by Nick Brady
Jack wasn't in his room so I checked the second floor and found him scraping paint in one of the vacant apartments. I felt a little guilty bugging him when he was so busy but he smiled and looked glad to see me.
"Hey, I thought I got rid of you for awhile," he called to me.
"Yeah, I guess I'm like the bad penny that keeps showing up."
"What's up? You look worried."
I sat down on a paint can and shrugged my shoulders. "I don't know, I'm OK I guess but Tony is busted and Joseph's mother is giving him a hard time," I told him about what Joseph told me about his mother's drinking and how I had to leave suddenly. "It wasn't him, it was his mom I think. Me and Joseph are doing great."
Jack laid down his paint scraper and sat down on the floor next to me. "She gets real moody sometimes. You have been over there a lot, you might need to cool it for awhile."
"That would suck. We like to be together. It's like we make each other happy."
Jack looked sympathetic. "I understand but you don't want to get between Joseph and his mother. She can get pretty crazy. If she is aggravated with you, she might take it out on him."
"He said she gets mad and throws stuff, dishes and things. He said sometimes he has to go in his room and lock the door when she goes on a rampage."
"It sounds like things are getting worse. Alcoholism is a terrible disease. I don't know that much can be done until she realizes herself that she has a problem. Sometimes families do an intervention but that would require Dr. Anderson to take the lead and he may not want to do that."
I was confused. "But he is a doctor. Why wouldn't he want her to get well?"
"It is not as simple as taking a pill. She would have to go to a rehab program and AA meetings. That's embarrassing for anybody, especially someone of her social standing. There is a stigma associated with alcoholism. 'Nice' people don't like to admit to that sort of thing. It could happen but it's tough."
"So you mean there isn't a solution to this? It's really hard for Joseph. He has tried to keep his mother's problem hidden from me even, and we are really good friends. What has to happen?"
"Well, it is generally understood that the alcoholic has to 'hit bottom' which means it has to get so bad that the alcoholic has to accept that there is no other solution except to accept treatment. Sometimes that means it has to get really bad."
"How bad does it have to get?"
Jack shook his head. "That depends on the individual. For some people it means getting arrested for drunk driving, or getting very sick, or hurting somebody."
"Hurting somebody, like hurting Joseph?" I felt scared.
"I hope not Nicky. But sometimes that happens."
"Man, I am beginning to appreciate my nice boring family," I said.
"You're right Nick, it really sucks. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. But you want to be careful that you don't add to the problem. You might try to talk to Joseph about the situation. I don't know who he feels he can confide in but he might be willing to be honest with you. But remember to respect his privacy. This really isn't your problem to solve. Just be his friend."
I felt kind of teary. "But I love Joseph. It is kind of my problem if he is hurting."
Jack sighed. "I don't know what to tell you. If there is anything I can think of I will try to help, but it's not up to me. But I am your friend and Joseph's too. Let me think about it."
"Thanks Jack. I don't expect you to fix things, I just needed to talk to somebody. You're kind of my big brother."
Jack stood up, stretched, and gave me a hug. "I love you Nicky. Maybe the best thing we can do is to be loyal friends for Joseph and support him any way we can."
I hugged Jack tight. "I know, but somehow that doesn't seem like enough."
Back downstairs the football game was winding down on the TV. I plopped down next to Kevin and watched the last 5 minutes of the game. It seemed like the last 5 minutes of a pro football game usually took about half an hour. When the game was over Mom was putting dinner on the table and we gathered around sniffing the air.
"Would you like to offer thanks Nicky?" Mom asked.
"Sure." I said, and we bowed our heads. "God, thank you for this day, thank you for this food, and – thank you for this family. Amen."
Monday morning at school I locked the 10-speed to the bike rack and charged inside with my helmet and rucksack, tossed them in my locker, took the things I needed for my morning classes and made it to my first period room on time. School was going OK. I had always liked school. I liked to learn new things and enjoyed the friends I had at school. I know some kids said they hated school but I was OK with it. Like what else was I going to do all day?
I sat with Steve at lunch. He was playing 9th grade football and a lot of the guys from my baseball team were playing with him. I thought about playing football but it really wasn't my sport. I didn't think I was big enough for football. I could run pretty fast but didn't have the passion for it.
Baseball was my sport. Growing up in an apartment building there were never many kids my age who lived in my neighborhood. Little League brought us together for baseball and that was what I liked. During 6th hour Physical Education we played basketball inside if it was cold or wet. Basketball was OK but I was too short to get in close for many shots at the basket.
If it was nice outside we played soccer. Next to baseball I liked soccer best. It didn't matter if I wasn't a big kid, and I was fast and agile enough to work the ball down field and sometimes get it in for a goal. Maybe I would try to play Soccer with a school team. Maybe soccer but baseball for sure. Today was nice outside and so today was soccer.
After school I grabbed my helmet and ran for the flag pole to see Joseph standing there. "Hey!" I called.
"Hey!" Joseph replied with a big smile.
"Nice to see you," I said, "How is everything on the home front?"
"About the same I guess." and he shrugged. "I'm sorry I was abrupt with you yesterday.
"That's OK, we had a nice day," My concern showed a little in my voice. "Was everything OK with your mom?"
He glanced away then back at me. "Oh fine. Well, maybe not so fine. Mother was very cross."
"In what way?" I asked.
"Oh Nicky, I don't want to tell you," He looked distressed.
"Why not. I thought we didn't have secrets."
"It's not that, I don't want to have to say this, but Mother thinks you spend too much time with me. he said you were keeping me from practicing my music, which really isn't true."
"You haven't done anything, I think she just wants something to be cross about. Maybe I have been too happy lately and she feels guilty or something. I don't know."
"So maybe I shouldn't come over after school?" I asked.
Joseph looked very sad and I could see tears filling his eyes. "Maybe that would be best, just for a little while."
"Damn! I am going to miss seeing you after school," I said.
"Me too," Joseph nodded his head sadly. "But I should see you at choir on Thursday night, and at church on Sunday."
"Sure," I tried to smile. "I can ride the cool 10-speed bike my best friend gave me."
"Oh Nicky," Tears ran down Joseph's cheeks, then he turned away. "I can't be seen like this," He looked to the curb and saw Alice sitting in the Lincoln.
"I'm sorry Nicky!" and he ran to the car.
I watched the big car pull away and stood there for a minute, thinking about what I should do. Finally I got on my bike and rode up to 36th street then all the way over to Peoria. I pulled into Weber's and got a big frosted mug of root beer, sitting on the little bench next to the building to sip it and think of when Joseph and I first came here. Thinking of how much fun that was and how happy he had been.
"It's just not fair," I said to no one in particular. I sat for half an hour until I finished the mug, then slowly rode home.
When I walked into the living room Kevin was in his place on the sofa. "Hey," He said. I didn't answer but walked sullenly into our bedroom.
After a minute or so he followed me in and stood in the doorway. "How are you, Sunshine?" he asked.
I felt like saying something hateful but just said. "I've been better."
Kevin sat on his bed and waited. "What's up?"
I wasn't sure what I should say. I wanted to tell somebody and I trusted my brother, but I didn't want to be disloyal to Joseph. Finally I opted for honesty.
"Joseph's mother says I am there too much, that I interfere with his music. But that's not true. The problem is that she drinks all the time and gets mad about nothing. She is a real bitch!" Then I wished I hadn't said that.
Kevin's eyebrows went up and he looked surprised. "Wow. I didn't see that coming."
"Well she is! I haven't interfered with his music. I do homework while he practices. We just like being together."
"Oh, I believe you. I just wouldn't have guessed that she was a drinker. Is she like, like an alcoholic?"
"Maybe I shouldn't be telling you this but yeah, that's what Joseph says. He says she drinks all day then gets nutty. She cusses and throws stuff. He says his father sort of disappears and leaves Joseph to deal with his mom."
"Wow. That really sucks."
"That's what I said," I looked at Kevin. "You can't tell anybody."
"No, that's not my story to tell," He said. "I'm sorry Nick. That must be tough for both of you."
I didn't say anything but looked at the floor and nodded my head up and down. Kevin leaned back against his wall and looked at me with a sad expression on his face.
I was trying really hard not to cry. I was 14 after all. "Joseph said we could see each at choir practice and at church but that I shouldn't come over after school for awhile," Then I just shrugged.
"I'm sorry Nick. I don't know what else to say but I do feel bad for you and Joseph."
"I know Kevin. I don't either. I wish I did."
He looked thoughtful. "Hide and watch, brother. Things will work out for the best. They always do"
I laid back on my bed and closed my eyes. After a few minutes I looked up and Kevin was gone so I got up and went into the bathroom to pee. I felt really shitty and decided to take a shower before supper. I stripped off in the bathroom and adjusted the shower. Stepping in under the water I thought of Joseph's big double shower and how lucky I thought he was. He was right, I was the lucky one. I had Jack, I had Kevin, who did Joseph have? A drunk for a mother and nobody else in the house.
It wasn't fair. I felt kind of resentful at his father. It wasn't fair bailing out and leaving Joseph to deal with his mother alone. I guessed maybe Alice was there. What would he do without Alice?
I stood there thinking so long that the water began to cool off. I soaped and rinsed quickly, turned off the water, grabbed a towel and dried off. I pulled on some gray sweats and a pair of white socks and went into the living room where Kevin sat watching the news. I sat in silence glad that he was there.
Supper was pork chops, rice with gravy, and steamed broccoli with grated cheese melted on it. It was good that I was OK with broccoli. Dad complimented me on being in the choir and I reminded him that he promised to sit on the front row. I think he was hoping I had forgotten that. After supper we all sat in the living room and watched the usual Monday night stuff on TV. I excused myself, went to bed early and fell asleep as soon as I hit the pillow.
The week went by slowly. My usual routine of riding over to see Joseph after school was interrupted. I didn't want to go home right after school because I didn't want to talk to my mom about Mrs Anderson and her drinking. I just didn't want to talk about it. I began to ride around on my bike and kill time on the way. I rode by Woodward Park and looked at the rose garden. Since we had not had a freeze yet there were still some flowers blooming, and people were walking around, walking dogs, couples holding hands, squirrels running up and down the oak trees. I looked into the Garden Center and the Historical Society occupying two old mansions next to the park. I goofed off until after 5:00 then took my time riding home.
On Thursday evening it was chilly so I put on a jacket and rode up to Trinity for choir.
I was early and waited in the hall until Joseph came in at 6:45. "Hey!" I said.
Joseph gave me a big smile and said, "Hey yourself!" Then he looked both ways and seeing no one, gave be a big hug. "Oh, it is so nice to see you. I've missed you," he whispered.
"I've missed you too," I hugged him back.
We scooted into the rehearsal room and sat down together. For the moment we were alone. "Is your mother still pissed at me?"
"I guess not. We really haven't talked much other than the usual pleasantries. She is back to her usual routine," He pantomimed tipping the glass.
"How do you deal with that?" I asked.
"Years of habit," he said. "I practice my music and stay out of her way."
"Does that mean I can start coming over again?"
Joseph looked a little sad, "I think we might leave well enough alone for awhile. Although I do miss you terribly."
"OK, whatever you say," hesitating, I admitted. "I told Jack what happened. I had to talk to somebody."
"Of course. I would trust Jack with anything. Beside, he may have a clue already."
"What can you do?" I asked.
Joseph looked down and shrugged his shoulders. "I really don't know. I don't think I can do anything."
Mrs. Tailor came in and flopped a stack of music down on the piano, ending our conversation.
It was about 8 weeks before Christmas and we had to start working on all the special music for Advent and Christmas. This wasn't Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman sort of music but more complicated traditional church music. It was very pretty but totally foreign to me. This would be a struggle for me but at least I was doing it with Joseph.
On Saturday I went up to see Jack. I rapped on his door and waited for an answer. After a few minutes I could hear him thumping around and the door swung open revealing a sleepy looking Jack in an old flannel bathrobe.
"Hey," I said. "Did I wake you?"
"You used to bring coffee," he replied with a growl.
"I can get you some," I offered.
"Oh come on in, I have a coffee pot," he stumbled into his kitchen and started filling a percolator with water. "Do you drink coffee?" He asked.
"I don't know. I never tried it. It smells good when it is cooking though."
After a few minutes the pot stopped rattling and he poured two cups. He put milk and several spoons of sugar in one and handed it to me. "Try this," he said, and sat down on his sofa.
I sat next him and blew on the hot liquid, cautiously sipping a little. "It's not bad. Kind of like funky cocoa."
"It's an acquired taste. So what can I do for you?"
"I guess I just wanted to see you. I can't visit Joseph any more. At least for awhile. I feel really bad for him but I don't know what to do about his mom."
"Are you looking to me for an answer?" Jack seemed a little grouchy.
I sipped on my coffee. "Is there an answer?"
"Eventually. My understanding is that people who drink like she does don't usually get better. They get worse until something drastic happens. Either they get in serious trouble, their health fails and they are driven to sobriety, or they die. It's not a pretty picture."
"Jeez, that sounds bad. I feel sorry for Joseph."
Jack told me, "It's a family disease. It's hard on everybody. She probably thinks she isn't hurting anybody by her drinking but she is putting Joseph and his father through hell."
"What can I do?"
"Nothing. Just be his friend when you can and support him. Sometimes all we can do is be a friend."
Jack leaned back on the sofa. "Speaking of friends I found out a little about Tony."
"What? Is he OK?"
"You know I am friends with his brother Pablo, right? This is just between you and me, OK?"
"Of course!" I promised. "You can trust me to keep secrets. What's up with Tony?"
"Pablo says that Tony and Carlos are in Juvenile Custody, kind of like kid jail until the court decides what to do with them. Their father is in serious trouble, maybe in jail, maybe deported back to Mexico. Anyway he is probably going to be out of the picture as far as the boys are concerned. Tony was the one arrested but with the father in jail that puts Carlos in the same boat with Tony."
"From what I know about their father they are better off without him," I imagined.
"I think you're right. Once he is gone they will need some place to live. Pablo is the person the police are talking to because there isn't any other adult in the picture, and Pablo is a responsible guy."
"Where will they go? Can they stay with Pablo and Juan?" I asked.
"Probably not. The court will want them to have counseling and have some restrictions on where they can go. Pablo is hoping they will get put in the Tulsa Boys Home."
"What's that? Is it like an orphans home?"
"No, not really. Maybe some of the boys are orphans but they are there for different reasons. A lot of them have gotten into trouble not because they are bad kids but have been in a bad situation. The rules are strict but enforced with compassion. They get counseling and good care. It is a good place from all I hear and the boys that go through there have a lot of chances for education and training. Tony and Carlos would be lucky to get to go there. It for sure would be a better situation than with their father."
"So is that what will happen?"
"That might be their best bet. Since they haven't gotten in trouble before and were pushed into stuff by their father they shouldn't be sent to a maximum lock up. They might even go to a foster home. I think they would be better off at the Tulsa Boys Home, but it's up to the court."
"If they go to the Boys Home can people go and visit them?"
"Like could you go visit Tony?"
"Yeah, he is still my friend even if I don't hang with him any more."
Jack shook his head. "I don't think you could visit the Home although you might see him at school. They still go to the Tulsa Public Schools although they go and come with supervision. It depends on where they go to school. The Boys Home is located in the same district that you are so they might be in the same schools as you and Kevin."
"It would be scary to be locked up not knowing where you were going or what was going to happen to you," I tried to imagine being in that situation.
Jack gave me a serious look. "You know with a little bad luck you could have been in there with him."
"How is that? I didn't proposition a cop. I wouldn't ever do something like that."
"Maybe not, but you told me that you and Tony slipped into one of his favorite little hiding places near the river and did sex with each other. The cops likely had been watching Tony for some time and might have followed you guys into the bushes to check on what you were doing. You think they would have patted you on the ass and sent you home to play nice?"
"Damn, I never thought about that."
"Why do you think I gave you such a hard time about hanging out with him Nicky? You were in danger."
"When you told me about that I stopped hanging out with Tony. I took your advice Jack."
"I'll give you credit for that. I'm glad you stepped back or you might have been together with Tony in Juvenile.
"No kidding. That would be hard to explain,"I admitted.
"Well, that is what is called an educational experience," Jack stood up and took my coffee cup. "Excuse me kiddo but I've got things to do. I'll see you later."
"Will I see you at church in the morning?"
Jack laughed. "Yes I guess so. I am getting to be a regular. I never figured you would rope me into going to church."
"See, I am a good influence on you."
"You are a mess is what you are. Get out of here."
Sunday morning I fixed myself a bowl of cereal and rode my bike to church. I got there early and parked in the back. I went into the practice room to find Mrs Tailor banging out some music on the piano and sat down hoping to see Joseph. Before long he came walking in with a big smile on his face.
"Hey!" I called to him.
"Oh Nicky. I am so glad to see you.'
"You look happy," I said.
"I have some interesting news," He said with a grin.
"Let's hear it."
"My parents have gone to Oklahoma City today and will not be back until later this evening. Do you think you can come over after church?"
"I don't know why not. I rode my bike this morning."
Joseph gave me a wicked smile. "Oh do come over. I am ready for us to be together."
Mrs Tailor took us through the service music then we put on our robes and went into the sanctuary to go over the anthem with Mr. Meldrum the organist. Just before the service started we all went to the entrance to process in through the Nave.
The procession was always one of my favorite things. First came a boy dressed in a white alb carrying a tall brass cross on a wooden staff, flanked by two more boys with lighted candles, then the choir, then the clergy with the priest at the end. It was sort of a 'first shall be last' sort of thing. When the choir came to the choir stalls at the sides of the chancel we took our places with the clergy and servers going on to the sanctuary and the altar. It was like a parade that brought all the participants to their proper places. When the processional hymn was finished the service began and I had a chance to look out at the congregation. There on the left side about half way back was where Jack usually sat with Joseph's family if they were there. But I didn't see Jack and wondered if he had decided not to come after all. As I looked around I spotted him sitting on the very front row, and to my surprise he was sitting with Mom, Dad, and Kevin, all smiling like Cheshire cats. It looked like my father had made good on his promise.
After the service Jack steered them into the parish hall for refreshments. By the time Joseph and I made it in to see them they were waiting for us.
"You showed up, and on the front row too," I gave Mom and Dad a hug.
"A promise is a promise," Dad chuckled. "But if I thought you would actually sing with the choir I might not have said the very front row."
"The music was very nice," Mom assured me and Kevin gave me a thumbs up.
"Is this the first time you have been here?" I asked.
Dad answered, "We were here for a performance of Christmas music one time but that was years ago. It is a beautiful old church – very traditional."
"It is wonderful to have you here," Joseph said. "Did you enjoy the service?"
"Oh yes, it was lovely," Mom assured us. "I can't believe that Nick is singing in the choir."
"He is coming right along," Joseph boasted on my behalf, then added, "If you don't have other plans, would it be alright if Nick were to come over to visit with me for a little while before he rides his bike home?"
Permission was granted and Joseph and I were inwardly jubilant. I glanced at Kevin and caught a sly wink. We made some small talk then excused ourselves.
Joseph wondered. "I thought for a moment that your father was going to suggest going to lunch."
I laughed, "If he had suggested it then he would probably have had to pick up the tab. Six dinners might have been more than he wanted to spring for."
Out in the parking lot Alice was waiting in the Lincoln. "I will see you at the house," Joseph waved and jumped inside.
I trotted around to the back where my bike was parked and peddled off to Joseph's house. They beat me there but Joseph was waiting on the back steps.
"Where is Alice?" I wondered.
"She is making some sandwiches for us then she will conveniently disappear," Joseph said with suppressed excitement.
Sure enough there was a plate of ham and cheese sandwiches on the kitchen table, another plate of chocolate chip cookies, and cokes in the fridge. We made short work of them all.
"So Alice is our friend?" I wondered. "You can be sure of that. If you are finished can we go up?" We were in his bedroom in a flash.
Once in Joseph's bedroom he quickly locked the door and turned to take my shoulders and kiss me enthusiastically. "I have missed seeing you more than you can imagine," he mumbled between kisses.
"Hey you old horn dog," I giggled with pleasure. "I have created a monster."
"I seem to have become addicted to you," he started to unbutton his shirt as he sat on the bed. I decided to join him.
In a minute all our clothing was in a pile by the bed and we were pressed together with our hips moving from side to side. "I want us to make love again." Joseph said earnestly. "Whose turn is it?" I asked with a chuckle.
"I don't know or care but I want you inside me," he insisted. "That seems right for me Nicky. I hope that's alright with you."
"Oh yeah, that works for me. Where is your lube?"
The little jar of Vaseline appeared almost instantly and after sticking his finger in it he handed it to me. He greased his hole while I greased my penis which had leaped to full attention.
Joseph flipped over on his hands and knees with his butt tipped up high. "I want to do it this way like you did last time."
With no further discussion I positioned myself against his hole and began to press in slowly. He pushed back against me and I slid in until my pubes were against his butt cheeks. I wrapped my arms around his waist and pulled him in tight, laying my face against his back. I pulled out as far as I dared then drove in deep, humping with a steady rhythm.
Joseph began to moan and I pinched his nipples gently as I increased the speed of my strokes. He took my hand in his and shoved it down to his dick. I took the hint and began to jerk him off with one hand while I played with his nipples with the other.
After a few minutes of this he began to chant "Oh, oh, oh!" and shot his hot cum over my hand and onto the bed. This was all it took for me to start my orgasm and fill him with my juice. After the first spurt or two I froze as deep inside him as I could manage and emptied myself in his ass.
Now it was my turn to moan and kiss him between the shoulders. "Oh my God Joseph, I love you so much. I can't stand to be without you for even a day."
Even though I was spent I continued to pump in and out in an attempt to make the moment last as long as possible. When I softened enough to make it difficult to stay inside we fell apart. He rolled out from under me and we pressed together belly to belly and kissed passionately. Finally stopping to catch our breath, we lay still and held each other tight.
"Are you OK?" We both asked at the same time, then laughed.
"Oh, never better," Joseph said with enthusiasm.
He held my face between his strong hands. "Oh Nicky, you make my life complete. I can't imagine doing this with anybody else. We just can't let anything come between us."
"I feel the same way Joseph. I can't think about anything but being with you. And it's not just the sex part of it. I really miss you. What can we do?"
"I don't know," Joseph suggested, "But I remember Jack telling me one time that things usually work out for the best, or at least the way they are supposed to."
"Jack gives good advice," I agreed. "You know what he told me? He said I should pray about it."
"Really? That sounds so religious," Joseph considered. "Does that really work?"
"I don't know. You're the one who always goes to church. I guess it couldn't hurt."
"Maybe we should just pray that God will make things work out like they are supposed to. I'm not sure what to ask for."
"That sounds reasonable," I thought for a minute. "Let's pray for that."
"OK. But I'm not sure how to go about that sort of thing. All I know about prayers is that there are a lot of them in our prayer book."
"Do you have a prayer book?" I asked.
"I was given one when I was confirmed, but I'm not sure where it is. I think maybe it is in the living room in the big bookcase."
"Well maybe you could try to look one up."
"Yes, that's a good idea. I will do that after you leave."
"Are you trying to get rid of me?"
"No, but it is 5:30. What time should you be home?"
"Damn. I guess time flies when you are having fun. Yeah, I better get home. So I guess I will see you at school tomorrow, at the flag pole?"
"Yes, then I guess it will be Thursday at choir practice," He smiled. "Are you glad now that I talked you into joining the choir?"
"Really! That's the only time we get to see each other. But we can still check signals at the flag pole after school."
It took several minutes to sort out our clothes from the pile in the floor but we both ended up wearing the same clothing we started out with.
"Right," Joseph said. "Well, I will walk you out," I gave him a hug in the kitchen before we went outside.
We said goodbye and I rode off on the 10-speed, happy to have been with him and sad that we had to part. It took me less than 15 minutes to ride back to my apartment and my normal, boring, wonderful family.
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