Palouse by vwl




Chapter 18


Micah’s Rebellion – October 1990


Six Months Later





            It was a school day in October. Micah was feeling the pressure of an upcoming test in algebra and a weekend concert in Portland. His mother had allowed him two hours to prepare for the test and three hours to practice his violin after dinner. Micah looked at her schedule for him. The pattern on the calendar for the next month – and probably the next year – was the same: school, time for homework, time to practice the violin, travel, concerts.


            “I’m going out to play basketball with Greg,” he announced.


            “You haven’t practiced enough for your concert,” Betty said, her expression grim and unbelieving.


            “Don’t worry, Mom. It’ll be okay,” Micah said without much conviction.


            “You could hurt your hand playing basketball. I forbid it,” she said with exasperation.


            “What are you going to do, Mom? Take away my violin? Ban me from the television – oh, I don’t have time to watch television? Keep me out of school?”


            Micah wanted to close with, ‘Go fuck yourself,’ but he simply walked out the door and went over to the basketball hoop on a paved portion of their driveway. He immediately received a hard pass from Greg.


            “I need a break,” Micah said while dribbling left before crossing over to his right and passing a flat-footed Greg for a lay-in. “Is she some fucking Leopold Mozart, trying to rule my life every minute of the day?”


            Greg smiled in understanding, secretly welcoming Micah’s rebellion but not wanting to harm the relationship between Micah and their mother. Though Micah had said very little directly in their end-of-the-evening conversations, Greg had noticed Micah’s increasing unhappiness over the past few months and knew something was going to burst. Were things about to change? He was worried about what he saw happening.


            Greg retrieved the ball, passed it to Micah, moved into a defensive stance, and dared Micah to make a basket against an alert defender. Micah looked his brother in the eye, slapped the ball between his hand, faked to the right, then dribbled left, but Greg moved easily with him whichever way Micah dribbled, cutting him off from the basket. A frustrated Micah finally took an off-balance shot and then fought against Greg’s block-out.


            “Not bad – for an amateur,” Greg said. “With a little work, I can get you ready for tryouts, and you’d probably make the team.”


            “Fuck you, bro. If I could spend time with basketball, then you wouldn’t even be able to compete. You don’t believe me, do you? In fact, maybe I should spend more time with basketball.”


            “Ha! You’re just talking trash.”


            “Besides, that would really piss Mom off.” He glanced at the kitchen window, where Betty was staring at the two boys – glaring, actually, it looked like from Micah’s point of view.


            Greg took the ball at the top of the key that had been painted on the pavement. He head-faked a drive, then stepped back and took an open jump shot. Swish. “Now, that’s how you do it.” They played for another 15 minutes, bumping and pushing each other in order to throw off the shots. Greg kept winning as Micah play deteriorated till he finally just stopped.


            “Are you okay, Micah?” Greg said as he put his hand softly on Micah’s shoulder. “You’re not concentrating.”


            “I…I don’t know. I feel like I’m living in a straightjacket. I’m wildly successful in some people’s eyes – but lately I don’t know what success is – for me. Is it happiness? Is it performance? Is it money? Is it fame? Is it sex with a symphony patron in every city even if it is probably statutory rape?”


            “Hey, I haven’t got past first base with any of my dates, and you’re worried about the rest of your life – and sex, no less, and yes, it is statutory rape. We live in such different worlds. However, if I didn’t have to play the violin, I’d love to take those other worries off your hands.” Greg started laughing, and that started Micah off.


            “Greg, you’re my reality. I realize that now. Thank you. I love you, bro.”


            “Reality right now is making the next shot over my outstanding defense, okay?”


            “No problem.” Micah took a step toward the basket and then pulled back for an open shot.


            Betty fumed at the kitchen window as she watched her two sons playing basketball, talking closely, laughing and messing around. She wanted Micah back in the music room. From Betty’s perspective, Micah simply didn’t know that he could not afford to take the time away from the violin; he had a brilliant career that would take him far away from Endicott and into the realms of American – no, into the world’s – culture. She didn’t mind defiance – she’d raised two other teenagers, after all – but she did mind Micah’s lack of respect for his future. Unless Micah would come to his senses, she thought, he could never achieve the greatness that she knew was in him. “Damn,” she said uncharacteristically as she twisted the kitchen towel in her fingers.


* * * * *

            “I need to do something else with my life, Greg.” The two boys were having their lights-out talk.


            “You know Mom will kill you if you back off on your violin. You know that, don’t you?”


            “I know. But when I bounced that ball on that court today, I didn’t feel pushed; I didn’t feel cornered by the calendar that hangs on the bulletin board in the kitchen, full of marker-pen notes. I didn’t have to focus in the same way as I’ve done every day since I started violin lessons. I felt freer than I’ve been in a long time.”


            “Mom would have a cow if she knew what you were saying,” Greg observed, but he was wary of taking sides in a family dispute. He felt for Micah, but he also knew his mother believed strongly that she was doing what was best for Micah – and, in a way, Greg believed that, too.


            “Good night, Greg.”


            “Good night, bro,” Greg said, but he wanted to add: “Good luck with Mom when she finds out what’s going on.”


* * * * *


            The notice posted on the school bulletin board announced: “Basketball Tryouts, Thursday, 3 p.m. in the Gym. Sign up with Coach Brandt.”  The name of the new coach was listed at the bottom: Christian Brandt. Nobody knew anything about him, except that he recently had graduated from Washington State University with a master’s degree and was teaching math in Endicott. Of course, most of the basketball players and their fans thought that any coach would be better than the social-studies teacher who led the team to a 2-18 record the season before.


            Greg was planning to play basketball with the full support of his parents. It was his chief extracurricular activity at school. Betty and Stan had signed the permission slip that he had picked up at the coach’s office.


            Micah waited until his mother left the kitchen. He set the permission slip down on the kitchen table in front of his father and handed him a pen. Micah also had decided to play basketball, but his hurdle was much larger: one of his parents had to give their permission.


            “Micah, you know I won’t sign this unless your mother agrees also.”


            Micah frowned. “Dad, I really want to be a part of the high school and not just…well, just a visitor.”


            “I understand, Micah, I truly do, and I’ll try to persuade your mother. You know, however, that she will insist that you keep up you violin practices and your grades. You’ll just have to fit everything in. You’ll have to keep your commitments to play violin, but your mother can back off making new ones until the basketball season is over.”


            Micah’s heart lifted with joy – cautious joy.


            In the morning, the signed permission form was sitting on the kitchen table. No Betty, no Stan, just some cereal and juice and two signatures. Micah scooped the paper up, showed it to Greg and put it in his backpack, happiness on his face. Greg, Micah and the other Kingman children were out the door shortly after breakfast to catch the yellow school bus for the half-hour ride to the cooperative high school in Endicott.


            There were 17 boys in the gym on that Thursday afternoon, a number that probably would have been higher except for the miserable seasons in previous years; however, because Endicott was a small high school, the turnout was never going to be very large.


            Micah and Greg sat in the back seat of the family van on their way home after the first week of practice. “If I hear ‘up the line, up the line’ one more time, I’m going to scream,” Micah said. Today, Kat had picked them up after school.


            “I think we’re learning what defense is supposed to be, Micah.”


            “These practices are about as riveting as doing scales on the piano,” Micah laughed.


            “Or the violin?”


            “Those aren’t as bad.”


            “That’s your opinion.”


            “Do you think we’ll be ready by a week from Friday?”


            “More than last year, that’s for damn sure.” Greg looked at the driver. “Excuse my language, Kat.”


            “I’ve heard worse around the farm,” she said.


            “Congratulations, Micah, on making varsity, by the way. Of course, it’s a reflection of your teacher: that‘s me, you realize.”


            “I owe, maybe, 10% to you. The rest is natural talent.”  Micah’s ribs felt a hard elbow from Greg in response, followed by a snicker.


            The first game was at home against Waitsburg on a Friday. In many small towns in Eastern Washington, the occasion of a basketball game is a festive, community event. During the season, the foyer to the gym becomes a gathering place for a Booster-Club-sponsored spaghetti dinner, attracting many of the families in the community. Along with the churches, the weekend high-school football and basketball seasons were the major social gathering times for northwest Whitman County.


            Before the current season, Micah would have been there having dinner with his family or traveling for a weekend concert performance somewhere, but now, as part of the team, he sat in the gym with the rest of the team on the hard, wooden, pull-out bleachers, watching the boys’ JV and girls’ varsity teams play the preliminary games. The boys had eaten a few hours before the rest of the crowd arrived – spaghetti, garlic bread and salad – to give time for the food to be digested. Micah was inwardly amused; he could be eating fancy bruschetta, shrimp or paté on the music circuit, but somehow spaghetti and meatballs suited him just fine.


            Micah was quietly delighted at this new relationship with his teammates and the rest of the school. It was as if he fully engaged – for the first time – with his everyday peers. He didn’t feel at all like a tolerated curiosity. He had put his heart into the basketball practices and had earned a starting, back-court role because of his defensive abilities, quickly learning and understanding the strategy taught by Coach Brandt. He didn’t have to unlearn the prior years’ offenses and defenses. Plus, he was able to dish the ball for assists, thanks to the work he had done with Greg.


            The varsity game was tight and tense – far different from Endicott’s efforts in the past season. The Waitsburg boys had assumed it was going to be a pushover game as usual, and they took a while to adjust, which gave Endicott enough to keep the game even until the end of the third quarter. After that, a well-coached defense and the results of good conditioning were enough for Endicott to stop Waitsburg, forcing their opponents into desperation turnover after turnover before they lost.


            The next morning, Betty woke Micah early for a trip to Spokane for his lesson with Marcia Vilas, a pattern that was to be repeated throughout the season. If Marcia felt any disappointment in Micah’s failure to improve, she didn’t say anything. For his part, Micah’s limited practice time was devoted mostly to what Marcia wanted at the expense of preparation for the few concerts that his mother was not able to postpone.


            There were three more wins on the basketball court and a close loss before opponents began to take Endicott seriously, but by that time Endicott had won more games than it had in the entire previous year. In addition, the team had become proficient at Coach Brandt’s system.


            “You were really good,” Amelia Vasquez said as Micah emerged from the locker room after the fifth game. Amelia was a dark-haired girl with medium-brown skin – from her Chicana background. She was dressed in blue jeans and an Endicott High School sweat shirt. Micah knew her as a bright student who always had answers ready for the teachers in class.


             “Are you going to the dance?” she asked. There was a dance in the gym after most home games.


            “Is there a dance?”




            “I didn’t know. Should I go?”


            “I’d like you to.” Amelia took Micah’s hand as an encouragement.


            “I’ll ask my folks. Greg is probably going if there’s a dance, so I think it will be okay.”  Micah went off and returned in a few minutes. “It’s okay, though I thought my mom was going to have a cow. And I had to promise her to be ready to go to Spokane early tomorrow; I think she really wanted me to practice for the next 3000 hours without a break.” Micah couldn’t help but giggle.


            “Come on, then, let’s go.” Amelia led Micah to the ticket table and into the gym.


            There was a DJ sitting at a table on the stage built onto one side of the gym floor, and large speakers near the extremities of the stage blared music onto the dance/gym floor. About 100 teenagers were in stages of dancing, talking, and drifting out into the foyer for punch and cookies.


            Micah had only heard pop songs from Greg’s radio, which, because of the farm schedules, was rarely on even when he wasn’t in the music room practicing. Micah marveled at the difference between the complex classical music that he was familiar with and the simpler popular music whose lyrics, at least, could be rich and fresh. 


            Amelia urged Micah to the dance floor, taking his hand and gently pulling him into the dance. It was Micah’s first time on a dance floor; he didn’t know what to do, though he could see the other teenagers moving in some rhythmic manner and decided, with an internal grin, that he could fake it – or so he thought. Things changed, however, when the DJ played a Bryan Adams song. Amelia drew Micah close. They stood unmoving.


            “I don’t know what to do,” Micah confessed.


            Amelia looked at him with curiosity, then amusement. “Follow my feet. You step forward with your left food, then up even with your right foot then draw your left foot up to your right foot. Then you do the same thing in reverse.”


            The next few minutes were painful – emotionally for Micah and physically for Amelia’s feet. Micah could not take his eyes off his feet, willing them to move in the direction that he had learned and in time with the music – all this without stepping too hard on Amelia.


            “Hey,” she said as she clinched Micah tightly,” let’s just rock back and forth – left foot, right foot, left foot, you look at me, not your feet. Ouch!”


            “I’m sorry.”


            “That’s okay; it’s better now.”


            Amelia put her head on Micah’s shoulders and pushed her body against him. It didn’t take long for Micah to respond, and it wasn’t just his turning red in the face or the arms that he placed around her. Dancing wasn’t too unpleasant an activity after all.


            There was also a warmth that grew between them from the conversation over the evening. Micah found it wonderful to talk to someone besides his brother about teenage things, about lighter things. He laughed; he giggled; his body and Amelia’s moved against each other’s. Micah reflected that this comfortable camaraderie was what he missed when he flew off to Seattle or San Francisco or Chicago to be the centerpiece of admiration – to be an ornament to the patrons of the arts, and not a young boy needing teenage companionship. As he danced and talked, laughed and became thoroughly engaged in the dance activities, he realized that, while there was much to enjoy about concertizing, this simple time spent in his home town with friends was an enjoyment of a different sort, really a magical sort, and one he had no idea would be so special.  


            The last dance was announced near midnight. It was a slow song, and Micah and Amelia formed one tangled unit until the last chords of the song played out. Amelia put her lips to Micah’s as the song ended. Shortly afterwards, the mercury-vapor hissed slowly as the overhead lights were turned on, the blue-white light growing from a glow to a harsh brightness, revealing that the dance floor once again was just a part of a gym. Standing over by the gym exit, Greg spun his keys in his hand, indicating he was ready to drive them both home.


            “Thanks, Amelia, I had fun,” Micah said.


            Amelia kissed Micah on the cheek. “Let’s do this again,” she invited. Micah smiled and nodded.


            “I’d like that, but…”


            “But what?”


            “I haven’t got a driver’s license, so I have to come and go with Greg. He comes to all the dances, though, but he likes to go out afterwards with his girlfriend.”


            “I’ve got a brother who can drive you home, or in an emergency some of his friends can. Okay?”


            “Okay.”  Micah grabbed his jacket and gym bag from the bleachers and joined Greg on the way out the door.


            Greg’s girlfriend was sitting in the center of the front seat of his pickup. Micah got in next to her as Greg got behind the wheel. “I’ll run you home,” Greg said.


* * * * *


            Amelia was in the stands at the away game in Rosalia as Endicott pulled out yet another fourth-quarter comeback. And she was on the gym floor waiting to give Micah a kiss before he climbed onto the yellow school bus for the hour-long trip back to Endicott.


            She was at Endicott High School when the bus arrived. “Do you want to go out for a while?” she asked Micah as he stepped away from the bus.


            “Greg is here to take me home.” Micah looked uncertain about what to do. “Maybe he will wait.”


            Micah walked over to Greg’s pickup, went to the driver-side window and tapped on it. Greg’s girlfriend was leaning on Greg’s right shoulder. “Greg, can we wait awhile before we go home?”


            Greg looked past Micah to where Amelia was standing, her arms wrapping around her body for warmth, her hands pulled back into the sweatshirt. “Okay, we’ll run into Colfax and get something to eat and pick you up in an hour and a half. Here.”  Greg was on his way before Micah could return to Amelia.


            “He’s coming back in an hour and a half,” Micah said. “What do you want to do?” Micah realized that every business in Endicott that wasn’t closed forever was closed down for the night, which meant that there was absolutely nothing to do – or so he thought.


            “Come over to my house,” Amelia said. They walked four blocks from the school to a small house – a single-story, double-wide manufactured home placed on a permanent foundation. The yard was scraggly with long grass and weeds. A swing set in one corner of the yard had seen its best days at least a decade earlier, grass pushing into the rounded depressions in the earth worn under each swing. The porch had a small metal roof over the doorstep that offered a couple of feet of shelter. Amelia pushed the unlocked door open with the sound of a metallic rasp. The inside of the house was furnished in worn but clean furniture, and on the wall were velvet paintings and bright-colored Mexican decorations.


            The kitchen was just past the small living room. The sink was full of dirty dishes, the kitchen table littered with crumpled paper napkins, coffee cups and shards of toast – the breakfast detritus of a busy family.


            Amelia led Micah to her bedroom and sat him down on the bed. In contrast to the rest of the house, her bedroom was tidy, the bed tightly made, the dresser lined neatly with brushes, perfumes and colognes and other toilet articles underneath a mirror framed with Post-It notes. Textbooks sat on her desk next to a cupful of pencils.


            “Er, are your mom and dad home?”


            “Mom’s working. She’s a nurse. My dad disappeared 10 years ago. Actually, Mom kicked him out. Really actually, she threatened to kill him if he hit her again. I think she meant it, so Dad cut out.”


            “Hey, I’m sorry.”


            “Enough said. Come here, sugar, we only have an hour.” Amelia pulled Micah to her, pulled his jacket off and began unbuttoning his shirt. She unbuckled his belt, undid the top button on his Wranglers and pulled the zipper down so she could put her hand over Micah’s growing bulge. Then, Amelia lifted her sweatshirt over her head, kicked off her shoes, undid her jeans and pulled them down. Micah just sat back, looking a bit bewildered and uncomfortable.


            Amelia drew Micah to her for a kiss then lifted his undershirt over his head and pulled down his jeans and underpants, revealing a super-excited boy. She turned her back to him so that he could undo her bra – it only took a few seconds to realize that was what she wanted; then he pulled her panties down. They were both naked on the bed. She pulled him to her as she lay on her back, grabbing his erection and directing it into her. Micah’s lips dropped down into a kiss, and he felt her warm breasts against his chest.


            It wasn’t the first time he’d had sex, but it felt like the first time. The first time – in Charlotte at the party – was very different, with the alcohol and the pot and the multiple partners sitting on top of him and the flash of the boy on his cock. This time it was just the one girl, and this time he couldn’t be just a passive bystander. He felt himself moving in and out of Amelia and her reacting with her vagina, her legs and her arms behind his lower back pulling him further into her. It wasn’t long before Micah silently reached his orgasm.


            “If you’d let me know, I could have made it better for you,” Amelia said as Micah softened within her. She realized that Micah’s sexual experiences were far fewer than hers. “By the way, I’m on the pill, so don’t worry about a little Micah running around.”


            “Oh.” Micah hadn’t thought about that aspect of their coupling.


            “Next time you’ll make some noise, maybe even scream?” Amelia laughed.


            “Okay. I’m, er, kinda new at this, but it sure felt good.” 


            “That’s the idea.” Micah then laughed, and they started to giggle and then talk like the friends they had become.


            They were back at the school shortly before Greg and his girlfriend arrived. Greg looked at Micah and Amelia suspiciously, but there wasn’t much he could say then. On the way home, though, he said with a grin: “Welcome to the real world, Micah.”


            Micah turned beet red, but it was too dark in the pickup cabin for Greg or his girlfriend to see. And, they couldn’t see the plumping in his pants from his recollections of the past couple of hours.


            They arrived home at half past twelve.


* * * * *


            “You have a concert in Seattle in a month, Micah,” Betty said. “You’re not ready.”


            “Mom, I know, and I’ll work on it this afternoon.”


            “No, Micah, you will work on it right after breakfast.” Betty’s voice had a hard edge to it. ”And you, Greg, you have the vehicle, and you were supposed to be responsible for getting yourselves home before midnight – as you promised.”


            “We lost track of time, Mom, but we came home as soon as we realized what time it was.”  He didn’t say why they lost track of time, and the start of a smile came to his lips before he caught it.


            Betty’s face scowled its disapproval.


            “Mom, we are not children anymore,” Greg said. “I really don’t think we need a damned artificial midnight deadline.”


            “As long as you and Micah live in this house, you will follow the house rules. I know you think of your dad’s old pickup as yours now, but if this behavior continues, I want the keys. And as long as you are around me, you will watch your tongue.”


            Greg stood, walked to the stairs, climbed them, and went to his bedroom, slamming the door behind him. “Screw you,” he said after the door closed.


            Betty pointed to the music room and didn’t have to say a word. “Screw you,” Micah whispered when he was out of hearing distance from his mother.


* * * * *


            “I’m having a party Saturday,” Amelia announced a few weeks later. “Come. Greg’s invited, too.”  


            “I’ll ask my folks.”


            Greg, Micah and Betty were sitting in the kitchen, finishing their breakfast. “Mom, we’ve been invited to a barbecue party at Amelia’s on Saturday. Is it okay to go?”


            “Are her parents going to be there?”


            “Her dad left years ago and never came back,” Micah answered. He didn’t know about Amelia’s mother, and he hoped his answer would suffice. He sneaked a glance at Greg, whose face was passive.


            “Since both of you are going to be there,” Betty said, looking back and forth between her two sons, “I guess it will be okay. Be back by midnight – and be careful.” Betty knew the temptations that her sons would face and was not sanguine about their responses. She was more worried about Greg, though; he and his girlfriend were getting uncomfortably close – from the parents’ point of view. Micah, she knew, was much too reserved and mature to get into trouble. She had no inkling of the developing relationship between Micah and Amelia.


            Micah, Greg and his girlfriend arrived at Amelia’s shortly after 6 p.m. on Saturday. They knocked on the door, heard a shout “come in” and opened it with its metal-screech announcement. Amelia’s brother, Arturo, was sitting on the couch, a can of beer in one hand and his arm around a girl snuggling up to his shoulder. Two other Chicano-looking boys that Greg and Micah recognized from Endicott High were sitting at the kitchen table with their girlfriends.


            “Amelia! Micah’s here,” Arturo shouted. Amelia emerged from her bedroom and ran to Micah, giving him a quick peck on the lips, wrapping her arm around his waist and pushing him down onto an easy chair before sitting on his lap. Greg took the cue and took the other chair in the room. Arturo clicked open four beers and brought them to the newcomers. “Something to get you going. Cheers!”


            Micah took a sip, grimaced at the taste and set his beer down on the floor next to the chair. Amelia took a sip of hers and snuggled closer to Micah.


            “Where’s your mom?” Micah asked.


            “She’s working tonight. The house is ours,” Amelia said with a sly smile. “First, though, let’s eat.”  Amelia jumped up from Micah’s lap, opened the refrigerator and pulled out plates of cold cuts and a bowl of salsa and put them on the table, shooing away the boys and their girlfriends. She opened a bag of taco chips and dumped them into a large bowl, then put out some paper plates and plastic silverware. “Dinner,” she announced.


            Arturo put two six packs of Rainier beer on the table. “Now dinner,” he said. Amelia stuck her tongue out at him.


            Dinner was only a prelude to a game of beer pong, followed by a well­-lubricated Truth or Dare. The teenagers sat on the couches, chairs and floor of the living room. Amelia started: “Micah, truth or dare.”


            A slightly tipsy Micah answered: “I don’t know how to play this game.”


            “You decide whether you want to answer a question with the truth or accept a dare.”


            “Truth, then.”


            “When did you have your last orgasm?” The room erupted in laughter, except Micah who turned bright red.


            “Do I have to answer?”


            “Yes,” Amelia answered. There was a pause. “The truth,” she continued.


            “This morning.” The answer caused Greg’s neck to whip around to stare open-mouthed at Micah, his bedroom-mate. If Micah could have ducked out, he would have.


            “Your turn, Micah.”


            “Gregory Kingman, when did you have your last orgasm?”


            Greg looked uncomfortable. “This morning.” It was Micah’s turn for a wide-open mouth. They inhabited the same bedroom. The only time they were apart between the alarm clock’s sounding and the breakfast table was the time in the shower. Micah giggled, figuring out that Greg was solving the same problem at the same time he was.


            Arturo was next around the table. “Amelia, when did you have your last orgasm?” More laughter.


            “Turnabout is fair play,” Arturo said, tauntingly.


            Amelia looked quickly at Micah. “Last Saturday night,” she admitted. Micah turned red again. Greg had an answer to the question he had been dying to ask Micah.


            The game went on in a like manner for an hour. For Micah, it ended when Amelia took his hand and led him to her bedroom, which was a signal for the other teenagers to snuggle.


            Amelia quickly pulled Micah’s shirt off and unbuckled his belt to reach a responding male. She pulled her own clothes off and lay on the bed, pulling Micah with her. Then she guided Micah’s hand into her vagina to massage her clitoris at the same time as she gently wrapped her other hand around his testicles. Soon, she started to rock against Micah’s finger, her breath coming in shorter and shorter gasps until finally she pulled Micah into her. The orgasms came quickly for both of them as did sleep afterwards.


            “Get up, Micah. Quickly. We’re late.” Micah felt Greg’s hand shaking his shoulder and pulling the sheets away from him. “Here’s your clothes. I’ll be in the living room.”


            It was 2 a.m. when they drove up the gravel drive alongside the farmhouse after leaving Greg’s girlfriend off. There was a low light on in the living room, but everyone was in bed as they moved quietly to their bedroom. Their arrival time, however, was recorded, as they found out in the morning.



* * * * *


            The real world for Micah started at 6 a.m. the next day when his mother shook him awake for the trip to Spokane for the lesson with Marcia Vilas. He dozed in the van as his mother, grim-faced, drove north on U.S. 195. She knew that Micah had not spent enough time to warrant a lesson from such a teacher. If pressed, Micah probably would be forced to agree.


            Marcia, Micah and his mother were sitting in the rented practice space after the lesson had concluded. Micah’s hands were nervously drumming on his thighs as his mother and Marcia talked.


            “I want to move to one lesson a month, not one lesson a week,” Micah suddenly announced during a lull in the conversation between his mother and Marcia. Betty was caught completely unawares, and her face started to turn red with anger, and she was about to countermand her son’s request.


            Marcia raised her hand to calm Betty down and then turned to Micah. “I understand your request, and I’d like to talk about it with your mother. Could you give us a few minutes in private? Why don’t you go downstairs to Starbucks and we’ll come get you when we’re done.” Micah nodded and left the room.


            “I’m not surprised,” Marcia said.


            “It sure surprised me,” Betty responded.


            “All of my young students at some time in their teens have rebelled against the pressures put on them, and Micah is no exception. I’ve seen his restlessness and his diminished dedication in recent months.”


            “What did I do?” Betty asked.


            Marcia looked at Betty and tried to reassure her. “You’ve got to know that it isn’t your fault. The teenage hormones are just too dominant. In fact, I’m surprised that he is even willing to continue lessons once a month.”


            Betty started to say something, but Marcia held her hand up again. “The Amish recognize the rebellion in their young people. They call it Rumspringa. They recognize that the young people need to sow some wild oats, so to speak, at about age 16 – almost Micah’s age – and if and when they come back to the religion, it’s with a renewed dedication based on their knowledge of a different world. The Amish forgive those who come back. You can see where this is leading.”


            “Adventists don’t do that. The expect piety and righteous behavior all during the growing up.”


            “Most of my young students have a period of rebellion. For some, it is barely noticeable in their learning process. For others there is a hiatus before they come back, and for a few, they never come back. Those who come back quickly are usually in places like schools for the performing arts where their peers – all their friends – are aiming their lives towards performance. Those who don’t come back usually have parents that push their children to the point of major rebellion into drugs, sex and alcohol.”


            Marcia paused to make sure Betty fully understood her last point. “Micah is different from any other student that I have taught. I have never seen a child so internally driven, so advanced at his age. But his schedule is intense – with school, lessons, practice, and concerts. So I’m not surprised that burnout is coming. His hiatus may last a while. His school peers are interested in football or basketball, school dances and farming as well as dating and sex. I would guess that Micah’s rebellion is going to take him to their level for a while – until he reasserts himself as a musician. I’m willing to give him his time. He’s welcome to come back to me at any time. But now, he’s  a violin string tuned too tightly, ready to break.”


            Betty looked grim. “I don’t know if I can accept that. But I’ll think about what you said. I hate to see his potential go to waste. He’ll feel regret all his life if he drops out of music.”


            Marcia wanted to say something more – about a driven mother and a driven boy – but she decided to leave the conversation as it ended.




Chapter 19


Injury – February 1991


Two Months Into the Basketball Season



            It was in the eleventh game of the season that Micah broke a finger on his left hand. He got sympathy from the coach and team. He got scorn from his mother. “I knew something like this would happen,” she said as they left the emergency room in the Pullman hospital, with Micah’s finger wrapped in splints intending to keep it immobile for the next two months.


            “This is the first time in 10 years that there has been an injury on this team more than a sprained ankle,” Micah pointed out. “Besides, I can play with my fingers taped together.”


            “Play what?”




            “Basketball? What about the rest of your life when high school is over? I can’t believe this. This means that you will have to cancel your Seattle concert and your lesson this month with Marcia Vilas. You realize that, don’t you?”


            The intensity of expression on Betty’s face would have been more frightening a few months earlier, but Micah had moved on. Micah didn’t answer his mother, but for the first time, he didn’t feel bad about it. He didn’t feel under her thumb. In recent weeks, he had simply enjoyed being a teenager: the high-school social life and the parties – and Amelia. He even enjoyed sitting in the back of the band class with his trumpet. Nonetheless, he was torn: he enjoyed the sense of accomplishment and adulation and personal validation that came from his musical career – but he wouldn’t mind a hiatus. The broken finger, however, was, in a way, a gift; it provided a respite from the pull of the violin career. Micah vowed to make the best of this hiatus.


            He did. Every afternoon after school he didn’t get on the yellow school bus. He walked to Amelia’s, purportedly to study, but also to enjoy her bed when her mother was not there. In bed he was insatiable; Amelia had to force them out to the kitchen to study.


            Soon, it became Arturo and his friends that transported Micah back to his home after school, even though the school bus was available, and after practices and his stays with Amelia, they became his taxi most afternoons. The trip in the extended-cab Ford between Endicott and the Kingman farm was always raucus and often made at high speed, sometimes with much squirreling of tires on dusty or muddy unpaved roads – and at times with exuberance and laughter fueled by cannabis.


            The change in Micah’s behavior disturbed his mother. She knew he wasn’t adequately practicing even after the cast was removed from his fingers. Reports from teachers indicated that his grades were slipping. To Betty, Micah’s career and life were crumbling in front of her, and she felt Micah did not realize how damaging the decline was. She stared at the white board with Micah’s seriously reduced schedule for the next few months and shook her head. Even with what she’d heard from Marcia Vilas about the Amish and their Rumspringa, about how a break for teenagers helped them through normal feelings of rebellion, she couldn’t accept what she feared was the loss of Micah.


* * * * *


            “Micah, come here, right now!” Betty’s voice climbed the stairs and flowed into Micah’s and Greg’s bedroom.


            “I think Mom wants you,” Greg said, sardonically.


            “You think so?” Micah retorted as he slipped on some pants before going down to the kitchen where he found an angry Betty.


            “I talked to Marcia Vilas this morning.”


            Micah sat down at the kitchen table and poured himself some orange juice.


            “Do you have anything to say?” Betty asked.


            Micah shrugged.


            “She said you told her that you were going to take even more time off. You canceled your monthly lessons.”


            Micah shrugged again.


            “Who do you think you are? What did you think you were doing?”


            “I told her I was going to take some time off. I told her I’m done for a while.”


            “You call her back and tell her you changed your mind.”




            “Well, I’ll call her back and tell her you’re still her student.”


            “You call her and tell her whatever the hell you want to. It’s not going to make any damned difference.”


            “You watch your language, young man.”


            “Go to hell.”  Micah stood and turned away, slamming his fist against the cupboard as he left, rattling the dishes inside.


            “You get back here, young man.”


            Micah continued up the stairs, entered his bedroom and slammed the door – hard.


            “I take it things didn’t go so well,” Greg remarked.


            “Observant, aren’t you?” Micah sat on his bed and put his head in his hands. He looked across at Greg. “Hey, I’m sorry, bro. I just had an intense session with Mom. She found out that I told Marcia Vilas that I was going to take some more time off. She was pissed, to say the least.”


            “I’m sure she was. Are you sure you’re making the right decision?”


            “I want some time for me.” Micah lay back on his bed for a minute and stared at the ceiling. “I’m shaking too much to keep on looking at the ceiling. Want to shoot some hoops?”


            “I need to get some breakfast first.”


            “I’m not sure you want to go into the kitchen right now. The atmosphere is a bit stormy.”


            “You win. Get your shoes on. We’ll go out by the front door. I’ll eat when things have calmed down.”


            “They aren’t going to calm down for a while.”


* * * * *


            “Your behavior lately has become unacceptable to this family. I don’t know what is happening, but it needs to stop,” Betty said.


            “I’m living the life I want to live. Just stop ragging on me.”


            “You’re going to come home on the school bus immediately after school now that your basketball season is over.”


            “Fine,” Micah said bitterly, but he had no intention of obeying his mother.


            Micah related this exchange the next afternoon to Amelia. “She’s too domineering,” Amelia said after they had made love. “Don’t you see that? It’s her lost career that she is trying to live through you. That’s what’s driving her. You need to do what’s best for you, not what’s best for her.”


            Amelia’s perception came up as a result of her and Micah discussing protection; Micah had told her that her mother had to give up a piano career when she got pregnant and married.


            Amelia’s observation added to what Micah had been feeling, putting into words what he had sensed from the day in the attic looking through her memorabilia to her pushing him to achieve what she kept calling greatness. And, he was impressed that Amelia had picked up on his mother’s ambitions so quickly. “I guess I never realized how much my mother’s lost career affects her – and me, too. Now, I understand more. But I’m still pissed off at her.”  He turned to let Amelia cuddle his naked body to hers and to comfort him. He leaned over to kiss Amelia’s breast, to flick his tongue against her nipple and to suckle gently on it. Amelia drew her hand through Micah’s jet-black hair, her fingers fiddling with the woven cloth band that held his pony tail.


            Micah’s hand slid up the soft skin of her thigh, through the wiry hair and into the moistness of the vagina. His penis rose in concert with the movement of his hand. Amelia reached down and placed her hand around his cock and guided it into her. Micah rolled her over on her back and lay down on top of her, her breasts soft cushions against his chest. The rocking of his cock into her brought her near climax, and the final thrusting brought two intense orgasms


            Dawn was breaking when he left Amelia’s arms. It was almost light when he got home and tried to get to his bedroom.


            “Micah, come in here.” His mother was in the kitchen. “Now!”


            Micah continued up the stairs without acknowledging his mother. He heard  her footfalls on the stairs behind him. He had barely closed the bedroom door before his mother burst in behind him.


            “Who do you think you are, staying out all night?”


            “Greg is trying to sleep. Would you shut up so he can sleep?”


            “I’m sorry, Greg, but this is too important,” Betty said. “Micah, you’re grounded.”


            You wish, Micah thought.


* * * * *


            “Stanley, he won’t give me his car keys,” Betty said as they were at lunch. Micah had inherited the other old pickup.


            “I’ll support you, Betty, but are you sure you aren’t being too harsh on the boy? He’s been full time at the violin for almost seven years now. He’s a professional on one level. He’s a child on another. Don’t you think it might be wise to let his child side catch up with his professional side?”


            “He has too great a talent to let go to waste, Stanley. It would be a tragedy if he were to quit.”


             “Betty, if you push too hard, he’s going to break.” Stanley carried his plate and coffee cup to the dishwasher. He sighed. “I’ll get those car keys tonight.”


* * * * *


            “I’m sorry, son, but I need your car keys,” Stanley stood in Greg’s and Micah’s bedroom door.


            “Will you tell Mom to just cool it for a while?” Micah said as he handed the keys over.


            “Micah, will you just be patient with her. She has such high expectations for you. What she’s doing is for your own good.” And Betty’s, too, Stanley thought as he returned downstairs.


            It won’t be too bad; I can get rides with Greg or with Amelia’s brother or his friends, Micah thought. Not having a car is not the end of the world. Micah did not realize that it was going to be the end of the part of the world as he’d known it.