Wouldn't It Be Nice
This short story is Copyright© 2012 under the pseudonym Gee Whillickers. All Rights Reserved. In particular, this work is protected under the parody/tribute protections of USC Section 17 and the Copyright Act in Canada, as well as the Fair Dealing doctrine in commonwealth law of other countries.
The author gratefully acknowledges the publisher and songwriters of the excerpted song lyrics, used under the Fair Use and Fair Dealing doctrines:
"Wouldn't It Be Nice"
music and lyrics by Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Tony Asher
©1965 Irving Music, Inc. (BMI)
All rights reserved.
This short story is best read while listening to surfing and cruisin' music playing in the background. Just trust me on this. It's what I did when I wrote it.
Wouldn't it be nice if we were older
Then we wouldn't have to wait so long
It was hot. Way too hot for May, and way, way too hot to be sitting on sticky vinyl seats in the stuffy, teen-sweat laden atmosphere of an old school bus. Half the windows didn't even slide down. The other half didn't slide up quite all the way in winter, so I suppose it kind of evened out. I was pretty sure the driver had the heater on, too. Either that, or the old rattletrap just vented engine exhaust through the interior vents as some kind of teen behaviour management measure. It explained that little fan blowing on the driver's face. Illegal, sure, but that didn't seem to stop the school district from knowingly using expired sandwich meat in their lunches last month. Most excitement the school had seen all year when that little bit of news got out.
I wiggled and adjusted my position on the seat again, for the hundredth time in the past ten minutes, trying to find one that allowed a body part or two to catch some of the faint breeze coming through the windows. You know that feeling between your legs when you're all sweaty, and your leg kinda sticks to your ba.....uh, well, anyway, I'm sure you know. It sucks. I readjusted my earbuds, and flicked my thumb down rapidly on the screen of my phone, searching for something to listen to that I wasn't completely bored with.
Everything on my phone I'd listened to at least a thousand times. I really needed to download some new music. So, I shook my head and closed the music app, opting for the FM tuner instead. Nobody listened to radio anymore, but desperate times called for desperate measures. We didn't have too many stations with decent reception out here, but I found some weird station from Port Hawkesbury playing some oldies tunes, the kind of music that Dad and Mom loved so much. I sighed and dropped the phone in my lap, nodding my head along with the backbeat and harmonies of the old rock song. Something about surfing the 'net, I think. I thought they didn't even have the internet back when those songs were popular. Weird. I'd have to ask Dad about that.
It's funny how things work. So much of the music I've been listening to lately seems written as if it had me in mind. Or maybe the other way around. Very odd...
The bus bumped along and finally turned off Hawthorne Road and onto the gravel road leading to our place, then squealed and jerked to a stop. I grabbed my phone and backpack, nodded to the driver, and climbed off the bus.
My big German Shepherd was waiting there to greet me of course, and was running in circles around me all while trying to lick my hands. I scratched her ears, “Hiya Four. How are ya, girl?” I said, trying to prevent her from jumping up and licking my face.
My dad, for reasons known only to him, and maybe Mom, named our dog Four-Oh-Nine. I'm sure it's car related or something, Dad's a total gearhead. Yeah, I know, weird. I'm kind of used to it now though. I began to walk towards the house, and Four bounded ahead of me, racing at top speed. Nothing can catch her, my Four-Oh-Nine. Not when she runs like that.
Four plopped herself down panting in the shade near her water dish, and I walked towards the house.
My phone chirped with an incoming text, but I ignored that for the moment, and looked over at my dad, who had pulled his old car out of the garage and was working on something underneath it. “Hi Dad,” I said.
He pulled himself out from underneath the car and stood up, wiping his hands with a rag and smiling at me, “Hi, Brian. How was your day?”
“Not bad. Hot,” I answered, wiping the sweat off my forehead. Then, before he could start the questions about homework or friends, I quickly changed the subject. “What are you working on?” I asked, pointing at the car.
He glanced back at it, “Just installed a new clutch. A nice competition unit. A four puck high torque disc, performance pressure plate...”
I knew enough to interrupt quickly, or I'd be standing there nodding for ten minutes while he went on about it, “Cool, Dad. I don't know why you keep installing all that stuff, you don't drive it much, except to car shows and track days.”
My dad gave me his fake shocked look, and he grinned widely. I knew what was coming, we'd played this game often enough, “Oh, Son,” he said, pointing back at the little '32 coupe, “You don't know what I got.”
He always said that. I have no idea why, but by now I had indeed learned exactly what he had. He'd explained it a million times. Some parents recite nursery rhymes to their babies. Dad I think recited engine specs to me instead. I rolled my eyes, but smiled and said, “Dad! How could I not know? You've told me often enough.” He raised his eyebrows and I dutifully recited, “A 1932 Ford Coupe, otherwise known as a little deuce coupe. Flathead. Stroked and Bored. Ported and relieved, whatever the hell that means...” Dad looked insulted and opened his mouth to explain, yet again, but I kept going in a rush before he could, “...with four on the floor, ridiculously loud lake pipes, and now, apparently, some kind of fancy competition clutch.”
Dad nodded proudly, answering, as I just knew he would, “you know she'll do 140 easy, right?”
I nodded, but decided to leave it at that, even though I had only the vaguest idea of what I just said. I knew my lines well enough, though.
Dad couldn't let it go though. Somehow I knew he wouldn't, he had to finish the game. “And who has the pink slip, Brian?”
I rolled my eyes mightily, but just like I had since I was two years old when I actually liked this little game, I answered, “You have the pink slip, Daddy.” As always, he laughed like this was the biggest joke in the world.
I decided to change the subject again.
“Dad,” I began to ask, remembering the song earlier on my phone, “what's the deal with those old songs about surfing? I thought you didn't even have the internet when you were a kid.”
Dad stopped wiping his hands with the greasy rag, and stared at me. The look a disappointed father gives to his slightly retarded progeny. “Uhh, Son...” he began in a tone that told me I was being an idiot. “Oceans? Beaches? Waves....? Does any of this ring a bell...?”
He was grinning his little grin at me and ever so slightly shaking his head when the little light bulb in my brain finally went on. I blushed, and felt rather stupid, but grinned at Dad, “Oh. Right. That kind of surfing.”
Dad was howling in laughter now, leaning on his car, and I couldn't help laughing at myself with him, feeling a bit foolish. “Geez, Dad, I didn't know. Don't get all pushed out of shape.”
For some reason completely beyond me, this just made him laugh harder. He was having a hard time standing now.
He was still chuckling when I stuck my tongue out at him cheekily and turned around to walk into the house. From behind me he said, “Tell Mom I'll be inside in half an hour. Just have to finish up here. And tell your brothers to do their homework.”
I nodded. “Okay.”
“Brian?” Dad asked, stopping me. Uh-oh. For a gearhead, he's awfully perceptive. I thought I was hiding my expression real well. I turned and looked at him, trying to look questioning without looking like I was hiding anything. “Is everything okay?” he asked.
I thought about how to answer. I decided to give him three quarters of the truth. He deserved at least that much. More, actually, but that's all I think I was ready for right now. “I have homework, and some studying. We have a math test tomorrow. And...I have a bit of thinking to do. I'll be...in my room.”
I was dreading the follow-up questions, but he just nodded like I had said something deeply profound. “Okay, Son.” he said with his warm eyes and then he turned back to his car.
I love my dad. But he's really, really weird. Maybe I'd understand when I'm older.
I closed my bedroom door and dumped the contents of my backpack onto my desk, then reached out and thumbed the power button for my computer. I really did have homework, and I'd just as soon get it over with. But, while the computer was booting up I pulled out my phone and checked the text message that had come earlier.
As I suspected, it was from my cousin, and best friend, Mike. “It's Friday tomorrow,” he had texted, “wanna stay in Port Hawkesbury after school? Or I could drive us into Antigonish? Or even to New Glasgow? We could catch a movie or something.”
I sighed to myself. The problem with living out here in nowhere, Nova Scotia was that it was a long drive to get anywhere and do anything. But, it was either that or sit around here all evening and get sucked into watching my brothers for Mom and Dad or something. “Okay,” I texted back, “I'll pay for gas this time, you buy the food and movie tickets.”
I got a smiley face as an answer, and that was enough. We'd work out the details tomorrow at school.
I know it's weird that I referred to Mike as my best friend. He's my cousin, and he's almost a year and a half older than me, but that's the way it worked out over the years. There weren't exactly a lot of kids in the area to choose best friends from, but even if there were hundreds more I suspect Mike and I would've ended up best friends anyway. Besides, having an older best friend who has a driver's license is a real advantage when you live around here.
I logged into my computer and opened up a web browser. I had just navigated to one of my favorite sites – I figured I needed a bit of R&R before homework – when my door crashed open. “Brian! Take us swimming!” Dennis yelled.
I simultaneously hit the power button on my monitor and hit Alt F4 on the keyboard, wondering what my younger brothers had seen. I looked over at them guiltily.
Apparently they had seen nothing. Carl piped in behind his twin's comment, “Yeah, let's go swimming! Mom says supper isn't for more 'n an hour.”
I remembered Dad's comment. “You guys have homework, right?”
They looked at each other guiltily, but Dennis answered, “No. All Done. And we didn't get any anyway.”
I threw a Nerf ball at each of 'em. I kept a bunch on my desk for the purpose. They giggled and dodged, completely expecting the projectiles. “Homework, guys,” I said. “I have homework too. Maybe we'll go after supper, if it's still warm enough. And if all of us are done our homework.”
They looked at each other again, and Carl said to his twin, “Okay, let's go get it done. I'll copy off you and you can copy off of me.” They laughed at their own wit and scampered off, with Carl quickly looking over at my black monitor, then glancing at me quizzically before running out of the room, forgetting to close the door behind them.
It was just as well, I really wasn't in the mood anymore anyway.
So, I did my homework. I listened to more of that oldies station while working on my science, chuckling to myself when another surfing song played, but wondering why they seemed to think Narrabeen Beach was in the United States.
Mom called me down for supper an hour later. I had just finished my homework, so hadn't had any time to do the thinking I had alluded to with Dad. Maybe later. Actually, that was almost a relief.
We sat down and everybody dished up, I snagged a drumstick before my brothers could grab both of 'em, then enjoyed watching them fight silently with each other with their eyes about who was going to get the other one. As usual, they worked something out without saying a word, or even a nod or expression, and Dennis smiled in triumph and grabbed the other drumstick. I still had no idea what was going on when they did that.
“Mom, Dad,” I said as I scooped peas onto my plate, my mouth ignoring my brain's plea for it to shut up, “I need to tell you guys something.”
I stopped scooping peas, and looked around at my family to see the reaction my traitorous mouth had garnered. Dennis and Carl looked at each other. I could've swore I saw knowing smiles and tiny nods before they stared up at me neutrally. Mom was frowning slightly, the way she does sometimes when she thinks she's about to get bad news. Dad was looking slightly irritated, like he was about to hear I had accidentally broken the lawnmower or something.
So, I chickened out. Not that I had ever actually chickened-in, or whatever, in the first place. “I'm g...oing into Antigonish with Mike tomorrow. Or maybe New Glasgow.” I stared around at their odd looks, and decided I'd better add something, to make this slightly less than completely bizarre. Not that that was possible. “Umm. So...don't ask me to babysit.” I nodded, as if I was making a strong point of some kind.
“Okaaaay,” Mom answered with a puzzled look, “But, how about you ask for permission instead of making a demand, Brian?” She tempered this with a small smile. I studiously ignored the twins' shaking heads and disappointed looks.
I blushed from Mom's slight rebuke. Not hard given my emotional state. Though that too seemed to provoke a bit of a reaction from all my family members since it was far stronger than Mom's little rebuke called for. “Uh, sorry, Mom. Would that be okay? If I go see a movie with Mike tomorrow? We'll probably meet some friends from school, too.”
Dad was scratching his chin and studying my face, which really worried me, but I pretended I didn't notice it. Mom just answered with, “Yes, Brian. You can go. Make sure you have your phone, and that it's charged this time.” Then she became ever so slightly sarcastic, again tempered with a gentle smile, “Thanks ever so much for asking so politely.”
I tried for cheek. “No prob, Mom. Any time.” I gave her my best fake extra wide smile.
She pretended to throw her piece of fried chicken at me, and the moment passed. But I got the sense my traitorous twin brothers were wishing it hadn't. Maybe I'd be having a bit of a chat with them before Mom and Dad. Completely opposite from the way I had planned it. They're too smart for their own good, those two.
Friday after school I exchanged books in my locker, stuffed what I needed for the weekend in my backpack, and grabbed my hoodie before walking out the back doors to the parking lot instead of the front doors to where the buses were idling. I knew where Mike was parked, but even if I hadn't his car wasn't exactly hard to find.
See, if Mike hadn't been born more than a year before me, I would've sworn he and I had been swapped at birth. Mike and my dad got along great. Better than great. 'Cause Mike was as much, if not more, of a gearhead than Dad was. Despite that failing I liked him anyway, but it did get annoying sometimes.
So, about the car. He drives this weird old car. Not nearly as old as Dad's hotrod, but still. He bought the rusted out shell from their neighbour for about two hundred bucks when he was only thirteen years old. He started working on it then and there, with me often used as a reluctant assistant. Dad helped a lot too, I know, especially helping him figure out where to get parts and with choices about whatever modifications they had made. I have to admit, even not being a car nut, it was a very fine looking piece of machinery. Far, far, different from the rusty junker that Mike and I had helped his dad tow home from the neighbour's three years ago.
Anyway, it's very noticeable in the parking lot. In any parking lot actually. The bright chrome and deep shiny red colour, the mags, exhaust, and the fact that he always parked it at the very far end of the lot to reduce the chances of getting dinged from doors of other cars.
It drives me crazy, actually. That stupid thing probably gets about the same gas mileage as a jetliner. And we tend to share gas expenses, so that directly impacts me. I don't know why he couldn't be like all the other kids who had saved for a car and bought something practical, like an Accord or a Focus. But, it was better than taking the cheesewagon home I suppose, so I should stop griping.
I was standing waiting near Mike's car, careful to keep to the prescribed distance from his paint job, lest I suffer the ire of one of Mike's tirades, when I saw him walking towards me.
Only, he wasn't alone. No big deal, I thought to myself, I guess we're giving someone a ride into Antigonish again. The problem was, I immediately noticed as they got closer, it wasn't just someone. It was Al.
His name's actually Alexis, but he refused to acknowledge anyone, even teachers, who called him anything other than Al. I don't know if that was the case with his parents. I'd never met them.
Al and his family had moved into the area from out west somewhere early last year. Just a week or two before my fourteenth birthday. I immediately noticed him and had spent the last year and a bit trying to avoid him.
Because, of course, he was stunning. Against all convention, he had long dark blond hair, kind of hippie style, like something in my parents' old photos. He had the biggest dimples when he smiled, which was often, and that smile showed his perfect white teeth. He had the cutest little button nose which somehow didn't fit with his almost royal cheekbones, but somehow actually did fit perfectly. Okay, I know that doesn't make sense. But it's true. He wore some kind of neck chain thing almost all the time, only it was all these weird shells threaded through with a leather lace of some kind. His clothes were a bit more normal. Most of the time anyway, but he did have a tendency towards these weirdly colourful T-shirts I think he must've done himself somehow. Today he was just wearing board shorts and a regular polo shirt, much to my relief. But, as usual, on his feet were these weird Mexican sandals he always seemed to like. Huarachis I think they're called. Nobody wears 'em. Well, not true, obviously. He did.
I say, 'much to my relief,' about today's wardrobe because, when I was a thirteen year old just figuring out that boys were much more interesting and sexier and more appealing than girls, he walked into my school and almost made me ji...uhh...have an embarrassing accident just by the site of him. His clothes were part of the package, and seeing him in one of his more outlandish shirts or those jeans he likes with the wide legs at the bottom just increases the effect. Even now, after all this time, he had that effect, though I had learned to control myself a bit. Mostly by avoiding the hell out of him.
They got close enough to say hi, and both did so. Al smiled widely at me. Now, that didn't mean a thing, of course. He always smiled widely at everyone he greeted, but the part of my brain that I was trying to keep firmly under control until I was ready to finally let it out didn't believe that. It always tried to trick me into thinking that his smiles towards me were somehow just a bit different.
Oh, god, this was awful! I couldn't sit in a car with him for the next hour. I just couldn't. And I needed to decide if I should be somewhat polite, as the driver's buddy, and offer him shotgun – which would mean staring at that hair from behind him for the next hour – or to be rude and call shotgun for myself, forcing him into the cramped back seat.
Politeness won. Much to my libido's disgust. Or delight. Both, actually, I think.
I know it's obvious by now, but just in case I haven't made this quite clear, I'm not exactly out. I'm working on it, though. But since the subject hadn't come up at home that I ever recall, I had no idea how my parents were going to react. Now, sure, we live in a country where gay marriage has been legal for years and where politicians were climbing over each other trying to prove they were more accepting than the rest of 'em, but we don't live in Toronto. Or even Halifax. We live on Hawthorne Road, near Port-friggin-Hawkesbury. Which is squarely between Backwardsville and Old-School-Thinking-towne.
My school's pretty good, values wise. I mean, there's no openly out gay kids but I have no doubt I wasn't even close to the only gay kid there. Probably the others had close friends that knew and accepted them. Most of the kids at my school liked to think of themselves as pretty progressive, and I think would've seen someone coming out as an excuse to start a GSA or have an Acceptance Dance or something. I'm just not quite sure if I'm ready for all that yet. Certainly not to be at the centre of it. Now, if a few other kids would come out ahead of me, then sure, maybe. But, as things stand I think I'll finally be able to leave the closet behind me when I grow up to be a man. Or, at least, close to it.
Okay, I'm a chickenshit. Let's be honest here. But, hey. I kind of like it that way.
Mike unlocked the doors of his shiny red superstock Dodge, and we climbed in. Mike started the beast of an engine making me think, as usual, of all the gas money getting sucked through the dual quads and out of my wallet, and we pulled out of the school's lot with only the smallest squeal of tires as Mike grinningly accelerated and Al chuckled. I just frowned. Mike fiddled with the radio and found that same oldies station I had been listening to lately. He cranked it up so we could barely hear each other over the harmonies of the old rock song, and the noise of the engine and wind.
“So, Brian, what's the deal?” asked Mike a few minutes later, after pulling onto the Trans-Canada highway, and gunning it up to the speed limit.
I reluctantly tore my gaze away from watching Al's hair flow with the wind from the open windows and looked at Mike's eyes through the rearview mirror. “Huh?” I answered with my usual verbosity.
He looked back at the road, then back at me through the mirror, “Spill it, Bri.”
See what I mean about him and my dad being more like each other than me? He's always been perceptive like that. I answered, naturally, with, “Spill what?” But, I knew that he knew that I knew what he was asking.
So, he rolled his eyes, glanced over at Al, then back at me through the mirror, maybe realizing it wasn't quite the right time to ask me to spill my guts about why I've been so withdrawn the past week or two. He just gave me a look that I knew meant he'd ask me again as soon as we were private. I swallowed hard and went back to examining the laws of physics, specifically how moving air caused interesting patterns of motion in vast quantities of long, blond, pleasant smelling hair.
Five minutes later we pulled into a gas station. I swear it was rare to actually drive past one without him stopping for gas. Al climbed out and went inside the convenience store after asking us if we wanted anything to drink. Mike was standing beside the car pumping gas. He watched Al until he disappeared inside, then turned to me and again said, “Spill it, Bri. What are you avoiding?”
As usual, my impulse control sucked. The pressure of sitting there so close to Al for the past half hour and Mike's questioning must've really gotten to me. I blurted out, “I'm trying to figure out the right time and place to tell you and my parents that I'm gay.”
Mike blinked and turned back to watch the incredibly quickly rising numbers on the gas pump, “Oh. Well, let me know when you figure it out. It might be something I'd like to know. When you're ready, of course.”
The problem with anticlimactic coming out stories is that they're either boring or funny. This one started out as the former, but suddenly became the latter as I watched Mike study the gas pump, pretending to be nobly indifferent to my news. I couldn't help it. I started chuckling, and it quickly rose into a belly laugh. As soon as Mike heard it his noble indifference melted and he began laughing too.
So, of course, that's when Al walked back to the car with three bottles of soda pop in his hands and a grin on his face. “What's so funny, guys?” he asked.
We both immediately stopped laughing. Mike looked at me and I looked at the ground. Al's grin vanished. I suddenly realized how this must look to him, and felt awful. “Shit, Al, sorry. It's nothing about you, honest. I just told something to Mike, it was kinda, um, personal, and he pretended like it was no big deal at all, so we started laughing. Then you walked out and...well...” I tailed off awkwardly, and began looking anywhere but at Al's face.
But, I could still see him, in my peripheral vision. He looked at me quizzically for a second then his grin came back full force, this time accompanied by raised eyebrows. “Oh, really?” he said, “And I guess I'm not privy to this 'personal information'?”
I blushed and didn't answer. So I guess that was an answer. Al smirked at me, and Mike saved me by hanging up the gas pump, finally, and holding out his hand, “Pay up, Bri. You said you'd buy gas this time.”
I glanced over at the pump and feigned a heart attack. “How much?!? Fuck me, I hate this car of yours. I'm going to have to ask Dad to bump me up to full time at the shop at this rate.” But I grinned and handed over some cash.
Al pulled out his wallet really fast, “Here, Mike. I'm contributing too.” He put some bills in Mike's hand, which Mike accepted graciously, then Mike turned and walked inside to pay.
Al was looking at me. Half grinning and half asking a question with his eyes. But I think he was too polite to come right out and ask me. So, he just handed me one of the drinks he was holding.
I accepted it and opened it, “Thanks, Al. Uh...it's...well...uh...” I really didn't know what to say. I couldn't exactly tell him it was none of his business, after all we were rude enough to talk about it when he was around, then stop suddenly when he tried to join in with our laughing.
Fortunately, he seemed to take it in stride, “Forget it, Brian. I know I don't know you very well, for some reason we never seem to spend any time together.” With that he climbed back in the car and fastened his seat belt.
Mike pulled open his door at the same time and climbed in, handing some change to me before starting the car. Mike grinned and revved it up a couple of times when Al smiled at the sound of the powerful engine.
“Oh man, just feel those vibrations.” said Al.
I just shook my head, “I hate them. They're costing me money.”
Mike looked insulted, “Are you kidding? Those vibrations, they're good.”
“Good vibrations?” I answered with a smirk. “Is there such a thing?”
“Sure,” Al said, waggling his eyebrows, “in fact, I think they're making me a bit excited.”
I didn't answer that one. I had more than a bit of excitation myself, ever since we left Port Hawkesbury. And it had nothing to do with vibrations and a whole lot to do with the gorgeous surfer dude in the seat in front of me.
We pulled into Antigonish a little while later, fortunately talking about nothing more exciting than the NHL playoffs and the unusually warm weather. “So I told Bibi and Rhonda we'd meet up with them for something to eat maybe.” Mike said, looking at me again in the mirror, this time with a bit of an apology in his eyes. Probably at least somewhat due to the information he had now that he didn't when we left the school.
“Sure Mike, no problem.” I answered, then looked over at Al, “Want to join us? Or did you have plans already?”
Al looked surprised to be asked. Actually I was a bit surprised I asked him too, but that didn't stop me from waiting eagerly for an answer. “Sure, I was just going to spend an hour in the library or something, then my parents were going to pick me up later for dinner.” he said, looking right at me with that smile of his.
I grinned back at Al, then said to Mike, “Let's go. Danny's Grill I suppose?”
Mike just grunted, maybe a bit put out I'd invited Al along but I didn't care. He turned the corner onto the main thoroughfare through town. Mike stopped at the red light, right at the spot where the road widens from two lanes to four, and a fancy sports car pulled up loudly beside us.
I groaned aloud. “No, Mike. No, please,” I said, thinking about my wallet. And accidents. And jail. And dying.
But Mike just grinned and revved the engine. He seemed even more excited than usual for some reason. “Oh man, look at that,” he said. “You have no idea how long I've waited for this.” Mike rolled down his window the rest of the way.
The guy in the old Corvette next to us, some middle aged old fart, turned down his radio, then reached across and wound down the passenger window. He yelled over, “Dream on, kid. You don't wanna mess with fuel injection.”
Mike turned down his radio and just laughed, yelling back, “A 327 is no match for a 413, old man, and dual quads are plenty. You're about to find out how wrong you are!”
Beside Mike, Al was laughing again while the Stingray revved his engine, but I just slunk lower in my seat and checked my seatbelt, knowing there was nothing I could do to stop this. I watched the pedestrian crosswalk light countdown its numbers. They declined evenly to one, and the light turned green.
Mike and the old guy floored it, the lighter Corvette spinning his wheels madly before the godawful stink of burning clutch overwhelmed me. Maybe my extra weight in the back seat helped, but Mike's tires seemed to be digging in hard. Mike still hadn't shifted out of first, and I could practically see the gas gauge go down as the carbs thirstily sucked down gas. I was pushed back into the seat hard. Mike and Al's grins, I had to admit, were infectious. I found myself grinning right along with them despite myself as we gained a length on the Corvette, then more. Mike shifted up hard and I heard the other car do the same, but it didn't matter, we continued to increase the lead.
It was only about 12 seconds later when the Corvette suddenly backed down. Mike whooped, “Ha ha!!!! I knew it!! I knew it all along!! Fuck yeah!!! How wrong they were!! Fuel inject this,” he said emphatically with a raised middle finger back towards the Corvette. “Ram induction you pussy!”
I shook my head, but was still grinning. I had no idea who was wrong about what, but I had to admit it was the most fun I'd had in a while. Fun that tripled when I saw Al turning around to look at me with that grin of his, and then, yes I'm sure, he winked at me. He then pulled out his cell to call his parents and inform them he was going to dinner with us. I guess he forgot all about the library like he'd told his old man.
We pulled up to Danny's Grill a few minutes later, still grinning and laughing about the little race. Al and I walked right beside each other, with Mike a step or so ahead as we walked into the diner.
We found Bibi and Rhonda and pulled up a fifth chair to make room for Al. Rhonda seemed fine with the extra body, but Bibi was slightly put out for some reason. We made small talk while waiting for the server to come around for our drink orders, which didn't take long. Friday evening Danny's always puts on a buffet style dinner from five to eight. Perfect for a bunch of hungry, cheap, teens who didn't want to wait around for food to be served. Besides, there was almost always lobster.
Bibi barely said two words to me the whole time. I couldn't figure out what her problem was. Eventually, she got up and beckoned Rhonda to come with her to the bathroom to talk with her about whatever girls talked to each other about in bathrooms.
As soon as they left, Al apologized to me. “Uh, sorry Brian. I think I may be cramping things a bit, fifth wheel and all that.” He looked uncomfortable.
It took me a whole twenty seconds of looking at him and Mike before the penny dropped. Oh crap. I saw Rhonda walk out of the bathroom and march back to the table as if on a mission. Mike's eyes went wide and he stood up fast and grabbed Al's arm, “C'mon Al, let's go get dessert.” They left me alone with Rhonda only ten feet away now, and staring right at me, and closing fast.
Rhonda sat down right across from me and glared at me, her fingers drumming on the table.
I gave her a weak smile, which just made her glare even more. I felt myself become a bit flustered, then angry. What the hell was all this about? I didn't owe Bibi anything. We were just friends, and barely that. Besides, all this time with Al tonight was doing weird things with my head. I couldn't stop looking at him for more than two seconds.
I just figured all this out when Rhonda finally gave up at my silence and opened her mouth, “You need to tell her, Brian.” Her voice was emphatic.
I knew it wouldn't work, but I had to try, just in case it wasn't already too late. Though I knew it was. “Tell who what?” I asked weakly.
She snorted. Very unladylike. “Bibi. That you're gay. And going out with Al.”
I panicked. “Whaa? I...uh...no...wha...” I felt a teensy bit dizzy all of the sudden.
Rhonda's expression changed, she suddenly looked sympathetic, “Oh my god, Brian. You're so pale.” She reach a hand across to one of mine, “It's okay, honest. Sorry, I didn't realize it was a big secret. I'm kind of used to all this, with my older brother and all.”
Well, that was news to me, but it still didn't help me much. I tried to catch my breath. I just wasn't quite ready for all this, not like this.
“What can I do?” Rhonda asked.
“I need help, I think. I'm not ready for anyone to know. And I'm not going out with Al. I don't even think he's ga...uh....like that.”
“If you keep looking at him like that, especially in school, then everybody's going to know by Tuesday at the latest. I guarantee it.”
“Oh God.” I put my head down on my arms, then looked back up at her, “Help me, Rhonda.”
“Help me get him out of my heart,” I wailed.
I swear I think she almost laughed before she came back at me with the sympathetic look again, “I think it's way too late for that,” she said, looking over at Al walking back to the table, who was frowning mightily at seeing my hand still enclosed in Rhonda's.
I snatched it back quickly. Rhonda snickered, and I think muttered quietly, “For both of you.”
Impulse control isn't exactly my strong suit. Bibi came back, finally, and sat down glaring at me still. Now Al was frowning at me, too. Rhonda looked alternately sympathetic and like she was about to burst out in laughter, and Mike looked like he had no idea what he should do or say, though I think he knew a lot more about what was going on that he let on.
So, with the pressure weighing heavily on me from all sides, I blurted it out. In the worst possible way, naturally. One more little head movement from Bibi did me in. I saw that and out it came in one big burst of verbal diarrhea. “I'm sorry Bibi I apologize I didn't mean to hurt your feelings but I'm gay for Al and Al I'm sorry for holding Rhonda's hand it didn't mean anything honest.”
That certainly seemed to be a bit of a conversation stopper. For about five tables around us I think.
Just in case you didn't think a person can feel great relief from huge pressure and be completely and utterly horrified at the exact same time, I can assure you it's very, very possible.
I looked at everyone staring at me with open mouths, and was just about to run screaming into the night when Bibi squealed, yes, squealed, “Ohhhhhh my gawwwwwwd. We need to start a GSA at school! I'll talk to the rest of the student council about it at the Tuesday meeting! We can get things rolling for the end of this year and then jump right into it in September! And I think we need to organize an Acceptance Dance! This is incredible!” It was like she had been waiting for this very moment to complete her entire high school career.
Mike had his head down and his face was completely covered by his hands. It didn't help. His laughs were leaking out all over the place. I'm pretty sure he was about to fall off his chair. He finally got up and made his way towards the bathroom, not even bothering to hide his loud guffaws now.
Bibi fell into conversation with Rhonda, both talking excitedly about dances and clubs and whatnot, probably planning my involvement for the rest of the school year and the next.
I finally dared to look over at Al, dreading what I'd see. He was just sitting there, with his arms crossed kind of leaning back and slightly sideways in his chair. That dimpled grin lighting up his face and those teeth dazzling me. “So....” he began.
I just blushed. Hard. But I kept looking at him. I even managed a self-deprecating smile.
“So...” he said again, “Gay for me, are ya?” Somehow the grin got wider.
I blushed harder, but found myself grinning and nodding fast at him.
“Well then, I suppose we'd better do something about that, hadn't we?” He got up and held out his hand to me, and I took it and we walked out of the diner and into the evening.
together we've been spending
I wish that every kiss was neverending
Three and a half weeks later we were immersed in a frenzy of activity. Bibi, true to her word, and to the school, of course, had firmly established beginning plans for a GSA, for which I was apparently supposed to help put up posters. The Acceptance Dance was this Friday. I had the ominous feeling she'd save the first dance, lit by a spotlight, for me and Al, even though my and Al's news had brought a half dozen other gay kids out of their closets. Then after the dance, a week and a bit later, was the end of June and with it the end of the school year.
Yes, quite obviously, I was out. Even to Mom and Dad. My ratfink brothers got impatient after hearing about Al from Mike and ended up slipping up by describing him as my boyfriend one day when he was on the way over. Mom and Dad took it...okay. Mom was adjusting. More or less. Dad said he'd always known it, and that nothing at all had changed for how much he loved me.
Unfortunately, they refused to let Al and me be in a room with a closed door. Al's parents already knew he was gay, but had similar rules. It was fair. The same rules applied for his hetero siblings. However, it really sucked. Neither of us drove yet, and there were very few opportunities for any alone time at all.
Al just hugged me one night when we were saying goodbye, and said, “Wouldn't it be nice if we were older.”
I griped and answered, “Then we wouldn't have to wait so long.” I wanted to be able to hold him the whole night through.
Al just repeated, “Wouldn't it be nice.”
I smiled, looking at the bright starlight reflected in his eyes.
I could hardly wait until Al turned sixteen, a few weeks before me. Hopefully he'd get his license right away. We were both getting sick of begging rides from his parents, my parents, and Mike.
Wednesday evening before the dance, Al was over and nine o'clock rolled around. I went downstairs to ask Dad if he could drive him home. Mike was supposed to do it, but he texted me at the last minute saying he'd be really late thanks to chores he'd been neglecting at home. Neither of us wanted Al to miss curfew. Not with the dance and everything.
Dad was watching TV when I walked in. “Dad?”
He looked up at me and glanced at the time. He knew what was coming and he sighed and answered, “Yes, Brian?”
“Uh, Mike's late. Would you mind driving Al home?”
Dad grumbled but got to his feet and went to get his keys. I knew he would. I was secretly hoping we'd take the Ford Coupe, but I'd never let Dad know that. Unfortunately, he grabbed the minivan keys instead.
Al and I followed him outside and we buckled in.
Dad drove off grumbling. I know he was really starting to get bugged driving up and down the same old strip of road. After a few minutes of silence, he asked, “How did you guys manage to get anywhere before you knew each other?”
Al shrugged and answered, “I dunno. I get around.”
I piped in, “I do too. Mike, mostly. Another few weeks and hopefully we'll have licenses.” I didn't add the part about neither one of use really having saved enough money for a car.
Dad drove on, while Al and I held hands in the back seat.
Thursday was almost a disaster. As promised, I was helping Bibi with the GSA posters, when Mr. Murray, the school's most hated teacher, decided to make his feelings known. He was walking towards us while Bibi held the posters and I held a stapler. She saw him coming first and began to rush me. “C'mon, Brian. Hurry!” She held a poster against the bulletin board and motioned frantically to the stapler I was holding, “Tack it up. Tack it up!”
Mr. Murray walked up to us, stared at the poster while turning purple, and then turned his gaze on me. “Buddy,” he said with steel in his voice, “I'm gonna shut you down.”
I felt horrible as he walked away. But, I did say 'almost' a disaster. Mrs. Mopar's classroom door was open, right beside the bulletin board. She walked out right after that exchange and stood there staring after him with her hands on her hips, then turned to us, “Don't worry, Bibi. Everything will turn out all right. I'm going to talk to Mr. Delaney right now. I have a feeling he'll be looking for a new job. All summer long.” With that, she marched purposefully towards the main office.
I really felt amazing when, after school that day, I saw Mr. Murray walking towards his car scowling and carrying a couple boxes of his belongings. At the same time I caught a wave from my surfer boyfriend standing near Mike's car. I grinned. I truly felt like I was sitting on top of the world.
Once again on the drive home that oldies station was blaring on Mike's stereo. I'd been listening to them a lot lately. Really ever since that day on the school bus. I was beginning to understand why Dad liked that old music so much. But, I had learned a few things, too, and one of these days soon I was going to have to sit down with Dad and Mom and have a serious discussion about a few things.
Mike pulled into our driveway a short time later, with me and Al riding shotgun and in the back seat respectively. We pulled up to a very strange sight. My dad was attaching some kind of a rack to the top of the minivan, while my brothers were busy next to the garage on the grass, waxing honest-to-god surfboards.
Al got all excited and could barely wait for Mike to stop the car, but he had to wait for me to get out first since I was in the front today. I walked up to Dad and just raised my eyebrows.
He smiled broadly. “Son, you got me thinking a few weeks ago. I realized that you guys have never been surfing in your entire lives, and it's about damn time I changed that. Especially living here, so close to some of the greatest waves in the country. I rented some boards and signed your brothers and you and Al up for lessons. Next Saturday, after school's all finished, we're going to Martinique for a couple of days.
I was surprised. And kind of excited, too. But two things immediately came to mind. First, how would I tell Dad that Al didn't need lessons? I knew by now that he'd learned to surf years ago, when he lived out west. Second, what about Mike? It was very strange for Dad to leave him out of plans like this. He usually just sort of assumed I'd want him to come along.
Dad noticed me looking over at Mike uncomfortably, trying to figure out what to say.
Dad opened his mouth to explain, but Mike beat him to it. “It's okay, Brian. Your dad kind of had to let my dad know ahead of time, and Dad explained it to me yesterday. I can't go with you guys, turns out Grandpa booked himself and me on some sailing trip again.”
I groaned, remembering the last time that happened. What a soap opera. Mike and I both went with Grandpa that time. Mike snuck a bunch of beer aboard the old sloop, and got himself completely hammered. We were roaming around town while in port, and Mike insulted the wrong group of guys and we got into a hell of a fight. Mike really got himself busted up good. Then, when we got back to the boat, some cop wanted to question us. Sheriff John Stone. Mike was worried that it was about the fight or underage drinking, but it turned out one of the crew had busted into the Captain's stuff. Then there was something about a bunch of food missing from the kitchen too. Mike didn't want to talk to the cop at all, just moaned over and over about hoisting the sail and wanting to go home.
It was the worst trip I'd ever been on. So I was actually kind of glad I wasn't going with Mike this time. Besides, learning to surf sounded like a hell of a lot more fun. And it's getting real popular again. Everybody's learning how.
Al was over with Carl and Dennis by now, showing them the proper way to wax down the rental boards. Mike and I wandered over to watch, along with Dad. Dad grinned broadly, looking over at the boys waxing up their surfboards. It was like he'd been waiting his whole life for this opportunity. With a laugh in his voice, he said, “It's June. So Saturday, we're going on a little safari...we're going to the beach, boys.”
Must've been some inside joke. I just waited until the laughter stopped.
On Friday, after six hours of school I had enough for the day, so I was looking forward to the dance. I surprised myself, actually. I'd been worrying about it for a couple of weeks, but Al was so excited about it that it was really tough not to get drawn into his excitement, so I shook off my feelings of being down.
Mr. Murray's quick exit, and the rumor mill about what had happened, seemed to be an effective message to any prospective homophobes in the school. To this point, we'd heard nothing except support from those who had said anything at all. Sure, there were quite a few steadfastly neutral types, people who made it fairly clear they weren't going to show up, but they were being civil about it. I suppose we couldn't ask for more than that.
Mike, as usual, did chauffeur duty, driving Al and me home to shower and change. Mike went home to do the same for himself, then we were on our way back to the school after making a quick stop to pick up Rhonda, who really looked fine all dressed up for the dance.
On the way back to the school some old widow pulled up beside us in a car very similar to Mike's. I figured we were in for another illegal street race, and was about to give Mike the gears. The little old lady grinned and looked over at Mike while taching up her engine, but Mike, wisely and a bit out of character for him, didn't choose her. I was surprised when she pulled into the school lot just ahead of us and got out of her car. I hadn't recognized her with those huge sunglasses she was wearing, but it turned out that it was Mrs. Mopar.
I figured it was because she was a teacher that Mike didn't race her, but Mike explained as we walked back into the school, “No, you don't understand, Brian. She's known for miles around. She's good. She's drives real fast and real hard. I don't know how she doesn't have a million tickets by now with that lead foot of hers on the accelerator.”
I shook my head, thinking about how I was really looking forward to getting my license. I had had an idea about that, after checking my meager savings, and I was pretty sure I could make it work. I knew I didn't have enough for a car, but I had seen something neat down at the Honda shop the other day. An older used CB400. Not a big motorcycle, just a cool little motorbike. Looked like more fun than a barrel of monkeys, so I ran the idea past Al, who was saving for his own car. He just smiled and asked what to wear when we're riding. I told him I would buy gear for both of us, so just his ragged sweatshirt under the motorbike jacket would be perfect, and he'd better hang on tight when I got it up past third gear.
With that smile of his, I felt like taking him anywhere he wanted me to.
I'd have to be careful. I think some of Mike's and my Dad's bad driving habits were starting to rub off on me. Well, that and all the weird music I've been listening to lately.
Anyway, Al seemed to think all this was a great idea, if the sweet kiss was any indication.
Bibi wanted us back at the school early, before the dance started, to talk with her and a couple of the other student council members about how they wanted to organize the first dance. The part I was still dreading – me and Al out there by ourselves while everyone watched.
Mike, Rhonda, Al, and I walked into the gym together, a little more than half an hour before the dance was supposed to start. The DJ was busy setting up, and I spied Bibi and a couple of other girls talking animatedly with him. The DJ was nodding and smiling, and almost chuckling. I was really wondering what little plan they were cooking up.
We walked up to them. Bibi saw us first and waved us closer, then she said, “There you guys are. About time, I was getting worried. We're almost all set here, but I just want to introduce you to a couple of other student council members. They're going to show you where you'll walk in and where to stand before the music starts and all that. Al, Brian, this is Ann Sanders and Barbara Halachuk.”
I nodded to them and held out my hand to shake. Apparently I was more nervous about the first dance than I thought, so I stuttered just a bit, embarrassingly, and finally managed to get out, “Bar-Bar-Bar-Barbara. Ann.” I blushed, and Al laughed.
Barbara was sweet. So was Ann, they just smiled and took our hands for a handshake. The DJ had just started to test his speaker setup and was rockin'. I have to admit, I was reeling a bit from nervousness, but managed to follow Ann and Barbara as they showed us what would happen with the first dance. I hoped I wouldn't forget everything and make a fool of myself.
A bit more than half an hour later, Al and I walked out onto the empty floor under a spotlight, surrounded by half the school's population watching us. Al's grin and the DJ's intro music helped ease my nerves. It turned out I was worrying needlessly. It was an incredible success. The DJ played his intro, and Al and I stood on the spot where Barbara and Ann had put little pieces of masking tape to mark out where we were supposed to be. The spotlight changed colour and shone down while Al and I stood there holding hands and smiling at each other, waiting for the music to begin.
I was hoping we weren't being set up with a real slow song to start this thing off, so I tried to play it cool. In the silence before the music started I grinned and whispered to Al, “Baby, do you want to dance?”
I was rewarded with his dimpled grin and an emphatic nod in response, then the music started.
It turned out they weren't quite that mean. The music started with a fast bass guitar riff that I recognized from that oldies station we'd all been listening to. A song, appropriately enough, about dancing after school.
Al and I grooved to the singers' harmonies for thirty seconds or so, then, as planned, four of the other couples who had come out in the past couple of weeks joined us. Two pairs of girls and two more of guys.
The first song ended with all of us out there grinning at each other like fools while the rest of the kids watching clapped and whistled their approval. Then the DJ yelled out for everyone to jump in there and he began another song. One that started with an emphatic, “Go!”
I had to laugh while everyone streamed in to join us and the gym full of grinning kids began rockin' 'n' rollin'. The song almost exactly described what I had been thinking about earlier when deciding what kind of vehicle to buy.
I'd never had so much fun. Everyone was dancing with everyone. Mike even had a dance with me, hamming it up like crazy.
I finished dancing in a group with Mike, Rhonda, Bibi, and half a dozen other kids and looked around and spotted Al talking to Barbara. Everytime I saw him it was like I couldn't wait to see him again. A slow song started so I screwed up my courage and thought that I might take a chance. I walked up to him and asked him if he wanted to dance. He joined me on the dance floor and the music flowed around us.
I held him tight, my feelings almost overwhelming me. I didn't know what else to do, so I whispered, right into his ear, “Al, I love you.”
I felt his arms squeeze me tightly and he whispered back, with a wonderful smile on his face, that he loved me too.
So, then I kissed him.
The music was off the charts and we danced until we could barely breathe, then danced some more. It was the best night I'd ever had, and now we had all summer ahead of us. I was looking forward to it more than I had looked forward to any summer in my life.
A week later, early Saturday morning, the twins banged open my bedroom door. They were excited beyond words. “Brian! Get up! Get up!” Dennis yelled. Carl, practically talking over top of him said, “Brian! Let's go! We're going surfing!!”
At that moment my alarm went off. I should've known I wouldn't need it. Not with those two around. I dragged myself downstairs to where Al was sleeping on the couch, my parents' rules again, and woke him up. I didn't need to though, the racket from the twins had already done the job. If anything, he looked more excited about the trip than they did.
We got ourselves ready and Al turned on the radio to listen to the surf report. The DJ said the surfing was going to be fine for the next few days. Al grinned and said, “Baby, we're going to have a good time!” Somehow, I knew he was right.
With the twins helping, it only took twice as long as it should've before we loaded up the boards onto our fake-wood-paneled minivan, and started driving. Dad tuned the radio to my favorite station and planned out the route on the GPS. With the radio blasting and us cruising along and singing completely off key, everybody went surfing, to Martinique.
“Dad,” I said with mock disgust many hours later, “you're a jerk.” I was sore all over, tired, sunburned, and absolutely, completely, and utterly elated. Surfing was amazing. The most fun I'd ever had. Incredible. It was definitely the life for me.
And watching Al riding a wave with the water glinting in the sun and that hair of his, darker from being wet, flowing down his back, drops of water glistening off his abs and pecs, well, that wasn't so bad either.
Dad just looked at me from his towel in the shade. He'd packed it in hours ago, complaining about his old bones not being able to do what they used to. From his expression I could tell he knew I wasn't serious. He raised his eyebrows, waiting for whatever I was going to follow up that statement with.
“Why the heck did you wait until I was almost sixteen before taking me to do this!?! You've obviously known how to surf your whole life! I can't believe it.”
Dad grinned. “Well, honestly, your mom had a bit to do with that. I...had a real bad accident a long time ago.” His grin was gone now. “When your mom and I were only a few years older than you are now, I hit my head and almost drowned. After that, well, I didn't go very often. And when I did, your mom didn't come along. It wasn't very long until I felt pretty guilty about going without her, so I packed it in for a few years.”
“So, umm, why'd you change your mind now?”
Dad looked at me, his eyes going up and down. “Look in the mirror, kiddo. You have the perfect surfer physique. Then, you met Al, and he's the same, and obviously has some skill, talent and experience. I think the twins are going the same way in a few years, too. I just had a feeling you'd take to this like you did. I couldn't wait any more, and was working up to broaching the subject with your mom, when she found me one day looking at my old board in the garage.”
“So what happened?”
Dad was grinning again, “She threw her hands up in the air, and just said, 'Oh for God's sake, take them surfing before it kills you!'”
I laughed along with Dad, and Al and the twins came running up, none of them looking half as tired as I felt.
Dad said, “Okay, guys. It's getting late. Let's load up the boards and pack our stuff away. Time to go get some food, then find our hotel.”
Shortly afterwards, we were in Halifax. It's a good thing Dad found a buffet. I swear we ate enough food for ten that evening. Completely stuffed, we made our way to the hotel and waited while Dad checked us in.
Dad completed the check-in and turned around and walked towards us, saving me from trying to stop the twins from breaking the lobby.
What was weird was that he had four keycards in his hand. Four. Not two.
He saw me staring at them. “Me and the twins are in one room, you and Al are in the other,” he said with a smile on his face.
I looked at him, waiting for the punchline. But, it didn't come.
“Son, there are two beds in that room. So, there shouldn't be a problem.”
I nodded, and turned to grab my suitcase.
“Of course, once you guys are settled for the night, I won't be coming to your room.”
I stopped, straightened, and turned around again, staring once more.
“As long as both beds are messed up in the morning, then who am I to say anything?” Dad finished. Then, whistling, he picked up his bags and began walking to the elevators, the twins scampering along behind him, but looking back at us and sharing knowing smirks with each other.
Al and I looked at each other, then both broke out in giant grins before picking up our own bags and quickly making our way towards the elevators.
Al and I settled into bed. For the first time able to say goodnight and stay together. “You know,” Al said, “spending the day together with you...it was incredible.”
“I can't believe we can wake up together,” I answered.
“More and more,” Al said, holding me close as we got comfortable in bed, “things are getting better in the world. It's becoming the kind of world where we belong.”
I nodded and kissed him, and said, “Good night, my baby.”
Al returned the kiss clicked off the light, “Sleep tight, my baby.”
And we were happy. And so we did.
I want to sincerely thank my hard working editors for their help in crafting this story. They made it immeasurably better. The mistakes that remain are solely my responsibility, and the story would have considerably more if it weren't for their help.
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Finally, if you manage to catch every Beach Boy reference in the story, I think I should award you a prize or something. Beware: some are quite subtle. Ask the friend of yours who's a total music geek.