The Foxwood Chronicles
Ryan tripped over his feet as he lunged to the left to return Evan’s shot which, unfortunately, went far to his right. He barely recovered his balance and he was plainly disgusted.
“Dude, I’ve never seen anyone beat you like that!”
Ryan gave a dirty look to Jesse, sitting in the stands with Adam. Jesse’s grin immediately dissolved in embarrassment. Ryan, however, sighed and nodded.
“Yeah. You kicked my butt, Evan. Where’d you learn to play like that?”
Evan walked over to the net, wiping sweat from his forehead with his arm, and shrugged.
“I’ve been playing since I was six. I guess I’ve just had more experience. You’re pretty good, though.”
Jesse smiled. The more he saw of Evan, the more he liked him. He wasn’t the spoiled Hollywood brat that he had thought he was. Or, maybe he was, but was changing after his week in Foxwood.
Adam stood as the two competitors approached the stands,
“You are very good, Evan. I want you to teach me to play tennis.”
“Well, it takes a lot of hard work and practice,” Evan replied, collapsing next to his friend and wiping more sweat from his face. “I’m out of shape. I used to play everyday.”
“Dude,” said Ryan with a grin as he sat next to Jesse. “If this is you out of shape, I’d hate to play you in shape.”
Evan smiled and closed his eyes as he leaned back. He had friends, now, in his new home and he was actually rather pleased with his new home. Well, except for one thing.
“I have to admit that I’m not used to playing in this kind of heat. Man, this is killer.”
“Yeah, it’s got to be over a hundred. I wish we had played at the club instead of here at the campus. We could go into the grill and get something nice and cold to cool off with.”
Evan was silent. Jesse paused a moment and then cautiously asked, “So how come you want to stay away from Michael? What’s up?”
Evan’s face colored even more.
“He’s just a jerk, the way he treated Adam and… well… he’s just a jerk.”
Jesse and Ryan looked at each other and nodded knowingly.
“Well, it’s too bad,” Ryan replied. “The club’s a lot better place to play than the courts here at the college.”
“Hey,” Jesse interjected. “We could stop over at Chris Holland’s new place. It just opened yesterday. He has all sorts of different kinds of drinks. A lot of stuff you can’t find anywhere else.”
“Cool, let’s go,” Ryan replied. “I am dying of thirst.”
However, as the boys started walking toward the gate in the fence surrounding the courts, Evan noticed Adam was standing still, looking to the north. There were two police cars in a parking lot and yellow tape strung between several trees in a wooded area behind the dormitories.
“What’s up, Adam?”
“Something bad happened over there. The police are investigating.”
Evan was from LA and so police investigations weren’t something to which he normally paid attention. For Ryan and Jesse, however, police investigations in Foxwood were something unusual. They stopped, as well, and looked.
“That’s over by the Duck Pond, isn’t it?” Jesse asked.
“Yeah. You weren’t over there last night looking for it, were you?”
“Fuck you,” Jesse said with a grin.
They started walking toward the gate again. Evan followed and asked, “What’s so special about the Duck Pond?”
Jesse looked at Ryan and both fought the impulse to giggle and grin.
“Um,” Ryan began, struggling to keep a normal face, “It’s like this place where, like, guys…”
He paused and Jesse shrugged.
“It’s like where… you know… sometimes…”
“Oh, it’s a cruise.”
Ryan and Jesse looked at each other and simultaneously responded, “What?”
“It’s a cruise. It’s where gay guys cruise for sex.”
Ryan and Jesse had started up the hill behind the main part of the college campus. They both stopped and looked at Evan.
“How do you know that?”
“Well,” Evan replied coming up behind them. “It’s obvious from the way you two were hemming and hawing. Besides, I lived in LA and my Mom wrote soap operas. It’s not like I’ve never met gay guys before.”
Evan glanced to his side to see if Adam understood any of the conversation. However, the boy was still standing by the bleachers looking toward the two police officers. Concerned, Evan called to him.
“Adam, what’s the matter?”
“Something bad happened.”
“I know. Come on. We’re going over to that place and get something cool to drink.”
Slowly, Adam turned and started walking toward the gate in the fence. The others waited, Jesse and Ryan both wiping sweat from their faces, Evan twirling his racquet in his hands as he gazed at the boy he loved. Adam’s slender arms and legs were growing red from the sun as he started climbing the walkway toward the others. He looked so cute to Evan, nerdy in his tattered and oversized sneakers and the gym socks with their red and black horizontal stripes near the top, but still cute.
“Why is the dirt red over there?” he asked.
Jesse shrugged as he and Ryan resumed climbing the hill to the main part of the campus.
“I don’t know. It’s the only place in town that is. It’s the clay in the dirt.”
Adam nodded, seeming to store the information in his head. Evan put a hand on his shoulder as they reached the top of the hill and walked between various buildings on the campus. One of them was the Performing Arts Center and as they passed, Adam announced, “Dr. Forrest is going to work with me on the piano. He is in that building. Evan’s grandmother called him. She is kind.”
Evan looked at him in surprise.
“I didn’t know that. When did that happen?”
“Yesterday. I will come here tomorrow afternoon and he will work with me.”
“I hear you’re pretty good,” Ryan said.
“Yes, I am,” Adam replied in his usual matter-of-fact way.
Jesse and Ryan grinned and then engaged in the usual teenage banter with each other until they crossed the street before them and left the campus of Foxwood College. They walked up the block of shops and storefronts Evan had seen on his first evening in Foxwood the previous Saturday and stopped in front of the window in which he had seen the Richie Cunningham clone. There was a wooden sign above the door in bright yellow letters announcing, “Bohemia!” and, perched on the roof was one of the giant satellite dishes that was so common on farms around the Midwest in 1982. As the boys entered the front door, Evan saw the tall redheaded guy standing behind the counter with a warm smile. There were several college students, undoubtedly in Foxwood for summer school, sitting at the bar on at several tables around the front of the establishment drinking coffee and either reading magazines or writing in notebooks. Evan felt right at home.
“Hey, Chris,” Ryan said as they approached the counter.
“Oh, man, I don’t believe it. You have to be Ryan Atherton.”
Ryan nodded and grinned. Chris shook his head in wonder.
“I don’t believe it. The last time I saw you, you must have been under four feet and riding that purple Stingray.”
“Yeah, you sat for us a couple of times when Mom and Dad went out. I think I was nine.”
“Dude, how old are you now? Sixteen?”
“Next January,” Ryan replied proudly. “You remember Jesse, don’t you?”
“No way! That’s Jesse? Jesse Duncan?”
Evan stood back and waited as his friends enjoyed their reunion with their former babysitter. Adam was staring at a red lava lamp on the counter to the right of the others and seemed mesmerized by it. However, as Evan watched, he could see by the unfocused way his eyes stared that he wasn’t seeing the lamp. He had gone off to wherever he went at times such as these.
“So, how was Frisco?” Ryan asked. Chris flinched.
“Never say ‘Frisco.’ The natives hate that. It’s The City or San Fran, or San Francisco,” he replied with a grin. “And, it was incredible. San Francisco is the most beautiful and exciting and amazing city on earth and I loved every minute of it!”
“Did you get laid a lot?” Ryan asked with a sly grin.
“Listen to you!” Chris replied with a feigned look of shock. “Talking like that. I’m definitely not used to hearing stuff like that come out of the mouth of Dr. Atherton’s son. But,” he added with a sly grin of his own. “Yeah, I got laid. A lot.”
Jesse leaned over the counter and his face became serious.
“What about that gay disco disease.”
“GRID? I don’t know a lot about it except that there’s a couple hundred cases in SF and LA and its always fatal. It’s pretty awful.”
“Did you know anyone with it?”
Chris looked down at the bar.
“One guy. He was really nice, a really wonderful guy. Great laugh, loved to dance. I mean he loved to dance. But, he got these horrible lesions and then he got pneumonia and a week before Mom had her heart attack, he died. It was fast.”
“How do you get it?” Jesse asked softly. Ryan frowned and blushed severely, which did not go unnoticed by Chris.
“How come you’re so interested in GRID, Jesse?”
Ryan immediately spoke up, which Evan also noticed.
“So, how come you came back to Foxwood? Why’d you open this place?”
Chris smiled at Ryan with understanding and replied, “Well, you can take only so much of paradise and I think I needed to get out of the City. I needed some time. And, after Mom died, I realized how much I missed Foxwood. And, we had this building and this storefront was empty so I thought it might be a good business opportunity to try to introduce Foxwood to some of the ideas that are floating around the West Coast. If it works, I’ll sell it in a few years and go back after they have a cure for GRID.”
He glanced at the two boys standing behind Ryan and Jesse, his eyes meeting Evan’s and asked, “So who are your friends?”
Ryan turned around.
“This is Evan. He just moved here from LA. His mom wrote soap operas.”
Chris smiled and Evan noticed that it was not entirely unlike Michael’s knowing smiles.
replied. “I think we shared the same plane from KC last Saturday.”
Evan nodded and gave a carefully flirtatious grin, not wanting to be obvious in front of Ryan and Jesse and feeling a bit guilty with Adam standing right beside him. But, it was as if he couldn’t help himself. Flirting was so ingrained in him that he just seemed to do it automatically. As if he realized it was getting obvious, Evan quickly looked to his right and said, “And, this is Adam. He’s new here, too. His dad’s the pastor at the Congregational Church.”
“Hi, Adam,” Chris said with a warm smile.
Adam turned and said in his flat voice, “Hello. I am Adam.”
Chris raised an eyebrow and then, with a kinder smile, asked, “So, how do you like living in Foxwood, Adam?”
“It is nice. There are professors at Foxwood College who are going to teach me math and physics so I can go to college. I am going to define the Grand Unified Theory.”
Chris paused a moment with a slightly surprise look on his face. Evan was watching carefully for any sign the man might be laughing at Adam, but he saw nothing in his face except kindness.
“Well, I think that’s a pretty ambitious goal, but if you’re determined then I say, go for it.”
“I am. I am smart. I will do it.”
Evan grinned at his friend as Ryan and Jesse smiled. Ryan added, “Adam is really smart.”
“So, gentleman, you look hot and sweaty,” Chris said, turning into a businessman.
“We are,” Ryan replied. “Got any Gatorade?”
Chris looked at the boy in horror.
“Gatorade?! I should say not! That stuff’s poison. Here.” He turned to a spigot and poured a drink into a large cup.
“Try this. Far more healthy for you. Contains all the electrolytes and minerals you just sweated out of your system. It’ll refresh you and make you much healthier. Try it.”
Ryan took and sip and nodded. “Not bad.”
Chris poured two more of the electrolyte drinks for Jesse and Evan and then turned to Adam.
“And, for Einstein here, I think I have the perfect drink. I called it Brain Juice. It’s made of specials herbs and minerals that stimulate brain activity. A lot of college students drink this stuff just before tests to improve their mental agility.
“Yes,” said Adam sitting on a stool next to Evan. “I will drink Brain Juice. But, my name is Stuart, not Einstein.”
Evan and his friends suppressed their grins.
“My mistake,” Chris replied as he poured a frozen drink into a cup. “But, it was a compliment.”
Jesse turned to the left at that moment and saw the two televisions at the other end of the shop. They hung above an empty space above which hung a mirror ball with tables and chair circling around. On the screen, an Apollo moon rocket was taking off and then an astronaut was shown standing on the moon before a flag that was quickly flashing various forms of the MTV logo. Jesse’s face grew excited.
“Yeah. Cool, isn’t it?”
“How’d you get it? The town council won’t let the cable people show it here!”
“I did an end run and got a satellite dish. They can’t regulate that.”
Ryan and Jesse both walked toward the televisions as if they had never seen anything so wondrous just as a video of The Police came on.
“You’d think they just saw God,” Evan wisecracked. Chris grinned.
“You’re not in California anymore, Toto!”
But, before Evan could reply, the door to the shop opened and a policeman entered. He looked just like Evan’s stereotypical view of the rural policeman, swaggering, wearing Ray-bans, (though they were probably imitation), and chewing gum loudly and rudely. He sauntered up to the counter, loudly smacking his gum and looking Chris in the eye. As he leaned over, he said in a sneering voice, “Well, the famous Chris Holland comes back from Fairly-land.”
Chris stood back from the bar and his eyes narrowed as he took the policeman’s measure.
“Fred Gibson. They made you a policeman. I didn’t think you could be a policeman if you were expelled from high school.”
Evan saw the police officer remove his sunglasses and slip them into a breast pocket.
“Still got a smart mouth. Still don’t know when to shut up, either. So what’s a guy from Fairyland doing running a ice cream counter for kids?”
Chris didn’t reply. He simply looked evenly at the policeman. Evan’s dislike for the officer was perfectly visible in the contemptuous glare in his face. The policeman noticed it and slowly looked Evan up and down.
“Who are you? You’re not from here.”
Evan paused just long enough to be almost insubordinate and replied, “I’m from LA.”
The policemen snorted contemptuously.
“Another one from Fairlyland. What’s your name?”
Adam had been watching and his fingers had begun their ritual dancing. Evan took a breath.
“Vanderlyn? You related to that crazy old broad on Court Street?”
Evan eyes grew wide with rage, but before he could say anything, Chris stepped in and said, “What do you want, Fred?”
“It’s Officer Gibson, Fairyboy,” the policeman spat as he quickly turned his attention away from Evan. “You know anything about some pervert got beat up at the Duck Pond last night?”
Chris’s eyes grew wider, but he instantly regained control.
“Some college kid, summer school,” Gibson replied as he resumed loudly chewing his gum. “Were you at the Duck Pond last night?”
“Yeah, I was,” Chris replied evenly, his eyes never leaving the policeman’s. Evan looked at him with surprise, but tried to suppress it.
Without a pause, Chris replied, “About twelve-thirty. And, I didn’t see anyone or anything suspicious.”
Officer Gibson continued chewing his gum for awhile, staring Chris down until he looked to the left and saw Jesse and Ryan slowly approaching.
“Hey, Fred,” Jesse said uncertainly as he approached the counter. “What’s up?”
The policeman shook his head as he watched the teenager stop behind one of the stools.
“Jesse, does your dad know you’re hanging out in a gay bar?”
Jesse and Ryan both looked at Gibson with contempt.
“This isn’t a gay bar and you know it,” Jesse replied. “Does your dad know you’re an idiot?”
“Hey!” the policeman barked, starting toward the boy and stopping. “Just ‘cause I’m your cousin don’t mean you don’t show respect to this uniform.”
Jesse rolled his eyes fearlessly and sat down. Ryan slowly followed him. Gibson looked back at Chris and said, “Warn your other pervert friends about the Duck Pond. Someone’s watching them. And, I am, too.” He turned to the door and slowly sauntered out.
Chris exhaled and shook his head. Looking at Jesse, who was blushing fiercely and looking down at his drink, Chris said, “Worst case of testosterone poisoning I’ve ever seen. You aren’t really related to that imbecile, are you?”
Jesse couldn’t look up. He mumbled toward his drink, “He’s my second cousin.”
The boys finished their drinks amidst mindless small talk as Chris took care of other customers and occasionally returned to them. When they finally rose and each boy reached for their wallets to pay, Chris held up a hand and announced, “It’s on the house.” And, in response to their protests, he replied, “Just bring in your friends and make sure I get lots of business.”
“We sure will,” Ryan replied as the boys headed toward the door. “This place is cool.”
“Yeah, it is,” Jesse added. “It’s great to see you again, Chris.”
“It’s good to see you guys, too.”
As the groups exited the door, Evan was the last to step outside and as he released the door behind him, he looked back to see Chris watching him. The older guy smiled and winked. Evan smirked and swung his hips a bit until he was past the windows.
The four teenagers were quieter than before as they walked up the street. It was late afternoon and the sound of humming air conditioners competed with the singing of the cicadas as the boys walked beneath the huge old oaks and maples and lindens lining First Street. A couple of younger boys rode past them on BMX’s and an old man in a Buick Century glared at them as he waited from them to cross in front of him at a stop sign. When they came to the corner on which the church stood, a block from Ryan’s house, Evan and Adam waved their good-byes as they strolled across the grass to the driveway separating the church from the minister’s home next door, leaving Ryan and Jesse alone on the sidewalk.
As they started up the street, Ryan softly said, “Dude, we need to talk about something.”
Jesse’s heart sped up at his friend’s words.
“Yeah? What about?”
“Not now,” Ryan replied in the same soft voice. “Maybe tonight.”
“After the rents go to bed.”
“Naw. I can’t take a chance tonight. Not on a Thursday. Come over at sundown. I got some stuff to do this evening, but I’ll be done by sundown. At the tree house. Cool?”
But, Jesse couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread. His quiet and uneventful life in quiet and uneventful Foxwood was about to grow complicated. He just knew it.