Marco, Marty and the Twins

by Nick Brady

Chapter 12

Copyright © 2016 – 2016 by Nick Brady, all rights reserved.

The summer wore on and baseball became the most important thing in the world for Sam and Ben. The team improved with Stan's coaching. Brian came to about half the practices then worked with some of the boys individually. When he was at the practice on Saturdays he was invited to come over with his cousin Bobby and their friend Tyron and the five boys played workup baseball in the back yard. Occasionally Marco and Marty joined them, even Leroy when he had time.

The rules for workup baseball are flexible and basically are whatever the players agree to. The setup this group of friends agreed to were as follows:

They positioned themselves with two batters, a pitcher, a catcher, first baseman and the rest fielders. The lack of team members resulted in the elimination of second and third base. A home run was defined as a run to first and back. If one batter got on base, the other batter tried to get a hit and let the runner return home. Three strikes was an out and after two outs everyone rotated through the positions, with the fielder coming to catch, the catcher going to pitch, the pitcher going to first and so forth. The exception was if a fielder caught a fly ball then he traded places with the batter. Other exceptions were negotiated when they occurred. It was workable, fun, and gave everyone experience with the various positions.

School was out, scouts was over for the summer, and with the exception of church on Sunday, baseball was the focus for the summer. During the week Sam and Ben got out in the back yard and played catch or hit fly balls to each other. They approached the game with a dedication that surprised Marco and Marty. As a result their skills increased rapidly and they became fine little ball players.

Marty knew a bit about baseball and found that he enjoyed working with the boys when he got home in the evening. The days were growing long as the summer went on and he spent quite a bit of time with the boys. He had the boys try to really pitch to each other. Ben developed a certain degree of accuracy and Marty had hopes he might develop into a good pitcher. He invested in a catcher's mitt and a first baseman's glove so that they would have whatever they might need for any position on the team. Sam found that he really liked the first base glove which gave him more reach when he went after a wide throw.

As the season progressed the team began to work well together and were winning most of their games. Stan was a good coach and worked them hard but always with a great deal of positive encouragement. Tyron proved to be a capable center fielder, an excellent batter and was seldom struck out. Bobby developed into a good little shortstop as he was quick and fearless. He was not afraid to get in front of a hard hit ball and not much got past him. Sam secured the first base spot and Ben either pitched or played third base. A stocky boy named Kenny was a durable catcher. They were not the only boys with a certain degree of talent and the team prospered, ending up with a winning season.

During all this time Marco found himself in the position to spend some time getting to know Brian better. He respected Brian for his willingness to encourage the younger boys and for his natural athleticism. Marco was also struck by Joyce's remark that Brian had come from a difficult home situation and felt a certain amount of empathy for him. One Saturday afternoon everyone else had gone into the house to cool off with a soda and Marco found the opportunity to speak with Brian one to one.

"I really appreciate the effort you have put forth to help the younger boys," he told Brian.

"Oh that's OK," Brian said. "I really enjoy it."

Marco hesitated then said, "You know, I had kind of a rough time when I was a kid. I actually didn't know who my father was and my mother drank a lot. It was kind of tough. Would you mind if I asked what your situation is like?"

Brian looked away then shrugged. "I don't know, I do OK I guess."

Marco did not respond but waited to see what Brian might want to tell him.

Brian looked intently at Marco and asked, "You really didn't know who was your father?"

"Not until I was grown and tracked him down through his DNA," Marco admitted. "and then I found out he is in prison."

"Really?" Brian looked very surprised.

"Lots of people have things they struggle with. I don't mean to pry, but I like you and wondered about your situation."

Brian looked intently at Marco then his eyes began to fill with tears and he looked away. "It's hard to talk about." he murmured.

"I'm listening," Marco said quietly.

"I know who my father is, I remember him, but he left a long time ago," Brian explained, "He wasn't a very nice person."

"How's that?" Marco encouraged him to continue.

Brian sighed and looked down. After a minute he looked Marco in the eyes, "You really want to know?"

"If you want to tell me about it," he hesitated, "You can trust me Brian. This is just between the two of us."

For the first time, Brian looked almost helpless and his voice quivered. "I don't like to talk about this, but actually...,"

Marco looked around. "There is nobody here but you and me. What's your story?"

"My, my father a-abused me," he stammered.

Marco waited patiently.

Brian took a deep breath. "Well, when I was little, like five or six, my father would come into my bedroom to tuck me in, and would lie down with me. I liked for him to do that, but then he would start to touch me, you know..."

Marco paused then asked, "Where did he touch you?"

Brian looked away. "He would put his hand down the front of my pajamas and touch me there."

"How did that make you feel?"

"Well," his tears began to fall. "It kind of scared me, but I kind of liked it too. I mean, he was my father and I thought maybe it was OK." He looked intently at Marco, wondering what his reaction would be.

Marco looked back at him gently, "Go on, I'm listening. It's just you and me."

Brian was having trouble with his voice but continued, "He would do that a lot, and when I didn't cry or stop him, then he..., he wanted me to touch him back."

He looked up at Marco who was nodding slowly, "and then?"

"Well, I did what he wanted me to, and then he did more...." Brian began to cry softly, looking away as if to hide his tears. "This is really hard to talk about," he sobbed.

Marco put his hand on Brian's shoulder. "Would you believe me if I told you that I understand what you went through?"

"No, you can't know what that was like," he choked.

Marco nodded his head. "Yes I can, and even more."

"Really?" Brian looked at him in disbelief.

"Yes, really. Look, I know this is hard for you, but at some point you have to talk about this with somebody. I do understand, and please believe that nothing you have done, nothing you can say to me, will make me respect you any less. If you are not ready to talk right now, then know that you can trust me and when you are ready, maybe we can talk about this some more, OK?"

Brian looked somewhat grateful and nodded his head.

Marco asked gently, "Has anybody suggested that you might want to talk to a counselor about this?"

Now Brian flashed a look of anger, "No, I don't want to do that! I'm not crazy...., I'm just..., I'm confused mostly."

Marco waited to see if Brian wanted to say more.

Brain looked at Marco, tears streaming down his face with an expression of pain, "See, the problem was, that I liked it, I liked what he was doing. So when I got older he kept on doing it until my mom found out and then they got in a big fight and.... I don't know what they said, but then he left, and it was my fault, because...." and he dissolved into tears.

Brian leaned towards him and Marco instinctively put his arm around the boy's shoulder and let him rest his head on Marco's chest while he sobbed in anguish. It had not occurred to Marco that this bright capable boy was in so much pain. He just held him and murmured reassuring in his ear, "It's alright Brian, it's alright. Let it out, it's alright."

Finally Brian took a deep breath and looked around as if he were afraid that someone was watching to see him cry. "I'm sorry," he sighed. "I didn't mean to do that."

When Brian looked up at Marco he saw that Marco's face was also wet with tears. Marco nodded and told him. "Hey Brian. It's alright. I've been there and I do understand."

Marco pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to Brian who wiped his face, blew his nose and tried to catch his breath. After a minute Marco asked him. "How do you feel? After getting that out, how do you feel?"

Brian choked a smile. "Like I just puked."

Marco nodded to him. "It does feel like that, doesn't it. Look, I am here anytime you want to talk to me. I am not a therapist, but I really do know where you are coming from and if it means anything to you, I care. I really do give a shit."

Brian almost smiled, hiccuped and said. "Thanks." Then he stood and went back into the house leaving Marco to his thoughts.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully, and Leroy took Brian and Bobby home when he left with Tyron.

That night after the boys were in bed, Marco and Marty talked in their bedroom.

"I saw you talking with Brian this afternoon after we came in the house," Marty said. "It looked like a serious conversation."

"It was indeed," Marco sighed.

"So what's up with Brian? He seems like a really solid kid."

"He is actually. He copes well, I guess."

"What's his story?" Marty wondered.

Marco hesitated. "He wanted to be sure that the conversation was private," Marco explained. "I will just tell you that his situation was not unlike my own. I could really relate."

"No kidding?" Marty shook his head. "I would never have guessed that."

"He's really hurting. I hope he will talk more to me. He needs to get some things out, you know?"

Marty nodded, "I know. We both have some experience with life's challenges."

"He is really a good person, but some thing have happened that have left him very confused about himself."

Well, if anybody can help him, you can Marco."

"I hope so," Marco said. "I hope so. You know, some kids have gone through things that burden them for life. I hope we can spare Sam and Ben those kinds of experiences."

Marty nodded his head, "Sam and Ben lost their parents at an early age, but their experiences with them were positive as best as we can tell. We may not be traditional parents, but I think they have had a good life with us."

"I hope so. No one could ask for better kids."

"Well, I won't pry, but if there is anything I can do please let me know. Brian would be a hard kid not to like."

"He is that," Marco agreed.

School started and with it Cub Scouts. As luck with have it, Marco found himself the Webelo Den Leader and as promised Brian was his Den Chief so they saw each other weekly. Nothing more was said about their conversation of the previous summer, but there seemed to be a special bond between them. As expected, Brian was an excellent Den Chief and they worked very well together.

Marco got together with Mark Kingston who was an experienced scouter for a crash course in scouting.

"The purpose of Webelos is to get a boy ready for Boy Scouts," Mark told him.

"Scouting is a great program," Marco agreed, "But I was never in scouts as a kid. I'm afraid I have very little experience."

Mark chuckled, "Well, you look trainable. All the information you need is in your Webelo Handbook. The council offers some training which I would recommend. It is geared mainly at Boy Scouts, but so is Webelos. You should look into that."

"I will," Marco agreed.

"Your wife can be a big help if she is inclined," Mark told him.

Marco paused. This was always a little awkward. "Actually, my spouse is another man. Marty and I are gay and were married for several years and we adopted our sons when they were four," Marco told him frankly. "I just wanted you to know that right off."

Mark frowned. "Is that right? Well I guess that is allowed now days. Do you see that as a problem?"

"No, I don't at all," Marco told him. "Do you?"

"Well, I guess I'm old fashioned. That would never have happened back when I was in scouts."

Marco hesitated. "Can we work together on this?"

"Well, I guess we will have to," Mark said. "But I have to wonder how you will be with these young boys to be honest."

Marco thought for a moment. "I can assure you that they will be in good hands, Mr. Kingston. I am committed to doing scouts with my sons, and so is my partner Marty. If that is a problem for you then I am fine with working with someone else."

The two men eyed each other carefully, then the older man shrugged. "Well, I don't guess I am qualified to judge what's in another man's heart. Maybe I am just too old fashioned. I will help you all I can."

"I appreciate your confidence and hope I will be as good a scouter as you have been. My boys are determined to be Eagle scouts so I imagine I will be in this for the long haul." Marco smiled gently.

The older man didn't reply, but stuck out his hand and they began to work together.

Mr Kingston knew his stuff. Marco called him several times with questions about how to structure the meetings and the requirements for the boys to complete Webelos. The trust between the two grew and before long any initial reservations were put behind them. Marco attended two weekends of Scout Leader training and was very impressed with the depth of the program. He was beginning to look forward to the experience.

On a Monday evening the first den meeting was held in their living room where he found himself with eight enthusiastic young scouts. Besides Sam and Ben were Bobby, Leroy and Tony who had been with them in Bears. New to him was Kenny who had played baseball with the twins that summer, and a boy named Lawrence who was new to them all. The remaining member of the group was faithful Brian who would be their Den Chief. The younger boys all pounded him on the back and made him feel very welcome.

"I am so glad you are here," Marco assured him. "This is kind of new to me and I will depend on you to keep me out of trouble."

Brian smiled. "I will do my best, that's what scouts do you know."

"I'm sure you will," Marco told him.

With the exception of Lawrence all the boys knew each other from either scouts or baseball or both. Kenny was a Bear and had been in a different pack the previous year. He told them that he just wanted to be in Webelos with his baseball friends.

Lawrence was a small boy with glasses. He had recently moved to Tulsa from Kansas City. His parents were eager for him to make new friends and hoped that cub scouts would help him do that. He was a Bear and appeared to know what scouting was about as best as Marco could tell. He was rather quiet which Marco attributed to being new.

Marco made a little speech. "Now most all of you guys know each other. Lawrence is new to us and I expect you to make him feel welcome. It is not easy being the new guy. Remember that scouts are friendly, helpful, courteous and kind, so be all that to Lawrence, OK? Lawrence, you are very welcome here and we look forward to getting to know you better." Lawrence smiled shyly and looked a little more comfortable.

"Now I have to admit that I am sort of new to being a scout leader but I have been doing my homework and will try not to disappoint you. Most of you know Brian who will be our Den Chief. Brian is a Star Scout, and I will depend on his experience and he will be a big help to us. I can tell you that Brian is a very good scout and a trustworthy guide for us all. Thank you Brian." Brian rolled his eyes but looked pleased.

Marco had planned the first meeting carefully and he tried to tell the boys what would be required of them. "You need Webelo Handbooks, the den dues are ten dollars a month and the requirements for Webelo scout are listed in the handbook. We will have several camp outs and a hike, learn about camp cooking, and first aid. You will learn about physical fitness and work on a duty to God requirement with your pastors."

Marco was feeling a little overwhelmed. He looked at the boys who were looking at him, reminding him of a group of baby birds who were waiting for someone to stuff a worm into their mouths. He glanced at Brian who was sitting with his arms crossed, a smile on his face.

"Do you have any suggestions for us Brian?"

Brian nodded. "It would be a good idea if we all wore our Webelo uniforms to the den meetings," he suggested. "Now that you are Webelos you need to get the tan shirts that you can continue to wear when you go into Boy Scouts."

Marco suddenly became acutely aware that he didn't have a scout uniform. He resolved to remedy that the next day.

With a feeling of near panic he turned the boys over to Brian and asked that he lead them in a game. Brian did so without hesitation, earning Marco's gratitude. Soon enough the parents were picking the boys up. Leroy came for Tyron and asked Marco, "So how did it go esteemed leader?"

"Oh fine, fine," he said with more confidence than he felt. "Thank God for Brian," he admitted.

"Oh you will do fine," Leroy assured him. "I will help you when I can."

Marty came home from work shortly after all the boys had left. "How was it?"

"Kind of scary," Marco admitted. "I was not really prepared."

"I thought scouts were always prepared." Marty remarked with a smile.

"I don't even have a scout shirt," Marco groaned. "We all need shirts. I don't have one at all and the boys need new tan ones, and all the patches."

"Better get to work on that," Marty grinned.

"Right. We will make a trip to Penney's tomorrow to do some shopping."

"Hey, I might be giving you a hard time, but I am really proud of you for taking this on," Marty said sincerely.

"Well, it will be an adventure for us all. I think once I get into it I will be OK, but right now I am still working my way up the learning curve."

"You'll do fine," Marty said and gave him a reassuring hug. "In my experience you can do anything."

"Easy for the guy to say who doesn't have to do it," Marco said with a shrug.

"How did Brian do?" Marty asked.

"Oh he was fine, he is going to be a great help. It is like we never had that difficult conversation."

"Brian is a tough kid. He'll be OK. Just be open to him if he wants to talk to you again."

"I will be," Marco said. "I worry about him though."

"You always seem to know what to do," Marty assured him. "You will both work this out."

"I hope so. I really hope so."

The next day Marco loaded Sam and Ben into his car and drove them all to the Penney's store and walked to the scout department. "Fix us up," he told the clerk. We all need scout shirts, patches, council strips, the works."

"What about pants and socks?" the clerk asked.

"We have khakis," Marco explained. "Just the stuff that goes on the shirts."

They were measured and outfitted. Marco insisted that the boys get their shirts a size too big to provide growing room. They bundled up their new uniforms and walked proudly to the car.

"Now you will look like a real scout, Daddy,"Sam said.

"And Brian will be proud of you," Ben laughed.

"I hope so," Marco sighed.

The remainder of the day was spent figuring out where the patches went and getting them sewed on.

At the next den meeting, Brian was 20 minutes late. The scouts had been advised that when they came for a den meeting they should just rap on the door and enter rather than waiting for someone to let them in. So when Brian came in late he did so without ceremony.

Marco saw him walk in. "Hi Brian. I was afraid you weren't going to make it. Nice to see you."

"Sorry I was late," Brian said, appearing a little out of breath.

They were planning their first overnight campout for the next weekend. For convenience they were going to camp in Marco's back yard which would keep it simple. The plan was to learn to create a balanced meal using only a dutch oven in a camp fire. Tonight's project was to make some wax fire starters. Marco had done his homework and was ready.

"OK Guys, this is easy. Now here is what we will do," He had all the materials laid out on the kitchen table. "We have some wax, this is just paraffin wax, you can buy this anywhere. And here I have a small bag of wood chips, actually some fine pine bark mulch, and an egg carton. Notice that I have put some newspapers down to keep me from making a mess on the table."

Marco began to get into this and had the boys watching closely as if he was getting ready to do a magic trick. Now, we put the wax into a double boiler, actually a small pot in a larger pot of boiling water, and wait until the wax melts. While that is melting, lets put a small scoop of wood chips in each of the pockets in the egg carton. One of you want to do that?"

Kenny raised his hand. "May I?"

"Sure," Marco replied, pleased that the new boy was willing to step up.

Kenny carefully picked up and small handful of chips and placed them in each compartment of the egg carton, then stepped back and wiped his hands on his trousers.

Marco had started the double boiler off with hot water from the tap, so by the time the egg cartons were filled and ready, most of the wax had melted. He sloshed it around a little and decided that it was ready.

"Now, who would like to carefully pour this into each egg cup. I mean carefully now, it's pretty hot."

The boys looked at each other and Bobby said, "I think I can do that."

"OK, be careful," Marco warned him.

Marco handed an oven mitt to Bobby and they all watched as he painstakingly poured the hot wax over the wood chips in each compartment of the egg carton. He did it slowly enough so that it settled down and stopped when the chips began to rise a little.

Bobby looked up at Marco and asked him, "How's that?"

"That looks pretty good Bobby. Now lets give it a few minutes to cool and set."

They watched as the wax began to harden and turn from clear to white, contracting slightly as it cooled. Marco took a toothpick and stuck it into one of the compartments. It seemed to be solid so he pushed the compartment up from the bottom and the block of wood chips popped out intact.

"I think they are ready," he guessed. "Now how are we going to carry these?"

"We can dump them out and put them in a bag," Tony suggested.

"Right, we could do that. Any other ideas?"

"We could leave them in the egg carton so they don't get messed up," Sam suggested.

"Yeah, that's a good idea," Bobby said. That would be easy to carry."

"What do you think?" Marco asked.

"But what do you do with them?" Ben wondered.

"Yeah, let's see if they work," Tyron said. "Let's try one."

Marco grinned, "That's a good idea. Want to experiment with one?"

"Yeah!" came a chorus of replies.

Marco pushed out the one that he had tested first and led the boys into the back yard. He set it down on a brick and held up a kitchen match. "Who wants to try it?"

They all did.

"OK, what is 16 plus 14 divided by 2? First answer gets to light the fire starter."

Lawrence said quickly, "15."

Marco grinned and handed Lawrence the match. "Strike it on the brick and light one corner of the fire starter."

Lawrence carefully struck the match and held it to the glop of wax and wood chips. After a moment it began to catch into a flame and quickly blazed into an intense fire.

"There now, that will start your fire better than old newspaper and it is easier to carry around," Marco suggested.

"And it will work even if it's wet," Lawrence said.

"That's right. You're going to make a good scout Lawrence." The small boy broke out into a big smile.

All this time Brian had watched with amusement but had left Marco to run the show.

When the meeting was over and the boys had been picked up, Brian remained.

It was unusual for Brian not to ride home with Bobby. "So how are things Brian? I noticed you were late."

"I'm good, thank you. I just missed catching a ride with Bobby so I rode my bike over here," Brian explained.

"Really? That's five or six miles from here."

Brian shrugged. "That's not far, It only takes about twenty minutes. I ride my bike a lot."

"Well, I'm glad you came. Can I give you a ride home?"

"I can ride my bike home, but I would appreciate the ride."

"Let's wait for Marty to get home so I can leave the boys here. We will need the back seat for your bike," Marco suggested. "Will it fit in there?"

"Oh sure, the front wheel pops off. It will fit."

Sam and Ben were pleased that Brian had stayed for awhile and engaged him in a video game until Marty got home.

Marty came in to find the three boys zapping monsters on the TV. "Hey Brian. Nice to see you."

"Nice to see you Mr. Montgomery. Marco is giving me a ride home," Brian explained.

Marty laughed, "Actually we are both Mr. Montgomery. I guess that could be confusing. Why don't we go by Marco and Marty?"

Brian smiled, "Sure, thanks. That would be easier."

"Well, let's get you home," Marco stood and started for the car. Brian popped the quick-release on the front wheel of his bicycle and expertly slipped it in the back seat of the sedan.

"I keep it wiped pretty clean," Brian assured him, "It won't get your upholstery dirty."

"Oh don't worry about that. This old car is no showpiece," Marco chuckled. "You will have to tell me where you live. I know it's not far from Bobby, but I have never been there."

"Just drive over to Bobby's and I can ride my bike from there," Brian suggested.

"That's OK, I can take you on home. It would be just as easy."

Brian stared ahead for a minute then asked, "Could I ask you something? I mean, if you have a little time to talk?"

"Sure. How about we stop for a soda or something." Marco pulled into a Sonic and they eased into a slot and ordered soft drinks through the speaker.

While they waited for the car-hop Marco asked Brian, "What's on your mind?"

"A couple of things actually," Brian started talking without looking a Marco. "First is kind of neat. My scout troop is having a court of honor in a couple of weeks and I will get my Life Scout."

"That's great Brian, congratulations."

Brian glanced over at Marco. "Thanks. Actually, I wondered if you would like to present it to me."

Marco was surprised. "Why sure, I would be honored. But shouldn't your mom do that?"

Now Brian looked away again and explained, "You see, my mother works nights a lot of times and she can't be there, so uh, I wondered if you could do it."

"That's really nice, Brian. I appreciate your asking. Of course I will be your presenter."

Brian glanced towards him with a slight smile, "Thanks, that will be cool – I mean you being my Webelo Den Leader and all – it just seemed like you would be a good person to do that."

Brian paused and cleared his throat. "And you have been sort of a good friend to me, and uh...."

Marco waited for a moment to see what else Brian had to say, then saw that the boy's eyes were wet as he stared out the front window.

"Did you say you had a couple of things to talk about?"

Brian nodded wordlessly. When finally he spoke his voice was very hoarse and quiet. "I guess I'm not ready to talk about the other thing, I'm sorry."

They finished their sodas then Marco pulled out and drove on in the direction of Bobby's house.

"Where do you live, Brian? I will take you on home, OK?"

Brian seemed reluctant, but gave Marco directions to an apartment building a few blocks away. It had a derelict look about it that looked familiar to Marco.

"This is it," Brian said with a sigh.

Marco smiled gently. "I grew up in Section 8 housing. This looks pretty familiar."

"Really?" Brian was surprised. "I guess maybe we have some things in common."

Marco smiled and nodded. "I Imagine we have a lot of things in common. More than you know."

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