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 III -- Confrontation and Resolve

Chapter 77 -- A Beautiful Christmas

Now that I'm officially the foster son of the Webster's, I'm feeling pretty good, but sometimes also pretty scared at the same time. One thing that really helped was Dr. Krazenski telling me that if things didn't work out, I could always find a home with them again. Quite a relief. And of course Rocco has been so great. I think he's even growing up some lately. I mean emotionally. He's still small. Damn, Tim and Rocco were side by side the other day and Tim is only a few inches shorter. Tim of course it pretty big for his age, but holy smoke, I think they both weigh about the same. Rocco said he's almost 5' 3". And he's still so skinny. About 80 pounds soaking wet. . . . And boy does he look good soaking wet.

I better stop that kind of thinking right now. Tim's coming up and I said I'd help him with his school work. Boy is he behind. Supposed to be doing fractions and he doesn't even know all his times tables yet. And he can barely read. I saw him with the comics the other day, and found out that much of the newspaper was beyond his current ability. He got all D's last year. I think they just passed him to move him along. And I don't think he's stupid. Just never cared much about school. And nobody else cared.

It was sure funny last night. Rocco came over and we finished my assignments and then he wanted to cuddle with me for a while and then Tim came into the room. I think Tim spends more time in here than his own room. It was Tim and I squeezed up together on my bed and poor Rocco was at my desk fuming. At least it looked that way. He wouldn't talk about it. What that really means is that he was going to make sure I felt guilty about it before we do talk about it. I thought it was funny. But Tim needs so much attention. Probably trying to make up for all the years without it. And in spite of all his getting into trouble, I realize now it was probably more for attention than anything else.

Mrs. Webster talked with his teacher the other day and it seems his behavior is starting to improve. It felt a bit weird talking to Mrs. Webster the about Tim. I almost felt like an adult. We were deciding how we could help him. She reminds me of my Mama a little. I mean in the way Mrs. Webster just plain cares so much. (She's about a hundred pounds bigger). And even Mr. Webster. He mostly just sits back and watches but every once in a while he'll do something that shows he also cares. Like taking Tim out to the park and spending the entire afternoon with him. And I know that his back hurts pretty bad all the time. I guess lifting all those heavy trash cans all his life. And I'm starting to see what Rocco said about wanting kids of his own. It almost feels like Tim is more my boy than my brother.

Well I moved all the rest of my stuff out of the doctor's house a couple weeks ago, the Monday before Christmas. Rocco and even Tim helped. It went pretty fast in spite of all the stuff. I never realized I had so much all of a sudden. I could see Tim's eyes keep widening as we kept going back for more and more. When he saw the color TV set he almost went wild. (I almost cried leaving it behind). And Tim kept looking at Cher. It was really funny. It's almost like he never saw a girl before. Maybe he's starting to find them interesting. And it can't be because she's white. Over half his class is white. And of course Cher kept kibitzing.

Rocco and I talked about Christmas coming up, and we figure that instead of spending money on each other, we would get stuff for Tim. The only thing we spent money on so far were the prints from the Graphex 4 x 5. We had three of them blown up to twenty by sixteen. And one special one we had blown just to an 8 by 10, and put it into a regular frame. We also had contact prints made from all twelve negatives. Wow the detail was so great. And I couldn't believe just how good Dan was with a camera. The picture I have on my wall right now is of my White-boy sort of leaning back against me and my arms around him. He's off to the side a bit and looking up at my face, and I'm looking into his eyes. We're both sort of half smiling. And it's from about the waist up. So even though they were all nude shots, this one is suitable for my wall. Rocco picked one of us loosely hugging each other and taken from the side. We are mostly facing each other but opened up enough that our fronts show a bit. Again from the waist up. The final one we had blown way up was similar to the last but from about our knees up so that one definitely would not be shown to most people. But it has much more contrast and is more artsy looking. And it sure shows everything. And wow, I'm sure black compared to my White-boy. We had to put something on my skin to glisten it just a bit just so all of me could show up and be seen. Talk about blacking someone out of a photo. I almost did it naturally.

That third photo is now hidden in my closet. White-boy said that his is also hidden in his closet too. He said he just takes it out now and then when nobody is home. I keep waiting for Tim to ask about the one on my bedroom wall in the beautiful frame Mrs. Webster got for it, but he seems to just think of it as a regular photo. Well he IS only ten after all. He's more interested in the next record by The Supremes, or how his Eagles are doing (you should see him and Rocco when they start talking about football), or his favorite TV shows, or riding his new bike.

The day after I moved in, Rocco and I were trying to decide what to get Tim for Christmas. We decided to coordinate it with the Websters. So when Tim went out to play in the park that morning, we all sat at the kitchen table (which is definitely the main gathering place in the Webster house).

After a few polite `how-abouts," and "what-if" and so on, I finally spelled out our plan for Tim. "Look, Mrs. Webster, Rocco and I decided that this Christmas is too important for Tim to worry about ourselves too much. In fact our fun will be in making this a great Christmas for him."

"But I was just thinking a little something for you is important too." she said.

"Thanks a lot. Maybe just something for the thought of it, but please don't spend much on us. It's Tim we need to get stuff for. I can't believe how little he has."

It was then when Rocco jumped in: "Yeah, just like what you had when we first met. I remember saying to myself that it didn't matter what I got you for Christmas back then, you didn't have anything, so whatever I got, you'd need."

Mr. Webster stepped in then. "Look, I have a pretty good pension from the city and with social security and the money we get for you and Tim, we have plenty. So don't get so worried about us spending money. What else we'd do with it? Put it in the bank for my retirement?" He laughed at his own joke.

So the upshot was that Rocco and I found us looking at all the Sunday ads for a good bike. It was too late for the Police bike sale, where I got mine. (Rocco and I even talked about getting a car -- I mean for us. How's that for two high school kids? I bet there's not more than three dozen kids in the whole school with their own car!) We finally found a good sale at Sears (for bikes, not cars) so we set out for their huge store on Roosevelt Boulevard. There was also that new department store not too far, Big K, that had good prices. We'd try that if we couldn't get a good bike at Sears.

We finally found the right department. One caught my eye: "Hey look at that one. White-walls and everything! And even a horn and light."

But Rocco had other ideas. "I was thinking more about speed. I remember racing around with the kids in grade school and we'd all try to outdo the other. Now there was this one bike that a kid named Joey Walker had, that could out fly us all. I can't remember what type is was, but it was a bit sturdier -- well it has to be able to go up and down steps -- than an English racer yet much lighter than a regular American bike like a Schwinn or Monarch. It had tire-grip brakes, along with much thinner tires and even a three speed gear shift."

So we went looking, but no such luck. We asked a clerk but he couldn't help us either. As we were just starting to leave, a young guy that had overheard us told us about a regular bike shop that may have what we wanted. I had never heard of a store that just sold bikes but he said it was out on Cottman Ave. near City Line Ave. So about a 40-minute bus ride later and there it was. We zoomed to the store window which was had some special racing bike in it. After drooling a bit we went into the store. Bikes all over the place.

"Holy smoke White-boy, these prices are out of this world! Who'd ever pay over a 100 dollars just for a bike? I bet BJ's truck wasn't much more than that. Maybe we should try that new Big K way out on Roosevelt?"

But Rocco kept looking. There were sure a lot of different bikes, but most were English racers and others with lots of gears. We sure didn't need that for just zooming around the streets. Eventually a store clerk came up to us and we asked him about what we had in mind. Rocco explained.

"Yeah, we used to carry them a while back but there wasn't a real demand for them. They weren't really built for cross country and we don't usually get the average shopper in here."

Rocco mumbled something about he could see why with these prices. But an older guy must have overheard us and said something about maybe down in the basement they had one that hadn't sold. So down we went, and there were bike parts all over the place. We went through a long corridor and finally he opened a sort of cage and here were a smattering of different kinds of bikes.

"What's that over there?" Rocco was pointing. And sure enough, there was just the thing he was talking about. In fact there were two of them. One was badly scratched, and the back fender badly twisted. We wound up buying it on the spot.

Ever try to take a bike onto a bus? Fortunately it was almost empty so the driver finally relented. So an hour later we were back home (my new home) with a nice enough bike, but . . , well Rocco said not to worry. But the price was right.

Rocco said on the way home: "Only 25 dollars. It's quite a bike for that price. Three-speed gear shift, tire brakes, and this bike will be fast. We just need to be a little ingenious. Remember those decals at the Hobby Shop? We can cover the scratches with those new plastic decals and if we're careful, we can even make the bike look better that the original paint job.

A half hour, and two dollars later, we were back with a selection of decals and a small bottle of dope that matched the original color of the bike. We found a few tools in the basement and removed the back fender. Rocco got a pair of tin snips and cut the fender in half, the twisted part he tossed and after drilling a new hole, he reattached the half fender so that it only went about a third of the way round the tire. "See, plenty of fender. Enough to keep the rider from being sprayed anyway." We then shortened the front fender to help it match some.

We then painted the edge of the back fender where it was cut and being back under the seat wasn't even noticeable. And using just a touch of paint here and there and several of the decals I couldn't believe the transformation.

Rocco was beaming with satisfaction: "So what do you think now? The good one they wanted was over 50 dollars and even then they said it was discounted."

I kept walking around the bike and I would have sworn it came out of the factory that way. We both smiled at our prize gift. "He'll love it!" I think I felt better about getting this bike for Tim, then when I got my own a couple years ago. Then Rocco did something that proved all over again just how weird he really was. He pulled off the handle bar grips.

"What'd you do that for?"

"Well, no matter how we wrap it, when Tim sees it under the tree I suspect he'll know what it is." From his expression I could tell that Rocco thought he just told the greatest joke. "So we can hide the bike down here and we just put these in a small box and wrap it up and put in under the tree. When Tim figures out what they are we send him looking for the bike they belong to."

It turned out that the Webster's were pure traditionalist, Christmas present wise. No peeking `til Christmas morning -- AFTER Church service. So the four of us ate breakfast and then went off to Church. Tim was looking back under the tree wistfully as we left the house. And kept up a barrage of questions the whole way.

"Are some of the gifts for me?" "Did you have time to get me anything?" "D'you think Santa knows where I now live?" (That last elicited a couple chuckles). Etc.

It turned out that much more than half of the gifts were for Tim. Lots of clothes which he sorely needed, but to a ten-year old they weren't proper presents.

We got home and not even one of Mrs. Webster's fanciest breakfasts could keep Tim from the living room for very long. Tim had gone so long with so little, even the clothes almost brought him to tears. He kept hugging all of us as he unwrapped them -- some shirts, and pants and a winter coat, even some Converse sneakers. And then the real presents so to speak. A couple board games, a Heathkit 20-in-one electronic gizmo that made everything from a radio to a metal detector. And then a record player and about a dozen records that he went wild over. Rocco insisted on a couple records that weren't just the usual current "noise" as he called it, so there were some songs by Burl Ives, Harry Bellefonte, and even one classical -- by someone I never heard of but Rocco said was his favorite, Symphony No. 8 by some foreigner named Dovorajack, or something like that. I know I misspelled it. And then Tim got to the last small box. He had opted to open the bigger ones first! He looked at it and then shook it. Something moved inside. When Tim opened it and pulled out the grips he sort of looked puzzled at first but soon realized something was going on. "What d'you need these for without a bike?"

"Well maybe for when you get one." Rocco teased.

But Tim was made of some stern stuff. He then started smiling. He seemed to have Rocco figured out. "I got a bike?"

I said: "Well how about looking for it." And off he went. By this time Rocco and I had the bike sitting on the walkway just outside the front door. Five minutes later a very frustrated boy came back out of breath. "Where is it you guys? Mrs. W, make them show me!" (Tim had started calling her Mrs. W and it caught on).

But it was Mr. Webster who said: "Now use the good mind that the good Lord gave you. Where would you ride a bike like that?"

He rushed to the window and we followed behind. A short yell and Mrs. Webster had to literally grab him so we could get him into a coat. Fifteen seconds later he was outside, and staring at the "neatest bike in the whole neighborhood" as he described it. We put back the grips and he was zooming down the street. I was wondering where he had learned how to ride a bike.

Ten minutes later he came zooming back and just about plowed into Rocco, before he stopped. He put down the kick stand and ran to me and just grabbed on. "This is the best Christmas I ever had. Ever! Thanks for the neat bike." I was wondering how many ten-year olds had the maturity to actually came back so soon and thank someone for their presents. By this time the Websters were outside too and they got their hugs also. And then he said: "But not just the bike and stuff. It's having a real family that's so great too." I looked up and sure enough there was my White-boy with tears in his eyes. He was still as emotional as ever.

We went inside, while Tim climbed back on the bike. We sat down in the living room, and Mrs. Webster brought in some egg-nog, (and plain milk for Rocco -- he hated egg-nog). "We still have a couple more presents to open."

I looked up in surprise, but I guess I should have known. Mrs. Webster. went to the closet and pulled out two large flat rectangular packages. "These're for you and Rocco. It don't matter who gets which, they's the same."

I was a bit puzzled but I think Rocco understood right away. As soon as I felt it however it was obvious. I ripped off the paper and there was a beautiful pewter frame, a little bit more than twenty by fifteen. Rocco and I looked at each other and ESP'd a few questions and answers back and forth.

I turned to Mrs. Webster and commented: "I was a little worried you'd not really approved of the pictures. Thanks very much. This means quite a lot to both of us."

Mr. Webster sort of just sighed a bit but Mrs. Webster came over and hugged us both. "I've come ta realize somethin' in just the couple weeks you've been here. I don't think I'll ever doubt again that two young people can love each other any more than you two boys. Anyone who really watches you two knows there's way more than just close friends there." And she hugged us again. It felt so good. Rocco was crying again of course. She let go and said: "It sure is a mystery, but I see it with my own eyes."

Rocco and I went outside and after we talked a bit, he left toward home to have Christmas with his family. Carrying the packaged frame. I ached to be with him. Just as he was leaving Mrs. Webster came outside and she stopped Rocco just as he was about to go. "Rocco, I'm `a just a wonderin'. Do your folks know about you `n' Jade?"

He turned and looked at me first, and then looked at Mrs. Webster. "Well, only my sister. I can't let my parents know. It wouldn't be good. And I don't know how I can tell my Mom. I think she'd be too hurt. She'd never understand."

She then hugged Rocco. A moment later she let him go and asked: "Do you and Jade spend much time at your house?"

"Well not too much anymore. My father don't like seeing Jade around." And Rocco looked at me and smiled: "He's a bad influence on me."

"How about your mother?"

"Well she's OK with us being friends but we're not around her very often any more. Why?"

"I was jus' wonderin' if your mother was blind. I would have thought that she had to suspect. She's your mother after all. Of course she may be denying it to herself. I was that way with Bobby for so long. But hear me. If you ever need, I will certainly talk to your Mom for you. You understand what I mean?"

"I'm pretty sure. I just hope it needn't be for a good while yet." And off he ran.

We went inside and I told Mrs. Webster there was one more present. She looked at me a little bit puzzled. I went to my room and came down with a small package, and handed it to her. "This is for you." She took off the paper and there was the smaller 5 by 7 in a frame. It was a picture Rocco had suggested. There was Rocco, Tim, and me all together. (Clothes on in this one). "I though you might like a photo of your three new sons." And I think I saw just a glint of a tear, a second before she pulled me tight. Definitely a beautiful Christmas.

Right before we went back to school, we had to go back to the hospital to get to the hook store as I called it, (OK, Prosthetics Department), and get my hooks readjusted and some new cups. Rocco was wondering why so soon but I mentioned that I had grown so much this past year.

He gave out a huge sigh, but then looked up at me and said: "If things keep going like this, pretty soon, everyone will think I'm your son." We both laughed. When I got in finally to see the hook lady, (OK prosthetics technician), she was again trying to talk me into getting the newer style which I emphatically said no to last year. "They'd be much easier to put on and you could do it yourself." That almost tempted me but I was so used to the ones I had now and I didn't like how I wouldn't be able to move my arms all the way down. Then I made an appointment for next week. She knew Rocco real well by now but kept looking at him weird. Well she must have remembered what I said about him last time.

As we were leaving, Rocco had asked me: "How come you don't want the new `monster' hooks? She said that you'd have more control using them."

I laughed: "Not `monster!' They're called `Munster' probably after some guy who invented them. And have you seen them? They go all the way around the bottom of the elbows and I'd lose a bunch of movement. I like the old ones just fine. Of course those new web straps I'm goin' to try out. Anything's got to be better than the one's I got."

A couple weeks later Rocco and I were in his bedroom after coming inside from a long bike ride. Most of the snow had melted but it was way too cold to stay out for very long. We biked back to his house but I didn't really know why. He said he wanted to show me something but refused to specify. When got to his room, he closed the door and started showing me all his brother's Ham Radio stuff. Rocco explained the whole setup and log books, and so on. (He was brave when his brother wasn't there). I didn't stop him in spite of this being at least the third time he'd shown me most of it.

But then Rocco really surprised me when he turned on everything and went on the air. (He was brave when his brother wasn't there). The first person he talked to was someone from Conshohocken; the guy couldn't stop talking about Castro and Cuba and that our trade embargo and our banning all imports and export. He thought it would soon make the country "get rid of Castro." Rocco seemed to agree with him but I wasn't so sure. I wanted to see if he could contact someone much further away and maybe even see what it's like living there. But after a half hour, the farthest he got was King of Prussia. They didn't seem to talk about anything much. I sort of lost interest and started leafing through some of his old USGS Survey books. Two of them had been part of my two special Christmas presents to him. He usually got all excited by the old maps, but I was more interested in the photos. I leafed through these real old books and started thinking about the other special gift I gave my White-boy for Christmas.

I was soon quite hard thinking about that day after Christmas. I had lured my White-boy up to my newly decorated bedroom. (It didn't take a how lot of luring). As he passed in front of me, I picked him up and dumped him onto my bed. He only looked startled for a moment until he saw my expression. I had him take off his clothes as I watched. I then had him undo the straps of my hooks. I dropped them onto the floor and then slowly undressed myself. I could see my White-boy was just as aroused as I was. He once asked me how come I was so aroused by seeing him naked.

"But Jade, I'm so small and skinny." And he rarely used that word for himself.

And I couldn't tell him specifically just why he had such a powerful effect on me. "White-boy, I can't say exactly. One thing is because I think I love you so much. But an awful lot is purely physical. I guess I just like small skinny white boys."

I've tried to figure out just why he turned me on so much. At least a small part of it was that I felt so in command. I could physically take control and I was really grateful that my White-boy seemed to like it that way. But until I met him I never specifically thought of white boys in my musings. But now I had to admit that that was also a part of it. I also liked boys that had a trim slender look. (OK Rocco was a bit on this side of trim, but that didn't seem to matter). I guess another thing that really turned me on was when I turned my White-boy over and saw his legs and butt. With his running all the time that's where most of his muscles were. And they sure made him look good to me. And we were both so aroused when I started running the ends of my arms all over that area, especially when I pushed my arm down his crack and all the way to his equipment. I tried to explain all this to Rocco a couple times, but I guess he still thought of himself as not very good looking.

This time Rocco replied: "But it's not just me that's small and skinny. My penis is so small also. Now yours is what really gets me all excited. And I looked it up. You're way bigger than average, while I'm not even average."

I couldn't believe how concerned my White-boy was about this. "Look -- to me you're perfect. I've told you this before. Why can't you believe me?"

I was easily able to get us past the talking-about-things-stage. And my present was making sure I did everything that really got his engine going. He especially liked it when I sort of man-handled him. I moved him back and forth and turned him over a few times. He also liked when I rubbed the end of my arm up-and-down his crack a lot and made sure to push hard against his rear orifice. So that is what I kept doing. And by this time he was moaning loudly. I turned him over again and knelt over his head and let my now REALLY stiff penis drag back and forth over his face. At the same time I started rolling his own REALLY stiff penis between my forearms. His stuck straight out -- or up in this case. His moaning hit a crescendo as he came. I was so turned on myself but decided that this was his special gift day. I lay down on top of him for awhile (Using quite a lot of will power not to come myself). This time I made sure I kept my full weight on top of him and just started moving up and down. His penis was trapped between us and in a short time he started really moaning again. Now I did something else that really got to him. He is especially sensitive along that area between his testicles and his butt hole. I could feel his immediate surprise. I had never used my tongue there before. He soon started bucking wildly and sure enough I got him to come again. The bucking got me beyond the point of no return so I just went with the flow.

Soon after, we were just laying there side by side with my White-boy's back side cuddled up tight against my groin. I had my arms wrapped around him. His head rested right under mine, and I wrapped my legs over his. Our favorite cuddling position.

After a while Rocco said: "Thanks Jade; that was amazing." We talked about his liking what I had just done and then about some of our sexual fantasies and we decided that we both wanted to experiment more with oral sex. We were both really looking forward to the rest of the holidays.

I must have been really off in my own world as I didn't react until Rocco pushed me. "Oh. What did you say?"

Rocco started grinning. "I said that I was just talking to someone near Scranton and it's snowing up there, so that storm is coming our way." After a pause he continued: "But it looks like you were thinking of something far more interesting. I don't think you should go downstairs with those impure thoughts circulating." His smile got bigger.

I smiled back and told him what I had been musing about.

Over the next several weeks, I found Tim feeling more at ease with his new home and especially with the Websters. In fact, Tim would cling so much to people, that Mr. Webster started calling him "the barnacle." Fortunately his barnacle stage only lasted a couple weeks. Then he started his "come and look" stage. Whatever he was working on -- and his interests seemed to be almost as varied as Rocco's -- he had to grab someone to look what he had done, or written, or drawn, or found out about, or whatever. Unfortunately his interests didn't seem to include very much of his schoolwork.

Eventually, even that phase started to wane. But he never did stop trying to get someone to play one of the many games we had gotten him. I was really hoping that he could eventually find someone his own age to play with. But no luck so far. And it took weeks before we could get him to do most of his homework without interminable prodding (and even some threats). Mostly I enjoyed his being around, and I didn`t even get bothered by all the times he interrupted what I was doing.

Of course there were the few times I DID mind. It was mostly at the Websters where Rocco and I could feel at ease being intimate with each other.

So there we were with my White-boy's engine all revved up -- along with another part of him. And then in came Tim. We were trying to break him of his habit of just barging in like that. Fortunately he seemed oblivious of how Rocco and I were around each other. And more specifically this time, how we were wrapped around each other. Rocco just sighed and got up. I looked a message at him that said something like: "Well you were the one talking about wanting kids."

Then Rocco pulled him over to the desk, after just a bit of a tussle, and started asking him some arithmetic questions.

Tim wanted no part of it. "I came here to get you's to play the game I got set up in my room. That's what I came in to ask you guys."

"OK, but only after fifteen minutes of arithmetic." Rocco said, and he started with some of the times tables. Tim finally had most of them down by now. "OK, just two more questions. You said that eight time seven was 56."


"Good. But why?"

Tim looked up like Rocco just went crazy. "Because that's what the table on the back of the copybook says."

"Wrong answer. Math shouldn't just be memorized. If you actually understand WHY things are so, it gets much easier. Now, what does 8 times 7 mean?"

"Just what it says. 8 times 7. And that's 56."

"Wrong answer. Now how about this. If you made 8 dollars by say, washing Mr. Webster's car, and you did it last Friday, and then today, how much money would you have?"

Tim grinned widely. "About 50 cents. He only gives me a quarter for washin' his car!"

I couldn't help smile. Tim wasn't that unintelligent after all. And he deliberately answered to get the reaction out of Rocco that he did.

Rocco persevered: "Answer the original question smart butt."

"Ah, . . 16 dollars."

"Good. Now let's say you washed the car 3 times. How much then?"

He used his fingers and then said: "Twenty-four dollars, and I'd be rich!"

"How did you get that answer?"

"That's easy. I got 8 dollars three times. 8 + 8 + 8 is 24 dollars."

"Good, now say you washed the car 7 times. How much would you have?"

Tim looked up and was still for only a moment. "Holy shit. That makes it easy. And if I forgot the times table I just need to add up 8, seven times!"

I wasn't sure who was happier at that moment, Rocco or Tim.

"See, that's exactly what I was trying to tell you. When you actually understand WHY things are so, math is so much easier!"

"And you said only two questions but you really asked me a billion. So you have to play a billion games with me now!" Yeah, Tim was pretty quick witted after all.

"OK, smart-butt, but that was only the first question, just parts a through g. Now here's the last question. What's bigger, two thirds or four sixths?"

I think that this question ended up having parts a through z. But after about ten minutes, and about half my scrap paper, Tim's eyes lit up again. "Oh my gosh! How come the teacher didn't teach it like that? He kept showing how to do stuff but never WHY we were doing it. And that's stupid. Can you keep showing me this easy way?"

At that moment I think my White-boy was as happy as I'd ever seen him. Maybe he should be a teacher after all.

Then a moment later Tim asked: "And can I have four sixths of that apple pie you were talking about?" And he laughed like it was the best joke in the universe. And maybe right then, it was.

Chapter 78 -- A Couple Great Ideas

It was when Jade and I were in the newspaper office after school one day in late-February when I got this great idea. (OK, I thought it was a great idea at the time). I had been all excited reading about John Glenn orbiting the earth the day before. And I was thinking about how interesting this story was especially compared to what we were currently writing for our school paper. I had brought two different newspaper accounts to school with me and I guess I may have possibly just sort `a maybe just once too often read some excerpt to Jade that day.

"Rocco! How often have I ever asked you to shut up?"

"One million, two hundred and twenty-five thousand, six . . ."

Jade didn't let me finish. "I mean when I meant it?"

"One million, two hundred . . ."

"Really meant it?!" He interrupted again.

I knew he was at the point of annoyance. "Maybe ten times, give or take."

"This is eleven."

"OK, sorry. But I was thinking about how really boring the stuff we are working on right now compared to the space mission story."

We talked about how positively boring some of our school newspaper was. Jade was saying: "So much of the paper is a proven sleep aid. I guess maybe we could try to find something to make it more interesting."

"Jade, I was just thinking. This paper needs a shot in the arm that's for sure. We need to come up with a great idea for an article that will wake a few people up."

That was when Twain showed up and suddenly an idea clicked about a story for the paper. I was inspired. Twain was Jewish after all. I turned to Jade and asked: "How about a series of articles of what different people believed?" But Twain interrupted and I got sidetracked. I turned back to Twain and asked: "Hey Twain, what brings you here?"

"You guys. I just took a chance. Uncle Allen and Dan will over this Saturday and my Mom was just wondering if you guys'd want to come over for a while, maybe even dinner?"

Now my idea was almost streaking for Mars. Allen, and Mrs. Goldstein, and Twain. All Jewish. Jade looked at me before answering. About the visit to Twain's I looked at Jade and sort of made a motion that said "up to you."

Jade looked around before saying: "Ain't you afraid of us ganging up on you?" Jade was sort of smiling. And I wondered just then about Twain's gullibility. After about three or four seconds he went red: "Gees, you guys, you had me wondering for a second. I'm not like you guys."

I had never seen Twain talk about any girl, I mean about one that he might date. In fact Jade had been wondering about him and John Edell. "Never thought you were, and Jade's joking. But you ever date?"

Now he got even redder. It contrasted nicely with his pitch black hair. "Well not yet. Just hadn't got that interested yet."

I thought that not quite the truth. I looked at Jade and said jokingly: "How about Consuelo? Twain's almost smart enough for her."

Jade smiled and said: "Wow. Just think of the kids. Part Negro, part Puerto Rican, and part Jewish. That would be a combination?"

Twain said: "Don't hold your breath." Then I turned toward Twain when he poked me and said: "What're you two conspiring about now anyway?" Twain took a seat, and also picked up a draft of the article we were writing.

"Just wondering Twain, how about we invite Consuelo over. Dan's sister. Quite a girl."

And Jade added: "She is a very determined girl. (I translated that to mean pushy). You met her at Allen and Dan's reception at your place."

"Of course, and yeah, seems pretty smart. She's been over a couple times when Allen and Dan were there. I can't believe that she's actually Dan's sister though." He looked at Jade and went red again. "Jade, I mean, . . ., I didn't mean it like that. I meant how forward and determined she is about everything. Two siblings couldn't be more different." Twain looked at Jade to make sure he wasn't upset by his previous remark. "And by the way, she's already going to be there. For dinner too. Nice girl."

I had thought so too. And I couldn't say why, but the way she was so independent and so much her own person actually made me like her even more. I was thinking and I realized she was the type of person that could get in a real heated argument about something but never let it get personal. I told her once how stupid it was that she thought Nixon could make a good president, and she just argued more forcibly than ever. She even changed my mind about a few things. (But not about Nixon). And she sure got wild when I said Barry Goldwater was so typical of many Republicans that didn't want any social programs to be advanced.

Well, anyway, Twain was such a nice guy, I wondered how come again he didn't have a girlfriend. I was teasing as I asked: "There you go, how about Consuelo? What would be wrong with her?"

He surprised me at first by his answer. "Everything. I don't know if Mom would approve. They always expect you to marry a good Jewish girl. It's much more than just religion." And he tried to explain.

I could understand in a way. I know my Dad was almost ostracized from his own family when he didn't marry a "good Italian girl." Actually I wasn't absolutely sure of that, but I thought it a good guess. But he sure never sees most his family at all. And I got a thought I never thought before. Wonder how that might have caused Dad to be the way he is? I have to think on that some, . . . but later.

Twain picked up the pages we just typed and started reading. And even he commented that the article we had just finished was boring. We already knew that, but we had to stop getting sidetracked.

I never DID ask Twain about my idea for a story for the paper until later. Jade and I were hurrying. We had a color TV to try to repair that afternoon. One of the newer models. We already told the guy we might not be able to fix it. It had a whole bunch of stuff Jade and I had never seen before. And the electronics were really crammed in tight. And too much solid state stuff. I'd started reading up about them and the going got really difficult. I'm not exactly sure if I really understand transistors. (I mean how they worked). I never did finish the book yet. Well maybe we'd get lucky.

On our way home Jade started talking about Tim -- again. I smiled thinking Tim seemed more like his son than foster brother. After about ten minutes of pure Tim-topic conversation, I butted in: "You know I'm getting jealous."

Jade looked just a bit stricken for a second. But then just looked puzzled. "Is this something we need to talk about White-boy? I thought you liked Tim as much or maybe even more than I do."

And it was amazing just how fast he had grown into our lives. And then I thought I understood. "You got it all wrong Jade. I mean I was jealous because Tim seems to have attached himself much more to you than me. I just wish I could be that close to him myself."

Jade thought about that some. "Well, maybe in some ways. After all you are white and that does make a difference even if it shouldn't. But I don't think you realize how much he really does like you. He talks about you a lot when you aren't there. It's just he's a bit reticent since you're white. It's hard to overcome a lifetime of growing up as a colored kid."

"But there's tons of white kids in his school." And I grabbed Jade and smiled. "And you don't seem to have any problem."

Jade's smile was even bigger. "Well for me you're just a sex object."

I looked around to make sure nobody could have heard. "So you just want me for my body, huh? See if you can lure me into your bed anymore."

Our conversation got side-tracked for a bit until Jade finally us got back to the real question. "Rocco, we talked about this a lot. It's just that for quite some time now it just feels so normal for us to be together. But right now for Tim it's different. White kids and colored kids just don't mix the way you think. Sure they do a lot of stuff together, but mostly just in school or some sports."

And that brought on all kinds of explanations back and forth. One thing we decided was for the three of us to do more things together.

But then a more serious conversation took place just as we got into his house. Mrs. Webster as usual, had a big after school snack for the two of us. Mr. Webster was probably at the neighbors working on some furniture project or other. They were trying to start a small business along with the neighbor's two older boys. It sounded interesting but Jade and I were so busy with school and all we really hadn't gotten over there yet to see just what they were working on. As we had finished walking the last several blocks, I had kept thinking about Tim and Jade and myself and all kinds of other thoughts started complicating my thinking. I guess I was pretty caught up in my own thoughts because Jade noticed I hadn't said much up to the time we sat down in his kitchen.

"OK, I can see when you get into one of your moods, Rocco. Out with it."

Mrs. Webster. just looked on. She was pretty used to me and Jade getting into some pretty personal stuff. It was sure nice to be able to be out in the open like that. I felt almost free at the Webster's house. Though when Mr. Webster was there, we were a bit more careful. But Mrs. Webster was just plain supportive, if sometimes she'd talk your ear off.

"Jade, I was just wondering. There are an awful lot of foster kids out there. Wouldn't it be something if we could foster some kids? And when they all gave me this "look" I added: "I mean when we get older." They still looked at me like I said they should all vote for George Wallace for president.

Jade knew I still got a bit melancholy about this from time to time. He just hugged me. We both knew how impossible that idea was. But I was adamant and asked why not.

Mrs. Webster remarked: "Lordy sakes, I just never thought, but I think ice sculpturin' `d be done in hell, before they let you two have kids to raise. But isn't that a thought." And then we heard for the umpteenth time one of the stories about BJ, or Kyle, or Adam. (Her three foster kids).

On cue, BJ, her (previous) youngest, barged into the house. He wasn't too big and Mrs. Webster must have outweighed him by 50 pounds. Nevertheless, he picked her up and literally swung her about. "Now put me down this very minute before I get all twisted out of shape. And show a bit o' manners. We have a guest." (Since early January, when BJ and I had a few words, she'd been on him all the time about it).

"But Mom, I got it! I'm the new foreman! Just think! A colored boy's a foreman! Well, maybe only part time when there's a need. But still."

And then he looked over at Jade and me. "Hey look Rocco, I know I apologized a while back, but I want to tell you again. Thanks for insisting I go see your uncle. He's a great boss. Can you imagine? A white man, makes me a foreman over all them other white guys? And what's even more unbelievable, there wasn't almost no grumbling. They all know I'm the hardest worker he's got. And damn good too if I have ta say so myself." His smile lit up the room.

Mrs. Webster automatically put a sandwich in front of BJ. And a glass of milk. (I never could get used to the powdered milk they drank there. We had whole milk delivered to our house almost every morning). And they had something I'd never seen before -- grits. After a couple times trying to force them down, Mrs. Webster finally realized I didn't like them and usually made up some instant potatoes instead. I wondered how she made it so fast. I mean the sandwich.

"Well, BJ I'm sure glad for you, but how'd this come about?" Mrs. Webster even sat down with us to hear it.

"Well, know how I told you most his foreman and many his best people go to Florida for the Winter when it slows down up here? Well, he needed a foreman for a new job today and looked around and handed me the clipboard just like that. He said: "Find out from Valley the particulars, get the things put into the old staked-back Ford, and I'll send you out two more guys. How about Tom and Bill?"

And that was it. I didn't even ask him why me. Just did as I was told. Valley had the list of wood I'd need all figured out and I even got to use the new nail gun. What a joy that is to use."

And after ten more minutes of his story I was wondering that maybe he really WAS related to Mrs. Webster. He must have picked up her long windedness.

Valley was my Aunt. Uncle Bill and she have been married for as long as I remember but they had no kids. She was also bookkeeper and secretary for the business. Uncle Bill hired about 40 to 50 people last summer, but this drops down to less than half in the Winter. Sometimes he loses money on a bid in Winter just to keep his men all working. They were both really nice people and Uncle Bill and Aunt Valley would be maybe who I'd go to if it ever really got necessary. It was part of Jade's and my contingency plans we talked about. Lately though, Jade and I been even thinking of talking to Mrs. Webster about me staying there if the worst happened and the world blew up. We never acted on this idea yet though.

I had met all of Mrs. Webster's sons by now, except her very oldest who lived in California. Her three oldest all had families of their own and were so much older, we never really talked much. Only seen each other once or twice. It was her two youngest foster boys -- previous ones that is -- that came around all the time. The oldest was in the Navy and Mrs. Webster worried that with the war in Vietnam heating up, he'd wind up over there.

For a while the two younger ones, Kyle and BJ, had been trying to break into the plumbing business, but getting into the union was hard for anyone, and maybe impossible for a colored person. They were doing some non-union jobs for some neighbors, but not enough to make a living. Of course they had to do it on the sly since no city inspectors would OK a non-union job. My uncle had last year started up his own hardwood flooring business and I had mentioned maybe they could see him for a job. They were polite but I don't think they took me too seriously. "We'd only be hired as basic laborers." They both said.

I persisted: "Look, he's outside the city and so don't have to hire union. And he's just starting up, so maybe, if you do real good, you can get in on the ground floor."

One of the two boys there at the time, BJ, looked at me and made some disparaging remark like I was just some crazy white-boy. "How come you over here all the time anyway? Don't you got your own house in your own neighborhood?"

I thought Jade was going to come unglued. This was one of the rare times I saw him truly angry. Fortunately, before any more words were out of his mouth, Mrs. Webster not so quietly butted in and restored at least order if not calmness. She even got him to apologize.

And then just before Jade could get back into the fray I said: "Look, BJ; Jade and I happen to be close friends and have been so for a couple years. And Mrs. Webster is almost my second Mom. It makes me feel good just being here. And finally I'm just as black as you are. And you know what I mean by that. So why can't we just be friends?"

Jade must have thought of something he liked. He started smiling again. "Hey BJ, never had a white boy talk to you like that before?" And I was also three years younger.

BJ finally simmered down, but still wasn't overly friendly.

And then I got one of my better ideas. I called home and Dolores answered. She asked: "You gone to eat there again tonight? Mom says we save at least 5 dollars a week now on our grocery bill." Quite an exaggeration. We probably didn't spend 35 or 40 dollars for the whole family.

I finally got her to look up Uncle Bill's phone number. "And tell Mom, I'll be home late, after 9 probably. That TV we were supposed to fix after school turned out we have to go tonight instead." I hung up and looked at the clock. Uncle Bill wouldn't be there but Aunt Valley would. So I called her.

"Hi Aunt Valley, I was just calling. . ." But could never get to finish. It was really strange. When we go to visit, she's pretty quite and reserved. But get her on the phone, and wow. But I finally asked about if they needed any people. I wasn't thinking it was a good chance, being the middle of Winter and all, but it couldn't hurt. By this time everyone was looking at me like I had two heads. Especially BJ. Jade was just smiling. He knew this was the usual me. Butting in. Finally after a short conversation I got a pen and paper and wrote down an address.

"Here." I handed BJ the address and explained about my uncle and his business. "You don't have to go, but what you have to lose? If you're looking for a good job, my uncle will be there for about three more hours. But it's you have to convince him you'd be good for him. I just got you an interview."

BJ just stood there gawking. Maybe I had just grown head number three.

Jade was the one who spoke next. "Don't look a gift horse up the butt." (Mrs. Webster grimaced when she heard that). "You have that rattle trap of a truck with you. That's just north of the city. Fifteen minutes away if you get ahead of the rush hour traffic."

After some more talk, BJ just gave me a weird stare and he and Kyle left. They were put to work the next day. It just happened my uncle got the biggest contract of his business career several months earlier. Morrell Park was a big housing development going up north of the city. Over a hundred homes already up and a few hundred more planned. And my uncle got the contract for the floors in next hundred they were building. He said they'd be busy well into the Winter. And they never thanked me until almost a month later. Oh well. My uncle even called me up the next week and thanked me for sending them to him. Hard workers and all that stuff. I was almost embarrassed. For all I knew they could have been the worst people he ever hired. And I think that was the first time my uncle ever called me specifically. Then he asked me what I had in mind the next summer. He could put me to work. I almost said yes on the spot and then thought of Jade. I didn't think Jade could do any work he had. I'd have to find out. I said I'd think about it, and so on. (Some of his best hard wood floor people made over seven dollars an hour. That was an almost unheard of wage to me. Most factory jobs started at less than a third of that).

Now BJ and I were almost friends. Actually I think it was more my age rather than my skin color that kept us from getting closer.

Well, Jade and I talked about foster kids some more that evening. I broke down crying again of course. And I sure liked the way Jade comforted me. And I made sure he comforted me more then once. And later I told him I sure liked being his sex object.

Chapter 79 -- More of White-boy's Wild Ideas

Rocco's been going crazy hyper lately. A little while back we were fixing this color TV, and had schematics covering a good part of the floor. Rocco was going manic. We thought we got lucky when we found a magenta picture. One of the circuits for yellow was out. A half hour later Rocco was still calling off voltages and terminal numbers as I was using the volt meter. Nothing so far. My arms were getting tired. Mr. Gaffney, the guy who had us over kept coming in the room and just watching. Not even a single question as he saw the innards of his TV set on top of newspapers on the living room floor. His young daughter actually had brought in a kitchen chair and just sat there watching. And asked us every five minutes if we had it fixed yet. She was going to miss her favorite show The Real Mc Coys.

Rocco grimaced. He hated that show. I heard him mumble: "Maybe, if that's what she watches we shouldn't fix this set after all."

"Zero!" I finally yelled. "I think I found a start of the bad circuit." But then I had to trace it back to find the failed component. Ten minutes later we finally found it. A bad power transistor. Rocco said maybe we should have just tested all the diodes and transistors first since they were the most likely to go. We unsoldered it and promised the set would be up and going the next day. Mr. Gaffney was almost as overjoyed as his young daughter was heart-broken. "No TV `til tomorrow?" she asked.

Mr. Gaffney said that the three TV men he called before us said that the set had to be brought to their shop to be worked on. Said these sets were a bit difficult. I guess they were right.

The next day we got the transistor and set about replacing it. Gaffney's young daughter was much bolder today and was asking more than if it was fixed yet.

"How come you connected that funny snake thing?"

She was talking about the heat sink we attached to the leads from the transistor.

"That's so the transistor doesn't get hot when we solder it into your TV."

We finished, put all the parts back, and turned the set on. It was truly wonderful to behold. This was our first color set. We rejoiced so much I wondered if Mr. Gaffney thought we'd lost it. We decided to charge 10 dollars, plus parts since it was so difficult. He didn't even flinch. His daughter was overjoyed. Jade and I wondered if there were any other Gaffneys around the house. We never saw any.

We were on our way to my house when I remarked: "Maybe we should have charged more. Do you know how much the others charge?"

Rocco didn't.

A few days later we were in the newspaper room at school bemoaning how dry and uninteresting some of the stuff in our school paper was. Rocco had read something to me about Glenn's orbital flight but it wasn't quite as interesting the hundredth time through. Then we started talking about how boring our own paper was and Rocco did mention something about writing about other religions and what others might believe, but our conversation with Twain got him sidetracked. Twain had invited us to his house that next Saturday. And we got to talking about Twain, and dating, and what girls he might get interested in. Rocco complained afterwards saying that he never did get to ask him about the Jewish religion.

Well anyway, that next Saturday found us at the Goldstein's, and that afternoon Rocco proved just how fanatical he could be. While playing Scrabble of all things.

It wound up being Rocco and I against Dan and Consuelo. Twain and Allen occasionally kibitzed. And Rocco was truly a fiend. He said that one day he'd gone to the library and gotten out two unabridged dictionaries and looked up every two letter word and memorized them all.

"That's how you get better scores. Working along another word, not across it!" And it worked. He rarely settled for less than a twenty score per word. And our "word" wars over the past years hadn't hurt us either.

But Rocco's fervor even started before the game got under way. Consuelo and Rocco got into this big battle concerning the rules we would use. It was truly a sight to behold. It was like the irresistible force meeting the immoveable object. But they eventually compromised. I asked how come we had to modify the rules at all, and they both stared at me as if I had just said the stupidest thing in the world. First of all we played partners, and although we were partners, we alternately played our separate turns, just adding our team score together. Also, you had to know the meaning of the word to use it. And the last rule change: once each game, a player could exchange any or all his tiles WITHOUT losing a turn. (Rocco and Consuelo's alternate rules number one through four).

We had gotten there in time for lunch. A bunch of traditional hoagies were downed. Mrs. Goldstein asked me how come Rocco wasn't 280 pounds instead of 80.

"Where'd all that food go?" she asked.

I started edging away from Rocco as I said: "Three tape worms, two hollow legs, and that last hoagie wound up in a doggie bag for later." Rocco swatted at me but missed.

During the table conversation we mentioned having fixed out first color TV set. Dan then remarked: "I was reading in the newspaper the other day, that now 13% of American households have more than one TV set. As the prices come down with solid state components more people will have two or even three sets."

He also mentioned that soon TV's will be all solid state except for the picture tube and then many TV repair places will be out of business since they would not break down as much. I was hoping that wouldn't happen too soon.

So anyway, while the scrabble game progressed, or stalled when it came for Rocco to play, we talked about Rocco's idea for the school paper. We just wanted to put together a short article on the Jewish faith.

Rocco asked Twain about the Torah and Leviticus. "Can you explain the Holiness Codes?

Twain looked a bit confused. "The what?"

"I said the Holiness Codes. The one's in Leviticus. Can you tell us about them?"

"Oh, I never heard them referred to like that, but I guess it makes sense. But I just thought of them as all the `can't do's, and mustn't do's.' I told you, I'm not much on my own religion."

Rocco took on this puzzled look: "But you're Jewish! You know all about that stuff. It's your religion!"

Twain started laughing again. "Rocco, there's something you need to understand. I'm Jewish, but not very Jewish." He put weird emphasis on the two words "Jewish." He saw we were more perplexed than ever. "Look, there's two different things. I'm Jewish because that's by birth, like you're Italian. But that's not exact either but the closest I can get. Since there are Polish Jews, and German Jews, and so on. Anyway, then there's the Jewish faith or religion. In that regard, my Mom and I are barely Jewish at all. Heck, after going to Father Judge for almost a year, I'm almost more Catholic than Jewish. So, since my Mother is a Jew, I'm a Jew. See?"

While I was thinking about things, Consuelo jumped in: "What's this about since your Mom's a Jew?"

"Oh, yeah. Our line comes from our mothers. Rabbi Wattman could explain it a lot better. Mom and I only go to Temple for her business. And we've only done that recently since we've moved here. And we go to a Reform Temple. It helps to know the right people. My Mom gets a lot of connections through the people there. Gees, I bet half the people that attend only go for that same reason."

Everybody it seemed was trying to say something. Rocco snuck back in through a crack in the conversation. "OK, but you still haven't answered about Leviticus?"

"And I really can't. I've never learned Hebrew. I've never studied the Tanakh, not even the Torah. And we've never followed Kashrut. Sorry to disappoint you."

"What the heck is Kashrut?" I asked.

"Mainly it means keeping Kosher."

"The only time I've heard that word was when someone says `That's not kosher'."

"Well, it's keeping the proscriptions of the Bible as to all the dietary rules and all. They are found in the Torah, mostly Leviticus. But, I really don't know a lot about it all. We aren't even as traditional as the Conservative Temples. You need to talk to someone else. But as far as Leviticus goes, many of its proscriptions aren't followed by almost anyone anymore. Like wearing the phylacteries and all that. Except the most fanatical Orthodox."

What the heck was a phylactery I wondered. I could see Rocco was a bit disappointed.

Twain remarked: "You sound like you're more interested in Judaism than I am. Maybe the next time Mom insists I go to Temple with her, you can take my place." And he laughed like it was the greatest joke uttered that day.

"Well, I was only wondering about a few things." Rocco said he thought he could learn enough to write an article for our school paper."

However it was Allen who wound up contributing the most. Allen finally entered the conversation: "Well if you want to write an article I think you could keep it to a hundred pages if you worked at it?"

Rocco exclaimed: "What!? How come?"

"How would you describe to me what a Christian believed?"

"I didn't realize. How can it be that complicated?'

Actually it wasn't quite that bad, but Rocco and I got it down to a single written page by sheer brutality. Almost no detail at all. I was flummoxed when Allen said they even used two sets of dishes at home. I never heard of that before. And now I think I know just what kosher means -- maybe. And they even had different words for different parts of their bible. And so on. Just general stuff that the rest of us never knew. And we never got into the different kinds of Jews nationality-wise. Past the scope of the article. I was also surprised when Allen said that there were still some sects of Jews that didn't believe in life after death. Really strange.

They talked and Rocco wrote. (Between turns). I dictated the final draft. Rocco still isn't a good writer. And his sentences also tended to be a half page long. He said it was too much influence from having two years of Latin authors to read.

On the following Sunday morning, Mrs. Webster, Tim, Rocco, and I went to Church together. It almost felt like a family. I'm doing well Mama, I hope you know that. The pastor talked about the need to bring Christ's love into the world by giving this love to those close to us. Or those not close to us. Then he said something that sort of hit a chord. He said the opportunities to help some people sometimes occur only momentarily, and then were forever lost. We need to be vigilant for these moments. (He said it better than I just did but that was the idea). White-boy and I looked at each other and smiled. It seemed amazing that we were talking about a similar idea just the other day when talking about Tim. I guess we were just so happy that we just wanted to spread the wealth so to speak.

After we got to my place Rocco said he had to get home since some relatives were showing up. He commented: "It's strange, but I've never really been close to any of my cousins. I guess we never got to know each other that well. And the little I know I didn't like so much. I usually find these get-togethers so boring. But I have to be there."

"I wish I could come, but I guess not." I felt a moment of sadness go through me. Am I starting to get all mushy like Rocco does about not being able to express our affection for each other publicly?

Right before he left we were talking about the end of our idea of putting articles in consecutive editions of the school paper about other religions and what they believed and so on. But the whole idea was nixed. Rocco was really disappointed, or maybe even more than just disappointed.

I looked at Rocco and said: "I don't think Fr. Schields was too happy when you remarked that you momentarily forgot that the paper wasn't actually supposed to inform."

He smiled. "I think the sarcasm was lost on him. He took me literally. He said something about what other religions believed was misinforming the students, or something like that. I'm only just realizing how what we learn is more like propaganda sometimes."

"Well, nothing we can do." It usually wasn't in Rocco's personality to just let something like this go, but we both reluctantly agreed there was nothing we could do. But as Rocco left I could see he was still feeling pretty frustrated. And at school the next day I was to find out just what my last remark to Rocco had given birth to.

That afternoon, Tim and I went to Pennypack Park and I took some of my nature books with us. I was hoping to get him interested in school a bit more. He was improving but it was a struggle. (A struggle for me to convince him of the importance for him to do well).

"We just don' needs to learn all that boring stuff. What good's it do?"

I tried to correct his English and added: "Hey, how about me? What could I do to live if I didn't do well in school, and get a good job? How can I support myself without hands? I need a professional type job, and I'm going to get one."

"But that's you. I just can't get interested. BJ has a great job and he said he didn't do that well in school either."

"But you are improving so much especially in arithmetic. And you can read those comic books now. Doesn't that interest you?"

"That's different. That's interesting stuff."

"You including arithmetic?"

"Well, sort of. It's fun figuring out that stuff."

Holy smoke, he's starting to sound like Rocco. (And I so wished he could be with us). Well, I was hoping to get Tim interested in a few other things. I can remember, that even when I was so depressed about everything, the one thing that helped was being curious about nature.

I was at least a bit successful. We brought home some pond water and he got really excited when I got out our microscope and showed him all the amazing things you could find in just a drop of water. We even found a water bear.

The rest of the afternoon seemed to just zoom. Even without Rocco there. And then, right before dinner, Tim asked a question that surprised me a bit: "How come Rocco lives here so much? Don't he have his own family?"

How to answer? "Well, we're best friends. How about you? Have you made any good friends? How about Mark that you play with a lot?"

"He just wants to play sports all the time. I like exploring." And he looked up smiling. "Especially on my new bike. I went all the way to Cottman Ave in the park the other day!"

That was almost an eight mile round trip through the park. I started remembering some of the "exploring" that Rocco and I had done when we first became friends.

"Well, maybe you can find someone that likes the same things. There're lots of kids at school."

He sort of looked down and just mumbled something.

"What's the matter?"

Only after a lot of prodding did he mention something about a lot of the kids in school didn't like him. And he had trouble making friends. We talked about that some more before Mrs. Webster called us to dinner. I didn't quite understand the problems he was having but I hoped by talking about it he could maybe help himself.

Copyright 2006 by Rocco Paperiello