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 2000 by archer. Permission is granted to Nifty Archives, ASSGM, and gaywritings, to post one copy. No part may be copied, reproduced, republished, or reposted on another website without written permission from the author.

Pocketful of Stars

By Archer

Chapter 3


When mom got home, she immediately made the call to Paul. She didn’t talk very long, but I heard her say "Uh-huh" and "Yes" a lot. It sounded like the apartment was being rented.

"Well, I guess that settles it," she said to us once she was off the phone. "The apartment’s rented." Carrie and Cindy bombarded her with questions. "How old is he?" "Where’s he from?" "When will he be here?"

Mom just smiled in a mysterious way. "The only thing I’m going to say is that he’ll be here the day after tomorrow. You’ll have to ask him yourselves when he gets here."

I am so glad school is almost over. School sucks. Josh and I were walking down the hall. I was going to math. I hate math almost as much as I hate Mrs. Blaisdell. She doesn’t look too old, but she sure dresses like it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in pants. She always wears skirts or dresses. She never wears makeup. Her hair is on top of her head in a tight bun. She doesn’t take any nonsense – even from her hair. That’s why it’s such a major accomplishment to get her mad. It takes a long time, but once she finally blows up, it’s like a volcano. Lately, she’s been putting me in the hall when Josh and me start clowning around. That’s really boring! Putting me in the hall usually keeps me from clowning around for a few days at least.

It’s all her fault that I have to go to summer school. If she was a better teacher, and gave me a break once in a while, maybe I would do better in her class. I would at least try a little harder. I haven’t done any homework for her class since I found out I was going to summer school. I figured: Why bother?

The next class was Honors English, which is my best class. The teacher is really cool, too. Miss Riley comes up with the best creative writing ideas. When she grades your paper, of course she looks at the grammar and punctuation and spelling. But she also gives us ideas about the characters, or themes, or setting. She asks good questions. And she never says, "This sucks!" even if it does. She says, "Now, how can we improve this paragraph?" The only drawback to the class is Josh isn’t in it. He’s in a regular English class.

"It’s almost the end of the year," Miss Riley said, "and it’s time to wrap things up. Your story assignment for the weekend…"

She was interrupted by a few groans. She smiled and held a hand up. "I’ll give you the class period to work on it. You might be able to get it done today. In any event, it’s due Tuesday. The topic is: What I’m going to do over my summer vacation."

John Stevens raised his hand. He is a total geek. "What if you don’t have any plans?"

"Oh, I have plans. Don’t you have any plans for the summer, John?" She asked innocently. Miss Riley likes to play mind games with him. I think she doesn’t like him either, but she’ll never admit it.

"No," he mumbled.

"Then write about what you did last summer."

I already had an idea of what I was going to write about. I would write about the last time I went to my dad’s summer place in Williams Bay. He spends summers in Williams Bay because the University of Chicago where my dad teaches has a huge telescope there. My mind began to wander. I went up there alone last time, too. I think my parents realized I needed to get away from my sisters.

Dad lived in a small apartment about two blocks from the public beach. This was before he bought the house in Williams Bay. It was very clean and neat, which surprised me. He took me around town to show me around. When we got back to the apartment, Tad was there.

Let me tell you about Tad. Isn’t that a weird name, Tad? It sounds like a movie star from the fifties. His real name is Thaddeus. The first time I heard his real first name I was like, well, smell him! His last name is Balzekas – that’s Lithuanian for My Dad’s Roommate or something like that. No, I’m just kidding; I don’t really know what it means. He has – get this – nine brothers and sisters. Well, seven brothers and two sisters to be exact. They’re like their own damn team or something. He was a student of my dad’s at ISU when Dad was in charge of the planetarium. When my dad went to the U of C, he transferred schools, too. Yeah, I thought that was pretty fishy, too.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Dad took a few days off to be with me. He had a mondo time going to the beach every day and going shopping in Lake Geneva.

I remember this one time we were sitting on the big dock in Lake Geneva. It was hot that day, and my back was sunburned. While we sat there waiting for the tourist boat to return, we talked about the divorce.

"Why did you leave?" I asked.

"How old are you, Joe?"

"Eleven, why?"

"I’m not sure you’ll understand, but since you asked, I’ll try to explain. People don’t stay in love forever. Things change. They changed between your mother and me."

"I understand that part, I think. What I don’t understand is why you moved so far away."

"I had a better job offer in Chicago, and I took it."

"Is that why you left me behind?"

"So, you’re feeling abandoned?"

"I guess." I wanted to say, Well, DUH, but I didn’t. "All I know is I’m going crazy living with three females. I really had a good time here. I wish I could stay."

"I’d like for you to stay. But you can’t." He tried to explain how he couldn’t afford to keep me there, how my mom would miss me and how he could never legally get custody of me. But, I wasn’t listening. All I knew is that I wanted to stay.

I only had one more day there, and Dad was driving me to Chicago, where I would take the train back to Bloomington. I was so mad at him that I didn’t talk to him the whole day. I feel really ashamed about the fact that I didn’t talk to him now.

Dad tried various things to get me to talk in the car, but I refused. Just before I got on the train, he hugged me and whispered in my ear, "I love you. Try not to be mad." Then he started humming Catch a Falling Star.

"Dad! Stop that! You’ll embarrass me!"

He threw his head back and laughed. "I knew I could get you to talk!"

I smiled because he had me. "Bye, dad. I love you, too."

Miss Riley interrupted my thoughts. "It’s almost time to go. Joe, I’d like to see you after class.

What did I do now?

"Joe, I’m really disappointed in you. You do so well in this class, but you’re failing math. You’re an intelligent kid, I know it and you do, too. What’s going on?"

I wanted to say Because Mrs. Blaisdell is a bitch and I hate her class and I’m never going to use algebra in my whole freaking life.

"I know you can do better, Joe. You can’t let personalities get in the way."

I muttered, "That’s what my dad said."

"Maybe he’s right."

"Can I go, Miss Riley? I don’t want to be late for History."

"Yeah, Joe," she said with a disappointed voice.

The next weekend was Memorial Day and after that we only had five days left of school. Well, that was the regular school year, anyway. I had three weeks of summer school with Mrs. Blaisdell. We were going to be there from eight to noon every weekday starting June 14th. At least the school was air-conditioned. That was the one smart thing District 87 had done.

Mom told us that the new tenant, Paul, was coming on Saturday. We were all pretty excited. Josh was over, too. He spends a lot of time at my house, in case you haven’t figured that out yet. I don’t like to go to his house very much. I can’t stand his dad. He’s kind of a religious freak. He’s always talking about Jesus and trying to get me to go to his church. A bolt of lightning would probably strike me if I ever walked into his church.

Josh and I were tossing a moon ball – that’s a sixteen-inch softball – in the front yard. Sixteen-inch softballs are only found in and around Chicago. I got mine the last time I went to visit my dad. You play the game without a glove! After the ball gets smacked a few times, the outside is squishy and soft. You have to be careful not to get your finger jammed. We were waiting for Paul’s arrival.

A bright red Camero drove by the house slowly. It went through the gate and turned right onto Empire Street – Duh! You can only turn right on Empire because it’s one-way.

"Maybe that was him. Did you get a look at the driver?" Josh said.

"No, there was too much shit piled in the passenger seat."

"That’s him."

A few minutes later, the same car appeared. It had Tennessee license plates. He pulled into the driveway.

"Mom!" I shouted. "Paul’s here."

She came out on the porch drying her hands on a dishtowel. I think my jaw hit the ground when the driver got out of the car.

Paul was about 6’ 2" and he was a hulk. And a hunk. He was both, a hulk and a hunk! He had brown hair and blue eyes. And he had muscles for days. The white T-shirt he was wearing looked a size or two too small for him, because it stretched across his chest and torso. The sleeves were stretched so tight, I thought if he flexed his biceps at all, he’ll rip the shirt. He was wearing big, baggy nylon shorts. Even his calves and thighs had a lot of definition.

"Hi, I’m Laurie Ryan." She shook his hand.

"I’m Paul Hennessey."

"These are my daughters Carrie and Cindy, and this is my son Joe." He shook my hand so firmly it hurt.

"You must be the young man I talked to a couple weeks ago."

"That’s me." Josh nudged me. "Oh, yeah, this is my best friend, Josh."

"It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir."

I flashed him a look. Sir? I made a mental note to give him hell about that later.

"You must be tired from the drive. I’ll show you the apartment and give you the keys. Then, you’re invited down for dinner."

"Oh, no ma’am, I couldn’t…."

"Yes. Of course you can. I won’t take no for an answer. We’re just ordering pizza. And the boys can help you bring some of your things up to your apartment."

I rolled my eyes at her. Thanks, mom.

"Oh no, Mrs. Ryan, I’m sure the boys would much rather be playing."

"I’m sure they would too, but at fourteen they have more energy than they know what to do with."

Paul handed us each a box and we followed behind him up the stairs. The box that I was carrying was sealed, but the one Josh was carrying was open. It had a lot of books and some pictures in frames. Behind Paul’s back Josh raised his eyebrows at me.

I knew exactly what he was thinking; Let’s snoop through his stuff.

I shook my head no.

Paul led the way up the stairs, I was in the middle, and Josh was behind me.

"Watch this last step, it’s kind of tricky," I told Josh.

He didn’t pay attention, because the next thing he had tripped at the top of the stairs, and dropped the box. All the books and pictures fell out. There was the sound of glass shattering.

"I’m so sorry," Josh said as he fell to his knees and started to pick up the pieces of glass.

"Be careful, there, son," Paul said, "Don’t cut yourself." When he said son he sounded exactly like Foghorn Leghorn. You know, that giant rooster in the cartoons? It was funny.

Mom’s voice at the bottom of the stairs said, "Is everything OK up there?"


"I’ll get a broom," she called.

"I am so sorry, Paul." Josh picked up the broken frame. The photo was an enlargement. There was a boy in the picture who was about our age. He was smiling at the camera. Privately, I thought he was a good-looking kid. He was also shirtless.

"It’s OK, really."

"Is this your brother?" Josh asked. Josh can be such a twit at times. Although I was dying to know who the kid was, too, at least I would have been a little more subtle about it. The kid did sort of look like Paul; he had brown hair and blue eyes too.

"He’s a friend – I mean the son of some friends. Here, I’ll take that from you before you cut yourself."

I would have said to Josh; I’ll take it from you before you do any more damage.

And mind your own damn business, nosey.

"Joe and Josh," my mom called. "Come downstairs. The pizza is here." Josh started downstairs.

"Come on, Paul," I said to him. Paul just stood there staring at the picture. I think there were tears in his eyes.

"I’ll be down in a minute."

Mom handed Paul a paper plate.

"Help yourself, Paul. Joe, come up for air once in a while, please?"

I couldn’t help it. I was hungry. I’m always hungry.

"Thank you ma’am."

Mom smiled. "You don’t have to call me ma’am."

"Well, in the South we’re taught to be polite to our…" he stopped himself.

Mom laughed. "To your elders, is that what you were going to say, Paul?"

"No ma’am. I was going to say to our landlords." His drawl seemed to linger even longer when he said the last sentence. He sounded like Foghorn Leghorn again.

We all laughed except for Cindy, who didn’t get it.

"You’re a very smart young man." She bit into a piece of pepperoni pizza. "What is your major?"

"Chemistry, with a minor in mathematics."

I groaned.

"Maybe you can help Joe with his math. He has to go to summer school this year. He failed math."

"Mom!" I didn’t want her telling him this stuff.

"I’d be glad to. I did some tutoring at Tennessee State."

Great, I thought. Just what I need.

Let me tell you about the first day of summer school. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. Summer school is only three weeks long. It starts June 14th and ends July second. That’s not too bad. And then I’ll be going to my dad’s house in Williams Bay.

Anyway, this freaked me out! I got to the classroom early that first Monday. I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. The lights were off in the room. A couple other kids filed into the room.

I sat in the back. Then Mrs. Blaisdell walks into the room, and I almost fell out of my seat! She was wearing khaki shorts and a polo shirt. Her hair was in a pony tail instead of a bun. I have never, ever seen her dress this way. She actually looked human!

She said, "Hi, Joe," to me when she walked in, as if we had been best buds forever.

"Why don’t you move up a couple rows, Joe? It’s going to be a small class, and I don’t want to have to shout."

I did so carefully. You have to be careful of anyone who had made such a radical change as Mrs. Blaisdell.

We were going to use the exact same book we used during the regular school year, except we were going to focus on the problem areas, she told us. And we were going to work out of a special workbook with word problems in them, and I hate word problems.

Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all, not that I want to go to summer school every year.

She started the lesson, and explained the first chapter. She assigned us a lot of homework! But she gave us a whole hour to work on it. It was easy for me. I remembered some of this stuff from earlier in the year, so I was flying along. Ed raised his hand for help. Mrs. Blaisdell went over to help him.

Then, Kelly raised her hand. Mrs. Blaisdell said to me, "Joe, could you help Kelly, please, while I help Ed?"

"I’ll try." I approached Kelly. If girls are your thing, I guess Kelly would be really cute. She has red hair and blue eyes and a lot of freckles. This past year, everyone was saying she liked me. I just kind of ignored the whole thing and hoped it would go away.

She smiled at me when I approached. She was working on multiplying positive and negative numbers. I pointed out that when you multiply a positive and a negative number, the result is always negative. That’s where she was having the problem.

She smiled at me. "Thanks a lot, Joe."

"Hey, no problem."

When we finished with our work, we were supposed to check it ourselves. Mrs. Blaisdell showed us where she would be keeping the answer keys at a table near her desk. Once we finished all the exercises, and checked our own work, we could leave, as long as it wasn’t before 11:00. That was so cool! If we finished at 11:45 or 11:30, we could just go! We could go to the bathroom whenever we wanted, even just get up and get a drink, as long as Mrs. Blaisdell wasn’t talking at the time.

That first day, I finished at 11:45. I was packing up my backpack to go, when Mrs. Blaisdell signaled ‘come here’ with her index finger.

I can’t believe I’m in trouble again.

"Thank you for helping me with Kelly," she whispered. "I really appreciate it."

"Not a problem, Mrs. Blaisdell."

"Can I count on you to help out if there’s others who need help?"

"If I can."

She smiled at me. "I’m sure you can, Joe. You have a lot going for you."

I blushed. "Thanks, Mrs. Blaisdell."

"See you tomorrow."

Thanks for reading! The next chapter won't be so long in coming, I promise. In the meantime, drop me a lint and tell me what you think! I try to answer all my e-mail. Be sure to check out my other story Paternal Instincts in the college section.


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