Chapter 25
I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “Yeah, sure.” I didn’t want to seem too
anxious to talk. Curtis seemed like the kind of guy who wanted to control the
conversation. I knew he would speak only when he wanted.

He reached for the remote control and turned the channel to ESPN. I wanted to
tell him I was watching a movie, but didn’t. We watched a college basketball
game for several minutes before he finally spoke.

“What you saw last week ain’t what you think,” he muttered as he continued to
watch the television.

“You already told me that,” I replied without looking over. “You’re not gay.”

“Right,” he nodded. Several more minutes went by in silence.

Finally, I got tired of the game we were playing, so I become more direct. “So,
you’re saying you’re completely straight?” I couldn’t understand how a guy
could have sex with another guy and still consider himself straight.

It surprised me when he shrugged his shoulders and replied, “I don’t know.”

His response piqued my curiosity. It was the first time he might be admitting he
was gay. “So what’s that mean?” I asked. “You’re either gay or straight.”

I looked over and saw a confused look on his face as he thought about my
statement. He rested his head on the sofa and sighed. Then he asked, “Can you
maybe be a little of both?”

I asked, “You mean like bisexual?”

He sat forward, put his head in his hands and mumbled softly, “I don’t know
what the fuck I mean anymore.” He started rubbing his head. “I got all this
stupid shit going on inside my head anymore.”

“What kind of shit?”

“I don’t know,” he replied as he continued to rub his hands over his head. “Shit,
shit.”

I sat up and looked over at him. It seemed like we were finally getting
somewhere. “You mean like sex shit?”

“Yeah, yeah,” he replied angrily, “Like sex shit.”

“So you’re afraid you’re gay?”

“I don’t know,” he responded. “Maybe.” He sat up and stared at me. “I mean I
like what me and Pip do. I mean, we’ve been doing it for so long, it just seems
okay. You know what I mean?”

“Yeah,” I replied. “I think.”

“But then some of the times,” he continued, “I think about girls, too.”

“So you like fucking girls?” I figured since he was talking openly, I might as well
talk openly as well.

“Yeah,” he replied. “Well, I’ve thought about it.”

His comment surprised me. By the way he acted, I had assumed that he already
had experience with a girl. “You’ve never had sex with a girl?”

His face reddened, and he admitted, “Well, technically, no.” Then he added
excitedly, “But I’ve made it to second base, though.”

“Second base?”

“Yeah,” he replied excitedly. “Monica let me feel her tits once when we were at
the theater a couple of months ago.”

“Did you get excited?”

“Hell yeah, Man.” He reached down and rearranged his thickening cock. As much
as I wanted, I tried not to look down. I didn’t want him to think I wanted to
have sex with him. “I got this enormous boner. I even got Monica to feel it.” He
started laughing. “Man, when I got home I had to take a shower and jerk off.”

I asked, “So you could fuck a girl if you had to?”

He sat back and shook his head. His excitement disappeared. “I dunno,” he
admitted. “I mean, I think I can, but I’m scared.” He sat up and looked at me.   
“I mean, what if I try,  and I can’t get it up?”

I laughed, took a chance and looked down at the bulge in his pants. “You don’t
seem to have a problem talking about it.”

His face reddened, and he said, “Yeah, well talking about it and doing it is two
different things. With Pip, we just do it and have fun.” He wrinkled his face and
added, “A girl might expect more.”

I thought a minute and then suggested, “Maybe you’re not gay, like you said.
Maybe it’s just something you and Pip do, and it don’t mean too much.” I then
asked, “Have you messed around with any other guys?”

I could tell by the look that came over his face that he had. He sat back and
rested his head on the sofa. Finally, he sat up and faced me. “You swear to God
that you won’t tell anyone what I’m about to say?”

“Yeah, sure,” I replied. “I told you, you can trust me.”

“Okay.” He sat back and didn’t say anything for a minute. Finally, he said, “Me
and Mike used to have a thing going on.”

I didn’t want to sound too surprised. “You and Mike?”

“Yeah,” he said. “About two years ago.”

“Do you still have sex with him?” That would answer many of the questions I
had about Mike’s attitude toward me.

“No, Man,” he replied as he shook his head “He came out to everyone and
started acting too gay. If we still messed around, everyone would think I was
gay, too.”

“But, you’re still friends?”

“Yeah,” he replied, “But I keep my distance. You know what I mean?” I don’t
think he meant it, but I was insulted when he added, “It would be like me
hanging out with you. Everyone would think I was gay.”

I rested my head on the sofa and muttered, “Yeah, thanks a lot.”

He scooted nearer to me. “No, I didn’t mean it like that,” he said excitedly. “I
mean you’re a really cool guy and all. If you weren’t gay, we could probably be
good friends.”

I rolled my eyes and said sarcastically, “Thanks.”

“Oh, Man,” he moaned. “I’m really fucking up here. Ain’t I?”

“Yeah,” I replied. “Just a little bit.”

“Okay,” he said as he scooted nearer to me. “I mean, you’re being really cool
and all. And you’re taking the time to help me.” He gently touched my arm. “I
mean, you’re helping me get this shit in my head straightened out.” He gripped
my arm. “I’m really sorry. Okay? I’m just all confused right now.”

“It’s okay,” I assured him. “I kind of figured you didn’t like me because I’m gay.”

“Naw, naw,” he said excitedly as he gripped my arm again. “I’m cool with you
being gay and all.”

“But you don’t want to have anything to do with me because I am.” I stared
into his eyes. “Right?”

He sat back and moaned, “Oh, Man. I am fucked up. You see a guy sucking my
dick, and then I tell you I don’t want to be around you because you’re gay.” He
shook his head. “How sick is that?”

I laughed and replied, “Pretty fucking sick.”

He sat back and our arms touched. “You know, you’re pretty fucking cool,” he
said as he elbowed me.

He laughed when I elbowed him back and said, “You’re a douche.”

“I’ve been called worse,” he laughed.

“I’m sure you have,” I replied as I elbowed him. We sat back and watched a
replay of a foul on the television.

When the game started again, I asked, “So what are you going to do?”

“I dunno,” he shrugged. “I guess I gotta start dealing with the fact I might be
bisexual.” He looked over, giggled and added, “I gotta fuck a girl first to find
out.”

I laughed and said, “Just don’t tell me when you do.”

“I won’t.” He pulled his cell phone from his sweats. “I’ll show you pictures.”

“Don’t do me any favors,” I laughed.

“Hell,” he replied. “You already seen me getting it on with a dude. Might as well
see me with a girl.” He reached down and rearranged the bulge in his sweats.

My face reddened as I looked down at his crotch. “You’ve definitely got
something to work with.”

He wiggled his eyebrows. “Well, maybe me and you can get into something
sometime.”

“Thanks,” I replied. “But I’m kind of with someone right now.”

“Shade?”

“Yeah.”

“You in love with him?”

“Yeah,” I said as I looked at him. “I’m in love with him.”

He smiled and said, “He’s a lucky dude, Man.” Curtis rose from the sofa and
stood before me. “I really appreciate the talk. I was about to lose my mind.”

“It’s okay,” I replied.

“I mean it, Casey.” He held out his fist, and we bumped fists. “You’re my main
man, Okay? If I got a problem, I’m going to come to you. Bet?”

“Bet,” I replied as we bumped fists again. He then turned and bounded up the
steps to his bedroom.

I was surprised Monday morning as we were getting into Rodney’s car to go to
school. On the way out of the house, Curtis asked me if I wanted to ride
shotgun, and he would ride in the back with Lane.

“Naw,” I said. “I’m good.” He asked me if I was sure, and I nodded my head. He
then got into the front with Rodney.

Rodney still seemed upset with his brother. When they didn’t talk like they
normally do in the morning, then I knew that Curtis had asked me to sit in the
front because he was still afraid of Rodney. I would have liked to have been a fly
on the wall in their bedroom. I’m sure Rodney had a few things to say about
Curtis drinking on Saturday.

In my fifth period Spanish class, students came into class talking excitedly about
a fight in the hallway. As I eavesdropped, I heard Curtis and Mike’s name
mentioned. My heart stopped when someone said Shade’s name. I wanted to
leave class and go find Shade to see if he was all right, but Mr. Vega gave us a
test, and I was afraid to miss it. Besides, I wouldn’t know where to find him
since I didn’t know where Shade was fifth period.

Students were still talking about the fight in my next class, but I was relieved
when I heard that only Curtis and Mike were involved, and not Shade. It was
about halfway through class when a student entered and told the teacher that I
was being summoned to the office. After nervously gathering my books, I
rushed to the office. I was afraid that something had happened to Shade. When
I got there, Rodney and Lane were waiting for me.

Rodney seemed worried, and Lane was holding his hand. “What’s happened?”

Rodney informed me, “We gotta go to the hospital.” I looked at Lane and he
appeared as if he was ready to burst into tears. The first thing I thought about
was Shade.

I asked excitedly, “Has Shade been hurt?”

“No,” replied Rodney. “He’s okay. We gotta go to the nurse’s office and get
Curtis and take him to the hospital.”

“What happened to him?”

Rodney shook his head. “He broke his hand.”

“Broke his hand? How?”

Rodney grabbed me by my arm. “We’ll talk about it later. I already signed you
out.” He pulled me from the office, and we headed to the nurse’s office. Lane
held my hand and skipped beside me as we followed Rodney down the hallway.

When we entered, Curtis was sitting in a chair. He looked up quickly, and then
he hung his head. He was holding an ice pack on his hand.

Rodney sat beside him and said, “Let me see.” When Curtis removed the ice
pack, I could see that his hand was bruised and swollen.

Rodney gave a low whistle and said, “That must hurt like a son of a bitch.”

Curtis reapplied the ice pack and muttered, “Tell me.”

We looked up when the door opened and Shade came barging in. He looked
down at Curtis and asked him if he was okay. Curtis nodded and held up his
hand and showed it to him.

I was confused because I had no idea what was happening. I didn’t understand
how Shade knew that Curtis was hurt. I stood and asked, “What is going on?”

Just then, the nurse appeared and asked Rodney his age. When he told her he
was eighteen, she said she could release Curtis to his care. He had to fill out a
form, and he assured her that he would take Curtis immediately to the hospital.

On the way out, Shade told me to wait for him while he signed out of school. He
said he wanted to go with us to the hospital. I told Rodney to go ahead without
me, and that I would ride with Shade.

I waited until we got into Shade’s car before asking him how Curtis had broken
his hand. Through the rumors I’d heard, I knew that he was somehow involved.
I was glad that he was not harmed.

On the way to the hospital, he explained what happened. He said when he was
walking to his fourth period class, he saw Curtis coming out of his classroom.
He said he was surprised because Curtis started walking beside him and talking
to him.

I asked, “What did he say?”

“Nothing really,” replied Shade. “He was just asking me how my classes were
going. Things like that.”

He went on to explain that as they walked down the hall, Mike approached them.
He said Mike started taunting Curtis, and he asked Curtis if he found a new
boyfriend. He said Curtis told him to “shut up.” Mike replied, “Make me.”

Mike responded by looking at me and saying, “Naw. You’d probably rather make
it with your boyfriend.” He said Curtis balled his fist, and he thought he was
going to hit Mike in the face.

“Mike thought so too,” he said. “He closed his eyes and waited for the punch.”

I asked, “Is that how he broke his hand?”

“No,” replied Shade. “He hit the locker behind Mike.”

“So he didn’t hit Mike?”

“No,” said Shade. “He broke his hand when he hit the locker. You should have
seen Mike. He hauled ass down the hall. I think he thought Curtis would hit him
next.”

“So they didn’t really fight?”

“No,” he said. “By the time anyone realized that a fight was happening, it was
over.” I was relieved because I was afraid that Curtis might be suspended if he
was involved in a fight. According to Rodney, he was already failing a couple of
classes. A ten-day suspension for fighting would really hurt him.

When we arrived at the hospital, Shade called Rodney and he said they were in
the emergency waiting room. Rodney and Lane were sitting waiting for us when
we arrived. I sat across from them and asked if Curtis was all right.

“They’re patching him up,” he said. “Mom and Randy are on their way.” He
looked at the clock on the wall. “They should be here any minute.” He looked
over at Shade and asked if he knew how his brother broke his hand. Like me, he
had heard rumors about the fight. Shade told him the same story he told me.

Mike is a bastard,” he hissed when Shade finished. “Someone is going to beat
the shit out of him someday.” He rubbed his hands together and said, “It might
just be me.”

Lane got excited and said, “Mommy won’t like it if you get into a fight with Mike.”

Rodney laughed and pulled Lane into a hug. “I won’t fight him, Little Brother.”
Lane giggled when his brother added, “I don’t want to get shit all over my
hands.”

We waited about a half hour before my father arrived. He was upset, but his
attitude for most things seems to be, “Boys will be boys.” He didn’t think it was
unusual for friends to have arguments occasionally. He seemed more concerned
that it could hurt Curtis’s chance to play first base since baseball season was
just beginning.

Karen, on the other hand, was livid. This incident seemed to be the final straw
for her. As soon as she arrived, she said very little. Rodney tried to explain what
had happened, but her reply was, “I don’t care what happened. He should have
known better.”

She approached the elderly attendant behind the waiting room desk and
demanded to see Curtis. When my father said he would go back with her, she
told him to stay in the waiting room. She kissed his cheek and said, “I don’t
think you want to hear what I’m going to say.”

In a way, I felt sorry for Curtis. From what Shade had told me, Curtis really did
try to avoid a fight in school with Mike. I had been one of Mike’s victims. I knew
how cruel he could be. If he had confronted Shade and me in the hallway, I
probably would have fought with him. I was determined that he would never
again get the upper hand as he did once before. Besides, I would do anything to
protect Shade-even if it meant getting my ass kicked.

“Christ,” muttered my father after Karen after stormed out of the waiting room.
“I’ve never seen her so mad.” He looked over at Rodney and said with a grin,
“You better go down to the pharmacy.”

Rodney gave him a puzzled look and asked, “Why?”

He replied, “Because when your mother gets through ripping him a new one,   
he’s going to need a lot of gauze.” Lane started giggling uncontrollably.

We sat around for two hours before Karen finally emerged from the twin doors
that led back to the emergency rooms. She approached and announced sternly,
“He’ll be out in about ten minutes.”

Rodney asked, “Is he okay?”

Karen glared at him and said, “He broke three fingers and did considerable
damage to his wrist.”

She didn’t find it funny when Lane giggled and asked, “How’s his butt?” My
father grabbed Lane by the shoulder and led him away. I could tell they were
laughing as they walked to the other side of the room.

Curtis emerged minutes later. He held his head down and didn’t make eye
contact with anyone. He had a cast on his hand. It appeared to go halfway up
his arm, but it was hard to tell because he was wearing a coat. When Rodney
asked if he was all right, he nodded but didn’t say anything.

When we got outside, Curtis started to get in Rodney’s car, but Karen told him
to ride with her. Lane jumped into Randy’s SUV.

Rodney asked, “You riding with me?” I glanced over at Shade.

Shade looked at his watch and said, “I really should get back to school. Megan is
still rehearsing.”

I asked, “You want me to go with you?”

“No,” he replied. “You should probably be with your family now.” Rodney waited
while I walked Shade over to his car. I wanted to kiss him, but a family came out
of the entrance and got into a nearby car.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, then,” I said as I squeezed hand. He nodded, got in his
car and drove off.

I got into Rodney’s car, and he pulled off. As we drove home, he talked about
what happened. He said worriedly, “Coach Wentworth is going to shit bricks
when he finds out Curtis won’t be able to play baseball.”

I wanted to tell him that Curtis has more problems to worry about other than
baseball, but I simply agreed with him and stared out the window as we headed
home.

                          
                                             * * * * * * *

                     
 
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Birds Don't Sing
    Before a Storm
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