Chapter 15
Brittle as a Bird
“Get your ass out of bed.” Ticker pulled back the covers I had tucked tightly
around my body. My leg got tangled and I fell to the floor. He stood back and

“You think that’s funny?” I reached out and grabbed his leg, pulling him to the
ground. I wasn’t prepared for the consequences. When he hit, the floor shook and
things started falling from his dresser. A picture on the wall crashed to the ground.

I stood up and looked down at him. I grabbed my sides and started laughing
uproariously. He looked like a beached whale looking up at me. He extended his
hand and I attempted to pull him up.

“Damn, Ticker,” I groaned. “You’ve got to loose some weight.”

He finally stood and bent over, trying to catch his breath. “I’m going to join a gym
and start working out,” he gasped. “Star is going to join me.”

I smiled and said, “You and her are really getting serious aren’t you?”

“I’m joining a gym, aren’t I?” I’d known Ticker for years and he’d never made an
attempt at getting in shape. Only one thing could bring about this change.

“Don’t tell me you’re in love?” I laughed when his face reddened. “Damn, Ticker.
You are.”

A serious look came over him. “Can you believe it, Joey? She likes my fat ass.”

“Has she seen it yet?” I walked around and looked down. “It is kind of, um, large.”
He put my head around his arm and gave me a noogie.

“Stop that!” I screamed. “I’m going to tell your girlfriend you’re a sadist.”

I pulled away, and then reached in and gave him a hug. “I’m really happy for you.
Star’s a lucky girl.” He squeezed me tightly, almost smothering me.

He stepped back and looked at me. “How about you and Allen?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “We’re talking right now.”

“I hope it works out for you two.”

“So do I.”


I skipped lunch to go to the library. Since Allen had brought up the subject of sex,
I wanted to find out all I could about HIV. I wanted to know if we could have a
sexually satisfying relationship. Not that it would ever happen.

All the articles I googled had the same warning- safe sex. It didn’t matter if the
other person was infected or not. It made me stop and think that when you have
sex with a person, you sleep with every one that person has ever had sex with. I
thought of all the countless men    I’d sucked over the years.

Avoid bodily fluids. My heart raced when I read that HIV could be transmitted
orally. I’d always thought that if I didn’t let a guy fuck me I’d be safe. The more I
read, the more depressed I became. I’d had sex with numerous men; most I didn’t
even know their names. Then there was the orgy I had engaged in that afternoon I
ran from school. I had unprotected sex the entire time. Again, I assumed since I
hadn’t let any of them fuck me, then I was all right. I now knew that wasn’t the

I wanted to cry when I read that the symptoms of HIV might not appear for years.
I always thought that when you get infected, you’d be sick right away. It appeared
I was wrong again. There were cases where many people had been infected a
decade ago and still never showed any signs of illness.

I was in a panic when I finished reading. I had originally started reading to protect
myself from Allen. Now I was worried I’d have to protect him from me. One thing
was for sure- I had to get tested. I wasn’t going to get any sleep until I did.

“What’s wrong with you?” Star had stopped by my locker after school to see if I
wanted a ride home.

“I’m scared,” I said. She waited while I got my books from the locker. She wrapped
her arm around mine as we headed to the parking lot.

Before exiting, she stopped. “What’s happened?”

“I think I could be infected.” Tears started to well up in my eyes.

“Did you and Allen have sex?”

“No,” I said. “But what about all the other men I’ve been with.” A worried look
appeared on her face.

“Damn, Joey,” she asked. “Didn’t you use protection?”

“No.” I hung my head while tears started to fall. “I didn’t even think about it.”

“We’ve got to get you tested,” she insisted. “You have to find out.”

“I know,” I replied sadly. “I’m only seventeen. What if I’m sick?”

She leaned in and hugged me. “We’ll worry about that when and if the time comes.
First, we need to find out.” I nodded my head into her shoulder.

“There’s a free clinic down on Broad Street. I’ve seen posters on the bulletin board
that says they do free screening. I’ll go with you after school on Monday.”

“I’m scared, Star.”

She took my hands and squeezed them. “I know you are Joey. Let’s wait until we
get the results. Maybe you lucked out.”

I started laughing nervously. “Me, lucky? You’ve got to be kidding. We’re talking
about Joey Carpenter here. I’ve never been lucky.”

“Well, let’s wait before we get too worried,” she responded.

“One other thing,” I said. “Don’t say anything to Allen.”


“If I am infected, I’d like to tell him myself.”

“Of course.” She put her arm around my back as we walked out to the parking lot.


“I still don’t know why I have to go?” I was getting dressed to go to Billy Joe’s
party. Ticker was excited because Star was going with him. It would be his first real
date with a girl. He was as nervous as a fourteen-year-old boy attending his first
school dance.

“I need you there, Joey,” he pleaded, “Just in case things go wrong.”

“I’m not going to be much help,” I laughed as I pointed to my chest. “Remember
me, Joey, gay guy. I don’t think I’ll be able to help you much.”

“I still need you there,” he insisted. “Moral support.”

“That’s assuming I have any morals.” He reached over and slapped me on my head.

“How do I look?” He didn’t look bad, for Ticker that is. It was one of the first times
I could remember not seeing him in just a tee shirt. He was wearing a dark blue
dress shirt and a pair of gray pants. Star must have helped him shop for his
clothing because there was no way he’d have selected something like that. But he
did, however, look good.

“You clean up nicely,” I joked.

“I’m really nervous,” he confessed. “What if I say something wrong?”

“Then smoke some weed and you’ll feel better,” I suggested.

“I don’t have any.” My mouth fell open. Ticker was going to a party and he didn’t
have weed. It was the main reason he was always invited.

Suddenly, his face reddened. “I’m not selling anymore.”

“Damn, Dude,” I laughed. “You are whipped.”

“It’s not like that,” he insisted. “She didn’t say anything about it. I just don’t feel
like doing it anymore.”

I laughed again. “My Boy,” I said as I wrapped my arm around his back. “You have
been bitten by the Love Bug.”

“Shut up.” He grabbed me and starting giving me a noogie.

“Stop!” I screamed. “Now I have to fix my hair again!”

We picked up Star at her home. I waited patiently in the car while he went inside.
They came out several minutes later holding hands.

“Hey, Handsome,” she said as she got in the car. She laughed when I turned and
looked around the backseat.

How do you describe one of Billy Joe’s parties? A mayhem of motley revelers would
come close. You don’t really need an invitation. If you hear about the party, just
show up and bring a case of beer.

He lives about five miles outside of town in a large farm house. When we pulled up,
there were cars parked in every direction in a field. I could hear music blasting from
the backyard.

As soon as we started walking toward the house, several people ran up to Ticker
and whispered in his ear. He’d shake his head, and they would walk away
dejectedly. Since he wasn’t selling weed, I was sure many people would be upset
with him.

We walked around back, and there must have been thirty people milling about.
Most were students from our school, but a few looked like they may have been a
few years older. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. Several couples were
dancing on the patio, and I noticed a crowd congregated around a large keg of

“Hey!” Billy Joe staggered over with Camille wrapped around him when he saw us.
She immediately reached out and rubbed my chest. I stepped back and gave her
an angry look.

“Loosen up, Cutie.” She leaned against Billy Joe for support. It was obvious they
both had been drinking quite a bit before we arrived. “I’m glad you’re here. Now we
can get this party hopping.” I jumped when she reached out and grabbed my cock.
I pushed her hand away as I took a step back. Star looked at me and started

Billy Joe asked Ticker. “You bring the stash?”

“Naw, Man,” he answered apologetically. “I couldn’t score. Thing are pretty dry
right now.” I knew he was lying, because in all the years I had known him, Ticker
had never gone a day without weed.

“Fuck,” hissed Billy Joe. “Let me see if I can get hold of Reggie. He may be holding.”
He pulled out his cell phone and walked away.

“Don’t go too far.” Camille reached out and grabbed my arm. “We’ll get Billy Joe
and go upstairs in a little while.” She turned and walked away as Ticker and Star
looked astonished.

“Don’t worry,” I assured them. “It’s not going to happen.” They nodded and then
walked away holding hands. I was left by myself.

I strolled around trying to look like I belonged, but I really wanted to leave. I could
tell by the way people looked at me, they were wondering why I had been invited.
It was the first time they had ever seen me outside of school. To say I was
uncomfortable would be an understatement.

It got worse when I walked over to the keg and poured myself a beer. “Fag,”  I
heard someone mutter. I walked away and sat down in a lawn chair, away from
everyone else. I’d been there about five minutes when I noticed Barry and Gene
pull up and get out of Gene’s red Corvette.

Barry strutted into the backyard with Gene trailing behind him. Several girls
screamed and ran up to them, rubbing their bodies against them. Barry seemed to
enjoy the attention, but Gene would take a step back when a girl tried to wrap her
arms around him.

Suddenly, Barry looked up and noticed me sitting by myself. His eyes narrowed in
anger. I looked around to see if I spotted Ticker. I was going to ask him to take me
home. The last thing I wanted was a confrontation with Barry away from school
where no one would be able to stop him if he decided to fight me.

I got up and went inside the house where I found a group of guys watching a
college football game on a big screen television. I took a seat in the corner and sat
down. I figured if I made myself scarce, then perhaps I could avoid running into
Gene and Barry.

I sat quietly for an hour as the guys shouted and screamed at their team. It always
amazes me how people can become so emotionally involved by watching a guy run
down the field with a small ball tucked under his arm. However, at one point even I
got into the game when the team they were rooting for made a touchdown.

After the game ended, the room quickly emptied as everyone headed to the
backyard for more beer. When I stepped outside, it was quite evident that most
people were in the final stages of inebriation. It appeared that many couldn’t walk a
straight line across the backyard without stumbling and falling.

I was glad that I had never attended parties in the past if this is what happened at
them. Several girls were topless, and guys were running around trying to feel their
tits. A guy was standing by a tree with his pants pulled down taking a piss while
everyone laughed and encouraged him. By the barn, a girl was on her knees as a
guy rammed his cock into her mouth.

I was disgusted by what I saw. They were nothing but a bunch of hypocrites. For
years they had verbally assaulted me for my actions, but their behavior was even
more abhorrent. They were unashamedly getting drunk and engaging in lewd
sexual behavior. At least mine was done in private without an audience.

“Having fun?” Camille staggered up to me with a beer in her hand. She was
topless. She grabbed a tit and asked, “Want some of this?” I gave her a disgusted
look and walked away. I started looking for Ticker and Star.

I was angry at Ticker for bringing me. He could have warned me what went on at
these parties. I was far from innocent, but I wasn’t prepared for the behavior I was

I strolled around searching for them, and I finally walked into the kitchen. Ticker
and Star were sitting at the table playing a game of Monopoly! They looked up and
smiled when they saw me enter.

“Having fun?” Ticker asked. Both of them had a Coke in front of them, and it
seemed they were enjoying themselves with the other couple at the table.

“Yeah,” I said. I gave them a slight smile and walked from the kitchen. I didn’t want
to spoil the good time they were having. I wasn’t even sure they were aware of
what other activities were going on outside.

I pulled my coat tight around me and decided to walk around the farm. There was
almost a full moon out, so I could see where I was going. I found a narrow lane
leading from the house and decided to follow it. As I walked away from the house,
the noise began to subside as I entered into a small forest.

I heard some moaning, and I peered through the darkness and saw a couple
engaged in sex. They had their pants pulled down, and she was lying over a large
rock while he thrust himself into her. I turned and walked quickly away, deeper into
the forest.

I began to think of Sullivan’s Lake. I wanted to be there. I had always enjoyed the
silence I found by the lakeside. Experiencing the rowdy crowd tonight made me
appreciate it even more. I found out one thing about myself. I enjoyed the solitude
I found by being alone. For so many years I had wondered what it would be like to
be popular and attend parties and other social events. Tonight, I realized that I
had missed nothing.

I walked further into the forest and followed the narrow path. I must have walked
for about fifteen minutes before I came to the end. I was surprised when I noticed
that it had circled around, and I was now standing in front of the farm house.

I could hear the loud music and rowdy laughter thundering from the back. I
figured   I’d probably been at the farm for about three hours, so it must have been
well past midnight. I walked around and looked through the kitchen window. Ticker
and Star were still playing Monopoly. They were laughing and appeared to be
having a good time. I didn’t want to ruin it by asking them to take me home, so I
pulled my coat tight around me and walked back to the front porch and sat on the

I closed my eyes and had almost drifted off to sleep when I heard someone
approaching from the side of the house. I opened my eyes to see Gene staggering
my way. It was obvious he had been drinking very heavily.

I stood up to walk away, but he staggered over and fell against me. I pushed him
back, but he grabbed me by my waist and pulled me into him.

“There you are, Joey.” His words were slurred, and he reeked of alcohol.

“Leave me alone, Gene.” I pushed him off me. He stumbled backwards, but he did
not fall. Again, he approached me and grabbed me around the waist, pulling me
closer to him.

“Don’t you like me?” His eyes were half shut as he looked at me.

“Get off me, Gene.” I pushed him back again. He teetered but stepped back up to

“Oh,” he muttered angrily. “You can fuck my brother, but I’m not good enough for
you.” I tried to push him away, but he held on to my waist.

“I’m as good as he is,” he said. “I’ve wanted you for a long time. Let me show
you.” He grabbed the back of my head and pulled it toward him. I pursed my lips
tightly as he pressed his to mine. I struggled to get away, but he leaned against
me and refused to let me go.

“What the fuck is going on!” Gene staggered back and pulled away when Barry and
a couple of other people approached.

Barry grabbed me and pushed me against the side of the house. I was too
surprised to see his fist as he hit me on the left side of my face. I reeled back and
fell against the wall.

He shouted in my face, “What were you doing with Gene?”

“I wasn’t doing anything!” I shouted back. I balled my fist and threw a punch,
missing him completely.  People were running towards us. I guess someone had
spread the word that there was a fight.

“You fucking liar.” He swung again, hitting me in my stomach. I bent over in pain. I
felt another blow to the left side of my face.

“Leave him alone!” Gene grabbed Barry around the waist and pulled him away from

He turned to Gene and shouted, “Are you protecting this fag?” He stared into
Gene’s face. “You fucker!” He threw a violent punch into Gene’s temple. “Were you
letting that faggot kiss you?” Gene fell to the ground, but got up and charged
Barry. They both crashed to the ground. Barry rolled Gene on his back and began
to pummel him with his fist. I rushed over and tried to pull him off, but Ticker ran
up and grabbed me by my arm.

“Come on, Joey!” he shouted. “Let’s get out of here.” He grabbed Star by the arm
and we ran to his car. He started the engine and we tore off down the country
lane. I looked back, and there was still a large crowd gathered around the front of
the house.

Star turned around and looked angrily at me. “What it the hell did you do?”

“Why do people always assume I did something?” I shouted back. “I was sitting on
the porch waiting for you guys to finish your game when Gene came up and tried
to kiss me.”

“What!” Ticker and Star shouted in unison.

“He was drunk, and I tried to push him off,” I explained. “But Barry came around
the side of the house and saw us. He thought I had done something to Gene.”

“Then why was he fighting Gene?”

“I think he realized his best friend is gay.”

“Sweet Jesus.” Star turned around and plopped into her seat. It was several
minutes before she spoke.

“Are you all right?” She turned leaned over the seat, inspecting my face. “You’re
going to have a nice black eye.” I winced when she pressed her hand to my left eye.

I asked her, “Did you know Gene is gay?”

“He can’t be gay,” she insisted. “His father would kill him.”

“Then why did he try to kiss me if he’s not gay? He also told me he’s wanted me
for a long time.”

“Damn.” It was the first time Ticker had said anything. “You really know how to get
yourself into a mess, don’t you?”

“I didn’t do anything!” I shouted.

“I didn’t say you did,” he responded quickly. “I’m really sorry, Joey. I should have
listened when you said you didn’t want to go tonight.”

“It’s not your fault, Ticker,” I insisted. “Trouble just always seems to follow me.
That’s the story of my life.”

“Don’t do this, Joey,” she stated in a motherly tone. “None of this was your fault.”
She looked over at Ticker, “Or yours.”

“What’s going to happen now?” I asked worriedly. “Half the school knows about it
by now.”

“I don’t know.”

I started to laugh. “At least they won’t call me anything they haven’t already called
me for the past few years.”

Star asked worriedly, “But what about Gene?”

“What about the Mother Fucker?” Ticker hissed. “The son of a bitch has been on
Joey’s case for years. It’s about time he got some back.”

“I still don’t want to see him hurt.” It wasn’t because I felt anything for him. He
was Allen’s brother, and for that reason I didn’t want to see him harmed.

“Me either,” replied Star. Our eyes met and I knew she was thinking the same thing.

When we took Star home, I looked over at Gene’s house. Several lights were on,
but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The first thing I looked for was clothes
lying out on the front lawn. Once his stepfather found out he was gay, he would
probably throw him out of the house like he did Allen.

Ticker and Star disappeared around the back of the house. I thought it strange
they didn’t enter the front, until I realized that Ticker probably wanted a chance to
be alone to say goodnight.

I rested my head against the window and closed my eyes. My head was throbbing
from the Barry‘s punch. Suddenly, I heard the roar of an automobile engine. I
looked over and saw Gene’s red convertible pull into the lane next door. The brake
lights came on, and the car was thrown into reverse. His tires squealed as he
backed up, drove over to Star’s driveway and pulled in back of Ticker’s car.

I turned and watched as he fell out of the car. When he stood, his face was swollen
and his clothes were splattered with blood. I quickly locked the door as he walked
up and tried to open it.

“This is all your fucking fault!” He started pounding on the door with his fists. I
looked into his face, and his eyes were almost swollen shut. I don’t know how he
managed to drive home.

“Get out of the car, you fucker!” He continued to pull the door open.  “I’m going to
kill you! You’ve ruined my life!”

Ticker and Star came running around from the back. The porch lights came on, and
security lights lit up the front yard. A man who I assumed was Star’s father,
stepped out to see what was happening.

“Get out!” Gene screamed. He hit the window several more times. Star ran up and
pulled him away. He fell to the ground sobbing uncontrollably.

“Why?” he cried. He was clutching her tightly. “Why?”

An immense feeling of sorrow swept over me. I had suffered for years with the
pain he was now feeling. Even though I should have hated him, I didn’t. His
crumbled body desperately holding Star was a pitiful sight. I reached up and wiped
away a tear that was falling down my cheek.

Chapter 16                                Return to TMJ