It's Not Easy Being a Tree

Chapter 4

I sat beside Dad at the game, but I couldn’t concentrate on what was happening on the field. All I could think about was Jon’s driver’s license in my left front pocket. What if he needed it later? Sometimes he, Debbie and some of the guys on the team go to a club after the game. It’s an 18 or older club, so they do not serve alcohol. However, you still have to show your ID to get in. What if he opens his wallet and his ID isn’t there?

I looked down on the field when I heard loud shouting coming from around me. Jon had just made a twenty-three yard touchdown. His teammates were rushing him and lifting him into the air. I looked at the score. There were seven minutes left in the fourth quarter and our team was ahead by 13 points.

“Did you see that play, Woody?” my Dad shouted excitedly as he hit me on my back.

“Yeah,” I mumbled as he pounded me again.

Jon ran up to the sideline and posed for Dad like he usually does after the game. Larry Atkins, the quarterback was with him. Dad took a couple of pictures. He laughed when Jon made a ‘V’ sign over Larry’s head.

I fumbled with Jon’s ID in my pocket as I considered hollering out and telling him he had left his license on the dresser. But then I knew he wouldn’t believe that. How could he pick up his wallet and not notice his driver’s license beside it? Then he would probably question me as to why it was out of his wallet in the first place. So I remained quiet, hoping that he wouldn’t notice it missing. I would just get up in the middle of the night after he went to sleep and return it.

“That was a great game,” Dad exclaimed as we drove home. “Jon’s such a gifted athlete.” He looked at me and smiled, but it quickly disappeared. I knew what he was thinking- why couldn’t I have been one too.

A son will try to please his father. He does from the time he is a little boy. “Hey, Daddy! Look at me!” He hollers as he hangs upside down on the monkey bars. It makes him feel proud when his father smiles appreciatively as he does it again.

Or he will follow closely behind him as his dad putters around in the garage on a Saturday morning when he really isn’t doing much of anything. Maybe it’s a kitchen cabinet door that is loose on a hinge or a leaky bathroom fixture. Whatever it is, the son feels happy just to be with him as he asks for a screwdriver or a wrench.

Then the son grows up and he is not his little boy anymore. He is now trapped in that purgatory place called adolescence. Dad now looks at him as if he is seeing his son for the first time. He gets that look in his eye as he judges him. Did I produce someone like me?  Will that now developing young man someday give me grandchildren that I can play with on the monkey bars or will follow me diligently around the garage waiting for me to hand him a screwdriver or wrench?

Sometimes fathers come to the realization that the son they enjoyed as a little boy doesn’t meet his expectations as a young man. Fathers may say it doesn’t really matter, but deep down they feel an uncertainty. Maybe it is because he feels he has failed as a father- maybe he did something wrong.

Sometimes I can see it in Dad’s eyes when he looks at me. I am the one who he feels he failed, or perhaps I failed him. Probably the latter, because good fathers do not fail their children. However, I can see the pride and admiration he feels when he looks at my brother or talks about him. I also see it when he looks at Glenn.

And I suppose he is confused too. How could one son have turned out successful, but another a failure? I know he wonders where he went wrong. But he didn’t go wrong. I am just me- Woodward James Fields. I would have been me no matter what Dad did. I would have been me no matter what I did.

But I don’t feel I have done anything wrong or that I am a failure. Sure, I’m small and not very athletic, but should that be the only standards by which Dad judges me? Do I have to go through life always being compared to my older brother?

I don’t know. I don’t have an answer. I also don’t know why I am looking out the car window with tears in my eyes as Dad talks about how great a son Jon is.

It’s not easy being a tree.

After we got home, I went to my room. I quickly checked my email before going to bed. It wasn’t late, but I was tired. I just wanted to hide under the covers and remain there until morning.

I had an email from Jeff. He wanted to remind me to meet him at the mall at ten. I also had an email from Kate. It simply said, “Thanks.” I guess she felt like I did. It was good to have someone I know I can turn to if I really needed someone to listen.

I was awakened from my sleep when the door burst open and the overhead light came on. I blinked my eyes several times before I was aware of Dad standing in the room in just his boxers. He walked over to Jon’s dresser and picked up several things before slamming them back down.

“Where the hell is it?” he shouted as he opened dresser drawers and removed things from them. I jumped when he suddenly yelled, “Woody!”

I sprang up in bed and stared wide-eyed at him. “Have you seen your brother’s driver’s license?” He opened another dresser drawer and pushed things aside. I looked quickly at the door when my mother appeared tying her robe around her waist.

My heart started pounding and I quickly looked at my pants lying at my feet on the ground. I wanted to make sure the license hadn’t fallen out when I removed them earlier.

“What’s wrong?” My voice quivered, but then again I had been aroused from a sound sleep.

I turned my head towards my mother when I heard her say softly, “Jon’s been arrested.” I looked quickly at the alarm clock on my dresser. It was 1:37.

I could feel my heart pounding inside my chest. I knew why he had been arrested because of my father‘s actions, but I asked anyway so as not to appear guilty. “What happened?”

“He got picked up by that young cop, Murdock, because he said he was driving without a license.” I jumped when Dad slammed his hands down on the dresser. “Where is that fucking license!”

My mother rushed over, grabbed his arm and said calmly, “Now settle down, Dear. It must be here somewhere.” She pushed my father out of the way, as she began to search in the same places he had looked previously.

“He’s going to have to go to court if he doesn’t produce his license,” my father remarked. He suddenly turned to me. “You haven’t seen it, have you, Woody?”

“No, Dad,” I managed to stammer out. I looked away so he wouldn’t see the guilty look in my eyes. He stormed out of the room with my mother close behind.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” I said silently to myself. I was afraid something like this would happen. Jason Murdock was a young cop who had it in for my brother since our team creamed his little brother’s team last year in the city tournament. Jon had often come home complaining because he had been stopped for something insignificant, like forgetting to signal when he wanted to turn. Murdock never gave him a ticket, but he did try to make Jon’s life miserable.

Tonight, though, he finally was able to nail my brother. When Jon couldn’t produce his license, he must have been arrested and taken downtown. I looked over at the clock. It was now 1:48. Jon must have been taking Debbie home after a party. I only hoped he hadn’t been drinking, too.

I got up when I heard the car doors slam. I peeked out the window as my parents drove away. I quickly picked up my pants and took Jon’s license out. I frantically looked around the room for a safe place to hide it. Telling him I had found it was now not an option after I’d told Dad I had not seen it.

I considered cutting it up and putting it in the trash compactor; however, as bad as it seemed, I still needed it. Jon was going to have to get a new license whether or not I destroyed the one I was holding in my hand. If I threw it away, then I wouldn’t be able to register on the chat site. That meant I would never be able to see Indyboi91 again. The damage was already done. I decided I would keep it at least until I registered. Then I would could take it to school and throw it in a trash bin in the hallway. No one would ever know.

I ended up putting it inside my sneakers. Who would think to look there? I knew Jon wouldn’t because he was always complaining that my shoes made the room stink. Oh, right. My shoes smell, but he can leave his dirty jock straps lying around. I guess he thinks they smell like cologne or something.

I had managed to fall asleep again until I later heard a commotion outside my door. It was my dad. “Dammit, Jon. All I’m saying is be more responsible.”

“I am responsible!” Jon hollered back. “I told you I don’t know what happened to my license.” They argued a minute more before Jon came storming into the room, slamming the door. I looked over at the clock. It was now 3:21.

“I know you’re not asleep,” Jon said angrily as he pulled his jersey over his head and threw it at me.

I sat up, running my hand over my head. “What happened?”

“I gotta go to fucking court next week,” he replied angrily. He repeated Dad’s actions in looking for his license. After a minute, he turned to me. “I’ll tell you what,” he said. “I’ll give you ten bucks if you can find my driver’s license before Monday.”

I inadvertently looked down at my sneaker on the floor in front of my bed. I then looked up at Jon. “Dad’s already tore the room up looking for it. If he can’t find it, then I don’t think I’ll be able to.”

Jon toed off his shoes, sat on the bed and pulled off his pants. “Well, if you do find it, ten bucks.” He then lay back on his bed, pulled the covers over him and was soon asleep. I looked at my shoe and wondered if it would be worth the ten bucks. However, it was Jon who made the offer, not Dad. Jon still owes me five dollars for the time I took the blame when he broke the back door screen throwing a baseball at one of his friends. He told me he would pay me if I told Dad it was me. I got grounded for a week, and Jon made every excuse not to pay me. So no. I don’t think I’ll ‘find’ his license.

Jon was gone when I woke up. Usually on Saturday mornings, he doesn’t even know the world exists until after noon. I looked at the clock. It was 9:35.

“Shit!” I shouted as I jumped out of bed. I was supposed to meet Jeff at the mall at ten. I dialed his cell phone, but he didn’t answer. I left a message on his voice mail telling him I would be about fifteen minutes late. I didn’t even bother to shower. I pulled on my shorts that I had worn the day before and then found a tee shirt on my closet floor that didn’t appear to be too dirty. After a quick smell of the arm pits, I put it on.

Dad, Mom and Jon were at the kitchen table when I entered. Mom was giving Jon a lecture on being more responsible. He looked up at me and rolled his eyes.

“But Mom,” he whined. “My license was in my wallet. Honest. I never take it out.”

“Well,” she huffed. “It didn’t just get up and walk away.”

Jon pushed himself away from the table. “I’m tired of talking about my damn driver’s license. I swear I didn’t lose it.” I thought Mom would say something to him about cussing in front of her, but she didn’t. I guess she thought he was already too upset.

“I’ll run you down to the DMV after school on Monday,” volunteered Dad.

“So that means I can’t drive my car this weekend?” Jon shouted.

Dad frowned and shook his head. “Not unless you want to end up back in jail. Murdock would love to arrest you again.”

Jon looked up at the clock. “Can’t we go this morning? The DMV is open on Saturdays, right?”

Dad looked at Mom, then back at Jon. “Ordinarily, yes.” He said. “But your mother called to see how late they are open, but they said that all the computers were down, so they wouldn’t be able to process anything until Monday.”

“Shit!” Jon shouted angrily.

“That’s enough, Young Man!” My mother’s face was beginning to redden with anger. “I let it go once, but not twice.”

Jon hung his head and mumbled a weak, “Sorry.” He slumped into his chair. “I’ve got a date with Debbie tonight and I can’t drive my car.”

A smirk appeared on Dad’s face. “I’ll be glad to take you.”

Jon rolled his eyes. “Yeah, Dad, just what I want. You taking me on a date like I’m fifteen again.”

Dad tried to stifle a laugh. “Well, I didn’t think you’d mind. Besides, what can you do at nineteen you didn’t do at fifteen?”

Jon raised an eyebrow. “You really want to know.” Mom slapped him on his arm.

“That’s enough, Boys.” She gave my father an angry look. “And I mean boys.” She looked over at me.

“Would you like some breakfast, Woody?”

“No, Ma’am,” I replied politely. “I’m meeting my friend, Jeff, at the mall.”

Dad looked at Jon and grinned. “Would you like your brother to take you?”

Jon pushed himself from the table as he looked angrily at Dad. “Smart ass,” he mumbled as he headed downstairs to work out. Dad leaned back in his chair and roared with laughter.

I glanced quickly at the clock. “I have to go,” I informed my parents. “I’m already late. I’m riding my bike.”

I was closing the door when Mom shouted out, “Be home in time for dinner.”

Before getting on my bike, I reached into my pocket to make sure I had Jon’s driver’s license. I didn’t take it out because I was worried Mom might be watching me through the window.

It took me fifteen minutes to get to the mall. Jeff was waiting at the bike racks located on the side. He grinned when I got off my bike and approached him. “It’s about time,” he laughed. He quickly looked down at my crotch. “What were you doing, playing with it?”

I giggled and pretended to jack off. “I was waiting for you.” He looked down at my crotch as his face reddened.

“You’re a perv,” he laughed as he turned and started walking toward the mall. I trailed behind staring at his ass inside his tight, boarder shorts.

Jeff is the kind of guy who is a lot of fun to just hang around. He doesn’t get out often, so when he does, he makes the most of it. I almost split my sides laughing when we entered a Victoria Secret and he held up a pink bra to his chest and asked me, “Is it my color?” The clerk followed closely behind us and clicked her tongue like my mother does when we exited the store.

We passed Radio Shack and I looked in the window to see if they had any webcams on sale, but I didn’t see any. Jeff asked if I wanted to go in, but I told him I didn’t. I knew I would be returning after he left. We passed several more shops until we came to a designer eyeglass store. It must have been new because I couldn’t remember seeing it before.

“Come on,” I said as I reached down and grabbed Jeff’s hand. I pulled away when he looked down and gave me a weird look.

“Why are we coming in here?” He asked as he trailed behind me as I looked at the display cases. “You don’t wear glasses.”

I looked at his face adorned with the black framed glasses he wears. “No, but you do,” I remarked as I picked up a pair I thought he would look good wearing. “Here, try these on.”

He walked over and looked at himself in the mirror. “I like these,” he said as he pushed his glasses back. “They make me look…”

“Like a dufus,” I giggled before he finished his comment. I thrust the glasses I was holding in his hand. “Please?” I pleaded. “Just put them on.” He started laughing when I began to pout. “Just for me?”

“Okay,” he giggled as he removed his glasses and tried on the designer ones I had given him. They weren’t fancy, just a pair of glasses with a thin, designed frame at the top. He put them on and turned toward me with a frown. “What do you think?”

My mouth dropped. He looked like a different guy without his black framed glasses. “You look really cute,” I said before I realized what I had said. My face began to redden.

“Uh, Woody,” he replied as he turned back and adjusted the glasses on his face. “I don’t think a guy should call another guy ‘cute.’” He giggled when he saw the embarrassed look on my face. He turned and asked, “So they really look good on me?”

I could hardly look him in his face. I glanced up quickly and replied, “Yeah.”

“Cool,” he said. He then walked over to a middle-aged woman behind the counter and began to talk to her. I strolled around the store, still embarrassed that I had called Jeff cute. Occasionally, I would glance over at him as he continued to talk to the clerk. After several minutes, he walked over to me.

“I’m going to ask my mother if I can get an advance on my allowance,” he said as he handed me back the designer glasses. “These are kind of expensive, but if you think I look cute in them, then I guess they are worth the money.” He stressed the word, cute.

My face reddened once again as I gently pushed him and said, “Shut up, Fucker.” He giggled as he followed me out of the store.

We next went to the food court to get something to eat. Since I had skipped breakfast, I was starving. Jeff headed to Taco Bell while I went to Asian Paradise to get some chicken fried rice. Jeff wrinkled his nose when I sat down. He was taking a bite of a bean burrito.

“What?” I asked when I noticed the look on his face.

“You’re going to eat that?”

“Yeah,” I replied, “Why?”

He started giggling. “Looks like a bowl of maggots with dog meat.”

“You look like you’re biting on a big turd,” I laughed as he started choking on a bite of his burrito.

“Stop!” He hollered as we continued to laugh. The rest of the meal was the same silly bantering. By the time we had finished eating, we were both ready to puke the food we’d just eaten.

When Jeff looked across the food court, I had an opportunity to just stare at him for a brief moment. He had changed a lot the past year. Maybe his hormones had kicked in, but he was developing into a good-looking guy.

It is funny it had happened when I didn’t even notice. Last year when I thought he liked me, I just shrugged it off as a stage he was going through. Now that I had admitted to myself that I was gay, I kind of regretted that I had dismissed his actions so quickly. Then I didn’t find him attractive. However, today, looking across the table at him, sat a handsome boy growing rapidly into a man.

Something came over me and I began to get depressed. Jeff was changing, and I wasn’t. I was still the same runty kid I had been last year and the years before that. I hadn’t realized it before, but he was now probably several inches taller than I was this year. I hadn’t grown and inch. I know, I measured myself just the other day. Maybe a quarter inch, but no more.

Suddenly, Jeff looked over at me and smiled. For some reason I had to look away before tears formed in my eyes. My head jerked back when I felt something hit the side of my face. I looked back at Jeff and he was grinning, prepared to hit me with another piece of his burrito.

“What?” I asked as I attempted to smile.

“Man, Woody,” his smile faded to a concerned look. “You looked like you were a thousand miles away. You okay?”

“Yeah, sure,” I replied as I picked up my trash, got up and headed for the trash bin. “Why wouldn’t I be?” He hurried to catch up with me. As we walked side by side out of the food court, I became aware of our height difference. He was growing into a mighty oak. I was still a sapling.

We continued to walk around the mall, visiting several clothing shops. Jeff tried to get me to join in his playfulness, but I was no longer in the mood. After about an hour, he called his mother to come get him. I walked him to the front entrance to wait with him until she arrived.

We were standing quietly looking out over the parking lot when he looked down at me. “Is everything all right, Woody?”

I bit my lip and responded, “Yeah, sure, I’m all right. Why do you keep asking me that?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I just care, okay.” I shrugged my shoulders as I continued to look for his mother’s car.

“Listen, Woody,” he said as he looked around to make sure no one was coming. “If anything ever is wrong, and you want to talk about it.” I looked up at him and forced a smile.

“Thanks, Jeff,” I responded, “but everything is okay. There’s nothing wrong with me.” He started to say something else, but just then his mother turned into the parking lot.  He walked over to the curb and waved at her. She pulled up and he got in the car. As they pulled away, he smiled, held his hand out the window and gave me the one finger salute.

I hurried back into the mall and headed toward Radio Shack. Once inside, I strolled around acting as if I was just browsing. I didn’t want to appear too eager to buy a webcam. There were three guys working in the store and they appeared to be college students. I’m quite sure they would know why I wanted a webcam. I even scanned their bodies wondering if any of them could be my Indyboi91.

“Are you looking for anything in particular?” I heard a voice behind me ask. I turned and it was the cutest of the three guys. He was just a little taller than I was with short blond hair and blue eyes. I quickly looked down at his shirt that contained his name. Travis.

“Uh, uh, yeah, Travis,” I stammered out. I had to think quickly. I hadn’t come up with a reason for buying a webcam. I had no idea what they were used for other than looking at naked guys in a chat room.

“Um,” I looked into his blue eyes as he waited for me to say something. “I’m looking for a webcam.”

He raised an eyebrow. “A webcam?” I could feel my face start to redden.

“Um, yeah,” I replied nervously. “My big brother is in college and he has one. He wants me to get one so we can see each other when we chat.”

Travis started laughing. “Your brother must be better looking than mine. The last thing I’d want to do is look at his ugly mug on a cam.”

“He’s not ugly.” I had no idea how to respond. “It’s just that he’s hundreds of miles from home and he says he misses me, so he wants to see me.” Travis smiled and walked behind a counter. He pointed down at several webcams on the top shelf.

“You have any idea what you’re looking for?” I shook my head. He then began to describe the cams and their different functions. I was interested in only one thing- price. The cheapest was listed at $29.95. I figured it really didn’t matter what the quality of the picture was as long as I could get into the site and show them Jon’s ID.

“I’ll take that one.” I pointed to the cheapest cam. He pulled a box from under a lower shelf and laid it on the counter. After entering it into the register, he asked me, “Cash or credit card?”

“Cash,” I informed him as I dug into my pocket for the money.

“$33.67,” he said. I handed him two twenties. After giving me my change, he bagged the webcam and handed it to me.

I almost skipped through the mall to my bike. My heart was pounding inside my chest. In just a few hours, I would be looking at a naked Indyboi91.