get to be the Premier of Russia by being crass and stupid. It essentially takes a person with political savvy. Don't underestimate Khrushchev. A lot of that thing at the U.N. last year was for the press. That whole shoe incident."

Rocco then said: "Well, we'll know Friday. That's when the Russian ships will reach the quarantine line as it's called. And if that don't work, then we'll have no choice but to invade Cuba."

I couldn't let that go by: "Now that WOULD cause World War III. Let's suppose your Castro. What's the very FIRST thing you would want the Russians to do, after the US tried to help those Cubans at the Bay of Pigs?"

John Edell answered: "Well, Castro would want to make sure we can't win if we do invade."

I continued: "So how can the Russians make sure? They can't really get that many troops there even if they wanted to. So they instead bring in the latest tanks and technology."

I could tell as he looked at me, that Rocco couldn't figure out what I was getting at.

"So? We have better tanks and stuff than the Russians."

"But that doesn't matter if the Russians brought over tactical nukes."

Rocco visibly went white. "Oh shoot! I never thought of that. That could start a nuclear war."

It was Edell who asked: "The Russians have tactical nuclear weapons? I thought only we had them."

Twain answered. "No, the State Department a few years ago already said the Russians had them. And the latest ones they claim are no larger than a big suitcase. They even called them dial-a-bombs. You can dial in the radius of destruction."

Now Rocco was even more worried. "Shit. But Kennedy has to know this. . . . Doesn't he?"

"Let's hope so. But Kennedy's been proven pretty stupid so far. Let's hope his brother can make him see reason." That was Twain.

And Rocco was instantly defensive. "Kennedy's a great president. Look at all the social things he's pushed through, like increased minimum wage and enforcement of desegregation and all. And planning to put someone on the moon." Some of the other kids agreed.

But Edell then asked: "What does his brother have to do about all this? He's just the Attorney General."

Twain answered. "And also an important advisor. I almost like him even though he's a Democrat. And he's twice as smart as his brothers."

But it will all came down to Friday. That's what Rocco said and I agreed. "Friday is BD-day. That's the crucial point. Everything else is secondary. Will the Russians back down?"

It was only later that day that both Rocco and I realized that Jabloski, who almost rivaled Rocco on how much he needed to talk, barely said a word the whole meal.

And when Friday finally came, nobody could do anything. It was so tense that nothing could get done. In fact we didn't have real classes. The teacher in our homeroom had a big TV set on top of his desk, and we didn't even change classrooms. We could even roam the halls. We weren't supposed to, but nobody stopped you from leaving to go to the boy's room. The networks cancelled most of their programming and we just watched Walter Cronkite and others all day. Even the news people didn't stay in their suits and ties. Cronkite was in rolled up sleeves and no tie by 10 AM. Things were getting so tense nobody hardly talked. Except about what could happen. Finally, early in the afternoon, the Russians ships started turning around. Amazing! The worst part was over. Now if nothing happened in Cuba itself. I just hoped Kennedy wasn't so stupid to think he could invade Cuba now.

Rocco was so relieved he started talking again. He hardly had said a word the last two hours. I knew he wanted to hold me but we couldn't here in school. We couldn't even take a chance in the men's room. People were in and out all day.

"Well, tomorrow is also a crucial day." I said. "About what will happen in Cuba. You can be sure we're sending spy planes over a lot. Let's hope none get shot down!" I thought that could be almost as bad.

Rocco looked like he hadn't thought of that. For someone so smart, he just doesn't see things sometimes. "Hadn't thought of that. But at least we can start breathing again."

We did a lot more than breathe that evening. It was the only evening Rocco was over this week. It seemed since we were now married we saw less of each other than usual sometimes.

I remarked: "So now that you caught me, you think you don't need to romance me any more?"

Rocco smiled. "You finally figured me out. Now I got you, I can take you for granite." Then he got this thinking look. "I was just wondering. Where'd that expression come from anyways? And I was thinking about something after school today. I didn't even think about those things you brought up. About the tactical weapons, and maybe a plane being shot down, and I started wondering why."

I finally saw a new aspect of my White-boy. This was one of the few times he'd actually started wondering about what he HADN'T thought about. He's usually pretty impulsive. And I told him so.

"But you'd think, being as smart as I think I am, how come I just get too impulsive some times? I mean even Dolores says I don't have any common sense. And that's just making sure you're aware of the implications of what you do and say. At least that's how I thought it out. So how come?"

"Can I say something that you might not like to hear?"

Rocco immediately started to say something and then stopped. Eventually, after a blitzkrieg of thought he said: "Let's hope I can."

"Well, I think you're so smart, you think you can always think your way out of something. And a lot of times this isn't so bad since you do this for other people as well. You try to help them out of situations too. But sometimes, when you think you got a solution, you stop thinking. You don't go further and look at all the things you might be missing. And especially about what could be the consequences. Which can be bad."

"But. . ." He started; then abruptly stopped. Then he smiled: "OK, but I think it's because I usually have all good intentions, I don't see the bad consequences. I mean if I only wanted good stuff to happen, I don't see if there are bad things that could happen too." And he thought some more.

"Actually I think it's maybe even worse than that. It's like I so want something to turn out a certain way, I won't believe I can't make it happen. Maybe I'm too arrogant sometimes. And proud."

"Crudely put, but succinct, as Dr. Krazenski is fond of saying." I smiled. Rocco was right. He so much mostly had good intentions he didn't realize that others did not. And I loved him for it. "Well, how about just putting in more thought before you decide something? And of course, how about us talking about things too?"

"Well, we do that already. But I see your point." Rocco was amazing some times, and hard to figure out at the same time. Sometimes he can be so honest about himself without the slightest bit getting angry at the implications, while at other times he'd fight to the death. And I couldn't figure out just why some things didn't faze him while others bothered him way more than me. Well, I have a lifetime to figure him out. I smiled at the thought.

As we got out our math books -- yes it was a Friday but Rocco would be gone the rest of the weekend -- I started thinking about what Rocco had said about the phrase "take for granite." And I was thinking that it would make much more sense if it were "take for granted." The words are pronounced almost the same. I would try to look it up if I could. I mentioned this to Rocco and he decided that I had to be correct. We then got down to our math review. We had Calculus this year and a big test was coming up. As Rocco finished each problem, he leaned in, looking over my shoulder and couldn't stop kibitzing as I was trying to finish the problem myself. I told him that it was irritating. Then I got even more irritated when I got to one I couldn't do and was trying to figure out how to get him to help and save my pride at the same time. Of course Rocco again proved he could read my mind.

He leaned over me again and said: "I'll help you with that only if you promise to read my latest English paper and give me some pointers."

He made the problem look so easy when he showed me how to work it out.

"OK White-boy. Since you're so smart, how about explaining the theory of the derivative to me. It's complicated."

"Actually it's so simple; you just think it has to be hard. So you don't trust yourself to actually believe you understand it. Just remember that basically a derivative is the ratio of two changing rates. Don't try to understand it from its word definition. Forget about all that. Just look at a diagram of what is happening and THEN PUT IT IN YOUR OWN WORDS. I mean when you see what's happening, make up your own definition. Then you just have to translate it into `math-ese.' And I bet you come pretty close to how the book says it."

Twenty minutes, and a couple diagrams later, I realized he was right. "Damn. If you don't become a teacher, I will hurt you bad. How come our teacher, Mr. Wilson, didn't explain it like that?" Rocco had explained a while back that Mr. Wilson was one of the seminarians who taught for a couple of years between their last year of college and before they went back to school for Theology. But anyway, Mr. Wilson was not exactly an inspirational teacher.

Rocco then corrected my grammar. "You used an adjective instead of an adverb. It's `hurt you badLY, ' not `bad'."

I told him his English was `worser' than mine except when he took a test. He then resorted to violence.

A little later Rocco just stopped suddenly and got his thinking mode going. "I hope I'm wrong, but I think I figured out maybe why. I don't think he understands it enough himself. Although I could be wrong. I hope so. He said he only had Calculus himself last year." And then Rocco thought a bit more. "Damn, I hope I'm wrong."


"Because that means that maybe I'll be teaching more of the course than he will. I mean to you." Then Rocco got one of his patented ideas. It's that look he gets.

"OK, White-boy, out with it."

"Well, I was just thinking. There are at least a half dozen others in the class that are at least as smart as me or probably even smarter. Jerry Price and Thomas Finnegan definitely, probably Bill Bless, and maybe Twain. I was just thinking. Maybe we could get together and offer to help tutor kids in the class after the material is presented. Maybe we can even be dispensated from doing the homework in compensation. Now this is your department. I mean you can figure out people better than me. Do you think these guys will go for it?"

I couldn't help laughing. (Nor could I resist saying that it should have been `better than I'). I finally answered his question: "OK Shakespeare, I don't think Bless can do it. He's smart all right, but he wouldn't have any patience. Same with Tom Finnegan. Now Jerry is pretty quiet, but not because he can't relate to people. I keep getting the impression he's hiding something. He deliberately keeps people from really knowing him. But the few times we've talked, he really seems to care. And Twain would be good. He has the right personality. So definitely not Bless, and probably not Finnegan. But you've forgotten one crucial thing."

"I know. The teacher has some input into this too. So that's just me, Price, and Twain. And you! Don't put yourself down. You're smarter than me in a lot of things. And you're pretty good in Math too. And you have all the patience in the world. A lot more than me. With teaching that's more important than being smart." And then Rocco smiled. "I still think it's a word. Let's look it up."

So Rocco understood the Shakespeare reference. I got the dictionary and he pulled it out of my hooks. He was impatient sometimes. And he eventually got this damn-I'm-wrong-after-all-and-I-would-have-bet-the-farm look. "OK, dispensation is a word, but there's no verb. Well, I like it and if Shakespeare can make up words all the time, I think I should be able to at least now and then."

And the next weekend was miserable. I wondered about how I hated not having my White-boy around for even one day. And this was for a whole weekend. I even had to fix two TV's by myself. Only when I'm really down have I ever admitted this to even Rocco, but DAMN -- I wish I had hands sometimes! Everything is so hard without them. Oh well. At least I've made some progress. A couple of years ago I couldn't allow myself to have these thoughts. But fixing TV's without fingers is difficult. Jimmy's Dad made this tube puller gizmo for me, but I still broke a tube with it once. Oh well. There was a really cute girl at the first place I went, and she helped me with the back of the set. Her Mom stopped and looked at my hooks when I first showed up. She didn't say anything but it was obvious what she was thinking. Well, it turned out to be easy. Especially with the new tube tester Rocco and I put together ourselves. It could handle about 80% of all the ones we would see. This time it was simple and I left a half hour later. The second set wasn't any harder but the guy wouldn't stop watching and that made it take so much longer. Again just a tube, and some adjustments.

And why by myself? Rocco was out camping with his parents at Tobyhanna State Park. The park was on a man made lake in the Pocono's. His parents had rarely gone camping just for a weekend. But they did now. And near the end of October no less. I wondered if they decided to be away from the city while this Cuban Missile thing was still so hot. Well it was cold out there at night. I had to admit the weather that weekend was perfect, even if cold. I just wished it were me and him camping. (In a test I would have said `he and I').

I then thought about when we would get away to college. Freedom! I even started thinking about the colleges we picked out way out west. Rocco and I want to live together and I think he still, even after High School, wasn't going to tell his parents about us. So it'd be much easier 3000 miles away. When we had looked into tuitions we discovered that the lowest tuitions were mostly in the Land Grant Colleges and Universities of the Rocky Mountain States and the Northwest. I found out that out of state tuition was cheaper in Washington for example, than the in-state tuition in our own state. It was the room and board part that might be difficult. We figured even at the least expensive places we'd need about $3000 a year -- each. That is without any scholarships. Well, we'd have to talk about it. And soon. We still hadn't made an absolutely definite decision.

On the other hand summer went so well. We had almost $6000 saved! And we'd be working again for his uncle next summer. And there was the trust. And the disability money I was getting from Social Security. And I probably wouldn't need new cups for my hooks for quite a while. Just getting some adjustments maybe. And with even just one of us getting a scholarship, and working summers, that would probably be more than enough. I had to work it all out to be certain.

It was cold and clear that Saturday night, and I went outside and looked up at the same exact stars that Rocco would be seeing. And I ESP'd him message to look up at the sky. As I did myself I realized I was looking at something I'd never seen before. It helped that even the city pollution was down. The air was so clear. There were the Northern Lights covering more than half the sky. It was mostly just white but there was color now and then. I practically pulled Mrs. Webster outside to see. And she pulled her husband out. And Tim came to find out what all the "ruckus was about." So at 10 o'clock at night, Mr. and Mrs. Webster, Tim, were all out there with me looking up. I wanted to get away from all the city lights and the park was only a couple blocks away so Tim and I eventually wended our way over there.

And it was there, while holding Tim in my arms, that I got a better understanding about Rocco wanting kids. I know I had frequently felt like Tim was more my kid than my brother, but I suddenly felt it so strongly then. Tim turned around when I hadn't answered his last twenty questions. I didn't realize I had tears in my eyes until he said something.

"Jade, how come you cryin'? I thought we's havin' a great time?"

"It's not that Tim. I was just thinking how much you seemed like my son sometimes rather than my brother. And I felt so happy and sad at the same time."

"Wow. You're being like Rocco all `a sudden. That's more like he'd `a said. He's weird like that sometimes."

We just sat there looking up when Tim asked: "How come part sad?"

"Well, Rocco said he'd always wanted kids. And I was just thinking I'd have liked that too. And we can't."

Tim was 11 (almost 12) so he said in all simplicity: "Well then just get some. There are all kinds of us kids like me that need parents. I mean good parents. Like Mr. and Mrs. Webster. Not like a lot of `em. You and Rocco would be great parents."

And I prayed that someday that wish might just come true. If only the world could be so uncomplicated! But the world had to change a lot. A whole lot. I was not optimistic. But who knows?

That Monday, Rocco said that he had a surprise for Tim. I was wondering just what crazy scheme he had now, and was really puzzled when he took out from a shopping bag, a huge glass jar and a large cigar box.

"OK Tim, you believe in magic?" Rocco was now at his most inscrutable.

We were in Tim's room and Billy was also there. Rocco had this big jar half full of slightly murky water on Tim's desk. He opened the big cigar box, and inside was layer of dirt, some tree bark, and a whole bunch of damp moss. We looked inside and both Billy and Tim said something akin to "Wow." (Or words with similar translations).

Tim asked: "What are they?"

Billy said: "They're really cute. They're some kind of salamander."

And they were cute. I could see about a dozen of the charming things myself, and who knew how many more were hiding in the moss.

I knew what they were since I'd seen their picture a million times in one of my nature books. I had always wanted to see one, but never found one. Even at Summer Camp. They were small salamander type critters, about three to four inches long, and fire engine red. They also had two rows of tiny orange dots inside very thin dark circles down their backs. The book called them red efts. They were a mysterious critter that nobody knew much about, especially their life history. I told all this to Tim and Billy.

They were having fun picking them up and having them crawl on their laps. Fortunately they weren't very fast. Tim and Billy kept asking if they could keep some.

Rocco answered: "I'd say yes, but I don't know what they would eat or if we could keep them alive for long."

I remarked: "OK Rocco, these are amazing. I've always wanted to see one of these things but never got the chance `til now. And this alone would be a wonderful surprise. But why the huge jar of murky water?"

"That's where the magic part comes in. Watch this!"

And Rocco picked up one of the small efts from the box and dropped it into the jar. Was he trying to drown the poor thing? I almost tried to stop him. And damned if it weren't magic. In only seconds, the red eft was no longer red. In fact it had turned pale green. The only parts that kept their original color were the series of dots down the thing's back. And that wasn't all. The tails had lengthened vertically quite a bit and became something that could propel the thing through the water. Everyone was amazed. Tim and Billy had to try it. Both got one of the efts and sure enough, the same thing happened.

Then Tim kept saying it had to be some kind of trick. So he held one on his hand as he put his hand into the water. He screeched as it happened again. And now he held a green newt type creature. I was so amazed I wished I could just do what Tim had done.

"Damn, Rocco, that's one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. How did you know what was going to happen. And why the murky water?"

And he explained. "Well, the water's from the lake up where we were camping last weekend. I wasn't sure if it'd work in just plain water. I was worried there were some minerals or something that triggered the change. And I suspect that it has to be at the right moment of the eft's life cycle. But Saturday evening our whole family went on a short walk from our campsite to the lake and then walked along its shore. I'd seen these things in the woods a few times before on our camping trips to the Pocono's, but this night was amazing. As we were walking, huge armies of these things were marching toward the lake. Near the lake you had to be careful where you stepped so not to step on one there were so many. And as they went into the lake presto, this is what they did. I was as amazed as all you guys. And I had to do just what Tim did. I held one of the red efts in my hand as I put my hand into the water with the same result. The efts were changing into water newts!"

I went into my room and got out one of my books. There was about a half page on the red eft. I brought the book back and we read. Little was known about the life history and there was absolutely nothing concerning this kind of transformation.

Later that day, we all rode to the library on our bikes and finally found a couple more recent books. And again nothing definite was known about the red eft's life cycle!

"You just discovered something new Rocco! Or at least it looks like it."

Rocco was beaming. "How about we take the rest to Mr. Richards? He's one of the Biology teachers. Maybe he'll be able to tell us something."

Later that day we brought then new green newts to Pennypack Park, and let them go into the creek. Rocco said when Tim and Billy both complained about losing their newts. "Don't know if they can survive there, but I know they won't if we try to keep them."

Rocco had to let them keep a couple of the efts to stop a rebellion. But the rest we planned on bringing to school the next day. And we showed Mr. Richards. He was almost as amazed as we were. He talked us into leaving the efts in the biology lab. The new newts he put into one of the huge fish tanks and they seemed easily able to swim around as the fish. There were only about a half dozen of the red efts left by then. And Mr. Richards wanted to demonstrate the thing for his students.

The next day, during the school homeroom, it was announced to the whole school that a special demonstration was going to take place after school two days from then on Friday. The big day finally came, and there were at least fifty students and several teachers crowded into the lab. One of the efts unfortunately had died, but there were still six left. And magic was seen in Father Judge High School that day. Rocco even had someone from the school newspaper take before and after pictures. The ones for an article we were going to write had to be in black and white. But Mr. Richards had his own camera there and had color film to show the amazing color change.

Copyright 2007 by Rocco Paperiello