Chapter 12
Megan pulled on my arm and said, “I’ll give you a tour of the theater.” Shade
walked beside me as she led me up onto the stage.

I looked at the students around the room. “Isn’t there a classroom where we have
to do work?” Megan and Shade started to laugh.

“The performing arts isn’t a class,” she stated, and then added, “It’s a whole
different world.”

I gave her a puzzled look, “Then how do we get a grade?”

“We don’t,” she said.

My eyes widened as I asked, “What?”

She smiled and gripped my arm tighter. “Don’t worry. We get credit for the class.
We just don’t receive a grade.”

“I don’t get it,” I replied.

She led me behind the stage. The area looked like a large warehouse. There were
numerous shelves filled with boxes, and large props hung from the wall. Several
students were removing boxes off the shelves.

“Everyone has a different job,” she said. “You can’t grade a set designer the same
way you would a sound engineer or a performer. Every aspect is individual and
important to the final production.”

“Final production?” I asked.

She began to giggle. “It is a theater department. Do you think we just sit around
doing nothing?”

“Well, no,” I replied.

“We perform two productions each year,” she informed me. “You missed the fall
production. We did Guys and Dolls.” I nodded my head and looked over at Shade.
He was listening attentively to Megan. “We’re casting now for our spring show.
   
We’re performing The Sound of Music.”

“The Sound of Music?”

“Yes,” she said proudly. “I’m directing the production.”

Shade quickly added, “No one can direct like Megan. You’ll see,” he said with a
smile. “She’s awesome.”

I looked at him and asked, “What do you do?”

Megan released my arm and grabbed Shade’s. “He won’t admit it, but he’s one of
the best stage managers around. When he gets through working his magic, we can
rival any college performance.” I laughed when his face reddened.

I said, “I thought he would act since he looks like...”

“Stop!” Shade hollered as he cupped his hands over his ears. Megan gripped his
arm and roared with laughter.

“He hates it when people say he looks like Harry Potter,” she said.

Before I realized what I was saying, “I think he’s cuter than Harry Potter,” slipped
out of my mouth.

Megan quickly glanced at Shade. “See,” she said. “I told you.”

I asked, “Told him what?”

“Nothing,” she replied as she wrapped her arm around mine, and the three of us
continued to walk around backstage.

She and Shade gave me a tour of the theater. I hated to admit it, but I was
becoming interested in the program. Since it was obvious that I couldn’t sing, then
I felt I didn’t have to worry about performing in front of an audience. In fact, it
looked like more work went on backstage than onstage. I’m sure there is
something I will be capable of doing. If nothing else, I can usher people to their
seats before a performance. Maybe that can earn me the class credit.

As we left backstage and walked onto the stage, Max approached us. “Well,
Casey,” he said with a smile as he put his hand on my back and patted it. “What do
you think?”

“I’m impressed, Sir,” I replied.

He laughed and insisted, “Please call me Max like everyone else does.” He looked
at Shade and smiled. “I’m going to assign you to work with Shade. You can be his
assistant stage manager. The Sound of Music is going to be one of the biggest
productions we’ve ever attempted, and he’s going to need a lot of help.”

I looked at him nervously. “I don’t know anything about stage managing.”

He winked at Shade and responded, “He’s the best. I’m quite sure he’ll be willing to
teach you.” He walked over and put his arm around Megan. “Megan will be
directing the show, so she will keep everyone quite busy.”

Max looked at his watch. “Well, class is almost over.” He reached out and shook
my hand. “Welcome aboard, Casey. I’m glad to have you as a member of our
motley crew. You’ll be a fine addition.”

He turned and walked away. I looked at Shade and Megan. Both were grinning at
me.

                                                  * * * * * *

When the bell rang, I had to hurry across the campus to meet Lane. He was
waiting with Donnie outside the entrance. “It’s about time,” he pouted. “Me and
Donnie have been out here waiting for you.” I explained to him about changing my
last period, and that he might have to wait longer each afternoon.

He asked, “Why did you change your class? Didn’t you like it?” I explained it was a
gym class, and I had already had it in my freshman year. I know he  didn’t quite
understand, but he didn’t question me anymore about it.

I looked down and noticed Donnie peering up at me. “Hi, Donnie.” His face
reddened as he waved timidly at me.

Lane said excitedly, “Donnie wants to walk home with us. We’re going to play some
games.”

I asked, “Is it okay with your mother?”

“Yeah, sure,” replied Lane as he started skipping away. Donnie raced to keep up
with him. “He comes over after school lots of times.”  

Walking home with two guys with a lot of energy was an experience. I was used to
Lane skipping home, but Donnie added to the energy level. They picked up stones
and tossed them. Then they had to run through people’s yards playing a game of
tag. I laughed when they walked down the sidewalk avoiding cracks. After about
the hundredth, ‘Step on a crack, you break your mother’s back,’ I was ready to pull
my hair out.

When we arrived home, I told Lane to take Donnie to his room and I would bring
them milk and cookies. I found some chocolate syrup in the refrigerator, so I made
them chocolate milk. When I couldn’t find any cookies, I made them a peanut
butter and jelly sandwich instead.

As I approached Lane’s room, I could hear them giggling inside. Lane said
excitedly, “You sure you can do it?”

Donnie said softly, “I told you I can.”

When I entered the room, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Both boys were sitting on
the bed with their pants down, and Donnie was furiously jerking himself off. Lane
looked up and grinned when he saw me standing in the doorway watching.

“Donnie says he can make the white stuff come out,” he explained excitedly. “I bet
him he can’t, so he’s showing me he can.” He frowned and said, "I'm not able to do
it yet.”

Just then, Donnie leaned back and let out a gasp as a small amount of cum oozed
from his small, erect penis.

Lane leaned down and examined it closely. “Cool!” he shouted. “You did it!” Donnie
pulled his underwear up and wiped himself with them before he pulled his shorts
back up.

Lane said excitedly, “I’m going to try it now.” He started stroking his erection as
Donnie watched.

I shouted, “No!” Both boys jumped when I yelled down at them. “Pull your pants
up, Lane! You can’t be doing that in front of someone!”

Lane asked, “Why? You’ve both seen my willy before.”

I couldn’t think of anything reasonable to tell him. To him, it was as natural as
eating ice cream. “What if your mom came home and saw you?”

He giggled and said, “Mom has seen my willy.”

I then tried another tactic. I held the tray with the milk and sandwiches behind my
back. “I’m not going to give you your snack until you do.” I laughed when he
jumped from the bed and quickly pulled his underwear and shorts up. I took the
tray and placed it between them on the bed.

“No more showing each other your willies,” I admonished them. “Okay?”

They responded in unison, “Okay.”

As I was walking out the door, I heard Lane whisper to Donnie, “I’ll do it after we
eat.” I shook my head and headed down to my room.

By the time I went back upstairs to see what Lane and Donnie wanted for dinner,
Donnie’s mother had already picked him up. Lane excitedly asked me if we could
fix something like the last time. He skipped beside me into the kitchen to see what
was in the pantry.

I pulled out a box of spaghetti and some sauce. “How does spaghetti sound?”

“Ummm,” he replied. “I like spaghetti.” I had him fill a large pot with water as I set
the temperature on the oven. After the water began to boil, I watched as Lane
carefully poured the noodles into the pot.

“Now,” I suggested, “Let’s make a salad.” I gave Lane the small tasks while I cut
the lettuce and other vegetables. When I was through, I had him toss it. Some of it
flew out onto the counter, and we laughed as he gathered the lettuce, tomatoes
and onions in his hands and dropped them back into the bowl.

When we were done, we went down to the family room to watch television. I
groaned when he grabbed the control and turned the television to Sponge Bob
Square Pants.

As we watched the show, I kept looking over at him. I was still concerned about
what he and Donnie had done earlier in the bedroom. They didn’t see anything
wrong with openly having sex in front of someone else. If they had done it in front
of Curtis, he might have reacted with hostility.

“Lane?”

“Yeah?”

“We gotta talk.” I put my arm around him and pulled him closer to me. He rested
his head on my shoulder.

“You have to be really careful what you and Donnie are doing,” I said.

He answered innocently, “Like what?”

I took a deep breath and sighed. “You have to be careful when you and Donnie play
your willy games.”

He looked up and giggled, “Willy games?”

I frowned and stated firmly, “Yes, your willy games. Some people might not
understand what you’re doing.”

He looked puzzled and replied, “Why? Because they may think we’re queers?”

The word sent shudders down my spine because I recalled the tone my mother
used when she said it, but I ignored it. “I don’t think you and Donnie are gay,” I
replied. “I just think you are having fun.” He grinned and nodded. “But some
people might not like it if they saw you doing it.”

“Like Mommy?”

I nodded and replied, “Yes, like your mother. She might get mad if she saw you
and Donnie doing what you did earlier.”

“Why?”

I sighed again. I felt I was getting nowhere. “Well,” I said. “When you were a little
boy, it was okay for people to see you naked.” He grinned and nodded. “But as you
get bigger, you should be more careful.”  He grinned when I then said, “You’re
becoming a man now, and you’re no longer a little boy. There are just things that a
man should do in private where no one can watch him do it.”

“Like playing with my willy?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Like playing with your willy. That is something you should do
when no one is around.”

He then asked, “Do you play with your willy when no one is around.”

My face reddened with embarrassment, but I knew I should answer him honestly.
“Yes, Lane. When no one is around, I play with my willy.”

“Really? Can you make the white stuff come out like Donnie?”

“Yes,” I admitted. “I can make the white stuff come out.”

“I can’t yet,” he replied sadly. “It feel like it wants to, but nothing comes out.”

“It will,” I assured him. “Some willies just take a little longer.”

He asked hopefully, “You sure?”

“Yes,” I replied as I pulled him into my side. He rested his head on my shoulder
and began watching the show on television. “I’m sure.”

Lane and I had prepared the table for six, as usual.  Karen immediately came into
the kitchen when she arrived home. “Mmmmm,” she said as she sniffed the air.
“Something smells really good.”

Lane answered excitedly, “We made spaghetti!” He walked over, hugged his
mother and added, “And salad, too.”

She kissed him on his forehead, and then she smiled warmly at me. “You’re
becoming quite the little cook, aren’t you?”

Lane grinned widely and replied, “Yes, Mommy.” He approached and hugged me.
“Casey is teaching me.”

“Well,” she said. “Let me change into something more comfortable, and I’ll show
you how to make garlic bread.” Lane skipped across the room and took the garlic
from the pantry as Karen left the kitchen.

My father arrived home earlier than usual. He, too, came directly into the kitchen
to see what Lane and I had prepared. I was still angry with him, so I didn’t bother
to look at him as he spoke. Like Karen, he kidded Lane about becoming a chef.
Lane was basking in the praise. It was obvious it was something he wasn’t use to
receiving.

When we sat down to eat, it surprised me when Rodney came into the dining room
and sat down. Karen laughed and said, “To what do we owe this occasion?”

Rodney lifted the bowl of spaghetti and placed a large portion on his plate. “This
looks great!” he exclaimed as he shoved a forkful into his mouth. Curtis came to
the door and looked in. Karen invited him to sit, but he looked over at me and
scowled. He told her he had a report in history that was due. Karen said she would
bring him a plate after we finished eating.

My father looked at me and asked, “How do you like your new classes?” Rodney
quickly glanced at me. He probably wondered why I hadn’t showed up in our
English and gym classes.

“All right, I guess,” I replied as I reached for another bread stick. My father looked
at me as if he was waiting for me to say more, but I didn’t. Why would he care
anyway? He was more interested in talking to Rodney and Curtis about basketball.

And he didn’t disappoint me. After I remained silent, he and Rodney began talking
about the upcoming game on Friday.

After dinner, Lane and I cleaned up. Karen volunteered to help, but I told her that
we could handle it. After several meals, Lane and I had a system down. He would
rinse the dishes while I put them into the dishwasher. He always insisted on turning
on the machine. He said he liked to hear it when it started loading water. We would
then clean the table and countertops.

When we finished, Lane rushed off to his room. He said he wanted to play a video
game. I went to my room, removed my clothes and went into the bathroom to
take a shower. I had discovered that if I did it too late at night, there was often not
enough hot water left because Curtis and Rodney usually showered after coming
home from practice.

When I returned to my room, my father was sitting on my bed. He was thumbing
through my history book.

“Oh, God,” he moaned. “This brings back bad memories. I hated history when I
was in school.” I walked past him in the cramped room to my dresser. I pulled out
a tee shirt and shorts and put them on.

“What do you want?” I asked coldly. “You didn’t come here to talk about history.”

He responded with a sad tone in his voice. “In a way, I did, Casey.”

I looked down and asked, “What do you mean?”

He stood and walked over to the exercise equipment. He picked up a couple of
weights that were scattered on the floor and stacked them neatly against the wall.

He then turned and asked, “Can we talk without you storming out of the room?”

I replied angrily, “That all depends on what you want to talk about?”

He sat on the weight bench and looked at me. “I want to talk about history,” he
replied as he pointed to the book on my bed, “but not the kind in that book.”

“I’m not following you,” I said.

He laughed nervously. “Of course not. I guess I’m not making much sense.” He
took a deep sigh and said, “I want to explain why I left you. You deserve that
much.”

I hung my head. I had to make a quick decision. I could stay and listen to his story,
or I could stand and walk out. My first instinct was to leave. However, I had been
wondering for years why my father would just abandon me one day without a
reason. My mother never explained it to me. When she talked about my father, her
statements usually began with the words, ‘that no-good son of a bitch.’

So I sat quietly as he stood and paced around the small room. Finally, he stopped
and stood before me.   “I want you to know, I didn’t leave because of you.” I didn’t
look up, but I could tell that he was becoming emotional. His voice quivered as he
talked. “You were the only good thing that came out of our marriage.”

I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay and listen. My chest felt like it was tying into a knot.
I wanted to walk out, but my legs wouldn’t let me stand.

“People make mistakes in life,” he continued. He then started laughing nervously.
“Boy, did I make as mistake when I married your mother.” Ironically, I could
understand what he meant. I had felt the same way for years about her being my
mother.

“She wasn’t the easiest person to live with,” he said. “She made my life a living hell
for twelve years.” He walked over, sat back down on the bench, and buried his
head in his hands. “And God knows I tried every single day to make her happy.”

“Nothing I did was ever right,” he explained. “She would bitch about the littlest
things.” He laughed and said, “We even argued about whether the toilet paper roll
goes over or under.” I couldn’t help it, but a smile appeared on my lips. She and I
used to have the same argument.

“I didn’t want to leave, Casey,” he muttered softly, “but I had to. She was driving
me insane. If I had stayed, I probably would have killed her someday.”

I wanted to say that I understand that emotion. There were many times I felt the
same way. Looking back, she had treated my father the same way she had been
treating me the past four years.

“You have to believe me when I say I asked her several times if you could come
here and live with me,” he insisted. “I wasn’t with Karen and the kids then. It
would have just been you and me.”

I looked over at him and asked, “Why didn’t you?”

He shook his head sadly. “One time when we were arguing, I threatened to kill her.
I didn’t mean it. I just yelled it out in anger.”

I laughed and said, “She has a way of pushing all the wrong buttons, doesn’t she?”

“Yeah,” he smiled. “She does.” He paused a minute before continuing. “Anyway,
when I left, she went to court and got a restraining order against me. She said she
was afraid I would come back and hurt her. She even told them that I was a threat
to your safety, too.”

“Bitch,” I muttered.

“When she called a couple of weeks ago and told me she wanted you to come
   
stay with me, I was ecstatic.” I rolled my eyes, but since my head was down, he
couldn’t see me.

“I mean it, Casey.”

I muttered, “You could have fooled me.”

He replied sadly, “You haven’t exactly given me a chance to show you.” He then
chuckled slightly. “For while, I was worried she had turned you into a mini-me.”
Then his voice became sullen again. “But I’ve watched you with Lane. Behind the
cold façade, I see the gentle Casey I left behind five years ago.”

I was beginning to feel guilty. I really hadn’t given him a chance. Since arriving, I
had carried a big chip on my shoulder. Lane was the only one I had trusted and let
into my world.

I waited a few seconds before looking over at him. “So, how much do you know?”

He laughed nervously. “Probably more than you want me to know. You know how
vicious your mother can be when she gets upset.” He walked over and stood before
me.

“What’s past is past,” he said. “You and I have made a lot of mistakes. Your mother
tried to poison both of our minds.” He paused a minute and then stated, “I’m
willing to make a new start.”

He didn’t wait for me to reply. He turned and left the room.
                                            
                                                 
                                                     * * * * * * *

                                        
  Chapter 13      Return to TMJ
Birds Don't Sing
   Before a Storm