From high atop the circus,
I stand alone on my perch.
The crowds cheer and shout
as my clown face brings joy to all.
The trapeze flies through the air,
my partner watching with care.
But, when I reach out,
He pulls back and I fall.
And the crowds laugh.
The circus wasn't quite the metaphor I was looking for, but, ironically, sixth hour English wasn't the most conducive atmosphere for writing poetry or verse or whatever the hell my pathetic efforts could be called. The lecture on A Midsummer('s)x Night(’s) Dream was not very inspiring. Why could Canterbury High not have hired an English teacher to teach English instead of filling the position with a baseball coach?
No one else in class seemed to be paying much attention and when the final bell rang, we all sighed with relief. I waited until most of my classmates had exited before I, too, made my escape. No one spoke to me as I walked through the turn-of-the-century building. The hall was almost deserted by the time I reached my locker and when I had left my English book and removed my geometry text, I trudged down the hall and out the side door to the bike racks.
A couple of seniors were lounging around the racks, the sort of guys who paid attention to sophomores like me only when they needed some sport or entertainment. Mine was the only bike remaining and one of the boys, an east-sider with an even worse complexion than mine, moved over to sit on my bike.
"Ex-c-c-cuse m-m-m-me," I said as I stopped in front of the kid.
He sneered and replied, "Wh-wh-wh-what?"
The other boy snickered and moved over to circle around my bike and me.
"I s-s-said, exc-c-c-cuse me."
"I know what the fuck you said," he barked back.
Suddenly, the bully was no longer sitting on my bike, but writhing in agony on the gravel beneath, clutching his groin in one hand and holding his nose with the other. His compatriot looked at me in shock and I was holding my hand in pain. I didn't realize what had happened until I saw the piggish bully lying on the gravel.
I unlocked my bike and pulled it from the rack.
"Exc-c-c-cuse me," I repeated as I mounted it and rode off.
I was a block from school before I realized the full extent of what I had done. I stopped at the corner of Court Street and First Street South, a block from the old Court House. I began to tremble and I couldn't breathe. Sweat formed on my upper lip and my eyes burned. It took a few minutes before I began to calm down. The September sun suddenly broke through the clouds above and the warmth on my face brought me back.
I sat for a moment wondering what to do. I couldn't bear to go back to my bench for fear that Jon and Anthony might be there. I wouldn't want to frighten them again. I couldn't go home yet; Mom would simply yell at me for something.
Slowly, I began to pedal north toward Main Street and the heart of downtown, east of the campus and the student ghetto. Traffic was not overwhelming along Main. In fact, it hadn't been very heavy at all since the new mall had opened on the bypass. After dinner, the traffic would pick up as juniors and seniors from C High started cruising up and down the street. There was a strict boundary on Main after seven. The west end was reserved for college students; the middle part was for high schoolers. Anything east of the tracks was avoided by all.
I paused on my bike in front of Beatrice's Bookstall and saw the new E.L. Doctorow book, Ragtime, prominently displayed. The Ben Franklin had a display of new Huffy bikes in the window—even my old and beat-up Schwinn would be better than a Huffy, even a new one. There was a line of kids out the door at Baskin-Robbins; I hurried past.
What could I do? Where could I go? I felt so lost. I saw some college kids coming out of Mancinelli's. Mancinelli's would be the only reason college kids would come down this far east on Main. It had the best pizza in town and everyone went there.
Something caught my eye as I rode past. There was a help wanted sign in the window. I stopped. Mancinelli's was on the north side of the street, opposite where I was. I had stopped in front of the First National Bank and old Mr. Hughes, Jon's grandfather, was just coming out.
"Hello, Jamie! Come to see your Dad?" he asked as he strolled west toward the parking lot.
"N-n-no, sir. I'm ssssure he's t-t-too b-b-busy to see mmme." Mr. Hughes tried to suppress a smirk, but then smiled warmly, almost pityingly it seemed to me.
"I'm just out for a ride," I said.
When he was safely around the corner, I looked back across the street and, without knowing why I was doing it, I pedaled across the street, leaned my bike against the front window, and went in.
I could see several groups of college kids sitting around the place, mostly drinking beer, though a few were eating pizzas or subs. Mr. Mancinelli was back by the ovens and the redheaded guy who lived in the Goldstein's garage apartment was busy making a pizza. Nicky, the owner's son was standing on the outside of the counter, his back to me.
I felt a stirring in my pants. I had always thought Nicky was hot. With a guilty feeling, I looked at the way his tight 501's were hugging his butt, the way his tight t-shirt seemed to conform perfectly to his torso, the way his long, dark curls hung down his neck and almost to his collar. Nicky had just graduated from C High last May; he had been a senior my freshman year.
He had played basketball and one day, back in February, I had been ordered to come back for an hour of detention in PE because I had gotten into a fight—another situation where I kept my mouth shut until I just popped. After running laps for what seemed like forever, coach sent me to the showers. I saw the whole b-ball team naked and walking around the locker room. At first, no one said anything to me as I stripped and went to the shower. But, one guy started giving me a hard time about my crooked dick and Nicky, who was just walking out of the shower, gave him a LOOK and he shut up immediately. Nicky then turned to me and grinned. It was so cool, so cool that I even forgot to look down and see what equipment Nicky had! But, the incident had provided me with many hours of jack-off pleasure over the next few months!
As I approached, I could hear Nicky teasing the redhead. "Stevie, I know just the girl for you! Make you forget you ever thought of anything else!"
"Stevie" gave Nicky a look that said he was laughing, but that Nicky was close to going too far. It was an interesting look. Nicky paused a moment, and then said, "Ah, Stevie. You know I'm just givin’ you shit. Tell you what. Drop by the place tomorrow night after work for a beer."
"Ah, I can't, Nick. It’s Davy's birthday. I promised him something special."
"Oh, yeah? How special? He gonna have trouble walking when you’re done?"
Stevie gave Nicky a very definite look at that remark and Mr. Mancinelli turned from the oven abruptly and barked, "Hey! None of that talk in here! This is a family place!"
He bopped Stevie on the back of his head.
"Hey, I didn't say anything!" Stevie protested. "It was Nick!"
Mr. Mancinelli bopped him again.
"Hey!” Stevie cried out again.
"I don't like stoolies, neither."
I watched Mr. Mancinelli trudge toward the back, but just as he was about to turn into his office, he called back, "Hey, Stevie. Bring the kid Sunday to dinner with you! We make his birthday special!"
"Thanks, Mr. Mancinelli."
Stevie turned and I could tell from the smile on his face that everything was alright. He saw me standing behind Nicky and signaled to his friend with a nod. Nicky turned.
"Eh! Jamie Wintergreen! How's it goin'? Your old man send you over to foreclose on us?"
I smiled. Nicky had such a cool grin and his eyes, soft and brown, looked so warm and inviting. He always gave me a warm feeling, in my heart. Elsewhere, too!
"N-n-n-naw." Nicky tossled my hair. I was almost as tall as he was, yet he made me feel like a kid, in a way. He also made me feel other ways, too. I started to get scared that I might embarrass myself, so I tried to concentrate on what brought me in.
"So, Jamie. What can I do you for?" Nicky asked, leaning against the cash register.
"I-I-I-I sssaw your sssign. I w-w-want t-t-to ap-p-p-ply."
"Eh? Jamie! What a great idea! You're a good man! You'd be great! Hey, Pops!"
Mr. Mancinelli poked his head out of the office.
"What you want, Nick?"
"Jamie here wants to apply for the opening!"
My heart sank as I saw Mr. Mancinelli look critically at me, examining me up and down. Nicky's face also took on a look of concern as his father just stood there.
"Nick, come here."
Mr. Mancinelli disappeared into his office. Nicky winked at me and grinned. He had such a cool grin.
"No sweat. Let me talk to him. You don't mind bussing tables and washing dishes?"
"N-n-n-o! N-n-not at all!"
He squeezed my shoulder, jumped over the counter—Geeze, his butt was SO hot!—and went to his dad's office. Stevie smiled at me and asked, "Hey, you want a Coke while you're waiting?"
"N-n-no, t-h-h-h-ank . . .you."
He winked and slid the pizza he had been working on into the oven.
I nervously leaned against the counter and looked around the room, jamming my hands into the pockets of my 501's. None of the afternoon crowd seemed to take much notice of me; of course, nobody would, until I started talking. I started to get nervous. What if he didn't hire me? I knew Mr. Mancinelli was afraid to because of my stuttering. People thought because I stuttered that I was retarded or something. They got scared of me or thought I was going to do something weird. They just didn't understand. No, they just didn't understand.
After what seemed like forever, Mr. Mancinelli came out of the office and walked gravely up to the register. Nicky followed with a big grin on his face. I knew I had the job, but I felt so scared of Mr. Mancinelli that I couldn't relax or smile.
He stood in front of me silently for a moment and then put out his hand. I took it and he gripped me hard as we shook hands.
"Nick gives you a good reference. That's good enough for me. You don't let him down! You be here tomorrow at five. You work a couple of school nights until ten and then Fridays and Saturdays until midnight. You work hard?"
"Y-y-yes, ssssir!" I nodded vigorously and Mr. Mancinelli smiled.
"Good! Welcome to the family! Nicky! Get to work so Pizza Hut can go home!"
Nicky grinned and said, "Be here in a white t-shirt and blue jeans. See ya tomorrow!"
I smiled as gratefully as I could. "Th-h-h-h-a-n-k y-y-y-you, Nick-k-ky!"
I almost ran out the door. I hopped on the bike with the biggest grin of my life on my face. I had a job! My first job! I had a job! I felt so proud!
`Wait `till Dad hears this! I thought; he'll be proud, too!'
I thought about running across the street to tell him while he was still in the office, but I knew he would be too busy. It would be better to make a grand announcement at dinner.
It took me almost no time at all to pedal back to the house. I could barely contain myself when I went in the back door. Mom was over at the stove again, frying chicken this time. She nodded and I smiled and hurried on up to my room.
I could barely concentrate on my geometry homework as I waited for Dad to come home, but I managed to get through all the problems and still had time to turn on my alarm clock radio and listen to the afternoon top 40 show. When the DJ announced Linda Ronstadt, I jumped up. I knew what was next and it was my new favorite song! I loved it.
"I've been cheated . . . been mistreated . . . when will I find loooove."
I started really getting into the beat and swaying and working it in front of the mirror. This was my new theme song, I decided. I really liked Linda Ronstadt, though I knew most kids at school were into some new guy named Springsteen who didn't really do that much for me. I guess I was just into pop more. I was lip-syncing along to the song, "When I find a new man . . . that I want for mine . . . it always breaks . . . my heart in two . . . It happens all the tiiiiiime . . . " and really showing some emotion in the mirror when . . . out of the corner of my eye, I realized Mom was in the door watching.
I lost all my enthusiasm and dropped my arms to my sides. Mom just turned away with a really strange look on her face, disgust, defeat? I wasn't sure, but it embarrassed the hell out of me. However, the music was infectious and as soon as she was gone, I found myself moving to the beat again.
Just as soon as the music ended and the DJ came on to announce another commercial, I heard a car door slam below. Dad was home and just minutes later, Mom yelled at me to "get my ass" downstairs.
As usual, the three of us were silent during the first few minutes of dinner. The only words spoken were requests—or demands—for some food item to be passed. I was waiting for just the right moment to make my announcement, the moment of maximum impact, but, I was unable to keep my excitement under control. Finally, Dad noticed.
"What's that shit-eatin' grin for?" he asked in his usual "screw-you" voice.
This was it! I beamed.
"I have a j-j-job!"
Neither one of them said anything. They both simply sat there looking at me.
"I have a j-j-job!" I repeated.
"I heard you the first time," my father said with a decided lack of enthusiasm. "Who the hell would hire you?"
This was not the reaction I expected.
"W-w-w-well . . . ”
"Yes?" Dad continued, irritation growing in his voice. "Spit it out, damn it. Who hired you?"
I was getting nervous now and I couldn't get the words out.
I was trying, but it just wouldn't come out.
Dad became frustrated and threw his fork down on his plate. "For God's sake! It's a simple question! Where are you working!"
I looked down at my plate. I couldn't look him in the eyes. My heart was breaking and tears were forming in my eyes.
"Pizza!" I blurted out.
There was silence. Then, Mom asked softly, "Mancinelli's?"
I looked up at her and nodded gratefully. But, her eyes were dead and emotionless. She resumed eating.
"Well, glory be. So, old Mancinelli felt sorry for you. What are ya doin'? Probably just washin' dishes."
Why did I suddenly feel shame? Yes, I was going to bus tables and wash dishes. I had been so proud earlier. Why was I ashamed to admit to him that this was indeed what I was hired to do?
"Yep," he said smugly. "I thought so."
I took a bite of green beans. After a few moments of continued silence, Dad resumed.
"When do you start?"
"T-t-t-two nights a w-w-week then F-f-f-f-fridays and S-s-s-s-saturdays."
Dad took a final bite off his chicken thigh and spat, "Well, at least you can start buying your own shit now."
After dinner, Dad went to the living room to yell at Walter Cronkite again; Mom went upstairs to change into her housecoat; I washed the dishes. When I was finished, I slipped out the back door and climbed onto my bike.
The cicadas were singing as I pedaled up Third Street. It was a typical late summer evening for Canterbury. It wasn't hot enough for air conditioners anymore, so the street was fairly quiet. Really, the only sounds I could hear, other than the cicadas, was the occasional honking of the kids cruising Main Street and a solitary lawn mower a block over.
The campus seemed fairly busy. Several groups of students were heading toward the library on my left. I saw a number of them lounging in front of the student center on the right. A Trans Am roared up Fifth and honked just as it passed, scaring the living daylights out of me, much to the amusement of those nearby who witnessed it. I sighed and pulled into the Science Center parking lot.
I only half-hoped my bench would be empty. I needed the solitude and the beauty of the sunset over the valley to replenish what was left of my spirit. Yet, I wouldn't be too sad to see Jon and Anthony there. It was with relief and disappointment that I found, as I passed the holly bushes, that the bench was empty. I sat down and sighed.
There was the usual golden glow about me as the sun moved closer to the horizon in the west. Large numbers of blackbirds were squawking in the trees. Few clouds marred the pure blue of the sky. A lonely jet contrail cut across the north.
I tried to think of ways to describe what I was seeing, but my imagination had died. All I could do was look and absorb. Then, the tears came.
I hated it when I cried. It made me so angry at myself. I was such a wimp, such a fucking baby, sixteen years old and crying like a little girl. So what if my parents weren't impressed that I had a job. It was just a job. Just a job. A job.
No, it WASN’T just a job. It was a badge of honor, if for no one else, then for me. Someone finally had faith enough in me to trust me with something. Nicky and his Dad trusted me to work for them and to work well. That was something. And, even if it wasn't enough for Mom and Dad, it was something for me.
As dusk settled over Canterbury and spots of lonely little blue lights began to appear across the valley, I slowly stood up from my bench, took a last look out at my "Italian villas and gardens" and strolled down the path back to my bike.
It was strange. I normally jacked-off at least once a night, if not in the shower, then at least later when I was in bed. However, tonight, it just didn't seem to be a pressing need. In fact, it didn't even occur to me that I hadn't until maybe a half-hour after I had gone to bed. All was quiet in the house and I thought that a good jack might be nice. But, I just didn't need to. I started to get partially hard, but I just didn't feel the uncontrollable urge. I must have drifted off at that point, because the next thing I remember was my heart stopping.
The door was opening. No. Not tonight. Not tonight of all nights.
In the dark, I could see the figure moving toward the bed. It stood there for a moment and then I felt the mattress sink beside me.
"Well, Daddy's little boy has a job now," he said with a soft sneer. "You think you're growin' up now, don't ya?"
I said nothing, pretending to be asleep, in the hope he would leave. It had never worked in the past, though, and, of course, it didn't work this time. I felt the covers move and suddenly his hand was touching me, feeling me.
"Maybe we need to celebrate Daddy's little boy getting his job."
"Please, not tonight," I whispered. "I don't feel like it. Please."
"You don't now, but you will in a minute," he spat as he continued to manipulate me. And, what made me sick was that he was right.
I tried hard not to allow it to happen. I tried to think of something, anything, other than what was happening, but he was persistent and, after a few moments, in spite of my best efforts, I began to respond.
"See?" he whispered with triumph. "You always give in."
I hated him. I hated me. He was right. I always did. But, I tried to think of what was happening as being done by someone else. I thought of the beauty of Jon and Anthony, two boys bolding each other, kissing and loving. I tried to think of what they looked like when they played with each other. That certainly caused a bit of a surge in my hormones and as I felt the moist warmth envelope my penis, I tried to imagine I was twelve years old and Jon and Anthony were playing with me. They were my friends and they liked me and we hugged and touched and make each other feel good.
Hugging. Holding. The mysterious figure holding me and loving me. That's what came next into my mind and as the unknown figure’s efforts increased and I fought not to listen to his disgusting grunting noises, I imagined the figure holding me, touching me, stroking me, sucking me. And, then, I thought I might explode right then. I knew who the figure was.
Nicky Mancinelli was sucking me. My penis was slipping in and out of his lips as his beautiful thick curls fell over my stomach and thighs.
In my mind, I was screaming, `Nicky! Nicky!', over and over. And the feeling was building and growing and I was squirming on the sheets and breathing so hard.
The last rational thought in my mind before I fell into the all too brief joy of release was of Nicky's face before mine moving forward to kiss me.
He wasn't finished until nearly a minute after me. I was trying desperately to ignore the revolting noises he was making, trying desperately to keep the beautiful image before me of Nicky Mancinelli making love to me. When, finally, he sat back, panting like a pig, I sighed with relief.
"You sure got a lot more excited tonight that usual, you little pervert," he said softly with disgust his voice. "You pretend you hate it, but you really like doing your old man, don't ya?"
I wanted to throw up.
"Yeah, you can't enough, can ya?"
I rolled over, praying he would leave; finally he did.
After a few moments, feeling dirtier than I ever had in my entire life, I got up, tip-toed down the hall to the bathroom, stripped my shorts off, thoroughly washed myself down there, and, holding my shorts, ran naked back to my bedroom. I gently pushed the door closed and slipped on a clean pair of shorts. Only then, could I even imagine going back to sleep.