The Foxwood Chronicles
“Evan! Quit admiring yourself in the mirror and get going!” his grandmother called from the bottom of the stairs. Evan rolled his eyes as he gazed at himself in the mirror.
“I’m not admiring myself in the mirror,” he called back.
“Yes, you are. I know you. Now hurry up. You’re going to be late.”
Evan sighed. He decided that a yellow Ocean Pacific tee over khaki shorts with a sea-shell necklace and Birkenstocks would give a nice 1980’s look of California sophistication without really rubbing it in anyone’s face, especially since these yokels were probably still wearing polyester disco shirts with big floppy collars or, worse, those JC Penney fake Izods with those silly foxes instead of the alligator. Besides, the yellow tee would show off his tan.
“It’s fashionable to be late,” he replied, looking out the door to make sure she wasn’t going to rampage up the stairs.
“Maybe in California, but it’s rude in Foxwood. Now, get your butt down here. Neither of us are too old for me to take a willow branch to your rear!”
Evan suppressed a wicked smile and an even more wicked rejoinder as he strolled casually out of the room and down the stairs.
“Well, you certainly know how to make an entrance,” his grandmother said with affectionate sarcasm as she stood in the foyer. “You must have gotten that from your mother.”
“She taught me a thing or two,” he replied. “She did win an Emmy.”
Suddenly, for just a fleeting moment, the confident demeanor dissolved as his grandmother saw a more human expression flash for just a second across her grandson’s face, just long enough to remind her that even though he was a “Hollywood brat,” he was still a boy who hurt just like any other boy. However, just as quickly as it came, it was gone. Evan quickly returned to his usual self.
A warm breeze blew in from the front porch through the screen door as he smiled cynically.
“I suppose I have to take something, don’t I?”
“Yes. Come here.”
The aroma of baking had permeated the house all morning, almost taking his mind off Michael Sanchez during the second time he had masturbated over him that morning. As he followed his grandmother into the kitchen, he realized it was an apple pie he had smelled. A homemade apple pie. A real homemade apple pie. And, it was sitting in the window. And, his grandmother was wearing a checked apron. Just how much more Norman Rockwell could you get?
She wrapped a towel around it and handed it to Evan. The pan was still warm in his hands and he suddenly felt hungry. Well, OK. So Alice Waters or Wolfgang Puck she wasn’t. But, Dorothy Vanderlyn was still a pretty damn good cook.
She smiled knowingly at her tragically sophisticated grandson and pushed him out the back door.
As Evan strolled through the thick grass of his grandmother’s backyard toward the side of the Sinclairs’ house next door, he mused about the change in his life. If he were still in LA, he would probably be leaving the house about then with Ricky and Robert to pick up Kristen and Chad. They’d hang at the mall or head to Venice Beach or… something other than walking down a century-old sidewalk under century-old maples carrying a hot apple pie on his way to a picnic in another kid’s backyard.
Rosemary Sinclair was on her front porch with a watering can hovering above ochre-colored clay pots of geraniums sitting along the railing.
“Good morning, Evan!” she called, waiving enthusiastically. “Isn’t it a beautiful day?”
Evan nodded and smiled, surprised that a modicum of sincerity had crept into it.
“Is it always this hot in the morning?” he called.
“In another week or two, you’re going to find that you love the heat! Really.”
“I guess it’s a dry heat?”
Rosemary chuckled and Evan could have sworn he detected a hint of sadism in her laugh as she grinned and turned.
Evan sighed with surprising contentment and walked on down Court Street. He noticed the younger brothers of Ryan and the Luke Skywalker clone playing catch in the front yard of the corner house. Both were wearing cut-offs and colored tee-shirts and both were barefoot. The blond boy’s shaggy hair hung down over his face and ears in an appealing, almost cute, farm boy way and Evan entertained a few fantasies about what the two might get up to with each other camping or doing whatever it was boys in small Midwestern towns did.
He realized that they were staring at him as intently as he had been staring at them. He nodded and said, “Hey.” They waived their gloves and resumed throwing the ball back and forth.
With irritated amazement, Evan realized he was stirring in his shorts. Dude! He had jacked off twice last night and twice this morning! What the fuck was happening? He tried to think of something very unappealing, like his grandmother in a bikini at Malibu. The last thing he needed was to pop a woody at the geek’s.
Or was it?
From a block away, he could see a lone figure standing in the yard of the house beside the church. Gag. He was waiting for him outside. How pathetic. And, as he approached, Evan could see that Adam was holding a piece of paper. He did look kind of cute, though. He was wearing cut-offs, just like the other boys had been, with a white tee-shirt. He was barefoot, as well, standing in the grass, motionless. His dark blond hair hung down over his forehead and wrapped around his head in thick waves and curls. His face had that same pretty, almost girlish quality. If he would just show some kind of expression, some emotion.
Evan was a house away when Adam spoke in that same Joe Friday monotone. Well, actually, he had a bit more emotion than Joe Friday, and his voice was pretty. Evan could tell it had changed, yet it still maintained a boyish quality to it.
“Thank you for coming. I’m glad you’re my friend. I have a present for you.”
Adam held out the paper and Evan could see it was a pencil drawing of himself; a very detailed and intricate drawing of himself. It even had Evan’s cocky smirk.
He stopped and stared at the picture in amazement.
“You drew this?”
“I drew it last night. I thought you would like it. I wanted to give you something because you’re my friend.”
Evan smiled as he stood before the boy, still holding the picture as Evan held the pie. He was amazed, not only at the skill and talent required for such a creation, but also at the kindness behind it. He smiled in wonder at Adam and felt, suddenly, guilty. He felt like a schmuck. It was not a common feeling for Evan.
“Well, here,” he said uncertainly. “My grandmother baked this pie for us.”
“Good. I like pie. We will eat it after lunch. Mom has sandwiches and potato salad and baked beans and Kool-Aide.”
Adam turned and walked toward the driveway between the small bungalow and the large, old, red-brick church. He continued talking.
“Mom makes good sandwiches and tries to have something from all the food groups so we will grow up healthy. We will have a good lunch and it will be fun. And, then I will play the piano for you. I practiced a song for you since you’re my friend. I hope you will like it. I can teach you to play it. We have an upright piano, but the church has an organ. Dad says I can learn to play the organ if I want, but the church already has an organist. But, Dr. Matthews said that if I’m good, I can take his place when he has to go play in other churches or when he has concerts. Do you like Bach? He wrote a lot a organ music and I play some of it on the piano. This is my brother Dylan. He hates Bach. He likes Foreigner and Journey. I think Foreigner is OK, but I do not like Journey. I like U2. Do you like U2?”
They were in the middle of a small back yard behind the bungalow. A redwood picnic table was already set with paper plates and plastic ware and Dylan was sitting at the table reading an X-men comic book with a look of supreme boredom on his face. A woman of around forty with dark blond hair, not dissimilar to Adam’s, was emerging from a back door carrying a big ceramic bowl of potato salad. She gave Evan a warm smile and noticing his bewildered expression, said, “Hello, Evan. I hope Adam isn’t talking your head off.”
Adam looked at her strangely and thought for a moment. He then turned to Evan and continued.
“I like your hair. It looks really nice. Sometimes I wish my hair was blond like yours is. Sometimes people laugh at my hair and…”
“Adam!” Dylan barked from the table. “ He hasn’t had a chance to say a single word since he got here!”
The boy rolled his eyes and shook his head in exasperation before turning back to his comic. Adam looked at Dylan with his mouth open in mid-sentence, and then looked down at the ground.
“Dylan,” his mother said in a warning tone. The younger boy sighed.
“I’m sorry Adam.”
“It’s OK,” Evan said, trying to smooth things over. He was a bit surprised at the irritation in Dylan’s voice, particularly in light of how protective he had seemed the day before in the church social hall. “I’m getting used to Adam. He’s… interesting.”
Adam simply stood next to a bench beside the table, his shoulders slumping in defeat, but his face still holding the same neutral expression it always seemed to. Continuing to look downward, he said softly, “I am sorry. I talk too much. I am a freak. I guess you do not want to be my friend now. Nobody does once they get to know me.”
Mrs. Stuart rushed to the table and set the potato salad in the center. Giving a sharp look of reproach to Dylan, she hurried over to Adam and placed her hands on both sides of his face and turned it up into hers.
“Adam,” she said patiently, but firmly, “you are not a freak. You are an individual and everyone is an individual. Everyone has their own special traits and talents and you have yours which make you special and unique. You are not a freak and Evan still wants to be your friend.”
“You do not know that because he has not said anything,” Adam replied in his monotone. All eyes, including Dylan’s, which were full of shame and self-reproach, turned to Evan, who was still standing in the middle of the yard, holding his grandmother’s apple pie.
“Um, sure, Adam. I still want to be your friend. I think you’re… interesting. I’ve never met anyone like you before.” To Adam’s mother he said, “Did you see the picture he drew of me? It’s incredible. It’s the best drawing I’ve ever seen of me. Adam’s amazing.”
Mrs. Stuart smiled gratefully at Evan and said, “Yes, it is very good. Adam worked very hard on that last night. He wanted it to be perfect.”
As Adam finally raised his head and looked at Evan, his face was still expressionless, but his shoulders were no longer slumping as badly as before.
“You still want to be my friend?”
Evan felt something strange and unusual as he heard the boy’s question. He wanted to run over and put his arms around him, to reassure him, to hold him. It was an unaccustomed rush of compassion and Evan wasn’t quite certain how he felt about this development. He smiled and quietly replied, “Of course, Adam. I still want to be your friend.”
In the first sign of emotion Evan had seen on his face, Adam actually smiled.
He turned to his brother, who seemed about to dissolve into a puddle of shame, and asked, “Dylan, are you still mad at me?”
“No,” the boy replied softly, ashamed to look his older brother in the eye. “I’m not mad at you, Adam.”
“It’s rough for Dylan, sometimes,” said his mother with an understanding look on her face as he glanced at the younger boy. Turning back to Evan, however, she suddenly looked horrified.
“Oh, my goodness! You’ve been standing there with a pie all this time and no one’s taken it! Here. Oh, that is so sweet of you. Did your grandmother bake this? Oh, I have to call her and thank her. That was so sweet. Here. We’ll put it right here on the table and we’ll have it for dessert.”
Evan was starting to wonder if, perhaps, Adam might have inherited a bit of his talkativeness from his mother as Adam, seemingly back to whatever normal might be for him, moved to the table and announced, “OK. Dylan is sitting there. I’ll sit across from Dylan and you can sit next to me because you are my friend, and Mom can sit next to Dylan. I will take your picture inside.”
As Adam suddenly marched away leaving him alone at the table with Dylan, Evan looked about uncertainly. Dylan glanced up at him from his comic book. Evan smiled.
“So Adam’s a pretty interesting guy.”
“Yeah. People either hate him or love him.”
Evan nodded uncertainly.
“I guess it’s pretty hard sometimes being his brother.”
Without looking up from his comic, Dylan nodded without reply.
“So, he’s into music and astronomy. What are you into?”
Dylan frowned and put down his comic.
“He’s also into art and math and architecture. Right now, I’m into this.”
He held up his comic and Evan got the message. He sat down on the bench cattycorner from Dylan and looked around at the honeysuckle covered chain-link fence around the yard. The garage looked as if it had been converted into an apartment. Probably home to a college student, he mused.
When Adam and his mother emerged from the back of the house, they were carrying a pitcher of Kool-Aide and a platter of sandwiches. Evan stood to help and soon the four were engaged in their meal.
It did not take long for Evan to relax and become accustomed to Adam’s way of speaking and thinking. By the end of lunch, everyone was laughing and joking, even Dylan, who seemed to have mellowed with food and attention. However, Evan was still taken aback when, as Mrs. Stuart removed the dessert dishes from the picnic table, Adam suddenly stood and declared, “OK. It is time for me to play the piano.”
Evan smiled and said with a chuckle, “Well, all right,” and followed him inside as Adam led the way, almost marching.
“Bach didn’t write anything for the piano,” Adam explained as they walked past an enclosed porch that had been turned into a bedroom. They entered the kitchen as he was saying, “There were not any pianos back then. They only had organs and harpsichords. But, this has been transposed for the piano. You will like it. It is really cool.”
Adam spoke with almost the same inflection in every sentence starting high and ending low, even though it was close to a Joe Friday monotone. Evan almost couldn’t help himself as he followed. It was cute. Adam was cute. It was not just his mannerisms, but his looks as well. The almost feminine quality, though he definitely wasn’t girlish, combined with his slender, though muscled arms and legs, gave him an interesting and intriguing look. He felt the urge, once again, to hug him.
They walked through a hall, past the small dining room, and into a compact, crowded living room in which the centerpiece was not, as in most homes, the television, but an upright piano. There were several pieces of sheet music set up, but as Adam sat down, he opened none of them.
“I’m going to play the first five Goldberg Variations.”
Evan sat on the edge of an old arm chair and his eyes grew wide.
“Five?” he asked weakly. “Um, do you know anything modern?”
“Yes. I play Elton John and The Carpenters and Barry Manilow and Henry Mancini and Burt Bacharach and…”
“Oh, um, well, that’s OK. The Goldwin Variable will be OK.”
Adam shook his head.
“No. They are called the Goldberg Variations. They were written in 1741 and the legend is that he wrote them for the Russian ambassador…”
“That’s OK, Adam. You can just play them.”
Adam sat staring at the keys of the piano for almost a minute, his hands in his lap, until Evan was about to say something, when, suddenly, he raised his hands and began to play.
The beginning of the piece did not sound terribly complicated to Evan, but it was beautiful. It sounded to Evan’s untrained ear as if he were a concert pianist. It seemed so… precise, so… intricate and delicate and… mathematical. He could hear the patterns in the music. For someone whose taste was basically club music or Motown, Evan was amazed. He couldn’t decide who struck him more, Bach or Adam.
For more than ten minutes, Adam played without looking at any music until, suddenly, in what seemed like the middle of a measure, he stopped and turned to Evan.
“Do you like my music?”
Evan didn’t know what to say. How could a boy with such obvious problems play the piano with such incredible talent? What was he doing in a fucking little wide-spot-in-the-road like Foxwood? His face showed his amazement and incredulity, but Adam did not know how to interpret what he saw. His shoulders slumped.
“You did not like it.”
“No, no, no!”
Evan jumped up and ran over to Adam. This time he didn’t suppress the urge to hug the boy. He wrapped his right arm around Adam’s shoulder and squeezed without thinking.
“You’re incredible, Adam. Where did you learn to play like that?”
“Columbus, Ohio,” Adam replied.
Evan grinned and chuckled.
“No, I mean, did you learn this at school or did you have a tutor or what?”
Adam thought for a moment.
“I… I have always been able to play the piano. I had a teacher for awhile, but I have always been able to play.”
Evan look at Adam incredulously.
“No way. I don’t believe it.”
Adam’s eyes grew wide.
“I do not lie. You do not believe me. I do not lie.”
Suddenly, Adam looked down and grabbed his head. He started rocking back and forth and muttering repeatedly, “I do not lie. I do not lie.”
Evan was stunned and didn’t know what to do.
“No, Adam! I believe you! I believe you! That’s just an expression. I promise. I believe you!”
He grabbed Adam and put his arms around him, clutching him tightly. Slowly, Adam stopped rocking and his voice gradually softened to a hum. He continued to hold his head and look downward. Evan continued to repeat, soothingly, “I’m sorry, Adam. I believe you. It was just an expression. You’re a wonderful piano player. I’m sorry.”
After a moment, Adam stopped humming and he began to lean into Evan, who didn’t know what, to do. He held Adam, his face buried in the boy’s thick, unruly hair, his arms still around his shoulders as he leaned over. This was the strangest moment in Evan’s life. He was frightened and confused, yet holding Adam was an incredible feeling.
After a moment, Adam said softly, “You are my friend?”
“Oh, yes, Adam. I’m you’re friend,” Evan replied, just as softly.
Adam leaned more into Evan, who had to shift a foot to maintain his balance as he held the other boy. He felt quite uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally, yet, it seemed appropriate, right that he should hold him.
“What’s going on in here?” Dylan demanded as he entered the living room. Evan jumped guiltily and stood several feet away from Adam.
“Nothing,” he said with an awkward tone.
Dylan scrunched his face up in contempt at Evan as Adam sat up and said, “Evan is my friend.”
“Yeah, right,” Dylan said. “I can see what kind of friend he is.”
“Now, wait a minute,” Evan said forcefully. “It’s not what you think.”
“Yeah! Evan was playing the piano like… like a master or something and I asked him if he learned to play at school or had lessons and he said he always knew how to play and I said ‘No way’ and he thought I was saying he was lying and he got all upset and grabbed his head and I just started hugging him and he got better.”
Suddenly, Dylan’s face changed from anger to surprise.
“You hugged him and he calmed down?”
“Evan is my friend,” Adam repeated.
Dylan stood silently, his face draining of emotion until his expression was almost as neutral as Adam’s.
“Wow. No one’s been able to do that before except me. Not even Mom and Dad can do that. Just me. And, now, you.”
Evan’s eyes grew wide as he looked first at Dylan, then at Adam, and then, again, back at Dylan.
“You gotta remember that Adam believes everything you say. He doesn’t know when you’re kidding or just like using an expression or something,” said Dylan, his voice dead.
“Um, I’m sorry. I.. didn’t know. Are… are you OK?”
“Yeah, I just… it’s just…”
“Are you sad, Dylan?”
Dylan smiled and shook his head.
“No, Adam, I’m not sad.”
“I love you, Dylan,” Adam replied.
Dylan smiled and replied, “I love you, too, Adam. He gave Evan a weak waive and turned. Evan watched him slowly walk away, feeling as if he had trespassed.
“Well, is it time for you to teach me to play tennis now?” Adam asked.
Evan looked down. He felt guilty because he was really enjoying himself with Adam, much to his surprise. However, he wanted his first appearance at the tennis courts to be planned, specially scripted, a true debut. He had plans for his first exposure there and Adam might not quite fit in with them.
“Well, maybe later. I’m going to the country club to play with a couple of guys tomorrow, but maybe…”
“Cool. OK. What time?”
“What time are you going to the country club? Are you coming here first or do you want me to go to your house first? What should I wear? Do I have to wear white shorts and a white shirt? I have some tennis shoes, but they are not Nikes or Adidas. Does that matter? I do not have a tennis racquet. Do I need to buy one?”
Evan was getting caught up in another verbal Adam-whirlwind and he wasn’t quite certain what had just happened, but he was pretty sure he had just invited Adam to join him the next day, the day he was going to begin his campaign to get into Michael Sanchez’s pants and, for dessert, Ryan Atherton’s, as well. Adam tagging along, sweet as he was, was not going to fit into those plans.
“Um, well, I mean…”
Mrs. Stuart entered the living room with a dust rag and a can of Pledge.
“Mom, Evan is going to take me to the country club tomorrow and teach me to play tennis. I played the piano for him and he liked it. So, he is going to teach me to play tennis tomorrow.”
“Well, how wonderful! That’s so sweet of you, Evan,” she declared as she began moving the magazines from the coffee table in front of the couch.
“Dylan,” Adam declared as his brother entered the living room, “Evan is going to take me to the country club tomorrow and teach me to play tennis since I played the piano for him.”
“Cool,” Dylan replied without enthusiasm. “Mom, I’m going to walk over to the library. Is that OK?”
Evan realized that there was no way he was going to be able to work his way out of this situation. He had intended to suggest that maybe they could go on Wednesday or on Tuesday evening, but Adam had immediately assumed he was inviting him to go on Tuesday afternoon. There was no way out of it. He was going to have to swallow it.
“Um, I guess I can check with my grandmother and see if we can have lunch there. I’m supposed to play with this kid up the street and with the new pro.”
“Won’t that be too much,” Mrs. Stuart asked, unwittingly throwing Evan a lifeline. But, the intensity with which Adam was looking at him made him reply, “No, that’s OK. I love tennis.”
And, so, the plans Evan had carefully crafted during his wild and fantasy-driven masturbation that morning, in which he would seduce, if not Michael, then Ryan, on the court, were altered. He would need to figure out how to make an impression on the two with Adam in the background.
But, he was Evan Vanderlyn and if anyone could figure how to get laid in difficult circumstances, it was he.