The sun was shining through the window and warming my face as I awoke that Saturday morning. It was a delicious feeling to lie in bed, knowing I didn't have to get up for work, feeling the warm morning air lull me back to sleep.
However, it was not to be. I heard a faint tapping on my screen door. It grew louder as I rolled over and looked out. From the edge of the screen, I could see a tiny, bare shoulder. I was about to feel irritation at having my peaceful morning interrupted, but that was instantly supplanted with happiness, then with shame and embarrassment as memories of the night before came flooding through my mind. Exposing myself in that fashion, even if the boy was getting off on it, was inexcusable. I rolled over and covered my face with my arm. How could I face him now?
The tapping became knocking. If nothing else, he was persistent. I realized I was going to have to face this.
"Stephen?" I heard him ask softly. "Are you awake?"
I rolled back and answered a bit more acerbically than I intended, "I am now."
He giggled quietly. I had to smile.
"Can I come in?" he asked tentatively. He was now standing directly in front of the door. He was, as usual, barefoot and dressed only in a pair of shorts, though today, they were not his standard Davy-regulation cut-offs, but what appeared to be medium-blue gym shorts. And, he was clearly not wearing underwear. This did not bode well.
It was then I realized that I, myself, was wearing nothing at all. My morning erection was barely concealed by a sheet I had nearly kicked off the bed in my sleep. What was I to do?
"Look the other way!" I ordered.
"Why?" he asked curiously.
"Because I'm naked, dork."
Davy's "liberated" naiveté was not something I was prepared to deal with that morning. Impatiently, I replied, "Turn around, now, or I'm not letting you in."
Davy apparently was not accustomed to stern voices. He looked a bit surprised but then complied. I jumped out of bed and ran to my dresser, where I pulled out some Haynes briefs, a pair of khaki shorts and Donald's acid-trip t-shirt. I donned the briefs and shorts and left the t-shirt on the desk for later.
"You look like you died," Davy said with a grin as I flipped the latch on the screen door.
"Well, aren't you a little ray of sunshine in the morning." I growled as I stumbled back to the hide-a-bed. "I'm seventeen. We like to sleep late."
"Donald would be surprised," he reported as he sat down on the corner of the mattress. I plopped down and lay spread-eagle on my stomach.
"And, why would that surprise that great observer of life and human nature?" I mumbled through the sheet that half-obscured my mouth.
"He thinks that if we don't do something, you're going to turn into a workaholic capitalist pig."
"I'm already a workaholic capitalist pig."
Davy giggled. "I know. Donald says it would be funny to watch you get high."
I looked at my little friend suspiciously out of the corner of my eye. "It ani’t gonna happen."
Davy shrugged. I was curious and a little worried about something.
"You don't get high, do you?"
"Not really. I tried it a couple of times when no one was around, but I really don't like getting high by myself. I don't have anyone to do it with."
"Well, you don't need to be getting high, even with friends."
Davy shrugged again in his strange, neutral, noncommittal way.
I rolled over and looked at him.
"You don't have any friends?"
Davy shrugged again, but didn't answer.
"Why not?" I asked softly.
Davy shrugged and then looked up at me with those deep, brown eyes.
"I'm small for my age and most kids in the sixth grade thought I was too little. I'm also a lot smarter than most kids and they don't like that. And, they don't like the way I think."
None of this was said with any emotion, arrogance, or bitterness. It was just a statement of fact. He had no friends because he was small, smart, and independent. My heart broke for this tough little guy. I opened my arms to him.
He looked at me cautiously and then softly asked, "Really?"
I smiled and nodded. He grinned and crawled across the bed to me. He lay facing me and I wrapped my arms around his slight frame, pulling him against me and kissing his forehead softly. Davy wrapped his own arms around me and clung to me as if I were rescuing him from drowning.
We lay like that for quite awhile. The sunlight through the window had shifted by the time, I finally moved. My hand began to caress his shoulder. Davy simply clung tighter to me. I could feel his little erection through his shorts and I was certain he could feel mine as his thigh was draped over my crotch. But, neither of us made any sexual advance. It wasn't needed. It wasn't necessary. I simply needed to give Davy love and he needed to feed off it.
Eventually, I rolled both of us over to the other side. I was partially on top of him, my face just inches above his. My left arm was around his shoulder, my right hand glided softly over his small body. His skin was smooth and nearly hairless. I could easily feel the ribs in his skinny torso. I looked back up at his face, where I saw an expression I couldn't identify. It was one of hunger, but whether it was sexual or emotional I couldn't tell. I leaned down and kissed him on the tip of his nose.
Suddenly, I sat up. This was getting scary. I couldn't deal with it. I had to stop it right then before something happened that shouldn't. I slung my legs over the side of the bed, my back to Davy, and stretched.
"So," I asked looking over my shoulder at the sweet boy lying beside me. "What do you want to do today?"
Davy grinned broadly at me. "Anything you want! Can we finish the ship?"
"Well, of course we're going to finish the ship. But, do you want to do anything else? Go to the park? Play a game? Exploit the masses?"
Davy giggled and sat up next to me. He crawled to the edge of the bed and put his arms around me again, cuddling up to me. I couldn't help myself. I had to do the same and, once again, we sat simply holding each other.
We were both awakened from our moment by the discordant shouting of Donald down in the driveway. How did he know Davy was up here?
"What?!" the boy yelled back.
I stood up and walked over to my desk to put on my tie-dye. But, my irritation at Donald for interrupting my beautiful moment with his son prompted me to drop it back down and remove from my dresser a white t-shirt with the words emblazoned across the front, "Devonshire Lacrosse." I slipped it over my shoulders and slid my feet into my Topsiders.
Donald had mounted the stairs outside by now and came in. He took one look at me and groaned.
"Do you TRY to send me over the edge?"
I simply grinned. He shook his head and turned to his son.
"I'm going over to campus for an organizing meeting for that protest on the Fourth. There're gonna be a teenagers protest, too. Wanna come?"
"What in the world would you be protesting against the Fourth of July for?" I asked with genuine if not naïve curiosity. Donald looked at me as if I were completely blind.
"What is there to protest? It's a celebration of fascism, that's what! That was no revolution! That was simply some rich white guys fighting over who was going to get the privilege of exploiting the poor! We have to counter all this jingoistic bullshit!"
I felt it better not to pursue this topic any further, as did Davy.
"I think I'll stay here with Stephen. We're gonna finish his ship and maybe go play Frisbee."
"Humph. Well, try to make him more human, will ya?" He then turned to me. "And, YOU!" he barked. I jumped, startled by his vehemence. "Don't you turn my son into a fascist!" He then grinned, turned, a walked out my door.
When he had descended my stairs and was crossing the driveway back to the big house, Davy looked at me and grinned. "Donald LOVES to fuck with you!"
Despite my shock and disapproval at his choice of words, I had to grin back at him.
"Come on, let's go," I said. "I need some more clothes."
"Why?" he asked as we descended the stairs, leaving my screen door unlocked. I was getting accustomed to not worrying about locks.
"Well, I don't have enough work clothes. I only brought what could fit in my suitcase, and that wasn't much."
“Where did you get all this money? I thought you were a runaway."
We had reached the street now and were headed toward downtown.
"Well, I cashed in my savings bonds and I saved a lot of money from my old paper route and from when I mowed lawns and when I worked at Pizza Hut after school."
"Wow," he said with sincerity. "You really are a workaholic."
I chuckled. "Not really. I just like independence."
We stopped at an old JC Penney on Main St. It was an OLD store, complete with wooden floors that creaked as you walked across them, ceiling fans that hung low from high corrugated tin plates, and hanging globe lights that added a yellowish glow to everything. It even smelled old. I loved it much better than the clean, new Penney's in the mall back home. I found two pairs of Levi's and several white t-shirts and we were off.
"So," I asked as we walked down the street back toward the house. "You play Frisbee?"
"Yeah! I love Frisbee."
"What kind do you have?"
Davy looked down and grinned sheepishly.
"I don't. I was hoping you had one."
I playfully bopped him on the head. "Yeah, like my prize possession that I would make sure to take with me when I leave home is my Frisbee."
Davy looked down and said, quietly, "I think they're cool."
I realized, with shame, that to a boy in Davy's situation, a Frisbee WOULD be a prize possession. I never considered myself spoiled as I worked hard for my financial independence, as well as for my academic success. But I realized that, even so, there was a lot I took for granted.
We were passing the Ben Franklin and I shoved Davy into the door. We headed for the toy department and I was thrilled to see the grin on his face as I pointed to the collection of Frisbees and said, "Pick any one you want!"
The smile on Davy's face was beautiful as he carefully examined and considered each one. This was an important decision for him. Finally, he settled on a medium weight disk that was lime green, not one of my favorite colors.
"Why that one?" I asked as we headed for the cash register.
"Well, it’s not too heavy for me but has enough weight to get some good distance. And the color will look cool against the green of the grass."
Interesting. At twelve, he was considering the aesthetic qualities of his recreation. He certainly was a thoughtful and remarkable kid.
It wasn't quite lunch time yet, so we went back home, where I dropped off the sack of clothes on my bed and then, with Davy leading the way as my guide, strolled through the alley to the campus of Canterbury College—hopefully, my future school.
Davy had put some thongs on his feet before we left as the alley was a lot rougher and more dangerous to bare feet than sidewalks and streets. It was cool. Small-town alleys are neat, often wide thoroughfares that could also be streets themselves, sometimes lined with crepe myrtle, usually lined with trash cans.
This one ended on Canterbury Avenue, across from which stretched the wide campus of Canterbury College. The campus was divided into two sections, with the original campus, which was directly in from of us, on the side of a great sloping hill. The hill was dissected by a semicircular drive on the other side of which were a line of numerous buildings in the old American fake-gothic so popular on American college campuses around the turn of the century. There was a wide, tree-covered expanse on our side of the drive. It was a beautiful college and I felt excited this was where would get my degree.
Davy and I crossed a corner of the hill to the other, newer campus, where buildings in the boxy, minimalist style of the sixties collided with the fake colonial red brick style of the freshman dorms. Beyond, past a huge park-like area, was Lake Canterbury. That was where the fireworks would be going off the next Friday night. On one side was an old-fashioned bandstand, the kind that made you think of The Music Man. To its left, nearer the water, was a small gazebo surrounded by bushes. There seemed to be a boat dock behind that and some kind of memorial on the shore behind the bandstand. There were also large bushes by the memorial.
As we crossed into the park, Davy started begging me to let him throw. After a few wild shots, some of which ended up going backwards, while other were caught in the wind and returned like boomerangs, I showed Davy how to use his wrist, even how to toss it backhanded. He was a natural. Within minutes, he was tossing the disk like a pro! The look of triumph and joy on his face as he fired the disk off on a perfect, beautiful, arcing flight was worth the cost of a thousand Frisbees.
We would both run after the disk, deliberately trying to overshoot the other or tease with a short shot. I stripped off my t-shirt and kicked off my Topsiders and reveled in the feel of the grass on my bare feet. I felt like a kid again as I chased my sweet little friend across the field. At one point, when he very professionally faked me out, leading me to believe he was making a really long shot, but merely getting it caught in the wind to return it back to him, I growled at him and chased him across the grass. I was amazed at how swiftly he could run and we were well past the bandstand and nearly to the lake before I finally caught him and brought him down to the ground.
Davy screamed in mock terror as I crawled on top of him, sweaty and panting. Davy's body was almost as sweaty, his long hair clinging wetly to his cute, freckled face.
"Fake me out, will you?" I cried in exaggerated anger. "Well, I'll show you!" And, with that, I began mercilessly to tickle him. Holding his skinny arms above his head with my left hand, I straddled his hips and went after every sensitive spot I could find.
"NO! NO! STOP!" he screamed as he writhed and twisted helplessly beneath me. But, every time I slowed down to give him a chance to breathe, I saw a grin of pure delight on his face. He may have been begging me to stop, but he was loving every second of his exquisite torture!
Finally, I relented, and rolled over in the blazing hot sun. Davy lay next to me, gasping as he tried to catch his breath. Every once in awhile, one of us would look at the other and grin. Twice, I jerked my hand at him as if to resume my tickling and he would scream "NO!" and twist away. But, when he saw I was only kidding, he would roll back.
I had never felt so happy as I did at that moment. And, just then, Davy rolled over on his side, propped his head up on his hand with his arm in a triangle, brushed the hair out his eyes with his other hand and smiled.
"I love you, Stephen."
My heart wanted to burst right there. I looked over at this strange sweet boy and felt something I had never felt, a kind of love I had never known, a certainty that I wanted to watch him grow into a man and spend the rest of my life with him.
With tears in my eyes, I whispered, "I love you, too, Davy."
We both lay there for quite some time, saying nothing, just gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes. Finally, feeling the heat on my face and shoulders, I realized we might want to get up before we were as red as lobsters. I reached over and flicked his nose with my finger and grinned. He returned the grin and we both sat up.
"Let's go get a Coke," I said.
"Cool," Davy responded.
"I hope it is. Man, this heat is just like back home. I thought I was getting away from this, coming north!"
"This is a little hotter than normal. It won't last too long, though."
We retrieved the Frisbee from its resting spot atop the bandstand, Davy's experience climbing in and out of his second-floor bedroom aiding him as the little monkey climbed up the trellis, and headed back across the field toward the freshman dorms. We stopped in the nearly deserted student center. Canterbury's summer enrollment was almost non-existent; what there was consisted mostly of townspeople taking advantage of the absence of the regular student body to further their education or edification.
The cold air on our sweaty bodies was almost a sensual experience. Davy spun through the white-tiled lobby like a little ballerina, his arms in the air, his surprisingly lithe body twisting and leaping like a little gazelle as he washed himself in the delicious cold. I watched in awe, stunned at his beauty.
As we took our cups with their crushed ice and sipped the marvelous biting effervescence of the Coke, we walked out of the snack bar and past the row of televisions, one showing a movie, one a Yankees’ game, the other the Wide World of Sport. I was already sweating again, and seeing that one made me reflect on what I wouldn't give at that moment to experience the "agony of defeat" if only I could roll around in the snow that poor ski-jumper crashed into! The lobby was deserted; or, at least, so we thought. I put my arm around Davy's bare shoulder, my t-shirt shoved into the back of my shorts and hanging over my butt, when we suddenly heard a screeching pre-pubescent voice calling, "Hey, Freckledick! Is that your boyfriend?"
I saw Davy's face fall at those words. I turned to find a scruffy black-haired brat of about twelve and a filthy, brown-haired urchin of maybe eleven, sitting on a bench, sucking on Icees. When they saw my face, they immediately looked away.
"You want me to shove those Icees up your ass?" I said as menacingly as I could. The two boys immediately hopped up and hightailed it out of the building.
I put my arm around Davy as we walked toward the main exit.
Davy said nothing. I knew he was embarrassed that the object of his love should see his humiliation. I put my arm back around him.
"Why do they call you `Freckledick'?"
Davy shrugged, though with a little less vigor.
"Because I have so many freckles. Tommy once asked if I have freckles on my dick."
"Do you?" I asked mischievously.
"No," he replied a bit acerbically. When he realized I was joshing him, he grinned at me. "They used to call me `Freakle' because they said I was a freckle freak."
"Hey," I said with a grin. "I kinda like that. Freakle! It’s kinda cute!"
There are very few things in life as wonderful or as peaceful as small-town America on a hot summer Saturday afternoon. As we walked along the quiet streets, sipping and savoring our Cokes, some kids would occasionally ride by on their bikes. The cicadas would languidly chirp, their songs undulating from one tree to another. I waved at a man in a straw hat sipping ice tea under the huge linden tree in his front yard. I felt I had died and gone to paradise.
Until we got home.
There was a police car sitting in front of the house. My first thought was that Donald and Patience had gotten caught with their drugs. I was prepared to say I didn't know anything about it and had never seen a thing. As we walked up the driveway, though, I saw a skinny-looking policeman with his back to me talking with Donald and Alex in the back yard. Alex was to the cops’ side and when he saw me, he motioned for me to get out. Immediately, I knew what had happened.
Davy grabbed me by the hand and we ran around to the front door of the house. He took me up to the room in the tower on the third floor, a dusty room with old wooden chairs and more strange artwork on the wall. We crouched on the floor and watched as the cop walked slowly back to his car and looked around before climbing back in. Slowly, he drove off down the street.
"You're busted, Dude," said Donald as we entered the kitchen.
Crap! How did they find me? My heart sank. Davy was squeezing my hand, something not lost on either of his parents. Alex came in. I sat down at the table shaking.
"How?" My voice was trembling.
"Your bus ticket. Dude, NEVER buy one ticket when you’re on the run. You buy one to one place, then another to the next, until you finally get where you’re going!"
How could that idiot ticket agent remember me? I bought the ticket three freaking days before I left! Heck, he could hardly see to read the rate tables!
"What's going to happen to me? Do I need to run again?"
"Too late, Dude," said Donald. "Your Dad's on his way now. He's flying in tonight."
"Flying? Tonight? Oh. My God. He's bringing the company plane. He must be REALLY pissed at me."
Alex looked at me with concern. He took a strange looking wooden pipe with intricate carvings out his pocket and handed it to me.
"Here, man. You need this."
Davy looked on wide-eyed as I put the pipe to my mouth and looked up for instructions. Donald held the lighter.
"Don't breathe too hard, don't take too much. OK, now hold it. OK, now let it out slowly."
I leaned back in my chair and looked up at Donald. I felt a little less panicky.
"I'm not going back. I'm seventeen. I'm a man. I'm not going back. This is my home. You are my friends. I happy here. I'm not going back."
"We'll stand by you, Stephen," said Donald. "Don't worry."
Dejectedly, I stumbled out of the kitchen, my beautiful day ruined as I thought of my father, furious at missing an afternoon on the links, humiliated at what his friends must think about his son running away and dropping out of the school he had pulled so many strings to get me into. I found myself in my room, sitting on the corner of the bed. Davy was beside me. We turned to each other and I clung to him as tightly as he clung to me.
It was late in the afternoon when the smell of charcoal wafted through the windows. Donald and Patience and Alex and Allison and several other interesting-looking people were standing around an ancient barbecue, drinking beer and passing little white rolled up cigarettes around. I looked at Davy and smiled as I walked to my desk and started picking up the pieces of our model ship. We took the materials down to the party and after introductions were made and I had been given a hamburger and a Coke and Davy had a hotdog and a Coke, we settled down in the shadow of the house and resumed work on the ship.
Everyone was friendly to me. And everyone complimented me on how good I looked in Donald's tie-dye. I wasn't sure that was quite the right attire to confront my father in, but what the heck.
I was about to use the X-Acto knife to cut the plastic sails out when I realized things had gotten very quiet. I looked up and everyone was turned toward the driveway. Davy lay a hand on my thigh. I knew.
I looked to the right and there was my father, all five-ten of him, in navy slacks and a blue-plaid, sports shirt.
I remained sitting.
He looked around in obvious distaste at the gathering in the Goldstein's yard. His eyes rested on Davy sitting next to me. They clouded, quite obviously.
"Stephen, your little adventure is over. You've had your fun. Get your things. We're flying home tonight. I have the 310 at the airport and Frank Stallings is waiting."
I stood up and faced him as resolutely as I could.
A momentary look of surprise flashed through his eyes.
"What did you say?"
Those words were said with the menacing hint of what would happen to any subordinate who dared question his word. Except for the night I was confronted by him about my sexual orientation, I hadn't heard that tone directed at me since I was thirteen. I learned my lesson quite well then.
"I said, ‘no, sir.’ I'm not coming back."
"Son, I don't have time for this. I have an important luncheon at the cathedral tomorrow and we have to get back tonight. The regional Vice-President is in town and you WILL be an acolyte tomorrow morning. Now, get your things and let's go. Now."
I took a deep breath.
"Dad, I'm not coming home. I'm staying here. This is my new home."
He took a step toward me. Donald, Alex, and several others took steps as well.
"Are you on drugs already? Jesus Christ! First, you're queer. Now, you're on drugs. Get your damn things now or I will beat your ass until you...”
"Nobody’s beating anybody." Donald looked at my Dad.
"Back out of this, freak," Dad said menacingly.
Donald looked at me and I shook my head.
"Dad, you always taught me to stand up for what I believe. You've always stood up for what you believe. You've been my example. You left home to join the Marines when you were 17. I've now left home to live on my own. I'm supporting myself. I'm gonna take the SAT in October. You know I'll do well. I was in the 96th percentile on my PSAT. I'm not a drop-out. I'm not doing drugs. I'm not fucking my life away."
"How dare you use that language with me!"
He stepped forward and before I or anyone else could do anything, he backhanded me. I was thrown to the ground.
Donald and Alex grabbed my father and pulled his arms behind him, immobilizing him. Davy clung to me, crying. There were tears in my eyes, but I was damned if my father—my father, the man I had idolized as a child, the man I wanted to be when I grew up, the man who had created me, the man who had just struck me—I was damned if I was going to let him see me crying.
I wiped my eyes and stood up facing him. And, then, I saw something I had never seen before. I looked at my father's face and, instead of the fury I had just witnessed, I saw pain. I saw regret and remorse. I saw the man I had loved and idolized as a boy.
Donald and Alex released his arms and stepped away. I stood immobile, looking at him, but his eyes were not on me. It took me a moment to realize they were on the model of the ship, nearly completed, sitting on the blanket in the grass.
When he spoke, his voice seemed defeated.
"That's Old Ironsides, isn't it?"
I paused. "Yes, sir."
"You finally got to build it."
"Yes, sir. I'm helping Davy build it."
He stood for a moment, silent, and then, his voice almost breaking, he said, "We never got around to it, did we?"
"No, sir," I responded softly. "We didn't."
He said nothing, but he held out his arms. I ran to him and we embraced.
I don't know how long we hugged, but after awhile, Dad pulled away and said hoarsely, "We need to talk." I smiled and replied, "OK."
I led him up to my room.
"I had a place just like this after the service when I was at Tech." He was looking around with nostalgia and respect in his eyes. I offered him the chair by my desk and I sat on my couch.
We talked for an hour and when he left, he hugged me and said, "I'm proud of you, Stephen. No matter what, I'm proud of you. You are a man. And, I trust you to be a man and to make the right decisions. I know they won't always please me and I know I have to let you make mistakes. But, you're my son. And, your mother will understand."
After he was gone, I went back down to the party and thanked everyone. Davy and I finished the ship and once the sun had set and the lightning bugs had gathered around us, Donald handed the water pipe to me, to the applause of the gathering.
"No thanks," I replied.
"Come on, just this once to celebrate your freedom?"
"Freedom, baby!" someone yelled as laughter erupted.
Alex picked up the water pipe and started waving it under my nose and chanted, “Peer pressure, peer pressure, peer pressure." The chant was picked up by the others and soon, everyone in the yard was chanting, "Peer pressure, peer pressure, peer pressure."
I started laughing and, finally, replied, "OK, OK. But, just this once!"
Fifteen minutes later, I was rolling in the grass, giggling like an idiot.