by Nick Brady
Tony, Bobby, and Thomas sat in the dining room looking out at a heavy snowfall.
"We didn't have a white Christmas but I bet we have a white New Years. This will be fun tomorrow," Bobby said with enthusiasm.
"We never had snow in Mexico when I lived there," Tony explained.
"Have you ever played in the snow before?" Bobby wondered.
"Yes, after I came to Tulsa. But this is a big one. What can you do? I don't like the cold so much."
"We could build a snowman, or go sledding maybe," Bobby explained.
"Except there is no sled and no hill nearby," Thomas pointed out.
"We can make a snow fort and have a snowball fight," Bobby said hopefully.
"But it is so cold," Tony complained.
"Hey, Bobby's right. We can do a lot of fun things in the snow, for real," Thomas assured him. "Wait and see."
"Yeah, maybe. I guess it is pretty," Tony admitted.
It was getting close to supper time and Danny and Jermaine walked up to wait until time to eat.
"Hey Bobby. Did you know that your chaplain friend Mr. McNab wants to start a boy's choir here?" Danny asked.
"No, really?" Bobby looked excited. "That would be neat!"
"I thought you would be interested in that," Danny said. "Some of the guys here have good voices."
"When will it start?" Bobby wondered.
"I think he is going to come and talk about it on Sunday afternoon," Danny told him.
"I don't know, I never sang in a choir before," Bobby fretted. "I might not be good enough."
"You sing plenty good enough," Tony assured him. "I bet you will be the best one."
Bobby smiled broadly. "I like to sing."
More and more boys began to arrive for supper. When the cooks came out from the kitchen they knew it was time to line up at the serving line. The food was not fancy but it was good, and there was plenty of it.
As they ate they could look out the windows and see that the snow was still falling. "What is a snow fart?" Tony asked, generating laughter from all who were within earshot.
"It's a snow fort," Bobby corrected him. "You make a wall out of snow and get behind it to throw snowballs at the other guys. It is like a war."
"Yeah? That sounds like fun. Do you choose up sides like in a game?" Tony asked.
Now Danny and Jermaine were laughing. "You never got into a snowball fight?" Jermaine asked Tony.
"No, man. Where I grew up in Mexico we never saw snow. The first time for me was here in Tulsa, and it was not so much snow," Tony explained.
"You are in for a lot of fun tomorrow," Jermaine told him. "Find some gloves, you are going to need them."
Tony looked out the window in the morning and saw a blanket of white covering everything. Snow was over the street and halfway up the tires of cars parked along the curb. A layer of snow followed the contours of rooftops and was piled in neat caps on top of utility poles. The branches of trees were bent over with layers of white stuff. But the sky was clear blue and the air was still. It looked like a Christmas card and was a sight he had never seen before.
Bobby was beside him bouncing with excitement. "Wow, snow fort, snowball war!" he shouted.
"I got to eat breakfast first," Tony said. "Can't you wait for breakfast?"
"OK, but hurry. I want to go out and play in the snow," Bobby encouraged him.
There was a lot of chatter in the dining room as boys wolfed down scrambled eggs and pancakes. They were discussing the proper construction of snow forts and the packing of snowballs.
"We should choose up sides and make some teams," Danny instructed. The boys from Tony's room along with Thomas decided they could take on all comers.
Tony was caught up in the excitement. "This could be a lot of fun. I never had a snowball war before," he said with enthusiasm.
As soon as they had fueled up, they rushed back for coats and gloves and headed out to the quadrangle to play.
Snow was ankle deep and just the right temperature to pack properly. The more experienced boys began to roll snow into round building blocks and piled them into circles two deep, just high enough to crouch behind. Several such structures quickly appeared in strategic locations, enclosing stacks of snowball ammunition just inside.
Even before the forts were completed, white missiles began to fly. Soon snowballs flew in all directions, the defenses filled with laughing boys leaping up to hurl snowballs at target of opportunity, then crouching down to duck the incoming projectiles.
"Man, that's cold!" Tony yelled as a large ball of snow hit him in the side of the face and slid down his neck.
"Get them, get them!" Bobby giggled as he jumped up and down slinging snow at anything that moved.
Danny organized a charge on the nearest fort and his warriors ran full tilt at the closest opponent, firing snowballs as they ran. They quickly ran out of ammunition and were driven back by the entrenched boys with better supplies within their defenses. The battle continued until the combatants were wet and breathless.
Danny and team retreated to the relative safety of their fort to regroup. Danny took charge. "OK, here is the plan. Let's restock our snowballs and try again. Tony, Bobby and Thomas, you guys make another direct attack. Jermaine and I will run around behind them and attack from the rear. If we can run them out of their fort then we can capture it, OK?"
It sounded like a good plan. Each boy gathered an armload of snowballs and crouched at the ready, dodging incoming missiles of snow.
Danny yelled. "Charge!" and the battle resumed.
Tony, Bobby and Thomas charged forward, slinging snowballs as they ran. Danny and Jermaine ran around from the side and began to pelt the enemy with all their might. Sure enough, the opposition retreated, abandoning their fort and relocating themselves in Danny's recently abandoned fort.
"Wait a minute. Did we win that one or lose it?" Jermaine wondered as he tried to catch his breath.
"Does it matter?" Thomas laughed.
"I guess not, but I liked our fort better. Lets reclaim it." Danny commanded. The battle resumed.
After several hours of this the armies were exhausted and a truce was called. A general retreat was called for and all combatants trooped into the dining hall for hot chocolate and some cookies, courtesy of the good ladies in the kitchen.
"Hey Bobby, you were right man, that was fun!" Tony admitted. "But I got snow all inside my shirt."
"You will dry out," Jermaine laughed. "You can't have a snowball war without snow."
"I guess not. It was really cool though," Tony smiled.
Now that Bobby was sharing the room with Tony it was easy for them to be together more often. Bobby liked to be with Tony. For some reason he trusted Tony and it made him feel safe. Bobby and Tony were alone in their room talking about yesterday's snowball war, and whatever came to mind.
"I'm glad I got to move in the same room with you," Bobby told him.
"Yeah, me too," Tony said. "You are kind of like my little brother, I really like you."
Bobby was thoughtful. "You like Thomas a lot too, don't you."
"Yes, but that is different," he admitted.
Bobby looked puzzled. "But sometimes you and Thomas go off by yourselves. What do you do?"
"Sometimes we talk by ourselves," Tony said. "Are you jealous or something?"
"No, not jealous. But I guess I am curious. What do you do?"
"Nothing really. We just talk and stuff."
Bobby looked down shyly. "You do sex stuff, don't you."
Tony was flustered. "Why would you think that, man?"
"Just because I'm little doesn't mean I'm stupid," Bobby reminded him.
Tony felt defensive. "What do you care? You don't like to play like that."
"No, it's not that," Bobby hesitated. "But well, I don't know. Maybe I am kind of jealous."
"Don't be jealous. It is different with Thomas." Tony awkwardly tried to explain. "Thomas is like, I can't say it. I like him in a different way."
"I'm sorry," Bobby said. "I know how you are, and it's OK. I shouldn't have said anything. I am being stupid, and it's really none of my business anyway."
"No Bobby. I don't want to have secrets from you. Besides, you are too smart. I can't lie to you, me and Thomas like to have sex with each other. I guess I am queer, you know?" Does that you make you hate me?"
"No, of course not. Nothing could make me hate you Tony. I know how you are," Bobby leaned against Tony affectionately. "I love you Tony. I would do anything you wanted."
Tony instinctively put his arm around Bobby's shoulder. "But you are not like me. I thik you never did any sex things with another boy."
"No, but I would do anything for you." he said.
"Do you think you have to do sex stuff with me so I will like you best?" Tony asked in surprise.
"I don't know," Bobby sounded sad.
Tony was shocked. "No, never. Don't ever do something like that just to make somebody like you," Tony thought about the things he had done for money.
"How can I explain to you?" Tony struggled. "I like Thomas, and not just for the sex. He is nice to me and I like him a lot. But if I had to choose between him and my little brother, then I would pick you, Bobby. I like you best, and you don't have to do anything for me in return."
Bobby pressed his face against Tony's chest. "Really? Do you mean that?"
Tony pushed Bobby away and held held him by his shoulders at arms length. "Listen to me Bobby. That would be like you selling yourself. Please don't ever think about doing that. I had to do that, don't you understand? It made me hate myself," Tony began to weep.
"I'm sorry," Bobby said helplessly.
Tony's face was wet with tears. "Bobby, you are the nicest thing that ever happened to me. I never loved anybody the way I love you. I don't love you for sex. If we did that, it would ruin everything," Tony's voice choked. "I have had sex with lots of guys, but you are different for me. What I have with you is so clean and pure. I guess I can't say it right."
Tony surprised himself with the depth of his emotion. "You don't have to do nothing, man. Just be my little brother," he sobbed.
They held each other tight. It was Bobby's turn to comfort Tony. "I'm sorry. I get scared sometimes that I will lose you."
"No, don't be sorry," Tony sniffed. "I am just so afraid I will hurt you. I don't want to hurt you, man. I love you better than anything," he took a deep breath. "If you don't like Thomas I won't be friends with him any more."
Bobby shook his head. "It's OK. I like Thomas too. You're right, he is a different kind of friend," he smiled at Tony. "I don't want to be your lover. I would rather be your little brother, OK?"
Tony laughed through his tears. "Yeah, that's what I want too," they held each other close and Tony kissed Bobby on his cheek.
The door to the room opened suddenly and Jermaine stepped in and saw them holding each other close, tears on both their faces.
"Oh! Sorry guys. I think I'm interrupting something personal. See you later," he closed the door and left them alone.
Bobby looked concerned. "Are we in trouble?"
Tony shook his head. "No, I don't think so. Jermaine is a good guy and I think he understands about us. It's OK, but maybe we should go somewhere else," as they left the room, Tony put his hand on Bobby's shoulder. "I think we are good for each other."
"Don't you have three real brothers?" Bobby asked?
"Don't you love them too?"
Tony hesitated. "Yes, but things were so messed up with us. It was all kind of crazy."
"Didn't you find them when we went to Gilcrease? Do you think you will ever get back together with them?"
"I don't know, man. I care about them but I don't know what I want. I was happy to see them, but right now I think I want to be here with you."
"And with Thomas?" Bobby asked.
"Yeah, maybe Thomas. I got to think about that."
"But you like Thomas a lot. You said so."
Tony sighed. "Yeah, I do. But I like you better, or anyway you are more important. I can find another Thomas, but I can't ever find another Bobby," Bobby smiled and took Tony's hand, letting it go quickly before anyone could see.
On Sunday afternoon, Mr. McNab had a meeting with some of the boys at the Tulsa Boys Home to discuss the boys choir he wanted to start. He had been given a list of boys who were thought to have good voices and Bobby was among them. There were about 20 boys on the list and several others who had hopes of being added to the list. Tony had come at Bobby's insistence although he did not expect to be chosen. To be truthful, although the home tried to do a good job of providing the boys with positive activities, there were not a lot of fun things available and interest in anything new was rather high.
Mr McNab introduced them to an attractive young lady who had accompanied him. "This is Miss Lane. She is part of the music ministry at Boston Avenue Methodist church, and she has volunteered to help us get started."
"First, we need to get you in the mood." She told them, and they warmed up by singing a number of familiar songs she thought they might know. She had them sing 'Oh, Susanna', 'Here Comes Santa Claus', 'Oklahoma', anything she thought most of them would be familiar with. Most did, some didn't, but they all tried to sing. While they gave their best efforts, she and Mr. McNab walked around trying to hear the individual voices, discovering who could actually sing and who could not.
"Good, you are doing fine. Sing out!" she encouraged them.
It became obvious that while a few of the group sang well, the talent was limited to about a dozen boys. Then Miss Lane began to ask for a show of hands to some questions.
"How many of you have ever sung in a group before?" Only two hands. "What are your names?" She asked those two. Keith's and Arlo's names were checked on the list.
"Who has any idea how to read music?" Arlo raised his hand, explaining that he had taken piano lessons for about a year.
"Oh, that's wonderful," she enthused. That was one more than she had expected. He also had a decent voice. His name got two check marks.
"Who really likes to sing?" she asked. This got a better show of hands. Fifteen faces lit up with a smile. They also got check marks.
She asked a few more questions and began to get a better idea of the possibilities.
Mr. McNab had brought a box of cupcakes and a jug of fruit punch. They turned the boys loose on them while he talked with Miss Lane. They agreed to test the boys they had checked off plus a few more who had demonstrated some ability to sing.
She suggested quietly to McNab. "I think we should ask our checked boys to stay and dismiss the rest. Then we can let them try out individually without hurting the feelings of the others."
It took very little time for the treats to disappear then most of the boys were ready to go. Miss lane called off a list of names and asked them to stay a little longer. Tony was surprised to hear his name called.
"I would like to ask you boys to try out individually," she told them after the others had gone.
She sat down at the old upright piano that stood mostly unused in the lounge, and one by one she played some notes and asked each boy to match te tone. She played a short simple tune and asked each boy to repeat it. Within a few minutes it became clear who the likely candidates where. She worked with each of them, asking their names while Mr. McNab made some notes.
"Thank you very much boys. We will get back to you and will try to start practice next Sunday," Mr. McNab informed them.
After they had all left the room, Mr. McNab and Miss Lane discussed their possibilities.
"I think we have twelve boys who might work out," she said hopefully. "Once we get started we can always add some other boys."
"I knew young Bobby had a nice voice. His friend Tony has no experience but has a surprisingly sweet voice," Mr. McNab observed. "Keith and Arlo have potential, and so do Phillip and Jason. We will have to see about the others, but it's a start."
Miss Lane smiled. "They are really a sweet bunch of kids. I guess I didn't know what to expect."
"Yes, they are mostly good boys," he agreed. "All of them have been through some rough experiences and what they need most is encouragement and positive attention. This should be a very good experience for them. But treat them gently and be sparing with criticism. They are accustomed to being pushed aside."
"I understand," she assured him. "I will be patient. The one thing that disappoints me is they they are all trebles. It would be nice if we had some older boys who could sing the lower parts."
"I suppose part of our challenge is to get the younger boys to help with recruiting some of the others. Some faith is required," Mr. McNab reminded her.
She laughed. "I do understand, Pastor McNab. I would not be doing this if I had no faith."
Back in their room, Bobby and Tony were chattering away.
"See, I told you that you could sing," Bobby reminded him. "Aren't you glad I talked you into coming? You got picked!"
"I don't know, man. I don't think I can do this."
"Sure you can, Tony. You can do anything."
Tony shook his head. "Why do I let you talk me into these things?"
"Oh come on, Tony. This will be fun. And we can do it together."
Tony smiled. "Yeah, you are right I guess. I will try, really I will. But I never did this before."
"You can do it," Bobby assured him. "I know you can."
Thomas and Jermaine were sitting with them, taking in the conversation.
"So how many guys are going to be in the choir?" Jermaine asked.
"We don't know right now. I guess we will find out next week," Bobby replied. "But it is about a dozen, I think. Why, do you like to sing?"
Jermaine shrugged, but didn't say anything. Tony took that as a yes. "Hey, come on man. If I can do it, anybody can," he said.
"I will have to think about that," Jermaine said noncommittally.
Thomas said very quietly. "I kind of like to sing," then he seemed embarrassed by the admission. "I mean when I was in grade school we had a music class where we learned some songs. It was kind of neat."
"See," Bobby said to Jermaine. "Lots of guys can sing. We should all do this. It will be cool."
Jermaine shook his head. "Bobby, you could sell ice to Eskimos," then he laughed. "Actually it might be fun. There isn't much else to do here. Why not?"
"What about you Thomas?" Tony asked. "You gonna try out?"
Thomas shrugged and didn't commit himself, but he grinned.
"Yeah, you are gonna do it," Tony said. "I think this will be a lot of fun."
Danny walked in and wondered what they were laughing about. "What are you guys up to?"
Jermaine told him. "Bobby has roped us all into singing in the new boys choir. You want to make it unanimous?"
"Who me? Not no, but hell no! I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket," Danny insisted. "I wouldn't inflict my singing on an alley cat."
"Surely you can't be that bad," Jermaine chuckled.
"Trust me, I am. Thanks but no thanks."
"Well, that's four out of five," Bobby calculated. "Danny can be the audience, I guess."
"Sure," Danny agreed. "I will listen and clap, but that's it."
Monday was New Year's Eve and things were quiet If the boys had enjoyed celebrations in the past, there were none in store for tonight. The only thing to look forward to was that New Year's Day was the last day of the holiday vacation. Some of the boys were actually looking forward to school starting just to have something to do.
Bobby was excited about the choir. "I can't wait until next Sunday when we can really get started learning some songs. I'm glad Miss Lane is going to lead us. She seems very nice."
"Bobby, you think everybody is nice," Jermaine said a little cynically.
"Well, most people are. You and Danny and Tony have all been nice to me. There are lots of nice people here."
Danny smiled. "Don't ever change Bobby. There are plenty of cynics around. We need you."
"Just be happy while you can," Tony told him. "School starts tomorrow."
"That's OK. I like school," Bobby admitted.
Jermaine laughed. "I rest my case," Bobby just shrugged.
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