Two Boys

Rocco Paperiello


This story is 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? Go to some other Internet Site. (Of course some people actually cultivate being offended; if that's the case, read right on). As far as detailed descriptive sex acts, I think you may find some good ones in other stories right here on Nifty, but as of now I do not envision a lot of explicit detail in this one.

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 four. I definitely don't want the thought police after either of our callipygians.

Please, this story is sort of my property, so if you ever want to quote some of it (whatever for I wouldn't know), please e-mail me and also give proper attribution. As of now no one has permission to put this story on another Internet Site.

This story is almost entirely fictional, and autobiographical ONLY in the sense that many of the incidents in the story really happened, but in some cases to different people and under different circumstances. In other words I've simply adapted things that happened in my life to a fictional story. In fact, some aspects of both main characters are in part modeled from my own experiences. Some of my family members are also in this story, and perhaps (definitely) distorted a bit (a lot) at times and sometimes approaching caricature, but since I really don't expect them to sue, I'm taking the chance. All other characters are fictional, except as noted).

I welcome any feedback. Constructive criticism appreciated.

Rocco Paperiello


PART II -- Discoveries

Chapter 41 -- A Second Crisis

I was feeling pretty good -- more like my usual self. I had decided to take charge of my life (so to speak). I was now on a mission. A slow motion one for sure, but a mission nonetheless. Jade and I will try to investigate not only what my Church says about homosexuality, but I think more importantly, why. If I will ever be able to make my own decision, I realized I would have to find out why. That was one of the major things that came to mind when I had that brain burst as Jade called it. I just thought of it as thinking. Although I knew I was pretty smart, I always thought that even in my class there were a lot of kids smarter. But the one advantage I thought I had was that when I tried, I could block out everything and concentrate on something for long and intense periods of time. I remember once thinking about one of Gault's problems a while back just after breakfast one Sunday morning. For some reason I must have walked outside while thinking, and it was about ten minutes later that I realized I was outside, the temperature was about 10 degrees, and all I had on was a polo shirt and my old corduroys. And even then I had to concentrate on the cold before I could feel it. I never told anyone because I didn't think anyone would believe me. My ability to concentrate I believe gave me some advantage. A number of kids seem to understand what is going on before me, but in the end I usually wind up understanding it better. Now if can only apply my brains to my problem at hand. Unfortunately I think it now more a matter of gathering enough information. But as Jade made plain enough, I need to make up my own mind about things, and not allow the fear of being wrong deter me. I keep telling Jade that in a lot of ways I am a coward. And this is one of them. I am almost mortally afraid of being wrong. At least in a matter like this one. But I have convinced myself that regardless of how afraid I was, I must do this. I don't think I could have made this decision without Jade's support.

Jade and I were talking about what we needed to know but so far we`ve not made any decision about what to do except to try to find out information at maybe some library. But I guess there wasn't any urgency. We had a lot of schoolwork after all with final exams coming up. That was taking most of our efforts for now. And it has been bitterly cold, so there haven't been a lot of outdoor activities. It was Thursday night and we had just finished delivering our circulars. I could barely feel my fingers when we got done. But an entire day of some of the coldest weather we'd seen in some years had a worse effect on Jade's lower arms. It took us a lot longer than normal to deliver the circulars and we had started later than usual because of "uncle trouble." Fortunately, right now, Uncle Mike was in a drunken stupor in his bedroom. What's fortunate about that was he was no longer giving Jade any trouble which had caused us being late with the circulars to begin with.

Jade and I reached his house and discovered this "good" news. Jade was a bit anxious. "Rocco, I don't understand just why, but my uncle's raves have now branched out onto not only you but even my other friends. He kept spouting all this stuff about all black people being part of the nation of Islam or something like that. I couldn't make any sense of it. I think all this coincides with the picture of Malcolm X on the mantle replacing the one we used to have of Martin Luther King."

I knew something about Martin Luther King. But I didn't know anything about Malcolm X other than his name and that he was somehow connected to the radical group of black people. I never paid much attention to the news about him; it somehow never seemed something to get interested in. Now maybe I might to find out about it. "What I don't understand then, if this guy is all for the promotion of black people, how come your uncle takes things out on you?"

"Don't know. But he's railed at me almost since I've moved in especially when he's drunk. And it's getting worse. This evening he said I wasn't to support that "white establishment" any more. He was talking about Formica's Market. But I don't think that specifically matters. I think he's just getting angry at the whole world and this is just one more way he shows it."

Fortunately his uncle was asleep and I followed Jade into his room. It was getting pretty late and I was going to help Jade with his hooks. I couldn't believe Jade barely complained when he took them off. His forearms were all red and were starting to swell up.

Jade remarked: "They got too cold. Outside too long and I bet its near 10 degrees." I got all worried but Jade seemed like it wasn't that big a thing. "They'll be OK; I don't mean it happens a lot but often enough not to get too excited."

I never noticed his arms this bad before. We got out the Epsom salts and I got the water hot and Jade was soaking his arms when I left for home. I decided I'd better hurry since I was a little late. On the way, however, when I stopped worrying about Jade, I started thinking about possible plans for implementing "the Plan." We had pretty well depleted our combined savings and I also started thinking about how we might remedy that problem too. By the time I got home, other than being really cold, I was feeling pretty good. And had lots of ideas whirling around. I looked up at the clock as I went in the back door. Only 10 minutes late. I could hear the TV on in the living room. I didn't see Mom in the kitchen, and since she didn't watch TV that much, she was probably upstairs. I was real thirsty and got out a bottle of milk. The new two quart bottles were difficult when full. And I had a real hand.

And then I was blindsided by my father. "You're late!" He had just come into the kitchen. I was startled by his accusation and dropped the bottle which only got me more flustered. Between trying to stop the milk from pouring all over the floor, and my father getting into one of his harangues, I started really shaking and I dropped the bottle again. "And do you always have to be so clumsy? Now clean up that mess."

I got a dish towel out of the drawer and looked up at the clock again. I tried to explain. "Gees Dad, it's only 10 minutes. And Jade needed help with his arms. They were swelled up and I just got the Epsom salts and stuff out for him to soak them."

"It's Jade this, and Jade that. All the time. How about your responsibilities here? And I think he's taking advantage of us too much. Can't he eat at home?"

I had been feeling so great, and now I was in near shock. And nothing he said made any logical sense. How can being 10 minutes late have anything to do with "my responsibilities" at home? I simply was not capable of answering. I wanted to rebut him but nothing seemed adequate. He wouldn't listen anyway. But for some reason it felt like something broke inside. I felt that with all the really important stuff happening with me, how could he get so wound up by something so trivial? I finally voiced something I had been so impossibly scared of doing for a very long time. Even though my emotions get me crying again, I still faced him. "Why don't you like me?" And I said it louder. "Why don't you like me?" I suddenly had trouble getting my breath.

Then the dam broke and everything poured out. "You give Carl all the attention and everything he wants. How come he gets all that radio stuff for getting his license and you haven't even apologized to me for saying I was lying when I got mine? And I've dreamed forever about being a good father and now I can't, and you can and don't even care! How come I'm not your son? It's not fair."

By that time I was so distraught I ran up the stairs crying uncontrollably. When I thought about what I said later I got scared to death. But for now I was just upset. To make matters worse my brother was in our room and started ridiculing me for crying and just wouldn't stop. I could no longer take it. I was about to run out when Mom came into the room and asked what the problem was. I couldn't get coherent. I couldn't stop crying. Mom asked Carl to go downstairs and then she just held me. Finally I asked: "Why don't Dad care about me?"

I barely heard part of her response. "Sure he does, he just doesn't know how to relate to you." I didn't believe it. I couldn't say anything more. I cried myself to sleep that night. Something I hadn't done in quite some time.

I awoke the next morning and as soon as I remembered about the night before, I had to struggle to get out of bed. But I had to go to school. I was thinking about last night. Dad didn't say another word. That in itself barely figured. I was very worried about two big things. What will my parents do now? And did my father realize the significance of what I said about not being a father? I was so scared I could barely get ready for school. Thank goodness Carl was downstairs already.

I was ready to leave for school. Everyone else had left. Mom hadn't said anything. Until now. "What did you say to your father last night? I haven't seen him that angry for years. He left for work this morning and never even said a word. We need to get along. And you can't keep defying your father."

I was so hurt by her words I started crying again. But my Mom misunderstood. She thought I was crying because I felt bad about what I said to Dad. She said to me: "I'm glad you're at least sorry about last night but you need to not let your temper rule you."

"Mom. I know you care, but you don't understand. How come I never do anything right even when I do? I barely feel I'm a part of this family. Dad complained about me being with Jade so much. And him eating here. I can't understand why." I started crying so hard I couldn't say anymore. Maybe Mom didn't understand, but she cared. She held me tight. "Rocco, why can't you be more like your brother and sisters?"

Finally I stopped crying. I pulled away. Half under my breath I said: "Why can't they be more like me?" I was too much a coward to say it louder. Aloud to Mom I said: "I'm going to school."

"Rocco, you're still young. You need to realize how important it is to get along with people."

I started leaving the room but turned back. "Mom, neither you nor Dad have the faintest idea of who I am, or how I feel. And what's even worse, Dad doesn't even care. And I can't figure why. That's what I said to him last night."

I unloaded on Jade after school. I had to talk about the problems I was having at home. I felt better with Jade listening and caring. We eventually got to our school work but didn't seem to get a lot of it done.

Journal of Rocco P

January 16, 1961
I can't figure out what's going on. I finally told Dad off. I asked why he didn't care about me. He was ANGRY. I wish I knew what he is thinking. And I told Mom about them not understanding what was going on and how I felt. Damn. Darn. I don't even understand how I feel. But it was eerie. I could barely pay attention at school. Jade and I went to his place instead of mine after school. We never got his stuff done. We talked about what happened. Talking to him about it helped a lot but I was still so upset. He said I have to just be the best person I can. That I can't expect everyone actually to understand. But why not? Why can't people at least try?

(And I looked at that picture of Malcolm X. He didn't look scary at all. I thought he looked like a lawyer. And it said he was a minister. I thought ministers and priests were supposed to preach peace).

When I got home for supper, NO ONE SAID ANYTHING. What's going on?

And Jade reminded me we still have to implement our plan. Thank you God I at least have Jade. I don't know how I could survive without him. Please help Mom understand. I've given up on Dad.

Chapter 42 -- Implementing the Plan

It's been two weeks since Rocco told off his Dad. (And the last explosion with my uncle). Rocco seems to be trying to ignore it ever happened. He's bounced back pretty well, but I can tell he's really hurt by the whole thing. Why do people have to be so complicated? I don't want to be complicated when I grow up.

Rocco and I were in my room. Joey had even been around several times. I had been talking to Joey about my uncle and he even suggested him coming around more and maybe my uncle would be happier seeing me with another colored kid. I was so surprised at the suggestion I couldn't decide if I should be bothered by it, or be glad. And what is even more surprising, it may even be working some. My uncle hasn't yelled at me for the whole time.

Nonetheless, Rocco and I were both still grateful my uncle was no where in sight. I asked him: "Surviving?"

Rocco smiled: "A couple weeks already and home is eerie. I think everyone is just pretending nothing happened. Denying anything happened, and denying anything is wrong. And I've gone back into coward mode."

"What does that mean?"

"I'm just as bad as everyone else. Maybe I just want the whole thing to be forgotten. It's easier that way."

"What do you want to do now?"

"I don't know. I had hoped the next day after getting the guts to finally confront my Dad; that finally something would change. But no. It's as if it never happened. Now I don't know what I want."

"Whatever, just remember we are together," I said. White-boy came over to me and we hugged. It was nice to see him not being so self conscious about us touching.

"What the problem now is what we talked about already. I told you what my Dad said. So what should we do?"

"What will happen if we just ignore everything just like everybody else is? Or I guess we can just do stuff here instead of your house."

"I can either force things by asking my parents about what's up or just forget it. I'm so emotionally wrung out, I think for now I'll just let things be. If things blow up again, then I can deal with it then. But I intend to actually bring things out in the open if I have to."

"OK. How about my going to your house?"

"For now let's not change anything. See what happens. But there's one other thing I haven't said."

I smiled. Rocco seemed more determined than usual. I was glad that he seems to have gotten through this maybe even more determined about what he needs to do. "OK, what's the one thing?"

"I don't know if even my father either heard me or understood what I meant. But I told him I wanted to be a father but couldn't, while he was a father and didn't want to be. At least MY father. Pretty dumb. But I was hurting too much to realize the implications about what I was saying."

"Damn. You should learn to engage your brain first. But if nothing has been said by now, I can't believe there's any problem."

"Well I normally would say I'll think about it later. But instead I will say I'm not going to worry about it, but will confront the problem if and when I need to. In fact this makes our plan even more important."

"How come?"

"I need to know my own mind as soon as possible in order to deal with any other problems." Rocco smiled.

"By the way, how is puberty going?" I deliberately wanted to see his response and gave him my best innocent smile.

"How do you think? I'm horny all the time. Sometimes I wonder how I get anything done. Well that's an exaggeration. And no matter how determined I am during the day not to masturbate, that night I usually give in again. I seem to wind up doing it almost every night. I just can't seem to hardly try stopping. Somehow I just can't believe it's so immoral. I'll let God worry about it for now." At least that's what I wanted to believe. "But of course I still feel guilty all the time."

I couldn't really understand how Rocco kept feeling so guilty about everything. "Look, I jerk-off all the time. Every one I know probably does it all the time. And I don't see why you keep getting so upset by what is so natural?"

Well, my Church says absolutely no. Natural here doesn't seem to matter." Rocco seemed to be in thought for a moment and his expression seemed to change a lot while he was thinking. Finally he looked up and asked: "I was wondering Jade." He seemed to suddenly stop mid question.

His pause lasted so long I prodded him a bit: "Come on White-boy, you know we can talk about anything."

"Well, I had been wondering. How do you do it without any hands?"

That was definitely NOT any question that I was expecting. I laughed. Rocco turned red. "Actually I do it a number of ways depending. At night, when I don't have my hooks on, I just put an old pillow case over my cock and start rubbing up and down with the ends of my arms on both side. It works real well; it's just a little awkward. Sometimes, when I have on my hooks, I just wrap the end of the cloth around my boner and tighten it up just enough and then just move it up and down." As I was describing how I jerked-off, I could see that Rocco was getting mightily aroused. I also realized that I don't think I remember Rocco ever using words like boner or cock. Rocco turned his back to me and I could see him trying to make his boner not so noticeable. Perhaps I also had a bit of a perverse streak and so I then started talking about some of my wet dreams. When I mentioned about him being in most of them I think I truly surprised him.

Rocco turned back and started saying something but he kept restarting and made no sense.

"Just say it, White-boy."

Rocco looked down and said: "You're in some of mine too." It came out in a barely audible whisper.

I had no mercy. "You mean I'm only in SOME of your wet dreams?" I was the only one who laughed.

When he looked up I could tell that he was real troubled by all this and I suddenly melted. Rocco must have had worked up a lot of nerve for him to say what he did. He rarely talked to me about these things. I grabbed him and we hugged tightly. I sincerely hoped I could help him figure things out. I hoped things would get better for both of us. "OK, White-boy, what do we do now?" We then talked about how to implement the plan. It would be a two pronged attack. We would try to find out stuff on our own about religion and homosexuality, plus Rocco said he'd also go and talk to Father Hearn again.

A week later we were sitting in a reading room of the main city library. With its billion books. The day before we had been over at Joey's house talking about all kinds of things while we sorted through our current batch of pennies. My uncle was home and since Joey had asked me a couple times to come over, here we were. Sheba found her way onto Rocco's lap. He claimed it was obviously a very discriminating cat. Joey jokingly said discrimination was not allowed in his house. The conversation went downhill from there. But it was a nice lazy time, and Mrs. Whittenger fed us lunch. Joey did get us interested in a game of Risk after we had sorted through the pennies. Nothing of real note was found. Although we did improve our 1904D when we found a slightly better coin.

Joey said he got the game for Christmas a year ago right after it came out. I had heard of it but never played it. Of course in just a short time Rocco, who claimed he never played the game either, started detailing what he claimed to be the winning strategies. "Without maintaining a hold on either Australia, or even better, South America, you must get awfully lucky with the dice to win. Also don't go about wiping out an opponent until he has a near maximum number of cards." Maybe he was right. The only reason he didn't win the third game was Joey and I teamed up against him.

On our way back to my house we also talked about possible plans for the next weekend.

"Have you ever been to the Franklin Institute?" Rocco asked. "They have some very interesting exhibits."

"No, but do we actually have the time to make it worth our while?"

"Well, I could try to get permission to get home later. If so, we'd have about five hours. Or I was also thinking of the main library. Perhaps we can try there. Aside from the Kinsey stuff we haven't had any luck finding any real information on homosexuality."

"But that's quite a lot. What information are you looking for?"

"Well, you probably aren't as interested, but stuff dealing with how the morality or immorality of sexual acts are decided, and what the bible says."

"Can't you just read it? The bible I mean?"

"I've found a few things where it talks about that stuff, but a lot is hard to really understand. And I'm trying to figure out how your Mama thinks its stuff on homosexuality doesn't include sex between people who love each other."

"Well, one thing Mama kept saying was to take the bible as a whole. Let me know when you become a bible expert." I couldn't help laughing.

"Well, I'm going to do what I can."

I realized again how important this was to him. "OK, library it is. And the library is free. Thanks to the football game, I'm temporarily poor." I was wondering if we could find any information about what makes us this way too. Something Rocco said a few weeks ago triggered my curiosity. "OK, let's do it."

We went that Saturday. After an hour and a quarter bus and trolley and train ride, we arrived. Five minutes later we were at the card catalogue. There was one question I was afraid to ask. What happens if Rocco decides he can't be a homosexual? I guess I will have to just wait and see what he finally decides.

We looked up the topic of homosexuality. We found a total of sixteen books. Three were useless. Just the usual early 1900s psychology texts each explaining how homosexuality was a symptom of a deep abiding neurosis, etc. How could they know that? I sure didn't feel neurotic. I picked up a book by a guy named Bergler.

"Look at this one. Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life. Listen to what this guy writes:

Homosexuality is a neurotic distortion of the whole personality. . . There are no healthy homosexuals. The entire personality structure of the homosexual is pervaded by an unconscious wish to suffer.

How much you want to bet he chooses `disease'?"

Rocco grabbed the book and read that page. He then commented: "Yeah. That's it. I just LOVE to suffer! Don't you?"

"Damn. He's got it backwards. It's people like him that WANT us to suffer. He's the one that's neurotic."

And Rocco started flipping through the book. He apparently found what he was looking for. "Look at this. Most of these cases he's basing this on are either people who came to him to begin with or people in prison. I wonder how many heterosexuals who came to him or are in prison also had mental problems. I bet you could then argue that being heterosexual is also a mental illness."

"What I am starting to wonder about, how much of the problems homosexuals have are caused by how they are treated by other people?"

One book that we though most typical of what we read was by a Dr. Allen and just published a few years ago. Rocco started reading some of the more outrageous stuff out loud. "Listen to this:

Apart from the unhappiness which his abnormality gives him, the homosexual tends to suffer from other forms of instability. He often tries to drown his miseries in alcohol.

Hay Jade maybe your uncle is homosexual. He drinks enough. And I wouldn't be so unhappy about my sexuality if it wasn't condemned and people would just accept us the way we are."

"I sure hope my uncle ain't a homosexual; he'd give us a bad name. And if anybody is unstable it's him."

"It gets worse." Rocco read some more:

. . . homosexuals tend to have more neuroses, more psychoses and suicide than normal people. . . . most of the psychoses which release abnormal behavior are basically homosexual. . . . all forms of schizophrenia appear more frequently in homosexuals. . .

I remarked: "That's a strange definition of normal. And I'm sure if all that's true, it wouldn't have anything to do with society hating us would it?"

Rocco added: "Of course not. And worse, how about people trying to get us to hate ourselves? This is sure depressing. I don't think this guy likes us too much."

"Hay Rocco, we're getting some stares from that lady over there."

Rocco looked over at her and then started getting up. He said: "These are worthless for anything other than getting us depressed. Let's see if we can find any of the other books."

We just left the books there. There were signs saying not to reshelf them. We went right by that lady on our way to the librarian's desk. I couldn't believe what Rocco said as he got near her pretending to be talking to me. "Don't worry Jade. We'll cure your perversion somehow. You didn't have to cut off your hands."

When we got past her I looked back and she was hurrying away. Rocco started laughing. I remarked: "You're going to get us thrown out of here. And if you don't, I might throw you out myself." Rocco just laughed louder. Enough that we got some unfriendly stares.

There were thirteen other books that the cards were stamped "stacks." We soon found out that it meant they were not on the open shelves. One in particular looked possibly interesting. It was called "Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition" by D. S. Bailey. Not too old either. Rocco got pretty excited. This lasted for about two minutes. By then we were finally resigned to the fact that we would never get to see that book or any of the others.

We had gone over to one of the librarians to ask for some of these books. I can still remember her exact words. "I'm sorry. These books are in the closed stacks. You need either professional credentials, or a referral from such a person that you are engaging in some professional or educational pursuit." She must have practiced that pose in front of a mirror. She looked at us as if we probably couldn't even read. We started to argue but she was unmoved by any argument. She finally threatened to have us "escorted from the premises."

On the way home we were talking about this incident. Rocco asked: "How are we supposed to learn anything? I had a momentary urge to tell her I was a homosexual and had an urgent personal interest in finding out how perverted I was."

I would have liked to have seen her reaction. I wondered if Rocco really would have had the nerve. I know I sure wouldn't. Rocco got a brain storm and we got off the subway at 8th street and walked the couple blocks to Leary's Bookstore, but struck out there too. Rocco was disappointed. "That was a waste of the extra car fare, but I guess it was worth the try."

Back on the el, we were thinking of all kinds of schemes. Nothing practical but they made us feel better. For example, a note from your mother probably wouldn't work in this case.

"Well what now?" I finally asked.

Then Rocco seemed to perk up. "How about college libraries? The witch's mention of `educational pursuits' finally percolated into my brain."

And that just what we decided to do. When we got the chance.

As we got near Rocco's house I asked if maybe I shouldn't go in with him since his father was likely to be home.

"How about testing the waters?" Rocco was talking about me just going to his house with him. In spite of us resolving to "just do as we had been doing," that's not what we really wound up doing. Without even hardly talking about it, I was rarely at his house lately. Rocco looked not nearly as anxious as I felt. What was happening to my White-boy?

I had very mixed feelings. "I want to do what you want, but you can't say I have no reason to be worried. Do you really want to chance an even worse ultimatum?"

That had Rocco thinking for a long time. He then came to a decision. "Let's wait a bit. I think your right. I'll talk to my Mom first."

"I thought you just said you would let things run their own course."

"We'll I've decided to take more control of my life."

This was not the White-boy I used to know. And I told him so. He then hugged me right on his porch. Damn. "Holy smoke. What if someone sees?"

He stepped back. "All right, no more living dangerously."

Now he was even scaring me. "See you as usual tomorrow," I said.

Different fears awaited me at home. It barely even felt like home. Just some place to stay for survival. When I got there my uncle was gone. Nothing was ready for dinner. I got out some juice while looking for something to eat. And I sure wish my uncle would stop throwing out the rubber straps I tried to keep around. I gave up trying to pour the juice into a glass and just put the straw into the bottle itself. Why did they have to make bottles out of glass all the time? I looked in the meat tray for one of my standbys, but there were no hotdogs either. And the few assorted cans in the cabinet didn't seem appetizing either.

I was bemoaning the prospect of another cold dinner when the phone rang. I had trouble with the receiver. It looks like my uncle got rid of the band I had on it. What the hell is he trying to do? When I finally go it to my ear I was greeted with. "Anyone going to say somethin'? Hello? Jade you there?"

"Hay Joey, what's going on?" While they were at it, how about someone inventing a phone where all you had to do was push a button or something.

"Jade, my mom saw your uncle drive away a bit ago and asked me to call to see if you wanted to come over here for dinner." (I was trying to decide if it was God or Mrs. Whittenger who I should thank).

On the table was meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and squash. All easy to eat. Across from me sat Joey's three sisters staring and giggling. All hard to ignore. And Mrs. Whittenger was now asking me if I were still going to church. She hadn't seen me there recently. So there was some ulterior motive behind the invitation. I was wondering what she would think of my soul if she knew that I liked boys. And one boy in particular. "Well not so much recently." It's hard to go somewhere where you're not wanted. Rocco would have thought of a good lie on the spot. Mr. Whittenger fortunately stayed out of the fray. Joey looked embarrassed. I finally agreed to let her give me a ride to church next Sunday. And no, I was sure that my uncle would NOT be interested. I thought that a trip to church was well worth such a fine dinner. I bet Rocco will laugh when I tell him.

Joey and I went up to his room afterwards and, during a couple games of checkers, we talked about the problems some of the black kids had been causing at school. Joey was saying: "There's about five or six ringleaders trying to get all the rest of us to "exact retribution" for what they believed some of the white kids are doing or saying that they didn't like. And not a one of them from around here. I'd wish they'd just stop causing even more trouble. Sure enough every time something happens, Mr. Muller only sees what the colored kids have done. I'm just glad there haven't been any problems lately."

Joey was right. Fortunately I seemed to have been able to have stayed invisible so far. "Hay Joey, you even know what retribution means?"

"Sure, Brother Palmer used it in our Bible Study just a couple weeks ago." And in a really good fire-and-brimstone voice Joey added: "Beware the wrath of the Lord, who alone exacts the just retribution that the sinner brings down upon himself." We both broke up laughing.

I tried to imagine Rocco's reaction listening to Brother Palmer, and laughed even louder. "Hay Joey, maybe if I tell your Mom I already got a good sermon from you I could forget about church next Sunday."

Joey seemed embarrassed suddenly. "Sorry about that. But she means well. You going to church at all? How about your friend's church?"

I tried to keep straight face. "You can't know all the problems Rocco's church is causing him right now. He's been feeling perpetually guilty about all kinds of stuff."

I was careful to stay away from certain topics. Joey's family would make even Billy Graham proud. We soon got back to the school problems. (Right after I made Joey resign a game after a triple jump). We even thought about maybe getting the kids we knew, especially Teague who a lot of kids listened to, to help make some kind of peace. Joey said he would talk to Teague about it if it started up again. I was still a bit afraid of Teague myself. I never could figure out how Rocco seemed to get along with him so well. It felt so good being back with Joey again. We talked about all kinds of stuff from teachers and school to sports. I described, in accurate detail, my trip to Franklin Field for the Eagle's game. And especially how Rocco tried to get himself killed. "I kid you not, by the time I got to the end zone, there must have been two hundred people trying to get a piece of that goalpost. All I could see of Rocco was one foot sticking almost straight up in the air."

"He sure seems to be fearless for such a little guy."

I didn't mention anything to Joey, but I kept remembering all the times my White-boy professed to be a coward. I believed that he was a strange mixture.

I was feeling great when I got home, and was real grateful when I found my uncle home and in one of his rare good moods. He even brought ice cream home for both of us. I always had to be wary of him however. I'd seen him change so fast it was scary. I guess I was a coward at times too.

Copyright 2006 by Rocco Paperiello