Age of Discovering

by Rick Beck

Chapter 12

Walk Like A Man

"Once i knew we were going to a duty station in the States, most of my thinking involved the move. I wanted to say goodbye to the friends I'd made in Germany before I left, and Herr Gorman sent me to several auditions," he said. "He was anxious for me to play in front of the people auditioning musicians for symphony orchestras. It was different. I went to please Herr Gorman, even though I was leaving Germany."

"Makes sense. What did you have to lose playing for important people?"

"Exactly! If I make sense it's probably an accident, you know?" he said, stumbling again. "See what happens when I think."

"You don't need to show me," I said. "I keep thinking I'm wrong about you and you keep proving I'm right. In all that crap you spew, you're a genius, all-be-it one obsessed with his endowment."

"Only because it's big," he said. "What to see?"

"I think you mentioned that and no, we'll save it for a time and place where you can't get hung for showing me.."

"Did you know Einstein was a genius and he had to give his Noble Prize money to his wife."

"She was going grocery shopping?" I asked.

"Husband shopping. Einstein was a piece of work, you know?"

"No, I only know about the genius part," I said.

"Live in Germany for a few years and you pick up tidbits like that."

"Einstein was a brilliant physicist. That would be different from playing the violin," I said.

"I'll say. I don't even know what a physicist does."

"Me either," I confessed. "Probably means I'm not a genius."

"Not the direction I want to go in. It's not healthy to over think things. I'll stick with the violin."

"You're Nobel Prize money is safe. I might need a loan," I said.

"What for?" he asked with concern in his voice.

I watched the sparkle in his blue eyes as he focused on walking backwards and talking at the same time.

"Gas! Enough to get us home. I am sorry, Glenn," I said. "I didn't intend to run out of gas."

"Might have been more fun if you did. The old put out or get out gag," he said, walking one foot behind the other, like he was walking a tightrope.

"As I was saying, We, me and my violin, found something while I played with Hermie. It's the point where everything changed. Something about him drew the music out of me. It might have been how he looked. It might have been how he looked at me," he said.

"Mechanically, Hermie was a better violinist than me. He knew the violin better than I did. He'd been playing since he was ten. He was sixteen when we met and he was good."

He stumbled over a broken piece of asphalt, recovering just in time to keep from falling. Undaunted, he continued his backward walk.

I shook my head sensing how this was going to end.

"You're going to fall and break your arm again," I said.

I didn't mind walking as long as I could look at Glenn. While he was walking backward.

"And it'll be your fault too," he reasoned.

"You're crazy. Why did you tell me about those boys?" I asked, less intimidated by his bluster. "You wanted to get a reaction out of me. Check me out."

"I already checked you out," he said.

"When?" I asked.

"When Eddie was wrestling me in the shower. You aren't the only one who checks things out, Gordo."

"Why would you check me out? A boyfriend would cramp your style," I said.

"Maybe I was thinking I wouldn't mind you cramping my style. That was before you stranded my ass in the middle of nowhere."

He yelled the last few words like someone might hear him if he said it loud enough.

"I don't know, Gordo. You wanted me to give you a thrill and I gave you one. It's the best I can do and keep my clothes on. It's the most interesting my life has ever been and you said you wanted to know all about me. That's a big part of all about me," he said.

"I did. You're right. I do want to know more about you. I keep thinking there's a piece missing here. Even knowing all about your sexual escapades in Germany, that isn't it," I said.

"Germany was a good place for me to finish growing up and use the equipment that got so much attention."

"And you found out about your self," I said. "What you like. What you are looking for."

"I made use of what was available. German's are down to earth. They take life as it comes. They don't insist every one turn out a certain way. Variety is nice, you know."

"As fast as things change around here, that would be a good way to be," I said.

"I liked it there, Gordo, and I'd make a terrible boyfriend. I'm crazy and I have a delicious madness to boot. You wanted to hear all about me, remember? Don't judge me too harshly for telling you what you wanted to know."

"I'm not complaining. You know why you told me that stuff as well as I do. You may not just like boys, but you do like them. I think you might even like me. We are out here together after all."

"Don't remind me we're out here walking. You might be onto something but remember who ran his car out of gas and put us on the road to nowhere."

"I am sorry. I was distracted."

"I didn't know I was such a distraction."

"Oh yes you do!" I said. "You knew exactly what you're doing, Glenn."

"Calling me a liar isn't going to win you points."

"I have no doubt you are a genius. I heard you play. I think you are spastic, I saw you destroy your brother's bike, and you're a little crazy. When you wrecked your brother's bike, you could have destroyed one of your hands, or ground that handsome face into hamburger. That is crazy if you're going to be a professional musician. You need someone to jerk you into the hear and now before you destroy a bright future."

He stopped watching his toes and he looked at me.

"You applying for the job, Gordo?"

"No one, and I mean no one, is going to gamble on a violinist that could kill him self on any given day. I'm a hack guitar player and I know that much. During the 60s, maybe being wild and crazy was the norm. Those days are gone. You're a commodity. You'll sell your talent for big bucks. No suicidal violinists need apply, and don't think they won't check you out, Glenn. Entertainment is big business."

He was still looking at me as I spoke. He put one foot behind the other as if he had eyes in back of his head. I couldn't read the expression on his face. It was serious, maybe thoughtful. He didn't make a joke.

"You applying for the job. You going to whispering that in my ear every time I do something stupid?"

"If you're planning on being a professional musician, you need to think for your self. You want me to hold your violin, I can do that job. I can't be responsible for you. If you're going to be serious, it's time to grow up. Any one with half a brain can tell you that, Glenn. You don't need me to do it."

"You think I don't want to grow up? I know I'm doing stupid stuff while I'm doing it. We're back to being crazy."

"Glenn, we all might be a little crazy, but we don't all have the ability to be a star. You need to get over your self and act your age. You have a big dick and there are people who will love you because of it. I'm not one of those people. I require more than endowment to take a risk on having a relationship with some one."

"You got that out of what I've told you?" he asked.

"What I've seen and what you've told me," I said.

He stumbled again.

"I don't know why I do some of the things I do, think about the things I think about," I said.

"Boys?" Glenn asked in a suggestive way. "Me maybe? I bet you think about me."

"At first boys. Then you. I'm not attracted to girls. Not in a romantic sense."

"Romantic? You're attracted to me, Gordo," he said.

"I am, but for the life of me, I don't know why."

"It's my deliciousness," he said.

"My friends are mostly girls. I don't think about being with girls but I like girls better than I like most guys."

"You think about being with me though."

"I do."

"Girls think I'm a show off and they think I'm crazy."

"Those boys never thought that. They found a playmate in you. I'll bet more than one of them had a crush on you," I said.

"God, Gordon, we were just fooling around. They weren't my boyfriends. I have a big dick. They thought it was cool. We weren't in love. We weren't even dating."

"You loved the attention," I said.

"Did not," he said. "It was something to do."

He turned around to walk beside me.

"I still think you're psycho," Glenn said.

"Psychic," I said.

"That too. Someone tell you about me? Did Eddie say something to you about me? Tell you we jack off together?"

"You told me everything I know about you. You told me about the porn and you and Eddie jacking off together. Eddie did tell me, 'He'll do anything.'"

"I will. You know I lie, don't you?"

We walked on.

The sun had passed its peak and was now moving lower in the west. His arm kept brushing my arm and he kept turning his head to see me.

"You were easier to see when I walked backward," Glenn said.

"Don't let me stop you. Go ahead," I said.

"OK, since you want me to," Glenn said, moving ahead of me and turning around to walk backward again.

We kept on walking and didn't talk for a few minutes.

"I wouldn't do that to anyone," Glenn said.

"What?" I asked.

"Be your boyfriend. I'd really suck at it. I've never had a girlfriend or a boyfriend. I'm way too self centered. If there's something in it for me, I'll do anything."

"Like with those boys?"

"Why not? They were fooling around with each other before I showed up. I just brought more to the party than they did. They were fooling around with each other after I was gone."

"Absolutely they were," I said.

"We were horny teenage boys and we did what boys do when the opportunity arises. We were in close quarters a lot. I didn't need to know anything else as long as they liked me. They didn't need to know anything else about me. We were all in the same boat and paddling together for a while."

"Did you like them a little more than you let on?"

"Probably," he said. "That's ancient history."

He looked behind him as if he was suddenly worried about where he was going.

"You had a crush on Hermie. We've established that."

"OK, you caught me. For five minutes Hermie and I made beautiful music together. I was his trophy American. He liked showing me off. Hermie loved only Hermie. I knew that at fourteen but I still liked him. I'd never have done the things I did without Hermie encouraging me."

"Did everyone in Germany see your dick?" I asked.

"No! The president of Germany was busy that day," he said.

"You sound angry," I said.

"I'm walking. That may be why I sound that way."

"Sorry!"

"I never told anyone about wrestling with the gymnasts before. I've told you things about me no one else knows, Gordo," he said.

"Like I said, we're teenagers. We all think we're a little crazy. We probably are. It's part of growing up."

"I'm glad to hear that. I thought I was turning queer," he said, sounding relieved.

I shook my head. He did have a unique way of communicating.

He continued walking backwards, stumbling a few times, but somehow maintained his balance. He kept his toes on the edge of the road and he just went backwards. I walked at a regular speed and he remained five feet in front of me.

"You have a death wish or something?" I asked.

"A secret is like a bomb. It can go off under pressure," Glenn said, stumbling backward.

This stumble sent him sliding backward on his ass.

I offered him my hand to help him up.

A car stopped directly behind us. I could hear the engine running.

"Told you I could get us a ride," he said, looking quite pleased with him self.


A man my father's age was getting out. He walked toward us.

"Where you boys heading?" the man asked, stopping a cautious distance away from us. "You got quite a walk ahead of you in that direction. This isn't a well traveled road."

He looked us over to make sure we didn't look like a couple of ax murderers. He seemed to relax, sensing we were harmless.

"You OK, son. Not a good idea to walk backward if you don't want to break something. I saw you fall."

"He made me do it," Glenn said. "I lost a bet. I bet he was smart enough not to run out of gas. I lost. If we don't get a ride, I got to walk like that all the way home. Would you save me from that fate?"

"I ran out of gas," I said, before Glenn could say anything else. "I remembered a gas station this way. I knew it was a ways."

Glenn brushed himself off as the man watched. He was still cautious of him.

"Your friend OK? I mean ...OK, OK," he asked softly. He'd deciding my version was closest to the truth.

"Oh, he's fine," I said. "He has a vivid imagination."

Glenn laughed.

The man seemed more concerned abut two kids being on foot in the middle of nowhere than he was worried about his safety.

"Well, come on. Don't want to be out here all day," he said, walking back toward his car. "I've got a gas can in the back. We'll fill that up and I'll bring you back to your car."

"Wow! That's great. Thank you," I said.

We got in. I didn't need to tell Glenn to be quiet.

"Why you going this way for gas? I saw your car back about a mile. There's a gas station up around the next bend. It's Saturday but I think Mr. Kimble is open this time on Saturday. He has a small garage. He sells gas on the side."


We laid all of our money on the counter at Kimble's garage. Mr. Kimble wiped his hands with a rag he stuffed into his back pocket. He counted the money.

The man who gave us the ride said, "I'll fill up my can, Mr. Kimble. I'll make up the difference."

Mr. Kimble nodded and we got five gallons of gas.

We drove back to the car and emptied the can into the gas tank and we were in business again.

"Go ahead. Turn it over while I'm still here. Don't want to leave you boys stranded out here. I hope you didn't run it dry," the man said.

"No, we knew we were out of gas," Glenn bragged. "I wouldn't let him run it dry. He wanted to though. I could tell."

"I bet you could, son, and did you tell him to look at the gas gauge every now and again, just on account it's there to keep boys like you from running out?"

"Oops!" Glenn said.

Glenn smiled. The man shook his head.

"Pump the pedal five or six times, son. You'll draw the gas into the carburetor. Should start right up."

Following the instructions, it kicked right over and sounded none the worse for wear.

"You boys be careful now. Don't be walking backward anymore, son. Next time you might break something."

"Yes, sir. Thank you," I said, standing beside the car.

The man took his gas can and put it back in his trunk.

"You see someone on the side of the road, you stop and offer them a hand," he said, getting in his car.

"Yes, sir," I said.

He drove away.

"Nice fellow," Glenn said.

"Nice," I said. "Want a ride, sailor?"

"You're just asking me because you heard I got a big... heart," Glenn said, sounding like he might consider it. "Now you're going to want a private showing. I don't want to get in over my head."

"OK, suit your self. See you next time," I said, gunning the engine.

"Like I was saying," he said, slipping into the front seat, "You going my way?"

"Anywhere you say," I said, easing the car back onto the road.

Glenn was looking at his hands where he'd fallen and slid on the gravel.

"I got my ass again," he said, feeling under him. "Spastic genius. Has a ring to it, don't you think?" he asked. "Make an interesting marquee for my performances."

"Delicious madness sounds more like it to me," I said. "You're not like any one I've ever known, you know? That's why I like you, Glenn. You got a nice dick and all but I have no interest in it if you don't come with the deal."

"You don't know me well enough to dislike me yet. I get on people's nerves. Just ask my parents. They've got to pay my medical bills. I don't know why I do the stuff I do or say some of the things I say. I could be crazy, you know?"

"Whatever you are, I like you. You're for real. I never know what to expect, but that's cool. I don't know what I'm going to do half the time."

He didn't look at me. He wiped his left hand on the leg of his pants before putting it on top of my hand. His touch was warm and his hand felt surprisingly soft. I was surprisingly hard, which was no surprise to me.

I waited for him to move his hand, but he didn't. He didn't look at me or explain what was going on. I wasn't going to ask, because I didn't want him to stop doing what he was doing. It could be the only time we ever touched, or maybe not.

As I turned back onto old highway, I felt relief. If we had to walk now, we were most of the way back to Gravel Pit Heights.

"I play in Seattle two Saturdays from today. There's a symphony orchestra playing there. The conductor heard me in Berlin at Christmas. He was there in search of talent. I flew back to Berlin last Christmas. I'd auditioned for their Christmas pageant before we left Germany," he said.

"Herr Gorman always had violinists in the pageant and he made sure I would be invited to play. I was seventeen. Someone told Preston about me, he's the man who signed me to play in Seattle. I met Preston after I finished my performance in Berlin. My mother was with me because I was seventeen. I had to have an adult with me and so Preston talked to us about me performing with him once I'm eighteen. Now, I've got two first class plane tickets to Seattle. Mommy is busy and I'm a few weeks short of eighteen."

"This is one of your jokes, right?" I said, mouth open in astonishment.

"No! This is the truth. I swear," he said, sounding worried that I didn't believe him.

"You're kidding me? You played with the Berlin Symphony?" I asked, staring at him and seeing something I hadn't seen before.

"Yes, and Preston wants me to play with his symphony orchestra. Preston tours. He's appearing at Washington University. I'll play that date. He wants me to do a solo. I did a solo in Berlin too."

"In Berlin?" I said. "You are a genius."

" They asked me to perform at the annual Christmas pageant in Berlin. They provided me with airfare, a lavish hotel suite, and a rather handsome retainer. That's how it is I happen to have candy money I keep in my sock."

I laughed at the four dollars he'd taken out of his sock.

"You're a professional violinist then," I said. "You didn't tell me you were a professional musician."

"I am. Only once though, until I play Seattle."

"Once counts as a professional musician," I said.

"Preston, who is paying me to play his Seattle gig, has signed me to perform with his orchestra once I'm out of school. Mommy had to sign that contract too. Since I really don't have plans for after high school, why not play for Preston?"

"All this time you let me think you're just another kid, and you have your future in the bag?"

, that's the arrangement that was made. I don't play anywhere else, save for Pasquel, and I sign a contract with Preston in about a month," he said.

"Your future is set," I said.

"Considering Preston plays ten to twenty performances a year, it's hardly full time work. I fly to the city where he's playing a few days in advance and I fly back home after I play the date."

"That's quite impressive, Glenn," I said. "I'm not surprised. Not really."

"If I'd told you right after I fell on my butt back there, you'd have been surprised."

"Probably," I said.

I don't know what I expected the first time I saw Glenn, but this definitely wasn't it. I was left speechless by this revelation.


"I do play the violin. That's hard for me to believe some times. I've really got people fooled. One night I'm going to stand up to solo and I'll just be a dumb kid making noise and they'll boo me all the way home, especially Preston. His new marquee says, "Featuring Glenn Denning on violin."

"That's not your name," I said.

"Shh! He gave that to me. It's my stage name. He let me keep Glenn," he said. "He's gone out of his way to keep who I am and where I live a secret. It'll assure me privacy for the time being. Once I'm an adult, well, I'll have to face the music, so to speak."

"Nice of him to worry about you."

"Easy to remember," Glenn said. "The Glenn part."

"You've either got it, or you don't have it, Glenn. You've got it. I play music. You are for real. You become the music when you play. It's not something you stumble into and out of. I couldn't play anything as complicated as the violin, but there are things about music I feel inside me. When I listened to you play, It gave me chills."

"Thanks. I just don't know how its done. People ask, 'How do you make your violin sound like that?' I just say, 'aw shucks' and move on to something else. I don't know. One day it's the sound I made when I played. I'd never been so entirely within the violin, within the music, as I was when it happened."

"It doesn't really matter how, Glenn. I heard it and I've never heard anything quite like it. Not that I'm an authority on the classics."

He looked at me. His hand was still on my hand. I could see he was thinking about something. We stopped at a light, which was comforting.

He started to stare at the road again. He didn't move his hand. It made me feel warm all over.

It was all I could do to concentrate on driving so I didn't run off the road. I wanted to grab him and kiss him like I'd never kissed any one before. I didn't dare. Besides, I was driving. We'd already run out of gas. I had a hunch that having an accident wouldn't go over too well.

At least he stopped looking at me. It made it a little easier to drive. Once we were getting close to town. I waited for him to tell me what it was that was on his mind.

"Mommy is otherwise occupied two weekends from now. You want to fly to Seattle in two weeks. First class all the way. Room service to keep us busy. We can eat anywhere we like. I'll show you the city. You'll like it. Seattle is laid back."

"You've been to Seattle?" I said.

"I've been everywhere. Pop did have U.S. duty stations."

"Seattle has the Space Needle thing. Water too. Lots of ferries. The boat kind, you understand," he said. "Shouldn't be hard to find our way around. I think you'd be kinda cool to hang around with if we let someone else handle the gas gauge. I don't really want to go alone. Besides, I got two tickets and I can't eat that much. Want to fly to Seattle with me, little boy?"

"Do I want to go? Yes, I'd love to go. Can I go? That's a question that can only be answered by my parents," I said.

"You see why I don't want to move away from home? You've met my mommy and she can vouch for me. She liked you, Gordo. She even suggest I ask you to accompany me to the gig in Seattle. I'll get her on the phone to your parents as quick as we get back."

"She did? It won't hurt for my parents to talk to yours. I'm not sure I want them to meet you though. My parents weren't born yesterday and one outburst from you would nix the deal."

"You are looking at a professional musician. I know how to act when the show must go on," he said.

"Have your mother call. I'll go home and mention the trip to my parents. We'll save your appearance on the scene for after they've said yes to your mother."

"Have it your way," Glenn said.

"You were going to ask me to go when you ran into at the Five & Dime," I said.

"I've known since the day you nursed me back to health. My mother liked you. After dinner, she told me, 'Gordon would be a lot better for you than Eddie, Glenn. Ask him to go to Seattle with you.'"

"Why didn't you just ask me without all the intrigue."

"I wanted you to know I'm not crazy. I figured a couple hours with me and you'd be convinced," he said, smiling.

I laughed.

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