Copyright ©2013 by Ronyx
All Rights Reserved
Chapter 1
If school gets any more boring, I’m going to stand up in class, strip off my
clothes and run naked through the hallways. I’d love to see the look on Old Man
Armstrong’s face. He’s the principal here at Lakeshore Academy.  

I jumped when I heard Mrs. Walker shouted out my name from the front of the
room. “Mr. Barrett,” she hollered angrily. “Maybe you would like to tell everyone
why you’re smiling and not paying attention in class.”

My heart jumped into my throat, and I had to swallow hard to breathe. I didn’t
realize that the thought of running naked through the halls had made me seem
so amused. I quickly glanced at the board to see if she had written anything. I
could try to wing it and pretend I had been listening, but she had erased what
she had been on the board. I looked around at the other students who were
staring at me with amused looks upon their faces.

“I wasn’t thinking about nothing,” I responded timidly.

She strolled down the aisle and stood before my desk. “I wasn’t thinking about
nothing,” she said mockingly. “You’ve sat in my English class for a year, and it’s
obvious you’ve learned absolutely nothing. She turned to address the rest of
the class, who were by now giggling at her as if she were a stand-up comedian.
“Can anyone tell me what is wrong with Mr. Barrett’s response?” She looked
down and said with a wry smile, “I wasn’t thinking about nothing.” Several
hands shot up into the air.

Tears of embarrassment formed in my eyes as I looked up and asked,
“Why are you picking on me?”

“Why Mr. Barrett,” she replied sarcastically. “I’m not picking on you. This is an
English class and I’m merely using your statement as a learning experience.” I
heard several students around me giggle.

She turned and pointed to Kim Lawton, who still had her hand raised. “Miss
Lawton,” she asked. “Can you tell Mr. Barrett what is wrong with his comment,
‘I wasn’t thinking about nothing?’”

“Certainly, Mrs. Walker,” she replied with a giggle. “Casey should have said he
wasn’t thinking about anything. To say he was thinking about nothing would
indicate he wasn’t thinking.”

Mrs. Walker clapped her hands together. “Excellent response, Miss Lawton.” I
glanced over angrily at her, and she returned a deceitful smile.

Mrs. Walker stood over me once again and said, “Now would you like to
rephrase your answer to my question, Mr. Barrett.”

I folded my arms defiantly and replied, “No.”

She glared down at me for a few seconds. She then started walking back
toward the front of the room. “Very well,” she said as she turned toward me.
“Then you will write five hundred times, I wasn’t thinking about anything.”
Twenty-five students in the room burst into laughter.

“You’re kidding, right?” I shouted. “They write sentences in the second grade.”

“Well,” she huffed, “You’re acting like a child, so I’ll treat you like a child.”

Before I could stop the words from exiting my mouth, I muttered, “And you’re
acting like a bitch.”

I don’t think there is a shade of red on a color chart that would describe the
angry look on her face. Several girls in the room let out a gasp when it finally
sunk in that I had actually called Mrs. Walker a bitch. Well, actually I hadn’t. I
said she was acting like one, but I guess there really isn’t a fine line when it
comes to this sort of thing.

She raised a hand, pointed angrily at the door and shouted, “Get out!”

Emily Hayes rose from her desk and volunteered, “You want me to go get Mr.
Armstrong?” Mrs. Walker ignored her and approached me. I glanced over at the
door as Emily ran out.

She towered over me and shouted loudly, “Get out of my classroom!”

I looked around the room as everyone turned to stare at me. I rose and stood
defiantly before Mrs. Walker. “I don’t know why I have to leave.” I then leaned
toward her and said mockingly, “I didn’t do nothing.” I made sure to emphasis
the word nothing.

I jumped when she raised her hand to slap me. She drew it back before she did.
She folded her hand, glared at me and said, “See what you almost made me
do?”

I smiled bemusedly and replied, “I didn’t make you do nothing.” Again, I
stressed the word nothing.

Suddenly, Mr. Armstrong shouted out my name as he entered the room.
“Casey Barrett! My office. Now!” As I walked away, I made sure I gently brushed
against Mrs. Walker. I wanted to intimidate her, but I didn’t want it to appear
like an assault. As I left the room, I could hear the chatter of students as they
discussed what they had just witnessed.

“I don’t care,” I muttered to myself as I stormed down the hallway toward the
office. I turned to see if Mr. Armstrong was following me. He wasn’t, so I
assumed he had remained in the room to get Mrs. Walker’s explanation of what
had occurred.

I considered leaving the building, but I knew if I did, Mr. Armstrong would call
the police and have me arrested. This was my third infraction this year. He had
already suspended me twice before. I was pretty sure I was looking at a
possible expulsion this time.

I’m not a bad kid, honestly. I really try to do the right things. But when I do, it
seems like something happens, like today, that gums up the works.

Today I was really trying to pay attention in class. But it is hard for me to pay
attention because I have this tendency to daydream. Maybe I did laugh a little
when I thought of running naked down the hall. Still, why did Mrs. Walker have
to pick that time to act like a real bitch? I really didn’t do nothing.

I was already struggling in class. I failed last quarter, and I was trying this
quarter. I had passed the last two tests- barely. At least I did study for them.

However, just like every other time, something happens. Two weeks ago, Mr.
Latham, the chemistry teacher, got on me because I wasn’t wearing goggles in
the lab. When he assigned me detention, I told him I wouldn’t serve it. He wrote
me up, and Mr. Armstrong suspended me for three days. Earlier in the year, I
was suspended for another three days because I skipped out on an assembly,
and I went outside and smoked a cigarette. Mr. Dudley, the football coach came
around the side of the building and saw me before I could get rid of it.

I mean, so I forgot to put on my goggles during lab. What’s the big deal? I
have seen other students forget, and Latham joked about it. But me, he
assigns detention.

And big deal, I didn’t want to go to some boring assembly about drug abuse. I
don’t use that stuff, so why should I care? Okay, I smoke, but that’s not really
a drug. Right?

I entered the office and plopped down in a chair beside the door to await
Armstrong. The secretary glanced up and rolled her eyes at me. She probably
realized she would have to write a letter of suspension soon. I gave her a snide
smile and brushed back the long, black hair from my forehead. She shook her
head and rolled her eyes again.

Ten minutes later, Armstrong entered the office. He glanced down without
saying a word. I rose and followed him back to his office. It was a trek I had
made several times before. I walked over and dropped into a chair against the
wall. Armstrong left and returned a few minutes later with a manila folder in his
hand. Judging by its thickness, I assumed it was mine.

He thumbed through it, laid it down on his desk and looked over at me. He
sighed and said, “What am I going to do with you, Casey? Your poor mother is
going to be disappointed again.”

I sat rigidly and angrily replied, “My mother has nothing to do with this.
Suspend me if you have to, but leave her out of this.”

Armstrong rose from his chair, came around the desk and sat atop it. He looked
down and said, “Your mother is one of my top educators. She’s admired by
everyone.” He sighed and added, “But you...”

I stood, and at 6’2” I towered over him. He shrunk away from me. “But me,
what?”

He nervously jumped from his desk, walked around to his chair, and sat down.
He fiddled with my folder, and then he said, “You’re so rebellious. I don’t know
how your mother handles you.”

He jumped when I slammed my hand down on his desk. “I told you to leave my
mother out of this!” I walked to the door and opened it. Turning, I asked, “Am I
suspended?”

He looked sadly at me and announced, “Yes.”

“Fine,” I replied. “See you then.” I slammed the door, headed down the hall and
left the school grounds. I noticed one of the school resource officers watching
me from the steps as I walked through the parking lot. I guess he was watching
to see if I would vandalize someone’s automobile. If I knew what kind of car
Mrs. Walker drove, I probably would have.

                                               * * * * * *

When I heard the front door slam, I knew Mom had arrived home. I was in my
bedroom playing a video game. School is out at 3:30, but she usually doesn’t
get home until an hour later. Either she works with students after school, or
she has to attend faculty meetings. When I was in grade school, she made me
wait for her at the elementary school I attended. Now, we lived about a mile and
a half from Lakeshore Academy, so I walk home. I enjoy the walks because it
gives me time to clear my head from all the bullshit I have endured during the
day.

It’s not easy being a teacher’s son, especially when your mom teaches at the
same school you attend. It doesn’t help either, that she is a very popular
teacher. You would think it would make me popular, but it hasn’t. I’m just not
one of those people who want to be popular. In fact, I’m happier when people
just leave me alone. I guess I send out this vibe that other students can read
quickly.

Girls used to come on to me all the time. I don’t want to sound egotistical or
anything, but I am graced with some good looks. Mom and Dad are both
attractive, so I guess I inherited some good genes. Mom looks like Winona
Ryder. She thinks it’s really cool when kids tell her that. Dad looks like an over-
aged baseball player. In fact, he did play baseball in high school and college. He
tried to get me to play little league when I was younger, but I found standing in
a field waiting for some skinny batter to hit me a ball boring. I tried for two
weeks to like it, but I finally told him I didn’t want to play anymore. He moped
around the house for a few days, and he refused to talk to me. But that was a
long time ago, and he’s not even around anymore.

“Casey!” I jumped when she hollered out my name at the bottom of the steps.
“Get down here now!”

It doesn’t bother me. I’m used to her little tirades by now. She’s always
screaming at me about something. I don’t think I’m a bad kid, it’s just that I
can’t get into the program she wants me to be in.

We have this barrier between us. She screams at me, and I just shut her off.
She hates that. I used to scream back, but then I realized she enjoyed the
confrontation. Being a teacher, she had a lot of experience at it. We weren’t on
a level playing field, and she would win all the arguments. If I sit and listen to
her and don’t respond, I can watch her go from angry to frustrated in about
ten minutes. She still thinks she has won, but I don’t give her the satisfaction
of letting her prove it.

I slowly walked into the den and plopped down in a Lazy Boy recliner. It was her
favorite chair, so it was my way of showing her that her little exhibition of power
wasn’t going to bother me. By now, I already knew the script.

She began immediately. “What is going on inside your thick head?” I silently
muttered the words before they left her mouth. “Don’t I do everything I can to
provide you a decent living?” Wait a minute. She changed the script. This
usually follows, “I work hard everyday.”

“I work hard everyday,” she continued to rant. Ah, yes. There it is.

I mumbled, “But you don’t appreciate anything I do.”

She walked over, stood before me and shouted angrily, “You smart ass! You
think this is cute, don’t you?”

I looked away and mumbled as innocently as possible, “No, Mother.”

“Well it isn’t!” she shouted. She continued to pace around the room and inform
me how rude and disrespectful a child I was. As usual, she compared me to
every student she’s ever had, or will probably ever have in the future.

Then came the rant, “You’re just like your father.” For the next fifteen minutes,
I had to listen to how he was the cause of their marriage going into the crapper.
I believe she was probably the cause if he had to endure hours of her endless
raging about his personality disorders.

Six years ago, when I was eleven, he left. I woke up one morning, and he was
simply gone. Vanished without even a goodbye. I get cards on my birthday and
Christmas. I don’t even bother to read what he writes. I just pull out the
twenty-dollar bills he stuffs inside them, and then I discard them into the
wastebasket. What do I care? He couldn’t even tell me he was leaving. In one of
her rages at me, she once mentioned that he was living with a new wife in North
Carolina. That’s all I know, and even that is more than I care to know.

“Mrs. Walker is a dear friend of mine,” she exclaimed. I had to endure a lecture
for ten minutes about how my behavior had embarrassed her. “Mr. Armstrong
called me into his office after school.” Another ten minutes how her good friend,
the principal, was bending over backwards to keep me in school. Then it was
another ten minutes relating how other students were talking about how rude
and disrespectful my behavior was.

She stood before me and hollered down, “What made you think you could call a
teacher a bitch?”

I was going to say, “Because she is,” but I knew that would give her the
opening to continue another half hour rant. I just wanted it to end so I could
go back to the peace of my room.

She walked over to the window and peered out. She folded her arms and said
quietly, “I should have gotten you counseling after that incident with Rollie
Patterson.”

For the first time I spoke. “Leave him out of this! He has nothing to do with it!”
She turned, and I saw tears in her eyes.

“You’ve never been the same since that afternoon,” she cried softly.

I turned my head and looked into the kitchen. “You’ve never been the same,” I
replied bitterly.

It was a hot, summer afternoon three years ago. Rollie and I had been best
friends since kindergarten. We were fourteen, and we had just returned from
the community swimming pool a few blocks away. We went to my bedroom to
change out of our swimming trunks. We had seen each other naked many
times, so it didn’t bother me to pull off my trunks and stand naked in front of
him. That day, however, was different. As I grabbed for my underwear, Rollie
grabbed my hand.

“Don’t get dressed yet.” His voice was heavy and quivered nervously.

“Why?” I asked, but I already knew. For months, we had been playing a
flirtatious game. What had started out as playful shoving and pushing when we
were together, had escalated into wild romps in our bedrooms where we would
end up wrestling with our bodies grinding sensuously into one another.

Rollie put his hands on my hips and pulled me towards him. I didn’t resist when
his lips touched mine. We both knew what we wanted, and it was time to end
the game. He led me over to my bed, and for an hour we kissed and caressed.
We lovingly explored every inch of each other’s body. It was more intense than
I had ever imagined it would be. That hot, summer afternoon I became aware of
who I was, and what I was. There was no shame or remorse. What we felt was
pure and innocent.

Until my mother walked into the bedroom.

She was supposed to have been attending a conference all day. That morning
she told me that she wouldn’t be home until after seven, and that I should
make dinner for myself. However, one of the presenters didn’t show, so she left
early.

She caught Rollie and I naked in bed. We were on our knees, and I was kissing
his neck as I penetrated him. Neither of us saw her enter until she shrieked. We
pulled away, and covered our nakedness with a sheet. Her eyes were wide, and
they had a wild look. I’d never seen that expression on her face before. Not
even when she was arguing with Dad.

She cleared her throat, and calmly told us to get dressed. We didn’t say
anything as we put on our clothing. Our innocence had been replaced with fear.
Before he left my bedroom, I gave him a quick kiss, making sure that my
mother was not standing outside in the hallway.

As I opened the front door for him, my mother approached and said, “I’ve called
your father, Rollie. I thought he should know what you’ve done.”

I never saw him after that day. His parents barred him from seeing me ever
again. Before the start of school, they moved. To this day, I don’t know where
he is. I keep checking Facebook and My Space, hoping that he will appear, but
he hasn’t. I have an account, just in case he wants to contact me- but he   
hasn’t. I want us to talk about what happened. It was special to me, and I feel
there hasn’t been any closure.

My mother and I have never really talked about what happened. I know she
hates me, but she won’t say it. I keep hoping that in one of her rages, she’ll yell
it out. Then I would know. But she hasn’t.

Occasionally, like tonight, she’ll bring it up. Usually, it’s because she feels guilty
because she didn’t get me counseling. But I don’t need the counseling- she
does. I’m okay being gay. I regretted that she saw us, but I have never felt
guilty about what I did that day with Rollie. I learned things about myself. For
several years, I had felt this uneasiness and tension. I knew what caused it, but
I held back, hoping that maybe the feelings and thoughts would go away.

That afternoon with Rollie was a revelation. It was as if all my fears and
uncertainties vanished with his kiss. I miss him. I want him to know what we did
wasn’t wrong. I want him to feel free like me. However, it bothers me to think
that he may be somewhere lost in a world of uncertainty and guilt. I whispered
that day in his ear before my mother entered, “I love you.” I want him to know I
meant it.

                                                 * * * * * *

I was sitting on the patio watching the sunset. I could see storm clouds off in
the distant, and occasionally, I could hear a faint rumble of thunder. I didn’t
turn when I heard the patio door slide open. I figured it was my mother
checking to make sure I hadn’t left home.

It’s ironic that she grounds me when I get in trouble at school. I never go
anywhere, but I guess it satisfies her parental authority. If she really wanted to
punish me, she would take away my video games. She tried it once, so I spent
the entire two weeks sitting across from her in the den glaring at her. She
squirmed in her Lazy Boy chair, and she would occasionally ask me if I had
anything better to do. I would say, “Nope. You took my games away,
remember?” Since then, she’s never removed them from my room.

I looked over when someone sat down and said, “Hey, Casey. You okay?” It was
Terry Moller. Terry is probably the closest person I can call a friend. He lives
next door. He is a sophomore at my school, and occasionally we walk home
from school together. He usually talks, and I pretend to listen.

He is also gay. I know he has had a crush on me since they moved in two years
ago. I have never told him I am, because I only tell people on a need to know
basis. So I have told no one, not even Terry. He’s cute, but I have no interest
in having a boyfriend right now.

I don’t encourage him to come over, but I also don’t discourage him. I know it
makes Mom nervous when he does appear at the door. She knows he’s gay,
the whole school does. I get amused watching her parade past my bedroom
every ten minutes. She pretends not to look, but I can see her peek in the
room as she goes by. I guess she’s seeing if I’m having mad, passionate sex
with Terry. I would close the door and make her really worried, but I’m afraid
Terry would take it as an invitation.

I hurt his feelings last year when he looked into my eyes and said lovingly, “You
have the bluest eyes. I just want to swim in them every time I look into your
face.” I know he was testing me to see how I would react. He didn’t appreciate it
when I fell back on the bed and laughed hysterically. He left the room in a huff,
and he wouldn’t speak to me for weeks. I felt so bad, I approached him in
school and apologized. Of course, now he thinks I’m interested in him, so his
visits have become more frequent.

A bolt of lightning lit up the sky in the distance, and seconds later a rumble of
thunder could be heard. Terry looked over and asked worriedly, “Did you get
suspended? I heard what happened at school?”

I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “Dunno. Probably. Mom didn’t say.”

“She seemed pretty mad when I came to the door,” he said. “I didn’t think she
was going to let me in.”

“She’ll get over it,” I remarked. “She always does.”

He looked over and stared. “I just don’t get it, Casey,” he said. “Your mother is
so cool.” He looked into my eyes. “And you’re a cool guy. I don’t know why you
can’t get along.”

I laughed slightly and replied, “Life, I guess. It just happens.”

I reached for the cigarette pack, pulled a cigarette out, placed it in my lips and lit
it. I inhaled deeply, and then blew circles out through my pursed lips. Terry
stared at the rings as they floated out of my mouth.

“You really shouldn’t smoke,” he said. “It’s going to kill you some day.”

“Yeah, well,” I replied as I blew a few more smoke rings into the air. “You gotta
die someday.” Terry looked worriedly at me.

Just then, another bolt of lightning lit up the sky, followed soon by a rumble of
thunder. I looked over at Terry and asked, “Hear that?”

He listened a few seconds before replying, “I don’t hear anything.”

“That’s it,” I said. “Hear how quiet it is?”

Terry nodded and responded, “Yeah.”

“It’s like that,” I continued, “because birds don’t sing before a storm.”

“No,” he said, “but they’ll sing again when the storm is over.”

I shook my head and asked, “What if the storm never ends?” He looked up at
the darkening sky and didn’t answer.


                                                       * * * * * * *


                                    
     Chapter 2          Return to TMJ
Birds Don't Sing
    Before a Storm