Knots, Book 2
by Elias Scott
Most of Sunday was lost for me. Matt wasn't ready to forgive me, I was mad at myself, and couldn't see me spending the day with my parents. But I decided to follow Matt's advice and give the last one a try. My dad was in the garage working on a wood project. He liked building things and had a table saw, lathe, router, and jig saw as well as lumber lined up against the wall. His wood working was his means of escape while mine was to escape to my room or to fuck.
The garage was attached to the back of our den. I opened the door to the garage and stuck my head in. He was grabbing a gray block of wood that was about three inches thick and about a square foot across. He didn't notice me at first. I cleared my throat. He smiled when he looked up. "I see you haven't left for LA yet."
"No, still here."
He held up the block of wood. "How 'bout I show you how to use the lathe?"
Shit, I thought. That was the last thing I wanted to do. "I have things to do."
I shrugged. "Well, uh..."
He walked over to me, put his arm around my neck, and pulled me toward the lathe. "You have nothing else to do, Andy. You're grounded. So stay here and maybe you'll learn something."
I pulled away from him, but stayed. There was something about him touching me that bothered me and I didn't know what it was. He pointed to a spot in front of the lathe. "This will only take a few minutes. Just watch."
He put on a pair of goggles, handed me a pair, took the block of wood, pinned it between the jaws of the lathe, tightened everything down, and started the machine.
The wood spun in a blur. He grabbed a tool from a board where fifteen or so wood working tools hung. I folded my arms with the goggles hanging from my hand as he pressed the tool to the wood. Chips started flying. I stepped back and put the goggles on. The wood turned brown as my dad applied the tool. I'd never seen anything like it. He turned the lathe off and pointed. "Look how it's changed."
It had changed. The wood was brown with strings of black running through it. I smiled. "It has."
"You never know what lies underneath until you do something to it. The beauty is hidden within. This is mahogany."
I shook my head and pointed at the lathe. "Really? I'd have never guessed that that old ugly piece of wood could look like this."
"Sometimes the world is full of surprises. In here, in this garage, I can create things. Maybe if you learned how to do this, you could create things too."
"Not me. I'm not good at this kind of stuff."
He put his arm around my neck and rocked me back and forth. "You'll never know until you try."
I pulled away more slowly this time. "I'm waiting. What's next?"
A flick of the switch turned the lathe spinning as he began shaping the wood into what looked like a bowl. He rounded the bottom, grabbed another tool, and began taking wood out of the right side until there was a two inch depression. It was sometimes hard to tell exactly what was happening because everything was spinning so fast. It made me a little dizzy.
He turned the lathe off again. My eyes opened wide. "That's awesome, Dad."
The brown mahogany had taken on the shape of a bowl with only an island of wood where the lathe was attached to the center of the bowl and holding everything in place. "Better than sitting in your room, right?"
A serious look crossed his face. "Seems like you shrug a lot. What's it take to get you excited?"
I wanted to tell him Matt, Randy, Thomas, and Kyle, but held my tongue.
"Football. I love quarterbacking the football team."
"That's a good thing. You're good too. You should be proud of that. Soon you'll be able to add running a lathe."
I took a chance. "How 'bout letting me play this week?"
"Sorry. You're going to have to learn sometime."
"It's not fair."
He paused in thought for a moment. "I'll make a deal with you. It goes against my better judgment, and I'm sure Matt's dad would say I'm making a mistake, but let's make a deal that will allow you to play this week."
"What's the deal?"
"Two things. First you finish watching me make this bowl and then you make one. Second, you promise not to break your grounding or have sex until the football season is over in four weeks. We prefer you hold off completely, but I'm not sure there's much we can do about that."
I was pretty sure I could handle the first part, but wasn't sure about the sex. It didn't seem like I had much choice. "What happens if I don't do the second part?"
"You're off the football team and you'll lose your cell phone permanently."
I rubbed my fingers back and forth across my forehead.
He went on. "It's only four weeks. We'll put it in writing and we'll all sign it."
One month without sex. I thought. It didn't seem possible. He was giving me a chance though, and I liked that. Then he added, "You can have your cell phone back after two weeks. But like I said, if you break the rules, you lose it permanently."
Talk about the carrot and the stick. Suddenly playing football and getting my cell phone back seemed more important than having sex. I figured I could make it through four weeks. At least I hoped I could.
"Deal," I said.
He stuck out his hand and I shook it.
"We'll make and sign the contract after you finish making your bowl."
He turned back to the lathe, removed his work from its jaws, and added
an attachment which pierced the bottom of the emerging bowl. He stuck
it in the lathe, turned it on again, grabbed another tool, and removed the island from the inside of the bowl. He stopped the lathe again so I could look at the bowl. It was beautiful. A smile crossed his face. "Now I'm going to give it a final touch."
He grabbed a piece of cloth from a sack of rags, soaked it with some liquid wax, turned the lathe back on, and pressed the rag to the bowl. I watched the bowl as the lathe slowed and there was my dad's creation. It was beautiful. The wax had brought out all the beauty of the wood. I remember thinking. I wish I was like that bowl.
He removed the bowl from the lathe, sanded the bottom, and handed it to me. My fingers caressed the wood as I felt the smoothness of it. I rolled it over and around so I could look at all sides. "I never knew you could do things like this, Dad."
"Maybe you were too busy doing other things to notice."
My silence was my answer.
He put his hand on the back of my neck, squeezed it, let go and said, "Okay, now it's your turn."
"It might not look like yours," I said.
"It doesn't have to. It's your bowl, not mine."
I won't go into all the details, but I spent a couple hours trying to do what he did in a half hour. It looked like a bowl, but one that appeared to have gone out drinking. The proportions weren't right, but after I rubbed the wax on it, it was something I felt proud of. Who'd have ever thought that something so simple could make me feel so good.
My dad helped me through every step of the process and showed patience I never realized he had. Strange, but I began to feel closer to him. He touched my shoulder, gave me words of encouragement, rubbed my back, or patted me on the back as I worked. It felt good and something changed inside me. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was like that piece of wood we'd turned into a bowl.
We both smiled at my final creation. "You'll get better with practice," he said.
He put his arm over my shoulder and walked me into the house. His touch didn't seem to bother me as much as it had. I didn't pull away. "Time to draw up our contract," he said as he grabbed a piece of paper and a pen. My mother was preparing dinner as he and I sat at the table to write out the contract. He handed it to me. "Read it to make sure you can live with it. You've already done the first part. I'm not sure, but the second part may be harder."
I read through it and it had everything spelled out just like we'd discussed in the garage. I signed it and dated it. My mother and father did the same.
Soon dinner was on the table and I thought of Matt telling me to give my parents some of my time. I didn't think I could do it, but so far it was easier than I expected.
Andy and I met in front of the school on Monday before the first bell rang. He begged me to forgive him and told me about the deal he'd made with his parents. My response was, "Too bad you're going to miss the rest of the football season."
Andy laughed. "Don't count on it."
"You're just one horny asshole and too easily tempted. Randy and Kyle will be back for more," I said.
"I'll be ready." He paused. "So you're having lunch with Thomas. What's going on there?"
"He's a good guy, and I'd like to get to know him better."
Andy frowned. "But I'm always going to be your best friend, right?"
"I'm not sure. Things could change. If you can get it on with Randy and Kyle, I don't see why I can't become friends with Thomas and maybe fool around like you did with them."
"I said I'm sorry."
"I know you, Andy. You are sorry, but you'll do it again and you'll tell me you're sorry again. Like Oscar Wilde said, 'you can resist everything but temptation. ' How many times am I supposed to forgive you?"
He gave me a hopeful look. "What did the minister say at church?"
"He said we should forgive a lot. But I'm not about to become a doormat where you can do anything you'd like and then just say I'm sorry and expect everything to go back to normal. I might be able to forgive you someday, but can I ever forget? I don't know."
The bell rang and we started toward the main building. Andy rubbed his hand up and down my back. "Matt, I'm really sorry."
I moved away from him. "See you at football practice."
"Yeah, see you at football practice. Enjoy your lunch with Thomas."
I grabbed my lunch out of my locker and headed out to the football field to meet Thomas. The day was overcast and cold which normally would have been a bad thing, but it was good because Thomas and I ended up being the only ones there. Often students would gather under the bleachers and make out. We made small talk as we walked up the bleachers where we sat about a foot apart and started eating our lunch.
We didn't say anything at first, until I finally said, "You heard about Andy, Randy, and Kyle didn't you?" I had no idea why that was the first thing out of my mouth.
He shrugged. "Yeah, but it doesn't surprise me. Randy's changed a lot since Dillon."
"Andy told me he wouldn't have sex without me. He broke his promise."
"Get used to it. I've finally accepted that Randy's going to do whatever he wants. It's his choice."
I gave Thomas a serious look. "Are you still friends?"
"Yeah. But it's not the same anymore." He took a bite out of his sandwich. "We have sex now and then, but he seems to have gotten bored with me."
I reached out and touched Thomas' hand. "Sex really changes things doesn't it?"
Thomas put down his sandwich, grabbed my hand, and interlocked his fingers into mine. "Yeah. Once you have it, there's no going back."
"Andy and I have a picture on our desks of the two of us when we were ten with our arms around each other. Lately I've been longing to be ten again." I looked around to see if anyone was around.
Thomas moved his hand under mine. "Sometimes I wish the same thing."
My glances caught sight of Andy lurking under the bleachers opposite us. No one else was around.
I moved in closer to Thomas and kissed him lightly on the lips. He kissed back. "We shouldn't do this," I said knowing the only reason I kissed him right then was because Andy was watching.
"Maybe you're right. This isn't the best place to be doing something like this," Thomas replied. "Maybe we should go under the bleachers. No one else is there."
I was going to grab his hand as we walked down, but thought better of it. We left our lunches on the bleachers and hurried down and under them. I grabbed him, pulled him into me, covered his mouth with mine, and gave him a hot sensual kiss as our tongues groped each other. It wasn't what he was expecting. We broke the kiss after four or five seconds, and both looked around to see if anyone was watching. Thomas didn't notice, but the only one around was Andy. I pulled Thomas in and kissed him again. I pulled his coat up and his shirt out as I slipped my hand under and rubbed his flat stomach and then rubbed and pinched his nipples. He groaned as his breath quickened. He grabbed my wrist and pulled my hand from under his shirt. "As much as I like it, this isn't the right place or the right time."
He was right. I was only doing it because of Andy. I felt like I was just using Thomas and that made it the wrong place and the wrong time.
Thomas tucked his shirt in. "Maybe I can come by your house or you can come to mine?"
"Can't do it." I said. "I'm grounded for a month. We're only going to be able to see each other at practice or school."
"There's always the bathroom," he offered with a grin.
"Right, there's always the bathroom. Let's play it by ear."
Andy caught up with me on my way to English class.
I kept walking as he walked next to me. "So how was lunch?"
"What'd you talk about?"
"You, Randy, and Kyle."
"Is that all you did?"
"What difference does it make? If you can run off with Randy and Kyle, I guess Thomas and I can do anything we want."
"Did you do anything?"
"I'm not telling." The conversation made me feel powerful and in control.
"Did you kiss him?"
"I'm not telling."
"Did he kiss you?"
"I'm not telling. That way I don't have to worry about lying to you like you lied to me."
"I told you I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry that you didn't stick to our agreement."
Suddenly, his attitude changed. "Fuck you, Matt. I'm not going to beg. I'd forgive you. You seem to have forgotten our foursome."
"That was different. I was there."
He became vulnerable again. "I need you to forgive me if I'm going to be able to keep my contract with my parents."
"We'll see," I said as I walked into my English class, walked over to Gina, and gave her a quick kiss. Andy stood in the doorway with his mouth open, then left.
The bell rang, the class settled down, and Mr. Abbott asked us to take out our copies of The Picture of Dorian Gray. "I know I only asked you to read the first six chapters, and there's still a long way to go, but what did you think?"
I raised my hand. "I love it, Mr. Abbott. I didn't think I'd like anything we had to read, but I really like it."
Other students agreed.
He paused and then gave us a serious look. "The administration heard that I told you a little about Oscar Wilde's life and mentioned sodomy. I'm not sure who told them, but they instructed me to stick to the story. So that's what we're going to do. If you want to know more about the book or Oscar Wilde, I suggest you do your own research. I don't think the administration will care if you bring in your own information and ask questions. One of Wilde's sons wrote a book about his dad and his life growing up. It's called, The Son of Oscar Wilde. You might find it interesting."
The class was silent until Jason called out, "That's censorship. They can't do that."
Mr. Abbott smiled. "They didn't ban the book, and I think we have an acceptable compromise."
Jason stood up. "I looked up sodomy. That Wilde guy was gay. Is that why they don't want us talking about him?"
Mr. Abbott was clever. "What do you think?"
"Maybe. I don't much like gays, but I like the story."
"So let's stick to the story."
Gina raised her hand. "But Mr. Abbott, the three main characters, Lord Henry, Dorian, and Basil, seem like they're really into each other."
"Does that make them gay? Remember, this story takes place in the 1800's. Things were different then. A natural affection between men was acceptable, but of course anything more than that was considered sinful and punishable by law."
Peter raised his hand. "Is that what happened to Oscar Wilde?"
Mr. Abbott kept a straight face. "Yes. He spent two years in jail. He never wrote anything after that. But, let's stay focused on the book. How many of you would be willing to stay young forever?"
About half the class raised their hands.
"What age would you want to be?"
Answers came firing forward with ages from sixteen to thirty.
Mr. Abbott smiled. "Those who said sixteen, raise your hand." About ten hands went up. "So you're saying you'd want to stay in school all your life?"
Mel Jacobs spoke up. "No, I'd just want to look sixteen all my life."
"Aren't you concerned that you'd always be treated like a kid?"
"I hadn't thought of that," Mel replied. "Maybe I'd want to be eighteen. Yeah, eighteen would be better."
Someone said, "I think twenty-five would be best. You're not too young or too old."
"How would you feel about having a picture of you that showed your age as you grew older?" Mr. Abbott asked.
Emily spoke next. "I'd get rid of the picture so I wouldn't have to look at it."
"Given what you read so far, do you think Dorian could have gotten rid of the picture and still remained young?"
"I hadn't thought of that," Emily replied. "I don't think he could. The picture is tied to him in some way. So he'd have to keep it so the picture could age and he could stay young."
The discussion went on for some time until Mr. Abbott asked us to pick a quote and write a short essay about it before class ended in twenty minutes.
I chose the following quote spoken by Basil to Lord Henry. "It is better not to be different from one's fellows...If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat. They live as we all should live--undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet. They neither bring ruin upon others, nor ever receive it from alien hands." It seemed so appropriate to where I found myself that day.
I love acting. It's so much more real than life. -- Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray
It's a sad thing to think of, but there is no doubt that genius lasts longer than beauty. -- Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray
One can always be kind to people about whom one cares nothing. - Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray
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