Lancelot and the Big Bang

by Rick Beck

Chapter 5

Study Buddy

Later in the week Bang drove Lance to the library to get books he needed, while he did research on a paper for English Literature. It didn't take long for things to go bad.

"Fuck! I'll never get this shit. I am stupid," Lance blurted, banging his book down on the table.

"SHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" came a collective admonition.

Lance held his middle finger at the ready but decided not to engage it.

"What don't you get?" Bang asked. "Just calm down and tell me."

"I don't know enough to tell you what I don't understand," Lance complained, but this time Bang wasn't taking the bait.

"Why not use your noodle instead of getting upset? Where's the problem?" Bang asked, getting up to lean over Lance's shoulder.

"Sir, another outburst like that and I'll have to ask you to leave," the sturdy, big boned woman said as she loomed over the table.

"Looks like a tackle for the Green Bay Packers," Lance whispered into Bang's ear.

"Is that a soccer club?" Bang asked, failing to get the joke.

"Yeah, right, soccer. You're dumber than I am. It's a football team."

"Let's stick to business. Show me what's giving you trouble," Bang ordered.

Lance opened the book banging it back on the table with unintended force. The noise echoed in the wide open space. The librarian turned to glare at them.

"It slipped," Lance said in a loud whisper, since he was skating on thin ice already "Sorry!" he apologized as an afterthought.

"Do you think she could kick our ass?" Bang asked.

That crack had Lance laughing hysterically, but the librarian failed to find humor in the boy's conduct.

"Sorry!" Bang said ,shrugging, as Lance held his hand over his mouth to stifle his laughter.

Bang moved his chair closer and sat down, waiting for the laughter to subside. Lance finally sat up straight and tried to regain his composure. But as soon as he looked at Bang, they burst out laughing. The librarian came charging straight toward them.

"I think she's going to kick our ass," Bang said with a very serious tone in his voice.

Lance laughed even harder at the comment and soon, both were seriously out of control.

"Okay! Out! Out! Don't either of you come back until you can show the proper restraint. I would expect better from you," she said, directly to Bang.

Hastily gathering their things, they made a fast exit. They didn't slow down until Lance hit the top of the steep stone steps. Holding the railing with one hand, he held the crutches in the other and hopped to the bottom of the stairs, where Bang waited.

"When you say 'ass', you make it sound like a fine food," Lance said, still laughing. "I never heard anyone say 'ass' so elegantly."

"You'd certainly know more about that than me," Bang said. "It wasn't intended to be funny. I was merely eliciting your opinion. As fast as you moved, I'd say it was the affirmative."

"Yeah, I guess. You're a funny guy, Phillips."

"Obviously she failed to find the humor in it."

"If she'd heard you, she would have kicked your ass."

"I can live without the library, but I doubt you can."

"That's why I got you. I've never been much good at studying."

"Maybe if you took it seriously, you'd do better."

"You never see your mother?" Lance asked, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk.

"No, I remind her of my father, whom she hates."

"You're nothing like your father."

"It's best not to question mother. She lives in a world of her own. Why didn't your father have anything to do with you?"

"I killed my mother… according to him."

"I thought she died of a blood disease?"

"She did. Tell it to my father. Sounds like your mother and my father have a lot in common."

"I have no desire to see her. At least Dad tries."

"I wish I could see mine," Lance said.

"You can see mine. You can't miss her. She's as big as a small car."

"Don't get me laughing again, Bang. You are a funny fellow. I never realized how funny you are."

"Yeah, that's what they all say. It's an integral part of my congenial personality."

"That is funny. You shouldn't talk like that about your mother."

"Cruelty was the one thing she taught me. When it comes to my mother, she may as well be dead."

"How long since you've seen her?"

"I don't know. I was maybe fifteen. She moved to Baltimore. I don't know where. She stopped by school."

"She may have changed. She might want to see you."

"I don't want to see her. I haven't changed. I have a good memory. It goes back a long way; a long, lonely way."

Lance could feel Bang's mood changing. He set a torrid pace back to the car and away from the topic of discussion. He was sitting in the passenger seat when Bang got into the car.

There were no more words as each of them considered his life. Bang, about what he'd do after school; for Lance it was passing his classes so he could go home and hold his head high. Being a student was the last thing on his mind when he came to college. He'd always found a way to get by in school, but it would require a major effort this time. If he flunked out he'd be a total failure. He didn't think he could face the people who'd sent off a local sports hero.

"I ought to go to the mailbox if you don't mind."

"No," Bang answered. "Try not to get us thrown out."

"Funny. You're on a roll."

"Whatever."

"I need to go to practice today. Trainer wants to check the ankle."

"Fine," Bang said. "You want me to drive you?"

"If you don't mind. It would save me a couple hours of gimping. That'll give us some time to study now that you've gotten us thrown out of the library."

"Me? I haven't had a single problem, until I took you up there with me," Bang said.

"Right, blame it on the cripple kid."

"I admit my part in the fiasco. You bring out my dark side."

"Now that we're done with the library, can you take me to check my mail? Then you can drop me at the sports complex, after which you can finish tutoring me like you promised."

"I knew you would be more trouble than you're worth the first time I saw you."

"Ancient history, my man. Onward. Time's a wasting."

"Indeed."

"All kidding aside, I appreciate it. I guess I should have said that before. I do appreciate you going out of your way for me. I wish there was something I could do for you."

"There is. Get your ass in gear and study. Time's a wasting and it's going to run out shortly."

"I can't go home if I don't pass my classes."

"We'll make sure you pass."

"Yeah, easy for you to say. You're not a dummy."

"Neither are you. You've simply let your brain go to sleep. Athletics are a wonderful passport to college, until you can't play any longer."

Bang eased the car onto the main drag and started toward the Student Union. Lance rested his arm on the door, closing his eyes as the warm breeze brushed past his face. The pleasant spring weather made it that much more difficult for Lance to keep his mind on track. Every whiff of freshly mowed grass took him back to the soccer field.

Lance waited until they were parked at the side of the Student Union before mentioning something that had been on his mind for days.

"You do have a friend, you know, dude," Lance said, finding it easier to say with his eyes still closed.

"I do? Who?" Bang asked with surprise.

"Cut it out, I hate when you do that."

"I've already agreed to help you. Let's not complicate a relationship that will end soon."

"I'm being serious here. You are one of the few people who have helped me since I left home. We are friends no matter what you say."

"I'm not sure how to take that, but it's a nice thing for you to say anyway," Bang said, uncomfortable by the lack of hostility that had broken out between them.

"You want me to check your mail for you?" Bang asked, sliding out over the car door.

'Oh no, you've caught it," Lance said with alarm.

"What?"

"You're one of the cool people, dude. You definitely got it. All you need is a pair of wraparound shades."

"For what?"

"Shut up."

"What's your combo? I'll save us a half hour and check yours for you."

"L-A-N," Lance said proudly.

"How original. Why am I not surprised? Who calls you that?"

"Aunt Brenda, lots of people back home. Lan the Man Harris."

"Mom?"

"Yeah, makes her feel good."

Bang took the steps two and three at a time. He went to his box first, took out two science magazines and an invitation to a class party , along with several bulletins. It took him three tries to get Lance's box open. It was jammed with sporting bulletins and invites to a dozen different jock fests.

There was one red, white, and blue envelope marked priority mail. He carefully put that piece of mail in the middle of the jock junk to protect it, keeping his thumb on it to keep it from slipping out. At first he was tempted to throw away all the crumpled papers, but he thought better of it. Lance would be expecting a pile of paper and he'd be alerted if all he got was one official looking envelope. Now that they were on better terms, he didn't want to risk stirring things up again.

"Here," he said, tossing the pile to him as he slipped over the door and down into his seat. He tossed his own mail onto the dash.

"Mr. Cool, you got it bad. You eat anything and you won't be able to do that."

"Yeah," Bang said.

He backed from his parking space and slowed at the exit from the parking lot. Seeing a bus lumbering toward him, he swung out in front of it. The bus tooted a warning, but by the time the driver's hand engaged the horn, Bang was mashing the accelerator. The car left a trail of black smoke and the engine emitted a deep-throated growl. The bus was half a block behind in a few seconds.

"Now we're talking," Lance said, laughing at his friend who had quickly adapted to driving the sporty car.

"Yeah, yeah. There's a priority mail envelope in the middle of that stuff. You better check it first. Probably some personal invite to one of those high powered athletic parties."

"Where's it from?"

"I don't know. I don't read your mail. It wasn't like the rest of the junk that's been in your box since forever."

Lance searched the pile until he found the envelope. He popped open the cardboard cover and pulled out a single sheet of paper with a handwritten message on it. Soon he was staring straight out the windshield, not saying anything. His mood had grown dark. Bang waited for as long as his curiosity allowed.

"What's wrong, Lan the Man?" Bang asked as they neared the back entrance to the sports complex.

Bang stopped at the end of the long winding sidewalk that led to the offices and training facilities. He waited for Lance to reply, but first, he looked back at the sheet of paper and then back out at the street ahead.

"My grandfather is dying. They want me home after school's out. Said I shouldn't waste any time. He was fine when I left for Maryland."

"I'm sorry," Bang said, glancing at his roommate's face, filled with gloom.

"What do you want me to do?"

"You some kind of specialist? You going to go cure him, once school's out? Just leave it alone is what you can do."

"That's not what I meant. You want me to wait for you here? How long are you going to be? I'll wait and you can call your Aunt on our way back down the hill."

"No, I want to be with my teammates. You go on."

The harshly spoken words stung Bang. Lance meant for the words to sting. He needed to hurt someone and Bang was a handy target for his anger.

In the past , when Bang let himself get too close to someone, it often ended with his getting hurt. This is why he avoided complicated relationships. Being too friendly with anyone had proven painful. Once Lance got back with his jock buddies, he'd lose all interest in his studies.

"What about your mail? Should I take it in for you?"

"No," Lance said, once he'd balanced himself on the crutches beside the car. "I'll take care of it."

He reached over the door to scoop the pile of paper off the floor. He passed a trashcan on his way into the building, jammed his arm in past the elbow and withdrew an empty hand. Bang shook his head and shifted the car into gear, leaving his gimpy roommate to fend for himself.

Lance was contemplating leaving for home that day. He realized the entire year would be wasted if he followed his instincts. Once back at home he'd sit with his family and watch his grandfather die. The best idea was to pass his classes, and return home a successful student but failed athlete.

Before he'd met Bang, he'd never take the time to think it over. His initial impulse to go straight home would have been the end of it. He'd have been down on Route 1 with his thumb out instead of waiting in the trainer's office.

Lance hadn't lost the desire to hurt someone. Inside, he was a boiling mess of feelings, but he wasn't going to let them rule. He would do what he needed to do. He would do what the trainer told him to do.

Once he was finished with the exam of his ankle, he'd go out and share some time with his teammates before taking the bus back down the hill. He was already thinking of ways to apologize to Bang.


Bang was in his usual pose when Lance got back to the room, some time after ten that evening. He turned and closed the door carefully, leaning hard on a cane just inside the door. Bang took his eyes out of his book to look at his roommate.

"You're drunk," Bang blurted. "I thought we'd gotten beyond that."

"Ah, my genius roommate. Can't hide a thing from you. Must be the way I'm swaying back and forth," he said. "I guess telling you it's the cane won't work? I've only got a learners permit," Lance explained, laughing at his own joke. "Go ahead, scold me. I deserve it."

Bang was determined not to get involved, but relented, leaping from the bed to catch Lance before he fell on his face.

"You're helpless. Give me the cane and lean on me."

"What's going on? I was doing fine," Lance complained as Bang turned him in a circle to sit him on his bed, using one hand to keep him from rolling back out onto the floor.

"Lean back on the bed," Bang ordered.

"Oh! You know that problem I had the last time I got drunk?"

"No, you'll need to refresh my memory."

"The room's moving in circles again. Oh, man, I'm drunk."

"No shit, Sherlock."

"Why can't I get up?" Lance yelled loudly.

"Could it be you're inebriated? Stay still and I'll undress you."

"As soon as I get home you're trying to get me out of my clothes. Take advantage of me being inebree… inebraa… drunk. I got your number, buddy."

"I didn't get you so drunk you can't stand up. You've vomited on yourself, too. Good grief, you are hopeless."

"Nice try, Homer. You're trying to get me in the shower so you can soap up my ass again. You're not so drunk as I think I am, Banger."

"Funny thing about that. You're the only one that talks about showering together after you've been drinking. I'd say you get drunk so I don't think anything is up, when you push your soapy ass against my dick."

"Screw you, Bang."

"I've already showered, thank you, but maybe I should take up drinking so you can."

"Shut up. I'm not like that."

"No, you're not like anything. You're a mess."

"Leave me alone," Lance hollered knocking Bang's hand away as he unbuttoned his shirt. "I can do it myself."

"Oh, not so drunk as you think I am," Bang said, slurring his words.

Lance leaned up to work on the next button down from where Bang left off, but he couldn't get the button to cooperate. He fell back on the bed with his legs still hanging down toward the floor.

He moaned distantly, "I'll get undressed tomorrow."

Bang untied the one shoe without bothering to ask about the sock on his bad foot with the major holes in the bottom. He stood shaking his head as he moved Lance's legs onto the bunk. Bang looked down at his soundly sleeping roommate, forgetting his anger with him. Leaping into his bunk, he went back to reading.

In the middle of the night Bang was startled awake by a gushing sound from the lower bunk. Turning on his lamp, he leaned over the side of his bunk to investigate the strange sound. Lance's head was hanging out of the bed, vomit spewing from his mouth.

"Oh no, I knew I shouldn't let you go to sleep," Bang said, locating a dry spot before leaping onto the floor.

Turning on the overhead light, Bang found the floor flooded next to the bunks.

"Lance! Wake up!"

"Wake up," Lance gulped. "You think I can do this in my sleep?"

"Why didn't you take it to the bathroom?"

"Funny thing about that. I couldn't get up."

Bang got the dirty towels and started mopping up the bile.

"Sorry, dude. You should never have let me go to sleep. God I'm sick. Look out," Lance belched as more vomit erupted from the depths of his belly.

Bang stood up about the same time he reached the end of his patience. Realizing that arguing with a drunk was futile, he let his anger out with some good old fashion hostility.

"Is this how your jock friends respond to someone's dying? Is this what you do? It's really bright and you on one leg. You're going to hurt yourself permanently and then where will your soccer career be?"

"No, it's all mine. I didn't tell them about my grandfather. I'm not that stupid."

"Why not? You said you wanted to be with the team."

"They're jocks. You think I'd tell them anything important? You're the only one that knows about him."

"Why make up something? I wanted to help. You made me feel like a fool for caring about you."

"I said that to get rid of you. I didn't want you being nice to me. I didn't want anyone being nice to me. I knew the team was safe."

"You're wet!" Bang yelled, as he sat on the side of the bunk. The entire bed is flooded. You pissed yourself."

"I'm drunk, remember? Besides, I was tired. It's a long walk down here from up there."

"You walked all the way? I knew I should wait for you. What a dope."

"I would have flown, but there wasn't enough Scotch to get me off the ground. Too late for a bus."

Bang stripped Lance out of his wet clothes as he rambled and ranted and then vomited on Bang, a flood of liquid that came without warning.

"You bastard," Bang said, jumping up with vile brown bile dripping off his arm and chest. "I smell like a brewery. My roommate the drunk."

"Your vocabulary is going to hell, Bucko," Lance said, trying to sit up. "I think I'm going to die. Oh, god, I'm sick. Stop this room, I want to get off now."

"Lie down. You'll be okay," Bang said, easing him back down. "It'll pass after you suffer awhile."

"Not… not… a good idea, Bang," he moaned, gurgling as he struggled to get past Bang and then another wide brown river shot out onto the floor.

"How much did you have to drink?"

"Oh, a lot, I think."

"I should have waited for you. I should have known you'd pull this."

"Oh, yes, the poor jock is helpless. Bang helps poor jock. Bang is good. Jock is bad," Lance said in what sounded like a poor imitation of Tarzan.

"You can say that again. I've got to clean this mess up. This place will smell like a toilet. You done for a minute?"

Lance was lying flat on the bed swallowing heavily; his eyes blinked open and then shut over and over again. While he moaned quietly and held his stomach, Bang mopped up the new mess after first mopping himself down and then Lance.

"Your bed clothes are shot and the mattress is wet. We've got to do laundry in the morning. We'll put the mattress outside to dry."

"Ah!" Lance said. "You better help me to the shower. I might be able to hold back another minute or two but it's starting to come up again. Next time I do this, stop me."

"You're a mess. Come on," Bang said, pulling him out of the bed.

"Where's my cane. I can't go anywhere without my cane. My life depends on that cane. I got rid of my crutches. You didn't even notice."

"Lean on me. I kicked it under the bed and I'm not feeling under there tonight."

"Under the bed. What are you trying to do to me? I can't walk. I'm crippled!"

"I'll get you into the shower. We'll find it tomorrow."

"Oh, yeah. Good idea. Hurrying would be a better idea. It's coming up right now."

"Hold it," Bang ordered. "I'm not cleaning the hallway.""Hold it? Better hurry then."


Bang studied the situation once they'd gotten cleaned up. Lance seemed to be done throwing up and with his mattress and bedclothes trashed, Bang decided he'd move his mattress down into the bottom bunk and they'd both sleep there until he could get another mattress.

Lance was practically asleep when he was finally allowed to lie down on the outside edge of the mattress with a mop bucket near his head. Bang climbed on the inside and fell asleep about the time his head hit the pillow. In what seemed to be no more than five or ten minutes, a ruckus of major proportions erupted.

"What the fuck is going on? What are you doing in my bed? Get the fuck out," Lance yelled, using his good leg to push a sleepy Bang off the mattress and onto the floor. "I knew you were weird. I'm naked. Where's my underwear?"

"Don't push it, Bub," Bang asserted, pointing his finger at Lance for emphasis. "In the first place, it's not your bed."

"I'm not that dumb. I know where I sleep."

"It's my mattress. The only usable mattress between the two of us, I might add," Bang angrily growled. "That's your mattress over there. It's the one covered by vomit and piss."

"Oh, I do remember drinking a little."

"A little?"

"I know, I'm a dick, but you've got to admit, I'm cute," Lance said, realizing Bang had put up with a lot.

"That and two and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee. I'll sort this mess out because you're lame, in more ways than one, but don't do this again."

"Damn nice of you to do that for your good old roomy," Lance said, as he leaned his throbbing head back down. "God I'm going to die. Aspirin?"

"The word is rummy, and it's getting old, roomy. I'm not going to baby sit you again. You can sleep in your fucking vomit for all I care. Get the fuck off my mattress. I'm going back to sleep."

"It's nine thirty. You have a class, I believe."

"Yes, at nine o'clock. You have stopped being amusing, Lancelot. You'd best get your shit together or find someone else to carry you."

"I am sorry," Lance said, struggling to get out of bed after reaching under it to retrieve his errant cane.

"You're such a dick," Bang said, watching Lance move to the center of the room.

"What a mouth you got on you, and me, just trying to make nice. I'll have this place ship shape by the time you get back."

"You're just trying, Lance. It's getting old. I can overlook a lot of things. I've overlooked a lot of things. This isn't one of them. Clean this place up before I get back and I'll forgive you, but this is the last time."

"You know, I've never really had any friends before. Not for a long time. I mean except for jocks, but it isn't the same. They'd just sit me over in the corner and laugh at me for being sick. With other jocks it's just about the sport and having a good time. I'm going to buckle down, Banger. I'm going to pass my classes. I'm done drinking."

"What about your grandfather?"

"Oh, I was going to hitch back. Then I asked myself, what would Bang do?"

"And what would I do?"

"I decided to finish my classes and get the best grades I can. I'll see if Aunt Brenda has the money to send for a bus ticket home. I can work it off this summer. She knows I'm good for it."

"Being late is no big deal. I'm done with most of my classes. A couple of tests and a few papers are left to do. I think we can make sure you pass," Bang said. He wanted to encourage Lance's transformation. "But there's no time left for foolishness."

"Yes, mom," Lance said, smiling his widest smile.

"Lance!"

"I mean it. The old me would have been half way home by now. I realize I've got to pass if this year is going to mean anything. I did try to call home yesterday. No answer. Probably over at the hospital."

"I usually stay at school, you know, take a few classes thinking the old man will show up. I've concluded I've already had the visit this summer and I've decided not to take summer classes. I've decided to give that car and his charge cards a workout. I'll make you a deal. You pass all your classes and I'll let you show me Nebraska."

"What? You're serious? You'd drive me home?"

"Watch my lips. How's -- about -- you -- showing -- me -- Nebraska?"

"All right. Why aren't we studying?"

"You and me in a Vette going across America! I'll be curious to see just how far we make it before one of us kills the other."

"Maybe we'll go to Seattle once we've seen your people. I've always wanted to see the west," Bang said, handing Lance his cane.

"I'm not exactly swimming in money here, Bang," Lance said. "I could help with the gas. Maybe get something from Aunt Brenda once I get home, but long term vacations aren't in my future."

"I told you it was on my old man. I don't like traveling alone. At least I don't think I do. You'll be my traveling companion."

"You really think it would work? We always find something to argue about."

"That's part of the allure. I'm practicing my people skills on you."

"You're a snob without people skills. You're afraid of people. That's your problem," Lance said, pivoting on his cane and feeling the pain.

"You going to drink any more? Because if you are, I'm going to Nebraska alone," Bang said. "You can take the bus."

"Cool. No, I'm on the wagon. Remind me not to drink any more. My head is killing me, not to mention my ankle. You got any more of that aspirin? I'll buy some one day."

"Is that a yes or a no about Nebraska?"

"Fucking A," Lance shouted. "Can I drive the car?"

"I'll take that as a yes. Do you think in your condition, I'd trust you to drive my Corvette?"

"I think I'll sober up by then, don't you?"

"Yeah, but you'll still be a gimpy jock."

"Don't think I haven't given that a lot of thought," Lance said, surveying his leg, the cane, and the pain. "I think I fucked my leg up last night, big time. It should have healed by now. Doctor said it didn't look so hot, and that was before my outing last night."

"If you would stay off it maybe it could heal. Come sit back down. You want me to get some ice for it?

"He said to stay off it. I walked from the Field House. I think I did. I don't remember much about it. I would have called you to pick me up but we don't have a phone. Wouldn't daddy spring for a phone?"

"Sure, but then he wouldn't need to visit. He'd call twice a year instead."

"Ice always helps. I'm sorry about what I said yesterday."

"About you being my friend?"

"Bang!"

"We're cool. "

"It's twice its normal size," Lance said, reaching for his fat ankle. "What am I going to do if I can't play next season?"

"Get over yourself. It'll heal fine if you do what you're told."

The words were mean and barbed and Lance knew better. It was no longer about soccer and the team. It was about the rest of his life. Lance had reached the time in his life when soccer could no longer be the center of his world. It wasn't just the injury but the quality of the newer kids the school was recruiting.

It took all his time and energy to keep his place on the team, and winning it back would take even more at a time when he needed to start thinking about the rest of his life. It was always a reality that was going to come, but that didn't make it any easier. It made him angry because he didn't do anything as well as he played soccer.

"Don't get too comfortable. That's my mattress! You're going to have to settle for whatever spare I find."

Bang went on about the mattress situation as Lance thought of larger issues.

"Yeah, right. We got any Aspirin?"

"Wait a minute. You're so absolutely helpless."

"Yes, mom."

Bang fished out the bottle of aspirin and took out two, leaving the bottle on the table by the bunks. He handed Lance his last bottle of unopened water and took it back once the aspirin went down.

"Could you leave that? I'm really thirsty," Lance asked.

"Yeah, what else do you want? You already got my darn mattress."

"It's a damn fine mattress. You don't even know how to cuss. What about that ice you was going to get me?"


As awkward as it might have been, it wasn't. Both boys were focused and Bang was happy to be able to help his roommate in a way that was beneficial. He was sure some of his academic prowess was rubbing off on Lance without any of the residual jock philosophy rubbing off on him. They argued less and spoke from time to time about the summer ahead of them.

The final few weeks of school were spent in study halls and in the library. Bang went over the material he knew would probably appear on the English and math tests that Lance feared most. It was material Bang had covered early in high school. These were courses that emphasized the basics and Bang was well versed in those. He did his best not to lose his patience, while encouraging Lance to stick with it.

While Lance was convinced that Bang's plan was too simple to work, their new arrangement did work. Bang leaned toward over-studying and building a case of nerves before a test. Now he didn't have time for nerves; he had to make sure Lance was ready for his tests and in class to take them.

The day the grades were posted, Lance was delirious. He had broken through with all C's except for the A's in his gym related courses. Other than taking the tests, Lance hadn't attended them since damaging his ankle. Bang was delighted his tutoring had been effective, but not nearly as delighted as Lance.

Lance leaned over and hugged Bang once they were back in the car...

"Thanks, Bango. I still have a shot."

Lance glowed as he looked at the sheet of paper with his grades. It had been a good year after all. He could go home a success.

"We leaving today?"

"If we don't want to sleep on the quad tonight, we better get going," Bang said.

"Great! I can smell the pigs already."

"How charming," Bang said.

Pulling a U-Haul Trailer with a Corvette was a travesty to Lance. At first, he refused to get in the car but when Bang threatened to leave him and not to come back, he got in. Everything in the room went into storage. After taking the trailer back, Bang was driving down Route 1 toward the University when he made a left turn into a subdivision of large old homes.

"Where we going?" Lance inquired.

"Just want to see something is all."

After turning up three different streets, he pulled the Corvette up across the front of the driveway of a large, three story stone house.

"Wow, what a house," Lance said, looking at the craftsmanship in the stonework.

"I lived here once."

"You?"

"Yeah, this is the only house we ever owned. They sent me away to school from this house. I got to come back for Christmas one year. That was it. Come on, the garage is open. I'll show you my hole."

"Don't you think they've fixed it by now?"

"Come on."

"Someone lives here, Bang. Let's get out of here. I'll take your word for it."

Bang was good at ignoring Lance's complaining. He walked toward the garage and stood outside, staring in.

"See the floor?" he said as Lance limped up minus the cane.

"Yeah, looks like it's been patched or something."

"That's my hole."

"Your hole?"

Bang held up his hand with the short fingers and said, "Bang!"

"Shit, that fucker's four foot wide!"

"Yeah, about that deep too."

"It's a wonder it didn't blow your fuckin' arm off."

"More like my head. I was lucky."

"Yeah, well, at least that would have left you better looking," Lance quipped.

"Screw you, Lancelot. The blast took out that back wall."

"What were you concocting?"

"I don't know. I was a kid. I was doing what I saw the old man do. I had some idea of what I thought I was doing, but I don't remember."

"You're dangerous."

"Yeah, ain't that the truth. I thought it was the reason my parents got rid of me. I figured they thought I might blow up the house."

"What do you boys think you're doing?" a stern voice inquired.

"Oh, ah, nothing. I used to live here. I was just driving past and thought I'd check out the old place. I haven't been up this way in ten years."

"Bartholomew Phillips! You don't remember me? Mr. Thompson? Henry Thompson. I worked with your father."

"Oh, yeah. How are you?"

"How are you? Last time I saw you that hand was bandaged up. They thought you might loose more of it than you did. One lucky little boy, if you ask me. Whatever got into you to blow yourself up like that?"

"I've been trying to find that out for years," Bang answered.

"Bartholomew," Lance said, twisting and enjoying the name, laughing deep in his stomach and nearly falling on the leg that couldn't quite hold him with the extra exertion.

Bang reached out with one arm to stabilize him as Lance leaned, laughing, onto his weak leg.

"Oh, I knew you were on the eccentric side," Mr. Thompson said, looking at Bang's arm around Lance's waist. "I didn't figure you were like that. Not for me to judge, you understand. Live and let live is my philosophy. You always were a strange bird though."

He ran on way too long about Bang giving Lance a steadying hand to keep him from falling. The man's reaction had them both blushing with no way to change the picture.

"I'm going back to the car," Lance growled, easing Bang's supportive hand away.

"I'm glad you decided to try living, and now you've grown up. How's your dad anyway?"

"He's fine. On his way to Asia for a few years."

His words were tight and he was uncomfortable being there. All the disappointment and heartache he knew as a boy came back to him.

He walked away without saying goodbye. He couldn't be there another minute. He suddenly hated the house and all the memories attached to it.

Lance could see Bang's agitation once he got back to the car. They drove out Route 1 toward the Beltway, turning left at Beltsville, going west. Neither boy spoke for an hour. They were in rural northwestern Maryland, heading toward the Pennsylvania Turnpike, putting miles between them and school and the bad memories of Bang's past.

Once Lance sensed the time and space had improved Bang's mood, his curiosity came to the surface.

"So was he right about you?"

"About me? About us you mean. He called you my boyfriend," Bang said, smiling at Lance.

"Not that. What do I care about what that old man thinks? If I'd been on my toes I'd have kissed you just to shock the shit out of him. The other thing he said?"

"What other thing? He asked about my dad."

"You deciding to live. Is that the story you haven't told me?"

"You know what you need to know. I don't know, Lance. There was always yelling and fighting. They'd send me to bed and have a regular donnybrook. As big as that house is, I could hear them going at it. What was I doing the night I blew myself up, I don't know. They thought I was trying to kill myself. I never said I wasn't. I got more attention after that event than at any other time . Then, they dumped me at boarding school and drove out of my life. That's it."

"Bummer. Some parents shouldn't be allowed to have kids," Lance observed.

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