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 6

I was hot and sweaty by the time I got to Aunt Lynda's apartment. She buzzed me in her building. It's one of the few secure apartment buildings in town. You can walk into just about any other building in town.

She smiled at me and said "Hi, sweetie." The cool air washed over me as I plopped down in a chair at her dining room table. "Uh-oh, what's wrong?" she asked.

"My mom. My dad. My sisters. Paul. Life in general."

She laughed as she went into the kitchen. "I was going to grill some chicken for dinner. Are you hungry?"

What a question. I'm always hungry. If it's not nailed down, I'll eat it. Everything, that is, except liver. "Sounds good to me."

"Why don't you sit outside on the deck and keep me company while I throw them on the grill?" I followed her out and sat in a lawn chair on her deck. I watched her as she pulled the chicken breasts out of some dark, murky liquid with spices floating on top.

"Your aura is red," she commented as she put the chicken on the grill. It sizzled as she did.

"What does that mean?" Aunt Lynda can not only do tarot, she can read auras and she is psychic. I think it's all really fascinating. She says it's like a sixth sense that she was born with.

She put her glasses on top of her head like a barrette. Without looking at me, she said, "Red usually represents anger. Sometimes it represents sexual urges," she added quickly as she flipped the chicken. "If the color is muddy it usually represents some sort of sexual conflict."

"Is mine muddy?" I asked.

"Very. But you are at that age. Most kids your age have a muddy aura most of the time." She flipped the cooked chicken breasts off the grill and onto a platter and replaced them with raw ones. She was cooking enough for an army! She explained to me once that she cooks a lot on the days she has off. When she gets home from work, she is tired and doesn't feel like cooking, so she just nukes something in the microwave. It's a smart system, unless you get tired of marinated chicken breasts by Thursday.

"Are you coming over for the Fourth of July?" she asked. The Fourth of July is a tradition at Aunt Lynda's. We park at her building and then take lawn chairs to Holiday Park right next door. From Holiday Park, you can see four fireworks displays: Bloomington's in Miller Park; Normal's in O'Neill Park; the fireworks from Bloomington Country Club and Four Seasons Country Club, which is right across the street from Holiday Park. Aunt Lynda puts on a spread and my mom usually brings something, too. I love it. I love the fireworks and the whole thing. Summer school ends on Friday. The Fourth of July is on a Monday this year, so it's a three-day weekend. And Tuesday, I take the train to my dad's house in Lake Geneva.

"Are Ben or Mindy or Drew going to be here?"

"Ben might be by later. Mindy has something going on. I have no idea what Drew's plans are." By now she had grilled all the chicken and I opened the sliding glass door for her. I covered the grill with the lid so the coals would burn down and grabbed the spatula and the fork.

She served the chicken with homemade potato salad and a green salad with tomatoes and French bread she warmed in the oven. She also had made iced tea. Aunt Lynda is all about iced tea and hers is brewed in a big glass jar in the sun. She never, ever uses the powdered mixes. It was all so good!

We ate mostly in silence. Being with her is like being with Josh. We feel comfortable being with each other and we don't have to talk all the time. Sometimes, I feel like she can read my thoughts and feelings.

I helped her clear the table and load the dishwasher when we were done eating. She put the leftovers away. As we both worked in the kitchen she said to me, "Try not to mad at your mom. She's trying her best. Being a single parent is tough. Take it from me." Aunt Lynda blurts things like this all the time. See what I mean about reading my mind? It's kind of spooky, but also very cool. I don't have to keep explaining myself all the time. I just accept it as part of her talent or gift or whatever you call it.

"I know," I said as I loaded the cups and glasses on the top rack. "I just wish they would stop taking Cindy's side all the time."

"Cindy is a very young soul who has a lot to learn."

"Tell me about it."

"I think your parents sense this. Maybe that's why they feel the need to protect her."

"Hmmm. I never thought of that."

She wiped her hands on a towel. "Come on into the living room. We can do a reading." She turned off all the lights except for a dim little lamp in the corner. She lit a candle on the coffee table.

She sat in a chair that was next to mine. She put her glasses on top of her head again and rubbed her eyes. I knew she was praying. She says her talents are a gift from God and she says a silent prayer to Him each time she does a reading.

"I feel like I don't even need the cards, tonight, Joe. You have a lot of sorting to do." Sorting is her term for working things out.

"Yeah, I guess I do."

"Remember: All the things I tell you may or may not come to pass. It all depends on you." She looked me in the eyes. I felt like she was using sonar to explore my brain when she did that. Like my eyes were windows and all she had to do was pull on the cord and the mini-blinds were open.

"Why are you mad at Paul? What did he do?"

WHOA! This question caught me off guard. There is no-freaking-way I'm telling her about the thing in the bathroom in Media Services.

She must have sensed my hesitation. What was even more awesome is that she didn't pry. "Paul has a lot of hidden agendas. There's something secretive about him. Something we don't know about."

"What is it?"

"I'm not sure. I don't think it's harmful, though. He was chosen to be your tenant for a reason. Either you are supposed to learn something from him, or he is going to learn something from you and your family. Or both. I can't tell." She stared in the flame of the candle. "He's needy and lonely, too. He hides it well because he's so muscular and handsome. And he's smooth. He appears to be comfortable. But there's something in his past…..I can't make out what it is. Maybe you're not meant to know."

She closed her eyes again. "You are going to go through a lot of changes very soon, Joe. Not only growing up and going to high school. Some very important people are going to leave your life, and some new ones are going to enter."

"What do you mean they're going to leave my life?"

"I don't necessarily mean they're going to die. You're just going to grow apart. I see you living in a new place within a year."

"You do? Really?" I wanted to get more information out of her.

"I can't see many details. It is a learning experience for you, Joe. It is your destiny to go. Remember that we are all here on this earth to learn about love, and you have learned all you can in your situation. It will be good for you to put some distance between you and some people in your life now."

I thought of Cindy, the Princess of Tears first.

She closed her eyes and they stayed closed as she spoke next. "I see two young men, one is a blond and one has brown hair. They are both your age. The blond represents your past and the brown-haired boy represents your future. Your destiny is with him. You will learn about love from him."

"You have known the blond for a long time." Josh. She's talking about Josh. "But it is time for you to go in separate directions. Trust the boy with brown hair."

She opened her eyes and leaned forward and took my left hand in her hands. "You are a special young man. I see that now. The Creator loves us regardless of who we love. We are here to learn about love, whether we learn it from our parents, friends, relatives, from people of the opposite sex," she paused and squeezed my hand, "or people of the same sex."

OH MY GOD! She knows! It echoed through my mind like a foghorn on a lonely shore. But it's OK, a little voice in the back of my head. Tears started to sting my eyes. Damn it! I'm not going to cry.

"You are a special young man," she repeated. I understood both what she was saying and what she was implying. "In ancient societies your kind was accepted, even given positions of authority and prominence. You may have even been a shaman in a past incarnation. Often they were healers or spiritual leaders.

"Sadly, this is not the case in our society. We are starting to learn to accept the differences, but we still have a long way to go. I must advise caution. There are those who would try to hurt you because of what you are. But never, ever be ashamed of it, Joe. You have a reason for being here. The main reason is to learn about love."

The tears were streaming down my face by this time.

"Right now, you are surrounded by females who love you. Even Cindy. But in the near future, you will be surrounded by males who love you. And that is how it should be, Joe. They will be able to help you on your journey. Especially the boy with brown hair. Watch for him to appear in your life shortly. Be gentle with him. He will need your love and protection as much as you need what he has to teach you."

She released my hand, opened her eyes and sat back in her chair. A very rapid look of fatigue crossed her face. I knew these readings took a lot of energy, or at least that's what she once told me.

She smiled at me. "There's Kleenex on the table next to the couch." After I started to mop up my face, she asked me, "Do you understand what I've told you?"

I didn't trust my voice above a whisper. "I think so."

"Good." She slapped my knee playfully. "How about some dessert? I have chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream."

"My favorite!"

"I know." She said. "I bought it because I sensed you were coming over."

All week I begged my mom to take me to the mall. There was something I wanted to buy, and the mall was the only place I could do it. Finally, I ended up riding my bike there after school on Thursday.

I didn't see much of Paul until Wednesday. It was really hot that day, and he asked me if I wanted to go to the pool. Of course, I accepted.

Josh couldn't go, I can't remember why. We didn't stay long, either. For one reason, it was simply too hot. For another, something seemed to have changed between Paul and me. I can't explain what it was.

When we got back to my house, he invited me upstairs to his apartment for a Coke. Since I knew his apartment would be nice and cool, I accepted. I sat on the floor with my back against the couch and turned on his TV with the remote. There wasn't much on in the late afternoons. I finally settled on Oprah.

Paul brought the cans in the living room area. I noticed he had changed into shorts, but didn't have a shirt on. I love looking at his chest.

I started to feel sleepy. I don't know about you, but when it's really hot at night, I have trouble sleeping. I had not slept well the last few nights. I guess it was all catching up to me, and the apartment was cool and we had just splashed around at the pool.

The picture of the kid was in a new frame on a shelf near the TV. I wanted to ask him about it. Why do you have a framed picture of a kid ten years younger than you? Who is he?

Paul put his arm around my shoulders. I was glad he did. It meant that he wasn't still mad at me, and I scooted closer to him so I could lean on him. And so I could touch his chest. There! I admitted it! I wanted to cop a feel, OK? Satisfied?

My eyelids started to feel like ten-pound weights. I couldn't keep them open. And so I drifted off.

When I opened my eyes, the angle of the sun through the windows told me it was early evening. The news was on TV.

And Paul had his arms around me.

"Hi, sleepyhead," he whispered to me.

I wanted to dissolve in his arms, dissolve into him like sugar in hot tea. I looked into his blue eyes and just then, I would have given him anything he wanted. Almost anything.

And I would have, too, if it weren't for the bells, sirens, whistles and buzzers going off in my head. Something wasn't right, here. A piece of the puzzle didn't fit. There's something about his past, something about his past, his past…

The kid in the picture. That's it! That's what doesn't fit. All of a sudden, it made sense. And I had to get the hell out of there.

"I have to go…" I stood up, but my left leg had fallen asleep.

"Why? You could stay. I could order a pizza for dinner."

"Ummm, no thanks. I promised my mom I'd do something for her. By the way, my Aunt Lynda invited you over for the Fourth of July." I shook my left leg. "My leg seems to have fallen asleep."

"Rub it," he said unsympathetically.


The lights were off in Mrs. Blaisdell's classroom that Friday, just like they were on the first day of summer school. We were going to take one more test, and then we could go; summer school was over! I already knew I had aced the class. Mrs. Blaisdell had told me the other day. She even told me I could skip the final test if I wanted.

I finished the test first. It was easy. I didn't even have to check my work. I knew all the answers were right.

I handed in my test. Some of the other kids looked up at me. I could tell they were thinking how the hell did he finish so fast?

"Good-bye, Joe," she whispered to me, obviously not wanting to disturb the other kids who where still taking the test. "Good luck. Come back and visit sometime."

It was almost hard saying goodbye to her! I know you're thinking Yeah, right. You called her a bitch. But she had changed! And sometimes, it's harder to say goodbye to a pair of jeans that has tears and patches than a pair that is brand-new and just got bleach splashed on them. You have a history with the old pair of jeans. If you're like me, you remember how you got each rip and tear.

That's how it was between Mrs. Blaisdell and me. We had patched things together. I liked her, now, and I realized she was really a good teacher who had my best interest in mind. Not until years later did I realize I had changed more than she had.

I left the classroom, and I felt like skipping! And that's hard to do because the halls are carpeted. Then I remembered the gift I had for her!

I did a 180, and pulled the card out of my folder. Did you ever try to find a greeting card that's out of season? It's tough. I had to go to every card store in the mall to find a card for a teacher. They're everywhere in May and June, but not in July. It wasn't my first choice, but then I didn't have much to choose from.

I stood at the door and called, "Mrs. Blaisdell," softly.

She came to the door. I just smiled and handed her the card. There was an apple and a blackboard on the front. On the blackboard was written 'For a Special Teacher.'

Inside was the gift certificate I had ridden my bike to buy yesterday after school. It was a ten-dollar gift certificate for the bookstore in the mall. I used my allowance money to buy it. I knew she liked to read.

"Oh, Joe, you didn't have to do this." She hugged me. She smelled like flowers. I didn't give a shit how it looked to the other kids in the class. I was going to high school next year. Besides, those retards were still working on the test!

"Thank you, Mrs. Blaisdell. For everything. Have a good summer."

"You too, Joe. Good luck in high school. You're going to go places."

Little did I know how right she was about her last comment.

As I rode my bike home, I smiled the whole way.

Mom started to wash my clothes on Saturday morning. I think her goal was to wash every strand of cloth in my closet. She packed some things in a big box and took it to Mail Boxes USA. I went with her.

There, she shipped most of my clothes UPS to my dad's summerhouse in Lake Geneva. She explained that I wouldn't have to carry much on the train. It made sense, I guess, but still I was uncomfortable about it. You hear all these stories about airlines losing luggage. What if my clothes got lost? I saw this luggage commercial once with monkeys throwing the luggage around. I pictured this happening to my box. The UPS drivers I had seen mostly looked like apes. They even had the brown uniforms!

Saturday night, Josh came to spend the night. If we had anything to say about it, he was going to be here until Monday night when we went to Aunt Lynda's.

Mom grilled hot dogs. It's amazing how much better they taste when they're grilled. I'm convinced you can grill just about anything and it will taste better. Except liver.

She bought a watermelon, and Josh and I sat on the front steps spitting the seeds into the dust.

It was another hot day, and it didn't cool off that night, either. Still, we set up the pup tent in the back yard. I had asked my mom to send the pup tent with my clothes to Wisconsin. But she said no. I thought it would have been really cool to set it up in my dad's yard and sleep with Tad's brother.

The air was still that night as Josh and I lay under the stars. Actually, we were under the sky because the sky was cloudy.

We were both sort of sad because it was the last we would see each other for two months. But neither of us spoke about it. The topic was almost like a third person in the tent. And the freaking tent was crowded enough as it was!

"Josh, how long have we known each other?"

He laughed. "God, since first grade, at least. I don’t think I knew you in kindergarten. I went to morning kindergarten."

"And I went to afternoon kindergarten." I was on my stomach with my arms folded under my chin. From this angle, the lawn looks like a jungle. The fireflies are like stars glowing over the tropical rain forest. He plucked a blade of grass and began to dissect it.

"I remember the time you stuck your tongue to the flagpole in winter and it froze!" We both laughed.

"It tasted terrible," I admitted. They finally used hot water to release my tongue. I couldn't taste anything for a month. "I remember when you put the frog in Kelly's backpack."

"I almost forgot about that!" We both laughed about it. I noticed the wind started to pick up. The tops of the trees started swaying.

Mom appeared from inside the house and brought us both ice cream bars.

"Thanks, Mrs. Ryan!"

"It's a bribe," she said in a sarcastic voice. "To keep you boys in the yard. They're predicting rain tonight. Do you think you'll be OK out here?"

"Sure, mom. No prob."

When she left, Josh said, "Remember when we spray painted FAGGOT on John Stevens' locker?" I remembered. John was a total geek, and maybe he deserved some of the treatment he got, but not that. He was so humiliated; he was absent from school for a week after it happened. Josh wasn't directly involved, but it still hurt to know that he had encouraged it. It hurt me, too. Why couldn't they just leave him alone? But I couldn't tell him any of this because I would be the next target.

I guess I'm a wuss about some things.

The wind was really blowing now. Loose paper was blowing around, and we heard a garbage can roll down the street.

"Josh, I have something to tell you."


Just then the tornado sirens sounded.

Mom appeared at the back door. "You boys come in now. There's storm warnings out."

Indeed, there were.

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 Instincts in the College section.


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