The following work is complete fiction. Any similarity with existing people or places is purely coincidental. It may also contain scenes of sexual activity between males; if it is illegal for you to read this or if you feel you may be offended by reading it, please do not do so. Because the story takes place in 1971, some characters may engage in behavior which is considered unsafe today. If you are not abstinent, please respect yourself and your partner by being safe.
I invite your comments. Please email at FreeThinkerCG at yahoo.com. I look forward to hearing from you and I thank you for reading my story! Please note that if you are underage, I cannot respond. Please understand.
"I'm so glad you could join us for dinner tonight, Alex."
Daddy was smiling broadly as he scooped some broccoli onto his plate. Mother tried to smile politely.
"Thanks, Mr. C., Mrs. C. You're a really great cook, Mrs. C. I love your fried chicken. Dad doesn't let Mom cook fried chicken. He says it reminds him of his childhood in Charleston."
"After three years in the Navy, I felt the same way about chipped beef on toast."
I was so happy that my father, at least, got along with Alex. Mother was polite; I think she was just grateful that I wasn't "in my shell" anymore, so she tolerated Alex, even though she abhorred his long hair.
"Hey, Daddy!" said Brian, with his mouth full of mashed potatoes. "I saw Tim Holt's big brother over at the SuperQuik today. He's got two black eyes and a cast on his arm! Man, he looked awful!"
Daddy put down his fork.
"Are you talking about Mike Holt?"
"Yeah, that's him. I asked him what happened and he said he fell down. I told him that that was sure a lot to happen from just fallin' down and he told me to shut up."
Daddy was silent for a moment, watching Brian with a serious look on his face.
"What was he doing?"
"He was getting gas for his Dad's truck."
Brian was starting to look a little nervous.
Daddy said nothing else and took a bite of broccoli. The rest of us resumed eating until, after a moment, Daddy asked, "The Holts live down on First Street, don't they?"
Brian shrugged. I looked at Daddy and replied, "I think so."
"What is it, Ted?" Mother asked.
Daddy took a bite of chicken and chewed for a moment while he thought. I looked at Alex, who shrugged, but I thought I knew what he was thinking about. Finally he swallowed.
"I met with the police chief, this afternoon after court. We seem to have had an increase in domestic violence complaints around town over the last couple of weeks, but mostly on the south side."
I knew where this was going.
"Its Hardesty's fault, isn't it?"
Daddy paused for a moment.
"I don't want to say that, but its strange that in the month since he's moved here, there has been a sharp increase in the number of police calls to the south side over family fights and such. Most of his congregation is on the south side."
"I knew he was a bad influence," Mother declared.
I wanted to say, Mother, you think everything's a bad influence, but in this case, I thought she was right.
"Dad went to his service yesterday," Alex said, his mouth full of chicken.
Mother and Daddy both looked shocked.
"What in the world was your father doing there? He didn't do anything, did he?"
"No. He just wanted to know what all the fuss was about. He says Hardesty is just like Hitler. He can get his crowd hypnotized and then, like, worked up into a frenzy. He says if Hardesty had told them to burn the town down, they would have."
Daddy looked thoughtfully at his plate and said nothing.
"Ted, eat your dinner," Mother said softly. Daddy looked up.
"What did he say in his sermon?"
"I don't remember everything Dad said, but he says that Hardesty was yelling about women who don't know their place and perverts destroying morality and how fathers need to bring discipline back to their families."
Daddy thoughtfully took another bite of chicken and then a drink of his iced tea before looking up again.
"Alex, is your Dad going to be home tonight?"
"I guess. They don't go anywhere much. If they go anywhere, its usually to Uncle Bob's."
"I think I need to talk with him. I need to know more about what this Hardesty is all about. This is getting serious. Oh, and, by the way, young man," Daddy said turning his attention to Brian, whose eyes suddenly grew wide, "what were you doing at the SuperQuik?"
"Um, um, buying Superpops and a Batman."
"Can't you get those over here at the IGA? You know I don't want you going down to Fourth Street. You, sir, are grounded for three days."
"Daddy!" Brian squealed.
"Ted, please, no," Mother begged. Alex and I both grinned. "The bridge club is coming over Wednesday."
"Well, its either three days or three swats. Which is it, son? Its your choice."
Mother looked relieved. Brian looked sullenly thoughtful.
"I guess the three swats."
I thought that Brian was getting off easy.With all the swats he had gotten, he had to have the toughest butt in Clarkesville.
After dinner, Alex and I went out to the porch and sat comparing frisbees and debating which would perform better under different circumstances. We were right outside the window of Daddy's study and as he and Brian went in, I grinned and put my finger to my lips."
"Now, son, you understand why you are getting these swats?"
"Because I went to Fourth Street when you told me not to."
"That's right. And, why don't I want you to go to Fourth Street?"
"Because there's too much traffic and you're afraid I'll get run over or something."
"Or worse. That's right. Its because I love you, Brian, and I don't know what I'd do if you were hurt or lost. You're my son and its my job to protect you."
Alex rolled his eyes and put his finger in his mouth as if he were going to vomit. I frowned at him.
There was silence and I knew Daddy was taking the dreaded fraternity paddle down from the wall.
"Bend over, son."
"Now come here."
I knew Daddy was hugging Brian. I could hear him sniffing and suppressing his need to cry.
"Brian, I love you. You have to understand there is a reason for my rules."
I knew that Daddy was kissing Brian on the forehead.
"I love you, Daddy. I'm sorry."
"I love you, too, Brian. Now, go find something to destroy."
In a few seconds, Brian burst out the front door, stuck his tongue out at me, grinned, and took off down the street.
As Daddy stepped outside, I looked up at him.
"Daddy, you know he's gonna be back down there tomorrow."
"I know. But, at least his conscience will bug him a little and he'll be a little more careful. And, he knows I love him."
He stepped down the steps and slowly walked toward the sidewalk, looking around at the late July evening. He jammed his hands into the pockets of his grey slacks.
"Gentlemen don't put their hands in their pockets!"
Daddy raised an eyebrow and in a mock cold voice, declared, "Do as I say, not as I do."
We grinned at each other and he walked on toward Alex's house.
Alex seemed thoughtful as he weighed a purple frisbee in his hands.
"Sometimes," he said, "you're Dad is so hokey. But, you know? Sometimes I wish you and I were brothers."
"Your Dad's cool," I replied.
"Yeah, and I love him. And, your Dad like represents everything my Dad hates. But... your Dad really loves you. You're Mom, too. She's kind of a snob, but, she's cool, sometimes."
I snorted and looked out at the park.
"Hey, there's Matt and Jason. Let's go see if they wanna throw frisbees."
We stood up and taking our favorite frisbees, walked catty-corner across the intersection into the park. As we passed Zack Clarke's statue Jason noticed us and waved. They were over by the bandstand. We held up our frisbees and both friends held up their thumbs. We ran over and they joined us as we walked over to the wide lawn on the north side of the park.
Since it was the end of July, the hottest part of the summer was just starting. It was probably still in the nineties as we started tossing the frisbees back and forth. We were all sweating after only a few moments.
A Piper Cherokee flew over the park. A GTO revved its engine as it passed by on Twelfth Street, rock music blaring out the open windows. A couple of high school guys came along and asked to join us and showed us a few tricks. As the evening progressed, the lightening bugs came out and darted about the park. The truck spraying for mosquitoes drove all around the park, leaving a cloud of insecticide which soon dispersed, though the sweet smell lingered.
It was a glorious evening. We were all quite enjoying ourselves. Alex seemed so free and happy. As he ran across the grass, his hair flowing in the breeze, he seemed as free as a bird. As he mastered one of the tricks the older guys taught us, the look of pride and joy on his face made my heart swell.
We heard the loudspeaker of the ice cream man's truck playing "Oh, Susanna" come around the corner by the church and make its way north on College. I yelled, "Break time. I need a popsicle."
The others agreed and as we slowly made our way toward College Avenue to rendezvous with the ice cream man, I looked to my right and saw Stephen and Jack slowly walking across College toward the bandstand. I waved and they waved back.
Several other people had congregated at the sidewalk as the truck approached. When Alex realized he didn't have any money, Matt and Jason and I chipped in to buy him a fudgesicle.
It was getting late and the sun was about to drop behind the trees to the west. We were all sitting in the grass beside the Army tank. Interestingly, it was still green after the last repainting to remove the latest sexual insult directed at President Nixon. I looked over to the west and saw Daddy and Donald sitting on the porch of the Partridges' house and Father Partridge approaching on the sidewalk. I saw Daddy wave at him. I felt such a feeling of peace and contentment.
The high school guys seemed bored to sit with a bunch of guys going into the eighth grade, so they soon took off. Alex swatted a mosquito that had survived the latest onslaught of DDT. I looked over at the bandstand. Stephen and Jack were sitting on a bench and I could see that they were surreptitiously holding hands. I smiled.
"What?" asked Alex.
Not wanting Matt and Jason to know what I was smiling about I said nothing. Alex looked over at Stephen and Jason, smiled and nodded. Matt noticed and looked over. That got Jason's attention. I saw the two of them share a look as they smiled. Alex raised an eyebrow and smiled. I grinned.
Before I could say anything, however, I saw Stephen stand up. He faced Jack for a second and then started walking toward the rec center. I figured he probably had to use the restroom.
Then, I saw a guy sitting on the brick retaining wall by the cannas. He was wearing jeans and a white t-shirt. I nudged Alex and leaned over.
"Isn't that the guy we see hanging out at the rec center at night?" I whispered to him. Every time I had spent the night with Alex, we had watched Stephen and Jack walk through the park and, several times, had seen that same shadowy figure in jeans and a t-shirt hanging around the rec center as we had seen that first night. Matt and Jason were busy discussing something and didn't notice our whispered conversation.
Alex shrugged and stood up.
"Come on, before it gets dark. I want to practice that backward toss some more."
Matt and Jason begged off and walked away toward Tenth Street, presumably to go home, though when they were out of hearing range, Alex said, "They're boyfriends."
I grinned and nodded.
We had been tossing back and forth for awhile. I looked over and saw that Stephen hadn't returned from the restroom. Jack was looking around. I looked over at the rec center and saw the guy in the jeans and t-shirt was gone. I didn't think anything about it, though it did seem strange that Stephen should take so long to pee. As I jumped to catch a wild toss from Alex, I saw Jack stand up and start toward the rec center.
"You were trying to mess me up!" I yelled.
"I don't need to try," Alex replied.
I shot the frisbee hard right at Alex and it hit him in the crotch.
"You fag!" he yelled with a grin.
"Look whose talking, sissyboy!" I yelled back.
But, Alex wasn't looking at me. He was looking to the south, toward the rec center. I looked and my stomach tightened.
Jack was standing outside the rec center frantically, crazily waving his arms. I could hear him screaming something, but I couldn't hear what.
"Something's wrong," Alex said and started running. I followed.
I saw Jack run south across Tenth Street to the house directly across from the rec center.
"Its Stephen," Alex yelled.
We had passed the bandstand when I saw Jack running back from the house toward the rec center. I could see he was almost panicking.
I looked at Alex in terror; his face mirrored mine.
We were almost to the rec center. Jack had run back into the restroom.
I looked back. Daddy and Donald were running toward the rec center. I paid no attention.
Alex and I ran past the picnic tables. I threw open the door to the restroom and ran in, followed by Alex.
The first thing I noticed was the usual stench of urine and whatever else made the place stink. I heard Jack crying.
"Oh, my God. Oh, Stevie, oh, Stevie..."
I turned the corner by the sink. I froze.
Jack was on his knees. Stephen was laying on the wet floor. There was blood everywhere. Jack was covered with blood and cradling Stephen's head in his arms. I looked at Stephen's face in horror and felt dizzy. Stephen didn't have a face. It was just a mass of red.
I dropped to my knees. Alex was behind me. I heard him gasping and barely able to say, "Oh my God."
The door burst open. Daddy stood behind me. Donald came up next to him. I couldn't speak. the horror of what I was seeing was too much. Jack looked up helplessly at Daddy, tears flowing down his face.
"Help me," he cried. "Stevie..."
Daddy rushed forward.
"Chris! Alex! Get out! Now!" he commanded as he dropped to his knees beside Jack. "Donald, call an ambulance. Now!"
Donald grabbed both Alex and me and pulled us out the door. As soon as we were on the concrete of the patio, Alex fell beside me and grabbed me.
"Oh, my God," he cried as he clutched desperately at me. I just looked at him in horror, tears falling from my eyes. Suddenly, I turned and threw up on the concrete beside us. Gasping, I couldn't stop, even after nothing was coming out. And, then, Alex cried out and we both screamed into each others' shoulders. Even as Donald ran across the street, I heard a siren. Then, people were running over. I didn't know who they were. I didn't care. Alex and I huddled on the hot concrete of the patio, leaning against the brick wall clutching each other in horror. A woman screamed. Another siren. People were all around. Donald ran past us and back into the restroom. Another scream. A policeman ran past us into the restroom. The sirens grew louder. Emily was holding us and asking, "What's happened? What's happened?"
Alex just cried and whimpered, "Stephen."
Another policeman ran past us and yelled, "Get back everybody! Come on, get back!"
It was Mother and she was running toward us. She fell down beside Emily and clutched me as Alex and Emily clutched me.
"Oh, Mommy!" I cried. I hadn't called her that in two or three years. Suddenly, I became almost hysterical, as did Alex. We clutched desperately at each other, even as our mothers tried to pull us apart. We clutched at each other for dear life.
The siren was so load it hurt our ears. It stopped and I could see a red flashing light all around us. Some men in white ran past us and into the restroom. Soon, another siren came up and stopped and more men in white ran past.
I don't know how it happened, but I remember Alex and I, still clutching each other, our mothers holding us, guiding us toward our house, past the red Cadillac station wagon ambulances. We were in the living room. Alex and I were on the sofa, crying and still desperately holding each other. Mother was washing both out faces with a cold wet rag. I pushed it away.
It was dark outside. All the lamps in the living room were on. I looked around and, through my tears, I saw Brian sitting in the corner of the living room, on the floor, hiding behind a chair, tears flowing, looking at me with fear.
"What happened, Chrissy?" he asked through his sobs.
I held my arm out and he climbed up and ran to me. Alex and I held him and as I cried, I was able to mutter, "Stephen. Stephen's been hurt. Bad. Real bad."
Mother came out of the hallway and into the living room, followed by Emily. They both sat down on the sofa beside us and held us.
Donald came through the front door, his face a mask of sorrow and pain. I saw him look at Emily and she gasped and began to cry. He knelt before us and put his hands on our shoulders. Alex looked at him fearfully and buried his face in my shoulder. Mother, whose arms were around us all, muttered, "Oh, no."
"Boys," he said softly. "Stephen's gone."
I already knew it and I was almost cried out. I just stared down in my grief and horror at the floor. Alex just exhaled.
Donald looked up at Emily and Mother and said, "Ted's gone to tell Grace."
I don't know how long it was after that, but Daddy soon appeared with a police officer.
They knelt before us. Alex and I could not let go of each other. I didn't care what anyone thought; that concern never entered my mind. We held each other as Daddy put his arms around us.
After a long moment, he said quietly, "Boys, Officer Jenson needs to ask you some questions. Can you help us? Are you OK enough to help us?"
We both sniffed and I nodded.
"Yeah," Alex was able to mutter.
After a pause, the policeman asked softly, "Why did you run toward the rec center?"
Alex sniffed and said, "We saw Jack run out and waving his arms."
"Yeah, Stephen and him were sitting on the bench by the bandstand and I saw Stephen get up and go over there to the restroom. And, then after a long time, Jack got up and walked over. And, that's when we saw him come out and yelling and waving his arms."
I started crying again and Mother, Daddy, and Alex all held me tightly. When I regained control, Alex said, "There was this guy outside the rec center."
I looked up and saw Daddy and the policeman look at each other.
"What did he look like?" the policeman asked.
"Well, he had jeans and a t-shirt," Alex replied.
"And, blond or red hair," I added weakly.
The policeman was writing on a pad as Daddy asked, "Have you ever seen him before?"
I looked at Alex and our eyes met. After a moment, Daddy repeated the question.
"Boys, have you ever seen him before?"
I looked down at the floor. Alex answered.
"Sometimes, at night, I look out the window and see someone who looked like this guy hanging out around the rec center."
He said nothing about Stephen and Jack walking through the park at night.
"Every night?" the policeman asked.
I don't remember much of the rest of the conversation. I remember Alex and I finally letting go of each other, of drinking a glass of water and of running to the bathroom to vomit again. When I returned, the policeman was gone. Mother and Daddy were on the couch with Alex and Emily. Donald knelt beside his son. Brian remained hidden behind the chair, peeking out in fear as I staggered into the room.
"Are,are you OK, Chrissy?"
Mother and Daddy turned and noticed Brian huddled in the corner.
"Oh, sweetheart," said Mother through her tears, "come here."
Thankfully, Brian jumped up and ran our to Mother, who pit are free arm around him while he cried into her shoulder. I knelt in front of Alex and laid my head on his knees. Daddy reached down and squeezed our shoulders.
There were words spoken and questions asked and love offered, but I remember little of it. The horror of what I had seen was too much for me to process. I remember Daddy saying softly to someone, "The only death he's ever experienced was losing his grandfather a couple of years ago. Certainly nothing like this."
"Alex lost a cousin and an uncle in the war, but likewise, nothing like this."
"We haven't had a murder in Clarkesville since I've been DA. Nothing like this ever happens here."
After more meaningless chatter, Donald finally stood up and said, Emily, lets take him home. Ted, Helen, is there anything we can do?"
I looked up at Daddy who shook his head. Emily started to pull Alex up, but he wouldn't move. He was holding my shoulders and wouldn't budge.
"Alex, sweetie, come on honey. We have to go home."
"No. I have to stay with Chris."
"Alex, son, come on," his father said firmly.
"No. I have to stay with Chris. He needs me."
There was a pause interrupted by Donald, who said softly, "Perhaps, Chris could spend the night with us."
I looked up at Mother and Daddy and declared, "I'm going to spend the night with Alex."
"I don't think that's a good idea," said Mother.
Daddy had a troubled look on his face as he added, "Yeah, I think we need you here, tonight, son."
"No. I'm staying with Alex. He needs me. He's my friend. He's Stephen's friend. He's..." I couldn't say anything else.
"Chris," Mother said in that voice that drove me crazy, "you aren't spending the night with Alex. Your father and I need to take care of you."
I jumped up, hysterical, not knowing what I was saying.
"I don't need anyone to take care of me! I want to spend the night with Alex. I'm going! You just hate him because he has long hair! You're a snob! You hate everyone!"
Daddy stood up and grasped my shoulders as I started sobbing again.
"Christopher! That's enough!"
He held me before him, looking sternly down at me before his face softened. He pulled me to him and hugged me as I cried.
Softly, Mother said, "I'll go get your things."
When she returned with my overnight bag, Donald and Emily were at the front door holding Alex. Daddy and I were near them, Daddy saying something to Donald, who took my bag from Mother. Emily took Mother's hand and smiled. Mother gave her a warm and sincere smile.
Daddy followed us out to the corner. Across the street, there were still three police cars outside the rec center, as well as several official looking cars and a large black and white van.
"The State Police are here. I need to go over. Donald, if you need anything..."
They patted each other on the back and we went on.
It was after midnight. Emily had given us vanilla ice cream to help settle our stomachs and now Alex and I were in his room high atop the house, sitting in the turret, Alex in his old wicker chair, I on the floor between his legs. We were naked, but only out of habit because that was how we slept when I staid over. Sex was the furthest thing from our minds. We were both all cried out.
Across the street, the police cars and the state cars and the huge van were all gone. All that remained was the yellow tape around the rec center. The park was empty. I looked across the street; the windows of Jack's rooms above the bookshop were dark.
Alex squeezed my shoulders; I looked up at him.
"I wonder where Jack is?" I whispered.
"Maybe he's with Stephen's mother. Or maybe he's home and just doesn't a light on."
I sniffed again and whispered, as I looked out at the tree Stephen and Jack had kissed under so many times at midnight, "Why would anyone do something so horrible to someone so kind and good as Stephen?"
"You know why," he said with an edge in his voice.
"People hate gay people so much."
I could feel Alex nodding.
"They hate blacks. They hate Jews. They hate long hair. They hate anyone whose different. They're bastards! They're fucking bastards!"
Alex was clutching my shoulders so tightly in his rage that he was hurting me. I cried out.
"Oh, God, I'm sorry, Chris! I'm sorry!"
Alex climbed down from the chair and we sat front to front, our legs wrapped around each other, our arms around each other, our foreheads touching.
"I love you, Chris."
"I love you, Alex."
We held each other until some movement in the park caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. I looked to my left and saw a figure slowly moving across the park. Alex looked to see what I was watching. We watched the figure hover in shadows near the bandstand and then walk slowly, almost stumbling toward the the maple trees on the west side of the park, across from Alex's house, the trees which included my tree, or as I would forever now know it as Stephen and Jack's tree.
The figure stopped at the tree, stood there for moment and then knelt. We held each other tighter. I felt Alex's tears falling on my shoulder as Jack sat at the base of the tree and cried.
He spent most of the night at the foot of the tree and Alex and I held our vigil with him in our window, sharing his pain, sharing his love for Stephen.
This is the end of Chapter Seven. I hope this was not too heavy, but it was necessary. Please email me at FreeThinkerCG at yahoo.com. Thank you for reading my story.