STANDARD WARNING: This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to individuals, living or dead, is pure coincidence. Do not read this story if you are offended by man-to-man romance or sex. Do not read if you are underage according to the laws in the country, state/province, county, city/town/village or township where you live. There is sex between males. You have been warned!
Copyright 2002 by Nick Archer.
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may be copied, reproduced, republished, or reposted on another
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Pocketful of Stars
By Nick Archer
I have way, way too much drama in my life.
The ride home from Troys was very quiet. We let the radio do the talking.
"WBBM Newsradio 78," the jingle sang. I thought, Great. Now hes going to bore us with news.
BEEP "Its 10 PM and time for Yesteryear Radio."
"Lets go back now to the golden age of radio. Welcome to Yesteryear Radio with your host, Carl Moroni."
"Good evening. Tonight, were going to hear a classic broadcast from 1946 .."
"Boring!" Dennis voice cracked when he said it. In the rearview mirror, Dad flashed him a dirty look. If he smelled the cannabis on Dennis, he didnt say anything.
"Shhh-hh!" I said to him. I like old-time radio. I really do. Its way cool.
Youre probably asking yourself, How does a 14-year-old kid get into old-time radio? Its easy. I had a teacher who was into it. Remember I told you about my English teacher, Miss Riley? She was the one I really liked? We did a unit on old time radio last fall. On Halloween, she played us War of the Worlds. It scared the shit out of all of us. She told us about how it started a nationwide panic. I thought it was really interesting.
We listened to all kinds of old radio tapes. We heard Hopalong Cassidy and Jack Benny. We heard Lucy before she was on TV. We listened to The Shadow and X Minus One. We listened to adaptations of Lost Horizons and David Copperfield. She taught us how to write scripts and how they added sound effects. Did you know that they produced the sound of fire by crinkling cellophane?
Then, we worked in groups and wrote our own radio show and recorded it on tape. It was totally fun.
Ive decided that since there is so much drama in my life, it should be a soap opera. Maybe an old-time radio soap opera.
The first installment will be called:
ANNOUNCER: Tide Detergent is proud to present Gays of Our Lives!
(Theme Music - Blue Monday, of course)
ANNOUNCER: The scene is the boys - oops, I mean teenagers -- bedroom in Seans house in Williams Bay. They have just returned from a party at Troys house, where Dennis has indulged in marijuana. (Gasps from live audience)
ME: Troy told me something just before we left.
DENNIS: (With smart-ass attitude) Oh, yeah? Did he have anything good to say?
ME: He said you tried to grope him.
DENNIS: (Grabs my crotch) Like this?
ME: Youre not funny. Now Troys going to know.
DENNIS: Oh, get over yourself.
ME: And why did you have to smoke so much?"
DENNIS: Shhh-hh! Keep your voice down.
ME: Whats wrong with you?
DENNIS: (Wraps his arms around my waist.) Nothing, if you dont count the fact that Im as high as a kite and horny as hell.
ME: Let me go! Let go of me!
DENNIS: (Attempts to pull my shorts down.) Oh, come on. Cant little Joey come out to play?
ME: No! Quit grabbing me.
DENNIS: (Breathy) I know you want it.
ME: Get off me!
ME: I said get off me!
DENNIS: (Releases his grip on me) Fine. (He grabs one of the pillows off the bed and takes a blanket from the closet.)
ME: Where are you going?
DENNIS: Im sleeping in the loft.
ME: Im sorry.
DENNIS: (Tosses German at me) Tell it to him. I dont want to hear it. (He slams the bedroom door behind him.)
ME: Dennis, wait
ANNOUNCER: As we leave our hero, we see him getting into bed alone, pulling his tattered, old teddy bear close to his chest and crying himself to sleep.
I woke up to the sound of Dad and Tad fighting in the kitchen the next morning. Their fighting didnt wake me up; I just needed to pee. They were attempting - and for the most part succeeding - to keep their voices down.
"Hes your brother. Youve got to talk to him," I heard Dad say.
"So he smoked a little pot. Whats so bad about that?"
"Whats so bad about it is that its an illegal substance. Whats so bad about it is that hes only fourteen and way to young to be developing habits like that."
"I dont think its any big deal."
"You .you dont think its " I could tell Dad was totally exasperated. I could hear it in his voice. "Well, I do."
"Then, you talk to him."
"Hes not my brother, and I have no intentions on becoming his father. I never wanted him here in the first place." When dad said that, I almost felt bad for Dennis. I hoped he wasnt awake to hear this. Then again, Dennis could sleep through just about anything.
Dad continued, "You want to be his guardian so badly? This is the sort of thing that youre going to have to deal with on a regular basis."
"I didnt say I wanted to be his guardian so badly."
"Oh, so now you dont want to do it. Make up your mind, please."
There was a moment of silence. Then, Tad said, "Youre an asshole, you know that? Im sorry I ever moved here."
"That may be true. I may be an asshole. But I am not the issue, here. Your brother is. Hes fourteen years old and he needs discipline. Wait! Dont walk away from me. Where are you going?"
"Im getting out for a while."
"And leaving me holding the bag. Thanks a lot," Dad said sarcastically.
"Sweetie, you know what you can do with your bag," Tad said. Then, I heard the front door slam.
I cracked open the bedroom door and peered into kitchen to make sure the coast was clear.
Dad was sitting at the kitchen table. But he wasnt drinking coffee or reading the newspaper like I expected. Instead, he had his head down on the table. And it sounded like he was crying.
I was really scared. Its scary to see your parents cry. I saw Mom cry several times, but I never remember seeing Dad cry. I didnt know what to do.
Well, one thing for certain, I had to pee.
When I finished, I tiptoed back to my room, slipped on a pair of sweats and very quietly sat down next to my dad.
"Dad?" I said very quietly.
He raised his head slowly. His eyes were red and his cheeks were wet with tears.
"Did you know Dennis was smoking pot last night?" He asked me.
Was this a trick question? An adult asking you to inform on another kid is trouble, even if youre mad at that kid. Even if you hate that kid. I couldnt say anything.
But I nodded.
"You didnt smoke it, did you?"
"No! No way dad! I was in Troys basement the whole time. He disappeared. I didnt know until we were leaving that he was in Troys room most of the night."
Dad slapped his palm on the table. "I knew there was something I didnt trust about that kid."
"No, Dad, Troy was in the basement most of the night, too."
"I meant Dennis."
"Yeah, me, too. I mean, I trusted him at first. Then, he started to change."
Dad got up from the table, crossed to the kitchen and ripped off a paper towel. He wiped his face with it. He emptied yesterdays coffee into the sink, rinsed out the pot and filled it with water.
Meanwhile, I felt like another opportunity was slipping by. What did Dad know about Dennis that I didnt know?
I wanted to walk right up and hug him. He probably needed it as much as I did. But, I just couldnt do that. It would be too weird. It was as if I was glued to the chair.
Just then, Dennis appeared on the steps. His hair was a mess, and the bags under his eyes were big enough to qualify as carry-on luggage at OHare.
Dad looked at me with one raised eyebrow.
Dennis held his right hand to his head and groaned. "Oh, I dont feel good."
Dad was scooping coffee into the basket. "No wonder," he said without looking up from the coffee can.
"My mouth feels like I ate a beach full of sand."
"Thats what you get when you smoke that much pot. Youll get no sympathy from me."
Dennis glared at him, then at me. I knew what he was thinking. You told him. He disappeared into the bathroom.
"Dennis slept in the loft last night?" Dad asked me when we heard the shower running.
I thought, Whats wrong? You saw the way he looked when he came downstairs. But, the ringing phone interrupted my answer. I answered it.
"Hey, Joe, its Troy. Want to ride bikes?"
"Sure, let me ask my dad." I covered the mouthpiece. "Dad, can I go bike riding with Troy?"
"I dont know, son." His eyes scanned my face to see if I was lying about last night. "I guess it would be OK."
I spoke into the phone. "Yeah, I can."
"I want to go to!" Dennis shouted as he opened the bathroom door. He hadnt started his shower yet.
"You cant, youre grounded," Dad said simply.
"Why?" Dennis voice was rising.
"You know why."
"You cant ground me. Youre not my father."
"And its a good thing, too. Because if I was Id beat the shit out of you for what you did last night."
"Asshole!" Then, he slammed the bathroom door.
I looked over at dad. From the look on his face, it was clear he understood how the two members of the Balzekas family felt about him. From the look on his face, it was clear he really did care. His lips were pressed tightly together, and he was shaking his head slowly.
For a change, it wasnt too hot that day. Troy rode down to my house. As we left, I could see Dennis standing at the kitchen window and glaring at us.
"I know hes your brother ."
"Hes not my brother," I corrected him.
I smiled. "Nope."
"Hey, I dont really care. Like the old cliché says: Some of my best friends." When he spoke the next words, I almost fell off the bike. "I can see why hes interested in you."
"What do you mean?" I watched his face instead of watching where I was going.
He shrugged. "Girls always say that another girl is cute. Guys can do the same thing."
There was more to it, I was sure. Troy was trying to tell me something, but I didnt know what. Hope burned white-hot in me. Could Troy be gay? I had lusted after him the first time I saw him at dinner with his parents that night we went on the riverboat ride.
We panted and grunted as we rode up a hill. Then, we turned down Constance Road toward George Williams College.
"So what is it like?" He asked me.
"Who gets to be the girl?"
I threw my head back and laughed. "Thats a stupid question."
Troy looked kinda hurt. "I didnt think it was a stupid question."
For a long time, I didnt say anything. We just rode around the campus. It looks more like a summer camp than a college campus. Instead of dorms, everybody lives in cabins. Theres a dining hall and classrooms. They have a ropes course that Ive always wanted to try. George Williams is known for its outdoor education and environmental programs. It is related to Aurora University in some way. I havent exactly figured out how.
Finally, I said to Troy, "Just imagine everything in reverse."
"What do you mean?"
"Turn everything around. Every TV show, every magazine, every song, every movie, every book says that you should be gay. You know youre not. You try to hide the fact that youre straight. But you cant ignore your feelings."
Troy didnt say anything for a long time. I guess he was thinking about what I said. At least he didnt ride away in disgust. He seemed to be really curious. And, I figured, as long as he was asking questions in a nice way, I was going to answer them as best I could.
As we were about to leave the campus, we passed a guy who was walking across a basketball court. He was about sixteen or seventeen. He wasnt wearing a shirt and he was muscular and handsome. And he was a redhead. I love redheads. I think theyre really sexy.
Well, I was staring at this guy and I almost ran over Troy.
He grinned and looked at me. He raised one eyebrow. "You like that? Huh?" He was teasing me, and I knew it.
"Hes OK," I mumbled.
"Come on. I saw that look. I know what that look means."
I peddled faster to try to get away from him.
"Im just kidding. Come on, lets ride to the gas station and get some pop."
We rode down to the Amoco station, which was not far from the Rowans antique store. It was really more of a convenience store with gas pumps. In a small town like Williams Bay, where theres no grocery store, it was about the only place to buy basics like bread and milk. Dad always tried to avoid shopping there, if he could, because prices were so high.
Of course, us kids didnt have much interest in bread and milk. What we cared about was the candy. Plus, they always seemed to have a special on fountain drinks during the summer. You could get a wading-pool sized drink for fifty-nine cents.
"Too bad they dont have a 7-11 here," Troy commented as he filled up a cup with Mountain Dew. "I could use a Slurpee."
"They always give me head freeze."
He laughed. "Dont want that head to freeze."
We approached the counter, and I pulled out a couple crumpled dollar bills to pay for my drink.
"Put that away. Ive got it," he told me. Troy paid for my drink, which I thought, was a really nice thing to do.
"Lets go to the park to drink these," Troy suggested.
Did you ever try riding a bike with a 64-ounce cup full of pop? If not, let me assure you its not easy. But it gave me the opportunity to show off another one of my talents - riding with no hands. I have to be familiar with the bike - and since I had only ridden Dads bike a couple times before, I wasnt that sure of myself.
Troy was impressed nevertheless. "Youre really good at that."
"I can even turn corners without hands. Even if it is a really wide turn."
"Cool!" Near the water, theres a stone wall about two feet high. I straddled it and Troy did the same, facing me. We just stared out at the water for a while. I couldnt help looking Troy over. He has dark brown hair. At that time, it was buzzed close to his scalp. His eyebrows and eyelashes were dark and thick, too. But it was his eyes that were so beautiful. They were as blue as the sky. I thought, and still think, that dark hair and blue eyes is a sexy combination.
"This is cool," Troy said.
I agreed. I couldnt help a look at his crotch. He was wearing shorts and the right leg of the shorts had pulled up. It revealed a pair of white boxer briefs underneath.
"Hey, man, relax. Im not going to tell anyone about you. I like you because youre different. I could tell from the first time I met you."
I looked down at the drink in my hands and then out at the water.
"Dont worry, Joe. Its not that youre like .I mean, you dont ."
"You mean Im not a flamer?" I provided the word for him.
"Yeah, thats what I mean. Youre just a down-to-earth guy who happens to be gay. Doesnt bother me at all. Plus, you like me." As he took a long drink of his Mountain Dew, there was a smile on his lips. "Let me ask you something. Do you think Im cute?"
I blushed! "I take the Fifth Amendment on the grounds the answer may incriminate me." Was he fishing for compliments? Why was he asking this?
He laughed at me. "So you do!"
"I didnt say that." I turned away from him.
"You didnt have to. Its OK, Joe. I think you are, too. But, I like you for who you are. I dont care if you are gay. And I can tell that like you like me for who I am, and not because I have money or because you think Im cute. Most of the assholes and assholettes at the party only hang with me because they think Im rich."
I laughed. "Assholettes. I love that word."
"Its true. My parents make me earn my money. I have to do chores for my allowance."
"What about Nancy, your housekeeper?"
"She takes care of the kitchen and does most of the cooking. But I have to clean my own room and bathroom. I fucking hate cleaning the bathroom!"
I laughed, "Me, too."
He pitched the rest of his drink into a nearby garbage can. "Score! Three points!" He sat down again. "So, are you going to live with your dad?"
"I dont know."
"Do you want to?"
"Have you asked him?"
"No. But I heard him talking to his roommate about it."
"Dude, you gotta tell him. I mean, unless he works with the Psychic Friends Network, hes never gonna know what you want."
I looked down at my drink again. There was no way I was going to finish the rest of it. "Yeah," I mumbled, "I guess youre right."
He kicked my foot playfully. "Of course Im right." He reached for the drink in my hands. His fingers lingered on mine just a little too long. "Are you done with this?"
He made another basket with my drink. I laughed at his excitement at making a basket with a 64-ounce Coke.
He sat back down again, and we just stared at the water, and listened to the waves on the shore. I liked this. I felt comfortable with Troy. It was a lot like being with Josh, except Troy knew that I was gay. And he was totally cool about it. And then there was that little conversation we had earlier.
I wrinkled my forehead. "Troy, what did you mean earlier?"
"When you said that I was, too."
He smiled and shrugged. Chicken shit! I thought to myself. Hes avoiding the question. He squinted out at the Sundowner lazing its way across the lake. "Im basically straight, Joe." He looked at me and smiled a little wider. "But you never know."
I spluttered and stammered and struggled to get a coherent thought out. "You mean youre .but ."
He shrugged. "Hey, its no big deal. Lets just say its happened before."
"So youre ."
"Like the Prez says, Dont ask, dont tell." He kicked my foot again. "Ready to go?" he asked, stood up, and changed the subject at the same time. Troy is very coordinated.
As we rode through the park to the street, he turned around and said, "To answer the question you asked earlier, I think you are, too."
"I am what?"
"Fuck you, Troy! Quit teasing me!" But I said it with a smile on my face.
"You are." From the gas station, we rode to my house. It was on the way to Troys.
"Do you want to come over to swim tomorrow? If its not raining."
I was flattered and pleased at his invitation. "Sure."
He added a condition. "But just you. Not Dennis."
By this time we were near the driveway to my house. I was going to ask why he didnt like Dennis when I spotted Tad putting suitcases in the back of his car.
"What the hell?" I mumbled.
"Looks like Tads going somewhere."
"Your dads roommate?" He asked, with special emphasis on the word roommate.
"Yeah." I hopped off my bike.
"Hey, Tad, whats going on?"
"Im going back to Chicago. So is Dennis."
"But why? Are you coming back?"
"Yeah, well be back in about a week."
"Why are you leaving?"
"Youd better talk to your dad," he said with a frown.
"See ya, Troy. Thanks for the pop."
"Not a problem. Call me. Do you have my cell number?"
"No, I dont. Come on inside and you can write it down. Otherwise Ill forget. Im such an airhead sometimes."
Just as we were going in the door, Dennis was coming out with a suitcase. We stood there awkwardly for a second, not sure what to do. I wanted to hug him, but I didnt dare in front of Troy.
"See ya, homeboy. Oh, I left something for you on your bed."
Dad was sitting in the living room, staring at the blank TV.
I tried to sound as chipper as I could. "Hi, Dad."
"Hi, Mr. Ryan."
"Hi, guys," Dad replied, although he didnt sound too excited to see us. Or maybe it was just me he wasnt too excited to see.
"Troys writing down his cell number for me," I explained.
"Fine. Then, I think perhaps it would be best if Troy went home. I need to talk to you." He looked at Troy, and I could see his eyes were red. "Do you need a ride, Troy?"
"No, sir, I have my bike."
"Ok, son. Its not that I dont want you here. Its just not a good time right now ." His voice trailed off, and he shut his eyes tightly. I could tell he was struggling not to cry.
"See ya, Troy."
"Call me if you need to," he whispered to me just before he exited out the front door. "Take care, Mr. Ryan," he called back to Dad.
Dad didnt respond.
As I was going to sit next to dad, I passed my room. Taped to the door was the centerfold from the magazine I bought when I took the train up here. Dennis must have ripped it out. Across the body of the man that I thought looked like Paul when I bought it, he had written in big black letters, "FUCK YOU."
It was a week later until I found German. Actually, Troy found him. He was stuffed in one of the drawers in the dresser.
Dennis had torn him apart.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. I read and respond to all email (even if it takes a few days) Just click on one of the links below. And don't forget to check out my website (Chapters are always posted there earlier than here) and my other story here on Nifty, Paternal Insticts/Family Instincts/Thicker Than Water in both College and Relationships sections.
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