I was walking across the parking lot at Six Flags. The heat coming off the pavement was almost unbearable, even after seven o'clock! Sweat was pouring off me, but it didn't matter. I was joyous. I had just spent the most beautiful day at the amusement park with my parents and my little brother. Dougy was giggling excitedly about how some boy had thrown up on the Texas Twister and Mommy was gently chiding him to remember how embarrassed the boy must have been. Daddy was grinning. I couldn't remember the last time I had felt so close to my family and so serene.
However, it all changed as we reached our car. Dougy looked at me as I stood by the right back door and he at the left.
"You can't get in the car, Jon. You have to stay here."
I thought it was another of Dougy's weird, though usually funny, jokes; but the look of seriousness on his face told me something else.
"Doug's right," said Daddy. "You have to stay here."
"We'd like you to come with us," said Mommy, stroking my hair, "but you can't."
I suddenly felt very scared.
"Why not? Why can't I come home with you?"
"You wouldn't understand, sweetie," said Mommy tenderly.
"You've got a lot to learn, son," Daddy said.
"Yeah, you're not ready yet," said Dougy. He climbed into the car and slammed his door.
"Ready for what?" I begged to know. "What did I do wrong? What's the matter? Tell me, please!"
Mommy got in the car on the passenger side. Daddy looked across the car at me and said, "Son, you need to act like a man, now more than ever."
As his door shut, I tried desperately to open my door to the car, but it was locked. Dougy wouldn't even look at me.
"Mommy!!! Daddy!!! Please!!! I'm sorry! I'll be good!! I promise! I swear! I won't do it again, whatever it was!! I'm sorry!!"
The car started up and began to move. I ran alongside, begging, screaming for my parents to stop, to let me in the car. But, Daddy gunned the engine.
"STOP! Please!" I begged between sobs. "Please!! I love you, Mommy!!! Daddy, please don't leave me!! PLEASE! I love you!!! Come back!!!!"
I fell to the burning hot pavement of the parking lot, but it didn't matter. The pain was irrelevant. They had left me. I was alone. I cried.
Why had they left me? What had I done wrong?
Wait. I knew why they had left me. I knew what I had done wrong.
Anthony was holding me as I lay on the asphalt. His arms were around me and he was crying, as well. He was wearing his pajamas, which seemed rather strange to me. But then, the heat of the asphalt disappeared and suddenly everything was dark. Anthony was still holding me, but I was crying.
"They left me!" I cried to Anthony. "They left me. They don't love me anymore. I'm a terrible person, Anthony! They hate me!"
"Shhhh. It’s OK. It’s OK," Anthony kept whispering over and over as he held me. It felt so wonderful to feel him holding me. Suddenly, I felt safe. I turned to him and held him back, squeezing him tightly to me.
"Why did they leave me?"
"They didn't leave you, Jon. You're here, safe in your bed with me. It’s OK. It’s OK."
And, it was OK. I was lying in bed and Anthony was holding me and I wasn't in the parking lot at Six Flags.
No, it wasn't OK. My parents were dead. My sweet little brother was dead. I was still alive and I had just done something terrible with my best friend. And, yet, I wanted to do it again.
I cried softly as Anthony held me tightly and stroked my shoulder.
"I'm here, Jon. I'm here."
And, then I slept.
When next I awoke, the sun was shining through the window to my right, warming me as I lay beside my friend. Anthony's arms were still around me and his head rested on my left shoulder. His thick, silky hair was mussed and had fallen over his face. His right arm was draped protectively around me while his right leg was crossed over both my legs.
It felt so nice to feel him on me. My penis became hard again, but the guilt and shame of earlier did not intrude on my moment of peace. Anthony's face, what little I could see, was so pretty, almost girlish, but not really. It was strange. I didn't know how to explain it. Anthony wasn't a girl and he didn't look like a girl. Yet, there was something about him that made me think of a girl. Nonetheless, at the same time, he seemed very boyish. The way he had tackled me the previous night had certainly shown that. And, his skill on a bicycle was not like any of the girls I knew at school.
My penis was poking out the fly of my pajama shorts. I looked at it and marveled at the wonderful feelings it had produced just hours earlier as Anthony and I had clung so desperately together. It was strange; it wasn't just in my penis that I felt the feelings. I felt them all over my body; but, they seemed concentrated in and do come from my penis.
I reached down and pulled my penis completely out of the fly. It felt nice to touch it, to hold it, to move it around, to run the tips of my fingers along the hard shaft and around the cone on the end. As I continued to explore it, to feel it, to learn its secrets, the feeling grew and soon I was rubbing it. It was glorious. The only thing I had ever experienced that came even close to what I was feeling at that moment were the sensations Anthony and I had shared just hours earlier.
I moaned and squirmed.
"What are you doing?" Anthony whispered, his face pointed downward.
"It feels good, almost like last night."
Anthony moved down and I removed my hand from my hard four inches. He studied it for a moment as it bobbed and pulsed with the ebbing and flowing of the feeling. I felt that same excitement, that same need that I had experienced earlier. Anthony looked up at me.
"Why does your penis look like that?" he asked.
I frowned. Was there something wrong with my penis? I became concerned.
"What's wrong with it?"
Anthony examined it some more and then reported, "It doesn't have the skin over the tip. It supposed to have skin that you call pull back from the end."
I was truly worried now. Perhaps, I was a freak of some kind. I was doing terrible and sinful things and my penis was weird. Maybe, I was a real freak.
"Here," said Anthony as he sat up next to me. "See?"
He opened the snap on his pajama bottoms and opened the fly. With a surge of something within my body, accompanied by a serious shortness of breath, I saw Anthony's rigid penis standing up stiffly. He was right. It didn't have the cone on the end, as did mine. It seemed to be smooth all the way up and then, at the end, it looked as if there was a big hole and I could see the regular tip of his thing with the smaller hole where his pee came out.
"Wait a minute!" I declared. "Yours is the one that's different. I've seen other guys’ things in the bathroom at school and none of them looked like that. They all looked like mine!"
Suddenly, I felt better as my initial panic was displaced by my memories of checking out my friends' things as we were taking breaks at school. I had never seen a penis that was smooth the way Anthony's was. The boys I’d seen each had a cone at their end, as mine did. Yet Anthony was looking at me as if I were crazy.
"Perhaps," he said in a tone that seemed a cross between snobbery and confusion, "perhaps American penises look different than English penises."
"That doesn't make sense," I said. "Biology doesn't change just because you're born in a different country. Besides, remember; you're half American."
"Perhaps my penis is part of the English half," he said grinning.
I smiled and looked down at his penis as he gazed steadily at mine. After a moment, he seemed to be wanting to say something, but I could tell he was afraid. I knew what he was going to ask. I wanted to ask it, as well. So, I did.
"Anthony, can I touch it?"
With a nervous quiver to his voice, he replied with a soft, "Yes."
Slowly, my hand shaking—indeed, I felt myself trembling all over—I reached across and stuck out my index finger. I touched it to the underside of his penis and watched, fascinated, as it seemed to jump. I heard an intake of breath from my friend and tried it again. I ran the tip of my finger slowly down his throbbing boyhood until I stopped just above the tight, smooth ball sack. Then I traced it back up again, passing the point where I had started and moving on to the strange extension of skin over the cone on his penis. Anthony's thing was jumping now and his breath was ragged.
"Do to me what you were doing to yourself. Please."
I looked up at his face. The way his thick, black hair hung down over his face and ears, the scattering of freckles across his nose and cheeks, the thin, almost delicate lips, the piercing blue eyes looking at me with near desperation, all of this was making me feel crazy, insane, breathless.
"Feel me," I whispered, barely able to speak; and, as I slowly wrapped my fingers around his penis, he reached forward and began to feel mine.
We both cried, "Aaaaahhhhh," as our hands took hold of the other's hardness. I thrust my hips upward without thinking as Anthony did the same. I brought my other hand up next to the one grasping Anthony's boyhood and began to feel his tight smooth balls and the lower part of his shaft; my other hand pulled the skin back above, revealing the cone at the tip.
Anthony reached across and rubbed mine as I was doing with his. In a way, this was even better than what we had done the previous night. It was more intense, much more gratifying. But, there was something missing and as we both rubbed and squeezed each other, I suddenly realized what I wanted.
"Let's get naked," I whispered in a husky voice.
"Oh, yes," Anthony replied.
Immediately, he pulled his pajama top over his head and leaned to the side as he slipped his shorts down his slim legs. I did the same and as we both sat there nude, our legs crossed, our penises hard and throbbing as they pointed upward at our faces, I knew I loved looking at Anthony naked and that I wanted to feel every part of him. With my right hand, I reached forward and wrapped my fingers around his boyhood again; but, this time, my left hand reached up and I lay my palm on his chest. He watched, a look of wonder on his face and he followed my example. I began to feel him all over, running my hand all over his chest and tummy, up his arms, down along his thighs. He did the same to me and the feelings were miraculous. I felt tingles and rushes all through my body, all along the skin he touched, and my penis felt alive. It was so hard and felt so good! We were both grunting with passion as our hands worked each other, the feeling, the incredible feeling, building and building until I thought I might pass out. And, then, my whole body exploded, as did Anthony's. We both cried and writhed and bucked and when the spasms that wracked our young bodies declined and died, we both fell down on the bed and into each other's arms, panting.
I looked him in the eyes and, though I wanted nothing more than to fall asleep, I smiled at him, leaned forward, and softly kissed him on the lips.
When next I awoke, the sun was higher in the sky, Anthony and I were still naked and embracing, with Anthony's head on my shoulder again. I heard the door to the stairway open and my grandmother call up, "Boys! Time to rise and shine! You don't want to miss the parade, do you?"
Anthony, yawned and smiled at me sleepily.
"OK!" I called back. "We'll be down in a few minutes."
I leaned over and kissed my friend on the lips again. He smiled sweetly.
"What parade?" he asked.
"The Fourth of July Parade! Every town in America has a parade down Main Street on the Fourth of July."
"Humm," he replied as I noticed his penis starting to grow again. "I'd rather lie here with you and do it again."
I giggled. "So would I," I answered, my own penis starting to get stiff as well. "But I don't think we can."
After a nice breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast, Anthony and I ran around the block to watch the Fourth of July Parade coming down Main Street. Anthony was fascinated by the spectacle. Hundreds of people lined the street on both sides as first the Canterbury High School Marching Band passed by playing their fight song followed by "The Stars and Stripes Forever." A group of veterans from World War Two, Korea, and Vietnam then marched by followed by a contingent of elderly veterans in their seventies who had fought in the First World War. Then another marching band from a neighboring town passed by playing the theme from the movie Patton, after which some Shriners in clown suits rode past in funny cars, throwing handfuls of candy at the children along the way. The local Congressman passed by on a horse, which quite appropriately left a deposit on the street in front of the courthouse. A fire truck came by and blew its siren, another marching band passed by playing the theme from Shaft, a red convertible from the local Cadillac dealer passed by with Miss Soybean—which Anthony found immensely amusing—and finally dozens of children from George Washington Elementary School in patriotically festooned tricycles and bicycles rode by to the cheers of the spectators. When it was over, most of the people along the sidewalks joined the parade and marched on, first, up Main Street and then past the college on Canterbury Avenue, heading to the lake where a huge town picnic was getting underway. Anthony and I followed and as we passed the college, we saw a bunch of demonstrators on campus carry signs about imperialism and something called "social democracy." I wasn't quite certain what that was and I don't think most of the people in the parade really cared because they seemed to ignore the demonstration.
I was about to make a joke about the demonstrators when suddenly Anthony muttered, "Oh, no!"
I looked at him and saw an expression of mortification on his face. He was looking up at the demonstration and softly muttered something that sounded like, "Not here, Mum."
Turning to the demonstration, I realized the cause of Anthony's consternation. There, at the forefront, right next to Professor Goldstein, was Fiona Macintosh, in a pair of jeans and a denim blouse, carrying a placard which read, "Stop American Imperialism."
"What's 'imperialism?'" I asked.
Anthony just sighed and looked ahead.
"That's why nobody liked me in Tennessee. She was always getting involved in something and causing trouble."
As we proceeded past the demonstration and toward the freshman quad, I turned to Anthony and asked, with a little fear, "Is your mother a communist?"
"No!" he replied vehemently. "She's a socialist."
"So? My grandfather says all the people up at the college who are always demonstrating against something are all a bunch of communists."
"Mum's not a communist. She's a socialist. She has very strong convictions, she says. There's nothing wrong with having strong convictions. I just wish she would try to show them in a way that didn't make everyone hate me."
I smiled. "I don't hate you."
"Yet," Anthony replied ruefully.
I took his hand in front of everyone who was following us and said as strongly as I could, "Nothing could ever make me hate you!"
The celebration around Lake Canterbury was great. There were booths all over selling hotdogs and Icees. There was a magician doing tricks, a clown on stilts, a fifties band playing doo-wop, and kids running all over the place having a blast.
"This is really brilliant!" Anthony exclaimed as we scarfed down a couple of corndogs. He seemed genuinely to be having fun, and the look of joy on his face as he won a stuffed bear for hitting the bullseye with a baseball and dunking the clown was priceless.
After a while, I realized my grandparents' picnic was about to begin, so I reluctantly led Anthony back to the house. There were several cars out front already and my grandfather was serenely commanding the grill in the backyard as several of his friends crowded round to offer advice. My grandmother was joyfully presiding over the beverage table and its selections of colas, lemonades, and iced teas. I dutifully made my rounds to be polite, introducing Anthony to my grandparents' friends, before we escaped up to my room again.
I found my dad's baseball glove in the closet and, picking up my own and my baseball, dragged Anthony down to the picnic to play catch. We went to the side of the yard, out of the way of the adults. I laughed hysterically as he made a disparaging comment about how small the ball was and then tried to throw it by running first.
He seemed a bit miffed at my laughter and declared haughtily that he was the best bowler on his side.
"What the heck does bowling have to do with baseball?" I asked in between guffaws.
"Cricket," he replied, adopting a Napoleonic stance. Or was it a Wellingtonian stance?
I collapsed onto the grass, a blithering mass of a hysterical twelve-year-old.
"Cri . . . ” hahahah, “crick . . . ” hahahaha, “cricket??? What kind of name is that for a sport?”
Anthony was not amused.
"That's where your American baseball came from."
"I . . . ” hehehe, “I suppose you'll tell me next that basketball came from something called cockroach or bumblebee!"
Father Mac and Fiona approached as I continued to roll in the grass like a fool. Anthony waited patiently for me to regain my senses.
"So," his dad commented cheerfully, “You two seem to be getting along famously!"
Anthony smiled. "I've been giving Jon a lesson on the history of sport."
"Cricket!" I was able to utter before another wave of hysteria overcame me. I stood up and tried to shake Father Mac's hand and nod politely to his wife.
"Ah. I remember one test match when England were . . ”
"Anthony," Fiona interrupted Father Mac, "I saw you marching in that parade today."
It was said in a civil tone, but I could tell there was acid dripping from her words.
"Yes, I was," Anthony replied evenly. It seemed he spoke with the same confidence and firmness he had shown Mrs. Runnymede on Sunday.
"You know how I feel about displays of nationalism and jingoism."
"Yes, but it was simply a parade and it was fun and I enjoyed myself." He paused and then added, with a hint of a smirk, "After all, I am half American."
Fiona's eyes grew wide and her face grew red. I started humming the theme from the Disney movie Winnie the Pooh.
"Why are you humming that ridiculous song?" Fiona asked me. I felt suddenly rather foolish.
"He's nicknamed me Winnie," Anthony replied.
Anthony looked at me and grinned.
"You tell her. This should be good."
I wasn't certain I should answer, judging from her demeanor, but I took a deep breath and said, "It’s short for Winston, since Winston Churchill was half-American."
A strangling noise emerged from Fiona's throat as she turned and walked toward my grandparents. Father Mac winked at me and smiled before shaking a finger at his son and raising a remonstrative eyebrow. "Behave yourself, young man!" he declared before turning to follow his wife and pay their respects to my grandparents.
"So why does she hate Winston Churchill?" I asked as I showed Anthony how Americans pitched.
"Because he was a Tory," he replied with a surprisingly good pitch for a first timer. "So?"
"Her family are all members of the Labour Party. In fact, Mum and Dad were introduced to each other at university by Anthony Wedgewood Benn."
"Who's he?" I asked throwing a bit harder this time.
"He's a famous politician who gave up his title and his seat in the House of Lords to sit in the Commons. A lot of people think he's a god. I was named for him."
We continued to play catch for a while as the adults mingled and seemed to find amusement in Fiona's condescension. Even Mrs. Runnymede made an appearance. As we passed her on the way to my grandfather's grill for our fourth or fifth hotdog, Anthony stopped and said, in a very pretentious voice, "Why Mrs. Runnymede! I hope I find you in rude health!"
"Cheek!" she replied, as Anthony scampered off giggling. However, I thought I saw a hint of a gleam in her eye as she turned to my grandmother.
As evening fell over the gathering, guests began to trickle away and my excitement began to rise. My parents had brought Dougy and me up to Canterbury a couple of times over the years, and I knew it was traditional for everyone in town to gather at Lake Canterbury and shoot off their fireworks. My grandfather loved to buy the biggest and best fountains and skyrockets and roman candles. Anthony and I spent a couple of hours with sparklers, which were a completely new phenomenon to him, running around the backyard. He was having a blast, as was I. At one point, my grandmother smiled at me as she saw how happy I was. Another time, Father Mac smiled and waved.
As the crowd began to move toward their cars for the caravan to campus and the lake, Fiona declared, "Anthony, it’s time for us to leave now."
"Oh, please, Mum. May I go with Jon to see the fireworks? Please!"
Fiona's face had that ‘I'm not to be trifled with’ look that Anthony also seemed to occasionally possess. However, Father Mac came up to her from behind and said to her, "Darling, he's having so much fun. He's actually smiling and laughing. Let him enjoy himself tonight."
She started to protest, but Anthony interrupted. "Mum, you've ruined every chance I've had to make friends since we came to America. Jon is the best friend anyone could have. I'm not going to let you ruin this for me."
Father Mac seemed surprised by the vehemence of Anthony's statement. His mother's eyes grew wide. I could see Father Mac's hands squeezing Fiona's shoulders; she took a breath, said nothing, then turned away and walked over to their Volkswagen Beetle. Anthony sighed. Father Mac winked.
As the adults all drove over to the lake, Anthony and I walked. The evening could not have been more perfect. It was not as hot as it had been and a cool breeze began just before sundown. The golden light of the setting sun cast a peaceful glow over the trees as we walked and despite the crowds walking and driving to the lake and campus, the evening seemed wonderfully quiet and peaceful.
"So, what's up with your mom?" I asked as we headed up Canterbury Avenue. Anthony sighed.
"She's always angry about something and always wants to argue or pick a fight or complain or something. She's never happy with anything. She never thinks anything I do is good enough. She never likes my friends. She never likes where we live. She's always . . . I don't know."
I took his hand.
"You seem so sure of yourself, so confident, so in control."
My friend snorted. "I have to be, with Fiona for a mother. Did you know she stood for Parliament once?"
"Really? She's a politician?"
"She was, but she lost to a Tory. 1970. The year Ted Heath became Prime Minister. I think that's why she's so bitter about everything."
We had passed the freshman quad and were mingling with the families getting ready for the dozens of fireworks displays when suddenly I stopped cold. I saw something that shocked me.
Sitting on the ground, his back against a big boulder over by the shore, was the red-headed teenager from church and from Mancinelli's. But, what really was weird was that there was a kid sitting in his lap, the last kid on Earth I would have expected. Anthony noticed I had stopped and was looking in that direction.
"What's the matter?" he asked.
"That guy there, with the red hair. He goes to our church."
"So? He was also working at that place we had lunch at the other day, too."
"Yeah, he's new in town, I guess. I'd never seen him before at church or at Mancinelli's."
"So, he's sitting with Freakle."
"Yeah. What's he doing all cuddly and lovey with Freakle?"
"Are you jealous?"
"No way!" I declared. "But, how does he know Freakle?"
"Is Freakle his real name?"
I rolled my eyes.
"No. It’s David, David Goldstein. But we all call him 'Freakle' because he's a freckled freak."
Anthony stopped and looked at me with surprise and disappointment.
"Just why is he a freak?"
Uh, oh, I thought.
"Well," I started out uncertainly, "he's weird. He never talks to anyone. He just watches. He doesn't get involved in anything. He just . . . watches."
"Besides, he looks like a freak. He's like covered in freckles. It’s freaky. So, everyone calls him Freakle."
"Do you??" Anthony asked indignantly. I hesitated.
"I thought so," he said with disgust. With a determined spin, he turned away from me and marched over toward David and the redhead.
Oh, my God, I thought, but I followed him.
The red head was hugging David and the boy was looking up at him with an almost worshipful gaze. The older boy turned when Anthony approached. David looked wide-eyed at him and then with mistrust as he saw me behind Anthony.
"Hello," Anthony said to Freckle—uh, David—as if he were a politician running for office. "I am Anthony Macintosh and I am going to be your friend."