When Tim and I stopped kidding each other I looked at him seriously. "You're not really mad about Adam, are you? I mean, it happened a long time ago and everything's different now."
He smiled, but it looked a little like a grimace. "I'm not mad, Davy. I wish none of that stuff happened. It's not as bad as some things you had to do. I just wish it wasn't somebody I knew. I'll get over it."
"You're not gonna hate Adam, are you? I think he feels worse than I do. It just happened, Tim. We didn't pick each other or anythin' like that. He's a nice kid, Tim. He can be our friend, but I'll do whatever you want. Okay?"
Tim thought for a moment, looking confused. "I like Adam, Davy. You're sure it was nothing?"
"It wasn't 'nothing', Tim, at least for Adam. When ya think of it, he's been messed up longer than me. If you mean if it was something between me and him, then no. It wasn't." I smiled. "You're my brat. Adam can find his own."
Tim was quiet for a second, then he smiled. "You think maybe he already did? I thought those two were gonna lock lips before they even said hello."
I started to stand, holding my hand out to help Tim. I grinned. "Let's go find out." We walked back toward the pond. "So you think 'Little Adam' had me? You wanna hear all the details?"
Tim looked at me frowning, then he flashed his best smile. "No ... I'll just go see it at a theater near me." He started chuckling at his own joke.
"You know ... Coming soon to a theater near you."
Timmy started giggling. "Yeah. I knew that's what you meant."
We were approaching the rock where we'd last seen Adam and Eddie.
They were still there. We didn't want to surprise them, so we started
I am a cockney dancer
I love to dance all night
I dance up bright and early
And in my mother's tights ...
Adam and Eddie were looking our way and laughing. It didn't look like they'd moved an inch since the last time we went by, which must have been almost an hour ago. They had the best part of the rock taken up, so Tim and I squatted beside them. When I looked at them they both seemed happy, but it was probably more like hopeful.
Tim was looking at them, too. His eyebrows suddenly shot up, then he smiled. "Um, did you guys happen to get each other's names yet?"
Adam and Eddie looked at each other, then Adam looked back at Tim. "Of course I did. This is Eddie!"
"Eddie, um ..." Eddie whispered in Adam's ear, then Adam said, "Band ..." He looked back at Eddie. "What?"
Eddie looked up. "Ed Andrews." He looked at Adam. "What's your last name?"
"Too cool! We're even the same race and everything!"
I thought Tim was going to choke. "I think you mean nationality. You guys hit it off pretty good?"
Adam and Eddie looked at each other again. This time they smiled, then looked back to us, both nodding. Eddie looked at Tim, then me. His eyes said it all. They had certainly changed in the past few hours. When I'd talked to him earlier they seemed as dead as they might have been if he'd actually gone through with suicide. Now there was life in them - a glint - a sparkle, if you will. I glanced at Adam and saw the same thing. As good looking as he was, Adam always had a bit of a haunted look to him, as if he was either afraid or ashamed of what he was.
I thought for a second about Ken. About how, even when his eyes were all bloodshot with a combination of exhaustion and a hangover, you could always read his feelings just by looking at them. The rest of him could look like shit, but he could always convey an inner happiness with just his eyes. I wanted that! Not just for me, for my friends too. I could see it a little in Adam and Eddie right then, and I could usually see it in Timmy.
It sounds a little dumb talking about eyes. It's not the eyeballs themselves. They're whatever they are ... blue, brown, gray. My own are so dark that they look black from any distance. The little muscles that surround your eyes are what convey your emotions. They're the ones that work your eyelids and eyebrows, the ones that open everything wide in moments of surprise, humor, or sudden understanding. They're the same little muscles that squeeze your eyes shut in sorrow and in sleep, that leave your eyelids at half-mast when you're bored or tired.
Then you have tear ducts. These seem to work of their own volition most of the time. Irritants like smoke and pollution will get them going, but they also work the same way in moments of sorrow and humor and love. Your eyes always seem to want to tell the truth, and the truth I saw in Adam and Eddie was that they were happy and excited to have met.
I looked at Adam. "Still wanna learn how ride the dirt bike?"
He looked at Eddie. "Do you know how to ride a motorcycle?"
Eddie nodded, and Adam got all excited. "I wanna learn how. Can we do it now?"
I looked at Eddie. "Are you any good? You wanna teach him?"
"You mean it? I been ridin' since I was nine. Those bikes are 250's though. It might be a little hard to learn on."
"There's a 90 in the garage; use that one. It's what I learned on."
Tim and I started walking back to the house while they put their shoes back on. We were holding hands and walking slowly, and were soon overtaken by Eddie and Adam. They ran right past us, one going around each side. When they were far enough ahead I asked Tim, "So, you're okay with Adam? I never saw him so excited!"
"Me either. I'm not givin' it another thought, Dave. You're right ... it's part of the past, and I shouldn't be lookin' back. We have each other now, and I trust you with my life." He stopped and hugged me. "We're big boys now. We both did stupid stuff in the past, and I'm sure we'll do more stupid stuff in the future. We can look out after each other now, though. Forever."
That was a comforting thought, especially when expressed in the confines of a comforting hug. I felt like a big boy right then. In more ways than one, actually. Tim was still taller than me, but it wasn't a towering difference anymore. His growth had slowed or stopped, but mine continued on at a healthy pace. I also had a confidence that we could control our lives ... live the way we wanted to, however we decided. We knew how to influence the people around us, too. If happiness can be contagious, I think ours was. We had, to use Kenny's words, found our own little circle of goodness.
Timmy looked at his watch and got a little anxious that his brother might be there, so we walked faster to get back to the yard. We stopped at the top of the hill, looking to see who was where. There were a lot of people, but I finally spotted Rennie talking to my mother.
"There he is!" Timmy had said it at the same time as me, but had been looking in a different direction. We looked at each other and asked, "Who?" at the same time. Tim pointed out his brother, who was standing on the patio looking around. I pointed to his father and my mother by the oak tree with the rope swing. He went to get his brother and I went to make sure the others stayed put.
When I got to them and told Rennie that Don was there, he immediately stood up and started looking for him. When Tim and Don showed up, my mother and I said hello, then left the three of them alone.
I hadn't seen Donny in a long time, and I was surprised to see that he was no bigger than me. Other than size, he looked like a dark replica of Tim. Their faces looked remarkably alike - like their mother, only Tim had her coloring and Don had dark hair and brown eyes like his father.
Before my mother and I left, we saw Don shyly holding his hand out to his father. Rennie took it, then said, "Bullshit!" and pulled him into a hug. I walked away thinking that our little brotherhood might be at five.
We walked over to where Ken was standing with Mary. They were talking to some people I didn't know, but recognized as one of the horseshoe players and his wife, I guess. When we got there, Ken's eyebrows went up. "About time! I thought I was gonna hafta do act one without ya."
Uh, oh. "Act one?"
"Yeah! Remember the snowstorm? I got to thinkin' about it, and tape was the wrong thing to use. We should'a warmed up the gun first, too. Be right back!"
Ken trotted off towards the house leaving the rest of us to watch him go. He was back in about thirty seconds with Jimbo and Don. Don had a box of M-80's and Jim was carrying a cylinder that looked like metal. All three of them had evil grins on their faces. Ken told me to go and pry Barry away from his smoker for a minute.
I ran around the house and found Barry with Artie and Pam. I told them to come around front because there was going to be an 'event', then ran back to where Ken was. Ken, Don and Jimbo were kneeling down sorting out things. I looked at Barry, who bent down to join them. I caught something out of the corner of my eye and turned to see Artie and Pam holding hands. They didn't notice me because they were looking at what the guys were doing on the cement pad that held the cannon. I looked back down there. Ken looked up and motioned for me to join them.
Ken gave me a great grin and held up the cylinder I'd seen earlier. "Plastic, Dave. The tape's what fucked it up before. It must'a melted from the explosion. This puppy'll slip right through."
He held it out to me, and I picked it up. It was heavy. "Toilet paper?"
"How many rolls?"
"I didn't count. It's gonna work this time. I got a ladyfinger in the back and a wick running to a cherry bomb up front. It's gonna snow!"
The guys were slipping M-80's into the cannon barrel, then Ken stood up and put a wick into the back of the cannon. He held up a match, then had the rest of us make sure nobody was in front of the cannon. He lit the wick and a mighty blast ensued, grabbing everyone's attention.
Don dropped more M-80's down the cannon barrel, then Ken inserted another wick and set it off again. Everybody was paying attention by then. Don started putting more firecrackers into the barrel, this time carefully counting out seven. Then he took a stick that looked like a piece of broom handle and packed them in. Jimbo took the cylinder and dropped it into the cannon bore. Don used his stick to push it gently into place.
Ken knelt behind the cannon and positioned it so it would clear the trees and create a late summer snowstorm over Whit's garden. He looked around to make sure everybody was watching, then struck a match and lit the wick. We all watched it fizzle its way into the cannon, then there was a huge bang when it went off.
A colossal cloud of snow emerged from the cannon barrel and drifted a little to the right with the breeze.
It was impressive in its own way, but when I looked at Ken, he had his hands pressed against both his cheeks. "Fuck! Shit! DAMN!" He kicked one of the wheels on the cannon. "Piece of shit! Stupid gun! Don't ya know how this works?"
Everybody was laughing, and he looked up sheepishly. "No wonder the fuckin' South lost! If junk like this is all they had for hardware, they didn't have a prayer. Where's Timmy?" He kicked the cannon again. "This is twice, asshole! Ya can't even get a piece of plastic across the street! Who the fuck made this thing, anyhow?"
Everyone was laughing at Ken's frustration. He sat on the ground and put his head in his hands. It took Mary about two seconds to sit beside him and give him a hug. I couldn't hear if they said anything, but Ken looked up at me and winked.
I thought it was funny. I walked back to where I'd left Timmy and was a bit surprised to find that it actually did look like it had snowed.
When I saw Tim, he and his father and brother appeared to be involved in their conversation. I decided to leave them alone for a few more minutes, and turned to walk in another direction. I bumped right into Bud, Richie's stepfather.
"Davy! It's good to see you, kid!" He still had his French-Canadian accent.
I don't know why, but I suddenly choked up. Richie's parents had divorced years ago. When his mother got married to Bud, the guy wanted to be a parent, too, and he did everything he could to make Richie feel like his own son. It took them a while to connect, but I knew that Bud was really the guy that took care of Richie and his sister.
Their real father was involved in their lives, too. I'd never met him, but I had the feeling that he was still a good father who cared for his kids. For the first time ever, I thought about Richie without jealousy entering into the picture.
My head filled with thoughts as I held out my hand to shake Bud's. Richie and I weren't close anymore, but that was only because they had moved. I still felt connected to him, though, and he would always be my first real friend. I looked at Bud and wondered if that was all it took ... a big strong guy with a good heart. Richie wasn't his in any technical way, but Bud had made him into his own son in every way that counted.
Bud interrupted my thoughts. "Rich told me why he was bringing Eddie today. I was real proud of him, then he said you made him do it. I'm proud of you too, Davy. You turned into a nice kid, and that had to be hard with your father dying and everything."
I smiled weakly. "It was hard for a while, but I had a lot of help. You should be proud of Richie though, not me. He's the one that got through to Eddie 'n he's the one that's gonna see him every day. I just put the idea in his head."
Bud grinned. "Well, Richie's about the bullheadedest person I ever met. If he likes the idea you can bet it's gonna happen. I worked overtime for a year just to get him to Australia so he'd shut up about it. At least making friends with Eddie won't cost me anything."
I started to laugh because I knew he meant it as a joke, but he was exactly right. Making friends with Eddie wouldn't cost anybody a cent. Friends don't cost money, but they're worth more than all the money there is. I was just going to say something when a familiar hand landed on my shoulder. I looked at Tim and asked, "How'd it go with your brother?"
"Good. It went good. Him 'n Dad are over there singin' the blues, but it's gonna be okay. It's really dumb, but today is the first time I ever really talked to Donny. We mostly just yell. I always thought he was just a pain-in-the-ass brother, but I think he was always hidin' his feelin's. He missed Dad as much as I did, maybe even more." Timmy grinned and stuck a fist straight up into the air. "Yes!" He looked back at me, still smiling. "Ya know what? I told him I was gay and he said he already thought so. Not like an asshole big brother sayin' I'm a little fag, either. He was worried for me. My own brother actually worried about me!"
"I ain't worried."
I wrapped my arms around Tim and put my chin on his shoulder. "I'm not worried about a thing, Tim. Worry's a waste of time, isn't it? All ya gotta do is open your eyes and see the things ya have."
I couldn't see Tim's face, but I could tell he was smiling. "What do we have?"
"I got you and you got me. That's the big thing, Tim." Just then, I had a brilliant idea. "How much longer before the ribs are done?"
Tim looked at his watch. "Two hours, anyhow. Why?"
"I know where there's an empty house with an empty bed!"
"Wanna have me?"
"Prick! You ever gonna let me live that down?"
"Race ya to the car?"
There was no need for a reply. We walked to the top of the driveway, smiling politely at everyone who tried to engage us in conversation. When the path was clear, we ran for Timmy's car, then drove across town at a speed that some might call reckless. With Tim driving it seemed pretty reasonable.
When we got to my house we ran inside, and immediately slowed down. We knew that we both had physical needs, but we'd learned to take care of them in a way that was also satisfying to our psyches. A single powerful blast together meant way more ... felt like way more ... than a half dozen little trickles. I loved Timmy and he loved me. There was no need for heroics and we both knew it. Being together was enough, but being able to be together in this way cemented our love. It was cast in stone, no doubt about it.
Just a few weeks earlier I'd been too stupid, too blind to see what our lives were about. I had rejected friendship and caring at all but the most superficial levels, now I was living for it. I loved Timmy with a sincerity that words can't describe, but that wasn't the whole of it. I loved other people too ... a whole lot of them. It seemed that everybody was an important person in some way.
I curled up there naked, cuddled against Tim, wishing I could undo the hurt I'd put upon other people. I wanted to un-say the mean things I'd said, un-hit the people I'd hurt physically. I knew I couldn't do that, but I promised myself that I wouldn't do it again. There were probably real assholes in the world, but it wasn't my job to identify them. They'd do that all by themselves with their presumed self-importance or superiority.
If I listened to Ken, though, even the assholes had something to contribute. I thought back to the guys we'd fought with in the breakfast joint in Vermont. Ken was probably right, too. They were most likely decent, hard working guys who just knew what they knew and thought what they thought. Timmy and I could have done a lot better than to ruin their breakfast, we could've just paid for it and left, or just left. When Ken first said that I thought he was crazy, but he was right.
Those guys, living where they did - in rural Vermont - probably had no real-life experience with gays, no point of reference. They hadn't threatened us in any real way ... just made some stupid remarks. It was my own hot head that turned it into a fight.
I didn't want to be like that anymore. I didn't want to get angry every time someone around me said or did something that I perceived as stupid. I did and said enough stupid things, and most people either laughed or corrected me. I snuggled up closer to Tim thinking that's what I wanted. I wanted to be like most people, just a regular guy.
I almost dozed off, but Timmy stirred and said, "We should go back to the picnic. I don't wanna miss the ribs. You want a quick shower first?"
We did exactly that. I changed into clean clothes, then Tim had me run out to his car to get clean ones for him. We drove eagerly back to Ken's house. When we were going down his street we saw Adam and Eddie in the front field riding the two big dirt bikes. Either Adam was a fast learner or Eddie was a good teacher. It had taken me many lessons to learn to ride as well as Adam seemed to be doing. When we turned into the driveway they were both riding towards us. Tim waved at them, then found a place to put the car. They pulled up and shut off the bikes as we were getting out.
Adam and Eddie were both totally caked with dust. The only things we could distinguish were their eyes and their teeth. They dismounted and pulled their helmets off, hanging them on the handlebars. Now they really looked funny, because where the helmets had provided cover they were in technicolor compared to the sepia-toned rest of them. We each helped them to push the bikes up to the house.
"You looked pretty good out there, Adam. You learned fast."
He was grinning. "I have a good teacher. Man, that is such a blast! I should'a learned a long time ago. I know what I want for Christmas."
I looked at Eddie, who was looking at Adam. "So, you made some friends?"
"I think so ... I mean I hope so." He smiled at Adam. "One for sure. Oh, man ... this is the most excellent day of my life! I can't believe I almost didn't come here." His smile faded. "I didn't want to, you know. I was so afraid it was just a trick ... that somethin' awful was gonna happen." His smile came back. "I'm sure glad Richie's so stubborn. You know what he threatened to do?"
We all said, "What?"
"He said if I didn't come he'd turn me into my own worst nightmare ... a fag without a dick. Then he showed me his father's hedge clippers."
I loved it! Unreasonable threats were an art form, one I intended to master. We all thought it was funny, and we were laughing when we got to the top of the driveway. Adam and Eddie went inside to wash up.
Ken and Don were on a picnic table playing the guitar and banjo, so we went over to listen to them. I looked around and everybody seemed happy and comfortable. My mother and sisters were sitting at a picnic table with Rennie and Tim's brother and Artie and Pam. Mary was sitting on the ground with Jimbo's and Don's wives. They seemed to be having an excited discussion about something. Whit and Jerry were playing horseshoes again, this time against Deanna's father and some other guy. Deanna was watching the game.
Richie was sitting at a table with his parents, watching them playing cards with some other people. We started walking towards him and he stood up when he saw us coming. "A fag without a dick, huh?"
Richie looked surprised. "He told you that? I had to think of something, didn't I? The kid just didn't believe me, and he wasn't gonna come."
I think he thought we were mad. I just laughed. "Nice touch with the clippers. You musta talked to Barry more than I thought. At least he came and he's havin' fun. Let's go see if Barry needs help."
The three of us walked around back and found Barry drinking a beer with another guy I didn't know. When Barry saw us he introduced the guy as Jack, who worked as an engineer with Ken. We all shook hands, then Barry looked at the ribs and sent Richie to tell Don's wife to start getting things ready. The meat was almost done.
Tim and I sat down, but I started to feel like an intruder. The looks that Barry and Jack gave each other as they talked showed something more than an interest in their conversation about seasoning ribs. Tim reached over and took my hand. Jack noticed, and he smiled at us before continuing his talk with Barry. Tim and I looked at each other. I know that Barry had once told me he was finished looking for another guy, that he was happy alone. I'm not sure that what he said was really what he thought, or if I'd even heard it right.
I think maybe he said he'd given up looking, not finished. Not looking wouldn't preclude him from being found, though, and I kinda hoped that Barry would be found by the right person. Barry was loved by a lot of people, and he was too open and willing to share his knowledge and wisdom to have to go through life not being loved by someone special. I found myself silently thinking, "Go, Jack!"
When Richie came back he had Adam, Eddie, Rafe, Brian, Jerry, Artie and Pam with him. Rich and Rafe were both carrying stacks of big aluminum trays. Richie smiled at Barry. "I brought some help. Kenny said you made five hundred pounds of ribs."
Barry showed them where to put the trays down. "Yeah. I think next time we'll just do a pig roast. I got sore arms from just turnin' these things all day. I hope they taste as good as they smell, 'cause I'm full from just smellin' 'em for so long." He grinned. "Go get some of the big guys. I'm fucked if I'm gonna let you runts drop this stuff in the dirt. Oops! Sorry, Pammy."
She just smiled. She turned and walked away, presumably to get some men who were big enough to be trusted with Barry's ribs. I yelled after her, "Make sure they're sober, Pam!"
Barry laughed, then handed Adam, who was closest, a tray. He opened the first smoker and started loading the tray with ribs. When both Adam and the tray started to sag, he said, "Go!" Then he handed Eddie a tray and repeated the process. We all got our turn.
I made two trips and ended up with the last tray. Barry said, "Save me some. I'm gonna take a shower."
I carried the tray out front and looked for a place to sit. My friends were at a picnic table. I joined them, taking the only seat. It was next to Eddie, but right across from Tim. I gave him a grin, then looked at the eats. There was a huge bowl of green salad, sliced bread, baked potatoes and corn on the cob. It looked like Silver Queen, my favorite. It was getting cool out, so I grabbed a rack of ribs and one of everything else, filling a paper bowl with salad.
I talked to Eddie as I was buttering my corn and potato. "You cheerin' up, Eddie?"
"Cheering up? You know how long it's been since I felt good about anything? About myself?" He stopped eating and looked at me, then Tim. "I've been all alone for a year. Nobody wanted to know me except to punch me out or make sick jokes or something. Do you know what that's like?" Timmy nodded in sympathy, which made me feel terrible. "Then I come here today and it's like it never happened. Nobody thinks I'm some kinda sicko because of ... what I am. It seems like a dream. You guys really like me?"
Everybody at the table was looking at him, then there was a chorus of "I like you," and "Of course we like you, Eddie." Nothing anybody said could really be distinguished from what anybody else said.
When we quieted down, Adam looked around the table, then at Eddie, then at me. "Dave, you like to tease. Ed told me about blondies, then I told him what you said about freckles. I'm doin' what you said and just tryin' to be friends, but ... what a friend! I mean you, Dave! You make things happen! Me'n Ed don't know if we're each other's someday yet, but at least we both know it can happen. Thanks for slowin' me down, by the way. Now I know what you meant by 'friends first'. I know Ed and me are gonna be friends. Anythin' else can wait." He looked around again. "Thanks, Dave. Thanks, everybody. I need you guys."
I had been filling my face. I felt a large pair of hands on my shoulders, then heard Barry's voice. "These guys need you too, Adam. That's how it works. You save me some food?"
The people on our side of the table squeezed over so Barry could sit down. He was filling a plate with food when I heard Jack's voice from across the table. "Can I squish in here, guys?"
I think squish was a better word than squeeze. It was a tight fit, but it made me think of the night in Vermont when I'd first met Brian. He and Rafe had been so afraid to show any connection with each other that they sat at opposite ends of the table. The memory gave me a moment of amusement, but I realized that they hadn't really come too far since then. I'd seen them hold hands a few times, but that was really it. I looked over at them. As uncomfortable as they looked, they both still had their arms at their sides. I felt like saying something, but decided not to. Everybody has their own pace.
The food was delicious as usual, but very messy. We all had greasy mouths and greasy hands. I was afraid to touch anything. When I was done eating I had to ask Barry to move so I could get up. I went into the kitchen and washed up using dish liquid, then I went into the bathroom to make sure I got everything off my face. When I finished, I opened the door to find Pam standing there.
"Hi, Pam. Havin' fun?"
She smiled. "Yes, I am. The weather's nice, the food is fantastic, and the company is wonderful."
"You mean Artie? You really like him?"
"I do. He's polite, and he seems so sincere. He's not a showoff at all, is he?"
I smiled at her. "Only in the kitchen."
"He can cook, too?"
I didn't know what she meant by 'too', but didn't think it was my place to ask. "Yeah, he's a regular chef. Get him to make ya some Beef Wellington sometime. It's delicious! His corn dogs are great, too."
She looked impressed. I excused myself and walked back outside, thinking that Artie had really stepped in it this week. He had a new family, new friends, a new car, and maybe even a girlfriend. I wondered if anything else could add to his fun.
It didn't take me long to find out. He was waiting for Pam near the front door, but when he saw me he grinned. "Dave! Guess what?"
I had to smile, expecting to hear about Pam.
"Kenny wants me to help set off Act Two!"
"Act Two? What's it gonna be?"
"I ... I can't tell. He made me promise. You're not mad, are you?"
Ken was pretty shameless in his own way. "No, I ain't mad. Are those clothes fireproof?"
"Fireproof? Should they be?"
"Artie, you should fireproof everythin' when Ken's around. He likes things that make bangs and, well, things that explode get pretty hot."
His eyes were wide. I just laughed and shoved his shoulder. "Don't be a sucker, Artie. These guys'll never let ya alone."
"You were kidding?"
"Well, sorta. Hey! You're makin' a good impression on Pam, anyhow."
He looked surprised. "I am? Am I supposed to?"
"You like her?"
He smiled a funny little smile. "I like her a lot, Dave, I just never spent any time with a girl before. I don't know what I should be doing."
I gave him my brightest, toothiest smile. "I don't either, Artie, but you're doin' great. If ya have questions it's best that ya talk to Mary. No, forget that. Talk to Deanna. She'll steer ya straight."
Artie's face lit up, but it was because Pam had appeared behind me. I went back to the table where we ate to ask if anybody had an idea what Ken had planned. Brian, Rafe, Adam and Eddie had gone off as chosen members of the Act Two crowd, and Barry wouldn't tell us anything except that it was gonna be a beaut. I sat down beside Tim and put my arm around his waist.
I looked at him. "I guess we're not the in-crowd anymore, huh?"
He didn't seem to mind. "Hey, we did our part plenty of times. Kenny must need some new talent."
We just leaned against each other, not minding at all. Barry was still there, and he said, "You guys are so dense! It's not new talent. Shit, anybody can light a match. Kenny just wants those kids to feel included, like they're not just visitors. Let 'em have some fun and just see what happens, okay?"
Tim must have thought Barry was mad at him. He sat up and looked at Barry. "I didn't mean I was jealous. I meant just what you said, that it's those guys' turn. It's our turn to just watch." He gave Barry a pleading look. "What's gonna happen?"
Barry looked over at Jack, who was still sitting there. He smiled. "Kids, huh? It must be nice."
Jack looked back at Barry. "Nice?"
Barry just sighed. "Yeah, nice. Nice to know who you are and what you want before it's too late."
There was a silence. Nobody said anything, then finally Jack looked at Barry and asked, "When is it too late, Barry? When is it ever too late?" He looked at Timmy, then back to Barry. "Barry, don't ever think that." He looked at me this time. I got the message. Tim actually could be a little thick sometimes, but we got lost in a hurry.
We walked away and Tim banged his palm against his forehead. "Dense, man! I'm sittin' there like a dummy when somebody's tryin' ta put the make on Barry! Honest to God, I feel like a jerk right now."
"Only now?" I was laughing. "I seen it comin' for a long time!"
His eyes opened wide. "Cunt! You're gonna die!"
With that, he grabbed me and started tickling me until I thought I was going to die. I screamed, but it was pointless. It only drew a crowd that was all too willing to help Tim. He knew all my worst tickle spots, and he was relentless. When one didn't work anymore, he went for the next one. I ended up laying on the ground feeling about as strong as a bowl of jello, then Tim fell on top of me. He was as out of breath as I was, but he looked up at the people watching and managed, "You might ... not ... wanna see what ... happens next!" Then he dropped back down on me and started laughing.
It felt great with him on top of me like that. He smiled into my eyes. "I love you, Davy. You're the best thing that ever happened to me."
"I love you too, Tim, but if you think I'm puttin' on a show for all these people you can think again."
He smiled. "That's not what I wanna to do. I just wanna make sure you know I love you. It's just so perfect right now the way everything is. I want it to be like this for the rest of our lives."
"Things hafta change, Timmy. It can't always be the same ... we'd get bored foolish."
"I know things change, I just don't want us to change." He grinned. "I won't if you don't."
I had my chance. I tried to look serious, then said, "Timmy, there is one thing I want you to change."
He looked surprised. "There is? What's that?"
"I want you barefoot. I, uh, I like your feet ... and you get your sneakers at Dork City."
Tim looked puzzled. "You like my feet?"
I gave him my most adoring look. "I love your feet, Tim. Except for the toenails, of course. Will you do that one little thing for me? Just take your shoes off? I wanna see 'em right now. Please?"
I was holding a straight face and Tim didn't pick up any early warning signals. He pushed up onto his knees, still looking at my eager face. "My feet? Really? My feet give you the horn?"
"Timmy, every single thing about you gives me the horn. Right now I wanna see them tootsies!"
Tim scrunched back and started untying his laces, still looking at me. "You give me the horn, too. We never talked dirty before."
"Tim, I never talked anythin' but dirty. You never noticed?" One shoe was off.
"I don't mean swearing." He was working on the other shoe. "I mean talking about what we do to each other ... how we get each other turned on."
He was stuffing his socks into his sneakers. "Oh?"
It was time, and I pounced! I jumped up, turned around, and sat on his knees with my back to his face.
"Bastard!" but it was too late. I leaned forward and started tickling the bottom of his left foot with both hands. He screeched and jumped up so fast and so far that he hit the back of my head with his nose, making a squeaky little "Ow!" He tried to tickle my ribs to make me stop, but it was too late. They were tickled out and I was a man with intent.
"Stop! Please AAAAAH STOP! Iwon'tdoit AAAAH gain!"
I stopped. "You give?"
He was out of breath. "I give. I GIVE!"
"Okay." I started on the right foot and he screamed even louder. It must have been the more ticklish one. I didn't keep it up too long. Tim was having such a hard time breathing I thought I might kill him. I turned around and laid on top of him, looking at his face, which was red, sweaty and tear stained.
When his breathing slowed a little I could tell that a thought was going through his brain. He looked around and there were still some people watching us. He lifted his head a little and whispered, "... Ya get the horn from that?"
I just burst out laughing. Tim started building up to one and it bounced me right off of him. My head hit a pebble in the grass and it hurt, but I just kept laughing while Tim's laugh erupted from wherever it came from inside him.
When we started to settle down, we were both flat on our backs in the middle of the yard. Ken's visage appeared over us. "You two chickens ready for some fireworks, or ya gonna keep cacklin' for a while?"
That made us laugh some more, but not violently. I asked Ken, "What ya got?"
"Something quiet. If it works it should be pretty more than anything. If it doesn't work I still have some skyrockets."
I was intrigued. Something quiet? From Ken? That would be unique. Something that should be pretty? This guy had to be seriously in love. What was next? Classical music?
Quiet was a relative term in Ken's mind. He fired his blunderbuss in the air to let everybody know the show was starting, then he and Barry tossed some M-80's into the woods to make sure we were all awake. He was saying something to the people near him, but we weren't close enough to hear him. We could see him pointing around in every direction and got the idea that, whatever the show was, it would surround us.
All of a sudden, classical music did start coming from the speakers positioned around the yard. It wasn't an orchestra, just a piano, but it sounded nice. I could see lit cigars in the woods, then suddenly a spiral of light spun up a tree trunk, making little crackling sounds as it went. As it started to fan out along the branches another one started way to the right, then another to the left and another one behind us. It was hard to follow, because you didn't know where to look next, but no matter where you looked you could see the same thing happening. It was spectacular! You'd see the little spiral of flickering lights head up a tree trunk, then it would fan quickly out into the branches, briefly showing you the outline of the entire tree. You'd see one tree at a time lit up like that, then a few, then a whole bunch together.
I was watching the show and not the people, but if they felt anything like me they were all catching bugs on their tongues. I had no idea how he'd done it, and I didn't care. It was an awesome sight. Not just pretty, it was beautiful! It was quiet, too. People ooh-ing and ah-ing were louder than whatever he was setting off.
When it seemed to be over, Ken fired the blunderbuss one more time to let us know there was more to come. He pointed toward the street, which was down a hill facing away from where we were. I saw a cigar moving through the woods, then a huge pine tree started to light up. Until now everything had been white. The pine tree lit up like a giant Christmas tree, with little pops of red, green, yellow, orange, blue and white. It was lit from top to bottom at the same time, and there seemed to be a million little pops of light. It went on for about a half minute, then a rocket trail showered down from the very top. The rocket went up and up, then finally exploded into a giant ball of little gold flames that seemed to linger in the sky for a long time.
I looked toward Ken and I saw him counting heads with his team of cigar guys. When he was satisfied they were all there, he picked up what looked like a little box. There was a giant gas explosion straight ahead of us, then another to the right, then another. They continued, going off about every half-second, completely circling the yard until they were coming back from the left. They were all loud and bright, the kind of bangs you might experience in a bad dream. When it got back around the yard to where it had started there was a pause, then the ground seemed to well up. There was a light in front of us that looked like what you might expect from an atom bomb, then the most colossal BOOM imaginable.
It was the kind of sound you felt as much as you heard. I felt it in the pit of my stomach, certain that I would grow up deaf. I couldn't hear anything around me, but I think it was just the relative silence. When something that resembled reason came back into my head, I grabbed Timmy's hand and pulled him towards Ken, who was surrounded by admirers.
We had to wait to get to him, but when we did I said, "Awesome! Quiet no, but definitely awesome! What was that stuff?"
Ken and Mary were holding onto each other. Ken grinned. "Well, you know ... what's the point without a little noise? You like the ladyfingers?"
"Ladyfingers? That's what it was? You musta shot off a billion of 'em!"
Ken smiled. "Just about. You liked it?"
"I loved it! Where do you get these ideas?"
Ken just shrugged and looked at Mary. I could see that his attention was elsewhere. "You want us to start a campfire? People're startin' to leave."
He looked at me as if he hadn't heard. I was about to repeat the question when he said, "Good idea. You guys go do that, we'll be over in a bit."
Tim and I turned to the other guys, who were all looking happy and holding cigars. "You guys stayin' for the campfire?"
Eddie looked a question at Richie, who said, "I gotta see what my parents are doing. We could stay here! You wanna call your folks?"
"Where's the phone? They'll let me stay!" He grinned at nobody in particular. "This place is magic! I could stay here forever!" He looked at Adam, then back at Richie. "Can Adam stay, too?" He turned a hopeful face to Adam. "You wanna stay, don't you ... I mean, with me?"
Adam was smiling. "I have to call, too. Come on! I'll show you where the phone is. Did you ever see a Totalphone? We can connect our parents together if we have to!"
Their happy voices faded as they ran towards the house.
"Even if we don't have to!"Next Chapter Previous Chapter