Mom came home later in the day. She talked to Grandmother for a little while, and then she locked herself in her bedroom the rest of the day. Thinking that Randy and I needed to get out of the house for a while, Grandmother took us out to lunch.
It would have been better if we had stayed at home. As soon as we walked into the restaurant, I saw a Cal, a friend from school, eating lunch with his mother. I nodded, but he turned his head away from me. When the waiter took our order, I noticed him staring at me.
Randy said he had to go to the bathroom, and Grandmother told me to go with him. When we got up, he continued to stare at me as I walked through the restaurant. When Randy and I were washing our hands, Cal opened the door and came walking in.
He brushed against my shoulder on the way to the urinal. After he pulled his dick out and started pissing, he looked over at me. “You wanna help me out over here, Artie? Are you a faggot like your father?”
I gave him an angry look, and then grabbed Randy’s hand and pulled him from the restroom. I was boiling mad by the time I sat down at my chair. Minutes later, Cal came walking out and sneered at me. Grandmother was carefully watching the exchange.
“Is everything all right, Dear?” she asked. I nodded, but I could still see the worried look on her face.
“What’s a fraggit?” Randy asked Grandmother, as he stuffed his mouth with a breadstick.
“What?” My grandmother asked with surprise. My face began to blush, knowing what he was asking.
He pointed over to the table where Cal was still staring at me. “That boy over there asked Randy if he was a fraggit like Daddy.” He looked over at me. “What’s a fraggit?”
“Oh, Dear.” That was the only thing she said. She called the waiter over and told him to cancel our order. After paying for our soft drinks, she grabbed Randy’s hand and walked angrily through the restaurant. I held my head down, afraid to look over at the table where I knew Cal was sitting.
We drove home without saying a word. Once there, she ordered two pizzas from a nearby pizza place. She sent Randy to his room until they arrived, and she told me to go wait in the den for her. Several minutes later, she walked in and sat down beside me.
“I don’t know how we are going to handle this.” She sighed and rested her head in her hands. “I don’t know how to protect you boys from all the phone calls, stares and offensive comments. Your mother isn’t any help. She’s got her own problems right now.”
“I’ll be all right.” I tried to sound confident, but I knew I wasn’t convincing her. “Randy is the one I’m worried about. He’s too young to understand what is going on.”
“I think I should go up and try to explain it to him,” she said. I looked over and saw tears in her eyes. “I don’t know what your father was thinking. Didn’t he realize the consequences it would have on his family?” For the first time I heard anger in her voice. I think she had been careful not to say anything for fear of prejudicing our feelings for our father. However, I realized she felt just like me.
“I’ll go talk to him,” I volunteered hesitantly. “It might be better if I try to explain it to him.”
“Are you sure?” She grabbed my hand and squeezed it. “I just don’t know much about these things. Thank you.” I kissed her cheek and then headed upstairs to see Randy.
He was playing a game on his Playstation when I went in. He looked up and smiled when he saw me. “Wanna play?”
“Sure.” I sat down beside him and grabbed a control. Within minutes, we were in a battle to see who could control the universe. After about a half hour, I stopped and put my control down. I walked over to his bed and sat down. I patted the bed for him to sit beside me.
“We need to talk, Randy,” I said. He looked questioningly at me. “Remember the guy who came in the restroom at the restaurant?”
“The one who asked if you were a friggat?” I reached out and ruffled his long black hair.
“He said faggot,” I laughed nervously.
“What’s a faggot?” he asked.
“I want you to listen carefully, okay?” He nodded his head and waited for me to say more.
“When you grow older, about my age, you’re going to start liking girls.” I laughed when he wrinkled his nose. “And girls will start liking you.” I laughed again when he made another weird face. “Then one day you’ll find a special girl and marry her. Then you’ll have children.”
“Like Mommy and Daddy?”
“Yes, like Mommy and Daddy.”
“Is that what a faggot is?”
“No, Randy.” I studied his face a few seconds before continuing. I wasn’t sure how to make him understand what I knew I had to tell him.
“Sometimes guys don’t like girls.”
“I don’t like girls.” Again, he wrinkled his nose.
“I’m talking about when you get big like me, not seven years old.” He nodded his head as if he understood.
“Sometimes boys like other boys.”
“I like boys,” he said proudly.
“Not that way.” He gave me a puzzled look. I let out a deep sigh. I needed another approach. “Let’s try this another way. Sometimes a man and a woman will do things together without their clothes on.”
He nodded his head and started smiling. “You mean like when a boy puts his thingy in a girl?”
I gave him a startled look. “How do you know that?”
“Billy told me about it.” Billy was Randy’s best friend. They were almost inseparable. Billy lived across the street, and either he was at our house or Randy was at his.
“What else did he tell you?” I wasn’t sure where this conversation was going.
“He showed me a magazine he found under his brother’s bed. It showed a man putting his thingy in a girl. It was nasty. Billy said they were having sacks.” Again, he wrinkled his nose.
My first feeling was intense anger that my little brother had been exposed to such pictures. However, at the same time, I was relieved. At least I didn’t have to explain how a man and a woman have sex. I was though, going to talk to Billy’s brother the first chance I got. I needed to tell him to hide his magazines better.
“I don’t want you and Billy looking at any more magazines like that,” I admonished him. He nodded his head in agreement.
“Anyways, sometimes a man doesn’t like to do things with a woman,” I explained. “Sometimes he likes to do things with another man.”
“You mean a queer?” he asked nonchalantly.
“Where did you hear that term?” I asked. I then put up my hand before he answered. “Let me guess, Billy again?” Randy nodded his head.
“What did he tell you?” I wanted to know how much Billy had said.
“He said that a boy will play with another boy’s thingy and it will get hard. Then they become a queer. Is that right?”
“No, Randy,” I explained. “You can’t become a queer because you play with another boy’s dick.” Randy started giggling.
“You said a dirty word.”
“It’s not a dirty word. It’s just another word for a thingy.”
“Can I say it then?”
“Yes, if you want.”
“Okay. Can I ask you something?”
“Me and Billy were in bed one night and we played with each other’s dicks and they got hard. Are we queers?”
I couldn’t help but laugh because of the worried look he had on his face. “No, Randy, you’re not a queer. It’s normal for boys to play with each other at your age.”
“Did you?” he asked innocently.
My face began to blush. Like Randy, I had played with a few boys when I was his age. It was normal for boys to compare their sizes, or become inquisitive when changing into our bathing suits at the pool.
“Yes, I did,” I finally admitted. He gave me a wide grin.
I sat up and got very serious. I wanted him to understand what I was about to say.
“Now listen carefully,” I said. “Sometimes boys will want to play with other boys, even after they get older. They have feelings for other boys like they would for a girl. The term for it is gay. Some people will call them queers and faggots, but those aren’t nice words to use. Do you understand?”
“I think so,” he replied. “But why did the boy in the restroom ask if you are a faggot like Daddy, if it’s not a nice word?”
I sighed deeply. I got up from the bed and walked over to the window. I was trying to decide if I should go on and explain what our father had done. I still wasn’t sure if Randy would be able to comprehend the seriousness of the situation.
I walked back over, sat on the bed, and looked into his expectant face. “Daddy did something he shouldn’t have done.”
“What did he do?”
“He played with another guy’s dick and got into trouble.” I watched as he comprehended what I had just told him.
“Why was that so bad?” he questioned. “You told me it wasn’t wrong when me and Billy did it.”
Again, I let out another sigh. “Daddy is married to Mommy. He’s only supposed to do things with Mommy. He made a promise to Mommy when they got married.”
“You mean put his thingy in her?” His words made me shudder. I didn’t want to picture Mom and Dad having sex.
“Yes,” I replied. “I guess you could say that.”
He looked at me with a puzzled look, and I could tell he was trying to put all the pieces together.
“Is Daddy a queer? Sorry, I mean...What was that word you used?”
“Is Daddy a gay then?”
“I really don’t know, Randy,” I admitted. “But that is the reason Mommy is so upset. Do you understand?”
“I think so,” he replied. “Do you think Daddy will come home soon?”
“I don’t know if Mommy wants him to come back home.” When I saw tears form in his eyes, I reached out and pulled him into an embrace while he cried into my shoulder.
After a few minutes, I gently pushed him back and looked into his wet eyes. “Promise me you won’t say anything to Mommy about what we just talked about?” I was worried if my mother found out I had talked about sex with Randy. I wasn’t quite sure how she would react. I decided that since Randy had a little understanding of what was going on, that maybe grandmother should talk to him also.
“I promise, Artie,” he swore. “I don’t want to make Mommy cry any more.”
“That’s my big guy.” I pulled him in and gave him another hug. I was about to get up when I remembered one other important thing.
“Something else, Randy,” I said. “You may hear some people say some very nasty things about Daddy. If you don’t understand what they are talking about, you come talk to me or Granny. All right?” He nodded. I grabbed the Playstation control and we began playing another game. I kept looking over at him and wondered just how much he did understand about our talk.
Later, I returned to my room to relax. My conversation with Randy had drained me. As I headed to my bed, I saw my cell phone laying on the floor where I had tossed it earlier. I picked it up and turned it on. There were now sixteen missed calls and one text message. Thinking it may be from Adam, I checked to see what he had to say.
It read, SORRY
It was from a private caller. I knew it wasn’t from Adam, because he never blocked his number when texting me. I just shrugged it off. I had enough problems without wasting energy thinking about an anonymous message.
I fell asleep, but was awakened a few hours later when Randy came into my room. “Granny said dinner is ready. She told me to tell you to get your ass out of bed.” I gave him an angry look. “Okay, she said butt, but I thought ass sounded better.”
“You know one day your dirty mouth is going to get you into trouble?” I warned.
He looked at me and gave me a devilish grin. “I’m only saying words that I’ve heard you say.” I bolted for him, but he ran quickly out of the room.
I was surprised when I went downstairs and mom was sitting at the dinner table. She looked extremely tired and sad. She didn’t even bother to look up when I walked in. My grandmother had prepared the dinner, and I could tell that my mother was an unwilling diner at the table.
After everything was put on the table, there was an awkward silence. Randy was sitting anxiously looking at our mother and me. Finally, Grandmother started piling food on our plates. My mother sat motionless, staring at the fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn.
“Eat, Boys,” my grandmother said sternly. “Sarah, why don’t you eat a little bit?”
My mother looked blankly at her, and then picked up a fork and started pushing food around on her plate. Not once did she attempt to eat anything.
Halfway through dinner I became aware that Mom was staring at me. Her eyes were boring into me with a look of anger. I became increasingly uncomfortable under her intense scrutiny. After several awkward moments, she spoke to me.
“Why is it that you don’t date?” I looked up and gave her a puzzled look. Where did that come from? Of all the things she could ask me, why something like that?
“Sarah, Please.” My grandmother appeared as surprised as I was.
“No, seriously, Rudy,” she continued. “Why have I never seen you go out on a date? You’re sixteen. You should be dating by now.”
I knew what she was implying. Since she was totally by surprised by my father’s hidden sexuality, she was beginning to wonder if I too was gay.
“Sarah, Stop it now!” My grandmother shouted. “Boys, take your plates and go to your room.” Randy grabbed his and darted quickly from the dining room. I angrily stared at my mother. She met my eyes with a defiance I had never seen before. At that moment, I knew that my mother suspected that I was like my father- and she resented me.
When I entered my room, Randy was sitting on the bed crying. He looked at me and sobbed, “I’m scared Artie. Mommy’s not Mommy anymore.” I walked over and sat on the bed, pulling him into me. He wasn’t the only one who was scared. I saw the hatred in her eyes, and I wasn’t sure what she was going to do. Not only had I lost my father, I felt I had also lost my mother’s love.
Grandmother came in and took Randy across the hall to his bedroom. She closed the door and was there for almost an hour. When she came out, her eyes were wet. She came in and sat down on the bed.
“Is he all right?” I asked.
“Not really, but we’ve really got to help him get through this,” she responded. “He doesn’t understand anything that’s going on.”
“Who does?” I laughed nervously. She reached out and touched my arm.
“Are you going to be all right, Rudy?” Both of us were holding back a flood of tears. “Do you need to talk to me about anything?” Now, I wasn’t sure if she was talking about the situation with Dad, or my mother’s insinuation that I was gay.
“I’ll be okay,” I replied. I tried to give her a reassuring smile, but I couldn’t make my mouth curl at the edges.
She reached out and held my hand. “If you ever need to talk, I’m just a phone call away.” She squeezed my hand, and then rose and walked from the room. After she left, I couldn’t hold back the tide of tears that I had been holding back. I curled into a ball, and I cried myself to sleep.
I awoke a little while later when Randy crept into my room and lay down beside me. He threw his arm around me and clutched me tightly. I rolled over, took him in my arms, and rocked him to sleep, humming a song our mother used to sing to us when we were little. Silently, I cursed my father for bringing all this suffering to Randy, my mom and me. For a cheap thrill in a dirty restroom, he had caused all of us immeasurable pain. The more I lay there thinking about it, the deeper my hatred for him grew.
When I awoke in the morning, I could hear Randy taking a shower in the bathroom we shared across the hall. I stepped in and relieved my bladder. Randy peeked out from behind the curtain just as I finished.
“Don’t flush...” Too late. I looked over and grinned. “Artie!” I laughed all the way downstairs with the image of his surprised face when he was suddenly blasted with scalding hot water.
My mother was sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee. I looked around for my grandmother, but it appeared she had gone home. She had on a light blue dress with a white scarf around her shoulder.
“Go get your brother, and get dressed for church.” She didn’t even look up as she spoke. I stood staring down at her. We hadn’t been to church in ages. I think the last time we had attended had been when we went to my Uncle Bert’s funeral when I was thirteen.
“Why are we going to church?” I asked.
“Did I ask you to question me?” She shot back angrily.
“No, Ma’am,” I replied timidly. I turned and went back upstairs to get Randy ready.
When we went back downstairs, I was holding Randy’s hand as we walked into the kitchen. Mom looked down at our entwined hands, and then looked up at me and glared.
I quickly released his hand.
She looked at her watch, and then left the kitchen. “You have fifteen minutes to get something to eat,” she announced on her way out. We fixed a bowl of cereal and ate it quickly.
When we entered the church, people were talking loudly. The service wouldn’t begin for several minutes; so many people were standing about and chatting casually. As we walked down the aisle to take a seat in the pew, everyone stopped talking and turned to watch us. Randy nervously reached out and took my hand. My mother noticed and lightly smacked our hands apart. I looked over and Randy looked like he was on the verge of crying. He was trying hard to hold back the tears.
Randy started to sit beside me, but Mom pulled him aside and positioned him on the other side of her. I could hear him sniffling softly. People were turning in their seats to look at us. I wanted to get up and run from the church; but I knew if I did, I would have to deal later with my mother. In her current mood, it was something I really wanted to avoid.
The preacher soon emerged and the choir started singing. I watched others, not sure when I should stand or sit. As we stood while the choir sang a song, my mother stood erect and proudly sang with them.
When they finished, the preacher stood at the podium and started shouting. I watched as people around us started shouting, ‘Hallelujah,’ and throwing their arms up and waving their hands in the air.
When he started talking about the evils of lust and adultery, my mother stood and started shouting, waving her hands in a frenzy. I slumped down in my seat, embarrassed by her actions. I looked over at Randy, and he seemed terrified by the scene around him. I wanted to grab his hand and run out of the madness we watching, but I knew we would never make it past the ushers lined up at the back of the church.
When I didn’t think it could get any worse, the choir began to sing, ‘Just As I Am,’ and the preacher was inviting sinners to come to the front and ask for God’s forgiveness. My mother grabbed my arm and started pulling me to the front. I tried to resist, but she had a tight grip on me. A man sitting in the pew behind us stepped up and assisted in leading me forward.
I looked at the wild scene going on around me. The preacher made his way down onto the floor, and proceeded to go up to those in the front and lay his hands on their foreheads. He would say a prayer, and then push them back, causing them to fall to the floor and flop around in a spasmodic action.
When he reached me, I pushed his hand away. However, my mother slapped my hand and told the preacher to, “Cast his father’s demons out of him.” He laid his hands on my forehead and said a prayer. When he finished, he pushed me hard on my forehead. I almost lost my balance, but I fought to stay standing. He looked at me angrily, before moving on to the person to my left.
I looked at my mother and she was giving me a snide look. A feeling of utter hatred surged through my body. In that moment, I knew I would never be able to feel the love for her I had before. Not only had I lost my father, I had lost my mother.
When we returned to our seat, Randy was openly crying. Even though my mother tried to push me away, I sat beside him and held him tightly. If she couldn’t be a mother and show concern for him, then I would.
The choir sang one more song, and the preacher told us to leave with God’s love. He looked down and frowned at me once more before walking away from the altar.
My mother told Randy and me to stay seated while she went to the back of the church and talked to several people. I watched as they gave her hugs and tried to console her. It appeared that she had become a celebrity by the admiring looks of the women who surrounded her. For someone who hadn’t been in a church in several years, she seemed to soak up the attention she was getting.
She appeared to spend a lot of time talking to a woman who had a young girl by her side. I recognized her from school. Her name was Linda Sullivan. She was in two of my classes, although I had never spoken much to her.
My mother would say something, and then Linda and her mother would look over at me. At one point, Linda scowled and started to move away. Her mother grabbed her by her arm and scolded her. After several minutes, my mother turned and walked my way. Linda and her mother followed her.
“Stand up, Rudy,” my mother ordered. I stood and she grabbed my arm and pushed me forward, until I was standing directly in front of Linda and her mother.
“This is Mrs. Sullivan and her daughter, Linda,” she stated firmly. “I think you know her from school.” I looked pleadingly at my mother, trying to figure out what she was trying to do.
“Her mother and I think it would be nice if you and Linda went out on a date next weekend.” I looked angrily at my mother and then looked over at Linda. She had the same angry look on her face.