Matt and Tim

by Small Town Guy

Chapter 1

Fifteen-year-old Matthew Meadows walked along the sidewalk of his small mid west town. He was on his way to school. It was late March. It was one of those days where it appeared as though it were going to rain at any moment. Then again, a few degrees cooler would bring snow.

Matt as he liked to be called, glanced around at the snowbanks. They already were half the size they were last month. He was happy summer was on the way, yet the scenery around him was rather depressing. He felt he was looking at an old black and white photo. There wasn't any color anywhere. There was just shades of gray. Even the snow was gray! The snow was dirty gray! Here and there a soda can appeared from a thawing bank. Over there was a weathered tortilla chip bag still half-frozen in a puddle. Frozen into the bottom of another puddle was some candy bar wrapper.

"Cheeezzz!" he thought, "Why can't people put a simple candy bar wrapper in their coat pocket?........And throw it away at wherever they're going to!....

"Oh, oh.........Junior's waking up again."

He tugged at his pants leg.

"Shit!.......I really, really hate this! It's embarrassing...........I wasn't even thinking of anything remotely sexy!.........I was thinking of all the garbage frozen in the snow. Maybe if I reach into my pocket, I can make an.........adjustment. I don't wanna walk down the street grabbing at my crotch!........Can't they make some kind of pill to stop this from happening?!"

He was careful to avoid deep puddles. Especially with his right foot. The plastic tread of his dirty white sneaker had cracked last week. He already felt a dampness within it. His mother wanted to rush right out for another pair. Although his family wasn't rich, they're weren't poor either. He wanted to wait until the summer before he replaced them. And it was embarrassing being pulled by the arm through the mall by........by your mother!

"Shit! I really wish she'd quit treating me like a little kid. Okay, I'm fifteen.......I'm a kid! But I'm not a little kid!"

He tugged within his pocket.

"Oh!........Shit, SHIT, SHIT!.......How I hate this!.........I'm really glad I'm not all that big. What would I do? Junior just doesn't listen to me..........He's got a mind of his own!"

He recalled his sex-ed class in junior high when he was thirteen.

"Oh, that was embarrassing!.........Well, not the class exactly.......It was that stupid textbook!..........What was that again?.......'Our Changing Bodies' or something like that. Cheeezzz! They had a penis and vagina drawing!........And.....and it looked like a damn cartoon!.........Really! That's more something you'd show a five-year-old when he asks you 'Where did I come from?' And.........this clumsy, klutzy stage!.........How long does this go on?! Oh!.......I'm such a klutz! I get around anything sharp, I cut myself. I get around anything hot, I burn myself........I get around water, I end up getting wet. I'm surprised I haven't slipped on the ice here yet and ended up with a concussion and a wet ass! They never said how long this was going to last. Most of the boys I know........well, they may not be all that graceful at modern dance, but at least they aren't walking into doors and slipping on the marble floors in the hallways!........And tripping on the stairs......or dumping their lunch trays on the floor.......or spraying their table with opening a can of soda!........Arruugh!....... Why is it always me that ends up with the can that's been shook-up?!"

He'd looked at himself in the bathroom mirror that morning while brushing his teeth. His dirty blond hair was down to his jaw. He knew it would lighten to a more gold color when summer came and he'd be out in the sun. He didn't think his feet were too big, or his ears. Then again, his hair covered his ears. Well, hey, they didn't stick out as if they were dish antennas! His chest tapered down to a relatively small waist. He did wish for a wider pelvis.

"Well, not all curvy and girlish.........I just have too much of a straight-up-n-down shape. I look a bit too much like a stick figure."

He got closer to the mirror and opened his eyes wide. They were a brilliant cobalt blue. They would have been beautiful on a male or female. He didn't actually like them.

"...I wish they were dark brown.......or at least not quite so brilliant. Awh, gee, I look like a silly cartoon character!"

He reached the school a mile from his home. He adjusted the strap of his backpack over his shoulder as he gazed at the building. It was an old brown brick structure which had been built in the thirties. It had been part of a WPA project to provide work for people. There was no junior high as such. In this small town, it wasn't actually required. Both junior and senior high students were integrated within the same building.

He pressed the brass thumb-latch on the heavy green door and pulled it open.

"...Well at least Junior went back to sleep........I really wish they had some kind of medicine for that problem!"

He was surprised that he'd arrived fifteen minutes earlier than usual. It would still be a half hour before his first class. He always tried for at least fifteen minutes before his first class. At ten minutes before everyone's first period, the halls became a human traffic jam. They all called it, "The Big Rush," when everyone was out in the halls.

He drew his hood down as he made his way to his locker on second floor. Above him were frosted plastic panels which softened the glare of fluorescent tubes within. It had been one of hundreds of remodeling projects to "modernize" the school for the cash strapped town. His footsteps could be clearly heard in the quiet empty hallway.

He suddenly recalled there was supposed to be a 'New Kid' arriving today. Oh, it was a small school. That kind of news traveled out within hours. There were few here but they were always called 'The New Kid.' It wasn't written, it was only spoken. Yet everyone could see the capital letters.

He began to slow his pace as he passed room 200A. He always did. It wasn't a classroom. In fact it used to be a storage and supply room. There were no windows to the outside. In fact, the only window was in the tan colored door. There were just two eight and a half by 11 inch sheets of paper taped on the glass. Vertically one displayed the rainbow gay pride flag. Below that, was a horizontal sheet with the simple letters GSA.

"...Yup!.......Oooookaaayy! I'm gay!.......Hey, I've known that for two years!......No, that's not right either........I admitted it to myself two years ago.........When did I know?.......I think I really always knew....

"Yup!........I was still in grammar school when the students wanted gay representation here. I didn't really understand it all at the time. The students wanted to set up a GSA thing here. Wow! It was all over the news and everything. I don't recall Mom 'n' Dad ever discussing it...........Maybe they just didn't discuss it with me around. I......I really don't understand where Mom stands on it. Dad?......Wow!......Kill 'em all!......Well, not with me around listening to him. I've heard him talking...

"Oh yeah.........I remember all the parents throwing a fit!.........What was that again they kept saying?.........Ummm.......Oh shit! What was that? It was one of those 'Family Values' groups.......Ohhhhh, gee! What was that again?.......They didn't want the school to 'encourage deviant behavior'! Yeah that was it. Soooo, okay I had to look that word up. Hey! I was just a little kid!

"Yeah! And they voted it out! And......and I guess all the students were really pissed! Oh yeah!.........I remember about two weeks after that a couple gay boys were beat up! Yeah! And they were in the hospital for like two weeks! Oh! Broken ribs, fractures, broken arm. And........and the one kid.......I forget his name, had that condition where you can't remember stuff! Yeah, it's coming back to me now. Ummm......AMNESIA! Yeah, that's the word!

"And I remember the kid, John! He's president of the group now. A senior now. He really fought the system. He called in the ACLU and everything!.........Well, back then, I didn't know what that was either! Bob! That was the kid with amnesia. Yeah, and best friends with John............Well, John was straight but........Hey! I mean they were still best friends! When he saw his buddy in the hospital I guess he really flipped out! So did Principal Emerson! Oh, gee I'm I glad I wasn't here for all that!

"Oh yeah...........Principal Emerson. Wow! Was I scared shitless to see HIM the first time. But he's really cool! He doesn't sit in his office all day. He's right out here in the halls with us kids! I swear, he must know all our names, and there's like hundreds of us! He doesn't wear that suit 'n' tie. Just a white shirt and sweater. In fact, if he was a few years younger, I really think he could pass for some cool college kid!............The only thing I've been told about him is his stand on bullying and vandalism. I hear he goes from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde in like three nanoseconds!...."

He suddenly realized he'd stopped just a short distance from the GSA room. Should he look in through the window on the door? The lights were out, and without outside windows it was very dark in there.

"I remember my very first day here in junior high. I just had to take a peek in that window. I was afraid someone was inside and they'd see me! OH! Those beautiful hand painted posters!..........The two girls hugging under a tree, with this huge red heart in the sky. And they had the two boys walking some trail. All they were doing was holding hands and smiling at each other, but.........but they just looked sooooo happy! And the animation! Ahh! Anyone could see it was a computer generated photo. It wasn't real...........The two boys wrestling on the ground. They were all dirty, but they were laughing. The one on his back! Oh wow! His t-shirt was pulled up and you could see that flat, tight belly of his. Ohhhhh, how I wanted to just run my fingers under that shirt and rub his chest........and then just squeeze the shit outta those skinny ribs! Ahhhhhhh!........I gotta get to my locker........I think Junior is waking up again. I gotta start thinking about something else!"

The plastic soles of his shoes made a slight squeaking sound on the dark marble floor. The hallway was deserted. He thought in just ten minutes students would appear. Another ten minutes and The Big Rush would be underway.

He dialed the combination of his locker. The clank of opening the door echoed down the hallway. He stood still for a moment gazing into it.

"I do this every morning!.........I have the same classes everyday! Why do I have to stand here and think about what books I need for the morning?!"

He dropped his backpack at his feet. Drawing his gray sweat jacket off he hung it up. It was here that he thought he heard footsteps. He noticed someone at the far end of the hall but too distant to make out any clear features.

"Who the hell is that?"

The figure was a bit thin. It was obviously a boy with shoulder length, coal black hair. He was a bit under in average height and a bit thin but not considered skinny. He wore black and white sneakers, skinny jeans and a brilliant red nylon jacket. There were white markings down the sleeves that couldn't be made out. A blue backpack was slung over his left shoulder. He gripped the strap with his hand. In his right hand was a small index card. His eyes scanned over the locker numbers to his right.

"...That must be........The New Kid..."

He gradually got closer. There was a thin leather band around his head to hold his hair back. It was thick, yet rather limp, holding close to the sides of his face. The markings on his jacket were some sort of Asian lettering.

Matt snapped back, facing his locker.

"...Ohmigod!.......Ohmigod!........He's heading this way!.......What do I do?!....What do I do?!..."

Matt was extremely shy and constantly nervous to one degree or another, but today, right now, he was near a panic attack. He was all alone with "The New Kid"!

"...I'll grab my books!........I'll grab my books and.......and RUN!"

He felt the familiar weakening in his knees. It was that terrifying feeling of collapsing straight down. It had always been difficult for him talking to students he'd known since his first day here. He'd rather remain quite and alone, than say something stupid or silly.

"...No, I won't RUN.......I'll walk........but very fast!"

He reached into the top shelf of his locker not actually knowing what book he was reaching for. He noticed his hands trembling. It was a strange feeling. He could see them trembling, yet couldn't feel them. It was as though the hands were of another person.

"...Run?!......Walk?!........Who am I kidding!.........My legs are like....like JELLO! I won't get two steps before I fall on my ass and make a complete fool of myself. Oh God, why am I such a GEEK?!"

He felt as though he were going to faint and fall face forward right into his locker. He steadied himself by grabbing the top shelf in his left hand and the locker door in his right. He ever so slightly turned his head and took a second sideways glance.

".....Oh! That hair!........That......carbon black, limp, shiny hair! It just cascades down that....that adorable face.......following every feature! It shimmers! It actually shimmers! I've never seen such dark hair that actually shines! I can see the lights overhead, reflecting off his hair!"

He snapped his attention forward again, staring into his locker.

"...Ohmigod!....Ohmigod!.......He's only three lockers away!"

The boy located his locker and turned to face it. He bent over in what seemed slow motion and set his backpack down beside it. Matt took another cautious glance.

"...Oh!......Those skinny jeans! Those long legs!........That....that drop-dead-to-die-for round little butt!........And there's little white wear spots on each side. I'm gonna faint! I just know it. I'm gonna make a total fool of myself!"

The boy held the card in his left hand and read the combination as he dialed it in. He had his lips turned into his mouth and seemed to be biting down on them in an intense effort of concentration. Matt took another quick sidewards glance.

"...How much concentration does it take to dial in three numbers for cryin' out loud?!

"Oh shit!........Maybe our lockers are different than his last school. Maybe I should ask him if he needs help.......Yeah! Sure!........I'll open my mouth and nothing will come out. I'll stand there with my mouth hanging open........or stutter like a fuckin' retard!........Oh Matt you are such a GEEK!........A loser!"

When he thought the word "loser," he felt a deep pain in his chest. He was so tired of his excessive shyness. He wanted to do something about it, yet he felt helpless.

"...What do I do?........What do I do?..." he wondered, nearly at the edge of tears.

The boy opened the locker on the first try. He removed the shiny red jacket. Matt noticed the back. There was an embroidered gold dragon on it, complete with "bat-like" wings. It held a large twisting snake in its talons. Above and below it were more Asian symbols. He hung it in the locker and got down to one knee, opening his backpack.

Matt pretended to be sorting papers in his locker. He glanced at the boy again. He'd removed what seemed to be a pocket calculator or electronic dictionary from his pack and slid it into his shirt pocket. He glanced up for the shortest fraction of a second and caught Matt's gaze. He had a rather androgynous face. His skin was a flawless light tan. Only his high cheekbones were the slightest hint of his Asian descent. His eyes were large and almond shaped. His large pupils were black, deep black, to the point his iris could barely be seen. Matt, knowing he'd been "discovered" looking, turned back into his locker slowly. He quickly grabbed the top shelf with both hands and nearly began hyperventilating. He knew he was drawing in air, yet felt as though he were suffocating. His knees weakened again.

"Ohmigod!......Ohmigod!.........Those EYES! I'm gonna pass out!........I mean, I'm REALLY gonna pass out! Holy shit!.........If I stared into those eyes for more than twenty seconds.......I'd.......I'd MELT!.........REALLY! Just like that evil witch on the Wizard of Oz. I'd MELT!..........I'd melt into a pile of.......of ooze!........I'd be a pool of goop on the floor here........with my clothes floating on top!...

"Holy shit!........It.......it should be ILLEGAL for ANY boy to be that drop-dead gorgeous! I......I really think I'm gonna pass out here!"

He took several deep breaths and got himself under control. He stepped back from his locker only enough that the door wouldn't restrict his peripheral vision. The boy was still on one knee, placing what seemed to be reference books into the bottom of the locker. As he reached for one more in his pack, Matt could clearly see his profile. His lips were relaxed now. They weren't stretched out thin or rolled between his teeth.

"...Oh.......my......god! Those lips! Those.......pink.......moist little pillows!........That..... puffy......cute......sexy little pout!........I haven't seen girls with a mouth that foxy!.........Oh to just press my lips up against those moist, puffy pillows and just........just taste the nectar of the GODS!"

He suddenly drew himself close to his locker again.

"Oh!......No!......No!.......Junior!.......Don't do this to me! You're instantly hard enough to punch a hole through this locker door! Please don't embarrass me like this!...

"What do I do? What do I do?.........Well, for one, quit thinking about kissing those luscious lips!..........And tasting his......his nectar!........And......and don't look at those eyes! ........Those perfect circles of polished onyx!........And don't look at that hair!........That lustrous mane that cascades along both sides of that angelic face!......just framing it as a picture of beauty!........And don't look at those long legs with the cute, tiny sneakers at the ends!.......And don't look at those perfect round little buns in those tight jeans......with the little white wear spots in the center!........And.....and......don't look at.........Oh shit! Why don't I just stick a fuckin' pair of knitting needles in my eyes?!.......... How can anyone NOT look at this......this young little Adonis?! Oh! I really....I mean really think I'm going to faint here! Maybe I should see the nurse. Oh yeah! And tell her I just overdosed on a cute boy's bod?! I can see her now!......'HUH'?!

"Ohmigod!......Ohmigod!.........SAY something to him you asshole!...

"Oh! Oh! I'm so scared 'n' nervous.........He's new here! He's gotta be ten times more scared. Huh! I wouldn't want anyone to wager any money on that!"

He was about to step back from behind the door of his locker to see if he could catch his attention.

"Oh! No!........I've got to hide Junior first!"

He quickly reached for a spiral bound notebook and tried to casually hold it in front of himself. He stepped back. His peripheral vision indicated he was being looked at. He turned his head. His face blushed.

"...Hi...," he said weakly.

"Fuckin' beautiful ya dork!........You're gonna turn the art of conversation onto a science!..........Maybe you should join the debate team!........Well, it's a start!"

The boy bowed his head slightly and blushed as well. A tiny hole appeared in his lips.

"...Hello," he said, equally softly.

"Oh gee........He's blushing! I think he's shy too!.......Okay phase two, open mouth, speak!"

".......I'm......uhhh.....ummm, Matt!........And.....uhhhh you're new here right?"

"He already knows he's new here ya fuckin' doofus!"

The boy raised his head slightly. He nodded, sending ripples along his hair.

"...Ummm, yeah I'm.........The New Kid."

Matt actually saw the capital letters again.

"...I'm, uhhh.....Tim..."

Matt nodded.

"...Cool..."

"Cool?..........What kind of shit-for-brains reply is that?!"

".......I mean it's a cool name......I mean it's, you know.....neat!.....And ummm."

He allowed his shoulders to drop. He held out his right hand, palm up in a mild apologetic and submissive manner. He leaned up against the edge of his open locker door.

"Oh gee! I don't know what to say........I'm sorry........I'm like, well super shy, okay?.......I mean, it's not YOU! It's all these kids here!"

He held out his hand toward the empty hallway, as though there were a crowd of students standing there.

"....I grew up with these kids! And......ummm.....I'm like friends with five of 'em......If I'm lucky!"

He noticed Tim's eyes fall to the floor.

"Yeah.........ummm.......I think I know all about that........I'm like really shy too.......I've got lots on my mind....and I'm really having a tough time right now."

As he talked, he continued to speak through that tiny opening between his lips. He drew out a plastic ruler, scale and protractor from his pack and slowly placed them in the top shelf of his locker.

"Ummm......ahhh," Matt began, "So where are you from?"

Tim turned back to him with a slight, tight-lipped grin. It was as though he was happy at Matt's attempt at conversation.

"Oh!.........Oh wow! Dimples!........He's got these tiny dimples on each side of his mouth! Oh! I just wanna grab his head in my hands and kiss him!.......Stop! Stop that! Junior's already at attention! Think of something else!"

"...California," Tim replied softly.

"...California?!........OH WOW!.......That's where all the really COOL kids live! I'll bet you won't find a single geek or nerd in the whole state!..."

Tim shook his head.

"...No........It's not like all those teen shows you see on TV. They're not all rich and cool and beautiful..........There's lots of geeks..."

He hung his head with a sad expression.

"...Well," he continued, "at least there's ONE less geek there now..."

Matt felt as though an electric shock shot through his entire body.

"No!........You're not talking about YOU, are you?!"

Tim cast his eyes down. Matt reached out and gripped his shoulder tightly.

"Oh! Don't ever SAY that about yourself!.......You're just too cu....COOL!"

"OHMIGOD!.........I ALMOST SAID CUTE!"

Seeing his hand on Tim's shoulder, he quickly drew it back. He was suddenly lost for words. He leaned back against the edge of his open locker door again, rocking it back and forth about an inch in each direction.

Tim managed another weak, tight-lipped smile.

"Thanks Matt........but the fact is........I'm an accident waiting to happen. Hell! I'm a HAZARDOUS MATERIALS AREA!"

Hearing that, Matt pushed off his locker door again. The door swung off center and slammed shut. He fell on his hip and shoulder, legs flying high.

"Oh shit!........Where's my notebook?!........I need my notebook! I can't let Tim see my stiffy!........Oh! How embarrassing!........Scheezz! WHEN are they going to invent a PILL for this?!"

Just as he grabbed his notebook with his left hand, he felt Tim's hand on his right wrist. He seemed to pull him up effortlessly. Tim gazed closely into his face.

"Oh hey, dude!.......Are you okay man?"

Matt leaned back up against his closed locker. He nodded his head. Covering himself with his notebook in his left hand, he held out his right hand in a silly gesture.

"Ummm.........You were saying about how much of a geek YOU ARE?!"

Tim's mouth stretched into a thin line again as he began to giggle. Matt followed. Soon they were laughing.

"Oh Matt! This isn't right! It's not funny. I shouldn't be laughing. It's rude!......but.... hee, hee, hee........It was......It was your gesture!.......It was just so damn cute!"

"Did he say I was cute?.........or did something cute?"

"Oh wow!.......That's the best laugh I've had in months!........Don't feel bad Matt. It's only a matter of days before I do something like that. You'll get your revenge on me."

".......A matter of days?.........get my 'revenge'? Does he want to hangout with me? Have me around?.....

"Oh, my hip still hurts a bit. Well good! At least it put Junior back to sleep!"

"Good morning gentlemen!" a deep, mature voice sounded out.

Mr. Emerson stood before them. He was forty-five with black hair and graying sideburns. He was dressed casually, yet seemed to deliver an informal dignity. They both seemed shocked. They stood nearly shoulder to shoulder, nearly at attention as though they were in a military school. Tim nodded his head. "Good morning, sir," he said politely, yet still through the tiny opening between his lips.

"Good morning Mr. Emerson." Matt put in quickly.

"...Ahhh, yes Timothy!" he began, grinning as he turned to Matt, "...I see you've already met our school's......umm....errr.......'Walking mishap.'"

Tim seemed to relax his stature.

"...Ahhh, yes sir," he said glancing at Matt, "In fact, he was just giving me a rather ............graphic demonstration of his abilities.......Hee, hee, hee..."

With this, Matt began to giggle. The more they tried to stifle themselves, the more difficult it became.

Tim sobered himself quickly.

"I'm sorry sir..........We're just being a bit silly. I was so scared starting school here today," he said, glancing at Matt, "....I....I really think everything is going to be all right."

He'd spoken rather matter-of-factly without any emotion.

"Did I hear that right?!........Well, he didn't exactly say it, but he implied it!"

"Excellent, Timothy!..........That's the positive attitude I like to hear from my students...

"Yes indeed, I'm quite glad you two have met so soon. I think you'll each complement the other.

"And let me add, Timothy, if you need any help with your schedule, classes, homework or even a personal problem, you know where my office is."

"Yes sir. Thank you!"

Mr. Emerson glanced toward Matt again.

"I might want to caution you of Matthew. We're all quite used to his.......accidents around here. You might want to be a bit......prudent when dealing with him."

Matt couldn't help but let a giggle slip out. Tim joined in. They understood Mr. Emerson's wry sense of humor.

Mr. Emerson seemed to step away for a moment, then returned with a rather serious expression. He lowered his hands into his pockets.

"Ahh, Timothy..........On a footnote...

"This is a rather small town........small school........If the students seem a bit......well remote with you, please don't take any offense..........Just give them a few days.......I'm sure they'll warm-up to you shortly. The students here are a bit lacking in social graces."

"Yes sir. I understand. I'm sure everything will be okay."

He had given Matt a shy grin. Well, another tight-lipped grin.

"Wow! I wonder what he's trying to tell me........I don't have that....that gaydar that I hear about....

"What is that wonderful smell?.........I didn't notice it before.........It's......it's fabric softener!..........Yeah!.......those dryer sheets!..........And it's coming from Tim!......Oh, sigh, he even smells cute!...........Oh! Am I getting 'girly' or what?!........I.....I think I'm getting boy-crazy!"

Mr. Emerson's eyes suddenly widened with what seemed a sudden revelation.

"...Say! Matthew!........Why don't you show Timothy around. Sort of a grand tour of our school. It's not all that large. I'm sure twenty minutes will be fine.........And if either of you were to be a bit late for your first class.........Well, I'll take care of it in the office."

He put his finger to his lips.

"...Shhhhh!"

"Oh wow! Yes SIR!........I'll do that!........And......I understand..."

He gave them both a wink and turned to leave. Students were filtering into the hallways. Mr. Emerson's gait seemed to be lively. He was already waving and greeting students by name.

Tim's gaze followed him along for a moment. He held his arms out in front of himself.

"WOW!..........You've got the COOLEST principal ever!"

"Yeah, he's great!"

"Awh!........You should have seen my last school's principal........I mean she was a real cunt!"

His eyes suddenly shot open wide as his head snapped toward Matt.

"Ha, ha, ha," Matt laughed as he waved his arms before himself, "Don't worry about it! Oh! You should have seen the English teacher I had last year. She was four and a half feet tall.......About 80 pounds.........She was like ninety-eight years old, with the voice of a TRUCK DRIVER! Hee, hee, hee........And let me tell you.......she was really a CUNT!"

Tim burst out in laughter. Matt was sure he was giving a large smile, yet he covered his mouth with his hand.

"Damn!........I really wish he wouldn't do that! He keeps hiding those luscious lips! No!...........rose petals!...........Yeah, sigh.........moist....pink....rose petals! Oh shit! There I go getting all 'girly' again. But I can't HELP it! He........he was like assembled by hand in heaven!"

They gradually settled down as Matt noticed the jacket in Tim's locker. He reached out to rub the fabric between his thumb and finger.

"I thought this was nylon........This is real silk isn't it?..."

"....Yeah, it is..."

"I just love dragons! Ever since I was little kid! Is this Japanese writing?"

"Korean!...

"...Last night, Mom washed my jacket. Living in California, I've only got one jacket that's really warm..........Well, we both forgot it in the washer. I mean, forgot to put it in the dryer....... After rushing around this morning it was too late to dry it.........This is Mom's jacket."

"...Wow!.........Your mom's gotta be really tiny!"

He slapped his hand over his eyes.

"Oh! There I go....bein' a dweeb again!........I'm so sorry! I didn't wanna make it sound like I thought you were, umm little or anything."

Tim gave another tight-lipped smile. He stood erect, arms out at a slight angle from his sides, palms forward.

"This is me!........Five, six.......a hundred and ten pounds soaking wet!...

"Mom's like five, ten........Dad's nearly six and a half!.........They tell me I take after my Korean grandparents. Mom's folks. Mom's Korean-American. She was born in California. My grandparents.........Well they died in a car crash when I was a real little baby. My great grandparents still live in Korea."

"...Oh shit!........I'm really sorry to hear that. Ummm both sets of my grandparents died way before I was even born!........I never had grandparents."

There was a silent pause here, neither boy knowing what to say.

"...Ummm," Matt began, "Isn't that jacket kinda cold?"

Tim reached into the locker and folded the material back. On the inside was a liner.

"It's got an insulated liner........It's removable for warmer weather."

"Oh!......Cool!..."

They glanced at each other for a moment, both blushing, searching for words.

Matt stared down at his feet.

"Ummm..........Soooo, have you got your class schedule?"

"Oh yeah!........Right here in my pocket!"

He reached into his back pocket with some difficulty.

"Oh!........Oh!........He's reaching into the pocket of those jeans!.........He's like touching a cheek of that tight, round little ass!..........Stop it! Stop! Junior will wake up again!"

He produced a thin sheet of wide paper. Matt scanned it. It had alternating horizontal stripes of white and light green. Along both edges were perforations for the printer sprockets. He knew it was outdated printer technology and felt embarrassed. He was embarrassed about anything that wasn't "California Cool."

"Wow! You're in the same grade as me!" Matt said enthusiastically, scanning it, "....Awh! Rats!.........We don't have one single class together!"

Tim's bright countenance seemed to dim slightly.

"Well, hey! We both got lunch together!......Mmmm.......seventh period math.........Oh! Oh! I'm tellin' ya.......THAT has got to be the most........the most......vile......filthy.....perverted four-letter-word in the English language!"

Tim lurched forward with a laugh. Instantly he covered his mouth again.

Matt redialed his combination and began reaching for his books.

"...Ummmm........What I usually do is get out all my books I'm gonna use in the morning. After lunch, I get all my afternoon books 'n' stuff. That way I don't have to go back to my locker between each class."

They began their way down the hall. They became silent. Both had spoke in shy, quiet voices. The halls were packed with students now. There was the steady drone of voices, punctuated by closing lockers, classroom doors and an occasional, "Hey Jim!" "Shelly!" "Whoa DUDE!"

Matt had told Tim he was showing him his way to classes in the order they were listed on his schedule. He pointed out he'd become familiar with the halls, stairways and other "landmarks" he'd pass along the way.

Matt found he had to watch where he was going. He'd bumped into several students as he was gazing over at Tim. It had been the first time he had actually looked around. He started looking at other student's faces. They were just one second glances, yet an eternity for him.

Most all the boys noticed Tim. They looked directly at The New Kid. Some were indifferent, some simply nodded, others offered a quick shy smile. It had been the girls which Matt had some strange, uneasy feeling about. Although they were much more subtle, Matt seemed to get the feeling they weren't simply passing by on their way to class.

"No!........They aren't...........It's like.......like they're going out of their way to catch a glimpse of Tim........The New Kid!.........I can see their eyes!.........They make it look like they're looking straight ahead.......but.......but they kinda glance off to the side. I can see their eyes kinda, like, scan Tim up and down. And after they pass us, they turn around and look again.......and....and they smile!..........I know they're looking at his cute little butt!"

Matt also noticed several girls who were nowhere near as subtle. They'd flash their eyes openly, giving large flirtatious smiles while combing their fingers through their hair. He'd even noticed several senior girls giving glances.........Wasn't that "totally un-cool"?!

Tim tried as best as he could to acknowledge with nods of his own and tight-lipped shy, quick smiles.

"Gee I hate that when he does that!.........He's got such a beautiful mouth. Those pink, moist lips!..........Why does he try to hide them? Linus!........Yeah he reminds me of Linus in the Peanuts comic strip. When he's like....scared or something, he's drawn with that squiggly line for a mouth. Okay, it looks funny in the comic strip, but I just HATE it when Tim does that!"

They returned to the room where Tim had his first class.

"...Soooo," Matt began, "........Think you're goin' to have any trouble findin' your way around?..."

Tim glanced up from the floor, his same tight-lipped smile appeared.

".....Piece of cake!.........I'm okay..."

"Ummm........You know Mr. Emerson said he wouldn't hold it against us if we were late."

Tim nodded.

"...Well, I kinda don't like the idea of being late, you know?........You walk in and....and everyone is kinda staring at you 'n' all. It REALLY makes me uncomfortable."

"Gotcha!" Matt replied, pointing his finger at him.

Matt thought Tim was going to turn into the classroom, but he didn't. He stood there looking down at the floor. He seemed to be tracing some kind of 'design' on the floor with the toe of his shoe. Although his head was shyly bowed, Matt could still see his lips rolled into his mouth. He was lightly biting them between his teeth again as though he was in deep thought. He glanced off toward a wall, looking at nothing in particular.

"....Ummm," he hesitated, "I been thinking......you know. Like since you were showing me around.........I.....ummm......I just can't get the words out."

He suddenly raised his head. His large black eyes locked onto Matt's. Matt suddenly felt they were now twice as large. They weren't 'sharp' or 'dagger glaring.' They were intense, yet warm. He stepped close to Matt. Matt felt as though he could actually feel Tim's body heat radiating from his chest only an inch away. He lightly gripped Matt's shoulder.

"Ohmigod!..........Those eyes!........His hand!........He's touching me! It's so firm, yet gentle. And......and I can smell that dryer sheet fabric softener!"

"...Thanks....huh?..."

It was all he had said, yet it seemed to contain a manuscript of emotion and relief. He had barely exhaled the words, yet Matt heard a rush of air that seemed to come from his lungs. The intensity of Tim's stare seemed to soften, with only a look of warm relief remaining.

"...Sure," Matt nearly whispered.

Matt was about to 'mentally berate' himself once again for so simple a reply. He found he couldn't. They both seemed to understand each other on a much deeper level. Only three words had been spoken between them, yet they seemed to contain more than all the words they'd spoken all morning up to this point.

Tim turned into the classroom.

"...Whoa!" Matt shot out, "See you at lunch.....kay?"

Tim stopped and looked over his shoulder. He made a fist with his right hand, thump up.

Matt slowly made his way to his first class. Total confusion rushed through his mind. It seemed a hundred questions flashed through his mind within seconds. He had called this confusion "The Train Wreck." Since he'd been five, in his mind's eye, he saw tiny toy trains running along tracks in his mind. Each one arrived and departed each "depot" on time. Several trains actually ran along the same track. The timing was precise. The coordination was as graceful as a ballet. Each train kept to its own "schedule" and the entire "railroad" operated with the precision of a fine mechanical clock. As he grew confused about something, a "switch" on a track was left in the wrong position. A train on an upgrade slowed only a few seconds and on a downgrade, another train sped up. Soon there was a point on the "railroad" where all trains converged and crashed simultaneously.........."The Train Wreck."

"I really gotta stop thinking about all this. I've gotta concentrate on my classes."

The morning passed uneventfully. He had poor concentration. A paragraph in a textbook could be read six times, and he still couldn't recall it. A teacher's lecture became simple sounds. They were the vibrating vocal cords in someone's larynx. They weren't even words, much less something conveying ideas or intelligence.

The bell rang the end of third period. Matt hated this year. His lunch had always been fourth period but his English class this year, was on the opposite end of the school as the cafeteria. He was sure to arrive with a long line ahead of him. Indeed, some days it stretched out into the hallway. He was surprised to see only five students ahead of him.

"What is this?........Is half the school absent today?!"

He took a tray and placed it on the rails of the serving line. The dish today was a goulash of macaroni, hamburger, celery and green peppers in a sort of tomato paste sauce. Matt admitted it didn't appear all that appetizing but enjoyed it. That wasn't to be admitted to among the other students. Only hamburgers and pizza were remotely appetizing.

The cafeteria had been added some time in the '40's, during the war years. The schools then, were allowed items which were rationed to citizens. It used to be three classrooms. The walls had been knocked down and the kitchen and dining area installed. Indeed, one wall still had a black slate chalkboard on it. Matt thought of the school cafeterias he'd seen on teen shows. They had polished tile floors. The tables were round, square and rectangular, seating any number of students. The chairs were bright colored plastic of red, blue, green, yellow and white. Here the floors were dark brown stained hardwood with varnish. Most of the tables were picnic tables donated by the state park. On most, bench seats were attached. Matt thought of how embarrassed he'd be. This wasn't California and it sure wasn't "cool."

He raised up on his toes to look over the tables. Yes, as in all schools, there was a "social position" or "hierarchy" to the lunch room. They were called "table" in singular, even though the tables were often joined end-to-end to accommodate whatever number of students were available. To his right was the "Girl's Table." To his left was the "Boy's Table." Beyond that was the "Rich Kid Table." Along the back was the "Nerd" or "Geek Table." He thought this should be his table, but nerds and geeks here, seemed to have a different definition. They weren't klutzy or dressed differently. In fact they were mostly honor roll students with straight A's. Some were poor, some were rich, yet they all sat at the same table. They didn't discuss sports or girls or boys, in fact, they discussed school work! The next table was more Matt's idea of a "geek table" of sorts. This is where the emos, both boys and girls, sat. He had to admit, some of the girls here were very attractive. He liked their "fluffy" hairstyles. He liked the hairstyle where the hair covered one eye. He even liked the "iris enlarging" contacts many of the girls wore. What he didn't like were the red colored iris enlarging contacts. He thought they looked too "evil." He thought some of the most attractive girls were "spooky" with red contacts. In fact, he felt uncomfortable at this table. Next was the "Poor Kid" table. Indeed, they were from "the other side of the tracks." Although "poor" students often sat at the "geek" table, the "Poor Kids" table was mostly for the failing students, problem students and those that simply didn't care about much of anything. The "Loners" sat at this table as well, be they good or poor students academically. If the table was crowded, people simply didn't talk to or try to "include" the "Loners." Then, of course, there were the "Everyone Else" tables. Matt reconsidered his thoughts.

"Gee this shit gets awful complicated!"

As he passed the "Girl's Table" there seemed to be more activity than usual. They seemed to be looking in the direction of a corner "Everyone Else" table. They looked. They whispered to each other, They giggled. Some girls actually stood to get a better view. He heard, "The New Kid!" "Dreeeamy!" "Little Doll!" and "Omigod! He's soooo keeuuutt!"

Matt looked at the table. There sat Tim, alone. His head was down as he ate.

"Awh!..........He looks so........so tiny at that big table! Oh! Look at the lights shining down on that mane of black hair! It's reflecting in a little circle on the top of his head!........ Yeah! Awwhh a tiny little halo!"

The girls continued on. Matt didn't seem to hear a single negative comment.

"What is this shit?!.........I........I feel kinda funny about this......uncomfortable. Holy shit!.........I'm........I'm jealous!.........I really am!"

He considered sitting right beside him. Not as a friendly gesture, but to block the girl's view of him. He admitted he was jealous, and now a bit angry. He suddenly stopped short.

"Yeah! Great idea Matt!.........Why don't you just sidle up to him! Put your arm around him! Give him a little kiss on the cheek!........And while you're at it, rub his leg......or just GRAB HIS FUCKIN' CROTCH!.....

"Oh!........I am such a GEEK!"

He approached from the opposite side of the table. He didn't notice the piece of notebook paper on the floor and stepped directly on it. It slid on the varnished floor. Nearly losing his balance, his tray crashed to the table as his shin smashed into the edge of the bench seat.

"Ouch!....Ouch!....Ouch!....Shit!....Fuck!..."

Tim looked up from his tray.

"Hey......You okay man?"

Matt rubbed his shin for a moment, pain on his face.

"Yeah! Yeah!........I'll be okay..."

As he stepped over the seat, he measured a distance between his thumb and forefinger.

"In the nurse's office, I gotta file about three quarters of an inch thick! If I go down there just one more time this year........I think they're gonna EXPELL ME!"

Tim's lips stretched thin again as he pressed them closed. His entire body shook with silent laughter. He shook his head and lightly slapped his palms to the table, trying to recover.

"...I'm sorry, hee,hee........It's not nice to laugh.....Hee, hee, hee. I shouldn't even say this.......It doesn't sound right....but you're just soooo cute!"

"Shouldn't say it?........Doesn't sound right?........Cute?"

Tim recovered himself and looked up seriously.

"...And thanks, huh?"

"Thanks for what?"

"Finally showing up!" he said, cautiously glancing around, "I mean, I've been kind of a loner all along. It doesn't bother me too much.........It's just that I feel like I'm under a microscope, you know?"

Matt gave a cast-off gesture.

"You're The New Kid!.........It'll stop by next week.........Next week you won't be The New Kid anymore."

Tim nodded, but didn't reply.

He speared three pieces of macaroni with his fork. He opened his mouth to a small slit and forked it inside.

"Sooooo..........What do you think of our fantastic menu today?"

"...Not bad! Really!........I like this!....Well, not so much the peppers..."

"I do too........Just don't admit to any of the kids that anything in here tastes good!....... You'll be BLACKLISTED!"

Tim shyly kept his head down. Matt looked around quickly.

It seemed only the Girl's Table held any interest toward them. At the other tables, things seemed to be routine. He couldn't actually hear what they were saying, but nobody was casting them glances. He returned his attention to Tim who continued to eat, his head shyly down.

Again he speared only three or four pieces of macaroni on his plate. He quickly placed them into his mouth, barely opening his lips more then necessary. Each fork contained a small amount of food, but he'd quickly repeat the process.

"I wonder if he has something wrong with his jaw er somethin'.........It's like he can't open his jaw too far. I hope he wasn't in an accident er somethin'."

"...So......ummm........ahhh.....What do you think of your first three classes?......You think you're going to have any trouble?"

Tim glanced up for a moment then returned his attention to his plate.

"...Nah!........It's pretty much the same thing really........Well.....so far. In fact, I think you people are a couple chapters behind where I left off.........It's almost like review for me, you know?..."

"....Good........That's cool......Around here we seldom make it all the way to the end of our textbooks by the end of the year.

"...Ummm, for me it's math! I mean........I don't understand why last year it was so easy and this year it's so hard!.........It's like I missed two years in between there somewhere!...

"Last week.........I mean........It's weird.......I was doing those practice problems in our workbook....know?.........Where it's got the answers in the back?.........Well, I got 'em all right! But there was about two er three I wasn't too sure about........I mean, I got 'em right....but I didn't know how!"

At that, Tim gave a laugh. He'd opened his mouth full. Matt saw brilliant silver braces on both his upper and lower teeth. Matt's eyes shot open as he pointed.

"You've got BRACES!" he'd said, a bit too loud.

A look of fear suddenly appeared on Tim's face. His mouth closed so quickly, Matt could have sworn he heard a 'snap.' He leaned over his plate, embarrassed. His body language seemed as though it took on a ton of weight.

"...I hate um!" he whispered, yet rather loud and forcefully.

Matt slapped his palms to the table on either side of his tray. A brilliant grin on his entire face.

"NO!........Noooooo!........Braces are IN! Haven't you seen it on the Net?!......It's like all over! Germany!.......And....and all the Asian countries! And....and some kids actually buy fake braces off the Net! There soooo cool!.........Even older people are getting 'em! Ladies like 35 years old have 'em!......And......and."

His enthusiasm was suddenly tempered as he saw Tim's eyes rise.

"...Ohhhh......He looks so......so sad.........Maybe I shouldn't have said that......But I can't HELP it! I'm just ape shit over braces!"

He quickly got to his feet, remaining between the bench seat and table. He leaned forward toward Tim and grabbed his left forearm.

"I'm being really serious here, Timmy."

"Ohmigod!........I just called him Timmy!"

He glanced down at his hand on Tim's arm and drew it back as though it were a hot steam pipe. He placed his palms on the table before him. He continued to lean close to him in a gesture of sincerity and confidentiality.

"Timmy!" he whispered forcefully, ".....I'm....ummm....like really, really serious here. You gotta believe me!.........Haven't you seen all those cool braces websites on the Net?! I mean they're HOT!..........I've....I've just got this.......THING.......about braces, you know?..... Ummmm........I know that sounds kinda weird, but........Oh shit! I'm weird anyhow. And....ummm. Oh! I don't know what I'm saying here!..."

He dropped back to the bench, frustrated, knowing he couldn't explain himself.

Tim looked up, with a small but genuine smile. He glanced back down again and began tracing designs with his fork in the sauce that remained on his plate.

"...Ummm....Matt?......I......ahhh......I was like really scared coming to school today. I'm well, kinda shy too.........well, really shy. Even at my own school."

He looked up again, his smile gone.

"This morning......ummm......ahhhh......I was soooo nervous. I.......I kinda threw up my breakfast in the toilet!"

He glanced back down at the surface of the table.

"...Wow!........I don't think I was ever so scared in my life! I just didn't wanna go to school! I got here early.......hoping nobody would be here yet. I got all my paperwork from the office and started looking for my locker...

"Then I saw you there.........and I noticed the locker numbers were going to put me awful close to yours!...........I have trouble just talking to people! I get all tongue-tied and just start blabbing like a idiot....

"......I stood there next to you just trying to think of something to say! I never even thought of saying something like 'hi'!..........Then........after a bit........you said 'hi.'"

He shook his head as he raised it up again, relief on his face.

"...Oh wow!........It was like a hundred tons of stone were taken off my back. And in just two minutes.........I felt relaxed enough to actually start feeling hungry again. And I knew if I ate........it would stay down...

"Then, two more minutes and I was actually talking. And two minutes after that I was laughing. Oh gee, I didn't mean to be rude and laugh at you falling down.......It just made me feel good.............I mean not good that you fell or like that!"

He suddenly dropped his fork onto the plate and covered his face with his hands.

"...Oh! I really don't know what to say here either!"

Matt had listened to what he had said, but enjoyed his genuine smile and more relaxed nature.

"Oh.........I love it when he smiles now. Even the tiny ones. He isn't scrunching up his lips, trying to hide his braces........even when he's talking. When his lips move, it's like those silver braces are flashing out a Morse Code or something!"

"......Oh shit, Tim........You sure don't have to be shy around me. I'm not the school quarterback! I'm not the captain of the basketball team..........I'm not the captain of anything! I'm the King!..........The king of dorks!"

Tim dropped his hands from his face. He continued in a near whisper.

"....When I.....when I was emptying my pack. I kinda glanced up at you. I think you saw me.........I noticed your bushy blond hair down into your eyes and your deep blue eyes.........the size of dinner plates! I somehow thought you had to be one of the most popular kids in school!"

"REALLY?!"

"Well yeah!..........I sure didn't see any........any geek standing there...

"And we were laughing in minutes............Wow, Matt. I was serious about that. I haven't laughed in..........in an awful long time."

"..........Awww.......gee.......I'm really sorry to hear that....

"Well, I guess I don't laugh too much either. I'm kind of a loner. But I really don't mind it. It's strange really. I ride my bike out to the park 'n' stuff. I go for walks around the lake. I play along the river..........Well, not with anyone. And I swim a bit........at the lake. Well, I call it swimming. Hee, hee, hee.........Actually it's more like dog paddling a few feet in each direction. I just love it out there! It's so quiet. And I can be alone....with nobody to bother me. My folks don't really like me out there alone........No life guards........They rather I swim at the pool. I.......really, really hate that. Lots of kids around. I'm shy enough.........And besides, some really hot days....the place is so packed you can't stand in the pool without people crashing into you..........Yeah," he continued with a sigh, "The lake's lots better. You're all alone with just the birds chirpin'.......The bright sun in the sky....The fluffy clouds floating by."

His eyes widened with a sudden rush of enthusiasm.

"...There's this big flat rock there by the shore. It's kinda like at an angle......I.... ummm....hee, hee....call it my lounge chair. I mean it really sounds silly, huh? A ROCK? Bein' comfortable?!........But it sorta is!.........And it's so warm from the sun. I usually just take a nap there.........Just listening to the birds, the wind in the trees.......and.....and the waves kinda slappin' at the shore. Ha, ha.......well they aren't waves!......More like big ripples."

It was here he gasped. He had reached out and was holding Tim's fingers. His arm shot back. He ran his fingertips over the front of his tray as he pretended to move it closer to himself.

"Holy shit!........I was holdin' his hand!........Oh! How embarrassing!.......But....but he, he didn't pull his hand away!"

Tim's expression seemed to indicate he was thinking of something totally different, as though he'd never noticed. He gazed back down at his tray and nodded slightly.

"...Wow, Matt.........That sounds just like me!........I'd kinda walk around with my head down. I didn't wanna......ummm......look at anyone.........And when kids talk to me.......I'm ummm, kinda short with 'em. I'm just sooooo scared of talking an' sounding like a total retard! I don't really make it easy for people to talk to me. I sorta slink along the walls 'n' lockers. I sometimes just wish I had a machine.......like in those sci-fi books?......that make you invisible? Oh! Wow! That would be just soooo cool!"

He looked up at Matt. His thin, dark eyebrows arched high over his eyes. He wasn't smiling, yet his mouth was open slightly. Matt could clearly see the upper braces on his front teeth.

"My mom," he continued, "She's a doctor. In fact, that's how her and Dad met......In a navy hospital. She's really considering sending me to a psychologist......cuz I'm so shy 'n' all. I.....ahhh.....think she's getting really serious about it!"

He paused, as Matt felt something touch his right hand. Tim's fingers were running softly over it. He considered pulling it back, yet felt his entire forearm was glued to the table.

"I kin just see that!" Tim gasped, "That big office.......Sitting in front of that big, fancy, expensive, heavy wooden desk...."

Matt could see he was trying to grip his fingers. He lifted his fingertips from the table slightly. Tim's hand slowly circled his fingers. His grip was light and gentle, yet he could actually feel the fear coming out of them.

"Ohmigod!.......There'd be this guy....or a woman sitting there. And....and they'd be like LOOKING at me!........They're trained for that you know!........They kin tell all kinds of things by just looking at you! And then they'd start asking me all these questions. I don't know what they'd be exactly, but I got a pretty good idea....

"They'd ask me about my parents.......an' if we got along. Then they'd ask about my teachers 'n' stuff.........About my friends!........How do I answer that?!..."

"He's squeezin' my fingers kinda tight now........I wonder if he even knows he's doin' that..."

"...Then they'd ask me about girlfriends 'n' stuff..........They'd ask all those sexy questions.........and if I ever did it!............Oh! I'd be sooooo embarrassed I'd wanna sink right through the chair!"

"...Ouch!..........He's squeezin' my fingers so hard, they hurt.......and his eyes they're so big! They're not, well......cute!........They're kinda scary lookin'......He's....he's really scared!..........No.......He's terrified!"

"......I'm tellin' you........I....I just couldn't go through something like that! If....if I ever had to do that.......I......I think I'd die!..."

His grip eased from Matt's fingers as he drew his hand back. He rubbed his eyes and face as he seem to collect himself again, within seconds. Matt still had no indication of whether Tim had even been conscious of squeezing his fingers. He saw the last several heaves of his chest as he gathered himself. He put his hand to his chest.

"...Oh!........Mind if we change the subject?........This shit really scares me..."

"...Shuurrr we can," Matt replied, trying to be silly about it. He'd hoped Tim would continue, but understood he was truly scared about something.

"...Ask about girlfriends?.........Sexy questions?........Doing it?"

Tim seemed to have his attention drawn to his tray again. It hadn't been a shy gesture. He eyed his dessert dish. There was a glob of brown mush in it, covered with some sauce.

"...What the heck is this?!" he asked pointing to it.

Matt reached for his own dish, placing it in front of himself.

"Bread pudding!..."

Tim placed the dish before himself as he gazed at it.

"...Looks like something the DOG ate!..."

"...Hee, hee, hee.........I won't tell you the names the kids have given this......Even the girls!.........Oh, gee!........But it's really good! I'm not jokin' with ya..."

Matt grabbed his spoon, scooped up a large portion and put it in his mouth. He continued talking with his mouth full.

"...And don't bleeve whut da kids say.........Doughs black tings are raisins not flys!"

Tim put a small portion on the tip of his spoon. He drew it toward his face, looking closer at it. His eyes went large, then narrowed. He frowned as his eyebrows rose and lowered.

".......Oh!......Geeeeee!.......That little angel has such expressive eyes! I wonder if he knows that he's even doing that........Oh, it makes my stomach all jittery."

He tasted a tiny sample. His expression was neutral. He tried a larger sample.

"...Hey!..........You're right! This really isn't bad.........In fact, it's good!"

Scooping up a full spoonful, he held it out.

"...Is this really made with bread?"

"Yeah!........My mom makes it once in awhile..."

Minutes later they passed to the kitchen window. They placed their milk and juice containers in the proper recycling units. At the window, the line slowed. Matt pretended to look over Tim's shoulder. He sniffed his shirt.

"Oh!..........Dryer sheets! He just smells so....so keeuuutt! Yeah!.......I'm getting all 'girly' again! I can't help it!"

After the last bell of the day, Matt walked from his class slightly bent at his waist.

"Ooooohhhh.........It's that damn liquorice I ate last night. I should know better. That stuff goes right through me. And I ate a whole bag!"

He disappeared into the boy's room. Six minutes later he came out in a rush, still drying his hands on a brown paper towel. He glanced both directions along the hall. Only six students remained, idly talking. He rushed up the stairs to the second floor. His heart fell. The entire hall was deserted except for a janitor pushing a wide dust mop.

"Where does everyone go in six minutes?!"

His eyes fell to his locker, then toward Tim's.

"I wonder if he waited for me..........He probably felt uncomfortable and left. I never even asked where he lived!..........Does he walk?......or is he a bus student?........No! He was here too early! I wonder if maybe he's standing around one of the doorways..."

He quickly placed books into his pack, grabbed his jacket and ran for the door.

He jogged around the entire building, slowing only near each exit to look it over.

He slowed his pace and began his walk for home.

"Awwhhh, gee.........I sure hope he doesn't think I'm ditchin' him! That would be awful! I sure hope it didn't hurt his feelings."

He walked along at a slow pace, kicking at stones or pieces of broken glass along the sidewalk. The entire day flashed through his memory in two minutes.

"Wow!..........I just don't believe today! Everything happened so fast. And lunch! I was afraid Tim had something wrong with his jaw..........And then........then he smiled! Oh wow! Those silver braces!........Everywhere! Brilliant silver just shining everywhere! Oh he's just sooooo.............adorable! That....that.........Silver Smile of his! Oh! Wow!...

"Watch it, Matt........You're gonna wake up Junior again.......How I wish they'd invent some pill to stop that from happening!...

"...And he squeezed my fingers!.........But he was talking about that psychology stuff at the time. I don't even think he was aware he was doing that. Oh, he was so scared. Maybe I could ummm.........convince his mom that he's okay now...........I sure wouldn't want him to go through all that...

"...Sure I'm shy........Something awful!.........And I don't really like it. But it's not like I'm........well lonely. I can deal with it. What's the big thing about all this social stuff? About bein' popular? I wouldn't want that either. I can't be what I'm not! I can't pretend. I wouldn't want to put on an act. I wanna be real. I wanna be me!..........Okay, maybe a little less shy, but........but no lying!"

That evening Matt finished his homework. He gazed at his unmade bed. He flopped into it fully dressed, gazing at the ceiling.

"Gee, I got so involved with that homework I forgot what I was thinking about at supper.............Timmy's smile! How could I so totally forget about that?! I'm just not all that good at multitasking..........I've got to concentrate on one thing at a time. I've got to shut out everything else..."

He squirmed in position.

"...Yeah, Timmy's Silver Smile. He was just so cute and kinda well, hot at the same time. Can you be cute 'n' hot together?...........Why not?....."

He jumped up for a moment and reached for his Spanish book next to the computer. He returned to bed with it and switched on the reading lamp on the headboard.

"Let's see........silver.......oro?......No. That's gold........Plata is silver. Okay, smile is sonrisa. It would be ummm 'smile of silver.' Sonrisa de Plata........Yeaaahhh. Oh sigh! Timmy and his Sonrisa de Plata!.........Oh! It even sounds beautiful!"

He continued to daydream for a moment more. He dropped the open book on his chest and placed his arms over it.

"...Timmy with his Silver Smile........Smile of Silver........Timmy......con su Sonrisa de Plata!..........Oh! It sounds just as beautiful as as it looks!"

He suddenly glanced down at himself.

"Cheeezzz!..........I'm laying here thinking about Tim while I hug my Spanish book! I'm really losing it!"

He got up and set his book aside as he seated himself at his computer. He impatiently waited for the dark screen to light up. His computer desk was small. So much so, there was little room to roll a mouse. He had a trackball to the right of the keyboard.

He opened the drawer in the front and pulled out a flash drive which he plugged in. A dialogue box popped up. "ENTER PASSWORD." He turned to the door and listened for a moment. There was no activity outside. After a few keystrokes his flash opened. Several file folders were seen. He selected the folder "Braces." Two hundred thumbnails scrolled down the screen.

"I realize there's no porn or nudity here, but.........how would I explain all these boys with braces?! Mom or dad might start thinking. How would I explain that?...

"HEY!.........Yesterday I had no excuse, but now I could tell 'em that Tim felt bad about his braces. I could tell them that I was just showing him some 'cool' pictures to make him feel better! Yeah! I could do that! I could transfer this folder right to the drive! I don't need it password protected anymore."

He gazed at the screen as he stepped through the thumbnails and enlarged them. His mind wondered.

"Actually I don't need much of anything password protected. I really hate those gay porn sites..........It's just a bunch of guys boinkin' each other. Ugh! I don't wanna see that! What's wrong with having clothes on?..........I mean cute outfits!........Whats wrong with shrunken t-shirts?.........or jeans.......or bare feet showing? Oh, I think I've got a thing with tiny, bare boy feet too! Even that photo of the two boys in 'Ye Ole Swimmin' Hole'! It's not like you can see anything! The water is almost up to their waists. Okay, one's holdin' the other's hips.........NO! WAIT! I think they're kissin' in that photo! Nooooo! That stays password protected!............And......and that fifty five second vid of the two boys on the couch. Okay, one's wearing jeans and the other's got cut-offs on. There's no nudity in it, but they're rollin' around, huggin' 'n' kissin'. And they're sorta rubbin' into each other. I mean it's not exactly 'dirty' but it's sorta.........well......HOT! WOW!.......The night I found that, I must have run it over 'n' over a hundred and fifty times!........NO! That one stays password protected too! Then there's the one of the two boys playfully wrestling on the grass. It's only a minute and ten seconds. Well, I didn't mind the huggin' and kissin'..........I just edited out the last part where they had to go start suckin' on each other. Why do they have to put that in there?

"Reminds me of Ricky at school............Okay, he's straight, but he's cool. He won't download any nude girls either. He hates porn too. Are we the only two in school who don't like that stuff?! Hee, hee, I remember one day, I thought he was defending that crap! He said, 'Now that's NOT porn!......That's NOT filth!......That's NOT dirty!......That's NOT sick!........ That's called adult entertainment!' Hee, hee, that's for sure! He likes the bikinis 'n' minis 'n' the sexy lingerie............How did he put that again?........He said, 'I don't wanna see it! I wanna almost see it!' Ha, ha, ha, very well put.

"Oh sigh..........Where is all the love today? Whatever happened to all the romance? You don't even see anymore of those 'boy meets girl' movies. Everything is SEX!

"Oh......sigh......Even in my fantasies I'm still shy..."

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