With school out for the summer, Tad spent his time observing nature, reading, and working with Neil, who was adding a room to the side of the cabin. In the evenings he sometimes played board games with Woody and his father and mother. As the summer progressed, he thought less and less about Marco.
As Tad began to grow hair around his privates, Rachel insisted that Tad could no longer go naked in the meadow, that he had to at least wear shorts. Sighing, Tad acquiesced. However, the rest of his body soon had a rich summer tan, and the sun bleached his blond hair.
One afternoon, in August, as he stood at the edge of the woods watching a squirrel searching for food, a large black Cadillac drove up to the cabin and stopped beside Neal’s truck.
A lady got out of the driver’s side door. She was dressed in black, and she was wearing high heels. As she started to walk toward Tad, she wobbled considerably on the uneven ground.
“Are you Tad?” she asked.
Tad nodded. He had always been warned about not talking to strangers, so he kept his distance.
“I’m Mrs. Bartolucci. I have someone in the car who wants to talk to you,” she said.
She turned and waved at the car. The front passenger door opened, and Marco reluctantly stepped out. He looked nervously at Tad but didn’t say anything.
The lady asked if Tad’s mother was in the cabin, and when he nodded, she wobbled towards it and knocked. When she opened the door, Rachel looked puzzled but invited the lady in.
Tad and Marco stood, looking at each other. Then Tad moved over to the cabin porch and sat, motioning for Marco to join him.
Hesitantly, Marco walked to the porch and sat, well away from Tad.
“Your mother said you wanted to talk to me,” said Tad.
After what seemed like hours, Marco said very quietly, “Really, it wasn’t that I wanted to. It was that she told me I had to.” There was a long pause before Marco said quietly, “I’m sorry I hit you last spring.”
Tad simply sat, looking at the boy.
“Won’t you say anything?” asked Marco.
“Why are you apologizing now?”
Marco thought before he said, “You know that I went to camp this summer?” It was a statement but ended like a question.
Tad still sat, stony-faced.
“You’re not going to make this easy, are you?”
Tad said nothing. He just looked.
“Okay. I guess you deserve to hear everything. After we moved here, Mom sent me to a therapist to help me deal with Dad’s death. Do you know how Dad died?”
Tad shook his head.
“He was walking home one night when he was attacked by a gang of teens who robbed him. They beat him senseless and he died in the hospital.”
“I’m sorry,” Tad said.
After a short silence, Marco went on. “Anyway, my therapist suggested that I go to a camp that was for boys who had issues, not physical ones so much as emotional ones. I really, really didn’t want to go, but Mom gave me no choice.
“The camp was six weeks long, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared. It had activities like swimming and canoeing and archery, and two big fields for games like soccer and baseball.
“Each day we had what was called a ‘circle session’. It was really group therapy. We were encouraged to talk about our problems. I didn’t say anything for over a week, but by then, all the other boys had talked. So, one day they sat, looking at me and waiting for me to speak.
“You have no way of knowing, but I don’t like to be looked at.”
Tad simply looked at Marco without speaking.
“So, I talked about Dad being killed. Some of them had also lost parents and, with the help of the therapist who was leading the group, they were very supportive. That’s all I talked about that day.
“A few days later, the therapist suggested I talk about my scars. I froze. I’d never talked about them with anyone but my parents and my doctors. Anyway, at last I told them how, when I was three years old, I’d pulled a pot of boiling hot water off the stove and how the water poured over me and burned my whole right side. I spent months in the hospital and had to go back for operations several times.”
With that, he pulled up his shirt and said, “Take a good look.”
At first, Tad thought he was going to vomit. The scars did, indeed, extend all the way down to Marco’s belt. He was appalled. He had known that something bad must have happened but until that point, he didn’t know what.
Marco gave a little grin and said, “Fortunately, it didn’t reach my crotch.”
Continuing, he said, “Besides the circle group, we each had individual appointments with a therapist. One day, my therapist said, ‘Marco, I don’t think you’ve told me everything that’s bothering you. In your records which your mother sent, there are mentions of fights with a boy named Tad.’
“I began to tell him about you, how you were so smart and advanced and how that made me mad.
“‘Were you jealous?’ the man asked.
“I don’t know why I didn’t realize it sooner, but I had to agree that I was. I knew I was a freak, but I was at the top of my class, so I had something to be proud of.” Looking at Tad he said very quietly, “You took that away from me.”
They were silent. There were tears on both their faces.
“I’m sorry,” said Tad, breaking the silence. “I didn’t know. Yeah, you talked about being smart, but I didn’t really understand what you were saying. You are smart, Marco. Nobody can take that away from you. It’s not a competition, you know.”
Marco almost whispered, “Do you think, after all I’ve done to you, that we could be friends?”
“I’ll need to think about that. How do I know you won’t attack me again?”
“Well, I guess I’ll have to wait and see.”
Marco’s mother came out of the cabin, followed by Rachel. Looking at Marco, Mrs. Bartolucci asked, “Everything okay?”
“I guess so,” said her son.
His mother smiled and looked at Tad. “I hope you’ll come to visit us, Tad. We sort of rattle around in our big house and I think Marco would enjoy the company.”
Tad looked at Marco, who nodded and said, “Yeah, I’d like that, but first I have to prove to Tad that I won’t attack him anymore.”
The mothers said goodbye to each other before Marco helped his mother wobble back to the car before he climbed in.
“Remind me not to wear heels here again,” his mother remarked as she started the car, did a three-point turn, and drove down the drive.
In the morning, Tad saw the Bartoluccis’ car pulling into the driveway again. Marco and his mother got out and walked towards the cabin. Tad noticed that she was wearing flat shoes.
“Hello, Tad,” she said as they drew closer. “Marco wants to ask you something.”
Marco frowned at his mother before asking, “I wondered if I could visit for the day?”
Thinking about it, Tad decided he’d be safe from attack on his own turf. “It’s okay with me if it’s okay with Rachel,” he said.
Tad went into the cabin to get his mother. When she came out and heard what was proposed, she agreed. She and Neil had been talking and had hoped that, now that the fireworks were over, Marco and Tad could become better acquainted since Tad didn’t really have any friends.
Marco’s mother said she’d be back in the late afternoon to pick up her son. Then she drove away.
Looking at Marco, Tad asked, “So, what do you want to do?”
“I’d really like to see the inside of your cabin,” replied Marco. “I’ve never been in one before.” Then he smiled a little and added, “We didn’t have many of them in New York City.”
Motioning to Marco to follow him, Tad went into the cabin and stood while Marco stopped in the middle of the cabin, looking all around before saying, “This is so cool!”
Tad, who had never thought about that one way or the other, smiled.
“Where do you sleep?” asked Marco.
Tad pointed to the loft and began to climb the ladder. Marco followed. Woody was sitting on his bed, reading. When he looked up Tad said, “Woody, this is Marco.”
“I’ve heard about you,” Woody replied.
“I don’t imagine you’ve heard anything good,” Marco responded.
“You’re right,” said Woody, and rather ostentatiously returned to his book.
Marco and Tad went back down the ladder and then outside. They sat on the porch.
“Sorry about that,” said Tad. “There’s not much privacy in the cabin and Woody has heard all about what happened between us.”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Marco. “I deserved it. All I can say is that I promise it won’t happen again.”
“I hope not,” was all Tad said.
As they sat, they heard some hammering and Marco asked, “What’s that?”
“Come see,” answered Tad. He led Marco around to the side of the house where Neil was working.
“It’s a new bedroom for Rachel and Neil,” he said. “The loft has gotten a little tight as Woody and I have grown.”
They spent the rest of the day exploring the meadow and the woods, where Tad was old enough to go if he stuck to the trails Neil had made.
As they sat in the meadow, Tad removed his shirt and Marco did the same. Tad looked sort of sideways at Marco, trying not to appear that he was sizing the boy up. He saw that Marco was trying to look sideways at him and they both laughed a little.
Then, without really knowing why, Tad felt a tingle in his groin and knew his penis was getting hard. He tried to hide the bulge in his shorts, but he wasn’t very successful.
Looking over at Marco, he saw a growing bulge in Marco’s shorts. They looked at each other’s shorts for a minute before Marco began to giggle. Soon, Tad too was giggling, and suddenly they were dissolved into gales of laughter as they rolled around on the ground.
When they recovered themselves some, Marco asked, “So, what do you do out here? Just sit and look?”
“Yeah,” answered Tad. “You’d be surprised how much you can see and learn if you just sit patiently and watch.”
“Like that grasshopper sitting on the clover.”
“Okay, there’s a grasshopper sitting on the clover. So what?”
“If you watch long enough to see where it goes, you can learn how it moves and what foods it likes. One of its favorite foods is clover.”
He carefully picked up the grasshopper and showed Marco how its legs worked and how it ate.
Letting the grasshopper go, he said, “If you look over to towards the cabin without moving, you’ll see a chipmunk.”
Marco looked and the chipmunk suddenly disappeared. “Where did he go?” he asked.
“That particular one lives under the steps of the porch. Did you know that others have burrows?”
“No,” said Marco. “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a chipmunk before.” He was trying to figure out why all of this was important to Tad. Marco was a city boy, after all, and his usual entertainments were TV, movies, and reading.
“Don’t you ever watch TV?” Marco asked.
“We don’t have one. I’ve never seen a TV.”
Astonished, Marco thought a moment before he asked, “Do you like to read?”
Tad nodded and listed some of the books he had enjoyed. They then had a long discussion about their favorite books.
The day passed happily, and when Marco’s mother arrived in the late afternoon, the two boys were deeply into a discussion of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Before he left, Marco asked if he could return the next day and Tad said, “Sure.”
A week passed with Marco visiting every day before he asked, “Tad, could you come to my house?”
Thinking it over, Tad asked, “Do you mean today?”
“Yeah,” replied Marco as his mother watched and listened.
Tad asked his mother if he could visit Marco for the day and she gave her consent. He grabbed a T-shirt which he hastily put on before getting his sneakers and socks. Having gone barefoot all summer, he discovered that his sneakers no longer fit.
When he went out to the porch, he showed Rachel the problem with his sneakers.
“Don’t worry about that,” said Mrs. Bartolucci. “Marco goes around in bare feet all the time.”
The Bartoluccis’ house was indeed the biggest one in town. Tad had seen the outside of it when he was riding around with Neil and speculated that rich people lived there, never thinking that someday he might be invited into the house.
The boys climbed out of the car and followed Marco’s mother up to the front door, which she unlocked.
They walked into a large foyer with an intricately tiled floor.
“Wow!” exclaimed Tad.
“The floor looks great, but it can be real slippery when it’s wet,” said Marco.
He led Tad into the hallway and into the large living room on the right. He then walked back across the hall with Tad following and entered a room with a large desk, a swivel chair, and several other chairs. On the floor was an ornate carpet which Marco said came from Morocco. “This is my mother’s office,” he told Tad.
They walked together toward the rear of the house, where there was a huge kitchen and a dining room.
“This kitchen is the real reason Mom bought the house,” said Marco. “She loves to cook and now she’s insisting that I learn too.”
“Cool,” Tad said.
From there they walked back to the foyer and up a wide staircase with a landing and more stairs above. Marco led Tad to a room which was clearly a boy’s room. There were posters on the walls and a stereo system that played records as well as tapes and included a radio. Tad had never seen such a system before. There was a large desk where Marco worked on his homework. A huge TV was placed in one corner where Marco could watch it from his bed. Around the walls were bookcases stuffed with books. There were more books piled on the floor.
Tad explored the bookcases as Marco sat on his bed, watching. Several times, Tad nodded in approval when he saw books that he had read and enjoyed. He pulled out one that he said he didn’t know, and Marco suggested he borrow it.
“Thanks,” said Tad. “I’ll take good care of it.”
“I know,” replied Marco. “So,” he went on, “what do you want to do?”
They talked about possibilities for a few minutes before Marco asked, “Do you know how to play chess?”
“Neil taught me to play,” replied Tad.
Marco put a record on the stereo and pulled out a chess board and pieces. The two boys turned out to be evenly matched.
As they played, Tad pointed to the stereo and asked, “What is this music? I don’t recognize it.”
“It’s a Bach partita,” answered Marco. “Do you like it?”
“Yeah,” said Tad. “I’ve never heard of Bach before and I don’t know what a partita is.”
Marco explained about the partita and added, “If you’re here often you’ll hear a lot of Bach. He’s my favorite composer.”
When the record finished, Marco stood and put on another. There was silence for a moment before a pipe organ blasted out of the speakers.
Sitting, amazed, Tad asked, “What is that?”
“It’s a pipe organ,” his friend answered. “Haven’t you ever heard one before?”
“No. It’s amazing. Is this more Bach?”
“Yes,” replied Marco. “It’s Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in B Minor.”
“What’s a fugue?”
“It’s kind of like a round which begins with a theme that is picked up by each voice in turn. The ‘voices’ are played by the organist and you can listen to them enter. But then it launches off into developing the theme in different ways. Bach was a master at writing fugues.”
The chess game forgotten, they sat listening to the music. When the fugue began, Marco pointed out the theme as each voice picked it up. Then he pointed out fragments of the theme, telling Tad to listen particularly for the lowest voice.
When the piece finished, Tad asked, “Can we hear it again?”
Marco rose and moved the needle back to the beginning.
“How does he play all four parts like that?” asked Tad.
“Do you remember when I suggested that you listen to the lowest notes?”
“Well, the organist plays those with his feet.”
“No way,” said the incredulous Tad.
Marco got the album cover and showed Tad a picture of the organ console, including the pedalboard.
“You see, it’s laid out just like a keyboard, with light keys and dark keys. Once, when we were still in New York, we went to an organ concert in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. When the concert was over, we walked up to look at the console. The organist showed us how he got different sounds and then how he played with his feet.”
They spent the rest of the afternoon listening to and talking about music. Marco said he’d never known another boy who liked classical music. When Tad asked him what ‘classical music’ was, Marco tried to explain. He told Tad about Beethoven and Mozart, about Chopin and Mendelssohn.
“Are there composers living now who write classical music?”
Marco nodded and put on the first movement of Shostakovich’s fifth symphony.
“Wow!” said Tad after hearing the first movement. “That’s really different.”
“Do you like it?” asked Marco.
Tad just nodded and continued to listen.
When it was time for Tad to leave, he and Marco followed Mrs. Bartolucci to the car before climbing in the back seat together.
At home, Tad said goodbye to Marco and his mother, thanked them for inviting him to their house, and went into the cabin.
“Did you have a good time?” Rachel asked.
Tad nodded and told her all about the music he had heard. “Why didn’t you tell me about classical music?” he asked. “I love it!”
When Neil came in for supper, the family talked about the music, and Neil decided he had to get a stereo.
“What’s ‘classical music?’ asked Woody.
Tad tried to explain it but wasn’t very successful. “You just have to hear it,” he said.
The next day, Neil came home with a stereo and some records. He had gotten a couple of organ records because Tad said he liked what he’d heard.
When Tad put a Bach recording onto the turntable and began to play it, Woody got a weird expression on his face and said, “If that’s classical music, I don’t like it.”
After the Bach finished, Neil put on a recording of Woody Guthrie, saying to his younger son, “This is the man you were named after.”
From then on, Woody was a fan and soon expanded his interest to many of the singers and bands his parents had heard at Woodstock.
As the boys climbed into the loft for bed that night, they were still talking about music and what they liked, and it took them a long time to drop off to sleep.