Marco, Marty and the Twins

by Nick Brady

Chapter 17

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

The summer rambled on and life with Brian as a member of the family began to seem quite normal. The initial excitement the twins felt at having Brian with them settled into a less frantic but very congenial relationship. Brian made good on his promise to help all he could and soon made himself an indispensable member of the household. He made his bed, he picked up the house and spoiled the boys by doing more than his share. One unexpected trait was his interest in cooking and he often tried to help Marco with dinner, learning a good bit from Marco who was after all, an excellent cook. In short, he made himself at home and made himself very welcome.

He rode his bike to his own baseball practice in the afternoon, and showed up for the twins practice when he was able. Now that Cubs was over for Sam and Ben, they found themselves involved in Brian's Boy Scout troop and loved it. They quickly learned the simple requirements to get their Scout badge and began working on Tenderfoot. As a senior member of the troop, Brian tried to help all the boys, but spent extra time with Sam and Ben at home and they were ready for advancement in short time. By the end of the summer the troop held elections and Brian was elected the Senior Patrol Leader. Sam and Ben were very proud.

Marco picked up his boys from scouts and Sam and Ben talked over each other trying to share the big news. "Brian is the SENIOR Patrol Leader, Daddy. He runs the whole troop!" Sam said.

"We voted for him, Everybody voted for him!" Ben exclaimed.

"Now wait a minute," Brian tried to slow them down. "I'm not in charge of everything, Paul Marshall the scoutmaster is, and not everyone voted for me. There was another boy running too."

"Yes, but you got a lot more votes than that other guy. Everybody thinks you're the best," Sam insisted.

"Well, being the Senior Patrol Leader makes you the head scout in the troop. That is quite a responsibility. I would say congratulations are in order," Marco smiled.

"Yeah, congratulations Brian!" both boys shouted. Sam and Ben had not yet learned that it was uncool to be enthusiastic.

Brian rolled his eyes but looked very pleased. "Thanks guys," he said quietly.

The boys burst in the house to share the news with Marty. "Brian won! He is the new scout leader!"

"The Senior Patrol Leader," Brian corrected them.

"Wow, you da' man Brian!" Marty grinned.

Brian flopped down on the sofa. "It is kind of neat, but it's a lot of work too. I have to run the patrol leaders meeting where we plan the campouts and everything."

Marty had not been a scout, but as a director over a group of programming managers he knew a lot about organization. "Hey, the secret word is delegate my man. That's what your subordinates are for."

"Like Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Patrol Leaders?"

"Right. All those people should have responsibilities. If you are doing it all, you aren't doing it right. Use your resources." Marty advised him. "You should have staff people too."

"You have a Quartermaster and a Librarian and some other guys who have responsibilities." Marco suggested.

"I'm not sure how all that works," Brian admitted.

"Let's talk about how the troop is supposed to be organized. I might be able to help you a little," Marty offered. "A scout troop is not like a corporation, but good management is good management.'

Brian nodded. "That should be true."

The discussion was a bit over the heads of the twins who started to lose interest.

"Who has a baseball game this week?" Marco asked.

"Ours are always on Saturday," Sam reminded him.

"I have one Thursday afternoon," Brian said.

"What time Thursday?" Marco wondered.

"At three o'clock. Can you make it?"

"I should be able to, can you make the Saturday game for the twins?" Marco asked Marty.

"Yes, I think so. I'm afraid I can't do weekday games though." Marty regretted. "I don't get to make many your games Brian. Sorry"

"Hey, that's OK. You have to work Marty. I understand," Brian told him.

Marco and Marty walked into the kitchen leaving the boys in the living room.

Brian looked at the twins. "How are you doing on your Tenderfoot requirements?"

"Oh that's easy," Ben said. "We already know most of that stuff, like the promise and the laws and stuff. You showed us how to tie a square knot and we've already done a campout and all that."

"Oh really?" Brian said. "Do you know how to tie a half-hitch and a taut-line hitch? Do you know all the first aid stuff? Have you done the fitness test and written that down?"

Sam and Ben looked at each other. "Well no, not all of it."

Brian laughed. "I didn't think so. You may still have a way to go."

"Will you help us with that stuff?" Sam asked.

"Well sure, you know I will," Brian smiled. "But don't tell me you have it all done. No doubt you can do it, but you aren't there yet."

"I know," Ben admitted.

"If you don't have anything else you need to do, why don't you look at the handbook and then tell me what the first aid requirements for Tenderfoot are?"

The boys looked at each other, shrugged and went into their bedroom to check their scout handbooks.

"Brian always makes us do all the work," Ben complained.

"Well, maybe he wants us to learn something. He already knows this stuff," Sam reminded him.

"I know," Ben opened his handbook and sat down on the floor.

Brian went into the kitchen to see what Marco and Marty were doing.

"Are you being a little tough on those boys?" Marco grinned.

"No, well, they are kind of lazy sometimes. They won't learn anything if I just hand it to them."

"Absolutely. Stay with them, Brian. They take it better from you than from us," Marco chuckled.

"I don't want to be too rough on them, but I want them to learn something," Brian smiled. "Actually, I kind of like the little goof balls."

"I know. You guys are doing fine." Marco looked at him. "So how are you doing? Is everything working out for you so far?"

Brian looked surprised. "For me? Oh yeah, I couldn't be happier. I love it here."

"Any problems? Is this what you expected?"

"Not really," Brian laughed. "This is a lot better than I could have hoped for. You guys are great to me. Why? Is there a problem?"

Marty laughed. "Not from our end. We just wanted to give you a chance to talk about anything that might be bothering you."

Brian looked a little nervous. "What's the matter? Is there something I don't know about?"

"No, no, we are just doing a signal check, that's all. You're doing great. The boys love you, you're a big help. No arrests or pregnant girlfriends. No complaints at all." Marty teased.

Brian laughed. "I guess that's one thing you don't have to worry about."

"It's kind of open mic time. Nothing you would like to talk about?" Marco wondered.

Brian thought for a moment. "Actually there is one thing I wish I had. That's a job. I really need a job. You guys pay for everything I need, but I wish I had a little money to go in my pocket. I feel like a leech."

"No you're not," Marty assured him. "You have never asked us for anything. We expect to feed you."

"Well, besides that, you pay my way to the movie, you pay for my scout dues and you bought me some clothes – you even bought me that cool bicycle and I have no idea what that cost. It kind of makes me feel like a bum. Sometimes I want a few things but I don't want to ask you for money. You do enough for me already." Brian was very sincere.

Now Marco and Marty were in sync on most things, but Marty had never really been hard pressed for money. His mother had helped him through school and once he graduated, he quickly got a good paying job as a programmer and had risen to be a director. He was talented and worked hard, but as luck would have it, he had gotten off to a good start.

On the other hand, Marco left home and basically lived on the street when he was sixteen. He had almost nothing until he was able to work two jobs and later got a scholarship. His fortune improved when he met Marty and experienced success as an artist. But when he and Marty started living together he had been very concerned that he was paying his own way. Together he and Marty were comfortable. But the fact remained that Marco knew what it was like to be without and worried about where his next meal was coming from. Marty really had never experienced that. As a result Marco understood exactly where Brian was coming from. He wanted his own money, just in case.

"Sure, you want a job. I understand that," Marco agreed. "Your problem is that you aren't sixteen yet and that limits you. What would you like to do?"

Brian looked hopeful. "I could do lots of things. I could do almost anything, I think. Well, I really don't know. I'm just a kid. I don't know what kind of job I can get."

Marco chuckled at his frustration. "Actually Brian, I do understand. I might have an idea, but I 'll have to check with somebody. What do you know about bicycles?"

"I know how to true wheels and adjust brakes and stuff. I put different dérailleurs on that old crap bike of mine. I don't know everything but I am a pretty good bike mechanic – well, not bad anyway."

"I introduced you to Wayne at church, remember? He sold me your Shimano. I don't know if he needs help in his shop, and I don't know that he would hire you if he did, but I could ask him."

"Really? That would be cool!" Brian looked excited.

"Now, don't get your hopes up, but I'll ask him. It can't hurt," Marco promised him.

"Great, thanks," Brian grinned.

"And if that doesn't work we'll look for something else, OK?"

"OK." Brian nodded and smiled.

"Now, why don't you go see if you can crank up those lazy boys."

"I can do that," Brian knocked on the door to the twin's room and was granted admittance.

"Wow. I never thought about that," Marty admitted. "Do you think Wayne would give him a job?"

Marco shrugged. "Why not? He's a hustler, and probably would do a good job for him. He's underage, but there are ways of working around that."

Marty grinned. "Yeah, I remember you peddling wine at sixteen when you worked in Luigi's."

"Who, me?" Marco shrugged. "Sometimes you do what you have to do."

On Thursday Marco came home from his studio at two-thirty to take Brian to his baseball game. He had not watched Brian play before. He felt a little guilty that he had been so concerned about the twin's baseball that he had neglected Brian. Well, he had three sons now and they needed equal time.

"You ready for the game?" he asked as he came in the door. Sam and Ben were perched on the sofa, obviously planning to tag along.

Brian stepped out of his room in a form fitting white baseball uniform. "I'm ready." He had a blue cap in one hand and a glove in the other. Marco took a good look at the kid. Damn, he looked good. This might be easier if Brian were fat and had pimples.

"That uniform is almost too small for you," he said.

Brian looked down at himself. "Yeah, a little. It's from last year. Maybe I've grown a little."

"Well, the season will be over soon. You'll get a new one next year," Marco said.

"Did you talk to Wayne?"

"Not yet. Give me a little time, OK? I have to do some work sometimes."

"Right, I was just asking," Brian smiled. Marco called the boys out of their bedroom to come and watch Brian play. They all went to the car and started out.

"So where is your game today?"

"It's over at Webster. We are playing the Roto Rooter Rangers."

Marco laughed, "Really?"

Brian shrugged. "All kinds of businesses sponsor ball teams."

"I should know this, but who is your team sponsor?"

"Central State Bank." he grinned. "Sounds better than the Roto Rooter Rangers."

"Yep."

They arrived at the field with ten minutes to spare. Brian jumped out and joined his team for a warm up. Marco and the twins sat down next to the field and watched as the boys peppered the ball around. He didn't even know what position Brian played, but he was standing between second and third so Marco figured maybe shortstop. When the game began that was confirmed.

The Rangers were first up to bat and Brian's team took the field. Marco didn't recognize any of the other boys on his team. He tried to remember if Brian had mentioned any of his friends but couldn't recall any. The first batter struck out, and the second got a walk. So far Brian had not gotten into play.

The third batter hit a sharp grounder in the hole between second and third base. Brian ran forward, smoothly scooped it up and fired it to the second baseman for out two. Marco thought he looked really sharp – all business. What else would he expect?

The next batter hit high pop fly to center field and a lanky boy ran over and snagged it. Out three to retire the side. Now Brian's team was at bat.

"They went through the batting order and the first boy struck out. The next two boys got on and Brian was the fourth up.

Brian was not a big kid. Not a shrimp for sure, but a little shorter than the average boy on the team. His lean physique and tight uniform made him look small, but obviously very strong. When he took his stance and crouched over the plate he presented a narrow target. Maybe that was not a bad thing. He looked intently at the pitcher and wiggled the bat over his shoulder. He passed on the first pitch which was wide. He passed on the second pitch which was called a strike.

He stood and swung the bat from side to side, banged it on his cleats and bent over again with a determined look. The pitcher threw a fast ball right over home plate and Brian nailed it. His swing was smooth and perfectly balanced, and the ball sailed out over left field. Marco and the boys jumped to their feet expecting it to go out, but the left fielder jumped for it and caught it for out two just as it was going over the fence. The runner had time to tag third and ran on the catch, scoring easily and giving Brian an RBI. Brian had rounded first base by the time it was caught and simply trotted off the field. No drama, he just ran off to try another time.

Marco and the twins clapped and cheered as Brian came off the field. He glanced their way and gave a faint smile but that was all. Marco had to be impressed with his poise. Now that Brian had batted, Sam and Ben lost interest and began to beg for money to buy a treat from the concession stand. Marco handed them a five dollar bill and told them to make it last. They ran off to get something and left Marco alone.

Marco looked over at Brian who was standing and watching while the next batter took his place. Some of the other players were talking and joking with each other, but Brian stood alone. Marco kept his eye on Brian as the game progressed. He spoke to several of the other players but it was only a passing remark. He didn't seem to be particularly friendly with any of them.

When Brian took the field Marco found it hard to watch anybody else. He saw the boy every day, but had never seen him move like this. There was something cat-like about the way he crouched in anticipation when a batter started to swing. Once the ball hit the catcher's glove Brian visibly relaxed, thumped his fist in his glove then reset himself as the next pitch was thrown. When the ball was hit he reacted as soon as it left the bat. If the ball were hit to him he pounced on it, moving quickly and gracefully. If it was hit elsewhere Brian was watching the play, ready to tag a runner or back up someone who had a badly thrown ball. Marco had never seen him so intent and physically alive.

Brian's team came off the field to take their turn at bat and Marco looked around for the twins. At first he didn't see them, then spotted them behind the concession stands standing in a knot of boys. Sam and Ben were standing close together, their bodies straight and tense. They were facing three larger boys who seemed to be talking with them aggressively. The other boys were around them in a rough circle. This didn't look right.

Marco jumped to his feet and moved quickly to where the boys were standing. When Marco got close enough for the boys to notice him they looked relieved and he heard Ben say, "You better watch out, here comes our Dad." The larger boys moved away.

The group began to disperse as soon as Marco stepped next to his sons. "What's up guys? Everything OK?"

"Those guys were being assholes," Ben looked close to tears.

Marco had never heard his son use that word before, but this might be an appropriate occasion. "So what happened?"

"We were just standing in line and this big kid pushed us from behind," Sam related.

"Yeah, he pushed me into Sam and we almost fell down."

"Maybe it was an accident?" Marco suggested.

"Bull! He and his friends laughed at us and made fun of me and Sam. They did it on purpose and thought it was real funny."

"Yeah, they were saying how cute we were, cute little twinny-winnys, stuff like that," Ben was very indignant.

"We tried to stand up to them but there were three of them, and the other two were laughing at us too," Sam confirmed.

A boy who Marco recognized from the twins baseball team had remained to stand with them. "Those guys are bullies," he said. "They pick on smaller kids all the time."

Marco looked around for the older boys. They had made themselves scarce.

"Do I know you?" Marco asked, "You look familiar."

"I play baseball with Sam and Ben, My name is Austin. They weren't doing anything, honest. Those guys are just jerks."

Marco thought to himself that asshole probably fit better. "Thanks Austin. You're a good friend. Do you know their names?"

"The big one is Clyde something. I have seen the other two with him but I don't know what their names are. They're in high school."

Ben and Sam nodded appreciatively and mumbled, "Thanks."

Austin shrugged. "There's not much you can do when there are three big guys."

"Bullies like to run in packs, just like rats," Marco said in disgust. "So, are you ready to watch some more baseball?"

"We never got our soda. We were in line when those guys started pushing us," Sam explained.

"OK. I'll stay with you while you get your stuff. You want something Austin?"

"Sure, thanks." Austin smiled and got in line with Sam and Ben.

They all walked back with their sodas to resume their seats and watch the game.

"There's Brian," Austin pointed him on the field. "He helps with our team a lot."

"Right. We are in scouts with him too. He is kind of our big brother," Ben volunteered.

"Really? Is he your brother?"

"Well not really, but he lives with us and we like him a whole lot," Sam explained.

"He's a nice guy," Austin agreed.

Central State Bank won the game four to three and Sam and Ben ran to Brian to congratulate him. Brian looked pleased but not jubilant.

"Is the team going to meet somewhere for a soda or something?" Marco asked him.

"I don't know," Brian said. "You can stop somewhere if you like."

Of course Sam and Ben were all for stopping, so Marco drove to their favorite Sonic for a milkshake.

"I thought you played very well," Marco complimented Brian.

"Thanks," Brian smiled.

While they were waiting for their milkshakes, Sam and Ben told Brian about their problem with the bully.

"Who was he?" Brian asked. "Do you know his name?" They shrugged.

"Somebody told me he is a high school kid named Clyde. Do you know him?" Marco asked.

"What's he look like" Brian asked.

"Tall, kind of chubby with longish hair."

Brian shook his head. "I'm not sure, but I'll ask around."

The subject changed to the baseball game and nothing more was said of the incident.

After they returned home Marco gave some thought to Brian's behavior. He had a lack of enthusiasm around the other boys on his team that puzzled Marco. He thought back to Brian's Court of Honor. He received compliments from the Scoutmaster but Marco could not recall that he was chatty with any of the other boys. He always seemed to be keeping his own company. He had been elected Senior Patrol Leader so he must be well thought of. He was so different with the young cubs and at home.

On Saturday they all went to see Ben and Sam play ball. Brian was upbeat and was encouraging them to pay attention and hustle. He seemed to have more enthusiasm for their game than for his own. He took his game seriously, but seemed reserved. With the twins he was more outgoing, more upbeat.

As ten year olds, Sam and Ben were beginning to play pretty good baseball. Sam was solid on first base and Ben pitched part of the time. There was a limit to how many balls a kid could pitch, but he had a nice little fast ball and was throwing some strikes. Brian wanted to try and show him how to throw a curve ball, but Ben was not quite ready for that yet. Probably the time would come. They and their friends Tony, Bobby, Tyron and Kenny played well together however, and they were obviously good friends.

The game passed uneventfully. They played fairly well but lost. They were mildly disappointed but were having fun anyway. After the game the coach had oranges for them and told them they had a good game. Brian stood by and smiled with approval.

"You guys did good," Brian told them, "But we need to work on your batting. Let's do that when we get home." Marty nodded and offered to work with them too. They were getting a lot of positive attention from their baseball. It was a good thing.

Later Marco was talking with Marty. "Brian played a really good game on Thursday, but something about him bothers me."

"How's that?"

"Well, he is so reserved with the guys on his team. He plays well and seems to be accepted, but he doesn't seem to be very close to his team mates. He sort of stands apart."

Marty thought for a minute. "Have you ever heard him talk about his friends? He has never wanted to bring anybody over here. Who are his friends?"

Marco shook his head. "I don't know. He doesn't seem to be close to anybody his age. I think he prefers the younger boys, or maybe is just more comfortable with them."

"Like you said, he comes with a lot of baggage."

On Tuesday night, Marco took all three boys to scouts and hung around. Brian was efficient as the Senior Patrol Leader and encouraged the Patrol Leaders to work with the boys on an activity they were planning. As usual, he was businesslike and well organized.

Marco found the opportunity to chat with the Scoutmaster. "Hi, I'm Marco Montgomery. Sam, Ben and Brian are my boys."

"Nice to meet you. I'm Paul Marshall."

"How is Brian doing as SPL?"

"Oh. He's doing fine. Brian is a sharp kid."

"I was kind of wondering. Who are his friends? Does he buddy up with some of the other scouts?"

"Well, I don't know. He does a great job and the other boys respect him, but he doesn't seem to have any special friends. Brian is kind of reserved you might say."

"How is that?"

"Well, he gets along with everybody but he seems to be more comfortable with the adults and the younger boys. I don't know that he is all that chummy with guys his own age."

"Right, I have noticed that too," Marco agreed.

"He is a fine boy though. He's doing a good job as SPL. He's all business."

They were interrupted by a boy who had a question about something and their conversation ended.

On the way home Brian joked with Sam and Ben from the front seat. He was his usual animated self when with the boys.

Marco stopped by City Cycles to chat with Wayne.

"How's business Wayne?"

"Hey Marco. It's good actually. We're having a good summer. How are the boys?"

"They are fine, busy with baseball and scouts. Brian sure loves that Shimano,"

"Good, that's a nice bike. I'm glad he likes it."

Marco paused. "Actually I wanted to ask you something. Brian will be sixteen pretty soon and he's really wanting to find a job somewhere. I think he's a pretty good bike mechanic. Could you use him?"

"Well, I don't know. I can always use good help, but he's a little young."

"I know, but I wondered if you could find something for him to do."

Wayne thought for a minute. "I'd have to work him off the books."

Marco shrugged. "That's OK with me."

"Is he dependable?"

Marco nodded. "Very. He is SPL for his troop and doing a good job with it. I think you can rely on him."

Wayne smiled. "Hey, I admire a good scout. OK, send him in and I'll talk to him."

"Thanks," Marco smiled.

When Brian rode his bike back from school he asked again, "Did you get a chance to talk to Wayne?"

"I did actually. He wants to talk with you."

"Really?"

"Yep. I vouched for you, so don't be a screwup."

Brian looked hurt. "I'm not a screwup."

"I know you're not. I was just joking. I watched you with your ball team and in scouts. You are very conscientious and businesslike. I told Wayne that you would do a good job for him."

"Thanks. I can ride my bike over there tomorrow if that's OK."

Marco nodded. "That will be fine. I don't make any promises, but I did put in a good word for you and Wayne remembers you from church."

Brian nodded and smiled.

Marco paused and looked at the handsome boy. "Actually, I was wondering about something?"

The smile faded and Brian looked serious. "What's that?"

"I don't remember you talking about your friends. Who are your friends?"

Brian shrugged. "I have lots of friends, scouts, baseball, you know."

"But who do you hang out with? Would you like to bring someone over sometime?"

Brian looked away. "Well, nobody special."

"Hey, everybody needs friends. Really, who are your friends?"

Brian sighed. "Nobody really. You guys mostly."

Marco looked curious. "Most guys have friends."

"I know. That's hard for me," Brian admitted.

"Talk to me," Marco said.

Brian's shoulders slumped. "I don't know. I guess it's what we were talking about before. I'm OK with the younger guys and the adults, they're safe. But it's hard for me to make friends my own age."

"Why is that?"

Brian hesitated. "Well, when there is a guy I like, sometimes I think about doing things that I know I shouldn't do. I get afraid, kind of."

"This has to do with not knowing the difference between liking somebody and being sexual with him?"

"Yeah," Brian nodded. "Like that kind of thing. "I feel safe with the adult and with the little guys, but not so much with guys my own age. That kind of sucks, doesn't it."

"It does, but at least you can see what's happening," Marco told him. "It's something that maybe you can work on."

Brian looked kind of pitiful. "I don't know how to do this."

Marco sighed. "It has to do with boundaries."

"Boundaries?"

"Right. It's about recognizing a situation for what it is, and making a decision about what you need to do. It is about not acting on impulse but acting on what you know is right. Does that make any sense?"

Brian looked down and shook his head. "This is hard."

Marco nodded. "Yes it is. I know for a fact that it is. Look, you are smart, talented and have earned the respect of a lot of people. My boys think you walk on water. Don't let your fears run your life."

Brian shook his head. "But when I like a guy and he looks good to me, I think about doing stuff and I know that's wrong. If the guys on my team or in the scout troop knew what I was thinking they would hate me. It is easier to keep my distance from them."

Marco smiled. "I love you Brian. I really do and I would do anything I could to help you. But this is something that you have to figure out for yourself. May I suggest something?"

"Sure." Brian shrugged and looked down at the floor.

"When you see somebody you find yourself attracted to, take a good look, acknowledge that they look good to you then go on. You can't deny the way you feel, but you can decide what you want to do about it, OK?"

Marco leaned forward and said sincerely, "When I look at you Brian, I see a beautiful young guy that I find very attractive. I recognize that and admit it to myself, then put it aside and have the kind of relationship with you that I know is appropriate."

Brian looked up and nodded. "Really? You really do that?"

"Yes, I do. I'm not blind. I can realize some one is attractive to me, but I use the three second rule."

"The three second rule?"

"Right. I look him over for three seconds and admit to myself that he is attractive, then go on. There is a line that I will not cross – a boundary I set for myself. That's what I'm talking about."

Brian nodded slowly.

"If I couldn't do that, I would either do something I would regret, or isolate myself. Don't isolate yourself. We all need friends. If one of those friends turns out to want to be more than just a friend, then you might want to let that happen, who knows. But you have to be open to letting people get close to you."

"Right. Maybe I need to think about that." Brian looked up at Marco. "But it's hard."

"Yes it is," Marco acknowledged, "But you can do it."

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