The ball flew from his fingertips, spinning through the afternoon air. The the bat whistled through the spot where the ball should have been, and milliseconds later, the ball slapped into the mitt.
“Fuck!” The batter exclaimed.
“Don't worry, “ the pitcher called out as the catcher returned the ball, “You won't see any of those in Division Two.”
“Hudson, you are such a prick. Throw that shit again.” The batter raised his club and made a few test swings.
“You had three, Bonville, three laps and grab some pine,” the coach called out. “Picardy, take your whacks.”
“Yeah Picardy, here's your chance, whack it with Hudson right here, instead of you all alone in your room tonight!” The catcall came from one of the guys in the dugout, who stuck a bat between his legs and began stroking it and moaning loudly and calling pitcher Cameron Hudson's name out. The team laughed at his bawdy display.
Picardy looked away from the dugout and approached home plate with his eyes on the ground. He knew his fair skin was flushed from embarrassment. He stepped into the batters box and squared off against Hudson. Cameron set, stepped and threw a scorching fastball. Picardy drove it off the barrel of the bat,a solid line shot to right field.
“There's a shock, Picardy put the wood to Hudson.” The dugout rang with laughter.
“Shut your hole!” Hudson yelled in irritation. He caught the new ball, tossed by the catcher. and slammed it into his glove in frustration. His goal in volunteering to pitch the 'bat around' had been to strike out the entire team, and in several attempts throughout the year, he hadn't managed it. He'd come close few times, but fucking Picardy always managed to break it up. Four batters later, the practice was over. Out of the entire team, only Picardy had gotten a hit.
“I'm beginning to think you take it easy on Picardy, Cam. Guy can't hit a barn with a banjo, but he's got your number.” Bonville laughed as he clapped Cam Hudson on the back.
“Pisses me off. He barely hits the ball in a real game, but he hammers my fastballs like it was tee ball for fuck's sake,” Hudson grumbled as they walked towards the open doors of the school locker room.
“Hudson! Bonville!” Coach yelled to them. They turned and trotted back to him. “Three games left. You know what the deal is right?”
“Win all three, get the title from Baptist,” Bonnville replied promptly.
“Damned right. That should be you're whole fucking world right now. Make sure it's everyone elses too. Hit the showers.” The players turned from him but turned back as he began speaking again, “I almost forgot, the game against Truman? Scouts. Go.”
“I have to get some extra work in, get the kinks out before the scouts show up,” Cam muttered.
“You'll be fine, as long as Picardy is on our team,” Bonville laughed.
“Seriously, what the fuck is it that lets him hit my fastball?” Cam groaned. “It's like he knows when I'm going to throw it. If I throw a curveball, he doesn't know. Slider, he never sees it coming. But the second I throw the fastball, he's fucking ready for it. You know,” Cam said as he looked at Bonville, “I throw one to him every time, mix it in there, and he always finds it and puts the lumber to it.”
“That's the rumor, he puts the lumber to ya,” Bonville laughed.
“Yeah, that's what I hear. It's cause I'm so handsome you know, irresistible.” Hudson mugged, “ I have an undeniable charm.”
“Yeah, you're tough to get rid of. Like crabs,” Bonville said with a laugh.
“Got 'em from your mom,” was the quick reply. They pushed and shoved for a moment, and then stopped as yells and screams filled their ears. They glanced at each other and broke for the door to the locker room. In the distance the coach lumbered after them. The yells and catcalls came from the end of the long room, and they ran to the knot of players, pushing through till they found the screams in the center of all the yelling and cheering.
Picardy was trussed up, pink underwear pulled up in a wedgie that must have been painful. In fact Hudson grimaced at the sight of squeezed testicles. His arms were over his head, tied with thin nylon rope which was looped over a pipe in the ceiling and held on the other end by a player still in uniform. Laughter and yelling filled the room while Picardy screamed to be let down, that his shoulders hurt. He was lifting a leg, trying to shield himself with his thigh.
“Put him down!” The coach thundered. Bonville was shoving the fellow holding the rope, who released it. Picardy dropped to the floor awkwardly and tried to cover himself with his arms, which were had gone to sleep. He was in tears.
“No one does anything to damage anyone until after we beat Baptist!” Coach thundered. “Hit the GD showers. Now!” Players scattered, except Hudson and Bonville. Bonville was giving Picardy a towel to help cover himself and for his part, Hudson was shocked. Picardy stood unsteadily. His face was a mess, a mix of tears and snot and flushed with embarrassment.
“This is bullshit, coach,” Bonville growled.
“If he'd hit the ball once in a while, they might not do that,” Coach half turned and glanced back at Picardy's wide eyes. “Having a girlfriend wouldn't hurt either. Hit the showers.” Coach strode away. Bonville stood up, staring at the coach's retreating back, eyes narrowed. Picardy pulled the towel tight and stumbled away without speaking. Bonville reached out for him as he left, but Hudson stopped him with a hand on his arm and a shake of his head. They watched as Picardy made his way to his locker, and they walked away before he started to change. It just wasn't decent.
Hudson leaned against his car in the parking lot and dropped his bag on the ground. He pulled out his cell and texted his mom that he was done with practice and coming home soon. His mom worried. Bonville dropped his bag and took a spot next to Hudson on the fender.
“Text your mom?” he asked.
“I'd say yes, mother, but that would sound weird.”
“Yeah. Plus you know my mom is the only one in my family that claims you as her own,” he laughed.
“Thank God for that, I don't want to be related to you!” Hudson laughed.
“Cam, if my mom claims you, that makes me your brother.”
“Naw, there has to be a way around that,” Hudson put a hand to his chin.
“Well, the skin color might be a giveaway,” Bonville conceded.
“Plus, you're queer, don't that run in families?” Hudson asked.
“Yeah, go on and tell yourself that. I still say it ain't incest, brother from another mother,” Bonville laughed.
“Pig,” Hudson said with a laughed. “I knew braking up with Gina was a bad idea. Now you think you can get in my pants. Is that why you told me to dump her?”
“No, I told you she was blowing Tim Hamilton, and you were kissing that mouth. If you're kissing that mouth, you may as well be sucking that dick and you're definitely not kissing me!” Bonville threw his hand up to ward of any such attempts.
“Right, like anyone's a bigger skank than you,” Hudson replied, still laughing. “Seriously, why don't you ask Picardy out?”
“I told you man, just being gay isn't enough. Why don't you ask Wanda Tipton out?” Hudson's face screwed up in response. “Exactly, but by your logic, she's straight, should be enough, right?”
“But still, not a lot of options, and Picardy looks better than Wanda,” Hudson said, laughing harder.
“Yeah, well, I don't even think he's gay,” Bonville said.
“He's pretty fem for being straight.”
“Newsflash, they exist.”
“If you say so. I have to get home, you want me to drop you off?”
“Yeah. One thing though? Lets sit near Picardy on the bus, okay?”
“What? We his guards now?”
“Well, if that it's the right thing to do doesn't work for ya, how about it's a little late in the season to find a new short stop?”
Hudson pretended to think about it. “Okay. You're right.”
“That it's the right thing to do?”
“That it's too late to find a good short stop.” Hudson smiled and punched Bonville in the arm. “And, okay fine, it's the right thing to do.”
Hudson and Bonville climbed on the team bus. Most of the team was huddled towards the back of the bus, except for Picardy who was seated in the second row, just behind the equipment bags. Hudson glanced at Bonville and flopped heavily onto the bench seat next to Picardy and Bonville sat across from him.
“What's going on?” Picardy asked, moving away from Hudson. For a tall guy who wasn't exactly a weakling he sure acted wimpy, Hudson thought.
“Hudson won't sit next to me, he needed to find a seat where I couldn't join him.” Bonville replied with a wink. “Doesn't mean I won't sit in his lap though.”
“Easy, you big homo, I'll tell your mother,” Hudson said as he pushed him away. Bonville chuckled as he righted himself. “Mom says I'm too good for you.”
“She's your mom, she's supposed to say shit like that,” Hudson said with a shrug.
“Are you two fucking with me?” Picardy asked nervously.
“No, everyone's mom lies to them. Tells them they are handsome, kind, whatever. They always think no one is good enough for their kid. That goes double for Eriq's mom,” Hudson said as he pretended to study the ceiling. “Maybe your mom is part Jewish?”
“Yeah, for black folks we have a lot of chutzpah,” Bonville replied with a roll of his eyes. “You can play the putz if you want though.”
“See we can't be related, I don't like matzo balls. You,” Hudson said, pointing at Bonville, “could be. You like balls, I rest my case.”
Bonville burst out laughing and shook his head, “How come you're the one that always bring up cock and balls if...”
“Don't say it! I'll tell your mom!”
“Are you guys always this weird?” Picardy asked.
“Weird? I'm the normal one,” they both said at once.
Picardy lapsed into silence and stared out of the window.
The ball whirled through the air, hurtling towards the plate and, if the pitcher was lucky, the catchers mitt. Hudson could tell you that no matter how good the pitcher was, you sometimes needed a little luck to make sure the ball got to the mitt and not onto the fat barrel of the bat. Sometimes you put the pitch right where you wanted it and the batter guessed right and that's all there was to it. Bonville was better than most at the guessing game, he reflected, as the ball violently changed direction and surged over the third baseman's head and down the line.
He clapped as Eriq pulled up at second, held by a strong throw in from the outfield. Picardy stepped up to the plate and settled into the batters box. The score was tied three all in the top of the seventh inning. Hudson was part of a three man pitching rotation, tonight he'd watched a lot of the game while Ryan Canfield had pitched.
The opposing pitcher wound up and threw a curve that Picardy missed. Eriq walked back to second to tag up and await the pitcher coming set for the next pitch. As soon as he started forward, Eriq was running for third. Picardy made contact, drove the ball at the second basemen, one, two hops and it was in his glove. Picardy ran down the line and almost beat the throw, but in reality the second baseman had time to glance at third, realize he had no chance at Bonville and take the easy out at first. It all happened so fast, with Picardy's long legs, it looked closer than it really was.
“Way to move the runner,” Hudson said to him as he passed. Picardy took a seat on the bench, far from his teammates. Hudson, for the first time, wondered why Picardy took so much shit. He was always getting hassled in the halls but he never flipped shit and just decked someone. Probably do him good, send a message. Hudson could hear his mom in the back of his head, “Cameron, violence is never the answer.” He rolled his eyes.
Hitchcock hit a fly ball to deep center on the first pitch. Bonville tagged up as he watched the ball sail deep, the center fielder tracking the ball, and finally bringing it in. He fired the ball towards home, truly a cannon for an arm, but Bonville beat the throw in a dive that kicked up a good amount of dust. Bonville said his aim in diving wasn't so much to get to the plate, it was to kick up enough dust to make the umpire choke.
Congratulations and high fives were all around. Kessel stepped up to the plate and popped out to end the top of the inning. Hudson's team took the field, the coach calling out his brand of encouragement. Livingston was starting that inning on the hill, one of the relief pitchers they used. Canfield's arm had gotten sore down the stretch, so the coach tried to take him out a little earlier in games to preserve his arm.
Livingston ran the count to three and oh before tossing a fastball down the gut. The batter hammered it over the third baseman's head for a single. The second batter was first pitch swinging and fouled off two before striking out. Next up took two pitches before getting one he liked enough to swing on. He hit a high chopper towards first and by the time the first baseman had it and turned to throw it to Livingston, he found out the pitcher had failed to get over to first to cover. Two on and one out. Livingston, who was uncharacteristically erratic, walked the next guy to load the bases.
Coach called a time out and went to chew Livingston's ass out. Hudson shook his head. Every time coach yelled at him, it had never helped. Bonville had accused him more than once of crappy pitching just so the coach would come out, yell at him and pat him on the ass before going back to the sideline. For a straight guy, Hudson took a lot of gay crap from Bonville. Maybe he should set Eriq up with a date with Wanda Tipton, that'd shut him up. Nah, he'd probably just whine.
Coach waddled back to the sideline, after delivering his customary pat on the ass. Livingston did not look calmer than when coach had walked out, in fact he looked like he was trying to squeeze a kid out of his ass. He wound up, and threw a pitch in the dirt. Holland, the catcher, smothered it saving a run for sure. Coach threw his hat in the dirt and shot Livingston the hairy eye.
Livingston took a few deep breaths and wound up again. The batter hit the ball, hard. Picardy ranged to his right, dove and scooped the ball. He rolled out of the dive, threw the ball to third who threw to second for the inning ending double play. Was hard to get a ball past Picardy, lisp and limp wrist jokes or no.
The bus ride back was full of horseplay and catcalls, a victory always felt good. Hudson and Bonville kept an eye out for the shortstop, but no one felt like bothering Picardy that night.
The next day, Thursday, the principal announced their win with the morning news items. The team was on a high, only two games away from winning their first title ever. Baptist Union High School was, regionally, the powerhouse in sports. Edison High was a bottom feeder but, that year, Edison had surprised everyone in the division and roared out to a commanding division lead that had dwindled as the season wore on. Now it was win or die.
Bonville sat with Hudson at his homeroom table while they waited for the bell to ring.
“Cam, what coach did the other day, it's bullshit.”
“What do you mean? He try to touch your pee pee?” Hudson said, grinning insolently.
“No, douche. How he let those guys get away with what they did to Picardy.”
“Picardy's a big dude, he could probably break a few faces and they'd leave him alone.” Hudson said with a shrug.
“Yeah, lets see you fight off the whole team. He's used to getting his ass whipped, but a coach or a teacher should step up, not practically say it's all right.”
“Condone is the word you want.”
“Practically say it's all right? He condoned it.”
“Cam, shut the fuck up. I'm serious.”
“Okay, all right, I'm sorry. I guess I just don't see the big deal. The guy has to stand up for himself, doesn't he?”
“Dude, how would you feel if you were him? Have that happen and coach tells you to get a girlfriend? How about if it was me?”
“Bro, no way that happens to you. Or me. We'd bust some fucking heads, rip their nuts off and shove em down their throats. We don't get fucked with,” Hudson responded firmly.
“Yeah, that's not the way it is with him though. Plus, with coach condoning their actions, he's got to feel like shit.”
Hudson fell silent, contemplating Bonville's words. “Okay..bottom line?”
“Cam, he's a teammate. We got to have his back.”
“Okay bro, we got his back then.”
“No jokes about me trying to get a date with him? No smart ass comments?” Bonville asked, raising his eyebrow.
“Nah, I feel you here. Not everyone is like you and me.”
“Picardy, what the fuck are you eating?” Hudson asked as he sat his tray on the cafeteria table. He preferred to eat outside, but since it was raining, he and Bonville looked for Picardy inside. Eriq popped down next to him.
“That looks terrible,” Bonville added, wrinkling his nose.
Picardy started at his sudden, new company and looked quite nervous with their arrival.
“Must be pussy, looks awful but tastes great, huh?” Hudson said with a smirk.
“Yeah, you go ahead with that,” Bonville said with a snort and turned his attention back to Picardy's food. “Seriously, what is that?”
“My mom makes them, I can't pronounce their names, they're Russian,” he responded warily.
“Dude, cool watch, can I see?” Hudson asked before taking a bite of his pizza. “This shit is worse than normal,” he commented with his mouth full.
Picardy uncertainly extended his arm. Hudson took a closer look at the watch, “I like it, that's cool how you can see all the gears and stuff.”
“Thanks,” Picardy mumbled. He dropped his food and looked back and forth between Hudson and Bonville, “What the fuck is the deal? If you guys are going to dump me in a garbage can or spray paint my locker or give me a fucking swirlie just do it already! I can't take this cat and mouse bullshit!”
Hudson and Bonville sat stunned for a moment. Eriq recovered first and replied, “We think what the guys did was bullshit, we just looking out for you.”
“Really?” Picardy said sarcastically as he threw his uneaten lunch into his container. “Then what? Going to help the team dye me blue again? Or just talk to the coach long enough that they can strip me and hang me by the wrists again?” Water shimmered in his eyes and his body movements were jerky.
“Dude, if it's stressing you out, I'll go. I don't mean anything. Peace out,” Hudson said standing with his tray and leaving the table. Bonville eyed Picardy with sympathy and then gathered his tray as well.
“I know you don't believe us, but we got your back.” He paused and looked him in the eye, “And coach stopped us. There's going to be scouts at the Truman game. We didn't know what they were going to do.”
Practice was held inside the gym, due to the rain. The team exercised lightly having played the day before and with a game the following day, the coach just wanted to keep them loose. Hudson and Bonville jogged together, keeping an eye out for Picardy, despite his misgivings about their intentions.
“I applied to Pitt. I'm hoping they'll be there when we play Truman. I hear the ratio of guys to girls at Pitt is like, three to one.” Hudson said as he glanced skyward, pretending to imagine all the lovely girls.
“Cam, you're math skills suck ass. If the ratio of guys to girls is three to one, that means three guys for every girl. Unless you gonna be swingin', sounds more like my kind of school.”
“Fuck,” Hudson considered. “You serious? That right?” Bonville laughed at his friends sudden loss of interest in the University of Pittsburgh.
“Hey, I know when I get to a dorm I'm hoping for a teammate or two to cuddle with. It gets cold in Pittsburgh don't it?”
“Shut the fuck up.”
“So, with your English skills and my math skills, maybe we better aim for community college.”
Practice seemed to drag that day with the rain holding court outside and the great gray clouds hanging over the landscape outside the cathedral windows. Sneakers squeaked on the wooden floor, catcalls from bored guys echoed around the gym. With just two games left the team was loose, but the rain left no outlet for all their energy. Pitchers took turns warming their arms and working the kinks out of their mechanics. Fake bases were set up and the coach was conducting base running drills.
Hudson spotted a few of the guys coming up from the locker room, but readily dismissed it since the bathrooms were down there. He glanced around quickly and couldn't find Picardy. He trotted over to Bonville, waving the person off who was catching him at the moment.
“Eriq, where's Picardy?” he asked. Bonville took a moment to scan the room.
“I don't see him. Bathroom?”
“Livingston and Canfield just came up from the locker room. Picardy is missing. I say we better look.”
Bonville nodded and just as they turned, coach blew his whistle signaling the end of practice. The team made a shambling, disorganized flow as they headed to the locker room. Hudson and Bonville hit the room first, the hallway leading to the locker room was echoing with voices and, at first, they heard nothing unusual. They swept through the room, looking for Picardy. A disgusted shout filled with surprise filled the air, then laughter followed by more as the team made their discovery. Hudson and Bonville pushed into the bathroom to find the source, both of them with sinking stomachs.
He was tied with the same nylon rope as before, pulled out of the tops of the equipment bags, and this time used to tie Picardy to the sink. Strands ran over his back and neck and were wrapped around his wrists and lashed him to the pipes under the sink. His face was pressed sideways against the faucet and in black marker on his back was the words 'Fuck Me, I like it' and an arrow pointing down to his ass. His pants were puddled around his ankles.
“This is fucking bullshit!” Hudson erupted, bringing a sudden lull in the laughter. “He's your fucking team mate!”
“You his boyfriend?”
“Tap his ass, Hudson!”
“I'll tap your asses, right after I tap your fucking skulls, motherfuckers,” Bonville said as he stepped into the room wielding a bat. The ones closest to the doorway backed off, and there was a smattering of nervous twittering and the scent in the air of animals that were no longer sure of their prey.
“Back off before my bro starts bashing heads.” With that Hudson turned his back on the team – his team – and walked over to Picardy.
“Don't touch me!” Picardy screamed as Hudson came into his field of vision. Someone in the locker room echoed the cry, in a falsetto.
“It's me, Alain, it's Cam. I'm gonna get you loose,” Hudson said calmly.
“Wait. Please.” Alain's eyes closed tightly and, with great embarrassment he whispered, “Please pull my pants up first.”
“Sure.” Hudson bent down and grabbed the top of the sweats and pulled them and their resident underwear off the floor, guided them up Picardy's legs and over his exposed behind. Picardy murmured a thank you, which Hudson ignored. He was embarrassed himself; how do you respond to someone who just thanked you for pulling their pants up for them? Was 'you're welcome' really proper?
Hudson set to work freeing up Picardy's hands, and the cord binding his chest to the sink. Once freed, he slid off the sink and slumped to the floor, silent tears of shame running down his face. Hudson studied him. He'd been roughed up some, no doubt, and the kid couldn't possibly have an ego left after something like that, but there seemed to be nothing permanent. At least, not physically.
“Leave me alone please,” Picardy mumbled. Hudson opened his mouth and then closed it. Who was he to say anything to the contrary? Did the kid need to be left alone? Probably not. Did he maybe need a minute to recover? Probably. The coach poked his head in, grunted, and left. He didn't even ask what happened.
“We'll be close by,” Hudson stated and walked out to his locker, passing Bonville who stood rigidly on guard, holding the bat like a club and, apparently, ready to use it. Picardy's head was in his arms, bobbing with heaving breath as he sobbed. Bonville had no idea what to do.
In the end, both of them simply hovered more or less out of view until the others left. Both had an itch to confront the coach, but neither wanted to leave Picardy unguarded, so the coach would have to wait. After Picardy had washed his face and gotten his things, they shadowed him until he reached his car and left.
“We have to do something,” Hudson said to his friend.
“Lets go eat first, mom should have dinner. Call your 'rents and come over and eat.” Bonville threw his bag in the back of Hudson's car, and Hudson followed suit.
“What happened?” Eriq's mom asked. She was a stout, soft looking woman who had pushed three screaming kids into the world and occasionally awakened them in the middle of the night to tell them so. She wasn't large and in charge, nor was she a diminutive woman who seemed like a force of nature. She was about as average as you can be, until you riled her. Then no large and in charge or force of nature could stop her.
“Kid on the team, they're screwin' with him,” Eriq replied.
“Cameron,” she nodded at Hudson.
“Mrs. Bonville.” Hudson acknowledged her.
“What kind of screwin'?” She asked as she set bowls out for them. She pointed at the crock-pot so as not to interrupt the tale she wanted to hear from her son. Between mouthfuls of stew both boys gave her the whole story, or as much of it as they knew.
“That poor boy. That Coach of yours needs a swift kick to his joy bubbles, is what he needs.” She turned her head, “Luther? Luther, come here. You have got to hear this.”
“Honey the Cards are on, can it wait till the commercial?”
“Yeah, fine. Another inning starts and you're still in that chair...”
“All right, all right.”
She stood up and fetched a small bowl from the cabinet and put it next to the crock-pot. After retaking her seat she glanced from one boy to the other. They refilled their bowls and ate in silence, the only sound that of the announcers on the television. A moment after the game went to commercial Luther, her husband, shuffled in. He was a mechanic and was dressed for the end of day lounging-- boxers and a tee shirt, socks optional.
“What's the fuss?” he asked. He spotted the bowl and headed to the stew pot. “This was so good, don't mind if I do.”
“That coach down there is letting the team beat up on a kid cause they think he's gay,” she announced.
“Someone lay a hand on you, boy? You better have whacked 'em, but good!” Luther sat at the table, but kept his eyes focused on his child.
“No, wasn't me. Kid named Picardy, Alain Picardy. I don't even think he's gay, he just can't stick up for himself.” Bonville replied. Hudson scraped the bottom of his bowl and shot a questioning glance at Mrs. Bonville.
“Go ahead, Cam Two-Stomachs, get yourself another bowl.” She grinned at Cam as he got up and refilled his bowl.
“You're stew rocks, Mrs. B.” Hudson commented.
“You're going to miss it when you go to play college ball.” She smiled at him. He dropped his spoon.
“You mean you won't bring me any?” he whined.
“Oh hell no. You come home if you want home cooked, son,” she chuckled. “Now stop sidetracking me, this is serious.”
“I don't know what we can do about it,” Hudson told her. “Eriq and I been watching out for him the last few days some, but they get him anyways.”
“Have you tried talking to him?” she asked.
“Yeah, he's kind of hostile though. He thinks were gonna mess with him too,” Eriq replied.
“What about your coach?” Luther asked.
“He told Picardy if he got himself a girlfriend, people wouldn't do shit like this to him,” he glanced at his mom, “'scuse me mom.”
“Luther, you should have a talk with the coach or this boys parents.” She looked at them both, “Why aren't his parents doing anything? Do they know what's happening to their son?”
“I don't know,” Hudson replied. “We really don't know him.”
“Boys, you need to make it your business. You're too young to remember your Aunt Gabriella, my sister, but you should know; She was too delicate for this world. She got lots of things said about her. She was too pretty, all the boys wanted her and when they couldn't have her...” She sighed deeply and looked down at the table. Luther snaked a hand over to cover hers, and she squeezed it. “They took from her what she wouldn't give willingly. That was bad enough, but after...all those boys...they were on her like wolves on an injured deer. She died young, you know.
“It was me that found her,” she whispered while fingering the intricately knotted gold charm at the base of her throat with her free hand.
“What do you...?” Eriq asked as his eyes widened.
“Your Aunt, she was so unhappy, so sad.” She blinked back tears and looked up at the ceiling as she gathered her words. “I was always jealous of her as a child; envious of her good looks and her easy charm. I wanted to be on the receiving end of some of the looks those boys gave her. But I was the one that found her, after she took our Daddy's revolver and...well she put a stop to it all.”
She rocked a little and a tear tracked down her face. Hudson and Bonville stared, astonished at her tale. Luther stood up and placed his hands on her shoulders, rubbing them and trying to soothe his wife.
“The thing is, boys, that even something like suicide, like dying...it's not the end. It near killed Daddy, since it was his gun. Momma couldn't take it. Our whole family disintegrated over her death. You have to promise me.” Her hands stretched out and took one of each of theirs in her own, “You have to promise. If he starts acting different, if he says anything, you have to tell someone. You have to stay with him. He thinks his pain will be over if he does that, but all it does is bring more pain.
“It's never the answer.” She fixed them with a firm look, “Never.”
They watched for Picardy all day, they barely glimpsed him before school and the sightings between classes were mere glimpses. At lunch they found him seated alone, with a book and his home packed lunch.
“Hey.” Hudson muttered.
“'Sup?” Bonville asked as they both plopped down at Picardy's table.
“Hey guys!” Picardy responded cheerfully. “Ready for Truman?”
“Yeah, I am. Supposed to be scouts there, I'm really hoping one from Pitt is there. How about you?” Hudson responded.
“I'm relaxed about it. I forgot my glove this morning, I have to run home after school. I'm trying to finish this book though, before school ends today. I've been working on it slowly, but I really want to finish it.”
Hudson and Bonville exchanged a glance and let his weird cheerfulness pass by them as they let him read while they ate. Hudson and Bonville bantered, it was like breathing for them, and they felt something was off so it helped with their nervous energy. As the clock steadily wound the lunch period down they gathered their garbage and got ready to go back to class.
“Oh, Cam!” Picardy said as he struggled with his watch band. “I wanted to give this to you, you said you liked it.” He held it out to Hudson. “I just got a new one, but I put this one on out of habit. Please, take it. You'll be doing me a favor; I won't put the wrong watch on again.”
Hudson glanced at the watch and at Picardy's face questioningly and slowly reached for the watch. Picardy reached out further and draped it on his open palm.
“Thanks,” Hudson said, dumbfounded.
“I hope you enjoy it. Think of me when you look at it!” Picardy smiled broadly and went to dump his trash and go to his next class. Hudson looked at Bonville.
“That was weird.”
“Yeah. Put it on.”
“You think I should?”
“You did say you liked the watch, seems kind of insulting not to wear the watch someone literally pulled off their wrist and gave to you.”
“Yeah,” Hudson muttered, unsure of himself. Something wasn't right. He slipped the watch on and smiled down at it. It was still warm from Picardy's wrist.
The warning bell rang and all thought fled his mind as he dumped his trash and headed to his next class. It wasn't until a lull the period after that when he found himself regarding the watch on his wrist.
There wasn't anything special about the watch, it wasn't gold, old or valuable. It wasn't shiny or glittery, no diamond set into the twelve o'clock position, just a bit of cut metal. The band was fabric and the crystal was plastic, but he'd liked it anyway. The face had small holes that let you see the cogs turning, but otherwise it matched the band, like the band was the face. That was all Alain's watch had going for it, but Hudson had liked it just the same. He frowned as he looked at the watch. The bell signaling the end of the school day rang and he packed his things and went to his locker to dump his books. As he headed to the locker room his unease grew.
“Watch looks made for you, bro,” Bonville smiled.
“It is pretty cool, but it's weird. I can't get this watch or Picardy off my brain pan. Something ain't right.”
“Well, he did tell you to think of him every time you looked at it...” He trailed off and they both looked at each other with increasing unease.
“I need to talk to you mom,” Hudson said as he pulled his cell out, and dialed Bonville's home number. After three rings his mother picked up.
“I just ran with a hamper of clean clothes, which I spilled, and didn't have time to check the caller ID before I answered this here phone and that annoying, shrill ring it has. If this is a telemarketer, God help you I will find you and slay your family until the sixth generation.”
“It's me, Mrs. B.”
“Oh, Cameron, how's my adopted son? Is everything all right?”
“I had something weird happen with Picardy, I need to ask you about it. He was all cheerful today, and he gave me his watch.”
“Oh my God. Is he there with you now? Is he with the team?” she asked in a panicky tone.
“No, he said he had to go home after school and get his mitt.”
“Cameron Gabriel Hudson, you listen to me! You go to his house and find him. If you don't know where he lives, you find out and do it now.” She inhaled deeply, almost choking back a sudden bout of sobbing, “Gabriella gave me this necklace I wear the morning she died. She was in a great mood before I left for school, and she said she wanted me to have it. You find him, Cameron, you understand? Do you understand?”
“Yes Ma'am, I understand.” He hung up and addressed Bonville's concerned expression. “Your mom said that gold pendant she wears was given to her by your aunt the morning she killed herself. She said she was in a great mood, no cares, just like he was at lunch. We have to find Picardy.”
“I don't know where he lives. I don't think he hangs out with anyone from the team, fastest way is to go to coach,” Bonville was already striding to the coach's office. In minutes they stood before his desk, in the cramped office adjacent to the locker room.
“Coach, we need Picardy's address.”
“Get a date on your own time,” the coach said without looking up. Bonville slammed the door shut and Hudson slapped his hands down on the coach's desk and towered over him.
“Listen to me right now. He's going to kill himself. Probably a lot of that has to do with what you let the team get away with when it comes to him. You give me his address now, and maybe I don't tell the cops and the lawyers that will come, after, what you say and allow down here,” Cam reached across the desk and yanked hard on the coach's whistle, “Maybe.”
“Picardy! Alain! Hello?” They ran around the house, slapping their hands on windows and doors. They cupped their hands and tried to peer in. Climbing over a fence they found themselves in the backyard and discovered Picardy sitting on a picnic table, a pistol in his hand.
“Alain? Alain it's me, Cam.” Cameron and Eriq approached the solitary figure. He looked up at them with red rimmed eyes.
“Stop, don't come any closer.” His gun hand twitched. They both stopped and put their hands out to show they were empty.
“Picardy, bro, not the way to go here. Trust me,” Eriq said quietly.
“It is the way to go, I know it is,” he said, looking up at them with tears slowly trekking down his face. “You don't understand.”
“Explain it, we're here to help.” Hudson squatted down to appear less threatening.
Picardy looked at him miserably. “It never stops. The fag comments, the spray painting my stuff, the ripping my clothes...the shit the team does to me. No one cares. Coach...”
“Coach is a fucking douchebag,” Bonville stated firmly.
“Yeah, well, he doesn't stop any of it. He never does,” Picardy looked up at them, “I really appreciate you guys trying to be nice, I really do. You saying you liked something to do with me was the nicest thing anyone has said to me at school all year, and it wasn't even about me.”
“Well, you have good taste in watches,” Hudson aimed for a little levity. Picardy barked a mournful half laugh.
“Yay, I can pick fashionable stuff out, one more faggy trait. Go me.”
“Dude, being gay isn't the end of the world,” Bonville said, “I know, I'm gay.”
“Yeah, everyone knows you are. I guess you know how to back it up, or at least you have friends that will back you up.”
“Actually, I think he tried to push me in front of a bus yesterday,” Bonville said with a smile. Picardy tightened his mouth.
“I know this is the right thing to do. My parents won't have to deal with my embarrassing failures, no one at school can hurt me anymore.” His eyes overflowed with tears, and he wiped them away to looked at his witnesses. “The team told me that if I let anything get past me at short they were gonna gang rape me. When they tied me to the sink they said they were just practicing. Said they had to wait till the end of the season cause coach said no damage till after the games are over,” he sobbed.
“Those sons of bitches,” Hudson muttered.
“So I know this is the right thing, but it's hard. I've been looking at it for twenty minutes.” He inhaled sharply, then coughed. “I came out here so my parents wouldn't have to clean up.”
“You get on good with your folks?” Bonville asked.
“Yeah, they're both good people. They don't deserve the shit I pout them through.”
“That's nothing compared to how they'll feel if you do this,” Hudson replied softly. “They are going to wonder what they did wrong. If it was their fault, why they didn't see the signs. You do this and you will ruin their lives.”
“No, that can't be right...it hurts so much...” Picardy said, his voice cracking. “What do I have to live for even?”
“Two friends and a promise we are going to make some fucking heads roll,” Bonville stated firmly.
“Friends? You don't even know me, you don't want to...no one does.” Picardy sniffed.
“Well, it's true you have to know people before you can be their friend, but I figure if I can put up with Cam, you're a cakewalk,” Bonville said with a smile and moved slowly towards Picardy.
“Why don't you give me the gun, and lets go inside and talk about it?” He reached out and left his hand hanging. “I'm offering to get to know you, to let you know...we both are letting you know you aren't alone, if you don't want to be.”
Picardy studied them both through watery eyes. He sniffled. He looked from Cam to Eriq and then at the gun.
“Mom will insist I see a counselor,” he said softly.
“I promise to make Cam go with you,” Eriq said firmly.
“You're the one needs to be on medication,” Cam replied as he stood back up.
They remained in silence, tension lacing the air and building until Picardy slowly stood up and placed the gun in Eriq's outstretched hand.
Each year more and more teens take their lives. While a young life being extinguished is tragic in any case, it pains me to know so many are because they are gay or perceived to be so and thusly are bullied by their classmates relentlessly and their plight ignored by those who should be protecting them.
It is not the answer, ever. No matter how low you feel, someone cares, at the very least me. I care about you and want you to get the help you need. Hang in there, it gets better and you are never alone.
The links below will give you hope, inspiration, they are there for the taking. Reach out and do so.